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January 17, 2008 

Afghanistan heading toward crisis, says opposition party
Thu Jan 17, 5:11 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Worsening security is pushing Afghanistan towards a crisis, the country's main opposition group said on Thursday, days after a deadly Taliban raid near the presidential palace.

Gates: Allies doing what they can
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that he believes NATO will continue to play a significant role in Afghanistan a day after Pentagon officials acknowledged he has concerns about the allies' ability

Kabul hotel attack a shock but it's business as usual
by Bronwen Roberts Thu Jan 17, 5:02 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A deadly strike on a luxury Kabul hotel opened to fanfare two years ago as a high-security haven has driven home the Taliban's reach and shaken confidence in the restive nation, analysts and officials say.

Karzai marks "rebirth" of the Afghan air force
KABUL (Reuters) - President Hamid Karzai hailed what he called the rebirth of the Afghan air force at a ceremony on Thursday to open a new state-of-the-art headquarters at Kabul airport and the arrival of new helicopters.

New UN special envoy to Afghanistan strongly denied by Taliban
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-17 17:05:11
KABUL, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Taliban Thursday severely denied Paddy Ashdown who was appointed as United Nations' envoy to Afghanistan on Wednesday as saying Ashdown is only a spokesman for the western countries.

7 Canadian soldiers injured in Afghanistan
Thursday, January 17, 2008 CBC News Cananda
Seven Canadian soldiers were injured in two incidents involving suspected roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan, the military said Thursday.

Intervention in Pakistan key to Afghan success, Dion says
Marianne White,  Canwest News Service Wednesday, January 16, 2008
QUEBEC -- Any attempt to counter terrorists war-torn Afghanistan will not succeed without an intervention in neighbouring Pakistan, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Wednesday.

THE RISE AND RISE OF AL-QAEDA, Part 1
For part II visit January 20, 2008
Militants make a claim for talks By Syed Saleem Shahzad Jan 18, 2008  Asia Times Online
KABUL - The capture by militants of a fort in Pakistan near the Afghan border is not just another isolated incident in the volatile region. It represents a concerted fightback by al-Qaeda to derail any peace initiatives unless

NATO warns Afghan civilians to keep distance from military vehicles
Source: Voice of America 16 Jan 2008
The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has urged civilians to stay away from military patrol vehicles so that they are not mistaken for insurgents.

Ex-lawmaker charged in terror conspiracy
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer Wed Jan 16, 6:23 PM ET
WASHINGTON - A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened

Pakistan Takes Control of Swat Valley From Militants
By Paul Tighe and Khalid Qayum
Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan's army said it took control of the Swat Valley near Afghanistan after a three-month operation against pro-Taliban Islamic fighters.

US vows to help rebuild Musa Qala
By Akram Noorzai - 14/01/2008 - 17:38
LASHKARGAH, Jan 14 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The United States has pledged to help rebuild Helmands Musa Qala town, a former militant stronghold that NATO and Afghan forces recaptured from Taliban fighters

AICC seeks support from US lawmakers
By Zainab Muhammadi - 14/01/2008 - 19:50
KABUL, Jan 14 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Officials of the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) have urged US Congressmen for long-term cooperation in economic programmes and support to the private sector.

Principal's house attacked with bombs
By Khan Wali Salarzai - 14/01/2008 - 10:21
ASADABAD, Jan 13 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The house of a school principal was attacked with remote-controlled bombs in the troubled eastern province of Kunar, a senior police officer said on Sunday.

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Afghanistan heading toward crisis, says opposition party
Thu Jan 17, 5:11 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Worsening security is pushing Afghanistan towards a crisis, the country's main opposition group said on Thursday, days after a deadly Taliban raid near the presidential palace.

Attacks by the al Qaeda-backed Taliban have dramatically jumped in the past two years in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops overthrew the militants from power in 2001.

In the most brazen raid so far, several Taliban stormed a highly protected five-star hotel next to the presidential palace, killing seven foreign civilians and Afghan security guards in a combined suicide bomb and gun attack on Monday.

The National Front main opposition group, which includes a number of key current and ex-members of President Hamid Karzai's government, said the attack was a matter of great concern for the country where nearly 160,000 foreign and Afghan forces are trying to defeat the militants.

"If a serious move and serious decision is not adopted regarding the maintenance of the security situation in the country, we consider ... the outcome will be dangerous and warn the world that Afghanistan is on the verge of being drowned in a swamp which would be very difficult to sort out," said front spokesman Fazel Sangcharaki.

The front, formed last year, called for more coordination between foreign and Afghan forces.
(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
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Gates: Allies doing what they can
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that he believes NATO will continue to play a significant role in Afghanistan a day after Pentagon officials acknowledged he has concerns about the allies' ability to battle an insurgency.

But he also said he hopes that sending additional Marines to southern Afghanistan will reduce the number a casualties that countries like Canada and others are seeing in that volatile area. Gates said he has no plans to send any additional troops to Afghanistan beyond the 3,300 Marines the Pentagon announced early this week.

"I think the role (of NATO) will be very similar. I think it's one that combines military action with economic development and civic action," Gates said in an interview with National Public Radio. "Our NATO allies are playing a significant role, particularly Canada and the United Kingdom and the Dutch. This kind of role, even with the addition of our Marines, will remain essentially the same."

He added that he has toned down his public criticism of NATO because "frankly, I think they're doing as much as they can."

In comments reported Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times, Gates said that while U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan are doing a terrific job, he is concerned that NATO allies are not well trained in counterinsurgency operations.

"I think our allies over there, this is not something they have any experience with," he told the Times.

In other comments, Gates said that while he believes Iran is one of the greatest challenges that the Bush administration will face this year, he does not consider Tehran a military threat to the U.S. now.

"When I think of a threat I think of a direct military threat, and while the jury is out in terms of whether they have eased up on their support to those opposing us in Iraq, I don't see the Iranians in the near term as a direct threat to the United States," he said.

The Bush administration continues to press for new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. President Bush and his top aides have said repeatedly that they still believe Iran is a threat and that it must agree to international demands to halt uranium enrichment and reprocessing, which could give the country the means to produce atomic weapons.

Southern Afghanistan where there are about 11,700 coalition troops is largely controlled by British, Canadian and Dutch forces, and there are some U.S. troops there.

Overall, about 27,000 U.S. troops are in Afghanistan, including 14,000 with the NATO-led coalition. The other 13,000 U.S. troops are training Afghan forces and hunting al-Qaida terrorists.
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Kabul hotel attack a shock but it's business as usual
by Bronwen Roberts Thu Jan 17, 5:02 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A deadly strike on a luxury Kabul hotel opened to fanfare two years ago as a high-security haven has driven home the Taliban's reach and shaken confidence in the restive nation, analysts and officials say.

They said Monday's attack -- the latest in a series of increasingly deadly Taliban suicide blasts -- may not ultimately significantly affect international efforts in Afghanistan.

But what most shocked people was that the extremists were able to penetrate the capital's most secure hotel, the Kabul Serena, previously seen as an oasis of peace and luxury in a troubled land.

"There were many guests who used to say to us they would never come to Kabul if the Serena did not exist," a hotel spokesman said on condition his name was not used.

"Of course they are going to find it difficult to come here in the future."

That the attackers came as visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere was about to host a dinner meeting "is also going to have implications," he admitted.

Such was its status that Australia located its embassy there -- it has now moved its staffers out.

The Serena was the only Kabul hotel with security clearance for functions and international guests of the government's Export Promotion Agency, said its president Suleman Fatimie.

"It gave a good impression of the new Afghanistan -- it was a symbol of Afghanistan being on track after 30 years of war," he told AFP, and vowed that his agency would continue using it for exhibitions and accommodation.

The attack, in which militants stormed into the hotel lobby and appeared to target foreigners, left eight dead: a US national, a Filipina spa director and a Norwegian photographer, as well as an Afghan guest and four guards.

"It makes you wonder, they can go anywhere, they could target my guesthouse," said Roshan Khadivi, a media officer with the UN's children organisation who was in the hotel's health club at the time.

"It makes you wonder about the rest of the year, this is just the beginning of 2008."

A United Nations spokesman, Adrian Edwards, said: "We have to acknowledge that when something like this happens, it does shake confidence.

"But it is part of the environment we are in, in Afghanistan. We have to live with the fact it is an insecure environment."

The past months have seen some of the deadliest attacks of the insurgency launched soon after the Taliban were driven from government in late 2001, but "this was distinct in that it was against foreigners," Edwards said.

Afterwards, the Taliban warned they would hit other haunts of Westerners, including with suicide strikes -- which military officials label a desperate and high-propaganda tactic.

Some embassies and agencies have since revamped security measures, such as barring staff from restaurants that previously had been approved.

Edwards said UN staff had been advised to be extra careful but otherwise it was business as usual. "It does not at the moment affect anything regarding our planning," he said.

The British embassy said it had increased security but "we are operating fully as an embassy."

Aleem Siddique, a UN spokesman, said that while the attack was a shock, "if we stop going out, if we retract our engagement with the country, then they have won.

"We work in some of the most difficult conflict ares of the world -- this is what we do."

The feeling among many foreigners was mixed.

"It is no more dangerous today than it was yesterday," said one Westerner.

Another, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It could all blow over, or it could mark a new trend if all the expats cannot go out anymore."

Afghan analyst and writer Waheed Mujda said the Taliban chose the target to show "they can attack a place just outside the presidential place and a place where special guests of the president stays."

But he said the significance paled in comparison with other events, such as a US decision to dispatch 3,200 more soldiers which suggests a "major security problem."

"It shows they are able to do what they want, almost," said another analyst, former government minister Professor Hamidullah Tarzi. "It was a tactical ploy with high media coverage."

But he also saw few major implications, other than in personal security and perhaps some potential foreign visitors reviewing their trips.
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Karzai marks "rebirth" of the Afghan air force
KABUL (Reuters) - President Hamid Karzai hailed what he called the rebirth of the Afghan air force at a ceremony on Thursday to open a new state-of-the-art headquarters at Kabul airport and the arrival of new helicopters.

Of some 500 aircraft the Afghan air force had during the 1979-89 Soviet occupation, including jet fighters, helicopters and transport planes, only four or five survived the ensuing civil war of the 1990s and the U.S.-led bombardment of 2001.

Since then, NATO and U.S.-led forces have become embroiled in a bitter fight with resurgent Taliban fighters mostly in the east and south of the country and rely heavily on air power to transport troops and equipment around the mountainous country.

Key to success against the Taliban insurgency is building up Afghan forces, but the Afghan Army Air Corps had until this year only eight transport helicopters and six helicopter gunships.

But the Czech Republic is now in the process of handing over six refurbished Russian-made Mi-35 helicopter gunships. The United Arab Emirates is also donating six refurbished Mi-17 Russian-made transport helicopters.

More planes and helicopters, purchased with U.S. funds will eventually build up the fledgling force to 61 aircraft by 2011, an Afghan army statement said.

"Today we are witnessing an extremely important moment in the development and rebuilding of our country, a moment I have long waited for," Karzai said. It marked the "rebirth" of the air force, he said.

(Reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
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New UN special envoy to Afghanistan strongly denied by Taliban
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-17 17:05:11
KABUL, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- Taliban Thursday severely denied Paddy Ashdown who was appointed as United Nations' envoy to Afghanistan on Wednesday as saying Ashdown is only a spokesman for the western countries.

Zabihullah Mujahed, the purported spokesman of Taliban militants, said in a public statement that Ashdown does not come to Afghanistan for peace but the benefits for the America and its western alliances.

"Since every UN envoys failed to find the real things happened in Afghanistan, we people don't trust them at all," Mujahed said.

He added that as representatives for all the countries around the world, the United Nations could not play its role as political role well especially in Afghanistan, and Taliban will neither recognize this kind of organization nor its so-call envoy.

Paddy Ashdown, 66, was appointed as the U.N. envoy to Afghanistan on Wednesday after talking with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on his role of enhancing international efforts to combat a Taliban insurgency and guide reconstruction.
Editor: Gao Ying 
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7 Canadian soldiers injured in Afghanistan
Thursday, January 17, 2008 CBC News Cananda
Seven Canadian soldiers were injured in two incidents involving suspected roadside bombs in southern Afghanistan, the military said Thursday.

The incidents occurred just hours apart on Wednesday in the same area during a patrol operation in the Panjwaii district, about 35 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.

The soldiers were taken by helicopter to a multinational hospital where they were treated for minor injuries, Capt. Sylvain Chalifour said.

Six of the soldiers were released from the hospital on Wednesday night, he said.

The attacks came on the same day as hundreds lined the tarmac of Kandahar airfield to pay tribute to their fallen comrade killed by a roadside bomb on Tuesday.

Trooper Richard Renaud had been part of a routine patrol in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province, about 10 kilometres north of the city of Kandahar, when the blast occurred.

The 26-year-old from Alma, north of Quebec City, was a member of the Valcartier-based 12e Régiment blindé du Canada, informally translated as the 12th Canadian Armoured Regiment. The unit has no formal English name.

Renaud, who joined the military in October 2004, left behind a pregnant wife and their first child, and a four-year-old stepson. Renaud also has two living parents and a sister.

Seventy-seven Canadian soldiers and one Canadian diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002.
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Intervention in Pakistan key to Afghan success, Dion says
Marianne White,  Canwest News Service Wednesday, January 16, 2008
QUEBEC -- Any attempt to counter terrorists war-torn Afghanistan will not succeed without an intervention in neighbouring Pakistan, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said Wednesday.

Mr. Dion hinted NATO could take action in Pakistan, which has a porous border with Afghanistan, if the Pakistani government doesn't move to track terrorists.

"We are going to have to discuss that very actively if they (the Pakistanis) are not able to deal with it on their own. We could consider that option with the NATO forces in order to help Pakistan help us pacify Afghanistan," said Mr. Dion in Quebec City, commenting after his two-day trip to Afghanistan last weekend. "As long as we don't solve the problem in Pakistan, I don't see how we can solve it in Afghanistan."

The Liberal leader explained that Afghan officials told him they know where the extremist strongholds are in Pakistan. But he said the Afghans don't take action.

"One day, we are going to have to act because our soldiers are cleaning out some areas, but in fact very often they are only clean in principle. The insurgents go take refuge in Pakistan and they are going to come back (to Afghanistan) at the earliest opportunity. This could last very long if we don't tackle the problems that often originate from Pakistan," Mr. Dion said.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay told Canwest News Service Dion's comments were off base.

"Mr. Dion can't be serious to suggest NATO "intervene," in another country while simultaneously saying Canada should abandon its United Nations-mandated NATO mission in Afghanistan," he said in an e-mail.

"He has to explain to Canadians why he wants an "intervention" but wants to turn his back on Afghanistan, which has asked and continues to ask for Canada's help. It's inane."

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledged last August that Islamic extremists are operating in tribal areas on his nation's side of the border with Afghanistan and providing support to insurgents fighting U.S. and NATO troops.

Mr. Musharraf and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai have been urged by the U.S. and other allied countries to work together to counter the extremists' presence in the tribal belt that straddles their 2,400-kilometre border.

But Mr. Dion said that more pressure has to be put on the Pakistani government for immediate action.

Although Mr. Karzai rejected the Liberal position that Canada should end its combat mission in southern Afghanistan by February 2009, Mr. Dion reiterated his party wants a halt to the 2,500-soldier combat mission in Kandahar as scheduled.

But he said he wants some troops to remain in Afghanistan to play a different role, for instance in training police, civilian protection and reconstruction in safer zones.

"We saw how much Canada is needed for development and security purposes and we should focus on that," stressed Mr. Dion, who added he was "impressed" by the job done by the Canadian Forces.

"We were proud to be Canadians when we were in Afghanistan," he said.

But nonetheless, Mr. Dion thinks that Canada's "enormous" involvement in the combat must come to an end.

"For the mission to succeed, NATO must apply the principle of rotation. When a country is in the most difficult combat mission during three years, there must be a time for rotation," he said.

The House of Commons will have to vote on whether to extend the mission, following recommendations brought forth by the panel headed by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley.
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THE RISE AND RISE OF AL-QAEDA, Part 1
For part 2 visit January 20, 2008
Militants make a claim for talks By Syed Saleem Shahzad Jan 18, 2008  Asia Times Online
KABUL - The capture by militants of a fort in Pakistan near the Afghan border is not just another isolated incident in the volatile region. It represents a concerted fightback by al-Qaeda to derail any peace initiatives unless the group itself is directly engaged, rather than local resistance leaders.

On Wednesday, several hundred insurgents armed with assault rifles and rockets stormed the remote Sararogha Fort in the South Waziristan tribal area and routed its garrison from the Frontier Constabulary (FC), a paramilitary force formed of men from the area.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said 40 militants had been killed in an exchange of fire when they managed to enter the fort after blowing up a wall.

A Taliban spokesman, Maulvi Omar, however, claimed that 16 FC personnel had been killed and 24 more captured. He said only two of his men had been killed, while a dozen had sustained injuries. "The fort is still in our control," the self-proclaimed Taliban spokesman added in a phone call to the offices of a Pakistani newspaper.

Unrest has escalated in South Waziristan since the government singled out Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud for his alleged involvement in the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto on December 27 in the army garrison city of Rawalpindi.

All the same, Islamabad has tried to defuse the situation by negotiating with selected Taliban leaders. Most recently, a Pakistani Taliban shura (council) headed by Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan responded positively to a government offer of a ceasefire, despite opposition from Takfiri elements who view non-practicing Muslims as infidels.

The backlash was immediate. Militants launched attacks in Mohmand Agency, followed by Wednesday's mass assault.

This response is orchestrated by al-Qaeda from its camps around the town of Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Al-Qaeda views any peace agreements with the Pakistani Taliban as a government maneuver to split the militants, and also says Islamabad has been consistently intransigent over the years.

Al-Qaeda demands that it be the chief interlocutor in any peace talks, and it has set its bottom line: guarantees of the withdrawal of all security forces from the tribal areas; enforcement of sharia law, the release of Maulana Abdul Aziz of the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), who was apprehended last year; and that President Pervez Musharraf step down.

Graphic ideology
Al-Qaeda has fought back strongly in the tribal areas after being forced onto the back foot as a result of Pakistani security operations. Its hardline message is well summed up by a video now in circulation, a copy of which Asia Times Online has viewed.
It comes from the camp of Tahir Yuldashev, leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in Mir Ali. It carries bloody footage, including that of severed heads, backed by messages from top Takfiri ideologues in the tribal areas, including Abdul Khaliq Haqqani and Yuldashev.

The video traces some of the successes of the insurgents, including mass surrender scenes of Pakistani armed forces in South Waziristan and detailed footage of the October 2007 war in North Waziristan - the biggest battle in the history of Pakistan's tribal regions. There are scenes of Pakistani F-16s bombing towns and the retaliation of the Pakistani Taliban. The video claims the killing of 150 Pakistani soldiers and shows footage of their bodies, burnt vehicles and seized equipment.

The video is primarily a declaration of war against the Pakistani army and urges to struggle to continue until Islamabad is captured. The video portrays Musharraf as the prime accused.

With propaganda material such as this, al-Qaeda aims to stamp its authority on the area. At the same time, Jundullah, a purely militant outfit whose objective is to target Pakistan's pro-US rulers and US and British interests in the country, has been revived. Its members receive training in Afghanistan and South Waziristan.

The curtailment and revival of al-Qaeda
The mastermind of a new approach in Iraq was former US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and US commander in Iraq General David Petraeus, who introduced peace ideas in early 2007 which resulted in Anbar Awakening. This is an alliance of about 200 Sunni sheikhs drawn mostly from the Dulaimi tribe and dozens of sub-clans who were fighting against al-Qaeda.

With arms, money and aid from the US, they established links with indigenous Iraqi tribal resistance movements in Samarra, Tikrit and Mosul to target al-Qaeda, which has proved successful in curtailing the group's operations in Iraq.

This initiative was copied by the British in southwest Afghanistan and by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence in South Waziristan and North Waziristan, with channels of communication with the Taliban being established.

A new leadership within the Taliban was nurtured and given arms and money by the Pakistani army. The outcome was the massacre of Uzbeks in South Waziristan and the removal of al-Qaeda bigwigs from North Waziristan.

But al-Qaeda diligently sowed the seeds of its ideology among the downtrodden and dead-end jihadis of Pakistan's underground militant organizations, such as the Laskhar-i-Jhangvi and the Jaish-i-Mohammed, who felt betrayed over Islamabad's withdrawal of active support for the struggle in Kashmir.

This effectively stemmed the rise of the neo-Taliban, and Pakistani and Afghan warriors have fully embraced the global jihad ideology of al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda believes it has sufficiently changed the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan and that the first regional dialogue with al-Qaeda - involving Britain, the United States and Pakistan - will start in South Asia.

Indeed, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, in audio and video messages last year, surprised many when he urged the West for dialogue.

Of course, this was not a straight-forward offer of an olive branch, but an indication that al-Qaeda aims to be the main negotiator of Muslim issues, rather than local groups such as the Taliban, Iraqi tribes and Hamas in Palestine.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan, this is already happening.

Next: International players trapped in their game

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com
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NATO warns Afghan civilians to keep distance from military vehicles
Source: Voice of America 16 Jan 2008
The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan has urged civilians to stay away from military patrol vehicles so that they are not mistaken for insurgents.

A spokesman, Bernd Allert, for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, told reporters Wednesday civilian drivers should behave so they cannot be mistaken for a threat.

The spokesman warned that ISAF forces are authorized to fire warning shots if unidentified vehicles get too close.

The warning is part of a new public awareness campaign aimed at preventing civilian casualties - an issue that has plagued the alliance over the past year. It will also include new signs on military vehicles, billboards and television advertisements.

After several incidents in which civilians were killed during anti-insurgent operations last year, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded NATO and the U.S.-led coalition review its military strategy.
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Ex-lawmaker charged in terror conspiracy
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer Wed Jan 16, 6:23 PM ET
WASHINGTON - A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

Mark Deli Siljander, a Michigan Republican when he was in the House, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.

A 42-count indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., accuses the Islamic American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for the lobbying money that turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Siljander, who served in the House from 1981-1987, was appointed by President Reagan to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations for one year in 1987.

He could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. His attorney in Kansas City, J.R. Hobbs, had no immediate comment.

The charges are part of a long-running case against the charity, which had been based in Columbia, Mo., and was designated by the Treasury Department in 2004 as a suspected fundraiser for terrorists.

In the indictment, the government alleges that IARA employed a man who had served as a fundraising aide to Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader and mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The indictment charges IARA with sending approximately $130,000 to help Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whom the United States has designated as a global terrorist. The money, sent to bank accounts in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 2003 and 2004, was masked as donations to an orphanage located in buildings that Hekmatyar owned.

Authorities described Hekmatyar as an Afghan mujahedeen leader who has participated in and supported terrorist acts by al-Qaida and the Taliban. The Justice Department said Hekmatyar "has vowed to engage in a holy war against the United States and international troops in Afghanistan."

The charges paint "a troubling picture of an American charity organization that engaged in transactions for the benefit of terrorists and conspired with a former United States congressman to convert stolen federal funds into payments for his advocacy," Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said.

Siljander founded the Washington-area consulting group Global Strategies Inc. after leaving the government.

The indictment says Siljander was hired by IARA in March 2004 to lobby the Senate Finance Committee in an effort to remove the charity from the panel's list of suspected terror fundraisers.

For his work, IARA paid Siljander with money that was part of U.S. government funding awarded to the charity years earlier for relief work it promised to perform in Africa, the indictment says. Under the grant agreement, IARA was supposed to return any unused funds after the relief project was wrapped up in 1999.

Instead, Siljander and three IARA officers agreed to cover up the money's origins and use it on the lobbying effort, the indictment charges.

In interviews with the FBI in December 2005 and April 2007, Siljander denied doing any lobbying work for IARA. The money, he told investigators, was merely a donation from IARA to help him write a book about Islam and Christianity, the indictment says.

In 2004, the FBI raided the Islamic American Relief Agency-USA group's headquarters and the homes of people affiliated with the group nationwide. Since then, the 20-year-old charity has been unable to raise money and its assets have been frozen.

The charity has denied the allegations that it has financed terrorism. IARA in Columbia has argued that it is a separate organization from the Islamic African Relief Agency, a Sudanese group suspected of financing al-Qaida. A federal appeals court in Washington ruled in February that there was a link between the two groups.

In an indictment handed down in March, the charity and four of its officers were charged with illegally transferring $1.4 million to Iraq from March 1991 to May 2003 when Iraq was under various U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

The indictment also alleges that on 11 separate occasions the defendants transferred funds from the United States to Iraq through Amman, Jordan, in order to promote unlawful activity that violated Iraq sanctions.

In all, Siljander, IARA and five of its officers were charged with various counts of theft, money laundering, aiding terrorists and conspiracy.

"By bringing this case in the middle of America, we seek to make it harder for terrorists to do business halfway around the globe," said John Wood, U.S. attorney in Kansas City.
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Pakistan Takes Control of Swat Valley From Militants
By Paul Tighe and Khalid Qayum
Jan. 17 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan's army said it took control of the Swat Valley near Afghanistan after a three-month operation against pro-Taliban Islamic fighters.

``Troops have pushed out the miscreants from the Swat Valley to an adjoining isolated area'' in the mountains, Major General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director-general of military operations, said at a briefing yesterday, according to the official Associated Press of Pakistan.

Thirty-six soldiers and nine civilians were killed during the offensives, the general said, without saying how many militants died. More than 615 people were arrested, 100 of whom are still being detained, he added.

Terrorist attacks and suicide bombings increased in Pakistan, including in the northwest tribal region bordering Afghanistan, after the army raided the Red Mosque in the capital, Islamabad, in July to end a standoff with clerics. The Swat operation targeted supporters of Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric seeking to impose Islamic law in the once popular tourist destination about 250 kilometers (150 miles) from the city.

At least 10 of Fazlullah's allies were killed, Pasha said, according to APP. Fazlullah remains at large. As many as 230 militants were killed in a two-week operation between November and December, the army said last month.

The cleric's followers took over police stations and controlled the civil administration, Pasha said. A resurgence of the militants will be prevented if people withdraw their support and stop donating money to the fighters. The government will also have to strengthen the police and local authority in order to maintain law and order, he added.

Tribal Regions

Pakistan has deployed more than 100,000 soldiers in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan to combat Taliban and al- Qaeda terrorists crossing the frontier, President Pervez Musharraf said Dec. 26 during a visit to Islamabad by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The U.S. said in an intelligence report in July last year that al-Qaeda established a base in the tribal region to carry out attacks on coalition forces inside Afghanistan.

Musharraf has said al-Qaeda-linked Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud was behind the suicide bombing and gunfire that killed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto at an election rally in the city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, on Dec. 27.

Pakistan's military on Jan. 4 bombed Mehsud's suspected hideout in the South Waziristan tribal region, Dawn newspaper reported at the time. Mehsud is still hiding in the area and there are reports he is ill, APP cited Pasha as saying at the briefing.

Fort Attacked

Mehsud leads an alliance of about five pro-Taliban groups, formed last December and known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, according to a report by the Combating Terrorism Center of the U.S. military academy at West Point.

The TTP has a 40-member leadership council and includes representatives from the seven agencies within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to an article in the center's journal CTC Sentinel published for January.

Mehsud has been operating for several years in command of as many as 5,000 fighters, according to the article.

Security forces yesterday killed 40 militants in a battle for control of a fort in South Waziristan, Pakistan's military said. Seven members of the Frontier Corps were killed and 15 escaped, while 20 others are missing, it said.

About 200 militants attacked the army-managed Sararogha Fort by blowing up a wall, the military said in a statement.

Intelligence Unit

Pakistan yesterday rejected a Jan. 15 report in the New York Times newspaper that the Inter-Service Intelligence unit lost control of militant groups it trained for operations in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

The ISI was forced to expel dozens of officers who trained such militants because they came to sympathize with their students' views, the newspaper said, citing an unidentified former agency official.

When Musharraf allied Pakistan with the Bush administration in its war against terrorism in 2001, the ISI couldn't rein in militants it had nurtured for decades, according to the report. Pakistan supported Afghanistan's Taliban regime until the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S.

The New York Times report is part of propaganda initiated against Pakistan, APP cited an unidentified spokesman for the Office of the Inter-Services Public Relations as saying.
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US vows to help rebuild Musa Qala
By Akram Noorzai - 14/01/2008 - 17:38
LASHKARGAH, Jan 14 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The United States has pledged to help rebuild Helmands Musa Qala town, a former militant stronghold that NATO and Afghan forces recaptured from Taliban fighters in the wake of a joint offensive in early December.

US Ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood, who headed a delegation to the southern district on Sunday, held out the assurance at talks with local officials, provincial police chief Brig. Gen. Muhammad Hussein Andiwal told Pajhwok Afghan News on Monday.

During the hour-long visit, Andiwal said, the ambassador met the district chief, tribal elders and locals. The diplomat promised full US support for efforts at bringing peace and development to Musa Qala, according to the districts administrative head.

Mullah Abdul Salam, a regional Taliban leader who landed the powerful position after defecting to the government just before the operation, said the US would launch a series of reconstruction schemes in the district. The Kajaki dam would be rehabilitated to supply electricity to dwellers of the area, he added.

Speaking to his interlocutors, the envoy referred to reports he received from UN and Afghan officials regarding the cultivation of poppies in Helmand, also called Afghanistans drug capital. He likened narcotics, particularly heroin, to poison while asking the tribal elders to stop growing poppies.

Wood quoted Afghan authorities as claiming the seizure of heroin worth $500 million and destroying a large number of drug labs during the Musa Qala assault.

Problems of the war-weary nation could be addressed but a solution would eventually depend on what kind of Afghanistan it wanted, he remarked, saying: We are ready to extend you all sorts of assistance if you desire a peaceful Afghanistan where the rule of law is enforced.

Salam said he had suggested to the envoy the government must completely enforce its writ in the district by sending an additional 200 policemen to boost security there.

The erstwhile Taliban leader complained: Previously, policemen were involved in thefts in Musa Qala. But now we need honest officials to serve the people.

In a chat with this news agency, a disillusioned tribal elder grumbled many Afghan and foreign dignitaries would visit Musa Qala but the problems of its residents would remain unresolved. 

Haji Khuda-i-Dad said: Our hardships have multiplied during the last one month and a half. Facing hunger, we are short of fuel and firewood. Our houses are willfully being searched by Americans.

Another dweller, Farhad, sounded equally pessimistic about Woods pledge. In the past too, he recalled, many foreign visitors had made similar promises which were never kept.

Translated & edited by Syed Mudassir Ali Shah
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AICC seeks support from US lawmakers
By Zainab Muhammadi - 14/01/2008 - 19:50
KABUL, Jan 14 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Officials of the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) have urged US Congressmen for long-term cooperation in economic programmes and support to the private sector.

A seven-member Congressional delegation, which has been in Kabul for the last couple of days, met AICC officials on Monday. Problems of Afghan traders and the overall business environment in the country came under discussion.

AICC chief executive Azrakhsh Hafizi briefed the US lawmakers on the state of the Afghan economy. He stressed the centrality of open-market economy to the promotion of democracy in Afghanistan.

Hafizi added 3.6 million mobile users in Afghanistan, 17 private banks with more than a billion dollars deposits from customers and dollops of investment in different sectors were the outcome of free market economy.

However, an improved economic situation and employment opportunities were important for peace and stability in the war-ravaged country, the AICC chief executive pointed out.

Over 853,000 people have so far been given gainful jobs in Afghanistans burgeoning private sector, according to Hafizi, who believed: "Widespread poverty and lack of support are pushing people into the ongoing insurgency."

Lincoln Davis, head of the Congressional delegation, hailed the upturn in the Afghan economy. He agreed free market could provide social justice and job opportunities for the Afghans - a huge responsibility of the Afghan businessmen and investors. He promised long-term US support to the Afghan government and businessmen.
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Principal's house attacked with bombs
By Khan Wali Salarzai - 14/01/2008 - 10:21
ASADABAD, Jan 13 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The house of a school principal was attacked with remote-controlled bombs in the troubled eastern province of Kunar, a senior police officer said on Sunday.

Provincial police head Brig. Gen. Abdul Jalal Jalal informed Pajhwok Afghan News unidentified militants planted 11 landmines near the residence of Hakimabad School Principal Muhammad Noor.

"Three of the 11 bombs exploded, destroying the boundary walls of the principals house. However, the blasts caused no causalities," said Jalal, who added an investigation had been initiated. No one has been arrested so far.

Kunar Education Director Faridullah said the attack was carried out by the enemies of the country and education in a brazen attempt to scare teachers, students and their families. 
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