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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (January 2007)

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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (January 2007)

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War in Afghanistan overwhelming choice as Canadian news story of the year
Canadian Press Monday, January 01, 2007
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(CP) - It's being waged half a world away, yet the war in Afghanistan is the overwhelming choice as Canadian news story of the year.

In the annual poll of newspaper editors and broadcasters conducted by The Canadian Press and Broadcast News, the war easily outranked the Conservatives' federal election victory with a margin of 91 to 44.

Last week, the Canadian Soldier was chosen Canadian Newsmaker of the Year in the same poll.

For the first time since the Korean War, Canadian soldiers went into sustained, major combat and suffered hundreds of casualties, including 36 deaths this past year.

Images of Maple Leaf-draped coffins returning home became crimson staples for front pages and newscasts, and delivered the reality of war to millions of Canadians.

As historian and author Serge Durflinger put it, "nothing can bring it home like the faces of the dead."
End

Harper praises troops in New Year's message
Last Updated: Monday, January 1, 2007 | 11:57 AM ET  CBC News
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper says a visit to Canadian soldiers, aid workers and diplomats working in war-ravaged Afghanistan was his personal highlight in the past year.

"Through their selfless acts, these brave men and women are protecting our security interests and making a real difference in the lives of the long-suffering Afghan people," said Harper in his year-end message.

The prime minister visited the more than 2,000 Canadians serving in southern Afghanistan in March, just more than a month after the Conservatives won the federal election.

Harper urged Canadians to "reflect on the year that was and chart a course for the one to come."

Canadians have much to be thankful for, including a strong economy, a united country and a strong presence on the world stage, he said.

Borrowing a line from former prime minister Jean Chrétien, Harper said Canada isn't just a great country, but "the greatest in the world.
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Media blind to Afghan civilian deaths
by Dave Markland   January 01, 2007
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In early September, Canadian military personnel stationed in Afghanistan's Kandahar province spearheaded NATO's Operation Medusa, aimed at Taliban strongholds in the Panjwaii and Zhari districts of that province. Accustomed to seeing the Canadian Forces' role as that of peace-keepers, many observers were stunned by reports that the Medusa offensive had resulted in hundreds of enemy combatants killed along with five fatalities suffered by Canadian soldiers. Meanwhile, there was a largely unreported civilian exodus as some 80,000 people fled their homes while “at least 50 civilians were killed over several weeks of bombing” (New York Times, Nov 27, A12).

Public concern here in Canada resulted in a surge of public debate and reflection, as evidenced by call-in radio programs, opinion polls and letters to the editor. All this has fuelled on-going organizing efforts across the country that continue to demand Canada's withdrawal from Afghanistan.

One might have expected our major national media to engage such an important discussion with in-depth news coverage of the conflict, along with critical and incisive editorials and opinion pieces. Instead, our most respected media went to considerable lengths to avoid negative portrayals of our military role and that of our NATO allies, even to the point of completely ignoring certain shocking and disastrous events which are of vital importance in understanding the role of our military in Afghanistan and its effects on the people of that country.

This article examines several recent instances of NATO forces killing Afghan civilians - all of which occurred well after the close of Operation Medusa - and the coverage which those events were given by our country's agenda-setting English newspapers: the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail.

Double tragedy

At around 2am on October 18, NATO helicopters firing on houses in the village of Ashogo in Kandahar killed between nine and thirteen civilians, including women and children. Almost simultaneously, in neighboring Helmand province, another NATO air strike killed a reported thirteen civilians. Additionally, NATO revealed that just one purported Taliban insurgent was killed in the attacks. In fact, during the attack on Ashogo, there were no Taliban whatsoever in the village, according to local officials. NATO blamed the botched attacks on intelligence failures.

News of these two catastrophes was vividly related by a veteran Afghanistan reporter, Kathy Gannon, whose article was carried widely on the Associated Press wire. The Toronto Star (Oct 19) ran her AP report on page A7 with the title "NATO strikes kill villagers". That was pretty much the end of coverage in the Star: no editorials or opinion pieces weighed in on the killings. The paper did briefly revisit the events in a news article three days later (Oct 22, A14) in reporting on an Afghan father's accusations that during the Kandahar attack NATO troops had executed his wounded son when the soldiers had entered their house. (As for the allegation, NATO later announced that they had exonerated themselves on the matter. See "No evidence to support claim of execution-style killing of Afghan teen: NATO", Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, Nov 21.)

In terms of the Globe and Mail, that paper completely ignored the double tragedy when it came to light. Only when NATO air strikes killed more Afghan civilians the following week did the Globe even mention the earlier case. However, the Globe low-balled the body count when they did (belatedly) report the incident, stating on one day that twenty civilians had been killed by NATO in the October 18 attacks, only to state the next day that nine civilians had died. Evidently, the Globe chose to drop the Helmand province incident from their tally, and then opted to cite the lowest death estimate for the Kandahar attack by itself (Oct 26, A18; Oct 27, A17). Later, Human Rights Watch, in referring to these attacks, would surmise, “at least 22 civilians were killed as a result of NATO air operations in Kandahar and Helmand provinces.” (See HRW Letter to NATO, Nov 28.)
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Muslims pray for Canadian troopsCAROLINE ALPHONSO
With a report from Canadian Press
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HAMILTON -- Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan were honoured yesterday in a special Muslim prayer service, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada.

Despite their objections to Canada's role in Afghanistan, the Muslim Canadian Congress, a small, progressive, secular group, organized the service to remember those who have died and to pray for the families of these soldiers.

"We wanted to show our solidarity from a very humanitarian perspective. This is not political," said interfaith affairs director Raheel Raza, who led the prayer service.

About 70 people, Muslim and Christian, attended the service yesterday morning at the Eternal Spring United Church, a small church in Hamilton, Ont.
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The Secret War in Afghanistan
James Dunnigan, Strategypage.com, 1 Jan 07
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The recent fighting in southern Afghanistan was reported in terms of American, British, Canadian and Dutch troops fighting the Taliban. But the most effective troops hardly got mentioned at all, and that's the way they like it. Among 20,000 or so American and NATO troops, there were nearly 2,000 commandos (about a third of them U.S. Special Forces). Afghanistan has been something of a commando Olympics for the past five years ....



An Afghan follows his heart
Graeme Smith, Globe & Mail, 2 Jan 07
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Most young men in Afghanistan can only dream of Turialai Wafa's lifestyle. He survived the collapse of his society, saw stinking corpses in the streets, and got away. About to turn 35, he has a comfortable life in North America: a high-flying job based in Washington and an apartment in Toronto.  Nothing can force him to return to Afghanistan. His business degree, his status as a permanent resident of Canada and his flawless English leave him free to work almost anywhere.  At least, that's what his friends keep telling him, just before they repeat the question Mr. Wafa has heard many times in recent months: Why throw himself back into Afghanistan?  “One friend told me, ‘Okay, you want a medal? I'll buy you a medal, but please, don't go back,' ” Mr. Wafa said ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Taliban commander vows bloody 2007 in Afghanistan
Saeed Ali Achakzai, Reuters (UK), 2 Jan 07
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The Taliban will step up attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan this year and kill anyone who negotiates with the government, a top rebel commander said on Tuesday.  Taliban fighters staged a surprise comeback last year with the bloodiest violence since U.S.-led troops forced them from power in 2001. More than 4,000 people were killed on both sides in 2006 including nearly 170 foreign troops.  Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah said the new year would see more attacks on NATO and U.S. forces.  "Suicide and guerrilla attacks on NATO, American and coalition forces will continue and increase this year. The Taliban will inflict heavy casualties on them," Dadullah told Reuters by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location ....



Three school projects worth $185,000 in eastern Afghanistan
ISAF news release # 2007-001, 1 Jan 07
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ISAF engineers operating in Orgun district completed three school projects in December worth $185,000, further building the educational capacity for the children of Paktika province.  The 27th Engineer Battalion, known as Task Force Tiger, completed the three projects by building two new schools and by refurbishing one school.  The engineers also hosted a training course to teach Afghans working on the projects skills such as advanced masonry, carpentry and concrete techniques.  The two new schools will provide learning opportunities for the children of Rabat village in Sarobi district and Shaykan village in Orgun district, while the refurbished school will serve school-aged children in Sarobi village, Sarbobi district.  The Sarbobi school, which is a six-room schoolhouse strictly for girls, replaces the former girls school comprised of a shed roof with no walls. The project was supported by the local tribal and municipal leadership, and followed a similar design to the new Rabat school for boys.  These three school projects were financed by the U.S. Commander’s Emergency Reconstruction Program, or CERP ....



PRT Farah assists burn victim
ISAF news release # 2007-002, 1 Jan 07
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Two ISAF military personnel assigned to the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) recently helped bring a young Afghan child to the United States for treatment to burns he sustained during a house fire.  The fire left six-year-old Mahsoom’s neck and jaw damaged, impairing his ability to chew or speak well. After meeting the boy at the PRT’s aid centre, U.S. Navy Doctor Lt. Afshin Afarin and U.S. Army Capt. Jay Berendzen coordinated Mahsoom’s treatment in the United States.  Dr. Peter Grossman, from the Grossman Burn Centre, Sherman Oaks Hospital near Los Angeles, Calif., is expected to perform the boy’s surgery. Working with several charitable organizations, Lieutenant Afarin and Captain Berendzen found a host family to support Mahsoom during his six-to-nine month stay in the United States. They also coordinated the funding to support his treatment and helped the boy’s family obtain the required legal documents and medical forms.  In addition, the service members coordinated the trip through the Afghan system, obtaining the required letter of permission from Mahsoom’s father and the village Shura. Unable to read or write, Mahsoom’s father signed his name using his thumbprint. “It is in God’s hands,” he said. “This operation will be good for his life. Everybody is going to fall in love with him.” Mahsoom arrived in the United States just before the new year.  Lieutenant Afarin said that despite the hurdles they encountered, he never doubted that things would work out in the end. “There is so much that doesn’t go right in this country. This gives us the opportunity to say some things do go well, and there are caring people out there,” he said.



ANA, ISAF help people in Paktika in their struggle against winter
ISAF news release # 2007-003, 1 Jan 07
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On Thursday in the villages of Saturi and Khanjakay, Paktika province, Afghan National Army (ANA) troops and ISAF engineers delivered winter supplies to villagers.  ANA 2-203 Kandak and ISAF Task Force Eagle soldiers donated cold weather clothing, food and other supplies to the grateful local population. They also donated crayons, pencils and toys to the children.  “You won’t see the Taliban helping citizens in this way,” said Maj. Matt Hackathorn, spokesman for Regional Command South. “The legitimate government of Afghanistan works to improve conditions for the people, while the Taliban only rob, murder and destroy.”



Worth of centuries old vehicles
Pajhwok Afghan News, 26 Dec 06
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Due to lacking of companies to melt iron, skeleton of the centuries old mili bus, tanks and planes are losing worth in Kabul.  According to the Ministry of Mines the country had 2 million tons of iron, but there was no machinery to melt. The most vital iron is of the mili buses that have lost utility due to long wars or after elapsing pretty long time.  According to the relevant departments, 80 per cent of the mili buses have reduced to a heap of iron and their parts could only be used in manufacturing or repairing other things.  Officials of the mili bus corporation said the mili buses included Hindi Tata and Germany 302. By the same token, they said electric buses made by the former Czechoslovakia were operative in Kabul in the past, had now absolutely ruined.  Ghuas-u-din Wafa, head of the mili bus corporation, told Pajhwok Afghan News that during Dr Najibullah regime about 1600 mili buses were operative in Kabul and seven others provinces.  He said due to long wars 1300 vehicles were ruined, their machines and spare parts were detached and some buses were taken abroad. Wafa said skeleton of some 800 mili buses were stored in Khushal Mina, Siah Sang and some others were kept in other provinces ....



1,373 miles into the heart of Afghanistan
The Ring Road is meant to link the nation and connect its major cities. But traveling the route is no Sunday drive.

Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times. 31 Dec 06
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AS a hair-thin line on a map, Afghanistan's national Ring Road looks easy enough to conquer.  But tell war-hardened Afghans that you're going to travel its entire 1,373-mile length unarmed, facing winter and a raging insurgency, and they look at you like you're completely mad.  Five years after the fall of the Taliban, it shouldn't be such a challenge.  Rebuilding the two-lane highway that connects Afghanistan's major cities has been a centerpiece of the U.S.-led effort to transform the nation. It is so important that Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, said that President Bush once demanded daily updates on the roadwork from Kabul south to Kandahar, the seat of power under Taliban rule ....



Conflicted and confused in `Viagra Alley'
The stockpiles of sexual aids in shops outside the biggest coalition base in Afghanistan highlight the clash between conservative Islamic traditions and traditionally Western freedoms
Kim Barker, Chicago Tribune, 2 Jan 07
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The tiny shops are known for selling knives, binoculars, hiking boots and ready-to-eat meals, the kind of merchandise commonly found outside a military base.  But the Bagram bazaar, less than 200 yards from the largest coalition base in Afghanistan, offers a little something extra. "Viagra?" the Afghan shopkeepers whisper hopefully, even shyly as they try to peddle the pills. Because this is "Viagra Alley," and every shop knows it must stock the diamond-shaped blue pills, along with an assortment of sexual sprays containing lignocaine, a widely used topical anesthetic that allegedly helps performance.  "This is the sickness of Afghans," said shopkeeper Khord Agha, 19, who sells one or two packs of four pills of Viagra or imitation Viagra a day but insists he never has tried it. "Some foreigners come and get it. But it's mostly Afghans." ....



 

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Articles found 2 January 2007

Commander says Baaz Tsuka offensive a success
Updated Tue. Jan. 2 2007 12:38 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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A recent offensive in southern Afghanistan against the Taliban has already accomplished its goals, says the man commanding Canadian forces in the war-torn nation.

Though NATO troops have been seen little combat with Operation Baaz Tsuka, Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant says it has been successful in disrupting the Taliban.

"Although Canadians have not been involved in close combat, at the end of the day, I'm very happy the objectives of Baaz Tsuka have been reached, that is we have disrupted the Taliban,'' Grant said.

"We have seen significant evidence that low-level Taliban have simply put down their weapons and run away,'' he said.

The goal of the mission has been to either kill or force hardline leaders to leave the Panjwaii-Zahre district, once a Taliban stronghold, where Canadian troops have been involved in deadly conflicts for the last several months.

Launched more than two weeks ago, the offensive sent a combat team of Canadian troops, tanks, and armoured vehicles near the village of Howz-e Madad.

The troops have also sought to convince so called Tier-two fighters -- who have joined the Taliban simply for the relatively good pay -- to go back to their villages.

With the disarming of those so- fighters, the ideologically committed Tier-one hardliners would be left on their own.

Grant suggested the number of hardliners is more likely in the dozens than in the hundreds.

However, he rejected the notion that the Taliban had been defeated.

"There are still hardliners out there,'' Grant said. "There is no doubt and the operation is not yet over. We will continue to root them out and either capture or kill them.''

He said NATO strikes had killed a number of top-level commanders but refused to pinpoint how many.
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World of difference between front line and hospital for medics in Afghanistan
BILL GRAVELAND Monday, January 01, 2007
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HOWZ-E MADAD, Afghanistan (CP) - The 45 kilometres from where Canadian troops sit here to the Role 3 hospital at Kandahar Airfield might as well be 1,000 kilometres if there's a medical emergency. But the goal is the same for medics here at the front line and those back at the base: finding a way to keep Canadian troops alive.

Last year was a bloody one in southern Afghanistan, with 36 Canadian soldiers dying. That made 2006 Canada's worst year on the battlefield since the Korean War. Since 2002, 44 soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

While soldiers fight the Taliban in day-to-day skirmishes or in major offensives like the Canadian-led Operation Medusa in September, it is the medics who are responsible for providing the initial care once someone is hurt.

"I've seen more trauma out here than I've ever wanted to see in my entire life," said Master Cpl. Brent Schriner, 41, a senior medic with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Shilo, Man.

"It literally is an eyeopener for medics. Back home you're within five or 10 minutes of definitive care where out here it can be 40 minutes," he explained.

Medics like Schriner must rely on soldiers doing buddy first aid while they take care of the more serious cases. The first minutes of care can mean the difference between life and death. Schriner, called "Doc" as a sign of respect from his patrol mates, joins them on foot patrols, carrying everything he needs in one large backpack. If there is a battle, he is there providing initial care. It's a job that's not for everyone.

"I'm out with the guys, out in the field where I feel a medic should be. Not everybody wants to be out in the field but we have a need for everyone right through the chain of care," Schriner said while on a foot patrol near the village of Howz-e Madad.

The Role 3 hospital back at Kandahar Airfield deals with the more serious cases after initial battlefield first aid is administered. Often wounded soldiers are airlifted in for emergency surgery.

"Priority 1 is immediate and life-threatening, Priority 2 seriously wounded but can wait for surgery and 3 is the walking wounded," said Master Seaman Eric Thiboutot, 39, a medical technician from 5 Field Ambulance, from Val Cartier, at the Role 3 Medical Inspection Room.

"There's a Priority 4 but that means there's nothing we can do," he finished. "We put them aside."

Thiboutot is on his fifth tour with the Canadian forces, having served in Croatia, Bosnia and Kabul.

"The reason I joined the military was I wanted to go on missions, to live the adventure. Back at home everything is routine and I feel I am really doing my job when I am out doing missions," said Thiboutot, who will return home in February.

But this current mission has been different. Dealing with a rising number of Canadian casualties dating back to August takes it toll on the caregivers as well.

"Each person has their own coping mechanism. There is mental health and if we have problems we can go talk to them, we talk among ourselves and we each have our own way," he said.

"But after a while you get used to it, even though it's not normal. As a med tech we are doing our job but we are actually dealing with people that are severely injured."

Thiboutot has his own way of dealing with the stress of the job. For the first time in his life he started writing every day in a journal.

"I maybe write it because the story has to be told at some point. For me it's like talking to myself and it allows me to vent out," he added.

"We are very proud of what we do mission-wise because we help the soldiers get home."
End

Medics face trauma on battlefield
By CP
Article Link

HOWZ-E MADAD, Afghanistan -- The 45 km from where Canadian troops sit here to the Role 3 hospital at Kandahar Airfield might as well be 1,000 km if there's a medical emergency.

But the goal is the same for medics at the front line or those at the base: Keep troops alive.

While soldiers fight the Taliban in skirmishes or in major offensives, medics provide the initial care if someone is hurt.

"I've seen more trauma out here than I've ever wanted to see in my entire life," said Master Cpl. Brent Schriner, 41, a medic.

"It literally is an eyeopener for medics. Back home you're within five or 10 minutes of definitive care where out here it can be 40 minutes," he said.

Medics such as Schriner must rely on soldiers doing buddy first aid while they take care of the more serious cases.

The first minutes of care can mean the difference between life and death. Schriner joins troops on foot patrols, carrying all he needs in one bag.
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A B.C. lawyer who needs bodyguards
Brian Hutchinson National Post Tuesday, January 02, 2007
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CREDIT: Brian Hutchinson /National Post
Afghans displaced by war and drought live in tents and mud huts, on the fringes of Kandahar city. Norine MacDonald, a Vancouver lawyer living in the area, claims they number in the tens of thousands and that Canadians have let them down.

KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan - She strides into a dingy hotel restaurant, a diminutive Canadian lawyer with hired guns following behind. One of her men is a burly Australian who packs an automatic rifle.

He installs himself at the hotel's entrance, his weapon hidden but at the ready.

It's not unusual for civilians in this dangerous city to protect themselves with private security. But rarely does a woman move about in such a manner -- commanding an armed guard and eschewing a burka, or even a shawl, for male Afghan clothes.

Norine Mac Donald is anything but typical. The 50-year-old Saskatchewan native and Vancouver resident is among the few Western relief workers left in Kandahar, and the only one not affiliated in some way with NATO and Afghan coalition forces.

Ms. MacDonald is founder and president of the Senlis Council, a controversial think-tank. For the past two years, Ms. MacDonald has lived in Kandahar and in neighbouring Helmand province, conducting drug-policy research and writing lengthy, contentious reports that advocate the legalization and regulation of poppy farming in Afghanistan.

Her reports also condemn American-led efforts to eradicate poppy crops, claiming this merely drives desperate farmers into the arms --and control--of Taliban extremists. (Afghanistan is among the world's largest poppy-growing countries, and produces up to 90% of its opium, much of which is refined into heroin and then peddled in Europe, Russia, and North America.)

In the process, Ms. MacDonald has annoyed Afghanistan's Interior Minister. In October, his department wrote the Senlis Council a letter, demanding it not engage in activities deemed "contrary to the constitution of Afghanistan."

She has also infuriated members of the Canadian military, especially those stationed here. Ms. MacDonald is sharply critical of how the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan is being conducted.

"I'm all for the military going after the bad guys," she told CanWest News Service. "I'm not for what we're doing to ordinary Afghans. Canadian troops are calling in [American] bombers, and villages are being destroyed. Civilians are buried in rubble. When did we have the conversation in Canada that this is an acceptable strategy?"

One high-ranking Canadian officer, posted at Kandahar Air Field, dismisses Ms. MacDonald as "a nutty dilettante" who "should just get out of here."

She has come under fire from some Conservative MPs back in Canada.

In October, following a presentation she gave to the Standing Committee on National Defence, Ms. MacDonald was grilled by Tory members. Her sincerity and the source of her funding were called into question.

In one remarkable exchange, Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant quizzed how the Senlis Council is funded, and then asked Ms. Mac- Donald whether she was familiar with current "anti-money laundering rules" and potential exemptions for lawyers. Ms. Gallant was promptly cut off by the committee chairman; her curious line of questioning was never explained.

But it upset Ms. MacDonald. "There was an insinuation that I was involved in something inappropriate, involved in illegal activities," she told CanWest News Service during an interview here. "I was attacked and so was my organization. It was unacceptable. It was mudslinging."

Ms. MacDonald says the Senlis Council receives all of its funding from a Swiss philanthropist named Stephan Schmidheiny.

Described by Forbes magazine as the world's 221st richest person, with a personal fortune of US$3.1-billion, Mr. Schmidheiny was an early investor in the trendy Swiss watchmaker Swatch. In 2003, he donated US$1-billion to support various "sustainable development" programs.

Ms. MacDonald will not disclose her council's annual budget, but it must be considerable. The Senlis Council has well-staffed offices in London, Paris, Brussels and Kabul, where it employs 50 Afghans. The council plans to open a fifth office, in Ottawa. It also operates smaller "field offices" in four Afghan provinces, including Kandahar and Helmand.

A litigation and tax lawyer who practised in Vancouver, Ms. Mac- Donald still keeps an apartment next to Stanley Park. She established the Senlis Council in 2002, after meeting Mr. Schmidheiny.

Two years later, she arrived in Afghanistan, "to do something on counter-narcotics and security issues."

Ms. MacDonald insists that legalizing and regulating the harvest of poppies would allow Afghan farmers a badly need source of income, and would prevent their sons of fighting age from joining Taliban militias. She argues that opium produced in Afghanistan could then be used to manufacture legal narcotics and painkillers. Such notions are completely at odds with current policies in Afghanistan. The national government under President Harmid Karzai wants the cultivation of opium-producing poppies to stop; so do Pres. Karzai's Western allies.

Among NATO coalition allies, the United States has taken the most aggressive anti-poppy stance; its soldiers have begun a crop eradication campaign in some Afghan provinces. Canada, on the other hand, has taken a more passive approach, preferring to let the Afghan government direct all anti-poppy initiatives in Kandahar, where 2500 Canadian troops are based.

But this doesn't placate Ms. MacDonald.

She accuses the Canadian military of participating in a widescale slaughter of innocent Afghans, and of ignoring the pleas of survivors and others displaced by NATO-led bombing campaigns.

In the latest Senlis Council report, released in mid-December, Ms. MacDonald alleges that as many as 80,000 Afghans have been left homeless thanks to the war against the Taliban. She claims that a number of large refugee camps have appeared in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. She says that most people in the camps have never seen a single Canadian or NATO soldier offering aid.

"The situation in southern Afghanistan is an unparalleled humanitarian crisis," she writes.

Canadian military sources counter that Ms. MacDonald exaggerates the situation in southern Afghanistan. One official accused her of "making it all up."

This week, CanWest News Service visited one of the refugee camps described by Ms. Mac- Donald in her December report, and found her account of conditions there to be mostly accurate.

The Boldak Ada camp lies just south of Kandahar city limits. It is, as Ms. MacDonald writes, a miserable place, where children dressed in rags crawl on the ground and their mothers huddle inside ramshackle mud huts, trying to keep warm.

The camp is filled with hundreds of people who fled their homes because their villages had become zones of combat.

CanWest spoke to a man named Daud. He owned a stove/ heater shop in Panjwaii District, where most of the fighting involving Canadian soldiers this year has taken place.

Two months ago, Daud's shop was destroyed in a NATO bombing raid.

"There were Taliban in the area and everything got destroyed," he said. Fortunately, his family survived.
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Aziz plans crucial visit to Afghanistan
By Shahid Hussain, Correspondent 02/01/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)
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Islamabad: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will visit Afghanistan this week as part of the ongoing effort to mend fences with the country's western neighbour, sources said yesterday.

The two-day visit, likely on Wednesday and Thursday, is expected to focus on strains linked to persistent Afghan government claims of militant activity across the border from Pakistani tribal areas.

A major topic during talks between Aziz and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will certainly be Pakistan's recent decision to mine and fence selected parts of the 2,400km Durand Line frontier to stop any cross-border militant movement.

Opposed

The Islamabad plan has however been strongly opposed by the Afghan government as an attempt to divide people of the border areas, while UN officials have said that the laying of mines may pose serious threat to human lives.
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France's Significant Role in Afghanistan
Tuesday, January 2, 2007; Page A16
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Contrary to what Anne Applebaum wrote [" 'Old Europe' Can Gloat, but Then What?" op-ed, Dec. 19], France is not removing its troops from Afghanistan.

Subsequent to the recent NATO summit in Latvia, my country is reinforcing its deployment in the Kabul zone, currently under French command, by sending maneuver helicopters and two additional infantry sections while maintaining air support. President Jacques Chirac announced that French troops could, if needed, be deployed on a case-by-case basis outside of the Kabul zone, comparable to what is being done with British troops. At the same time, France's commitment to the training of Afghan armed forces is being strengthened.
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Afghani boy is brought to United States for surgery in New York
January 1, 2007, 3:12 PM EST
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NEW YORK (AP) _ An 8-year-old boy from Afghanistan stood in Times Square Monday welcoming a new year that will bring him corrective surgery thanks to the concerns of twin Army doctors who met him while they worked for six months in his war-ravaged country.

"I'm happy. It's the first time I've seen something like this," Khatibullah Farqirzada said on a morning that also marked his birthday as he stood in the bright lights of one of the world's most famous landmarks.

In Afghanistan, everybody celebrates in their homes. Here, everybody comes out to be together," he said.

His father, Shafi, said: "My hope is my son (has) a new year and a new life."

Within days, Farqirzada will undergo surgery to correct hypospadia, a rare condition that prevents him from urinating properly.

The surgery at Westchester Medical Center was arranged after surgeons Vince and Vance Moss, U.S. Army reservists, met the boy in the village of Paghman while they were in Afghanistan on a relief mission, working in a small operating room at the Afghan Army National Hospital.

While there, they performed the first stage of urinary constructive surgery on Farqirzada before increasing violence forced them to evacuate before they could complete the work.

Vance Moss said the 34-year-old doctors, who live in Manhattan and practice in Lakewood, N.J., were heartbroken to leave early last year and vowed to try to help the boy.
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Wounded soldier's superbug battleJan 1 2007
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A SOLDIER shot in the neck as he led an assault in Afghanistan found himself in a deadlier fight when he allegedly contracted the killer MRSA bug in a Birmingham hospital.

Sgt David 'Paddy' Caldwell, 32, was diagnosed with the superbug while recovering from his injuries on a ward at Selly Oak Hospital soon after returning from duty.

The paratrooper was leading 5 Platoon of B Company in an assault on a Taliban compound when he was hit by machine gun fire.

After first being treated at a field hospital in Afghanistan, Sgt Caldwell was then transferred to the intensive care unit at Selly Oak's Royal Centre for Defence Medicine.

Most servicemen and women injured overseas are flown to the Birmingham centre for treatment.
End

Green Beans Comes Marching Home
Mobile Coffee Supplier To U.S. Troops Opening Retail Cafés Stateside
January 2, 2007; Page B6
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As chief of 55 coffee cafes located on U.S. military bases overseas, Jason Araghi has faced his share of obstacles, from learning to brew Espresso Chai Lattes with sketchy water and electrical supplies, to outmaneuvering Iraqi insurgents who use his mobile shops for target practice.

But one of the greatest tests yet for Mr. Araghi comes Tuesday when he opens his newest cafe -- in sunny California U.S.A. It will be the first leg of a domestic push for Green Beans Coffee Co., a name familiar to thousands of U.S. soldiers stationed in countries including Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait -- but unknown to most stateside consumers. Unlike its overseas ventures, the U.S. Green Beans cafes won't have the luxury of banking on a captive audience of servicemen and women. Instead the company seeks to wrest a piece of the $34.5 billion U.S. coffee market from bigger well-known players such as Starbucks Corp., Dunkin' Brands Inc.'s Dunkin' Donuts chain and Peet's Coffee & Tea Inc.
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Cdn. losses in '06 temper New Year's festivities
December 31, 2006 By BILL GRAVELAND
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - There was one overwhelming New Year's resolution as Canadian soldiers said goodbye to 2006 here at a festive party in Canada House at Kandahar Airfield.

It had nothing to do with losing weight, quitting smoking or doing charity work. The message was much closer to home.

"I want to make it home safe," said Cpl. Jason Barss, 24, of Ottawa. "It was basically my first year of marriage. I missed my first anniversary and I've got that to look forward to this year. I've got more than enough time to make up for it when I get back."

Cpl. David Parker, of Barrie, Ont. echoed the sentiment. In a country where one misstep triggering a landmine can change a life, good health is a lofty goal.

"I want to make it home with all my body parts intact. I want to spend more time with the wife and kids," he said.

The New Year's Eve gathering at the newly built Canada House at the airfield had all the makings of an ordinary party. Soldiers were allowed two beers, which is a rarity overseas. There was music, laughter and games including bingo, blackjack and roulette without any cash being involved, of course.

"I think I'm going to go home and play well with others and I am going back to my civilian job and play it day by day," said Cpl. Devlin Bauer, 22, a reservist from Windsor, Ont.

But this was a party with a darker side to it. Not far from the minds of many is the fact that 36 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan in 2006, Canada's bloodiest year on the battlefield since the Korean War.

"I don't normally make New Year's resolutions," said one soldier who sat nursing his Coors Light but didn't give his name. "I lost three buddies during Medusa so I guess my resolution would be to not lose any more friends."

And with 2006 quickly slipping away, the thoughts of many soldiers were on the year and the triumphs and tragedies it contained
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Afghanistan to import Pak-made engines
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LAHORE: Another high-level private sector trade delegation from Afghanistan will visit Lahore after Eid-ul-Azha to import Pakistan- made diesel engines for agricultural purpose.

CEO KAM Engineering Khalid Saeed told APP here on Sunday that the Pakistan-made KAM diesel engines have become very popular in Afghanistan, compared to all brands of those made in India, and are being successfully used for agricultural purposes.

He said the Afghan team will visit the plant and see the engine assembly process, using indigenous technical know how and expertise, which has helped to control the price of the product with minimum overhead expenses.

In their war-torn country, the Afghans are now inclined to bring maximum area under cultivation to meet the ever increasing need for food grains. For this purpose, they need quality agri inputs and implements, and Pakistan-made products offer the guarantee to compete in terms of quality and price, said the firm’s director marketing, Sh Amin Akhtar.

Khalid Saeed said we have already sold thousands of engines of different capacity to Afghan brothers on cash payment. He said we are also providing after sale service facility even in Afghanistan.

He said they have also successfully manufactured a mini-truck for agriculture purpose which he added will be much cheaper than all others in open market. He said this truck has been under trial for the last couple of year. He said that although we have given successful demonstration to Minister of State for Agriculture during his visit to plant, it will be marketed soon after its final clearance by our high-level team of technical experts and permission from government
End

1,373 miles into the heart of Afghanistan
The Ring Road is meant to link the nation and connect its major cities. But traveling the route is no Sunday drive.
By Paul Watson, Times Staff Writer December 31, 2006
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Shahr-i-Safa, Afghanistan — AS a hair-thin line on a map, Afghanistan's national Ring Road looks easy enough to conquer.

But tell war-hardened Afghans that you're going to travel its entire 1,373-mile length unarmed, facing winter and a raging insurgency, and they look at you like you're completely mad.

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, it shouldn't be such a challenge.

Rebuilding the two-lane highway that connects Afghanistan's major cities has been a centerpiece of the U.S.-led effort to transform the nation. It is so important that Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, said that President Bush once demanded daily updates on the roadwork from Kabul south to Kandahar, the seat of power under Taliban rule.

U.S. grants have paid for rebuilding a third of the road, according to Afghan government figures. Japan, Saudi Arabia and Iran are responsible for repairing other sections, a rare case in which Washington and Tehran are working toward the same goal. Officially, the $1.05-billion project is almost finished.

But as with many things in Afghanistan, there is a chasm between the rhetoric and reality.

Some of the best stretches of the road are among the Taliban's favorite killing grounds. This fall, Canadian troops led the biggest ground battle in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 57-year history, in part to regain control of a stretch of highway west of Kandahar. The NATO offensive cleared the insurgents, but guerrillas and highway robbers still prey on travelers in many other places.
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Justice often carries a price in Afghanistan
Corrupt courts make the Taliban, weapons all the more appealing
Dec. 30, 2006, 7:06PM By PAUL WATSON Los Angeles Times
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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — In the halls of justice here, almost everything is for sale.

It can take one bribe to obtain a blank legal form and another to have a clerk stamp it.

Lawyers openly haggle in corridors and parking lots over the size of payoffs. A refrigerator delivered to the right official might help solve a long-running property dispute. Court dockets don't exist. The Quran, the basis of Islamic law and the Afghan legal code, is often the only book on the shelves of poorly trained judges.

As Afghans try to piece their legal system together after decades of war, many spend months shopping for justice in Kabul's central courts complex.

More than 90 percent of lower-court cases end up in the capital's appeals court — on Judge Muzafarddin Tajali's desk. A former Supreme Court justice, Tajali fled to Pakistan when the Taliban seized most of the country. Now he's back, sitting in a high-back swivel chair with the Chinese price tag dangling from the black upholstery.

"In the whole country, we may not have even two qualified defense lawyers," Tajali said. "Everybody has expectations, and of course they get upset. They don't threaten me inside the courtroom. But when their hopes are broken, they get mad and go and scream outside.

"This kind of justice system, which is not clean and transparent, threatens the government and democracy."

Systematic injustice stokes humiliation and resentment, turning many Afghans against President Hamid Karzai's government and his backers.

Nostalgia for the ruthless rule of the Taliban is growing as the line between judges and criminals blurs. When they can't find justice in court, Afghans are tempted to turn to what they've trusted most for a generation: their weapons.

Karzai's defenders maintain some of his worst mistakes in rebuilding the justice system, such as making former warlords police chiefs other top officials, were forced on him by foreign backers, led by the U.S.
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Words that can kill
A radicalized ideology from Pakistan is threatening our troops

Adnan R. Khan, Macleans.ca, 1 Jan 07
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The war in Afghanistan has reached a gruesome stage. Since the axe attack on Capt. Trevor Greene on March 4, 2006, which left the Canadian soldier in a medically induced coma for 20 days, Canadian troops have begun to face an enemy that seems to know no bounds in its ability to strike at its adversary. That attack, in essence, was a suicide mission: the assailant entered a village filled with armed soldiers and struck the blow with the full knowledge that he would not come out alive (he was shot 14 times). But in cold military terms, that was a tactical shift: the Taliban, unlike their insurgent counterparts in the war in Iraq, were not famous for suicide missions. Evidently, the ideology of the Taliban is changing, and along with it the brutality of their tactics ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Taliban capture district, but lose it back after one night
Ahmad Quraishi and Najib Khilwatgar, Pahjwok Afghan News, 1 Jan 07
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Taliban fighters have captured Khak-e-Safid district in the western Farah province, but latest reports say government forces took back control of the district Monday morning.  Provincial officials said a group of Taliban fighters in several pick-ups attacked the district centre of Khak-e-Safid Sunday evening and captured it during a short clash. But, the government forces recaptured it after a heavy fighting earlier this morning.  Farah police chief Sayed Aqa Saqib told Pajhwok Afghan News most of the police and army soldiers stationed in the area were on Eid holidays and the Taliban took the opportunity to take control of the district ....



France worried about changing NATO role in Afghanistan
Adrien Jaulmes, Le Figaro (FRA), 2 Jan 07
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Officially, everything is fine in Afghanistan. At the foot of the white-topped mountains of the Hindu Kush, two brand-new Caracal helicopters stood with their motors running at the top of the rocky cliff overlooking the road to Jalalabad, some 60 km east of Kabul.  Behind the fortifications of a small camp perched in the desert heights of Sarubi, [French Defence Minister] Michele Alliot-Marie inspected a section of French troops. Appearing as relaxed as she would for a routine visit to Mourmelon camp, the minister reminded them of the importance of their mission and posed smiling with soldiers, who rushed to be photographed alongside her.  In fact everything is going wrong in Afghanistan. The 1,200 French troops deployed since 2002 in Central Asia have not been engaged in the violent fighting against an insurrection trying to wrest from the Afghan Government control of entire provinces in the South and East of the country ....



Insecurity dogs Afghans, foreign workers at every step
Deepikaglobal.com (IND), 2 Jan 07
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"A trip to Southern Ghazni province? What an idea! Well, proceed, I will stay back waiting for you all," Omaidullah declared while backing out on the plea that he was the only son and could not afford to put his life at risk.  His parents and four sisters would cry themselves to death if anything happened to him, the affable Afghan youth said. His fears are not unfounded as security threat from Taliban and other elements opposed to the present regime are only too real to be ignored.  "Sir, do you want to be John Abraham of "Kabul Express" (Bollywood film shot in Afghan locales) who had gone in search of Taliban in the movie but faced a threat to his life. A number of journalists have risked their lives and American Daniel Pearl's execution in Pakistan is available on internet and CDs. So draw a lesson from such incidents," a local man warned this correspondent in the hotel lobby ....



Attacks against United Nations personnel in 2006 go unpunished, Staff Union says
United Nations Department of Public Information, 2 Jan 07
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Last year was another deadly year for United Nations civilian staff as well as peacekeepers, according to the United Nations Staff Union and its Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service, with at least 22 United Nations personnel killed in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Sudan, Afghanistan and southern Lebanon. There were also numerous violations of the independence of the international civil service around the world and staff members were detained or expelled in Eritrea ....



New Croatian contingent to join ISAF mission in Afghanistan
Chinaview.cn, 3 Jan 07
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A new 69-strong Croatian contingent would fly to Afghanistan in 10 days to join the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said reports reaching here from Croatia on Tuesday.  The send-off ceremony was held in the military barracks in the Croatian northern city of Varazdin for the contingent, the Croatian news agency HINA reported.  "Our soldiers are successful in that job, many of them have experience from the war and they are among those with the best equipment. Thanks to their ability and the know-how there have been no serious consequences so far," said General Josip Lucic, envoy of Croatian President Stjepan Mesic ....



Insurgents torch newly-built refugee school
The Mercury (Tasmania), 3 Jan 07
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INSURGENTS torched a newly built school for refugee children in eastern Afghanistan, officials said, in the first such attack in 2007 blamed on Taliban militants.  A spate of similar attacks last year on schools and teachers were mostly blamed on Taliban rebels conducting an insurgency to overthrow the Government and expel foreign troops trying to bring stability.  The school set alight in the eastern province of Nangarhar near the border with Pakistan was made up of tents from the UN children's fund, UNICEF, provincial spokesman Hazrat Hussain said.  “Five tents of a new UNICEF-built school were burned down last night in Behsud district,” he said ....



Solve our land problem, or we leave domicile: warn Kuchis
Abdul Majid Arif, Pajhwok Afghan News, 1 Jan 07
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Tired of long-standing land dispute with local tribes, Kuchi nomads in the southeastern Khost province have asked the government and the United Nations to solve their problem or find residence for them in other countries.  On Saturday, Kuchi representatives said 10 of their men were killed, 15 were wounded and nine were taken hostage in clashes with Babakarkhel tribe over a desert surrounded by mounts in Baak district. The dispute has claimed 30 lives so far from both the sides.  Haji Nader Khan, a Kuchi elder, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Monday they convened a meeting today in Sabrai district to ask President Hamid Karzai and the UN to solve their land problem or send them abroad ....

 

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Articles found 3 January 2006

Good morning AfghanistanCanadian radio to hit airwaves in Kandahar
By CP January 3, 2007  KANDAHAR, Afghanistan
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The Canadian military will begin radio broadcasts in Kandahar this week, but forget about comparisons with the movie Good Morning Vietnam.

In the movie, actor Robin Williams played an irreverent disc jockey with American armed forces radio who used his unorthodox style to boost morale among American troops.

Canada’s RANA-FM, on the other hand, will specifically target Afghan residents, primarily those between the ages of 15 and 25.

“(We) want to give them pretty much a progressive station that plays a lot of music and promotes the Afghan way of life,” said Capt. Robin Thibault, 32, of Montreal.

“It allows us to demystify what we’re trying to do and accomplish in their area and help us to explain to people, better, who we are.”

The station, 88.5 on the radio dial, is scheduled to hit the airwaves Jan. 6 and will also provide the commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, a means to talk to the people of Kandahar, although officials insist the station will not be a propaganda tool.

It will play mostly Bollywood and modern Afghan music and would be considered “on the edge” by Afghan standards. And in a bit of a twist, the radio station itself is located in an unidentified city in Canada.

“We have Canadian-Afghan presenters, mostly true-Pashto speakers so they’ll be recognizable to the people of Kandahar city,” he said.

“We’re located in Canada but linked into Afghanistan by satellite and basically we just rebroadcast the transmission,” said Thibault.

The station will also provide public affairs programming dealing with international sporting events and include features on Afghans living in other countries. Basing the radio station in Canada is simply part of security measures.

“The station is safe back home. It’s because of the security threat that we’re facing right now. The reason we didn’t have the station here to begin with is because of the security aspect,” said Thibault, who notes BBC Pashto already broadcasts into Afghanistan from London along with Voice of America, which comes from Washington, D.C.

“As you know, I think it was in April or May that an interpreters’ bus was blown up on the way to Kandahar Airfield and that’s what we’re trying to prevent,” he said.

The 300-watt radio station will have limited reach by Canadian standards but should be strong enough to hit all of Kandahar city since it is “half the size of west island of Montreal but with a greater populace.”

The call letters, RANA, is a Pashtun-Dari word that means light.

“Our slogan is `Light in your life,’” he said.

“We want to be a factual, unbiased radio station so we need to be credible, ... we cannot be western or push western views or values,” Thibault said.

If the commander of the Canadian task force wants to address the people of Kandahar, it would be part of public affairs programming and with the use of a translator.

RANA-FM is not competing with any local radio stations and will not sell advertisements, aiming instead for a target audience that nobody else has hit before.

But by offering what the military calls progressive messages, modern music and a pipeline for the Canadian views, it is bound to attract the attention of the Taliban. And that is something Thibault acknowledges.

“Once the people start to take sides and the Taliban realize people are not taking their side then chances are the Taliban are going to be very upset by what we’re trying to do,” he said.
End


Lives riding on wheels of war
TheStar.com - News - Lives riding on wheels of war
Canadians learn to trust the vehicles that keep them moving through hostile territory
Oakland Ross Toronto Star
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan–It was a day of good luck and bad for Master Cpl. Andy Singh.

The 30-year-old soldier from Toronto was in his customary place – peering out at the passing Afghan countryside from the rooftop hatch of a Bison armoured personnel carrier. As usual, he was armed with a C8 automatic rifle.

Singh's Bison was in second-to-last position in a 10-vehicle supply convoy that had just left Ma'sum Ghar, a satellite Canadian military base here in the far south of Afghanistan.

It was early in the afternoon of Nov. 28, and the convoy was bound for Kandahar Airfield, the main staging area in the region for a NATO-led multi-national military force – including some 2,500 Canadians – fighting alongside the Afghan National Army against the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban.

Singh had made the jittery, two-hour trip many times. But on this occasion, the journey would be different.

The Canadian troops here – or those among them who are obliged to take their lives into their hands by venturing "outside the wire," or off the main base at Kandahar Airfield – are likely to ride in four main types of vehicles.

All four machines are armed and armoured to varying degrees, and serve somewhat different purposes.

But it's risky travelling by road through southern Afghanistan, no matter what transport you have. The Canadians know it.

"When I first got here, I had that queasy feeling, of car sickness almost," says Master Cpl. Kellie Smith who, like Singh, is a Bison crew commander. "I feel apprehensive to this day."

The Bison, built by General Motors in London, Ont., is primarily a personnel carrier, a machine designed for moving people across hostile territory. And although technically amphibious, the Bisons operated by the Canadians Forces are rarely asked to demonstrate their seaworthiness any longer.

Capable of transporting up to eight passengers comfortably, Bisons also carry a two-person crew – the driver, who must peer through periscopes to see the way ahead, and the gunner, who's also the vehicle's commander and in a particularly vulnerable position, poking above the hatch in the roof.

"You are exposed," says Smith. "Anything suspicious, you get down low."

And nothing is more perilous than the prospect of an SVBIED – a suicide-vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.

Singh's convoy hadn't travelled far that November day before it confronted an oncoming black Toyota station wagon with a single occupant. That last detail – one car, one occupant – is a dead giveaway here. It's the hallmark of a car-borne bomb.

"The first vehicle called it up on the radio," Singh says now. "`Single occupant. Left-hand side.' We moved over to the right. I had my weapons on him. He had his head down."

Convoy vehicles currently in use by Canadian forces differ in their abilities to withstand various kinds of explosions, but embedded reporters are instructed not to reveal such details, as they might jeopardize troop security.

Suffice it to say that if you had to travel from Ma'sum Ghar to Kandahar by road, a Bison might not be your first choice, but it would also be a long way from your last.

"Bisons have been with the military for a long time," says Smith. "It's an excellent mode of transportation."

Perhaps the most potent and physically intimidating of Canadian vehicles in use here is the LAV-III, which resembles the Bison but is faster and more heavily armed. With a 25-mm cannon mounted on its turret, it is primarily a combat vehicle.

If a bomb went off nearby, says Smith, "I'd rather be in a LAV."

That day, however, Singh was in a Bison when the black Toyota passed with its lone occupant.

"He just looked up at me," remembers Singh. "Pop
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DND pushes quick plane deal
DANIEL LEBLANC  Globe and Mail Update
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OTTAWA — The Canadian Forces are preparing to spend billions of dollars buying search-and-rescue aircraft through a process that has excluded all but one bid.

The Italian-built Spartan C27J aircraft has been pegged by sources as the only aircraft ready for purchase to replace the Buffalo and Hercules aircraft that currently cover Canada's forests, mountains and coastline.

The old Liberal government announced funding in 2004 for new fixed-wing aircraft and the Department of National Defence is moving to launch the formal process to acquire the aircraft, which were due to be in service by last year.

A DND document obtained by The Globe and Mail confirmed that only one aircraft is being considered as a “viable bidder” for the search-and-rescue contract. The project is worth about $3-billion, including the maintenance of the aircraft over 20 years.

Defence contracts are among the most lucrative deals the government signs, and if the Spartan is bought, it will illustrate a growing government habit of signing multibillion-dollar deals without accepting competing bids.

Last year, Ottawa purchased 16 Chinook helicopters for $2.7-billion, four C17 cargo airplanes for $3.4-billion, and 17 C130J Hercules transport planes for $5-billion. In all these cases, only the winning bid was considered.

In the upcoming search-and-rescue competition, the builders of a rival aircraft, the Spanish C295, are engaged in intense lobbying in Ottawa to change the requirements in the hope of qualifying for the competition.

Their plane is used in a number of countries for search-and-rescue operations, but it cannot meet the current requirements established by the Canadian Forces. The company is frustrated that it has even been prevented from showing its C295 to Defence officials.

“We're interested in a fair, open and transparent competition,” said Martin Sefzig of EADS-CASA, the company behind the C295
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New Croatian contingent to join ISAF mission in Afghanistan
January 03, 2007         
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A new 69-strong Croatian contingent would fly to Afghanistan in 10 days to join the NATO- led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said reports from Croatia on Tuesday.

The send-off ceremony was held in the military barracks in the Croatian northern city of Varazdin for the contingent, the Croatian news agency HINA reported.

"Our soldiers are successful in that job, many of them have experience from the war and they are among those with the best equipment. Thanks to their ability and the know-how there have been no serious consequences so far," said General Josip Lucic, envoy of Croatian President Stjepan Mesic.

The task of the Croatian troops in Afghanistan was to maintain peace in that country, said Lucic, who is the chief-of-staff of the Croatian Armed Forces.

Assistant Defense Minister Igor Pokaz said that currently 147 Croatians were deployed in three areas of Afghanistan, and his country was planning to raise the number to more than 200.

Under the 2001 Bonn Treaty, the ISAF is deployed to help the Afghan government to create safe conditions for the reconstruction of the war-torn Asian country. Croatian contingents have been engaged in ISAF since February 2003. Apart from the military component, Croatian diplomats and police officers also joined the mission in January 2005.

Source: Xinhua
End

Arizona Army National Guard Battalion Heads to Afghanistan
Jan 3, 2007 03:17 AM CST by J.D. Wallace, KOLD News 13 Reporter
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The military band said it in music and handmade posters put it into words: a farewell send off for the Arizona Army National Guard's 1st battalion of the 285th aviation regiment as it left for Afghanistan on Tuesday.

"They want to get their boots on the ground, they want to get some dirt on their boots, and start the clock ticking on their one year," said Maj. Gen. David Rataczak.

That year will be spent year flying and maintaining 24 Apache Longbow helicopters to support troops on the ground and provide cover for other aircraft.

"It's kind of like a 9-1-1 mission if you will.  We go in and help the ground guys as much as we can," said Chief Warrant Officer Dennis Banks.

It will be the first mission overseas for many of the more than 450 soldiers.

"I'm surprisingly excited to go do it, get it out of the way, come back and just pick up where I left off," said Spc. Geneve Mankel.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to help the Afghani people and support the United States," Sgt. 1st Class Russell Vanvranken.

"It's the first time we've been apart that long, and it will be difficult.  But I'm proud of him and I stand behind him, beside him, and if I could I'd be in front of him," said his wife Linda.

Even those who've been through this before say that previous experience doesn't make this any easier.

"It's a lot harder this time.  I have a two year old son here, Jonnie, so that made it quite more difficult this time," said Command Sgt. Maj. Patrick Powers.

"Our son will be three by the time he comes back and that's a whole year during the potty training and all that stuff and I'm going to have to do it alone," said his wife Stephanie.

Of course, "sacrifice" isn't a four letter word, and that couldn't have been clearer here at Pinal Air Park on Tuesday.
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Militants kill police officer in W. Afghanistan 
January 03, 2007         
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Anti-government militias killed a police officer in Khak-e-Safid district in Afghanistan's western Farah province, spokesman of Afghan Interior Ministry Zamarai Bashari said Tuesday.

"The militants, after raiding Khak-e-Safid district, took away an officer of police in the district. Unfortunately, his body was found Monday,"Bashari told Xinhua.

However, he refused to identify the name and rank of the police officer.

Meantime, locals identify the deceased as Abdullah, the police chief of Khak-e-Safid district. They said Taliban militants took away Abdullah and killed him in Khushkaba area.

Militants briefly captured Khak-e-Safid district Sunday night and the government troops regained its control Monday morning.

Taliban-linked insurgency had claimed the lives of nearly 4,000 people mostly militants according to officials in 2006 while U.S. military predicts more militants attack in 2007.

Source: Xinhua
End

Pakistani Prime Minister to Visit Afghanistan
By VOA News 02 January 2007
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Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is expected to visit Afghanistan this week in an effort to mend strained relations between the neighboring countries.

Officials say Mr. Aziz will hold talks with several Afghan authorities in the capital, Kabul. The leaders are likely to discuss security issues following accusations by Afghanistan that Islamabad is not doing enough to prevent attacks by suspected Taleban fighters.

Mr. Aziz is also expected to discuss a recent Pakistani proposal to mine and fence selected parts ot the border to cut back on cross-border terrorism.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has denounced the plan. He says it would have little impact on deadly cross-border raids, but would seriously disrupt local communities.

Pakistan says the mines would only be planted on its side of the 25,00 kilometer long border.
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AFGHANISTAN: FORMER KING ILL
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Kabul, 2 Jan (AKI) - The former king of Afghanistan, Mohammad Zahir Shah, is ill, said a spokesperson for the king's family on Tuesday. Reports quoting the spokesman, Fazl Ahmad Popal, said that the king is unable to hold any meetings as he is "under the care of doctors in bed." The former monarch, who lives in Kabul, holds no power but was given the honorary title of "Father of the Nation" when he returned to his home country in 2002 after the hardline Taliban regime was ousted. Zahir Shah, 92, had spent decades of exile in Italy.

The king's family spokesman, Popal, said the Zahir Shah had recently travelled to a Gulf country for a medical check-up.

Zahir Shah became king in 1933 after his father was assassinated by a deranged student. He was overthrow in a bloodless leftist coup led by a cousin in 1973.
End

Rebuilding Buddhas has become symbol in rebuilding Afghanistan
2007-01-02 By Peter Schurmann New America Media
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For more than a millennium Afghanistan's lush Pamir valley lay beneath the benevolent gaze of two colossal standing Buddhas, monuments to an efflorescent history of pilgrims and merchants, of religion and culture. In 2001, the statues were destroyed by the ruling Taliban, some say out of religious fanaticism, others as a political statement against the West. What's left are fragments of stone and wood strewn across the war-torn land like broken pieces of a once resplendent past.

The statues were built sometime in the 6th century as part of a larger Buddhist monastery, itself the center of a major religious and trading post on the Silk Road connecting Europe to the Tang Dynasty capital in China. Much of the area, as well as present-day Pakistan and parts of North India, belonged then to the rulers of the Kushan Empire, an Indo-European people ancestral to the present-day Pashtuns that inhabit the valley. The Kushan empire thrived from the wealth of culture and trade that flowed across the Silk Road.

Unlike today, Buddhism in the 6th century was also a major proselytizing faith, sending missionaries far and wide to convert rulers and thereby entire peoples to its doctrine. Kings and emperors alike saw in Buddhism a powerful tool to unite, and in many ways subjugate, a people to the royal will. The rulers of Kushan were no doubt of this mind, and the building of the mammoth stone Buddhas would serve as a testament to the spiritual and political power of the state. It was a project born of faith and politics, state and religion.

In 2001, when the Taliban set their rocket launchers on the still, serene faces of the two Buddhas, the world stood up in outrage, aghast at the callous and wanton destruction of such valuable treasures of ancient human history. For many, it was further proof of the inhumanity of Afghanistan's Islamic rulers.

Wanton, yes! Inhuman, maybe. One has to remember that in 2001 Afghanistan was experiencing a severe drought, with thousands suffering from starvation. In March of that year, the New York Times reported that in the midst of famine-like conditions, a foreign delegation had offered money to renovate the Bamyan statues, and had refused to allocate a portion to relieve hunger. Outraged, the Taliban's clerics sealed the fate of the Bamyan Buddhas. Or did they?

Since the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, a host of countries including Japan and Thailand have offered to rebuild the statues. Today teams of Afghans under the direction of a German architect and Italian engineers work to rebuild the two Buddhas. It strikes me as ironic since a century ago, it was Europeans who led in the looting of Afghanistan's cultural relics, bringing back the heads of stone and marble Buddhas to be put on display, a symbol of Europe's preeminence in all things, past and present. And yet it was exactly these stolen treasures that first introduced Westerners to the beauty and elegance of Afghanistan's Buddhist art. Which brings us back to Bamyan.

Bamyan's Buddhas stood in the midst of war, of oppression and religious fanaticism. Obscured by the dust and smoke of gunfire, they seemed a dim recollection of a more glorious period now far removed. One has to wonder, in light of this, what the symbolic significance of these two Buddhist statues can be for an Islamic country desperate to rebuild itself, and for the larger world which shares in a piece of the country's past and present. The destruction of these statues by the Taliban is certainly not the first time a government has attempted to erase history in order to create a new nation with a new ideology. And yet, as with the shards of the two Buddhas, history remains, broken but powerful.

An interesting feature of the two statues was their Greek influence, a reflection of the highly cosmopolitan world of the Silk Road. The statues were a blending of East and West. Today, as Europeans and Afghans work to reclaim the splendor of Bamyan piece by piece, painstakingly putting back together the fragments of a shattered past, perhaps the statues will symbolize a new Afghanistan, one that embraces a diverse and inspiring past, gazing, like the Buddha, at a more prosperous future. Copyright NAM
end

Heroin from Afghanistan surges through America
More potent drug resulting in more addictions, deaths
Garrett Therolf Los Angeles Times Jan. 1, 2007 12:00 AM
Article Link

LOS ANGELES - The amount of high-quality heroin throughout America is surging because of an increasing supply from Afghanistan, and with it the fear that record-breaking poppy harvests after the U.S. invasion are fueling more addictions and overdose deaths back home.

Heroin-related deaths in Los Angeles County soared from 137 in 2002 to 282 in 2004 before dropping to 239 in 2005, still a jump of nearly 75 percent in three years, a period when other factors contributing to overdose deaths remained unchanged, experts said.

The jump in deaths was especially prevalent among users older than 40, who lack the resilience to recover from an overdose of unexpectedly strong heroin, according to a study by the county's Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology. advertisement 

"The rise of heroin from Afghanistan is our biggest rising threat in the fight against narcotics," said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino. "We are seeing more seizures and more overdoses."

According to a Drug Enforcement Administration report obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Afghanistan's poppy fields have become the fastest-growing source of heroin in the United States. Its share of the U.S. market doubled from 7 percent in 2001, the year U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban, to 14 percent in 2004, the latest year studied.

Another DEA report, released in October, said the 14 percent actually could be significantly higher.
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Latest offensive in southern Afghanistan disrupting Taliban: Canadian general
Bill Graveland Canadian Press Wednesday, January 03, 2007
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - The latest and much heralded offensive in southern Afghanistan known as Operation Baaz Tuska has met its main goals despite NATO's inability to engage the Taliban in major combat, a top Canadian general said Tuesday.

Launched amid a great hue and cry more than two weeks ago, the offensive sent a powerful combat team of Canadian troops, tanks and armoured vehicles into the Panjwaii district near the village of Howz-e Madad.

Despite intelligence suggesting there were hundreds of Taliban in the area, there has been little contact with insurgent forces and no significant combat.

Still, Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, the commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said Tuesday that things were going well.

"Although Canadians have not been involved in close combat, at the end of the day, I'm very happy the objectives of Baaz Tsuka have been reached, that is we have disrupted the Taliban," Grant said.

"We have seen significant evidence that low-level Taliban have simply put down their weapons and run away," he said.

One of the goals of the offensive has been to convince so-called Tier-two Taliban - those that NATO claims fight simply for the relatively good pay being offered by the rebels - to disarm and go back to their villages. That would leave the ideologically committed hardliners, known as Tier-one, on their own.

Grant suggested that the number of hardliners was "in the dozens as opposed to the hundreds," and explained the lack of contact by saying many may have returned to Pakistan.
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Too many civilians killed by NATO in Afghanistan in 2006, official says
The Associated Press Wednesday, January 3, 2007 KABUL, Afghanistan
Article Link

NATO acknowledged Wednesday that the number of civilians killed by its forces in Afghanistan last year was too high, but said the Western alliance was working to change that in 2007.

"The single thing that we have done wrong and we are striving extremely hard to improve on (in 2007) is killing innocent civilians," Brig. Richard E. Nugee, the chief spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said.

Nugee said the alliance has been reviewing for several weeks measures to bring down the number of civilian casualties.

However, he said NATO forces have killed far fewer civilians than the Taliban, which launched a record number of roadside and suicide bombs last year.

"There is absolutely no comparison to be made," he said. "The Taliban are killing significant numbers of their own people and showing no remorse at all."
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What’s next in Afghanistan?
Canadian forces need new mission that focuses more on peacekeeping, two MPs state

Vern Faulkner, Oak Bay News (BC), 3 Jan 07
Article Link

The mission in Afghanistan will fail if changes aren’t made, and adding more troops will solve nothing.  So say former Soviet military commanders, peace activists in Afghanistan and two of three Capital Region MPs.  Last year was a gruesome one for Canadian forces serving with the NATO alliance in Afghanistan, with 36 soldiers slain (as of Dec. 28) and many more injured. Casualties increase as hope of success diminishes, according to a report delivered to the NATO by Col. Oleg Kulakov, a Russian officer and veteran of the former Soviet Union’s 10–year occupation of Afghanistan.  Alliance forces there must understand, said Kulakov in his report, that “battlefield victory can be almost irrelevant.”  Innumerable Soviet military victories did not, he said, lead to an overall victory in Afghanistan.  “Achievements at the battalion and brigade level could not be translated into a general political success,” he wrote ....



Aid ineffective due to corruption: MP
Warlords siphon Western aid, stall redevelopment

Vern Faulkner, Esquimalt News, 3 Jan 07
Article Link

Aid – both resources and money – is vital to effect change in Afghanistan, NDP MLA Denise Savoie (Victoria) said.  Yet what little money going to Afghanistan is largely pocketed by a corrupt regime and warlords, charged Zoya, a representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan – a group trying to secure peace and women’s rights in the war-torn country.  In October, Zoya told a gathering in Los Angeles that “democracy cannot be practised in a country infected by the germ of fundamentalist terrorism ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Afghan, NATO troops kill 11 militants in southern Afghanistan
People's Daily Online (CHN), 4 Jan 07
Article Link

Afghan and NATO forces have killed 11 militants including a Taliban key commander in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, provincial police chief Mohammad Nabi Mullahkhil said Wednesday.  "In a joint clean up operation conducted by Afghan and NATO forces in Kajaki district of Helmand province three days ago, so far 11 Taliban insurgents including Mullah Maroof have been killed, " Mullahkhil told Xinhua.  Mullah Maroof was a senior commander of Taliban militias in the restive Helmand province, he added.  Taliban militants have yet to make any comment .....



Army retakes control of district from Taliban
Pak Tribune (PAK), 4 Jan 07
Article Link

Taliban militants have stepped up their activities in Khak-e-Sufaid district of Farah Province.  Bakhtar News Agency quoted a Defence Ministry statement as having said that enemies of people attacked Khak-e-Sufaid district on Sunday evening and captured it for a short while.  The militants disrupted the normal life in the district, killing innocent people and burning property during their short siege ....



Special deals and raw recruits employed to halt the Taliban in embattled Helmand
Fight for hearts and minds leads to unproven tactics and new local leadership

Declan Walsh, The Guardian (UK), 4 Jan 07
Article Link

Sayed Lal has few reasons to love the British. A Nato bomb ripped through his house during a bruising battle with the Taliban, he said.  Eleven relatives - sisters, brothers, nephews and nieces - were killed. "Why did the British need to do this?" said Lal, a 24-year-old with a beard and blazing green eyes.  Unlikely as it may seem, Lal is a key player in a controversial British scheme for a lasting peace in a corner of Helmand. Last October British generals agreed to a peace pact in Musa Qala, a small but strategic district centre in northern Helmand, that ended months of fighting.  Under the terms of the deal, which was negotiated by the provincial governor, British troops and Taliban fighters withdrew from the town. In return local elders were to provide tribesmen for a new police force that would secure the town and keep the Taliban at bay ....




NATO downplays Taliban threat in Afghanistan

People's Daily Online (CHN), 4 Jan 07
Article Link

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Wednesday downplayed Taliban's threat to step up attack on foreign forces in Afghanistan.  Mullah Dadullah, a key commander of Taliban in south Afghanistan and a close aide to Taliban's leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, vowed recently that the hard-line militants would intensify their attacks against Afghan and foreign forces stationed in the post-Taliban land this year.  He also warned that the year of 2007 would be the bloodiest year for foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.  "If you look at the past, Taliban's chief Mullah Omar in his Eid message suggested that he would make us retreat in shame and disgrace from the region. They achieved nothing and the violence has been reduced," spokesman of NATO forces here Richard Nugee told newsmen here ....



Aziz, Karzai to review all aspects of Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations: FO

Maria A Khan, Pakistan Times, 3 Jan 07
Article Link

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will review all aspects of Pakistan-Afghan bilateral relations during talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul on Thursday.  He is visiting Afghanistan on the invitation of President Karzai, Foreign Office spokesperson Ms. Tasneem Aslam told a weekly press briefing here on Wednesday.  “The relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is unique and the frequent interaction between leaders of two countries is hallmark of this relationship,” he said.  The Prime Minister said there have been many high level visits between the two countries.  The spokesperson said that President Karzai has made nine visits to Pakistan including the visit in March 2005 when he was chief guest at Pakistan Day function.  President Karzai’s last visit to Pakistan was in February 2006, she said and added that the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan have visited Afghanistan six times ....


Fencing, mining of border with Afghanistan started: Pak
Pak Tribune (PAK), 4 Jan 07
Article Link

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has started the process of fencing and mining the 2400 kilometer Pakistan -Afghan border and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz visit to Afghanistan would focus on how to overcome challenges faced by the two countries.  Foreign office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said while giving weekly press briefing here on Wednesday ....



Saving Afghanistan
Barnett R. Rubin, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2007
Article Link - Blog review

Summary:  With the Taliban resurgent, reconstruction faltering, and opium poppy cultivation at an all-time high, Afghanistan is at risk of collapsing into chaos. If Washington wants to save the international effort there, it must increase its commitment to the area and rethink its strategy -- especially its approach to Pakistan, which continues to give sanctuary to insurgents on its tribal frontier.

Barnett R. Rubin is Director of Studies and a Senior Fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation and the author of The Fragmentation of Afghanistan. He served as an adviser to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General at the UN Talks on Afghanistan in Bonn in 2001.

 

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Articles found 4 January 2007


Roadside blast kills five Afghan security forces
Updated Thu. Jan. 4 2007 6:37 AM ET Associated Press
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- A roadside bomb killed five Afghan security forces and wounded four as they patrolled with NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, an army chief said Thursday.

The blast happened in Uruzgan province on Wednesday evening, said regional Afghan army commander Gen. Rehmatullah Raufi. He blamed Taliban militants.

The explosion wrecked a vehicle carrying Afghan forces and no NATO troops were hurt, he said.

In a text message to an Associated Press reporter, purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said its militants had launched the attack using a remote-controlled landmine.

Militant supporters of the Taliban have recently stepped up attacks on Afghan and western forces, sparking the bloodiest fighting since the fall of the hardline regime five years ago.
End

In-laws savage Pakistani groom
TheStar.com - News - In-laws savage Pakistani groom
Claim marriage without their okay caused `dishonour'
Khalid Tanveer Toronto Star
Article Link

MULTAN, Pakistan–Outraged in-laws slashed the nose and ears of a college student who married a woman without the consent of her higher-caste family, and then fractured his legs with blows from an axe, police and the victim said yesterday.

Mohammed Iqbal told The Associated Press about 30 male relatives of his wife stormed into his mother's village home during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, demanding vengeance since the marriage brought "dishonour" on their family.

Iqbal, 22, speaking from his hospital bed, said the attackers chanted, "You have mixed our honour with dirt," as they assaulted him with a dagger and axe on Monday night. They also slit his brother's ears and shot his mother in the thigh, he said.

Police officer Manzoor Ahmed in the city of Multan, where the three victims are recuperating, said seven men suspected of involvement in the attack in the village of Inayatpur Mahota have been arrested. Police were hunting for 22 other suspects.

Iqbal's wife, Shahnaz Bibi, 19, has stayed in another town after an assault against Iqbal two months ago at the end of the holy month of Ramadan in which he suffered broken fingers.

Iqbal said the two did nothing wrong when they wed last year. Islam, he said, "gives us permission to marry out of our own choice."

He said the couple, who have an infant daughter, fell in love after they met in a mango orchard where he used to buy fruit from Bibi's father. Her family, considered to be a higher caste clan of land owners, was against the union.


In deeply conservative rural areas in Pakistan, many men consider it an insult if their female relatives marry without their consent. Killing or attacking women and their partners in such cases is thought to restore family honour.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, citing government figures, reported last year that 1,000 women die annually in honour killings
End

The Law Catches Up To Private Militaries, Embeds
Article Link

Since the start of the Iraq war, tens of thousands of heavily-armed military contractors have been roaming the country -- without any law, or any court to control them. That may be about to change, Brookings Institution Senior Fellow P.W. Singer notes in a Defense Tech exclusive. Five words, slipped into a Pentagon budget bill, could make all the difference. With them, "contractors 'get out of jail free' cards may have been torn to shreds," he writes. They're now subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the same set of laws that governs soldiers. But here's the catch: embedded reporters are now under those regulations, too.

Over the last few years, tales of private military contractors run amuck in Iraq -- from the CACI interrogators at Abu Ghraib to the Aegis company's Elvis-themed internet "trophy video" —- have continually popped up in the headlines. Unfortunately, when it came to actually doing something about these episodes of Outsourcing Gone Wild, Hollywood took more action than Washington. The TV series Law and Order punished fictional contractor crimes, while our courts ignored the actual ones. Leonardo Dicaprio acted in a movie featuring the private military industry, while our government enacted no actual policy on it. But those carefree days of military contractors romping across the hills and dales of the Iraqi countryside, without legal status or accountability, may be over. The Congress has struck back.
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Catching up with The Kite Runner
Finding a place to shoot epic about Afghanistan wasn’t easy but then it became clear — China was the spot
By HOWARD FRENCH The New York Times
Article Link

KASHGAR, China — The sun is setting fast and early over Yarbeshe, a hillside neighbourhood of crumbling brick houses, dark alleys and a creaky wooden drawbridge that sways uneasily over a stream in this fabled gateway city that links far western China to the recesses of central Asia.

It is early November, and one can already feel winter arriving. You would know it instantly by looking at the director Marc Forster, who is bundled in a parka as he paces the chilly interior of a smart two-storey villa built specially for his film in one of the poorer parts of town.

But winter is not arriving fast enough for the demands of this evening’s scene, which is set in Kabul, Afghanistan. So a crew on the villa’s rooftop busies itself operating an artificial snow machine that blows out a respectably thick simulacrum. The lights go on, and for the next few hours — indeed long into the night — the cameras roll.

There are many challenges involved in turning a runaway best-selling novel into a Hollywood film. But when the novel is largely set in Afghanistan, and ranges widely over that country, which after Iraq is perhaps the second most dangerous place in the world for Americans, making snow is the least of the filmmakers’ problems.

Khaled Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner, has the added complication of being an epic, once a staple of big-budget Hollywood productions but nowadays an increasingly lost art. The story, about the doomed friendship between two Afghan boys, sprawls over generations, and roams well beyond Kabul, notably to parts of Pakistan and to San Francisco, where Afghan exiles live bound and haunted by a common sense of loss.
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Microfinance in Afghanistan
03 Jan 2007
Article Link

Introduction

Mercy Corps has continuously been working in Afghanistan since 1986. In recent years, the agency has assisted two and a half million Afghans with programs to help rehabilitate lives and livelihoods after decades of conflict, political instability and a multi-year drought.

To date, Mercy Corps has completed over 50 programs throughout Afghanistan's urban and rural areas. These programs focus on agricultural and economic development to empower citizens, and initiatives that provide access to services and opportunities for marginalized Afghans.

As the country struggles to move toward a brighter future, Mercy Corps programs strive to ensure that Afghans at the household, community and institutional level are able to build sustainable livelihoods and productive communities in an environment in which the government is accountable to the people.

This series highlights the Ariana microfinance program started in Kabul City in May of 2003. Ariana Financial Service Group provides fair priced savings and loan products to poor clients to help increase their incomes, expand their businesses and improve their quality of life.

Since the program inception, Ariana has supported nearly 17,000 clients with a total of over three million US dollars in loans. 82% of Ariana's clients are women, who represent one of the most vulnerable social groups in Afghanistan. Ariana's clients run micro-enterprises in all areas of Afghan life; i.e. weaving, carpentry, tailoring, hair dressing, food processing, florists, kite production, knitting, leather working or animal husbandry. Ariana has received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and from MISFA (Microfinance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan).
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Small Loans Make a Big Difference
BY SHIRINE PONT | January 3, 2007
Article Link

Five years after September 11th, 2001 the challenges Afghanistan faces remain formidable.

After decades of destruction, drought and under-investment, poverty is wide spread and deeply entrenched. 70% of Afghans live on less than 2 USD a day and the average income per year lies at about 300 USD . Sustained economic growth is necessary to address this great level of poverty and to provide Afghan people with a better, and more secure future.

Achieving economic growth for the poorest of the poor in Afghanistan is not easy. Most Afghans make a living with small-scale agriculture or with informal family-owned micro enterprises engaged in trading or basic services. They have few ways of accessing the capital necessary to start a business or expand it. The banking system in Afghanistan has been slow to establish itself since 2001, and remains heavily concentrated in Kabul and larger cities. Even if Afghans have access to a bank, most of them are too poor to qualify for conventional bank loans.
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AFGHANISTAN: MULLAH OMAR THREATENS TO INTENSIFY WAR, RULES OUT TALKS WITH GOVT.
Peshawar, 4 Jan. (AKI/DAWN)
Article Link

The reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has said he will never hold negotiations with the US-backed Karzai government in Afghanistan and warned that "the war" will be escalated to such an extent that foreign troops are compelled to leave the strife-torn country and institutions established by them are dismantled.

"Foreign troops should at once leave Afghanistan and then the institutions they created should be dismantled. Unless this happens, war will heat up further. It will not recede," the Taliban supreme leader said in response to written questions sent to him through his media spokesperson.

In what his spokesperson said was his first interview with a Pakistani newspaper since the puritanical militia were driven from power in 2001, Mullah Omar also responded to criticism of the hard-line Taliban rule, his stated aversion to negotiations with the Karzai government, provision of shelter to -- and subsequent refusal to hand over – Osama bin Laden to the United States, a clampdown on girls education, his whereabouts and alleged support from Pakistan.

Careful not to criticise Pakistan's policy vis-a-vis the Taliban, Mullah Omar also denied that the Taliban resurgence was a Pashtun uprising.

He made a distinction between the ultimate goals of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. According to him, jihad is the goal of the former. And, he said, the Taliban were determined to drive American troops out of Afghanistan. He said the Taliban never felt the need for a permanent relationship with al-Qaeda.
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- Edited 042211EST Jan 07 to add Rand Study material -

Soldier’s parents say faith keeps them strong while son fights Taliban
Mary Riley, mykawartha.com, 4 Jan 07
Article Link

Within five days of arriving in Afghanistan for his first tour of duty last August, Corporal Robert Hepburn’s military base was attacked twice.  The next time his parents saw him, it was on television.  “He was helping to carry his buddy’s casket,” said his mother.  Lee McInnis and her husband, Randy, are part of a unique and special group - the parents of soldiers fighting the war against the Taliban.  “Rob always wanted to be in the military,” his mother said. “I wanted him to have his dream.”  But, I never really thought he’d actually end up fighting a war. I thought it would be a good life: a good education, a career, a chance to travel.”  “This is real.”  Cpl. Hepburn, 24, has been serving with his regiment since 1999. Now a gunner with the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, his military career began as an army cadet in Lindsay ....



Operation Baaz Tsuka yields weapons cache
ISAF news release # 2007-013, 4 Jan 07
Article Link

During joint security patrols in support of Operation Baaz Tsuka yesterday, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and ISAF forces discovered a large weapons cache in Panjawayi district.  The weapons cache consisted of 20 boxes of 14.5-mm linked ammunition, 10 82-mm recoilless rifle rounds, 20 107-mm rocket fuses and 40 82-mm mortar fuses. An assortment of hand grenades were discovered at the bottom of a well in a village approximately two kilometres east of Talukan.  The weapons cache will be transported to an ISAF base and be disposed of.  “This is another example of Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF working together during Operation Baaz Tsuka to provide long term security for the people of Afghanistan,” said Sqn. Ldr. Dave Marsh, Regional Command South spokesman. “Any day a large weapons cache is found and disposed of appropriately is a benefit to everyone.”



More News on CAN in AFG here



Cdn wheelchairs delivered to help Afghan civilians
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 4 Jan 07
Article Link

It's a scene that's becoming more common: a Canadian politician arriving to bring humanitarian aid and a photo opportunity is arranged to record the event.  The gift this time was something desperately needed in this country torn by war and littered with landmines - a donation of 560 wheelchairs.  It is common to see Afghan people of all ages walking with crutches, having lost a leg after stepping on an improvised explosive device. There are thousands of undetected landmines in Afghanistan, many dating back to the 10-year war against the Soviets that ended in 1989 ....



ISAF forces deliver military assistance to two villages in Panjawayi District
ISAF news release # 2007-010, 4 Jan 07
Article Link

Yesterday, ISAF forces, including a French Civil Military Co-operation (CIMIC) Team from Regional Command Central, conducted military assistance operations in two village in the Panjawayi district as part of Operation Baaz Tsuka.  ISAF conducted two shuras with local elders within the two respective villages to discuss concerns and security related issues. Afterwards, soldiers donated food, blankets, school supplies and tools to approximately 100 families in order to help prepare them for winter.



Taliban Leader Promises More Afghan War
ISMAIL KHAN and CARLOTTA GALL, New York Times, 5 Jan 07
Article Link

In what appears to be the first exchange with a journalist since going into hiding five years ago, the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, said that he had not seen Al Qaeda’s chief, Osama bin Laden, in five years and that he would never negotiate with the United States-backed government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. He also threatened to continue the war until foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.  The statements were made in written response to questions sent by e-mail to the Taliban spokesman, Mr. Muhammad Hanif, who often speaks to journalists by telephone from an undisclosed location. Mr. Hanif said that Mullah Omar had written the replies himself and that a courier had returned the answers on a USB computer drive ....



Taliban chief says hasn't seen Laden
Associated Press, via China Daily.com.cn, 5 Jan 07
Article Link

Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar said he has not seen Osama bin Laden since the hard-line Afghan militia lost power five years ago, a newspaper reported Thursday.  Omar also said the Taliban and al-Qaida still share the joint goal of driving US forces out of Afghanistan, a newspaper reported Thursday. The authenticity of the comments, reported by Pakistan's influential Dawn daily, could not be confirmed. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who often speaks for the Taliban, told The Associated Press that the remarks were from the militia but did not come directly from Omar.  Dawn described it as Omar's first interview with a Pakistani newspaper since his fall from power in late 2001, saying that he had answered written questions conveyed by e-mail through another of his spokesmen.  Omar's whereabouts have been a mystery since he went into hiding after the Taliban was toppled in a US-led invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks ....



NATO correct to recognize Afghans killed, now must provide families with aid
Humanitarian organization calls for immediate assistance to war victims

News release, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), 4 Jan 07
Link

Following yesterday’s acknowledgement by NATO that 2006 military operations killed too many civilians in Afghanistan, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) today called on the multinational force to go further to aid those civilians harmed.  “When innocent people are harmed by military operations and when President Karzai repeatedly pleas for the lives of his citizens, it is time for NATO to do the right thing,” said CIVIC’s executive director Sarah Holewinski.  “NATO must dignify the suffering of the Afghan people with aid to help them rebuild their lives.”  The Associated Press yesterday quoted Brig. Richard E. Nugee, chief spokesman for NATO forces in Afghanistan, as saying, "The single thing that we have done wrong and we are striving extremely hard to improve on (in 2007) is killing innocent civilians.” According to media reports, NATO forces have killed dozens of civilians last year as they battled the Taliban.  CIVIC noted NATO’s lack of any official program to help those civilians harmed in those operations. “NATO officials deserve credit for taking a critical look at their procedures and working to reduce civilian deaths,” said Holewinski. “Now, they must help where they’ve hurt.” ....



Pashtuns on both sides of Pak-Afghan border show opposition to fencing plan
Pajhwok Afghan News, 3 Jan 07
[http://www.pajhwok.com/viewstory.asp?lng=eng&id=29745]Article Link[/url]

Tribal elders and influential people on two sides of the Pak-Afghan border have warned they will take away any barriers installed on the joint border.  Pakistan has recently announced it will fence the joint border and plant mines along the 2,500 kilometers long border to put an end to accusations by the Afghan government of letting Taliban militants to cross the border and conduct attacks in Afghanistan.  The elders have warned they would destroy the fence and take out the mines if Pakistan goes ahead with the fencing and mining plan.  Residents on both sides of the border believe that Pakistan want to stamp the Durand Line as an official border line between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This, they say, will further separate the one community of Pashtuns who have already been divided.  Maulvi Abdul Rahim, an elder and religious scholar in Koot frontier district of Nangrahar considers Pakistans action a drama, saying that Pakistan want to trick the world with this action ....



Pak-Afghan talks in vain unless security improves: Karzai
Borhan Younus, Pajhwok Afghan News, 4 Jan 07
Article Link

President Hamid Karzai said Thursday negotiations and other efforts to enhance Pak-Afghan relations will go in vain if incidents like blasts and burning of schools continued in the future.  Talking to journalists after meeting Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in Kabul, Karzai said only serious and sincere cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan could bring peace to the region. He added Afghanistan's stance on important issues of the region, particularly the war on terror, regional security and relations with neighbors, was clear and that Afghans were now looking for Pakistan to meet its promises.  "We will see now, if torching schools, killing our religious scholars and explosions continue to happen, it means that the negotiations (with Pakistan) did not yield any result," President Karzai said in the joint press conference with Shaukat Aziz, who is visiting Kabul on a one-day official trip.  He said bilateral talks and meetings were aimed to eliminate extremism in both the countries ....


In the Borderlands
Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters use the Afghan-Pakistani border regions as a haven. Changing that situation will take more than either country realizes.

Jason Motlagh, American Prospect, 4 Jan 07
Article Link

On the heels of the bloodiest fighting season in Afghanistan since the Taliban was ousted by the U.S.-led Northern Alliance five years ago, Pakistani authorities signed a September truce with tribal elders in the semi-autonomous North Waziristan province. The reaction in the Western press was alarmingly muted, given that a resurgent Taliban and al-Qaeda militants are known to enjoy safe haven in that Pakistani region as well as other ethnic Pashtun areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border. But the opportunity to chastise arch-rival Pakistan was not lost on Afghan President Hamid Karzai ....



US urged to suspend aid to Pakistan security forces
Dawn (PAK), 4 Jan 07
Article Link

The United States should consider suspending financial aid to Pakistan's internal security forces because of their failure to respect human rights, a leading US think-tank said in a report on Wednesday.  The RAND Corp. study evaluated US assistance to security forces in Afghanistan, El Salvador, Uzbekistan and Pakistan since the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, examining whether police performance improved as well as human rights practices.  “The United States should significantly restructure or even withdraw its assistance to repressive regimes if their internal security agencies fail to improve transparency, human rights practices and overall effectiveness,” said Seth Jones, one of the lead authors of the study .....


RAND EVALUATES EFFORTS TO IMPROVE EFFECTIVENESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS PERFORMANCE OF INTERNAL SECURITY FORCES IN 4 NATIONS
Rand Corporation news release, 3 Jan 07
News Release - Access to full downloadable report

....  In a report looking at the four nations, researchers concluded that assistance to states transitioning from authoritarian to democratic systems – such as Afghanistan and El Salvador – has been more effective in improving their internal security forces than assistance to governments that remain repressive, such as Pakistan and Uzbekistan.  The report suggests that the United States should rethink the type and amount of assistance it provides Pakistan's law enforcement agencies.  Despite American assistance, the study found that Pakistani security forces continue to inflict “highly draconian punishments such as home demolition, the seizure of businesses, and the forfeiture of other properties and assets.”  “We found little evidence that the United States has paid very much attention to human rights issues in its programs of security assistance to Pakistan,” said Olga Oliker, one of the two lead authors of the study. “Moreover, there is little evidence of improvement in Pakistan's accountability and human rights practices over the last five years.”  ....

 

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Alexander gives us an invaluable asset
Peter Worthington, Sun Media, 5 Jan 07
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....  So what should Prime Minister Stephen Harper do?  By all means have a debate when Parliament reconvenes.  First, he should call upon Chris Alexander to deliver a speech to Parliament, and to talk to parliamentary committees and to subject himself to questions from the various political parties -- all open and attended by the media and the public.  Who is Chris Alexander, you might ask?  At 34, he was Canada's youngest ambassador to Afghanistan (2003-05) and is today the UN secretary general's deputy special representative in Afghanistan and arguably the most knowledgeable diplomat (if not foreigner) when it comes to understanding that unusual country.  Alexander was interviewed by CBC radio's Anna Maria Tremonti -- no slouch when it comes to foreign issues.  Alexander feels positively about Afghanistan's future, and says the opium poppy trade doesn't make farmers rich; that headway is being made to reduce that evil trade. Profits from Afghanistan's opium don't help the small producer, but those up the distribution line.  As for the resurgence of the Taliban, he feels they must be soundly beaten before peace and security reign. He says they are being beaten -- largely by Canadian forces who've gone after them in the field and have kicked the Taliban's ass ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Toy guns a concern to ISAF troops
ISAF news release # 2007-014, 4 Jan 07
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KABUL, Afghanistan (4 January) – ISAF troops are reporting an increase in the number of replica or toy guns being played with by children around military patrols which is concerning patrol commanders.

During the celebration of Eid, it would appear that many children have been given toy guns as presents. Playing with them and pointing them at patrolling ISAF troops is a dangerous practice, which could result in troops mistaking the replica weapons for real ones, and reacting to protect themselves.

“I would urge parents to ensure that their children do not play with toy guns around patrolling troops. Some of the toy guns are very life like and can easily be mistaken by troops as the real thing,” said Maj. Dominic Whyte, ISAF spokesman.

We advise all parents to educate their children in the dangers involved with playing with toy guns in public.


Kids with toy guns worry Afghan NATO force
Reuters (UK), 5 Jan 07
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NATO troops in Afghanistan have reported seeing lots of children with toy guns, apparently given as presents at a recent Muslim holiday, raising fears of an accident if troops mistook a toy for a real gun.  "We've had a lot of reports since Eid from troops on the ground of a lot of kids with toy guns," said a spokesman for the NATO force, Major Ian Clooney.  Muslims celebrated the Eid al-Adha festival at the weekend marking the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, when children traditionally get presents.  "This is being taken seriously," Clooney said. "We've tried to get the message out so parents can educate their children. We can't afford to let accidents happen." ....



And They Have a Plan
Strategypage.com, 5 Jan 07
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NATO commanders believe that the Taliban are planning a more aggressive operation in the Spring, using groups of up to a hundred men to attack small towns, especially local government headquarters. These towns often have only a dozen or so policemen, and some armed locals. Coming in at night, the Taliban can take over, get some propaganda videos, and have a chance of getting away before government or NATO reinforcements show up. The Taliban are fighting a media war, as they have no chance of winning a military victory at this point. The Taliban believe that, in the long run (years, a decade or more) they will win. After all, God is on their side. But in the meantime, the Taliban use terror to eliminate those who oppose them, or scare their Afghan opponents into silence ....



Karzai tells Pakistan's PM ties worsening
Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters, 4 Jan 07
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Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have deteriorated sharply over the past year, underscored by a lack of trust, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday.  Ties between the countries, major U.S. allies in the war against terrorism, have been hurt largely due to the help resurgent Taliban rebels get on the Pakistani side of the border, Karzai said after meeting Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.  "I explained ... about terrorism, about the burning of schools," Karzai told a news conference with Aziz in Kabul.  "And that, unfortunately, the gap in ties is increasing between Afghanistan and Pakistan ... It is with a lot of regret that relations face a lack of trust," he said ....


Pak, Afghan Differences Remain
Azhar Masood, Arab News (SAU), 5 Jan 07
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A one-day visit by Pakistan’s prime minister to Afghanistan failed to bridge differences between the neighbors over how to fight terrorism.  At a joint news conference in the Afghan capital yesterday, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan were clearly at odds over some fundamental issues affecting relations between the two countries.  Pakistan wants to lay mines and build a fence at parts of the Afghan-Pakistan border to keep terrorists from crossing over to Afghanistan. Afghanistan opposes the idea.  Aziz said fencing and mining the border had become imperative for Pakistan and for maintaining security of NATO and US soldiers operating in Afghanistan.  The prime minister also said Kabul should not object to the project as “we will build a secure fence and mine our own territory.” ....


Pakistan Premier Wants Afghan Refugees to Return Home
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, 5 Jan 07
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Pakistan’s prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, said Thursday that he wanted the three million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan to go home as one way to end the problem of insurgents using the country as a haven.  It is the first time Pakistan has been so blunt in demanding that the Afghans, to whom it has served as host for more than 20 years since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, leave.  Mr. Aziz arrived here for talks with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in an effort to smooth tensions between the neighbors, but after more than two hours Mr. Karzai acknowledged that relations were only growing worse.  “Unfortunately, the gulf in relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan is getting wider, and it is not getting narrower,” Mr. Karzai said after their meeting.  The two leaders emerged with no agreement on the main areas of contention, namely Pakistan’s plan to fence and mine the border, and Afghanistan’s project to convene two tribal gatherings, or jirgas, of national representatives from both countries, to try to foster peace between the countries ....

 

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Fifteen suspected Taliban killed in southern Afghan fighting, police say
 

Canadian Press


Friday, January 05, 2007



CREDIT: CanWest News Service/Shaughn Butts
Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant.

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - NATO and Afghan forces fought a three-hour ground battle with suspected Taliban militants in southern Afghan mountains, killing 15 of them, police said Friday.

No NATO or Afghan forces were hurt in Thursday's fighting in Helmand province's Kajaki district, said provincial police chief Ghulam Nabi Malakhel.

NATO could not immediately confirm the clash.

Malakhel said the troops recovered bodies of some militants, assault rifles, heavy machine guns and grenade launchers. A Taliban group commander, Mullah Azizullah, was among the dead, he said.

Also in Helmand, three suspected Taliban died when a land mine they were planting late Thursday on a highway in Grieshk district exploded prematurely, Malakhel said.

Militant supporters of the hardline Taliban regime ousted from power in late 2001 have stepped up attacks in southern Afghanistan this year, setting off the bloodiest violence in five years, that left about 4,000 people dead during 2006.

© The Canadian Press 2007
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=d0b30279-d46a-4a91-b44d-b3ec4f10c15b&k=60224
 

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Articles found 6th & 7th January, 2007


UK ’at odds with NATO allies’ in Afghanistan
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LONDON: Nato diplomats are alarmed that British policy in Afghanistan is seriously damaging Western efforts against the Taliban, according to a UK newspaper on Saturday.

The Daily Telegraph said it had been told by officials from the US and European members of NATO that Britain is increasingly at odds with its coalition partners over its policy of making arbitrary peace deals with the Taliban.

At the same time, the UK was declining to put pressure on Pakistan to stop providing sanctuary to the Taliban leadership," the diplomats in Kabul and Islamabad were also quoted saying.

The warnings also included that Britain’s "go it alone policies" were threatening military preparations for a major Taliban offensive expected next month.

Western officials have already been strongly critical of a peace deal in Musa Qala, Helmand, where thousands of British fought daily battles with a resurgent Taliban.

British commanders have insisted that the deal was struck with tribal elders, but it has been claimed that the agreement was actually made with the Taliban, who controlled the town.

Even though the truce is now reported to be breaking down with large numbers of heavily-armed Taliban returning to Musa Qala, Britain was said to be wanting more such deals, but the idea has been rejected by the US and some Nato allies.

Lt Gen David Richards, the British commander of the 32,000-strong NATO force in Afghanistan is being replaced next month by Lt Gen Dan MacNeil from the US, who according to the diplomats, is expected to cancel all such agreements.

Europe’s alarm was said to also relate to Britain’s close relations with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf at a time when NATO is trying to put pressure on the country to end sanctuary provided to Taliban by elements within Pakistan’s intelligence services.

The Telegraph said the issue is of critical importance in the next few weeks as the Taliban are expected to recruit thousands of men and collect armaments and other supplies for their spring offensive.

But Britain was reported to be resisting such pressure after Tony Blair lavished praise on Musharraf when he visited Islamabad last November.

The diplomats said the reason was because of the co-operation between the UK’s MI6 and Pakistan’s Interservices Intelligence (ISI) agency on Britain’s domestic terrorist threat from British- born extremists of Pakistani origin.

"Even though British troops in Helmand are facing attacks from Pakistan-based Taliban, London is willing to sacrifice that issue in exchange for getting ISI help on its home-based terrorist problems," one senior European official was quoted saying.
End


Exodus a warning of attack on Canadians
Sat Jan 6 2007 By Bill Graveland
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LACOOKHAL, Afghanistan -- The long line of vehicles heading north from the area around this tiny village in Panjwaii district was a dead giveaway that something was not right.
Two hours later, a barrage of rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars rained down upon Canadian and Afghan troops here, who had been going from compound to compound looking for the Taliban. On this day they found them.

"The locals knew something was up and that the Taliban were here," said Capt. Josh Major, 31, of Chelmsford, Ont. "They know what is going on," he added.

Major and other members of OMLT (Operational Mentoring Liason Team) had been on patrol with the Afghan National Army. After combing through a number of the vast mud compounds that dot this region came word that seven armed men had been spotted to the south.

As the troops moved further south, walking through the deep, dusty ditches of grape fields, the sound of a large explosion could be heard. Moments later, a plume of black smoke was on the horizon.

A series of rockets and rocket-propelled grenades whistled overhead, landing and exploding in a cloud of smoke and dust about 250 metres away. A mortar landed 50 metres away causing Canadian soldiers to duck for cover while their Afghan allies seemed undaunted by the noise and confusion. The deep, throaty rat-a-tat-tat of the machine-guns on the Afghan trucks replied after every salvo.    
"No problem. It's cool," said one Afghan soldier flashing a grin as he walked by, a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

The attack came to a standstill once air support was called in. Once the drone of the F-16 was heard overhead, the Taliban stopped firing and headed west on foot.

An air strike wasn't possible because there were still civilians in the area. But the plane flew low through the valley, firing off some flares in a show of force.

Operation Baaz Tsuka is in its third and final stage and is seeking to clear out pockets of Taliban in this region
End


MacKay makes surprise two-day Afghanistan visit
Updated Sun. Jan. 7 2007 9:25 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay is in Kabul, Afghanistan, on a surprise two-day visit to assess and highlight Canadian efforts in the country.

He paid an earlier visit to Afghanistan in May of last year.

MacKay met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday, then visited newly established vocational training institutes in Kabul.

During a teleconference from Kabul, MacKay said the purpose of his trip is to highlight progress that is being made in the country. He mentioned areas such as infrastructure, micro-credit projects for small businesses, wells being dug and the construction of new schools as tangible proof that efforts are moving ahead.

MacKay countered claims that Afghanistan is sliding into chaos, and said the opposite is happening. He argued that the military is playing a key role by providing a shield, but the centrepiece of the mission is the development work that is happenning around the country.

"There's a lot of on the ground advancement that is often overlooked," MacKay said.

"All this shows the Afghan people and the government have moved ahead considerably and the pace is only going to increase, in my opinion, as we're able to bring about greater stability."

During his one-hour meeting with Karzai, MacKay said he urged the president to focus on strengthening the Afghan National Army and police force.

He planned to meet with aid workers and Canadian troops during his visit, which he said was evidence of Canada's continued support for the work in Afghanistan.

CTV's Murray Oliver, reporting from Kandahar, said there is a close link between development in Afghanistan and a successful conclusion to the mission.
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Two babies, two women killed in roadside blast in eastern Afghanistan

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KABUL, Afghanistan In Afganistan, a roadside bombing has claimed family members of three generations.

An official says the explosion ripped through a vehicle in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing a woman, her two newborn babies and the children's grandmother.

The father of the twins and the vehicle's driver also were wounded in the blast.

The official says the twins were born on Saturday and the family was taking them back to their village.

It was not immediately clear why the vehicle was targeted. Militants usually use roadside bombs to attack Afghan and foreign troops on patrol.

Meanwhile, in southern Afghanistan today, two assailants on a motorbike gunned down a high school principal.

Taliban militants have warned teachers that they will be killed if they continue to work for the government of President Hamid Karzai (HAH'-mihd KAHR'-zeye). Some 20 teachers were killed in 2006.
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Canadian soldier wounded in Afghanistan attack
Updated Sat. Jan. 6 2007 12:12 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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A Canadian is among five NATO soldiers to be injured in two attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday.

The Canadian, whose identity has not yet been released, was wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near the soldier's convoy in southern Afghanistan, said CTV's Murray Oliver, reporting from Kandahar.

"What I can tell you is that a Canadian soldier has been wounded in a roadside bomb attack about three kilometres west of the town of Howz-e Madad. If that name sounds at all familiar it's because it was the objective of Canadian forces during the early stages of Operation Baaz Tsuka," Oliver told CTV Newsnet.

The town was taken easily by NATO forces during the campaign late last year, also known as Operation Falcon's Summit, without a shot being fired. Since then, however, the area around the town has become somewhat of a "hot zone," Oliver said.

On Friday about 20 Taliban members attacked Canadian and Afghan troops, and a 45 minute firefight ensued, with no Canadian casualties.

The Canadian soldier wounded on Saturday is a member of Quebec's Vandoos regiment.

"These were soldiers travelling in a convoy actually on a dirt track, not even on a highway, and these soldiers were in a Bison armoured vehicle which is one of the more heavily armoured vehicles in the Canadian Forces here, when this roadside bomb exploded and injured this fellow," Oliver said.

The soldier is being flown to Germany for treatment at the U.S. military hospital but is considered to be in stable condition, Oliver reported.

Four more injuries

Also on Saturday, in Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan, a suicide bomber drove his car into a NATO convoy, wounding four soldiers, said Mohammad Akram Akhpelwak, governor of the province.

It was a mixed convoy that included both NATO and Afghan forces, the governor said.

A NATO spokesman wouldn't confirm the number of soldiers injured, but did acknowledge the attack had occurred and that some soldiers were wounded.

The troops stationed in the Bermel region where the suicide bombing took place are mostly American.

The area borders Pakistan, and it is thought that militants often cross the border to launch attacks in Afghanistan, targeting Afghan and NATO troops.
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Overhauling our mission to Afghanistan
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OTTAWA: Prime Minister Harper’s Christmas message was, don’t expect any improvement on the ground in Afghanistan over the next year, and expect that our troops will be in the country longer than promised. This is not welcome news.

Indeed the territory controlled by the Taliban has increased. Support for the NATO mission within Afghanistan has decreased. President Karzai’s government is widely seen as corrupt. The insurgency coming from outside Afghanistan is increasing and becoming more violent.

The poorly paid and ill-trained Afghan police are resorting to thuggish tactics against their own people in order to survive and are seen to be as much of a problem on the ground as the Taliban.

The border with Pakistan is porous and arms shipments are flowing into the country unimpeded. The poppy crop, which fuels the Taliban and Al Qaeda, is larger now than ever and is these groups’ number one source of revenue. Previously quiet areas in the north and east are now seeing an upsurge in violence
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Canadian Forces Operations in Afghanistan - Why Are we There?
Backgrounder Canadian Forces Operations in Afghanistan
BG–07.009 - January 5, 2007
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Why are we there?
Canada is in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected government, along with 36 other nations, and as part of a UN-sanctioned mission to help build a stable, democratic, and self-sufficient society.

About 2500 members of the Canadian Forces (CF) are currently serving as part of Joint Task Force Afghanistan (JTF AFG). They play a key role in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission whose goal is to improve the security situation in Afghanistan and assist in rebuilding the country.
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Afghan mission 'doomed to fail'
Report says military action can't solve country's woes; more economic aid, help from Pakistan needed
Richard Foot, The Ottawa Citizen Saturday, January 06, 2007
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As Canadian soldiers traded fire with Taliban insurgents west of Kandahar yesterday, a new article in the prestigious international journal Foreign Affairs warned that Afghanistan is "sliding into chaos" and that the NATO-led coalition is doomed to fail without a dramatic change in strategy.

Author Barnett Rubin, a respected global authority on Afghanistan, says no amount of military sacrifice by NATO countries can produce dividends in Afghanistan without a substantial and co-ordinated infusion of economic aid and a willingness to dismantle Taliban command centres in Pakistan.

Mr. Rubin says fighting battles against the Taliban will achieve nothing in the long run unless the NATO coalition can solve the problems of Afghan poverty, corruption and meddling by Pakistan, Afghanistan's neighbour to the east.

"Even as Afghan and international forces have defeated insurgents in engagement after engagement," Mr. Rubin writes in the January/February issue of Foreign Affairs, "the weakness of the government and the reconstruction effort -- and the continued sanctuary provided to Taliban leaders in Pakistan -- has prevented real victory."

Mr. Rubin is a professor of political science at New York University. In 2001, he served as special adviser to the United Nations during the talks that led to the Bonn Agreement, which re-established the Afghan state following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

Begin Optional Cut

He travelled to Afghanistan four times in 2006, and was there last summer, when Canadian soldiers spearheaded a bloody campaign to rout Taliban forces in Panjwaii. Altogether, 36 Canadian soldiers died and nearly 100 were wounded in Afghanistan last year, mostly in fighting around Panjwaii.

End Optional Cut

In a telephone interview, Mr. Rubin praised the "sacrifices" of Canadian troops and of diplomat Glyn Berry, whom he met before Mr. Berry was killed by a Taliban bomb last year.

Mr. Rubin credits Canada's military for turning back "a frontal offensive by the Taliban" in Panjwaii last summer and for rescuing Afghanistan from what he considers "a tipping point."
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Dion crafting strategy for Afghanistan
By KATHLEEN HARRIS, NATIONAL BUREAU January 6, 2007
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OTTAWA -- Liberal Leader Stephane Dion is crafting a proposal to revamp Canada's mission in Afghanistan so it can lend military help to other hot spots around the world.

Dion said the current mission is off the rails, with the bulk of Afghanistan's economy based on the illegal poppy trade.

Details of his plan are still in the works, but he said it will rest between the "blinded" approach by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the "dishonourable" one of NDP Leader Jack Layton.

"If a state is not functional and half the economy is illicit ... no matter how many soldiers you have, whatever the money you put in, I think it will be mistaken," he said in an interview with Sun Media.

"You need to work with the world. If we are stuck in Afghanistan, we are unable to be as helpful as we may be elsewhere. So Canada will do its share, but our share as a partner of a problem that is beyond Afghanistan."

Dion recalled recent comments from Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, who insisted Canada's forces are too tapped out to fulfill any further deployments.

But despite dropping heavy criticism on Harper's leadership, Dion said he would not be "comfortable" toppling the Conservative government over the mission.

"To put this government out of a job ... and to start an election on Afghanistan is not a healthy situation," he said.

Dion accused Harper of "blackmailing" the MPs' vote on a two-year extension, a move that politicized the issue and polarized the nation.

The Liberal strategy will be to build a secure Afghanistan state so Canada can assist in other regions, like Somalia, Haiti and Lebanon.

Dion said he is also working on a proposal on Darfur.
End

'Kabul Express' banned in Afghanistan
Reuters Saturday, January 06, 2007  19:41 IST
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KABUL: Afghanistan has banned the Bollywood film 'Kabul Express' about journalists in the war-ravaged country because parts of it were deemed offensive to one of Afghanistan's ethnic minorities, a government official said on Saturday.    

'Kabul Express' charts a 48-hour journey by three journalists in post-Taliban Afghanistan. It opened to mixed reviews in India last month.    

"The film has some sentences which were very offensive towards one of Afghanistan's ethnicities, namely the Hazara," said Minister of Culture adviser Najib Manalai.    

"For this reason it has been banned."    

Hazara people are believed to make up about 10 per cent of the Afghan population. A Shi'ite Muslim minority, Hazaras are thought to be descended from remnants of Genghis Khan's invading army and have at times faced persecution.    

'Kabul Express' was filmed on location in 45 days under heavy security provided by the Afghan government. It was inspired by director Kabir Khan's numerous trips to the country after the Taliban regime was toppled in 2001.    

Some Indian critics called it a muddled political documentary while others welcomed its insights into post-Taliban Afghan society.    

Afghans involved in the film including the actors who uttered the sentences deemed offensive would be questioned by a prosecutor, Manalai said.    

The prosecutor would decide if further action would be taken. The producers of the film had apologised, he said.    

"Even if it's fiction, some phrases are hurtful to some people. It's playing with people's feelings and pride," he said.    

Very few people in Afghanistan have seen the film. Bootleg film sellers in the Afghan capital said authorities had confiscated their copies.
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Bombs target NATO convoys in Afghanistan, 5 troops wounded
Canadian Press Saturday, January 06, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A roadside bomb struck a NATO vehicle in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, wounding one soldier, while a suicide car bomber wounded four soldiers in the country's east, officials said.

The roadside bomb hit the NATO vehicle in Zhari district in Kandahar province, wounding one soldier, said Capt. Andre Salloum, a spokesman for the NATO-led force. He did not disclose the nationality of the wounded soldier.

A suicide bomber, meanwhile, plowed his car into a NATO convoy in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province on Friday, wounding four soldiers, said Mohammad Akram Akhpelwak, the province's governor.

The bomber struck the convoy, which also included Afghan security forces, in Bermel district, he said.

A NATO spokesman confirmed the blast and said some soldiers were wounded but he did not disclose the number. Most of the troops in that region are American.

The Bermel region borders Pakistan, and a U.S. base there sees frequent rocket attacks. Afghan and Western officials say that militants cross the border to launch attacks against Afghan and foreign troops in the country.
End

NATO-led soldiers wounded in attacks in Afghanistan
Article Link

KABUL: Bombings targeted at NATO troops in Afghanistan wounded a number of soldiers in the latest insurgency-linked unrest while gunmen shot dead an Afghan intelligence officer Saturday, officials said.

Winter has seen a scaling down in attacks linked to a Taliban-led insurgency, but there is still regular violence blamed on the militants who were driven from power in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

A suicide attacker exploded a bomb-filled car he was in near International Security Assistance Force soldiers in the eastern province of Paktika Friday, wounding a number of the troops, an ISAF spokesman said.

Major Dominic Whyte would not confirm the provincial governor's report that four of the soldiers were hurt.

"A number of ISAF soldiers were wounded," he said without being able to immediately provide more details. Governor Mohammad Akram Khepelwak said the attacker, who struck in the volatile Barmal district, detonated bombs in a pick-up truck as he approached an ISAF vehicle.

"Four NATO soldiers were slightly wounded. The attack took place close to an Afghan army military post," he said while talking to an international news agency.

In another attack on the NATO-led foreign soldiers, a roadside bomb exploded and struck an ISAF convoy on Saturday in the southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement in the early 1990s, a spokesman said.

One soldier was slightly wounded. The attack was in the Zahri area, not far from the city and was included in some of the most intense anti-Taliban action last year.

In the eastern province of Khost meanwhile an investigation chief in the provincial intelligence branch was shot dead on his way to work Saturday, the department's deputy director, Mirajan, said.

The officer, Mursal Mangal, was killed by gunmen on a motorbike, he said, adding that the motive appeared to have been criminal. Taliban-linked militants have been blamed for many similar assassinations.

The insurgency was its deadliest last year with 4,000 people said to have been killed in the violence, most of them insurgents.

The usual upsurge of violence in the spring in a few months time is expected to be at least as intense as it was last year.
end

Ariz. Bushmasters off to Afghanistan
Erin Zlomek The Arizona Republic Jan. 6, 2007 12:00 AM
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It has been 65 years since the Bushmasters shipped out to the Philippines during World War II, but the storied unit is leaving again today, this time for eventual deployment to Afghanistan.

More than 600 members of the Arizona National Guard's 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment are departing Sky Harbor International Airport this morning for Fort Bragg, N.C., in preparation for a year's overseas deployment.

"It is the largest single deployment from the Arizona National Guard unit since World War II," Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Aguirre said

The men are from units in and around Maricopa County and are joined in their mission by about 450 Guard troops from the Marana unit who left for Fort Hood, Texas, on Tuesday.

The group likely will land in Afghanistan sometime in the spring, said Command Sgt. Maj. John Bauer.

When that happens, there will be more Arizona Guard troops, both Army and Air Guard, stationed in Afghanistan than in Iraq.

"Most of our unit strength has gone to the Iraq operation up until now," Aguirre said.

With the Dec. 30 execution of Saddam Hussein, Bauer said, many civilians have recently focused on U.S. operations in Iraq. Statewide, that may soon change, he said.

"With the number of soldiers we have from the Arizona National Guard . . . I think, locally, people will probably shift their attention to Afghanistan," Bauer said.

The Guard's primary mission will be to rehabilitate some of the Afghani communities that are trying to adjust to a new government amid ongoing violence, he said.

Since 2005, violence in Afghanistan has increased, according to the Defense Department.

Arizona's deploying soldiers will replace the Connecticut National Guard and help maintain the total of 22,000 service men and women in Afghanistan.
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Strong, stable Afghanistan in interest of its people, Pakistan: Shaukat Aziz
06 January, 2007 by admin
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz on Friday said that a strong and stable Afghanistan is in the best interest of its people, Pakistan and the region.He was talking to Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Amanullah Jadoon, Minister for Privatization Zahid Hamid, Parliamentary Secretary for Defense Maj (Retd) Tanveer Hussain Syed and MNA Javaid Mumtaz Joiya who called on him at the Prime Minister’s House.

The Prime Minister said that his visit to Kabul was very useful and productive as it provided the opportunity for exchanging views with the Afghan leadership.
He said the agreement between the two countries for the return of the Afghan refugees will prove to be highly beneficial for both the countries.
The Prime Minister said that during his visit he also announced 50 million dollar assistance for Afghanistan to accelerate the process of economic development there.
The Prime Minister said that Pakistan has announced formation of a jirga commission to finalise the modalities of convening jirga process with Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister said that Pakistan will also be hosting a conference for Afghanistan’s assistance in Islamabad to arrange necessary funds to contribute to the ongoing reconstruction process in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, he said, believes that Afghanistan needs a Marshall type plan to bring about a socio-economic transformation in the country. Pakistan fully supports its efforts to improve its economic and human development.
The Prime Minister said that the agreement to connect Chaman with Spin Boldak by rail will facilitate the transportation of goods to Afghanistan and help add to the economic activities in that country.
Turning to developments in the country, the Prime Minister said that the PML and its coalition are resolved in promoting democratic values in the country and participate in next general election on the basis of unprecedented political and economic stability achieved by the government in the last seven years, especially the empowerment of women and minorities.
The Federal Ministers and MNA appreciated the unprecedented development programme undertaken by the PML government for provision of gas, roads, electricity, and clean drinking water in urban and rural areas.
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War to free Afghanistan will continue, says Mullah Omar
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NEW YORK: In possibly his first interview since his ouster in 2001, Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told the US daily that he has not seen Osama bin Laden in five years, and vowed to continue fighting to free Afghanistan from foreign troops.

"I have neither seen him nor have made any effort to do so, but I pray for his health and safety," Omar said of the Al-Qaeda leader with whom he said he shares the "common goal" of driving US troops from Afghanistan.

In the interview published Friday, Omar said he had not seen or contacted bin Laden since he left Kandahar in December 2001 fleeing a US-led coalition that avenged Al-Qaeda's September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

In answer to questions sent through a Taliban spokesman , Omar said he had no regrets in having harbored the terrorist mastermind in Afghanistan.

"Our stand to grant refuge to Osama bin Laden was based on principles," he said.

"If there were people who were opposed to us giving refuge to him, they should have done so with logic and reason, and not using bullying or threats," Omar said referring to the US-led coalition that deposed the Taliban.

He denied reports that his Taliban fighters were receiving assistance and safe haven from Pakistan.
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South/Central Asia: Think Tank Says U.S. Aid Helped Afghanistan, Not Uzbekistan
By Golnaz Esfandiari
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January 5, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- The RAND Corp., a leading U.S. think tank, says in a report that Washington's security assistance to states that are transitioning from conflict to democratic systems -- like Afghanistan -- has been more effective than assistance to governments that remain repressive, such as Uzbekistan.

The RAND study evaluates U.S. assistance to security forces in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and El Salvador since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, examining if human rights and police performance improved. RFE/RL spoke to Olga Oliker, a senior international policy analyst at RAND and one of the authors of the report.

RFE/RL: In your report you evaluated U.S. security assistance to four countries, including Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Could you first briefly tell us about the main conclusions of the report?

Oliker: What we were trying to do with study is begin the process of evaluating the extent to which U.S. assistance -- specifically to internal security forces in countries that are undergoing transitions or that are repressive -- is effective in improving the capacity of these structures to respond to the security threats facing these countries, and also the capacity of these structures to become more accountable, to become more respectful of human rights. One of the things that we found is that these are interlinked; that improving accountability, transparency, respect [for] the people actually does make the security structure -- we feel -- more effective against a variety of security threats in the broad, long-term sense. What we found is that the current programs that are under way are not terribly effective, A, and B, what we found is that oversight of these programs may be insufficient, that we are not doing enough to measure and assess and determine what works and what doesn't work and, as a result, we are potentially not improving these programs or potentially not ending things that don't work, we are potentially overlooking possibilities to make this effort more effective because we're continuing a program that may not be working.
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Change needed to address Afghanistan corruption
By Vern Faulkner Esquimalt News Jan 05 2007
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Aid — both resources and money — is vital to effect change in Afghanistan, NDP MP Denise Savoie (Victoria) said.

Yet what little money going to Afghanistan is largely pocketed by a corrupt regime and warlords, charged Zoya, a representative of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan [RAWA] — a group trying to secure peace and women’s rights in the war-torn country.

In October, Zoya told a gathering in Los Angeles that “democracy cannot be practiced in a country infected by the germ of fundamentalist terrorists.

“By compromising with infamous fundamentalist warlords, and appointing them to high governmental posts,” she said, the current regime has failed to bring about change.

“Now we have a parliament full of warlords,” Zoya charged.

Those warlords, she suggested, have their own agenda: and the promulgation of continued violence serves those private agendas very well. Therefore, NATO forces can expect little support from Afghanistan’s fractured and corrupt leadership, Zoya argued.

Indeed, more than 30 seats in Afghanistan’s parliament are held by Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (the Islamic Party of Afghanistan or HIA), a group directly linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar — a man ranking highly on the U.S. terrorist list.

Savoie has no problem believing the charges of rampant corruption in Afghanistan, and said the corruption is a major obstacle to brokering change in the war-torn nation.

“I think they’re more than allegations — there’s lots of indications that’s happening, the aid isn’t getting to the people it’s intended for.”

Similar laments from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai support charges of internal corruption from those like RAWA, Savoie said.
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Articles found 8 January, 2006

Awful, evil mix’ funding insurgency
Canadian officer sees connection between Taliban and drug lords
By BILL GRAVELAND The Canadian Press
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — An "awful, evil mix" of Taliban hardliners, drug lords, black marketers and corrupt officials are funding the insurgency that Canadian troops are battling in the Panjwaii and Zhari districts of southern Afghanistan, a senior Canadian officer said Sunday.

"I call them the predators," Col. Fred Lewis, deputy commander of the task force in southern Afghanistan, told The Canadian Press in an interview in which he discussed efforts to uproot the insurgency in the Arghandab River Valley area.

Despite years of drought, the region remains one of the country’s bread baskets, with plentiful grape orchards — along with huge marijuana and poppy fields that have developed into a major cash crop for farmers.

As Canadian troops continue to push ahead with Operation Baaz Tsuka in this former Taliban heartland, there seems to be a never ending supply of money to fund the hiring of more rebel fighters or for training suicide bombers brought in from Pakistan.

"I think more people are more and more convinced there’s a pretty close connection (between the Taliban and the drug lords), which is pretty ironic because in 1996 when the Taliban took over the country one of their platforms was ‘we’re not doing drugs anymore,’ " Lewis said.

"Why would the Taliban fight so hard for this Arghandab Valley triangle area that we’re all so familiar with now? The fact is that valley has water and it’s green," he said.

Lewis said probably a third of the marijuana and opium crops under cultivation in the Arghandab Valley are Taliban-related.

"So why do you fight for that? Lewis said. "Well if you’re a drug lord who is making millions and millions and millions of dollars, is it worth paying guys $200 to fight so that the coalition doesn’t come into your valley?"

The Taliban pay their fighters about US$200 a month.

"Yeah, I think there’s a pretty close connection between the Taliban and drug lords. Is it about financing? Maybe. It’s just putting two and two together and it’s not based on any secret intelligence reports or anything."

Lewis said using the term Taliban to describe all the forces fighting Canadians is likely inaccurate. A number of groups: religious, political and criminal have a stake in the ongoing instability
End

Soldier likely to make full recovery
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QUEBEC (CP) — The Canadian soldier seriously injured in a roadside bomb attack in Kandahar over the weekend is expected to make a complete recovery, a Canadian Forces spokesperson said Sunday.

Cpl. Francois Malboeuf — a member of Quebec’s Royal 22nd Regiment, the Valcartier-based Vandoos — suffered leg injuries Saturday when the Bison armoured vehicle he was riding in was rocked by an explosive device.
End

Canada giving $10M to fund Afghan police: MacKay
Updated Mon. Jan. 8 2007 7:59 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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On the final day of his visit to Afghanistan, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay announced $10 million in funding for Afghan police officers.

"Canada's new government believes that providing a national civilian police force with an adequate and regular salary is critical to helping restore security and the rule of law in Afghanistan," MacKay said in a press release. "Our contribution will help further this objective, resulting in a more professional police force to better serve the people of Afghanistan."


MacKay also presented the provincial chief of police with approximately 1,500 police jackets and 2,500 pairs of winter gloves.


"The equipment that we are providing today will similarly enable the Afghan National Police to more effectively perform their duties."


Canada will make its contribution through the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA). LOTFA has helped institute a payroll system that, for the first time, allows officers to regularly receive their salaries directly from banks instead of through unreliable and irregular payments.

Later Monday, MacKay will fly to Pakistan for talks with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on border security and cracking down on Taliban living and training in the country.

"The visit to Afghanistan is second in priority on this visit... it's the meeting with President Musharraf that's so bloody important because Pakistan holds the key to improving the situation in Afghanistan," Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Lewis MacKenzie told Canada AM on Monday.

"You're fighting an enemy whose head is constantly being re-supplied by the tail parked across the border in the northwest frontier of Pakistan, that's the critical problem and the reason why there has to be an industrial-strength diplomacy (push) and a full court press by the international community, not just Canada."

MacKenzie said it's too easy for Taliban fighters to get weapons from Pakistan.

"When the Taliban needs to be re-supplied some of them are just driving across the border on the backs of trucks and they're not even stopping it."

On Sunday, MacKay pushed the message that the Afghanistan mission is going well and Canada's support is firm.
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Taliban prepare offensive against US, NATO troops
By David Wood, Baltimore Sun  |  January 8, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Taliban forces, shattered and ejected from Afghanistan by the US military five years ago, are poised for a major offensive against US troops and undermanned NATO forces. This has prompted US commanders here to issue an urgent appeal for a new US Marine Corps battalion to reinforce the American positions.

NATO's 30,000 troops in Afghanistan are supposed to have taken responsibility for security operations. But Taliban attacks have risen sharply, and senior US officers here describe the NATO operation as weak, hobbled by a shortage of manpower and equipment, and by restrictions put on the troops by their capitals.

The accelerating war here and the critical need for troops complicate the crumbling security picture across the region -- from Afghanistan, where the United States chose to strike back after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, to Iraq, where US troops, in almost four years of fighting, have been unable to establish basic security and quell a bloody sectarian war.

President Bush is expected to announce this week the dispatch of thousands of additional troops to Iraq as a stopgap measure. Such an order, Pentagon officials say, would strain the Army and Marine Corps as they man both wars.

A US Army battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks to deploy to Iraq.

Army Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata and other US commanders say that will happen as the Taliban is expected to unleash a campaign to cut the vital road between Kabul and Kandahar.

The official said the Taliban intend to seize Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city, where the group was organized in the 1990s.

"We anticipate significant events there next spring," Tata said.

At stake, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, is the key US strategic imperative of preventing Al Qaeda and Taliban forces from establishing terrorist havens, as Afghanistan was in the late 1990s when Al Qaeda launched operations to bomb US embassies and warships, and eventually hatched the Sept. 11 plot.

"This could be a pivotal year" for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said General James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, after a series of recent briefings here. "I don't think they see that they are near defeat or anything. I just think they sense they are vulnerable to inroads being made" against what had been a relatively stable country.

Despite the presence of about 30,000 NATO troops -- roughly 10 percent short of what its member nations had pledged to provide -- Taliban attacks on US, allied, and Afghan forces more than tripled in the past year, from 1,632 in 2005 to 5,388 in 2006, US officials say.

Suicide bomb attacks increased from 18 in 2005 to 116 in 2006. Direct-fire attacks also more than tripled, from three per day in 2005 to more than 10 per day in 2006.

With NATO unable or unwilling to stem the rising violence, the Taliban are pressing their advantage.
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Afghanistan not in chaos: MacKay
The Canadian Press KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Jan 8, 2007)
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Afghanistan is not sliding back into chaos despite an ongoing insurgency and escalating drug trade, says Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay.

He made the comments yesterday at the start of a two-day visit to the war-torn country "to talk about a lot of the good work that's being done."

MacKay said that while he respected the opinion of critics, "I don't see a factual basis for a commentary suggesting that this country is sliding into chaos."

His comments came a day after another Canadian soldier was seriously wounded by a roadside bomb. The soldier, identified as Corporal Francois Malboueuf of the Valcartier-based Royal 22nd Regiment, was later flown to hospital in Germany.
End

The Waziristan Factor: A brief Critique of the so-called Taliban militancy in Tribal pockets of Pakistan
by Abid Ullah Jan (Monday January 08 2007)
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"It must be clearly understood that there can be no independent tribal region policy of Pakistan without having an independent and moral Afghan policy. Whatever is happening in tribal areas is only fallout of Pakistan’s twisted, weak and flawed Afghan engagement under U.S. duress. It is time that Pakistan stand on its own two feet, else forget about lasting peace in tribal regions."


Pakistan is in a mess along with its troubled spots, including Waziristan. Only Pakistan military can clean up the mess which has created it in the first place with the ability to put together the extraordinary combination of arrogant but scared leadership and total lack of judgment which went into its making.

Those who claim that there is a militant problem in Pakistan must look into the history of this region and Pakistan. Oppression never goes without an equal and opposite reaction. The sledgehammer hasn’t worked in Iraq. It isn’t working in Afghanistan. And it has suffered serious reverses in Pakistan with more than 3000 Pakistani soldiers killed in two years.

The Waziristani tribes have stood guard on the Frontier for over fifty years. They went to Kashmir in 1947 and what we have of Kashmir we owe largely to their enterprise and valour. Before jumping the bandwagon of justifying all crimes with the Taliban boggy, we need a period of reflection and understanding the root causes of the problem before making the culprits accountable.

From the following analysis we should learn to do our own thinking for brining Musharraf and his cronies to justice and be able to tell the Americans where to get off.

Background:

Since 1947 to 1979, there was no problem of militancy and rebellion in the tribal areas despite their martial and semi-autonomous status. Despite presence of strong pockets of pro-Afghan communists like ANP who constantly demanded “Pashtunistan”, the tribals never saw any cause to rise in an uprising against any Pakistani government. Globally, the U.S. and its allies were engaged in undermining the former Soviet Union and had no time to exaggerate the threat of Muslim movements. There was an absence of mass media like VCR, audio tapes, multiple TV channels, Cable and internet were also not present.
Even during the Afghan war between 1979 to 1992, there was no rebellion against Islamabad in the tribal areas despite presence of millions of Afghans and thousands of armed Mujahideen using these regions as base area to fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But globally, those were the times of awakening for the Muslim movements and thousands of volunteers from all over the world came to participate in Jihad against Soviets. This was the era of political awakening and the creation of new Islamist political leadership not just in Afghan Jihad but also within the Muslim world. During this era, the status quo of Maliks and Elders was broken in Afghanistan and all Mujahideen leaders challenged the traditional hold of tribal elders in their society. Media was used in massive way to propagate message of Jihad and effectively use Muslim sentiments against oppression and occupation to defeat the Soviet Union. All the energies of the Afghan and Arab militants were directed against the Soviets forces and later against the regime that it installed in Kabul. It is interesting to note that even during this era, there was no mass call of Jihad within Pakistani tribal areas and the war was basically fought by Afghans or Arabs who came from outside and backed by the United States and many Muslim states. Pakistani tribals were few in the war.
During civil war between Mujahideen in from 1992 to 1996, still there was no problem of armed uprising or rebellion against Pakistan in these regions. Pakistan and Islamic movements were appalled and disgusted at the infighting amongst Afghans and most of them either withdrew. Osama bin Laden went to Sudan and others went back to their countries. Very few were settled in tribal areas and married amongst local tribes. But a global Muslim political awakening against direct and indirect occupations of Muslim countries had taken place which now could not be stopped. Pakistani tribal areas remained totally indifferent towards developments in Afghanistan and there was absolutely no participation of Pakistani tribals during this era.
During Taliban era – 1996 to 2001, still there was no military uprising in any of the tribal pockets of Pakistan and the tribals were peaceful in all agencies. Local tribals never supported Taliban and no tribe or tribal elements ever went in to fight alongside Taliban against Masood or northern alliance. By 1999, the Northern Alliance was almost non-existent, except in the books of all anti-Taliban forces, which relentlessly sought those who would oppose the Taliban in Afghanistan. The so-called Northern Alliance was in control of just 5% of the total landmass in Afghanistan. The geographical location and mountain enclave had given them the much needed protection they needed to continue resistance to the Taliban government.
Osama had come back into Afghanistan by then and U.S. had started a campaign of propaganda and character assassination against Osama and former Arab Mujahideen, even attacking their base with Cruise missiles. A general anger against U.S. had begun to grip the Muslim world especially after the first Gulf war in 1991 and now Osama and associates were more vocal and open against U.S.
The Bosnian war (1992-95) had generated extreme anger amongst Muslims against the Western indifference in general and their involvement in occupations and genocide of Muslims in particular. The global environment was ripe for a confrontation between U.S./West and Muslims struggling against the U.S. and its allies-sponsored repressive regimes. Still, there was no uprising or insurgency or unrest within Pakistani tribal areas. Pakistan government had maintained the policy of engagement with Taliban and there was no hostility amongst Taliban, Islamic movements or local tribals against Islamabad.
Then, 9/11 happened….

The Problem:

Since 1979 till today, no study had ever been carried out in Pakistan based on above factors and environments in tribal areas. Pakistan never had an independent Afghan policy and everything that was being done was either dictated by U.S. or done under the doctrine of necessarily as stop gap arrangement without any serious historical, military, social or religious understanding of the melting pot Afghanistan and its possible impact on Pakistan’s national security. Pakistan had lost all its assets in Afghanistan which it had cultivated after decades of investment when Taliban came into power. All former Mujahideen leaders like Hekmatyar, Sayyaf, Khalis, Haqqani, Masood etc were either angry with Pakistan or openly hostile as it was widely presumed that Pakistan had created and sponsored Taliban at the cost of former Mujahideen leaders. So, neither Taliban were under Pakistan control nor former Mujahideen leaders when 9/11 happened. It is naïve to assume that the Taliban were under Pakistan’s influence. They were prone to manipulation by the CIA agents within the circles of religious clerics. Other than that, the Taliban were not ready to go under anyone’s influence — not even the United States. That’s what dampened all hopes in Washington which had assumed that manipulating and using the Taliban, like the present day Shia’s in Iraq, would pave the way for having a strategic grip on Afghanistan for military and financial purposes.
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PM announces for formation of ‘Jirga Commission’ with Afghanistan
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KABUL: Pakistan and Afghanistan Thursday agreed to speed up the process of sending over three million Afghan refugees living in camps in Pakistan to their homes.

It was decided during the meeting of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and Afghan President Hamid Karzai held here at the Presidential Palace.

At the joint press conference after the talks, Prime Minister Aziz said the repatriation of refugees will be through a phased process. He said modalities will be finalised soon to repatriate over three million Afghan refugees with the assistance and cooperation of world community and the United Nations.

The one on one meeting between President Karzai and Prime Minister Aziz, which lasted well over two and half hour -- longer than expected -- with a view to promote these relations.

The meeting was followed by delegation level talks.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and President Hamid Karzai stressed the need to address all aspects of the problem to bring peace, security and stability to the region.

Prime Minister Aziz said although Pakistan is not an aid giving country, but ready to help its brother Afghanistan in its reconstruction and announced increase in the assistance for rehabilitation from 250to 300 million dollars.
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MacKay talks tough on Pakistan
Safe haven for Taliban exposes 'weak underbelly' of security in Afghanistan

Oakland Ross, Toronto Star, 9 Jan 07
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After a two-day visit to this tortured land – a country beset by drugs, thugs, and war – Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay departed for the capital of neighbouring Pakistan last night with two words uppermost in his mind.  "Security first."  MacKay used the phrase himself at a media conference here, and the subject recurred again and again during meetings he conducted with Afghan and foreign officials over the past two days, both in Kabul, the capital, where he met Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and here in the troubled southern province of Kandahar ....


Canadian foreign minister meets Kasuri
The International News (PAK), 9 Jan 07
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Foreign Minister Khurshid M. Kasuri and Foreign Minister of Canada, Peter Gorden MacKay in a meeting here exchanged views on bilateral relations and discussed regional and international situation.  The formal meeting between the two foreign ministers was underway on Tuesday at foreign office in Islamabad.  The two sides are discussing to boost bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, energy, defence, education and health sector.  The foreign ministers also expected to discuss regional and international affairs including Afghanistan, proposed fencing and mining of the Pak-Afghan border, setting up Pak-Afghan Jirga and NATO military activities.  Mackay would also meet with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz during his visit. 


UN, Canada press Pakistan to drop border mines
Daily Times (PAK), 9 Jan 07
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The United Nations and Canada added to the pressure on Pakistan Monday to shelve a plan to plant landmines on parts of its border with Afghanistan in a growing row about Taliban fighters crossing the frontier.  “This will not contribute to better security in either country,” UN deputy representative in Afghanistan Chris Alexander told reporters in Kabul, urging all nations to persuade Pakistan to abandon the use of landmines.  “We hope all the nations of the world can convince Pakistan and the other countries that haven’t signed the convention of the threat and dangers to ordinary human beings that landmines present,” Alexander said.  Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay, on a visit to the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, said he intended to tell Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad Tuesday that the mining of the border was unacceptable.  “I do not accept the use of landmines,” MacKay told reporters after he met some of the 2,500 Canadian soldiers facing some of the worst violence of the Taliban insurgency here ....



A smart move for Afghanistan
Robert Howard, Hamilton Spectator, 9 Jan 07
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....  As Hollywood westerns have been reminding us for most of a century, the fundamental difference between the Wild West and a safe and prosperous community is the presence of someone who will protect citizens and their property and make other people accountable to the law. In Tombstone or Dodge City, it was the sheriff. In Kabul or Kandahar -- or 1,000 tiny tribal villages -- it is police officers.  Ten million dollars provides a lot more policing in Afghanistan than it does in Canada. It will mean police -- and the rule of law -- are more visible to Afghan citizens.  A larger and functioning police force gives legitimacy and authority to the government. That's particularly important in remote rural regions and tribal villages where the strongest force and authority often emanates from the Taliban ....


The way forward in Afghanistan
While MacKay celebrates 'untold success,'the evidence points to a long, costly effort

Victoria Times Colonist, 9 Jan 07
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.... The West can help Afghanis to better lives and protect them from the excesses of a religious dictatorship, while reducing the global threat from terrorists based in the country.  But Canadians don't need cheerleading or sales efforts.  We need -- and our Forces deserve -- a real debate about the cost of the commitment required and the willingness of Canada and our allies to face that challenge.



Six Afghan troops wounded in suicide blast
Two suspected Taliban killed in the south

Noor Khan, Associated Press, 8 Jan 07
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A suicide car bomber wounded six Afghan soldiers Monday in the east, while NATO-led troops and Afghan police killed two suspected Taliban militants and detained four others in the south, officials said.  The bomber approached the Afghan soldiers patrolling in Paktika province's Bermel district before blowing himself up, said Gen. Murad Ali, the regional deputy commander.  The Bermel region borders Pakistan, hosts a U.S. base, and is the scene of frequent rocket attacks. Afghan and Western officials say militants cross the border to launch strikes.  In the south, the suspected Taliban militants were killed and captured after ambushing a joint NATO and Afghan patrol in Mizan district in Zabul province on Sunday, said Younis Akhunzada, the police district chief.  There were no casualties among NATO or Afghan troops, he said ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Taliban prepare offensive against US, NATO troops: US commander
Pak Tribune (PAK), 9 Jan 07
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Taliban forces, shattered and ejected from Afghanistan by the US military five years ago, are poised for a major offensive against US troops and undermanned NATO forces. This has prompted US commanders here to issue an urgent appeal for a new US Marine Corps battalion to reinforce the American positions.  NATO's 30,000 troops in Afghanistan are supposed to have taken responsibility for security operations. But Taliban attacks have risen sharply, and senior US officers here describe the NATO operation as weak, hobbled by a shortage of manpower and equipment, and by restrictions put on the troops by their capitals....



Afghan war needs troops
Taliban expected to push against thin U.S., NATO forces

David Wood, Baltimore Sun, 7 Jan 07
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Radical Islamist Taliban forces, shattered and ejected from Afghanistan by the U.S. military five years ago, are poised for a major offensive against U.S. troops and undermanned NATO forces, prompting American commanders here to issue an urgent appeal for a new Marine Corps battalion to reinforce the American positions.  NATO's 30,000 troops in Afghanistan are supposed to have taken responsibility for security operations across the country. But Taliban attacks have risen sharply, and senior U.S. officers here describe the NATO operation as weak, hobbled by a shortage of manpower and equipment and by restrictions put on the troops by their home capitals.  The accelerating war here and the critical need for troops vastly complicate the crumbling security picture across the region - from Afghanistan, where the United States chose to strike back after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, to Iraq, where American troops have been unable in almost four years of fighting to establish basic security and quell a bloody sectarian war ....




How the Taliban keep their coffers full
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Asia Times Online, 10 Jan 07
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Just as the Taliban move across the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan with impunity, so does the money needed to sustain the Taliban-led insurgency flow unrestricted between the countries.  In the wake of September 11, 2001, the financial squeeze instigated by the United States and its allies in the "war on terror" severely disrupted the flow of funds for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, mainly through closer international scrutiny of bank accounts.  However, as the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq testify, the money has certainly not been stopped. The major reason  for this is that Washington and its allies made the mistake of looking for and applying high-tech solutions.  Had the focus been more on the "unschooled wisdom" prevalent in the mountains of Afghanistan and in the deserts of Iraq, the US might not be in such a poor position as it is now ....



 

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Article found 9 January 2006

The Taliban's biggest fear... An educated populace:
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Layeha (book of rules) for the Mujahideen

24) It is forbidden to work as a teacher under the current puppet regime, because this strengthens the system of the infidels. True Muslims should apply to study with a religiously trained teacher and study in a Mosque or similar institution. Textbooks must come from the period of the Jihad or from the Taliban regime.

25) Anyone who works as a teacher for the current puppet regime must recieve a warning. If he nevertheless refuses to give up his job, he must be beaten. If the teacher still continues to instruct contrary to the principles of Islam, the district commander or a group leader must kill him.

Yet, in the face of open threats such as the ones above, brave Afghani teachers continue their work, and many pay the price.
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Drug mafia, CIA blamed for sacking of Afghan governor
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KABUL: In a country flooded with narcotics traffickers and corrupt government officials, one of Afghanistan's few remaining 'clean' governors, Mohammed Daud, has been removed from his position, and many are blaming the drug mafia and the CIA for his abrupt dismissal.

Daud was appointed at the request of the British government in order to oversee Helmand province, the country's largest opium producing region.

The former governor of Helmand, Sher Muhammad Akhunzada, whom Daud replaced earlier this year, has been widely implicated in the drug trade.

Contrary to Akhunzada, "British officials regarded Mr Daud as the cleanest governor in Afghanistan and hoped that his extensive experience in development would help to win over Helmand's population," The Times reported.

Last month, however, the British government expressed frustration with the effort, pointing to the fact that Afghan President Hamid Karzai continued to meet with the former governor, Akhunzada. Adding further strain on the situation, Karzai appointed Akhunzada as a senator and made his brother, Amir Muhammad Akhundzada, Daud's deputy.

"The president is undermining his own governor," one British official told The Times. "It doesn't help what we're trying to do."

It would appear U.S. officials, particularly from the Central Intelligence Agency, were influencing Karzai's actions, undercutting the efforts of their British counterparts. Moreover, as The Independent reported, "British sources have blamed pressure from the CIA for President Hamid Karzai's decision to dismiss Mohammed Daud as governor".

"The Americans knew Daud was a main British ally," one official explained to The Independent, "yet they deliberately undermined him and told Karzai to sack him."

The U.S. apparently favors the brother of Daud's predecessor and purported drug lord, Akhunzada.

As The Times reports, "British officials fear that Mr Daud will be replaced by his deputy, Amir Muhammad Akhunzada, the brother of Sher Muhammad Akhunzada. He is thought to have links to the drug trade and has been banned from running in elections because he refuses to disband his personal militia."

"For the moment," as one official told The Times, "before a new governor is named, the governor of Helmand is a drug-dealing warlord who was banned from the elections by the UN for keeping a militia and his connection to narcotics, and with whom the British have said they cannot work. Nice."
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Poppy crop destroyed in Ghor, Nimroz
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HERAT CITY: Security forces the other day destroyed over 450-acre of poppy crop in two provinces of Ghor and Nimroz, officials said.

Police chief of the western Ghor province Brig Gen Shah Jehan Noori told Pajhwok Afghan News that over 300-acre of poppy crop was destroyed in Tulak district of Ghor province during anti-poppy campaign in the last two weeks.

He said the farmers showed no resistance to the law enforcers during the anti-poppy drive. Noori said due to heavy snowfall they had no access to the hard hitting areas to eliminate the poppy farms.

Ikram-ud-din Raza Zada, secretary to the provincial governor, said the district officials would be terminated if they failed to eradicate poppy crop in their respective areas.

Citing examples, he said police and district chiefs of Dolina, Pasaband and Charsada districts had already been sacked from their positions as they failed to clean their areas with the poisonous plant. Separately, over 150-acre of poppy crop were destroyed in Khashrod and Chakhansor districts of the Nimroz province.

Mohammad Hashim Noorzai, district chief of Khashroad district, told this news agency that over 200 hundreds of poppy farms were uprooted in this district in the last two days. By the same token Ghulam Sarwar Nazari, district chief of Chakhansor, said over 50-acre of poppy crop were eliminated in this province the other day.
End

British troops destroy Taliban camp
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LONDON: British troops have destroyed a Taliban training camp in Afghanistan, killing dozens of the enemy, in a victory the military said would help bring electricity to nearly two million people, Guardian reported on Monday.

About 110 Royal Marines swept through northern Helmand targeting insurgent boltholes to pave the way for much-needed repairs on a hydroelectric dam in the north of the restless province.

Launched on New Year's Day, Operation Clay saw troops from Plymouth-based 42 Commando engaged in four days of ferocious firefights.

The raids resulted in the deaths of a senior Taliban commander and "tens" of his henchmen. Amazingly, only one marine was injured during the deadly battles. He was shot through the hand.

Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, who is championing the scheme to fix the Kajaki Dam, has sent a personal message of thanks to Operation Clay's commanders.

Marauding Taliban fighters had been stalling repairs on faulty turbines at the dam, which is situated at the source of the Helmand River, but the work can now begin next month.

Once it is fixed, the facility, which was built in 1953, will bring electricity to 1.8 million people and treble the area of irrigated farmland in the fertile province.

Speaking from the British base at Lashkar Gah, military spokesman Major Oliver Lee said: "We needed to sort out the insurgency that there has been in the environs of Kajaki. And we very successfully did that over this past week or so with some very focused targeted military operations which included killing the key insurgency commander at that location.

"It involved running firefights for three of four days up against fairly coherent sustained attacks of small arms, rockets and indirect fire. It was a very meaningful fight, rest assured."
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Displaced Afghans return to their hometowns in Kandahar
Tuesday January 09, 2007 (0447 PST)
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KANDAHAR: Thousands of Afghans who left their hometown due to conflicts between militants and NATO forces in mid 2006 have began returning their homes in southern Kandahar province.
These people had left their houses for safer places due to bloody conflicts between Taliban operatives and the alliance forces last year in the restive Panjwai and surrounding areas in Kandahar.

According to a deal with local tribal leaders, the displaced people will be allowed to pass through a safe passage to the Panjwai and surrounding areas. Nearly 100 civilians including women and children had been killed in the fighting months ago in Panjwai district.
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Starving Afghans sell girls of eight as brides
Monday January 08, 2007 (0951 PST)
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LONDON: Azizgul is 10 years old, from the village of Houscha in western Afghanistan. This year the wheat crop failed again following a devastating drought. Her family was hungry. So, a little before Christmas, Azizgul's mother 'sold' her to be married to a 13-year-old boy.
'I need to sell my daughters because of the drought,' said her mother Sahatgul, 30. 'We don't have enough food and the bride price will enable us to buy food. Three months ago my 15-year-old daughter married, Guardian limited reported.

'We were not so desperate before. Now I have to marry them younger. And all five of them will have to get married if the drought becomes worse. The bride price is 200,000 afghanis [?2,000]. His father came to our house to arrange it. The boy pays in instalments. First he paid us 5,000 afghanis, which I used to buy food.' Azizgul is not unique. Hers is one of a number of interviews and case studies collected by the charity Christian Aid - all of them young girls sold by their families to cope with the second ruinous drought to hit Afghanistan within three years.

While the world has focused on the war against the Taliban, the suffering of the drought-stricken villagers, almost 2.5 million of them, has largely gone unnoticed. And where once droughts would afflict Afganistan once every couple of decades, this drought has come hard on the heels of the last one, from which the villagers were barely able to recover.

While prohibited by both Afghan civil and Islamic law, arranged marriages have long been a feature of Afghan life, particularly in rural areas. What is unusual is the age of some of the girls. And the reason: to buy food to survive.
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Kabul Exp runs through Afghanistan  2007-01-09
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New Delhi: In spite of an official ban on Kabul Express in Afghanistan, the video market of Hindi movies in Kabul is flooded with videos of the Bollywood film and it is witnessing huge demand among the Afghans.

Agency reports say rentals of Kabul Express videos have registered a sharp increase as compared to other Bollywood stuff thanks to high demand among the Afghans. The demand has shot up especially in the past few days in the wake of the government's decision to ban the movie in the country..

The Afghan Government has decided to ban the film as parts of it were "deemed offensive" to one of Afghanistan's ethnic minorities. Kabul Express is all about a journey by three journalists through the war-ravaged country. The government fears certain derogatory remarks in the Kabir Khan film about Shia Hazaras might offend the minority community.

Four days after the Afghan government banned the film's screening in the country, the rental for the movie has shot up to 30 Afghanis as against 10 Aghanis for other films in the local market, the reports said. The price of a DVD of the film has jumped from 50 Afghanis () to 100 Afghanis, but people said getting hold of copies was no problem.

Afghan citizens say when it was easy to grow and buy opium in the country, it was 'ludicrous' to believe that the sale of a film can be stopped. Some also pointed out the official curb on public screenings is meaningless as Afghanistan does not have many cinemas and as the film is yet to be released in the country.
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Why Europeans Don't Kill in Afghanistan?
Posted on : Tue, 09 Jan 2007 Author : Ehsan Azari
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There is a strategic difference between non-Anglo Europeans and the US over war in Afghanistan. The Europeans are wary about the aims of the US in the ongoing fight in this country between the Taliban and NATO, for the Bush administration has virtually failed to address the real cause of terrorism and violence in Afghanistan. Pursuit of military solution and indulgence in protracted guerrilla warfare in this central Asian country produced very dangerous conditions on the ground for both Afghan innocent civilians and Western forces.

Germany stationed its troops in the north of Afghanistan where about 35% of Afghans are living, and French troops play a peace-keeping role in the Afghan capital, Kabul, the Italian, Spanish, and Danish troops are also deployed in the non-Pashtun areas. Despite pressures from the US and NATO, many European countries refrain from killing and bombing civilians.

There can be seen wisdom and humanitarian concerns in European attitude. Firstly, there is a pathetic lack of transparency in US's relation with Pakistan, which is the major factor in the growing violence and bloodshed in Afghanistan. Pakistani northern-western province which is virtually run by religious extremist groups, sympathizers of Al-Qaida and Taliban, has provided a safe haven to the insurgence and Islamic terrorist groups. Insurgency and terrorist operation of the Taliban is directly being planned, supervised, and run by Pakistani infamous Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI). Pakistan's Waziristan is awashed with Taliban training camps and Al-Qaida centers. Still, the US and its allies see Pakistan as a valued ally and partner in war against terrorism. No one knows what is behind the US and Pakistan's love affairs. The Europeans knows this very well, if the last Taliban be killed in Afghanistan, the US cannot win this war, because the Taliban is only a production a perverted ideology that was spawned and nurtured by Pakistani generals and mullahs. All relevant political analysts, journalists, the Afghan government, NATO's officials, and Think-tank groups have been crying for years that Pakistan is the real source of both the ideology and physical infrastructure of terrorism and the Taliban, but the Bush administration turned blind eyes to this. The US must come clean with its policy. The US continues killing the Taliban and supporting its source, Pakistan, at the same time.

Secondly, foreign military presence with no end to it in sight brought about a condition most favorable for the insurgency, which manipulates Afghani proverbial xenophobia for escalating violence. The souring civilian casualties add to the dilemma. Thirdly, another dangerous trend is the rapid disintegration of political authority and legitimacy of Mr Karzai's government. The government in Kabul is hold hostage by former communist and Islamic warlords, drug-lords, and a corrupt administration. Mr Karzai is only a cloak to the notorious gangs of the Northern Alliance. Last and fourthly, the US and Mr Karzai failed to initiate division among the Taliban, and isolate the heart of darkness, Mullah Omar and his perverted Islamic values. To be honest and fair, Pakistani generals and mullahs with their luciferous duplicity block the slightest reform among the Taliban. They left no stone unturned to keep the Taliban explosively radicalized. For the retrograde and the darkest core of the Taliban has been seen by Pakistani ISI as a strategic national asset that can be used for their regional claims in future.

In such conditions on the ground everyone see the futility of military solution and double-standard of the US. The Europeans are right to refrain from killing and bombing innocent civilians that will only give rise to the Taliban. The US's various policy circles need to listen to the Europeans and Afghans, to bring war against terror to its source. Afghan war can only be won in Pakistan. The US must deal with Pakistani generals and mullahs that have been fooling the West into believing that it is its loyal ally. Pakistan has the key to the problem, it hides Taliban leaders in Quetta, Karachi, and Peshawar, to use them once the West washes its hands from Afghanistan and leave this unfortunate country.
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Afghan Security Forces Becoming Competent, Capable, General Says
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA American Forces Press Service
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2007 – The continued support of the U.S. and international community to building a strong Afghan army and police force is essential as that country moves forward with social and economic progress, the U.S. general in charge of training Afghan forces said today.
“Our ultimate goal here is to assist the nation by building Afghan capacity and capability to secure Afghanistan's territory and provide an Afghan shield for the nation's continued development,” said Army Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin, commander of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan. Durban spoke in a news conference via satellite from Afghanistan.

“This transition process will take time, but with steadfast U.S. and international support, it will happen,” he said.

The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police continue to make progress and demonstrate self-reliance in planning, preparing and executing security operations, Durbin said. The Afghan National Army is 36,000 strong and on its way to an end-strength of 70,000, he said. The police force is at 50,000 and will grow to 82,000. The country will reach those manpower goals by the end of 2008, he said.

As the Afghan National Army conducts successful operations each day, its soldiers gain confidence and competence, Durbin said. Improved living conditions in the field and in garrison, combined with pay reform and leadership improvements, have resulted in more recruits entering the security forces and lower rates of unauthorized absences, he said.

Under a reform program led by the U.S. and Germany, the Afghan National Police have made great progress, Abdul Hadir Khalid, first deputy minister for security, said at the news conference. The police have had a history of corruption, Khalid acknowledged, but the Interior Ministry has launched several initiatives to eradicate that corruption.

Pay reform has made police salaries more appropriate to the dangerous work they do, and ensures the officers receive every dollar they earn, Khalid said. The newly established internal affairs department enables citizens to report wrongdoing and holds police accountable for their actions, he added. Also, the newly drafted code of conduct reinforces the professional, legal and moral requirements found in the Afghan national constitution, penal code and police regulations.

To further prevent corruption, police recruits are thoroughly screened for past criminal activity and involvement with insurgent organizations, Khalid said.
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Afghanistan: monthly review, Dec 2006
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- At least 120 civilians killed or injured in terrorist attacks.

- Afghan Government takes steps to weaken power base of the Taliban.

- Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan escalate.

- Asian Development Bank funds electricity transmission line from Tajikistan to Kabul.

- The Afghan public voices its anger over civilian casualties.

Security

After a relative lull during November, suicide attacks have again become significant. Many of these were targeted at international forces but, as in previous months, caused casualties among passing civilians as well as the soldiers targeted. The specific incidents include the following:

- On 2nd December, two International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) soldiers were killed in a suicide car bomb attack outside Kandahar.

- On 3rd December, at least three civilians were killed, and many others were injured, in the city of Kandahar when a suicide bomber attempted to ram an ISAF convoy. Three ISAF soldiers were wounded, one of them seriously. Two civilians were reported to have been killed and up to 14 injured following the attack. Some of the casualties were said to have occurred when ISAF soldiers fired on two civilian cars and a motor cycle thought to contain other suicide bombers. Others may have been caused by warning shots fired by ISAF forces, aimed to keep other vehicles away.

- On 5th December, two civilians were killed and at least three others were injured when a suicide bomber drove his car into another ISAF convoy in the city of Kandahar.

- On 6th December, five Afghans and two US citizens employed by the US security company, US Protection and Investigation (USPI), were killed and many others were injured, including passers-by, when a suicide bomber on foot detonated explosives outside the USPI office in Kandahar.

- On 7th December, two civilians were killed, and seven injured, in a further suicide car bomb attack on an ISAF convoy in the city of Kandahar.

- On 12th December, six people were killed, and eight others were injured, when a suicide bomber managed to enter the office of the Governor of Helmand and detonated explosives strapped to his body. Most of the casualties were security personnel. The Governor was thought to be in the building but escaped injury.

- On 14th December, four people were killed and over 25 were injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police convoy outside Qalat, the administrative centre of the southern province of Zabul. The casualties were reported to include both police officers and civilians. President Karzai had visited the town two days earlier, travelling by air, and a convoy of his bodyguards had just passed through on its return to Kabul.

- On 15th December, at least one person was killed and several were injured when a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a convoy of Afghan National Army and ISAF forces in the south-eastern province of Paktia.

- On 17th December, a civilian was killed and three others were injured when a suicide bomber drove his vehicle into a convoy of international troops in the south-eastern province of Khost.

- On 22nd December, one civilian was killed, and eight others were injured, in a suicide attack in Kabul. The attack was apparently targeted at a member of the Afghan Parliament, Pacha Khan Zadran, who was thought to be in a vehicle leaving his home. Those injured included his son and grandson, together with a driver, bodyguard and four passers-by. Mr Zadran has played a prominent role in the power dynamics of Paktia in recent years.

Civilian deaths and injuries have occurred as a result of other terrorist attacks on international forces. The specific incidents include the following:

- On 8th December, two Afghan interpreters were killed when a roadside bomb hit a vehicle which was part of an ISAF convoy on patrol in the southern province of Uruzgan.

- On 14th December, an Afghan civilian was wounded when a remote-controlled explosive device, targeted at an ISAF convoy, was detonated in the city of Kabul.

There has been a further serious attack on education personnel. On 8th December, two female teachers were killed, along with their mother, grandmother and a male relative, when armed men broke into their home in Narang District, in the eastern province of Kunar. Another male relative was wounded. The Provincial Education Director stated, in response, that the two teachers had been warned, through a letter sent by the Taliban, to stop teaching.

Government officials have been further targets. The specific incidents include the following:
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Taliban walk right in, sit right down ...
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Jan 5, 2007 
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KARACHI - Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz was due in Afghanistan on Thursday to meet with President Hamid Karzai, primarily to discuss a Pakistani plan to seal the notoriously porous border between the two countries by planting mines and building fences.

Karzai opposes the idea, saying that it would inconvenience civilians and would not prevent the cross-border flow of Taliban.

Karzai is dead right. It will take more than barricades to prevent the Taliban from going about their business in either country. Moulvi (cleric) Abdul Jalil serves as a shining example of how the Taliban move around right under the eyes of officials.

A life without borders
With his light-brown skin, long black beard and a white cap, it took me some seconds to recognize Jalil standing in the bustling Lea Market of Karachi. He looked just like any other Pashtun selling goods, but he is a Taliban commander.

I had met him recently in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and now, after a formal exchange of greetings, we sat in one of the hotels near the market to chat over a cup of green tea.

Lea Market, not far from downtown Karachi, is severely congested, with flashy new Japanese cars jostling for space with pedestrians and camel-drawn carts. People of all backgrounds work here, from Gujaratis (originally from Indian Gujarat 200 years back) to Pashtuns, operating diverse businesses ranging from selling fruit on pushcarts to peddling the latest electronic gadgetry.

It is common knowledge that the narrow streets around Lea Market provide a safe haven for people wanted by the government, from Baloch insurgents to members of outlawed sectarian organizations. Thus such outfits as the Intelligence Bureau and the Police Intelligence Department maintain a strong proxy network in the area.

Nevertheless, Jalil seemed quite content to be seen in public, and to talk with me. The reason is simply that Jalil, a native of Kandahar, does not have a price on his head and he has no record to make the security agencies suspicious. In his appearance, language and mannerisms, he is much like the more than 1.5 million other Pashtuns living in Karachi.

Yet appearances could not be more deceptive as Jalil is one of the main cogs in the Taliban-led insurgency in the Punjwai district of Kandahar.

When I met him in November in the city of Kandahar, he came across as well balanced and completely at home in his environment. Then, he was roaming the markets, buying commodities as part of his responsibilities as a logistics official for the Taliban. In addition, Jalil coordinates with pro-Taliban elements in the Afghan establishment, and he happens to be an expert in making improvised weapons, especially by using unexploded US bombs.

Jalil explained that he did not even have to cross the border illegally between Afghanistan and Pakistan to reach Karachi; he simply crossed at the regular Chaman border post, passing through all checkpoints like Pashtuns from both sides of the Durand Line that separates the countries. He can do this because he is not yet a marked man
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Pakistan police tactics spark ire
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A RAND report released last week accuses them of human rights abuses and suggests that the US suspend aid.
By David Montero | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – Amina Masood Janjua recalls the date as if it were her own name: July 30, 2005 - the day intelligence agents took her husband from a Rawalpindi street. She hasn't heard from him since.
Like hundreds of others, Ms. Janjua has taken to protesting on the streets, bringing international attention to what some say is the dark side of Pakistan's lauded counterterrorism efforts: the arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance of hundreds, if not thousands, of suspects

There's no option for me but to protest on the roads. I think in terms of seconds - how long will I be kept from my husband," Janjua says.

As these families wring their hands, developments in Pakistan's court system highlight a different but equally troubling trend. Alleged militants, many considered top Al Qaeda recruits, are being released from jail, their sentences having been overruled - a result, apparently, of Pakistani police resorting to methods of incrimination that don't stand in court.

The two trends show how, a world away from the restive tribal zones where the Taliban hold sway, the war against terrorism may be faltering on another key battleground: within the ranks of the Pakistani police.

"The United States should significantly restructure or even withdraw its assistance to repressive regimes if their internal security agencies fail to improve transparency, human rights practices, and overall effectiveness," reads a RAND Corp. assessment of Pakistani police published last week.

The report's authors, who also evaluated security forces in El Salvador, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, recommend that the US government should "rethink the type and amount of assistance it provides Pakistan's law enforcement agencies."
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Canada offers help to control Afghan border without mines
* Canadian FM says Musharraf agreed to Canadian offer of assistance
* Kasuri says mining plan was made following Afghan accusations
* PM wants stable Afghanistan

Daily Times (PAK), 10 Jan 07
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Canada on Tuesday opposed Pakistan’s idea of mining its side of the Pak-Afghan border and offered technological assistance that could provide an alternative method to check unwanted cross-border movement.  Both counties agreed to discuss options to control cross-border movement without laying mines, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri and his Canadian counterpart Peter Gordon MacKay said at a joint press briefing at the Foreign Office.  “We are not in favour of mines. I have offered to President General Pervez Musharraf and Kasuri our share to man the border, using our vast experience of managing the long Canadian-American border. The president has agreed that he would be open to any such idea. Groups from both countries will sit together to discuss proposals like use of biometric technologies, unmanned drones and mutually acceptable documentation between Pakistan and Afghanistan at crossing options,” MacKay said. He termed the option of fencing the border a “part of the solution” ....


Pakistan Will Reconsider Plan to Mine Areas of Afghan Border
Paul Tighe, Bloomberg wire service (USA), 10 Jan 07
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Pakistan will reconsider a plan to mine areas of its border with Afghanistan to stop terrorists crossing the frontier, after Canada offered to help find alternative controls, Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri said.  Pakistan is ``happy to receive suggestions,'' Kasuri said after meeting Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay yesterday in Islamabad, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan. The government ``will give due consideration'' to proposals for an effective border control system without the use of mines.  Canada has long experience managing its border with the U.S., Mackay said, adding it is willing to provide technical support, including improving aerial surveillance, training for border guards and satellite telephones ....


Musharraf tells MacKay: Pakistan for Peaceful, Stable Afghanistan
Aziz Malik, Pakistan Times, 9 Jan 07
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President General Pervez MusharPrime Minister Shaukat Aziz listens to Canadian Foreign Minister Peter MacKay during a meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday, Jan 9, 2007.raf on Tuesday said Pakistan was committed to work with international partners to promote shared objective of a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.  Talking to Foreign Minister of Canada Peter Gordon MacKay the President outlined Pakistan's perspective on various aspects of the Afghanistan situation besides exchanging views on bilateral relations.  The President however underlined that securing the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was a joint responsibility of all sides.  Foreign Minister MacKay offered to share Canada's experience of managing the long Canada-U.S. border and indicated Canada's readiness to extend assistance to improve controls along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.  It was agreed that experts would further deliberate on this issue.  The President laid particular emphasis on deepening economic, trade and investment ties. The importance of expanding cooperation in the fields of education and science & technology was also affirmed.  The President noted that Pakistan and Canada enjoyed friendly and long-standing relations ....


Joint press conference by foreign ministers of Canada, Pakistan
Pakistanlink.com, 9 Jan 07
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Pakistan on Tuesday after assurances from Canada for technical assistance in monitoring and prevention of unwanted movement of people across the Pak-Afghan border said it might consider its proposal of mining of some sections.  Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri and his Canadian counterpart Peter Gordon Mackay addressing a joint press conference after "wide-ranging discussions" on a host of issues including the fencing of Pak-Afghan border said both sides expressed their point of view on the issue.  Foreign Minister Kasuri said "Pakistan was fed up with accusations" about illegal movement across the border and said Canada has assured to help it in border management by creating an effective system, without laying of the mines on certain sections of the 2500 kmlong border.  Canada showed its reservations over mining of the border, as it was a signatory to the Ottawa Convention, however it pointed that fencing was "part of the solution" in high traffic areas.  The Canadian Foreign Minister offered to bring in a group of experts to make concrete proposals to achieve the objective to "stem the flow of Taliban and combatants" across the Pak-Afghan border.  He mentioned his country's long experience of managing its border with the United States and said Canada will support Pakistan by providing technical support including aerial surveillance, biometrics at entry and exit points, training of border guards, satellite telephones and "mutually acceptable documentation" with Afghanistan ....



Canada's New Government Invests in Afghanistan's Minefield Clearance and Community-led Development
Canadian International Development Agency news release, 9 Jan 07
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The Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages, today announced that Canada will provide $8.8 million dollars for demining activities in Kandahar Province and across Aghanistan as well as $1.9 million dollars to promote community-led development in Kandahar Province. The Minister made the announcement during a visit to CFB Valcartier.

"Today, Canada's New Government is investing in two important programs that strengthen reconstruction in Afghanistan and ensure the Afghan people can live safely and prosper in a democratic and free environment," said Minister Verner. "We are investing in clearing land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOR) to open up more land for agriculture, pasture and housing. And our investment in the creation of 12 new democratically-elected Community Development Councils will lead communities to establish shelter, electricity, roads, drainage and sewers, and improve water and waste management services."

Canada's contribution will support activities undertaken by the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) across the country, including minefield survey and clearance, stockpile destruction, mine risk education, victim assistance and capacity building and co-ordination. The objective of the UNMACA and the Government of Afghanistan is to reduce by 70 percent the land area contaminated by mines and UXOR - estimated at 720 million square metres - by the end of 2010. Over the past 17 years, more than one billion square metres of land has been cleared of mines and UXOR in Afghanistan.

A portion of Canada's funding, $3.8 million dollars, will support Operation Hamkari ("hamkari" being the Dari word for assistance and partnership) in the Kandahar districts of Panjwai and Zherai. Over a 12-month period, approximately 2.9 million square metres of contaminated land will be cleared, and 27,000 Afghans in the districts, including children and youth, will be educated about the dangers of mines and UXOR. Awareness and advocacy activities will also be undertaken to ensure social opportunities and equal rights for landmine survivors and people with disabilities.

In a separate initiative, Canada will contribute $1.9 million to UN-HABITAT's activities in Kandahar City. Working with the Afghanistan Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, UN-HABITAT will establish 12 new democratically-elected Community Development Councils (CDCs). It will work with these and existing CDCs within Kandahar city to empower communities to implement their own neighbourhood development projects. Some 6,000 households will benefit from this project which seeks to rebuild neighbourhoods destroyed by the conflict in Kandahar. The project will rehabilitate local infrastructure including shelter, electricity, roads, drainage and sewers, while also improving services such as water, health and sanitation, and waste management. In addition, infrastructure upgrades will create jobs.

Today's announcement is part of Canada's total contribution of nearly $1 billion over 10 years aimed at reconstruction, reducing poverty and strengthening Afghanistan's governance, all of which are key elements in stabilizing the country and the region. For more information on Canada's programming in Afghanistan, please refer to CIDA's website at www.cida.gc.ca/afghanistan-e



Military Ombudsman Visits Canadian Troops in Afghanistan
Department of National Defence news release, 9 Jan 07
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Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman Yves Côté arrived in Kandahar today to tour the Canadian military operation and to meet with a broad cross-section of Canadian Forces personnel, and support staff, serving in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

"I am very pleased to have the opportunity to spend time with our military members in Afghanistan and to listen to any concerns that they may have,” said Mr. Côté. The Ombudsman added, “This is an extremely challenging operation for our men and women in uniform and I want to ensure that we are doing everything that we can to support them and their families back in Canada."

The Ombudsman will be pleased to address any questions related to his travel to Afghanistan upon his return to Canada during the week of January 15, 2007.

Additional information on the Office of the Ombudsman can be found online at the following address: www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca.



More News on CAN in AFG here



Conflicting claims about clashes in Zabul, Kunar
Pajhwok Afghan News, 8 Jan 07
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Local officials and the anti-government Taliban have issued conflicting statements about clashes in southern and eastern parts of the country during the previous 24 hours.  Chief of the Mezan district of the southern Zabul province Mohammad Younus said two fighters were killed in a clash with government forces on Sunday.  Younus said Taliban ambushed an ANA convoy, which triggered the fighting. Later, the government forces besieged the attackers and killed two of them while the rest managed to escape.  But a Taliban commander, who did not disclose his identity, told this correspondent over the telephone that several soldiers had been killed in the ambush.  The unnamed caller said none of their men was killed or injured in the fighting. He added two tanks had also been destroyed by the fighters ....



State-of-the-art water plant opens in Afghanistan
ISAF news release # 2007-027, 8 Jan 07
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A state-of-the art, Afghan built, owned and operated, bottled water plant opened yesterday at Bagram Airfield.

The Aria Bottled Water Plant is a project that will provide long term benefits to both the Afghan people and Coalition forces.

“The plant demonstrates the will of the Afghan people to improve their country,” said Army Col. Larry D. Wyche, commander of the Joint Logistics Command here.

“The fact that this plant was started and completed in six months speaks volumes about the improved security situation in Afghanistan,” said Wyche. “You have an Afghan investor, investing several million dollars and creating hundreds of jobs. Every person that works in the plant now has a legitimate job, which ties directly into improving the stability and security of the country.”

When operating at full capacity, Aria’s four production lines will be able to produce nearly 400,000 bottles of water a day, said Army Maj. Tom Devine, the Joint Logistics Command civil affairs officer. The plant will also be able to produce much needed ice. The water and ice will be purified to meet or exceed the most stringent bottling standards in the world set by the International Bottled Water Association.

The equipment in the plant is like few others in this part of the world. The technology being used is currently used in only a handful of plants around the world and is the first in Asia to be IBWA certified, said Devine.

Construction of the 4,700-square-meter facility took just over five months. The total investment spent on the construction and equipment in the plant is over $10 million (USD).

When operational, Aria will employ hundreds of Afghans, pumping much needed job revenue into the economy, said Devine. This doesn’t include the secondary jobs created from the distribution, marketing and sale of the product.

Aria will also bring a certified training team to Bagram to train their employees in water bottling operations.

The plant is the brainchild of the Ramin brothers. These three Afghan brothers were living in the U.S. before the terrorist attacks of 9-11. After the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, they returned to their homeland with a little bit of money and a big dream of helping to rebuild their homeland. They chose the name Aria from the ancient name of the area that is now Afghanistan.



Governors oppose border fencing
Pajhwok Afghan News, 9 Jan 07
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Governors of the nine provinces, sharing border with Pakistan, have rejected the fencing and mining proposal and said the step would divide the people and tribes straddling the border instead of proving helpful in discouraging cross-border infiltration of terrorists.  They believed any unilateral effort on part of the Pakistani government might jeopardise relations between the two countries as well as sabotage the efforts to convene the Peace Jirga agreed upon between President Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf in Washington in September last.  Instead of erecting the fence and dividing the people living alongside the Durand Line, Pakistan should destroy sanctuaries and training camps of terrorists on the other side of the divide, suggested the governors.  Shalizai Didar, Governor of the eastern Kunar province, believed to be the hideout of fugitive Taliban and al-Qaeda elements, said people on both sides of the border were against the fencing and mining ....



De-mining agency sweeps out 17 percent of mine-fisted lands in Afghanistan
Xinhua News Agency (CHN), via Reliefweb.int, 9 Jan 07
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A leading de-mining agency, the Mine Action Program for Afghanistan (MAPA), had cleared 17 percent of contaminated lands throughout the war-ravaged Afghanistan last year, a report released by the agency said Tuesday.  "The current data shows that the MAPA cleared more than 126 million square meters of contaminated land from January through November 2006. This represents more than 17 percent of all the contaminated land thought to exist in Afghanistan," the report added.  The aim of the project, the report said, is to see an Afghanistan free from the threat of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO).  With having 8,000 employees across the post-Taliban nation, the MAPA had destroyed 12,877 anti-personnel mines, 476 anti-tank mines and more than 700,000 pieces of UXO in 2006 ....



Dostum accused for insecurity in Jawzjan, Faryab
Pajhwok Afghan News, 8 Jan 07
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Rivals have accused General Abdul Rashid Dostum for causing insecurity and distributing weapons amongst his followers in Jawzjan and Faryab provinces.  However, officials of the Junbish-i-Mili have denied the accusations by saying this was a hatched conspiracy of the neighbouring country particularly Pakistan against Abdul Rashid Dostum.  Mohammad Akbar Bai, head of the Turkmen Tribal Council of Afghanistan, in an interview with Pajhwok Afghan News said Gen Dostum had recently distributed 2,000 guns in the northern provinces to his supporters in Jozjan and Faryab provinces to prepare them for another clash.  He claimed Dostum had deployed 500 soldiers in front of his guest house which was illegal. Bai said: "Gen Dostum misused his power in northern provinces and destroyed Uzbek and ethnic Turkmen."  He accused Junbish former leader for killing Uzbek and Turkmen leaders. Bai demanded Dostum should be brought to justice. A day later hundreds of Junbish supporters demonstrated in Sheberghan against the council and destroyed its office and some of its vehicles.  The marchers were chanting slogans in support of Dostum and demanded Akbar Bai should apologize for his allegations. According to sources, Bai was a staunch supporter of Gen Dostum and even favoured him in election campaign.  Gen Malik, the president of Liberty party and a rival of Gen Dostum, said people always opposed Dostum but he used various means such as democracy and constitution to seek his fortune ....

 

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Article found 10 January, 2007

Canadian medic brings compassionate approach during patrols in Afghanistan
Bill Graveland Canadian Press Wednesday, January 10, 2007
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A physicians assistant gives an examination to an Afghan soldier at Camp Shirzai, Afghanistan. (CP PHOTO/Bill Graveland)

LACOOKHAL, Afghanistan (CP) - A little kindness can go a long way.

Sgt. Kevin Dickson of Edmonton was on foot patrol in this tiny village as members of the Afghan National Army and Quebec's Vandoos searched for signs of the Taliban. The medic had his heart set on saying hello to two tiny Afghan girls, who were visible on the other side of the mud wall where a group of women and children, wearing brightly coloured burkas, were huddled in a circle away from the prying eyes of the soldiers.

But as with most children the lure of the unusual was too much. They peeked shyly through the hole in the mud wall.

He called out a greeting in Pashto, prompting squeals of delight and caused them to run back to their mothers. The game lasted about five minutes until finally the children came out and watched the tall medic as he stood patiently waiting, leaning against the mud wall.

"I just said 'Salam o lakum' which is 'God be with you' and 'sing ayes' which is 'how are you?' I know about seven words and it usually gets a laugh everywhere I go," chuckled Dickson, the only anglophone serving with the Vandoos here.

"They're kids. It's fun," he added.

Life in the mud compounds is a struggle. Various livestock often live amongst the residents. In this case there were goats, chickens and even rabbits. An adjacent compound was home to a cow and according to the soldiers "a very large and very vicious dog."

Having men come to your home carrying guns, wearing helmets and body armour on a regular basis is something most people, especially children, could do without.

"Mostly I think every day we go out is a little bit of hearts and minds-I know it sounds like a real party line," Dickson said, rolling his eyes. "But it's true. We're walking around with guns, all geared up and we look like we're ready to destroy their village but nothing could be further from the truth."

"We're here to fight the Taliban and part of that is smiling at them and making them glad to see us a little bit because they don't have a clue what we're doing here," he said.

In a world where the Taliban rule with terror, the reassurance of a smile and kindness from strangers can go along way. It's something Dickson does when he's not taking care of soldiers in his company. The Afghan people are "unique" he noted and "incredibly tough."

"They've survived incredible things. Even this where we're sitting in now took them a long time to make," he said pointing to the mud structures. "They're admirable and I like them."

But he is also realistic. Trust of strangers is not something that comes easily in this country, torn by war for the past 30 years. And the presence of armed men in an area where Canadian troops are still hunting for the Taliban is not a ringing endorsement.

"They know that even though we mean well, by us being here, the fight is now on their doorstep and that can't be a good feeling for them."

Dickson has earned the respect of his fellow soldiers who aren't surprised he has a soft spot.

"He is one of the best medics I've ever seen," said Master Cpl. Luigi Ouellet of Quebec City. "He's a great guy."
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SAO TOME AND PRINCIPEAFGHANISTANAFGHANISTANAFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan: Day in the life of an addict
10 Jan 2007 12:24:54 GMT Source: IRIN
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.
Article Link

NAIROBI, 10 January (IRIN) - Kabul has an estimated 30,000 opium addicts Credit: IRIN/Chris Horwood It's dawn in Chendawul's twisting tiny streets, southeast of the capital Kabul. In the isolated ruins of an old building, Suhail, a 28-year-old drug addict, sits on piles of rubbish surrounded by hundreds of flies.

He is preparing to smoke his first 10-gram heroin dose of the day. "This is my palace. No disturbance from the police or passers by," says Suhail. He heats the heroin powder on the foil of a cigarette pack and sucks its smoke through a plastic pen tube. "There are many ways of smoking it," says Suhail with closed eyes and shivering smiling lips.

Suhail recalls his former days when he was a high school student and poppy grower in the eastern city of Jalalabad, one of the leading poppy growing provinces of conflict-ravaged Afghanistan. "I used to harvest poppy fields. I started to eat opium just for fun which later turned to disaster," says the homeless Suhail, who fled home when his family discovered his addiction three years ago.

Suhail gets out of his "palace" after an hour of being "high", and looks for menial jobs to fund his next supply. "I have to work for two days to support my daily habit," he says. It costs Suhail 250 afghanis (US $5) to buy his daily supply of heroin powder. "I often steal or beg for money if there is no work," he says.

For drugs addicts like Suhail, who live in the world's leading opium producer country, finding the drug is not a problem. "It's abundant, you can get it as easy as buying Coca-Cola," he claims. "The drug dealers are known to addicts and to the police as well. We are however treated as criminals while they are regarded as respected members of this community."

Drug addiction in conservative Afghan society is more than just an illegal act. Suhail says he is judged guilty of offending against law and order, culture and religion. "There's nowhere to take refuge. The people hate us, the police hate us and hospitals hate us," says the young peasant.

"Just recently, the police caught me red-handed while buying heroin from a local drug dealer. The drug dealer was released on the spot and I was detained for several days," he maintained. "I had to do hard manual work and clean all the toilets of the police station for three days before I was released."

But still Suhail prefers detention in a police station to spending nights on the streets of Kabul. "At least there is a bed to sleep on," he says. "I often sleep in mosques or cafés but sometimes they kick me out when they realise that I am an addict."
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TERRORISM: U.S. MOVES TO CALM PAKISTAN, AFGHANISTAN
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Washington, 10 Jan. (AKI/DAWN) - The United States has sent its pointman for South Asia to Kabul amid growing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan that threaten to undo the US-led alliance against terrorism. Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, last met Afghan President Hamid Karzai at Ashkabad on 28 December during the funeral of Turkmen President Sapramurat Niyazov.

According to Afghan officials, Boucher extended his support to the Afghan proposal for holding peace jirgas (meetings of tribal leaders) along the Pakistan-Afghan border and urged Pakistan and Afghanistan to launch a joint campaign to eliminate terrorism.

But since that meeting, the already tense relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have deteriorated. The latest dispute revolves around Islamabad’s decision to fence and mine parts of the border with Afghanistan.

Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz visited Kabul and defended the decision to fence the border during a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. He also told the Afghan leader that Islamabad wanted the three million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan to go home.
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Pakistan installs first biometrics system at border crossing with Afghanistan
The Associated Press Wednesday, January 10, 2007 CHAMAN, Pakistan
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Pakistan on Wednesday opened its first biometrics system to screen travelers at a land border point with Afghanistan as a measure to curtail cross-border movement of militants, an official said.

The sophisticated identification system was inaugurated at the main border crossing between southern Afghanistan and Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, near the Pakistani town of Chaman, said Brig. Akhtar Hussain Shah, an official with the government National Data and Registration Authority that issues identity cards to Pakistani nationals.

After it was inaugurated, some 40 people were screened through the system that records a person's fingerprints, retinas or facial patterns, for identification, Shah said.

Pakistani authorities will issue biometrics compatible "border passes" to residents of Chaman and the surrounding Qila Abdullah district, to help them travel to Afghanistan after being identified through the system, he said.

Shah said the new measure at the border crossing near Chaman was an effort in the fight against terrorism. "This is a step that we have taken to stop terrorism and to stop any illegal movement," he said.

Ethnic Pashtun tribesmen in Pakistan and Afghanistan, living close to the Pakistan-Afghan border, are allowed to travel across the frontier without passports but with special identity permits under an arrangement between the two countries to help members of the divided tribes visit each other.

The Afghan-Pakistan border runs through rugged mountains, deserts and is not clearly demarcated at places where it splits tribespeople.

In recent months, Pakistan has faced repeated accusations by Afghan officials that leaders of the Taliban militia are present in or near Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan, and orchestrate attacks inside Afghanistan.
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Pakistan to complete border fencing with Afghanistan by July  
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Islamabad, Jan 10: After introducing sophisticated biometric system to regulate the movement of people at Chaman Border Point with Afghanistan, Pakistan said it will complete fencing in parts of its border with Afghanistan by July 2007 to prevent cross border infiltration of Taliban militants.

The biometric system that regulate the entry and exit points was inaugurated at Chaman border yesterday by Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao.

Without commenting on objections from Afghanistan and the United Nations, Sherpao said that the fencing of the Pak-Afghan border would be completed by July this year, TV networks reported here today.

Talking to newsmen at a ceremony, he said the fencing of the border and the installation of a biometric system on the entry and exit points in the Chaman area had been completed, while the same would be done in the remaining three areas of Balochistan.

To a question, he said it was true that Afghanistan and the UN have raised objections to the fencing of the border, but it was vital to stop incidents of terrorism.

Bureau Report
End


Weapons Expert is On The Move in Afghanistan (VIDEO)
DISPATCHES FROM AFGHANISTAN
Tim King, in Afghanistan, for Salem-News.com
Article Link
When it comes time to provide security in a hot area, Shaunesie is on the move and ready to protect his men, sometimes in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.

(KABUL, Afghanistan) - Weapons of war only work with proper maintenance. A veteran of many wars, Kevin Shaunesie knows them all like the back of his hand, including former Soviet weapons which the U.S. and coalition forces now share the use of. As Tim King reports, these skills are coming in handy in Afghanistan.

It isn't every day that a reporter gets a chance to know men like Army Sergeant First Class Kevin Shaunesie. He has survived four wars and his life has been dedicated to the study of military weapons.

This veteran has been traveling through Afghanistan to lend advice and drop rifle cleaning kits off with soldiers at remote combat outposts.

To say that Shaunesie “knows his stuff” is an understatement.

And his knowledge of soviet type weapons is a real benefit right now, because unlike the Vietnam War, Americans and coalition forces are working side by side with soldiers who carry the Russian AK-47 assault rifle.
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Afghanistan a journey of spirit for chaplain from Norwalk
By CAROL HARPER Wednesday, January 10, 2007 10:58 AM EST
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The Rev. Kevin Winemiller leads morning prayer on the flight deck somewhere in Afghanistan. "I am thankful that many of our soldiers are making good choices and getting right with God," he said. (Provided photos)
NORWALK

Bags of rice stacked on the ground in August 2005 in a refugee camp in Polecharki, Afghanistan were stamped, "USA, McAllen, TX."

Army National Guard Capt. Kevin Winemiller, 46, a rural Norwalk native, had arrived two days earlier in the barren, mountainous country. Though converting to Christianity is illegal in Afghanistan, a cross insignia on Winemiller's uniform designated his role as a Christian chaplain. He played soccer with children, then stood unarmed beside the bags of rice and talked with some men, who were refugees returning from Pakistan to Afghanistan after the United States overthrew the Taliban, Winemiller said.

One refugee focused on the cross, and seemed offended by it. He approached Winemiller and said, "Zinzabad (long live) Islam. Zinzabad Islam. Zinzabad Afghanistan." About a dozen Muslim men surrounded Winemiller and also chanted the phrases.

"Instead of moving back, I advanced toward them and repeated the phrase, 'Long live Afghanistan,'" Winemiller said. "This seemed to ease the tension a bit. As I looked into their eyes, I wanted them to see that 'perfect love casts out fear.' I was not afraid, but only wanted to befriend these men and let them see that a Christian man was standing before them and that I had come to help."

In civilian life, the Rev. Kevin Winemiller has been a youth pastor since 1981, when he began at Norwalk Baptist Church, and a missionary evangelist since 1991. He has traveled to 40 countries, including short trips in 2006 to Romania, Nicaragua, Vietnam, Cuba and Peru, where he distributed Bibles to a Quecha tribe living 15,000 feet above sea level. Normally he spends about three months -- spread out over a year -- away from home on mission trips, he said.
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Canada's new government invests in Afghanistan's minefield clearance and community-led development
Press Release - CIDA Jan 9 2007
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The Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages, today announced that Canada will provide $8.8 million dollars for demining activities in Kandahar Province and across Aghanistan as well as $1.9 million dollars to promote community-led development in Kandahar Province. The Minister made the announcement during a visit to CFB Valcartier.
"Today, Canada's New Government is investing in two important programs that strengthen reconstruction in Afghanistan and ensure the Afghan people can live safely and prosper in a democratic and free environment," said Minister Verner. "We are investing in clearing land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOR) to open up more land for agriculture, pasture and housing. And our investment in the creation of 12 new democratically-elected Community Development Councils will lead communities to establish shelter, electricity, roads, drainage and sewers, and improve water and waste management services."

Canada's contribution will support activities undertaken by the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) across the country, including minefield survey and clearance, stockpile destruction, mine risk education, victim assistance and capacity building and co-ordination. The objective of the UNMACA and the Government of Afghanistan is to reduce by 70 percent the land area contaminated by mines and UXOR - estimated at 720 million square metres - by the end of 2010. Over the past 17 years, more than one billion square metres of land has been cleared of mines and UXOR in Afghanistan.

A portion of Canada's funding, $3.8 million dollars, will support Operation Hamkari ("hamkari" being the Dari word for assistance and partnership) in the Kandahar districts of Panjwai and Zherai. Over a 12-month period, approximately 2.9 million square metres of contaminated land will be cleared, and 27,000 Afghans in the districts, including children and youth, will be educated about the dangers of mines and UXOR. Awareness and advocacy activities will also be undertaken to ensure social opportunities and equal rights for landmine survivors and people with disabilities.

In a separate initiative, Canada will contribute $1.9 million to UN-HABITAT's activities in Kandahar City. Working with the Afghanistan Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, UN-HABITAT will establish 12 new democratically-elected Community Development Councils (CDCs). It will work with these and existing CDCs within Kandahar city to empower communities to implement their own neighbourhood development projects. Some 6,000 households will benefit from this project which seeks to rebuild neighbourhoods destroyed by the conflict in Kandahar. The project will rehabilitate local infrastructure including shelter, electricity, roads, drainage and sewers, while also improving services such as water, health and sanitation, and waste management. In addition, infrastructure upgrades will create jobs.
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Afghanistan going to plan - Hoon
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Foreign office minister Geoff Hoon has responded to claims British forces in Afghanistan are "overstretched" and said the mission is going as planned.
Mr Hoon, defence secretary in the 2001 invasion, said the resistance curently being faced in the south had been anticipated and "always...planned for".

Tory MP Sir John Stanley had told MPs in a Westminster debate that UK troops were "more than pulling their weight".

But, he said, they were undermanned and lacked vital equipment.

Sir John, who visited Afghanistan six weeks ago with two other members of the Commons foreign affairs committee, told MPs during the Westminster Hall debate that Britain was "right" to be in the country.

"We are right to have removed the Taleban, we are right to be there, but we have got to do more in terms of deploying resources there to make certain we win on security grounds and we have got to be prepared to be there for the long haul."
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Military Ombudsman Visits Canadian Troops in Afghanistan
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News Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Ottawa, January 9, 2007

Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman Yves Côté arrived in Kandahar today to tour the Canadian military operation and to meet with a broad cross-section of Canadian Forces personnel, and support staff, serving in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.


"I am very pleased to have the opportunity to spend time with our military members in Afghanistan and to listen to any concerns that they may have,” said Mr. Côté. The Ombudsman added, “This is an extremely challenging operation for our men and women in uniform and I want to ensure that we are doing everything that we can to support them and their families back in Canada."

The Ombudsman will be pleased to address any questions related to his travel to Afghanistan upon his return to Canada during the week of January 15, 2007.

Additional information on the Office of the Ombudsman can be found online at the following address: www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca.

For additional information, please contact:

Darren Gibb
Director of Communications
Office of the Ombudsman
Tel.: 613-992-6962

Michelle Laliberté
Communications Advisor
Office of the Ombudsman
Tel.: 613-995-8643

End

AFGHANISTAN: UN rejects landmines along border
KABUL, 9 Jan 2007 (IRIN)
Article Link

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

The United Nations has rejected Pakistan’s decision to fence and mine the border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border militancy.

The UN’s call follows a similar rejection by the Afghan government of the Pakistani plan to plant landmines and build a fence in ‘selected places’ along its 2,400 km border with Afghanistan.

“We regret the decision of the government of Pakistan to proceed with the laying of landmines and we call upon both governments to strengthen their commitment to cooperative solutions to the security problems that this region faces,” Chris Alexander, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Afghanistan, said on Monday in the capital, Kabul.

Alexander said fencing would not help security in Afghanistan.

“In fact, the UN and most countries of the world are convinced that laying landmines is a very serous threat to the security of the population that live near the places where the mines are laid,” he maintained.

There has been mounting pressure from the international community on the Pakistani government to do more to prevent the infiltration of Taliban militants, who are believed to be hiding along the porous border.

The Taliban, ousted by the US-led coalition in late 2001, are waging a deadly insurgency against the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, analysts say.
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An abrupt Iraq pullout would add risk to our soldiers in Afghanistan
Alan Ferguson, Special to The Province Published: Tuesday, January 09, 2007
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Soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow, U.S. President George W. Bush will trigger "the surge" -- a massive infusion of men and money into a last-ditch attempt to win the war in Iraq.

In what many will regard as the ultimate triumph of hope over experience, Bush will attempt one final push to quell Iraq's mounting sectarian violence, and in so doing rescue his battered reputation as commander-in-chief.

Against a background of growing domestic discontent with the war, Bush will try to convince Americans that all will be well if he deploys another 20,000 combat troops.

As it dawns on the world that Bush is serious about this plan -- that it is not some satirical skit from

Saturday Night Live -- it is also apparent that no one seems likely to prevent it.

Canadians might think that, after the mid-term elections in which the Republican Party took a bashing, Bush is a lame duck doomed to go down in history as a failed president.

In the Canadian parliamentary system, such a result would have meant the fall of his government and his own resignation.

But that's not the American way. As Joseph Biden, Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put it on Sunday: "(Bush) will be able to keep the troops (in Iraq) forever, if he wants to. As a practical matter, there is no way to say, 'Mr. President, stop'."

Not that the Democrats themselves have had much of substance to contribute to the debate over Iraq in the four years since the invasion -- four years in which 3,000 Americans troops have been killed and $450 billion US poured down the drain.

The best they can come up with since being restored to power in Congress and the Senate is some vague form of "phased withdrawal," which would amount to little more than ignominious retreat.

Many in Canada will argue that an ignominious retreat might be the best America can hope for to escape the quagmire of Iraq.
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Channel 4 viewers get a taste of British experience in Afghanistan
Posted on : Tue, 09 Jan 2007 08:16:00 GMT | Author : Peter Goodyear
Article Link


LONDON: Britain's Channel 4 has broadcast a first hand account by a journalist of the hazards of being a British soldier in Afghanistan, fighting the wily Taliban and encountering the protagonists of the jihad.

In a two-part dispatch, titled Dispatches: Fighting the Taliban, the journalist, Sean Langan, captures the involvement of the British soldiers as part of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, in keeping the country together and fighting the insurgents to bring in a semblance of stability.

The footage in the first part aired by the channel Monday shows the British army had only little control of mainly isolated pockets in Helmand, the southern province in Afghanistan, where the troops were deployed to defeat the insurgents.

Langan ignored the U.K. ministry of defense orders and moved with the Afghan army, along with the British soldiers, to be a witness a mission to regain control of a strategic town, Garmser, in Helmand province. He spent a week with the soldiers and sent the dispatches to the channel. What he has captured on his camera, from the real battlefield, shows the extent of hardships faced by the troops, especially shortage of food. The British soldiers are seen eating corn cobs from the nearby fields as there was no food transported to them for want of any transportation facilities.
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The Human Failure of the Afghanistan Mission
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A recurring theme in the situation in Afghanistan is the desperate manpower situation: there are so few troops to do the job that European countries like Germany had been criticized (by me, but also policy makers) for not allowing their troops enough leeway in joining combat operations. Indeed, NATO commanders have practically begged member countries to contribute more troops, especially the hard-fighting Canadians.
Now comes the kicker: in the face of a well-documented surge by the Taliban from their Pakistani sanctuaries, our own troop ’surge’ in Iraq is poised to siphon off critical U.S. military units from the critical battlegrounds in the east for ’strategic redeployment’ to Iraq. What’s worse, many member countries, who once saw the mission in Afghanistan as a critical and necessary response to the 9/11 attacks, have lost faith: Canada, for example, which has lost almost 45 soldiers to combat (a high percentage, given the size of their deployment), overwhelmingly wants its boys to return home. Many European countries, in various opinion polls, feel the same.
The security situation is simply unacceptable.
A recent study by the RAND Corporation delves into the (dare I say) quagmire in Afghanistan, and though there has been improvement, it’s not terribly hopeful—basically, anything was better than the Taliban, though right now the seeds are being sown for their triumphant return. The whole thing is worth reading.
Of particular interest is the talk of how warlords and the drug trade have seriously, possibly fatally, undermined the central government. (Not to toot my own horn, but this was the subject of a paper I wrote last year.) In a similar vein is how the U.S. is shouldering far more than its share:
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Japan's Abe To Focus On Afghanistan In "historic" NATO Visit
January 10th 2007 by News Staff
Article Link

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's discussions with senior NATO officials in Brussels this week will focus on Afghanistan as well as Alliance plans for stronger partnerships with Japan and other Asia-Pacific nations, NATO officials said Wednesday.

Talks on January 12 between NATO chief Jaap de Hoof Scheffer and Abe - who will be the first-ever Japanese premier to visit NATO - could involve military and non-military support for NATO troops in Afghanistan, said Alliance spokesman James Appathurai.

Describing Abe's visit to NATO as "historic," Appathurai said non-military Japanese personnel engaged in demobilization and demining operations in Afghanistan were already working side by side with Alliance troops in the country.

As such Abe's talks with Scheffer would be a "conversation of equals" focusing on how Japan could contribute more to NATO operations in Afghanistan, he said.

No new cooperation structures with Japan were planned but the Alliance was seeking a further deepening of contacts with Tokyo, Appathurai added.

NATO leaders in the Latvian capital Riga agreed last November to expand relations with non-Alliance members including Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

Abe's visit to NATO headquarters comes at a time when Japan is increasing its global security role.
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Articles found 11 January, 2007

Canadian soldier injured in Afghan land mine blast
MURRAY BREWSTER Canadian Press
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Kandahar — A Canadian soldier suffered serious, but non-life threatening injuries Thursday after stepping on a land mine in southern Afghanistan.

The unidentified soldier, part of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment battle group, was evacuated to hospital at Kandahar airfield, the main coalition base in southern Afghanistan.

The improvised explosive attack came on the same day as NATO claimed to have killed as 150 Taliban militants in a separate, large-scale battle in the eastern portion of this war-torn country.

The Canadian soldier was part of a routine pre-dawn patrol in the western Panjwaii district of Kandahar province, where the last major engagement was fought with militants during the Canadian-led Operation Medusa last September, said Lieutieutenant Sue Stefko, a spokeswoman for Task Force Afghanistan.

The patrol was being conducted as part of a new, ongoing offensive, Operation Falcon Summit, which has been targeting the Taliban leadership and bomb-making facilities in the district since mid-December.

The soldier, who asked that his name not be released, was reported in stable condition late Thursday with wounds to the lower portion of his body. It's expected he'll be repatriated to Canada.

“It's not been determined entirely what will happen,” said Lt. Stefko, “but it's likely he will go to Germany for follow-on medical care.”
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NATO says 'as many as 150' insurgents killed in Afghan battle
JASON STRAZIUSO Associated Press
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KABUL — NATO on Thursday said as many as 150 insurgents were killed in a battle in eastern Afghanistan after two large groups of fighters crossed the border from Pakistan.

The fighters were attacked with ground fire and air strikes, NATO said.

Gen. Murad Ali, the Afghan army regional deputy corps commander, said the insurgents had travelled into Paktika province with several trucks of ammunition.

A NATO statement said "initial battle damage estimates" indicated that as many as 150 fighters were killed. Gen. Ali said more than 50 fighters were killed late Wednesday and early Thursday.
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Forces Strike Insurgents Near Afghan-Pakistani Border
Special to American Forces Press Service
Article Link

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2007 – Troops from NATO's International Security Assistance Force and Afghan National Army soldiers engaged and killed a significant number of insurgents last night in Afghanistan's Bermel district, in Paktika province, NATO officials reported.
Initial post-battle assessments indicate as many as 150 insurgents were killed, officials said.

Two large groups of insurgents were observed infiltrating Paktika province from Pakistan. The insurgents were monitored, tracked and subsequently engaged after they entered Afghanistan, through the coordinated use of both air and ground fire in a series of engagements along the sparsely populated border region of Bermel district, officials said.

The insurgents had been observed gathering in Pakistan and had crossed the border prior to launching an attack against ANA and ISAF forces in the region. Pakistani military liaison officers were kept fully informed throughout the operation, officials said.

“The enemy cannot hide from Afghan and ISAF forces,” said Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, ISAF Regional Command-East commander. “Day and night, we’re employing every available means to search for, identify and destroy the enemies of Afghanistan.

“Last night was a good example of the effects the combined efforts of ISAF and Afghan forces can bring to bear on the enemy,” the general said.
End



AM - Prosecutor says US has strong case against Hicks
AM - Thursday, 11 January , 2007  08:11:00 Reporter: Michael Rowland
Article Link


PETER CAVE: The chief US military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay says the Australian terror suspect David Hicks is a hardened al-Qaeda operative who'll be held accountable for his actions.

Colonel Moe Davis has confirmed to AM that Mr Hicks, who's now been held for five years, will be among the first charged when the new military commission structure is unveiled within the next week.

He told our Washington Correspondent, Michael Rowland, the US Government has a strong case against David Hicks.

MOE DAVIS: Yeah, he was charged previously, under the old military commission rules, and the charge sheet is still available on the military commission's website, which gives a pretty good narrative description. But in essence it's, you know, he chose to take up arms against the Americans and the Coalition forces, and to support Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, you know, in their fight against the West.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Your account is starkly different from the account put forward by the Hicks' legal team.

MOE DAVIS: Right.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: That he was simply a naive, young adventurer who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

MOE DAVIS: Right. You know, I'd certainly say, you know, I hope the Australian people aren't so gullible as to step in everything that Major Mori's been spreading. You know, if they do step in it they need to wipe their feet before they go back in the house, because we would contend a lot of it has been half-truths.

But he certainly to try and depict him, I think he's been referred to as a young man that was just looking for adventure. You know, he was over 26 years of age at the time he was apprehended in Afghanistan. He had two children back in Australia. He had experience in Kosovo, he had experience in Kashmir, he'd been to a number of combat and terrorism training courses put on by al-Qaeda, and my understanding is that when 9/11 happened he was out of the country, but once he saw that the US had been attacked he made a conscious choice to turn around and go back to Afghanistan, report in to a senior al-Qaeda leader, and in essence say, you know, "I'm David Hicks, and I'm reporting for duty".

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Major Mori says that he was simply going back to Afghanistan to retrieve some personal possessions.

MOE DAVIS: Well, unless his personal possessions were an AK-47 and a sack of grenades, I would take exception to that.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: David Hicks has now spent five years at Guantanamo Bay. When can he expect to face a military trial?

MOE DAVIS: Well, certainly, as I said, once we get the rules, the rules for military commissions, which should be out next week, I anticipate within two weeks of the rules coming out we'll start charging some of the individuals, and David Hicks, I believe, will be among the first that we charge.

I would expect shortly after that we'd probably have a hearing on motions, and we're hopeful that by summertime that we can actually get the jury assembled, go to a trial on the merits, and let the facts speak for themselves. And if the jury determines that we've proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he's guilty, then they can also determine an appropriate punishment.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: It has been five years. Can you understand the mounting frustration, particularly by the Australian Government, about the delays in the Hicks case?
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Troops in fiercest Afghanistan fight so far
JASON CUMMING (jcumming@scotsman.com) Thu 11 Jan 2007
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BRITISH troops encountered some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan so far yesterday as they launched an offensive against Taleban forces that were terrorising a market town.

About 100 Royal Marines - including members of Arbroath-based 45 Commando - clashed with militants in a four-hour desert firefight after setting out on a dawn mission dubbed Operation Bauxite.

At times, they were only 40 metres from black-turbaned Taleban fighters as the Marines brought the battle to the "doorstep" of the insurgents.

Two laser-guided 1,000lb bombs were dropped on insurgents holed up in 10ft deep irrigation ditches near Gereshk in southern Helmand. Anti-tank weapons, 105mm artillery guns and mortars were also used.

Apache attack helicopters targeted Taleban positions in walled compounds, while some of the new breed of £1 million Viking armoured personnel carriers took direct hits from rocket-propelled grenades.

Troops led by Major Ewen Murchison, a former Scotland under-21 rugby internationalist, also found a cache of assault rifles and grenade launchers as well as explosives, wires and batteries that could be made into roadside bombs.

British forces were confronted by about 50 insurgents employing Taleban "shoot and scoot" tactics at around 6:45am local time yesterday near the village of Habibolah-Kalay.

Speaking after returning from the battlefield to Forward Operating Base Price, Major Murchison said he had set out to "neutralise" Taleban forces.

"This is one of the fiercest firefights we've been in to date in terms of weight of fire and proximity to our troops," he said.

"We went out there at first light. During the course of four hours, I used the full range of military weapons available to me - namely air attack helicopter, mortars and artillery, machine guns and a couple of anti-tank weapons. A couple of 1,000lb bombs were dropped by GR7 Harriers on what we considered to be a trench system.

"I was trying to stop these men from shooting at my men. They can run away if they want, but if they continue to fight I have to kill them."

From a 40ft observation tower at the joint US-British outpost at around 10am, a huge mushroom cloud could be seen erupting after Harrier jump jets were called in to dislodge Taleban fighters from their positions about 10km from the base.

The contingent was mostly made up of J Company of Plymouth-based 42 Commando, but about 100 Estonian troops and some Danish units provided backup. Afghan National Army soldiers were also involved.

British military officials could not say last night how many militants had been killed.

Major Murchison, 38, from Bearsden, near Glasgow, said:

"We're trying to create a buffer zone to essentially take Gereshk town centre out of the range of mortars."

No British personnel were injured, but one member of the fledgling Afghan National Army suffered a gunshot wound.
More on link

Rebel: 'We aided bin Laden escape'
POSTED: 1429 GMT (2229 HKT), January 11, 2007
Article Link

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar claimed in a television interview broadcast Thursday that his fighters helped Osama bin Laden escape from the mountains of Toro Bora five years ago.

Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister and leader of the Hezb-e-Islami militant group, told Pakistan's private Geo TV network that when the United States began its assault on the Tora Bora mountains in late 2001, some of his fighters moved bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri and other associates to "a safe place" where he met them later.

He did not say where they found the shelter.

Hekmatyar was speaking in Pashto language. Only fragments from Hekmatyar's comments were audible under a voiceover translated into Urdu, Pakistan's main language. Geo did not disclose when or where the interview was made.
End

 

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Canadian soldier injured in landmine blast as fighting rages in Afghanistan
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 11 Jan 07
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A Canadian soldier suffered serious, but non-life-threatening injuries Thursday after stepping on a landmine in southern Afghanistan.  The army identified the wounded man as Master Cpl. Jody Mitic, who is based in Petawawa, Ont., as part of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment. Mitic was evacuated by helicopter to hospital at Kandahar airfield, the main coalition base in southern Afghanistan, but military doctors decided late Thursday to transfer him to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.  "After assessing his condition, it was determined he will be sent to Germany and eventually back to Canada for treatment," said Capt. Joanne Blais, a spokeswoman for Task Force Afghanistan.  Mitic's age and hometown were not released.  The explosion of the improvised device came on the same day that NATO claimed to have killed a significant number of Taliban militants in a separate, large-scale battle in the eastern portion of this war-torn country.  The Canadian soldier was part of a routine pre-dawn patrol in the western Panjwaii district of Kandahar province, where the last major engagement was fought with militants during the Canadian-led Operation Medusa last September, said army spokeswoman Lt. Sue Stefko ....



Winning hearts and minds, in Afghanistan and Canada
Spreading the word at home is commander's latest mission

ESTANISLAO OZIEWICZ, Globe & Mail, 12 Jan 07
Article Link

After nine months commanding NATO forces in battled-scarred southern Afghanistan, Brigadier-General David Fraser is back home selling the Canadian mission -- with gusto.  When the veteran infantry officer wasn't directing the fierce fight against Taliban insurgents, he was engaging the hearts and minds of Afghans.  Now, he's talking to any Canadian who will listen about what he maintains is a vital role in Afghanistan.  In his media and lecture circuit, the main message, carefully scripted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government, is that Canadian troops are turning back the Taliban and helping to rebuild a shattered and destitute country.  "It's a little of both," Gen. Fraser said in an interview when asked whether spreading the word was his idea or that of his political and military masters in Ottawa.  "This is a great Canadian story that has to be told. This is about Canada helping those less fortunate than us, helping those in Afghanistan build a nation. Canada is owed a progress report, what it is we're doing over there."  Gen. Fraser, who was a key figure in developing a program to "embed" reporters and photographers with Canadian combat troops, said he has done his own poll about whether Canadian soldiers ought to remain in Afghanistan, notwithstanding last year's long list of casualties and the prospect of more to come.  "In 26 years, I've learned soldiers don't lie. If soldiers like something or don't like something, they will tell you. Well, the soldiers I've talked to all believe in what they're doing over there ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Taliban Hit Hard in Helmand and Paktika
Afgha.com (AFG), 11 Jan 07
Article Link

UK forces launched their largest pre-planned operation against Taliban positions in Helmand thus far, killing between 60 and 100 Taliban. The operation targeted two compounds in Kostay, a village south of Garmser city starting at about 3:30 A.M. local time.  100 UK troops from the Brigade Reconnaissance Force (3rd Commando Brigade) surrounded the compound which lay across the Helmand river. Troops began a probing attack by using snipers to pin down and harass Taliban militants. When the Taliban returned fire, Apache gunships were called upon to bomb both compounds. According to local police officials wanted Taliban commander Mullah Faqir Mohammad was killed in the strike ....


British troops kill up to 100 Taliban in attack
Daily Mail (UK), 11 Jan 07
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British troops were said to have killed up to 100 Taliban fighters and destroyed a key base from which guerrilla attacks were being launched in Afghanistan on Thursday.  The fighters were believed to be in a compound in lawless Helmand province which was destroyed when 100 UK soldiers backed by air support launched the assault - the biggest pre-planned operation yet by British forces in the region.  The pre-dawn battle, which raged for four hours, saw the destruction of two buildings military intelligence had pinpointed as key to those involved in anti-British operations. No British soldiers were injured.  The attack came as Nato and Afghan soldiers killed up to 150 insurgents in unrelated ground and air strikes in southeastern Afghanistan. The insurgents were attacked as they crossed into Afghanistan from the safety of camps in neighbouring Pakistan ....



Afghan women and children: the left's moral blind spot
J. L. GRANATSTEIN, Globe & Mail, 11 Jan 07
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....  to judge by the silence of Canada's left and its feminists, there are worse sins occurring out there than the repression of Afghan women and children. What could be worse? The whole "War on Terror," the American and NATO interventions in Afghanistan, and Canadian complicity in Washington's many and varied sins. In other words, the silence of the Canadian feminist lambs suggests strongly that this is a classic case in which anti-Americanism and anti-Bush sentiment, combined with anger at Stephen Harper's Conservative government and its policies, easily outweigh the harm done to Afghan females by a fundamentalist cabal ....



NATO, Pakistani army battle Afghan militants along border
Jason Straziuso Associated Press, 12 Jan 07
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NATO said Thursday its forces killed scores of insurgents who had crossed from Pakistan in the biggest battle of the Afghan winter, while Pakistan's army fired artillery at trucks supplying militants on the other side of the border.  NATO tracked the suspected Taliban militants through air surveillance while the fighters were still in Pakistan. Once they crossed the frontier, NATO and Afghan soldiers attacked the two separate groups with ground fire and airstrikes during a nine-hour battle that began Wednesday evening.  Gen. Murad Ali, the Afghan army regional deputy corps commander, said the insurgents traveled into Afghanistan's southern Paktika province with several trucks of ammunition. Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a U.S. military spokesman, said it was likely they were going to carry out an immediate attack, given the size of the groups.  Taliban militants last year launched a record number of attacks in Afghanistan, and an estimated 4,000 people died in insurgency-related violence, the bloodiest year since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime in 2001. Afghan and Western officials say the militants operate from sanctuaries in Pakistan, but Islamabad insists it does all it can to stop them.  The overnight offensive in Paktika province was the first major engagement of 2007 and appeared to be the largest battle since a multi-day operation killed more than 500 Taliban fighters in southern Kandahar province in September ....



Viking Vehicles Are Saving Lives in Afghanistan
UK Ministry of Defence, 12 Jan 07
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The new Viking amphibious all terrain vehicles, whose bodies are constructed from armored steel, are being credited with saving British Forces lives in Afghanistan.  The Viking is on its first operational tour and British Service personnel speaking to the media, have said that considerably more troops would have died if it had not been for the introduction of the vehicle.  Despite weighing 10 tonnes the Viking’s 5.9 litre turbo-diesel engine is capable of producing speeds of 50 mph (80 kph) on roads. And they maintain excellent mobility on soft terrain, such as snow, mud or sand, because of the even load distribution over its four tracks. The vehicle retains mobility even if a track is damaged by a mine. And it can operate in temperatures from -46°C to +49°C ....



China Donates Unmilitary Items to Afghan Army
China.cn.org, 12 Jan 07
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China donated unmilitary items worth US$2 million to Afghanistan National Army (ANA) on Thursday.  The stuffs include 10 trucks, 12 Jeeps, 17 cars, 100 computers, 30 photocopy machines, 100 printers, 100 air conditioners, 140 TV sets and a large numbers of electric fans, refrigerators, diesel generator, shoes, tents, engineering axes and engineering shovels.  At a ceremony attended by Afghan, Chinese and US officials and soldiers in Afghan Defense Ministry, Liu Jian, the Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan, said that the Chinese government has consistently supported Afghanistan's post-war reconstruction and provided assistance in its power.  "For six days, the air force of the People's Liberation Army has been transporting the 200 ton goods from China to Afghanistan. China attaches great importance to helping Afghanistan in its postwar reconstruction process," he said ....



Refugee repatriation agreement during PM visit to Kabul important development: FO spokesperson
Government of Pakistan, via Reliefweb.int, 11 Jan 07
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The Foreign Office spokesperson has said that an important development during the visit of Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to Kabul was the agreement on the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan.  In a telephonic interview to PTV, Tasneem Aslam said the government of Pakistan plans to repatriate maximum number of Afghan refugees during 2007 with special focus on dismantling of refugees camps close to border areas.  She also said that whatever measures are being taken by Pakistan to ensure check on the movement of undesired elements in areas on the Pak-Afghan border are limited to its own territory ....

 

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Excerpts on Afstan from three stories Jan. 12 mentioning US intelligence chiefs Congressional testimony:

NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/12/washington/12intel.html

He [outgoing DNI Negroponte] also warned of the successes that a resurgent Taliban is having in Afghanistan in its attempts to destabilize the government of President Hamid Karzai.

The intelligence chief said the Taliban “probably” [emphasis added] does not directly threaten the viability of Mr. Karzai’s government. At the same time, he said the Taliban is achieving more limited goals of impeding economic development in southern and eastern Afghanistan and undermining popular support for the government in Kabul.

AP:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Pakistan-US-Terrorism.html

The statements Thursday by U.S. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte that Pakistan is a haven for al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists are ''incorrect,'' Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said...

In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Negroponte said that ''eliminating the safe haven that the Taliban and other extremists have found in Pakistan's tribal areas is not sufficient to end the insurgency in Afghanistan, but it is necessary.''....

AP:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-National-Threats.html

The DIA believes attacks in Afghanistan from the Taliban-led insurgency will increase this spring. ''Nearly five years after the Taliban's fall, many Afghans expected the situation to be better by now and are beginning to blame President (Hamid) Karzai for the lack of greater progress,'' [DIA Director Lt. Gen.] Maples said...

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Canadian loses feet to Afghan landmine
Overnight patrol helps clear area of insurgents

Doug Schmidt, Calgary Herald, 12 Jan 07
Article Link

The land-mine blast Thursday that badly injured Master Cpl. Jody Mitic from 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment put the spotlight on a unique Canadian surveillance and patrol squadron that is performing a pivotal task in the international military effort to rid this strife-torn and impoverished area of armed insurgents.  Mitic, who is based in Petawawa, Ont., is one of the 88 men and women of ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance) squadron. A sniper, Mitic stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED) while on an overnight patrol, and suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries to his legs.  Three of the squadron's members have been killed and six others wounded since September ....



Canada hopes U.S. won't shift troops from Afghanistan to Iraq - minister
Michael Tutton, Canadian Press, 12 Jan 07
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Canada's defence minister is hoping the United States won't shift combat troops from Afghanistan to boost its war in Iraq, although America's top military official says it has no intention of doing so.  Gordon O'Connor said Friday that the possibility of fewer troops in Afghanistan was the main question he had regarding U.S. president George W. Bush's plan to boost forces in Iraq by 21,500 troops. "I don't know if there will be any impact," he said after a speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.  "My hope is they won't draw any troops away from Afghanistan to reinforce Iraq. . . . That's the only thing I'd think about."  However, the chair of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff said Friday there's no plan to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan.  U.S. General Peter Pace, speaking at the Senate armed services committee, said the units going into Iraq "were already in the pipeline and they will be moved forward in the pipeline in a couple of months."  He said there are about 22,500 troops in Afghanistan right now and that won't change, adding: "We will be able to maintain that."  Pace also testified that if it's necessary, the U.S. military could draw from the National Guard and reserves to send more troops to Afghanistan ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



A road cuts to heart of NATO's troubled Afghan campaign
Carlotta Gall, International Herald Tribune, 12 Jan 07
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SPERWAN GHAR, Afghanistan:  The road that cuts through the heart of this district tells all that is going wrong with NATO's war in Afghanistan.  To fight their way into this area and clear it of Taliban insurgents, NATO troops bulldozed through orchards, smashed down compound walls and even houses, and churned vineyards and melon fields to dust.  Reconstruction projects were planned, but never materialized. Even after NATO forces plowed through the area, the Taliban were able to wage a guerrilla campaign with roadside bombs and suicide attacks, keeping aid workers at bay.  Now, without any other reconstruction aid, NATO forces are championing the $5 million thoroughfare as their primary gift to local people. But displaced and buffeted by both the Taliban and NATO forces since May, they are homeless, fearful, and far from being won over. They say the road was forced on them, at the cost of their land and livelihoods ....



Germany eyes sending Tornado planes to Afghan south
Reuters (UK), 12 Jan 07
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Germany, under pressure to offer more help to NATO forces in violent south Afghanistan, will decide soon whether to send Tornado aircraft to the region for reconnaissance duties, its foreign minister said on Friday.  Frank-Walter Steinmeier denied earlier remarks by a top official in Germany's coalition government that the decision had already been taken, which had prompted criticism from coalition allies and rivals alike who insisted parliament be consulted.  "We shall study this request and take a decision in good time," Steinmeier told reporters in Brussels, adding that he would discuss a NATO request made in December for reconnaissance planes at an alliance meeting due on January 26.  Steinmeier's party ally Peter Struck, parliamentary chief of the Social Democrats who share power in Berlin with Chancellor Angela Merkel, earlier said the aircraft would be deployed ....



Afghan army "unfit to take over security role in 2009"
Pak Tribune (PAK), 13 Jan 07
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British troops may not pull out of Afghanistan by 2009 as planned, an Army commander warned.  Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Dewar told newsman the other day the withdrawal depended on the progress of the Afghan National Army.  And if the ANA are not ready to battle the Taliban fanatics in Helmand province within two years, British troops will have to continue providing back-up.  There are currently 4000 British soldiers in the war-torn province and huge efforts are being made to prepare the ANA for their pullout. But it may take longer to ensure the fledgling army are up to the job, said Dewar ....



Taliban urge tribesmen to attend funerals of 25 militants
Daily Times (PAK), 13 Jan 07
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The bodies of 25 militants killed in a fierce battle with NATO-led troops in Afghanistan were repatriated on Friday to their tribal villages in Pakistan, where Taliban activists urged mass attendance at their funerals, residents said. NATO on Thursday reported killing or wounding 130 suspected Taliban who had crossed from Pakistan to mount attacks in eastern Afghanistan. The Pakistan Army also said it attacked militant supply trucks on its side of the border in North Waziristan. On Friday, the bodies of 25 guerrillas killed in the fighting were brought to Miran Shah. Funerals were to be held in different villages in the region later in the day, according to local intelligence officials and residents ....



General: Canuck farmers can help
Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun, 12 Jan 07
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It may not just be NATO soldiers who will help end Afghanistan's dependency of the poppy trade, a Canadian general and former NATO commander in the region said yesterday.  Canadian farmers and agriculture experts may also play a key role, he said.  "It's the infrastructure and how to market their traditional products that they need," Gen. David Fraser said of Afghan farmers' desire to get out of supplying drug lords and instead feeding their own people.  Fraser, who was in Toronto yesterday, said he has confidence Afghanistan will one day be a bustling democracy. "Patience," he said, is the key ....



CENTAF releases airpower summary for Jan. 11
Air Force News, 12 Jan 07
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U.S. Central Command Air Forces officials have released the airpower summary for Jan. 11.  In Afghanistan Jan. 10, Air Force B1-B Lancers and Royal Air Force GR-7s provided close-air support to International Security Assistance Force troops in contact with enemy forces near Gereshk. The B1-Bs expended guided bomb unit-38s and GBU-31s on enemy positions. The GR-7s expanded Enhanced Paveway II munitions on enemy positions.  Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt IIs provided close-air support to ISAF troops in contact with enemy forces near Khowst.  A B-1B provided close-air support to ISAF troops in contact with enemy forces near Musah Qal'eh.  The B-1B is no longer a Cold War combatant. Today, its strength lies in long-range, high-payload, multi-task operations and the ability to employ in all environments, day/night, or any weather conditions.  A B-1B and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs provided close-air support for ISAF troops in contact with Taliban extremists near Orgun-E. The B-1B expended GBU-31s and the A-10s expended general-purpose 500-pound bombs, a GBU-12 and cannon rounds on enemy positions.  A-10s, a B-1B and Royal Air Force GR-7s provided close-air support for ISAF troops in contact with Taliban extremists near Now Zad. The A-10s expended GBU-12s, MK-82s and cannon rounds on enemy positions. The B-1B expended GBU-31s and GR-7s expended rockets on enemy positions.  An Air Force B-1B provided close-air support to ISAF troops in contact with enemy forces near Lashkar Gah. The B-1B expended GBU-31s and GBU-38s on enemy positions.  Royal Air Force GR-7s provided close-air support to International Security Assistance Force troops in contact with enemy forces near Sangin.  In total, 33 close-air support missions were flown in support of ISAF and Afghan troops, reconstruction activities and route patrols ....



Winter humanitarian missions help many
ISAF news release # 2007-039, 12 Jan 07
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BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Humanitarian missions taking place throughout Afghanistan are focused on helping villagers, teachers and children make it through the winter more comfortably.  ISAF soldiers who are part of Bravo Battery, 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment recently conducted a mission for the teachers of Kor Baugh in Nagalam district, Khost province.  The mission was scheduled after the Kor Baugh teachers requested assistance in preparing for their new school season. The regiment distributed several blankets, sweaters and coats, plus two teacher starter kits for the new school year. The ISAF soldiers asked the Government of Afghanistan for additional supplies and help with missions like this one in the future.  In Barkanday village, also located in Khowst Province, another group of ISAF soldiers from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry distributed a variety of items to the local people. Donations included rice, beans, flour, sugar, oil, coats, sweaters, gloves, coal, stoves, and tarps.  Finally, a civil assistance mission conducted in Narang district, Kunar province provided 28 bundles of coats, toboggans and children’s headgear to needy families, as well as bags of rice and beans.



MEDCAP held in Mushai Valley, donations provided
ISAF news release # 2007-038, 12 Jan 07
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KABUL, Afghanistan (12 January) – Regional Command-Capital’s Italian Battlegroup Civilian Military Cooperation (CIMIC) team held a Medical Civil Affairs Programme (MEDCAP) on Wednesday and provided winter relief supplies to the people of Mushai Valley.  Approximately 75 men and children in the village of Surjay were treated by two doctors and two nurses during the three-hour MEDCAP. The team treated and provided medicine to patients suffering from such ailments as colds and coughs to Leishmaniasis. An 11-year-old boy received minor surgery to remove shrapnel from his arm.  The CIMIC team coordinated the distribution of 110 food and fuel packages to local families selected by the village chiefs as being most in need throughout the winter months.  A second donation of 60 food packs, stoves and water containers, as well as 30 tons of wood, was also made in the nearby village of Hosain Khail.



 
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