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June 15, 2008 

Karzai threatens to send forces into Pakistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened Sunday to send Afghan troops after notorious Taliban leaders inside Pakistan in an angry warning to his eastern neighbor that he will no longer tolerate cross-border attacks.

Afghanistan says attacks into Pakistan justified
by Sardar Ahmad June 15, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday threatened to attack Taliban insurgents on Pakistani soil, saying his war-torn country had a right to do so out of "self-defence".

At least 15 killed in Afghanistan during hunt for militants
Sun Jun 15, 4:55 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - More than 15 insurgents were killed in Afghanistan as security forces hunted for hundreds of militants who escaped from prison after a daring Taliban attack, police and troops said Sunday.

Taliban strikes spectacular blow
Hundreds of insurgents remain on the loose as Canadian troops help pick up the pieces after bold-as-brass jailbreak
Rosie DiManno The Toronto Star (Canada) June 15, 2008
Score one, a great big one, for the Taliban.

A Sober Assessment of Afghanistan
Outgoing U.S. Commander Cites 50 Percent Spike in Attacks
Washington Post, United States By Ann Scott Tyson Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, June 15, 2008
The outgoing top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Friday that attacks increased 50 percent in April in the country's eastern region, where U.S. troops primarily operate, as a spreading Taliban insurgency across

Massive Afghan jailbreak ‘a small splash in the pond,’ says Hillier
National Post - Doug Schmidt Canwest News Service  Saturday, June 14, 2008
KANDAHAR CITY- Canada's top soldier downplayed a spectacular, commando-style prison break in Afghanistan on Saturday, where hundreds of captured Taliban insurgents were set free.

Khalilzad: 'I am not the next president'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008
Afghan-born US ambassador to the UN denies newspaper rumours
AMERICA’S ambassador to the United Nations, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, has denied rumours that he will run for Afghan president in next year’s elections.

How Taliban sprang 450 terrorists from Kandahar's Sarposa prison in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By Tom Coghlan in southern Afghanistan and Colin Freeman  15/06/2008
With the latest outrage, the insurgency has shown that its ability to stage 'spectaculars' is undiminished by setbacks in the field Overlooking the dusty road into one of Afghanistan's most lawless cities, the newly-painted guard towers

Basement builder unearths mass grave
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008
Human remains found beneath a residential home in the north
A MASS grave has been uncovered beneath a residential home in the north of Afghanistan.

Action urged on Afghan-Pakistan border
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia June 15, 2008
The international community needs to encourage Pakistan to take stronger action to tackle the insurgency on its border with Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says.

Police open fire on anti-NATO protest
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008
Gunfire wounds more than a dozen protestors, doctor says
POLICE have opened fire on anti-NATO demonstrations in the south-east, wounding more than a dozen protestors, eye-witnesses have said.

Rabid dogs infect 21 people in Kabul
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008
Police shoot dead two dogs for carrying the deadly rabies disease
RABID dogs have injured at least 20 people in the Qarabagh district of Kabul in the last two days, according to the district’s governor.

Paras seize Taliban bomb-maker in daring Afghanistan raid
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By Thomas Harding on the front line in Zabul Province  14/06/2008
Paras seized a suspected Taliban bomb-maker yesterday in a daring raid on a mosque in Afghanistan. A small group of a dozen paratroopers and a Pashtun interpreter, accompanied by The Daily Telegraph, embarked on the mission after learning

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Karzai threatens to send forces into Pakistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened Sunday to send Afghan troops after notorious Taliban leaders inside Pakistan in an angry warning to his eastern neighbor that he will no longer tolerate cross-border attacks.

The threat — the first time Karzai has said he would send forces into Pakistan — comes only days after a sophisticated Taliban assault on Kandahar's prison freed 870 prisoners, and six weeks after Karzai survived his fourth assassination attempt.

Karzai has long pleaded with Pakistan and the international community to confront tribal area safe havens, and U.S. officials have increased their warnings in recent weeks that the sanctuaries in Pakistan must be dealt with.

Last week, U.S. aircraft dropped bombs along the Afghan-Pakistan border, an incident the Pakistan army said killed 11 of its paramilitary forces. The exchange ratcheted up increasingly touchy relations among the U.S., Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Analysts said they doubt military action by Afghanistan is imminent, but Pakistan's prime minister said the threat "will not be taken well." A Taliban spokesman warned that the Afghan army would be defeated by thousands of armed tribesman.

Speaking on the grounds of his fortified presidential palace, Karzai told a news conference that Afghanistan has the right to self defense, and because militants cross over from Pakistan "to come and kill Afghan and kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to do the same."

Then, Karzai warned Pakistan-based Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud that Afghan forces would target him on his home turf. Mehsud has been accused in last year's assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

"Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house," Karzai said.

"And the other fellow, (Taliban leader) Mullah Omar of Pakistan, should know the same," Karzai continued. "This is a two-way road in this case, and Afghans are good at the two-way road journey. We will complete the journey and we will get them and we will defeat them. We will avenge all that they have done to Afghanistan for the past so many years."

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said his country is a sovereign state that wants good relations with its neighbors. But he said the Afghan-Pakistan border is too long to prevent people from crossing, "even if Pakistan puts its entire army along the border."

"Neither do we interfere in anyone else's matters, nor will we allow anyone to interfere in our territorial limits and our affairs," Gilani told The Associated Press. "We want a stable Afghanistan. It is in our interest. How can we go to destabilize our brotherly country? Such kind of statements will not be taken well by the people of both countries."

A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force said he would not comment. But another ISAF official said he thought Karzai's comments should be seen as a reflection of frustration with militant safe havens but not as a sign an attack is imminent. He asked not to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak on the topic publicly.

The U.S. has spent more than $3 billion the last two years training and equipping the army, and Karzai's comments raise the specter a U.S.-trained Afghan military could be used to attack Pakistan. The ISAF official dismissed that idea.

Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani general and security analyst, said Karzai's statements were "an extension of the pressure that is being mounted by the U.S."

"This obviously means that they (the U.S.) are pushing Pakistan to take military action instead of negotiating. There is pressure on Karzai as well, and Karzai is transferring his pressure on us (Pakistan). The pressure on Karzai is more for corruption, more for governance."

As to whether Karzai would really make good on the warning, Masood said, "I wouldn't say it's too serious, but it cannot be ignored."

A spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Pakistan's Taliban movement, warned of an escalation in Taliban attacks against NATO and Afghan forces if Karzai sends forces across the border.

Spokesman Maulvi Umar also said the Afghan army would face defeat at the hands of thousands of tribal fighters. Umar said Karzai is becoming "nervous" due to an increase of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have increased their warnings in recent weeks that the Afghan conflict will drag on for years unless militant safe havens in Pakistan are taken out. Military officials say counterinsurgency campaigns are extremely difficult to win when militants have safe territory where they can train, recruit and stockpile supplies.

Karzai said in recent fighting in the Garmser district of Helmand province — where hundreds of U.S. Marines have been battling insurgents the last two months — that most of the fighters came from Pakistan.

Karzai called Pakistan a "brother government" and "friend," but also urged it to "act against those elements that are making Pakistan and Afghanistan insecure." He said it was better for Afghan troops to be killed during offensive operations into Pakistan than in militant attacks in Afghanistan.

His comments come as Pakistan is seeking peace deals with militants in its borders, including with Mehsud.

The deals have come under criticism from U.S. officials, who warn they will simply give militants time to regroup and intensify attacks inside Afghanistan. But Pakistan insists it's not negotiating with "terrorists," but rather with militants willing to lay down their arms.

Pakistan's government also insists it will not allow its territory to be used for attacks on Afghanistan, however it is unclear whether that is spelled out in the peace deals currently under negotiation.

Mehsud, who is based mainly in the South Waziristan tribal area, has said he would continue to send fighters to battle U.S. forces in Afghanistan even as he seeks peace with Pakistan.

U.S. and NATO commanders say that following the peace agreements this spring, attacks have risen in the eastern area of Afghanistan along the border.

Meanwhile, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces killed more than 15 insurgents during a hunt for inmates who fled the Kandahar prison after the attack Friday. The U.S. said it couldn't immediately confirm that any of the 15 killed were escaped prisoners.

The provincial police chief of Kandahar, Sayed Agha Saqib, has said 870 prisoners — including some 400 Taliban militants — escaped from the prison. Saqib said Sunday that Afghan forces have recaptured 20 prisoners, including seven former Taliban inmates.
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Associated Press writers Zarar Khan, Habibullah Khan and Nahal Toosi contributed to this report from Pakistan.
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Afghanistan says attacks into Pakistan justified
by Sardar Ahmad June 15, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday threatened to attack Taliban insurgents on Pakistani soil, saying his war-torn country had a right to do so out of "self-defence".

The warning came just days after US-led forces carried out an air strike in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Washington says it was targeting militants, but Pakistan says 11 of its soldiers were killed.

It also came two days after more than 1,100 prisoners including hundreds of militants escaped from a jail in restive southern Kandahar -- the birthplace of the Taliban movement -- in a daring attack staged by the insurgents.

"Afghanistan has the right to destroy terrorist nests on the other side of the border in self-defence," Karzai told a news conference in Kabul.

"When they cross the border from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and coalition troops, it gives us exactly the right to go back and do the same," he added, in his toughest comments yet on stamping out militancy along the border.

The stark warning earned a swift response from Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who said that his country would not tolerate any violations of its territorial sovereignty.

"We will neither interfere in the internal affairs of any country, nor will we allow anyone to interfere in our affairs," Gilani told private ARY-OneWorld television.

"Such statements will not help in the normalisation of friendly relations between the two countries and will hurt the sentiments of people on both sides of the border," Gilani said, however adding he wanted "friendly" ties with Kabul.

Afghanistan and Pakistan, both key US allies in the "war on terror", have bickered for years about the extremist violence growing in both countries, with each accusing the other of not doing enough to fight it.

Karzai has repeatedly accused the Pakistani government of failing to prevent insurgents active in the tribal zone from slipping into Afghanistan.

The Afghan leader sent a specific warning to Pakistani Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud, whom Islamabad believes was responsible for the December assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

"Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house," said Karzai.

Mehsud has vowed to continue "jihad" (holy war) in Afghanistan while pursuing peace negotiations with the new government in Islamabad -- an initiative that has sparking growing unease in Washington and Kabul.

In talks with Karzai earlier this month in Kabul, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi insisted that Islamabad was not negotiating with "terrorists" but rather "peace-loving" elements that want regional stability.

Pakistan has already signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants led by Maulana Fazlullah in the Swat Valley, about 99 kilometres (55 miles) from Afghanistan.

That has seen soldiers leave the area and the rebels implementing Islamic Sharia law.

"Fazlullah and Mehsud or any one behind them must know this, that today's Afghanistan is not the voiceless Afghanistan of yesterday. Today it has both the voice, the tools and courage for action," Karzai said.

"We'll defeat them and we'll avenge all that they've done in Afghanistan for the past so many years," he said.

Karzai said that Mehsud and other Pakistani militant leaders had been trained by Islamabad's intelligence agents to fight against Pakistani Pashtuns and the Afghan people.

"It is the duty of Afghanistan to relieve the Pakistani Pashtuns from this tyranny," said Karzai, himself a Pashtun, voicing support for the first time for Pakistani Pashtuns since taking office in 2001.

Despite the presence of about 70,000 international troops mainly operating under NATO, the insurgency aimed at toppling the US-backed government in Kabul has gained pace in the past two years.

US-led forces in Afghanistan have come under criticism in Islamabad for carrying out cross-border strikes like the one last week which the coalition said was targeting rebels who had sought refuge across the border in Pakistan.

Islamabad says its soldiers were killed in a "cowardly" attack, one which has strained ties between the allies. Washington has expressed regret over the loss of Pakistani life, but has not admitted responsibility for the 11 deaths.

Karzai's government suffered a blow on Friday when Taliban militants blasted open the prison in Kandahar city, freeing more than 1,100 prisoners including hundreds of insurgents, according to NATO-led forces.

At least 27 insurgents were killed as Afghan and international troops hunted for the escapees, police and troops said Sunday, but it was not immediately clear if they were escaped prisoners.

So far, 20 escapees have been recaptured, police say.

The prison raid came one day after world donors pledged 20 billion dollars to rebuild Afghanistan at a conference in Paris -- but also called on Karzai to strengthen the rule of law.
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At least 15 killed in Afghanistan during hunt for militants
Sun Jun 15, 4:55 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - More than 15 insurgents were killed in Afghanistan as security forces hunted for hundreds of militants who escaped from prison after a daring Taliban attack, police and troops said Sunday.

Afghan and international troops have been searching for more than 1,100 escapees who fled after the militant group blasted open the prison in the southern city of Kandahar and then shot the guards late on Friday.

The prison raid was a blow to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, coming one day after world donors pledged 20 billion dollars to rebuild Afghanistan at a conference in Paris -- but also called on him to strengthen the rule of law.

More than 15 militants were killed at a farm compound in restive Kandahar province during the search for the escapees, the US-led coalition said in a statement.

Five people were also captured at the compound but it was not immediately known if they or the dead insurgents were also escaped prisoners.

"A large cache of munitions and IED components were discovered during the search," the statement said.

"The combined forces used precision air strikes to destroy the compound after insurgents attacked with small-arms fire."

Kandahar province police chief Sayed Agha Saqib said meanwhile that 14 people who broke out of the prison had been recaptured. Six others were taken back into custody on Saturday.

The Taliban said 400 of its own fighters had escaped in the spectacular attack, which they said had been planned over two months.

Afghan authorities put the number of prisoners who fled at 886, more than 380 of whom were Taliban.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force, which is separate from the US-led coalition, said more than 1,100 prisoners had escaped.

Afghan deputy justice minister Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai said the attack was the most sophisticated yet by the militants, who were removed from government in late 2001 in a US-led invasion.

A Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, told AFP the rebels had used suicide bombs and detonated a bomb-laden water tanker in the attack.

"First we exploded two suicide attacks and then our mujahedeen (holy warriors) riding motorcycles entered the prison and killed the remaining security guards.

"We successfully freed all prisoners, including our jailed Taliban and other prisoners," he said in a telephone call from an unknown location.

Amir Mohammad Jamshid, the head of prisons at the ministry of justice, said some "important Taliban" were among those who escaped.

Despite the presence of about 70,000 international troops mainly operating under NATO, the insurgency aimed at toppling the US-backed government in Kabul has gained pace in the past two years.
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Taliban strikes spectacular blow
Hundreds of insurgents remain on the loose as Canadian troops help pick up the pieces after bold-as-brass jailbreak
Rosie DiManno The Toronto Star (Canada) June 15, 2008
Score one, a great big one, for the Taliban.

Increasingly sophisticated, they've proven they can fight a war of insurgency on many fronts, simultaneously.

Ambush, shoot-and-scoot, roadside detonations, suicide bombings, firefights – they're all in the playbook.

And today, there are hundreds more of them on the loose in the Kandahar City area.

Just what this southern capital, birthplace of the Taliban movement, needed – an almost miraculous resurrection from incarceration of jail-hardened foot soldiers, blasted free from Sarposa prison on Friday night in a cleverly co-ordinated break-out.

Actually, not so clever, merely brazen and emboldened and blow-out-the-doors spectacular.

They are not high-value detainees. Those Taliban "assets" are either in Afghanistan's main prison, the notorious Pol-e-Charkhi in Kabul, or under lock and key at the American-run detention facility in Bagram, north of the capital.

But Canada, along with other NATO allies, long ago made the decision – for reasons of pure optics – not to transfer any captured Taliban to U.S. authorities in Afghanistan. That was a political call and it has now, again, cost dearly.

Naturally, Taliban leaders – never more than a phone call away from international wire services – were crowing about their triumph, saying the escapees are "safe in town and they are going to their homes."

Canadian troops rumbled out from the main military base at Kandahar Airfield to help secure the area around Sarposa and yesterday were busy assisting efforts to find and lasso the escapees. But as of last night, only six had been caught.

Gen. Denis Thompson, the Canadian commander in Afghanistan, told reporters that Afghan security forces are in charge of hunting down the fugitives, with Canadian troops providing "multiple eyes" to supply intelligence.

But Thompson was more cautious about whether the flood of fugitives might hurt the Canadian mission.

"In the short term, I don't," he told reporters at a news scrum. "Eventually, it may impact us in the field."

The breakout was a huge blow, Thompson admitted.

"Typically, you have good days and bad days. Clearly, yesterday was a bad day."

In Kandahar City, with its strong Taliban sympathies among the Pashtun populace, the escapees will find easy refuge even among those who have no direct relationship with the escaped convicts.

Many will no doubt return whence they came, a great number of them crossing the Pakistan border. Monitoring outward-bound traffic is even more lax and inefficient along the Durand Line than watching for militants coming in.

Only two weeks ago, the Taliban were able to haul nine of their dead fighters across the border with nobody on the Afghanistan side noticing, or at least not caring.

Afghanistan's interior minister told a news conference yesterday that the facility held a total of 1,005 inmates, including 398 Taliban prisoners. The majority were run-of-the-mill criminals, including dozens of women doing time with their children in tow.

Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's top soldier, downplayed the prison break yesterday. While acknowledging the shocking event was a setback, he insisted it wouldn't affect Canada's mission in Afghanistan nor raise the threat level to Canadian soldiers deployed there.

How NATO responds to the attack, he added, would be more critical to the overall situation.

NATO is not responsible for maintaining security at the prison. That's a job for Afghan forces, particularly the Afghan National Police. And they cannot be accused, at least on the information available so far, of letting down their guard.

The estimated number of police killed in the attack ranged from six to nine.

Sarposa, despite some reports stating otherwise, was not the prison where detainees were allegedly tortured by Afghan authorities, claims that sparked a major political scandal in Canada last year.

Those abuses – which have devolved to one confirmed case – occurred, if they did, at a separate prison where Afghanistan's feared intelligence agency interrogates detainees before transferring them to other facilities.

After the torture story broke, Canada ceased handing over captured prisoners to Afghan authorities but resumed doing so earlier this year.

Sarposa itself is a bleak place but probably less so than other Afghan prisons, since reforms were instituted, and a new police warden appointed, after the facility was investigated by human rights agencies last year.

Still, 200 inmates went on a week-long hunger strike last month to protest against their living conditions and how their trials had been conducted.

Originally, the prisoners said they would speak only to Canadian authorities but later met with a parliamentary delegation that received written demands, promising to pass them on to President Hamid Karzai.

"New judges will review their cases," promised lawmaker Habibullah Jan. "Those who are innocent will be released."

Some of those on the hunger strike had been held without trial for more than two years. Others were given lengthy prison sentences after short trials.

Jan told reporters that 47 of the hunger strikers had sewn their lips together, but journalists who subsequently visited the prison could see no evidence of this.

Canadian military engineers and police officers twice visited the prison yesterday to assess damage and help Afghan officials. They had also been there twice the previous week for ongoing assessment of the facility.

The Friday evening attack against Sarposa began when an explosive-laden truck plowed into the main gate. A suicide bomber then struck a back wall and rockets were fired, allegedly from inside the prison courtyard.

The attack set off a series of explosions that rocked Kandahar, the country's second-largest city.

There were no immediate indications that the militants had received help from the inside. But as a precaution, the prison's chief official, Abdul Qabir, was placed under investigation.

Chronic corruption among police – often complicit in attacks against government and NATO forces – has long been a troubling aspect of bringing law and order to bear in Afghanistan.

A few weeks ago, the Star learned that police uniforms had been stolen from a district headquarters in Kandahar. It was feared that these uniforms would be used in future attacks by insurgents infiltrating secured areas.

But the assault on Sarposa was no subtle infiltration. It was a bold-as-brass blitz.

With files from The Canadian Press

Columnist Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
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A Sober Assessment of Afghanistan
Outgoing U.S. Commander Cites 50 Percent Spike in Attacks
Washington Post, United States By Ann Scott Tyson Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, June 15, 2008
The outgoing top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Friday that attacks increased 50 percent in April in the country's eastern region, where U.S. troops primarily operate, as a spreading Taliban insurgency across the border in Pakistan fueled a surge in violence.

In a sober assessment, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who departed June 3 after 16 months commanding NATO's International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said that although record levels of foreign and Afghan troops have constrained repeated Taliban offensives, stabilizing Afghanistan will be impossible without a more robust military campaign against insurgent havens in Pakistan.

The Taliban is "resurgent in the region," particularly in sanctuaries in Pakistan, and as a result "it's going to be difficult to take on this insurgent group . . . in the broader sort of way," McNeill said at a Pentagon news conference.

Clashes in the east pushed U.S. troop deaths in Afghanistan in May to 15, and total foreign troop deaths there to 23, the highest monthly figure since last August.

Indeed, comprehensive data released by the NATO-led command show a steady escalation in violence since NATO took charge of the Afghanistan mission in 2006, spurred in part by more aggressive operations by the alliance and most recently by U.S. Marine battalions in the heavily contested southern province of Helmand. ISAF troops in Afghanistan increased from 36,000 in early 2007 to 52,000 now, while the Afghan army grew from 20,000 to 58,000 soldiers.

Overall violence has increased and attacks have grown more complex, according to the data and U.S. military officials. The number of roadside bombs increased from 1,931 in 2006 to 2,615 last year. Attacks peaked during the months of the warm weather fighting season, with more than 400 in the peak month of 2005, more than 800 in 2006, and about 1,000 in 2007.

As violence has risen, it has remained concentrated geographically in a relatively small number of districts, the data show, in predominantly Pashtun areas. Afghanistan has 364 districts, and last year about 70 percent of all attacks took place in 40, or about 10 percent, of those districts, McNeill said. For the first half of this year, he said, about 76 percent of attacks took place in virtually the same 40 districts, with some shifts in Farah and Nimruz provinces.

The district data has helped drive the deployment of NATO forces, with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit focusing on a district in southern Helmand that shows extensive enemy activity. "We knew it was a dark hole and we had to get to it; we simply didn't have the force," said McNeill, noting that ISAF remains short of combat troops, helicopters, and intelligence and surveillance equipment.

Troop numbers are low compared with the size of the insurgency, which includes many part-time fighters. There are an estimated 5,000 to 20,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, plus an estimated 1,000 each for the insurgent groups led by Siraj Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, according to ISAF intelligence.

More worrisome than the Taliban expansion is the threat of more cooperation between homegrown insurgents and outside extremist groups, McNeill said. "The greatest risk is the possibility of collusion between the insurgents who are indigenous to that region and the more intractable, the more extreme terrorists who are taking up residence there in the North-West Frontier" Province of Pakistan, he said.

McNeill criticized Pakistani efforts to crack down on that threat, and -- offering his unofficial view -- described the political situation in Islamabad as "dysfunctional."

He also criticized efforts by the Pakistan government to negotiate peace deals with insurgents on the frontier, saying past agreements have led to increased attacks across the border in Afghanistan. McNeill said the 50 percent increase in attacks in eastern Afghanistan in April compared with the same month last year is "directly attributable to the lack of pressure on the other side of the border."

"What's missing is action to keep pressure on the insurgents," he said.

For example, Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, has for four months failed to agree to attend a tripartite meeting that Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States have held in recent years to address border problems.

McNeill declined to endorse a U.S.-funded program to train and equip Pakistan's Frontier Corps, which guards the border, questioning the effectiveness and loyalty of the tribally recruited guards. "It takes well-trained, well-equipped forces, disciplined to take this thing on," he said. "The Pakistanis, in using the Frontier Corps as a military entity to take on the insurgency, will find some challenges."

McNeill raised two instances in which the guards have shot and killed U.S. soldiers, saying he would be "forever scarred" by what he described as the "assassination" of Maj. Larry J. Bauguess Jr. of the 82nd Airborne Division after a border meeting last spring. Another soldier was shot in the neck and killed by a Frontier Corps guard in 2002, he said.
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Massive Afghan jailbreak ‘a small splash in the pond,’ says Hillier
National Post - Doug Schmidt Canwest News Service  Saturday, June 14, 2008
KANDAHAR CITY- Canada's top soldier downplayed a spectacular, commando-style prison break in Afghanistan on Saturday, where hundreds of captured Taliban insurgents were set free.

Outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, in Calgary for a Military Families Fund fundraiser, said soldiers weren't at higher risk after the escape of an estimated 800 prisoners -- among them Taliban.
"What I would emphasize is it's a small splash in the pond," Mr. Hillier said Saturday evening.

"We understand the Taliban are not 10 feet tall, but they are capable, at times, they can pull off an operation like this."

Mr. Hillier was in town to raise money for the Military Families Fund, an initiative he help set up that can quickly distribute money to soldiers' families in time of need when normal public funding isn't available. The event sold out, with 550 tickets purchased at $300 each.

Mr. Hillier told reporters he didn't believe the prison break would hamper troop morale.

"I don't think this has an impact on morale whatsoever. The troops are pragmatic."

Meanwhile, the day after the jailbreak at southern Afghanistan's biggest prison, the manhunt for hundreds of fugitives -- both militant insurgents and common criminals -- continued, with door-to-door searches and roadblocks across Kandahar City.

Afghan federal authorities announced Saturday an investigation into all aspects of the well-co-ordinated Friday night attack on Sarposa Prison, including whether government security officials served as insiders for the Taliban.

At a news conference, top Afghan officials flown in from the capital city of Kabul said they still hadn't determined exactly how many prisoners escaped after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive-filled tanker truck outside Sarposa's main entrance, creating a gaping hole. An estimated 80 Taliban attackers, many brought in on motorcycles, then attacked from all sides in a well-timed assault using rocket-propelled grenades, machine-guns and AK-47s.

Afghanistan's deputy interior minister, Brig. Gen. Munir Mangal, said the prison population at the time of the attack was 1,005, with 398 of them Taliban militants. An estimated 800 prisoners escaped, including all the Taliban, among them what local sources describe as high-ranking insurgent field commanders.

Government officials on Saturday lowered the death toll in the attack to six police officers and an unspecified number of inmates and attackers, but prison insiders have told local Afghan media at least 15 police were killed.

The suicide blast was followed by a 20-minute battle between the Taliban attackers and police and guards.

Despite a massive manhunt by Afghan security forces, who are being assisted by Canadian and other foreign soldiers with the International Security Assistance Force, Mr. Mangal said Saturday afternoon only a handful of "suspected Taliban" fugitives had been arrested.

Echoing comments made by Afghan authorities, Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, the commander of Canada's 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, said the attack was no indication the Taliban have strengthened their presence in their former homeland.

In a counter-insurgency, he said Saturday, "typically you have good days and bad days, and clearly yesterday was a bad day."

Mr. Thompson pointed to the number of calls and tips that came flowing in from citizens after the attack, including information that led to the recovery of five roadside bombs set locally by insurgents.

"It gives us confidence that the Afghan public is on the government's side and not on the Taliban's," he said, adding: "Our strategy in Afghanistan is an effective approach to counter-insurgency."

About 25 shops located near Sarposa's targeted main entrance were damaged by the suicide bomb, which left a scene of devastation with a gaping hole in the prison's wall and twisted remains of several vehicles. One business owner said the attack proved the government's weakness and that the Taliban could operate within the city at will.

Mohammed Khaliq is one of the Taliban prisoners who escaped. Speaking by phone with Canwest News Service, he said he had no advance knowledge of the raid and that after recovering from the shock of the initial blast, he followed the voices of the Taliban attackers who told their comrades to run.

He said he was in a small group that ran to one of a number of awaiting vehicles that sped them out of the city.

"Now we're out of town and safe and sound," Mr. Khaliq said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf was quoted by Reuters as saying all escaped Taliban prisoners had arrived at their "safe destinations."

Canadian engineers, as well as civilian police and corrections officers based at the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, have already visited Sarposa twice to help assess the damages and assist their Afghan counterparts, said Elissa Golberg, Canada's top government representative in Kandahar.

She said Canada had already invested $1.5 million in training guards and refurbishing Sarposa, and the Canadian government would likely assist in the rebuilding of the prison's breached outer wall.

Mr. Thompson said a Canadian military "quick reaction force" from the reconstruction team responded immediately to the Friday night attack, and his troops continue to assist Afghan security forces with surveillance and mentoring, He added, however, that "our role is not to recapture fugitives."
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Khalilzad: 'I am not the next president'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008 
Afghan-born US ambassador to the UN denies newspaper rumours
AMERICA’S ambassador to the United Nations, Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad, has denied rumours that he will run for Afghan president in next year’s elections.

"I have said strongly, as clearly as I can, that I am not a candidate for president of Afghanistan. How many times do I have to say it?" Khalilzad said to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York.

Articles in both Britain’s The Independent newspaper and America’s The Washington Post said Khalilzad, who recently announced he will resign from his role at the UN, will run as a candidate for the country’s presidency.

"I am honoured to have the opportunity to represent the United States at the United Nations. This is my job and when I leave this job, I will work in the private sector in the United States of America," Khalilzad said.

The 56-year-old Khalilzad said in April that he would resign from his UN post in the “next two months” to take up a job in the private business sector.

"My decision is that I will resign from my official work in the next few months and start a private business," Khalilzad told Afghanistan's Ariana Television Network.

"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," he told Ariana.
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How Taliban sprang 450 terrorists from Kandahar's Sarposa prison in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By Tom Coghlan in southern Afghanistan and Colin Freeman  15/06/2008
With the latest outrage, the insurgency has shown that its ability to stage 'spectaculars' is undiminished by setbacks in the field Overlooking the dusty road into one of Afghanistan's most lawless cities, the newly-painted guard towers of ¬Kandahar's Sarposa prison are supposed to be a reminder to local people of how justice has finally come to town.

In recent years, coalition ¬officials have spent millions turning the 60-year-old building into a showcase facility for Afghanistan's new government, issuing guards with crisp new uniforms and giving them lessons on how to treat their charges humanely.

Rather less attention, however, seems to have been spent on the jail's most basic function – security.

Yesterday, Sarposa's entire population of 1,100 inmates – including murderers, bandits and about 450 hardened Islamic militants – was enjoying freedom after an audacious Taliban attack engineered one of the biggest mass jail breaks in history.

In a spectacular raid which confounded hopes that the Taliban was now on the back foot, a group of about 30 heavily armed insurgents launched an assault on the prison on Friday evening, using two suicide bombers to blow open the gates and then massacring at least 15 dazed guards as they tried to put up a fight.

The inmates fled into the night through the lush pomegranate groves that surround the building before coalition troops could arrive from their base on the far side of the city. Convoys of Taliban-driven getaway minibuses were waiting nearby with engines running.

Yesterday, as coalition and Afghan officials launched an urgent review of security in every jail in the country and declared a state of emergency in Kandahar, Taliban supporters around the region began slaughtering sheep in anticipation of being reunited with their jailed relations.

The militant faction's excitable media spokesmen – normally prone to wild exaggerations of their military successes – for once had no need of hyperbole. Unable to contain their glee at such a propaganda victory, they spent much of the day issuing taunts to the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, and making blood-curdling threats of similar actions for the future.

"We released all the prisoners, including 450 Taliban, we killed most of the guards, and we blocked the roads into the city so that our fighters could escape," crowed Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman for southern Afghanistan. "This was our first attack in the very heart of Kandahar, and this is a signal to the puppet government of Hamid Karzai and the infidel government of the West that they should not forget the Taliban."

Witnesses said that the attack began at around 9pm, when a suicide bomber driving a water tanker laden with explosives careered towards the main prison gates.

As another suicide bomber on foot blew up the jail's rear gate, masked motorcyclists armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades streamed into the jail's four main courtyards, breaking open every cell door in sight.

Of particular interest to them was the prison's high-security political section, which was home to a large contingent of medium-ranking Taliban suspects handed over to the Afghan government by American forces.

"First we exploded two suicide attacks and then our mujahedin riding motorcycles entered the prison and killed the remaining security guards," said Mr Ahmadi. "We successfully freed all prisoners including our jailed Taliban."

The operation and the ensuing gunbattle with prison guards and police lasted nearly an hour, during which eight prisoners were killed.

The Afghan government claimed that the prison's police and guards had managed to keep hold of about 200 inmates, but local officials said later that the jail had been emptied.

"It was an unprecedented attack and together with foreign forces, an operation has been launched to track down and arrest the prisoners," said Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai, Afghanistan's deputy justice minister. "We are trying to find out if there was any inside help."

He said the prison's senior manager, Abdul Qabir, was under investigation, although he stressed that was a routine measure in such cases.

Ahmed Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar's provincial council and a brother of President Karzai, disclosed that the escaped Taliban included commanders, trained assassins and volunteers who had undergone grooming for suicide bomb missions. "It is very dangerous for security," he said. "They are the most experienced killers and they all managed to escape."

Witnesses described seeing other inmates running along the roads and scattering into nearby villages before the Canadian troops, who are part of the Nato-led force based outside Kandahar, could arrive.

Disappearing along with them, meanwhile, was any lingering notion that the Taliban are still a rag-tag force incapable of much more than unsophisticated skirmishing.

Only as this month began, British forces in southern Afghanistan claimed the movement was on the brink of military defeat after losing more than 7,000 fighters in combat.

But costly encounters in conventional battle have focused Taliban commanders' minds on developing more sophisticated tactics, conserving their resources for better-planned "spectaculars".

The first of these took place in Kabul in January, when a combined suicide squad of gunmen and fighters blasted it way through security at the city's Serena hotel, a five-star facility favoured by Westerners, killing six people.

Then in April, marksmen managed to breach security at a parade attended by President Karzai and Western diplomats, opening fire on the crowd and killing three. "We are changing tactics and the foreigners won't see what is coming," said Mr Ahmadi.

Yesterday a roadside bomb exploded near a US Humvee in western Afghanistan, killing four Marines in the deadliest attack against American troops in the country this year. Last month, the total of American and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan exceeded for the first time the total in Iraq, with 19 fatalities in Afghanistan compared with 14 in Iraq.

Sarposa Prison has recently been accused of torture by inmates, who claim to have been whipped and electrocuted by their Afghan jailers.

Last month, about 40 prisoners stitched their lips together as part of a hunger protest by several hundred inmates over being held for up to two years without trial. They will now be free to air their grievances more widely, which is likely to increase support for the Taliban cause.

Kandahar province was where the Taliban first emerged in the 1990s under the leadership of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed preacher whose hardline Islamist vision for Afghanistan still has strong support in the area. However, unlike the rural areas surrounding it, the city of Kandahar is supposed to be firmly under Afghan government and Nato control.

Sarposa Prison was until now one of the showcase development projects for the Canadian government, which is one of only four countries that has a sizeable troop contingent in Taliban-infested southern Afghanistan, along with the British, Americans and Dutch.

Canadian prison officials were sent to train guards and teach them about human rights, until now a largely unheard of concept within the Afghan penal system.

Their funding of the jail programme is just a tiny part of the mounting bill that foreign governments have incurred through their efforts to support Afghanistan's fledgling democracy.

Last Thursday, international donors pledged another £10?billion at a conference in Paris, despite mounting concern that much of the money is disappearing through corruption and sheer incompetence within Afghanistan's government.

Yesterday Canadians reacted with dismay at seeing their prison project in ruins.

"The message this attack sends is that the insurgents can act with relative impunity even into downtown Kandahar," said Colin Kenny, the head of the Canadian senate's committee on security and national defence, and a campaigner for more Nato troops to join the Afghan mission.

"The other message it sends is to the insurgent rank and file: if you get captured, we'll get you out."
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Basement builder unearths mass grave
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008 
Human remains found beneath a residential home in the north
A MASS grave has been uncovered beneath a residential home in the north of Afghanistan.

The owner of the house in Balkh’s provincial capital, Mazar-e-Sharif, was building a basement when construction workers stumbled across the grave and dug up about 10 human skeletons and a number of skulls.

Pieces of clothing traditionally worn by women in the north of Afghanistan were also found in the grave.

The owner of the house threw the bones and skulls into his rubbish tip before police found out about the human remains, Balkh’s chief of police, Gen Sardar Mohammad Soltani, said.

Police told the homeowner to stop work on his basement as soon as they found out about the discovery on June 12.

Soltani said there may be as many as 50 human skeletons still buried beneath the house. A delegation has been sent from Kabul to Mazar-e-Sharif to examine the grave.

Police say the human bodies may have been buried during the Taliban regime.
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Action urged on Afghan-Pakistan border
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia June 15, 2008
The international community needs to encourage Pakistan to take stronger action to tackle the insurgency on its border with Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says.

Mr Smith has just returned from a donors' conference in Afghanistan, where more than 60 nations pledged billions of US dollars to help with the rebuilding of the war-torn country.

Australia pledged $250 million over three years to help with Afghanistan's national development strategy, designed to aid its ongoing battle against Taliban insurgents and widespread poverty.

On the sidelines of the conference, Mr Smith again raised concerns about the continuing difficulties controlling insurgent activity in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Not only was it a risk to coalition forces, including Australian troops, but it posed a threat to Pakistan as well, he said.

"Our troops are in the south, adjoining the border area, and we are now very worried about conditions in Pakistan on that border area," Mr Smith told ABC TV.

"I think we've got to start looking at the border between Afghanistan not just as a bilateral issue between those two nations but a regional issue in which the international community has to play a role.

"I think the Pakistan government is only too well aware of the significant Australian and international community concern about what is occurring in that border region."

Australia has nearly 1,100 troops in the Oruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, which borders Kandahar.

Mr Smith said the violence in the border region could have far-reaching consequences for Pakistan.

"This is potentially a threat to Pakistan itself," he said.

"I think we've got to engage the Pakistan government more on this front, both Australia and the international community, because it does present not just risks to the troops in the south but there's no doubt the Afghanistan area is the hotbed of international terrorism.

"(And) that terrorism can move very quickly to the south, to the south-east of Asia."

Many al-Qaeda and Taliban militants took refuge on the Pakistani side of the border after United States-led forces ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001.

A new Pakistani government, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, has been negotiating with ethnic Pashtun tribes to get them to press the militants to give up a campaign of violence in Pakistan in which hundreds of people have been killed over the past year.

Afghanistan and its Western allies say peace pacts in Pakistan's border regions enable militants to regroup and step up cross-border attacks from Pakistani sanctuaries.
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Police open fire on anti-NATO protest
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008 
Gunfire wounds more than a dozen protestors, doctor says
POLICE have opened fire on anti-NATO demonstrations in the south-east, wounding more than a dozen protestors, eye-witnesses have said.

Hundreds of people in Paktia’s Zurmat district took to the streets on Saturday in protest at what they called NATO’s heavy-handed military tactics, which residents blame for the recent death of 15 civilians in a NATO raid on a home in the district.

One of the demonstrators, Haji Zahir, said police opened fire on the rally and wounded 13 people.

An official at the provincial police headquarters, Ghulam Dastgir Rustamyar, said police opened fire on the protestors, but that only three people were wounded.

Rustamyar said police were told “terrorists” had infiltrated the protest and planned to attack the police headquarters.

Protestors denied rebel fighters were among the crowd of demonstrators.

The head of a private clinic in the area, Dr Haji Muhammad, said 13 people had been brought into his clinic with gunshot wounds. He said six people were in a critical condition.

NATO officials say they killed five Taliban insurgents and one woman in the air-strike two days ago.

Residents say the raid killed 15 civilians, including six children.
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Rabid dogs infect 21 people in Kabul
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 14 June 2008 
Police shoot dead two dogs for carrying the deadly rabies disease
RABID dogs have injured at least 20 people in the Qarabagh district of Kabul in the last two days, according to the district’s governor.

Governor Abdul Rahim Talwar said on Saturday that the victims were taken to the Qarabagh hospital for first-aid treatment and then later to a clinic in Kabul city where they were vaccinated.

Five children, one old man and 12 teenagers were among the 21 people bitten by the dogs, the head of the 50-bed hospital in Qarabagh, Humayun Kakar, said.

Police shot two of the rabid dogs and launched a hunt to capture the rest of them.

Rabies can kill within 30 days if a dog with the disease bites a human in the neck or head, doctors say.
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Paras seize Taliban bomb-maker in daring Afghanistan raid
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By Thomas Harding on the front line in Zabul Province  14/06/2008
Paras seized a suspected Taliban bomb-maker yesterday in a daring raid on a mosque in Afghanistan. A small group of a dozen paratroopers and a Pashtun interpreter, accompanied by The Daily Telegraph, embarked on the mission after learning that a "high value target", believed to be responsible for dozens of roadside bombs, was hiding in a village they had visited earlier in the day.

Having turned back, they found the scene transformed.

The villagers they had met only hours before had disappeared or were in hiding. The quiet was what the Army call a "combat indicator" in that the "absence of the normal suggests the presence of the abnormal".

Going past houses where earlier children had played they now crept through arches and alleyways without spotting a soul.

The tension increased as they arrived at the village pond where earlier an engineer had laid 11lb of plastic explosive and a large bar mine to collapse a tunnel where American lithium batteries had been found.
Human excrement had been smothered at the entrance, apparently to deter the curious, and inside someone had opened up the plastic packs containing a dozen batteries that are used in roadside bombs or pressure-plate booby-traps. Intelligence indicated that one of the villagers questioned near the tunnel in the morning was an "IED (improvised explosive device) facilitator" and commanders wanted him urgently detained.

Outside the mosque where he was last spotted, the Paras took up all-round firing positions as the interpreter and three other soldiers entered the building's compound. There were at least 16 men in the mosque, a number of them of fighting age.

Major Adam Wilson, commander of A Company, 3rd Bn The Parachute Regiment, who was leading the operation, said: "The situation is tense here.

"I am requesting some form of close air support."

Cpl Perran "Kiwi" Berry, the forward air controller who trained with Prince Harry, got on to his VHF radio to call in friendly aircraft.

"Make ready the 66," Company Sergeant Major Stephen Tidmarsh told one of the Paras carrying the Light Anti-Tank Weapon.

"I swear that pilot's deaf," said Cpl Berry as he attempted to contact the air support.

"We have dickers [spotters] in the high ground watching our moves," said CSM Tidmarsh into the radio.

"My immediate concern is that they will infiltrate from the compound on the other side of the road."

The suspected bomber was lured out of the mosque by a ruse that cannot be reported.Outside he stroked his beard with worry as he spotted more armed Paras.

"The situation is getting tense here, where's the close air support?" Cpl Berry said over the radio.

It was then confirmed that the man was the wanted suspect.

"OK, we will withdraw slowly and softly," said Major Wilson.

The Paras began moving out of the village in bounds, soldiers covering each other as they withdrew with the suspected bomb-maker, only stopping when they reached the safety of high ground away from the immediate threat of small arms fire.

The bomb-maker was searched and formally detained by the accompanying military policeman, Cpl Lee Hall. Immediately the Paras set up defensive positions although the situation was still vulnerable to mortar gunfire.

As the suspect was being searched, three men were spotted on a nearby mountain. "Three possible mortar fire controllers to the south. Where is that close air support?" said CSM Tidmarsh.

Moments later the welcoming sound of a Dutch F16 dived down from the sky. It swept low and fast at 200ft over the Paras' position and then powered over the village making a deafening noise and releasing four flares as part of its "show of force".

The suspect was now positively identified and handcuffed, with black-out goggles over his eyes. After he was flown away by helicopter for questioning, the Paras set off in Viking armoured vehicles.

As US Harrier jets circled overhead, news arrived that the Taliban were preparing to ambush the column. F16s, US Harriers and Apache helicopters flew over the convoy dropping flares on suspected Taliban as the Paras made their way back to base in darkness.

"Today has been a successful day, and an important one after the losses of yesterday," said CSM Tidmarsh. "The Parachute Regiment is still here ready to do its job."
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