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January 2, 2008 

Afghanistan: Some schools more vulnerable to attack than others?
KABUL, 2 January 2008 (IRIN) - Schools built and/or reconstructed by international forces are more vulnerable to attack by Taliban insurgents and other radical elements than those built by civilians, according to experts.

Bhutto helped create Taliban monster
Rosie DiManno The Toronto Star (Canada) Jan 02, 2008 04:30 AM
In 1991, Pakistan's intelligence services stashed a massive cache of assault rifles and ammunition at a secret weapons dump in Spin Boldak, rushing armaments across the border as a (phony) deadline loomed for ending direct supply of their favoured combatants in Afghanistan's civil war.

CANADA SHARES THE BLAME IN BHUTTO ASSASSINATION
Calgary Herald, Jan 1, 2008 By Arthur Kent
The New Year dawns with its mirror ball of world events twirling overhead, flashing out reflections of our recent past. But how many of us, here in the West, are tempted to close our eyes to scenes we find too disturbing to take in?

ISAF chief sees Afghan drug trade rising in 2008
By David Fox
KABUL, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's already booming drugs trade is likely to grow even more this year, the head of foreign troops in the country said on Wednesday, warning this would bankroll the Taliban insurgency.

Afghan police seize more than half tonne of heroin, opium: interior ministry
January 2, 2008
KABUL (AFP) — Afghan police have seized more than half a tonne of heroin and opium in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the interior ministry said Wednesday.

'If it was jihad then, it's jihad now.'
Colin Freeze, January 2, 2008 at 7:56 AM EST The Globe and Mail
A former Pakistani intelligence officer says he has a message for Canadian and NATO forces in Afghanistan: “Ultimately you will lose,” he told me a phone interview. “You are not bringing any peace here."

Five terrorists die when planting bomb in a car in Afghanistan
KABUL, January 2 (RIA Novosti) - Five suspected terrorists were killed when mining a car in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the local Tolo television said.

Coalition soldier, Afghan interpreter killed in bomb blast
KABUL, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- One soldier of the U.S.-led Coalition forces and one Afghan civilian, working as interpreter with the Coalition, were killed in a bomb blast Wednesday in eastern Afghan province of Khost, a Coalition statement said.

Stay the course
National Post editorial Published: Wednesday, January 02, 2008
The death in Afghanistan on Sunday of Royal Canadian Artillery Gunner Jonathan Dion and the assassination last week of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto are related, although not directly. Whether the forces fighting

Project promises economic boost for Afghans
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation PR# 2008-748
KABUL, Afghanistan (Jan. 2) – A recently-approved $300 thousand construction contract promises economic growth for Afghans in the Mehtar Lam District, according to the soldiers leading engineering efforts in the

Al-Qaeda regrouping in Pakistan: Jalali (Interview)
NEW YORK, Dec 31(Pajhwok Afghan News): Ali Ahmed Jalali, the former Interior Minister of Afghanistan, who is widely speculated that he would be given some important assignment in the Afghan government

At least 27 militants killed in Pakistan: military
Wed Jan 2, 4:01 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - At least 27 militants were killed in two days of clashes in restive northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, a military official told AFP on Wednesday.

Presentation about Pajhwok given in North Georgia
KABUL, Jan 1 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Three former officials of Pajhwok Afghan News gave a special presentation to scores of people about the independent media outlet in the US state of North Georgia this last week.

Afghan-Canada relations to enhance in 2008: Envoy
NEW YORK, Dec 31(Pajhwok Afghan News): In an interview to Pajhwok Afghan News, the Afghan Ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, said Afghanistan would like to have a long-term commitment from Canada.

ISAF, ANA forces provide medical aid to Paktikans
KABUL, Dec 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): ISAF and Afghan National Army forces provided medical and veterinarian assistance to the people and livestock in Yousuf Khel and Khushamond villages of southern Paktika province

Militants eliminated, arms cache seized in Helmand
KABUL, Jan 01 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Several militants were killed in joint operation ofAfghan and Coalition forces in restive Helmand province, official sources said on Tuesday.

Helmandians cry for making both ends meet
LASHKARGAH, Dec 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Residents complain skyrocketing of flour price in the war-stricken former Taliban stronghold of Musa-Kala district in restive Helmand province where many can not make the both ends meet.


Afghanistan: Some schools more vulnerable to attack than others?
KABUL, 2 January 2008 (IRIN) - Schools built and/or reconstructed by international forces are more vulnerable to attack by Taliban insurgents and other radical elements than those built by civilians, according to experts.

"Oxfam is aware of research which suggests that in some areas schools built by international military forces are twice as likely to be targeted by militants as those built by civilian agencies," Mat Waldman, policy and advocacy adviser for Oxfam International in Kabul, told IRIN.

At least 230 students and teachers have been killed and about 250 schools attacked by militants in the past three years, according to the Afghanistan Ministry of Education (MoE).

Owing to these attacks, over 400 schools remain closed, mostly in volatile southern provinces, denying education to thousands of students, MoE officials said.

Almost 70 percent of school-age children are not attending schools because of insecurity in Helmand, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces, Haneef Atmar, the Afghan minister of education, told a meeting in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand, on 9 December.

Confused roles?

NATO-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and US-led coalition forces have built and/or rebuilt hundreds of schools in different parts of Afghanistan and have spent large amounts of aid money on education support activities, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

On 26 December, dozens of US forces inaugurated a girls' school in Aftabachi village, Kapisa Province, US military said in a press release. The project cost US$120,000 and took six months to complete.

"They [local people] don't have enough schools around here, so this one's a big one for them," Sergeant Henry Rodriguez, a US military official, was quoted in the press release as saying.

On 30 December, Afghanistan's education minister, teachers and US military personnel discussed education issues at Forward Operating Base Fenty in the eastern city of Jalalabad, a separate US press release said.

Experts - including Abdul Qader Noorzai, an official at the human rights commission in Kandahar - warn that the increased involvement of Afghan and international military forces in school-building efforts, and continued interactions with schoolchildren, could send the wrong signals to Taliban insurgents and other extremist militants who have repeatedly attacked schools and students as "soft targets".

Research carried out by the Canadian Council for International Co-operation (CCIC) in October said that in Afghanistan the role of the military is often confused with that of humanitarian and development non-government organisations (NGOs).

"There needs to be some space between them [NGOs and military]. They need to be independent. If not, we can end up with civilians being targeted," Gerry Barr, president of CCIC was quoted as saying by CTV Canada.

Sensitive logos

Donors' use of sensitive logos, flags and other markings in their funded projects and on aid items such as school bags, notebooks and books could also incite militants, observers - including Member of Parliament Shukria Barakzai - say.

"Every donor and every NGO also has a responsibility to consider whether using a logo or emblem of any kind would endanger the beneficiaries of a project. If in any way there is a significant risk that this could generate attacks or make people who use that project targets, or less secure, then I think that the logo should not be used," said Waldman of Oxfam.

Education Ministry disagrees

However, officials in MoE played down concerns that the involvement of the military in education projects, and the use of sensitive logos, may increase attacks on schools and students.

"Those who attack schools and schoolchildren will do so even if we were to put verses from the holy Koran on a school gate and a student's bag," said Siddiq Patman, deputy minister of education.

ISAF spokesman Carlos Branco also repudiated claims that military-built schools were more vulnerable to attack.

According to Branco, ISAF-led PRTs conduct school-building and other education projects in close consultation and cooperation with Community Development Councils (CDDs) and relevant government bodies. "No school that has been constructed through the respective CDC has been burned down," he said.

Patman gave assurances that aid provided by military forces would be stopped immediately if it were found to jeopardise schoolchildren's safety.
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Bhutto helped create Taliban monster
Rosie DiManno The Toronto Star (Canada) Jan 02, 2008 04:30 AM 
In 1991, Pakistan's intelligence services stashed a massive cache of assault rifles and ammunition at a secret weapons dump in Spin Boldak, rushing armaments across the border as a (phony) deadline loomed for ending direct supply of their favoured combatants in Afghanistan's civil war.

Seventeen tunnels beneath the dump contained enough weaponry to arm thousands of soldiers.

Three years later, the Taliban broke the depot open and handed out rifles – still wrapped in plastic – to volunteers summoned from local madrassas, an incident documented in the authoritative book Ghost Wars.

Within 24 hours, the Taliban captured Kandahar, Mullah Omar took possession of the governor's headquarters, and the airport was seized – with its six MiG-21 fighter jets, four Mi-17 transport helicopters, fleet of tanks and armed personnel carriers.

The Taliban gutting of Afghanistan was on, nearly all opponents swept aside, Kabul falling with barely a whimper.

As Ghost Wars author Steve Coll so dryly put it: "Benazir Bhutto was suddenly the matron of a new Afghan faction."

The late – twice – but no longer future prime minister of Pakistan was far, far from a stupid woman. The Taliban was a gamble she took, cunningly if not without considerable trepidation – and certainly at the behest of a powerful intelligence service, the ISI, she feared but had to accommodate, in the doomed hope of retaining office.

But make no mistake: The woman who is now being so widely mourned – assassinated last week, perhaps by the very elements she empowered more than a decade ago – was nurturing stepmother to terrorists incubated under her watch; the same Islamist fanatics she inveighed against during the election campaign that came to a screeching halt in the calamitous assault on her motorcade.

She was a brave woman, without question, but Bhutto was much to blame for the tinderbox that Pakistan became during her exile in Dubai and London – the toxic military entanglement with the Taliban – having helped to create a monster that not even the sponsoring ISI can control any longer.

For years, during her second tenure as PM, Bhutto lied brazenly to Washington about the extent to which Pakistan, with her approval, was covertly arming and funding the Taliban. As Bhutto admitted in a 2002 interview: "Once I gave the go-ahead that they should get the money, I don't know how much money they were ultimately given ... I know it was a lot. It was just carte blanche."

For Bhutto, the objective was to keep a new Afghanistan yoked to Pakistan and out of India's orbit. (Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud was considered far too Delhi-friendly.) Out of this relationship would flow the riches of a Pakistan-controlled trucking industry circumventing Kabul – a modern Silk Road trade incorporating the markets of Central Asia – the never realized gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, and training camps, off the Pakistan reservation, for fighters deployed to Kashmir.

Bhutto had an economic and political vision for Pakistan, one that depended largely on creating a compliant client state next door. It all got away from her, as it did also from the ISI. Indeed, Al Qaeda – now firmly interwoven with the Taliban – was contemptuous of Bhutto from the start, plotting her political demise, at the invitation of some ISI officers, as early as 1989.

Maybe by 2007, Bhutto had learned from her mistakes. Perhaps there was more to her than the democratic platitudes she espoused, as Washington's latest putative ally in the region. But this was a woman who lied and connived with brio, bewitching even the most garrumphing skeptics with her intelligence, charm and beauty.

She's already a better martyr than she ever was a leader of state.
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CANADA SHARES THE BLAME IN BHUTTO ASSASSINATION
Calgary Herald, Jan 1, 2008 By Arthur Kent
The New Year dawns with its mirror ball of world events twirling overhead, flashing out reflections of our recent past. But how many of us, here in the West, are tempted to close our eyes to scenes we find too disturbing to take in?

For instance, last week’s massacre in Rawalpindi. Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was painfully, almost absurdly predictable. But look closer, and we can’t help but recognize our own complicity reflected on the mirror ball’s all-seeing sphere.

That’s because our governments, not just the broken regimes of Pakistan and Afghanistan, must share the blame for this act of terror, and for the blow it inflicts on the world’s diminishing hopes for stability in southwest Asia.

Western nations have timidly watched the Musharraf and Karzai governments haemorrhage both credibility and authority, allowing militants to gain strength. At fault are the blowback-prone policies of the Bush administration, as Benazir’s assassination so chillingly shows.

The al Qaeda network has demonstrated, six years on from 9/11, that it can strike at will, even within its Pakistani sanctuary: a country described by George W. Bush as a loyal ally in his war on terror. The attack reveals, as well, that the White House has no contingencies for the loss of Benazir, no other means of persuading President Musharraf to return Pakistan to democracy.

Let’s cast a CSI’s eye over the crime scene, and consider the evidence against the litany of blunders since 2001. There’s only one realistic conclusion: it’s time to change course, time for nations like Canada and Britain to challenge Washington’s domineering, results-barren command.

Initial blame for Bhutto’s murder has been directed at an al Qaeda-linked militant from Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border. Baitullah Mehsud was mentored by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a notorious Afghan Taliban leader, who in the 1980’s received vast amounts of U.S. arms and cash – via Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the ISI.

Today, Haqqani’s son, Sirajuddin, is the Taliban’s most feared commander. Like his father, he enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan, with the ISI’s knowledge and likely connivance. This, despite the Bush administration pumping $10 billion into Musharraf’s military machine – supposedly, the ISI’s master. There is ample evidence that Musharraf has deployed his US windfall (or other guns and money freed up by Washington’s largesse) not against al Qaeda or the Taliban, but in fighting his own domestic foes, notably rebels in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

Compounding this, the ethnically Pashtun Taliban have formed an alliance with Musharraf against the Baluch insurgents. That’s why Mullah Omar and his Taliban ruling council, or shura, enjoy safe haven in the town of Kushlak in Baluchistan, just north of Quetta. From Kushlak, they direct and supply military operations across the border in Afghanistan. Thus U.S. aid to Pakistan indirectly assists Taliban groups targeting Afghan civilians – and NATO forces, including Canadians and Americans.

The blowback doesn’t stop there. Indeed the Bush administration has redefined the phenomenon. “Boomerang blowback” is the only way to describe Washington’s relationship with warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

One of America’s most wanted Afghan terrorists, Hekmatyar was once the Reagan administration’s most favoured anti-Soviet guerrilla leader. He turned on the West, and joined the Taliban. These days, he’s allied to al Qaeda, issues regular anti-American rants, and is rebuilding his Islamic Party from the cover of the ISI’s safehouses in Pakistan. Hekmatyar is a serial beneficiary of blowback:  with backing from Pakistan’s military, he has bamboozled Washington through every phase of the Afghan war.

Why should we care? Because Canadians are stalked by all these militants – and not just Canadians in Pakistan, or those who serve in Kandahar. The ultimate goal of the people who killed Benazir Bhutto is to export terrorism around the world.

So as that mirror ball twirls, let’s do more than just wish for a happier New Year. Let’s earn it – by demanding action from Canada’s politicians. While southwest Asia spins out of control, and Canadian troops sacrifice their lives for us, our leaders must do more than acquiesce to a White House that has demonstrated its unworthiness to command.

Arthur Kent has reported regularly from Pakistan and Afghanistan since 1980. He is the Progressive Conservative candidate in Calgary Currie for the upcoming Alberta provincial election.
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ISAF chief sees Afghan drug trade rising in 2008
By David Fox
KABUL, Jan 2 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's already booming drugs trade is likely to grow even more this year, the head of foreign troops in the country said on Wednesday, warning this would bankroll the Taliban insurgency.

Afghanistan's poppies already produce more than 90 percent of the world's heroin, but the government, the United Nations, donor countries and commanders of the 40,000-plus foreign force are divided over how best to tackle the problem.

General Dan McNeill, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan, told his first news briefing of the new year on Wednesday there was a clear link between poppy growing and the strength of the insurgency.

"When I see a poppy field, I see it turning into money and then into IEDs, AKs and RPGs ...," he said referring to the improvised explosive devices, Kalashnikov rifles and rocket propelled grenades favoured by the Taliban.

Acknowledging he had little hard data to back him up, McNeill estimated that 20-30 percent of Afghanistan's multi-billion dollar illicit drug economy -- vastly bigger than the formal economy -- was funding the insurgency.

With long-term weather forecasts suggesting perfect growing conditions this year, rising demand and higher prices, both the industry and insurgency will grow unless "pressure, incentives or dissuasion" are significantly increased, he said.

While the hardline Islamic Taliban managed to virtually eradicate poppy cultivation in the year before they were ousted by a U.S.-led force after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, the crop has made a remarkable comeback in the years since Western-backed President Hamid Karzai took power.

The Taliban, backed by foreign fighters, including al Qaeda operatives, have made a comeback too -- and not coincidentally in the south and east, heartland of poppy production.

CHEMICAL SPRAYING

Most analysts agree that the simplest way to wipe out the drugs trade is to eradicate, with chemical spraying, poppy crops while they are in the field.

But the government, less than confident of its rule outside the capital and other main centres, is reluctant to alienate the rural population, hundreds of thousands of whom are dependent on poppy production for their livelihoods.

The poppy, requiring water just once every five days while growing, is a perfect crop for Afghanistan's frequently dry summers and where irrigation is generally provided by snow melt from the mountains.

Western-led crop replacement programmes have worked in areas where security has allowed development and construction projects to develop irrigation schemes to sustain them, but in the Taliban "badlands", the poppy is still king.

McNeill, emphasising how concerned he was at the growth in the drug industry, said tackling the problem was beyond his mandate.

"ISAF is neither trained, manned nor equipped to be an eradication force," he said. "The government of Afghanistan must take it on, but it needs help to do so."

On the insurgency, McNeill said he expected the Taliban would be reluctant to take on "toe to toe" either foreign troops or the Afghan National Army and would instead resort to "asymetrical tactics" including suicide bombings and IEDs.

"There have been some spectacular events," he said, referring to a spate of Taliban bomb blasts last year in which hundreds of people, mostly civilians, were killed or injured.

"But 70 percent of events occured in 10 percent of the country. Much of this country enjoys a fairly good degree of security." (Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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Afghan police seize more than half tonne of heroin, opium: interior ministry
January 2, 2008
KABUL (AFP) — Afghan police have seized more than half a tonne of heroin and opium in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the interior ministry said Wednesday.

In the biggest seizure in months, anti-drug police found 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of heroin on Tuesday and detained an armed man linked to the drugs, the ministry said in a statement. It did not give further details.

Nearly 250 kilograms of opium -- the raw ingredient to make heroin -- was seized in a separate raid in the same province, the statement said. More than 20 kilos of chemicals used in making heroin were also seized, it added.

Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of the world's opium. Despite internationally backed efforts to cut the drugs trade, Afghanistan's opium production grew by 34 percent in 2007, according to a UN survey.

The government says the illicit drug trade fuels the insurgency mainly waged by Taliban militants whose regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001 for sheltering Al-Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden.
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'If it was jihad then, it's jihad now.'
Colin Freeze, January 2, 2008 at 7:56 AM EST The Globe and Mail
A former Pakistani intelligence officer says he has a message for Canadian and NATO forces in Afghanistan: “Ultimately you will lose,” he told me a phone interview. “You are not bringing any peace here."

Khalid Khawaja, an English-speaking ex-spy, spoke from Lahore after I called him from Kanadhar, where I am an embedded journalist with the Canadian Forces. The idea was to try to suss out the views of a known extremist, one who might put regional events in a different kind of perspective.

“In [1980s] Afghanistan, when the Russians attacked, the Canadians and Americans and Europeans supported the jihad against the Russians,” Mr. Khawaja said.  Foreign policies and foreign armies may shift over time, he said, but real Muslims stand firm.

"Our religion has not changed," he said. “If it was jihad then, it is jihad now.”

Mr. Khawja is the most accessible of Pakistan's rogue elements. The agency he once worked for, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), has been getting lot of press this week, amid allegations of complicity in the last week’s mysterious assasination of Benazir Bhutto and of continued ISI meddling in Afghanistan. 

These events occurred after Mr. Khawaja's time. During the 1980s and 1990s, he was something of a regional power broker. Firmly ensconced within Pakistan's military-intelligence apparatus, he first served as an Air Force squadron leader, then as an ISI operative, while forging personal relationships with Afghanistan-based  jihadists. He says he has met Osama bin Laden, Taliban Leader Mullah Omar, and just about every Afghan warlord of note.

He also is close to Canada's Khadr family, which is how I know of him. In his latest incarnation, he has been acting as a self-styled civil-liberties advocate, publicly criticizing the Musharraf dictatorship for arresting, disappearing, and killing allegedly dangerous fundamentalists -- people who include the Khadrs and himself.

NATO maintains it is in a war against the Afghan Taliban, but the conflict could be morphing into a broader struggle. Networks of religious extremists on both sides of the border have found a  haven in Pakistan-Afghanistan border regions, with some seemingly powerful, if generally unseen, patrons.

Few in the West would have any sympathy for the views of Mr. Khawaja, which might not be all that widely held inside the agencies he used to work for. Even so, if the rogue elements of the ISI are a fraction as radical and as powerful as critics maintain they are, then his point of view may give an insight into a mindset that's crucial for the West to understand.

In other words, how does an extremist ex-spy in Pakistan see Afghanistan and the wider world? 

Mr. Khawaja upholds that the world is divided into two: Pakistan’s friends and Pakistan’s foes.

Who are the foes? The "Americans are enemies of Afghanistan and they are enemies of Pakistan,” he said. “They are using even the Canadians now. And for what?”

Who are Pakistan's defenders? 

"Topmost," he says, is Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. And the nukes, he said, are closely followed by:

2. The Army.

3. The ISI / intelligence

4. The "mujahedeen"

5.  The Taliban

6.  Insurgents in the tribal areas.

Mr. Khawaja doesn't appear to be saying that all these entities and the people that control them are necessarily in cahoots and conspiring together. Rather, they amount to powerful forces with common interests that Pakistan can steer and benefit from.

He makes no mention of al-Qaeda, per se. For him, there is no such entity.   “Where is al Qaeda?” he asked rhetorically. “I have not met somebody who says ‘I am al Qaeda.’ They never used this word.” He describes the Arab fundamentalist fighters he knows,  as “mujahedeen,” or literally Islamic holy warriors.

I had last spoke to Mr. Khawaja a year ago. (At the time, I was working on a strange story about how 1995-era exports of two-way radios from North America to the Pakistani Army seem to have figured into post-9/11 arrests of several Canadian and U.S. Arabs. First fingered by Western intelligence, most were accused of having links to Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, but were ultimately let go, uncharged, after horrible ordeals in foreign prisons. )

Since that conversation I hadn't checked in, and was surprised to find out that Mr. Khawaja's own fortunes had taken a nosedive. A few times in 2007, Islamabad had him jailed on a host of allegations involving extremist conspiracies. Friends of his died this summer as Pakistani forces raided an jihadist hotbed known as the Red Mosque.

“I wasn’t arrested, I was abducted,” Mr. Khawaja said, defiant as ever. His words drip with grievance and outrage.“I can prove in any court of law any case against me is fake.”

Pakistan and Afghanistan are one part of a greater struggle, he said, where stalemates are being reached all over the global chessboard.  “This will never end,” said Mr. Khawaja.  “In Palestine, with all the Israeli and American might, they could not finish this thing. Same thing with Kashmir.”

"This is a game being played by Americans,” he said.  “Their ultimate aim is to break Pakistan.” 

But “kill 2,000 [fighters] and you will find 5,000 more,” he asserted. “This is not Taliban and al Qaeda, it is the people of Afghanistan who are resisting this foreign occupation.”

But is it really?

Some Afghans I’ve spoken to  suggest they are sick of 30 years of war and foreign interference -- interference not just from the superpowers, but also regional powers, especially Pakistan.

The Taliban (once propped up by the ISI) is trying to regain control of Afghanistan even though there appers to be no great outcry for the return for Mullah Omar, known for stringing up infidels, banning kites, and jailing men whose beards were too short. 

Mr. Khawaja concedes that Taliban rule had some unfortunate glitches. “Mullah Omar’s style, his technique – I can differ with him,” he said. But he adds that at least the mullah tried to rule by the Koran, he said, which is important. "As Muslims we claim that we will obey God and the Prophet.”

Other governments, he complains, including the ones run by Hamid Karzai and Pervez Musharraf, place themselves above God’s law. 

“Musharraf speaks against the beard and calls himself Muslim? This is wrong,” said Mr. Khawaja.  No fan of Karzai, he still has some former friends sitting in the Afghanistan government. He complains his power hungry warlords have sold out to become  “stooges” of the Americans.

In Pakistan, Mr. Khawaja said, the ISI is not above trying to influence who its secular masters are. It was pointed out that there are credible accounts the spy agency spending millions in the 1990s to influence Pakistan’s polls. “I have been into these games myself," Mr. Khawaja said. "It’s a game of money. It’s a game of sources.”

But he suggests such intelligence conspiracies wouldn't extend to murder.

Not everyone agrees. Before the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last week, the liberal Pakistani political leader threatened to blow the lid off of a host of the intelligence-agency conspiracies against her.

“This was stupid by Benazir. She was being fed mostly by Americans,” said Mr. Khawaja. While he said he had no real insight into the assassination, he said he didn't think some of the people Ms. Bhutto had fingered as her enemies would have killed her.

His views on the surviving democratic hopeful for Pakistan's presidency,  Nawaz Sharif, are well known. Mr. Khawaja has asserted in past interviews that he personally saw the politician solicit funds from Osama bin Laden.

As for President Musharraf, Mr. Khawaja calls the former military leader a hypocrite.  “A day before 11 September he had given all-out support for Taliban,” said Mr. Khawaja, complaining the general then caved to U.S. pressure in what became a with-us-or-against-us world.

Given the options, the ex-spy says that elections are a false choice for Pakistan. “Why should I vote? No way. To me this whole system is bogus. It just gives you privileged people who are sponsored by Americans.”

He said that while the President Musharref may switched course, some elements of Pakistan's military-intelligence complex have always stood their ground. 

“Whether you are in ISI or the Army, the feeling is the same,” Mr. Khawaja said.  “In their hearts, everybody hates Americans."
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Five terrorists die when planting bomb in a car in Afghanistan
KABUL, January 2 (RIA Novosti) - Five suspected terrorists were killed when mining a car in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the local Tolo television said.

The TV channel quoted a policeman in Kandahar as saying that "extremists were mining a car they were planning to use for an act of terror when a blast went off killing all the five on the spot."

Last year, suicide bombers conducted over 150 explosions in the country killing over a hundred civilians.

Earlier reports said 21 Taliban gunmen were captured in a military operation involving police and security officers in the central Afghan province of Vardak.

In Nangarhar, in the east of the country, Afghan police confiscated 1,030 kg of hashish and arrested three suspects in drug trafficking earlier in the day.

Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime was overthrown in the 2001 U.S.-led campaign, has seen a rise in violence in the last two years. The country is also the world's leader in opium trade, with almost all its arable lands being sown with poppy.
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Coalition soldier, Afghan interpreter killed in bomb blast
KABUL, Jan. 2 (Xinhua) -- One soldier of the U.S.-led Coalition forces and one Afghan civilian, working as interpreter with the Coalition, were killed in a bomb blast Wednesday in eastern Afghan province of Khost, a Coalition statement said.

The two died from wounds received when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near their vehicle at about 3:00 p.m. (GMT 1030) Wednesday, it said.

Two other Coalition soldiers were also wounded in the attack, according to the statement.

"The names of the service members are being withheld pending notification of next of kin," the statement said, adding that the incident is currently under investigation.

Around 50,000 foreign troops including the U.S.-led Coalition forces and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) are in war-torn Afghanistan for fighting militants and keeping security.
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Stay the course
National Post editorial Published: Wednesday, January 02, 2008
The death in Afghanistan on Sunday of Royal Canadian Artillery Gunner Jonathan Dion and the assassination last week of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto are related, although not directly. Whether the forces fighting our soldiers in Kandahar province are connected with those who murdered Ms. Bhutto or not, our enemies stand to benefit from the resulting internal chaos in Pakistan. It is unfortunate this new threat should arise at a time when our casualties are down and the Taliban are having increasing trouble recruiting new insurgents. But it does highlight yet again why it is premature for our forces to withdraw and leave Afghanistan's democratic government unprotected.

The Pakistani government has trouble maintaining order in its border provinces at the best of times. Al-Qaeda and its surrogates, the Taliban, operate more or less freely in Pakistan's tribal territories, training and equipping there, sneaking into Afghanistan to attack our troops and other NATO forces, then retreating back across the line. This often goes on with the blessing -- if not the direct assistance of -- Islamist elements within the Pakistani army and secret service, the ISI.

It's easy to believe al-Qaeda is behind Ms. Bhutto's death, just as it is easy to conceive of the ISI playing a role, or even Ms. Bhutto's political rivals, such as President Pervez Musharraf. The Islamic fundamentalists of al-Qaeda would have been one of Ms. Bhutto's first targets had she been elected prime minister next week. Before returning to Pakistan from exile last fall, she promised to rout the terrorists, even if that meant allowing foreign special forces to operate more or less freely in her country's lawless western regions.

Yet even if al-Qaeda is not responsible, it and its allies within the Pakistani military and secret police will undoubtedly use the current disruption caused by the Bhutto assassination to step up their attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan. Ironically, a civil war in Pakistan might make our troops safer, temporarily diverting our enemies' attention and resources away from us and to the fight for power in Pakistan.

But despite the recent turmoil, though, a full-fledged civil war seems a remote possibility, which means the non-radical elements in the Pakistani government will be more preoccupied than usual with fighting for their political lives and even less able to impose control. This could well mean that this winter and spring will be particularly dangerous for our men and women in Kandahar.

Still, it would also be the wrong time for us to cut and run. The Afghan economy has expanded an estimated 6% this year as normalcy and stability have returned to more of that troubled land. And NATO commanders have noticed fewer Afghan nationals among the Taliban, a sign, they say, of the insurgents' recruiting troubles. The Taliban are having to rely more on foreign fighters.

On top of those successes, Canadian battlefield losses are down over 2006, despite Gunner Dion's tragic death. We are making progress and new dangers from Pakistan or not, Canada should stay the course in 2008.
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Project promises economic boost for Afghans
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation PR# 2008-748
KABUL, Afghanistan (Jan. 2) – A recently-approved $300 thousand construction contract promises economic growth for Afghans in the Mehtar Lam District, according to the soldiers leading engineering efforts in the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

The contract for the construction of four new agricultural buildings in the Mehtar Lam agricultural compound was signed recently.

One of the agricultural buildings will be for farm equipment storage and maintenance, the second building will be for general purpose storage (to include feed and fertilizer) and the third and fourth smaller buildings, will be used for cool storage.

“The cool storage facilities are a first for Laghman Province,” said Capt. Peter Joo, PRT engineer. “We are building these facilities as a test so we can see how well they do. If they work well we are going to build more cool-storage facilities in surrounding villages.”

The cool-storage facilities will be powered by micro-hydro plants which require very little energy. Additionally, because the buildings are largely underground, they also incorporate the Earth's temperature to maintain coolness, said Captain Joo.

The Laghman Provincial Government recommended this project to the PRT as a necessity to encourage growth in the province's agricultural sector. The new buildings will aid in the speedy distribution of seeds and fertilizer, allow greater control and increased lifespan of agricultural equipment and provide increased shelf life for fresh goods.

In addition to the long-term economic growth promised by enhancement to the area's agricultural capability, the contract also provides an immediate boost to the local economy by mandating that no less than 80 percent of the work force will be day laborers and that at least half of the workers should be Afghans residing within a five-kilometer radius of the worksite.

The project, awarded to Ahmad Mukhtar Construction Unit, is slated to start January 6, and is estimated to take about 240 days.

Contact Information

ISAF Public Information Office
Tel: +93 (0)79 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291
pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/
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Al-Qaeda regrouping in Pakistan: Jalali (Interview)
NEW YORK, Dec 31(Pajhwok Afghan News): Ali Ahmed Jalali, the former Interior Minister of Afghanistan, who is widely speculated that he would be given some important assignment in the Afghan government, believes that Pakistan has gradually become a center of Al Qaeda web.

Jalali at present is a distinguished professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies of the National Defense University in Washington. He feels that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto can inspire and encourage militants in Afghanistan to intensify their violence, especially if no major steps are taken by Pakistan to stop and reverse the spread of extremism. He also believes end of the sixth year of the U.S.-led military invasion, Afghanistan is facing the worst crisis since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News.

PAN: What was your initial reaction when you heard about assassination of Ms Bhutto?

Jalali: Benazir Bhuttos loss is devastating not only for Pakistan but also for a region that suffers from instability and violence fueled by religious extremism and militancy. Bhutto was strongly committed to fight the threat in her country through restoration of democracy that could foster the empowerment of moderate forces. Bhuttos death, therefore, is a serious blow to democracy and moderation in Pakistan with rippling impact in the region and beyond.

The use of religious militancy as an instrument of foreign policy by Pakistani military regimes in the recent past has helped the rise of extremism and entrenchment of trans-national terrorist groups in Pakistan. Talibanization of Pakistani tribal areas is a dangerous outcome of the ill-fated policy. Further, Pakistan has gradually become a center of the al-Qaeda web that radiated out to the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. I hope the tragic loss of Bhutto will finally strengthen the determination of Pakistan government to act decisively against the militants and enlist the political weight of moderate forces in the struggle through democratic changes.

PAN: What impact would it have on the war against terror in Afghanistan?

Jalali: Afghanistan is part of the region afflicted by terrorism and extremist violence. As an immediate result, the assassination of Bhutto can inspire and encourage militants in Afghanistan to intensify their violence, especially if no major steps are taken by Pakistan to stop and reverse the spread of extremism. In the long term, the situation can impact Afghanistan in different ways, depending on Pakistani governments anti-militant policy and its military response to Bhuttos assassination. Close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, backed by the international community, can go a long way in defeating terrorism and extremism in the region. It will eventually lead to the defeat of insurgent forces in Afghanistan since few insurgencies in the past have survived without safe haven abroad. As long as the insurgents maintain sanctuary in Pakistan it will be hard to defeat them in Afghanistan.

However, this goal cannot be achieved through business as usual. Winning the confidence of the people is a prerequisite for any effort aimed at defeating the insurgency. This is particularly notable as governments in both countries are losing credibility with the public. So, democratic and political participation by all moderate forces is essential for winning the campaign. Failure to do this will further aggravate militancy in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

PAN: Who do you find responsible for this terror attack?

Jalali: Pakistani government claims that a leader of pro-Taliban forces in Pakistan carried out the suicide attack. Some supporters of Bhutto dispute the claim. So as the militants did. Pending the outcome of ongoing investigations, one can see the usual footprints of al-Qaeda and its associates in carrying out the assassination. Meanwhile, the controversy over how Bhutto died is likely to further fuel tension in the country, particularly if the tragic event is exploited to introduce emergency measures and other political restrictions in the way of restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

PAN: Despite best of the efforts and the US pumping billions of dollars, it now appears extremism and fundamentalism Al Qaeda and the Taliban have only strengthened their base in the region i.e.; the Afghan-Pak border. How would you explain this phenomenon?

Jalali: Only pumping money is not the answer to rooting out extremism and terrorism in the region. It is the right policy that makes the difference. So far there has been a conspicuous absence of a well-coordinated regional counter-terror policy. In the absence of such a policy fragmented efforts by countries in the region and the United States missed the opportunities to defeat the terrorism in the region. In Pakistan, Washington trusted the military regime of President Musharraf to fight terrorist networks based in its tribal areas. However Pakistan looked at the struggle in the context of its regional interests which were not necessarily in line with those of Washingtons or other partners including Afghanistan. Pakistan has significantly contributed to fighting al-Qaeda militants on its territory. However, it has done little to contain the Taliban and other radical religious groups. The peace deal between the Pakistani government and the pro-Taliban militants in the South and North Waziristan (2005-2006) border area not only led to a major increase in militants' cross-border attacks in Afghanistan but also fostered the Talibanization of tribal areas and renewed entrenchment of al-Qaeda in the region.

In Afghanistan, inadequate deployment of military forces, slow development of state institutions and inefficient use of insufficient funds for reconstruction created a vacuum that was filled either by insurgents or criminal networks. Both led to the disenchantment of the people and loss of confidence in the government. The regional actors who collectively supported the post-Taliban political transition in Afghanistan now hold diverging views. Emerging political changes in the region have strongly influenced the attitude of regional actors including Iran. Internationally, the coalition is divided and does not share a unified vision. Nor have the coalition member states come with the same level of political and military commitment.

PAN: What in your opinion the international community led by the US needs to do in the region, so that long term peace and stability could be achieved in the region, in particular Afghanistan?

Jalali: Responding to ongoing regional challenges requires rebuilding a strong consensus of international and domestic actors for commitment to a shared vision, strategy, implementing mechanisms and processes. Given the compounded political and security situations, this cannot be achieved through traditional methods. Nor do any minor, inconsequential changes save the situation. Major political and strategic shifts both at national and international levels are required now in order to stabilize the region.

PAN: How would you assess the year 2007, as we enter 2008?

Jalali: The end of the sixth year of the U.S.-led military invasion of Afghanistan, finds the country faced with the worst crisis since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001. The main drivers of instability in Afghanistan include: the insurgency, a chronic weakness of the Afghan government and state institutions, an exploding drug production and a weak economy. At the same time, uncoordinated military operations by international forces and shifting political dynamics in the region are additional contributing factors. These challenges have serious implications for stabilization effort and the process of state building in Afghanistan.

PAN: What is the level of support the Taliban has among the people?

Jalali: The Taliban-led insurgency is not rooted in a popular ideology. The majority of the people in troubled southern provinces do not support the return of the Taliban. And yet, they do not take the risk of challenging the insurgents on behalf of a government that can neither protect them, nor offer services. The insurgents are able to make inroads in rural areas of Afghanistan because the government has lost influence there. This unstable environment is exploited by various spoiling elements, including drug traffickers, alienated tribes, opportunist militia commanders, unemployed youth, criminals and other self-interested spoilers.

PAN: What could be the reasons of popular disenchantment?

Jalali: Frustrated by increasing insecurity and the ineffectiveness of security forces, the government tends to make tactical deals with corrupt non-state power holders and dishonest special-interest groups parties who see instability as being in their interest. This becomes another source of popular disenchantment. The problem will intensify as the nation gets closer to the next presidential election. Political deals, posturing and compromises linked to the electoral contest could upset long-term strategic priorities.

Within the government, an ongoing destructive blame-game, with its attendant accusations, job insecurity and mutual fear, impairs morale and effectiveness. The situation has caused suspicion within the ruling elite and mistrust between the executive and the legislative branches. This lack of trust has also tainted relations between Afghan government and its foreign partners.

PAN: What could be its implications?

Jalali: The perception of impending failure drives domestic interest groups and neighboring countries to hedge their bets. Traditionally, non-state power networks thrive as the central government loses effectiveness. There are signs of revival and rearming of sub-national networks by former militia commanders and local power holders. Moreover, latent and potential spoilers (including non-state power holders and government officials) try to reach out to insurgent elements and their foreign supporters to strike individual deals.

Despite a significant growth of the economy and socio-political developments, increased insecurity and poor governance, have blunted the public mood, even in relatively stable areas. People increasingly lose confidence in the government and hopes for a peaceful future.

Consolidation of the drug economy into an organized network has created a parallel system that provides economic, financial, security, conflict resolution and marketing services to the population. The network functions more effectively than the government. Leveraging poverty, lack of security and the rule of law in the country, the network influences every aspect of political, social and economic life. Such a criminal economy significantly contributes to official corruption, insecurity and the breakdown of the rule of law.

PAN: What could be its regional and international implications?


Jalali: Within the region, doubts about the future of Afghanistan have driven the neighboring countries once again to look for proxies and spheres of political influence in Afghanistan. This is particularly notable in the attitudes of the governments of Iran and Pakistan. The initial international coalition that was formed to stabilize Afghanistan (including Iran, Russia, and Central Asian countries) has been raven by widening cracks, which impede regional cooperation in fighting terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan.

PAN: What is the way out?

Jalali: In order for Afghanistan and its international partners to stop and reverse the negative trends listed above, they need to make a thorough and realistic assessment of the situation and adopt a strategic action plan that addresses immediate and long-term human security challenges. As compared to one year ago, there has been a shift towards security as the single most important thing Afghans look for to improve their quality of life. However, security cannot be achieved without an integrated effort to build effective governance, fight the illicit drug trade and defeat the insurgency.
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At least 27 militants killed in Pakistan: military
Wed Jan 2, 4:01 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - At least 27 militants were killed in two days of clashes in restive northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, a military official told AFP on Wednesday.

The clashes broke out after pro-Taliban militants kidnapped four Pakistan soldiers in the troubled South Waziristan tribal district on Tuesday, the official said.

"Five militants were killed yesterday and 22 overnight," he said.

South Waziristan is the stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud, an alleged top Al-Qaeda commander who was blamed by the government for orchestrating the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last week.

Through a spokesman, Mehsud denied any involvement in her death.

The official said that the kidnapped soldiers were delivering food rations from one post to another when militants seized them. Their fate was not immediately known.

After Pakistan forces fired at militants, five of them were killed and 20 were taken into custody, the official said.

Later a tribal peace council was convened but failed to resolve the stand-off, he said.

Both sides used heavy weaponry in tit-for-tat firing that went on through the night, resulting in the death of 22 militants with no loss of life on the army side, he said.

Pakistan's rugged tribal areas along the Afghan border are a known hub of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who slipped into the region after the US-led invasion of neighbouring Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Pakistan has deployed 90,000 troops to hunt down militants in the region, which the Afghan government alleges is used as a base for cross-border attacks on Afghan and international troops based in Afghanistan.
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Presentation about Pajhwok given in North Georgia
KABUL, Jan 1 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Three former officials of Pajhwok Afghan News gave a special presentation to scores of people about the independent media outlet in the US state of North Georgia this last week.

The presentation involving Lisa Schnellinger, Tom Willard and Mohammad Ajmal Stanakzai took place on Dec. 28 at Big Canoe POA Lodge in Smokey Mountains, the American couple said in a statement sent to PAN.

Tom and Lisa lived and did development work in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2005. The programme, kicked off by Lisa who talked about her experiences in Afghanistan, especially in media sector development, was sponsored by the Big Canoe Photographic Society.

A video presentation was given about Pajhwok Afghan News and a detailed discussion about the private news agency followed. The main presentation about Afghanistan was given by a former PAN employee Mohammad Ajmal, who referred to the agency multiple times.

In the final segment, many participants asked about PAN and evinced a keen interest in knowing more about the war-devastated country through Afghan sources. Some of Pajhwok photos about Afghan lifestyle, reconstruction and other issues were exhibited. The guests were provided custom-made postcards which had links to PAN website.

In addition, a webblog was created for "Window on Afghanistan," which also contains a link to PAN website. The news agency is given the right to post some of its stories, especially the ones related to education, on the webblog. About 90 people attended the event and almost all stayed way beyond the specified time of two hours.
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Afghan-Canada relations to enhance in 2008: Envoy
NEW YORK, Dec 31(Pajhwok Afghan News): In an interview to Pajhwok Afghan News, the Afghan Ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, said Afghanistan would like to have a long-term commitment from Canada. As Canada decides on the future of its mission in Afghanistan, the year 2008 is to be an important year for Afghan-Canada relationship.

Following are excerpts from an exclusive interview with Samad.

PAN: As we enter the New Year 2008, how do you access the year gone by from the point of view of Afghan-Canada relationship?

Answer: Afghan-Canadian relations are multi-faceted and the main pillars rest on Canada providing security assistance, social and economic development aid and assistance in the area of democratic development and governance. Canada also continues to provide humanitarian assistance where needed and because of its engagement in the province of Kandahar, it has allocated more than 30 percent of its total aid disbursement specifically to help rebuild the province and help the Afghan authorities provide services there.

The year 2007 saw a sharp increase in Canadian aid to Afghanistan in different sectors, especially education, community development, mine action, microfinance, health, rule of law and justice, gender and several others. Of course Canada continues to be a leader in funding the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which is managed direct aid to the Afghan government. Total Canadian aid for this fiscal year is expected to double the figures of 2006 and go beyond $300 million. Afghanistan is Canadas largest recipient of foreign aid ever.

Of course, Canadas military and security engagement in Kandahar as part of NATO to stabilize the province and help Afghan security forces, army and police, through training and mentoring programmes is a separate yet significant part of the overall commitment to Afghanistan. This mission has taken the lives of 30 brave Canadians in 2007, and helped fuel a major political debate in the country. Afghans remain grateful for the leadership role played by Canada in all areas and share in the grief that Canadians experience when tragedy strikes. Several contentious issues spurred strong debate and partisanship within Canada in 2007, among them the issue of detainee treatment and the future of the mission beyond the current mandate for February 2009. 

PAN: There were several high-profile visitors between the two countries this year. What do you think were the key highlights / achievements if the Afghan-Canada relationship this year.

Answer: Several high-ranking bilateral visits took place in 2007, especially of Canadian leaders traveling to Kabul and Kandahar to meet the Canadian Forces, aid workers and diplomats, to assess the situation, and to meet with Afghan leaders. Such contacts are expected to continue in 2008.

PAN: Canada has been debating its mission in Afghanistan. What would be your expectations from Canada in the New Year 2008?

Answer: An independent panel has been appointed by the Prime Minister to assess the various options and make recommendations about the future of the military mission beyond 2009. The panel is expected to finalize its report by early 2008. Thereafter, the report will be presented to Parliament, which will have a debate and decide, probably sometime in spring. One item is combat burden-sharing, which has to be debated inside NATO. It is obviously up to Canadians and their representatives to decide about the future of this mission, however, as events in our neighborhood and the work that remains to be done inside Afghanistan indicate, a premature pullout by any of the leading NATO nations could have adverse effects on the overall mission and send the wrong signal to our adversaries.

Afghanistan has made its views known and prefers a longer-term commitment until we are able to train, equip and deploy our own security forces to maintain peace and order in Kandahar and the volatile regions as a whole. The development mission has a different timetable and is not as controversial.

PAN: At the Special High Level meeting at the United Nations, Canada had proposed for appointing a Super UN Envoy for Afghanistan for better co-ordination between various international agencies in Afghanistan. There has been reluctance on the part of Afghan Government in this regard. How is it going to affect the relationship between the two countries?

Answer: This issue is currently being discussed by all stakeholders and we expect a final decision soon. It involves many countries and several multilateral organizations, so I dont see an impact on bilateral relations.

PAN: What are your expectations in the New Year 2008 on Afghan-Canada relationship?

Answer: I expect relations to grow, the Canadian engagement to rebuild Afghanistan to expand and produce visible results in areas that are of importance to Afghans, such as livelihoods, infrastructure, irrigation and agriculture, governance, rule of law and so on. I expect a less violent year for Afghans and Canadians as we continue to diminish the threat posed by Taliban and their allies inside Afghanistan and within the region, as well as the dangers related to the poppy business.

It will be an important year for Canada as it decides about its future military role, which will affect the aid programmes as well. What I do see, however, happening is that more and more Canadians understand the Afghan context and its complexities, their role as a lead nation, the reasons for which Afghanistan matters and are eager to rise above the partisan politics that engulfed the issue for most of 2006-2007.
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ISAF, ANA forces provide medical aid to Paktikans
KABUL, Dec 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): ISAF and Afghan National Army forces provided medical and veterinarian assistance to the people and livestock in Yousuf Khel and Khushamond villages of southern Paktika province, military sources said on Monday.

They added ISAFs Sharana PRT, the Polish Battle Group, ANA, 203rd ANA Corps and non-governmental organization, provided medical supplies, clothing and medical treatment for more than 800 Afghans.

The combined effort gave local doctors and the ANA an opportunity to learn a higher level of medical care and establish a better patient rapport.

"I treated patients with headaches, body aches, gastro-intestinal problems and skin diseases, said Capt. Tammy Lutz, Force Pacemaker physician assistant. The most common illness treated however, was the cold, she mentioned.

"We have big hope for (ISAF) forces; we are in need of more schools and medical clinics, he said. I hope they bring peace and hope to Afghanistan", remarked Qudratullah, local who had brought his father for treatment.

Veterinary assistance was also given in Kushamond. ISAF forces de-wormed more than 600 sheep during the visit. Veterinary technicians helped de-worm the herds of sheep to prevent humans from contracting diseases from the animals. The treatment also helps put a stop to gastrointestinal worms in goats which cause an economic and nutritional hardship in Afghan communities.

ISAFs direct provision of medical care and partnering with local civilian doctors creates long-term medical improvements and increases the healthcare capacity and self-sufficiency of the Afghan healthcare system.
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Militants eliminated, arms cache seized in Helmand
KABUL, Jan 01 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Several militants were killed in joint operation ofAfghan and Coalition forces in restive Helmand province, official sources said on Tuesday.

The combined team of Afghan and Coalition forces searched compounds in the Nahr Surkh district targeting militants associated with Taliban extremists and foreign fighter facilitators reported to be operating in the area. 

While searching one of the compounds in the area, Afghan and Coalition forces came under small-arms fire from several militants. Using a combination of defensive return fire and hand grenades, they quelled the militants attacks, killing several in the process. 

During one engagement, a militant was killed when he fired on the combined force from a barricaded room in one of the compounds buildings. In another engagement, several other militants were killed while firing on the combined force from another building on the compound. 

There were no immediate indications of injuries or deaths to civilians not taking part in hostilities.

During a post-hostilities assessment, the combined force found a weapons cache consisting of several AK-47s, rocket propelled grenades and explosives. The weapons cache was destroyed on-site to prevent further use by militant forces.

With each successful mission Afghan and Coalition forces are breaking the intricate links that comprise extremist forces networks, said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, Combined Joint Task Force 82 spokesman.
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Helmandians cry for making both ends meet
LASHKARGAH, Dec 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Residents complain skyrocketing of flour price in the war-stricken former Taliban stronghold of Musa-Kala district in restive Helmand province where many can not make the both ends meet.

Toryalai a local complained the price of a piece of bread increased to 20 afghanis. "People will face great problems unless emergency aids were provided to the locals here." He warned.

Shir Muhammad, another resident of Musa-Kala district of the province, lamented price of bread was being sold from 12 to 16 afghanis. People preferred to buy cookies to eat from the market rather than the bread; he complained price of a 100kg wheat bag went up to 3000 afghanis here.

Prices of other food stuff also registered increase here, he said.

Shah Wali a wheat seller in Lashkargah complained assassination of Ms Bhutto had badly affected wheat exports to Afghanistan. He said "not a bag of wheat had been imported to Afghanistan since the assassination of Bhutto."

Reports and interviews with individuals in other districts of the southern Helamand province also reveal hike in edible commodities.

They demanded of the International NGOs and central government to heed to their plight and send them emergency aid.
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