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Soldiers mark 9/11 anniversary in Afghanistan

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan marked the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Tuesday by watching in silence as an American flag was lowered to half-staff at a U.S. base.
/ Source: The Associated Press

U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan marked the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks Tuesday by watching in silence as an American flag was lowered to half-staff at a U.S. base.

Maj. Gen. Robert Cone told some 100 U.S. soldiers that there is “no alternative” to victory over terrorism.

“We are here now six years later, not as a conquering force, not as an invader seeking to vanquish the Afghans, but rather to do what is right — to seek out and destroy our common enemy,” Cone said. “As allies, we will train and equip the Afghans. We will help them to provide for their people because we are Americans.”

Air Force Staff Sgt. Gabrielle Evens said her sister had been living in New York during the attacks six years ago, causing her family several hours of worry before contact could be established. Evens said she was now serving in Afghanistan “to help the Afghan people.”

Earlier in the day, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper became the first Canadian leader to address Australia’s parliament in its 106-year history.

“As 9/11 showed, if we abandon our fellow human beings to lives of poverty, brutality and ignorance in today’s global village, their misery will eventually and inevitably become our own,” Harper told a special joint sitting of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Canada, a wartime ally of Australia’s since World War I, has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. It has lost 70 soldiers plus a diplomat and a civilian contract worker in the conflict.

Australia has almost 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, with just one killed since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Violence soars amid Taliban resurgence
Violence is soaring this year in Afghanistan amid a resurgence by the Taliban, the Islamic militant movement that controlled the country prior to the U.S.-led invasion. More than 4,200 people, mostly militants, have died in insurgency-related violence in 2007, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he would stake his job on his parliament agreeing to continue the country’s effort in Afghanistan, once a safe haven for al-Qaida.

The Japanese navy has been providing fuel for coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since November 2001 under a special anti-terrorism law, which already has been extended three times. The legislation, which expires in November, is a key issue in a special parliament session that opened Monday.

In poll results published Tuesday in Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper, 39 percent of respondents said they opposed the extension, while 29 percent said they support it. Another 29 percent said they had no opinion.

Separately, 27 percent of respondents to a poll by public broadcaster NHK said they supported an extension, and another 27 percent opposed it, with 38 percent undecided. Margins of error were not given, as is customary in Japan.

Abe could push the extension through because his ruling Liberal Democratic Party controls the lower house, which has the final say in most legislation. The issue has been shaping up to be a major showdown with opposition parties.

President Bush recently expressed hope that Tokyo would extend the mission. Critics in Japan say such operations violate Japan’s pacifist constitution, which strictly limits the country’s military activities.

The Yomiuri poll used face-to-face interviews with 1,787 eligible voters nationwide on Saturday and Sunday. NHK interviewed 1,146 people Friday through Sunday.