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NYT: Winning In Kandahar? Saudi Arms Deal; Toyota Recalls 1.5 Million Cars

NYT Reports: NATO Gains The Momentum In Kandahar

US soldiers on patrol in Kandahar.

hide captionUS soldiers on patrol in Kandahar.

Rodrigo Abd/AP

Kandahar is the heartland of the Taliban. It was here that the movement began in 90's and it is here they regained strength after the US-led invasion. The New York Times is reporting today that President Obama's troop surge has had a dramatic effect.

Military and civilian officials say there are also signs of a crisis in command as Taliban leaders have struggled to maintain logistics and supply routes, suicide bombers have failed to turn up for attacks, and even senior commanders were showing reluctance to follow orders from their leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, to go in to fight the NATO onslaught in Panjwai.

The Taliban have described their pullback as a tactical retreat, saying that fighters have gone to the city of Kandahar instead to conduct bombings and rocket attacks like those Saturday night outside the prison and the police station.

Yet residents say that the Taliban have been stunned by fast-paced raids on their leaders and bases. In particular they talk with awe of a powerful new rocket that has been fired from the Kandahar air base into Panjwai and other areas for the last two or three weeks, hitting Taliban compounds with remarkable accuracy.

The rocket they're talking about is the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which was deployed to Afghanistan relatively recently.

The Taliban have shown strength in other areas of Afghanistan where they haven't been active in recent years, like the North of the country. And for a picture of what's going on in East, where things are certainly not going that easily, you can check out this report from NPR's Quil Lawrence.

US To Sell 60 Billion Dollars In Arms To Saudi Arabia

saudi f-15s

hide captionSaudi F-15s. A new arms deal would give them 84 more, among other weapons.

Hassan Ammar/AP

The State Department has announced if it gets approval, the US will sell 84 f-15 fighter jets, 190 helicopters, as well as missiles, bombs and night vision goggles to the Saudis. Congress has thirty days to block the deal, but the Administration doesn't seem to think there will be any opposition. As NPR's Michelle Kelemen reports this morning, they believe that Israel's military dominance in the region won't be threatened by the sale. A point echoed by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow, who said, "I think it's fair to say that, based on what we've heard at the high levels, Israel does not object to this sale."

One of the purposes behind the deal, reports Kelemen, is to show support for countries in the region as we pull our troops out of Iraq. Arming Sunni Arab dominated Saudi Arabia, in an effort to counter Shi'ite Persian Iran.

Toyota Recalls About 1.5 Million Cars

Lexus recall

hide captionToyota is recalling over a million cars, some Lexus models among them.

Ian Nicholson/EMPPL PA Wire

In the latest recall by Toyota, the company says some of its most expensive brands could develop brake problems. The 2005 through 2006 Avalon, 2004 through 2006 Highlander (non Hybrid) and Lexus RX330, and 2006 Lexus GS300, IS250, and IS350 could all be at risk of leaking fluid from a faulty seal on the master brake cylinder.

If left untreated "the driver will begin to notice a spongy or soft brake pedal feel and braking performance may gradually decline," the company said in a statement. About 740,000 cars are affected in the US, the rest are in China, Japan, and Europe.

This latest recall comes after the recall of millions of cars in 2009 and 2010 for sticky gas pedals.

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