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April 11, 2008 

Kouchner sees 3,000 French troops in Afghanistan
By Roman Kozhevnikov
DUSHANBE (Reuters) - French troops operating in Afghanistan will number about 3,000, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Friday.

The Taliban talk the talk
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / April 11, 2008
KARACHI - With the destruction of a bridge on the Indus Highway in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) region of Darra Adamkhel last weekend, the Taliban have taken another step towards choking the supplies that flood through

Afghan Engineer Has Kalashnikov, Will Invent
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson National Public Radio - NPR
Morning Edition, April 11, 2008 · Afghanistan has a real-life version of Doc Brown, the kinetically hyperactive and clever inventor in the Back to the Future movies.

Rudd demands safety of Aussie athletes
AAP via Yahoo!Xtra News - Apr 10 8:33 PM
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has demanded China take whatever steps are necessary to protect Australian athletes at the Beijing Olympics in the wake of a foiled terrorism plot.

Canada won't turn Afghanistan into thriving democracy by 2011: Emerson
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The first step in Canada's exit strategy from Afghanistan will be for Canadians to shed the rose-coloured glasses about what can be accomplished over the next three years, says a senior Conservative minister.

Iran surveys offer for proposal of Afghan woman as UN Human Rights Commissioner
Kabul, April 11, IRNA
Iran's Embassy in Kabul issued a communique here Friday announcing Iran is surveying Afghan Government's proposal for nomination of Sima Samar a candidate for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Bush to pass on torch of war
Decision on troops means successor will have to figure out how to get out of Iraq
Apr 11, 2008 04:30 AM Tim Harper Toronto Star,  Canada WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON–Nine months before he leaves office, George W. Bush has cemented his Iraq legacy and crystallized the foreign policy debate that could decide this year's presidential election.

Politicians from U.S., U.K., praise Canada's Afghan mission
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service Thursday, April 10, 2008
OTTAWA - Canada's efforts in Afghanistan received high praise Thursday from two disparate corners - a Clinton-era defence secretary and a British Conservative MP. Both praised Canada's combat mission while criticizing European

India to train Afghan army in counter-insurgency operations
NEW DELHI, April 11 (APP): Indian Army will impart training to Afghan Army in counter-insurgency operations. It was decided during a meeting between the Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and his Indian counter-parts here.

Can You Hear Me Now? Taliban Fears Cell Phones
Thursday , April 10, 2008 By Allison Barrie Fox News
Sometimes, simpler is better — even in war and counter terrorism. Who would have guessed that a secret weapon in the fight to defeat terrorists and insurgents would turn out to be ... the mundane cell phone?
As a general rule

Kouchner sees 3,000 French troops in Afghanistan
By Roman Kozhevnikov
DUSHANBE (Reuters) - French troops operating in Afghanistan will number about 3,000, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Friday.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced last week that Paris would send an extra 700 troops to Afghanistan, which would bring France's contribution to NATO's fight against the Taliban and al Qaeda there to roughly 2,300 men.

On a visit to the Central Asian state of Tajikistan, Kouchner gave the higher figure and officials in Paris said it was likely he had included in his estimate the 700 troops based in nearby states and involved in related operations.

"I cannot give you an exact figure, because the military must make their own decision, but I can tell you that about 3,000 French troops will be placed in Afghanistan," Kouchner said, speaking through an interpreter.

"This is the will of our president and his decision was not spontaneous. He sent a letter to all coalition members to inform them about it," Kouchner told reporters.

He did not say when the extra troops would deploy or what role they would play, but his mention of Sarkozy's letter suggested he was referring to the previously announced increase.

Officials in Paris said on condition of anonymity that they had not seen Kouchner's comments but they presumed that if he was accurately translated he must have accidentally included troops stationed nearby rather than in Afghanistan.

Kouchner will visit Afghanistan this weekend, French diplomats said, his first trip there since France announced it was sending an extra 700 troops to the east of the country.

French officials have said those reinforcements were conditional on a more unified overall strategy on issues including development, and on progressively handing over responsibility for security and other issues to Afghans.

France is hosting a conference on June 12 aimed at raising funds for Afghanistan and reviewing that strategy, and an official who briefed reporters said preparing for the conference would be the focus of Kouchner's trip.

TOUGH SOUTH
Kouchner is due to meet President Hamid Karzai and officials including his counterpart, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta on Saturday. He will also hold meetings with non-governmental organizations and visit a hospital in Kabul.

He will then go to Kandahar, in the south of the country, with Canadian Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier, despite Canada's disappointed at France's decision to send reinforcements to the east rather than help it fight the Taliban in the south.

France has fighter jets stationed in Kandahar providing aerial support for its allies' ground forces.

"He will meet various people there to receive an evaluation of the situation, not just in Kabul but also in a province, and a province where the situation is not easy," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Last week U.S. President George W. Bush welcomed France's extra contribution to the 47,000-strong NATO force and said it would allow some U.S. troops to move from the east to the south, scene of the worst clashes with the Taliban and where Canada demanded reinforcements or else it would leave the mission.

(Additional reporting by Francois Murphy in Paris; Writing by Christian Lowe and Olzhas Auyezov)
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The Taliban talk the talk
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / April 11, 2008
KARACHI - With the destruction of a bridge on the Indus Highway in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) region of Darra Adamkhel last weekend, the Taliban have taken another step towards choking the supplies that flood through Pakistan to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission in Afghanistan.

At the same time, the Taliban believe an agreement Russia concluded with NATO at its summit last week will not alleviate the situation. Moscow agreed to the transit of food and non-military cargo and "some types of non-lethal military equipment" across Russia to Afghanistan. NATO is acutely aware that the 70% of its supplies that enter Afghanistan through Pakistan are in jeopardy with the Taliban's new focus on cutting transit routes.

These developments take place as the Taliban-led battle in


Afghanistan is about to enter a new phase; for the first time since their ouster in 2001, the Taliban will scale back their tribal guerrilla warfare and concentrate on tactics used by the legendary Vietnamese commander General Vo Nguyen Giap, an approach that has already proved successful in taming the Pakistani military in the tribal areas.

"For the first time, the Taliban will have a well-coordinated strategy under which we will seize isolated military posts for a limited time, taking enemy combatants hostage, and then leaving them," "Dr Jarrah", a Taliban media spokesman, told Asia Times Online in a telephone conversation from Kunar province in Afghanistan.

"This is the second tier of General Giap's guerrilla strategy. The third tier is a conventional face-to-face war. This aims to demoralize the enemy," Jarrah explained. "We have been delayed by rainfall, but you shall see action by mid-April."

Jarrah claimed the Taliban have already launched some attacks over the past few weeks in Nooristan province, killing several American soldiers. Jarrah said retaliatory bombing only resulted in civilian casualties.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda used these tactics against the Pakistani military in the South Waziristan tribal area during 2007. This involved targeting remote military posts and forts and other installations on the fringes of towns such as Bannu. The Taliban would occupy the positions for only a few hours, long enough for them to take scores of soldiers as hostages. These would then be swapped with Taliban prisoners or used as bargaining chips for ceasefires and other demands.

The Taliban's new focus is the brainchild of several retired Pakistani military officers who are now part of the Taliban movement. They are complemented by men trained by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence's India cell to fuel the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir.

These "neo-Taliban" have changed the face and dynamics of the Afghan insurgency. They are particularly careful not to blindly waste manpower, as in the past. During 2008, the main center of Taliban activity will be eastern Afghanistan.

"Almost 90% of the men have been launched for this spring," a Pakistani Taliban told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity. He is known for his professional military skills and strategic planning.

"About 10,000 fresh men have joined hands with us. Of these, half of them have been trained and launched, along with the old lot, while the other half [5,000] are getting training and will be launched in the next phase," the man said.

He continued, "Chopping off NATO's supply lines from Pakistan is the prelude of our operations and, believe me, the NATO deal with Russia for an alternative supply line is useless. To me, this is a fallacy or a political slogan to pressurize the strategically illiterate Pakistani leadership that NATO can do without Pakistan."

The strategic expert pointed out that the transit agreement was signed between Afghanistan and Pakistan because historically NWFP has always been the lifeline for southeastern Afghanistan, and nothing has changed this status. Iran is the second choice, but it is not willing to allow its territory to be used to support NATO.

Maintaining military supplies to Afghanistan this year will be a great challenge for the US, which is why Richard Boucher, the top US official for South Asia, and US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte were in Pakistan's Khyber Agency recently to try to get tribal elders on side. But because of the Taliban's threats, only three elders turned up for secret meetings.

A load of 'nonsense'

Brigadier General Carlos Branco, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, is skeptical of the Taliban's claims, calling them unrealistic and no more than propaganda.

"Every year they claim a spring offensive. What offensive are they talking about? Blowing up cell phone towers in Helmand and Kandahar [provinces] or blowing up power stations in Ghazni? This is not an offensive," Branco told Asia Times Online in a telephone interview from Kabul.

"You know much better than me this [cutting supply lines] is not true. We rely on various means of transportation; besides, we do have a lot of supplementary stocks with us. Therefore, a few attacks will never have any effect. We do have sea problems [Afghanistan is landlocked] but this claim of completely chopping off our supply lines has no base in reality. I completely deny their claim," Branco said.

Commenting on the Taliban's new strategy, Branco dismissed it as old wine in new bottles.

"The Taliban haven't had a new strategy in the past, neither will they have one in the future. They will do what they did in 2007. They avoided any confrontation with NATO or the Afghan National Army and instead they attacked district headquarters and claimed they had captured the whole district. But before the arrival of our troops, they left.

"They did indeed attack some of our forward operation bases, but their attacks were ineffective as they lack the military capability ... it makes me laugh when they try to compare their guerrilla strategy with that of General Giap's," said Branco.

"This is really nonsense. General Giap used coordinated guerrilla attacks and employing conventional tactics with a range of weaponry. The Taliban's tactics are useless. The tried to use those tactics in 2006 and suffered heavy losses. I don't think they will be able to repeat those tactics. They are not able to confront us on open ground, not even at the platoon level," Branco said.

Similarly, a United Nations representative who spoke to Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity said the tide had changed against the Taliban. He said this had been brought about by the National Solidarity Program - a rural development initiative - and with a more visible and effective presence of the army and police, especially in Paktia and Kandahar provinces.

"He said governance is improving after some "inspired appointments" and that international organizations like the UN are gaining improved access in almost all areas.

Other observers, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) , see the situation differently. The ICRC said in a press release from Kabul dated April 8:

The president of the ICRC, Jakob Kellenberger, is in Afghanistan for a seven-day visit to get a first-hand look at the situation in the country. "We are extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. There is growing insecurity and a clear intensification of the armed conflict, which is no longer limited to the south but has spread to the east and west," said Mr Kellenberger.

"Intensification of the conflict has forced a growing number of people from their homes. While the ICRC has stepped up its humanitarian activities in recent years, dangerous conditions often prevent it from reaching groups such as displaced persons who need protection and assistance. The harsh reality is that in large parts of Afghanistan, little development is taking place. Instead, the conflict is forcing more and more people to flee their homes. Their growing humanitarian needs and those of other vulnerable people must be met as a matter of urgency. The Afghan people deserve to live in a secure environment and have access to decent health care, safe drinking water and adequate food supplies," added Mr Kellenberger. "

These are different views from different perspectives. The Taliban, NATO, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations, they each have their own agenda. Ultimately what matters is what happens on the battle field.

A new generation of neo-Taliban has emerged under Sirajuddin Haqqani (son of veteran mujahid Jalaluddin Haqqani) . They are ideologically more radical than their elders, but much more strategically attuned, having proved themselves in Indian-administered Kashmir against Indian forces a few years ago and against the Pakistani military.

Now they have to prove their claim that the summer of 2008 will be a hot one in Afghanistan.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief.
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Afghan Engineer Has Kalashnikov, Will Invent
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson National Public Radio - NPR
Morning Edition, April 11, 2008 · Afghanistan has a real-life version of Doc Brown, the kinetically hyperactive and clever inventor in the Back to the Future movies.

Like his fictitious counterpart, Afghan inventor Hanif Molavizadeh isn't widely lauded for his odd creations. But supporters believe his inventions could help fight growing crime in Afghanistan.

Take, for instance, his homemade burglar alarm.

With its urgent ticking, the alarm in a wooden box almost seems to dare someone to try and break into Molavizadeh's one-room home, which doubles as his workshop.

A simple wave of the hand outside the window triggers the alarm's motion detectors and sets off a song-like warning. An automated voice warns there is an intruder.

The contraption then calls Molavizadeh's cell phone. He says he can receive the automated warning from up to four miles away.

He shouts "Hello, who are you?" into his phone, and the sound of his voice is transmitted and broadcast through the alarm box.

If that's not enough to stop a would-be burglar, he says, then remote-firing the Kalashnikov attached to the wooden box should do the trick.

But sometimes inventors, including Molavizadeh, an unemployed electrical engineer bursting with nervous energy, have to work the kinks out of their creations.

The 60-year-old inventor says that last month, he forgot to unload the gun while testing the alarm. A bullet broke a window and ricocheted off a neighbor's wall.

His neighbor, a police officer, wasn't amused. But another neighbor and friend, lawmaker Aref Nourzai, was so impressed with the device that he had Molavizadeh make one for his home.

Without the Kalashnikov, that is.

Nourzai says he wants to give the inventor a workshop and provide him with materials.

"We've got a lot of undiscovered, talented people like him, and if they see this guy being supported and motivated, maybe they'll step forward," he says.

A homemade burglar alarm may not sound exciting to American homeowners, who have their pick of alarm companies. But in Afghanistan, where there are no alarm companies and police can be unresponsive, the armed, talking red box could well become a blockbuster.

Molavizadeh has also invented a car alarm that emits what he describes as a painful but non-lethal electric shock. If an intruder doesn't heed an automated warning, the vehicle's owner can — by pressing a button on a cell phone — punish the would-be-thief with a jolt.

The local police requisitioned the car alarm, and the inventor says he delivered it to them four months ago. But a police official tells NPR it still hasn't been tested.

Molavizadeh isn't surprised. He says Afghan authorities don't take him seriously.

"If they gave me official permission to build these things and funded it, I'd be able to do so much," he says.

Nourzai, the lawmaker, says it's a shame the government isn't paying more attention to Molavizadeh, who has been featured on local television and in Afghan newspapers.

He likens the inventor to Afghanistan's untapped mineral wealth, which the government has done little to exploit.

"If nobody extracts them, nobody makes use of them, we won't progress," Nourzai says.

He says he plans to fund Molavizadeh's work as best as he can, giving him $200 or so a month to keep him afloat.
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Rudd demands safety of Aussie athletes
AAP via Yahoo!Xtra News - Apr 10 8:33 PM
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has demanded China take whatever steps are necessary to protect Australian athletes at the Beijing Olympics in the wake of a foiled terrorism plot.

As Mr Rudd winds up three days in the Chinese capital on the last leg of his 18-day world tour, controversy over the Olympics has again taken centre stage.

At the start of his Beijing visit, Mr Rudd made waves when he sent a blunt message about "significant" human rights problems in Tibet after protests marred the Olympic torch relay in Europe.

Just hours before Mr Rudd departed the city, Friday, he made it clear that safety must be paramount for Australian athletes.

Chinese authorities revealed overnight they had foiled plots to carry out suicide bomb attacks and kidnap athletes during the Olympics beginning in August.

Two terrorist groups in China's predominately Muslim west were planning attacks aimed at the Beijing Olympics, according to the nation's security ministry, with one group plotting to kidnap foreign journalists, tourists and athletes.

Mr Rudd told reporters the Australian government's first responsibility was to ensure the safety of athletes and our authorities were in contact with their Chinese counterparts.

"The first responsibility which the Australian government has is to take whatever practical steps are necessary to ensure the safety and security of our athletes," he said.

"Our security authorities are now in close contact with the Chinese security authorities, and subsequent to that, we will be in close contact also with the Australian Olympic Committee.

"Our bottom line is this, every practical measure must be taken to ensure the safety of Australian athletes and this is why we'll be taking these matters very seriously."

Mr Rudd was due in the southern Chinese resort town of Sanya later Friday for talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Global security was on the agenda, with Mr Rudd saying he intended speaking to General Musharraf about what his country should be doing to help fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, believing Pakistan's cooperation with the West is "less than it could otherwise be".

"I will be seeking to engage President Musharraf in what Pakistan can do more to underpin the efforts of the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, in what is a difficult and protracted war," he told reporters in Beijing.

"Together with other members of the international community, I have concerns about the level of co-operation on the part of the government of Pakistan and the overall effort against terrorism in Afghanistan, both in relation to the Taliban and in relation to al-Qaeda."

Mr Rudd said he wanted to explore with the Pakistani leader ways his country can help the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

He also pledged to ensure that two pandas China promised to Australia during last year's APEC conference in Sydney won't fall victim to government budget cuts.

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer has said the deal could be in jeopardy if the government does not come up with the $5 million needed to fund the transfer of the two giant pandas and to house them at Adelaide Zoo.

But Mr Rudd told reporters in Beijing: "I'm confident the pandas will be safely and effectively brought to Australia."

"We'll be in contact with our friends in China to make sure the necessary funding arrangements are put in place."

Mr Downer said if the deal did not go ahead because of budget cuts it would be "quite a slap in the face" of China's President Hu Jintao, whom Mr Rudd was due to meet Saturday.
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Canada won't turn Afghanistan into thriving democracy by 2011: Emerson
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The first step in Canada's exit strategy from Afghanistan will be for Canadians to shed the rose-coloured glasses about what can be accomplished over the next three years, says a senior Conservative minister.

The best Canada can hope for in Afghanistan in the short-term is that it will become a "viable state," Trade Minister David Emerson said Thursday during a weekly briefing.

"I don't think any of us should be under the illusion that Afghanistan is going to be a thriving, prosperous democracy by 2011.

"But we hope we can get to the point where Afghanistan has become a viable state and we can normalize Canada's relationship," said Emerson, chair of a cabinet committee overseeing Ottawa's war-and-development strategy.

At last week's NATO summit in Bucharest, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada would set its own benchmarks and goals in Kandahar province, which will pave the way for withdrawal.

Emerson, a former business executive, said the cabinet committee is setting those priorities.

"Our committee will be paying particular attention to being realistic as to what we can achieve by 2011."

Among the immediate goals is to reduce the number of casualties as Canadian soldiers battle Taliban insurgents in frustrating hide-and-seek warfare, Emerson suggested.

Since 2002, 82 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in the strife-torn region.

Parliament recently approved an extension to the Afghan mission, which had been slated to expire next year.

NATO has come up with reinforcements as well as extra equipment. The presence of Canadian troops, diplomats and development workers is now assured until July 2011.

The benchmarks, which the government hopes to point to in three years in order to declare the mission accomplished, will touch on security, governance, economic development and education.

"You have to think that if our military role ceases in 2011, we have to look at what we're doing to ensure that the legacy we leave behind does not crumble because the military is out of there," he said.

"These things are always very easy to talk about, but very hard to do ... but we're going to take out best shot at it."

The committee, which includes all ministers who have a responsibility for Afghanistan projects, has been trying to establish a clear picture of the Kandahar situation.

Emerson was hesitant to predict precisely what kind of Kandahar the Canadians will leave behind, but emphasized that the hopes and expectations of the Afghans themselves are being taken into account.

"We are consulting with them about what the key priorities should be in their minds," he said.

"There's not much point having benchmarks that are critical to Afghanistan's future and Afghanistan doesn't buy into them."

Meanwhile, the country's top military commander gave the House of Commons foreign affairs committee a cautious assessment of the insurgency on the ground.

"The direct threat is still very real," said Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff.

"The mission continues in a positive direction, but that threat remains high especially in the south of Afghanistan and especially, from our perspective in the west and north of Kandahar city itself."

Hillier said the move towards normalization is still being hindered by the abence of international aid groups, which largely abandoned Kandahar in 2006 when fighting escalated.
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Iran surveys offer for proposal of Afghan woman as UN Human Rights Commissioner
Kabul, April 11, IRNA
Iran's Embassy in Kabul issued a communique here Friday announcing Iran is surveying Afghan Government's proposal for nomination of Sima Samar a candidate for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

According to IRNA office in Kabul, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan invited the foreign countries' ambassadors and charge d'affaires in Kabul to introduce Sima Samar, the US Special Reporter on Human Rights in Darfur, Sudan, and the Head of Afghanistan's Human Rights Commission, as nominee for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Afghan Foreign Ministry also on Thursday issued a communique in which Samar has been referred to as a woman who has spent tremendous efforts during the past two decades for restoration of human rights, campaign against aggression, and cultural blossoming of the Afghan nation.

The "friend countries" have been asked in the communique to support Samar's candidacy for the UN high post, which has been held by Louise Arbors from Canada ever since the year 2004.

Samar was born in southern Afghanistan's Qazney Province in 1975 and graduated as a medical doctor from Kabul University.

She migrated to Pakistan after graduation form university as a medical doctor, where she established a hospital and began curing the Afghan immigrants.

This Afghan woman has so far established 55 schools and has been an activist in human rights affairs, served as the first Minister of Women's Affairs in temporary government during her country's transitory era.

Samar has so far received two honorary doctorate decrees from Canada's Alberta University and the United States Brown University.

The prizes she has won include one on social leadership, one on global leadership, the 100 brave women's prize, and the prize for call to heed human rights.
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Bush to pass on torch of war
Decision on troops means successor will have to figure out how to get out of Iraq
Apr 11, 2008 04:30 AM Tim Harper Toronto Star,  Canada WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON–Nine months before he leaves office, George W. Bush has cemented his Iraq legacy and crystallized the foreign policy debate that could decide this year's presidential election.

By embracing a pause in a troop drawdown recommended by his top military commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, Bush yesterday all but guaranteed his war will not be lost under his watch.

Instead, he will hand over to the next U.S. president as many as 140,000 combat troops in Iraq, a military many believe is stretched to the breaking point and a war that has become a huge ongoing drain to the U.S. treasury.

Hours after the president's White House speech, Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a congressional committee he had abandoned his hope that the U.S. troop level in Iraq could have been brought down to 100,000 by the end of the year.

"There is no end in sight under the Bush policy,'' Barack Obama, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, told a campaign rally in Gary, Ind. "It is time to bring this war in Iraq to a close.''

His rival, Hillary Clinton, said Bush was again asking Americans for time and patience, but the public has said he has been given enough of both.

"Our troops have done all that's been asked of them and more,'' she said. "It's time for the president to answer the question being asked of him – in the wake of the failed surge, what is the endgame in Iraq?

"As president, I will do what this president has failed to do – recognize reality and end the war responsibly.''

Presumptive Republican nominee John McCain concentrated on the economy in campaign events yesterday, but he is staking his bid on the success of the Bush surge and the prospect of victory in Iraq.

Some analysts believe Bush may be doing a favour for the next president by allowing more time for the country to stabilize.

By keeping as many combat brigades as possible in Iraq, Brookings Institution analyst Kenneth Pollack told The Washington Post, Bush could allow the next president "to do something that is likely to make everybody in the country happy – withdraw troops in a responsible fashion.''

But the Democratic congressional leadership was withering in its assessment.

"He's leaving all the tough decisions to the only person that is going to have to make those tough decisions, the next president of the United States,'' said Senate leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

"Our troops remain in this endless, endless, intractable civil war. Our military is badly strained – and that's an understatement. We're unable to respond to threats around the world.''

Further, Reid said, the war is costing U.S. taxpayers $5,000 per minute, "24 hours a day, seven days a week, every week of the month, no holidays.''

Bush tried to deal with those concerns in his address.

He said he would give Petraeus "all the time he needs'' to consider when more troops come home after he halts a planned reduction in troops at the end of July.

Bush said that beginning in August, army deployments would be reduced to 12 months from 15 months, something Democrats had long called for. However, those deployed this summer will be scheduled to be there until August 2009, long after a new president takes office.

He acknowledged the cost of the war – already beyond $500 billion and possibly spiralling to $3 trillion according to some estimates – but said the country's defence budget was only 4 per cent of the country's gross domestic product.

"It is a modest fraction of our nation's wealth,'' he said. "And it pales when compared to the cost of another terrorist attack on our people.''

Bush also took dead aim at both Obama and Clinton's positions on Iraq.

"Those who say that the way to encourage further progress is to back off and force the Iraqis to fend for themselves are simply wrong,'' he said.

Colin Powell, Bush's secretary of state in his first term, told ABC's Good Morning America that the president is perpetuating "an extremely difficult'' burden on the U.S. military.

"I'll tell you what they're all going to face – whichever one of them becomes president – they will face a United States military force that cannot continue to sustain 140,000 people deployed in Iraq, and the 20,000 ... 25,000 people we have deployed in Afghanistan, and our other deployments,'' Powell said.

"We have responsibilities in Afghanistan. And in some ways, Afghanistan is more difficult than Iraq.''

The next president is also sure to inherit a domestic problem in dealing with returning soldiers.

A U.S. Army report obtained by The New York Times last week showed more than 197,000 Americans have already been deployed to Iraq more than once and 53,000 have deployed three or more times.

According to that study, more than one in four – 27 per cent – of those who have deployed three or more times demonstrate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders and almost one out of five – 18.5 per cent – exhibit such symptoms following their second deployment.
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Politicians from U.S., U.K., praise Canada's Afghan mission
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service Thursday, April 10, 2008
OTTAWA - Canada's efforts in Afghanistan received high praise Thursday from two disparate corners - a Clinton-era defence secretary and a British Conservative MP. Both praised Canada's combat mission while criticizing European allies for not pulling their weight on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

Former U.S. defence secretary William Cohen said some European countries are growing too fond of "soft power" and are shying away from "hard power responsibilities."

At the same time, the prime minister's office said that Stephen Harper and two senior cabinet ministers met the British Conservative defence critic Liam Fox Thursday and that he gushed that Canada is a "model NATO citizen" that other reluctant European allies should emulate.

Fox, a one-time_British Conservative leadership hopeful who now serves as his party's defence critic, met not only with Harper but also with Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. The high-level access for Fox, a rising star in the British Conservative party, comes as the Labour government of Gordon Brown fares poorly in domestic polls.

After the meeting, Harper's office drew attention to the glowing statement that Fox posted on his website.

"More European nations should follow Canada's example and start playing a more meaningful role in the NATO alliance," Fox wrote.

"Canada is the model NATO citizen. Under the Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada has seen a steady increase in its defence spending and a modernization of its defence capabilities, along with an increasing willingness to play a full role in international security."

Fox's warm reception in Ottawa comes as the Harper Conservatives are watching the decline of some right-of-centre Western governments across the globe. Last fall, Australia's John Howard, a model for Canada's Conservatives, went down to defeat. In the U.S., the Bush administration relinquishes power early next year and the Republicans face a tough Democratic challenge for the White House.

Cohen, who served as Democrat Bill Clinton's defence secretary, is a moderate Republican. On Thursday, he criticized European members of NATO that do not permit their troops to engage in the heavy fighting in southern Afghanistan.

Cohen is the second former U.S. cabinet minister this week to criticize Western European allies for avoiding direct combat in Afghanistan.

Former secretary of state Henry Kissinger lamented Europe's reluctance to enter the heavy fighting in an essay published in a leading international newspaper.

"That's what I mean by a two-tier system. Dr. Kissinger explained it very well," Cohen said in Ottawa, where he was attending a major defence industry trade show.

"You are seeing a transition within the European countries. They're soft-power, shying away from hard-power responsibilities."

During the Clinton years, the U.S. criticized Canada for putting too much emphasis on soft power - using hard rhetoric but not backing it with military might as they cut defence spending. Former Liberal foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy championed soft power.

Cohen also had high praise for the Conservative government's commitment to greater defence spending to back the Canadian Forces in their fight against the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. Cohen said that has brought Canada and the U.S. closer than in the Clinton years.

"It's grown closer. I don't think there's any question that Canada has decided it has neglected its defence capabilities for too many years," Cohen said.

For more than a decade, Washington criticized Ottawa for not spending enough on defence. That started to change in 2005 when the former Liberal government of Paul Martin boosted defence spending by $13 billion, halting the rust-out of heavy equipment and the decline of various military capabilities.

The Conservatives have picked up that momentum, by committing an additional $5 billion, while rebranding their efforts as a Canada First defence policy, something Cohen praised by name Thursday.

"That is a very positive sign. The sentiments being expressed by the prime minister are certainly welcome in the United States. Canada is our friend. You're our neighbour. Your security is tied to our security, and vice versa. I think the relationship has improved significantly."

Trade Minister David Emerson also said Thursday that a cabinet committee that he chairs hopes to release benchmarks that would be used to publicly measure Canadian progress in Kandahar in the coming weeks. Emerson offered no specifics.
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India to train Afghan army in counter-insurgency operations       
NEW DELHI, April 11 (APP): Indian Army will impart training to Afghan Army in counter-insurgency operations. It was decided during a meeting between the Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and his Indian counter-parts here.

The Afghan Defence Minister is here to discuss enhancement of military cooperation with India.

On Thursday, he paid a daylong visit to Srinagar-based 15 Corps of the Indian army where he was briefed on the counter-insurgency operations in occupied Kashmir, The Tribune quoting defence sources said.

“As Afghanistan had no big training institute there, their officers and jawans used to come to India to undergo special training here,” a senior official said.

“Terrorism is a common threat to both the countries. Cooperation between us is important against fundamentalism and terrorism,” Wardak was  quoted having said.
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Can You Hear Me Now? Taliban Fears Cell Phones
Thursday , April 10, 2008 By Allison Barrie Fox News
Sometimes, simpler is better — even in war and counter terrorism. Who would have guessed that a secret weapon in the fight to defeat terrorists and insurgents would turn out to be ... the mundane cell phone?
As a general rule, insurgents worldwide don't much like the sight of a civilian holding a cell phone. All it takes is one quick phone call, and here comes the cavalry.

Rebel groups take the threat so seriously that they often seize all cell phones when they enter a village. If they miss just one, it could mean game over.

In most rural areas of Afghanistan, there are no landline phones or shortwave or any way other devices to communicate quickly. So Taliban militants, who rely on poor communication in rural areas, have recently been attacking cell phone facilities and confiscating phones, stripping locals of the chance to alert U.S. soldiers to their movements.

This provides a huge advantage to the Taliban, because it means that locals, from villagers to shepherds, cannot report their activities fast enough to have an effect.

But Taliban combat units ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred armed men are issued satellite phones, giving them a key tactical advantage.

Peacekeepers have learned that providing local citizens with a simple cell phone is an excellent tool in the fight against extremists and insurgents. An emergency number is distributed to peacekeepers that can transform a humble cell phone into a "bat phone" capable of sending an SOS to soldiers.

In North Korea, a non-governmental organization has launched a successful campaign against leadership by sneaking cheap radios into the country. For ages, only radios that receive one state-approved station have been permitted in the country. "Normal" radios have been illegal, since they could receive Chinese and South Korean programming that is not in the best interests of the North Korean government.
A plan of action similar to the underground pipeline of radios to North Korea is on the table for Afghanistan, where the U.S. military would drop cheap cell phones that could also receive radio broadcasts in Taliban-dominated areas.

U.S. psychological operations aircraft or blimps would transmit programming that these cell phones can receive — weather reports, health and farming updates, religious messages from moderate imams and local and national news.

These cell phones also would be able to dial out — but only to a 911 equivalent manned by Afghan police.

The idea is, "If you hear something or see something, let the good guys know."

Have you heard of the program in the U.S. where old cell phones are modified to call only 911 and given away to make sure people have access to help? Same idea here.

Simple, but smart. Arming civilians with cell phones could save not only the lives of locals, but the lives of our soldiers.
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