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January 28, 2008 

As Karzai Loses His Grip, A Familiar Face Looms
By John Barry and Michael Hirsh | NEWSWEEK Feb 4, 2008 Issue
It wasn't long ago that Afghan president Hamid Karzai was seen as a dependable U.S. ally on par with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. But as Afghanistan has fallen into violent chaos—along with Pakistan

NATO force chief vows more pressure on Taliban in 2008
by Beatrice Khadige Mon Jan 28, 4:50 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - NATO troops will more aggressively pursue Taliban militants in 2008 with Afghan forces playing a larger role in fighting the insurgents, the head of the force in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill said.

Region faces 'doom and gloom' if Taliban prevail: Karzai
Sun Jan 27, 2:24 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said his country along with Pakistan faces "gloom and doom" from Taliban insurgents, and called for the world to "join hands" to defeat the Islamist rebels.

Sharp drop in Afghan private investment
By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer Mon Jan 28, 4:54 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Private investment in Afghanistan dropped last year to $500 million — about half the amount invested in 2006 — due to the worsening security situation in the country, a business group said Monday.

Future looking bleak for Afghan fortune tellers
By Tahir Qadiry Sun Jan 27, 7:05 PM ET
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Perhaps they should have seen it coming, but Afghanistan's traditional fortune tellers are under fire from religious elders who have branded their ancient practice as backward and un-Islamic.
 
'Doom and Gloom'
Afghan president Hamid Karzai fears the consequences of Pakistan not cracking down on extremism.
By Lally Weymouth NEWSWEEK 2:48 PM ET Jan 26, 2008
Last year was one of Afghanistan's bloodiest since the end of Taliban rule in 2001. The embattled Afghan president, speaking with NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth on the sidelines of the economic conference in Davos

Pakistan troops regain key tunnel in northwest
By Mohammad Hashim Sun Jan 27, 12:18 PM ET
KOHAT, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani forces recaptured a road tunnel leading to the volatile tribal belt on the Afghan border on Sunday after killing around two dozen pro-Taliban militants in a fierce battle, the military said.

No one claims responsibility for kidnapping of American aid worker in Afghanistan
By NOOR KHAN,Associated Press Writer AP
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an American aid worker in southern Afghanistan, but intelligence agents are working to find her captors, police said Monday.

U.S. woman abducted in Afghanistan. A Taliban snatch?
By Jon Boone The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News - Jan 28 12:00 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan - The abduction on Saturday of a female US aid worker in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous cities may signal increased risk for foreign aid workers.

Brother of Afghan kidnapped with American aid workers pleads for help
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The brother of an Afghan man kidnapped alongside an American aid worker is pleading for coalition forces to step in and help find the pair.

8 Taliban killed in clash with police in southern Afghanistan
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A clash between police and the Taliban in a mountainous area of southern Afghanistan left eight militants dead and three officers wounded, a police chief said Monday.

2 policemen killed, 3 wounded
by Taliban ambush in S Afghanistan
KABUL, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Taliban insurgents on Sunday ambushed police vehicles in Gereshk district of Helmand, the southern Afghan province, killing at least two policemen and injuring three others, according to a local official.

Kabul gets 3 hours of electricity a day
Conditions persist despite millions in US, global aid
By Jason Straziuso Associated Press / January 27, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Gul Hussein was standing under a pale street lamp in a poor section of east Kabul when the entire neighborhood suddenly went black.

An Afghan Province Points the Way
The Washington Post By David Ignatius Sunday, January 27, 2008; 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.

Pakistanis seek refuge from violence in Afghanistan
28 Jan 2008 14:15:44 GMT  By Jon Hemming
JAJI, Afghanistan, Jan 28 (Reuters) - On an icy clearing surrounded by forested peaks, Afghan officials struggled to keep order as they handed out food and blankets to dozens of tribesmen who fled Pakistan to escape sectarian violence.

Afghan detainees, economy to dominate House
Mon. Jan. 28 2008 9:00 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
The economy and Afghan detainees are shaping up to be two major issues when Parliament resumes question period this afternoon.

The War Against Jihadism
Why can't we call the enemy by its name? We're going to have to in order to win.
By George Weigel NEWSWEEK 3:49 PM ET Jan 26, 2008
What kind of campaign is this? Six-plus years after 9/11; while the Taliban attempts an Afghanistan comeback; as Islamist terrorists cause mayhem in Algeria and occupy huge swaths of tribal Pakistan; despite "United 93" and "The Kite Runner,"

US tinkering in Afghanistan
By Lawrence Korb and Caroline Wadhams January 27, 2008 Boston Globe, United States
AFTER FAILING to persuade NATO to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has reluctantly approved a temporary increase of 3,200 American troops. While adding these troops is a step in the right direction, it is not enough.

Repatriation of Afghan refugees: Govt to go all out efforts to provide safe instrument - CM
Source: Frontier Post: 27 Jan 2008
PESHAWAR: The NWFP Caretaker Chief Minister Shams ul Mulk has said that the government would go all out to provide a safe instrument to make the repatriation of Afghan Refugees to their country sustainable.

Abdullah asks for decentralization of power
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 25, 2008
NEW YORK (Pajhwok Afghan News): Strongly advocating decentralization of power former Foreign Minister, Abdullah Abdullah Thursday, called for a national debate on it.

$0.5 million cash, edible distributed in Musa Qala
By Akram Noorzai - Jan 25, 2008 - 21:01
LASHKARGAH, (PAN): National Solidarity Programme (NSP) has initiated construction projects and on Friday $500,000 and essential foods were distributed among needy families in Musa Qala district in the Helmand province, an official said

As Karzai Loses His Grip, A Familiar Face Looms
By John Barry and Michael Hirsh | NEWSWEEK Feb 4, 2008 Issue
It wasn't long ago that Afghan president Hamid Karzai was seen as a dependable U.S. ally on par with Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf. But as Afghanistan has fallen into violent chaos—along with Pakistan—tensions have erupted between Karzai and the United States and Britain. One of the most worried U.S. officials is Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born ambassador to the United Nations, who is seriously considering running for Karzai's seat himself when the next elections are held in 2009, according to several U.N. and U.S. government officials. Last Friday, Karzai blocked the appointment of British politician Paddy Ashdown, the former U.N. High Representative for Bosnia, as envoy to Afghanistan. During a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Karzai said that he and many Afghan parliamentarians did not want Ashdown in the post, according to a Western official briefed on the discussions who would only speak about them anonymously. Ashdown's formal role would have been to coordinate international relief programs. But American and British officials were hoping that Ashdown might also act as a kind of viceroy, bringing order to an Afghan government that finds itself besieged by a resurgent Taliban. Karzai's opposition grew as Ashdown sought to establish what his powers as "superenvoy" might be, one official said. "Karzai has been under a lot of pressure and criticism, and he might feel that he was being marginalized," says Jim Dobbins, the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

U.S. and British officials have grown increasingly disenchanted with Karzai, who is now viewed as isolated in Kabul and surrounded by corrupt or incompetent ministers. Things are not much better next door in Pakistan, where militant Islamist groups have grown bolder and the embattled Musharraf is under pressure to step down. Like Karzai, Musharraf has begun lashing out publicly against what he sees as Western interference.

Khalilzad had a successful stint as U.S. ambassador to Kabul after the Taliban fell, helping to form the Karzai government and working with then Maj. Gen. David Barno, commander of U.S. forces, to pacify the country. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq and was one of the principal drafters of a 1992 "grand strategy" for U.S. global dominance that became known as the "Pentagon paper." Even so, in a 2005 interview with NEWSWEEK, Khalilzad said that one thing he had learned during his term in Afghanistan was that its people "don't want to be ruled by a foreigner."

Khalilzad has not directly denied that he is considering a run. His spokeswoman, Carolyn Vadino, told NEWSWEEK that "he intends to serve out his post as long as [President Bush] wants him in office. And then after that, he hopes to find a job here in the private sector in the U.S." But a senior Bush administration official who knows Khalilzad (and who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss Khalilzad's plans) said the U.N. ambassador was actively exploring a run. Kenneth Katzman, Afghanistan expert at Washington's Congressional Research Service, said that "most observers think he would stand only if Karzai decides not to run." During an interview this week with NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth (page 47), though, Karzai seemed to leave the door open for a re-election bid.
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NATO force chief vows more pressure on Taliban in 2008
by Beatrice Khadige Mon Jan 28, 4:50 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - NATO troops will more aggressively pursue Taliban militants in 2008 with Afghan forces playing a larger role in fighting the insurgents, the head of the force in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill said.

In a weekend interview with AFP, the US general also said he was pleased with Washington's "generous" dispatch in April of 3,200 Marines to reinforce the nearly 40,000 NATO and 20,000 US-led coalition force soldiers already here.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander emphasised the need for more international troops to be sent to Afghanistan, recalling that "NATO has not filled its number of forces required here."

The multinational force was estimated a few months ago to be short of 7,500 soldiers.

The deficit is being discussed and would also feature at a NATO summit in Bucharest in April, McNeill said.

The shortfall could be met if "you look at all members to do a little more", he added, noting that some nations had already stepped up such as France which will this year send military trainers to the southern province of Uruzgan.

In 2008, there was not likely to be any change in military strategy but there would be more pressure on Taliban insurgents, said McNeill, whose roughly 18-month term is due to expire in the coming months.

"We are going to be aggressively pursuing the insurgents and continue to push our reconstruction projects," he said. ISAF is also tasked with helping to rebuild Afghanistan, which has been ruined by nearly three decades of war.

"More important, what you will see different this year is the increased Afghan National Security Force capacity.

"So we expect to be not out front as we were last year, we expect the Afghans to be out front and we are going to support their operations," he said.

Another of ISAF's missions is to help rebuild the Afghan army, which was destroyed in the civil war of the early 1990s. It is projected to grow to number 70,000 soldiers by the end of this year.

Citing Afghan authorities, the general said the Afghan army was not expected to be capable of independent operations until late 2011 or 2012.

McNeill acknowledged that unrest had grown in 2007. Last year was the deadliest in an insurgency that was launched soon after the Taliban were driven from government in late 2001 for harbouring Al-Qaeda.

The increase in fighting was a reaction to having more troops on the ground and that soldiers moved out of their bases more to "pursue the enemy," he said.

"It was a superb year. The insurgents won nothing on the battlefield."

ISAF records showed that 70 percent of Taliban attacks, such as suicide and roadside bombings, took place in only 10 percent of the country, said the general, who first served in Afghanistan in 2002.

The general said military force "is not the only way" to end the insurgency and advances in development, education and health were key to winning public support for the government and away from the rebels.

But this veteran of conflict, including in Vietnam and the Gulf, was cautious about reconciliation with the insurgents, a tactic that is being pushed by President Hamid Karzai.

"You have to be sure that you know with who you are having dialogue," said McNeill, adding that Afghanistan's complex insurgency is being fought by various groups with different interests.

US President George W. Bush has nominated US Army General David McKiernan to replace McNeill when his term expires.
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Region faces 'doom and gloom' if Taliban prevail: Karzai
Sun Jan 27, 2:24 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said his country along with Pakistan faces "gloom and doom" from Taliban insurgents, and called for the world to "join hands" to defeat the Islamist rebels.

In an interview published Sunday by the Washington Post, Karzai also said that the United States had been supportive of Kabul's positive relationship with Iran, despite the enmity between Washington and Tehran.

Asked about the strength of the Taliban in their attacks inside Afghanistan, Karzai suggested that the group has external backers.

"They would not be strong without support," he said.

Karzai, who had just returned from Pakistan, declined to specify who is backing the Taliban, which US intelligence has said receives support from tribal areas on Pakistan's western border.

But Karzai said 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."

He said that he found Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf "more cognizant of the problems of extremism and terrorism."

"And that's a good sign, and I hope we will continue in that direction."

"We have to end extremism. We have to end support to extremism in the region," he added.

"Unless we do that, the picture is one of doom and gloom -- for Pakistan, and as a consequence for Afghanistan."

Karzai applauded the US support for his government in Afghanistan-- including the planned deployment of 3,2000 US Marines -- and the battle against terrorism as "fundamental and strong."

But he added: "It will make a difference when the Americans are clear and straightforward about this fight," saying the US should "mean what they say .. (and) do what they say."

He said that Washington had encouraged Kabul in its close relationship with Iran, despite US-Iran tensions.

"We have had a particularly good relationship with Iran the past six years. It's a relationship that I hope will continue," Karzai said.

"The United States very wisely understood that it was our neighbor and encouraged that relationship," he said.

"We don't like a nuclear region, of course. Nobody wants nuclear weapons ... But the United States has been very understanding and supportive that Afghanistan should have a relationship with Iran."
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Sharp drop in Afghan private investment
By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer Mon Jan 28, 4:54 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Private investment in Afghanistan dropped last year to $500 million — about half the amount invested in 2006 — due to the worsening security situation in the country, a business group said Monday.

The Afghanistan Investment Support Agency said investment last year compared unfavorably to the $1 billion invested in 2006 and the $570 million invested in 2005.

Security concerns, the targeting of businessmen by criminal gangs and "burdensome bureaucracy" were among the key factors that caused the sharp drop, AISA said.

"The targeting of businesses and businesspeople by criminal gangs for ransom has had the most profound impact on the morale of private entrepreneurs and, therefore, on private business and investment," the statement said.

Despite the sharp drop last year, AISA believes investments will rise in 2008 to more than $1 billion, in anticipation of a planned investment by a Chinese company, China Metallurgical Group, in a copper mine south of Kabul.

Last year was Afghanistan's most violent since the ouster of the Taliban in the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. More than 6,500 people — mostly militants — died as a result, according to an Associated Press count of figures provided by local and international officials.

Over the weekend, a clash between police and the Taliban in the Dihrawud district of southern Uruzgan province left eight militants dead and three officers wounded, the provincial police chief said Monday.

The authorities recovered the bodies of the dead militants alongside their weapons after a battle that began Saturday and carried over into Sunday, Juma Gul Himat said.

The country has also been affected by record-breaking opium production, which has had a corrupting influence on local officials and provides funds for the Taliban insurgency.

Kidnappings for ransom — mostly of Afghans — are on the rise in the country. An American aid worker was kidnapped in the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday; no group has claimed responsibility.

The Afghanistan Investment Support Agency was established by the Afghan government in 2003 as an independent outlet for local and international investors. Since its creation, AISA has registered and supported over 11,300 private companies, including more than 1,200 foreign investments.
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Future looking bleak for Afghan fortune tellers
By Tahir Qadiry Sun Jan 27, 7:05 PM ET
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Perhaps they should have seen it coming, but Afghanistan's traditional fortune tellers are under fire from religious elders who have branded their ancient practice as backward and un-Islamic.
 
Dozens of fortune tellers were recently ejected from the surrounds of the beautiful Hazrat Ali shrine in the northern city of Mazar-I-Sharif after religious elders responsible for the mosque's upkeep tired of their presence.

"Islam does not permit the practice of fleecing simple people," said Qari Mohammad Qasim, the head of the shrine, adding that action was taken after numerous public complaints.

Part soothsayer, part mathematician and part letter writer, Afghanistan's "fallben" are an irregular fixture outside mosques and shrines across the country.

Their fortunes have fluctuated for nearly 1,400 years -- since Islam was first revealed to Prophet Mohammed -- but the practice dates back to when Alexander the Great conquered the country with his army and its multitude of accompanying gods, most of whom required constant consulting, a role for the soothsayers.

Banned and persecuted under the rule of the Taliban, fortune tellers have made a comeback since the hardline Islamic group was ousted in 2001.

For many like Shah Agha, their talent has been a family business for generations. Others, like Sayed Rabbani, learnt their skills in India where astrologers and fortune tellers are respected members of the community and can command huge fees.

But Muslim scholars consider fortune telling to be blasphemy.

"Fortune telling is not permitted in Islamic law. It has been mentioned clearly (in the Koran) that this is against Islamic values," said Mohammd Ihsan Seaqal, Imam of a Kabul mosque.

"Fortune tellers are misusing the sacred religion for their personal advantage," he said.

SOOTHSAYERS
Yet still the customers come.

"My daughter is 30 and she is getting old. No-one has proposed to her," said 51-year-old Zobaida outside a mosque in Mazar-al-Sharif.

"I came here to tell her fortune and find a husband for her. Earlier, I had the same problem with my 23-year old daughter. I referred it to a fortune teller and he attracted a man to my daughter to marry her."

Rabbani, who has been a palm reader for 15 years, gets to work.

With a magnifying glass, he studies the lines on Zobaida's hand and then matches them with an old, tattered and densely printed book of diagrams of palms.

Each match corresponds to a mathematical formula which is calculated to provide an answer that points to a specific "sura," "separah" and "ayat" of the Koran -- a bit like the Bible's books, chapters and verses.

"You see we only provide answers that are given in the Koran," says Shah Agha, a 31-year-old third generation fortune teller who plies his trade outside a shrine in Kabul.

Agha favors using dice rather than reading palms. His client shakes and throws two wooden dice inscribed with letters from the Dari alphabet which are then matched to ancient mathematical tables which also point to specific Koranic verses.

Once the appropriate verse has been revealed, the fortune teller copies it in flowery script to a piece of paper using a fountain pen filled with ink specific to the problem -- red for family, black for wealth, blue for education, green for health.

The verse is repeatedly folded over until it is a tight bundle, then wrapped in cotton thread before being given to the supplicant to keep next to their skin.

"Repeat these verses for a week when you say your prayers," Agha tells his client, an elderly woman who lifts her burqa from her face and listens intently as he talks.

"If you truly believe in your heart, then, God willing, it will come to pass," he concludes.

Fortune tellers say most of their clients are women or the elderly seeking guidance for problems affecting their families. Younger people tend to come only when all else has failed.

Sakina, aged 30, is a typical case. Weeping softly, she tells the fortune teller that she has marital problems.

"I have 4 children but my husband has left me and is going to marry another woman. Please do something to stop him."

While Islam allows a man to take up to four wives if he is able to care equally for them, in practice men frequently re-marry without their first wife's permission, diluting her influence and jeopardizing her children's inheritance.

Nargis is a newlywed who has come to a fortune teller.

"It is two years I have been married to a boy, but still we do not have a child," said the fashionably dressed woman. "A friend told me to come here and seek a solution."

For those who consult the soothsayers, their problems are universal.

"My mother-in-law is not good with me," said Shokriya, aged 23.

"I love a boy, but his family does not agree with our marriage," says another young woman, giggling with her sisters as the fortune teller consults his tables.

The cost of a consultation depends on the largesse of the customer.

"If they can afford nothing, they give us nothing," said one palm reader. "A richer person might give a dollar and then maybe more if their fortune comes to pass."

While many scholars are seeking a formal government ban on fortune telling, others are more tolerant of some of their skills.

"Forecasting and foretelling is against Islam," said Maulawi Qari Mohammad Qasim, the prayer leader of Hazrat Ali shrine from where the soothsayers were recently evicted.

"But if they recite the Koranic words (out loud) for the good of people without doing business, it is alright in Islam," he said.

(Additional reporting and writing by David Fox in Kabul; editing by Megan Goldin)
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'Doom and Gloom'
Afghan president Hamid Karzai fears the consequences of Pakistan not cracking down on extremism.
By Lally Weymouth NEWSWEEK 2:48 PM ET Jan 26, 2008
Last year was one of Afghanistan's bloodiest since the end of Taliban rule in 2001. The embattled Afghan president, speaking with NEWSWEEK's Lally Weymouth on the sidelines of the economic conference in Davos, complained of Pakistani "complicity" with the resurgent rebels but said he saw a new seriousness about fighting Islamist terrorists from Pakistan's isolated ruler, Pervez Musharraf. Karzai also called the Bush administration surprisingly understanding about his government's warm ties with Iran—and hinted that he might run for another term in 2009. Excerpts:

Weymouth: How are the Taliban affecting you in Afghanistan?
Karzai: 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 the 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].

The last time I interviewed 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. And 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 areas?
We have to end extremism. We have to end support to 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 Benazir Bhutto in December [the Pakistani opposition leader was assassinated 15 days later], 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 was 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, 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"?
[When] they mean what they say. [When] they do what they say.

Do you think the U.S. is sending the right type of troops? Should they be Special Operations troops?
That's a professional issue. It has to be addressed by the military.

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 was our neighbor and encouraged that relationship.

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 an Iranian 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. What was that line from 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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Pakistan troops regain key tunnel in northwest
By Mohammad Hashim Sun Jan 27, 12:18 PM ET
KOHAT, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani forces recaptured a road tunnel leading to the volatile tribal belt on the Afghan border on Sunday after killing around two dozen pro-Taliban militants in a fierce battle, the military said.

Militants captured the Japanese-built tunnel on the main road link between Peshawar, capital of the North West Frontier Province, and the tribal belt during fighting near Darra Adam Kheil tribal region on Saturday.

The clashes erupted on Friday after militants seized four trucks carrying ammunition and other supplies for the troops.

"After fierce fighting, the security forces have cleared the area of miscreants and are in control of Kohat tunnel and surrounding areas," a military statement said, referring to the garrison town situated on the southern end of the tunnel.

"Reportedly 24 miscreants have been killed, many have fled leaving behind huge quantity of arms and ammunition." Around 45 militants and two soldiers were killed in earlier clashes.

The statement did not say whether there were any losses on the troops' side.

Violence has spread across Pakistan, mainly in Frontier Province, after an army assault on a militant mosque in the capital Islamabad in July last year. Hundreds of people, including soldiers, have been killed in suicide and bomb attacks since then.

NEW CHALLENGE FOR MUSHARRAF
But analysts said fighting in Darra Adam Kheil on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Peshawar, posed a new challenge for President Pervez Musharraf, a ally in the U.S.-led campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Troops are already battling militants loyal to a Taliban commander, Baitallah Mehsud, in South Waziristan tribal region, a sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

The government says Mehsud is linked to the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in a gun and bomb attack last month.

"Militants' action in Darra Adam Kheil shows that they want to open new fronts to put pressure on the army and to ease pressure on Baitullah Mehsud," said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a newspaper editor and expert on tribal areas.

Mehsud, who has also been blamed for a string of suicide bomb attacks, ordered his fellow Taliban commanders on Friday to step up attacks on Pakistani security forces, according to a spokesman for the militant commander.

Known as haven for smugglers, the small dusty town of Darra Adam Kheil until recently had been relatively free of the militant violence.

But the militants intensified their activities in the town in recent months with attacks on music shops, and an intelligence agent was killed there last year.

In South Waziristan, the military said a heavy exchange of fire took place between the forces and the military in some areas while troops had launched a mop-up operation in several other areas from where militants had been driven out.

Around 150 militants and more than 20 government soldiers have been killed in South Waziristan in week-long clashes with Mehsud fighters.

(Additional reporting and writing by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Myra MacDonald)
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No one claims responsibility for kidnapping of American aid worker in Afghanistan
By NOOR KHAN,Associated Press Writer AP
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an American aid worker in southern Afghanistan, but intelligence agents are working to find her captors, police said Monday.

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid again said he could neither confirm nor deny that Taliban militants had taken the American woman and her driver.

Gunmen seized Cyd Mizell and Abdul Hadi on Saturday in a residential neighborhood of the southern city of Kandahar.

On Monday, the police chief of Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said police had not turned up any new information about the kidnapping.

"All of our security forces and intelligence agents are trying to find them," he said.

Mizell, who when she was taken was wearing the all-encompassing burqa that many Afghan women wear, works on aid projects for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation. The director of her organization, Jeff Palmer, said the kidnappers still hadn't contacted any officials.

"That's part of the frustration that we're dealing with right now," Palmer said Monday. "We are hoping they will contact us. We want to hear about the safety of Cyd and the driver."

"Nobody really knows" who the kidnappers are, Palmer said, adding that the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation had taken precautionary measures for other staff members in Kandahar. He declined to give further details.

Mizell, who taught English at Kandahar University and gave embroidery lessons at a girl's school, speaks the local Pashtu language well, colleagues said. She has worked for ARLDF in Kandahar for the last three years, Palmer said.

Several foreigners _ including 23 South Koreans, two German construction workers and two Italian journalists _ have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last year, but kidnappings of Americans are rare. An American civilian was briefly abducted in Kabul in April 2005 but escaped by throwing himself from a moving car.

Kidnappings of Afghans have been on the rise in the last year, including the abduction of dozens of Afghans. Rumors persist of foreign governments paying large ransoms to win the freedom of their citizens. Two of the 23 South Koreans kidnapped in July were killed; the rest were freed.

Traveling around Kandahar has become 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 extreme caution. The area is rife with Taliban militants and criminals linked to the country's booming opium poppy trade.
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U.S. woman abducted in Afghanistan. A Taliban snatch?
By Jon Boone The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News - Jan 28 12:00 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan - The abduction on Saturday of a female US aid worker in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous cities may signal increased risk for foreign aid workers.

Kidnappings of Americans have been rare, and some Kandahar residents say the abduction of Cyd Mizell and her Afghan driver at gunpoint is a worrying development.

Sarah Chayes, a former journalist who now runs an Afghan cooperative that exports soap, says the incident "sends a signal. It's like a new chapter in a book."

"They haven't taken an American or a Canadian on the streets like this before. I don't think this was just bandits because the operation looks like it was too sophisticated for that."

Ms. Chayes suggests that the abduction could have been payback for US policy on President Pervez Musharraf.

Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban movement, has been rocked by the neo-Taliban insurgency that has gained strength in the past three years. The deterioration of law and order has also made the city considerably more dangerous for foreign visitors and Afghans alike.

The most recent abduction case involved four members of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the eastern province of Wardak in September. The two Afghans, a Macedonian, and a Burmese citizen were freed three days later. Perhaps the most notorious case of 2007 was the abduction of 23 Christian aid workers from South Korea who attempted to travel from Kabul to Kandahar by bus. Two hostages were shot to death before the rest were released. An American civilian was briefly abducted in Kabul in April 2005 but escaped by throwing himself from a moving car.

Analysts fear that terrorists and criminal gangs have been encouraged by the policy of some foreign governments to pay ransoms.

The few foreigners who still live in the city of Kandahar often use heavy security, including armed guards and armor-plated vehicles, whenever they ventured out of their offices. Afghan officials say that Mizell had been wearing a burqa, an all-encompassing body veil favoured by most Afghan women when they have to go out of their homes.

Ms. Mizell worked for Asian Life Development Foundation, a little-known nongovernmental organization . The group said she had been working in Kandahar for nearly three years with women and on income generation projects.

A speaker of Pashtu, the main language of Afghanistan's south, she taught English at Kandahar University and gave embroidery lessons at a girls' school.

In response to the abduction, local police increased their presence on the streets of Kandahar over the weekend and the Ministry of the Interior said it was doing all it could to find Ms. Mizell. Local police said that they had not been contacted by anyone claiming responsibility for the kidnapping.

The Taliban have employed kidnapping as a tactic in their battle to erode popular support for the government of President Hamid Karzai several times before.

Zabihullah Mujahed, the Taliban's main spokesman, said they did not know if anyone affiliated with the extremist Sunni group had been responsible for the abduction.
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Brother of Afghan kidnapped with American aid workers pleads for help
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The brother of an Afghan man kidnapped alongside an American aid worker is pleading for coalition forces to step in and help find the pair.

Abdul Hadi was driving 49-year-old Cyd Mizell to work on Saturday when they were abducted at gunpoint. Afghan police are searching for them, but Abdul Mehdi says he's worried the focus is only on the American woman because of international attention.

He says no one from the police have spoken to his family since the kidnapping and nothing has been heard from the captors.

Mizell worked for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation on education and income projects for women.

A spokesman for international troops in Kandahar says
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8 Taliban killed in clash with police in southern Afghanistan
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A clash between police and the Taliban in a mountainous area of southern Afghanistan left eight militants dead and three officers wounded, a police chief said Monday.

The battle in Dihrawud district of Uruzgan province started Saturday and carried over into Sunday, said Juma Gul Himat, a provincial police chief. The authorities recovered the bodies of the dead militants alongside their weapons, Himat said.

An Associated Press count based on official figures found more than 6,500 people - mostly militants - died in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan during 2007, the deadliest year since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime.
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2 policemen killed, 3 wounded
by Taliban ambush in S Afghanistan
KABUL, Jan. 27 (Xinhua) -- Taliban insurgents on Sunday ambushed police vehicles in Gereshk district of Helmand, the southern Afghan province, killing at least two policemen and injuring three others, according to a local official.

Rehman Jan, the district police chief, told Xinhua that it occurred at around 11:00 a.m. local time when a group of Taliban militants ambushed the police vehicles patrolling in Gereshk district.

"Taliban insurgents escaped without any casualties after short clash," he said.

Meanwhile, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, the purported Taliban spokesman, claimed the responsibility for the attack.

Over 6,000 people lost their lives in conflicts and Taliban-related violence last year in the country.
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Kabul gets 3 hours of electricity a day
Conditions persist despite millions in US, global aid
By Jason Straziuso Associated Press / January 27, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Gul Hussein was standing under a pale street lamp in a poor section of east Kabul when the entire neighborhood suddenly went black.

"As you can see, it is dark everywhere," the 62-year-old man said, adding that his family would light a costly kerosene lamp for dinner that evening. "Some of our neighbors are using candles, but candles are expensive, too."

More than five years after the fall of the Taliban - and despite hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid - dinner by candlelight remains common in the Afghan capital of Kabul. Nationwide, only 6 percent of Afghans have electricity, the Asian Development Bank says.

The electricity shortage underscores the slow progress in rebuilding the war-torn country. It also feeds other problems. Old factories sit idle and new ones are not built. Produce withers without refrigeration. Dark, cold homes foster resentment against the government.

In Kabul, power dwindles after the region's hydroelectric dams dry up by midsummer. This past fall, residents averaged three hours of municipal electricity a day, typically from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., according to USAID, the American government aid agency. Some neighborhoods got none.

"That's a scary sounding figure because it's pretty tiny," said Robin Phillips, the USAID director in Afghanistan. "So we're talking about the relatively poorer people in Kabul who have no access to electricity at this time of year."

Electricity was meager under the Taliban, too, when Kabul residents had perhaps two hours of it a day in fall and winter. The supply has since increased, but not as fast as Kabul's population - from fewer than 1 million people in the late 1990s to more than 4 million today.

Meanwhile, souring US relations with Uzbekistan have delayed plans to import electricity from that country. Power is not expected to arrive in a significant way until late 2008 or mid-2009.

"Life takes power," said Jan Agha, a 60-year-old handyman from west Kabul who recalled how the city had plentiful power during the 1980s Soviet occupation. "If you have electricity life is good, but if there's no electricity you go around like a blind man."

Some in Kabul do have electricity: the rich, powerful, and well connected.

Municipal workers - under direction from the Ministry of Water and Energy - funnel what power there is to politicians, warlords, and foreign embassies. Special lines run from substations to their homes, circumventing the power grid. International businesses pay local switch operators bribes of $200 to $1,000 a month for near-constant power, an electrical worker said anonymously for fear of losing his job.

If high-ranking government officials visit the substations, workers race to cut off the illegal connections. Large diesel generators, which businesses and wealthy homeowners own as a backup, rumble to life.

Ismail Khan, the country's water and energy minister, dismisses allegations of corruption as a "small problem."

"The important thing to talk about is that in six months, all of these power problems will be solved and everyone will have electricity 24 hours a day," he said, an optimistic prediction that relies on heavy rains next spring and quick work on the Uzbekistan line.

Colorful maps on the walls of Khan's office show existing and future power lines. There is a wall-mounted air conditioner, a luxury in Afghanistan.

India, the Asian Development Bank, and the World Bank have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new power lines, including transmission towers installed this summer at 15,000 feet over the Hindu Kush mountains, to import electricity from Uzbekistan.

Though the line from Kabul to the Uzbek border is in place, a 25-mile section in Uzbekistan has not yet been built. And the US has little leverage to speed it up, said Rakesh Sood, the Indian ambassador in Kabul.

Initially, Uzbekistan supported the US-led war in Afghanistan, opening an air base to US planes. But the Uzbek government no longer views America as a friend, ever since US leaders loudly criticized the country's human rights record when government-backed forces massacred peaceful demonstrators in 2005.

Even when the Uzbek line is completed, Afghanistan can no longer expect the 300 megawatts originally envisioned, Sood said. That would have been more than the 190 megawatts Kabul has today and a significant boost to the 770 megawatts Afghanistan has nationwide.

President Hamid Karzai, during a radio address to the nation last fall, said he discussed with President Bush the country's need to produce its own electricity.

But some efforts have run afoul of the continuing Taliban insurgency.
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An Afghan Province Points the Way
The Washington Post By David Ignatius Sunday, January 27, 2008; 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.
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Pakistanis seek refuge from violence in Afghanistan
28 Jan 2008 14:15:44 GMT  By Jon Hemming
JAJI, Afghanistan, Jan 28 (Reuters) - On an icy clearing surrounded by forested peaks, Afghan officials struggled to keep order as they handed out food and blankets to dozens of tribesmen who fled Pakistan to escape sectarian violence.

Nearly 7,000 people have abandoned their homes in Pakistan's Kurram tribal region as fighting erupted between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims during the Muslim mourning month of Moharram, an annual flashpoint for violence between the two sects.

"We feel safe here, but the situation in Pakistan is bad and getting worse everyday," said Nadir Khan, a Sunni Muslim, who was among the throng jostling outside a stone warehouse near Jaji, a border town in Afghanistan's southern Paktia province.

Bearded men with dark, leathery faces and teenaged boys with ear-mufflers shivered and rubbed their hands, trying not to slip on the ice or trip over the razor wire outside the storehouse as they waited for handouts of oil and flour wrapped in blankets.

Khan said he lost two of his family in the bloodshed, and their cars and homes were burnt, while there was no food available because all the shops in Parachinar, Kurram's main town, were closed.

"I won't take my family back until it's safe there," Khan said, adding that he was staying with relatives on the Afghan side of the border.

The exodus from Kurram is a sign of the growing insecurity in Pakistan's tribal areas.

According to Afghan government figures, collated by the U.S. military, 6,725 people had crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan to escape the violence.

Around 75 percent of them were Afghans who had been living in Pakistan for some time. Most of those waiting for aid in the town of Jaji said they were Pakistani nationals.

REVERSE FLOW
In the past, refugees crossed the border going the other way, to escape from violence in Afghanistan.

Some four million Afghans escaped civil war in the 1980s and '90s to seek refuge in neighbouring Pakistan, though at least half have gone back.

"I am happy that we can help the Pakistanis," said Azad Khan, the district chief of Jaji, himself a former refugee in Pakistan.

"The people of Afghanistan are showing their hospitality. If they have two rooms, they will give up one for the people from Pakistan."

Zaheer-ul-Islam, a senior government administrator in Kurram, said families had fled places where clashes had been intense, but denied any had gone to Afghanistan.

Kurram has a history of sectarian rivalry. It is the only one of Pakistan's seven tribal regions where Shi'ites form a majority.

Jaji has also seen its share of violence with Taliban fighters slipping across from Pakistan to attack U.S. soldiers manning a small outpost there several times last year.

Since October it has been quiet, due in part to the heavy winter snowfall that makes movement difficult.

U.S. military officials expect Taliban fighters to become active again once the snows melt, and couldn't say whether the rising levels of Taliban-related violence in Pakistan would lead to less or more trouble on the Afghan side of the frontier. (Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haidar in Islamabad; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Jerry Norton)
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Afghan detainees, economy to dominate House
Mon. Jan. 28 2008 9:00 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
The economy and Afghan detainees are shaping up to be two major issues when Parliament resumes question period this afternoon.

Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan laid out his party's battle lines.

"There was a good public debate occurring (around the Manley report on the Afghan mission), but of course ... the Liberals picked up their favourite subject when it comes up to Afghanistan, and that's their concern for Taliban prisoners," he told Canada AM on Monday.

"Our most important concern is for the safety and security of our troops and for progress for the people of Afghanistan," he said.

The Tories have been on the defensive since it became known the military stopped transferring detainees to the Afghan government when a case of torture was confirmed.

Sandra Buckler, director of communications for the Prime Minister's Office, has been under fire since she "misspoke" on the issue last week, erroneously saying the military hadn't told the government.

Van Loan said he doesn't think the general public cares.

"I think the deeper concern is that ministers of the government have not told the truth in the House," NDP Leader Jack Layton told Canada AM.

"I think when you're dealing with war and conflict, it's important to be truthful, and that's an issue we'll be raising," he said.

"Obviously the Afghan situation is going to be very high on the agenda, the apparent contradiction between the truth and what was told to Parliament," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale told CTV Newsnet on Sunday.

At least two Conservative ministers are stumbling over the detainees issue, he said.

"We'll be pressing, as well, on the economy. The fact that forestry and manufacturing and tourism and other sectors of the economy are on the verge of a very significant downturn as trouble gets imported from the United States," Goodale said.

Goodale, a former finance minister, accused the government of making policy choices that have "blown the country's fiscal capacity" to deal with a downturn.

In a campaign-style speech on Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told his party the government had cut taxes, lowered unemployment and paid down nearly $37 billion in federal debt.

He claimed that if the Liberal party were to form a government, it would spend recklessly and push the country into deficit.

Layton said based on what his party has heard during Parliament's break, Canadians are concerned about economic security, given the threat of a downturn.

"I met a lot of seniors, for example, who are very concerned about their pensions," he said.

Drug and education costs are also on people's minds, he said.

"A third of a million Canadians have lost their jobs in the well-paying manufacturing sector," he said. "We want to see a budget that starts to recognize that."

The Conservatives are expected to deliver their third budget in either February or March.

Some key other key issues likely to dominate Parliament's resumption include:

The firing of Nuclear Safety Commission chair Linda Keen
The ongoing controversy over former prime minister Brian Mulroney's dealings with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber
A Jan. 14 Strategic Counsel poll for CTV and The Globe and Mail found party support breaks down as follows:

Conservatives: 36 per cent
Liberals: 30 per cent
NDP: 14 per cent
Bloc Quebecois: 11 per cent
Greens: 10 per cent
For the Liberals, Bloc and Tories, those numbers are essentially the same as their popular vote share in the Jan. 6, 2006 federal election.

The NDP are down 3.5 percentage points from their election total of 17.5 per cent, and the Greens are up 5.5 percentage points.
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The War Against Jihadism
Why can't we call the enemy by its name? We're going to have to in order to win.
By George Weigel NEWSWEEK 3:49 PM ET Jan 26, 2008
What kind of campaign is this? Six-plus years after 9/11; while the Taliban attempts an Afghanistan comeback; as Islamist terrorists cause mayhem in Algeria and occupy huge swaths of tribal Pakistan; despite "United 93" and "The Kite Runner," a library-full of books, presidential commissions, congressional hearings, and four election cycles—despite all of that, a strange, Victorian reticence about naming the enemy in the contest for the human future in which we are engaged befogs this political season.

Such reticence is an obstacle to victory in a war we cannot avoid and in which we must prevail. For if there is one thing certain in this season of great uncertainties, it is that the war against jihadism will be staring the next president of the United States in the face at high noon on Inauguration Day, 2009.

That is what we are fighting: jihadism, the religiously inspired ideology which teaches that it is every Muslim's duty to use any means necessary to compel the world's submission to Islam. That most of the world's Muslims do not accept this definition of the demands of their faith is true—and beside the point. The jihadists believe this. That is why they are the enemy of their fellow Muslims and the rest of the world. For decades, an internal Islamic civil war, born of Islam's difficult encounter with modernity, has been fought over such key modern political ideas as religious toleration and the separation of religious and political authority in a just state. That intra-Islamic struggle now engages the rest of humanity. To ignore this, to imagine it's all George W. Bush's fault, or to misrepresent it because of a prudish reluctance to discuss religion in public, is to repeat the mistakes the advocates of appeasement made in the 1930s.

In the mid-twentieth century, it was important to understand the ideas that fed the totalitarian passions of fascism, Nazism and communism. It is just as important today to understand the ideas of such progenitors of jihadist ideology as the Egyptian scholar-activists Hassan al-Banna (1906–1949) and Sayyid Qutb (1903–1966). Why? Because the power of ideas that can call men and women to make great sacrifices can only be trumped by the power of more compelling ideas that summon forth nobler sacrifices. Yet while our presidential candidates have endlessly debated who-was-right-or-wrong-and-when about Iraq, the imperative of effective U.S. public diplomacy—of making the argument for freedom and decency effectively around the world—has gone largely unremarked. That failure reflects a reluctance to grasp the nature of this new kind of struggle.

This is a war of ideas, pitting two different notions of the good society against each other. The jihadist vision claims the sanction of God. The western vision of the free society, in which civility involves engaging differences with respect, has both religious and philosophical roots. Some Americans have lost touch with the deepest cultural sources of the nation's commitments to religious freedom, tolerance and democratic persuasion, thinking of these good things as mere pragmatic arrangements. But if the United States can't explain to the world why religious freedom, civility, tolerance and democratic persuasion are morally superior to coercion in religious and political matters, then America stands disarmed before those who believe it their duty to impose a starkly different view of the good society on us.

The war against jihadism is being contested on many fronts simultaneously. There is a military front, which involves Afghanistan and Iraq but also includes such unlikely places as the Caribbean, Mali and the Philippines. There is an intelligence front, an economic front, an energy front and a homeland-security front. Such a complex war, which could last a generation or more, cannot be the prerogative or burden of one political party. The war against jihadism must be owned by both political parties. Thus one measure of any presidential candidate's seriousness is this: can he or she build a bipartisan coalition capable of sustaining the long-haul struggle required to defeat jihadist nihilism?

The landscape is indeed forbidding. Still, there is some good news: the war against jihadism can lead to cultural and political renewal in America. Making compelling arguments in favor of the free society reconnects us with the great ideas on which our liberties rest. Putting faith and reason into conversation strengthens the unity of our diverse society. Defending religious freedom, and supporting Muslim reformers who seek an Islamic case for tolerance and pluralism, reminds us that American civil society is built on truths about the dignity of human life. Energy policies that de-fund jihadism by reducing our reliance on petroleum as a transportation fuel can ignite entrepreneurial energies, revitalize the American auto industry, and help the environment. Rational homeland security policies can make us safer and less beholden to political correctness.

The jihadist merchants of death must be defeated morally as well as militarily. Doing so offers the American people the opportunity for national self-renewal and the chance to defend the cause of human dignity throughout the world. The stakes—the future of freedom—are very high indeed. It's past time for those who would lead us to acknowledge that.
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US tinkering in Afghanistan
By Lawrence Korb and Caroline Wadhams January 27, 2008 Boston Globe, United States
AFTER FAILING to persuade NATO to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, the Bush administration has reluctantly approved a temporary increase of 3,200 American troops. While adding these troops is a step in the right direction, it is not enough.

Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated over the past two years, with suicide and roadside bombings now at unprecedented levels. Last year was the deadliest on record for US and foreign troops; the Taliban have taken control of most of southern Afghanistan; and Al Qaeda has reestablished its command and control, its funding sources, and its training camps in the borderlands of Pakistan and AfghanistanAfghanistan needs much more than a token, temporary increase in US forces.

The stakes are too high to be tinkering on the margins of US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan needs at least 20,000 more troops. The United States also must coordinate its military operations more effectively by placing all of its troops under a unified NATO command.

The Bush administration needs to recognize that military force, while necessary, is not sufficient to defeat militants in Afghanistan. The United States needs to put more effort and leadership into a major state-building effort by bolstering the Afghan government, both at national level and provincial levels. It must escalate efforts to strengthen rule of law, combat the drug trade, support locally led development projects, such as the National Solidarity Program, and create a reliable police force - while allowing the Afghan government to take the lead.

The United States also needs to fundamentally alter its strategy toward Pakistan, where much of the leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda are located. The Bush administration has overpersonalized its policy toward a discredited dictator and allowed Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, to squander the $11 billion we have given his country since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on items that will not help deal with the resurgence of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Increasing the US commitment in Afghanistan is not just a feel-good mission; it is about national security interests, which are deeply threatened by a strengthening extremist movement.

The administration's repeated criticisms of NATO are not going to get its allies to increase their involvement. Many NATO countries believe they are being asked to pick up the pieces of a policy that failed in part because the United States refused to make the initial invasion a NATO operation. Many also believe that the United States misled them when it finally asked NATO to join, by presenting it to their citizens as a reconstruction mission, not a combat one.

Since the Iraq invasion almost five years ago, the Bush administration has put Afghanistan on the back burner. Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, summarized the administration's position perfectly in his congressional testimony in December. When asked why the United States was not doing more to deal with the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the admiral said that in Iraq we do what we must but in Afghanistan, we only do what we can.

Calling the mission in Afghanistan, an "economy of force operation," he went on to say, "Our main focus militarily in the region and in the world right now is rightly and firmly in Iraq." Mullen and the administration have it backward. It makes no strategic sense to have six times as many American troops in Iraq as in Afghanistan, and to be spending only a small amount on Afghanistan's reconstruction.

The Bush administration is in this position because it has forgotten the answers to several key questions. Where did the Sept. 11 attacks originate? Where is Al Qaeda's key leadership currently located? Which US military mission is authorized by the United Nations and NATO? In which theater are more than half of the troops supplied by other nations? In which theater are US casualties lower than its partners? Which country's people want the United States to stay and help? Finally, in which theater does the United States have a greater chance of succeeding?

The answers to all of these questions, is, of course, Afghanistan. And that is why we have to do what we must in that country with or without more contributions from our NATO partners.

Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and a senior advisor to the Center for Defense Information, served as Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration. Caroline Wadhams is a senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress.
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Repatriation of Afghan refugees: Govt to go all out efforts to provide safe instrument - CM
Source: Frontier Post: 27 Jan 2008
PESHAWAR: The NWFP Caretaker Chief Minister Shams ul Mulk has said that the government would go all out to provide a safe instrument to make the repatriation of Afghan Refugees to their country sustainable. The process of repatriation of Afghan Refugees to their country should be humane supported by a well thought out strategy so that the warm and friendly sentiments of the Afghan Refugees should not die down, he added. He was presiding over a meeting to strategize the repatriation of Afghan Refugees to their country here at Chief Minister's House, Peshawar on Saturday morning. Chief Commissioner Afghan Refugees Abdur Rauf Khattak, Secretary Home Badshah Gul Wazir, Special Secretary Tipu Mohabat Khan and Afghan Commissioner attended. The meeting was told about the Afghan repatriation strategy approved by the federal cabinet. The meeting was briefed about the arrangements that had already been taken as a part of the repatriation strategy. The meeting sought the recommendations to facilitate the repatriation process. The chief minister said that the level of arrangements for the repatriation should be up to the mark and the entire process should be humane and friendly so that the sacrifices offered by the people and government of NWFP should not drain. Whatever good we can do must be done and all the shareholders of the burden must have to fulfill their responsibility, he added. The chief minister said that we supported the Afghan Refugees for almost 30 years and their backing home should not provide a space for anti Pakistan elements to create anti Pakistan sentiments and exploit the situation to the hilt and thus harm the sentiments of Pakistan and its people which they espoused for their Afghan brethren. The NWFP Caretaker Chief Minister Shams ul Mulk said, the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan have some common bonds based on religion, brotherhood, and neighborhood. The NWFP Caretaker Chief Minister Shams ul Mulk suggested that the planners must plan the repatriation process realistically adding that all the shareholders of the burden must concentrate on the infrastructure development inside Afghanistan. "Afghanistan should have a net work of schools, vocational training centers, irrigation, roads, communication, health, and other facilities so that the burden of migrated refuges could be converted into an asset who would personally contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. However, the NWFP Caretaker Chief Minister Shams ul Mulk said, the reconstruction process should be accelerated," he added. The chief minister said, we must be magnanimous and should go with open mind to facilitate the repatriated refugees in their home. It was not an easy task but we must find out reasonable solution to this gigantic task. "The reconstruction of Afghanistan was in the interest of the entire region as it would bring peace and development to the entire region", the NWFP Caretaker Chief Minister Shams ul Mulk mentioned.
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Abdullah asks for decentralization of power
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 25, 2008
NEW YORK (Pajhwok Afghan News): Strongly advocating decentralization of power former Foreign Minister, Abdullah Abdullah Thursday, called for a national debate on it.

Visiting the United States, for the first time in two years, Abdullah said this at a breakfast meeting at the prestigious Asia Society in New York.

We need to help empower rural communities as well as local leaders. We have elected provincial councils. There role has to be defined so that they could be active participants in the process of development and security. There is need to start a national debate on little bit of decentralization in Afghanistan, he said.

Observing that post-9/11 the effort to rebuild Afghanistan started with a consensus among various sections of the society that resulted in a lot of positive development, Abdullah told a select New York audience: That spirit of working together has been damaged greatly. I think when President Karzai was elected as the President of Afghanistan it was a free and fair election, majority of the people voted for him. Somewhat President Karzai thought, as well as his colleagues in the Cabinet, that perhaps we do not need the consensus of people anymore, he said.

The spirit which brought different political forces together under common vision of peaceful, democratic Afghanistan was losing color. That was the start of the weakening of Afghanistan as a State, Abdullah said.

The former Foreign Minister said when Taliban lost Afghanistan; they went back to Pakistan, where the militants helped them to establish them back. Then came the Iraq situation where the US got engaged. While support for Afghanistan continued and did not diminish, I think what was happening in Pakistan was the US and the international community lost track, he said. That weakening factor within Afghanistan and strengthening of Taliban outside Afghanistan that gives us a clear picture of the situation where we are, he said. Stating that majority of the people are still supportive of the process, he said emphasized that it is important to seize the moment and not to let this opportunity being slept out of hands.

Abdullah said the need of the hour is that President Karzai as the elected president of Afghanistan as well as other political leaders should get together in order to be able to move the process forward. The initiative in this respect should come from the President or anybody in that sphere. That would give a message of political stability and of working together, he said.
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$0.5 million cash, edible distributed in Musa Qala
By Akram Noorzai - Jan 25, 2008 - 21:01
LASHKARGAH, (PAN): National Solidarity Programme (NSP) has initiated construction projects and on Friday $500,000 and essential foods were distributed among needy families in Musa Qala district in the Helmand province, an official said

The money and foods material were handed over to 300 previous war victim families in a gathering participated by Helmand governor, security officials and scores of journalists.

Asadullah Wafa, governor of Helmand assured the affected people that Rural and Rehabilitation Department has allocated one million dollars and half of it would be distributed now while the remaining later on.

In the gathering flour, cooking oil, sugar, rice, bean, etc have also been distributed among needy families.

"World Food Programme (WFP) has pledged for providing 226 tons edible commodities which would be soon given to the people of Musa Qala," the governor added

Haji Abdurrazaq, a resident of Musa Qala urged the government and NGO's should come forward for the support of the people of the region.

"The people are poor and the prices of essential foods also increased while the recent aid is only sufficient for a few days," he added

Mulla Abdussalam, police chief of Musa Qala, also asked government and NGO's for further assistance with the people.

NSP head of the Musa Qala, Muhammad Umer Qani informed that roads and bridges would be constructed in the region under NSP projects.
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