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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (November 2007)

Articles found November 13, 2007

Canada has bought itself a classic moral obligation
TheStar.com - comment - November 13, 2007 Eric Morse
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It became known last month that the Canadian military contingent in Kandahar Province has begun paying the salaries of some Afghan National Police (ANP) units in their area of operations.

In the circumstances, this makes perfect sense. The ANP are notoriously corrupt and very little of an ANP constable's salary finds its way into his pocket, let alone on time. The incentive to take bribes from the insurgents and drug lords and to extort from local villagers is almost irresistible, and direct payment from Canadian hands ensures reasonable discipline and attention to duty. An effective police presence in the countryside is vital and this goes some way toward providing it.

There is another side though. By the simple act of providing regular pay, we have created bonds that go well beyond economic relationships. We may not realize it, coming from a culture which has come to view the employer-employee relationship as a marriage of convenience for both sides. But things are far otherwise in a traditional society like Afghanistan. Relationships are much more solemn and personal. By doing what we have done, we have created a classic patron-client relationship, with the Afghan clients almost certainly making assumptions about the patron's obligations which the Canadian command and government may not have entirely thought through or bought into.

Nasty words like "mercenaries" or "camp followers" do not enter into it. Any time an army sets down anywhere, it has an effect on the local population, benign or otherwise and usually both. When the Canadian NATO brigade in West Germany moved from Soest in the north to Lahr in the south, many of the German people who had made a living serving their needs followed them. By then, many were already members of Canadian families. The Canadians picked up a similar following in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s as they moved about the country.

The process is even more visible in countries like Korea, where massive U.S. bases have existed for more than half a century. In South Vietnam during the Vietnam War it reached an apogee – and provided a horrific example of consequences at the bitter end.

The trouble begins when it is time to go home, especially if the departure is from a place where there is still a strong enemy in the field. The locals have placed their bets irrevocably; if the other side wins, they and their families have very poor prospects or life expectancy. Those suspected of having served the former regime in uniform or out are in the worst position of all. The haunting image is that of the last helicopter departing the U.S. embassy roof as Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975, dangling a trail of desperate and doomed Vietnamese abandoned to their fate by their erstwhile employers.
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Rate of wounded on rise
108 soldiers sent home for treatment in first eight months of 2007
GLORIA GALLOWAY From Tuesday's Globe and Mail November 13, 2007 at 4:41 AM EST
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OTTAWA — The number of Canadian soldiers who are so badly wounded in Afghanistan that they must be returned to Canada for treatment is on a trajectory to far exceed last year's toll.

During the first eight months of this year, 108 members of the Canadian Forces became eligible for the allowance that is given to wounded military personnel who lose their danger pay because their injuries require them to be removed from the war zone.

When the danger-pay substitute, called the Allowance for Loss of Operational Allowance, was introduced on Dec. 15, 2006, then-defence-minister Gordon O'Connor said he expected 115 soldiers would receive it as a result of injuries in 2006.

So the 2007 tally of 108 by Sept. 1 - obtained by The Globe and Mail using Access to Information legislation - was just seven shy of the number reached in mid-December of last year. And published reports suggest many have been injured since the end of August.
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The Rebirth of the Canadian military
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
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Canada's Chief of Defence Staff General Rick Hillier, who I mentioned here earlier, isn't too popular with the elites in his country, stemming from an age-old malady of actually being good at his job. Some in the country would rather their military forces return to being "shock troops" for UN peacekeeping missions, as is Canada's tradition, but others disagree including Christie Blatchford:

Consider what Colonel George Petrolekas, a veteran soldier now on unpaid leave who is also a friend of Gen. Hillier's (and fiercely loyal), has to say about one of the missions ... Bosnia.Col. Petrolekas was there in 1993 as part of the United Nations' protection force.

"The mission was for the delivery of humanitarian aid to villages," he says, "and thus the rules did not allow the international force to stop abuses of humanity that can only be termed aberrant.

"Early in my tour in 1993, a village of 280 [this was the village of Vares] was butchered and not a word was said, not a thing was done. There were so many such events that I saw soldiers cry at the frustration of not being able to do the right thing."

She ends with this description of Gen. Hillier:

The truth is, Gen. Hillier has presided over what amounts to the rebirth of the Canadian military. I don't speak purely in terms of budgets, armaments and missions, either; what he has really done is make it respectable again to be a soldier in this country. Under his leadership, there has been something of a cultural shift such that soldiers are no longer made to feel vaguely ashamed for being soldiers.

I posted this because I see many similarities in our own country over the proper role of the armed forces in the 21st Century. Some would have us return to a deterrent strategy, with the threat of force taking place of the actual use of military power to take out rogue regimes and terrorist groups, sort of "speak loudly and carry a small stick". I saw this in the Navy's recent Maritime Strategy and consider it a dangerous mindset not based on the reality of the times, and which won't keep us safe from a recurring 9/11 or worse. Some though, like Canada's Hillier, and those currently defeating the radicals in Iraq and Afghanistan, rightly see the need of going into the nests of the enemies of Civilization and actually killing them, before they spread their oppressive ideology to free nations.
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Talk about spinning for some of our allies in Afstan
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Scott Taylor is truly being economical with the truth:

...Step forward, NATO slackers.

That’s right: As Canada "punches above its weight" in Kandahar, we are not achieving complete success because other NATO countries are failing to do their bit for the alliance. The latest rallying cry of the Canadian tub-thumpers is that Afghanistan is NATO’s Waterloo and that if our partners don’t step up to the plate to win, we should consider cutting short our own commitment.

Two of the most maligned NATO countries accused of shirking their martial responsibilities are France and Germany. What is ironic about Canadians criticizing these particular allies is that as well as contributing significant contingents to Afghanistan (50 per cent more than Canada, in Germany’s case), they are both still heavily engaged in providing security forces in Bosnia and Kosovo [now that's a rich verbal twist: "security forces", implying something like the CF at Kanadahar when in fact the forces in the Balkans are doing traditional peacekeeping without combat--though the clouds are darkening - MC].

While Canada has rushed from flavour-of-the-month conflicts over the past decade, many of our NATO allies have been left manning the less newsworthy but still simmering hot spots.

Canada has chosen to place its military eggs into the one Afghan basket, but we should not be so quick to point fingers and denigrate those countries whose ongoing commitments elsewhere allow us the dubious luxury of being in the front-line spotlight [what tosh, Mr Taylor: those commitments elsewhere in no way preclude those countries from giving their troops a "front-line" role in Afstan].
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Canadian soldiers playing crucial role in rebuilding of Afghanistan, says officer 
SHERRY MARTELL The Truro Daily News
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TATAMAGOUCHE – Each time a soldier dies fighting the war on terror in Afghanistan Canadians become painfully aware of the mission there.
One of Canada’s highest ranking military officers said loss of life is only one side of the story unfolding there, as our soldiers play a major role in rebuilding the nation scarred by years under control of a terrorist regime.
“There’s a lot of good news,” said Brig.-Gen. David Fraser speaking to about 80 people at an evening banquette at the Tatamagouche Royal Canadian Legion on Remembrance Day.
“Our Canadians are making a difference overseas but we have to temper our expectations.”
Fraser assumed command of the Multi-National Brigade as Canadian Commander  in Afghanistan in February 2006 and held the position for nine months as part of the ongoing international commitment to the development and stability of the region. 
Fraser said Canadians have engineered many positive changes since  2001 with advances in several areas including education, infrastructure development and health care.
“It’s not about fighting. It’s about jobs and education and by doing that we defeat the Taliban,” said the General.
“It’s about when a child asks you for a pencil, nothing else, just a pencil and why? Because they want to learn.”
Canadians have helped construct more than 190 kilometres of new road,  canals have been restored, 120 water wells have been repaired and more than six million children are now attending school; about 50 per cent are girls.
Fraser said there has also been a change in how Canadians feel about their troops at home since the conflict began, with people walking up to soldiers on the street and shaking their hand while saying “Thank you.”
“Twenty years ago that didn’t happen,” said Fraser.


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BAE's Bunker Finder
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Related stories: Contracts - Awards, New Systems Tech, Americas - USA, Air Reconnaissance, R&D - Contracted, BAE, Sensors & Guidance, Design Innovations

"Found a bunker!"
(click to view full)BAE Systems Electronics and Integrated Solutions, Inc. of Washington DC received an $8.2 million contract for the ATAEM program. Their goal is to design, build and demonstrate a proof-of-concept system that can find and possibly map underground facilities from an airborne platform, using active electromagnetic techniques. At this time $2.8 million has been obligated. Det 1 of the AFRL at Wright-Patterson Air Force
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Afghanistan rich with mineral resources: report
CTV, Nov. 13

Afghanistan has significant amounts of undiscovered non-fuel mineral resources that could present a great source of wealth for the country, says the U.S. Geological Survey.

A 2007 preliminary assessment by the USGS,
unveiled today at a U.S.-Afghan Business Matchmaking Conference in Washington, shows estimates for copper and iron ore resources have the most potential for extraction in Afghanistan.

Scientists also found indications of abundant deposits of colored stones and gemstones, including emerald, ruby, sapphire, garnet, lapis, kunzite, spinel, tourmaline and peridot.

Gold, mercury, sulfur, chromite, talc-magnesite, potash, graphite and sand and gravel were also listed as examples of mineral resources available for extraction.

"Afghanistan has abundant known mineral resources and also significant potential for additional, undiscovered mineral resources," USGS scientist Stephen Peters said Tuesday in a podcast.

"A viable mineral industry is critical to rebuilding Afghanistan's natural resource sector which, in turn, will contribute to the country's economic stability."..

The majority of information on Afghanistan's mineral resources was produced between the early 1950s and 1985 [emphasis added].  Until 2001, most of that data was hidden and protected by Afghan scientists.

Since then, the data has been returned to the Afghan government and used to help scientists with the recent assessment.

"The assessment is preliminary because it is based largely on older existing data with very little ground verification," said Peters. "If the USGS were to conduct additional work in Afghanistan, future activities will be designed to acquire new data on the ground." [emphasis added]

The current assessment will be used to attract interest and investment as the country works to rebuild its natural resources sector.

"Exploration for and development of mineral deposits can lead to industry and commerce and provide alternative lifestyles to the Afghan people," said Peters.

"A robust mineral industry provides jobs, builds infrastructure and provides government revenue which will contribute to the economic prosperity and stability in the country."

Peters said the known and potential mineral resources are located in all the provinces of Afghanistan.

Articles found November 14, 2007

Is Canada failing Afghan captives?
TheStar.com - comment - November 14, 2007
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Have Canada's troops in Afghanistan turned over 40 captured insurgents to the sometimes abusive authorities there? Or 200? Or even more? Canadians don't know, and the military won't say.

Have many been tortured, or worse? Canadians don't know.

Are Canada's vaunted agreements with the Afghanistan government working, in order to ensure that the Afghan security services respect detainees' rights under the Geneva Convention and to ensure we can monitor them? Again, Canadians just don't know.

While Canada's prisoner-transfer policy purports to make sure prisoners aren't ill-treated, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has cloaked our handling of detainees in such secrecy that there is no way to tell whether or not it is working as advertised.

That damning allegation from Amnesty International, the respected international rights group, applies to other allies as well, notably the British, Dutch, Norwegians and Belgians. While North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials insist there is "no evidence of torture of detainees" who have been transferred, Amnesty warns that existing monitoring protocols leave prisoners "at substantial risk of torture."

In Canada's case, despite troubling reports of abuses and efforts by Ottawa to improve tracking and monitoring of prisoners, officials have downplayed the number of transfers and have censored or suppressed documents involving detainees. That makes it impossible for the public to know whether claims of abuse are true or false.

As international and domestic concern grows, so must Parliament's oversight. The House of Commons committees on foreign affairs, national defence and security must hold the government to account.

In interviews with 15 people handed over by Canadian troops, Amnesty says six said they were tortured or abused. The claims are not easy to dismiss, given that the United Nations, Canadian diplomats and the Afghan human rights monitor have heard reports that the National Directorate for Security tortures prisoners.
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From Minor Power to the Major Leagues
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Some 100 years ago, the British Royal Navy constructed the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought, which also allowed other navies to start from scratch and play catchup, as the Germans, Japanese, and Americans proceeded to do. America's current monopoly on high technology has given it unprecedented military and international prestige, but such easily accessible weaponry can also fuel the imperial desires of other powers, whether friend or foe. Most Western states are struggling to replace or at least maintain old Cold War style inventories, most notably in the news have been Germany, Australia, and Canada. For simplicities sake we will focus on Canada's armed forces.

Like most small powers, Canada is a mirror of the US armed forces in miniature. It maintains the three standard arms: air force, navy, and army. By clinging to this industrial age establishment, she finds it increasingly difficult to replace Cold War era weaponry, including aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles, and ships. She is also failing to take advantage of the New Warfare of the Digital Age .

A case in point is her navy. Canada currently maintains a destroyer/frigate force, a handful of submarines, and a few logistics ships, while planning to build an amphibious type warship in the near future. Perhaps by focusing on maintaining the most potent of these, her submarines, she could carry out the bulk of her maritime missions at far less expense and with less procurement headaches. By arming them with cruise missiles, the submarine can be considered on par with and a threat to the most powerful of warships. To a small navy, the modern undersea boat can be considered a capital ship, cruiser, destroyer, anti submarine vessel, and patrol ship.
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France weighs expanding role on the ground
DOUG SAUNDERS Globe and Mail Update November 13, 2007 at 8:20 AM EST
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PARIS — Among Canadian officials and NATO leaders worried about an Afghanistan war that is falling short of soldiers, France has become a last great hope.

Because the Netherlands and Canada, two of the four countries holding down the conflict-scarred south of Afghanistan, are suffering large-scale casualties and are considering withdrawing their soldiers from the United Nations-mandated North Atlantic Treaty Alliance war in Afghanistan, pressure has fallen on the French to make up the loss -- and to provide a military partner that might encourage those countries to stay involved.

Since conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy was elected president in June, the French have entered a heated discussion on the possibility of building their role in Afghanistan, and military and diplomatic officials have taken this as a signal that France might provide much-needed extra forces in the war. In expectation, Canada has recently given its embassy in Paris a role in Afghanistan-related matters.

It could be a difficult mission. In interviews, senior French government officials say that a larger military role might be possible -- but it won't likely happen soon, and it will probably be part of a larger strategy to remake NATO and European military forces to be less reliant on the United States.
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Polish soldiers detained for civilian deaths in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-14 11:21:16   
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    WARSAW, Nov. 13 (Xinhua) -- Seven soldiers of the Polish Military Contingent in Afghanistan were detained Tuesday in connection with an incident in which several Afghan civilians were killed, the Polish Defense Ministry said.

    The soldiers were detained on the orders of the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office. The prosecutor said charges would be presented Wednesday.

    The soldiers were accused of breaking international law, especially the Hague and Geneva Conventions ratified by Poland, the ministry said in a statement.

    On Aug. 16, two days after the first Polish soldier was killed in an ambush near the Afghan border with Pakistan, the Polish troops from the Wazi-Khwa base were attacked while on patrol by the Taliban, who then went into hiding among civilians. The Polish soldiers fired mortars in the direction of the attackers, killing and wounding several civilians.
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ISAF soldier killed in explosion


One ISAF soldier killed in IED explosion in southern Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan – One ISAF soldier was killed in southern Afghanistan today when he was caught in an IED explosion during a routine patrol. 
A local interpreter was also injured and is being treated at an ISAF medical facility.

“Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the soldier who died in this tragic incident and with those of his wounded Afghan colleague,” said Wing Commander Antony McCord, a spokesman for Regional Command South.

In accordance with ISAF policy, ISAF does not release the casualty’s nationality prior to the relevant national authority
Articles found November 15, 2007

The Ruxted Group’s Submission to the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan
Wednesday, November 14. 2007
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The Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan invited public submission because, it said: "An important contribution to their analysis is input from the public." The Ruxted Group made a submission. Here it is:
The Ruxted Group’s Submission to the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan

The Ruxted Group1 consists of people with interest in and knowledge of foreign policy, national security and defence issues. The Group has a distinctly military flavour, many of its members having had lengthy military careers. Membership is voluntary and by invitation only. The Ruxted Group is totally self-supporting; members provide all the required effort and resources (mainly a presence on the World Wide Web). The Ruxted Group aims to add its informed opinions to the national debates about foreign policy, national security and defence issues.

The Ruxted Group believes Canada’s ongoing mission in Afghanistan must be seen in a broader context of Canadian vital interests.
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Police corruption remains a drag on Afghan mission for Canadian troops
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ZHARI DISTRICT, Afghanistan - Some things are a given in Afghanistan. The sun is nearly always shining and its overwhelming brightness tends to give everything a bleached out look.

There will always be the dust and the desert and, if you are an Afghan civilian travelling through an area manned by the police, you will likely be shaken down for cash.

Corruption from the highest echelons down to the lowest has been a serious problem in this country for decades and one the government is attempting to stamp out. But something that is so ingrained is not easily removed.

When a police officer makes just US$77 a month and even then his pay doesn't always arrive, he looks for other ways of improving his lot.

That is something that members of the Police Operational Mentoring Liaison Team (POMLT) are trying to tackle as they work with Afghan National Police manning police substations here in the volatile Zhari and nearby Panjwaii districts.

"They've got a lot of corruption, those guys. I talk to the local population here and with the amount of corruption it's hard," sighed Sgt. Sylvain Latulippe, one of the mentors.
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Counting the injured 
The Telegram
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The story itself was buried on the bottom of page A4 in Monday’s Globe and Mail, well back behind the latest wall-to-wall coverage of the fallout of KarlHeinz Schrieber’s alleged dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
But even though it’s at the bottom of the page, the story in question is one that a number of people in this province might want to consider, especially those with family serving in the Canadian Forces overseas.
The story, based on information the newspaper obtained through the federal access to information legislation, suggests that Canadian soldiers are being seriously injured in Afghanistan at an increasing rate. The newspaper bases its information on an analysis of the number of soldiers who are being evacuated to Canada for medical treatment — a number the newspaper got by asking for the number of injured soldiers receiving a payment equal to the danger pay they would get in Afghanistan.
The payment, called the Allowance for Loss of Operational Allowance, was put into place when Canadian soldiers revealed that, when they were seriously injured and evacuated to Canada, they actually got a pay cut on top of everything else — hardly the sort of thanks you’d expect from a grateful nation if you are injured on their behalf.
During the first eight months of this year, 108 Canadian soldiers became eligible for the new payment.
For all of 2006, there were only 115 who became eligible.
That is serious enough news — what’s more serious is that the federal government has flatly refused to comment in any way about what those numbers mean, and what sorts and number of injuries are actually occurring in Afghanistan.
At least one estimate, by Esprit de Corps magazine, suggests the number of Canadian soldiers killed and wounded in Afghanistan now tops 600 — a number the Department of National Defence also refuses to discuss, clarify or even comment on.
Their reticence is inexcusable, and the only possible interpretation to put on the deliberate withholding of such information is that National Defence has deliberately chosen to keep the full picture on Canadian casualties from being known.
There is, to put it bluntly, absolutely no operational reason to keep casualty numbers secret. After all, most of the other countries with soldiers fighting in Afghanistan regularly release those figures.
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'Credible' case of torture found in Afghanistan
TheStar.com - November 15, 2007 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
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Taliban fighter beaten after being handed over to Afghanistan authorities, Foreign Affairs says

OTTAWA–Canadian officials have uncovered a "credible" case of torture involving a Taliban fighter whom Canadian forces had turned over to Afghan authorities.

The admission that Canadian detainees are being mistreated in Afghan prisons by local authorities is the first of its kind from the Conservative government. It came just before the foreign affairs department released about 1,000 pages of files late last night that suggests widespread abuse of prisoners – including those captured by Canadian soldiers – continues to occur in Afghanistan.

"The allegation has come to light because we have a good agreement with the Afghan government," Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said in the Commons.

He also said Canadian officials have conducted 32 interviews with prisoners who had been captured by Canadian troops.

In one case, on April 25, an individual detained by Canadian soldiers and later interviewed by Corrections Canada officials in prison reported having his toes burned, and being kicked and beaten while blindfolded. Another reported receiving electrical shocks, having hands and feet bound and being made to stand for 10 straight days.
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Soldiers don't forget their fallen comrades
By WES KELLER Freelance Reporter
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Remembrance Day 2007 in Orangeville might have differed from all others, as serving members of Corporal Mathew McCully's regular forces army unit came from CFB Petawawa to pay their respects at the Royal Canadian Legion's service, and then at the Sunset ceremony that followed.

Although Orangeville, along with the rest of Dufferin County, had lost scores of brave sons between 1914 and 2007, Sunday was the first time in local history that serving members of any military formation had come as a group to honour a comrade who had been killed in action.

Also, possibly for the first time, a wreath was placed at the Cenotaph in memory and honour of all First Nations citizens who served, and many of whom died, in action. There was a moment of exceptional interest as Orangeville resident Donna Koutsourdais held aloft an Eagle feather - a tribal symbol.

It might have been the most appropriate day on which to introduce what might become an annual tradition, as some of the Natives in the Second World War served in signals, communicating in their Native language - a "code" that the enemy could not decipher.

Cpl. McCully, who died on active duty in Afghanistan last May 25, was a member of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, part of the 2nd Canadian Mechanized Brigade. A vanguard of 11 his Signals comrades arrived Saturday from Petawawa, and more came from CFB Borden and elsewhere Sunday.
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Italy's Di Paola to Succeed Canadian as Top NATO Military Aide
By James G. Neuger
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Nov. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola was named the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's next chief military adviser, taking on a key role in crafting alliance strategy in Afghanistan and Kosovo.

Di Paola, 63, will become head of the committee of NATO defense chiefs in June 2008 when the current chairman, Canadian General Ray Henault, ends his three-year term. Di Paola beat a Polish and Spanish rival in a vote today in Brussels, NATO said.

Di Paola, chief of the Italian military staff since 2004, will take on a post first held by U.S. General Omar Bradley in 1949. The job's role is to provide consensus military advice to NATO's civilian leadership.

``General Henault's leadership has guided us through some significant changes in NATO's history, and it is my firm intention to continue to build on this reform and transformation agenda,'' Di Paola said in an e-mailed NATO statement.
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More Foreign Fighters Reported Aiding Taliban in Afghanistan
By Bill Rodgers Washington 14 November 2007
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There are signs that more foreign fighters are joining the Taliban in Afghanistan. These foreign militants are believed responsible for the upsurge in suicide bombings -- and some experts say they have strengthened the Taliban insurgency. More from VOA's Bill Rodgers.

The Taliban always had foreigners in its ranks, but experts say a new surge is bolstering the insurgency.

Most are Pakistani militants, who slip across the border into Afghanistan to join the Taliban. But there are other nationalities as well -- says Seth Jones, a specialist on Afghanistan at the Rand Corporation. "Small numbers are Arabs, especially Saudis, Libyans, Egyptians. A small number also of Uzbeks, Chechens and some other Central Asians. But the bulk of these are Pakistanis, including Pakistani Pashtuns."

A suspected fighter from Siberia was featured in a recent New York Times article -- his capture an indication of how foreigners are coming to the region to fight alongside the Taliban.

As in the 1980s when foreigners came to Afghanistan to fight against occupying Soviet forces, the motivation for this new generation of foreign militants is holy war.
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Afghans Expanding Pomegranate Exports
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Farm hands place mounds of bright red pomegranates into shipping boxes stamped "Product of Afghanistan." The price and quality of the sweet fruit are up, and the farmers are happy that a new storage facility has extended their selling season.

The advances in the pomegranate trade are a sliver of good news from a region of Afghanistan known more for Taliban attacks and a thriving opium trade.

Ubaidullah Jan, a 50-year-old farmer from the Arghandab area just north of Kandahar, said the price his pomegranates command has doubled this year to about 54 cents a pound, due to the new cold storage facility and quality control programs implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"The goods we are selling with the help of USAID and being able to keep them in cold storage have brought a tremendous change in our business," Jan said, adding that his goods are sent to Dubai, Pakistan, India and Singapore.

Scarred by an almost perpetual state of conflict since 1980, Afghanistan has only one truly successful export: opium and the heroin that is made from it.

The country produced 8,200 tons of opium in 2007, up 34 percent from last year's record harvest. Farmers this year can make $2,000 on an acre of opium poppies, while wheat yields about $220.
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English Teacher Killed in Afghanistan
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban insurgents killed a man teaching English courses in eastern Afghanistan, sparking a clash that left two suspected militants and two policemen dead, an official said Thursday.

U.S.-led coalition forces, meanwhile, killed several suspected militants in the south of the country.

In eastern Paktika province, the Taliban on Wednesday killed an Afghan who was teaching English language classes, said Din Mohammad Darwesh, spokesman for the provincial governor.

The Taliban frequently target civilians for activities they consider sympathetic to foreign countries, international aid groups or forces.

In southern Helmand province, coalition forces were searching compounds Wednesday when a gunfight broke out between troops and militants holed up in several buildings and hiding among trees, the coalition said in a statement. The forces responded with gunfire and airstrikes that they said killed "several militants."

The raids also led to the detention of seven people suspected of links to foreign fighters and weapons suppliers in the area, the statement said. One of the suspects was wounded while resisting arrest. The troops recovered and destroyed a weapons and ammunition cache.
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German Parliament Extends Afghan Anti - Terror Mandate
Reuters, Nov. 15

Germany's lower house of parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to renew its option to participate in U.S. counter-terrorist operations in Afghanistan, despite widespread public opposition.

The Bundestag said there were 413 votes in favor, 145 against and 15 abstentions.

Although no German special forces have taken part in such activities for two years, opinion polls show the vast majority of Germans oppose staying on the list of potential participants.

For months left-wing lawmakers have called for an end to German involvement in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the official name for the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan to topple its Taliban government after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Since then, OEF has been expanded to cover the broader fight against terrorism and not only special combat operations in Afghanistan, where NATO troops are struggling to pacify an increasingly resilient Taliban insurgency.

Germany has some 3,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping operation that is separate from the OEF mandate, which allows the deployment of up to 100 special forces in Afghanistan and up to 1,400 to monitor the Horn of Africa.

The decision will come as a relief to the United States. For months, U.S. officials have been meeting with German officials and lawmakers to try to persuade them that Germany should not break ranks with its Western allies.

Washington had strong backing from Chancellor Angela Merkel, conservative Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung and Social Democrat (SPD) Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, all of whom campaigned for OEF. They called it vital for the stabilization of Afghanistan...

Horn of Africa is mainly German Navy:

Beleaguered NATO holding back Afghan progress
AP, Nov. 15

Canadian Gen. Ray Henault, NATO's top soldier, says recent efforts to overcome shortfalls in the alliance's force in Afghanistan have made only limited progress, holding back efforts to improve security in the country.

"We have seen modest progress on force generation," said Henault, chairman of NATO's military committee, after talks with chiefs of staff from the 26 allied countries.

"There are still shortfalls, and we discussed the strategic risks and consequences associated with continued under-resourcing of the minimum military requirement," he said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Henault issued the comments after a serious of meetings designed to drum up reinforcements for NATO's force of 41,000 in Afghanistan which is facing the most violent year since the U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban in 2001.

Although the force has grown by 8,500 over the past year, NATO commanders on the ground say they need more helicopters, planes and mobile units to step up the fight against the Taliban [emphasis added].

"Given the deployed resources, we remain satisfied in the main with the pace and progress," Henault said. "With more, we could do more and do it faster."..

NATO commanders are also seeking to persuade allies to send more teams of instructors to train the Afghan army so that it can eventually start to take over front-line security from the international forces.

"Fielding more training and liaison teams for the Afghan National Army remains a key priority," Henault said, adding that such teams can produce "a large payoff for a relatively small investment."

Recent offers from NATO governments should take the number of embedded training teams to a number in the "low-to mid-30s," compared with 26 last month, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said.

However the alliance's target is 46 and growing, as more Afghan army units are put together
[emphasis added].

Appathurai declined to say which countries had made new offers, but Germany and France have indicated they would both be sending more instructors.

Afghan units in eastern Afghanistan have recently taken the lead in some operations against the Taliban, with U.S. support [emphasis added]. However, NATO commanders estimate it would take up to 10 years before the Afghans could stand alone.

France denies preparing new Afghanistan troop boost
Reuters, Nov. 15

France on Thursday denied a report that it is setting aside roughly 1,000 troops for possible deployment in Afghanistan, a move that would be a boon to the United States, which wants NATO countries to do more there.

Weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaine reported on Wednesday that President Nicolas Sarkozy had asked the head of the armed forces to keep a batallion of about 1,000 men at NATO's disposal so that they could be dispatched to Afghanistan if needed.

Asked about the report, Defense Ministry spokesman Laurent Teisseire said France had a batallion in NATO's strategic reserve, and there had been no change regarding its status.

"There is no evolution," he told a weekly news conference.

"I confirm that there is indeed something called the strategic reserve and that France contributes a batallion to this strategic reserve," he added.

France has roughly 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, where it is part of the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force. Paris said in June that around 150 extra soldiers would be sent to train Afghan forces, and a further 50 such troops have been pledged since then...


How Royal Anglians killed 1,000 Taliban
Daily Telegraph, Nov. 16

The intensity of combat in Afghanistan has been laid bare as one Army regiment revealed that it had fired one million rounds, killed 1,028 Taliban and lost nine men in a six-month tour of duty.

At times, fighting saw 1Bn of the Royal Anglians having to "winkle out the Taliban at the point of a bayonet", said Lt Col Stuart Carver, the commanding officer, at the battalion's medal ceremony.

At times the fighting was on a par with that experienced in the Second World War and the casualty rate was similar, with nine men killed and a further 135 wounded.

In a moving speech given by a former commander of the Anglians, Major Gen John Sutherell said they had completed the "most demanding tour" ever asked of the regiment...

Lt Col Carver said his men had fought conventional trench warfare, engaging a well-trained enemy from, at times, 15 feet away.

"There was some pretty fierce fighting in conditions you would sometimes see in World War Two, clearing buildings and trenches."

The enemy was highly trained and well equipped, although others were poorly trained fanatics.

"The good ones are extremely good, religiously motivated and will stay and fight until the last," Lt Col Carver said. "Sometimes they had to be winkled out of buildings at the point of a bayonet."

He said the Taliban mounted more than 350 attacks on his troops.

"By the end of the Anglian tour, three quarters of shop fronts had been restored to Sangin, which had previously been a ghost town. A school for 500 boys and girls had opened and the population had electricity. The security threat had also dropped to 'Northern Ireland levels'."

Despite the heroism of the tour, one third of the battalion received no recognition for the fighting they experienced.

Although General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, had indicated that a "Southern Afghanistan" clasp would be added to the Afghanistan campaign medal, it appears the MoD is dragging its feet over the issue.

The entire back row of three on parade at Pirbright Barracks, Surrey, did not get a medal as they had already received one during the "benign" Anglian tour of 2002.

Yesterday, the soldiers called for a recognition of the fighting they had experienced.

"It is chronically unfair that this has not been the case," said one soldier.

Articles found November 16, 2007

Fingers on triggers, then split-second decisions
Detailed records show Canadian troops open fire about once a week on approaching people or vehicles they consider dangerous
PAUL KORING From Thursday's Globe and Mail November 15, 2007 at 3:57 AM EST
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WASHINGTON — Facing ever-present and deadly threats from suicide bombers, Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan open fire almost weekly at Afghans getting too close to convoys or approaching checkpoints at high speed, according to the most complete public accounting to date of such incidents.

The exhaustively compiled summary shows at least nine Afghans have been killed and 22 injured in more than two dozen shootings when Canadian soldiers fired on approaching individuals or vehicles since Canadian troops deployed to the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar province in the spring of last year.

Every so-called "escalation of force incident" is investigated by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, an independent military police unit with a mandate to investigate serious and sensitive matters.

All Canadian soldiers involved in the 61 completed investigations have been cleared. Three shootings, including the killing last month of a motorcyclist and the wounding of his 12-year-old brother, remain under investigation. Another 11 completed investigations determined that Canadian soldiers weren't involved.
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Age taking toll on air force: commander
  Jeff Holubitsky CanWest News Service; Edmonton Journal Thursday, November 15, 2007
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EDMONTON -- Canada's air force is trying to replace aging members, aging infrastructure and aging vehicles, its commander says.

"The main challenge I have is age, but not my age," Lt.-Gen. Angus Watt, the chief of air staff with the Canadian Forces, said in an interview Wednesday.

"We have a relatively old workforce in the air force," he said.

The average age of the force is 36, with non-commissioned officers at 37 and officers at 38 years old.

"We are a young person's business, so it is a challenge for me to recruit enough young people to keep rejuvenating the ranks to keep that average age coming down," he said.

Watt was in Edmonton as the keynote speaker at the closing banquet of an aviation trade show.

The air force, which currently has about 350 members in Afghanistan providing mostly transport duties, is also struggling to maintain its aging facilities such as hangars, control towers and runways.

"I have 13 wings, 10 of which have infrastructure and the replacement cost of that infrastructure is $6.5 billion," he said. "Fifty per cent of that infrastructure is 50 years old or older."
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Missing pay has Afghan police threatening to walk off the job
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PASHMUL, Afghanistan - It isn't the Taliban, poor training or lack of recruits that is putting the Canadian military's fledgling police mentoring program at risk: it's a lack of cold, hard cash.

Six-member teams of Canadian military police and infantrymen recently began mentoring Afghan police around the clock at six police substations in the dangerous Zhari and Panjwaii districts of Kandahar province. U.S., Dutch and French forces are also involved in the mentoring program.

The teams are showing some promise but the whole system could derail because the police are not being paid regularly.

"I have good policemen," said Sgt. Jean-Pierre Dion, who is in charge at the police substation in Pashmul.

But one of them gave him an ultimatum. "If he doesn't receive his salary by Sunday he will quit. All the team will quit."

"I hope my chain of command makes something for this but I'm worried."

Dion, who started working with the nine members of the Afghan National Police in Pashmul in the middle of September, says they have received only one of the three months of pay they are due.
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Challenging gender barriers, teen girls in Afghanistan enter the boxing ring
The Associated Press Thursday, November 15, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan: A group of teenage girls is taking up fisticuffs to challenge Afghanistan's gender barriers.

"Move, move, move," coach Saber Sharifi shouted as the 20-odd girls sparred recently. "Steady, watch your left shoulder."

The boxers belong to a new generation of Afghan youth, challenging stereotypes that persist five years after the fall of the Taliban. They train in a room in Kabul's main sports stadium, a venue for public executions during Taliban rule in the late 1990s. Boxing is helping them gain confidence and self-respect, the girls say. Their goal: to be Afghanistan's first women's boxing team.

"Many people are trying to stop us from participating in sports by saying it is not good for women," said 15-year-old Shabnam, who uses only one name. "But I think if you are interested in doing something, you should avoid listening to what people think about you. Sports is a way out of violence for Afghanistan."

The girls — who also include Shabnam's sisters, Fatima, 17 and Sadaf, 14 — practice separately from boys and wear warm-up suits. Some cover their heads with scarves or bandanas.

Their effort is a brave one in this male-dominated country, where females start wearing the powder blue burqa, which covers them from head to toe, in public at puberty.
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25 suspected Taliban, 6 police killed in clashes, bombing in southern Afghanistan
The Associated Press Friday, November 16, 2007
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: Afghan and foreign forces clashed with Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, leaving 25 suspected insurgents and two policemen dead, officials said Friday.

In southern Kandahar province, meanwhile, a roadside bomb hit a police patrol vehicle Friday, killing four policemen, said Zhari district chief Niaz Mohammad Serhadi.

The southern provinces have been the arena of the heaviest fighting between insurgents and international forces in recent months.

During an operation in the Derawud district of Uruzgan province, Afghan and foreign troops battled militants Thursday night, killing 20 suspected Taliban, said Uruzgan police chief Juma Gul Himat. Two policemen were also killed in the fighting.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said it was aware of ongoing fighting in the area, but did not have any details.

A separate group of Taliban insurgents poured into the nearby district of Naish, and police surrounded the area on Thursday, triggering a two-hour gun battle that left five suspected militants dead and two policemen wounded, Himat said.
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The Talibanization of Pakistan
As the Musharraf-Bhutto showdown continues, Islamic militants are expanding their grip on territory on both sides of the Afghan border

Toronto Star, Nov.17

One glib assessment offered to the Toronto Star this week at a gathering of Pashtun tribal leaders in Kabul described Pakistan as "an entity made entirely of Saudi religion, Indian culture and Afghan land. Take any one of those things away and you don't even have a country. It ceases to be."

But if the laughter that followed was hearty, it came with nervous undercurrents – acknowledgement that the joke may yet blow back across the porous border in the form of increased Taliban militancy that continues to bedevil NATO-led efforts to stabilize Afghanistan...

Reports from the Pakistani side suggest that even after two weeks of emergency rule imposed ostensibly to push back pro-Taliban militants, forces loyal to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf continue to lose ground in the tribal region of Swat, the scene of heavy aerial attacks this week.

But from an Afghan point of view, the most disturbing news came in a two-part series this week by Asia Times correspondent Syed Saleem Shahzad datelined from the Nawa Pass overlooking the border [emphasis added].

Shahzad quoted a senior Taliban figure as saying a wide range of like-minded militant groups, including the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda, have agreed on a declaration of independence, with the goal of establishing an "Islamic emirate" that will eat into territory on both sides of the border.

Afghan political watchers are divided on the impact of such political propaganda, should militants follow through with the threat of declaring independence. Liwal, for one, regards it as a potentially grave development.

"I regard it as dangerous because when you look just below the border you see a vast tribal population that has lost its traditional leadership," said Liwal. "Before the Talibanization of this region the local jirgas of tribal elders held sway and the mullahs were second rank, with no say in policy. Now the mullahs and the madrassas make the policy, especially in Waziristan and the eastern tribal areas.

"In a way, I think the danger is worse for Pakistan. Because the Afghans are not so easily fooled [emphasis added]. When the Taliban says, `We will make a nice caliphate. No more cutting off people's heads. You can even play music if you want,' the Afghan people can see through this miserable lie because we already suffered through it once before.

"But beyond the Pakistani border, it could be worse. The millions of people without traditional leadership can be very easily used."..

The Asia Times articles:

RISE OF THE NEO-TALIBAN, Part 2 [emirate material]
'Pain has become the remedy'


Death by the light of a silvery moon


Articles found November 18, 2007

Death of two Canadian soldiers a 'heartbreak'
Updated Sat. Nov. 17 2007 10:09 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Two Canadian soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were killed after their Light Armoured Vehicle hit a roadside bomb near Kandahar.

Three other Canadian soldiers were wounded in Saturday's incident and were transported to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The dead have been identified as Cpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp, 28, of the 5th Field Ambulance in Valcartier and Pte. Michel Levesque, 25, of 3rd Battalion, the Royal 22nd Regiment -- popularly known as the Van Doos.

Levesque's parents live in Riviere-Rouge in the Laurentians, about 200 kilometres northwest of Montreal. Their neighbor and friend Lisa Roy spent time Saturday consoling the family. Roy says Levesque was a longtime friend of her son, who is also a soldier.

"He was really a nice little boy,'' Roy said.

"It's not because he's dead that we're saying nice things about him. Michel was really a nice little boy.''

Riviere-Rouge Mayor Deborah Belanger gave Levesque the town's flag before he left for Afghanistan.
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Afghanistan's Thug Caste Gets Tortured And It's Our Fault?
Saturday, November 17, 2007
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I've been ranting on this for some time now, but recent complaints in the blogging community has turned my attention toward it more deeply. I wrote what I consider to be an impassioned argument against torture, and what I consider to be a morally abased view that torture of terrorists is justified. In short, everything I say in this article is tempered by the fact that I know torture is immoral, and that I do not agree with it, in any context. But in light of the rising anger over the treatment of Taliban detainees in Afghanistan, I have found my own outrage bubbling to the surface over what I call the "defense of the thug caste of Afghanistan".

I may not be a paid writer for a news organization, nor a journalist [which I suppose might have been a good career move ten years ago], but I am going to attempt to use whatever skill I have as a writer to make my position here known and clear. That position is that I strongly support my government in choosing to intervene in Afghanistan, and that I strongly support the troops who serve there. The reasons become more evident every day that we remain in the country.

The partisan attacks on Prime Minister Stephen Harper are nothing short of insulting. This is a mission which not only is a multilateral mission, but has been endorsed and supported by the European Union and United Nations since day one. This is a mission which has broad support from Afghanis themselves, and is widely seen as a morally virtuous campaign. This is an intervention in a country which had been plunged into decades of darkness under Soviet and Islamic Fundamentalist control.

The Taliban prisoners who are being captured by Canadian troops were not found sleeping in their homes. They were not found walking with their children in a park. They were found trying to plant IED devices, shoot at Canadian soldiers, and attack Afghan women and children. The people who seethe with rage over the treatment of the Taliban were deafeningly silent during the reign of the Taliban when they had a free hand at torturing anybody they pleased. Any day. Every day.

This is a regime who executed people for sport in a football stadium. Who destroyed "unIslamic" statues which had stood for thousands of years. These are the same kind of people who torture or execute women for the misfortune of being gangraped. This is the thug caste of military soldiers who would imprison women for being unaccompanied by a man, and mercilessly beat her in the streets. A group of people for whom women were considered cattle, and the men who did not treat them like cattle were summarily executed.

These scum bastards are the people for whom the progressive left cry for? The theological oligarchy which controlled the Islamic state of Afghanistan has been crushed by a multilateral force of national governments, and all we can do is lament the rumours of Taliban detainees with leg irons clamped too tightly. No, it's not a justification for torture, but a glimpse into the eyes of millions of Afghanis might help the progressives understand.
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Taliban Execute 5 Afghan Police
By NOOR KHAN – 2 hours ago
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban militants tortured five abducted policemen in southern Afghanistan and then hung their mutilated bodies from trees in a warning to villagers against working with the government, officials said Sunday.

The discovery of the bodies came as officials said that recent violence and clashes had left at least 63 other people dead across Afghanistan.

The officers had been abducted two months ago from their checkpoint in southern Uruzgan province, said Juma Gul Himat, the provincial police chief. The Taliban slashed their hands and legs and hung the bodies on trees Saturday in Gazak village of Derawud district, he said.

"The Taliban told the people that whoever works with the government will suffer the same fate as these policemen," Himat said. "This village is under Taliban control. There are more than 100 Taliban in this village."

Two tribal elders received the bodies of the policemen on Sunday, he said.

Insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan has soared this year, killing more than 6,000 people, a record number, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.

The executions followed several days of violence in the country's south which left at least 63 people dead, including 58 militants and two Canadian soldiers.
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Suicide attack on NATO convoy kills bomber himself in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-18 15:40:16      Print
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    KABUL, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- A suicide bomber driving an explosive-laden car targeted a convoy of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan's restive Helmand province Sunday, killing himself and damaging a military vehicle, police said.

    "It was 10:30 a.m. local time when the bomber blew his car up next to the NATO convoy in Gereshk district, killing himself and damaging an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) of the troops," provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal told Xinhua.

    However, he said there were no casualties on the ISAF side. Also no civilians were killed or injured in the attack.

    No group or individuals have claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban militants who have staged a violent comeback three years ago often carry out such attacks.

    Over 5,700 people have been killed in violence and conflicts so far this year in the war-torn Afghanistan.
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Philippine government lifts ban on worker deployment in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-18 17:31:20   
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    MANILA, Nov. 18 Xinhua -- The Philippine government has lifted its travel ban to Afghanistan, Lebanon and Nigeria and is now allowing a fresh batch of Filipino workers to seek employment in these countries, said the Department of Labor on Sunday.

    However, travel ban to strife-torn Iraq will continue to be enforced, the Department of Labor said.

    Manila has imposed the ban on Iraq following the kidnapping of two Filipinos in 2004 and 2005.

    Angelo de la Cruz, who was threatened to be beheaded by his captors, in July 2004, was released when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo capitulated to the demand of the kidnappers to withdraw a small Philippine contingent in Iraq.

    Another Filipino, accountant Robert Tarongoy, was also abducted by militants and later freed in June 2005 after eight months of captivity.
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Afghan-Based British Soldiers Bound for Canadian Ski Resort
Published by skirebel on November 17, 2007 in News, Ski Canada, Ski North America and Ski UK.
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The British Army’s Light Dragoons, a reconnaissance cavalry regiment that has just returned from an operational tour in Afghanistan, will be heading for British Columbia this winter.

“Downhill ski racing is one of the most popular and most important sporting activities that we participate in,” says Lieutenant Ollie Blake of the Light Dragoons. “In previous years, we’ve conducted our training camps in Switzerland, and this year for the first time we’re heading to Silver Star Mountain Resort in North America.”

Skiing has an illustrious history in the British Army and is part of the Adventurous Training programme. The Army Winter Sports Association describes it thus: “To encourage young men and women to participate in winter sports, to develop their skills in their chosen discipline, and to test themselves in demanding conditions - thereby fostering self discipline, physical courage and team work.”

The Light Dragoons have been in Afghanistan for the past year as part of Operation Herrick 6 and have seen action in the Helmand Province and throughout Southern Afghanistan.

Blake continues, “The team consists of a mixture of officers and soldiers.
We will live together and train together for three weeks in Canada before returning to the UK for five days over Christmas, then out to Verbier, Switzerland and Serre Chevalier, France for the Royal Armoured Corps, Divisional and Army championships. We are also hoping to meet up with the officers of the South Alberta Light Horse, our sister Regiment in Canada.
With the present demands on the British Army, it involves a lot of work trying to fit everything in if we want to ski!”
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Gunfire Hit Most of Afghan Bomb Victims
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BAGHLANI-JADID, Afghanistan (AP) — Up to two-thirds of the 77 people killed and 100 wounded in a suicide bombing last week were hit by bullets from visiting lawmakers' panicked bodyguards, who fired on a crowd of mostly schoolchildren for up to five minutes, a preliminary U.N. report says.

Afghanistan's Interior Ministry says only a "small number" of the victims were hit by gunfire, but an Afghan official in Baghlan province told The Associated Press that bodyguards were "raining bullets" on the crowd.

The suicide bomb contained ball bearings, the Interior Ministry said, which may have caused wounds that look like bullet holes.

An Afghan doctor who treated patients after the Nov. 6 blast, meanwhile, told the AP that a high-ranking government official told him not to publicly reveal the number of gunfire victims, suggesting a possible government cover-up.

Separate teams of U.N. investigators have uncovered conflicting information about the number of people hit by gunfire and are trying to reconcile the differences, according to two Western officials who have seen the internal reports. The two spoke to the AP on condition they not be identified talking about preliminary findings.

But at least one of those reports — based on interviews with witnesses and medical authorities and a reconstruction of the bomb scene — says that of the roughly 77 people killed and 100 wounded, up to two-thirds were hit by the three to five minutes of gunfire the bodyguards fired into the crowd, one official said.
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Conflict claims civilians' life in S Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-18 15:00:49   
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    KABUL, Nov. 18 (Xinhua) -- Continued conflicts between government troops and Taliban militants in Garmsir district of Afghanistan's southern Helmand province have left several civilians dead since Thursday, provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said Sunday.

    "A number of civilians have been killed in the fighting going on in Garmsir district," Andiwal told Xinhua, but he failed to give exact figure.

    Meantime, a purported spokesman of Taliban outfit Qari Yusuf Ahmadi told media from an unknown location that 17 civilians had been killed in the clash between the two sides.

    No independent source was immediately available to verify the claim.

    Helmand's police chief Andiwal also said that two Taliban commanders had lost their lives in the battle while Ahmadi confirmed the dead of one commander of the insurgents.

    In the operation launched Thursday, according to a statement released by the U.S. led Coalition forces Saturday, 23 militants had been killed and 11 others made captive.
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News of Quebec soldier's death in Afghanistan shakes small village
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MONTREAL - The death of a Quebec soldier in Afghanistan on Saturday has sent shockwaves through his hometown of Riviere-Rouge, a small village in the Laurentians.

Pte. Michel Levesque, 25, of the Royal 22nd Regiment was killed when the light armoured vehicle he was riding in hit a roadside bomb.

Cpl. Nicholas Raymond Beauchamp of the 5th Field Ambulance and an Afghan interpreter also died in the blast. Three other soldiers were injured.

Lise Roy says Levesque was a longtime friend of her son, Eric. Roy, who lives two doors from Levesque's parents in Riviere-Rouge, says he was always a "nice little boy."

Last summer, the village of 4,500 held a going away party for Levesque and another local soldier, Kevin Chartrand, before they shipped out to Afghanistan.

Chartrand's father, Charles, says Levesque's death is very sad, but believes the soldiers are working for a good cause in Afghanistan that will produce results.

Riviere-Rouge Mayor Deborah Belanger says Levesque was a dynamic man and his death is a great loss for the town. She says he recently announced he was engaged to be married.
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Canadian Military to Dazzle their Enemies with Brilliance
Saturday, November 17, 2007
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Razzle and Dazzling our enemies will not include our troops dressed in sequins and rhinestones breaking into Las Vegas showtunes on the battlefield, nor pulling rabbits out of combat helmet tophats and other magic tricks.   It is reported these Dazzlers come in many sizes and purposes, Though I would think dazzling an approaching enemy driving a vehicle may result  in many head on crashes.  As a public service I have also posted additional photos of past Dazzlers, though not Military Dazzler, it is certain they would confuse and  befuddle our enemies if ever seen riding on top of a leopard tank.

The Canadian Forces is looking at buying laser weapons designed to temporarily blind individuals as part of its efforts to reduce the number of innocent Afghans killed or wounded by troops for failing to heed warnings not to approach military convoys.

The systems, generally referred to as laser dazzlers, are capable of "disrupting" the vision of a person 50 to 500 metres away, depending on the specific type of model used.

The military wants to mount the dazzlers on rifles and vehicles, mainly for use in protecting convoys. It's hoped the systems might reduce the number of Afghan civilians killed or injured by soldiers after failing to heed commands to stop at checkpoints or not approach convoys.
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France turns down Canada's entreaties to send more troops to Afghanistan
SUSAN SACHS Special to The Globe and Mail November 17, 2007
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PARIS -- France recognizes Canada's "sacrifices" in Afghanistan but is not yet prepared to increase its troop levels or humanitarian assistance there, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said yesterday.

But he stressed that France had no intention of pulling out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization military mission, as some French commentators have suggested. "There is no question of our leaving Afghanistan," Mr. Kouchner said.

He made his comments after a two-hour meeting here with Maxime Bernier, his Canadian counterpart.

Canada, which has so far lost 71 soldiers in the Afghanistan war, is seeking commitments from its NATO allies to step up with extra ground troops or otherwise boost their military involvement in the battle with Taliban militants.
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Remarks follow claims of abuse in Afghan jails
November 17, 2007 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
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OTTAWA–Setting up separate NATO-run jails to hold battlefield detainees who might otherwise be tortured is out of the question, the alliance's military chief says.

Gen. Ray Henault, the Canadian chair of NATO's military committee, said creating detention facilities that are run by the International Security Assistance Force would put too much demand on the already difficult Afghanistan mission and undermine the Afghan government, which has responsibility for its own penal system.

"We consider this to be something done in concert with international standards. That's the way we intend to continue doing business," Henault said.

The Canadian policy of transferring detainees to Afghan prisons is being challenged in court by Amnesty International, which is seeking an end to all handovers until the country's jails are free of abuse.

The federal government released thousands of pages of files this week showing Canadian officials have been aware of the deplorable state of Afghanistan's prisons for some time, and are currently investigating seven allegations that Canadian detainees were tortured in Afghan custody.

The most recent allegation came to light in the first week of November and was verified by local authorities who are now deciding whether to lay criminal charges.
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For us ze war is over by tea time, ja
Sunday Times, Nov. 18

THEY are on the front line of the war on terror, but German pilots facing the Taliban are insisting they stop at tea time every day to comply with health and safety regulations.

The helicopter pilots, who provide medical back-up to Nato ground troops, set off for their base by mid-afternoon so they can be grounded by sundown.

Their refusal to fly in the dark is hampering Operation Desert Eagle, an allied offensive, which involves 500 Nato-led troops plus 1,000 Afghan troops and police.

Although Germany has sent 3,200 troops to Afghanistan, they operate under restrictive rules of engagement.

They spend much of their time in an enormous base, complete with beer halls and nightclubs, in Mazar-e-Sharif, a 90-minute flight from the fighting. They also have a base at Kunduz.

Germany, which has lost 25 soldiers in Afghanistan to suicide attacks and roadside bombs, commands the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the north. But its men are not allowed to travel more than two hours from a “role two medical facility” - a hospital equipped for emergency surgery.

The restrictions have fuelled tensions among allied troops. Norwegian soldiers, who were fighting to stem a growing Taliban insurgency in this remote stretch of Afghanistan’s northwest frontier, were forced to desert their Afghan comrades midway through a firefight when German medical evacuation helicopters withdrew...

Articles found November 19, 2007

Troops capture Taliban's birthplace
Two Canadians slain in fierce battle that drove insurgents – some of whom used children as shields – from their historic enclave
GRAEME SMITH From Monday's Globe and Mail November 19, 2007 at 1:19 AM EST
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SANGISAR, AFGHANISTAN — Canadian troops pushed the Taliban out of their birthplace in a storm of artillery shells and rockets on the weekend, during a major operation that killed two Canadian soldiers and an interpreter.

The smoke and dust of explosions hung over the dry fields of Sangisar, a stubborn enclave of insurgents where the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, founded the armed movement in 1994.

The same cluster of villages, about 40 kilometres west of Kandahar city, still served as a hideout for Taliban who raided the highway in recent weeks despite repeated military sweeps into the mud-walled warren during the past six years.

None of the previous operations left lasting security in Sangisar, however, so the Canadians decided to tackle a more difficult task: seizing a strategic point among the hostile villages and building a new police station. They attempted the first phase with only three platoons of infantry, five teams of snipers and reconnaissance specialists, and a small contingent of Afghan soldiers, in a zone where locals have reported hundreds of insurgents.
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Ramp ceremony held for fallen Canadian soldiers
Last Updated: Sunday, November 18, 2007 | 11:13 AM ET CBC News
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Hundreds of soldiers attended a twilight ramp ceremony Sunday at Kandahar airfield to pay tribute to two Canadian soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp, 28, and Pte. Michel Levesque, 25, were riding in a light armoured vehicle that drove over a large improvised explosive device early Saturday.

Cpl. Dolores Crampton walks behind the casket of her husband, Cpl. Nicolas Beauchamp, who along with Pte. Michel Levesque was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
(Bill Graveland/Canadian Press) The blast, 40 kilometres west of Kandahar, also claimed the life of an Afghan interpreter and injured three Canadian soldiers.

Maj. Pierre Bergeron, who serves as padre at the Kandahar base, spoke to Canadian, U.S., Dutch and British soldiers who lined the tarmac.

"Courage is not manifested in easy circumstances, but is found in tragic and difficult circumstances," he said.

The two fallen soldiers, he said, chose to serve in Afghanistan and their fellow soldiers should not become "victims of this tragedy, but survivors."
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Army faced bureaucratic battle to get tank purchase approved
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OTTAWA - The decision to borrow 20 Leopard A6M battle tanks from the Germans and purchase 100 slightly-used models from the Dutch was a hotly debated and ultimately last-minute decision for the Conservative government and Canada's Defence Department.

The debate was so intense it almost cost the army its most senior commander, political and defence sources say.

Records released under access to information laws also show that the army was conducting research tests as late as last February on its Leopard C1s to determine whether the older tanks could withstand the rigours of duty in Afghanistan.

The results of those tests - showing the old tanks were not suited for the searing Afghan summer - touched off an intense debate within National Defence and the wider bureaucracy.

Although contingency plans were prepared, former defence minister Gordon O'Connor faced push-back, particularly in the Privy Council Office which was deeply skeptical about replacing the army's inventory of antique Leopards with newer Dutch models, said the defence sources.

No one questioned the need to borrow up to 20 modern, mine-resistant battle tanks from Germany for the current mission in Kandahar, said the sourc
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Gallery: Finbarr O'Reilly's photography from Afghanistan
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Cookies from home a comfort for soldiers in Afghanistan
Jeff Bell, Times Colonist Published: Monday, November 19, 2007
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Eunice Fiss decided a chance meeting late last year with a Canadian soldier was a perfect reason to do something for all of the country's troops.

Fiss said she was inspired by a friendly conversation with Capt. Chris Lindsay when he was home from Afghanistan, and knew almost right away she had to turn that feeling into a project to help soldiers. She said she recalled the story of an American woman who had a successful drive to collect Silly String for soldiers in Iraq -- the playful substance is useful for revealing trip wires around bombs -- and was convinced she could come up with an initiative of her own.

"An entire planeload of Silly String went over," Fiss said. "So I said 'Is there anything we can do as just ordinary citizens for you, Chris?' "
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New Zealand continues deployments to Afghanistan  
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-19 12:25:47 
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    WELLINGTON, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday her government has made decisions on continue military and police deployments to Afghanistan and the Gulf region for the period up until September 2009.

    The deployments cover the continuation of: the Provincial Reconstruction Team based in Bamyan Province of Afghanistan; two military personnel helping to train the Afghan National Army; up to five military officers serving with the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters; one military officer serving with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan; up to two medical specialists serving with Canadian forces in the south of Afghanistan; and three Police officers helping to train the Afghan National Police.

    "As well the Government has decided that there will be a deployment of a Navy frigate to the Gulf region prior to September2009," said Clark.

    New Zealand Defense Minister Phil Goff said New Zealand has made substantial military, police, and aid contributions in Afghanistan since 2001, and the Provincial Reconstruction Team has been deployed since 2003.
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Challenging gender barriers, teen girls in Afghanistan enter the boxing ring
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KABUL, Afghanistan - A group of teenage girls is taking up fisticuffs to challenge Afghanistan's gender barriers.

"Move, move, move," coach Saber Sharifi shouted as the 20-odd girls sparred recently. "Steady, watch your left shoulder."

The boxers belong to a new generation of Afghan youth, challenging stereotypes that persist five years after the fall of the Taliban. They train in a room in Kabul's main sports stadium, a venue for public executions during Taliban rule in the late 1990s.

Boxing is helping them gain confidence and self-respect, the girls say. Their goal: to be Afghanistan's first women's boxing team.

"Many people are trying to stop us from participating in sports by saying it is not good for women," said 15-year-old Shabnam, who uses only one name. "But I think if you are interested in doing something, you should avoid listening to what people think about you. Sports is a way out of violence for Afghanistan."

The girls - who also include Shabnam's sisters, Fatima, 17 and Sadaf, 14 - practise separately from boys and wear warm-up suits. Some cover their heads with scarves or bandanas.
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Articles found November 20, 2007

Hearts and minds
November 19th, 2007
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Taliban militants slashed the hands and legs of five abducted policemen in southern Afghanistan and hung their mutilated bodies from trees in a warning to villagers against working with the government, officials said yesterday…

“The Taliban told the people that whoever works with the government will suffer the same fate as these policemen,” Himat said. “This village is under Taliban control. There are more than 100 Taliban in this village.” Two tribal elders received the bodies of the policemen yesterday, he said.

The policemen have been held hostage by the Talibs for over two months - why now the sudden brutality?

Might be that they’re “lashing out“:

The executions occurred after several days of violence in the country’s south that left at least 63 people dead, including 58 militants and two Canadian soldiers.

Twenty-three Taliban militants were killed during a U.S.-led coalition operation aimed at disrupting a weapons transfer in southern Afghanistan, NATO said Saturday.

A truck apparently full of Taliban weapons exploded during the operation in Helmand province’s Garmsir district on Thursday. Coalition troops detained 11 people suspected of being part of a weapons running operation.

Also in Uruzgan, police shot and killed two suspected Taliban militants yesterday as they approached a police checkpoint on a motorbike, Himat said.

In Zabul province, the Taliban ambushed and clashed with an army patrol Saturday night, leaving 11 suspected insurgents dead and four soldiers wounded, said Qasem Khan, a provincial police official.

Authorities recovered the bodies of the 11 militants killed alongside their weapons, Khan said.

With great sympathy for the losses suffered by our Canadian allies, they are kicking some serious bad guy bootie west of Kanduhar. And the actions of the Taliban don’t seem to me calculated to be the kind that’s going to make them many friends on the ground.
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I mean, how about a little perspective, eh?
November 19, 2007
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(CC News) - In a surprising development today, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day downplayed the Taser-related death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, calling it "tragic" but wondering why people weren't similarly outraged over impaired driving deaths in Canada.

"Well, sure, that was a bummer," said Day, "but come on, it was just one guy. Last year, more than a thousand people died in Canada because of drunk driving. I mean, really, one, one thousand, do the math, it's not hard."

Continued Day, "And I've been getting a lot of flak lately about how many Canadian troops have died in Afghanistan, too. But that's like what, 70? Whoop de doo. I mean, you folks really need to chill out. Talk about making a big deal out of it. Sometimes you people can be such whiners."
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Local woman gives Canadian troops a Merry Christmas
Tb News Source Web Posted: 11/19/2007 4:22:50 PM 
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  A local woman is taking an initiative city-wide to help Canadian troops in Afghanistan have a Merry Christmas. Last year, Galaxina Renaud collected non-perishable items from the community, to send to the Canadians serving overseas. And this year, she's expanding the campaign across the city.

Operation Overseas was launched Monday at Quality Market, which is acting as one of the drop off sites for those who wish to donate items. Last year, Renaud sent over 30 boxes to Afghanistan and over 4-hundred letters from different organizations and individuals. She says she was inspired to do this for the troops, after a local soldier was killed over a year ago while serving overseas.

Renaud says the community can donate anything that would give the troops a sense of home...like travel size games, candy, books or razors. Items can dropped off at either Quality Market location until December 7th. The boxes will be shipped out on the 12th. 

Welcome to the quagmire
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Afghanistan has a long way to go before it can be described as a country that is not only stable, but adheres to the rule of law.

But Amnesty International seems to think Canada and the rest of the international community can magically convince Afghanistan's feared intelligence service to embrace the concept of human rights.

In a report last week, AI accused Canada and the other countries in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of exposing detainees to torture and other maltreatment by Afghan authorities.

The international human rights group has demanded that detainee transfers be suspended and ISAF countries keep such individuals in their custody until effective safeguards are in place.

It recommends that Canada and other ISAF nations promote the reform of the Afghan detention system and suggests that international staff be placed in Afghan detention facilities to monitor and train local hires. Yeah, there's an easy hurdle.

As AI points out in its report, the Afghanistan security and justice sectors suffer from "severe and systematic flaws." No kidding.

Transforming Afghanistan from thuggery to democracy will take decades, if it's even possible. What's Canada supposed to do with the Taliban terrorists and all the other blood-thirsty insurgents our soldiers catch in the meantime? Set up POW camps in Canada? Build our own jails in Afghanistan, run by Canadian officials to western standards? Heck, the terrorists might never want to leave.

There's no doubt that the agreement between Canada and Afghanistan on detainee transfers has been a political, humanitarian and ethical quagmire.

Earlier this year, AI and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association launched legal action, alleging that the detainee agreement violates the Charter because it doesn't adequately protect the prisoners from the likelihood of torture.
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Video footage proves Khadr a child soldier, lawyers say
COLIN FREEZE November 20, 2007
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Lawyers for Omar Khadr say an incriminating video broadcast on U.S. television buttresses a key defence argument: If the young Canadian was helping to build bombs at 15, he was under the tutelage of elders who exploited him.

"The 60 Minutes piece confirms that if Omar did all he is alleged to have done, he is a child soldier," said U.S. Lieutenant-Commander William Kuebler in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. The military-appointed defence lawyer added: "This is what the government has been dying to get out - and it shows nothing more than a 15-year-old kid taping a couple of wires together."

The few minutes of footage that aired on CBS on Sunday was from a 20-minute videotape that U.S. soldiers seized from a bombed Afghan compound where militants had apparently filmed one another as they prepared for a U.S. assault.

Mr. Khadr, now 21 and a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was captured in the compound after a deadly battle with U.S. soldiers in 2002.
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Afghanistan deployments rolled over
Tuesday, 20 November 2007 
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The Government has rolled over the deployment of a provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan for another year.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the Government had made decisions about military and police deployments to Afghanistan and the Gulf region up until September 2009.

This included the provisional reconstruction team (PRT) in Bamyan Province in Afghanistan the New Zealand Defence Force personnel had been helping rebuild

Last month, 61 troops returned after a six-month deployment to Afghanistan in what was the 10th rotation of the provincial reconstruction team.

They were involved in building and road construction, education projects, explosive ordnance disposal, security patrols, training of Afghan national police and providing aid and humanitarian assistance to the local people.

Miss Clark said the provincial reconstructions teams had been very successful and the Government had decided this deployment should continue.

New Zealand's first PRT went to Afghanistan in 2003.

Other deployments to continue were:

- Two military personnel helping to train the Afghan National Army;

- Up to five military officer serving with the International Security Assistance Force Headquarters;

- One military officer serving with the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan;

- Up to two medical specialists serving with Canadian forces in the south of Afghanistan;

- Three police officers helping train the Afghan National Police.

Also, a Navy frigate would be deployed to the Gulf region prior to September 2009.

That had been done on several occasions before. The details of how long the frigate would be in the region was yet to be determined, Miss Clark said.
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Drones to Replace Human Squadron in Afghanistan?
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By Sharon Weinberger November 19, 2007 | 11:07:41 AMCategories: Drones, Planes, Planes, Copters, Blimps 
The Air Force is touting the success of its newest armed drones flying over Afghanistan, saying that the the MQ-9 Reapers will even take over eventually for manned aircraft squadron, reports Defense Daily

As a sign of the Reapers' potential significance to the U.S. Air Force, Lt. Gen. Gary North, the Air Force's top general in the region, said last week, as more Air Force MQ-9s arrive, they will eventually supplant a U.S. squadron of manned attack aircraft. But he offered no timeline on when this will happen... [He's made similar promises before -- ed.] 

The MQ-9 has got almost all of the tenets of a manned airplane currently deployed, with some advantages, said North. It can stay up longer on a sortie than a manned counterpart like the A-10 ground-attack aircraft or F-15E and F-16 fighter jets.

Further, it doesn't cost as much gas to fly them, the general said. And I have got the persistent stare capability.

However, it does not carry a gun like its manned counterparts, he said.
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US to aid Pakistani frontier force against militants
20 Nov 2007, 0500 hrs IST,REUTERS
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WASHINGTON: The United States has set up a program to train and equip a Pakistani paramilitary force recruited from tribal areas to try to counter Islamist militants, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Washington would supply equipment like helmets and flak vests to the tribal force, known as the Frontier Corps, but would not provide weapons or ammunition, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters. The plan also calls for the involvement of US Army trainers.

He said the United States government believed that the tribal force was best-suited to fight militants who are believed to be behind a surge in violence in Pakistan's lawless mountainous regions bordering on Afghanistan. "They are locally recruited and have local knowledge, language skills and most of all credibility with the people who live in those areas," he said.

Asked about concerns that tribal fighters may not be reliable allies and may have ties to militants, Morrell said: "I don't think we would be proceeding with a plan of this nature, of this cost, unless we had some degree of confidence that it would be fruitful."

He said that the corps was a legitimate part of Pakistan's security forces and the Pakistani government fully supported the plan. The United States has criticised President Pervez Musharraf for imposing emergency rule on Nov 3 and has put US aid to Pakistan under review. But officials have said they will be careful not to undermine counterterrorism efforts.
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Suicide Attack in Afghanistan Kills 7 but Spares Governor
By ABDUL WAHEED WAFA Published: November 20, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 19 — A provincial governor in southwestern Afghanistan narrowly escaped a suicide attack on Monday, but his 25-year-old son and five of his bodyguards were killed in the blast. A civilian bystander was also killed, and 14 others were wounded, the police said.

The bomber approached the governor’s compound on foot on Monday morning just 10 minutes after the governor, Ghulam Dastagir Azad, had entered his office in the town of Zaranj, in Nimruz Province. He detonated his charge at the entrance to the compound, where the governor’s son was standing among a group of people, according to the provincial police chief, Muhammad Dawood Askaryar. Chief Askaryar said that of the wounded, six were policemen, three were employees of the governor’s office and three were civilians.

Zaranj lies on the border with Iran and has been relatively free of insurgent attacks and the strong Taliban presence seen in the rest of the south and southeast of the country.
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Taliban captures 10 alleged security guards in S Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-20 16:32:02      Print
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    KABUL, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- Taliban insurgents have captured around 10 people allegedly belonging to a private security company in Garmser district of southern Afghan Helmand province, police said Tuesday.

    The incident occurred on Monday night and the people had been providing protection service for a foreign building company working on a road linking southern province Kandahar to western Herat, provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal told Xinhua.

    Andiwal did not identify the nationality of the security service company.

    Talking to Xinhua via phone from an unknown location, a Taliban commander Mullah Mohmmad Hashim however said the Taliban had abducted six policemen and beheaded another one who was trying to defend himself during the action.
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Seoul to Send Reconstruction Team to Afghanistan
By Yoon Won-sup Staff Reporter
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The government decided Tuesday to send a provincial reconstruction team comprised of private experts to Afghanistan when it pulls out Korean troops there by the end of this year.

The team consisting of 30 doctors, nurses and pharmacists will take over the Dongui Medical Unit, which has conducted medical services since September 2002.

The government has submitted the plan to the National Assembly.

``At the request of the Afghan government to keep helping in the reconstruction of the war-devastated nation, we decided to send the provincial reconstruction team,'' a government official said on condition of anonymity. ``The first members of the team will leave for Afghanistan next month to take over the Dongui Medical Unit.''

The official further said that while the currently envisioned team is comprised of 20 to 30 people, the number of personnel can be increased, depending on the local situation.
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Oxfam says too much aid to Afghanistan wasted
Tue Nov 20, 2007 7:58am GMT By Jon Hemming
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KABUL (Reuters) - Too much aid to Afghanistan is wasted -- soaked up in contractors' profits, spent on expensive expatriate consultants or squandered on small-scale, quick-fix projects, leading charity Oxfam said on Tuesday.

Despite more than $15 billion (7.3 billion pounds) of aid pumped into Afghanistan since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2001, many Afghans still suffer levels of poverty rarely seen outside sub-Saharan Africa.

"The development process has to date been too centralised, top-heavy and insufficient," said a report by Oxfam.

By far the biggest donor, the United States approved a further $6.4 billion in Afghan aid this year, but the funds are spent in ways that are "ineffective or inefficient", Oxfam said.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) allocates close to half its funds to the five largest U.S. contractors in Afghanistan.

"Too much aid is absorbed by profits of companies and sub-contractors, on non-Afghan resources and on high expatriate salaries and living costs," the report said.
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Testing needed on laser weapons, military observers say
David ******** , CanWest News Service Published: Monday, November 19, 2007
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Canada should hold off equipping its soldiers in Afghanistan with laser weapons until the systems can be tested to ensure they can't inadvertently blind civilians or harm the troops using them, says an Ottawa-based think-tank.

The Canadian military is looking at purchasing the systems, known as laser dazzlers, for use against Afghans who would get too close to military convoys. The devices are capable of temporarily blinding people, serving as a warning not to approach military checkpoints or vehicles.

The Canadian Forces hope the use of dazzlers would reduce the number of times troops have to fire upon vehicles whose drivers have failed to heed warnings to stop or not to come any closer.
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Arbour calls Afghan civilian casualties 'alarming'
AP, Nov. 20

KABUL - The UN's top human rights officer says civilian casualties in Afghanistan have reached "alarming levels."

Louise Arbour blames both the insurgents and NATO-led forces for the high rate of civilian deaths. But Arbour says international forces need to pay particular attention to the problem.

The former Canadian Supreme Court justice says such killings not only violate international law but they also erode public support in Afghanistan for both NATO and the western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

Arbour is wrapping up a six-day trip to Afghanistan. She met in private with top NATO commanders and says she believes they are aware of the significance of the issue.

Arbour also says the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan has stalled "despite the promise of the post-Taliban era."

Women continue to suffer disproportionately in Afghanistan's war-torn and poverty stricken society, she said.

Karzai has repeatedly pleaded with international forces to do all they can to prevent civilian casualties.

An Associated Press count of such casualties this year found that militants had caused 346 deaths while international troops had caused 337 deaths through the end of October.

Articles found November 21, 2007

Canadian support workers freeing up troops for military operations
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - You could call them the troops behind the troops in Afghanistan.

A small army of red-shirted workers beavering away at Kandahar Air Field performing many of the duties that in the past were the purview of the military. Among their jobs: providing communications and information systems support; transport, accommodations and vehicle and equipment maintenance.

It's all part of the Canadian Forces Contractor Augmentation Program, or CANCAP for short.

SNC-Lavalin Profac has the CANCAP contract and 204 personnel at the base. Strangely enough, filling the open spots each year is easier for Afghanistan than it is at home in Canada.

"It does continuously surprise me that we have more difficulty recruiting for Fort McMurray (Alta.) than we do here," chuckled Don Chynoweth of Calgary, senior vice-president of Defence Programs.

"I think that shows the interest that Canadians have in helping the Canadians over here and the adventure of it," he said.
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Harper downplays incidence of detainee abuse
Globe and Mail Update November 20, 2007 at 4:25 PM EST
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper told the House of Commons Tuesday there has been just one credible allegation of prisoners facing torture in Afghanistan.

His remark came in response to questioning from Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion on federal court documents released last week that opposition politicians say confirm the government knew of appalling conditions in Afghan prisons at the same time that ministers were reassuring the public that they knew nothing.

“We've said repeatedly that there has been no evidence of any abuse involving the transfer of Canadian prisoners until one case recently in the past two weeks,” Mr. Harper said Tuesday. “We do have a process in place with the Afghan government to monitor this and to ensure there is an investigation. Those are the facts.”

Canadian officials said last week they had evidence that a Taliban detainee in an Afghan prison showed signs of physical abuse. Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier told the House last week an investigation is under way into the latest case, the seventh since Canada began systematically visiting Afghan detention facilities in May.
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Weapons' costs hike kept quiet
Mike Blanchfield and Andrew Mayeda, Ottawa Citizen; CanWest News Service
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OTTAWA - While the Conservative government tried earlier this year to divert the public spotlight from combat to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, the military was buying quietly a record supply of guns and ammunition, CanWest News Service has learned.

Between February and June, the Defence Department spent almost $54 million on small arms, big guns, ammunition, explosives, grenades and other weapons. That's more than the combined total of all of 2006 ($18.4 million) and 2005 ($32.3 million), the year the Canadian Forces began their current deployment to Kandahar.

For every dollar spent on a gun, at least $20 were shelled out for ammunition.
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Mishandled-weapon cases alarm military's top judge
TheStar.com - November 21, 2007 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
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Sees 40 per cent jump in number of trials for negligent gunfire

OTTAWA–Canada's top military judge has expressed concern about the increased frequency of soldiers carelessly firing weapons, at a time when two soldiers face charges in the shooting deaths of colleagues in Afghanistan.

Brig.-Gen. Ken Watkin, Canada's judge advocate general, says 383 summary trials in the past year involved negligent discharge of a weapon by Canadian soldiers, up 40 per cent from 2005-'06.

Charges of negligent discharge of a weapon are applied when a gun is fired but no one is hit.

He has recommended the Canadian Forces take a harder look at what's causing the jump in cases and what can be done to stop it. But his annual report to Parliament suggests it could reflect war realities in Afghanistan, where Canadians on Kandahar missions are required to carry weapons at all times, with increased handling of weapons possibly leading to more mishandling.

"There are a number of factors ... including the CF's enhanced operational tempo, increased weapons handling and training by CF members, and perhaps the use of summary trials as a mechanism to deter further negligent discharges," he wrote.

"... Whether this increase is an anomaly or the beginning of a trend, the office of the (judge advocate general) will further analyze the statistics and continue to monitor the numbers during the 2007-08 period."

Negligence is also a factor linked to separate tragedies in Afghanistan, when soldiers are alleged to have accidentally fired weapons that killed Master-Cpl. Jeffrey Scott Walsh, 33, and Cpl. Ronald Kevin Megeney, 25.

Master Cpl. Robbie Fraser is alleged to have fatally shot Walsh Aug. 9, 2006, as they travelled along a bumpy road inside an armoured Mercedes G-Wagon on patrol outside Kandahar.

Fraser is charged with manslaughter and negligent performance of duty.

Less than a year later, on March 6, Megeney allegedly died of a shot from Cpl. Matthew Wilcox's 9-mm handgun while the friends were in a tent.

Wilcox is charged with manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, and negligent performance of duty.
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Blatchford feels obliged to tell soldiers' stories
Embedded in Afghanistan Richard Helm The Edmonton Journal Wednesday, November 21, 2007
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When: Thursday night at 7:30

Where: Transalta Arts Barns, 10330 84th Ave.

Tickets: Available at Audreys Books, 10702 Jasper Ave.; $10 adults, $7 students and members of the military. A few tickets may be available at the door.

EDMONTON - Journalist Christie Blatchford loves her soldier boys and she's not afraid to say so. She's likely to see some of that affection returned when she comes here Thursday to launch Fifteen Days, her new book on the Canadian military experience in Afghanistan.

The book is subtitled Stories of Bravery, Friendship, Life and Death from Inside the New Canadian Army. It spotlights 15 significant days that stuck with Blatchford while she was embedded with our troops on three separate tours of Afghanistan since Canada took over the major security role in Kandahar province in 2006. The veteran Globe and Mail columnist also made four trips to Edmonton through March of this year working on the book.

The soldiers and families of Canadian Forces Base Edmonton figure large in Fifteen Days, most notably those from the locally based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. Close to half of Canada's 74 casualties in Afghanistan have been suffered by the PPCLI, and most of those soldiers were stationed in Edmonton. Blatchford expects to see several familiar faces at her local book launch.

"I hope to see lots of Patricias, that's for sure. That's certainly where my heart is," she said in a telephone interview from her Toronto home. "Thirteen of my 15 days in the book were Patricia days."

Blatchford was back in Afghanistan for a fourth tour in August and September with the Van Doos from Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, and has now been embedded with all three major Canadian regiments. Summoning up the nerve to fly back into that war zone is never easy, Blatchford says, but she feels a duty to return as long as Canadian soldiers are over there.

"As a journalist it's a compelling place to be and these are compelling guys to write about, but actually the reason I go back is because I just feel obliged," said Blatchford, whose late father was a Royal Air Force navigator who flew escort squadrons over the North Atlantic during the Second World War.
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Canada, delete Saudi Arabia from your Facebook friends
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The Supreme Court of Canada on Tuesday defended a court verdict that sentenced a 19-year-old victim of a gang rape to six months in jail and 200 lashes because she was with an unrelated male when they were attacked.

Well, that’s not exactly true - it was actually the Saudi judiciary that was passing judgment on the 19-year old Saudi woman. It sometimes helps to get a perspective on international news by looking at it from a local perspective, though.

Is there any particular reason why Canada has diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia while Canadian troops are fighting medieval religious thugs in Afghanistan (who were educated in Saudi-funded fundamentalist madrassas in Pakistan)?

Of course, most Canadians have already probably forgotten the name William Sampson.
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The Liberals are pushing their luck - it will run out.
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Nov 21Tories hit it out of the park in yesterday’s QP.

I’ll post the best lines of today’s Question Period once Hansard makes them available, but I have to be honest here, the Liberal party is really, really scrambling to make a valid point.

We have Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and a select few members of the Bloc trying to claim that our troops are committing war crimes in Afghanistan.  While the left continues to trash the military (as it has since the days of Trudeau), the Conservative government continues to defend it.  Even former U.S. President Bill Clinton says Canada should stay the course!

While Canadian soldiers are being buried, the Liberal Party especially uses the opportunity to accuse them of violating the Geneva Convention.  Let them do it OUTSIDE the house!

On another note, Robert Thibault stood up with his usual advice for the government when dealing with the Airbus affair. However, he was a lot more timid when asking this time than he was PRIOR to the $2 million lawsuit.  That being said, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said it best when he informed the Member for West Nova that the last people the government will take advice from is the Liberal Party of Canada since they think it’s perfectly acceptable to make tax records of Canadian citizens public.

I’ll have to wait for the Hansard in order to post the one liner Peter Van Loan threw at the mouthpiece from Ajax-Pickering.

The point of all of this?  The Liberals are running out of steam. They have nothing valuable to say and are really destroying their credibility as a decent opposing party.

They run their mouths off without the facts in the House and choose to say nothing outside the House to substantiate their claims. Instead, they continue to abstain their votes to keep the Tory government alive.
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Afghan Development and Governance Cash-Starved
By Lee Berthiaume November 21st, 2007
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The international community must place more emphasis on development and governance efforts in Afghanistan, including more funding, and better co-ordinate all aspects of the international intervention there if it is to succeed, NATO military committee chairman Gen. Ray Henault said last week.

"The amount of funding applied to the military component is appropriate to what the military is doing there," Gen. Henault told Embassy in an interview on Nov. 16.

"My perspective would be that more spending has to be done in the other pillars. Does it necessarily have to match the military spending? I don't know the answer to that, but what we should probably see is an increase in the commitment to those other components, with this thought that ultimately there will be a rebalancing and then a move ahead on those fronts."

Gen. Henault, a former Canadian chief of defence staff, was in Ottawa on Friday to accept an award from the Conference of Defence Associations Institute. He has held his current position since 2005 and is due to retire in July.

The Afghanistan mission has dominated NATO throughout his tenure, including challenges in getting countries to contribute more troops, dropping restrictions on what their military forces can do in the country, and convincing them to take over difficult regions.

There have been suggestions that if the Afghanistan mission, NATO's first operation outside Europe, fails, the alliance's credibility and ability to intervene in other parts of the world in the future will take a significant hit.

Critics have accused the international community, including Canada, of placing much more emphasis on the military aspect of the mission than development. While the Canadian government has pledged $1.2 billion over 10 years ending in 2011 for development and reconstruction, critics repeatedly cite a nine-to-one ratio between development and military spending, with the military coming out way ahead. In addition, while there are more than 2,500 military personnel in the country, Canadian officials say only between 40 and 50 non-military personnel are on the ground in Afghanistan.
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Afghan clash toll soaring
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KANDAHAR PROVINCE: NATO and Afghan troops have killed scores of insurgents in two days of fighting. Two Canadians and their interpreter were also killed

Combined Afghan, Canadian and other troops backed by gunship helicopters killed or wounded about 100 Taliban in raids on a stronghold in southern Afghanistan, officials said yesterday

The operation, launched Saturday in Kandahar Province, also cost the lives of two Canadian troops and their interpreter, as well as an Afghan soldier.

The Canadian Defense Ministry confirmed the identity of the soldiers as Corporal Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp, 28, and Private Michel Levesque, 25, both from Quebec.

Three other Canadian soldiers were also injured when the team's light-armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device about 40km west of Kandahar, the ministry said in a statement.

The three wounded soldiers were taken by helicopter to the Multinational Medical Unit at Kandahar Airfield for treatment.

Meanwhile, Kandahar police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb said "100 Taliban have been killed and wounded" over the weekend.

"Twenty-five Taliban have been buried in one location," he said
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Canada violating Geneva treaty, MPs say
Opposition accuses government of hiding reports, presses demand for immediate end to detainee transfers
ALAN FREEMAN November 17, 2007
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OTTAWA -- Opposition MPs have called on the government to order the Canadian Forces to halt the transfer of detainees to the Afghan government, alleging that Canada has violated the Geneva Conventions by permitting prisoner abuse to continue.

Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre alleged in the House of Commons yesterday that government documents released this week prove that the government knew that torture was taking place in Afghan prisons and did nothing.

"For months, the government tried to hide specific reports on torture," Mr. Coderre said during Question Period. "These reports of torture are now confirmed. Canada must stop the transfer of detainees or it will continue to violate the Geneva Conventions."

NDP MP Paul Dewar said the documents, released on Wednesday, confirm that the government knew of appalling conditions in Afghan prisons at the same time that ministers were reassuring the public that they knew nothing. He also alleged that Canada is unable to track the prisoners it has handed over to the Afghans and that its detainee agreement is not being respected.
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Dutch troops to stay in Afghanistan
The Australian, Nov.23 (yes)

DUTCH government parties have agreed to extend the Dutch mission in Afghanistan by around two years, public broadcaster NOS reported overnight, citing well-informed sources.

Dutch and Australian troops make up the bulk of the force in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

According to the NOS, the parties in the centre-left coalition government have agreed to extend the mandate of the Dutch troops in the Uruzgan province, which expires in August 2008, until 2010.

The Dutch cabinet will discuss the extension tomorrow and thrash out the details. The NOS said one point that remains to be determined is exactly how long the soldiers will stay, but it is expected to be around two years.

The government of Christian Democrats, Labour and protestant Christian Union is expected to officially announce its decision on Saturday next week.

The NOS reported that the Dutch mission in Uruzgan will be slimmed down as NATO partners France, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have agreed to help out with troops.

Currently there are some 1650 Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Netherlands is the sixth largest contributor to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Most of the Dutch troops are in the southern province of Uruzgan where they have faced heavy fighting with insurgents from the extremist Taliban movement that was in government in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.

The country has lost 12 soldiers since deploying last year as part of the ISAF mission.

NATO is trying to persuade its partners in ISAF to recommit to the tough mission in Afghanistan, which critics say risks failure, and to meet a shortfall of soldiers and equipment.

Articles found November 23, 2007

Australian commando killed in Afghan fight
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(CNN) -- One Australian soldier, three civilians and Taliban militants were killed early Friday during heavy fighting in southern Afghanistan, according to information from Australian and NATO officials.

The incident occurred in Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, where Taliban militants killed an Australian commando, the Australian Defence Ministry said.

The 26-year-old commando -- Pvt. Luke Worsley of Sydney -- served with the Special Operations Task Group. This is the fourth Australian troop to die in the Afghan conflict.

"The action in which Private Worsley died only concluded in the last few hours and was characterized by heavy, close quarter fighting. The SOTG was conducting an operation to clear an identified Taliban bomb making facility in Uruzgan province, when the soldier was hit by small arms fire," Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said "a significant number of Taliban insurgents were killed or captured as part of the operation. Taliban insurgents initiated the firefight which lasted several hours."

Gen. Carlos Branco, ISAF spokesman, said it is not known how the civilians, two women and a child, died.
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Opposition says military too optimistic
Canadian Forces accused of maintaining 'culture of secrecy' after Commons address
GLORIA GALLOWAY November 23, 2007
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OTTAWA -- The Canadian military was accused by opposition MPs yesterday of providing a deceptively rosy picture of the situation in Afghanistan and maintaining a "culture of secrecy" about Taliban gains.

The allegations came after Brigadier-General Peter Atkinson, the Director General of Operations, Strategic Joint Staff for the Canadian Forces, appeared before the Commons defence committee to provide an update on the Afghan operation.

"The success of last month's operations increased the stability and security throughout the Zhari and Panjwai areas, resulting in good progression of the government of Canada governance and development objectives," he told the committee.

Brig.-Gen. Atkinson talked about the increasing effectiveness of the Afghan police, the opening of roads, and the enhanced safety of Canadian troops and their Afghan allies. He also pointed to signs of progress like a trade show in Kandahar city that showcased the work of local artisans and the construction of a causeway that is creating jobs and confidence.
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Saying no to Iraq war was victory, Chretien says
Updated Thu. Nov. 22 2007 12:10 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Former prime minister Jean Chretien says one of the major victories in his career was standing up against pressure to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

During an exclusive interview with Canada AM's Beverly Thomson, Chretien says he doesn't worry about what kind of legacy he has left, saying that's up to other people to decide.

"People always talk about legacy -- what do you want as a legacy? But people should not worry too much about it because there's no control you can have over that. You do your best and at the end of the day the people will conclude certain things," he says.
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CFB Valcartier honours memory of fallen soldiers
Updated Thu. Nov. 22 2007 8:27 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Soldiers at CFB Valcartier in Quebec are steeling themselves to move on after the recent deaths of their two comrades in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp, 28, of the 5th Field Ambulance in Valcartier and Pte. Michel Levesque, 25, of 3rd Battalion, the Royal 22nd Regiment were killed Saturday when their Light Armoured Vehicle hit a roadside bomb near Kandahar.

Maj. Pierre Voyer told Canada AM on Thursday that morale on the base, which is located 25 kilometres north of Quebec City, remains "very good."

Voyer described Beauchamp as a supportive soldier who was always there for the troops on the front lines.

"As a medical personnel, he was with them at the front to be sure they were well supported," Voyer said.

"He was doing a really good job."
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New roles for troops in Afghanistan
  Article Link

LAKOKHEL (Agencies): Canadian troops arriving in Afghanistan in the future will find a rapidly changing military landscape, says the new commander of the Canadian Forces mentoring program. Col. Francois Riffou said troops will have to adjust to these changes, which will mean problems for both those arriving in the Afghan theatre for the first time and for those who have been away for least a year. While soldiers in a previous rotation may have been largely in a combat role, that is changing with the growing competency of the Afghan National Army, Riffou said. Troops are also being used to mentor the Afghan National Police. Combat-tuned soldiers may therefore not like where they eventually end up, said Riffou, who takes over the mentoring program when the next rotation of troops arrive in February. "There's a lot of education to be done inside the army for those coming back," said Riffou. Newcomers will still have to learn to work with security personnel who often don't understand English and whose culture is much different. There are efforts to simulate the conditions in Afghanistan before deployment, with training sites such as the one in Wainwright. But, Riffou said even this kind of advance training can't fully prepare soldiers for the hottest days of the Afghan summer. "It's hard country," he said.
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Dutch very likely to stay in Afstan until 2010  
Thursday, November 22, 2007
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Very good news--which will sure put the screws on us. Note also the countries reported to be pitching in the help the Dutch. I wonder what our opposition parties will have to say about our leaving our militaristic Dutch (and Aussie) comrades rather in the lurch if Canada end its combat mission at Kandahar, immediately south of them.

DUTCH government parties have agreed to extend the Dutch mission in Afghanistan by around two years, public broadcaster NOS reported overnight, citing well-informed sources.

Dutch and Australian troops make up the bulk of the force in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

According to the NOS, the parties in the centre-left coalition government have agreed to extend the mandate of the Dutch troops in the Uruzgan province, which expires in August 2008, until 2010.

The Dutch cabinet will discuss the extension tomorrow and thrash out the details. The NOS said one point that remains to be determined is exactly how long the soldiers will stay, but it is expected to be around two years.

The government of Christian Democrats, Labour and protestant Christian Union is expected to officially announce its decision on Saturday next week.
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Prime Minister rallies Canadian troops in Afghanistan
NEWS RELEASE 13 March 2006 Ottawa, Ontario
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper today spoke to Canadian troops serving with Task Force Afghanistan at Kandahar airfield in southern Afghanistan.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I want to tell you how proud I am of the work you are doing. You have put yourselves on the line to defend our national interests, ensure Canadian leadership in world affairs, and help Afghanistan rebuild into a free, democratic and peaceful country,” said Prime Minister Harper.

“Your work, serving in this UN-mandated, Canadian-led security operation, follows in the proud Canadian tradition of providing leadership on global issues and protecting our national interests,” said Prime Minister Harper.

“Already, great progress has been made. Your contributions have enhanced the security of the Afghan people so they can rebuild their country and make a better life for themselves and their children,” said Prime Minister Harper.

“Standing up for these core Canadian values may not always be easy. But you have our full support. Your government is behind you. And most importantly, the Canadian people are behind you,” said Prime Minister Harper.
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Drop-off holiday cards for Canadian troops at fire stations
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Winnipeg Emergency Medical Services and the Winnipeg Fire Department have joined forces to collect cards and letters for Canadian troops in Afghanistan, which will be sent overseas in time for Christmas.

Fire and Paramedic chief Jim Brennan encourages members of the public to drop off holiday cards and letters of support for Canadian troops, at local Fire Paramedic Stations by Nov. 28.

Service personel, fire fighters and paramedics launched the initiative today at No. 1 Station, in central Winnipeg.
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Merchants of death...
Article Link

...assisted by an implicitly nefarious distraction effort by the government. Or so these editorialists, posing as reporters, (and no doubt seeing themselves as the fearless counterparts of Woodward and Bernstein) would have readers think. Babbling has already very well fisked Mr Blanchfield of the Ottawa Citizen. I'll have a go at him and his co-editorialist Andrew Mayeda.

As a start why would anyone think the fact that, during a combat mission, an army expends an awful lot of rounds, warrants a full page story in the paper? The headline:

Locked, loaded and lucrative
Overlooked in the cost of rebuilding Afghanistan is the cost of the bullets

The money shot:

An analysis of Defence Department data shows that while Colt has sold $2.4 million worth of guns, spare parts and maintenance to the military so far this year, those numbers are dwarfed by the $46 million worth of bullets and mortars that General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Canada sold to the Canadian Forces during just five months in 2007.

I'm shocked, just shocked to learn that the Canadian Forces are spending money on bullets and mortar rounds when in combat.

Distraction and cover-up:

Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan are making record use of guns and bullets as they face some of their heaviest fighting since the Korean War. The Conservative government has tried to soften the rhetoric surrounding the war in Afghanistan this year, pressing messages of reconstruction and development, while downplaying the combat role of the military.
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Opposed Canadian censure of Iran
Steven Edwards, CanWest News Service Published: Thursday, November 22, 2007
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UNITED NATIONS - Afghanistan effectively snubbed Canada in United Nations votes affecting a Canadian-led censure of Iran's human rights record, an analysis of the voting lineup shows.

Canada had been desperate for support on the measure in order to avoid international embarrassment. With Afghanistan's help, Iran came within two votes of defeating it.

In a pair of back-to-back votes on Tuesday, Afghanistan supported an Iranian bid to have the Canadian resolution thrown out, then voted against Canada when the resolution eventually came before the assembly
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Private sector to train armyRoadside bomb investigators to get outside help
November 20, 2007 By The Canadian Press
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OTTAWA — The Canadian army is turning to the private sector to better train soldiers who investigate roadside bombings in Afghanistan.
The majority of Canadian casualties in the war-torn country, including two soldiers killed last weekend, are the result of often-crudely constructed explosives.

The army says better investigative techniques will allow it to track down individual bomb-makers and the ad-hoc factories where the devices are assembled.

Lt.-Col. Jeremy Mansfield says it benefits not only Canadian soldiers, but civilians who’ve suffered more than anyone else from IEDs.

Cpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp of the 5th Field Ambulance in Valcartier, Que., and Pte. Michel Levesque of Riviere-Rouge, Que., were killed just after midnight Saturday when their light armoured vehicle struck a large bomb.

Their deaths bring to 73 the number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

The Defence Department recently posted a tender, looking for a civilian company to help train explosive disposal teams in “post blast investigation techniques, evidence collection, analysis and device reconstruction.”
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Notorious Taliban stronghold subdued in Kandahar
Tue, 20/11/2007 - 21:38 — matt Source: Afgha.com
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A notorious Taliban stronghold in the southern province of Kandahar has been invaded and secured by a joint Afghan and Canadian infantry unit. Heavy clashes erupted Saturday after the joint Afghan-Canadian unit came under attack while trying to secure a vital check point in the Sangisar (Sangi Hisar) village. Two Canadian soldiers and their interpreter were killed during the operation when their LAV-III vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Three other soldiers suffered serious injuries from the blast and were rushed to Kandahar airfield’s medical facility, according to a Canadian Defence statement.

Untold scores of Taliban fighters have also been killed in the fighting. Helicopter gunships, snipers, and French Mirage jest bombarded entrenched Taliban positions for nearly two days before the engagement finally subsided. Estimates vary between 12 and 100 Taliban fighters dead and wounded since the fighting began. Taliban spokesman ‘Yousuf Ahmadi’ has denied his group sustained more than four casualties.

Sangisar village is the intended location of a proposed Afghan National Police (ANP) station that is being built with help from ISAF soldiers, namely Canadian forces. Previous attempts to stabilize the village has faltered as local support for the Taliban remains strong and the undermanned and ill-equipped ANP force has failed to provide adequate security. According to Canadian press reports, Sangisar is the village where the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, started the Taliban movement in 1994.
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Artist's work pictures of compassion
By MEGAN GILLIS, SUN MEDIA November 21, 2007
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When artist Karen Bailey flew to Afghanistan to document Canadian Forces medical personnel at work in a war zone, she expected to watch them treating wounded soldiers.

Instead, she saw them bring healing and hope to injured Afghans, many of them children -- a view of Canadians at war she hopes to turn into a series of paintings.

The first day that she stepped off the plane at the dusty, scorching and rubble-strewn Kandahar Air Field Base and entered the hospital -- a plywood shack next to a runway -- she saw a four-year-old boy being treated for gunshot wounds to his back.

"I was a little bit weak at the knees outside the door of the operating theatre," Bailey remembers.

"I have this lasting image of little Aziz, with his little matchstick arms.

"I remember the children, the Afghan children, in the hospital. There were no Canadian soldiers in the hospital. It was all Afghans."


Bailey, 47, went to Kandahar as a volunteer with the Canadian War Artists Program aiming to document medical personnel at work because they're often forgotten in the focus on front-line troops.

"I hope my art is able to capture the humanity inside those medical personnel and the caring," she said.
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Burka-wearing medical helpers reach out to Afghan women
Kelly Cryderman , CanWest News Service Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2007
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A brigade of burka-wearing medical helpers took to Kandahar's neighbourhoods Wednesday, armed with condoms, iron supplements and advice on difficult pregnancies in a new program designed to boost women's health in the restless provincial capital.

The Canadian-funded community health worker program saw 260 city women graduate from a short training course where they were instructed in basic health care and midwifery skills.

In a city where doctors are hard to come by - and many husbands don't want to their wives to see male physicians - the workers will go back to one of the city's 10 sectors and volunteer at their local clinics or at other women's homes.
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Forces limit information to protect Afghan lives
The Ottawa Citizen
Published: Friday, November 23, 2007

Re: Secrecy surrounds Afghan contracts, Nov. 19.

The article misrepresents the actions and motives of the Canadian Forces on the subject of disclosure of contracting information. The publishers should also be aware that some of the information in the article may put at risk the lives of some Afghan contractors.

The authors state, correctly, that limited information is released on Afghan contractors engaged by the Canadian Forces in support of our operations in that country. The full story -- left unexplained in the article -- is that the Canadian Forces has very serious and credible reasons for limiting the amount of information released in these situations. In simplest terms, we are trying to protect the lives of the Afghan contractors with whom we do business, and their families.

In a country where the primary effort of the enemy is aimed squarely at the disruption of any attempt at normalcy, security, or rebuilding, common sense and common decency dictate that the only responsible course of action is to guard the identities of any Afghan nationals brave enough to be our allies or contractors in this endeavour.

In addition to these reasons, the relevant legislation is very clear that certain kinds of information can be exempt from disclosure. The Access to Information Act allows for example the exclusion of personal data, or of information that compromises the security of military operations, the safety of individuals, or the business details of third parties such as contractors.

Given the type of military operations we are engaged in, our constant challenge is to improve the way we disclose information, respecting the public's right to know while doing our best to safeguard our personnel and those who work with them.

One final point: in light of the information outlined here, I'm certain your readers will agree that the Citizen's decision to publish photographs and names of Afghan contractors said to be doing business with the Canadian Forces is, at the very least, disappointing.

Rear-Adm. Bruce Donaldson,
Director of staff
Strategic Joint Staff
National Defence Headquarters

He kept us out of war
Daimnation!, Nov. 23

Well, not in the way M. Chrétien (and most of our media) like to play the Iraq story,
having forgotten the facts of only four and three quarter years ago.

    'Former prime minister Jean Chretien says one of the major victories in his career was standing up against pressure to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


    However, Chretien, who has just published his memoir "My Years As Prime Minister," says there are moments in his long career that he is especially proud of, such as keeping Canada out of the Iraq invasion.

    "For the independence of the country, saying no to the Americans on the war was a great moment for Canada," Chretien says.

    "Of course it was not without risk. Suppose the war in Iraq had been a great success, I think it would have been a bit embarrassing for me. But I thought they were wrong and I said so."..'

Er, no. There was no such principled position on the part of his government. They made it clear that they would go along with whatever the UN Security Council decided. The Council did not authorize an attack on Iraq as a result of Russian, Chinese and French opposition. So our prime minister made no great decision himself; he left Canadian policy in the hands of that nice troika. Some independent policy. A story Feb. 18, 2003:

    'After months of hesitation, Canada finally made it clear on Tuesday that it has no intention of contributing to a U.S.-led attack on Iraq that has not been blessed by the U.N. Security Council.


    "The policy of the government is very clear. If there has to be military activity in Iraq, we want it to be approved by the U.N. Security Council," he continued.


    Chretien and his senior ministers have consistently said that if the United Nations does sanction an assault on Iraq, Canada will take part [emphasis added].

    Whether Canada's over-stretched armed forces could contribute much is questionable, since last week Ottawa announced it would send up to 2,000 troops for a year to take part in a U.N. peacekeeping mission based in Kabul...'

Ah yes, the Kabul diversion. Whilst putting Canadian support of an Iraq war firmly in the hands of Russia, China and France, M. Chrétien had already made it impossible in practical terms for the Canadian Forces to do anything in Iraq should the Security Council approve an attack:

    'The former Liberal government led by Jean Chrétien rejected the advice of military commanders by deciding in early 2003 to send 2,000 troops to Afghanistan [as part of ISAF doing peacekeeping at Kabul--2004 update on that mission here], CBC News has learned.


    The commander of the army at the time, Lt.-Gen. Mike Jeffrey...said the announcement of Canada's plans to send a battle group to Afghanistan — made in the House of Commons on Feb. 12, 2003 [emphasis added] — took him completely by surprise.

    "I did not know when that announcement was made that the decision had been made to go," he said...'

Perhaps good politics, but nothing to be proud of. Yet our media give this Liberal don a free ride and, moreover, are incapable of remembering what they were reporting such a short time ago. Isn't it wonderful what memory and Google can turn up?

Battle for Sangisar
Globe and Mail, Nov. 18

Exclusive footage from Canadian reconnaissance squadron, which led weekend battle in Sangisar. Video courtesy of Cpl. Philippe Lemieux

Fighting a war in a digital age
Soldiers taking pictures and easy Internet access raise new set of challenges over security for military

Toronto Star, Nov. 23

The gritty video captures the crackle of machine-gun fire, the boom of explosions and the whoosh of shrapnel passing dangerously close overhead.

But this compelling glimpse of Canadians under fire during a patrol west of Kandahar wasn't shot by a journalist travelling with the troops. Rather it was taken by a soldier himself.

When Cpl. Philippe Lemieux's reconnaissance unit was ambushed by insurgents Saturday morning, the 26-year-old soldier pulled out his personal camera, caught the action and gave a copy to The Globe and Mail.

By Monday, his video was on the newspaper's website – and Lemieux's commanders were asking questions about this soldier-turned-videographer. Back at defence headquarters in Ottawa, military policy-makers were again wrestling with the challenges of fighting a war in the digital age.

Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky, a military spokesperson, said commanders were surprised to see the video online.

"Yes we were and funnily enough, so was Cpl. Lemieux when he found out how quickly the video had ended up on the Web," Babinsky said in an interview from Afghanistan.

Welcome to the wired battlefield, where many Canadian soldiers on the front line have a small digital camera tucked beside their guns.

Thanks to those cameras – and easy Internet access at the main base at Kandahar Airfield – soldiers are sending back pictures and videos to family members, friends as well as blogs and websites like YouTube.

"Everybody there seems to own a camera," said one soldier who has served in Afghanistan.

"This is our first big operation in the digital age ... at the end of the day, all you can do is put out policies and then you make sure soldiers are aware of them," said the soldier.

But the military's gripe with Lemieux wasn't that he was taking pictures as his unit was taking fire. Rather, they weren't happy that he hadn't vetted the video with commanders before handing it over to the media.

"We like to review anything that would come out of the battlefield to ensure there is no violation to operational security," Babinsky said.

Soldiers taking pictures, even for personal use, have to abide by the same rules that govern journalists embedded with the Canadian Forces. That means no pictures of sensitive military topics like the watchtowers around a base or classified equipment within the vehicles...

......the incident does renew old tensions within defence headquarters about how much access soldiers should have to the Internet, whether personal cameras should be allowed on operations...

As for Lemieux, Babinsky says he won't be punished since there were no security concerns with the footage he had taken...

Canadian army paints upbeat picture of Afghanistan, contradicts Senlis Council
CP, Nov. 22

A senior [!?!] Canadian general painted an upbeat picture of the war in Afghanistan to a House of Commons committee Thursday, contradicting an international think-tank.

But Brig.-Gen [emphasis addea]. Peter Atkinson wasn't prepared to dismiss Wednesday's Senlis Council report as quickly as Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who called the agency's ideas "not credible."

The analysis will be studied, he said.

"There were a lot of issues brought up in the report, a very important report, one which NATO and Canada will read very carefully as we are looking at the future of the mission," Atkinson told the all-party defence committee.

"It's probably too early to comment directly on what is in there. ... We're taking a hard look at it."

The Senlis Council suggested the Taliban insurgency was getting stronger and exercised influence over half of Afghanistan's land mass. In a startling declaration, the group, better known for its development and aid research, also advocated attacks on insurgent training areas in northern Pakistan...

In Ottawa, Atkinson walked the defence committee through Canadian army operations over the last few months, saying NATO is keeping the pressure on militants and making progress toward development.

Bloc Quebecois defence critic Claude Bachand was outraged, saying the briefing contradicted not only the Senlis Council, but other aid agencies operating in the war-torn region.

"He's trying to convince the committee through rose-coloured glasses that everything is going well, but things aren't going all that well," said Bachand, who began quoting passages of the Senlis report back to the general.

"I could go on and on, Mr. Chairman, and it's completely opposite to what the general is telling us. I'm very disappointed in this situation."

Conservative Laurie Hawn, the parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, jumped to the general's defence, but also tried to smooth out any contradiction between Atkinson and MacKay.

"The general said the Senlis report was important, he didn't say it was good," Hawn said. "Senlis's credibility is not universally accepted."

The European-based council and the Canadian military are not too far apart on some of the arguments they make, including the continued need for combat troops to protect development projects.

The Senlis Council has been savage in its criticism of the Canadian International Development Agency, calling for it to hand over aid responsibility to the army - an argument many in the military privately support.

NDP defence critic Dawn Black said none of the testimony she heard squares with anything she's been reading, including a recent report by Oxfam in Britain, which outlined a dire situation in many rural Afghan villages.

"The evidence we're getting back from a number of different sources is that the security situation is worse, not better."..

Hillier bucks Pakistan push
General: Canada, NATO’s focus on southern Afghanistan

ChronicleHerald.ca, Nov. 23

The country’s top soldier isn’t quibbling with one aspect of a recent report that calls for increasing the number of NATO troops in Afghanistan.

But Gen. Rick Hiller doesn’t agree with the Senlis Council’s suggestion that the International Security Assistance Force should attack insurgent training areas in northern Pakistan.

"Just bear in mind we’re part of a NATO mission. NATO has always said itself it needs to get more troops into southern Afghanistan to do the job," Gen. Hillier told reporters after giving a speech in Halifax.

"The commander of ISAF, the NATO commander in theatre, has been very clear about that."

The Senlis Council report recommends NATO double its troop numbers to 80,000 soldiers in order to quell a security situation that has reached "crisis proportions."

Gen. Hillier, who hadn’t yet read the Senlis report, wasn’t keen on the European-based think-tank’s recommendation to send NATO troops into neighbouring Pakistan.

"It would not be logical to do — to send NATO troops into another country outside of the mission area of where we operate," he said.

Much of the charismatic general’s speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce focused on Afghanistan.

"It’s a land that’s been beaten up for 25 years and what little infrastructure they had was pretty much thoroughly destroyed," Gen. Hillier said...

But there is "some potential for the future," he said, with 55 per cent of the Afghan population under the age of 14.

"If you can give that population some education and if you can keep them alive — and that’s a real challenge — and if you can give them some hope for the future, you’ve got an economic vitality there, potential there, that’s quite incredible."

He described the pervasive thirst for education among Afghan kids who beg for pencils instead of candy.

But insurgents don’t want schools to open, he said.

"They absolutely do not want girls to be going to school and they don’t want any kind of society that represents anything that we would recognize as being normal," Gen. Hillier said. "In that society, those men, with their violence, have caused a chaos that is phenomenal."

Gen. Hillier told the crowd the insurgents are responsible for vast fields of opium poppies and marijuana forests that carpet southern Afghanistan. He described how the Taliban executed women for being seen with men who were not from their immediate family.

"Ladies were whipped for showing their hands in public, for showing their face in public. . . . They were whipped when their shoes made clicking noises on the cobblestones of the streets."

NATO’s combat operations are necessary in Afghanistan, he said.

"Unless you keep the Taliban on their back foot, you can get no space whatsoever to build anything else in the country, whether it’s a police force, an army or a bridge or a school."

Canada is helping Afghanistan dig up millions of landmines, and build up its own police force and army.

"In fact, we just got the third battalion of the Afghan National Army moving into Kandahar province this week and that’s an incredible progress over last year [emphasis added], when we had none of them with us."

The general also talked about increasing the size of Canada’s military, including its special forces.

"These truly are the gold medallist of soldiers," he said of the elite troops.

"They’re pretty incredible people. Nineteen-and-a-half-inch necks, 195 IQs, a pretty incredible selection process they go through," he said.

Besides backing up Canadian police forces, "they also conduct direct action and operations for us in Afghanistan or anywhere else around the world we might need to do that," Gen. Hillier said.

"They have been a part in Afghanistan of disrupting the Taliban leadership and removing from the field of battle those men who plan, enable, facilitate and pay for people to come out and try and kill Canadian soldiers [emphasis added]. It’s pretty incredible."..

'There is reason for optimism,' NATO chief says
Globe and Mail, Nov. 23

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- A panel on the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan will hear today from NATO's chief, who says he intends to deliver a message that the situation isn't all "gloom and doom."

Development work in the districts around Kandahar serves as an example of continued progress despite the rising violence, said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, arguing against those who warn of looming disaster for the international effort.

The optimistic theme of the Secretary-General's visit to the south was echoed earlier in the day at a press conference with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, and the NATO chief described the publicity campaign as an attempt to brighten the picture of Afghanistan as countries such as Canada debate their role in the country.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently appointed a panel led by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley to write a report on the mission, before Canada decides whether to extend its commitment of troops past February of 2009.

"I'll speak to the Manley panel tomorrow morning in Kabul," Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said [emphasis added], during a tour of Canada's provincial reconstruction team headquarters in Kandahar city. "Usually you see those discussions in an atmosphere of gloom and doom. And in other words, here I'll push back a bit."

The NATO leader spoke one day after the release of a report by the Senlis Council, an international think tank, which described the potential for a collapse of the Afghan government in the coming years if the Canadian and Dutch withdraw and the Taliban capture major cities.

Although the President was scornful of the report yesterday, Mr. Karzai has previously invoked similarly nightmarish scenarios when discussing the possible effects of troop pullouts, saying the country might descend into civil war.

Few others have raised such harrowing possibilities, but a broad consensus emerged this year that security is getting worse. Violent incidents increased almost 25 per cent in the first half of 2007, according to a paper by the UN Department of Safety and Security, and twice as much of the country's landmass represents a high risk for visits by humanitarian aid workers as compared with last year...

...NATO's briefing material gives an ambivalent view of progress in southern Afghanistan. The Afghan Country Stability Picture, a database of all known aid projects compiled by NATO, shows total funding for completed and continuing projects in southern Afghanistan as of August totalled $1.56-billion, but the majority of that work was concentrated into about a quarter of the southern districts.

The south remains highly dangerous for aid workers, and the NATO database reveals how those conditions have encouraged a clustering of development efforts around the major cities. The only multimillion-dollar energy projects completed so far have been located inside urban zones; agricultural and rural PRT projects have reached only six of 16 districts in Kandahar; and across the entire south the status of a majority of the planned agriculture and rural projects is marked as "unknown."

Mr. de Hoop Scheffer's view of Kandahar city was limited to a swoop over the streets in a Chinook helicopter; far below him, extra police were patrolling in the wake of a brazen Taliban attack on police headquarters in the city centre earlier this week, which had resulted in a gun battle.

Further down the highway from the military airport where the NATO leader landed, on the same afternoon he was speaking, Taliban insurgents kidnapped the director of customs for the Spin Boldak district, the main gateway to Pakistan. His bodyguard was killed and two others injured in the attack, police said.