Serving you since 1998
January 2008 :   2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

January 23, 2008 

Afghan reporter sentenced to death for 'blasphemy': court
by Shoib Najafizada
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (AFP) - Media rights groups called on Afghanistan's president to intervene Wednesday after a court sentenced to death a young journalist who distributed articles said to insult Islam.

US backs Ashdown as Afghan 'super envoy'
KABUL (AFP) - The United States backs the appointment of British politician Paddy Ashdown as UN envoy to Afghanistan and a leader of international efforts here, a senior US diplomat said.

Suicide blast wounds three in Afghan restaurant
Wed Jan 23, 1:47 AM ET
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide blast at a restaurant wounded three people on Wednesday in the southeastern Afghan town of Khost, a police official said.

Canada Troops Should Stay in Afghanistan, Panel Says
By Alexandre Deslongchamps
Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Canada should extend its military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2009 and focus on training the Afghan army and police force, a government-commissioned panel recommended.

Progress for Afghan children but a long way to go: UN
Tue Jan 22, 11:40 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan has made significant strides in protecting its children since the 2001 fall of the Taliban but there remains much to do, a senior UN official has said.

UNICEF: Afghanistan makes progress in reducing child mortality
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-22 21:47:16
KABUL, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The post-Taliban Afghanistan has made significant progress in bringing down the child mortality over the past six years, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced here Tuesday.

Afghans: Marines fired without cause
By ESTES THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 22, 6:39 PM ET
CAMP LEJUENE, N.C. - Two Afghan civilians wounded by gunfire from a Marine special operations unit told an investigative panel Tuesday they had no weapons and were not attacking the unit's convoy.

U.S.-led Coalition forces detain seven suspected insurgents in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-22 15:35:44
KABUL, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-led Coalition forces have detained seven suspected insurgents during a search operation in southern Afghanistan's Zabul province, the military said in a statement issued Tuesday.

U.S. commander in Pakistan as Taliban attack fort
By Robert Birsel Tue Jan 22, 9:54 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A top U.S. commander met with Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Tuesday as the Pakistani military said it had repulsed an attack by Taliban fighters on a fort near the Afghan border, killing 37 of them.

Government must now embrace the full, bloody truth of Afghanistan
CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD From Wednesday's Globe and Mail January 23, 2008 at 5:23 AM EST
What a ridiculous person I am.
I almost wept with relief reading the Manley report early yesterday, and actually did cry a little as, at a later news conference, panel member Pamela Wallin spoke of the willingness and enthusiasm of Canadian troops and how their efforts

Civilian effort in Afghanistan criticized
Toronto Star - News January 23, 2008 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
Commitment to reconstruction needs beefing up with development officials on ground, report says
OTTAWA–More civilians – not just soldiers – are part of the prescription for a successful Canadian mission in Kandahar, according to the Manley report on the future of the Afghan mission.

Was Mr. Gates badly briefed? Or does he simply not understand?
No other contingent, particularly the Americans, has demonstrated greater mastery of dealing with insurgents.
TERRY LISTON From Tuesday's Globe and Mail January 22, 2008 at 6:42 AM EST
The U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, shocked the Western world last week, charging that the NATO troops deployed in the south of Afghanistan are, in effect, unskilled cowards who rely on air strikes that cause civilian

Poverty feeds Afghan drugs trade
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Afghanistan Tuesday, 22 January 2008
The opium poppy seedlings are already sprouting in Helmand province and all the predictions point to another record-breaking crop this year.

ISAF soldiers teach Afghans construction skills
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation January 22, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – ISAF soldiers taught Afghans construction skills during a two-week winter skill labor workshop at Jalalabad Forward Operating Base, Nangarhar Province, recently.

Taliban wield the ax ahead of new battle
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Jan 24, 2008  Asia Times Online, Hong Kong
KARACHI - With the Taliban's spring offensive just months away, the Afghan front has been quiet as Taliban and al-Qaeda militants have been heavily engaged in fighting security forces in Pakistan's tribal regions.

Afghanistan: 'Bamiyan' Carpet Looms Large At International Fair
By Sami Abbas (RFE/RL)
HANNOVER, Germany -- Afghan weavers have had more than their share of hardship over the past three decades.

Cold-snap deaths top 300
KABUL, 22 January 2008 (IRIN) - The number of people killed by cold weather and heavy snow in several Afghan provinces over the past four weeks has risen to over 300, and dozens of others have been injured, the Afghanistan National Disasters

Pakistani forces pound militant hideouts: military
WANA, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani troops hammered militant hideouts and reinforced outposts in a tribal area where days of clashes have left more than 20 troops and 100 rebels dead, the army said.

ECC maintains ban on flour export to Afghanistan
Daily Times, Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Tuesday banned flour export to Afghanistan through private sector forthwith to stabilise wheat and flour prices in the country.

Pakistan 'frankly' not trying to locate bin Laden: Musharraf
Paris (AP): Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday said that it's more important to battle the remnants of Afghanistan's former Taliban militia than chase after top al-Qaeda leaders.

Trial starts in killing of Afghan mom shot on Hayward street
By Ben Aguirre Jr. 01/23/2008 04:14:35 AM PST San Jose Mercury News
A prosecutor showed jurors a graphic photo of an Afghan mother of six who was shot in the face while she held her 3-year-old daughter's hand, as the murder trial began Tuesday for the man charged with killing her.

McCain vows to capture Osama
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 20, 2008 - 09:57
NEW YORK, Jan 20 (PAN): A leading Republican presidential candidate Saturday said if elected as US president he would capture elusive al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist of the world, from wherever he was hiding.

Number of Afghan troops to be raised to 86,000
By Najib Khilwatgar - Jan 20, 2008 - 19:27
KABUL, Jan 20 (PAN): Defense ministry informed Afghanistan will have 70, 000 Afghan National Army (ANA) troops in the first quarter of the current year and it will be increased to 86,000 with the support of international community, officials said on Sunday.

Back to Top
Afghan reporter sentenced to death for 'blasphemy': court
by Shoib Najafizada
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (AFP) - Media rights groups called on Afghanistan's president to intervene Wednesday after a court sentenced to death a young journalist who distributed articles said to insult Islam.

The primary court in the northern province of Balkh delivered the sentence on Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, Tuesday after he was arrested nearly three months ago for distributing at his university material downloaded from the Internet.

"Based on the crimes Perwiz Kambakhsh committed, the primary court yesterday sentenced him to the most serious punishment which is the death penalty," Balkh province deputy attorney general Hafizullah Khaliqyar told AFP.

Kambakhsh, a reporter for a city newspaper called Jahan-e Naw ("The New World") and a journalism student at Balkh University, indicated he did not accept the verdict and would appeal, his family said.

Afghan and international media groups called on President Hamid Karzai to step in.

"This is unfair, this is illegal," said Rahimullah Samander, president of the Afghan Independent Journalists' Association (AIJA).

The reporter had had no legal representation and the media were unaware of the trial, he told AFP. The matter should also have been referred to a national media violations commission for adjudication, he said.

AIJA had appealed to Karzai, parliament and the national attorney general to intervene and was also rallying support from international rights groups, he said.

"This is too big for a small mistake -- he just printed a copy and looked at this and read it. How can we believe in this 'democracy' if we can't even read, we can't even study?"

Afghanistan's media has blossomed since the 2001 ouster of the extremist Taliban regime which stifled the media and handed out harsh punishments, including death, for violations of a strict code of Islamic behaviour.

The post-Taliban constitution is based on Islamic Sharia law but also promotes democracy and rights, including the freedom of expression.

Another journalist, Ghows Zalmai, was also arrested three months ago on charges of distributing a translation of the Koran that clerics did not accept. Religious scholars have also called for his death.

Global media watchdog Reporters Without Borders and the International Federation of Journalists demanded Kambakhsh's sentence -- which still has to be approved by higher courts -- be overturned.

"We are deeply shocked by this trial, carried out in haste and without any concern for the law or for free expression, which is protected by the constitution," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

"Kambakhsh did not do anything to justify his being detained or being given this sentence. We appeal to President Hamid Karzai to intervene before it is too late."

The court's decision "impedes the achievement of genuine democracy and due process in Afghanistan," International Federation of Journalists Asia-Pacific director Jacqueline Park said.

The AIJA said the articles Kambakhsh downloaded came from sites including an Iranian blog, www.roxaneh.blogfa.com which includes articles questioning the origin of the Koran and its statements about women, among other issues.

Authorities in the town had warned journalists against reporting on the matter, the media rights group said.

Khaliqyar, the deputy provincial attorney general, threatened at a media briefing Monday to arrest journalists who "support" Kambakhsh.

The head of the court that passed down the sentence, Shamsurahman Momand, meanwhile defended the decision Wednesday saying the reporter had been found to be "insulting Islam and Prophet Mohammad."

Twenty university students had handed in written statements that confirmed he had distributed material "insulting Islam and Koranic verses," he said.
Back to Top

Back to Top
US backs Ashdown as Afghan 'super envoy'
KABUL (AFP) - The United States backs the appointment of British politician Paddy Ashdown as UN envoy to Afghanistan and a leader of international efforts here, a senior US diplomat said.

However the decision to appoint Ashdown remains up to the United Nations and it was for Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept him, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had been expected to announce Ashdown's appointment but there have been reports that Karzai opposes the decision and is concerned about the amount of authority the new envoy would have.

The role of the UN Special Representative to Afghanistan is expected to expand into what has been dubbed "super envoy," after calls for stronger coordination among the many countries and international agencies working here.

"We want someone who can really lead the international community," Boucher told reporters.

The person should be a "senior figure that we all look to for guidance and ideas and we all listen to when he says we can do things differently or better to support the Afghan government."

"I think we have all felt that this could be better coordinated, this could be better aligned," he said.

Asked if Ashdown would be acceptable, he said: "We do think he is a good candidate for this position."

Afghan officials have refused to comment until any appointment is announced.

The new envoy is widely expected to be asked to coordinate the roles of the United Nations and NATO, which has thousands of troops here, and possibly the European Union.

There has been criticism that a lack of coordination among the many players in Afghanistan is hampering efforts to bring reconstruction and security to the country so that it can withstand pressure from Islamic extremists.

The extremist Taliban, which was in government between 1996 and 2001, is leading an insurgency that was at its deadliest last year.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Suicide blast wounds three in Afghan restaurant
Wed Jan 23, 1:47 AM ET
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A suicide blast at a restaurant wounded three people on Wednesday in the southeastern Afghan town of Khost, a police official said.

The bomber died in the blast and the intended target might have been Afghan and foreign military officials who were meeting at a park about 300 meters away from the restaurant, the police official said.

Two women and a man were wounded by the blast in the restaurant, he told reporters.

He did not say who was behind the blast, but in the past, Taliban insurgents have carried out a series of suicide attacks and other raids in the town, which lies close to the border with Pakistan.

(Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by David Fogarty)
Back to Top

Back to Top
Canada Troops Should Stay in Afghanistan, Panel Says
By Alexandre Deslongchamps
Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Canada should extend its military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2009 and focus on training the Afghan army and police force, a government-commissioned panel recommended.

The panel, led by former Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, also called on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to send about 1,000 more troops to help Canadian soldiers in the Kandahar province as a condition for an extended mission.

Canada should tell NATO: ``We're staying, provided you can find us a partner,'' Manley told reporters in Ottawa today, adding that if more troops aren't sent ``we need to indicate that our job is coming to an end.''

The panel's findings may support Prime Minister Stephen Harper's position favoring a longer stay and help increase support among voters for Canada's military role in Afghanistan. The main opposition Liberal Party has called on the government to end the combat mission by the original deadline of February 2009, and focus on providing development aid.

``This report will help inform broader public debate about the future of Canada's role in Afghanistan as Parliamentarians prepare to make this important decision,'' Harper said in a statement, adding that his government will respond to the report in a few days.

Liberal leader Stephane Dion reiterated his party's position that ``it's time for Canada to do something else in Afghanistan.''

Oppose Deployment

A majority of Canadians opposes sending troops to Afghanistan, a reversal from May 2006, according to a Strategic Counsel poll of 1,000 people conducted between Jan. 10 and Jan. 13.

Canada has had more casualties in Afghanistan than in any conflict since the Korean War. Seventy-seven soldiers and one diplomat have died since the mission began in 2002.

Manley said training troops can't be separated from the combat mission, because Afghanistan is not a ``classroom environment'' and Canadians need to teach Afghans as they fight. He said he expects a ``role reversal'' to occur, where Afghan soldiers do most of the fighting and Canadians offer support.

Harper has promised to seek approval from legislators before extending the troop presence. All three opposition parties -- who combined hold a majority of seats in Parliament - - have called for it to end by the deadline.

NATO Troops

Canada has about 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar region as part of NATO's 37,000-troop mission to fight the former Taliban regime and hunt al-Qaeda terrorists.

Harper appointed the five-member panel in October to review the country's military role in Afghanistan.

The panel said that as a condition for extending the mission, Canada also ``should secure'' new helicopters and unmanned planes by February 2009.

Other members of the panel are Derek Burney, a former ambassador in Washington; Jake Epp, a cabinet minister under former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; Paul Tellier, a former chief executive officer of Bombardier Inc., and ex-journalist Pamela Wallin. Manley is a former member of parliament for the Liberals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexandre Deslongchamps in Ottawa at adeslongcham@bloomberg.net .
Back to Top

Back to Top
Progress for Afghan children but a long way to go: UN
Tue Jan 22, 11:40 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan has made significant strides in protecting its children since the 2001 fall of the Taliban but there remains much to do, a senior UN official has said.

The country has the world's third-highest mortality rate for children under five, according to a report by the UN's children's organisation UNICEF released Tuesday which put the figure at 257 of 1,000.

The figure was down 25 percent from 2001, the year the Taliban government was toppled, UNICEF director for South Asia Dan Toole told reporters in Kabul Tuesday.

"It is something that is unprecedented, not expected, given all the difficulties that there were here. But it demonstrates political will, concentrated attention where it matters most," he said.

Nonetheless, the country still has a "very, very long way to go," he said.

Afghanistan's infant mortality rate ranks behind only that of Sierra Leone and Angola.

Toole said efforts to improve the lives of children must focus on communities and families.

Work towards "improvement in child health must focus on communities, empowering and giving them the tools they need to raise their children to make sure their children are healthy, to make sure the women are healthy...," he said.

He also pointed to progress in the region, notably in Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh which he said had all been able to reduce child mortality by 50 percent since 1990.

Worldwide, around 40,000 children were dying per day in 1982 but this had dropped to 27,000, the UNICEF report said.
Back to Top

Back to Top
UNICEF: Afghanistan makes progress in reducing child mortality 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-22 21:47:16
KABUL, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The post-Taliban Afghanistan has made significant progress in bringing down the child mortality over the past six years, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced here Tuesday.

"Afghanistan has made tremendous progress on child survival," said Dan Toole, the UNICEF regional director for South Asia, while addressing a function featuring the launch of the agency's State of the World's Children in 2008 report.

The latest data indicates that Afghanistan has managed to reduce its under-five children mortality by 25 percent since 2001,Toole said.

However, he stressed that there is a long way for Afghanistan to go to further improve the status of children in the war-torn country, saying "Afghanistan has the second maternity mortality and third child mortality in the world."

The two other countries having the highest rate of child mortality in 2006, according to the UNICEF report, were Sierra Leone and Angola in Africa.

Improving in health sector and reducing in child mortality were indications of the political will of the Afghan government to improve health service, water supply and education, the UN official said.

Moreover, he added that still some 600 children die in Afghanistan every day from curable diseases.

Only 5 million out of the whole 31 million population of the Central Asian country have access to safe drinking water and 2.6 million out of the population have access to safe sanitation, according to the official.

The UNICEF regional chief said his agency spent 77 million U.S. dollars in Afghanistan in 2007 while this year it would spend 82 million U.S. dollars.

"We have been able to reduce child death by 35 percent since 1982," Toole said, commenting on the state of children in the globe. "Some 40,000 children died every day or 15 million per year in 1982 while today about 27,000 per day or less then 10 million per year die."

He said child mortality in South Asian countries has been reduced by more than 50 percent since 1990, which indicates a credibly important progress.

Six years after the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan saw its reconstruction work steadily on track despite various security problems arising from mounting Taliban insurgency.
Editor: Du Guodong 
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghans: Marines fired without cause
By ESTES THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 22, 6:39 PM ET
CAMP LEJUENE, N.C. - Two Afghan civilians wounded by gunfire from a Marine special operations unit told an investigative panel Tuesday they had no weapons and were not attacking the unit's convoy.

The civilians testified by video link from Afghanistan before a Court of Inquiry, a rarely used administrative fact-finding panel investigating the March 4 incident along a 10-mile stretch of road in Nangarhar province.

Several Marines have told the court they saw people firing at their unit after a minivan packed with explosives detonated near the second Humvee in their convoy. But the Afghan witnesses said Tuesday they didn't hear the bombing or see an explosion, which the Marines have said was first blow in a well-coordinated ambush.

Haji Liwani Qumandan, a tribal elder in Nangarhar province, said the Marines attacked without cause.

"I noticed them when they started shooting at us," said Qumandan, adding that he ducked in his seat, slid out of the driver's door and hugged the ground as bullets broke his windows. "I was also in a very, very panicked state."

Qumandan disputed earlier testimony from a Marine who said a rifle was on the ground beside his blue sport utility vehicle. He called the testimony of another Marine, who said the SUV was filled with guns and attackers, "absolutely a lie."

"No one shot at the Americans in my vehicle," he said. "Nobody was trying to kill Americans."

Qumandan and a taxi driver who uses the single name Nangyli both testified through an interpreter. Nangyli told the court he and his nephew were driving six people to the Pakistan border when troops waved at his red van to stop.

"Maybe 30 seconds later, they just started shooting," he said. "They were shooting and driving at the same time."

Nangyli said he was hit in the leg, while his nephew was hit in the neck. Qumandan said his father and 12-year-old nephew were killed, while he was wounded in the back.

An Army investigation concluded last year that up to 19 civilians died in the shootings, but attorneys for two Marine officers involved argue the death toll was lower. Citing witness accounts, Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission concluded that the Marines fired indiscriminately.

The Court of Inquiry is focusing on two officers involved in the shootings: the special operations unit's commander, 38-year-old Maj. Fred C. Galvin of the Kansas City area, and a platoon leader, Capt. Vincent J. Noble, 29, of Philadelphia. The court could recommend that charges be filed.
Back to Top

Back to Top
U.S.-led Coalition forces detain seven suspected insurgents in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-22 15:35:44
KABUL, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-led Coalition forces have detained seven suspected insurgents during a search operation in southern Afghanistan's Zabul province, the military said in a statement issued Tuesday.

"Coalition forces performed a search of several compounds in the Qalat district, targeting insurgents with ties to Taliban and foreign fighter facilitators," the statement said.

As a result, the military found and detained seven individuals, including one who identified himself as a Taliban insurgent, and also recovered two weapons from one of the compounds, it added.

The detained individuals, according to the Coalition forces, will be questioned on their involvement in facilitation operations as well as other extremist activities.

An over 50,000-strong foreign force, separately under the flag of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S.-led Coalition forces, are deployed in war-torn Afghanistan, assisting in Afghan government's anti-militants and reconstruction efforts.

Rising militancy-related violence killed over 6,000 people in the post-Taliban nation last year and analysts and NATO commanders have expected an upsurge of guerrilla-style attacks by Taliban militants in 2008.
Editor: Feng Tao 
Back to Top

Back to Top
U.S. commander in Pakistan as Taliban attack fort
By Robert Birsel Tue Jan 22, 9:54 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A top U.S. commander met with Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Tuesday as the Pakistani military said it had repulsed an attack by Taliban fighters on a fort near the Afghan border, killing 37 of them.

Admiral William Fallon's visit followed days of clashes between Pakistani troops and militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander suspected of orchestrating the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last month.

Fallon, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, met with Kayani in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, officials said. President Pervez Musharraf was away in Europe trying to rally support at a time when the West is increasingly worried by instability in nuclear-armed Pakistan.

There is stubborn speculation that a national election due on February 18 could be delayed, despite Musharraf's assurances it will go ahead.

Musharraf, who quit as army chief, isn't running as he secured a second presidential term last November, but the character of the parliament that emerges from the polls could decide how long he remains in charge.

While keen to see more democracy in Pakistan, the United States does not want the army there to lose focus on the campaign against terrorism.

Since late last week, Pakistan says it has killed and captured scores of militants in clashes in Mehsud areas of South Waziristan on the Afghan border, where security forces have fought al Qaeda-linked militants for years.

SHELLING OVERNIGHT
On Tuesday, the military, citing rebel communication intercepts and its own sources, said 37 militants were killed in an early morning assault on an observation post near the Ladha fort in South Waziristan.

Military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said five soldiers were killed and seven wounded in the four-hour battle.

Maulvi Omar, a spokesman for the militants, denied heavy losses and said 10 soldiers were killed and 13 captured.

Abbas denied that any soldiers had been taken prisoner.

Commenting on clashes in South Waziristan since last week, Abbas said security forces were simply responding to attacks and no offensive had been launched.

In a separate incident on Tuesday, two soldiers were killed and seven wounded in a militant attack on a camp in North Waziristan, the military said in a statement.

Mehsud has been blamed also for a string of attacks in a suicide bomb campaign that intensified after commandos stormed Islamabad's Red Mosque in July. On Wednesday last week, his men attacked and captured another fort in Waziristan.

Fallon told reporters in Florida last week that Pakistan was increasingly willing to fight Islamist militants and accept U.S. help, without saying what kind of support.

But, he added that he believed Pakistani leaders wanted a "more robust" effort by U.S. forces to train and advise their forces in counter-insurgency efforts.

The United States has already announced plans to step up training of Pakistan's Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force recruited from tribal lands.

(Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
Back to Top

Back to Top
Government must now embrace the full, bloody truth of Afghanistan
CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD From Wednesday's Globe and Mail January 23, 2008 at 5:23 AM EST
What a ridiculous person I am.

I almost wept with relief reading the Manley report early yesterday, and actually did cry a little as, at a later news conference, panel member Pamela Wallin spoke of the willingness and enthusiasm of Canadian troops and how their efforts, and the mission in Afghanistan, are undermined and diminished "if we threaten to leave with every roadside bomb and mortar round."

At the risk of channelling Sally Field in her Oscar acceptance speech, Ms. Wallin, John Manley, Derek Burney, Paul Tellier and Jake Epp get it.

This is the report Canadian soldiers and their 77 fallen brothers (and one sister, Captain Nichola Goddard) and many more wounded deserve, an unvarnished evaluation of the mission in Kandahar.

It is now up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper not to sell the mission so much, although the panel is clear that the government must do a better job of communicating the truth of it to Canadians, but to embrace it fully in a way he has not done before.

The report urges the PM to take charge of the Kandahar file personally and lead from the political front - first, to explain it at home; second, to use the influence hard-won by the blood of young Canadians to badger NATO allies into providing more troops, with fewer restrictions placed upon them, in the volatile south of Afghanistan and to be ready to pull the troops out if that help isn't forthcoming; third, to co-ordinate the Canadian aid and diplomatic efforts that so lag behind the military one; and fourth, although this is implicit, to be prepared to stake his government's future on it.

As Mr. Manley says in a foreword: "We like to talk about Canada's role in the world.

"Well, we have a meaningful one in Afghanistan."

In other words, this is worth fighting for, and not just in that shattered country over there, but in this one. If it's sufficiently important that Canadian soldiers are paying with their lives and limbs, it's important enough for a mere government to rise to the challenge and, if necessary, pay the infinitely less significant political price.

It may be naive to expect politicians to find the big nuts that ordinary infantrymen have, but Mr. Manley was a politician, and he seems to have found his.

It must be said that the Liberal government of which Mr. Manley was a cabinet member, and which first sent the troops to Kandahar, was unwilling to do this very thing.

As the report notes: "To put things bluntly, governments from the start of Canada's Afghan involvement have failed to communicate with Canadians with balance and candour about the reasons for Canadian involvement, or about the risks, difficulties and expected results of that involvement."

Yet in succinct prose on 39 pages - the rest is maps, graphs, bios and other bumpf - the report explains why the mission is good and right for Canada.

As Mr. Manley said yesterday in reply to a reporter's question about whether the mission in Afghanistan falls within the Liberal tradition, "Absolutely ... this is a UN mission, and Lester Pearson's fingerprints are all over the UN Charter" under which auspices the UN Security Council has "repeatedly and explicitly authorized" the international military presence in Afghanistan, most recently last fall.

The report should be read by anyone who purports to hold an informed view of the mission, particularly those who haven't been to Afghanistan (this includes many of the most regular, not to mention most smarmy, commentators on the subject) and thus haven't been exposed, as the panel members have been, to the visceral punch to the gut packed both by Canadian troops and Afghans themselves.

Our soldiers have it because they are so fiercely committed even as it is they and their families who suffer most grievously. Afghans have it because they are so fierce, so bloody deprived, yet so full of promise and so worth the effort. Together, they knock your socks off, and most people who spend any time in the country end up as converts.

But most Canadians can't go to Afghanistan and see for themselves, and in the communications vacuum that has surrounded the mission, it remains poorly understood.

The logic for Canada being there is robust.

The day after 9/11, the UN Security Council and NATO collectively deemed the attacks on the United States as an attack against their respective members.

Within weeks, the Taliban, who had sheltered the al-Qaeda leaders who planned the attacks, collapsed and withdrew, "deposed but not defeated," to lick their wounds, replaced by an interim authority led by Hamid Karzai. In December of 2001, the UN authorized the International Security Assistance Force to secure Kabul and vicinity, and two years later, NATO assumed command of ISAF.

Correctly, the panel doesn't "accept any parallel between the Afghanistan mission and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. To confuse the two is to overlook the authority of the UN, the collective decisions of NATO and the legitimacy of the Afghan government that has sought Canada's engagement."

That's it in a nutshell.

The only disingenuous note in the report is its insistence on an equitable description of the impressive "Canadian soldiers and civilians" that panel members met in Afghanistan. I expect that is but a courtesy. The report itself says 2,500 soldiers are now in the country, and a grand total of 47 Canadian government civilians; it's pretty damn clear who is pulling their weight and who isn't.

Aside from the obvious central recommendation that Canada stay the course (assuming, and it is one hell of an assumption, that NATO can be persuaded to ante up more troops for Kandahar province), and the recognition that the beloved line Stéphane Dion draws between "combat" and "training" is entirely fraudulent, the panel makes one pitch I love.

This is for a "signature" project, such as a hospital, that would put a visible Canadian stamp on our efforts there (and, not said but implied, perhaps give the Canadian International Development Agency and others a much-needed focus).

A recommendation I'd add, and I borrow it from retired Canadian colonel Mike Capstick, is that Mr. Harper ask John Manley to serve as Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Civilian effort in Afghanistan criticized
Toronto Star - News January 23, 2008 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
Commitment to reconstruction needs beefing up with development officials on ground, report says
OTTAWA–More civilians – not just soldiers – are part of the prescription for a successful Canadian mission in Kandahar, according to the Manley report on the future of the Afghan mission.

Although the report calls for 1,000 additional NATO soldiers to help out Canadian troops, it also urges that the government try to ramp up the number and responsibilities of civilian officials in the region.

To date, their efforts have been insufficient and ineffective, and some of the problem rests with the Canadian International Development Agency, the government aid organization, the report says.

"Canada's civilian programs have not achieved the scale or depth of engagement necessary to make a significant impact," the report says. "It is essential to adjust funding and staffing imbalances between the heavy Canadian military commitment in Afghanistan and the comparatively lighter civilian commitment to reconstruction, development and governance."

The foreign affairs department, CIDA, the RCMP and corrections officials are represented by a scant 47 civilians spread among the Canadian embassy in Kabul; at Kandahar Airfield, where the soldiers are based; and at a smaller outpost in Kandahar city known as the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

This is in contrast to the 2,500 Canadian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

CIDA spends about $100 million each year in the country, but controls only 15 per cent of that amount to be spent on projects that are clearly Canadian. The rest is funnelled to organizations such as the World Bank, or to programs run by the Afghan government.

The report recommends that aid spending should go more toward "direct, bilateral" assistance that addresses the immediate needs of local people, particularly in Kandahar province.

The panel suggests "signature" projects that can be traced directly back to Canadian efforts would go a long way toward winning the support of the Afghan people.

Also, CIDA should rethink its overly restrictive policies, fashioned in Ottawa with no regard for the situation on the ground, that essentially tie its officials to safe areas and alienate them from the people they are trying to help, the report says.

"CIDA should delegate decisions about security of movement to civilian and military officials on the ground who are best placed to make such assessments," it says. "It makes little sense to post brave and talented professional staff to Kandahar only to restrict them from making regular contact with the people they are expected to help."

Canadian aid groups criticized the report for calling for an increase in military numbers, saying it will make it even more difficult and dangerous for civilians to operate in Kandahar.

Already, there is too much reliance on the military to carry out aid and development projects, said Gerry Barr, head of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, a coalition of aid groups.

"Canadian (non-governmental organizations) on the ground in Afghanistan have emphasized again and again that this practice turns both aid workers and Afghans into war targets and often has no long-term security or development benefit," Barr said.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Was Mr. Gates badly briefed? Or does he simply not understand?
No other contingent, particularly the Americans, has demonstrated greater mastery of dealing with insurgents.
TERRY LISTON From Tuesday's Globe and Mail January 22, 2008 at 6:42 AM EST
The U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, shocked the Western world last week, charging that the NATO troops deployed in the south of Afghanistan are, in effect, unskilled cowards who rely on air strikes that cause civilian deaths and hide in their own protected bases in order to avoid casualties. He also charged that they failed to connect with the Afghan security forces. He loudly applauded, in contrast, the U.S. contingent in the eastern provinces.

Whether we support the Afghan mission or not, we must step back and ask: Is that us? Canadians know their soldiers were given the one area of Afghanistan that no one else wants. Even the Americans were relieved to get out, going to the relative safety of the eastern provinces. Kandahar, the ancestral home of the Taliban, was the first city to be captured when the Taliban took power, and the last to fall when they were removed from power in 2001. The city and the surrounding provinces remained quiet, for a time, only because the U.S. focus on the Iraq invasion of 2003 left the south of Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban, war lords and drug dealers.

Consequently, the first Canadian battle groups in Kandahar, based on the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal Canadian Regiment, had to fight a Korean-style conventional campaign to break the huge Taliban force that, under previous (U.S.) management, had brazenly built Soviet-style fighting positions, almost encircling the city of Kandahar.

Now, the Canadian contingent is doing what NATO is supposed to do - systematically eliminating the insurgency and ensuring the viability of the Afghan state. It is based on the Vandoos, with supporting elements from the other units of Quebec's 5th brigade. It is in the forefront of professional, effective counter-insurgency operations. No other contingent, particularly the Americans, has demonstrated greater mastery of the difficult art of dealing with insurgents in a failed state.

The Vandoo battle group lives in the field in rudimentary forward bases far from the Tim Hortons at Kandahar airfield. In the past five months, it has systematically secured and expanded the area under real Afghan control, carrying out more than 20 company-level operations, and more than 10 at full battalion-level. It has created a string of secure and effective Afghan police stations in the villages it has cleared, protected by both Afghan and Canadian soldiers. These police stations will not be overrun by returning insurgents as in the past. Every day - and night - Canada's infantry platoons patrol on foot through the villages, and its armoured reconnaissance vehicles patrol the less-populated areas. Since arriving in Kandahar, 74 Canadians have died and several hundred have been wounded. To question the commitment and courage of these young soldiers was indeed callous on the part of Mr. Gates.

In particular, contrary to Mr. Gates's accusations, Canadians don't rely on air strikes. Only the senior commanders of the Canadian task force authorize the use of indirect fire. Most often, the deciding criteria is the risk of collateral damage. Consequently, civilian damage and losses have been extremely limited. In the difficult operations carried out by the Vandoo battle group in the Arghandab district in October and November, Afghan President Hamid Karzai personally complimented the Canadian contingent for its success in battle while avoiding civilian damage.

In contrast, it is astonishing that Mr. Gates is unaware of Mr. Karzai's public anger at the hundreds of American-inflicted civilian deaths and damage, using the concepts promoted by Mr. Gates's predecessor. Former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld detested the idea of "nation-building" and urged the use of clandestine special forces to direct massive air strikes on the "baddies" as a replacement for military boots on the ground. Americans now recognize this approach was a counterproductive failure in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The new U.S. Counterinsurgency Doctrine, promoted by visionaries such as General David Petraeus, is returning to the approach followed by Commonwealth armies and so well applied by Canada's soldiers.

No other contingent has reached the level of Afghan integration seen in the Canadian sector. It is intimately welded to the heads of each district, the provincial governor, chiefs of police and village elders. Every operation is conducted in full collaboration with the Afghan Army and the Afghan police, from the earliest planning phase right through to execution. In the past five months, the team that mentors the allied Afghan Security Forces was doubled to more than 100. The Canadians and the Afghans fight side by side.

One of the Canadians' most successful innovations was the attachment of soldiers from the Vandoo battle group as well as military police, to work, eat and sleep with Afghan police in their forward village police stations. They not only help them act professionally, but they ensure that they are fed and paid by their shaky Afghan chain of command.

This integration has led the Afghan local population to develop a degree of respect and confidence in the Afghan state apparatus that had not been seen up to this point in former Taliban areas.

One could also emphasize the development projects that accompany every Canadian military operation. However, Mr. Gates did not seem to be interested in this aspect. It is clear that Mr. Gates does not know what is happening in the south of Afghanistan. Is it possible his Pentagon briefers gave him this distorted view of reality? Or did he simply not understand? In either case, it is not reassuring for those countries that have responded to U.S. leadership.

Terry Liston is a retired major-general and former chief of planning and operations of the Canadian Armed Forces
Back to Top

Back to Top
Poverty feeds Afghan drugs trade
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Afghanistan Tuesday, 22 January 2008
The opium poppy seedlings are already sprouting in Helmand province and all the predictions point to another record-breaking crop this year.

Farmers have irrigated extra patches of land, reclaiming desert to grow the plants which produce the raw materials for heroin.

With the Taleban insurgency still raging, the British counter-narcotics team in Afghanistan is unable to make any impact on the poppy problem in the south.

The farmers are weeding the fields at the moment in Helmand. It is a family business, and they insist there is no alternative.

"I only have a small area of land and 10 people in my family," one farmer says angrily.

"I can only grow enough wheat to last two months on this land, so the only way to feed them is growing poppies."

It is very fertile land, but the farmers complain the cost of fuel to pump irrigation water and the lack of markets and infrastructure makes anything else untenable.

Another man had his poppy crop eradicated last year, but it will not stop him trying again.

"I lost my poppies, but those grown by the rich and the powerful aren't touched. So why should I stop growing them?" he asks.

'Poppy-free'

The security situation is the biggest factor, but the lack of law and order and corruption are major problems in Helmand.

There is an eradication force which spends months cutting down the crops, but the richer growers or landowners pay them bribes to stay away and so far little has been achieved.

"There's a correlation between instability and increased production," says David Belgrove, who heads the British counter-narcotics team in Afghanistan.

"To stop poppy production [requires] more than just law enforcement. It's a complex thing of establishing the rule of law, building alternative livelihoods, building access to markets, education - and all of these things are very difficult to deliver in an unstable environment."

But 13 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces are categorised by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as "poppy free" and they are hoping the lure of development money rewards will have helped even more governors achieve that status for their provinces this year.

One of these is Balkh up in the north where the Uzbek border meets Afghanistan.

Its capital, Mazar-e-Sharif is a bustling and largely secure city.

Much of this is down to Governor Atta, who has led a campaign against poppies and owes his success to good strong governance and maintaining law and order.

"Every achievement depends on good leadership and strong management," he says.

"We had a clear plan, we were serious and had a team that was not corrupt."

He has even produced a glossy brochure which he hands to visitors explaining his tactics for success, but he complains he has seen none of the development incentives promised.

That smuggling still goes on is not in doubt. It is a multi-million-dollar business and drugs come through Balkh north to Central Asia or west to Iran.

After meeting and drinking tea with a number of contacts in different homes outside Mazar, a bearded, cheerful drug dealer took us to a place where they displayed plastic bags of liquid opium.

He explained how the traffickers would come round to all the villages, buying what they had before taking it out of the country.

"Ordinary people like you and I can't take drugs out of the country," he explained.

"Only the foreigners and the big men with contacts can do it. They are stopped at police checkpoints, but they call the police chief, or a minister or the governor and they are allowed to pass."

Forests of marijuana

The governor laughs off these suggestions as ridiculous: "It's just propaganda against me. I have done a great deal to prevent smuggling, there is evidence."

There is a lot of talk of corruption at the higher levels, but the dealers do say they will not grow poppies as they fear retribution.

And although they have lost a profitable crop, for now another alternative is bridging the gap.

In a mud compound a short walk away another man goes through the process of stripping the buds off giant cannabis stalks.

In the autumn vast forests of marijuana plants scatter the landscape.

It is something that has always been done here, but the price has gone up by a factor of four in just a year.

But unless help can be given to provide a viable and legal alternative, the opium poppies will be back as people struggle with poverty.
Back to Top

Back to Top
ISAF soldiers teach Afghans construction skills
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation January 22, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – ISAF soldiers taught Afghans construction skills during a two-week winter skill labor workshop at Jalalabad Forward Operating Base, Nangarhar Province, recently.

The workshop taught Afghans foundational skills to help them begin to rebuild their country whose infrastructure has been destroyed by years of war. The immediate purpose of the workshop was to teach Afghan contractors and their laborers construction skills, specifically carpentry and masonry tasks.

The workshop increased the construction knowledge of 50 unskilled and partially-skilled Afghans. Local provincial government and Afghan contractors nominated the students to attend the seven-day course that consisted of lectures in job safety, tools and their proper uses, as well as basic carpentry workshops.

The event culminated in the construction of a tool shed, masonry and brick and mortar training. At the end of the course, the students received the tools they used during their classes and a certificate of training that graduates can show prospective future employers.

"I am very impressed that we built the shed," said Babo, an 18-year-old workshop student. "I know some carpentry, but these classes taught more. The Army instructors were very professional at all times."

"This is a great experience for the Afghan community; we were able to learn new techniques on measuring and cutting lumber," said Minur, 19, another student at the skill labor workshop. "I have never worked as a carpenter and I enjoyed learning how to use a circular saw for the first time. I hope that more labor workshops like this are conducted in the future."

This is the second skill labor workshop hosted by Task Force Pacemaker engineers. The first Afghan skill labor workshop was conducted in February 2006.

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/
Back to Top

Back to Top
Taliban wield the ax ahead of new battle
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Jan 24, 2008  Asia Times Online, Hong Kong
KARACHI - With the Taliban's spring offensive just months away, the Afghan front has been quiet as Taliban and al-Qaeda militants have been heavily engaged in fighting security forces in Pakistan's tribal regions.

But now Taliban leader Mullah Omar has put his foot down and reset the goals for the Taliban: their primary task is the struggle in Afghanistan, not against the Pakistan state.

Mullah Omar has sacked his own appointed leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, the main architect of the fight against Pakistani security forces, and urged all Taliban commanders to turn their venom against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, highly placed contacts in the Taliban told Asia Times Online. Mullah Omar then appointed Moulvi Faqir Mohammed (a commander from Bajaur Agency) but he refused the job. In the past few days, the Pakistani Taliban have held several meetings but have not yet appointed a replacement to Mehsud.

This major development occurred at a time when Pakistan was reaching out with an olive branch to the Pakistani Taliban. Main commanders, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the main Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan, Sirajuddin Haqqani, signed peace agreements. But al-Qaeda elements, including Tahir Yuldashev, chief of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, undermined this initiative.

"We refused any peace agreement with the Pakistani security forces and urged the mujahideen fight for complete victory," Yuldashev said in a jihadi video message seen by Asia Times Online. Yuldashev's closest aide and disciple, Mehsud, last week carried out an attack on a Pakistani security post and then seized two forts in the South Waziristan tribal area.

As a result, Pakistan bombed South Waziristan and sent in heavy artillery and tanks for a major operation against Mehsud. Other important commanders are now in North Waziristan and they support the peace agreements with the Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan's strategic quarters maintain the planned operation in South Waziristan is aimed particularly at eliminating Mehsud.

"While talking to government representatives in the jirga [peace council] we could clearly discern a grudge against Baitullah Mehsud and the Mehsud tribes by the security forces. And there are signs that the government is obsessed with a military operation to make Baitullah Mehsud a martyr," a leading member of the peace jirga in South Waziristan, Maulana Hisamuddin, commented to Voice of America.

Mehsud came into the spotlight after Taliban commander Nek Mohammed was killed in a missile attack in South Waziristan in mid-2004. Nek was from the Wazir tribe, which is considered a rival tribe of the Mehsud. Haji Omar, another Wazir, replaced Nek, but support from Yuldashev and Uzbek militants strengthened Mehsud's position. He rose through the ranks of the Taliban after becoming acquainted with Mullah Dadullah (killed by US-led forces in May 2007) and Mehsud supplied Dadullah with many suicide bombers.

Dadullah's patronage attracted many Pakistani jihadis into Mehsud's fold and by 2007 he was reckoned as the biggest Taliban commander in Pakistan - according to one estimate he alone had over 20,000 fighters.

The link to Dadullah also brought the approval of Mullah Omar, and when the Taliban leader last year revived the "Islamic Emirates" in the tribal areas, Mehsud was appointed as his representative, that is, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban.

Mehsud was expected to provide valuable support to the Taliban in Afghanistan, but instead he directed all his fighters against Pakistani security forces.

With Mehsud now replaced, Mullah Omar will use all Taliban assets in the tribal areas for the struggle in Afghanistan. This leaves Mehsud and his loyalists completely isolated to fight against Pakistani forces.

Taliban aim for the jugular
According to Taliban quarters in Afghanistan that Asia Times Online spoke to recently, the Taliban have well-established pockets around Logar, Wardak and Ghazni, which are all gateways to the capital Kabul.

Many important districts in the southwestern provinces, including Zabul, Helmand, Urzgan and Kandahar, are also under the control of the Taliban. Similarly, districts in the northwestern, including Nimroz, Farah and Ghor, have fallen to the Taliban.

Certainly, the Taliban will be keen to advance from these positions, but they will also concentrate on destroying NATO's supply lines from Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Taliban launched their first attack in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province on Monday, destroying a convoy of oil tankers destined for NATO's Kandahar air field.

"If NATO's supply lines are shut down from Pakistan, NATO will sweat in Afghanistan," a member of a leading humanitarian organization in Kabul told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity. "The only substitute would be air operations, but then NATO costs would sky-rocket."

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghanistan: 'Bamiyan' Carpet Looms Large At International Fair
By Sami Abbas (RFE/RL)
HANNOVER, Germany -- Afghan weavers have had more than their share of hardship over the past three decades.

Their country has seen a Soviet invasion, followed by civil wars, a total breakdown in central authority, and the harsh rule of the Taliban, prompting millions of people to flee to neighboring states. The hardships uprooted the carpet industry and almost every other business in the process.

But since the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, huge numbers of refugees have gone home, including many weavers. As they have returned, they have been able to start small businesses of their own after decades of work in obscurity abroad.

One of those returnees is Hajji Nabbi, owner of Zinnat Carpet Merchandise. An ethnic Hazara, Nabbi worked for years as a weaver in refugee camps in Pakistan with little reward. The carpets that he and other Afghans wove were labeled "Made in Pakistan," and most of the profits were taken by Pakistani middlemen who controlled access to the export markets.

But today, based in Kabul, Nabbi is among a growing number of successful merchants who are reviving the Afghan carpet trade. Employing dozens of other Hazara weavers in the capital plus Pashtun weavers in Jalalabad, his company is a rare example of a business operating on at least a partly national scale in a country still struggling for stability.

This year at Domotex, the carpeting world's premiere Western event, Nabbi's company got the international recognition for which Afghan weavers are striving.

The jury awarded Zinnat first prize for Best Modern Design in the under-100-euros-per-square-meter price range. The winning rug, dubbed "Bamiyan" style, is the first "Made in Afghanistan" carpet to reach one of the interior-design industry's center stages for many, many years.

Nabbi describes his winning sample as "a new or modern design, conceived by our skilled designers." Wool from Ghazni Province and natural dyes are used to make the carpet, he says, adding, "It took our weavers in Kabul three months to make this carpet, which now has brought pride to us and to all of Afghanistan."

The contemporary pattern attracts particular attention because so far Afghan weavers have previously tried to appeal to the export market by modifying traditional designs. Afghan weavers -- especially ethnic Turkmen and Hazara -- have had special success in recent years with a modified Indo-Persian design known as the "Chobi," as well as with variations of Caucasus rug designs known as "Kazaks."

Those rugs were much in evidence among the Afghan stalls at Domotex this year, but so were increasingly contemporary looks that show a growing sophistication in anticipating Western design trends.

The handmade-carpet industry is highly competitive and, like most industries, there are international competitions that contribute to a pecking order that includes the most innovative players in the game.

Afghan producers filled much of one of the huge hangers at the Domotex fair in Hannover, Germany, on January 12-15, with 14 stands and one large tent. In a sign of the importance of the rug business to the Afghan economy, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) supported the participation of 28 Afghan carpet traders and producers in the fair.

For the first time, many Afghan women were also present among their country's purveyors.

The head of the Afghan Businesswomen's Federation, Khadija, says that coming to Europe has taught the women a lot about what European consumers want. "Our silk, 'Chobi-,' and 'Kazak'-design carpets attracted a lot of attention, but this was the first time that Afghan women have come to this kind of exhibition, and we had no idea about the demands for carpets in Europe so we brought our old and traditional designs." Khadija says. "Now that we have learned more about what designs are attractive for Westerners, we will try to bring such kinds of designs next year -- so we can attract more dealers and buyers."

In all, Afghan producers say they brought 4,000 square meters of carpets to Domotex, all of which had been sold by the end of the fair.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Cold-snap deaths top 300
KABUL, 22 January 2008 (IRIN) - The number of people killed by cold weather and heavy snow in several Afghan provinces over the past four weeks has risen to over 300, and dozens of others have been injured, the Afghanistan National Disasters Management Authority (ANDMA) said on 22 January.

The main victims are children and elderly people as they are particularly vulnerable to winter diseases such as pneumonia and other respiratory infections.

Of the 25 provinces affected (out of 34 in all), Herat Province, western Afghanistan, has been hit hardest - with over 137 deaths and more than 41,000 livestock lost.

In the neighbouring provinces of Farah, Badghis and Ghor about 125 people have died and many others have contracted winter diseases, provincial officials and ANDMA said.

"We are in the middle of a harsh winter and there is a strong possibility the death toll may increase," said Abdul Matin Edrak, head of ANDMA in Kabul.

Relief operations

Backed by UN agencies and several other international aid organisations, the government has dispatched relief supplies to many affected communities. The army and police have helped several evacuation and aid distribution operations in the country.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has distributed warm clothes, coal and blankets to a number of vulnerable families in Balkh, Jowzjan and Takhar provinces, according to a statement issued by ISAF.

However, many affected families and officials in remote provinces (Daykundi, Ghor, Farah, Faryab, Samangan, Badghis and Helmand) have complained about the lack of a humanitarian response and demanded urgent assistance.

Livelihoods affected

Reports received from across the country by ANDMA in Kabul indicate that over 83,000 farm animals have died over the past month, suggesting that nearly 1,000 rural families could be affected, according to Ghulam Jailani Rasoli, a specialist on farm animals at the Ministry of Irrigation, Agriculture and Livestock.

Farm animals - chiefly sheep, cows and poultry - represent the main sources of livelihood for thousands of Afghan families in rural areas. The livestock deaths will further push already poor rural families that rely on animal husbandry into acute food-insecurity and vulnerability, Rasoli said.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Pakistani forces pound militant hideouts: military
WANA, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani troops hammered militant hideouts and reinforced outposts in a tribal area where days of clashes have left more than 20 troops and 100 rebels dead, the army said.

There were no immediate details about casualties in the latest fighting in South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan, the hideout of a rebel commander accused of masterminding the killing of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

In the neighouring tribal zone of North Waziristan one soldier was killed and two wounded when Islamist fighters fired rockets at a paramilitary fort.

"Troops are engaging miscreants and attacking their hideouts," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.

"We are reinforcing the (military) posts in South Waziristan because of the continued attacks from miscreants."

He said additional troops had been sent out to secure the posts which had come under repeated attack from militants.

Troops exchanged fire again on Wednesday with militants at Ladha fort in South Waziristan, a day after clashes there left five soldiers and nearly 40 militants dead.

Islamic militants last week briefly seized control of a paramilitary fort and were repulsed when they tried to capture another in the troubled district.

The troubles have spread to North Waziristan in recent days.

Two soldiers were killed there on Tuesday in an attack on a security post at Razmak and militants attacked again in the early hours of Wednesday.

"One security forces personnel embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and two others were injured. Security forces retaliated with artillery and mortar fire," the statement said.

Fighting between security forces and militants in the rugged tribal belt along the Afghan frontier has escalated since last month's assassination of former premier Bhutto.

Pakistan and the US Central Intelligence Agency have blamed the killing on Baitullah Mehsud, an allegedly Al-Qaeda-linked tribal warlord who is based in South Waziristan's rugged mountains.
Back to Top

Back to Top
ECC maintains ban on flour export to Afghanistan
Daily Times, Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: The Cabinet’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Tuesday banned flour export to Afghanistan through private sector forthwith to stabilise wheat and flour prices in the country.

The committee, however, allowed flour export to Afghanistan through government-to-government channels. The ECC made the decision during a meeting chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Mohammadmian Soomro. According to a press release issued by the Press Information Department, the ECC also approved a package of incentives for the development of the entertainment sector. Final approval would be accorded to the package after the ministries concerned sort out its modalities.

The ECC also approved a framework for the implementation of hydropower projects under Power Policy 2002.

It authorised the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority to determine tariff for hydropower projects based on feasibility study to be approved by a panel of experts. NEPRA would appoint these panels in consultation with the Planning Division, Finance Division and the Board of Investment.

The committee also approved zero-rating of duties on all types of frozen poultry, meat and fish products for the benefit of low-income consumers. staff report
Back to Top

Back to Top
Pakistan 'frankly' not trying to locate bin Laden: Musharraf
Paris (AP): Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday said that it's more important to battle the remnants of Afghanistan's former Taliban militia than chase after top al-Qaeda leaders.

That Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, are still at large "doesn't mean much," Musharraf said in Paris while on an eight-day swing through Europe.

He suggested that those men -- wanted the world over and whom he hasn't been able to catch over the past six years -- are less of a threat to his regime than the Taliban running roughshod over part of his country. Bin Laden and al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding somewhere in the lawless tribal areas along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

"The 100,000 troops that we are using ... are not going around trying to locate Osama bin Laden and Zawahri, frankly," Musharraf told a conference at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris. "They are operating against terrorists, and in the process, if we get them, we will deal with them certainly."

A top US ally in its war on terrorism, Musharraf has come under increasing pressure following the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last month and for his brief declaration of emergency rule last year.

Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, insisted the remnants of the former Taliban regime of neighboring Afghanistan are the "more serious issue," for both countries.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Trial starts in killing of Afghan mom shot on Hayward street
By Ben Aguirre Jr. 01/23/2008 04:14:35 AM PST San Jose Mercury News
A prosecutor showed jurors a graphic photo of an Afghan mother of six who was shot in the face while she held her 3-year-old daughter's hand, as the murder trial began Tuesday for the man charged with killing her.

The photo - taken shortly after the Oct. 19, 2006, shooting in Hayward - was part of a three-hour, high-tech presentation by prosecutor Jerry Herman during his opening statement in the trial of Manuel David Urango.

The picture showed 38-year-old Alia Ansari with a gunshot wound to her face, right below her right nostril, and was the only graphic image Herman displayed.

The presentation also included other photos, an audiotape statement from a witness and a videotape of Urango being interviewed by police.

The statements from Herman and defense attorney William Caruthers marked the beginning of a trial that is expected to last several weeks.

The first witness - a tow truck driver who heard the shooting - was called to the stand late Tuesday afternoon and is expected to return when the case resumes today at Hayward's Hall of Justice.

Although Herman spent several hours laying out his case against Urango - who has been charged with murder in Ansari's death, as well as with a pair of felonies related to a shooting the day before the slaying - he did not discuss a motive for the killing.

The deputy district attorney did make note of Urango's use of crystal methamphetamine, which Urango told police led him to act differently than he normally would.

Thus far, neither police nor attorneys have released a possible motive, a point Caruthers brought up during his short opening statement.

Caruthers, a public defender who has handled the case since it was charged, urged jurors to listen closely to all of the evidence they will hear.

"There are too many holes in the patchwork of evidence and too many innuendoes to connect," he said.

The defense attorney acknowledged that Urango fired a gun into the air a day before the slaying, but said he did not know Ansari, had no reason to harm her and did not kill her.
Back to Top

Back to Top
McCain vows to capture Osama
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 20, 2008 - 09:57
NEW YORK, Jan 20 (PAN): A leading Republican presidential candidate Saturday said if elected as US president he would capture elusive al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the most wanted terrorist of the world, from wherever he was hiding.

Addressing an election meeting in South Carolina, a charged-up McCain asserted his experience and knowledge how to get the Saudi dissident arrested. McCain is leading the race to get Republican nomination for the presidential election scheduled to be held on November 20.

"You know I want to tell you right now. I'll look you in the eye. I don't care what it takes. I'll follow him to the gates of hell. I will get Osama bin Laden. As president of the United States, I will get him, and I know how to do it," McCain said amidst applause from the audience. 

McCain added: "I am running for president of the United States of America, because I believe the transcendent challenge of the 21st century is the struggle against radical Islamic extremism, which takes many forms. It's the greatest force of evil we've ever faced that is bent on our destruction and our extinction. And, my friends, we will never surrender. They will."

He maintained: "My friends, we still face the suicide bomber problem in Iraq. Ask the Israelis how hard it is to counter people who want to destroy themselves in order to take the lives of others. Ask our greatest generation guys who are here. What was the toughest opponent for the Yorktown? The kamikaze pilot."
Back to Top

Back to Top
Number of Afghan troops to be raised to 86,000
By Najib Khilwatgar - Jan 20, 2008 - 19:27
KABUL, Jan 20 (PAN): Defense ministry informed Afghanistan will have 70, 000 Afghan National Army (ANA) troops in the first quarter of the current year and it will be increased to 86,000 with the support of international community, officials said on Sunday.

Col. Syed Ishaq Paiman in a press release mailed to Pajhwok Afghan News said the presidential office endorsed to increase number of troops to 70,000.

He giving no more details hoped when the total number of ANA completes in first quarter of the current year the international community will be ready at that time to announce its support for training more 16000 ANA troops.

He said: "We hope the 86,000 ANA troops would be able to solve the problem of insecurity."

Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak some days back told a press conference that the NATO have been working to define the number of ANA troops needed for Afghanistan.

70,000 ANA troops were chosen in Bon conference in March 2001, but Afghan authorities say it is the positive result of faster attraction and teaching of the officers that Afghanistan will have 70,000 troops in the first quarter of current year.
Back to Top


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