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January 7, 2008 

Taliban bomb kills four in Afghanistan: police
Mon Jan 7, 7:57 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A remote-controlled bomb killed two members of the Afghan security forces and two civilians in southern Afghanistan, police said.

Afghan bomb kills coalition soldier
By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A roadside bomb killed a soldier from the U.S.-led coalition in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, and a suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a border police patrol in the south, killing a policeman, officials said.

NATO says two soldiers killed in Afghanistan road accident
Mon Jan 7, 2:51 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Two soldiers with the NATO-led force in Afghanistan were killed when their vehicle rolled over in a village in the troubled south, the alliance said in a statement.

Harper praises two Canadians killed in vehicle rollover in Afghanistan
The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute to two Canadian soldiers who died in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan on Sunday.

China enters Afghanistan with $3bn mine bid
By Jon Boone in Kabul January 7 2008 14:27
The debris left over from previous attempts to extract some of Afghanistan’s colossal mineral wealth can be found just 35 kilometres south-east of Kabul.

AFGHANISTAN: TB deaths halve but challenges remain – WHO
07 Jan 2008 14:13:42 GMT
 KABUL, 7 January 2008 (IRIN) - The number of people dying from tuberculosis (TB) in Afghanistan has been going down by 50 percent over the past few months, thus saving the lives of at least 10,000 people on an annual basis
 
Foiling U.S. Plan, Prison Expands in Afghanistan
By TIM GOLDEN January 7, 2008 The New York Times
WASHINGTON — As the Bush administration struggles for a way to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a similar effort to scale down a larger and more secretive American detention center in Afghanistan has been beset by political

Pakistan 'not particularly looking for' bin Laden: Musharraf
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Pakistan is not specifically looking for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as there is no proof he is in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf has said.

Islamists kill truce negotiators in Pakistan
Times Online January 7, 2008Jeremy Page of The Times, in Islamabad
Suspected Islamist militants have shot dead eight tribal leaders who were trying to negotiate a cease-fire between Pakistan's security forces and Taleban insurgents near the country's border with Afghanistan.

Pakistanis flee into Afghanistan
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Kabul Monday, 7 January 2008, 04:38 GMT
Thousands of Pakistanis have fled into Afghanistan with the security situation deteriorating in Pakistan's tribal regions over the past week.

Does the Taliban rule in Pakistan?
By OLIVIER GUITTA Middle East Times January 07, 2008
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan by Islamist extremists linked to the Taliban is a somber reminder of the chaotic situation reigning in that country. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's handling of the situation has been

Tsongas to visit Iraq and Afghanistan
January 7, 2008 Boston Globe
WASHINGTON—Congresswoman Niki Tsongas is headed to Iraq and Afghanistan for a weeklong visit with troops, military leaders and government officials.

Afghan troops kill 3 insurgents, arrest 1 in S Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-07 15:16:46
KABUL, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Afghan troops backed by NATO eliminated three suspected Taliban insurgents and arrested another, a press release of Afghanistan Interior Ministry said Monday.

UN insists its envoy did not talk to Taliban
By: - 4/01/2008 - 11:32
NEW YORK, Jan 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The United Nations Thursday said Marvin Patterson, its senior official in Afghanistan, did not talk to Taliban insurgents, a charges that led to the envoys expulsion from the war-battered country last month.

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Taliban bomb kills four in Afghanistan: police
Mon Jan 7, 7:57 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A remote-controlled bomb killed two members of the Afghan security forces and two civilians in southern Afghanistan, police said.

A detective and an intelligence officer discovered the roadside bomb in Nad Ali district of Helmand province but it exploded before they could cordon off the area, local police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal told AFP.

"A policeman and an intelligence member were martyred along with two civilians. Four other civilians were also wounded," Andiwal said.

Taliban militants control at least three districts in Helmand, the scene of the heaviest fighting between the Islamist extremists and NATO, US and Afghan forces.

The Taliban were forced from power in late 2001 by a US-led invasion of Afghanistan and have since launched a bloody insurgency which has claimed thousands of lives.
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Afghan bomb kills coalition soldier
By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A roadside bomb killed a soldier from the U.S.-led coalition in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, and a suicide bomber on a motorcycle attacked a border police patrol in the south, killing a policeman, officials said.

Clashes and another roadside bomb left nine people dead elsewhere.

In the eastern blast, two other U.S.-led coalition soldiers were wounded when the roadside bomb hit their vehicle in Kot district of Nangarhar province, the coalition said in a statement.

The troops were responding to a call from the local police who had discovered another explosive device nearby, when the second bomb exploded, the statement said.

The nationality of the dead and the wounded soldiers were not released. The majority of the troops in that area are American.

A suicide attacker in the south, meanwhile, attacked a border police patrol also Monday, leaving a policeman dead and four other officers wounded in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, said Gen. Abdul Raziq, the border security police commander.

In neighboring Helmand province, police discovered and tried to defuse a remote-controlled bomb in Nad Ali district, but it exploded, killing two policemen and two civilians, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal. Four other civilians were wounded.

In the Zhari district of Kandahar, three Taliban militants were killed in a battle between police and NATO troops on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said. Another militant was detained in the operation, it said.

In neighboring Uruzgan province, a clash between NATO troops and Taliban insurgents near Tirin Kot, the provincial capital, left two civilians dead and five others wounded on Friday, the alliance said in a statement.

The violence followed a roadside bomb attack on NATO's International Security Assistance Force soldiers, the statement said.

One child was among the dead, while three were among the wounded, the statement said.

No soldiers were hurt, the statement said.

Civilians are often caught in the line of fire during fighting between the Taliban and international forces or during airstrikes by foreign troops because insurgents hide among civilian homes.

President Hamid Karzai last year pleaded repeatedly with NATO and the coalition to coordinate more closely with their Afghan counterparts to prevent civilian casualties.

Last year, insurgency-related violence left more than 6,500 people dead — a record number — including nearly 900 civilians, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Western and Afghan officials.
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Associated Press writer Noor Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report. Back to Top

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NATO says two soldiers killed in Afghanistan road accident
Mon Jan 7, 2:51 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Two soldiers with the NATO-led force in Afghanistan were killed when their vehicle rolled over in a village in the troubled south, the alliance said in a statement.

The accident occurred on Sunday in Zhari district of Kandahar province, a hotbed of Taliban activity, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

It did not reveal the nationality of the soldiers but most ISAF troops in Kandahar are Canadian.

A soldier serving in the separate US-led coalition force died in a bomb explosion last week becoming the first Western soldier to die this year after 218 foreign troops lost their lives mostly in Taliban violence in 2007.

ISAF and the US-led force have together deployed about 60,000 troops in the fight against the Taliban who are waging an insurgency which is at its deadliest phase in the past two years.
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Harper praises two Canadians killed in vehicle rollover in Afghanistan
The Canadian Press
Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute to two Canadian soldiers who died in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan on Sunday.

In a statement issued Monday, Harper said the contribution that Warrant Officer Hani Massouh and Cpl. Eric Labbe made won't be forgotten.

``They deserve the gratitude of all Canadians for their commitment and the work they performed on our behalf,' Harper said in the statement. ``Warrant Officer Massouh and Corporal Labbe made an important contribution to the lives of the people of Afghanistan.'

Massouh, 41, and Labbe, 31, were members of 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment, based out of Valcartier, Que.

They died when their light armoured vehicle flipped over on rough terrain Sunday evening in the region of Nalgham, about 40 kilometres southwest of Kandahar city.

It's the third time Canadian soldiers have died as a result of a light armoured vehicle rollover. Cpl. Paul Davis and Master Cpl. Timothy Wilson died in March 2006 when their armoured vehicle ran off the road, while Pte. Braun Woodfield was killed in a similar rollover in November 2005.

The soldiers were involved in a multiday operation in the volatile Zhari district of Kandahar province at the time.

Meant to disrupt insurgent activity in the area, Operation Steadfast Decision is expected to continue despite the accident, the military said.

There were four people in the vehicle at the time of the accident and the two who died were sitting in the turret.

The two fatalities bring the number of Canadian military personnel killed in Afghanistan to 76. The majority of those deaths were the result of improvised explosive devices.
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China enters Afghanistan with $3bn mine bid
By Jon Boone in Kabul January 7 2008 14:27
The debris left over from previous attempts to extract some of Afghanistan’s colossal mineral wealth can be found just 35 kilometres 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 time, if all goes to plan, the landscape in the Aynak exploration area will finally be changed into one of the world’s largest open cast mines thanks to a $3bn investment by the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC).

In November, the Chinese state-owned company beat eight other major mining players, 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 which, with copper prices currently running high, could be worth $42bn, according to one estimate.

By international standards, it is a huge project, representing the second-largest unexploited deposit in the world. By the standards of Afghanistan, it is gargantuan.

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

Lorenzo Delesgues, executive director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, an independent research organisation which 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 particularly destructive to the environment. Acid waste, for example, needs to be carefully controlled to stop it polluting drinking water supplies and the run off from the Aynak basin could spill into Kabul’s water supply, experts have warned.

But the rewards for getting the project right could be enormous for Afghanistan.

The investment in just the one project is equal to 35 per cent of all the international development money spent on Afghanistan since 2002.

Analysts say annual royalties will equal around $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 that it has to wean itself off international aid money.

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

MCC has also promised to build a 400MW power plant which, it is hoped, will supply its excess power to Kabul, which currently has only intermittent electricity supply.

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 plenty of other opportunities for similar deals.”

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

But if the Aynak deal, which is being seen as a litmus 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 was 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, has pronounced itself satisfied with the tendering process.

Analysts warn, however, that 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 having the lawyers and accountants in place to monitor all of this, there just won’t be able to stop problems before it’s too late,” he said.

But Ibrahim Adel, Afghanistan’s mining minister, says his ministry was being well advised by international advisers and that the country still has 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 told the Financial Times.

If those challenges cannot be tackled, however, the landscape around Aynak will be disfigured by more than just a few Soviet-era holes.
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AFGHANISTAN: TB deaths halve but challenges remain – WHO
07 Jan 2008 14:13:42 GMT
 KABUL, 7 January 2008 (IRIN) - The number of people dying from tuberculosis (TB) in Afghanistan has been going down by 50 percent over the past few months, thus saving the lives of at least 10,000 people on an annual basis, according to new statistics from the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and World Health Organization (WHO).

MoPH officials and Afghanistan's national human development report 2007 had previously reported that about 20,000 people every year (two TB patients every hour) were dying in the country.

"WHO estimates that now the number of TB cases resulting in death has declined to 10,000 annually," said Syed Karam Shah, a WHO official in charge of the TB control programme in Afghanistan.

Following decades of conflict, the health status of the Afghan people has seen "substantial improvements" over the past two years, according to assessments conducted by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Indian Institute of Health Management Research in July 2007.

Tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment is part of the Basic Package Health Services (BPHS), which Afghan officials say now reach over 80 percent of the country.

Over 103,000 TB cases were diagnosed and treated from 2001 to 2006, which not only saved the lives of over 67,900 patients but also reduced the chances of TB infection for over 500,000 other people, WHO said. The total number of health facilities providing TB diagnostic and treatment services has increased from 36 in 2001 to 991 to date.

WFP aid to TB patients

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has also contributed to the fight against TB in Afghanistan through its mixed food aid for TB patients.

"WFP gives wheat and cooking oil to all TB patients which helps patients with food insecurity to recover quickly and effectively," said Yunus Ghanizada, a specialist at the national TB institute in Kabul.

Women particularly vulnerable

Despite marked progress, Afghanistan is still one of the 22 TB high-burden countries in the world where the disease is considered a major public health problem.

"WHO estimates that every year over 50,000 new cases of TB occur in Afghanistan," Karam Shah told IRIN on 7 January.

Afghan women make up about 67 percent of all TB patients in the country and are considered particularly vulnerable to TB infection due to their acute food insecurity, multiple pregnancies and a general lack of awareness about TB, public health specialists say.

Funding challenge

Funding is also a major challenge for the impoverished country to sustain its anti-TB efforts in the future.

From a requested US$12 million budget for TB control and treatment in 2007, the WHO received $2 million from international donors, according to WHO's Global Tuberculosis Control Report 2007.

"The whole TB control programme in Afghanistan is based on donors' support," said Karam Shah of WHO, adding that there were concerns about the "long-term" sustainability of donors' funding.

"Afghanistan will be able to eliminate TB by 2050 only if it is enabled to sustain its efforts in the long-term," he said.
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Foiling U.S. Plan, Prison Expands in Afghanistan
By TIM GOLDEN January 7, 2008 The New York Times
WASHINGTON — As the Bush administration struggles for a way to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a similar effort to scale down a larger and more secretive American detention center in Afghanistan has been beset by political, legal and security problems, officials say.

The American detention center, established at the Bagram military base as a temporary screening site after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, is now teeming with some 630 prisoners — more than twice the 275 being held at Guantánamo.

The administration has spent nearly three years and more than $30 million on a plan to transfer Afghan prisoners held by the United States to a refurbished high-security detention center run by the Afghan military outside Kabul.

But almost a year after the Afghan detention center opened, American officials say it can accommodate only about half the prisoners they once planned to put there. As a result, the makeshift American site at Bagram will probably continue to operate with hundreds of detainees for the foreseeable future, the officials said.

Meanwhile, the treatment of some prisoners on the Bagram base has prompted a strong complaint to the Pentagon from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside group allowed in the detention center.

In a confidential memorandum last summer, the Red Cross said dozens of prisoners had been held incommunicado for weeks or even months in a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells at Bagram, two American officials said. The Red Cross said the prisoners were kept from its inspectors and sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions, one of the officials said.

The senior Pentagon official for detention policy, Sandra L. Hodgkinson, would not discuss the complaint, citing the confidentiality of communications with the Red Cross. She said that the organization had access to “all Department of Defense detainees” in Afghanistan, after they were formally registered, and that the military “makes every effort to register detainees as soon as practicable after capture, normally within two weeks.

“In some cases, due to a variety of logistical and operational circumstances, it may take longer,” Ms. Hodgkinson added.

The obstacles American officials have faced in their plan to “transition out” of the Bagram detention center underscore the complexity of their challenges in dealing with prisoners overseas. Yet even as Bagram has expanded over the last three years, it has received a fraction of the attention that policy makers, Congress and human rights groups have devoted to Guantánamo.

“The problem at Bagram hasn’t gone away,” said Tina M. Foster, a New York human rights lawyer who has filed federal lawsuits on behalf of the detainees at Bagram. “The government has just done a better job of keeping it secret.”

The rising number of detainees at Bagram — up from barely 100 in early 2004 and about 500 early last year — has been driven primarily by the deepening war in Afghanistan. American officials said that all but about 30 of those prisoners are Afghans, most of them Taliban fighters captured in raids or on the battlefield.

But the surging detainee population also reflects a series of unforeseen problems in the United States’ effort to turn over prisoners to the Afghan government.

In a confidential diplomatic agreement in August 2005, a draft of which was obtained by The New York Times, the Bush administration said it would transfer the detainees if the Kabul government gave written assurances that it would treat the detainees humanely and abide by elaborate security conditions. As part of the accord, the United States said it would finance the rebuilding of an Afghan prison block and help equip and train an Afghan guard force.

Yet even before the construction began in early 2006, the creation of the new Afghan National Detention Center was complicated by turf battles among Afghan government ministries, some of which resisted the American strategy, officials of both countries said.

A push by some Defense Department officials to have Kabul authorize the indefinite military detention of “enemy combatants” — adopting a legal framework like that of Guantánamo — foundered in 2006 when aides to President Hamid Karzai persuaded him not to sign a decree that had been written with American help.

Then, last May, the transfer plan was disrupted again when the two American servicemen overseeing the project were shot to death by a man suspected of being a Taliban militant who had infiltrated the guard force.

The Pentagon initially reported only that the two Americans, Col. James W. Harrison Jr. and Master Sgt. Wilberto Sabalu Jr., were killed May 6 by “small-arms fire.” But American officials said the Afghan guard had opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle as two vehicles carrying senior officers waited to pass through the prison gate. The killings forced more than a month of further vetting of the Afghan guards and the dismissal of almost two dozen trained recruits, Pentagon officials said.

A Spartan Site of Metal Pens

The Bagram Theater Internment Facility, as it is called, has held prisoners captured as far away as Central Africa and Southeast Asia, many of whom were sent on to Guantánamo. Since the flow of detainees to Cuba was largely shut off in September 2004, the Bagram detention center has become primarily a repository for more dangerous prisoners captured in Afghanistan.

Despite some expansion and renovation, the detention center remains a crude place where most prisoners are fenced into large metal pens, military officers and former detainees have said.

Military personnel who know both Bagram and Guantánamo describe the Afghan site, on an American-controlled military base 40 miles north of Kabul, as far more spartan. Bagram prisoners have fewer privileges, less ability to contest their detention and no access to lawyers. Some detainees have been held without charge for more than five years, officials said.

The treatment of prisoners at Bagram has generally improved in recent years, human rights groups and former detainees say, particularly since two Afghan detainees died there in December 2002 after being beaten by their American captors. Two American officials familiar with the Red Cross complaint that was forwarded to the Pentagon over the summer described it as a notable exception.

A Red Cross spokesman in Washington, Simon Schorno, said the organization would not comment on its discussions with the Defense Department. But in remarks about the organization’s work in Afghanistan, its director of operations, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, emphasized on Dec. 13 that “not all places of detention and detainees” are made available to the group’s inspectors.

“The fact that the I.C.R.C. does not publicize its findings does not indicate satisfaction with the conditions of any given detention place,” he said on the group’s Web site.

The two United States officials, who insisted on anonymity because of the confidentiality of Red Cross communications, suggested that the organization had been more forceful in private. They said the group had complained that detainees in the isolation area were sometimes subjected to harsh interrogations and were not reported to Red Cross inspectors until after they were moved into the main Bagram detention center and formally registered — after being held incommunicado for as long as several months.

One former Bush administration official said the Pentagon told Congressional leaders in September 2006 that a small number of prisoners held by Special Operations forces might not be registered within the 14-day period cited in a Defense Department directive issued that month. The exceptions were to be “approved at the highest levels,” the former official said.

Discounting Complaints

Bush administration officials have at times discounted complaints about the crowding and harsh conditions at Bagram by saying the detention center was never meant to be permanent and that its prisoners would soon be turned over to Afghanistan.

Hundreds of Bagram detainees have been released outright as part of an Afghan national reconciliation program. But by early 2006, internal Defense Department statistics showed that the average internment at Bagram was 14.5 months, and one Pentagon official said that figure had since risen.

After a White House agreement by President Bush and Mr. Karzai in May 2005, the plan to transfer the prisoners was drawn up by administration officials and outlined in an exchange of confidential diplomatic notes that August.

The two-page Washington note — the first document to become public showing the terms that Washington has sought from other governments for the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo and Bagram — asks the Kabul administration to share any intelligence information from the prisoners, “utilize all methods appropriate and permissible under Afghan law to surveil or monitor their activities following any release,” and “confiscate or deny passports and take measures to prevent each national from traveling outside Afghanistan.”

At the time, some Bush administration officials predicted that transfers from Bagram could begin within six months. Col. Manuel Supervielle, who worked on legal aspects of the transfers as the senior United States military lawyer in Afghanistan, recalled that officials in Washington expected the primary difficulty to be the rebuilding of a cellblock at Afghanistan’s decrepit Pul-i-Charkhi prison to meet international standards of humane treatment.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys we want to hand over to the Afghans,” Colonel Supervielle said, recalling the prevailing view. “Build a jail and hand them over.”

But complications emerged at almost every turn.

Afghan officials rejected pressure from Washington to adopt a detention system modeled on the Bush administration’s “enemy combatant” legal framework, American officials said. Some Defense Department officials even urged the Afghan military to set up military commissions like those at Guantánamo, the officials said.

Officials of both countries said the defense minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, was reluctant to take responsibility for the new detention center as the Pentagon wanted, fearing he would be besieged by tribal leaders trying to secure the release of captives. The minister of justice, Sarwar Danish, opposed sharing his control over prisons, the officials said.

American officials finally brokered an agreement between the ministries, internal documents show. But that did not resolve more basic questions about the legal basis under which Afghanistan would hold the detainees.

For nearly a year, American military officials and diplomats worked with the Afghan government to draft a plan for how it would detain and prosecute all prisoners captured in Afghanistan. Colonel Supervielle, who had helped set up legal operations at Guantánamo, said the effort in Afghanistan was in some ways more complex. “You weren’t dealing just with a U.S. interagency process,” he said. “It involved the interagency process, bilateral relations with Afghanistan, the military coalition and other international interests.”

The draft law was finally delivered to Mr. Karzai in August 2006. Despite American entreaties, he decided not to sign it after opposition from senior aides, officials said.

The construction of a new detention center at Pul-i-Charkhi also proved more complicated than United States officials had anticipated.

A New Project Is Flawed

When Afghan contractors broke ground on the $20 million project in 2006, United States officials estimated that the center would hold as many as 670 prisoners. But as the military police colonel overseeing the project toured the site with Afghan and Red Cross officials, they pointed to a significant flaw. In other parts of Pul-i-Charkhi, men were crammed as many as eight to a cell, and used toilets down the hall. To improve security and hygiene, the Americans equipped each two-man cell in the new block with its own toilet.

But because the cultural modesty of Afghan men would make them uncomfortable sharing an open toilet, it was subsequently decided that the prisoners should be held individually, two former officials involved in the project said. That immediately reduced the optimal capacity of the main prison to about 330 detainees, they said, although a Pentagon spokeswoman said its “maximum capacity” was 628 prisoners.

The training of Afghan military personnel to guard and administer the new prison has posed other challenges. After initially budgeting $6 million for guard training, the Defense Department decided it would need about $18 million for training and “mentoring” of guards over three years, officials said.

A first group of 12 Bagram detainees was moved into the Pul-i-Charkhi prison on April 3. Over the next nine months, that number rose to 157 prisoners, including 32 from Guantánamo, official statistics show. Afghan officials decided to release 12 of those detainees soon after their transfer.

American officials said the modest flow had been dictated mainly by the Afghan military, which has wanted to make sure its guards could handle the new arrivals. But some United States officials say they have also had to reassess the Afghans’ ability to hold more dangerous detainees. They said the detention center at Bagram would probably continue to hold hundreds of prisoners indefinitely. “The idea is that over time, some of our detainees at Bagram — especially those at the lower end of the threat scale — will be passed on to Afghanistan,” one senior military official said last year. “But not all. Bagram will remain an intelligence asset and a screening area.”

Ms. Hodgkinson, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, acknowledged that the military was holding more detainees at Bagram than it had anticipated two years ago and that the Pentagon had no plan to assist the Afghans with further prison-building. But, she added, “A final decision on the higher-threat detainees has not yet been made.”

And even now, the legal basis under which prisoners are being held at the Afghan detention center remains unclear. Another Defense Department official, who insisted on anonymity because she was not authorized to publicly discuss the issue, said the detentions had been authorized “in a note from the attorney general stating that he recognizes that they have the legal authority under the law of war to hold enemy combatants as security threats if they choose to do so.”

Afghan officials said they were still expecting virtually all of the Afghan prisoners held by the United States — with the possible exception of a few especially dangerous detainees at Guantánamo — to be handed over to them.

A spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, Gen. Zaher Azimi, said, “What is agreed is that all the detainees should be transferred.”
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Pakistan 'not particularly looking for' bin Laden: Musharraf
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Pakistan is not specifically looking for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as there is no proof he is in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf has said.

"We are not particularly looking for him, but we are operating against terrorists and Al Qaeda and militant Taliban. And in the process, obviously, combined, maybe we are looking for him also," the Pakistani leader told CBS television in an interview aired late Sunday.

Asked what Pakistan was doing to find the mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Musharraf said it was fighting extremism and terrorism.

"We are fighting first of all Al-Qaeda. Let's take Al-Qaeda. We have arrested or eliminated about 700 Al-Qaeda leaders ... which other country has done this?"

"Well, which other country has Bin Laden?" his CBS interviewer replied, inciting a sharp retort from the Pakistani leader.

"No, I challenge -- I don't accept that at all. There is no proof whatsoever that he is here in Pakistan."

Mahmoud Ali Durrani, Pakistan's envoy to the United States, sought to clarify Musharraf's remark, in an exchange with CNN.

"I think the president is suggesting that neither we, nor the US, has any intelligence where exactly Osama bin Laden is," Durrani said.

"He may be in Afghanistan," the ambassador said. "He may be in the border region. If we knew where he was, we would have taken him out."

Durrani noted that US and other foreign intelligence agencies believe bin Laden to be sheltering in the tribal area along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But "that's just speculation," the envoy said.

"Believe me. If they knew or we knew we would have taken him out," he said.

"And when Musharraf says that he's not specifically looking for Osama, what he really means is that we are totally focused on destroying Al-Qaeda and the Taliban network and not just one person."

The New York Times reported that under a proposal being discussed in Washington, CIA operatives based in Afghanistan would be able to call on direct military support for counter-terrorism operations in neighboring Pakistan.
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Islamists kill truce negotiators in Pakistan
Times Online January 7, 2008Jeremy Page of The Times, in Islamabad
Suspected Islamist militants have shot dead eight tribal leaders who were trying to negotiate a cease-fire between Pakistan's security forces and Taleban insurgents near the country's border with Afghanistan.

The targeted killings took place last night and this morning in the mountainous region of South Waziristan, home to Baitullah Masoud, the Pakistani Taleban leader whom the government blames for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto last month.

They set the stage for an escalation in fighting in northwestern Pakistan, following the expiry of a militant deadline and the resignation on Saturday of a top local official who had long advocated a truce with the militants.

While not explicitly blaming Mr Masoud for the tribal leaders' killings, the Pakistani government announced today that it was preparing to launch a major offensive against him.

The government also responded angrily to reports that the United States is considering expanding covert operations in northwestern Pakistan, where militants have been sheltering since fleeing the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

The eight tribal leaders, who were members of a peace committee formed to negotiate a truce, died in separate attacks on their offices in the towns of Wana and Shikai, according to a statement from the military.

"Miscreants fired at peace committee offices in Wana bazaar and Shikai," the statement said. "Eight members of the committee expired."

Officials said three were killed in a market in Wana while the other five were killed in attacks on their homes just a few hours before they were due to meet yesterday to discuss the cease-fire negotiations.

The killings came within two days of the resignation of a top official in charge of Pakistan's tribal areas who negotiated a short-lived ceasefire with the militants in 2006.

Lieutenant General (Retd) Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai cited personal reasons for his resignation as governor of North West Frontier Province.

Buut he is widely thought to have stepped down because President Musharraf insisted, against his advice, on launching an offensive against Mr Masoud.

"Someone, during these conversations, may have overstepped the bounds of decency and accused the Governor of supporting the hostilities," said Khalid Aziz, a former chief secretary of NWFP.

"The reason for Gen Aurakzai’s exit lies in the dynamic of tribal policy and its interaction with the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto."

General Aurakzai, who was appointed in 2005, had tried to avoid open conflict with the militants by using moderate tribal leaders in the region to negotiate truces with the more radical ones.

But his 2006 ceasefire unwound after government forces stormed the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad in July last year and his approach was further discredited when militants moved into the Swat Valley, a top tourist destination, over the summer.

Today, a suicide car-bomber attacked a gate of a military camp in Swat, wounding 10 people, eight of them soldiers, a military official said.

Mr Masoud has denied involvement in Ms Bhutto's assassination, but has pleadged to wage "all out-war" in northwestern Pakistan if the army did not leave Swat by January 5.

The United States is now considering expanding the authority of the CIA and the military to conduct more aggressive covert operations in Pakistan, according to a report in the New York Times on Sunday. Pakistan, however, insists that there will be no such operations on its soil.

"Pakistan's position in the war on terror has been very clear - that any action on Pakistani soil will be taken only by Pakistani forces and Pakistani security agencies," said Mohammad Sadiq, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

"No other country will be allowed to carry out operations in Pakistan. This has been conveyed at the highest level."
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Pakistanis flee into Afghanistan
By Alastair Leithead BBC News, Kabul Monday, 7 January 2008, 04:38 GMT
Thousands of Pakistanis have fled into Afghanistan with the security situation deteriorating in Pakistan's tribal regions over the past week.

Hundreds of families, comprising some 6,000 mainly women and children, have been crossing the border.

The UN refugee agency says clashes between Pakistan's Shia and Sunni groups have forced people to flee.

It is the first time so many people have crossed this way as for years it was Afghans fleeing fighting.

The refugees have been crossing the border between Pakistan's tribal areas and south-eastern Afghan provinces.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says historic clashes between Shias and Sunnis in the villages in Kurram, North West Frontier Province, have escalated in the past couple of weeks.

This and the unstable situation in that part of Pakistan have led to the movement of so many people, the UNHCR says.

"It's the first time that we see this in very large numbers which shows that security in those areas has seriously deteriorated and it's probably become out of control," said Salvatore Lombardo, a UNHCR representative in Kabul.

He said many of the people had been given shelter in Afghanistan by villagers who live by the Pashtun Valley tribal code of hospitality, and tents were being handed out to help provide shelter as winter was intensifying along the border.

Discussions
Over the past three decades millions of Afghans fled the violence in their country during the Soviet occupation, the civil war and then in the fighting that saw the Taleban take control of Afghanistan.

With the rise of the Pakistani Taleban and militant Islamic groups along the Pakistan side of the border, the UN says it now appears that parts of Afghanistan are safer for families.

It is hoped discussions within the tribal groups can resolve the situation and allow the people to return home.
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Does the Taliban rule in Pakistan?
By OLIVIER GUITTA Middle East Times January 07, 2008
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan by Islamist extremists linked to the Taliban is a somber reminder of the chaotic situation reigning in that country. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's handling of the situation has been disastrous. Fearing the Islamists, Musharraf has only sporadically fought the Taliban, which explains why they are taking over the country little by little.

The situation in the tribal areas is getting worse by the day. For proof, in a recent interview published by the Swiss daily Le Temps, Rashid Shah, a Taliban leader in Pakistan's north-west region of Waziristan, stated:

"It is impossible to stop us. We have spies all along the border who tell us about the U.S. patrols. We also have spies inside their military bases. As soon as an operation is in the works, we know about it. Most of the time we immediately take off to attack the convoys.

"We don't need money," he continued. "We have some. The population directly finances our war effort. And we also get grants from countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They give money to our Koranic schools. Lots of money; which allows us to buy weapons. What we want is to liberate Afghanistan from Americans. And then we will liberate our country of pro-U.S. governments, such as Musharraf's."

Most of the fighting is left to the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary group created during the British era. They are Pashtun militias responsible for protecting the border area where the Pakistani army was historically forbidden. In 2004, the United States asked them to deploy against the Islamist fighters holed up in the zone.

But the corps does not seriously fight the Taliban. Testimonies of Frontier Corps troops reveal that insurgents freely cross the border to fight the jihad in Afghanistan and return without hindrance. Furthermore, the populations house and feed them. Numerous locals actually join the underground. Also, Pakistani soldiers sometimes provide medical treatment when they return injured.

Some Frontier Corps fighters say that the army could finish off the Taliban in one day if it wanted to, but that the military commanders do not give the order to do so. Instead, they tell the troops that killing locals would create problems all over the country.

Quetta city, in north-western Pakistan, is a haven for the Taliban, whose fighters who get injured in clashes with NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan are treated in hospitals there.

But that is not all. Youngsters are recruited in droves to go and fight in Afghanistan. In fact, the local youth is still very much drawn by the networks of combatants. Stories of young men in their teens being sent to Afghanistan by neighborhood mullahs who manage madrassas, or Koranic schools, are aplenty. These mullahs give money to youngsters to go and fight. Throughout the region, mullahs are urging young men to take up arms, telling them to liberate Afghanistan from the occupation of the infidels who want to exterminate all Muslims in the world. The young men are taught that they will go to heaven if they are killed in combat.

If all this was not bad enough, ex-Taliban leaders that defected are underlining Islamabad's link -- in particular Pakistan's intelligence services, the ISI -- to the Taliban. "From the start, the Taliban has been under Islamabad's control," one Taliban defector has said, and: "When the ISI arrests a Taliban leader, it is often because the latter does not want to fight anymore."

Appeasing the Taliban did not help Musharraf, where they seem to be gaining ground. The fact that they could assassinate Bhutto so easily is indeed a worrying sign.
--
Olivier Guitta is a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant in Washington D.C. and the founder of the newsletter The Croissant. (www.thecroissant.com)
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Tsongas to visit Iraq and Afghanistan
January 7, 2008 Boston Globe
WASHINGTON—Congresswoman Niki Tsongas is headed to Iraq and Afghanistan for a weeklong visit with troops, military leaders and government officials.

more stories like thisThe Lowell Democrat will leave Tuesday as part of a congressional group.

She says she wants to make sure troops have what they need to do their job. She also wants to learn more about the security, political and economic conditions in both countries.

Tsongas campaigned on a strong anti-war platform in winning the contest last fall to replace Martin Meehan, who left Congress to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell.
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Afghan troops kill 3 insurgents, arrest 1 in S Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-07 15:16:46
KABUL, Jan. 7 (Xinhua) -- Afghan troops backed by NATO eliminated three suspected Taliban insurgents and arrested another, a press release of Afghanistan Interior Ministry said Monday.

"In a joint operation launched by Afghan Police, Afghan army and NATO forces in Jalai district of southern Kandahar province Sunday morning, three insurgents had been killed and another made captive," the press release said.

However, it did not give more details.

Taliban have yet to make any comment.

Conflicts and Taliban-related violence had claimed the lives of more than 6,000 people in 2007 while observers and NATO commander in Afghanistan General Dan Mc Neill expect upsurge in militants attack this year.
Editor: Sun Yunlong 
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UN insists its envoy did not talk to Taliban
By: - 4/01/2008 - 11:32
NEW YORK, Jan 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The United Nations Thursday said Marvin Patterson, its senior official in Afghanistan, did not talk to Taliban insurgents, a charges that led to the envoys expulsion from the war-battered country last month.

Michele Montas, the spokesperson for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said the issue was under discussion with the Afghan government. She hoped that Patterson would be able to return to Afghanistan soon.

Montas was confident the matter would be resolved swiftly to enable the UN staff member to return and continue his vital work of securing peace, stability and progress for the Afghan people.

Patterson along with Michael Semple, the second most senior European Union official in Afghanistan, was declared persona non grata by the Afghanistan government amid claims they had made contact with the Taliban fighters in the Helmand province.

The spokesperson explained United Nations officials had a duty to be speaking to all parties. This is part of our mandate, she said, adding Patterson had been talking to local authorities and community representatives but not the Taliban.
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