Taliban rebels kill five Afghan border police
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Taliban insurgents killed five Afghan policemen after a fierce four-hour battle on the border with Pakistan, police said, denying Taliban claims the men were beheaded.
Police clashed with the militants loyal to the ousted hardline Islamic regime in the Bahramcha area of insurgency-hit Helmand province late Tuesday, Dishu district police commander Mohammed Rasoul told AFP on Wednesday.
"Five police were killed in a police clash with Taliban and smugglers in Bahramcha that went on for four hours last night," he said.
A man claiming to be a Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammed Yousuf Ahmadi, told AFP in a telephone call the militants had arrested five policemen on patrol and beheaded them.
However, Rasoul and other provincial authorities denied the police were arrested and beheaded. "They were killed in action, in fighting," said Rasoul.
Southern Afghanistan, the birthplace of the fundamentalist Taliban movement that had taken control of most of Afghanistan by 1996, is the hotbed of an insurgency launched after the hardliners were toppled in a US-led operation in 2001.
This year as been the worst for insurgency-linked violence since the fall of the Taliban, with about 1,400 people killed, most of them militants.
2 Taliban killed, 12 captured in S. Afghanistan
KABUL, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Two Taliban remnants were killed, 12 were arrested Monday in the firefight with Afghan police in the Afghan southern province of Helmand, a local official said Tuesday.
"Yesterday about 10 a.m., two vehicles of local police were patrolling in Nahre Seraj district when they came under ambush from a group of militants. The police fought back at once, and killed two Taliban militants including a group commander named Mullah Qadir, and arrested other 12 militants," Haji Muhaiuddin, the deputy governor of Helmand, told Xinhua.
"In our side, three police were also injured, and are now in stable condition. The investigation is going on," he added.
Remnants of the former fundamentalist regime who failed to derail the landmark Sept. 18 legislative polls have intensified their activities especially in some troublesome southern provinceslike Helmand, Kandahar and Uruzgan.
A group of Taliban militants killed engineer Ghani, a candidatefor provincial council, on Gresk-Nawzad road in Helmand province Friday night and two others on the spot.
At the same time, Afghan and US troops in the recent three offensive operations in southern Uruzgan province killed 13 Taliban militants.
About 1,500 rebels, Afghans and US troops as well as pro-government figures and even aid workers have been killed in Taliban-linked militancy since the beginning of this year.
Afghan police kill Taliban commander
Pravda, Russia / November 1, 2005
Police killed a suspected Taliban commander and another insurgent in a three-hour gunbattle in southern Afghanistan, while three Dutch troops were injured when their helicopter made an emergency landing on a mountain, officials said Tuesday. Meanwhile, two Afghans were killed and three were wounded when an old mine exploded near a runway at Kabul airport, Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanekzai said.
The Taliban commander killed in the battle with police was Mullah Kabir, the rebel chief in Helmand province, said Ghulam Muhiddin, a top local official. Fighting started late Monday after insurgents ambushed a police convoy. Twelve other militants were arrested, he added.
Helmand has been the scene of a series of fierce battles with police in recent weeks that have left several officers dead.
The area, like other southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, has seen a dramatic increase in rebel violence since January, which has killed almost 1,500 people, the most in any one year since U.S.-led forces ousted the fundamentalists from power in late 2001.
The twin-rotor Chinook chopper that made an emergency landing was flying from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif city to Kabul on Monday when the incident occurred, a NATO-led peacekeeping force said in a statement.
It was not immediately clear what caused the aircraft to make an emergency landing, but "it is unlikely to have been the result of any hostile action," it said. Seventeen Dutch troops were onboard at the time.
The injured were evacuated to Bagram, the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. Two have already been released from hospital, the AP reports.
The Dutch defense ministry launched an inquiry into the emergency landing, the statement said.
The Netherlands has 1,170 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 12,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force, which is responsible for security in Kabul as well as northern and western parts of the country. The force suffered a heavy blow in August when two of its Spanish helicopters crashed, killing 17 troops on board.
Two Mine Clearers Killed in Blast at Afghanistan Airport
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
1 November 2005 -- Two men clearing mines around the Afghan capital's commercial airport were killed when one of the devices exploded.
Police said three others working with them were wounded in the explosion at Kabul International Airport on Monday.
In other news from Afghanistan, a Dutch helicopter made an emergency landing in mountainous terrain near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on Monday.
The NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan said three of the 17 Dutch troops on board the helicopter were injured.
It was not immediately clear what caused the incident.
Top al-Qaida man escaped US custody in Afghanistan: Pentagon
via Hindu, India
Fort Bliss (Texas), Nov. 2 (AP): A man once considered a top al-Qaida operative in Southeast Asia escaped from a US-run detention facility in Afghanistan and cannot testify against the soldier who allegedly mistreated him, a defence lawyer involved in a prison abuse case said.
Omar al-Farouq was one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants until Indonesian authorities captured him in the summer of 2002 and turned him over to the United States.
A Pentagon official in Washington confirmed yesterday evening that al-Farouq escaped from a US detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, on July 10. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
An Army lawyer for Sgt. Alan J. Driver, a reservist accused of abusing Bagram detainees, asked yesterday where al-Farouq was and what the Army had done to find him in time for Driver's court proceedings.
Capt. John B. Parker, a prosecutor, said al-Farouq and three others escaped from the Bagram detention centre and have not been found.
"If we find him ... we will make him available," Parker said.
Members of Driver's company, testifying by speaker phone in court yesterday, identified the detainee Driver is accused of abusing as Omar al-Farouq, who was featured in a Time magazine cover story in September 2002. The article, titled "Confessions of an al-Qaida Terrorist," detailed his plans to carry out attacks in Southeast Asia, including a plot to bomb US embassies near the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Minister Launches Power Project In Herat, Afghanistan
HERAT CITY, Oct 31 [Asia Pulse] - Minister for Energy and Water Mohammad Ismail Khan had laid the foundation stone of power project worth $120.000 in the Zinda Jan district of the western Herat province, officials said.
Shir Ahmad Ghoriani, provincial head of power department, told Pajhwok Afghan News the project comprising four 400mw transformers and 72 poles. A local company would complete the work in two months, he added. He said the scheme would provide 2,000 families with power facility.
Afghan company head Mohammad Basir said the project would be completed ahead of Eid-ul-azha.
Hailing the project, a tribal elder of Zinda jan Mahmood Namati said "we are happy with the scheme that will help in resolving a lot of our problems." He said with winter set-in, the price of fuel had shot up to levels beyond common reach.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Afghan official terms Iran's government, foreign policy independent
Kabul, Nov 1, IRNA
Mohammad-Karim Rahimi, the spokesman for Afghan President Hamed Karzai, referring to the recent remarks of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said that Iran has an independent government and foreign policy.
Speaking at a press conference in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday, he added that today every government has its own special foreign policy and that Afghan officials respect Iran for its independent government.
"The president's remarks express the policy of his country on Palestine and Afghanistan has no view in this respect," added Rahimi.
He said that Afghanistan believes that the world should live in peace and that the Palestinians are entitled to independence.
"The Afghan government desires to provide a peaceful life for the Muslim Palestinian people in a free and independent country," he added.
The Afghan media declared a while ago that Karzai has called for establishment of ties with Israel.
Quoting the Afghan president, Rahimi said, "Afghanistan will enter into relations with Israel after it officially recognizes the legitimate right for formation of an independent Palestine.
"Some time ago, in an interview with an Israeli daily and television network, Karzai said that Afghanistan is determined to restore the right to life to the Muslim people of Palestine under peaceful conditions in coexistence with Israeli people," he continued.
Motorcycle ban lifted in Zabul
(Cheragh) The authorities in the southern province of Zabul lifted a blanket ban on riding motorcycles on November 29. The restriction was imposed two months ago for security reasons. [Ed: Taleban favour motorcycles for moving around and mounting attacks.] Police say a nighttime riding ban will continue. Provincial spokesman Gulab Shah said the restriction was lifted by popular demand, but warned that it could be re-imposed if insurgent actions continue in Zabul.
(Cheragh is an independent daily run by the Development and Democracy Association.)
via Afghan Press Monitor (31 Oct 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Afghan Theatre Company Coming to Theatre Project Nov. 3-13
SOURCE: Theatre Project, Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel - Nov 01 6:25 AM
Theatre Project begins its subscription series with "Beyond the Mirror" on Nov. 3. The show is a collaboration between an Afghan Theatre Company (Exile Theatre from Kabul) and an American Theatre Company (NYC's Bond Street Theatre). Theatre Project will be one of only two US venues for the show.
"Beyond the Mirror" uses personal stories to give a humanistic portrayal of the past 20 years in Afghanistan, a time of war and oppression. Through puppetry, dance, shadow theatre, music, film and multi-media, the show honors the soul of a nation and proves the resilience of the human spirit. It reaches beyond a reflection of the past and shows a new Afghanistan finding its way and making choices for a positive future.
“Our work together on 'Beyond the Mirror' has been a beautiful example of cooperation across cultures,” says Exile Theatre Director Mahmoud Salimi in a prepared statement to the press. “Both groups have brought their own vision and talents to the creative process, and the result is unlike anything seen in Afghanistan before.”
"Beyond the Mirror" opened the 2nd Afghan Theatre Festival on Aug. 27 at the Dramatic Arts Center of Kabul University. The first US-Afghan collaboration in Afghan history emanated from years of collaboration between the two groups. The two companies’ last production won Best Play at the 1st Afghan National Theatre Festival last year. The Festival jury called the show “a unique, thoughtful, pictorial production with a completely new style in the history of Afghanistan’s theatre.” Says Bond Street Theatre Director Joanna Sherman, “For the last four years, we have been introducing new visions of theatre and new techniques to Afghan artists and audiences.” The production features live music by rebob master Quraisha, and a performance by former child film star Anisa Wahab.
Bond Street Theatre, founded in 1976, is a not-for-profit organization and winner of a prestigious MacArthur Award. The company has performed for a myriad of populations worldwide. They last appeared at Theatre Project in the award-winning "Romeo & Juliet," created in collaboration with Bulgaria’s Theatre Tsvete. The company is dedicated to creating theater in areas of conflict. Exile Theatre, founded in 2000 in Peshawar, Pakistan, has created many original productions since their inception, working in verbal and non-verbal styles. The two groups first met in Peshawar in 2002 while Bond Street Theatre was performing for Afghan refugees. Since then, their efforts have reached over 25,000 children and adults in Kabul and rural villages in northern Afghanistan. Both groups are dedicated to using performance as a way to address current social and civic themes.
"Beyond the Mirror" will be presented in Baltimore from November 3-13 and at Theatre for the New City in New York from November 17-December 4. The two companies will also present video lectures and symposia to promote the value of the theatre arts in post-conflict recovery.
Theatre Project, at 45 West Preston Street just down the street from the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, calls itself Baltimore’s year-round “fringe festival.” It's now in its 34th year of presenting cutting-edge performing arts in a professional yet laid-back and intimate atmosphere, showcasing work by established and emerging artists from the region, the nation, and the world. Many engagements include discussions with the artists, workshops, or other outreach activities. Founded by Philip Arnoult, Theatre Project is now under the direction of Anne Cantler Fulwiler.
Japanese artist to recreate destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas with laser beams
Tuesday November 1, 11:24 PM
TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese artist Hiro Yamagata announced plans to recreate Afghanistan's destroyed Bamiyan Buddhas using as many as 240 laser beam images, a giant project that could also bring electricity to local people.
The 60 million-dollar exhibit, which is slated to begin in June 2007, will for several years replicate the images of the statues, which were the world's tallest standing Buddhas until the Taliban regime destroyed them.
"When I first visited Bamiyan, I was very impressed with the sights of valleys, as well as local children, local people," said the globally acclaimed artist, known for his large laser-beam art works.
"Every time I go back, I feel the growing passion of wanting to create art there," he added on Tuesday.
Yamagata plans to show the images for two hours from sunset four days per week. He is still in negotiation with the Afghan government and local entities on how long the exhibition will last but it will likely be for years, he said.
The hi-tech project to recreate the destroyed cultural assets could also be important for the local economy in one of the world's poorest countries.
To create the laser images, Yamagata plans to install 120 laser systems, 10 windmills and 11,988 solar energy panels.
Yamagata and the Afghan government anticipate the power generating systems would be able to supply about 100 watts for six hours daily to each household of the area which is still not being provided electricity.
Afghan ambassador to Japan Haron Amin said the project could transform Bamiyan into a tourist destination. He called it an "eco-friendly, environment-friendly and energy-friendly concept."
The Islamic fundamentalist Taliban, ignoring world protests, dynamited the two 1,500-year-old statues carved into the sandstone cliffs of Bamiyan in March 2001, branding them un-Islamic.
The regime was ousted later that year in a US-led military campaign after the September 11 attacks. In a parallel, the World Trade Center was represented by light rays in an artistic memorial after the twin towers were brought down by hijacked airplanes.
Afghan Minister of Information and Culture Sayeed Makhdum Rahin, attending a press conference in Tokyo with the artist, said the laser beams were an appropriate way to represent the destroyed statues.
"Three years ago when we had an international seminar on Afghanistan's cultural heritage, many people wanted to discuss reconstruction of Buddha statues...I did not agree with the idea," Rahin said.
"Those statues belonged to a different generation, different time and different situation.
"I'd say let's keep the spaces the way they are. Let these spaces be witnesses for what human beings did to culture and history in the beginning of the 21st century," he added.
Yamagata said he would agree with the minister "even if I weren't an artist using lasers."
"We can't change the history of destruction, so I myself think it would be silly to build something new to replace them," he said.
He doubted governments would provide financial support. Instead, he plans to raise donations by throwing charity parties and from non-governmental organizations and corporations.
He already has brought along celebrities onto his project committee including US actor Dennis Hopper, US actress Sharon Stone and Canadian film director James Cameron.
Asked about security in Afghanistan, much of which is racked by violence by Taliban remnants, Afghan ambassador Amin called on foreigners to visit Bamiyan but warned them not to go through the Pakistani city of Quetta near the border.
Earlier this year two Japanese schoolteachers, reportedly on their way to Bamiyan, were shot dead on an Afghan highway linking Pakistan to the Taliban's former stronghold of Kandahar.
Child kidnapper sentenced to 12 years
(The Kabul Times) A man convicted of kidnapping a young child has been sentenced to 12 years in jail, a judge said. Matiullah, a resident of the Manogai district in the eastern province of Kunar, was convicted of abducting eight-year-old Faisal, who was found unconscious by the Torkham border police during a night patrol on August 28. The judge said that in passing sentence, he took into account a clean confession from the accused. But Matiullah rejects the charge, saying in his defence that the boy's father had refused to pay 19,000 afghanis in wages owed to him for 33 days' work.
(The Kabul Times is a state-run paper published in English every other day.)
via Afghan Press Monitor (30 Oct 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Australian Government Wants Guantanamo Torture Claims Examined
Nov. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said allegations that an Australian terrorist suspect held at Guantanamo Bay was tortured by U.S. soldiers needs to be tested before they can be taken seriously.
David Hicks was beaten and sexually abused on two occasions over 10 hours shortly after being captured in 2001, his father Terry told Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Four Corners program last night. He said his son told him about the abuse when he visited him at Guantanamo.
``I think all claims need to be tested before you can take them too seriously,'' Downer told reporters last night according to a ministry transcript. ``David Hicks has never made such claims to Australian officials.''
Hicks, 30, was captured in Afghanistan in December 2001. He is due to stand trial before a U.S. military tribunal next month on charges of conspiracy to commit attacks on civilians and civilian targets, attempted murder and aiding the enemy.
On the ABC program, a former British Guantanamo detainee Martin Mubanga said Hicks had told him that he was blindfolded, beaten and spat upon by U.S. soldiers.
Downer said he was surprised by the allegations as they had never been made to Australian officials who had visited Hicks at Guantanamo Bay. Previous claims that Hicks had been tortured had been investigated, he said.
``We've had claims that he was tortured, we had two American teams investigate those claims, and they have come back with nil returns,'' Downer said.
Australia's embassy in Washington will follow up the latest claims, he said.
About 520 prisoners from 40 countries are being held by the U.S. at its naval base in Cuba.
The United Nations has criticized the U.S. for setting rules over visits to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
The U.S. Department of Defense said on Oct. 27 that three UN human rights officials invited to Guantanamo Bay wouldn't be allowed to conduct private interviews with suspected terrorists, Manfred Nowak, the UN rapporteur on torture and other degrading treatment of prisoners, said yesterday in New York.
Such interviews are a ``non-negotiable'' requirement for the visit, Nowak said.
Hicks: US captors sexually abused me
Mark Dunn / Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia / 01nov05
ACCUSED Taliban fighter David Hicks claims he was sexually abused by his US captors.
The Australian claims he was injected with an unknown drug and anally raped using an unidentified object while in US custody in Afghanistan.
Terry Hicks, David's father, said his son told him of the sexual abuse last year.
Mr Hicks said David had raised the rape allegation with visiting Australian officials, and his son also told them he had been offered prostitutes for information.
"We know during his interview (with US interrogators) they injected him," Terry Hicks said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has said US investigations found no evidence to support the allegations.
Afghanistan destroys dozens of drug labs
Wednesday November 02, 2005 (1139 PST) PakTribune.com, Pakistan
KABUL, November 02(Online): Afghan authorities say they have destroyed 30 opium-processing laboratories as well as tonnes of drugs and chemicals used to make heroin, news agencies reported.
According to the Afghan Interior Ministry, police narcotics forces destroyed the drugs and equipment in a four-day operation that ended on Sunday in the eastern province of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan.
The ministry said the police had also destroyed over 4,000 kilograms of opiates and 5,000 kilograms of chemicals used to process opium into heroin.
Afghanistan produces some 87 per cent of the world`s opium.
The blame game will dry no tears in India or in Pakistan
By Ahmed Rashid, Lahore (Filed: 02/11/2005) telegraph.co.uk
Natural catastrophes tend to bring even warring parties together, but the hope and the opportunity presented by last month's devastating earthquake in Kashmir for an improvement in relations between India and Pakistan are slipping away. Halting the slide before relations seriously deteriorate once again will require serious policy changes by both sides, as well as sustained international diplomacy and pressure.
A series of acrimonious comments between the two foreign ministries about the nature of relief aid; massive ego problems on both sides; the suspicious revival of Pakistan's Islamic militants in the humanitarian relief efforts; and the subsequent terrorist attacks in New Delhi have all helped to muddy the waters.
Despite the suspicions after the earthquake, the two countries had concluded an agreement at the weekend whereby Kashmiris from both sides would be able to cross the Line of Control that divides the two Kashmirs in order to meet bereaved relatives.
But events took a turn for the worse after Saturday's bomb blasts in New Delhi, which killed 62 people. The following day, on a balmy winter's evening, the litany of events seems to have endangered two years of bonhomie between the two countries.
On Sunday, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, had invited the media to a press conference, followed by a jovial "Iftar" dinner in the garden of his home, for the closure of the day's fast in Ramadan.
He strongly condemned "the dastardly terrorist attack" in New Delhi and offered all help from Pakistan. At the end, he casually got up, saying he was going to ring India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to offer him Pakistan's condolences and support.
Instead of a grateful Singh on the other end of the line, the Indian prime minister dropped a bombshell, telling Musharraf that the terrorists who carried out the attacks were linked to Pakistan. In a well-orchestrated media blitz, Mr Singh's comments were on the news wires within 30 minutes, undermining Musharraf's entire press conference.
In coming days, India will clearly try to pin the terrorist attacks on Pakistan-based extremist groups. Pakistan will demand proof. India will say the evidence is secret, and so things will steadily worsen. We will be back to the days of tensions, recriminations and shelling across the Line of Control.
Two things need to be done immediately. Musharraf needs to rein in the militant groups that have had a new lease of life since the earthquake, while Singh needs actually to start a political process to resolve the Kashmir dispute, instead of procrastinating.
Musharraf has stubbornly refused to control the extremists. They have been repeatedly banned by the government, but have reappeared under new names. None of their leaders or commanders has been jailed, and their training camps in Pakistani Kashmir continue to flourish.
Earthquake victims in outlying villages in Pakistani Kashmir recount how, just hours after the earthquake and three days before the Pakistan army was to reach them, bearded young militants were pulling people from the rubble and providing medical aid.
Islamic militants were always there: they had never gone away. Their knowledge of the terrain and of the people have proved invaluable in earthquake relief. Now the army is favouring their relief efforts rather than those of secular Pakistani relief agencies.
Many of these extremist groups are closely linked to al-Qa'eda and they have every inclination to scuttle the Indo-Pakistan peace process and continue the jihad until victory. Yet reining in the militants has never been an option for Musharraf and his army until India offers something concrete on the negotiating table - a political process in which India negotiates with the Kashmiris on both sides of the Line and with Pakistan, to come to a resolution of the dispute.
Instead, for the past two years, India has stalled over the political process, confident that, being far stronger than Pakistan, it need not grant concessions. India has refused to discuss Kashmir and has instead demanded numerous "confidence-building measures" (CBMs) with Pakistan.
The Pakistanis, not to speak of the Kashmiris, are fed up with this never-ending list of CBMs, which India says will ultimately lead to "political" talks on Kashmir.
On both sides of the Line, the earthquake has destroyed Kashmir, turned its towns and villages into rubble and its people into homeless refugees in their own land. Kashmir - as a cause that has sparked three wars between the two nations and led to a bloody 15-year insurgency - is now in ruins.
The past cannot be reconstructed. The quicker the two leaders realise this, and actually offer the Kashmiris an end to the conflict through a political process, the faster the world can help the Kashmiris get back on their feet.
Karzai under pressure over editor's jailing
Middle East Times 10/31/2005
KABUL - Afghan President Hamid Karzai was under growing pressure on Tuesday to intervene in the case of an editor jailed for two years for blasphemy after clerics accused him of questioning Islamic law.
The world's top media rights groups joined Afghan journalists in urging Karzai to intercede after a court sentenced Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the monthly magazine Haqoq-e-Zan (Women's Rights), at the weekend.
Nasab, 50, was arrested at the beginning of the month after conservative clerics complained about his magazine to the Supreme Court, which in turn asked the public prosecutor's office to arrest him.
Articles, including some by an Iranian scholar, criticized the stoning of Muslims who convert to another religion and the use of corporal punishment for offenses such as adultery, Reporters Without Borders said.
"President Karzai must intercede to obtain Nasab's release and have this miscarriage of justice corrected," the Paris-based media group said in a statement.
In an open letter to the president, the International Federation of Journalists said that it was outraged by the court's decision and believed that the judicial process had been illegal and immoral.
"The case is currently in the appeal process and we urge you to instruct the relevant authorities to follow the mandate of Afghan legislation providing for press freedom, and drop all charges against Nasab immediately," it said.
The New York-based Committee for the Protection of Journalists said in a statement: "We condemn this disturbing ruling and urge authorities to overturn this conviction and release Nasab at once."
The Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association has complained that the court should not have been involved in the matter as it had been ruled on by a government-appointed commission set up to try media offences.
The commission, headed by information minister Sayed Makhdom Raheen, stripped Nasab of the title of chief editor but recommended that the blasphemy charges be dropped. Raheen had told the association that he planned to meet Karzai on Tuesday about the case, the group's president Rahimullah Samander said.
The UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has also said that it is concerned about the case. "UNAMA believes the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in the constitution of Afghanistan as well as the universal declaration of human rights ... should be strongly defended," spokesman Adrian Edwards said on Monday.
Troops to carry miniature spy planes on their backs
By Stephen Thorne
OTTAWA (CP) -- Canada's military is buying miniature spy planes that soldiers can carry on their backs and launch anywhere to collect pictures from over the hill or around the corner in battle zones.
Reconnaissance, artillery or other troops should be packing the new units around southern Afghanistan by next August, says Maj. Keith Laughton, director of operational requirements for unmanned aerial vehicles.
The units will supplement the work of larger unmanned aircraft scheduled to be deployed with the next contingent of troops headed for Kandahar in February or March.
"We are pushing this through," Laughton said in an interview. "It has been identified as an operational requirement for Op Archer Roto 2 in August." U.S. troops already use similar systems, called Ravens, in the area.
Most of the Americans will be moving east to the Pakistan border next year while the contingent of about 1,200 Canadians is to take over operations in Kandahar region, a largely desert province that has been a Taliban hotbed.
Initially, they will rely on the larger and more sophisticated Sperwer (SPARE-ware) aircraft that Canadians first used during their NATO mission in and around Kabul in 2003-04.
The French aircraft, about the size of a small car, were purchased and deployed within about five months in 2003. All four planes crashed -- two were written off -- due largely to heat, wind and altitude.
Laughton said the military purchased replacement planes, plus two more, then conducted extensive flight tests at Cold Lake, Alta., through the spring and summer, followed by crew training.
Military planners have reduced the number of crew inside the Sperwers' ground station and placed an airman in a chair alongside two soldiers. Air force personnel are "more hands-on in their ability to control the flight," Laughton said.
He said they hope the denser air at lower altitude -- Kandahar is at 1,500 metres compared with Kabul at 2,000 -- will help keep the planes aloft, though Kandahar is significantly dustier and hotter than Kabul in summer.
He said there will be a feeling-out period during which crews learn the capabilities and limitations of the aircraft in the new area, but he does not anticipate the degree of problems they faced in Kabul. "We obviously made some mistakes in the implementation of it," Laughton acknowledged.
"We took a system that had been developed and tested in a temperate environment and we threw it into one of the worst environments you could put it into. Not everything that we faced in Afghanistan had been tested."
The original unmanned aircraft -- Canada's first foray into the genre -- were introduced quickly. Operators had to learn as they went along. Nevertheless, the information the aircraft provided was invaluable. "I believe that we are better than we were," Laughton said, citing experience as the greatest teacher.
The newer units, known as man-portables, will weight less than 20 kilograms, including spare batteries and a ground station -- essentially a receiver and laptop computer.
While the Sperwers fly off truck-mounted catapults, some portables can be launched by throwing them; others use elastic bands or bungee-type cords. About the size of remote planes flown by hobbyists, they can fly for up to 90 minutes and provide pictures from as far away as 10 kilometres.
Typically, their programmed flights can be overridden by controllers on the ground. They cost a fraction of what the Sperwer planes cost. Laughton said the smaller planes are needed to deal with a "slightly different environment than Kabul.
"They are dealing with a greater area. In Kabul, you had a fixed distance around and a single type of UAV could cover that because of the range. "If you are dealing with an entire province with people in potentially different locations, you need something that is immediately responsive."
|Back to News Archirves of 2005|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).