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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (July 2007)

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Articles found July 15, 2007

Pardon for child 'suicide bomber'
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KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- A 14-year-old would-be suicide bomber from Pakistan, caught while on a mission to blow up an Afghan provincial governor, was pardoned on Sunday by President Hamid Karzai.

Taliban insurgents and their al Qaeda allies have launched a wave of suicide attacks against Afghan, NATO and U.S.-led forces in the last two years, seeking to show the government and its Western allies are incapable of providing security.

Most of the victims are Afghan civilians.

The first whiskers of a moustache on his top lip, Rafiqullah stood to one side of the Afghan president, his father, with a full beard, stood to the other, at a ceremony in the capital on Sunday.

Rafiqullah's father, a poor tradesman from South Waziristan in Pakistan, had sent his son to a religious school, or madrassa, to learn the Koran. Later, when he asked where his son was, the teachers there brushed him off, he said.

Then last month, the 14-year-old was caught wearing a suicide vest on a motorbike in the eastern Afghan city of Khost.

"Today we are facing a hard fact, that is a Muslim child was sent to madrassa to learn Islamic subjects, but the enemies of Afghanistan misled him towards suicide and prepared him to die and kill," Karzai told reporters, his arm on the boy's shoulder.

The boy and father bowed their heads as Karzai spoke.
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'New' al Qaeda tape may contain old clip of bin Laden
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Osama bin Laden stresses the importance of martyrdom for Muslim causes in a videotape that purportedly contains a 50-second message from the al Qaeda leader.

The 40-minute videotape, whose audio was being translated from Arabic by CNN, was intercepted before it was to appear on several Islamist Web sites known for carrying statements from al Qaeda and other radical groups.

The videotape, titled "A Special Surprise from As-Sahab. Heaven's Breeze Part I," was made in the last four weeks, but the clips appear to be old, said Octavia Nasr, CNN's senior editor for Arab affairs. There is no indication of where it was shot, and CNN cannot verify its authenticity.

"We're aware of the tape," a government official, who didn't want to be identified, told CNN. The official agreed that the tape's content is not necessarily new.

"There has not been, over time, a one-to-one correlation between release of a tape and any significant operation or attack afterward," the official added.
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Uruzgan, were the Dutch hoodwinked?
by Louise Dunne 11-07-2007
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Tuesday's suicide attack in southern Afghanistan, which left at least 17 civilians dead and a number of Dutch soldiers injured, has again raised questions about Dutch involvement in Afghanistan. A year ago, the deployment of Dutch troops in the Afghan province of Uruzgan was widely seen as primarily a reconstruction mission but it's becoming clearer by the day that this is a military operation with all the attendant risks.

It's not the case that NATO's stated aim in Afghanistan has changed but public perception here in The Netherlands has, with reports of deaths and casualties a rude awakening for many. So how did this original misperception arise? Were Dutch voters hoodwinked by the politicians into supporting a fighting force dressed in the sheep's clothing of peacekeepers?

The original ISAF mission
The International Security Assistance Force's (ISAF) primary role is to support the government of Afghanistan in providing and maintaining a secure environment in order to facilitate the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

The official NATO statement on the purpose of the ISAF seems clear enough: establish security so rebuilding can begin. And security means fighting. But in the run-up to the 2006 decision to participate in the mission, the government put the emphasis on reconstruction.
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Dutch ISAF troops 'failing'
21-06-2007 Louise Dunne and RNW Internet Desk (Older article - interesting issues)
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Unease about Dutch involvement in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan is steadily growing in the Netherlands and the director of a Dutch aid organisation has warned that the mission may be doing more harm than good.

The deaths of two soldiers over the past week has raised concerns about the dangers of the mission - but questions are also being asked about whether it's actually achieving anything and about the rising number of civilian casualties.
The aim of the ISAF mission to Afghanistan is to establish security so reconstruction work can be carried out - but critics say troops in Uruzgan are fully occupied by fighting, leaving no time for rebuilding.

Focus for violence
Willem van de Put, director of Healthnet TPO, which provides medical aid in Afghanistan, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide that the ISAF soldiers are becoming a focus for the increasing violence:

"The original idea is that it would be the right balance between diplomacy
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Canada commits $8 million to new Afghan projects
Updated Thu. Jul. 12 2007 10:15 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Canada will provide $8 million towards three new projects that are aimed at helping promote the rule of law and enhancing the justice system in Afghanistan.

The three projects are being implemented by the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association, Rights and Democracy and CANADAEM.

"Today, Canada's New Government is partnering with trusted organizations to help Afghanistan make crucial legal reforms and build a sustainable foundation for the promotion of justice and the rule of law," International Cooperation Minister Josee Verner announced Thursday in a news conference.

"Canada's funding will help extend the scope of legal-judicial reform in Afghanistan to reach the most disadvantaged, including women and some of the most vulnerable elements of society."

The announcement came amid the results of a new poll that suggested Canadians are becoming more alarmed about the growing number of Canadian casualties in Afghanistan.

The Canadian Press-Decima Research poll found that 67 per cent of those asked felt the number of Canadians killed or wounded is unacceptably high -- even when considering whatever progress has been made rebuilding Afghanistan.
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Al Qaeda sharpening U.S. focus, officials fear
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Al Qaeda is increasing its efforts to get operatives into the United States for an attack and has nearly all the resources it needs to carry out such a mission, a draft of a new U.S. government intelligence analysis says, according to two government officials familiar with it.

Those resources include a safe haven along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border from which the terrorist organization's leaders can operate, the officials told CNN.

The classified report, called a National Intelligence Estimate, represents the combined analyses of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies. Officials spoke to CNN anonymously because the report is not final.

Several U.S. officials said the final report is expected to emphasize what policymakers have been saying publicly: /topics/al_qaeda" class="cnnInlineTopic">al Qaeda is regrouping and remains intent on attacking in the United States.  Watch analysis of why al Qaeda is growing »

On Wednesday, a senior government official told CNN about another analysis, prepared for senior U.S. policymakers, that concludes al Qaeda is the strongest it has been since the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, despite more than five years of military actions and counterterrorism operations by the United States and its allies.

That analysis also dealt with the issue of al Qaeda's resurgence in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf last year gave primary responsibility for controlling the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan to tribal leaders.
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British soldier killed in Afghanistan  
www.chinaview.cn  2007-07-13 05:30:52  
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LONDON, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Thursday that a British soldier was killed in Afghanistan.

   "It is with much sadness that the Ministry of Defense must confirm the death of a British soldier from the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards near Gereshk in Helmand province, Afghanistan today, Thursday 12 July 2007." the MoD said in a statement.

   "During an enemy contact, the soldier suffered a gunshot wound at approximately 0800 hours local time. He was rapidly evacuated by helicopter and despite the very best efforts of emergency medical staff he was pronounced dead on arrival at the field hospital." the ministry said.

   Two other soldiers were injured in another part of the same operation, the ministry added.

   The Grenadier Guards soldier was working as part of the 1st Battalion Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment Battlegroup, who are undertaking operations alongside Afghan National Security Forces to improve security in the Helmand River valley.

   The fatality brought Britain's death toll in Afghanistan to 64.
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Jonathan Kay: How Washington fumbled away Afghanistan
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When it comes to appraising the situation in Afghanistan, there are few sources more credible that Sarah Chayes. She is a Pashto-speaking American woman who has lived in Kandahar since 2002, helping ordinary Afghans through her NGO, the Arghand Cooperative. A year ago, she published The Punishment of Virtue, a fascinating account of her observations on post-9/11 Afghanistan. She also recently wrote a lengthy article for Boston Review (subsequently excerpted on the opinion pages of the National Post) about the many problems the country is facing, especially corruption. Canadian politicians and military leaders who visit Afghanistan often consult with her.

This week, Chayes wrote a fascinating piece for the op-ed page of The New York Times, in which she traces the root of the military problems that NATO troops (including Canadians) are facing in Afghanistan. Her surprising conclusion: the multinational NATO contigent is doing better than the all-American force it's replaced. The reason: NATO troops are good fighters -- but unlike the Americans, they also focus as closely on the underlying social and political context as on the business of fighting.

In fact, Chayes concludes that things would be a lot better in Afghanistan if NATO had been brought in earlier. Her conclusions in this respect are worth quoting at length:

But if NATO is doing better than the United States, why is Afghanistan doing worse? The answer is twofold. NATO was brought in too late, and under false pretenses.

Within days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, NATO voted to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty — its core principle, which states that an armed attack on one member will be viewed by the others as an attack on themselves. Never before in the history of the organization had the principle been activated. The American reaction was thanks but no thanks. Our government was sure we could go it alone in Afghanistan, that allies would be an inconvenience.

In 2003, NATO moved peacekeeping forces into Kabul and parts of northern Afghanistan. But not until 2005, when it was clear that the United States was bogged down in Iraq and lacked sufficient resources to fight on two fronts, did Washington belatedly turn to NATO to take the Afghan south off its hands. And then it misrepresented the situation our allies would find there. NATO was basically sold a beefed-up peacekeeping mission. It was told, in effect, that it would simply need to maintain the order the United States had established and to help with reconstruction and security.
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Chinese-Made Armor-Piercing Bullets Found in Iraq, Afghanistan
By Sharon Weinberger July 13, 2007 | 10:43:02 AMCategories: Armor, Eye on China  
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Is there a China connection with Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes, according to a departing senior Pentagon official, who says that the Chinese-origin armor-piercing bullets -- of particular concern to U.S. and coalition troops - have showed up in the two countries. This article, from the Financial Times, came out a few days ago, but I think was lost in the shuffle of Iraq news, so it's worth highlighting here:
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Withdrawal from Iraq will affect India too: US
14 Jul 2007, 1030 hrs IST,IANS
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WASHINGTON: The Bush administration suggests that a premature withdrawal of US forces from Iraq would create a terror base there and cause reverberations across the globe from Afghanistan to Pakistan to India.

President George Bush "believes that leaving, in the absence of conditions that will allow the Iraqis to support themselves, would result in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and the kind of security challenge that would make your head spin," White House spokesman Tony Snow said on Friday.

Painting a very scary scenario of the situation after US withdrawal, he said, "...what would happen is that you would have a terror base in Iraq; you would have a strengthened Iran; you would have a rejuvenated Al-Qaida that gets a 'see, told you so,' would have increased ability to recruit throughout the globe."

"Furthermore, our allies in the region are going to say, well, wait a minute, we're not going to rely on the Americans. We'll cut side deals with Al-Qaida or Iran. You'll have increasing instability in Afghanistan that will bleed over into Pakistan, that will have ramifications in India," Snow suggested.

"On the other side, you take a look at what happens, and you have instability throughout the Saudi peninsula, it moves across the Middle East into North Africa. It's certainly going to have impact on Europe," he said.

"So the president understands that actions have consequences, and far-reaching consequences," Snow said reiterating Bush's resolve to stay put in Iraq despite a House vote requiring US forces to start leaving within 120 days and increasing restiveness among his own Republican senators.
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Deadly attack on Pakistani troops  
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North Waziristan is often the scene of troop clashes with militants
The number of soldiers killed in a suicide attack on a military convoy in north-western Pakistan has risen to 24, a Pakistan army spokesman has said.
Twenty-nine others were also hurt when the convoy was hit in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan.

Major General Waheed Arshad admitted the attack could be linked to the storming of the Red Mosque this week.

Troops have been sent close to the area amid fears militants may be planning a "holy war" in response to the siege.

Although no-one has claimed responsibility for Saturday's bomb attack, Maj Gen Arshad acknowledged that it could be a response to the army raid on the Red Mosque in Islamabad on Wednesday.
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Opposition Greens to hold special party congress on German
Afghanistan military mission Berlin, July 14, IRNA Germany-Afghanistan-Greens
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Rank-and-file members of the opposition Greens have forced a special party congress on the future of Germany's military operations in Afghanistan, press reports said Friday.

The executive board of the Green party has announced the convening of a special party meeting for September 15 to discuss the party's stance on German Tornado fighter jets missions over war-stricken southern Afghanistan and the German army's role in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) as well as 'Operation Enduring Freedom'.

Some 44 district and one regional party affiliations had demanded the holding of such a party meeting following an inner-party dispute over future German military mandate.

The venue for the special party congress has yet to be decided.

"I view it as a good opportunity to talk very broadly and also very publicly over the perspective for Afghanistan, Green party whip Steffi Lemke told dpa.

In other related news, Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung reaffirmed that German troops would not be deployed to southern Afghanistan.
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Failure in Afghanistan risks rise in terror, say generals
Military chiefs warn No.10 that defeat could lead to change of regime in Pakistan
Nicholas Watt and Ned Temko Sunday July 15, 2007 The Observer
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Britain's most senior generals have issued a blunt warning to Downing Street that the military campaign in Afghanistan is facing a catastrophic failure, a development that could lead to an Islamist government seizing power in neighbouring Pakistan.
Amid fears that London and Washington are taking their eye off Afghanistan as they grapple with Iraq, the generals have told Number 10 that the collapse of the government in Afghanistan, headed by Hamid Karzai, would present a grave threat to the security of Britain.
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Articles found July 17, 2007

Pakistan Truce Over
Lethal Turbulence Ends 10 Months Of Peace Along Afghan Border
By GRIFF WITTE And IMTIAZ ALI | Washington Post July 16, 2007
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A controversial peace deal between the Pakistani government and local tribal leaders in an area where al-Qaida is known to be regrouping appeared to collapse Sunday, as tensions escalated and a fresh wave of bombings killed at least 44 people.

The 10-month-old deal in the restive region of North Waziristan was designed to curb cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. But it has been widely criticized by security analysts and, lately, U.S. officials, who said it provided terrorist groups including the Taliban and al-Qaida with a safe haven in which to train recruits and plot attacks.

On Sunday, local Taliban fighters proclaimed the deal dead and announced the start of an all-out guerrilla war against the Pakistani army. Pakistani officials stopped short of conceding the agreement's demise, but the military has been moving tens of thousands of troops toward troubled spots along the border in recent days, after the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, last week announced a new crackdown on extremism.
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Van Doos off to AfghanistanReady for risks, soldiers say
By CP July 16, 2007
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QUEBEC -- For 200 Quebec-based soldiers, the prospect of leaving their families behind for the uncertainty and dangers of Afghanistan weighed heavily as they bid farewell to their loved ones while trying their very best to hide their anxiety and trepidation.

Tears flowed and hugs were plentiful as the first wave of troops from the Royal 22nd Regiment boarded a plane bound for Kandahar under a light rain yesterday at Jean Lesage International Airport in Quebec City.

In total, more than 2,000 soldiers, known as the Van Doos, will make their way to Afghanistan from their home base at nearby CFB Valcartier by August to take over from Canadian troops already stationed there.

"It's evident that there is a higher risk for most of the missions, but there are lots of factors that are out of our control," said Cmdr. Jason Langelier. "We have enough training ... as long as we stay motivated and we apply what we know over the six months, we'll all come back together and will have made a difference," he added.

Up to the challenge

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor was in attendance, accompanied by International Co-operation Minister Josee Verner, offering encouragement and support.

O'Connor told the troops: "Know that you are in our hearts and in our thoughts. Know that we are proud of you
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Roadside bombing wounds 6 in S. Afghanistan
July 16, 2007
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Six persons including three policemen were injured by a roadside bombing in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province on Sunday, provincial police chief said.

A roadside bomb injured three policemen and three civilians at noon in Kandahar city, the provincial capital, Syed Aqa Saqib told Xinhua.

No one has claimed responsibility and an investigation is under way, Saqib said.
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Hunting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan
Tue Jul 17, 2007 8:55 AM IST By Finbarr O'Reilly
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SANGSAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The grinding metallic noise of tanks and diesel engines fade into the desert night and the only sound is our breathing and the crunch of dozens of army boots on dry earth.

It feels like we are alone in the barren, moonlit landscape, but we're not. Somewhere out there lurk the Taliban.

A cacophony of barking floats through the heavy air as dogs from nearby mud villages pick up our scent.

Foreign troops from the NATO-led coalition and the Afghan National Army (ANA) are on the hunt for Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province.

It is a strategic point in the fight against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban drug smuggling routes into neighbouring Pakistan.
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Hunter-Killer robot planes launched in Afghanistan
By BARRY WIGMORE - Last updated at 18:05pm on 16th July 2007
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The Royal Air Force has ordered three "hunter-killer" robot planes from America for use in Afghanistan.

The state-of-the-art unmanned drone, named the Reaper because of its deadly attack capability, is bigger and flies higher, longer and faster than the Predator surveillance aircraft currently on patrol in the fight against the Taliban and in Iraq.

The Reapers, priced at £8 million each, plus service costs, will be flown by remote control by RAF "pilots" operating them via satellite link from 7,000 miles away at the US Air Force's Nellis base in Nevada.

There are 44 RAF crew already flying Predators from Nellis and it is easy for them to upgrade to Reapers.

At first the RAF Reaper planes will be unarmed and used only for reconnaissance.

But defence experts last night predicted that it will not be long before they are used in full attack mode. A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "The aircraft we have ordered are capable of using the weapons – you just need to clip them on and install an extra bit of kit inside to fire them." A military expert said: "These aircraft have awesome firepower and the great thing is there is never any danger to their crew because they are safely tucked away on the ground thousands of miles from the battlefield." The news of the RAF order came as it was revealed that the US Air Force is planning to send the world's first robot attack squadrons – each with 16 similar planes whose full name is the MQ-9 Reaper – into battle in Afghanistan and Iraq later this year.
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Canadian military shields Afghan village from Taliban
Don Martin, CanWest News Service Published: Monday, July 16, 2007
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GHORAK, Afghanistan -- Until the Taliban came calling last month, this mud-walled mountain village in northwestern Kandahar province was home to 100 families.

There was a medical centre, a school and a robust farming community churning out crops of opium-bound poppies supplemented by the more legally desirable, but less lucrative, honeydews and cucumbers.

But the doctor disappeared three weeks ago after a Taliban fighter gave him an offer he couldn't refuse. Then the school teacher fled after being warned her next day in the classroom would be her last alive. The political leadership that used to preside over the region from the compound abdicated their responsibilities a couple of years ago.

The heart of their community scared off, the village emptied of villagers. Now there are just seven families waiting -- and hoping -- Canadians can turn their lives around.

The second half of a massive convoy of tanks, light armoured vehicles and supply trucks rumbled into Ghorak under the cover of darkness Sunday night and set to work fortifying and rebuilding the defences of the regional political centre at sunrise Monday.

A day earlier, six village elders had met with Maj. Alex Ruff of Hotel Company to learn about a Canadian mission they hope will restore stability and bring back the residents.

It would be easy to denounce this particular mission as a waste of military manpower, after more than 100 bored soldiers lounged around with little to do for 10 days while headquarters slowly dispatched another convoy loaded with barbed wire, sand bags and barriers to fortify the outpost.

As this three-day mission rolls into its 11th day, it seems to me that brass at the Kandahar Air Field deserve a slap on the head for organizational ineptitude and, frankly, dispatching an overkill of firepower, given that locals report only a dozen or so insurgents in the area.
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Afghanistan fires governor after comments criticizing government's effectiveness
The Associated Press Monday, July 16, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghanistan's government fired a provincial governor days after he said Afghans are distancing themselves from President Hamid Karzai and that a "vacuum of authority" is allowing the Taliban, al-Qaida and other groups to gain power.

Abdul Sattar Murad, the governor of Kapisa province, was fired because "he sowed discord" among the people and provided U.S.-led coalition troops with wrong information about the people of the province, said a statement from the Ministry of Interior, which appoints the country's 34 governors.

The removal comes only days after Murad gave an interview to Newsweek magazine highly critical of the central government.

"In remote parts of the country there is practically a vacuum of authority, a vacuum of power. Somebody will have to fill that vacuum. Either the criminals fill that vacuum or the Taliban and al-Qaida do," Murad said in the interview.

"All the political parties are now drifting away from the national leadership. All over the country, the people are distancing themselves from the government," he was quoted as saying. "Many of the elders, those who have influence, feel they have been left out and are not in the same convoy with the government."

The government said the decision to sack Murad was made before the interview was published. Murad denied that allegation and believes his comments led to his removal.

"If they removed me because I have given a statement to Newsweek I welcome that," Murad said while speaking inside his private office in Kabul. "After all it is the right of the government to remove or to appoint (people)."
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Troops in Afghanistan Detain Five Militants; Police Find Weapons Cache
American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, July 17, 2007
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Afghan and coalition troops detained five militants today, and Afghan police found a large weapons cache yesterday, military officials reported.

Credible intelligence led coalition forces to compounds in the Dih Bala district of Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, where they detained five men suspected of housing militants with ties to al Qaeda. Soldiers found magazines, weapons, grenades and chest racks during a search of the compounds.

“Coalition and Afghan forces are working to remove insurgents who conduct operations that threaten the peaceful people of Afghanistan and undermine the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” Army Maj. Christopher Belcher, a coalition spokesman, said.

In other news, Afghan national police recovered a large weapons cache yesterday at a former Taliban training site during a unilateral operation in the Musa Khel district of Khowst province.

Afghan national police planned and executed the mission without coalition-partnered units, using credible intelligence, officials said.

The police recovered 10 107 mm rockets, 22 122 mm mortar fuses, 25 82 mm mortar rounds, 150 anti-aircraft rounds and 5,000 rounds of medium machine-gun ammunition.
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Articles found July 18, 2007


Two wounded in attack on Turkish convoy in Afghanistan
Güncelleme: 11:16 TSİ 18 Temmuz 2007 Çarşamba
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NATO officials have yet to make a statement on the incident
KABUL - Two people, one of them a Turkish security official, were wounded Wednesday when a suicide bomber attacked a convoy of Turkish vehicles in the Afghan province of Wardak.

The convoy, which was carrying Turkish embassy official, was attacked at around 9:00 am Afghanistan time.

According to a local police officer, a suicide bomber with explosives attached to his body detonated his device close to the convoy as the vehicles were travelling on a road in Wardak, south west of Kabul.

According to a statement by the Turkish Embassy in Kabul, shots were fired at the convoy after the explosion, wounding one Turkish guard.
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Pakistan Security Forces On High Alert
Bombs Tuesday And Wednesday Killed 16 People, Wounded 7
(CBS) By CBS's Farhan Bokhari, reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.
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Pakistan's security forces are on high alert after intelligence reports warned of more suicide attacks following a brutal attack Tuesday night which killed 16 people.

The warnings contained in the latest intelligence assessments suggest militants may be planning to hit other important targets in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, as well as locations in other large cities such as Karachi, Pakistan's southern port city.

"The information we have leads us to believe that active planning is going on to target other locations," a senior Pakistani security official told CBS News, commenting on the condition that he would not be named.

Early Wednesday morning, seven people including a soldier were wounded when a roadside bomb targeting a military convoy blew up in the restive north Waziristan region, near the Afghan border. The attack appears to further diminish hopes for resurrecting a crucial peace agreement in north Waziristan which broke down on Sunday when tribal leaders from the region unilaterally pulled out of it.

That agreement, struck last autumn, was the cornerstone of the Pakistani government's efforts to consolidate a fragile peace process. Under the agreement, the government announced it was pulling back military troops in return for promises from tribal leaders to stop anyone from venturing into Afghanistan to fight Afghan forces and Western troops, including the U.S. military.

Since the agreement was struck, Western officials including U.S. officials have criticized it on the grounds that it had given sanctuary to militants holed up in the north Waziristan region and even allowed some to travel back and forth to Afghanistan, all with the purpose of joining the bands of anti-U.S. "Taliban" fighters.
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Ex-commanders says Pakistan could be next Afghanistan
By Iqbal Khattak
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PESHAWAR: There is a serious risk of Pakistan going the way of Afghanistan if the state and Islamist militants remain in conflict, say former Afghan commanders who fought in the jihad against Soviet forces.

Afghanistan has been ravaged by almost continuous war since the late 1970s, when mujahideen challenged the Moscow-backed regime in Kabul. With growing unrest in the NWFP and the tribal areas, where there have been repeated suicide attacks on security forces, Pakistan is exhibiting similar symptoms to Afghanistan, the Afghan commanders say. “Pakistan may face a worse crisis than Afghanistan as this country has nuclear weapons,” former Afghan commander Haji Muhammad Zaman warned.

Pakistan was the transit route for US-backed Muslim volunteers and weapons sent into Afghanistan against the Red Army occupation and Balochistan and NWFP bore the brunt of the wave of “Islamisation” that the military regime of Gen Ziaul Haq, with US-backing, promoted to inflict defeat on the former Soviet Union. Peshawar was the de facto capital of the Afghan resistance against the communists.

Zaman said the angry reaction of people in NWFP and the tribal areas to the Lal Masjid operation shows and suicide attacks on security forces show how deeply radicalised the Pashtuns have become.
“How can you change the people so soon who underwent 30 years of radicalisation? Excessive use of force is no solution to keep people away from what we call extremism,” the Afghan commander said. In 2007, the phenomenon of ‘Talibanisation’ has spilled over into several Frontier districts from Waziristan. “Things are happening even outside Waziristan now,” Haji Masood Khan, former commander for Afghan leader Pir Syed Ahmed Gilani, told Daily Times. “There is a danger that Pakistan may go Afghanistan’s way as I look at the current situation in this country.”
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Afghanistan's fate hinges on military presence: PM
Updated Wed. Jul. 18 2007 10:56 AM ET Canadian Press
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SANTIAGO, Chile -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper says only a stepped-up military presence in Afghanistan can prevent the troubled country from again becoming a haven for terrorists.

Canada went to Afghanistan because it was a failed state responsible for training the terrorists that killed two dozen Canadians in the World Trade Centre attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Harper said.

Afghanistan represented a security threat to the world then, he said at the end of a Latin American trip, and it will again if NATO countries don't step up their efforts to resist the Taliban and al-Qaida insurgency.

"I don't think it's an option for Canada or anybody else to close our eyes and pretend there aren't severe problems in other parts of the world,'' he said.

Unless Western nations like Canada "take our international responsibilities seriously, these problems will come back to haunt us,'' he added.

Harper, who was heading to Barbados, recently maintained that he would not extend Canada's military mission in Afghanistan beyond its scheduled end in February 2009 without a "consensus'' in Parliament. He repeated that Wednesday.

He has also said NATO's failure to persuade other countries in the alliance to shoulder some of the burden in Afghanistan would be a factor in Canada's participation in the combat mission there beyond 2009.

The mission is coming under increasing scrutiny as casualties mount _ now 66 Canadian military deaths _ and progress appears slow.

Canada's concerns about Afghanistan were buttressed by a a British parliamentary committee report that said the NATO mission in Afghanistan has been undermined by serious strategic mistakes and a failure to provide adequate troops.
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Afghan stats update [good maps]
Flit (Bruce Rolston), July 17
http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/archives/2007_07_17.html#006224

A quick note on the fighting in Afghanistan last year. In October I wrote a post about the geographic distribution of NATO combat deaths. It seemed appropriate to do an update.

Here, for reference, is the distribution of NATO combat deaths by province in Afghanistan, for 2005. At the time, the only real continuing hot spot was Kunar province, where 23 of that year's 73 fatalities occurred (31%):*

[map]

Here is the same distribution for all of 2006, when fighting flared up in Kandahar and Helmand provinces as NATO's ISAF force and the Afghan central government began imposing themselves on that area. Fighting continued in Kunar as well: the two southern provinces accounted for 68 of that year's 130 combat fatalities (52%), with the Kunar fighting resulting in another 15 (11%):

[map]

Here is the distribution so far this year, with the fighting in Helmand and Kandahar continuing, but relative quiet everywhere else (the loss rate in Kunar having dropped off significantly). So far this year there have been 83 combat fatalities, with 54 of them (65%) in Kandahar and Helmand.

[map]


The conclusion one could draw from this is that the Afghan fighting remains centred on two of the country's 34 provinces. A total of 15 provinces, containing 34% of the country's population, have had no NATO fatalities at all in the period evaluated here. (By contrast Kandahar and Helmand, the real war zone, contain between them about 8% of the national population.) Efforts by insurgent groups to broaden the conflict this year seem to be have had limited success, and their northern wing, which includes the unstable Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Taliban fighters based out of the Pakistan FATA area, may even be losing ground in the east of the country this year, in terms of their ability to strike at the NATO forces.

*16 of those 23 were in a single helicopter crash, later attributed to hostile fire.

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We are not alone in saying no
Globe and Mail, July 18, By MICHAEL BYERS 
http://www.rbcinvest.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/PEstory/LAC/20070718/COALLIES18/Comment/comment/comment/3/3/3/

Travelling through Europe this month, I've been struck by how national debates in different NATO countries take place in isolation from each other. Many Germans, for instance, assume Canadians support the counterinsurgency mission in southern Afghanistan. Similarly, many Canadians assume the 3,000 German soldiers in relatively safe northern Afghanistan aren't going anywhere soon.

In fact, 54 per cent of Germans think their soldiers should be withdrawn. In the Netherlands, 58 per cent want the 2,000 Dutch troops brought home by next year. Even in Poland, where the government strongly backs the mission and none of its 1,100 soldiers have been killed, a staggering 78 per cent oppose the Polish presence in Afghanistan...

...The Dutch will decide next month whether to extend their deployment. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who heads a fragile three-party coalition, finds himself on the wrong side of public opinion. This might explain why his government recently said that, even if Dutch troops were to stay, the mission would be scaled back because of financial limitations.

During the recent French election, presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy suggested that he would pull all 1,000 French troops out of Afghanistan. Having won office, he now says any such move is not "imminent."

Other governments are setting limits on their contributions. Spain, with 650 soldiers deployed, lost 17 of them in a single helicopter crash in 2005. Two months ago, Defence Minister Jose Antonio Alonso made it plain that more soldiers would not be sent. "We do not plan to augment our troops and it is not necessary."

For a few European countries, Afghanistan provides an alternative to an even more unpopular mission in Iraq. In February, the British government announced 1,400 more British troops for Afghanistan at the same time it was releasing plans to withdraw 1,600 soldiers from Iraq. And Denmark is bolstering its small Afghan deployment by 200 soldiers at the same time it is pulling its entire 500-strong contingent out of Iraq...

Thousands more troops needed to bring peace to Afghanistan, say MPs
The Times, July 18
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article2093568.ece

Thousands more soldiers should be deployed to Afghanistan to take on the resurgent Taleban and to accelerate the pace of construction projects, a committee of MPs said yesterday.

The Commons Defence Committee, giving warning that the shortage of troops threatened to undermine the whole campaign in Afghanistan, said that the size and strength of the Nato-led force should be “considerably greater than the international community is at present willing to acknowledge, let alone to make”.

The committee, in a report on British operations in Afghanistan, said: “We remain deeply concerned that the reluctance of some Nato members to provide troops for the Isaf (International Security Assistance Force) mission is undermining Nato’s credibility and Isaf operations.” ..

...The MPs said that if Britain’s mission was to bring stability to Helmand province in the south, it would require “a long-term military and humanitarian commitment”.

The MPs said: “We recommend that the Government clarify its planning assumptions for the UK deployment to Afghanistan and state the likely length of the deployment beyond the summer of 2009 [not easy to do].” Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, has stated that the presence in Afghanistan will remain until at least 2009.

Part of the problem for the mission in Afghanistan was that the experts had been wrong when they said that the Taleban would fight with “asymmetric” tactics, such as roadside bombs and suicide bombers. Although both these tactics were being used, the Taleban had also conducted conventional attacks, relying on much larger fighting formations than had been envisaged when the Nato campaign began.

The MPs queried whether this “misreading of the insurgent threat in Helmand represented a failure of intelligence”.

Mr Browne admitted that knowledge of the insurgency in southern Afghanistan had been limited because, before the arrival of 5,000 British troops in Helmand in May last year, Isaf had had only 100 American service personnel in the province...

Nato faces Afghanistan 'problems' (very good map at bottom of which ISAF troops are where)
BBC, July 18
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6903403.stm

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Articles found July 19, 2007

ISAF: powerful EFP bombs found in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2007-07-18 20:05:14 
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    KABUL, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Five powerful explosively formed projectiles (EFPs), which are commonly seen in Iraq, have been found in Afghanistan this year, but these sophisticated bombs apparently are not connected to those used in Iraq, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said Wednesday.

    Five EFPs, which can penetrate armed vehicles and have caused numerous civilian and military casualties in Iraq, were found in Afghanistan this year, Col. Tom Kelly, deputy chief of ISAF counter-bombs operations, told a press conference.

    The first EFP exploded south of the Afghan capital Kabul in January, but caused no casualties, Kelly said, adding the other four were captured either in the western Herat province bordering Iran or in Kabul before they went off.

    This is the first time that EFPs were found in Afghanistan. This new trend has caused lots of attention and concerns among international troops deployed here, as Iraq-style bombs would greatly strengthen militants and terrorists here if transferred into Afghanistan.
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Most Canadians oppose Afghanistan mission: poll
Updated Wed. Jul. 18 2007 11:21 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
Article Link

Only seven per cent of Canadians strongly support the Afghanistan mission, while the total number of those opposed in Quebec remains high at 75 per cent, according to a new poll by The Strategic Counsel.

The survey, conducted between July 12-16 for CTV and The Globe and Mail, suggests the level of intensity for Canadians strongly opposed to the mission is far greater than those who are in firm support: (percentage point change from a July 12-15, 2006 poll in brackets):

Total Support: 36 per cent (-3)
Strongly Support: 7 per cent (-1)
Support: 29 per cent (-2)
Oppose: 31 per cent (same)
Strongly oppose: 27 per cent (+2)
Total Oppose: 59 per cent (+3)

Peter Donolo, a partner with The Strategic Counsel, told CTV.ca the numbers show only a small minority of core supporters for deploying troops to the war-ravaged country.
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Germans, Afghans abducted in Afghanistan
July 19, 2007
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(CNN) -- Search efforts were under way in Afghanistan on Thursday after two German citizens and at least two Afghan residents were reported abducted the day before.

"According to information we have received, two German nationals along with their Afghan colleagues were kidnapped in Maidan Wardak province yesterday," said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary. "We have started an extensive operation to find them. The kidnap took place in the Jaghato district of the province."

The Associated Press identified two Afghans -- a driver and a translator -- as being abducted. Reuters placed the number of kidnapped Afghans at six.

Taliban spokesman Zabeeullah Mujahid said the group was not aware of its fighters seizing any foreign nationals.

"I have contacted all our forces in the area but no one knows about it," Mujahid said by phone from an undisclosed location.
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Fickle warlord 'ends' insurgency
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Afghan rebel leader and Taliban and al Qaeda ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has declared a ceasefire against Afghanistan's government, he said in a statement.

Hekmatyar is wanted by the Afghan government and U.S. authorities, but the veteran fighter who once led the biggest mujahideen faction against the 1979-89 Soviet occupation has a history of changing sides and shifting alliances.

Aired by two private television channels and circulated in Kabul, the statement said:

"Members of Hezb-i-Islami have stopped and refrained from brother killing and from the destruction of the country and assumed political activity because it believes the Americans, like the British and Russians, will pull out (of Afghanistan)," said the statement obtained by Reuters on Thursday.

"Hence, now we have to unite for creating an Islamic system and start our political efforts so that we can provide a tranquil life and everlasting peace for our Muslim countrymen," it said.

It was not immediately clear when and where the statement was issued and Hekmatyar's sympathizers could not be contacted for verification. An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said he was not aware of the statement and other government officials were not immediately available for comment.
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Militants Kill Afghans, Filipino in Series of Attacks in Afghanistan
By VOA News 18 July 2007 
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Suspected Taleban militants killed at least 11 Afghans and a Philippine engineer in a series of attacks in Afghanistan Wednesday.

In one incident, insurgents ambushed a police convoy along a major highway in the southern province of Zabul, killing six officers.

Also Wednesday, two suicide bombers tried to storm the main police station in the southeastern town of Khost. Afghan officials say one of the bombers exploded himself, killing three Afghan officers. The second attacker was shot dead by police.

A suicide bomber also blew himself up near a Turkish diplomatic convoy on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul. Officials say the convoy came under small arms fire after the blast, wounding a Turkish guard. No other casualties were reported.

In other violence, a Philippine engineer died in a rebel attack on a road construction crew in the southeastern province of Paktia.
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Militants behead 'US spy'
July 19, 2007 05:19am From correspondents in Pakistan Article from: Agence France-Presse
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SUSPECTED Islamic militants in a restive Pakistani tribal town overnight beheaded a man accused of spying for US forces across the border, officials said.

The militants dumped the body of the unidentified victim aged in his 20s in an isolated area near the northwestern town of Khar in the Bajaur tribal district, local administration official Fazle Rabbi said.

"Local villagers found the beheaded body and informed us," he said.

The militants left a note near the body which read: "Those who spy for US forces will meet this fate", the official said.

It was the second killing this week of an alleged US spy in the area, after militants yesterday slit the throat of a 40-year-old Afghan refugee from the neighbouring Afghan province of Kunar.
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Army shells militants in border region
By Griff Witte and Kamran Khan, Washington Post  |  July 19, 2007
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan expanded operations against extremist fighters yesterday and the military began shelling targets in a restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan following an insurgent assault that killed 17 troops.

The fighting in North Waziristan, an area where Al Qaeda leadership is believed to be active, went on late into the night, residents said. A local official confirmed that at least six artillery explosions were heard in the hills that surround Miram Shah, the region's main town. It was not immediately clear who or what had been targeted.

The shelling occurred during a period of deep turmoil in Pakistan, with radical fighters carrying out a string of deadly attacks after a government raid against a mosque in Islamabad last week.

On Sunday, Taliban fighters in North Waziristan renounced a controversial peace pact that had held for 10 months and had prevented the military from carrying out operations in the area. The pact had angered US officials, who considered it a primary reason why Al Qaeda was able to reorganize.
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Detainee in Afghanistan wins ruling
A federal judge in the U.S. upholds the right of a Yemeni man held as an enemy combatant to seek his freedom.
By Henry Weinstein, Times Staff Writer July 19, 2007
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A federal judge in Washington on Wednesday upheld the right of a Yemeni man held as an enemy combatant at a U.S. military prison in Afghanistan to seek his freedom.

The ruling is the first issued in a case filed on behalf of a foreign detainee held by the U.S. outside the country or the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. It comes less than a month after the Supreme Court said it would again consider the rights of detainees at Guantanamo in the fall.

U.S. District Judge John D. Bates cited the high court's June action as a key reason for his decision.

Wednesday's ruling stems from a case filed in September on behalf of Fadi Al Maqaleh, who is being held at the military prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. The International Justice Network, a legal advocacy group, filed a habeas corpus petition seeking Maqaleh's release, alleging that he had been illegally taken into custody by the U.S. and held without charges for more than five years.

Bates, appointed to the court by President Bush, said it was possible that when the Supreme Court considered the rights of detainees in the fall, it "could issue a broader decision in favor of the detainees, one whose reasoning applies not just to Guantanamo, but to Bagram and other locations as well."
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Forces hope to lease a ship by September to ease shipments to Afghanistan
Ottawa Citizen, July 19
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=070cf1c0-414d-4367-bb6d-96f94c9dcd80

The Canadian military hopes to have a ship leased by September to handle the movement of cargo for its Afghanistan mission.

The Canadian Forces has been chartering space on cargo ships as well as using aircraft to move the tens of thousands of tonnes of equipment and supplies that are needed to keep the Afghanistan mission going. But the military is keen to have an assured means of shipping and to reduce its reliance on the more expensive method of flying in supplies.

"The key thing for us is to meet the operational requirements, so we have to use the means that will allow us to complete the task in a timely fashion," said Lt.-Col. Daniel Meilleur, of the Canadian Operational Support Command. "As we use more and more sealift, we will, of course, reduce the cost of airlift."

Equipment that is critical to the mission or must get to Afghanistan fast is moved by air. Less sensitive materiel is currently shipped on vessels from Montreal to Pakistan and then transported by road into Afghanistan...

The shipping industry has been asked for proposals and a winner is expected to be selected by the end of this month to provide the ship. Lt.-Col. Meilleur said it is hoped the vessel will be available starting in September.

The lease for the roll-on, roll-off cargo ship will be for one year, though there is an option for a second year.

Several of Canada's allies, including France and Britain, have a similar system in place. NATO is also exploring the possibility of a charter for a roll-on, roll-off ship for shipments to Afghanistan and Iraq...

Lt.-Col. Meilleur said the military is looking at several countries where it could establish an intermediate support base from which equipment can be shipped and then transported into Afghanistan. Turkey is one such candidate. Other locations include various Middle East countries.

"Our intent is to get as close as possible to (Afghanistan), so we'll exploit all possible locations," Lt.-Col. Meilleur said.

Canadian military personnel will act as on-board escorts for the equipment being shipped. Not only will the vessel take gear to Afghanistan, it will also be used to haul gear and vehicles back to Canada for maintenance.

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We are failing in Afghanistan
The costs of losing this war far outweigh those of Iraq. We must urgently change the approach

The Guardian, July 19, by Paddy Ashdown
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2129594,00.html

Failure is not yet inevitable. But it is now likely, and will remain likely until we increase resources and redress the disastrous failure of the international community to get its act together. The tragedy is that this is happening despite a high level of professionalism and a lot of raw courage among our soldiers. And it is happening despite some outstanding reconstruction successes outside the hot conflict areas of Helmand province.

I recently had a rather heated conversation with a government minister who assured me that we were winning in Afghanistan because "we were killing more Taliban". But success is not measured in dead Taliban. It's measured in how many more water supplies are being reconnected; how many more people now have the benefit of the rule of law and good governance; how many have the prospect of a job; and, above all, whether we are winning or losing the battle for public opinion, which is central to successful reconstruction...

A number of factors have placed us in this perilous situation. We have been left with too few resources - above all, as yesterday's report underlines, too few soldiers' boots on the ground. A balkanisation of strategy has muddled our focus - the British are obsessed with Helmand, but arguably Kandahar and Kabul are the crucial areas. Sharply deteriorating relations between President Karzai's government and that of President Musharaff have hardly helped. But the paramount reason for our failing grip lies with ourselves.

In the task of post-conflict reconstruction, the international community's tendency to repeat what fails is quite bewildering. The fundamental principles are a coherent strategy, unity of voice, and coordinated international action. All three are almost totally lacking in Afghanistan.

One can normally at least rely on the military to understand the importance of unity of command. But in Afghanistan, even this is absent. The US military are not exclusively under the command of Nato's mission in Afghanistan, and frequently conduct operations that run counter to the Nato force's basic doctrine of minimising civilian deaths. Worse, US special forces and CIA operations are run not from the theatre but from Washington. This is exactly the fractured command structure that led to the US disaster in Somalia.

On civilian reconstruction, the situation is worse still. There is no effective coordination. Individual nations' obsession with their own bilateral plans produce duplication, waste and confusion. Our partners in the Afghan government are baffled by the stream of contradictory instructions and the absence of an international partner with a clear view of what must be done. The hapless UN special representative in Kabul, Tom Koenigs, who might have the task of coordinating international effort, has neither the power nor the support from major capitals to do so....

The costs of failure in Afghanistan are much more dangerous than Iraq. Failure would mean a hugely increased risk of instability in Pakistan, with dangerous implications for the security of the region - and for the internal security of Britain. One result could be the beginning of a wider conflict that would start with war-lordism but end with a Sunni-Shia civil war on a regional scale. And then there is the effect on Nato. One highly respected UK general has told me that he believes failure in Afghanistan could do the same damage to the Atlantic alliance as the UN's failures in Bosnia did to that organisation. What we could be looking at is not just damage to the Atlantic relationship but perhaps eventually even to the US security guarantee for Europe...

Tories planning diplomatic push
Afghanistan presence, Harper sees no moral opposition to mission

National Post, July 19
http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/canada/story.html?id=3c13b645-027b-4a05-9b57-bf8352a16019

Canada is beefing up its diplomatic presence in Kandahar and will dispatch a respected retired diplomat as "senior civilian co-ordinator," CanWest News has learned.

The bolstering of Canada's diplomatic corps comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and top Cabinet ministers are discussing the possibility of ending combat operations in southern Afghanistan in February, 2009. The decision to dispatch Michel de Salaberry -- who has served ambassadorships in Jordan, Egypt and Iran -- suggests Ottawa is laying the groundwork for a new role in reconstruction efforts after 2009.

Canada's latest diplomatic manoeuvres come as a British parliamentary report released yesterday criticized some NATO countries for not doing enough on the front lines of combat in southern Afghanistan.

"We remain deeply concerned that the reluctance of some NATO members to provide troops for the [International Security Assistance Force] mission is undermining NATO's credibility and also ISAF operations," said the report of Britain's parliamentary defence committee, in a direct reference to the reluctance of countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Italy to use troops where the Taliban insurgency is strongest.

"I'm glad the Brits have added their voice to this clarion call for other NATO countries to step up and to help with the burden-sharing that's going on in the south," said Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay in an interview.

Mr. MacKay said Canada would turn up the heat on fellow NATO members to do more in the "soft underbelly" of southern Afghanistan. He also dropped further hints Canada's combat role could be finished by February, 2009, when parliamentary approval runs out [emphasis added].

"The bottom line is: the clock is ticking, and it's not just ticking on Canada and our role. That bell tolls for all. We're looking at doing our part. And I believe we've more than done our share of staring into the eyes of the enemy. Not to be dramatic about it, but if we are not able to secure that ground in the south, this is the weak underbelly of the mission."..

Signalling a new role for Canada in Afghanistan's reconstruction, Mr. MacKay said more diplomats would be sent to Kandahar as well as the capital, Kabul, to assist the government of President Hamid Karzai to extend its reach throughout the country.

"We are going to be increasing our presence there [in Kandahar]. That will include those with specific regional expertise and some individuals within the department and those from other departments," said Mr. MacKay.

"Let's be clear, the current military role will expire from a parliamentary point of view in February, 2009. That's the mandate that we have to continue in the current configuration. Having said that, there are other roles that Canada can play, transitioning into the aspects of training the army and police, of course, more on the reconstruction side."

He said Canada intends to assist the Karzai government's efforts to have "a greater presence" in the south. He also said greater effort would be spent on helping build the capacity of Afghan police and military forces so that, ultimately, western troops would be able to leave and Afghanistan could protect itself.

"What's the exit strategy? It's to get that government to a point where they're self-sustainable."..[emphasis added]

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Coup for Canada if UAE joins Afghan mission
Toronto Star, June 20
http://www.thestar.com/News/article/237988

The United Arab Emirates may send troops to work alongside Canadians in southern Afghanistan, sources say.

The move, which could come this fall, would mark a military and diplomatic coup for Canada, which had been urging the tiny Arab nation to contribute soldiers and equipment to the mission to put a "Muslim face" on the international coalition.

It comes at a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been pressing nations to contribute more to help stabilize Afghanistan.

Canadian diplomats and defence officials made overtures to the UAE in January to get involved in the mission. Now a tentative plan is being discussed for the deployment of a small – but highly symbolic – UAE force to serve under the leadership of Canadian officials.

Officials at the UAE embassy in Ottawa declined to comment. However, a source confirmed the federal government is aware that a possible deployment is in the works by the small Arab nation, located along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf.

According to a defence department briefing note released in the spring, UAE signalled it was interested in contributing a "small tactical unit." The contribution could include four LeClerc main battle tanks, two platoons of armoured reconnaissance vehicles, two self-propelled 155-mm guns and a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles [emphasis added], according to the note, released under access to information.

"The UAE is capable of bringing considerable financial support to development projects and would provide a Muslim face to International Security Assistance Force operations, providing a counterpoint to insurgent rhetoric," it said.

July 20:
http://www.gdw-berlin.de/b12/start-e.php

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July 20 2007

Canadian military quiet on Taliban casualty figures

Don Martin, National Post
Published: Friday, July 20, 2007
GHORAK, Afghanistan -- One of the creaking, groaning, museum-ready Leopards the Canadians use as tanks over here was having another fried engine replaced in the middle of nowhere this week when an approaching car got a bit too close to the idling convoy.

The driver ignored soldiers waving it a safe distance away and a warning shot was fired at a spot 100 metres in front of the overcrowded vehicle, a message received to the sound of car brakes screeching to a halt in a cloud of dust. 

This was the only time a Canadian soldier in the huge convoy had fired off a round in the almost two weeks we were on the road -- and even then the soldier got a tongue-lashing from the commanding officer for shooting without sufficient cause.


But soldiers told me they could empathize with the itchy trigger finger. Most have spent almost six months in Afghanistan without taking a single shot in anger. They can't believe how little combat they've seen.

This might be a good thing for their families, but the delicate question needs to be asked. This six-month rotation has lost 22 of its finest to the insurgency. How many Taliban has it killed?

The short answer from the Canadian military is odd: no comment.

They won't disclose precise numbers, approximate numbers, reveal whether the Taliban toll is single digits, double digits or in the hundreds. Just tell me we've killed more of them than they've killed of our soldiers, I plead. Sorry, battle group spokesman Capt. Martell Thompson says, we don't discuss enemy numbers.

Military officials suggested the Afghan army may have a guesstimate, but cautioned it would be outrageously inflated for propaganda value.

The justification for the secrecy-shrouded death toll is that Canada doesn't want to get into a body count competition with the Taliban, the theory being they'd seek to avenge our tally by going after more Canadian soldiers.

That only works if the Taliban can kill at will -- stamp their feet in anger after reading the claim in a Canadian newspaper, wave their rocket-propelled grenade launchers in the air and unleash an overnight massacre to even the score.

Sorry, no way. If they could wipe out a platoon tomorrow, they'd do it, whether we'd killed 10 or 10,000 of their extremist brethren.

My theory, after two weeks of monitoring the Canadian deployment's activities via radio, is there simply isn't a whack of Taliban-hunting going on anywhere in Kandahar right now -- subject to change without notice.

This partly reflects Canada's changing role from that of military force attacking on its own initiative to that of assisting Afghan soldiers enforce their combat priorities.

Even so, Canadians have just two confirmed and photographed Taliban kills to their credit in the past month, a sobering contrast to nine fallen soldiers at the hands of insurgents during the same time frame.

Just this week, 17 Afghan police officers were killed in various hot spots throughout the country, compared to only four dead Taliban.

There have got to be more enemy casualties, of course. Informed observers note Taliban fighters turned into a pink mist by aircraft bombing runs are not counted, although a bombed corpse is just as legitimately dead as a bullet-ridden one, in my view.

And, as someone now sleeping perhaps a hundred metres from the main Kandahar military runway, I can confirm there are a helluva lot of fighter jets with bombs taking off that no amount of earplug stuffing can muffle.

Still, it seems bizarre that Canada acknowledges Afghan police and army casualties promptly and moves as quickly as possible to name its military dead, yet success in enemy extermination is a tightly held secret.

If Canada only highlights its own victims and keeps the enemy casualty count under wraps, one might argue the Taliban are at least winning the propaganda war, if not the military conflict.


 

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Articles found July  23, 2007

O'Connor: 'We have to train Afghan army quickly'
Updated Sun. Jul. 22 2007 10:51 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
Article Link

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor says by the time the 22nd Regiment, known as the Van Doos, takes over the mission in Afghanistan in August, the Canadian military will be shifting from combat to the classroom.

O'Connor, appearing on CTV's Question Period Sunday, said the Van Doos will be training up to four or five battalions of the Afghan army -- about 3,000 soldiers.

A small contingent from the Van Doos began arriving in Kandahar last week. Next month, there will be about 2,500 new Canadian soldiers on the ground -- 2,330 from Quebec.

O'Connor's comments come after new poll numbers emerged last week suggesting Canadians' opposition to the mission is rising.
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Long haul fight to defeat the Taleban 
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Afghanistan 
Article Link

Foreign troops are fighting against an insurgency with many layers

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.
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Taliban threatens to kill kidnapped South Koreans
FISNIK ABRASHI Associated PressJuly 20, 2007 at 2:15 PM EDT
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KABUL — Taliban militants threatened Friday to kill at least 18 kidnapped South Korean Christians, including 15 women, within 24 hours unless the Asian nation withdraws its 200 troops from Afghanistan.

In the largest abduction of foreigners since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, several dozen fighters kidnapped the South Koreans at gunpoint from a bus in Ghazni province on Thursday, said Ali Shah Ahmadzai, the provincial police chief.

“They have got until tomorrow (Saturday) at noon to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, or otherwise we will kill the 18 Koreans,” Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, told The Associated Press on a satellite telephone from an undisclosed location. “Right now they are safe and sound.”

Outmatched by foreign troops, the Taliban often resort to kidnapping civilians caught traveling on treacherous roads, particularly in the country's south, where the insurgency is raging. The tactic hurts President Hamid Karzai's government by discouraging foreigners involved in reconstruction projects from venturing into remote areas where their help is most needed.
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Taliban extend deadline for 23 Korean hostages
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KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- The Taliban kidnappers of 23 Korean hostages on Sunday extended the deadline for the South Korean government to agree to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 24 hours.

"The Taliban have extended the deadline for another 24 hours" until to 1430 GMT (10:30 a.m. EDT) Monday, spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told Reuters by telephone from an unknown location.

Afghan army and police surrounded the Taliban kidnappers while tribal elders tried to mediate between the militants and government negotiators, a Kabul-based Western security analyst said.

The 23 hostages belong to the "Saemmul Church" in Bundang, a city outside South Korea's capital, Seoul. Most of them are in their 20s and 30s, and include nurses and English teachers.

Yousuf earlier had said insurgents would start killing the hostages if South Korea did not agree to withdraw its 200 military engineers and medics by 1430 GMT on Sunday and the Afghan government did not free Taliban prisoners.

The South Korean government has said it will withdraw its troops at the end of this year as planned.

"Afghan forces have surrounded the location of the kidnappers," the security analyst said. "They have no way to escape."
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Germany says dead hostage has gunshot wounds
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BERLIN, Germany (Reuters) -- German authorities have seen the body of a German hostage who died in captivity in Afghanistan and his body has gunshot wounds, Germany's Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

Germany said it would not give in to the Taliban's demands to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

"The remains of the dead German are as of this evening in Kabul," Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said in a statement. "After an initial visual examination by German authorities, it was noticed that the body had gunshot wounds."

He said it was unclear what the exact cause of death and added that Berlin wanted the remains returned to Germany as soon as possible for a closer examination.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday Germany would not give in to the demands of the Taliban to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and would not allow itself to be blackmailed.
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Former Afghan king Mohammad Zahir Shah dies
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KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Former Afghan king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, died on Monday, aged 92, presidential palace sources said.

Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan from 1933 until he was deposed by his cousin in 1973.

"He died today in bed, we have no further information, but he had been sick for a month," a palace official told Reuters.

Zahir Shah ruled Afghanistan from 1933 until he was deposed by his cousin in 1973. He lived in exile in Italy before returning home as an ordinary citizen in 2002.

Zahir Shah came from a long line of ethnic Pashtun rulers and is a distant relative of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The former king's reign is remembered as one of the most peaceful periods of Afghanistan's turbulent history.

Born in Kabul on October 15, 1914, Zahir Shah received part of his education in France and returned to Kabul for military training. He ascended the throne in 1933 after his father was assassinated by a deranged student.
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South Korea to punish travel to Afghanistan
July 23, 2007 02:45pm Article from: Agence France-Presse
Article Link

SOUTH Korea, agonising over 23 of its citizens threatened with death by the Taliban, has announced new rules to punish unauthorised travel to Afghanistan with possible jail terms.

In a response to the hostage crisis, the foreign ministry has banned its nationals from travelling to the war-torn country and urged South Koreans already there to get out.

Spokeswoman Han Hye-Jin said that Afghanistan has been added to the list of banned countries under a law which takes effect on Tuesday.

South Koreans can be jailed for up to one year or fined up to three million won ($3,631) if they visit banned countries without prior permission.

The ministry on Saturday decided to include Afghanistan in the list, which formerly included only Iraq and Somalia.

"We strongly recommend our nationals in Afghanistan, now designated as a travel-ban country, to withdraw from there,'' a ministry statement said.

Around 400 South Koreans - about 200 peacekeeping troops and some 200 civilians - are believed to be in Afghanistan, according to ministry estimates.
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Roadside bomb, rocket attacks wound 7 soldiers in northwestern Pakistan
The Associated PressPublished: July 23, 2007
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MIRAN SHAH, Pakistan: A roadside bomb near an army convoy and rocket attacks on military posts wounded seven troops Monday in northwestern Pakistan, where violence has escalated since Islamic militants withdrew from a peace deal, intelligence officials said.

The attacks in North Waziristan, along the border with Afghanistan, followed a weekend of violence that the military said left 19 suspected militants dead.

Two soldiers were injured in rocket attacks on two security posts in the Ramzak area before dawn on Monday, an intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.

Troops guarding the posts returned fire, but it was not known if the assailants suffered any casualties, said the official who was not authorized to speak to the media.

An army convoy deployed to evacuate the wounded soldiers then came under attack as it headed to Ramzak, still under cover of darkness, he said. Militants detonated a remote-controlled bomb near the military vehicles just south of Miran Shah, North Waziristan's main town, wounding five troops, the official said.
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US would operate against al-Qaida in Pakistan
Associated Press, THE JERUSALEM POST  Jul. 23, 2007
Article Link

The United States would consider military force if necessary to stem al-Qaida's growing ability to use its hideout in Pakistan to launch terrorist attacks, a White House aide said. The Senate's top Democrat endorsed that approach.

The president's homeland security adviser, Frances Fragos Townsend, said Sunday the US was committed first and foremost to working with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, in his efforts to control militants in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region. But she indicated the US was ready to take additional measures
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Merkel: Increase in German troops in Afghanistan possible (Extra)
Jul 22, 2007, 17:35 GMT
Article Link

Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Sunday she could not rule out an increase in Germany's military deployment to Afghanistan, but could 'not yet confirm this at the present time.'

Interviewed on Germany's ARD public television, she said any alteration in troop strength would have to 'fit in with' the rest of the German military commitment in Afghanistan
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UAE may send military to serve in Afghanistan
AFP, OTTAWA Sunday, Jul 22, 2007, Page 7
Article Link

The United Arab Emirates is planning to send troops to Afghanistan to fight alongside Canadians at Ottawa's behest to put a "Muslim face" on the NATO-led coalition, media reported on Friday.

The Toronto Star, citing unnamed sources, said Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government had been urging the tiny Arab nation to contribute soldiers and equipment to help stabilize war-torn Afghanistan.

Canadian authorities were not immediately available to provide comment.

If the report is accurate, the Afghanistan deployment is believed to be a first for an Arab nation and a diplomatic coup for Canada.

The UAE was one of only three countries that recognized the hard-line Taliban government that seized control of most of Afghanistan in 1996 and was forced out in a US-led invasion in late 2001.

The Toronto daily said the UAE tactical force would be small and mostly symbolic, and serve under Canadian commanders once they arrived on the field in Arghanistan.

The UAE could also send a variety of machinery to assist in teh effort. Possibilties include four tanks, several armored reconnaissance vehicles, two self-propelled 155mm guns as well as a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to a military briefing note obtained by the newspaper.

"The UAE is capable of bringing considerable financial support to development projects and would provide a Muslim face to the International Security Assistance Force operations, providing a counterpoint to insurgent rhetoric," the note said.
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Bilingual base translates into tension
More Que. troops in Afghanistan could widen gap between French, English

Don Martin, CanWest News Service, July 23
http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/news/story.html?id=a7a1a033-2d90-48fe-8dbd-d2f6a68cf0c1

The two Canadian solitudes are alive and well here in Kandahar.

While anglophone and francophone soldiers fight on the same side, they live almost separate lives inside the camps and forward bases -- and indulge in the occasional derisive swipe at each other.

Matters could worsen with the arrival of the first waves of the Quebec-based Royal 22nd Regiment. The so-called Van Doo regiment, a corruption of the French "vingt-deux," or 22, will deploy 2,000 mostly French-speaking troops to take over operations of the Canadian base.

That will generate a unique logistical problem, because translators able to switch easily between French and Pashtu are said to be impossible to find...

...an undercurrent of disdain and derision between the soldiers of Canada's founding nations is a reality here...

Maj. Richard Collin, of the Van Doos now guarding provincial reconstruction teams, openly said he expects francophone troops will do a better job than their anglophone counterparts in negotiating local improvements with villagers.

That suggestion didn't sit well with anglophone officers, who privately counter that the Van Doos would rather work on their tans than suit up and head out to reconnect with Afghan tribal leaders.

This could all be typical military bluster, but there are optics to back up the twin solitudes concept. In the mess tents of Camp Nathan Smith, for example, there's a clear linguistic wall. French-language television beams into one wing, English into the other.

Out closer to the front lines at Patrol Base Wilson last week, I watched British and American forces mingle freely under a tent with anglophone Canadian soldiers, while the Van Doos huddled off in their own section, cooking their own meals and watching their own French-language shows on portable DVD players.

When this patrol camp was hit by a freak rainstorm and part of the outer fence washed away, an opportunity for soldier bonding was shrugged off when the Van Doos gathered by themselves to pound in their own fence posts.

So maybe all this doesn't have a bearing on military effectiveness or operational integrity. When it comes to fighting the Taliban, these guys are united in single-minded purpose.

But watching soldiers relax with their preferred peer group makes you realize that language, as the great Canadian divide, stretches from Parliament Hill all the way to dusty outposts in Afghanistan.

The Quebec-Afghan connection
As Van Doos head overseas, calculating the political impact of casualties is unavoidable

Toronto Star, July 22, by Pierre Martin
http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/238325

...the inevitable casualties of the conflict will soon begin to return in coffins to their hometowns in Quebec, where opposition to the mission is highest.

So much has been made of this opposition, in fact, that the Taliban are expected to target the Van Doos intentionally in the hope of driving Canadians out of their country.

What does this mean?

Will this new situation make the Afghan mission so unpopular as to render it politically untenable for the government?

Will it spell the end of the Conservatives' honeymoon with Quebec voters?

These are important questions that many analysts seem inclined to answer in the affirmative.

That may well be the case but, in my view, it only tells part of the story – and not the most important part.

First, is support for the Afghan mission really falling?

Compared with the mission's first year, definitely; compared with last year, not really.

While it is true that the public is divided on the mission, that only a small minority support its extension beyond 2009, and that large majorities find the number of casualties unacceptable, support for the mission is about where it was in January 2006, both in Quebec and in the rest of Canada...

At about 75 per cent, opposition to the mission in Quebec has little room to grow and, although that opposition is stronger than in the rest of the country, it moves in lockstep, responding to the same events and to similar messages.

If Quebec opinion about the mission responded to events by moving up and down along with the opinion of other Canadians when casualties were mostly from outside Quebec, why should we assume that reactions will be any different when the troops are from Quebec?

The key difference thus is not the movement of Quebec opinion, but the intensity of opposition and the salience of the issue as a potential determinant of voting intentions.

The reluctance of Quebecers to support armed intervention abroad has deep historical roots and is well documented in nearly all past military ventures, except for low-intensity peacekeeping operations...

Since the conscription crisis of 1917, Quebec voters have never sanctioned the use of force abroad. Stephen Harper's dream of winning big in Quebec depends on being an exception to this rule...

This liability has been compounded by the widespread perception that Harper models his foreign policy on that of the vastly unpopular Bush administration.

Seen in this context, the prospect of the Prime Minister regaining the confidence of Quebecers – as their own soldiers start to come back in coffins – appear to be slim.

All is not lost for the Conservatives, however.

Harper's decision not to commit to an extension of the mandate beyond 2009 has essentially rendered his policy interchangeable with the Liberal position.

Even the Bloc Québécois is unlikely to ride the wave of discontent against the intervention, as Gilles Duceppe has refused to call for an early withdrawal.

This leaves the NDP as the only party that calls for an immediate end to the mission, but its prospects of winning Quebec seats remain virtually non-existent...

Build a real Afghan army
ChronicleHerald.ca, July 23, by Scott Taylor
http://thechronicleherald.ca/Columnists/849045.html

RECENT STATEMENTS by Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, would indicate that the Canadian Forces have developed an exit strategy for Afghanistan.

According to Gen. Hillier, if the Forces are to successfully complete their mission by the politically agreed-upon date of February 2009, we must refocus our efforts from combat operations to training the Afghan National Army up to a state of self-sufficiency.

Until now, Canada has contributed a small number of trainers to the Kabul Military Training Centre and some personnel to the Operational Monitoring Liaison Teams. However, the vast majority of our expeditionary force is deployed in support of NATO combat operations against Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan.

The key to successfully withdrawing the bulk of our troops by 2009 will be the ability of the Afghan National Army to step up and assume responsibility for security operations. At present, the army consists of about 35,000 troops. The goal, according to the White House’s latest appraisal, is to double the size of this force to 70,000, at which point President George W. Bush predicts it will become a stand-alone military force.

To accomplish this rapid expansion, the training centre is now crunching out 1,200 new Afghan soldiers every month. While on paper this may seem like a significant accomplishment, the fact is that the training and equipment provided to these recruits is third-rate at best...

Coalition forces are now responsible for providing all of the primary logistics for the fledgling army. As our trainers rapidly produce these light-infantry Afghan battalions, there needs to be a significant commitment made to training and equipping a capable service-support system. Medical personnel, engineers, logistics officers, communications technicians, intelligence operatives and pilots are not specialists you can spit out of a training centre after 17 weeks.

The training of such units will be far more time-consuming and costly than producing sheer numbers of light-infantry battalions. But until the international community addresses this requirement, the Afghan National Army will remain entirely dependent on foreign forces.

Real self-sufficiency for the army is the key to success in Afghanistan, and it’s time we started to build a real Afghan army, rather than churning out cannon fodder at the rate of 1,200 a month.

Where Less Is More
NY Times, July 23, by Rory Stewart
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/23/opinion/23stewart.html

AMERICA and its allies are in danger of repeating the mistakes of Iraq in Afghanistan. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and even some Republicans are insisting on withdrawing from Iraq and sending more troops and resources to southern Afghanistan [emphasis added]. The Bush administration’s gloomy National Intelligence Estimate last week on the fight against Al Qaeda will only lead others to make such calls.

But they should think again. The intervention in Afghanistan has gone far better than that in Iraq largely because the American-led coalition has limited its ambitions and kept a light footprint, leaving the Afghans to run their own affairs.

Much has been made lately of setbacks and the resilience of the Taliban. But given its history, Afghanistan is doing relatively well. International terrorist training camps have been eliminated (or at least pushed across the border to Pakistan); national wealth has nearly doubled in the last five years; Kabul’s population has expanded from less than a million in 2001 to almost four million today.

It seems ground is broken on another huge blue-glass commercial building every week. The wage for an unskilled laborer in Kabul is now $4 a day, four times that in neighboring Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Millions of Afghan refugees have returned home at a time when Iraqis are fleeing Iraq. The central regions of Afghanistan are safe enough for foreigners to travel alone unharmed
[emphasis added].

There are, however, serious problems in the south and east of the country. Taliban forces raid villages and military posts before retreating to safety across the Pakistan border. In Helmand Province, the government is associated with kidnapping, murder and theft. Thirty-five highway policemen were arrested this month, accused of robbing vehicles. This province alone produces 50 percent of Europe’s heroin. Afghans in such areas are justifiably angry.

NATO has tried to solve the problems of the south with more troops. This has only added to the problem. For example, Britain decided in 2005 to bring good government, security, rule of law and economic growth to Helmand Province. At the time, there were few Taliban attacks in the area. The British deployed some 4,000 soldiers last year and more civilian advisers to replace a few hundred international troops who had been in the province since the fall of the Taliban.

The British effort failed. A year and a half later, with 7,000 British troops in Helmand, the provincial government is more corrupt, the streets less safe for citizens, the poppy crop larger and the legal economy and infrastructure more eroded. Worst of all, the foreign presence has provoked a wide Taliban insurgency. Dutch troops in Uruzgan Province and the Canadians in Kandahar have had similar experiences.

NATO’s failures in the south should serve as warnings to those who would intensify Western efforts here; the results were inevitable for fundamental structural reasons. Many Afghan officials are simply not committed to state-building in southern Afghanistan, and many are connected to the drug trade. Narcotics makes up more than half of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product and there is no sufficiently appealing alternative crop for farmers...

The dominant Pashtun tribes in the south and east are suspicious of foreign troops and are reluctant to side with them against the Taliban, who are from their own ethnic group. Coalition-backed governments have been unable to prevent the insurgents from taking sanctuary and receiving armaments and money from across the porous borders with Pakistan and Iran. American and European voters will not send the hundreds of thousands of troops the counterinsurgency textbooks recommend, and have no wish to support decades of fighting.

Worst of all, an increased foreign troop presence will help the Taliban, who are unable to deliver government services and often live parasitically off the people, and whose best selling point is that they are fighting for Afghanistan and Islam against a foreign occupation. If we commit more troops we will find it very difficult to withdraw them later without losing credibility.

Our best hope in Afghanistan is to continue to manage the country through a light civil and military presence. Southern Afghanistan will remain unstable for some time to come. Although we cannot change this, we can contain the situation. We can prevent Qaeda units from using the area as a base from which to attack the United States, and we can prevent the Taliban from again mobilizing conventional forces or capturing major northern cities like Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif.

This will not require large numbers of troops. If the Taliban tried to raise another conventional army, it would be an easy target for coalition forces and air power. The most efficient and sustainable way to protect American soil from a terrorist attack is not to deploy tens of thousands of troops to occupy rural areas of Afghanistan, but to invest in intelligence to identify the few radicals who want to attack Western targets, and use special forces operations to eliminate them...

This does not mean that we should withdraw and partition the country, or that the Pashtun south is doomed. But only the Afghans have the power to end the insurgency and create a stable and democratic south. It will not be easy. Residents have not yet mobilized effectively against the Taliban. Other Afghan ethnic groups still see the insurgency as a Pashtun problem and would rather not be involved. Twenty-five years of war has left a power vacuum. Politicians concerned with Afghanistan continue to underestimate the power and autonomy of provincial groups and the appeal of tribe and religion.

Stabilizing southern Afghanistan will require uncomfortable compromises. It will certainly take 20 years for Afghanistan to develop an economy to match even Bangladesh, or a civil service or military to match that of Pakistan. In the meantime, the Pashtun areas may remain as wild and unstable as the tribal areas of Pakistan. But Afghanistan on the whole can become more stable, more humane and more prosperous than it is today...

Canada eyes cut in combat
O'Connor wants Afghan army to take over for Canadian soldiers, but critics say his plan makes no sense

Ottawa Citizen, July 23
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=5419f28d-a2bd-413a-916f-1e7b868467e3&k=6055

...a leading military analyst and the Liberal defence critic accused Mr. O'Connor of wishful thinking and being out of step with NATO's overall emphasis of trying to find more troops for Afghanistan -- not cut the ones already there...

Retired major-general Lewis MacKenzie said it makes no sense for Canada to scale

back militarily in southern Afghanistan because NATO still needs a minimum of another 10,000 troops to fight the insurgency.

Even if the Afghan army can contribute 3,000 more troops by the year's end, that still won't be enough for Canada to pull back, said Mr. MacKenzie.

"They don't have anywhere near enough troops in the south," he said. "There's 400 kilometres of porous border with Pakistan, for one thing."

Mr. MacKenzie said Mr. O'Connor is being overly optimistic in thinking the Afghan army can take over from Canada within six months.

Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre said Mr. O'Connor and the Conservatives are sending mixed signals to the Canadian people as well as their NATO allies by suggesting that Canada can simply scale back its combat role and turn it over to the Afghans.

"That story doesn't hold," said Mr. Coderre.

"How can you say on one hand you will play just a monitoring role, a role of reserve, when everybody knows we need more troops, and there's a process to go through our allies, to NATO?" [emphasis added]

Mr. Coderre reiterated the Liberal party's call to immediately notify NATO of its intention to end combat operations in February 2009 so the alliance can plan for a replacement.

"The first thing we need to do is be honest with NATO. To give an impression that we might be there 'on reserve' might have consequences," said Mr. Coderre.

"He (Mr. Harper) doesn't have a consensus. The Liberals, who are part of the official opposition, will pull the plug on the combat mission in February 2009. We should say right away, to the allies, let's find a contingency plan."

Mark
Ottawa

 
 

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Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports on AFG, courtesy of the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy News Blog -- all .pdf files

"NATO in Afghanistan: A Test of the Transatlantic Alliance", updated to 16 Jul 07 - Summary:  "The mission of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Afghanistan is seen as a test of the alliance’s political will and military capabilities. The allies are seeking to create a “new” NATO, able to go beyond the European theater and combat new threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  Afghanistan is NATO’s first “out-of-area” mission beyond Europe. The purpose of the mission is the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan. The mission is a difficult one because it must take place while combat operations against Taliban insurgents continue.  U.N. Security Council resolutions govern NATO’s responsibilities. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) faces formidable obstacles:  shoring up a weak government in Kabul; using military capabilities in a distant country with rugged terrain; and rebuilding a country devastated by war and troubled by a resilient narcotics trade. NATO’s mission statement lays out the essential elements of the task of stabilizing and rebuilding the country: train the Afghan army, police, and judiciary; support the government in counter-narcotics efforts; develop a market infrastructure; and suppress the Taliban.  Although the allies agree on ISAF’s mission, they differ on how to accomplish it. Some allies do not want their forces to engage in combat operations. None wants to engage directly in destruction of poppy fields in countering the drug trade; how to support the Afghan government in this task — largely through training the police — is proving to be a difficult undertaking. In the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal and criticism of U.S. practices at Guantanamo, the allies are insisting on close observation of international law in dealing with prisoners taken in Afghanistan.  ISAF has proceeded in stages to stabilize the country. In Stage One, ISAF took control of Kabul and northern Afghanistan. In Stage Two, ISAF moved into western Afghanistan. Stage Three, in the still restive south, began in July 2006. Stage Four began in October 2006, and ISAF now covers the entire country. ISAF’s principal mechanism for rebuilding Afghanistan is the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).  PRTs, composed of military and civilian officials, are charged with extending the reach of the Afghan government by improving governance and rebuilding the economy. There are significant differences in how individual NATO governments
run their PRTs.  Most observers predict that ISAF’s efforts to stabilize Afghanistan will require
five years or more. An exit strategy has multiple components: suppressing the Taliban; rebuilding the economy; and cajoling Afghan leaders to put aside tribal and regional disputes and improve governance. U.S. leadership of the alliance as well as NATO credibility are at issue. The allies are sharply critical of aspects of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy, and sometimes specifically its NATO policy. U.S.
leadership in Afghanistan may well affect NATO’s cohesiveness and its future. This report will be updated as needed ...."

"Afghanistan: Post-War Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy", updated to 21 Jun 07 - Summary:  "Afghanistan’s political transition was completed with the convening of a parliament in December 2005, but since 2006 insurgent threats to Afghanistan’s government have escalated to the point that some experts question the prospects for stabilizing Afghanistan. In the political process, a new constitution was adopted in January 2004, successful presidential elections were held on October 9, 2004, and parliamentary elections took place on September 18, 2005. The parliament has become an arena for factions that have fought each other for nearly three decades to debate and peacefully resolve differences. Afghan citizens are enjoying personal freedoms forbidden by the Taliban. Women are participating in economic and political life, including as ministers, provincial governors, and parliament leaders.  The insurgency led by remnants of the former Taliban regime escalated in 2006, after four years of minor Taliban militant activity. Contributing to the resurgence was popular frustration with lack of economic development, official corruption, and the failure to extend Afghan government authority into rural areas. Narcotics trafficking is resisting counter-measures and funding insurgent activity. The Afghan government and some U.S. officials blame Pakistan for failing to prevent Taliban commanders from operating from Pakistan, beyond the reach of U.S./NATO-led
forces in Afghanistan. U.S. and NATO commanders anticipated a Taliban 2007 “spring offensive” and moved to preempt it with an increase in force levels and accelerated reconstruction efforts, possibly contributing to a lower level – and changing texture – of violence than expected, thus far. U.S. and NATO forces have also killed a few key Taliban battlefield leaders in 2007.  U.S. and partner stabilization measures include strengthening the central government and its security forces. The United States and other countries are building an Afghan National Army, deploying a 38,000 troop NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that now commands peacekeeping throughout Afghanistan, and running regional enclaves to secure reconstruction (Provincial Reconstruction Teams, PRTs). Approximately 27,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, of which all but about 12,000 are under NATO/ISAF command, and, in March 2007, President Bush approved an additional 3,500 U.S. forces to deploy there mainly to help train the ANA and other security forces.  To build security institutions and assist reconstruction, the United States has given Afghanistan about $20 billion over the past five years, including funds to equip and train Afghan security forces. Breakdowns are shown in the several tables at the end of this paper. Pending legislation, H.R. 2446, would reauthorize the Afghanistan Freedom Support Act of 2002.  This paper will be updated as warranted by major developments ...."

"Afghanistan: Narcotics and U.S. Policy", updated to 19 Jun 07 - Summary:  "Opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking have become significant negative factors in Afghanistan’s fragile political and economic order over the last 25 years.  Afghan, U.S., and coalition efforts to provide viable economic alternatives to poppy cultivation and to disrupt corruption and narco-terrorist linkages succeeded in reducing opium poppy cultivation in some areas during 2004 and 2005. However, escalating violence in southern provinces, particularly in Helmand, and widespread corruption fueled a surge in cultivation in 2006, pushing opium output to an all-time high of 6,100 metric tons. In spite of ongoing efforts by the Afghan government, the United States, and their international partners, Afghanistan is now the source of 92% of the world’s illicit opium. Preliminary surveys suggest opium output may increase again in 2007 based on increased production in unstable southern provinces.  Across Afghanistan, militia commanders, criminal organizations, and corrupt
officials have exploited narcotics as a reliable source of revenue and patronage, which has perpetuated the threat these groups pose to the country’s fragile internal security and the legitimacy of its embryonic democratic government. U.N. officials estimate that in-country illicit revenue from the 2006 opium poppy crop will reach over $3 billion, sustaining fears that Afghanistan’s economic recovery continues to be underwritten by drug profits. The trafficking of Afghan drugs also appears to provide financial and logistical support to a range of extremist groups that continue to operate in and around Afghanistan, including the resurgent remnants of the Taliban and some Al Qaeda operatives. Although coalition forces may be less frequently relying on figures involved with narcotics for intelligence and security support, many observers have warned that drug-related corruption among appointed and elected Afghan officials may create new political obstacles to further progress.  President Bush personally stated in February 2007 that narcotics are “a direct threat to a free future for Afghanistan” and warned that, “the Taliban uses drug money to buy weapons ... and they pay Afghans to take up arms against the government.” Afghan president Hamid Karzai has identified the opium economy as “the single greatest challenge to the long- term security, development, and effective governance of Afghanistan.” In response, Members of Congress may be asked to consider options for strengthening counternarcotics efforts during the term of the
110th Congress. The Administration has requested $1.54 billion in regular and supplemental counternarcotics assistance and related defense funding for Afghanistan and surrounding countries for FY2007 and FY2008.  In addition to describing the structure and development of the Afghan narcotics
trade, this report provides current statistical information, profiles the narcotics trade’s participants, explores narco-terrorist linkages, and reviews U.S. and international policy responses since late 2001. The report also considers current policy debates regarding the counternarcotics roles of the U.S. military, poppy eradication, alternative livelihoods, and funding issues for Congress. The report will be updated
to reflect major developments ...."

"Afghanistan: Government Formation and Performance", updated to 15 Jun 07 - Summary:  "Post-Taliban Afghanistan has adopted a constitution and elected a president and a parliament; that body is emerging as a significant force in Afghan politics. However, the Afghan government’s limited writ throughout the country and its perceived corruption have contributed to an increase in Taliban violence."
 

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Six NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Updated Mon. Jul. 23 2007 1:30 PM ET Associated Press
Article Link

KABUL -- NATO said six of its soldiers were killed during combat operations in Afghanistan on Monday, including four by a roadside bomb in the east where U.S. troops are based.

The four were killed when the bomb exploded next to their vehicle, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

A Norwegian soldier was killed in Logar province, according to military officials in Norway.

A sixth soldier was killed in southern Afghanistan.

NATO did not release the nationalities of any of the six soldiers, according to its policy.
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Just read it yourself
Flit, July 22, by Bruce Rolston
http://www.snappingturtle.net/flit/archives/2007_07_22.html#006228

I simply don't have the time to refute every untruth in the Canadian media about Afghanistan these days, but the CTV's irresponsible Bob Fife piece tonight was really a new low point.
http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/HTMLTemplate?tf=/ctv/mar/video/new_player.html&cf=ctv/mar/ctv.cfg&hub=TopStories&video_link_high=mms://ctvbroadcast.ctv.ca/video/2007/07/22/ctvvideologger2_500kbps_2007_07_22_1185156274.wmv&video_link_low=mms://ctvbroadcast.ctv.ca/video/2007/07/22/ctvvideologger2_218kbps_2007_07_22_1185154333.wmv&clip_start=00:12:41.39&clip_end=00:02:19.50&clip_caption=CTV%20News:%20Robert%20Fife%20on%20Canada's%20training%20role&clip_id=ctvnews.20070722.00205000-00205262-clip4&subhub=video&no_ads=&sortdate=20070722&slug=oconnor_afghanistan_070722&archive=CTVNews

The argument, supported by Amir Attaran, Jack Layton, and the Leader of the Opposition in their soundbites, that Canada has only just now started focussing on training the Afghan army, just in order to obtain a Conservative political advantage in Quebec, is facile.

I really do urge anyone and everyone who might still be reading this space (and I doubt there's very many) to read the actual NATO-UN-Afghan Government mandate, as laid out in the Afghanistan Compact. It's not a hard read, it's right here,
http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=1134650705195

and it's quite clear that 9 out of 10 Canadian talking heads who regularly pronounce on the topic have never read it. But yet that is the mission, and the Canadian military has been following it to the letter in the area of operations assigned to them (Kandahar Province). You might well quibble about the achievability of some of the subgoals, or the commitment of some NATO countries to seeing it through, but you can't say about Afghanistan what many have said about Iraq. This time, NATO gave itself a clear mission. NATO made sure it had a clear exit strategy. Pity no one outside the militaries seems to know what they are.

As for Fife and the rest of the CTV team behind that piece, who, if they were ever pointed to this document, apparently failed to keep their lips moving past the third page, I fear they're beyond redemption. It seems almost all public disapproval of this mission in the Canadian context is an argument from ignorance, fuelled by ignorant media. There are some interesting discussions we might be having about Afghanistan's future, about NATO's future, about the future of Western counter-insurgency in this context, but it's all quite moot because the baseline public awareness and understanding levels here are simply too low for that dialogue to have any public value. The primary fight at home is not against timidity; it's against ignorance.

Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings has it right.
http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2007/07/bill-kristol-ma.html#more

One can support the troops without supporting a war: by activism to ensure they have the tools to do the job, and to "try our hardest to be the best and most informed citizens that we can be". I think most soldiers overseas would consider themselves supported -- and would understand the public's conclusions about the futility or utility of their missions -- if they thought the population at home took those two, and only those two, responsibilities of their citizenship seriously.

Mark
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All signs point to buildup in Kandahar
New gear, base construction appear to give false picture of Canada's plans

Don Martin, Ottawa Citizen, July 24
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=4dbd1311-4b62-4b85-964e-26fc7e6fef87

KANDAHAR - If Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor is correct and the Canadian mission here is slowing, shrinking or changing its focus as the countdown lurches toward a possible February 2009 pullout, it'll be news in Kandahar, where all signs are pointing to a military and redevelopment buildup.

New air-conditioned Leopard tanks are expected next month, 16 military vehicles to better detect landmines are scheduled for arrival this fall, and the ground floor of a frantic expansion at Canada's reconstruction base in Kandahar City is filling up with new staff even before work on the top level is complete.

The lone Foreign Affairs bureaucrat here will soon be replaced by five officials as a signal that Afghanistan has become a hefty diplomatic priority. The number of Canadian teams deployed to mentor and train Afghans to govern themselves more effectively has quadrupled.

The Canadian International Development Agency is finally moving beyond its most visible project -- putting a Maple Leaf stamp on garbage cans lining the deadliest suicide bombing stretch of highway in the country -- to quietly backing a myriad of self-help initiatives for Afghans.

It doesn't exactly sound like a retreat being sounded. Besides, as Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant makes clear, Canada's most important work here won't be done for another three years, at best.

The key to winning conditions for Canada's departure are the police, an ill-prepared force of underpaid, underemployed youngsters being trained by Canadians to bring law and order to the daily chaos and confusion of Afghan life...

"Our aim is not to be the lead of combat operations. That is a role for the Afghan army," Brig.-Gen. Grant said after a mad dash down Kandahar's main highway to a medal ceremony.

"Can they do that by themselves right now? No. Are they getting closer day by day? They sure are. So what we'll see over time is a change in the weight of our effort, allowing us to take our expertise and abilities and focus them on areas where we can make a difference." Brig.-Gen. Grant's partial to an initiative called the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which sends soldiers into villages armed with well-paying contracts for digging ditches or installing wells. The idea is that Afghans learn to improve their own lives, instead of increasing their reliance on foreign aid...

...the district has helped make this troop rotation the deadliest of the three since Canada redeployed to Kandahar. The six-month toll has been 22 soldiers -- and not one death came from actual combat against the Taliban [emphasis added]. It's been all roadside and suicide bombs, each blast bigger than the last, closer to military checkpoints, and inflicting ever more catastrophic damage to armoured vehicles.

Still, Brig.-Gen. Grant is quick to insist that progress is not a six-month process. "People were concerned the Taliban were going to take Kandahar City last summer, that it would fall and the rest of the country would go with it," [emphasis added] he says. "This year, in spite of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices, people have confidence in their safety, traffic is way up and they are building everywhere you look." He's got a point. There are signs of economic vibrancy and renewal in Kandahar City.

But, then again, signs can be misleading.

The indicators that Canada is here for the long term would appear to be sending off false readings of its future intent.

What Canada is building up today seems doomed to be taken down in 18 months, leaving Afghanistan's international force with a huge hole at the centre of its southern headquarters -- and a legacy of unfinished business to show for its soldier sacrifice.

Mark
Ottawa

 

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Surrounded Afghan militant leader kills himself
July 24, 2007 Zahid Hussain in Islamabad
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A top militant commander and a former Guantanamo Bay inmate blew himself up with a grenade today after being surrounded by Pakistani security forces.

The death of Abdullah Mehsud, the one-legged rebel leader, gave a boost to President Pervez Musharraf’s latest offensive against pro al-Qaeda tribal militants in the lawless borderland with Afghanistan. He was hiding at the home of an Islamic politician in Zhob, in the western province of Balochistan, when he was cornered by intelligence agents.

A Pakistani security official said Mehsud was intercepted on his way back from Afghanistan’s Helmand province, where he fought alongside the Taleban against Afghan and US forces.

Mehsud, 31, whose real name was Noor Alam, led militants fighting Pakistani security forces in the South Waziristan tribal region. He rose to prominence after masterminding spectacular guerrilla attacks on Pakistani troops soon after he was freed from Guantanamo Bay in March 2004 after having spent 25 months in the US custody. More on link
 

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75 Taliban killed; NATO begins offensive
AP, July 24
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070724/ap_on_re_as/afghanistan_23

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Airstrikes and clashes in southern Afghanistan killed more than 75 militants, officials said Tuesday, and NATO announced a new offensive against the Taliban in the world's largest opium-producing area.
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The latest fighting came as a threatened deadline for the lives of 23 South Korean hostages again passed with no resolution. Korean negotiators met with the kidnappers, and a purported Taliban spokesman said the talks were in the "final stage."

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops called in airstrikes after being ambushed by militants in southern Helmand province , the U.S.-led coalition said. The coalition said at least 36 insurgents were killed Monday but no Afghan or coalition troops were hurt.

In neighboring Uruzgan province [emphasis added], police clashed for three days with militants blocking the road leading to Kandahar province, leaving 26 militants and two policemen dead, said Wali Jan, the Uruzgan deputy highway police chief. NATO-led and Afghan army troops joined the battle Tuesday, reopening the road for civilian traffic, he said.

Another 13 suspected militants were killed in Kandahar province [emphasis added], the Defense Ministry said.

The battles took place in remote and dangerous parts of Afghanistan, and the death tolls could not be independently confirmed...

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Articles found July 25, 2007

Officials: German journalist kidnapped in Afghan east
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ASADABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- A German journalist and his Afghan translator have been kidnapped in Afghanistan's eastern province of Kunar, provincial officials said on Wednesday.

The pair were trying to reach a village where civilians were killed in a NATO air strike some two weeks back, provincial spokesman Shah Wasi Mangal said.

"The pair were abducted in Saangar district of Kunar by the enemies of Afghanistan," Mangal said.

Another provincial official, who declined to be named, said: "The pair were kidnapped from a house en route to the village."

Afghanistan has seen a wave of kidnappings in the last week.
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Aussie troops kill man in Afghanistan
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Australian soldiers have shot and killed a man in Afghanistan. (file picture.) (Reuters: Australian Defence Force)
The Australian Defence Force is investigating the death of a man shot by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.

A patrol from the Australian Reconstruction Task Force fired at a vehicle when the driver sped towards the patrol after being directed to stop.

The driver was killed in the incident.

The Defence Department says there is a significant threat from explosives carried in vehicles, in the region that the task force is working in.
end

Afghan Army, Coalition Forces Repel Taliban Ambushes
American Forces Press Service WASHINGTON, July 24, 2007
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Afghan and coalition forces killed numerous Taliban fighters in defeating ambushes yesterday and today.
An unknown number of insurgents ambushed a group of Afghan National Army and police troops advised by coalition forces on a combat patrol near the village of Sarizkay in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province this morning.

The Afghan army-led patrol was about to pass through the village when Taliban fighters attempted the ambush, U.S. officials said. The combined forces repelled the attack with small-arms fire, and coalition aircraft dropped four bombs and made several strafing runs on the insurgent positions. Several insurgents are believed to have been killed during the skirmish, officials said.

Intelligence suggests that Taliban forces are likely attempting to reassert their presence in northern Kandahar after their recent defeats from Afghan and coalition operations in the area during the past several weeks, U.S. officials said.
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