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January 30, 2008 

3 civilians killed in Afghan bombings
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Roadside bombings and a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan killed three civilians and wounded nine others, a police chief said Wednesday.

Afghan Senate says reporter should die
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's upper house of parliament lauded the death sentence handed down against a local journalist who was found guilty of insulting Islam, an official said Wednesday.

Bush ignores Afghan school violence
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 29, 4:29 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - In his State of the Union address, President Bush called Afghanistan a young democracy where children go to school and Afghans are hopeful. But he didn't mention the violence that has killed 147 students

Study: Afghanistan could fail as a state
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 29, 9:03 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Afghanistan risks sliding into a failed state and becoming the "forgotten war" because of deteriorating international support and a growing violent insurgency, according to an independent study.

US forces take up Afghan mentor mantle
By Jon Boone in Khost Tue Jan 29, 1:10 PM ET
In the Afghan city of Khost, more than100 judges and lawyers sit listening to an animated law professor from Kabul.

U.S. at odds with NATO over troops for Afghanistan
By Kristin Roberts Tue Jan 29, 6:21 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will press its European NATO allies to send more troops to Afghanistan's violent south in response to Canada's call for reinforcements, but the Pentagon said it will not commit any more of its own forces there.

India to build Afghanistan's parliament house
via Calcutta News.Net Wednesday 30th January, 2008 (IANS)
The Indian cabinet Wednesday granted approval to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to go ahead with the construction of Afghanistan's parliament house in Kabul.

Canada takes fewer prisoners in Afghanistan: report
Tue Jan 29, 11:49 PM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada's military in Afghanistan has been taking fewer prisoners and releasing them quicker after it stopped turning them over to Afghan authorities following torture allegations, The Globe and Mail said.

NATO urges Canada to keep troops in Afghanistan, working to find support
By Paul Ames, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BRUSSELS, Belgium - NATO is urging Canada not to pull its troops out of Afghanistan's dangerous Kandahar province.

Military Expert Criticizes Proposed German Force for Afghanistan
Deutsche Welle
The possibility of German combat troops being used in Afghanistan has drawn criticism from a former military chief of staff. Afghan President Karzai sees the proposed increase of troops in the country as unnecessary.

US homes in on militants in Pakistan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / January 30, 2008
KARACHI - Another piece of the United States' regional jigsaw is in place with the completion of a military base in Afghanistan's Kunar province, just three kilometers from Bajaur Agency in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

US funds madrassas in Afghanistan
By Jon Boone in Khost Financial Times (UK) January 29, 2008
The US military is funding the construction of Islamic schools, or madrassas, in the east of Afghanistan in an attempt to stem the tide of young people going to radical religious schools in Pakistan.

Taliban being trained outside Afghanistan: Musa Qala Chief
By Akram Norzai - Jan 29, 2008 - 11:43
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok Afghan News): Musa Qala district Chief Haji Abdul Salam in an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News on Tuesday said the Taliban were being trained outside Afghanistan and come

Afghanistan: Tempers Flare In Dispute Over Display Of Ancient Artifacts
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Decades of war have decimated much of Afghanistan's ancient heritage. Many historic architectural gems have been damaged or destroyed, and national treasures have been looted from museums or vandalized by the Taliban.

German DM: Majority of Germans support troops mission in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-29 20:44:54
KABUL, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The visiting German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung in meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai here Tuesday said that majority of the German population are supporting

Better Afghan army needed for future security: minister
Kabul (AFP) Jan 29, 2008 via www.spacewar.com
Afghan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak on Tuesday urged the world community to accelerate efforts to strengthen the insurgency-hit country's nascent army.

Copper project tests Afghanistan's resources
von Jon Boone Financial Times Deutschland, Germany
The war-battered country might not be able to handle a huge but potentially lucrative deal.

Taliban militants behead 4 workers in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-30 22:48:29
KABUL, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants beheaded four local employees of a private construction company in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, said the Interior Ministry in a press release.

Oldest Afghan man passes away at age 117
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-30 17:51:32
KABUL, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- An Afghan man Khudai Birdy passes away at the age of 117 Tuesday night in Afghanistan's northern Sar-e-Pul province, survived by 40 children and hundreds of grandsons, a local newspaper reported Wednesday.

Marine Afghan shooting hearing nears end
By ESTES THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 29, 7:27 PM ET
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - After a month of often conflicting testimony about a fatal shooting of Afghan civilians, three military officers must now decide whether to recommend criminal charges — but not before reviewing 5,000 pages of evidence.

Abdullah wants increase in foreign troops
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 27, 2008 - 10:43
NEW YORK (PAN): Dr. Abdullah Abdullah former foreign minister of Afghanistan critical of the policies of President Karzai, emphasized the need of political reforms and decentralization of power.

Afghan woman sells daughter for $10
By Abdul Matin Sarfaraz - Jan 27, 2008 - 18:03
KUNDUZ CITY (Pajwok Afghan News): Poverty, cold weather, and hunger forced a woman to sell her four month baby in Kunduz.

Karzai may face Khalilzad in next elections
By Pajhwok reporter - Jan 27, 2008 - 17:57
KABUL (PAN): Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born US ambassador to the United Nations, is seriously considering running for Karzai's seat himself when the next elections are held in 2009, Newsweek quoting several U.N.

Samad terms Manley report a balanced analysis
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 27, 2008 - 14:29
New York, January 27, 2007 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Afghan Ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, has said that the Manley penal report gives a balance analysis of various options and what needs to be done to achieve success in Afghanistan.

Norway supports talks with Taliban
By Pajhwok reporter - Jan 27, 2008 - 18:27
KABUL (PAN): Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere says he supports the idea of negotiations with Taliban, in order to achieve peace in Afghanistan, said a release issued here on Monday.

180 lose limbs on snow-laden slippery roads
By Ahmad Qureshi - Jan 27, 2008 - 15:06
HERAT CITY, (PAN): Arms and legs of more than 180 people including women were broken due to heavy snowfalls and snow laden slippery roads as the people had no preparation in the western Herat province, officials said on Sunday.

Civil society moot opens in Kabul
By Zarghona Salihi - Jan 27, 2008 - 19:39
KABUL (PAN): A two-day conference was launched here Monday as a prelude to a national moot titled as Afghan civil society national pre-peace conference scheduled to be held in Kabul in two months time.

3 civilians killed in Afghan bombings
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Roadside bombings and a suicide attack in southern Afghanistan killed three civilians and wounded nine others, a police chief said Wednesday.

A suicide bomber in a vehicle tried to attack a NATO convoy in Kandahar province's Zhari district Wednesday, but instead hit a private car and wounded four civilians inside, said Kandahar's police chief, Sayed Agha Saqib.

There were no casualties among NATO troops, he said.

Separately, a newly planted mine exploded under another civilian vehicle in the same district Tuesday, killing two civilians and wounding four others, Saqib said.

Also Tuesday, a vehicle carrying an Afghan road-working crew hit a mine in Kandahar's Panjwayi district, killing one laborer and wounding another, he said.

Saqib blamed Taliban militants for the attacks, which occurred on roads often used by Afghan and military forces.

Militants frequently use roadside bombs and suicide attacks against Afghan and foreign troops in the country, but most of the victims are civilians.

Last year was Afghanistan's most deadly since the ouster of the Taliban in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. More than 6,500 people — mostly insurgents — died as a result of violence, according to an Associated Press count of figures provided by local and international officials.
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Afghan Senate says reporter should die
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's upper house of parliament lauded the death sentence handed down against a local journalist who was found guilty of insulting Islam, an official said Wednesday.

In a statement signed by Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, the chamber's chairman, the Senate also condemned what it called "international interference" to have the sentence annulled, spokesman Aminuddin Muzafari said.

The journalist, 23-year-old Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, was sentenced to death last week by a three-judge panel in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif for distributing a report he printed off the Internet to journalism students at Balkh University.

The article asked why men can have four wives but women can't have multiple husbands.

The court in Mazar-i-Sharif found that the article humiliated Islam. Members of a clerical council also pushed for Kaambakhsh to be punished.

"That issue was not in the (Senate's) agenda, but when lawmakers gathered on Tuesday they insisted on talking about that case," Muzafari said.

Following a debate, lawmakers decided to issue the statement supporting the court's decision, he said.

Kaambakhsh has appealed his conviction and the case will now go to an appeals court. President Hamid Karzai will have the final say in the matter.

International human rights groups have condemned the sentence and called on Afghan authorities to quash it.
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Bush ignores Afghan school violence
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 29, 4:29 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - In his State of the Union address, President Bush called Afghanistan a young democracy where children go to school and Afghans are hopeful. But he didn't mention the violence that has killed 147 students and teachers, and closed 590 schools in the last year — almost as many as the 680 the U.S. has built.

Bush's rosy outlook for a country that once hosted al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden didn't contain any falsehoods. New roads and hospitals are being built, just as he told the nation Monday night.

Boys and girls are going to school in record numbers. Some 5.8 million students, including 2 million girls, are now in class, compared with less than a million under the Taliban.

But some here might say Bush glossed over the bad news. Last year saw a record level of violence, and military leaders and analysts expect the suicide bombings, clashes and kidnappings to increase in 2008.

"The security is going from bad to worse, especially in the south and the east," said Abdul Kaiyoom, 47, who works for Afghanistan's Education Ministry. "International forces have very modern equipment, but the Taliban have a heavy influence in the outlying areas, and they are taking territory from the government."

Bush said the sending of an additional 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan — a decision made just this month — would help continue the country's successes. But in reality, it came only after U.S. officials couldn't persuade other NATO countries to send more soldiers to bolster the 28,000 U.S. forces already there.

"Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for al-Qaida is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope," Bush said.

USAID, the government's aid arm, has built or refurbished 680 schools in Afghanistan since 2001. Still, Education Minister Mohammad Hanif told The Associated Press last week there is a shortage of qualified teachers — and schools themselves.

Out of the country's 9,400 "schools," only 40 percent are actual buildings. Sixty percent of classes are held in tents or the open air.

But there's an even more worrying trend: The number of students and teachers killed in Taliban attacks tripled in the past year, to 147, Hanif said, while the number of students out of class because of security has hit 300,000 since March 2007, compared with 200,000 in the previous 12 months. The number of schools closed has risen from 350 to 590.

That bad news might only grow worse. The Kabul-based security company that surveys conditions for international aid organizations in Afghanistan said in a report this month that 2007 will be seen as the year the Taliban seriously rejoined the fight.

"With the Taliban evidently resurgent, it has also become obvious that their easy departure in 2001 was more of a strategic retreat than an actual military defeat," wrote Nic Lee, the director of the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.

"In simple terms, the consensus amongst informed individuals at the end of 2007 seems to be that Afghanistan is at the beginning of a war, not the end of one."

More than 6,500 people — mostly militants — died in insurgent violence last year, the highest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, according to an AP count based on official figures. Insurgents detonated some 140 suicide attacks, a record level.

"All the suicide attacks happen against (international forces), but the attacks actually kill Afghan civilians," said Kabul taxi driver Saboor Amiri, 40. "If they can't provide security for themselves, how can they provide security for the civilians? ... Yes, we appreciate that they kicked out the Taliban, but now it's time for these forces to leave."

That won't happen. There is growing recognition in Washington that the U.S. risks further setbacks, if not deepening conflict or even defeat, in Afghanistan, and analysts say the Bush administration is taking the country and the growing unrest in Pakistan more seriously than in the past.

The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan has grown over the past two years from about 20,000 to the current force of 28,000, the highest of the war. The total will pass 31,000 this spring when the Marines arrive.

Some Afghans see that as a good thing, among them Mohammad Nieem, a 50-year-old Kabul shopkeeper.

"All the students going to school is a result of the efforts of the international community. We had elections. That was the first time in my life I saw an election," he said.

"Yes, we have security problems in some parts of the country ... (but) I appreciate that America is sending extra troops. This is something Afghanistan needs right now."
___
Associated Press reporter Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.
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Study: Afghanistan could fail as a state
By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 29, 9:03 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Afghanistan risks sliding into a failed state and becoming the "forgotten war" because of deteriorating international support and a growing violent insurgency, according to an independent study.

The assessment, co-chaired by retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones and former U.N. Ambassador Thomas Pickering, serves as a warning to the Bush administration at a time military and congressional officials are debating how best to juggle stretched warfighting resources.

The administration wants to re-energize anti-terrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where al-Qaida is regenerating. But the U.S. still remains heavily invested in Iraq, and officials are sending strong signals that troop reductions there will slow or stop altogether this summer.

"Afghanistan stands at a crossroads," concludes the study, an advance copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. "The progress achieved after six years of international engagement is under serious threat from resurgent violence, weakening international resolve, mounting regional challenges and a growing lack of confidence on the part of the Afghan people about the future direction of their country."

A major issue has been trying to win the war with "too few military forces and insufficient economic aid," the study adds.

Among the group's nearly three dozen recommendations: increase NATO force levels and military equipment sent to Afghanistan, decouple U.S. management of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, establish a special envoy to coordinate all U.S. policy on Afghanistan, and champion a unified strategy among partner nations to stabilize the country in five years.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he was not familiar with the study's findings, but he struck a more optimistic tone on Afghanistan's future.

"I would say that the security situation is good," Gates told The Associated Press. "We want to make sure it gets better, and I think there's still a need to coordinate civil reconstruction, the economic development side of it."

Gates said more troops are needed in Afghanistan, but "certainly not ours." When asked how many more NATO troops might be needed, he said that number should be determined by ground commanders.

Sen. John Kerry said it was "past time for wakeup calls" and that a "comprehensive, thoughtful approach" in Afghanistan was urgently needed.

"The same extremist group which plotted the attacks of 9/11 are reconstituting themselves on the Afghan border and grow more organized by the day, making the stakes higher and higher," said Kerry, D-Mass., a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The Jones-Pickering assessment, slated for public release on Wednesday, says the U.S. should rethink its military and economic strategy in Afghanistan in large part because of deteriorating support among voters in NATO countries.

If international forces are pulled, the fragile Afghan government would "likely fall apart," the report warns.

The study was a voluntary effort coordinated by the Center for the Study of the Presidency, a nonpartisan organization in Washington, as a follow-on to the Iraq Study Group. That study group was a congressionally mandated blue-ribbon panel hailed as the first major bipartisan assessment on the Iraq war since the 2003 invasion.

While the Afghanistan study has not created the same buzz as the Iraq assessment, the center's latest findings still are likely to wield political clout because of those involved.

Last year, Jones led a high-profile study on Iraq security forces, which was used by lawmakers to challenge President Bush's own assessments. Most recently, the retired Marine Corps general, known for his outspoken independence, was tapped to advise Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on security aspects of the new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Pickering was a longtime U.S. ambassador and a former undersecretary of state.

Panel members include Charles Robb, a former Democratic senator who served on the Iraq Study Group, and David Abshire, who helped organize the Iraq study. Abshire is president of the Center for the Study of the Presidency.

According to the report, the center decided to initiate the study after ISG discussions made clear that Afghanistan was at risk of becoming "the forgotten war."

"Participants and witnesses pointed to the danger of losing the war in Afghanistan unless a reassessment took place of the effort being undertaken in that country by the United States, NATO and the international community," the study states.

Similar problems were identified in two other assessments also due for release Wednesday, including one by the Atlantic Council in Washington, which Jones chairs. A separate study, led by Harlan Ullman, an adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the National Defense University, included specific proposals to rejuvenate Afghanistan's agricultural sector.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was expected to be briefed Wednesday on Afghanistan by intelligence officials. On Thursday, the panel will convene an open hearing, featuring testimony from Jones and Pickering. Also testifying Thursday will be Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia.
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US forces take up Afghan mentor mantle
By Jon Boone in Khost Tue Jan 29, 1:10 PM ET
In the Afghan city of Khost, more than100 judges and lawyers sit listening to an animated law professor from Kabul.

They are the cream of Khost province's legal profession but none of them can answer his simple questions, including those about the punishment that judges are allowed to dish out.

Nasir Ahmad, an Afghan lawyer who advises US forces and helped organise the conference, says many of those present never had a legal training, or, if they had, had forgotten what they had learned.

"It has been so long now that they have lost their knowledge. They don't need to know the law because they live by being bribed not to bring cases to court."

Most of those present are probably also unaware that the conference, paid for by the US army, is part of a sophisticated counter-insurgency strategy.

The military effort in the province, once the home to two al-Qaeda training camps whose alumni include Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 terrorists, has also attracted the attention of US politicians. Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, wanted to know during a visit in December how it could be replicated across Afghanistan.

It is a strategy that has pushed US soldiers into areas far removed from traditional fighting roles.

Commander David Adams, head of the Khost provincial reconstruction team, talks with enthusiasm about the huge reconstruction effort he oversees: overhauling the local electricity grid, acting as quality assurance inspectors for the 120km of roads built last year and paying for new schools and the physical infrastructure of local government that had barely existed before.

He has already spent $42m (EU28m, £21m) and estimates that up to $150m will be spent in the next three to four years.

"I don't think it's a hard sell when we are building schools and the Taliban is blowing them up. We have promised them a Marshall Plan, and now we have got to deliver it," he says.

According to Colonel Martin Schweitzer, brigade commander of Task Force Fury, one of two US combat teams operating in the eastern part of Afghanistan, the "kinetic" emphasis on killing the enemy that once dominated US thinking has gone. He argues the key to security is to deny "anti-coalition militants" - as the Americans prefer to call the Taliban - the support of the local population.

"Every time that we have had to kill people or injure bad guys to try to separate the people from the enemy, it's always a couple of steps back. Even if it was the right guy, it's a step back because most of these villages have never seen their government trying to provide for them."

Now, he says he is seeking to perform the "separation non-lethally".

US efforts to revive the province's virtually dormant legal system followed the realisation that "bad guys" were being released from custody almost as quickly as they were being apprehended - unsurprisingly, given the corruption in a system where judges are paid just $50 a month.

Major Robert Broadbent, command judge advocate for Task Force Fury in Khost, says there is no time to wait for the UN or other agencies to tackle the problem.

"The State Department doesn't like what we are doing down here because they think we have to come up with a long-term national strategy first, but I think we have got to move on this as quickly as we can," he says.

US soldiers insist they are acting as mentors, rather than as a neo-colonial administration, and are working with the Afghan army and police to allow them to take responsibility for security one day.

Col Schweitzer says around 60-70 per cent of operations on his patch are now "Afghan led", with US troops being "subordinate and supportive".

Decent local officials are essential to the strategy, and the US military has been instrumental in having bad apples removed, although officers say they do not always get their way. They praise Arsala Jalal, the governor of Khost, who says the sheer amount of resources he gets through the US forces has been central to progress.

Yet, for all their distaste for "kinetic" operations, US forces are still engaged in fighting the Taliban.

Classified figures shown to the FT on US casualties in Paktika, a more troubled province to the south following the same strategy as Khost, show that the number of enemy killed or captured is far higher.

And it will take time to see whether the US model is having a long-term impact.

Commander Adams says there are encouraging signs. "But I'm not going to pretend we have won. The situation is fragile here and it could change in a heartbeat."
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U.S. at odds with NATO over troops for Afghanistan
By Kristin Roberts Tue Jan 29, 6:21 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will press its European NATO allies to send more troops to Afghanistan's violent south in response to Canada's call for reinforcements, but the Pentagon said it will not commit any more of its own forces there.

More than six years after the U.S.-led invasion, the issue of security in Afghanistan came to a head this week when Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened to pull out Canada's 2,500 troops early next year unless NATO sent in more soldiers.

NATO said on Tuesday it shared Canada's view of the need to bolster its peace operation but dismissed charges that allies were dragging their feet, noting a huge expansion since 2003.

The Taliban rulers were toppled by the invasion in late 2001 but the Islamist militants and their al Qaeda allies have made an explosive comeback in the last two years, slowing Afghanistan's economic growth and reconstruction.

U.S. defense officials have also regularly complained about the unwillingness of European allies to dedicate more combat troops and equipment to Afghanistan.

"We've got a number of allies with us there," said Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. "Hopefully they can see to it to dig deeper and find additional forces."

The resurgence of the militants comes despite the presence of 50,000 foreign troops under the command of NATO and the U.S. military, backed by partially Western-trained and equipped Afghan security forces now numbering more than 120,000.

The United States has 29,000 troops in Afghanistan and earlier this month ordered another 3,200 Marines to be deployed there. Morrell said 2,200 of those would be sent to the restive south, which includes Kandahar.

"That's as much and as deep as we're going at this point," Morrell said, adding that the Pentagon was not considering an additional deployment following Canada's call.

STRUGGLE TO COORDINATE
In Brussels, a NATO spokesman said the organization had a long-standing request for more troops in the south.

"We share the assessment that Afghanistan needs long-term support, including military support," he said.

But he pointed out that the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force had quadrupled to more than 40,000 troops and "is now close to what our military believe is our full requirement."

The Afghan defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, said Kabul expected its allies to help expand the quality and size of the nation's security forces so they can take the lead against the militants and cut the burden on the international community.

"We are all in full agreement that the only sustainable way to secure this country in an enduring way is to enable the Afghans themselves to be able to defend this country against all external and internal threats," Wardak said.

Overshadowed by concern over the conflict in Iraq, the Afghan reconstruction effort has suffered from underfunding, turf battles between rival agencies, corruption among officials and the resurgence of Taliban-led violence.

An international drive to better coordinate civilian operations with the NATO-led military campaign suffered a setback this week when British politician Paddy Ashdown pulled out of the running to be the United Nations' "super envoy."

The position seemed to be custom-made for Ashdown, the former international representative for Bosnia, skilled in post-war reconstruction.

But President Hamid Karzai's move to veto him, ostensibly for fear he would wield too much power, sent Western officials back to the drawing board with no obvious alternative.

"Ashdown was the name," said a Western diplomat in Brussels who works on Afghanistan. "The requirement for coordination is undiminished and yet the whole issue has become politicized. We still have this gaping hole."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week Ashdown would have done a "superb job" and reaffirmed American backing for a central coordinator in Afghanistan.

(Additional reporting by Sue Pleming in Washington, Sayed Salahuddin in Kabul, Mark John in Brussels and Luke Baker in London; Writing by John O'Callaghan; Editing by Chris Wilson)
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India to build Afghanistan's parliament house
via Calcutta News.Net Wednesday 30th January, 2008 (IANS)
The Indian cabinet Wednesday granted approval to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to go ahead with the construction of Afghanistan's parliament house in Kabul.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi told reporters after a cabinet meeting that the CPWD would also construct the Indian Chancery in the Afghanistan capital.

'The CPWD was already in the process for inviting tenders. The cabinet Wednesday approved the move for the combined projects of construction of Afghanistan's parliament and Indian chancery complex in Kabul,' Dasmunshi said.
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Canada takes fewer prisoners in Afghanistan: report
Tue Jan 29, 11:49 PM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada's military in Afghanistan has been taking fewer prisoners and releasing them quicker after it stopped turning them over to Afghan authorities following torture allegations, The Globe and Mail said.

Unidentified sources told The Globe and Mail that Canadian military were holding insurgents captured in Afghanistan at Kandahar Air Force base, "rather than turning them over to the Afghan authorities."

The Canadian military "are taking fewer prisonners and are quickly releasing some of them," the daily added.

Prisoner transfers ended in November after "a credible allegation of mistreatment pertaining to one Canadian-transferred detainee held in an Afghan detention facility," the Justice Ministry wrote to civil right groups last week.

The information, however, was not made public until a day before a court hearing last week that the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and Amnesty International Canada had pressed for on the matter.

The Justice Ministry's letter drew fire from the opposition, which demanded the government provide clear and up-to-the-minute information about the prisoners it held in Afghanistan. The government refused.

Canada in May signed a new agreement with Afghanistan on prisoner rights after Canadian media in early 2007 began reporting on prisoner claims of torture in Afghan detention facilities after being transferred there by Canadian military.

The May agreement is still being enforced, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday, adding that prisoner transfers to Afghan authorities could resume when Canadian commanders deem it appropriate.

Canada currently has 2,500 troops deployed in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.
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NATO urges Canada to keep troops in Afghanistan, working to find support
By Paul Ames, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BRUSSELS, Belgium - NATO is urging Canada not to pull its troops out of Afghanistan's dangerous Kandahar province.

Alliance spokesman James Appathurai says the defence organization will find the additional troops for southern Afghanistan that Ottawa is demanding.

Appathurai was responding to comments earlier this week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said Canada will only keep its 2,500 troops in Kandahar after their mandate expires in 2009 if it gets more support.

Among other things, Canada wants other allies to provide an additional 1,000 combat troops for Kandahar province, a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency.

It also wants them to supply helicopters and unmanned surveillance planes to help battle the insurgents.

Appathurai says NATO defence ministers will discuss Canada's demand for more support at a meeting next month in Vilnius, Lithuania. 
  

"NATO thinks Canada is doing a very important and valuable job in Kandahar," Appathurai told reporters. "We hope Canada will find a way to extend the mission."

"NATO will play its role" in finding the additional capabilities, Appathurai added.

"NATO certainly wishes to see more combat capability, more helicopters, more UAVs in Afghanistan and continues to work with allies to provide those assets."

Troops from Canada, Britain, the Netherlands and the United States have borne the brunt of a resurgence of Taliban violence in southern Afghanistan over the past year, with support from Denmark, Romania, Estonia and non-NATO Australia.

Other major European allies including France, Germany, Italy and Turkey refuse to allow significant numbers of troops to help out in the volatile south, opening a rift within the alliance.

NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also suggested NATO would find the extra troops if the Canadian parliament backs the recommendation to link an extension of the deployment to the call for reinforcements.

"Let's wait for the parliamentary debate, and then we will certainly have bridges to cross, which we will certainly cross," he told reporters.

All 26 NATO countries have soldiers serving with the allied force in Afghanistan, which currently stands at 42,000 troops, more than eight times its original strength.

However, military commanders say they remain hamstrung by restrictions that some countries place on what their troops can do - in particular those that keep troops from several European allies from operating in the most volatile provinces.

"NATO has a long standing request for ... assets to be provided without geographic restrictions," Appathurai said. "NATO would like to see maximum flexibility."

The United States said earlier this month that it will send an extra 3,200 marines to Afghanistan from April, including 2,200 combat troops who will bolster the NATO-led counterinsurgency force in the south.

However they are only scheduled to deploy for seven months, so will not answer Canada's demand for more backing beyond 2009.
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Military Expert Criticizes Proposed German Force for Afghanistan
Deutsche Welle
The possibility of German combat troops being used in Afghanistan has drawn criticism from a former military chief of staff. Afghan President Karzai sees the proposed increase of troops in the country as unnecessary.

A day after it was officially confirmed that NATO had made a request to the German Defense Ministry to provide 250 combat troops to a Quick Reaction Force in northern Afghanistan, former NATO Chief of Staff Harald Kujat warned that German soldiers were ill-equipped to deal with combat operations against the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgents.

Kujat, a former chairperson of NATO's military committee, deplored the lack of adequate hardware at the disposal of the German military and said on Wednesday, Jan. 30, that Bundeswehr troops "did not even have functioning devices, with which they could communicate with their allies in Afghanistan."

NATO submitted a formal request on Tuesday for Germany to provide a replacement for the 350-strong Norwegian force that leaves in July after an initial inquiry had been made late last year. 

The German Defense Ministry confirmed earlier this month that it was considering whether to deploy the troops, responding to a media report that referred to a "new quality" in the German engagement in Afghanistan.

Government officials have, however, in recent weeks denied that supplying a rapid reaction force would amount to sending men into combat. They said the force was designed to provide emergency support to other troops in the north and that though its brief would include hunting "terrorists" and dealing with kidnappings this would not be its main task.

Inadequate equipment could cost lives
Kujat called on German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung to prevent such a deployment as the inadequacy of German military equipment and lack of necessary supplies could lead to casualties, in addition to those which would come from engaging the enemy.

He maintained that the soldiers themselves were well-trained and qualified to deal with the challenges of combat but the serious deficits in modern and efficient guidance systems and communication devices could negate their skills as soldiers.

Jung was in Kabul for discussions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, and made it clear that German soldiers were "ready to participate in operations against terrorists and cooperate with other international forces in any other part of the country."

Reacting to the news that NATO planned to send more troops to his country to counter the threat of a resurgent Taliban back by supporters of al Qaeda, Karzai said training the Afghan police and army was more important than sending more foreign troops to the country.

Karzai doubts wisdom of sending more troops
"More than anything else, we need help to rebuild our human capital and our institutions, our army, our police force, our administrative structure, our judiciary and so on," Karzai told German newspaper Die Welt on Wednesday.

"Although the situation has finally improved, the unintentional bombing of Afghan civilians by NATO and US troops is particularly painful, although it stems from a lack of ground troops," he added. "However, I am not sure that sending more troops is the right answer."

The Western alliance already has around 37,000 troops deployed in the country. NATO commanders say they need some 7,500 extra troops to carry out their mission as they battle the Taliban. Afghanistan's army currently numbers 58,000 troops, with a target of 70,000.

Karzai said he had the impression that the war "is not happening here," but was being exported to Afghanistan from other countries.

"We should concentrate on the sanctuaries and the training camps," he said. "Afghanistan is not a sanctuary. It was one, but we have taken it back."

Focus should shift to Pakistan
Most concern focuses on the mountainous border area with Pakistan, where Afghan and Western forces believe Taliban extremists regroup to launch attacks in southern Afghanistan.

Karzai said his recent meeting with Pakistan's under-pressure President Pervez Musharraf had been "very constructive."

"My hope is that Pakistan will take harder and clearer measures in the future and thus becomes a region where extremism is no longer used as a political instrument," he was quoted as saying. "If Pakistan takes a step in this direction, we in Afghanistan will take many steps to support it."
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US homes in on militants in Pakistan
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / January 30, 2008
KARACHI - Another piece of the United States' regional jigsaw is in place with the completion of a military base in Afghanistan's Kunar province, just three kilometers from Bajaur Agency in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Pakistani intelligence quarters have confirmed to Asia Times Online that the base, on a mountain top in Ghakhi Pass overlooking Pakistan, is now operational. (This correspondent visited the area last July and could clearly see construction underway. See A fight to the death on Pakistan's border Asia Times Online, July 17, 2007.)

The new US base is expected to serve as the center of clandestine special forces' operations in the border region. The George W Bush administration is itching to take more positive action - including inside Pakistan - against Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda militants increasingly active in the area and bolstering the insurgency in Afghanistan.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has officially rejected US proposals to expand the US presence in Pakistan, either through unilateral covert Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operations or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces, but this is not necessarily the end of the matter, especially as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates. According to reports, Mike McConnell, the director of US national intelligence, and CIA director General Michael Hayden visited Pakistan this month to meet with Musharraf.

A senior Pakistani security official explained to Asia Times Online, "American special forces have carried out clandestine operations in the past, and Pakistan was not informed. The Taliban and al-Qaeda also did not realize what was happening with the quick-as-a-wink hit-and-run operations in the tribal areas. Pakistani intelligence only knew of the operations after they happened. They included the killing of high-value Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders and high-value arrests," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"However, with the new Kunar base, American special forces will carry out extended operations, which means a limited war against Taliban and al-Qaeda assets in the tribal areas. These clandestine operations can be done with or without Pakistan's consent."

In response, the initial militant action is expected to be the relocation of its key leadership away from the immediate danger area. Efforts to disrupt the vital supply lines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)from Pakistan into Afghanistan will be stepped up. A further option is to increase terror operations inside Pakistan as a warning that the militants should be left alone.

The Taliban leadership is aware of the danger posed by the new American base. Several powerful attacks were mounted while it was under construction, but they only managed to cause delays.

The pressing problem is to find a new safe haven for the high profile al-Qaeda leadership. The area on both sides of the border - the Chitral - is characterized by inhospitable jungles and mazes of mountains and rivers, stretching from Noorestan and Kunar provinces in Afghanistan to the Bajaur Valley. Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is known to have stayed in the area. It is now a question of finding a safer location for him - if he is still in the area - and his colleagues.

US intelligence spotted bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, twice in Bajaur Agency and attacked the area with Predator drones. Zawahiri was unscathed, but several militants and civilians were killed. Local Taliban sources tell Asia Times Online that Zawahiri had been moving in the area for more than 30 hours before he was spotted and targeted. Apparently, he was to meet with bin Laden.

Going after NATO's arteries

When Pakistani militants occupied Pakistan's strategic tunnel, which connects Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) to the cantonment town of Kohat in NWFP, the aim was to attack military convoys. These, the Taliban realized, were transporting supplies to Kohat air base, from where they were being flown to the American base in Khost in Afghanistan.

This move has effectively opened a new front in Kohat and Darra Adam Khel - the biggest arms and ammunition-manufacturing area in the region. There were four attacks last week.

Another senior security official told Asia Times Online, "Pakistan has conceded to many of the [Pakistani] Taliban's demands for peace, such as the release of fellow tribesmen. But if they demand something like the closure of NATO's supply lines from Pakistan, it is beyond Pakistan's orbit. The Americans sought Pakistan's cooperation [in the "war on terror"] , in return they pledged billions of dollars in aid. But they wanted steady supply lines for NATO forces in Afghanistan," the official said.

"Pakistan has stretched itself to the limit for the sake of peace in the country, it has even struck deals with al-Qaeda for it to stop attacking Pakistan. But if they [al-Qaeda and militants] don't appreciate Pakistan's interests and compulsions, then, like [US President George W] Bush said after 9/11, defeat is not an option. This is 2008, and we have the world's most modern army and equipment. This is not the time of British India, when only a regiment could fight against tribals, and defeat them. We can spare far more force and if we want to, we can destroy them," the official said.

Change in militants' tactics

Last week, militants used improvised explosive devices near Peshawar to blow up a military convoy. This is the first such incident of its kind near a city against the Pakistani army. Previously, such events only happened in the tribal areas.

This indicates that while the tribesmen might be facing a modern army, rather than the thin British force of years ago, the army now faces an urban guerrilla battle, not one limited to remote mountains.

Clearly, the militants, linked to a particular branch of al-Qaeda called the Tafkiris, are preparing for an Iraq-style guerrilla battle against Pakistan. The Tafkiris - who class as infidels all non-practicing Muslims - include Tahir Yuldashev, leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Sheikh Essa, Pakistani Baitullah Mehsud and some factions of banned Pakistani militant organizations.

The overriding objective of the Tafkiris goes beyond simple terror attacks. They aim to force Islamabad to either follow their dictates or become ensnared in the conflict against NATO. Better. Pakistan would stand neutral in this regional war theater. (See Military brains plot Pakistan's downfall Asia Times Online, September 26, 2007.)

Last Saturday, Pakistani security forces unearthed a militant cell operating from the military city of Rawalpindi and recovered a huge cache of weapons. It is believed militants were planning devastating attacks on military installations. However, massive terrors operations in the federal capital of Islamabad are the biggest fear. Some believe these might be just round the corner.

But the real danger is the aim to drive a wedge between Islamabad and the NATO-Washington nexus, which would leave Pakistan potentially fatally exposed to the militants.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief.
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US funds madrassas in Afghanistan
By Jon Boone in Khost Financial Times (UK) January 29, 2008
The US military is funding the construction of Islamic schools, or madrassas, in the east of Afghanistan in an attempt to stem the tide of young people going to radical religious schools in Pakistan.

Such schools spawned the Taliban movement, which harboured Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader behind the September 11 terror attacks on the US, before it was swept from power in 2001.

Commander David Adams, head of the US provincial reconstruction team in Khost, the province on the border with Pakistan, said more were planned.

“We would like to see small religious schools in every district so that parents don’t have to send their children over the border [to Pakistan],” he told the Financial Times.

The initiative shows how much leeway US commanders have been given to implement counter-insurgency strategies that focus on development and education.

In parts of eastern Afghanistan, US soldiers distribute copies of the Koran and “mosque refurbishment kits” that include sound systems powered by solar panels and prayer rugs.

John Kael Weston, the state department’s political representative in the Khost reconstruction team, holds weekly meetings with madrassa students.

“Just look at it from their perspective – if we just talk about girls’ education, for example, it just plays into the propaganda about the US. They think that the Americans will be opening up strip joints and restaurants selling alcohol on every corner.”

Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan’s minister of education, is pushing for madrassas to fall within the state system to ensure that the curriculum includes secular disciplines such as science and languages as well as traditional religious education.

Colonel Martin Schweitzer, brigade commander of Task Force Fury, which is responsible for security and reconstruction in parts of eastern Afghanistan, said he had been reassured by Mr Atmar’s approach.

“We’re talking separate schools for boys and girls to develop the curriculum that’s within their governmental parameters of how they want [to develop] their people and their country, their vision and their way of life.”
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Taliban being trained outside Afghanistan: Musa Qala Chief
By Akram Norzai - Jan 29, 2008 - 11:43
LASHKARGAH (Pajhwok Afghan News): Musa Qala district Chief Haji Abdul Salam in an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News on Tuesday said the Taliban were being trained outside Afghanistan and come here for fighting against Afghan and foreign forces in the restive Helmand province.

Salaam resident of Shah Karez village in Zamindar area of the Kajaki district who was also district chief of Kajaki during Taliban era later he was acting governor of the central Uruzgan province for almost 47 days, and he was staying in his home after the fall of Taliban in 2001.

He became district chief of the restive Musa Qala district when the Afghan National Army (ANA) recaptured the district from the Taliban fighters after 11 months in December 2007.

He said there are no former Taliban in Afghanistan, but the Taliban who fight against government are trained outside of the country and sent here for bringing instability and disturbance to the war raked country.

About his relations with the Taliban Salam said he was a staunch member of the movement but after the fall of Taliban I opted to stay put at home. "After the fall of Taliban I opted to divert all my energies to the reconstruction of my country", he claimed.

He said he had apprised government that the people of Musa Qala district want peace and hate fighting, the government must construct schools, clinics, and roads for them to bring a comfortable life for the new generation.

Many areas of the district are secured and Taliban fighters sporadically spread their threatening letters in some areas of the district, when they sometimes attack on the foreign forces they later escape from the area by motorbikes, he said.

He rejected the claims of civilians who said the Afghan and foreign troops have forcefully seized their markets and homes. He said: "We have rented their markets and houses and we pay considerable amount for it."
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Afghanistan: Tempers Flare In Dispute Over Display Of Ancient Artifacts
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Decades of war have decimated much of Afghanistan's ancient heritage. Many historic architectural gems have been damaged or destroyed, and national treasures have been looted from museums or vandalized by the Taliban.

Amid the destruction, one Afghan expatriate has amassed a private collection containing thousands of artifacts -- some dating back thousands of years.

Ahmad Shah Sultani considers himself to be a savior of Afghanistan's cultural heritage. Though he has never learned to read or write, Sultani says he amassed a fortune and became an expert on Afghan artifacts as an antiquities dealer in Pakistan and London.

The former goldsmith's apprentice also says that he has spent millions of dollars during the past three decades for the 15,000 artifacts in his collection -- buying from other antiques dealers in Europe, Iran, Pakistan, and Dubai.

"I can't estimate any value for these pieces. Just the number of pieces," Sultani tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "They are priceless because these are ancient and no amount of money can replace them."

But Sultani's attempts to return the artifacts to Afghanistan and display them at an historic citadel in Herat have been blocked by the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture.

In 2005, when Sultani displayed about 3,000 artifacts from his collection at the National Gallery in Kabul, officials from the ministry praised his efforts to preserve Afghan culture.

The ministry also welcomed Sultani's plans to return more antiques to Afghanistan and establish as many as 20 museums around the country so that future generations of Afghans could learn about the culture of their forefathers.

Sultani also returned a few items he says he bought over the years that had been looted from the National Museum and National Gallery in Kabul.

Trading Accusations

But relations between Sultani and Kabul have soured since the appointment in 2006 of Abdul Karim Khoram as minister of information and culture.

That situation deteriorated further in recent weeks, with Khoram overruling a decision by Herat's provincial governor, Sayyad Hosayn Anwari, that would have allowed Sultani's collection to be housed at an ancient citadel in Herat known as Ekhtyaruddin Qala.

Work has been under way for years to transfer to the citadel what remains of government collections from the National Museum in Herat.

But Khoram announced last week that displaying a private collection at the ancient fortress would threaten the government's attempts to get UNESCO to declare the citadel a protected World Heritage site.

Khoram also said displaying Sultani's collection at the citadel could threaten new archaeological work under way there.

Tempers came to a head two weeks ago when Khoram questioned Sultani's story about how he obtained the artifacts in the first place -- suggesting that Sultani may have contributed to the destruction of Afghan culture by supporting those who have plundered national treasures.

"I will repeat it once more that we are not sure what this gentleman is doing and what his activities are," Khoram tells RFE/RL. "And we don't know anything about the [source] of the artifacts that he already has displayed in Kabul."

When asked about Khoram's remarks, Herat Governor Anwari responded angrily and accused the minister of complicity in the destruction of Afghanistan because of his membership in the Islamist fundamentalist faction Hizb-e Islami.

"Mr. Khoram, as a member of Hizb-e Islami, is responsible for destroying Afghanistan along with his gang of bandits," Anwari says. "How can he accuse us -- saying that we have done this everywhere. Afghanistan was destroyed because of the political party that [Khoram] is a member of. And now he accuses us of this? The Afghan government should take this case seriously and investigate it. But if we are blamed for ignoring orders of the central government or the Ministry of Information and Culture, then we demand an investigation."

Historic Ethnic, Political Rivalries

Jean MacKenzie, the Afghanistan country director for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, says the dispute is more than just an argument between government officials and would-be donors. She says the arguments reflect a broader trend in Afghanistan -- the resurgence of political and ethnic divisions that have plagued the country for decades.

"We've got the governor of Herat, who is [Hazara] -- a different ethnic group than the [ethnic Pashtun] minister of information and culture," MacKenzie says.

"And rather than debate the issue on its merits, he is throwing around character-assassination-type terms [against Khoram] like 'former commander' and bringing Hizb-e Islami into the picture, which raises the specter of fundamentalism," she continues. "And it is, of course, directed against the Pashtuns. So I think what we are seeing is more and more of this lack of debate where ethnic and political divides are coming more and more to the fore."

For his part, Sultani says he is so angry at Khoram that he will no longer try to establish museums across the country.

Sultani says that he has decided he won't allow his collection to be displayed in Afghanistan even if President Karzai overrules Khoram's decision against housing artifacts at Herat's ancient citadel.
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German DM: Majority of Germans support troops mission in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-29 20:44:54
KABUL, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The visiting German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung in meeting with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai here Tuesday said that majority of the German population are supporting German troops' presence in the war-torn nation.

"Majority of the people of Germany are supporting the mission of their troops in stabilizing security in Afghanistan," a statement released by Afghan Presidential Palace after the meeting said.

He also noted that Germany would further boost its support in providing training to Afghanistan National Security Forces.

In addition to having more than 3,100 troops in Afghanistan's northern provinces serving under NATO command, Germany has been playing significant role in providing training to Afghan police.

The German dignitary, according to the statement, assured Afghan President that his troops would fight terrorism in each parts of the country whenever is needed.

However, Berlin earlier expressed its opposition to shifting troops from north to the troubled southern provinces where Taliban militants are active.

Germany has contributed more than 800 million Euros (around 1.2billion U.S. dollars in the rebuilding process of Afghanistan since the collapse of Taliban regime in late 2001, the statement added.

A statement of Afghan Defense Ministry said that the Defense Minister Jung in talks with his Afghan counterpart Abdul Rahim Wardak said that 78 percent of the members of German parliament are in favor of troops' presence in Afghanistan.

The statement further added that Germany had agreed to enhance its present military strength from 3,155 to 3,500 but did not say when it would send more troops to Afghanistan.
Editor: Du Guodong 
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Better Afghan army needed for future security: minister
Kabul (AFP) Jan 29, 2008 via www.spacewar.com
Afghan defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak on Tuesday urged the world community to accelerate efforts to strengthen the insurgency-hit country's nascent army.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Kabul with his visiting German counterpart, Franz Josef Jung, Wardak said a strong Afghan army was the sole way to promote enduring peace in the Islamic republic.

"The only sustainable way to secure this country in an enduring way is to enable Afghans themselves to be able to defend their country," Wardak said.

"We are expecting from our friends and allies, especially the countries with which we enjoy the most close relations, like Germany, to assist us in strengthening (the) Afghan army both in quality and quantity," he added.

Afghanistan's army currently numbers 58,000 troops, with a target of 70,000.

The fledgling force is being trained by Western troops based in Afghanistan, who number around 60,000, mostly under the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Foreign and Afghan troops are waging an intense campaign against the extremist Taliban movement, which was ousted from power by US-led forces in late 2001.

"Eventually as our size grows and our capability improves we can have the capability to relieve our friends and allies from the burden of the joint campaign which we're striving for at the moment," Wardak said.

"Our final aim is that we do not want to be a permanent burden on the international community," he added.

Germany has over 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, mainly based in the relatively peaceful north of the country.
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Copper project tests Afghanistan's resources
von Jon Boone Financial Times Deutschland, Germany
The war-battered country might not be able to handle a huge but potentially lucrative deal.

 The debris left over from previous attempts to extract some of Afghanistan's colossal mineral wealth can be found just 35km south-east of Kabul.

All that remains from Soviet attempts in the 1970s to assess one of the world's biggest copper reserves is exploratory drill holes. But in five years, if all goes to plan, the landscape in the Aynak exploration area will finally be changed into one of the world's largest opencast mines, thanks to a $3bn (Pfund1.5bn) investment by the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC).

In November, the Chinese state-owned company beat eight other leading mining groups, including Phelps Dodge of the US, Hunter Dickinson of Canada and London-based Kazakhmys, to become the government's preferred bidder.

If contract negotiations are successfully concluded, MCC will have access to a reserve that, with copper prices running high, could be worth $42bn, according to one estimate.

By international standards, it is a huge project, involving the second-largest unexploited deposit in the world. By Afghan standards, it is gargantuan.

And therein lies both the potential reward and risk for a war-battered country that desperately needs the money such a deal could bring but which experts say is unprepared for regulating the sort of mega-projects that have caused social, political and economic catastrophes in other developing nations.

Lorenzo Delesgues, executive director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, an independent research organisation that last month published a report on Aynak, says Afghanistan is not evenly matched with the company. "This is a multi-national company that is far bigger financially than Afghanistan. It's like David and Goliath, only David doesn't have any laws or regulatory framework to help him."

Copper mining can be destructive to the environment. Acid waste, for example, needs to be controlled to stop it polluting drinking water supplies and the run-off from Aynak could spill into Kabul's water supply, experts have warned.

But the rewards for getting the project right could be huge for Afghanistan. The investment in the project is equal to 35 per cent of all the international development money spent on Afghanistan since 2002.

Analysts say annual royalties will be about $400m - or 40 per cent of the 2006 Afghan state budget. The cash will be vital for a country that struggles to collect taxes and knows it has to wean itself off international aid money.

The project will also bring infrastructure development for which the country would otherwise have to wait decades, including a first railway line, which would link Afghanistan to Tajikistan and Pakistan.

Mahmoud Saikal, an economic adviser to the government, says Afghanistan should look to the example of post-independence India, which focused on developing its mineral wealth.

"The MCC deal only ¬covers one quarter of the exploration area and the country's other resources could be a lot more than we currently understand," he says. "There will be opportunities for similar deals."

Those other minerals include iron ore, gold, marble, emeralds, lapis lazuli and hydrocarbons.

But if the Aynak deal, which is seen as a test of how the country handles big foreign investment projects, goes sour, then much of that potential will remain untapped.

In the summer, concerns were raised about the tendering process by James Yeager, a consultant who worked with the ministry of mines. He warned that legal requirements for an inter-ministerial council to consider the rival bidders were simply being ignored. Other sources close to the deal have warned that the process lacked transparency.

The World Bank, which is bankrolling efforts to sharpen the ministry's capacity to handle mega-deals, said it was satisfied with the tendering process.

Analysts warn, however, that the contract negotiations and a yet-to-be-done feasibility study still offer potential pitfalls.

One westerner with intimate knowledge of the country's embryonic mineral extraction regime described it as a "Soviet-era structure that simply does not have the capacity to do the job".

"The risk will be that without the lawyers and accountants in place to monitor all of this, they won't be able to stop problems before it's too late," he said.

But Ibrahim Adel, Afghanistan's mining minister, said his ministry was being well advised by international experts and the country still had plenty of time.

"Extraction will not start for five years, so there will be sufficient time to get our experts and environmental inspectors trained," he said.

If those challenges cannot be tackled, however, the landscape around Aynak will be disfigured by more than a few Soviet-era holes.
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Taliban militants behead 4 workers in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-30 22:48:29
KABUL, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Taliban militants beheaded four local employees of a private construction company in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, said the Interior Ministry in a press release.

"The militants abducted these people last week from Kamdish district of eastern Nuristan province and brutally beheaded them after the Taliban demand for ransom was not met by the families of the ill-fated men," said the press release.

All the victims had worked for a local road construction company called Mohammadi.

Taliban insurgents have yet to make comment. However, the militants in the past have repeatedly targeted road construction firms and in some cases murdered their employees.
Editor: Yan Liang
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Oldest Afghan man passes away at age 117 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-30 17:51:32
KABUL, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- An Afghan man Khudai Birdy passes away at the age of 117 Tuesday night in Afghanistan's northern Sar-e-Pul province, survived by 40 children and hundreds of grandsons, a local newspaper reported Wednesday.

According to his 15th son Khan Mohammad, Khudai, believed to bethe oldest man in Afghanistan, had married four times and left behind 40 children and 200 grandsons.

He died Tuesday night due to protracted illness, daily 8Subh reported.

In a war-ravaged and poor country like Afghanistan where life expectancy is only 43, such an age is unbelievable.

The newspaper added that another man, Mohammad Shahpoor, who lived in northern Baghlan province, had completed his 113th birthday anniversary and thus was considered the oldest man alive in Afghanistan.

Shahpoor, according to the newspaper, got married when he was 80 without any children.
Editor: An Lu 
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Marine Afghan shooting hearing nears end
By ESTES THOMPSON, Associated Press Writer Tue Jan 29, 7:27 PM ET
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - After a month of often conflicting testimony about a fatal shooting of Afghan civilians, three military officers must now decide whether to recommend criminal charges — but not before reviewing 5,000 pages of evidence.

The rarely used Court of Inquiry heard closing arguments Tuesday from a government lawyer and attorneys representing two officers who led the Marine special operations company involved in the shooting. Its final report, which may take several weeks to complete, could recommend the officers be charged.

"It's too bad the way these Marines have been vilified," civilian lawyer Knox Nunnally, who represented one of the officers, said after the court closed. "These Marines did exactly as they were trained."

An Army report determined as many as 19 Afghan civilians were killed when Marines opened fire after a car bombing targeted their convoy March 4, though a definite number of those killed and wounded varies among several reports. Nunnally said he believes three to five people died and less than 19 were injured.

Marines testified that the bombing initiated a well-planned ambush on their six-vehicle convoy, which was later targeted by small arms fire at different locations. But an Afghan human rights organization said the Marines fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and motorists.

The panel, comprising two Marine Corps colonels and a lieutenant colonel, is investigating the company's commander, Maj. Fred C. Galvin, 38, of the Kansas City area, and a platoon leader, Capt. Vincent J. Noble, 29, of Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, government lawyer Maj. Philip Sanchez argued that the company was out to prove itself and ignored initial orders only to gather intelligence.

"Their boots didn't even have the dust of Afghanistan on them and they were already worried about whether they had time to kill somebody," Sanchez told the panel.

Sanchez said the shootings wouldn't have happened if Galvin had been patient and followed orders when he arrived in the country. He also said Galvin and Noble refused to take responsibility for the incident.

"They were the first (Marine special operations company) and they weren't going to let anything get in the way," Sanchez said, adding that Galvin nicknamed his unit "Task Force Violence."

"Normally, you want to give Marines the benefit of any doubt, but you may not want to in this case."

Sanchez also accused Marines of lying during testimony about a separate March 9 incident, details of which were classified and not discussed in open session. He said that provided reason to question their testimony about the shootings.

Galvin's civilian lawyer Mark Waple disputed that claim, arguing that the Marines reported the incident on radios to their base. He said their statements were accurate because they were spontaneous.

Nunnally, Noble's lawyer, said Afghans who said they were wounded were told by village elders to lie to collect government payments.

Waple also said the Marines' testimony about the incident was "appropriately inconsistent," showing they didn't conspire to tell the same story. He said Afghan witnesses had a motive to lie so they would get American payments.

"These good Marines have had these casualties hung around their necks and that's not fair," Nunnally said. "There is no intent shown to harm civilians."
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Abdullah wants increase in foreign troops
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 27, 2008 - 10:43
NEW YORK (PAN): Dr. Abdullah Abdullah former foreign minister of Afghanistan critical of the policies of President Karzai, emphasized the need of political reforms and decentralization of power.

 Following are excerpts from an interview, before he left for Afghanistan after a weeklong tour of the US.

PAN: What was the purpose of your trip?

Answer: The purpose was to come here and give my own perception of the situation in Afghanistan and also to get a feeling of what is going on here and what is the evolution of thinking, with regards to Afghanistan and todays awareness in some of the challenges that we might lose sight of it if we do not solve.

PAN: How is the situation in Afghanistan? What did you tell the Congressmen and members of the Bush Administration?

Answer: The good thing is that the attention towards Afghanistan has not diminished yet. It continues to receive bi-partisan support.

PAN: What was the response from lawmakers and officials when you spoke to them about decentralization and not backing only one individual?

Answer: It has been a positive reaction. There is some short of opportunity for Afghanistan. There is an opportunity for the US and the international community too. So people are listening. Hopefully these things are translated into policies soon.

PAN: In your speech at Asia Society, you said Pakistan is a mosquito breeding ground. What do you want the international community and the US to do over there?

Answer: Certain things have happened in the past few months that have weakened the State of Pakistan on a whole. That is a fact, we cant change it. But to the extent that it could be dealt with in the future as short of dialogue a regular dialogue rather than just on and off contact time to time, perhaps it is in the most critical stage.

PAN: President Karzai told recently that Afghanistan is surrounded by countries from where terrorism is coming and these countries are not doing enough to tackle terrorism.  Do you really agree with this view, what is your assessment?

Answer: I mentioned there is a mosquito breeding ground outside Afghanistan. At the same time President Karzai is the elected leader of Afghanistan. There are certain things that should be done within the country. That is also important; as important as actions taken outside.

PAN: What is lack of political process in the country that you have been mentioning in your speeches here?

Answer: In the beginning, we all wanted President Karzai to take lead in forming a political party which would have a national basis. This did not happen. Small parties were formed. So the idea was that if there is a broad nationally based party there would be an opposition more or less in proportion to that and this would a political process moving forward. That has not happened in the country. Apart from that today there is a conflict between the Parliament and the Government. That situation is also not sustainable, not acceptable for the people. All these aspects of the political process have to be dealt with. It is important that that it gives the people the message to either strengthen or weaken in either way it would have its impact on the situation.

PAN: What is your thought about number of troops in Afghanistan?

Answer: There are is a need of some increase. I think, the United States would be sending 3,000 Marines to help the situation. This would be helpful. At the same time, there should be more emphasis on expediting the training of Afghan National Army. On the same basis, the political atmosphere is as important a contribution to the security as purely military factors.

PAN: Do you think, Iraq war has had any impact on Afghanistan?

Answer: The support for Afghanistan continued despite what happened in Iraq. At the same time, the focus on Pakistan which should have been there right from the beginning, to help Pakistan to deal with this challenge, to encourage them, to convince them to take decisive measures to not to let the extremism and terrorism to grow that a lot could have been done in the past few years; before it gets to the present situation where it is a too big for Pakistan to handle as well as the whole region.

PAN: How do you perceive the forthcoming election in Pakistan and their impact on your country?

Answer: If the upcoming elections in Pakistan strengthens the mainstream politics and the trust of the Pakistani people over the process, it would be in short term and long term it would be in the interest of Pakistan and Afghanistan both, regardless of who comes out as the winner.  If the democratic process, election is seen by the people of Pakistan as free and fair, I am sure they would have a positive impact on the region. If it is not seen as free and fair election, it would lead to instability in Pakistan in one way or the other.
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Afghan woman sells daughter for $10
By Abdul Matin Sarfaraz - Jan 27, 2008 - 18:03
KUNDUZ CITY (Pajwok Afghan News): Poverty, cold weather, and hunger forced a woman to sell her four month baby in Kunduz.

Mahboba, 26, whose lower limbs are paralyzed is living in a dark muddy room in Sar- dara area of Kunduz city.

She told Pajhwok Afghan News while cooking in a muddy oven: "We have no food, my three children died due to cold weather; I was compelled to sell my four months old daughter only for 500 afghanis a day back to the owner of the house"

She said: "I begged every one and even the owner of the house did not helped me and finally I had to sell my daughter"

Mahboba has two sons aged 9 and 10 years.

Sakhi, 9 said trembling with cold weather: "why did my mother sold my sister, I miss her"

Mahboba said her 40 year old husband is sick and is unable to work.

Muhammad Hassan, Mahboba's husband who could not speak properly said: "there is not one in our country to help, let me die in helplessness"

He said no one would sell his children, but poverty and hunger made me sell my daughter.

Din Muhammad, owner of the house said three children of Muhammad Hassan had died, so he bought her daughter for rescuing her life.

He said: "I have paid them 500 afghanis to buy food; I will not take the rent of the house and will provide food sometimes for them"

Din Muhammad did not comment when reporter asked him why he bought the girl instead of supporting the family without her.

Muhammad Zahir Zafari, Afghanistan Indpendent Human Rights Commission regional officer in Kunduz said selling children is against the human rights and humiliation to mankind.

He said they will investigate why a mother was compelled to sell her daughter.

Eng. Muhammad Omar, Kunduz governor said the incident was painful and the government will try to support such families.

The governor said he will assign a commission to investigate the particular case.
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Karzai may face Khalilzad in next elections
By Pajhwok reporter - Jan 27, 2008 - 17:57
KABUL (PAN): Zalmay Khalilzad, the Afghan-born US ambassador to the United Nations, is seriously considering running for Karzai's seat himself when the next elections are held in 2009, Newsweek quoting several U.N. and U.S. government officials reported.

It adds Khalilzad has not directly denied that he is considering a run. His spokeswoman, Carolyn Vadino, said 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, though, Karzai seemed to leave the door open for a re-election bid.

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, 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."
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Samad terms Manley report a balanced analysis
By Lalit K Jha - Jan 27, 2008 - 14:29
New York, January 27, 2007 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Afghan Ambassador to Canada, Omar Samad, has said that the Manley penal report gives a balance analysis of various options and what needs to be done to achieve success in Afghanistan.

The report is very frank, the analysis is comprehensive and gives Canadians a strong reference point, Samad told Pajhwok Afghan News in an interview.

Headed by former foreign minister, John Manley, the five-member Independent Panel on Canadas future in Afghanistan submitted its report to the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, early this week. The reports recommend conditional but long-term extension of the Canadas military mission in Afghanistan till the Afghan forces are strong enough to manage its own security.

 It has some strong messages and recommendations for Canada and its future role within the framework of international communitys commitment. It has also given some strong view about Afghanistan itself, which we appreciate coming from friends who care about our common success, he said.

 We all can benefit from its assessment and the recommendations made, he said.

In the next few months, Canada would have to make important decisions about its post-2009 Kandahar mission. Harper is soon expected to initiate a debate in the Parliament followed by a vote. Meanwhile a public opinion poll released by CanWest News Service and Global National said following the release of the Manley Panel report the support for withdrawal from Afghanistan has declined.

The report advocates not leaving Kandahar, but it also puts emphasis on training Afghan security forces and doing real development work that changes and improves the lives of the Afghans. It also addresses some of the concerns regarding weak institutions and governance and corruption in Afghanistan.

 Our point of view has been we do not anticipate the situation to stabilize by 2009, specially Kandahar and for the Afghan forces to be ready at that point to take over. So we need a commitment that goes beyond 2009. This report acknowledges that fact, Samad said.

When asked about the condition of deployment of 1,000 NATO troops for the continuation of Canadas military mission in Afghanistan, Samad said he is hopeful that such issues and challenges can have a solution.

We are hopeful that we will see that some of these issues are addressed, he said.
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Norway supports talks with Taliban
By Pajhwok reporter - Jan 27, 2008 - 18:27
KABUL (PAN): Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere says he supports the idea of negotiations with Taliban, in order to achieve peace in Afghanistan, said a release issued here on Monday.

Stoere said this in an interview with NRK, only two weeks after the terrorist attack on his hotel in Kabul, in which a Norwegian journalist was killed and a Foreign Office official seriously wounded.

"We lump Taliban together with all that is nasty and evil. (But) there are now many even in Parliament with a background in the Taliban movement, Stoere said.

Negotiations with people who commit terrorist acts are demanding, but it is possible to draw up plans for a process where many of these circles are included.

Stoere says that such negotiations are important as a parallel to work aimed at improving security.
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180 lose limbs on snow-laden slippery roads
By Ahmad Qureshi - Jan 27, 2008 - 15:06
HERAT CITY, (PAN): Arms and legs of more than 180 people including women were broken due to heavy snowfalls and snow laden slippery roads as the people had no preparation in the western Herat province, officials said on Sunday.

Emergency Director of Herat Civil Hospital Dr. Baraktullah told Pajhwok Afghan News some of the injuries were caused due to slipping on roads.

A 24-year-old Farid Ahmad resident of the third police station whose elbow was broken said: "There would be very few who would have not slipped on these roads."

Barakatullah said 20 percent of those whose legs and arms broken are women who were immediately hospitalized. "Women can not walk on roads; I was walking toward a medical store to take some medicine for my child while I suddenly fell on the ground." A woman, who did not want to be named, said.

The local officials said the heavy snowfalls and frigid weather will bring a big catastrophe to the remote areas of that province.

Emergency Reaction Dept Chief Agha Muhammad Saddiqi said about 205 people were killed and 75,000 animals have been lost in the remote areas since the last three week's heavy snowfalls and cold weather.

According to the information of Siddiqi 80 percent of those ways connecting remote areas with the districts have blocked by the heavy snowfalls.
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Civil society moot opens in Kabul
By Zarghona Salihi - Jan 27, 2008 - 19:39
KABUL (PAN): A two-day conference was launched here Monday as a prelude to a national moot titled as Afghan civil society national pre-peace conference scheduled to be held in Kabul in two months time.

The conference mainly aimed to strengthen peace and stability in Afghanistan would be attended by over 500 civil society representatives and government officials in Kabul.

The two-day conference conducted by Afghanistan NGO's Coordination Bureau (ANCB), umbrella to over 300 Afghan organization spread throughout the territory and close contribution of an Italian company in Kabul was attended by almost one hundred NGO representatives.

Massud Khalil director of the ANCB told Pajhwok Afghan News the pre peace conference was held to discuss arrangements for the national peace conference.

He said 350 representatives from provinces, 100 from Kabul including doctors, engineers, instructors and people's representatives as well as 50 Italian civil society representatives would attend the moot.

More information regarding the conference would be released after end of the second day of the moot, he said.

Peacewave director Mr. Marco supported the civil society role in improving security situation in the post war countries.

He stressed on the civil society groups to raise voice of the poor and needy people.

Present on the occasion Pajhwok Afghan News director Danish Karokhel expressed support for any step that could help improve peace and stability in the country. PAN had spared no efforts in raising the voice of civil society in its coverage, he argued.

By the same token Hamidullah Mubariz former Deputy Information and Culture Minister said any step taken for peace was positive and should be supported.

He insisted for an international moot so it could force those countries that were involved in instability in Afghanistan. "Pakistan, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia were behind disrupting security in Afghanistan." For instance Pakistan despite attending the peace Jirga still plays its double-standard policy and was not loyal regarding Afghanistan, he added.
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