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June 12, 2008 

World donors raise $21 billion for Afghanistan
By ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writer
PARIS - World donors sought to bolster Afghanistan's fragile leadership Thursday with pledges of more than $21 billion in aid as the need to help secure and feed the country overshadowed concerns about pervasive corruption.

Afghanistan seeks 50 billion dollars at aid conference
Thu Jun 12, 6:17 AM ET
PARIS (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday sought 50 billion dollars to rebuild his country at an international aid conference expected to raise more than 15 billion dollars to launch his campaign.

Britain pledges $1.17 billion in Afghan aid
Thu Jun 12, 4:35 AM ET
PARIS (Reuters) - Britain will provide about 600 million pounds ($1.17 billion) in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan through 2012/2013, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Thursday.

FACTBOX-Donors' aid pledges for Afghanistan
June 12 (Reuters) - Over 65 countries and more than a dozen international organisations met at a conference in Paris on Thursday to pledge funds for Afghanistan and review their development strategy for the violence-plagued state.

Australia to donate more to Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-12 20:07:56
CANBERRA, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced on Thursday that his country will provide 250 million dollars (234 million U.S. dollars) to help rebuild Afghanistan, but has no plans to send more troops to the war-torn nation.

Pakistan pledges $20 million to Afghanistan at Paris moot
Associated Press of Pakistan  
PARIS, Jun 12 (APP): Pakistan on Thursday pledged 20 million dollars to Afghanistan for repatriation of Afghan refugees in their homeland and appealed for greater international assistance for the war-torn country.

World donors promise Afghanistan moral support and $20 billion in aid
Charles Bremner in Paris From Times Online (UK) June 12, 2008
World donors promised Afghanistan more than $20 billion (£10 billion) of new aid plus fresh moral support today but President Karzai was warned of impatience over his Government's failure to stem rampant graft and drug trafficking.

UN drugs office congratulates Afghan police on hashish seizure
VIENNA (AFP) - The UN Office on Drugs and Crime congratulated Afghan police on Thursday for seizing 237 tonnes of hashish in a raid this week.

UN Security Council targets heroin in Afghanistan
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer Wed Jun 11, 6:58 PM ET
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council called Wednesday for better cooperation from nations that aren't complying with an international treaty that seeks to restrict chemicals used in Afghanistan's heroin trade.

Minister Wants to Raise German Troop Levels in Afghanistan
12.06.2008 Deutsche Welle, Germany
Germany's troop numbers in Afghanistan should be increased from the current 3,500, the country's defense minister said ahead of a major aid conference on Afghanistan in Paris.

US releases border strike footage
Thursday, 12 June 2008 BBC News
The US has released video excerpts of a controversial air strike in the Afghan-Pakistani border region which Pakistan says killed 11 of its soldiers.

Pakistan: Relations With U.S. In Crisis After Clash Across Afghan Border
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 12, 2008
Relations between U.S. and Pakistani military forces are in crisis after clashes and a U.S. air strike that hit a Pakistani border post and killed 11 Pakistani soldiers.

Bush to Talk Iran, Afghanistan with Italy's Berlusconi
Voice of America By Paula Wolfson Rome 12 June 2008
U.S. President George Bush is holding a series of talks in Rome with Italian leaders - discussions expected to focus largely on Iran and Afghanistan. We have more from VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson, in the Italian capital.

High Court sides with Guantanamo detainees again
By MARK SHERMAN Associated Press / June 12, 2008
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

Water squabbles irrigate tensions in Central Asia
Thu Jun 12, 2008 8:41am EDT By Maria Golovnina
VAKHDAT, Tajikistan (Reuters) - Under a scorching sun, an exhausted Tajik woman looks at a drying trickle of irrigation water running across her cotton field.

Tributes for BBC Afghan reporter
By Martin Patience BBC News, Kabul  Thursday, 12 June 2008 13:26 UK
Hundreds of people have paid tribute to murdered BBC journalist Abdul Samad Rohani in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Germany to train Afghan cadets:
Jun 12, IRNA
Germany is to train Afghan cadets as part of a military officer's training program over the next seven years, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Thursday quoted the German Defense Ministry as saying.

What I Saw in Afghanistan
The Wall Street Journal By LAURA BUSH June 12, 2008
This week has been a study in contrasts. On Sunday, I was in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan – where unpaved roads are lined by tin-roofed shanties, and most people live without running water or electricity.

Canada warns Afghanistan on corruption
Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent ,  Canwest News Service Thursday, June 12, 2008
PARIS - Canada will deliver 'robust' aid to Afghanistan, but both Canadians and Afghans expect President Hamid Karzai to take tougher measures to ensure the some of the billions of dollars flowing into the country aren't siphoned off by corrupt officials

Security, drugs top Afghan donors meeting agenda
Gulf News By Eman Mohammed, Abu Dhabi Deputy Editor June 10, 2008, 21:30
Abu Dhabi: Kabul proposes to showcase its strategic plan with focus on security and war on drug trade at the Afghanistan international donors meeting in Paris on Tuesday.

Taliban must be defeated in Pakistan, study says
Pakistani intelligence aiding jihadists, al-Qaeda leaders given sanctuary, report concludes
Globe and Mail, Canada PAUL KORING From Wednesday's Globe and Mail June 11, 2008
WASHINGTON -Taliban bases in Pakistan must be eliminated or the counter-insurgency war being fought by American, Canadian and other allied soldiers in southern Afghanistan is doomed, a U.S. Defence Department-funded study by the RAND

The dream of Afghan democracy is dead
The Financial Times By Anatol Lieven 06/11/2008
In public, defeat in Afghanistan is unthinkable for western governments. In private, for many it already seems inevitable – at least if the western definition of “victory” remains the vastly overblown goals set since the overthrow of the Taliban

Why Afghanistan is where wars are lost
The Herald, UK YOUR LETTERS June 12 2008
The war in Afghanistan will be lost, as Ian Bell believes (June 11), for reasons ranging from historical foreign interference through to geography, economics to politics. Historically, the only European army to achieve success in Afghanistan was commanded

The Indian Heroine Tulsi Falls in the Battle For Freedom of Speech in Karzai's Afghanistan
Huffington Post June 11, 2008
On a snowy Afghan evening, I had to watch Agha Jan and his son fix my car in a make-shift garage in Kabul. As Agha jan the mechanic (mistari) was fumbling with wrenches and pliers, his phone burst into a Bollywood-music ring tone.

The country's only female rebel surrenders
www.quqnoos.com Written by Mukhtar Soar Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Woman who took up arms against Soviets hands herself in
AFGHANISTAN’S only female rebel commander has handed herself in to the government.

Pakistani Taliban hang female 'spy'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Body of woman accused of running brothel found dumped on roadside
PAKISTANI Taliban in a remote tribal region bordering Afghanistan have hanged a woman accused of spying, officials have said.

Jail blast kills American and two Afghans
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Flames tear through notorious jail close to the capital Kabul
A GAS canister that exploded inside the US-controlled section of Kabul’s notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison has killed an American officer and two Afghan soldiers.

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World donors raise $21 billion for Afghanistan
By ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press Writer
PARIS - World donors sought to bolster Afghanistan's fragile leadership Thursday with pledges of more than $21 billion in aid as the need to help secure and feed the country overshadowed concerns about pervasive corruption.

The United States led the way, promising $10.2 billion.

Donors pledged to coordinate their aid better than in the past, when billions poured into the country, often with little oversight. In a final statement, they also urged Afghan officials to tackle corruption.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, in announcing the final sum, said the figure was beyond his dreams. It exceeds the $15 billion to $20 billion Afghan officials had hoped for.

"Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our back on this opportunity," first lady Laura Bush said.

The new pledges are in addition to $25 billion pledged by the international community since 2002. However, only $15 billion — 60 percent — of those previous pledges has been honored so far.

That's because it is almost impossible to police how and where the aid is spent.

Security questions loom over every aid project since Karzai's Western-backed administration has only a shaky grip on much of the country. The heroin trade is a key part of the economy, as is corruption.

Most Afghans lack proper sanitation and 80 percent have no electricity at home, despite $15 billion in international aid since the Taliban's ouster in 2001. Life expectancy remains under 50 years, and food shortages over the past year have pushed many Afghans to the brink.

The Taliban still recruit in desperately poor rural areas, and their insurgency continues to claim lives more than six years after U.S.-led troops invaded following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks blamed on al-Qaida, whose militants the Taliban were sheltering.

Afghanistan's still-tenuous security climate was highlighted by tensions over U.S. airstrikes that may have killed friendly fighters in Pakistan along the Afghan border. The bombings Tuesday fueled anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan, and could set back efforts to stem violence in the lawless region.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was expected to push NATO allies meeting Thursday in Brussels to send more troops and police instructors to Afghanistan. NATO's mission in Afghanistan has more than doubled, to 51,000, over the past two years, but commanders say it still lacks units for critical tasks like air transport and intelligence.

Karzai promised to fight the graft that bleeds aid dollars and that the World Bank says is crippling the legitimacy of his government.

"Afghanistan needs large amounts of aid, but precisely how aid is spent is just as important," Karzai told the conference.

Donors agreed that the needs are urgent and enormous, and won't be solved immediately.

"The vast majority of the work is still to be done. It will be difficult, it will take time," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said.

Karzai said giving farmers alternatives to growing opium poppies and trafficking drugs is crucial to Afghanistan's future.

"Opium is about survival" for these farmers, he said.

Noting the "major transformation" Afghanistan has gone through since 2001, he presented a development plan to the donors that says his country needs $50 billion over the next five years to boost an economy shattered by a quarter-century of war.

U.N. representative Kai Eide, looking at Afghanistan's progress in recent years, said: "It is a very fragile success and it must be consolidated."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. is dedicating $10.2 billion over two years for Afghan development. The money is a mix of what Congress already has approved for this year and next, and what the Bush administration is still seeking before it leaves office.

Other major donors included the Asian Development Bank, $1.3 billion; the World Bank, $1.1 billion; Britain, 600 million pounds ($1.2 billion), and the European Union, euro500 million ($775 million).

A similar donors' conference in 2006 garnered pledges of $10.5 billion.

The United States is the single largest donor to Afghanistan, not counting the cost of the ongoing war against insurgents. That war is unlikely to end soon: The Afghan government, in its development strategy unveiled Thursday, envisions peace by 2020.
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Associated Press writers Anne Gearan and Jamey Keaten in Paris, and Jason Straziuso in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.
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Afghanistan seeks 50 billion dollars at aid conference
Thu Jun 12, 6:17 AM ET
PARIS (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday sought 50 billion dollars to rebuild his country at an international aid conference expected to raise more than 15 billion dollars to launch his campaign.

The United States has already said it will donate more than 10 billion dollars.

"What brings us together today is a concern for the destiny of a nation that has emerged from a dark past," Karzai told donors from more than 80 countries and international institutions.

Karzai is seeking support for a 50-billion-dollar development plan over the next five years to counter widespread poverty and a Taliban insurgency.

Announcing a 10.2 billion dollar contribution, US First Lady Laura Bush said "Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our backs on this opportunity."

President Nicolas Sarkozy announced French financial aid would be "more than doubled" with priority given to agriculture and health. He gave no figure but aides said it would total 107 million euros (165 million dollars) over the next two years.

More than six years after US-led forces ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan remains mired in poverty and its people lack many basics while the extremist militia has pushed on with its insurgency in the south.

Some 47,000 troops from a NATO-led force are fighting the Taliban alongside 20,000 US troops. The violence has left 8,000 people dead in 2007 alone including 1,500 civilians, according to UN figures.

Listing progress in building roads and clinics, fighting opium production and setting up a functioning government, Karzai nevertheless ackowledged: "There is a long way still ahead of us."

With a development plan on the table, Afghanistan needs "adequate, long term and predictable support," said Karzai.

Karzai's ambitious blueprint focuses first on infrastructure, with plans to build roads, dams and power plants, but building up the army and security forces is also a priority along with developing agriculture.

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said on the eve of the conference that Washington's contribution was a "strong sign of how committed the United States is not just to the security of the Afghan people but to their prosperity and to the functioning of their government."

US officials said they expected 15 billion dollars (9.7 billion euros) to be raised, but European and UN diplomats stressed the conference must also tackle the more sensitive issue of how the funds are spent.

"I hope this conference will first of all provide an opportunity to reflect on our strategy," Sarkozy said.

Relief organisations have complained that too much international aid is spent on security while development projects vital to fight poverty and strengthen the state are neglected.

Karzai also is facing questions over his apparent inability to deal with corruption and opium production, seen as prolonging the Taliban insurgency.

A report by an umbrella group of aid organisations warned in March that only 15 billion out of the 25 billion dollars promised in donations since the 2001 fall of the Taliban had been released.

Forty percent of that amount returned to donor nations to cover consultant fees and projects carried out by various private contractors, according to the report by ACBAR, the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief.

US-based Human Rights Watch said donor countries must make aid conditional on progress in human rights, with particular attention given to Afghan women and girls who continue to rank among the world's worst-off.
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Britain pledges $1.17 billion in Afghan aid
Thu Jun 12, 4:35 AM ET
PARIS (Reuters) - Britain will provide about 600 million pounds ($1.17 billion) in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan through 2012/2013, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Thursday.

"In the period up to 2012/13, the U.K. will be committing about 600 million pounds to the Afghan reconstruction effort," Miliband told reporters as he arrived at an Afghan donors conference hosted by France.

Miliband said this sum was in addition to aid money that Britain pledged at a 2006 donors conference, which he said would run out in the year 2008/2009.

More than 65 countries will attend the Paris conference, including the United States, which has promised to provide about $10 billion in aid, the largest sum pledged so far.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)
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FACTBOX-Donors' aid pledges for Afghanistan
June 12 (Reuters) - Over 65 countries and more than a dozen international organisations met at a conference in Paris on Thursday to pledge funds for Afghanistan and review their development strategy for the violence-plagued state.

Afghanistan's government asked donors to fund a $50 billion five-year development plan, for which donors will demand that Kabul do more to fight corruption which has deterred investment.

Delegates say total pledges are not expected to reach a full $50 billion.

Below is a list of amounts pledged so far, by country and organisation.

Australia... A$250 million ($234.3 million) over 3 years
Austria..... 450,000 euros ($694,300) for projects in 2008
Belgium..... 30 million euros ($46.29 million) for 2007-2011
Brazil...... $100,000
Britain..... About 600 million pounds ($1.2 billion) to 2013*
France...... 107 million euros ($165 million) until 2010
Germany..... 420 million euros ($648 million) for 2008-2010
Japan....... $550 million*
United States.... $10.2 billion over 2 years

INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS

Aga Khan Foundation........ $100 million over 5 years
Asian Development Bank..... $1.3 billion over 5 years
World Bank................. $1.1 billion over 5 years

TOTAL PLEDGED: $15.54 billion

NOTE: * -- amount announced before the conference.
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Australia to donate more to Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-12 20:07:56
CANBERRA, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced on Thursday that his country will provide 250 million dollars (234 million U.S. dollars) to help rebuild Afghanistan, but has no plans to send more troops to the war-torn nation.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is expected to ask up to 80 donor nations at the Paris donation conference beginning on Thursday for more than 50 billion dollars over the next five years to help his country to rebuild from the destruction caused by years of fighting between coalition forces and the Taliban.

Australia's contribution takes to 700 million dollars the amount of aid it has given to Afghanistan since 2001, when coalition forces took on the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Canberra is focusing on how the aid can be used to help Afghanistan govern itself and the Afghan government will release a five-year development strategy at the conference.

"What we want the 250 million dollars to be used for is to help build Afghanistan's capacity to govern its own affairs and to build its capacity to look after its own people," Smith told ABC Radio.

Smith, who visited Australian troops in Afghanistan in the past week, said things were improving - but off a very low base.

But he reiterated Australia had no immediate plans to bolster troop numbers.

"We're not proposing to increase that level of military or combat contribution," Smith said.

Australia is the biggest non-NATO contributor to the military effort in Afghanistan, where it has more than 1,000 troops in the south of the country.
Editor: An Lu 
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Pakistan pledges $20 million to Afghanistan at Paris moot
Associated Press of Pakistan   
PARIS, Jun 12 (APP): Pakistan on Thursday pledged 20 million dollars to Afghanistan for repatriation of Afghan refugees in their homeland and appealed for greater international assistance for the war-torn country.

“To facilitate their (Afghan) repatriation, maintain their honour and security and help in their settlement in Afghanistan, it give me great pleasure to pledge $20 million to Afghanistan,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said in Paris.

The Minister was addressing an international conference for support of Afghanistan.

He said the complex problems in Afghanistan are not going to lend themselves to quick and neat solutions.”However, greater economic assistance can help in ensuring that Afghanistan stays the course,” he added.

Moreover, he added, it would also send the signal that the people of Afghanistan are not alone and the international community is with them.

He said Pakistan was of the view that the international assistance to Afghanistan needs to be channeled more through its government.

“We need to appreciate that in a situation like Afghanistan, the leading role by the government in reconstruction and economic development, is also essential for strengthening and enlarging the writ of the state,” he added.

Qureshi called for understanding the challenges of reconstruction, reconciliation and governance in Afghanistan and said they are inter-linked.  

“Without Afghan ownership, it is doubtful that significant success can be achieved in any of these areas.”

He said Pakistan will continue to have security cooperation with Afghanistan, under the mechanism of the “Tripartite Military Commission”.

Pakistan, he added, will also extend assistance in the construction work in Afghanistan. Moreover, it will not only revive but reinvigorate the process of ‘Joint Peace Jirga” that is a traditional mechanism for reconciliation through dialogue.

“We believe, that in the given situation, for building peace and stability, dialogue should have the primacy.”

It is only when dialogue fails or starts giving diminishing returns, that other options could be revisited.      

For these reasons, Pakistan hopes that avenues of dialogue, with those who are amenable to it, may be fully explored.

In the field of governance, Qureshi offered Afghanistan to avail the training programmes in the disciplines of judiciary and police.

He said international assistance to Afghanistan were needed in the areas related to capacity building of the Afghan polity, governance, security and reconstruction and drug control.

“Pakistan hopes the international community would not be found wanting in responding to Afghanistan’s requirements.”

The complex problems in Afghanistan are not going to lend themselves to quick and neat solutions. However, greater economic assistance can help in ensuring that Afghanistan, stays the course, he added.

He said the Afghan presidential elections scheduled in 2009 and Parliamentary elections in 2010, hold great promise for further strengthening of the democratic dispensation over there.

Afghans deserve financial and technical assistance of the international community, for holding these elections smoothly and successfully.

He said Pakistan believes that close and cooperative relations are not only in the mutual interest of the two countries and its peoples but could also become a powerful dynamic of regional cooperation.
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World donors promise Afghanistan moral support and $20 billion in aid
Charles Bremner in Paris From Times Online (UK) June 12, 2008
World donors promised Afghanistan more than $20 billion (£10 billion) of new aid plus fresh moral support today but President Karzai was warned of impatience over his Government's failure to stem rampant graft and drug trafficking.

Under international pressure over the lack of progress in rebuilding his country, Mr Karzai promised to fight corruption and sought understanding. Poppy-growing farmers, for example, needed help, he said. "Opium is about survival for them."

The United States, represented by Laura Bush, opened the pledges at a Paris conference with a $10.2 billion commitment. "Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our back on this opportunity," the US First Lady said.

David Milliband, the Foreign Secreetary, promised £600 million pounds, one of the biggest among more than $16 billion of pledges covering the next five years.

Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, called the conference "an unexpected success". He said: "We had hoped in our most optimistic moments to raise perhaps $17 billion at the most. It may go over 21 billion."

The sum was well short of the $50 billion that Mr Karzai was seeking at the Paris conference from the 80 nations and organisations which have already promised $25 billion since 2002. Only $15 billion of that has been spent so far, much of it ineffectively and wastefully, according to aid experts. Afghanistan depends on aid for 90 per cent of its needs.

President Sarkozy of France led a chorus of backing for Mr Karzai's fragile Government as still the best hope for Afghanistan. "It is the duty of all democrats to help you," he said. "Hamid, you are a brave man and one that we are proud to call a friend."

Mr Sarkozy, who has deepend French engagement with the forthcoming deployment of 900 French combat troops, said that Afghanistan, "was taken hostage by a regime allied to terrorism ... that represents the very negation of the values of Islam."

But the French leader and many foreign ministers and officials singled out corruption and the opium trade as threats on a par with the spreading insurgency by Taliban fighters. "Drug trafficking, corruption, feeds the war," said Mr Sarkozy. It was time to "reflect on our strategy," he added.

Some 8,000 people were killed last year in the fight with a rejuvenated Taliban, which is trying to break Western will to keep the Nato-led force of 47,000 in Afghanistan.

Mr Karzai was told to shake up his system of government. "There must be a greater determination to improve the quality of administration, to secure greater accountability and to combat corruption more vigorously," said Kai Eide, the UN special envoy for Afghanistan.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, called for "active measures" against corruption, more transparency and better management of aid. Frank Walter Steinmeier, the German Foreign Minister, said: "It is only by combating corruption and strengthening the rule of law that our commitment to Afghanistan will be efficient."

Stephen Smith, the Australian Foreign Minister, said that reconstruction had been slow. "The vast majority of the work is still to be done. It will be difficult, it will take time," he said.

Mr Karzai, wearing his colourful Uzbek cloak in the elegant conference centre by the Arc de Triomphe, said that he agreed with everything that President Sarkozy said in his opening speech. He cited progress in building roads and hospitals, and in fighting opium production since the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime. But he acknowledged: "There is a long way still ahead of us ... Afghanistan needs adequate, long term and predictable support."

Mr Karzai said that he recognised his Government's shortcomings — which a World Bank report said were sapping his legitimacy. "The current development process that is marred by confusion and parallel structures undermines institution building," he said. "While Afghanistan needs large amounts of aid, precisely how aid is spent is just as important."

Mr Eide said that the message about corruption had been well understood by both the Afghans and the donor countries at the conference . "I believe that we have here a contract between the two parties that we will now implement," he said.

Rangin Spanta, the Afghan Foreign Minister, said his country's problems with mis-spending sprang from "98 years of war and destruction". Much depended on better monitoring of contracts with foreign organisations and firms, he said.

Among other pledges, the Asian Development Bank said that it would provide $1.3 billion and the World Bank around $1.1 billion. Germany promised $648 million. France doubled its aid offer to $130 million over the next two years and Japan pledged $550 million before the one-day conference.
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UN drugs office congratulates Afghan police on hashish seizure
VIENNA (AFP) - The UN Office on Drugs and Crime congratulated Afghan police on Thursday for seizing 237 tonnes of hashish in a raid this week.

"This is a massive seizure, and a major success for counter-narcotics in Afghanistan" said UNODC executive director Antonio Maria Costa.

"Notorious for being the world's biggest producer of opium, Afghanistan has also become a major source of cannabis resin," Costa said in a statement.

UNODC estimates that some 70,000 hectares of cannabis were grown in Afghanistan last year, up from 50,000 in 2006 and 30,000 in 2005.

That suggested Afghanistan appeared to be overtaking Morocco as the world's top cannabis grower, where the multi-billion dollar cannabis harvest has halved between 2003 and 2006.

"The international community needs to provide more support to curb Afghanistan's drug problem," Costa said as an international conference in support of Afghanistan got underway in Paris.

The Afghan interior ministry had said Wednesday that Afghan anti-narcotics police had seized 237 tonnes of hashish in a raid believed to be the biggest haul of its kind in the world.

The hashish was seized in the Taliban-heavy Spin Boldak district of southern Kandahar province on Monday.

The NATO-led force in Afghanistan said the drug stash was worth around 400 million dollars and that the seizure would hamper the Taliban's ability to fund the purchase of weapons through the narcotics trade.

"To our knowledge, this was the biggest drug seizure in the world," said deputy interior minister Abdul Hadi Khalid.

Khalid said the drugs were found hidden in multiple trenches and that all 236.8 tonnes were burned in the trenches later the same day.

Another five tonnes of opium was seized in southern Helmand province over the weekend, he added.

Sixteen people, including four Iranians and seven Pakistanis, have been arrested in connection with the stash.

UNODC chief Costa welcomed the decision by the UN Security Council on Wednesday to adopt a resolution calling on all UN Member States to tighten international and regional controls on the manufacture and trade of the chemical needed to make heroin, and prevent their diversion to illicit markets.

"This should make heroin production a riskier business," Costa said.

He also urged member states to list, freeze the assets, and ban the travel of individuals and entities participating in the financing of extremist activities using proceeds derived from the production and trafficking of narcotic drugs and their precursors.

"Drugs are financing terrorism and insurgency in Afghanistan. The Security Council has created a list, but there are still no names on it. I urge governments to come forward with the names and evidence needed to bring the most wanted drug traffickers to justice," Costa said.
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UN Security Council targets heroin in Afghanistan
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer Wed Jun 11, 6:58 PM ET
UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council called Wednesday for better cooperation from nations that aren't complying with an international treaty that seeks to restrict chemicals used in Afghanistan's heroin trade.

The council resolution, proposed by France and approved in a 15-0 vote, urges better coordination with the International Narcotics Control Board, which monitors how well U.N. drug control treaties are implemented.

"Trafficking of drugs in Afghanistan undermines efforts to achieve governance," said Deputy Ambassador Jean Pierre Lacroix of France. "It's a source of financing for terrorism and threatens the country's stability and security."

The council seeks to enforce a 1988 drug treaty by insisting that Afghanistan, its neighbors and other nations work "to eliminate loopholes" used by crime gangs to obtain chemicals needed to turn opium into heroin — particularly acetic anhydride, hydrochloric acid and acetone.

"The practical effect will be a large one," Afghan Ambassador Zahir Tanin told reporters after the vote. "If we are able to work together to stop the arrival of producers, we will break the chain which is the production of heroin inside the country."

Afghan officials said Wednesday that they had found 260 tons of hashish hidden in 6-foot-deep trenches in southern Afghanistan in what was described as possibly the world's biggest drug bust.

But Afghanistan's biggest problem is opium, not hashish. Last year, the country's farmers grew enough opium — 9,000 tons — to produce 880 tons of heroin, or 93 percent of the world's supply.

The council's resolution preceded a Paris conference Thursday at which at least 67 nations are expected to craft a better strategy for improving Afghanistan's security and development as well as pledge money for that effort.

Afghan leaders hope to raise up to $20 billion in immediate help for their desperately poor, war-scarred nation. The U.S. plans to pledge about $10 billion over two years.
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Minister Wants to Raise German Troop Levels in Afghanistan
12.06.2008 Deutsche Welle, Germany
Germany's troop numbers in Afghanistan should be increased from the current 3,500, the country's defense minister said ahead of a major aid conference on Afghanistan in Paris.

"It is correct to say that we are aiming at increased flexibility here," Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told national public radio Deutschlandfunk on Thursday, June 12.

The minister, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said he planned to announce his intentions before the parliamentary summer recess begins next month but refused to be drawn on the number.

Current speculation in the German press is that the number will rise to between 4,500 and 5,000.

The 3,500 limit has at times been exceeded, when units are rolled over.

Germany sticks to the North
Jung stressed that Germany would continue to focus its efforts on the relatively peaceful north of the country, where it will be providing the Quick Reaction Force from early July, taking over from Norway.

He was speaking as a key conference on Afghanistan, aimed at boosting support for the government there and securing substantial funding, got underway in Paris.

On Thursday, prior to the conference, the German foreign ministry announced it would provide 420 million euros ($655 million) for reconstruction in Afghanistan.

Under pressure from NATO

The current German mandate for its troops runs out in mid-October, when parliament must approve a renewal.

The annual mandate renewal regularly receives broad parliamentary backing, with only the socialist Left party firmly opposed, while the Greens were divided last October.

A majority of the general population opposes the deployment. A poll in February showed strong opposition to deploying German troops to the volatile south of the country, with 85 percent of the 1,001 surveyed opposed.

Germany has come under pressure from its NATO allies to increase its efforts in Afghanistan, and in particular to provide combat troops to assist the US, British, Canadian and Dutch forces in the embattled south.
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US releases border strike footage
Thursday, 12 June 2008 BBC News
The US has released video excerpts of a controversial air strike in the Afghan-Pakistani border region which Pakistan says killed 11 of its soldiers.

The US said that the footage proves that US forces were legitimately targeting pro-Taleban militants.

It argued that its forces had acted in self-defence after coming under attack in clashes with pro-Taleban militias.

Pakistan's military said earlier that the soldiers had died as a result of an "unprovoked and cowardly act".

The BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul says it is unusual for the US to release video footage of its operations and indicates that the military has come under great pressure to justify the airstrike.

The grainy, monochrome images - taken by an unmanned drone - show a small group of men firing small arms and rocket-propelled grenades from a ridge at coalition troops who were off camera in the valley below.

The voiceover on the footage said that the ridge was in the Afghan province of Kunar, about 182m (200 yards) from the Pakistan border.

"It is clear there are no structures or (Pakistani) outposts in the impact area," the voiceover said.

It said that coalition forces were on a reconnaissance mission in the area at the time of the attack and were waiting for a helicopter to pluck them to safety.

The video showed "anti-Afghan militants" moving to positions it said were inside Pakistan and the impact of a bomb which the voiceover said killed two of them.

The survivors then fled into a cave, the video voiceover said, where three more bombs were dropped nearly three hours after the clash started. The voiceover said all the militants were killed and that about 12 bombs were dropped in all.

Earlier, the US state department described the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in the air attack as regrettable, and said there was a need for better communication.

The incident took place on Tuesday night at a border post in the mountainous Gora Prai region of Mohmand, one of Pakistan's tribal areas, across the border from Kunar province.

The Pakistani government summoned the American ambassador to protest in person about the disputed attack.

It comes at a time of tension between Pakistan and the US over how to deal with militants in border areas, the BBC's Kim Ghattas reports from Washington.

"Every indication we have at this point is that this was indeed a legitimate strike in defence of our forces after they came under attack," coalition spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters.

Sovereignty

Expressing regret, the US state department said the incident was a reminder that "better cross-border communications between forces is vital".

The 11 Pakistani soldiers were buried on Wednesday in the north-western city of Peshawar.

A Pakistani army statement said the incident had "hit at the very basis of co-operation" with the US.

Prime Minister Gilani condemned the deaths in parliament saying that Pakistan's sovereignty was at stake.

A spokesman for a pro-Taleban militant group in Pakistan said it had launched an attack on US and Afghan troops trying to set up a border control post.

In Peshawar, a relative of the one of those wounded in the fighting said that US troops had opened fire on both tribespeople and Pakistani soldiers.

"Then suddenly bomber aircraft came and started bombing," Seed Aman told The Associated Press.

Lawless border

There is increasing anger in Pakistan at US strikes on its territory which have killed more than 50 people this year, says the BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad.

Taleban fighters have a strong presence in the border areas of the tribal districts and local administrators have little power there.

There is rising frustration among Nato and Afghan troops at Pakistani efforts to negotiate peace deals with pro-Taleban militants on its side of the border.

Afghan and US-led forces accuse Islamabad of not doing enough to deny Taleban militants a hiding-place in Pakistan's tribal areas and to stop them from infiltrating the border.

Pakistan denies the accusations, saying it has lost about 1,000 soldiers fighting militants in the tribal border areas.
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Pakistan: Relations With U.S. In Crisis After Clash Across Afghan Border
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 12, 2008
Relations between U.S. and Pakistani military forces are in crisis after clashes and a U.S. air strike that hit a Pakistani border post and killed 11 Pakistani soldiers.

Islamabad has called the strike "unprovoked," but the Pentagon says Pakistani troops attacked U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's army says the U.S. air strike early on June 11 on a border post in the Mohmand tribal region "struck at the very basis of cooperation" between the two countries in the war against terrorism.

Describing the attack by an unmanned Predator aircraft as "cowardly and unprovoked," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told the parliament in Islamabad that a formal complaint is being sent to Washington.

"We will take a stand for sovereignty. We will take a stand for dignity. We will take a stand for self-respect. And we will not allow our soil [to be attacked]. We totally condemn it and will take up the matter through the Foreign Office," Gilani said.

Taliban Fight

But in Washington, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Geoff Morrell defended the U.S. air strike as "legitimate" -- saying the Pakistani troops at the outpost were "hostile" and had attacked U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan.

"Every indication we have at this point is that the actions that were taken by U.S. forces were legitimate in that they were in self-defense after U.S. forces operating on the border of Pakistan -- in Afghanistan territory -- came under attack from hostile forces. And in self defense they called in an air strike which took out those forces that were attacking them," Morrell said.

U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have told RFE/RL and other international media in the past that they do not trust Pakistani security forces on the other side of the border.

Pakistan is supposed to be a key ally in the U.S.-led fight against the Taliban. But U.S. commanders in southern Afghanistan have told RFE/RL that sharing intelligence with Pakistan ahead of a U.S. military operation near the border put the lives of U.S. troops at risk. The U.S. commanders say they fear elements within Pakistan's security forces share U.S. military intelligence with the Taliban -- giving them advanced warning about a U.S.-led attack or even providing information about U.S. positions that help the Taliban carry out their own attacks.

But until recently, it was unusual to hear the Pentagon make such allegations about Pakistani forces.

Low Point

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, a noted author on the Taliban militancy, says relations between the United States and Pakistani security forces appear to be at a low point since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

Writing as a guest columnist for the BBC this week, Rashid notes a crescendo of international criticism against Pakistan recently because of peace deals made with the Taliban in the tribal regions -- deals they say are allowing Taliban fighters to freely cross the border to attack U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Criticism of the peace deals has been made by U.S. officials and lawmakers, NATO commanders, European leaders, UN administrators, and the Afghan government.

June 9 marked the release of a new Pentagon-funded study by the RAND Corporation on the counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. That study alleges that individuals from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and Frontier Corps provide direct assistance to the Taliban and other terrorist groups in the tribal regions.

The author of the study, Seth Jones, says the Taliban and other militants still find refuge in the tribal regions, the North-West Frontier Province, and Baluchistan because Pakistan's security forces have failed to root them out. Jones concludes that if Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are not eliminated, the United States and its NATO allies will face crippling long-term consequences in their effort to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan.

Pentagon Report

Michael Shaik, an expert on Afghanistan for the International Crisis Group, told RFE/RL that the report is particularly significant because it is funded by the Pentagon.

"A lot of different organizations, including ours, have been talking about this for the past several years. There has been clear evidence that the Taliban leadership has used Pakistani soil to carry out the insurgency in Afghanistan. So really, the findings of this are nothing new," Shaik said. "What is new is that it is a [U.S.] Defense Department-funded report. RAND has finally come to this realization that individuals in the Pakistani ISI and in the Frontier Corps have been aiding and abetting the Taliban. Individuals. The U.S. administration and also the Pakistani military [have failed] to take these allegations seriously."

But Shaik and other experts on security in the region also note that the RAND study does not go as far as supporting allegations made by government officials in Kabul and New Delhi -- namely, that those individuals in Pakistan's security forces and the ISI support cross-border militancy as part of a covert government plan to achieve Islamabad's foreign policy goals in the region.

Christopher Langton, head of the defense analysis department at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, tells RFE/RL that the RAND report does reflect growing frustration in Washington about Islamabad's failure to root out Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters.

"People in the United States are beginning to realize the limitations on Pakistan in dealing with this incredibly difficult problem. And, of course, the Taliban were created by Pakistan with western concurrence at the time. Therefore, it's very, very difficult for Pakistan to wind that clock back," Langton says.

Langton says critics of Pakistan shouldn't ignore the complex domestic political situation that Islamabad faces over the deployment of its troops near the Afghan border.

"There are significant efforts [by Islamabad]. Pakistan has lost nearly 900 troops fighting in the Federal Administered Tribal Areas. Pakistan is suffering a huge number of suicide attacks across the country. And I don't think people should forget this. That's not to say more cannot be done. It probably can. But the domestic difficulties for Pakistan are actually huge," Langton says.

Analysts do agree, however, that fighting between Pakistani and U.S. troops on the Afghan border has raised the crisis in bilateral relations to a new level.
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Bush to Talk Iran, Afghanistan with Italy's Berlusconi
Voice of America By Paula Wolfson Rome 12 June 2008
U.S. President George Bush is holding a series of talks in Rome with Italian leaders - discussions expected to focus largely on Iran and Afghanistan. We have more from VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson, in the Italian capital.

The president can expect a warm welcome from his friend, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was returned to power in elections held in April and formed a new government a few weeks ago.

Mr. Berlusconi is pushing for a bigger role in Western diplomatic efforts to convince Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. And, President Bush is expected to make an equal appeal, during their talks, for a greater Italian commitment to Afghanistan.

Mr. Bush began his day in Rome, with a meeting with Italian entrepreneurs who are involved in an exchange and training program with companies in the United States.

He praised the program and others like it, saying such exchanges promote greater understanding.

"The best diplomacy for America - particularly among young folks - is to welcome you to our country. You get to see first hand the truth about America," he said.

After the roundtable discussion, the president headed off to a series of meetings with Italian leaders, culminating with a working dinner with the prime minister.

Mr. Berlusconi and the president have, by all accounts, a close working relationship. The Italian leader is seen as a strong Bush ally.

But President Bush remains highly unpopular in Italy, mainly because of the Iraq war.

When he arrived in Rome Wednesday afternoon, protesters were already gathering in the city and thousands of extra police were on the streets. The demonstrators say they are protesting not only against the American president, but his allies in Rome, as well.

This man says they are demonstrating against the government of the United States and what he calls its social, military and environmental crimes around the world. He says the Italian government shares responsibility.

But such sentiments are not universal, and many Romans seem more upset about the impact the protests and the increased security are having on their everyday lives.

Many buses and trains have been rerouted, during the president's visit, and commercial flights have been banned over Rome during his stay.

By contrast, there was no sign of additional security measures during the president's earlier stops in Slovenia and Germany. There were no protests, either. One German activist group said there was no need to stage any demonstrations because President Bush has so little time left in office.
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High Court sides with Guantanamo detainees again
By MARK SHERMAN Associated Press / June 12, 2008
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay have rights under the Constitution to challenge their detention in U.S. civilian courts.

In its third rebuke of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners, the court ruled 5-4 that the government is violating the rights of prisoners being held indefinitely and without charges at the U.S. naval base in Cuba. The court's liberal justices were in the majority.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the court, said, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times."

Kennedy said federal judges could ultimately order some detainees to be released, but that such orders would depend on security concerns and other circumstances.

The White House had no immediate comment on the ruling. White House press secretary Dana Perino, traveling with President Bush in Rome, said the administration was reviewing the opinion.

It was not immediately clear whether this ruling, unlike the first two, would lead to prompt hearings for the detainees, some of whom have been held more than 6 years. Roughly 270 men remain at the island prison, classified as enemy combatants and held on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban.

The ruling could resurrect many detainee lawsuits that federal judges put on hold pending the outcome of the high court case. The decision sent judges, law clerks and court administrators scrambling to read Kennedy's 70-page opinion and figure out how to proceed. Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth said he would call a special meeting of federal judges to address how to handle the cases.

The administration opened the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to hold enemy combatants, people suspected of ties to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

The Guantanamo prison has been harshly criticized at home and abroad for the detentions themselves and the aggressive interrogations that were conducted there.

The court said not only that the detainees have rights under the Constitution, but that the system the administration has put in place to classify them as enemy combatants and review those decisions is inadequate.

The administration had argued first that the detainees have no rights. But it also contended that the classification and review process was a sufficient substitute for the civilian court hearings that the detainees seek.

In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts criticized his colleagues for striking down what he called "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants."

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas also dissented.

Scalia said the nation is "at war with radical Islamists" and that the court's decision "will make the war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed."

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens joined Kennedy to form the majority.

Souter wrote a separate opinion in which he emphasized the length of the detentions.

"A second fact insufficiently appreciated by the dissents is the length of the disputed imprisonments, some of the prisoners represented here today having been locked up for six years," Souter said. "Hence the hollow ring when the dissenters suggest that the court is somehow precipitating the judiciary into reviewing claims that the military ... could handle within some reasonable period of time."

The court has ruled twice previously that people held at Guantanamo without charges can go into civilian courts to ask that the government justify their continued detention. Each time, the administration and Congress, then controlled by Republicans, changed the law to try to close the courthouse doors to the detainees.

The court specifically struck down a provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that denies Guantanamo detainees the right to file petition of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is a centuries-old legal principle, enshrined in the Constitution, that allows courts to determine whether a prisoner is being held illegally.

The head of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents dozens of prisoners at Guantanamo, welcomed the ruling.

"The Supreme Court has finally brought an end to one of our nation's most egregious injustices," said CCR Executive Director Vincent Warren. "By granting the writ of habeas corpus, the Supreme Court recognizes a rule of law established hundreds of years ago and essential to American jurisprudence since our nation's founding."

In addition to those held without charges, the U.S. has said it plans to try as many as 80 of the detainees in war crimes tribunals, which have not been held since World War II.

A military judge has postponed the first scheduled trial pending the outcome of this case. The trial of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's one-time driver, had been scheduled to start June 2.

Five alleged plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks appeared in a Guantanamo courtroom last week for a hearing before their war crimes trial, which prosecutors hope will start Sept. 15.

Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said he had no immediate information whether a hearing at Guantanamo for a Canadian charged with killing a U.S. Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan would go forward next week as planned. Omar Khadr is one of 19 detainees so far facing the first U.S. war-crimes trials since the World War II era.

Bush has said he wants to close the facility once countries can be found to take the prisoners who are there.

Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama also support shutting down the prison.
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Water squabbles irrigate tensions in Central Asia
Thu Jun 12, 2008 8:41am EDT By Maria Golovnina
VAKHDAT, Tajikistan (Reuters) - Under a scorching sun, an exhausted Tajik woman looks at a drying trickle of irrigation water running across her cotton field.

"Water is all we have," said Gulbakhor, a 55-year-old mother of nine, pointing at swathes of parched land stretching towards the austere mountains of central Tajikistan. She did not want to give her last name.

"But all the ponds and rivers are dry. We need to water our crop but we don't have enough even for ourselves."

Gulbakhor's despair, shared by millions of Tajiks in this tiny ex-Soviet nation north of Afghanistan, reflects a growing sense of alarm throughout Central Asia where stability depends on the region's scarcest and most precious commodity: water.

From tiny irrigation canals such as Gulbakhor's to the powerful Soviet-era hydroelectric plants, water is the source of misery and celebration in a poor region already overflowing with political and ethnic tension.

Central Asia is one of the world's driest places where, thanks to 70 years of Soviet planning, thirsty crops such as cotton and grain remain the main livelihood for most of the 58 million people.

Disputes over cross-border water use have simmered for years in this sprawling mass of land wedged between Iran, Russia and China. Afghanistan, linked to Central Asia by the Amu Daria river, is adding to the tension by claiming its own share of the water.

Water shortages are causing concern the world over, because of rising demand, climate change and swelling populations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said water scarcity is a "potent fuel for wars and conflict".

Analysts say this year's severe weather fluctuations in Central Asia -- from a record cold winter to devastating spring floods and now drought -- are causing extra friction.

"Water is very political. It's very sensitive. It can be a pretext for disputes or conflicts," said Christophe Bosch, a Central Asia water expert at the World Bank. "It is one of the major irritants between countries in Central Asia."

WASTE

In the Tajik village of Sangtuda, a scattering of huts in a dusty, sun-puckered valley near the border with Afghanistan, villagers showed their only source of water: a rusty pipe pumping muddy water from a Soviet-era reservoir.

"We are lucky. There are villages around with no water at all," said Khikoyat Shamsiddinova, an elderly farmer who said she had started planting drought-tolerant peas and watermelons -- a small boost to her household income.

Water scarcity is particularly painful for Tajikistan since its glaciers and rivers contain some of the world's biggest untapped water resources. A Soviet-era legacy of waste and decaying pipe networks are hampering sustainable distribution.

The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and a host of European non-governmental organizations are helping Tajikistan build new canals and wells and repair the old ones.

Efficient water management requires advanced engineering expertise in water saving and resource planning in a region where most water simply vanishes into the ground if the irrigation timing is incorrect, experts say.

"If you look at quantity, yes, you have a lot of it, but it is not a question of quantity but quality and timing," said the World Bank's Bosch. "That's the problem in Central Asia."

The problems are having an effect far beyond farming. Lacking oil and gas reserves like some of its neighbors, Tajikistan depends on its sole Soviet-era hydroelectric plant, Nurek, to generate power.

Its crumbling power grid -- ruined by civil war in the 1990s -- finally gave out last winter, throwing hospitals, schools and millions of people into the dark and cold for weeks.

Makhmadnabi, a villager with a tired, weather-beaten faced, said people were becoming impatient. "The government must do something about it. People are gloomy," he said.

With a foreign debt worth 40 percent of the economy and state coffers empty, Tajikistan is unable to finance urgent sector reform, adding to discontent and potential unrest in an otherwise tightly run country where dissent is not tolerated.

"There is definitely a build-up of dissatisfaction," said one Western diplomat who asked not be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue. "People will have to go through another winter of dark and cold and then they will realize that something's wrong."

WORRYING TREND

There have been no outward signs of anger, but the trend is a worry for Western powers watching the strategically placed country for signs of trouble.

In April, parliament urged Tajiks to give up half their wages in May and June to help finish construction of the $3 billion Rogun hydroelectric plant -- a project seen as key to solving energy shortages but which has been frozen since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

"I urge all the patriots and sons of our land to take active part in constructing the first phase of the plant and add your contribution to the country's energy independence," Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon was quoted as saying in local media on May 31.

In Soviet days, water management was unified under Moscow's control, which linked Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, whose rivers and glaciers contain more than 90 percent of Central Asian water, with the arid plains of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.

The system fell apart when Soviet rule collapsed. With national rivalries on the rise, the new states have been unable to agree on how to share their water effectively.

Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous nation and a big gas producer, is angry that poor Tajikistan has the leverage to influence water levels in its cotton plains -- a powerful political tool.

Farmers in Kazakhstan, for their part, accuse Uzbekistan of dumping fertiliser in its rivers. Tajik officials complain that foreign investment in its hydroelectric sector has stalled because of fears of conflict with Uzbekistan.

A Chinese company pulled out of a project to build a power station on a Tajik river last year because of what Tajik industry sources said was China's reluctance to get involved in Central Asian bickering.

Observers agree that only cooperation between the five "stans" of Central Asia can provide sustainable water use.

"Countries should be able to do this as independent entities," said another Western diplomat, who also preferred not to be identified. "They're not children. They are grown-up members of the international community."
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Tributes for BBC Afghan reporter 
By Martin Patience BBC News, Kabul  Thursday, 12 June 2008 13:26 UK
Hundreds of people have paid tribute to murdered BBC journalist Abdul Samad Rohani in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Journalists and several Afghan MPs were among those at the gathering which heard calls for the government to do more to protect journalists.

A two-minute silence in honour of the reporter was also observed by local TV and radio stations.

Rohani's body was found in Lashkar Gah in Helmand province on Sunday. It is not yet clear who killed him.

Poems

Tributes were paid to the former Pashto service reporter for the BBC World Service in Helmand at Zarnegar park in central Kabul.

The memorial had been organised by Afghan journalist unions for their murdered colleague.

Some speakers read poems, a traditional Afghan mourning ritual.

Another speaker praised the young journalist for the courage and impartiality of his reporting skills.

He also called on the government to do more to protect journalists and their work.

The Afghan government has launched an investigation into Rohani's death.

But no organisation or individual has yet claimed responsibility for the killing.
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Germany to train Afghan cadets:
Jun 12, IRNA
Germany is to train Afghan cadets as part of a military officer's training program over the next seven years, the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper on Thursday quoted the German Defense Ministry as saying.

The military training is to start in the summer of next year.

Before that the cadets will begin to learn the German language effective this July , according to the report.

The Afghan cadets are to receive basic military training and are also to attend the Germany Army University.

Germany's military has also been involved in training Afghan police over the past several years.

In other related news, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadar Spanta was cited as saying in the daily Thueringer Allgemeine newspaper that western forces, based in the war-stricken country, could pull out by 2013.

He hoped that Afghan forces could take control of the security situation in the country within the next five years.

Spanta called for more accelerated international assistance in training and arming of Afghan troops.

The minister's remark come at the outset of an Afghan conference in Paris where representatives of 67 nations and 17 organizations gathered to promote political and economic development in Afghanistan, in addition to pledging billions of euros in financial assistance to the country.
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What I Saw in Afghanistan
The Wall Street Journal By LAURA BUSH June 12, 2008
This week has been a study in contrasts. On Sunday, I was in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan – where unpaved roads are lined by tin-roofed shanties, and most people live without running water or electricity.

Today, I am in the City of Light. Yet while the circumstances of these visits could not be more different, their purpose is the same: to reaffirm the world's commitment to the people of Afghanistan.

This morning, a delegation representing 80 countries and multilateral organizations will gather here for the International Conference in Support of Afghanistan. This event is a chance for developed nations to learn more about the challenges facing Afghanistan – and to offer the political and economic assistance it needs to recover from decades of war and oppression.

When the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, they left Afghans to build a society from nothing. But working in partnership with the United States and other nations, the Afghan people have made amazing progress. Since the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan's infant-mortality rate has been reduced by almost 25%. Its per capita GDP has increased by 70%. In 2001, only 8% of Afghans had access to basic health care. Today, that number is 85%. In 2001, fewer than a million Afghan children were in school – all of them boys. Today, more than six million Afghan children are in school – about a third of them are girls.

On my trip, I saw how these developments are offering Afghans new hope. Yet many hurdles still lie ahead – and my trip was a reminder of those, too. The new schools and roads I visited stood in the shadow of Bamiyan's sandstone cliffs – where two hollow caves are all that remains of Afghanistan's ancient Buddhas, blown up by the Taliban in 2001. Those scars in the cliffsides are a reminder of the danger lurking in the Afghan hills. It's a danger we read about on the front pages, as the Taliban and al Qaeda step up their campaign of suicide bombings and violence. And it is a danger that threatens to erase the progress that Afghans have made.

This morning, President Hamid Karzai will present his government's five-year plan for securing that progress. The Afghan National Development Strategy defines how the government will work to improve education and health care, and to address the nation's overwhelming poverty and lack of basic infrastructure. The plan also addresses energy and agriculture needs. Right now, only 12% of Afghans have access to electricity. And an agricultural crisis threatens starvation. Mr. Karzai has urged farmers to grow wheat instead of poppy, so that they and their neighbors will not go hungry.

The national strategy is a solid plan to address Afghanistan's many challenges, and it is clear that Afghanistan will also need solid support from its international partners. At today's conference, the United States will pledge $10.2 billion toward the nation's development efforts. This comes on top of the $5.9 billion we committed in 2006 at the donor conference in London. And it means that our commitment of humanitarian, development, and security assistance since 2001 now totals more than $26 billion.

Other nations are doing their part. In Kandahar, Canada has provided literacy training for more than 5,000 Afghans, and vaccinated more than 360,000 against polio. In Helmand, the United Kingdom has brought clean drinking water to more than 175,000 people, and provided microcredit to more than 336,000 small businesses. Training programs run by Germany and other nations have helped put more than 58,000 soldiers and 80,000 police on the streets. And in Bamiyan, I met the New Zealand troops who are providing security and promoting development.

Private citizens are eager to help. I'm proud to be a member of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, which President Bush and President Karzai launched in 2002. Through the council, individual American citizens have secured more than $70 million in private-sector funding for a total of 30 programs. Council initiatives have trained women judges, lawyers, entrepreneurs, midwives and parliamentarians. In fact, many of the projects I observed on my trip were council initiatives. I have met children orphaned by Taliban massacres who now have classrooms to study in and safe homes to live in. And I watched women once forbidden to leave home without a male escort now run businesses that provide for their families.

Today's conference is an opportunity for governments and the private sector to do more. It is important – and smart – for the world to invest in Afghanistan. Americans learned on a clear September morning that misery and oppression half a world away can manifest themselves on the next block. That lesson has been retaught in the years since, in cities from Jakarta to London to Madrid.

Our security depends on preventing al Qaeda from re-establishing a foothold in Afghanistan. The best way to do that is to counter al Qaeda's campaign of terror with an international campaign of support for Afghan democracy.

It is also important for the world to invest in Afghanistan because the Afghan people have invested so much themselves. On my trip, one of the people who impressed me most is Afghanistan's only female provincial governor, Habiba Sarabi.

Gov. Sarabi's province, Bamiyan, is one of Afghanistan's poorest. Every day, she risks her life to serve her people, and under her leadership the region shows immense promise. The number of children attending school, and the percentage of students who are girls, are both higher than the national average. I was also inspired by the courage of the women I met in Bamiyan's police-training program. In a place where the law once prohibited women from learning how to read, I saw a class of female recruits studying Afghanistan's constitution and preparing to defend the rule of law in their new democracy.

Bamiyan shows us how determined the Afghan people are to see their country succeed, and now the international community must do its part to help make that success possible. As one Afghan woman told me when she visited the White House in January: "This is our only chance."

Today, as leaders from across the globe gather in Paris, we need to show with our commitments that the world will not let this chance pass Afghanistan by.

Mrs. Bush is the first lady of the United States.
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Canada warns Afghanistan on corruption
Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent ,  Canwest News Service Thursday, June 12, 2008
PARIS - Canada will deliver 'robust' aid to Afghanistan, but both Canadians and Afghans expect President Hamid Karzai to take tougher measures to ensure the some of the billions of dollars flowing into the country aren't siphoned off by corrupt officials, Foreign Minister David Emerson said in Paris Thursday.

"Afghan expectations are high and Afghans expect corruption to be tackled," Emerson said in a brief speech at a meeting of countries that promised billions in new aid to help the war- and corruption-plagued country.

Emerson, who discussed details of Canada's $600-million aid increase announced Tuesday, later told Canadian reporters that he delivered the same message at a private meeting here with Karzai.

"We made clear to the president that Canadians expect that if we're going to be in Afghanistan - Canadian lives are being lost here, there's a lot of money being spent - there's got to be a sense of public confidence that the money and the lives are in pursuit of something worthy," he said.

"When there's a scent of corruption, you get people turning off, and so I explained to him the importance of dealing with that."

Emerson, an economist and former chief executive of a major Canadian lumber firm, said he expects Afghanistan to use modern administration and accounting methods to keep track of the aid money.

Canada promised it will increase development and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan to $1.9 billion from $1.3 billion over the 10-year period ending in 2011, when Canada has said it will end its "military presence" in Kandahar province.

Canada, one of the world's largest aid donors to Afghanistan, will target a large portion of the money toward three "signature" projects - the rehabilitation of a dam in order to create jobs and boost the agriculture economy in Afghanistan, build or renovate 50 schools, and expand a polio immunization program.
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Security, drugs top Afghan donors meeting agenda
Gulf News By Eman Mohammed, Abu Dhabi Deputy Editor June 10, 2008, 21:30
Abu Dhabi: Kabul proposes to showcase its strategic plan with focus on security and war on drug trade at the Afghanistan international donors meeting in Paris on Tuesday.

"It is a chance for Afghan government to present its national strategic plan for the next five years to the donors and the international community," Abdul Farid Zikria, Afghanistan's ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

Sixty six states are taking part in the conference in addition to 11 international organisations.

"The most important part of the plan is the security aspect," said Zikria. "The effectiveness of the army and the national police is a major concern at the moment to enable us to stand on our feet."

Also the government is concerned about the narcotics trade and the flow of drugs from Afghanistan, he said.

In terms of economic developments, "the current concern is basically about generating power and developing the agriculture."

He added: "Afghanistan has potentials in both areas. But we need to focus on other sectors too, such as the education and human rights."

Universities
In the past six years, "huge progress" has been noticed in the education sector, he said.

"More than 6 million children are going to school and recently some 10 universities have opened. Most of them are private institutions," he said.

The five-year plan requires "about 50 billion dollars" (Dh184 billion) to implement. "We hope to raise half of this amount during the conference or at least a significant part of it," said Zikria.

The UAE has been participating in the Afghanistan reconstruction process for the past six years, he noted. "Over 150 million dollars were spent on different projects, mostly humanitarian and recently UAE has also started funding infrastructures projects."

"In Kabul, the UAE sponsored the building of 200 houses for the poor," the ambassador said. Similar projects are being planned in other cities in addition to building hospitals, clinics, schools, mosques and community centres.

Zikria said there have been encouraging contacts with the private sector to promote investing in Afghanistan.

The security situation should not be a source of concern, he argued.

"The security problems exist only in the southern part of the country, near the border areas," he said.

Tribal areas
"We hope with the new change in the Pakistani government, this problem would be reduced.

"The Taliban and Al Qaida fighters are concentrated mostly in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They come to Afghanistan to attack and go back to Pakistan," he claimed.

"We are not saying that they are protected by Pakistani officials but obviously they [the fighters] are there"

He described the recent "peace deal" between the Pakistani government and a group led by Baitullah Mahsud as "worrying".

"Pakistan has all the right to deal with any group inside its territory but that should not be at the expense of Afghanistan's security."
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Taliban must be defeated in Pakistan, study says
Pakistani intelligence aiding jihadists, al-Qaeda leaders given sanctuary, report concludes
Globe and Mail, Canada PAUL KORING From Wednesday's Globe and Mail June 11, 2008
WASHINGTON -Taliban bases in Pakistan must be eliminated or the counter-insurgency war being fought by American, Canadian and other allied soldiers in southern Afghanistan is doomed, a U.S. Defence Department-funded study by the RAND Corporation warns.

"The United States and other international actors need to eliminate the insurgents' support base in Pakistan," the report concludes. "Failure to do so will cripple long-term efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan."

The report also accuses Pakistani intelligence and military officials of actively abetting Taliban jihadists. Senior al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders remain secure in sanctuaries inside Pakistan. Weapons, roadside bombs and suicide bombers recruited inside Pakistan all flow into Afghanistan with the connivance of Pakistan, the report says.

"The Taliban and other groups are getting help from individuals within Pakistan's government, and until that ends, the region's long-term security is in jeopardy," concludes Seth Jones, the author of the study titled "Counter-insurgency in Afghanistan."

Pakistan denied the charges, claiming it was a smear campaign, as it has repeatedly when faced with similar accusations of active complicity in supporting the Taliban.

We "reject and condemn all the allegations made in the report," said a spokesman for Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations bureau, which represents its military services.

RAND's report concludes that Pakistani intelligence and military officers are actively aiding and abetting the Taliban and other insurgent groups seeking to topple Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai.

Canada's embattled troops - attempting to hold the Taliban heartland of Kandahar - may bear the brunt of Pakistan's support for the jihadists.

Most of the 85 Canadian soldiers killed to date in Afghanistan were victims of either roadside bombs (improvised explosive devices) or suicide bombers.

"Many suicide bombers came from Afghan refugee camps located in Pakistan," the report says.

"IED components were often smuggled across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and assembled at safe houses in and around such provinces as Kandahar. The Taliban used roads such as Highway 4 in Kandahar Province to transport fighters and supplies between Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The Bush administration has been loath to publicly denounce Pakistan, a supposedly loyal ally in the so-called war on international terrorism, but if the RAND report is correct, then the next president may be faced with either taking action against Pakistan or accepting defeat in Afghanistan.

The RAND report says some in the "Pakistan government were motivated to work with the Taliban for several reasons: to balance against India, especially in light of Delhi's close relationship with the Afghan government, to hedge against a U.S. and NATO withdrawal, ensuring that if Western troops departed from Afghanistan, Pakistan would retain a proxy force in Afghanistan [and] to pre-empt a movement among Pakistan's Pashtun population toward closer relations with Afghanistan should Afghanistan became more secure and prosperous."
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The dream of Afghan democracy is dead
The Financial Times By Anatol Lieven 06/11/2008 
In public, defeat in Afghanistan is unthinkable for western governments. In private, for many it already seems inevitable – at least if the western definition of “victory” remains the vastly overblown goals set since the overthrow of the Taliban, within any timeframe that is likely to be acceptable to western electorates.

In recent meetings involving Nato officials I have been struck by the combination of public acknowledgment that, to achieve real and stable progress in Afghanistan, western forces will probably have to remain there for a generation at least, and deep private scepticism that western publics will stay the course for anything like that long. Indeed, most plans have the hopeless aim of producing clear results within three years, for fear that otherwise Canada will not prolong its presence beyond 2011 and the whole Nato effort will begin to unravel.

Similarly, public statements of faith in Afghan democracy are coupled with private expressions of near-despair when it comes to hopes of improving Hamid Karzai’s administration. Many western officials admit privately that any real hopes of creating a democratic Afghanistan are now dead. “If we could get a moderately civilised and effective military dictatorship, we’d be very lucky indeed,” was the grim comment of one senior officer.

Every statement by western leaders such as Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, that this is a struggle for Afghan democracy makes it more difficult to change course. The west has already spent so long talking up Mr Karzai’s democratic credentials that – absurdly – we now feel that we cannot overrule him even when he vetoes vitally important western policies.

The first step in rethinking Afghan strategy is to think seriously about the lessons of a recent opinion survey of ordinary Taliban fighters commissioned by the Toronto Globe and Mail.* Two results are striking: the widespread lack of any strong expression of allegiance to Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership; and the reasons given by most for joining the Taliban – namely, the presence of western troops in Afghanistan. The deaths of relatives or neighbours at the hands of those forces was also stated by many as a motive. This raises the question of whether Afghanistan is not becoming a sort of surreal hunting estate, in which the US and Nato breed the very “terrorists” they then track down.

We also should remember why the US invaded Afghanistan with Nato backing in the first place: not to create democracy, or even to overthrow the Taliban, but to kill or capture the leaders of al-Qaeda. Today, killing Osama bin Laden should be made the top priority for western intelligence in the region. This is not because it would have a great direct impact on the global terrorist threat – it would not, as al-Qaeda and its allies have long since become thoroughly decentralised – but because such a public success would make it much easier for us to declare victory and go home.

While we should certainly not quit without creating some kind of Afghan settlement, every plan that the west makes should be formulated with eventual and complete withdrawal in mind. We need to start serious negotiations with the Taliban leadership now, not because such talks promise any chance of results by next year’s Afghan elections, or by 2011, but because the great majority of settlements to such conflicts have been achieved only after many years of negotiations.

Any hope either of a settlement, or of containing an Afghan civil war after the west’s withdrawal, also depends critically on Afghanistan’s neighbours. Iran and Pakistan in the first instance, Russia, India and China in the next should be fully involved in all plans for Afghanistan’s future, their vital interests in the country recognised and diplomatic attention devoted to trying to forge a regional consensus. We must avoid actions in Afghanistan that destabilise and alienate those neighbours – such as the US air strike across the border that has just killed 11 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan will be critical to Afghanistan’s stability long after the west has left the region.

No quick solution to the Afghan conflict exists. The steps that I have recommended would, however, provide an indispensable precondition for even limited progress, which is to stop digging ourselves deeper into our existing hole.

The writer, professor in the war studies department of King’s College London, is author of America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism
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Why Afghanistan is where wars are lost
The Herald, UK YOUR LETTERS June 12 2008 
The war in Afghanistan will be lost, as Ian Bell believes (June 11), for reasons ranging from historical foreign interference through to geography, economics to politics. Historically, the only European army to achieve success in Afghanistan was commanded by Alexander the Great early in the fourth century. Since then European efforts have failed at every attempt, Britain fighting three failed wars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, followed by the Russian attempt in December 1979. The current attempt is achieving very limited success in a area around Kabul, despite the 37-nation presence.

A factor not given adequate consideration is the geography of the country: it is very mountainous with great variations in climate, and this has probably been a major factor in the truly tribal, isolated nature of the people taking precedence over the feeling of belonging to an "Afghan nation". As a result, the socio-economic development of the country has been haphazard, resulting in tribal areas, with very porous borders, ruled by local warlords outwith the control of a strong, central, national government. Without a central focus, the economy has been left to drift, being mainly dependent of the cultivation of poppies and the international opium trade. The current improvement quoted by Ian Bell is probably almost totally confined to a relatively small area around Kabul. As for the insurgency, it all started in 1995, when an army of students, the "taliban", took control of one-third of the country; it had nothing to do with the later arrival of the al Qaeda group, although it does now undoubtedly have contact at many levels.

Ian F M Saint-Yves, Whiting Bay, Arran
"Can the war be won?" asks Ian Bell rhetorically (The Herald, June 11). But winning is not the issue. Afghanistan is the real-time laboratory for the empirical study of 21st-century conflict and new-world warfare. It has all the key components ideally suited for the study of armed-conflict experimentation; ideal Third World warfare terrain, a warlord kleptocracy within a weak central government, appropriate ideological constituents (Muslim radicals), illicit economic features (major drug exports) and a useful major-incident peg on which to hang the coat of a "noble war".

advertisement Afghanistan will be used by (chiefly) western powers to redefine both military and political strategies for winning elsewhere. This will provide the necessary preparation for what has been decided as the "new conflict era" of intervention into failed/failing states in order to prevent radical (Muslim) elements from gaining important base territory or gaining control of strategic oil/nuclear resources. The fighting in Afghanistan (above and below the line) is part and parcel of this global response to perceived new threats and should not be seen in the neo-Victorian dictum that wars are fought to be won, as espoused by Ian Bell. Thom Cross, Carluke
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The Indian Heroine Tulsi Falls in the Battle For Freedom of Speech in Karzai's Afghanistan
Huffington Post June 11, 2008
On a snowy Afghan evening, I had to watch Agha Jan and his son fix my car in a make-shift garage in Kabul. As Agha jan the mechanic (mistari) was fumbling with wrenches and pliers, his phone burst into a Bollywood-music ring tone. With greasy hands, he laboured to pull a blackened cell phone out of his large side pocket. Moments later I overheard a female voice urging him to rush home.

"The mother of my kids," he said to me smilingly while preparing to wrap thing up. Realizing that Agha Jan's stop-work-alarm-bell had rung, I acquiesced to bring the car the next day. Meanwhile Agha Jan continued muttering his evening to-do-list: he had to wash up, buy groceries, and drive home and watch the "un-miss-able" episode of Tulsi -- an Indian Soap Opera, about which he had spent a good part of his day speculating.

The drama of Tulsi -- a young Indian girl -- broadcast by a private TV channel (Tolo) had become the talk of the town and an incredible commercial success by the time my car was to be fixed by Agha Jan. Millions of Afghans across assorted demographics would huddle around their TV sets to watch the opera acted out in indoor settings by jewelry-covered Indian stars.

Little did these millions know that the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture were to ban the drama soon -- "on religious and national security grounds." Needless to mention that the opera is no Sex and the City, nor is it Fahrenheit 9/11. In fact Tulsi would make a G-Rated American movie look 'obscene'.

The government's decision to ban the opera has not gone unchallenged though. It has at least opened up a vigorous and somewhat heated debate dividing Afghans into pro and cons of what constitutes freedom of speech. The "freedom of speech" argument however has missed the point. At the end of the day, it has failed to bring back Tulsi and remove the prospect for its fans that the status quo would end soon.

A different argument relates but is not exclusively centered on the definition of "freedom of speech." It is to go back to the basics and remind Karzai's administration that the decision to ban an innocuous drama is anachronistic, discriminatory, un-Islamic and undemocratic. Regardless of the motive (political, religious or cultural), it is particularly cruel to ban a family-oriented drama in a country whose populations were deprived of all legitimate entertainment opportunities for over half a decade under the Taliban.

Banning a truly popular drama hits the poor harder than the elites of the Afghan government. It deprives people like the mechanic, Agha Jan, his wife and kids of a joyful moment that they would share over dinner. The poor could barely afford to buy a TV set to watch national channels, but those with means already have or would readily substitute to international channels accessible through cable networks or beaming satellite dishes.

The dish-like antennas are widely available at "affordable" prices in almost every Afghan marketplace. It is not uncommon to see big dishes hypocritically hanging from the rooftops of the very 'elites' who allegedly lobbied for the ban. Assuming that the lobbyists genuinely cared for Afghan religious and cultural values, the ban would not only have no effect to preserve Afghan culture, but it would also entail unintended substitution effects -- which would undermine its very intent and purpose. That is, those who could afford it are likely to substitute towards even more "destructive" international programs completely alien to Afghan religion and culture.

For Karzai's administration, mimicking Ahmadinejad's cronies in Iran and their notorious penchant for censorship is not a shrewd political strategy. Nor does the ban broadcast the piousness of his administration as he attempts to win the hearts and minds of god-abiding Afghans ahead of the 2009 presidential elections. A better strategy might be to put principles before politics, human nature before mob mentality and the global and technological realities before alarmist delusions.

Policing people's private space is against the Islamic concept of privacy (Harim), principle of individual liberty and a clear indicator of the State's messed-up priorities. As the late Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau famously said, "The state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation." To Karzai's ministry of Information and Culture, however, it is obvious that not only the State has a place in the nation's bedrooms but in their living rooms as well.
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The country's only female rebel surrenders
www.quqnoos.com Written by Mukhtar Soar Wednesday, 11 June 2008 
Woman who took up arms against Soviets hands herself in
AFGHANISTAN’S only female rebel commander has handed herself in to the government.

The 50-year-old Kaftar, who took up arms when her son was killed during the Soviet invasion, surrendered on Monday, leaving behind the remainder of the 2,000 militiamen she claims to have once controlled.

Officials in Baghlan, where Kaftar carried out most of her rebel activities, said the rebel commander had handed herself in after negotiations with the government in the province.

Her militant group operated mainly in the north-east of the country, especially in the Nahrin district of Baghlan province, close to the provincial capital Pul-e-Khumri.

Shah Jahan, a 45-year-old resident of the Buz Dara village in Nahrin, said Kaftar was an ordinary woman before militants killed her young son during the Soviet invasion.

Kaftar killed her son’s murderers with her own hands and then turned into a mujahideen commander, Jahan said.

The 50-year-old is charged with a number of crimes, including the murder of a police officer and a former local commander, as well as numerous armed robberies.

Baghlan’s governor, Abdul Jabar Haqbin, said her surrender will have a positive impact on security in the area.

Haqbin said he was trying to bring in from the cold about 280 militiamen who fought under her. But Kaftar claims she only has five men under her control.

She said: “I had 2,000 militiamen once. I defeated the Taliban when they came to our area. Then I gave up my weapons to the government after the Taliban’s fall. When the situation got worse again, I sold my cow and bought some more weapons.”

She said she had become a militant during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and had fought in many battles in Nahrin. Many of her relatives were killed during the battles, she said.

Head of the police in the north, General Mujtaba Patang, said he threatened to kill commander Kaftar if she failed to surrender.

Pajhwok news agency said Kaftar fled to the Nahrin mountains with hundreds of her fighters last year.

She is believed to have been a prominent commander in the Jamiat-e-Islami party during the Soviet invasion, and was Nahrin’s representative in the 2002 Loya Jirga.

Baghlan’s security chief, Abdul Rahman Said Khalil, called Kaftar a criminal and said police had evidences of her involvement in killings, lootings and other crimes in Nahrin.

She denies the accusations.
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Pakistani Taliban hang female 'spy'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Body of woman accused of running brothel found dumped on roadside
PAKISTANI Taliban in a remote tribal region bordering Afghanistan have hanged a woman accused of spying, officials have said.

The militants hanged the woman and dumped her body on a roadside in the Bajaur tribal agency with the noose still tied around her neck on Wednesday, the unnamed official said.

A note left near her body said she had been punished for spying on the Taliban and for running a brothel.

Last month, the Taliban ordered residents in Khar, the main town in the Bajaur agency, to grown beards or face punishment under Sharia law.

Peace-deals in many tribal areas bordering Afghanistan have led to the Pakistani army’s withdrawal and the introduction of Sharia law.

Taliban hang female 'spy' on Afghan border
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Jail blast kills American and two Afghans
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 11 June 2008 
Flames tear through notorious jail close to the capital Kabul
A GAS canister that exploded inside the US-controlled section of Kabul’s notorious Pul-e-Charkhi prison has killed an American officer and two Afghan soldiers.

Seven people were also wounded when the liquefied gas capsule blew up at about 11.15 on Wednesday.

The fire, which raged for several hours, broke out in the newly constructed building for detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to Pul-e-Charkhi Prison, south-west of Kabul city.

The gas cylinder exploded in the prison’s dining hall. A US army officer and two Afghan soldiers were killed while seven people, including five Afghan soliders were wounded in the blast.

The blast and fire also destroyed two Afghan army pick-up trucks.

Doctors in the Istiqlal Hospital said some of the wounded were badly burnt.
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