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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (July 2007)

Colin Parkinson

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John Robson • We win peace by winning the war
 
John Robson
The Ottawa Citizen


Friday, July 06, 2007



CREDIT: 
German Gen. Wilhelm Keitel "negotiates" a peace agreement on behalf of the shattered Nazi regime on May 8, 1945. NDP leader Jack Layton insists on pretending that the yet-uncrushed Taliban can be treated the same way, John Robson writes.

The British doctors' plot certainly helps clarify things. I am glad the operation was a failure and the patients did not die for the obvious reasons. But also because it helps me discuss the merits of this botched atrocity.

First, its sheer incompetence. One of our advantages in the war on terror, albeit unearned, is that we are fighting people who have difficulty setting themselves on fire in a car full of propane. The Globe and Mail claimed Saturday that British police were "hunting for at least three other suspects and a mastermind," but I doubt they'll find the latter in this affair. Despite the defeatist tone of much western news coverage, our enemies are often as clueless as they are vicious.

Second, that this comically inept villainy was apparently the work of educated people with lucrative, prestigious jobs underlines that our problem here is not poverty, social exclusion or racism but an idea. Specifically, the belief that we should be blown up as promiscuous intoxicated unbelievers. "Death to infidels" is the root cause of Islamist terrorism, as more and more people realize.

That's why the third piece of good news was the blase public reaction. The usual suspects feigned horror that such terrorist acts should have been attempted by highly paid professionals honoured by the host society, but few others were fooled. To call terrorism a product of poverty is, as Chesterton said of crime, a slander on the poor, many of whom live decent, honourable lives. It is also a slander on all mankind, a pernicious denial of free will, for materialists to claim we can buy off our enemies with big salaries, fancy offices and high-definition TVs.

Ultimately we are accountable for our choices, not our circumstances, and deep down we all know it. Life is never easy, though tribulations vary. But adversity crushes some and strengthens others. And while poverty can contribute to despair and rage, as indeed can wealth, both are at best partial explanations, not legitimate excuses. If you believe in a merciful God, you must prepare one day to explain to Him why you chose terrorism, not why you had no choice.

In public policy, too, choices and ideas matter far more than circumstances. Islamists try to blow us up not for refusing them attractive jobs or for our foreign policy misdeeds, but because they think we should die for being happy, tolerant people who do not claim to love the Creator while despising His creation and His creatures. And unless we convert to their way of thinking, they will not relent.

Not everyone gets it. At a Wednesday press conference, NDP leader Jack Layton said we should label civilian casualties in Afghanistan "unacceptable," distance ourselves from the Bush administration, withdraw our troops and initiate a "comprehensive peace process" because "nobody could advance the idea that there's a military solution ultimately in Afghanistan."

Since the Taliban see an obvious military solution, shooting their way back into power and killing everybody who taught girls, I asked him: "When you talk about your comprehensive peace process, what's the offer to the Taliban?" Mr. Layton blithered that "Students of history will know that all major conflicts are resolved ultimately through peace-oriented discussions ..."


Unfortunately for him I am a student of history with three university degrees in the subject from two different countries, so I said: "And by the armies marching into Berlin and an atomic bomb dropped on Japan. That's how World War II ended and students of history know that." He responded: "Well I beg to differ that if you study the precise processes that took place most of the conflicts in the world you'll see that there are always negotiations that take place. And that's what needs to happen here."

His response was insolently stupid. Of course at some point in almost any war someone staggers forward to sign an instrument of surrender, but other obvious historical examples of major conflicts that ended by crushing victory include World War I, the Napoleonic Wars and the Cold War. I didn't have time to make this point, but it didn't matter because most other journalists present, including from francophone media, were openly incredulous about Mr. Layton's proposal. They might not support the Afghan war. But even the press grasp that you can't sign useful treaties with people who dream of waving your severed head at a cheap webcam.

As students of history know, John Maynard Keynes was right that "soon or late, it is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good and evil." It's why doctors try to bomb nightclubs and airports. Clearly.

John Robson's column appears weekly
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=f2f0d8e4-4822-4efc-b46f-97b64782bc8d
 

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French General Says NATO Holding Back In Afghanistan
July 6, 2007
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The top French commander in Afghanistan says NATO could rout the Taliban but has held off using full force in order to spare civilians.

General Pierre-Richard Kohn said if NATO applied "blind force," it would "defeat the Taliban quickly."

But he said the alliance, under criticism for civilians recently killed in its anti-Taliban operations, is not using cluster bombs or weapons that endanger civilians. Kohn accused Taliban insurgents of "barbaric methods," including using civilians as human shields.

 

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Politics of war; Layton's yapping gives Harper some fodder for Afghanistan mission
Den Tandt, Michael Editorial - Friday, July 06, 2007 @ 09:00
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'Students of history will know that all major conflicts are resolved ultimately through peace-oriented discussions," Jack Layton smugly intoned at a press conference Wednesday, with the bodies of six Canadians, who are heroes, not yet cold.

Once again, Layton called on the government to pull the troops out, now. Every new tragedy - every Canadian loss in combat - gives Layton cause to renew his demand that Canada should abandon its allies and leave the people of Afghanistan to their bleak fate. He doesn't bother to wait until the news has even hit home, really. He leaps for the microphone like a trout for a fly.

All major conflicts are resolved through peace-oriented discussions? That's funny. The invasion of Normandy was not a peace-oriented discussion. Nor were the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Nor, for that matter, was the American arms-spending spree that bankrupted the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War. But never mind that. Jack Layton, the Great Peace Maker, has spoken.

Then there's Stephane Dion. The Liberal leader apparently realizes that a precipitous pullout would be disastrous for NATO and for Canada. Among Liberal heavyweights, Dion was always one of those who strongly backed the Paul Martin-inspired notion of the "responsibility to protect." The same goes for deputy leader Michael Ignatieff. The Afghan mission was a Liberal baby. So, the party can't quite bring itself to disown it.

But neither can the Liberals resist turning tragedy into political fodder.
Wednesday Dion held a press conference of his own, during which he said the Liberals will never support an extension of the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan beyond its current mandate, which ends in February of 2009. Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper has ruled out any extension without Parliamentary approval, that appears to be that.

Here too, as in Layton's rhetoric, there's comfort for the ignorant fanatics who are killing Canadians. For if Canada is leaving in February of 2009, come hell or high water, the insurgents need only redouble their efforts. It's a moral victory for them, a public-relations bonanza, and ample reason for them to continue with the tactics that are serving them so well. This is not an easy thing to acknowledge, but it is true.
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http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20070707/kandahar_ied_070707/20070707?hub=TopStories

Roadside bomb injures four soldiers in Afghanistan

Updated Sat. Jul. 7 2007 5:24 AM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

A suicide bomber near Kandahar has attacked four Canadian soldiers, hours after a ramp ceremony honoured six men who died in another explosion last week.


"The injuries sustained by the soldiers are not serious. The soldiers notified their next of kin themselves," said Maj. Dale MacEachern, spokesperson for Task Force Afghanistan.


The four soldiers were transported by helicopter to hospital, where two were treated and released.


The attack happened about eight kilometers west of Kandahar city, when a suicide bomber struck their vehicle with an improvised explosive device.


Last Wednesday, six soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a massive bomb.


Military investigators at the scene said the explosion left a huge crater measuring three metres wide by one-and-a-half metres deep.


The blast ripped through the group's heavily armoured RG-31 Nyala, killing everyone inside.


The slain soldiers have been identified as Cpl. Jordan Anderson, Capt. Jefferson Francis, Capt. Matthew Johnathan Dawe, Cpl. Cole Bartsch, Pte. Lane Watkins and Master Cpl. Colin Bason.


An Afghan interpreter also died in the attack.
 

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Articles found July 7, 2007

Fatal Afghan blast was biggest seen, bomb experts say
No vehicle could have withstood such a powerful explosion, investigation into deaths of six soldiers concludes as bodies return home
GRAEME SMITH From Saturday's Globe and Mail July 6, 2007 at 8:00 PM EDT
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Kandahar, Afghanistan — The explosion was the biggest ever seen by Canada's bomb experts in Afghanistan, and last night the scale of its damage was paraded across the warm tarmac at Kandahar Air Field.

A line of coffins stretched into the darkness as pallbearers walked six of their comrades into the belly of a transport plane. The padre chose only a few words of farewell to the men who died instantly on Wednesday when their troop carrier was blown into the air.

Reading from Psalm 121, Captain Steele Lazerte's voice echoed from loudspeakers across the straight lines of troops, more than a thousand soldiers standing at attention.

The jagged hills stood invisible beyond the airstrip. These soldiers are coming to the end of their six-month tour. Their comrades were driving on a road that winds alongside the rocky hills of Panjwai district when an enormous bomb detonated directly under their RG-31 Nyala. An initial investigation has concluded that no vehicle could have withstood the blast, Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker said.

Even the military engineers who responded to the blast said they had never seen the aftermath of such a large improvised explosive device, the battle group commander said.

"They've never seen an explosion, an IED, this big in their experience on this tour," Col. Walker said. "By looking at the crater, it was quite huge, over three metres across, and a metre and a half deep." He continued: "There's no vehicle — and the RG is one of the best vehicles in the world — there is no vehicle that was going to survive that."
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100 Militants Killed in Afghanistan
Friday July 6, 2007 9:16 PM AP By JASON STRAZIUSO Associated Press Writer
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Fierce fighting broke out around Afghanistan on Friday, with battles in three separate regions killing more than 100 militants, part of a cycle of rapidly rising violence five years into the U.S.-led effort to defeat the Taliban.

The governor of northeastern Kunar province said villagers were claiming that airstrikes had killed dozens of civilians, though he said he could not confirm the report.

The fighting - in the south, west and northeast - continues a trend of sharply rising bloodshed the last five weeks, among the deadliest periods here since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion

More than 1,000 people were killed in insurgency-related violence in June alone, including 700 militants and 200 civilians. More than 3,100 people have been killed in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count based on information from Western and Afghan officials. Around 4,000 people died in violence last year.

U.S.-led coalition and NATO spokesmen on Friday emphasized that ground commanders had evaluated the terrain to prevent civilians casualties, though Kunar Gov. Shalizai Dedar said villagers had reported that 10 civilians were killed in an initial airstrike, and that a second strike killed about 30 people who were trying to bury the dead.
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Afghan mission complex, but vital
The Edmonton Journal Friday, July 06, 2007
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How do we honour the six Canadians who died on a gravel road in southern Afghanistan this week? First, by appreciating how terribly dangerous the Canadian mission is, and how much we're asking of our soldiers. Sixty-six dead in just a few years, all of them young people with their lives ahead of them and families who loved them.

Members of the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry made up most of the 250 Edmonton troops that headed to Kandahar in February for their six-month rotation.

This battalion, just 570 people in all, has suffered heartbreaking losses.

Four of the six killed this week were from this group, as were three soldiers killed June 20.

It's hard to imagine what the members of 3PPCLI are suffering.

Second, let's think of the mission itself.

It's not enough to put a Support Our Troops bumper sticker on our car. Canadian soldiers aren't served well by citizens who unquestioningly accept what their government says about our need to have troops in this faraway nation.

There may be a point in which our soldiers are dying for no good reason, and when that happens, Canadians need to recognize it and demand a troop withdrawal. That point hasn't happened yet, but it could.

Similarly, it's not enough to say, "I'm against war, bring the troops home." We all need to do our homework, try to understand what's going on and what our duty as a nation is.

This is a complex, confusing mission because the modern world is complex. When terrorists in southern Afghanistan were able to plot and execute the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, we all learned that this is a small planet in which one out-of-control country can cause global problems.

Today, thanks to the NATO mission, much of Afghanistan is gradually recovering from decades of warfare and brutal Taliban rule.
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British PM Brown pledges continued commitment for Afghanistan
The Associated Press Saturday, July 7, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged continued commitment and involvement in Afghanistan during a telephone conversation with President Hamid Karzai, the president's office said in a statement Saturday.

Brown, who replaced Tony Blair as the head of the British government last week, told Karzai during their conversation Friday that the "security in Afghanistan means security for the world," the statement from Karzai's office said.

Brown also emphasized continued British assistance with reconstruction and the peace process in Afghanistan, it said.

There are some 6,700 British troops in the 36,000-strong International Security Assistance Force, which is led by NATO. Most of those troops serve in the volatile southern Helmand province, which is the world's largest producer of opium poppy.
End
 

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War is won, lost at home
Sat Jul 7 2007
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ON Aug. 19, 1942, more than 900 Canadian soldiers were killed during a nine-hour battle on the beaches of Dieppe in France. It was not one of Canada's greatest moments in war, but it was one of its most heroic. The loss of life, the casualties, were huge -- more Canadian prisoners, about 1,300, were taken by the Germans at Dieppe than during the rest of the war in all of northwest Europe.
Dieppe may or may not have served a useful purpose -- historians are still debating that. And in a nation that was not at the time 100 per cent behind a far-away war in a far-away land, it might have served as a rallying cry to bring the boys home, particularly in Quebec, where support for the war was at its lowest. That did not happen. In fact, 65 years after Dieppe, you would be hard-pressed to find a Canadian who thinks that Canada should have quit in 1942 because the losses were high, who thinks that the Second World War was not worth fighting.

This week, 65 years later, six Canadian soldiers were killed in a flash by a bomb on a roadway in Afghanistan. That has fuelled an already heated debate over whether the war is worth fighting, whether we should bring the boys and girls home now before another life is lost.

Just as the Second World War was not lost on the beaches of Dieppe back then, the war in Afghanistan will not be lost on the battlefields of Kandahar today. Canadian troops and their NATO allies have an extraordinary record of success in fighting the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies. Hardly any coalition troops have been killed in open warfare -- terrorists try to avoid combat.

Neither will it be lost on the bloodier roadsides of the highways and dirt tracks of Afghanistan where the terrorists plant the improvised explosive devices that have been the chief cause of Canadian casualties and where, this week, an IED brought the total of Canadian soldiers killed in the war to 66.

The Afghan war, if it is eventually lost, will be lost instead in the House of Commons, in the hallways of Parliament Hill, in the kitchens and living rooms of Canadian homes.   
The defeatist reaction to the war is most obvious in Ottawa. The deaths of more soldiers this week predictably prompted Jack Layton's New Democrats to once again surrender to the Taliban, with Mr. Layton issuing one more demand that the troops be brought home immediately.

Stéphane Dion's Liberal party is less precipitous, but still insists that the federal government tell the Afghans and NATO immediately that, after this country's commitment to the war expires in 2009, Canada will quit the field, regardless of the progress of the war or the plight of the Afghan people.

The Bloc Québécois anticipates the Liberal surrender, while reinforcing the NDP's demand for immediate withdrawal, even as, or perhaps especially because, Quebec's Royal 22nd Regiment, the legendary Van Doos, is preparing to depart for the war.

Alone among the nation's political parties, the Conservatives, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, remain committed to the war on terror as it is being played out in Afghanistan, but even the government appears now to be wavering. Mr. Harper says that a continued Canadian combat presence in Afghanistan will only be possible with the support of the opposition parties, all of which are against it.
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Articles found July 8, 2007

Tories soften stance on Afghan mission extension
Jason Fekete, CanWest News Service Published: Saturday, July 07, 2007
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CALGARY - As the bodies of six Canadian soldiers killed this past week in Afghanistan return home, Conservative MPs said Saturday extending Canada's combat assignment in the war-torn country beyond February 2009 will depend on "consensus" in Parliament.

But Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, in Calgary for the Stampede, insisted there won't be majority support to prolong a mission that's already killed 66 Canadian soldiers since 2002 - most of them in the past 18 months.

While Tory MPs maintain the government is completely committed to the Afghan effort, political analysts said the Tories have undoubtedly softened their support for extending the mission beyond February 2009.
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'Vikings' lead the way in Sangin clearance operation
5 Jul 07
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Soldiers from 1st Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment have been taking part in a difficult and dangerous operation aimed at clearing Taliban elements from Jusyalay, the area between Sangin and Putay in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.


Lieutenant Toby Woodbridge, Royal Engineers, takes cover from the sun as the temperature rises
[Picture: Cpl Jon Bevan RLC]
Several hundred 1 Royal Anglian soldiers, known as the 'Vikings', worked alongside Afghan, Danish and Estonian soldiers in this initial stage of the ongoing UK-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Operation 'Ghartse Gar'. The objective of the operation is to track down Taliban positions, taking the fight to the Taliban and clearing them out of Sangin.

The operation aims to provide the safe conditions to enable the essential task of digging irrigation ditches which will prevent crops, needed to sustain hundreds of villages, from drying up and decaying in the intense Afghan sun.

To maintain the element of surprise, soldiers from ‘A, Norfolk’ Company set off on the operation overnight and on foot from their base in Sangin to cover the 16 kilometre distance to their starting position, carrying up to 80lbs worth of equipment and supplies.

At dawn the following day the Royal Anglian soldiers approached the Taliban positions blocking their escape routes, with the Afghan National Army used to draw out the Taliban so that the Royal Anglians could engage them and push them further north and out of the Sangin Valley area.
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Why military might does not always win
TheStar.com July 08, 2007 Andrew Chung Staff Reporter
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A new study suggests that involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan might be doomed from the outset

Does this sound familiar? "A war with no visible payoff against an opponent who poses no direct threat will come under increasing criticism as battle casualties rise and economic costs escalate .... "

It was written more than 30 years ago, after the end of the ill-fated Vietnam War, in one of the first analyses of battles between states and insurgents or guerrillas who are weak in military might but pumped up on resolve. Experts call them asymmetrical wars.

But, of course, it could very well have been written today, about Iraq – or about Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers keep dying along dusty roadsides, blown up in their armoured vehicles by improvised yet powerful bombs. Six on Easter Sunday. Three more on June 20. Another six last Wednesday.

The total number of casualties since Canada joined the Afghan mission in 2001: 66 soldiers, plus one diplomat.

Criticism is increasing. Public sentiment about the war is primarily negative, polls show. Politicians are ratcheting up their opposition. "It's the wrong mission," NDP Leader Jack Layton argued last week, insisting troops leave the war-ravaged country now. "It's not working; it's not going to accomplish the goals."

What's happening in this country is familiar among nations that carry out military interventions – and, new research shows, a prime factor in why they fail.

Since World War II, the world's most powerful nations have failed 39 per cent of the time, according to a study by Patricia Sullivan, a professor of international affairs at the University of Georgia. Despite overwhelming military superiority, mounting human and material costs compel them to pull out their troops without achieving their political aims.

Since Vietnam, researchers in the complex field of conflict studies have focused on the outcome of wars, and have looked at how even low-budget insurgents can defeat the world's greatest powers by taxing their political will to fight.
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Have you noticed ...
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… that news of British activities in Iraq and Afghanistan has all but dried up since Gordon Brown became prime minister? "Blair's wars", it seems, are no longer of interest, as they cannot be used with the same effect in attacking the current administration.

That is not to say, of course, that nothing is happening in either theatre, although today's report of a major operation in Basra, involving 1,000 troops, undoubtedly hit the media only because a British soldier died after his Warrior had been hit by an IED – the third such fatal attack in so many weeks.

Equally, the tempo of operations in Afghanistan is not slackening – the MoD website reports continuing operations near Sangin as the Royal Anglians, working alongside Afghan, Danish and Estonian soldiers, keep up the pressure on the Taliban.

But the most significant news of the week – not that we got anything more than perfunctory reports of it from the British media - was the death of six Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter in their RG-31 mine-protected vehicle after being hit by an IED which left a crater 10 feet wide and three feet deep.

This is not the first time an RG-31 has been completely destroyed but this is the first time it has happened in Afghanistan. Thus, the event, widely reported in the Canadian press (as you would expect) is of some considerable concern to British forces as it signals several important developments. Firstly, it points up a long-heralded shift in Taliban tactics, from outright confrontation with NATO forces to the hit-and-run attacks favoured by Iraqi insurgents.
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'05 mission to get al Qaeda in Pakistan aborted, Times says
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NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A secret 2005 mission to capture senior al Qaeda members in Pakistan's tribal areas was aborted at the last moment when Bush administration officials decided it was too risky and could jeopardize relations with Pakistan, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Citing intelligence and military officials, including a former senior intelligence official involved in the planning, the Times said in a story posted on its Web site that the target was a meeting of al Qaeda leaders. That conference was thought by intelligence officials to have included Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's top deputy, who was believed to run the group's operations, it said.

The classified mission was scotched even as Navy SEALs in parachute gear had boarded C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan after then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rejected a last-minute appeal by then-CIA director Porter Goss, the Times said, citing the officials and the former intelligence official, all of whom requested anonymity.

Rumsfeld felt the mission, which grew from a small number of personnel to several hundred, would risk too many U.S. lives, and he was also concerned about possible repercussions on U.S.-Pakistan relations, the Times said.

But that decision also frustrated some top intelligence officials and members of the military's secret special operations units. Some said the United States missed a significant opportunity to possibly nab senior al Qaeda members, the newspaper reported.

Another concern was his determination that the United States could not carry out the mission without Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's permission, which was unlikely given its size and scope, the officials said.

The former intelligence official involved in the mission's planning said it grew to the point where "the whole thing turned into the invasion of Pakistan," which he nonetheless felt was still worth the risk.
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Afghanistan: Violence leaves leader, gunman dead
By ASSOCIATED PRESS Jul. 8, 2007 12:38 KANDAHAR, Afghanistan
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A clash between police and insurgents left one suspected gunman dead in the southeast, while Taliban operatives kidnapped a local leader from his home and shot him to death, officials said Sunday.

The insurgents took Mullah Ahmed Akhunzada, the director of a provincial clerics council, from his home and killed him Saturday night in Tirin Kot, said Uruzgan provincial police chief Gen. Qasim Khan.

Mullah Obaidullah, the Taliban's regional commander from Uruzgan, claimed responsibility for the incident in a call to The Associated Press and said Akhunzada was killed because he supported the Afghan government.
end of article

In Afghanistan, both sides wage information warfare
By Associated Press  |  July 8, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan elders yesterday said that 108 civilians were killed in a bombing campaign in western Afghanistan, while villagers in the northeast said 25 Afghans died in airstrikes, including some who were killed while burying dead relatives.

US and NATO leaders, however, said they have no information to substantiate the reports of civilian deaths, and a US official said Taliban fighters are forcing villagers to say civilians died in fighting -- whether or not it is true.

Government officials who reported the deaths yesterday could not confirm the reports, which came from dangerous and remote regions inaccessible to journalists and independent researchers.

The assertions and denials of civilian casualties are part of an increasing campaign of information warfare the Taliban and Western militaries have engaged in alongside conventional fighting.

Adrian Edwards, the United Nations spokesman in Afghanistan, said the reliability of government reports is crucial to addressing the very real problem of civilian casualties. The UN also has not been able to confirm the most recent casualty reports.

"If figures are coming up quickly, it's my sense that they probably need to be taken with a pinch of salt," Edwards said. "But it also doesn't help if it's two or three weeks before the information comes out."

Civilian deaths are a recurring problem that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly deplored. The latest reports come at a time of increasing concern in European capitals over Afghan casualties, an issue that threatens to derail the NATO mission here.
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Britain assures Afghanistan of support against terrorism
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KABUL: Britain’s new Prime Minister Gordon Brown called President Hamid Karzai overnight to reiterate his country’s commitment to the fight against “terror” in Afghanistan, a statement said on Saturday.

“Mr Brown, assuring his country’s continuous support to Afghanistan, said Afghanistan’s security is the world’s security,” Karzai’s office said in a statement.

“He said the struggle against terror will aggressively continue and more efforts will be made in reconstruction of Afghanistan,” it said.

Brown also invited Karzai to visit Britain in the “near future.”

Britain has around 7,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, to rise to 7,700 in the coming months, which is the second-highest contribution to a NATO-led deployment fighting rebels after that of the United States.

The British soldiers are based in Helmand, perhaps Afghanistan’s most dangerous province, where Taliban insurgents are said to be teamed up with foreign fighters from Al Qaeda and opium producers helping to finance the insurgency. Brown said this week his takeover would not mean a change of policy on Afghanistan and Iraq, where Britain has 5,500 soldiers.

“This house has got to remember that Afghanistan is the front line against the Taliban,” he told MPs.
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A Colombian model for Afghanistan?
By Luis Fajardo  BBC Spanish American Service 
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Sergeant Sayed Naqib Sadat, a 27-year-old Afghan police sergeant from the province of Kunar, has spent the past 17 weeks learning commando tactics from Colombia's counter-narcotics police.

Speaking of the gruelling training course, which included time spent in the Colombian jungle, he says it was "tough but satisfying".
He is the only Afghan to have graduated from the US-sponsored training programme run by special forces within the Colombian National Police.

Four of his colleagues from Afghanistan's National Interdiction Unit (NIU) dropped out during the training.

Colombia and Afghanistan have several problems in common, including a booming drug trafficking industry and a raging insurgency. Both countries also receive substantial political and military support from the US.

The US hopes that some of the lessons learned in Colombia can be applied to Afghanistan - sponsoring such training is part of the strategy.

"We had good training here and good teachers," Sergeant Sadat told BBC News.

"The best experience for me was helicopter training. In Afghanistan we need helicopters", he added.

His final test was to take part in a simulated early morning raid against drug dealers hiding in a campsite, 2,650m (6,562ft) high in the mountains .

Drugs and violence

Colombia, the largest producer of cocaine in the world, has faced a four-decade guerrilla war, with government troops fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and other armed rebel groups. Like Afghanistan, profits from the drugs trade fuel political violence.


Since 2000, the US has implemented Plan Colombia, a military and economic assistance programme that has made Bogota the largest recipient of US aid in the western hemisphere. Around $600m a year goes to funding military operations and development projects in drug-growing regions.
The US believes a similar approach could help solve the problems of Afghanistan. To help cement this, US ambassador to Colombia William Wood was moved in April to Kabul, where he took up the post as US envoy.

Contacts between Afghan and Colombian police forces started in 2005. In July that year, the Afghan counter narcotics minister Habibullah Qaderi visited the Colombian capital, Bogota.

A spokesperson from the US embassy there told the BBC that the "educational exchanges had fostered greater co-operation and understanding in countering global drug-trafficking."

Controversy

The Bush administration often portrays Plan Colombia as a major foreign policy success.

In a congressional hearing last April, Charles S Shapiro, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, praised the "remarkable gains that Colombia, with US and other international support, has made".
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Afghan counternarcotics minister resigns on verge of another huge poppy crop
Sun Jul 8 10:05:07 CDT 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghanistan's counternarcotics minister has resigned and is reported to be taking up a diplomatic posting in Canada.
Word of the resignation comes from the deputy counternarcotics minister, who says Habibullah Qaderi submitted his resignation to President Hamid Karzai about five days ago.

Gen. Khodaidad says the resignation was voluntary and was driven in part by health problems, although he says Qaderi has taken a new position in Canada as Afghanistan's consulate general.

Qaderi's resignation comes just weeks after Afghan labourers finished cultivating an opium poppy crop that is expected to equal or exceed last year's record haul.

Qaderi headed the ministry since December 2004 and survived several cabinet shuffles. But Afghanistan's poppy crop has ballooned under his watch and the country's production last year accounted for more than 90 per cent of the world's heroin supply.

Western and U.N. officials have said this year's harvest would equal or exceed last year's record crop.   
The resignation comes as behind-the-scenes negotiations take place in the Afghan government and Western embassies - notably the United States' and Britain's - about how to tackle the growing drug problem.

The U.S. has said it wants to spray the crop with herbicide like it does with coca plants in Colombia, a controversial idea that was rejected by Karzai for the 2007 growing season. Britain, whose troops are in charge of Helmand province, the world's largest poppy growing region, has said it would support a limited spraying program.

Gen. Dan McNeill, the top general in charge of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan, has said he expects Western soldiers to step up efforts to combat the drug trade, though they would not be involved in manual eradication of poppy fields.

A significant portion of the profits from the country's $3.1 billion trade is thought to flow to Taliban fighters, who tax and protect poppy farmers and drug runners
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US forces in Afghanistan to use local currency
AGENCIES[ SUNDAY, JULY 08, 2007 05:48:19 PM]
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KABUL: US troops deployed in Afghanistan will conduct all business in afghani in an effort to stabilise the Afghan currency, a local newspaper reported Sunday.
US troops currently use US dollars for business transactions.

Noorullah Dilawari, head of Afghanistan's central bank, said that an amount of $40 million was going to Afghan businessmen from the US forces' budget every month.

The dollars would now be transferred into afghanis through the central bank and would be paid in local currency to the US troops, he said.

The method would help the central bank better control the amount of dollars in the market, Dilawari said
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New initiatives needed, Afghanistan experts say
Updated Sun. Jul. 8 2007 2:19 PM ET
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CTV.ca News Staff

The Senlis Council policy group says the work of Canadian soldiers is being undermined in southern Afghanistan because development funds aren't making it to ground level in Kandahar.


Edward McCormick, the country director in Afghanistan for the Senlis Council, told CTV's Question Period that Canada needs to do more to ensure that projects are carried out in the region.


McCormick, who lives in Kandahar, said despite what is being said in the House of Commons, he is seeing few CIDA development projects carried out in southern Afghanistan.

"There may be something going on in the north where areas are more secure, where it has been possible to have schools set up for girls, but it's not happening in the south."

"Instead when I walk into the villages and refugee camps, which I do daily, I'm seeing children dying of starvation."

That kind of desperation leads to unrest.


"When we don't enhance the excellent work that the military is doing by providing a positive environment through a variety of initiatives, we are further endangering the troops there. We are undermining their efforts," McCormick said Sunday.

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Hillier muzzles military over detainees
ALAN FREEMAN AND JEFF ESAU From Monday's Globe and Mail July 9, 2007
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OTTAWA — The office of General Rick Hillier, Canada's top soldier, has halted the release of any documents relating to detainees captured in Afghanistan under the federal Access to Information Act, claiming that disclosure of any such information could endanger Canadian troops.

According to documents made available to The Globe and Mail, the Strategic Joint Staff, a newly created group that advises Gen. Hillier, has been reviewing all Access to Information requests about detainees since March, shortly after the detainee controversy first erupted.

The Strategic Joint Staff has given strict guidance to National Defence's director of Access to Information, Julie Jansen, on what documents should be withheld. The result is that the flow of documents about detainees has virtually dried up and the department has summarily rejected requests for the same kind of documents it released earlier.

In recent letters responding to requests filed on behalf of The Globe and Mail, Ms. Jansen has “exempted in its entirety” the disclosure of detainee transfer logs, medical records, witness statements and other processing forms. The department said the information could not be disclosed for national security reasons.
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Articles found July  10, 2007


Afghanistan: What's fit to print?
ANTHONY WESTELL Special to Globe and Mail Update July 10, 2007 at 12:14 AM EDT
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Excuse me for asking rude questions, but aren't the news media, including this newspaper, making far too much of a few deaths in Afghanistan? Aren't they playing straight into the hands of the enemy with those big black headlines, sob-story writing and dramatic televised clips of coffins, with pipers lamenting — not once, but twice, as they leave Afghanistan and then arrive in Canada?

The Taliban know they cannot defeat us on the battlefield, but they are well on the way to defeating us on the home front as morale sags and demands rise to "bring the boys home." When we decided to go to war to root out the Taliban, which was hosting Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network, didn't we know that some of our soldiers would be killed?

Our soldiers volunteer to fight if necessary, and we spend billions training and equipping them to kill those who threaten us. So why do media outlets keep saying that those who die are heroes sacrificing their lives for Canada? A very few may choose to die in order to save others, and they are heroes. But you can bet you're your boots that few go into battle actually expecting to be killed.

Actually, it's the suicide bombers on the other side who sacrifice their lives, but their motives are suspect. Apparently, they are assured they will go straight to heaven and unlimited sex, with other amenities not always available in their puritanical society at home. That's hardly heroic. In fact, if we could use psychological warfare to spread doubt about the rewards of blowing one's self up, it would do more to defeat terrorism than the entire Canadian contingent in Afghanistan.
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NATO Didn’t Lose Afghanistan
By SARAH CHAYES Published: July 10, 2007 Kandahar, Afghanistan
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WHEN things go wrong — touchdown passes are missed, products come out defective, wars are lost — it is typical to blame the equipment, or the help. In the case of the unraveling situation in Afghanistan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has become the favorite whipping boy of American officials and military personnel. NATO countries aren’t sending enough troops, we hear. Those who do arrive are constrained by absurd caveats that prevent them from engaging in combat. NATO lost Helmand Province to the Taliban.

In fact, after watching rotation after military rotation cycle through here since late 2001, I see NATO as an improvement over its American predecessors.

One key difference is NATO’s training program, born of the challenge of gathering troops from different countries, speaking different languages, into a cohesive fighting force. In March, I joined about a dozen civilians who had lived and worked in Kandahar for years at the final training exercise for the NATO officers who recently took over Afghanistan’s Regional Command South. We spent 10 days briefing them, fielding their questions on everything from tribal relations to the electricity supply, eating meals with them and playing roles in a simulation of three days in southern Afghanistan.

“Uh ... we’ve got a bit of a situation here,” I heard one of my fellow teachers, an Australian who was a top United Nations security official, say calmly into the phone. He threw me a wink. He was starting the simulation by reporting the sounds of a large detonation and small arms fire. Later, on another line to an officer training to run public information, a sociological researcher played the role of a journalist, her voice incredulous: “Are you sure you want to say that?”

With the help of these seasoned civilians, experienced NATO officers and some Afghans, the new team was rigorously tested on the many aspects of its mission that go beyond combat tactics. Three months later, after these trainees had taken up their new jobs, the training staff traveled to Kandahar to debrief them to learn which aspects of the training had been useful and which needed improvement.

Given the constant disruption caused by short troop rotations, competent training is key to improving officers’ effectiveness as soon as they hit the ground.

The American troops’ training, in contrast, seemed ad hoc, usually carried out by each unit on its own, rather than by a dedicated training staff. And it involved very few civilians, despite the crucial humanitarian and political aspects of the mission here. (I have occasionally been invited to address American officers, but only when a friend in the unit has convinced a commander that I might have something to offer.)
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Afghan child killed, 5 NATO soldiers injured by militants
Tuesday July 10, 2007 (0708 PST)
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KABUL: One local child was killed and five soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) injured by militants in Kunar province of eastern Afghanistan, an ISAF statement said Monday.
The casualties occurred during an insurgent attack on Sunday, the statement said. "A 10-year-old boy was killed as two insurgent rounds missed their mark in a village in Nari district," it said.

Five ISAF soldiers as well as three locals were also injured in the conflict, it added. About 37,000 ISAF soldiers are being deployed in Afghanistan to hunt down militants and keep security.
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Villagers forced out by "Taliban" nomads
Tuesday July 10, 2007 (0708 PST)
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KABUL: A new dimension to Afghanistan`s troubles has emerged with reports that thousands of villagers are being forced out of their villages in the centre of the country by gunmen said to be allied with the Taliban.

The district of Behsood, in the central province of Wardak, is now a scene of devastation with dozens of burned, looted and deserted villages.

"Don`t go that way, the Kuchis will cut your head off," shouted one man as this newspaper`s vehicle drove into the troubled area.

With its lofty peaks, streams and carpet of wild flowers, Behsood ought to be a tourist`s delight. Instead, refugees are pouring out in clapped-out cars and minibuses; more than 4,000 are estimated to have fled so far. In the villages, week-old plates of half-eaten food sit on abandoned tables.

"Since the last 10 days they have taken 80 villages," claimed one local government official, who did not wish to be named. The minority Shia Muslim inhabitants of Behsood, ethnic Hazaras who suffered acute religious persecution under the Taliban regime, claim the gunmen forcing them out of their homes are nomads allied to the Taliban.
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Taliban shift tactics against Canadians
GRAEME SMITH  From Tuesday's Globe and Mail July 10, 2007 at 4:56 AM EDT
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MASUM GHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Taliban attacks in a remote district of northern Kandahar have lured Afghan and Canadian forces into a series of bloody rescue missions in recent days as the insurgents increasingly seize upon the political value of far-flung administrative outposts.

The latest drama started Thursday morning in Ghorak district, when insurgents besieged a government centre roughly 85 kilometres northwest of Kandahar city, according to villagers, police and military officials.

Every day since then, convoys have rolled across the barren flatlands in an increasingly costly effort to prop up the detachment of Afghan police trapped in their mud-walled compound, drawing the Canadians and their allies far away from their main goal of protecting Kandahar city.

"On the map, this isn't an important place," said Lieutenant-Colonel Rob Walker, commander of the Canadian battle group.
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Insecurity deprives thousands of students of food aid
Tuesday July 10, 2007 (0708 PST)
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KABUL: Thousands of students attending 40 schools in Afghanistan's central Ghazni Province have not received food assistance from the World Food Programme (WFP) for over a month due to insecurity in the area, local officials told IRIN.
"We have been unable to distribute wheat given to us by WFP to schools in some districts due to insecurity," said Mohammad Shafiq Hemat, deputy director for the education department in Ghazni.

Insecurity and increasing attacks on its food convoys have impeded WFP's movement in the south, west and some parts in the east of Afghanistan, WFP said.

"In the last 12 months, WFP has lost 600 tones of food, valued approximately at US $400,000, in 25 different attacks," said Jackie Dent, a WFP spokeswoman in Afghanistan.

The attacks have mostly taken place on a major road which traverses most of the volatile south, southwest and southeastern provinces where armed clashes between Taliban insurgents and Afghan government forces, backed by international forces, have restricted aid activities.
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Layton wants PM to demand air strikes' end
TheStar.com July 10, 2007 David Olive Columnist
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U.S., NATO operations have claimed more lives of Afghan civilians than Taliban insurgency

Jack Layton, the federal NDP leader, will call on Stephen Harper today to demand that U.S. and NATO forces cease air strikes in Afghanistan.

Layton's action comes at a time of increased concern in European capitals about civilian casualties in Afghanistan, which could erode public support for NATO's mission.

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the NATO secretary-general, expressed a similar warning last month. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has repeatedly condemned civilian deaths by Western forces.

Afghan elders and villagers in two regions, in western and northeastern Afghanistan, claimed on Saturday that 133 civilians were killed in recent air strikes. "Canada should lead the way in demanding a halt to these air strikes," Layton told the Star.

U.S. and NATO officials, while acknowledging that air strikes were called in to support Afghan forces in the western province of Farah, say they have "no information" about civilian deaths. And the Afghan officials said they could not confirm casualty counts brought to them by villagers, because verification was impossible in the Taliban-controlled regions.

NATO spokesperson Maj. John Thomas said a "significant effort" was made to move civilians out of Farah before the air strikes.

Independent counts by the United Nations and the Associated Press have shown that U.S. and NATO operations have claimed more civilian lives than the Taliban insurgency.

By the UN's count, as of July 1, civilian deaths caused by international or Afghan forces this year number 314, while insurgents have killed 279 civilians. The AP reports lower numbers, but a similar ratio: 213 civilians killed by international forces, and 180 by the Taliban.
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Dozens dead as Pakistani troops storm mosque
ZARAR KHAN Associated Press July 10, 2007 at 5:17 AM EDT
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ISLAMABAD — Pakistani troops seized Islamabad's Red Mosque on Tuesday and attempted to flush out the remaining militants entrenched inside a women's religious school in fierce fighting that left at least 50 militants and eight soldiers dead, the army said.

The troops stormed the mosque compound before dawn. Eight hours later, they were still trying to root out the well-armed defenders said to be holding about 150 hostages. Officials said at least 50 women were allowed to go free from the complex. Some 26 children had earlier escaped.

Clashes this month between security forces and supporters of the mosque's hard-line clerics prompted the siege. The religious extremists had been trying to impose Taliban-style morality in the capital through a six-month campaign of kidnappings and threats. At least 67 people have been killed since July 3.

Amid the sounds of rolling explosions, commandos attacked from three directions about 4 a.m. and quickly cleared the ground floor of the mosque, army spokesman General Waheed Arshad said. Some 20 children who rushed toward the advancing troops were brought to safety, he said.
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AFGHANISTAN: 2,000 displaced by fighting in Helmand
09 Jul 2007 18:49:00 GMT Source: IRIN
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GHERISHK, 9 July 2007 (IRIN) - About 2,000 people, mostly women and children, have left their homes in several parts of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, fleeing heavy fighting between Taliban insurgents and NATO-led forces.

"We left our home and immovable property in Ghezak [a village in Gherishk District of Helmand Province] because of growing armed conflicts," Mohammad Qasim, a displaced father of five, told IRIN in Gherishk.

Another family in Lashkargah, the provincial capital of Helmand Province, said they had left their village in Sangeen District after their house was destroyed in the fighting.

"I also lost my younger brother and my four-year-old daughter in the fighting," Abdul Samad, father of the displaced family of seven, said.

Assadullah Wafa, the governor of Helmand, said some families had been displaced by the clashes, but did not specify their numbers.

Also, US forces in Afghanistan have confirmed the displacement of civilians from at least one location in the province.

"I watched hundreds of civilians walk out of the city unopposed," a US soldier who was part of a military operation against the insurgents in Nahr-e-Saraj District, was quoted as saying in a US military press release on 2 July.

Many displaced families have set up tents and mud huts in an arid desert in Gherishk District, to the north of Lashkargah - an area long affected by drought. Others have sought refuge in Lashkargah.

Advised to evacuate

Maj John Thomas, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told IRIN that prior to a military operation international forces advised non-combatants, through local shuras (councils), to temporarily leave the area in order to avoid civilian casualties.
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Education in Afghanistan: A harrowing choice
By Barry Bearak Monday, July 9, 2007
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QALAI SAYEDAN, Afghanistan: With their teacher absent, 10 students were allowed to leave school early. These were the girls the gunmen saw first, 10 easy targets walking hand-in-hand through the blue metal gate and on to the winding dirt road.

A 13-year-old named Shukria was shot in the arm and the back and teetered into the soft brown of an adjacent wheat field. Zarmina, her 12-year-old sister, ran to her side, listening to the wounded girl's precious breath and trying to help her stand. But Shukria was too heavy to lift and the two gunmen, sitting astride a single motorbike, suddenly sped closer.

As Zarmina scurried away, the men took a more studied aim at those they already had shot, finishing off Shukria with bullets to her stomach and heart. Then the attackers seemed to succumb to the frenzy they had begun, forsaking the motorbike and fleeing on foot in a panic, two bobbing heads - one tucked into a helmet, the other swaddled by a handkerchief - vanishing amid the earthen color of the concealing wheat.

Six girls were shot here on the afternoon of June 12; two of them died.

The Qalai Sayedan School, considered among the best in the central Afghan province of Logar, reopened only last weekend, but even with Kalashnikov-toting guards at the gate only a quarter of the 1,600 students have dared to return. Shootings, beheadings, burnings and bombings: Those are all tools of intimidation used by the Taliban and others to shut down hundreds of schools here. To take aim at education is to make war on the government. Parents find themselves with terrible choices.

"It is better for my children to be alive even if it means they must be illiterate," said Sayed Rasul, a father who decided to keep his two daughters at home.

There has been some progress toward development in Afghanistan, but most often the nation seems astride some pitiable rocking horse, with each lurch forward inevitably reversed by the back spring of harsh reality.

The schools are one vivid example. The Ministry of Education claims that 6.2 million children are now enrolled - or about half the school-aged population. And while statistics in Afghanistan can be unreliably confected, there is no doubt that attendance has multiplied far beyond that of any earlier era, with uniformed children now teeming through the streets each day, flooding classrooms in two and three shifts.
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2 children, Taliban leader die in raid
7/9/2007, 3:10 p.m. EDT By RAHIM FAIEZ The Associated Press    
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan soldier opened fire inside a military base Monday, killing four Afghans and wounding 12 others, including an American soldier, while a U.S.-led coalition raid in the east killed a Taliban leader and two children, officials said.

Afghan authorities, meanwhile, showed off a captured 14-year-old boy from Pakistan whom officials said had intended to set off a suicide bomb against an Afghan governor.

During the coalition raid at a home in eastern Paktia province, suspected militants fired guns and rocket-propelled grenades at the U.S. and Afghan troops, forcing the soldiers to return fire. Two children were killed in the exchange, said Maj. Donald Korpi, a U.S. spokesman
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Articles found July 11, 2007

Two Canadian soldiers hurt by roadside bomb
Updated Tue. Jul. 10 2007 5:49 PM ET Canadian Press
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Two Canadian soldiers were injured Thursday night by a roadside bomb 25 kilometres outside Kandahar city.

A Leopard tank travelling as the last vehicle in a convoy hit an improvised explosive device at 8 p.m. local time, said military spokesman Lt. John Nethercott.


The convoy was then ambushed by small arms fire as it travelled east on a major highway in the region.


The incident wasn't serious enough to disable the tank, and the convoy pushed through the ambush to Patrol Base Wilson, Nethercott said.


The injured soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to the multinational hospital at Kandahar Air Field.


They are expected to return to active duty.


"Because insurgents cannot succeed in conventional operations against Canadian forces there will be a continued use of IEDs by the Taliban," said Nethercott.


"We will look at the circumstances surrounding this incident and learn what lessons we can."


Until June of this year, the military estimated it had evaded approximately 150 IED attacks, but fell prey to around the same number.


There have been at least four attacks already this month.


On Monday, another Leopard tank was struck by an anti-tank mine en route to a police checkpoint. There were no injuries.


Over the weekend, a suicide bomber rammed into a light armoured vehicle just outside Kandahar City, sending four soldiers to hospital.


All four are expected to recover.


On July 4, six Canadian soldiers were killed when their RG-31 armoured vehicle hit a massive roadside bomb which engineers said was the largest they'd seen since arriving in Afghanistan.


The military has admitted it is hard to prevent IED strikes; two-thirds of the bombs they defuse are reported to them by local Afghans.


But they say they place their faith in the armoured vehicles carrying troops to and from missions in the field.
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Kandahar elders say Canadians setting example
By STEPHANIE LEVITZ July 10, 2007
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - Chaos created by international troops roaring through Kandahar City on military convoys needs to be reigned in, Afghan elders said Tuesday, and they're counting on Canada's military leadership to do the job.

The elders applauded Canadian efforts to make connections with civilians on the ground, such as a simple yet profound gesture to honour the families of two Afghans killed by coalition troops.

Canadian troops weren't involved in the men's deaths earlier this month. But a presentation made by Canadian soldiers to compensate their families won the respect of several local elders who say Canada should teach other international forces to respect Afghan customs.

"We know that when a suicide bomb hits a Canadian convoy, the Canadians aren't going to start shooting at everyone on the streets," said Kandahar's provincial governor Asadullah Khalid.

"But we must be able to say that of other forces as well."

City elders, along with provincial and national politicians, met Tuesday with Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, the commander of Canada's current mission in Afghanistan, to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of military convoys on the residents of Kandahar City.

Soldiers are visibly tense when riding through the city, the only route available to reach several of the main highways in the region. Cluttered with traffic, the routes present all manner of potential threats.

The sudden sight of massive military vehicles bearing down on Kandahar's rough-hewn streets sends a jumble of jingle-trucks, donkey-driven carriages and taxicabs down side alleys and into gutters. Still, despite bright-red signs warning locals to stay back, occasionally some do stray into the path of the armoured convoys.

Convoys have been breached by suicide bombers, such as one who struck a Canadian convoy over the weekend outside the city. Four Canadians were injured in the blast.
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Afghan girls traded to settle debts, blood feuds
By ALISA TANG July 9, 2007
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JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AP) - Unable to scrounge together the money he needed to repay a loan to buy sheep, Nazir Ahmad made good on his debt by selling his 16-year-old daughter to marry the lender's son.

"He gave me nine sheep," Ahmad said, describing his family's woes since taking the loan. "Because of nine sheep, I gave away my daughter." Seated beside him in the cramped compound, his daughter Malia's eyes filled with tears. She used a black scarf to wipe them away.

Despite advances in women's rights and at least one tribe's move to outlaw the practice, girls are traded like currency in Afghanistan and forced marriages are common. Antiquated tribal laws authorize the practice known as "bad" in the Afghan language Dari, and girls are used to settle disputes ranging from debts to murder.

Such exchanges bypass the hefty bride price of a traditional betrothal, which can cost upward of about US$1,000. Roughly two out of five Afghan marriages are forced, says the country's Ministry of Women's Affairs.

"It's really sad to do this in this day and age, exchange women," said Manizha Naderi, the director of the aid organization Women for Afghan Women. "They're treated as commodities."

Though violence against women remains widespread, Afghanistan has taken significant strides in women's rights since the hardline Taliban years, when women were virtual prisoners, banned from work, school or leaving home unaccompanied by a male relative. Millions of girls now attend school and women fill jobs in government and media.

There are also signs of change for the better inside the largest tribe in eastern Afghanistan: the deeply conservative Shinwaris.
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Backlash feared after radical cleric killed
Updated Tue. Jul. 10 2007 8:27 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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A week-long standoff between Islamic militants and Pakistan's security forces ended with the storming of Islamabad's Red Mosque and the death of its top cleric.

Military commandos backed by paramilitary fighters stormed the mosque before dawn on Tuesday.

Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the mosque's chief cleric, was among the dead, along with about 50 of his followers. Eight soldiers died and another 29 were wounded.

Officials wouldn't estimate how many people were inside Tuesday night, but the Associated Press reported that a local relief agency had said the army requested 400 white funeral shrouds.

There were small demonstrations around the country of 147 million in support of the extremists. Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, a coalition of hard-line Islamic parties, announced three days of mourning in the North West Frontier Province to protest the government's attack.
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Suicide blast in Afghanistan kills 17
By NOOR KHAN July 10, 2007
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KABUL (AP) - A suicide bomber targeted a NATO patrol in a crowded marketplace in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 17 civilians, officials said.

At least 30 people were among the wounded, including seven western soldiers, officials said.

The attack - one of the deadliest of the year - targeted troops patrolling on foot through a bazaar, said Gen. Qassim Khan, the provincial police chief who provided the casualty figures.

He said school children were among the wounded.

The Dutch Defence Ministry said in a news release that seven Dutch troops were injured, one critically.

Maj. John Thomas, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the bomber showed "no concern for the potential deaths and injuries of civilians."

Thomas added that some Afghans were treated at ISAF medical facilities.

"It's pretty shocking that with the recent calls by some insurgent leaders to protect civilians in this conflict that they would undertake a massacre of civilians in a market place," Thomas said.

The attack came at the southern tip of Uruzgan province, near the border with Helmand and Kandahar - among the most violent areas in Afghanistan and the heart of the poppy-growing region.

The bombing appeared to be the third-deadliest of the year. On June 17, a suicide bomber exploded himself on a bus carrying police instructors in Kabul, killing 35 people.

In February, a bomber carrying explosives detonated them outside the main U.S. base at Bagram Air Field, killing 23 people, during a visit by U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney
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UK MPs criticise govt failure to reveal costs of Iraq, Afghanistan operations
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LONDON:The government has been severely criticised by a group of MPs for not outlining the costs of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and for spending in the current year without parliamentary approval.

The House of Commons defence select committee said it was 'entirely unacceptable' that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) refused to show all its estimated annual spending at the start of the financial year as other departments are required to.

The MoD asked for 33.7 bln stg for the current year, but this does not include the expected costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 'so greatly underestimates the total expected cost of the MoD's activities in 2007-08', the all-party committee said.

Operations in the two war zones were forecast to exceed 1.7 bln last year, it added.

Committee chairman James Arbuthnot stressed that the committee was not objecting to the costs of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'Military operations cannot be done on the cheap, and our troops need to be properly supported in the difficult task that they are doing,' he said.

'Our objection is to the fact that the MoD does not show parliament the estimated costs of these operations at the beginning of the financial year, in the way that every other Department is required to.'

Steinmeier Wants More German Soldiers in Afghanistan
Wednesday July 11, 2007 (0620 PST)
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BERLIN: Germany's foreign minister said he wants more troops in Afghanistan to train the local army and assist in reconstruction. But it's unclear whether Germany will continue to support the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier has entered the debate over the future of Bundeswehr troops in Afghanistan. The foreign minister said he wants to see the number of troops increased, a view which differs from many others in his Social Democratic Party.

This fall, the German government will decide whether to extend the mandates for some 3,500 German peacekeeping troops taking part in NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and with the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. Most German troops have been stationed in the relatively stable northern part of the country.

The parliament will also discuss whether to keep its six Tornado warplanes, which are flying reconnaissance missions throughout Afghanistan, stationed in the Afghanistan. Both the jets and Bundeswehr troops on the ground are prohibited from participating in combat missions.
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Listen to vets, not Layton
By EARL McRAE July 11, 2007
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Should Canada pull its soldiers out of Afghanistan because some are being killed?

That's the question I asked several veterans of World War II at the Perley and Rideau Veterans' Health Centre. Not one of them said yes, not one had a good word to say about NDP leader Jack Layton, who the other day bleated once again that Stephen Harper should immediately get our soldiers to hell back to Canada -- thus abandoning the Afghan government and people -- because six more Canadian soldiers were killed and that, tsk, tsk, is just terrible.

It matters not to Layton that our soldiers do not want to come home, that they support the mission, that they believe progress is being made, that the families of the dead are not demanding their comrades come home, that they speak supportively of their dead loved ones.

They get it, Layton doesn't.

Jack Layton, leader of a party that supposedly anguishes for the oppressed and exploited in society, but when it comes to Canada being one of the NATO countries fighting -- at the request of the Afghan government, and at the gratitude of the Afghan people -- the oppressing and exploiting rogue Taliban, Layton's precious social philosophy goes flying out his window.

Layton's acting as if it's Canadian civilian tourists being murdered. No Layton, they're soldiers. Soldiers in combat. Soldiers who know in combat their job is to kill or be killed. Soldiers who, with their NATO allies, have killed more Taliban than have killed them. Soldiers, fine Canadian soldiers, who, despite the deaths, truck on willingly and bravely in the name of freedom and democracy, in the face of possible death, for fellow humans on this planet.

Does Jack Layton, for all his alleged brains, know that for the first three years of the six-year World War II, the allies were losing the war to the Germans? Does Mr. Jack Layton -- NDP weeping heart -- know that his grandfather, Gilbert Layton, minister-without-portfolio in the Quebec government of Premier Maurice Duplessis in World War II, resigned, yes, resigned, over its opposition to conscription?

But not all soldiers disagree with Canadian political leader Jack Layton's howling to bring the soldiers home. Nope. The Taliban love it. If Layton's views reflect the soft Canadian underbelly, goes Taliban thinking, let's keep pouring it on. Layton says he supports our troops. No he doesn't.
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New Afghan Police Units Help Counter Aggressive Taliban Tactics
By Jim Garamone American Forces Press Service
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WASHINGTON, July 11, 2007 – A senior police advisor to the Afghan government described a new more heavily armed and heavily armored Afghan police unit during a conference call with online journalists covering the military.
Army Col. Raymond Bouchard spoke to the “bloggers” about Afghanistan’s civil order police yesterday via telephone from Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan.

The new units will help counter new, more aggressive Taliban tactics, Bouchard said. “They are a quick, rapid-response group that would help put down a national crisis or insurgent activity,” he said.

The units will be more heavily armed and more heavily armored than traditional police units. “A lot of the equipment is going to look similar to what our Marines are currently using in Iraq, if the plan goes through,” Bouchard said. “Those are on order, and we're expecting that equipment to arrive by the end of the calendar year.”

Officials are looking to supply the Afghans with mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles that Marines are using in Iraq. The heavily armored wheeled vehicles have a V-shaped bottom to deflect explosions.

The first three civil order battalions have stood up, Bouchard said. However, most of the units’ members have completed their basic training just within the last two months, so it will take some time before the units are effective against the Taliban.

Police training overall is moving along, the colonel said. Mentor teams are moving to Afghan districts and working with police officials.

While all this is going on, the Taliban have stepped up attacks against NATO forces, Afghan security forces and Afghan civilians, which Bouchard said was expected. One reason for the increase in attacks is that summer is the traditional Afghan season for war.
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Polish Soldiers Help Afghan Children Experience Kite-Flying Joy
By Army Spc. Micah E. Clare Special to American Forces Press Service
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FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan, July 10, 2007 – Best-selling books have painted pictures of Afghan children flying colorful kites high in blue skies against backdrops of snow-capped mountains that tower over quaint villages, but not all Afghan children are fortunate enough to own such simple, yet wonderful toys.

Two Polish soldiers show an Afghan boy how to fly his new kite in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province, June 24, 2007. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Micah E. Clare 
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

However, when the Polish Battle Group arrived in Ghazni province’s Andar district near the end of June, the local children were finally able to take part in an activity shared by children in almost all countries in the world: flying kites.

While conducting patrols throughout Andar district during Operation Maiwand last month, the Polish soldiers of 1st and 2nd platoons of the Polish Battle Group’s Company B made many humanitarian aid deliveries to the poor families living in the area.

The extreme poverty of some of the areas was quite a shock to many of the Polish soldiers.

“It seems like time stopped here 2,000 years ago,” said Polish Pfc. Chris Demko, a gunner on one of the giant Rosomak armored personnel carriers. “We see these kids running around with nothing, not even shoes, and we want to change that.”

Everywhere they went, children crowded around the vehicles as the smiling soldiers pulled out boxes of shoes, clothes, school supplies and toys. But the biggest hit of all were the multi-colored kites that the soldiers unfolded for them.
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Articles found July  12, 2007

At the arms dealers' crossroads
Don Martin, National Post Published: Thursday, July 12, 2007
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GHORAK, Afghanistan -Canadian soldiers winced with every footstep as we followed the local Afghan army commander down a gravel path they considered a prime candidate for land mining to the spot where Taliban had attacked the district compound four nights earlier.

Commander Said Ahmad stopped every few steps to retrieve machine-gun shells and point to the black gobs of dried blood he said had spilled from 100 insurgents attacking the district office, severely injuring a handful of his soldiers and prompting a large Canadian rescue mission this week.

"Don't worry. There aren't any mines," he insisted. My military escorts did not look convinced that an area recently vacated by retreating Taliban was left without boobytraps, but I digress.

The Taliban seized Ghorak headquarters from an under-equipped and underpaid Afghan national police two weeks ago. A far superior Afghan army battalion arrived to reclaim the mud-walled offices before the Taliban regrouped and attacked again on Saturday.

Now a Hotel Company convoy, which was hit by three buried road mines and a suicide bomber on its four-day trek to this isolated outback, had arrived to resupply and rebuild the headquarters while evacuating the injured to Kandahar City.

Ironically, while Canadians rode to this high-risk rescue, a convoy of police vehicles was fleeing the mountain in a panic and not expected to return.

The corrupt police force continues to pose headaches for Canadian military brass who cannot rely on them for reliable intelligence, professional law enforcement or, it seems, even holding down their own post.
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SLAIN SON BELIEVED IN MISSION
Family Of Captain Dawe Describes His Commitment, His Frustrations
Meagan Fitzpatrick, CanWest News Service Published: Thursday, July 12, 2007
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The family of Captain Matthew Dawe remembered the fallen soldier yesterday as a dedicated military man who believed in the cause he was fighting for in Afghanistan.

"You can well imagine that it has been very difficult and it will continue being difficult for years to come. But I know that Matthew went there because he wanted to go there," said the soldier's mother, Reine, at a news conference in Kingston.

She recalled how her 27-yearold son, who was married with a child, was injured leading up to his deployment and sped through his rehabilitation so that he wouldn't miss out on the mission.

"He was absolutely distraught because there was a possibility that his men would go there without him," she said. "There was no question that for him, there was a duty to be there."

Capt. Dawe was killed on July 4 along with five other Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter when their vehicle was blown apart by a massive improvised explosive device. He was with the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton. Corporal Jordan Anderson, Private Lane Watkins and Corporal Cole Bartsch, were also from the Edmonton base, Captain Jefferson Francis was from CFB Shilo, Man., and Master Corporal Colin Bason was a reservist from New Westminster, B.C.
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Soldier's father presses Dion on Afghanistan
Updated Wed. Jul. 11 2007 9:34 PM ET Canadian Press
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HALIFAX -- The father of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan last year wants federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion to support extending Canada's mission in the troubled country until it can stand on its own.

Jim Davis, whose son Cpl. Paul Davis died when his light armoured vehicle rolled over during a patrol in Kandahar in March 2006, said Wednesday he's convinced the Taliban will return to power if Canada doesn't stay the course past 2009.

"It's difficult to set a target,'' he told reporters during Dion's campaign-style town hall meeting in Halifax.

"That would be like in the Second World War saying we're going to come home in 1941. If we had done that where would we be today?''

Davis told Dion before an audience of nearly 200 people that he believed that good work and progress is being made in Afghanistan.

"If the prime minister were able to get more information out to the people of this country, so that we can see the accomplishments we are making, would your position on the deadline of 2009 change?'' he asked the politician, who wants Canada to leave Afghanistan by February 2009.
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Military Files Left Unprotected Online
By MIKE BAKER Associated Press Writer July 12, 2007, 8:03 AM EDT
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Detailed schematics of a military detainee holding facility in southern Iraq. Geographical surveys and aerial photographs of two military airfields outside Baghdad. Plans for a new fuel farm at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

The military calls it "need-to-know" information that would pose a direct threat to U.S. troops if it were to fall into the hands of terrorists. It's material so sensitive that officials refused to release the documents when asked.

But it's already out there, posted carelessly to file servers by government agencies and contractors, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

In a survey of servers run by agencies or companies involved with the military and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Associated Press found dozens of documents that officials refused to release when asked directly, citing troop security.
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Afghanistan hit by twin attacks
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At least eight people - six Afghan policemen and two civilians - have been killed in two bomb explosions in Afghanistan, police say.
The policemen were killed in the eastern province of Khost, when a roadside bomb detonated near their vehicle patrolling with foreign forces.

There are no reports of any casualties among soldiers in the convoy.

Two civilians were killed when their vehicle was bombed in neighbouring Paktika province, Nato officials say.

'Tip of the spear'

Correspondents say this year the south and east of Afghanistan have seen the worst violence since 2001.

The police said additional troops had been sent to the area of the Khost attack for search operations.


Neither Nato nor US-led military forces have commented on the Khost attack, and it is not clear to which organisation the foreign troops belonged.

Reports quoted a Taleban spokesman as saying they were responsible for the attack.

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Kabul says that both Khost and Paktika share long borders with Pakistan and both have been hit hard by insurgency-related violence.

The police have suffered many casualties recently, as violence across the country has intensified.
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Long haul fight to defeat the Taleban
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Afghanistan 
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The battles may be raging in Helmand province, the suicide and roadside bombs are killing people across the country, but the Taleban have been hit hard by Nato's spring offensive.

They admit themselves that the targeted killings of some senior commanders took the thrust out of their own planned spring attacks.

And their biggest loss was Mullah Dadullah - a ruthless military commander whose brutality repulsed even his own fellow Taleban leaders.

The British Special Boat Service (SBS) killed him in Helmand in May after a raid on a compound where his associates were meeting.

Success stories

There are many stories of betrayal, of his false leg being stolen so he couldn't get away, of his body being recovered from a river by his followers, but it seems careful intelligence-gathering and a lot of luck culminated in the removal of one of the most wanted Taleban targets.

And it came on the back of two other success stories for foreign forces
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Aid failings 'hit Afghan progress'
By David Loyn BBC developing world correspondent, Afghanistan 
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More than five years after the defeat of the Taleban in Afghanistan, the failure of international aid to make a difference to Afghanistan is now having serious security consequences.

A recent Red Cross report showed that the worsening conflict in the south is now spreading to the north and west, alongside an upsurge of suicide bombing in Kabul.

The amount of money promised per head for Afghanistan was far lower than in other recent post-conflict countries, and too little of it has gone into increasing the capacity of the Afghan government to run things for itself.

In a report more than a year ago, the World Bank warned of the dangers of an 'aid juggernaut', a parallel world operating outside the government economy, with Afghans not even able to bid for major infrastructure contracts, such as roads.

The quality of much of what has been delivered remains very low. In schools where lots of money has been spent and the project signed off as functioning and open, girls are still being taught in tents in the mud.

There have been some successes. President Hamid Karzai often reminds audiences that 40,000 Afghan babies would not be alive today but for improvements in Afghan health care.
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Afghan schools try to make new start
By Soutik Biswas BBC News, Kabul 
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A group of girls returning home from school in Afghanistan's Logar province recently did not for a moment expect what lay ahead.
As they walked down a dirt track, insurgents sprang out of the parched farms and began firing on them.

Some of them fled into the farm, but two girls, one aged 13, the other 10, were killed in the ambush. Three of their friends were wounded.

This kind of attack on schoolchildren, the first incident of its kind in Afghanistan, highlights how the insurgents are trying to disrupt education in the war-ravaged nation.

A surge in violence over the past year threatens to neutralise the gains made by the country in sending its children back to school after the fall of the Taleban.

In the past 13 months, 226 schools, many run from tents, have been burnt down by the insurgents. A total of 110 teachers and students have been killed in incidents of indirect violence and another 52 wounded, officials say.
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Afghans primed for mortgage revolution
By Soutik Biswas BBC News, Kabul 
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Some 20km north-east of Kabul, a unique experiment in housing and city planning in Afghanistan's history is under way.

The government is building 20,000 homes - a mixture of apartments, row houses and commercial property - which it plans to mortgage to people. The 2,500-acre township will be called New Kabul.

For a country which lost 33% of its homes during a quarter of a century of war, housing millions of local and returnee Afghans from the refugee camps of Pakistan and Iran is one of the biggest challenges facing the government in Kabul.

New Kabul is an ambitious experiment in mortgaging homes - the first time ever in Afghanistan - in a country where a $380 per capita income makes it virtually impossible for most people to afford homes.

Banks will buy these homes from the government and then mortgage them to buyers who, officials reckon, will have to pay $100 to $150 every month for 16 years before becoming owners.

The government is pumping in some $200m for these homes, and hopes the country's 14-odd banks will be enthusiastic in picking them up, and offering them to buyers.
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Some Good News Reported About the Afghan Mission

Posted By Dave Hodson On July 12, 2007 @ 7:14 am In Politics, Media, Freedom, Law & Order, International | No Comments

On July 4, [1] I wrote about how the goals and strategy in the current Afghan mission are generally not understood, misrepresented or not properly reported by the opposition and the mainstream media.

In response to Jack Layton’s suggestion that Canada is fighting a hopeless battle against the Taliban, I wrote, in part, the following…

    It is not the role of Canada or NATO to occupy Afghanistan in perpetuity or until the Taliban has been defeated.  That is the job of the Afghan National Army.  Canada is working hard to help Afghanistan build and train its own army so they can eventually be self-sufficient in fighting their enemies.

    When Canada began it’s mission in Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army was nearly nonexistent.  Over recent years it has developed considerably.  While the Afghan National Army was being built, NATO forces have been the primary ones to respond to security threats.  As the Afghan National Army grows in size and capability, they are transitioning to be the ones who respond to threats, while NATO forces back them up.  Eventually, they will become self-sufficient in fighting their enemies.

    For Jack Layton to suggest that we should immediately pull our forces out because we can’t defeat the Taliban is simply wrong.  The time to scale back our combat role is not when the Taliban have been defeated, but rather when we have helped Afghanistan to develop their own forces so they may better defend themselves.

Today, the [2] Toronto Star came out with this article on the strategies of Afghan mission.  Highly unusual for the Star, this is an excellent report on the mission and where it’s headed.

    Canada is shifting its Kandahar mission from combat to training to prepare the Afghan army to shoulder more of the fighting, a move expected to reduce Canadian casualties, Gen. Rick Hillier says.

    By this fall, as many as five battalions of Afghan troops will be operating in Kandahar province under the mentoring of Canadian troops, a significant infusion of strength that sets the stage for the country’s own military to help quell the deadly insurgency.

    “The focus goes from us in the lead with very little support until now from them to them in the lead,” said Hillier, the chief of defence staff.

    [Hillier’s plan] laid out the make-up of the Afghan force in southern Afghanistan – a force that was non-existent just last year – and how Canadian units known as operational mentor liaison teams will help show the fledgling troops the ropes.

    For the last six months, Canadians have worked with one of the battalions and the reports from the field are encouraging, Hillier said.

    “This battalion has actually come an incredible long ways. Our soldiers were telling me it’s like looking in a mirror and seeing their own tactics and drills and skills being implemented by these guys,” he said.

    There are two Afghan battalions – with upwards of 1,000 soldiers each – now in southern Afghanistan. A third battalion is due to graduate from the training academy in Kabul next Tuesday and is expected to be on the ground by Aug. 1, Hillier said. Two more battalions could arrive this fall.

    In addition to the new battalions, the Afghan army is also building up the units required to support troops in the field, such as a brigade headquarters, engineers, artillery and logistics. The Americans have pledged billions of dollars in aid to equip the Afghans with gear like armoured Humvees.

    Hillier called it a “night-and-day shift” compared to a year ago, when Canadians were appealing to the Afghan military to join the fight in southern Afghanistan.

    “I believe that by spring … this organization will be very capable. It won’t be perfect. It won’t be stand-alone. But it will be ready to help play a huge role that essentially has not been played at all until now by themselves,” he said.

    “This is incredibly different and positive than the conditions we were in last September … and it bodes incredibly well,” he said.

    While building up the Afghan army has long been a key element of Canada’s Afghan strategy, the plan has taken on new impetus in recent weeks. Hillier travelled to Kandahar in June to discuss it with Canadian commanders as well as Afghan officials.

I would encourage you to read the whole article.  It’s some news about the Afghan mission from a positive perspective, for a refreshing change.
 

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U.S. to donate 186 aircraft to Afghanistan by 2012
By Sayed Salahuddin Reuters Thursday, July 12, 2007; 6:30 AM
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KABUL (Reuters) - The United States will provide six helicopter gunships to Afghanistan's fledgling air force in August this year, part of a plan to supply 186 aircraft to the country, the head of the Afghan air force said on Thursday.

The shipments, which will come in several batches to be completed by 2012, do not include jet fighters for the country where U.S. soldiers form the bulk of NATO and coalition troops in the fight against Taliban insurgents.

"We will be supplied with 186 aircraft, such as reconnaissance planes, helicopters, helicopter gunships and fixed-wing planes," General Abdul Wahab Qahraman told Reuters.

"America will provide us with all these aircraft and we are engaged in discussions about it, but we will not have jet fighters before 2012 and God knows what happens after that."

Washington will donate the aircraft to Afghanistan as part of its multi-billion dollar assistance effort, Qahraman said.

By 2012, Afghanistan will have full control over all of its air bases, except for Bagram, the major former Soviet base north of Kabul which is the hub for U.S.-led troops in the country.
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NATO soldier killed in southern Afghanistan
Updated Thu. Jul. 12 2007 8:04 AM ET Associated Press
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- NATO says an alliance soldier has been killed and two others have been wounded today during an operation in southern Afghanistan.

NATO is not releasing the nationalities of the soldiers or the exact location where the operation took place.

A Canadian Forces spokesman in Kandahar says no Canadians were involved.
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Canadian, Afghan troops kill at least 15 Taliban
Reuters, July 14
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=7757253c-f804-420a-929c-62a3dfb3ad2e&k=18646

Canadian troops drove Taliban insurgents into an Afghan army ambush on Saturday and then called in air strikes to hit the fleeing militants, killing at least 15, the Canadian army commander said.

The Canadian troops moved in under cover of darkness through grape, poppy and marijuana fields to a suspected Taliban compound in the village of Sangsar, near Kandahar, where fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar once lived and preached at the local mosque.

"It was another disruptive operation to limit Taliban influence on an Afghan army checkpoint on Highway One," said Major Dave Quick, in charge of the operation, referring to the main road that loops around southern Afghanistan.

The Canadian troops opened fire at first light, with Afghan army units waiting in ambush for the group of around 60 Taliban insurgents along their predicted line of retreat.

"We had multiple contacts and there was air support that dropped about eight 500-lb bombs on Taliban positions," he said.

"We estimate that we got about 15 to 20 of them."

Troops captured an anti-tank weapon capable of piercing their armored vehicles. They also found assault rifles, grenades and armor-piercing shells in and around the compound.

A Taliban spokesman said 27 Afghan and NATO soldiers were killed in fighting in the same district, but a Reuters correspondent with Canadian troops on the operation said there were no casualties among the soldiers [emphasis added]...

Canadian, Afghan forces find weapons cache after bloody firefight
As many as 20 Taliban fighters killed in hour-long battle Saturday

CP in Globe online, July 14
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20070714.wafghancanadafight0714/BNStory/International/

A bloody trail led Canadian troops to a cache of weapons hidden in a village in southern Afghanistan Saturday morning, after an intense firefight left 15 to 20 Taliban fighters dead.

The find came after Canadian and Afghan soldiers battled the Taliban for more than a hour as day broke in the Zhari region, about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City.

Operation Pluto was the latest manoeuvre by coalition troops to push the Taliban from the area around Highway 1, a major thoroughfare running across Kandahar province.

On Saturday, soldiers were engaged by Taliban fire in Haji Ebrahim village starting at 5 a.m. Firefights continued on and off, with insurgents using rocket- propelled grenades and mortars.

Air strikes were called in around 5:30 a.m. and eight 227-kilogram bombs were dropped on the insurgents, Maj. Dave Quick, the officer leading the operation, was quoted as saying.

But even after the air strikes, fighting continued, with insurgents firing on Canadians and Afghans from grape huts and behind walled compounds.

A Canadian military spokesman in Kandahar said neither the Canadian nor Afghan troops suffered any injuries and there were no civilian casualties.

Afghan officials have bemoaned the increased reliance by coalition troops on air strikes, saying they are responsible for a growing number of civilian casualties in the fighting this year...

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Bomb injures four Polish soldiers in Afghanistan
FOCUS News Agency, 9 July 2007
http://www.focus-fen.net/index.php?id=n116741

Warsaw. A roadside bomb injured four Polish troops north of the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, two of them seriously, during a patrol near their base, Polish television reported cited by AFP.

The device exploded underneath the third vehicle in the convoy near their base at Bagram, private television channel TVN24 said, quoting Polish military officials.

Poland has around 1,200 troops [emphasis added] in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan battling a Taliban-led insurgency.

The Polish contingent is responsible for security in the provinces of Paktika and Ghazni in the southeast of the country, while crack units are also stationed in Kandahar [emphasis added] in the south.

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