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June 13, 2008 

Airstrikes kill 17 militants in Afghanistan
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Fri Jun 13, 11:24 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S.-led coalition forces called in airstrikes to back up ground troops in two Afghan provinces, killing more than 17 militants and a female civilian.

Pakistan protests to NATO over airstrike
Fri Jun 13, 1:54 AM ET Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan says it has protested to NATO over an airstrike that it says killed 11 of its soldiers in a base on the Afghan border.

Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan: ministry
Fri Jun 13, 1:12 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - Two British soldiers were killed and a third was injured after coming under enemy fire in Afghanistan, the defence ministry in London said.

Militants attack Afghan prison, free inmates
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Militants attacked the city's main prison with a suicide car bombing and rockets late Friday, killing police and setting prisoners free, Afghan officials said.

He Won't Have Paris -- at Least Not This Time
By Al Kamen Friday, June 13, 2008; The Washington Post Page A21
Everyone who's anyone is gathering in Paris these days for the big international donors conference on Afghanistan. Laura Bush was there for the opening yesterday. Her husband arrives late tonight. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Nations offer Afghanistan aid, demand accountability
By Robert Marquand The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News - Jun 13 1:00 AM
Paris - The people and villages of troubled Afghanistan will get substantial new aid – up to $16 billion – provided Kabul and President Hamid Karzai agree to greater United Nations oversight and clampdown measures on Afghan corruption

A look at Afghan conference pledges
By The Associated Press Thu Jun 12, 4:04 PM ET
Some of largest donations at international conference for Afghanistan, where total of $21.4 billion pledged:

US urges allies to match Afghan 'rhetoric' with troop action
Fri Jun 13, 11:03 AM ET
BRUSSELS (AFP) - The United States urged its allies Friday to live up to past pledges of troops and equipment to Afghanistan, as the NATO-led security force there struggles to cope with a Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgency.

U.S. general questions Pakistan plan for militants
By Andrew Gray
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. general who recently handed over command of NATO troops in Afghanistan cast doubt on Friday on the ability of Pakistan's Frontier Corps paramilitary force to combat Islamist militants.

NATO seeks to replace Marine Afghan mission
Fri Jun 13, 9:19 AM ET
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO allies have yet to come up with replacements for a key deployment of some 3,000 U.S. Marines due to leave Afghanistan later this year, alliance officials said after talks on Friday.

Militants killed in US-led Afghan operation: officials
Fri Jun 13, 4:42 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A woman and several rebels were killed in a US-led coalition operation in eastern Afghanistan while a NATO military convoy Friday survived a separate suicide attack, officials said.
 
Afghanistan: Kabul Surprised, Pleased With Aid Pledges
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 13, 2008
Some $21 billion in aid pledges were made for Afghanistan at an international donors' conference this week in Paris. RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Breshna Nazari, who covered the conference, discusses the significance

Militants kill five Pakistan tribesmen: official
Fri Jun 13, 6:33 AM ET
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) - Taliban militants have shot dead five Pakistani tribesmen they suspected were spying for foreign forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, a local official said Friday.

Bush says West must stand with Afghanistan
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
PARIS - President Bush said Friday that just as the United States helped Europe rebuild after World War II, the two powers must now stand with newborn democracies like Afghanistan and Iraq and reach out to people yearning for liberty

More than money needed for war against terror
The Associated Press Friday, June 13, 2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium: Billions in new aid pledges will help, but succeeding in Afghanistan is not just about the money.

Unfulfilled promises haunt Afghanistan
By Bilal Sarwary BBC News, Kabul Friday, 13 June 2008 17:05 UK
Gone are the days when the Afghan summer was the season of plenty.

Afghan children used in porn videos
Daily Telegraph From correspondents in Kabul June 13, 2008 01:30pm
A CRIMINAL group that abducted and raped schoolchildren then recorded the abuse to make pornographic videos has been busted in the Afghan capital Kabul.

China supports Afghanistan in reconstruction, development
PARIS, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reiterated here on Thursday that China would always stand with Afghanistan in its course of national reconstruction and development.

Afghan mothers-to-be face dangerous journey
They travel at night on back roads from rural areas to get ultrasounds and other medical attention
KATHERINE O'NEILL Globe and Mail (Canada) June 13, 2008
KANDAHAR CITY, AFGHANISTAN — Only when Shala lifts up her shapeless, lavender-coloured burka, can you tell that the 32-year-old Afghan woman is with child.

Pakistan's shaky politics fuels the instability in Afghanistan
Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun  Friday, June 13, 2008
It has always been clear that the ability of NATO forces to bring the necessary level of security to Afghanistan to allow for reconstruction depends in large part on the willingness of neighbouring Pakistan to close down the Taliban and al-Qaida

Pakistan backs US inquiry offer
Friday, 13 June 2008 BBC News
Pakistani Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi has welcomed a joint investigation into a US air strike that Islamabad says killed 11 of its troops.

US strike hits Pakistan's raw nerve
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / June 13, 2008
KARACHI - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has for a long time been split over strategic questions in Afghanistan. These divisions will be further sharpened following Tuesday evening's attack by United States warplanes

A war that badly needs a definition of victory
FT.com By Philip Stephens 06/12/2008
The question that western donors to Afghanistan might have asked themselves at this week’s Paris conference was an obvious one: why are we there? In the event it was easier to write the cheques. Winning in Afghanistan is perhaps the most

Sex trade thriving in conservative Afghanistan
Edmonton Sun, Canada By ALISA TANG, AP Fri, June 13, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan -A string of lights spells out the name of the bar in the back of the basement in capital letters: 'PARADISE.'

Chinese toilet factory worker converts to Islam
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 12 June 2008
Chinese man who worked in Kabul's toilet paper factory becomes a Muslim
A 37-year-old Chinese man who has worked in a toilet paper factory in Kabul for the last year has converted to Islam.

Teenage bride set on fire after family feud
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 12 June 2008
Bride given as part of peace-deal may die from her wounds
A FAMILY feud has left a newly married 17-year-old girl with third degree burns over 85% of her body.

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Airstrikes kill 17 militants in Afghanistan
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Fri Jun 13, 11:24 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S.-led coalition forces called in airstrikes to back up ground troops in two Afghan provinces, killing more than 17 militants and a female civilian.

Separately, Afghan police said a Romanian soldier died in a Taliban rocket attack on the country's main highway. NATO confirmed the death of one of its soldiers, but declined to release the nationality.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Afghans protested the alleged burning of a Quran at a remote U.S. military base. The coalition denied the allegation.

The bloodiest of the reported incidents occurred near Tirin Kowt, the main town in the southern province of Uruzgan.

A coalition statement said militants ambushed Afghan and coalition forces patrolling Thursday in an area where an Afghan army checkpoint was attacked earlier in the week.

It said the militants retreated under fire to a "fortified position" that coalition warplanes targeted with an airstrike. Several civilians fled the area before the strike, it said.

The coalition said about 100 militants assailed the same patrol on Friday morning before fleeing to a nearby village. The clash prompted another airstrike.

The statement said about 17 militants were killed. It made no mention of any casualties among coalition or Afghan forces or civilians.

The coalition said it killed "several" more insurgents and a female civilian in an operation Thursday in Zurmat district of eastern Paktia province.

It said it launched airstrikes after its forces came under fire as they searched compounds for two militant leaders believed behind attacks by foreign fighters.

Several militants and a woman who was in the building the militants were firing from were killed, it said. One militant detonated a suicide-vest, killing himself, the coalition said.

The U.S. and NATO-led forces have lost public goodwill by periodically causing civilian deaths in operations against insurgents since the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime in 2001. They say they take all reasonable steps to avoid civilian casualties.

Also in the east, a suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy Friday in Nangarhar province, wounding four troops in NATO's International Security Assistance Force, the alliance said in a statement. Most troops in that province are American.

In neighboring Kunar province, more than 2,000 Afghans staged a peaceful protest claiming U.S. troops at a remote base had burned a copy of Islam's holy book, officials said.

U.S. spokesman Lt. Nathan Perry confirmed the protest but denied the allegation. "We respect the Afghan culture and religion," he said.

Local lawmaker Gulhar Jalal said Afghans working inside the base at Mano Gai had spread news about the alleged burning of a Quran. She said the incident allegedly occurred Thursday but had no further details.

Provincial police Chief Abdul Jalal Jalal said police were sent to the area after the protest broke out in the town near the base but demonstrators dispersed peacefully.

Afghanistan is a Muslim nation where blasphemy of Muhammad and the Quran is a serious crime that carries the death sentence. Such reports have sparked unrest before.

In May, a protest in western Ghor province against an American sniper who shot at a copy of the Quran in Iraq turned violent, leaving one NATO soldier and two civilians dead.
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Pakistan protests to NATO over airstrike
Fri Jun 13, 1:54 AM ET Associated Press
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan says it has protested to NATO over an airstrike that it says killed 11 of its soldiers in a base on the Afghan border.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's office said he conveyed the protest to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer during a conference on Afghan reconstruction in Paris.

A ministry statement released late Thursday said Qureshi described the strike as "unprovoked and senseless" and a "blatant and willful negation of the sacrifices Pakistan has made in the war against terrorism."

The ministry said that de Hoop Scheffer expressed regret.

U.S. officials say coalition forces in Afghanistan bombed militants in the same area Tuesday night and are investigating whether any Pakistanis were hit.
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Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan: ministry
Fri Jun 13, 1:12 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - Two British soldiers were killed and a third was injured after coming under enemy fire in Afghanistan, the defence ministry in London said.

Their deaths take the overall total of British troops killed in the country since the US-led invasion in 2001 to 102.

The ministry said Thursday the soldiers' families had been informed and requested a 24-hour grace period before details were released.

According to a ministry statement, soldiers from the 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment were conducting "a routine foot patrol in the vicinity of their base" in the restive southern Helmand province "when they came under enemy fire, tragically killing two of the patrol party."

The third soldier was receiving treatment for his wounds at Camp Bastion medical centre.

Britain has approximately 7,800 soldiers in Afghanistan, most of whom are in Helmand fighting the Islamist Taliban militia, who have been waging a bloody insurgency since being ousted from power in the 2001 invasion.
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Militants attack Afghan prison, free inmates
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Militants attacked the city's main prison with a suicide car bombing and rockets late Friday, killing police and setting prisoners free, Afghan officials said.

Justice Minister Sarwar Danish said a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle at the prison's gates in the southern Afghan city.

Danish said he did not have immediate details on how many prisoners might have escaped. But a prison official at the scene, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly, said most prisoners escaped.

The prison holds common criminals but also Taliban militants fighting NATO troops and the Afghan government.

Officials with NATO's International Security Assistance Force said they were aware of the attack but did not have any details yet.

Last month, some 200 Taliban suspects held at the Kandahar prison ended a weeklong hunger strike after a parliamentary delegation promised their cases would be reviewed.

Lawmaker Habibullah Jan said some of the hunger strikers had been held without trial for more than two years. Others were given lengthy prison sentences after short trials.

Jan said 47 of the prisoners had stitched their mouths shut during the hunger strike in May.

Kandahar — the Taliban's former stronghold and Afghanistan's second-largest city — has been the scene of fierce battles between NATO forces, primarily from Canada and the United States and Taliban fighters the last two years.
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He Won't Have Paris -- at Least Not This Time
By Al Kamen Friday, June 13, 2008; The Washington Post Page A21
Everyone who's anyone is gathering in Paris these days for the big international donors conference on Afghanistan. Laura Bush was there for the opening yesterday. Her husband arrives late tonight. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior State Department officials, joined by delegates from 65 other countries and 15 international organizations, will be on hand.

The administration hopes to keep big-donor countries focused on Afghanistan's needs and to ensure it remains a priority as it struggles to develop and to rebuff the Taliban insurgency.

So with all those powerful folks getting together to talk about Afghanistan, it's only natural that our ambassador to the United Nations, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, should want to be there. But, surely due to a clerical error, we hear Khalilzad, oft-rumored as a potential presidential candidate in Afghanistan next year, wasn't on the list to be part of the U.S. delegation.

Word is Khalilzad let it be known that he wanted to go but that folks at Foggy Bottom, maybe including Rice herself, felt this wouldn't do. Might be the thinking was that the gregarious Khalilzad's presence in Paris would detract from the efforts of the current -- and beleaguered -- president, Hamid Karzai.


Or it might be that the top brass is concerned by the constant, and lately intensifying, speculation that Khalilzad will soon quit his U.N. gig to run against Karzai.

Karzai's standing in the country, tarnished by widespread government corruption, has dropped, and outside backers are doubting his effectiveness in battling the Taliban.

Former U.N. ambassador Rich ard Holbrooke, asked at a symposium last month whether the United States would back Karzai for a third term, said he is very much liked by the current administration. "The official answer is, we won't support anyone," he said, wryly adding, "Although one member of the U.S. government, I would note, is a possible candidate.

"He came to the Asia Society and vigorously denied that he was a candidate, so everyone assumed that he was," Holbrooke joked, drawing a chuckle from the crowd. But the question of supporting Karzai will be "a huge issue for the next president."

Khalilzad, who was U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan after the Taliban was routed in 2001, has consistently said he's not running -- though perhaps not in the Shermanesque formulation used most recently by Ohio Gov. Ted Strick land to rule out being Barack Obama's running mate.

For example, he told Afghanistan's Ariana Television Network in April that "I have said earlier that I'm not a candidate for any position in Afghanistan, but I am at the service of the Afghan people." That huge trial balloon has never stopped orbiting the earth.

And an article Sunday in the Independent, a British newspaper, said that "representatives of Mr. Khalilzad . . . have discreetly sounded out various factions to ascertain his chances." The article, written from Kabul, said that "many Afghan commentators say he would enjoy a high degree of support."

The article said that "three meetings have been held with opposition groups in recent months to promote" him as a "unifying" candidate. Khalilzad is from southeastern Afghanistan and, like Karzai, is of the increasingly disaffected Pashtun majority. But Khalilzad was raised in Mazar-e Sharif in the north and was said to be on good terms with the former leadership of the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance.

Of course there's that 1997 Washington Post op-ed he wrote saying that "the Taliban do not practice the anti-U.S. style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran" and that "we should be willing to offer recognition and humanitarian assistance" and development aid.

In any event, last word was he's not going to Paris. Well, forecast was low 60s, cloudy, rainy.
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Nations offer Afghanistan aid, demand accountability
By Robert Marquand The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News - Jun 13 1:00 AM
Paris - The people and villages of troubled Afghanistan will get substantial new aid – up to $16 billion – provided Kabul and President Hamid Karzai agree to greater United Nations oversight and clampdown measures on Afghan corruption and waste, world leaders said here Thursday.

The one-day 70-nation meeting in Paris arose out of deepening concern this spring that the NATO Afghan mission is too important to fail – amid Taliban resurgence – and that billions of dollars for civil and civic structures must actually reach ordinary Afghans and into small villages. It is a "hearts and minds" strategy – that stability depends as much on nation-building as on NATO security.

Yet the word "accountability" hung in the Paris air as much as the word "pledge," as Mr. Karzai's embattled government sought $50 billion over five years. The day opened with a frank UN report on progress since 2006 issued to the press – describing "deteriorating" security, increased opium production, the burning of schools, corruption. The famed "Afghan Compact" shaped in London two years ago "turned out to be overly ambitious due to changing circumstances," it read.

The meeting comes "at a time of serious doubts about Afghanistan… and we have to show determination and considerable patience," said Bernard Kouchner, French foreign minister. His boss, Nicolas Sarkozy, offered that it is time "to put the Afghan people in charge of their fate and future."

'We will support, but ...'
Diplomats in Paris intimated that aid will be tied to Karzai's promises – affirmed here Thursday – to work in partnership with new UN special representative Kai Eide. The point was echoed most loudly in the hallways by Europeans, who trust Mr. Eide after his reform of operations in Kosovo. But US ambassador also termed Eide a needed "traffic cop" for aid.

Karzai himself echoed both praise and criticism. "We need aid, but how it is spent is important.... We give ... Kai Eide our full backing and support," Karzai told a round table that included host president Nicolas Sarkozy, US First Lady Laura Bush, and UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon.

Some 90 percent of the Afghan budget comes from donors – though the country is in the bottom tenth on most transparency rankings.

"Karzai won't get new pledges without greater accounting for it," says Greg Sullivan, a US Department of State spokesman. "But they are in Paris with a 19-page fact sheet that is the best we've ever seen. The gaps in Afghanistan are huge. In Khost you can use a Blackberry, and in Helmund are the Taliban. So Paris is sort of a shareholders' meeting, where donors must be convinced. That's a philosophical change."

"This is not a pure donors' conference," says a top European official requesting anonymity. "We want an objective, matter-of-fact analysis of the situation on the ground…we will support, but we want to talk about challenges, deficiencies, and our own failures, as well as those by the Afghan government."

To be sure, Afghan aid has brought serious improvements, say Afghans contacted for this report. New roads, currency, and schools are a few examples. The 300-mile drive from Kabul to Kandahar used to take 18 hours; today it takes six. Afghans have stopped using the Pakistani and Iranian rupees and now trust the local Afghan currency. Three universities now operate, in Kabul, Khost, and Kandahar; girls go to schools in the south.

Karzai pointed out the scale of change since the fall of 2001: 1 radio station and 1 TV station have given way to 70 radio and 15 TV stations; 30 percent of the six million students are girls.

Still, as Eide points out, Kabul has no reliable electricity. Crises and solvable problems that villagers bitterly complain about to NATO contingents are often not reported or recognized. Poppy remains a huge cash crop.

Perhaps a main concern among ordinary Afghans is that the giant-sounding sums of aid pledges won't reach them – and will instead be siphoned off in Kabul or by NGOs. The state is still deeply riven by ethnic and tribal rivalry.

"A town hears about a $1 million bridge project," says Javed Hamim, an editor of a Kabul Pashtun news service. "By the time it is built, maybe $100,000 gets to the local economy."

Accountability works both ways
Sen. Joseph Biden, ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, argued this week that accountability works both ways. Foreign aid to a state riddled by Soviet and then tribal wars, and whose conditions were called "medieval" prior to the NATO action in 2001, has never been as robust as promised. He accused the White House of "re-committing the same pot of already-pledged money again in Paris."

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

While $25 billion in nonmilitary aid has been proffered to Kabul over the past seven years, about $15 billion has been dispersed. Of this, as much as 30 or 40 percent was recouped by foreign corporations and salaries.

US director of foreign aid Henrietta Fore told reporters in Paris that much aid remains in the pipeline simply because the bidding process was so slow, and that aid was often not ready to be received. After Paris, however, Ms. Fore said more aid will "flow directly" through the government. "There's a sense that aid should be coming through the Afghan government, and as many ministries as possible," she said.

William Wood, US ambassador, told reporters US funds will be prioritized on energy, agriculture, and 2009 elections.

First lady Bush, in requesting to Congress some $10.2 billion in US funding over two years, speak of meeting with Afghan women at the White House recently. Their report "weighs heavily on my mind," Ms. Bush said, since many females "live in fear of a return of the Taliban," and they told her "we must take advantage of this time."
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A look at Afghan conference pledges
By The Associated Press Thu Jun 12, 4:04 PM ET
Some of largest donations at international conference for Afghanistan, where total of $21.4 billion pledged:

• United States: $10.2 billion, over 2 years.

• Asian Development Bank: $1.3 billion, over 5 years.

• Britain: $1.1 billion, through 2013.

• World Bank: $1.1 billion, over 5 years.

• European Union: $770 million, through 2010.

• Germany: $653 million, through 2010.

• Canada: $600 million.

• Norway: $500 million, over 5 years.

• United Arab Emirates: $250 million.

• Australia: $234 million, over 3 years.

• Italy: $195 million, over 3 years.

• Saudi Development Fund: $118 million.

• Aga Khan Development Network: $100 million, over 5 years.

• Denmark: $84 million.

• Iran: $50 million in aid, $300 million in loans, over 3 years.

• South Korea: $30 million, over 3 years.

• China: $2.2 million.
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US urges allies to match Afghan 'rhetoric' with troop action
Fri Jun 13, 11:03 AM ET
BRUSSELS (AFP) - The United States urged its allies Friday to live up to past pledges of troops and equipment to Afghanistan, as the NATO-led security force there struggles to cope with a Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgency.

"I expect government decisions and actions to match government rhetoric," US Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters after talks with allied defence ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

"Many of the same shortfalls that existed 18 months ago still exist today," he said, despite vows at a summit in Bucharest in April to raise more troop contributions.

Gates said he dropped his scripted speech for the meeting to "speak from the heart" about the military needs to his fellow ministers.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) now comprises almost 53,000 troops from 40 nations, up from 33,000 troops 18 months ago, but commanders continue to press for more help.

In Bucharest, France agreed to send 700 additional troops, which will deploy later this year in an area near Kabul in eastern Afghanistan, freeing up around 1,000 US soldiers to move into the volatile south.

Some 3,500 US marines have also been deployed but they will leave by November.

US General Dan McNeill, the former commander of ISAF, which is trying to spread the influence of the weak central government across the country and foster reconstruction, has said that 10,000 troops are needed.

Gates welcomed a pledge by Italy to lift restrictions on the movement of its 2,350 soldiers, most stationed in western Afghanistan, but it remained unclear whether Rome would be willing to move them to a more hostile area.

"The Italians took a big step by announcing that they are lifting the mobility caveat on their forces," he said. "I hope that this will set an example for others."

Britain's defence minister Des Browne said: "That would be very welcome and opens up a potential for the south and east but we will have to wait until they announce what they're going to do."

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that trainers for the growing Afghan army were sorely needed, but he also urged President Hamid Karzai to do more to tackle corruption.

"It is important that in Afghanistan that the other side of the medal which is the fight against corruption ... is also taken very seriously," he said, at the end of the two-day meeting.

"We are creating conditions for the development of a secure and stable environment, but that secure and stable environment needs the rule of law and needs the fight against corruption, it needs the fight against narcotics."

His call echoed those of world donors, who pledged 20 billion dollars Thursday to rebuild Afghanistan but asked Karzai to better battle corruption and strengthen the rule of law.
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U.S. general questions Pakistan plan for militants
By Andrew Gray
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. general who recently handed over command of NATO troops in Afghanistan cast doubt on Friday on the ability of Pakistan's Frontier Corps paramilitary force to combat Islamist militants.

The role of the Frontier Corps, a force drawn from local Pashtun tribes in areas bordering Afghanistan, was highlighted this week after Pakistan said a U.S. air strike killed 11 members of the force on Tuesday.

Pakistan condemned the strike in strong terms while the Pentagon defended U.S. forces, saying they acted legitimately after coming under attack. The two countries agreed on Friday to set up a joint investigation into the incident.

U.S. Army Gen. Dan McNeill, who stepped down earlier this month as the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, suggested the Frontier Corps was not best suited to tackle militants.

"My experience is it takes well-trained, well-equipped forces -- disciplined -- to take this thing on," he said.

"They're pretty much tribals themselves," he said of the Frontier Corps. "They might find it more challenging than would regular frontline, well-trained, well-equipped soldiers."

McNeill also recalled two incidents in which U.S. soldiers were shot by members of the Frontier Corps.

He said the whole force should not be defined by those incidents, but both Pakistan and the United States would find it "challenging" if the Frontier Corps was used extensively to fight insurgents in Pakistan.

INCREASING CONCERN
U.S. commanders and top officials have voiced increasing concern about militants in tribal areas of Pakistan that border Afghanistan, saying al Qaeda leaders enjoy safe haven there.

Washington says the militants mount attacks in Afghanistan and then escape back into Pakistan and that some of them are also planning attacks on the United States itself.

Both Pakistan and the Bush administration have said they plan to rely more on the Frontier Corps to fight insurgents in the tribal areas. The Pentagon has developed a multimillion-dollar program to train and equip the force.

But the administration has faced questions about the program in Congress, with senators questioning whether the United States should be financing the corps if some elements of the Pakistani military support Taliban insurgents.

McNeill also voiced doubts, shared by other Western officials, about efforts by Pakistan's new government to reach deals with tribal leaders to end militant violence in return for the withdrawal of security forces from their areas.

"The history is that those peace deals have not worked," McNeill said. "I think what's missing is action to keep pressure on the insurgents."

McNeill said violence in the U.S.-led eastern sector of Afghanistan was 50 percent higher in April than a year ago and much of the increase was due to a lack of pressure on militants by Pakistani forces on their side of the border.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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NATO seeks to replace Marine Afghan mission
Fri Jun 13, 9:19 AM ET
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO allies have yet to come up with replacements for a key deployment of some 3,000 U.S. Marines due to leave Afghanistan later this year, alliance officials said after talks on Friday.

The Pentagon sent the Marines to Afghanistan ahead of an expected rise in violence this year, but the troops are scheduled to return home in November and the United States is not expected to offer to keep them there any longer.

"I have no complete indications yet about back-filling," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference after allied defense ministers met in Brussels, using the military term for replacing departing troops.

"I would like to see that we find a way of following up on their good work on the ground."

British Defense Minister Des Browne said the Marines had produced an "astonishing effect" in combating Taliban insurgents in the southern Helmand province where Britain operates, and said Britain was involved in discussions about replacements.

"We don't intend to give up what we have created," he said of what he described as major losses suffered recently by the Taliban in one of their traditional heartlands.

France has agreed to send troops to Kapisa province northeast of Kabul around July in a move that is intended to free up U.S. forces there to go south.

However Browne said he understood those U.S. troops would go to Kandahar province, like Helmand in the south, and that such a redeployment was separate from efforts to replace the Marines.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has seen its troop strength swell to some 52,000 in recent months but commanders say it is still under-resourced and struggles to hold areas captured from insurgents.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted that despite some progress made in the war, the casualty rate among allied forces in Afghanistan recently topped that in Iraq. He said he urged his European counterparts at the talks to make good on pledges made at a NATO summit in April to plug the ISAF shortfalls.

"I expect government decisions and actions to match government rhetoric," he told a news conference. "It is important that we live up to our pledges in both the civilian and military spheres necessary for success in Afghanistan."
(Reporting by Mark John)
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Militants killed in US-led Afghan operation: officials
Fri Jun 13, 4:42 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A woman and several rebels were killed in a US-led coalition operation in eastern Afghanistan while a NATO military convoy Friday survived a separate suicide attack, officials said.
 
They said coalition troops were searching compounds in the Zurmat district of eastern Paktia province for two militant leaders known to have facilitated attacks against Afghan and US-led forces.

The troops came under fire from one of the compounds, the coalition said in a statement.

"The force responded with small-arms fire and air strikes, killing several militants and a woman who was located with the attacking militants in the building," it added.

The statement said one militant detonated a suicide-vest in the compound, killing only himself.

Iin a separate incident, a suicide bomber drove an explosives laden vehicle into a NATO-led military convoy in eastern Nangarhar province.

The troops escaped unharmed, police said.
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Afghanistan: Kabul Surprised, Pleased With Aid Pledges
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 13, 2008
Some $21 billion in aid pledges were made for Afghanistan at an international donors' conference this week in Paris. RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Breshna Nazari, who covered the conference, discusses the significance of the event and the reaction of Afghan officials to the aid pledges and the concerns that were raised in the French capital.

RFE/RL: What does the Paris donors' conference mean for Afghanistan, and why is this such an important event for Afghanistan?

Breshna Nazari: Afghanistan's National Development Strategy needs the full support from the international community. I think it is very important for the reconstruction and development of everything in Afghanistan -- like education, like public health, like security, the situation for women, and also human rights in Afghanistan. The donor countries pledged a huge amount of money -- more than $21 billion were pledged by more than 20 countries for rebuilding the war-ravaged country.

RFE/RL: From your conversations with Afghan government officials who attended the conference, what was their reaction to receiving pledges of $21 billion from the international community?

Nazari: They were very surprised. They were very happy about the outcome of the conference. And they were very satisfied with the new pledges made by the international community here in Paris. I talked with Mr. Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, the finance minister of Afghanistan. He was really very happy about the generous donations of the countries for Afghanistan. And he told RFE/RL that they will try their best to eliminate corruption in Afghanistan and also [to push forward with] a rapid reconstruction program in the coming years.

RFE/RL: Officials in Kabul have said that the Afghan National Development Strategy needs more than $50 billion during the next five years to achieve all of its aims. But authorities in Kabul also knew before the Paris conference that they need to raise some of those funds on their own. What solutions does Kabul have to obtain the rest of the funds needed to fully implement the development plans?

Nazari: The National Development Strategy program of Afghanistan needs $51 billion for five years. But Afghan authorities told us that they just need $29 billion for this, and more money will come from the domestic incomes of Afghanistan. Also, they still have some money [that has not been disbursed yet] from the previous years, which came from countries that made pledges for Afghanistan in the past.

RFE/RL: International donors have expressed serious concerns about the inability of the Afghan government to disburse billions of dollars in aid by themselves. On the other hand, there have been complaints that the way of disbursing aid in the past did not allow Kabul to build up its own capacity for disbursements.

Nazari: In Afghanistan's National Development Strategy, they say that they will manage some programs for their capacity building among the government employees. They also told the media that they will try their best to eliminate corruption in Afghanistan, and also to spend the money in better ways -- ways that help the people of Afghanistan who need it. Some of the money will go to the Afghan government through the Finance Ministry. The rest of the money will be spent through [contracts with] international NGOs or international organizations in Afghanistan.

RFE/RL: Critics also have said that too much international aid in the past has been spent by foreign governments on contracts with foreign firms and nongovernmental organizations. But in recent years, new Afghan firms have emerged that could handle some of the reconstruction work. Are there any plans that would ensure that more funds from the latest aid pledges go to contracts with Afghan firms rather than foreign firms?

Nazari: The Afghan trade minister [Amin Arsala] and the Afghan foreign minister [Rangin Dadfar Spanta] said here in Paris that they will manage a program and they will continue a discussion on this issue in Kabul with the donor countries. They hope that they will find a better solution for spending money in Afghanistan in better ways.
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Militants kill five Pakistan tribesmen: official
Fri Jun 13, 6:33 AM ET
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) - Taliban militants have shot dead five Pakistani tribesmen they suspected were spying for foreign forces in neighbouring Afghanistan, a local official said Friday.

The victims were staying in a house in Dattakhel town in troubled North Waziristan tribal district when the Taliban attacked them late Thursday, the official, who did not wish to be identified, told AFP.

One of them was a contractor who supplied food to US-led troops based in Afghanistan, the official added.

"We believe they were killed because Taliban suspected them of spying for the coalition forces in Afghanistan," he said.

North Waziristan has been singled out by US officials as the international headquarters for Osama bin Laden's resurgent Al-Qaeda network, allied with local pro-Taliban militants.

Militants in the region have killed several tribesmen in recent months, accusing them of spying for the US-led coalition forces across the border.

Pakistan has been combating hundreds of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants who fled over the border from Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in late 2001.
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Bush says West must stand with Afghanistan
By DEB RIECHMANN, Associated Press Writer
PARIS - President Bush said Friday that just as the United States helped Europe rebuild after World War II, the two powers must now stand with newborn democracies like Afghanistan and Iraq and reach out to people yearning for liberty, especially in the Middle East.

Bush delivered his speech, a progress report on trans-Atlantic relations, in France, a nation that was crucial to America's quest for independence. Arriving in Paris from Rome where he met with Pope Benedict XVI, Bush took a motorcade ride to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and confidently pronounced U.S.-Europe relations the "broadest and most vibrant" ever.

A few short years ago that wasn't the case. Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and former French President Jacques Chirac clashed with Bush over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Two of Bush's allies, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and ex-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, paid a political price for backing him on the war, which fractured trans-Atlantic ties.

Bush has spent his second term successfully mending them. But while his administration has joined nations across the globe to try to solve a host of international threats, including North Korea's and Iran's nuclear programs, the president's initial, first-term go-it-alone reputation set the tone for his presidency.

In his speech Friday, Bush pushed European leaders not to work at cross purposes with the United States or their neighbors, but to address global challenges of energy, security and trade. Ultimately, he said, the only way for freedom and democracy to win out over terrorists is to defeat their ideology, especially in the broader Middle East.

"The rise of free and prosperous societies in the broader Middle East is essential to peace in the 21st century, just as the rise of a free and prosperous Europe was essential to peace in the 20th century," he said. "So Europe and America must stand with reformers, democratic leaders, and millions of ordinary people across the Middle East who seek a future of hope and liberty and peace."

Bush's speech was replete with references to his so-called "freedom agenda" that has defined his foreign policy. In Lebanon, the U.S. and Europe must stand with those struggling to protect their sovereignty and independence, he said. "We must firmly oppose Iran and Syria's support for terror," he said. "And for the security of Europe and for the peace of the world, we must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Europe and the United States, he said, must also stand with those committed to a two-state solution to the long-running conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"I firmly believe that with leadership and courage, a peace agreement is possible this year," he said in defiance of naysayers who say Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are too politically weakened to get the job done.

The president timed his speech to the 60th anniversary of the start of the Marshall Plan to show how far the West has come in building a peaceful and prosperous Europe that rose out of the ruins of World War II. And it came at the tail-end of his farewell tour of Europe.

His presidency ends in January, and the race to replace him is consuming attention at home and abroad.

The president said he is seeing the outlines of a "new era of trans-Atlantic unity" in the faces of Europe's current leaders — Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

He praised Sarkozy for agreeing to send more troops to Afghanistan and thanked him for hosting a donors conference for the nation in Paris earlier in the week. Donors ranging from the U.S. to the World Bank pledged about $20 billion for Afghanistan on Thursday — and they made clear they want their money spent better in a desperately poor country.

In opening their pockets yet again, many donors complained about endemic corruption that has bled past donations in a nation where illegal drugs are the mainstay of a broken economy.

In Afghanistan last year, more than 8,000 people were killed in insurgency-related attacks, the most since the 2001 U.S. invasion ousted the brutal former Taliban regime. Another 1,500 have died this year. Bush flatly called Afghanistan "broke" before his trip.

Meanwhile, the continued threat from insurgents, and the consequences of fighting them, were spotlighted this week when a U.S. airstrike along Afghanistan's lawless border with Pakistan killed 11 Pakistani soldiers under disputed circumstances. The deaths put the United States on the defensive about its priorities and tactics just as first lady Laura Bush was making her third trip to Afghanistan, trying to draw attention to small-scale, successful projects in the struggling nation.

Bush began the day taking a rare stroll through the lush grounds of the Vatican Gardens, stopping at a grotto where the pontiff prays daily.

"Your eminence, you're looking good," Bush told Pope Benedict XVI at the beginning of their third visit.

Normally, VIPS are received in the pope's library in the Apostolic Palace. That's where Bush had his first meeting with Benedict in June 2007. But in a gesture of appreciation for the hearty welcome Bush gave him in Washington in April, Benedict welcomed the president and Mrs. Bush near St. John's Tower in the lush Vatican Gardens.

The president ended his first day in France by having dinner with Sarkozy at the French president's palace. The two leaders were all smiles as they exchanged pleasantries in the palace courtyard.

Mrs. Bush said this was her first time meeting Sarkozy's wife, model-turned-singer Carla Bruni.

"She invited me to come about 30 minutes early to the dinner so that we'll have a chance to sit down with each other before the dinner party starts, before the social part starts, and have a chance to talk to each other and get to know each other," Mrs. Bush told reporters on Air Force One just before it landed in Paris.
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More than money needed for war against terror
The Associated Press Friday, June 13, 2008
BRUSSELS, Belgium: Billions in new aid pledges will help, but succeeding in Afghanistan is not just about the money.

The currency that counts most is a rich mixture of political and military progress. And that appears unlikely until there's a bigger NATO troop commitment in Afghanistan and a greater willingness by the new government in Pakistan to be a partner against the terrorists.

Nor is success in Afghanistan just about the helping the Afghans.

Senior U.S. government officials, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, are warning that the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan — where Osama bin Laden is thought to be hiding — is where planning for the next terrorist attack on the United States is under way.

In Paris on Thursday, a plea by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for world aid drew US$21 billion in pledges at a donors conference aimed at reminding rich countries how much Afghanistan still needs them, nearly seven years after the radical Taliban regime was removed by force. The United States is promising US$10.2 billion.

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

And still, questions persist about the basic direction of the U.S.-led efforts to stabilize a desperately poor, weakly governed country whose eastern and southern borders with Pakistan are porous.

No matter how much cash a sympathetic world throws at the problem, the central obstacle — resilient Taliban forces and their benefactors in the al-Qaida terrorist network who have maintained safe havens on the Pakistan side of the border — is unlikely to budge until stronger action is taken inside Pakistan.

The U.S. and its international partners generally agree that a multi-pronged approach to Afghanistan is required — a military campaign that is creatively connected to civilian-led efforts to improve the reach of the Afghan central government, improve basic services for ordinary Afghans, and rebuild the economy.

But security remains Job One.

The situation grew more complicated with U.S. airstrikes on Tuesday that may have killed friendly fighters on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border. The incident inflamed the already touchy relations between Washington and Islamabad and raised fresh questions about cooperative efforts to root out terror suspects in the lawless region that American officials believe could spawn a new terrorist attack.

U.S. leverage in Pakistan has waned with the declining political fortunes of President Pervez Musharraf, who is under pressure to resign.

The Pentagon, which has more than 30,000 troops in Afghanistan — the most since the war began in 2001 — is adding a new dimension to its efforts in Pakistan by arranging to begin training, on a small scale, tribal forces near the border in the hopes that they can be more effective against Taliban and al-Qaida militants.

Pakistan does not want a larger U.S. military presence on its territory.

At the Paris donors conference, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the problems of Afghanistan and Pakistan will not be solved until they cooperate to purge terrorism along their border.

In Brussels, where NATO defense ministers opened two days of talks, to include an assessment of the situation in Afghanistan and its connection to recent developments in Pakistan, the Pentagon's senior representative here told reporters that while improving security is key, "it's not a purely military solution."

Vice Adm. William D. Sullivan said the movement of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters across the Afghan-Pakistan border is a crucial problem. Sullivan, who represents Joint Chiefs Chairman Mullen at NATO, said he believes that ending the cross-border infiltration is possible.

"More forces are needed to do that," the admiral said. "We, the United States, have been leading the way in trying to encourage the other members of the alliance to contribute more forces to the effort so we can begin to cover these areas where we simply don't have enough forces to cover now."

Asked whether it was possible to solve the border problem without more NATO help, Sullivan said yes, sort of.

"It could be, but it will take longer, it likely will result in more casualties to allied troops in the time that it takes to achieve these goals without more forces," he said.

Also troubling, from the U.S. and NATO point of view, is the Pakistan government's peace deals with tribal elements. Bush administration officials have publicly counseled patience, even as private doubts grow.

"We've been very clear that this is a matter for Pakistan to decide," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday. "The issue is that anything that is agreed needs to maintain the ability of Pakistanis to be effective against terrorists who lodge in these areas and threaten not just the United States or Afghanistan but of course threatens Pakistanis."

Sullivan, echoing a view shared by many senior U.S. military officers, called Pakistan's peace deals problematic.

"We're concerned that peace agreements allow the opposing militant forces the opportunity to regroup, resupply, retrain themselves," he said. "And so we think it gives some breathing room for those forces without being threatened on the Pakistan side of the border. So it's something we watch very closely."
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Unfulfilled promises haunt Afghanistan
By Bilal Sarwary BBC News, Kabul Friday, 13 June 2008 17:05 UK
Gone are the days when the Afghan summer was the season of plenty.

Now, as the snow melts off the Afghan peaks, a sense of foreboding hangs in the air. The summer in Afghanistan is fighting season.

Over a traditional Afghan dinner of rice, lamb and delicious Afghan bread, a senior Afghan official in his Kabul mansion admits he expects Taleban attacks to rise, but insists that they will not win.

"They can't take over any place," he says, as he struggles with a bony piece of meat.

After a few seconds he forgets the food and repeats in a serious tone the Afghan government line that continuing Taleban suicide bombings shows their "weakness".

But he says the fighting is at stalemate and blames alleged outside support.

"We are fighting a war whose very source is based outside of Afghanistan, inside of Pakistan. As long as the Taleban has a base, we won't be able to win this war."

Chaotic

While the doubts about the fight against the Taleban continue, so too do the doubts among ordinary Afghans about life since the Taleban were toppled in 2001.

One morning I took an early tour of Kabul.

At 0700 there was already a chaotic traffic jam at Charahi Malak Azghar in the heart of the city.

Land cruisers belonging to the United Nations, warlords and government officials sit alongside taxis and vehicles belonging to common Afghans.

All of these vehicles are competing for space. There are no traffic lights, and no traffic rules. Street children and beggars were gathered along the main road.

Saqib Baghlani, 43, a high school teacher, sits on his old Chinese bicycle.

He welcomes the demise of the Taleban. "Afghanistan has made remarkable progress compared to its pre-war and Taleban days," declares the tall, confident, blue-eyed teacher.

But he says the failures of his government are unacceptable.

He insists that President Hamed Karzai should fire corrupt officials and provide people with basic services, such as health care and clean drinking water, as this could bring peace.

"Go and see who owns these expensive houses in (the suburb of) Wazir Akbar Khan and who is driving land cruisers," he says. "Karzai should ask these officials how they got so rich overnight, instead of making empty promises again and again."

He castigates government ministers. "We are not asking for skyscrapers. The demands of our people are simple. Millions of dollars are going towards land cruisers and salaries. Everyone is corrupt."

What puzzles poorer Afghans is why so many basic problems haven't been solved, despite the billions of dollars of international aid.

A short walk from the affluent neighbourhoods of Wazir Akbar Khan and Shari Naw, in the streets of downtown Kabul, Afghanistan's unemployed are gathered in their hundreds.

Most say they have to wait for days, hoping to find one day's work to feed their entire family.

Kabul is considered the safest spot in the country, but basic services such as clean drinking water, electricity, and sewage systems remain unavailable to most people.

Waiting outside one of Kabul's main government hospitals is Haji Baz Mohammad. He has accompanied a patient from his home province in northern Afghanistan. He is busy praying and is visibly sad.

''We are not politicians or people who have the aid money," he says. "Where are the roads, clinics and reconstruction that were promised to us?''

Climate of mistrust

Driving through west Kabul, you can still see the destruction wrought during the factional infighting between warring Mujahideen factions in 1992, which left at least 70,000 Kabulis dead and the Afghan capital destroyed.

One of the most pervasive problems in post-Taleban Afghanistan is corruption.

Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians vow to fight it at every level. President Hamid Karzai has established several anti-corruption offices.

But, for Afghans like Ajmal Haidary, 42, a shopkeeper in West Kabul, this is another empty promise. "Every night, I hear ministers and MPs talk about corruption; this is all talk."

One aide to President Karzai admits the government has failed and that it needs to attend to the plight of the people.

But he says you have to remember the strains on Kabul, a city originally built for 400,000 that is now home to almost four million people.

"From traffic jams to corruption to a lack of electricity, it's a failure that needs to be fixed before it is too late," he says. "However, don't forget the improvements we have achieved."

One judicial official warns that there is a culture of impunity in Afghanistan now that creates a climate of mistrust among common Afghans.

Seven years after the Taleban were removed from power, the worry is that for many Afghans the promises of a better future seem to be becoming a distant dream.
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Afghan children used in porn videos
Daily Telegraph From correspondents in Kabul June 13, 2008 01:30pm
A CRIMINAL group that abducted and raped schoolchildren then recorded the abuse to make pornographic videos has been busted in the Afghan capital Kabul.

The group of four people had kidnapped five children below the age of 12 as they went home from school in the city, said a spokesman for the Afghan National Directorate of Security.

"They were abducting children, were raping them and were video recording the sexual abuse for networks they were in contact with," Sayed Ansari said.

Mr Ansari said the men had confessed to their crimes.
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China supports Afghanistan in reconstruction, development
PARIS, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reiterated here on Thursday that China would always stand with Afghanistan in its course of national reconstruction and development.

"To the people of Afghanistan, the past seven years are of historic significance," Yang started in a speech to an international conference in support of Afghanistan.

"Today, Afghanistan is once again standing at a new starting point, facing both difficulties and hopes, both challenges and opportunities," he said, welcoming the Afghanistan National Development Strategy presented by the Afghan government to the meeting.

"We need a safe and secure Afghanistan," Yang said, "China supports the accelerated development of the Afghan military and police forces and continued progress in the security sector reform."

He noted that since 2002, China provided the war-torn nation with military assistance and implemented the agreement on free training to Afghan military personnel between 2006 and 2010.

China has pledged 170 million U.S. dollars of assistance since 2002 to support its neighbor's reconstruction and development, he noted.

"We need an Afghanistan that enjoys development. Only when the Afghan people see and share the fruits of development, can there be a solid foundation and driving forces for the reconstruction process to keep moving forward," said Yang.

China would continue to enhance cooperation with Afghanistan on law enforcement and intelligence sharing and take an active part in the international efforts to set up an anti-drug security belt, he said.

"We need a sustainable Afghanistan," Yang said, adding that capacity building and personnel training have always been the focus in China's assistance to Afghanistan.

He pledged that China would continue to train Afghan professionals in the fields of commerce, agriculture customs, drug control and security.

Yang urged the international community to continue to take interest, make inputs in Afghanistan and intensify coordination and cooperation in this regard.

"China highly appreciates the UN peace-building efforts in Afghanistan and will continue to support it," Yang noted.

Foreign ministers or high-level officials from 80 countries and organizations took part in the one-conference to raise fund for Afghanistan and discuss ways on how to coordinate the aid efforts and how to use the fund properly and effectively.
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Afghan mothers-to-be face dangerous journey
They travel at night on back roads from rural areas to get ultrasounds and other medical attention
KATHERINE O'NEILL Globe and Mail (Canada) June 13, 2008
KANDAHAR CITY, AFGHANISTAN — Only when Shala lifts up her shapeless, lavender-coloured burka, can you tell that the 32-year-old Afghan woman is with child.

Almost four months pregnant, the mother of three has made the dangerous journey to Kandahar city from her home in rural Panjwai district to get an ultrasound.

Shala and her husband travelled part of the 50-kilometre distance by donkey and avoided all major roads for fear of hitting a homemade bomb. They also left at night and wore old clothes to avoid attracting attention from Taliban insurgents warring with Canadian soldiers.

Since the repressive Taliban regime was toppled in late 2001, Afghanistan, which has one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world, has vastly improved health-care services for mothers and their babies.

However, in restive regions in southern Afghanistan, such as rural areas in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, many women say the situation has worsened.

"During the Taliban, there was no problem for us. We had a doctor near our village. Now it's not safe for them. They went away," said Shala, who like many Afghans does not have a last name.

Her past four pregnancies were all difficult - one was a miscarriage - and she must make the trip to Kandahar city once a month for checkups.

Shala said her husband, whom she refuses to name for fear he will be targeted by militants, can afford the trips because he owns a small poultry business.

She said many of her female neighbours are poor and often have to borrow money from other women to head to the city for doctor's appointments and the delivery.

There are some who go through their entire pregnancy without ever setting foot in a hospital or clinic, she added. Untrained midwives often assist with home births - and complications, such as bleeding and hypertension, can be fatal for both the mother and baby. About 24,000 women die every year in Afghanistan after childbirth.

Abdul Qayum Pakhla, director of health for Kandahar province, said the lack of security in certain rural areas is a continuing concern. In recent years, several medical workers in these regions have either gone missing or been killed by insurgents.

There are currently four Kandahar districts that have no clinics because of the lack of security. However, Dr. Pakhla said that since the Taliban regime was removed, overall health-care services in the province have improved significantly.

He said Kandahar city, where pregnant women have access to free deliveries and medicines, has become a health-care hub for the province.

The Canadian government has spent at least $350,000 supporting maternal health programs run by the Afghan government and United Nations Children's Fund.

Some of the money is going toward building a residential obstetric-care facility in Kandahar city. It will open later this summer.

It is expected that more than 1,000 patients a year will use the facility as they wait to give birth in the nearby government hospital.

Last year, a preliminary report by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that the number of children who die before their first birthdays in Afghanistan dropped 18 per cent to 135 per 1,000 live births in 2006 from 165 per 1,000 in 2001. In Canada, the rate in 2005 was 5.4 per 1,000.

Afghan government officials praised the research as a real sign of recovery for the war-ravaged country, and an indicator that access to health-care services for women and children had improved dramatically since 2001, especially in rural areas.

However, data from four provinces, including Kandahar, were left out of the countrywide study because of the lack of security in those turbulent areas.

The Afghan government has committed itself to reducing maternal mortality by 20 per cent by 2020 and officials have increased programs to train midwives and facilitate access to female medical staff. But the lack of security in certain areas remains a barrier.

Bibi Rayalia, who also lives in the Panjwai district, southwest of Kandahar, hopes that security will improve enough in the coming years so that when her four daughters become mothers they won't have to risk their own lives just to go to the doctor.

Like Shala, the 41-year-old mother of six also had to make the dangerous trip into the city recently for a checkup. She is four months pregnant.

She said there is only one clinic close to her home (Panjwai district used to have four), but it's always crowded and doesn't have medical staff to deal with complicated pregnancies.

Shala and Rayalia are illiterate and uneducated about birth control, as are most women living in rural Afghanistan.

Shala said she wants to stop having children, but she is too embarrassed to ask her doctor for advice about contraception. "I don't want any more babies, but I don't know how to do it."
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Pakistan's shaky politics fuels the instability in Afghanistan
Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun  Friday, June 13, 2008
It has always been clear that the ability of NATO forces to bring the necessary level of security to Afghanistan to allow for reconstruction depends in large part on the willingness of neighbouring Pakistan to close down the Taliban and al-Qaida safe havens in its lawless border provinces.

That said, the refuges in Pakistan for the insurgents are not the only challenge to bringing security to Afghan-istan. The corruption and incompetence of the administration of President Hamid Karzai is at least as important.

From that rot at the top flows problems like the presence of regional warlords with their own militias within his government, as well as men who oversee Afghanistan's dominance of the world's illegal heroin and opium trades.

Add to that a national police force of extraordinary uselessness and predatory instincts, and Karzai's near total failure to extend his rule or the sense of nationhood beyond a few districts in the capital Kabul, and it is a dismal picture.

But down the long trail of history, regional geography and politics have always meant that the battle for Afghanistan can never be won in Afghanistan alone.

A report by the Rand Corp. published this week underlines yet again that unless Taliban and al-Qaida bases in Pakistan are eliminated, NATO allies, including Canada, of course, "will face crippling long-term consequences in their efforts to stabilize and rebuild Afghanistan."

Now, the Rand report was funded by the United States department of defence, and in these circumstances the people paying the bill usually get the report they want.

But the report's assertion that individuals within Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and the military Frontier Corps are still aiding the Taliban and al-Qaida meshes with other recent reports.

One of Pakistan's English-language newspapers, Daily Times, for example, reported last Sunday it had details of secret agreements included in peace deals made between the Pakistan government and tribal leaders in the border territory of North Waziristan.

These deals, which usually involve the Islamabad government agreeing to withdraw its troops in return for guarantees from tribal leaders that Taliban will be restrained and al-Qaida forced to leave, have been loudly criticized by NATO as little more than a licence for the insurgents to operate.

The Daily Times said the document it has seen says al-Qaida members will be allowed to remain "as long as they pledge to remain peaceful." That means peaceful in Pakistan, not in Afghanistan.

So can there be any realistic expectation that the political leaders in Islamabad will make any serious efforts to remove the Taliban safe havens?

Well, not much, and it can be expected that the border incident this week (whose details remain in dispute) in which 11 Pakistani soldiers appear to have been killed in an American air attack will make matters worse.

Following an attempt to return to democracy earlier this year after an eight-year dictatorship by President Pervez Musharraf -- a return insisted on, ironically, by the U.S. and NATO allies -- Pakistan is in the throes of political turmoil with no end in sight.

The election produced a frail coalition government led by the Pakistan People's Party dominated by Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated party leader Benazir Bhutto.

Part of the deal by which Musharraf agreed to a restoration of democracy was that corruption charges against Bhutto and Zardari would be dropped.

This was done after Musharraf fired all the country's senior judges and established compliant courts.

But it is a key demand of the junior partner in the governing coalition, the Pakistan Muslim League led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in Musharraf's 1999 coup, that the sacked judges be reinstated.

Indeed, this week thousands of lawyers marched from the commercial centre of Karachi to Islamabad to back that demand.

But neither Zardari nor Musharraf wants the sacked judges back.

Musharraf's concern is that he could be charged with treason for suspending the constitution last year.

Zardari's worry is that the old corruption charges, for which he has already served eight years in prison, may be revived.

In this climate of Byzantine politics, NATO should not expect Islamabad to be of consistent help in the porous border region any time soon.
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Pakistan backs US inquiry offer
Friday, 13 June 2008 BBC News
Pakistani Foreign Minister Mehmood Qureshi has welcomed a joint investigation into a US air strike that Islamabad says killed 11 of its troops.

Mr Qureshi made his remarks before talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Paris.

Washington offered a joint inquiry with allies Pakistan and Afghanistan after the border incident late on Tuesday.

US forces say they were targeting pro-Taleban militants. Pakistan said its troops died in an "unprovoked act".

"My personal opinion is that a joint investigation would be useful," said Mr Qureshi, Reuters news agency reported.

He urged the US to co-operate more with Pakistan's military and said the deaths risked jeopardising his government's efforts to pacify the border region.

"These incidents do not help. We want to get the support of the local population."

Ms Rice and US Defence Secretary Robert Gates repeated US expressions of regret for the deaths of the soldiers on Friday.

Speaking after a meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels, Mr Gates tried to mend fences by saying it was important to give the new Pakistani government time to pursue its policy in the north-west.

"I can't emphasise enough how important a partner Pakistan is in dealing with terrorists," he said.

Diplomatic fallout

On Thursday, the US military issued video excerpts of the fighting on the Pakistan-Afghan border, between Pakistan's Mohmand province and Kunar in Afghanistan, during which Pakistan says its soldiers were killed.

The BBC's Nick Childs says the footage raised more questions than it provided answers.

He says the details may remain in dispute, but the fall-out from the incident has further soured an already difficult and sensitive relationship.

There have been incidents before, but this is rapidly turning into the most serious diplomatically, our correspondent says.

It comes just when there is increasing concern among US and Nato forces about Taleban fighters receiving sanctuary in Pakistan's volatile tribal areas.

Attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan are on the rise, which Nato and the US attribute to deals with militants over the border in Pakistan.

Last month, for the first time, more coalition soldiers were killed in Afghanistan than Iraq, said Mr Gates.

Eighteen soldiers were killed in Afghanistan compared with 16 in Iraq. Most of them were Americans.

Mr Gates urged fellow Nato members to come good on pledges to boost the alliance's military presence in Afghanistan.
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US strike hits Pakistan's raw nerve
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / June 13, 2008
KARACHI - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has for a long time been split over strategic questions in Afghanistan. These divisions will be further sharpened following Tuesday evening's attack by United States warplanes on a Pakistani military post in Mohmand Agency in which 11 Pakistani paramilitary soldiers were killed.

Indications that Pakistani soldiers were fighting alongside Taliban forces against Afghan army and US units in the border area will also bolster critics of US policy who argue that the Pakistani military is playing a "double game" and can no longer be trusted. All the same, should NATO "lose" Pakistan, it would be a devastating setback.

While the precise circumstances of the incident remain unclear, an eye witness, Taliban spokesman Zubair Mujahid, who

represents the Taliban's commanders for Kunar and Nooristan provinces in Afghanistan, told Asia Times Online by telephone: "The multiple Taliban groups operating on both sides of the border - in the Afghan Kunar Valley and in Mohmand Agency - spotted NATO forces launching into Mohmand Agency's mountain-top Sarhasoko military post (below).

"We realized the Pakistani troops were struggling against the NATO forces so we activated our networks all over the area," Zubair said.

"The Pakistani security forces were under siege and were at the point of being evacuated from the post when we opened fire on them [NATO] from several positions. Our attack was so unexpected for NATO that they had to retreat. The Pakistan army lost 11 soldiers, the Taliban lost eight and NATO lost 20 soldiers during the operation."

An official Pakistani armed forces release called the air strikes "unprovoked and cowardly" and added that "the incident had hit at the very basis of cooperation and sacrifice with which Pakistani soldiers are supporting the coalition in [the] war against terror".

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell, meanwhile, said, "Although it is early, every indication we have is that it was a legitimate strike in self-defense against forces that had attacked coalition forces."

Damning report

The timing of the attack coincides with the release of a report this week by the US Defense Department-funded RAND Corp, entitled "Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan", which said that some active and former officials in Pakistan's intelligence service and the Frontier Corps - a paramilitary force - directly aided Taliban militants.

Significantly - as happened on Tuesday - the report suggested direct NATO operations in the Pakistani tribal areas to root out the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Confusingly, at the very moment the Taliban went to aid Pakistani security forces - which will boost respect for them among the lower- and middle-order cadre of the armed forces - the Taliban kidnapped seven security personnel in Dera Adam Khail in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and in Mohmand Agency they exchanged fire with security forces at a checkpoint.

This contradiction highlights the complex relationships between the Taliban, militants and the Pakistani establishment: nothing can be read as black and white. What can't be ignored is that ethnic Pashtuns are natural Pakistani allies and the Pashtun heartland is overwhelmingly under the influence of the Taliban, a factor Pakistan has to factor into its regional relationships.

The case of Taliban commander Haji Nazeer illustrates the point. Al-Qaeda leaders, Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and even Uzbek warlord Qari Tahir often praise his services for fighting some of the toughest battles against NATO in Afghanistan. Yet they also curse him for his links to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for which he acts as a point man to work against Uzbeks, the network of Baitullah Mehsud and Takfiri Arabs - those who take it on themselves to decide who is a true Muslim and who is not.

Haji Nazeer is not the only example of this, several big and small operators receive support or patronage from the Pakistani security forces, which allows think-tanks such as the Rand Corporation to blame Pakistan for actively supporting and facilitating the Taliban fight against NATO.

From 2006 onwards, US officials and NATO have on several occasions provided evidence directly to Islamabad on Pakistan's support for the Taliban. Yet the crux is, Pakistan needs to do this.

The US does the same in Iraq, where it struck deals with former Ba'athist elements to take on al-Qaeda, knowing that Sunni-nationalist Arab tribes would continue to fight against them, though with low intensity.

A lesser evil

By late 2003, foreign elements, especially Egyptians and Uzbeks, had regrouped in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area and established two organizations. One was for international operations, the Jaishul al-Qiba al-Jihadi al-Siri al-Alami, the other, specifically aimed to operate inside Pakistan, was Jundullah. See The legacy of Nek Mohammed Asia Times Online, July 20, 2004.)

Between them, the two groups masterminded operations such as the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings and the July 7, 2005, London bombings and several attacks on the life of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as well as other officials and security installations.

Pakistan mounted several military operations against the groups and killed many commanders, including Nek Mohammed, but the insurgency intensified and new faces emerged, such as Baitullah Mehsud, and they established even better facilities for al-Qaeda operations.

These new commanders did not restrict their activities to South Waziristan, they spread their networks across the country. The previously calm Swat Valley in NWFP and the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad became two important bases for them.

The new self-proclaimed "Pakistani Taliban" quickly eliminated the local networks of the tribal elders, the only reliable front on which Islamabad could deal with the new militant movements. Over 130 tribal chiefs were killed and dozens fled to different cities. Any cleric who spoke in favor of harmony with Pakistan risked being killed and ending up with a message attached to his body: "A lesson for CIA-ISI proxies."

By 2005, suicide attacks began in Pakistan and the Pakistani security apparatus was at a loss over how to deal with the militants - neither the military nor the political approach worked.

Then an ISI network based in Balochistan province succeeded in making a connection with now slain Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who, after a lot of negotiation, agreed to play a role in South Waziristan. He acquired a letter from Taliban leader Mullah Omar in which he emphasized that all groups in South and North Waziristan should focus on the jihad in Afghanistan rather than become involved in other regional and global operations.

Then Pakistan-friendly and legendary mujahideen leader Jalaluddin Haqqani was announced as the military leader of the Taliban's spring offensive of 2006 and he led all factions into Afghanistan. Before this, he had signed a ceasefire agreement with Pakistani forces in the tribal areas. The upshot was that the Taliban had their most successful season since being ousted in 2001 and Pakistan saved itself from a major catastrophe.

Nevertheless, Uzbeks and a group of Egyptians under the uncompromising Sheikh Essa and his Pakistani adherents Sadiq Noor and Abdul Khaliq Haqqani were still obsessed in fermenting an Islamic revolution in Pakistan. They were not ready to move into Afghanistan to fight against NATO, they wanted to continue the fight against Pakistani security forces.

So Pakistan had little choice but to follow the American example of the Sunni Awakening Councils in Iraq and what the British did in Helmand province in Afghanistan: divide and rule.

Ideological affiliations and tribal rivalries co-exist in South Waziristan. While most support the Taliban, Wazir tribesmen were wary of the growing strength of the Mehsud tribe's new strongman, Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah had the support of his tribe, but his greatest support was several hundred Uzbek warriors who made Baitullah the biggest commander in the region.

The ISI exploited this situation and they tapped up Haji Nazeer, in particular playing on the fact that the Uzbeks did not fight in Afghanistan. Haji Nazeer was given US$150,000 to strengthen his network and also received truck loads of ammunition and a guarantee of free movement into and out of Afghanistan.

In January 2007, Haji Nazeer and his men carried out a massacre of Uzbeks, killing at least 250 of them and expelling the rest from South Waziristan. Haji Nazeer attracted many Arabs, such as Abu Ali Tunisi, who influenced scores of Pakistani jihadis to join Haji Nazeer, whose now-expanded network only fights against NATO.

A similar case is that of Haji Namdar, (See Taliban bitten by a snake in the grass Asia Times Online, April 26, 2008 and Taliban claim victory from a defeat Asia Times Online, May 3, 2008.) He is the biggest recruiter of warriors in Khyber Agency to fuel the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan and he raises funds for the Taliban. The ISI had to solicit his help, though, to break a Taliban network in the agency which was crippling NATO supply lines into Afghanistan (the attacks have since resumed).

NATO was aware of this contradiction but did not have any choice but to go along with the ISI.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief.
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A war that badly needs a definition of victory
FT.com By Philip Stephens 06/12/2008 
The question that western donors to Afghanistan might have asked themselves at this week’s Paris conference was an obvious one: why are we there? In the event it was easier to write the cheques. Winning in Afghanistan is perhaps the most consistent mantra of western security policy. As long, that is, as no one defines what is meant by winning.

President Hamid Karzai knows what he wants:?another $50bn (32bn, £26bn) in foreign development assistance to create something resembling a modern state. He will not get that much, not least because it is beyond the capacity of his government to spend it honestly. The money, though, will keep flowing. The west sees no other choice.

Afghanistan is the good war – a conflict fought in self-defence and one, unlike Iraq, blessed from the outset by the international community. No dodgy intelligence here. Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination for the coming US presidential election promising to pull out US troops from Iraq. He wants a bigger effort in Afghanistan.

Mr Obama is not alone. I have given up counting how often in recent months I have heard politicians and policymakers, leftwing and rightwing, Americans and Europeans, say the west cannot afford to lose in Afghanistan. I am still unsure as to what constitutes winning. So, I think, are they.

You catch the confusion in public statements and interviews as well as private conversations. The west is there to defeat the Taliban, one European leader will say. Nato is defending the elected government of Mr Karzai, another will offer. The international community is helping to build democracy in the Muslim world, a foreign ministry expert will add.

Al-Qaeda, hiding out in the frontier badlands of Pakistan, must be denied the bases that allowed it to attack New York and Washington: this is an objective that Mr Obama can sign up to every bit as much as President George W. Bush. The west, though, also says it is safeguarding the rights of women: girls are back at school, women assured a role in politics.

Then, of course, there are drugs. There was a big fuss this week about the successful seizure of a cache of cannabis worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A drop in the ocean. Afghanistan’s opium crop supplies 90 per cent of global heroin demand. It also finances the Taliban. Western self-interest does not end there. Millions of Afghanis have returned home since 2002, easing immigration pressures in Europe.

When the questioning gets tough, the fall-back is as much about the west as about Afghanistan. The Nato alliance must be re-engineered to face new threats: cross-border terrorism, the proliferation of unconventional weapons, failing states. Afghanistan is the test. Failure would spell the beginning of the end for the world’s foremost military compact.

There is nothing ignoble about these aims. The strategic significance of Afghanistan is obvious enough. As the west discovered during the 1990s, benign neglect is not an option. Yet while governments are sincere about the cost of defeat, they are unwilling to invest enough to win. The fragmentation of effort holds up a mirror to confusion about objectives.

I find it curious that western military commanders cite the Taliban’s increasing resort to suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices as evidence of impending victory. Another way of looking at the insurgents’ shift in tactics is to say they are adept at adapting to circumstances. This week a suicide bomber took to 100 the toll of British fatalities in the conflict.

That said, things are better than they were. A year or so ago it seemed that vast tracts of the country might well slide back into the hands of Taliban fighters. Nato forces have now pushed them back from their strongholds and forced an effective military stalemate in the south.

The military points to other advances. France’s willingness to commit more troops to Afghanistan and Italy’s to lift the caveats on deployment of its forces have eased, for the time being, some of the tensions within Nato. Successful US strikes against al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan have greatly inhibited its offensive capabilities.

All this may be true, but in candid moments diplomats and military commanders will admit that these are tactical rather than strategic gains. The bigger picture is one of a government whose writ extends barely beyond Kabul, of competing warlords and high-level corruption, and of conflicting tribal loyalties.

The inadequacies of the west’s security and development effort have been well documented. The military still lacks vital equipment as well as boots on the ground. Can it really be true that Europe has no more helicopters? Reconstruction projects are divided between legions of national and multilateral aid agencies; much of the funding goes to foreign consultants.

The latest spat between Washington and Islamabad – over the killing of Pakistani soldiers during hot pursuit operations against the Taliban – was a reminder that a coherent strategy also demands the co-operation of Afghanistan’s neighbours.

In recent years America and its allies have had a policy towards Pakistan centred almost entirely around President Pervez Musharraf – a Musharraf policy, I have heard it called. They need a Pakistan policy. Six years ago Iran was an ally against the Taliban. Now it seeks to destabilise western forces. I recently heard a senior European diplomat ask, rhetorically: when did a government defeat an insurgency without control of its own borders?

Things can be fixed, albeit some more easily than others. If Nato, the United Nations and the European Union and the rest cannot better co-ordinate their efforts, they deserve to lose. A new president in the White House will have the opportunity to recast the US relationship with Pakistan and, hopefully, with Iran.

A less ideological US administration might also accept that it is impossible to kill every Taliban fighter. Some will have to be won over. Europe in such circumstances might be shamed into contributing more troops to the vital task of building security.

All this, though, is irrelevant unless there is agreement on what constitutes winning. It should not be so hard. Afghanistan is not about to become a shiny new democracy. Any political system must pay its respects to history, geography and culture. The ambition should be for an Afghan government strong enough to defend the country’s borders and to deny havens to terrorists, and sufficiently honest and pluralist to guarantee fundamental rights. That should be the aim of the international effort.
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Sex trade thriving in conservative Afghanistan
Edmonton Sun, Canada By ALISA TANG, AP Fri, June 13, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan -A string of lights spells out the name of the bar in the back of the basement in capital letters: 'PARADISE.'

A dozen Chinese women in skintight miniskirts and halter tops flit around clusters of beefy Western men and flirt in broken English.

Now and then, a man and woman climb the stairs to the upper reaches of the house, where Paradise does its real business.

Paradise is a brothel in an unmarked residential compound in an upscale Kabul neighbourhood where prostitutes from China cater to Western men. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, thousands of Westerners working for security firms, companies and aid groups have poured into Afghanistan. Not long after came Chinese prostitutes, in some cases trafficked into the country.

The International Organization for Migration helped 96 Chinese women who were deported in 2006. They told IOM they were deceived by a travel agency in China and promised employment in a restaurant for $300 a month.

But when they arrived, they said, the Chinese restaurant owner denied them salary and forced them to provide sexual services by night. An IOM staffer said one Chinese woman thought she was going to work in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and had no idea she had instead landed in Kabul.

Afghan officials deny these claims.

"They come here of their own will. They want to do business here. Police caught them red-handed," said Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal, head of Kabul's criminal investigations. In recent years, Afghan authorities have carried out a campaign against moral corruption, raiding brothels fronting as restaurants and deporting the Chinese prostitutes in front of TV cameras.

Last year in Kabul, 180 female prostitutes were arrested - 154 "foreigners" and 26 Afghans, Paktiawal said. He would not give the nationalities of the foreign prostitutes, but many raids in recent years have been at Chinese restaurants.

Many Afghans blame prostitution on immoral Chinese women and Western men and say it is un-Islamic.
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Chinese toilet factory worker converts to Islam
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 12 June 2008 
Chinese man who worked in Kabul's toilet paper factory becomes a Muslim
A 37-year-old Chinese man who has worked in a toilet paper factory in Kabul for the last year has converted to Islam.

Shin Lin, from the Chang Choy province of China, took an oath of devotion on Wednesday in front of Kabul’s Supreme Court, which changed his name to Mohammad Yaseen and gave him a copy of the holy Koran.

He said: “Although I was an atheist before, I knew a little bit about Islam, and for this reason I never normally drank wine or ate pork.”

He said his time in Kabul had made him more interested in Islam.

The newly named Yaseen has been married for the last 18 years and has one 16-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. He said his Chinese wife had also promised to become a Muslim.

Abdul Rahim, a member of the Supreme Court, said seven foreigners have become Muslims in Afghanistan this year, including Americans and Chinese.

The manager of the DAEO toilet paper factory in Kabul, Haji Masood, said he had given Yaseen a Holy Koran, which he had bought in Saudi Arabia last year.
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Teenage bride set on fire after family feud
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 12 June 2008 
Bride given as part of peace-deal may die from her wounds
A FAMILY feud has left a newly married 17-year-old girl with third degree burns over 85% of her body.

The teenager’s ageing husband, Malang, burned his new bride in the Alishing district of Laghman on Wednesday, the district governor said.

Malang had married the young Maidai Gul three months ago as part of a deal to make peace with another family in the district.

Her brother had slept with Malang’s daughter and the forced marriage was a way of ending the feud between the two families, neighbours said.

Malang carried his young bride to the central hospital in Nangarhar, where doctors said 85% of her body had received third degree burns.

Doctors said she was in a critical condition and may die from the burns.

A neighbour in the couple's district said the young girl had burned herself in protest at the forced marriage and denied that Malang had set her on fire.

He said Malang had regularly abused her.

Malang had threatened to kill the young girl’s brother for having sex with his daughter, he said, and the brother handed over his sister to apologise.

The governor of Alishing said police were looking into the case.
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