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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2008

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Articles found June 14, 2008

Bomb kills 4 US troops in Afghanistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO – 1 hour ago
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military vehicle on Saturday, killing four Americans in western Afghanistan in the deadliest attack against U.S. troops in the country this year, officials said.

The bomb in the western province of Farah targeted U.S. personnel helping to train Afghanistan's fledgling police force, said U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. David Johnson. One other American was wounded in the attack.

Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment based in Twentynine Palms, California, arrived in Afghanistan earlier this year and were sent to southern and western Afghanistan to train police. However, Johnson said he could not immediately confirm that the four personnel killed were Marines.
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Pakistan's Border Badlands Are a Challenge for the Next President
Eliminating Pakistan's havens for al Qaeda and the Taliban is a goal for either McCain or Obama
By Anna Mulrine Posted June 13, 2008
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Kunar Province, Afghanistan—In the lush heart of the Kunar River basin, where valleys active with enemy forces snake toward the border with Pakistan, U.S. military units have been picking up some compelling intelligence. The insurgent groups striking U.S. outposts here seem to be having trouble paying their recruits, because of the rising cost of ammunition. This financial squeeze, U.S. officials believe, is the result of a newly paved road that makes it easier for Afghan security forces to interdict smuggled wares, driving up the cost of weapons coming from nearby Pakistan.

In this easternmost American outpost in Afghanistan, U.S. officials are anxious for such signs that they are making some headway against the Taliban fighters, who pay little attention to the porous mountain border that bisects the traditional Pashtun tribal lands. It's a border that limits the reach of American and Afghan troops and provides the Taliban and al Qaeda members a safe haven and a steady source of supplies.

This rugged territory of towering mountains and deep-rooted tribal loyalties will figure prominently on the national security to-do list of the next president. He will have to find ways to persuade Pakistani officials—some of whom are lending support to the Taliban—to go after extremists in the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where Osama bin Laden is also thought to be hiding. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, last week said that al Qaeda leaders there are plotting new attacks on the United States and that Pakistan has not done enough to stop them. The Government Accountability Office, in a report issued in April, sharply criticized the Bush administration for failing to effectively target these sanctuaries. And a Pentagon-funded Rand study issued last week stresses the need to eliminate the insurgents' support base in Pakistan. "The failure to do so," it says, "will cripple long-term efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan."
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Kabul pressured to stamp out corruption
Nations attending Paris conference promise additional $22 billion for development projects in Afghanistan
Jun 13, 2008 04:30 AM Mitch Potter EUROPE BUREAU
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PARIS–Rallying to the struggle for Afghanistan, international donors exceeded expectations yesterday with aid pledges of nearly $22 billion in a collective gesture representing a new emphasis on development over military action.

With many of the more than 80 countries and international organizations on hand in Paris padding their promises with previously announced contributions, confusion abounded over the true heft of commitments as the day-long donors conference unfolded.

But in the end, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner pegged the final tally at $21.9 billion – a figure hailed by some of Afghanistan's most dedicated aid overseers as above and beyond their best hopes.

"This is just an unbelievable result – very supportive of Afghanistan, very supportive of better co-ordination and aid effectiveness," said Chris Alexander, the former Canadian ambassador to Afghanistan, who has prolonged his stay in Kabul to work as special representative for the UN commissioner.
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Afghan mothers-to-be face dangerous journey
They travel at night on back roads from rural areas to get ultrasounds and other medical attention
KATHERINE O'NEILL From Friday's Globe and Mail June 13, 2008 at 4:10 AM EDT
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KANDAHAR CITY, AFGHANISTAN — Only when Shala lifts up her shapeless, lavender-coloured burka, can you tell that the 32-year-old Afghan woman is with child.

Almost four months pregnant, the mother of three has made the dangerous journey to Kandahar city from her home in rural Panjwai district to get an ultrasound.

Shala and her husband travelled part of the 50-kilometre distance by donkey and avoided all major roads for fear of hitting a homemade bomb. They also left at night and wore old clothes to avoid attracting attention from Taliban insurgents warring with Canadian soldiers.

Since the repressive Taliban regime was toppled in late 2001, Afghanistan, which has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world, has vastly improved health-care services for mothers and their babies.
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Britain sends 200 extra troops to Afghanistan
By James Kirkup  Last Updated: 7:43AM BST 14/06/2008
More British troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, the Government will announce next week.
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The Daily Telegraph has learned that reinforcements are being deployed as British forces face fierce resistance from the Taliban and doubts grow about the West's strategy in Afghanistan.

Five men from the Parachute Regiment have been killed in Afghanistan this week, taking the British death toll in the country to 102.

Britain has 7,800 troops in Afghanistan and Des Browne, the defence secretary, will tell MPs on Monday that at least 200 more are being deployed
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Militants kill five Pakistan tribesmen: official
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MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) — Taliban militants have shot dead five Pakistani tribesmen they suspected were spying for foreign forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, a local official said Friday.

The victims were staying in a house in Dattakhel town in troubled North Waziristan tribal district when the Taliban attacked them late Thursday, the official, who did not wish to be identified, told AFP.

One of them was a contractor who supplied food to US-led troops based in Afghanistan, the official added.

"We believe they were killed because Taliban suspected them of spying for the coalition forces in Afghanistan," he said.

North Waziristan has been singled out by US officials as the international headquarters for Osama bin Laden's resurgent Al-Qaeda network, allied with local pro-Taliban militants.
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Lieutenant Colonel shot by Taliban is most senior Afghanistan casualty

Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
By John Bingham
Last Updated: 13/06/2008

A battalion commander has been shot in the leg during an operation in Afghanistan, becoming the most senior British officer injured in action in the country.

A battalion commander has been shot in the leg during an operation in Afghanistan, becoming the most senior British officer injured in action in the country. Lieutenant Colonel David Richmond, Commanding Officer of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, was leading an operation near Musa Qaleh in Helmand Province on Thursday when he was hit by a Taliban bullet.

It is understood that the 41-year-old was caught "out in the open" during an engagement with enemy forces. He was airlfted straight to a field hospital.

The Ministry of Defence refused to comment on how serious his injury is.

But despite receiving treatment in Afghanistan, he is due to be flown back to Britain for further medical attention at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.

He is the most senior army officer to be counted among casaulty lists in Afghanistan.

Two years ago Wing Commander John Coxen of the RAF - whose rank was equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army - was among five service personnel killed when a Lynx helicopter crashed in Iraq.

The most senior British officer to have died during the current war in Afghanistan was Major Alexis Roberts, of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, who was killed by a roadside bomb in October last year.

Maj Adam Fairrie of 5 Scots said: "The Commanding Officer has received the very best medical care following him sustaining a gunshot wound to the leg.

"He will be returning to Selly Oak in due course.

"His thoughts are very much with the families of the members of the Parachute Regiment who died in other incidents this week, and also with his Battalion who, along with all the coalition, are continuing to make progress in Afghanistan."



Britain sends 200 extra troops to Afghanistan

Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
By James Kirkup
Last Updated: 14/06/2008

More British troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, the Government will announce next week. The Daily Telegraph has learned that reinforcements are being deployed as British forces face fierce resistance from the Taliban and doubts grow about the West's strategy in Afghanistan.

Five men from the Parachute Regiment have been killed in Afghanistan this week, taking the British death toll in the country to 102.

Britain has 7,800 troops in Afghanistan and Des Browne, the defence secretary, will tell MPs on Monday that at least 200 more are being deployed.

The increase will take British numbers in Afghanistan above 8,000 for the first time.

The reinforcement may add to fears that Britain is being sucked into an unwinnable fight in southern Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, the Daily Telegraph revealed that British diplomats have warned Gordon Brown in confidential briefing documents that the Afghan drug trade and the corruption of the country's government will prolong the insurgency against UK forces.

Ministers reject suggestions that the British mission lacks a clear strategy, and many British troops in Afghanistan are frustrated that their tactical victories over the Taliban are not fully appreciated in the UK.

Mr Browne is expected to tell MPs on Monday that progress is being made in Afghanistan, with

But he is unlikely to be able to give any indication about when British numbers in the country will start to decline, and there are signs that the mission could last for many years to come.

Last month, Britain agreed to take on full command of NATO troops in southern Afghanistan for a 12 month period starting next November.

Previously, command of the region rotated between NATO members every nine months.

The 200-man reinforcement to be announced next week is smaller than that first recommended by an MoD review of British force levels in Afghanistan.

At a cabinet sub-committee meeting in March, ministers had agreed to send as many as 450 extra troops.

Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and former Army commander, said that ministers are only starting to realise the scale of the military challenge in Afghanistan.

He said: "I think you have got to take a gentle glance at British history and Soviet history with the Afghans to know that when they start fighting, they fight.

"I think there has been a corporate intake of breath at the Ministry of Defence which has been used, since the Korean War, to relatively bloodless fights.

"Now we are going back to the battles our fathers and grandfathers experienced."



Canada won't leave until Afghan work done, says parliamentarian

Canada.com, Canada
Peter O'Neil
Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, June 12, 2008
PARIS

Canada, one of numerous countries pledging money at a conference here aimed at ramping up western government and public support for the Afghanistan mission, won't follow through on its promise to end its military role in Kandahar in 2011, an Afghan parliamentarian predicted Thursday.

Dr. Zalmai, chairman of a National Assembly committee responsible for dealing with corruption complaints, said he's confident Canada won't withdraw its 2,500 troops from Kandahar until the international community decides Afghanistan is ready.

``We are with the people of Canada, we appreciate their sacrificing, their help, their contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan,'' said Zalmai, who goes by only one name.

``As a parliamentarian I'm sure Canada will remain with us. They will never leave the Afghan people,'' he said.

His comments, made prior to Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson's presentation to the conference, echo those of two members of a Senate committee that tabled a report Wednesday assessing Canada's progress in Afghanistan.

Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate's national security and defence committee, and Conservative Senator Michael Meighen both said they doubted Canada will be able to pull out its troops by then.

One analyst said the Canadian government and Parliament are erring by setting a strict departure time.

Thomas Ruttig, former senior official to both the European Union and the United Nations on Afghanistan matters, said departure times help the Taliban intimidate Afghans who are tempted to co-operate with western soldiers and aid workers.

``Of course the Taliban go around saying, `we have all the time in the world, we'll just wait until all these guys are gone,''' Ruttig told Canwest News Service.

The daylong conference opened Thursday with speeches by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

Ban praised Karzai's government for promising to stamp out corruption, but said action has to be put behind those words with prosecutions against high- level offenders in government.

``I applaud Afghanistan for signing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and I urge the government to take active measures to ensure that it is implemented,'' Ban said.

Karzai, meanwhile, painted a rosy picture of his country's achievements and future objectives in areas such as economic growth, democratic development and human rights.

He called for a long-term international commitment to his country and said Afghanistan's needs include an emphasis on dam rehabilitation and agriculture.

Emerson is expected to share details about Canada's recent announcement that it will increase development and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan from $1.3 billion to $1.9 billion over the 10-year period ending in 2011, when Canada has said it will end its ``military presence'' in Kandahar province.

Canada, one of the world's largest aid donors to Afghanistan, will target the money towards three ``signature'' projects - the rehabilitation of a dam in order to create jobs and boost the agriculture economy in Afghanistan, the construction or renovation of 50 schools, and an expansion of a polio immunization program.

The United States, France, Germany, Japan and the World Bank also pledged billions of dollars more in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan in combined contributions.

- with a file from Agence France Presse



Prince Charles was 'worried' during Harry's Afghanistan service

Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
By John Bingham
Last Updated: 13/06/2008

The Prince of Wales spoke openly on Friday of the "worrying" times he endured when his son Prince Harry was fighting in Afghanistan. Speaking to soldiers who served in Helmand Province and their families, he told of his experiences as one of those "left behind" .

Charles - who is Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment which this week lost five of its members in just four days - made his comments as he presented campaign medals to 176 members of 3 Regiment, Army Air Corps at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk.

The squadron provided air cover in Apache helicopters to ground troops in Helmand Province - a role which would have brought some of them unwittingly into contact with Harry during his time working as a Forward Air Controller earlier this year.

Drawing from his own experiences Charles told them: "I know as a parent just what it's like being left behind, worrying what is happening to your son or daughter.

"I do understand something of what families are putting up with, day-in, day-out."

Harry, 23, flew to Helmand Province secretly in December ahead of what was to be a four-month delpoyment but was forced to return to Britain after just over 10 weeks at the end of February when foreign websites broke a media blackout agreement.

"I can speak with a little more understanding of this after my youngest son spent some time out in Afghanistan," Charles said.

"I think some of you may have been out there when he was out there.

"Some of you may have been controlled by him when you were flying around in Apaches.

"I have heard some interesting stories from people who have been controlled by him. I hope he did the right thing. I am sure he did."

After serving alongside a company of Gurkhas at Garmsir in the south of Helmand, Harry spent time as a Spartan armoured vehicle troop leader patrolling deserts surrounding the former Taliban stronghold of Musa Qaleh enduring freezing night-time temperartures.

"I understand that you've had to endure varying kinds of weather conditions - boiling heat, freezing cold, day in, day out," Charles told the soldiers.

"We are incredibly lucky that there are so many people like you, at a very young age frequently, who are prepared to do this.

"I often wonder how many people in this country realise just what it can take to be out there for six months."

He added: "You are an immense credit to this country, you really are."



US prison plans lead to tension in Afghanistan

guardian.co.uk, UK
McClatchy newspapers
Friday June 13 2008

News that the US plans to spend $60m to build a 40-acre detention facility at its main military base in Bargram north of Kabul to replace an existing prison at the same site has set off speculation that Washington intends to create a new version of its controversial jail at Guantánamo Bay naval base in Cuba, where hundreds of detainees have been held since 2001.

Pentagon officials hotly deny the idea, while confirming plans to replace the existing facility.

"This is not going to be Guantánamo II," said Lieutenant Colonel Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for Combined Joint Task Force 101, based at Bagram.

"That is absolutely false." Last month, published reports revealed the Pentagon's plans to replace the current jail, which was originally built during the Soviet occupation of the country in the late 1970s.

"There will be a great deal of improvement in the quality of life (for detainees)" in the new facility, Nielson-Green said. "There will be a lot more floor space and much more room for communal activities, which is part of their culture."

She added that the new prison would include educational and recreational facilities, as well as areas where detainees can meet their families.

The current jail, which houses about 625 prisoners, conjures up images of arrest, torture and humiliation for many Afghans. In 2002, two detainees were killed there after being repeatedly struck by their American guards.

And over the years, there have been numerous allegations of abuse at the facility, with prisoners claiming to have been sexually humiliated, beaten, stripped naked and thrown down stairs during their interrogations.

Nielson-Green denies that detainees at Bagram have been ill-treated.

"(They) are not being mistreated and abused," she insisted. "We adhere to all international agreements, including the Geneva Convention."

But there are serious health risks to both detainees and American military personnel who work at the Bagram prison, because of their exposure to heavy metals from the aircraft-repair machinery and asbestos, according to other Pentagon officials.

"It's just not suitable," said an unnamed Pentagon official quoted recently in the New York Times. "At some point, you have to say, 'That's it. This place was not made to keep people there indefinitely.'"

Until September 2004, Bagram served largely as a way station for prisoners being shipped on to Guantánamo. Since then, however, those transfers have largely stopped and the prison's population has been climbing ever since.

US officials deny allegations that children as young as 9 have been imprisoned at the facility.

Earlier this month, the Afghan Human Rights Organisation released a report alleging that children aged between 9 and 13 were being held at Bagram.

And last month, the US appeared to acknowledge that it might inadvertently be holding youngsters at the facility in a report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

"That is absolutely false," said military spokeswoman Nielson-Green. "We have no children at Bagram." Meanwhile, plans for the new prison apparently came as a complete surprise to Afghan officials with the nation's ministry of justice.

"We know nothing about a new prison being built at Bagram," said one ministry official who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press.

"There has been no agreement with the ministry of justice. We cannot speak about this." Members of the Afghan parliament also pleaded ignorance of the plans.

"This issue has not been referred to parliament," said Shukria Barakzai, a member of the lower house. She insisted that parliamentary action would be required before construction can start.

"According to the laws of Afghanistan, the land cannot be given away," she said. "No country has a right to make a prison here. And not a single criminal should be handed over to foreigners. This prison at Bagram not only violates the constitution, it calls into question the legitimacy of the present government."

President Hamid Karzai refused to comment on the issue.

But others say plans for the new prison have become an issue between Washington and Kabul.

"The government will not say this formally, but this issue has been raised between high-ranking authorities of Afghanistan and the United States," said Fazel Rahman Oria, editor of Erada Daily newspaper.

"It shows the climate of distrust between the two countries." Oria also speculated that building a massive detention facility could deepen growing resentment of the foreign military presence in the country.

"There will be a negative social and psychological impact," he said. "On the one hand, it will damage the relationship between the people and the government of Afghanistan, which is bad enough already. It will provide ammunition to the opposition, who will tell the people, 'Yes, your resistance is justified. America is here forever, the Afghan government is a puppet.'" Some, however, seem resigned to America's plans.

"We have all accepted that one day we, or one of our relatives, will be killed or imprisoned," said Sher Ahmad, a taxi driver who said he fought against the Soviets in the 1980s.

"If our detainees are sent to Guantánamo, we cannot see them for years. At least if they are here, we have some contact. And one day these Americans will leave, and we will get the building."

 

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Articles found June 15, 2008

Taliban prison break 'a small splash'
General says freed insurgents won't increase troops' risk
Stephane Massinon and Doug Schmidt, Canwest News Service and Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, June 15, 2008
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Canada's top soldier downplayed a spectacular, commando-style prison break in Afghanistan on Saturday, where hundreds of captured Taliban insurgents were set free.

Outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, in Calgary for a Military Families Fund fundraiser, said soldiers weren't at higher risk after the escape of an estimated 800 prisoners -- among them Taliban.

"What I would emphasize is it's a small splash in the pond," Hillier said Sunday evening. "We understand the Taliban are not 10 feet tall, but they are capable. At times, they can pull off an operation like this."
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Four U.S. Marines killed in Afghanistan
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A roadside bomb killed four U.S. Marines in Afghanistan Saturday, the U.S. military said.

It is the deadliest single attack against American troops this year in Afghanistan, according to military figures compiled by CNN.

Another service member was seriously wounded in the attack, which happened during a combat operation in the Farah province of southwestern Afghanistan, the military said.

The Marines, from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment, are part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix that has the mission to train and mentor the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

The attack comes during an eruption of violence in southern Afghanistan.

Hundreds of Taliban fighters captured over the past six years escaped to freedom late Friday after militants attacked the main prison in Afghanistan's Kandahar province where they were being held, provincial authorities said.

Around 100 militants attacked coalition troops in Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan early Friday, a strike that one U.S. general called the largest militant attack this year against troops. Fighting in that same region of Uruzgan also left 17 militants dead Thursday night.
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American-led war on terror cannot be allowed to spread into Pakistan's Pashtun tribal area
By ERIC MARGOLIS, TORONTO SUN
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The killing of 11 Pakistani soldiers by U.S. air and artillery strikes last week shows just how quickly the American-led war in Afghanistan is spreading into neighbouring Pakistan.

Pakistan's military branded the air attack "unprovoked and cowardly." There was outrage across Pakistan. However, the unstable government in Islamabad, which depends on large infusions of U.S. aid, later softened its protests.

The U.S., which used a B-1 heavy bomber and F-15 strike aircraft in the attacks, called its action, "self-defence."

This latest U.S. attack on Pakistan could not come at a worse time. Supreme Court justices ousted by the Pervez Musharraf dictatorship staged national protests this week, underscoring the illegality of Musharraf's continuing presidency and its unseemly support by the U.S., Britain, Canada and France. Asif Zardari, head of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, shamefully joined Musharraf in opposing restoration of the justice system out of fear the reinstated judges would reopen long-festering corruption charges against him

Attacks by U.S. aircraft, Predator hunter-killer drones, U.S. Special Forces and CIA teams have been rising steadily inside Pakistan's autonomous Pashtun tribal area known by the acronym, FATA. The Pashtun, who make up half Afghanistan's population and 15% of Pakistan's, straddle the border, which they reject as a leftover of Imperial Britain's divide and rule policies.

Instead of intimidating the pro-Taliban Pakistani Pashtun, U.S. air and artillery strikes have ignited a firestorm of anti-western fury among FATA's warlike tribesmen and increased their support for the Taliban.

The U.S. is emulating Britain's colonial divide and rule tactics by offering up to $500,000 to local Pashtun tribal leaders to get them to fight pro-Taliban elements, causing more chaos in the already turbulent region, and stoking tribal rivalries. The U.S. is using this same tactic in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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15 killed in hunt for escaped inmates
By JASON STRAZIUSO – 5 hours ago
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces killed more than 15 insurgents during a hunt for inmates who fled prison after a sophisticated Taliban attack that set hundreds free, while Afghan forces recaptured 20 prisoners, officials said Sunday.

The U.S. said it couldn't immediately confirm that any of the 15 killed were escaped prisoners. Five militants were also captured during the Saturday operation, it said.

The provincial police chief of Kandahar province has said 870 prisoners — including some 400 Taliban militants — escaped from the Kandahar prison during a coordinated assault on the facility by dozens of insurgents late Friday.

The chief, Sayed Agha Saqib, said Sunday that Afghan police and army soldiers have recaptured 20 prisoners, including seven former Taliban inmates.

The coalition said the 15 insurgents it killed were in a farming compound in Kandahar province and that the combined forces used air strikes to destroy it after insurgents fired at them.
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How Taliban sprang 450 terrorists from Kandahar's Sarposa prison in Afghanistan
By Tom Coghlan in southern Afghanistan and Colin Freeman
Last Updated: 1:23AM BST 15/06/2008
With the latest outrage, the insurgency has shown that its ability to stage 'spectaculars' is undiminished by setbacks in the field
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Overlooking the dusty road into one of Afghanistan's most lawless cities, the newly-painted guard towers of ­Kandahar's Sarposa prison are supposed to be a reminder to local people of how justice has finally come to town.

In recent years, coalition ­officials have spent millions turning the 60-year-old building into a showcase facility for Afghanistan's new government, issuing guards with crisp new uniforms and giving them lessons on how to treat their charges humanely.

Rather less attention, however, seems to have been spent on the jail's most basic function – security.
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Karzai: I'll send troops to Pakistan
AP, June 15
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080615.wkarzai0615/BNStory/International/home

Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened Sunday to send Afghan troops across the border to fight militants in Pakistan, a forceful warning to insurgents and the Pakistani government that his country is fed up with cross-border attacks.

Mr. Karzai said Afghanistan has the right to self defence, and because militants cross over from Pakistan “to come and kill Afghan and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to do the same.”

Speaking at a Sunday news conference, Mr. Karzai warned Pakistan-based Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud that Afghan forces would target him on his home turf. Mr. Mehsud is suspected in last year's assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

“Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house,” Mr. Karzai said.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai after a news conference in Kabul Sunday. Mr. Karzai threatened to send troops into neighbouring Pakistan to kill Taliban militants if they continue cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

“And the other fellow, (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar of Pakistan should know the same,” Mr. Karzai continued. “This is a two-way road in this case, and Afghans are good at the two-way road journey. We will complete the journey and we will get them and we will defeat them. We will avenge all that they have done to Afghanistan for the past so many years.”..

A Sober Assessment of Afghanistan
Outgoing U.S. Commander Cites 50% Spike in Attacks in East

Washington Post, June 15
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/06/14/AR2008061401639.html

The outgoing top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Friday that attacks increased 50 percent in April in the country's eastern region, where U.S. troops primarily operate, as a spreading Taliban insurgency across the border in Pakistan fueled a surge in violence.

In a sober assessment, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who departed June 3 after 16 months commanding NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said that although record levels of foreign and Afghan troops have constrained repeated Taliban offensives, stabilizing Afghanistan will be impossible without a more robust military campaign against insurgent havens in Pakistan.

The Taliban is "resurgent in the region," particularly in sanctuaries in Pakistan, and as a result "it's going to be difficult to take on this insurgent group . . . in the broader sort of way," McNeill said at a Pentagon news conference.

Clashes in the east pushed U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan in May to 15, and total foreign troop deaths there to 23, the highest monthly figure since last August.

Indeed, comprehensive data released by the NATO-led command show a steady escalation in violence since NATO took charge of the Afghanistan mission in 2006, spurred in part by more aggressive operations by the alliance and most recently by U.S. Marine battalions in the heavily contested southern province of Helmand. ISAF troops in Afghanistan increased from 36,000 in early 2007 to 52,000 now, while the Afghan army grew from 20,000 to 58,000 soldiers.

Overall violence has increased and attacks have grown more complex, according to the data and U.S. military officials. The number of roadside bombs increased from 1,931 in 2006 to 2,615 last year. Attacks peaked during the months of the warm weather fighting season, with more than 400 in the peak month of 2005, more than 800 in 2006, and about 1,000 in 2007.

As violence has risen, it has remained concentrated geographically in a relatively small number of districts, the data show, in predominantly Pashtun areas. Afghanistan has 364 districts, and last year about 70 percent of all attacks took place in 40, or about 10 percent, of those districts, McNeill said. For the first half of this year, he said, about 76 percent of attacks took place in virtually the same 40 districts, with some shifts in Farah and Nimruz provinces [emphasis added].

The district data has helped drive the deployment of NATO forces, with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit focusing on a district in southern Helmand that shows extensive enemy activity. "We knew it was a dark hole and we had to get to it; we simply didn't have the force," said McNeill, noting that ISAF remains short of combat troops, helicopters, and intelligence and surveillance equipment.

Troop numbers are low compared with the size of the insurgency, which includes many part-time fighters. There are an estimated 5,000 to 20,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, plus an estimated 1,000 each for the insurgent groups led by Siraj Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, according to ISAF intelligence.

More worrisome than the Taliban expansion in Pakistan is the threat of more cooperation between homegrown insurgents and outside extremist groups, McNeill said. "The greatest risk is the possibility of collusion between the insurgents who are indigenous to that region and the more intractable, the more extreme terrorists who are taking up residence there in the North-West Frontier" Province of Pakistan, he said...

A bloody risky way to beat the Taliban
The deaths of five paras last week were not in vain - a new British strategy is starting to stabilise Afghanistan

Sunday Times, June 15
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4136791.ece
...
Whatever grinding progress is now being made in Helmand – and there are real grounds for being optimistic – it is hard to argue that its people have been made better off as a result of the war that erupted when British troops first arrived in the province in the summer of 2006.

With thinking derived from the counter-insurgency campaign in Malaya in the 1950s, a careful and modest British plan was in place in 2006 to secure a development zone in the centre of the province to create an “ink-spot” of security within which development – rebuilding schools, roads, hospitals, etc – could take place and from which government influence could spread.

Unfortunately this was not how it happened. Soldiers told me how they were instead sent to remote “platoon houses” across the province. Initially they had only the fighting strength of nine platoons, which was completely inadequate for the fierce onslaught they faced from the Taliban. The ill-equipped British force ended up scattered and pinned down in fixed town-centre locations, living in sometimes unbearable conditions and fighting fiercely.

To beat off Taliban attacks, British soldiers defended themselves by calling in airstrikes and using artillery and mortars to smash urban areas. A T-shirt on sale at Kandahar airport, and worn by some soldiers I met in Helmand, announced membership of the “Taliban Hunting Club”. In Helmand there has been plenty of killing. You can measure the escalation of violence by the bullets and bombs. Successive deployments expended ammunition in ever greater quantities.

The grim truth, soldiers in Helmand tell you, is that much of the bloodshed has been to no effect. Although a central zone of stability in the province has been gradually expanded, whole parts of the countryside have been “cleared” time and again, only for the Taliban to return. Brigadier John Lorimer, a former British commander, bluntly called it “mowing the lawn”. A score card from all of this might read simply: “Many Taliban dead; precious little territory gained.”

This “mowing the lawn” approach unsurprisingly alienated local people. The idea then that the British were creating security to allow development was risible...

There is room for optimism, however, and from what I have seen the lessons are being learnt. Last October, when a new British brigade took command in Helmand, its commander, Brigadier Andrew Mackay, declared “a concept of operations” where the death of enemy soldiers was no longer a measure of success. “The population is the prize,” Mackay wrote.

A campaign based on counter-insurgency principles, he said, needed operations designed not so much for “kinetic effect” (inflicting physical damage on the enemy) but calibrated to “influence” the population: decreasing support for the enemy and increasing the standing of the Afghan government.

I found morale among the troops high. There is a sense that a strategy for a victory of sorts is at last evolving. Now, rather than battling the Taliban head-on, they have decided their job must be to “hold the line” and createa space where development can happen. There is a recognition that killing the Taliban and smashing towns will not help in the longer struggle to stabilise Afghanistan; the only workable strategy is to convince the locals that the coalition is there to help.

This concept, that “the population is the prize”, had its greatest effect during last December’s operation to retake Musa Qala, which had been handed back to the Taliban a year earlier. The deployment of hundreds of British, American and Afghan troops around the town achieved such an “overmatch” of forces that, after initial fierce fighting, the Taliban were forced to flee – and the town was recaptured without being destroyed.

The key moment was the arrival of the military development experts, a so-called stabili-sation team. I watched as they unfolded precise blueprints for the construction of a mosque, for the rebuilding and reopening of a school and for roads and improvements to water and power.

Three months later, when I returned to Musa Qala, a small road had been built, the market was open, there was a new health clinic and a school teaching 800 pupils. On top of that a work scheme was employing 300 Afghans.

Ironically, it is in these very successes that the present danger to our troops lies. The more soldiers such as Gamble go out to talk to locals, or help them with development, the more vulnerable they make themselves to suicide bombers or roadside explosions as the Taliban – having been beaten in set-piece battles – switch to Iraqi insurgency-style tactics instead.

The main problem is that our troops can “hold the line”, creating a safe zone inside the front lines, but the government and other agencies are often not there to fulfil their part of the bargain. Despite the army’s good work in places such as Musa Qala, health and safety rules mean that Foreign Office officials find it hard to set foot outside their compounds and contractors are frequently unable to work. So at present there is a relatively safe space, created at high cost by British troops, where insufficient vital reconstruction is happening.

It takes immense nerve to take casualties yet still adopt a friendly pose to locals who could be the enemy. But if we are to stop Afghanistan once again being a lawless breeding ground for terrorists, there is no other way forward. 

Mark
Ottawa

 

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Articles found June 16, 2008

Freed Taliban infiltrate rural areas
KATHERINE O'NEILL From Monday's Globe and Mail June 15, 2008 at 10:00 PM EDT
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — About 400 Taliban militants freed during a spectacular prison break in Kandahar have flooded into nearby restive rural areas patrolled by Canadian troops, and even as far east as Pakistan, according to a senior insurgent commander.

The 40-year-old Taliban leader told The Globe and Mail by telephone Sunday that a small fleet of motorbikes and cars was waiting for the prisoners Friday after about 30 insurgents used suicide attacks, rocket-propelled grenades and guns to break into the Sarpoza Provincial Prison about 9:30 p.m. after blowing open the front gates.

Most of the Taliban prisoners were first taken to villages in the turbulent Panjwai district and given money, the commander said. From there they scattered in different directions, including nearby Helmand province, Kabul and Pakistan. "Many of them have gone to their homes."

Locals living in the Panjwai district, a rural area west of Kandahar that Canadian troops have fought hard to keep out of insurgent hands, confirmed seeing numerous former Taliban prisoners in their villages.
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US general questions Pakistani forces’ loyalty
* Criticises lack of Pakistani pressure on militants
By Khalid Hasan
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WASHINGTON: Gen Dan K McNeill, the outgoing US commander in Afghanistan, on Sunday declined to endorse a US-funded programme to train and equip Pakistan Frontier Corps, questioning the effectiveness and loyalty of the force.
The Washington Post quoted McNeill as saying, “It takes well-trained, well-equipped and disciplined forces to take this thing on. The Pakistanis, in using the Frontier Corps as a military entity to take on the insurgency, will find some challenges.”
McNeill referred to two instances in which the guards have shot and killed US soldiers, saying he would be “forever scarred” by what he described as the “assassination” of Maj Larry J Bauguess Jr of the 82nd Airborne Division after a border meeting last spring. Another soldier was shot in the neck and killed by a Frontier Corps guard in 2002, he recalled.
McNeill said that there was a threat of co-operation between home-grown insurgents and outside extremist groups. “The greatest risk is the possibility of collusion between the insurgents who are indigenous to that region and the more intractable, the more extreme terrorists who are taking up residence there in the North-West Frontier,” the former commander said.

Criticism:
McNeill criticised Pakistani efforts to crack down on that threat, and described the political situation in Islamabad as “dysfunctional”. He also criticised efforts by the Pakistani government’s peace negotiation with insurgents on the frontier, saying past agreements had led to increased attacks across the border in Afghanistan.
“What’s missing is action to keep pressure on the insurgents.” For four months, Pakistan’s army chief, the report claimed, has failed to agree to attend a meeting that Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States have held in recent years on border problems.
He alleged that the Taliban are “resurgent in the region”, particularly in sanctuaries in Pakistan, and “it’s going to be difficult to take on this insurgent group in the broader sort of way”.
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Karzai Threatens to Send Soldiers Into Pakistan
By CARLOTTA GALL Published: June 16, 2008
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan threatened on Sunday to send soldiers into Pakistan to fight militant groups operating in the border areas to attack Afghanistan. His comments, made at a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, are likely to worsen tensions between the countries, just days after American forces in Afghanistan killed 11 Pakistani soldiers on the border while pursuing militants.
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U.S. soldiers rarely disciplined for detainee abuse at Afghanistan prison
By TOM LASSETER McClatchy Newspapers
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Second of two parts.

KABUL, Afghanistan — American soldiers herded the detainees into holding pens of razor-sharp concertina wire.

The guards kicked, kneed and punched many of the men until they collapsed in pain. U.S. troops shackled and dragged other detainees to small isolation rooms, then hung them by their wrists from chains dangling from the wire mesh ceiling.

Former guards and detainees whom McClatchy interviewed said Bagram was a center of systematic brutality for at least 20 months, starting in late 2001. Yet the soldiers responsible have escaped serious punishment.

The public outcry in the U.S. and abroad has focused on detainee abuse at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but sadistic violence first appeared at Bagram, north of Kabul, and at a similar U.S. internment camp at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan.

Nazar Chaman Gul, an Afghan who was held at Bagram for more than three months in 2003, said he was beaten about every five days. U.S. soldiers would walk into the pen where he slept on the floor and ram their combat boots into his back and stomach, Gul said. "Two or three of them would come in suddenly, tie my hands and beat me," he said.

When the kicking started, Gul said, he’d cry out, "I am not a terrorist," then beg God for mercy. Mercy was slow in coming. He was shipped to Guantanamo around the late summer of 2003 and imprisoned there for more than three years.

According to Afghan officials and a review of his case, Gul wasn’t a member of al Qaeda or of the extremist Taliban government that ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. At the time he was detained, he was working as a fuel depot guard for the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
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'Our soldiers are our best citizens': MacKay
Minister says defence poses unique challenges
Donna Jacobs, The Ottawa Citizen Published: Monday, June 16, 2008
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'For too long," says Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Canada treated its soldiers returning from raw combat duty with the attitude of "suck it up, soldier."

To seek help to heal the scars of war has long been tantamount to weakness: "Go back another generation or two," he says. "People got off the train or the boat and they were on their own.

"We've tried to change that," he says.

Retiring Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier and the current military leadership "deserve a lot of credit," along with several parliamentary committees.

But, he says, military tradition, which is necessarily strong, "also makes it difficult to change a mindset and an attitude."

In the past few years, the Canadian Forces has doubled the number of mental health professionals to 400. They include a team at the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, so a soldier starts to recover, says Mr. MacKay, "in the earliest stage."

He says he works very closely with (Veterans Affairs Minister) Greg Thompson to provide support for the soldiers who come home injured or suffering from post-traumatic stress.
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Publicly available document stamped 'secret' by military
David ******** ,  Canwest News Service Published: Sunday, June 15, 2008
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The Canadian Forces' counter-insurgency manual, already widely distributed among military units as well as to some members of the public and with at least one draft version available on the Internet, is now deemed to be secret by the Defence Department.

The department is remaining silent on why it considers the document, which does not discuss specific tactical information, to now be out of bounds for the public.

Last year the Canadian Forces distributed the manual, which is not classified as secret, to those members of the public who asked for it under the Access to Information law. The NDP also obtained a draft version of the manual last year and that is available to be downloaded on at least one website.
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Don't look, don't tell, troops told
Jun 16, 2008 04:30 AM Rick Westhead Staff Reporter
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Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been ordered by commanding officers "to ignore" incidents of sexual assault among the civilian population, says a military chaplain who counsels troops returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The chaplain, Jean Johns, says she recently counselled a Canadian soldier who said he witnessed a boy being raped by an Afghan soldier, then wrote a report on the allegation for her brigade chaplain.

In her March report, which she says should have been advanced "up the chain of command," Johns says the corporal told her that Canadian troops have been ordered by commanding officers "to ignore" incidents of sexual assault. Johns hasn't received a reply to the report.
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Articles found June 17, 2008

Canada plans counterattack as Taliban seize villages
Militants pounce on post-jailbreak chaos, forcing hundreds to flee Kandahar district
GRAEME SMITH From Tuesday's Globe and Mail June 17, 2008 at 2:41 AM EDT
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The Taliban have seized a dozen villages in a key district of Kandahar, using the chaos after a recent jailbreak as cover for a co-ordinated sweep by hundreds of heavily armed fighters.

Canadian commanders met with their Afghan allies in an emergency session late yesterday afternoon at an ornate hall in downtown Kandahar, planning a counterattack that promises to transform the lush fields and orchards of Arghandab district into a battleground in the coming days.

Taliban fighters were rumoured to be taunting their opponents by taking leisurely swims in the Arghandab River, and bringing truckloads of ammunition into the district in preparation for a bloody defence of their newly conquered territory after their largest attack of the year. Local officials also described the Taliban conducting patrols, rigging land mines on the roads, destroying irrigation wells and warning villagers to evacuate.

Many residents took the insurgents' advice, as wildly conflicting reports described 800 to 8,000 people fleeing the district.
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Sarkozy Focuses on Afghan Reconstruction to Sell War to France
By Celestine Bohlen
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June 17 (Bloomberg) -- As a fresh battalion of 700 French soldiers sets off this summer for the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, President Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking a more- coherent course for a six-and-a-half year conflict that has no end in sight.

In Europe, where committing troops to the war has been a hard sell in recent years, continued involvement hinges on a comprehensive plan for the country's reconstruction, which was the focus of an international conference in Paris last week.

European leaders ``want a new strategy that's more saleable at home,'' says Daniel Korski, author of ``Afghanistan: Europe's Forgotten War'' and a senior fellow at the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations. ``It is part of an outreach to the domestic audience that there's more to this than the military component.''

When the war was launched in 2001 in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, the fight against al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies had broad support in both the U.S. and Europe. This was in stark contrast to the more divisive, costlier and deadlier Iraq war that began two years later.

Since then, Afghanistan has increasingly been caught in a spiral of violence and corruption, fueled by a booming opium trade that has put local officials in thrall to a criminal narcotics racket.
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Obama plans pre-election trip to Iraq, Afghanistan
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WASHINGTON (AFP) — Democrat Barack Obama, bidding to shut down scornful attacks on his White House credentials by Republican rival John McCain, said Monday he plans a pre-election trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Obama, newly endorsed by former vice president Al Gore, also went after McCain on the economy as the candidates intensified a war of words on the long march to November's vote.

"We'll make an announcement about that but as I've said, I'm interested in visiting Iraq and Afghanistan before the election," said Obama, who has been vilified by McCain for visiting Iraq only once, in January 2006.

Senator McCain, who has been to Iraq eight times, said he had no doubt that a US military "surge" in Iraq was working and that Obama's plans to pull most combat troops out of the nation would trigger "chaos and genocide."

"I am convinced that we are on the path to victory. And that victory means Americans come home, but they come home with honor in victory, not in defeat," he told reporters in Virginia.
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Taliban Commander Is Face of Rising Threat
By CARLOTTA GALL Published: June 17, 2008
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KABUL, Afghanistan — The attack was little reported at the time. A suicide bombing on March 3 killed two NATO soldiers and two Afghan civilians and wounded 19 others in an American military base.

It was only weeks later, when Taliban militants put out a propaganda DVD, that the implications of the attack became clear. The DVD shows an enormous explosion, with shock waves rippling out far beyond the base. As a thick cloud of dust rises, the face of Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, a Taliban commander who presents one of the biggest threats to NATO and United States forces, appears. He taunts his opponents and derides rumors of his demise.

“Now as you see I am still alive,” he says.

The deadly attack demonstrates the persistence of the Afghan insurgency and the way former mujahedeen leaders, like Maulavi Haqqani, combine tactics and forces with Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups.
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THE QUIET CANADIAN
Canada's new top soldier says he'll keep low profile
Mia Rabson ,  Winnipeg Free Press Published: Monday, June 16, 2008
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OTTAWA - Lt. Gen. Walter Natynczyk has no intention of becoming the face of Canada's military effort in Afghanistan.

The man who's soon to become this country's top soldier says he's fully behind it, and knows the stories from Afghanistan have to be told. He just won't be the one to do it.

"People don't want to hear from me," Natynczyk said in the first in-depth interview he has given since June 6, when he was announced as the next Chief of the Defence Staff.

"They want to hear from a private, . . . from a lieutenant, from a captain, because those are the people who have seen first-hand what is happening."

The 50-year-old who is set to replace Gen. Rick Hillier on July 2 has a goofy grin, a quick wit and a larger-than-life personality that puts people at ease.

"I want to be thought of by our people as an experienced commander who has been there, understood those risks, felt fear as all of us do, and ensure our people have the confidence and the equipment to be successful," he said.

Current operations, rebuilding the military, and caring for the military family are his three main priorities.

"We are re-learning lessons that we knew way back in the '50s and the '60s, when we had folks coming back from conflict," said Natynczyk.
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Defending freedom to abuse
Police rape of Afghan boys ignored
Don Martin, National Post  Published: Tuesday, June 17, 2008
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OTTAWA -Canadian soldiers in the main guard tower at forward operating base Wilson last summer winced when I asked about the sudden lineup of teenage boys along the mud walls of the neighbouring Afghan market.

"Wait a few minutes. You'll see," said one, his lip curling. "It's disgusting."

Sure enough, a handful of uniformed Afghan police officers emerged from their rundown detachment, walked through the barricades and started chatting up the dozen or so teens, some looking decidedly pre-teen.

A few minutes after they returned, the selected kids were waved through the main gates and went straight inside the police station. An hour later, when I left the observation post, the boys were still inside.

This evening ritual is often derided by soldiers as man-love Thursdays.

Afghan officials insist the notion of men and boys getting together the night before the Muslim holy day for sex is a myth. And, sure, it's theoretically possible the cops were merely good-deed-doers giving these teens reading lessons.

But Canadian soldiers insisted we had just witnessed the regular Thursday evening negotiation for sex between Afghan men and boys, apparently for gifts or money.

It raises the disquieting question of how much responsibility Canadian soldiers shoulder, being military guests and all, to stop Afghan activity that would result in rape or child prostitution charges back home.
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Canadians could be target in feared Taliban attack
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 9:56 AM ET
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Afghan troops flown in to reinforce NATO in Kandahar

A Canadian soldier stands on alert at a roadside checkpoint in Arghandab district on Tuesday. (Allauddin Khan/Associated Press)As the Taliban appeared to prepare for a full-scale attack on Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said the Canadian military is among the feared targets.

Ahmad Wali Karzai, president of the Kandahar provincial council, told CBC News that intelligence gathered suggests that Canada's provincial reconstruction team could come under attack.

Karzai, who is the brother of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, said the Afghan governor's palace, the Afghan police headquarters and his own home are also targets.

"But keep in mind that Canadian Forces themselves have not confirmed any of this," the CBC's Paul Hunter said, reporting from Kandahar Airfield.

Heavily armed Taliban fighters appeared to be mobilizing on Tuesday, bombing bridges and planting landmines in the villages in the Arghandab region, about 15 kilometres northwest of Kandahar.

It's unclear how many Taliban fighters have moved into the region, as the Taliban has been known to inflate its numbers. Still, estimates suggest there could be 650 militant fighters surrounding Kandahar City, Hunter said.

"We've occupied most of the area, and it's a good place for fighting," Mullah Ahmedullah, a Taliban commander, told the Associated Press. "Now we are waiting for the NATO and Afghan forces."

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More troops sent to fight Taliban
The Guardian, June 17
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/jun/17/military.afghanistan

More British troops are to be deployed to southern Afghanistan to give the soldiers there better protection, to step up training of the local security forces and to increase development projects. The move, which is likely to coincide with a cut in the number of British troops in Iraq, will bring the total in Afghanistan next spring to more than 8,000. There are 7,800 there now.

The move, set out to MPs by the defence secretary, Des Browne, involves up to 600 troops earmarked for priority tasks, including manning new armoured vehicles and flying Chinook and Apache helicopters. Tornado aircraft will replace Harrier jets whose airframes and crews are showing the strain of nearly four years of engagement in difficult operations  [emphasis added}.

Browne said: "It does not mean our mission is expanding. It means we are taking the steps necessary to take our mission forward as effectively as we can." He said the Taliban leadership had reduced "their ambition from insurgency to terrorism", referring to roadside bombs and suicide attacks which killed three British paratroopers last week. But the Taliban's new tactics posed a "different, but very serious challenge" to British troops...

More:

Defence Secretary announces Afghan troop increase
UK MoD, June 16
http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/DefenceNews/DefencePolicyAndBusiness/DefenceSecretaryAnnouncesAfghanTroopIncrease.htm

Afghanistan: jailbreaks and drug bust
Conference of Defence Associations summary, June 17
http://www.cdaforumcad.ca/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1213713379/

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Text of a statement released Tuesday by Lt.-Col. Dave Corbould, commanding officer of the battle group of 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, on the situation in the Arghandab district and Kandahar city (Courtesy of Canadian Press/Canoe Network):  "As most of you are aware, The government of Afghanistan and ISAF have recently augmented forces deployed in Kandahar city and the Arghandab area in response to Insurgent claims and public fears of increased violence.

This show of force, which includes Canadian soldiers, involves increased security patrolling and checkpoints throughout the provincial capital and the Arghandab district to ensure stability and public safety.

The movement of troops has taken place without significant incident thus far, and it is clear that Kandahar city remains firmly under the control of the Afghan government and its people. Indeed, having just returned from the Arghandab district centre, I can tell you that there were no obvious signs of insurgent activity. While this does not mean the Taliban are not there, they just do not appear to have the foothold that they have apparently claimed.

The strong insurgent claims, however, have intimidated some people in the region. This may have caused the local population to exaggerate accounts of insurgent activity and given what citizens have experienced in past years, we understand their concerns.

The recent events at Sarposa Prison also increased the potential threat levels. However, the Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF have taken firm steps to maintain overall security.

For example, the Afghan National Police recently detected and neutralized two bicycle-borne IEDs before they did any harm. This is but one example of several other devices that have been neutralized as a result of good policing, and equally important, a result of the local population taking ownership of the situation and reporting on those who are up to no good. I believe the steady reporting by citizens is having a direct impact on insurgent activities.

In augmenting forces to address a potential increased security threat, the Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF continue to demonstrate we have the capability, responsiveness, and mobility required to deal with the threats posed by insurgents."


"ISAF bolster ANSF in Kandahar City," ISAF news release #2008-262, 18 Jun 08:  "To further support the resident Afghan National Security Forces in Kandahar City – consisting of the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and Afghan National Border Police, ISAF forces in the area redeployed yesterday to bolster the already present security stance.

“Together, ANSF combined with ISAF continue to increase security in and around Kandahar City. Together we continue to track down escaped prisoners from Sarpoza prison and are capable of dealing with threats posed by these escapees and insurgents”, says Major General Marc Lessard, Regional Command South Commander. “ISAF is committed to assisting ANSF in maintaining a safe and secure environment and will take the necessary actions to achieve our mandate for the overall wellbeing of Afghan population,” furthered Major General Lessard.

ISAF support to ANSF in and around Kandahar City since the Sarpoza prison break will continue with joint patrols, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and checkpoints.

“Today ISAF soldiers along with the ANSF conducted a show of force in Kandahar City and Arghandab District,” said Colonel Jamie Cade, Deputy Commander of Task Force Kandahar.  “There were no obvious signs of insurgent activity and it is clear that Kandahar City remains firmly under the control of the Afghan government and its people.”

Previous increases of insurgent activity have failed to dislodge ANSF and ISAF forces from Southern Afghanistan. Insurgents disregard human lives by terrorising innocent people through public acts of violence.

The ISAF deployment is in response to the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan request to support resident ANSF within Kandahar City."

"Joint Combined Operation patrols western side of Arghandab River," ISAF statement #2008-268, 18 Jun 08:  "As of 6:00 this morning, a joint combined force from the Afghan National Army and ISAF started patrolling the western side of the Arghandab River searching for small groups of insurgents.

This clearing operation is a response to a direct Taliban threat to the people of Arghandab district, where insurgents have forced hundreds of innocent Afghans to flee their homes. The joint combined forces been going on without major incidents so far. The operation is expected to be completed within the next three days.

Extreme care has been taken to avoid civilian casualties in this densely populated area, because the insurgents have a history of misusing innocent civilians for their own protection. ISAF values the life of every single person. The Coalition’s approach to operations reflects this fundamental difference with the Taleban extremists.

Last night in Kandahar City, Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF commanders reported that life was quiet and business was continuing as usual. It is clear that the city remains firmly under the control of the Afghan government despite rumours that the Taliban might attack.

The number of insurgents reported in Arghandab District in recent days has proven to be greatly exaggerated. ISAF would like to thank the local population for their cooperation in providing information about insurgent activity in the city and encourages them to continue to work with us.

All ANSF and ISAF operations in southern Afghanistan continue and this new operation is progressing as planned for the overall wellbeing of the Afghan population."
 

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Articles found June 19, 2008

First British woman and three soldiers killed in Afghanistan bomb blast
By Nick Allen, Caroline Gammell and Tom Coghlan in Kabul Last Updated: 6:11AM BST 19/06/2008
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The identity of the soldier was confirmed by her father, Des Feely.

He said: “It is truly devastating ... an absolute massive shock. Ever since she was a schoolgirl it was her dream to be a soldier. I cannot believe she will not come home.

“She was due to fly back next month. But now she’ll be coming back to be buried with military honours at the church in nearby Wetheral where she was married two years ago.”
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US: 4 helicopter engines worth $13M missing
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military says four helicopter engines worth $13 million are missing in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

U.S. spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green says the helicopters were being shipped overland from the U.S. base in Bagram to a seaport for shipment back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

She says the parts went missing sometime before the 101st Airborne's arrival in Afghanistan in April.

Nielson-Green says the parts were being shipped by a Pakistani trucking company, but it is not clear where they disappeared.

The U.S. is not disclosing what kind of engines they were.
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Afghanistan: Taliban 'pushed back in Kandahar'
Peter Walker and agencies guardian.co.uk, Thursday June 19 2008
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Taliban fighters who were occupying villages near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar have been forced to retreat, Afghan defence officials claimed today.

General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan defence ministry, said the country's army was now in control of the villages and had killed 56 militants. Earlier, Kandahar's governor said "hundreds" of Taliban were killed or wounded.

Nato gave a more cautious assessment of the situation and did not confirm the death toll. One spokesman said most of the Taliban forces had not fought back.

Officials said the villages were overrun on Monday, three days after Taliban fighters raided Kandahar's main prison and freed around 400 militants.

Yesterday morning, more than 1,000 Afghan and Canadian Nato forces responded with a major offensive that included air strikes, amid fears the Taliban was regaining power in its former stronghold. Yesterday, Afghan officials said 20 Taliban fighters had been killed.

Azimi said the fleeing militants had planted hundreds of land mines in the area before they left.
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Canadian soldiers' high-tech gear helps in battle, creates burden
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VANCOUVER — Canada is among countries evolving their armies into forces of futuristic soldiers, with laser-sighted rifles, GPS-equipped units directed via computer and equipment that lets them see and kill the enemy in all conditions, day or night.

But before conjuring images of invincible Star Wars troopers, consider some not-so-fun facts.

The average Canadian foot soldier on patrol in Afghanistan today is toting more than two-dozen extra batteries on his already overloaded body to power all the electronics he must carry.

During Operation Medusa in the fall of 2006, an offensive against the Taliban, one infantry company alone burned through 17,500 AA batteries in two weeks.

And those cool night-vision goggles that clip to every soldier's helmet? They give the soldier an edge in combat but sometimes also a pain the neck as they dangle in front of his eyes - that is, if they don't cause a poorly strapped-on helmet to flip right off his head.

That's the kind of reality check Doug Palmer will provide for anyone too much in awe of the possibilities of high-tech warfare.

Palmer, a former infantry officer with 35 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, now works in the army's Directorate of Land Requirements unit that develops equipment for foot soldiers - everything from boots to helmets and all the gee-whiz stuff such as visors with jet fighter-style heads-up displays and holographic gun sights.

He is closely involved with the directorate's Integrated Soldier System Project, which aims to create that futuristic warrior before the end of the next decade.

The federal Treasury Board is to decide this month whether to approve release of the first slice of money to fund the $310-million program, which would involve defining what the system's initial capability should be and testing the solutions with Canadian soldiers.
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Canada looks to cut 'friendly fire' with new tracking gear
David ******** ,  Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, June 18, 2008
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The Canadian military plans to ship a newly developed sensor and communications system to Afghanistan as part of its efforts to reduce friendly fire incidents.

The equipment will be used to determine the location of all aircraft operating in the area where Canadian troops are active and cut back on the likelihood of the type of incident that happened in September 2006.

In that case, a U.S. aircraft mistook Canadian soldiers for insurgents and attacked their camp, killing one and wounding many more.

The systems, one mounted on a tracked armored vehicle, the other on a wheeled Bison armored vehicle, are the result of a $28 million program that was designed to upgrade existing equipment called ADATS - the air defence anti-tank system.

The new gear will allow Canadian commanders on the ground to view information collected from different sources including AWACS surveillance aircraft, forward observers on the ground and aerial drones.

The military plans to ship the two vehicles, one an air defence command post, the other an airspace co-ordination centre, to Afghanistan by the end of the year.
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2 ISAF soldiers die, 10 wounded in E. Afghanistan   
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-19 02:30:31 
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    KABUL, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Two soldiers of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were killed and 10 soldiers injured while patrolling in Paktika province of eastern Afghanistan Wednesday, the ISAF said in a statement.

    The NATO-led military did not give details or release nationalities of the casualties.

    Attacks on international troops have been on the rise in Afghanistan in the past weeks as the Taliban-led anti-government militants continue to demonstrate their strength through guerrilla-style bombings and ambushes.
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Articles found June 20, 2008

Soldiers' deaths in Afghanistan blamed on vehicles
By Thomas Harding and John Bingham  Last Updated: 8:57AM BST 20/06/2008
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Campaigners and analysts are calling on the Ministry of Defence to withdraw Snatch Land Rover completely after the latest fatalities which took the British toll in the country to 106.

Critics say the vehicle, designed for riot control in Northern Ireland, is now unsuitable for action in Helmand Province because it offers so little protection against mines.

But ministers insist that other vehicles would not have been appropriate for the task the four were involved in and indicated that the vehicle would continue to be used.

Campaigners say Cpl Sarah Bryant, 26, of the Intelligence Corps - the first British woman to be killed in the war there - and special forces soldiers Cpl Sean Robert Reeve, 28, L/cpl Richard Larkin, 39, and Paul Stout, 31, would still be alive if they had been in an armoured vehicle.

They were taking part in a patrol near Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province when the blast went off on Tuesday.
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Suicide bomber kills 6 in Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy as it passed through a town in southern Afghanistan Friday, killing five civilians and one soldier from the U.S.-led coalition, officials said.

Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, the police chief of Helmand province, said the lone bomber, who was on foot, struck as the convoy was passing through a market area in the town of Gereshk on Friday morning.

Andiwal initially said 10 civilians has been killed, but later said that city officials on the scene had given him mistaken information. He said the five civilian victims included two children. Four more civilians were wounded, he said.

Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, a spokesman for the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan, said one of its troops also was killed. He declined to release the victim's nationality.

The blast came a day after a shooting incident in which two soldiers from the separate U.S.-led coalition were fatally wounded in Helmand. The coalition said a third soldier was wounded.
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Terrorists will target Afghan pipeline, expert says
Norma Greenaway ,  Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, June 19, 2008
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OTTAWA - A planned natural gas pipeline cutting through strife-torn Afghanistan is almost certain to become a target of terrorist attacks and will have big implications for Canadian troops stationed in the volatile province of Kandahar, says the author of a report exploring what he calls "the new great energy game" in the region.

Energy economist John Foster says he is stunned by the near silence of the federal Conservative government and parliamentary lawmakers around the planned deal, which was formalized at the end of April by Afghanistan and three of its neighbouring countries.

"Government efforts to convince Canadians to stay in Afghanistan have been enormous," Foster said in the report.

"But the impact of a proposed multi-billion dollar pipeline in areas of Afghanistan under Canadian purview has never been seriously debated."

The report was prepared for the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and released Thursday.

In an interview, Foster said the pipeline is likely to become a "massive terrorist target" because its route goes through Kandahar, the heart of the insurgency.

"I believe that Canada could be unwittingly drawn into defending this pipeline," said Foster, a former economist with the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.
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Routed Taliban flee territory north of Kandahar
GRAEME SMITH From Friday's Globe and Mail June 19, 2008 at 8:45 PM EDT
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The Taliban's swift retreat from their newly conquered territory north of Kandahar city left Afghan officials triumphant on Thursday, but a Canadian commander warned that the insurgents are capable of more spectacular attacks in the coming months.

Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the top Canadian commander in Afghanistan, said Afghan forces and foreign troops pushed deep into the Arghandab valley on Wednesday night. A few hours after dawn Thursday morning, a Taliban spokesman confirmed by telephone that most insurgents were pulling out of the district.

“There is no doubt in my mind, however, that further insurgent attacks will take place in the months ahead,” Gen. Thompson said.

In the past week, Taliban insurgents launched a spectacular attack on Sarpoza jail on the western outskirts of Kandahar city, freeing nearly all the prisoners, and briefly seized control of a dozen villages in Arghandab district, a strategic valley with no major Taliban presence until recently.
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Articles found June 21, 2008

When the smoke cleared in the Arghandab valley
GRAEME SMITH  From Saturday's Globe and Mail June 21, 2008 at 12:17 AM EDT
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MANARA, AFGHANISTAN — A stench of death wafted up from piles of bodies, festering in the summer heat of the Arghandab valley. Afghan soldiers held cloths over their faces, pointed to a charred blast site nearby, and described the corpses as the bombed remnants of an invading Taliban force much larger than the Canadian military has estimated.

Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid brought a group of local journalists, and one foreign reporter, to the heaped carnage in the village of Manara, about 10 kilometres north of Kandahar city, as part of a broader struggle to define the week of chaos in this province.

After days of responding to emergencies, first to a Taliban raid that freed hundreds of prisoners from a city jail on June 13, and then a short-lived sweep by armed insurgents into a dozen villages north of the city, top officials finally had a moment of relative quiet to reflect on what happened – and to argue over their wildly differing interpretations.
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4 men charged with selling banned ammunition
June 20, 2008
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FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. - Months after landing a $300 million Pentagon contract to supply munitions to Afghanistan security forces, a 22-year-old Miami Beach, Fla., businessman sent three e-mails asking whether the U.S. government would accept ammunition manufactured in China, prosecutors said.

Each time, they said, the answer came back no.

But that did not stop Efraim Diveroli, president of AEY Inc., and three associates from conspiring to remove "Made in China" labels from crates of aged ammunition and trying to pass them off as Albanian, federal prosecutors allege in a 71-count indictment unsealed Friday.

Diveroli appeared in Miami federal court Friday on charges of conspiracy, fraud and false statements related to ammunition worth more than $10 million.

Prosecutors also charged AEY's vice president David Packouz, 26, of Miami; the firm's Albanian agent Alexander Podrizki, 26, of Miami Beach, and business associate Ralph Merrill, 65, of Bountiful, Utah.

If convicted, the men could face 10-year prison sentences.

Diveroli's attorney, Howard Srebnick, said in an e-mail that his client "did not acquire the Chinese-made ammo, 'directly or indirectly,' from ANY Communist Chinese military company" but purchased it from the Albanian government.
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In photos: 'Afghanistan Kandahar Push'
By James Wray Jun 20, 2008, 18:52 GMT
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French soldiers of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrol Arghandab district after NATO and Afghan military forces have driven out hundreds of Taliban militants from around the restive Kandahar, Afghanistan 20 June 2008. At least 57 Taliban insurgents were killed and dozens more were wounded as NATO and Afghan forces drove out militants who had recently infiltrated several villages in the southern province of Kandahar, officials said 19 June 2008.
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5 foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Last Updated: Saturday, June 21, 2008
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Five soldiers from the U.S.-led international force in Afghanistan have been killed in two separate attacks.

Four soldiers were killed when insurgents opened fire on their convoy following a roadside blast on the west side of Kandahar city around 8 a.m. local time Saturday, officials said.

Two other soldiers were seriously injured in the attack.

Military officials did not reveal their nationalities, but CBC News has been told that no Canadians were among the casualties.

Elsewhere, a Polish soldier was killed and four others wounded when an improvised explosive device went off in the southeastern province of Paktika shortly after midnight.

The bombings cap a deadly week in Afghanistan, particularly regions north of Kandahar city, the former seat of government for the Taliban.

Coalition forces and Afghan troops backed by warplanes on Wednesday attacked up to 400 Taliban militants who had seized Arghandab, a strategic valley located within striking distance of Kandahar.
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Articles found June 22, 2008

Modern times come to Kandahar
Jun 22, 2008 04:30 AM Rosie DiManno Columnist
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In the jumble of Kandahar city's bazaar kiosks and open-front stalls, it is now just as easy to find pornographic videos as Osama bin Laden's call-to-jihad tapes.

Supply-and-demand does that.

Rooftops of mud-brick buildings are barnacled with satellite dishes, the ultra-modern superimposed on the primitive, many residents glued to their TV sets – whether retrieved from Taliban trash heaps or purchased in more recent times – following the prime-time domestic dramas of Bollywood soap operas.

First thing the Taliban did when they came to power in Kandahar was toss TV sets out the window or lynch them, symbolically, from mulberry trees.

The zealots knew well what they were about, the necessity of removing these apostate appliances from Afghan households so devout Muslims would have no distractions from the outside world, remain instead forever locked in to the idiot box of fundamentalist Islam.

But Kandahar city is no longer the grim, joyless southern capital that the Taliban abandoned in 2001, fleeing their spiritual seat of government as coalition bombs rained down, only the most fanatical choosing to stay and die where they huddled.

The metropolis of a half-million people wouldn't be recognizable to the Taliban leadership that took refuge in neighbouring Pakistan. The pious Mullah Omar & Co. would be aghast.
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Reported on CTV NewsNet that 3 Canadians injured in a rollover not related to combat....link not available at this time....



Pakistan rebels kill four Afghans in rocket strikes
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KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) — Four civilians including two children were killed Sunday when militants from inside Pakistan fired rockets at NATO bases in eastern Afghanistan, the alliance force and police said.

Some 20 rockets slammed the area in two separate incidents, with five of them coming from inside Pakistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement.

Afghanistan's defence ministry said in a statement 13 rockets were fired from across the border on NATO and Afghan army bases in Khost.

ISAF in a statement said the military "responded in self-defence" with artillery fire on the launch site, which it said was "located about 300 meters (985 feet) inside Pakistan."

The force also responded by artillery and an airstrike to an earlier rocket barrage fired from a location inside Afghanistan.

Islamabad was notified about the rebel attack on its bases, ISAF said.
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Hillier: Defence plan ‘excellent’
Framework has smart tradeoffs, outgoing chief says
By CATHY VON KINTZEL Truro Bureau Sun. Jun 22 - 5:29 AM
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NEW GLASGOW — Canada’s top soldier says the government’s new $490-billion defence plan lays out the "major muscle movements" needed to build a more capable Armed Forces in the long term.

"I think it’s excellent," Gen. Rick Hillier said Saturday during a two-day visit to Pictou County.

"It’s the first time in my memory that we’ve actually had a long-term framework . . . that we need to have to be a capable Armed Forces," the outgoing chief of Canada’s defence staff told reporters.

"So, for the first time, we know that we are going to maintain a navy that’s combat capable and an air force that can do the job we need it to do at home and around the world, and an army that’s capable of conducting the operations that we need, whether it’s a flood or whether it’s in a place like Afghanistan."

It includes annual spending increases that will boost the defence budget from $18 billion to $30 billion by 2027-28 and outlines new equipment purchases, including airplanes, tanks, ships, trucks and helicopters.

Gen. Hillier said "there’s never enough money for everything you want to have or believe that you need to have." But the plan into which he had input and which was developed over 2 1/2 years involves "intelligent tradeoffs."

He also said it’ll be reviewed every three to four years and may change but "that’s just a natural good thing in my view."
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Articles found June 23, 2008

No turning back now
NATO troops more powerful and popular than Taliban
Calgary Herald Published: Monday, June 23, 2008
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Canadians watching military developments around Kandahar City should be in no doubt about one thing. The 300 petrified families from villages surrounding the city who took refuge there when their homes were occupied by the Taliban, hate the Taliban. The last thing they want to see right now is foreign troops going home.

That NATO troops have the backing of ordinary Afghans is a good thing for Canadians to keep in mind. Much has been written of the sadistic caricature of Islamic law that was Taliban rule before 2002 and it needs no repetition here. Suffice it to say the Afghan people have had their fill: By helping them help themselves, this country is doing a good thing. Yet, a Taliban remnant has survived. How can one account for its persistence?

What is the significance of their recent offensive, even though it appears to have been thoroughly countered by Canadian and allied forces? In April, Afghan President Hamid Karzai survived an attempted assassination, while last week 390 insurgents were among more than 800 prisoners sprung from Kandahar's Sarpoza Prison, a spectacular operation that severely embarrassed Karzai's government. This latest fighting near Kandahar may have been a defeat, but does the Taliban have the staying power to outlast allied forces and eventually return to power in Afghanistan?
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100 2RCR soldiers train for Afghanistan mission
June 23rd, 2008 By MICHAEL STAPLES
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The commander of Golf Company says his personnel are just about ready for six months of combat duty in Afghanistan.

Maj. Joe Hartson will lead approximately 100 members of The Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2RCR) from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, to the central Asian country in late August.

He said he has confidence in his group's ability to perform well.

Golf Company will be providing security for the ongoing work done by the Kandahar provincial reconstruction teams (KPRT), based in Kandahar City.

"The PRTs are a unique challenge and we look forward to working with all of the other partners in this," Hartson said. "It should be an interesting time."

The deployment comes almost a year after nearly 600 soldiers from 2RCR returned to Gagetown following six months of combat duty in the volatile southern region of the country.

Eighteen soldiers from the 2RCR battle group, including five from the battalion, died during the six-month tour.

The 250-strong Kandahar provincial reconstruction teams, which operate from Camp Nathan Smith in downtown Kandahar City, carry out a range of initiatives such as police training and strengthening local governance.
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Long, winding road for interview with Khalid
By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target Mon. Jun 23 - 6:06 AM
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — IT WAS CERTAINLY A long trip to reach the governor’s residence in Kandahar.

There was the two-day transit into Kabul via Istanbul, and then a delay-plagued Afghan Airlines flight south to Kandahar. At the civilian side of the airport, I changed into local attire — complete with turban, payraan tumbaan (long shirt and pants) and beard — and rendezvoused with armed guards.

By sheer happenstance, the guest house where I was staying in downtown Kandahar was just two buildings from the governor’s residence, and from the rooftop I could see inside his walled garden. But despite the proximity and a prearranged interview, I was advised that Governor Asadullah Khalid had changed his plans and was travelling outside Afghanistan.

Meeting with Khalid had been one of the primary objectives of my most recent trip. In Afghanistan’s political structure, he is the face in Kandahar of President Hamid Karzai’s regime. The residents view the Canadian soldiers’ presence as directly contributing to Khalid’s authority, and in April, then Canadian foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier publicly labelled him corrupt and demanded he be replaced.

Although Bernier himself was subsequently replaced as a result of an unrelated scandal, I still felt it was important to shed some light on Khalid because he is so central to the role our soldiers are playing in Afghanistan.

My disappointment in failing to meet him face to face must have been evident, and his staff provided me with the only possible solution: After travelling 12,000 kilometres to reach the gates of his mansion, I ended up interviewing him by phoning his hotel room in Washington.
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Routing of Fighters Brings Anxious Calm to Kandahar
Despite Swift Action, Confidence in NATO, Afghan Forces Waning
By Candace Rondeaux Washington Post Foreign Service Monday, June 23, 2008; Page A08
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 22 -- A tense quiet has settled here in Afghanistan's second-largest city, a little more than a week after hundreds of Taliban fighters mounted a dramatic prison break, then briefly took control of several villages in the area.

One of the city's main traffic circles, Chowk-e Shahidan, was nearly empty, except for a cluster of armored vehicles manned by Afghan and Canadian soldiers. Just a few shoppers roamed nearby Herat Bazaar, Kandahar's largest market, and a couple of dusty green pickup trucks full of Afghan police ranged the empty streets, past carts brimming with mangoes.

At Sarposa Prison, a few miles from Herat Bazaar, Afghan police and soldiers cleared debris from the suicide bomb attack on June 13 that blew apart the walls at the main gate. The carcasses of two dozen cars and minivans still littered the area just outside the entrance, where at least 20 Afghan soldiers and police officers were killed in the explosion and a hail of rocket and gunfire. Afghan officials say many of the 350 to 400 Taliban fighters freed in the attack remain at large.

In the lush fruit-growing district of Arghandab, about 12 miles northwest of Kandahar, NATO and Afghan troops patrol the villages that fell under Taliban control when insurgents launched an offensive there last Monday after the prison attack. The troops have largely rid the district of insurgents, but hundreds of residents remain with relatives and friends in Kandahar while soldiers remove mines laid by the insurgents.
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US troops kill scores of Taliban in Afghanistan
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KABUL (AFP) — US-led troops killed 55 militants including three senior commanders after rebels ambushed a patrol with rockets near the eastern Afghan-Pakistani border, the coalition said on Monday.

A civilian father and son were killed by coalition forces elsewhere in eastern Afghanistan while several Taliban died in air strikes in the insurgency-hit south, officials said.

The bloodshed comes amid the deadliest phase of an insurgency launched by the Islamist Taliban after their ouster by US-led forces in late 2001, with seven foreign soldiers killed over the weekend.

A coalition spokesman said three days of fighting erupted in the Zerok district of eastern Paktika province on Friday after an insurgent attack on a patrol.

"The coalition patrol received rocket-propelled grenade and small-arms fire from extremist forces. The coalition responded with a combination of small-arms fire and air support," a coalition statement said.

Around 55 militants were killed, 25 wounded and three captured, it said. "Three key extremist leaders" were among the dead while patrols were bringing in details of further militant casualties, it added.
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FACTBOX-Security developments in Afghanistan
Mon Jun 23, 2008 7:33am EDT
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June 23 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan at 1130 GMT on Monday:

HELMAND - U.S.led coalition and Afghan troops killed several Taliban insurgents in an air and ground assault in Sangin district of southern Afghanistan on Sunday, a U.S. military statement said on Monday.

PAKTIKA - U.S.led coalition air strikes killed around 55 militants and wounded another 25 following an abortive insurgents ambush in the Zerok and Urgun districts of eastern Afghanistan on Friday, a statement from U.S.-led forces said on Monday.

HELMAND - Several militants were killed during U.S.led coalition operation in the southern Afghan province of Helmand of Sunday, U.S. military said in a statement on Monday. (Compiled by Hamid Shalizi, editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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Pakistan desires improved relations with Canada in various fields: PM        
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ISLAMABAD, Jun 23 (APP): Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday expressed strong desire of his government to work closely with Canada to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries. Pakistan wants to further improve its cordial relations with Canada in all fields including economic, defence, trade and investment areas, the Prime Minister said while talking to David B Collin, the outgoing High Commissioner of Canada, who called on him here at the PM House this morning.

The Prime Minister said during the recent elections the people have voted for moderate and democratic forces in the country.

He said that broad-based governments representing these forces have been formed in the country including NWFP and Baluchistan.

The Prime Minister appreciated the valuable contributions made by the High Commissioner in strengthening relations between the two countries during his assignment in Pakistan.

He wished him well in his next assignment. He also appreciated the useful work done by the Canadian observers in monitoring the elections in Pakistan.

Talking about Afghanistan, the Prime Minister said that Pakistan wants a stable and peaceful Afghanistan as it will help promote economic development in the region and also pave the way for increased regional cooperation.

Pakistan also wants early repatriation of Afghan refugees to their country with dignity and honour, he added.
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Kids share in father's Afghan mission
Lemonade stand fundraiser channels family's emotions to support school construction
The StarPhoenix Published: Monday, June 23, 2008 Wendy Gillis
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The Cabana-Boucher family of Saskatoon had to adjust to life without their husband and father, but they have decided to pass the time he's away by finding creative ways to help him on his mission.

In other words, they've turned lemons into lemonade.

Master Warrant Officer Albert Boucher is currently serving in Afghanistan, providing security for convoys traveling outside of a Canadian base. He has been away from his family since July 2007.

The family house on Seventh Street is not exactly empty without him -- he and his wife Michelle have seven children: Sean, Maria, Emma, Tessa, Seamus, Hannah and Callum -- but the family has really felt the effect of Albert's absence.

"I really miss my dad because he's really nice. He gives me lots of Lego," said six-year-old Callum.

If the anxiety of a loved one in a war zone isn't difficult enough, the family knew Cpl. Shane Keating, the Saskatoon man killed in September 2006 while serving in Afghanistan. He was a friend of Albert's.
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Articles found June 24, 2008

US military chief wants three more brigades to fight Taliban
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WASHINGTON (AFP) — The chief of the US military, Admiral Michael Mullen, said Monday he needed three more brigades in Afghanistan to battle Taliban fighters and train Afghan forces.

"We are short of forces there," Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a meeting of military officers.

"I need at least an additional three brigades, one of them a training brigade," Mullen said. A brigade is about 3,500 soldiers.

The United States has urged NATO allies for months to deploy reinforcements to the strife-torn nation, where 70,000 soldiers are fighting under separate US and NATO commands.

"Violence is up this year by every single measure," Mullen said.

The month of June is already the bloodiest of the year for international forces with 32 soldiers killed so far.

The United States deployed 3,500 marines this spring and several NATO countries have pledged to send more troops.
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Panel: U.S. envoy tied to coverup in Afghan arms deal
June 24, 2008
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WASHINGTON — The U.S. ambassador to Albania allegedly approved removing evidence of the illegal Chinese origins of ammunition being shipped from Albania to Afghanistan by a U.S. defense contractor, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Monday.

A federal grand jury on Friday indicted Efraim Diveroli, president of AEY Inc., the U.S. company involved, on 71 counts, including conspiracy to defraud the government on a $298 million U.S. Army contract to provide various types of ammunition to the government of Afghanistan.

The contract "prohibited delivery of ammunition acquired, directly or indirectly, from a Communist Chinese military contract," according to the South Florida U.S. attorney's office.
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Gun battle kills 12 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan   
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-24 16:04:56   
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    KABUL, June 24 (Xinhua) -- Gun battle that erupted between police and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan's eastern Paktia province in the wee hours of Tuesday left 12 insurgents dead, spokesman of the provincial administration Rohullah Samon said.

    "It was almost after midnight when armed militants raided a police checkpoint in Syed Karam district and police returned fire killing 12 enemies," Samon told Xinhua.

    Samon also added that three shops nearby were destroyed in the battle that lasted for a while.

    The militants, he added, had used small arms and rocket-propelled grenades while the police called in air power and inflicted casualties on them.

    However, he did not say if there were any casualties on police or civilians.

    Taliban operatives fighting Afghan and international troops have yet to make comments.

    Attacks on international and Afghan troops are on the rise during the past weeks, especially in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban rebels continue to demonstrate their strength through suicide and roadside bombings.
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Corruption hurts troops: MacKay
By: Aldo Santin Updated: June 23 at 08:51 PM CDT
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The Afghan government of Hamid Karzai must deal with the corruption that threatens to undermine the good work being done by Canadian soldiers over there, Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the Free Press tonight.

MacKay, who spoke during a break at a fundraising dinner for the Manitoba PC Party, said corruption, particularly in the southern region of Kandahar, is like a cancer that must be eradicated.

"The Afghan government must address those issues that can be like a cancer," MacKay said.

MacKay said that Canada is playing an "enabling" role in Afghanistan, assisting the government, its military and its administration in the pivotal task of rebuilding the country and defeating the Taliban.

Canada and its 40 allies there will continue to press the government of Hamid Karzai to deal with issues that undermine the allied effort, MacKay said, but added cleaning up the country is only a task that the Karzai government can carry out.

MacKay said he expects incoming Chief of Defence Staff Lt. Gen. Walter Natynczyk will continue to build on the successes of his predecessor, Gen. Rick Hillier, in Afghanistan and with the Canadian Armed Forces.

MacKay said Natynczyk, a Winnipeg native and the current vice-chief of defence, possessed all the attributes that made his appointment an easy decision.

MacKay said that Natynczyk worked closely with Hillier and was deeply involved in most of the recent procurement decisions for the armed forces.
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Germany to send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan
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BERLIN (AFP) — Germany plans to increase its military contingent in northern Afghanistan by up to 1,000 soldiers, Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said Tuesday.

The announcement follows months of pressure from Germany's NATO allies to step up its troop presence in Afghanistan and deploy soldiers in the south to help US, British and Canadian forces fight a tenacious Taliban insurgency.

But Jung confirmed the reinforcements would instead shore up reconstruction efforts in the more stable north, where the majority of Germany's 3,500 soldiers in Afghanistan are deployed.

His announcement comes as Germany prepares to take command of NATO's quick reaction force in the north in July, but the ministry has also come under pressure from German commanders urgently demanding more men after a string of attacks on soldiers and their Afghan helpers.

Jung told a press conference that extending the army's mandate to allow it to contribute up to 4,500 troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), would give the German contingent "a little more flexibility" without necessarily deploying the maximum number of soldiers.

The Bundeswehr's current parliamentary mandate expires in mid-October.
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Supply convoy attacked south of Kabul
By: Rahim Faiez  Updated: June 24 at 02:24 PM CDT
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Print Article E-mail Article KABUL, Afghanistan -- Militants torched a convoy carrying military supplies just south of the Afghan capital Tuesday and killed two NATO troops in the turbulent south and east.

The attacks demonstrated the limited gains from the costly six-year effort to stabilize and bring security to Afghanistan, which is drawing in ever-larger numbers of NATO troops.

German defence officials said Tuesday they plan to increase the number of their troops in Afghanistan by 1,000 this fall, pushing their continent to 4,500. There are now around 60,000 foreign troops in the country.

The top U.S. general in Afghanistan said Tuesday that insurgent attacks have increased 40 per cent this year over 2007 in the east of the country. In Washington, Maj.-Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser said there have been 40 deaths among uniformed and civilian coalition members in the east since the start of April.

Schloesser told reporters troops are tracking "a syndicate" of militants including Taliban, al-Qaida, Pakistanis and Afghans who move back and forth over the Afghan-Pakistani border.

He said fighters are attacking civic centres and schools -- killing teachers, students, road crews and others working to improve life in Afghanistan. Still, he said coalition forces are making good progress in training the Aghan army.

Afghan officials said an unknown number of men riding motorcycles and armed with guns and rockets attacked the convoy near Saydabad, a town in Wardak province 65 kilometres from Kabul.

The local mayor, Fazel Muslim, said more than 40 trucks carrying food, water and fuel were damaged, most of them burned. The attackers fled when Afghan and foreign security forces, including aircraft, reached the scene, Muslim said.
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Articles found June 25, 2008

British soldier killed by explosion in Afghanistan
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KABUL (AFP) — A British soldier has been killed in an explosion while checking for mines in troubled southern Afghanistan, military authorities confirmed Wednesday.

The soldier died Tuesday in Helmand province, where the majority of Britain's 7,800 troops in Afghanistan are based.

The International Security Assistance Force troops were on patrol in Nahri Sarraj district of Helmand when a blast struck their convoy, the NATO military alliance said a statement.

"One ISAF soldier died from an explosion during a patrol in Nahri Sarraj district," it said.

Britain's Ministry of Defence confirmed the death.

"The soldier from 4th Battalion the Parachute Regiment, attached to 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, was dismounted from his vehicle checking for mines in the Upper Sangin Valley when he was killed by a suspected IED (improvised explosive device)," the Ministry of Defence in London said.

"No one else was injured."
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AFGHANISTAN: Clashes’ zone near Kandahar to get emergency relief aid
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KANDAHAR, 24 June 2008 (IRIN) - The government of Afghanistan and UN agencies have agreed to distribute emergency humanitarian relief immediately to thousands of Battle-Affected Persons (BAPs) in Arghandab District, Kandahar Province.

“Seven thousand families have been verified as in need of assistance,” said Salvatore Lombardo, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) representative in Afghanistan, adding that the number may increase as verification continues in the coming days.

Two thousand families are expected to receive food and non-food aid in the initial phase which will start on 25 June, aid agencies said. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul said on 24 June that 234 tonnes of mixed food items have been delivered to Arghandab District and would be distributed on 25 June.

Thousands of civilians abandoned their homes in the district after scores of Taliban fighters reportedly raided several villages and prepared to fight Afghan and international forces on 16-17 June, planting landmines and destroying bridges. The insurgents were driven back by Afghan army and NATO-led forces on 19 June.
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Canadian wheat helping to feed poor Afghans
Doug Schmidt, Canwest News Service Published: Monday, June 23, 2008
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KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan -- Bakht Bibi stares a visitor straight in the eye -- highly unusual when it's a foreign male meeting an Afghan woman in conservative Kandahar -- and describes "the pain in my heart."

"Our family has had days when we ate nothing," says the female head of a household of 10. She has had to beg and borrow to feed her family, and even when there's food, meals can consist of half a loaf of bread shared by all.

"It's very difficult in Kandahar. The prices are very, very high -- people are greatly affected by this," Bibi says through a Pashto interpreter
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Canadian soldiers track border-crossing insurgents
Updated Tue. Jun. 24 2008 10:24 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Canadian soldiers have quietly walked across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in a mountainous region dense with insurgents, to collect information from the Pakistani Army about suicide bombers and weapon smuggling.

Thousands of people cross between the two countries every day at the border community of Spin Boldak. Many often go unchecked and undetected.

The area is a critical trade route for the Taliban. According to intelligence officials, militants get sanctuary and training in Pakistan, and then cross into Afghanistan to attack NATO forces.

There has been a 40 per cent jump in the number of insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan this year, according to the U.S. military, and NATO countries are pressuring Pakistan to tighten the border.

Pakistan has assured NATO that it's tightening its grip on the area and may even build fences and lay mines at the most critical points.

U.S. Maj.-Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser told reporters in Washington on Tuesday there have been 40 deaths among uniformed and civilian coalition members in eastern Afghanistan since April.

He said the military is tracking insurgents, some of them Taliban members, who frequently move between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This week, Afghan police captured two men from Pakistan who they accused of being would-be suicide bombers.
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Articles found June 26, 2008

Helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, no injured-U.S.
Thu Jun 26, 2008 1:07am EDT
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KABUL, June 26 (Reuters) - A helicopter belonging to U.S.-led coalition forces crashed in Afghanistan, but there were no injuries to the soldiers on board and the cause of the crash is under investigation, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

However, a Taliban spokesman said insurgents had shot down the aircraft and killed everyone on board. The incident happened in the northeastern province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan, on Wednesday.

"No coalition forces soldiers were seriously injured and all have been returned safely from the incident," the U.S. military said in a statement. "The aircraft has been secured."

A resident of the Wata Pur district said he saw flames and black smoke coming out of a helicopter as it was landing.

The 64,000 international troops in Afghanistan are heavily reliant on aircraft to transport troops and supplies around the rugged mountainous country.

The Taliban often take pot shots at helicopters, but so far the militants are not believed to have obtained surface-to-air missiles which could alter the balance of the war dramatically.

Many historians believe it was the Afghan mujahideen's acquisitions of such missiles that tipped the war against the Soviet occupation in their favour in the 1980s.
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700 militants arrested this year, Saudis say
Ian Black, Middle East editor The Guardian, Thursday June 26, 2008
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Saudi Arabia has arrested 700 militants in the past six months on suspicion of planning attacks on the country's oil industry and other targets, the interior ministry said yesterday.

The figure suggests the Saudi security forces still face a significant threat from al-Qaida despite the perception, at least in the west, that the organisation has been effectively beaten, or has at least peaked, in the country of Osama bin Laden's birth. General Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, said in an interview last month that al-Qaida had suffered "near strategic defeat" in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Saudi security forces carried out several operations and arrested 701 people of various nationalities, said the ministry spokesman, General Mansour al-Turki. Of those, 520 - divided into five cells - were still being held for involvement in the organisational and ideological plans of the "deviant ideology" - the Saudi official term for al-Qaida. The others were released for lack of evidence.

The televised statement said that those arrested had planned to revive "criminal activities" and that their leaders were based abroad. The detainees included some of Asian and African nationality. Some had planned to use car bombs to attack an oil installation and a security target in coordination with Bin Laden's Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who would send fighters from Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa to support them.
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Canada hopes investment brings order to anarchic Kandahar
Doug Schmidt ,  Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, June 25, 2008
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KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan - Left unmentioned in Ottawa's recent unveiling of a host of grand Canadian signature and priority projects for Afghanistan was a $22-million program about to be launched that is aimed at turning anarchic Kandahar City into a properly functioning "citizen friendly" model municipality.

The population of Afghanistan's second-largest city has grown fourfold in the past five years, to an estimated 800,000 residents, but the sprawling metropolis boasts fewer municipal employees - about 70 total - than your average Canadian small town. There's no city planner, at least two-thirds of property owners don't pay any taxes (the population figure is a best-guess), and a mere handful of municipal dump trucks pulls double duty as the garbage truck fleet.

"The biggest thing I need is to clean up this city," says Kandahar City's respected, and by all accounts corruption-proof, Mayor Ghulam Haider Hamidi. "When I came here 16 months ago, the city's trash had built up (in the streets) over the last 25 or 30 years."
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Advice on Afghanistan
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | 2:49 PM ET CBC News Interview Ahmed Rashid
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CBC's Around the World host Harry Forestell had an opportunity recently to sit down with Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist based in Lahore who writes for several newspapers including the Daily Telegraph and The Washington Post.

Rashid has written extensively on Islamic extremism in the region and is on tour promoting his newly released book, Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

Forestell interviewed him in Toronto.

Forestell: Canadian troops are risking their lives every day in Afghanistan, fighting militants, in an effort to bring stability to that country. And yet time and time again, we hear about Pakistan's failure to control those same insurgents within its own borders. Why isn't Pakistan helping more?

Rashid: I think the military in Pakistan has had a strategic policy since 2001, to give sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban leadership. Much of that is taking place in Quetta, the town in Baluchistan, exactly opposite Kandahar, where the Canadians are based.

I think one of the mistakes the Canadians made when they deployed in Afghanistan was to take at American face value the assurance that Kandahar would be absolutely peaceful and that these militants wouldn't come across the border.

In fact, the Americans, under Canadian insistence, went to President [Pervez] Musharraf and said, 'Make sure that the Canadians are not upset and nothing happens.' The Pakistanis didn't listen.

What we've had since 2005: the big offensive in Arghandab in 2006 when up to 1,500 Taliban were killed and layers upon layers of Taliban coming in from across the border fighting Canadian troops.

Forestell: The U.S. and others
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Good news follows bad in Afghanistan
Timothy Giannuzzi, For The Calgary Herald Published: Thursday, June 26, 2008
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A spot of good news can work wonders when you're in a tight spot. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan just received a bit which ought to put the spring back in its step after a particularly difficult couple of weeks: Germany has agreed to beef up its military contingent in Afghanistan by 1,000 troops.

The German announcement comes less than two weeks after more than 60 countries pledged $20 billion in foreign aid to the struggling Afghan government over the next several years, so the situation in Afghanistan has rarely looked brighter. Germany's decision might even mark early signs of a European rethink of defence and the projection of military force abroad, which could have profound implications for the ISAF and future missions. Just don't hold your breath.

German Minister of Defence Franz Josef Jung made the announcement on Tuesday, after what have been some rather heated talks with other NATO countries (Canada, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands) concerned that large continental European nations are not pulling their weight in the ISAF. Of the mainlanders, only the Dutch and the Danish have sizable military forces which are not restricted in some way from engaging in combat.
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Simcoe Store Sending Unexpected Support to Troops
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There have been dozens of ways for you to support our men and women overseas - sport a yellow ribbon, send them care packages, good Canadian coffee, but one local company is doing something very different...

The Paulmac's Pet Food store in Simcoe is collecting donations of tooneys to send flea collars to our soldiers in Afghanistan. The flea collars are to be worn around the ankles of Canadian soldiers set to deploy in September. According to Caroline Pettersen at Paulmac's sand flies, like fleas, can bite and cause infection - and these flee collars will keep the pests away.
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