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April 28, 2008 

Afghan troops take to Kabul's streets after attack on Karzai
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Mon Apr 28, 5:28 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan soldiers took up positions Monday in districts of the capital where government officials and foreigners live, while security officers hunted for suspects in the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai.

Afghan parliament summons security chiefs over parade attack
Mon Apr 28, 2:12 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan's parliament Monday summoned national security leaders for questioning over an attack at a parade that killed three people, including an MP, although President Hamid Karzai survived.

Authorities probe attack on Afghanistan's president
By AMIR SHAH Associated Press April 28, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan security officials hunted Monday for suspects in the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai during an attack that killed three people and underscored the fragility of his U.S.-backed government.

US 'very concerned' about Karzai attack
April 28, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House said Monday that it was "very concerned" by a weekend attack which saw Afghan President Hamid Karzai survive a hail of rockets and bullets that killed three people.

Afghanistan: UN condemns assassination attempt
Kabul, 28 April (AKI) - United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned an assassination attempt on the life of Afghan president Hamid Karzai at a victory parade in Kabul on Sunday.

Afghans to take over Kabul security despite attack: UN envoy
by P. Parameswaran
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghanistan's national army will take over the security of Kabul as scheduled this autumn despite a brazen attack by suspected Taliban militants at the heart of the Afghan capital, the special UN envoy to the

New Afghan U.N. envoy gets strong U.S. backing
By Paul Eckert and Arshad Mohammed Mon Apr 28, 5:54 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new United Nations envoy to Afghanistan won strong U.S. support on Monday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged to work with the veteran diplomat in coordinating help for the turbulent country.

Rice praises Afghan president
Associated Press - April 28, 2008 9:03 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Afghan President Hamid Karzai's (HAH'-mihd KAHR'-zeyez) calm reaction to Sunday's assassination attempt is a sign to her of a strong leader.

Despite war, Kabul still "not Baghdad"
By Luke Baker
KABUL, April 28 (Reuters) - While President Hamid Karzai may have narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in central Kabul on Sunday, in many ways the Afghan capital is remarkably calm and orderly for a city in the midst of war.

Taliban score propaganda coup with parade attack
By Jon Hemming Mon Apr 28, 4:20 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - A Taliban attack on an Afghan state parade was a propaganda victory undermining faith in the ability of President Hamid Karzai's government to protect itself, let alone provide security for the Afghan people, analysts said.

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan sign energy, transport deals
Mon Apr 28, 2:07 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Turkmenistan and Afghanistan signed agreements on energy, transport and culture Monday, days after agreeing with Pakistan and India to push forward a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline.

NATO Afghan mission 'critically' under-resourced: report
LONDON (AFP) - NATO forces in Afghanistan are "critically" under-resourced, the foreign ministry said in a confidential document distributed to Western allies, the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

Marines launch operation in Afghanistan's Taliban territory
Associated Press
OUTSIDE GARMSER, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines are moving into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan in the first major American operation in the region in years.

Top Pakistan militant halts talks
Monday, 28 April 2008 BBC News
A top Taleban commander in Pakistan has halted peace talks with the government, his spokesman says.

US short of diplomats for Iraq, Afghanistan reconstruction
Mon Apr 28, 6:26 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The State Department is short of staff to meet the Pentagon's need to reinforce the provincial reconstruction teams (PRT) in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior US official said Monday.

Militants behead 'spy' in Pakistani tribal area: police
Mon Apr 28, 3:18 AM ET
WANA, Pakistan (AFP) - Pro-Taliban militants beheaded a policeman in Pakistan's troubled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan on Monday after accusing him of spying for security forces, police said.

Twenty-six Taliban killed in Afghanistan
Mon Apr 28, 2:06 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Around 26 Taliban have been killed in military action in Afghanistan, officials said Monday, including a dozen when troops repelled a mass attack on several US and Afghan bases.

US military: 12 insurgents killed in Afghanistan
Associated Press Mon Apr 28, 6:31 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. military says a dozen insurgents have been killed during a clash in eastern Afghanistan.

Australian PM in Afghan warning
Monday, 28 April 2008 BBC News
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned his country to expect more combat casualties in Afghanistan, after a commando was killed over the weekend.

Iranian president discusses Afghanistan, gas pipeline during brief Pakistan visit
By SADAQAT JAN Associated Press April 28, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Iranian and Pakistani leaders resolved issues related to a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project opposed by the United States during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's brief Monday visit to Pakistan, state media reported.

More than 100,000 sign petition to save journalist held in Afghanistan
By Jerome Starkey Tuesday, 29 April 2008 Independent, UK
The Independent's petition to save the Afghan student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh from the gallows has collected a staggering 100,000 signatures as the 23-year-old languishes in a cell in Kabul awaiting appeal.

AFGHANISTAN: IDPs reluctant to return home
KABUL, 28 April 2008 (IRIN) - Almost a month after the Afghan government launched a fresh effort to encourage the return of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the three largest IDP camps to their home provinces

Prince Harry to get campaign medal for Afghan stint
April 28, 2008
London (PTI): Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, will receive a campaign medal for his brief stint in Afghanistan.

Charlie Wilson's intellectual-property war
Film used footage from Afghanistan without permission, fabled "Scud Stud" war correspondent says
MATT HARTLEY The Globe and Mail April 26, 2008
Charlie Wilson's War has prompted Arthur Kent's lawsuit.
The veteran Canadian-born journalist is suing the makers of Charlie Wilson's War after footage Mr. Kent produced for a 1986 BBC news program about the Soviet Union's conflict in Afghanistan appeared in the 2007 Universal Studios movie without his permission.

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Afghan troops take to Kabul's streets after attack on Karzai
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Mon Apr 28, 5:28 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan soldiers took up positions Monday in districts of the capital where government officials and foreigners live, while security officers hunted for suspects in the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai.

About 100 people were rounded up for questioning about the attack that killed three people and wounded eight during a government celebration Sunday, an Afghan intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

The Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, confirmed people had been detained but didn't say how many. He said some of those questioned had already been freed.

The ability of militants to get close enough to fire rockets and automatic rifles at a grandstand holding Karzai and foreign dignitaries underscored the fragility of Afghanistan's government as it fights the former ruling Taliban movement and allied insurgents.

"The terrorist threat is real, it is deadly, and defeating this enemy has to be a top priority of the United States, of the Afghan government, of the Iraqi government, and the NATO alliance," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Monday.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the attack demonstrated again that the Taliban "will use the most extreme violence to oppose Afghanistan's freedom and democratic development."

The Taliban claimed its fighters staged the assault. Three of the attackers were killed, Karzai's government said, but the Taliban said three other insurgents got away.

The U.N. Security Council strongly condemned the attack, saying no terrorist act can reverse the path toward peace and democracy in Afghanistan.

The council said the Taliban's claim of responsibility "underlined the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of this reprehensible act of terrorism to justice."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the attack showed Karzai's administration is under a strong threat.

Afghanistan has "determined enemies who will do anything to disrupt the democratic progress that the Afghan people have made," Rice said after meeting with the new United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide of Norway. Eide had no comment about the attack.

Sunday's lapse brought questions about the readiness of Karzai's government to follow up on its demand for the expanding Afghan police and army to take greater control of security. U.S. and NATO-led troops provide security in much of the country now.

But the White House defended efforts by Afghan forces.

"I think that they need to be praised for what they've been able to accomplish so far, and they need to be helped, in order to get to where they need to be," Perino said. "And we're committed to being there. ... They've accomplished a lot."

Perino also said it was unfair to criticize Afghan security forces because insurgents had been able to stage an attack.

"When it comes to dealing with terrorists like the Taliban or al-Qaida, they just have to have even a semblance it has to look like they had a little bit of an impact for everyone to say that they had a big victory," she said. "Look, we have to be right every single time in order to prevent terrorist attacks. It is damn hard work."

Noting Karzai and Bush talk every other week, Perino predicted they would soon discuss the attack.

The assassination attempt came during a live broadcast of a ceremony marking the Afghan victory over the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. That was sure to bring a sense of unease in Kabul, which has been spared the worst of the violence as fighting escalated between the Taliban and international troops.

In a series of battles Sunday and Monday, Afghan and foreign troops supported by airstrikes killed 23 militants and wounded 20, officials said. No casualties were reported for the Afghan and international forces.

One of the biggest fights came in eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan troops fought off coordinated insurgent attacks Monday, leaving a dozen militants dead and a dozen more wounded, the U.S. military said.

A joint force also clashed with militants in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province Monday, killing six Taliban fighters dead and wounding eight, said Zia Wali, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

More than 1,000 people, mostly militants, have been killed in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials. About 8,000 died last year.
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Afghan parliament summons security chiefs over parade attack
Mon Apr 28, 2:12 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan's parliament Monday summoned national security leaders for questioning over an attack at a parade that killed three people, including an MP, although President Hamid Karzai survived.

The interior and defence ministers and the national intelligence chief were to be questioned Tuesday about the security measures around the attack on Sunday, parliament said in a statement.

A commission was meanwhile investigating the incident, in which militants fired at a stage seating Karzai and a host of cabinet members and foreign diplomats gathered for the country's largest annual parade.

Bullets fired into the stage killed a tribal leader. About a dozen people were wounded, including a parliamentarian who died later. A 10-year-old boy was killed when security forces returned fire.

Karzai fled for his life, appearing later on television to assure the country the situation was under control.

The extremist Taliban said it had carried out the attack, in which three militants were also killed.

That the gunmen were able to position themselves about 500 metres (1,500 feet) from the stage has raised questions about security measures for the event.

A number of people arrested Sunday were still being questioned Monday, interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.

"For the time being, we can't say who was responsible and who did not do a good job that resulted in this incident," he said.

At the scene of the incident, in front of the city's largest mosque, security forces were Monday inspecting the cordoned-off stage and guarding a shabby hotel from where the militants opened fire with machine guns and grenade launchers.

The cheap hotel, used by labourers and the homeless, had been shut down and its owner detained, police at the scene said. Its walls were pocked with bullet holes.

Some residents of the area complained that their relatives had been rounded up, even though they were not involved.

"My son was innocent," one woman told AFP. "Why would they arrest him?"

Meanwhile the White House said it was concerned by the attack, the latest in a series of near misses for Karzai, the first leader of Afghanistan after the fall of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.

The "terrorist threat is real, it is deadly, and defeating this enemy has to be a top priority," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
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Authorities probe attack on Afghanistan's president
By AMIR SHAH Associated Press April 28, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan security officials hunted Monday for suspects in the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai during an attack that killed three people and underscored the fragility of his U.S.-backed government.

Militants also wounded eight people when they fired rockets and automatic rifles at Karzai and other dignitaries during a Sunday ceremony in Kabul to mark the mujahedeen victory over the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, which sent Karzai and foreign ambassadors scurrying for cover. Three of the attackers were killed, the government said, but the Taliban said additional attackers were involved.

Sunday's strike launched so close to Karzai was a serious security lapse at a time when the Afghan police and army are expanding and the government is demanding greater control of security, still provided in much of the country by U.S. and NATO-led forces.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the defense ministry, said that the authorities were investigating who could have helped the assailants perpetrate the attack.

The gunfire apparently came from a three-story guesthouse about 300 yards from the stands where Karzai was seated alongside Cabinet ministers and senior diplomats, who all escaped unharmed.

Residents said a 30-minute gunbattle broke out between security forces and gunmen holed up in the guesthouse.

"Thankfully, President Karzai was not harmed," White House press secretary Dana Perino said Monday.

"The terrorist threat is real, it is deadly, and defeating this enemy has to be a top priority of the United States, of the Afghan government, of the Iraqi government, and the NATO alliance," Perino said.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Sunday's attack demonstrated once again that the Taliban "will use the most extreme violence to oppose Afghanistan's freedom and democratic development."

On Monday, Afghan troops were deployed in parts of the city where government officials and foreigners live, while investigators still focused on the area where the attack was launched.

About 100 people were rounded up for questioning, an Afghan intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to media. Some of those detained have since been freed, said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

Lawmaker Fazel Rahman Samkanai, who was about 30 yards from the president, was killed in the attack. Nasir Ahmad Latefi, a local Shiite leader, and a 10-year boy also died.

Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak said three attackers were killed by security forces, and assault rifles and machine guns were confiscated.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujaheed said six militants were sent to target the president, and three of them died. He said they were armed with guns, rockets and suicide vests although no suicide bombings were reported.

The initial moments of the attack, which came as a marching band played the national anthem, were broadcast live until TV transmissions were cut. Hundreds of dignitaries could be seen diving for cover.

Less than two hours later, Karzai appeared on state-run TV and said "everything is OK." Appearing calm and smiling, Karzai said "the enemy of Afghanistan" tried to disrupt the ceremony but was thwarted. He said several suspects were arrested.

The live coverage of the assassination attempt will add to the sense of insecurity in the Afghan capital, which has been spared the worst of the violence as fighting has escalated between Taliban insurgents and NATO and U.S.-led forces. The attack raises questions about the ability of the intelligence service, police and army to provide adequate security in the heart of the city.

The fighting left about 8,000 dead last year, mostly militants in the south and east of the country, where Karzai's government has only a tenuous grip and little public support.

Also Monday, Afghan and foreign troops clashed with militants in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province, leaving six Taliban fighters dead and eight others wounded, said Zia Wali, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

There were no casualties among the Afghan and foreign forces, Wali said.

___

Associated Press Writer Fisnik Abrashi contributed to this report.
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US 'very concerned' about Karzai attack
April 28, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House said Monday that it was "very concerned" by a weekend attack which saw Afghan President Hamid Karzai survive a hail of rockets and bullets that killed three people.

"Thankfully, President Karzai was not harmed. Unfortunately, and very sadly, eleven others were wounded and I'm not exactly sure the number who lost their lives," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.

"We are very concerned about it, the terrorist threat is real, it is deadly, and defeating this enemy has to be a top priority of the United States, of the Afghan government, of the Iraqi government, and the NATO alliance who is there working with the Afghan government," she told reporters.

"I think that they'll continue to look at how they could have done better in order to make sure that this does not happen again," said Perino.

Afghanistan authorities were investigating how militants could get within 500 meters (yards) of Karzai and other top leaders to carry out a brazen attack on the nation's biggest annual military parade.

The insurgent Taliban movement said it launched Sunday's attack to show it had the power to strike even such a high-profile ceremony.

The event, which was supposed to showcase the Afghan army's growing strength after getting new training and equipment, mainly from the United States, had been weeks in the making with stepped-up patrols and roadblocks around Kabul.

Karzai immediately announced an investigation to find out how the militants breached security to hammer bullets into the back of the stage where he was seated with a host of Afghan and foreign dignitaries as well as launch rockets.
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Afghanistan: UN condemns assassination attempt
Kabul, 28 April (AKI) - United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned an assassination attempt on the life of Afghan president Hamid Karzai at a victory parade in Kabul on Sunday.

"The attack against the legitimate institutions of the Afghan state and the Afghan people is unacceptable," Ban said in a statement.

Afghanistan is investigating how members of the Taliban carried out a violent attack so close to the president and other senior leaders.

At least six people, including a member of parliament and three attackers, were killed and nine others wounded in the assault near the presidential palace on Sunday. Several people were arrested after the incident.

Karzai addressed the nation in a televised address after the attack.

"Today, the enemies of Afghanistan, the enemies of Afghanistan's security and progress tried to disrupt the ceremony and cause disorder and terror," he said.

"Afghanistan's military forces surrounded them quickly and arrested some of the suspects."

The assault was particularly embarrassing for the Afghan government as it sought to showcase the army's assets.

The Taliban said it launched the attack to show it had the power to strike even the nation's biggest annual military parade.

Ban reiterated the UN's support for rebuilding Afghanistan through legitimate state institutions, in a way that addresses the needs of the most vulnerable and provides both justice and security.

He urged the international community and the government to continue their cooperation towards reaching these goals, undeterred by vicious attacks like the one that occurred on Sunday.

Karzai announced an investigation into the incident to find out how the armed group breached security to fire bullets behind the stage where he was seated with Afghan and foreign dignitaries.

The inquiry is expected to involve the ministries of defence and interior, the intelligence agency and the presidential security.
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Afghans to take over Kabul security despite attack: UN envoy
by P. Parameswaran
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghanistan's national army will take over the security of Kabul as scheduled this autumn despite a brazen attack by suspected Taliban militants at the heart of the Afghan capital, the special UN envoy to the insurgency-wracked nation said Monday.

"The ANA (Afghan National Army) takeover of Kabul is supposed to happen in autumn this year and I expect that to take place according to the schedule they have outlined," said envoy Kai Eide of Norway, who took over about a month ago.

The training of the national army, numbering more than 64,000 soldiers and scheduled to grow to 80,000 by the end of this year, was "not going badly at all" ahead of shouldering its new responsibility, he said.

The upcoming takeover "is an important step in the right direction," Eide said at a Washington forum when asked whether Sunday's attack at a top military parade in central Kabul -- seen also as an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- had cast doubt on the Afghans' role in assuming security responsibility.

The New York Times on Monday described the attack as "a moment of national embarrassment" for the Karzai government, which had been pressing to take over responsibility for Kabul's security from foreign troops.

The insurgent Taliban movement said it carried out the attack, in which three Afghans were killed, to show it had the power to strike even the nation's biggest annual military parade.

The event was supposed to showcase the Afghan army's growing strength after getting new training and equipment, mainly from the United States.

The UN Security Council, which last month unanimously agreed to extend the mandate of the UN mission in Afghanistan known as UNAMA until March 2009, on Monday strongly condemned the raid and stressed the need to bring those behind "this reprehensible act of terrorism" to justice.

Eide said while the attack underscored the fragile security situation in Afghanistan, where some 70,000 international soldiers from around 40 countries are serving, "the security situation is not worsening" as claimed by some groups.

"For those who say that the security situation is constantly becoming more difficult, I dont think (so). ... The major part of the country is relatively stable," he said.

Some groups suspected local security forces might have been linked to the attack, as has been suggested in the previous most dramatic attack in Kabul -- the Taliban's storming of a five-star hotel in January.

Eide, a former ambassador to NATO, had left the hotel seconds before the January attack, carried out by men in police uniform which left at least eight people dead, including three foreign nationals.

Following recent peace talks between Afghanistan's neighbor Pakistan and Taliban fighters, Eide said any such reconciliation in Afghanistan should not compromise freedom and security.

The reconciliation process, which must be politically driven, "cannot be a replacement for military engagement but must be based on the position of strength," he said. "The two must go hand-in-hand."

The UN envoy also said he had received commitments from European nations to pools their resources to help bolster the Afghan police force.

"I think there is a growing recognition in European Union member states that there is a need for a greater EU involvement in that effort," he said.

The 40-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan led by NATO has around 43,000 soldiers battling insurgents led by the Taliban, who were ousted by US-led forces in late 2001.
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New Afghan U.N. envoy gets strong U.S. backing
By Paul Eckert and Arshad Mohammed Mon Apr 28, 5:54 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new United Nations envoy to Afghanistan won strong U.S. support on Monday as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pledged to work with the veteran diplomat in coordinating help for the turbulent country.

Kai Eide, on a visit to Washington in his first month on the job, said he believed he also had the support of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who had vetoed an earlier attempt to fill the post.

"We have no more important mission together than to help the Afghan people to find security, development and ultimately prosperity and peace within their newly democratic state," Rice told Eide.

The Norwegian diplomat said in a speech to a Washington think tank that along with backing from the United States and the wider international community, "I feel that I have the strong confidence of the Afghan leadership and the president."

Eide moved to Kabul last month, charged with improving coordination of international civilian and military activities and cooperation with the Afghan government.

"It is important to demonstrate that project Afghanistan is not a security project. It's a political project and has to be coordinated as such," Eide said at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

More than seven years after U.S.-led troops ousted the Taliban for refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden, a Taliban insurgency in the South and East remains tenacious despite the presence of more than 50,000 U.S. and NATO troops.

"AFGHANIZATION" OF AID
A Taliban assassination attempt against Karzai on Sunday "demonstrates clearly that the security environment is challenging" said Eide, adding that such attacks by the rebels were an "expression of being on the defensive."

"There is a significant level of crime, yes, but I do believe that the security situation is not worsening," he said.

Eide said he wanted to improve coordination between civilian bodies and the U.S. and NATO military forces, overcome bureaucratic bottlenecks among organizations working in Afghanistan and pursue the "Afghanization" of aid to use local resources and develop Afghan expertise in projects.

"We have to spend the resources we have better than we do today," he said, criticizing duplication of work, pricey outside consultants and aid projects tied to contracts from donor states.

Eide listed reform priorities including cleaning up the police and justice system, improving governance and building up the neglected agriculture sector in agrarian Afghanistan.

Ahead of a key Afghan aid conference in Paris in June, he said he aimed to seek more resources and to enlist new potential donors "across the board."

"I would in particular appeal to countries who have not so far been among the important donors to contribute significantly more in the past," he told Reuters.

Eide, a former U.N. envoy in the Balkans, is known as an effective diplomat with experience in nation-building and dealing with NATO.

He was chosen for the post after Karzai vetoed British politician Paddy Ashdown's appointment following media speculation about the extent of his powers and possible influence over the government.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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Rice praises Afghan president
Associated Press - April 28, 2008 9:03 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Afghan President Hamid Karzai's (HAH'-mihd KAHR'-zeyez) calm reaction to Sunday's assassination attempt is a sign to her of a strong leader.

Rice adds that the attack shows that Afghanistan faces "determined enemies who will do anything to disrupt the democratic process."

The secretary, after meeting with the new United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, says she is confident that Afghan authorities will capture those behind the attack and "bring them to justice."
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Despite war, Kabul still "not Baghdad"
By Luke Baker
KABUL, April 28 (Reuters) - While President Hamid Karzai may have narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in central Kabul on Sunday, in many ways the Afghan capital is remarkably calm and orderly for a city in the midst of war.

With the winter past and spring sunshine bathing the surrounding mountains and tree-lined streets, one could be forgiven for thinking a healthy ceasefire was in force if it were not for the checkpoints, very occasional gunfire, and heavy security surrounding government buildings and embassies.

Sunday's dramatic attack by a group of Taliban militants on a military parade, killing three and alarming Karzai and invited foreign dignitaries, was a powerful reminder of the deadly threat insurgents can land in the heart of Kabul.

But by comparison with Baghdad, that other capital at the centre of a war zone where U.S. and British forces are trying to quell an insurgency, Kabul feels far more stable and at ease considering the years of conflict it has suffered.

For foreigners in Kabul, the fact they can jump in cars and drive around, take walks in the evening and go out to restaurants -- even though a five-star hotel was hit by a suicide attack in January -- immediately sets it apart from Baghdad.

In Iraq, the threat of kidnapping or car bombings -- which also occur in Kabul -- makes venturing outside a potentially lethal exercise that most avoid except under the most pressing of circumstances.

Baghdad has become a city of concrete, with 14-foot (four metre) anti-blast walls surrounding many buildings, offices and ministries, blocking off whole streets or districts, and turning even straight-forward journeys into confusing mazes.

It is not uncommon to see heavily armed U.S. troops, backed by armoured vehicles and low-flying helicopters, carrying out raids in central Baghdad, fingers nervously on triggers.

By contrast in Kabul, Afghan security forces are the major presence on the streets, politely manning checkpoints, running night-time checks on drivers and even enforcing traffic regulations, although many locals still ignore them.

"Having lived in both Kabul and Baghdad, I can say with certainty that it's very, very different," said a British diplomat, explaining how it would be inconceivable to drive oneself around Baghdad or meet an Iraqi contact at a restaurant, both of which are eminently doable in Kabul.

"People here live in a very normal way. They have dinner parties, they drive or walk around. You can live without excessive levels or security, without a small army having to protect you, as is the case in Baghdad."

RED IS FOR STOP
A surprising recent development on a busy junction in one well-off district of central Kabul has been the installation of a traffic light. As far as long-term residents of the city know, it is the first to be installed in the past six years.

At first no one paid any attention to it. But with a little strict monitoring by whistle-blowing traffic police, the light is now enjoying some success, to the amusement of Kabulis.

The light even has an electronic display telling drivers how long they have to wait until it turns green again, and pedestrians how long they have to cross the road before the onslaught of traffic resumes. For the record, it's 53 seconds.

In Baghdad, the traffic lights that do exist have long since fallen into disrepair or been shot to bits. One resident of the city says her eight-year-old son learned about traffic lights in kindergarten, "and has always dreamed since of seeing one".

To a large extent the difference in the security situation between the cities is explained by the nature of the conflicts.

The Taliban have always had, and continue to have, a strong presence across southern Afghanistan, but have struggled to gain a foothold in the capital.

In Baghdad, Sunni and Shia Muslims both have large populations in the city, fuelling the sectarian side of the conflict, with the city now divided up by competing factions.

The possibility of more intense violence in Kabul -- like Sunday's attack and a suicide bombing on a luxury hotel in January -- always remains. But for the moment, at least, it is a city enjoying the bounties of spring with relative calm. (Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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Taliban score propaganda coup with parade attack
By Jon Hemming Mon Apr 28, 4:20 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - A Taliban attack on an Afghan state parade was a propaganda victory undermining faith in the ability of President Hamid Karzai's government to protect itself, let alone provide security for the Afghan people, analysts said.

At least three Taliban militants managed to evade a wide security cordon and hide in a cheap hotel, one of only a very few buildings on flat ground overlooking the parade ground.

At the end of a 21-gun salute to mark the mujahideen victory over the Afghan communist government 16 years ago, the Taliban gunmen opened fire, sending the president, ministers, foreign diplomats and military top brass diving for cover.

"It was clearly aimed at grabbing enormous amounts of attention; striking in the centre of the capital," said Joanna Nathan, an Afghanistan analyst for International Crisis Group. "It was flashed around the world, but further than that, it shows them penetrating what was obviously a high security event."

Three people were killed; a parliamentarian, the head of a Shi'ite minority group and a 10-year-old child. Ten others were wounded in the attack. Three Taliban gunmen were killed in the ensuing fighting, while others may have got away.

In pure military terms, the attack missed its objectives, though it was only a matter of chance that Karzai and all the top dignitaries attending the event survived.

TALIBAN SHIFT TACTICS
The spectacle of Afghan leaders cowering on the ground and Afghan troops fleeing the parade ground will of course hearten Taliban fighters, but more importantly leaves ordinary Afghan wondering how Karzai's government can protect them.

"There is no security force in Afghanistan that people trust," said Afghan parliamentarian Ramazan Bashardost. "If you pay attention to yesterday's incident, the security forces fled the area before the ordinary people did."

While the Taliban had no doubt scored a propaganda victory with Sunday's attack, that should not cloud the overall picture of steady progress in improving security across Afghanistan, said a senior Western diplomat who declined to be named.

The Taliban have steadily shifted tactics in the last two years since they relaunched their fight to oust Karzai's pro-Western government and drive out the more than 50,000 foreign troops stationed in Afghanistan.

The Taliban suffered heavy casualties in head-on fights with Afghan and foreign forces in 2006 and began to rely more heavily on suicide bombings, launching some 140 such attacks last year.

This year, the Taliban have vowed to concentrate on the capital. An attack on Kabul's five-star Serena Hotel in January killed several foreign civilians and in so doing grabbed international headlines for weeks; far more propaganda value for the Islamist militants than a raid on an isolated village.

Meanwhile, a steady stream of casualties among foreign troops saps public support abroad for keeping troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgents killed one Australian soldier and wounded four others in the southern province of Uruzgan, the Australian Department of Defence said on Monday. The soldier was the fifth Australian to be killed in Afghanistan since 2001.
(Editing by Alex Richardson)
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Turkmenistan, Afghanistan sign energy, transport deals
Mon Apr 28, 2:07 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Turkmenistan and Afghanistan signed agreements on energy, transport and culture Monday, days after agreeing with Pakistan and India to push forward a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai watched their ministers sign the deals and then inked their own on cementing bilateral ties.

The agreements signed in Kabul Monday pave the way for Turkmen help in providing power-poor Afghanistan with fuel and energy and cooperation in the areas of transport and culture.

Karzai said he and Berdymukhamedov discussed the extension of a Turkmen railway line through Afghanistan as well as the gas pipeline.

The four nations involved in the gas project signed in Islamabad last week an accord to take forward years-old plans to build the pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, an official told AFP.

It envisages that work will start in 2010 and be completed five years later, mines ministry spokesman Kohzman Ulumi said.

If implemented, the project would bring cash-strapped Afghanistan more than 200 million dollars in annual revenue as well as the right to consume up to 500 billion cubic metres of gas from the pipeline, he said.

The war-torn country would also be able to use the pipeline to export any of its own gas it may be able to tap in the future, Ulumi said.

"It's a very major project. Afghanistan will benefit from it significantly."

The pipeline is expected to travel from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan's western province of Herat and the southern province of Kandahar -- one of the most Taliban-troubled regions here -- and on into Pakistan.

Berdymukhamedov also condemned a weekend attack on Karzai, adding that Afghanistan's moves towards freedom and democracy were unstoppable.

A host of nations have condemned Sunday's attack in which Taliban extremists were able to open fire on a stage seating Afghanistan's top leaders as well as the most senior international figures in the country.

Three Afghans, including a parliamentarian, were killed, as were three of the attackers.

"We are very happy that there was no harm to his excellency the president and wish him long life," the Turkmen leader said.

"We are confident that no obstacle would stop our brother country Afghanistan's march towards freedom and democracy."
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NATO Afghan mission 'critically' under-resourced: report
LONDON (AFP) - NATO forces in Afghanistan are "critically" under-resourced, the foreign ministry said in a confidential document distributed to Western allies, the Daily Telegraph reported Tuesday.

The three-page document, which the Telegraph said it had obtained, warns that "critical military gaps remain to be filled" with regard to the alliance's mission there.

As part of a list of items described as "critical areas to fill", the document says NATO needs an extra three infantry battalions in Afghanistan, as well as additional helicopters, aircraft and training teams to better equip the Afghan army.

According to the Telegraph, the document also raises concerns about what will happen when 2,300 US Marines are withdrawn from southern Afghanistan in November.

NATO's International Security and Assistance Force includes about 47,000 troops, about 7,800 of whom are British.

Britain, the United States and Canada have called on their NATO allies to provide more resources for Afghanistan.
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Marines launch operation in Afghanistan's Taliban territory
Associated Press
OUTSIDE GARMSER, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines are moving into a Taliban-held town in southern Afghanistan in the first major American operation in the region in years.

Several hundred Marines are pushing into the town of Garmser, an area classified as Taliban territory.

U.S. commanders say the Taliban have been expecting an assault on the town and that militants have been setting up improvised explosive devices.

The commanders say they didn't know how much Taliban resistance the Marines would face when they entered the town before sunrise Tuesday.
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Top Pakistan militant halts talks
Monday, 28 April 2008 BBC News
A top Taleban commander in Pakistan has halted peace talks with the government, his spokesman says.

Last week Baitullah Mehsud ordered a ceasefire amid reports that he was close to reaching a peace deal with the new government.

But his spokesman says talks have broken down because the government refuses to order troops out of the tribal areas by the Afghan border.

The government says it will deal with militants by dialogue and development.

Baitullah Mehsud is the man the Pakistani authorities say ordered the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

'Ceasefire firm'

"The government refused to pull out its forces from the tribal areas which forced Mehsud to call off the talks," Mehsud's spokesman Maulvi Omar, told the AFP news agency.

However the spokesman said that they did not plan to start fighting again at this stage.

"Taleban remain firm in the ceasefire but Mehsud warned that if the government launched any action his fighters would retaliate," Maulvi Omar said.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says it is not clear if this is a negotiating tactic, or the collapse of talks that appeared close to agreement.

Local newspapers have published drafts of a 15-point deal that calls for an end to militancy, an exchange of prisoners and a redeployment of the army.

Last week Mehsud's fighters issued pamphlets containing his order for his fighters to stop fighting. They said that anyone found violating the order would be punished.

Baitullah Mehsud's stronghold is in South Waziristan, an area that has seen many of the heaviest clashes between militants and the security forces in recent years.

American officials cautiously support the new government's efforts to reach peace through talks.

Our correspondent says that previous deals have turned the tribal areas into a sanctuary for Taleban and al-Qaeda-linked militants from where they have launched attacks in Afghanistan.

They also began hitting Pakistani targets when the army tried to stop them.

Baitullah Mehsud is said to command about 20,000 pro-Taleban militants and a majority of them belong to the Mehsud tribe.

The previous government, that supported President Musharraf, said it had evidence from phone intercepts that Mehsud had organised the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi in December.

He denies the charge.
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US short of diplomats for Iraq, Afghanistan reconstruction
Mon Apr 28, 6:26 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The State Department is short of staff to meet the Pentagon's need to reinforce the provincial reconstruction teams (PRT) in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior US official said Monday.

To press his point, Eliot Cohen, counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, noted that the Defense Department employs more musicians than the State Department has diplomats.

According to government data, the State Department employs 12,000 people, 5,500 of whom are diplomats deployed in Washington and abroad.

"When I tell the 5,500 figure, the generals are usually shocked," Cohen told reporters after commenting that at the Defense Department "the appetite is unlimited" for diplomats to join the understaffed PRTs.

The Pentagon's workforce includes 1.3 million men and women on active duty, 1.1 million reservists in the National Guard and 669,000 civilian employees. Military bands alone count for 7,500 people.

A report earlier this month by the US House of Representatives' Armed Services Committee found that PRTs are often unevenly staffed and led, and lack strategic guidance or oversight.

Rice has requested a budget supplement from Congress to provide for 1,200 additional PRT staff and a new civilian force to help the US military in post-war stabilization efforts.

The civilian-military PRTs were first established in Afghanistan in 2002 as a means of winning hearts and minds through political and economic work. They work alongside or are embedded with US military units.

The United States currently operates 12 military-led provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan, each consisting of 50 to 100 people. In Iraq, there are 24 teams, 13 of them embedded in military units.
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Militants behead 'spy' in Pakistani tribal area: police
Mon Apr 28, 3:18 AM ET
WANA, Pakistan (AFP) - Pro-Taliban militants beheaded a policeman in Pakistan's troubled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan on Monday after accusing him of spying for security forces, police said.

The body of 35-year-old Shaukat Khan was found dumped in a field at Dabar village in the tribal zone of South Waziristan, a day after he was abducted by gunmen, senior police officer Mumtaz Zarin told AFP.

A note found near the body said he was involved in the killing of Islamist warlord Nek Mohammad in a suspected US missile strike in June 2004 in the region, Zarin said.

"He had admitted his role in providing intelligence to the authorities," the note said. "We have repeatedly said we will teach such people a lesson."

Khan had been working as a tribal policeman at the local administration office in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, which is inundated with Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants have killed several tribesmen in recent months over allegations that they were spying for Pakistani forces in the tribal areas and US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's new government is in talks with local militants over a possible peace pact and a key commander in South Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud, last week declared a ceasefire with the military.
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Twenty-six Taliban killed in Afghanistan
Mon Apr 28, 2:06 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Around 26 Taliban have been killed in military action in Afghanistan, officials said Monday, including a dozen when troops repelled a mass attack on several US and Afghan bases.

Australia meanwhile announced earlier it had lost a soldier in a Taliban attack in the southern province of Uruzgan on Sunday. The country is one of about 40 with troops in Afghanistan to fight back the extremist Taliban.

Between 30 and 40 insurgents attacked five bases in the eastern province of Kunar on Sunday with artillery, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, the US-led coalition said in a statement.

The military forces responded, including with military aircraft, and a dozen insurgents were killed and a dozen more wounded, it said.

Another six rebels were killed Monday when security forces fought back a Taliban attack on a coalition and Afghan army convoy in the central province of Ghazni, provincial government spokesman Zia Wali Zadran told AFP.

Six more were killed and 18 wounded in a military operation in a different area of the same province late Sunday, Zadran said.

The coalition also announced that two insurgents were killed in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Sunday when international and Afghan troops fought back after being attacked during an operation.

A member of the Afghan security forces was also killed, it said in a statement. Four suspected insurgents were arrested. The operation was to track down a man involved in suicide attacks.

Militants had also attacked a high-profile military parade in Kabul Sunday, missing President Hamid Karzai but killing a tribal chief and a parliamentarian. A 10-year-old boy was also killed.

Authorities said Monday that investigations were continuing into the daring attack and people rounded up afterwards were being questioned.
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US military: 12 insurgents killed in Afghanistan
Associated Press Mon Apr 28, 6:31 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. military says a dozen insurgents have been killed during a clash in eastern Afghanistan.

The military said in a news release that the fighting erupted after coordinated militant attacks on five U.S. and Afghan military outposts.

The military says another 12 insurgents were wounded. No U.S. or Afghan soldiers were hurt.

The clash happened Sunday in Korengal Valley of volatile eastern Kunar province.
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Australian PM in Afghan warning
Monday, 28 April 2008 BBC News
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has warned his country to expect more combat casualties in Afghanistan, after a commando was killed over the weekend.

L/Cpl Jason Marks became the fifth Australian soldier to die in recent months, after a gun battle with Taleban insurgents in Uruzgan province.

Mr Rudd said 2008 in Afghanistan would be "difficult, dangerous and bloody".

Australia has about 1,000 troops in the country as part of an international reconstruction effort.

Mr Rudd's predecessor, John Howard, committed Australia's troops to serve in Afghanistan as part of a force sent there after a US-led invasion.

Although Mr Rudd has announced plans to withdraw his country's troops from Iraq, his government remains committed to the Afghanistan conflict.

"The Australian nation needs to prepare itself for further losses in the year ahead," Mr Rudd told a news conference.

"We are facing a change of season, as the winter snows melt and the spring thaw begins, which usually indicates a heightening in military activity on the part of the Taleban and al-Qaeda."

Four other troops were injured in the battle in which L/Cpl Marks was killed, about 25km (16 miles) south-east of the town of Tirin Kot on Sunday, the Australian military said.

The attack came hours after militants made an apparent assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a ceremony in the capital, Kabul.
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Iranian president discusses Afghanistan, gas pipeline during brief Pakistan visit
By SADAQAT JAN Associated Press April 28, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Iranian and Pakistani leaders resolved issues related to a multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project opposed by the United States during Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's brief Monday visit to Pakistan, state media reported.

Ahmadinejad, on his first trip to the neighboring country, met with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in Islamabad during his four-hour stay before leaving for Sri Lanka.

Musharraf and Ahmadinejad were satisfied that "all issues that had delayed a final agreement" on the natural gas pipeline project were resolved, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, according to the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan. The report did not specify the issues resolved.

The two Muslim countries' foreign ministers will set a date for signing the pipeline accord, Qureshi said, according to APP.

India has also been involved in the project. The proposed pipeline would run 2,615 kilometers (1,625 miles) from Iran to India through Pakistan and initially carry 60 million cubic meters (2,120 million cubic feet) of gas a day.

The project has been hit by delays since Iran proposed it in the 1990s, mainly because of Indian concerns about the safety of sections of the US$7.5 billion (?4.8 billion) pipeline in Pakistan, India's rival for more than half a century.

The Indian and Pakistani oil ministers said Friday after talks in Islamabad that they were close to finalizing their part of the pipeline accord.

The U.S. opposes the project because it fears it will weaken efforts to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for power generation.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan insists Iran has a right to peaceful nuclear technology and has called for the Iranian nuclear standoff to be resolved peacefully and without sanctions.

Gilani informed Ahmadinejad that his government was pursuing a policy of negotiations and economic development to fight Islamic militants in Pakistan's tribal regions, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Iranian leader said his country supported progress and prosperity in Pakistan.

Iran and Pakistan have cordial relations but have not always agreed on the approach to Afghanistan. Pakistan was once one of the key backers of the Afghan Taliban, which Iran opposed.

The U.S.-led invasion in 2001 toppled the Taliban from power, but Afghanistan still struggles with a Taliban-led insurgency. Afghan government officials have said Taliban leaders use Pakistani border areas to regroup and aid the insurgency.
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More than 100,000 sign petition to save journalist held in Afghanistan
By Jerome Starkey Tuesday, 29 April 2008 Independent, UK
The Independent's petition to save the Afghan student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh from the gallows has collected a staggering 100,000 signatures as the 23-year-old languishes in a cell in Kabul awaiting appeal.

Mr Kambaksh was arrested for distributing a pamphlet about women's rights, and tried and convicted without a defence lawyer, in a closed court in Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan. His case led to international protests, led by the UN human rights chief, Louise Arbour, and Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State.

Last night, Mr Kambaksh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, thanked The Independent's army of readers around the world. "If it wasn't for the petition we would be alone. There are a lot of pressures inside Afghanistan from the fundamentalists. They are trying to execute my brother," he said. "Fortunately, against them, there is pressure from the international community, and The Independent petition. I really believe it will help us."

Mr Kambaksh was recently moved to Kabul's notorious Pol-i Charki prison, where last year guards dragged 15 men out of their cells, without warning, and executed them. The prison holds Afghanistan's worst criminals, but Mr Kambaksh was moved there at his own request, after fears about his safety in Mazar.

Originally he was in a cell with convicted murderers who attacked him because they believed he had offended Islam. He is currently being held in isolation.

"Everything is going very slowly," said Mr Ibrahimi. "We are both looking forward to the time of the appeal, but the judiciary hasn't given us an exact time. Everything is done, but my brother is still in prison."

The students from Balkh University's Sharia faculty, in Mazar, also circulated a blacklist of other journalists they accused of blasphemy, forcing friends of Mr Kambaksh to flee.

Fears over his fate have remained high, after the Supreme Court approved 100 death sentences, which are simply awaiting the President's signature. A moratorium on capital punishment ended last year when President Karzai ordered a mass execution.

The Independent's campaign to save the Afghan student Sayed Pervez Kambaksh has attracted an astonishing 100,000 signatures. You can still add your voice to the campaign to save him. Sign our e-petition at www.independent.co.uk/pervez
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AFGHANISTAN: IDPs reluctant to return home
KABUL, 28 April 2008 (IRIN) - Almost a month after the Afghan government launched a fresh effort to encourage the return of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the three largest IDP camps to their home provinces (mostly in the north), only about 130 families have opted to return, the Ministry of Refugees and Returnees Affairs (MoRRA) said.

At least 150,000 IDPs are currently living in Zherai, Mukhtar and Maslakh camps in Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces respectively, aid agencies and Afghan officials estimate.

In an effort to address the plight of the IDPs, in early April the MoRRA offered transport assistance and food aid to those wanting to return to their homes within two months.

"We had planned to return all displaced families living in these three camps to their original areas, and to do that we offered transport assistance and 3-6 months' food aid," Abdul Qadir Zazi, an adviser to the minister of refugees and returnees, told IRIN in Kabul.

"Thus far about 110 families in Maslakh, 15 in Zherai and 10 in Mukhtar have registered for return," he said.

The government's policy of encouraging the return of IDPs is backed by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which said it would provide assistance to returning IDPs in terms of transport, tents and food aid for a limited period of time.

Obstacles to return

The joint plan by the government and UN to send IDPs back to their homes has been coldly received by IDPs who say the worsening security situation, ethnic tensions, local warlords, unemployment and poverty are inhibiting their return in the near future.

"Commanders and warlords in the north are still seizing people's land and forcing them to abandon their houses; so how can we return?" said Haji Gul Ahmed, a resident of Maslakh camp in Herat Province.

"There is no guarantee that commanders and gunmen [local militias] will not kill us and will not harm our females," said Abdul Manan, a representative of displaced families from the northern province of Faryab, in Zherai camp in Kandahar Province.

Others pointed to lost livelihoods in their home areas, poverty and drought as major obstacles to their return.

Over one million people were reportedly displaced - mostly due to conflict and inter-communal tensions - immediately after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. Tens of thousands of vulnerable Afghan families were also displaced by severe drought, factional fighting and food insecurity during Taliban rule, 1996-2001.

Many "old" IDPs have returned to their homes in the past six years or so (some assisted by aid agencies), but insurgency-related violence and food insecurity have also displaced thousands more over the past few years, according to aid agencies.

No aid to those who remain in camps

The MoRRA and the UNHCR have given assurances that displaced families will not be forced to repatriate to their home areas; returns will be entirely voluntary.

"We do not encourage IDPs to return to areas that we believe are unsafe," said Nader Farhad, a UNHCR spokesman in Kabul.

However, the UNHCR will not resume its humanitarian relief operations for displaced people who are unwilling to leave the camps.

UN agencies officially halted their relief operations in Maslakh, Mukhtar and Zherai camps in March 2006.

"The UNHCR will start working with the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation on local integration as a durable solution," Farhad said.

No medical teams in Zherai camp

Non-governmental organisations and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) suspended health services in Zherai camp after several health workers were kidnapped by Taliban insurgents in 2007.

"We will not send medical teams to Zherai camp unless locals provide adequate security guarantees," said Abdullah Fahim, a MoPH spokesman in Kabul, adding that the ministry did not want to put its staff at risk by forcing them to visit patients in Zherai.

Humanitarian relief and health services have been suspended for IDPs at a time when the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned that conflict is "spreading" in Afghanistan and civilians are increasingly becoming displaced.

The ICRC has called on aid agencies and the government of Afghanistan to respond to the "growing humanitarian needs" of IDPs "as a matter of urgency".
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Prince Harry to get campaign medal for Afghan stint
April 28, 2008
London (PTI): Prince Harry, the third in line to the British throne, will receive a campaign medal for his brief stint in Afghanistan.

The 23-year-old will be among about 160 household Cavalry troops attending a ceremony in Windsor on May 5 to be honoured for their role in fighting the Taliban.

His aunt, the Princess Royal will pin the Afghanistan Medal on him next week.

According to the Sun, a tabloid, the ceremony will take place at the Household Cavalry's Combermere Barracks in Windsor.

The prince's tour of Afghanistan was cut short after ten weeks when a news blackout on his presence there broke at the end of February, but having served well over the required minimum of four weeks, he is entitled to the Afghanistan Medal.

The Operational Service Medal (OSM) for Afghanistan is round and silver showing the Queen on one side and the Union Flag and compass on the reverse.

The ribbon has a red stripe down the centre with royal blue and light blue stripes on both sides and a light brown line at each edge.

The stripes represent the three armed services, while the brown line reflects the desert landscape of Afghanistan.

Harry's role in Afghanistan included calling in air strikes, carrying out surveillance of Taliban fighters, giving final clearance for attacks on Taliban targets and also guiding in some bombing runs.
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Charlie Wilson's intellectual-property war
Film used footage from Afghanistan without permission, fabled "Scud Stud" war correspondent says
MATT HARTLEY The Globe and Mail April 26, 2008
Charlie Wilson's War has prompted Arthur Kent's lawsuit.
The veteran Canadian-born journalist is suing the makers of Charlie Wilson's War after footage Mr. Kent produced for a 1986 BBC news program about the Soviet Union's conflict in Afghanistan appeared in the 2007 Universal Studios movie without his permission.

According to court documents, Mr. Kent is demanding that Universal stop distributing the movie, which stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, and eliminate anything associated with him in the film. He is also seeking unspecified damages.

When reached for comment by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Kent - who earned the nickname the Scud Stud while reporting live for NBC during Iraq's Scud missile attacks against Saudi Arabia in the 1991 Persian Gulf war - would not comment on the suit directly, referring all questions to his Los Angeles attorney, Rod Berman.

"You only go to the law when there has been serious damage incurred and when all other options are exhausted," Mr. Kent said.

In August of 1986, Mr. Kent produced a 10-minute documentary for the BBC program Newsnight, which detailed his time spent with Afghan mujahedeen in the northeastern mountains of Afghanistan during their conflict with the Soviets. Segments from the documentary, including images and narration produced by Mr. Kent, appeared in Charlie Wilson's War without his permission, according to the filing.

Universal Studios did not immediately return requests for comment.

"This is about the arrogance of a studio stealing, mutilating and distorting the copyrighted material of a war correspondent," Mr. Berman said.

However, Mr. Kent also contends that the movie - which depicts Tom Hanks as former U.S. senator Charlie Wilson - contains "grossly inaccurate" information despite purporting to be historically accurate, according to court documents.

By associating Mr. Kent with Charlie Wilson's War, Universal "perpetuates and deepens the public's misunderstanding of the Afghan conflict ..." while damaging his reputation, the documents allege.

One of the main characters in Mr. Kent's BBC piece is Ahmed Shah Massoud, a central figure in the Afghan resistance during the Soviet conflict. Mr. Massoud's relationship with the CIA plays a key role in Charlie Wilson's War, which chronicles the story behind U.S. support for the Afghans during the conflict.

Mr. Kent claims that his footage was re-edited and taken out of context, offering a false portrayal of Mr. Massoud in the movie. At various points in the film, images from Mr. Kent's documentary appear without their accompanying narration, and at other times narration is lifted from the documentary and is heard over other footage, the documents say.

"This is about a studio who has violated the journalistic integrity of an historical reporter and presented his material in a film that is not factually correct and is inconsistent with the views of the journalist," Mr. Berman said.

The film also includes narration from former CBS anchor Dan Rather and CBC correspondent Barry Peterson; however, both are included in the credits, according to the filing.

In addition to Universal Studios, the lawsuit also names the Playtone Company, Participant Productions, Relativity Media, the BBC, Blockbuster Inc., Hastings Entertainment Inc., Movie Gallery Inc. and Netflix Inc. as defendants.
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