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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (November 2006)

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Donkey mascot enjoying better life with Canadian engineers
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, via Canada.com, 25 Nov 06
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A little white donkey has become the apple of the eye . . . for Canadian engineers in Panjwaii. Excuse the clumsy attempt at rhyming but Tina, officially known as Regulator-1 in military jargon, has troops here at this remote Canadian camp wrapped around her delicate little finger - make that hoof.  Tina was purportedly purchased from a local farmer who had beaten her, to help carry supplies such as sandbags to the top of a mountain where an observation post is being built. But her workload has been non-existent, and now Tina has received some interesting news.  "She is pregnant," confirmed medic Cpl. Shannon Fretter of Springhill, N.S.  "The veterinarians in KAF (Kandahar Air Field) pretty much gave us the pregnancy stuff and one of the master corporals has been giving her some examinations and apparently she is pregnant." ....



Afghanistan resorts to militias to fight the insurgency
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 25 Nov 06
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Afghanistan is training thousands of men affiliated with local militias in hopes of giving the country's security forces a boost in their fight against a growing insurgency. But some fear that Taliban militants and common criminals have infiltrated the program.  The training of the local militia members could give Afghanistan up to 11,000 on-call policemen who officials could tap to boost ranks during times of need.  But the quality of the recruits and their effectiveness in the police force is being questioned by some.  "There are criminals and drug users among them," said Col. Mohammed Hussain Andiwall, a senior police official in Kandahar province who coordinates between the Ministry of Interior and foreign experts training the auxiliary police force ....



Nato runs critically short of combat troops to keep Taliban at bay
Kim Sengupta, The Independent (UK), 26 Nov 06
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Tony Blair and other Nato leaders gathering in the Latvian capital, Riga, this week will almost certainly fail to secure the additional troops being sought to keep the Taliban at bay in Afghanistan, according to sources here.  Although it took over responsibility for the whole country just a few weeks ago, Nato's mission remains at least 15 per cent undermanned, with a significant shortage of combat troops and a desperate lack of helicopters. A succession of Nato meetings has failed to secure reinforcements, and all the indications are that the alliance's Riga summit, presented as one of the most crucial in its post-Cold War history, will not be any more successful.  Commanders have repeatedly sought at least 1,000 fighting troops to form a quick reaction force which could deal with upsurges of violence, but many in the 37-nation mission have insisted on constraints which effectively keep them away from the front line ....


France may join Afghan front line
Nicola Smith, Times Online (UK), 26 Nov 06
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FRENCH and German troops who have been kept away from the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan could be used as emergency reinforcements for British, American and Canadian soldiers bearing the brunt of the war against the Taliban.  A Nato summit this week in Riga, the capital of Latvia, is expected to agree greater flexibility for commanders to call on coalition allies for frontline support.  British officers have described how military police and engineers have had to fend off Taliban attacks while well trained coalition troops remain far away in Kabul and the relatively peaceful north.  Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato’s secretary-general, is urging all nations to lift the restrictions imposed on where their troops can be stationed. There has been a sharp disparity within Nato between European allies that have sought to minimise their casualties and concentrate on reconstruction, and Britain, Canada and the United States, which are committed to defeating the Taliban ....


Bush readies Afghan push at NATO
Agence France Presse, via Khaleej Times (UAE), 26 Nov 06
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President George W. Bush heads to the NATO summit in Latvia looking to press European allies for more support as the Afghan war reaches a pivotal point, and US-occupied Iraq slides into chaos.  Bush, stung by the drubbing of his Republican Party in congressional elections, will also push for a new network of “global partners” for NATO, including Australia, Japan, South Korea, Sweden and Finland.  “For us, the number one issue is Afghanistan,” said US undersecretary of state Nicholas Burns ahead of the November 28-29 summit in Riga.  US officials say they are satisfied with the progress of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, despite intensifying battles with Taleban fighters.  They are asking for more European support in reconstruction aspects of the mission, and want combat risks shared more equally among the alliance as up to now some nations have imposed conditions on where their troops can fight ....


Flaws in Afghan mission among key challenges facing leaders at Latvian summit
Pak Tribune (PAK), 26 Nov 06
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The western military alliance is facing a credibility crisis - struggling to rustle up troops as its first major combat test, in Afghanistan, rests on a knife-edge.  According to article published in Guardian limited, founded to confront a country and empire that no longer exist and an ideology that is largely moribund, even its name, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is incongruous, given the eastward lurch of its centre of gravity.  As leaders of the 26 member states gather in the Latvian capital, Riga, next week, the question that will haunt them, one they may be too frightened to ask, will linger uncomfortably: what is Nato for? ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



'Barber of Kandahar' finds himself in firefight
CTV.ca, 25 Nov 06
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Claude Goulet -- barber by trade, in Afghanistan by choice -- found himself in a close shave of his own.  Goulet hails from Kapuskasing in northern Ontario. Six months ago, he agreed to do a stint in Afghanistan cutting hair for Canadian soldiers.  Part of the job includes "house calls" to the forward operating bases in Kandahar province.  During such a trip earlier this week, Goulet got trapped in the middle of a Taliban attack in the troubled Panjwaii district.  "It was exciting, I'll guarantee you that, something I never thought I'd experience in my lifetime," he told CTV News.  His digital camera captured the sounds of a Taliban mortar flying overhead, Canadian soldiers firing back and then American air support coming in to pound the insurgents.  "Ahh, that was a big one!" he could be heard saying ....



Fresh claims of Afghan shortages
BBC Online, 24 Nov 06
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The government is facing fresh claims that British troops in Afghanistan are facing shortages of vital equipment. Sgt Stephen Brown of the Royal Marines has complained his men do not have enough ammunition and equipment, and have to use inappropriate vehicles.  He told reporters in Helmand Province: "Countless times we have put in requests for what we need extra, and it has not arrived."  But the MoD and senior officers insist there is enough equipment for the job ....


Afghan marines lack ammo, claims Arbroath sergeant
Andrew Jarret, Evening Telegraph & Post (UK), 24 Nov 06
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British troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan are short of essential equipment, according to a marine with Arbroath’s 45 Commando Group .... Royal Marine Sergeant Stephen Brown said his men were lacking ammunition and needed better-armoured vehicles.  Repeated requests for extra kit have not been met, he is reported to have told journalists in Lashkar Gar.  Sgt Brown commands the unit which included Gary Wright (21), who was killed by a suicide bomber while on patrol in Helmand last month.  According to Sgt Brown, his troops are short of Wimiks — stripped down and heavily armed Land Rovers.  He apparently did not suggest such a vehicle would have saved Marine Wright’s life, but insisted it could have prevented injuries to Dundee Sergeant Gary Ellis (35), also caught up in the incident ....


Troops poorly equipped to fight Taliban-sergeant
Pak Tribune (PAK), 26 Nov 06
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BRITISH TROOPS fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan are short of essential equipment, according to an officer with Arbroath's 45 Commando Group.  Royal Marine Sergeant Stephen Brown said his men were lacking ammunition and needed better armoured vehicles.  Repeated requests for extra kit have not been met, he is reported to have told journalists in Lashkar Gar.  Sgt Brown commands the unit which included Gary Wright (21), who was killed by a suicide bomber while on patrol in Helmand last month.  According to Sgt Brown, his troops are short of "Wimiks"-stripped down and heavily armed Land Rovers ....



 

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Afghan fund set up
Edmonton Garrison leads way to help war's neediest

Max Maudie, Edmonton Journal, 26 Nov 06
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The Edmonton Garrison has set up a fund to fast-track money to the neediest people in war-torn Afghanistan.  Garrison spokesman Capt. Louis Marselje said scores of people have been asking openly what the delay is on aid for the nation.  "The people said, 'where do we get the funding from? What's (the Canadian International Development Agency) doing? What's the UN doing? What's NATO doing?' The Canadian PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) said it's nice to talk, but let's get on with it.  "We set this fund up so we can get funding now, rather than to wait for the big players in the world to make up their minds what we're going to get."  The donated money goes straight to the Kandahar-based PRT, to fund things like security and justice, social services, health, education, telecommunications, and irrigation, said Marselje.  Marselje said the Garrison maintains control of the money and the PRT will request it as it's needed.  "They consult with their Afghan counterparts (who) will let them know what the priorities are," said Marselje  (....)  To donate money, send a cheque or money order (no cash) payable to Garrison Fund (Material Assistance to Afghanistan), Trust Fund # 25100,124.  Marselje said that information must be written on the cheque or money order.  Send the donation to Public Affairs Officer, Edmonton Garrison; PO BOX 10500, Stn. Forces; Edmonton, AB; T5J 4J5; re: PRT NPF Accounts.



AUSTRALIAN COMMANDOS RECEIVE DECORATIONS FOR GALLANTRY
Australian Government Department of Defence news release, CPA 316/06, 26 Nov 06
News Release

The Governor-General His Excellency MAJ GEN Michael Jeffery, AC, CVO, MC, joined with Prime Minister of Australia the Hon John Howard, MP, the Hon Dr. Brendan Nelson, MP and the Chief of the Defence Force ACM Angus Houston AO, AFC, to welcome home Eastern Australia-based members of the Afghanistan Special Forces Task Group (SFTG) in a ceremony at Tobruk Lines, Holsworthy Barracks today.

The soldiers, predominantly from the Sydney-based Fourth Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Commando) (4RAR(Cdo)), formed part of the 200-personnel strong SFTG operating in Southern Afghanistan since late last year. 

During the ceremony the Governor-General and Prime Minister praised the professionalism and courage of the SFTG who were involved in some of the most ferocious fighting since the Vietnam War during their 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.

The dangers faced by the SFTG were highlighted by the presentation of Australia’s first Star of Gallantry and a Medal for Gallantry to 4RAR(Cdo) members by the Governor-General.

Commando Sergeant “A” and Commando Corporal “B” were decorated for gallantry in recognition of their outstanding actions, leadership and bravery in Afghanistan.

During the awards presentation the Governor-General praised the actions of the two soldiers and described them as being “in the highest traditions of the Special Operations Command-Australia, the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.”

The Governor-General also announced the awarding of a Unit Citation for Gallantry to combat elements of the SFTG, whilst the Task Group as a whole has been awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation. These awards will be formally presented at a later date ....


Courage under fire earns commandos top honours
Sydney Morning Herald, 27 Nov 06
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IN FEROCIOUS fighting, Commando Sergeant A, under direct fire from insurgents, led a rescue mission to save Canadian soldiers as they came under siege in southern Afghanistan.  He did it with "absolute disregard for his own safety".  Corporal B helped clear a hostile area of militia to enable another coalition unit to evacuate, killing several insurgents in the process.  He did this despite being wounded in the foot by a fragment from a barrage of rocket-propelled grenades.  Sergeant A was awarded the Star of Gallantry, the first soldier to receive the medal, which was introduced in 1991 and ranks behind only the Victoria Cross in Australian military honours. Corporal B was awarded the Medal for Gallantry.  The two commandos, both with the Sydney-based Fourth Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (Commando), served for 12 months with the Special Forces Task Group in Afghanistan. They were presented with their medals by the Governor-General, Major-General Michael Jeffery, at a ceremony at Holsworthy Barracks yesterday. They cannot be named for security reasons ....



PRT troops visit orphanages
CF Combat Camera web site, 22 Nov 06
[http://tinyurl.com/yfmy6r|Photo]  - More Photos

Visit to the Shaheed Abdul Ahad Khan Orphanage in Kandahar City to drop off items donated by the Assistance to Afghanistan Fund.  PRT medical technician Cpl Ashley Brace, speaking through an interpreter, instructs an orphanage worker on care for a child who injured her foot playing, after he finished cleaning and redressing the injury.  The PRT delivered a washing machine, winter coats, hats and mittens, drinking glasses, teapots and school supplies as well as treats.  The PRT consists of Canadian Forces members, a civilian police contingent led by the RCMP, representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and the Canadian International Development Agency. The PRT conducts coordinated interdepartmental operations to promote good governance and assist the Government of Afghanistan to extend its authority in the province of Kandahar, to facilitate the development of a stable, secure and self-sustaining environment for the Afghan people..



More News on CAN in AFG here



Canadian official says we're helping train 'bad guys'
Associated Press, via Edmonton Sun, 26 Nov 06
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Taliban militants and common criminals may have infiltrated an Afghan program that trains thousands of men affiliated with local militias to fight the country's growing insurgency.  The formation of the Afghanistan National Auxiliary Police reflects the growing questions about the ability of the existing security force to beat resurgent Taliban rebels and other militants challenging government authority in parts of the country.  But though the training of the local militia members could give Afghanistan up to 11,000 on-call policemen to increase the ranks of security forces during times of need, some question the quality of the recruits and their effectiveness.  "There are criminals and drug users among them," said Col. Mohammed Hussain Andiwall, a senior police official in Kandahar province who co-ordinates between the Ministry of Interior and foreign experts training the auxiliary police force.  Ross Davies, a Canadian police officer involved in the training of the auxiliary force in Kandahar province, said that despite a vetting process conducted by Afghan authorities, police trainers still "do not know really who these people are ....  We know that we are probably training some of the bad guys," he said, using an expression reserved mainly for the insurgents ....



Angel in fatigues
City nurse has an eye-opening experience in her role as military reservist

Nadia Moharib, Calgary Sun, 26 Nov 06
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Tara Sawchuk is one of three nurses from Foothills hospital who works with the Canadian Forces Reserves and served in Afghanistan. The 38-year-old spent three months treating civilians and soldiers, and in the process, had an experience she will never forget. In February, the ER nurse returns to the military hospital at the Kandahar airfield.
- - -
She could barely sleep.  It was Lt. Tara Sawchuk's first nap before her first shift as a reserve nursing officer on the Canadian Forces base in Kandahar.  It was dusty, noisy, uncomfortable and she still had jetlag.  And the anticipation of a rocket attack weighed heavily on her mind as she tried to get to sleep in the stifling heat.  "I was waiting because I knew it was going to come," she said.  And when it did, Sawchuk said it felt "like somebody slugged me in the chest."  "I jumped up and grabbed my boots and shirt thinking I was late for work," she recalled ....

 

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Canadian troops say fear not a factor in their day-to-day jobs in Afghanistan
Bill Graveland,  Canadian Press, via Canada.com, 26 Nov 06
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The fear factor.

Fear comes in many forms and it would be foolish to suggest that it isn't part of the equation for Canadian troops battling the Taliban here on a daily basis. But for the most part, these men and women are not afraid of injury or death.  Instead, the very real fear is failing to accomplish their mission and fear for those back at home in Canada.  Suicide bombings, friends and colleagues dying, mortars and rocket attacks and bullets whizzing overhead are taken in stride by soldiers stationed in the Panjwaii District of Kandahar province.  Despite the risk to life and limb, stories of bravery under fire are common in this war-torn region all the way from fighting men to medics to those driving resupply trucks on convoys.  One of the most horrific attacks involved a suicide bomber riding a bicycle that claimed the lives of four Canadian soldiers on Sept. 18. The troops had been handing out candy to children when the suicide bomber shattered the peace that day ....



Nato urges end of right to opt out of Afghanistan combat
Michael Evans,Times Online (UK), 27 Nov 06
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Germany, France, Spain and Italy will come under pressure this week to surrender the “red cards” that allow them to keep their troops away from the most dangerous areas of operations in Afghanistan.  The issue of national caveats, under which Nato governments can opt out of certain operations when they choose, is expected to dominate the alliance heads of government summit, in the Latvian capital, Riga, which starts tomorrow (Tuesday)....


Editorial:  NATO needs a big think
Christian Science Monitor, 27 Nov 06
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.... Afghanistan is at a critical juncture. It could go the way of Iraq if it does not receive the political, military, and rebuilding support it needs. In ad hoc fashion, NATO's heads of state will this week have to commit to greater support. But they must also agree finally to face the big questions about their mission. Afghanistan demands it, as does NATO's viability.


NATO’s failure in Afghanistan, coalition ineffectiveness in Iraq manifest foreign forces cannot handle regional problems
Kiran Chaube, India Today online, 24 Nov 06
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NATO’s failure in Afghanistan is clear now. It just cannot cope up with the ground reality. While the Talibans are not really gaining, the NATO is getting fed up with doing the dirty work. The Afghan Government soldiers actually doing far better now that NATO forces with their super exotic armaments ....


FACTBOX-Restrictions on NATO troops in Afghanistan
Reuters (UK), 26 Nov 06
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NATO commanders in Afghanistan say the battle against Taliban insurgents is being held back by restrictions placed by alliance nations on what their troops can do on the ground.  A NATO summit starting in Riga on Tuesday will aim to do away with many such restrictions, known as "caveats". Following are examples of limits that apply to some of the 37 national contingents within the 32,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), according to NATO sources ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



The EU’s turn in Afghanistan
Robert E. Hunter, Jordan Times, 27 Nov 06
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....All NATO allies and EU members want the US to remain committed to Europe’s future, to take the lead elsewhere in meeting security needs on which all agree, and to admit Europe into its strategic confidence. That now requires supporting the EU’s deep involvement in Afghanistan as its key contribution to repairing and reforming the Atlantic Alliance.



Makeshift 'Rorke's Drift' unit of medics and engineers holds out Taliban
MATTHEW HICKLEY, Daily Mail (UK), 26 Nov 06
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When a key strategic town in Afghanistan's Helmand Province fell to the Taliban, British commanders ordered that it must be retaken as a top priority. But with the UK's main fighting units locked in bloody battles further north, it was left to a ragtag band of 12 British soldiers, including TA reservists and medics, to lead a force of barely-trained Afghan soldiers and police across Taliban-held the desert. They hoped to retake the town of Garmisir within 24 hours. In fact they faced an astonishing 14 day close-quarter battle - isolated, heavily outnumbered and fighting for their lives in an action reminiscent of Rorke's Drift ....



Items from Afghanistan's museum in exile to head home
CBC.ca, 26 Nov 06
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The collection at the Afghanistan Museum in Exile, created in Switzerland in 1999, will be sent back to Kabul now that the situation in the city has been deemed stable.  The museum's officials decided to let the collection go after UNESCO, the United Nation's cultural agency, determined the Afghan capital is safe enough, according to The Art Newspaper, an international publication that covers the visual art world.  The museum is in the village of Bubendorf, 20 kilometres outside of Basel. Swiss scholar Paul Bucherer-Dietschi established the museum to house artifacts from the war-torn country.  Bucherer-Dietschi is the director of the Swiss Afghanistan Institute in Bubendorf, which safeguards historical papers about Afghanistan ....



Afghan Drug Boom Fuels Child Addiction Rates
Doctors estimate that there are more than 2,000 drug-addicted children in the western city of Herat alone

Sadeq Behnam & Sudabah Afzali, Afghan Recovery Report, ARR No. 235, 24 Nov 06
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Idris, 16, sells cigarettes for a living. Walking along the road in Herat with a wooden box hanging from his neck, he confesses that he had moved onto stronger substances.  “I didn’t want to become addicted, but I started smoking since I was selling cigarettes,” he said. “Then I tried hashish with other kids. Now I can’t work unless I smoke hash two or three times a day.”  Idris is an orphan who lost his family in fighting when the Taleban were attacking the forces of local leader Ismail Khan back in the Nineties. Homeless, he sells cigarettes during the day and sleeps in city parks at night.  There are many young people like him in Afghanistan, where families have been torn apart over decades of war ....

 

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Articles found 27 November 2006

Two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan
Updated Mon. Nov. 27 2006 12:52 PM ET CTV.ca News
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Two Canadian soldiers are dead following a suicide bomber's attack on a military convoy in southern Afghanistan, officials confirmed Monday.

"I have to announce that two Canadian soldiers were killed just outside Kandahar City," said the Commander of Canadian Forces in Southern Afghanistan Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant on Monday.

"At about 8:30 this morning a suicide bomber attacked a Canadian convoy, detonating his vehicle and killing two Canadian soldiers."

Grant said the attack took place about one kilometre outside Kandahar City.

"The two soldiers that were killed were the only ones that were injured and there were no civilian casualties," said Grant, disputing reports that an Afghan civilian had died.

The two Canadians killed are reported to be the crew commander and driver of a Bison armoured personnel carrier.

CTV's Steve Chao in Kandahar has learned that both soldiers were members of the Royal Canadian Regiment based in Petawawa, Ont. Their names are being held at the request of the families.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families back home and with the members of the battlegroup who have lost some very close friends," said Grant.

The soldiers had been helping with reconstruction projects outside Kandahar where heavy clashes had taken place over the past several months.

Chao said the suicide bomber pulled alongside the Canadian convoy in a vehicle and detonated his explosives. The bomber was reported to have been driving a small minivan.

Haji Abdullah, a mechanic in Kandahar City, told The Canadian Press he heard a "powerful bomb explosion."

"The atmosphere was very tense. Everybody was running here and there and screaming," he said.
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U.S. Units Securing, Rebuilding Afghanistan in Small Steps
By Kathleen T. Rhem American Forces Press Service
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FORWARD OPERATING BASE GHAZNI, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2006 – Bringing stability to provinces in Afghanistan and bringing areas under control of the national government is a two-step process that’s progressing steadily in small steps.
U.S. forces operating under NATO’s International Security Assistance Force at nine forward operating bases in Regional Command East and two in Regional Command South fall into two main categories: provincial reconstruction teams and maneuver units.

“Maneuver will go in, and we’ll take an area controlled by the Taliban or insurgent forces,” Army Sgt. Maj. Bryan Gran, the operations sergeant major for Task Force Iron Graze here, said yesterday. “We’ll take it from ‘red’ -- meaning controlled by the enemy -- and we’ll conduct operations in order to get rid of the enemy to make it more hospitable for the PRT to operate in.

“We get rid of the bad guys, then the (U.S. Agency for International Development) and the engineers and all those people that are going to work on the infrastructure will come in,” he added.

Gran said it’s important for an area to be relatively secure before infrastructure improvements can begin. “We don’t want to go out and build stuff when the enemy is just going to burn it down,” he said.
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Britain will never win in Afghanistan: Pakistan's NWFP governor
Islamabad, IRNA Pakistan-UK Monday November 27, 2006
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The British will never win in Afghanistan by military means and should open negotiations with the Taliban, NWFP Governor Lt-Gen (retd) Ali Mohammad Jan Aurakzai said.

According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, in an interview given to Sunday Times reporter Christina Lamb, the governor said: "Bring 50,000 more troops and fight for 10 to 15 years more and you won't resolve it. The British with their history in Afghanistan should have known that better than anyone else."
He said NATO was ignoring the realities on the ground.

The reason Taliban numbers had swelled was because moderates were joining the militants, he added.

"It is no longer an insurgency but a war of Pashtun resistance exactly on the model of the first Anglo-Afghan war," he said.

"Then too (in 1839-42) initially there were celebrations. The British built their cantonment and brought their wives and sweethearts from Delhi and didn't realize that in the meantime the Afghans were getting organized to rise up. This is exactly what Afghans are doing today and what they did against the Soviets," said Aurakzai.

"The British should have known better. No country in the world has a better understanding of the Afghan psyche, and very little has changed there in the past couple of centuries," he added.

Rather than fighting, he said, the only answer was to talk to the Taliban.

Over the past few months, he has negotiated a series of peace deals in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Pakistan had 80,000 troops in border areas, more than twice as many as NATO, and had lost about 750 soldiers, more than the entire coalition, he added.
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Afghanistan overshadows summit as NATO grapples with new strategy
By Shada Islam and Leon Mangasarian Nov 27, 2006,
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Riga - The worsening military solution in Afghanistan overshads a NATO summit opening Tuesday originally called to endorse a new counter-terrorism doctrine for the 26-nation alliance.

The upsurge in fighting in Afghanistan, where NATO has deployed over 30,000 troops, has deeply unsettled alliance leaders.

The situation is especially volatile in southern Afghanistan, where another two NATO soldiers were killed Monday in a suicide bomb attack.

'Afghanistan has made great strides...but a lot still needs to be done,' said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, speaking in the Latvian capital. 'In the south, it is tough', he added.

Scheffer is expected to press leaders to end deployment restrictions or caveats on their national forces in Afghanistan.

Mainly Canadian, British, Dutch and US troops in southern Afghanistan have been killed in intense combat with resurgent Taliban forces which were driven out of power in Afghanistan in 2001.

The pressure to drop caveats is especially strong on Germany, which has deployed 2,700 troops in mainly peaceful northern Afghanistan, but refuses to send combat forces to the south.

The NATO chief said he expected a compromise, with leaders agreeing to lift some caveats in case of emergencies.

The alliance is also due to consider US calls for stronger links with Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand. But this is rejected by France which fears such partnerships could be viewed as turning NATO into a global policeman.
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Afghanistan a more pressing issue than Iraq, says former US dep sec'y of state
The Associated PressPublished: November 27, 2006
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SINGAPORE: Afghanistan is a more immediately pressing issue than Iraq because of the potential of spillover into neighboring countries, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Monday.

"I would argue that the stakes in Afghanistan are much larger in the near term than they are in Iraq," Armitage said, predicting that Iraq's troubles would remain internal for some time.

"But if Afghanistan is not a success, (Pakistani leader) Pervez Musharraf and Pakistan will not be successful in moving to invite moderation."

And in that scenario, Armitage said, Pakistan's hard-line Muslims could gain control of the nation's nuclear weapons and missiles, which would in turn affect neighboring India.
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Dutch deny differences with NATO allies over south Afghanistan
Nov 27, 2006
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The Hague - The Dutch Defence Ministry denied Monday there were any real differences in approach to the ISAF mission in southern Afghanistan between the Dutch forces and their NATO allies, as NATO heads met in Riga.

But a defence ministry spokesman in The Hague acknowledged 'nuanced differences' between the Dutch in Uruzgan Province and the British and Canadians in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces respectively.

'There are no real differences in policy. All coalition partners are working to the ISAF mandate and with the same mission, but at some points there are nuanced differences,' a ministry spokesman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

'We are all set for the same task and pursue the same goals,' he said, denying that NATO allies were putting pressure on the Dutch to take a more active role in pursuing the Taliban.

In an interview published Monday, Dutch Major-General Ton van Loon, currently head of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, denied reports that the Dutch troops were reluctant to engage the Taliban.

'If the need arises, the Dutch boys are just as able to fight as the others,' Van Loon told the Volkskrant.
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Bombings kill 18 in Afghanistan
Suicide blast at eatery is deadliest in weeks
By Carlotta Gall, New York Times News Service. Published November 27, 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- A suicide bomber walked into a packed restaurant in southeastern Afghanistan on Sunday and set off his explosives, killing 15 other people and wounding 25, Afghan officials said.

A second suicide bomber struck a NATO military convoy Monday in southern Afghanistan, killing three, police said.

The attacks, after a few weeks of relative quiet, raised fears that insurgents were resuming their campaign of suicide bombings.

Most of those killed were civilians in the restaurant, which was in the central bazaar of Urgun, a small town in the mountainous Paktika province, which borders Pakistan.

A police official said he suspected that the bomber's intended targets had been a local official and the chief of a militia that works with U.S. forces in the province. Both men were wounded but survived, an Interior Ministry spokesman said.
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Afghanistan Combat Will Define NATO's Future at Summit in Riga
By Mark Deen and Caroline Alexander
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Nov. 27 (Bloomberg) -- NATO, the alliance formed to keep the Soviets out of Western Europe, will this week struggle over a future that is being defined a continent away on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

As casualties inflicted by Taliban insurgents mount, British lawmakers say allies, especially Germany, should do more fighting to carry their weight in the organization's biggest engagement ever. Prime Minister Tony Blair pledged to raise the issue when North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders meet in Riga, Latvia, tomorrow.

``In NATO, being a good ally used to be about showing up to fights with limited fatalities like in Bosnia and Kosovo,'' said Bastian Giegerich, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. ``Afghanistan has changed that. Now it's about sharing risk and the perception is that some people aren't doing that.''

At the summit, NATO's first in a former Soviet republic, President George W. Bush will join Blair in urging allies to add troops and ease restrictions on their use. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she'll resist such pressure while French President Jacques Chirac counters suggestions the Atlantic alliance sign up members in the Pacific such as Australia and New Zealand.

The Afghanistan debate is focused on what NATO leaders call ``caveats'' or restrictions on how and where national forces can operate. The caveats hamper the alliance commander's ability to react quickly to fighting on the ground.
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Taliban say 2 Pakistani journalists released in Afghanistan
November 27, 2006         
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The Taliban said they had freed two Pakistani journalists Sunday morning, who were abducted days ago in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan.

The journalists were released in an area in the province near Afghan-Pakistani border, a Taliban spokesman Mohammad Hanif told Xinhua from an undisclosed place by telephone.

Hanif said the two journalists, whose names are Salim Shahzad and Qamar Yousufzai, were captured by the Taliban in Baghran district days ago.

He said the journalists were arrested because they entered Taliban region without permission and without press documents.

After an investigation, the Taliban found they were really Pakistani journalist and decided to free them, Hanif said, adding they had been treated as "guests" during their captive.

Shahzad, who works for The Star newspaper in Pakistan, and Yousufzai for several media outlets, were kidnapped by Taliban militants on Nov. 21, media reports said.

Militants in this volatile country have kidnapped or attacked foreign journalists from time to time.

Some militants abducted an Italian press-photographer in Helmand on Oct. 14 but released him on Nov. 3.

Moreover, some unknown gunmen killed two German journalists in Baghlan province of northern Afghanistan on Oct. 6.

Source: Xinhua
End

A strong, prosperous Afghanistan in the interest of Pakistan: Shaukat Aziz
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz has reiterated Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan and will continue to play its role on this count adding a strong and prosperous Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan.
Article Link

" Pakistan wants a robust and prosperous Afghanistan. This is major plank of our policy. A destabilized Afghanistan is not a good omen for Pakistan as such situation adds to the difficulties of neighbouring countries", he said this while addressing 4th Altaf Gauhar memorial lecture and later talking to the journalists in prime minister secretariat Monday.

Foreign diplomats, director general ISPR, Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan and other dignitaries also attended the lecture.

Leading journalist Bryn Kalafli delivered lecture on situation of Afghanistan and peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister held Pakistan has played its role for peace and tranquility in Afghanistan. However, challenges are still there. Pakistan provided assistance of $250 millions for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan. " We inaugurated Torkham-Jalalabad road.

Afghanistan is the largest narcotics producing country and it is source of livelihood of the people there, he remarked. The international community will have to come forward to provide alternative resources. The need is there that work is done on war footing to generate employment opportunities in Afghanistan. All the stake holders will have to be involved in the process for establishment of peace there. Reconstruction process has to be carried out there so that Afghan refuges return to their homes in a respectful manner. " We have devised a strategy with Afghan government in this connection.
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AFGHANISTAN: Health crisis brewing in isolated Nuristan province
27 Nov 2006 18:35:23 GMT Source: IRIN
Article Link

KABUL, 27 November (IRIN) - The lack of a general hospital in the isolated eastern province of Nuristan means that some 300,000 people are at risk of contracting a range of preventable diseases, with many women continuing to lose their lives due to preventable pregnancy-related conditions, local officials and tribal elders said on Monday.

"Despite billions of dollars of international aid coming to the country during the past five years, unfortunately the residents of Nuristan [province] are still deprived of a hospital to treat their women and children," provincial governor Mohammad Tamim Nuristani, told IRIN.

"We have a small clinic in the capital but we don't have a surgical or even a dental ward there. There is not even a 10-bed health facility in the rest of the province for our patients," Nuristani asserted.

Health facilities are few and far between in impoverished Afghanistan with just 1,100 clinics and 100 hospitals serving a population of 30 million people.

Rugged terrain, bad roads, lack of communications and insecurity are the main problems contributing to health problems in Nuristan. At the same time, humanitarian aid is lacking as many national and international NGOs have stopped aid work there due to poor security, officials say.
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Coalition forces detain 3 men in E. Afghanistan
November 27, 2006         
Article Link

The U.S. coalition troops arrested three men in an operation searching terrorists on Sunday in Khost province of eastern Afghanistan, a coalition statement said.

The forces detained the three men in the morning in a compound near Khost city, the provincial capital, it said.

"Coalition forces, acting on credible information, entered the compound in search of members of a terrorist network operating in Khost province," it added.

A peaceful surrender of the persons within the compound was requested and no shots were fired, the statement said, adding the safety of the Afghan women and children inside was ensured.

Khost, a mountainous region, has been a stronghold of Taliban and other militants, who attack government and foreign troops frequently.

About 10,000 coalition soldiers, the bulk of which are Americans, are deployed in Afghanistan, mainly in eastern provinces, to hunt down insurgents there.

Source: Xinhua
End


Nato urged to plan Afghanistan exit strategy as violence soars
By Stephen Castle in Brussels and Kim Sengupta in Kabul  27 November 2006
Article Link

Nato's fragile unity over Afghanistan has begun to crack ahead of an important summit - with one public call to discuss an exit strategy from the Allied forces' bloody confrontation with the Taliban.

While heads of government are to make a show of unity over Afghanistan at tomorrow's alliance summit in Riga, Belgium's Defence Minister has questioned the future of Nato's most important mission.

And heads of the alliance's 26 nations are unlikely to agree to send reinforcements to Afghanistan - dealing a blow to Tony Blair's hopes that others will take up more of the increasingly heavy burden.

In the bloodiest day of violence to grip the country in many weeks, a series of fierce clashes between Nato forces and Taliban fighters and a suicide bombing left 76 people dead and more than 45 injured yesterday, many of them children.

Though Belgium only makes a small military contribution to the Nato mission, the Minister's comments will alarm senior figures at the alliance's headquarters where there is already concern that France is getting cold feet about its role in Afghanistan. Paris has remained publicly committed to the mission but Nato sources are concerned about the possibility of an eventual French withdrawal. They are pressing for an enhanced UN profile in Afghanistan to reassure the French who are suspicious about an expanded role for Nato because of Washington's hold over the alliance.

André Flahaut, the Belgian Defence Minister, brought anxieties about the Afghan mission into the open when he suggested that, at the Riga summit, "we finally reflect on an exit strategy". Five years after the start of Western involvement in Afghanistan, Mr Flahaut calls into question its prospects of success.

In an interview with Le Vif-L'Express magazine, Mr Flahaut argued: "The situation is deteriorating and, over time, Nato forces risk appearing like an army of occupation." Discussions of an exit strategy are the last thing the Nato top brass wants to hear because it is hoping to use this week to reinforce a message of unity on Afghanistan.

The summit in Riga - the first to be held on ex-Soviet territory - will be attended by, among others, George Bush, Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair.

The rising violence in Afghanistan could be seen yesterday, with Nato reporting the loss of one soldier and 57 insurgents killed during four separate attacks in the south. Local people said at least 12 civilians died during an air strike.

Just hours after the fighting in Oruzgan province, a suicide bomber destroyed a restaurant in the Orgun district of Paktika. The blast is believed to have been aimed at an Afghan military commander but among the 25 dead and 20 injured were a number of children.

With 37 countries, including a host of non-Nato nations, contributing to the operation in Afghanistan a total of about 32,000 troops have been assembled .

In Riga, Nato is hoping for progress on one of the main problems facing commanders in the field: restrictions placed by national capitals on the use of their troops.

Nato's fragile unity over Afghanistan has begun to crack ahead of an important summit - with one public call to discuss an exit strategy from the Allied forces' bloody confrontation with the Taliban.

While heads of government are to make a show of unity over Afghanistan at tomorrow's alliance summit in Riga, Belgium's Defence Minister has questioned the future of Nato's most important mission.

And heads of the alliance's 26 nations are unlikely to agree to send reinforcements to Afghanistan - dealing a blow to Tony Blair's hopes that others will take up more of the increasingly heavy burden.

In the bloodiest day of violence to grip the country in many weeks, a series of fierce clashes between Nato forces and Taliban fighters and a suicide bombing left 76 people dead and more than 45 injured yesterday, many of them children.

Though Belgium only makes a small military contribution to the Nato mission, the Minister's comments will alarm senior figures at the alliance's headquarters where there is already concern that France is getting cold feet about its role in Afghanistan. Paris has remained publicly committed to the mission but Nato sources are concerned about the possibility of an eventual French withdrawal. They are pressing for an enhanced UN profile in Afghanistan to reassure the French who are suspicious about an expanded role for Nato because of Washington's hold over the alliance
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Afghanistan's fledgling army joins fight
Sun, Nov. 26, 2006  FISNIK ABRASHI Associated Press

PANJWAYI, Afghanistan - Bandoliers draped over their chests and rocket-propelled grenades slung on their backs, Afghan soldiers venture slowly out of their base of mud huts and green tents for a patrol with Canadian troops through this restive southern town.

Such operations are at the heart of efforts by the United States and NATO to bolster Afghanistan's security forces and open the way for the departure of Western troops.

"They are our exit strategy," said Maj. Francoise Bisillon, who is part of the Canadian team that lives with, trains and mentors Afghan soldiers in Panjwayi.

Their short morning patrol might not seem like dangerous work, but the area is NATO's front line against Taliban militants. Clashes erupt in nearby fields almost every day.

This year alone, 34 Canadian soldiers have been killed in Kandahar province, most of them in insurgent attacks near the Argandab River, a fertile valley of orchards and vineyards that is a green oasis in an expanse of brown desert and barren mountains.

Close-quarter fighting over the summer in the province's Panjwayi, Pashmul and Zhari areas killed hundreds of militants, but dozens of civilians also died - deaths that have soured relations between locals and Western troops.

Few children wave as the patrol passes through the town, and local men sipping tea in front of shops offer only a steely gaze.

Despite the summer offensive designed to root out the Taliban, militants remain active in this area, firing rockets and mortars one minute and mingling with civilians the next.

Relying on local soldiers who know the terrain and can tell a farmer from a militant is vital to NATO's two-pronged approach in the south: restoring security by driving off the militants while kick-starting long-promised economic development to improve the lives of poor villagers in hopes of bolstering loyalty for Afghanistan's government.

"They are good fighters and they know the ground," Warrant Officer Daniel Parenteau, 38, said of the Afghan soldiers leading the foot patrol past farm fields and into town.
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Items from Afghanistan's museum in exile to head home
Last Updated: Sunday, November 26, 2006 | 1:52 PM ET  CBC Arts
Article Link

The collection at the Afghanistan Museum in Exile, created in Switzerland in 1999, will be sent back to Kabul now that the situation in the city has been deemed stable.

The museum's officials decided to let the collection go after UNESCO, the United Nation's cultural agency, determined the Afghan capital is safe enough, according to The Art Newspaper, an international publication that covers the visual art world.

The museum is in the village of Bubendorf, 20 kilometres outside of Basel. Swiss scholar Paul Bucherer-Dietschi established the museum to house artifacts from the war-torn country.

Bucherer-Dietschi is the director of the Swiss Afghanistan Institute in Bubendorf, which safeguards historical papers about Afghanistan.

At the start of the museum's creation, Bucherer-Dietschi had been arranging to relocate the collection at the Kabul Museum through UNESCO. But it proved to be too difficult under the Taliban regime.
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Nato urges end of right to opt out of Afghanistan combat
Michael Evans, Defence Editor November 27, 2006
Article Link 

Germany, France, Spain and Italy will come under pressure this week to surrender the “red cards” that allow them to keep their troops away from the most dangerous areas of operations in Afghanistan.
The issue of national caveats, under which Nato governments can opt out of certain operations when they choose, is expected to dominate the alliance heads of government summit, in the Latvian capital, Riga, which starts tomorrow.

Some senior diplomats and military officials say that the credibility of the alliance in its most important mission overseas is at stake. About 90 per cent of the casualties suffered by troops serving with Nato’s International Security Assistance Force have involved just four countries: the US, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands.

An American soldier and 55 insurgents were killed over the weekend in a clash with Taleban fighters in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

Alliance sources said yesterday that there remained considerable resentment over the negative response by certain member states to appeals for more troops during Operation Medusa, in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, in the summer. It was a mainly Canadian mission but it involved troops from the US, Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark.
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Suicide attacks are acquiring deadly foothold in Afghanistan Suicide attacks increasing in Afghanistan
Weapon of choice for Taliban militants has killed hundreds
Rahman Nullah, Chronicle Foreign Service Sunday, November 26, 2006
Article Link

(11-26) 04:00 PST Spin Boldak, Afghanistan -- For the past several months, Mullah Ezatullah has been training a half dozen would-be fedayeen, or "men of sacrifice," in a remote camp in the art of blowing themselves up.

"They are now ready to destroy the enemies of Islam and free Afghanistan from foreign invaders," said Ezatullah, who like many Afghans goes by one name.

Last year, suicide attacks were rare occurrences in Afghanistan. But they have grown deadlier and more frequent. NATO said that as of the middle of November, 97 suicide attacks have killed 217 people in the country this year. In September and October alone, nearly 100 people were killed in such attacks, including 18 outside the governor's compound in Helmand province, 16 near the U.S. Embassy and 12 outside the Interior Ministry in Kabul.

Gen. Abdul Manan Farahie, chief of the Interior Ministry's anti-terrorism department, has told reporters that most suicide attacks are planned in Pakistan and carried out by men who have little training.

"The Afghans doing the suicide attack, they were in the madrassas (religious schools) for five, six, seven months. They had no contact with their families, and they are under the psychological control of the mullahs," Farahie told the Associated Press. "If they had contact with their families, they would say, 'Don't do this.' "
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- edited 272146EST Nov to add Der Spiegel article -

Blast in Afghanistan kills two Canadians
Reuters (UK), 271842EST Nov 06
Article Link

A suicide bomber killed two Canadian soldiers in an attack on an alliance convoy in Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar on Monday.  Canadians form the bulk of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the province.  Civilians said the bomber plowed into the convoy in a car. NATO forces sealed off the site of the attack on a road where several government buildings are located, they said.  Flames and smoke rose from one of the vehicles and a NATO helicopter hovered overhead, the witnesses said.  The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack and military chief Mullah Dadullah said suicide bombers had infiltrated every city and would strike again.  "Our squad of would-be suicide bombers has become much bigger after new inductions and they are waiting for their targets to hit," he told Reuters from a secret location.  "We have chalked out plans very carefully so that foreign troops could suffer maximum losses in our attacks." ....



Brewery employees to donate week's beer rations to Canadian troops in Afghanistan
Canadian Press, 27 Nov 06
Article Link

Canadian troops in Afghanistan can expect a little extra holiday cheer under the Christmas tree this season.  Or rather, holiday beer. Employees at Steam Whistle Brewery have decided to donate one week's worth of staff beer rations to soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The company has vowed to match those donations ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Nato searches for heavyweight fixer to break deadlock
Michael Evans, Times Online (UK), 28 Nov 06
Article Link

Nato leaders want a highpowered “international fixer” to be appointed for Afghanistan to help to force through political reforms and anti-drug policies, sources said on the eve of the alliance’s summit in Riga.  As two more Canadian soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan yesterday, bringing Canada’s fatalities to 34 this year, the sources said it was vital that Nato’s military and reconstruction efforts were backed up by a heavyweight political initiative. “We need someone of real standing who can go to President Karzai in Kabul and to President Musharraf in Pakistan and knock heads together,” a senior diplomatic source said.  Nato leaders will discuss the appointment of a High Representative, similar to the role played by Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon in Bosnia. “We would like a real heavyweight like Paddy Ashdown,” the source said ....



AFGHANISTAN OVERSHADOWS NATO MEETING
Allies Deeply Divided on Eve of Summit

Der Speigel, 27 Nov 06
Article Link

As western leaders prepare to gather in Riga for the NATO summit, the alliance is deeply divided on Afghanistan. While the Americans and British want a military solution, the Germans are lobbying for their brand of development aid backed by armed troops. 
The United States president was connected by secure video line to the situation room of the German chancellery. Only a handful of senior staff were allowed to attend as George W. Bush and Angela Merkel discussed the state of the world.  The situation in Iraq, the nuclear dispute with Iran, the crisis in Lebanon -- they left out none of the issues that Western leaders are grappling with. Finally the chancellor turned to the most sensitive issue on her mind.  Yes, the situation in Afghanistan was difficult, but the German army was doing an important job in the north. That's where 40 percent of the Afghan population lives. With almost 3,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, she reminded the president, Germany was one of the biggest troop contributors and was making a major contribution to civil reconstruction and had already trained 16,000 police officers ....


NATO strives to mend rift over its future role
France and U.S. are at odds at summit

Judy Dempsey, International Herald Tribune, 27 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO was struggling Monday to resolve differences between the United States and France over the future role of the military alliance at a time when it is facing a crucial test in Afghanistan.  Diplomats attending the summit meeting in Riga - the first time a former Communist country that was once ruled directly by the Kremlin is playing host to such a meeting - said Washington and Paris represented competing camps that were trying to define NATO's role on the global stage.  Nicholas Burns, U.S. under secretary of state for political affairs, and a former ambassador to NATO, said last week that he wanted the alliance to forge a special relationship with countries that are already helping the 26-nation alliance in Afghanistan where it is facing a sharp surge in violence by Taliban fighters and warlords ....


Dutch deny differences with NATO allies over south Afghanistan
Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa (DEU), Nov 27, 2006
Article Link

The Dutch Defence Ministry denied Monday there were any real differences in approach to the ISAF mission in southern Afghanistan between the Dutch forces and their NATO allies, as NATO heads met in Riga.  But a defence ministry spokesman in The Hague acknowledged 'nuanced differences' between the Dutch in Uruzgan Province and the British and Canadians in Helmand and Kandahar Provinces respectively.   'There are no real differences in policy. All coalition partners are working to the ISAF mandate and with the same mission, but at some points there are nuanced differences,' a ministry spokesman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa ....


The NATO Riga Summit: Time for Backbone in the Alliance
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., Heritage Foundation WebMemo #1261, 27 Nov 06
Article Link

....  Many major European Union countries are deploying militarily neutered forces in Afghanistan, commanded by lackluster political leaders petrified of the public reaction to troop casualties, and refusing to redeploy their soldiers to the south for military operations against the Taliban. This is a sorry spectacle that makes a mockery of Europe’s professed commitment to the war on terrorism. NATO is a war-fighting alliance, not a glorified peacekeeping group ....


Weakened Bush to meet NATO allies on Afghanistan
Paul Taylor, Reuters (UK), 27 Nov 06
Article Link

U.S. President George W. Bush, weakened by election setbacks at home and worsening violence in Iraq, meets his NATO allies on Tuesday to seek ways to overcome another major security challenge -- in Afghanistan.  As Bush flew into the Baltic state of Estonia on his way to a NATO summit in neighbouring Latvia, his top security adviser denied growing talk that Iraq had plunged into a civil war, but acknowledged that sectarian violence had entered "a new phase".  White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said NATO leaders would affirm their determination to prevail over Islamist militants in Afghanistan, the most remote and complex military mission in the 26-nation alliance's history ....


NATO Leaders Promote Values, Focus on Afghanistan
Key U.S. senator tells conference dinner Afghanistan is “test case” for NATO

Vince Crawley, US Information Service, 27 Nov 06
Article Link

As NATO’s 26 heads of state prepare to gather for their first summit in a former Soviet republic, leaders stressed that the alliance is based on common values and remains committed to stabilizing Afghanistan and promoting a democratic way of life.  “Since its creation in 1949, NATO has defended key values" shared by its member states, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters November 27 in Riga.  When a journalist asked whether NATO leaders were aware of memorials in and around Riga commemorating tens of thousands of Holocaust victims murdered during World War II, de Hoop Scheffer said the military alliance was founded in part to prevent such atrocities in the future.  “I think quite honestly that the values that NATO has always defended -- and is defending as we speak … prevent these kinds of unspeakable atrocities from taking place again,” he said ....



Afghanistan: NATO must ensure justice for victims of civilian deaths and torture
Amnesty International news release, AI Index: ASA 11/021/2006 (Public), via Reliefweb.net, 27 Nov 06
News Release

NATO leaders must set up a joint body, together with partners in Afghanistan, to pursue justice for civilians whose human rights may have been violated by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan, said Amnesty International ahead of the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia on 28/29 November.  Amnesty International is concerned that the legal basis for the presence of ISAF in the country places it outside Afghan law and beyond the effective reach of justice in members' own countries.  "ISAF has a crucial role to play in securing the rule of law in Afghanistan. We urge NATO leaders to ensure that ISAF does not fall short of international humanitarian and human rights law in pursuing this aim," said Tim Parritt, Deputy Asia Pacific Director at Amnesty International ....


NATO Riga Summit: Let aid agencies do their job in Afghanistan
Norwegian Refugee Council news release #1946-2006, via Reliefweb.net, 27 Nov 06
News Release

Upon the convening of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) Riga Summit in Latvia(28 – 29 November 2006) the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has called upon Member States to dramatically revamp NATO’s security strategy in Afghanistan. According to NRC and other aid agencies across the country, NATO should play a significant but circumscribed role in Afghanistanin accordance with the organisation’s mandate and comparative advantage.  “NATO should do what it does best – support the security sector and keep the peace – so that aid agencies can do what we do best – deliver protection and assistance to civilians in need,” said Ann Kristin Brunborg, NRC’s Regional Resident Representative responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran ....



Waziristan accord not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for Bin Laden
Daily Times (PAK), 28 Nov 06
Article Link

Brian Cloughley, a British expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan affairs, said on Monday that the peace treaty in South Waziristan Agency did not provide a ‘get out of jail free’ card to anyone including Osama bin Laden.  Speaking at the fourth Altaf Gohar Memorial Lecture, he said the agreement had received criticism within Pakistan and abroad, but it was premature to say whether the initiative would work or not. The lecture titled, “Some Major Developments Affecting Afghanistan and Pakistan”, was presided over by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.  Cloughley said the agreement permitted foreign residents to remain in those tribal areas. “These people, probably some hundreds, were absorbed in various tribes at the end of the US anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan and are equal members of the tribes.”  He said drug production and stationing of foreign troops in Afghanistan were the two major concerns for Pakistan.  He said the International Security Assistance Force’s mission did not include reference to drug control and the mission of the NATO force remained equally unclear ....



U.S. Military Operations Evolve as Afghan Army Becomes More Capable
Kathleen T. Rhem, American Forces Press Service, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

FORWAD OPERATING BASE GHAZNI, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2006 – U.S. military operations and missions have changed since the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom and will continue to change as the Afghan National Army becomes a more capable and respected force.  “Every operation we do, we do with the ANA,” Army Sgt. Maj. Bryan Gran, operations sergeant major for Task Force Iron Graze here, said in a Thanksgiving Day interview. “If a squad of our guys goes out, a platoon of their guys goes out; if a platoon of our guys goes out, a company of their guys goes out.”   Task Force Iron Graze comprises the 102nd Infantry Battalion, of the Connecticut Army National Guard. The unit falls under the 10th Mountain Division here and works in concert with Afghan army units throughout the 28,000-square-kilometer Ghazni province.  “We will not go into a compound by ourselves,” Gran said. “We do not kick down doors any more; those days are over.” ....


U.S. Soldiers Work With Afghan Army to Fortify, Instill Discipline
Kathleen T. Rhem, American Forces Press Service, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GHAZNI, Afghanistan, Nov. 24, 2006 – As winter tightens its grip on Afghanistan -- higher elevations already are snow-covered -- U.S. forces are striving to fortify their Afghan National Army counterpart units and instill professional discipline to keep the Afghan soldiers on duty year-round.  “Traditionally, they all go home in winter,” Army Sgt. Maj. Bryan Gran, operations sergeant major for Task Force Iron Graze here, said in a Thanksgiving Day interview. “We’ve got to try to get them away from that. And the way to do that is we’ve got to provide them with suitable living quarters so that they can stay.”   Task Force Iron Graze comprises the 102nd Infantry Battalion, of the Connecticut Army National Guard. The unit falls under the 10th Mountain Division here and works in concert with Afghan army units throughout the 28,000-square-kilometer Ghazni province ....



Free, Quality Education for Every Afghan Child
Oxfam Briefing Paper 93, 27 Nov 06
Report Summary/Links - News Release

Half of the children in Afghanistan still do not go to school despite a 500 per cent increase in enrolments in the last six years. With the establishment of democracy, the main symbol of national regeneration lay in the dream of educating every child – boy and girl. However, there remain many obstacles to achieving this dream.  Household contributions to education are steep and deter new entrants. Those in schools are faced with inadequate educational materials, textbooks, and teachers. Budget allocation and spending in the education sector by various stakeholders remain largely unco-ordinated and opaque. This briefing paper outlines some of the key concerns, and proposes a plan for not only increased funding, but also reforming budget allocation and planning within the Ministry of Education and amongst other actors in the education sector ....

 

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Our soldiers aren't trying to 'kill everybody'
Christie Blatchford, Globe & Mail, 28 Nov 06
Column Link - Permalink

Over the course of my time in Afghanistan and in dozens more interviews with the returned members of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and others back at home, I know the young men and women (and let's put aside the gender correctness for the moment, the majority of our troops are men) who wear the Maple Leaf well, and the one bloody thing I am sure of is that they are not indiscriminate killers.  In truth, they are precisely the opposite. They are highly discriminating killers ....  Indeed, the combination of their careful training, the decisions of their commanders and the detailed rules of engagement that govern them has sometimes seen Canadians, and our allies in combat there, choose a course of action that sees them suffer casualties rather than the easier one, which might cause civilian deaths ....



NATO's steps to an Afghan win: defence, development, diplomacy
CAN PM Stephen Harper & NLD PM Jan Peter Balkenende, Globe & Mail, 28 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

.... we need to ensure security in the five southern Afghan provinces. This is where Canada has just transferred command of NATO's International Security Assistance Force to the Netherlands. There is still hard work to be done there with boots on the ground. We are confident that allies understand the importance of standing together and ensuring that ISAF has the forces, resources and flexibility for success in these provinces ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Nato Afghan mission 'achievable'
BBC Online, 28 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghanistan is "mission possible", the head of Nato has said in an effort to encourage hesitant members of the pact to boost their commitment to the area.  Despite a strengthening Taleban, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer insisted the alliance could succeed in its Afghan mission and even start pulling out by 2008 ....


NATO eyes Afghan handover in 2008
CNN, 28 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO's military operation in Afghanistan will succeed, the alliance's chief said Tuesday, urging member countries not to lose heart despite a strengthening Taliban insurgency and unexpectedly high casualties.  Speaking to a forum before a two-day summit, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer insisted the alliance will prevail in its first mission outside Europe. He also expressed hoped that by 2008, Afghan forces could begin taking over security tasks.  "I would hope that by 2008, we'll have made considerable progress ... (with) effective and trusted Afghan security forces gradually taking control," he said.  Although De Hoop Scheffer predicted that by 2008, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization also will be able to reduce its presence in Kosovo, where about 17,000 peacekeepers are deployed, he said he could not yet envisage drawing down in Afghanistan.  "Our exit strategy will depend on Afghanistan having its own security forces," he said, adding that NATO would launch a training program for the Afghan army ....


NATO chief sees handover to Afghan troops in 2008
Reuters (UK), 28 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO forces should be able to hand over responsibility to Afghanistan's security forces gradually in 2008, the alliance's secretary-general said on Tuesday.  Jaap de Hoop Scheffer gave a glimpse of NATO's exit strategy from its most dangerous combat mission in a speech to a security conference hours before the start of a summit of alliance leaders in Latvia.  "I would hope that by 2008, we will have made considerable progress ... and effective and trusted Afghan security forces gradually taking control," he told the Riga Conference, appealing to allies to provide more troops with fewer national restrictions on their use in the meantime.  But De Hoop Scheffer said that at present any talk of withdrawals in Afghanistan was premature.  He noted the 32,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force could only consider pulling out troops when Afghan security forces were able to take over ....


Bush pleads for more NATO troops for Afghanistan
Paul Taylor, Reuters (UK), 28 Nov 06
Article Link

President Bush appealed to NATO allies on Tuesday to provide more troops with fewer national restrictions for the alliance's most dangerous mission in Afghanistan, hours before a summit of allied leaders.  "To succeed in Afghanistan, NATO allies must provide the forces NATO military commanders require," Bush told a joint news conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on his way to the NATO meeting in neighboring Latvia.  "Like Estonia, member nations must accept difficult assignments if we expect to be successful," he said in a veiled reference to numerous so-called national caveats that restrict where, when and how allies' troops can be used.  NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a security conference in Riga it was unacceptable that allied forces in southern Afghanistan, the main battleground with resurgent Taliban fighters, were 20 percent below the required strength.  "Just as we need combat forces that can also handle reconstruction, we can ill afford reconstruction armies that cannot handle combat," he told the Riga Conference ....

 

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Articles found 28 November 2006

Canadian soldier injured in suicide attack
Canadian Press
Article Link

Kandahar — A Canadian soldier has been slightly injured in a suicide bomb attack in the Panjwaii District of Kandahar Province Tuesday.

The afternoon attack on a Bison armoured personnel carrier occurred just south of the Arghandab River.

Lieutenant Commander Kris Phillips said the suicide bomb attack was “completely ineffective” and the injured soldier received only flash burns.

The attack came a day after two Canadian soldiers, Sergeant Major Bobby Girouard and Chief Warrant Officer Albert Storm were killed in a suicide bomb attack near Kandahar
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Afghans to use herbicide on nation's poppy crop
U.S. efforts to quell country's opium boom 'will make the situation worse,' official says
GRAEME SMITH From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
Article Link

TIRIN KOT, AFGHANISTAN — The United States has persuaded Afghanistan to spray herbicide on poppy fields in an effort to slow the country's opium boom, according to a senior Western diplomat.

A security review will be conducted before the plan goes ahead, the diplomat said. But already rumours of chemical eradication are spreading in southern Afghanistan, where many say it would spark a revolt among farmers and put Canadian soldiers at risk.

Afghanistan has not previously tried chemical spraying, as President Hamid Karzai expressed deep misgivings about the effects of herbicides on villagers and legitimate crops.

But U.S. politicians are now encouraging a more aggressive drug policy in Afghanistan, after estimates show this year's opium crop was 59 per cent bigger than the previous year's harvest.
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Patrolling with Canadians in Panjwaii
Extreme caution the order of the day
By Bill Graveland Photos by Bill Graveland/Canadian Press
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CP reporter Bill Graveland is embedded with Canadian soldiers on the front lines in Afghanistan. Here is his account of a day with the troops on patrol.

PANJWAII, Afghanistan (CP) — It was just too good to pass up — a chance to go out on foot patrol with Canadian and Afghan troops in this tiny village in the middle of a war zone.
After two weeks in Afghanistan at the relatively safe Canadian base at Kandahar airfield, I was thankful for a chance to get “outside the wire” as the military puts it and see our troops in action.

I was already at the small Canadian camp near the village of Panjwaii, the site of suicide bombings and intense fighting with the Taliban earlier this year, when the opportunity presented itself.

The day got off to a rocky start though when there was a loud bang and explosion from a suspected Taliban rocket, which landed within the camp. It was believed to have been fired from as far as eight kilometres away.

It blew a hole in the ground with plenty of smoke but failed to hit anything.

“No collateral damage to speak of. Just a rock pile took a beating,” Warrant Officer Jean Blain of Montreal assured me.   
Canadian gunners filed several volleys in return.
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Canadian medics just as hardcore as combat troops in Afghanistan
Friday Nov24 2006 BILL GRAVELAND
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PANJWAII, Afghanistan (CP) - Don't let the blonde hair, blue eyes and dazzling white smile fool you. Cpl. Shannon Fretter of Springhill, N.S. is as hardcore as any grizzled fighting man in the Canadian Forces.
Fretter, a medic who has been stationed with troops during the heaviest fighting in Panjwaii district, was on her way to Kandahar Air Field on Friday for a couple of days of downtime. "I just want to smell like a girl again," she lamented, pulling at a strand of hair sticking out from beneath her toque.

Fretter, 32, is a mother of five and has a husband waiting at home in Petawawa, Ont. She has become a popular subject for members of the Afghan National Army, who are forever begging her to pose for pictures with them.

"It's the blonde hair and blue eyes. They don't get to see it that much here. The boys keep teasing me that they're lining the grape huts with my picture just like they do with their porn for their vehicles," she giggled.

"They think it's cool that I have a gun and I stand there with my rifle and do action poses. I've had at least 200 photos so I'm a pinup girl for the Canadian army," Fretter said.

But look behind the aesthetics and you find someone who has been in the heat of action and watched close friends die. 
"I've never hated anyone in my life until my buddies started dying and there's nothing in the world that can bring them back," Fretter said thoughtfully. But the words sound little like those of a medic.

"There is the satisfaction that these people are not going to be able to do it again. We're pushing them back as far as we can every time we get a chance to go out there. The Americans call it hunting," she added. "I look at it this way - the more we get of them the less they get of their own people."
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Suicide car bomber kills policeman in western Afghanistan
The Associated Press
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A suicide car bomber exploded his vehicle next to a counterterrorism police truck that had been chasing him in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing one police officer and injuring another, an official said.

Police tried to stop and search the suicide bomber's car and gave chase when he didn't stop, said Noor Khan Nekzad, spokesman for the provincial police chief of Herat province.

One policeman was killed and the province's deputy counterterrorism chief was wounded in the explosion, 10 kilometers (5 miles) south of Herat city, said Nekzad. The bomber also died.

A remote control bomb, meanwhile, exploded next to a police convoy Monday night in the Shindand district of Herat province, injuring three police, said Sayed Sarajuddin, the district police chief.
End

Oregon General Rees Credits Soldiers for Improvements in AfghanistanTim King, Salem-News.com Nov-27-2006 22:44 
Article Link

Generals visit Forward Operating Base near Uzbekestan to acknowledge efforts of troops

(KABUL, Afghanistan) - My senses were assaulted by the most amazing scenes in Afghanistan this week, when I had an opportunity to visit a forward operating base in the northern part of the country. The purpose was a visit from a number of National Guard generals from different states including Oregon's General Raymond Rees.

The trip from Camp Phoenix in Kabul involved rides in an armored Suburban, a KC-130 aircraft and a fully up armored Humvee combat vehicle. The trip further compounded my belief that the American mission in Afghanistan is centered more closely around humanitarian work than combat. General Rees says the U.S. mission is gaining ground.

"Soldiers are doing a fantastic job, I've seen a real improvement in everything that is going on. I was here ten months ago in the January timeframe and clearly things are much improved over what I saw then." The longest part of the trip was made in a KC-130 transport plane from the Michigan National Guard. Flying high over the northern regions of Afghanistan, the plane delivered us to the air facility at Mazaur e Shariff, a base occupied and protected by a number of coalition military groups including the U.S. French Special Forces. This is the place where the first American was killed after U.S. forces landed in Afghanistan.  The last leg of the journey to the combat base at Metz was made in a Humvee. The roadways place the Americans in a close proximity to the people of Afghanistan.

This is one of the smoothest roads I've traveled so far in Afghanistan. The purpose of this convoy is to get generals out to visit bases they haven't seen yet, forward operating bases, and
to have a chance to say thank you for the efforts of these soldiers.
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Clashes break out in Afghanistan
7.41, Mon Nov 27 2006
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NATO forces have killed 55 Taliban fighters and one of their own soldiers died in fierce clashes in southern Afghanistan.

Troops from the defence alliance called in close air support after they came under attack in the southern province of Uruzgan.

The nationality of the soldier killed was not disclosed, but Dutch troops form the bulk of NATO presence in Uruzgan, a remote, rugged province, where support for the Taliban is strong.

A statement issued from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul said: "Initial battle damage assessment indicates that approximately 50 insurgents were killed in the attack.

"Regrettably, an ISAF soldier was also killed during the same incident."

The deaths come after a suicide bomber also killed seven Afghans at a restaurant in the Urgun district of southeastern Paktika province.

All of the victims were civilians, but several provincial officials, including the district chief, were among the wounded according to Paktika's governor Mohammad Akram Khpelwak.
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Drug industry threatens to derail Afghanistan's State building says UN/World Bank report
By Finfacts Team Nov 28, 2006,
Article Link

Efforts to combat opium production in Afghanistan have been marred by corruption and have failed to prevent the consolidation of the drugs trade in the hands of fewer powerful players with strong political connections, says a report released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank.

According to the report, entitled Afghanistan's Drug Industry: Structure, Functioning, Dynamics, and Implications for Counter-Narcotics Policy, efforts to combat opium have achieved only limited success and have lacked sustainability.

Strong enforcement efforts against farmers are often ineffective in remote areas with limited resources, assets, and markets. The impact of eradication of opium poppy fields, and of reductions in cultivation resulting from the threat of eradication, tends to be felt most by poor farmers and rural wage labourers, who lack political support, are unable to pay bribes and cannot otherwise protect themselves.

The report says that, far from leading to sustained declines in total national cultivation, success in reducing cultivation in one province often leads to increases elsewhere, or cultivation in the province itself rebounds in the following year (as occurred in Helmand province after 2003).

Corruption in the eradication process has also had negative side-effects. Wealthier opium producers pay bribes to avoid having their crops eradicated, greatly reducing the effectiveness of counter-narcotics measures and gravely undermining the credibility of the government and its local representatives.

"History teaches us that it will take a generation to render Afghanistan opium-free," said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC. "But we need concrete results now, for example by doubling the number of opium-free provinces from the current six in 2007. I therefore propose that development support to farmers, the arrest of corrupt officials and eradication measures be concentrated in half a dozen provinces with low cultivation in 2006 so as to free them from the scourge of opium. Those driving the drug industry must be brought to justice and officials who support it sacked."
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Rookie cager feels honored to represent Afghanistan at Doha Asiad
November 28, 2006         
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Afghan athletes all feel honored to represent their country at the Asian Games, said a young basketball player Monday after attending the South Asian delegation's flag raising ceremony in the Athletes' Village of Doha.

"We are here not expecting to win medals, but to represent our country," said Ali Noorzad who did not become a national player until the Afghan basketball team called up a batch of youngsters to a training camp in the United States in preparations for the Doha Asiad.

It's the first time that the war-destroyed country sends a basketball team for Asian Games competitions after long being apart from the Olympic sports family, and none of the team members intended to go getting some astonishing results from the Doha competitions.

"We came from different parts of the country, we were doing preparations for the Asian Games for just one week, and it's really challenges for us to play against all those strong teams of Asia," said Noorzad, referring to the harsh situation inside his country, which could hardly offer regular training bases for the athletes and teams.

"It's also the first time for most of us to represent our country at an Asian Games. We'll do as good as we can," he added.

The Afghan delegation grouped 86 members including 51 athletes to take part in 11 sports here at the Doha Asiad, which is to be officially unveiled on Dec. 1.

Source: Xinhua
End

Chirac proposes forming contact group on Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn 2006-11-28 04:41:53 
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     PARIS, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- French President Jacques Chirac proposed forming a contact group on Afghanistan to ensure that a global strategy guides NATO action in the country, French presidential office said on Monday.

    Chirac made the remarks during the telephone conversation with his U.S. counterpart George W. Bush.

    The two leaders also talked about the situation in the Middle East and "notably the Israeli-Palestinian situation and international action toward Lebanon," said the spokesman.

    Bush left Washington on Monday for an international tour that first takes him to Estonia, Latvia and finally to Jordan, where he will meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
Editor: Mu Xuequan 
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Two Canadian soldiers killed by suicide bomber 
CEFCOM/COMFEC news release #NR–06.032, 28 Nov 06
News release

Two Canadian soldiers were killed on November 27 at approximately 8:35 am (Kandahar time) when their Bison Light Armoured Vehicle was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a car laden with explosives. The incident occurred on Highway 4 between Kandahar Airfield and Kandahar City. There were no other Canadian casualties.

Killed in the attack were:

Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group; and
Corporal Albert Storm, also of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group based in Petawawa, On.

Chief Warrant Officer Girouard and Cpl Storm will be greatly missed by all the members of joint Task Force Afghanistan. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten and this event will not prevent us from continuing our operations in Kandahar.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan are serving alongside soldiers and civilians from 36 countries under the NATO-led, UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). A key part of Canada’s ‘whole of government’ assistance to Afghanistan is helping to establish the security necessary to promote development.

-30-


Message from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada on the occasion of the death of two Canadian soldiers
Governor General of Canada web page, 28 Nov 06
Statement

"I was deeply saddened to learn, from Ghana where I am currently conducting a State visit, of the death of two of our soldiers in Afghanistan. Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Corporal Albert Storm were the victims of a car bomb suicide attack while they were driving in an armoured vehicle, south of Kandahar.

I have the deepest respect for the commitment of the members of our Forces who are deploying major efforts to counter oppression and to ensure that women, children and men can thrive in a safe environment.

On behalf of all Canadians, I wish to extend my sincere condolences to the families and friends of Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Corporal Albert Storm. I also share the sadness of their colleagues in the Canadian Forces who are grieving the loss of two of their own, but who remain determined to meet all dangers head-on to make sure that justice and freedom will prevail."

-30-


Statement by the Prime Minister on the deaths of Robert Girouard and Albert Storm
Prime Minister of Canada web page, 28 Nov 06
Statement

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today issued the following statement on the deaths of Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Corporal Albert Storm:

“It is with deep sorrow that I extend my condolences, and those of the entire Government of Canada and all Canadians, to the families and friends of Chief Warrant Officer Girouard and Corporal Storm, who were killed yesterday in Afghanistan.

“The resolve and courage demonstrated by Chief Warrant Officer Girouard and Corporal Storm represent Canadian values and beliefs in the finest tradition.  They will be missed by the Canadian Forces family, and their loss is also Canada's loss.  We stand united in pride and pledge to remember their sacrifice. We thank Chief Warrant Officer Girouard and Corporal Storm for their commitment and contribution in serving our country and in helping the Afghan people.

“Canada will not be deterred from the mission to assist the Afghan people achieve greater stability and security.  Our progress is gradual but we are determined to achieve irreversible success. Yesterday morning I spoke with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and he expressed his condolences on the loss of our two soldiers.  He noted that Canada is making a difference in Afghanistan, particularly in the south, and he expressed that Canada as part of the NATO alliance is making the world a safer place by making Afghanistan a safer place.

“I know that Canadians stand proudly behind our Canadian Forces as they carry out this mission.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of Chief Warrant Officer Girouard and Corporal Storm on this sad day.”


Statement by the Minister of National Defence on the Deaths of Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Corporal Albert Storm
Department of National Defence web page, 28 Nov 06
Statement

The Honourable Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence, issued the following statement today on the deaths of Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Corporal Albert Storm:

“Two professional, dedicated Canadian soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Corporal Albert Storm, made the ultimate sacrifice yesterday in Afghanistan. Our hearts and thoughts go out to their families and friends during this difficult time. 

Chief Warrant Officer Girouard and Corporal Storm were killed when their armoured vehicle was attacked by a suicide bomber as they traveled on the highway to the Panjwayi area of Afghanistan.  Chief Warrant Officer Girouard was a very senior Non-Commissioned Officer and a proven leader.  Corporal Storm was a brave, dedicated and professional soldier.  Both served valiantly against an enemy that uses arbitrary attacks to thwart any progress for the Afghan people to achieve their freedom and stability. 

There are risks involved in this selfless work.  However, the sacrifice of these soldiers will not be forgotten and this event will not deter us from helping Afghans reclaim their lives and build a free and democratic society.”

-30-



Two members of RCR die at hands of suicide bomber
Army.gc.ca, 28 Nov 06
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Two Canadian soldiers were killed on November 27 when their Bison light armoured vehicle was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a car laden with explosives. The incident occurred on Highway 4 between Kandahar Airfield and Kandahar City.  The Taliban have claimed responsibility. In addition to the two Canadian deaths, one Afghan civilian was also killed in the blast.  Killed in the attack were Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, the Regimental Sergeant Major of the 1st  Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group, and Corporal Albert Storm, also of 1 RCR Battle Group. The 1 RCR is based in Petawawa, Ontario.  CWO Bobby Girouard, 46, was from Bathurst, New Brunswick, and a 29-year military veteran. He was married and the father of three.  Cpl Storm, 36, was a native of Fort Erie, Ontario, and a decorated soldier who had served in trouble spots around the globe. He was the father of two and was just three years from retirement ....



Taliban attacks continue as country enters a deep freeze
Lee Greenberg, CanWest News Service, 28 Nov 06
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Canadian troops in Afghanistan's lawless south came under attack on Tuesday for a second day in a row.  The Canadian convoy was attacked by a car bomb just after noon as they traveled in the Panjwaii-Zhari region, south of the Arghandab river, officials said.  One soldier was lightly injured in the attack, which a military spokesman called "highly ineffective."  About half an hour after the attack, soldiers defending a key position along Route Summit shot and killed a man after he approached their position in an "erratic, agitated" way, Lt.-Cmdr. Kris Phillips said.  Tuesday's incidents follow a suicide attack that killed two Canadian soldiers one day earlier ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Kandahar Tim's not costing us
Taxpayers not subsidizing coffee outlet for soldiers in Afghanistan: Company

Tony Ricciuto, Niagara Falls Review, 25 Nov 06
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Taxpayers aren't getting creamed after all for the cost to open a Tim Hortons outlet in Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers are serving.  Canadians will not be stuck paying millions of dollars a year for troops to enjoy a cup of Tim Hortons coffee while serving in Afghanistan.  A recent news report stated it cost Canadian taxpayers close to $4 million to set up a Tim Hortons outlet in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan. The report added it will continue to cost about $5 million each year.  In interviews, however, officials at Tim Hortons head office in Oakville and the Department of National Defence in Ottawa say the report was wrong. They said startup costs and future expenses should be covered by profits earned by the Afghanistan outlet.  "It has been very confusing, because it was incorrectly reported," said Nick Javor, senior vice-president of corporate affairs for Tim Hortons.  The news item that originated with CanWest News Service, he added, also aired on Global National TV.  The Afghanistan venture was not a normal business transaction, Javor said. Rather than Tim Hortons contacting the military about opening an outlet in Kandahar, it was the soldiers who made it known to their superiors they would like to have a Tim Hortons outlet ....



Reluctant NATO allies offer minor concessions to help Canada's Afghan mission
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 28 Nov 06
Article Link

A  handful of European NATO countries offered minor concessions on Afghanistan Tuesday, suggesting they'll allow their troops to reinforce the bloodied Canadian contingent in Kandahar in emergency circumstances.  But the definition of "emergency" remained unclear as quibbling alliance leaders headed into a working dinner Tuesday night at their summit in the former Soviet republic of Latvia.  Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay cautioned the discussion among NATO members was not over, and he was hopeful the high-level talks would produce some relief for Canada's forces in Afghanistan.  But he also made it clear that the removal of so-called national caveats - restrictions that prevent some countries from taking part in fighting Taliban insurgents - was not enough and more troops were needed.  "Clearly we want more robust capacity in the south to face the Taliban," MacKay told reporters ....


NATO nations pledge emergency Afghan forces
Paul Taylor and Mark John, Reuters (UK), 28 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO countries signalled at a summit in Latvia on Tuesday they could free up more troops to battle Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan by easing restrictions on their forces in emergencies, officials said.  U.S. President George W. Bush had called before the meeting on allies to provide more soldiers with fewer national limits for the most dangerous ground mission in NATO's 57-year history.  France, Germany, Italy and Spain, who sparked a row by refusing calls in September to send troops to the Taliban's heartland in south Afghanistan, promised to send help to trouble zones outside their areas in exceptional cases, officials said.  "The President (Jacques Chirac) confirmed the possibility, on a case-by-case basis and on request, to send French troops outside their zone if necessary," French officials said after talks in the Latvian capital Riga.  Madrid's pledge was yet more guarded, with a Spanish official saying Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had offered use of Spanish helicopters in exceptional circumstances to help evacuate wounded NATO solders, and not for combat ....


Spain announces no more troops to be sent to Afghanistan
Typically Spanish web page, 28 Nov 06
Article Link

Spain has announced that it will only permit its troops based in Afghanistan to move out of their area of deployment in cases of emergency.  Defence Minister, José Antonio Alonso, also announced in the Latvian capital of Riga on Tuesday that the Spanish government will not be sending any more troops to Afghanistan. Alonso is in Latvia with the Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, on a summit of NATO leaders.  The Minister was responding to a statement made by US President, George Bush, shortly after his arrival in Riga that all NATO allies are obliged to offer assistance in case of attack on any other members in Afghanistan, in accordance with the principles on which NATO was founded in 1949 ....


NATO pushs for more troops in Afghanistan
William J. Kole, Associated Press, 28 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO pressed its allies at a summit today to deploy more troops to Afghanistan's volatile south, but Germany resisted any permanently expanded presence and Canada complained of bearing the brunt of an increasingly bloody mission.  Despite the strengthening Taliban insurgency and unexpectedly high casualties, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that by 2008, he hopes Afghan forces can begin taking over security tasks.  President Bush called the Afghanistan mission - which has mobilized 32,800 troops- NATO's No. 1 operation. Defeating Taliban forces, he said, "will require the full commitment of our alliance."  "The commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs," Bush said, crediting the alliance for helping Afghanistan go from "a totalitarian nightmare" to stability and steadily growing prosperity.  But German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that her country would not permanently expand its 2,900-strong force, though she said German forces could be deployed in the south in an emergency. Canada's foreign minister warned that public support will fade if other countries don't relax restrictions on use of their troops and help Canadian forces in the south ....


NATO chief lashes allies over Afghan troop commitments
Agence France Presse, 28  Nov 06
Article Link

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has hit out at alliance countries for failing to provide reinforcements in insurgency-hit Afghanistan, as world leaders gathered for a summit in Latvia.  In neighbouring Estonia, US President George W. Bush also urged his NATO counterparts to step up, saying they must "accept difficult assignments" like the increasingly fraught alliance mission in southern Afghanistan.  NATO has been taken by surprise this year by a resurgent Taliban militia, ousted by a US-led coalition in 2001, whose rebellion has claimed some 3,700 lives, four times more than last year, according to an official report.  "It is not acceptable that our mission in the south still lacks 20 percent of its requirements," Scheffer said ahead of the meeting Tuesday, which starts with evening dinner talks on Afghanistan -- NATO's most ambitious operation ....



Bush berates hesitant Nato allies
BBC Online, 28 Nov 06
Article Link

US President George W Bush has berated Nato members reluctant to send troops to Afghan hotspots, demanding they must accept "difficult assignments".
Speaking just before a Nato meeting in Latvia, Mr Bush said members must provide the forces the alliance needs.  Several Nato nations have caveats that keep their troops out of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan, where Taleban forces are strengthening.  The two-day summit began with a working dinner focused on Afghanistan.  The difficulties of the Afghan mission are set to dominate the agenda in Riga ....



Drug Industry Threatens to Derail Afghanistan's State Building
Counter-narcotics efforts have deepened corruption and hurt the poorest, says new report

UN Office on Drugs & Crime/World Bank news release, 28 Nov 06
News release - Report (2.82MB .pdf)

Efforts to combat opium production in Afghanistan have been marred by corruption and have failed to prevent the consolidation of the drugs trade in the hands of fewer powerful players with strong political connections, says a report released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Bank.  According to the report, entitled Afghanistan's Drug Industry: Structure, Functioning, Dynamics, and Implications for Counter-Narcotics Policy, efforts to combat opium have achieved only limited success and have lacked sustainability.  Strong enforcement efforts against farmers are often ineffective in remote areas with limited resources, assets, and markets.  The impact of eradication of opium poppy fields, and of reductions in cultivation resulting from the threat of eradication, tends to be felt most by poor farmers and rural wage labourers, who lack political support, are unable to pay bribes and cannot otherwise protect themselves.  The report says that, far from leading to sustained declines in total national cultivation, success in reducing cultivation in one province often leads to increases elsewhere, or cultivation in the province itself rebounds in the following year (as occurred in Helmand province after 2003).  Corruption in the eradication process has also had negative side-effects.  Wealthier opium producers pay bribes to avoid having their crops eradicated, greatly reducing the effectiveness of counter-narcotics measures and  gravely undermining the credibility of the government and its local representatives.  "History teaches us that it will take a generation to render Afghanistan opium-free," said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC.  "But we need concrete results now, for example by doubling the number of opium-free provinces from the current six in 2007.  I therefore propose that development support to farmers, the arrest of corrupt officials and eradication measures be concentrated in half a dozen provinces with low cultivation in 2006 so as to free them from the scourge of opium.  Those driving the drug industry must be brought to justice and officials who support it sacked." ....


 

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Canadian soldier lightly hurt in suicide attack
Canadian Press, via CTV.ca, 28 Nov 06
Article Link

A Canadian soldier has been slightly injured in a suicide bomb attack in the Panjwaii District of Kandahar Province Tuesday.  The afternoon attack on a Bison armoured personnel carrier occurred just south of the Arghandab River.  Lt. Cmdr. Kris Phillips said the suicide bomb attack was "completely ineffective'' and the injured soldier received only flash burns.  The attack came a day after two Canadian soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Cpl. Albert Storm, were killed in a suicide bomb attack near Kandahar ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Statement from Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Bill Graham on the deaths of Corporal Albert Storm and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard
Liberal Party of Canada web page, 28 Nov 06
Statement

On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our Parliamentary caucus, I would like to express my most sincere sorrow at the news of the deaths of Corporal Albert Storm and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard Monday morning in Khandahar. We send our deepest sympathies to their family, friends and comrades as they cope with this terrible tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.  I speak not only for our party but for all Canadians when I say that we are forever grateful for the sacrifices that Cpl. Storm, CWO Girouard and our other brave men and women in uniform have made on behalf of Canada.  We are immensely proud of the extraordinary men and women who risk their lives to protect our cherished values and our way of life. Every day, they put their lives on the line to help build a safe and secure world. Their dedication to creating a better, more peaceful life for Canadians and people the world over is second to none.  We remain steadfast in our support of all Canadian Forces members as they undertake this important mission to help bring peace, security, hope and opportunity to the people of Afghanistan and the world.


Statement by Jack Layton on the death of two Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan
New Democratic Party web page, 28 Nov 06
Statement

“New Democrats across the country are deeply saddened by the loss of two brave Canadian soldiers, killed on Monday while serving our country in Afghanistan.  “The loss of Cpl. Albert Storm, from Fort Erie, Ont, and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, from Bathurst, N.B, is a tragic reminder of the constant danger our women and men in uniform face during their service to all Canadians. We commend their bravery, determination, selflessness and courage.  “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the two men who have been lost, with all members of the Canadian Forces serving at home and abroad, as well as with the broader military community of CFB Petawawa where the two soldiers were based.  “On behalf of all New Democrats, I extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Cpl. Albert Storm and Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard.”

 

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Articles found 29 Nov 2006

Canadian-led offensive may have killed 1,500 Taliban fighters
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 CBC News
Article link

The U.S. general who heads all NATO military forces says a two-week campaign that cost five Canadian lives in southern Afghanistan may have wiped out half of the "hard-core" Taliban fighters in the country.

The Canadian-led push, Operation Medusa, ended on Sept. 15 when Taliban forces stopped fighting and slipped away, Gen. James L. Jones said on Wednesday.

The Taliban "suffered a tactical defeat in the area where they chose to stand and fight" and got "a very powerful message … that they have no chance of winning militarily," he told reporters at the Pentagon.

NATO estimates that "somewhere in the neighbourhood of around 1,000" Taliban fighters were killed, and the number could be higher, he said. "If you said 1,500 it wouldn't surprise me."

Half of Taliban force may be dead
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NATO allies offer grudging help in Afghanistan
Updated Tue. Nov. 28 2006 11:18 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
Article Link

Some European NATO countries have made grudging concessions with respects to backing up Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

They say they will do so under "emergency" circumstances, but the definition of emergency remains unclear.

The leaders are continuing discussion on the issue as they conduct a closed-door, working dinner Tuesday night at the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia.

The Canadian Press cited an unnamed official as saying Prime Minister Stephen Harper told his fellow leaders that Afghanistan was "the priority" for NATO.

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay told reporters earlier the discussion wasn't over, and he hoped the talks would produce some help for Canada's troops in Afghanistan.

However, he also said merely removing restrictions on some of the other nations' troops serving there wasn't enough. More troops are needed.

"Clearly we want more robust capacity in the south to face the Taliban," MacKay said. "Lifting caveats is part of the equation. Lifting caveats will allow for more mobility."

France and Italy have indicated they are ready to easy restrictions on their troops.

"The Europeans have relied on their American allies for too long. They have to shoulder their share of the burden,'' President Jacques Chirac said in a statement.

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel said her country's 2,900-strong force won't be expanded. However, she did pledge to make them available in crisis situations.

U.S. Gen. James Jones, NATO's supreme commander, said the members have removed about 15 per cent of the restrictions.

Canada's vocal position on the issue has reportedly irritated some European countries.

"The feeling we get from listening to you is that you're all alone in the south,'' one northern European official, who asked not to be named, told The Canadian Press.

Before the summit began, U.S. President George Bush appealed to NATO allies on Tuesday to provide more troops with fewer national restrictions.

"To succeed in Afghanistan, NATO allies must provide the forces NATO military commanders require," Bush told a joint news conference with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves in Tallinn on his way to the NATO meeting in neighbouring Latvia.

"Like Estonia, member nations must accept difficult assignments if we expect to be successful," he said.

Bush was apparently making a veiled reference to the restrictions.

Later in Riga, Bush also enlisted renewed commitments from NATO allies that have deployed 32,000 troops to Afghanistan.

He said NATO commanders must have the resources and flexibility to do the job.
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Suicide bomber kills 2 Afghans
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 CBC News
Article Link

A suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday and killed two civilians, a NATO official said.

No soldiers were injured and no military vehicles were damaged in the attack, said Maj. Luke Knittig, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
(Allauddin Khan/Associated Press) The attack came as the convoy headed away from Kandahar City toward the volatile Panjwaii district, where NATO troops have had tough battles with Taliban fighters.

Knittig said the bomber detonated his explosives beside the convoy.

It's the third day in a row that suicide bombers have targeted NATO soldiers in the Kandahar area. An attack on Monday killed two Canadian soldiers.

Brig. Richard Nugee, an ISAF official, told the Associated Press that Taliban militants have stepped up the number of attacks in the past week, possibly trying to get attention while NATO leaders meet this week

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DoD Identifies Army Casualty
November 28, 2006
Article Link

The Department of Defense announced today the death of one soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Cpl. Nathan J. Goodiron, 25, of Mandaree, N.D., died Nov. 23 in Qarabagh, Afghanistan, of injuries suffered when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades. He was assigned to National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery, Grand Forks, N.D.

And

DoD Identifies Army Casualty
November 28, 2006
Article Link

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

2nd Lt. Scott B. Lundell, 35, of Hurricane, Utah, died Nov. 25 in Oruzgan Province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained when his unit came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades while on patrol during combat operations. He was assigned to I Corps Artillery, Utah National Guard, Camp Williams, Utah.
End

Afghan living conditions had stunned slain soldier
29-year veteran from N.B. 'didn't think that there was such a place in the world'
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 | 1:37 PM AT  CBC News
Article Link

A soldier from New Brunswick who died Monday in Afghanistan served 29 years in places such as Kosovo but was stunned by the poverty, violence and desperation he saw on his latest mission, his father says.

Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard — who was raised in Bathurst, N.B., and stationed with the Royal Canadian Regiment stationed at CFB Petawawa in Ontario — was killed when a suicide bomber struck his personnel carrier in the Panjwaii district in Afghanistan's south. The attack also killed Cpl. Albert Storm of the same regiment.

On Tuesday, every flag in Bathurst was flying at half mast as the town remembered Girouard as a dedicated father of three children and a committed soldier. Although Girouard's wife and daughter remain in Pembroke, Ont., his parents and other family members still live in Bathurst.
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The Current Situation in Iraq and Afghanistan
General Michael V. Hayden Director, Central Intelligence Agency
Statement for the Record before the Senate Armed Services Committee
15 November 2006
Article link

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee:

The overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and of Saddam Husayn in Iraq as well as our determined pursuit of al-Qa'ida worldwide have inaugurated a new era of risk and opportunity for the United States in its engagement with much of the Muslim world. We are now face-to-face with whole societies which are in profound and volatile transitions and whose fate will directly affect the security of the United States . With US forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and with the United States leading the global response to the threat of terrorism, we are now actors to an unprecedented degree in supporting states—especially Iraq and Afghanistan—which are attempting to create and sustain a stable new order.
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ArmorGroup wins Afghanistan deal
Wed 29 Nov 2006
Article Link

LONDON (SHARECAST) - Security specialist ArmorGroup is to provide security services to the UK government in Kabul and the highly dangerous provinces of Kandahar and Helmand in Afghanistan.

The contract announced today is worth around $30m a year and will run for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three.

It is due to start on 1 January 2007 and, as a result, will have no impact on this year's revenues or profits.

The contract will see guards, made up of former Gurkha soldiers and Afghans, protect sites such as the British Embassy and British Council compound in Kabul.

In addition, the group’s mobile security services unit will protect UK government employees as they move around Afghanistan.
End

Living symbols of reform in Afghanistan
Female lawmakers work for, and embody, change.
By Alissa J. Rubin, Times Staff Writer November 29, 2006
Article Link

AMONG the crowd of 800 turbaned elders who gathered in a vast tent, one person stood out: a slender woman in a white head scarf.

She took the podium only briefly, but when she did, most conversation came to a standstill. And though many of the bearded, tradition-bound elders are uncomfortable talking to a woman in public, several dozen clustered around her afterward to ask questions.

Her name is Zahera Sharif, and she is the only woman among the four members of Afghanistan's parliament from Khowst province. In a conservative area where it is possible to drive through towns without seeing a single woman on the street, she is a rarity.

As a member of parliament, she represents an institution that Western observers and experts in Afghanistan say is the country's best shot at building a stable democracy after years of war and religious extremism.

Among the 248 members of parliament's lower house, there are elders such as those Sharif met here. But there are also former exiles in Western-style business suits. All of the country's ethnic groups have a place: Uzbeks sit next to Tajiks; Pashtuns with Hazaras. There are onetime Taliban as well as their former Northern Alliance enemies. A quarter of the parliament members are women; not one wears a burka.

Some of those who gather in the low-slung building on the western edge of Kabul use old militia ties to get things done. Others take the floor to criticize the warlords. Or, like Sharif, they forgo the debate and focus instead on meeting the needs of their constituents.

"For the first time after 30 years of war, we've brought some major figures, who in the past would only talk to each other with a gun, under one roof," said Younis Qanooni, the speaker of parliament.
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India for use of force against extremism in Afghanistan 
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United Nations, Nov 29: Rejecting suggestions for making a deal with the Taliban, India has said the long-term solution to problems in Afghanistan lies in a judicious mixture of using force against extremist elements and providing credible and sustained development opportunities.

"What is needed is to eliminate the bases of extremists' support," India's ambassador to UN Nirupam Sen told the United Nations General Assembly yesterday without naming any country and called for interdiction of sources that provide terrorist groups with arms and finances.

He rejected suggestions for making a deal with the Taliban and warned that such a course would bring neither peace nor security.

"The swamp of terrorist insurgency cannot be drained till the stream feeding the swamp dries up or is at least reduced to a trickle," he remarked.

An important regional and international duty that devolves upon the international community is to "firmly and decisively" act to eliminate not only the agencies of terror themselves, but to stop their backers and prevent incitement of terror, he told the delegates discussing situation in Afghanistan.

Stressing that much more needs to be done to reverse the deteriorating security situation, Sen has called for intensification of regional and international efforts to deal with the problem of resurgent Taliban, an al Qaeda insurrection and their nexus with the drug traffickers.
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In Afghanistan, yesterday's warlords are today's bureaucrats
By David Zucchino Los Angeles Times Wednesday, November 29, 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan — For an hour, Ismail Khan, the minister of energy and water, listened as his employees complained about their department's dismal image: People called them lazy, corrupt and inefficient. Customers accused them of demanding bribes.

Khan sat on a stage in the meeting hall and glowered.

"Baseless lies!" he spat out.

That was the end of it.

Khan runs his ministry the way he once ruled over western Afghanistan as supreme warlord from his headquarters in Herat. His word is law.

But Khan the warlord, still wearing his white robes and black-and-white headdress, is now also Khan the public servant. He works in an office adorned with old maps of Kabul's power grid. And he is accountable to the public for his failures on what even his critics acknowledge is an impossible mission.

Afghans expected progress after U.S. forces, aided by Northern Alliance warlords such as Khan, toppled the Taliban five years ago.

But electric service is still unreliable, despite millions of dollars in aid and U.S. promises of a modern Afghanistan. Khan's ministry is barely able to provide two hours of electricity per day to Kabul, and none for 90 percent of the rest of this ruined nation.
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Afghanistan: mobilisation of troops tough job for Nato
By Our Special Correspondent  LONDON, Nov 28
Article Link

Nato is finding it increasingly difficult to mobilise enough troops from member countries to effectively tackle the resurgent Taliban. This seemed to have led Nato leaders to look for a high-powered international fixer to be appointed for Afghanistan to help to force through political reforms and anti-drug policies, sources said on the eve of the alliance’s summit in Riga.

We need someone of real standing who can go to President Karzai in Kabul and to President Musharraf in Pakistan and knock heads together, a senior diplomatic source said.
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Tighter security for Spanish troops in Afghanistan
29 November 2006
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RIGA — Madrid will allow the 700 troops it has deployed in Afghanistan to venture outside their designated zone only in cases of emergency.

Spanish defence minister Jose Antonio Alonso made the announcement at a press conference at a NATO conference in  Riga which he is attending with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Alonso said that Spain will not increase its troop strength in the western Afghan province of Badghis, and it will continue to carry out civil reconstruction efforts there and to help the local population in other ways.

He said that the mission of the U.N.-authorized, NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan was the reconstruction of the country.
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Sweden may send more soldiers to Afghanistan
November 29, 2006         
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Sweden is considering sending more forces to the ISAF (International Security Force for Afghanistan) mission in Afghanistan, Radio Sweden reported on Tuesday.

The Swedish military wants to immediately increase the current force in northern Afghanistan from 250 to 275, and in the longer term it hopes to send a further 100 soldiers, the radio said.

Swedish Defense Minister Mikael Odenberg said he is considering the proposal, weighing the needs for an overall strategy for Swedish peacekeeping missions abroad, according to the public broadcaster.

The Swedes are serving in the NATO-led force of 31,000, as part of the Partner for Peace program.

Source: Xinhua
End

If Afghanistan mission fails, NATO fails, Blair warns
The Associated PressPublished: November 28, 2006
Article Link

RIGA, Latvia: NATO's credibility and the world's safety depend on the alliance's successful completion of its mission in Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday.

The alliance needs to reaffirm its commitment to the country — "and do so with confidence" — or risk placing its members at risk, Blair said.

"The important thing is that we recognize that this operation in Afghanistan is of crucial importance to our own security," he told reporters during a brief stop in Copenhagen, Denmark, before flying to Riga on Tuesday evening.

"NATO's credibility is at stake here. If we do not succeed in Afghanistan, the whole world will be less secure."
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RCR mourns loss of two soldiers
Stephen Uhler, Pembroke Daily Observer, 29 Nov 06
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The Royal Canadian Regiment lost two of its finest members in Afghanistan Monday, but the unit is determined to soldier on.  Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, 46, and Corporal Albert Storm, 36, were killed after a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden vehicle into a Canadian convoy and detonated it.  In a press conference Tuesday, Col. Denis Thompson, commander of 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, said the events of Monday weigh heavily on the minds of the greater Petawawa community, but this grim news has only strengthened their resolve.  "I can confidently say that support for our deployed troops remains unwavering," he said. While the regiment and the battle group in Afghanistan is hurting, this only makes them more determined to carry on with their mission.  "There is a great sense of loss, but a greater sense of purpose," Col. Thompson said ....


Soldier killed in suicide attack Monday had ties to Meaford training centre
Scott Dunn, Collingwood Enterprise-Bulletin, 27 Nov 06
Article Link

A pivotal player in Canada’s military mission to Afghanistan is one of two victims of a suicide bombing In Kandahar Monday.  Chief Warrant Officer and Regimental Sgt. Major Bob Girouard, of the First Royal Canadian Regiment based in Petawawa, lived in Owen Sound for about five years and was stationed at Land Forces Central Area Training Centre Meaford before his transfer to Petawawa.  The RSM is the senior non-commissioned officer in any unit and plays a critical role in implementing military strategy.
Indeed, all tactical matters - the planning and execution of specific military tasks - are his responsibility ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



NATO Riga Summit Highlights

Riga Summit Declaration, 29 Nov 06

....  Contributing to peace and stability in Afghanistan is NATO’s key priority.  In cooperation with Afghan National Security Forces and in coordination with other international actors, we will continue to support the Afghan authorities in meeting their responsibilities to provide security, stability and reconstruction across Afghanistan through the UN-mandated NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), respecting international law and making every effort to avoid harm to the civilian population.  We reaffirm the strong solidarity of our Alliance, and pledge to ensure that ISAF has the forces, resources, and flexibility needed to ensure the mission’s continued success ....


Comprehensive Political Guidance, Endorsed by NATO Heads of State and Government, 29 Nov 06

This Comprehensive Political Guidance provides a framework and political direction for NATOs continuing transformation, setting out, for the next 10 to 15 years, the priorities for all Alliance capability issues, planning disciplines and intelligence. This guidance, to be reviewed periodically, also aims to increase their coherence through an effective management mechanism ....


Canadian soldiers to receive NATO reinforcement
CTV.ca, 29 Nov 06
Article Link

Canadian soldiers battling Taliban militants will be receiving reinforcements from NATO countries, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Wednesday after talks at the summit in Latvia.  "We do have important additional contributions from our partners in the south, from the Netherlands, Denmark, United Kingdom, Estonia, Romania," said Harper said at a news conference in the Latvian capital of Riga.  "These are our key partners in the south. They also happen to be for the most part the countries who have agreed to contribute even more forces."  But Harper told reporters he wasn't certain if any additional NATO soldiers would be sent to reinforce Canadian troops in the volatile Kandahar region ....


Limited success convincing NATO to help in southern Afghanistan
Matthew Fisher, CanWest News Service, 29 Nov 06
Article Link

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s quest for more NATO help for Canadian soldiers in war-torn southern Afghanistan had only limited success, it seems, here at a two-day NATO meeting.  Alliance members have agreed that if NATO troops in Afghanistan find themselves in an emergency situation, the NATO commander could send troops from other NATO countries to their aid. However, helping out allies in distress has always been part of the NATO charter.  An undisclosed number of the more than 100 caveats that had prevented troops from some NATO countries from participating in combat operations or moving troops outside specific geographic areas were also eliminated.  But on the crucial demand by Canada, Britain, the U.S. and Holland that troops from others in the 26-country alliance join them and four smaller NATO members in the battle in Afghanistan’s bloody south, there was very little movement and none by those nations with large armies such as Germany, Spain and Italy, whose troops are now deployed in relatively calm parts of the country ....


NATO adds little to Taliban fight
The West Australian, 30 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO nations yesterday cautiously promised to do more to fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan by easing restrictions on their forces in emergencies, officials said.  At the NATO summit in the Latvian capital, Riga, US President George Bush called for allies to provide more soldiers with fewer national limits for the most dangerous mission in NATO’s 57-year history.  France, Germany, Italy and Spain, who sparked a row by refusing calls in September to send troops to the Taliban heartland in south Afghanistan, promised to send help to trouble zones outside their areas in exceptional cases, officials said ....


Twisting and Turning over German Troops
Matthias Gebauer, Der Spiegel, 29 Nov 06
Article Link

Angela Merkel is resisting pressure from NATO: She refuses to station German troops in the south of Afghanistan. But she has agreed to let German troops conduct "emergency rescue missions" there. It sounds harmless, but it could have significant consequences for the troops.  If German diplomats are telling the truth, Tuesday evening's trip to the Riga opera house was a thoroughly pleasant affair. The heads of state of all 26 NATO countries were meeting in Latvia's capital. The summit's thorniest issue -- NATO's military mission in Afghanistan -- was negotiated during a working dinner. But there were no disagreements, at least according to German reports. "There were no accusations, no polemics. It was a very responsible discussion," German government sources said the following day ....


NATO needs more soldiers in Afghanistan, former general says
CBC Online, 29 Nov 06
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A retired Canadian major-general, Lewis MacKenzie, says NATO needs many more soldiers in Afghanistan to keep up the pressure on the Taliban militants.  The NATO commander "needs 30,000 more troops. He needs to double his force," MacKenzie told CBC Newsworld on Wednesday. NATO has about 32,000 soldiers in the country.  The more than 2,000 Canadians who have been fighting the Taliban around Kandahar in southern Afghanistan need more support so they can take advantage of their victories, MacKenzie said.  "We've got to dig in and protect the area we've taken from the bad guys. Our guys are kind of pinned to the ground and can't exploit success." ....



US Hearts and Minds Cash Goes to Taleban
Funds distributed by US forces to civilians in a southern province find their way to the Taleban

Mirwais Atal, Afghan Recovery Report ARR No. 236, Institute for war and peace reporting, 28 Nov06
Article Link

When United States troops in the southern province of Ghazni handed out cash to village elders, they must have thought they were winning friends. The money, intended for bridges, wells, drinking water, irrigation systems and other infrastructure projects, was supposed to convince the local Afghans that the foreign presence would benefit their country in general and themselves in particular.  After distributing the funds to villagers in Ghazni’s Andar district in early October, the US soldiers departed, having done their best to get the district on side.  Their hearts and minds campaign is part of a major anti-Taleban offensive codenamed Operation Mountain Fury, which US-led coalition forces launched in mid-September in conjunction with the Afghan National Army, ANA.  But the resources intended to combat Taleban influence ended up doing just the opposite. Local people in several parts of Andar district told IWPR that almost as soon as the coalition forces left their villages, the money found its way into Taleban coffers to finance the jihad against the foreigners.  “American money is haram [unlawful in Islam],” said Abdul Jalil, an elder in one village. “We could not use it to improve our lives. So we decided to give it to the Taleban. The most important thing we could do with this money was help the Taleban to pursue the jihad.” ....

 

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Two more soldiers sent home after suicide attack in Kandahar
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 30 Nov 06
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It is something soldiers dread but wouldn't miss for the world - a chance to say goodbye to fallen comrades.  The flag-draped coffins of Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard, 46, of Bathurst, N.B., his battalion's regimental sergeant major, and Cpl. Albert Storm, 36, of Fort Erie, Ont., were brought across the tarmac at Kandahar Airfield in a makeshift hearse, a light armoured vehicle, in the dawn's early light.  The weather is cold now in the Afghan desert with winter fast approaching. Rows of soldiers wearing the uniforms of Canadian, U.S., Dutch and British soldiers stood at rapt attention and saluted as the latest two victims of the war were loaded into the belly of a C-130 Hercules on their way home as a lone bagpiper played a mournful tune. The flag of the Royal Canadian Regiment was fluttering in the breeze ....



Roadside bomb hits NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan, no injuries
Canadian Press, 30 Nov 06
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A roadside bomb hit a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan on Thursday but caused no injuries to the troops, an alliance official said.  The blast happened on the main highway between the cities of Kandahar and Herat, said Capt. Andre Salloum, a spokesman for the NATO-led troops in southern Afghanistan. A second explosive device was found at the site and defused, Salloum said ....



NATO finds handful of troops for Afghanistan; scraps limits on existing force
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 29 Nov 06
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Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan will eventually see a handful of fresh reinforcements and can count on its long-standing allies for help under emergency circumstances, NATO leaders declared Wednesday.  In the culmination of a bitter debate which has divided the decades-old military alliance, France, Spain, Italy and Germany said they intended to remove their so-called national caveats - restrictions that prevent them from fighting Taliban militants. But for the moment, Canadian soldiers patrolling the desert expanse and cramped, muddy village laneways will notice little difference, Canada's top military commander cautioned.  "In the short term, the effect on the ground won't change," said Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier.  "In the mid-term this will give the commander of (the International Assistance Stabilization Force) better flexibility to be able to reinforce a specific area for a specific time." 
For example, if there was to be a spike in Taliban activity, help would arrive quicker, but Hillier threw in an important qualifier.  "We've never doubted that if we needed help in a serious manner, to contain a Taliban surge, we had absolute confidence it would come," he told reporters on the flight back to Canada Wednesday night ....


PM gets little help at NATO
Minor additions to force in Afghanistan 'baby steps,' Canadian defence chief says

Paul Koring (With a report from Alex Dobrota in Ottawa), Globe & Mail, 30 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

Embattled Canadian soldiers fighting the Taliban in Kandahar won't be reinforced after NATO leaders failed yesterday to offer additional combat troops.  Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who came to Riga looking to prod some major European allies into fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Canadians and other countries deployed in southern Afghanistan, goes home almost empty-handed.  "Our desire is to see more engagement by everyone," Mr. Harper said, although he insisted some progress "had been made on Canadian objectives."  For Canadians and others bearing the brunt of the fighting and dying in southern Afghanistan, no help can be expected in the short term, said Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hillier.  "There were some small baby steps," he said, referring to minor force additions, adding that he had expected no more at the summit but remained hopeful of more in the mid-term. There was "lots of talk about various countries offering up some more troops," he said on the plane bringing Mr. Harper and his entourage back to Ottawa ....


Canadians still will do `heavy lifting' in Afghanistan, Hillier says
Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, 30 Nov 06
Article Link

Canadian troops can expect little relief in southern Afghanistan after a quibbling NATO alliance wrapped up a summit with only a modest pledge of new soldiers for a mission Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls "undermanned."  Harper departed the gathering here of NATO's political leaders appealing for "more engagement by everyone."  NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said yesterday that "real progress" had been achieved even as he cautioned that the military mission in Afghanistan was "winnable ... but not yet won."  Still, the outcome of the summit was a setback to Canada's strategy to win the hearts and minds of embattled Afghan residents in the Kandahar region. More troops would have allowed Canadian forces to exploit the gains made during their September offensive against insurgents and speed badly needed reconstruction efforts, said Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff.  "That's where additional troops would have been absolutely invaluable to allow you to take full advantage of a tactical win and turn it into something long-lasting," Hillier said during the flight back to Ottawa.  He said the summit pronouncements will mean little for Canadian forces in the Kandahar region in the short-term ....


Taliban scoff at NATO troop increase
Reuters (UK), 30 Nov 06
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NATO's plans to send more soldiers to Afghanistan to quell a resurgent Taliban would simply give the rebels more targets, a guerrilla commander said on Thursday.  "Increasing or expanding NATO troops in Afghanistan is not a worry for the Taliban, instead it will make targets for the Taliban mujahideen much easier," Commander Mullah Obaidullah told Reuters, adding the hardline Islamists could fight for 20 years.  "After five years of continuous fighting against foreign troops, the Taliban have become a strong military power and the Taliban are able to fight and defeat the strongest army."  After months of requests for more troops from NATO commanders on the ground, a summit of alliance leaders this week agreed to a small increase in troop numbers and to ease some restrictions on how and where their forces can be deployed ....


Editorial:  Canada can't fight alone
Ottawa Citizen, 30 Nov 06
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....  Canada has sent troops to one of the most dangerous places on the planet, on the assumption that our supposed allies would be there to back us up. If they aren't, and Afghanistan fails, NATO's credibility as an instrument of global security will be deeply diminished.


EDITORIAL: NATO can't cut and run
Toronto Sun, 30 Nov 06
Article Link

....  Canadian soldiers are now in harm's way, doing what must be done in Afghanistan if it is not to fall back into the hands of the religious fanatics and terrorists who first plotted 9/11 from within that country.  Canada has earned the right -- through the sacrifices made by its sons and daughters in Afghanistan -- to have its concerns taking seriously at the NATO table.  And if they are not being taken seriously, then Harper should bring our troops home. Now.



Disembowelled, then torn apart: The price of daring to teach girls
Kim Sengupta. The Independent (UK), 29 Nov 06
Article Link

The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.  The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.  Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces ....



An Afghan bomber's tale sheds light on motives
Paul Holmes, Reuters, 29 Nov 06
Article Link

Mumtaz Ahmad spent more than three years at a madrasa in Pakistan learning the Koran, then pursued his pious desire to become a Qari' -- one who recites the Muslim holy book -- at a similar Islamic religious school in Kabul.  His extended family's mud-brick home in the village of Mahiger is just 2 km (one mile) down dirt tracks from the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan at Bagram, 60 km (37 miles) north of Kabul.  Two of his 10 brothers are stationed at the base as soldiers in the Afghan army and a cousin earns a living there as a labourer for the Americans, according to relatives.  The money comes in handy, said Ahmad's uncle, Sayed Agha, a wizened man of 60. He said the base had brought work to many of Mahiger's simple farming families since U.S.-led forces overthrew the radical Islamist Taliban five years ago.  Now, Ahmad languishes in an Afghan intelligence service jail after police caught him three weeks ago planting a roadside bomb on the Shomali Plain near Bagram in an act he says was driven by a belief that killing foreign troops was his Islamic duty ....



 

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Germany dodges call for troops
Harper's plea for Afghanistan reinforcements largely ignored
(full text subscriber only)
Matthew Fisher,  Ottawa Citizen, November 30, 2006
...
Canada's anger before the summit has mostly been directed at Germany.

The reason may be partially explained by a story published yesterday on Der Spiegel's website.

The German news magazine reported that Berlin had refused several requests for its forces to come to the aid of NATO's embattled warriors in the south during the Canadian-led Operation Medusa in late August and early September. The missions Germany wanted no part of included deploying a medevac aircraft to the base where Canadians were located in Kandahar, allowing a drone aircraft to be used for reconnaissance of the area and having its special forces commandos deployed as forward air controllers to direct airstrikes against the Taliban across the south, the weekly said...

Der Spiegel story (Nov. 27)
"One Couldn't Help but Feel like a Lousy Comrade"
http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,451014,00.html

Official public complaints about Germany's role in Afghanistan are a recent phenomenon. Under the official level, however, Germany's allies have made pressing requests for additional Bundeswehr assistance during combat operations on several occasions. It's a situation that has left some German soldiers feeling like bad comrades...

Mark
Ottawa
 

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MarkOttawa said:
Germany dodges call for troops
Harper's plea for Afghanistan reinforcements largely ignored
(full text subscriber only)
Matthew Fisher,  Ottawa Citizen, November 30, 2006
...
Mark
Ottawa


Here is the full Ottawa Citizen article, reproduced under the Fair Dealings provisions of the Copyright Act:

Germany dodges call for troops
Harper's plea for Afghanistan reinforcements largely ignored

Matthew Fisher, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Thursday, November 30, 2006
RIGA, Latvia - Prime Minister Stephen Harper looked subdued and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reportedly "ecstatic" at the end of the

NATO summit yesterday after Germany successfully dodged demands from Canada and other allies that it provide more help to troops fighting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

The few countries to volunteer additional forces, such as Britain and Estonia, were, as Mr. Harper noted at a news conference after the summit ended, already committed to participating in combat operations in the south.

"Look, we're not going to kid you, the security situation remains a challenge in the south," the prime minister said after a closed three-hour session with other NATO leaders. "We still believe we are under-manned, but we're getting more forces all of the time, we're getting more flexibility from our NATO partners."

Canada's quest for more help in the south had only limited success at the two-day gathering, which ended with a predictable blitz of statements celebrating the alliance's cohesion and unity.

It was agreed that if NATO troops in Afghanistan found themselves in an emergency situation, the NATO commander could send troops from other NATO countries to their aid. However, helping out allies in distress has always been part of the NATO charter.

An undisclosed number of the more than 100 caveats that had prevented troops from some NATO countries from participating in combat operations or moving troops outside specific geographic areas were also eliminated.

But on the crucial demand by Canada, Britain, the U.S. and Holland that troops from others in the 26-country alliance join them and four smaller

NATO members in the battle in Afghanistan's bloody south, there was very little movement and none by those nations with large armies such as Germany, Spain and Italy, whose troops are now deployed in relatively calm parts of the country.

"In the grand majority of cases, the caveats that have been softened have to do with emergencies and, obviously, we don't intend to be in an emergency," Mr. Harper said before boarding his plane back to Ottawa. "There is clearly still work to be done."

Asked what the new measures announced at the summit might mean for Canadian troops, who have done a disproportionate share of the fighting and dying in Afghanistan, the prime minister said: "It is difficult to project future casualties and future battles based on this summit."

Canada's anger before the summit has mostly been directed at Germany.
The reason may be partially explained by a story published yesterday on Der Spiegel's website.

The German news magazine reported that Berlin had refused several requests for its forces to come to the aid of NATO's embattled warriors in the south during the Canadian-led Operation Medusa in late August and early September. The missions Germany wanted no part of included deploying a medevac aircraft to the base where Canadians were located in Kandahar, allowing a drone aircraft to be used for reconnaissance of the area and having its special forces commandos deployed as forward air controllers to direct airstrikes against the Taliban across the south, the weekly said.

"Our goal was to stay in the north and that is exactly what we will be doing," a source close to the German delegation in Riga said yesterday.

The mood among the Germans after the summit was described as "ecstatic" and "satisfied" by different members of the delegation.

"We are well positioned with our mandate and there is no reason to change that mandate," Ms. Merkel was quoted by Der Spiegel as having told other NATO leaders when she spoke after Mr. Harper at a dinner on Tuesday night.

Ms. Merkel's fragile coalition government deliberately did not want spelled out what might actually constitute an emergency, Der Spiegel reported.

Furthermore, the magazine said the Germans wanted NATO to remain vague about whether emergencies might be declared that might involve "regularly sending German troops to the south for single missions conducted jointly with the U.S.A. or Canada."

However, alliance members will be told very soon exactly what their responsibilities will be if the NATO commander in Afghanistan declares an emergency, the top Canadian at NATO, Gen. Ray Henault, told reporters yesterday.

"Is 'in extremis' defined in everyone's mind?" the former Canadian chief of defence asked rhetorically. "We have to make sure it is so that there is no misunderstanding in the future. There is a definition of this in our doctrine and we are going to make sure everyone knows what it is."

Meanwhile, the question of getting NATO members to send additional combat forces to the south remains. "The south is still in need of reserves," Gen. Henault said. "At the dinner last night we asked countries to re-visit this issue."

Canada, Britain, the U.S. and Holland have borne most of the casualties in Afghanistan, with Canada having a casualty rate five times higher than the NATO average.

To view a video report on the NATO summit, go to Today's Videos at www.ottawacitizen.com

© The Ottawa Citizen 2006

 

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- edited 302139EST Nov 06, adding LCOL Lavoie reaction to RSM death story -

Media Advisory:  Fallen Soldiers Returning Home
CF news release, MA 06-28 - November 30, 2006
Article Link

Our fallen soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard and Cpl. Albert Storm, members of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (1 RCR), based at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, are scheduled to return home to Canada tomorrow.

Where: 8 Wing Trenton, Canadian Forces Base Trenton, Ontario.

When: Friday, December 1, 6 p.m.

What: At the wishes of the families, media are invited to view the arrival, though no interviews will be given.

Present to pay their respects will be The Minister of National Defence, Gordon O’Connor, and other dignitaries.

Both were killed when their Bison Light Armoured Vehicle was attacked by a suicide bomber driving a car laden with explosives along Highway 4 between Kandahar Airfield and Kandahar City, at approximately 8:35 a.m. (Afghanistan time), November 27, 2006.

-30-



Canadian commander mourns loss of 'best friend' in Afghan suicide bombing
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 30 Nov 06
Article Link

It's rare when a commanding officer of a battle group allows himself to show emotion.

Lt.-Col. Omer Lavoie, 40, of Marathon, Ont., is responsible for 1,200 soldiers in the Royal Canadian Regiment Battle Group in Afghanistan. He's also mourning the death of Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard, 46, of Bathurst, N.B., his battalion's regimental sergeant major, who along with Cpl. Albert Storm of Fort Erie, Ont, were killed by a suicide bomber Monday.  "(Girouard) is my best friend in the battle group. I am like everyone else and still human so there is a degree there of anger that has to be dealt with," said Lavoie who served with Girouard for about 18 months.  "He's the senior non-commissioned officer. He is the man the soldiers aspire to be like," Lavoie said of his "right-hand man."  Lavoie, who described himself as "battle-hardened," said the attack by a Taliban suicide bomber wasn't an attempt to provoke the Canadians into doing something foolhardy.  "Pure and simple terrorism. They pick a target clearly without regard to civilian casualties, and this was an area where there were a lot of civilians with a market right across the road," said Lavoie ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Ignatieff says he sees no reason to renew Afghan mission for Cdn soldiers
Dene Moore, Canadian Press, 30 Nov 06
Article Link

Liberal leadership front-runner Michael Ignatieff says he sees no reason to renew the mission of Canadian troops in Afghanistan beyond 2009.  When asked about the war by youth delegates at the party's leadership convention, Ignatieff said he supports the extension of the Canadian deployment over the next few years. Ignatieff backed the Conservatives' decision earlier this year to extend the mission but said Thursday, "I see no reason to renew it.  We will have done seven years of work for which I have the utmost respect," said Ignatieff, who will be hoping to attract additional delegate support after being criticized in some circles for endorsing the mission extension.  He said Canadians have to understand what the soldiers are doing.  "The mission is not chasing terrorists around the Hindu Kush (an Afghan mountain range)," Ignatieff said.  "The mission is a good Canadian mission, that is to support and defend a democratically elected government, the first democratically elected government Afghanistan has ever seen." ....


Ignatieff wants young Canadians to go to Afghanistan to support democracy
Canadian Press, via Canoe.ca, 30 Nov 06
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Liberal leadership front-runner Michael Ignatieff says he'd like to send young Canadians to Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and other world hot spots.  Ignatieff says he went abroad as a young man and lived in dangerous countries and now he wants younger Canadians youth to have the same chance to go overseas and make a difference. The Liberal leadership frontrunner, who spent the better part of three decades outside Canada, also says he supports the war in Afghanistan, which he calls a "good Canadian mission."   Ignatieff says Canada has done several years of hard work in the country already and more help is needed to support democracy in the struggling nation ....



Analysis: Nato strikes deal – but where are the reserves?
Michael Evans, The Times (UK), 29 Nov 06
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The Nato summit in the Latvian capital has been dominated by Afghanistan, underlining the changed and changing role the 26-nation alliance is now playing in the world.  Yet the old traditional methods of doing business are still as evident as they were during the Cold War days: summits expose all the idiosyncrasies and internal bickerings that make this military and political organisation complex, difficult to manage and often tiresome.  All the leaders agreed that the mission in Afghanistan must succeed. The credibility of the alliance was at stake, Tony Blair reiterated today. So why was it so difficult to persuade each member state of the importance of helping each other out in Afghanistan and providing all the required military capabilities?  Nato now has 32,000 troops in Afghanistan - a huge operation - but until last night over dinner there were 50 separate national caveats in existence, under which individual alliance countries reserved the right to limit their troops geographically and operationally.  Today it emerged that some of these caveats have now been lifted.   This means that countries like France, Germany, Spain and Italy, all of whom have a significant presence in Afghanistan but are located in more benign areas than the British, Canadian, Dutch and American soldiers are, will now be prepared to leave their locations to provide reinforcements elsewhere when required in an emergency ....


Polish troops to defend democracy in Afghanistan
Polonia Radio online (POL), 30 Nov 06
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Defense minister Radoslaw Sikorski has said that Poland gained in rank at the just concluded NATO summit in Riga, due to the nation’s willingness to be involved in the mission in Afghanistan.  The main reason for this has been the decision to increase the Polish contingent for operations in Afghanistan. Presently there are only some one hundred Polish soldiers in Afghanistan, but plans have been approved for deploying over one thousand troops more at the start of next year.  Countering reservations concerning the large number Poland is sending, Minister Sikorski quoted the example of Canada, which has half the population size of Poland, but has a greater military contingent in Afghanistan ....



British forces to be pulled out of Bosnia for Afghan mission
Pak Tribune (PAK), 1 Dec 06
Article Link

Britain hopes to withdraw its 700 peacekeepers from Bosnia early next year to help ease the shortage of troops for front-line duty in Afghanistan.  Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram flew to the Balkans to assess the security situation before a decision on future force levels, due to be taken by Christmas.  His visit coincided with a warning from Prime Minister Tony Blair, at Nato's Latvian summit in Riga, that the alliance needs to do more to underpin "critical" combat operations in Afghanistan.  Blair gave a guarded welcome to a relaxation of national rules of engagement to allow French, German, Spanish, and Italian troops to reinforce the UK, Canadian and American units fighting Taliban insurgents in Helmand province in an emergency ....



US, NATO attacked Afghanistan to achieve their targets: FO
Pak Tribune (PAK), 1 Dec 06
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United States of America and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) attacked Afghanistan not for benefit of Pakistan but for their personal gains, said Tasneem Aslam spokesperson of the foreign office here on Thursday.  In an interview to the state run television network, the foreign office spokesperson said that Pakistan never wanted an operation at such scale in Afghanistan because it could open the flood gate of refugees once again to Pakistan.  She said Pakistan inherited Afghan crisis as a result of Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan. The Western states used their resources and technology to crush Russians in Afghanistan in 80s and as a result 3 million Afghan refuges arrived in Pakistan. We welcomed them and did every bit to come up as a good host ....

 

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Do forgive a comment.

Polish troops to defend democracy in Afghanistan

Minister Sikorski quoted the example of Canada, which has half the population size of Poland, but has a greater military contingent in Afghanistan ...

Poland: 38,536,869 (July 2006 est.)
https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/pl.html

Canada: 32,623,490
http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/060927/d060927a.htm

So over twice the contribution, roughly, per capita.  But then we never went through what they did in WW I  and WW II.

Mark
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Canada’s fair share
Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 1 Dec 06
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NATO leaders met this week in Riga, Latvia, to try to patch up growing internal disagreements over the alliance’s Afghanistan commitment.  Mission partly accomplished.  The most pressing problem was the sense, especially in Canada, that some countries – such as ours – have borne a disproportionate burden in terms of the more dangerous military assignments. More than 40 Canadians have died in clashes with the Taliban in the volatile southern regions near Kandahar, while soldiers of nations like Germany, Italy and France have been stationed in more peaceful northern zones of the Middle Eastern country. Truly galling, however, has been those NATO members’ refusal to allow their troops to be sent into combat situations to aid fellow NATO soldiers, even in emergencies ....


NATO's wavering gives Taliban hope
Toronto Star, 1 Dec 06
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper took an urgent message to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit this week: Canada needs military backup to suppress the Taliban in Afghanistan's explosive Kandahar region and to deliver aid; our troops cannot do it alone.  And what was NATO's reply? Little more than a Euroshrug that insults the 45 Canadians who have died there upholding Afghanistan's elected government, fighting the Taliban and denying terrorists sanctuary ....


Time is on the Taliban's side
Jason Motlagh, Asia Times online, 2 Dec 06
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US President George W Bush failed to achieve twin objectives of fewer restrictions and more troops for Afghanistan at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Riga this week, shifting focus back to Iraq, where he refuses to draw down military forces. The implicit message to Taliban insurgents and their backers: time can erode an already faltering alliance in the long run.  NATO, in its first-ever mission outside Europe, now has about 32,000 troops in Afghanistan battling an unexpectedly robust  Taliban across the southern and eastern back country. To the dismay of the United States, Britain, Canada and the Netherlands - member states that have borne the brunt of the fighting - other countries have put caveats on how and where their troops can be operate as militants continue to make headway ....


NATO summit in Riga: Sharp conflicts over Afghanistan
By Peter Schwarz. World Socialist Web Site, 1 Dec 06
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The NATO summit, which took place in the Latvian capital of Riga on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, was marked by bitter divisions between the US on the one side and France, Germany, Italy and Spain on the other.  Ostensibly the differences at the summit centred on the demand by the US that Europe make more troops available for deployment in Afghanistan and start sending its troops into the conflict-ridden south and the east of the country. However, more fundamental questions were at stake concerning the future role of NATO and the increasing clash of interests between the US and Europe.  Washington wants to transform NATO from a transatlantic into a global military alliance, to include countries such as Ukraine, Georgia, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Israel and South Africa, which would then function as a repository for troops that the US could deploy for its global military campaigns. As the German weekly Die Zeit ironically noted, this “new NATO” would be a “like a permanent pool of coalitions of the willing under American leadership.” ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



UK troops switch tactics in Afghan Desert of Death
Peter Graff. Reuters (UK), 1 Dec 06
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Day breaks without a sound in the Desert of Death.  No bird chirps, no cock crows as the British Royal Marines clamber out of the holes they have dug to sleep in.  Soon, with a few tiny stoves, they are boiling up tea as the sun rises over a ridge where the Taliban still have their grip on towns and villages along the Helmand River.  More than half a year since British forces first entered Afghanistan's wildest province, the troops are modifying their tactics, placing less emphasis on holding the centres of district towns and more on mobility. Units now operate out of small armoured vehicles, bedding down in the desert under the stars ....

 

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Suicide bomber robs regiment of its soul
When Robert Girouard was killed, his unit lost more than its Chief Warrant Officer

Christie Blatchford, Globe & Mail, 2 Dec 06
Article Link - Permalink

As Chief Warrant Officer Robert (Bobby) Girouard and Corporal Albert Storm came home to Canada last night, their flag-draped caskets arriving at CFB Trenton in a light rain, there was nothing to tell the non-military observer what a profound loss he was witnessing.  While the army properly grieves every fallen soldier equally, regardless of rank, the death of CWO Girouard was felt keenly not only on a personal level, but also as an enormous symbolic blow.  The 46-year-old husband and father of three wasn't just the senior non-commissioned officer of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, he was also the unit's Regimental Sergeant Major, the first of about 25 RSMs in the battalion's storied 123-year history to be killed by enemy action.  He and 36-year-old Cpl. Storm, a native of Fort Erie, Ont., and a father of two, died Monday when their Bison armoured personnel carrier was struck by a suicide bomber just west of the main base at Kandahar Air Field.  The RSM is not a rank, but an appointment -- one steeped in military lore and best expressed in the old saying that if a regiment is commanded by the lieutenant-colonel, it "belongs" to the RSM.  Equal parts mother hen, stern father figure and kindly mentor, the RSM is variously described as the soul of a regiment, the keeper of its institutional memory and fierce guardian of its traditions, and a figure so important that every soldier from the most junior private to the most senior officer listens to him "as if unto God," as one soldier said yesterday ....



Bodies of two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan return home
Canadian Press, via Canada.com, 2 Dec 06
Article Link

Two Canadian soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan this week arrived home Friday evening.  Flag-draped caskets containing the bodies of Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard, 46, of Bathurst, N.B., and Cpl. Albert Storm, 36, of Fort Erie, Ont, were unloaded from a military plane at CFB Trenton. The remains of the two soldiers were flown back to Canadian soil following a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield on Thursday.  Girouard and Storm, both members of the Royal Canadian Regiment based in Petawawa, Ont., were in a Bison armoured personnel carrier when a suicide bomber in a car drove alongside and detonated his explosives.  The Bison had left the Kandahar air base just minutes earlier.  It was the first deadly strike against Canadian troops in Afghanistan in six weeks, shattering a period of relative calm.  Since 2002, 44 Canadian soldiers and one Canadian diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Afghan Government Minister visits Canada
Canadian International Development Agency news release # 2006-38, 30 Nov 06
Article Link

His Excellency Ehsan Zia, Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development for the Government of Afghanistan, is visiting Canada from November 30 to December 8 at the invitation of the Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages. The visit includes stops in Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, where Minister Zia will meet with members of the academic community, federal and provincial government officials, business leaders, media, and members of the public.  "I am pleased that Minister Zia has accepted my invitation to visit Canada and to share with Canadians the positive work his ministry is doing to improve the lives of rural Afghans," said Minister Verner. "Canada is committed to supporting the Afghan government in its efforts to achieve long-term, sustainable development for all of its citizens."  "Canadians are providing much needed and appreciated support to the people of Afghanistan by delivering both security and development. Your continuing support is having a direct and positive impact on the lives of ordinary Afghans," said Minister Zia. "With assistance from countries such as Canada, my country is becoming more secure and increasingly productive as we rebuild rural infrastructure and improve the business climate."  The Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, which has a presence in all of the country's 34 provinces, oversees national programs that promote development and focus on delivering services to the rural areas of the country where 80 percent of the population live.  Canada's total allocation of development assistance to Afghanistan over the 2001 to 2011 period is nearly $1 billion.



Afghan, NATO forces unearth suicide cell
The Hindu (IND), 2 Dec 06
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Afghan and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have uncovered a suicide cell in Afghanistan's restive Helmand province, a press release of the multi-national force received Saturday said.  Early Thursday, in a planned operation in Sangin district of Helmand province, Afghan and ISAF forces seized two suicide vests, several rocket-propelled grenades and a cache of equipment and weapons that were ready to be used in future attacks, the press releases added.  Two suspected Taliban fighters were captured and a number of insurgents were killed, while one ISAF soldier received a minor injury during the operation which included close air and helicopter support ....



10 Taliban killed in raid
Gulf Times (Qatar), 2 Dec 06
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Nato and Afghan troops killed 10 Taliban rebels and captured two suspected militant leaders in a raid on an alleged suicide bomb cell in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said yesterday.  Separately, six Taliban were killed and two other insurgents arrested after a three-hour gun battle with Afghan police.  One Nato soldier was lightly wounded in the operation against the suicide cell carried out early Thursday in the troubled Sangin district of Helmand province, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.  The identity of the suspected commanders captured in the raid was not revealed ....



Methar Lam PRT donates further supplies
ISAF news release # 2006-313, 29 Nov 06 
Article Link

On Sunday, the Methar Lam Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) delivered winter supplies to a local village in the Methar Lam district of Laghman Province.  The village elders coordinated the distribution of food and clothing for the people of Chandalam village. The two deliveries also included supplies for the community’s handicapped residents and for the local women’s centre.  Following the distribution of supplies, the PRT travelled to the village of Kardah in the Ali Shang district to conduct a site assessment for a future flood protection wall, essential to protecting the village from flash floods.  During the visit, radios, comic books and toys were handed out to the village children.  “PRTs continue to stay in tune with local needs in order to help all segments of the local population,” said Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, spokesperson for ISAF’s eastern command.  “The local leadership is doing tremendous work identifying and addressing people with the greatest need for the coming winter.”



Torched school set to blaze path of education
ISAF news release # 2006-318, 30 Nov 06 
Article Link

The Jaghato District School in Ghazni province, damaged by a fire earlier in the year, is ready for classes to begin with help from a $23,500 U.S. military sponsored reconstruction project.  The project began in July after suspected insurgents set the school on fire. Smoke, fire and water damaged all teaching materials, furniture and school supplies, as well as the roof and many windows and doors. They were repaired and the classrooms and hallways were cleaned and repainted. A two-meter high perimeter wall was also added to provide better security. Major improvements and repairs have also been made to the new lavatory, which is now more hygienic and can fully support the capacity of the school.  The school is open, initially, for limited classes and will soon be back in full session.



Snowfall begins as WFP races food supplies in Afghanistan
Kuwait News Agency, 2 Dec 06
Article Link

The World Food Programme (WFP) is racing its food delivery operations as Afghanistan's central capital Kabul and the surrounding provinces received the first snowfall of the winter season on Saturday. The snowfall began some 20 days ahead of routine this season, which lashes the northern and western parts of the country each year. The current year is unique as far as the WFP's operations are concerned because the agency is also busy in delivering food aid to the flood-affected areas. The WFP will provide food and medicine supplies to areas that will be cut off from the rest parts of the country due to heavy snows while some more aid will be needed in provinces and districts hit by the recent fighting between Taliban and the NATO and Afghan forces. According to the WFP, 21,000 metric tons of food, including wheat, beans, oil and salt, needed to be distributed to 600,000 vulnerable people in more than 16 provinces of the impoverished country ....



ESTIMATED POPPY CULTIVATION IN AFGHANISTAN
Office of National Drug Control Policy news release, 1 Dec 06
Article Link

The annual U.S. Government estimate for opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is complete and shows that approximately 172,600 hectares of poppy were cultivated during the crop season in 2006—an increase of 61 percent over the 2005 (107,400) level, but below the record poppy crop of 2004.  The increase in poppy planting was primarily focused in two of Afghanistan's provinces, Helmand and Oruzgan, up 132 percent from last year's cultivation estimate. Cultivation in the remaining 31 provinces was up by 18 percent. Current cultivation levels equate to a potential production of 5,644 metric tons of opium, a 26 percent increase in potential opium production over 2005 estimates (4,475 metric tons). Favorable growing conditions contributed to the increase in potential production. These estimates are based on a scientific sample survey of Afghan agricultural regions conducted with specialized U.S. Government satellite imaging systems ....


Despite NATO, Afghan opium cultivation grows 61 percent
Maxim Kniazkov, Agence France Presse, 2 Dec 06
Article Link

Opium poppy cultivation shot up a whopping 61 percent in Afghanistan this year in a setback for US and NATO efforts to clamp down on the country's illegal drug industry, according to new figures released by the White House.  The anticipated record crop is seen as another boost for the resurgent Taliban as the Islamic guerrilla movement is often accused by US officials of using proceeds from drug sales to buy weapons and attract new recruits.  The annual US government estimate for Afghan opium poppy cultivation shows that approximately 172,600 hectares (426,503 acres) of poppy were cultivated throughout the country this year, an increase of 61 percent over 2005, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said Friday.  Two southern Afghan provinces -- Helmand and Oruzgan where the Taliban has been the most active -- are responsible for the bulk of the increase. Poppy planting there was up 132 percent from last year, compared to an 18-percent increase in the remaining 31 provinces ....

 

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From yahoo.ca news

General says Canadians ill-informed over Afghan debate, defends mission
Tue Dec 5, 5:38 PM

By Murray Brewster


OTTAWA (CP) - The debate over Canada's role in Afghanistan has been ill-informed and bereft of facts, says the former commander of Canadian troops there.

Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, who returned from the war-torn country last month, says he's having a hard time getting used to the chill in the air - both in terms of the weather and the public discourse involving the mission.

"It would be nice to have a debate with all of the facts on the table," Fraser said Tuesday in a speech to the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.

"I'll tell you right now, the story Canadians are receiving is like an iceberg. They're only seeing one-third of it."

In part, the soft-spoken general blamed the media for focusing on the casualty count, rather than the more nuanced narratives of nation-building.

"What was reported this past summer was my operations in Sangin and Helmand; what I did to fight the Taliban," he said.

"No one reported the fact that I spent $20 million building roads, schools, wells and training and mentoring an Afghan corp commander."

In fact, there has been media coverage of reconstruction efforts, but access and information is often difficult to get.

Fraser's criticism follows similar comments by Prime Minister Stephen Harper who has said several times that the good work Canadians soldiers are doing often goes unreported.

What the Conservative government does not say is that civilian members of government agencies, such as the Canadian International Development Agency and the Foreign Affairs Department, are routinely barred from speaking with journalists on the ground about redevelopment projects.

Last spring, Fraser's own principal political advisor at Kandahar Airfield - a Foreign Affairs staffer - was not allowed to be quoted on the record by the embedded media.

Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh blamed the information vacuum on the Conservatives and their policy of muzzling ministers and officials.

"I have the utmost respect for Gen. Fraser, the work he's done, and I understand his frustration," said Dosanjh. "But it's really up to the government to provide information. And they have not been providing that information."

Opposition MPs and senators - especially parliamentary defence committees - have "fought tooth and nail" to be briefed on the latest goings on in Afghanistan, he said.

Speaking to NATO parliamentarians last month about anemic support for the mission, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor conceded the government hadn't gone a good job engaging the public on the question of why the country was in Afghanistan.

Fraser, who was in charge of all coalition and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, ended his overseas tour Nov. 1 and turned over responsibility to a Dutch general.

During his time on the ground, Canadians were involved in the heaviest fighting they've seen since the Korean War. A series of conventional and guerrilla-type battles as well as accidents claimed the lives of 36 soldiers and wounded over 200 others.

Public opinion polls reflected a deep skepticism for the mission when troops were first deployed to the unstable southern region last winter. The results in subsequent surveys have ebbed and flowed, depending upon the state of fighting and the number of casualties.

Without naming NDP Leader Jack Layton, who's called for Canadian troops to be brought home, Fraser took aim at critics and said it is important the Conservative government stay the course.

"Those people over there in Afghanistan asked for us to be there. They want us to be there. They continue to want to be there."

However, Dosanjh said it's not the job of the military to promote the mission - that's up to the government.

Fraser, who is on a speaking tour, said Canada's history of diversity and racial tolerance means it has a lot offer the fractious tribal country.

"When I met the governor, Assadullah Khalid, in Kandahar he led with a pistol eight months ago," he said.

"Today he picked the phone and picks up a pen. He leads by example. Ladies and gentlemen, that is huge progress."

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