Al-Qaida member arrested in Afghanistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO Associated Press Mon Nov 13, 5:58 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Meanwhile, Insurgent activity in Afghanistan has risen fourfold this year, and militants now launch more than 600 attacks a month, a rising wave of violence that has resulted in 3,700 deaths in 2006, a bleak new report released Sunday found.
On Monday, a provincal police chief said U.S. and Afghan forces have arrested a senior al-Qaida member in southeastern Afghanistan, a provincial police chief.
The troops detained six people — four Afghans, an Arab and a Pakistani — on Thursday in the city of Khost, said Mohammad Ayub, the provincial police chief. He said the detainees are under the custody of U.S. forces.
Pakistan's The News daily reported on Monday that one of the detainees was Abu Nasir al-Qahtani, one of four Arab al-Qaida operatives who escaped from the U.S. prison in Bagram in July 2005.
Meanwhile, in the volatile border area near Pakistan, more than 20 Taliban militants — and possibly as many as 60 — were killed during several days of clashes, officials said Sunday.
The new report said insurgents were launching more than 600 attacks a month as of the end of September, up from 300 a month at the end of March this year. The violence has killed more than 3,700 people this year, it said.
Afghanistan saw about 130 insurgent attacks a month last year, said the report by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, a body of Afghan and international officials charged with overseeing the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year reconstruction and development blueprint signed in February.
The violence "threatens to reverse some of the gains made in the recent past, with development activities being especially hard hit in several areas, resulting in partial or total withdrawal of international agencies in a number of the worst-affected provinces."
The report said that the rising drug trade in Afghanistan is fueling the insurgency in four volatile southern provinces. The slow pace of development is contributing to popular disaffection and ineffective implementation of the drug fight, it said.
Afghanistan's poppy crop, which is used to make heroin, increased by 59 percent in Afghanistan this past year.
Insurgents have launched a record number of roadside bombs and suicide attacks this year, and there have been clashes all year between insurgents and Afghan and NATO security forces, particularly in the southern and eastern provinces near the border with Pakistan.
The 3,700 deaths the report attributes to insurgent-related violence is comparable to the number of deaths — about 3,500 — tallied by The Associated Press this year based on reports from the U.S. military, NATO and Afghan officials.
In the east, Gen. Murad Ali, the deputy Afghan army commander for Paktika province, said 20 bodies were recovered from fighting in Bermel district in the last several days. In addition, he said, two trucks carrying Taliban fighters were destroyed by airstrikes or artillery fire, and officials estimated 40 fighters were killed in those strikes.
Four NATO soldiers and three Afghan soldiers were injured, he said, though a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said he was not aware of any serious injuries among NATO troops.
Maj. Luke Knittig said the operations in Bermel, which borders Pakistan, were part of an ongoing Afghan-NATO mission to root out Taliban militants before winter.
"We know we've engaged in successful operations in Bermel with a purpose, and we think those have had a very positive effect against insurgent activity there," Knittig said.
Knittig said Ali's estimate of 60 dead fighters "sounds about right to me," but he did not have an independent estimate of the number killed. "We are not into the numbers game here lately," he said.
Death tolls in remote areas of Afghanistan are almost impossible to verify and often vary widely.
Abdul Baqi Nuristani, the provincial police chief, said only 25 militants have been killed in Bermel the last couple days. He said three Afghan and three NATO soldiers were injured in what he called "a very big battle."
Ali said tribal elders took the bodies of eight Pakistani fighters back over the border to be buried.
Afghan officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of not doing enough to prevent Pakistani or other foreign fighters from crossing the border to launch attacks. Pakistan says it does all it can, though border attacks have increased since a September agreement led the Pakistani military to pull out of its lawless tribal region.
Bermel is home to a military base that hosts both Afghan and U.S. soldiers. NATO-led troops aided by military aircraft killed 15 suspected insurgents in the district on Tuesday after troops on patrol came under attack.
Only bomber killed in Herat suicide attack: Officials
HERAT CITY, Nov 13 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A suicide bomber was killed as he drove his explosive-packed car in a NATO convoy in Shindand district of the western Herat province Monday afternoon.
Security officials ruled out casualties among NATO forces but Taliban claimed four foreign soldiers were killed in the attack. Suicide attacks rarely happen in the western and northern parts of the country.
General Abdul Wahab Walizada. commander of the Zafar Army Corps, said the bomber rammed his car into a joint convoy of NATO and Afghan army in Aziz Abad area this afternoon.
Only the attacker was killed while the NATO and Afghan army soldiers remained unhurt, said the officer. Chief of the Shindand district Mohammad Naeem Karimi also said there were no casualties among NATO or Afghan army.
However, Taliban, who claimed responsibility for the attack, said four foreign soldiers were killed in the blast. Purported spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi told Pajhwok Afghan News by the telephone, two NATO tanks were destroyed and four soldiers killed.
Suicide attacks are rampant in the southern and southeastern parts of the country while Herat, which is considered the most developed and peaceful province of Afghanistan, rarely witnesses such incidents.
The last such an attack was carried out in April this year. One US soldier was killed and two wounded in the attack carried out on the outskirts of Herat City, capital of the province. With today's blast, the number of suicide attacks in the country has reached 90 during the past seven months.
As Taliban insurgency gains strength and sophistication, suspicion falls on Pakistan
Five years on, more than 4,000 killed in succession of attacks and suicide bombings in Afghanistan
Declan Walsh in Islamabad Monday November 13, 2006 The Guardian (UK)
Five years ago today the Taliban vanished from Kabul and a liberated city exploded with joy. As the turbaned Islamists scurried, whooping residents rushed on to the streets. Men queued to have their beards shaved, some women removed their burkas and Radio Kabul played music for the first time in years - announced by a woman. There was savage vengeance too - some Taliban stragglers were lynched and dumped on the roadside.
But not everyone was celebrating. Sultan Amir, a Pakistani intelligence agent who helped to propel the Taliban to power, watched in dismay.
"I was hurt," said Mr Amir, better known under his nom de guerre Colonel Imam, during a rare interview in Islamabad. "I had an emotional attachment with the Taliban."
Although reviled by many the Taliban were really a force of "angels", claimed the 62-year-old agent. "They brought peace, they eradicated poppies, gave free education, medical treatment and speedy justice. They were the most respected people in Afghanistan," he said.
Pakistani officials claim that men like Col Imam are relics of a bygone era. Although Islamabad supported the Taliban in the 1990s, when Col Imam was posted to the western city of Herat, Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, severed all links with the group after September 2001. But this year's hurricane of Taliban violence - a succession of thumping battles and suicide bombings that has killed more than 4,000 people - has given western officials reason to believe that some connection remains.
The insurgency's high level of sophistication has aroused suspicions that Pakistan has quietly reactivated its old alliance through its powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The accusations ring loudest in Afghanistan, where the embattled president, Hamid Karzai, says Pakistan is up to its decades-old policy of dirty tricks and meddling in Afghan affairs.
Western military officials share his scepticism. Seth Jones of the Rand Corporation, an American thinktank that works closely with the US military, said his government believes the ISI is providing training, money and sensitive information to the Taliban. "Information is being passed from the ISI to Taliban units about movements of US and Nato forces, in some cases very tactical information," he said, citing "clear indications from intelligence sources".
Across the border in Islamabad, western diplomats describe themselves as concerned agnostics on the issue. One senior official said that while he believed the ISI leadership supported Mr Musharraf, there was evidence of regular meetings between low and mid-level officials and the Taliban. "Whether these contacts are to stop attacks in Afghanistan or to encourage them is hard to know," he said.
Another diplomat described the difficulty of collecting intelligence in the tribal belt, where the Taliban's bases are concentrated. But the volume of evidence was persuasive. "So much of what we have is second-hand," he said. "But there is so much of it."
Pakistani officials angrily deny the allegations, dismissing them as a convenient smokescreen for the failures of Mr Karzai and his western allies.
"We all know the situation in Afghanistan is very bad. Someone has to be blamed, so why not Pakistan? Frankly speaking, it's quite tiresome," said Tasnim Aslam of the foreign ministry.
The military points to its mounting death toll. Last week a suicide bomber killed 42 soldiers at a training centre in an attack later claimed by the "Pakistani Taliban". "Would we get our own people killed? Or sabotage our economic interests? I assure you we are not suicidal," said Ms Aslam.
Analysts agree that internal conditions play a large role in Afghan instability. Corrupt governors and police chiefs, powerful drug lords and outgunned police chiefs have hobbled Mr Karzai's authority, particularly in the south. In the cities billions of dollars in foreign aid have had limited effect, with most Afghans still living short, harsh lives while watching a tiny minority grow fabulously wealthy.
Yet suspicions of Pakistani support for the rebels as part of a complicated "double policy" persist - fuelled in part by the admission by Mr Musharraf last month that some retired ISI officers who served in the 1980s may now be helping the Taliban. "I have some reports that some dissidents, some retired people ... may be assisting. We are keeping a very tight watch and we'll get all of them."
Subsequent reports said the president had ordered an investigation of men such as Col Imam, who in the 1980s ran a network of secret camps that armed and trained 95,000 mujahideen to fight Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Afghan fighters respected him because he ate, slept and fought with them, said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA agent. "He was not a guy you'd want to cross," he said. A decade later, he added, Col Imam was "a major part of putting the Taliban into power".
Col Imam insists he is now fully retired. Eschewing the trimmed moustache and pressed slacks of many Pakistani officers, he wore a simple shalwar kameez when the Guardian met him at an orphanage for 200 boys in Islamabad.
Reeling off the names of Afghan warlords he described as his "students", Col Imam defended the Taliban's use of suicide bombers and criticised the British deployment to Helmand. "You ruled us for 200 years and we respected you. But now you have made a big mistake. You have ruined yourselves."
The Taliban need no help from the ISI, he insisted. "We sent three million guns into Afghanistan [in the 1980s]," he said. "I am doing just one thing - I am praying for them."
These days such sentiments embarrass the ISI. Two weeks ago the agency's current chief, Lieutenant General Muhammad Zakki, called a meeting of western ambassadors in Islamabad to assure them the agency no longer had any "ownership" of the Taliban. The ISI also started monitoring its former chief, Lieutenant General Hamid Gul, who ran the agency from 1987 to 1989 and is another Taliban supporter. "The ISI is surveilling me, against their will of course," said Mr Gul during an interview at his home in Rawalpindi. Mr Gul, who advocates a return to a 7th-century Muslim caliphate, is an adviser to the MMA, Pakistan's hardline religious coalition.
Denied entry into the UK, he boasted of meeting Osama bin Laden twice and believes the September 11 attacks were committed by the Israeli spy agency Mossad. "They picked up the scenario from a Tom Clancy novel. They probably didn't reckon with the towers crumbling so quickly," he said.
Three weeks prior to September 11 he was in Kabul as a guest of the Taliban. "I met the cabinet and they hosted a dinner for me," he said proudly.
Although the government wants Mr Gul to shut up - one official described his statements as "verbal diarrhoea" - he taps into a strong vein of fear. Islamabad is anxious about Mr Karzai's relationship with India and claims Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad are stoking the insurgency in western Baluchistan province. "We have evidence and we have told them," said Ms Aslam.
The ISI declined to comment on the controversy. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, five years after their ignominious ouster, the Taliban have never looked stronger. The insurgents can never push US troops from Kabul, Col Imam admitted, but they could make life very uncomfortable. "The mujahideen can prolong the stalemate until the public at home gets frustrated," he said, citing last week's US elections. "That is the start of defeat. That is the victory of [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar."
In some ways life was revolutionised after US warplanes and their Afghan allies toppled the Taliban on November 13 2001. The hated medieval laws - bans on kite-flying, movies and lipstick; gory public executions, closure of girls schools - are now a distant memory, and two elections have passed remarkably peacefully. But greater liberties have not been matched by increased prosperity. Although the elite enjoys gleaming mansions and expensive vehicles - many financed through corruption or drugs - most Afghans scrape through on pitiful salaries, live in mud-walled houses, and on average die at age 41. Women in dirty burkas beg food from drivers caught in giant traffic jams. Taliban suicide attacks have shaken confidence in President Karzai. Despised warlords sit alongside women's activists in the new parliament. And many wonder where the aid has gone - as winter closes in, Kabul will remain in the dark, a city without electricity.
Major led team that quelled Afghan prison riot
USA TODAY By Gregg Zoroya
Army Lt. Col. Mark Mitchell believes the mass surrender of 500 Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners in November 2001, during the opening phases of the Afghanistan war was a ruse - a "Trojan Horse," he calls it.
It led to a prison riot in an aging fortress in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, and the death of the first American in combat in the War on Terror: CIA Agent Johnny "Mike" Spann. It also threatened to disrupt the sweeping victories of the U.S. led effort to remove the Taliban government from power.
"It would have been a significant strategic setback," says Mitchell, 41, then an Army major.
But the riot was crushed in large part because of Mitchell's heroic effort in leading a small band of American and British commandos to quell the riot. A Navy SEAL, whose identity the military has kept secret, fought with Mitchell to reach a trapped American in the fort.
The bravery did not come without cost.
On Nov. 25, 2001, Mitchell and his 15-man force reached the north wall of the sprawling Qala-i-Jang fortress, where the prisoners had revolted, killed Spann, captured munitions and trapped a second American CIA agent along with several Northern Alliance Afghan fighters.
During the next days, moving in and out of the fortress, Mitchell directed air support that pounded the prisoners into submission. He and the Navy SEAL fought their way deep inside the fort searching for the trapped American agent, whose name has never been released. The agent ultimately used the bombardment for cover to escape the fortress.
But a misguided bomb landing too close to Mitchell's team members wounded nine British soldiers and four U.S. commandos, some seriously.
"My casualties outnumbered my healthy bodies by two to one at that point," Mitchell says.
Only 85 prisoners survived to be captured. Among them, John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban."
Mitchell earned the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy SEAL received the Navy Cross.
EU keeps NATO waiting on Afghan police training
13 Nov 2006 17:03:10 GMT By Mark John and Paul Taylor
BRUSSELS, Nov 13 (Reuters) - Britain and the Netherlands urged the European Union on Monday to take responsibility for training Afghan police to help an embattled NATO peacekeeping force, but EU foreign ministers postponed a decision.
A spokesman for the Finnish EU presidency said it had deferred a move to send a more detailed fact-finding mission to Kabul after France voiced scepticism about a wider EU role.
The European Commission's external relations chief said such a training role should eventually be possible, and other EU officials suggested the delay was only technical.
But it means the EU may move little further before U.S. President George W. Bush and allied leaders hold a NATO summit centred on Afghanistan in Riga, Latvia, on Nov. 28-29.
British Defence Secretary Des Browne told a meeting of defence ministers that the EU should work more effectively with international partners on the ground.
"There is scope for the EU to reinforce and reinvigorate civilian work on the rule of law in Afghanistan," he said, according to a British statement.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot told reporters: "We are doing it in Iraq so why shouldn't we do it in Afghanistan? We are in favour of a greater role."
External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the EU had already sent a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan in September to study the needs of the police and justice system and planned a second trip to work out a more detailed plan.
"I think the member states in the end will be ready to accept that," she told reporters.
FRANCE CASTS DOUBT
But French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, whose country is often resistant to U.S. pressure for closer EU-NATO cooperation, cast doubt on the usefulness of such a mission.
"We (the EU) already have a major role in Afghanistan. What strikes me as most urgent is to ensure good coordination of the actions we are conducting there," she told a news conference.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has put pressure on the EU ahead of the Nov. 28-29 summit to shoulder more of the civilian burden in Afghanistan while the U.S.-led alliance battles resistance from Taliban fighters.
EU officials rejected the idea that the fate of Afghanistan hinged on a few European police trainers going to Kabul, noting Germany, Italy and Spain were already involved in such work.
Afghan army remains dependent on U.S.
Big News Network.com Monday 13th November, 2006 (UPI) via Calcutta News
Despite the growing insurgency, the U.S. military and the Afghan government continue their effort to create a national army they hope will unite the country.
The effort is designed to build a fighting force made up of all ethnic groups even as thousands of well-armed Taliban insurgents have re-emerged and seized large areas of southern Afghanistan, reports The Los Angeles Times.
Until security is established, it may be difficult for the U.S. troops or those from the NATO to leave the country any time soon, says the report.
In many districts, warlords, opium dealers and corrupt police help the insurgents exert authority as the Afghan army units control virtually no territory. These units are completely dependent on U.S. supplies and support. The task is compounded by the fact the U.S.-backed government has not been able to improve the quality of life in the country or rein in local warlords.
But the Afghan army is important not only for security but also because there are no other unifying institutions in the country, says the report.
The army has been built from scratch and has grown to 36,000 trained soldiers in the past five years. The goal is about 70,000 soldiers.
Afghan army could help unify a nation
Afghanistan hopes its nascent force, made up of all ethnic groups, can be a unifying institution. But can it defend the nation without the U.S.?
By David Zucchino The Los Angeles Times November 13, 2006
THE commander of Afghan troops confronting the Taliban here is a career officer with a clipped gray beard and a formal bearing who once fought for a Soviet-backed puppet government. His deputy is his former enemy.
Many of their soldiers fought for or against the Russians, against the Taliban or for various warlords — except those so young they had never picked up a rifle.
From this unwieldy mix, the U.S. military and the Afghan government are attempting to create something Afghanistan has never had: a national army that is made up of all the country's ethnic groups and represents a unified central government.
Five years after the fall of the Taliban government, thousands of well-armed insurgents have reemerged to seize large swaths of southern Afghanistan.
In many districts, warlords, opium dealers and corrupt police help the religious extremists exert authority. Except for their fortified, American-built bases in the south, Afghan army units control virtually no territory, and they depend totally on the Americans for supplies and support.
The continued presence of foreign troops, who repeatedly have killed Afghan civilians by accident, and the U.S.-backed government's failure to improve the quality of life or rein in local warlords angers Afghans, pushing some of them back into the arms of the Taliban.
"People are very upset and disappointed with the government," said Col. Abdul Raziq, a brigade commander in southern Afghanistan.
Officers of the new Afghan army know that the Taliban hold will not be broken until they can establish enough security for the government to provide essential services. Until they do, U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces won't be able to go home.
But with fighting escalating and the Afghan army entirely dependent on the U.S. military, the day when foreign troops can leave seems a long way off.
The army is important for reasons beyond security. Afghanistan has no unifying institutions. The government of President Hamid Karzai controls Kabul but little else. The national police force is notoriously corrupt and, in the hinterlands, often loyal to warlords or opium merchants.
Instilling loyalty to the national government will require changing the nature of Afghanistan. The army is a place to start.
"To the Afghan people, the words 'Afghan national army' are sweet words," said the Afghan commander here, Maj. Gen. Rahmatullah Roufi, 49, whose 205th Corps is responsible for six volatile southern provinces. "They've never had a real national army before, only tribes and militias. There's a hunger for it."
His deputy, Brig. Gen. Khair Mohammed, 50, said officers were willing to forget the past. Mohammed, a trim, energetic man, gestured toward one of his battalion commanders, who drew to attention and saluted.
"He was a communist, and I fought against him," Mohammed said. "But that was the past, and we Afghans don't look back. Now we're all brothers, all Afghans, and that's the way of the future."
Relying on Americans
THE army has been built from scratch since U.S. trainers arrived at the end of more than 20 years of warfare that swept up Roufi, Mohammed and many men of their generation.
It has grown in the last five years to 36,000 trained soldiers and officers, more than halfway to the goal of 70,000 men. The troops enjoy productive relations with 1,200 U.S. and NATO trainers at 85 bases. A few battalions now take the lead during combat operations. Searches of towns and villages are conducted by Afghan soldiers, not American troops.
But the army is still directed and supplied by U.S. and NATO forces. U.S. officers say they plan operations jointly with Afghan commanders, but some Afghan officers say the Americans dictate the scope of operations by controlling supplies, vehicles and air support.
Uniforms, trucks, fuel, food and ammunition are provided by the U.S. Equally important, the Afghans rely on Americans for air support, attack helicopters, artillery and air medical evacuation. And U.S. officers are clearly in command.
Nor do the Afghans control media coverage. U.S. officers blocked Times journalists from being embedded in an Afghan unit, despite approval by Roufi and the Afghan Defense Ministry.
Roufi complained that his authority had been undermined. "It's frustrating to me, and kind of shameful as well," he said.
Afghan privates and generals alike complain that they are sent into battle in ordinary Ford Ranger pickups with no body armor or helmets, while U.S. soldiers wear flak vests and travel in armored Humvees.
Raziq said his military communications equipment was so bad that he relied on his own cellphone.
The Afghans disparage their weapons, generally old and balky AK-47s collected from the private armies of warlords.
"Our enemy's weapons are much more modern than ours," said Roufi, who commands about 7,000 men.
"We fight on the same ground and under the same threat as the Americans and the coalition, but we don't have what we need to operate independently. This has a poor effect on our soldiers' morale," said Gen. Zahir Azemi, the army's chief spokesman.
U.S. soldiers, except when sent out on combat missions, live in air-conditioned barracks with cable TV and Internet access. They eat in modern dining facilities that are more like shopping-mall food courts than mess halls.
By contrast, most Afghan soldiers live in poorly maintained buildings, where some men segregate themselves by ethnicity. In the barracks behind Roufi's headquarters in Kandahar, his men cooked lamb and rice on the floor, next to a laundry drain. In the bathroom, mud smeared the showers, and sinks were clogged with food scraps and garbage.
With their scruffy beards and slender frames, the Afghans appear to lack the fitness and discipline of their U.S. counterparts. Although their Afghan-made uniforms are paid for by the U.S. and similar to the ones worn by American troops, some Afghans are more comfortable wearing slip-on loafers than combat boots. Afghan soldiers also tend to prefer traditional scarves to helmets.
U.S. trainers, while praising Afghans for their courage, complain of lax discipline, petty thefts and poor maintenance of weapons and equipment. The Afghans will often run up hills or charge into caves wearing virtually no armor and without waiting for backup. And while U.S. troops are stoic and focused during combat missions, many Afghans are freewheeling and talkative.
The trainers constantly urge Afghan commanders to discipline their men. They say at least two bases have been abandoned by Afghan units after American trainers were transferred out.
For American troops, the Afghans' blase attitudes toward supply lines, coordinated planning or maintaining effective communications can be maddening.
"These guys fight magnificently. They run to the fight, not away from it," said Col. Michael "Jeff" Petrucci, who is Roufi's counterpart and mentor. "But they cannot sustain operations over a long period."
Lt. Jason Elphick, a U.S. trainer, said Afghan soldiers tended to operate "hour by hour" rather than planning ahead. They work hard in the mornings, he said, but in the afternoon, when U.S. trainers want them to clean and maintain their weapons, "all they want to do is nap."
Some critics say disbanding the Afghan militias that initially dominated the army robbed the force of experienced mujahedin fighters. Under a United Nations-sponsored disarmament program, the militiamen were demobilized and trained for civilian jobs. Critics say that left the army dependent on young recruits with no combat experience.
The roughly two years needed to replace militiamen with recruits has given the Taliban time to reestablish itself in the south, its traditional power base, said Ismail Khan, a Tajik warlord who commanded a powerful militia that was largely disbanded when he was appointed energy minister.
"The one force that knew how to defeat the Taliban was disarmed," he said.
Asked whether he had faith in the army to defeat the Taliban, Khan thought for a moment and replied, "No."
'Not just one tribe'
THE typical army recruit arrives at a training center in Kabul in a baggy tunic and trousers, his possessions crammed into plastic shopping bags. He has no other job prospects and no military experience. More likely than not he is illiterate.
Asadullah Jalal Abad, 19, a fresh-faced Pashtun from a rural eastern village, said he signed on because he was tired of working as a day laborer in Pakistan. But he also wants to serve his country by providing security for all of its ethnic groups, he said.
"In my village, people want the army to come there. They know it serves everybody, not just one tribe," Abad said the day he arrived at the Kabul training center, where he was eager to learn how to fire a rifle.
Lyagat, 25, a Pashtun who, like many Afghans, uses one name, arrived the same day, having given up a job as a driver.
"I don't even know how much the army pays, but it doesn't matter," he said. "I want to help protect my country. It's a very young country and needs my help."
Lyagat said he had assumed that units were segregated by ethnic group but was pleased to learn that he would not be serving strictly with Pashtuns.
"I found out it's not the Pashtun army or the Tajik army," he said. "It's the national army."
The Kabul center turns out 1,000 trained recruits a month on hot, dusty fields where the Afghans flop on their bellies and fire at distant targets. Training has been increased from six weeks to 15 weeks, and the size of trained battalions from 400 men to 1,200.
More so than in Iraq, the Afghan army is designed to reflect the country's ethnic balance. U.S. and Afghan commanders say the army's ethnic makeup generally matches the national population — about 42% Pashtun, 27% Tajik, 9% each Hazara and Uzbek, and numerous smaller groups.
In Iraq, the national army is dominated by Shiite Muslims, many loyal to Shiite militia commanders. The Afghan army at first incorporated Tajik-led militias of the Northern Alliance, the U.S.-backed warlords who helped defeat the Taliban. And initially, the defense, interior and foreign ministries were held by Northern Alliance Tajiks. Now Pashtun, Hazara and Uzbek officers have filled some commands once held exclusively by Tajiks, U.S. and Afghan officers said.
Roufi and Mohammed are Pashtuns, as is Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.
Although many young men join to serve their country, Roufi said, the army's main attractions are steady, if low, wages, a place to live and ample food.
"These are very poor young men, and this is a good life for them," Roufi said. "And most Afghans have never had any discipline. They get discipline here, and they find it agreeable."
The pay is meager. A first-year Afghan soldier earns $70 a month, less than a common laborer. The top enlisted man makes $180 a month, a major $300, a colonel $400 and a general $530.
Although the army has attracted more than enough recruits, the low pay means that many of them won't reenlist when their three-year tours are up.
"For every 1,000 recruits who graduate from basic training, at least 500 will leave after three years to find other work — either in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran," Raziq said.
Soldiers often disappear for days or weeks while making their way home to give money to their families. Afghanistan has no national banking system, so soldiers are paid in cash. In some battalions, soldiers claim, commanders skim cash for themselves. In others, the cash arrives several weeks late.
Some soldiers return weeks later, expecting to rejoin their units and get paid as if they had never left.
Some soldiers have quit and returned home to protect their families from retaliation by the Taliban. Commanders say it is a pervasive threat.
Roufi said his wife and children lived in Kabul, protected by his extended family. Mohammed lives with his wife and eight children in a bombed-out former Soviet apartment complex, guarded by soldiers on the Afghan military base in Kandahar.
"Everyone in the command worries about threats to their families. These threats are very real," Roufi said. Several soldiers said an officer who recently returned to Kabul to check on his family was captured and hanged by the Taliban.
Brig. Gen. Douglas Pritt, a member of the Oregon National Guard who commands the training effort, said the low retention rate was the Afghan army's biggest problem. The U.S. is working to improve weapons and equipment, he said, and Afghans should be working to offer reenlistment bonuses and pay increases.
"Here's what I tell the [Afghan] corps commanders: 'I understand your desire for better and more equipment. That will happen. But right now the biggest issue facing you is retaining soldiers,' " Pritt said. " 'You need to focus on that … take care of them so that their basic needs are met so that they aren't inclined to leave.' "
A formidable enemy
FOR centuries, Afghans have adopted guerrilla tactics to defeat invaders. U.S. trainers want them to do the opposite, learning to fight as a modern counterinsurgency force. As the Afghans have absorbed those lessons, the insurgency has gained strength.
Fighting the Taliban on its home turf is proving troublesome. Even Afghan soldiers have difficulty distinguishing civilians from Taliban fighters.
Taliban fighters have funneled weapons and supplies from Pakistan as they emerged from hiding in towns and villages across the south. They have built an elaborate network of caves and tunnels to ambush Afghan and foreign troops and then disappear. They attack in larger groups and are mounting bolder operations.
"The intensity of the [Taliban] threat is infinitely worse than just a year ago," Petrucci said. "Now the Taliban will mass, they will maneuver and they will not break contact like they used to. They'll grab you by the belt, and they won't let go."
The Taliban controls southern districts through intimidation and terror, Afghan commanders say, and the army cannot protect civilians from reprisals.
The Taliban also has built alliances of convenience with opium dealers and warlords. Corrupt district commissioners, nominally loyal to the central government, also help the insurgents, Roufi said.
"These are the real snakes in the sleeve," Roufi said of the commissioners.
Brigade Sgt. Maj. Kefaitullah, the top enlisted man in an Afghan unit here, said the Taliban capitalized on the frustration ordinary Afghans felt toward the government, particularly over civilians killed by U.S. forces.
Taliban spies and sympathizers have infiltrated the army, providing or selling information, U.S. and Afghan officers said. Local men monitor the main gate of the Kandahar base, using cellphones to alert Taliban fighters of approaching U.S. and Afghan army convoys.
Capt. Andre Sison, a U.S. trainer, said he didn't trust all Afghan soldiers. "But the ones I train in my company, I trust enough to go out with them every day on combat ops," he said.
Asked whether the army had been infiltrated, Pritt said: "Certainly I think so. But I know of no situations in which information was directly leaked that compromised an operation."
To help prevent leaks, rank-and-file soldiers are not told beforehand of the times, dates and locations of operations, Pritt said. The U.S. uses other countermeasures, he said, including putting out false information and monitoring communications to see if it's passed on.
Taliban fighters use call signs and code words in radio communications, something U.S. trainers are trying to teach the Afghan army to do, Sison said. Too often, Afghan officers simply shout commands into their radios.
Roufi said it worried him that his enemy had adopted successful tactics used by Iraqi insurgents, including roadside bombs, suicide bombings and assassinations of government officials.
There were just two suicide attacks in Afghanistan in 2002, six in 2004, 21 in 2005 — and 91 so far this year. Roadside bombs are becoming larger and more effective. Of the 29 soldiers in his corps killed in the previous month, Roufi said, most were hit by roadside bombs. Two days earlier, three of his men had been killed by a roadside bomb.
Kandahar and other southern provinces were the Taliban's stronghold.
"They'll do anything to get it back," Roufi said.
As he spoke, a convoy of Ford Rangers roared up to his command center, the trucks coated in dust as soldiers returned from a combat mission. The general pointed out that the men wore no vests or helmets and that the Rangers were ordinary pickups. He said his soldiers would need better equipment before they could even think about operating without U.S. support.
"That truck is like a piece of tissue paper," he said. "If a bomb explodes, everyone inside will die. An armored Humvee would be much better."
Activists To Campaign For Afghan Refugees In Iran
via Payvand's Iran News 11/13/06
Afghans in many neighboring countries have been pressured to return home, regardless of the conditions they may face
PRAGUE, November 13, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- A group of Afghan and Iranian activists has launched a campaign in support of Afghans living in Iran.
Borgan Divargar, a spokesman for the Iranian-based group, told Radio Farda today that the aim of the campaign is to prevent the deportation of Afghans and improve their living conditions.
"We want to create funds to help Afghans financially," he said. "A number of teachers have promised to give free tuition to Afghan children. They say they will help them financially and do whatever they can to prevent their deportation to Afghanistan because of the security situation there."
Iranian authorities recently launched an initiative to expel illegal Afghan workers, who they say are taking jobs away from Iranians.
They also have said they will step up efforts to encourage Afghans living legally in Iran to return to their home country.
There are almost 1 million registered Afghan refugees living in Iran. It is believed that at least another 1 million live there illegally.
Blind Qur'an reader denounces violence and calls for peace in Afghanistan
Sun Nov 12, 3:13 PM By Paul Garwood
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The village medicine woman caked the baby's eyes with a concoction of opium and tobacco, telling his parents it would cure his ailing sight. When the bandages came off two months later, he had lost 90 per cent of his vision. He was totally blind by 16.
But Barakatullah Salim, now 57, regards his affliction as a blessing.
He memorized Islam's holy book, the Qur'an, by age nine, then he studied at Egypt's revered Al-Azhar Mosque for five years after turning 13. He became renowned across the Muslim world as a "qaria" - recitalist of the faith's scriptures.
"Yes, I have a gift from God," Salim said in the cushioned salon at his Islamic seminary, or madrassa, in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
An ethnic Pashtun, Salim is one of Afghanistan's most respected figures, blessed with a flawless grasp of the Qur'an, a soaring baritone, a pious nature and an amazing memory. He says he can instantly recall more than 2,000 telephone numbers.
Hardly an event involving Afghan President Hamid Karzai goes by without the burly Salim first stepping onto stage to recite Qur'anic scripture, his breathtaking voice and measured style holding crowds spellbound at events from Coca-Cola factory openings to official conferences.
"Barakatullah Salim is the best Qur'anic reader in the world," said Karzai spokesman Khaleeq Ahmed. "The people of Afghanistan and the government officials trust him. For any big event or an important gathering, he always has his revered place."
Until its ouster by a U.S.-led offensive five years ago, the hard-line Islamic Taliban regime also called on Salim for special events and openings, although he says he was not always needed.
"The Taliban all recited the Qur'an anyway. They were already clerics. But they did ask me to come read the Qur'an from time to time to open a madrassa or for some other event," he said.
Salim describes himself as neutral amid the upsurge in violence between Taliban holdouts opposed to Karzai's government and American and NATO troops. He says he rejects the violence that has wracked his country for three decades.
"Fighting and war is bad. Aerial bombardment, suicide bombings, killing people - it is all wrong," said Salim, who is employed by the government's Religious Affairs Ministry.
Salim's trappings belie his difficult beginnings.
He contracted chicken pox soon after he was born, in 1949, into an impoverished family in the eastern Nangarhar village of Shinwah. The chicken pox caused his eyesight to deteriorate and without proper medical care, his vision steadily worsened.
At an early age he went to a local madrassa, the sole form of education in the village, where he would listen to the imam reading the Qur'an. At home, he sat next to his father while he read aloud from Islam's holy book.
"When the teacher read the Qur'an, I could quickly memorize what he said," Salim said. "I was trying so hard. My mind was like an audiocassette recorder."
The key moment in his life came at age 13, after two Egyptian businessmen visited his village and saw him win a Qur'an recital competition.
"After hearing me, they promised my parents to take me to Cairo and study at Al-Azhar. My father happily agreed because at that time the education standards here were very poor," Salim said.
For a penniless village boy with impaired sight, arriving in Cairo was like landing on another planet, he said. "I was amazed by the huge numbers of people and groups, the wealth of knowledge. I craved knowledge and wanted to learn as much as possible."
After five years of study at Al-Azhar and later at its university, the Sunni Muslim world's leading educational institution, Salim graduated in Qur'anic studies. He was also judged as the university's leading recitalist.
"When I returned from Egypt with the knowledge God had given me, I promised to use my gift to help the people of Afghanistan," said Salim, who has 10 children.
"I taught in madrassas and mosques. In any home I had, one room was devoted to students. Now I have 800 coming to my madrassa free of charge and with a new one I am building there will be more than 1,000."
Salim, who has won Qur'anic recital contests in 42 Muslim countries, wants to help guide Afghans back toward peace.
"I am trying to teach people to go in the right direction, to reject evil," he said. "We must stop the violence."
Suicide bombing occurs in W. Afghanistan
Xinhua / November 13, 2006
A suicide car bombing took place on Monday afternoon in Herat province of western Afghanistan, an officer and the Taliban said.
A local Afghan officer told Xinhua the bombing occurred at a gate of a military base in Shindand district, but did not cause any casualties except for killing the attacker himself.
A purported Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said a Taliban fighter carried out the blast at around 2:30 p.m. to attack a foreign military convoy.
He said four foreign soldiers were killed and two vehicles destroyed.
Because of inferiority in military equipment and tactics, Taliban and other militants have frequently carried suicide bombings towards foreign and government targets.
Due to rising Taliban-linked violence this year, Afghanistan has plunged into the worst spate of bloodshed since the Taliban regime was toppled down nearly five years ago.
Buddhism Sutra discovered in central Afghanistan
Xinhua / November 13, 2006
A Sutra was discovered in Afghanistan's central and historic Bamyan province, one of the center of Buddhism civilization, a Kabul-based English newspaper reported Monday.
"Part of a Buddhism Sutra was found inside one of the two giant Buddhas," daily Outlook writes.
Bearing the scripture of Sanskrit the fragment believed to be created in the seventh century, the paper added.
The fundamentalist Taliban movement dynamited the couple giant Buddhas, the 53-meter and 35-meter long sculptures in March 2001, months ahead of the regime's collapse.
Since the ousting of Taliban regime and world's attention towards Afghanistan to rebuild the war-torn nation, numerous of relics belonged to Buddhism have been discovered from the site of the giant Buddhas but it is the first time that such sutra is found there.
Cellular company's employee killed in E. Afghanistan
Xinhua / November 13, 2006
An employee of ROSHAN, one of the two leading cellular company operating in Afghanistan, was killed in the country's eastern Khost province, a local newspaper reported Monday.
"A staff of ROSHAN Company was killed in Ismael Khil district after quarrel with a person," daily Afghanistan quoted a senior police officer Mohammad Yaqub as saying.
The police officer said police have been trying to nab the murderer and bring him to justice.
However, no official in ROSHAN Company was immediately available to comment.
An engineer of the ROSHAN Company was killed by armed militants months ago in south Afghanistan.
Currently ROSHAN, Afghan Warless Communication Company (AWCC) and Areeba are providing cellular service to the war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Portraits of Afghanistan
Five years after the Taliban's fall, much of the country is in the grip of violence. But some Afghans have seen their lives transformed
By Justin Huggler The Independent (UK) 13 November 2006
Kubra looks far older than her 38 years. Like the other women in her village, her life has been hard and as mother to 12 children - five daughters and seven sons - there has been the added burden and stress of bringing them up during 25 years of constant insecurity and the turmoil of war. "I lived in five different villages in just seven years. Later, under the Taliban, some of my sons fled to Iran. My husband is a farmer." Her four youngest children, two sons and two daughters, are going to school - an opportunity her other children and she never had. Kubra is the only cash bread-winner for the family. Before, she was earning between 30 and 50 Afghanis a day as a tailor (35p-60p), but now her salary has increased as she is employed under the National Solidarity Programme as a tailoring teacher for village women.
"This is a time of lots of improvements in my life. When I'm working, I feel very happy. Security is very good, there is electricity and they have brought sewing machines for us - the women want the project to continue."
Kubra prefers not to think about a return to anarchy. "If the NGOs didn't help us we would die - I mean, now we have a clinic and when we get we can get help. Most important for her are the new freedoms in her life and her hope that Afghanistan "will be good again like other countries".
Rohgul Walidzada, 38, Organiser, Local Politician
The toughest moment in Rohgul Walidzada's fight for women's rights was in 2000 when she was one of the first four women who dared to walk in the streets of Baharak, a town deep in the valleys of the hindu Kush in the remote north-east.
Despite wearing a burka, she faced criticism and insults, which only got worse when she dared go to the Afghan Aid's office and ask for a job. "People called me Dollari and said I should be burnt because I wanted a job outside the home," she recalls. Since then, she has gone on to become a local organiser for the Aga Khan Foundation and stood for Parliament against Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president.
"I resigned from my job, hired a car at my own expense and travelled to all the districts in the province. I had no problem with men. They knew me from my work on community development and supported my ideas." She narrowly lost, but is adamant she will stand again in 2009.
Like many Afghans, Rohgul has overcome great hardship. A science teacher for 18 years, she is the mother of five daughters and a son who was just 40 days old when they had to flee Kabul, walking 100 miles then travelling by truck cross the front line to the relative safety of Badakhshan. "We thought we would be killed as we had no permission to escape, but we had to carry on." Life has improved since then. She and her husband both have jobs, their two eldest daughters are at Kabul University studying engineering. But tongues continue to wag. "The other day a mullah denounced my husband as a Communist and people question my morals because I sometimes stay at the office guesthouse away from my family."
Hayatullah, 25, Shopkeeper
"I'm sorry I'm late. I was trying to sort out a row between two neighbours - their sons were fighting." Hayatullah is accustomed to violence. His first shop was destroyed in 1983 during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. In his home town, the pro-Soviet government controlled the village by day, the mujahedin by night. Hayatullah lost everything and had to labour in the fields. Several years later, he moved to the city of Mazar-e-Sharif where he was conscripted into the army. After two years' service, he opened a shop. But the Taliban takeover of Mazar in 1998 put an end to that enterprise: "It was chaos and anarchy, and my shop was looted," he recalls. He moved back to Badakhshan and returned to labouring in the poppy fields. "It was hard work from dawn to dusk and I was paid a maximum of 150 Afghanis (£1.60) a day. My health suffered." In 2003 Hayatullah obtained a microcredit of 10,000 Afghanis (£106) which allowed him to open another shop. Hayatullah sells a variety of goods from rice, tea, oil, biscuits and salt to notebooks and pens. Now he reckons he makes 5,000 Afghanis (£53) a month and his 18-year-old daughter, a tailor, brings in another 1,000 Afghanis (£10.60). He paid back his loan in four instalments over two years.
Hayatullah's life is better than it has been for 30 years. "Then it was a hand-to-mouth existence, now I can support my family, my children go to school, I can take them to the doctor and buy medicines. Without the loan, I would be waiting to die."
Malalai, 33, Journalist
Malalai does not pass unnoticed in the streets of Kabul. Her blue jeans and a white embroidered scarf are unusual for an Afghan woman. She is a journalist and says her mission is to give a voice to Kabul's young.
The horrors of the civil war after the Soviet withdrawal came to her doorstep and continue to haunt her. "We only left the capital for two months when our street became the frontline between two warring factions," she says. "We were the only ones left and eventually we were warned that they would come and kill my father." He had been a police officer under the pro-Soviet government. "We went to hide in the provinces but even there we weren't safe. So we returned to Kabul but it was so dangerous we couldn't go out.
"One time an injured boy fell in front of our door. We couldn't rescue him because of the intense shooting. My mother hid us because the dogs came to eat him and the next day only his shoes were left." Malalai is the editor of a weekly radio phone-in programme called Straight Talk which focuses on teenagers. A recent programme debatingwhether there should be women police officers received more than 400 calls.
"I can speak with people from all walks of life, about what they feel and think. I know about people's difficulties and problems and sometimes I can help solve them." Malalai is the only one of four brothers and sisters who has a job. She supports the entire family - her father died of a heart attack some years back.
Fazeleddin, 33, Farmer
"Wartime was not a good time to be a farmer in Afghanistan. I had 20 sheep and 12 cows, but I could not keep them, the armed groups kept stealing them." To make ends meet, Fazeleddin began working as a labourer in the opium poppy fields. His part of Badakhshan had grown poppies for many decades.
But Fazeleddin was lucky. When in 1993 the British NGO AfghanAid brought beehives to the area, he was given three hives and taught how to manage them. Now he has 33 hives. "I even sold a hive for 5,000 Afghanis (£53) to an opium producer recently," he says. "These days he uses his land for wheat and potatoes. Income from poppies is less than before and it requires a huge amount of labour." In a good year, he reckons wheat provides about 20,000 Afghanis (£212) per acre, compared to 24,000 Afghanis (£254) for opium poppies.
He sells honey locally, and to traders who take it to Kabul. "My life has changed tremendously," he says. "I used to work on a farm, now I lease 12 acres of land and employ my own labourers." Fazeleddin has three children, but his enterprise supports an extended family of 18 in all. He has added three rooms to his house, has a generator, electric light and satellite television - an extremely rare luxury in rural Afghanistan. Fazeleddin has sold 80 hives. His success is not an exception according to AfghanAid, which says that 80 per cent of their small enterprise grants have been repaid. And bees can come in handy, too. During an anti-Western riot in 2005, the AfghanAid office was saved when the mob disturbed bees in the compound. "They swarmed, and the attackers got scared and ran away," Fazeleddin recalls with a smile.
Qanouni Calls for Afghanistan's Permanent Membership in AAPP
November 13, 2006
TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Afghan Parliament Speaker, Younes Qanouni applied for the permanent membership of his country in the Association of Asian Parliaments.
Addressing the 7th Conference of the General Assembly of Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP) here in Tehran Sunday afternoon, the Afghan top legislative official said justice and peace in the relations of a group of closely tied states could bring about stability and development in the world.
"Justice means balanced relations based on joint regional interests and sustainable peace, and Tehran conference can produce good results in this ground," he continued.
Describing his country as a victim of terrorism and international Mafia, he termed security one of the main factors contributing to the regional states' progress and success.
The lawmaker also stressed Afghanistan's profound belief in the reinvigoration of legal bodies, development of political, economic and scientific cooperation and dialogue in the international arena.
He said Asia is in dire need of peace, stability and development, reminding that achievement of understanding requires confidence building and development of mutual relations.
He also criticized some countries which seek their stability and security in the insecurity and instability of other states, and further expressed the hope that the Tehran conference would be a proper opportunity for discussions about common fundamental issues which contribute to the fate of Asia.
The MP further called for the permanent membership of Afghanistan in the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP). Afghanistan is at present an observer state in the AAPP.
Elsewhere, he condemned the recent crimes of the Zionist regime in Palestine and Lebanon, saying that the Afghan nation shares the agonies and sufferings of the Palestinian and Lebanese people.
"We do understanding the meaning of aggression, bombardment, massacre and occupation, and as a nation who has sensed and tolerated invasion, displacement, and martyrdom for the last 27 years, we hope that the Palestinian and Lebanese nations will, God willing, soon experience victory," the Afghan parliament speaker concluded.
Dial-in sex abounds in Taliban heartland
By Terry Friel
KANDAHAR, Nov 13 (Reuters) - On the television screen, the two naked young women writhe together to the sounds of "Hotel California" as the occasional crackle of gunfire punctuates the Afghan night.
Several overseas phone numbers offer an intimate chat with the ladies, or some of their equally outgoing friends.
The heaviest fighting in five years has slowed reconstruction to a crawl in the deserts and oases of Kandahar, where the strict Islamist Taliban movement began in 1994, but pornography, opium and illegal alcohol are flourishing, officials say.
At least one satellite operator offers foreign channels such as eurotictv, allsex, 247Sex and transex, along with the God Channel and the Church, Miracle and Hope channels.
In a country where converting to Christianity from Islam carries the death penalty, the Christian channels are just as offensive to some as the pornography, although not as popular.
"Pornography is a problem," admits new provincial police chief General Asmatullah Alizai. "According to our Islamic rules and beliefs, people cannot accept this kind of thing.
"I don't want people to see this kind of film."
ON TO IRAN
Alizai believes pornography, drugs and alcohol, especially in a traditionalist city such as Kandahar underlines the need for President Hamid Karzai's plan to re-establish the Taliban's department for the prevention of vice and the promotion of virtue, better known as the religious police.
"We should use any means possible," he says.
Under the Taliban's rule from 1996 to 2001, when their hardline Islamist government was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition, music and film were banned and women and girls often beaten if they ventured outside the home alone or unveiled.
All women in Afghanistan wear a headscarf or an all-covering burqa and they can be shunned by their community for simply appearing on television, even with their head covered.
Porn arrived in Kandahar as soon as the Taliban left, but was generally confined to backrooms of teahouses.
Now, it's increasingly there for anyone with the right satellite subscription or a couple of dollars for a VCD. So far, only limited attempts have been made to block some providers.
Explicit VCDs smuggled mainly from Pakistan but also from India are on sale on the streets for a few dollars each, but vendors are secretive and wary.
Sellers at the crowded VCD and CD market, where tunes from blaring Bollywood hits clash with traditional Persian and Pakistani instrumentals, don't like to discuss the trade.
"They come from Pakistan," says Farid Achmad, firmly insisting virtually all his wares go on to neighbouring Iran to the west.
"They are banned. The government would not let you sell anything like this," he says uncomfortably, sipping a green tea.
Porn's growing popularity and availability comes as the Taliban re-exert their influence across the country, especially in Kandahar and other southern provinces.
More people are turning to the insurgents, partly out of frustration at the lack of jobs and a non-drugs economy, partly for money and partly because in some areas the group imposes a rough order where the government cannot, complete with their own courts.
The Islamist hardliners are also trying to reimpose some of their old strictures, burning schools that admit girls and executing their teachers in front of students.
Head of Kandahar's provincial women's affairs department, 34-year-old Rona Trena, says pornography is a problem, but one largely confined to a small number of young men.
"It's not a good habit to have," she says. "But it's in the shops and some of these young men are watching it."
"Seeing women like this is not normal."
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