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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (February 2007)

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Conflicting claims after heavy fighting in Sangin
Abdul Samad Rohani, Pahjwok Afghan News, 9 Feb 07
Article Link

Government and NATO forces have engaged in a heavy fighting with the Taliban in Sangin district of the southern Helmand province with both the sides making contradictory claims about casualties.  Helmand police chief Nabi Jan Malakhel said around 10 Taliban fighters were killed in the clash that lasted for several hours on Thursday. He added the fighting erupted after a convoy of police and army forces together with the NATO troops confronted a group of the Taliban during their hunt for the fighters. The operation to hunt the militants has launched recently jointly by the Afghan and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Sangin.  Malakhel said the government and NATO troops did not suffer any casualties in the clash.  However, the Taliban said they killed several foreign soldiers were killed in the fierce fighting. Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who often speak for the Taliban, told Pajhwok Afghan News they destroyed three tanks of foreign troops by roadside bombs and killed eight soldiers of them.  Regarding casualties in ranks of the fighters, Ahmadi said only two of their comrades were wounded.  Local residents said they heard exchange of heavy fire on Thursday for long hours ....



NOTE:  Following story only appears to have been confirmed by DEU defence officials, not CAN officials as of posting.

Canada to buy German tanks for Afghanistan duty
Agence France Presse, 10 Feb 07
Article Link

BERLIN - Berlin Saturday confirmed reports that Canada is to buy German Leopard tanks to equip its forces serving with the NATO multinational force in Afghanistan.  The defence ministry said it was examining a request to that effect from Ottawa, confirming a report in the magazine Der Spiegel due to appear Monday which says that 80 A4 tanks could be bought from the German army reserve.  ‘The ministry is in principle favourable to this request,’ a spokesman told AFP.  Spiegel says the Canadians also want 20 Leopards of the latest A6M type which are mine-resistant, of which the German Bundeswehr regular army has 40.  But as the German manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann cannot deliver them at once, Canada wants to lease them from the German army, according to the magazine ....


Canada wants German tanks for Afghanistan
Google translation, from netzeitung.de (DEU), 10 Feb 07
Article Link - Original article in German - Hauptmann Scharlachrot translation - far better than Google

Soon are German “leopard 2” - battle tanks in the theaters of war of Afghanistan to the front - however with Canadian crew. The Federal Government is ready to agree the Deal.  Soon are German “leopard 2” - battle tanks in the theaters of war of Afghanistan to the front - however with Canadian crew. The Federal Government is ready to agree the Deal.  Canada wants to use German “leopard 2” - battle tank for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. A speaker of the Ministry of Defense confirmed a report of the news magazine “the mirror” on Saturday over an appropriate inquiry of the government from Ottawa. The tanks are to be used with Canadian crew.  The Canadian armed forces use already the older version, the “Leo 1”. But for the fight against the Taliban the Canadians would have gladly the newest on the market. How the Ministry of Defense communicated, the Kandaier inquired whether Germany could make about 20 available “leopard” in the new version with a special protection against mines (A6M) ...



NATO chief sees Taliban finished by 2009
United Press International, 10 Feb 07
Article Link

The head of NATO, speaking in Germany, predicted a military victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan by 2009.  Secretary-General Japp de Hoop Scheffer told a conference in Munich that breaking the Taliban would require a continued ground presence by NATO, although in two years Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government should become more self-sufficient, Sky News reported ....


NATO chief sees Afghan insurgency smashed by 2009
Mark John, Reuters, 10 Feb 07
Article Link

NATO expects to have smashed most of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan within the next two years but will need to keep troops there after 2009, the alliance's chief said on Saturday.  "In 2009, we should see Afghanistan on the road to peace with the back of the resistance broken -- but with undoubtedly a NATO military presence on the ground," Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a security conference in Munich.  "I hope in 2009 that we see an Afghanistan government that is better able to take the country into its own hands, which is what we hope for," he added.  However the scale of the challenge facing the alliance was underlined as Afghan national security adviser Zalmai Rassoul told the same meeting his country was facing a resurgent Taliban and an influx of foreign fighters ....


Top Karzai advisor warns of worsening security situation in Afghanistan
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRN), 10 Feb 07
Article Link

The national security advisor of Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned of a deteriorating security situation in his country amid mounting Taliban and foreign terrorist attacks.  "The resurgence of Talibans and influx of foreign fighters is a great cause of concern. With a safe sanctuary across the border the Talibans are able to rearm, recruit, regroup and reorganise at will.  "Almost 4,000 lives were lost last year, including Afghan, international, civilian and military," Rassoul Zalmai said at the high-profile Munich security conference.  "Our enemies have successfully adopted the hideous tactics of suicide bombings, IEDs and assassination. Last year we witnessed a 6-fold increase in suicide attacks, a 3-fold increase in direct attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces, and a doubling of the number of IED attacks," he added.  Zalmai said the security situation in the southern and eastern Afghanistan "remains a challenge" to the Afghan government ....



McCain criticises Nato on Afghan support
Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times, 10 Feb 07
Article Link

John McCain, the US Republican senator, on Saturday told the FT he was “fairly close” to making a decision about whether he would enter the 2008 race for the White House.  Mr McCain made his comments in Munich on the same day that Barack Obama, the Democratic senator, announced his candidacy for the 2008 presidential race in Illinois.  The maverick Arizona politician was attending an influential Munich defence conference – attended by Russian president Vladimir Putin and a host of European defence ministers – where he criticised Nato allies for not contributing more military and financial support for the alliance’s mission in Afghanistan.  “There will undoubtedly be an offensive this spring in Afghanistan,” said Mr McCain. “The only question is whether it will be Nato’s offensive or the Taliban’s. Nato members can help ensure that we keep the Taliban on their heels by at least matching the US troop increase of 3,000 and by reconsidering national caveats.”....


White House hopeful criticises Europe on Afghanistan
Kristin Roberts, Reuters (UK), 10 Feb 07
Article Link

Senator John McCain, a Republican contender for the White House in 2008, chastised Europe on Saturday for failing to supply the troops and money to win in Afghanistan and said NATO's future was at stake.  In tough comments that singled out specific countries, McCain told NATO allies to move beyond the "false debate" over security and development priorities in Afghanistan -- a dispute that dominated a defence ministers' meeting earlier this week.  Instead, Europe should follow Washington's lead and put more forces and resources into the war effort.  "Military recommitment must begin with NATO countries providing an adequate number of troops for the fight," McCain told the Munich Security Conference of senior world politicians, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates.  "... Yet the international community still falls far short in meeting its prior pledges and in committing the resources Afghanistan needs to avoid failure," he said in prepared remarks ....



A 16-point counternarcotics strategy for Afghanistan
Lalit K. Jha, Pahjwok AFghan News, 9 Feb 07
Article Link

Four influential US Congressmen have come up with a set of 16 recommendations to handle the increasing menace of narco-terrorism in Afghanistan.  Submitted by these Congressmen to the Bush Administration in the form of a letter written to the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, and the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, the suggested counter-terrorism strategy for Afghanistan is modeled after the successful US campaign in Columbia.  Prominent among the proposals are increased extradition of the kingpins; expanding the rewards program to facilitate the capture of Osama bin Laden and other major terrorists operating in the region; developing a consensus policy with US allies to address the linkage and the interdependence between drugs and terror in Afghanistan; and increasing the trade capacity for legitimate Afghan products -- for example, carpets, gem stones and other legitimate products.  Interestingly such a policy initiative comes from four Congressmen, who are all Republicans the party of the President George W. Bush, who last month had nominated the US Ambassador to Columbia, William Wood, as his new envoy to Afghanistan.  The four senior Republican Congressmen, who also happen to members of the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee, are -- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mike Pence, Elton Gallegly and Dana Rohrabacher.  The 16-point recommendations should be considered for inclusion in the Presidents Afghan reconstruction initiative now under development, they said. The Presidents new strategy is vitally important, but the threat will not be alleviated solely by investing more resources. The strategy must also tackle the problem of drugs and terror simultaneously, Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement ....



Nato to toughen Afghan tactics
Daniel Dombey & Stephen Fidler, Financial Times, 7 Feb 07
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Nato’s army chiefs have drawn up a plan for Afghanistan that would boost forces in the south, deploy two battalions on the border with Pakistan and give greater focus to combat with the Taliban.  The tough approach for the border and the south is spelt out in a formal statement of requirements for the mission, submitted by General John Craddock, the new military commander.  Nato defence ministers will discuss the plan, which would use forces recently made available by the US and the UK, at a meeting starting tomorrow in Seville.  The ministers will also look at whether Nato’s rapid response force could be used to help provide more troops for Afghanistan. France is reluctant to reopen this debate since it maintains that the force should be used for crisis missions rather than continuing operations ....



Doubt over Afghan commitment of Gulf & European countries
Pak Tribune, 11 Feb 07
Article Link

Lawmakers of a key Congressional panel have questioned the commitment of major US allies in the Gulf and Europe towards bringing peace in Afghanistan.  Apparently disillusioned over the alleged lackluster role of these countries in Afghanistan, members of the powerful House Committee on Foreign Affairs have urged the Bush Administration that it is right time to rethink their relationship with these European nations and Gulf countries.  If the nations of Europe and the Gulf are unwilling to do their share to protect international security, then perhaps we should rethink the nature of our alliances with them, said Tom Lantos, chairman of the Committee, which plays a key role in shaping US foreign policy ....


Nato fails to agree on Afghan troops
Daniel Dombey & Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times, 8 Feb 07
Article Link

Nato ministers clashed over Afghanistan on Thursday when continental European governments refused to follow the US and the UK and send troops to battle the Taliban.  The alliance’s defence ministers gathered in southern Spain for a meeting Nato officials had earlier hoped would signal more troops for the fight against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.  But, after months of pressure from Washington and London, Germany, France, Italy and Spain are refusing to send combat troops to the south and east, the centre of battle against the Taliban.  “I do not think it is right to talk about more and more military means,” said Franz-Josef Jung, German defence minister. “When the Russians were in Afghanistan they had 100,000 and didn’t win . . . We are liberators, not occupiers.”  Since August, Nato has taken responsibility for the whole of the country, including the conflict zones with the Taliban, and has expanded its force from 8,500 to 35,000 troops. But most of the extra soldiers have come from the US and Britain, which respectively have 14,000 and 5,200 troops in the Nato force, almost all based in the south and east ....

 

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Canadian military hunts for new tanks
A reporter, CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen, 11 Feb 07
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As it prepares to deal with another spring offensive by insurgents in Afghanistan, Canada is trying to lease state-of-the-art Leopard tanks from Germany.  Defence sources told the Ottawa Citizen Saturday that Canada wants to lease 20 Leopard A6M tanks from the German army. The tanks, which have improved protection against landmines and other enemy weapons, could be shipped to Afghanistan as early as the spring if the deal is approved, sources said.  The German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel, will also report on Monday that Canada wants to buy 80 Leopard 2 tanks from Germany as well as lease the other 20 Leopards.  According to another European news agency, Agence France-Presse, the German government is looking at approving the Canadian request. "The ministry is in principle favourable to this request," a German Defence Department spokesman told AFP ....



Taliban prepare for spring offensive in Afghan south
Saeed Ali Achakzai, Reuters (UK), 11 Feb 07
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Taliban fighters are continuing to reinforce a key southern town against an expected NATO offensive more than a week after taking it over, ending a controversial four month truce.  More than 1,500 villagers have fled the town of Musa Qala, in the Taliban heartland, in fear of renewed fighting.  "More than 300 fighters are in Musa Qala," senior Taliban commander Mulla Hayatullah Khan told Reuters from a secret base on Sunday.  "They have been alerted and military supplies are being provided from other areas."  Residents say the Taliban are reinforcing their troops with heavy weapons, but NATO says there is no evidence of force build-up.  The Taliban regularly over-run major centres, but rarely hold them for more than a day or two. This is one of the longest times a key town has been held.  NATO, the United States and the Taliban warn of a major offensive when the snows melt in a few months, after the bloodiest year since the strict Islamists were ousted in 2001 in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States ....



U.S. defense secretary to visit Pakistan for talks on Afghan infiltrators, official says
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 11 Feb 07
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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will visit Pakistan this week for talks with the president and top officials on cooperation in counterterrorism and efforts by Pakistan to stop militants from moving across the border with Afghanistan, an official said Sunday.  Gates, who will be making his first visit to Pakistan since becoming the Pentagon chief, is scheduled to arrive Monday, a senior government official said on condition of anonymity because he does not have the authority to speak formally about the visit.  Gates' visit comes amid a string of suicide bombings in Pakistan and fears for a renewed spring offensive by Taliban fighters in neighboring Afghanistan.  Pakistan — a close U.S. ally in its war against terrorism — has faced repeated charges that the Taliban militia stage attacks from Pakistan against Afghan government troops and NATO- and U.S.-led coalition troops.  Pakistan denies the charges, saying it has deployed some 80,000 troops along its rugged border with Afghanistan to track down militants ....


US should not make military aid to Pak conditional: Musharraf
Daily India, 11 Feb 07
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Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf has said that US should not make its military assistance to Pakistan conditional, since Pakistan had played a vital role in the US led war on terror.  Referring to the bill recently approved by the US House of Representatives, he said the bill was against the efforts Pakistan was making in the war on terror, adding that Washington should be "grateful to Pakistan for the country's forceful campaign against terrorism instead of imposing such conditions".  "Pakistan has played a pivotal role in the war on terror, therefore it is not appropriate to make US military assistance to Pakistan conditional," said Musharraf ....



France sends carrier fleet to support Afghan war
Kuwait News Agency, 11 Feb 07
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France on Sunday sent its sole aircraft carrier, the "Charles de Gaulle," and a fleet of support vessels to the Indian Ocean to provide support for NATO forces fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan, defense sources said.  The French carrier is accompanied by a fleet of eight naval vessels, including a submarine, and it will bring a capacity of 30 attack aircraft to the Afghan conflict zone, where NATO troops are having difficulties overcoming the Taliban fighters in several areas.  NATO commanders have long called for reinforcements on the ground in Afghanistan, and as recently as this weekend at the Security Conference in Munich, the US Defense Secretary lamented the fact that the developed countries with two million men under arms could not defeat the Taliban and muster up badly needed reinforcements.  The French deployment does not involve extra troops on the ground, although France is one of the major contributors to the NATO effort. Moreover, France did decide last year it would pull out its 200 special forces operating with US special units in Afghanistan, separately from the NATO commitment ....


Italy minister upsets government allies with Afghan date
Reuters, via Times of Malta, 11 Feb 07
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Leftists in Italy's coalition government warned yesterday they could withdraw support for Romano Prodi's administration after a minister said troops may not quit Afghanistan for several years.  Comments by Defence Minister Arturo Parisi that Italy's military presence in Afghanistan may not be cut during the government's five-year term, which expires in 2011, provoked angry reactions from some political allies who oppose Italy's presence in the country.  By yesterday parties on the left of the coalition said such talk could push them to vote against Prodi in parliament, where it has a one-seat majority in the upper house. The Senate leader of another leftist party, Communist Refoundation, also expressed his shock. "The radical left, which hasn't asked for an immediate, precise date for an exit strategy, was expecting an equally responsible attitude from the government," Russo Spena said.  Parisi said he was surprised his comment has caused a storm and said 2011 referred to the five-year plan agreed at an international conference last year ....

 

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Canadian troops fire on Afghan army convoy, wounding one allied soldier
MURRAY BREWSTER, Canadian Press, 12 Feb 07
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An Afghan army soldier was wounded early Monday in a shooting incident involving Canadian troops.  The incident happened on road east of Kandahar city and involved soldiers in a Canadian re-supply convoy that was returning to the local airfield, NATO's main military base in the region. Military police have ordered an investigation into the shooting, said Lt.-Cmdr. Kris Phillips, a spokesman for the Canadian Forces.  "Incidents such as this are very regrettable and we try to take all reasonable steps to avoid them. However, they do, from time to time, occur," he said.  "We've also been in constant contact with the ANA (Afghan National Army) authorities and commanders in the local area. There will be further meetings and discussions with representatives of the ANA to determine how we can work together to prevent this from happening again."  An Afghan Army convoy of pickup trucks approached a security cordon set up around a disabled RG-31 Nyala patrol vehicle. Phillips said the shooting took place when the driver of the lead pickup refused orders to stop.  "I think naturally people would be a little bit upset with this sort of incident. I know we're upset. It's not the kind of thing we like to see happen," he said ....


Canadian Forces probe wounding of Afghan soldier
CBC online, 12 Feb 07
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An Afghan army soldier has been wounded in a shooting incident involving Canadian troops.  The incident happened early Monday on road east of Kandahar City and involved soldiers in a Canadian re-supply convoy that was returning to the local airfield, NATO's main military base in the region.  Lt.-Cmdr. Kris Phillips, a spokesman for the Canadian Forces, said military police have ordered an investigation into the shooting.  An Afghan Army convoy of pickup trucks approached a security cordon set up around a disabled RG-31 Nyala patrol vehicle.  Phillips says the shooting took place when the driver of the lead pickup refused orders to stop.  The wounded Afghan soldier was taken to a civilian hospital for treatment of what are thought to be injuries to his arm ....



Two Taliban rockets slam into Kandahar Airfield; one NATO soldier injured
MURRAY BREWSTER, Canadian Press, via Brooks Bulletin, 11 Feb 07
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The long period of calm at Kandahar Airfield was shattered Sunday night when two rebel rockets slammed into the base, injuring one NATO soldier.  The force of the explosion sprayed gravel into the face the injured man, causing minor lacerations, said Capt. Andre Salloum, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force.  "He was treated for minor injuries at the ISAF medical facility and will be released tonight," he said.  Lt-Cmdr. Kris Phillips, a spokesman for the Canadian Forces, said the injured soldier was not a Canadian.  No damage to buildings was reported and, for security reasons, Salloum refused to discuss where the rockets hit inside the camp ....



Widows of soldiers killed in Afghanistan face fight with banks over mortgages
ALISON AULD, Canadian Press, 11 Feb 07
Article Link

Widows of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are tied up in a confusing fight of their own with banks that have delayed payment of their mortgages or claim they're not covered by insurance at all because their husbands died in combat.  Several women say they've been told by their financial institutions the mortgage insurance they've spent years paying into does not apply because their spouses died while at war.  Maureen Gillam, whose husband Sgt. Craig Gillam was killed last October in a rocket attack near Kandahar, said she received a letter just days ago stating she could not benefit from her mortgage insurance because of a so-called act of war clause.  "It does anger me a bit because when I bought my car, the salesman told us right up front that there is a war clause and it wouldn't be covered," she said in a recent interview from her home in Petawawa, Ont.  "But with them, they never brought it up. They knew he was in the military, they knew this was going on, why would you even get us to pay that without mentioning it?"  Gillam, 42, said she and her husband bought the mortgage insurance policy in 2005 from Home Loans Canada through their bank, Manulife Financial. At the time, she said they made it clear Craig was in the military, but that no one informed them the policy might not apply if the Newfoundland native was killed in combat ....



CFB Petawawa soldiers return home to loved ones
CTV.ca, 11 Feb 07
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Forty-five soldiers rolled off a plane from Afghanistan, onto a bus and finally into the arms of loved ones at CFB Petawawa.  They arrived late Saturday at CFB Trenton in eastern Ontario before being bused to their home base.  "Now the healing begins where we've left a few guys behind," said Capt. Ryan Carey of 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, who reunited with his wife and baby daughter.  "We certainly wish we had brought everybody home but that's not the case. And we'll carry on with our lives."  The military men and women of CFB Petawawa have paid a price in Afghanistan. They and others have taken part in some of the bloodiest Canadian combat since the Korean War of more than 50 years ago ....



Senate Report on Afghan Mission Will be Released Today
Josh Pringle, CFRA-AM (Ottawa), 12 Feb 07
Article Link - Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence Reports page

The Senate defence committee will release a report today outlining an 11-point strategy aimed at turning around Canada's mission in Afghanistan.  The 16-page report titled "Taking a Hard Look at the Mission" suggests Canada send more than 300 additional police and military trainers to Kandahar.  The Federal Government is urged to warn reluctant NATO allies that unless they quickly send reinforcements, Canada will rethink its own military commitment.  The Senate committee uses the report to ask whether Canadians are willing to commit themselves to a decades-long mission that could cost hundreds of Canadian lives and billions of dollars ....



First things first
The Ruxted Group, 11 Feb 07
Article Link

The time is fast approaching for Messers. Dion, Duceppe and Layton to make some choices.  M. Duceppe has promised to introduce a motion requiring the Government of Canada to withdraw from Afghanistan. He will seek support from the Liberals and the NDP.  Jack Layton and the NDP, to be intellectually consistent, ought to support the motion.  M. Dion and the Liberals should not.  The Ruxted Group agrees with Stéphane Dion that something akin to a Marshall Plan is needed for Afghanistan but it asks M. Dion to remind his fellow Canadians that:  1. The Marshall Plan could not be implemented until Europe was at peace; when Afghanistan is pacified, Western nations will be able to apply aid and trade and diplomacy effectively ....

 

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Articles found February 12, 2007

Auditors' report slams Defence over vehicle maintenance
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Sole-source contracts are not 'good value' as review estimates $8-million a year in possible savings
DANIEL LEBLANC

OTTAWA -- Auditors at the Department of National Defence are blasting a sole-sourced contract to maintain the military's fleet of light-armoured vehicles, saying the government is overspending at least $8-million a year for the work.

In particular, the auditors said management fees have expanded while subcontracting costs have gone unchecked.

"There are significant opportunities to achieve savings and better value for money," said the audit, which was posted recently on DND's website.

It said there was room for savings of "at least $80-million over the next 10 years of the contract," and that could reach $13.5-million a year.

The contract to maintain the Canadian Forces' light-armoured vehicles, such as the eight-wheeled Coyotes and LAV IIIs, was issued in 1998 and is still in place.

Even though the names of government suppliers are frequently released, DND said it had to shield the identity of this contractor to abide by the Access to Information Act.

"I cannot release that, and the reason why is that it might put the vendor in a negative light," DND spokeswoman Liana Cyr said.

But The Globe and Mail has learned the contract went to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada, which owns the company that manufactured the vehicles.

Ken Yamashita, a spokesman for General Dynamics, refused to comment on the document, saying it is an internal DND audit of the government's contracting practices.

When it was first issued nine years ago, the contract called for "life-cycle support" for 203 Coyotes. The deal grew over the years as the government purchased 651 LAV IIIs and other light-armoured vehicles.

The audit expressed concern that the initial "two-year, $4.3-million contract evolved into a six-year $67.9-million contract" by 2004. The contract was then renewed for three years, for a total of $200-million, and entails work on more than 1,000 light-armoured vehicles.
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6 Taliban, 5 police killed in violence in southern Afghanistan
The Associated Press  Monday, February 12, 2007 KABUL, Afghanistan
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Gunbattles and ambushes in southern Afghanistan left at least six Taliban fighters and five Afghan police dead, while the U.S.-led coalition said Monday that several other Taliban fighters died during an assault targeting a senior Taliban leader.

In Uruzgan province, NATO forces and Afghan police and soldiers battled suspected Taliban militants for five hours near the town of Tirin Kot late Sunday, said Qayum Qayumi, the provincial governor's spokesman.

Six Taliban fighters and three police were killed, while another 12 suspected Taliban were arrested and several guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers were recovered, he said.

Two police died and a third was wounded in neighboring Zabul province when suspected Taliban militants ambushed a police vehicle Sunday night, said Ghulam Jalali, a highway police commander. One policeman and one Taliban fighter were wounded in a gunbattle, he said.

The U.S.-led coalition said "several" Taliban fighters died during an assault by coalition forces and the Afghan army early Monday near the town of Gereshk in Helmand province.
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US troops in Afghanistan fire at Taliban in Pakistan
Colonel cites right to defend outposts from rebel attacks
By Robert Burns, Associated Press  |  February 12, 2007
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BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan -- Asserting a right to self defense, American forces in eastern Afghanistan have launched artillery rounds into Pakistan to strike Taliban fighters who attack remote US outposts, the commander of US forces in the region said yesterday.

The skirmishes are politically sensitive because Pakistan's government, regarded by the Bush administration as an important ally against Islamic extremists, has denied that it allows US forces to strike inside its territory.

The use of the largely ungoverned Waziristan area of Pakistan as a haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters has become a greater point of contention between Washington and Islamabad since Pakistan put in place a peace agreement in September that was intended to stop cross-border incursions.

Army Colonel John W. Nicholson, commander of the Third Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, said in an interview that rather than halt such incursions, the peace deal has led to a substantial increase in attacks .

Pakistani border forces, which had been active in stopping Taliban incursions into Afghanistan as recently as last spring, stopped offensive actions against them once the peace deal took effect, he said.

"That did relax some of the pressure on the enemy," Nicholson said.

The Pakistan Army's top spokesman said yesterday that coalition forces operating in Afghanistan are not allowed to fire into Pakistani territory, but acknowledged that artillery fire from the coalition had landed inside Pakistan in recent days. Pakistan also plans to seek clarification about Nicholson's comments.

Members of Nicholson's brigade, based at Fort Drum, N.Y., recently were told that instead of going home this month after a yearlong tour, they will stay for an extra four months, until June.
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700 foreign fighters in south Afghanistan, governor says; town still under Taliban control
The Associated Press  Sunday, February 11, 2007 KANDAHAR, Afghanistan
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An estimated 700 foreign fighters are operating in a key southern Afghan province where Taliban fighters took control of a town earlier this month, the provincial governor said Sunday.

The foreign fighters — from Chechnya, Uzbekistan and Pakistan — are operating in three volatile areas of Helmand province, including Musa Qala, which fighters overran and have controlled since Feb. 1, Gov. Asadullah Wafa said.

He said the government was conducting negotiations with tribal elders to resolve the dispute.

"We are trying our best to solve this issue in a peaceful way," Wafa told The Associated Press. "We don't want innocent people to die in the fighting. If the negotiations with the elders fail, then the government will conduct an operation against the Taliban."

Wafa said some 1,500 families had fled Musa Qala out of fear of coming clashes.
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Drug-addict guns down his entire family
Monday February 12, 2007 (0022 PST)
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LASHKARGAH: A man has killed eight members of his family and relatives by Kalashnikov in Lashkargah, provincial capital of the southern Helmand province.
Officials and local residents said a man named Muhammad Daud killed eight people in his home by a burst of fire last night in Bolan area, in vicinities of the Lashkargah city.

Muhammad Wais, a police official in Helmand, told Pajhwok Afghan News the murderer was also killed later by villagers.

He said the dead included the murderer's mother, father, wife, sister, brother in-law, wife of his brother, niece and mother in-law of his sister.

Exact reason behind the cold-blooded murders is not clear yet as investigation is going on, said Wais.

However, Roma Muhammadi, a resident of Bolan, said Daud was addicted to drugs and his family had wanted to take him to a rehabilitation centre in Kandahar city in the morning, but he put end to life of all by morning.

The murderer was later shot dead by his sister's in-laws, who are living in the same village, said Muhammadi.
End

German organisation distributes aid
Monday February 12, 2007 (0022 PST)
Article Link

PUL-I-ALAM: Germany has donated winter material worth 200,000 euros for the needy people in the central Logar province.
The material, including 120 kilograms of firewood, four blankets, four mattresses and a heater, were distributed to 1,000 families in the provincial capital of Pul-i-Alam and Azra, Charkh, Mohammad Agha, Baraki Barak and Khoshi districts of the province.

Wolsgang Herbt, head of the German organisation Malteser, told Pajhwok Afghan News the aid was distributed to those families after a survey of the area.

Engineer Sayed Abdul Karim Hashimi, governor of Logar province, said people were faced with numerous problems due to the prevailing cold weather. He said most of the roads connecting villages with districts and cities had been blocked due to the heavy snowfall.
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Factors behind Taliban resurgence
Monday February 12, 2007 (0022 PST)
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KABUL: The Taliban recently said it would launch a spring offensive against foreign and government troops in Afghanistan and 2,000 suicide bombers were ready to make this year the bloodiest one for foreign soldiers.
Moreover, due to rising Taliban-linked insurgency, Afghanistan plunged into the worst spate of bloodshed in 2006 after the Taliban regime collapsed late 2001 as 4,000 persons were killed. The number was nearly three times bigger than in 2005.

Obviously the Taliban is showing a strong trend of resurgence. Analysts say several factors including geographic elements, enough fund and local support are behind the Taliban's revival.

The first geographic factor benefiting the Taliban is the numerous mountains in southern and eastern Afghanistan, which are hotbeds of Taliban militants. The militants hide and move in mountains and frequently ambush foreign and government troops. This guerrilla-style maneuver makes foreign troops, despite their weapons superiority, hard to deal with and eradicate the militants.
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- edited 122206EST Feb to add IMF warning article -

Feel free to pick up the Army.ca discussion thread on the Senate Report here

Senate report recommends possible end to Afghan mission
Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service, 12 Feb 07
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Canada should consider pulling its troops out of Afghanistan if some of its NATO allies continue to refuse to allow their troops to fight on the front lines near Kandahar, says a Senate committee.  “NATO must deploy more resources in Afghanistan and use those resources in a better way than we have done to this point. If this proves impossible, Canada should be prepared to consider withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as soon as our current commitment ends,” concludes a report by the Senate committee on national defence and security.  The committee of Liberal and Conservative senators recently returned from Afghanistan and has singled out the ongoing dispute within NATO as one of the major hurdles facing Canada’s deployment of 2,500 troops to the country.  NATO has tried unsuccessfully to find thousands more troops to fight the Taliban insurgency in southern Afghanistan, where 36 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat were killed in the last year.  The report fingers Germany and France as two countries that refuse to allow their troops to deploy to the south from other, less volatile parts of the country ....


Senate panel says success in Afghanistan far from a sure thing; urges change
ALEXANDER PANETTA, Canadian Press, 12 Feb 07
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Canada should consider withdrawing from Afghanistan unless its NATO allies deliver additional troops to the international mission, a Senate committee recommended Monday.  In a 45-page report, the Senate's national security and defence committee described the mission of stabilizing Afghanistan as an uphill battle that could take decades. It also cast it as a major test for NATO in the post-Cold War era - and suggested Canada should consider a pullout if other NATO countries refuse to pitch in.  "We expect the allies to step up," said Senator Colin Kenny, the committee chair.  "They must know that if they're not going to step up, we're going to take another look at the situation. It's an alliance and everyone is expected to be shoulder-to-shoulder on this.  "I would say that if we've seen no support from our allies, all the options are on the table."  Kenny noted that Canadian diplomats and military officials have estimated that it might take anywhere from two decades to five generations to stabilize Afghanistan.  "We think this is an uphill fight," Kenny said.  "We see it as a serious struggle that we're in, and we're in it for a very long time. . . We see it as being something in that order of magnitude - a very long exercise."  He said anyone who expects a sophisticated, Westminster-style or congressional democracy to develop quickly is "dreaming in technicolour."....


Reconsider Afghan mission unless NATO boosts support: Senate
CBC News Online, 12 Feb 07
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Canada should rethink its role in Afghanistan within a year unless NATO countries step in to shoulder more of the burden, says a Senate report.  Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission, a 15-page report, paints a bleak picture of the situation faced by the more than 2,000 Canadian soldiers serving in the volatile Kandahar region.  Canadian, American, British and Dutch troops are tasked with most of the fighting in the southern Taliban heartland and deserve greater NATO support, the report said.  "We're doing the heavy lifting and now it's time to share it," said Conservative Senator Michael Meighen, a member of the bipartisan Senate Defence committee that wrote the report.  Unless NATO countries send more troops and support to the region within 12 months, Ottawa should re-examine its long-term commitment to the mission, said the report.  "We expect our allies to step up. They must know that if they don't step up, we're going to take another look at the situation," said Liberal Senator Colin Kenny. "It's an alliance. We're expected to be shoulder to shoulder." ....


Afghan peace will take generations: report
TENILLE BONOGUORE, Globe & Mail, 12 Feb 07
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Canada must demand more help from NATO or get ready to leave Afghanistan say the authors of a Senate committee report that warns peace in the war-torn nation is a still generations away.  In a frank 16-page interim report, the Senate committee on national security and defence says more troops, more money and a bigger commitment from other NATO countries must be gained within a year.  Publicly releasing the report on Monday, Senate committee chair Colin Kenny said Canada should expect its allies to step up to the challenge. If that doesn't happen, he says Canada must “take another look” at its mission.  “We cannot stay there forever,” Mr. Kenny said. “The solution has to be in us helping the Afghans solve their problem, and our efforts have to be driven towards that ....


Senate report takes 'hard look' at Afghanistan
CTV.ca, 12 Feb 07
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A hard-hitting Senate report released Monday says Ottawa has to overcome numerous 'obstacles' to ensure that Canada's mission in Afghanistan is successful.  The 15-point strategy, titled "Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission," calls for a 'defensible buffer zone' on the Afghan side of Pakistan's remote border regions.  Pakistan has come under criticism for not being able to control the rugged border, allowing militants to cross almost unhindered from Pakistan to Afghanistan.  The report also says Ottawa needs to warn its NATO allies that Canada will rethink its commitment in Afghanistan if other countries don't send "a significantly larger and fully-engaged" stability force to Kandahar within a year.  "It is... doubtful that the mission can be accomplished given the limited resources that NATO is currently investing," the report says. 
In addition to the request, the committee also says 60 more Canadian police officers -- up from the 10 currently there -- are needed to help train local law enforcement officers. It also says 250 Canadian troops are needed to help teach the Afghan National Army.  On development, the Senate defence committee says $20 million a year must be given to the military until aid groups are able to operate safely in the country.  "The combination of too many lives being lost and too little development assistance... contributes to making life bleak and dangerous in the Kandahar region," says the report ....


Canadian senate panel: consider withdrawal from Afghanistan if allies don't add troops
Associated Press, 12 Feb 07
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Canada should consider withdrawing from Afghanistan unless its NATO allies deliver additional troops to the international mission, a Senate committee recommended Monday.  ''They must know that if they're not going to step up, we're going to take another look at the situation. It's an alliance and everyone is expected to be shoulder-to-shoulder on this,'' Sen. Colin Kenny, chair if the national security and defense committee, told a news conference.  In a 45-page report, the committee described the mission of stabilizing Afghanistan as an uphill battle that could take decades.  The reluctance of Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Turkey to provide more combat troops in southern Afghanistan has irked nations on the front lines, raising concern over a split within the alliance.  The seven NATO nations with troops in the Taliban's southern heartland - the U.S., Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Romania and Estonia - held meetings on the sidelines of the alliance gathering in Seville, Spain, on Friday ....


Canadian Senate committee recommends military pullout from Afghanistan
Xinhua news agency, via www.chinaview.cn (CHN), 13 Feb 07
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Canada should consider a military pullout from Afghanistan unless NATO sends more forces to the country, a Senate committee said in a report on Monday.  The Senate's national security and defense committee recommended in a report that Canada should consider withdrawing from Afghanistan since the mission there was an uphill battle, which could take decades to win.  The report came as some NATO countries are reluctant to dispatch more troops to southern Afghanistan, where clashes with the Taliban have increased recently.  Canada, together with the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Romania and Estonia, has contributed some 2,500 troops to the overall 35,000-strong NATO forces in Afghanistan.      Canada has long been calling for a surge of troops from its NATO allies in Afghanistan, stressing that the forces in the country have already been stretched. But some countries, like Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Turkey, have shown reluctance toward committing more troops ....


Canada considers Afghan pullout
Al Jazeera, 13 Jan 07
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A Canadian special senate committee report has said that Canadian troops supporting Nato's mission in Afghanistan could be withdrawn if the alliance's members do not offer more support.  The report, published on Monday, follows on from the committee's recent review of Nato's progress in Afghanistan over the past year.  "Canada and Nato must deploy resources in Afghanistan and use those resources in a better way than we have done to this point," the report said.  "If this proves impossible, Canada should be prepared to consider withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as soon as our current commitment ends."  Canada has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan. They are due to be based in the city of Kandahar until early 2009 ....


NATO's Afghan mission in trouble: Canadian Senate
David Ljunggren, Reuters (UK), 12 Feb 07
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NATO's military mission to Afghanistan is in trouble and has little chance of success unless the alliance commits significantly more resources, said a report issued by the Canadian Senate on Monday.  The defense committee of the Senate said NATO faces a "huge and complex set of problems" as it tries to rebuild the shattered country.  "It is in our view doubtful that this mission can be accomplished given the limited resources that NATO is currently investing in Afghanistan," said the report.  "Canada and NATO must deploy resources in Afghanistan and use those resources in a better way than we have done to this point," it said. "If this proves impossible, Canada should be prepared to consider withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as soon as our current commitment ends."  Canada has 2,500 soldiers in the southern city of Kandahar, who are due to pull out early in 2009. So far, 44 Canadian soldiers and a diplomat have died, most of them in 2006.  The problems facing Canada and its allies include a resurgent Taliban, a booming poppy trade, endemic corruption and a wrecked infrastructure.  "Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognizable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor," said the report ....


Senate urges Canada to press allies on Afghanistan troop levels
Agence France Presse, via AfghanNews.net, 12 Feb 07
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Canada must press its NATO allies to commit more troops to fight insurgents in Afghanistan, and otherwise should threaten to pull out of the war-torn nation soon, urged a new senate report.  A special senate committee, after reviewing NATO's mission in Afghanistan over the past year, suggested that Canada pull its 2,500 soldiers from the southern Kandahar region within 12 months if its allies do not deploy "a significantly larger and fully-engaged stability force" to the country soon.  "We expect the allies to step up," said Senator Michael Meighen, vice-president of the special senate committee. "They must know that if they're not going to step up, we're going to take another look at the situation."  NATO is "an alliance and everyone is expected to be shoulder-to-shoulder in this. And I would say that if we receive no support from our allies, all of the options are on the table," he told reporters.  By withdrawing its troops, Ottawa would be reneging on its commitment to maintain a force in volatile southern Afghanistan until 2009.  "We cannot stay there forever, and the best use of our resources is to bring stability and to provide assistance so that the Afghans can provide for their own stability in the future," Meighen said.  "That is going to take an extraordinarily long period of time, a significantly greater effort by the allies, and a great deal of money." ....



Flaherty tells banks to be 'generous' to war widows on mortgage insurance
Canadian Press, 12 Feb 07
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Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says he's going to bat for the widows of Canadian soldiers caught up in a mortgage-insurance fight with financial institutions.  Several widows of soldiers killed in Afghanistan say they were told by their banks or insurance companies that the mortgage insurance they've spent years paying into does not apply because their spouses died in combat.  Liberal MP Judy Sgro raised the matter in the House of Commons on Monday, asking what the government is doing to help the women.  "These individuals all deserve the highest respect and care from their government and all Canadians," Sgro said.  "When will they offer the widows and the families of our fallen soldiers automatic relief against future mortgage payments?"  Flaherty responded that he was "shocked" to hear about the situation and said he has already taken action.  "I made it clear to the banks today that I expect them to be generous in their treatment of all widows in this country. I await their response and I will be pleased to report to the House with respect to their response as soon as it is received." ....



Gates Pledges to Stop Extremists Taking Control of Afghanistan
Ed Johnson, Bloomberg wire service, 13 Feb 07
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The U.S. will not repeat past mistakes and allow extremists to take control of Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said, after talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on crushing the Taliban insurgency.  ``We are here for the long haul,'' Gates told reporters yesterday, adding the U.S. had paid a price on Sept. 11, 2001, for neglecting Afghanistan.  NATO, Afghan and Pakistani forces must cooperate to improve security along the mountainous border between the two countries and prepare for a Taliban offensive in coming months, he added.  Afghanistan, a country of 31 million people, has experienced almost 30 years of conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979. The Islamist Taliban regime took power after a civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal and hosted al- Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's terrorist training camps.  Supporters of the Taliban regime that was ousted by a U.S.- led coalition in 2001 are waging a guerrilla war against international and Afghan troops and are trying to destabilize President Hamid Karzai's government.  ``After the Soviets left the United States made a mistake. We neglected Afghanistan and extremism took control of that country,'' Gates said after meeting with Musharraf in Rawalpindi, according to the Pentagon news service. ``We won't make that mistake again.'' ....


US in Afghanistan 'for long haul'
Demetri Sevastopulo & Farhan Bokhari, Financial Times (UK), 13 Feb 07
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Robert Gates, US defence secretary, made his first official visit to Pakistan yesterday with a promise of continued support for the war against Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan's border regions.  He promised that the US would be in the region "for the long haul" and applauded Islamabad's "constructive" role in the conflict.  "After the Soviets left [Afghanistan], the US made a mistake," said Mr Gates. "We neglected Afghanistan and extremism took control of that country, and the US paid a price for that on September 11 2001. We won't make that mistake again."  Coming on the heels of four days of security meetings in Europe, Mr Gates added 30 hours to his schedule for a three-hour whirlwind stop in Pakistan that included a meeting with General Pervez Musharraf, the president.  The detour is a sign of Pakistan's importance as a Washington ally, but US officials also want Mr Musharraf to do more to clamp down on Taliban activities inside Pakistan.  Western diplomats said Mr Gates almost certainly brought a strong message to Pakistan, which the US says is providing a haven to the Taliban and leaders of al-Qaeda ....



Reports Of Fighting As Taliban Mass Near Kajaki Dam
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 Feb 07
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The governor of Afghanistan's Helmand Province, Asadullah Wafa, says hundreds of Taliban fighters have crossed from Pakistan into southern Afghanistan, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reported.  Wafa said today that he believes they are massing for an attack on the Kajaki hydroelectric dam.  Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Zmarai Bashari confirmed the report, telling RFE/RL today that the militants are believed to include Chechens, Arabs, Uzbeks, and Pakistanis.  Meanwhile, the U.S. military says Afghan and coalition forces early today battled Taliban fighters in the town of Gerishk, about 100 kilometers south of the Kajaki Dam.  Bashari told RFE/RL that at least 11 Taliban were killed in that fighting.  Bashari also said that Afghan and NATO forces are preparing for a major offensive against Taliban militants who in early February seized the town of Musa Qala, which is about 25 kilometers from the Kajaki Dam.  The area around the Kajaki Dam -- in the northeast corner of Helmand Province -- has seen heavy fighting between Taliban and NATO forces in recent weeks ....


Insurgents set deadly sights on Afghan dam
TIM ALBONE, The Scotsman, 13 Feb 07
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HUNDREDS of fanatical fighters, including insurgents from Chechnya, have swarmed into Afghanistan to launch attacks against British military positions in Helmand province.  According to the governor of Helmand, Haji Asadullah Wafa, the fighters, said to number over 700, are planning to attack a small garrison of British troops at the Kajaki Dam, in the north of the province, and aim to take control of the hydro-electric plant and dam complex.  The insurgents are bolstered by Pakistani, Uzbek and, most worryingly for the British, Chechen fighters, known for their skill, bravery and zeal in battle. It is also believed that among the Chechen fighters are a number of skilled snipers and explosives experts.  "We have got confirmed reports that they are Pakistani, Uzbek and Chechen nationals and have sneaked in," Mr Wafa said.  The governor's announcement came on the day Robert Gates, the United States Defence Secretary, visited Pakistan and met with the country's president, Pervez Musharraf, to discuss the Taleban problem and to stress the US's commitment to the fight against the resurgent militant group ....


Taliban fight for control of vital dam
Tom Coghlan, Telegraph Online (UK), 13 Feb 07
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Some 700 Taliban fighters are reported to have crossed the border from Pakistan into Helmand Province to join heightened fighting around a hydro-electric dam protected by British forces in the north of the province.  British troops have been engaged in combat against Taliban around Kajaki Dam for months. It is the only source of power for Helmand Province and the neighbouring province of Kandahar.  "They are planning to destroy the Kajaki dam," said the Helmand governor, Assadullah Wafa yesterday. The forces arriving from Pakistan included Pakistani, Uzbek and Chechen fighters, he added.  Last night British officials confirmed that an operation involving 300 British soldiers from M and K companies of 42 Royal Marine Commando, supported by Commando Engineers and Artillery and Afghan forces had commenced north-west of the dam at 6am.  The marines battled for 12 hours, "engaging in at times close fighting" to clear 60 houses nearby.  MoD officials say no civilians or British troops were killed. Several Taliban were believed dead ....



IMF warns of slippage in Afghan economic program
Lesley Wroughton, Reuters, 13 Feb 07
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An International Monetary Fund staff mission to Afghanistan expressed concern on Monday that the government's determination to stick to targets set by an IMF economic program "might be waning" amid spending pressures from rising social and security needs.  "The political environment surrounding the program is becoming increasingly complex," the IMF mission said in a statement following a visit to Kabul between Jan. 21 to Feb. 1 to assess the country's eligibility for debt relief.  "Multiple and competing demands pose a challenge for the authorities and complicate policy decisions," the Fund said.  Despite significant support from donors, jobs were scarce and progress slow in improving the lives of ordinary Afghanis, the IMF mission said.  It also pointed to increasing budget outlays from a volatile security situation and urged the government to prioritize its spending.  Afghanistan is facing its bloodiest violence since the Taliban government was toppled by U.S.-led forces in 2001, which has raised concern for the country after optimism generated by successful elections in 2004 and 2005.  Analysts have cautioned that unemployment and poverty are the main reasons for a rise in support for a Taliban insurgency in the country's south, where violence is increasing ....



Afghanistan: EU Aid Targets Justice System
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 Feb 07
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Foreign ministers from the European Union have approved a new mission to help train Afghan police. EU foreign ministers agreed to send about 150 police officers, plus other experts, to Afghanistan to help train that country's national police force.  The 27 ministers said in a statement today that the mission is aimed at furthering respect for human rights and the rule of law and driving police reform at the "central, regional, and provincial" levels.  EU officials say it could also pave the way for more ambitious EU efforts in Afghanistan -- including assistance revamping key legal institutions.  Before today's meeting, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner described Afghanistan's current legal architecture as inadequate in most respects.  Ferrero-Waldner said ahead of today's meeting that the police mission is a harbinger of bigger things to come. She said the EU will provide 600 million euros ($777 million) over the next four years to help fund Afghanistan's public administration, with a particular focus on the legal system.  "We intend to put a very special focus now on strengthening public administration, and also in particular the reform of the key legal institutions," Ferrero-Waldner said ....

 

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Senators foresee long Afghan effort
Gloria Galloway, Globe & Mail, 13 Feb 07
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Members of the Senate defence committee say anyone who expects Afghanistan to become a modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people within a couple of decades is "dreaming in Technicolor."  But, in a report made public yesterday, they still urge the Canadian government to spend more money, time and resources to rebuild what they describe as a "corrupt" nation that is still, for all intents and purposes, a "medieval" society.  In particular, the senators recommend that Canada devote an additional 250 military instructors to train members of the Afghan military and an additional 60 instructors to train the local police.  And they say a significant portion of the money sent to Afghanistan by the Canadian International Development Agency should be funnelled through the Canadian Forces teams operating in the dangerous Kandahar province ....


Senate report called wake-up call for PM
Canada needs to reassess role in conflict, opposition says

Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, 13 Feb 07
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A hard-hitting Senate report that warns success is far from assured for Canadian troops in Afghanistan should serve as a wake-up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to rethink Canada's role, opposition politicians say.  "So far we've seen denial from the Harper government. Maybe this Senate report will finally help open up a proper debate about the whole nature of this mission," NDP Leader Jack Layton said.  "Unfortunately, the Prime Minister doesn't seem to be willing to listen to Canadians when it comes to the mission in Afghanistan. ... He tries to discount anybody that raises any sort of question or criticism."  The new report paints a sobering picture of Canadian soldiers let down by their NATO allies, left vulnerable by a porous Pakistan-Afghan border that lets insurgents roam freely, and badly undermined by the rampant corruption in Afghan society and its "warrior" culture.  Senators who spoke out yesterday on the report's findings chided the Conservative government for its upbeat assessments while "formidable obstacles" remain in the way of the 2,500 soldiers now serving in the Kandahar region.  "We think this is an uphill fight. We see it as a serious struggle that we're in and that we're in it for a very long time," Senator Colin Kenny, chair of the Senate defence committee, told an Ottawa news conference ....


Canada Senate Report Says NATO Afghan Mission Facing Trouble
Radio Free Afghanistan, 13 Feb 07
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A new report issued by a committee in the Canadian Senate says NATO's military mission in Afghanistan is facing problems and has little chance of success unless NATOmember countries commit significantly more troops and resources to defeat insurgents and stabilize the country.  The report, titled "Taking A Hard Look At A Hard Mission," was issued by the national security and defense committee.  The committee said it reviewed NATO's mission in Afghanistan over the past year, and recommended that Canada consider withdrawing its 2,500 soldiers from the country if the NATO allies do not deploy "a significantly larger" stability force to southern Afghanistan soon.The report suggested that a "defensible buffer zone" be created on the Afghan side of the border to contain Pakistan's rugged border areas."It is...doubtful that the mission can be accomplished given the limited resources that NATO is currently investing," the committee concluded ....


Canada Senate Report Says NATO Afghan Mission Facing Trouble
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 13 Feb 07
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A new report issued by a committee in the Canadian Senate says NATO's military mission in Afghanistan is facing problems and has little chance of success unless NATOmember countries commit significantly more troops and resources to defeat insurgents and stabilize the country.  The report, titled "Taking A Hard Look At A Hard Mission," was issued by the national security and defense committee.  The committee said it reviewed NATO's mission in Afghanistan over the past year, and recommended that Canada consider withdrawing its 2,500 soldiers from the country if the NATO allies do not deploy "a significantly larger" stability force to southern Afghanistan soon.  The report suggested that a "defensible buffer zone" be created on the Afghan side of the border to contain Pakistan's rugged border areas ....


Canadians debate Afghan pullout
Owen Clegg, BBC News, 13 Feb 07
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A Canadian Senate committee says the government should consider withdrawing from Afghanistan unless its Nato allies provide additional troops there.  The Canadian contingent has been involved in some of the heaviest fighting in the volatile south, with 42 troops losing their lives.  Canada has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and forms the core of Nato operations in the province of Kandahar.  Kandahar has seen some of the heaviest clashes with the Taleban recently.  Only the US and the UK have more troops contributing to the Nato mission in Afghanistan ....


Editorial:  Afghan mission must succeed
Hamilton Spectator, 13 Feb 07
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The distinct and dangerous possibility that Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will end in abject failure was underlined in no uncertain terms by a Senate report yesterday. For the growing number of Canadians who are skeptical of this foreign intervention or who actively oppose it, this report will fuel fresh demands for the speedy withdrawal of this country's 2,500 troops from that faraway, war-ravaged land ....


Column:  Senators nail problem, flub solution
Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, 13 Feb 07
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There is a bizarre disjunction in the Senate defence committee's useful – and remarkably frank – analysis of Canada's military role in Afghanistan. It's as if the 11 senators on the committee, having successfully outlined the near insurmountable problems associated with the Afghan war, couldn't bring themselves to accept the logical conclusion of their own analysis.  On the one hand, their 16-page report convincingly paints a picture of a war that cannot be won. The Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, it states bluntly, routinely shakes down its own citizens. Its army and police are, in the words of committee chair Colin Kenny, "corrupt and corrupter."  The senators say they are "impressed by the optimism of Canadian troops and their leaders to bring about positive change in Afghanistan."  But they say that this optimism is hard to square with reality. In fact, they say, Canada's military presence in the southern province of Kandahar has not made the lives of Afghan citizens any better. It has made them worse. "Life is clearly more perilous because we are there," the report concludes ....



Shooting of Afghan soldier by Canadian troops probed
Wounded in hand and leg after truck hit with blast of machine-gun fire

Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, via Toronto Star, 13 Feb 07
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Military police are piecing together events that led to the shooting of an Afghan soldier by Canadian troops guarding a disabled patrol vehicle – an event that has put further strain on the allies.  The unidentified Afghan was wounded in the hand and leg yesterday after the engine block of his pickup truck was sprayed with a single blast of machine-gun fire from the turret of a RG-31 Nyala patrol vehicle.  The man, who also suffered cuts from flying glass, was taken to an Afghan army hospital at nearby Camp Shirzai and was later transferred to the military hospital at Kandahar Airfield, where doctors performed a second operation, said a Canadian army spokesperson.  His injuries were believed to be non-life-threatening.  "Incidents such as this are very regrettable and we try to take all reasonable steps to avoid them. However, they do, from time to time, occur," said Lt.-Cmdr. Kris Phillips.  The incident happened on a road east of Kandahar city when an Afghan army convoy of pickup trucks approached a security cordon set up around a disabled RG-31 Nyala patrol vehicle. Phillips said the shooting took place when the driver of the lead pickup refused orders to stop.  Angry they had been fired on, Afghan troops challenged the Canadians, but Phillips couldn't confirm reports both sides had weapons pointed at each other.  "The situation was a little tense at the very beginning, however, after some discussion through interpreters, the situation was quelled," he said ....


Canadians warned in Afghan shooting
Graeme Smith, Globe & Mail, 12 Feb 07
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The commander of Afghan military forces in the country's south has warned Canadian troops to be more careful after a Canadian gunner sprayed an Afghan military truck with bullets, injuring a soldier.  Lieutenant-General Rahmatullah Raoufi said his men were leaving Kandahar city for a routine patrol yesterday morning when they encountered a roadblock set up by Canadian troops. The Canadians initially gave the Afghans permission to pass, Gen. Raoufi said, but inside the first cordon a Canadian turret gun opened fire at the approaching pickup truck.  "Many times this has happened," he said. "They should be careful. Especially if they shoot civilians, the public will be unhappy and our enemies will be stronger."  Doctors said the soldier, Abdul Hadi, 23, was wounded on his left forearm and leg, but his injuries were not life threatening.  Canadian military police are investigating the incident. A military spokesman said it was too early to comment on the Afghan commander's version of events ....



NATO Says Taliban Attack On Kajaki Dam Thwarted
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 13 Feb 07
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The NATO-led force in Afghanistan says it has thwarted a Taliban attack on a key hydroelectric dam in the southern province of Helmand.  The alliance says more than 300 troops from Britain and other NATO countries secured the Kajaki dam late on February 12 with support from NATO aircraft and Afghan government troops.  Afghan provincial officials said at least 15 Taliban have been killed during the past three days in clashes near the dam.  A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said she could not confirm a death toll.  Earlier on February 12, Afghan officials told RFE/RL that hundreds of Taliban fighters had massed for an attack on the dam.  Meanwhile, Taliban fighters continue to control the town of Musa Qala about 25 kilometers west of the Kajaki dam ....


NATO says Taliban cleared from Afghan dam
Reuters, 13 Feb 07
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British NATO troops in Afghanistan have cleared Taliban insurgents from the vicinity of a hydro-electric dam in the south of the country, the alliance said on Tuesday.  Backed by air support, the British Royal Marine commandos along with Afghan government soldiers, secured the Kajaki dam in Helmand province in an operation that began on Sunday, the alliance said in a statement.  "More than 300 ISAF troops, supported by the Afghan National Army, cleared a large area near Kajaki, northern Helmand, containing around 60 compounds, which has been the site of regular enemy mortar attacks over the past two months," the alliance said.  "The clearance was part of an ongoing operation to create a safe-zone ... to allow engineers to re-enter the area and bring the dam up to full power," said the force, known as the International Security Assistance Force.  There were no casualties among NATO or Afghan troops or civilians, NATO said. It gave no information about Taliban casualties in the fighting ....



More Norwegian troops to Afghanistan
Norway Post, 13 Feb 07
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The Government will increase the Norwegian military contingent in Afghanistan. Around 150 Norwegian special forces will be sent to Kabul.  This was confirmed by Defence Minister Minister Anne-Grete Stroem-Erichsen Tuesday morning in an interview with NRK, while Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere informed Parliament (Stortinget).  The fresh troops will support the state administration and other institutions in Kabul.  According to NRK, the decision has brought on strong reactions from provincial leaders of the government coalition party, the Socialist Left (SV).  When NATO last requested more troops from Norway for Afghanistan, SV reacted strongly, and the Government ended up not sending more troops. 


Norway approves new troop contingent for Afghanistan
dpa German Press Agency, 13 Feb 07
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Norway announced Tuesday it would deploy an additional 150-strong special forces contingent in Afghanistan. The decision was announced in parliament by Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store and Defence Minister Anne-Grete Strom-Erichsen and marked the end of an internal tug of war in the ruling red-green coalition that has gone on since last year.  Store said the additional troops would be based in the Afghan capital Kabul, adding that "there will be no further (troop) contributions during 2007."  Afghanistan faced a series of combined challenges including poverty, a weak state, and high crime rates, Store said.  In addition to contributing troops, Norway would continue to provide humanitarian aid and expected to allocate 450 million kroner (72 million dollars) for these programmes in 2007, second only to the Palestinian Territories, the foreign minister said.  The current Norwegian force operates in northern Afghanistan, including the city of Mazar-e-Sharif ....



Afghanistan: Winter relief distribution
International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), via ReliefWeb.net, 12 Feb 07
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....  From mid-2006, Afghanistan has been beset by various natural and man-made disasters. Droughts were widespread, particularly in the central, northern and south-western regions. Increased clashes between the Coalition Forces and anti-government elements in the southern provinces caused the local communities to migrate to safer neighbouring provinces. In early November, torrential rain caused flooding in the northern, eastern and western regions of the country ....

 

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From the ground up
ChronicleHerald.ca, Feb. 11, by Scott Taylor
http://thechronicleherald.ca/print_article.html?story=558556

On a UN-operated Dash-8 flight from Kabul to Kandahar, I am seated next to Emil, a 27-year-old Afghan from Jalalabad. Once we arrive in Kandahar, I plan to travel with the Senlis Council, one of the few civilian agencies still operating in the region.

Emil is a member of the Senlis team and one of his responsibilities is to provide security for his co-workers when they venture out of their compound to ply their trade...

The drivers and contacts waiting to meet the arriving passengers are armed, despite the fact they are civilians. The Senlis delegation is no exception. Jorrit Kamminga comes forward to greet us wearing a Muslim cap, baggy pants and the flowing shirt-dress that is the standard Pashtun attire. Despite his clothing, the 30-year-old native of the Netherlands cannot disguise his blond hair and pale complexion...

Upon arriving at the unmarked Senlis compound, the three vehicles in our small convoy take up positions to block the road and then back into the gateway in rapid succession. As we dismount, Vinno gathers his guards to debrief them on the patrol and I’m ushered inside the building by Kamminga to meet the other Senlis team members...

This convoy will include seven vehicles and 17 armed Afghan gunmen. In addition to this escort, all of the Western Senlis members will carry a weapon for self-defence [emphasis added]...

But the true purpose of the Senlis team’s foray into Panjwaii is the collection of information from the locals in order to assess the extent of the overall crisis.

The survey the team is conducting will examine the effectiveness of both the insurgency and the coalition forces’ counterinsurgency efforts. Last year, the Senlis Council tabled an extensive report on how the Afghan government’s policy of poppy crop eradication only exacerbated the economic hardship of an already impoverished nation since there was no compensation for the farmers whose crops were destroyed...

Once back at the Senlis compound, the process of collating the data and photos they’ve taken begins immediately. They have learned a lot this day — particularly just how little the locals understand the nature of the fighting that has uprooted their lives.

"For the most part, they don’t know who is doing the bombing — either the Taliban or the Afghan government troops," says Kamminga. "They don’t even comprehend the role of the coalition forces for the simple reason that they never see them."

The data collected over the past few months will be analyzed and then tabled on Feb. 14 in conjunction with the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London...

In the past, whenever Senlis released a report, NATO spokesmen were quick to attack the source.

"One Canadian officer went on the television suggesting that we were fabricating our data from air-conditioned offices," says Kamminga. "He suggested that we should see things first-hand on the ground — and yet that is exactly what we do."

Mark
Ottawa

 

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Articles found February 13, 2007

US law makers for use of micro-herbicide on poppy plants
Tuesday February 13, 2007 (0153 PST)
Article Link

NEW YORK: Expressing concern over the increase in poppy cultivation in the country over the previous two years, several US law makers believe use of micro-herbicide is the only solution to the problem, which they argue is providing finances for terrorism.

As part of the global fight against the increasing menace of drugs around the world, micro-herbicide was developed in a laboratory in Uzbekistan a few years back. Scientists from several countries joined the effort to prepare the micro-herbicide.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), micro-herbicide is a natural pathogen of opium plant. It can be used very effectively against only the opium plant by poisoning the ground. However, this poisoning remains ineffective for other plants, says scientists associated with the research.

Antonio Maria Costa of the UNODC had told the Congressional in 2006 that while the micro-herbicide had no adverse impact on fertility of the soil and other plants in the first year, its long term effect was still not proven.

It is probably for this reason the long term impact of micro-herbicide on fertility of the soil is not fully known that the Afghanistan government has so far disapproved its use.
More on link

Philanthropist donates $75,000 for hospital
Tuesday February 13, 2007 (0153 PST)
Article Link

HERAT CITY: Work on a private hospital funded by a US-based Afghan started in the western province of Herat.
Dr Abdul Hakim Tamana, deputy chief of the public health department, said the hospital in Gozra district would have eight wards for patients. It will be constructed on about one acre of land.

Mohammad Ibrahim Mujaddidi, an Afghan national based in the United States, will fund the project, which will be completed at the cost of $75,000. The hospital will serve 15,000 residents of the area, said Tamana.

Construction of the hospital will be completed in one year. He said expatriates were generously contributing in carrying forward welfare projects in the province. Two such clinics had already been built in Adraskan and Zindajan districts.
End

Drug-addict guns down his entire family
Monday February 12, 2007 (0022 PST)
Article Link

LASHKARGAH: A man has killed eight members of his family and relatives by Kalashnikov in Lashkargah, provincial capital of the southern Helmand province.
Officials and local residents said a man named Muhammad Daud killed eight people in his home by a burst of fire last night in Bolan area, in vicinities of the Lashkargah city.

Muhammad Wais, a police official in Helmand, told Pajhwok Afghan News the murderer was also killed later by villagers.

He said the dead included the murderer's mother, father, wife, sister, brother in-law, wife of his brother, niece and mother in-law of his sister
More on link
 

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Sobering second thoughts
Susan Riley, The Ottawa Citizen, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Unlike much of the paper churned out on Parliament Hill, the latest report on Afghanistan from the Senate defence committee is shot through with blunt talk, common sense and a realistic assessment of how hard it is going to be to get our troops out of that impoverished, dangerous country with anything resembling a victory.  There are recommendations, of course; there always are. Some are practical and doable. Increasing the number of Canadian police instructors to 60 from fewer than 10 shouldn't be a stretch, especially given how much help utterly unprepared Afghan police recruits need ....


Hard questions for a hard war
Montreal Gazette, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Eleven Canadian senators have dared to do what successive federal governments have not: Lay out the pros and cons of honouring our commitment to NATO and the Afghan people.  In a ruthlessly blunt report, Taking a Hard Look at a Hard Mission, the senators make short work of the blind optimism and half-truths they feel have characterized discussion of Canada's contribution - in soldiers and money - to the betterment of the Afghan people.  For all the thousands of Canadian soldiers who have served in Afghanistan, the millions in aid money spent, the 45 lives lost, the results on the ground have been negligible, the senators say.  Afghanistan is a corrupt, medieval, dangerous place, the senators write, adding, "Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognizable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor." ....



The next two months will be ‘make or break’ in southern Afghanistan as threat of a major spring offensive from Taliban looms
Senlis Council report, 14 Feb 07
News release - New report

A ‘make or break’ situation is facing the international community in southern Afghanistan in the coming months, with the threat from the Taliban of a major spring offensive against international forces. Musa Qala fell two weeks ago – the Taliban now have the big towns in their sights and anyone who can leave has already left. The latest Field Report from The Senlis Council, Counter Insurgency in Afghanistan: Losing Friends and Making Enemies concludes that the international communities’ own policies are responsible for the dramatic loss of support for the Karzai government and international presence in the southern provinces of Afghanistan over the past year - and for the rise in the insurgency.  “With our own policies, we have created our own enemies,” said Norine MacDonald QC, Founding President of The Senlis Council, who has lived and worked in Afghanistan for the past two years. “The policies implemented by the international community have created these resentful and poor young men who cannot feed their families, and they are now being easily recruited by the Taliban. Through these misguided policies, the international community has turned southern Afghanistan into a recruitment camp for the Taliban” ....


British study critcizes military strategy in Afghanistan
Deutsche Presse Agentur (DEU), 14 Feb 07
Article Link

British experts on Wednesday warned NATO against stepping up its military campaign against militants in Afghanistan as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was due to meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In order to resolve the conflict, economic and social measures to combat poverty would be required, advised the international think thank, The Senlis Council, which provides policy advice to the British government.  The think tank warned that the foreign bombardment in Afghanistan, which was killing innocent people, would alienate the local population.  It was wrong to exert force on farmers who cultivate poppies for heroin production, the Senlis Council said ....



ISAF air strike targets known senior Taliban leader in Northern Helmand
ISAF news release #2007-102, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (14 February) – Today, at 3:20 a.m. ISAF conducted a precision air strike against a known senior Taliban leader in Northern Helmand. The precision-guided munitions impacted on target, an isolated sprawling compound between the districts of Musa Qala and Kajaki. Without causing further collateral damage, one building in the compound was fully destroyed.  The senior Taliban leader that is believed to have been killed in the strike was linked to the Musa Qala uprising and disturbances across Northern Helmand. He was personally responsible for yesterday’s attack at Kajaki Dam.  This successful air strike follows a pattern of air strikes on known insurgent sites. It is also part of the ongoing Government of Afghanistan and ISAF operations to create a secure environment around the Kajaki Dam.  “We have removed yet another Taliban enemy leader who will no longer threaten the peace and security of the Afghan people and their future,” said Lt. Col. Angela Billings, HQ ISAF spokesperson. “This is a further demonstration of the Government of Afghanistan and ISAF’s support to the Governor and people of Helmand province.”


Taliban flee battle using children as shields - NATO
Reuters, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Taliban fighters used children as human shields to flee heavy fighting this week during an operation by foreign and Afghan forces to clear rebels from around a key hydrolectric dam, NATO said on Wednesday.  The Taliban have used human shields before, but never children, local residents say.  The fighting occurred during Operation Kryptonite on Monday, an offensive to clear insurgents from the Kajaki Dam area in southern Helmand province to allow repairs to its power plants and the installation of extra capacity.  "During this action ... Taliban extremists resorted to the use of human shields. Specifically, using local Afghan children to cover as they escaped out of the area," Colonel Tom Collins, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) told reporters in Kabul.  NATO and foreign forces ran into heavy small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire during the clash, but suffered no casualties, Collins said.  The fighting occurred in an area where 700 mainly foreign fighters, including Chechens, Pakistanis and Uzbeks, arrived from Pakistan this week to reinforce Taliban guerrillas targeting the dam, according to local officials ....


NATO planes target senior Taliban, locals say civilians killed
Agence France Presse, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

NATO planes have pounded a compound in southern Afghanistan in a strike against a senior Taliban commander that locals said killed several rebels and civilians.  The International Security Assistance Force said Wednesday it believed the strike in the southern province of Helmand had killed the commander, who was linked to a spike in attacks in the area including the capture of the town of Musa Qala.  The building was "fully destroyed" in the 3:20 am (1050 GMT) attack, ISAF said in a statement that did not mention other casualties.  The strike was on an "isolated sprawling compound" between Musa Qala, captured by Taliban two weeks ago, and Kajaki where British troops have killed several rebels in an effort to secure a major hydropower dam.  "Without causing further collateral damage, one building in the compound was fully destroyed," it said. "Precision-guided munitions" were used.  A man identifying himself as a local Taliban commander, Mullah Nizamuddin, said four of his men were killed in the NATO attack which he said struck a civilian's home where they had been spending the night after having dinner ....


Nato 'kills' Taleban commander

BBC News online, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

A senior Taleban commander has been killed in Afghanistan, along with a number of civilians in a Nato air strike, according to some reports.  The International Security Assistance Force said a precision strike was launched on a compound in Helmand province with no "collateral damage".  Local people told the BBC that 15 people had been killed - eight of them Taleban, but the rest were civilians.  They told the BBC that the senior Taleban commander was Mullah Manan.  The attack happened at about 0330 local time in a village called Lower Jal-jay, between two towns where British forces in Helmand have been fighting the Taleban ....



Afghanistan's Karzai to urge Britain's Blair to press Pakistan over porous border
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was expected to use talks Wednesday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to urge support for plans targeting insurgents crossing the porous border with Pakistan.  Karzai has accused Britain of failing to pressure Pakistan to halt the flow of fighters between the neighboring countries, and has suggested that Pakistan's intelligence service may have aided the passage of insurgents into southern Afghan provinces.  Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Friday that outgunned Pakistani frontier guards had allowed Taliban fighters to cross into Afghanistan, but strongly denied the army or intelligence service was actively helping.  Blair's office said that, during their meeting in London, he and Karzai would discuss problems of Taliban fighters moving from Pakistan into Afghanistan.  A plan to "fire at them across the border" will be discussed during the meeting, Blair's official spokesman said on condition of anonymity. It was not clear if Karzai intended for NATO or Afghan troops to potentially carry out the duties ....


To root out Taliban, Pakistan to expel 2.4 million Afghans
But simply shifting the world's largest refugee community across borders would only serve to raise tensions, analysts say.

David Montero, Christian Science Monitor, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Like more than 100,000 Afghans, Maulana Mohammed Afzal has lived in the mud-baked lanes of this refugee camp ever since he fled war-ravaged Afghanistan 26 years ago. The camp is home for his family, but Pakistan's government says it's a threat to national security.  In its most recent effort to clamp down on Taliban activity within its borders, Pakistan has announced that all 2.4 million Afghan refugees, most living in camps, must return home by 2009. This and three other camps near the Afghan border, which together hold 230,000 refugees, are scheduled to be closed by the end of August.  "The problem of cross-border militancy is closely related to the presence of ... Afghan refugees in Pakistan," Munir Akram, Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, wrote recently to the UN Security Council. "These camps have often given rise to complaints that they provide shelter to undesirable elements and Taliban."  Many disagree, however, saying Pakistan's Afghan refugees, most of whom are Pashtun and share the same tribal ethnicity as the Taliban movement, are only being made a scapegoat.  The debate comes as Robert Gates, in his first visit to Pakistan as US secretary of Defense, met with President Musharraf in Islamabad this week to discuss the Taliban's expected spring offensive in Afghanistan.  As pressure mounts on Pakistan, analysts say the fate of the Afghan refugee community – the world's largest – is an important piece in the puzzle of regional militancy. Simply shifting them across the border could flame tensions ....

 

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Lack of trust behind Afghan mission’s failure: report
Council says failed coalition policies directly responsible for rise of insurgency

Richard Foot, CanWest News Service, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Canada and its allies in Afghanistan are waging a losing war against the Taliban that has killed thousands of innocent civilians, harmed the reputation of coalition forces and fuelled support for the insurgency in the past year, says a new report on the conflict by the Senlis Council.  The council is an independent, London-based think-tank specializing in security and development issues. A team of researchers led by the council’s president -- Canadian Norine MacDonald, who lives in Afghanistan -- interviewed more than 500 ordinary citizens in the war-torn south over the past two months.  The results of that research were released on Wednesday in a 186-page report titled, "Countering the Insurgency in Afghanistan: Losing Friends and Making Enemies." ....


Afghan Deaths, Poppy Clearance, Aid Insurgency, Reseachers Say
Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg wire service, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan and U.S.-supported policies such as forced poppy destruction are driving increasingly impoverished Afghans in the south into a ``grassroots'' Taliban insurgency that's jeopardizing attempts to stabilize the country, a research group said.  Some 4,000 civilians were killed last year in the violence blighting Afghanistan, the Senlis Council said in a report presented in London. The group called for a less military- centered approach to establishing security and greater promotion of development aid and medical care. Crop destruction is also driving up poverty among Afghan families dependent on opium production for their livelihoods, it said.  ``Through these misguided policies, the international community has turned southern Afghanistan into a recruitment camp for the Taliban,'' Senlis President Norine MacDonald said in an e-mailed statement. A soldier in the Afghan military earns $2 a day, while the Taliban can offer $12, she said ....


Taleban forces boosted by poor civilians needing cash
The Scotsman, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

INTERNATIONAL troops fighting in Afghanistan will face an emboldened Taleban this spring as destitute civilians become insurgent fighters to feed their families, a think-tank has warned.  In a damning assessment, the Senlis Council said a dramatic increase in humanitarian aid was needed to stem recruitment to the insurgency. Norine MacDonald, president of Senlis, said: "We are winning the battles, but we are losing the war."  Afghans are turning to the Taleban for financial reasons and to retaliate against the killing of families by aerial bombardments. A Taleban fighter can earn £6 a day, while Afghan army soldiers earn £1 ....


Afghanistan: Winning or losing?
Paul Reynolds, BBC News website, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Sharp disagreements over the conduct of the war against the Taleban in Afghanistan emerged at a seminar in London timed to coincide with a visit to Britain by the Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  An international think-tank, the Senlis Council, called for major changes in tactics, including the licensing of poppy growing, to be used for medicines.  The British Medical Association also advocated such a policy recently.  But a senior strategist on counter-terrorism in the US government said that both the strategy and the current counter-narcotics strategy in Afghanistan were correct ....  Criticism of the anti-Taleban campaign came in a 187-page document from the Senlis Council, whose subtitle "Losing Friends and Making Enemies" summed up what it researchers have concluded ....



ISAF air strike targets known senior Taliban leader in Northern Helmand
ISAF news release #2007-102, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (14 February) – Today, at 3:20 a.m. ISAF conducted a precision air strike against a known senior Taliban leader in Northern Helmand. The precision-guided munitions impacted on target, an isolated sprawling compound between the districts of Musa Qala and Kajaki. Without causing further collateral damage, one building in the compound was fully destroyed.  The senior Taliban leader that is believed to have been killed in the strike was linked to the Musa Qala uprising and disturbances across Northern Helmand. He was personally responsible for yesterday’s attack at Kajaki Dam.  This successful air strike follows a pattern of air strikes on known insurgent sites. It is also part of the ongoing Government of Afghanistan and ISAF operations to create a secure environment around the Kajaki Dam.  “We have removed yet another Taliban enemy leader who will no longer threaten the peace and security of the Afghan people and their future,” said Lt. Col. Angela Billings, HQ ISAF spokesperson. “This is a further demonstration of the Government of Afghanistan and ISAF’s support to the Governor and people of Helmand province.”



ISAF refutes allegation of civilian casualties
ISAF news release #2007-103, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan (14 February) - At approximately 3:20 a.m. today, ISAF forces struck a single building in an assessed Taliban compound in Helmand province. Precision, laser-guided munitions impacted on target, exactly as planned, and resulted in the death of a confirmed extremist leader and several of his associates.  There was no appreciable damage to other buildings in the compound and there is no evidence to support recent allegations in the media that non-combatants were killed in this attack.  ISAF forces continuously observed the compound for a considerable period of time before and after the attack. During the period prior to the attack, assessed enemy forces were observed engaging in activities that are indicative of Taliban extremist routine.  Following the attack, ISAF clearly observed Taliban extremists removing the bodies of 11 fighting-age males from the remains of the building. No women or children were observed.  “ISAF takes allegations of civilian casualties very seriously and we do everything in our power to prevent them. But in this morning’s attack, we remain confident that only enemy forces were killed, said Col. Tom Collins, the ISAF spokesperson.  “It is a well-known enemy tactic to try to blame civilian casualties on ISAF forces,” he said.



Taleban switching to roadside bombings: Nato
Reuters, via The Penninsula Online (QAT), 14 Feb 07
Article Link

Taleban fighters in Afghanistan are turning to sophisticated roadside bombs as they revert to classic guerrilla tactics against Nato, the alliance’s top operational commander said yesterday.  Nato Supreme Allied Commander John Craddock said the devices targetting Nato’s 34,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan were not yet as deadly as those used by Iraqi militants, but were being steadily refined.  Craddock, appointed in December, declined to back a forecast by Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that the insurgency would be largely quelled by 2009, and stepped up his calls on allies to provide more troops and resources ....



Afghanistan under occupation: An assessment
Online-International News Network (PAK), 14 Feb 07
Article Link

More than five years after the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, promising a brighter post-Taliban future, average life expectancy across the country is now just 44 years-at least 20 years lower than in neighbouring Central Asian countries. Afghanistan now officially ranks 173rd out of 178 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. All five countries ranked lower are in sub-Saharan Africa.  The invasion of Afghanistan, carried out for naked imperialist interests, has resulted in the further decimation of an already shattered society. The country is wracked by huge social and political tensions and is awash with guns and drugs. Warlord commanders and local officials can impose their will with impunity, and President Hamid Karzai is little more than a city mayor ....

 

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A brush with war's horror
EARL McRAE, Ottawa Sun, 15 Feb 07
Article Link - [http://www.karenbailey.ca/|Karen Bailey's web page, including some of her work]

Three floors up the creaky, wide, wooden staircase of the old and long-closed school, the wintry northern light flooding through her studio windows, the artist works surrounded by her paintings, waiting every day for the news that part of her hopes she won't hear.  "I know it does sound macabre," she says about waiting for the significant incident -- as they metaphorically put it to her -- but she knows, too, it's a possible reality, and as an artist it speaks to her soul, as an artist it's what she would want to do, so she watches the TV, and she listens to the radio, and she reads the papers, she awaits the news.  "They told me to keep my bags packed," she says, pouring a cup of coffee. "I have clearance to fly out right away. They're paying all my expenses."  Ottawa's Karen Bailey.  At 46, one of this country's finest painters, and soon to join -- if the news comes -- the honourable list of those who, down through the past century, preceded her when Canada answered the highest call. Karen Bailey, War Painter. Karen Bailey who, at 46, has never been with soldiers in combat, has never seen a soldier wounded, a soldier maimed, a soldier dying. Nor painted any. Karen Bailey who is ready to go at any time.  But it won't be to Afghanistan, it won't be to the Canadian theatre of war.  The military would not provide the liability insurance for a civilian painter. It will be, should it happen, to where the wounded, the maimed, the brave Canadian soldiers are taken, to where they either survive or die, to where Canadian doctors and nurses await them. It will be to the giant American military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany ....



Taming the Taleban: UAE daily
United Press International, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

A major UAE English daily today commented on the situation in Afghanistan, in the light of the renewed fighting going on which does not seem to have an end soon.  Commenting editorially in its issue of today, the Dubai-based "Khaleej Times" said: "ANY force invading Afghanistan understands only too well that spring marks a rejuvenation of sorts of the resistance. And that was high on US Defence Secretary Robert Gates' agenda as he breezed through Islamabad recently. But some of the rhetoric still emanating from Washington and Kabul indicates that they are not likely to fare any better in the renewed fighting than they have so far.  "That so because so long as they refuse to accept ground realities, so long they will be unable to deal with them effectively ....  Living right next door to Afghanistan and being no stranger to its fighting, Pakistan understands its complexities more than other stakeholders. The long years around and after the Soviet invasion showed clearly that the political and social spillover was too much to bear for Pakistan. Hence, after the Afghans, their stability is in the biggest interest of Pakistan. This reality has pushed Islamabad to deploy approximately 80,000 soldiers in the northern areas and along the long and treacherous 1,400 mile eastern border." ....



Sanctuaries of Taliban must be hit: US general
Anwar Iqbal, Dawn online (PAK), 15 Feb 07
Article Link

A top US military commander has called for “steady and direct” attacks on Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.  Lt-Gen Karl W. Eikenberry, the outgoing commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, warned that the Karzai government would suffer an irreversible loss of legitimacy among Afghanis if the internal situation did not improve.  “And this is a greater threat than the resurgent Taliban,” he told the House Armed Services Committee in Washington.  The general claimed that senior Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders have set up training camps and recruiting grounds in Pakistan’s tribal areas, which they use for carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.  Since September, when Pakistan signed a peace deal with tribesmen in North Waziristan, “the cross-border attacks have tripled,” he said.  “Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership presence inside Pakistan remains a very significant problem,” Gen Eikenberry told the committee, warning of the “growing threat of Talibanization” inside Pakistan ....



Action urged on Taliban insurgents
Daniel Dombey, Financial Times (UK), 15 Feb 07
Article Link

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, meeting Tony Blair in London on Wednesday, called for increased effort to stem the flow of Taliban insurgents over the border into his country from Pakistan. The Pakistan border was a frontline in the war against terror.  "Yes, I have been urging stronger participation in the fight against terror . . . from our brothers in Pakistan," said Mr Karzai.  Diplomats say Britain has been wary of putting too much pressure on Pakistan to control its border, for fear of jeopardising joint efforts with Islamabad against extremist Islamist networks within the UK.  But Britain's stake in Afghanistan has increased greatly over the past year, with deployments that have more than doubled the number of UK troops in the country to 5,800.  Mr Karzai said he had been satisfied by Pakistan's recent activities, which have included co-ordinated actions with the Nato-led force in Afghanistan, and hoped they would continue ....



Afghanistan at 'tipping point'
People's Daily Online (CHN), 15 Feb 07
Article Link

Afghanistan is at a "tipping point" ahead of an expected Taliban spring offensive, a think tank report warned yesterday as President Hamid Karzai was due for talks in London.  The Senlis Council said the United States and its allies need urgently to reassess their strategy in Afghanistan, where NATO forces are bracing for a major battle with insurgents as winter snows melt.  The report was released hours ahead of talks in London between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country is the second biggest provider of troops in the country.  "The international community has reached a tipping point in southern Afghanistan," said the report by the Senlis Council think tank.  "The anticipated major spring offensive by the Taliban against international forces requires an urgent reassessment of the international community's counter-insurgency strategy," it said.  The United States, which ousted the Taliban following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, last year handed over overall control of military operations there to NATO ....



Tajik veterans of Afghan War 1970-1989 hold event to mark withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan
Valentina Kondrashova, Asiaplus.tj, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

A group of Tajik veterans of Afghan War 1979-1989 today gathered at the monument to Hero of the Soviet Union Aleksandr Mironenko in Dushanbe to hold an event to mark the 18th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan.  Vali Sayorabekov, deputy head of the Council of Veterans of Afghan War 1979-1989, telling the meeting noted that more than 15,000 people from Tajikistan had done international duty in Afghanistan.  Of them, 7,900 served as military personnel and others as specialists and interpreters.  366 Tajiks were killed in action and more than 1,000 were wounded.  Five persons from Tajikistan were given title of Hero of the Soviet Union; one of them, Aleksandr Mironenko, was given this title posthumously.  According to Sayorabekov, at present 9,400 veterans of Afghan War 1979-1989 live in Tajikistan.  Veterans of Great Patriotic War 1941-1945 and representatives from the Dushanbe mayo’s office, Tajik ministry of Defense (MoD) as well as representatives from Russian Embassy in Dushanbe and Russian military base deployed in Tajikistan attended the event.  In all, about 620,000 Soviets served in Afghanistan, with officers doing a two-year tour and enlisted men putting in 18 months.  Official Soviet casualties total 14,453 dead: 9,511 killed in action; 2,386 died of wounds; and 2,556 lost from disease and accidents.  Some 53,753 were wounded.



(NOTE:  This is a three-part series - Part three to be posted when available.)

Afghanistan under occupation: An assessment—Part 1
Harvey Thompson, World Socialist Web Site, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

More than five years after the US and its allies invaded Afghanistan, promising a brighter post-Taliban future, average life expectancy across the country is now just 44 years—at least 20 years lower than in neighbouring Central Asian countries. Afghanistan now officially ranks 173rd out of 178 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. All five countries ranked lower are in sub-Saharan Africa.  The invasion of Afghanistan, carried out for naked imperialist interests, has resulted in the further decimation of an already shattered society. The country is wracked by huge social and political tensions and is awash with guns and drugs. Warlord commanders and local officials can impose their will with impunity, and President Hamid Karzai is little more than a city mayor.  There is no question that the Taliban—furnished with money and weaponry from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other regional states—has re-emerged as a force in the south and east of the country. But attempts by NATO and US commanders to portray the Afghan insurgency as a purely Taliban affair are false. All indications point to a growing popular opposition towards both foreign troops and the puppet-Karzai government, fed by ever-harsher living conditions and dashed hopes ....


Afghanistan under occupation: An assessment—Part 2
Harvey Thompson, World Socialist Web Site, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

Meanwhile, just across the city, one could be forgiven for mistaking the ramshackle district of Daimazang as belonging to another world entirely. The Washington Post explained that much of this area’s residents are refugees from Pakistan and Iran who returned home after the US-led invasion, hoping for work. Instead, many families live in 10-foot-square partitioned spaces in bombed-out former office buildings, without electricity and even firewood.  One of the residents interviewed by the newspaper, Hazrat Gul, makes US$4 a day breaking stones for construction in the mountains that surround Kabul. “We just have a blanket. During the night, we get under the blanket and we try to sleep,” he said.  Allahnazzar Salam asked, “What is there for us here? There are hundreds of thousands like us, perhaps millions. There is no work. We are squatting in the corner of a bombed building for shelter, there is no clean water and children die from disease here every month. Many friends who were with me in Pakistan after the Taliban took power have gone back to find work as labourers. Abroad they can work and send money back to their families to help them survive.” ....

 

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Bush chides allies for not doing enough in Afghanistan; Canadian role ignored
canada.com, CP/AP, Feb. 15
http://www.canada.com/topics/news/world/story.html?id=5237c4df-bb02-4571-8947-929000b22299&k=2479

President George W. Bush on Thursday chided NATO countries that have refused to send additional troops to Afghanistan or allow their soldiers already there to fight in the violent south and under other dangerous circumstances...

Bush said that listening to his request is not only an obligation countries make as part of NATO, but is also crucial to their own security.

"The alliance was founded on this principle: an attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on the home soil of a NATO nation or on allied forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad," he said.

"By standing together in Afghanistan, NATO forces protect their own people."

The imbalance in Afghanistan has become a sore point among allies and Bush's remarks echoed complaints made recently by Ottawa and others with soldiers in the south...

Bush reeled off a list of several countries making contributions in Afghanistan in his speech, but failed to mention Canada [oh dear], which has about 2,500 Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan, one of the largest contingents fighting in the Taliban heartland...

Several countries have offered recently to provide additional support to the 35,500-member NATO force, but it remains to be seen whether coalition commanders will get the troops, equipment and rules of engagement they say they need.

Bush said the need is great as spring comes, bringing an expected new offensive by the Taliban [emphasis added].

Brigade Slated For Iraq Going To Afghanistan
Washington Post, Associated Press, Feb. 15
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/14/AR2007021401600.html

An Army unit that had been scheduled to go to Iraq is being sent instead to Afghanistan, where fighting has increased and the U.S. troop level is at its highest of the war.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vicenza, Italy, was among several units the Pentagon said in November would go to Iraq as part of the normal rotation of forces. The department said in a statement yesterday that the brigade of about 3,200 will deploy this spring to Afghanistan instead to relieve a unit overdue to go home. Another unit will be found to replace the 173rd in Iraq...

...Deployment of the 173rd would keep the force at the current strength of 27,000 -- the highest of the war. Though the Pentagon statement said the future level of troops will depend on conditions there, it is expected to be a year-long deployment, and officials have said they want to keep the number of brigades in Afghanistan -- increased from one to two this month -- at that level until the spring of 2008 and possibly beyond [emphasis added].

Note: When the 173rd deploys that will mean both US Army brigades will be airborne (4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd, being the other).
http://www.armytimes.com/news/2007/01/at82ndtoAfghanistan070118/

Canada may send more Mounties to Afghanistan
cnews, Feb. 15 (CP)
http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/War_Terror/2007/02/15/pf-3627827.html

The federal Public Safety minister hints Canada is prepared to send more RCMP officers to Afghanistan to bolster the small contingent there.

Stockwell Day told a national defence conference to stay tuned for an announcement on additional Mounties for the Afghan mission. A half dozen Canadian police officers have helped train Afghan police in survival skills, tactics, policing and public safety procedures.

A Senate committee recently recommended sending up to 60 additional officers to the strife-torn country.

RCMP trainers say the Afghan National Police are making progress despite a recent series of ambushes and targeted assassinations of officers in Kandahar province.

Kandahar province currently has 1,800 Afghan National Police officers and there are plans to recruit another 1,000.

Blair pledge on Afghanistan fight
BBC, Feb. 14
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6362587.stm

Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged to "see the job through" in Afghanistan in spite of resurgent Taleban fighters.

He acknowledged the "tough challenges" that President Hamid Karzai faced, but said much progress had been made.

"Yet we still have this attempt by the enemies of progress in Afghanistan to try and push the whole country back," he said.

Following talks with President Karzai, Mr Blair said: "We must never allow it to go back."

Britain is to increase its military presence in southern Afghanistan by about 800 troops by late summer [emphasis added].

And while he [Pres. Karzai] was not relaxed about the threat posed by the Taleban, he said that there had been "very few" incidents of terrorism in urban areas since September [emphasis added].

"Having better stability and peace in the last five months is giving us hope for a more successful tomorrow," he said. 

Mark
Ottawa
 

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Afghan general says Canadian who shot convoy driver should be punished
MURRAY BREWSTER, Canadian Press, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

A Canadian soldier who opened fire on an Afghan National Army convoy wounding a military driver should face some kind of discipline in his own country, a senior Afghan commander said Thursday.  Lt.-Gen. Rahmatullah Raoufi said he understood the mistakes that led up to the incident, which has increased strain between the allies since it happened east of Kandahar on Monday.  The 23-year-old Afghan officer driving the lead vehicle missed the warning sign demanding that he stop, the general said. The Afghan vehicle was peppered with a blast of 7.62-millimetre machine-gun fire from the turret of a Canadian RG-31 Nyala vehicle.  "The incident was a mistake," Raoufi, the commander of all Afghan forces in the south, said in an interview with The Canadian Press through a translator.  "(But) the Canadian who shot our man must be punished according to Canadian army law."  The Canadians have apologized three times, he said.  There was some confusion about the wounds the man received. The adjutant at the Afghan army hospital where the soldier was first treated said Monday the victim was hit in the arm and leg and suffered a series of cuts from flying glass. But the Canadian army, who gave him further treatment at the Kandahar Airfield hospital, described the injuries on Tuesday as less serious, saying doctors only operated on a leg wound ....



Educating Afghan children about danger
CF Army News, 14 Feb 07
Article Link

The Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) conducted land mine and unexploded ordnance awareness training for children employed by a recycling company and for street children living in Kandahar.  Following the training session and a snack, the children were given rubber boots, socks, gloves, colouring materials, backpacks and stuffed toys.  One child also received medical attention for an infection on his foot.  "It's great to see the children and to help out any way we can," said Air Force Major Tammy Tremblay.  "The engineers who delivered the training and are handing things out are having a great time, as well." ....



Village attacked by Taliban extremists during Shura with ISAF and ANA
ISAF news release #2007-105, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

At 10:30 a.m. Afghanistan National Army and ISAF  forces were attending a Shura with Village Elders in Haji Amin Kalay, a village west of Garmsir, when Taliban extremists attacked the village using mortars.  ISAF and ANA forces immediately started to evacuate the village. ISAF forces providing security for the Shura identified the mortar firing point and engaged the enemy who withdrew from the area. No ISAF rounds were targeted onto the village.  Regrettably during the enemy attack on the village, one woman was killed and her child suffered shrapnel wounds. The child and his father were immediately evacuated to the nearest ISAF medical facility for treatment. The child’s condition is unknown at this time.  A further four civilians received minor injuries and were taken to a local hospital.  “ISAF and ANA were conducting a peaceful Shura with the people of Haji Amin Kalay, specifically to offer help to those who have been disrupted by Taliban extremists in the Garmsir area,” stated Lieutenant Colonel Rory Bruce, Task Force Helmand spokesperson. “Once again, this demonstrates the complete disregard the enemy has for lives of local people.”



ISAF confirms Mullah Manan killed in air strike
ISAF news release #2007-104, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

Yesterday a senior Taliban extremist commander, Mullah Manan, was killed in a precision air strike by ISAF, in Musa Qala district.  Manan was a Taliban extremist leader who played an instrumental part in the seizure of Musa Qala district centre. He has previously coordinated attacks on ISAF and Government of Afghanistan forces and was personally responsible for recent attacks on Kajaki Dam.  “This violent and ruthless extremist leader will no longer intimidate the people of Afghanistan and undermine their legitimate government,” said Lt Col Angela Billings.  There was no appreciable damage to other buildings in the compound and there is no evidence to support recent allegations in the media that non-combatants were killed in this attack.



Afghanistan: Symposium Looks At Spring Security Challenges
Jan Jun, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

The Taliban say their spring offensive started in southern Afghanistan when they seized the town of Musa Qala in early February. Since then, there has been a series of battles around the nearby Kajaki Dam -- the main focus of international reconstruction efforts for Afghanistan's volatile south. The former British commander of NATO-led forces in Afghanistan spoke at a London symposium on the strategic challenges facing Afghanistan this spring.  Although snow still blocks Afghanistan's high mountain passes, warmer temperatures have already thawed the northeastern part of Helmand Province.  That's the location of the Kajaki Dam -- the key reconstruction project in southern Afghanistan. If engineers can rebuild the hydroelectric generators -- and restore 110 kilometers of power lines to Kandahar -- some 1.8 million Afghans will have access to a reliable source of energy for the first time in decades. Thousands of jobs could be created.  Taliban fighters have held the town of Musa Qala -- about 25 kilometers from the dam -- since seizing it on February 2. The governor of Helmand Province says hundreds of Taliban fighters -- bolstered by Pakistani, Chechen, and Uzbek militants -- crossed the border from Pakistan this week in an attempt to derail the dam's reconstruction. NATO confirms that Taliban fighters have been firing rockets from a distance but causing no serious damage ....



President Bush Discusses Progress in Afghanistan, Global War on Terror
Speech transcript, The Mayflower Hotel, Washington, D.C., 15 Feb 07
Article Link

....  We face a thinking enemy. And we face a tough enemy -- they watch our actions, they adjust their tactics. And in 2006, this enemy struck back with vengeance. As freedom began to spread, an enemy that cannot stand the thought of a free society tried to do something about it, tried to stop the advance of this young democracy. It's not the only place in the world where the enemy struck back in 2006. They struck back in Iraq. They struck in Lebanon. This should be a lesson for our fellow citizens to understand, where these group of people find freedom they're willing to resort to brutal tactics.  It's an interesting enemy, isn't it? An enemy that can't stand the thought of somebody being able to live a peaceful life, a life of hope, an optimistic life. And it's an enemy we've got to take seriously ....  The snow is going to melt in the Hindu Kush Mountains, and when it does we can expect fierce fighting to continue. The Taliban and al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense, but to go on the offense. This spring there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive. And that's part of our strategy -- relentless in our pressure. We will not give in to murderers and extremists ....



NATO air power seen as key to fighting Afghan insurgents, moving men and supplies
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

The dusty, 3,000-foot (900-meter) airstrip bordering this Afghan town near the Iranian border is not for the queasy: Midway along its run, the narrow runway curves sharply to the right, presenting NATO pilots with a unique landing challenge.  "This is one of the specifics of flying in Afghanistan that you probably cannot encounter anywhere else in the world," German air force Capt. Hans Onken said as he guided his twin-engine C-160 Transall cargo plane in a curving approach.  The curved runway is only one of the hazards faced by airplane and helicopter pilots flying for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  Other hazards include mammoth dust storms, a lack of air traffic control, frequent small-arms fire from the ground and tricky approaches to airstrips high in snow-covered mountains where treacherous updrafts and howling crosswinds add to the danger.  "In a country where it frequently takes 24 hours to cover 100 kilometers (62 miles) by road, everything depends on air," said Maj. Gen. Frederik Meulman, ISAF's top air commander ....



Veterans of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan predict failure in Iraq
Matthew Schofield, McClatchy Newspapers chain, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

Eighteen years after the Soviet army pulled out of Afghanistan in a humiliating defeat that hastened the collapse of an empire, many soldiers who fought there believe they're seeing history repeat itself.  The United States - then the force behind the Afghan resistance - now appears trapped in a similar downward spiral in Iraq, besieged by a collection of forces not unlike those it trained and equipped to cripple the Soviets two decades ago.  For many, the similarities go beyond the symbolic. Retired Capt. Vladimir Vshivtsev was blinded by an improvised roadside bomb 20 years ago in Afghanistan. He shudders every time he hears about a U.S. soldier killed or wounded by a similar device in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said.  "They're fighting the same war again," he said. "Sure, the political stuff is different, but the military result is going to be the same: failure." ....




Turning ‘Mines to Vines’ in Afghanistan
Uprooting Landmines and Creating Hope with ‘Roots of Peace’

Crystal Wicker, Zeba Magazine, 15 Feb 07
Article Link

Since landmines were first employed in 1862 during the U.S. Civil War, these underground perils have maimed and killed thousands of people across the globe each year. According to the United Nations, Afghanistan—one of the world’s most heavily mined countries—has roughly 60 victims every month. These days, approximately 70 million landmines exist in more than 70 countries.  Roots of Peace is a humanitarian initiative that toils to eliminate landmines and minefields by converting them into prosperous farmland and communities. Established by Heidi Kühn in 1997 following the untimely death of Princess Diana (who serves as the group’s inspiration for her dedication to international demining), the nonprofit organization is headquartered in San Rafael—the center of California’s rural grape growing region—and subsidized by public and private funding, including the California wine industry.  Its mission is to turn “mines into vines” by implementing a four-step solution: public awareness, landmine removal, rehabilitation for sufferers and land restoration ....

 

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NATO south Afghan mission has enough troops -Canada
David Ljunggren, Reuters, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Senior Canadian military officials, who have long complained there are not enough NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, said on Friday that alliance force levels in the region are now adequate.  Canada has 2,500 troops in the southern city of Kandahar and as recently as last October it said it could not maintain the mission without more support.  But the official tone changed sharply after President George W. Bush said on Thursday the United States would keep higher troop levels in Afghanistan ahead of an expected surge in Taliban attacks and called on NATO to commit more troops.  "The United States is putting in more forces, Britain is putting in more forces. We have sufficient force structure on the ground in the south at this moment to do the job that we have to do," said General Rick Hillier, chief of Canada's defense staff.  Canada complains that it and a handful of other nations bore the brunt of fighting with the Taliban last year while other NATO members stationed their troops in quieter parts of Afghanistan and restricted what they could do.  "Would we like to see more countries down there with us than the nine that are there? Of course we would," Hillier told reporters after speaking to a meeting of defense officials.  "Right now we are in a much better position from NATO's perspective in my view now than we were a year ago." ....



Canada will win support in Afghanistan in face of insurgent warnings: Harper
MARIA BABBAGE, Canadian Press, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Canada is committed to success in Afghanistan despite renewed threats of violence from the Taliban and al-Qaida, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday.  "Our plan for Afghanistan is to be successful," Harper said after attending the opening of a medical aid distribution centre that will be providing supplies to the troubled Asian country. "We know it will not be easy. We know it will involve casualties, but Canada has not shrunk from these kinds of responsibilities before."  Military brass are already anticipating a renewed spring and summer offensive from the Taliban in Kandahar province, Harper said. The fight won't be easy, but the government is committed to the mission, he added.  "Our soldiers, men and women ... know full well when they go over there that not all of them will return," Harper said. "That's one of the real risks in this country."  Since 2002, 44 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan.  The medical aid offered by Health Partners International of Canada comes at "a critical time" and will complement the efforts of Canadian soldiers, diplomats and aid workers, Harper said earlier in his speech.  The charitable group, which receives some federal funding, is assembling a large shipment of medical supplies destined for Afghanistan ....


Prime Minister salutes generosity of Canadians as aid group prepares shipments of medical supplies for Afghanistan
News release, Prime Minister's Office, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today paid tribute to Canadian corporate and grassroots donors whose generosity is bringing better health and hope for tens of thousands of children and adults in the developing world. His remarks were made at the official opening of the Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC) medical aid distribution centre in Mississauga, Ontario.

Speaking against a backdrop of pallets stacked with pharmaceutical and medical supplies destined for developing countries, the Prime Minister said: “Consider some of the people involved in this endeavour. They include CEOs and senior executives from major corporations who normally are fierce competitors. Yet they have come together in a noble common cause.”

“And then there are smaller donors, the small businesses, church congregations, community groups and individuals. They may not have as much to give, but the ocean of suffering in the developing world has touched their hearts, so they give what they can,” he added.

During the last two decades, HPIC has delivered over $200 million worth of medical aid to people in 116 countries around the world. This year, HPIC has announced that it will concentrate on Afghanistan and is currently building several shipments of medical aid destined for the country.

“HPIC and its donors made a major contribution to this mission in 2004,” noted Prime Minister Harper. “Their even larger contributions this year will complement the efforts of our troops, diplomats, aid workers and civilian police at a critical time.”



NATO scores direct hits on top Taliban commanders, says it's not sheer luck
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Two senior Taliban field commanders have been vaporized in the sudden fiery clouds of precision air strikes in the last two weeks.  Other key insurgent leaders have been captured. Is it a stroke of good luck for NATO? Or is it a sign that the alliance is finally getting the upper hand in fighting the stubborn, secretive extremist movement that has long held southern Afghanistan in its grip? Since the middle of December, the alliance has targeted with growing accuracy hard-core Taliban leaders whose unshakable belief and brutal ways have played a big role in coercing others into the doing the fighting - and most of the dying - for them.  "I wouldn't attribute it to luck," Lt.-Col. Angela Billings, a spokeswoman for the alliance said of NATO's recent successes.  On Friday, Afghan security forces captured Taliban commander Mullah Duad Trabi in Khost. This follows the recent air strike deaths of Mullah Manan and Abdul Ghafour, both in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province ....



From Canada to Kandahar
The Economist (UK), 16 Feb 07
Article Link

IN THE crisp night air, some guys are playing hockey in a rink decorated with maple leaves, watched by an appreciative crowd armed with Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts. An ordinary scene anywhere in Canada, you might think. Except this is Kandahar, the Taliban’s former capital. Only here would Tim Hortons put up a sign explaining that the outlet will close if there is a warning of an attack, and reopen a quarter of an hour after the all-clear.  The deployment in Afghanistan is a much bigger deal for Canada than it is for the Americans or the Brits. The Canadians stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, but for most of the past 50 years they turned themselves into the ultimate “soft” power, deploying their soldiers mainly for peacekeeping ....



Al-Qaida release video of an attack on alleged U.S.-Afghan military position
Associated Press, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Al-Qaida posted Friday a video showing what they claimed to be an insurgent attack on a military position of U.S. and Afghan forces in southern Afghanistan.  The video appears to be an attempt by the terrorist network to disparage U.S. claims to be winning the war against the Taliban and allied militia in Afghanistan.  It begins with the deputy leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahri, ridiculing U.S. President George W. Bush and saying that his claim to have deprived al-Qaida of a safe haven in Afghanistan is a "bare-faced lie," according to a transcript by IntelCenter, a U.S. group that tracks extremist messages.  With a narrator speaking in American-accented English, the tape then shows video of what it claims is an attack on a military position in Arghandab, in the southern province of Zabul.  The authenticity of the scenes shown could not be verified. The video carried the logo of the al-Qaida media production company, as-Sahab, and it was posted on an Islamic website known for hosting extremist material.  Al-Qaida appeared to have issued the tape on Thursday with the title "Holocaust of the Americans in the land of Khorasan, the Islamic emirate: Capture of an American post, Arghandab." The name Khorasan refers to Afghanistan.  The video shows the insurgents firing at the alleged post but their weapons cannot be discerned because it is night. Tracer bullets cross the sky and one sees the explosions of what are said to be rocket-propelled grenades ....


NATO doubts authenticity of Al-Qaida video of attack on U.S.-Afghan position
Canadian Press, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

NATO authorities dismissed a purported Al-Qaida video posted Friday depicting what is supposed to be an insurgent attack on a U.S.-Afghan military position in southern Afghanistan.  Officers with NATO's International Security Assistance Force - ISAF - say they have checked their records and found no engagements that would match the time frame given in the video. They went as far as to question the video's authenticity.  "I can tell you there has not been an extremist attack against an ISAF base within Regional Command South," said Capt. Andre Salloum, a Canadian army spokesman attached to NATO in Kandahar.  "ISAF is committed to the government of Afghanistan and one video, or two videos, or three videos is not going to deter our commitment to rid this country of Taliban extremists." ....



Afghanistan vows to crush any Taliban offensive
Silvia Aloisi, Reuters, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Afghan President Hamid Karzai vowed on Friday to strike Taliban insurgents with "immense vigor and force" as a rebel commander said 10,000 fighters had deployed for a spring offensive against foreign troops in the country.  "As the weather becomes warm and leaves turn green, we will unleash bloody attacks on the U.S.-led foreign troops," Mullah Abdul Rahim, the Taliban's operational commander for the southern Helmand province, said by satellite phone.  "Our war preparations, especially in southern Afghanistan and in Helmand province, are complete and for this our 10,000 fighters are ready to take up arms the moment they are ordered," he said, speaking to Reuters in Afghanistan from a secret location.  During a visit to Italy, which has sent 1,900 troops to Afghanistan, Karzai said no such offensive could take place without foreign support.  He did not mention any country, but Afghanistan's government says the Taliban fighters are still sponsored by Pakistan, their main backer until the September 11 attacks on the United States ....


Taleban deploy 10,000 fighters for attacks
The Penninsula Online (QAT), 17 Feb 07
Article Link

The Taleban have deployed 10,000 fighters for a spring offensive of “bloody attacks” against foreign troops in Afghanistan, a rebel commander said yesterday.  More than 4,000 people, a quarter of them civilians, were killed in fighting last year, the most violent year since the Taleban were ousted in 2001. Nato commanders and analysts warn this year could be just as bad or worse.  As the harsh winter snows melt, the insurgents have resumed their attacks, mostly in the south, where they have captured a major town and have threatened a key hydroelectric dam.  Mullah Abdul Rahim, the Taleban’s operational commander for southern Helmand province — the opium centre of the world’s major producer — said militants would step up attacks in spring.  “As the weather becomes warm and leaves turn green, we will unleash bloody attacks on the US-led foreign troops,” Rahim said by satellite phone from a secret location ....



Pakistani official: Taliban insurgency becoming 'liberation war'
Associated Press, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

A senior Pakistani official said Taliban-led insurgents are winning ever-greater public support in Afghanistan for a struggle that is taking on the character of a "liberation war" against foreign troops.  The remark by the governor of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province could inflame further a war of words between Kabul and Islamabad about who is responsible for the resurgence of militant activity in Afghanistan.  It could also dismay U.S. and NATO commanders who say their beefed-up military operation is designed to pave the way for badly needed reconstruction aid.  Ali Mohammed Jan Aurakzai, whose province includes areas where many Taliban and al-Qaida militants fled after a U.S.-led military coalition drove them from Afghanistan five years ago, said cross-border attacks accounted for only a fraction of the insurgency in Afghanistan.  The main reason for the Taliban's return was the frustration of ethnic Pashtuns seeking more political say in Kabul and resentment of ongoing military operations and the lack of economic aid in the south and east of Afghanistan, he said ....


Afghan revolt becoming ‘liberation war’: Orakzai
Daily Times (PAK), 17 Feb 07
Article Link

Taliban-led insurgents are winning ever-greater public support in Afghanistan for a struggle that is taking on the character of a “liberation war” against foreign troops, NWFP Governor Ali Mohammed Jan Orakzai said on Friday.  He said cross-border attacks accounted for only a fraction of the insurgency in Afghanistan. The main reason for the Taliban’s return was the frustration of ethnic Pashtuns seeking more political say in Kabul and resentment of ongoing military operations and the lack of economic aid in the south and east of Afghanistan, he said. “Today, they’ve reached the stage that a lot of the local population has started supporting the militant operations and it is developing into some sort of a nationalist movement, a resistance movement, sort of a liberation war against coalition forces,” Orakzai told a news conference ....



Italy will 'hold firmly' to Afghanistan commitments; Prodi
Agence France Presse, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that his country "would hold firmly to its commitments in Afghanistan" while expressing the need for a political solution in the troubled region.  "I reiterated the Italian position to hold firmly to our presence but made clear the need for a political solution to the Afghan problem," Prodi told a press conference.  The prime minister also warned the solution would not be immediate and would require the involvement of neighbouring countries.  Earlier in the day Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema had told Karzai that Italy would continue its military operations in Afghanistan, even though some members of the ruling coalition had called for Italian troops to withdraw.  Prodi also reacted Friday to calls made by George W. Bush earlier in the week calling for member countries to supply more troops in order to launch a spring offensive in Afghanistan.  "President Bush's speech will not change the strategy and Italian missions ... which are already substantial," he said ....


Dutch scale back strategy in southern Afghanistan
dpa German Press Agency, 16 Feb 07
Article Link

Dutch troops deployed to the south-central Afghan province of Uruzgan are slowing down extending their operation for lack of support from Afghan troops and police, the Defence Ministry said Friday.  "It's all going more slowly than planned," a spokesman said.  The "inkspot" strategy of expanding gradually from secure bases had run into difficulties as a result of a lack of Afghan troops, police officers and competent managers, he said.  Defence Minister Henk Kamp had informed Afghan President Hamid Karzai of the problems faced during a visit to Afghanistan earlier this week.  In an interview with Friday's Volkskrant newspaper, the commander of the Dutch troops in Uruzgan, Colonel Hans van Griensven, said he planned to await the expected Taliban spring offensive before advancing.  "We could rush up the Baluchi Valley, but then we would weaken our base position," Van Griensven said ....

 

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NATO allies pulling their weight: O'Connor
Past criticisms forgotten as Canada says it's satisfied by allies' actions

Mike Blanchfield, Ottawa Citizen, 17 Feb 07
Permalink

After months of complaining that some NATO allies are shirking front-line fighting in Afghanistan, Canada backed down yesterday, saying the alliance has what it needs -- for now -- to continue combat operations in the country's volatile south.  "I'm quite pleased with our allies in the north and the west." Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said yesterday. "I think we may have enough now in the south and the east to do the job."  He was referring to countries such as France, Germany and Italy who are operating in the more peaceful north and west of Afghanistan.  Canada has spent months at various NATO meetings trying to persuade those allies to remove the national caveats that prevent other countries' troops from moving into the southern region, where the Taliban is strongest and concentrating its efforts. Afghanistan's eastern region, which borders Pakistan, is also a key trouble spot because it is a major point of infiltration of Taliban fighters, who are based in the lawless tribal belt of western Pakistan.  Mr. O'Connor said NATO was now in better shape in those two troubled sectors: The U.S. has extending the tour of duty of 3,200 of its troops, Britain is sending an additional 500 soldiers to Helmand province, and Poland is contributing 1,000 troops ....


U.S. move means Canada stuck in Afghanistan
We have no excuse after Bush commits more troops to war

Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, 17 Feb 07
Article Link

....  Before Bush's speech, even the hawks in Canada had a plausible excuse for withdrawing from Afghanistan. As a Senate committee report put it this week, if other allies aren't willing to ante up more troops, why should Canadians continue to die there?  Now, our biggest ally has stepped up. So, we have no excuse.  Unless Canadians are prepared to rethink the whole rationale of this war, we are fated to remain.



Brace for more losses, PM says
Taliban preparing for `bloody attacks,' in spring, but NATO troops ready for threat

Richard Brennan & Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, 17 Feb 07
Article Link

Canadians should brace themselves for more casualties in Afghanistan as the Taliban prepare for a spring or summer offensive, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.  "Our plan for Afghanistan is to be successful. We know it will not be easy; we know it will involve casualties," Harper said in Mississauga yesterday.  Harper said Taliban activity has been kept in check now for several months, so "we do expect a renewed spring and or summer offensive."  Canadian soldiers know when they go to Afghanistan they may not be coming home, the Prime Minister added. "That's one of the real risks in this country," he said at the opening of a distribution centre for pharmaceuticals destined for Afghanistan and other Third World countries.  Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, says he expects insurgents to use hit-and-run guerrilla tactics that have proven costly to troops over the last year in Kandahar. The Taliban learned "painful lessons" last September when they dug in against Canadian troops and attacked en masse, he said.  "We don't believe that they will mass in conventional-style warfare (this year) because when they do, they die," Hillier said.  "We think they'll concentrate on suicide bombers, vehicle bombers, (roadside bombs) and small ambushes," he told reporters after a speech to a defence conference in Ottawa.  Harper said Canadian troops have made "tremendous progress" in Kandahar province to improve security and connect with the Afghan people ....


Afghan spring will be deadly, Harper warns
PM resolute after Hillier decries military's 'decade of darkness' under Liberal government

GLORIA GALLOWAY and KAREN HOWLETT, Globe & Mail, 17 Feb 07
Article Link

Prime Minister Stephen Harper cautioned yesterday that a spring offensive threatened by the Taliban in Afghanistan will be both dangerous and deadly but Canadian forces will not shy away from the fight.  "We certainly are aware that those are the plans of the Taliban," Mr. Harper said of the offensive predicted by North Atlantic Treaty Organization commanders and analysts. "Our soldiers, men and women who go over there, know full well when they go over there that not all of them will return."  Mr. Harper told reporters he has every expectation that the Taliban will launch a renewed attack during the spring and summer.  "We know it will not be easy," he said. "We know it will involve casualties, but Canada has not shrunk from these kinds of responsibilities before."  Taliban commanders warned as recently as yesterday that they have deployed 10,000 fighters for a spring offensive of "bloody attacks" against foreign troops in Afghanistan. As the harsh winter snows melt, the insurgents have resumed their efforts, mostly in the south, where they have captured a major town and have threatened a key hydroelectric dam.  Mullah Abdul Rahim, the Taliban's operational commander for southern Helmand province -- the opium centre of the world's major producer -- said militants would step up attacks in spring ....



To sell Canada on war, try `hope' but not `liberty'
Focus groups advised Harper not to echo Bush

Allan Woods, Toronto Star, 17 Feb 07
Article Link

The Conservative government has been "too American" in its attempts to justify the Afghan war to a skeptical Canadian public, according to an internal report commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs.  The extensive critique of the Tory communications strategy on the war comes from a series of cross-country focus groups conducted in November 2006 at a cost of almost $76,000.  The study, obtained by the Toronto Star, found that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was "echoing" U.S. President George W. Bush in his attempt to explain why Canadian soldiers are fighting and dying in the country's southern province.  Harper has drawn a link between the NATO-led mission and the 24 Canadians who were killed in the collapse of New York's World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor recently described the fight as "retribution" for the terrorist attacks.  "Participants associated this message with public relations positioning – it was seen as echoing the kind of messaging American officials have made regarding Iraq," wrote the report's authors, the Strategic Counsel public opinion firm.  The report lists "vocabulary/terms/phrases/concepts to reinforce" the message that the government is right about its commitment to the war in Afghanistan. They include "rebuilding," "restoring," "reconstruction," "hope," "opportunity" and "enhancing the lives of women and children."  Words and phrases to avoid include: "freedom, democracy, liberty – in combination this phrase comes across as sounding too American."  Strategic Counsel also advised that the government "avoid developing a line of argumentation too strongly based on values. While the value of human rights is strongly supported, there is a risk of appearing to be imposing Canadian values. Again, this is not seen to be the `Canadian way.'" ....



Bush is aware Canada is in Afghanistan: ambassador
ALAN FREEMAN, Globe & Mail, 17 Feb 07
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President George W. Bush may not have said it outright in his recent statement on Afghanistan, but U.S. decision makers are increasingly aware of Canada's significant military role in Afghanistan, according to Canadian Ambassador Michael Wilson.  "There is clearly a recognition, an understanding and an appreciation of Canada's activities in Afghanistan," Mr. Wilson said yesterday, marking his first anniversary as ambassador.  "I can't tell you the number of times when I'm talking to people in the administration, many times it's the first thing that a cabinet secretary will say to me. The same thing on Capitol Hill," Mr. Wilson added.



Afghan hospitals ill-equipped, filthy: study
Canada must spend more to improve health care, says B.C. paramedic

Richard Foot, Ottawa Citizen, 17 Feb 07
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Edward Mc Cormick had heard the official claims about Canada's bold mission to reconstruct the war-torn province of Kandahar and bring help to its people.  Then last month, the Vancouver paramedic went to see for himself, travelling to Afghanistan with the Senlis Council, an international think-tank, to investigate the state of the civilian hospital in Kandahar City that serves a population of three million people.  Five years after the fall of the Taliban, and one year after Canada took charge of aid and development in Afghanistan's second-largest city, Mr. Mc Cormick says Mirwais Hospital remains in a "state of complete decay ... a glaring symbol of the international community's lack of concern for the Afghan people."  His study, issued this week as part of a larger report on the war by the Senlis Council, is titled War Zone Hospitals in Afghanistan: A Symbol of Wilful Neglect.  Although the Canadian army runs a state-of-the-art field hospital for military personnel just outside town at Kandahar airfield, plus a smaller medical facility at its satellite base inside the city, Mr. Mc Cormick says none of the Afghan doctors and nurses he interviewed in Kandahar had ever seen a Canadian physician come into their hospital to help or even inquire about their needs ....



When war returns with the soldier
Not since Korea have Canadian soldiers endured such perilous combat as they now face in Afghanistan, and sometimes the stress remains even after they are back home

Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, 17 Feb 07
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It's odd the things that will take Tod Strickland back. A song, a snippet of conversation, even the nightly news, which he has a hard time watching these days.  Back to the nerve-wracking patrols, the numbingly long days, the ever-present danger, getting shot at, and the worst, losing colleagues.  Back to Kandahar.  It was a year ago that Strickland, a major in the Canadian Forces, joined other troops in southern Afghanistan as part of the first rotation of soldiers into the Taliban heartland.  He returned home in August after a six-month tour that saw Canadian troops sustain casualties in numbers unknown in a generation.  Today, Strickland admits that not a day goes by when he doesn't think about those dangerous days on the front lines.  "I don't think you ever really leave the operation behind.  "You'll be doing something normal and all of a sudden you find yourself thinking about Afghanistan," says Strickland, 37, who served as deputy commander of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battle group.  Now, there's another group of troops coming home from their own costly tour of duty in the region ....

 

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More city troops bound for Afghanistan
By MAX MAUDIE, SUN MEDIA February 17, 2007
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More Edmonton-based soldiers are gearing up for a tour of duty in wartorn Afghanistan.

About 250 soldiers from 3 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, as well as the Lord Strathcona's Horse, will depart for southern Afghanistan over the next week.

Members of 3PPCLI will help train the Afghan National Army in Kandahar Province.

"It's incredibly important (work)," said army spokesman Cpt. Mark Peebles.

"The aim is to get them (Afghans) to the point where they can take care of their own security situation. These people are the solution."

Members of the Lord Strathcona's Horse will replace others who are heading for home, forming the core of the Leopard tank squadron.

The tanks have expanded the reach and security of operations in Afghanistan.

Fitted with front-end bulldozer plates, they can plow through rutted terrain and make their own roads.

The tank's guns can be fired off faster than artillery.

The first of the departing soldiers, about 75 of them, leave early tomorrow morning.
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U.S. Afghanistan support is 'reassuring': Wilson
Updated Sat. Feb. 17 2007 10:30 AM ET Canadian Press WASHINGTON --
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Canada's ambassador in Washington says U-S President Bush's increase in support for Afghanistan is "reassuring.''

Michael Wilson also says the United States is well aware of the lives Canada has sacrificed there.

Wilson insists there was no slight in Bush's failure to mention Canada's military role in a major speech Thursday outlining more aid and the continued commitment of 27-thousand American soldiers in Afghanistan.

He says there are 38 countries in the NATO alliance and Bush was identifying some of the reluctant supporters of the Afghanistan mission who have recently increased their support.

Wilson will mark a year as Canada's top envoy to the U-S next month.

He helped strike a softwood lumber deal after his arrival last March but is focused now on border issues, especially concerns that U-S passport requirements at land crossings will cause havoc.
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U.S. move means Canada stuck in Afghanistan
TheStar.com -February 17, 2007 Thomas Walkom
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We have no excuse after Bush commits more troops to war

George W. Bush has breathed new life into the Afghan war. With his decision to send 3,500 more U.S. troops to that country, he has also made it more difficult for Canada to get out.

This is the real significance of the U.S. president's speech on Thursday. Bush also forgot to mention Canada when going through a list of nations contributing troops to the conflict. But that's irrelevant.

What's important is that the Americans are turning their attention back to Afghanistan.

That wasn't the original plan. A little over a year ago, U.S. commanders spoke of drawing down their troop strength there from what was then about 21,000 soldiers.

The idea at that time was that America would hand off Afghanistan to allies like Canada in order to focus on Iraq. To that end, the U.S. put the bulk of its troops in Afghanistan under NATO command.

But that was before the last congressional elections, when Bush still thought he had a free hand in Iraq. It was also when he thought he could still pacify that chaotic country.

Now, with Democrats controlling the U.S. Congress, Republican Bush is no longer free to do whatever he wants. What's also become clear is that he cannot succeed in Iraq.
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Defence minister "pleased" with NATO presence in Afghanistan
Mike Blanchfield CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen Saturday, February 17, 2007
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OTTAWA -- After months of complaining that some NATO allies are shirking front-line fighting in Afghanistan, Canada backed down Friday, saying the alliance has what it needs -- for now -- to continue combat operations in country's volatile south.

"I'm quite pleased with our allies in the north and the west. I think we may have enough now in the south and the east to do the job," Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said Friday.

He was referring to countries such as France, Germany and Italy who are operating in the less turbulent north and west of Afghanistan.

Canada has spent months at various NATO meetings trying to persuade those allies to remove the so-called "caveats" that prevent them from moving their troops into the southern region, where the Taliban is strongest and concentrating its efforts. Afghanistan's eastern region, which borders Pakistan, is also a key trouble spot because it is a major point of infiltration of Taliban fighters, who are based in the lawless tribal belt of western Pakistan.

O'Connor said NATO was now in better shape in those two troubled sectors with the United States extending the tour of duty of 3,200 troops, along with Britain's decision to send an additional 500 soldiers to the southern province of Helmand, and the Polish contribution of 1,000 troops.
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Suicide Bombing Kills 15 in Pakistan Court
Febrero 17, 2007, 11:22 EST Islamabad --
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The attack took place in Quetta, the capital city of the southwestern Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan. Police and witnesses say the suicide attacker detonated the powerful bomb while the court was in session. A senior civil judge and several lawyers are among those killed in the bombing.

Provincial police Chief Tariq Khosa says an investigation is underway to determine the motives. He says that stopping suicide bombings is always difficult, dismissing criticism that poor security measures led to the attack inside the high-security courthouse.

"We will carry out investigations from all possible angles," he said, adding that "the best of the places, the more secure places are also made inroads by suicide bombers." Khosa said "We had taken all possible precautions but this is an unfortunate incident in which we have to face the situation."

The southwestern Pakistani region, where Saturday's suicide bombing occurred, is widely believed to be used by Taleban leaders for planning attacks against Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan.
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Bush thankful for Turkey's support in Afghanistan 
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US President George W. Bush has said that he appreciates Turkey, which will be responsible for security in the capital, Kabul, and other NATO allies' willingness to send more troops to the region. 
Indicating that some countries including Turkey, the UK, Poland and Bulgaria have agreed to send more troops to the region, Bush referred to Turkey's decision to increase its troops in Afghanistan to 1,000 from 778, saying that he appreciates the "many allies who have embraced the idea of sending more troops."
However, Bush said that NATO allies need to deploy more troops and be willing to send soldiers into the most violent battles with Taliban fighters, calling 2006 "the most violent year in Afghanistan since the invasion."
The Taliban have proven stronger than expected, Bush said. "Last year, across Afghanistan, roadside bombs doubled in number, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled and suicide bombs grew by nearly fivefold."
Flush with money from heroin-producing poppy crops, Taliban fighters have proven much tougher than NATO expected when it deployed its first contingent of peacekeepers there in 2003.
"I've ordered an increase in U.S. forces in Afghanistan," Bush said, five years after US-led forces toppled Afghanistan's repressive Taliban regime.
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Bush Announces New Plan for Afghanistan
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President urges allies to join U.S. in helping democracy succeed

President Bush announced a new six-point plan February 15 to help Afghanistan defeat Taliban forces and terrorists, and establish a stable, moderate, democratic state.

The United States' commitment to Afghanistan and its future remains strong, he said.

"We will train you, we will help you, and we will stand with you as you defend your new democracy," Bush said at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

The president also said that part of the United States' strategy is to work with allies to strengthen NATO forces in Afghanistan. Bush said it is NATO's most important military operation.

"For NATO to succeed, member nations must provide commanders on the ground with the troops and equipment they need to do their jobs," Bush said. When there is a need to fill security gaps and commanders in the field say they need additional help, "our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in this mission," he said.
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Afghanistan's proxy war
By Xenia Dormandy  |  February 16, 2007
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THE PAPERS ARE full of the slow demise of Afghanistan. The Pakistanis are to blame; no, the Afghans; no, the United States. America didn't do enough or did too much. NATO isn't stepping up to the plate, or is it the Germans, or the French people. Is it the Taliban, Al Qaeda , or Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence that is pulling the strings? Is President Karzai powerless, or is he boosting the warlords, or is he a puppet for Americans , or all three? The blame is widespread.

But a large part of the problem is being missed. There's talk about the U S -Pakistan-Afghanistan tripartite, but it's the wrong one. The focus should be on the Afghanistan-Pakistan-India triangle.

In the 1980 s and early 1990 s, Afghanistan was a proxy battleground for the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. One could argue that America was the winner in that battle (the Soviet Union and Afghanistan certainly weren't), except that US actions then created the threat from the Taliban today. There were no winners.

America and the Soviet Union brought two other neighbors into that Cold War fight: Pakistan and India. India stood by the Soviet Union as it quietly did in many other areas. Pakistan and its intelligence service became the middleman between the United States and the mujahedeen (later to form the Taliban).
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A one liner on MSNBC-

"Coalition helicopter crashes in Afghanistan. No word on Casualties."

Will update as info comes in...
 

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From Reuters.com,

KABUL (Reuters) - A helicopter of the U.S.-led coalition force crashed in southeastern Afghanistan on Sunday, the coalition said, but did not say if there were any casualties.

A search and rescue operation for the helicopter and its occupants had been launched, a spokesman said in a statement, describing the crash due to engine failure.
 

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U.S. coalition chopper crashes in Afghanistan
Sun Feb 18, 2007 12:37AM EST

KABUL (Reuters) - A helicopter from the U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan crashed on Sunday after reporting engine failure, the coalition said, but it did not say if there were any casualties.

A search for the helicopter and its occupants had been launched, the U.S. -led force said in a statement.

It said the helicopter crashed in the southeast, but did not say where, what type of helicopter nor how many people were aboard. Some media reports said it was a Chinook, a twin-rotor craft used for ferrying troops and equipment.

Residents in the Shah Joy district of Zabul province, said the chopper crashed there. Taliban insurgents who are active in the southern province on the border with Pakistan, said they had shot down the aircraft down with a missile.

The Taliban have made claims in the past that were not substantiated. The last confirmed downing of a foreign helicopter by rebels was in 2005.

International forces have lost several helicopters since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, but the 2005 incident was the only confirmed case of hostile action.

That helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade as it came in to land during combat operation.

The Taliban have vowed a spring offensive as the snows melt in coming weeks and months after the bloodiest year since their ouster. More than 4,000 people died in fighting last year.
 

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Thirteen Cdn. soldiers injured in Afghanistan
Updated Sun. Feb. 18 2007 7:48 AM ET Canadian Press
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Thirteen Canadian soldiers suffered minor injuries early Sunday when three armoured vehicles smashed into each other on the pre-dawn streets of Kandahar.

The accident happened when a convoy of recently arrived combat troops was moving between bases, said Maj. Dale MacEachern, a spokesman for the Canadian Forces.

"I can't discuss the nature of (individual) injuries to the soldiers for reasons of privacy, but I can say they were all minor injuries,'' he said.

"All of these soldiers are expected to go back to work.''

All of the injured were treated at the nearby medical clinic at the Canadian-run provincial reconstruction base, but six of them were transferred by air to the NATO hospital at Kandahar airfield for further observation.

"It's just to be safe to make sure our soldiers are OK,'' said MacEachern.

Details of how the accident happened were not released and military police are investigating. The LAV IIIs sustained minor damage.

The fact all of the soldiers involved are new to the theatre is being considered as a factor because each new rotation has encountered a series of vehicle accidents at the beginning.

"Our soldiers receive excellent training before they're deployed to theatre, but I don't think anything can quite fully prepare anyone for the nature of the roads here in Kandahar,'' said MacEachern.
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Afghan town asks for more protection from Taliban
Updated Sat. Feb. 17 2007 11:31 PM ET Canadian Press
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TERIN KOWT, Afghanistan -- As he asked God to bless a new trade school in a ruggedly beautiful, yet grindingly poor mountainous corner of southern Afghanistan, Mullah Maulwai Harmdullah tacked on a plea to NATO at the end of his prayer.

"We're surrounded by the Taliban,'' Harmdullah told an audience Saturday that included the military alliance's southern commander and two members of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's cabinet.

"We need more security.''

His appeal was echoed by the mayor of Terin Kowt, Mohammed Kabir, who added there needs to be more protection for schools, especially a girl's school, in the town, which is nestled in amid soaring, snow-capped peaks.

Both statements were polite rebukes of NATO's tip-toe approach to the Taliban in the sparsely populated province Oruzgan, north of Kandahar.

As further, not-so-subtle punctuation to their pleas, a U.S. Apache gunship circled overhead during the ceremony, conducting target practice outside the abundantly fortified base where the Afghan training school is located. The heavy drumbeat thud of the attack helicopter's Gatling gun was intermingled with the speeches.

One of the nine students at the school, which teaches rudimentary carpentry skills, said the town Tarin Kowt -- known locally as TK -- is largely safe but once out into the rural areas, militants are in charge.

"The other side of the river, there's a lot of difficulties there,'' said Najeebullha.
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For Russians, Iraq war is like their Afghanistan
FORMER SOVIET SOLDIERS PREDICT IRAQ WAR WILL END AS THEIRS DID: IN FAILURE
By Matthew Schofield MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
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MOSCOW - Eighteen years after the Soviet army pulled out of Afghanistan in a humiliating defeat that hastened the collapse of an empire, many soldiers who fought there think they're seeing history repeat itself.

The United States -- then the force behind the Afghan resistance -- now appears trapped in a similar downward spiral in Iraq, besieged by a collection of forces not unlike those it trained and equipped to cripple the Soviets two decades ago.

For many, the similarities go beyond the symbolic. Retired Capt. Vladimir Vshivtsev was blinded by an improvised roadside bomb 20 years ago in Afghanistan. He shudders every time he hears about a U.S. soldier killed or wounded by a similar device in Iraq or Afghanistan, he said.

"They're fighting the same war again," he said. "Sure, the political stuff is different, but the military result is going to be the same: failure."

The political reasons for the two invasions were as different as the governments that launched them. The United States went to war in Iraq ostensibly to disarm a dictator of suspected weapons of mass destruction, then set its goal as establishing democracy. Leonid Brezhnev's Soviet Union mounted its invasion in 1979 ostensibly to save communism in a place where it had never taken root.

But Russian soldiers, officers and experts point to many parallels. The Soviets also arrived to flowers and smiles, fought with a similar sized force (by the mid-1980s) of about 120,000 men and lost about 1,300 dead each year. They arrived a superpower, full of hubris, and departed humbled. Their political leaders never really understood the war.
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Baluchistan terror: Pakistan's turn again
Submitted by Bill Weinberg on Sun, 02/18/2007 - 02:03.
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Days after bomb blasts and insurgent attacks in Iranian Baluchistan, more terror in Pakistani Baluchistan. To what extent is this a Baluch ethnic insurgency, and to what extent a Sunni fundamentalist jihad? Or is it both? One shudders to think how complex the intrigues behind this are. The Baluch militants in Pakistan are said to be backed by Iran, while Pakistan's intelligence apparatus has long quietly backed the Sunni jihadists to further Islamabad's ambitions in Kashmir and (with CIA connivance) Afghanistan. Are the Baluch being pitted against each other as have the Kurds? Maybe the Baluch are starting to shake off all such manipulators and struggle for a unified independent Baluchistan—just as there is more talk of a unified Pashtunistan straddling Pakistan and Afghanistan, after centuries of the Pashtuns serving as pawns in the Great Game. From Reuters, via the UAE's Khaleej Times, Feb. 18:
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Hicks 'carried 300 rounds, grenades' in Afghanistan
Geoff Elliott Washington correspondent February 16, 2007
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THE US military today released a new charge sheet in its case against David Hicks, including the revelation that he carried with him an AK-47, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and three hand grenades while in Afghanistan.

The details reprise those found in the original charge sheet against Hicks in 2004 although it does provide a little more detail of Hicks last desperate days in Afghanistan trying to evade capture.

The release of the charge sheet does not mean Hicks has been officially charged. The convening authority for the military tribunals which will try Hicks still has to authorise the charges to make it official and that process could still take some weeks yet.

The chief US prosecutor has recommended charges against Hicks of providing material support for terrorism. The 31-year-old has also been charged with attempted murder in violation of the law of war.

If the military trial process stays to schedule - which has not been the case so far thanks delays within the military and legal challenges constitutionally of the tribunals - Hicks could face court for a preliminary hearing in March. A full trial would follow in about June. However his lawyers expect legal challenges to the commission process to delay Hicks day in court for up to another two years.

Hicks has been kept in Guantanamo Bay since early 2002 as an enemy combatant under the Bush administration’s anti-terror laws.

As before, the evidence against Hicks alleges he travelled from Pakistan to Afghanistan after September 11 and armed himself for battle in Kandahar, the new charge sheet indicating that Hicks had 300 rounds of ammunition, three grenades to use in his fight against the coalition and the Northern Alliance.
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Australia Government Prods U.S. on Hicks as Election Approaches
By Gemma Daley Feb. 18 (Bloomberg)
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The Australian government will urge the U.S. to deal with terrorist suspect David Hicks, who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for five years without trial, before an election that must be held by early next year.

``He should be able to come home before the end of the year, either to serve out a sentence, or he will be acquitted,'' Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told the Nine Network's Sunday program. ``This has gone on for a very long time.''

Pressure has been growing in Australia for Hicks, 31, to be formally charged and tried. Australian Prime Minister John Howard will pressure U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney during a four-day visit to Australia this week to deal with Hicks, who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001.

``The government is making it very clear to the U.S. authorities that we want this matter to be expedited,'' Treasurer Peter Costello, 49, told Channel Ten television's Meet the Press program today. ``Charges have been laid, they're very serious charges and the government's position is that they should be brought on for hearing as soon as possible.''

The Sunday Age newspaper reported today that Howard, 67, was increasing pressure over Hicks and working to bring the terror suspect home before the election, which must be held before Jan. 19, 2008. A date has not been set.
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'India is Afghanistan's most cherished partner'
18 Feb, 2007 1024hrs ISTIANS
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BRUSSELS: India has contributed over $750 million in terms of aid and construction to Afghanistan till now in almost every sector, including education and agriculture, and is the country's most cherished partner, says Hekmat Karzai, a cousin of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

"India is the most cherished partner of Afghanistan. The relationship between our two countries is only improving," Karzai, director of the Kabul-based Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, said in an interview.

Karzai said that India has awarded 500 scholarships for Afghan students.

"There is very high-level visibility and high-level (bilateral) delegations going back and forth. The relations have improved and I think India has been a very positive actor in the region," said Karzai, who was in Brussels to attend a conference on Afghanistan organised by Centre for European Policy Studies, a Brussels-based think tank.

Commenting on Afghanistan-Pakistan ties, he said Afghanistan is grateful for what Pakistan had done during the Soviet invasion or even for Afghan refugees.
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EDITORIAL: Ditch Taliban, save Pakistan!
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President General Pervez Musharraf said on Wednesday that the government “will not allow the Talibanisation of Pakistani society, nor allow the Taliban to impede development and prosperity”. He said more, if you want to listen to familiar verbiage: “The Taliban system will not be allowed to come to the country and the Taliban will not be allowed to hamper the path to development and prosperity. We will continue to move forward to transform Pakistan into a moderate, enlightened, Muslim welfare state”.

The president also stuck to his guns in denying support to the Taliban: “The charges are baseless and no other country has played a more vital role than Pakistan in the war on terror and this blame game against Pakistan, despite its pivotal role in the war against terrorism, is a blatant denial of facts”. Perhaps the report missed, but it did not refer to the United States where more and more functionaries are now blaming Pakistan for sheltering the Taliban raiders with details that are difficult to deny.

Lt Gen Karl Eikenberry, the outgoing top US commander in Afghanistan, told a congressional committee on Tuesday, that the “Al Qaeda and Taliban leadership presence inside Pakistan remains a very significant problem and that a steady, direct attack against the command and control in Pakistan in sanctuary areas is essential for us to achieve success”. The general pointed directly to the men responsible for the crisis facing the US and NATO forces: “senior Taliban leaders from the ousted regime are collaborating with Al Qaeda leaders, as well as with other groups led by the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Haqqani clan of an ethnically Pushtun tribe”. General Eikenberry also said this: “There is a growing threat of Talibanisation inside Pakistan”.
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Two civilians shot as tension rises in Kandahar
GRAEME SMITH Globe and Mail Update
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Two civilians were shot dead by NATO troops Saturday during separate incidents in Kandahar, adding to rising tensions in a province that had been enjoying a winter lull in the violence.

One of the shootings proved to be somewhat bizarre. Around 3:40 p.m, a Canadian convoy was driving west along a main highway when they encountered a man walking down the centre line, about 12 kilometres outside the city.

The convoy slowed as it approached the man, a military spokesman said.

He was heard mumbling to himself and chanting, and soldiers noticed wires sticking out from his clothing.
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New Afghan offensive will be tough, Bush warns
Canadians expected to see more action as U.S. redirects 3,200-strong army brigade
PAUL KORING From Friday's Globe and Mail
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WASHINGTON — NATO troops, including Canadians, will face more tough combat this spring as a new offensive is launched against the Taliban in Afghanistan, U.S. President George W. Bush warned yesterday.

In anticipation, Mr. Bush ordered an army brigade of 3,200 soldiers bound for Iraq to deploy instead to southern Afghanistan where Canadian, U.S., British and Dutch troops fought a resurgent Taliban last year.

"The Taliban and al-Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks," Mr. Bush said. "Our strategy is not to be on the defence, but to go on the offence. This spring there is going to be a new offensive in Afghanistan, and it's going to be a NATO offensive."

In a speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Bush also implored NATO allies to send more forces to Afghanistan. But that plea is likely to fall on deaf ears in some capitals.
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On the `Wild West' Afghan-Pakistan frontier
Haroon Siddiqui sees first-hand the tough time guards have in weeding out Taliban
Feb 18, 2007 04:30 AM Haroon Siddiqui
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C HAMAN–Those who think Pakistan should do more to contain the Taliban ought to come to this bustling Afghan-Pakistan border post.

It is 138 kilometres north of Quetta, the so-called "capital of the Taliban," and nine kilometres south of the Afghan city of Spin Boldak in Kandahar province, not far from where Canadian troops are deployed.

A sea of humanity flows through here in both directions – more than 20,000 a day, mostly on foot or bikes or donkey carts, kicking up the dust that characterizes this terrain.

Almost all are Pushtun, as are the Taliban. Any, many, or all those at this crossing could be a Taliban, or none at all.

The tribal Pushtuns span the border, 15 million each on either side. As per a pledge given during British colonial times, they have enjoyed ease of movement over the Durand Line.

Chaman is the transit point for bilateral trade, the focal point of which is a bazaar north of here.

As I arrive early in the morning, most vehicles are headed there, carrying consumer goods from Pakistan and beyond. The foreign products are smuggled in via Arabian Sea ports near Karachi and trucked across the barren terrain of the province of Balochistan, to the capital Quetta, and then up the road that I've just traversed in a four-hour, bone-rattling ride.

Along the way, I had suggested to the driver that he avoid the bump and grind by driving on the smoother shoulder. "No," he said. "It may be mined."
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Afghanistan bans poultry imports
Agencies
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Kabul: Afghanistan has banned poultry imports to prevent the spread of the deadly H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, an official said on Sunday.

The H5N1 strain was found in poultry in at least four provinces in 2006, leading to the killing of thousands of birds, although there were no human deaths.

Health ministry adviser doctor Abdullah Fahim said, "This decision is part of a precautionary and preventive measure."

He added that the government was also focussing on public awareness programmes about the virus.

Afghanistan imports a large amount of poultry, mostly from Pakistan, but the ban imposed last week also applies to other countries hit by H5N1, including Britain, Turkey and Indonesia
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