• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (April '08)

Not open for further replies.
Articles found April 15, 2008

Hillier to step down as Canada's top general
Updated Tue. Apr. 15 2008 12:32 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
Article Link

Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's popular and high-profile chief of defence staff, will be stepping down. The resignation will be effective July 1.

CTV"s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife told Canada AM on Tuesday that Hillier has reportedly decided that he wants to move on.

Fife said there is no policy disagreement or other troubles with the government.

CTV News reported in October 2007 that Hillier would be replaced when his three-year term expired in February.

Chiefs of defence staff normally serve a three-year term, but that isn't fixed. Defence commentators said at the time that they thought Hillier would welcome an extension or renewal.

The Liberal government of then-prime minister Paul Martin appointed Hillier as chief of defence staff in January 2005.

In his inaugural speech, Hillier called for more money for the Forces, which had born a significant burden of spending cutbacks as the federal government tried to bring chronic deficit spending under control in the 1990s.

Hillier also envisioned a new role for the Canadian military in the 21st century, a more nimble force capable of responding to the emerging threats of terrorism and natural disasters.

In addition to being a strategic thinker with field experience (he served as the senior NATO officer in Afghanistan before being named CDS), Hillier is revered by the troops, particularly the army.
More on link

Two policemen, several insurgents killed in Afghanistan (Roundup)
Apr 15, 2008, 15:27 GMT  Article Link

Kabul - Two Afghan policemen were killed and three were wounded in a roadside attack in southern Afghanistan, while Afghan and coalition forces killed several insurgents in two separate incidents in the same region, officials said on Tuesday.

The attack on a police vehicle occurred on the road between Spin Boldak district and Kandahar city, the capital of the province of the same name on Tuesday morning, said Sahib Jan, police chief of Spin Boldak district.

'Their vehicle was blown up by a roadside mine. Two policemen were killed and three others were wounded,' Jan said, adding that one of the wounded was in critical condition.

The attack came a day after 11 policemen were killed in Taliban's attack in Arghandab district of the same province.
More on link

Panel to continue probe despite Ottawa
'... what the commission is doing is clearly outside of its jurisdiction,' Prime Minister says
STEVEN CHASE AND JOE FRIESEN From Tuesday's Globe and Mail April 15, 2008 at 4:30 AM EDT
Article Link

OTTAWA, WINNIPEG — The independent Military Police Complaints Commission has vowed to keep investigating whether Canada turned prisoners over to Afghan security forces knowing they would be tortured, despite the fact the Harper government has begun legal action to end the probe.

"We're surprised and disappointed by the government's decision to seek a court order to block the investigation and to prevent a public-interest hearing into this important case," chairman Peter Tinsley said. "It's especially surprising given the fact that the government did not challenge our jurisdiction a year ago when we first launched our investigation."

The Conservative government's attempt to shut down the probe, filed last Friday, came just weeks before the commission was to begin public hearings into whether the military knew detainees transferred to Afghan custody were likely to be tortured.
More on link

Turkey not to send combat troops to Afghanistan
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
Article Link

Turkey has no intention of sending combat troops to Afghanistan, Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Wednesday. U.S. seeks more troops for Afghanistan from its NATO allies at the summit in Bucharest.

Turkey has no intention of sending more combat troops to Afghanistan, Gul said before he departed for NATO Summit in Bucharest on Wednesday. Gul will meet France President Nicolas Sarkozy and Britain Prime Minister Gordon Brown in the sidelines of the summit. Gul will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Ali Babacan and Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul.

Turkey joined the countries who distanced themself from U.S. President George W. Bush's call to send more troops to Afghanistan. French prime minister said on the eve of the meeting that Paris might send just several hundred soldiers and an aide to Sarkozy said France would make any new deployment dependent on an increase in foreign aid for Afghanistan.

Diplomats had hoped Sarkozy would tell a NATO summit starting in Bucharest later on Wednesday that France would make a major new contribution in Afghanistan as part of a revamp of the NATO peacekeeping force in the east and south.
More on link

Beleaguered Canadians face a long wait for the cavalry
The Times, April 17

Private Terry John Street was on a routine patrol along a lonely stretch of road flanked by green marijuana fields and deserted towns when his armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb, killing him instantly.

On the same road, less than three hours earlier, two Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded in another explosion. As their comrades struggled to clear the remains of the vehicle they hit another bomb.

The attacks ended an especially bloody week for Canadian forces who, more than any other nation, have been at the violent forefront of the mission in Afghanistan. Since taking command of the alliance in the unhospitable province of Kandahar in 2006, Canadian soldiers have taken the lead in training Afghan police to assume eventual control over their own security. Without enough troops, and with insufficient airpower and poor intelligence, they have been frustrated by an increasing number of attacks that undermine their exit strategy.

In the week of Private Street’s death, patrols discovered more than 12 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) buried in the road. “It’s anarchy out there. We’re begging for somebody to fire at us so we can shoot back, but this battle has changed,” said Sergeant-Major Gorden Cavanaugh, from the 2nd Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the principal unit patrolling the volatile region southwest of Kandahar city...

...“Sometimes it feels like every time we make progress, we fall two steps back. The problem is we’re overstretched and a thousand more troops isn’t going to solve that,” one soldier, who has served in the Canadian military for nearly 20 years, said.

The battle group of Private Street patrolled three police substations, where Canadian soldiers mentor Afghan police. The crude, barbed-wire fortresses, made of oil drums and sandbags, were viewed as a victory for Nato forces when they were built deep in the Taleban territory last year. Canadian troops were welcomed by villagers who had long been victimised by Taleban insurgents.

When the current rotation of Canadian soldiers arrived in February “this was pretty much the place to come to get shot at”, Captain Bob Barker, 26, said as he stood on an observation post pockmarked with bullet holes.

The police who were meant to patrol the area were rife with corruption. They lacked proper equipment and basic training, and routinely took bribes to compensate for their lack of pay. The Canadians parachuted in a contingent of civil-order police from Kabul, sent the police on a training course and set out on joint patrols.

The ferocious fighting with the Taleban tapered off. But without enough troops to train police, gather intelligence on foot patrols and guard the road to prevent insurgents from planting explosives, soldiers were sometimes faced with a stark choice.

Private Street died on a road that had been recently cleared of IEDs, which Major Mike Lane describes as “the perfect weapon against us because we can’t be there 100 per cent of the time”. When his convoy was hit, a road that had been secured was revealed to be surprisingly vulnerable, so the mission was “refocused”.

Canadians have been criticised by some American officials for allegedly prioritising peacekeeping over counter-insurgency operations meant to hunt down the Taleban [emphasis added].

Canadians counter that without more troops, they are most effective by securing areas where they have the greatest chance of success — in populated areas where locals can be won over and eventually stand up to the Taleban themselves...

When asked how long Afghanistan needed Canadian support before his troops could handle security alone, Corporal Izatullah Hotak, a 22-year-old Afghan commander, said: “We need the Canadians until 2050. The Taleban is supported by foreign countries. We need to be as well.”

Articles found April 17, 2008

Right from the Cod
Thu. Apr 17 - 4:48 AM
Article Link

LAST YEAR, the prime minister’s office felt obliged to tell Canada’s blunt-spoken and popular chief of defence staff he wasn’t the chief spokesman for the mission to Afghanistan.

That didn’t fool anyone. Constitutional niceties aside, in his three years as CDS, General Rick Hillier has come to be widely regarded and highly respected as a top soldier who will speak plainly and honestly – both for the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and to the Canadian public. What he talked about mattered: the realities of risking your life to fight terrorists and what you need from the folks back home by way of moral support, proper equipment, a clear mission and an understanding of tactics and the enemy.

Does this forceful openness, and his Newfoundland touch for the irreverently unforgettable phrase, make the "Big Cod" a political general? Yes, but only in a proper and admirable way. He’s not the type who has accumulated stars by telling political bosses what they wanted to hear or trimming his advice to suit the party in power. Rather, this is a soldier who has the political smarts and courage to tell his civilian bosses and the public what they need to know if they’re going to make informed political choices on where and how to deploy Forces personnel.
More on link

9 dead in clashes with troops in central Afghanistan
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan and foreign troops battled militants who ambushed their patrol in central Afghanistan on Thursday, leaving nine Taliban fighters dead, a government official said.

The clash occurred in the Gilan district of Ghazni province, said district chief Abdul Wali Thofan. There were no casualties among the troops, he said. He did not specify where the foreign forces came from, but most of the troops in Ghazni are American.

Authorities recovered the militants' bodies along with their weapons and six motorbikes, Thofan said.

Separately, a roadside bomb struck a Canadian military vehicle in southern Afghanistan, the heart of the Taliban-led insurgency.

No one died in the blast on Thursday near Spin Boldak, a town on the Pakistani border, said Lt. Cmdr Pierre Babinsky, a spokesman for NATO troops in the south.

He declined to say whether any soldiers were wounded.

The insurgency has left more than 1,000 people dead so far this year, most of them militants, according to an Associated Press tally of figures provided by Afghan and Western officials.
More on link

Trip to Afghanistan a step in the healing process
Dead soldiers' families tour Canadian base to see mission up close
Ryan Cormier, The Edmonton Journal Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008
Article Link

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Shortly before he went to Afghanistan, Trooper Darryl Caswell invited his mother to CFB Petawawa and insisted she buy a pair of military-issue hiking boots just like the ones he would wear overseas.

"He said the good thing was, Mom, your boots will never get to Afghanistan," said Darlene Cushman.

This week, they did.
More on link

PM faces challenges on foreign affairs file
TheStar.com April 17, 2008 Les Whittington Ottawa Bureau
Article Link

OTTAWA–The politics of the Afghan military mission appear to have suddenly become a lot tougher for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Gen. Rick Hillier, who did more than anyone else to convince Canadians that the mission is worthwhile, will soon be retiring, while Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, the man whose comments may have undermined years of Canadian activities in Afghanistan, is staying around.

Bernier sparked an uproar by interfering in Afghan affairs with the suggestion that the governor of Kandahar should be replaced.

Despite opposition party demands that Bernier be fired for causing a diplomatic incident with Canada's partners in Afghanistan, Harper declined and expressed his faith in the 45-year-old newcomer to politics from Quebec.

Bernier, whose appointment as foreign affairs minister last summer after a lacklustre stint in the industry portfolio was widely seen as guided by domestic political considerations, has been in place during a rocky period for the Harper government on the international stage.

"I was always surprised that Bernier was chosen for foreign affairs," said University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman.
More on link

Latest Canadian Forces ads omit Afghan mission
New commercials depict domestic operations with no reference to overseas combat; critics suggest Tories playing down controversy
STEVEN CHASE Globe and Mail Update April 17, 2008 at 9:15 AM EDT
Article Link

OTTAWA — One thing is missing from the Canadian Forces' latest generation of TV recruitment ads unveiled this week: any mention of Afghanistan or overseas combat.

It's an odd omission given that Canada is engaged in its biggest military operation since the Korean War in Afghanistan, a mission that has revitalized the Forces and driven a lot of its new equipment spending.

Instead, the two new TV ads - Hard Landing and Drug Bust - paint a job in the Forces as an exclusively domestic career: rescuing survivors of a downed airplane in the Canadian North and catching drug smugglers off the East Coast.

"These ads will be seen on television throughout the spring - including in the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs," the Department of National Defence announced this week
More on link

Two US soldiers killed in Afghanistan: military
Article Link

KABUL (AFP) — A new US Marine force that began deploying in Afghanistan last month said Thursday it had suffered the first casualties since it began operations in country, losing two soldiers in a bomb blast.

The 2,300-strong US Marine Expeditionary Unit confirmed that two soldiers, whose deaths were announced on Wednesday by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), belonged to the unit.

"We lost two Marines on the 16th of April early in the morning in Kandahar," a spokeswomen for the newly deployed force, captain Kelly Frushour, told AFP, referring to southern Kandahar province.

The soldiers were attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which began operations in southern Afghanistan on April 10.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the explosion, but similar acts in the past have been blamed on Taliban militants.

The unit was Washington's recent contribution to ISAF, which is fighting the growing Taliban insurgency here.
More on link

Keeping soldiers in uniform becoming a more challenging task: documents
Article Link

OTTAWA — Keeping Canadian soldiers in uniform is proving to be a difficult task as the country settles in for three more years of fighting in Afghanistan - one that is demanding more and more attention from top commanders, newly released documents reveal.

Briefing materials prepared for Defence Minister Peter MacKay show army attrition - the number of people choosing to retire or not renew their contracts - has reached 13 per cent, almost double the average for all three branches of the military.

A presentation given last fall by the army chief, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, shows the overall size of the land force declined by 1,846 soldiers between May 2005 and May 2007, despite the success in recruiting fresh troops.

The Powerpoint slide show and other briefing materials were obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information laws.

MacKay acknowledged attrition is growing, but downplayed its impact and insisted the Conservative government is taking steps to deal with the problem.

"I think that's always been an issue in a competitive job market," MacKay said at the recent launch of new television recruitment ads. "You're always going to see offers coming that cause men and women in the Forces to consider those options."
More on link

Officers may be sent to southern Afghanistan
Norwegian Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, on a visit to Afghanistan, has stated that Norwegian officers may be sent to the most troubled region of the country as part of their mission to train and lead Afghani troops.
Article Link

From October, 50 Norwegian officers are to begin service training Afghani forces, after which they will be expected to lead the forces in fighting, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

This means they may be sent anywhere in the country in which the Afghani forces are fighting, including the agitated area in southern Afghanistan, confirmed the defence minister.

"This is a very challenging job and I emphasize that the officers we are sending out are very experienced people," said Strøm-Erichsen.

On her visit to Afghanistan, a bomb threat forced the Norwegian defense minister and her delegation to change their route through Kabul.

Norwegian police security forces have been beefed up significantly since a terrorist attack on a Kabul hotel in January this year that resulted in a Norwegian journalist’s death. An American citizen was also killed in the ambush.
More on link
Afghanistan: a farewell
Conference of Defence Associations, April 17 (a round-up of coverage of General Hillier's stepping down as CDS, and of Afstan)

Care packages for Canadian soldiers have gone missing
Thursday, April 17 - 07:10:00 AM Reaon Ford/Province
Article Link

WHITE ROCK (NEWS1130) - 3,500 care packages headed for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan have gone AWOL. The shipment, containing things like lip balm, playing cards and toilet paper, was designed to provide troops with some of the comforts of home.

But more than seven months after it was handed over to the Department of National Defence, it still hasn't arrived. The goodies were collected by Clifford Grant of White Rock.

He tells the Province Newspaper he's not trying to make the government look bad, he just wants to find out what happened to his care packages.
More on link

Articles found April 18, 2008

Canadian soldier injured in roadside bombing
Updated Thu. Apr. 17 2008 3:58 PM ET CTV.ca News
Article Link

A Canadian military vehicle has been hit by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, injuring one Canadian soldier, according to military officials.

The attack occurred near the town of Spin Boldak, near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

NATO spokesperson Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky said no one was killed. Capt. Sylvain Chalifour, a spokesperson for Canadian Forces, said the wounded Canadian soldier received slight injuries and was taken to Kandahar Airfield for treatment. The soldier later returned to work, according to Chalifour.

Military officials have released no other details about the attack.

Suicide bombing

The roadside bombing of the Canadian vehicle occurred on the same day as a deadly suicide bombing in southwestern Afghanistan.

The suicide bomb attack in the city of Zaranj killed 16 people and injured 30. The attack occurred in front of a Mosque as men were gathering for evening prayer, according to a provincial governor.

There were also reports of fighting between foreign troops and Afghan soldiers and Taliban insurgents in another part of the country. Afghan officials say only Taliban soldiers were killed in the clash, which occurred in the central province of Ghazni.
More on link

Suicide bomber kills 24 in Afghanistan
Fri Apr 18, 2008 8:48am AEST
Article Link

A suicide bomb exploded outside a mosque in Afghanistan overnight, killing 24 people as worshippers were leaving after prayers.

Two senior police officers were among the dead and 34 people were also injured in the attack in Zaranj city, the capital of Nimroz province which borders Iran, according to provincial governor Ghulam Dastgir Azad.

"There was a suicide bombing in front of the city's mosque and at this time we have 24 people confirmed dead and 34 wounded, some seriously," he said, adding that most of those killed were civilians.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the explosion, which happened next to a market outside the mosque, but similar acts in the past have been blamed on Taliban militants.
More on link

Nine Taliban Killed in Afghanistan Battle
Article Link

More good news out of Afghanistan - as usual, the Taliban conduct an ambush on U.S. forces in Afghanistan and the Taliban get decimated. Nine of the attacking Taliban were killed in the attack with no casualties on our side. From the brief report on the attack here from AP:

Afghan and foreign troops battled militants who ambushed their patrol in central Afghanistan on Thursday, leaving nine Taliban fighters dead, a government official said.
The clash occurred in the Gilan district of Ghazni province, said district chief Abdul Wali Thofan. There were no casualties among the troops, he said. He did not specify where the foreign forces came from, but most of the troops in Ghazni are American
More on link

Al Qaeda still in Pakistan tribal areas, report says
Article Link

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Qaeda is still operating within Pakistan's mountainous tribal region bordering Afghanistan, and the United States lacks a "comprehensive" plan for meeting its national security goals there, said a U.S. government study released Thursday.

Despite the United States providing $10.5 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan, a key U.S. ally, the Government Accountability Office said it "found broad agreement ... that al Qaeda had regenerated its ability to attack the United States and had succeeded in establishing a safe haven" in Pakistan's Federally Administrated Tribal Areas.

Of the $10.5 billion in U.S. aid, more than half -- $5.8 billion -- was specifically provided for the tribal region, the GAO said.

Furthermore, the report said, "No comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals in FATA has been developed, as stipulated by the National Security Strategy for Combating Terrorism [in 2003], called for by an independent commission [in 2004] and mandated by congressional legislation [in 2007]."

"Our report does not state that the U.S. lacks agency-specific plans; rather, we found that there was no comprehensive plan that integrated the combined capabilities of Defense, State, USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development], the intelligence community," GAO said.
More on link
Afghanistan blast kills son of Netherlands military commander
Article Link

The son of the Netherlands' newly named top military commander has been killed in a bomb blast in southern Afghanistan.

Another soldier was killed and two injured in the incident that killed the son of General Peter van Uhm.

The general was named top commander of the Dutch armed forces on Thursday.
More on link

Afghan Commandos Emerge
U.S.-Trained Force Plays Growing Role in Fighting Insurgents

Washington Post, April 19

KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Night after night, commandos in U.S. Chinook helicopters descend into remote Afghan villages, wielding M-4 rifles as they swarm Taliban compounds. Such raids began in December in the Sabari District here, long considered too dangerous for U.S. patrols, and have already resulted in the death or capture of 30 insurgent leaders in eastern Afghanistan, according to U.S. commanders.

"The Americans are doing this," the Taliban fighters concluded, according to U.S. intelligence.

But though the commandos carry the best U.S. rifles, wear night-vision goggles and ride in armored Humvees, they are not Americans but Afghans -- trained and advised by U.S. Special Forces teams that are seeking to create a sustainable combat force that will ultimately replace them in Afghanistan.

"This is our ticket out of here," a Special Forces company commander said last month at a U.S. base in Khost, where his teams eat, sleep, train and fight alongside the commandos.

The creation of a 4,000-strong Afghan commando force marks a major evolution for U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. After small teams of Green Berets spearheaded the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, they took the lead in combat, with the disparate Afghan militia forces they trained and paid playing a supporting role. Today, by contrast, the Special Forces advisers are putting the Afghan commandos in the lead -- coaching a self-reliant force that U.S. commanders say has emerged as a key tool against insurgents...

Polish troops to take over Afghan Ghazni province
Xinhua, April 19

Polish forces in Afghanistan will concentrate in the province Ghazni, Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said Friday.

Klich said Ghazni had been chosen as in the case of the also-considered province Paktika the soldiers would have had to patrol dangerous border zones, Polish news agency PAP reported.

The minister, who is in Ghazni inspecting Polish troops, also announced the enlargement of Poland force in Afghanistan by 400 men and extra helicopters and transport vehicles.

Under earlier agreements Poland was to take over one of the Afghan provinces following the enlargement of its forces.

Currently Polish troops are stationed in Ghazni, Gardeza, Sharan, Wazi-Khwa, Bagram and Kandahar. 


U.S. Military Seeks to Widen Pakistan Raids
NY Times, April 20

American commanders in Afghanistan have in recent months urged a widening of the war that could include American attacks on indigenous Pakistani militants in the tribal areas inside Pakistan, according to United States officials.

The requests have been rebuffed for now, the officials said, after deliberations in Washington among senior Bush administration officials who fear that attacking Pakistani radicals may anger Pakistan’s new government, which is negotiating with the militants, and destabilize an already fragile security situation.

American commanders would prefer that Pakistani forces attack the militants, but Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas have slowed recently to avoid upsetting the negotiations.

Pakistan’s government has given the Central Intelligence Agency limited authority to kill Arab and other foreign operatives in the tribal areas, using remotely piloted Predator aircraft. But administration officials say the Pakistani government has put far greater restrictions on American operations against indigenous Pakistani militant groups, including one thought to have been behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

American intelligence officials say that the threat emanating from Pakistan’s tribal areas is growing, and that Pakistani networks there have taken on an increasingly important role as an ally of Al Qaeda in plotting attacks against American and other allied troops in Afghanistan, and in helping foreign operatives plan attacks on targets in the West. The officials said the American military’s proposals included options for limited cross-border artillery strikes into Pakistan, missile attacks by Predator aircraft or raids by small teams of C.I.A. paramilitary forces or Special Operations forces.

In recent months, the American military officials in Afghanistan who are urging attacks in Pakistan discussed a list of potential targets with the United States ambassador in Pakistan, Anne W. Patterson, officials said...

American officials involved in the discussions said that they had not ruled out striking Pakistani militants in the tribal areas. American forces in Afghanistan are authorized to attack targets in Pakistan in self-defense or if they are in “hot pursuit” of militants fleeing back to havens across the border...

Intelligence officials say they believe that leaders of the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups have in recent months forged closer ties to the cadre of Qaeda leaders in the tribal areas. Officials have said that they thought the leader of the Taliban there, Jalaluddin Haqqani, may have died last year. But Mr. Haqqani recently released a video denying those reports and made reference to a military attack in eastern Afghanistan that happened this March. Mr. Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, has also made aggressive efforts to recruit foreign fighters from the Persian Gulf and elsewhere in Central Asia.

“The relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda and other groups such as the Haqqani network, are stronger today than they were, and they’re primarily based on the Pakistani side of the border,” said Seth Jones, an analyst with the RAND Corporation, in Congressional testimony this month after his trip to Afghanistan...



Training bolsters leap forward for Afghan police
Canwest News Service, April 20

Panjwaii district, Afghanistan - Security in the Panjwaii district and the expertise of the men who police it are soon both expected to take a much-needed leap forward when nearly 200 officers return better trained than when they left eight weeks ago.

The Afghan National Police have always been a far-flung second to the Afghan National Army in both skill and professionalism. However, now that rag-tag police officers are being pulled from their posts and uniformly trained district-by-district, there is hope they can gain some ground and manage defined and separate responsibilities from the army.

"They're both fighting the same foe right now. What we're trying to do is bring the police towards the more usual community-policing role you see in Canada," said Col. Jean-Francois Riffou, commander of the Canadian Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, or OMLT. "The army should focus on the fighting the insurgents."

The Panjwaii district, west of Kandahar City, has a history of Taliban activity. Territory that coalition forces had won was lost last spring and summer, partly because of poor policing in the area. Afghan security forces could not hold the ground on their own and Canadian soldiers returned to assist.
The Afghan National Police have had problems with what the Canadian Forces call "survivability."

Put simply, they were dying. Stations were ravaged and overrun by insurgents. In Kandahar last year, 27 police officers were killed for every one casualty in the Afghan army.

This past week, 11 police officers were killed by Taliban who snuck up on them while they slept in an outpost north of Kandahar City...

In September, the OMLT expanded its work to include the police, placing Canadian soldiers among local officers in sub-stations in Panjwaii and Zhari [emphasis added].

The new training is called Focused District Development and includes basic police work, investigative skills and scenario-training. They come back with a new set of skills, new status and a new title - Afghan Uniformed Police.

The Panjwaii officers are due back at the end of April.

As officers are pulled district by district, they are replaced by members of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, who are reportedly elite, but few in number. Canadian officers compare them to SWAT teams seen in North America in terms of their hierarchy within the ranks, but not necessarily their capability.

Once Afghan Uniformed Police return from training, the civil order ranks move on to a new district so those officers can go to the same two-month course...

The district-focused training, done largely by a U.S. private contractor DynCorp, is also expected to help professionalize the police. In past years, there have been concerns about corruption, infighting, mistreatment of suspects and general incompetence.

Although Canadian Forces would like to see more fully trained police officers, accommodating nearly 200 at one time is a challenge in itself.

"We have to prepare to receive them, house them, feed them, and get them organized with their equipment and mentors to put them back out on the police sub-stations," Riffou said. On one of his weekly trips out from the Kandahar Airfield to discuss issues with his troops in Panjwaii and Zhari, the organization and accommodation of the police was at the top of the list.

Canada has almost two dozen police officers, mostly RCMP, attached to training efforts across Afghanistan. A training centre for senior officers opened just last week at the provincial reconstruction team site in Kandahar City [emphasis added].

The quiet general prepares to exit
National Post, April 21, by Matthew Fisher

Has NATO been winning the war for Afghan hearts and minds? Does it have enough combat troops in South Asia to vanquish the Taliban? Will the tribulations there cause the alliance to shatter?

There is no mistaking how General Rick Hillier's much less flamboyant predecessor as Canada's chief of defence, General Ray Henault, feels about all of this.

"I see this very much as how much we have accomplished in Afghanistan, rather than how little," said the soft-spoken franco-Manitoban air force pilot, who, after 40 years in uniform, is to retire to Winnipeg when his term as chairman of NATO's military committee ends in two months...

...Gen. Henault, who is the first Canadian in decades to hold a top position at NATO headquarters in Belgium, conceded that the alliance's Afghan exit strategy had been slowed down because there were not yet nearly enough military mentoring teams to train the national army and police. Gen. Henault also expressed frustration at those NATO countries who had hamstrung commanders in Afghanistan by invoking national caveats that made it impossible for their forces to participate in combat operations.

Henault was also strongly of the opinion that the alliance had not done a good job of communicating what was happening in Afghanistan to the Europeans and North Americans who footed the bills and provided the foot soldiers...

A partial explanation might be found in the fact that only six of NATO's 26 member nations (Canada is one of them) have military public affairs professionals. Another complication has been that while there was general agreement about the urgent need to establish a more effective public affairs strategy, ideas varied greatly about how to do this...

U.S. General Sees Afghans Gains in 3 Years
NY Times, April 21

The Afghan Army and police forces should be able to secure most of Afghanistan by 2011, allowing international forces to start withdrawing, the American commander of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, said Sunday [April 20].

“By about 2011 there is going to be some pretty good capacity in the Afghan National Army,” he said in an interview in the Kabul headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force.

“It will take them a few more years to get their air transport and air support platforms online, but they should be covering a lot of battle space by some time in 2011, in my view,” he said.

By then, barring any cataclysm, the countries contributing troops to the international force could look at whether such a large international force was still desirable, General McNeill said. “I think you begin to get to a juncture and say, ‘Probably not, maybe we should be starting to change the way this force works,’ ” he said...

General McNeill said that the United Nations-mandated force, which includes 47,000 troops from 40 countries, would be better named the Interim Security Assistance Force [emphasis added], in recognition of its temporary role until Afghan forces can take over.

The general, who will complete his second tour in Afghanistan this summer — he commanded American forces from 2002 to 2003 — said that Afghan forces had already effectively been managing the security for Kabul, the capital, for the last year, albeit with NATO support. He also expressed confidence that the Afghans would be able to secure the country well enough for the country to hold presidential elections in September 2009.

“Tactically, on the battlefield, the insurgents did not have a very good year last year,” he said. “The so-called toe-to-toe fights will probably be less common — smaller skirmishes — but the technique of choice for the insurgent will be the improvised explosive device and the suicide bomber.”..

Development of a national police force is critical to success in countering the insurgency, he said, adding that despite generous support from the United States Congress for police training, “The rate of progress is not fast enough for any of us.”

Paras tread warily in Helmand province as they learn the skills of ‘going lethal’
The newly arrived troops from 2nd Battalion are eager for action, but first they must get to know their enemy in Taleban heartland

The Times, April 21

The British sniper lay on the rooftop of a compound within sight and range of about 20 Taleban armed with Kalashnikovs and rocket-propelled grenades in a dugout, and waited for the order to “go lethal”. He had already fired warning shots but the rounds from his long-range 338 rifle had failed to scare them from their bunker.

Overhead, a lone Desert Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), not much more than a polystyrene model plane but with a fancy camera on board sending pictures back to the commander, detected that the Taleban were preparing for a fight.

They had the advantage of being in a well-defended position, and the British troops of D Company 2nd Battalion The Parachute Regiment had to cross open ground to get within shooting range of their bunker.

The sniper received his order and three minutes later he got his man. “One down, one down!” – a corporal shouted. Another mortar blast with a smoke round burst near the enemy bunker. It was launched to confuse the Taleban, encouraging them to believe that a full-scale British attack was about to take place. However, the aim of the operation was not to “go kinetic” and flush out the enemy from their southern frontline position across the fertile valley from the isolated British camp at Kajaki, but to familiarise the newly arrived Paras with the terrain near their mountain base and to upset the Taleban early on a Sunday morning.

During any encounter with the Taleban it is wise to be prepared for a gunfight, and the company of para-troopers who left at 6.30am were ready for anything...

To reach the target, 10 Platoon and 11 Platoon of D Company split up, one going along a dirt road known to the soldiers as Highway 611 and the other squelching through the irrigation ditches of Tally Alley, renamed Reg (for Regiment) Alley by 2 Para, which winds through the poppy fields in the green zone by the River Helmand.

The countryside is pure Monet, with splashes of pink, purple and red as you walk along the rows and rows of poppies ready for harvesting for the opium warlords.

The soldiers of 10 Platoon report being waist-high in water in the irrigation ditches. Suddenly, we can see the muzzle flashes from the target’s rifles. But we are at the limit of the Taleban’s range.

The Paras of 11 Platoon continue walking along Highway 611 carrying their heavy gear, the thick-walled compounds on the right screening them from the Taleban position...

France to deploy new Afghanistan force by August
Reuters, April 21

France will deploy the additional battalion of troops it has promised to send to Afghanistan before the end of August, Defence Minister Herve Morin said on Sunday.

"They will leave this summer, in July-August," Morin told Europe 1 radio.

President Nicolas Sarkozy promised earlier this month to send a battalion of around 700 soldiers to eastern Afghanistan, allowing U.S. troops there to be sent to reinforce a 2,500-strong Canadian contingent in the south.

France currently has around 1,500 troops in Afghanistan as part of a 2,200-strong contingent serving in the region with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission and the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom.

Articles found April 21, 2008

Afghan governor blasts plot to oust him
In exclusive interview, embattled Kandahar chief says military officials fed Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister 'bad information'
GRAEME SMITH From Monday's Globe and Mail April 21, 2008 at 1:30 AM EDT
Article Link

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Asadullah Khalid says the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to replace him as Kandahar governor is part of a plot hatched at a military base and represents the latest example of dangerous friction between himself and his Canadian allies in southern Afghanistan.

In his first interview since Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister suggested he should be removed, the embattled governor defended himself against charges of corruption and voiced his own complaints about his international allies, saying they broke their promises to help his police when they were locked in deadly firefights with the Taliban.

Mr. Khalid said unspecified officials at Kandahar Air Field must have given “bad information” to Maxime Bernier before Canada's Foreign Minister started a diplomatic storm last week by suggesting that firing the governor would reduce corruption in the province.

Only the elected government of Afghanistan should make such decisions, Mr. Khalid said, and only the Afghan government should investigate its own corruption cases. He recently invited the Afghan Attorney-General's office to examine the administration in Kandahar, he added, and that investigation had cleared him of wrongdoing.
More on link

The quiet general prepares to exit
Matthew Fisher, National Post  Published: Monday, April 21, 2008
Article Link

BRUSSELS, Belgium -Has NATO been winning the war for Afghan hearts and minds? Does it have enough combat troops in South Asia to vanquish the Taliban? Will the tribulations there cause the alliance to shatter?

There is no mistaking how General Rick Hillier's much less flamboyant predecessor as Canada's chief of defence, General Ray Henault, feels about all of this.

"I see this very much as how much we have accomplished in Afghanistan, rather than how little," said the soft-spoken franco-Manitoban air force pilot, who, after 40 years in uniform, is to retire to Winnipeg when his term as chairman of NATO's military committee ends in two months.

Gen. Hillier has been rightly credited with being a straight talker. However, as Douglas Bland, chairman of Defence Management Studies at Queen's University, noted in last month's edition of Policy Options, this trend of senior officers speaking forthrightly was started by Henault and his deputy, Vice Admiral Greg Madison who "astonished" the House Committee on National Defence by flatly denying an assertion by then-defence minister Art Eggleton that he had not been told that Canadian troops had captured Taliban insurgents.
More on link

Air raid, clash leave 11 Taliban militants dead in Afghanistan
Apr 21, 2008, 9:54 GMT   Article Link

Kabul - Afghan and coalition forces killed at least 11 militants in separate raids that included an airstrike in southern Afghanistan, while five Afghan army soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb attack, officials said on Monday.

An airstrike by international forces in Gramsir district of volatile Hemand province on Sunday killed seven Taliban militants, the defence ministry said in a statement.

A Taliban vehicle was also destroyed in the air raid, it said.

In a separate incident on Sunday in neighboring Kandahar province, Taliban militants attacked a joint patrol of Afghan and international forces near the Posta Haji area of the province, the statement said.

The combined forces returned the fire and killed four militants, the statement said, adding that there were no casualties among the joint forces.
More on link

Canadian troops not from 'war-mentality' culture
Lloyd Brown-John, Special to The Windsor Star Published: Monday, April 21, 2008
Article Link

In the 19th century, a Prussian military officer, Carl von Clausewitz, in a classic analysis of war, titled On War, argued that war was a continuation of political intercourse (das politischen Verkehrs) by an intermixing of other means (mit Einmischung anderer Mittel).

I've inserted the original German here for a reason. Clausewitz's observations often have been mistranslated in English to read, "war is diplomacy by other means." Clausewitz's essential argument -- in either language -- was basically that war was an unusual but often necessary addition to diplomacy.
More on link

Dutch support for ISAF mission in Afghanistan declining
Apr 21, 2008, 6:28 GMT  Article Link

Amsterdam - More than 60 per cent of the Dutch think their country should withdraw troops from Afghanistan if the Dutch death toll there hits 25.

The findings published on Monday came from an internet survey of the Dutch MSN website in which 11,000 people participated.

However, 25 per cent of Dutch think the number of Dutch military killed in Afghanistan is 'not relevant' in the decision on whether or not to continue the Dutch contribution to NATO's International Security and Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Some 1,600 Dutch troops are stationed in the southern province of Uruzghan as part of the NATO mission. The Netherlands has committed itself to remain in Afghanistan
More on link

NATO undermining opium fight, Khalid says
GRAEME SMITH Globe and Mail Update April 21, 2008 at 1:30 AM EDT
Article Link

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Foreign troops have undermined the Afghan government's poppy-eradication campaign in Kandahar, the governor says, and the lack of support has added to the risks of the operation.

At least 13 police have been killed and one reported missing during poppy eradication so far this month, and the task has been more difficult, Governor Asadullah Khalid said, because his NATO allies refuse to help and, in some cases, appear to be blocking the effort.

The governor was especially upset about a firefight on the morning of April 6 that killed nine officers in the district of Maywand, west of Kandahar city.

He said his office notified the Canadian military three weeks ahead of time that his teams would be visiting certain locations in Maywand to destroy the opium fields. But on the appointed day, he said, NATO troops stationed nearby failed to help his men during an hour-long battle against Taliban fighters.
More on link

Taliban says killed Dutch soldiers over film
Mon Apr 21, 2008 9:22am IST
Article Link

LONDON (Reuters) - The Taliban said a deadly attack on Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan was in retaliation for an anti-Islamic film made by a politician from the Netherlands, a U.S. terrorism monitoring service said on Sunday.

The son of the new chief of the Dutch military and another Dutch soldier serving with NATO-led forces were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Friday.

The attack was one of "a sequence of missions taking revenge for the insulting film", the Taliban said in a message in Arabic on its website, according to the terrorism monitoring service of a U.S. author and analyst who goes by the pseudonym Laura Mansfield.

Dutch MP Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigration Freedom Party, launched the anti-Koran film "Fitna" -- an Arabic term that can mean strife -- on the Internet last month.
More on link

Hero's dad relieved at death of Taliban man tied to son's death
BY MARTIN C. EVANS | martin.evans@newsday.com  9:08 PM EDT, April 20, 2008
Article Link

The father of slain Navy SEAL Lt. Michael P. Murphy -- a Medal of Honor recipient who grew up in Patchogue -- said he is relieved that a Taliban operative responsible for the death of his son in 2005 was killed by Pakistani police last week.

"Maureen and I never believed in revenge," Murphy's father, Daniel Murphy, of Wading River, said of himself and Murphy's mother, Maureen Murphy, of Patchogue. "We would rather have our son back."

Qari Mohammad Ismail, who police in Afghanistan describe as the most wanted man in Kunar Province, was cornered in a shootout near Peshawar, Pakistan, according to Rahimullah Yusufzai, editor of Peshawar-based "The News International," the second-largest English language daily in Pakistan.

"Some Taliban mourned his death, but most others were angry with him for turning into a kidnapper after having fought the U.S.-led foreign forces in Afghanistan earlier," Yusufzai, who frequently writes for Time Magazine and the BBC news service, told Newsday in an e-mail interview.
More on link

Training bolsters leap forward for Afghan police
Ryan Cormier, Canwest News Service Published: Sunday, April 20, 2008
Article Link

Panjwaii district, Afghanistan - Security in the Panjwaii district and the expertise of the men who police it are soon both expected to take a much-needed leap forward when nearly 200 officers return better trained than when they left eight weeks ago.

The Afghan National Police have always been a far-flung second to the Afghan National Army in both skill and professionalism. However, now that rag-tag police officers are being pulled from their posts and uniformly trained district-by-district, there is hope they can gain some ground and manage defined and separate responsibilities from the army. 

"They're both fighting the same foe right now. What we're trying to do is bring the police towards the more usual community-policing role you see in Canada," said Col. Jean-Francois Riffou, commander of the Canadian Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team, or OMLT. "The army should focus on the fighting the insurgents."
More on link

Afghanistan spending to top $1-billion in 2008
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service  Published: Sunday, April 20, 2008
Article Link

OTTAWA -- Canada's yearly cost of the war in Afghanistan doubled in 2006 and was projected to crack the $1-billion mark this year.

An internal Defence Department report of the Afghanistan mission's costs, dated this past Jan. 25, shows that the incremental cost of the Afghan mission spiked noticeably to $803 million in the fiscal year of 2006-2007, nearly doubling the $402 million from the previous year.

This sharp increase in spending coincides with the massive escalation of the Taliban insurgency in 2006, which set off a wave of unprecedented violence across southern Afghanistan.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg. It shows what mission creep is really doing," said NDP defence critic Dawn Black, who obtained the new figures through Access to Information.
More on link

War rugs from Afghanistan show rifles, landmines amid flowers and birds
Article Link

TORONTO — The rugs from Afghanistan featured in a new exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada reflect the strife that country has endured over the last three decades.

Mixed in with traditional images of flowers and birds are depictions of helicopters, AK-47 assault rifles, armoured personnel carriers and landmines.

"As a cultural document, the rugs are unprecedented," said Max Allen, curator of "Battleground: War Rugs From Afghanistan," opening Wednesday.

The 120 rugs in the show form the largest exhibition of its kind ever staged, said Allen, who bought them from dealers in North America, Europe and elsewhere that he located on the Internet.

All were made since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, said Allen, a longtime CBC radio producer who co-founded the museum almost 35 years ago.

"Weavers have always put in their rugs the things that are important to them . . . whether those are flowers and sheep or prayer arches or whatever," Allen said, noting that oriental carpets have long been a major export for Afghanistan.
More on link

Colt's grip on military rifle market called bad deal
Article Link

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — No weapon is more important to tens of thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than the carbine rifle. And for well over a decade, the military has relied on one company, Colt Defense of Hartford, Conn., to make the M4s they trust with their lives.

Now, as Congress considers spending millions more on the guns, this exclusive arrangement is being criticized as a bad deal for American forces as well as taxpayers, according to interviews and research conducted by The Associated Press.

"What we have is a fat contractor in Colt who's gotten very rich off our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

The M4, which can shoot hundreds of bullets a minute, is a shorter and lighter version of the company's M16 rifle first used 40 years ago during the Vietnam War. At about $1,500 apiece, the M4 is overpriced, according to Coburn. It jams too often in sandy environments like Iraq, he adds, and requires far more maintenance than more durable carbines.
More on link

Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan: 'I was kidnapped'
Article Link

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan appeared on a video aired Saturday by an Arab satellite channel, saying he was kidnapped by Taliban militants more than two months ago.

Ambassador Tariq Azizuddin, flanked by his driver and his bodyguard, was shown sitting on the ground amid green brush in front of three masked men wearing traditional robes and holding automatic weapons.

"For 27 days, we have lived comfortably ... They take care of us and they respect us," Azizuddin said, in comments dubbed over in Arabic. The roughly two-minute clip appeared on Al-Arabiya television.

It was the first word from Azizuddin since he disappeared Feb. 11 near Pakistan's volatile border with Afghanistan. But his reference to having been held for 27 days suggests that the video was made more than a month ago.

"We don't have any problems but I suffer from health issues such as hypertension and heart pain," the white-bearded Azizuddin said.

He urged Pakistan's ambassadors in Iran and China, as well as the country's Foreign Ministry, to comply with Taliban demands. He did not elaborate.
More on link
Pakistan recovers 2 UN employees after gunbattle near Afghan border
The Associated PressPublished: April 21, 2008
Article Link

PESHAWAR, Pakistan: Pakistani security forces recovered two U.N. employees after a gunbattle Monday with their captors in a militant stronghold near the Afghan border, an official said.

One paramilitary soldier was killed and four were wounded in the clash in Khyber tribal region, said Mohammed Iqbal, a local government official. The two employees of the World Food Program, both Pakistanis, escaped unharmed, he said.

Unidentified gunmen captured the U.N. workers earlier Monday as they traveled by road to Torkham, U.N. spokeswoman Amina Kamal said. Torkham is the main international border checkpoint linking northwestern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It was not clear whether the gunmen belonged to an Islamic militant group or were criminals kidnapping for ransom.

Iqbal had no information on whether any of the gunmen were killed or wounded in the gunbattle.
More on link
Afghan lawmakers push cultural bans of Taliban era
A draft proposal put forth last week would ban loud music, women and men mingling in public, billiards, and more.

CSM, April 21

Kabul, Afghanistan -  – Shafi Samandari thought the days of the Taliban would never come back. "I love listening to music and going to wedding parties," the Kabul resident says. "After the Taliban was toppled, I was sure that we could start living normally again."

The Taliban may not be returning anytime soon, but if some Afghan lawmakers have their way, Taliban-era laws will once again reign over the country. Last week, a group of members of parliament (MPs) put forth draft legislation that would ban T-shirts, loud music, women and men mingling in public, billiards, video games, playing with pigeons, and more – all regulations from the notorious Taliban era.

The move is the most recent attempt by religious conservatives to restrict "un-Islamic influences." Many observers say it's the latest sign of growing Talibanization in Afghanistan.

The draft law comes a week after members of parliament voted to ban wildly popular Indian soap operas from airing on Afghan channels.

The programs, emotional dramas featuring forbidden trysts, family intrigue, and Hindu imagery – drew the ire of conservatives and religious figures.

In January, Afghan journalist Perwiz Kambakhsh was put on death row for downloading an article from the Internet that questioned women's roles in Islam. Mr. Kambakhsh, who was convicted by an Islamic court, is scheduled to appeal in the coming weeks.

Late last year another prominent journalist, Ghaws Zalmai, was jailed for translating the Koran into the local Persian language.

While most analysts don't expect this most recent law to pass, there is a real threat that these moves will fuel religious conservatives and make the Taliban's ideas more acceptable, according to Haroun Mir cofounder and deputy director of the Afghan Center for Research and Policy Studies, based in Kabul...

UK troops in new Afghan push
BBC News video, April 21

(Canadians in combat in support of Brits, 02:26)


Cabinet blitz continues in Afghanistan
CP, April 22

KABUL — The federal cabinet’s march through Afghanistan continued its brisk pace Monday as International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda surfaced in Kabul, the latest emissary in Ottawa’s ongoing push to refine the goals and objectives of Canada’s Afghan mission.

Following closely on the heels of Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, Oda’s stated objective in Afghanistan is to help establish new "benchmarks, timelines and objectives" that dovetail with existing international goals and also fit within Canada’s new 2011 timeline.

"We believe it is time for us to ensure we are making a particular and focused contribution to development in Kandahar" province, where Canadian forces are deployed, Oda told delegates at a donor conference at the Afghan Foreign Ministry.

"We can and must do a better job of building up mechanisms to better inform policy-making and budget decisions, and to keep track of progress and results achieved."..

Forget Iraq, Afghanistan's turning into a disaster too
Daily Mail, April 22 by Max Hastings

After two years hard fighting in Afghanistan, the British Army is suffering an attack of gloom about the way the war is going.

Soldiers' morale is still high. Nobody is demanding to come home. The cost of acknowledging defeat by the Taliban is too high for the Western alliance to contemplate.

But officers on the ground recognise that present policies are getting nowhere, and unlikely to do so.

It is tough on a good day to put your life on the line. It becomes far more so if you are dodging bullets in pursuit of a strategy which is failing.

When Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Sunday that there was "no quick solution", most British soldiers heartily endorsed his words. More than 8,000 of our troops are battling with insurgents in the south of the country.

They win almost every clash of arms. But there is precious little sign that the huge effort expended upon killing militants is being matched by political progress, which alone can make sense of the commitment and casualties.

Last night, the Ministry of Defence announced another British soldier had been killed in a bomb blast, taking the UK death toll in Afghanistan to 94 since operations began in the country in 2001...

The second element of Britain's Iraq deployment is the SAS. Its squadrons are badly wanted in Afghanistan.

But the Americans value them too highly to let them go...

It would be hard to get Washington's agreement for the SAS to move to Afghanistan, where the Special Boat Service currently fills the British special forces role.

But the big change in British thinking about Afghanistan concerns its government.

Ever since the fall of the Taliban in 2002, the Americans have pinned their faith for the country's future on Hamid Karzai, the current president.

In Afghanistan, the U.S. - as almost everywhere in the world in its modern history - picked a national leader whom they decided was 'our man', and has stuck with him through thick and thin.

The British, by contrast, now believe that Karzai is a busted flush.

He has lost popular confidence. His government is chronically corrupt. He lacks both will and ability to make his country work, even if NATO can keep the Taliban at bay...

British soldiers and diplomats believe that our military operations can achieve nothing useful as long as a discredited regime rules in Kabul. There is too much corruption, too much opium, not enough Western troops, and the Taliban flourishes just over the border in Pakistan...

Nobody suggests that we should quit [emphasis added], because losing Afghanistan to the Taliban and Al Qaeda would be a military, moral and political disaster for the West.

More British troops are likely to go to Helmand and Kandahar in the months ahead.

A British major-general is likely to take over responsibility for the whole NATO regional command [emphasis added].

But no matter how bravely our soldiers fight and how many battles they win, unless reconstruction and law and order start getting somewhere, nothing else can...

The question is whether the West's patience will endure that long, in a dismal conflict which seems so far from home.

Forces heading toward 'failure' in Afghanistan
NATO members must convince Pakistan and Afghans of will to guarantee security and safety, U.S. officer says

Ottawa Citizen, April 22 by Richard Foot

NATO and coalition forces are "stumbling toward failure" in Afghanistan and no amount of military success against the Taliban will bring an end to the war without a fundamental change in political policy, says a provocative article written by a serving U.S. army officer.

Col. Thomas Lynch, contributing in the latest edition of The American Interest, a Washington-based policy journal, says the U.S. and NATO cannot win in Afghanistan without convincing both Afghans and Pakistanis that western military and economic support is there to stay.

Only a permanent NATO force can bring about peace and stability in Afghanistan, says Col. Lynch in his article titled "Afghan Dilemmas: Staying Power."

Col. Lynch served as special assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Kabul in 2004. For the past four years he was stationed with the U.S. army in Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar, and is now on a temporary fellowship with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

In an e-mail interview with Canwest News Service, Col. Lynch also says Canadian forces should consider leaving Kandahar -- handing their hard, counter-insurgency role to the Americans --and taking on a new "stability" mission in the less volatile areas of northern or western Afghanistan [emphasis added].

He says the U.S. "miscalculated" when it gave NATO control of the counter-insurgency mission in southern Afghanistan in 2006, thinking that peacekeeping and stability work would follow.

Instead, the Taliban insurgency flared up, forcing Canada and other NATO members into a combat role they were not expecting...

Afghans Build an Army, and a Nation
WSJ, April 22 by Bret Stephens
Lt. Col. Fanning, of the New York National Guard, has recently deployed to nearby Camp Alamo to help train the Afghan National Army. Adjacent to the camp is the rehabilitated Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), whose principal ornament is a Soviet T-55 tank chassis mounted with a T-62 turret. In the past six years, more than 70,000 recruits have spent 10 weeks or more learning the basics of soldiering. Of that number, about a third trained here in the last year alone.

I came to Afghanistan with the idea that the key to building a nation is building its army. Militaries attract young men who otherwise would have remained strangers, if not enemies, and might well have joined militias or criminal gangs. Militaries instill discipline, purpose, patriotism, values and the brotherhood of the foxhole. Militaries create their own middle class: The salary of an Afghan private, at $1,300 a year, may seem minuscule but is twice the Afghan average. And militaries get soldiers to fight a common enemy, instead of each other.

That point is not lost at the KMTC, whose motto, "Unity Starts Here," is inscribed in large letters over the entrance gate. On the field, about 100 recruits sit on the clay earth waiting their turn to "take the hill." The faces are Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik, Pashtun; a mixture that is nearly as racially and ethnically diverse as what you'll find in the U.S. military. Dari and Pashto are spoken interchangeably, but the army being forged here is a genuinely national one.

It is also one that's willing to fight. "The Afghan soldiers are a lot tougher than the Iraqis," says Lt. James Harryman, one of the British trainers on site. "This is a warrior culture." Between March 1, 2007, and March 30, 2008, some 370 Afghan soldiers were killed in Afghanistan – by comparison, U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan numbered 117; British fatalities, 43; Canadian fatalities, 36. Still, Afghan soldiers routinely express shame that foreigners are doing the work of dying for their country. That job, they insist, is one they want for themselves...

...many of the Afghan army's problems are a function of NATO's neglect. France was supposed to have taken the lead in training the army – a role it abandoned in 2003. Ditto for the Germans and the Afghan police.

Nor has the U.S. been blameless. The Afghans are only now getting their first sizeable shipments of M-16 rifles and up-armored Humvees. There was no Afghan air force to speak of until this year. That's now being remedied by the acquisition of some Russian-made Mi-17 and Mi-35 cargo and attack helicopters, along with some medium-sized prop planes. None of the American officers I interviewed can offer a clear explanation for the delays, though the likely answer is that a sense of urgency about Afghanistan's security situation only came about after it became a news story early last year.

Then again, that precariousness has been somewhat exaggerated. "A year ago people were talking about the Taliban taking Kandahar and isolating Kabul," says Maj. Gen. Robert Cone. It didn't happen. Neither has the Taliban's fabled "spring offensive," which should be happening right around now but isn't.

How much of this can be attributed to the Afghan army, how much to NATO operations, how much to Taliban weakness, and how much to luck and circumstance is anyone's guess. What is clear is that Afghanistan really does have an army that's willing to stand up for its country – and, as a result, a country that is prepared to stand by their army. All this bodes well for Kabul. And once the dust settles in Basra, we might begin to say the same about Iraq and its army, too.

Articles found April 22, 2008

Kandahar chief was out - until Bernier spoke
TheStar.com April 22, 2008 James McCarten The Canadian Press
Afghan politician says controversial governor was packing his bags
Article Link

KABUL–Asadullah Khalid was packing his bags and poised to leave his post as the governor of Kandahar province when Canada's foreign affairs minister inadvertently called for his ouster last week, a prominent Afghan politician says.

The controversial governor's imminent departure was almost immediately thrown into disarray when Maxime Bernier publicly urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to remove him, said Khalid Pashtun, a veteran parliamentarian who represents Kandahar.

Government operatives in the governor's palace had been warned of Khalid's departure to ensure bodyguards didn't start looting the palace, Pashtun said.

"They reported to us that the governor is collecting and gathering all his gear, his stuff, and he's leaving for Kabul," he said.

"It was happening. And all of a sudden, the guy is back, and making a very strong allegation that `No one has the right to remove me.'"

Pashtun said he believes Karzai, sensitive to the political dangers of being perceived by his constituents as a puppet of international forces, was forced to delay his plan to replace Khalid to avoid the impression he was doing the bidding of the Canadian government.

Pashtun described Khalid as a "robot" controlled by the president's powerful older brother, Qayum.

"The people don't support the governor because you're not on your own," he said. "Somebody else is controlling you by remote."

In the aftermath of the Bernier debacle, Pashtun said he met with senior tribal leaders from Kandahar who were perplexed at the fact Khalid was still in his job.

"They were complaining, expressing concerns – what happened?" he said. "Why all of a sudden was everything switched off?"

Khalid surfaced over the weekend, speaking publicly for the first time since Bernier's remarks – later retracted – touched off a diplomatic firestorm with Kandahar's controversial leader at its heart.

"I think the (Canadian) foreign affairs minister got wrong information. I'm happy for this: that he took his words back," Khalid said in an interview published in yesterday's Globe and Mail.

In a television interview that aired Sunday, Khalid sounded more defiant.
More on link

Foreigners kidnapped in Afghanistan    
  Article Link

Taliban fighters have been blamed for a string of abductions int he country [File: AFP]

Two foreign nationals have reportedly been kidnapped in western Afghanistan.

Police initially said the men missing from Herat province since late Monday were an Indian and a Nepalese, but later said both were Indian nationals.

However, the Indian government later confirmed that only one of this nationals was missing.

He was said to be employed by EOD Technology Inc, a US security company, and had gone missing in Herat's Adraskan district.

Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, a police spokesman, said both men had called police on Monday and said they were "in trouble".
"After we sent our police to the area, they had gone missing. We found their vehicle abandoned," he said.

Police had not been contacted by any group that may have taken the men.

Policemen killed
Elsewhere, Taliban fighters stormed a police post overnight, killing six officers, according to a police commander in the southern border province of Kandahar.

"Armed Taliban attacked one of our police posts in Arghistan overnight. Six policemen in the post were martyred," Rahmatullah Khan told the AFP news agency.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack.

In a separate incident, Afghan police killed nine Taliban fighters, officials said.
Authorities recovered the bodies of four dead fighters after Tuesday's gun battle, while the fighters took away five more dead fighters as they retreated, Raziq said.

Checkpoint battle

The clash came a day after a Taliban attack on a checkpoint left six border policemen dead in Arghistan, officials said.

About 200 police clashed with fighters during a search operation launched following Monday's attack, General Abdul Raziq, a police commander in the area, said.

In other violence, a British soldier was killed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand when his vehicle was hit by a suspected mine explosion, the British ministry of defence said late on Monday.
More on link

RAF destroys £10m spy plane in Afghanistan
By Stephen Adams Last Updated: 3:58pm BST 22/04/2008
Article Link

Faced with the prospect of the technology falling into enemy hands, commanders immediately despatched an elite unit to remove "sensitive items" from the unmanned Reaper spy drone.
Reapers are used to relay real-time information about the enemy's position back to battlefield planners
The items were thought to be a high-intensity camera and memory chips.

A military source said: "There was no way we could take even the slightest risk of the Taliban getting hold of any parts."
More on link

World's oldest oil paintings in Afghanistan
Tue Apr 22, 2008 10:55am EDT
Article Link

KABUL (Reuters) - Scientists said on Tuesday they have proved the world's first ever oil paintings were in caves near two destroyed giant statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, hundreds of years before oil paint was used in Europe.

Samples from paintings, dating from the 7th century AD, were taken from caves behind two statues of Buddha in Bamiyan blown up as un-Islamic by Afghanistan's hardline Taliban in 2001.

Scientists discovered paintings in 12 of the 50 caves were created using oil paints, possibly from walnut or poppy, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in France said on its Web site on Tuesday.

"This is the earliest clear example of oil paintings in the world, although drying oils were already used by ancient Romans and Egyptians, but only as medicines and cosmetics," said Yoko Taniguchi, leader of the team of scientists.

It was not until the 13th century that oil was added to paints in Europe and oil paint was not widely used in Europe till the early 15th century.

Bamiyan was once a thriving Buddhist centre where monks lived in a series of caves carved into the cliffs by the two statues.

The cave paintings were probably the work of artists traveling along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China, across Central Asia to the West and show scenes of Buddhas in vermilion robes and mythical creatures, the ESRF said.

Afghanistan's Taliban government used dozens of explosive charges to bring down the two 6th century giant Buddhas in March 2001, saying the statues were un-Islamic.
More on link

Afghanistan: TV Stations Ordered To Stop Broadcasting ‘Un-Islamic’ Content
By Farangis Najibullah
Article Link

The Afghan government has ordered independent television stations in Kabul to stop broadcasting programs deemed “un-Islamic” or that “undermine Afghan culture.”

Indian soap operas, hugely popular among Afghans, are among the shows that have been branded “un-Islamic,” and television stations have been given orders to take them off the air.

Abdul-Qadir Mirzai, chief news editor for the private television station Ariana, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that Ariana has had to stop airing "Kumkum," a popular Indian soap opera.

“The Ministry of Information and Culture -- for the second time -- sent an official letter to Ariana television demanding the station refrain from airing the ‘Kumkum’ drama,” he said. Mirzai added that the popular soap opera had attracted many advertisers, and by pulling it off the air, the station would lose both a considerable number of viewers and a significant amount of money.

Mirzai insists the Indian soap opera, based on the love story of a Hindu couple, does not undermine Afghan culture or corrupt young Afghans’ morals. Indian movies and television series do not usually include sex or nude scenes.
More on link
Articles found April , 2008

Afghanistan: no way out, says serving U.S. officer
Tuesday, April 22, 2008 
Article Link

NATO and coalition forces are "stumbling toward failure" in Afghanistan and no amount of military success against the Taliban will bring an end to the war without a fundamental change in political policy, says a provocative article written by a serving U.S. army officer.

Col. Thomas Lynch, contributing in the latest edition of The American Interest, a Washington-based policy journal, says the U.S. and NATO cannot win in Afghanistan without convincing both Afghans and Pakistanis that Western military and economic support is there to stay.

Only a permanent NATO force - of the kind that guaranteed the security of western Europe after the Second World War, and still safeguards the security of South Korea - can bring about peace and stability in Afghanistan, says Lynch in his article titled "Afghan Dilemmas: Staying Power."

Lynch served as special assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Kabul in 2004. For the past four years he was stationed with the U.S. army in Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar, and is now on a temporary fellowship with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

In an e-mail interview with Canwest News Service, Lynch also says Canadian forces should consider leaving Kandahar - handing their hard, counter-insurgency role to the Americans - and taking on a new "stability" mission in the less volatile areas of northern or western Afghanistan.

"I am a longtime fan of Canadian military forces," he says. "I served with them in Europe during the Cold War in my early career, and saw them daily in their NATO-ISAF stability and security duties around Kabul in 2004 and 2005. They are good troops."

Yet, despite his admiration for Canadian soldiers, Lynch says Canada, like most European allies, lacks the equipment and resources - helicopters, close-air support, logistics and "economic support tools" -to take charge of the tough, counter-insurgency work required in southern Afghanistan.

He says the U.S. "miscalculated" when it gave NATO control of the counter-insurgency mission in southern Afghanistan in 2006, thinking that peacekeeping and stability work would follow.

Instead, the Taliban insurgency flared up, forcing Canada and other NATO members into a combat role they were not expecting. That in turn, prompted the bickering over troop commitments that now plagues the alliance.

Lynch says NATO's troop commitments are not what ails the mission.

"The mission in Afghanistan is not in jeopardy mainly because NATO members refuse to provide sufficient troops," he says. "The real issue is the transitory and uncertain U.S. military posture in Afghanistan."
More on link

Canadian pilots flew U.S. transports into Iraq as part of training plan
David Akin ,  Canwest News Service Published: Monday, April 21, 2008
Article Link

OTTAWA - Canadian Forces personnel learned to operate Canada's newest military plane, the giant Boeing C-17, by training on American jets, including flying those planes into Iraq in support of the U.S. war, according to a memo written by Canada's top general and obtained by Canwest News Service.

Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of Canada's defence staff, wrote to Gordon O'Connor, then-minister of national defence, in May 2007 that in the summer and fall of that year, Canadian military aircrew would fly into Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. That decision was taken without informing Parliament.

"Canadians have been very clear from the beginning that they wanted no part of George Bush's war on Iraq," said NDP MP Dawn Black, her party's defence critic, "and they certainly don't want to see Canadians getting involved through a back door."
More on link

Suicide bombings, attacks in Afghanistan kill 13
NOOR KHAN Associated Press April 23, 2008 at 5:58 AM EDT
Article Link

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — A spate of suicide bombings and other attacks on security forces in southern Afghanistan Wednesday left 13 people dead and 24 others wounded, officials said.

In Kandahar province, a suicide bomber blew himself up next to a vehicle carrying intelligence agents in the border town of Spin Boldak, killing three civilians, Kandahar Gov. Assadullah Khalid said.

Two children and three intelligence agents were among the 14 hurt, Mr. Khalid said. He blamed the Taliban for the attack.

In neighbouring Helmand province, a suicide bomber struck a police convoy, killing two officers and wounding three, said district police chief Khairudin Shuhja. Shuhja was in the convoy but was not injured in the attack.

As the bomber approached the car, guards opened fire, wounding the attacker, who then blew himself up, Mr. Shuhja said.

Southern Afghanistan is the centre of the Taliban-led insurgency. Militants regularly use suicide attacks in their fight against Afghan and foreign troops in the country, but most victims are civilians.

In eastern Kunar province, Taliban militants attacked a police border post, killing five officers and wounding seven others, said provincial police chief Abdul Jalal Jalal.
More on link

Denmark evacuates embassies in Algeria, Afghanistan due to terror threats
The Associated Press Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Article Link

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Denmark has evacuated staff from its embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan because of terror threats following the reprint in Danish newspapers of a caricature depicting the Prophet Muhammad, officials said Wednesday.

Embassy employees in the Algerian capital, Algiers, and the Afghan capital, Kabul, would continue to work out of "secret locations" in those cities, and would be reachable by phone and e-mail, Foreign Ministry spokesman Erik Laursen said.

The threat "is so concrete that we had to take this decision," Laursen told The Associated Press. "The decision is based on intelligence," he added, declining to elaborate.

The Netherlands took similar precautions, announcing Wednesday that it had closed its embassy's offices in Kabul two days earlier after reassessing the security situation in the Afghan capital.

Last week, Dutch Embassy personnel in Pakistan shifted to a luxury hotel in Islamabad due to heightened security concerns following the release of a film critical of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, by Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders.

The Netherlands has stationed 1,600 combat troops with the NATO-led security force in southern Afghanistan.
More on link

Deaths haunt Afghanistan mission
By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Even before the Marines here began fighting Taliban insurgents in the lawless southern provinces, they were holding a memorial service for two of their own.
Cpl. Kyle Wilks was remembered as a NASCAR-loving prankster. First Sgt. Luke Mercardante, the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in his logistics battalion, was "the glue that held us together," Maj. Keith Owens says. "He helped our small problems from becoming big problems."

"It hit us hard," says Staff Sgt. Liandro Barajas, 28, of Yakima, Wash.

The deaths last week during a supply run — the Marine unit's first major foray outside the safety of the sprawling military base at Kandahar Air Field — are a brutal reminder of an enemy that is tenaciously hanging on and possibly gaining strength seven years after U.S. and allied forces toppled the Taliban leadership for sheltering Osama bin Laden.

The Marines are here to help turn the tide against Taliban insurgents and to give pro-U.S. Afghan President Hamid Karzai a chance to assert his government's authority in this impoverished, ravaged country.
More on link

Pakistan's brief honeymoon
Simon Tisdall The Guardian, Wednesday April 23 2008
Article Link

This article appeared in the Guardian on Wednesday April 23 2008 on p16 of the International section. It was last updated at 00:11 on
April 23 2008. Pakistan's new leaders are doing the easy stuff first. Judges fired by President Pervez Musharraf, including the former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, will probably get their jobs back soon. Curbs on the media are being lifted. Earlier this week the supreme court cleared the way for the late Benazir Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, to run for parliament in June. That in turn could put the Pakistan People's party co-chairman in line for the premiership.

All this honeymoon excitement is partly about getting back at Musharraf whose influence dwindles almost daily following February's election defeat. A possibly more significant development was Monday's decision by North-West Frontier province to free a senior pro-Taliban mullah, Sufi Muhammad.
More on link

Pakistan prisoner release to win over militants
April 22, 2008 -- Updated 1831 GMT (0231 HKT)
Article Link

(CNN) -- Pakistan's new government has made good on its promise to negotiate with militant groups within its borders by releasing a jailed pro-Taliban leader who recruited thousands of fighters to battle U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Sufi Mohammed agreed to cooperate with the government upon his release from prison Monday after serving a six-year sentence, according to Sardar Hussain Babek, the information minister for North West Frontier Province.

Mohammed was captured in Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan in 2002, months after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban rulers there.

Under the terms of his release, the provincial minister said, Mohammed's banned hardline group, Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi, is expected to lay down its arms and forgo violence.

Babek said the agreement is evidence that the new government has done in a month what the old government under President Pervez Musharraf could not do in years in terms of developing better relations with people in the North West Frontier Province.

But Mohammed's son-in-law Fazlullah, who took over his group during his jail stint, announced Tuesday in his radio broadcast that he will continue his fight to impose fundamentalist Islamic law in northwest Pakistan, according to local reports.

Last year, Fazlullah's followers battled the Pakistani military for control of Swat, a mountainous region of the frontier province that was once a popular tourist destination.

Pakistan's Daily Times and other local media are reporting that Mohammed's release was a demand of those who kidnapped Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan in February.
More on link

Oda joins controversial governor at literacy event in Kandahar city
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid shared a laugh with the ambassador, snipped a pink ribbon alongside a cabinet minister and showered Canada with praise Tuesday to demonstrate he holds no ill will toward the country that let slip it was seeking his ouster.

Khalid was making his first appearance in public since Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier triggered a diplomatic maelstrom last week by telling reporters Khalid should be replaced - an inadvertent admission that was swiftly retracted.

The embattled governor was met by International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, who was wrapping up her three-day visit to Afghanistan by becoming the first Canadian minister to host a news conference in the heart of perilous Kandahar city.

Together with Arif Lalani, Canada's affable ambassador to Afghanistan, the trio took a pair of scissors from an ornately decorated platter and cut the ribbon on a new Department of Literacy building aimed at buttressing vital skills in a province where 26 per cent of men and barely five per cent of women can read.

Speaking slowly, without notes and in strong English, Khalid reminded the gathered dignitaries, ministry officials and aid workers about Canada's sacrifices in Afghanistan and the country's importance to his province's future welfare.
More on link

Lions Clubs send books to troops in Afghanistan
14 Wing expresses gratitude  by Carolyn Sloan/Annapolis County Spectator
Article Link

Capt. Scott Spurr knows how welcome such kindnesses are when serving overseas, miles away from the comforts of home.

On behalf of his fellow comrades, the 14 Wing public affairs officer expressed his gratitude to local Lions Clubs providing books and magazines to the troops in Afghanistan.

“I know firsthand that they really do [appreciate it],” he told the Lions at a dinner meeting April 14 in Annapolis Royal.

A special guest that evening, Spurr was there to witness the presentation of a commemorative print to the Annapolis Royal legion. The print, entitled “Fallen Comrades,” had been given to the Annapolis Lions a few months ago as a gift from the troops, and in turn, the club had decided to offer it to the legion, where it could be properly displayed.

“On behalf of the Legion, I thank the Lions Club for this,” said Lion and Legion service officer Royal Hall upon receiving the print. “This one will be worth appreciating.”

The collection of books and magazines for the troops was initiated by the Annapolis Royal Lions Club about a year ago, inspired by Lion Charlotte Taylor’s daughter, Corp. Susan Cameron, who was serving in Afghanistan. After suggesting to her mother that the troops have reading materials to enjoy during their downtime, Charlotte and her daughter started to send a few books overseas at their own expense.
More on link

Gates Assails Pentagon on Resources for Battlefields
By Josh White and William Branigin Washington Post Staff Writers  Tuesday, April 22, 2008; Page A16
Article Link

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday criticized the U.S. military services for not moving aggressively enough to provide critical resources to the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying it has been "like pulling teeth" to get the Pentagon's conventional Cold War bureaucracy to adapt to the needs of current wars.
More on link
Afghanistan: spring developments (media roundup)
Conference of Defence Associations, 23 April

Articles found April 24, 2008

Ottawa on the hook for harm to Afghans
Tom Blackwell, National Post  Published: Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Article Link

The incidents range from accidental shooting deaths of civilians to deadly friendly fire mishaps, vehicle crashes and even lost cellphones.

The federal government has paid out tens of thousands of dollars in compensation to Afghans who have been hurt, killed or had property wrecked by Canadian troops in the past two years, internal documents obtained by the National Post indicate.

The list of reparations paid by the middle of last year includes five cases of civilians injured or killed at the hands of Canadian troops and three friendly-fire deaths of Afghan soldiers or police.

Compensation for deaths ranged from about $2,000 to almost $9,000, according to Justice Department claims reports, obtained under the Access to Information Act but censored of much personal and other information. None of the claims dealt with damage from air strikes called in by Canadian troops.

"Compensation claims are taken seriously," said Sarah Cavanagh, a National Defence Department spokeswoman. "Each request is fully and expeditiously investigated."

Yet the papers underline a highly charged issue for the NATO mission in Afghanistan: the usually inadvertent but often inflammatory collateral damage inflicted by the foreign forces on an already shattered population.
More on link

Be honest: We're at war in Afghanistan, panel told
STEVEN CHASE From Thursday's Globe and Mail April 24, 2008 at 4:18 AM EDT
Article Link

OTTAWA — The Canadian government should be more frank about its military engagement in Afghanistan and call it a "war" instead of describing it in innocuous terms such as restoring "security" or offering "humanitarian assistance," a former chief of staff to two Liberal defence ministers says.

"Even today you won't see much use of the term war, insurgency or counterinsurgency on government of Canada websites. You will see more anodyne terms like security, governance and humanitarian assistance," Eugene Lang told a panel discussion on Canada's military in the 21st century yesterday in Ottawa.

"This suggests to me that we are not honest with ourselves and the Canadian public about what we are actually involved in abroad," Mr. Lang told the discussion sponsored by the Walrus Foundation, publisher of The Walrus magazine.

Mr. Lang, who served as chief of staff to former Liberal defence ministers Bill Graham and John McCallum, acknowledged the Harper government has made progress in the past 18 months in using blunter language to describe Canada's mission in Afghanistan.
More on link

US Considering Changes to Afghanistan Coalition Command Structure
By Al Pessin Pentagon 23 April 2008
  Article Link

Pessin report - Download (MP3) 
Pessin report - Listen (MP3) 

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Pentagon officials are discussing possible changes to the NATO and coalition command structure in Afghanistan. But he says the United States is not ready to make a formal proposal to its allies. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

When Secretary Gates announced Wednesday that the current U.S. and coalition commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is being nominated as the new head of U.S. Central Command, the secretary said he recommended the move because Petraeus is the U.S. military's top expert on "asymmetric warfare."

That term refers to the type of conflict common to Iraq and Afghanistan, where conventional armies are fighting insurgents. Petraeus is widely credited with making enormous strides against insurgents in Iraq during the year he has led coalition forces there.

Central Command normally supervises U.S. military involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But a year and a half ago most of the international forces in Afghanistan, including most of the U.S. troops, were put under NATO control, leaving the Central Command chief outside their chain of command.

That is something Secretary Gates says U.S. officials might want to change.
More on link

Denmark Evacuates Embassies in Algeria, Afghanistan Amid Terror Threats
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Article Link

COPENHAGEN, Denmark —  Denmark has evacuated staff from its embassies in Algeria and Afghanistan because of terror threats following the reprint in Danish newspapers of a caricature depicting the Prophet Muhammad, officials said Wednesday.

Embassy employees in the Algerian capital, Algiers, and the Afghan capital, Kabul, would continue to work out of "secret locations" in those cities, and would be reachable by phone and e-mail, Foreign Ministry spokesman Erik Laursen said.

The threat "is so concrete that we had to take this decision," Laursen told The Associated Press. "The decision is based on intelligence," he added, declining to elaborate.

The Netherlands took similar precautions, announcing Wednesday that it had closed its embassy's offices in Kabul two days earlier after reassessing the security situation in the Afghan capital.

Last week, Dutch Embassy personnel in Pakistan shifted to a luxury hotel in Islamabad due to heightened security concerns following the release of a film critical of the Quran, the Islamic holy book, by Dutch parliament member Geert Wilders.
More on link

'Attacks won't stop India from aiding Afghanistan'
24 Apr 2008, 0328 hrs IST,TNN
Article Link

NEW DELHI: Despite the deliberate targeting of Indians in Afghanistan with killings and abductions, India on Wednesday said it will not succumb to pressure and will continue with its efforts to rebuild the war-ravaged country.

"We cannot succumb to the pressure of Taliban or any extremist group. Our approach is of zero tolerance," declared external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee.

"This is exactly what the Taliban want. They do not want any development activity in Afghanistan. Almost everyday we are facing this problem. Threats and minor attacks are taking place on a daily basis," he added.

The stepped-up attacks against Indians in Afghanistan is seen to be the handiwork of Taliban acting at the behest of Pakistan. The minister said India was helping Afghanistan with the construction of the crucial 218-km Zaranj-Delaram road project, a hydel power project and a Parliament building. Mukherjee asserted that India had made adequate security arrangements and had even arranged for its own security forces there in the form of ITBP commandos.
More on link

Afghan MPs may ban jeans and makeup
Pia Heikkila in Kabul The Guardian, Thursday April 24 2008
Article Link

The Afghan parliament is considering a law to ban makeup, men's jeans, long hair and couples talking in public, amid fears that the country is sliding back to Taliban-style rules and conservative power.

The proposal is seen as part of a wider push for Islamic values by Afghanistan's ruling religious elite. It follows government attempts to ban hugely popular Indian soap operas and a recent decision by the high court to confirm the death sentences of nearly 100 people.

Haji Ahmad Shah Khan Achakzai, an MP in Kandahar province, said the law would boost moral and religious values for Afghan people. "Kabul has seen a wave of liberal, unwelcome influences of late," he said. "There are women dressed immodestly, prostitution can be found openly and even alcohol is available on the market. Our job is to protect the Afghan people from being exposed to this un-Islamic way of life and poor morals."

But more liberal MPs fear the loss of hard-fought freedoms. "I am worried there will be another Taliban era ahead of us. We have fought for many years to gain some freedom here and it is our responsibility not to let this happen again," said Najiba Sharif, deputy minister for women's affairs.

Last week parliament tried to stop several private TV channels from broadcasting a number of Indian soap operas. But many stations, including the popular local Tolo TV, are defying the ban. The ministry of information and culture issued a "final warning" to Tolo and Afghan TV to stop broadcasting the Indian soaps by April 29, saying that "otherwise they will be referred to the judiciary".
More on link

U.S. unhappy with Pakistani plan for militant peace deal
Article Link

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House on Wednesday expressed concern with reports that Pakistan's new government is working on a peace accord with militant leaders in its tribal regions.

"We are concerned about it and what we encourage them to do is to continue to fight against the terrorists and to not disrupt any secure military operations that are ongoing in order to prevent a safe haven for terrorists there," spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Pakistan's new government -- led by the Pakistan People's Party of slain leader Benazir Bhutto -- is nearing an agreement with the Mehsud tribes of South Waziristan that involves exchanging prisoners and withdrawing Pakistani forces, according to a party spokesman.

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who has ties to al Qaeda, is a member of the Mehsud tribe.

Pakistan's previous government under President Pervez Musharraf said he was behind Bhutto's assassination last year, a conclusion reached by the CIA as well.

Bhutto's party has rejected that assertion, saying it believes Musharraf's government may have orchestrated the attack.

The deal is being negotiated by the Awami National Party -- part of the ruling coalition -- whose power base is in the North West Frontier Province, where South Waziristan is located, the party's leader told CNN.

"Progress is being made through dialogue and shouldn't be seen in a negative light," Awami National Party leader Zahid Khan said. "It should be given a chance."

The reported peace deal may include releasing some suspects tied to Mehsud who are facing trial for Bhutto's assassination.
More on link
New Jobs Set for 2 Generals With Iraq Role
NY Times, April 24
The nomination of General Petraeus could...portend a renewed American focus on Afghanistan, where the American war effort is widely recognized to be lagging, with violence by the Taliban and Al Qaeda on the rise. Mr. Gates [Secretary of Defense] already has expressed the desire to send several thousand additional troops to Afghanistan next year, although that could require further reductions in troop commitments to Iraq [emphasis added]. General Petraeus would be expected to apply his views of counterinsurgency to Afghanistan, which may include a push toward increased troops.

Mr. Gates said he and President Bush settled on General Petraeus for the post because his counterinsurgency experience in Iraq made him best suited to oversee American operations across a region where the United States is engaged in “asymmetric” warfare, a euphemism for battling militants and nonuniformed combatants

The previous Central Command chief, Adm. William J. Fallon, chose early retirement in March after rankling the Bush administration with public comments that seemed to suggest differences with the White House. If General Petraeus and General Odierno [nominated to be senior commander in Iraq] were to win Senate confirmation to their new posts, Mr. Gates said, they would take over in late summer or early fall...

He [Petraeus] returned to Iraq to serve as commander of training Iraqi security forces, then commanded Fort Leavenworth, where he oversaw the writing of the Army’s new counterinsurgency manual, certain to influence his efforts in Afghanistan, too, if he is confirmed to the Central Command job.

General Petraeus’s challenge as leader of Central Command will be to avoid being trapped in continued, detailed management of the Iraq mission as he takes on vast geographical responsibilities across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, which clearly are the focus of American policy today far and above Europe or East Asia...

The announcement that General Petraeus, 55, would head Central Command, and Mr. Gates’s emphasis on operations in Afghanistan as well as Iraq, reinforced the impression that Pentagon leaders expected the United States to have significant numbers of troops deployed in those two countries for some time to come...

Petraeus promotion ensures future for Bush war policy
LA Times, April 24
In his new job, Petraeus will have responsibility for overseeing military operations from the Horn of Africa through the Persian Gulf to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Oversight of the war in Afghanistan is split between the U.S. Central Command and NATO.

Afghanistan will pose an interesting challenge for Petraeus. While U.S. and NATO commanders there have been requesting more troops, any additional U.S. forces for Afghanistan would have to come from Iraq [emphasis added].

"The main question is will he be willing to see resources shift from Iraq to Afghanistan?" said Crowley, the retired Air Force colonel, who now advises the presidential campaign of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Gates said Wednesday that Petraeus' role in Afghanistan would be somewhat limited.

But historian Crane said that as Centcom commander, Petraeus will have plenty of opportunities to inject new ideas into the Afghanistan fight. Petraeus knows how to work with allied commanders, and his reputation will ensure that people listen to his ideas, Crane said.

"This job will give Gen. Petraeus more of a chance to influence what is going on in Afghanistan," said Crane, a retired Army colonel who helped Petraeus write the Army's 2006 counterinsurgency field manual.

"If you were someone who thought Afghanistan was in need of a fresh approach, you should be excited about Gen. Petraeus' appointment."

Bush Nominates Petraeus To Lead Central Command
Washington Post, April 24
Top U.S. commanders in Afghanistan, where a record 32,000 American troops are deployed, have asked for as many as three more brigades, which senior commanders say would be available only if drawdowns from Iraq continue [emphasis added]. Pentagon officials are weighing whether the command structure in Afghanistan should be changed, Gates said [emphasis added], while the overall strategy for the country is also under review. Violence in Afghanistan increased sharply last year.

"One fascinating question will be the degree to which Petraeus's Iraq counterinsurgency doctrine will work in Afghanistan," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution...


Not open for further replies.