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January 22, 2008 

Report says give cash to win over Afghan moderates
By Mark John Monday, January 21, 2008
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The international coalition in Afghanistan should seek to "divide and rule" insurgents there by enticing moderates away from the hardcore Taliban with offers of cash and other incentives, a report urged on Monday.

Landmines, UXO kill, maim hundreds in 2007
KABUL, 21 January 2008 (IRIN) - Landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO) killed 143 and wounded 438 people in different parts of Afghanistan in 2007, according to UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) statistics.

Cold, snow kills 300 people in Afghanistan: authority
KABUL, Jan 21, 2008 (AFP) - More than 320 people and thousands of livestock have been killed in Afghanistan this month in freezing weather and the heaviest snowfalls for 15 years, the country's disaster authority said Monday.

NATO chief, Musharraf discuss Afghanistan
January 22, 2008 People's Daily
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf discussed Afghanistan on Monday when they met in a hotel in Brussels.

Best Afghan commando competition held
Jan. 21, 2008 at 7:43 PM UPI - Jan 21 4:50 PM
Print story Email to a friend Font size:BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. forces in Afghanistan recently held a best commando competition in a training initiative for the Afghan National Army.

Audio visual: Afghanistan
Jenny Booth Times Online January 21, 2008
A British soldier was killed and five were injured by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan yesterday, the Ministry of Defence revealed today.

Militants kill 5 Pakistani soldiers, wound 7 near Afghan border
By CHRIS BRUMMITT,Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Islamic militants attacked a fort near the Afghan border for the second time this month Tuesday, killing five Pakistani soldiers and highlighting what analysts say is rising extremist control in the rugged region.

Canada panel set to urge Afghan mission extension
By David Ljunggren Mon Jan 21, 11:34 AM ET
OTTAWA (Reuters) - An independent panel is set to recommend on Tuesday that Canada extends its mission in Afghanistan by two years to 2011, a course of action that could conceivably bring down the minority Conservative government.

Enough U.S. help for Afghanistan?
Deployment of 3,200 marines will help, analysts say, but will not provide the kind of counterinsurgency now needed there.
By Gordon Lubold | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
When 3,200 US marines deploy to Afghanistan this spring, the message it sends is that the US remains committed to the security of the country and its future. But the deteriorating situation there won't turn around until the United States

B.C. Civil Liberties release documents detailing alleged Afghan torture
By Elianna Lev, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is releasing documents it says were sent to federal government officials detailing reports of torture against Afghan detainees.

Afghan National Police to receive intensive training
Mon. Jan. 21 2008 1:24 PM ET The Associated Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Things are about to change for the beleaguered Afghan National Police in Zhari-Panjwaii where Canadian Forces mentors have been struggling to whip the ill-equipped, underpaid lot into shape over the last few months.

Ross Kemp in Afghanistan; Summerhill; Curb Your Enthusiasm
Last Night’s TVAndrew Billen The Times January 22, 2008
You cannot quite say that our soldiers in Afghanistan are a forgotten army. Last summer, ITV1’s Guarding the Queen followed the Grenadier Guards to Helmand province and in November BBC One’s Panorama had an hour-long special on the ground with the Guards as they undertook a jittery skirmish with the Taleban. But it is probably fair to say we do not remember the 7,000 troops out there enough. Even as a write this

Trucks bound for Afghanistan blown up in Chaman
Daily Times, Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Suspected militants in Chaman blew up three trucks carrying provisions for coalition forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, in the latest of several attacks on a key supply line, police said on Monday, AP reported.

US helping Pakistan tackle extremism 'in its own way': envoy
Mon Jan 21, 5:32 PM ET
ASADABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) - The United States is working to help Pakistan deal with extremism "in its own way," a top US diplomat for the region said here Monday.

Surprise woman returns from Afghanistan
Sherry Anne Rubiano The Arizona Republic Jan. 21, 2008 11:47 AM
Surprise resident Todd Graham is patiently waiting for an important reunion this month.

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Report says give cash to win over Afghan moderates
By Mark John Monday, January 21, 2008
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The international coalition in Afghanistan should seek to "divide and rule" insurgents there by enticing moderates away from the hardcore Taliban with offers of cash and other incentives, a report urged on Monday.

The European Council for Foreign Relations (ECFR) noted that U.S. officials remained sceptical of such overtures but, citing precedents in Bosnia and Northern Ireland, argued that stability was impossible unless ex-insurgents joined democratic politics.

"Enticements could include money, paid in instalments to ensure an ongoing commitment to the government," said ECFR analyst Daniel Korski, a former aide to Paddy Ashdown -- the British official tipped to become the U.N. special Afghan envoy.

"The coalition could then operate a system of 'divide and rule', whereby intransigent insurgents would see their erstwhile comrades rewarded with a package of financial and other incentives," Korski said in the report.

Such rewards could include "benefit packages" comprising health clinics and schools in the local fief of a cooperative leader, he said, proposing that the European Union allocate at least 50 million euros (37.2 million pounds) for such a pilot scheme.

The ECFR was launched late last year to study EU foreign policy and is co-chaired by former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari.

The report comes as Western officials are reviewing the international strategy in Afghanistan, which has suffered from a lack of coordination between key agencies and differences within NATO's 42,000-strong force on how to tackle the insurgency.

Officials including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and NATO's top commander of operations, U.S. General John Craddock, have backed reconciliation efforts in a bid to end violence that claimed 5,000 lives last year alone.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also said Taliban leaders were contacting him to try to find ways of making peace.

The ECFR report highlighted stark differences in the presence of European nations within NATO's peace force, with Britain providing over 7,000 troops, Germany over 3,000 while Austria, Ireland and Luxembourg only muster a handful each.

In addition to the 3,500 extra Marines pledged by Washington last week, the ECFR estimated a further 2,000-2,500 NATO troops were probably needed in the violent south of the country.

(Reporting by Mark John; Editing by Charles Dick)
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Landmines, UXO kill, maim hundreds in 2007
KABUL, 21 January 2008 (IRIN) - Landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) and abandoned explosive ordnance (AXO) killed 143 and wounded 438 people in different parts of Afghanistan in 2007, according to UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA) statistics.

Most victims are males aged 1-26, largely from the insurgency-affected southern provinces where the worsening security situation has hampered de-mining activities.

The number of people killed by landmines and other explosive remnants of war saw a 13.2 percent increase in 2007 over 2006 but the overall casualty rate (the combined number of dead and injured) dropped by over 29 percent, UNMACA's findings indicate.

Landmines, UXOs and AXOs killed 124 and wounded 697 Afghans in 2006.

Some 95 percent of landmine injuries lead to disabilities of one kind or another, demining experts say.

According to an IRIN report on mine action entitled Laying Landmines to Rest? Humanitarian Mine Action, conventional anti-personnel landmines cost between US$3 and $27 to produce, while technologically advanced mines, like scatterables and self-destructing mines, can cost up to 50 times more. Most warring parties, including rebels, paramilitary groups and governments in low-intensity conflicts, prefer to use traditional "dumb" mines because they are cheaper, simpler to use, and easier to manufacture.

According to the UK Mine Information and Training Centre (MITC), clearing each mine costs the international community $300-$1,000.

Fewer landmine victims

The Soviet army that invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and various military factions that fought each other in the 1990s, planted millions of landmines (anti-personnel and anti-tank) all over the country, experts say.
As a result, over 70,000 Afghans were killed or disabled by landmines in the last two decades of the 20th century, according to mine clearing organisations.

Over the past 15 years mine clearance agencies have cleared large swaths of the country of landmines and AXOs. This has significantly reduced the number of casualties. It is unclear how landmines remain to be cleared.

"In the past, about 100 people were falling prey to landmines every month," said Mohammad Haider Reza, programme director of UNMACA. "Now numbers have dropped to 50-60."

In December 2007, the Afghan government announced that landmine stocks had been destroyed in all military facilities and that there was no "formal landmine stock" in the country.

Under the Ottawa Conventions Afghanistan has renounced the production, stockpiling and use of all anti-personnel landmines.

Explosive remnants of war

As numbers of landmine victims gradually decline concerns about the risks of explosive remnants of war have increased, particularly in conflict-affected southern and southeastern regions.

According to the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (2003), all warring groups must "mark and clear, remove or destroy explosive remnants of war in affected territories under its control," immediately after armed hostilities end.

However, all warring sides in Afghanistan, but chiefly Taliban insurgents, are blamed for their lack of compliance with the Protocol and civilian protection.

"Warring parties often leave behind explosive ordnance which endangers the safety of the civilian population," Mohammad Sediq Rashid, UNMACA's chief of operations, told IRIN.

At least 61 people were killed and over 170 wounded in UXO and cluster munition incidents in 2007, UNMACA said.
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Cold, snow kills 300 people in Afghanistan: authority
KABUL, Jan 21, 2008 (AFP) - More than 320 people and thousands of livestock have been killed in Afghanistan this month in freezing weather and the heaviest snowfalls for 15 years, the country's disaster authority said Monday.

The latest figure from Afghanistan's National Disaster Management Authority is triple that issued by the agency five days ago.

The hardest-hit areas have been in the western province of Herat and its neighbouring provinces of Farah, Badghis and Nimroz -- all remote and mountainous regions near the Iranian border, the authority said.

"In Herat (province) alone we have 137 people who have died, mostly from cold," an agency official, Ahmad Shekib Humraz, told AFP.

Humraz, who said the snow was the heaviest in 15 years, said freezing temperatures had also killed nearly 10,000 livestock this month.

Snowfalls of up to two metres (nearly seven feet) deep had damaged or blocked several roads, cutting off small communities from important centres, Humraz said.

While causing severe damage, the snow and rain may bode well for agriculture in Afghanistan, which has suffered from a severe drought.
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NATO chief, Musharraf discuss Afghanistan 
January 22, 2008 People's Daily
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf discussed Afghanistan on Monday when they met in a hotel in Brussels.

They noted that both Afghanistan and Pakistan face the same challenge of violent extremism and terrorism, said NATO in a press release.

They agreed that the two countries and NATO should continue to cooperate as closely as possible to tackle this challenge.

Musharraf pledged to ensure that the upcoming elections in Pakistan will be free and fair. Both men agreed on the importance of deepening the practical and political relationship between NATO and Pakistan, said the press release.

Political exchanges evolved after NATO's relief assistance operation in response to a devastating earthquake in Pakistan in 2005.

NATO and Pakistan intensified political dialogue, in particular with regard to the shared objective of bringing security and stability to Afghanistan.
Source: Xinhua
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Best Afghan commando competition held
Jan. 21, 2008 at 7:43 PM UPI - Jan 21 4:50 PM
Print story Email to a friend Font size:BAGRAM, Afghanistan, Jan. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. forces in Afghanistan recently held a best commando competition in a training initiative for the Afghan National Army.

Officials say more than 190 Afghan National Army commandos competed in the event designed to test the mental and physical abilities, determination and endurance of the Afghan troops. Participants, in full uniform and with 40 pounds of body armor, competed in timed first aid, communications, weapons and fitness challenges, the Combined Joint Task Force-82 reported.

"This friendly competition helps build morale and develop skills and unit cohesion," Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a Combined Joint Task Force-82 spokesman, said in a statement.

The competition tested troops on their ability to properly tie a tourniquet. They also had to assemble and program a field radio. The Afghan commandos also had to reassemble a field rifle and hit targets on a firing range.

Before the competitors finished the mile-long course, they had to push a 4,500-pound pickup truck about 50 feet before a final pull-up challenge on the pull-up bars.

"This competition was good for the mind and the body," an Afghan National Army commando sergeant said.
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Audio visual: Afghanistan
Jenny Booth Times Online January 21, 2008
A British soldier was killed and five were injured by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan yesterday, the Ministry of Defence revealed today.

The soldier, a member of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers attached to 5th Regiment Royal Artillery, died when the vehicle the troops were travelling in struck a landmine near Musa Qala.

He was pronounced dead at the scene. Next of kin have been informed.

The five other British casualties were taken by helicopter to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) medical centre at Camp Bastion, the main British military base in the desert of Helmand province. Their injuries were not said to be life-threatening.

All the service personnel involved were travelling in a 5th Regiment Royal Artillery patrol vehicle. The Ministry of Defence said that the company was engaged in operations disrupting enemy forces and reassuring local Afghans when their vehicle was struck.

The incident happened around two miles north-east of Musa Qala, a town in northern Helmand province that Taleban insurgents held for 10 months until British, US and Afghan forces retook it last month, driving out the rebels.

Nato forces are now busy consolidating their grip on the area, building a chain of forts in an attempt to prevent the Taleban creeping back.

The number of British military deaths in Afghanistan since the start of operations in November 2001 now stands at 87.

According to estimates more than 6,500 Afghans - mainly militants - died violent deaths linked to the Taleban insurgency last year, the highest death toll since 2001.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, said at the opening of the Afghan Parliament in Kabul today that around 300.000 children cannot attend school because of violence in the country's southern provinces.

In Kandahar there were reports that a crowd of several hundred Afghans were chanting anti-British slogans today in protest at an alleged incident in which British troops hunting insurgents are said to have desecrated the Koran while searching villages in the Girishk district of Helmand.

"The villagers told them that there were no Taleban hiding in the villages and swore by copies of the Koran they had in their hands," claimed Ghulam Mohammed, in a phone interview with a news agency. He claimed to be among the protesters.

"The British soldiers threw away the Koran and began searching the houses."

Lieutenant Colonel Simon Millar, a British forces spokesman, denied that either the alleged incident or the protest had taken place.

"That is a lie. There was no protest and no burning of the Koran," said Lieut Col Millar.

Derek Twigg, the defence minister, offered his profound condolences to the family of the dead soldier. Mr Twigg said that the tragic death reminded MPs of the “depth of gratitude” owed to those who had lost their lives and who were still serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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Militants kill 5 Pakistani soldiers, wound 7 near Afghan border
By CHRIS BRUMMITT,Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Islamic militants attacked a fort near the Afghan border for the second time this month Tuesday, killing five Pakistani soldiers and highlighting what analysts say is rising extremist control in the rugged region.

The attackers suffered "heavy causalities" in the pre-dawn attack on Lahda Fort in South Waziristan, while seven soldiers also were wounded, the military said in a brief statement.

The violence in the border region, as well as a string of suicide attacks that have killed hundreds in recent months, is triggering uncertainty in the country ahead of Feb. 18 elections that many predict will weaken President Pervez Musharraf's grip on power.

More than 100 rebels and soldiers are reported to have been killed in the region this month alone.

On Jan. 10, insurgents also attacked Lahda Fort. The military said then that between 40 and 50 of the attackers were killed. Last week, the militants overran a second fort in the region, leaving up to 22 soldiers dead or missing in a major embarrassment for the military.

The tribal region, which has never been fully under the control of the central government, is believed to be home to Baitullah Mehsud, a militant leader blamed by Pakistan and the CIA for masterminding the Dec. 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in a gun and suicide attack.

A purported spokesman for Mehsud warned the military to stop its attacks in the region.

"The army is killing innocent people in our areas and we will take strong action by attacking soldiers wherever is possible, if it does not stop such activities," Maulvi Mohammed Umar told The Associated Press by phone.

Meanwhile, security agencies arrested a suspected militant in the southern city of Karachi in connection with the attack on Bhutto, an intelligence official told the AP.

Yousuf Mehsud, who the official said was a close aide to Baitullah Mehsud, was detained late Monday after a tip-off, said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Last week, authorities arrested a 15-year-old boy they said was part of the team sent to kill Bhutto.

The developments came after Pakistan's most popular private television network went back on the air after signing a government code of conduct that critics say is muzzling independent media.

All stations banned by President Pervez Musharraf during his state of emergency in November are now broadcasting again, but concerns remain that the former general has whittled away at press freedoms as the country gears up for parliamentary polls.

The station declined to comment on whether there were any conditions, with its president saying only that the government's lifting of the ban was "a wise and wonderful move."

"As elections are coming up, more media coverage would make the elections more credible and contribute to the positive development of the country," said Geo President Imran Aslam.

Immediately after emergency rule was imposed, Geo was banned along with all private news networks, which had been reporting freely on growing challenges to Musharraf's U.S.-backed rule as well as surging violence by Muslim extremists.

Over the ensuing 10 weeks, the government permitted the other stations to return to the air as they signed the code of conduct, but Geo initially refused to go along.

While there are restrictions, the media is in some respects freer in Pakistan than in many other Asian countries. Newspapers and TV stations report freely on anti-government protests, opinion pages are full of articles calling on Musharraf to step down and opposition leaders are frequently quoted alleging he is a dictator.
___
Associated Press Writer Ishtiaq Mahsud contributed to this story from Dera Ismail Khan.
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Canada panel set to urge Afghan mission extension
By David Ljunggren Mon Jan 21, 11:34 AM ET
OTTAWA (Reuters) - An independent panel is set to recommend on Tuesday that Canada extends its mission in Afghanistan by two years to 2011, a course of action that could conceivably bring down the minority Conservative government.

Canada has 2,500 troops in the southern city of Kandahar, a region where the Taliban are concentrated, and so far 77 members of the armed forces have died.

The mission is due to end in February 2009 and Ottawa will need to inform its NATO partners soon if it plans to pull out the soldiers. Recent polls show around half of Canadians think the troops should return on schedule.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants the troops to stay longer, all three opposition parties -- which together control a majority of seats in Parliament -- strongly dislike the idea of keeping soldiers in a combat zone.

Harper, who has promised a Parliamentary vote on the future of the mission, asked former Liberal deputy prime minister, John Manley, last October to make recommendations. Manley's report will be released at 9 a.m. (1400 GMT) on Tuesday.

Some of those interviewed by Manley, a strong supporter of the Canadian presence in Afghanistan, said they were sure he would urge that the mission continue but place more stress on training Afghan troops and less on fighting the Taliban.

Whether that would be enough to placate the opposition parties is yet to be seen. Harper could make the vote in Parliament a confidence measure and if he loses it, an election campaign would start immediately.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion on Monday stressed the need for the mission to focus more on rebuilding Afghanistan and training the country's army.

"We will not abandon Afghanistan. After February 2009, what we want is a mission to help Afghanis to build their country, a mission in the tradition of Canada," he told a meeting of legislators in Kitchener, Ontario.

Harper won power in January 2006 and has been kept aloft partly due to Liberal support during confidence votes. Some Liberal legislators are fed up with backing Harper and Dion said in December he felt an election was more likely in 2008.

But his party trails the Conservatives in most polls and since then he has toned down comments about possibly defeating the government over its budget, expected by early March.

"There is no point bringing down the government when they're at 37 percent in the polls and we're at 30 percent," one senior Liberal legislator told Reuters, saying he did not detect any voter desire for another federal vote.

"We'll bring down Harper at a time that suits us, not him." he said.

The most recent polls show the likely outcome of an election now would be another minority Conservative government.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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Enough U.S. help for Afghanistan?
Deployment of 3,200 marines will help, analysts say, but will not provide the kind of counterinsurgency now needed there.
By Gordon Lubold | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
When 3,200 US marines deploy to Afghanistan this spring, the message it sends is that the US remains committed to the security of the country and its future. But the deteriorating situation there won't turn around until the United States makes changes that recognize the mission's strategic and symbolic importance and raise Afghanistan from "forgotten war" status, analysts and a senior retired officer say.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates had opposed sending more US forces to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, but he reluctantly conceded after failing to get a greater contribution from allies, many of whom say they have little more to give.

But the marines destined for Afghanistan are on a one-time, seven-month deployment that fills a gap only for trainers and combat forces, say analysts. They won't supply the kind of counterinsurgency that country needs, they say.

That would require more resources, a more effective organizational structure for NATO, and smarter thinking about how to strengthen Afghanistan's political and economic systems, says one retired senior officer. It also would probably mean a greater commitment of US troops, perhaps thousands more.

"If we're going to be ahead of the insurgency, then you have to have a substantial-sized force," says a retired senior officer who didn't want to be named due to the political sensitivities of the matter.

A new focus in Afghanistan for the US should also include an "empowered US ambassador" overseeing the nonmilitary efforts – akin to the role of Ambassador Ryan Crocker in Iraq – even as American military forces, still under NATO command, conduct a counterinsurgency where it's needed, says the retired officer.

Perspectives on counterinsurgency

Some 50,000 total forces are currently in Afghanistan, about half of them American. Half of those American forces fall under a subordinate US command that oversees the country's eastern region, where an effective counterinsurgency is being waged, say many analysts in the US. It is in the southern region, including Helmand and Kandahar Provinces, where Dutch, Canadian, and British troops predominate, where a broader new strategy is most needed, they say.

Pentagon strategists are reportedly refining a review of Afghanistan, which will be discussed during a meeting of NATO ministers in Europe this winter. Deteriorating security in Afghanistan, which has seen more suicide bombings and rising violence over the past year, has also piqued the interest of Congress: The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday will entertain ideas for changing strategy.

The US had employed a proper counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, but it began to falter after the 2005 announcement that NATO would take over the mission, argued David Barno, a retired Army three-star general, in an article last fall in the Army periodical Military Review.

"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," wrote Mr. Barno, who will testify Wednesday before the House panel. The US must revive a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, he said.

In a separate development that could shape the future of Afghanistan and NATO, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq and the man credited with creating an effective counterinsurgency strategy there, is being considered for command of NATO later this year, The New York Times reported on its website Sunday.

Unwieldy command structure?

One crucial move is to refine the complex organizational structure for the NATO force, with its bifurcated commands and complex command-and-control relationships.

"If there is an overhaul needed, it is getting a unity of command," says Jim Phillips, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank here. "Unfortunately, the military effort is disjointed, with so many different NATO forces pursuing different strategies."

Secretary Gates, however, has already decided not to push for changes to the organizational structure of the mission, after members of the Joint Staff last year recommended no change. "They ... recommended that we leave it as it is, and that is my intent," Gates said Thursday.

A proper counterinsurgency would include more attention to political, economic, and other nonmilitary issues, some say. Abdullah Abdullah, a former minister of foreign affairs for Afghanistan, said at a Washington think tank on Friday that part of what Afghanistan needs is help strengthening trust between Afghans and their central and provincial governments.

"If the US doesn't make some extra efforts to enable the government ... to gain the trust of the people, this will weaken any military strategy," he said.

Education for all Afghans is the ultimate "prerequisite for strategic success," says Paul McHale, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense. Mr. McHale wore a different hat last year, taking leave from his Pentagon job and deploying as a reserve officer to help develop the Afghan National police. He says bolstering education initiatives, opening schools, and giving girls more opportunities to learn will help the country to turn the page.

The military fight will set the conditions for success, but it's not the only thing, says McHale. "Trigger-pulling will not win this war," he says.
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B.C. Civil Liberties release documents detailing alleged Afghan torture
By Elianna Lev, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER - The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is releasing documents it says were sent to federal government officials detailing reports of torture against Afghan detainees.

The heavily censored documents describe interviews with several detainees who claimed they had been "whipped with cables, shocked with electricity and/or otherwise hurt" after they were transferred from the Canadian military into Afghan custody in Kandahar.

The association says the papers leave no doubt that Ottawa knows that Canadian-transferred detainees are subsequently tortured by Afghan authorities.

The government documents were released as part of court attempts by Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association to stop transfers of prisoners taken by Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

The association said the documents are an exchange between diplomatic and Department of Foreign Affairs personnel who visited facilities in Afghanistan. It claims that Aghanistan's National Directorate of Security engaged in forms of torture after prisoners were transferred into their custody by the Canadian military.

It states each detainee interview lasted between 15 and 60 minutes, in the absence of NDS officers. The documents note that the "atmosphere overall was surprisingly relaxed."

It is not clear from the document how many prisoners were interviewed.

All the detainees interviewed complained about "lack of clarity in their cases. They said they did not know why they are being held, nor did any seem to have been charged."

One claimed he'd been knocked unconscious during an interrogation and beaten "with electrical wires and rubber hose."

The documents says that when the man indicated the spot where the alleged assault took place, the interviewer "found a large piece of braided electrical wire as well as a rubber hose. He then showed us a bruise (approx. 4 inches long) on his back that could possibly be the result of a blow."

Association president Jason Gratl said the report proves that Canada knew that torture was happening.

"The denial of the existence of torture in Afghanistan are no longer plausible," he said. "The prime minister, in effect, is forced to act."

Representatives with the Department of Foreign Affairs could not be reached for comment.

Since last April, allegations have been dogging the government that some prisoners taken by the Canadian military were in turn abused after being handed over to the Afghan authorities.

Published reports on April 23 suggested as many as 30 prisoners had been mistreated by the Afghans.

Two days following those allegations, a prison visit was arranged for Corrections Canada officers and an official at Canada's provincial reconstruction base. Reports were filed that night to both the Foreign Affairs Department and the Correctional Service of Canada.

Gavin Buchan, the political director of the reconstruction base wrote how two prisoners came forward with complaints of mistreatment, despite being accompanied by NDS officers.

When confronted by deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff in the House of Commons on April 26, Harper described claims of prisoner abuse as "baseless allegations."

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day was also quoted that day as saying: "We have no proof of the allegations."

However, the government negotiated its prisoner deal with the Afghans to give Canadian authorities the right to monitor those captured.
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Afghan National Police to receive intensive training
Mon. Jan. 21 2008 1:24 PM ET The Associated Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Things are about to change for the beleaguered Afghan National Police in Zhari-Panjwaii where Canadian Forces mentors have been struggling to whip the ill-equipped, underpaid lot into shape over the last few months.

Part two of the Focus District Development campaign is slated to get underway next month, but efforts to register police for the intensive training program are already underway.

Maj. Louis Lapointe, commander of the Police Operational Mentoring Liaison Team, says the eight-week, mandatory program is certain to eliminate some of the equipment, drug and corruption issues plaguing the ANP.

As part of the program, which began in Zabul province nearly two months ago, police will receive specialized investigative, tactical, weapons and ethics training.

They'll also get their very own AK-47, a uniform and a fixed salary, which not all of them currently receive.

The move comes as two new police sub-stations get set to open Tuesday in Panjwaii -- a region deemed the next big focus for Canadian troops according to Brig.-Gen Guy Laroche.
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Ross Kemp in Afghanistan; Summerhill; Curb Your Enthusiasm
Last Night’s TVAndrew Billen The Times January 22, 2008
You cannot quite say that our soldiers in Afghanistan are a forgotten army. Last summer, ITV1’s Guarding the Queen followed the Grenadier Guards to Helmand province and in November BBC One’s Panorama had an hour-long special on the ground with the Guards as they undertook a jittery skirmish with the Taleban. But it is probably fair to say we do not remember the 7,000 troops out there enough. Even as a write this, there is news of another death.

Ross Kemp’s exemplary (and I never expected to type that sequence of words) new documentary series for Sky One makes their lives unforgettable, partly because Kemp seems to identify more strongly with the ordinary squaddie than do most journalists – most journalists’ mind-sets are distinctly unmilitary – and partly because the production values of this HD series make Camp Bastion alarmingly real.

Ross Kemp in Afghanistan is the sort of thing that would make that old theorist of current affairs, John Birt, fume against journalism’s bias against understanding. The context of how and why the British are fighting in Helmand was given in less than a minute. But to say it did not help us understand, at least on a visceral level, what is going on would be like saying Rudyard Kipling’s Barrack Room Ballads have no historical value.

Training with him on Salisbury Plain he is shocked by the callowness of Josh Hill, an 18-year-old who joined the army at 16 and counts himself fortunate in comparison with some of his mates to have a job. A few months later, Kemp flies into Kandahar air-base to be even more shocked that Josh seems to have aged five years. More shocking for us is that Sergeant Keith Nieves, whose wife had broken down in tears in her kitchen at the thought of her husband going to Afghanistan and leaving their two sons, had already been injured so badly that he has to return home.

In Ross Kemp on Gangs, Sky has obviously played with the tough man image Kemp created on EastEnders, promulgated on ITV’s Ultimate Force where he played an SAS sergeant and then debunked on an unfunny episode of Extras. Critics will say he is still playing tough man and it is time this star of panto and domestic violence headlines (the violence inflicted, allegedly, against him) grew up.

A few “SAS-my-arse” jibes are hurled at him as he trains in England. It is hard to tell if the soldiers thought less or more of him for his having acted the hero professionally but his rapport with them looks genuine and earned. What this programme concentrates on, however, is Ross’s fear. You hear it in his voice as he lands at Kandahar in pitch darkness and see it in his face next week when he almost gets killed in combat. But fear, albeit fear surmounted, is what none of the Royal Anglians we meet can hide. As those he meets on his arrival at Afghanistan tell him, they are in hell.

Eccentric, ultra-liberal Summerhill School in Suffolk is, in contrast, presented as a heaven of endless summers in CBBC’s new series Summerhill, although with kids romping around in pirate costumes there are elements of Never Never Land, too. Making a drama of the school’s near terminal run-in with Ofsted in 2000 is in theory a great idea, although I am not sure it could ever really work as a children’s programme that depicts the inspectors as black-suited killjoys with comedy names such as Myrtle. That said, educational theory is children’s business as much as parent’s and this serial will spark some parentled debates around middle-class tea tables. Dramatically, it is Grange Hill meet Hogwarts, or Lord of the Flies with a happy ending.

The last episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (More4) had Larry David borne up to Heaven having explained himself to his guardian angels. He was back in domestic hell last night, eating a cake shaped like a black penis in front of a black woman whose surname is Black (“It’s like me being called Larry Jew”), trapped in his own lies as he attempts to avoid socialising, and, as always, forgetting his own rule about telling his wife nothing. Part of the plot revolved round Cheryl’s wish to take in a family left homeless by a Katrina-like disaster. “I can’t help thinking about the hurricane,” she says. “My nose is still itching me,” Larry replies, defining what is left of their relationship.

Out of the box

— Like the News at Ten new logo? So do I. It’s based on the Roman numeral X on Big Ben’s clock face. But look up at the real thing and you’ll notice that, bizarrely, the real face does not have a number 10 on it, just a single stroke. It must have made for a nasty moment for the graphics team in Gray’s Inn Road.

— I was talking to a television engineer over the weekend – I won’t say from which company – and he confirmed to me what I long suspected: the picture quality on LCD flat screen sets is a joke within the industry. The future, apparently, is not even plasma but something called SED (surface conduction electron-emitter display), which uses a combination of flat panel and cathode ray tube technology to deliver better quality than either LCD or plasma. Expect to see the first sets this spring.
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Trucks bound for Afghanistan blown up in Chaman
Daily Times, Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Suspected militants in Chaman blew up three trucks carrying provisions for coalition forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, in the latest of several attacks on a key supply line, police said on Monday, AP reported.

One of the drivers was slightly hurt in the overnight blasts while two fuel tankers and a rig carrying a shipping container were completely destroyed, local police said. Allied commanders in Afghanistan say that about 40 percent of their logistic supplies enter the landlocked country via Pakistan. Since there is no rail link between the two neighboring nations, all cargo arriving overland from Pakistan’s main port of Karachi is trucked into Afghanistan. Militants have made sporadic attempts in the past to disrupt the supply lines by attacking convoys.

In a contrary report, according to APP, Chaman SHO Gul Muhammad said on Monday that two people were injured here when three empty oil tankers were blown up late on Sunday night.

The agency reported that the blasts took place at a local hotel, where more than two dozen oil tankers, most of them returning from Kandahar, were parked. The first explosion tore apart one of the empty oil tankers, and a second explosion followed minutes later, destroying another. A police party headed by SHO Gul Muhammad arrived on the scene and found an explosive device attached to another oil tanker. The SHO called in the bomb disposal squad but the bomb detonated, destroying the third tanker, before the squad arrived from Pishin, APP said. agencies
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US helping Pakistan tackle extremism 'in its own way': envoy
Mon Jan 21, 5:32 PM ET
ASADABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) - The United States is working to help Pakistan deal with extremism "in its own way," a top US diplomat for the region said here Monday.

The envoy, Richard Boucher, was responding to a question about reports that the United States could send troops into the Pakistan tribal belt bordering Afghanistan to root out extremists, including from Al-Qaeda, based there.

Pakistan has said any unauthorised military strike by international forces against Al-Qaeda militants on its soil would be considered an "enemy act" and tantamount to an invasion.

"It is their country, their problems, and we are going to try to help them deal with it in their own way ...," Boucher told reporters after meeting officials in the town of Asadabad near the Pakistan border.

"Our goal and our job ... is to be cooperative so this common problem that exists, that affects us, that affects you, that affects Pakistan, so we can all end this problem together," Boucher said.

"All of us want to see a more peaceful life for the people here, all of us want to see an end to the bombs, we want to see an end to the fighting," he said.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, a regular visitor to Afghanistan, met President Hamid Karzai in Kabul Sunday for talks that likely focused on the US contribution to the country.

The United States led the invasion that toppled the Taliban government in late 2001 for harbouring Al-Qaeda and has around 26,000 soldiers here helping the Afghan government.

The US military has also decided to send 3,200 additional troops to Afghanistan to help counter an expected offensive by the Taliban militia in the spring and help train Afghan national soldiers.
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Surprise woman returns from Afghanistan
Sherry Anne Rubiano The Arizona Republic Jan. 21, 2008 11:47 AM
Surprise resident Todd Graham is patiently waiting for an important reunion this month.

His wife, Capt. Marie Graham, served for the past year in Afghanistan with the Arizona National Guard. She was part of a team responsible for refueling Apache helicopters.

Marie, 38, is expected to return home from her tour of duty next week, and her husband and 6-year-old son couldn't be happier.
 
"We're ecstatic that she's coming home safe and sound and the mission is over," said Todd, 41.

Marie and more than 1,000 Arizona National Guard soldiers were deployed to Afghanistan last January. This Guard deployment was considered the largest among state troops since the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York.

She is part of the 1-285th Aviation Battalion based in Marana, near Tucson. The unit sent about 450 soldiers and 24 helicopters.

They trained in Texas before heading to Afghanistan.

About 680 soldiers from the 1-158th Infantry Battalion based in Bellemont, near Flagstaff, also were called to Afghanistan in January to perform ground operations.

The first wave of soldiers from the 1-285th Aviation Battalion arrived home in Arizona this week. The rest are scheduled to return over the next few weeks.

This tour was Marie's longest deployment experience.

Todd communicated with his wife several days a week through e-mail and by telephone.

She shared stories about the conditions in Afghanistan, saying it was dusty in the summer and muddy in the winter. She was thrilled to receive baked goods and toiletries like toothpaste and bars of soap from U.S. community groups. During the year, she told her family, local merchants came onto her base to sell silk rugs and carved marble.

With Marie away, Todd had to adjust to being a single parent to Logan, 6.

For Marie, it meant missing special moments like her son losing three teeth.

This past Christmas also was the first time she was away from home for the holidays.

"We are excited to go back to life as a family," Todd said.

Todd said he appreciates the support from military personnel and community groups.

"We're proud of her and everybody else," he said.
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