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January 14, 2007 

Afghanistan welcomes "late" US comments on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan
U.S. gen.: Insurgent chief in Pakistan
Hillary Clinton visits Afghanistan, to meet president
Insurgents Killed in Afghan Fighting Reportedly Are Sent Back to Pakistan
Foreign military contractors survive Afghan suicide blast
Afghan mess-up: Crossed signals lead each side to mistake the other for enemy
Bomber Targets Afghan Soldiers, Workers
First British soldier killed this year in Afghanistan
ISAF soldier killed in south
Pakistan should end Taliban support to remove ‘stigma’
US frustration over al-Qaeda 'resurgence'
MPs oppose formation of new party in Jawzjan
Feature: Sale of expired, spurious drugs on rise
Body of slain engineer found in Ghazni
Merkel insists no decision taken to send warplanes to Afghanistan

Afghanistan welcomes "late" US comments on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan
KABUL (AFP) -  Afghanistan said an assertion from the US spy chief that Pakistan is harbouring the Al-Qaeda terror network had come late but would hopefully see more focus on routing the
The charge by US spy chief John Negroponte to Congress this week has angered neighbouring Pakistan, which has long been accused by Afghanistan of sheltering Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders behind a nearly five-year insurgency here.

"Time-wise it was late but we consider this a good step," defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi told reporters on Saturday.

"We wished it would have been made clear sooner that the leaders of Al-Qeada and the terrorists are operating outside Afghan borders against world security," he said.

The foreign ministry said it hoped the statement would see more cooperation from the world and Pakistan in particular against militants crossing into Afghanistan to fight.

"These comments endorse what we have been repeatedly saying -- that the sources of terrorism are across Afghan borders," foreign ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen told AFP.

"We hope this brings increased international community attention and more cooperation from Pakistan," he said.

While praising Pakistan as "a frontline partner in the war on terror" that has captured several Al-Qaeda leaders, Negroponte said it remained a major source of "Islamic extremism and the home stop for some top terrorist leaders."

Islamabad rejected the comments, its foreign ministry describing them as "questionable criticism" and urging Negroponte to acknowledge its role in breaking the back of Al-Qaeda, responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Bickering between Afghanistan and Pakistan over the insurgency has intensified over the past year, with Kabul becoming increasingly outspoken in its criticism of its neighbour's efforts to root out the militants.

Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of turning a blind eye to militant training camps and circles of support; the neighbour says Kabul should stop pointing fingers and look within its own borders for the roots of the problem.
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U.S. gen.: Insurgent chief in Pakistan
By RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writer Sat Jan 13, 11:05 PM ET
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - An Afghan insurgent leader operating from inside Pakistan sent some 200 ill-equipped fighters, some wearing plastic bags on their feet, into  Afghanistan where most were killed in a major battle this week, a top U.S. general said Saturday.

Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley said that Jalaluddin Haqqani recruited and sent unemployed and untrained men to fight in Afghanistan.

U.S. forces killed about 130 fighters moving in two groups in the eastern province of Paktika late Wednesday and early Thursday, one of the largest winter battles in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

"There's Taliban leaders in Pakistan," Freakley said. "We know that this group ... were from Jalaluddin Haqqani and we believe, though we don't know exactly where, that Jalaluddin Haqqani is operating from inside Pakistan and sending men to fight in Afghanistan."

Western and Afghan officials accuse Pakistan of not doing enough to stop Taliban fighters using Pakistani soil as a training ground from crossing the border into Afghanistan. Pakistan says it does all it can to stop the fighters.

No officials in Pakistan could immediately be reached for comment.

Freakley said that one of the enemies in the Afghan-Pakistan border area is unemployment.

"It is clear to me that some of these men were just either collected in a poor part of a village or perhaps from a madrassa or perhaps from a refugee camp and told to come fight," he said. "The message to the enemies of Afghanistan and the enemies of world peace would be that you can come at us with two people, 20 people, 200 people, 2,000 people, you'll be defeated and your young men will needlessly be killed."

Freakley said it was likely the insurgent fighters meant to attack a new military outpost near the village of Marghah that has affected insurgent infiltration routes.

In southern Afghanistan, meanwhile,  NATO troops fought insurgents Saturday in a battle that left one Western soldier dead — NATO's first fatality of the year.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said the soldier died during an operation and that air support was used against insurgent positions. NATO refused to release any other details until the next of kin were notified.

Taliban militants stepped up attacks last year, and insurgent-related violence killed some 4,000 people in the bloodiest year since the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in late 2001.
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Hillary Clinton visits Afghanistan, to meet president
KABUL (AFP) - US Senator  Hillary Clinton is in  Afghanistan for talks with President Hamid Karzai including discussions on whether more US troops should be sent to fight the Taliban insurgency.

Clinton, a likely candidate for the 2008 presidential elections, was accompanied by Democratic Senator Evan Bayh (news, bio, voting record) and Republican Representative John McHugh, US embassy and Afghan government officials said Saturday.

They were due to meet Karzai to "discuss matters of mutual interest including putting more troops in Afghanistan, the rising tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, reconstruction and women's rights," a top Afghan official said.

The United States has around 20,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan to fight a growing Taliban-led militancy.

Some are in an under-strength 33,000-strong  NATO-led force that is looking for more soldiers and equipment, and around 8,000 are in a US-led counter-terrorism coalition.

Clinton is against  President George W. Bush's decision to send 21,500 more troops to  Iraq.

Clinton, who was last in Afghanistan in 2003, arrived from Baghdad where she said she doubted the United States or Iraqi government could pacify the country.

Unlike during most high-profile visits to Afghanistan, which welcomed Bush and other top US officials last year, Clinton's one-day trip was not open to the press.

The US led the coalition that toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001 following the September 11 attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda leaders being sheltered by the Taliban.

It is the main contributor of troops to fight the Taliban insurgency, which has been on the rise since the hardliners' ouster. 2006 was the bloodiest year yet, claiming 4,000 lives, most of them of rebels.

Washington is also the main financial contributor to efforts to rebuild war-shattered Afghanistan.
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Insurgents Killed in Afghan Fighting Reportedly Are Sent Back to Pakistan
By Pamela Constable Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, January 13, 2007; A12
KABUL, Jan. 12 -- The bodies of two dozen Islamic insurgents killed in a clash with NATO and Afghan army forces near the border with Pakistan were sent back Friday to Pakistan, where Taliban leaders asked that they be given funerals as "martyrs," according to news reports here.

The reports appeared to bolster Afghan and U.S. assertions, repeatedly denied by Pakistani officials, that Pakistan's tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan have provided a haven for Islamic militia groups seeking to destabilize the Western-backed government of Afghanistan.

The funeral preparations were reported to take place in villages in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, where Pakistani officials brokered a truce in September that they said was aimed at curbing Islamic extremist activities in the area. Afghan and NATO officials have said cross-border insurgent infiltration has actually increased since then.

Also Friday, Afghan police reported that a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into two others on a highway south of Kabul. The two-vehicle convoy was carrying foreign police advisers, according to Associated Press reports. One adviser and an Afghan civilian were injured, the news agency reported.

In Washington, the U.S. national intelligence director, John D. Negroponte, said at a Senate hearing Thursday that Pakistani tribal areas were functioning as a haven for terrorists and that Pakistani officials needed to do more to control them.

In response, officials from Pakistan's Foreign and Interior ministries denied their country was offering shelter to extremists. A Pakistani military spokesman said that the country's army forces had fired on trucks carrying Islamic insurgents toward the Afghan border and that Pakistan was "keen to stop" such cross-border infiltration.

The bodies of fighters sent back to Pakistan included both Pakistanis and Afghans, according to news reports. They were said to be casualties of a major clash Wednesday between NATO and Afghan troops and Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan's Paktika province. NATO said 150 insurgents had been killed, while Afghan officers put the figure at 80.
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Foreign military contractors survive Afghan suicide blast
Sun Jan 14, 1:07 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide attacker detonated explosives strapped to his body as a convoy of foreign military contractors sped by in  Afghanistan but only one civilian was hurt, police said.

The body of the attacker lay in bloody pieces at the site of the explosion in the southern town of Qalat, capital of Zabul province, but the foreigners were unhurt, police officer Mohammad Asif told AFP from the scene.

The blast wounded a civilian working in a nearby bus station, he said.

"The suicide attacker's body is in pieces scattered around the area with blood stains but luckily he caused no fatality. Only one civilian was wounded," he said.

Asif said the convoy involved belonged to Contrack International, a US-based construction and logistics company. This could not be independently confirmed.

The company is helping to build an Afghan army brigade camp in Qalat, according to its website.

The  NATO-led International Security Assistance Force that has a base in Qalat confirmed there had been an explosion but said the cause was not immediately clear.

"Our troops on the ground are investigating," spokeswoman Captain Janneke Benen told AFP from a key ISAF base in the southern city of Kandahar.

The ISAF deployment in Zabul is made up of Romanian and US nationals.

There have three suicide blasts already this year in Afghanistan, which in 2006 saw a dramatic upsurge in Taliban-linked violence including suicide and roadside bomb blasts.

One on Friday near the capital Kabul wounded three US nationals working for a contracting firm and two Afghan passersby.

Insurgency-linked violence last year claimed more than 4,000 lives, with most of the dead militants.

The past several weeks have seen a scaledown in attacks with winter snow blocking mountain passes, making it difficult for fighters to move around.
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Afghan mess-up: Crossed signals lead each side to mistake the other for enemy
Sat Jan 13, 9:34 PM By Jason Straziuso CP via Yahoo! Canada News
DARNAMI, Afghanistan (AP) - When blasts of gunfire woke Mohammad Shafik at 1 a.m., he was sure the attackers were Taliban or al-Qaida, out to punish his family for its close ties with the Afghan government.

Huddled with nine close relatives in their mud-brick compound in eastern Khost province, he heard a man with an accent from the southern city Kandahar - the Taliban's former stronghold - order them to step into the icy winter night.

"Come out and be safe," the man said.

Shafik's father, Mohammad Jan, an official with the Agriculture Ministry, grabbed a gun.

"I told my father: 'Don't go out, it's al-Qaida,"' Shafik, 23, said.

"When he opened the door the shooting started. Bullets flew in through the windows and doors. I could hear in my father's voice that he was injured."

Shafik's 13-year-old sister, Khadijah, rushed to her father's aid but just then an explosion blasted open the door, fatally wounding her. The father lay bleeding in the cold for hours, was eventually evacuated but later died.

The family learned too late the assailants weren't militants hunting supporters of President Hamid Karzai's government but the U.S. military.

By the time the Dec. 12 raid on Darnami village was over, five civilians lay dead, including two men killed while running to repel what they thought was a Taliban attack. Each side had mistaken the other for the enemy and another setback had been dealt to efforts win public confidence as Taliban and al-Qaida militants bounce back from their defeat by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

The dozens of U.S. soldiers in night-vision goggles who swarmed the area were acting on "reliable intelligence" that a terrorist subcommander, implicated in attacks at checkpoints along the Pakistan border, was inside, U.S.-led coalition spokesman Col. Tom Collins said.

But the intelligence appears to have been wrong. No terrorist was found and no incriminating evidence. A month later the compound still bears the scars of the raid: bullet holes punched through mud walls, gaping openings where doors were blasted open.

The raid was "a mess-up," said provincial Gov. Arsallah Jamal.

Of the five brothers living in the compound, four worked for the government, "and there is little reason to suspect them of being anti-government elements," he said.

"In 4½ years we have accomplished a lot and should not open doors to the enemy," Jamal said.

"This kind of operation is a serious setback."

And not the first.

2006 saw a spike in violence in which 4,000 people died, more than 600 of them civilians killed by NATO or U.S. military action, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said.

Going back as far as 2002, Karzai has publicly and repeatedly accused the United States of heavy-handedness in its counterterrorism operations. Last month, the civilian death toll reduced him to tears in a public speech. The United States has said over the years it has modified tactics to cut down on civilian deaths but the toll has only grown as fighting has intensified.

Last year, the Taliban also killed many civilians as it mounted a record number of suicide bombings and engaged thousands of U.S. and NATO forces sent into the militia's former southern strongholds for the first time.

NATO forces are sworn to defend Afghanistan security and development but they are overstretched and often resort to air strikes on residential compounds where militants are thought to be hiding.

The alliance acknowledges too many civilians died last year and promises remedial action. That promise is sure to be tested in the spring when a renewed Taliban offensive is expected.

The U.S. military described the Darnami raid as a joint coalition-Afghan operation, part of an effort to build the capabilities of the country's fledgling police and army. Family members said the soldiers were overwhelmingly American.

The governor pleaded for the United States to seek Afghan assistance before launching nighttime raids.

"This is our land. I've been asking with greater force: 'Let us sit together, we know our Afghan brothers, we know our culture better,"' Jamal said.

"With these operations we should not create more enemies. We are in a position to reduce mistakes."

The Darnami raid gives graphic insight into such mistakes.

As Shafik and his family were hiding in their bathroom, on the other side of the compound, Shafik's uncles also believed they were facing a Taliban attack.

One uncle, Afisullah, the director of the local municipality, said he grabbed a gun and fired three shots as a warning to other villagers. Sahebdine, 70, and his son, Taher Khan, 30, ran to the rescue with guns in hand, acting on a recent government appeal to act as neighbourhood watches against the Taliban. They were killed.

One mud house over, another uncle, Safaras Jan, an official with Afghanistan's intelligence service, stepped outdoors, also with gun in hand, and was immediately killed by a bullet to the head.

When finally persuaded the attackers weren't Taliban fighters posing as U.S. soldiers, Afisullah threw down his weapon.

He said a U.S. soldier asked why he had fired on them and he replied: "We work for the government; that's why we thought it was al-Qaida."

Then he went on: "Why are you coming to our house at night? We don't even know who you are."

In a country where militants often target government officials, the men's reaction was no surprise, the governor said.

"It's natural for them to think it's Taliban or al-Qaida. It's natural if someone breaks into your house that the first thing you reach for is a Kalashnikov" rifle, he said.

He added the neighbourhood-watch program had functioned successfully in three previous incidents in Khost province.

Jamal also noted Afisullah was still alive, despite having fired his gun near the soldiers - evidence the soldiers were not on a killing rampage.

But nor were they wearing kid gloves.

At Shafik's house, soldiers dragged his wife, sisters and brothers out of the pitch-dark bathroom where they were cowering. Shafik's 45-year-old mother, Zartellah, attempted to shield Shafik, her eldest son, from the soldiers.

"I was thinking that al-Qaida had come. They killed my husband and my daughter and now they are going to kill my son," she said, her voice breaking.

Zartellah's resistance earned her a beating. She said she was thrown to the floor and kicked at least 10 times, laying her up in bed for four days.

Collins said that everyone was removed from the buildings "per standard procedures."

Shafik said he was punched and five days later still bore two fading black eyes.

He said he pleaded with the soldiers in fluent English to look at his bank ID card and the U.S. contacts he had stored in his cellphone.

Nearby, his father was shouting for help. He was bleeding from the midsection and the family wanted to cover him with a blanket to ward off the cold. Shafik reported the soldiers said no.

"My husband was crying: 'Please help me,' and for three hours they wouldn't help him. If I knew that he was going to be killed I would have opened the door myself."

"The enemy hasn't done such cruel things," said Zartellah, who goes by one name.

As the men sat in the courtyard for hours, hooded and handcuffed, the soldiers searched for evidence of terrorist activity. They found none but family members said they stole more than US$50,000 in gold and cash. They showed a reporter their empty jewelry boxes, ransacked personal items and a shattered television.

Collins said no belongings, weapons or money were taken from any of the compounds.

He said the coalition sincerely regrets the loss of the girl but is less repentant about the adult males who died. He said coalition forces were fired on first and had to defend themselves. The coalition opened an investigation into the civilian deaths but Jamal said almost a month later he hadn't seen any results.

Two days after the raid, hundreds of villagers blocked the region's main highway to protest. Ahmad Massood, 30, a guard at the market in the nearby city Khost, said such killings "happen all the time" and are fuelling suspicion of the U.S. presence.

"If they do these cruel acts, they should go," he said.

"They say they're here to rebuild, not to be tyrants."
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Bomber Targets Afghan Soldiers, Workers
The Associated Press Sunday, January 14, 2007 1:05 AM  KANDAHAR, Afghanistan
A suicide bomber attacked a group of foreign construction workers and Afghan soldiers in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, injuring one civilian, a police official said.

The blast went off south of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, killing the bomber, said Muhammmad Asif, a police official. None of the foreigners or Afghan soldiers was wounded, but a passerby was hurt in the blast, he said.

The blast went off south of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, killing the bomber, said Muhammmad Asif, a police official. None of the foreigners or Afghan soldiers was wounded, but a passerby was hurt in the blast, he said.

The foreigners were working on the construction of a building to be used by Afghan security forces, he said.

Asif could not say what nationality the foreigners were or the name of the company they worked for.

On Saturday, a mine blast in another southern province destroyed a police vehicle, wounding two Afghan border policemen, said Raziq Khan, a border police official.

The blast occurred in Spin Boldak area of Kandahar province and Khan blamed Taliban militants for planting the mine on the road.
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First British soldier killed this year in Afghanistan
Saturday January 13, 09:13 PM  
KABUL (Reuters) - Insurgents attacked NATO troops in southern Afghanistan on Saturday and killed a British marine, the first foreign soldier killed in Afghanistan this year, the alliance and the Ministry of Defence said.

The ministry said the marine was killed during a mission to clear Taliban positions in northern Helmand province.

Last year was the bloodiest in Afghanistan since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

More than 4,000 people were killed, most of them Taliban militants, but including nearly 170 foreign soldiers killed in attacks or accidents during operations.
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ISAF soldier killed in south
KANDAHAR CITY, Jan 13 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A soldier of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was killed in a clash with Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan Saturday morning.

A statement released here said ISAF troops were engaged by insurgents while conducting an operation in Regional Command - South. One ISAF soldier was killed during the engagement.

Close air support was requested which targeted the insurgents' firing position, said the statement which did not mention the province and district where the multinational force suffered the first casualty of the new year.

Name of the soldier died in the clash was not released. The statement said the name and nationality would first be released by the relevant country.
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Pakistan should end Taliban support to remove ‘stigma’
* Apparently US wants Durand Line to become permanent border
* US policymakers plan to reduce Pakistan to Punjab and Sindh
By Khalid Hasan Daily Times (Pakistan)
WASHINGTON: The “stigma” of Pakistan abetting Taliban fighters will remain unless Islamabad chooses to terminate their activities, according to a commentary.

Abid Mustafa, an analyst of Muslim affairs, writes in the current issue of Countercurrents, an online publication, that Pakistan’s unwillingness to withdraw support to the Taliban and other Pushtoon fighters is being fuelled by the US which continues to support Pakistan’s policy of embracing Taliban militants. Despite the growing international pressure, especially from NATO members, the White House has hitherto refused to apportion blame at Musharraf’s government for incubating militants on its soil.

He writes that it is also apparent that the US is quietly supporting Pakistan’s efforts to make the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan permanent and this explains much of the hostility of the Kabul government towards the measures. The Afghans still dispute the Durand Line which was invented by the British in 1893 to divide Afghanistan from British India. Afghans consider the agreement illegal and regard Peshawar and Quetta part of Afghanistan.

America’s current plan is to buy precious time for the Taliban to take leadership over the Pushtoon resistance and then execute a major offensive against Kabul in the Spring of this year. Thereafter, the US will convene an international conference to construct a new government in Kabul - one that enjoys the support of the Pushtoons; resolves the border issue between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and integrates the tribal belt into the civil polity of Pakistan.

Mustafa believes that Martin Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asian Affairs, and Dennis Kux, a former US ambassador to Pakistan, have put aspects of this plan forward. In an article published in the Baltimore Sun last month, the two advocate that Afghanistan should override the jirga decision of 1948 and accept the Durand Line as the de facto border, and that Pakistan should undertake reforms with the assistance of the World Bank to integrate the tribal region. But if somehow the Pakistan’s establishment believes that America is going to safeguard Pakistan’s integrity then they are gravely mistaken. American policymakers have already discussed several plans which elaborate on how Pakistan should be divided along sectarian lines. One plan proposes to reduce Pakistan to Punjab and Sindh and its security and economy integrated with India. Musharraf often talks about sectarian violence and blames Islamists or outside powers for fomenting it. Yet it is his pro-American policies that are laying the seeds of an even bigger sectarian disaster - the dismemberment of Pakistan.
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US frustration over al-Qaeda 'resurgence'
By Gordon Corera Security correspondent, BBC News Friday, 12 January 2007
John Negroponte's assertion that al-Qaeda is able to cultivate stronger operational relationships "from their leaders' secure hide-out in Pakistan" represents an unusually frank and direct assessment of al Qaeda's strength and position.

The director of national intelligence's assessment closely reflects a growing body of opinion within the intelligence community which has been developing for some time, but what is most surprising is his willingness to speak on the record and publicly, a move which has already caused some diplomatic fallout.

After the 11 September attacks and the subsequent removal of the Taleban, al-Qaeda's leadership and command structure in Afghanistan was disrupted and dispersed.

Some of the leaders moved to the tribal areas on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

They found it harder to communicate and direct operations.

Islamabad surprised

The notion emerged that al-Qaeda had become more of an ideology rather than a formal organisation and that the role of its leadership was to inspire rather than direct jihadists around the world.

Events such as the Madrid bombings of 2004 seemed to back up the idea that the primary threat came from home-grown jihadists who did not necessarily have direct operational contact with the al-Qaeda leadership on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

But that view has increasingly been challenged, according to intelligence and security officials in a number of countries.

Instead a more complex model has emerged which still has a place for entirely home-grown groups but where a resurgent al-Qaeda leadership has also regrouped and is now able to once again offer local jihadists training and direction.

One interesting aspect is the way in which Mr Negroponte refers to al Qaeda's "leadership" but does not refer once to Osama Bin Laden, nor to the hunt for him specifically and what progress it is (or is not) making.

His comments clearly came as a surprise in Islamabad.

"It doesn't help," one Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

Taleban sympathy

President Pervez Musharraf's government has consistently pointed to its co-operation with the US in detaining or killing a number of foreign militants linked to al-Qaeda.

It also emphasises that it has been willing to bear major losses by sending troops into the tribal areas of the country, a place which no government, back to colonial days, has ever managed to effectively control.

More than 700 soldiers have died fighting there, a testament to Pakistan's commitment, the government says.

The US is well aware that there is a segment of the Pakistani population which deeply despises President Musharraf's co-operation with the US and which is sympathetic to the Taleban and even al-Qaeda.

Recognising that Pakistan's leader therefore has to play a careful game in terms of his own domestic public opinion, Washington normally refrains from overt criticism, which is what makes John Negroponte's candid remarks so interesting.

They may well reflect growing US frustration at Pakistan's role.

Some signs of tensions between the countries have been emerging for some time, not least over events such as the strikes against targets in Bajur in January 2006 and a religious school in October of that year which Pakistan claimed was carried out by its forces but which most people believe were carried out by the US.

However, a number of other developments also explain why Washington may be becoming more vocal.

Less noticed but equally striking was testimony from Lt Gen Michael D Maples, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who appeared alongside John Negroponte before Congress.

He said al-Qaeda has "improved its ability to facilitate, support and direct its objectives".

He also talked of "continued Taleban reliance on safe havens in Pakistan".

He expressed concern over Pakistan's policy towards its tribal areas.

Al-Qaeda control

In September, the Pakistani government came to an agreement with the tribes of North Waziristan but according to Lt Gen Maples the "tribes have not abided by most terms of the agreement. Al-Qaeda's network may exploit the agreement for increased freedom of movement and operation".

There has been growing concern that the deal has not led to the crackdown on foreign fighters that was supposed to occur but instead provided them with increased freedom.

Rather than driving foreign fighters out, it has provided them with a base in which to operate and build alliances, allowing al-Qaeda to strengthen and restore some of its capability.

Militants are believed to be exercising growing control over local communities.

And in turn, the Taleban has also been provided with a base meaning that violence in Afghanistan has increased, not decreased as promised, according to both the Afghan government and Nato officials.

The number of suicide bombings - once unheard of in Afghanistan - has also been increasing rapidly.

Border tensions

Critics argue that Pakistan is happy to attack foreign fighters but less keen on dealing with domestic militant groups with ties to al-Qaeda and those who support the Taleban, believing they remain "strategic assets" to be deployed in either Afghanistan or Kashmir.

Pakistan maintains that al-Qaeda's leadership is operating on the Afghan side of the border.

In reality, the very notion of a border is largely meaningless since local Pashtun tribes have never recognised its existence and move freely back and forth.

Pakistan has talked of building a fence and even mining parts of the border, a move which Afghanistan has criticised.

Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been escalating significantly in recent months which has become a matter of concern for the US.

John Negroponte may be moving on from running the US intelligence bureaucracy to dealing with diplomacy, as the number two at the State Department, but he is likely to find that Pakistan remains near the top of his in-box.
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MPs oppose formation of new party in Jawzjan
KABUL, Jan 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A number of representatives from the northern and northeastern provinces on Thursday announced their opposition to the formation of Turk Tabari Islamic Shura in the northern province of Jawzjan.

Deputy of the Wolesi Jirga or lower house of parliament Sayed Mohammad Rahman Oghli, representing 30 parliamentarians, said formation of the shura was a threat to national unity.

Speaking at a news conference here, Oghli said top military official General Abdul Rashid Dostum and residents of the Jawzjan province had also expressed reservations about the formation of the shura.

Reading out a joint declaration issued by the 30 parliamentarians, he said besides expressing verbal opposition, people have also staged demonstration while some others attacked the newly-formed office of the shura.

Replying to a question, Oghli said the shura was the hand-maiden of a neighbouring country. However, he stopped short of mentioning name of that country.

The parliamentarians demanded of the concerned authorities not to register parties which create differences among people and different ethnic groups.

Chief of the newly-constituted party Mohammad Akbar Bai, on the other hand, rejected the allegations as baseless. He said the shura had been formed to bring peace, develop national unity and ensure the rights of his people.

Akbar added people were raising accusing fingers at his party were getting money from former warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.

Zubair Babakarkhail
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Feature: Sale of expired, spurious drugs on rise
KABUL, Jan 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Seeking treatment for her grandmother is an experience Nilab will never forget. The 20-year-old from the central Logar province had brought her grandmother to Kabul for treating a fever in late July. The 70-year-old passed away after she began medication.

"She was fine until the night before," said Nilab. "We took her to a doctor and after she began taking medicines, her nails and lips turned blue, she died as we tried to get her to a doctor again," she added.

The doctor had prescribed treatment for malaria (Quinine Sulfate, Paracetamol tablets and glucose drip) which they bought for 150 Afs at a pharmacy at Karta-i-Naw, Kabul. After the death, the family discovered that the medicines were expired. When they tried to confront the pharmacy, the owner shrugged responsibility saying he did not sell the type of medicines.

Doctors say Nilab's grandmother could have died of complications of malaria or other causes but the family is convinced that it was the medicines that caused the death.

Nilab's grandmother is one of about 18 people killed by the fake expired medicines between March and May last year. Health Ministry officials say the number of deaths could be higher because all cases are not reported.

Amir Muhamad Farahi, director of the Evaluation Department at the Health Ministry said the government data reported only deaths that had occurred at the hospitals.

The registration of births and especially death is new to Afghanistan. And in cases such as those described above, people are unaware that poor quality medicines could have caused death. Or they believe all death to be "natural" or an act of fate.

Health officials said that certain medicines could be equivalent to "poison" upon expiry, and these could cause complications, and even death. The misuse of medicines or use of spurious or fake medicines is another major problem.

Farahi said all of these problems result from poor awareness, ignorance, lack of specific laws and inadequate enforcement of the rules that exist.

Ahmad Shah dispenses medicines in Deh Afghanan locality, a major street of Kabul. His supplies comprise common over-the-counter medicines and even antibiotics and medicines that are "controlled" - according to the Afghanistan Licensed Drug List. He sells his wares out of a plastic bucket. His stock had Aspirin, Paracetamol, Diazepam (a controlled medicine), Resochin, Metodine and Erythromycin when visited by reporters from the Centre for International Journalism (CIJ).

"I don't know the difference between different medicines, they have the same stamps and we buy those which are the cheapest and resell them," said Shah. "Generally the poor people buy medicines here, but some come, look at them and walk away saying the pills are fake," he added.

According to Dr Saeed Ibrahim Kamel, director of Health Regulations and Control at the Health Ministry, Kabul province has around 4,000 registered pharmacies. This number does not include the bucket-pharmacists who vend drugs at prices lower than the market rates and serve a clientele that is not educated and often very poor.

Chera Gul, 42, from Deh Sabz district about 15km northeast of Kabul, says the medicine vendors with buckets sell a strip of paracetamol for five afghanis. The same medicine costs 10 Afs at a registered drug store.

The bucket-pharmacists are not as ubiquitous as the telephone card sellers cum money changers on the streets of Kabul. But their numbers on certain streets like Deh Afghanan, Pul-i-Khishti and Kabul Mandi is high.

The medicine business is more obvious in Farah City, provincial capital of the western Farah province, situated about 1,000 kilometres from Kabul. "You come across a pharmacy after almost every five steps," said Mahtab, a resident. "Many medicine sellers don't even know how to read a prescription."

According to official statistics, Afghanistan has about 5,640 doctors for about 28 million people. Even though there is one doctor for roughly 4,964 people, most of them are based in the cities, and typically it is the untrained health workers who dispenses medicines in the villages.

Afghanistan imports all the medicines it needs. Most of the poor quality medicines originate in Pakistan, Iran, China and India are imported by companies that don't have import permits.

Since 2005 the government has a list of 1,270 approved medicines, including essential drugs, dispensary items and dental preparations. It lists 27 over-the-counter medicines and 42 controlled drugs (narcotic and psychotropic substances). It has another seven medicines which have been deleted from the list because of their high risk or availability of safer alternatives.

The Health Ministry officials said that they had test about 80 per cent of all medicines legally imported in the country. "With so many non-registered imports around, it is difficult for ordinary people to differentiate between good and bad medicines," said Dr Sayed Mohammad Ibrahim Kamil, head of the department of Health Law and Evaluation.

Mohammad Jafar Husaini, head of the Pharmaceutical Department in Kabul, describes the situation as "pathetic." This is largely because the government has almost no control on the medicines being smuggled and sold. He added that the concerned ministry checked the quality and prices of medicines that are legally imported.

Another official of the ministry, however, said only 30 per cent of the medicines in the market were legally imported. The smuggled medicines also include good quality drugs - which are smuggled to avoid government taxes.

The pharmaceutical department carries out surprise checks on drug stores but has not been able to control the spread of fake, expired or substandard medicines.

The Health Ministry's claim that about 80 per cent of the legally imported medicines are checked for quality, is a major improvement compared to the situation five years ago when it was a free for all. The government department responsible for regulating medicine trade and use has been around always, but there was little control on imports and use.

The government says its quality control laboratory conducts the tests though its effectiveness still remains a question.

The fake medicines are different in both appearance as well as the content. Pharmacists said that the fakes come in different colors, have different smells and taste different than the good quality medicines. The good Augmentin tablets - used for treating respiratory infections like pneumonia, bronchitis, lung abscess, among others - are of white colour, while the fake ones are grayish. Likewise, a good Aspirin relieves pain while the fakes cause drowsiness.

While those in positions of responsibility hesitate to discuss the situation freely, Abdul Qadir Samay, a recent pharmacy graduate, did not mince words. "Medicines whose utility has expired are sold openly and remain a major threat to public health," he said.

The poor regulatory oversight is partly because many institutions in Afghanistan that were rendered ineffective during the more than two-decades of civil war have yet to resume normal functions. The government's drug-testing laboratory at Ibn-i-Sina Hospital is a lab in the name only. Much of the equipment there - including microscopes - was acquired during the former Soviet rule and many machines were damaged during the 1999 - 2000 war.

The five-room lab has six old tables and employs 15 pharmacists. The employees refused to disclose the situation of their stocks but said they were getting far less chemicals and other supplies than that needed for proper testing. The government of Finland and the World Health Organisation has been assisting the work of the department, which is frequently disrupted by power failures.

Iwaz Mohammad Faizy, director of Chemical Pharmacy of the Pharmacy Department of the University of Kabul, says the government does not have the capacity to control trade in poor quality medicines. He said the government tested samples sent by the customs department but there were problems with sampling itself because it was customs officers and not trained pharmacists picking them up for random checks.

It was not possible to obtain test results from the Chemical Pharmacy, but officials there said there had been instances when they had tested Aspirin tablets and discovered that they had come with 10 parts of Diazepam. A normal Aspirin tablet should not contain Diazepam, which causes one to feel drowsy and sleep.

Dr Jamahir Anwari, the trade deputy at the Directorate of Pharmacy, denies the inefficiency of the government, saying that his department has capacity for checking the quality of all legally imported medicines. "We may not have the best equipment, but we have the means to separate the good from the bad," he added.

The government rules require all medicines imported into Afghanistan to be from a list of approved companies. Also all imports have to be registered at the Pharmacy Department of the Ministry of Health. The punishment for importing unregistered medicines is stiff, including confiscation of medicines and revocation of trading licenses. But there is no specific jail term for those guilty of the malpractice.

"First we advise them to stop the trade, then warn them, then put them on a blacklist and eventually even revoke their license and close down the store," said Hafiz Qureshi, head of the generic medicines at the Pharmacy Department.

Government records show that import licenses of only 33 foreign medicine companies had been cancelled for malpractice over the past four years. Abdul Hafiz Quraishi, manager of the generic medicine section of the Pharmacy Department provided the CIJ with names of some of the 33 companies. The list includes nine Indian and three Pakistani firms.

During a visit to different pharmacies in Kabul, CIJ reporters purchased 30 different types of medicines. Among them, three medicines Metodine (used for treating amebic diarrhea), Fansider (used for treating malaria) and Fluxitine (an antidepressant) were found expired.

The 47-year-old owner of the Hossaini Pharmacy located in Karta-i-She, said he was paying for all the medicines he sells, irrespective of whether they were expired or not. He admitted removing labels with the expiry dates before selling them to customers. He said he was unaware of the harm old medicines could cause and was also unaware of the punishment he could face if caught selling fake or old medicines.

Like many developing countries, many doctors in Afghanistan have business links with pharmacies or are on their payrolls. Often doctors write down prescriptions and instruct patients where to go for buying medicines. There are no official estimates but health ministry officials said about 30 per cent doctors may own pharmacies or have some interest in stores run by friends or cousins.

Most of Afghanistan's 930-kilometre border with Iran and the 2,240-kilometre border with Pakistan are scantily patrolled and largely porous. The smuggling is also decentralised in the sense that individuals going across the borders for different reasons are given lists of medicines to bring back by the pharmacies, which they deliver upon return. The more organised and larger importers have connections with government officials, who are duly compensated for the aid they provide to businesses.

Nilab has returned to Logar. She is now fully aware about the quality of medicines, for which she had to pay very high price - her grandmother. However, there are hundreds of people all over Afghanistan who like Nilab's grandmother become victims of poor quality medicines every year. But most of these families are largely unaware of the cause of death and continue to blame fate, while trade in old, fake and poor quality medicines continues to flourish.

By CIJ workshop trainees
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Body of slain engineer found in Ghazni
GHAZNI CITY, Jan 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Body of one of the abducted MRRD engineers killed by Taliban on Thursday has been found in the Andar district of the southern Ghazni province.

The ill-fated engineer Najibullah, resident of the Charkh district of the central Logar province, was kidnapped along with his four other colleagues while on way from the southeastern Paktika province to Kabul more than three weeks back.

The slain and his other colleagues are employees of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD).

Police chief of the Andar district Abdul Malik told Pajhwok Afghan News the body was found in Sahib Khan village of the province Thursday afternoon. He said the corpse bears marks of shots in the chest and face.

On Thursday, a purported Taliban commander, introducing himself as Nasir Kakar, told this news agency that one of the engineers had been killed. He warned they would kill the remaining four hostages if the government failed to fulfill their demand.

Taliban had demanded release of their five members imprisoned in Kabul. Names of the five people were not provided to media, but the abductors said they had communicated the names to the government.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zmaray Bashari, on Thursday, told Pajhwok Afghan News they would not struck a deal with the criminals. Police chief of the Ghazni province, where the five people were kidnapped, had said search was on to recover the hostages.

Sher Ahmad Haidar
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Merkel insists no decision taken to send warplanes to Afghanistan
Jan 13, 2007, 14:20 GMT Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Bremen, Germany - German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted Saturday that no decision had been reached yet on a NATO request for German Tornado reconnaissance aircraft to assist ground troops in southern Afghanistan.

Speaking after an executive meeting of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in the city of Bremen, she said the topic was still under review. This meant that the issue of whether parliamentary approval was required did not pose itself yet.

'There has been no decision yet,' she said.

The previous day, the caucus leader of her Social Democrat coalition partners, Peter Struck, had spoken in the EU capital Brussels of an agreement in the coalition to send over the jets.

German troops are confined to Kabul and the comparatively peaceful north of Afghanistan, but NATO has asked the Germans for six air- force jets to pass data to NATO ground troops fighting the Taliban in the south.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Friday that approval from Berlin would be 'highly welcome.'

The pacifist Left Party in Berlin announced Saturday it would haul the government before Germany's Constitutional Court if the jets were sent to Afghanistan without any parliamentary vote. He said assisting the fighting would be a grave alteration to the existing authorization.

Berlin is under intense pressure from other NATO nations, including the United States, to send troops to boost NATO's increasingly difficult military operation in volatile southern Afghanistan.
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