Afghan police turn Taliban strengths against them
By Terry Friel
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Nov 15 (Reuters) - More than a decade ago, the Taliban rose to power by imposing law and order in southern Afghanistan.
Now, the new police chief for the province where it all began wants to use the same strategy to neutralise and eventually defeat the resurgent Islamist group.
"The only problem is this: there is no law and order," said Kandahar police chief General Asmatullah Alizai, appointed last month.
"First of all, we must establish our law. The Taliban are very few, so if there is law and order in Afghanistan there will be no support for them."
Kandahar, the city and province where Mullah Mohammad Omar conceived the Taliban in the early 1990s -- his sprawling compound now a U.S. base -- has seen some of the worst fighting in the bloodiest year since the hardline Islamist movement was ousted from power in 2001.
But after being swiftly toppled by a U.S.-led coalition, the Taliban have staged a strong comeback over the past year that has surprised NATO and the United States.
"I think we have all been surprised by the intensity of the violence this year," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said on a visit to Kabul.
"It has a number of factors: part of it is drug money linking up with the insurgency. Part of it these people have the ability to operate in and out of Pakistan," he added.
More than 3,700 people have died this year, about 1,000 of them civilians, mostly in the south, especially Kandahar.
Kandahar and neighbouring Helmand province are the main growing lands of opium poppy, the raw ingredient for heroin, expected to hit record yields this year worth $3 billion.
Some of this money goes to the Taliban and other militant or criminal groups to fuel instability and prevent President Hamid Karzai's government widening its rule beyond the cities.
The shops and bazaars of Kandahar, Afghanistan's main city after the capital, are deceptively overflowing. But businessmen say virtually nothing is selling because of the rising violence.
And almost every foreign or local aid group has pulled out entirely or ceased operations, compounding frustration at the lack of development and reconstruction in one of the world's poorest countries, local officials say.
The provincial head of the women's affairs department, Rona Trena, estimates 80 percent of development and reconstruction has been halted or slowed to a snail's pace by the fighting:
"This is frustrating. We face many problems. We cannot work," she says.
Police chief Alizai is moving to build a professional, well-equipped police force and to stamp out the graft rampant in a organisation where an ordinary constable earns as little as 700 Afghanis ($14) a month and hasn't even been paid for half a year.
By contrast, a Taliban fighter earns more than half a police general's pay of $600 a month.
"First, we should have a strong police -- then the locals will be with us and we can stop anything," Alizai said. "The Taliban will see our work and join us. These are not problems that can be solved in one day."
The Taliban has also set up its own courts in some areas, further strengthening its role as a de facto administration.
But those trying to win change can pay a heavy price. The Taliban, other militants and criminals target high ranking officials, police and soldiers, copying tactics from Iraq.
Several have been killed -- blown up or shot. Early this year, 13 people died when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance to the Kandahar police compound.
Alizai, originally from the desert province of Helmand west of here, says he is not afraid, although he deftly sidesteps questions about his personal security arrangements.
"When I serve my people, this is not danger -- I am proud of it," said the 49-year-old father of 10.
(50 Afghanis = $1)
Suicide bombing injures innocent butcher in Afghanistan
People's Daily Online, China
A suicide bomber being chased by the police exploded himself in a town of Parwan province in central Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing himself and injuring an innocent butcher, an official at the press department of Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
Local police suspected a man of belting explosives on his boy and tried to catch him in Gulbahar town, about 70 km north of Afghan capital Kabul, the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity, adding the man ran into a butcher shop and blew himself up.
Parwan province has enjoyed relative calmness this year, although southern provinces and Kabul have suffered from lots of suicide bombings, for which the Taliban have often claimed responsibility.
Because of inferiority in military equipment and tactics, Taliban and other militants have frequently carried suicide bombings toward 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.
Afghan police bust kidnappers' band
People's Daily - Nov 14 4:44 PM
Afghan police have busted another band of kidnappers in less than a month, spokesman of Interior Ministry Zamarai Bashari said Tuesday.
"Personnel of Counter-Terrorism Directorate detected a criminal band involved in kidnapping and terrorist activities in the western Farah province last week and secured the release of two persons including a child," Bashari told a press conference.
The ring leader Mullah Noor Mohammad demanded 110,000 U.S. dollars as ransom for the release of the hostages which included a 10-year old boy and an adult man, the spokesman said.
Noor Mohammad, Bashari added, served as deputy commissioner of Balablock district in Farah province during the Taliban regime which collapsed in late 2001.
A number of arms and ammunition including explosive devices were also recovered from Noor Mohammad's house.
It is the second time that Afghan police traced and apprehended abductors' band in the past month.
The police busted a four-member abductor band in Paghman district 20 km west of capital city Kabul weeks ago and secured the release of a child.
However, the alleged abductor Noor Mohammad who was shown to reports on Tuesday, rejected the Bashari's saying, claiming a man named Tor Jan handed him the child and the man and paid 50,000 Afghanis (1,000 U.S. dollars) to him to keep them.
The bearded Mohammad also rejected involvement in subversive activities but confirmed he served in the Taliban regime as an ordinary man.
Ashamed of corruption, Afghan offers to quit
Customs chief says it's impossible to stay on in job
GRAEME SMITH Globe and Mail - Tue, Nov 14, 2006
KANDAHAR -- Kandahar's director of customs has threatened to resign, saying he feels ashamed of the corruption in his own office and the entire government of Afghanistan.
Azizullah Sakzai, 44, controlled a major source of government revenue during his three years as customs chief, as his outpost on the highway near the eastern edge of Kandahar city collected millions of dollars every year from trucks passing along the busy southern trade routes.
Those revenues were often caught in political tugs-of-war between Afghanistan's top power brokers, but Mr. Sakzai said the situation has now deteriorated so badly that it's impossible to continue working.
"I feel shame, because our administration is very weak and cannot control corruption," Mr. Sakzai said. "I can't continue like this. I must resign."
Last week, he loaded a truck with three years' worth of documents from the customs house and sent it to the capital city, Kabul, for safekeeping.
He drove up the same road the next day, hoping for a meeting with the Finance Minister to submit his resignation along with papers that he described as proof of wrongdoing by government officials.
One of Mr. Sakzai's assistants said the customs chief was persuaded during his Kabul visit to delay his resignation, but the official said he didn't have details of Mr. Sakzai's private talks. Mr. Sakzai could not be reached for comment for the past three days.
In an earlier interview, Mr. Sakzai seemed hopeful that his resignation would help launch a career in Kabul politics.
He wants to establish an anti-corruption lobby group, he said, to combat a problem that he describes as the worst challenge facing his country.
"We will form a group that will put pressure on our administration," he said. "We want to correct their behaviour. I don't need donors. I need friends to sit with me and think, to drink tea and talk about the problems."
His comments reflect a growing understanding in Afghanistan that some of the country's most serious challenges aren't external enemies, but internal failings of a government that has alienated many ordinary citizens. Government institutions don't exist in many parts of the country, a recent report by the International Crisis Group says.
"In many cases where they do exist," it adds, "they are so corrupt and predatory that people would rather they were not there at all."
The corruption goes far beyond low-level graft, according to the report: "This includes large-scale ransacking of state and donor resources by officials who regard state property as their own."
A senior politician in Kandahar who went to school with Mr. Sakzai, and counts himself among the customs chief's closest friends, said privately that Mr. Sakzai's motives for the anti-corruption campaign aren't altruistic.
Like many public officials, he said, Mr. Sakzai was making a substantial profit from his position, taking home perhaps $35,000 to $45,000 a month.
Those takings were down in recent months, the official said, as the slowing economy in the war-ravaged southern provinces reduced the number of trucks on the road. A re-organization within the Ministry of Finance this summer also meant more customs revenues now flow through other provincial offices, further reducing the value of the Kandahar posting.
Mr. Sakzai didn't admit taking graft himself, but he was frank about some failings of his 38-month tenure.
"On my third day on the job, I already had problems with the government," he said. "The staff didn't listen to me; they listened to the smugglers."
Opium cultivation and smuggling accounts for the majority of Afghanistan's economy, and 60 per cent of the activity is concentrated in the southern provinces. Kandahar's position at the junction of trucking routes puts the city squarely at the heart of the illegal trade.
"I can't keep honest people in my office, because they would get fired by somebody at the Finance Ministry," Mr. Sakzai said. "The drugs mafia has people everywhere."
He continued: "Most high-level people have a hand in this. We arrest people for smuggling, and we get a phone call from some powerful people here in Kandahar, telling us to set them free. What can we do?"
With his dark-tinted glasses and restrained demeanour, it was hard to tell how sincerely Mr. Sakzai felt about his complaints. But his words expressed anxiety about the future of his country.
"The government ministers are spending all their energy to keep the President happy, keep the foreigners happy and enrich themselves," he said. "The foreigners need to smarten up. They are helping with this corruption. They do nothing to stop it.
"I hope you publish this," he said, looking skeptically at his foreign visitor. "Because this is important. The gift of foreigners was democracy, and this new regime. But it's paper-thin. It's nothing."
Coalition's Afghanistan policy bound to fail: Musharraf
Indo-Asian News Service (IANS)
Islamabad, Nov 15 (IANS) President Pervez Musharraf has said that the US-led coalition forces were 'failing' to curb the Taliban in Afghanistan and that they would 'keep failing' if they pursued their current policies.
'They are failing in Afghanistan ... they need to understand the realities, and convert the failure into success. We need to look into why they are failing. They have given a very, very easy cause, the scapegoat of Pakistan. They will keep failing in Afghanistan if they continue following this trend,' he told British TV Channel 4 News.
On his part, he has reiterates his proposal for fencing and mining of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, that has not found favour with Kabul and that the West thinks is not practicable.
'I know what is happening across the border, and I have spoken about fencing, mining the border. Let's mine the border and make sure nobody crosses it. I am for it.' NNI news agency quoted him as saying.
About his talks with the British prime minister, he said, 'Tony Blair is absolutely onboard with everything I have told you,' the Daily Times quoted Musharraf telling the NNI news agency.
He conceded that there was support for the Taliban movement among the 450,000 Afghan refugees living in and around Quetta, capital of Balochistan, but firmly denied that Pakistan was responsible for it.
'They have support - I will accept to an extent - yes ... in Quetta, there are about 450,000 Afghan refugees, and this is a hotbed of all kinds of activity,' he said.
'There is trans-border cooperation in militant activities, with the base in Afghanistan but support from Pakistan. We need to isolate the two, and deal with whatever is happening from Pakistan on our side, while the main action will have to be taken in Afghanistan to counter militancy,' Musharraf said.
The president told Channel 4 News that he wanted to put an end to the Taliban.
Asked whether he accepted that Quetta was the headquarters for the Taliban insurgents' operations in Afghanistan, he said: The base of the organisation is in Afghanistan. The whole of Afghanistan is divided into five command regions of the Taliban, each of which is headed by a commander. The financing comes from the drug underworld,' he said.
Musharraf holds Afghanistan responsible for Taliban survival
Islamabad, Nov 15: Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has denied that his country was responsible for the survival of the Taliban, and squarely blamed Afghanistan for the same.
He said that Afghanistan was the base of militant activities.
"There is trans-border co-operation in militant activities, with the base in Afghanistan but support from Pakistan. We need to isolate the two, and deal with whatever is happening from Pakistan on our side, while the main action will have to be taken in Afghanistan to counter militancy," the Daily Times quoted Musharraf as saying in an interview with a British TV channel.
The President claimed that he wanted to suppress the Taliban.
Asked whether he accepted that Quetta was the headquarters for Taliban operations in Afghanistan, he said, "The base of the whole organisation is in Afghanistan. The whole of Afghanistan is divided into five command regions of the Taliban, each of which is headed by a commander. The financing comes from the drug underworld. However, they have support ? I will accept to an extent ? yes ? in Quetta, there are about 450,000 Afghan refugees, and this is a hotbed of all kinds of activity."
About the failure of coalition forces in countering the Taliban, he said, "They are failing in Afghanistan?..they need to understand the realities, and convert the failure into success. We need to look into why they are failing. They have given a very, very easy cause, the scapegoat of Pakistan. They will keep failing in Afghanistan if they continue following this trend."
Replying to a question about his talks with the British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he said, "Tony Blair is absolutely onboard with everything I have told you. I know what is happening across the border, and I have spoken about fencing, mining the border. Let's mine the border and make sure nobody crosses it. I am for it."
Afghanistan woos foreign investors in India
By Sayed Salahuddin November 15, 2006
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai hopes to win fresh trade and investment for his violence-plagued country during a weekend visit to New Delhi, despite rising fighting across his impoverished country.
The Regional Economic Cooperation Conference for Afghan Reconstruction -- which includes Afghanistan's neighbours, the G-8 group of leading economies, the United Nations and global financial institutions -- comes as the country is mired in its worst violence since 2001.
Karzai flew out on Wednesday ahead of schedule and is due back in the Afghan capital in a few days for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The two-day talks in India, whose close ties with Afghanistan have sometimes been a source of tension with Pakistan, will focus on regional as well as Afghan issues, officials here said.
"Through the conference, the government hopes to draw investors' attention to trade, investment and the opening of new markets," said Karzai spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad.
"The government will also discuss ways on how to import electricity and find markets for agricultural products overseas."
The Delhi conference follows a similar event in Kabul last year.
A planned multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan to Pakistan and on to India is not on the formal agenda, but the Afghan leader was ready to discuss it, Ahmad said.
Iran is also keen to build a gas pipeline to Pakistan and India, but the United States strongly opposes the plan.
Afghanistan's infrastructure is largely in shambles after decades of war and occupation -- despite billions of dollars pledged and spent by donors since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban's radical Islamic government in 2001.
Lying between the untapped markets of energy-rich Central Asia and energy-starved India and Pakistan, Afghanistan also has some of the world's biggest copper reserves, precious gems, coal and iron deposits.
But corruption and red tape are rife and the fighting -- which has killed almost 3,700 people so far this year -- pose major threats to investment and projects to rebuild roads, power and other infrastructure.
In some parts of the country, especially in the Taliban's southern heartland, reconstruction and development has slowed to a crawl or stopped altogether.
Karzai, PM to kick off Afghan summit
Rediff.com (India) November 15, 2006
The Second Regional Economic Conference on Afghanistan will be held in New Delhi on November 18-19.
The conference, which will be co-chaired by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, will essentially evaluate the progress made at the earlier conference in Kabul in December last year, where 11 regional nations, the G-8 and the several international organisations pledged to help reconstruct the war-ravaged country.
As part of the conference, India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Afghan Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta will co-chair a meeting on strengthening regional cooperation mechanisms and capacities.
The countries that have been invited include Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the UAE, UK, the US and Uzbekistan.
Pakistan and the US, both nations with a deep and at times conflicting interest in Afghanistan, have decided to send middle level officials for the meeting. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice has sent Assistant Secretary of State Richard A Boucher as her representative. And instead of foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Pakistan will be represented by by Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar.
The international organisations invited include the Asian Development Bank, the Aga Khan Development Network, the European Commission, the European Council, Internation Monetary Fund, the Secretary-Generals of the Economic Cooperation Organisation, SAARC and the UNDP, the UN Secretary General and the World Bank. US Secretary General Kofi Annan has decided to send Tom Koenings, his Special Representative in Afghanistan.
In order to attract private sector investment in Afghanistan, the three main Indian chambers of commerce, the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, have also organised several meetings in association with Afghanistan Investment Support Agency to coincide with the event.
According to a statement issued by the ministry of external affairs, 'It is hoped that the conference will be able to focus on areas of interest, not only to Afghanistan, but also to the neighbours, as that will be crucial for the success of the regional cooperation initiative.
'In the past, it has been felt that the regional countries have not shown sufficient interest in this initiative. Hopefully, with the identification of practical projects, which would have commercial incentives for the regional countries as well, their interest will be simulated. Moreover, cooperation in aspects like border management; trade and transit agreements; power purchase agreements; skilled labour import agreements, etc. will necessarily bring benefits to the region as a whole.'
Terrorism shattered Afghanistan: Hamid Karzai
Zee News, India
Shimla, Nov 15: Asserting that terrorism had destroyed Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday said there was need to fight the scourge collectively as it affected both who played with it and those who faced it.
"Terrorism had destroyed Afghanistan. The nation was pushed backward due to it. We must resist terror and get rid of it," he said interacting with students and teachers of the Himachal Pradesh University here.
"Afghanistan is now stable but is grappling with problems like illiteracy and health care. There is need to build institutions to resurrect the country and we are doing it," Karzai, who visited his alma mater, said.
"I want to leave a legacy of prosperous Afghanistan for future generations," he said when asked whether he would be interested in another term as President.
Karzai said he would be happy sitting at home and seeing Afghanistan progress and develop under the new leadership.
He said democracy had been restored in Afghanistan with women getting 28 per cent representation in Parliament.
Besides, there was ample freedom of press in the country, he said.
Turning to India, Karzai thanked it for giving liberal aid for rebuilding Afghanistan.
India was among the frontline countries, which helped Afghanistan, he said adding it had given an assistance of 700 million dollars.
"Our relations with India are very deep and historical and we will continue to work to make these more stronger," he said.
Toll of Civilians NATO Killed Was Worst Since It Took Over
The New York Times By DAVID ROHDE and TAIMOOR SHAH November 14, 2006
KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 13 — A joint NATO and Afghan investigation has found that a nighttime NATO air attack killed 31 civilians in southern Afghanistan last month, the highest civilian death toll since NATO took over security in the south in August.
Go to Complete Coverage » The results of the investigation were relayed by a senior NATO official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release them.
The civilian casualties come at an important and delicate time for NATO forces here. When NATO took over operations in the south it promised to win support and bring stability by focusing on development instead of combat. But fighting and suicide bombings continue.
Lt. Gen. David Richards, the British commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has said that as much as seventy percent of the population in the south is “on the fence,” unsure whether to support the Taliban or the country’s American-backed government.
If NATO cannot deliver development and security this winter, he has warned, the southern population could turn against the government. Interviews last week with survivors of the NATO air attack suggest that the incident might severely damage NATO’s reputation among Afghans.
The investigation found that many of the civilians were nomadic shepherds who had fled their tents with their wives and children after a NATO bomb struck a nearby compound, killing 20 Taliban fighters, according to the NATO official.
When the surviving Taliban fighters fled the compound, a C-130 gunship, armed with heavy machine guns and cannons, strafed nearby fields. NATO ground forces also fired mortars into the area.
Eighteen dead civilians were found scattered in one field. Ten civilians were found dead in a ditch. Three more lay nearby, according to the senior NATO official, who declined to say how many women and children perished. Only two Taliban fighters who fled the compound died.
“You had insurgents on the move, and civilians on the move as well, and they got caught up in it,” said the NATO official. “We’re very regretful.”
The Oct. 24 air attack in the village of Lakani sparked widespread condemnation from Afghan civilians and officials. At the time, residents of the Panjwai district claimed that as many as 80 civilians had been killed.
Afghanistan has endured its heaviest fighting this year since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, with suicide bombings tripling and several thousand resurgent Taliban battling NATO forces in the south. Hundreds of Afghan soldiers, police officers and civilians and at least 143 American and NATO troops have died.
On Sept. 17, NATO forces announced that they had successfully cleared Taliban fighters from the Panjwai and Zhari districts of Kandahar Province after weeks of fierce fighting, but suicide bombings and clashes have continued.
The two districts are the spiritual birthplace of the Taliban and strategic locations that can be used to attack the nearby city of Kandahar. NATO forces continue to use artillery and airstrikes in the heavily populated area.
Abdul Ghafoor, a 45-year-old shepherd, said he was sleeping in a tent with his wife, four sons and two daughters when a bomb struck the nearby compound. After they fled the tent, the “big plane targeted us directly,” he said, apparently referring to the C-130 gunship. Mr. Ghafoor, who was wounded in the arm, said that he and his 2-year-old daughter survived. His wife, four sons and the other daughter were killed.
Saifullah, a 55-year-old shepherd who uses only one name, said the plane gunned down a half dozen members of his family. “We came out with my family members,” he said. “The plane targeted us and killed my young sister on the spot.”
Rahmatullah, a 40-year-old Afghan who uses one name, said the plane circled the area for hours, firing on anyone who moved in nearby fields. His daughter was killed.
The NATO official said the air attack occurred after Taliban fighters massed in a compound two miles from a base holding Afghan government forces and a small number of NATO special forces soldiers. That morning, the Taliban had attacked the base, the official said.
NATO forces spent more than one and a half hours confirming that Taliban were present in the compound before ordering the air attack, the official said. Taliban were heard communicating by radio, the official said, and were observed by an aerial drone and ground forces. NATO soldiers were unaware that shepherds were in the area, the official said.
David Rohde reported from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar Province.
2 Pakistanis held with bombs in Afghanistan
via Dawn (Pakistan) November 15, 2006 issue
JALALABAD, Nov 14: Security forces in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday detained two Pakistani nationals with home-made bombs on a road heading towards the Pakistani border, a police spokesman said.
The men were captured in Marko, a small town along the highway which links the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar to the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, the spokesman said.
Their names and affiliations were not revealed.
“We captured two Pakistani terrorists who were carrying bombs. They were travelling to Nangarhar from Peshawar,” provincial police spokesman Ghafoor Khan said.
The bombs were made of explosives placed in pressure cookers, he said, adding that police helped by foreign troops were working to dismantle the devices.
He did not say what group the men were linked with, but similar devices have been used by Taliban militants waging an increasingly deadly insurgency, more than five years after the movement was ousted by US-led forces.—AFP
Pandemonium breaks out in Wolesi Jirga
KABUL, Nov 13 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Several members of the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of parliament on Monday lashed out at the administrative wing of the House for demanding payment from organisers of seminars and workshops for the attending MPs.
Although some members were in favour of the step, others believed it as an insult to demand payment of $5 a day for parliamentarians attending a training seminar or workshop organised by NGOs.
Registering his protest with the Acting Speaker Mohammad Arif Noorzai, member of the House from Nangarhar Dr Sayed Ghulam Farooq Meranai said they were not taken into confidence before delivering such messages to NGOs.
He said messages regarding the payment of five US dollars a day for MPs were delivered by the administrative wing of the assembly of its own free will.
During the proceedings, MP from Kabul Ramzan Bashardost once again raised the issue of increase in salaries of government employees; however, he staged walk-out from the House when another MP said the initiative should be taken from the parliamentarians.
Bashardost's walk-out was followed by a bedlam in the assembly and the members started raising accusing fingers at each other without paying heed to the order calling of the speaker.
Later, the speaker announced a closed-door meeting and journalists were asked to leave the hall. Several MPs, unhappy with the ruling of the speaker, also walked out from the hall along with journalists.
AFGHANISTAN: WFP to provide aid to vulnerable in restive south
KABUL, 14 November (IRIN) - Tens of thousands of people affected by the recent conflict and this year's harsh drought in southern Afghanistan will receive food assistance, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday in the capital, Kabul.
"Over 1,300 mt of food will be distributed to over 81,000 people displaced by the recent conflict in Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces this month," said Ebadullah Ebadi, a public information officer with WFP.
To cope with the drought which has affected some 1.9 million people countrywide, the UN food agency will distribute over 1,100 mt of mixed food such as cereals, oil, pulses and iodised salt to some 70,000 people, including widows, orphans and the disabled in Zabul, Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces, the agency said.
South and eastern Afghanistan have witnessed ongoing violence this year, blamed on resurgent Taliban militants, who were toppled from power by a US-led coalition in 2001. The violence has claimed the lives of some 3,000 people and forced 20,000 families to flee their houses in southern Afghanistan, officials say.
WFP will also position 2,000 mt of mixed food commodities to distribute to 200,000 needy people in 26 districts of the southern provinces of Helmand, Nimroz, Zabul, Urozgan and Kandahar through its food-for-work programme in the coming weeks.
The food-for-work schemes provide food to Afghans while building or repairing vital infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, reservoirs and irrigation systems.
But local authorities in southern Kandahar said that the assistance coming to the region was not enough to meet the needs of thousands of displaced families in Panjwaii and Zhari districts.
"Many displaced people in Panjwaii and Zhari districts are still in urgent need of assistance and mostly need shelter and food items to face the harsh forthcoming winter," Agha Mohammad Nazari, deputy director of the refugees and repatriation department of Kandahar province, told IRIN.
"The assistance that is coming will support them only for a few weeks, but they have to cope with several months of harsh winter," Nazari asserted.
As the winter approaches, WFP plans to pre-position approximately 21,000 mt of mixed commodities to feed 2.3 million beneficiaries in seven provinces across the country, including Badakhshan, Uruzgan, Ghor, Daikundi. These and other provinces will soon become inaccessible due to heavy snow.
But officials of the UN food agency in Kabul said it was facing food shortages and called for further international donations for the next six months.
WFP's current shortfall for all Afghan activities for the coming six months is 43,500 mt of wheat and other commodities valued at US $30 million, according to Ebadi. WFP estimates that, beyond the 3.5 million people it plans to assist through its regular programme in 2006, an average of 1.9 million people will need assistance each month until the next harvest because of the drought.
Legislators see officials hand in timber smuggling
Abdul Mueed Hashmi
ASADABAD, Nov 13 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Members of the provincial council in Kunar Monday accused some seniors officials were involved in timber smuggling and corruption. Refuting such allegations, governor of the province dubs the legislators as supporters of the opponents and timber smugglers.
Secretary of the Kunar provincial council Maulvi Ezatuallh said the timbers were smuggled following secret deal with the local officials against the policy of the Finance Ministry. He said huge amount of timbers were registered, but only a meager amount of tax might be paid to the government.
Ezatullah said they had complained to both members of Meshrano Jirga (upper house) and Wolesi Jirga (lower house). He threatened cutting ties with the provincial officials if their demand was not honoured.
Likewise, residents of the Kunar have also expressed concern over the smuggling of timber and wanted the act should be prevented soon. Haji Shah Mehmud, resident of Nawabad of Asadabad, said: "Smuggling of timber is tantamount to ruining our house, this is the wealth of Kunar and should be used here."
Ghulam Sakhi, a resident of Badel, said cutting of new forest were also started other than the Badel jungles. He said: "Cutting of forests is severe blow to Kunar forests." An official at check post in Asadabad Rohullah has also confirmed cutting of the forests and smuggling of timber. He said: "Policemen are helpless, everything is controlled by the high ups."
Affirming smuggling of timber, Brig Gen Abdul Jalal Jalal has rejected involvement of police or other security officials in the act. He said: "There are 56 tracks than roads in Kunar, preventing timber smuggling in the still of night is hard task." Rejecting involvement of officials in timber smuggling, Governor of Kunar Shalizi Didar said he had told people to point him the authorities involved in illegal act.
He said: "People are propagating against him, anyone found involved in illegal act would be dismissed of his position." He said people had informed him that the legislators' relatives were supporting militants in the hilly areas.
Why there's a need for debate on Afghanistan
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Globe editorial
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has allowed support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan to melt away because of his refusal to engage Canadians in open discussion on the mission's merits and difficulties.
It is a failing that mimics that of U.S. President George W. Bush on Iraq: a for-us-or-against-us approach, backed by demagogic sloganeering such as "Canadians don't cut and run at the first sign of trouble." Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor was cool to a request from the House of Commons defence committee this fall for a briefing every two weeks. When he did accede to the request, he said questions could be asked only to clarify what the government said in its briefing, and he set a half-hour time limit. Opening statement, questions, everything. In 30 minutes. This, for a mission that Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier has said could last 10 years or more.
That's insulting, and it doesn't lead to good policy -- another lesson courtesy of Mr. Bush's approach to Iraq.
Now Mr. O'Connor is on a speaking tour. Up to this point, the most candour he has shown came in a chat with a wire-service reporter on a visit to Australia in September. "We cannot eliminate the Taliban, not militarily anyway," he said. But yesterday, speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade (he will also speak in Calgary, Toronto and Quebec City), he stuck to a narrow, rosier script. " 'We have made tremendous progress and are winning the fight,' " he said, quoting the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. "This is progress!" his speaking notes say. It wasn't Mr. Bush declaring victory aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, but it was close.
It is uncomfortable to mention Afghanistan in the same breath as Iraq. The war in Afghanistan, under a mandate from the United Nations, was completely justified. The stated purpose for the invasion of Iraq was to deter future attacks with nuclear or chemical weapons, but Iraq had no such weapons. Afghanistan had already been used as a base of attack.
Canada has a strong interest as part of a broad Western alliance in quashing terrorism. This country need not wait for proof that the terrorists of al-Qaeda who set down roots in the failed state of Afghanistan are a threat to Canada's existence. Nor should we insist on simplybeing builders or constitution-makers. Roads, schools and respect for con-stitutions cannot be built without security.
But the fight is five years old, and it now appears that General Hillier was beingoptimistic when he placed a lower limit of 10 years on the time needed to help Afghanistan's fledgling democracy survive. More than 3,700 people have been killed this year in fighting in that country. Violence is up fourfold over last year. Roadside bombs and suicide attacks are at record levels. The opium trade is flourishing.
Listen to the Joint Monitoring and Co-ordination Board, a group of Afghan and international officials overseeing a five-year rebuilding plan: "Over all, there is a strong tolerance of the opium economy, particularly in the provinces, and no shame attached to involvement in it. Drug trafficking is rife, and law enforcement agencies do more to facilitate than to prevent it. Drug-corrupt public officials remain untouched. Cultivation rose very substantially in 2006, and shows no sign of decreasing. Funding for rural development is large, but not enough to provide alternatives for all." Should the West buy up the opium to use in the production of medicine?
It is legitimate to return again and again, in light of changing circumstances, to such questions and to a full and frank discussion of the Canadian interest in being in Afghanistan. Noble the fight is, but is it winnable? The Afghan army is still small and poorly equipped. Can a victory be sustained once the West leaves? How hard is Canada pushing for greater support from other NATO countries? How much more is the United States prepared to do in Afghanistan if and when its troops begin to withdraw from Iraq? Is Pakistan sabotaging the fight by failing to police a porous border?
No one said it would be easy. Gen. Hillier has spoken frankly (when Mr. Harper has allowed him to speak) of the enormous challenges in beating back the Taliban, the medieval thugs who gave shelter to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. But the Canadian government should not cut and run at the first sign of hard questions.
Canada helps provide essential nutrients for Afghan children
News Release Source: Government of Canada 15 Nov 2006
Quebec City — International Cooperation Minister and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages, Josée Verner, today announced that Canada will support efforts to help save tens of thousands of Afghan children from mental impairments by supplementing their diets with necessary nutrients. Minister Verner announced a $750,000 contribution to the Micronutrient Initiative, a Canada-based internationally-recognized not-for-profit organization dedicated to eliminating vitamin and mineral deficiencies worldwide. Minister Verner made the announcement in her address to a meeting here of the 52nd NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
"Millions of Afghan children suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies that hinder their development and potential," said Minister Verner. "Through simple, affordable strategies such as iodizing salt or fortifying foods with iron, we can make sure that children have access to the much-needed micronutrients that can dramatically increase their chances to lead healthy, productive lives."
Today's funding, which builds on existing successful programs, will provide:
- $500,000 over two years for salt iodization programs for some 10 million Afghans. Iodine deficiency--prevalent in Afghanistan--causes many infants to be born mentally impaired, and lessens the ability of children and youth to learn and work. CIDA’s support for similar salt iodization programs worldwide has already saved seven million children from mental impairment. This initiative in Afghanistan is expected to prevent over 100,000 children from being born mentally impaired.
- $250,000 over one year to fortify flour with iron, thereby increasing the nutritious value of bread for some 2.5 million Afghans. This will reduce anemia due to iron deficiency, which affects 65% of Afghan children under five, and 61% of women aged 15 - 49. Anemia lessens children's ability to succeed in school and hinders their cognitive and physical development, and causes 2,600 maternal deaths per year in Afghanistan.
"We are pleased that the Canadian government continues to invest in cost-effective micronutrient programs that have the power to reach millions of children in the world's poorest countries," said Venkatesh Mannar, President of the Micronutrient Initiative. "In Afghanistan, where the prevalence of iodine deficiency is among the highest in the world, eliminating vitamin and mineral deficiencies is critical for people’s health and well-being as well as to national economic development."
Hezb-i-Islami activists arrested in Logar
PUL-I-ALAM, Nov 13 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Security officials in the central Logar province said they had arrested to activists of the Hezb-i-Islami with arms and ammunitions.
Colonel Abdul Majid Latifi, security chief of the province, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Monday the two men were arrested in Pul-i-Alam, capital of the province.
Police raided a house in Sarsang area on a tip-off and detained the two people with arms, said the officer, who added they were members of Hezb-i-Islami party of former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
The items recovered from the two men included one rocket, one Kalashnikov, 20 hand-grenades, a telescope, a walkie-talkie set, one set of military uniform and some documents, explained the security chief.
He said they had entered in the area to carry out attacks on government and ISAF soldiers. The men are being investigated to get a clue to their other colleagues.
On Friday, a purported spokesman for the Hezb-i-Islami engineer Haroon Zarghoon had claimed destroying two NATO vehicles in an attack in Kalingar area of Pul-i-Alam.
Afghanistan, Iran Seek Local Expertise To Prepare For Games
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 (Bernama) -- Afghan and Iranian athletes have arrived here early to seek expertise from local coaches to train and prepare for the Far East and South Pacific Games for the disabled (Fespic) which Malaysia is hosting from Nov 25 to Dec 1.
"We welcome them with open arms and we will do everything possible to ensure that they train and prepare for the Games here," said Fespic Games chief executive officer Datuk Zainal Abu Zarin said at the Malaysian Paralympic Council's "DeepaRaya" open house at the National Football Stadium in Bukit Jalil Wednesday.
Afghanistan, despite reeling from the aftermath of a 23-year war that crippled the country's economy, are sending a 10-member contingent while Iran have listed 238 athletes and officials for the Games.
President of the Afghanistan Paralympic Committee Abdul Rahman Mohammadi said athletes from his country would be participating in athletics and powerlifting.
"We will use these two weeks to prepare for the Games and we are very grateful to Malaysia for accommodating our request," Rahman told Bernama at the open house.
According to Zainal, the teams which arrived here last Sunday would be training with the Malaysian athletes in Bangi.
A total of 47 countries have confirmed their participation in the Games which feature 19 sports.
Malaysia, who won two gold medals to finish in 18th place at the last Games in Busan, South Korea, four years ago, are hoping to win at least 10 gold medals and finish in the top ten.
The sports featured in the Games are archery, athletics, badminton, boccia, cycling, fencing, goalball, judo, lawn bowls, powerlifting, sailing, shooting, football, swimming, table tennis, tenpin bowling, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball.
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, Los Angeles Times staff writer 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."
IFC to invest in 16pc stake in Brac Afghanistan Bank
The Daily Star, Bangladesh Business Report
International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, on Monday announced it will invest in a 16 percent stake in Brac Afghanistan Bank, says an IFC press release.
IFC is investing up to $1 million in equity and will also consider providing a technical assistance programme to support the bank's operations. One of the largest microfinance non-profit institutions in Bangladesh, Brac is taking the lead in establishing the bank.
Brac Chairperson Fazle Hasan Abed inaugurated the first branch of Brac Afghanistan Bank in the Afghan capital Kabul on November 9.
"We decided to establish Brac Afghanistan Bank based on our experience of Brac's extensive developmental work in Afghanistan and the successful operations of Brac Bank in Bangladesh. Afghanistan's micro and small entrepreneurs need a bank that can provide a continuous source of finance," Abed says.
"IFC is delighted to expand its partnership with Brac beyond Bangladesh by establishing a new financial institution in Afghanistan, and we look forward to doing the same in other regions of the world," said Jyrki Koskelo, director of IFC's Global Financial Markets Department.
Brac Afghanistan Bank will offer loans, remittances, and other financial services to small and informal businesses and medium size companies in Afghanistan. The bank's targeted clients, many of them women, would otherwise have little opportunity to borrow money from commercial banks.
No ice-no problem for hockey-mad Canadian troops in Kandahar
Bill Graveland Canadian Press Wednesday, November 15, 2006
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - Desert heat, pouring rain and even a rocket attack hasn't deterred Canadian troops based in Kandahar from indulging in the ultimate Canadian pastime - hockey.
The last thing you'd expect to see at Kandahar Airbase, where even winter temperatures can climb to 30 C, is a hockey rink. But that's exactly what you find in the boardwalk area, which serves as the economic and social hub for the base.
Obviously there isn't any ice, but on the surface it looks as real as any rink you would find in Canada. Except the players here are participating in a ball hockey league with games three nights a week.
"We realize that Canadians have to have their hockey and after a lot of brainstorming we came up with the idea to put it here," said Maj. Ken Brooks of Glen Miller, Ont. whose Engineer and Support Unit built the rink.
To add to the Canadian feel, it seems appropriate that the Kandahar Tim Hortons franchise is overlooking the rink, and Wednesday night a number of patrons were watching the play from the comfort of the outdoor patio.
Having anything from home is essential for soldiers putting their lives on the line, Brooks said.
"It's amazing, coming down here at night and seeing the people standing around. The cameraderie is awesome, and even though the games are intense, at the end we all shake hands and have a good time," added Brooks.
From an organizational point of view, this is very similar to things in Canada. There are 13 teams, 11 from Canada with names like the Combat Commandos, Pilons and the Amateur Habs, and two American teams-USA1 and USA2. But hockey nights in Canada are nothing like this.
"It's the first time in all of my hockey that a game has been interrupted due to a rocket attack," chuckled Capt. Dave Sullivan of Quinte West, Ont., who plays defence for the Combat Commandos.
"The rocket came in. The sirens went off and we all had to head off the arena and go into the bunkers. It was about 10 days ago and as soon as we were given the all-clear we were back out playing," he added.
Cpl. Bob Shellington, who plays goal for ESU1 (Engineer Support Unit), was in net during the rocket attack.
"I had to run to the bunker in my goalie gear but you get used to it. It doesn't really faze anybody now," said Shellington, 31, who grew up in Woodstock, Ont.
"The hockey really seems to bring everyone together. You get a little workout, relax for a few minutes. Right now we're the team to beat," he said after recording his first shutout in a 6-0 victory over Force Protection in the Truckers Good Will Challenge Hockey League.
Each team paid a $100 entry fee with the money being donated to orphanages in the Kandahar area.
"I thought since we're in a ravaged country the other thing to do is give back to Afghanistan a little more," explained Master Cpl. Paul Flanagan, 45, of Peterborough, Ont., who helped organize the league.
Despite the competitiveness of the troops involved, the players have been relatively well-mannered. Flanagan has been acting as the referee.
"There's no high sticking or shin-whacking, along that line . . . . It's all good stuff."
Others say there may not be any rough stuff, but that doesn't mean there isn't a bit of trash-talking going on.
"Not on my part but yeah, there's always trash-talking," said Shellington. "But as soon as everybody steps off the rink, everybody relaxes. We usually have a coffee before and after the game and talk about what we're going to do or what we did wrong."
The game even offers 50-50 tickets, with the proceeds also going to charity.
"This is awesome," said Cpl. Laura Mills, from 2 Service Battallion, who was wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey.
"We do this back in Petawawa with the toy drive and we're doing it here too with the money staying for the kids here," she said.
Playoffs and the Truckers Good Will Cup will be held in early December.
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