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January 26, 2008 

Karzai: You can call me US puppet
DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- Unless more is done to tackle growing extremism in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan could once again fall into terrorist hands with dire consequence for the region and the world, the country's president warned Friday.

President Hamid Karzai moves to block Lord Paddy Ashdown as UN super-envoy in Afghanistan
Michael Evans, Defence Editor, Anthony Loyd in Kabul, David Charter in Davos and James Bone in New York The Times (UK) January 26, 2008
Lord Ashdown’s

Analysis: President Hamid Karzai's search for an envoy to rent
James Bone in New York Times Online (UK) January 25, 2008
You cannot buy an Afghan, the old joke says, because they are so fiercely independent. But you can rent one.

Brown rejects criticism from Afghan leader
By George Parker, Financial Times Political Editor January 26 2008 02:00
Gordon Brown was last night battling to shore up his Afghanistan policy after the Afghan president claimed the presence of British troops had made matters worse in war-torn Helmand province.

Britain defends its troops against criticism by Afghan president
Will Woodward, chief political correspondent
Saturday January 26, 2008 The Guardian
Downing Street yesterday rejected claims by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, that he had been wrong to allow the British to take over Helmand province because it let the Taliban return.

A Conversation With Hamid Karzai
By Lally Weymouth Sunday, January 27, 2008 The Washington Post B03
With Taliban violence on the rise in Afghanistan and reports of government corruption marring his government's image, Afghan President Hamid Karzai finds himself embattled and on the defensive. Last week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos

American woman kidnapped in Afghanistan
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Gunmen kidnapped a burqa-clad American aid worker and her driver in southern Afghanistan's largest city early Saturday, snatching the woman from a residential neighborhood as she was on her way to work.

An Afghan Province Points the Way
By David Ignatius Sunday, January 27, 2008; The Washington Post Page B07
JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- Air Force Lt. Col. Gordon Phillips has logged 5,000 hours in AWACS surveillance planes, one of the high-tech weapons systems that made America such a dominant power against conventional adversaries

US military says wanted militant killed in Pakistan
Sat Jan 26, 4:58 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - The US military in Afghanistan said that a Taliban-linked militant leader wanted by Washington had been killed in neighbouring Pakistan.

Afghanistan: Iran accused as mines are found in Taliban cache
Sat Jan 26, 2:25 AM ET
HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) - Iran was accused of supplying weapons to the Taliban on Saturday after security forces found dozens of Iranian-made mines in a rebel cache in western Afghanistan.

U.S. troubled by Afghan journalist's death sentence
Fri Jan 25, 3:05 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it was troubled by the case of an Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy and that the U.S. ambassador in Kabul planned to raise the matter with Afghan authorities.

Support for withdrawal from Afghanistan declines, but divisions remain
Juliet O'Neill Canwest News Service Saturday, January 26, 2008
OTTAWA -- The portion of Canadians who want Canadian troops to withdraw from Afghanistan has dropped seven points to 37 per cent in the aftermath of John Manley's report recommending a conditional extension

New U.S. strategy working in east Afghanistan
26 Jan 2008 16:56:09 GMT By Jon Hemming
SAKYAN, Afghanistan, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Afghan village elder Noor Mohammad stroked his white beard as he listened to a local government chief appeal for help to rebuild the economy of this snow-bound plateau shattered by war and the fight with the Taliban.

Pakistan's Musharraf says no US troops
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jan 25, 2:59 PM ET
DAVOS, Switzerland - Pakistan's president said Friday U.S. troops cannot do a better job than his forces in routing the Taliban and al-Qaida, and the United States should increase its presence in Afghanistan instead to deal with the growing insurgency there.

Extra thousand troops won't come from U.S.: Gates
Canwest News Service Saturday, January 26, 2008
The extra 1,000 NATO soldiers for Afghanistan called for in the Manley report won't come from the U.S., that country's defence secretary said Thursday.

Lawyers say applying Charter rights in Afghanistan would violate sovereignty
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - Federal lawyers argued the Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn't follow the flag and apply to Afghan war prisoners turned over to local authorities by Canadian troops.

When Pakistan Sneezes, Afghanistan Catches a Cold
As the death of Benazir Bhutto demonstrates, Pakistan and Afghanistan are joined together by more than geography.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Wahidullah Amani in Kabul (ARR No. 280, 24-Jan-08)
Following last month’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, the situation in Afghanistan took a rapid downturn. Food prices escalated, security deteriorated, and fragile hopes of peace began to slip away.

Germany earmarks one million euros for Afghanistan winter aid
Berlin, Jan 25, IRNA
Germany's Foreign Ministry has allocated one million euros to German relief agencies for urgent and life-saving winter aid projects in Afghanistan which has been hit by one of the harshest winters over the past 10 years.

Pakistani Official Dismisses Concerns Over Nuclear Security
By SALMAN MASOOD The New York Times January 26, 2008
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — A top Pakistani official dismissed on Saturday concerns over the safety and security of the country’s nuclear program but said there was increased security alertness around its nuclear weapons and facilities

Pentagon plans a 5-year vision document for Afghanistan
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 23, 2008 - 18:37
NEW YORK, Jan 23 (PAN): The Department of Defense is preparing a strategic vision document to chalk out the course of action of the US-led international mission in Afghanistan in the next five years, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

28 projects completed in Zabul
By Saeed Zabuli - Jan 23, 2008 - 16:00
KANDAHAR CITY, Jan 23 (PAN): 28 different developmental projects have been completed on Wednesday with the support of National Solidarity Programme (NSP) in the southern Zabul province, an official said

US to enhance financial assistance to Afghanistan
By Mustafa Besharat - Jan 23, 2008 - 18:32
KABUL (PAN): United States will provide further financial assistance to help empower Afghan police, rehabilitate rural areas, establish energy and reconstruct roads in the central Asian country this year, a top US-diplomat informed on Wednesday.

Minor girl recovered, kidnapper arrested
By Abdul Matin Sarfaraz - Jan 23, 2008 - 16:03
TALOQAN, Jan 23 (PAN): A man was arrested in the kidnapping case of a 7-year-old girl while the girl was handed over to his family in Taloqan the capital city of the northern Takhar province on Wednesday.

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Karzai: You can call me US puppet
DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- Unless more is done to tackle growing extremism in countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan could once again fall into terrorist hands with dire consequence for the region and the world, the country's president warned Friday.

Hamid Karzai said "misguided policy objectives" of unnamed countries or organizations were continuing to fuel violence in Afghanistan, although he was confident al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was no longer within its borders.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with CNN on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Karzai also reluctantly accepted his image as "a puppet of America" but he shied away from accepting reported U.S. doubts that NATO troops lacked the training to combat the Taliban.

Asked if he agreed with a recent assessment by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates reported in the L.A. Times that NATO forces lacked the necessary skills, Karzai said he was not able to comment, but the fight needed to be more focused in Afghanistan and beyond.

"I believe there has to be a bigger effort, a more robust effort concentrated on the right objective," he said.

"The fight against terrorism is not in Afghanistan, a very small part of it may be in Afghanistan, the bigger part is in the sanctuaries where they get trained where they get motivated that is where we should go and unless we do that this vicious circle will keep going."

He said the Taliban were being funded partly by opium poppy crops, thriving due to the failure of efforts to eradicate them, from religious extremists and a "combination of criminals, misguided policy objectives and folly".

However he rejected claims al Qaeda or the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan until it was ousted by the U.S.-led invasion of 2001, received funds from Saudi Arabia.

Karzai expressed concerns over growing terrorism in neighboring Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf faces mounting opposition to quit amid spreading militant violence.

"The problem is growing, the problem has grown, unfortunately, of terrorism in Pakistan," he said.

"I was concerned, I remain concerned but I had a very fruitful talk with president Musharraf last time. From that respect I hope there is more recognition of dangers there and of the dangers of the future of both countries and the region.

"Based on that I hope there will be a stronger effort in Pakistan and the region, and help from the rest of the world."

He added: "It is one thing to recognize facts, it but it is another thing to work at it, to get at and remove it and defeat it and destroy it."

Assessing progress in his own country, Karzai said things were improving despite ongoing violence.

"It is better than last year, some parts of the country are much better than last year. Some parts of the country are not better than last year.

"And actually, the parts of the country that are not good are shrinking in size, and the parts that are getting better and better are expanding in size, so the overall situation in the country is a most definite improvement."

On Osama bin Laden, Karzai insisted the fugitive terrorist mastermind would eventually be caught, even though he continued to elude coalition forces.

"I wish I knew where he was so we could go after him. No absconder, no man running away from the law will be able to hide forever, some day we'll catch him. (He is) not in Afghanistan. He has no place to hide in Afghanistan."

On his perceived image as an impotent leader in thrall to the U.S. administration, Karzai, said he was willing to shoulder insults in return for U.S. assistance.

"Me a puppet? My God.

"Anyway, Americans have helped Afghanistan tremendously. The American people have a feeling for Afghanistan a very, very great feeling.

"The U.S administration has helped Afghanistan and if we are called puppets, or if I am called a puppet because we are grateful to America, then let that be my nickname.

"The truth is that without the United States in Afghanistan, Afghanistan would be a very poor, miserable country, occupied by neighbors and al Qaeda and terrorists."
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President Hamid Karzai moves to block Lord Paddy Ashdown as UN super-envoy in Afghanistan
Michael Evans, Defence Editor, Anthony Loyd in Kabul, David Charter in Davos and James Bone in New York The Times (UK) January 26, 2008
Lord Ashdown’s appointment as the UN special envoy in Afghanistan has been blocked by President Karzai after he met a series of Western leaders in Davos, diplomats said last night.

President Karzai objected to the former Liberal Democrat leader after Lord Ashdown, a former Marine who headed international efforts in Bosnia, insisted on far-reaching powers.

The Afghan leader made clear his intention to block Lord Ashdown at meetings with Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, and David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, during the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort, one source said.

Mr Karzai also raised his reservations about Lord Ashdown with Gordon Brown in another meeting yesterday, according to a Western diplomat. Mr Brown is understood to have told the Afghan leader that Britain was not trying to push Lord Ashdown on him, explaining that it was a United Nations appointment.

Immediately after meeting Mr Brown, Mr Karzai was “grabbed” by Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, for a one-on-one discussion.

Lord Ashdown had been the top candidate to become a so-called “superenvoy” to serve as overall co-ordinator of international aid and political efforts in Afghanistan, where Nato troops are battling a Taleban insurgency. But one well-placed diplomat said last night that, in light of Mr Karzai’s opposition, Mr Ashdown’s candidacy was now “toast”. Lord Ashdown refused to confirm that he was out of the running. “I’ve made no comment on this, and am not going to start now,” he told The Times last night.

Other possible candidates include the British General John McColl, the Nato Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, who served as the first commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan in 2002 and later acted as Prime Minister Tony Blair’s special envoy to the country.

The UN, however, will find it difficult to accept a serving general as its top civilian representative in Afghanistan. Russia is said to be pushing for a Turkish official.

The latest snub came as British officials were already fuming over Mr Karzai’s criticism of the role of British troops in Afghanistan. In an outburst to journalists on Thursday, the Afghan leader claimed that British forces had failed in their mission in Helmand province.

“Without British troops in Helmand province there would be no control over the influence of the Taleban in the south, and no control over the Taleban’s exploitation of the poppy,” said one senior army officer who has served in Helmand.

Patrick Mercer, Conservative MP for Newark and former commanding officer of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment, which has served recently in Helmand, told The Times: “On behalf of the nine dead friends from my former battalion, killed in Helmand, I resent what President Karzai said.”

The Afghan leader claimed that Helmand had been under Kabul’s control before the British troops arrived on the scene, and that the province was now overrun with Taleban.

However, Mr Mercer said: “Karzai’s writ did not run at all in Helmand province until the British troops arrived. Our Armed Forces have shed blood and died while facing up to his enemies.”

A total of 87 British troops have died in Afghanistan since 2001 — 61 of them killed in action — and Britain has spent £1.6 billion on its military campaign there.

Asked if he would accept that the British presence allowed the Taleban back in, the Prime Minister’s spokesman replied: “Of course we wouldn’t accept that.” He said: “We are working alongside the Afghan Government in order to drive out the Taleban from Helmand. Our strength in Afghanistan has been to work with the Afghan Government and to extend the authority of the Afghan Government throughout the province to allow economic and political development. It is to that aim that our Armed Forces have suffered losses and shown great bravery and determination.”

The new tension has been caused by differences between the Kabul Government and the British troops on the ground over Mr Karzai’s choice of local officials to run the Helmand administration and the security forces.

President Karzai expressed particular frustration at the way he claimed the British had forced him to get rid of Sher Muhammad Akhunzada, his chosen and trusted governor in Helmand.

His deployment is yet another signal of Mr Karzai’s lack of faith in British policy in southern Afghanistan and his belief that warlords can succeed where governance fails.

The senior army officer said: “The trouble is, we’re looking at governance with Western eyes and President Karzai is looking at it with Afghan eyes, so perhaps in his view everything was fine before the British troops were sent to Helmand. I don’t know why Karzai has made these comments. It’s probably for his own political reasons, but he knows that Britain is committed to Afghanistan for the long term.”

Counting the cost

7,800 British troops deployed in Afghanistan

£738m spent by British Armed Forces in Afghanistan 2006-07

18% of British people surveyed last year thought Britain was winning the war

90% of heroin sold in Britain comes from Afghanistan

Sources: Times archives
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Analysis: President Hamid Karzai's search for an envoy to rent
James Bone in New York Times Online (UK) January 25, 2008
You cannot buy an Afghan, the old joke says, because they are so fiercely independent. But you can rent one.

Times move on. Now it is the Afghan president who is trying to find a UN representative he can effectively control.

President Hamid Karzai’s objections to Lord Ashdown taking over as UN supremo in the country are part of an old-fashioned power-struggle that would be instantly recognisable to any village khan - or UN bureaucrat.

With the Taleban resurgent and opium production on the rise, Nato powers are seeking greater control - they call it coordination - of the political and economic aspects of the military campaign.

David Satterfield, America’s Coordinator for Iraq, told The Times this week that Iraq may turn out to be America’s “good war” while Afghanistan goes “bad”.

The Bush Administration has pledged to deploy 3,200 more Marines, complaining that its Nato partners lack counter-insurgency expertise.

In return, the United States hopes other Nato nations, such as Britain and Canada, play a greater role in economic and political reconstruction, from building roads to bolstering local government.

“The struggle in Afghanistan involves warfare, but it is not primarily a military struggle. It is primarily political and economic,” Barnett Rubin, a veteran Afghan expert at New York University, told Congress this week.

As the stakes rise, Nato governments hope to enlist the UN more closely in this “hearts and minds” campaign against the Taleban.

The Western powers have been pushing Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, to name a high-profile figure to replace the departing UN special representative in Kabul. Lord Ashdown, who has already served as international viceroy in Bosnia, fit the bill. But his extensive experience in the role, which allowed him to sack local officials and rescind laws, taught him to demand far-reaching powers that threatened Mr Karzai’s control.

The president had already indicated his impatience with the British role in his country in his ill-tempered outburst on Thursday in which he accused British forces of aggravating the security situation. Both his verbal attack and diplomatic sabotage of Lord Ashdown are intended to weaken the challenge posed by Nato to his grip on power.

Nato nations appeared ready to water down Lord Ashdown’s mandate, but diplomats say the former Royal Marine held firm.

The likely outcome is a UN compromise that puts an underwhelming figure in the job who will play ball - or the Afghan game of “buzkashi” - with President Karzai as the chaos in southern Afghanistan spreads.

Perhaps the best that can now be hoped for is a skilful diplomat who can navigate the twisting valleys of Afghan politics and does not come with the colonial baggage of a Briton like Lord Ashdown, the New Delhi-born son of an Indian Army captain.
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Brown rejects criticism from Afghan leader
By George Parker, Financial Times Political Editor January 26 2008 02:00
Gordon Brown was last night battling to shore up his Afghanistan policy after the Afghan president claimed the presence of British troops had made matters worse in war-torn Helmand province.

Hamid Karzai's comments provoked an outright denial from Downing St. Mr Brown held talks with the Afghan leader at the World Econo-mic Forum in Davos to hammer out their differences.

Mr Karzai's claim that British involvement in Helmand had allowed the Taliban to return - the precise opposite of the UK's mission in the province - is a serious blow to the credibility of the mission.

Although the Afghan president told Mr Brown he had been "quoted out of context" and that the views attributed to him did not reflect his true opinion, the damage had been done.

Families of some of the 87 British servicemen and women who have died in Afghanistan since the start of operations in 2001 saw his remarks as an insult.

Derek Eida, whose son Capt Alex Eida was killed in action in Helmand in 2006, described Mr Karzai's comments as "disparaging" and "disingenuous".

Talks between Mr Brown and Mr Karzai in Davos came after the Afghan leader appeared to blame mistakes by Britain and the US for the return of the Taliban in the south of the country.

"Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them," he was reported by The Times as saying. "And when they came in, the Taliban came in. When our governor was there, we were fully in charge. The mistake was that we removed a local arrangement without having a replacement. We removed the police force. That was not good."

Only last month Mr Brown and Mr Karzai shared a platform in Kabul to celebrate the recapture from the Taliban of Musa Qala by Afghan forces, backed by British and US units.

But on Thursday Mr Karzai apppeared to cast even that success in a gloomy light. "It took us a year and a half to take back Musa Qala," he said. "This was not failure but a mistake."

Downing St yesterday hit back at the criticism, claiming that British forces were working closely with Afghan government troops to drive the Taliban out of Helmand.

"It's to that aim that our armed forces have suffered losses and shown great bravery and determination," said Mr Brown's spokesman.

Asked if Britain would accept that the British troops' presence allowed the Taliban back in, he said: "Of course we wouldn't accept that."
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Britain defends its troops against criticism by Afghan president
Will Woodward, chief political correspondent
Saturday January 26, 2008 The Guardian
Downing Street yesterday rejected claims by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, that he had been wrong to allow the British to take over Helmand province because it let the Taliban return.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Karzai delivered a sustained attack on UK-US policy in the country which embarrassed the British government when it was reported yesterday.

"When our governor was there, we were fully in charge," he said.

"They came and said 'your governor is no good'. I said 'all right, do we have a replacement for this governor; do you have enough forces?" Karzai said.

"Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them. And when they came in, the Taliban came ... we removed a local arrangement without having a replacement."
Karzai said the change meant "it took us a year and a half to take back Musa Qala".

Gordon Brown's spokesman said that "of course we wouldn't accept" the view that Britain had only encouraged the Taliban. "Our strength in Afghanistan has been to work with the Afghan government and to extend the authority of the Afghan government throughout the province to allow economic and political development. And it's to that aim that our armed forces have suffered losses and shown great bravery and determination."

The spokesman added: "I would stress we are working closely with the Afghan government in relation to political and economic and military issues in Helmand."

Britain has about 7,000 members of the armed forces in Helmand province. The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said last week that America's allies in Afghanistan could not fight insurgencies properly, though British officials said he later phoned the defence secretary, Des Browne, to assure him the remarks were not directed at UK troops.
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A Conversation With Hamid Karzai
By Lally Weymouth Sunday, January 27, 2008 The Washington Post B03
With Taliban violence on the rise in Afghanistan and reports of government corruption marring his government's image, Afghan President Hamid Karzai finds himself embattled and on the defensive. Last week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he spoke with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth about the Taliban and Pakistan, his government's challenges and its ties with Iran. Excerpts:

Q. How are the Taliban affecting you in Afghanistan?

A. By trying to prevent progress, by trying to prevent reconstruction, by killing our people, by [preventing] our children in southern Afghanistan from going to school, by killing the community leaders, the religious leaders, intimidating cultural leaders. By all means.

How strong are they now?

They would not be strong without support.

From Pakistan?

I've just had a very good trip to Pakistan, so what I would say is that Pakistan and Afghanistan and the United States and the rest of the world must join hands in sincerity in order to end this problem. They have to take [action]. They have to.

The last time I interviewed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, I thought he was very angry. It's really a crazy situation in Pakistan.

Yes, very much. I found him to be more cognizant of the problems of extremism and terrorism. That's a good sign, and I hope we will continue in that direction.

Do you think Musharraf will do something about it, send forces into the problematic border areas ?

We have to end extremism. We have to end support for extremism in the region. Unless we do that, the picture is one of doom and gloom, for Pakistan, and as a consequence for Afghanistan.

When I interviewed former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December, she said to me, "I feel they are going to come knocking at my door one night."

Unfortunately, her death, the way it happened, proves her point. That's the irony. That's the sad thing about her death. She predicted something, and she proved right in that prediction. So it must be listened to. We cannot use extremism as a tool for any purpose. It will hurt us eventually, as it has begun to hurt Pakistan.

The United States is sending 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Will that help?

I'm happy about that, yes. The American contribution to the war against terrorism is fundamental and strong.

Will it make a difference?

It will make a difference when the Americans are clear and straightforward about this fight.

What do you mean by that, Mr. President? "When the Americans are straightforward about the fight"?

They mean what they say. They do what they say.

You think they don't now?

They do now. Straight means they do now. Straight means they really are fighting it.

Do you think they're the right type of troops? Should they be special operations troops?

That's a professional issue. It has to be addressed by the military. What we need is the right number, the right quality and the right-equipped troops.

But you have a problem with foreign forces -- they have limits. The Germans, for example, won't go to the south [the Taliban stronghold].

That has to be settled within the countries of NATO. But we are happy for all the contributions the NATO members are making to Afghanistan. We don't get involved in the details of operations. That's the business of NATO.

Do you plan to have more Afghan troops in the future?

We are training them. We so far have trained 57,000 of our troops. We hope that this training will grow to a larger number and to a higher quality. We are satisfied so far with the training of our Afghan army and with the equipment that we have received from the United States. We hope there will be more. We just got the first consignment of our air wing in the Afghan Ministry of Defense -- that's helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. So that is something that we'd like to push forward.

Are there other things that you're asking the U.S. for?

We're asking for the United States to help us in training and equipping a proper army.

And do you feel that the United States is being responsive to your requests?

Quite. Yes, yes.

People talk a lot about opium and opium eradication, and some people have stronger methods of eradicating opium.

Yes, aerial spray and all that.

Which I gather you're opposed to.

Very strongly, yes, very strongly. Opium is a problem for Afghanistan, opium is a problem for the region, and opium is a problem for the international community. It affects our lives all around the world. It is wrong. From any perspective, and for all of us. Therefore we have to in Afghanistan get rid of this menace.

What is the strategy?

The overall strategy is to try to get rid of poppies by improving the overall Afghan economy, by bringing better prosperity to the Afghan people, by eradicating poppies and by replacing it with other alternatives. But how to bring this about is something that we have all to agree about. In short, opium came to Afghanistan because of the desperation of the Afghan people. Thirty years ago, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, when we began to fight them, no Afghan family was sure if they were going to stay in their own house the next day or not, if they were going to be in their country the next day or not -- if they were going to be alive the next day or not. So for them the easiest way was to have a cash crop. And opium was promoted from outside the Afghan borders. The mafia came in and told the people that this is a cash crop: "Grow it, and we'll pay you."

I know people -- men -- who have destroyed their pomegranate orchards to replace them with poppies. Now no family would do that -- ever -- unless they are absolutely in limbo about the future. And I know people, families, who have destroyed their vineyards in order to replace them with poppies because they were not sure of their tomorrow. The more Afghanistan is sure of its tomorrow, the more the people have hope for the future of the country and its prosperity and stability, the higher will be our achievement in eradicating poppies, as has already been demonstrated in parts of the country.

But don't people need a substitute?

When there is stability and prosperity, then that is the substitute.

But how do you get there?

By what we are already doing. Fighting terrorism, bringing the rule of law, improving governance and having a better economy. Whatever it takes to have a society that is governed by the rule of law and is at peace.

How do you think you're doing with that ambition?

Well, we've taken magnificently strong steps. We have children going to school, we have our highways being rebuilt, we have our health services improving, we have our economy improving, we have everything right. The only thing that we have to get right is an effective fight against terrorism. With that achievement, when it comes, Afghanistan will move much faster in the direction of a proper economy, away from a criminal economy, into a legitimate livelihood.

When you talked to President Musharraf, did you say, "Okay, what are you going to do about the terrorist bases in Pakistan?"

We do see eye-to-eye more than before on this question.

Why is that?

Because of the glaring blow that we have.

Because of the death of Bhutto?

Because of her death, because of the bomb blasts, because of the suicide bombs killing people in mosques. It's unbelievable. It is impossible for us -- even if you want to ignore this in Pakistan -- to ignore it any more. How can we deny it?

So the president agreed with you that it is impossible.

To deny? Oh, he absolutely agrees that there is a problem and that we have to fix it.

There are a lot of complaints about corruption in Afghanistan.

There is, there is, yes.

What can you do to combat corruption, even in official circles?

Corruption is in official circles. Corruption is in governments or in industry.

Can you fire people? What can you do?

We do fire people. We do a lot of those things, but that is not the only answer to corruption. You see, corruption is the consequence of the weakness of the overall Afghan system and the arrival of a lot of money and the arrival of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] and international partners. Now, we cannot correct corruption by action against corruption in a criminal way only. We have to improve standards in Afghanistan by having better, more properly equipped administration, better human capital, better human resources, better skills. And police. And law enforcement. And relevant laws. In other words, the society has to grow -- all aspects of it -- from the present base, which is weak, to a stronger base into the future. Then we'll be able to end corruption.

How much influence does Iran have in your country right now, Mr. President?

We have had a particularly good relationship with Iran the past six years. It's a relationship that I hope will continue. We have opened our doors to them. They have been helping us in Afghanistan. The United States very wisely understood that it is our neighbor and encouraged that relationship. I hope Iran would also understand that the United States is a great ally of ours and that we value that alliance with the United States. So that is the foundation of our relations with them, and I hope that it will continue as it is.

So in other words, you don't agree with President Bush's assessment of Iran.

On which question?

He called it part of the "axis of evil." And there's been a lot of discussion about a nuclear program.

We don't like a nuclear region, of course. Nobody wants nuclear weapons. Who wants to have weapons of destruction around their homes? Nobody. But the United States has been very understanding and supportive that Afghanistan should have a relationship with Iran.

Are you going to run for another term in 2009?

Well, I have things to accomplish. Who was it who wrote -- Robert Frost? -- "The woods are lovely dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep. And miles to go before I sleep."
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American woman kidnapped in Afghanistan
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Gunmen kidnapped a burqa-clad American aid worker and her driver in southern Afghanistan's largest city early Saturday, snatching the woman from a residential neighborhood as she was on her way to work.

The American worked in Kandahar for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, said Jeff Palmer, its international director. Palmer said the group had not been contacted by the kidnappers and that he did not know their identity or demands.

Asadullah Khalid, the provincial governor, blamed the kidnappings on the "enemy of Islam and the enemy of Afghanistan." Khalid said the 49-year-old American was wearing a burqa when she was taken.

Several Westerners — including two German construction workers and two Italian journalists — have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last year, but this was the first kidnapping of an American in recent memory.

A professor at Kandahar University, Mohammad Gul, said the American taught English language lessons at the university and embroidery lessons at a girl's school.

Gul said she speaks the local language, Pashtu, well and that if Afghans asked about her background she would say she was from the Alakozai tribe — a well known Pashtun tribe in the Kandahar region.

"She is a very patient and calm woman," Gul said. "She was always thinking about Afghanistan's future."

Palmer, who declined to confirm the woman's name, said she has worked for ARLDF on income-generating women's projects in Kandahar for the last three years.

"It is our hope that our worker will be released safely and quickly and we are doing all that we can to resolve the situation," Palmer said. "This is a first for our organization and we're really praying for a quick resolution."

Traveling around Kandahar city has turned increasingly dangerous in the last year, as the Taliban insurgency has spread throughout southern Afghanistan. Western civilians who operate there often travel with armed guards and with extreme caution. The area is rife with Taliban militants and also with criminals linked to the country's booming opium poppy trade.

A Taliban spokesman said he had no immediate information that the Islamic militia was behind the kidnappings.

In a likely plea to the woman's captors, Khalid noted that the American respected Afghan traditions by wearing the burqa and speaking the local languages. She did not travel with armed guards, he said.

Projects run by the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation are located around the city of Kandahar and include food for work, irrigation rehabilitation, health care and restoration projects, according to the group's Web site. The group also has projects in Vietnam, China, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
___
Associated Press writer Jason Straziuso contributed to this report from Kabul.
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An Afghan Province Points the Way
By David Ignatius Sunday, January 27, 2008; The Washington Post Page B07
JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- Air Force Lt. Col. Gordon Phillips has logged 5,000 hours in AWACS surveillance planes, one of the high-tech weapons systems that made America such a dominant power against conventional adversaries. But these days, Phillips is very much down on the ground, heading a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) here that's working with villagers to build dams, roads and schools.
Phillips's unlikely role illustrates the dilemma facing the U.S. military: The conventional wars it's good at fighting aren't the ones it's encountering in Iraq, Afghanistan and other unstable areas. The ideal modern warrior has to be something between a Peace Corps volunteer and a Special Forces commando.

The United States seems to be doing most things right here in Nangahar province, on Afghanistan's eastern border, and gaining some leverage in its fight against terrorism. This used to be Taliban country. Pakistan is just east, across the Khyber Pass. To the south are the rugged, snow-capped peaks of the Tora Bora mountains, into which Osama bin Laden fled in late 2001. These days, there are occasional roadside bombings and suicide attacks in the province, but some people have to stop and think a moment to remember the last one.

Success here results from an interesting mix of political and military factors. There's a strong local leader in the provincial governor, Gul Agha Shirzai. This gentleman is not a paragon of democracy; to be frank, he's a warlord. He rules the province with a firm hand, and with a personal fortune that U.S. officials estimate at about $300 million, he has the money to make political deals work.

The American contribution to stability in Jalalabad is twofold. First, there's the PRT effort. With its focus on economic development, the team is reaching out to the very people whose support the Taliban insurgents need to survive. I talked with a local cleric named Mullawi Abdul-Aziz, a small, dark man whose face is creased by the sun. He was once friendly with the Taliban, but he now serves as deputy chief of the provincial council and meets twice a week with Shawn Waddoups, a State Department officer on the PRT. The mullah says he ignores Afghans who criticize him for being too friendly with the Americans.

A second component of U.S. success here is the low-visibility but high-impact mix of combat and intelligence operations. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Milhorn leads a team that seeks, as he puts it, to "tighten down the gate" at the Pakistani border. He's aided by some very high-tech biometric equipment that's being used to check the movement of known insurgents.

When you visit places like Jalalabad and see things working the way they're supposed to, there's always a disconnect with what you've been reading and hearing about the larger war. I've been trying to put those pieces together in my mind after visiting here Wednesday with the chief of Central Command, Adm. William Fallon.

The reality is that the larger war in Afghanistan isn't going as well as it seems to be in this province. Roadside bombs and suicide attacks were up last year. The Taliban is regaining strength in some parts of the country. The Afghan national government is weak and disorganized. And NATO's operations are a ragged quilt -- with no other nation matching the U.S. effort, either in combat firepower or people-friendly PRTs.

The commanders back in Kabul try to put the best face on the situation. Gen. Dan McNeil, who heads NATO's forces in Afghanistan, says that the increase in Taliban terrorist attacks is actually a sign of the insurgents' weakness and the coalition's success. He says the United States is sending 3,000 more Marines to Afghanistan on the principle that "you reinforce where you're having success."

That kind of upbeat talk in the face of downbeat numbers is eerily reminiscent of Iraq. And it's a reminder that counterinsurgency wars are, in the end, about creating a state of mind. Security is a habit, born of weeks and months of ordinary life. Insecurity, too, is a habit, born of fear that a suicide bomber may attack your village or your Kabul hotel, regardless of how infrequent those attacks may really be.

A reality check for me was to talk in Kabul with Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the country's bright young minister of education. He said that Taliban terrorist attacks killed 147 students and teachers over the past 10 months and seriously injured 200 others. This campaign of intimidation closed 590 schools last year, up from 350 the year before. In areas where students are too scared to go to school, stability and security are still distant goals. You can see in Jalalabad what success would look like; the challenge is to make that picture real across Afghanistan.

The writer is co-host ofPostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues. His e-mail address isdavidignatius@washpost.com.
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US military says wanted militant killed in Pakistan
Sat Jan 26, 4:58 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - The US military in Afghanistan said that a Taliban-linked militant leader wanted by Washington had been killed in neighbouring Pakistan.

Darim Sedgai was ambushed by unknown gunmen on January 16 and died of his wounds, the military said in a statement.

The military described him as a "powerful commander" linked to a top Taliban leader, Siraj Haqqani, but did not provide any further details of the incident.

The US military here reportedly announced a 50,000-dollar bounty for Sedgai in October last year, saying he was wanted for his ties to Taliban and Al-Qaeda militant groups.

Sedgai was the third rebel commander in Haqqani's network to die in recent months, the statement said.

Haqqani, the son of famous anti-Russian commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, joined the Taliban during their advance towards Kabul in 1996 and is their top commander in eastern Afghanistan. He has a 200,000 dollar bounty on his head.

An alliance of Afghan opposition groups and US-led forces overthrew the 1996-2001 Taliban regime when it did not surrender Al-Qaeda leaders after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Taliban militants have since been waging an increasingly bloody insurgency aimed at toppling the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, which is supported by more than 60,000 foreign troops.

Afghan and Western officials say Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked rebels have bases in the rugged Pakistani tribal areas along the border.

Pakistani troops are battling rebels along the frontier and have launched a major operation in the tribal stronghold of an Al-Qaeda-linked militant blamed for the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
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Afghanistan: Iran accused as mines are found in Taliban cache
Sat Jan 26, 2:25 AM ET
HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) - Iran was accused of supplying weapons to the Taliban on Saturday after security forces found dozens of Iranian-made mines in a rebel cache in western Afghanistan.

Afghan police and intelligence agents raided a Taliban compound in Farah province on Thursday and discovered 130 mines, 60 of which were made in Iran, Farah governor Mohyiddin Balouch told AFP.

When asked who could be behind the supply of weapons he replied: "It is the Iran government." He added: "We have intelligence reports that these mines had recently entered Farah from Iran."

He said: "We know that there is a government in Iran which has controls over the borders. Without the knowledge of the Iranian government it is difficult to send weapons out."

United States and NATO officials have also in the past said that Iranian weapons were being supplied to the extremist Taliban, which is waging a bloody insurgency against Afghanistan's US-backed President Hamid Karzai,

However, senior Afghan government officials including Karzai have repeatedly dismissed the claims, saying there was no proof.

The Taliban, who were in goverment from 1996 until being ousted by Western forces in 2001, are trying to topple the Karzai government and remove the tens of thousands of US-led troops based in the country.
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U.S. troubled by Afghan journalist's death sentence
Fri Jan 25, 3:05 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Friday it was troubled by the case of an Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy and that the U.S. ambassador in Kabul planned to raise the matter with Afghan authorities.

An Afghan court sentenced Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, a reporter with the Jahan-e Now daily paper, to death on Tuesday after he was found guilty of blasphemy, a court official said.

Kambakhsh was detained three months ago after complaints from some of his university classmates for allegedly mocking Islam and the Koran, and for distributing an article which said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women.

"We're concerned about this sentence that was handed down to a reporter for basically practicing his profession and we wouldn't want to see any actions taken that would limit his or anyone else's freedom of the press or freedom of expression," State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

"I understand there's an appeal process that is under way and certainly we're going to be looking at that very carefully, and hopefully there will be a different outcome to this than the one that's presently there," Casey added.

The United Nations on Thursday called on Afghanistan to review the Kambakhsh's case, which has also been taken up by the worldwide media watchdog Reporters without Borders.

Since the ouster of the Taliban's radical Islamic government in 2001, dozens of newspapers and other publications, some funded by foreigners, have sprung up in Afghanistan, which is going through a wave of press freedom unprecedented in its history.
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Support for withdrawal from Afghanistan declines, but divisions remain
Juliet O'Neill Canwest News Service Saturday, January 26, 2008
OTTAWA -- The portion of Canadians who want Canadian troops to withdraw from Afghanistan has dropped seven points to 37 per cent in the aftermath of John Manley's report recommending a conditional extension of the military mission in Kandahar, says an Ipsos Reid poll released Friday.

The portion willing to extend the mission if the role shifts from combat to non-combat, such as training Afghan soldiers or police officers, has risen five points to 45 per cent since October.

The poll for Canwest News Service and Global National, conducted as Canadians digested the Manley recommendations earlier this week, suggests Canadians are open to an extension of a mission for non-combat purposes, said pollster John Wright. The 14 per cent of Canadians willing to extend the mission as is remained unchanged.

The pollsters found the majority of Canadians regard the Manley panel recommendations as fair (36 per cent) or good (29 per cent) or great (six per cent). Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) said Manley's proposals are a "bad plan" while seven per cent had no opinion.

Manley recommended an extension of the deployment of the 2,500 troops in Kandahar only if it is bolstered by 1,000 extra soldiers from another NATO country and the troops are equipped with medium-lift helicopters and unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles. He proposed a "significant reduction" in combat work in favour of training Afghan forces to handle their own security.

Ipsos Reid reported that Canadians received the Manley report "cautiously," given that regardless of the panel's recommendations, the country remains split - 50 per cent in support and 46 opposed - to the current counter-insurgency mission in Afghanistan. Those numbers were virtually the same in August.

"This is a report that has not fundamentally altered the underlying support of Canadians for their current positions," Wright, vice-president of Ipsos Reid, said Friday in an interview. "They've basically maintained the same thing for the last couple of years. But what it's done is opened the door to us staying there in another capacity."

The fundamental questions to most Canadians are whether to pull the troops and whether to change their combat role, Wright said.

"Only 14 per cent believe we should be doing the combat mission as we currently are," he noted, "but when you add them to the people who say we should stay and maybe do something different, then you have a full majority of the people in this country believing that to be the case."

The Manley report has not been enthusiastically embraced by the public, he said. People seem to be waiting for further details on what the government plans to do.

"It's not hard against, it's not hard for," he said. "There's no mandate given here for anything except discussion about more details as to what they may do."

The future of the mission, a question which could trigger the defeat of the government and an election this year, has divided Parliament. While the government appointed the Manley panel to find a non-partisan path to political consensus, the New Democratic Party and Bloc Quebecois continue to advocate troop withdrawal and the Liberals want a shift from combat to civilian protection, training Afghan forces and reconstruction of the country.

Ipsos Reid canvassed 1,001 adults by telephone over three days, starting Tuesday, the day Manley delivered his report. The results are considered accurate to within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Support for the Manley plan was highest in Atlantic Canada. Albertans were most likely to support troops remaining but shifting to a less combative role. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Quebec residents showed highest support for troop withdrawal.

Residents of Atlantic Canada were the most likely (47 per cent) to say the Manley plan is good or great, followed by those in Ontario (39 per cent), British Columbia (37 per cent), Alberta (32 per cent), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (31 per cent) and Quebec (27 per cent). Residents of Ontario (26 per cent) and Quebec (22 per cent) were most likely to say that this is a bad plan for Canadian troops.

Fifty-three per cent of Albertans were the most likely to say that Canada's troops should remain in Afghanistan but be redirected to a less combative role, followed by those in Atlantic Canada (49 per cent), Ontario (47 per cent), British Columbia (46 per cent), Quebec (42 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (35 per cent).

Residents of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (42 per cent) and Quebec (41 per cent) were more likely than those living in B.C. (38 per cent), Atlantic Canada (36 per cent), Ontario (36 per cent ) and Alberta (25 per cent) to say that the troops should come home after February of next year.

A majority of residents of Alberta (61 per cent), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (59 per cent), Ontario (56 per cent), Atlantic Canada (54 per cent) and British Columbia (53 per cent) supported the current mission in Afghanistan. Quebec support (33 per cent) was lowest.

Albertans (18 per cent) were the most likely to want an extension to the current mission, followed by those in British Columbia (15 per cent), Saskatchewan and Manitoba (15), Quebec (14), Ontario (13) and Atlantic Canada (nine).

Men (54 per cent) were significantly more likely than women (47 per cent) to support the mission in Afghanistan.
Ottawa Citizen
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New U.S. strategy working in east Afghanistan
26 Jan 2008 16:56:09 GMT By Jon Hemming
SAKYAN, Afghanistan, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Afghan village elder Noor Mohammad stroked his white beard as he listened to a local government chief appeal for help to rebuild the economy of this snow-bound plateau shattered by war and the fight with the Taliban.

Mohammad and the other elders at an impromptu shura, or council, think they have seen it all before, but new U.S. counter-insurgency strategy backing Afghan government and security forces in the east of the country aims to break with the past and appears to be achieving some results.

"Many people came here and made promises, but nothing has been done," said Mohammad, the senior elder in the village of Sakyan, a scattered collection of sparse high-walled compounds and snow-bound fields in Paktia province, south of the capital Kabul and close to the border with Pakistan.

Afghan army troops, backed by U.S. forces, are in the middle of an operation in the district, until only a few months ago a Taliban stronghold.

But the object of the operation is not to kill Taliban rebels who have fed off discontent with the slow pace of development to relaunch their fight to topple the pro-Western Afghan government and eject foreign troops.

"Hurting people is not the purpose," said Colonel David Woods, the U.S. commander in Paktia. There has been no fighting and no casualties so far in the operation. "If we kill someone out here is sets us back. If no one gets hurt in this entire operation, and I mean on both sides, that's an awesome success."

The new U.S. counter-insurgency doctrine, published at the end of 2006, is now beginning to be felt on the ground and may be paying off. Between August and the end of October last year, there were 60 improvised explosive devices in the Zormat district of Paktia. Since November, there have been none.

While the harsh winter undoubtedly played a part, across eastern Afghanistan, where U.S. forces predominate, there has been a marked drop off in violence in the second half of 2007.

In the south, British, Canadian and Dutch troops have been locked in hard fighting, often forced to retake the same ground several times from the Taliban and losing a steady stream of soldiers in the process.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week complained some NATO forces were not properly trained in counter-insurgency. While he quickly downplayed his criticism, the implication was clear; U.S. troops do it better.

THE ENEMY NOT THE OBJECTIVE
In Afghanistan, humanitarian workers have for years called on international forces to bring security so they could provide aid and development work.

The trouble is that there are not enough foreign or Afghan troops to hold all the ground, so security has been weak, which has meant aid has been largely absent from many remote areas and resentment at the slow pace of change and official corruption has strengthened the Taliban insurgency.

To break the vicious circle, the U.S. strategy is to turn the problem on its head and make development the objective, trusting that security will follow.

"The enemy is in our way, but he's an obstacle, not an objective. He's no longer the focus of our activity," said Woods.

Sakyan elders complained they had been caught in the middle of Taliban rebels and corrupt local police who extorted money at gunpoint or by threatening to hand villagers over to U.S. troops who they said would ship them off to jail in Guantanamo Bay.

The locally recruited police have now been sent away for retraining and replaced with officers from elsewhere. Smaller units of U.S. troops have set up bases in towns and villages across Paktia and the east.

Afghan army units now lead all operations and district governors are getting out of their fortified compounds, meeting elders and hearing their demands. But are they under orders not to make promises they cannot keep.

By spring, when Taliban fighters return from their suspected hideouts in nearby Pakistan, Afghan and U.S. troops hope to have won over the people enough for the insurgents not to find support.

"We understand it is the people who are the centre of gravity," said Woods.
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Pakistan's Musharraf says no US troops
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jan 25, 2:59 PM ET
DAVOS, Switzerland - Pakistan's president said Friday U.S. troops cannot do a better job than his forces in routing the Taliban and al-Qaida, and the United States should increase its presence in Afghanistan instead to deal with the growing insurgency there.

Pervez Musharraf reiterated that Pakistan opposes any foreign forces on its soil and said "the man in the street will not allow this — he will come out and agitate."

Musharraf was responding to a question about reports that the U.S. government was considering far more aggressive covert operations in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates' offer Thursday to send a small number of combat troops to Pakistan to help fight the insurgency there if Pakistani authorities ask for help.

"This cannot be done by any U.S. force," Musharraf told several hundred VIPs at a breakfast on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. "Please don't think that the U.S. forces have some kind of a magic wand and they'll come and lead to success."

"This environment is worse than what they're facing in Afghanistan. The mountains are higher, and there is no communications infrastructure," he said.

Musharraf said President Bush told him he respects Pakistan's sovereignty and "is not asking me, and he's the most important."

He stressed that there is "total" U.S.-Pakistani cooperation on military tactics and strategy on both sides of the border, and "good coordination" on intelligence.

"They wouldn't be able to achieve anything that we haven't been able to achieve, so let them handle Afghanistan," Musharraf said. "They need more force there, by the way. So therefore, please add force there before you think of sending them across into our borders," he said.

Musharraf is on a tour of Europe seeking to convince leaders there he is in control of the country and is committed to restoring full democracy eight years after he seized control in a military coup. He gave up his position as army commander in December as part of that transition.

He recalled that Pakistan trained and armed 20,000-30,000 mujahadeen fighters with U.S. support between 1979-89 and sent them to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet Union.

The result was the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany, he said.

"This is Pakistan's contribution to the free world," he said.

But Musharraf said "we bungled up the end game" because the military victory wasn't transformed into a political victory and "everybody left the scene, including the United States."

For 12 years, until after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S., "Pakistan was alone and Afghanistan was alone" and the militarized mujahadeen who were "armed to the teeth" were left to fend for themselves, he said.

"The mujahadeen coalesced into al-Qaida, and Osama bin Laden is a product of the mujahadeen," Musharraf said.

"The feeling in Pakistan is we were used and we were ditched," he said.

Musharraf gave up his position as army commander in December as part of the transition to democracy. He said the new army commander shares his views and "will remain loyal to me." While some may be surprised at his leaving Pakistan for eight days, alluding to the risk of a coup, he added, "I know nothing will happen."

Later Friday, Musharraf arrived in Britain, where he will meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other government officials Monday.

He denied charges upcoming parliamentary elections, set for Feb. 18, would be rigged. "The elections will be free, fair, transparent and peaceful. Whatever bugs there were in the system have been removed by me and my government."
__
Associated Press writer Tariq Panja in London contributed to this report.
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Extra thousand troops won't come from U.S.: Gates
Canwest News Service Saturday, January 26, 2008
The extra 1,000 NATO soldiers for Afghanistan called for in the Manley report won't come from the U.S., that country's defence secretary said Thursday.

There are currently 3,200 more U.S. Marines slated for deployment in Kandahar. But in a Pentagon press briefing Thursday, Defence Secretary Robert Gates reiterated that they will only be there for one non-renewable seven-month term.

"This is a one-time plus-up, this 3,200 Marines that we're sending over there," Gates said. "But I have started a dialogue with my NATO colleagues about falling in behind the Marines when the Marines come out.

My hope is that, using the vehicles of the meetings in Vilnius and the NATO summit in Bucharest, plus the fact that we're talking about some months from now, may elicit a more positive reaction and provide the kind of additional support . . . the Manley report has just called for."

The report, issued Tuesday by the panel chaired by former Liberal minister John Manley, called for Canada to extend its military mission in Taliban-ravaged Kandahar past its scheduled end date of February 2009, but only if its NATOallies coughed up another 1,000 soldiers to share the burden.

When asked by a reporter whether he thought the Manley target was achievable, Gates replied:"I certainly hope so."

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan Thursday, soldiers bid goodbye to Cpl. Etienne Gonthier, the Canadian combat engineer killed Wednesday in Kandahar when his armoured vehicle hit an improvised explosive device.

Gonthier, 21, was the 78th Canadian soldier and 79th Canadian to die in Afghanistan since 2001.
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Lawyers say applying Charter rights in Afghanistan would violate sovereignty
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA - Federal lawyers argued the Charter of Rights and Freedoms doesn't follow the flag and apply to Afghan war prisoners turned over to local authorities by Canadian troops.

Doing so, said federal attorney J. Sanderson Graham, could create a legal "patchwork" in which prisoners turned over to Afghan officials by the Canadian military enjoyed Charter rights while prisoners held by other countries' armed forces didn't.

And Brian Evernden, another government lawyer, said Canada would be violating Afghanistan's sovereignty by enforcing the Charter in the war-torn country.

At issue during Friday's marathon day in court was which laws - Canadian or international - govern the detention and transfer of prisoners to Afghan authorities.

Lawyers for a pair of human-rights groups are fighting for Charter rights to apply to interactions between Canadian troops and their prisoners, even in foreign countries.

But the attorneys for Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association can't just "pick and choose" when and where the Charter applies, Evernden said.

"My friend is not in a position where he can pick and choose the Charter rights at issue," he said. "That is, if good things happen, the Charter does not apply, and if bad things happen, the Charter does apply."

The government lawyers cited a Supreme Court ruling last year against a Canadian businessman who tried to invoke Charter rights while out of the country.

Last June, the court said the Charter couldn't be used to protect Ontario resident Richard Hape from RCMP searches carried out in the Turks and Caicos Islands as part of an international money-laundering investigation.

Amnesty lawyer Paul Champ argued the two cases are different because the Supreme Court case involved the national police force - who largely stay within Canada's borders - while this case involves the military, which has a mandate to operate abroad.

Champ said the National Defence Act allows the military to go "anywhere in, or beyond, Canada."

Attorneys for the human-rights groups are seeking a temporary halt to prisoner transfers.

Canada quietly stopped transferring prisoners to Afghan officials on Nov. 5 after witnessing credible evidence of torture during a visit to a Kandahar prison.

There, a bruised prisoner told the Canadians he'd been beaten unconscious, whipped with electric cables and belted with a rubber hose. He then told them where they could find the torture instruments, and led them to his prison cell.

Under a chair, they found the hose and cables.

Brig.-Gen. Andre Deschamps told the court Thursday that the decision to stop transfers was made by the acting commander on the ground in Afghanistan the day after the visit by Canadian officials.

But Evernden argued an injunction against transfers was "moot" since Canada no longer hands over prisoners to Afghan officials.

On Friday, spokeswoman for Harper withdrew an earlier claim that the military had not informed the government of the Nov. 5 change in procedure. And Liberal Leader Stephane Dion acknowledged he had been informed confidentially past year about the change.
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When Pakistan Sneezes, Afghanistan Catches a Cold
As the death of Benazir Bhutto demonstrates, Pakistan and Afghanistan are joined together by more than geography.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Wahidullah Amani in Kabul (ARR No. 280, 24-Jan-08)
Following last month’s assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, the situation in Afghanistan took a rapid downturn. Food prices escalated, security deteriorated, and fragile hopes of peace began to slip away.

Afghans who keep an anxious eye on the political horse-trading that goes on across the border had high expectations of Bhutto’s triumphant return to Pakistan in October, after her self-imposed eight-year exile.

At last, many said, political and military strongman Pervez Musharraf would be forced to share power, end martial law and institute some democratic reforms. Bhutto also made some strong statements about her commitment to stopping cross-border terrorism.

With her Pakistan People’s Party poised to win a significant victory in the parliamentary election scheduled for January 8, Bhutto was in line to regain her old job at the head of the government, despite legal impediments to her doing so.

Having served two terms as prime minister, she was constitutionally barred from doing so again. She was also facing prosecution in Pakistan on charges of corruption.

But under a deal with Musharraf, Bhutto returned with a clean slate, and the clear agenda of regaining her authority and influence.

Her December 27 assassination put paid to any such hopes. The parliamentary ballot has been postponed to February 18, and although Musharraf has shed his general’s epaulettes, he looks just as intent on retaining power as ever.

“Bhutto had stated that if she attained power, she would allow the American military to crack down on al-Qaeda and terrorism inside Pakistan,” said Professor Wadir Safi, a lecturer in international relations at Kabul University’s law faculty.

Afghanistan’s leaders have long claimed that Pakistan exports terrorism across its porous border. Pakistan’s unstable frontier areas lie in close proximity to Afghan territory, and there is mounting evidence that madrassas and militant training camps there preach jihad and prepare “holy warriors” for suicide missions on Afghan soil.

The presidents of the two nations have traded accusations over who is to blame for cross-border violence, but little has been done to address the problem.

Now, Safi predicts, “Bhutto’s death will prolong the war in Afghanistan.”

One immediate effect of Bhutto’s assassination was that the Afghan economy took a blow.

With the mounting violence in Pakistan, food and other imports from that country have all but ceased. Pakistan has raised taxes on wheat exports, in an attempt to keep more foodstuffs available at home.

Since Afghanistan imports approximately 80 per cent of its wheat flour from Pakistan, this has caused a dramatic rise in the price of bread. The cost of a 100-kilogram sack of flour has more than doubled in recent weeks, from 1,300 to 2,800 afghani (56 US dollars).

As in many underdeveloped countries, bread is a diet staple in Afghanistan, and the crisis has hit most households hard.

Bhutto’s promises to crack down on terrorism raised a wry smile from many Afghans, who remember the former prime minister as the willing midwife of the Taleban movement in the early to mid-Nineties.

“Bhutto played a key role in the establishment of the Taleban movement, which came into existence during her premiership,” said Safi.

Bhutto was prime minister from 1988 to 1990 and from 1993 until 1996, the year the Taleban captured Kabul. Her government was one of only three to recognise the Taleban regime.

Paradoxically, this record gave more credibility to her more recent pledges to confront the militants, in Safi’s view.

“Bhutto’s pledges to eliminate the Taleban were of great importance, because she helped bring them into existence, and she knew all about their plans and actions,” he said.

Fazel Rahman Oria, editor of Erada daily, concurred on this point, saying, “Mrs. Bhutto had the honour of being the mother of the Taleban, while Nasirullah Babar, who was Pakistani interior minister at the time, was the father,” he said.

According to local political observers, Bhutto made a firm commitment to President Hamed Karzai during their last meeting - just hours before her death - to cooperate with the Afghan government in the fight against terrorism.

“It was difficult to believe her, however,” said Oria. “When she was prime minister before, she did not seem all that concerned with the difficulties facing the Afghan government.”

Oria voiced doubt that Bhutto would have been in a position to deliver had she won the post of prime minister.

“In practical terms, she could not have fulfilled those pledges, because a prime minister does not have the authority to do so,” he said. “It would take the army and the intelligence services to be able to do anything.”

Habibullah Rafi, a senior advisor at Afghanistan’s Academy of Sciences, agreed that the crisis in Pakistan would have grave consequences on his side of the border.

“Afghanistan has always been under the influence of its neighbour, and any deterioration in our situation has always been linked to Pakistan. But now Pakistan itself is experiencing a worsening situation,” he said.

Rafi places little stock in promises made by any leader in Islamabad.

“Musharraf, too, has made pledges, but nothing has come of them,” he said. “Therefore, we could not believe Bhutto, either. Promises made by Pakistani leaders will not do us any good until they change their policy regarding Afghanistan.”

Wahidullah Amani is an IWPR trainer, reporter and editor in Kabul.
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Germany earmarks one million euros for Afghanistan winter aid
Berlin, Jan 25, IRNA
Germany's Foreign Ministry has allocated one million euros to German relief agencies for urgent and life-saving winter aid projects in Afghanistan which has been hit by one of the harshest winters over the past 10 years.

"The harsh winter has affected the weakest of the weak. Many families in remote areas could not prepare themselves sufficiently for the winter," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted saying in a press release.

"We are providing an urgent contribution to ensure the survival.

Children and older persons need now our help," he added.

As part of the German winter aid program, winter clothing, food items and blankets will also be delivered to Afghanistan.

Berlin is also financing six small medical clinics in remote mountain areas of Afghanistan.

Germany has already provided 68 million euros in humanitarian aid and mine-removal projects since 2001.
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Pakistani Official Dismisses Concerns Over Nuclear Security
By SALMAN MASOOD The New York Times January 26, 2008
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — A top Pakistani official dismissed on Saturday concerns over the safety and security of the country’s nuclear program but said there was increased security alertness around its nuclear weapons and facilities given the recent political turmoil and militant violence in the country.

The official — a senior military officer, who is responsible for the custodial command and control of Pakistan nuclear arsenal and spoke on the condition of anonymity — ruled out any possibility of Islamic extremists, sympathetic to Taliban and Al Qaeda, taking the control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

“The state of alertness has gone up. Most certainly,” the Pakistani official said in a rare background briefing to representatives of foreign media. However, he stressed that “there is no conceivable political situation in which the nuclear assets can fall into the wrong hands.”

Since 2000, Pakistan has established an all-encompassing command and control system and the government is confident that this system is well established, is effective and responsive, the official said in a comprehensive briefing.

“The security mechanism in place is functioning efficiently and we are capable of thwarting all types of threats whether these be inside, outside or a combination,” he said while explaining the structures of Pakistan’s nuclear capability and measures undertaken for the safety and security of nuclear assets.

The remarks come at a time when concerns over Pakistan’s nuclear program have mounted. Islamic militants have increased their attacks on Pakistani military and officials of its powerful intelligence, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, have been targeted. Last year saw an unprecedented increase in the number of suicide attacks, according to the country’s interior ministry.

Questions and skepticism over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear program have surfaced again and again ever since the proliferation activities of Abdul Qadeer Khan became public in 2004.

A. Q. Khan, a metallurgist credited with developing the country’s atomic bomb, who confessed to having run a global nuclear-proliferation network, has been under house arrest since 2004. He is revered in Pakistan as “father of the bomb” and was pardoned by President Pervez Musharraf after Dr. Khan made a public apology on state-run television.

In the briefing, the official dismissed the recent concerns over Pakistan’s nuclear assets voiced by the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, as “deliberate provocation”.

In an interview to the Arabic daily Al-Hayat earlier this month, Dr. ElBaradei expressed his fear that Pakistan’s nuclear assets could fall into extremist hands. “I fear that chaos ... or an extremist regime could take root in that country, which has 30 to 40 warheads,” Dr. ElBaradei was quoted as saying by Al-Hayat. Dr. ElBaradei said he was “worried that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of an extremist group in Pakistan or in Afghanistan.”

The Pakistani official said the militants, sympathetic to Taliban and Al Qaeda who are battling the Pakistan military in the restive semi-autonomous tribal areas straddling the border with Afghanistan, have not attacked any nuclear installations yet.

‘We are conscious of this threat,” the official said. “As military, we should be prepared for worst contingencies.” However, the official said such a terrorist attack by Islamic extremists on the nuclear installations was a practical impossibility, and if such an attack takes place at all “it will be pre-empted through intelligence or we will be able to minimize the damage.”

The official said there were only three imaginable scenarios through which extremists could gain control of the country’s nuclear weapons. “We keep thinking about it; how it is likely; in what form?” he said.

He said the first possibility was if the extremists gained control of the nuclear assets through democratic elections. “Not possible,” he said, citing past electoral trends. He said all major political parties in the country were “moderate and middle of the road.”

The second possibility, which he discounted vehemently, was of a violent revolution. “It is an exaggerated fear. None of the recent turmoil was directed against military or nuclear installation,” he said, referring to the riots that broke out after the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

The third possibility was of a military takeover. “Our army has a moderate outlook, with a middle class make up,” he said, ruling out any general having extremist, radical views taking over the military.

He said the danger of a dirty bomb falling into the hands of terrorists was present all over the world, not just in Pakistan.

The official said the Pakistani government had no apologies about the proliferation activities of Dr. Khan.

“We see it as a closed chapter,” the official said. “It is a dead horse, flogged and beaten up many times over.”

He said in the last two years the government of Pakistan has not been asked any questions by the United States administration over the Khan issue.

The official also denied that Pakistan’s military had any knowledge of the proliferation activities of Dr. Khan. “The man who was entrusted with the nuclear program of the country betrayed that trust,” he said, referring to Dr. Khan.

The official said that in the course of investigations, Dr. Khan did not name any former chief of the Pakistani army. “He has never accused any chief of army staff,” the official said. “If there was a military collusion, some name should have popped up. Why hasn’t a single name popped up?”

The official said Pakistan would never allow any other country to take out its nuclear weapons, referring to some statements appearing in the international press that American troops would move in to take out Pakistan’s nuclear weapons in case of extreme political turmoil or an Islamist takeover. “I wouldn’t advise anybody to even think about it,” the official said. “It will be a disaster, a disaster for the invader.”
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Pentagon plans a 5-year vision document for Afghanistan
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 23, 2008 - 18:37
NEW YORK, Jan 23 (PAN): The Department of Defense is preparing a strategic vision document to chalk out the course of action of the US-led international mission in Afghanistan in the next five years, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The vision document is being prepared by department, with inputs from the various wings of the government including the Department of State and the National Security Council, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates.

Defense Department spokesperson, Geoff Morrell said: This is a forward-looking document that tries to establish goals for the coming years in Afghanistan, he said. On the military side, on the humanitarian side, on the development side, on the governance side, we want to lay out benchmarks so that we all can collectively work towards achieving them over the next three to five years, he added.

Once ready, the vision document, would be shared with the US allies who are contributing troops in Afghanistan so that they can determine whether this is what they need, he said, adding: what we all need to convince our publics, to convince our population, that this is a vitally important mission for all of our safety and we've got to do what it takes to win there.

The document is expected to be ready before the upcoming NATO meeting in Bucharest. Morrell however said the mandate of this document does not include review of the command structure with regard to Afghanistan.

The hope is that by crafting a vision statement we can all stand behind, it will help European countries -- or other countries around the world, for that matter -- sell this effort in a more effective way to their publics. It'll impress upon them the importance that we all need to gather together and work this problem collectively, Morrell said.

More MRAP being sent to Afghanistan

The Defense Department spokesperson said the Pentagon has decided to send more Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) to Afghanistan. These vehicles are specially designed to survive IED attacks and ambushes. Last year Gates has made its acquisition as a top priority for the Department of Defense, as a result of which its production was ramped up by the manufacturers.

Right now the commanders are looking at determining, how many of those vehicles can be moved to Afghanistan. The type of MRAP being sent to Afghanistan is RG-31, which is lighter than other vehicles.

Commanders in Afghanistan believe it could be ideally suited for the terrain there they face there. And so now the discussion is, how many of those that we bought can be moved to Afghanistan to meet the commanders' needs there? But I don't believe we have settled on a precise figure yet to move, Morrell said.
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28 projects completed in Zabul
By Saeed Zabuli - Jan 23, 2008 - 16:00
KANDAHAR CITY, Jan 23 (PAN): 28 different developmental projects have been completed on Wednesday with the support of National Solidarity Programme (NSP) in the southern Zabul province, an official said

Abdurrazaq Sodman, director of Rural and Rehabilitation Department in Zabul told Pajhwok Afghan News three projects in Qalat city and other 25 in Safa district were completed in six months.

The newly completed projects include cleansing of canals, roads construction, portable water supply, irrigation and power supply schemes, he added

Director informed the projects will benefit over 14000 residents and were completed at a cost of more than 13 million afghani while ten percent of it was shared by local people.

Shafiq Ahmad, resident of Safa district said they had planned for cleaning the canals, but the NSP cleansed it.

"Before this we could not easily irrigate our orchards, now it is no more a problem for us," Shafiq said
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US to enhance financial assistance to Afghanistan
By Mustafa Besharat - Jan 23, 2008 - 18:32
KABUL (PAN): United States will provide further financial assistance to help empower Afghan police, rehabilitate rural areas, establish energy and reconstruct roads in the central Asian country this year, a top US-diplomat informed on Wednesday.

Addressing a news conference here US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said United States planned to strengthen last year's achievement and flow additional financial assistance into Afghanistan for sustainability and further development in war-torn Afghanistan.

According to the Finance Ministry officials The United States provided over one billion US dollar for reconstruction of different infrastructures to Afghanistan on annual basis.

The top US envoy lauded Afghanistan's achievement in reconstruction of roads, rural rehabilitation and energy during 2007.

A total of almost 1000 kilometers road had been paved in the country in 2007, Public Work Affairs Ministry officials told PAN.

Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) have informed they had kicked off 8900 reconstruction projects and 453 kilometer road across the country by $320 million US budget this year.

The top US diplomat also pointed out that despite development in a number of areas, the Afghanistan government was also faced with insecurity and increasing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan in 2007.

Long time was needed for Afghanistan government to resolve security challenges, eliminate anti-government elements and curb poppy cultivation in its distant areas, he added, identifying the problems of Afghanistan and to solve them we offer further support to police and would undertake programs to strengthen governance and role of law in remote areas.

He hoped 2008 would be a successful year for Afghanistan and the country would gain great achievements in reconstruction and security sectors.

The top US diplomat arrived in Kabul three days ago.
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Minor girl recovered, kidnapper arrested
By Abdul Matin Sarfaraz - Jan 23, 2008 - 16:03
TALOQAN, Jan 23 (PAN): A man was arrested in the kidnapping case of a 7-year-old girl while the girl was handed over to his family in Taloqan the capital city of the northern Takhar province on Wednesday.

An intelligence source told Pajhwok Afghan News Janat Tora a 7-year-oled girl was kidnapped from Baghlan province to the Ishkamish district of the neighboring Takhar province a week back.

The source added policemen recovered the child from the house of Daulat Khan in the district and Daulat Khan was arrested. 

According to the source, the accused has confessed taking the child from Baghlan to Takhar province. Janat Tora scarily said: "I was on the way to my home while a man asked me for helping and took me with him to an unknown area."

Giving no more details about her kidnapping the girl said Daulat Khan was threatening her after arriving to his home.
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