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June 11, 2008 

U.S. expected to pledge some $10 billion for Afghans
By Arshad Mohammed Tue Jun 10, 10:59 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will pledge about $10 billion in aid for Afghanistan at a donors' conference this week, a U.S. official said on Tuesday -- less than the White House had wanted from Congress.

World Bank to pledge $1.1 billion to Afghanistan
By Francois Murphy
PARIS (Reuters) - The World Bank will maintain its aid to Afghanistan steady at $1.1 billion (560 million pounds) over five years but will press Kabul to improve its tax system and fight corruption, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Afghanistan is looking for funding for a $50 billion five-year development plan, intended to strengthen infrastructure and security to counter mounting threats from a booming drugs trade and resurgent attacks by the Taliban.

Germany Pledges EUR420 Million In Aid For Afghanistan
BERLIN (AFP)--Germany pledged on Wednesday EUR420 million in development aid to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2010, on the eve of an international donor conference in Paris.

Norway To Pledge EUR470 Million Aid For Afghanistan - Minister
OSLO (AFP)--Norway is to pledge EUR470 million to Afghanistan at an international donors conference in Paris, its foreign minister wrote in a newspaper column Wednesday.

AFGHANISTAN: Rebuilding programme calls for US$50 billion
KABUL, 11 June 2008 (IRIN) - The government of Afghanistan is optimistic it will receive strong pledges from donors for its five-year national development strategy, to be unveiled at an international conference on 12 June in Paris.

Afghans uncover 260 tons of hashish in record bust
By JASON STRAZIUSO Associated Press / June 11, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan counternarcotics officials said Wednesday that they uncovered 260 tons of hashish hidden in 6-foot-deep trenches in southern Afghanistan in what one DEA official said appears to be the world's biggest drug bust.

Four civilians, many Taliban killed in Afghanistan
June 11, 2008
KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) - Four civilians and 17 Taliban were killed in an attack by US-led forces in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, while dozens more rebel casualties were reported elsewhere.

Pakistan blames US coalition for troops' death
By RIAZ KHAN Associated Press June 11, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - U.S.-led coalition forces along the volatile Afghan border launched an airstrike that killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops, Pakistan's army said Wednesday. The military condemned it as an act of aggression within Pakistan's

Canada Senate urges talks between troops, Taliban
OTTAWA, June 11 (Reuters) - Canadian troops and officials in southern Afghanistan should be allowed to talk to the Taliban if they believe this would help boost security and cut violence, a Senate committee said on Wednesday.

Afghanistan plans 'new Kabul' oasis development
by Sardar Ahmad June 11, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - A narrow tar road, a petrol station and a few mud houses are the only signs of development in Dehsabz, an arid patch of desert 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Kabul.

Afghanistan: Donor Pledges In Paris Unlikely To Pay For Development Plan
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 11, 2008
For weeks, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has hinted at doubts among international donors over the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, a plan to rebuild the country that was devised at the 2006 London Conference.

Rumour and suspicion that threatens Afghan aid
Jeremy Page in Kabul The Times (UK) / June 11, 2008
When Hamid Karzai swept on to the international stage at a donors' meeting in Tokyo in 2002, he was fêted as the saviour of Afghanistan - the only man who could reunite and rebuild the nation after three decades of war.

Ottawa doubles aid for rebuilding Afghanistan
Dahla dam key part of $600-million for high-profile projects, but report warns that violence could worsen this year
STEVEN CHASE From Wednesday's Globe and Mail June 11, 2008 at 3:27 AM EDT
OTTAWA — The Harper government is doubling the amount of aid to Afghanistan over the final three years of Canada's military deployment there - for high-profile projects such as dam building - as part of an effort to demonstrate that the costly

Canada can’t withdraw from Afghanistan by deadline: senators
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service Wednesday, June 11, 2008
OTTAWA -- There is no way Canada will be able to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 2011, Conservative and Liberal senators said Wednesday.

US plays down criticism of Karzai ahead of donors meeting
by Lachlan Carmichael Wed Jun 11, 10:17 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States played down criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead of a Paris donors meeting Thursday where he will present a 50-billion-dollar plan to re-build his war-torn nation.

AFGHANISTAN: DONORS WASTING THEIR MONEY UNLESS STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS ADDRESSED - EXPERT
6/11/08 EurasiaNet.org
Donors are due to meet June 12 in Paris, where they are expected to pledge billions in fresh assistance for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The money risks being wasted, however, unless the international community addresses underlying

Norway to increase aid to Afghanistan by 50%
STOCKHOLM, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Norway will offer 750 million kroner (145.2 million U.S. dollars) in civilian aid annually to Afghanistan over the next five years, the country's foreign minister announced Wednesday.

US military seeking trainers for Afghanistan
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer Tue Jun 10, 1:35 PM ET
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is scrambling to find trainers to send to Afghanistan, but it will be difficult to do that before commanders reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, the top military officer said Tuesday.

Slovak govt approves boost for Afghanistan force
Reuters - Wednesday, June 11 05:20 pm
BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - The Slovak government on Wednesday approved a plan to more than double the central European country's military presence in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Robert Fico said.

Bush to push for greater Italian role in Afghanistan
June 11, 2008
ROME (AFP) - US President George W. Bush headed on Wednesday for Rome, where he is expected to press his longtime ally Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for a more robust Italian role in Afghanistan.

Canada to rebuild Afghan dam, schools
June 10, 2008
OTTAWA (AFP) — Canada announced Tuesday plans to repair the second-largest dam in Afghanistan, build 50 new schools in the volatile south and immunize seven million Afghan children against polio.

AFGHANISTAN: No medicine for leishmaniasis in Badakhshan Province
FAYZABAD, 10 June 2008 (IRIN) - Public health facilities in Badakhshan Province, northeastern Afghanistan, have run out of medicine to treat a disease which causes facial disfigurement and social stigma - leishmaniasis.

Canada to rebuild Afghan dam, schools
Tue Jun 10, 6:31 PM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada announced Tuesday plans to repair the second-largest dam in Afghanistan, build 50 new schools in the volatile south and immunize seven million Afghan children against polio.

Pakistan at the mercy of marching lawyers
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / June 11, 2008
KARACHI - Pakistan is engulfed in its own version of the Long March, and just as that pivotal event changed the face of China in the mid-1930s, Pakistan's political landscape could be significantly altered, as could that of its neighbor Afghanistan.

Nato's lost cause
The west's 'good war' in Afghanistan has turned bad. A local solution, rather than a neocolonial one, is what's needed
Tariq Ali guardian.co.uk, Wednesday June 11 2008
In the latest clashes on the Pakistan-Afghan border, Nato troops have killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and injured many more, creating a serious crisis in the country and angering the Pakistan military high command, already split on the question.

Afghanistan: British troops feel their hard work is not appreciated
By Thomas Harding in Zabul province and James Kirkup Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom - Jun 10, 2008
British troops in Afghanistan are angry that the hard fighting they are doing is not fully appreciated by the public.

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U.S. expected to pledge some $10 billion for Afghans
By Arshad Mohammed Tue Jun 10, 10:59 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States will pledge about $10 billion in aid for Afghanistan at a donors' conference this week, a U.S. official said on Tuesday -- less than the White House had wanted from Congress.

The official, who asked for anonymity because Washington has not yet unveiled its pledge, also said he expected the Paris conference on Thursday to raise more than $15 billion in total pledges, two thirds from the United States.

The U.S. pledge, to be announced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will be less than the $11 billion the Bush administration hoped to get from Congress, the official said.

It is not clear how much of the money pledged in Paris will represent fresh commitments.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told reporters the U.S. contribution would include money the Bush administration had already made public in its budget requests to Congress over the last two years.

He also said the United States had encouraged other donors to include in their pledges money they have promised since the last Afghan donors conference in London in 2006, when $10.5 billion was promised to Afghanistan.

More than six years after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime that sheltered Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan is afflicted by corruption, the drug trade and daily violence.

The Paris gathering, which first lady Laura Bush will address following her visit to Afghanistan on Sunday, is intended as a show of support for the Afghan people and an opportunity to review development and security strategy.

International aid efforts have been criticized for not doing enough to coordinate work among donors, integrate security with development and provide money directly through the Afghan government.

U.S. Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the administration was giving Afghanistan too little money for development.

"The administration has consistently under-resourced Afghan reconstruction -- and seems likely to continue re-committing the same pot of already-pledged money again in Paris," Biden said in a statement released by his office.

"Six and a half years after the ouster of the Taliban, it's hard to believe that our development efforts fall so far short of the Marshall Plan promised by President Bush," he added.

At the conference, Afghanistan will ask donors to help fund a $50 billion five-year national development plan. In exchange, donors will demand that Kabul do more to fight corruption in what is one of the world's poorest states.

Boucher said the conference was never intended to fully fund the $50 billion, saying that some of this will come from Afghan contributions, foreign aid already in the pipeline and future pledges.

"It's not a conference ... to fill the $50 billion tank," he said. "The overarching goal of the conference is to put international money behind an Afghan strategy for developing Afghanistan."

He also said discussion would focus on funneling more money through the Afghan government but ensuring it is not lost to waste, corruption and inefficiency.
(Editing by Alan Elsner)
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World Bank to pledge $1.1 billion to Afghanistan
By Francois Murphy
PARIS (Reuters) - The World Bank will maintain its aid to Afghanistan steady at $1.1 billion (560 million pounds) over five years but will press Kabul to improve its tax system and fight corruption, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Afghanistan is looking for funding for a $50 billion five-year development plan, intended to strengthen infrastructure and security to counter mounting threats from a booming drugs trade and resurgent attacks by the Taliban.

The 65 nations attending a donor conference in Paris on Thursday are expected to push strongly for more action to fight rampant corruption in a country that provides the bulk of the world's heroin.

"We will support the Afghan government and people with about $1.1 billion over five years, very similar to what we did in the past," World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters ahead of the donors' conference.

She said the money would largely be made up of grants. "This amount will of course be dependent on the progress that they make in those areas that have been outlined," she said.

Okonjo-Iweala said she hoped the Afghan government could identify two or three areas, including strengthening the judiciary and the rule of law, where it could show progress to reassure donors wary of widespread corruption.

The World Bank is one of about 15 international organisations taking part in the conference which will be opened by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

As well as action on corruption, donors also wants the Karzai's Western-backed government, which relies on aid for 90 percent of its spending, to do more to increase the amount of revenue raised from legitimate taxation.

Currently equivalent to around 8 percent of gross domestic product, official government revenue is among the lowest in the world, Okonjo-Iweala said.

"If they can improve that upwards to 12 percent, that would be good," she said.

Since resuming operations in Afghanistan in 2002, the World Bank has committed around $1.6 billion but is aware donors will be unwilling to keep pouring money in if confidence does not improve.

Already there have been problems with donor countries falling behind with existing spending pledges, partly due to concerns over where the money was going.
(Editing by Robert Woodward)
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Germany Pledges EUR420 Million In Aid For Afghanistan
BERLIN (AFP)--Germany pledged on Wednesday EUR420 million in development aid to Afghanistan from 2008 to 2010, on the eve of an international donor conference in Paris.

"We wanted to continue our support on the highest level," the foreign ministry said in a statement announcing the aid pledge.

The ministry said the government had already included aid of EUR140 million to Afghanistan in its budget for 2008, but has now decided to match that sum in the next two years.

Some 80 delegations from around the world will meet on Thursday in the French capital to pledge money for President Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

The $50 billion five-year plan to re-build his war-torn nation aims to substantially surpass the $10.5 billion pledged at the London donors conference two years ago.

The German government said it is the fourth biggest bilateral donor of aid to Afghanistan.
-Dow Jones Newswires; 201-938-5500
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Norway To Pledge EUR470 Million Aid For Afghanistan - Minister
OSLO (AFP)--Norway is to pledge EUR470 million to Afghanistan at an international donors conference in Paris, its foreign minister wrote in a newspaper column Wednesday.

"We have decided to raise our aid contribution to 750 million kroner this year," Jonas Gahr Stoere told Aftenposten. "In Paris, I will announce...that we intend to give the same sum over each of the next five years."

Some 80 delegations from around the world will meet Thursday in the French capital to pledge money for President Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

The $50 billion five-year plan to rebuild his war-torn nation aims to substantially surpass the $10.5 billion pledged at the London donors conference two years ago.

In February, Oslo announced a 50% increase in aid for 2008, but Stoere said the new package was "not unconditional," with Norway seeking concrete evidence of progress on "development, democracy and human rights."

Afghanistan, Sudan and Palestine are the principal beneficiaries of Norwegian aid - Oslo being one of the world's largest aid donors, distributing almost one percent of its gross domestic product.
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AFGHANISTAN: Rebuilding programme calls for US$50 billion
KABUL, 11 June 2008 (IRIN) - The government of Afghanistan is optimistic it will receive strong pledges from donors for its five-year national development strategy, to be unveiled at an international conference on 12 June in Paris.

"The finalised strategy has been submitted to the World Bank and other international organisations to orient it for the donors' meeting in Paris," Sultan Ahmad Baheen, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told IRIN in Kabul.

The Afghanistan National Development Strategy, the result of more than two years of extensive consultations with Afghan and international institutions on developing the war-torn country, seeks US$43 billion from donors in the coming five years.

To reduce poverty, improve governance, halve the maternal and infant mortality rate, and improve human and physical security, the strategy requires $50 billion, of which more than $6 billion will come from Afghanistan's own resources.

The country has pledges of about $24 billion from various donors for the coming five years, Baheen said.

"At the Paris conference we will ask donors for an extra $20 billion aid," he added.

Coordination crucial

Despite large amounts of aid money dispersed since 2002 - donors have spent about $15 billion on reconstruction, humanitarian and development efforts - Afghanistan is among the five least developed countries in the world. More than half its estimated 26.6 million people live on less than $1 a day, according to the national human development report.

The strategy identifies three main reasons for poor development - including weak coordination among donors and the Afghan government, inadequate aid, and the underestimation of the challenges facing the country.

Thus, the strategy proposes the "Afghanisation" of the whole development process, which so far has been considered "internationalised".

"The [strategy] is a roadmap for the long-desired objective of 'Afghanisation' and the transition towards stability, self-sustaining growth, and human development," states the executive summary.

Matt Waldman, Oxfam's policy and advocacy adviser in Kabul, said that while the strategy should be commended for its recognition of the challenges Afghanistan is facing, and for its attempt to establish integrated policies, "the question is whether there is sufficient commitment, capacity and support for its effective implementation, especially at the local level.

"Despite an over-emphasis on the potential for strong private sector-led growth, we broadly endorse the strategy. But it will need to be supplemented with further measures and the real challenge will be in its implementation," he added.

According to Waldman, the scale of funding requested also raises doubts about absorption capacity, accountability and transparency in Afghan institutions.

No security, no strategy?

More than six years since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is embroiled in a conflict that has not only killed thousands of people but hindered development and humanitarian activities in large swaths of the country.

While the strategy envisions a developmental and poverty reduction approach to conflict resolution, its very implementation hinges on the government's ability to have reliable access to all parts of the country, particularly the volatile south and southeast, and effectively implement projects.

The policy document tacitly concedes the pre-requisite of security for its implementation: "The stabilisation of Afghanistan, especially in the south and southeast, remains a necessary but insufficient pre-condition for implementation."

Should insecurity and attacks on development actors remain unchecked, the government will probably delay development activities in insecure areas but will implement the strategy in relatively secure northern and central parts of the country, Baheen said.

"In insecure areas, implementation may be delayed, but will not be disregarded," he said.

Biggest aid recipients

The strategy also includes six "cross-cutting" issues (capacity building, gender equity, counter-narcotics, regional cooperation, anti-corruption and environment), which will be mainstreamed into various programmes.

The biggest portion of its proposed $50 billion budget is earmarked for infrastructural development, where the government will invest more than $17 billion.

Building Afghanistan's security and defence capacity is the second biggest aid recipient, at $14.2 billion, followed by education and culture with over $4.8 billion, and agriculture and rural development, at more than $4.4 billion. Health and nutrition comes sixth with a budget of about $2.5 billion.
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Afghans uncover 260 tons of hashish in record bust
By JASON STRAZIUSO Associated Press / June 11, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan counternarcotics officials said Wednesday that they uncovered 260 tons of hashish hidden in 6-foot-deep trenches in southern Afghanistan in what one DEA official said appears to be the world's biggest drug bust.

The hashish, found in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday, was worth more than $400 million and would have netted the Taliban about $14 million in profits, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

The hashish weighed as much as 30 double-decker London buses, ISAF said. The drugs were burned on site. Hashish is a concentrated form of marijuana.

"The Afghan National Police Special Task Force has made a huge step forward in proving its capability in curbing the tide of illegal drug trade in this country," U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of ISAF, said in a statement.

"With this single find, they have seriously crippled the Taliban's ability to purchase weapons that threaten the safety and security of the Afghan people and the region."

The spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Garrison Courtney, said the drug bust appears is the world's largest in terms of weight. He called the takedown "pretty huge."

"I can't think of any other time I've ever heard of that large of an amount in one hit," he said.

Afghanistan's biggest drug problem is not hashish but opium. The country produced 9,000 tons last year, enough to make over 880 tons of heroin — 93 percent of the world's supply.

But officials have increased warnings that farmers who no longer grow opium poppies because of successful eradication programs have turned their fields to cannabis, the plant used to produce hashish and marijuana, giving the country a second drug problem to contend with.

Deputy Interior Minister Lt. Gen. Abdul Hadi Khalid, who announced the bust Wednesday, said three men were arrested in the raid. He credited the international community for helping to train the Afghan special narcotics forces.

He said that 21 of the country's 36 provinces are now opium-free, but that efforts to eradicate in Kandahar, Helmand, Farah and Uruzgan provinces did not go well this year because of continuing violence there.

Forty-three members of the country's counternarcotics police were killed during eradication operations this spring, he said.

In a separate recent counternarcotics operation in nearby Helmand province, the Interior Ministry said police seized 11,250 pounds of opium and arrested 13 drug dealers.

___

Associated Press reporter Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.
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Four civilians, many Taliban killed in Afghanistan
June 11, 2008
KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) - Four civilians and 17 Taliban were killed in an attack by US-led forces in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, while dozens more rebel casualties were reported elsewhere.

Three women and a child were killed Tuesday when the US-led coalition targeted an insurgent hideout in Mata Khan district of Paktika province from the ground and the air, the force said in a statement.

"Several militants were killed... Tuesday during a coalition forces operation to disrupt militant operations in Paktika province. The operation also resulted in four civilian deaths," the statement said.

Another civilian was injured, it added.

The coalition did not give a specific number of militant casualties but a spokesman for the provincial government, Ghamai Khan Mohammadyar, put the rebel death toll at 17.

The coalition said one of the women was killed after the troops called in war planes to target militants who were firing on the troops from inside and outside the compound.

"When coalition forces forcibly gained entry to the barricaded room, three Afghan women and one boy were wounded," it said, adding that the civilians later died from their injuries in a coalition medical facility.

The operation was launched against two "militant leaders," one of whom was involved in improvised bomb attacks on international troops while the other was facilitating "foreign fighter operations," the coalition said.

"Several armed militants engaged the force from inside one compound and were killed with small-arms fire," it added.

In a separate incident early Wednesday, up to 60 Taliban militants were killed or injured when Afghan troops backed by NATO air support targeted them in the eastern province of Kunar, a provincial police chief said.

The Kunar police chief, Abdul Jalal Jalalm, could not specifically say how many rebels had died or were injured but, "according to information 17 bodies were taken to Pakistan."

"The Taliban had gathered in Sarkano district. We and the NATO forces targeted them from ground and air. About 60 Taliban were killed and injured," he told AFP.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP by telephone from an unknown location that nine rebels were slain, mostly in air strikes, but he said the movement also inflicted heavy casualties on the troops.

His claims have proved to be exaggerated in the past.

Scores of civilians have died in operations conducted by international and Afghan troops against Taliban militants.

Such casualties are extremely sensitive and President Hamid Karzai's administration has repeatedly called on Western troops to avoid civilian deaths during operations.

More than 70,000 international troops operating under NATO and the US-led coalition are based in Afghanistan to help the government fight the Taliban.
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Pakistan blames US coalition for troops' death
By RIAZ KHAN Associated Press June 11, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - U.S.-led coalition forces along the volatile Afghan border launched an airstrike that killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary troops, Pakistan's army said Wednesday. The military condemned it as an act of aggression within Pakistan's border that "hit at the very basis of cooperation" in the war on terrorism.

The coalition said it used artillery and aerial drones against attackers who opened fire on forces operating inside Afghanistan. It said coalition forces did not enter Pakistan.

The incident late Tuesday followed a reported clash between Afghan forces and coalition forces and Taliban militants in the same area. The Taliban said eight of its fighters died in the skirmish.

The Pakistani army said the coalition airstrike hit a post of the paramilitary Frontier Corps and was a "completely unprovoked and cowardly act."

It launched a strong protest and reserved "the right to protect our citizens and soldiers against aggression," the military said in a statement. The statement said the clash in the Mohmand tribal region "had hit at the very basis of cooperation" between the allies in the war on terror.

In a statement issued from Afghanistan, the coalition said it had retaliated after its forces came under small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire about 200 yards inside Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province during an operation that had been "previously coordinated" with Pakistan. The coalition fired artillery, and then using drones to locate more "anti-Afghan forces," launched airstrikes "until the threat was eliminated."

The coalition said that it had informed the Pakistan army that it was being attacked from a wooded area near the Pakistani checkpoint at Gorparai — where the Pakistani Frontier Corps troops were killed.

Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas denied the insurgents attacked from Pakistan or that there had been any attack launched from the Gorparai post. He also denied the coalition had given prior notice of its operation in the area.

He said Afghan army forces were attacked inside Afghanistan as they were withdrawing at Pakistan's request after setting up a military post in a disputed border region.

"They were on their way back and they were attacked by insurgents in their own territory," he said, adding that Afghans had called in coalition airstrikes which hit the Pakistani Frontier Corps troops across the border.

In Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Pakistan "vehemently condemned" the airstrike.

"We will take a stand for the sovereignty, dignity and self-respect of this country," he told Parliament.

The lawless and remote mountain region is difficult for reporters to access and there were conflicting reports over the sequence of events and how many died in the fighting. The region is believed to be used by pro-Taliban militants as a launch pad for attacks into Afghanistan.

That infiltration is a constant source of tension in the counterterrorism alliance. Pakistan has deployed tens of thousands of troops to police its tribal regions, but Western and Afghan officials say that has not deterred militants. Afghanistan often accuses Pakistan of abetting the Taliban, whose hardline regime it supported until its ouster in 2001.

A report published Monday warned of crippling long-term consequences for the U.S. in Afghanistan if insurgent hideouts in Pakistan are not eliminated. The U.S. Defense Department-funded RAND Corp.'s report said some active and former officials in Pakistan's intelligence service and the Frontier Corps directly aided Taliban militants. Pakistan denounced the report as a "smear campaign."

Pakistani officials said the fighting broke out Tuesday after Afghan troops tried to set up a mountaintop post in a contested part of the lawless frontier and Pakistani security forces told them to withdraw.

Local tribesman Damagh Khan Mohmand said the Afghan forces had moved into the area around Speena Sooka, or White Peak, on Monday evening and were supported by foreign troops. There was no confirmation of that from the U.S.-led coalition or NATO security force in Afghanistan.

Khan Mohmand said tribesmen traded fire with the Afghan and foreign forces, and said Pakistani security forces also opened fire — although the military disputed that.

Khan Mohmand said he saw drones and that two aircraft had bombed several locations.

Maulvi Umar, a spokesman for an umbrella group of Pakistani Taliban, said militants had resisted an incursion into Pakistan.

He said between 60 and 100 of its fighters attacked NATO and Afghan army troops who had set up bunkers and tents on Pakistani soil. He claimed up to 40 Afghan troops were killed, several captured and that a NATO helicopter was shot down. Eight Taliban troops also died in the fighting, he said.

None of his claims could be independently confirmed.

State-run Pakistan Television said 18 people died in the fighting, including 10 troops and eight civilians. It reported that Afghan and foreign forces had tried to set up a military post and were resisted by tribesmen. A NATO airstrike then struck a Pakistani military post, PTV said.

Officials in Afghanistan all declined comment. The Afghan Ministry of Defense said it had no information on the incident.

On Wednesday, two helicopters brought the bodies of 11 troops killed and another 13 soldiers wounded in the fighting to Peshawar, the main city in northwestern Pakistan, a military intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because he is not allowed to comment to the media. Witnesses said seven ambulances shifted the casualties to a military hospital in the city.

North West Frontier Province Gov. Owais Ahmed Ghani told reporters later at a funeral ceremony for the troops that such an attack "can compel us to review our policy (in the war on terror)."

Anti-U.S. sentiment is already running high in Pakistan, where the newly elected civilian rulers are seeking to broker peace with militants to curb an explosion in extremist violence.

Western officials are concerned that peace deals could give more space for Taliban and al-Qaida militants to operate.

The U.S. has in the past used unmanned drones to attack suspected militants inside Pakistan.

Pakistan does not allow foreign troops to conduct military operations on its territory. It says aerial attacks launched from Afghanistan are a violation of its sovereignty.

___

Associated Press writers Habibullah Khan in Khar, Munir Ahmad in Islamabad and Jason Straziuso in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Pauline Jelinek in Washington contributed to this report.
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Canada Senate urges talks between troops, Taliban
OTTAWA, June 11 (Reuters) - Canadian troops and officials in southern Afghanistan should be allowed to talk to the Taliban if they believe this would help boost security and cut violence, a Senate committee said on Wednesday.

Canada's 2,500-strong military mission in the southern city of Kandahar frequently clashes with militants. Since Ottawa sent troops to Afghanistan in 2002, 85 soldiers and one diplomat have been killed.

The Conservative government opposes contact with the Taliban until it renounces violence.

The Senate's national security and defense committee dismissed this approach as unrealistic, saying it believed some Taliban supporters could be won over.

It said in a report that Ottawa should "allow Canadian forces soldiers and Canadian government officials operating in Kandahar to talk with members of the Taliban movement if communication encourages disarmament and/or ensures the security of development projects within the province".

It added: "Every effort needs to be made to win over moderate Taliban supporters who are looking for evidence that there are better options than continued insurgency."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who last month declared "We're not having direct discussion with terrorists", was not immediately available for comment.

Ottawa announced on Tuesday it would increase aid to Afghanistan over the next three years and shift its focus toward development from military activity. The Canadian mission is due to end in 2011.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)
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Afghanistan plans 'new Kabul' oasis development
by Sardar Ahmad June 11, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - A narrow tar road, a petrol station and a few mud houses are the only signs of development in Dehsabz, an arid patch of desert 20 kilometres (12 miles) northeast of Kabul.

As sheep graze in silence, a military convoy speeds off to the US military base at Bagram. It is dry and barren, hot and inhospitable.

But the government has grand plans for this 500-square-kilometre (200-square-mile) triangle of flat land surrounded by grey mountains.

It sees a "new Kabul" of streams, parks, glossy shopping malls and homes for three million people centred around a lake fed from the surrounding hills.

Concept designs drawn up for the metropolis show a "humble and eco-friendly" city with an industrial park powered by solar and wind energy, modern low-rise buildings and a world-class airport.

It is a vision that Dehsabz City Development Authority chief Mohmoud Saikal holds dear, although critics scoff that it is an attempt to recreate Dubai in a country that cannot even offer the majority of its people the most basic living conditions.

"It's no doubt very difficult, but we can do it," Saikal said.

The ambitious project has been included in the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), a 50.1-billion-dollar reconstruction blueprint the government will present to donors in Paris on Thursday.

Among the requests for huge development projects is one for 500 million dollars to speed up the initial infrastructure for the new city plan, in which the Japanese government has also been involved through its aid agency JICA.

"It's mainly a private sector venture," Saikal said.

"But in support of the infrastructure, financing of the initial phases, there is a call for half a billion dollars as a grant and 1.5 billion in concessional loans, over five years," he said.

"In Paris, we will also be looking for the French private sector and others around the world to participate as developers in the project."

The venture is expected to cost about 50 billion dollars, some of which would come from the sale and lease of government land, as well as taxes, he said.

If all goes to plan, work would begin next year and be completed by 2025.

This new Shangri-La is intended to relieve pressure on the capital, a traffic-choked city that is home to about 4.5 million people even though it was originally intended for about half a million.

The 1992-1996 civil war was fought over Kabul, leaving the city in ruins that still exist today and up to 80,000 people dead.

The ouster of the Taliban government in late 2001 saw about four million Afghans return from exile, with many crowding into Kabul along with job seekers from the provinces.

About 65 percent of the capital's population live in illegal mudbrick homes without running water or power, authorities say.

The ANDS says only 14 percent of people in the city use flushing toilets and just two percent are connected to a sewerage system.

Across the country, about 20 percent of the population have access to intermittent public power; in Kabul it is a few hours every couple of days.

Saikal said that Dehsabz is intended to address these problems.

But not everyone believes the time is right for a new city.

"No one expects donors to be tripping over themselves to fund a new Kabul city when there are so many other priorities facing Afghanistan at this time," said a Western diplomat who asked not to be identified.

"We consider building governance including the security institutions, supporting the private sector and agriculture and energy need to be key areas that we focus on."

An urban development expert, who also did not want to be identified because of sensitivities around the plan, said the project would divert resources from the capital, which is in desperate need of reconstruction.

"It's very unrealistic," said the Westerner.

He characterised the plan as having "a little bit of naivety, a lot of ambition" and "a lot of potential corruption".

"The city is in crisis. They are talking of something (like) 'we'll turn Afghanistan into Dubai'. It's a joke when people talk like that," he said. Back to Top

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Afghanistan: Donor Pledges In Paris Unlikely To Pay For Development Plan
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 11, 2008
For weeks, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has hinted at doubts among international donors over the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, a plan to rebuild the country that was devised at the 2006 London Conference.

The doubts are surfacing as pressure from Western countries for Kabul to trim down the development plan's $50 billion price tag ahead of a Paris donors conference due to open on June 12.

Michael Shaik, a research analyst with the International Crisis Group's Asia Program, tells RFE/RL that donor concerns are to be expected with a development plan in which the goals have not been adequately prioritized.

Shaik says that there are "doubts about the viability" of the strategy, and concern "that there may be too many priorities. It's a case of 'everything is a priority so nothing is a priority.' So it is not surprising that there are doubts being voiced at the highest levels of government."

Indeed, some donors have suggested that the Afghan plan does not adequately coordinate development projects. But Richard Boucher, the U.S. assistant secretary for South and Central Asian affairs, told reporters in Washington on June 10 that corruption in Kabul has also worried donors.

"Corruption is a very -- it's a serious problem in Afghanistan," Boucher said. "It's something that needs to be dealt with. The Afghan government knows they need to deal with it. They've tried various measures in the past. There are a number of steps on improving governance, improving government audit capabilities, improving appointments, improving fiscal integrity, you might say, and the financial management of government money, that have already been taken and more that are being taken."

Shaik says Washington's concerns about corruption and Kabul's financial capacity only tell part of the story. "Neither the international community -- primarily the Western donor community -- nor the Afghans have lived up to many of their commitments over the past six or seven years in Afghanistan. The Afghan government could definitely be doing more to stem corruption," he says.

"The international community -- particularly the Western donor community -- hasn't lived up to its commitments on getting money into Afghanistan," Shaik adds. "You can see how these problems have been compounded. And that's one of the reasons why Afghanistan is still not on its feet after seven years of what is probably the most significant international collaborative effort the world has ever seen."

Working With Afghanistan

Assistant Secretary of State Boucher admits that more and more capable Afghan firms are able to take on development projects as contractors. He says Washington has to adjust to that reality and move more in that direction -- transferring more money through "capable Afghan ministries" and dispersing more funds that are administered and spent through the Afghan government.

Shaik says such moves by donors will help Kabul improve its financial capacity. He says that while donors' concerns about the "high levels of corruption" are "valid," "there are ways around this [such as] putting more checks and balances on the Afghan government in order to funnel money through to build capacity. So the Afghans can learn how to manage their own economy and their own finances. The more that money is funneled through specific NGOs and other institutions, the less the government [in Kabul] is actually able to learn about how to do this itself."

At the same time, Christopher Langton, the head of defense analysis at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies, says that domestic politics within both Afghanistan and donor countries will result in donors being "fairly tough" on Karzai when they make their aid pledges this week in Paris.

"We are moving into an election year whereby President Karzai's future is to be decided. So he will be presenting a significant document asking for donations of several billion dollars in addition to that which has already been given," Langton says.

"The second thing is that we are within five years now of the end of the end of the Afghanistan Compact" signed in London in 2006, he notes. "Governments from donor countries in increasing numbers are going into their own electoral phases leading up to the end of that period in 2011. And so the debate at a domestic political level in several key donor countries on Afghanistan -- and on the continuing support to Afghanistan -- is growing."

Meanwhile, nongovernmental organizations are calling for donors in Paris to put more pressure on Kabul over rights abuses in Afghanistan that result from corruption, warlordism, and the growing power of drug barons.

U.S.-based Human Rights Watch has identified women's rights, freedom of expression, impunity, transitional justice, judicial reform, and abolition of the death penalty as key issues requiring "serious attention and reform."
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Rumour and suspicion that threatens Afghan aid
Jeremy Page in Kabul The Times (UK) / June 11, 2008
When Hamid Karzai swept on to the international stage at a donors' meeting in Tokyo in 2002, he was fêted as the saviour of Afghanistan - the only man who could reunite and rebuild the nation after three decades of war.

As Western leaders lauded his political skills, fashion editors gushed over his trademark Uzbek coat and Karakul lambswool hat. Gucci's Tom Ford hailed him as the most chic man in the world.

But whatever Mr Karzai says - or wears - when he attends the next donors' meeting, beginning in Paris tomorrow, he is losing some of his lustre in the eyes of Afghans and Western allies alike.

Mr Karzai plans to ask donors in Paris for another $50 billion in aid to increase food production, diversify the economy away from opium and pay for next year's presidential election, which he hopes to win.

The donors, however, are not only balking at such a massive increase in aid - Mr Karzai's Government has struggled to spend all of the $25 billion that has been pledged since 2002, they are also asking themselves - and each other - whether Mr Karzai is the right man to tackle Afghanistan's three main problems: the Taleban, the drugs trade and official corruption. Patience is running particularly thin among the main contributing military forces in the country in a week when the British death toll reached 100 since the 2001 invasion.

“The fact is, Karzai is weak,” one senior Western official in Kabul told The Times. “The question is whether there is a viable alternative.”

The concerns of some in the West were summed up by the winning joke in Laughter Bazaar, a comedy talent show held by a private Afghan television channel last year.

“I am running for president,” the joke went. “If I get elected, there will be no corruption, no favouritism, no nepotism... except, of course, for my brother.” Afghan viewers fell about laughing.

It is, after all, a widely held perception that the Afghan Government is riddled with corruption and protects the leading figures in the country's drugs trade, which the United Nations valued at $4 billion last year.

There is no suggestion that President Karzai, who became interim leader in December 2001 and won the last presidential election in 2004, is himself corrupt.

However, he has been forced repeatedly to defend his younger half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai (often known simply as Wali), who has often been accused of involvement in the narcotics business.

“That is complete nonsense,” Mr Karzai said in an interview published this month in the German magazine Der Spiegel. “Ahmad Wali was already accused of dealing in drugs. I investigated it thoroughly: naturally, none of it is true.”

Wali, 47, who is head of the provincial council in the southern province of Kandahar and the President's personal representative for southern Afghanistan, also denies all the allegations against him. “No one has proven anything,” he told The Times. “This is political; it's character assassination.”

Yet an investigation by The Times has uncovered widespread concerns among British, American, Canadian, Nato and UN officials that the allegations about Wali are undermining domestic and international support for Mr Karzai.

British and US counter-narcotics officials say they have no evidence that Wali is involved in drugs trafficking or any other illegal activity.

There were sufficient concerns, however, for Ronald Neumann, the previous US Ambassador in Kabul, to confront President Karzai over the issue in late 2006 and early 2007, according to diplomatic sources.

Mr Neumann advised Mr Karzai to remove Wali, calling him a “political embarrassment” and suggesting that he be sent overseas as an ambassador, the sources told The Times.

Mr Karzai responded by calling a meeting with Mr Neumann, the British Ambassador and the CIA and MI6 station chiefs and asking them if they had any hard evidence against Wali, the sources said.

They had to say “no”, the issue was dropped and the British and American embassies in Kabul now refuse to discuss the matter, on or off the record.

Yet the problem has not gone away and continues to fuel the perception, rightly or wrongly, that Mr Karzai is soft on his brother. “It's the proverbial elephant in the room,” one Western diplomat said.

At the end of last year, Habibullah Jan, a powerful tribal chief and member of parliament from Kandahar, became the first person to accuse Wali directly in parliament of involvement in the drugs trade.

Another Kandahar MP made a similar allegation, but would speak only off the record.

A senior Afghan security official, who also asked not to be identified, claimed that Afghan officials had repeatedly complained about Wali to President Karzai. “The problem is that neither the Americans nor the Europeans are interested in doing anything about this,” he said.

He also claimed that Wali had been living in a house belonging to Haji Azizullah, a notorious drugs trafficker from Helmand, without paying rent.

Azizullah has been on the US Treasury's list of Specially Designated Nationals, with whom US citizens are banned from doing business, since June 2007 because of his involvement in the drugs trade.

Wali told The Times that he lived in Azizullah's house in Kandahar - a heavily fortified three-storey mansion - but said that he was paying rent and had no idea about Azizullah's connection to the drugs trade when he moved there in 2001.

“I didn't know who he was, and then I couldn't move because of security and because I could not afford it,” he said.

Wali said his salary was 17,000 Afghanis (£175) a month and, while he had other sources of income, he did not want to discuss them or say how much rent he was paying.

President Karzai's supporters emphasise that he has tried to address the issue by telling Wali directly to clear his name and by sending his elder brother, Abdul Qayum Karzai, to Kandahar to check Wali's power.

Qayum - an MP for Kandahar - has apparently spent so much time there that parliament named him last month as one of several legislators who had not attended a single session in the current term.

Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, the Interior Minister, added that President Karzai had sent a decree to all government offices saying that “if any of my relations is involved in any violation of the law you can arrest him and publicly declare this”.

Mr Moqbel said: “Those who make these allegations are spreading propaganda. They want to harm the personality of the President with these accusations.”

Others argue that President Karzai has no power to dismiss Wali, who is an elected official, and would look weak if he bowed to Western pressure to remove him by unofficial means.

They say that Wali brings co-operation and stability to the south, principally by maintaining the dominance and loyalty of President Karzai's tribe, the Popalzai.

Even so, the result is that President Karzai and his Western backers are not seen to be serious about tackling corruption or the drugs trade, which both help to fuel the Taleban insurgency.

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund said in a joint report last week that “little headway” had been made against corruption in Afghanistan and called for “determined action” to tackle the problem.

Off the record, Western officials have a blunter message for Mr Karzai. “If Karzai does not do anything in this area he will not be a viable candidate [for re-election],” a Nato official said.

In need of assistance

90 percentage of Afghan spending financed by aid

53 percentage of the population living below the poverty line

53,000 strength of the international force supporting Afghan authorities

14,000 extra US troops involved in Operation Enduring Freedom

11,000 people killed by Taleban insurgency in the past two years

92 percentage of the world’s heroin that comes from Afghan poppies

Source: Times archives
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Ottawa doubles aid for rebuilding Afghanistan
Dahla dam key part of $600-million for high-profile projects, but report warns that violence could worsen this year
STEVEN CHASE From Wednesday's Globe and Mail June 11, 2008 at 3:27 AM EDT
OTTAWA — The Harper government is doubling the amount of aid to Afghanistan over the final three years of Canada's military deployment there - for high-profile projects such as dam building - as part of an effort to demonstrate that the costly mission which has claimed 86 Canadian lives is bearing fruit.

But even as the Conservatives unveiled $600-million more for rebuilding Afghanistan, they also issued a report warning that insurgent attacks and criminal violence there could worsen this year.

"For the rest of 2008, security conditions are expected to remain stable at best, and might grow worse in coming months in some provinces," the report by the cabinet committee on Afghanistan said.

The Tories announced that new development priorities for Afghanistan will include three "signature projects" in Kandahar province, where Canadian soldiers operate:

Refurbishing the Dahla dam and an accompanying irrigation system to water 10,000 hectares of farmland.

Building or repairing 50 schools and training up to 3,000 teachers in Kandahar.

Vaccinating children in Kandahar as part of an international effort to eradicate polio in Afghanistan by 2009.

Yesterday's announcement is another step in the Conservatives' efforts to shift the public focus on Afghanistan away from the war - which it has admitted won't be over when Canadian soldiers come home in 2011 - and toward readily achievable successes.

"Canada alone cannot control outcomes in Afghanistan, a country at war," said the report, written by a cabinet committee led by Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson.

"There will be setbacks along with successes. But Canada can focus its military and civilian efforts where they can likely do the most good."

NDP defence critic Dawn Black offered some praise for the report - the first in a series of quarterly updates on Afghanistan - saying she's surprised how honestly it assesses the problems facing that country.

Liberal defence critic Bryon Wilfert said he's worried the Harper government's need to showcase "signature" development projects for Canadians back home will make the Dahla dam a major Taliban target.

The Taliban have repeatedly attacked the Kajaki dam in the neighbouring province of Helmand, killing British soldiers defending it.

"I don't think there's any question, learning from the British experience in Helmand, that it will become a magnet for the Taliban," Mr. Wilfert said.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Canadian soldiers will be able to protect the dam.

"We recognize that by announcing projects such as this, there is no hiding the fact that we are stepping up our development efforts," he said. "But that will be commensurate with our security focus."

One thing that was missing from the report was a set of benchmarks the Conservatives had promised by June to help Canadians measure progress in the war-torn country. This was delayed until the fall without explanation.

Instead, the Conservatives offered six "priorities" - including strengthening Afghan security forces' ability to safeguard law and order - that were short on precise targets.

For instance, the government said one objective would be for the Afghan national army in Kandahar to "demonstrate an increased capacity to conduct operations and sustain a more secure environment."

But the Tories offered no numbers on how many Afghan soldiers would be trained before Canadians leave in 2011. Cabinet ministers who unveiled yesterday's announcement left the news conference after answering relatively few questions, citing flight schedules, and leaving senior officials who would speak only on condition of anonymity.

Ms. Black said she finds it disconcerting the Tories offered so little detail on key parts of Canada's exit strategy.

One official suggested that Canada's contribution to security in Afghanistan before it left would include training about 2,600 Afghan soldiers - just about 3 per cent of the country's 76,000-strong army.

*****

Signature projects

Here's a look at Canada's three signature projects in Afghanistan over the next three years:

Dahla Dam

Help repair the Dahla dam (Kandahar's main water source) and its irrigation and canal system, which will generate 10,000 low-skilled jobs and provide farmers with 10,000 hectares of irrigated land.

Facts: The Dahla Dam and irrigation system, located in the heart of Kandahar province, is the second-largest dam in Afghanistan. Eighty per cent of Kandahar's population lives along the irrigation system. Built in the 1950s, years of disrepair have left the dam and overall irrigation system functioning at a reduced capacity.

Cost: Up to $50-million

Details: Repairs to the Dahla Dam, including replacing generators and repairing water valves to improve the control of water flow; fixing gates to control the flow of water from the Arghandab River into the canal system; repairs to the canals, including desilting; training farmers on water management and new crop-production techniques.

School development

Build, expand and repair 50 schools in Kandahar.

Facts: Afghanistan has some of the lowest educational levels in the world. It is estimated that half of all Afghan children do not go to school. Illiteracy is a major development challenge, particularly in the southern part of the country where only 16 per cent of men and 5 per cent of women in Kandahar are literate.

Cost: Up to $12-million

Details: Includes training up to 3,000 teachers; providing adult literacy and vocational training.

Polio immunization

Expanded support for immunization in Kandahar, where the disease is most prevalent, with a view to eradicating polio in Afghanistan by the end of 2009.

Facts: Polio mainly affects children under five. One in 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Among those paralyzed, 5 per cent to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilized. According to the World Health Organization, in 2008 only four countries in the world remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988 - Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.

Cost: Up to $60-million, making Canada the largest international donor in this area.

Details: Program will see the immunization of an estimated seven million children under five across Afghanistan, including 350,000 in southern Afghanistan. Includes mapping nomadic routes and establishing vaccination points at major border crossings with Pakistan. Local health workers will be used to ensure that the polio vaccine is administered to children in every district of Kandahar.
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Canada can’t withdraw from Afghanistan by deadline: senators
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service Wednesday, June 11, 2008
OTTAWA -- There is no way Canada will be able to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 2011, Conservative and Liberal senators said Wednesday.

"I don't think all the troops will be out of there in 2011," said Conservative Senator Michael Meighen, of the Senate's national security and defence committee.

"I don't think there's any chance of being out of there in three years," added Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, the committee's chairman.

Both senators offered that assessment as their committee made public its latest report on progress in Afghanistan. In March, after much negotiation by the Conservative and Liberal parties, the House of Commons voted to extend the mission by two years to 2011, averting a federal election over the war.

Senate committee members recently returned from their third visit to the war-torn country, and though they said they saw more signs of progress than ever before, more work needs to be done.

Among its key recommendations was for NATO to add 4,000 new troops to the southern region around Kandahar. The 1,000 Canada was able to wrestle out of NATO is not adequate, the report said.

But the senators made clear that other NATO countries, or like-minded allies, should be tapped to do more because Canada can't contribute any more.

The senators also want the traditional six-month tours of duty extended to nine months or longer because soldiers rotate out of theatre just as they are starting to form alliances with Afghans and to make progress.

The report also recommends allowing the Canadian Forces to negotiate with the Taliban, although some Conservative senators on the committee dissented.

The committee is also calling on the government to find upwards of 500 serving and retired Canadian police officers to step up training efforts in Kandahar province.

The report called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to take a more active role in explaining the mission to Canadians, and to lay out benchmarks for success.

Mr. Kenny said that, if Canadians could be shown measurable progress, they would be more willing to allow their troops to stay longer in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he expected western troops will be needed in his country for another 10 years.
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US plays down criticism of Karzai ahead of donors meeting
by Lachlan Carmichael Wed Jun 11, 10:17 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States played down criticism of Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead of a Paris donors meeting Thursday where he will present a 50-billion-dollar plan to re-build his war-torn nation.

Richard Boucher, assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs, appeared at pains Tuesday to express confidence in Karzai, who has been portrayed as soft on tackling corruption and drug trafficking.

"He's the president of the country. We work with him," Boucher told a reporter who asked if he had confidence in Karzai's abilities.

When pressed further, Boucher replied: "We have confidence in him. We've done an awful lot with him. We constantly do an awful lot with him ... but ... we're not into rating foreign leaders."

The New York Times reported Saturday that US officials were growing increasingly frustrated with Karzai.

Unidentified US officials expressed particular frustration over his refusal to arrest drug lords who are running the country's opium trade, which is widely believed to have fueled the Taliban resurgence, it said.

And US officials are saying President George W. Bush should use the financial leverage of American aid to Afghanistan to demand that Karzai do more to crack down on corruption, according to the report.

Though they admit many problems remain in Afghanistan, Boucher and State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the country has come a long way since US-led forces ousted the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies in 2001.

More than six years ago, the world was "talking about how you were going to elect a president" while now it is talking about "how well a government governs," McCormack said.

Boucher said the Afghan army was increasingly taking the lead in tackling national security problems.

But foreign troop presence under NATO and the US-led coalition is considerable, and on Tuesday four civilians were killed along with 17 militants in an attack by US-led forces on a rebel compound in eastern Afghanistan's Paktika province.

Such civilian casualties are extremely sensitive and Karzai's administration has repeatedly called on the Western troops to avoid civilian deaths during operations.

Boucher said the Afghan national solidarity program was carrying out around 35,000 projects in 25,000 villages nationwide, mostly small-scale ones like bridges, retaining walls, schools, clinics.

Regional and local government is also improving, he added.

"We have more good governors out there, governors that are eradicating poppy, working on provincial development plans, and otherwise sort of taking the lead in galvanizing their provinces or their districts and moving them forward with the local people there," he said.

Boucher played up the developments as 80 delegations from around the world prepared to meet in Paris on Thursday to pledge money for Karzai's Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

Boucher said he expected the donors to pledge "substantially more" than the 10.5 billion dollars pledged at the London donors conference two years ago, which set out general goals for rebuilding Afghanistan.

"It's not a conference to fill the 50-billion-dollar tank," he said. "It's a conference to put on the table a solid amount of money, more than London, to get a solid start on the five years of the Afghan development strategy."

Boucher declined to say what he expected the international community or the United States to pledge for the plan.

But his deputy Patrick Moon told AFP that the conference was expected to net a total of 15 billion dollars in pledges.

Boucher said the US Congress has approved 26 billion dollars for Afghanistan since 2001, with about 70 percent of it disbursed.

McCormack said Monday that the conference was to help show that the international community would not abandon Afghanistan as it has done in the past.

"And we saw the results of what happened," said McCormack, referring to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States by Al-Qaeda. "So, certainly the United States is not going to repeat that."

First Lady Laura Bush is expected to announce the US contribution at the Paris conference, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will give a speech on US policy in Afghanistan.

On her brief visit to Kabul on Sunday, Laura Bush announced an 80-million-dollar aid package for Afghan education projects.
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AFGHANISTAN: DONORS WASTING THEIR MONEY UNLESS STRUCTURAL PROBLEMS ADDRESSED - EXPERT
6/11/08 EurasiaNet.org
Donors are due to meet June 12 in Paris, where they are expected to pledge billions in fresh assistance for Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The money risks being wasted, however, unless the international community addresses underlying structural problems with Afghanistan’s development framework, a leading expert asserts.

During an early June 3 appearance at the Carnegie Council in New York, Ahmed Rashid characterized the international aid community’s response to Afghanistan as "a melting pot of failure of developmental policies." Rashid was in New York to promote his new book chronicling Afghanistan’s post-Taliban experience, titled Descent into Chaos. (Viking Press).

Afghanistan, Rashid said, has presented a new challenge to the donor community – posing the question of how to rebuild the country amid an ongoing insurgency. This, in turn, has created dilemmas about the best way for development agencies and militaries to interact. Getting it right is critical because the long-embattled country stands to serve as the model for a new age in international development, Rashid contended. "These are the kinds of problems that we are going to face in the next 50 years," he said. "I think there has been very little international effort to flesh them out."

Rashid offered a sober assessment of one of the primary assistance innovations in Afghanistan – a civil-military aid initiative called Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). PRTs are active in many areas of the country, but they lack a unified operational strategy. Thus, much of their potential for helping Afghanistan’s recovery is being squandered. "PRTs have been a very mixed bag. First of all, the problem with the PRTs is that every military that is in Afghanistan – and there are about 40 contributing countries – have their own version of the PRT, of what they will do and what they will not do," Rashid said.

"The Germans in the north, for example, will do, frankly, very little as far as helping the people, building," he continued. The US military "can actually go and build something or make something or give something, which other PRTs can’t do. Other militaries, European militaries, split development completely apart from the military."

In many respects, the United States and NATO allies have no one to blame but themselves for the revival of the Islamic radical insurgency. Over the past 18 months or so, the insurgency has gained significant momentum, reaching the point now where, according to Rashid, "one-third of the country is in the hands of the Taliban – certainly at night."

US inattention to Afghanistan’s reconstruction in the years immediately after the Taliban was ousted from Kabul in late 2001 was a major factor in enabling the Islamic militant movement to make a comeback. The United States, Rashid added, did not genuinely pay attention to reconstruction issues until 2004.

"From 2001 to about 2004 there was a holding policy in Afghanistan," Rashid said. The Bush administration "was not interested in rebuilding or reconstructing the nation, empowering the government, empowering the people."

If the international community had moved aggressively back then, economic development might have denied the Islamic militants the opportunity to regain a foothold in Afghanistan, Rashid suggested. "Five or six billion a year from the United States, $5 or $6 billion from the rest of the world, for five-to-ten years could have put together a minimal infrastructure and institutions of governance, which would have been more than sufficient for the Afghan people to have developed an economy that could have taken off. None of this happened," said Rashid, who described the 2001-2004 period as "wasted years."

Reconstruction challenges are being compounded by a shift in Afghan popular attitudes towards outsiders. In 2001, Rashid contended, 90 percent of Afghans welcomed the arrival of foreign troops. Now, a large portion of that popular support has dissipated. "Too many civilians have died in bombings by NATO and American heavy-handedness," Rashid said.

In addition, Afghanistan’s drug trafficking problem has exploded since 2001. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. "You have an out-of-control drugs issue, for which the international community really has absolutely no policy and is throwing it back on the Afghan government to try and prosecute some of the big traffickers," Rashid said. Another major problem is systematic corruption within the Afghan government.

Despite the challenges, a window of opportunity remains open for the international aid community to achieve its aims in Afghanistan. "As far as Afghanistan is concerned, I think basically the goodwill for the international community is still there," Rashid said.

The only way for Afghanistan’s reconstruction to succeed, however, is to address two issues in neighboring Pakistan, Rashid insisted. The first deals with rooting out the militants from their sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border. The second involves an overhaul of US policy toward Pakistan itself. Since 2001, US policy toward Pakistan has been overly focused on the personality of the country’s deeply unpopular military strongman Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Rashid said.

"There is no way you can stabilize Afghanistan without ending the sanctuaries in Pakistan. There is no point. Otherwise, how many tribesmen are you going to kill?" Rashid said. "This insurgency does not have a finite end to it as long as you keep killing insurgents. Only with the end of the sanctuaries can you then also start talking to the insurgents."

Rashid added that a prevailing notion within Pakistan’s influential military establishment is that it is absolutely essential for Islamabad to have a pro-Pakistani government in Kabul. The only way to dissuade the Pakistani military from meddling in Afghan affairs is for the United States to address some of the generals’ concerns. "The United States needs to really enter into a strategic dialogue with the [Pakistani] military, and to find out what the Pakistani military really wants and needs and why it does what it does. This is something that again I think the [Bush] administration has been very, very reluctant to do," Rashid said.

In aiming to keep Afghan reconstruction on track, Washington must also strengthen its contacts with Pakistan’s civilian leadership. Since 2001, Pakistan received $10.8 billion in aid from the United States, but $8 billion of that total has gone to the military. "If you ask me has any Pakistani seen an American hospital or an American university or an American college or an American road or anything built in Pakistan in the last seven years, the answer is absolutely nothing," Rashid said. "So what do you expect Pakistanis to feel? Yes, you needed to help the military do certain things, but then you also needed an ally in the people of Pakistan."
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Norway to increase aid to Afghanistan by 50%
STOCKHOLM, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Norway will offer 750 million kroner (145.2 million U.S. dollars) in civilian aid annually to Afghanistan over the next five years, the country's foreign minister announced Wednesday.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere made the remarks before leaving for the international conference of contributing countries, to be held in Paris on Thursday, news reports said.

"We have decided to increase our civilian aid to 750 million kroner per year, and in Paris tomorrow I will announce on behalf of the government that we aim to give as much for the next five years." Stoere was quoted as saying.

He emphasized that the international community should support the development plan and that Afghanistan must follow through with carrying it out.

In February, Stoere said Norway would increase civilian aid to Afghanistan by 50 percent this year from around 500 million kroner in 2007.

Afghanistan is now the major recipient of Norwegian aid together with Sudan and the Palestinian territories.
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US military seeking trainers for Afghanistan
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer Tue Jun 10, 1:35 PM ET
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon is scrambling to find trainers to send to Afghanistan, but it will be difficult to do that before commanders reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, the top military officer said Tuesday.

The quandary has left U.S. military leaders short in a region of the world where they believe the next terrorist attack against the United States will form. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan — where Osama bin Laden is still rumored to be hiding — is also where planning for the next attack is happening.

Stemming that threat will depend largely on U.S. efforts to train the Pakistani military to fight along the border, and to quell the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan. In both cases, trainers are critical.

"My top priority is for trainers (in Afghanistan) right now, and I'm pressing the system very hard to see if we can generate any additional trainers for that requirement," Mullen told reporters at a breakfast meeting. "Then after that, it would be combat forces."

With more than 150,000 U.S. forces still fighting in Iraq, Mullen must wait for Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, to decide on additional troop withdrawals. Unless Petraeus frees up units that have been destined for Iraq either later this year or early next year, training and combat requirements in Afghanistan will go unmet.

Mullen said Tuesday that he is still planning not to replace more than 3,000 Marines sent to fight in the volatile south where the Taliban continues to hold ground. When Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the Marines to Afghanistan early this year, he vowed they would serve only seven months and that the U.S. would not replace them when they left.

Instead, it would be up to other NATO nations to fill the void.

Mullen said when the Marines leave in October and November, commanders may be able to shift some U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan to the south when promised French forces arrive in the east later this year.

Still, officials offer some optimism about the ongoing Afghan fight.

"The nature of the battle is changing," said Richard Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, during a Tuesday briefing. He said the Taliban did not mount the major spring offensive it had promised. "They couldn't do it, they have turned more and more to the tactics of terror."

But Mullen noted that while violent incidents have declined along the Afghan border, they have become more complex — combining rockets, snipers, and other terror tactics.

"The Marines in the south have had an enormously positive effect," Mullen said. But he added: "We need more forces in Afghanistan. And for us to generate more forces we're going to have to reduce over the next 24 months or so ... the number of forces in Iraq. That's really where they're available."

This week, Laura Bush is heading a U.S. delegation to Paris where leaders from more than 60 countries will meet to pledge aid for Afghanistan. Afghan leaders are hoping for some $15 billion to help them rebuild and fight the Taliban.
___
Associated Press writer Matt Lee contributed to this report.
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Slovak govt approves boost for Afghanistan force
Reuters - Wednesday, June 11 05:20 pm
BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - The Slovak government on Wednesday approved a plan to more than double the central European country's military presence in Afghanistan, Prime Minister Robert Fico said.

The proposal, yet to go before parliament, raises the limit for the number of Slovak troops in Afghanistan to 246 from 115.

Slovakia has 69 engineers, officers and doctors deployed in Afghanistan. The former communist-ruled NATO member plans to increase that number to 115 by September, Defence Ministry spokesman Vladimir Gemela said.

Fico told journalists Slovakia would stick to its policy of sending only engineers, doctors or security personnel guarding military bases.

"We will not be sending combat troops, combat units which would take part in combat operations," he said.

Most Slovak troops in Afghanistan are members of a multi-task team involved in airport and road reconstruction and are based in the southern region of Kandahar.

The Defence Ministry said the plan approved on Wednesday would allow Slovakia to increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan by 2010.

(Reporting by Peter Laca; editing by Andrew Dobbie)
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Bush to push for greater Italian role in Afghanistan
June 11, 2008
ROME (AFP) - US President George W. Bush headed on Wednesday for Rome, where he is expected to press his longtime ally Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for a more robust Italian role in Afghanistan.

For his part, Berlusconi was expected to seek Bush's full backing for Italy's drive to be included in negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, in addition to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Bush, who left Berlin mid-afternoon Tuesday, has placed the Iran dispute at the centre of his farewell European tour.

He is favourable to Italy joining the negotiations while Germany is opposed, "because it sees in this group the Security Council of tomorrow," leading political analyst Sergio Romano told AFP.

Security was tight, with some 10,000 soldiers and police deployed in Rome ahead of the US leader's arrival from Berlin in the late afternoon, with thousands planning an anti-Bush march on a square near the US embassy here, according to organisers.

Berlusconi established himself as one of Bush's strongest European allies in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003, during the Italian leader's last stint as prime minister, despite massive opposition at home.

Bush, who has hosted the media tycoon both at the White House and at his Texas ranch, is to leave office in January 2009.

Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Tuesday that Italy planned to step up its responsiveness in Afghanistan, ahead of an international conference on reconstruction in the war-torn country.

Italian soldiers will have more flexibility, Frattini told AFP, cutting response time for "rapid intervention" from 72 hours to a proposed five or six.

"Italian public opinion cannot accept that Italian soldiers are accused of staying in the quiet zones, who do nothing, who try to avoid risks," he said.

Nevertheless Frattini said Italy's 2,500 soldiers would remain deployed in Kabul and the relatively quiet Herat region in the west of Afghanistan.

Italy is "staying intentionally vague (on Afghanistan) because of public opinion," Romano said.

As Bush and Berlusconi meet in Rome, donors will be meeting in Paris to pledge funding for an ambitious 50-billion-dollar post-Taliban reconstruction plan spanning five years.

The two men will also discuss the Middle East peace process and the situation in Lebanon, foreign ministry spokesman Pasquale Ferrara told reporters on Tuesday.

Bush had no public events planned Wednesday evening, when speakers at the Rome protest were to include James Gilligan of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

"Our group will be denouncing Bush's war crimes -- we don't mean that as a slogan, it's a well-documented case by now ... (including) the criminal war against Iraq, torture and threats against Iran," organiser Stephanie Westbrook of the Rome-based US Citizens for Peace and Justice told AFP.

Protests were also planned in eight other Italian cities, organisers said.

On Thursday, Bush was to lunch with his Italian counterpart Giorgio Napolitano and meet with Berlusconi in the early evening before the two staunch friends were to face reporters at about 7:30 pm (1730 GMT).

First Lady Laura Bush was to address the UN World Food Programme in the early afternoon on Thursday.

On Friday the US leader was to head to the Vatican for his second meeting with Pope Benedict XVI.

After his Rome and Vatican stops, Bush, who began his tour in Slovenia and Germany, will fly on to France and Britain.
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Canada to rebuild Afghan dam, schools
June 10, 2008
OTTAWA (AFP) — Canada announced Tuesday plans to repair the second-largest dam in Afghanistan, build 50 new schools in the volatile south and immunize seven million Afghan children against polio.

The projects are part of Canada's shifting priorities in the war-torn country from military offensives to reconstruction and development, Foreign Minister David Emerson told a media briefing.

Canada has deployed 2,500 soldiers since 2002 with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, and they will remain in Kandahar province routing insurgents, added Defense Minister Peter Mackay.

A total of 85 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

"We recognize that by announcing projects such as this, there is no hiding the fact that we are stepping up our development efforts," MacKay said. "But that will be commensurate with our security focus."

Rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam, built on the Arghandab River near Kandahar City, is among Canada's "most important development priorities as it is the source of water through the Arghandab region right into Kandahar City," said International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda.

Dam repairs, to be completed by 2011, will cost 50 million dollars (Canadian, US), she said.

Canada will also build, expand and rehabilitate 50 schools in "key Kandahar districts" by 2011, said Oda.

And seven million children under the age of five across Afghanistan, including 350,000 in Kandahar province, will be immunized for polio over the coming year, she said.

To finance these and other development initiatives, Canada will be increasing its 10-year allocation to development and reconstruction in Afghanistan by 550 million dollars for a total of 1.9 billion dollars.
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AFGHANISTAN: No medicine for leishmaniasis in Badakhshan Province
FAYZABAD, 10 June 2008 (IRIN) - Public health facilities in Badakhshan Province, northeastern Afghanistan, have run out of medicine to treat a disease which causes facial disfigurement and social stigma - leishmaniasis. The number of patients has risen sharply over the past two weeks, provincial health officials said. If left untreated, the disease can have a fatality rate as high as 100 percent within two years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

"Every day about 70 people come to us for leishmaniasis treatment," Momin Jalali, the director of Badakhshan health department, told IRIN on 9 June. "But we have not had any medicine for two weeks."

Health officials in Kabul said they were aware of the needs in Badakhshan Province but they had no medicines available to dispatch to the province.

"For the time being we do not have the medicines to send to Badakhshan," said Abdullah Fahim, spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), adding that proposals for the required medicine had been submitted to donors.

Najibullah Safi, programme manager of the national malaria and leishmaniasis control centre in Kabul, said about 1,000 anti-leishmaniasis ampoules were sent to Badakhshan earlier this year.

"More will be sent as soon as we receive them from donors," Safi said.

A nationwide problem

Cutaneous leishmaniasis is a major health problem in Afghanistan where over 300,000 cases were confirmed in 2007, according to MoPH statistics.

However, several cases of visceral leishmaniasis - a severe form in which the parasites migrate to the vital organs - have also been confirmed. In Kabul alone - often referred to as the capital of leishmaniasis - about 200,000 people were infected by the parasite in 2007, health officials said. The parasite is also prevalent in Kandahar, Khost, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces.

The leishmaniasis parasite is transmitted by the bite of female phlebotomine sandflies and mostly causes facial injuries, permanent scars and facial disfiguring, health specialists said.

"Expensive" treatment

Public health providers in Badakhshan Province said they were advising patients to seek medicine from private drug stores where the medicine was available.

However, the medicine is not available for all.

"The medicine is expensive and poor families cannot afford it," said Jalali of Badakhshan's health department, adding that a single anti-leishmaniasis ampoule costs about US$4. As a result, many patients have decided to endure the disease until the medication is available in Kabul.

Social stigma

Women and children are particularly vulnerable to the disease, health specialists said. Young girls and women who experience the disfiguring effect of leishmaniasis, especially in facial areas, often suffer social stigma. "Women and children are particularly affected and in some cases women may be treated as outcasts by their communities," the WHO said in a report.

About 2,000 students in different parts of Badakhshan, most of them girls, have reportedly been absent since the leishmaniasis outbreak started at the beginning of May, provincial officials said.

"Several men have cancelled their engagement to fiancées facially disfigured by leishmaniasis," Jalili told IRIN.
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Canada to rebuild Afghan dam, schools
Tue Jun 10, 6:31 PM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada announced Tuesday plans to repair the second-largest dam in Afghanistan, build 50 new schools in the volatile south and immunize seven million Afghan children against polio.

The projects are part of Canada's shifting priorities in the war-torn country from military offensives to reconstruction and development, Foreign Minister David Emerson told a media briefing.

Canada has deployed 2,500 soldiers since 2002 with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, and they will remain in Kandahar province routing insurgents, added Defense Minister Peter Mackay.

A total of 85 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

"We recognize that by announcing projects such as this, there is no hiding the fact that we are stepping up our development efforts," MacKay said. "But that will be commensurate with our security focus."

Rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam, built on the Arghandab River near Kandahar City, is among Canada's "most important development priorities as it is the source of water through the Arghandab region right into Kandahar City," said International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda.

Dam repairs, to be completed by 2011, will cost 50 million dollars (Canadian, US), she said.

Canada will also build, expand and rehabilitate 50 schools in "key Kandahar districts" by 2011, said Oda.

And seven million children under the age of five across Afghanistan, including 350,000 in Kandahar province, will be immunized for polio over the coming year, she said.

To finance these and other development initiatives, Canada will be increasing its 10-year allocation to development and reconstruction in Afghanistan by 550 million dollars for a total of 1.9 billion dollars.
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Pakistan at the mercy of marching lawyers
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / June 11, 2008
KARACHI - Pakistan is engulfed in its own version of the Long March, and just as that pivotal event changed the face of China in the mid-1930s, Pakistan's political landscape could be significantly altered, as could that of its neighbor Afghanistan.

Thousands of black-suited lawyers gathered in Karachi on Monday for the beginning of a country-wide protest that is scheduled to finish outside parliament in the capital Islamabad on Thursday.

The protests began as a move to have more than 40 members of the judiciary, sacked by President Pervez Musharraf last year, reinstated, but have evolved into a direct challenge to Musharraf's position and into antagonism towards his backer, the United


States. The driving force behind the protests is the country's premier Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group)of former premier Nawaz Sharif.

At the same time, the stage is set for militants to exploit the political uncertainty through targeted attacks, even though they have signed a number of peace agreements with the government.

The ramifications of a deteriorating security situation and political turmoil are serious for Pakistan, which acts as a hub in the "war on terror" for both the Taliban-led forces in Afghanistan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces opposing them.

The bottom line for the protests is to rid the country of all American assets, including Musharraf, the liberal and secular government headed by the Pakistan People's Party-led (PPP)coalition, and the Chief of Army Ataff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani.

An embodiment of the protest movement can be found in retired Lieutenant-General Jamshed Gulzar Kiyani, a former Corps Commander in Rawalpindi, once comrade of Musharraf and a known anti-American officer. Even before September 11, 2002, he was opposed to efforts to capture al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (see Osama bin Laden: The thorn in Pakistan's flesh Asia Times Online, August 22, 2001) and he was subsequently sidelined on American demand. He has summed up the reasons for the anti-Musharraf move as complicity by Musharraf in the "war on terror"; his handing over of Muslims to the US in exchange for dollars; for orchestrating the massacre at the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad last year; the detention of the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, on accusations he masterminded Pakistan's nuclear proliferation; the misadventure of the Kargil operation in 1999, when Pakistan moved into Indian territory; and taking the country into the American camp.

The move to oust Musharraf and reduce American influence was started by Islamist sections in the armed forces when retired Squadron Leader Khalid Khawaja and a long-time friend of Bin Laden recently filed an application to register a police case against Musharraf over the Lal Masjid incident. The court has accepted the petition for hearing and Khalid Khawaja believes that once Musharraf steps down as president, the application will be activated and he will stand trial.

Last week, Musharraf tried to defend his case in front of the media and called such demands by ex-military officials as a violation of military traditions and discipline.

At the same time, military chief Kiani, considered to be Washington's most trusted man after Musharraf, is clearly unable to position himself in favor of the "war on terror" and he seems completely overwhelmed by the emerging anti-American trends in the military. These have frozen all anti-Taliban operations in the tribal areas and, despite NATO's complaint that the military is actively facilitating cross-border movement of the Taliban, Kiani has been unable to do anything about it.

In sum, the military is ineffective, the PPP's government is unable, given the pressure coming from the streets, to protect US interests, while the icon of American interests, the office of the president, is completely under siege.

On Monday, Musharraf received another body blow when retired Lieutenant-General Moinuddin Haiderone, one of his long-time personal friends, a former corps commander and interior minister in Musharraf's cabinet, said in a television interview that Musharraf made solitary decisions and kept his colleagues in the dark.

"We were told that Pakistan's airfields were only given to American aircraft for refueling [after 9/11 for raids into Afghanistan] and other non-combatant purposes, but then CENTCOM [US Central Command] released information that US aircraft had carried out [56,000] sorties for combat operations in Afghanistan. We were completely in the dark in the cabinet and after the release of that information by CENTCOM it was very embarrassing for us," Moinuddin said.

"I think 500 to 600 people were handed over to the Americans, but as Interior Minister I was neither informed nor involved - in those operations the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] was single-handedly involved in the arrests," Moinuddin said, implying that everything was directly handled by the president through the ISI.

All of this means trouble for the US on its South Asia war theater.

Militants see their chance

With Pakistan mired in a massive power and economic crisis, al-Qaeda sees its opportunity to destabilize the country through militancy. This accounts for the recent spate of al-Qaeda-backed violence, notably the suicide car bomb attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad this month that killed at least eight people. The garrison town of Rawalpindi - Islamabad's twin city - is expected to come under attack.

And the violence is likely to spread in tandem with the lawyers' movement in the coming days. Indeed, on Monday, at the start of the protest march, militants attacked a police convoy in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The convoy was guarding the recently released Sufi Muhammad, the leader of a pro-Taliban group. A Taliban spokesman confirmed they had carried out the attack against the police. The Taliban's peace treaties are now just pieces of paper.

And all the time al-Qaeda is waiting patiently for the right time to make another major strike to further its broader strategic advantage, as it did after the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in Islamabad last December 27. Following her death, the country was plunged into deep uncertainty and al-Qaeda unleashed a series of attacks on security forces.

Al-Qaeda paused briefly during the parliamentary elections in February, but then killed Lieutenant-General Mushtaq Beg, the army's head of medical corps, near military headquarters in Rawalpindi.

These were not indiscriminate acts of violence; the aim was to boost the Taliban-led resistance in Afghanistan and the Pakistani Taliban on the border areas.

And indeed, with the pride and arrogance of a conqueror, two months ago the Pakistani Taliban dished out their demands to the newly elected coalition of secular and liberal parties that formed the government - the very people who were meant to ferment popular political support for the "war on terror".

The demands included the release of many of their key men, the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from the tribal areas and guarantee easy movement to cross into Afghanistan. They also demanded monetary compensation for the Taliban's losses in recent battles.

In the Swat Valley in NWFP, the Pakistani Taliban dished out a different set of demands to the secular provincial government, which openly opposes the Islamic way of life. They called for the release of all their men held captive, in addition to the enforcement of Islamic law in the Swat Valley.

With the humility of a loser, Pakistan submitted to all of the demands: all high-profile Taliban and al-Qaeda members were released, security forces were withdrawn and the Taliban were given large sums of money.

All the same time, the al-Qaeda leadership sitting somewhere in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan did not view the fulfillment of these demands as anything special. Since 2006, the Taliban have won similar concessions, but they have always been short-lived, lasting only months before American pressure forced Pakistan to resume military operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

The American pressure was two-pronged: the US threatened to end or curtail its multi-billion-dollar aid program, including military aid, and also threatened to take matters into its own hands and intervene directly in Pakistan territory against militants. Thus, Pakistan's military cooperation in the "war on terror" was not out of conviction but because of its vulnerability.

Given this, al-Qaeda analyzed two broader scenarios that could change the regional dynamics in favor of the Taliban-led resistance.

Firstly, if the Taliban were to gain the advantage over NATO troops in Afghanistan, Pakistan would gravitate towards the Taliban, their natural regional ally, and Islamabad's cooperation with NATO would be even weaker. Alternatively, if Pakistan could be squeezed enough by al-Qaeda's chaos tactics, it would likely become at least neutral, if not an active supporter of the Taliban resistance.

However, these two scenarios are conditional and dependent on other factors. For instance, the Taliban gaining the advantage against NATO depends on Pakistan. If the Taliban are given uninterrupted access to cross the border, their chances of success are greater, less so if the border is blocked.

Similarly, al-Qaeda's chaos tactics can only work if a restive political or social environment exists because al-Qaeda is not big enough to operate as a stand-alone force; it is only capable of exploiting troubled situations. Bhutto's assassination is a case in point.

Taliban on the move

In the past two months of peace deals, the Taliban have successfully completed the launch of operations into Afghanistan, with some estimates of as many as 40,000 men crossing the border, the biggest since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

The impact is visible. Even in a province like Ghazni, the Taliban have been able to capture districts and in Wardak province they have taken Afghan soldiers captive. Except for a few district headquarters, the entire Helmand province is in Taliban hands. And in the provinces of Kunar, Nooristan and Khost, the Taliban have acquired a strategic depth against NATO forces and many towns and villages near the border have been captured. This means the Taliban can easily mobilize resources for daily attacks on NATO troops and those of the Afghan National Army.

The Afghan front will heat up even further as NATO can be expected to strike back hard against the Taliban. NATO wants to place the Taliban between a rock and a hard place, that is, between NATO troops on the Afghan side and Pakistani forces on the other. In the past few weeks, top American military commanders have visited Islamabad to discuss this strategy with army chief Kiani.

The Taliban will counter this by spreading their troops and seeking engagement on many fronts - they have opened up an unlikely front in eastern Nangarhar province. And for al-Qaeda, Rawalpindi, the military headquarters, and neighboring Islamabad, the federal capital, are the "choke points" to strangle Pakistan's cooperation in the "war on terror" through selective suicide attacks. This will blunt one side of the pincer movement against the Taliban as well as encourage Islamic-minded officers in the military to assert their anti-American views.

The lawyer-led protests will provide al-Qaeda with the perfect opportunity to strike, further raising the political and security temperature in the already simmering country. Economic woes add to this potent brew. A deepening power crisis could end in riots in the southern port city of Karachi. The Pakistani rupee is at its lowest against the US dollar in the history of the country and the Karachi Stock Exchange is at its lowest in nine months.

Pakistan's march is indeed going to be a long and arduous one.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief.
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Nato's lost cause
The west's 'good war' in Afghanistan has turned bad. A local solution, rather than a neocolonial one, is what's needed
Tariq Ali guardian.co.uk, Wednesday June 11 2008
In the latest clashes on the Pakistan-Afghan border, Nato troops have killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and injured many more, creating a serious crisis in the country and angering the Pakistan military high command, already split on the question.

US failure in Afghanistan is now evident and Nato desperation only too visible. Spreading the war to Pakistan would be a disaster for all sides. The Bush-Cheney era is drawing to a close, but it is unlikely that their replacements, despite the debacle in Iraq, will settle the American giant back to a digestive sleep.

The temporary cleavage that opened up between some EU states and Washington on Iraq was resolved after the occupation. They could all unite in Afghanistan and fight the good fight. This view has been strongly supported by every US presidential candidate in the run up to the 2008 elections, with Senator Barack Obama pressuring the White House to violate Pakistani sovereignty whenever necessary. He must be pleased.

That the "good war" has now turned bad is no longer disputed by a number of serious analysts in the US, even though there is no agreed prescription for dealing with the problems. Not least of which for some is the future of Nato, stranded far away from the Atlantic in a mountainous country, the majority of whose people, after offering a small window of opportunity to the occupiers, realised it was a mistake and became increasingly hostile.

The "neo-Taliban" control at least 20 districts in the Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces where Nato troops replaced US soldiers. It is hardly a secret that many officials in these zones are closet supporters of the guerrilla fighters. As western intelligence agencies active in the country are fully aware, the situation is out of control. The model envisaged for the occupation was Panama. The then US secretary of State, Colin Powell, explained that: "The strategy has to be to take charge of the whole country by military force, police or other means". His knowledge of Afghanistan was limited.

Panama, populated by 3.5 million people, could not have been more different to Afghanistan, which has a population approaching 30 million and is geographically quite dissimilar. To even attempt a military occupation of the entire country would require a minimum of 200,000 troops.

A total of 8000 US troops were dispatched to seal the victory. The 4000 "peacekeepers" sent by other countries never left Kabul. The Germans concentrated on creating a police force that could run a police state and the Italians, without any sense of irony, were busy "training an Afghan judiciary" to deal with the drugs mafia. The British were in Helmand amidst the poppy fields. As for the new satellite states involved – Czechs, Slovenes, Poles, Estonians, Slovakians and Romanians – it was useful training for the future.

Five years later, in September 2006, an attempted bombing of the US embassy came close to hitting its target. A CIA assessment that same month painted a sombre picture, depicting Karzai and his regime as hopelessly corrupt and incapable of defending Afghanistan against the Taliban. Ronald E Neumann, the US Ambassador in Kabul supported this view and told an interviewer that the US faced "stark choices" and defeat could only be avoided through
"multiple billions" over "multiple years".

The repression, striking blindly, leaves people with no option but to back those trying to resist, especially in a part of the world where the culture of revenge is strong. When a whole community feels threatened it reinforces solidarity, regardless of the character or weakness of those who fight back.

Many Afghans who detest the Taliban are so angered by the failures of Nato and the behaviour of its troops that they are hostile to the occupation. Nato itself has stopped pretending that its occupation has anything to do with the needs of the Afghan people and acknowledge it as an open-ended American military thrust into the Middle East and Central Asia. As the Economist summarises, "Defeat would be a body blow not only to the Afghans, but" – and more importantly, of course – to the Nato alliance". As ever, geopolitics prevail over Afghan interests in the calculus of the big powers.

The basing agreement signed by Washington with its appointee in Kabul in May 2005 gives the Pentagon the right to maintain a massive military presence in Afghanistan in perpetuity. That Washington is not seeking permanent bases in this fraught and inhospitable terrain simply for the sake of "democratisation and good governance" was made clear by Nato's secretary general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Brookings Institution in February this year: the opportunity to site military facilities, and potentially nuclear missiles, in a country that borders China, Iran and Central Asia was too good to miss.

More strategically, Afghanistan has become a central theatre for uniting, and extending, the west's power-political grip on the world order. On the one hand, it is argued, it provides an opportunity for the US to shrug off its failures in imposing its will in Iraq and persuading its allies to play a broader role there. In contrast, as one report (pdf) suggests, America and its allies "have greater unity of purpose in Afghanistan. The ultimate outcome of Nato's effort to stabilise Afghanistan and US leadership of that effort may well affect the cohesiveness of the alliance and Washington's ability to shape Nato's future."

There are at least two routes out of the Khyber impasse. The first and the worst would be to Balkanise the country. This appears to be the dominant pattern of imperial hegemony at the moment, but whereas the Kurds in Iraq and the Kosovans and others in the former Yugoslavia were willing client-nationalists, the likelihood of Tajiks or Hazaris playing this role effectively is more remote in Afghanistan.

The second alternative would require a withdrawal of all US/Nato forces, either preceded or followed by a regional pact to guarantee Afghan stability for the next ten years. Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia could guarantee and support a functioning national government, pledged to preserving the ethnic and religious diversity of Afghanistan and creating a space in which all its citizens can breathe, think and eat every day. It would need a serious social and economic plan to rebuild the country and provide the basic necessities for its people.

Nato's failure cannot be simply blamed on the Pakistani government. It is a traditional colonial ploy to blame "outsiders" for internal problems. If anything, the war in Afghanistan has created a critical situation in two Pakistani frontier provinces and the use of the Pakistan army by Centcom has resulted in suicide terrorism in Lahore with the federal intelligence agency and a naval training college targeted by supporters of the Afghan insurgents.

The Pashtun majority in Afghanistan has always had close links to its fellow Pashtuns in Pakistan. The present border was an imposition by the British empire, but it has always remained porous. It is virtually impossible to build a Texan fence or an Israeli wall across the mountainous and largely unmarked 2500km border that separates the two countries. The solution is political, not military. And it should be sought in the region not in Washington or Brussels.
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Afghanistan: British troops feel their hard work is not appreciated
By Thomas Harding in Zabul province and James Kirkup Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom - Jun 10, 2008
British troops in Afghanistan are angry that the hard fighting they are doing is not fully appreciated by the public.

Soldiers told the Telegraph that while American troops are welcomed home as heroes, their own sacrifices often go unacknowledged.

This view is confirmed by the Ministry of Defence's private polling, which shows 48 per cent of people in Britain support the Afghan mission.

While the figure has risen from 42 per cent earlier this year, work is now under way across Whitehall to improve the efforts to "sell" the conflict to the British people.

"If you have nearly 8,000 people in Afghanistan, fighting and sometimes dying, you have a responsibility to do more to explain why they are there and what they are doing," a Government source said.

The British death toll in Afghanistan reached 100 on Sunday with the death of three members of the Parachute Regiment.

The MoD has now confirmed that British troops killed on operations or in terrorist attacks were to receive a posthumous award.

Paratroopers feel that the deaths of three colleagues will mean little if the campaign is not properly valued at home.

Major Adam Wilson, A Company commander in 3 Para, said: "Death is a fact of life that out here and in The Parachute Regiment we expect to take casualties.

"But even though we have lost 100 men we are proud of the steps we have made and we want to get on with the job in hand.

"We are doing our part out here defeating terrorism so it does no come back to our shores but I don't think people in the UK see us having a clear mission," he said.

If the soldiers return home and don't feel valued "that will really hurt and make the guys question why we are here".

He added that "little things" like the 10 per cent discount offered for flights with Virgin airlines, made a huge difference to soldiers feeling valued.

Sgt Danny Leitch, 32, who trained two of the private soldiers killed on Sunday, realised that it was hard for civilians to understand the job troops were doing in Afghanistan.

"But people can sleep easily in their beds at night in Britain - including my wife and two children - simply because of what we are doing out here," said the paratrooper.

"People don't appreciate what we do back home, especially compared to America where soldiers are admired across the country. The public should pause and think for a minute that this is not an easy job to do."
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