Serving you since 1998
January 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 31

January 20, 2008 

Taliban bomb kills five Afghan civilians: district chief
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A roadside bomb thought to be targeting Afghan and NATO troops killed five civilians including a child, a district chief said.

NATO tensions surface amid growing pressure in Afghanistan
by Pascal Mallet Sun Jan 20, 3:41 AM ET
BRUSSELS (AFP) - Tensions between NATO allies, notably with the United States, and doubts about the powers of a new UN envoy are a sign of growing pressure as the alliance struggles in Afghanistan, experts say.

Afghan war comes to Philippine mountains
by Jason Gutierrez Sun Jan 20, 1:29 AM ET
SAGADA, Philippines (AFP) - A week ago, only a handful of people in this sleepy mountain valley town in the northern Philippines had ever heard of Afghanistan, let alone the Taliban.

Roger Cohen: U.S. soldiers and shoppers hit the wall
By Roger Cohen Sunday, January 20, 2008 International Herald Tribune
NEW YORK-Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have pushed the U.S. armed forces to the limit. Many soldiers have scarcely seen their families in recent years. But a much larger American army, the one that's spent this century

Come clean on why we are in Afghanistan
Jan 20, 2008 04:30 AM Haroon Siddiqui Toronto Star,  Canada
Can't win, can't quite quit. Our quandary in Afghanistan has eerie parallels to the American quagmire in Iraq.

EU parliament appeals to Karzai to spare journalist
January 19, 2008
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European parliament appealed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday to intervene to spare the life of a young journalist after a report that religious leaders demanded he be killed for blasphemy.

In pursuit of Afghanistan's poppy crackdown
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Kabul Saturday, 19 January 2008
The small digital display next to the clock on the car dashboard read -4C (24.8F). But then it was 0600 in Kabul, in January.

THE RISE AND RISE OF AL-QAEDA, Part 2
For part 1 visit January 17, 2008
Talking to the wrong people By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / January 19, 2008
KABUL - Within a few weeks, Britain's Paddy Ashdown takes up a new job as the United Nations' special envoy to Afghanistan. Even with his experience in the strife-torn Balkans, he will have his work cut out in not repeating

NATO hears 'noise before defeat'
By M K Bhadrakumar Asia Times Online / January 19, 2008
When the blame-game begins in an indeterminate war, it is time to sit up and take note. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday rings alarm bells.

Teen arrested for Bhutto assassination
By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Writer Sun Jan 20, 6:12 AM ET
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A 15-year-old detained near the Afghan border has confessed to joining a team of assassins sent to kill Benazir Bhutto, officials said Saturday, announcing the first arrests in the case since the attack

Number of Pak-Afghan weekly flights set to soar
By Pajhwok Correspondent - 17/01/2008 - 12:40
ISLAMABAD, Jan 17 (PAN): The number of weekly flights between Pakistan and Afghanistan would be raised from three to 10, negotiators from the two countries agreed on Wednesday.

PRT conducts free medical camp in Ghor
By Pajhwok Reporter - 17/01/2008 - 17:49
KABUL, Jan 17 (PAN): An Afghan doctor and a Chaghcharan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) medical team recently conducted a medical civil assistance patrol (MEDCAP) in the Badgah village of western Ghor, NATO said on Thursday.

France to fund $18.7m projects; Japan aids NGO drive
By Zainab Muhammadi/Mustafa Basharat - 16/01/2008 - 19:53
KABUL, Jan 16 (PAN): The French government will launch agriculture and livestock projects in Afghanistan this year while Japan has pledged to fund a drive for public awareness about mines and unexploded ordnance.

Back to Top
Taliban bomb kills five Afghan civilians: district chief
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A roadside bomb thought to be targeting Afghan and NATO troops killed five civilians including a child, a district chief said.

Their vehicle was struck late Saturday in the Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar province, which sees a lot of troop movement and was once a stronghold for Taliban insurgents.

"The Taliban planted this mine for NATO and Afghan forces but it exploded on a civilian car," Panjwayi district chief Haji Shah Baran told AFP. "One woman, one child, three men were killed," he said. Two other people in the car were wounded.

The Taliban did not immediately take responsibility for the blast.

The extremists regularly carry out roadside and suicide bombings on troops, with a wave of such attacks making last year the deadliest in an insurgency launched soon after the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001.

While the main targets are often soldiers, most of the victims are civilians.

Nearly 2,000 civilians were killed in violence last year, about half in insurgent attacks, a non-government organisation security group said Friday.
Back to Top

Back to Top
NATO tensions surface amid growing pressure in Afghanistan
by Pascal Mallet Sun Jan 20, 3:41 AM ET
BRUSSELS (AFP) - Tensions between NATO allies, notably with the United States, and doubts about the powers of a new UN envoy are a sign of growing pressure as the alliance struggles in Afghanistan, experts say.

A new peak was reached last week, when US Defense Secretary Robert Gates hit out at allied operations against Taliban fighters in south Afghanistan, which led to the Netherlands summoning the US ambassador for an explanation.

"The bitter criticism by Gates of the way that close US allies like Britain are conducting anti-insurgency operations is the sign of growing anger with the Europeans in Washington," said Joseph Herontin at the RMES network of strategic studies in Brussels.

While Gates later embarked on a fence mending exercise by praising those in the south -- like Britain, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands -- some of his criticism was due, the Belgian expert said.

"Without sufficient numbers on the ground, the Dutch troops, for example, tend to use their artillery and this causes deaths among the civilian population," he said.

However, Herontin said, "in terms of counter-insurgency, British, Dutch and Canadian forces are not so bad, and the Americans aren't as good as Mr Gates suggests."

Elsewhere, Germany's former chief of defence staff Klaus Naumann made an extraordinary outburst last week, accusing Berlin of a lack of solidarity.

He was critical of its refusal to deploy German soldiers from the north to more dangerous areas near the mountainous southern border with Pakistan.

"The time has come for Germany to think whether it wants to be a reliable alliance partner," he said."The obligation doesn't stop in certain geographical regions."

Wherever the troops may be based, overall numbers remain a concern for commanders on the ground.

They are demanding an additional 7,500 troops, even though the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) keeps growing -- from around 33,000 in January 2007 to some 42,000 in December.

On Tuesday, the United States said it would send 3,200 marines, with about two-thirds to be deployed to the south for seven months, in time for yet another anticipated Taliban-led offensive in the spring.

The fighting has left around 6,000 people dead, including some 220 international soldiers trying to help spread the rule of President Hamid Karzai's government to outlying areas, as well as foster reconstruction.

But no matter how much firepower they have, according to Ronald Asmus, expert at the German Marshall Fund, success will not be achieved until there is good governance and the Afghan army can handle security.

He said that ISAF commanders "know that even if they do everything right militarily, we can lose this war."

Indeed most experts agree that the biggest problem lies outside the military sphere and is due to the lack of a serious plan and vision for what is NATO's most ambitious mission ever and its links to civilian efforts.

"The most glaring challenge is the lack of a coordinated strategy both at the military level and in the area of post-conflict reconstruction," said Julianne Smith at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.

To address that in part, the United Nations is due to appoint soon British diplomat Paddy Ashdown -- an energetic former envoy to Bosnia and once a marine -- in a new more powerful civilian position.

But it is unclear if he will be able to coordinate the strands of international and Afghan efforts.

"Unless the coordinator presides over a pooled international budget for Afghanistan, including security sector reform, development aid and counter narcotics, he will just become another agency that needs to be coordinated," said Barnett Rubin, a pre-eminent Afghan expert at New York University.

The tensions, due to this glaring need for a comprehensive strategy, are set to cast a cloud over the upcoming summit of NATO leaders, in Bucharest from April 2 to 4.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghan war comes to Philippine mountains
by Jason Gutierrez Sun Jan 20, 1:29 AM ET
SAGADA, Philippines (AFP) - A week ago, only a handful of people in this sleepy mountain valley town in the northern Philippines had ever heard of Afghanistan, let alone the Taliban.

Now, Afghanistan is all anyone talks about here, as the family and friends of Zenia Aguilan wait for her body to be sent home.

The 31-year-old woman, who sought work overseas so she could help support her family, was killed last week in a Taliban suicide attack at the five-star Kabul hotel where she had worked as the spa supervisor.

Clutching a portrait of her slain daughter, retired school teacher Herminia Aguilan struggles to speak, her eyes welling with tears.

"They are bad people," she told AFP of the Taliban extremists blamed for the attack on the Serena Hotel, which killed eight people: a US national, a Norwegian photographer, an Afghan guest, four guards -- and Zenia.

The youngest of five, the vivacious and outspoken Zenia was a straight-A student who earned a degree in physical therapy and a ticket out of Sagada, a town where literacy is high but where poverty remains a major problem.

Zenia's four siblings are also professionals working abroad -- just a handful of the more than eight million Filipinos sending billions of dollars home every year from more than 120 countries.

The vast army of overseas workers -- who sent home 13.1 billion dollars in the first 11 months of 2007 alone, up 14.1 percent on a year earlier -- have become the backbone of the Philippine economy, according to government data.

The Aguilans are typical of those who have joined the exodus to try and make a better life for themselves and their families.

When Zenia was just two months old, her father died, leaving Herminia to raise the family alone. On a public schoolteacher salary of about 100 dollars a month, "life was hard," she said.

"The children knew we were poor and they had to leave for economic reasons," she said, adding that one of her children is a nurse working in the United States, while another works in Saudi Arabia.

While Aguilan said the money did help, it did not replace having the family together. Now, following Zenia's death, her remaining children will be under one roof for the first time in years -- to bury their sister.

Zenia first sought work in Taiwan before heading to the Middle East.

From Dubai, she landed a job paying around 700 dollars to work as the Serena's spa manager in Afghanistan. She had been there for almost a year, when the fatal attack happened.

"She came home on vacation last July and did not appear worried about being in Afghanistan," Aguilan said.

"She loved her work and she was enjoying her time in Afghanistan."

Friends and relatives gathered at the family's modest wood-paneled two-story home nestled in the middle of Sagada's maze of pathways described Zenia as easy-going and generous. Pictures show a young, smiling attractive woman.

"She was family-oriented and always thought about family first," Aguilan said, her voice again trembling.

"I pity my child. Her life had been full of sacrifices and now she had to die that way in a foreign country, all by herself without family. She didn't even see her father."

Zenia had been planning on returning home, most likely for good, in February, and had promised her mother they would go on a long-delayed vacation.

Instead, the 62-year-old matriarch is sadly preparing to bury her daughter.

Word of Zenia's death has spread quickly in Sagada, where practically everyone knows each other by first name and are either relatives by birth or marriage.

Conversation in coffee shops and markets centres on the Aguilan family's tragedy.

Sagada, a farming town of approximately 15,000 people nestled in the northern Cordillera mountain range, is considered a fifth-class municipality -- meaning the income level remains among the lowest in the Philippines.

While the local government has turned the town into a successful tourist spot with its ancient caves and scenic cliffs, local households still earn an average of less than 100 dollars a month, according to the local census.

Aguilan says despite the tragedy of Zenia's death, she knows her other children will continue to work and live abroad, to ensure a better life for them all.

"They had a difficult life -- they should experience what I did not experience in life," she said.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Roger Cohen: U.S. soldiers and shoppers hit the wall
By Roger Cohen Sunday, January 20, 2008 International Herald Tribune
NEW YORK-Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have pushed the U.S. armed forces to the limit. Many soldiers have scarcely seen their families in recent years. But a much larger American army, the one that's spent this century shopping, is even more overextended and its pain is now coming home to roost.

Nobody ever made money exhorting people to save. But U.S. banks and financial institutions have spent huge amounts in recent years telling people debt is good and savings are dumb.

Their ads - to the effect that "good daughters go into debt to take their mothers on vacation," as Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, put it - paid off handsomely as consumers went on a debt-financed shopping spree. Consumption has driven the U.S. economy; the only problem is consumers ran out of money years ago even as they did not run out of credit cards.

And here we are, with the rainy day our grandparents always droned on about appearing in the form of a deluge, and no savings stashed for it, and President George W. Bush, the debt-spender par excellence, conjuring up a $150-billion stimulus package that evokes the injection of steroids into a prone athlete wrecked by a marathon.

This "shot in the arm," as Bush put it, may dampen a little pain. But this patient will be in intensive care for a long time.

As Stephen Roach, the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, said to me: "The very low U.S. savings rate, and related huge balance of payments deficit to attract funds from overseas, are not sustainable things." The adjustment is likely to be long and painful.

Think of it as getting the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers and the obliviousness of U.S. shoppers a little more in sync. The non-relation between expensive wars and exempt non-warriors, a mirage Bush has fostered, has become unsustainable.

Roach estimated U.S. net national savings at a tiny 1.4 percent of national income and household debt at 133 percent of personal disposable income. That last figure means middle class families are tapping into home equity - borrowing against their homes - to buy their kids socks. And if they can't pay the resulting never-sleeping debt, they lose not a room or two, but the house.

Headlines in recent weeks have focused on the international investors - from Japan to Kuwait - riding to the rescue of such American symbols as Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. The Asian financial crisis of the 1990s has gone into reverse.

This turnabout has provided eloquent evidence of the Asian-tilted power shift of the past decade and of the way countries from Korea to Singapore have built up dollar war chests as the United States has plunged into debt.

Beneath the staggering U.S. corporate losses - over $100 billion since the credit crisis began - lie the individuals suckered into taking on debts they won't be able to pay, whatever Bush hands back in tax rebates.

As my colleague Floyd Norris has written of ballooning (and now plunging) property prices: "The only way prices got so high was that people who could not afford to buy those homes were given mortgages they could not hope to repay unless home prices kept rising."

A staggering number of these mortgages were either interest-only or so-called "negative amortization" contracts that left the principal owed either unreduced or mounting after monthly payments.

"The median American family is going into what looks like a recession owing more than 100 percent of its income," Warren said. No wonder Citigroup just set aside $4.1 billion to cover possible defaults on home-equity loans, credit cards and auto loans - shoes that have yet to drop.

A weak dollar, outsized personal debt, a massive current account deficit, cash-strapped banks and Asian governments purchasing U.S. Treasury bonds to finance the national debt are not signs of American strength. Nor are they necessarily signs of American decline, because inherent U.S. vitality remains enormous.

But as Benn Steil, an economist at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested: "We could be seeing a secular shift in confidence in the dollar as a store of value as the impression grows that the United States, to some degree, is losing control of its destiny."

I expect the United States to bounce back, but not quickly. The central fact confronting the next president will be the new limits on U.S. power, both military and economic.

The central challenge will be the provision of needed reforms, primarily universal health care, that begin to alleviate the financial strains on median American families and allow them to get back to saving rather than leveraging assets in a phony consumption boom.

This won't be easy. But then it wasn't easy for Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a far worse situation in 1933.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Come clean on why we are in Afghanistan
Jan 20, 2008 04:30 AM Haroon Siddiqui Toronto Star,  Canada
Can't win, can't quite quit. Our quandary in Afghanistan has eerie parallels to the American quagmire in Iraq.

There is no easy way out, no matter what U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates or our own politicians the dithering Liberals and the warmongering Tories tell us.

The John Manley panel stacked with people keen on keeping Americans happy, at all costs, to preserve our trade will present its own spin in the next few days.

What we need most is to break the cocoon of dishonesty covering our combat mission in Kandahar.

We are not there to liberate Afghan women. They are the deserving beneficiaries of the Western presence, but not its raison d'être.

We are not there to spread democracy, either. That, too, is a by-product if and when it takes hold.

We went there in 2001 as part of a post-9/11 United Nations-sanctioned military mission. We went into Kandahar in 2005 for a variety of reasons: to placate the Americans, having begged off the Iraq war and the missile defence program; to let Gen. Rick Hillier re-militarize the military; to oblige Hamid Karzai, desperate for a NATO cover for the unpopular American Rambo mission in southern Afghanistan.

Instead of levelling with Canadians, Paul Martin talked about rebuilding Afghanistan, Hillier about crushing Taliban "scumbags," Stephen Harper about the holy war on terror and Gordon O'Connor about seeking "retribution" for 9/11.

Canadians, seeing through the confusion and duplicity, just want the troops out, though many still want to help rebuild Afghanistan.

The Iraqification of Afghanistan is clear enough spreading insurgency, with roadside bombs and suicide bombers, now creeping into Kabul; public insecurity, civilian deaths, joblessness, homelessness, hunger; and a weak, corrupt and highly partisan central government confined to the capital.

Arguably, the situation is bleaker, given the mountainous topography and record opium production.

Paddy Ashdown, the blunt Briton who headed the United Nations Bosnia mission and has just been named the UN's top Afghan envoy, has conceded the Afghan failure. Even the U.S. has quietly launched a full-scale probe into it.

Only Harper, Hillier and their minions are still chirping about winning this hill or that fort from the Taliban. And they continue to brand their critics unpatriotic or disloyal to the troops.

As we await Manley's report, here's what we should be asking:

What, exactly, is our mission in Afghanistan?

Is it to side with the Americans, either to preserve our trade, or simply because Harper is ideologically wedded to George W. Bush's world vision?

Or is it about capturing Osama bin Laden and eliminating Al Qaeda and the Taliban? If so, what would it take? A mini-surge of 3,200 American Marines, just announced by Gates, won't do it.

Or is the goal less ambitious but still vital: preventing Afghanistan from becoming a failed state again?

If so, it's not victory we are after but a stalemate. "The role of the military in Europe during the Cold War was not to win but to contain the Soviet menace," as Janice Stein of the University of Toronto, co-author of Canada in Kandahar, told me Friday.

The objective, then, is to not concede Kandahar and environs to the Taliban. Bill Graham, who as Liberal defence minister authorized the mission, told me: "My fear is that we if lose southern Afghanistan, we may lose all of Afghanistan."

Maintaining the stalemate may take years. Iraq's defence minister has just said that the Americans need to stay there until 2018. Karzai couldn't give us an exit date either.

But a stalemate does buy time to: a) help rebuild the rest of the country, develop the economy and find workable alternatives to the opium crop; b) help clean up corruption and establish government authority; c) work on a political solution.

The U.S. thinks it cannot leave Iraq but should. Canada can quit Afghanistan but shouldn't. However, staying there without an honest appraisal and a coherent strategy is to let our soldiers die in vain.

Haroon Siddiqui appears Thursday and Sunday. hsiddiq@thestar.ca
Back to Top

Back to Top
EU parliament appeals to Karzai to spare journalist
January 19, 2008
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European parliament appealed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Friday to intervene to spare the life of a young journalist after a report that religious leaders demanded he be killed for blasphemy.

Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, a reporter of the Jahan-e Naw daily paper and a journalism student at Balkh University in northern Afghanistan, was detained three months ago.

He was accused of mocking Islam and the Koran and of distributing an article which said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

The Paris-based worldwide media watchdog Reporters without Borders (RsF) said on Thursday a group of Afghan religious leaders called the Council of Mullahs had called for him to be executed.

Blasphemy is punishable by death in Islam and Afghanistan is a deeply conservative Islamic country.

"I would like to appeal to you in the strongest possible terms to use your good offices to intervene in this matter and ensure that the life of Mr Perwiz Kambakhsh is spared," the European parliament's speaker Hans Gert Poettering said in a letter to Karzai.

He said the Afghan government should be supporting efforts to improve conditions for women and added: "It is essential that persons working for civil rights and freedom of expression be afforded sufficient legal protection."

Since the ousting of the Taliban's radical Islamic government in 2001, dozens of newspapers and other publications, some funded by foreigners, have sprung up in a country enjoying an unprecedented wave of press freedom.
Back to Top

Back to Top
In pursuit of Afghanistan's poppy crackdown
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Kabul Saturday, 19 January 2008
The small digital display next to the clock on the car dashboard read -4C (24.8F). But then it was 0600 in Kabul, in January.

As the sun slowly started to pour light into the city we headed north out of the bustle of the slushy streets, across the Shomali plain near the big American air base at Bagram, and up towards the snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush.

And as the sun gradually turned the white mountain tops shades of red, the thermometer drifted ever downwards -6C, -7C, -8C, before settling on a nice even -11C.

It was one of those beautifully clear days with a piercing blue sky.

We passed icing-sugar coated walnut trees, stone houses clinging to the mountain sides, and women clad in burkhas the colour of the sky, climbing upwards, making steep tracks in the snow until they disappeared from sight.

The tops of some vehicles - caught when the blizzards came - could still be seen poking out of the drifts beside the road, as could the triangular signs informing anyone who could make them out, or who cared, that there were dangerous bends in the road ahead.

But Afghans do not let two metre (6ft) snow drifts and a slight chill in the air stop them driving at ridiculous speeds. That is once they have defrosted their diesel.

I would not have thought lighting a fire under the fuel tank was the best way of getting the engine running, but it is a very popular method on the road to Mazar-e-Sharif.

Gateway

We had put snow chains on the back wheels of our 4x4 and made good progress through the ice and snow.

I was a little surprised when amid a beeping of horns and a cloud of powder snow, a coach, packed with people and topped with luggage, skidded past us at a crossroads.

"To be honest the Panshiris are mad," my colleague Mahfouz said in a matter-of-fact sort of way.

Here, Mazar-e-Sharif is to the left, the Panshir valley to the right: once the heartland of the mujahideen fighters whom the Russians never managed to tame.

We approached the Salang Tunnel, the gateway to the north. And as a spindrift of snow - like a snake of steam - wriggled left and right across the frozen road ahead of us, the car plunged into the mouth of the tunnel and into an otherworldly smog of darkness and fumes.

The odd broken-down truck emerged from the haze just in time for us to slide past it, and then we emerged out again into the pin-sharp morning as -9C glowed from the dashboard.

Making progress

The journey was taking us into one of the few Afghan provinces where farmers have been persuaded to stop growing opium poppies.

An impressive achievement, mainly down to the relative security, law and order, and the strength and determination of the local governor.

He showed me a glossy guidebook on how he had managed to get rid of the opium poppies.

The front cover shows him dressed in a shalwar kameez, smashing down poppies with a stick. Quite a contrast to the Italian-suited politician with handmade Gucci shoes standing in front of me.

He laughed off the suggestion that he himself was involved with the opium smuggling gangs who hide drugs in their trucks and take them to Iran and Central Asia.

Opium dealers

But the men we met the next morning told us a different story about corrupt officials.

Dodging donkeys and camels heading to market, laden with kindling, we drove first to one house then another.

We spent time sipping tea and huddled around metal-drummed "buchari" heaters constantly fed with firewood.

Finally, we reached a mud compound in a village where the bearded drug dealers were quite happy to show us the opium they had got from elsewhere and the cannabis which has filled the financial gap left by the absence of local poppies.

Smuggling drugs, it seems, is even bigger business here than growing them.

Bomb attack

Back in Mazar-e-Sharif I wandered round a place that is largely at peace past the famous twin-domed shrine, and walked through the crazy mobile phone market, stopped for tea, ate rice and kebabs.

Then the phone rang.

A friend in Kabul was in the five-star Serena Hotel, formerly a haven of peace and security in the capital. But a bomb had just gone off, and there was shooting all around her.

Eight people died and more were injured. It was the first attack specifically targeting international aid workers and civilians in Afghanistan.

I rushed back to Kabul the next day to report on the story.

What a different landscape it was, emerging from the otherworldliness of the Salang tunnel and down into a changed city. An ever more paranoid place where Westerners are killed for being Western, and the many beautiful things about this country are forgotten.

From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday ,19 January, 2008 at 1130 GMT on BBC Radio 4.
Back to Top

Back to Top
THE RISE AND RISE OF AL-QAEDA, Part 2
For part I see January 17, 2008 please
Talking to the wrong people By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / January 19, 2008
KABUL - Within a few weeks, Britain's Paddy Ashdown takes up a new job as the United Nations' special envoy to Afghanistan. Even with his experience in the strife-torn Balkans, he will have his work cut out in not repeating the mistakes that have been made over the past seven years since the Taliban were ousted from power.

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates does not think the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is doing its job properly in Afghanistan. "It needs to do a better job in training for counter-

insurgency," he said in hard-hitting comments this week. The US solution is to throw more muscle at the problem. The Pentagon announced this week that 3,200 Marine Corps would beef up the US presence to 30,000. To date, the military option has not worked.

The British approach, and some some extent the US's, has been centered on engaging the Taliban, but without Taliban leader Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda-linked elements. This, too, has not worked.

Lord Ashdown's test will be to learn from this, mindful that the Taliban are the most powerful reality of today's Afghanistan.

The desire to talk

Throughout 2007, the British Embassy in Kabul under Sherard Cowper Coles made desperate overtures in southwestern Afghanistan to find a political solution with the Taliban, but without Mullah Omar. Multiple clandestine operations were launched and millions of dollars were funneled to the Taliban.

However, it all came to nothing and only caused serious differences between the two major allies - Britain and the US. And all the time the Taliban consolidated their position in the south.

The case of Irishman Michael Semple, who was acting head of the European Union mission in Kabul, is instructive. The fluent Dari-speaking Semple had spent over 18 years in Afghanistan in various capacities, including with the United Nations and as an advisor to the British Embassy in Kabul, before being expelled last month after being accused of talking to the Taliban.

His colleagues within the Western community call him a British spy; he had become close to tribes in northern Afghanistan during the Taliban's rule in the late 1990s. Semple has a Muslim Pakistani wife.

While on the EU's payroll and with development funds from the Irish Foreign Ministry, he visited restive Helmand province to see the Taliban. Using his wife's Pakistani connections and giving the impression of being Muslim - along with funds - he won some hearts and minds. People like Taliban commander Mullah Salam, now the administrator of Musa Qala district of Helmand, were thrilled to find a "blond-bearded Muslim".

Semple went to Helmand with the complete approval of the Afghan Ministry of Interior, which is supported by northern Afghan politicians. But the US and the Afghan presidential palace abhorred the idea of making Taliban friends and giving them control of parts of the province without them having to denounce Mullah Omar.

The governor of Helmand, Asadullah Wafa, called Semple a Pakistani agent and he was subsequently expelled. He now lives in Islamabad with his Pakistani in-laws.

Himouyun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, told Asia Times Online, "This great game style of things cannot be approved in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not a colony but a sovereign country. Everything must be done with the approval of the Afghan government."

However, Semple's plan was just a stepping stone of the broader British design in which Coles says British troops will stay in Afghanistan for another 10 years.

The ambassador came up with the idea of tribal militias - arabikai - as a way to defeat the Taliban. In Afghanistan's past, when invading armies approached a town, drums were beaten to call people to oppose the enemy. The idea was that towns and villages would form their own militias to respond to such drum-beating. The idea met immediate opposition from the NATO commander, who happened to be an American.

"He [Coles] thought that the people would fight against the Taliban, but the Taliban happen to be the sons of the soil," a Western strategic analyst based in Kabul told ATol on the condition of anonymity. "The idea of arming tribal militias in Helmand is silly and will fall flat. Helmand is in the hands of anti-coalition insurgents, and we expect arrangements like arabikai to be a success?"

A spokesperson for the British Embassy in Kabul countered, "I think the Afghan government is completely in favor of arabikai and this has been successfully implemented in a few Afghan provinces."

In one British initiative they targeted Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, the brother of slain Taliban strongman Mullah Dadullah, who was the new commander of the Taliban in southwestern Afghanistan. The former opposition leader of the Pakistani Parliament, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was a conduit.

The initial talks were successful and several Taliban commanders in the southwest agreed on a ceasefire and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah gave his word of honor to Rehman that he would represent the Taliban in jirgagai (small tribal councils) and that he would convince Mullah Omar on the need for peace talks.

However, the "coalition of the willing" in Afghanistan had serious differences, especially the US, and while debate on the issue raged, Mullah Omar made a move. Dadullah was "sacked" from his position and he is now just a Taliban foot soldier.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani Ministry of Interior warned Rehman, a self-proclaimed founding father of the Taliban, that he was now number one on al-Qaeda's hit list. Rehman's movements are now restricted because of security concerns.

Britain's backroom maneuvering has thus stalled and the Taliban are once again regrouping in the Waziristan tribal areas in Pakistan for another spring offensive.

When Ashdown arrives, he will need to think of options that include talking with the real players - Mullah Omar and al-Qaeda.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief.
Back to Top

Back to Top
NATO hears 'noise before defeat'
By M K Bhadrakumar Asia Times Online / January 19, 2008
When the blame-game begins in an indeterminate war, it is time to sit up and take note. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' interview with the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday rings alarm bells.

There has been no effort to claim he was misquoted. In fact, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell confirmed the chief was "not backing off his fundamental criticism that NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] needs to do a better job in training for counter-insurgency".

Morrell made a little concession, though, that Gates meant no offence to any particular NATO country. NATO secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer responded he had the "greatest respect" for NATO forces fighting in southern Afghanistan. He advised Washington, "Combating insurgency is a complex thing, and not always easy." At The Hague, the American ambassador was summoned and asked to "clarify". Dutch Defense Minister Van Middlekoop publicly regretted, "This is not the Robert Gates we have come to know." Other European politicians expressed surprise, indignation.

In NATO history there have been few such laundering of dirty linen in public view. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban head Mullah Omar have achieved something that Soviet leaders Josef Stalin, Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev couldn't.

Washington mocks NATO

Gates' criticism was pinpointed - NATO was a lemon. He said: "I'm worried we're deploying [military advisors] that are not properly trained and I'm worried we have some military forces that don't know how to do counter-insurgency operations ... Most of the European forces, NATO forces, are not trained in counter-insurgency; they were trained for the Fulda Gap [NATO's Cold War battle lines in Germany]."

Gates was giving vent to pent-up frustrations. Finally, Afghanistan is threatening to be a blemish on his successfully nurtured record in public service. On December 11, at the US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan, Gates admitted somberly, "If I had to sum up the current situation in Afghanistan, I would say there is reason for optimism, but tempered by caution."

Gates warned the NATO mission "has exposed real limitations in the way the alliance is, or organized, operated and equipped. I believe the problem arises in a large part due to the way various allies view the very nature of the alliance in the 21st century, where in a post-Cold War environment, we have to be ready to operate in distant locations against insurgencies and terrorist networks." He solicited help from US Congressmen for "pressuring" the NATO capitals "to do the difficult work of persuading their own citizens [in Europe] of the need to step up to this challenge."

Gates again spoke forcefully at the meeting of NATO defense ministers in Edinburgh, Scotland, on December 14. But "no one at the table stood up and said: 'I agree with that'," he later lamented.

This week, the Pentagon underscored its displeasure by making a deployment of 3,200 Marine Corps to southern Afghanistan, bringing the US presence to about 30,000 troops. The NATO force in Afghanistan numbers about 40,000, of which 14,000 are Americans. The Washington Post described the US move as one to "fill a void created in part by NATO's inability to fight the insurgency adequately, a job the allies never signed up to do". The majority of the marines will be directly engaged in fighting in the south alongside British, Australian, Dutch and Canadian troops, who have taken record casualties during the past year.

Of course, shadowboxing is to be expected in the run-up to the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, in April, where Afghanistan will be a key agenda item. But that cannot explain away the unusual public discord. The reluctance on the part of major NATO powers to commit more troops to Afghanistan arises as much out of profound disagreement with Washington over the objectives of the war and the fashion in which the US spearheads the war as in deference to growing anti-war sentiment in Europe.

A general hits out

Gates' criticism draws heavily from a recent study authored by the US general who commanded the forces in Afghanistan from October 2003 until May 2005, Lieutenant General David W Barno, in the prestigious journal Military Review. Barno is an influential voice in the US defense community. He chose to begin his paper devoted to the counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, citing lines by ancient Chinese general Sun Tzu, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest road to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."

Barno claimed the US counter-insurgency strategy during his period produced "positive and dramatic" results. He gave the "center of gravity" in his strategy to the Afghan people and not the "enemy". He kept in view the Afghan people's "immense enmity to foreign forces" and deduced that eschewing the "Soviet attempt at omnipresence" in Afghanistan, only through a "light footprint approach" instead, could the war be successfully fought.

Barno wrote that Afghan people's tolerance for a foreign presence was "a bag of capital [that was] finite and had to be spent slowly and frugally" and, therefore, under his charge US forces took great care to avoid Afghan casualties, detainee abuse, or transgressions in observance of respect to tribal leaders or causing offence to traditional Afghan culture.

Second, Barno outlined that he and the then-US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, bonded as a team and they had a "unity of purpose" in ensuring perfect interagency and international-level coordination. According to Barno, the slide began in mid-2005 after he and Khalilzad were reassigned. Washington then decided to publicly announce that NATO was assuming responsibility for the war and that the US was making a token withdrawal of 2,500 troops.

"Unsurprisingly, this was widely viewed in the region as the first signal that the United States was 'moving for the exits', thus reinforcing long-held doubts about the prospects of sustained American commitment. In my judgement, these public moves have served more than any other US actions since 2001 [the fall of the Taliban] to alter the calculus of both our friends and our adversaries across the region - and not in our favor."

Barno implied NATO messed up the top-notch command structure he created. The result is, "With the advent of NATO military leadership, there is today no single comprehensive strategy to guide the US, NATO, or international effort." Consequently, he says, the unity of purpose - both interagency and international - has suffered and unity of command is fragmented, and tactics have "seemingly reverted to earlier practices such as the aggressive use of airpower".

Barno makes some chilling conclusions. First, he says the "bag of capital" representing the tolerance of Afghan people for foreign forces is diminishing. Second, NATO narrowly focuses on the "20% military dimension" of the war, while ignoring the 80% comprising non-military components. Third, the "center of gravity" of the war is no longer the Afghan people but the "enemy". Fourth, President Hamid Karzai's government is ineffectual "under growing pressure from powerful interests within his administration". Fifth, corruption, crime, poverty and a burgeoning narcotics trade have eroded public confidence in Karzai. Finally, "NATO, the designated heir to an originally popular international effort, is threatened by the prospects of mounting disaffection among the Afghan people."

What can be achieved?

Somewhere along the line, mud-slinging had to happen. Yet, almost everything Barno wrote could be true. Barno drew a handsome self-portrait. He whitewashes a controversial phase of the war. NATO inherited a dysfunctional war. By end-2006, it was no longer a winnable war. When the alliance's defense ministers gathered in the Dutch seaside resort of Noordwijk last November to commemorate the first anniversary of NATO in Afghanistan, the crisis atmosphere was palpable.

There were no offers of major reinforcements by the member countries. The Dutch indicated they were close to withdrawing their 1,600-strong contingent from Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan the coming autumn. The likely knock-on effect of the Dutch decision on countries such as Canada worried everyone present at the meeting. Germany, France, Italy and Spain insisted they were constrained by their national caveats guiding deployment of troops on non-combat roles.

The result has been a sort of "Balkanization" of Afghanistan, as Daan Everts, outgoing civilian representative of the NATO secretary general in Kabul, admitted to al-Jazeera in a recent interview. "You have a little 'German Afghanistan' in the north, an 'Italian Afghanistan' in the west, 'Dutch Afghanistan' in Uruzgan and a 'Canadian Afghanistan' in Kandahar and so on. Geographically we [NATO] have been fractured, but also sectorally with equal ineffectiveness - like giving the justice sector totally to the Italians, counter-narcotics to the British, the police to Germans, anti-terrorism to the Americans."

Everts was unusually frank for a high-ranking NATO official. He said Afghan reconstruction has been a "bonanza for consultants, serious consultants, half-baked consultants, marginal consultants and mailbox consultants"; there has been an outflow of resources from Afghanistan of up to 40% of aid given to the country. "So there is this aid industry that descends on a poor nation and runs away with part of the loot." He called for a government in Kabul that is "more serious about problems" such as corruption, drug-trafficking and law-enforcement.

In such a mess, Lord (Paddy) Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon is due to arrive in Kabul shortly as the United Nations' super envoy. Is a British colonial-style governor the right answer? Lord Ashdown - former Royal Marine commando and special forces officer, Liberal Democrat leader, member of Parliament, the European Union's high representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina during 2002-2006 - is a forceful personality, and was hugely successful in restoring order to the Balkan country torn apart by violence and ethnic cleansing.

But Afghanistan is notoriously untamed in history. Ashdown has sought to combine Everts' former responsibilities with those of Tom Koenigs, the low-profile German diplomat who served as the UN's special representative in Afghanistan. He hopes to be the main point of contact between Karzai's government and the international forces, the European Union policing mission and the

UN contingent, apart from coordinating Afghan reconstruction efforts.

That is much too much for anyone to take on. But Ashdown is gifted. Even then, the chances are the blame-game is going to accelerate. The Afghans are unlikely to accept a British viceroy - even if he wears a blue beret. Karzai's government resents being bypassed. While in theory a "unity of purpose" and a formal link between the Afghan government and among NATO and the EU and the UN is desirable, there are problems. Some UN member countries do not want a direct relationship with NATO (or vice versa). NATO will chaff at subordination to the UN. There is no such thing as a unified EU voice. Least of all, Washington simply doesn't know how to be self-effacing.

Reconciliation with the Taliban

But then, Ashdown's real mission lies elsewhere, in addressing the core issue: What do we do with the Taliban? No doubt, the Taliban's exclusion from the Bonn conference seven years ago proved to be a horrible mistake. That was also how the Afghan and Pakistan problem came to be joined at the hips.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf made a valid point in his interview with the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel this week when he said al-Qaeda isn't the real problem that faces Pakistan. "I don't deny the fact that al-Qaeda is operating here [Pakistan]. They are carrying out terrorism in the tribal areas; they are the masterminds behind these suicide bombings. While all of this is true, one thing is for sure: the fanatics can never take over Pakistan. This is not possible. They are militarily not so strong they can defeat our army, with its 500,000 soldiers, nor politically - and they do not stand a chance of winning the elections. They are much too weak for that," Musharraf said.

The heart of the matter is Pashtun alienation. The Taliban represent Pashtun aspirations. As long as Pashtuns are denied their historical role in Kabul, Afghanistan cannot be stabilized and Pakistan will remain in turmoil. Musharraf said, "There should be a change of strategy right away. You [NATO] should make political overtures to win the Pashtuns over."

This may also be the raison d'etre of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon's intriguing choice of a Briton as his new special representative. Conceivably, the inscrutable Ban has been told by Washington that Ashdown is just the right man to walk on an upcoming secretive bridge, which will intricately connect New York, Washington, London, Riyadh, Islamabad and Kabul.

The point is, Britain grasps the Pashtun problem. Britain realizes that the induction of US special forces into the Pakistani tribal areas, or the custodianship of Pakistan's nuclear stockpile, or an al-Qaeda takeover in Pakistan isn't quite the issue today.

That is why Musharraf's four-day visit to London starting on January 25 assumes critical importance. British mediation in Pakistani politics may already be working. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has begun calibrating his stance.

Reconciliation between Musharraf and the Sharif brothers is in the cards. Shahbaz Sharif will be on call in London during Musharraf's stay there. If the reconciliation - thanks to British (and Saudi) mediation - leads to the formation of a national government in Pakistan, a leadership role for Nawaz Sharif may ensue and Pakistani politics may gain traction. Nawaz Sharif is the only politician today with the credentials and stature to mount the dangerous platform of Islamist nationalism and reach out to the Taliban and its followers inside Pakistan. The Sharif brothers could be invaluable allies for the Pakistani military - and for NATO - at this juncture.

Barno sidesteps the ground realities. The US strategy's real failure happened, in fact, in the 2003-2005 period when he was in charge of the war. Of course, the failure was not at the military level, but at the political and diplomatic level. That was a crucial phase when the window of opportunity was still open for a course correction over the Taliban's exclusion from the Afghan political process. The Taliban should have been invited to come in from the cold and join an intra-Afghan dialogue and reconciliation. The extreme emotions of 2001 had by then begun to ebb away.

On the contrary, Khalilzad's diplomatic brief was that the US presidential election of 2004 was the priority for the White House. The "war on terror" in Afghanistan was a milch cow in US domestic politics. Presidential advisor Karl Rove and Vice President Dick Cheney shrewdly calculated that an enemy in the Hindu Kush was useful for the Republican Party campaign, while resonance of the booming guns in Afghanistan would be a good backdrop for election rhetoric against a decorated war veteran like John Kerry.

And, showcasing of Karzai in Kabul's presidential palace helped display Afghanistan as a success story. A victorious Karzai indeed landed in the US to a hero's welcome from George W Bush on election eve. Bush went on to win a second term, but the Afghan war was lost. The slide began by mid-2005 as the embittered Taliban began regrouping. As the year progressed, as Everts and many others pointed out, the Iraq war "sucked the oxygen away from Afghanistan". How could Gates possibly admit all that? He would rather NATO take the blame. But then, it is a sideshow in actuality.

Britain is now called on to salvage the Afghan war. NATO at best will be a sleeping partner. The Hindu Kush is all set to be Lord Ashdown's theater. He represents the UN; the White House reposes confidence in him; he takes counseling and directions from London, which coordinates with Riyadh and Islamabad - and then, gingerly, he sets out, searching for the Taliban. Incidentally, among his many attributes, Lord Ashdown is a gifted polyglot who speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese and other languages. Maybe he already speaks Pashto.

M K Bhadrakumar served as a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service for over 29 years, with postings including India's ambassador to Uzbekistan (1995-1998) and to Turkey (1998-2001).
Back to Top

Back to Top
Teen arrested for Bhutto assassination
By SLOBODAN LEKIC, Associated Press Writer Sun Jan 20, 6:12 AM ET
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A 15-year-old detained near the Afghan border has confessed to joining a team of assassins sent to kill Benazir Bhutto, officials said Saturday, announcing the first arrests in the case since the attack that killed the opposition leader.

Police also announced they had foiled new suicide attacks against the country's Shiite minority.

Interior Secretary Kamal Shah confirmed the arrest of two people in the town of Dera Ismail Khan in North West Frontier province, and said one a teenage boy had confessed involvement in the Dec. 27 attack that killed Bhutto. He said interrogators were trying to get corroborating testimony from the other detainee before accepting the confession.

In the southern city of Karachi, meanwhile, the police chief said officers detained five men with explosives, detonators and a small quantity of cyanide intended for attacks on this week's Shiite Muslim festival of Ashoura.

"With these arrests we have foiled major attacks," said police chief Azhar Farouqi, adding that the militants may have wanted to put the cyanide into the municipal water supply.

Security officials elsewhere in the country said they had arrested at least 55 other terrorist suspects in a crackdown apparently sparked by a surge in rebel attacks along the restive border with Afghanistan and a spate of bombings targeting Shiites.

The growing bloodshed has cast doubts on the ability of the security forces to maintain peace during the campaign for parliamentary elections on Feb. 18. It has also sparked calls from opposition politicians for President Pervez Musharraf to step down.

In North West Frontier province, a senior intelligence official said the 15-year-old suspect in the Bhutto assassination told investigators that a five-person squad was dispatched to Rawalpindi, where Bhutto was killed, by Baitullah Mehsud, a militant leader with strong ties to al-Qaida and an alliance with the Taliban in nearby Afghanistan.

The official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the boy was arrested Thursday and was also involved in a plot to attack Shiites during the Ashoura festival on Sunday.

Sunni extremists, who regard Shiites as heretics, often attack the community during Ashoura. On Thursday, 11 people died and 20 were injured in a suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in the northern city of Peshawar.

In Dera Ismail Khan, a town 170 miles southwest of Islamabad where the teenager was arrested, a district police commander said the suspect had made "a sensational disclosure." The officer also asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

But Maulvi Mohammed Umar, a purported spokesman for Mehsud, dismissed the report. "It is just government propaganda ... we have already clarified that we are not involved in the attack on Benazir Bhutto."

The CIA concluded that Mehsud was behind Bhutto's killing shortly after it occurred, an American intelligence official has said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Musharraf government fingered Mehsud for the former prime minister's death in December, but some members of her political party and her family have questioned those assertions. There have been complaints that the government failed to provide her adequate security and vague allegations that elements within the government might have been involved in the assassination.

Bhutto died when an assassin fired at her and detonated an explosive vest as she was leaving an election campaign rally. The blast killed at least 20 other people and wounded scores more.

The death of Pakistan's most popular opposition leader threw the country into turmoil and triggered riots that left more than 40 people dead. It forced the government to delay by six weeks parliamentary elections that had been set for Jan. 8.

Bhutto, who had returned to Pakistan in October after spending nearly eight years in exile, had vowed to support tough military measures against Islamic militants who have used the border areas as staging points for infiltration into Afghanistan.

Suspected Muslim militants shot and killed a top intelligence official in North West Frontier Province as he left a mosque after offering dawn prayers Sunday, local police officer Javed Khan said.

Nisar Ahmed, who was shot in Srekh village, headed the Inter-Services Intelligence agency's section on security in the province, an official from the agency's regional office said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the media.

Separately, the army said in a statement it had found 5.5 tons of explosives hidden in a mosque in the Swat Valley, an area in the north of the country that it recaptured from the militants in December.
___
Associated Press writers Zarar Khan and Munir Ahmed contributed to this report.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Number of Pak-Afghan weekly flights set to soar
By Pajhwok Correspondent - 17/01/2008 - 12:40
ISLAMABAD, Jan 17 (PAN): The number of weekly flights between Pakistan and Afghanistan would be raised from three to 10, negotiators from the two countries agreed on Wednesday.

During Bilateral Air Services Agreement (ASA) talks at the Defence Ministry in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, Afghan and Pakistani officials inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to the effect.

The MoU is expected to provide an opportunity to businessmen to increase Pak-Afghan trade and augment relations in different spheres of life. The negotiators agreed on expanding existing bilateral arrangements to promote tourism and people-to-people contacts.

At the meeting, the Pakistan delegation granted an 'open sky' for passenger and cargo operations to and from the Gwadar International Airport to designated airlines of Afghanistan. Islamabad will supply a list of training courses with relevant details to the Afghan side through diplomatic channels.

Additional Secretary to Ministry of Defence Maj. Gen. Mir Haider Ali Khan headed the Pakistani team while Technical and Operational Deputy Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation Raz Mohammad Alami led the Afghan delegation at the talks.
Back to Top

Back to Top
PRT conducts free medical camp in Ghor
By Pajhwok Reporter - 17/01/2008 - 17:49
KABUL, Jan 17 (PAN): An Afghan doctor and a Chaghcharan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) medical team recently conducted a medical civil assistance patrol (MEDCAP) in the Badgah village of western Ghor, NATO said on Thursday.

Lithuanian-led PRT soldiers and medics, together with Dr. Nasim from the Chaghcharan hospital, provided medical consultations for 144 patients from the Badgah village, according to a statement from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

PRT hospital head Col. Marius alkevicius said: We are happy that we could examine 96 men, 23 women and 25 children. Everybody got medicine and consultations.

The ISAF statement said Dr Nasim helped PRT doctors to diagnose patient ailments by arranging locals reception for the consultations that took place close to a local pharmacy.  We are very thankful for Dr Nasims help. He was the first person with whom the patients were speaking with, said Master Sgt. Irmantas Kavaliauskas, PRT doctor.

In Ghor, according to the PRT medics, the most frequent illnesses for men and women are gastritis, arthritis and intestine and skin diseases. Childrens diseases are mainly connected with intestine, ears and eyes. There were patients with dental problems also.

Unfortunately, we could not help everybody who needs help, but the PRT will continue to conduct this kind of operation together with local doctors across the province. We are happy to help the people of Afghanistan, Chaghcharan PRT Commander Col. Albertas Kondrotas promised.
Back to Top

Back to Top
France to fund $18.7m projects; Japan aids NGO drive
By Zainab Muhammadi/Mustafa Basharat - 16/01/2008 - 19:53
KABUL, Jan 16 (PAN): The French government will launch agriculture and livestock projects in Afghanistan this year while Japan has pledged to fund a drive for public awareness about mines and unexploded ordnance.

The agriculture and livestock projects, to be executed by France, would cost $18.7 millions, said Muhammad Farooq Barakzai, head of Afghan-French Cooperation Office.

He told a press conference here on Wednesday $8.7 millions would be expended on distribution of improved seeds and building cold chains in Kabul, Parwan and Kapisa provinces.

A livestock insemination project would be implemented across the country at the cost of $10 millions, who stopped short of giving details of the plan, involving beekeeping and distribution of saplings for growing new orchards. Agriculture Minister Obaidullah Ramin, hailing the French support, urged a continuation of the aid.

French Ambassador in Kabul Regis Koetschet said developing Afghanistans agriculture sector was a priority of the French government and pledged for more assistance for it. The French government has provided $25 millions for the Afghan agriculture since 2002.

Also on Wednesday, Japan signed a contract of $50,000 to help improve public awareness about the dangers posed by landmine in eastern and southern parts of the country. The contract was inked between the Japanese ambassador to Afghanistan and a non-governmental demining organisation.

The project is aimed at promoting awareness about mines in Laghman, Nangarhar, Paktia, Paktika and Khost, the Japanese embassy said in a press statement. The NGO will prepare Pashto and Dari clips warning people about the silent killers.

There are 300,000 antipersonnel mines, 17500 anti-tank mines and seven million unexploded ordnances across the country, UN officials estimate. Japan has funded more than 15 demining projects in Afghanistan over last five years. 
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).