Serving you since 1998
April 2008 :   2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

April 7, 2008 

16 die in strike against Afghan warlord
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. and Afghan forces attacked a remote village in a mountainous region of northeastern Afghanistan following reports that an infamous insurgent leader was in the area, a governor said Monday. At least 16 people were killed.

Afghanistan probes civilian deaths claim: ministry
Mon Apr 7, 5:52 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan authorities said Monday they were investigating claims by provincial officials that up to 33 civilians were killed in a weekend offensive by US-led troops.

Bush urged to focus terror fight on Afghanistan, Pakistan
Mon Apr 7, 12:37 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Democrats have called on President George W. Bush to refocus US counter-terror efforts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying that over-emphasis on Iraq has allowed Islamic extremists to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

U.K. to Send Another 450 Troops to Afghanistan, Telegraph Says
By David Altaner
April 7 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. will send another 450 troops to Afghanistan, bringing its total to more than 8,200, in response to pressure from the U.S., the Daily Telegraph reported, without saying where it got the information.

Nine police killed in Afghanistan: officials
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Seven anti-drugs policemen and five Taliban rebels died in a fierce gunbattle in southern Afghanistan, while two more police died in a roadside bomb, police said.

Iran border police kill 24 drug traffickers
Mon Apr 7, 8:36 AM ET
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iranian police have killed 24 bandits and drug traffickers in a single operation close to the border with Afghanistan, the official news agency IRNA reported on Monday.

Afghan FM rules out alleged Iran's support for Afghan opposition
Kabul, April 7, IRNA
Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta here on Monday ruled out alleged Iranian interference in Afghan domestic affairs.

Uzbekistan offers assistance to NATO in Afghanistan
18:46 | 07/ 04/ 2008
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov) - The proposal to increase Afghanistan's national army from 70,000 to 120,000 was not discussed at the NATO summit in Bucharest, and the agreement with Russia on

Pakistan, Afghanistan will jointly combat extremism, says Karzai
New Kerala
Kabul, Apr.7 : Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has reiterated that he will work closely with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani to fight extremism plaguing both countries.

India to produce gas in Turkmenistan, deliver by Trans-Afghan pipeline
06.04.2008, 23.13
ASHGABAT, April 6 (Itar-Tass) -- India will produce natural gas in Turkmenistan and deliver it by the Trans-Afghan pipeline in line with a memorandum of mutual understanding the Turkmen Oil, Gas and Natural Resources Ministry

Military, Afghan leaders visit Panjwaii to celebrate road-paving project
The Canadian Press,  Afghanistan
KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The governor of Kandahar province joined the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan today to mark a new road-paving project that employs more than 400 local Afghans.

Afghan Defence Minister arrives on a week-long visit
New Delhi (PTI): Amid Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, the country's Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak is here on a week-long visit during which he will hold talks with Indian leaders and travel to Kashmir for a brief on counter-insurgency operations there.

Street in Afghan capital named after slain journalist
www.chinaview.cn  2008-04-07 19:48:47
KABUL, April 7 (Xinhua) -- As a token of paying tribute to late Afghan journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi who was brutally beheaded by Taliban insurgents last year, authorities here in the Afghan capital named a street after him on Monday.

Afghanistan Applies for CIS Membership
Journal of Turkish Weekly (Turkey) / April 7, 2008
Meeting of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly began in St.Petersburg on April 3-4. Its General Secretary Mikhail Krotov said on the eve of the meeting that Afghanistan was aspiring for membership in the Commonwealth.

Afghanistan: Vocal 'Warlord' Critic Seeks To Reverse Her Expulsion From Legislature
By Farangis Najibullah Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty April 7, 2008
She's been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" for her criticism of warlords, and even compared to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar's democracy movement. Now, Malalai Joya's courage is again being put to the test.

PM uses Romanian platform to offer nuanced take on Afghan mission
canada.com Mike Blanchfield Canwest News Service Sunday, April 06, 2008
BUCHAREST, Romania -Stephen Harper had no problem being told to his face that "you have sometimes gambled your career and your party's political standing" on Canadian's military involvement in Afghanistan.

Climate change threatens Afghan health
Source: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; World Health Organization (WHO)
Kabul, 7 April 2008 - As the impact of climate change on food and water becomes more widely recognised Afghanistan's Minister for Public Health called for increased efforts to protect the health of Afghan people from the dangers

Let's do the job in Afghanistan and get out
Telegraph.co.uk - Leaders  07/04/2008
Our presence in Afghanistan is beginning to look permanent. A military assault launched for a narrow and specific purpose - to degrade the terrorist infrastructure built up under the Taliban - has gradually turned, without anyone

Back to Top
16 die in strike against Afghan warlord
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S. and Afghan forces attacked a remote village in a mountainous region of northeastern Afghanistan following reports that an infamous insurgent leader was in the area, a governor said Monday. At least 16 people were killed.

Gov. Tamim Nuristani said U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces believed Gulbuddin Hekmatyar was meeting with top deputy Kashmir Khan in the Dohabi district of Nuristan province on Sunday, sparking a fierce bombardment that included airstrikes.

Other provincial leaders say many civilians were killed in the hours-long clash, which included airstrikes in the remote villages of Shok and Kendal. Nuristani said it was too early to know if any of the 16 killed were civilians. His casualty figures came from police who had reached the remote district.

U.S. officials and the Afghan Defense Ministry have denied that any civilians were killed.

The competing claims were impossible to reconcile because the fighting took part in a remote and dangerous part of the country. U.S. officials say that militants falsely claim civilian casualties as a strategy to weaken the international military coalition and the Afghan government.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said the strike targeted a terrorist center that included a suicide bomb cell. It said it would release casualty figures later.

Hekmatyar heads the militant group Hezb-i-Islami, which has links with the Taliban and al-Qaida in fighting the Afghan government, though Hekmatyar has denied direct links with those groups.

He briefly served as prime minister of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and is infamous for bombarding the capital, Kabul, during the country's civil war, killing an untold number of civilians.

The chief of Nuristan's provincial council, Rahmatullah Rashid, said 19 people were killed in the battle — all civilians. He said six children, five women and eight men were killed in the attack. He said he didn't have a report of how many militants were killed. Rashid's information was relayed to him by villagers via radio communications.

U.S. Marine 1st Lt. Richard Ulsh said "Coalition Forces have received no reports of civilian casualties at this time as a result of that conflict."

Mohammad Farooq, the province's criminal investigations director, said 20 people were killed, including civilians. He said that some two dozen houses were destroyed.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghanistan probes civilian deaths claim: ministry
Mon Apr 7, 5:52 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan authorities said Monday they were investigating claims by provincial officials that up to 33 civilians were killed in a weekend offensive by US-led troops.

The defence ministry said it could not confirm that civilians were killed in the raids by US and Afghan forces in the eastern province of Nuristan, a known stronghold of Taliban-led militants.

The US-led coalition had earlier reported "significant" insurgent casualties during the operation.

Mohammad Aleem, Nuristan deputy governor, told AFP that 33 civilians, including women and children, were killed and dozens more injured in the day-long operation in the mountainous province's Do'aab district.

District chief Qari Daud put the death toll at 28, all of them civilians.

The defence ministry said in a statement that reports from the area "indicate that non-civilians were hurt during that operation." On Sunday, it had reported "heavy" militant casualties.

"The defence ministry has however tasked the relevant officials to launch a thorough investigation into the claims suggesting civilian casualties," the statement added.

Chief ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP that "the investigation has been already launched."

Daud, the district chief, said eight other civilians, including a 12-year-old boy, were captured during the operation. The defence ministry also said eight people were captured but alleged they were rebels.

The ministry's statement said the operation was called off after the villages "were cleared of the enemy." It said "the enemy suffered heavy casualties" without providing an exact toll.

One soldier was killed and eight others were injured, the ministry's statement said.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Bush urged to focus terror fight on Afghanistan, Pakistan
Mon Apr 7, 12:37 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Democrats have called on President George W. Bush to refocus US counter-terror efforts to Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying that over-emphasis on Iraq has allowed Islamic extremists to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

"The negligent policies of the last half-decade have permitted al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regenerate, and to pose a greater threat to the national security of the United States than at any point since September 11, 2001," Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to Bush Sunday.

"The neglect of Afghanistan and Pakistan reflects a failure to recognize this region as the central battlefield in the war against al-Qaeda."

The letter, signed by nearly all the Democrats in the US Senate, comes two days before US commander in Iraq David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker are scheduled to testify to senators on the progress of the war in Iraq.

The letter also assailed the Bush administration's focus on supporting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for deteriorated relations with Pakistan's new government.

"We urge you to embark on a new relationship with Pakistan based on cooperation with institutions rather than individuals, and to support the will of the Pakistani people as expressed in the February 18 parliamentary elections," it said.

It also linked the "unfulfilled promise" of a reconstruction plan for Afghanistan to the revival of warlordism and the resurgence of the opium poppy crop in the country.
Back to Top

Back to Top
U.K. to Send Another 450 Troops to Afghanistan, Telegraph Says
By David Altaner
April 7 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. will send another 450 troops to Afghanistan, bringing its total to more than 8,200, in response to pressure from the U.S., the Daily Telegraph reported, without saying where it got the information.

Britain may also take over command of North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops in southern Afghanistan for two years; in return, it's asked the U.S. to send more soldiers to the country early next year, the newspaper said.

Canada currently commands NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, with the Netherlands scheduled to take over in November, the Telegraph said. The U.S. has expressed misgivings about the rotating leadership and wants Britain to replace the Dutch until early 2010, the newspaper added.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Altaner in London at daltaner@bloomberg.net
Back to Top

Back to Top
Nine police killed in Afghanistan: officials
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Seven anti-drugs policemen and five Taliban rebels died in a fierce gunbattle in southern Afghanistan, while two more police died in a roadside bomb, police said.

The two-hour clash erupted in the Maywand district of Kandahar province, the heartland of the hardline Taliban regime, provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqe said.

"Seven policemen, who where on a poppy eradication campaign, were killed and two others were wounded. Five Taliban were also killed," the police chief said, referring to opium poppies.

Afghanistan is the world's top producer of illegal opium, which is used to make heroin, accounting for more than 90 per cent of the global supply, with some funds being redirected to fund the Taliban.

The Government said last month that 100 counter-narcotics policemen had lost their lives in violence in the past year, most of them during efforts to eradicate opium poppies.

Separately, in neighbouring Helmand province two policemen were killed and six others wounded when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb, provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

The Taliban is leading an insurgency against the US-backed Government in Kabul and tens of thousands of foreign forces based here.

The Taliban were ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led invasion. Violence linked to the insurgency they launched shortly after their fall from power has left thousands of people dead.
- AFP
Back to Top

Back to Top
Iran border police kill 24 drug traffickers
Mon Apr 7, 8:36 AM ET
TEHRAN (AFP) - Iranian police have killed 24 bandits and drug traffickers in a single operation close to the border with Afghanistan, the official news agency IRNA reported on Monday.

"Border police killed 24 bandits and drug traffickers from the eastern parts of the country in a wide-ranging operation," an official from the eastern Khorosan Razavi province, Colonel Mostafa Shoushtari, was quoted as saying.

The border police in the town of Taybad just to the west of the Afghan frontier started the operation early on Sunday, Shoushtari said. By evening they were in pursuit of bandits intent on entering the country.

"After a severe armed clash... the police cleared the area where 24 bodies of bandits and drug traffickers were found and quantities of opium, weapons and ammunitions were confiscated," he said.

State television showed footage of the police in action as they secured the mountainous area. It also showed the bloodied corpses of some of the bandits killed in the operation.

Eastern Iran lies on a major narcotics smuggling route from neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan to Europe. Tehran says it needs more funds to combat trafficking across its porous eastern borders.

Some 2,500 tonnes of narcotics enter Iran from neighbouring Afghanistan annually, more than a quarter of which is consumed in the Islamic republic, according to Iranian officials.

In the past 20 years hundreds of Iranian policemen, soldiers and border guards have been killed in clashes with drug traffickers.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghan FM rules out alleged Iran's support for Afghan opposition
Kabul, April 7, IRNA
Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta here on Monday ruled out alleged Iranian interference in Afghan domestic affairs.

Dadfar said there is no document on Iran's support for the Afghan government opposition.

Talking to reporters, he referred to the Islamic Republic of Iran as a brotherly country whose people share identical religion and language with their Afghan brothers.

Kabul's policy toward Iran is fully clear and transparent, he reiterated.

"There are rumors about Iran's interference in Afghan domestic affairs, but I once again emphasize that there is no document to that effect," he noted.

"What the Iranian foreign minister and president say is important for us not what others claim," the Afghan foreign minister stressed.

Terming Tehran-Kabul relations as "friendly", he added that certain opponent groups and personalities are against expansion of all-out bilateral ties between the two neighboring states.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Uzbekistan offers assistance to NATO in Afghanistan
18:46 | 07/ 04/ 2008
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov) - The proposal to increase Afghanistan's national army from 70,000 to 120,000 was not discussed at the NATO summit in Bucharest, and the agreement with Russia on the transit of NATO non-military cargos via its territory has not created a sensation.

The one interesting initiative on Afghanistan made in Bucharest was Uzbek President Islam Karimov's proposal to add NATO to the 6+2 talks on peace and stability in Afghanistan, held between the countries bordering on it - Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, plus the United States and Russia, as guarantors.

The 6+2 group was set up in 1997 and had been effective until 2001. It drafted proposals on settling the political crisis in Afghanistan under UN auspices and held a meeting of the warring sides in Tashkent in July 1999, which adopted the declaration on the guidelines for settling the conflict. It was later used to draft a UN Security Council decision on political solutions to the conflict between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban.

The terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 halted the group's operation.

The Uzbek president's proposal to add NATO to the group is logical, because NATO troops are directly involved in the operation in Afghanistan. Karimov said that only the involvement of all parties concerned could help draft a comprehensive plan for reconstructing Afghanistan.

Unlike the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a regional security bloc in Central Asia that includes Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which comprises Russia, China and four ex-Soviet Central Asian states, the 6+2 group includes Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan is one of Afghanistan's most active economic partners. At the summit in Bucharest, it has proposed building a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan, which will create thousands of jobs in Afghanistan. Kabul wholeheartedly supports this idea.

It was first advanced in the 1990s by Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov. At that time, Pakistan and India pledged to buy gas delivered along the pipeline, but the project was put on ice because of the civil war. The situation has improved since then, and the other day India and Turkmenistan signed a memorandum of understanding on gas production. India plans to join the project soon.

Turkmenistan also supports Kabul's idea of building a ring railroad around Afghanistan to unite all railroads in the region.

Turkmenistan, which is one of the largest electricity suppliers to Afghanistan, has built and repaired over 300 km (186 miles) of power transmission lines in the northern, western and also, according to some sources, southwestern provinces of Afghanistan.

Apart from helping the Afghan authorities to strengthen their control of the country, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is also rebuilding the country's ruined economy. Part of the ISAF is special Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) that are small teams of civilian and military personnel working in Afghanistan's provinces to provide security for aid workers and help in reconstruction work. It would be logical to expand the group to include similar teams from Central Asian republics.

Islam Karimov's proposal of adding NATO to the 6+2 talks on Afghanistan is important because NATO is actively cooperating with Pakistan to improve the situation in Afghanistan, in particular protecting the Pakistani-Afghan border and exchanging intelligence data. It has set up a trilateral commission comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and ISAF representatives for this purpose.

Why not set up similar commissions with other members of the 6+2 group? Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan would gladly participate in them, but Brussels needs time to digest Karimov's proposal.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Pakistan, Afghanistan will jointly combat extremism, says Karzai
New Kerala
Kabul, Apr.7 : Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has reiterated that he will work closely with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani to fight extremism plaguing both countries.

"There is no doubt that the continuation of the war on terrorism is a priority for Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Pakistan suffers at the hands of terrorism.This is a joint struggle. If either of us comes up short in this struggle, then we will have harmed our people," Karzai told a press conference here soon after his return from a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit in Bucharest.

Karzai confirmed that he was in touch with the Pakistan leadership, including Premier Gillani and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif.

Rreiterating his call for talks with Taliban fighters, Karzai said he was determined to restore peace and normalcy in restive Afghanistan.
--- ANI
Back to Top

Back to Top
India to produce gas in Turkmenistan, deliver by Trans-Afghan pipeline
06.04.2008, 23.13
ASHGABAT, April 6 (Itar-Tass) -- India will produce natural gas in Turkmenistan and deliver it by the Trans-Afghan pipeline in line with a memorandum of mutual understanding the Turkmen Oil, Gas and Natural Resources Ministry and the Indian Oil and Gas Ministry signed on Saturday.

The memorandum was signed during the Ashgabat visit of Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari. On Sunday he will visit the largest gas deposit of Turkmenistan, Dovletabad, the source of the future Trans-Afghan pipeline, the Turkmen governmental press service said.

“The pipeline between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will be a weighty contribution to the positive cooperation on this continent,” Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow told Ansari.
The sides named agriculture, textile and pharmaceutical industries amongst cooperation priorities. Berdimuhamedow said that the bilateral trade grew by nearly ten times in 2006-2007.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Military, Afghan leaders visit Panjwaii to celebrate road-paving project
The Canadian Press,  Afghanistan
KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The governor of Kandahar province joined the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan today to mark a new road-paving project that employs more than 400 local Afghans.

Asadullah Khalid and Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche hailed the ambitious project as major step forward for the people of the troubled Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city.

Hundreds of local workers, many of whom brave Taliban threats to work on the road, were on hand for the ceremony, as were local leaders and village elders.

Laroche says the idea is to give locals the tools and the knowledge they need to pave and repair their own roads.

That's why they're essentially doing the work by hand, with spades and wheelbarrows, with the guidance of Canadian engineers.

Laroche says paving the road will make it harder, although not impossible, for insurgents to plant improvised explosive devices.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghan Defence Minister arrives on a week-long visit
New Delhi (PTI): Amid Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan, the country's Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak is here on a week-long visit during which he will hold talks with Indian leaders and travel to Kashmir for a brief on counter-insurgency operations there.

Wardak, heading a seven-member high-powered delegation, is expected to hold talks with Defence Minister A K Antony and top brass of Indian military on security issues.

Wardak will also visit Jammu and Kashmir, becoming the first Afghan Defence Minister to do so in three decades.

He will visit Srinagar-based 15 Corps headquarters where he would be given a presentation on the way Indian army conducts its counter insurgency operations, official sources said here on Monday.

Wardak will also visit Indian Air Forces Training Command at Bangalore amid reports that Afghanistan might be considering sending its Air Force pilots for training in India.

The Afghan delegation will also visit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited complex in Bangalore where they will be shown the progress made by India in manufacturing its first Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Advance Light Helicopter 'Dhruv'.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Street in Afghan capital named after slain journalist
www.chinaview.cn  2008-04-07 19:48:47
KABUL, April 7 (Xinhua) -- As a token of paying tribute to late Afghan journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi who was brutally beheaded by Taliban insurgents last year, authorities here in the Afghan capital named a street after him on Monday.

The street named "Ajmal Naqshbandi Avenue" is the first of its kind named after a journalist killed in Afghanistan.

While unveiling the plaque of the avenue, President of the Afghanistan National Journalist Union Abdul Hamid Mubariz slammed Taliban for executing the late Naqshbandi and called on journalist communities to work for strengthening expression freedom in the country.

Naqshbandi, 20, who worked as free lance journalist and accompanied an Italian reporter in the restive Helmand province last year, was kidnapped and then beheaded by Taliban.

However, the militants set free the Italian journalist in exchange for five Taliban prisoners.

Conflicts and civil strife have claimed the lives of several journalists over the nearly three decades in Afghanistan.
Editor: Sun Yu
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghanistan Applies for CIS Membership
Journal of Turkish Weekly (Turkey) / April 7, 2008
Meeting of the CIS Parliamentary Assembly began in St.Petersburg on April 3-4. Its General Secretary Mikhail Krotov said on the eve of the meeting that Afghanistan was aspiring for membership in the Commonwealth.

"Afghani delegations attended three previous meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly and this meeting is not an exception," Krotov said. "Their participation in meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly is of paramount importance for Russia and other CIS countries." Experts say meanwhile that the idea of absorbing Afghanistan into the Commonwealth is not as populist as it may appear at first sight. Its practical realization, however, requires certain efforts.

Provided CIS leaders and first and foremost leaders of Russia understand the purpose of this integration correctly, the process may become quite rewarding for all involved parties. "Where Afghanistan is concerned, it needs CIS membership for development of its transport network, revival of economy, and attraction of investments from other CIS states," Dmitry Verkhoturov of Afghanistan.Ru said.

Experts point out that absorption of Afghanistan by the Commonwealth will greatly benefit the latter. It will enable the Commonwealth to do away with existence of a thoroughly unstable and problematic buffer zone Afghanistan is. "Buffer zone is an area where interests of world powers collide, it is an area where big-time political games are played. It will disappear with absorption of Afghanistan by the Commonwealth. In fact, the Commonwealth with Afghanistan in it will have a direct border between itself and Pakistan, India, and China. With the buffer zone a thing of the past, everyone will have to seek agreements with all others, and that will pacify the region," to quote Alexander Sobyanin, Chief of the Strategic Planning Service of the Association of Transboundary Cooperation.

Experts warn that it is wrong to view expansion of the Commonwealth into Afghanistan as an end in itself. This country should be integrated into the CIS structure, or the Commonwealth will certainly fail and may even find its very existence in jeopardy.

"First and foremost, we need a foothold (military included) in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan because we cannot hope to be able to maintain a grip on Afghanistan without it. We should also recognize the fact that what we will never see the money we will be investing into this country. It is necessary to invest in the Afghani elite, in the national education and health care spheres. In short, it is necessary to set up a modernized zone in Afghanistan so as to leave its maintenance to the Afghanis themselves," Sobyanin said. He is convinced that successful integration of Afghanistan into the Commonwealth is impossible without China's support.

Membership in the Commonwealth offers new opportunities to Afghanistan itself. First, it will better the chances of integration into regional organizations like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasian Economic Cooperation Organization. Second, an armed conflict in Central Asia will make it necessary for the regional countries to launch a process of energetic integration even up to establishment of a common state for the purpose of dealing with the common threat. Experts say that there is only one country under whose aegis this integration may take place, and this country is Russia.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghanistan: Vocal 'Warlord' Critic Seeks To Reverse Her Expulsion From Legislature
By Farangis Najibullah Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty April 7, 2008
She's been called "the bravest woman in Afghanistan" for her criticism of warlords, and even compared to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar's democracy movement. Now, Malalai Joya's courage is again being put to the test.

After being expelled from parliament in May for allegedly insulting her fellow deputies, Joya has launched a bid to regain her seat. Joya told reporters on April 5 that she has always been determined to get the expulsion overturned, and that she is finally ready to take her battle all the way to Afghanistan's highest legal body, the Supreme Court.

She says her suspension from parliament violated her freedom of speech, democratic values as well as the Afghan Constitution. "The reason it took me so long to appeal against my expulsion was mostly due to security issues," the 29-year-old says. "There was also a financial reason. Defense lawyers asked for an amount of money that I couldn't afford."

Joya became a lightning rod for controversy through her harsh criticism of former warlords, whom she says hold key positions in the government and parliament. "Instead of getting influential positions in the government and dominating the parliament, the former warlords should be tried and punished for their actions," Joya has said.

Afghanistan's parliament passed an amnesty law in March 2007 that prevents the state from independently prosecuting people for war crimes committed during conflicts in recent decades. Supporters say the law will help bring national reconciliation, but critics say alleged war criminals in the parliament were simply shielding themselves from prosecution.

Following a television interview she gave two months after passage of the amnesty, Afghan lawmakers voted to suspend Joya for three years -- although their authority to take such a step was immediately questioned. But the move effectively expelled Joya from the current parliament, whose five-year mandate is scheduled to end in 2010, although it could end sooner.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, speaking at a news conference in Kabul on April 6, suggested that the parliamentary polls could be moved up by one year to run in conjunction with presidential elections set for 2009 and therefore save money. Karzai also indicated that he intends to run for reelection.

In her interview in May 2007 to Tolo television, Joya compared the parliament to a stable full of animals.

Joya has steadfastly refused to apologize for the comment. On April 5, she reiterated her criticism of legislators, saying she could count the number of honest ones on her fingers. The others, she said, were organized crime figures, drug dealers, and other criminal elements.

Vocal Critic

Joya, a women's rights worker from Farah Province, first gained international prominence in December 2003, when she harshly criticized the dominance of warlords during the Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, which had convened to ratify the new Afghan Constitution.

Her remarks sparked outraged among many prominent figures, including the chief of the Loya Jirga, Sibghatullah Mojaddadi, who called Joya an "infidel" and a "communist."

Since then, Joya has reportedly survived four assassination attempts. However, she has said that she is not afraid of death threats, and vowed to continue her mission to fight for women's rights.

Joya, the daughter of a former medical student, spent most of her childhood in refugee camps in Iran and Pakistan. She returned to Afghanistan in 1998, during the Taliban's reign, and established an orphanage and health clinic. She later became the head of the Organization of Promoting Afghan Women's Capabilities, an NGO that operates in the provinces of Farah and Herat.

Symbol...For Some

Joya's supporters compare her to Aung Sun Suu Kyi, the symbol of Burma's democratic movement. But her critics allege that during her trips to the West, Joya merely promotes herself and does not try to attract aid or investment to impoverished Farah, the province that elected her to parliament.

Joya's lawyer, Mohammad Zaman, says he believes Joya will win her parliamentary seat back. However, others are less optimistic.

Nasrullah Stanakzai, a law professor at Kabul University, says that while the decision to suspend Joya was a violation of the law, lawmakers would find a way to keep Joya out of the legislature.

"Although it is too early to say how the court would decide on this case, I think the court will come under political pressure from parliament," Stanakzai says. "Parliament or the Afghan government can start a political game against Malalai, if they want to do so. For instance, they would drag the court procedure out for very long time -- until the end of this parliament's term -- and Malalai Joya will be deprived of her right to reenter the parliament."

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Ahmad Takal contributed to this report.
Back to Top

Back to Top
PM uses Romanian platform to offer nuanced take on Afghan mission
canada.com Mike Blanchfield Canwest News Service Sunday, April 06, 2008
BUCHAREST, Romania -Stephen Harper had no problem being told to his face that "you have sometimes gambled your career and your party's political standing" on Canadian's military involvement in Afghanistan.

That was how the Canadian-born BBC broadcaster Lyse Doucet chose to introduce the prime minister at last week's panel discussion of the German Marshall Fund of the United States that she moderated before a handpicked international audience. The event was also broadcast live back to Canada.

By the time the cameras stopped rolling 90 minutes later, Canadians were offered a far deeper understanding of why their prime minister has risked his political fortunes - not to mention the lives of his country's young soldiers - on Afghanistan.

Seven times zones away from home, Harper dropped the veneer of the politician and morphed into a professor. On this day, and his subsequent lengthy NATO summit press conference, this offered Canadians their deepest, most textured glimpse to date into the mind of their 48-year-old wartime prime minister.

For the first time in any great depth, Harper was willing to speak publicly about the fact that progress in Afghanistan has been slow, fraught with problems, while still clinging to the hope that Canada and its allies might be able to scale back their combat operations in the not too distant future, while still saving face.

Many have roundly criticized Harper and his government, particularly the independent John Manley panel, for being lousy at explaining the war in Afghanistan to Canadians.

Sharing the stage with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the prime minister appeared eager to change that perception.

Harper explained how he measures success in the Afghanistan mission, and why he is confident he is not paying too high a political price.

But he also criticized the American's poppy eradication efforts. He reflected on how the Taliban insurgency has morphed from an ideologically driven idea into a criminal gang dependent on drug money. He explained why he thinks the anti-war movement is simply too small to worry about, while allowing that when Canada's death toll rises, it becomes very difficult for him to sell the war.

Harper's explanations were nuanced, and they represented significant progress from his government's earlier communications strategy, which consisted of vilifying political opponents as being unpatriotic, anti-Canadian Forces and pro-Taliban if they dared to question their government for being less than open with information about the war.

Harper said he does not think polls support the widely held notion that Canadian public opinion is divided and ambivalent about the war. He believes people do not necessarily oppose the mission, "but were doubting whether it would be successful and whether it was worth the cost. That's a big difference than if people were actually opposed on principle, or morally, to what we were doing."

Harper said he believes the Canadians do not support the mission simply because of national self-interest, the notion that Canada protects its long-term security by working to prevent the emergence of a failed state capable of mounting another 9/11.

"That's actually less appealing to Canadian public opinion than the argument that we actually are concretely helping the Afghan people with their lives. That's actually something that Canadians and I think members of other NATO democracies respond to quite positively."

Harper also supported the need to negotiate with less hardened elements of the Taliban, the view Karzai's government supports. But Harper made clear he is far from being on the same page as the NDP's Jack Layton on that point.

"People who have a strong or fundamentalist Muslim views are not going to cease to be fundamentalist Muslims, but what we want them to do is lay down arms and participate through the democratic process. I've seen incidents myself in Kandahar where that has actually occurred," Harper said.

"That's a good thing, but I think that's different than a naive view that we would just say, you know, 'bring your guns and we'll kind of lay down our arms,' which as you know, is the view of the element you talk about in Canada."

Though Harper is generally loathe to speculate whether it might be necessary to keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan beyond the current 2011 extension recently approved by Parliament, he could not ignore what many, including some of his own generals, have said - that fixing Afghanistan could take a generation or longer.

"If you took the definition of 'success,' which could be 'Afghan forces able to ensure a western equivalent security environment,' maybe that's a 20, 25-year task. If you're saying 'Afghan forces able to manage the day-to-day security in most of the country,' we think that's an objective that, if we put our focus and determination towards, is achievable in a much shorter timeframe."

Three months ago, it would have been a firing offense for any Conservative to offer up 20-to-25-year time frames in the cut-and-thrust, sound bite political battlefield of Parliament Hill where some opposition members accuse Harper's government of having secret agenda to stay involved in Afghanistan forever.

Harper seemed eager to engage in a discussion on the "nexus" between insurgencies and the narcotics trade when British author Misha Glenny raised the topic with panelists.

"I'm not trying to say it's a silver lining, but I do think it's significant to see the evolution of the insurgency from an ideologically inspired terrorist insurgency to one that is increasingly a commercial or narcotic-based insurgency. Still problematic, but in the sense of the global strategic issues that led us to Afghanistan, actually an improvement over the situation," the prime minister said, before adding:
"I would agree with what you seem to assert in your question, that ultimately the problem is not in Afghanistan as much as the problem is elsewhere in terms of the demand. I'm a believer that anti-drug strategies have to address both the supply and the demand."

Harper added that he is no believer in "a pure war on the supply of drugs" and that the pop culture glorification of drugs dating back to the 1960s is something that needs to be taken seriously.

In terms of the big question - is the West having success in Afghanistan? - Harper showed he is willing to move beyond the black-and-white approach that his government has relied on in the past: sugar coating examples of progress such as roads paved, wells dug and schools built at the expense of frankly acknowledging the harrowing realities on the ground.

"We are making progress, but we have not yet made progress to the point where the situation would be irreversible if we were suddenly out," he said. "We have not passed the tipping point where the cycle of security, development and governance really has a momentum of its own. And that's something that we believe we can achieve in the years to come. The not too distant future, but we clearly have work to do to achieve that."

In her introduction, Doucet described Harper as someone who likes to win, but noted how the numbers are stacked against his minority government in Canada's Parliament.

But as Harper made clear a day later to reporters, he suspects the anti-war sentiment in Canada is not strong enough to defeat his government - essentially that the mission will be worth his political gamble.
"Canadian public opinion is worried we won't be successful. But I don't think Canadian public opinion thinks that supporting the Karzai government in its efforts to rebuild Afghanistan against the Taliban is a bad thing. I think that's a very small section of public opinion that people like the NDP are appealing to when they take that position."
Back to Top

Back to Top
Climate change threatens Afghan health
Source: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; World Health Organization (WHO)
Kabul, 7 April 2008 - As the impact of climate change on food and water becomes more widely recognised Afghanistan's Minister for Public Health called for increased efforts to protect the health of Afghan people from the dangers of global warming on World Health Day.

"2008 must be the year that everyone becomes aware of the real health issues at stake with rising global temperatures and the need for all of us to take urgent action.

"The science is clear – the earth is warming and impacts directly on availability of water and food resources." This is the stark message that Minister of Health Dr. Sayed Amin Fatemi and the World Health Organization's Peter Graaff gave today to mark World Health Day 2008.

Dr. Sayed Amin Fatemi and Peter Graaff called for every Afghan to give new energy and commitment to making the fundamental changes in their lifestyles that will stabilize the climate and help prevent shortages in food and water supplies for Afghanistan's people.

Visiting a malaria and leishmania centre in Darulaman, Kabul, Minister of Health Dr. Sayed Amin Fatemi said:

"We all have a role to play in mitigating the impact of climate change, by ensuring efficient use of our existing food and water resources, reducing pollution from our vehicles and using our land more efficiently."

Climate change, in addition to other factors, may have triggered a malaria epidemic at an altitude of 2,400 meters in the Yakawlang district of Bamyan province where there were 15 deaths. Ministry of Public Health data from 2004-2007 shows an increase of malaria cases in districts across the country with temperate climate.

World Health Organization's Afghanistan Representative, Peter Graaff said:

"Health needs to be at the center of all climate change policies – tackling climate change can create healthier, safer and fairer communities. Health is one of the areas most affected by climate change – and it is being affected now."

Clean air is considered to be a basic requirement of human health and well-being, however, air pollution continues to pose a significant threat to health worldwide. Three decades of war, destruction, de-forestation and drought have affected the climate and environment in Afghanistan and Kabul currently has the most polluted air in the country.

All populations are vulnerable, but the poor are the first and the hardest hit. Climate change threatens to reverse our progress in fighting diseases of poverty, and to widen the gaps in health between the richest and the poorest.

If current global warming trends remain uncontrolled, humanity will face more injury, diseases and deaths related to natural disasters and heat waves; higher rates of foodborne, water-borne, and vector-borne diseases; and more premature deaths and disease related to air pollution. Large populations will be displaced by drought and famine. As glaciers melt, the hydrological cycle shifts and the productivity of arable land changes.

The health impacts of climate change will be difficult to reverse in a few years time. Yet, many of these impacts can be avoided or controlled. Reducing pollution from transport, efficient land use and improved water management have all been shown to have a positive impact against the effects of climate change.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

To find out more about the Ministry of Public Health's activities, please visit: http://www.moph.gov.af

For further information in Dari, Pashto or English, media should contact:

Dr. Abdullah Fahim, Spokesperson, Ministry of Public Health:
Phone: ++ 93 (0) 700 276 340
Email: fahima777@yahoo.com
Back to Top

Back to Top
Let's do the job in Afghanistan and get out
Telegraph.co.uk - Leaders  07/04/2008
Our presence in Afghanistan is beginning to look permanent. A military assault launched for a narrow and specific purpose - to degrade the terrorist infrastructure built up under the Taliban - has gradually turned, without anyone ever intending it, into a settled garrison.

We report Washington wants the United Kingdom to assume permanent leadership of the military mission in the turbulent southern provinces, and to increase its commitment commensurately. This is understandable: the rotating command system was always political rather than military in inspiration. But what began as a multi-national anti-terrorist mission is taking on the character of an Anglo-American occupation.

are respectable arguments in favour of such an occupation. The invasion removed a rogue regime that had been training bombers - an alarming number of whom turned out to be British, and were presumably preparing for attacks in this country. Withdrawal might risk a return of al-Qa'eda and an end to the civic and economic reforms brought by the Karzai regime: the re-cultivation of fallow fields, the education of women, the construction of schools and clinics and, not least, free elections. It would certainly halt the poppy eradication programme.

At the same time, though, we need a clear sense of what we are trying to achieve, what would constitute success, and when we shall leave. To remain out of inertia, or to give our soldiers combat experience, or to give Nato something to do, would be outrageous.

Many of those who supported the invasion are beginning to wonder whether our presence is radicalising the population, creating more jihadis than it eliminates. Others fret that, instead of stabilising Afghanistan, we are destabilising Pakistan. In short, we need a medium-term plan to build up the Kabul regime to the point where it can take over from the foreign forces. Then, job done, we should get out.
Back to Top


 Back to News Archirves of 2008
 
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).