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April 22, 2008 

World's oldest oil paintings in Afghanistan
KABUL (Reuters) - Scientists said on Tuesday they have proved the world's first ever oil paintings were in caves near two destroyed giant statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, hundreds of years before oil paint was used in Europe.

Afghan police kill 9 Taliban fighters in Kandahar
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 22, 6:25 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Afghan police killed nine Taliban fighters in a skirmish Tuesday, a day after militants attacked a checkpoint and left six border policemen dead, officials said.

Afghan leader says he backs ban on hit Indian soaps
Tue Apr 22, 1:35 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai defended a decision by his government to ban a handful of Indian soap operas, saying they violated his nation's moral standards and culture.

Afghan TV Station Rejects State Ban On 2 Indian Programs
KABUL (AFP)--Afghanistan's most popular private television station, Tolo, defied a government deadline Tuesday to drop two hit Indian soap operas deemed to violate Afghan culture, saying the order was illegal.

Afghan Ministry Bans the Broadcast of 5 Foreign Soap Operas
The New York Times - World By ABDUL WAHEED WAFA and CARLOTTA GALL April 22, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan -After four years of watching television programs test the boundaries of decorum and build devoted audiences in the process, conservatives are striking back.

Pakistani Taliban welcome release of militant chief: spokesman
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) - A spokesman for Taliban rebels in Pakistan on Tuesday welcomed the release of a top militant chief who led Islamist fighters against foreign forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

EU advises Pakistan against talks with al Qaeda
Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:07am EDT
ISLAMABAD, April 22 (Reuters) - The European Union's foreign policy chief said Pakistan should resist talking with al Qaeda in its efforts to quell militancy in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Indian, Nepalese abducted in Afghanistan: officials
Tue Apr 22, 6:05 AM ET
HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) - An Indian and a Nepalese national working at security training camps in western Afghanistan have been kidnapped, apparently by the Taliban, police and a security firm said Tuesday.

Afghans protest over rocketing food prices
JALALABAD, Afghanistan, April 22, 2008 (AFP) - About 400 people demonstrated in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday against skyrocketing food prices, witnesses said, in the country's first protest at food costs rising worldwide.

Afghan Foreign Minister due on Tuesday
Islamabad, April 21, IRNA
Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Rangeen Dadfar Spanta arrives in Islamabad on Tuesday for bilateral talks with the new government, official and diplomatic sources said.

Al-Qaida No. 2 says 9/11 theory propagated by Iran
By MAGGIE MICHAEL Associated Press / April 22, 2008
CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden's chief deputy in an audiotape Tuesday accused Shiite Iran of trying to discredit the Sunni al-Qaida terror network by spreading the conspiracy theory that Israel was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

UK fails to extend would-be Taliban's jail term
April 22, 2008
LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has lost a bid to extend the "unduly lenient" jail term given to a London dentist for planning to fight for the Taliban and "kill many" British and U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Why Britons walked warily in Waziristan
By Alastair Lawson BBC News / Monday, 21 April 2008
In 1919, a young British army officer, Francis Stockdale, was deployed to the Waziristan area of British India.

RAF destroys £10m spy plane in Afghanistan
By Stephen Adams Daily Telegraph (UK) - Apr 22 4:04 AM
The RAF deliberately blew up one of its own £10 million spy planes after it crash landed over Taliban territory in Afghanistan.

Czech soldiers train Afghan policemen in Logar
Prague Daily Monitor - Apr 21 11:20 PM
Prague/Kabul, April 21 (CTK) - Soldiers from the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), since recently operating in the east Afghan province Logar, have taken up the training of the local police forces from the Americans, the Czech Defence Ministry said Monday.

Czechs may send special unit to Afghanistan
Ceské noviny
Prague- The Czech government wants to send perhaps as many as 100 soldiers from the Prostejov, South Moravia, special unit to Afghanistan in May to fulfil combat tasks within special operation under U.S. command.

British soldier killed in blast in Afghan south
Tue Apr 22, 7:52 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - A British soldier was killed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand when his vehicle was hit by a suspected minestrike, the British Ministry of Defence said late on Monday.

US Marines honor 2 comrades killed in Afghanistan, first deaths since new deployment
By JASON STRAZIUSO,Associated Press Writer AP - Wednesday, April 23
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan - More than 100 U.S. Marines stood at attention before four empty boots and two sets of dog tags Tuesday to honor the first Marines to die in Afghanistan since their unit's deployment last month.

Ambassador: Chabahar port important for Afghanistan economy
Chabahar, April 22, IRNA 
the Afghan ambassador to Tehran heading a delegation arrived in Chabahar Free Trade Zone on Tuesday.

AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN: Afghan refugee settlements demolished at Jalozai
22 Apr 2008 16:30:33 GMT
KABUL, 22 April 2008 (IRIN) - Shops and mud-huts owned by Afghan refugees in Jalozai refugee camp in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province have been demolished and refugees who still live there have been ordered to vacate

Pakistan resumes forcing Afghan refugees to return home
By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers via Yahoo Mon Apr 21, 6:53 PM ET
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities have resumed sending tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, many of whom have lived for decades in camps near the Afghanistan - Pakistan border, back to Afghanistan .

Afghanistan: no way out, says serving U.S. officer
Richard Foot ,  Canwest News Service Monday, April 21, 2008
NATO and coalition forces are "stumbling toward failure" in Afghanistan and no amount of military success against the Taliban will bring an end to the war without a fundamental change in political policy, says a provocative article written by a serving U.S. army officer.

Afghan leader calls for support
Obstacles remain, vice president says at end of U.S. visit
By JOHN IWASAKI Seattle Post Intelligencer
Although Afghanistan has made a dramatic shift to democracy since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, poverty and drug-financed terrorism remain daunting obstacles that require international support to overcome, Afghan Vice President

Afghan government to buy $50 million food relief as prices skyrocket
The Canadian Press
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan has allocated $50 million to buy food from neighbouring countries amid skyrocketing prices of food staples like wheat.

Afghans Build an Army, and a Nation
The Wall Street Journal By BRET STEPHENS April 22, 2008
Kabul, Afghanistan -From a hard and arid plain about a 30-minute drive out of downtown Kabul, a squad of Afghan soldiers is mounting an attack on a small rise to the south. Three soldiers lie flat on their stomachs, providing

Students protest lack of housing
www.quqnoos.com Written by Mohammad Reza Sher Mohammadi Monday, 21 April 2008
Herat students warn government that protests will turn violent
HUNDREDS of Herat university students have protested in the city’s streets over the closure of the university hostel, and they have called for the resignation of the university’s provost.

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World's oldest oil paintings in Afghanistan
KABUL (Reuters) - Scientists said on Tuesday they have proved the world's first ever oil paintings were in caves near two destroyed giant statues of Buddha in Afghanistan, hundreds of years before oil paint was used in Europe.

Samples from paintings, dating from the 7th century AD, were taken from caves behind two statues of Buddha in Bamiyan blown up as un-Islamic by Afghanistan's hardline Taliban in 2001.

Scientists discovered paintings in 12 of the 50 caves were created using oil paints, possibly from walnut or poppy, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in France said on its Web site on Tuesday.

"This is the earliest clear example of oil paintings in the world, although drying oils were already used by ancient Romans and Egyptians, but only as medicines and cosmetics," said Yoko Taniguchi, leader of the team of scientists.

It was not until the 13th century that oil was added to paints in Europe and oil paint was not widely used in Europe till the early 15th century.

Bamiyan was once a thriving Buddhist centre where monks lived in a series of caves carved into the cliffs by the two statues.

The cave paintings were probably the work of artists traveling along the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China, across Central Asia to the West and show scenes of Buddhas in vermilion robes and mythical creatures, the ESRF said.

Afghanistan's Taliban government used dozens of explosive charges to bring down the two 6th century giant Buddhas in March 2001, saying the statues were un-Islamic.

Later in the same year, U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government after it refused to give up al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks.

Now work is underway to try restore the biggest of the two statues, once the tallest standing Buddha in the world, but the mammoth task could take a decade to complete.
(Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by David Fox)
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Afghan police kill 9 Taliban fighters in Kandahar
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer Tue Apr 22, 6:25 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Afghan police killed nine Taliban fighters in a skirmish Tuesday, a day after militants attacked a checkpoint and left six border policemen dead, officials said.

About 200 police officers clashed with militants during a search operation launched following Monday's attack in Arghasan district of Kandahar province, said Gen. Abdul Raziq, a police commander in the area.

Authorities recovered the bodies of four dead militants after Tuesday's clash, while the insurgents took away five more dead fighters as they retreated, Raziq said.

The violence comes amid a spate of attacks on security forces in the volatile south. Militants regularly target the police force, which is seen as weaker than the better trained and equipped national army.

Last week, 11 officers were killed when militants attacked their checkpoint north of Kandahar city.

More than 900 policemen were among the 8,000 people killed last year in insurgency-related violence, officials said. The high casualty rate comes despite some $4 billion the U.S. has spent to train and equip the police in the last three years.

Meanwhile, gunmen abducted two Indian road construction workers and a taxi driver as they were traveling Monday from Herat toward Kabul, police spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmadi said.

Authorities were searching for the men, but have made no arrests, Ahmadi said.

Indian road construction workers have been targeted before in the region. On April 12, a suicide attacker blew himself up next to an Indian road crew, killing two Indian workers and their Afghan driver.
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Associated Press reporter Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.
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Afghan leader says he backs ban on hit Indian soaps
Tue Apr 22, 1:35 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai defended a decision by his government to ban a handful of Indian soap operas, saying they violated his nation's moral standards and culture.

The culture ministry has given several privately run television stations until Tuesday to stop showing certain popular serials based on tales of love, disputes and the daily lives of Indian Hindu families.

At least one has already been taken off air after the ban, which authorities say was prompted by a call from religious scholars who labelled the shows "un-Islamic".

Asked about the move, Karzai told a media briefing his government was committed to media freedom.

But, "like the rest of the countries in the world, we want our television broadcasting to be in line with our culture, based on our society moral standards," Karzai said.

The serials show unveiled Indian women in waist-exposing sarees, sometimes blurred out for the Afghan audience, and couples on dates. Sometimes characters are seen worshipping Hindu statues, which also feature in the background.

Karzai said religious leaders and ordinary citizens had contacted him to complain about the programmes, which are shown across most of the more than a dozen stations that sprung up after the 2001 fall of the Taliban.

The hardline Taliban regime banned television and even images of living creatures as "un-Islamic."

The president also claimed there were a number of "foreign programmes" on Afghan television of a level seen "nowhere in the world."

The tussle over soaps reflects post-Taliban Afghanistan's struggle between modern and ultraconservative values with, for example, the culture ministry also condemning one station for showing Afghan men and women dancing together.
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Afghan TV Station Rejects State Ban On 2 Indian Programs
KABUL (AFP)--Afghanistan's most popular private television station, Tolo, defied a government deadline Tuesday to drop two hit Indian soap operas deemed to violate Afghan culture, saying the order was illegal.

Two other television stations have already canceled shows that the culture ministry has ordered must not be aired, a decision backed by President Hamid Karzai Monday.

"We won't ban our serials," Tolo director Jahid Mohseni told AFP. "The government action is illegal ... it's not based on law but on the personal opinion of the culture minister."

The controversial minister, conservative Soviet-era resistance jihadist Abdul Karim Khurram, ordered five Indian serials to be pulled from television, saying he had received complaints from religious circles.

His spokesman, Hamid Nasery, reiterated Tuesday that if all shows were not off air by Tuesday evening the ministry would take court action.

"If they don't stop airing those serials, their cases will be referred to legal authorities," Nasery told AFP.

The two soaps Tolo refused to drop are "Tulsi," said to be the most popular in Afghanistan, and "Kasauti Zindagi Kay" (Tests of Life).

Ariana Television pulled "Kumkum," named after its central character, and Noorin TV dropped "Dar Intizar" (Awaiting), the broadcasters told AFP.

Small station Afghan TV has also been ordered to cancel a serial of Aladdin- like tales called "Thief of Baghdad," but could not be contacted Tuesday to confirm whether it would obey.

The shows, which were criticized as "un-Islamic" by the country's top religious council, the Ulema Council, feature unveiled Indian Hindu women in waist-exposing saris and sometimes include Hindu deities.

Karzai told reporters Monday his government was committed to media freedom but "we want our television broadcasting to be in line with our culture, based on our society's moral standards."

But Tolo's Mohseni said the culture ministry was acting "against the law, constitution and media freedom."

"We are requesting from the leadership of this country to urgently take action to stop the activities of the Ministry of Information and Culture that are counter to the laws of this country, that are only inflaming the public," he said.
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Afghan Ministry Bans the Broadcast of 5 Foreign Soap Operas
The New York Times - World By ABDUL WAHEED WAFA and CARLOTTA GALL April 22, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan -After four years of watching television programs test the boundaries of decorum and build devoted audiences in the process, conservatives are striking back.

In the latest battle of the long-simmering war between cultural conservatives and liberals, the minister for information and culture ordered television networks to stop broadcasting five soap operas on Tuesday, saying they were not in keeping with “Afghan religion and culture.”

The minister, Abdul Karim Khurram, said last week that he had made the decision in consultation with the Council of Clerics, made up of the country’s most influential religious leaders.

The private television companies initially refused to obey the order and said they would plead their case to Afghanistan’s president. The television shows, all soap operas produced in India, continued to be broadcast every evening and have much of the urban population hooked.

As the deadline approached, however, one network, Ariana TV, buckled and pulled one of the soap operas, “Kumkum,” on Sunday. The network was immediately deluged with calls from viewers, said Abdul Qadir Mirzal, Ariana’s chief news editor.

Control of television and its content has been a hotly debated issue here for decades. The strictly conservative Taliban government banned it outright, and the government before that, run by mujahedeen leaders, banned female singers and presenters.

But under President Hamid Karzai, who is backed by the West, television has flourished, with 17 private television companies starting in the past six years, 11 of them based in Kabul, the capital. Numerous cable television companies also provide a wide selection of foreign films and television shows.

The Afghan networks present a mix of news, popular-music programs and imported serials and soap operas, and are hugely popular, drawing crowds in teahouses and ice cream parlors. Call-in shows, including an Afghan version of “American Idol,” also have large followings, as do news programs.

Many viewers in this struggling country are so absorbed by the soap operas that they rush home in the evening to find out what happens next. Will Prina on “Life’s Test” convince her husband that she is not having an affair with a tycoon, Mr. Bajaj? Can Tulsi, the heroine of “Because the Mother-in-Law Was Once the Daughter-in-Law,” ward off the schemes of her husband’s former mistress? Both shows are among the five banned by Mr. Khurram, the minister of culture.

The television companies have also made themselves felt on the political front, not only by broadcasting probing news reports but also by taking sides in ethnic and language debates, which reflect political divisions in Afghanistan.

As Afghanistan prepares for a presidential election next year, some station owners and journalists contend that the ban on television programs is part of a political tussle for control of the airwaves. Political party leaders have opened their own television stations, which are already challenging the Karzai government.

President Karzai has signaled that he sides with the conservatives in the controversy over the serials. Although he said that he would ensure the freedom of the media while he was in power, he has said several times that programs that go against Afghan culture should not be allowed.

Despite his liberal leanings, Mr. Karzai has been swayed before by conservatives on cultural issues. After complaints in Parliament two years ago, Mr. Karzai appointed the more conservative Mr. Khurram as minister of culture, replacing Sayed Makhdoom Raheen, who oversaw the expansion of free media after the fall of the Taliban.

Mr. Khurram ordered the ban of the five shows after strong protests in Parliament over a recent televised awards ceremony on a private station, Tolo TV, that showed Afghan men and women dancing together, an activity that is virtually taboo in this country.

Mr. Khurram has defended his action, saying he did less than the Council of Clerics, or Ulema, had asked.

“The Ulema wanted to ban all TV serials,” Mr. Khurram said in an interview. “But I tried hard to ban only those serials that caused the most upset.”

Describing one of the soap operas broadcast by Tolo TV, he said, “There are scenes that are difficult for an Afghan family to watch, such as that of a woman with more than one husband.”

A member of the Council of Clerics, Said Enayatullah Baligh, who is the imam of Kabul’s large Pul-i-Khisti mosque, confirmed the council’s opposition to the television programs. “These are not acceptable to our faith and culture, and we will campaign to ban them,” he said.

Abdul Hamid Mubariz, director of the National Association of Journalists, an independent group that supports Afghan journalists and media organizations, called the ban “unjustifiable.”

“Our position is clear, and we defend the freedom of speech,” said Mr. Mubariz, who is a former deputy minister of information and culture. Under the law, complaints about media content should be first considered by a media commission and programs cannot be banned outright by the minister, he and others said.

Ehsanullah Arianzai, director of Ariana TV, the network that acceded to the order to drop “Kumkum,” suggested that some of the politicians calling for the ban were motivated less by beliefs than by business concerns. He said they had started rival television stations and that they were having difficulty competing with the established ones.

The ban would hurt Ariana TV financially, Mr. Arianzai said. “From a commercial perspective, it would put pressure on us as we receive a lot of advertising for these serials,” he said.

The television companies defend the shows largely on the basis of their popularity. The companies said they had already edited out culturally offensive scenes, like those in which actors exposed too much flesh.
Masoud Qeyam, a senior reporter and editor for Tolo TV, said his station used the revenue from the popular soap operas to finance its highly regarded news programs. “These programs have the largest number of people watching them,” he said. “It is through them that we are able to broadcast other programs, such as the news.”

Tolo’s executives said Monday that they were resisting the ban but that they had not decided what to do beyond the deadline.
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Pakistani Taliban welcome release of militant chief: spokesman
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) - A spokesman for Taliban rebels in Pakistan on Tuesday welcomed the release of a top militant chief who led Islamist fighters against foreign forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

Pakistan on Monday freed Sufi Mohammad, the chief of banned hardline group Tahreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM), following a peace agreement with tribal elders. He had spent seven years in detention.

His release came after the new government said it would hold talks with militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, abandoning President Pervez Musharraf's military-based counterinsurgency strategy.

"We welcome his release, it is a positive development and augurs well for peace in the area," Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for Tehreek-e-Taliban (Taliban Movement) Pakistan, told reporters in Peshawar by telephone.

"If the government accepts our other demands and frees all those held illegally and imposes Sharia (Islamic law), it would be good for the country," Omar added.

Omar said the Taliban were still waiting for the release of Abdul Aziz, the leader of the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which was stormed by government troops in July last year with the loss of more than 100 lives.

Aziz remains under detention. Pakistani forces captured him fleeing the mosque while dressed in a woman's all-covering burqa.

Officials said Mohammad's release had no links with the efforts to secure the release of Islamabad's ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin, who went missing in February in Pakistan's Khyber tribal district.

"The negotiations for the release of Sufi Mohammad had been going on long before the envoy went missing," a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Mohammad was arrested in October 2001 as he returned from Afghanistan with his followers after the US-led military launched a campaign to oust the fundamentalist Taliban regime.

Mohammad and around 30 other militants freed on Monday are going back to their homes, said Sardar Hussain Babek, the information minister of troubled North West Frontier Province.

"They have assured us that they will remain peaceful and no TNSM member will indulge in subversive activities," Babek told AFP.

"The release is in line with our policy of peaceful dialogue and it will help restore peace and order in Swat region," he said.

Swat, a scenic northwestern tourist area, has been wracked by clashes between militants and troops since late last year, part of a wave of violence across Pakistan that has left at least 2,000 people dead since early 2007.

Mohammad met chief minister Amir Haider Hoti late Saturday but did not speak to media. Followers covered his face from waiting cameramen because they view images of the human form as unIslamic.
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EU advises Pakistan against talks with al Qaeda
Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:07am EDT
ISLAMABAD, April 22 (Reuters) - The European Union's foreign policy chief said Pakistan should resist talking with al Qaeda in its efforts to quell militancy in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Javier Solana told a news conference in Islamabad that al Qaeda leaders were operating outside Pakistan's law and constitution.

When asked whether he supported the idea of Pakistan negotiating with them, Solana gave a firm response: "The answer is no."

Western allies are concerned that any let-up in military pressure on militants in the semi-autonomous ethnic Pashtun tribal lands will give al Qaeda breathing space to organise fresh attacks in the West.

Pakistan's new government, sworn in at the end of March, wants to break with the policies of President Pervez Musharraf, whose strategies, ranging from military offensives to appeasement, resulted in mounting violence over the past year.

Musharraf has deployed close to 90,000 troops along the Pakistan-Afghan border to counter the threat from al Qaeda and the Taliban.

But the troops are regarded as trespassers by many of the fiercely independent, and religiously conservative Pashtuns.

The new government wants to convince people that their real enemies are the foreign militants and tribal renegades who have brought violence to their lands.

The coalition government, which includes a secular ethnic Pashtun party, hopes to persuade all but the most recalcitrant tribesmen to put away their arms and has ruled out talking to foreign militants.

"The government would want to give dialogue and reconciliation its utmost full chance," Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the newsconference, adding that there were "other options" if this failed.

Qureshi also dismissed talk of any link between efforts to free Pakistan's kidnapped ambassador to Afghanistan and the release of an old and infirm militant leader.

Sufi Mohammad, a cleric and leader of the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi (Movement for Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law), was freed on Monday.

On Saturday, an Arabic news channel aired a videotape of the Pakistani envoy, Tariq Azizuddin, calling for the government to meet the demands of his Taliban captors.

Azizuddin was kidnapped, along with his driver, in February in Pakistan's Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border. (Reporting by Aftab Borqa; Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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Indian, Nepalese abducted in Afghanistan: officials
Tue Apr 22, 6:05 AM ET
HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) - An Indian and a Nepalese national working at security training camps in western Afghanistan have been kidnapped, apparently by the Taliban, police and a security firm said Tuesday.

Initial investigations found the pair were abducted by Taliban militants late Monday in Herat province, the Afghan interior ministry said.

The ministry said both men were Indians, but a US-based company providing security for the Herat training camp where the pair was based identified the missing men as an Indian and a Nepalese national.

The Indian government also confirmed one of its citizens was missing.

Sayed Ibrar Hashimi, the Herat security chief for the company, EOD Technology Inc, said the pair and their Afghan driver had been travelling late Monday to the district of Adraskan, which borders Iran.

"Before reaching the district, armed men kidnapped them," Hashimi told AFP, citing information provided by the driver.

The driver said he had been freed but the two foreign nationals were taken away, he said. Police are questioning the driver.

Hashimi said the men were employed by an Indian company called HED. The Indian national was a logistics officer in charge of purchasing and the Nepalese worked on food supply for the Afghan police training camps, he said.

The police spokesman for western Afghanistan, Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, told AFP the pair had called police late Monday and said: "We're in trouble."

"After we sent our police to the area, they had gone missing. We found their vehicle abandoned," Ahmadi said.

"They're kidnapped," Ahmadi said, adding however that police had not been contacted by any group that may have taken the men.

The interior ministry said in a statement that the men had been travelling by taxi to the district when they were kidnapped. "The national police's initial findings show that Taliban have abducted these people," it said.

In New Delhi, the Indian foreign ministry confirmed one of its nationals was missing. "We are investigating," said an official who asked not to be named.

Taliban insurgents have been blamed for scores of such abductions over the past years, but criminal gangs also snatch people to extort ransom.

Two Indian engineers were killed in the southwestern province of Nimroz on April 12 in a double suicide attack claimed by the Taliban.
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Afghans protest over rocketing food prices
JALALABAD, Afghanistan, April 22, 2008 (AFP) - About 400 people demonstrated in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday against skyrocketing food prices, witnesses said, in the country's first protest at food costs rising worldwide.

The demonstrators blocked a key road linking the eastern town of Jalalabad to the capital Kabul and demanded the government step in to control prices at food markets.

"We can't afford to buy food. We want the government to control the prices," said one demonstrator, Rais Khan.

The protestors in particularly lashed out at Pakistan, which is the main supplier of food to Afghanistan but which in the past month has stopped wheat exports to its neighbour.

"Down with Pakistan," demonstrators shouted, said an AFP reporter who put the crowd at 400.

The demonstration was the first such protest in Afghanistan, which is heavily reliant on food imports.

Rising fuel and food costs pushed inflation here to 17 percent in December, according to the Asian Development Bank, while around the world the increasing prices have prompted riots and protests.

The costs of wheat flour has reportedly more than doubled over the past year, with the prices of other staples such as oil and sugar also rising.

The government said Tuesday it was in contact with Kazakhstan, Pakistan and other countries about buying in 50 million dollars' of wheat.

These nations were only willing to sell to the government and not the private sector, which may hoard the food or try to profit from it, presidential spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters in Kabul.

"Countries like Kazakhstan, Pakistan and India, where we traditionally purchase food, also face food shortages and that is why they are not ready to sell food under easy circumstances to the private sector," he said.

However, "We must make it clear that we are not facing famine but expensive prices," he said.
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Afghan Foreign Minister due on Tuesday
Islamabad, April 21, IRNA
Afghan Foreign Minister Dr Rangeen Dadfar Spanta arrives in Islamabad on Tuesday for bilateral talks with the new government, official and diplomatic sources said.

Spanta will hold bilateral talks with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on wide-ranging issues, focusing on cooperation to fight militants.

It is Afghan foreign minister's first visit to Pakistan after the formation of new government last month.

The Afghan foreign minister will also call on President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to convey message of goodwill from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the sources said.
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Al-Qaida No. 2 says 9/11 theory propagated by Iran
By MAGGIE MICHAEL Associated Press / April 22, 2008
CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden's chief deputy in an audiotape Tuesday accused Shiite Iran of trying to discredit the Sunni al-Qaida terror network by spreading the conspiracy theory that Israel was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

The comments reflected al-Qaida's No. 2 leader Ayman al-Zawahri's increasing criticism of Iran. Al-Zawahri has accused Iran in recent messages of seeking to extend its power in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and through its Hezbollah allies in Lebanon.

The authenticity of the two-hour audio recording posted on an Islamic Web site could not be independently confirmed. But the voice sounded like past audiotapes from the terror leader, and the posting where it was found bore the logo of Al-Sahab, al-Qaida's official media arm.

It was the second of two messages answering questions that were posted to Islamic militant Web sites earlier this year.

One of the questioners asked about the theory that has circulated in the Middle East and elsewhere that Israel was behind the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Al-Zawahri accused Hezbollah's Al-Manar television of starting the rumor.

"The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it," he said.

"Iran's aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

Iran cooperated with the United States in the 2001 U.S. assault on Afghanistan that toppled al-Qaida's allies, the Taliban.

Answering questions about Iraq in Tuesday's tape, al-Zawahri said the insurgent umbrella group led by al-Qaida, called the Islamic State of Iraq, is "the primary force opposing the Crusaders and challenging Iranian ambitions" in Iraq, he said, referring to the Americans.

As he often does in his messages, al-Zawahri denounced the "Crusader invasion" of Iraq, but in Tuesday's tape he paired it with a mention of "Iranian complicity" or "Iranian agents."

In the latest tape, al-Zawahri was also asked if the terror group had further plans to attack Western countries that participated in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and subsequent war.

"My answer is: Yes! We think that any country that has joined aggression on Muslims must be deterred," he replied.

In response to a question signed by the Japanese news agency Kyodo asking if Japan remains a target because it once had troops in Iraq, al-Zawahri said "Japan provided help under the banner of the crusader coalition ... therefore it participated in the Crusader campaign against the lands of Islam."

Japan deployed non-combat troops to southern Iraq in 2003 to carry out reconstruction work. It withdrew its troops from Iraq in 2006 and now conducts airlifts to help supply U.S.-led forces in that country.

Al-Zawahri spoke on a wide range of issues, even global warming, which he said reflected "how criminal, brutal and greedy the Western Crusader world is, with America at the top."

He predicted that global warming would "make the world more sympathetic to and understanding of the Muslims' jihad against the aggressor America."

Asked if there are any women in al-Qaida, the terror leader answered simply: "No." In a follow-up answer, he said: "There are no women in al-Qaida jihadi group, but the women of the mujahedeen are playing a heroic role in taking care of their houses and sons."

In several parts of Tuesday's audio message, Al-Zawahri claimed that the Taliban took over 95 percent of Afghanistan and is sweeping Pakistan as well.

"The Crusaders and their agents in Pakistan and Afghanistan are starting to fall," he said.

In another answer Tuesday, al-Zawahri said it was against Islamic religious law for any Muslim to live permanently in a Western country because in doing so they would "have permanent stay there under the laws of the infidels."

Al-Qaida's media arm, Al-Sahab, announced in December that al-Zawahri would take questions from the public posted on Islamic militant Web sites and would respond "as soon as possible." Queries were submitted on the main Islamist Web site until the cutoff date of Jan. 16.
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UK fails to extend would-be Taliban's jail term
April 22, 2008
LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has lost a bid to extend the "unduly lenient" jail term given to a London dentist for planning to fight for the Taliban and "kill many" British and U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

Pakistan-born Sohail Qureshi was jailed for 4-1/2 years in January for preparing to commit attacks but Attorney General Patricia Scotland appealed, arguing the sentence was "unduly lenient."

However, London's Court of Appeal rejected that call on Tuesday, with senior judge Lord Nicholas Phillips saying that while the term was lenient it was "not unduly lenient."

He said links between Qureshi, described as a "Walter Mitty" fantasist character and acts of terrorism were "relatively remote."

Qureshi, 30, was arrested in October 2006 at Heathrow Airport as he prepared to fly to Pakistan with about 9,000 pounds ($17,780) in cash, medical supplies and night vision gear.

He pleaded guilty to preparing for the commission of terrorist acts, possessing an article for a terrorist purpose and possession of records likely to be useful in terrorism.

It was the first conviction under a 2006 law covering cases where suspects are preparing to commit an act of terrorism but fall short of having a concrete plan in place.

Prosecutors said he was a "dedicated supporter of Islamist extremism."

Police had found a posting he had made on a militant Web site referring to his Pakistan trip which read: "All I know is that it is a two or three-week operation. Pray that I will kill many, brother. Revenge, revenge, revenge."

Lawyers for the Attorney General had argued that the starting point for his sentence should have been between 10 and 16 years.

But Appeal Court judge Brian Barker said that while Qureshi had admitted "grave charges," the offences were at the lower end of the spectrum.

Qureshi will now walk free in about a year.

(Editing by Sami Aboudi)
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Why Britons walked warily in Waziristan
By Alastair Lawson BBC News / Monday, 21 April 2008
In 1919, a young British army officer, Francis Stockdale, was deployed to the Waziristan area of British India.

The title of his book, "Walk Warily in Waziristan" seems no less appropriate now than it did 90 years ago, because today the autonomous Pakistani tribal region of North and South Waziristan is the centre of militancy orchestrated by pro-Taleban and al-Qaeda militants.

It is also an area where many believe the al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, may be hiding after the September 2001 World Trade Centre attacks.

It wasn't until the 1980s that Capt Stockdale's family published a handful of copies of the book, only a few of which survive. But because or renewed interest in the region, the family in the English county of Norfolk are considering reprinting it.

'Wait, watch and pounce'

The book provides a fascinating account of what was regarded then - as it is today - as a thoroughly dangerous area.

One of the main towns close to Waziristan is Tank. Capt Stockdale describes it as being "the worst station in British India".

"It was known as 'Hell's door knocker' because in the summer the temperature would rise so high that a village nearby rejoiced in the highest temperature in the world - a modest 131 degrees in the shade.

"But it was also an area where hostile tribesman waited, watched and pounced," he wrote.

"My memories of Tank are characterised by sporadic outbreaks of rifle fire by night and spasmodic outbreaks of cholera during the day. The town fully deserved its poor reputation."

Capt Stockdale goes on to describe just how dangerous the "hostile tribesmen" were in the Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, when a sniper infiltrated a British camp.

"Like all tribesmen in this area, he was a marvellous shot," Capt Stockdale wrote, "and he killed the commanding officer with his first shot.

"He killed or wounded 11 other men before his hiding place was discovered."

'Passionate letters'

Ninety years ago, it seemed that British troops in Waziristan faced the same kind of dangers as Pakistani troops in the region do today.

"One one occasion, tribesmen rolled down boulders in front of a military convoy - effectively cutting them off. I could hear the firing in the distance and there were lots of casualties."

Getting captured, it seemed, was not an option: "It would result in death by torture, an activity which I was informed the tribal women folk used to luxuriate."

The shortage of female company in these remote outposts of the British empire played heavily on officers and men alike.

Capt Stockdale describes the lucky escape of one soldier who took to writing passionate letters to his wife and his mistress from a British encampment in the region that was surrounded by tribesmen.

"Waiting for a target, they got bored and fired a bullet at random into the camp. It removed the digit finger of the man's right hand as he was writing to the loves of his life.

"That incident kept me on the straight and narrow path for many months to come - not that there were many opportunities in Waziristan to be tempted or led astray!"

'Ransom papers'

A book packed with colourful reminiscences, Capt Stockdale describes many of his brother officers.

These included Whipples, who wore a monocle every time the bullets started flying and specialised in using camels to provide supplies of whisky and gin in remote areas.

"The tribesmen got Whipples in the end and I guarantee the monocle was in when the last bullet hit him," he wrote.

He also describes attempts by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) to drop bombs on tribesmen encamped close to the border with Afghanistan.

"Their bombs did not always explode upon hitting the earth and the tribesmen soon adapted themselves to shooting at flying targets. The pilots carried ransom papers, so if they were captured and returned to safety, the reward would be large."

Some of the unexploded bombs dropped by the RFC were "collected by the tribesmen who used them to decorate their mud huts or houses".

Local fighters in the 1920s were as tough then as they are now.

"We often used to ask ourselves, how could they survive so long living in a rocky area, with a film of earth capable of growing only scrub trees?"

Capt Stockdale ended up serving two years in Waziristan and considered himself lucky to be returning home.

"Many of my friends were killed, but I lived 60 years since then," he wrote.

Capt Stockdale - who was later promoted to be a major - died in 1989 aged 93.
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RAF destroys £10m spy plane in Afghanistan
By Stephen Adams Daily Telegraph (UK) - Apr 22 4:04 AM
The RAF deliberately blew up one of its own £10 million spy planes after it crash landed over Taliban territory in Afghanistan.
 
Faced with the prospect of the technology falling into enemy hands, commanders immediately despatched an elite unit to remove "sensitive items" from the unmanned Reaper spy drone.

Reapers are used to relay real-time information about the enemy's position back to battlefield planners
The items were thought to be a high-intensity camera and memory chips.

When the elite unit had done its job and left the area, a RAF Harrier was called in to destroy the remains of the crashed plane with a 1,000lb laser-guided bomb.

A military source said: "There was no way we could take even the slightest risk of the Taliban getting hold of any parts."

advertisementThe top-secret Reaper, which had only been in service for six months, is thought to have suffered an engine failure before it was forced to land in southern Afghanistan on April 9.

The Ministry of Defence has refused to discuss why the 66ft wingspan, single-engine Reaper was forced to crash land, but ruled out enemy action.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "We can confirm that on 9 April, a Reaper UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] made a forced landing whilst on an operation over a remote unpopulated area of southern Afghanistan.

"Sensitive items were recovered and the remaining wreckage was destroyed.

"The reason for the forced landing is under investigation, however mechanical issues are suspected."

The RAF bought three of the US-made Reapers last year.

The RAF announced in November that it had started using them to gather intelligence on Taliban activities in Afghanistan.

The Reapers are used to relay real-time information about the enemy's position back to battlefield planners.

Defence analyst Charles Heyman, a former British Army major, said it was a mistake to think that the Taliban could not learn lessons if they got their hands on a crashed Reaper.

He said: "It's wrong to think of the Taliban as not being sophisticated technologically. Certainly there are people in the Taliban's ranks who are just as technologically capable with information technology as anyone in the world."

According to the US Department of Defence Security Cooperation Agency, Britain is looking at buying another 10 Reapers as part of a wider £540 million deal.
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Czech soldiers train Afghan policemen in Logar
Prague Daily Monitor - Apr 21 11:20 PM
Prague/Kabul, April 21 (CTK) - Soldiers from the Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), since recently operating in the east Afghan province Logar, have taken up the training of the local police forces from the Americans, the Czech Defence Ministry said Monday.

The ongoing two-week course of members of the Afghan National Police (ANP) started on April 15.

Czech instructor Petr Fuerst said two weeks are too short a time for a training course. "We would need two months at least," he said.

Out of all Afghan security forces, the police have suffered the greatest losses in conflicts with the Taliban rebels.

In 2007, violence in the country claimed the lives of 8,000 people, including mainly civilians and rebels but also 930 ANP officers.

Czech PRT officer Sabina Introvicova said the ANP's high losses are due to the police's insufficient training and inadequate equipment. It is the ANP officers who come in contact with the radical rebels, she said.

"The training course involves people who joined the ANP only recently. Apart from being illiterate, they cannot handle weapons," Introvicova said.

"They know neither the basic rules for people to survive an attack nor the combat tactic," she said.

The Czech PRT has been operating in Logar since March. It includes about 200 soldiers and ten civilian experts. It is set to operate in the province for three years at least and try to contribute to its development.

The security situation is different in individual areas of Logar. Some areas are relatively stable, while others are still out of the allied units' control.
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Czechs may send special unit to Afghanistan
Ceské noviny
Prague- The Czech government wants to send perhaps as many as 100 soldiers from the Prostejov, South Moravia, special unit to Afghanistan in May to fulfil combat tasks within special operation under U.S. command.

The cabinet decided to send the troops at its closed session on April 9 and has not officially confirmed the proposal.

However, it has submitted it to the Chamber of Deputies that must approve it. The Senate must do so, too.

The parliament is likely to decide on the mission at its session that starts today.

Members of the 601st special forces unit from Prostejov had served in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2006.

Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said earlier the soldiers would serve within the Enduring Freedom operation in very dangerous areas of the country and would not be part of NATO units.

The parliament will decide on the deployment of the Prostejov special unit between May and end of the year.

The mission will cost some 213 million crowns from the Defence Ministry budget.

Transport costs will be paid by the USA at whose request the Czech government has proposed the mission.
(USD1=15.782 Czech crowns)
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British soldier killed in blast in Afghan south
Tue Apr 22, 7:52 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - A British soldier was killed in the southern Afghan province of Helmand when his vehicle was hit by a suspected minestrike, the British Ministry of Defence said late on Monday.

After the traditional winter lull, violence has surged in recent weeks in Afghanistan where the Taliban regularly use roadside bombs as part of their campaign to topple the government and drive the foreign forces that back it.

In a separate latest reported violence, four Taliban and three Afghan policemen were killed in a clash in Marouf district of neighboring Kandahar on Monday night, a provincial police officer Mohammad Anwar told a Reuters reporter.

The fighting erupted after Taliban attacked a police checkpost, he said.

The British soldier was killed on Monday while the vehicle was providing security to a resupply convoy traveling from the district of Gereshk to Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand, the ministry said.

The death brings the number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001 to 94. There are some 7,800 British troops in Afghanistan mainly stationed in the south.

Three soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were also wounded in two separate explosions in the south of the country, the ISAF said.

(Reporting by Jonathon Burch and Saeed Ali Achakzai, Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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US Marines honor 2 comrades killed in Afghanistan, first deaths since new deployment
By JASON STRAZIUSO,Associated Press Writer AP - Wednesday, April 23
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan - More than 100 U.S. Marines stood at attention before four empty boots and two sets of dog tags Tuesday to honor the first Marines to die in Afghanistan since their unit's deployment last month.

1st Sgt. Luke J. Mercardante, 35, and Cpl. Kyle W. Wilks, 24, died in a roadside bomb explosion in the Panjwayi district of Kandahar province on April 15, said Lt. Col. Ricky Brown, the commander of Combat Logistics Battalion 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, based at Camp Lejuene, North Carolina.

Dark, overcast skies, a blustery wind and light droplets of rain reflected the ceremony's mood. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tom Nagy, a medical officer attached to the Marine unit, read from a letter Mercardante wrote to his sister.

"I want no person to ever feel sad or pity for me or my Marines as we endure hardship and sacrifice, as this is our calling with the unknown outcome being that of God's master plan," Nagy quoted Mercardante as writing.

The attack came during the Marines' first movement outside NATO's main southern base at Kandahar and hit Mercardante, the battalion's top noncommissioned officer, Brown said.

"It was our first convoy outside the gate, and everyone looked up to 1st Sgt. Mercardante. Short of Col. Brown, it couldn't have hit anyone more dear to the unit," Nagy said after the ceremony.

Roadside and suicide bomb attacks have spiked in the last several years, as Taliban insurgents increase the use of what military officials call "asymmetric" attacks. In late 2006, the Taliban suffered hundreds of casualties in major battles in Panjwayi _ where the roadside bomb went off _ and have avoided force-on-force confrontations ever since.

The two deaths bring to 18 the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press tally. Last year, 111 U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan. About 3,500 Marines were deployed to Afghanistan last month to help the 40-nation mission battle the Taliban insurgency. The U.S. now has 32,000 troops in the country.

Mercardante, of Athens, Georgia, and Wilks, of Rogers, Arkansas, were riding in a Humvee, the fourth vehicle of a 36-vehicle convoy, Brown said. A militant monitoring the main highway set the device off, he said.
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Ambassador: Chabahar port important for Afghanistan economy
Chabahar, April 22, IRNA  
the Afghan ambassador to Tehran heading a delegation arrived in Chabahar Free Trade Zone on Tuesday.

During the visit, Mohammad Yahya Maroofi held talks with Managing Director of Chabahar Free Trade Zone Organization Mohammad Taher Baqeri Zadeh and a number of provincial officials on issues of mutual interest.

"Chabahar port is of utmost importance to Afghanistan's economy," the ambassador said.

Maroofi added that Chabahar port can play a pivotal role in connecting the two countries.

Referring to the investment in Chabahar by some Afghan tradesmen, he said, "We are interested in using investment opportunities in this place."
Referring to a proposal of the Iranian government on utilization of the capacities of Chabahar Free Trade Zone, the ambassador termed the proposal as a gift for the Afghan government.

Pointing to both countries' commonalties, Maroofi underlined that Iran and Afghanistan enjoy long-standing friendly relationship.

He further noted that the Islamic Republic has always helped Afghanistan during its tough days.

The managing director of Chabahar Free Trade Zone, for his part, said that Chabahar plays a positive role in Afghanistan economy.

Baqeri Zadeh noted that the presence of Afghan tradesmen in the region plays a key role in economic growth and development of Chabahar Free Trade Zone.
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AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN: Afghan refugee settlements demolished at Jalozai
22 Apr 2008 16:30:33 GMT
KABUL, 22 April 2008 (IRIN) - Shops and mud-huts owned by Afghan refugees in Jalozai refugee camp in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province have been demolished and refugees who still live there have been ordered to vacate the area by the end of April, according to Pakistani officials and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"Most of the shops in Jalozai's main bazaar have been demolished, except for the few shops owned by Pakistanis," Nader Farhar, a UNHCR spokesman, told IRIN in Kabul on 22 April.

"Vacated clusters [settlements] of the refugee village have been demolished, but not the areas that are still inhabited," he said.

The repatriation of Afghan refugees and the bulldozing of their properties in the Jalozai refugee village started at the beginning of April, according to a previous agreement between the UNHCR and the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The closure of the camp, where some 80,000 refugees lived, was scheduled to take place in September 2007, but aid agencies had demanded a six-month suspension due to extremely cold winter in Afghanistan.

Waqar Zeb, an official in the Afghan Refugee Commission in Peshawar, said Jalozai was expected to be shut down completely by 15 April, but the process had been delayed because some refugees had resisted vacating the area.

"Now we have decided to finish the job by 30 April," Zeb said.

Reluctant to return

The worsening security situation in Afghanistan, the lack of job opportunities and limited access to land are among the factors which have increasingly discouraged some Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran to repatriate, according to several research papers by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the UNHCR.

Pakistan hosts about 2.4 million Afghans who are allowed to stay there until December 2009.

Registered refugees leaving Jalozai can either voluntarily return to their home country or move to already designated areas in Pakistan, UNHCR said.

However, many refugees slammed the Jalozai closure saying both options - return to Afghanistan or relocation in Pakistan - were detrimental to them.

"They've destroyed our houses and shops, and now they tell us to go and build new ones - it's inhumane and ridiculous," said an elderly refugee, Zaman Gul.

"We're destitute refugees and cannot afford to build new houses or make a living somewhere else," cried another man.

Others said they could not return to Afghanistan due to insecurity, land problems and lack of employment opportunities.

According to the UNHCR, over five million Afghans have returned to their homeland since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The UNHCR pays up to US$100 per person to refugees who voluntarily return to Afghanistan - an incentive not available for refugees who prefer relocation inside Pakistan.

Over 6,000 Afghan refugees have repatriated from Jalozai since March 2008, while at least 38 families have said they want to move to a refugee village in Mianwali, in Pakistan's Punjab Province, the UNHCR said.
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Pakistan resumes forcing Afghan refugees to return home
By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers via Yahoo Mon Apr 21, 6:53 PM ET
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistani authorities have resumed sending tens of thousands of Afghan refugees, many of whom have lived for decades in camps near the Afghanistan - Pakistan border, back to Afghanistan.

The ouster of the Afghans from the massive Jalozai refugee camp just east of Peshawar was put on hold last week after fighting broke out along the highway that leads through the legendary Khyber Pass to the Afghan border.

On Sunday, however, brightly colored trucks were making their way through the pass again, loaded with the worldly possessions of thousands of Afghan families. Women and children perched on top as the trucks lurched forward.

An estimated 2,000 Afghan refugees passed through the border checkpoint at Torkham on Sunday. They came in giant, open-top trucks, heavily laden with everything from doors, window frames and beds to piles of wooden beams and planks that will be used to construct homes in Afghanistan .

Rahul Amin , a bus conductor, was born in Jalozai. Now 19, he said that Pakistan is his home.

"We don't think of Afghanistan as our country," he said. "When I have raised my voice, it is for Pakistan ."

Jalozai was established in 1980 as Afghans began fleeing the Soviet invasion of their country, and it was the largest and oldest camp for Afghan refugees in Pakistan , once housing 80,000 people in a small city of solid mud or brick homes, electricity, running water and schools.

Last week, bulldozers moved in to begin demolition, making rubble of the houses and shops that once stood along the settlement's main road. Neat piles of bricks and wood marked what some refugees had salvaged for resale. Others are taking the material with them.

Shah Ghasi, 70, sat alongside a pile of wood, hoping for customers. His home in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan , was destroyed during the Soviet invasion of the 1980s. He's been at Jalozai for 24 years.

"We are homeless here now, and we will be homeless there" in Afghanistan , he said. "I don't have the money to go."

More than 3 million Afghans fled to Pakistan , where they've lived ever since without being given citizenship.

"In other countries, you get citizenship after five years, here you don't get it after 20 years," said 21-year-old Hazmat Khan. "This (Jalozai) was just a jungle. We turned it into a town. There wasn't even a donkey here before."

"My younger brother went to Kabul . He doesn't have so much as water there."

A Pakistani official at the camp, who declined to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters, said that 1,043 families had left the camp as of Saturday. Some 10,000 families remain.

The official said that refugees had the option of relocating to another camp, but just 38 families had done so. "They signed a contract with us; 50 (Afghan) elders signed an agreement to leave. Their continued stay here is illegal," he said.

It costs about $400 to hire a truck to take a family and its possessions to Afghanistan . In Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, returning families can claim $100 per person from the United Nations .

Pakistani authorities had set April 15 as the deadline for all refugees to leave Jalozai. It was the second deadline; the first had been extended by six months. But this time, the authorities meant business, sending in the bulldozers.

Pakistan plans to send all Afghan refugees back by the end of 2009. But the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Pakistan has warned that so speedy a resettlement program risks creating a humanitarian crisis, given the conflict in Afghanistan .

"There are not the jobs for these people in Afghanistan . It is not sustainable," said UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan in Islamabad . "They will only come back to Pakistan ."

Pakistan's haste may be tied to security concerns. Jalozai and other camps were once the breeding ground for anti-Soviet jihadis. These days, a different breed of jihadi, the Taliban, are believed to use them as places to rest between campaigns.

The Shamshatoo camp is associated with Afghan military commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, while Ustad Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a veteran mujaheddin fighter and hard-line Islamic theologian, allegedly ran Jalozai.

"You never know who comes and who goes in these camps," said Mehmood Shah , a former top provincial interior ministry official. "The government of Pakistan has decided that the Afghan mujaheddin must finally go back."

Shah said that the U.S. officials he'd discussed the issue with were uncertain whether closing the camps was a good idea.

"The U.S. was 50/50 on this issue," Shah said.

(Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.)
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Afghanistan: no way out, says serving U.S. officer
Richard Foot ,  Canwest News Service Monday, April 21, 2008
NATO and coalition forces are "stumbling toward failure" in Afghanistan and no amount of military success against the Taliban will bring an end to the war without a fundamental change in political policy, says a provocative article written by a serving U.S. army officer.

Col. Thomas Lynch, contributing in the latest edition of The American Interest, a Washington-based policy journal, says the U.S. and NATO cannot win in Afghanistan without convincing both Afghans and Pakistanis that Western military and economic support is there to stay.

Only a permanent NATO force - of the kind that guaranteed the security of western Europe after the Second World War, and still safeguards the security of South Korea - can bring about peace and stability in Afghanistan, says Lynch in his article titled "Afghan Dilemmas: Staying Power."

Lynch served as special assistant to the U.S. ambassador to Kabul in 2004. For the past four years he was stationed with the U.S. army in Afghanistan, Iraq and Qatar, and is now on a temporary fellowship with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

In an e-mail interview with Canwest News Service, Lynch also says Canadian forces should consider leaving Kandahar - handing their hard, counter-insurgency role to the Americans - and taking on a new "stability" mission in the less volatile areas of northern or western Afghanistan.

"I am a longtime fan of Canadian military forces," he says. "I served with them in Europe during the Cold War in my early career, and saw them daily in their NATO-ISAF stability and security duties around Kabul in 2004 and 2005. They are good troops."

Yet, despite his admiration for Canadian soldiers, Lynch says Canada, like most European allies, lacks the equipment and resources - helicopters, close-air support, logistics and "economic support tools" -to take charge of the tough, counter-insurgency work required in southern Afghanistan.

He says the U.S. "miscalculated" when it gave NATO control of the counter-insurgency mission in southern Afghanistan in 2006, thinking that peacekeeping and stability work would follow.

Instead, the Taliban insurgency flared up, forcing Canada and other NATO members into a combat role they were not expecting. That in turn, prompted the bickering over troop commitments that now plagues the alliance.

Lynch says NATO's troop commitments are not what ails the mission.

"The mission in Afghanistan is not in jeopardy mainly because NATO members refuse to provide sufficient troops," he says. "The real issue is the transitory and uncertain U.S. military posture in Afghanistan."

Lynch says the key to success lies in the politics of Pakistan, which has long viewed Afghanistan as a source of strategic depth against India: fear of India in the east, and fear of losing control of Afghanistan on its western frontier, have been a driving force in Pakistan since independence. That is why Pakistan helped create the Taliban as a puppet government in Kabul - and why elements of the Pakistan government still support them.

Lynch says only by convincing Pakistan - and the majority of Afghans - of its will to guarantee the security and stability of Afghanistan for decades to come, can the U.S. and its allies put an end to Taliban support, both from inside Pakistan, and from ordinary Afghans.

Consider that the U.S. has abandoned each country to their fates once before, withdrawing from the region soon after the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan.

Today, "our uncertain commitment to Afghanistan has the effect of bolstering Taliban propaganda (while providing) incentives for Pakistan to hedge its bets."

NATO can claim military supremacy over the Taliban, says Lynch, but so what?

"Our focus on tactical military facts obscures the Taliban's overall political success. Sanctuary in Pakistan has enabled the Taliban to evade decisive military engagement in order to rearm, regroup and train to fight another day," he says.

Meanwhile, the Taliban spreads the message: "'America will leave Afghanistan prematurely, as it has abandoned Afghanistan in the past; and when America leaves, we Taliban shall return to power and kill all Afghans who have collaborated with unbelievers.'

"Until we find a way to make this message less than credible," says Lynch, "tactical battlefield successes against the Taliban will amount to little."

What can Canada do towards this goal? Maintain its military commitment to Afghanistan to 2011 and beyond, says Lynch, but more importantly - help convince the U.S. and NATO to guarantee the regional security of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, with long-term political and economic treaties, and a small military force based permanently in Afghanistan.

"I believe that a lasting U.S./NATO strategic presence can be the same kind of force for stability and modernization that the U.S.-led western military coalition was in Korea, and was with NATO in western Europe from 1947 to 1989," says Lynch.

"The U.S.-led coalition is not winning this war . . . now is the time to make a fundamental correction."
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Afghan leader calls for support
Obstacles remain, vice president says at end of U.S. visit
By JOHN IWASAKI Seattle Post Intelligencer
Although Afghanistan has made a dramatic shift to democracy since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, poverty and drug-financed terrorism remain daunting obstacles that require international support to overcome, Afghan Vice President Karim Khalili said Monday during his first visit to the Seattle area.

"Terrorism is not an Afghan phenomenon," Khalili said as he finished a 12-day unofficial visit to the U.S., which included talks with Vice President Dick Cheney and members of Congress.

He said countering terrorism is a complex matter that must also address Afghanistan's intertwined problems of poverty, unemployment, opium production and the insurgency.

"Terrorism is misusing the poverty of the people," using the drug trade to finance suicide attacks and government corruption, Khalili said through a translator during an interview at a Kirkland hotel.

"There is a need for a world will to stand alongside of the Afghan people to fight against the smuggling and cultivation of narcotics," he said.

Khalili, 57, was sworn in as second vice president of post-Taliban Afghanistan in 2004. His U.S. visit was arranged largely through Aziz Sadat, an Afghan-American businessman from Monroe who created the Afghanistan National Institute for Peace and Justice in Kabul.

The organization, which is affiliated with the Conflict Resolution Institute in Tacoma, works on resolving economic, educational and other differences among Afghan tribal leaders.

"We're finding ways to educate and to bring better policies to the Afghan people," Sadat said. "The Afghan people should be the decision makers."

Sadat said many resources for the rebuilding of Afghanistan came from Washington state, including volunteer physicians and donated medicine to refugees.

The U.S. has more than 32,000 troops in Afghanistan, the highest number since the 2001 invasion.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said that the U.S. intends to increase combat forces in 2009.

Khalili said he could not predict how long a U.S. military presence will be needed in Afghanistan, "but there is strong will in the international community to support Afghanistan."

The overall condition of Afghanistan "can't be compared with six years ago," he said, citing significant improvements in health, infrastructure, public policies and democracy.

"We have an elected president, elected parliament, a democratic open society, a huge number of media, freedom of speech," he said, attributing the "unprecedented" situation to support from the U.S.

The aid group Care International said Monday that only 35 percent of the 5.4 million students in Afghanistan's schools are girls, a percentage similar to the past six years.

The group attributed the disparity to a shortage of female teachers, the number of boys-only schools and cultural barriers in the Islamic country.

Khalili acknowledged that "women have been deprived in parts of society," but noted the presence of women in high-ranking government positions and in the lower house of parliament, where about a quarter of the members are female.

This report includes information from The Associated Press. P-I reporter John Iwasaki can be reached at 206-448-8096 or johniwasaki@seattlepi.com
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Afghan government to buy $50 million food relief as prices skyrocket
The Canadian Press
KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan has allocated $50 million to buy food from neighbouring countries amid skyrocketing prices of food staples like wheat.

Panicked Afghans have rushed to shops in recent days to purchase rice, flour and cooking oil.

In one shop in Kabul, 1 kilogram of flour was $1 on Tuesday, up from 80 cents on Sunday.

The UN World Food Program says the cost of a kilogram of wheat in Afghanistan has nearly doubled from 32 cents last year to 60 cents in March.

Government spokesman Humayun Hamidzada says food prices have increased around the world, and that has caused an increase in food prices in Afghanistan.

Hamidzada says the Commerce Ministry has earmarked $50 million for the immediate purchase of food from neighbouring countries, including Pakistan and Kazakhstan.

Surging food prices, stoked by rising fuel costs that have increased production and transport costs, have triggered protests around the world in recent weeks. Riots have erupted over food shortages in the Caribbean and Africa and hunger is approaching crisis stage in parts of Asia.
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Afghans Build an Army, and a Nation
The Wall Street Journal By BRET STEPHENS April 22, 2008
Kabul, Afghanistan -From a hard and arid plain about a 30-minute drive out of downtown Kabul, a squad of Afghan soldiers is mounting an attack on a small rise to the south. Three soldiers lie flat on their stomachs, providing covering fire as four of their comrades rush forward, Kalashnikovs in hand. Shots are fired, startling a visiting columnist.

"Um, they're blanks," explains Lt. Col. Paul Fanning. "Live-fire exercises take place behind that hill over there," he adds, pointing north.

Lt. Col. Fanning, of the New York National Guard, has recently deployed to nearby Camp Alamo to help train the Afghan National Army. Adjacent to the camp is the rehabilitated Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), whose principal ornament is a Soviet T-55 tank chassis mounted with a T-62 turret. In the past six years, more than 70,000 recruits have spent 10 weeks or more learning the basics of soldiering. Of that number, about a third trained here in the last year alone.

I came to Afghanistan with the idea that the key to building a nation is building its army. Militaries attract young men who otherwise would have remained strangers, if not enemies, and might well have joined militias or criminal gangs. Militaries instill discipline, purpose, patriotism, values and the brotherhood of the foxhole. Militaries create their own middle class: The salary of an Afghan private, at $1,300 a year, may seem minuscule but is twice the Afghan average. And militaries get soldiers to fight a common enemy, instead of each other.

That point is not lost at the KMTC, whose motto, "Unity Starts Here," is inscribed in large letters over the entrance gate. On the field, about 100 recruits sit on the clay earth waiting their turn to "take the hill." The faces are Uzbek, Hazara, Tajik, Pashtun; a mixture that is nearly as racially and ethnically diverse as what you'll find in the U.S. military. Dari and Pashto are spoken interchangeably, but the army being forged here is a genuinely national one.

It is also one that's willing to fight. "The Afghan soldiers are a lot tougher than the Iraqis," says Lt. James Harryman, one of the British trainers on site. "This is a warrior culture." Between March 1, 2007, and March 30, 2008, some 370 Afghan soldiers were killed in Afghanistan – by comparison, U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan numbered 117; British fatalities, 43; Canadian fatalities, 36. Still, Afghan soldiers routinely express shame that foreigners are doing the work of dying for their country. That job, they insist, is one they want for themselves.

"I want to protect my country from terrorists who call themselves Taliban," says Said Ismail, a 21-year-old recruit from Mazar-i-Sharif. "These people call themselves Muslims but they are killing Muslims." Three of his buddies gather around, nodding agreement.

This isn't to say the Afghan Army is problem-free. Lt. Harryman complains about an ingrained culture of soldiers not wanting to "get into trouble" by taking responsibility for their decisions. Afghan officers and NCOs are in the habit of seeking the consent of their soldiers before undertaking operations. The army still lacks some of the most basic logistical and command-and-control skills.

But many of the Afghan army's problems are a function of NATO's neglect. France was supposed to have taken the lead in training the army – a role it abandoned in 2003. Ditto for the Germans and the Afghan police.

Nor has the U.S. been blameless. The Afghans are only now getting their first sizeable shipments of M-16 rifles and up-armored Humvees. There was no Afghan air force to speak of until this year. That's now being remedied by the acquisition of some Russian-made Mi-17 and Mi-35 cargo and attack helicopters, along with some medium-sized prop planes. None of the American officers I interviewed can offer a clear explanation for the delays, though the likely answer is that a sense of urgency about Afghanistan's security situation only came about after it became a news story early last year.

Then again, that precariousness has been somewhat exaggerated. "A year ago people were talking about the Taliban taking Kandahar and isolating Kabul," says Maj. Gen. Robert Cone. It didn't happen. Neither has the Taliban's fabled "spring offensive," which should be happening right around now but isn't.

How much of this can be attributed to the Afghan army, how much to NATO operations, how much to Taliban weakness, and how much to luck and circumstance is anyone's guess. What is clear is that Afghanistan really does have an army that's willing to stand up for its country – and, as a result, a country that is prepared to stand by their army. All this bodes well for Kabul. And once the dust settles in Basra, we might begin to say the same about Iraq and its army, too.

Write to bstephens@wsj.com 
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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Students protest lack of housing
www.quqnoos.com Written by Mohammad Reza Sher Mohammadi Monday, 21 April 2008
Herat students warn government that protests will turn violent

HUNDREDS of Herat university students have protested in the city’s streets over the closure of the university hostel, and they have called for the resignation of the university’s provost.

The students, some of whom are forced to live with drug addicts because of the lack of accommodation elsewhere in the city, warned yesterday (Saturday) that their protests will turn violent if the Ministry of Higher Education refuses to listen to them.

A young student said: “Dr Muhammad Naeem Asad, the university’s provost, has closed our dormitory and we want him to resign.”

Students say that other government-sponsored universities have dormitories and that they too have the right to bedrooms.

Mr Asad said that they lack a building for the hostel as well as the funds to meet the student’s demands. About 2,000 students at the university need beds in a dormitory.

He said: “We have no authority to tell the minister of finance to give us enough money to carry on with the dormitory.”

Students say the “pocket money” that they are paid by the university is not enough for them.

They say that there are no houses for rent for single people in Herat and that students now live in unsuitable places.

One of the students said: “The lack of the dormitory has caused us to live with people who are drug addicts, and the house rents are also high. We can’t afford it. In such an environment we can’t study.”

Head of Herat’s provincial council, Humayun Azizi, said: “This issue was first suggested by the academic council. After that the university and finally the president confirmed it.”

Mr Azizi said that, according to the country’s constitution, the government must provide the students with a dormitory.

Herat’s dormitory was closed a few days ago because there were not enough beds to meet the surge in pupils.

Instead, the university paid the students Afg 2000 each to find their own accommodation.

Herat university students have protested several times before because of lack of a place to stay and other problems in the dormitory.

Currently, more than 2000 students in Herat University need a dormitory. They have warned that in case their demands are not met, they will go on a violent protest.
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