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June 14, 2008 

Taliban Free 1,200 in Attack on Prison
The New York Times By CARLOTTA GALL June 14, 2008
In a brazen attack, Taliban fighters assaulted the main prison in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday night, blowing up the mud walls, killing 15 guards and freeing around 1,200 inmates. Among the escapees were about 350

4 Marines die in Afghanistan; 870 inmates escape
By NOOR KHAN and JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writers
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - About 870 prisoners escaped during a Taliban bomb and rocket attack on the main prison in southern Afghanistan that knocked down the front gate and demolished a prison floor, Afghan officials said Saturday.

Afghanistan: Many 'Important' Taliban Among Hundreds Of Prison Escapees
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 14, 2008
Hundreds of prisoners have escaped from a jail in southern Afghanistan, including many "important" Taliban militants, after their accomplices blasted open the prison gate in an overnight attack in Kandahar.

Kandahar memorial plates make Afghanistan war "personal": soldier
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - It happens in the stillness of night when no one is around. The granite plates just appear, seemingly out of nowhere.

Sex trade thrives in Afghanistan
By ALISA TANG Associated Press June 14, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - The girl was 11 when she was molested by a man with no legs.

Lieutenant Colonel shot by Taliban is most senior Afghanistan casualty
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By John Bingham  13/06/2008
A battalion commander has been shot in the leg during an operation in Afghanistan, becoming the most senior British officer injured in action in the country.

Britain sends 200 extra troops to Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By James Kirkup 14/06/2008
More British troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, the Government will announce next week.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that reinforcements are being deployed as British forces face fierce resistance from the Taliban and doubts grow about the West's strategy in Afghanistan.

ISAF soldier killed, supply helicopter damaged in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-14 04:44:16
KABUL, June 13 (Xinhua) -- One soldier of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was killed in southern Afghanistan while a contracted supply helicopter of the ISAF was damaged in the east Friday, the ISAF said.

Record Kandahar drug bust comes as rude awakening in hashish heaven
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A record-sized drug bust this week came as a rude awakening in a place historically considered a hashish haven.

Afghanistan's hidden treasures, hidden no more
Ancient artifacts secretly kept in a bank vault in the war-torn country, safe from marauding militia, looters and the Taliban, are now on a museum tour for all the world to see.
Los Angeles Times, CA By Stanley Meisler Special to The Times June 15, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C.
IN AN act that provoked worldwide outrage, the fundamentalist Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in March 2001 destroyed the monumental statues of Buddha that had been carved into the rock cliffs of Bamiyan 1,600 years ago.

Turkey increases financial assistance to Afghanistan
Hürriyet, Turkey - Jun 13, 2008
The amount of financial assistance Turkey extends to Afghanistan has risen from $100 million to $200 million, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Thursday.

Afghan prison stories win prize
Globe, La Presse share 2007 Michener Award; Star cited for series on medical secrets
Toronto Star,  Canada - Jun 14, 2008 04:30 AM Joanna Smith Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA – The Globe and Mail and La Presse last night shared the 2007 Michener Award, Canada's top prize for public service journalism, for their reporting on the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan.

Corruption in Afghanistan a serious problem: Boucher
Lalit K Jha - Jun 11, 2008 - 17:44
NEW YORK (PAN): A top Bush administration official has charged corruption continues to be a major problem in Afghanistan and the present government has to do a lot to tackle the issue. But at the same time, he made clear President Karzai

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Taliban Free 1,200 in Attack on Prison
The New York Times By CARLOTTA GALL June 14, 2008
In a brazen attack, Taliban fighters assaulted the main prison in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday night, blowing up the mud walls, killing 15 guards and freeing around 1,200 inmates. Among the escapees were about 350 Taliban members, including commanders, would-be suicide bombers and assassins, said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar’s provincial council and a brother of President Hamid Karzai.

“It is very dangerous for security. They are the most experienced killers and they all managed to escape,” he said by telephone from Kandahar.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said that the attack was carried out by 30 insurgents on motorbikes and two suicide bombers, and that they had freed about 400 Taliban members, The Associated Press reported.

The breakout from Sarposa Prison will present enormous security challenges for Afghan and NATO forces surrounding Kandahar, President Karzai’s home city but also the spiritual capital of the Taliban. Traditionally, Kandahar is home to the rulers of Afghanistan, and control of it is seen as critical to the government’s hold on the entire country.

The city has been in a precarious situation since Taliban forces massed in the nearby district of Panjwai in 2006. Since then Canadian forces have struggled to secure the area, and the Taliban have repeatedly sought to gain a foothold in the districts surrounding the town.

The prison break is also likely to increase pressure on President Karzai, who is coming under increasing criticism at home and abroad for his faltering leadership and his inability to manage the country. Even as international donors pledged $21 billion in aid for Afghanistan this week, many of them have criticized his failure to tackle the problems of security and corruption.

The attack began at 9:20 p.m., when two truck bombs exploded at the prison gates, breaking down a part of the mud walls, Ahmed Karzai said. It seemed to be well planned, officials said. After the bombings, a group of fighters armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles mounted an attack, said a spokesman for the provincial governor. They then ran through the prison, breaking open the cell doors.

The prison lies on the west side of the city. Residents living about a half mile away in the center of town said the explosions broke windows in their street and that they could hear fighting raging for an hour after that.

Mr. Karzai said that the attackers focused their efforts on the political section of the prison, where the Taliban suspects were being held. There is also a section for ordinary criminals and one for some 80 female prisoners. Mr. Karzai said that the police and prison guards managed to prevent around 200 prisoners from escaping, but other officials contacted in the town said that every last prisoner had escaped.

While there were also ordinary criminals in the jail, families of many of the prisoners have said their relatives were swept up in military operations and wrongly imprisoned.

Villagers living near the prison said they saw prisoners running along the roads, and scattering into nearby villages, generally heading north and east to the districts of Dand and Argandab outside the city, a security official in the city, Abdul Haleem, said. He warned that the Taliban could be sheltering very close to the city.

Canadian troops, part of the NATO force that is based outside Kandahar, were deployed to the prison but arrived after the prisoners had escaped. Afghan Army, police and intelligence personnel were pursuing the prisoners in the surrounding villages, Mr. Karzai said.

The prison was recently the scene of unrest, with some 400 prisoners staging a hunger strike in May to protest their long detention without trial. Some had been held for as long as two years without trial, and some were being refused the right to appeal very harsh sentences, they said. More than 40 of the prisoners stitched their lips together with needle and thread to demonstrate their determination.

Some 300 women who came to protest outside the prison at the time said their relatives inside had been picked up by NATO and American military sweeps and were innocent but nevertheless held without trial for months and even years. Local elders and government officials negotiated an end to the protest and promised better conditions and justice. Yet, the jailbreak is likely to prove popular with many local families.

Taliban prisoners staged another escape from the prison several years ago by digging a tunnel from a cell. Officials at the time said some of the guards had been bribed to look the other way.

Carlotta Gall reported from Islamabad, Pakistan, and Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan.
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4 Marines die in Afghanistan; 870 inmates escape
By NOOR KHAN and JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writers
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - About 870 prisoners escaped during a Taliban bomb and rocket attack on the main prison in southern Afghanistan that knocked down the front gate and demolished a prison floor, Afghan officials said Saturday. And in western Afghanistan on Saturday, a roadside bomb exploded near a U.S. military vehicle, killing four Americans in the deadliest attack against U.S. troops in the country this year, officials said.

The bomb in the western province of Farah targeted Marines helping to train Afghanistan's fledgling police force, said U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. David Johnson. One other Marine was wounded in the attack.

Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Regiment based in Twentynine Palms, California, arrived in Afghanistan earlier this year and were sent to southern and western Afghanistan to train police.

The bombing comes one day after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told his counterparts in Europe that for the first time, the monthly total of American and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan exceeded the toll in Iraq during May.

The four deaths bring to at least 44 the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count. No more than two U.S. personnel had been killed in any one attack in Afghanistan this year, according to the AP tally.

In the prison escape, the police chief of Kandahar province, Sayed Agha Saqib, said 390 Taliban inmates were among those who fled the prison during the attack late Friday.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force put the number of escapees slightly higher, at around 1,100, according to spokesman Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco. He conceded that the assault was a success.

"We admit it," Branco said. "Their guys did the job properly in that sense, but it does not have a strategic impact. We should not draw any conclusion about the deterioration of the military operations in the area. We should not draw any conclusion about the strength of the Taliban."

The complex attack included a truck bombing at the main gate, a suicide bomber who struck a back wall and rockets fired from inside the prison courtyard, setting off a series of explosions that rattled Kandahar, the country's second biggest city.

The rockets demolished an upper prison floor, said Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai, a deputy minister at the Justice Ministry. Nine police were killed in the attack, said Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary.

There were no indications that the militants received help from the inside, but as a precaution the prison's chief official, Abdul Qabir, was placed under investigation for possible involvement, Hashimzai said.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said 30 insurgents on motorbikes and two suicide bombers attacked Sarposa Prison.

NATO was providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to help track fleeing militants, Branco said.

Afghan officials warned that the Taliban essentially boosted its force by 400 fighters because of the prison break, but Branco said NATO officials didn't think it would change the military situation.

"OK, they got some more fighters, more shooters," Branco said. "These guys who escaped from the prison are not going to change the operational tempo and they do not provide the Taliban with operational initiative."

A man who claimed to be one of the militants who escaped, Abdul Nafai, called an Associated Press reporter and said the insurgents had minibuses waiting outside the prison during the attack and that dozens of militants fled in the vehicles. Other witnesses and officials said the militants fled on foot into pomegranate and grape groves behind the prison.

Hashimzai said the jail did not meet international minimum standards for a prison. The Kandahar facility was not built as a prison but had been modified into one, he said.

A delegation of deputy ministers from the Justice and Interior ministries left for Kandahar early Saturday.

"Plans are under way to renovate all the prisons around the country," said Hashimzai. "Kandahar was one of them, but unfortunately what happened last night is cause for concern."

Kandahar was the Taliban's former stronghold and its province has been the scene of fierce fighting in the past two years between insurgents and NATO troops, primarily from Canada and the United States.

Qabir, the chief of Kandahar's Sarposa Prison, said the assault began when a tanker truck full of explosives detonated at the prison's main entrance, wrecking the gate and a police post, killing all the officers inside.

Soon after, a suicide bomber on foot blasted a hole in the back of the prison, Qabir said.

Ahmadi, the Taliban spokesman, said militants had been planning the assault for two months.

Canadian soldiers with NATO's International Security Assistance Force helped provide a security cordon after the attack.

Last month, some 200 Taliban suspects at the prison ended a weeklong hunger strike after a parliamentary delegation promised that their cases would be reviewed.
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Afghanistan: Many 'Important' Taliban Among Hundreds Of Prison Escapees
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 14, 2008
Hundreds of prisoners have escaped from a jail in southern Afghanistan, including many "important" Taliban militants, after their accomplices blasted open the prison gate in an overnight attack in Kandahar.

A state of emergency has been declared in the province, and police and troops are on the streets with all residents ordered to stay in their homes.

Kandahar Provincial Council head Ahmed Wali Karzai told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that 800-900 inmates of Sarposa prison are now on the run in the volatile province, which was a traditional Taliban stronghold.

"No one knows the number exactly, but there were around 390 Taliban prisoners in that prison and around 600 or 700 more [who] were criminal prisoners. Two hundred prisoners are still here in the prison -- the rest of them escaped," said Ahmed Wali Karzai, who is Afghan President Hamid Karzai's brother.

He said many of the escaped Taliban were high-ranking field commanders who "were organizing suicide attacks." He ran off a list of names that included Mullah Kayom, Mullah Gulbari, Mullah Kayom, Khaled Agha, and "some others who were extremely important."

"They were important because they were able to do most of the assassinations, the killings of government officials and suicide attacks and these types of activities," he said of the escapees.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, confirmed that its fighters were behind the commando-style attack, carried out by at least one suicide bomber and other militants using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

Afghan Deputy Justice Minister Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai said that "ISAF forces [and] government security department officials are now checking the roads around Kandahar" and inspecting vehicles "to see if they can capture inmates [trying] to leave the city."

At least 15 security guards were reported killed in the assault. Hashimzai said that around 10:00 p.m. "a suicide bomber, together with a truckload of ammunition and explosives," destroyed the prison gate before rockets were fired to demolish the top floor of one of the prison blocks to "open the way for the inmates to manage to escape."

"I was in my shop [when] suddenly I heard a huge bang and I was so afraid -- all the windows of my shop broke," shopkeeper Abdul Sattar said. "Some 20 minutes later, I came out of my shop and saw armed men and prisoners running toward the villages and orchards. When I came back in the morning, I saw that the prisoners had escaped and our shops were destroyed."

Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai, a deputy minister at the Afghan Justice Ministry, said that, as a precaution, the prison's chief official, Abdul Qabir, is under investigation for possible involvement.

Karzai suggested that the breakout is a major security breach that will be of great concern to the Afghan central government and security forces.

"People in Kandahar are used to this type of things, but it's a big blow to the security forces," Karzai said. "It was a huge success for the Taliban."

Kandahar Province is one of the key battlegrounds in the Taliban's insurgency against President Hamid Karzai as well as Afghan and foreign troops.

In May, hundreds of inmates at Kandahar jail ended a weeklong hunger strike after a parliamentary delegation promised to address their demands. They were demanding fair trials and complained of torture by prison authorities.

A group of Taliban prisoners briefly took control of a block in Pol-e Charkhi prison in Kabul in 2006 before it was recaptured by security personnel. Several inmates and security personnel were wounded in the armed encounter.

In 2005, four foreign Al-Qaeda members escaped from a high-security prison at Bagram airfield, Afghanistan's main U.S. military base, north of Kabul.

with additional Reuters reporting
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Kandahar memorial plates make Afghanistan war "personal": soldier
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - It happens in the stillness of night when no one is around. The granite plates just appear, seemingly out of nowhere.

There is no ceremony, no sounding of the bugle, no tears, no further eulogies; just silence.

Master Warrant Officer Albert Boucher likes it that way.

It is a quiet, respectful ritual.

As the camp sergeant-major at Kandahar Airfield, one of Boucher's duties is watch over the marble monument to Canadians who have died in Afghanistan.

Every time a soldier is killed, a black granite plate - laser etched with their photograph, their name, their rank, their unit and age - is created.

It is brought over from home and Boucher makes sure it is placed beside the others. "Usually I wait until after nightfall," said Boucher, 42, a reservist from Saskatoon, Sask.

"It's shipped over to me," he said.

"Sometimes, I'll have their friends and they put the plates in themselves, (but) I like the plates to just sort of appear there; the next day, it's there."

Before each plate is set, Boucher fusses over the details.

Is all of the information correct? He painstakingly researches to makes sure it is.

On this day there are 84 names on the monument, including diplomat Glyn Berry.

Two more plates, representing the latest casualties, have yet to arrive.

Set atop a square block of black slate are two marble pillars with a rock in between. The rock had been the original bearer of the plates until there became too many.

The monument is located behind the Canadian headquarters at Kandahar Airfield.

It is technically called a saluting memorial, which mandates a sign of respect from soldiers as they pass.

All of them do.

But its layout is beckons you to walk to view the plates.

Some just walk in and stare.

Others press a reassuring hand against the plate.

Some have even left flowers, the plastic kind that don't dry up in and blow away in the punishing desert sun.

"A lot of the guys who are out there don't get a lot of chance to say goodbye, so they come in at the end of their tour looking for their friends," Boucher said.

Unlike monuments to past wars in Canada or even on the battlefields of Europe, this marker is more than just names and ages carved into stone.

Here you can see their faces, a ghostly grey against the hard, black surface. You quickly get a clearer sense of what has been lost with the deaths of these husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, uncles and even a daughter and wife.

It humbles you to be met by their granite stare.

"The Canadian army is a small community and if you've been in for any length of time you'll know people, friends, acquaintances. And when you walk in here you see their faces again; it is much more personal," said Boucher.

He lapsed for a moment into a thoughtful silence.

"Most war memorials back home are for all wars, (but) this is our war."
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Sex trade thrives in Afghanistan
By ALISA TANG Associated Press June 14, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan - The girl was 11 when she was molested by a man with no legs.

The man paid her $5. And that was how she started selling sex.

Afghanistan is one of the world's most conservative countries, yet its sex trade appears to be thriving. Sex is sold most obviously at brothels full of women from China who serve both Afghans and foreigners. Far more controversial are Afghan prostitutes, who stay underground in a society that pretends they don't exist.

Customs meant to keep women "pure" have not stopped prostitution. Girls are expected to remain virgins until their wedding nights, so some prostitutes have only anal sex.

Police make two to three prostitution arrests each week, according to Zia ul-Haq, the chief investigator in the Interior Ministry's department of sexual crimes. They are often the casualties of nearly three decades of brutal war and a grinding poverty that forces most Afghans to live on less than $1 a day.

"Prostitution is in every country that has poverty, and it exists in Afghanistan," says women's rights activist Orzala Ashraf. "But society has black glasses and ignores these problems. Tradition is honor, and if we talk about these taboos, then we break tradition."

The girl is now 13, and her features have just sharpened into striking beauty. She speaks four languages — the local languages of Pashtu and Dari, the Urdu she picked up as a refugee in Pakistan and the English she learned in a $2.40-a-month course she pays for herself in Kabul. She is the breadwinner in her family of 10.

She does not know what a condom is. She has not heard of AIDS.

The Associated Press learned her story in a dozen meetings over four months, as well as interviews with police and aid workers. For months she insisted she was a "good girl" — a virgin. But in March, she confessed to having anal sex with men for years, starting with the legless beggar.

She looked down as she spoke, her face and hands sooty from car exhaust. She tucked her hair repeatedly under her head scarf.

The girl grew up in Pakistan, where her family fled during a bloody civil war in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. She cleaned cars for money.

Five years ago, her family and a flood of other refugees returned to Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime. But her father could earn only $40 a month doing various odd jobs.

So she sold chewing gum and newspapers and cleaned car windows in the muddy, potholed streets of Kabul. She made about $3 a day.

That was where she met Uncle Lang, a nickname that literally means Uncle Legless.

Uncle Lang was a land mine victim. When the girl and a friend brought him tea and food, he forced himself upon them, police say.

"I didn't know anything about sex," she says. "But it happened."

It's hard to know how many other women in Afghanistan are prostitutes because of the extreme secrecy around the issue. A University of Manitoba report last September estimated about 900 female sex workers in Kabul.

A 2005 report by the German aid group Ora International drew data from 122 female sex workers, of whom less than 1 percent knew about AIDS. The youngest was 14.

Prostitutes in Afghanistan include scores of Chinese women serving Western customers who work for security firms, companies and aid groups in Afghanistan. Many of the women say they were tricked into the trade by middlemen who promised them respectable jobs, but Gen. Ali Shah Paktiawal, head of Kabul's criminal investigations, denies this, saying: "They come here of their own will."

The shame of prostitution in Afghanistan is intense.

"In our culture, it is very, very bad," said Soraya Sobhrang, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commissioner for women's affairs.

Under the Afghan penal code, prostitution is often considered adultery, which is punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Under Islamic law, married prostitutes can be stoned to death.

Some prostitutes are forced into the sex trade by their families. The Ora report said 39 percent of the sex workers interviewed found clients through their relatives — including 17 percent through their mothers and 15 percent through their husbands.

For many girls, there is little recourse.

"They think that if they tell us the truth, we will return them to their families, and their families will kill them, or that we will send them to an institution and they will be put in prison," says Jamila Ghairat of the aid organization Women for Afghan Women. "The girls are afraid of their families, the government and everyone."

In some cases, it is families that pimp out the girls. At one family-run brothel, the oldest girl was a 15-year-old, orphaned when her parents died in rocket attacks in Kabul. A relative had married her off to a 9-year-old boy whose father was a pimp. She ran away three times, but each time her father-in-law bribed police to bring her back. She finally escaped to the human rights commission.

Makeshift brothels exist all over Kabul, but they are always moving, says Esmatullah Nekzad, a policeman formerly with the force's Department of Moral Crimes. The clients are mostly Afghan men.

"Most Afghan men have this hobby — young men from about 16 to 30 years of age," says Nekzad. "You go, you take their phone number, then you tell your friends. It's all by telephone."

The girls stay in one place for anything from five days to three months, until neighbors learn of their business.

That's what happened with the girl Uncle Lang raped. In November, he trafficked her and several others to the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to beg and sell sex. Within days the neighbors became suspicious and tipped off police.

Police raided the place and arrested the prostitutes. Uncle Lang fled.

For a few weeks, the girl went daily to a women's aid organization. She arrived in the morning, worked in the kitchen and had an hour of counseling every day. She left at 4 p.m.

Her hands became clean and soft. She was happier. She started praying to ask Allah forgiveness for her sins.

At first she said her family did not know she was selling sex, and her mother would kill her. But during the counseling sessions, she let it slip that her parents encouraged her to work with Uncle Lang. When she stopped seeing him, they sent her 10-year-old brother instead.

One day, an aid worker spotted her with Uncle Lang on a popular street lined with kebab and ice cream shops.

The aid worker confronted her. A day later, the girl stopped going to the organization.

She has not been seen or heard from since.
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Lieutenant Colonel shot by Taliban is most senior Afghanistan casualty
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By John Bingham  13/06/2008
A battalion commander has been shot in the leg during an operation in Afghanistan, becoming the most senior British officer injured in action in the country.

Lieutenant Colonel David Richmond, Commanding Officer of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, was leading an operation near Musa Qaleh in Helmand Province on Thursday when he was hit by a Taliban bullet.

It is understood that the 41-year-old was caught "out in the open" during an engagement with enemy forces. He was airlfted straight to a field hospital.

The Ministry of Defence refused to comment on how serious his injury is.

But despite receiving treatment in Afghanistan, he is due to be flown back to Britain for further medical attention at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham.

He is the most senior army officer to be counted among casaulty lists in Afghanistan.

Two years ago Wing Commander John Coxen of the RAF - whose rank was equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel in the Army - was among five service personnel killed when a Lynx helicopter crashed in Iraq.

The most senior British officer to have died during the current war in Afghanistan was Major Alexis Roberts, of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles, who was killed by a roadside bomb in October last year.

Maj Adam Fairrie of 5 Scots said: "The Commanding Officer has received the very best medical care following him sustaining a gunshot wound to the leg.

"He will be returning to Selly Oak in due course.

"His thoughts are very much with the families of the members of the Parachute Regiment who died in other incidents this week, and also with his Battalion who, along with all the coalition, are continuing to make progress in Afghanistan."
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Britain sends 200 extra troops to Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By James Kirkup 14/06/2008
More British troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, the Government will announce next week.
The Daily Telegraph has learned that reinforcements are being deployed as British forces face fierce resistance from the Taliban and doubts grow about the West's strategy in Afghanistan.

Five men from the Parachute Regiment have been killed in Afghanistan this week, taking the British death toll in the country to 102.

Britain has 7,800 troops in Afghanistan and Des Browne, the defence secretary, will tell MPs on Monday that at least 200 more are being deployed.

The increase will take British numbers in Afghanistan above 8,000 for the first time.

The reinforcement may add to fears that Britain is being sucked into an unwinnable fight in southern Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, the Daily Telegraph revealed that British diplomats have warned Gordon Brown in confidential briefing documents that the Afghan drug trade and the corruption of the country's government will prolong the insurgency against UK forces.

Ministers reject suggestions that the British mission lacks a clear strategy, and many British troops in Afghanistan are frustrated that their tactical victories over the Taliban are not fully appreciated in the UK.

Mr Browne is expected to tell MPs on Monday that progress is being made in Afghanistan, with

But he is unlikely to be able to give any indication about when British numbers in the country will start to decline, and there are signs that the mission could last for many years to come.

Last month, Britain agreed to take on full command of NATO troops in southern Afghanistan for a 12 month period starting next November.

Previously, command of the region rotated between NATO members every nine months.

The 200-man reinforcement to be announced next week is smaller than that first recommended by an MoD review of British force levels in Afghanistan.

At a cabinet sub-committee meeting in March, ministers had agreed to send as many as 450 extra troops.

Patrick Mercer, a Conservative MP and former Army commander, said that ministers are only starting to realise the scale of the military challenge in Afghanistan.

He said: "I think you have got to take a gentle glance at British history and Soviet history with the Afghans to know that when they start fighting, they fight.

"I think there has been a corporate intake of breath at the Ministry of Defence which has been used, since the Korean War, to relatively bloodless fights.

"Now we are going back to the battles our fathers and grandfathers experienced."
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ISAF soldier killed, supply helicopter damaged in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-14 04:44:16
KABUL, June 13 (Xinhua) -- One soldier of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was killed in southern Afghanistan while a contracted supply helicopter of the ISAF was damaged in the east Friday, the ISAF said.

The ISAF soldier was killed Friday as a result of a direct fire engagement with insurgents in Qalat district of Zabul province, the NATO-led military said in a statement, without releasing the casualty's nationality.

The supply helicopter contracted by the ISAF was damaged while conducting an emergency landing due to mechanical problems in the eastern province of Kunar, the ISAF said in a separate statement. No one was injured during the emergency landing, it said.

On June 9, a contracted supply aircraft of the ISAF was damaged by insurgent fire in Nuristan province of eastern Afghanistan, which caused no casualties to the force or aircraft crew.     
Editor: Mu Xuequan 
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Record Kandahar drug bust comes as rude awakening in hashish heaven
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A record-sized drug bust this week came as a rude awakening in a place historically considered a hashish haven.

The 236-tonne, $400-million haul of the illegal cannabis resin came in a province where hashish is discreetly sold at the corner store. Even window-front shops that look like mom-and-pop operations keep a hash stash tucked away in envelopes behind the milk, tea and cooking oil.

The drug is so ubiquitous in Kandahar province that farmers nonchalantly take journalists on tours of their cannabis fields.

They see this illicit cash crop as slightly less lucrative than the opium poppy but comparatively safe from government seizure.

And the police? The farmers and the drug-dealers describe uniformed officers as their valued customers.

Mohammed Karim takes a reporter on a tour of his ancient-looking mud house, which he leaves every morning at 7 a.m. with a thermos full of tea for the trek down the dirt road to his cannabis plantation.

He pauses only for a midday nap while working from dawn till dusk to tend to his two-metre-high plants in the countryside near Kandahar City.

He says he recently made $900 in six months.

"I can feed my nine children and wife with this amount very well," Karim said in an interview.

"I know that hashish is dangerous for human beings. But it is gold for the farmers and owners. Do I have any other option?"

The government is encouraging poor rural farmers to find other options. In fact, Canada's signature construction project of a refurbished dam is designed to help build a pomegranate industry in the area.

But farmer Abdul Ahad says hash means cash, earning him more than double the amount he could get by planting wheat or vegetables.

In an interview before this week's record-sized bust near the Pakistani border, he was raving about how safe it was for farmers to grow the drug.

"It saves me from begging and feeds my family very well," Ahad said.

"The Afghan government banned the poppy. And it doesn't bother us while cultivating hashish."

"Even many police munch on it."

While it's true that there is international concern about illicit drug use within the fledgling Afghan National Police, Ahad omits a significant detail: hashish is just as illegal in Afghanistan as the opium-producing poppy.

However, it might have been hard to tell until the recent haul.

Government security forces largely ignored cannabis while declaring all-out war on the poppy, which is exponentially more hazardous to human health and far more lucrative to its insurgent enemies.

Poppy fields continue to proliferate in Afghanistan and the drug crop continues to serve as a virtual ATM machine for the pro-Taliban insurgency to pay for things like weapons and fighters' salaries.

Cannabis cultivation has, in the meantime, witnessed a dramatic rise.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says cannabis production has been increasing 66 per cent annually - from 30,000 hectares in 2005 to 70,000 in 2007. Over roughly the same time frame, seizures plummeted 75 per cent - from 81,000 kilos in 2003 to only 22,000 in 2007.

The spike in hash production apparently presented an increased security concern.

When Afghan police found and destroyed a stockpile of hash this week equivalent in weight to 30 of London's double-decker buses, NATO cast the operation in military terms.

They said the drugs, which Afghan police found in trenches, would have netted the insurgency some $14 million.

"With this single find, (Afghan police) have seriously crippled the Taliban's ability to purchase weapons that threaten the safety and security of the Afghan," said NATO Gen. David McKiernan.

While Afghanistan is almost synonymous with the global heroin trade, large amounts of hashish from the country have also been seized abroad.

The gooey, smokable cannabis resin has had a place of prominence in regional lore long before hippies converged on Kabul in the 1960s to smoke its famous hash.

Many believe the word "assassin" dates back over 1,000 years from the term "Hashashin."

It was the name given in the Middle Ages to a religious sect believed by their religious rivals in neighbouring Persia and the Arab world to munch on the drug before conducting targeted killings.

Even under the austere reign of the Taliban, the zero-tolerance policy toward the poppy apparently slackened somewhat when it came to hashish.

Kandaharis say it has been a common sight to see people getting high - or "nasha" in the Pashtun language - by smoking the drug they commonly refer to as "chars."

The practice is more concealed in Kandahar City, but in rural areas the men routinely get together for an intoxicating smoke on the front steps of the house.

Shopkeeper Abdul Mateen readily admits that his Kandahar store not only sells staple goods like tea and milk. He also supplies hash from envelopes stored behind the counter.

Here, it costs about one-50th of the going rate in Canada.

"Lots of people come and buy from my shop," he said. "Even police come and buy it here."

The government says there should be no doubt about its stance on cannabis.

"As the poppy is banned here, so is hashish," said provincial counter-narcotics director Gul Muhammad.

"But so many people are cultivating it."

Authorities here employ the same argument used in Canada by opponents of marijuana decriminalization: that it is a gateway to harder drugs. Pot proponents counter that if curious kids are to experiment with a drug, cannabis provides a buffer between them and the more dangerous ones.

Abdul Ahad is addicted to both opium and hashish. Until recently, he smoked an average of 15 joints a day.

Frail and shaking, Ahad urges young people to avoid all drugs. The 35-year-old with the dead-eyed stare is among a dozen people recovering at Kandahar's Waddan rehabilitation centre.

"In the beginning I started smoking hashish and it took me to the poppy extremely easily," he says. He hopes Canadians provide funding for the centre, which is in danger of closing.

"I really feel a difference since being admitted here. I feel healthier and better than before."
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Afghanistan's hidden treasures, hidden no more
Ancient artifacts secretly kept in a bank vault in the war-torn country, safe from marauding militia, looters and the Taliban, are now on a museum tour for all the world to see.
Los Angeles Times, CA By Stanley Meisler Special to The Times June 15, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C.
IN AN act that provoked worldwide outrage, the fundamentalist Taliban rulers of Afghanistan in March 2001 destroyed the monumental statues of Buddha that had been carved into the rock cliffs of Bamiyan 1,600 years ago. The shocking destruction was not an isolated event.

As part of the same campaign, the Taliban sent hordes of militants into the Kabul Museum to smash every statue, no matter how small, that depicted a human figure or any other creature. With its strict interpretation of Islam, the Taliban believed that the artistic representation of a living thing was idolatry and therefore blasphemous.

The marauding raid seemed to signal the last gasp of the museum. "You have to remember," says Fredrik Hiebert, an archaeologist with the National Geographic Society, "that the museum was devastated in three ways. First, it was struck by missiles after a militia made the museum its headquarters in the civil wars [that followed the 1989 Soviet withdrawal from the country]. Then it was looted; trucks could be seen carting objects away. And then came the Taliban."

But the museum did not die. Unknown to outsiders, museum director Omara Khan Massoudi and his assistants had packed the finest treasures of the museum during the 1980s and placed them in the vaults of the Central Bank in the presidential palace. "What kept them safe," says Hiebert, "was the code of silence."

A generous sampling of these finds is now on display at the National Gallery of Art in an exhibition called "Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures From the National Museum, Kabul." Organized by the National Gallery and the National Geographic Society, with Hiebert as the curator, the show closes in Washington on Sept. 7 and goes on to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco in October, then the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A similar exhibition, organized by the Musée Guimet in Paris, traveled from Paris to Turin, Italy, to Amsterdam during the last year and a half.

The exhibition in Washington displays works from four archaeological sites. Taken together, the objects reflect the rich history of antique Afghanistan, especially its role as a vital crossroads for armies and caravans from both Europe and Asia. Northern Afghanistan, known as Bactria, was at the center of the Great Silk Road, the trading route that linked the Mediterranean and China from 300 BC onward.

'Golden hoard of Bactria'
THE MOST spectacular rooms are devoted to the gold objects discovered at the site of Tillya Tepe in north-central Afghanistan, not far from the border with Turkmenistan. In 1978, a Soviet-Afghan team led by Russian archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi uncovered a series of tombs for a nomadic chief and five women and found that all had been buried with many gold decorative pieces attached to their clothes or placed alongside their bodies. The tombs date from the 1st century BC or the 1st century AD, when nomadic Kushan tribes from the north dominated Bactria.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan closed down the excavations a year later. Sarianidi and his team took their finds, known as "the golden hoard of Bactria," to the museum, where they were stored and later hidden without ever being put on exhibition in Kabul.

The rooms devoted to the hoard offer a glittering display of gold pieces in myriad shapes and forms. One of the most unusual is a crown worn by one of the women, probably a princess. Befitting nomadic life, the crown is collapsible, made up of six separate tree-like pieces that fit into a band. The tomb of another woman contained a pair of intricate pendants that reflect the varied cultural influences on northern Afghanistan. The main figure in the design is what archaeologists call a "dragon master" who is holding two mythical creatures at bay. The man is dressed like a local nomad but sports an Indian spot on his forehead and an Iranian crown.

There are a surprising number of pieces of Greek art in another section of the show. Bactria became part of the Greek empire when Alexander the Great conquered the Persian empire in the 4th century BC. The city of Aï Khanum, founded by Greek colonists in 300 BC on what is now the border with Tajikistan, became the easternmost outpost of Greek culture in the world. The Greeks were driven out by the invading nomads 150 years later.

Aï Khanum lay buried until 1961, when the king of Afghanistan, on a hunting trip, was shown a Corinthian capital by some villagers. He notified French archaeologists working in Afghanistan, and they excavated the city during the next two decades.

The Aï Khanum section of the show includes some typical Greek work such as a Corinthian capital, the bust of an old school official placed on a pillar in the gymnasium and a gargoyle water spout in the form of a delightful theatrical mask. There are also pieces that reflect an amalgam of both Greek and Asian cultures. A gilded silver plate, for example, depicts the Greek goddesses Cybele and Nike escorted by Asian priests toward an altar usually found in Syria and Iran. Archaeologists also uncovered a carved fertility doll at Aï Khanum that resembles an African sculpture. Nothing like it has ever been found elsewhere in the Greek world.

From the Great Silk Road
AFGHANISTAN'S role as a trading post on the Great Silk Road is demonstrated in a third section of the exhibition that displays some of the pieces found in two storerooms excavated by French archaeologists near the city of Begram just north of Kabul in the 1930s and '40s.

Many archaeologists now believe that the storerooms belonged to rich merchants in the 1st or 2nd century whose wares included pieces from all reaches of the Silk Road. Some pieces may also have been crafted in local workshops using models from the east and west.

One of the most striking pieces is an ivory carving, probably from India, of a woman riding a leogryph -- a mythical beast with the body of a lion, wings of an eagle and beak of a parrot. The rider and beast are leaping out of the mouth of a makara -- a different mythical creature that is part elephant, part crocodile and part fish. This carving was used as a bracket for the arm of a wooden chair that disintegrated during the last two millenniums.

The fourth archaeological site featured in the exhibition is Tepe Fullol, the remains of an urbanized Bronze Age civilization in northeastern Afghanistan. Farmers came upon the site in 1966 and found several decorated golden bowls. To share the wealth of this gold, the farmers broke the 4,000-year-old bowls into fragments.

The fragments are on display in the show. Little is known about the people who produced the bowls. Archaeologists have seen no evidence of a written language. But the fragments offer persuasive evidence that northern Afghanistan was a crossroads even then, embracing outside influences. The bowls were made locally from local gold, but the designs on the bowls, especially the depiction of bearded bulls, were inspired by designs popular in Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq.

When the exhibition tour ends in New York at the close of September 2009, the pieces will have traveled outside Afghanistan for almost three years. By then, according to present plans, the museum in Kabul will be restored and its staff fully trained in conservation, inventory and other museum skills. The treasures would then go on permanent display in Afghanistan.
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Turkey increases financial assistance to Afghanistan
Hürriyet, Turkey - Jun 13, 2008
The amount of financial assistance Turkey extends to Afghanistan has risen from $100 million to $200 million, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said on Thursday.

The Turkish government decided to increase this amount to $200 million over the next three years for Afghanistan's economic development and construction, Babacan said, referring to Turkey's 2006 pledge to give $100 million of assistance to Afghanistan for five years, the Anatolian Agency reported.

Turkey also gave an additional $5 million in financial assistance to support democratization efforts in Afghanistan, he said at the "International Conference in Support of Afghanistan" hosted by France in Paris.

Babacan said Afghanistan, which assumed an important role in transportation, energy and trade, would take its traditional place in the region as long as the financial assistance continued.

He also said Turkey welcomed Afghanistan's national development strategy and vision of Afghanistan's administration.

The Turkish foreign minister said expectations of the international community about Afghanistan should be reasonable, and they should respect the experience, sensitivities and traditions of this country. 

20 BILLION DOLLARS    
World donors pledged $20 billion to rebuild Afghanistan on Thursday, and also called on President Hamid Karzai to do more to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law, the AFP reported.

Karzai asked donors to finance part of a 50-billion-dollar development plan over the next five years to counter widespread poverty and a Taliban insurgency.

The lions share of funds came from the United States, which offered $10.2 billion over the next two years, while substantial pledges also came from Britain, which announced $1.2 billion over five years, Germany, which put up more than $600 million over three years, and Japan, with $550 million.

But donors also expressed concern over whether the funds would reach those who really need it.

Heading into a presidential election next year, Karzai is under pressure over his apparent inability to deal with corruption and opium production, seen as prolonging the Taliban insurgency.

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

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

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

Of the $25 billion previously promised by the international community, only $15 billion have reached Afghanistan, according to aid groups.
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Afghan prison stories win prize
Globe, La Presse share 2007 Michener Award; Star cited for series on medical secrets
Toronto Star,  Canada - Jun 14, 2008 04:30 AM Joanna Smith Ottawa Bureau
OTTAWA – The Globe and Mail and La Presse last night shared the 2007 Michener Award, Canada's top prize for public service journalism, for their reporting on the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan.

A Toronto Star series called Medical Secrets that detailed errors made by medical professionals in Ontario hospitals won a Citation of Merit in the annual awards announced last night.

The Star's Tanya Talaga and Rob Cribb were the reporters on the series, which began in October 2006 and included nearly a dozen stories.

Following the series, the province announced reforms to boost public access to information on adverse events in the medical system.

"What we've seen in Ontario these last few months has been the most dramatic evolution of patient rights ever," Cribb said in his speech last night.

"At a time when this kind of work is facing a challenge, this is a reminder of the importance of public service journalism," Cribb said.

Governor General Michaëlle Jean hosted the Michener Foundation Awards gala at Rideau Hall.

"I'm so very proud of all our journalists who make a difference in society," Toronto Star editor-in-chief Fred Kuntz said after the ceremony. "Our journalists are driven by their own personal beliefs in humanity and 'Medical Secrets' was a good example of making a great difference."

The Globe was cited for stories in March and April of 2007 that documented the abuse of prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities by Canadian Forces.

Last fall, La Presse revisited the issue and revealed that detainees were still being mistreated.

The late governor general Roland Michener founded the awards in 1970 to encourage and promote excellence in journalism that makes a difference in the world.

Other finalists, and winners of Citations of Merit, included: The Globe and Mail and CBC for stories on the Karlheinz Schreiber affair; Le Devoir for stories on a financial crisis at a Montreal university; The London Free Press for stories on lead levels in drinking water; and The Vancouver Province for stories on the threat of flooding along the Fraser River.

Denise Davy of the Hamilton Spectator was awarded the 2008 Michener-Deacon Fellowship.

Davy will use the fellowship to investigate and report on the crisis in treating children with mental health disorders.
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Corruption in Afghanistan a serious problem: Boucher
Lalit K Jha - Jun 11, 2008 - 17:44
NEW YORK (PAN): A top Bush administration official has charged corruption continues to be a major problem in Afghanistan and the present government has to do a lot to tackle the issue. But at the same time, he made clear President Karzai enjoyed Washington's confidence.

"Corruption is a very serious problem in Afghanistan," Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington on Tuesday. "It's (corruption) something that needs to be dealt with. The Afghan government knows they need to deal with it."

He acknowledged a number of steps towards improving governance, government audit capabilities, appointments and integrity in finance management had already been taken. "We'll look to see what the Afghans are able to say on that when they get to Paris, frankly. That'll be an important point for us all."

Boucher, who has spoken several times on graft in he war-hit country, observed: "It's been an endemic problem in Afghanistan. It's something that we all know needs to be dealt with."  The Afghans had sometimes tried different methods of dealing with it in the past but they did not work, he recalled.

"We all think that renewed effort is necessary and that concrete steps are necessary. Some of these governance and fiscal steps are important, but they need to be backed also by other steps to really get at the heart of the corruption matter," Boucher continued.

When asked about the ability of the Afghan leader to deal with the situation, his leadership capabilities and popularity, Boucher replied: "President Karzai is the elected president of Afghanistan. He's a man we work with. He's a man we're happy to work with. We work with him and we work with the parliament, ministers and others."

Strategic interest: Boucher said the United States had a fundamental strategic interest in stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He vowed Washington would work towards achieving the goal.

"One is to protect the homeland and the others from the possibility that terrorism could come out of this region again. Two is just on fundamental stability in a region that's critical to us between the Middle East and East Asia," he said.

"Three is probably the opportunity that's  -- historic opportunity, really, a change of the last 200 years of history, of having an open Afghanistan that can act as a conduit and a hub for energy, ideas, people, trade, goods from Central Asia and other places, down to the Arabian Sea," he remarked.

Boucher said the United States would be involved in the region for a long time. This could be with a changed role, though, he explained. "I think, though, if you talk about the next five years, we need to see that we're involved in different ways. And that's part of it. As the Afghan forces increasingly take the lead, the US forces and international forces should increasingly go to supporting roles and then, you know, support and maintenance roles."
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