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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (April '08)

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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (April '08)          

News only - commentary elsewhere, please.
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Articles found April 1, '08

Ottawa advised not to lower flag for dead soldiers
Mar 31, 1999 08:50 PM Tim Naumetz THE CANADIAN PRESS
Article Link

Ottawa–An expert panel has advised cabinet to oppose a move to lower the Canadian flag on the Peace Tower whenever a soldier dies in Afghanistan because it would debase the honour.

In a report to Secretary of State Jason Kenney, a former chief herald of Canada urged the government to keep Remembrance Day as the lone anniversary to mark Canadian war dead by lowering the tower flag to half-mast.

The Commons is poised to vote Wednesday on a flag-lowering motion proposed by a fiberal MP.

Former chief herald Robert Watt, with the support of four other experts, recommended a new protocol that would limit half-masting the Peace Tower flag to mourning the deaths of current and former representatives of the Crown, the prime minister and the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

Under the recommendations, the flag would no longer be lowered on the deaths of senators and MPs, or former senators and MPs.

"In addition, we also strongly believe that there is only one commemorative day each year where the National Flag needs to be half-masted," Watt wrote in a covering letter to Kenney.

"That is Remembrance Day. Our rationale in this case is that coinage of half-masting has been debased."

Kenney commissioned the report last year in part to buttress con-servative arguments against lowering the Peace Tower flag for Afghanistan war dead.
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Sarkozy's troop pledge for Afghan campaign 'may encourage others'
By Anne Penketh, Diplomatic Editor Tuesday, 1 April 1999
Article Link

France's decision to dispatch at least 1,000 soldiers to bolster the Nato campaign in Afghanistan will set a powerful example likely to encourage European countries to follow suit, according to a senior British official.

"It will allow others to come through," the official said. "The Belgians have, but so might the Spanish now they've had their election, and the Italians after their election," which is scheduled for 13-14 April.

Troops from all three countries are already present in Afghanistan but Nato has been pressing – and will continue to do so at its summit tomorrow – for reinforcements to shore up the campaign against the Taliban.

France is to boost the 1,600-strong French contingent in Afghanistan with hundreds of paratroopers, plus a small number of special forces who were pulled out in January last year.

However President Nicolas Sarkozy, who announced the decision to boost the French deployment during a visit to Britain last week and, in the process, caused a political uproar in Paris, stressed the additional troops were conditional on Nato agreeing an overall strategy pinned on reconstruction and development.
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Committee to study compensation for soldiers
By DAVE SULZ Apr 1, 1999, 04:23
  Article Link

The issue of compensation for injured Canadian soldiers is likely to be one of the areas addressed by a government committee headed by Lethbridge MP Rick Casson.
Casson, chairman of the standing committee on national defence, said the committee began about a month ago to examine quality of life of Canadian Forces members, and he expects the matter of injury compensation to come up during interviews that will be conducted as part of the study.
Casson, speaking from Ottawa, was responding to published comments by New Dummy-crats MP Peter Stoffer, who criticized the military amputee and injury compensation as inadequate.
Media reports indicated guidelines which took effect in 2003 provide for a maximum lump-sum payment of $250,000 for Canadian Forces who lose both feet or hands or receive another permanent serious injury. Loss of a single body part qualifies for a $125,000 payment.
Some classes of reservists with less than six months of service have compensation capped at $100,000 and they’re eligible for only half — in some cases, one-quarter — of the dismemberment claims of regular forces.
Reservists who are deployed with regular forces in Afghanistan are compensated at the same rate as regular troops, Casson pointed out, adding a proposal to standardize compensation across the forces to include reservists is being looked at by the Treasury Board.
Casson said the committee studying Canadian Forces members’ quality of life has an emphasis on post-traumatic stress disorder, an ailment that has been proliferating among Canadian troops since 2002 with Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan.
“We want to make sure they’re properly taken care of,” said Casson.
But the committee’s view isn’t limited to post-traumatic stress disorder and Casson said the compensation issue “is quite timely for our study.”
He anticipates the matter of injury compensation will come up during the committee’s work.
“As we’re looking at the quality of life issue through the committee, these are the types of things we’ll be asking about,” he said.
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Excalibur Goes to Afghanistan
April 1, 1999
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American and Canadian troops have begun using the U.S. Excalibur GPS guided 155mm Infantry shell in Afghanistan. A year ago, American troops began using Excalibur in Afghanistan. This is just in time, because Islamic warriors tend to use civilians as human shields, and that means you have to be precise when you go after the bad guys with Infantry. A typical situation has enemy gunmen holding out in one building of a walled compound or village. In nearby buildings, there are women and children. While killing the enemy is good, killing the civilians can be worse. Smart bombs should be able to fix this, except that sometimes the smallest smart bomb, the 500 pounder, has too much bang (280 pounds of explosives). A 155mm Infantry shell should do the trick (only 20 pounds of explosives each), but at long range (20 kilometers or more), some of these shells will hit the civilians. This is where Excalibur comes in handy. Unguided shells land anywhere within a 200 meter (or larger) circle. The GPS guided Excalibur shell falls within a ten meter circle (the middle of that circle being the "aim point".)  After a year of use in Afghanistan, the troops find Excalibur invaluable for hitting just what you want to hit.
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Working to rid Afghanistan of land mines a 'kind of jihad'
OLIVER MOORE  April 1, 1999
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Noor Ahmad has one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. For 18 years, he's prodded the earth centimetre by centimetre to rid his country of land mines, a scourge that has become more numerous in the time he's been working. He's seen an anti-personnel mine blow up in front of him and still bears the scars where his body wasn't shielded by protective gear.

He presses on in spite of the dangers, working in the hot sun on the weekend to help clear the perimeter of a bombed-out weapons factory east of Kandahar, because he considers it "a kind of jihad."

"If you protect the life of one person, then you will be rewarded as if you have protected all the world," Mr. Ahmed said, citing a verse from the Koran.

But that dedication hasn't been enough to protect de-miners from attacks. Teams have been targeted in several parts of the country and at least 10 people have been killed since August.
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One Danish soldier killed, two wounded in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  1999-04-01 00:27:11   
  Article Link

    STOCKHOLM, March 31 (Xinhua) -- A Danish soldier was killed and another two were wounded in southern Afghanistan on Monday, according to Danish news reports.

    Earlier on Monday the Danish and British troops battled the Taliban insurgents near the city Gereshk of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. As result a Danish soldier died and the other two were wounded, the Danish News Agency Ritzau quoted the Danish Army Central Command as saying in a statement.

    This is the fourth Danish soldier who died in Helmand province in March. So far ten Danish soldiers have died in Afghanistan. Denmark, a NATO member, has about 550 combat troops in Afghanistan.
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Taliban commander detained in southern Afghanistan
By ASSOCIATED PRESS Apr 1, 1999 10:21 KANDAHAR, Afghanistan
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Police arrested a senior Taliban commander during a clash with militants in southern Afghanistan that left three insurgents dead, an official said Tuesday.

The militants, led by Taliban commander Mullah Naqibullah and dressed in police uniforms, ambushed a police convoy on Monday north of Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, said Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, the provincial police chief.

The ensuing gun battle left three militants dead, and wounded two policemen and Naqibullah, who was taken into custody, Andiwal said.

This is the third time that authorities have arrested Naqibullah.

Two months ago, Naqibullah managed to escape from the prison run by the Afghan intelligence service in Lashkar Gah, Andiwal said. Previously he had escaped from a prison in the capital, Kabul.
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Articles found April 2, 2008

Rights groups to appeal Afghan detainees ruling
Federal Court's decision not to halt transfer of captives into local custody 'failed to acknowledge the Charter,' Amnesty declares
PAUL KORING From Wednesday's Globe and Mail April 2, 2008 at 4:21 AM EDT
Article Link

Taliban fighters taken prisoner by Canadian troops in Afghanistan may be denied rights they would have if captured by British or U.S. forces, rights groups said yesterday as they announced an appeal of a Federal Court decision.

The case, which seems likely to end up in the Supreme Court of Canada, may determine whether the Constitution marches alongside Canadian troops waging war overseas.

Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association say that a ruling last month by Madam Justice Anne Mactavish "failed to acknowledge the Charter and international law obligations to prevent torture or ill treatment of prisoners" even after they are turned over to Afghan authorities.

Canadian handovers of detainees were stopped in November when compelling evidence of torture was found on a visit by Canadian diplomats to an Afghan prison. Prisoner transfers resumed three months later after yet another increase in monitoring arrangements and further promises from Kabul that abuse would stop and allegations of torture would be thoroughly investigated.
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Afghan Women Break out of the Mold
  Article Link

I recently came upon the film Daughters of Afghanistan in my local library. I wasn’t sure of what to expect, but upon watching it I was pleasantly surprised. The 2004 documentary is a refreshingly clear look at the lives of Afghan women following the fall of the Taliban after the 2001 American invasion.

Canadian journalist Sally Armstrong traveled to Afghanistan multiple times to interview women across the social and class spectrum and track the changes in their lives. She presents Dr. Sima Samar, who has served as a physician, deputy prime minister, and minister of the Department of Women’s Affairs; Hamida, the principal of a high school for girls; Soghra, a mother made desperate by poverty; Kamala, who fears her next pregnancy will kill her; and Lima, a young teenager who has taken on the responsibilities of her parents and grandparents, killed by war. The documentary intertwines the voices of these women with narration by Armstrong. The film aims to show the strength and humanity of the women of Afghanistan. In the opening credits, the camera pans over the faces of the main women interviewed. When one lifts her burqa to reveal her face, it’s shocking how much realer she becomes.
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Afghan challenges know no border, Pashtun elder tells senators
Matthew Fisher ,  Canwest News Service Published: Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Article Link

A FORWARD OPERATING BASE IN PANJWAII, Afghanistan - Haji Agha Lalai held members of the Senate's national security and defence committee spellbound Tuesday with a vivid briefing about the challenges faced by those like him who oppose the Taliban and al-Qaida.

"As you know, this is the fighting season and we are building a road" the fiercely imposing, heavily bearded Pashtun elder told his Canadian visitors. "The enemy tries to disrupt the environment. People are getting 'night letters' threatening them if they continue working with us, but we are determined to pave that road . . .

"Of course, workers on the road project are exposed to danger. One of the workers, they shot him in his leg, but he continues to work. People ignore the threats."
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Canadian soldier in serious condition
edmontonjournal.com Published: Tuesday, April 01
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EDMONTON - A Canadian soldier airlifted to Germany from Afghanistan on the weekend is in serious but stable condition, Department of National Defence officials say.

Spokeswoman Sarah Cavanagh said the soldier, whose identity has not been released, was in an armoured vehicle when it was struck by an improvised explosive device at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Canadians were in the Nalgham region 55 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City, taking part in an operation with the Afghan National Security Force.
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Tories appear set to lose vote on lowering flag for Afghan deaths - and ignore it
Article Link

OTTAWA — The House of Commons appears set to adopt a motion calling for the flag to be lowered on the Peace Tower whenever a Canadian soldier is killed in Afghanistan.

And the Conservative government appears set to ignore the vote result. The Commons votes Wednesday on a Liberal motion that would require a moment of silence and a lowering of the flag for one day following the death of a Canadian soldier.

Both other opposition parties told The Canadian Press they will support the Liberal motion, easily guaranteeing it will have enough votes to be adopted in the minority Parliament.

But the motion is non-binding - and the government has other ideas about how to honour soldiers.

The Tories said they will refer a report by an expert panel to the Commons heritage committee, and ask members to hold hearings and come up with a wide-ranging policy on when the flag should be lowered
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Russia's problems nudge Afghanistan off the map
Putin's grievances in Eastern Europe and Balkans will make it hard for Harper to get world leaders' attention at NATO summit
DOUG SAUNDERS dsaunders@globeandmail.com April 2, 2008
Article Link

BRUSSELS -- While Prime Minister Stephen Harper will enter the Bucharest NATO summit today with hat in hand, seeking 1,000 troops needed to prevent Canada from withdrawing from Afghanistan, he may be surprised to discover that the other 25 member nations are instead focused on another visitor with very different deals in mind.

The imposing figure of Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, has overshadowed most other matters in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's crucial gathering. As the 59-year-old alliance prepares to expand onto Russia's doorstep with a proposal to put Ukraine and Georgia on the path to membership, and disputes with Russia dominate Europe's military agenda, the enormous problems of Afghanistan are slipping into the shadows.

"Ottawa is very, very focused on Afghanistan, to the exclusion of everything else, but seen from here, this is a very different summit," a top NATO official said at the organization's sprawling Brussels headquarters yesterday as he prepared to head to Bucharest. "Here, enlargement, the western Balkans and relations with Russia are the significant issues that are taking up all of our time. Most of the Afghan questions have been settled."
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2 police killed in suicide attack in southwestern Afghanistan
By ASSOCIATED PRESS KANDAHAR, Afghanistan Apr 2, 2008 9:23
Article Link

A suicide bomber hit a police compound in southwestern Afghanistan, killing two officers and wounding five others, an official said.

The bomber tried to ram a vehicle packed with explosives Tuesday inside a police chief's compound in the town of Zaranj in Nimroz province, said provincial deputy police chief Asadullah Sherzad.

The vehicle exploded at the compound walls, killing two policemen and wounding five others, Sherzad said. The bomber also died.
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Romania reconfirms its "firm commitment" on Afghanistan  
www.chinaview.cn  2008-04-02 03:17:28 
  Article Link

    BUCHAREST, April 1 (Xinhua) -- President Traian Basescu reconfirmed on Tuesday evening "Romania's firm commitment as regards the missions in Afghanistan."

    "As a state which participates in Afghanistan, starting with 2002, Romania joins its allies by reconfirming, on the occasion of this summit, our firm pledge and unitary vision for success together with our partners," the Romanian president stressed on the opening of the Transatlantic Forum organized by the German Marshall Fund on April 1-3 in Bucharest.

    He added that NATO success is "crucial for the future of that country, for the war against terrorism and, consequently, for our security."

    At the same time, Basescu noted that NATO understood that the European security cannot be defined in strictly geographical terms.
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NATO endorses much of Canadian stance on Afghanistan
Mike Blanchfield ,  Canwest News Service Published: Tuesday, April 01, 2008
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BUCHAREST, Romania - Canada may not leave the NATO summit with the extra troops it is demanding, but it has had a major influence on the international road map for Afghanistan's future, Canwest News has learned.

Plotting a more unified way forward in Afghanistan is one of the top priorities for NATO's 26 leaders meeting here in the Romanian capital. The alliance is attempting to counter long-standing criticism that its political and military strategy for Afghanistan has been fragmented, plagued by public disagreements, and has lacked co-ordination with other international actors in Afghanistan, particularly the United Nations.

NATO, along with its 13 partner countries in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, is banking that a sweeping communique to be released Thursday, which some are calling a vision statement, will result in a renewed statement of solidarity in Afghanistan and affirm a long-term international commitment to the war-torn country.
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Arms for Afghans: Albania Against Graft, for NATO

The New York Times - Editorials & Opinion
Published: April 2, 2008
To the Editor:

Re “Supplier Under Scrutiny on Aging Arms for Afghans” (front page, March 27):

The government of Albania is gung-ho in its fight against corruption and is fully committed to helping NATO in Afghanistan. That is why we have begun an investigation into allegations of corruption at Albania’s arms export agency, as well as charges that Albania provided substandard munitions to Afghan forces.

We were frankly surprised by the publication of unsubstantiated corruption allegations. The only evidence is a secret tape between two shadowy and self-interested arms dealers, hardly reliable sources. We rebutted allegations on the tape; neither the prime minister nor his son is involved with the procurement process of any ministry, including Albania’s Ministry of Defense.

When it comes to Afghanistan, Albania recognizes that the struggle against extremism is the defining issue of our time. Having known Communism’s tyranny, we are committed to the promotion of freedom and democracy the world over.

There are Albanian special forces in Afghanistan today. We stand ready to send more troops if called upon.

Regarding charges that munitions were not up to code, standard practice requires that the purchaser bears full responsibility for testing and quality control. The government of Albania is dedicated to transparency. Rest assured, all documents relevant to this matter will be released and all findings of the investigation will be made public. When they are, we are confident that the allegations will be proved baseless.

Adrian Neritani Permanent Representative of Albania to the United Nations New York, March 28, 2008


Articles found April 3, 2008

Karzai seeks bigger role for larger Afghan army
Julian Borger in Bucharest The Guardian, Thursday April 3 2008
Article Link

Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, is expected to propose a radical expansion of the Afghan army today and call for his troops to take over security responsibilities in Kabul from Nato, according to officials at the alliance's summit in Bucharest. The news came after dismal day for Nato leaders, with the alliance unable to agree on new members. The summit was split on whether to offer membership prospects to Georgia or Ukraine, while Greece was able to block Macedonian membership single-handed. Croatia and Albania were invited to join the alliance.

Karzai's proposal is an attempt to compensate for a shortfall in international troop contributions to Afghanistan. Under the plan, the Afghan army would assume security responsibilities in the capital before the end of the year. It would eventually expand its strength from 55,000 to 120,000, well above the ceiling of 86,000 agreed earlier this year with the Afghan government's international backers.
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Vote to lower flag for soldiers fails to sway Tories
BILL CURRY From Thursday's Globe and Mail April 2, 2008 at 9:42 PM EDT
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OTTAWA — The Conservative government vowed to ignore yesterday's 142-115 House of Commons vote in favour of lowering the Peace Tower flag to half-mast each time a Canadian dies in an overseas military mission.

The minority Tories argued they are respecting the more than 110,000 Canadian soldiers who died in the past century while the flag flew high atop the Parliament Buildings.

The debate appears far from over, as some MPs on the Commons Canadian Heritage committee said they are willing to take up the government's call for a wide-ranging review of Canada's flag rules.

Conservative committee member Jim Abbott will move a motion this afternoon and hopes to have enough support from Liberals to launch the study. “I recognize that it's a very emotional issue,” he said after yesterday's non-binding vote on a Liberal motion. “I think it's really important that there be a proper canvassing of opinion on this.”
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Several rebels killed in Afghanistan
Posted Thu Apr 3, 2008 7:06am AEDT
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International troops have killed several insurgents in an area of southern Afghanistan where two British soldiers died in an explosion four days ago, the US-led coalition said.

Soldiers had moved into compounds in the Kajaki district of Helmand province earlier in search of a Taliban leader involved in supplying weapons, the force said in a statement.

"During the course of the operation, several armed insurgents were killed when they attacked coalition forces," it said.

Four people with links to the targeted Taliban leader were detained, the statement said, without giving details.

Two British Marines were killed in the same area on Sunday when their vehicle was hit by a blast.

They had been on a routine patrol near the remote Kajaki Dam, a vital water and power source for Helmand held by the British military since Taliban were driven out nearly two years ago.
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Azerbaijani President to Attend meeting on Afghanistan
03.04.08 11:52
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Romania, Bucharest, 3 April / corr TrendNews Y.Aliyev / The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev intends to participate in a joint meeting of the heads of states and governments of the non-NATO member-countries in Romania on 3 April.

The meeting is dedicated to Afghanistan and as a result of the forum it plans to develop recommendations for the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), TrendNews correspondent reports in Bucharest. The Azerbaijani President plans to address the meeting. He will also hold consultations with his Latvian counterpart, Valdis Zatlers.

The President’s three-day visit to Romania to participate in the NATO summit will conclude on 4 April.
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Afghanistan: several developments
Conference of Defence Associations update, April 2

In this week’s media briefing the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) will cover the following areas of interest: Canadian policy towards the mission in Afghanistan; events and developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developments related to Canada’s NATO and UN allies; and some pieces of general interest.

The CDA’s Executive Director, Colonel (Retired) Alain Pellerin, has just returned from a visit to Afghanistan. Along with other defence stakeholders he met with, among others, the Commander of JTF-Afghanistan BGen Guy LaRoche, Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan Arif Lalani, Commander ISAF General Dan McNeill, and top Afghan officials such as Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Zia and Minister of Defence Wardak. The group also visited a forward operating base at Ma’sum Ghar and the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar; they met with LCol Dana Woodworth, Commander of the KPRT, and Col JF Riffou, Commander of Canada’s Operational Mentor and Liaison Team.

In a meeting with Minister Zia it was made clear that security and development are two sides of the same coin. The group of visitors came to the conclusion that the mission is not failing, although it could be accelerated if more resources were provided. The mission is in fact progressing well and pointing in the right direction, with the training of Afghan security forces, development and reconstruction occurring in tandem. For example, a roadway is being constructed in the Panjwaii Valley under Canadian supervision and funding, employing some 400 Afghan workers (with plans to increase the workforce to 800) who are being paid the equivalent of $6 a day. This provides employment, entails infrastructural development, and keeps these workers, who would otherwise be unemployed, out of the clutches of the militant recruitment.

The summer 2008 edition of the CDA Institute’s On Track magazine will contain some articles on the visit...

Daily Afghan news updates--from Kabul
The Torch, April 3

The Moby Group - Afghanistan

provides a daily e-mail service, examples are available here.

To subscribe send an e-mail to:


The large number of Canadian media stories is interesting--of the anglophone countries we appear to pay the most attention to Afstan.

Canadian troops fatally shoot security company employee
Matthew Fisher ,  Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, April 03, 2008
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Troops protecting a convoy from Canada's provincial reconstruction team shot and killed a man Wednesday who was working for a private security firm sometimes employed by countries that make up NATO's multinational coalition.

"As the convoy was heading toward Kandahar City, a vehicle drove towards the convoy at high speed and was perceived as a threat," Capt. Josee Bilodeau, a Joint Task Force Afghanistan spokeswoman, said in a statement released Thursday. "In accordance with our escalation of force procedures, repeated warnings were given for the vehicle to stop. These multiple warnings were not heeded to and a shot fired in direction of the vehicle was required, after which the vehicle stopped."

When troops from the Canadian patrol dismounted they discovered that a passenger in the vehicle had been killed and three others were wounded. The wounded were given first aid and subsequently taken to the Canadian-led military hospital at Kandahar Airfield for treatment.
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Group of Afghan orphans come seeking medical aid from Canadian soldiers
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KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — It's a heart-wrenching scene all too common in Afghanistan: orphaned children emerging from nowhere, desperate for help.

Five children, the eldest a girl no more than 10 with a toddler in her arms, came up to Canadian soldiers when they wandered into a police sub-station in the treacherous Panjwaii district.

They were looking for medical aid. One young boy was suffering from a skin infection, with much of his scalp covered in red, oozing sores.

Corporal Robert Gould, with A Company, 3 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, says the kids are orphans who have come by before. He treated the boy's wounds with ointment and a bandage.

Sergeant Mike McKay of Bravo Company, 2 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, says he's particularly touched by the 10-year-old girl who is clearly leading the group. He says the plan is to get them to a safer location.
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Command performance
Afghan experience a powerful one for Newfoundland singer
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Lori Anna Reid went to Kandahar to sing for the Canadian troops and was almost immediately confronted by death.

The first thing the St. John's native learned after getting off the plane in Afghanistan was that Sgt. Jason Boyes of Napanee, Ont., had just been killed.

He was the 81st Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan.

Reid and other members of her delegation were invited to his repatriation ceremony the next morning.

"It was the first time there was ever any civilians invited to these ceremonies," says Reid.

"I actually sang 'Amazing Grace' a cappella during Sgt. Boyes' repatriation ... and that was the first time they had someone do that, as well, so I felt really, really honoured and touched to be involved at all."

Reid says it was her way of serving.

For her, singing and music has always been about gratitude and praise and she's always felt music serves a higher purpose, as when it's used at weddings and funerals.

Her mind is still brimming with vividly fresh memories days later and you can hear it in her voice during a phone interview from her home in Toronto.

"Every single soldier that I met there knocked me out with his and her integrity and commitment, and gratitude that we were there."

The trip was almost a year in the making. Last April, Reid was invited to perform at the 90th anniversary of Vimy Ridge at the Cabot Club in St. John's.
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NZ to send more troops to Afghanistan
April 3, 2008 - 10:13PM
Article Link

New Zealand will send more troops to Afghanistan, say Prime Minister Helen Clark and Defence Minister Phil Goff.

The country's Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan would be strengthened after the NZ cabinet approved the deployment of an additional 18 Defence Force personnel, they said in a joint statement.

"The additional troops will begin joining the existing deployment of NZDF personnel based in Bamyan province and in the support element for the PRT during the next rotation of personnel this month," they said.

"This will lift the total authorised deployed strength for the PRT to a maximum of 140 personnel."

Bamyan is in central Afghanistan.

The move comes after France also committed more troops to Afghanistan, following a Canadian threat to end its involvement there early unless other NATO allies boost their deployment.
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Articles found April 4, 2008

Australia donates A$10 million for clearing land mines in Afghanistan
2008-04-04 01:35:54 -
Article Link

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australia will donate 10 million Australian dollars (US$9.15 million; ¤5.8 million) toward land mine clearance in Afghanistan.
Stephen Smith, speaking on International Mine Action Day on Friday, said land mines caused a significant personal and economic toll on Afghanistan.
He also urged NATO countries to commit more troops to Afghanistan, saying Australia was doing «a lot of the heavy lifting» with its 1,000 troops there.

Australia has committed about A$450 million in aid to Afghanistan since 2001.
End of Article

NATO eyes Russia-Afghanistan route
Fri, 04 Apr 2008 13:06:18
   Article Link

NATO pins hopes on Russia's thumb-up to the alliance for using its land as a route to transfer supplies for ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

"We hope that tomorrow's meeting will have as one of the results the land transportation agreement of non-lethal goods for ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) in Afghanistan," NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said ahead of Friday's NATO-Russia Council meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Bucharest to attend the NATO summit.
Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's NATO envoy, ruled out that Moscow's assistance to ISAF to transfer food and spare parts into Afghanistan depends on NATO's plans to reject Georgia and Ukraine's bid to join NATO.

De Hoop's remarks about using Russia as a route for NATO supplies were welcomed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who reiterated the significance of such deal for his war-ravaged country.

Russia and Afghanistan have no common border since the Soviet Union collapsed. Goods would be transported, if the agreement holds, through Uzbekistan.
End of Article

Suicide bomber kills four in Afghanistan: police
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) — Three policemen and their driver were killed when a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near their vehicle in troubled southern Afghanistan, police and the rebels said Friday.

The officers were in a private car being driven to Lashkar Gah, the main town in Helmand province, when the bomber approached on foot and detonated the explosives, provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said.

Another policeman who was in the car escaped with injuries, while seven other people were wounded in the attack, which happened just outside the city on a narrow strip of road with shops on both sides.

"Three policemen and a civilian were martyred, a policeman and seven civilians were wounded in the suicide blast today," he told AFP.

The vehicle caught fire and two bodies were stuck in the wreckage, witness Ahmad Shah told AFP, adding that the road was littered with blood and body parts.

Andiwal blamed the attack on "enemies of Afghanistan," a term often used to describe hardline Taliban rebels fighting a bloody insurgency since they were forced from power by a US-led offensive in 2001.
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Below is from an e-mail sent by Alain Pellerin, Colonel (Ret'd), Executive Director, Conference of Defence Associations:

NATO summit documents (4 April 2008)‏

The NATO Summit in Bucharest, Romania is nearing completion, and the CDA would like to highlight some documents, particularly those relevant to the Afghan mission.

NATO has released a report entitled "Progress in Afghanistan" for the Bucharest Summit:

The countries contributing to ISAF in Afghanistan have released a "strategic vision" document:

All members of NATO have signed on to a common Bucharest Summit Declaration:

Finally, for general information, an updated document of ISAF troop numbers and other information on the NATO mission in Afghanistan is available at:


Bush: U.S. Will Increase Troops in Afghanistan
Washington Post, April 4

President Bush promised NATO allies at a summit that ended in Bucharest, Romania, on Friday that the United States would increase forces in Afghanistan next year no matter what happens in Iraq, aides said.

"The president wanted to make it clear that the United States is committed to Afghanistan for the long haul and to send a signal to our allies that at the same time we are asking them to commit additional troops to Afghanistan that they know that we will also continue to have a significant troop presence . . . regardless of the situation in Iraq," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

National security adviser Stephen J. Hadley signaled the commitment to sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2009 during a briefing in Bucharest on Thursday night, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters traveling with him Friday as he left the summit for a Middle East trip. "We have plans to contemplate additional contributions of troops in Afghanistan in the south in 2009," [emphasis added] Hadley said, adding that "these are all in addition to" the 3,500 Marines now going to Afghanistan.

Neither Hadley nor Gates indicated how many troops they had in mind.

However, commanders in Afghanistan have said they could use as many as two to three additional brigades, or nearly 10,000 troops. Gates said he would like to wait until after the additional 3,500 U.S. Marines in Afghanistan return home to decide on 2009 troop levels [emphasis added], suggesting that it would be "some number of months" after the Marines return later this year that additional U.S. forces could go in.

"My view is, even if we had all the forces in the world, my inclination would be we've got the Marines there through November; there's no need to try and push this thing," Gates told reporters traveling with him Friday. "Given the explicit recognition by the alliance that this is a long-term project, I think waiting a while before committing additional forces of any consequence from the United States makes sense in a number of different areas."

Additional forces probably would go to southern Afghanistan, where insurgent activity and violence continues to thwart progress. Commanders hope to aggressively target the south in coming months.

Gen. David W. McKiernan, who has been nominated to take over as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, said Thursday that, if confirmed, he would need more troops in Afghanistan. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, McKiernan said he believes the United States should look closely at options for deploying additional brigades to Afghanistan, with a particular focus on the south [emphasis added]...

The White House said about a dozen countries offered additional help for Afghanistan, although many will provide trainers or civilians, not combat forces. France, Britain, Poland, Romania, Spain and others made commitments to send a total of 2,000 to 2,500 troops [emphasis added], according to the White House.

The most important contribution came from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who pledged a battalion of between 700 and 1,000 troops for eastern Afghanistan, freeing more U.S. troops to head to the volatile south to reinforce the Canadians. The redeployment will satisfy Canadian demands for help and prevent Ottawa from withdrawing as it had threatened to do...

Border Complicates War in Afghanistan
Insurgents Are Straddling Pakistani Line
(with video)
Washington Post, April 4

SPERA DISTRICT, Afghanistan -- As a cold darkness enveloped the tiny U.S. military camp just inside Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, word spread that Taliban fighters were on the move nearby, planning an attack.

Capt. Chris Hammonds expected it. In a mud-brick command center, the 32-year-old Army Ranger pivoted between a radio and a map, tracking reports of approaching Taliban. Several explosions soon ripped through the night as U.S. forces hit the suspected Taliban positions, including a cross-border guided-munitions strike on a compound about a mile inside Pakistan where senior associates of Siraj Haqqani -- considered one of the most dangerous Taliban commanders -- were thought to be meeting.

The U.S. military usually strikes across the border only when taking accurate fire from Pakistan, and standard practice calls for informing the Pakistani military about threats from its side. But Hammonds argued that the Pakistani military checkpoint was "under siege" from the Taliban and that Pakistani officers -- fearful of retaliation -- could tip off the insurgents.

The rare strike averted an imminent Taliban attack, Hammonds said, but across the border a starkly different account emerged. "Two women and two children got killed, so whatever was assessed was not correct," said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, a spokesman for the Pakistani army. No Taliban were meeting in the family compound, he said. The Pakistani government issued a protest, and demonstrations erupted. "We were never informed about the strike," Abbas said. "This has serious implications for operations."..

Recent high-level talks among the three countries have called for more intelligence-sharing and coordinated operations along the border. Last Saturday, the first of six new border coordination centers -- with officers from the three nations -- opened at Torkham at the Khyber Pass [emphasis added], a "giant step" forward, said Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the top U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan.

But despite such efforts, front-line commanders such as Hammonds still grapple with key obstacles -- including unreliable Afghan and Pakistani soldiers, ambivalent villagers, and even disputes over where the true border lies. Commanders said they need at least 50 percent more U.S. troops and more reconstruction money. At current levels, they said, it will take at least five years to quell insurgent attacks, which increased nearly 40 percent in eastern Afghanistan last year, including a 22 percent rise in attacks along the border...

Taliban fighters and facilitators plan and resupply in Waziristan towns and then move across the border to launch attacks as far inside Afghanistan as Kabul. Overall attacks in eastern Paktika province rose about 30 percent last year, and have more than quadrupled since 2003, according to military data. Attacks by improvised explosive devices have risen tenfold since 2003, and suicide bombings, unseen before 2006, numbered seven last year.

"The threat of suicide-borne IEDs and IEDs are everywhere. It's far more significant than in the past," said Lt. Col. Michael Fenzel, commander of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Roadside bombs killed 10 of the battalion's 12 soldiers lost since May. The insurgents "have an IED division, a suicide-bombing division, and everything else supports those two things," he said.

Throughout last fall and winter, Fenzel's battalion conducted operations in eastern Paktika and southern Khowst province to establish closer ties with villagers and to help block the influx of fighters with the spring thaw. His troops are building several outposts, already pushing the fighting closer to the border and away from populated areas...

...because of a shortage of U.S. troops, Hammonds's company can stay in the area only for several weeks. He doubts that Afghan and Pakistani soldiers will be able to control the route once he leaves.

"You're in the middle of an ANA mutiny," Hammonds said one afternoon, referring to the Afghan National Army, as Afghan soldiers from the 203rd Battalion piled into pickup trucks and quit the camp. The Afghans left after learning that the operation, originally to last nine days, would continue for weeks. The exodus underscored Hammonds's belief that Afghan army units cannot guard the border because they rotate every three to six months and they lack enough local knowledge. "The key to securing the border is to remove the ANA completely," he said.

Instead, Hammonds favors the Afghan border police, but eastern Paktika now has only 66 percent of its 857 authorized border police officers
[emphasis added] and, until December, they were led by a corrupt commander who colluded with the Taliban.

A greater frustration, he and other U.S. troops said, is that they cannot trust their Pakistani counterparts [emphasis added]. "The Pakistan military is corrupt and lets people come through," Hammonds said. Pakistani forces reportedly told insurgents the location of his observation post, and when U.S. troops in a firefight call the Pakistani military for help, he said, "they never answer the phone."..

NATO raises extra 1,800 soldiers at summit, says official

Written by www.quqnoos.com
Saturday, 05 April 2008

Unnamed source tells news agency that extra 1,800 soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan

NATO has raised nearly 1,800 troops to support the foreign soldiers already fighting in Afghanistan, foreign news agencies are reporting.

Although the only country that publicly announced troop contributions to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was France, an unnamed source told AFP news that Georgia had committed 500 troops for deployment in the east and south of the country, Poland pledged a further 400, the Czech Republic 120 and Azerbaijan 45.

Except for France, all the countries contributing combat troops were former Soviet bloc states or republics within the former Soviet Union.

Other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states said they would send military training and mentoring teams to work with the Iraqi army and police, the source said.

Italy will move out of the capital Kabul to western Afghanistan with three new training teams, the unnamed source said.

Romania and Greece will each provide a training and mentoring team. New Zealand said it would modestly increase its forces in Afghanistan to support a provincial reconstruction team.

The source also said eight countries agreed to contribute helicopters.

France’s commitment of 700 soldeirs to the east will free up US troops who can move south to bolster British and Candian soldiers struggling to fight off a growing insurgency in provinces such as Helmand and Kandahar.

ISAF compromises some 47,000 troops drawn from almost 40 nations, according to official figures released on April 1.


Australia should think before calling others underperformers in Afghanistan

The Age, Australia
Tom Hyland
April 6, 2008

RONALD van Dort doesn't know that both his legs were blown off last Sunday afternoon.

The Dutch soldier is in a coma in the Netherlands, where he was flown after his armoured vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan's Oruzgan province. He is 26 and was due to end his tour in three weeks.

He didn't rate a line in Australian newspapers, nor did 11 other soldiers wounded in four attacks on Dutch troops in the past week — even though they serve in the same province as Australian troops. The largest Australian unit in Afghanistan is part of a Dutch-led force, but that didn't make van Dort's injuries any more newsworthy, either.

What we did hear about were Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's efforts at last week's NATO summit to cajole European countries to shoulder a greater share of the burden in Afghanistan.

He argued that Australia's contribution of 1000 troops is the largest by a non-NATO member, and that its forces, unlike some Europeans, serve in a danger zone in combat roles.

Mr Rudd and Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon are not referring to the Netherlands — which has lost 14 soldiers in Afghanistan — when they complain about NATO's "underperformers".

Diplomacy dictates they have to be circumspect about naming names. But there are other reasons for caution.

One "underperformer", Germany, has 3500 troops in the relatively secure north of the country, in non-combat roles. Yet 25 Germans have died in Afghanistan, more than half as a result of enemy action.

The French, with 1400 troops (about to be reinforced with another 800) also in stable areas, have lost 12; the Spanish have lost 23; 12 Italians have been killed. That some died in accidents does not lessen the loss.

Three countries have suffered the bulk of the 789 coalition fatalities in Afghanistan — the US (490), Britain (91), and Canada (81). Denmark, with 780 troops in Afghanistan, has lost 14.

Four Australian soldiers have been killed there.

The body-count calculus means Australia should exercise restraint when it complains about who's carrying heavy loads. Otherwise, somebody might ask us to put our money — and our soldiers — where our mouth is.


Afghanistan: spring update (8 April 2008)
Conference of Defence Associations

British Council to send pupils on Afghanistan exchange

Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
By Damien McElroy
Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 08/04/2008

British children are to make exchange visits to war-ravaged Afghanistan and Iraq under a classroom twinning scheme.

The plan is the latest step in a dramatic change in outlook for the British Council as it prepares to mark its 75th anniversary next year.

Promoting ties with Muslim countries has emerged as a top priority and is closely linked to the Government's efforts to fight terrorism.

Swapping the Playstations and duvets of modern Britain for the dirt floors and brick beds of Afghanistan will depend on security assessments.

Only older children are likely to be involved in the exchanges. However, local authorities across Britain will be asked next year to volunteer their primary and secondary schools to "twin" with Afghan equivalents.

"We will apply a risk assessment to travel and be pragmatic," said James Rowe, a council spokesman. "We have recently had visits to Yemen go ahead and that country has a reputation for violence."

The threat to Westerners in Aghanistan has increased sharply in recent weeks following a suicide bombing at the Serena Hotel, a favourite of foreigners staying in Kabul.

But the prize of promoting ties in a country where, as recently as 2001, the Taliban banned all forms of modernity, including education for girls, is deemed too great to miss.

The Connecting Classrooms scheme is a global programme with long established links to Africa and China. Now expansion across Muslim countries has emerged as the most important development for the British Council since the end of the Cold War.

The extension of the programme to Afghanistan marks its boldest move since it was expanded to Iraq in 2004, where there are links to 24 schools. While exchange visits have so far been confined to meetings in Jordan, there are hopes that British children could soon visit northern Iraq.

The scheme's planned expansion in central Asia from April next year will be rapid. By 2012 it aims to cover 220 schools, involving 220,000 pupils in both primary and secondary grades, in Britain, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

"The mission of the British Council is to improve the understanding of the UK in the rest of the world," said Lord Kinnock of Bedwellty, the council's chairman, last week.

Efforts to promote reform among Islamic societies range widely from sponsoring Electric Steps, Libya's only hip-hop band, to setting up an English school in al-Azhar University, in Cairo, the world's largest institution for the training of mullahs.

"The debate inside Islam would be helped by having proficient Islamic scholars able to communicate in English," said Dominic Asquith, the UK ambassador to Egypt.

Accusations from Russia that the British Council was a front for spying resulted in the closure of two of its offices in December.

Prior to that, its employees, including Lord Kinnock's son, Stephen, the director of the St Petersburg outpost, also suffered harassment.

However, the row came at a time when the organisation is winding down its presence in the country.


Pakistan seizes 90,000 bags of smuggled flour

Written by www.quqnoos.com
Monday, 07 April 2008

Border troops say they have arrested hundreds in fight against flour smugglers

PAKISTAN’S Frontier Corps (FC) says it has seized about 90,000 bags of flour from smugglers trying to bring the food into Afghanistan during the last 10 days of March.

Since the government declared flour smuggling illegal, hundreds of smugglers have been arrested, a government statement said Saturday (April 5).

Last week in the Mohmand Agency, the FC seized 500 bags of flour in one day, which amounts to about 30,000kg of wheat, exposing a flour-smuggling racket that led to scores of arrests.

Pakistan has sent extra FC troops to the Waziristan, Mohmand, and Bajaur Agencies in an attempt to stamp out flour smuggling.

Afghan businessmen at a recent meeting of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry lashed out at the government for failing to stop the FC from seizing legal imports of flour.

Residents in Kabul, and many other provinces, are suffering because of dramatic increases in the cost of basic food, such as flour and bread.

A 50kg bag of flour has risen by about Afg200 in the last month and the cost of bread has almost doubled in the capital over the same period, leaving many Kabulis unable to afford it.


Kabul hotel tax raid sparks cash exodus

FT.com - World News
By Jon Boone in Kabul
Published: April 7 2008

Afghanistan businesses are moving cash reserves overseas after learning that the government claimed it was owed more than $285,000 in back taxes from the Aga Khan’s luxury hotel development in Kabul.

A fortnight after eight guests and staff were killed by a terrorist attack at the city’s most upmarket hotel on January 14, the ministry of finance took the money from the dollar account of the Serena hotel without warning.

After two years in operation, the Serena, an elegant five-star hotel set up by the Aga Khan in the hope that it would spur other international investors, has yet to make healthy profits.

The ministry of finance said it was within Afghan law to settle tax disputes by freezing or “making transfers” from private accounts. But Christopher Newbery, the hotel’s general manager, said the sudden withdrawal of funds could not have come at a worse time. The hotel’s revenue had dried up after a team of suicide bombers detonated themselves in front of the compound in central Kabul and it needed cash to repair the damage.

“We were absolutely furious because having been attacked on January 14, on January 29 we had a second attack when the government took our money at just the moment we needed it most.”

The case has highlighted the risks of starting businesses in a country where entrepreneurs say government interference and ­“nuisance taxes” are as big a problem as declining ­security and a decrepit national electricity supply.

Three companies, which declined to be named, told the Financial Times that they were taking cash out of the country to protect their businesses.

The Serena is one of two businesses that the Aga Khan Development Network has invested in as part of a private sector-led development programme. Frantic lobbying of Hamid Karzai, the president, by the ambassador to the Aga Khan, the billionaire spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim community, led to the money being temporarily repaid.

The ministry of finance says it expects the money to be paid to the government in three tranches. But the Serena’s tax consultants say the amount owed, which related to tax accrued by the Indian construction company that built the hotel, is more like $50,000 (£25,000, 32,000).

At a meeting on December 31 they paid that sum as a goodwill gesture and were told by Sharifullah Ibrahimi, the deputy minister of finance, that the dispute would only be settled after a full audit by the country’s large taxpayer’s office.

“It was as if the meeting had never taken place,” Mr Newbery said. “Not only did they simply help themselves to money, they claimed that we had never paid the $50,000. That’s what they do to people who actually pay their taxes – they take whatever they can get.”

Cases such as these are, the Afghan business community says, damaging the country’s efforts to build its economy, so Afghanistan can pay its own way when the foreign cash that pays for almost everything the government does dries up.

But the private sector is so limited – and so reliant on money spent by international consultants, diplomats and aid workers – that a French restaurant in Kabul catering to the culinary needs of the city’s expats is one of the country’s 100 biggest taxpayers.

Taxes, along with crime and persistent power outages, are leading some businesses to stop projects or relocate some or all of their businesses to Dubai. Saad Mohseni, chief executive of Moby Media, which runs television and radio stations, says he recently had videotapes of imported Indian television programmes impounded at Kabul airport because a government agency believed they should be paying on the content.

“The government says it is dealing with these so-called nuisance taxes but it’s ridiculous that after seven years we are still facing these problems,” he said. “Why can’t the whole lot just be declared null and void?”

He says his frustration with Afghan government “incompetence” is so great that the company has set up a business division in Dubai.

One leading international logistics company came close to pulling out of Afghanistan last year after it discovered it had been paying taxes to the ministry of communications – technically illegal because only the ministry of finance is allowed to raise revenue.

Some efforts to improve the tax system have made the situation worse. Draft laws prepared in English by foreign consultants have been mistranslated into Dari, the official language of government. The garbled version is then treated as the law. A western official, who declined to be named but has worked closely on tax reform issues, said the “cheques had been made out to the ministry of post, which doesn’t exist, so God knows who actually got the money”.
Extra troops to be sent to fight Taliban
Daily Telegraph, April 7

Britain is poised to send another 450 troops to Afghanistan and take control of its most war-torn region for at least the next two years following pressure from the United States, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

Despite concerns that British forces are already overstretched, Cabinet ministers are seriously considering a US request for Britain to take command of all Nato troops in southern Afghanistan for another two years of intense combat with the Taliban.

Defence officials believe the plan will require even more troops and The Daily Telegraph understands that they have drawn up proposals to send another 450 servicemen to Afghanistan - taking British numbers there above 8,200 [emphasis added].

In return, Britain has asked America to send more troops to Afghanistan early next year.

Canada currently holds the command of Nato forces in southern Afghanistan, with the responsibility due to pass to the Netherlands for nine months from November.

However, American defence planners have concerns about the rotating leadership. Washington wants Britain to replace the Dutch command and run the Regional Command (South) area from autumn this year until at least the spring of 2010.

One insider said: "It is a question of experience at that level of leadership - the Dutch just don't have as much as us or the Americans."..

Significant progress being made in southern Afghanistan: general
Canadian Maj.-Gen. Marc Lessard says 'winning' is too simplistic a term to describe the situation on the ground, writes Matthew Fisher in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Ottawa Citizen, April 8

The Canadian general commanding 13,000 Canadian, American, and European combat troops in the Taliban heartland says winning is not the way to judge success in fighting Afghanistan's insurgents.

"I never use the term winning because it too simplistic and does not relate to what we are doing here," Maj.-Gen. Marc Lessard said in his first formal interview since assuming command of NATO's Regional Command South in January...

Command in the south rotates between Dutch, British and Canadian generals who report to U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, the NATO commander in Afghanis-tan. Yesterday, the Daily Telegraph reported that American defence planners have concerns about the rotating leadership, believing the mission needs greater "continuity of command." They have asked the British to take over from Canada in November, with one insider saying "it is a question of experience at that level of leadership -- the Dutch just don't have as much as us or the Americans."

As well as better security in Canada's area of responsibility in Kandahar, Lessard cited similar trends in western Uruzgan after a Dutch-led joint operation with the U.S. "cleared the Taliban out in January," and the re-opening of a bazaar after three years in Helmand where British troops were stationed...

Articles found April 9, 2008

On The Verge: Canada’s $4.7B Program for Medium-Heavy Transport Helicopters
08-Apr-2008 17:19 EDT
  Article Link

Back in the 1980s, Canada’s Mulroney government sold the country’s CH-47 Chinook medium-lift helicopter fleet to the Dutch. They cost a lot to maintain and operate, and Canada didn’t need them anyway. Or so they thought. Fast forward to 2002, then 2006. Canada has had boots on the ground in Afghanistan for several years now, but doesn’t have any helicopters capable of operating in the hot and/or high-altitude environment of southern Afghanistan. Its CH-146 Griffons (Bell 412s) can’t carry useful loads in that environment, its ancient CH-124 Sea Kings are falling apart, its CH-148 Cyclones (H-92 Superhawks) are ordered but not yet manufactured, and its new search-and-rescue CH-149 Cormorants (EH101s) were consuming spares at a torrid rate before being grounded due to maintenance & safety issues. To support its 2,000 or so troops in Afghanistan, therefore, Canada has to rely on favors from US, British, Australian, Polish, and (irony of ironies) Dutch pilots flying CH-47 Chinooks.

When DID covered Canada’s “emergency” purchases for Operation Archer back in November 2005, DID made a strong point of noting the absence of medium-lift helicopters from that list. It should have come as a relief, therefore, to learn in June 2006 that the Canadian government had announced a CDN$ 4.7 billion program to purchase 16 “medium-heavy” helicopters for military and “disaster response” roles.

It should have, but it didn’t. DID explains the Afghan situation on the ground, the RFP, the options – and the problem. Now, almost 2 years after the program was announced, a sole-source RFP has been issued…

Cemetary Sideroad: On the Ground in Afghanistan
Bring It All Back: The New Helicopter Competition
Looking for a Place to Happen: The Problem [updated]
We’ll Go Too: Updates [new]
Escape Is at Hand for the Travellin’ Man: Additional Readings & Sources [updated]
More on link

SALIS’ Sibling: NATO’s C-17 Pool Inaugurates In-House Heavy Lift
08-Apr-2008 11:25 EDT
Article Link

The long-range C-17 Globemaster III heavy transport aircraft remains the backbone of US Air Mobility Command inter-theater transport around the world, and its ability to operate from shorter and rougher runways has made it especially useful during the Global War on Terror. Recent buys by Australia, Britain, and Canada have broadened the plane’s its global use. Now NATO, who has relied on the SALIS arrangement and its leased super-giant AN-124s from Russia, is looking to buy and own 3-4 C-17s as NATO pooled assets with multinational crews. Participating countries will receive allocated flight hours relative to their participation (a Dutch MinDef release says they expect 500 flight hours per year for EUR 10-15 million per year over 30 years), and thus far they include: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United States.

This order will not materially change the coming shut-down of C-17 production, but it does look like the inauguration of a pool that will fill a gaping hole in Europe’s defense capabilities – its complete lack of heavy airlift. This article will cover NATO C-17 acquisition program, including its structure and ongoing announcements. Program is actually a misnomer so far. There has been talk, and spending bills are being introduced in some countries, but nothing resembling firm contracts yet, despite an originally-planned in-service date of late 2007. While Denmark has dropped out, Finland appears to be dropping in, and Latvia is now on board…

The NATO C-17 Pool

An international consortium made up of NATO allies is forming the NATO Strategic Airlift Capability (NSAC) consortium; the ownership entity will be a chartered NATO Weapon System Partnership (WSP) of allied nations, and the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) will administer the WSP. Many observers believe that this pool will probably expand as additional aircraft (probably Airbus A400Ms) roll off of future active production lines. Defense Aerospace has a pair of compilation articles with releases for the initial announcement.

The following NATO nations are members of the NSAC initiative: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark (dropped out), Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, United States, Sweden and Finland*, both Partnership for Peace Countries, are also SAC Members; Finland is part of the initiative, but hasn’t yet signed a membership contract.

Membership in the airlift fleet remains open to other countries, upon unanimous agreement of the consortium members.
More on link

Soldier helps orphans; Ennismore man serving as medic in Afghanistan
Article Link

In the dangerous Panjwaii district of Afghanistan - birthplace of the Taliban - orphaned children flock to a Canadian Armed Forces outpost looking for Dr. Rob.

Ennismore-raised Cpl. Robert Gould, 23, a medic with the Third Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (3PPCLI), made national news last week when his battalion treated a group of orphaned children who walked nearly two hours along a road - considered the second most dangerous in the world - to seek out medical care.

"They come to the wire and actually ask for Dr. Rob," said his mother, Eileen. "The words out and all the kids are coming to see Dr. Rob."

When the group of children, led by a 10-year-old girl carrying her younger brother in her arms, walked two hours to reach the Canadians, Eileen said "she obviously heard that someone there helps out children."

"Tell him it's going to burn a little," Gould had told a young boy through an interpreter before he cleaned his sores with alcohol then applied antiseptic ointment and gauze bandages.

"He was pretty upset," Eileen said of her son after treating children on a previous visit who suffer from a form of flesh-eating disease.

She said Gould told her, "All I can do is give them some Polysporin and send them on their way."
More on link

'Once war comes this close, it makes you stop and think'
By MICHAEL STAPLES staples.michael@dailygleaner.com Published Wednesday April 9th, 2008
Article Link

Appeared on page A1
Huge "support our troops" ribbons hanging on Ralph Harris's Oromocto house remind residents he's a firm supporter of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

But the ribbons filled an additional role Tuesday - one of remembrance.

Harris and other members of the town solemnly marked the one-year anniversary of the deaths of six soldiers in Afghanistan on April 8, 2007, and two more three days later.

"It really brought the war close to home," Harris said Tuesday.
More on link

Attack on Road Crew Kills 18 and Injures 7 in Afghanistan
By ABDUL WAHEED WAFA and CARLOTTA GALL Published: April 9, 2008
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents ambushed a group of road construction workers and their security guards early on Tuesday, killing 18 of the guards and wounding seven, Afghanistan officials said. It was one of the worst attacks here in months.

The ambush happened in Zabul Province, about 30 miles from the provincial capital, in a remote mountainous area near the Pakistan border, said Gulab Shah Ali Kheil, the deputy governor of Zabul.

The construction company was surveying a new road linking the provincial capital to Shinkay district. The area has always been considered dangerous because it is a route to the mountainous areas of southern Afghanistan for Taliban fighters from Pakistan.

The group of surveyors and laborers were well guarded and moving in a convoy through a valley to start work on the road when insurgents opened fire on the guards, said Muhammad Younus, the project manager for the Fazlullah Construction Engineering Company. No one in the construction crew was hurt because the guards took the brunt of the attack and battled the Taliban for several hours before an Afghan Army unit arrived.

“The victims who were killed and injured are all our security guards, and all of our technical team survived,” Mr. Younus said by telephone.
More on link

Roadside bomb kills Polish soldier in Afghanistan
Last Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 | 7:45 PM ET Comments1Recommend4CBC News
Article Link

A Polish soldier was killed and another wounded when a bomb struck their NATO patrol in southeastern Afghanistan Tuesday.

Poland's Defence Ministry said he was the fourth Polish soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.

The roadside bomb blew up as troops were patrolling Ghazni province. Poland has 1,200 troops who are fighting mostly in the southeastern part of Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited Poland last week to thank Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk for backing Canada's bid for more support in Afghanistan. Poland has offered two military helicopters to boost NATO efforts in southern Kandahar province.

More than 2,500 Canadian soldiers are serving in Kandahar. Since the mission started six years ago, 82 soldiers and one diplomat have died.

Also Tuesday, Taliban fighters killed two Afghan police officers in the western province of Herat. Police said the militants attacked a police checkpoint.

Taliban insurgents killed seven police Monday in southern Kandahar province as they were eradicating a field of opium poppies.
More on link

French goverment wins no-confidence vote on Afghanistan
Tue Apr 8, 2008 12:38pm
  Article Link

The French government easily survived its first no-confidence vote in parliament on Tuesday, facing down opposition charges that it was sending extra troops to Afghanistan simply to please its U.S. allies.

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced this month that France would dispatch up to 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan, where it is part of a NATO coalition fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The opposition Socialists have accused the government of being too pro-American and submitted a censure motion in parliament after they were refused a vote on the deployment.

"The decision to send reinforcements is more political than military," Socialist party leader Francois Hollande told the National Assembly, also challenging Sarkozy's willingness to move towards rejoining NATO's integrated command.

"We are today faced with a (U.S.) president who is at the end of his mandate and no one knows what his successor's policy will be. Why such a rush one year before the end of George Bush's mandate?" Hollande said.

As expected, the motion against the government in the National Assembly lower house fell well short of the 288 votes needed for victory, with just 227 lawmakers backing it. Sarkozy's UMP party has 311 deputies in the 577-seat parliament.
More on link
Denmark To Reinforce Afghan Deployment
AFP, April 9

Denmark's defense ministry said April 8 it was sending extra helicopters and troops to Afghanistan, where it has suffered one of the highest per capita death tolls among coalition forces [emphasis added, more at link below].

"In the context of efforts aimed at strengthening the security of troops [already] deployed, it has been decided to reinforce the Danish contribution in Afghanistan with reconnaissance helicopters [emphasis added]," a statement read.

Between two and four Fennec craft as well as some 50-75 staff will be mobilized in about two months, it added.

The ministry cited spring growth of vegetation hindering visibility for ground troops as a factor behind the decision. Spokesman Jacob Winther also told AFP that the reinforcements were agreed independently of NATO requests for extra resources around last week's summit in Bucharest, Romania.

"It's because of security [concerns] over our own soldiers," Winther said.

Denmark presently has some 550 troops stationed in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, under British command.

The March 31 killing of a Danish soldier in Afghan fighting raised the country's combat death toll to 14, with most having died in the past year amid a resurgence of Taliban fighting.

The Danish daily Politiken has published photographs of the dead, with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates subsequently highlighting Denmark's "significant" share of the alliance "burden" amid a shortfall experienced by the 43,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

Via Moby Media Updates.

It's Payback Time

Times of India, India
Haroun Mir
9 Apr 2008

In 1994 when Pakistani officials decided to create a dreadful monster called the Taliban, they didn't bother to estimate its impact on their own society.

In fact, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence's (ISI) militaristic policies, which consisted of bleeding the Indian army in Kashmir and turning Afghanistan into their virtual fifth province, have blinded them to the consequences.

Their ill-conceived strategy has failed once again. Consequently, the Indian military has emerged stronger from the long conflict in Kashmir and the coalition forces have assisted Afghans to liberate Kabul from the grasp of the Taliban.

Eventually, Pakistan has become the biggest loser because the same radical movements, which its military leaders have created, threaten its very existence.

In the spring of 1992, the communist regime fell and Ahmad Shah Massoud's forces entered Kabul. Pakistani officials instructed their trusted man and surrogate Gulbudin Hekmatyar (leader of Hezb-e-Islami), who had just been appointed the prime minister of the newly established coalition government in Kabul, to burn down the city.

From 1992 to 1994, the Afghan capital became a living hell. Despite intensive efforts, Hekmatyar's forces were stuck in the southern and eastern parts of Kabul and were unable to make significant progress. Pakistani authorities decided to shift their support from Hekmatyar to a then-unknown radical movement — the Taliban.

Along with the ISI the late Benazir Bhutto and Nasrullah Babar — then respectively the prime minister and interior minister of Pakistan — are also to blame because the movement was created under their direct watch.

Few politicians in Pakistan and in the rest of the world ever questioned Pakistan's dangerous policy of purposely nurturing a radical Islamist group.

In September 1995, Colonel Imam (a senior ISI official), with impunity and consent of western officials who had an interest in the Turkmen pipeline project, personally led Taliban forces to capture Herat, which is the largest city in western Afghanistan.

In 1996 when Bin Laden's airplane landed in the Afghan city of Jalalabad, no alarm went off in the capitals of the West.

When the Taliban were beating women, destroying schools, and holding public executions, Pakistani officials were trying to convince the rest of the world by saying that Afghanistan was a backward, fragmented, and ethnically divided country which needed an iron hand to stabilise it.

Today, the same ills that destroyed Afghanistan plague Pakistan. Pakistani society today has become fundamentally divided. The home to Pakistan's intellectuals and moderate middle class is Punjab and Sindh, while radicalism, terrorism and poverty thrive in the Pashtun heartland and in Baluchistan province.

Up to the present moment, Pakistan's military authorities have favoured radical Islamist groups at the expense of moderate and democratic movements.

For example, President Musharraf didn't hesitate to jail lawyers who protested in favour of rule of law and democracy but appeased murderous radical Islamists and Taliban leaders under the phony Pashtun code of conduct enforced in the tribal area.

Until now, Pakistani authorities have been able to avoid a full confrontation with local Taliban groups for fear of alienating Pashtuns who constitute over 15 per cent of Pakistan's popu-lation, but are intentionally over-represented up to 25 per cent in Pakistan's army.

Despite continuous pressure from the US, Pakistan's military authorities have resisted bringing their Punjabi elite units to the tribal battlegrounds against the Pashtun radical movements.

Instead, they heavily relied on militia forces from the tribal zone to secure the area. Pakistani leaders rigorously want to avoid a rift and direct confrontation between Punjabis and Pashtuns.

Indeed, there is a real risk that the "war on terror" in Pakistan might transform into a full war for autonomy or independence of Pashtun tribes from Islamabad.

Pakistani authorities have broken the status quo in the tribal zone by promoting radical Islam and extremist religious leaders at the expense of traditional tribal leaders and institutions.

Pakistan's policy in the tribal zone has been a continuation of former British colonial policy, which consisted of keeping Pashtun tribes economically dependent, politically fragmented, and intellectually backward.

The government in Islamabad has continued to subsidise them and bribe their leaders, instead of creating a sustained economy and providing modern education.

The ageing Al-Qaida leaders and Afghan veterans of the Soviet war are ceding leadership to much younger and emerging local Taliban leaders.

Baitullah Mehsud is the best example of the new leaders, who want to set the agenda rather than follow anyone's orders.

Despite the efforts of ISI and Pakistani religious leaders to force him to fight against "infidel troops" in Afghanistan, Mehsud persisted with his goal to take the battle to Islamabad instead of Kabul.

Many fellow Afghans praise him for taking on Pakistani forces. Indeed, Pakistani authorities created Taliban to protect their interests in Afghanistan and in Kashmir, but are now faced with uncalculated consequences, which seriously threaten Pakistan's own existence.

The newly elected civilian leaders will have a hard time setting right the mistakes committed by the military over more than three decades.

(The writer served as a special assistant to late Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan's former defence minister.)   

Articles found April 10, 2008

New U.S. commander in Afghanistan vows to stabilize security 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-04-10 20:10:13 
  Article Link

    KABUL, April 10 (Xinhua) -- New commander of the U.S.-led Coalition forces in Afghanistan Major General Jeffrey J. Schloesser on Thursday vowed to spare no efforts in stabilizing security to the post-Taliban nation.

    "Today we pledge to work for the progress and prosperity of Afghanistan, we pledge to support Afghan National Security Forces and Afghan security," he told audience at his first remarks after taking over the command from his predecessor General David Rodriguez.

    At the ceremony held in Bagram Air Field, the headquarters of the U.S.-led Coalition forces 50km north of Afghanistan capital Kabul, he also assured to support Afghan National Security Forces and look forward to work with Afghan people.

    Presently, more than 21,000 U.S.-led Coalition forces from 21 countries have been serving in Afghanistan to help stabilize security and development process in the war-battered country.

    More than 43,000 NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have also been deployed in Afghanistan to help ensure durable peace and security in this land.
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101st Airborne Takes Over Afghanistan
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BAGRAM, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. 101st Airborne Division is taking over in Afghanistan, replacing the 82nd Airborne after 15 months in the country.

Outgoing commander Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez welcomed 101st commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Schloesser at a handover ceremony Thursday at the main U.S. base at Bagram.

The 101st Airborne will be responsible for security in eastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan. The paratroopers are being deployed for 15 months.

The U.S. now has some 32,000 troops in the country, the most since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. That includes about 3,500 Marines sent to southern Afghanistan to train police and fight the rising insurgency there
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Eight civilians killed in S. Afghanistan attack
Updated Thu. Apr. 10 2008 6:21 AM ET The Canadian Press
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- A suicide car bomber lying in wait for a passing military convoy killed eight civilians and wounded 22 others Thursday when he blew himself up at the edge of a crowded row of shops.

The explosion occurred just moments after the convoy, which did not include any Canadian troops, passed by the bomber's car, said Provincial police Chief Sayed Agha Saqib.
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Officials clueless on cost of choppers for Afghanistan
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OTTAWA -- Despite weeks of frantic activity and negotiation, Canada's Defence Department can only guess how much it will cost to fulfil the Manley report conditions that extend Canada's Afghan mission until 2011.

Defence sources say it is expected to cost "a couple of hundred million dollars" to supply six Canadian-owned battlefield helicopters to troops in Kandahar in a project that is over and above the Conservative government's promised $4.7 billion purchase of 16 CH-47 Chinooks.

A firm price tag has yet to be calculated because National Defence is waiting for the Pentagon to deliver a formal letter of offer in a government-to-government purchase.

The helicopters destined for Kandahar will be "standard U.S. Army configuration" - or the 'D' model of the Chinook, which cost between $15 million and $20 million per aircraft.

When logistics, spare parts and training are included, defence insiders conceded that the department currently has "no idea" how much obtaining the helicopters will cost.
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Wounded Warriors program helps soldiers, families in time of need
Regional News Apr 09, 2008 10:27 PM By: Michael Power
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Sometimes a soldier wounded in combat arrives at a hospital with little more than the clothes they are wearing and little to comfort them during recovery.

But an organization with offices in Thornhill aims to make their hospital stay easier.

The Wounded Warriors fund began in 2006 after a 20-year-old Canadian soldier from Orillia named Mike McTeague was seriously injured in a suicide attack west of Kandahar, Afghanistan.

He and other wounded soldiers were rushed out of the Central Asian nation after the attack and taken to a hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for treatment.

Mr. McTeague, a Sapper or combat engineer, was treated for life-threatening wounds.

But some visiting the hospital noticed, while Canadian soldiers received excellent medical care, they lacked the comforts that would make their stay more tolerable.

Cpt. Wayne Johnston was assigned as the wounded soldier’s assisting officer or the officer who helps those injured in combat and his or her family during such a crisis.
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Afghanistan choppers to cost "a couple of hundred million dollars," sources
April 9, 2008 - 4:27 pm By: Murray Brewster, THE CANADIAN PRESS
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OTTAWA - Despite weeks of frantic activity and negotiation, Canada's Defence Department can only guess how much it will cost to fulfil the Manley report conditions that extend Canada's Afghan mission until 2011.

Defence sources say it is expected to cost "a couple of hundred million dollars" to supply six Canadian-owned battlefield helicopters to troops in Kandahar in a project that is over and above the Conservative government's promised $4.7 billion purchase of 16 CH-47 Chinooks.

A firm price tag has yet to be calculated because National Defence is waiting for the Pentagon to deliver a formal letter of offer in a government-to-government purchase, a defence source familiar with the file told The Canadian Press.

The helicopters destined for Kandahar will be "standard U.S. Army configuration" - or the 'D' model of the Chinook, which cost between $15 and $20 million per aircraft.

When logistics, spare parts and training are included, defence insiders conceded that the department currently has "no idea" how much obtaining the helicopters will cost.

"A couple hundred million, but I'm just guessing," said the well-placed source.

Canada made obtaining battlefield helicopters and unmanned spy planes - UAVs - a key condition of extending the army's deployment until 2011. Both purchases are seen as crucial to reducing casualties.

The air force plans to lease UAVs, but a cost estimate on that program is expected to be released soon.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay confirmed last month that Canada has asked to slip ahead of the U.S. Army in the production line at Boeing aircraft to obtain up to six CH-47-Ds.
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French parliament rejects no-confidence vote on Afghanistan
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PARIS: France’s parliament rejected a left-wing vote of no-confidence against President Nicolas Sarkozy for his plans to send 700 more troops to bolster NATO forces in volatile Afghanistan, AFP reported. The vote, which also opposed what critics see as France’s increasing alignment with the United States and the EU on foreign policy, was lost by a significant margin, with 227 votes for and 288 against, in the National Assembly where the right holds a strong majority. The leader of the opposition socialist party, Francois Hollande, ahead of the vote denounced Sarkozy’s foreign policy, stating that the no-confidence motion represented "a refusal to change the nature of our engagement in Afghanistan and a refusal of France’s entry into NATO." He warned that France, which he said acted under "American pressure" to boost its 1,600 troops already in Afghanistan, would lose its autonomy with regard to NATO.

France withdrew its military involvement with NATO in 1964. Prime Minister Francois Fillon reacted by denouncing the left’s "anti-Americanism," accusing it of having no "serious plan" for Afghanistan. Sarkozy pledged to send more French military troops to Afghanistan at a NATO summit Bucharest last week. Since their defeat in the US-led invasion in late 2001, the Taliban have been waging an insurgency that was at its deadliest last year. A total of about 70,000 international troops, most of them under NATO command, are in Afghanistan to battle the insurgency.
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Canada’s air force boosts its heavy lift capacity into Afghanistan
Matthew Fisher, Canwest News Service  Published: Wednesday, April 09, 2008
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ABOARD CANFORCE 99 -- The lights of a lonely village twinkled below as Maj. Tim Burke manoeuvred the giant, camouflaged C-17 Globemaster into position for a spine-tingling, rapid descent into Kandahar Airfield with a 43,000-kilogram load of ammo, mail, medical supplies, computers and paper cups for Canadian troops fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

For Maj. Burke, 44, commanding Canada's newest, biggest and most expensive aircraft was the culmination of a 25-year military career spent flying tiny Challenger executive jets, second-hand Polaris Airbus 310s and venerable C-130 Hercules that were often nearly as old as he is.

Capt. Rob Doucette, 27, was living the dream too.

The Cape Bretoner was what the air force calls a Pipeliner. A graduate of the Royal Military College and fresh out of flying school, the first job the air force gave him was in the left seat of the cockpit of an aircraft worth somewhere around $200-million.

"This is exactly what we needed because it takes large cargoes efficiently over great distances," said Burke, 27, who like all the pilots, loadmasters and technicians on the C-17 was attached to 429 Squadron in Trenton, Ont.

"Flying into Afghanistan is very different than the usual strategic airlift. This is tactical flying. We are more stressed out, but it is challenging and rewarding."

To prepare to fly C-17s, Burke spent several months attached to the U.S. air force. His "seasoning" included three flights into Iraq.
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Canadian ready to lead NATO forces in Afghanistan
CTV, April 11

The Canadian who will take over the leadership of NATO forces in Afghanistan [surely CF Joint Task Force Afghanistan]

says recommendations made in the Manley panel report should help the war-torn country move towards a fuller democracy.

Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson will become the Commander of NATO troops after a handover ceremony in May. He told Canada AM Friday that Canadian soldiers can help Afghanis achieve a stable country through a three-prong process...

Thompson said NATO has to provide the "security bubble" that will allow civilians to work to develop the country's government and infrastructure. He said he's been preparing for the upcoming mission since last summer, a training period that will be about the length of the mission itself.

"That's included at least six exercises in such places as Honduras, Texas, and Alberta," he said... 

Emerson: Canadians should have realistic expectations for Afghanistan
CP, April 11

The first step in Canada’s exit strategy from Afghanistan will be for Canadians to shed the rose-coloured glasses about what can be accomplished over the next three years, says a senior Conservative minister.

The best Canada can hope for in Afghanistan in the short-term is that it will become a "viable state," Trade Minister David Emerson said Thursday during a weekly briefing.

"I don’t think any of us should be under the illusion that Afghanistan is going to be a thriving, prosperous democracy by 2011.

"But we hope we can get to the point where Afghanistan has become a viable state and we can normalize Canada’s relationship," said Emerson, chair of a cabinet committee overseeing Ottawa’s war-and-development strategy.

At last week’s NATO summit in Bucharest, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would set its own benchmarks and goals in Kandahar province, which will pave the way for withdrawal.

Emerson, a former business executive, said the cabinet committee is setting those priorities.

"Our committee will be paying particular attention to being realistic as to what we can achieve by 2011."

Among the immediate goals is to reduce the number of casualties as Canadian soldiers battle Taliban insurgents in frustrating hide-and-seek warfare, Emerson suggested...

The benchmarks, which the government hopes to point to in three years in order to declare the mission accomplished, will touch on security, governance, economic development and education.

The committee, which includes all ministers who have a responsibility for Afghanistan projects, has been trying to establish a clear picture of the Kandahar situation.

Meanwhile, the country’s top military commander gave the House of Commons foreign affairs committee a cautious assessment of the insurgency on the ground.

"The direct threat is still very real," said Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff.

"The mission continues in a positive direction, but that threat remains high especially in the south of Afghanistan and especially, from our perspective, in the west and north of Kandahar city itself."

Afghan Mission Gets High Praise
Canwest News, April 11

Canada's efforts in Afghanistan received high praise from two disparate corners yesterday -- a Clinton-era defence secretary and a British Conservative MP. Both praised Canada's combat mission while criticizing European allies for not pulling their weight on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

Former U.S. defence secretary William Cohen said some European countries were growing too fond of "soft power" and were shying away from "hard power responsibilities."

Meanwhile, British Conservative defence critic Liam Fox said Canada was a "model NATO citizen" that other reluctant European allies should emulate.

Mr. Cohen, a moderate Republican who served as Democrat Bill Clinton's defence secretary, yesterday criticized European members of NATO that did not permit their troops to engage in the heavy fighting in southern Afghanistan...

During the Clinton years, the United States criticized Canada for putting too much emphasis on soft power -- using hard rhetoric but not backing it with military might as they cut defence spending. Former Liberal foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy championed soft power.

Mr. Cohen also had high praise for the Conservative government's commitment to greater defence spending to back the Canadian Forces in their fight against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Mr. Cohen said that had brought Canada and the U.S. closer than in the Clinton years...

Yesterday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty met with Mr. Fox.

After the meeting, Mr. Fox wrote on his Web site, "More European nations should follow Canada's example and start playing a more meaningful role in the NATO alliance.

"Canada is the model NATO citizen. Under the Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has seen a steady increase in its defence spending and a modernization of its defence capabilities, along with an increasing willingness to play a full role in international security."

101st Airborne assumes authority of RC-East from 82nd Airborne
ISAF, April 11

KABUL, Afghanistan – On the 101st day of 2008, the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) officially became Combined Joint Task Force-101 (CJTF-101) and took command of the Regional Command East (RC-East) from the 82nd Airborne Division in a transfer of authority ceremony Thursday.

Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of the 101st Airborne and CJTF-101, praised the 82nd Airborne for their effective service throughout the past 15 months to improve the lives of the Afghan people, and promised to continue in that mission.

“We pledge to work together with our Coalition and Afghan partners in an effort to build a strong Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan… to improve the quality of life for the people of Afghanistan who have seen too much violence and terror over the last 30 years,” said Maj. Gen. Schloesser.

He added that the transition of authority also reflects the total commitment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization alliance, ISAF and the U.S. government to the security and prosperity of Afghanistan.

“The purpose of the ceremony today is not about words,” said Maj. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, outgoing commander of RC East and commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C. “It is about better opportunities for the future of the Afghan people and it is about the Coalition’s enduring commitment to this nation.”

Since the Taliban era, there are 8,000 more schools and 140,000 more teachers, he added.

About 70 percent of the girls and 97 percent of the boys in RC-East now have access to a state-sponsored education, as well as access to basic healthcare that has increased to nearly 80 percent, resulting in a 25 percent reduction in infant mortality, adding up to about 90,000 lives, Maj. Gen. Rodriguez said. “All of that is a large investment in a prosperous future for Afghanistan.”

“We pledge that we will continue to support the Afghan National Security Forces as they provide security for the Afghan people by working together with our coalition and alliance partners and interagency organizations,” said Maj. Gen. Schloesser.

RC-East is comprised of 14 provinces in eastern Afghanistan, bordering Pakistan.

This transfer of authority also marks the first time since World War II that the two well-known Army divisions have replaced each other on the battlefield. The 101st Airborne Division, known as the “Screaming Eagles,” is based out of Fort Campbell, Ky. Approximately 7,200 Soldiers from the division’s headquarters, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade and 101st Sustainment Brigade are now serving in Afghanistan as part of CJTF-101. The division’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams are currently deployed to Iraq.


US Troop Levels Up in Afghanistan (with slide show)
AP, April 10

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- The 101st Airborne Division took command of American forces in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, helping to boost U.S. troop levels in the country to their highest number since the 2001 invasion.

Marching in step, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne retired the unit's flag during a ceremony under a light rain beside the main runway at Bagram Air Field. Then 101st paratroopers unfurled their flag, officially marking the start of their 15-month tour [emphasis added].

The 101st has 7,200 troops in Afghanistan, several hundred more than the 82nd. Its arrival, coupled with the deployment of some 3,500 Marines to the country's south, has pushed the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to over 32,000, part of a steady rise in force levels as violence has increased over the last two years.

The top American commander in Afghanistan has requested three more brigades - about 7,500 more troops - and the Pentagon has promised that more troops will be sent next year [emphasis added]...

"What has become clear as the insurgency has picked up steam over the last year or two is that an increasing number of forces are needed to clear and hold territory," said Seth Jones, an analyst who follows Afghanistan for the RAND Corp. "In fact, I think a significant number more are needed. I would like to see those U.S. numbers come up."..

An outgoing U.S. commander said he's seen a significant reduction in Taliban and al-Qaida operations over the last year in the six provinces he commanded along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

"I'm pretty convinced that the effect of al-Qaida as it relates to Afghanistan is being reduced," Col. Martin Schweitzer said.

Jones, the analyst, said that it appears violence has gone down in the east, where the U.S. primarily operates. But he said the south - like Helmand and Kandahar provinces - is "incredibly violent," and that the insurgency is spreading into the west and areas around the capital as well.

Schweitzer said he'd like to see the success U.S. forces have had in the east replicated in the south, where British, Canadian and Dutch troops operate but where the insurgency is thriving. Schweitzer did not single out any country for criticism but said in general forces need to stay longer than four to six months, as some nations' troops do [emphasis added]...

Articles found April 14, 2008

Ottawa hopes to block probe into Afghan detainees
Updated Sun. Apr. 13 2008 10:38 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
Article Link

The government is seeking to block an independent investigation by the Military Police Complaints Commission into Canada's handling of Afghan detainees, according to court documents filed in Federal Court.

Amnesty International Canada and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association filed a complaint with the commission last year, after allegations surfaced that detainees had been tortured by local Afghan authorities.

Government lawyers filed an application Friday to halt the investigation, saying the commission does not have jurisdiction to probe the complaints.

"(The) transfer of detainees is a military operation which does not form part of the 'policing duties and functions' for which the MPCC has oversight,'" the application states.
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NATO’s response to Canada’s demands worse than nothing
By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target Mon. Apr 14 - 5:35 AM
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AT THE NATO summit meetings held earlier this month in Bucharest, Romania, the Canadian delegation was quick to claim it had achieved its objectives.

Those goals had been outlined in the report tabled by the independent panel on Afghanistan, headed by former deputy prime minister John Manley. The Manley report concluded that Canada’s military commitment to Afghanistan was entirely dependent upon our NATO allies contributing a 1,000-strong reinforcement to Kandahar and upon our own military being able to somehow acquire medium-lift helicopters before February 2009.

The high-fives exchanged by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his entourage in Bucharest came after the French delegation announced France would send an additional 700 soldiers into eastern Afghanistan. While this would in no way help out with the Canadian situation in the south, the Pentagon said that with the French deploying in the east, the Americans will be able to send 1,000 troops to Kandahar by this November.

Here’s where the math gets a little tricky, and the official spinning gets a little intense. Back in January, just one week before Manley tabled his report calling for an extra 1,000 NATO troops, U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates announced that the U.S. would be temporarily bolstering its troop presence in Afghanistan with 3,000 marines.
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Canadian soldiers to go even higher-tech
System connects GPS, goggles to commanders
Apr 12, 2008 04:30 AM Murray Brewster the Canadian Press
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OTTAWA–Canadian troops fighting in Afghanistan's hinterland could soon resemble the cyber-soldiers of the wildly successful Halo video game and novel series.

National Defence has set aside as much as $310 million for an integrated soldier system. Companies hoping to cash in had their wares on display this week at a defence industry trade show.

High-tech systems now coming on the market connect existing pieces of equipment, such as radios, digital maps, night-vision goggles and range-finding binoculars, into one system.

Controlled by a palm-sized computer and linked to a global positioning system (GPS), the network ties individual soldiers to one another and to field commanders kilometres away, who can monitor the whereabouts – even the health – of their people.

"This is a totally integrated system," said Luc Bentolila, a vice-president of Europe-based EADS defence and security. "It helps a soldier accomplish a mission."

EADS's Warrior 21 system is used by German soldiers in Kosovo and the Congo. Spain and Switzerland have orders pending with EADS.
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Time for some positive talk about Afghanistan mission
Matthew Fisher, National Post  Published: Sunday, April 13, 2008
Article Link

Why won't the Harper government tell Canadians about the many successes and occasional failures of our men and women in Afghanistan?

This question is especially pertinent today because the Harper government's new point man on Afghanistan, Trade Minister David Emerson, who is virtually unknown to troops of all ranks, is seeking to create even greater political oversight of what has become such a micro-managed mission that several senior public affairs officers have quit in disgust or are about to.

The leaders of the military's communications strategy are livid because their jobs have narrowed to the point where their chief role is to seek the Prime Minister's Office's permission to release any scrap of information - and the answer is usually no.

On top of this, several senior officers serving in Afghanistan have complained bitterly in private about being muzzled by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
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Marines Mired in NATO Red Tape in Afghanistan
BY Herschel Smith
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Several months ago upon following our commentary on the Afghanistan campaign, a field grade officer, and someone who is definitely in a position to know, contacted The Captain’s Journal and recommended that we focus our attention on the ongoing lethargy of the campaign due to NATO incompetence and inability to formulate a coherent and sensible strategy.

Soon after this we published NATO Intransigence in Afghanistan and The Marines, Afghanistan and Strategic Malaise.  We have also pointed out that however bad a shadow NATO casts over the campaign in Afghanistan, the Taliban and al Qaeda have no such incoherence, and have settled on a comprehensive approach to both Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Now from the Baltimore Sun, we learn just how bad the strategic malaise is and how prescient were our warnings.

Field Report

From the Baltimore Sun:

Multinational force has multiple leaders
By David Wood

Sun reporter

April 11, 2008


Disagreements and coordination problems high within the international military command are delaying combat operations for 2,500 Marines who arrived here last month to help root out Taliban forces, according to military officers here.

For weeks the Marines — with their light armor, infantry, artillery and a squadron of transport and attack helicopters and Harrier strike fighters — have been virtually quarantined at the international air base here, unable to operate beyond the base perimeter.

Within immediate striking distance are radical Islamist Taliban forces that are entrenched around major towns in southern Afghanistan, where they control the lucrative narcotics trade and are consolidating their position as an alternative to the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
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Bernier outlines modest benchmarks for Afghan mission
GRAEME SMITH From Monday's Globe and Mail April 13, 2008 at 9:25 PM EDT
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier arrived in Kandahar yesterday with a modest definition of his goals for the Afghan mission. Gone was the rhetoric of his visit six months ago when he claimed success at reducing violence in the province.

Taliban attacks continue and Mr. Bernier now says Canada should instead measure progress by setting targets for training Afghan soldiers and police in Kandahar. He also described Canadian soldiers as a bulwark against humanitarian disaster, invoking memories of the Rwandan genocide when foreign troops were forced to stand aside and watch a mass slaughter.

Mr. Bernier's narrow description of Canada's role contrasted with the sweeping speeches by his flamboyant travelling companion, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who said the 700 troops his country is contributing will be fighting for more ambitious causes.
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Senate security committee racks up $3 million in travel spending
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OTTAWA — The Senate committee on national security and defence has spent $3 million since 2001 on annual tours to military bases and cities in Canada, "fact-finding" missions to Washington, D.C., trips to Europe and two visits to Canadian troops in Kandahar.

Records show the committee's study of military and security operations has been the costliest Senate inquiry in 13 years, perhaps since Confederation.

Annual budgets tabled in the Senate show the committee, under chairman Liberal Colin Kenny, has generously entertained politicians abroad and Canadian military at home, with thousands for hospitality.

The hospitality expenditures are on top of thousands spent on working lunches and dinners, per diems for the senators and accompanying staff, and hotel rooms that cost up to $450 a night in Washington.

The committee's latest budget, $617,150 over the next year, includes $158,000 in sole-source contracts for four consultants: a researcher, a military adviser, an intelligence and national security adviser and a communications specialist.

The nine-member committee routinely takes the consultants and several Senate staff along on its trips.
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German Army Chief Wants More Troops in Afghanistan  
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The army's head wants more troops in the face of stepped-up attacks
The German army's chief of staff wants more troops in northern Afghanistan following a string of recent attacks on German soldiers and their Afghan helpers, he said in a magazine interview published on Sunday, April 13.

Wolfgang Schneiderhan told the weekly magazine Focus that the 3,500-strong mission in northern Afghanistan was stretched to the limit. He also said he expects more attacks on his troops by insurgents, although the north is widely seen as more peaceful than the restive southern part of the country.

The number of troops "takes away flexibility for me to react quickly to any worsening in the situation. I will argue this when the extension of the mandate comes up for discussion in the autumn," Schneiderhan said.
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Canadian pilots being trained to fly new Chinook choppers
U.S. military readying older helicopters for Afghan missions by fall

Ottawa Citizen, April 15 by David ********

Canadian pilots are now receiving training on Chinook helicopters and should be ready for operations in Afghanistan by the fall.

The large transport helicopters will move troops and supplies in the field, reducing the time that soldiers have to travel by land. That will cut down exposure to ambushes and suicide bombers or insurgents planting improvised explosive devices. Such attacks have claimed many of the 83 Canadian lives lost so far in Afghanistan.

Although the government is negotiating with U.S. aerospace firm Boeing to buy 16 new Chinooks those aircraft aren't expected to be delivered until at least 2011.

As a stop-gap, the U.S. military is readying older Chinooks for the Canadian Forces for missions starting in the fall, defence officials have said privately.

Military officials also say the air force will send a small number of Griffon helicopters to Kandahar for surveillance and ground attack missions by the end of the year [emphasis added].

Officially, however, the Defence Department has no details to make public on the helicopters. "No decision has been made on the deployment of the Griffons," said Canadian Forces spokeswoman Lieut. Isabelle Riche.

The push to provide Canadian helicopters to support the troops falls in line with recommendations by the Manley panel, which also recommended the government provide unmanned aerial vehicles to conduct surveillance. That process has already started. The lease of the drones is expected in the summer with these aircraft also landing in Kandahar by the end of the year. The list of companies expected to bid includes Thales, with offices in Ottawa; General Atomics of the U.S. with General Dynamics of Ottawa; and MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates of Richmond, B.C...

Last year, in response to questions about whether Griffons could be used in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Peter MacKay issued a statement that such an option would not be considered. Army officials, however, have been pushing hard for the Griffons [emphasis added].

The Defence Department is also purchasing Gatling guns to be mounted on helicopters.

The war will be won in Kabul (long article)
Ottawa Citizen, April 14 by  Col. (ret'd) Mike Capstick
To be clear, the Afghan mission can be lost on the battlefields of Kandahar Province, but it can be won only in Kabul.

The strategic failings of the past few years are dealt with adequately in the Manley report. However, the debate in Canada continues to focus on the military aspects of the mission and questions surrounding the NATO commitment, troop reinforcements in Kandahar and government transparency.

As important as these issues are, it is far more crucial to focus on the steps that are needed to achieve the strategic-level cohesion necessary to the success of both the joint Afghan-international effort and Canada's crucial role in that effort. However, there does not appear to be any shared view of how to do this.

The roots of this problem lie in the period immediately following the fall of the Taliban. The U.S. consciously limited the role and authority of the UN, and the dysfunctional "lead nation" system of the Bonn Process proved to be a structural barrier to cohesion. On the security front, American insistence that the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confine its efforts to Kabul resulted in the creation of two parallel military chains of command and a security vacuum, especially in the southern provinces. Even though most military operations are now under ISAF command, Special Forces and Afghan National Security Force reform and training activities remain under a separate U.S. command.

Clearly this lack of cohesion is untenable, and if the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is to be effective, the appointment of a special envoy must be accompanied by expressions of full political-level support and genuine behavioural change on the ground...

In the simplest terms, most Afghans want the same things that Canadians wanted in 1867 -- peace, order and good government. Our development aid efforts must focus on helping them achieve this.

The importance of this mission to the people of Afghanistan cannot be overstated. Overcoming the predators is crucial to the future of Afghanistan and its people. This will take time -- a long time. It is simply impossible to repair the damage wrought by three decades of conflict in a matter of a few years.

It is easy to see the physical damage to the country's infrastructure and institutions and it is repairable with money and time. On the other hand, it is far more difficult to see the damage that constant conflict has done to the social fabric of the country, and the issues of human security, good governance and human capacity are far more difficult to fix than are bridges, roads and schools.

The international community has failed, because of a lack of strategic vision and, in some cases, strategic hubris, to establish the conditions required for human security and good governance.

Weapons of mass construction
Canada.com, April 15 by Sen. Colin Kenny

The success of the war that Canada is fighting in Afghanistan is going to depend on the intelligent use of weapons. But not the kind that kill people.

All Canada's automatic rifles and rockets and grenade launchers will have been wasted if Afghans don't soon gain access to the weapons they need the most: education, justice and job opportunities.

When I entered Afghanistan with four other members of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence last week I had real doubts about Canadians fighting a war on behalf of a population so clearly in disarray, riddled with corruption, saddled with a medieval mindset and skewed by a drug trade running wild.

When I left Afghanistan four days later my primary image was no longer of brave Canadians trying to prop up an ineffectual government and a hopeless society, and I believe my colleagues also came away with a different impression than we went in with...

Some day, everyone hopes, the Afghan army and the Afghan police will be both strong and fair, and development projects will be able to take place under their protective wings. But not yet, certainly not in provinces like Kandahar.

When foreigners are involved in individual development projects, they need military protection to get to them. We met one woman, helping reform the prison system, who required three military vehicles and a dozen personnel to get her safely to where she needed to go.

When Afghans run Canadian-sponsored development projects - and because of the security situation nearly all projects in Kandahar are run by Afghans - they put their lives at risk.

Canadian aid directors - co-operating with the Canadian military, which itself must do some of the aid work like road-building - are doing a good job under difficult circumstances. Their mantra is consultation: They don't go ahead with projects unless they have been deemed priorities by community councils. That is important, because we are there to enable Afghans to get where they want to go, not to direct them where we want them to go.

Right now our development enabling can't be done without our military enabling. Which is okay, according to the Afghans we talked to when Canadian officials weren't present. Maybe some of them were telling us what they thought we wanted to hear, but many expressed heartfelt appreciation for both Canada's development efforts and the military efforts that make the development possible.

Canada has subscribed to various aid theories over the past four decades as we have tried to do patch jobs in scores of countries around the world, sometimes with little lasting effect. The two theories that have always made the most sense are (a) focus on a handful of countries rather than try to serve every country in need; (b) focus on the poorest of the world's poor; (c) stay on site long enough that donors and recipients understand each other well enough to ensure progress than can be sustained.

Afghanistan is as poor a country as you can get, with as mournful a history as any country in the world. Canada is right to focus on this place - not because Osama bin Laden is holed up somewhere in this part of the world, but because Afghans desperately need us.

Canada is currently No. 1 on the list of development donors to Afghanistan on a per-capita basis. Our aid program recently got a huge boost when Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan's progressive minister of education, asked Canada to take the lead in advising the government on co-ordinating education across the country.

Canadians are always going to want to be helping somewhere. Despite our committee's doubts over the past few years and our criticisms of the Canadian International Development Agency, right now we'd have to say that there is no better place for Canada to be focusing our aid than this.

We're distributing weapons to Afghans. Of the very best kind.

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