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June 17, 2008 

Taliban militants destroy bridges in Afghanistan
By NOOR KHAN Associated Press June 17, 2008
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan - Taliban militants destroyed bridges and planted mines in several villages they control outside southern Afghanistan's largest city in apparent preparation for battle, residents and officials said Tuesday.

Hundreds flee as battle looms in Afghan south
By Ismail Sameem June 17, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Hundreds of families fled their homes in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday as foreign and Afghan forces prepare to drive out Taliban insurgents who have overrun several villages, officials and witnesses said.

NATO drops leaflets ahead of Afghan offensive: officials
Tue Jun 17, 3:34 AM ET
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan (AFP) - NATO helicopters dropped leaflets on two Afghan villages asking residents to leave ahead of an operation to drive out hundreds of Taliban rebels, residents and officials said on Tuesday.

Taliban Fighters Infiltrate Area Near Afghan City
The New York Times By CARLOTTA GALL and ABDUL WAHEED WAFA June 18, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Afghan families continued to flee the district of Argandab in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters and NATO and Afghan forces prepared to battle over the strategic region Tuesday.

Afghans say they are not planning war with Pakistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said Tuesday that Afghanistan does not intend to go to war with Pakistan, and that Karzai's warning to his eastern neighbor was meant only to make a strong point.

Pakistan militants 'suspend' deal
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 BBC News
Pro-Taleban militants from troubled Swat district in northern Pakistan say they have broken off all contacts with the government.

Spanish crown prince visits troops in Afghanistan
Tue Jun 17, 9:18 AM ET
MADRID (AFP) - The heir to the Spanish throne, Crown Prince Felipe, made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, to meet with Spanish troops serving with NATO-led forces.

Obama plans pre-election trip to Iraq, Afghanistan
by Jitendra Joshi Tue Jun 17, 3:40 AM ET
WASHINGTON, (AFP) - Democrat Barack Obama, bidding to shut down scornful attacks on his White House credentials by Republican rival John McCain, said Monday he plans a pre-election trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Growing Support for Taleban Talks
Analysts see political engagement with insurgents as best prospect for securing peace.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
By Caroline Tosh in London and Hafizullah Gardesh in Kabul (ARR No. 293, 16-Jun-08)
As violence continues in Afghanistan, there is a growing consensus that the Taleban cannot be defeated by military might alone, and that negotiations might offer a way towards some kind of political settlement.

U.S. Is Urged To Okay Afghan Irregulars An 'Awakening' Strategy for Afghanistan
By ELI LAKE, Staff Reporter of the New York Sun June 17, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Arabs who vanquished Al Qaeda in Iraq's Anbar province are counseling America to allow Afghans to form irregular militias and be mindful of their devout adherence to Islam, according to a memo from

Japan PM says no plans to send troops to Afghanistan
Tue Jun 17, 5:36 AM ET
TOKYO (AFP) - Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Tuesday that Japan has no immediate plans to send ground troops into Afghanistan, although there are studies for a potential deployment.

Afghanistan: Pakistani Journalist Criticizes Nation Building In South-Central Asia
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 17, 2008
Best-selling Pakistani author and journalist Ahmed Rashid's new book, "Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia," is a comprehensive look at the South-Central Asian

Conflicts In Afghanistan, Iraq Swell Refugee Numbers - UN
LONDON (AP)--Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, driving up the global number of refugees after several years of decline, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

Sarkozy Focuses on Afghan Reconstruction to Sell War to France
By Celestine Bohlen
June 17 (Bloomberg) -- As a fresh battalion of 700 French soldiers sets off this summer for the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, President Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking a more- coherent course for a six-and-a-half year conflict that has no end in sight.

Minister wants answers to Afghan prison break
By JOHN WARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA -- While the Taliban massed men and equipment and then launched their bold and deadly prison break in Kandahar, military intelligence failed to uncover a whisper of what was coming.

Afghan president’s threat to send in troops receives Pashtun support
www.quqnoos.com
PAKISTAN’S Pashtun politicians have rallied behind President Hamid Karzai after he threatened to send Afghan troops into Pakistan to wipe out Taliban rebels based in the country’s tribal areas.

Taliban vows to continue fight against US-led forces
Gulf Times Tuesday, 17 June, 2008, By Shaheen Buneri
PESHAWAR: Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan Taliban Movement, has called Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s statement about sending troops to fight militants in Pakistan tribal areas “sick” and the “creation of a baffled mind,”

Pakistan to monitor Pak-Afghan border
ISLAMABAD, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan has installed satellite monitoring system on its border with Afghanistan, enabling officials to watch border activities while sitting in Islamabad, the chief of the country's interior ministry said Tuesday.

Canadian troops sickened by Afghan rapes
Toronto Star  June 16, 2008
A growing number of Canadian soldiers are suffering after witnessing Afghan boys being raped by Afghan soldiers, the Toronto Star reported Monday.

Don't look, don't tell, troops told
Civilian sex assaults by Afghan soldiers ignored
Rick Westhead The Toronto Star June 16, 2008
Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been ordered by commanding officers "to ignore" incidents of sexual assault among the civilian population, says a military chaplain who counsels troops returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Saving Parwez Kambakhsh
International pressure is all that stands between a young journalism student and the death penalty, say his supporters.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Jean MacKenzie in Kabul (ARR No. 293, 16-Jun-08)
A subdued, anxious crowd filled the courtroom of the Kabul Appeal Court on June 15 for the latest installment in the case of Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, the Afghan journalism student facing a death sentence for blasphemy.

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Taliban militants destroy bridges in Afghanistan
By NOOR KHAN Associated Press June 17, 2008
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan - Taliban militants destroyed bridges and planted mines in several villages they control outside southern Afghanistan's largest city in apparent preparation for battle, residents and officials said Tuesday.

More than 700 families — meaning perhaps 4,000 people or more — had fled the Arghandab district 10 miles northwest of Kandahar city, said Sardar Mohammad, a police officer manning a checkpoint on the east side of the Arghandab River. Police on Tuesday stopped and searched every person passing on the road.

On the west side of the river, hundreds of Taliban controlled around nine or 10 villages, Mohammad said.

"Last night the people were afraid, and families on tractors, trucks and taxis fled the area," said Mohammad. "Small bridges inside the villages have been destroyed."

The Taliban have long sought to control Arghandab and the good fighting positions its pomegranate and grape groves offer. From there, militants can cross the countryside's flat plains on decent roads for probing attacks into Kandahar itself, in possible preparation for an assault on their former spiritual home.

The Afghan army, which flew four planeloads of soldiers to Kandahar Tuesday from the capital, Kabul, said 300 to 400 militants had gathered in Arghandab, many of them foreign fighters. The U.S.-led coalition, however, said it conducted a patrol through the region "and found no evidence that militants control the area."

"Recent reports of militant control in the area appear to be unfounded," the coalition said in a statement.

Nevertheless, NATO aircraft dropped leaflets in Arghandab telling residents to stay indoors, NATO spokesman Mark Laity said.

"Keep your families safe. When there is fighting near your home, stay inside while ANSF (Afghan security forces) defeat the enemies of Afghanistan," Laity quoted the leaflet as saying.

Laity said 700 Afghan army troops have moved from Kabul to Kandahar to deal with the Arghandab threat.

The Taliban assault Monday on the outskirts of Kandahar was the latest display of strength by the militants despite a record number of U.S. and NATO troops in the country.

The push into Arghandab district — a lush region filled with grape and pomegranate groves that the Soviet army could never conquer — came three days after a coordinated Taliban attack on Kandahar's prison that freed 400 insurgent fighters.

Police and army soldiers increased security throughout Kandahar and enforced a 10 p.m. curfew.

A Taliban commander named Mullah Ahmedullah called an Associated Press reporter on Tuesday and said that around 400 Taliban moved into Arghandab from Khakrez, one district to the north. He said some of the militants released in Friday's prison break had joined the assault.

"They told us, 'We want to fight until the death,'" Ahmedullah said. "We've occupied most of the area and it's a good place for fighting. Now we are waiting for the NATO and Afghan forces."

The hardline Taliban regime ousted from power in a 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan regarded Kandahar as its main stronghold, and its insurgent supporters are most active in the volatile south of the country.

The U.S. and NATO have pleaded for additional troops over the last year and now have some 65,000 in the country. But the militants are still finding successes that the international alliance can't counter.

Arghandab lies just northwest of Kandahar city, and a tribal leader from the region warned that the militants could use the cover from Arghandab's orchards to mount an attack on Kandahar itself. NATO officials dismiss the idea that the Taliban can mount an attack on Kandahar.

One of the thousands of Afghans fleeing Arghandab said Tuesday that families were being forced out just as grape groves needed harvesting, meaning financial ruin for thousands. Haji Ibrahim Khan said Taliban fighters were moving through several Arghandab villages with weapons on their shoulders, planting mines and destroying small bridges.

"They told us to leave the area within 24 hours because they want to fight foreign and Afghan troops," Khan said. "But within a week we should be harvesting, and we were expecting a good one. Now with this fighting we are deeply worried — the grapes are the only source of income we have."

Two powerful anti-Taliban leaders from Arghandab have died in the last year, weakening the region's defenses. Mullah Naqib, the district's former leader, died of a heart attack in October. Taliban fighters moved into Arghandab en masse two weeks after his death but left within days after soldiers moved in.

A second leader, police commander Abdul Hakim Jan, died in a massive suicide bombing in Kandahar in February.

The assault Monday came one day after President Hamid Karzai angrily told a news conference that he would send Afghan troops into Pakistan to hunt down Taliban leaders in response to the militants that cross over into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
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Hundreds flee as battle looms in Afghan south
By Ismail Sameem June 17, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Hundreds of families fled their homes in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday as foreign and Afghan forces prepare to drive out Taliban insurgents who have overrun several villages, officials and witnesses said.

About 600 Taliban insurgents took over several villages in Arghandab district in the south on Monday, days after they had freed hundreds of prisoners, including about 400 militants, after an attack on the main jail in Kandahar city.

"There are hundreds of them (Taliban) with sophisticated weapons. They have blown up several bridges and are planting mines everywhere," Mohammad Usman, a taxi driver who evacuated a family on Tuesday from the district, told reporters in Kandahar, the main city in the south.

A Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said the militants were eyeing Kandahar after Arghandab.

"After occupying Arghandab, the Taliban's next target will be Kandahar. But, we will not attack Kandahar with rockets and heavy mortars. We will hit specific targets in the city," Yousuf told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.

The Taliban emerged from religious schools on the Pakistani border in Kandahar in the early 1990s and began their takeover of the country from the province, where they still enjoy support.

Ahead of the operation, the defense ministry said hundreds of soldiers have been sent from Kabul to Kandahar and put the total number of Afghan forces on the ground at several thousand.

Afghan forces will spearhead the operation, which would be backed by ground and air support from NATO-led troops, it added, without giving further details.

Ahmad Wali Karzai, the head of Kandahar's provincial council and a brother of President Hamid Karzai, said about 600 Taliban had positioned themselves in Arghandab district, which lies 20 km (12 miles) to the north of Kandahar city, one of Afghanistan's largest cities.

He did not know if the militants included the 400 set free in the jailbreak.

NATO and Afghan forces have deployed troops to seal off the area to drive the militants from the district, which has an estimated population of 150,000.

NATO troops have dropped leaflets by air warning people to leave the district, fleeing villagers said.

FULL CONTROL
Haji Agha Lalai, a member of Kandahar's provincial council, said 300 families had left and more were leaving their homes.

Witnesses said Afghan troops were stationed in many parts of Kandahar city, the birthplace of the Taliban who U.S.-led troops drove from power in 2001.

Since making a comeback in 2006, the Taliban have briefly taken some district headquarters and villages in the south and east, the militants' stronghold.

Ahmadi said the Taliban were in full control of Arghandab district where there were about 500 militants, including a large number of those who escaped from a prison in Kandahar.

The insurgents had taken control of eight villages in Arghandab, the defense ministry said in Kabul.

The capture of the villages is part of the latest show of power by the militants in Afghanistan, which is suffering its worst spell of violence since 2001.

The flareup comes despite the presence of more than 60,000 foreign forces under the command of the U.S. military and NATO, as well as about 150,000 Afghan forces.

Britain's Defense Secretary Des Browne told parliament on Monday the government would increase its force in Afghanistan by 230, taking the total number of British troops there to more than 8,000.

(Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by David Fogarty)
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NATO drops leaflets ahead of Afghan offensive: officials
Tue Jun 17, 3:34 AM ET
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan (AFP) - NATO helicopters dropped leaflets on two Afghan villages asking residents to leave ahead of an operation to drive out hundreds of Taliban rebels, residents and officials said on Tuesday.

Around 500 Islamist rebels massed in the villages outside Kandahar late Monday following a brazen insurgent attack at the weekend that busted more than 1,000 prisoners out of the southern city's main jail.

"Hundreds of Afghan soldiers have been deployed in the region to clear the insurgents from the area," defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.

Residents leaving the area said that the NATO-led International Assistance Force (ISAF) had dropped leaflets on the two villages in insurgency-hit Arghandab district warning them to move to safer places.

"Last evening NATO choppers dropped leaflets on our village, asking us to leave the village before they launch an operation," Abdul Mohammad, a resident of Ta-been village told AFP while on his way to Kandahar city.

An AFP reporter visiting the area said that dozens of NATO and Afghan security forces had set up checkposts searching vehicles and people leaving the troubled district.

"We confirm that leaflets were dropped and radio messages were broadcast," ISAF spokesman General Carlos Branco told AFP. He could not say what the papers said.

Meanwhile, two Taliban rebels were killed when a mine they were planting exploded in Arghandab and their bodies were still in the area, said Aminullah Patyali, an Afghan army general.

Patyali said that preparations for an operation by Afghan troops supported by NATO forces against "hundreds of Taliban" were underway.

"We've sealed off the area. The enemy can't leave," Patyali told AFP.

Azimi, the defence ministry spokesman, said more soldiers were on their way to the restive province.

"Once it is started, there will be thousands of Afghan army troops taking part in the operation in Arghandab and elsewhere in Kandahar," the spokesman told AFP.
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Taliban Fighters Infiltrate Area Near Afghan City
The New York Times By CARLOTTA GALL and ABDUL WAHEED WAFA June 18, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Afghan families continued to flee the district of Argandab in southern Afghanistan as Taliban fighters and NATO and Afghan forces prepared to battle over the strategic region Tuesday.

The Taliban have taken control of 18 villages west of the Argandab River and started digging trenches and mines, a tribal elder from the region said. NATO and Afghan forces moved troops in to the region and dropped leaflets from the air warning civilians to stay inside their homes if fighting erupted in their area.

The sudden flurry of activity from all sides, coming days after some 400 Taliban prisoners escaped Friday during a jailbreak in Kandahar, indicates the seriousness of the threat.

Yet Afghan government officials and the United States military played down suggestions that the Taliban was poised to mount an attack on the district center or even on the city of Kandahar, the capital of the south which is situated just a few miles from Argandab.

“Still the Taliban are not in Argandab,” said the provincial governor, Asadullah Khaled. “They are in some places. It does not mean they took it all,” he said in English in telephone call from Kandahar.

“They will have some fighting, but they are not that strong,” he said of the Taliban. Although the governor has in the past raised the alarm when Taliban forces have appeared close to the city, and though he has often called for tougher action from NATO forces in his region, this time he said the threat was not great. “I am not worried.”

The United States military said a patrol of Afghan police and American and allied forces conducted a five-hour patrol from daybreak on the west side of the Argandab River valley, where there have been reports of Taliban fighters. The patrol encountered no resistance, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a United States military spokeswoman at Bagram air base north of Kabul.

“Nothing but normal patterns of life were observed,” Colonel Rumi said. She could not confirm reports that the Taliban was destroying bridges.

NATO forces dropped leaflets from the air urging villagers to stay indoors when fighting occurred near their homes, said Mark Laity, the civilian spokesperson for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

The leaflets were double-sided and explained that Afghan national security forces, supported by NATO, were coming to the region, he said. On the other side they warned, “Keep your family safe when there is fighting near your home, stay inside, and the Afghan security forces will defeat the enemies of Afghanistan.”

NATO forces have been deployed in the areas where there is a threat, he added.

Still, local farmers and villagers have been concerned enough to evacuate their families from a group of villages in the northwest part of the district.

A tribal elder, who did not wish to be identified by name for fear of jeopardizing the safety of family members still in the Argandab area, said he had left his village a week ago, before the prison break, because he sensed the Taliban was preparing something.

On Monday 40 to 50 Taliban fighters surrounded the village and seized control of it and ordered no one to leave, he said. The elder had managed to get his family out early, but two members of the family had stayed back, were on their way out but still had not arrived, he said.

He said the Taliban came from Khakrez, a neighboring mountainous district that they have used as a base for a long time. There were Pakistani fighters among the Taliban, he said.

The elder said he felt that the surge of Taliban into the area was almost certainly connected to the prison break and that some of the escapees had probably taken refuge in Argandab.

Carlotta Gall reported from Islamabad, and Abdul Waheed Wafa reported from Kabul, Afghanistan. Sanghar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul.

Carlotta Gall reported from Islamabad, and Abdul Waheed Wafa reported from Kabul, Afghanistan. Sanghar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul.
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Afghans say they are not planning war with Pakistan
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai's spokesman said Tuesday that Afghanistan does not intend to go to war with Pakistan, and that Karzai's warning to his eastern neighbor was meant only to make a strong point.

Humayun Hamidzada said, however, that Pakistan should not allow militants to use its territory for attacks against Afghanistan and opposed plans by Pakistan's new government to enter into peace deals with militants.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani defended his government's approach of using "political dialogue" and economic development to fight militancy in areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Gilani also reiterated that his government will not allow foreign troops to hunt militants inside Pakistan, and acknowledged that rugged terrain between the countries makes it difficult to control illegal movement across the common border.

Karzai on Sunday warned that Afghanistan has a right to defend its homeland by sending troops across the border into Pakistan to target militant leaders orchestrating attacks in his country.

"The president used that language to convoy a message; the president was making a strong point," Hamidzada said at a news conference in Kabul.

"What the president says is that as a sovereign nation Pakistan has a responsibility to make sure its territory isn't used against Afghanistan, and that's the message," Hamidzada said.

Karzai's comments drew strong condemnation from Pakistan, and the Pakistani Foreign Ministry summoned Afghanistan's ambassador in Islamabad for a protest Monday.

Claims and counterclaims on the presence of militants in either country have often strained relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, both close U.S. allies.

Afghan officials have repeatedly said that remnants of their country's Taliban militia are sheltering in Pakistan, a charge Pakistan denies.

Pakistan says it has deployed about 100,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan. Gilani said that Pakistan had set up a total of 900 security posts along the Afghan border.

But militants based in Pakistani tribal areas — where Osama bin Laden and his top aide Ayman al-Zawahiri are also believed to be hiding — have claimed to be sending fighters to Afghanistan.

The Pakistan government's plan to seek peace accords in the tribal areas has raised concern among American and Afghan officials who believe such deals allow militants to regroup and gain strength.

Hamidzada reiterated those fears.

"If they cut deals on the other side of the border and they (militants) announce that they will focus on Afghanistan, then I guess the doors are wide open for them to come and conduct terrorist activities in Afghanistan," he said.

But Gilani said his government was holding talks with "peaceful tribesmen" who have abandoned arms.

"We are not ready to talk to those persons who are giving a bad name to Pakistan and bad name to Islam," he said.
___
Associated Press writer Sadaqat Jan in Islamabad contributed to this report.
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Pakistan militants 'suspend' deal
Tuesday, 17 June 2008 BBC News
Pro-Taleban militants from troubled Swat district in northern Pakistan say they have broken off all contacts with the government.

The militants from the valley in the country's North West Frontier Province recently negotiated a peace deal with the provincial authorities.

Swat was the centre of an insurgency which was quelled after hundreds of troops were deployed in the area.

The insurgency was launched by militants led by a pro-Taleban cleric.

The cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, wants to enforce his version of Islamic Sharia law in the valley.

'Hurdles'

"Our central council has decided to break of all contact with the government for one week," militant spokesman Muslim Khan told the BBC.

"We believe the provincial government is serious in its efforts.

"But the army and some other actors are only creating hurdles in the whole process."

He accused the authorities of not doing enough as far as the militants' demands were concerned.

Mr Khan said the break was effective immediately and they were switching off their telephone landline contacts to ensure there was no dialogue.

He said they would monitor the situation for a week to see if any progress was made in relation to their demands.

The militants say their plea for troops to be withdrawn from the area, the dismantling of check posts and the immediate implementation of Sharia law are still to be met.

But the BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says it is believed the main confrontation has arisen over the release of detained militants.

Under the peace deal, the government was due to release 65 militants being held prisoner.

But so far only 18 have been freed.

"If our demands are not met, we may decide to break off the agreement altogether," Mr Khan said.

Afrasiab Khattak, a senior leader of NWFP's ruling ANP party, told the BBC: "We are optimistic that we will convince the Taleban that they should not go to the extreme.

"All players involved in this peace deal are committed and in favour of the peace deal."
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Spanish crown prince visits troops in Afghanistan
Tue Jun 17, 9:18 AM ET
MADRID (AFP) - The heir to the Spanish throne, Crown Prince Felipe, made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, to meet with Spanish troops serving with NATO-led forces.

The prince arrived in the town of Qala-e-Naw in western Afghanistan on a Spanish military plane in the morning where he met with Spanish troops stationed there, the royal household and the defence ministry said.

He then traveled by land to the western city of Herat where the largest in-country contingent of Spanish soldiers is based.

During his brief visit, the prince expressed "the pride and recognition of the Spanish society for the mission which the soldiers are carrying out and the sacrifice of being away from their families," the defence ministry said in a statement.

"You are an example of professionalism and patriotism," Spanish media quoted the prince as saying.

Prince Felipe was accompanied by Spain's chief of defence staff, General Felix Sanz, secretary of state for defence, Constantino Mendez, and the secretary general of the foreign ministry's International Aid Agency, Juan Pablo de Laiglesia.

His visit followed that of his father, King Juan Carlos, who dropped in unannounced on the Spanish troops in Herat last New Year's Eve.

Spain has some 750 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan with the 47,000 strong NATO-led mission there.
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Obama plans pre-election trip to Iraq, Afghanistan
by Jitendra Joshi Tue Jun 17, 3:40 AM ET
WASHINGTON, (AFP) - Democrat Barack Obama, bidding to shut down scornful attacks on his White House credentials by Republican rival John McCain, said Monday he plans a pre-election trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Obama, newly endorsed by former vice president Al Gore, also went after McCain on the economy as the candidates intensified a war of words on the long march to November's vote.

"As I've said, I'm interested in visiting Iraq and Afghanistan before the election," said Obama, who has been vilified by McCain for visiting Iraq only once, in January 2006.

Senator McCain, who has been to Iraq eight times, said he had no doubt that the US military "surge" was working and that Obama's plans to pull most combat troops out of the troubled nation would trigger "chaos and genocide."

"I am convinced that we are on the path to victory. And that victory means Americans come home, but they come home with honor in victory, not in defeat," McCain told reporters in Virginia.

Obama, who has attacked McCain's trips as glorified photo opportunities, argues the real front of the "war on terror" is Afghanistan and that the US involvement in Iraq has been a diplomatic and financial disaster.

In any case, opinion polls suggest that most Americans are more concerned with the faltering economy than with Iraq as they reel from an epidemic of home foreclosures, job losses and skyrocketing gasoline prices.

Obama drew a link to the war as he outlined his plans to restore US competitiveness with a speech in Flint, in the rusting heart of Michigan's auto industry.

"We could have invested in innovation and rebuilt our crumbling roads and bridges, but instead we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars fighting a war in Iraq that should've never been authorized and never been waged," he said.

"Instead of reaching for new horizons, (President) George Bush has put us in a hole, and John McCain's policies will keep us there."

Carly Fiorina, a top economic adviser to McCain and former head of computer giant Hewlett-Packard, said the Michigan speech was "an example of the contrast between Barack Obama's rhetoric and the reality of his record."

She attacked Obama's "protectionist" stance on free trade and said he offered discredited "big-government solutions" on education and healthcare that would do nothing for US competitiveness.

Obama returned to the issue of Iraq at a fundraiser in Detroit late Monday where he was introduced by Gore as the "next president of the United States."

He repeatedly praised the former vice-president, saying it was "a war that Al Gore understood should never have been authorized and never should have been waged," according to a pool report.

Gore, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his campaign against global warming, had stayed neutral during the grueling primary battle between Obama and Hillary Clinton.

But at the Detroit event the former Democratic party nominee said he would do whatever he could to ensure Obama won in November, as the United States "simply cannot afford to continue the policies of the last eight years for another four."

"Over the next four years, we are going to face many difficult challenges, including bringing our troops home from Iraq, fixing our economy, and solving the climate crisis," Gore said.

"Barack Obama is clearly the candidate best able to solve these problems and bring change to America."

The Obama campaign, rebuffing McCain's courtship of Clinton supporters, meanwhile lambasted the Republican's ties to Texas oilman Clayton "Claytie" Williams, who joked in 1990 that rape victims should "lie back and enjoy it."

Obama spokesman Hari Sevugan noted that McCain had Friday canceled a fundraising event at Williams's home, after media reports about the rape remark, but was refusing to return more than 300,000 dollars raised by him.

"The only thing more insulting than John McCain's willingness to keep hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash raised by Claytie Williams is his attempt to get away with it by simply changing the venue of his fundraiser," Sevugan said.

McCain said that his plans to reschedule the fundraiser were "pretty much the sum" of the controversy, and declined to say whether it might hurt his standing with female voters.
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Growing Support for Taleban Talks
Analysts see political engagement with insurgents as best prospect for securing peace.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting
By Caroline Tosh in London and Hafizullah Gardesh in Kabul (ARR No. 293, 16-Jun-08)
As violence continues in Afghanistan, there is a growing consensus that the Taleban cannot be defeated by military might alone, and that negotiations might offer a way towards some kind of political settlement.

The number of British soldiers killed in Afghanistan reached 100 last week when three soldiers died in a suicide attack in Helmand on June 8. Four days later, two more members of the Parachute Regiment were killed in an ambush.

This grim landmark figure has prompted observers to ask whether the achievements to date, and the likely future gains, are enough to justify the growing list of casualties.

When British troops were sent in to Helmand province in spring 2006 to provide security and oversee reconstruction efforts, the then defence secretary John Reid said he hoped the mission would come and go without a single shot being fired. The Taleban, whose government was overthrown in 2001, were no longer considered a serious threat.

However, since then, the so-called neo-Taleban has re-emerged as a deadly fighting force, bolstered with support from al-Qaeda and other extremist groups

In spite of the presence of tens of thousands of troops in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, and the United States-led coalition (Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF) around the country, the Taleban’s influence continues to grow across Afghanistan, beyond its traditional strongholds in the south and east.

While it cannot defeat international forces in conventional warfare, the Taleban also use Iraqi-style tactics – suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices targeting civilian as well as military targets in an attempt to destabilise the country.

According to UN figures, last year proved the bloodiest yet, with more than 8,000 lives claimed by the fighting, around 1,500 of them civilians.

Meanwhile, appraisals of the international community’s nation building and reconstruction efforts have been critical. Most Afghan communities still live in grinding poverty with no access to basic services.

Afghans have little faith in central government, which has limited reach in many areas and is riddled with corruption. There is also bitter disappointment that training of the police, army, and civil servants has been much slower than hoped.

"We are making significant progress in Afghanistan. It's slow, sometimes it's frustratingly slow," Britain’s Defence Secretary Des Browne admitted on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme on June 9.

TALEBAN GAINING THE UPPER HAND?
Although the international media has focused on the spreading influence of the Taleban, analysts say it is hard to assess the extent of their control.

One reason for this is that group is often linked to attacks carried out by other actors.

“Many attacks attributed to the Taleban are actually undertaken by tribal groups and are really a result tribal of disputes,” said Mark Sedra, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, CIGI, in Ontario. “These are often claimed by the Taleban, and are reported by the international press as Taleban attacks, when often the links to the movement are very tenuous.”

Paul Smyth of the Royal United Services Institute in London agrees that the situation is not clear-cut.

“It is extremely difficult to measure how the insurgency is going… and trying to find a yardstick that you can use for a credible assessment as to whether things are going badly or going well [for the Taleban] is extremely difficult,” he said.

Smyth stressed that nation-building and counter insurgency are processes that can take “many, many years”.

“How can we, after seven years, and only three since ISAF [moved] to promote security across the whole country… make any sort of credible judgements about whether or not the mission is doomed to failure or inevitable victory?” he asked.

Observers note that support for the Taleban has increased among Afghan civilians of late, as the insurgents appear to be winning the propaganda war.

An International Crisis Group report from February 2008 concluded, “Troop shortages, potential withdrawals [of foreign troops] and infighting all feed perceptions of weakening of international resolve, and thus influence the dynamics of the insurgency.”

With support for the Afghan war and the commitment of troops becoming an election liability in many countries, reports in the international media say some governments, including those of the Netherlands and Canada, are scheduling troop withdrawals to take place within two years.

Collateral damage from ISAF and OEF military operations, as well as perceptions of cultural insensitivity from international troops, have also served to boost the popularity of the Taleban.

“The killing of innocent people by the foreign forces, especially the Americans, bombing houses, insulting people’s culture and beliefs, raiding houses during the night, searching women – these are all factors that pave the way for the Taleban to grow stronger,” said Habibullah Rafi, a political analyst and member of the Academy of Sciences in Kabul.

Meanwhile, analysts say widespread official corruption, along with the failure of sub-national administrations to provide basic levels of services to locals, has driven entire communities to back the militias.

“The Afghan government is so corrupt that people have now lost confidence in it,” said Rafi.

“Poverty, unemployment, problems created by warlords, and lawlessness are all issues that widen the gap between government and the people. This is to the Taleban’s advantage.”

A spokesman for the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, Aleem Siddique, acknowledged that the national authorities have very little presence in some parts of the country.

“When people do have contact with the government, it’s often with corrupt police or government officials who are more of a hindrance than a benefit in their lives,” he said.

The Taleban have proved adept at exploiting tensions between local communities and government over opium poppy production, promising to protect the crops of poor farmers from official eradication programmes.

They produce promotional DVDs, disseminated in Pakistani bazaars, promoting the rebel cause and portraying the Taleban as victorious.

“An effective campaign has created a growing feeling among many Afghans that momentum is on the Taleban’s side and that they have taken the initiative in the conflict,” said Sedra, adding that this perception had prompted many people to back the Taleban not out of any belief in their ideology, but because they see them as a likely winner in the conflict.

“Afghans have been through three decades of conflict; they have developed a keen sense of picking winners and ensuring that they are on the right side when the dust settles, because of course that will have major implications for their own position in the post-war dispensation,” said Sedra.

Marvin G. Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute said that with no obvious winner of the insurgency emerging, many Afghans were reluctant to show loyalty to either side.

“They are [yet] to be convinced that the government and the international community are going to be around, because the Taleban’s message to them is that ‘we’ll be here long after [the international community] has gone’,” he said.

Many observers also believe that the growing support for the Taleban is partly a result of nostalgia for the rough justice and security it provided when it ran the country between 1996 and 2001.

During its reign, there were fewer of the criminal gangs and warlords that are now so prevalent – particularly in the north of the country, where militia commanders have been co-opted into state institutions with a devastating effect on local populations.

“Some would argue many Afghans preferred the harsh justice of the Taleban to no justice at all,” said BBC Kabul correspondent Alastair Leithead.

Afghan political analyst Qasim Akhgar said the West’s failure to bring pressure to bear on Pakistan, where the Taleban have their headquarters, had given the movement time and space to grow.

“The international community knows everything. They know how the Taleban came onto the scene, they know where their hideouts are, who their supporters are…but the international community, particularly the United States, refrains from bringing serious pressure to bear on Pakistan,” he said.

BALANCE OF POWER
The gruelling task faced by international troops in defending territory against Taleban fighters – often with resources thin on the ground – has been written about extensively in the international press.

New tactics such as roadside bombs and suicide attacks have caused casualties to soar, particularly in Helmand province, the frontline of the insurgency.

Yet, Smyth argues that these “terrorist” strategies might reflect the weakness rather than the strength of the group.

“Ultimately, if [the Taleban] become reliant on terrorism, I think that (a) that undermines their moral authority to govern, (b) it runs the very real risk of alienating the population, and (c) it applies a level of violence that –across the globe in many countries – people have demonstrated an ability to absorb and accommodate,” he said.

Antonio Giustozzi, author of a recent book called “Koran, Kalashnikov and Laptop: The Neo-Taliban Insurgency in Afghanistan”, said the insurgents lack the capacity to make substantial territorial gains.

“They control most of the rural areas, but they’re not going to get firm control over the towns or the highways, he said.

“Though they can carry out occasional raids and set up road blocks, they are not going to be able to do much more than that because of the sheer technological superiority of the foreign forces.”

Siddique dismissed the idea that the Taleban would reach a point where they were in a position to topple the government.

“When you deploy hit-and-run asymmetric tactics, of course it has a huge influence and psychological impact on the people, but that does not mean that the Taleban are any threat to take over from the government,” he said.

At the same time, the Taleban have de facto control of much of the countryside in Helmand, and when they are dislodged by concerted military action backed by airpower, they need only wait for the armed forces to withdraw before they move back in.

They have also held urban centres for significant periods of time, for example, Musa Qala, where they won effective control in October 2006 when the British forces withdrew under an agreement in which local tribal elders were supposed to keep the peace. The Taleban made their domination official by setting up a district government in February 2007.

Further south, a major offensive launched by US Marines in late April this year is in fact the third time the international forces have moved to dislodge the insurgents from Garmsir; the first two, in September 2006 and February 2007, do not seem to have proved lasting gains.

So even if the Taleban cannot hold territory against overwhelming force, the international troops seem to be too thinly spread to prevent the guerrillas seeping back into an area once full-blown military action is at an end. This clearly has major implications for the elements that are supposed to follow military operations – sustainable local government and reconstruction work.

PROPAGANDA GAINS
If the military confrontation seems to have reached a stalemate in which neither side has the upper hand, the Taleban’s ability to intimidate people and disrupt the country is debilitating for the authorities.

“What you’ll hear many people saying in Kabul is the Taleban can never win this insurgency, but there are also no guarantees that the government of Afghanistan will win it either,” said Siddique.

While the militia force may lack the ability to make substantial territorial gains, it shows no signs of laying down its arms, and has promised to continue fighting until all foreign troops have been expelled from Afghanistan.

The longer the impasse continues, analysts say, the more damaging it is for the internationals and the Afghan government, and their attempts to restore order in the country. A guerrilla force has the advantage of waiting for its opponent to tire.

“The Taleban has spread the word – the US has the watches and we have the time,” said Dr Citha Maass of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP, citing a rumour current in southern Afghanistan.

“So in the long term, if you can sit and wait, you are in a stronger position. The internationals always have to justify why they sent their soldiers and why so many soldiers are killed.”

GRINDING THE TALEBAN DOWN
In the meantime, international troops and the Afghan National Army continue to apply military pressure on the Taleban in the hope that the force will one day crack.

“It’s a kind of slow erosion – inflicting serious casualties hoping that they will create dissent within the ranks and then the credibility of the leadership will collapse, and people will be more inclined to either surrender or simply abandon the fight,” explained Giustozzi.

“That would create disruption and would also discredit the Taleban among the jihadist supporters so that funding will not be forthcoming, at least not in the same quantities.”

However, experts agree that the insurgency will not be quashed by military force alone. To remove support for the Taleban, they say, the authorities must strengthen civil society, tackle government corruption and provide more effective aid.

“Many United States military officials today in Afghanistan will talk about what they would call ‘kinetic [military] operations’ as a distraction, actually, to the more important work providing an enabling an environment for development, reconstruction and state consolidation,” noted Sedra.

Siddique, too, stressed the need for a multiple-track approach.

“We need to see greater efforts in the field of development and the delivery of basic services, to undercut the support for the insurgency,” he said.

Another priority is tackling the thriving opium poppy trade, which is not only having a corroding effect on the country’s institutions, but is also helping to fund the rebellion, he added.

“Estimates by UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] are that as much as ten per cent of poppy price that farmers sell their poppy for goes towards the Taleban insurgency,” said Siddique.

TIME TO CUT A DEAL?
With a growing sense that reluctance to engage with the Taleban politically is only extending the conflict, calls for negotiations with the group gather momentum.

An Afghan government programme set up to persuade more moderate Taleban to lay down their weapons and commit themselves to the authorities has so far offered amnesties to thousands of low-level members.

This programme, under which former rebel combatants could potentially be offered official positions, has not so far enjoyed international support. Western officials are reluctant to enter into negotiations with an organisation regarded as a terrorist group, and many the donor states – the US, in particular – have been vehemently opposed to talks.

However, some countries, including the UK, see talks with the Taleban as the way forward.

Last month, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a speech delivered in Washington that there was “no military solution” to the spread of extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas.

“So we need to separate those determined to impose their views by force of arms from those willing to accept the freedoms and limits of a constitutional order. We need to incorporate as far as possible the full range of competing interests within public politics,” he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in London.

Giustozzi said he thought there were already channels of communication open between the government and the Taleban, as well as between the insurgents and the United Nations.

He also pointed out that with a new US president set to take over in winter, Washington’s opposition to talks could change.

“After November, there will be a new president in America who might have different views, or at least might not [take] the same kind of ownership for what has been done so far, and will be open to changing tack,” he said.

“I think everybody seems to be aware, and they’re already starting to prepare the ground, so if negotiations start say some time next spring, there will already be channels of communication open, they will be already established and then things can move relatively quickly.”

Even now, there are signs the Bush administration may be coming round to the idea of talks.

In a report published on the website of Canadian paper Toronto Star, on May 31, Sedra reported that “sources in the administration indicate that it has quietly expressed its support” for the reconciliation programme.

“I think that [backing talks with the Taleban] is quietly becoming an administration policy,” he told IWPR.

President Hamed Karzai has repeatedly extended the olive branch to the Taleban, and has even said he would offer cabinet posts to Taleban leader Mullah Omar and the leader of the allied Hizb-e Islami, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, if it would lead to peace.

The Taleban movement has so far snubbed Karzai’s overtures, ostensibly because of his refusal to expel foreign troops from Afghan soil.

Further obstacles could stand in the way of government talks. Former members of the mujahedin groups in the “Northern Alliance”, who fought the Taleban for many years, now dominate parliament and are deeply opposed to pursuing a political settlement.

The former commanders are reluctant to relinquish any of their considerable power to their old enemy, and also fear that they would lose power if peace broke out in the mainly Pashtun south of Afghanistan and it began playing a greater role in state governance.

Ismail Yun, a political analyst and lecturer at Kabul University, believes the international community made a fundamental mistake, first by supporting warlords who opposed the Taleban, and then by marginalising the group.

“It was a mistake by the international community that from the very beginning they gave advantages to some criminal factions just because they were opposing the Taleban. They removed the Taleban from the political scene completely,” he said.

These groups, who won power because they were anti-Taleban, are now creating obstacles to negotiations, he said, adding, “They don’t want the Taleban to share power in the government, because then they will lose their privileged position.

In spite of this, Burhanuddin Rabbani, former Afghan president and leader of Jamiat-e Islami, a key northern faction, announced last month that he was talking to the Taleban. He said he had been in touch with rebel leaders and had received “encouraging messages” directed at the northern factions.

According to Rabbani, the militants expressed a wish for a political solution to the conflict.

However, a subsequent press statement from the Taleban denied there had been any contact.

Ordinary Afghans, meanwhile, remain divided over the prospect of negotiating a settlement.

Maass said that during her last trip to Afghanistan in April to May this year, people she spoke to indicated their support for the policy.

“In principle, Afghan people will tell you, ‘Yes, of course, we have to talk with enemies,’ in this case with Taleban, because that is normal for Afghans,” she said.

According to Yun, ordinary Afghans are supportive of talking to the Taleban. They are tired of fighting and just want peace, he said.

”If somebody is thirsty, he or she is in need of water. It’s not important where the water comes from. People in Afghanistan are thirsty for peace now. And they do not care how or from where the peace comes.”

However, Siddique believes many are wary of political engagement with the group without clear red lines on important issues.

“They don’t want to see the international community or the government sell out girls’ education, or TV and media freedom to the Taleban, or any other party for that matter, for a convenient political settlement,” he said.

PEACE ON WHAT TERMS?
If talks were to go ahead, it remains unclear what the terms of an eventual peace deal or power-sharing agreement might be.

It might be hard to convince the Taleban to lay down their arms and negotiate if they feel victory is only a matter of time.

Giustozzi said negotiations did not automatically mean a deal would be reached, because some of the Taleban’s demands were likely to be unacceptable for the Afghan authorities.

“It’s possible that conversations will start and they’re stuck… and no deal is really reached,” he said.

Sedra noted that when Karzai has made public appeals to the Taleban in the past, the group’s spokesman has responded with certain conditions that are “essentially non-starters” for any peace deal.

“The reality is there’s an Afghan constitution now, which many of the Taleban interpretations of Sharia law [Islamic] would clearly undermine,” he said.

Neither would the Afghan government accede to the Taleban’s demand for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops.

In addition, top Taleban figures may not be eligible for an amnesty even if they wanted one.

“Mullah Omar can’t appear tomorrow and say, ‘I’m ready to do peace’. Nobody is going to say all is forgiven, come in from the cold,” agreed Siddique.

The senior Taleban leadership might not be prepared to make compromises for the sake of peace.

“Nobody should be fooled that the agenda of these groups is a strictly Islamic agenda. They’re not going to shed that view. Without that they have no purpose,” said Weinbaum.

He also warned of the dangers involved in negotiating with a group so closely linked with ties to al-Qaeda and other extremist organisations.

“If [the Taleban enter a power-sharing agreement] it opens the door as well for terrorist organisations to reassert themselves in Afghanistan, so [it is not] a matter of simply saying that we want to find a political solution.”

However, others remain optimistic that with the right political and economic incentives, a deal could be reached with the more moderate elements of the Taleban.

“It’s very hard to tell, but there have been indications that it would be possible to drive a wedge between some moderate Taleban commanders and the hard-core leadership,” said Sedra.

He dismissed fears that negotiations with the movement could allow al-Qaeda to somehow grasp power through the back door.

“Any sort of rapprochement with elements of the Taleban would involve a clear renunciation of any links with al-Qaeda,” he said.

“I’m sure if there was any intelligence indicating that these actors were maintaining those links it would scuttle any sort of deal.”

Caroline Tosh is an IWPR editor in London. Hafizullah Gardesh is IWPR’s local editor in Kabul.
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U.S. Is Urged To Okay Afghan Irregulars An 'Awakening' Strategy for Afghanistan
By ELI LAKE, Staff Reporter of the New York Sun June 17, 2008
WASHINGTON — The Arabs who vanquished Al Qaeda in Iraq's Anbar province are counseling America to allow Afghans to form irregular militias and be mindful of their devout adherence to Islam, according to a memo from the Anbar Awakening to the American Embassy in Kabul.

A rough English translation of the memo, which outlines an "awakening" strategy for Afghanistan and was originally prepared in Arabic at the request of the American deputy chief of mission there, Christopher Dell, was obtained by The New York Sun and confirmed as accurate by the military.

The Afghanistan front has been a worry for America and its NATO allies. During the weekend, terrorists carried out a daring jailbreak in Kandahar. General David Petraeus, who has been nominated to lead Central Command, which includes Afghanistan, has said he intends to reassess Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts in its northwest border provinces, believed to be home to Al Qaeda's senior leadership. And the Sunday Times of London has reported that President Bush enlisted the British special forces in a bid to capture Osama bin Laden before the November presidential election.

In the memo, the Iraqi sheiks offer to send diplomatic and military delegations to Afghanistan to identify potential rebellion leaders and share strategies for fomenting an anti-Qaeda rebellion.

"It is suggested for this project to be successful to send a delegations of 3-5 Sahwat Al-Iraq military and political leaders to explain and clarify the essential requirements to implement and succeed in the experiment," the memo says. "Explain how to prepare and plan the fight just like Sahwat Al-Iraq did and achieved against Al-Qaeda."

The sheiks must be aware, however, of the strict form of Islam practiced by many Afghans. "It is important not to infuriate influential public leaders, particularly the community religious leaders, mosque's preachers, mosque's imams, school and university faculty members, and Islamic leaders in the tribal areas," the memo says.

One of the key strategies of the Anbar Awakening model was to identify imams and mosques that did not favor Salafism, the form of Islam that Al Qaeda imposed. Along those lines, the memo recommends directing the Afghan government to make a show of its enforcement of anti-pornography laws in the short term. But in the long term, the sheiks counsel the Americans to build Pashtun universities and new local schools. "This would create an educated and professional class due to their new situation of professional careers, not due to their tribes or religious persuasions," the memo says.

The memo is signed by Sheik Ahmad al-Rishawi, who told the Sun last week that he was willing to send military advisers to Afghanistan. But it was prepared by the Anbar Awakening's General Intelligence and Diplomatic Offices, with input from a "Research Committee for the Afghanis and Muslims of Central Asian Countries," which includes former Baathist diplomats to Afghanistan.

The new tribal organizations in Afghanistan should establish committees to identify reconstruction needs and communicate them to the government in Kabul, the memo says. In keeping with current Iraq policy, it cautions against alienating any potential allies in the struggle against Al Qaeda, as they could switch sides. The Awakening has expanded in part by bringing into its ranks former terrorists who plotted attacks on Americans.

Whether the military or State Department will take the Iraqi sheiks up on their offer and teach them Urdu and transport them to Afghanistan remains to be seen. Some analysts in Washington, however, are encouraged.

"The command in Afghanistan understands the benefit that took place in Anbar," a retired four-star general and one of the architects of the current surge strategy in Iraq, Jack Keane, said. "The commanders from Iraq have been cross-talking with the commanders in Afghanistan. I think this approach has some real merit, to have someone from the tribal side who is directly involved in the process to go to Afghanistan."

One of General Keane's collaborators on the Iraq surge, Frederick Kagan, said the sheiks' offer was important from an ideological perspective. "The bottom line is we know that nothing upsets Al Qaeda more than the Anbar Awakening," Mr. Kagan, a senior scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said. "Nothing freaks them out more that a Sunni Arab community that welcomed them and has rejected them and aligned with the Americans."

But Mr. Kagan said the tribal structures of Iraq, where the senior Qaeda leadership was foreign, are far different than those of Afghanistan, where the Taliban is largely indigenous in the Pashtun region. "I don't think the Taliban insurgency is remotely as dangerous or acute as it was in Anbar," he said. "I don't want to play it down; it is a serious insurgency. But the scale of the problem in every sense in Afghanistan is smaller."

A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Brian Katulis, said when he visited Pakistan recently, many in the security establishment and the government were wary of exporting the Anbar model to the Pakistani frontier provinces. "The Pakistanis don't look at Iraq as the model of what they want for their country," he said. "When they hear Iraq, they think disaster, they think American occupation, they think of a situation that has not been good for the Iraqi people."
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Japan PM says no plans to send troops to Afghanistan
Tue Jun 17, 5:36 AM ET
TOKYO (AFP) - Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Tuesday that Japan has no immediate plans to send ground troops into Afghanistan, although there are studies for a potential deployment.

Fukuda said that Japan was restricted in what it could do by its post-World War II pacifist constitution.

"Therefore we are not taking part in ground operations in Afghanistan," Fukuda said in a group interview with news agencies from the Group of Eight rich nations ahead of their July 7-9 summit.

"I believe that there are things that each country can do," he said.

But Fukuda hinted at future cooperation with Germany, which is sending troops to Afghanistan, saying: "If we can do it, we should cooperate."

Tokyo has been a major donor to Afghanistan, pledging 1.3 billion dollars since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

However, its constitution limits its military activities, and it does not have troops among the international forces helping Afghanistan fight the resurgent Islamic extremist movement.

Japan has sent ships to the Indian Ocean to provide fuel and other logistical help to coalition forces, despite objections by the opposition parties which control one house of parliament.

In the interview, Fukuda said Japan eventually may need to revise its constitution if the country wants to send full-fledged troops overseas to help ease regional conflicts.

"But under the current situation, the public opinion -- undoubtedly a majority -- holds that we should not be engaged in combat activities overseas," he said.

Fukuda's conservative predecessor Shinzo Abe, who quit last year, was a strong advocate of revising the constitution, which was imposed by US occupiers after Japan's defeat in World War II.

But Fukuda, known as a moderate, has all but ended a drive in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to revise the constitution.
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Afghanistan: Pakistani Journalist Criticizes Nation Building In South-Central Asia
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 17, 2008
Best-selling Pakistani author and journalist Ahmed Rashid's new book, "Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia," is a comprehensive look at the South-Central Asian region in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Rashid uses field reports and insight into the power corridors of Washington and Europe to present a critical appraisal of the post-2001 developments in the region. The book shows why Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia are vital to winning the global struggle against the Islamist insurgents led by Al-Qaeda. RFE/RL correspondent Abubakar Siddique spoke with Rashid during a promotional tour in the United States to ask him about some of the conclusions in his book.

RFE/RL: In your new book, "Descent into Chaos," you chronicle the failure of U.S. efforts in South-Central Asia post-9/11. What, in your opinion, have been the major failures of U.S. policy and international engagement in the region?

Ahmed Rashid: I think the major distraction was the war in Iraq. That literally within weeks of concluding the war in Afghanistan in 2001, the Americans had already decided to invade Iraq and had pulled out some of their best resources and facilities from Afghanistan.... The second factor was that there was no plan to rebuild and reconstruct the country. I think the Afghan people offered the international forces a huge window of opportunity to do so. [They] welcomed foreign forces, welcomed foreign reconstruction but the Americans had no intention to do so, again partly because of Iraq. Thirdly, there was no plan as to what to do with the Taliban, even though the U.S. had a very narrow agenda of trying to capture and kill Al-Qaeda.... And as a consequence they [the Taliban] were picked up by Pakistan and reinserted into the battle two years later.

RFE/RL: Why has the international community failed to convince the Pakistani establishment -- which is dominated by its military -- that a peaceful, stable Afghanistan is in its best interests, as your book maintains that Pakistan is still supporting the Taliban insurgency?

Rashid: I think the real issue was that the U.S. refused to recognize this issue. The U.S. agenda for Afghanistan and Pakistan was that General [Pervez] Musharraf should be involved in catching as many Al-Qaeda -- that is the Arab component of the Al-Qaeda leaders -- as possible. They were not interested in [dealing with] the Taliban...and there was no real pressure on the Pakistanis to end their support for the Taliban.

RFE/RL: One of the chapters in your book is called "The One Billion Dollar Warlords." Why do you think the empowering of the anti-Taliban warlords was a bad strategy -- after all they were instrumental in overthrowing the Taliban?

Rashid: Once the Taliban were overthrown, it was ridiculous to assume that the public would welcome the same warlords who had raped and pillaged and stolen from them in the 1990s. And this has helped create the civil war inside [Afghanistan]. It was ridiculous to assume that the public would support them. Because the U.S. got immediately bogged down in Iraq, they thought the easiest way to keep law and order in the provinces would be to have a weak government in the center, which was headed by Hamid Karzai. And the other was to empower the warlords in the countryside, thinking that these warlords will keep law and order and keep the peace. On the contrary, these warlords broke law and order and broke the peace and, in fact, even gave shelter to Taliban and Al-Qaeda and harassed the local population.

RFE/RL: You maintain that seven years after the overthrow of the Taliban, there still is no coordinated international antidrug policy. Why is that and what needs to be done to correct it?

Rashid: The bottom line [is that] the Americans have been very reluctant to use the U.S. military in any capacity whatsoever. Now, the argument was that we can understand that the Americans or NATO would not use their soldiers to carry out eradication but -- at least very early on -- they were the only forces in the country who could have carried out interdiction.... Secondly, I think, there was a very deep division between the Americans and the British over drugs policy. The Americans have talked frequently about spraying the poppy fields and such things. The British and other Europeans are very much against that, saying that it would only antagonize the farmers."

RFE/RL: At the recent Paris donors' conference, the international community pledged $21 billion for Afghanistan's reconstruction. Do you see economic reconstruction being stepped up in Afghanistan?

Rashid: First of all we really don't know how much of this is new funding and how much of this is old funding -- money that has been reissued again. But I think more important than that is even to see what kind of commitments the Afghan government have given to the international community to deal with the issues that are under their control. And, in particular, I will single out drugs, corruption, and better governance. And I think these are what has been the real plea of the Afghan people that the government should improve these topics.

RFE/RL: In a bold attack on [June 13], hundreds of Taliban prisoners were freed from the Kandahar prison, do you think that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgency is now winning in Afghanistan?

Rashid: I wouldn't say it's winning. But it's certainly showing -- unlike what the Americans are saying -- it is certainly showing a huge capacity to mount ever more sophisticated attacks.... [The Taliban] are capable now of mounting very sophisticated attacks, which cause immense embarrassment.... [The Taliban] want to embarrass these NATO allies, which will, in turn create opposition at home for these NATO governments. The Taliban want to increase sufficient opposition so that finally these foreign troops are pulled out.

RFE/RL: Do you see peaceful democratic presidential elections in Afghanistan next year? Do you see President Karzai participating and winning those elections even though he dislikes political parties and has so far failed to organize one?

Rashid: I was with President Karzai about 10 days ago and he assured me that he would be standing in the elections. But once again he is adamant that he will not have political parties. He will not set up a political party himself and he didn't seem to really have an agenda for the next 18 months as to when and why and how he was going to win back public support. Unless the military situation improves, I don't think the country can afford an election.... I think the second issue is, how do you organize the mechanics of the elections? It was very difficult in 2004 when there was relative peace across the country.... And thirdly, I think, the issue is that there will be some very strong opposition candidates standing against Karzai and that lobbying has already started in Kabul.

RFE/RL: Going back to Pakistan, your book is highly critical of Pakistan's Afghan policy. Given the raging Taliban insurgency in Pakistan, do you see Pakistan a victor or a victim after its quarter century of deep engagement in Afghan affairs?

Rashid: I don't think Pakistan has gained anything by this engagement. It has, in fact, created a blowback of now huge proportions where we have our own Taliban problem, where Talibanization is taking place in the North-West Frontier Province. The latest reports are that Pakistani Taliban militias are now surrounding Peshawar [the capital of the North-West Frontier Province] and are even beginning to enter Peshawar. And the government is having to organize a defense of Peshawar, which is an extraordinary situation. It is far worse, for example, than what is happening in Afghanistan.... The blowback of drugs, of guns, of extremism, the suicide bombings we have had. All this has come around because of the military's covert support to the Afghan Taliban leadership and giving them sanctuaries back in 2001.

RFE/RL: On June 11, a U.S. air strike killed 11 Pakistani military soldiers inside Pakistani tribal areas. Do you see the war in Afghanistan now moving to Pakistani borderlands where the western coalition in Afghanistan believes Taliban and Al-Qaeda has sanctuaries?

Rashid: There is a very massive breakdown between the U.S. and the Pakistani military. I think talks between these two have failed.... Whatever the details are of this clash. We really don't know what happened, there are many versions. But I think the real issue was that the Americans are clearly sending a very tough message to the Pakistanis.

RFE/RL: What is your assessment of the ongoing efforts in Pakistan to conclude peace deals with the Taliban?

Rashid: I don't think these efforts are successful. I don't think these efforts can work because, simply, the Taliban are clearly using these efforts to rebuild their organization and further "Talibanize" the region. Every time there is a peace deal, what we get is that the Taliban are left alone in their region and they are left alone to reorganize themselves and to expand their area of influence.

RFE/RL: Finally, given the discontent with authoritarian rule in Central Asia: do you see it moving towards a democratic transition in the near future?

Rashid: Well, there is a lot of progress in some areas of Central Asia. But, by and large, the leaders are still dictatorial, they are authoritarian. The expected political and economic reforms that should have been carried out after 9/11 and which -- I think, the people of Central Asia were hoping would be carried out -- was never done. So we really do have quite a grim situation in Central Asia. And of course, in midst of this, you have much worse poverty than ever before. You have much greater repression and you really don't have any steps forward as far as the democratization is concerned.
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Conflicts In Afghanistan, Iraq Swell Refugee Numbers - UN
LONDON (AP)--Conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are forcing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes, driving up the global number of refugees after several years of decline, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

UNHCR said in its annual report that in 2007 11.4 million refugees were living outside their countries, compared with 9.9 million in 2006. A further 26 million were displaced within their own countries, up from 24.2 million the year before.

The group said almost half the world's refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq. UNHCR said there are 3 million displaced Afghans, most in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, and 2 million Iraqi refugees, mostly in Syria and Jordan. A further 2.4 million Iraqis are internally displaced, an increase of 600,000 since the start of 2007.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said that until 2005 there had been several years of decline as refugees returned to countries including Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Angola.

"Now, unfortunately, with the multiplication of conflicts and the intensification of conflicts, the number is on the rise again," he said.

Guterres spoke amid the tents, food rations and jugs of water of a mock refugee camp set up Tuesday in London's Trafalgar Square ahead of World Refugee Day on Friday.

Guterres said bad governance, environmental degradation and rising food prices were generating instability and "new patterns of forced displacement" in many regions.

"People being forced to move, unfortunately, will be one of the characteristics of the 21st century," he said.

In Colombia, where the government has fought a decades-long war with left-wing guerillas, as many as 3 million people have left their homes, while more than 550,000 have become refugees in other countries. Around half a million Sudanese and Somalis have also sought refuge abroad, the report said.

The number of internally displaced people grew last year in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Yemen, as well as in the Central African Republic and Chad, where thousands of refugees have crossed the border from the Sudanese region of Darfur.

The U.N. estimates 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced since ethnic African tribesmen took up arms against Sudan's Arab- dominated government five years ago. The government is accused of responding by unleashing the tribal militia known as janjaweed, which have committed the worst atrocities against Darfur's local communities.

"Darfur is like an earthquake," Guterres said. "It has an epicenter in Darfur itself, but then the waves spread and instability is created also in the countries around."

Most refugees end up taking shelter in neighboring countries. UNHCR said the top refugee-hosting countries include Pakistan, Syria, Iran, Germany and Jordan.

The group said 647,000 asylum applications were made around the world in 2007, a 5% increase on 2006 and the first rise in four years. The largest number were Iraqis seeking asylum in Europe. The top destinations for asylum seekers were the U.S., South Africa, Sweden, France, U.K., Canada and Greece.

The report did point to progress in some areas, noting that 2.8 million refugees and displaced people returned home in 2007.
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Sarkozy Focuses on Afghan Reconstruction to Sell War to France
By Celestine Bohlen
June 17 (Bloomberg) -- As a fresh battalion of 700 French soldiers sets off this summer for the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, President Nicolas Sarkozy is seeking a more- coherent course for a six-and-a-half year conflict that has no end in sight.

In Europe, where committing troops to the war has been a hard sell in recent years, continued involvement hinges on a comprehensive plan for the country's reconstruction, which was the focus of an international conference in Paris last week.

European leaders ``want a new strategy that's more saleable at home,'' says Daniel Korski, author of ``Afghanistan: Europe's Forgotten War'' and a senior fellow at the London-based European Council on Foreign Relations. ``It is part of an outreach to the domestic audience that there's more to this than the military component.''

When the war was launched in 2001 in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, the fight against al-Qaeda and its Taliban allies had broad support in both the U.S. and Europe. This was in stark contrast to the more divisive, costlier and deadlier Iraq war that began two years later.

Since then, Afghanistan has increasingly been caught in a spiral of violence and corruption, fueled by a booming opium trade that has put local officials in thrall to a criminal narcotics racket.

Heroin production in Afghanistan has tripled since 2001, and now accounts for 90 percent of the world supply, according to U.S. figures. Profit from the drug trade helps fund Taliban insurgents, who have stepped up attacks. In 2003, there were three suicide bombings. In 2007, there were 130.

As allied casualties have mounted -- more than 840 at last count -- popular support for the war has waned in Europe, limiting the ability of government leaders to respond to urgent pleas for help from the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which leads the international force in Afghanistan.

Money for humanitarian and reconstruction projects is easier to collect. More than $20 billion in aid was pledged at the Paris conference last week, as 85 countries and international organizations rallied to help. The U.S. was by far the largest donor, with a promise of $10.2 billion over two years on top of $23 billion spent since 2001. France pledged to deliver $165 million by 2009.

Sarkozy has won praise from U.S. President George W. Bush for increasing France's troop commitment in Afghanistan. Last week, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi followed suit, telling Bush that he is willing to let Italian troops assume a broader military role.

They and other leaders have been less successful in convincing their populations of the importance of fighting in Afghanistan.

Sixty-eight percent of French people oppose Sarkozy's decision to send more troops, according to a survey conducted by Paris-based pollster BVA, which questioned 970 people between March 28 and 29.
In April, the country's Socialist opposition introduced a no-confidence motion in Parliament because of Sarkozy's plan to increase the French presence to 2,300 soldiers; the measure failed. German leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel have had to face down political opposition each time they renew their deployment of some 3,500 troops.

Hosting the Paris conference, which focused more on social and developmental issues, was one way for Sarkozy to offset criticism of the new deployment.

Aid donors have criticized the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, which they say is plagued by corruption and a ``bouillabaisse'' of overlapping assistance programs. Last week's conference promised a new start, with the local United Nations mission given a broader mandate to coordinate projects and the Afghan government more authority to execute them.

There are now about 70,000 international troops in Afghanistan; 32,000 are Americans, according to Pentagon and NATO figures. The U.S. commitment is due to increase again next year, perhaps by as many as 7,000, filling a shortfall left by reluctant NATO allies: Just two years ago, the U.S. force was 20,000.

French officials stress that the Afghanistan conflict cannot be solved by force alone.

``There will be no military solution,'' says Eric Chevallier, the French Foreign Ministry's special adviser and the conference's chief organizer. ``There must be a military dimension, but it will be a political solution, achieved through a comprehensive approach.''

Europeans look to the next U.S. president -- Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain -- to pay more attention to Afghanistan, as the war in Iraq eventually winds down.

``It is clear that both McCain and Obama would invest more in Afghanistan,'' Korski says. ``They see Afghanistan as the `good war.'''

In a speech last August, Illinois Senator Obama, 46, said it is time ``to turn the page'' on the U.S. response to terrorism. ``The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan,'' he said.

Arizona Senator McCain, 71, who still supports the war in Iraq, predicted in a May 15 speech that by 2013, America will have ``welcomed home most of the servicemen and women'' from Iraq, while forces will still be in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban threat, which ``has been greatly reduced but not
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Minister wants answers to Afghan prison break
By JOHN WARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA -- While the Taliban massed men and equipment and then launched their bold and deadly prison break in Kandahar, military intelligence failed to uncover a whisper of what was coming.

Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson wants to know why -- and he's raising the possibility the assault may partly have been an inside job.

Emerson said his heart sank when he heard of last week's breakout. "We have to know why our intelligence did not give us a heads-up that something like this was in the works," he said.

"There are things that happened that we needed to know and we didn't know and we're going to have to find out why. We don't know the degree to which there may have been inside participation in this."

He said allied intelligence needs to be beefed up and noted corruption is a deep-seated problem in Afghanistan.

The brazen operation, which included a suicide attack and rocket strikes against the prison walls, freed about 1,000 prisoners, including 400 thought to be Taliban.

Liberal MPs said Corrections Canada officials warned a year ago that the perimeter of Sarposa prison should be beefed up, but were ignored.

Emerson brushed that off, saying it probably wouldn't have deterred what he called a "well-orchestrated, massive manoeuvre."

"I'm not sure that a simple construction fix is going to prevent that kind of thing in the future," he said. "I think it requires a more comprehensive fix."

Defence Minister Peter MacKay isn't pointing the finger at anyone -- yet.

"We're still trying to garner all the information we can," he said. "But first and foremost, we want to secure the area and try to recapture some of those fighters."

As the MPs and minister bickered, night was falling on Kandahar, where Afghan officials feared the Taliban was massing for an attack on the country's second-largest city.

Officials said the Taliban had overrun a handful of nearby villages, and bombed bridges and planted landmines to fend off retaliation by Afghan and NATO forces.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the jail break was very serious and "should remind members of this House of the real danger that the Taliban forces pose."
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Afghan president’s threat to send in troops receives Pashtun support
www.quqnoos.com
PAKISTAN’S Pashtun politicians have rallied behind President Hamid Karzai after he threatened to send Afghan troops into Pakistan to wipe out Taliban rebels based in the country’s tribal areas.

Politicians from Pakistan’s Pashtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP) and Awami National Party (ANP) said Karzai had every right to protect his own people from rebels who launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan, killing Afghan civilians, police and soldiers.

A member of PMAP, Afzal Khan La La, said: "Pakistanis have no right to cross into Afghanistan and kill innocent people."

Another PMAP member in Baluchistan and former Member of Parliament, Abdul Rahim Mandukhil, said: "We want to know if the tribal regions belong to Pakistan or not.

"If they do belong to Pakistan, then Pakistan must control these areas otherwise Afghanistan will always remain unstable."

On Sunday, Karzai said Afghanistan had the right to launch cross-border raids on militant hideouts in Pakistan as long as the rebels continued to attack Afghan and coalition soldiers in his country.

The next day, the Pakistani government warned other countries against meddling in Pakistan's internal affairs.

The country’s prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, promised Karzai that Pakistan was doing everything in its power to defeat the Pakistani Taliban.

The government has called in Afghanistan’s ambassador in Pakistan to explain Karzai’s belligerent comments.

But Pakistani ANP member Reza Mohammad Reza said Pakistan had adopted "bad policies" towards the Pakistani Taliban.

After its election in February, the government started to negotiate with the Taliban, including the notorious rebel leader Baitullah Mehsud.

Mehsud, who the UN accuses of carrying out eight out of every 10 "terror" attack in Afghanistan, has vowed to continue his Jihad in Afghanistan despite the peace-talks.

Recent deals between Pakistani rebels and the government have seen the withdrawal of Pakistani troops from tribal regions close to the Afghan border.

NATO-led forces in Afghanistan say the talks have increased insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, especially in provinces that border Pakistan.

Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and American took a nose dive last week when Pakistan accused US-led troops in Afghanistan of killing 11 of its border police in an air-strike on the Pakistani side of the border.
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Taliban vows to continue fight against US-led forces
Gulf Times Tuesday, 17 June, 2008, By Shaheen Buneri
PESHAWAR: Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan Taliban Movement, has called Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s statement about sending troops to fight militants in Pakistan tribal areas “sick” and the “creation of a baffled mind,” and has vowed to resist US-led Nato forces with renewed vigour both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference, Karzai on Sunday threatened to send Afghan troops across the border to fight militants in Pakistan adding, “(they) come and kill Afghanis and kill coalition troops; it precisely gives us the right to do the same.”

Talking to The Media Line via phone from an undisclosed location, Moulvi Omar, spokesman for the TTP, rejected outright Karzai’s statement and said, “Karzai is ‘sick’ and utterly frustrated at Taliban successes in Afghanistan. Taliban has won victory in its resistance against Nato forces, and Karzai’s government is confronted with a humiliating defeat.”

Karzai, at his press conference, specifically naming Baitullah Mehsud, supreme commander of the TTP, based in South Waziristan Agency, Pakistan, said: “Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house.”

When asked about Karzai’s threat against Mehsud, Moulvi Omar said Baitullah was not only the name of an individual but an organisation with thousands of supporters.

“He is the leader of our movement and the supreme commander. Let alone hitting him, we will teach a lesson to those who even dare to come close to him with bad intentions,” he warned.

Recently, both Nato officials and the Afghanistan government have repeatedly expressed their concern over Taliban infiltration into Afghanistan from Pakistan tribal areas and increasing attacks on allied forces.
However, Pakistan has denied providing safe havens to the Taliban in the Pakistan tribal areas and said that Pakistan itself has been a victim of Taliban insurgency.

In response to a query about Taliban infiltration into Afghanistan, the Taliban spokesman said, it [the Taliban] considered the US an occupying force in Afghanistan and would never feel reluctant to provide assistance to Taliban groups in Afghanistan, if there were need of any such support.

“Taliban in Afghanistan is resisting US-led forces very well. It has given a very tough time to the occupying forces and as per our religious belief, we will support our brothers (the Taliban) if the need arises,” he said.

Omar maintained that on many occasions US forces had violated Pakistan’s borders and killed people inside the tribal areas. “We are free and committed to the protection of our borders. We are not the slaves of the US and President Hamid Karzai. We reserve the right to avenge the killing of our people by US forces; we will fight back,” he said.

Political observers in Pakistan believe that Karzai’s statement will poison the relationship between the two countries, which are the most important allies in the US war on terror.

Imtiaz Ali, Washington Post correspondent in Peshawar, says that Karzai’s statement will place pressure on the Pakistan government to take military action against Taliban insurgents in Pakistan tribal areas instead of signing peace agreements with them.

“For the first time Pakistan responded very strongly to last week’s US air attack on the Pakistan Mohmand Agency and it shows the difference in approach between Pakistan and Afghanistan in curbing terrorism. Karzai’s statement adds a new angle to this and may further complicate the situation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in the future,” he added.

Talking to journalists last month in South Waziristan Agency, TTP chief Mehsud also said that Taliban would continue its jihad against US forces inside Afghanistan.

The TTP is an umbrella organization of Pakistan Taliban groups under Mehsud’s leadership. Pakistan’s newly elected government has negotiated a number of peace agreements with Taliban groups in FATA and the Swat valley of North West Pakistan, which are viewed with suspicion by Nato, Afghanistan and the US. However, Pakistan insists it is talking only to those who are ready to lay down their arms. - The Media Line
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Pakistan to monitor Pak-Afghan border
ISLAMABAD, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan has installed satellite monitoring system on its border with Afghanistan, enabling officials to watch border activities while sitting in Islamabad, the chief of the country's interior ministry said Tuesday.
   
Rehman Malik told the National Assembly that the system would not only check illegal cross-border movement but also get information of border and space violation by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Afghanistan.
   
The system has been installed two days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened to send troops to Pakistan to hunt militants in the tribal regions, the News Network International news agency reported.
Karzai's statement prompted angry reaction in Pakistan and Afghan envoy was also summoned to the Foreign Office to lodge a formal protest on Monday.
   
Afghan and NATO authorities said that militants were crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan's tribal regions for attacks.
   
Rehman Malik denied recent reports about a U.S air strike in South Waziristan and said there was no such incident. Media reports said that a U.S drone fired three missiles on South Waziristan on June 14 and killed one person.
   
Malik said six suicide bombers were arrested while huge quantity of explosive was also recovered that ensured a peaceful long march of lawyers and opposition political activists.
   
He said Islamabad police had been put on high alert with an objective to ensure peace while the provincial governments had also been directed to take strict measures for ensuring law and order.
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Canadian troops sickened by Afghan rapes
Toronto Star  June 16, 2008
A growing number of Canadian soldiers are suffering after witnessing Afghan boys being raped by Afghan soldiers, the Toronto Star reported Monday.

Several military chaplains told the newspaper they had counseled veterans returning from combat in Afghanistan for severe post traumatic stress disorder and their reports weren't being dealt with by the Canadian military.

On Saturday, the Star reported a Canadian corporal gave closed-door parliamentary testimony about a boy's rape he witnessed in 2006 and the visible signs of rape trauma.

The Liberal critic for national defense in Ottawa said he has asked party permission to query Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson about the sex-abuse allegations and said the soldiers' allegations should have resulted in at least a diplomatic note to the Afghan government.

"Anybody who says this is about cultural differences should have their head examined," Emerson told the Star.
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Don't look, don't tell, troops told
Civilian sex assaults by Afghan soldiers ignored
Rick Westhead The Toronto Star June 16, 2008
Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan have been ordered by commanding officers "to ignore" incidents of sexual assault among the civilian population, says a military chaplain who counsels troops returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The chaplain, Jean Johns, says she recently counselled a Canadian soldier who said he witnessed a boy being raped by an Afghan soldier, then wrote a report on the allegation for her brigade chaplain.

In her March report, which she says should have been advanced "up the chain of command," Johns says the corporal told her that Canadian troops have been ordered by commanding officers "to ignore" incidents of sexual assault. Johns hasn't received a reply to the report.

While several Canadian Forces chaplains say other soldiers have made similar claims, Department of National Defence lawyers have argued Canada isn't obliged to investigate because none of the soldiers has made a formal complaint, says a senior Canadian officer familiar with the matter.

"It's ridiculous," the officer says. "We have an ethical and moral responsibility to pursue this, not to shut our eyes to it because it would make it more difficult to work with the Afghan government.

"We're supposed to be in Afghanistan to help people who are being victimized."

The independent claims bolster the credibility of an account provided by Cpl. Travis Schouten, a Canadian soldier who served in Afghanistan from September 2006 through early 2007 and now suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Star story Saturday detailed an allegation levelled by Schouten that during his tour, he heard an Afghan national army soldier abusing a young boy and then saw the boy afterwards with visible signs of rape trauma, his bowels and lower intestines falling out of his body.

The alleged abuse occurred in late 2006 near a forward operation base, some 20 kilometres from the Kandahar Airfield. Another chaplain at CFB Petawawa, Joe Johns, said a third chaplain told a group meeting last summer about having been approached by several Canadian military police officers who asked for help reconciling the fact they hadn't done anything to stop abuses. That chaplain declined to comment.

Bryon Wilfert, the Liberal critic for national defence, says he has asked party officials for approval to grill Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson about the sex-abuse allegations today during Question Period.

Wilfert called Schouten's claims "very serious and disturbing" and says Canada at least should have sent the Afghan government a diplomatic note about the allegations. "Anybody who says this is about cultural differences should have their head examined," he says.

Maj. Paul Doucette, a Canadian Forces spokesperson, says the military is aware only of Schouten's allegation and intends to investigate. Doucette didn't say why an investigation hasn't already taken place. Schouten last month described the assault while testifying to the parliamentary subcommittee on national defence.

The testimony was given behind closed doors during a meeting in camera.

Doucette said in an emailed statement that "specific additional information would be required before any such issue could be raised with Afghan officials. However, allegations of this type of behaviour would be an issue for Afghan authorities to address under Afghan law."

Asked if Canadian Forces personnel are prevented from intervening in cases of abuse because of rules of engagement, Doucette wrote, "the general purpose of ROEs is to control the use of force by military forces in conducting their operations.

"All Canadian Forces members, whatever their rank and trade, are trained to inform their chain of command of significant incidents, especially when an incident clearly calls for decisions beyond their level of authority."

Lt. Col. Stéphane Grenier says he has spoken to Schouten, believes his story, and adds he has talked to another Canadian soldier who claims to have witnessed a similar assault. Grenier has also counselled a British soldier who said he watched a young boy being raped by an Afghan soldier while his senior officer concluded a meeting nearby with Afghan army officers.

The sexual-abuse allegations put Canada in a thorny position with the local Afghan government and rekindle memories of some past deployments that led to Canadian soldiers developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

After serving in Bosnia, some soldiers were diagnosed with PTSD after rules of engagement prevented them from interfering when they witnessed civilians being raped by soldiers. Retired general Roméo Dallaire famously struggled with PTSD after the United Nations thwarted his efforts to stop a genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
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Saving Parwez Kambakhsh
International pressure is all that stands between a young journalism student and the death penalty, say his supporters.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Jean MacKenzie in Kabul (ARR No. 293, 16-Jun-08)
A subdued, anxious crowd filled the courtroom of the Kabul Appeal Court on June 15 for the latest installment in the case of Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, the Afghan journalism student facing a death sentence for blasphemy.

There was little evidence of the international media in the courtroom, and the few foreign diplomats present sat quietly, some conferring with the defence from time to time.

The lack of a strong international presence could be bad news for Kambakhsh. Several sources close to the case have said international attention is the only thing sustaining his appeal.

“If the eyes of the world were not on him, this judge would just hang Kambakhsh,” said one insider, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Presiding judge Abdul Salam Qazizada has weathered several Afghan administrations. He is a holdover from the Taleban regime, and his antagonism to the defendant was visible.

By the end of the June 15 session, it was clear there was to be no swift end to proceedings against Kambakhsh, 23, who is accused of “insulting Islam and abusing the Holy Prophet Mohammad”.

For the fourth time in the past 30 days, the case was adjourned without a decision.

During the session, Qazizada appeared to take on the role of prosecutor rather than impartial judge, engaging in a legal duel with defence attorney Mohammad Afzal Nooristani. Lacking a gavel, he repeatedly banged his pen against his microphone in an effort to halt Nooristani’s defence of his client.

Time and again the judge attacked Kambakhsh, who sat pale but composed in the defendant’s chair.

“Just tell me why you did these things,” insisted Qazizada. “What were your motives?”

“I cannot give you reasons, since I did not do anything,” responded Kambakhsh.

The young student is accused of downloading and distributing a text from the internet that criticises, sometimes quite harshly, Islam’s treatment of women. The prosecution contends that Kambakhsh added several paragraphs of his own, and that this proves he is “against Islam”.

In Afghanistan, this is a capital crime, at least according to the court in Balkh province which issued the death sentence in a closed session in late January.

Kambakhsh has consistently denied downloading or handing out the article, still less writing any part of the offending text.

He claims that a confession he signed while held in custody by the National Security Directorate was coerced, and stated that security forces broke his nose and left hand. He told the court that he came under psychological pressure and signed the confession out of fear.

A previous session, on June 1, ended with a defence motion to have Kambakhsh examined for signs of physical trauma.

The results from the department of forensic medicine were inconclusive. In findings read out on June 15, doctors stated that while Kambakhsh’s nose showed a slight deviation, it could be a congenital defect as well as evidence of injury. No pathology was found in the left hand, but, according to the statement, there had been ample time for any injury to heal in the seven months since the beating was alleged to have taken place.

This session was the first time the defence had been allowed to read out a statement rebutting the charges against Kambakhsh.

The prosecution also gave a statement, outlining the evidence that had been gathered.

Once prosecutor Ahmad Khan Ayar concluded his statement, he traded a few jabs with Nooristani, but was soon overshadowed by the presiding judge.

“It is clear that this text belongs to you,” Qazizada told Kambakhsh, When the defendant attempted to protest, he was silenced by the judge’s irritable banging on the mike.

After lunch, the case took an even more sombre tone, as Qazizada intensified his pressure on the defence.

“Kambakhsh may have wanted to make himself popular by writing this text,” he thundered, his voice in the microphone nearly drowning out the simultaneous translation.

“Why was he the only one arrested? Balkh University is very large – why should Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh be arrested and prosecuted? Can you tell me?” he asked, turning to the defendant.

Kambakhsh tried to explain once again that he had no connection with the offending text, that he had no idea why he was arrested, and that he had made the confession under duress.

But the judge was not convinced.

“I have seen the documents, I have read them,” he roared. “[The content] is against Islam.”

The court was also presented with a long list of Kambakhsh’s alleged failings, such as that he was a socialist, impolite, and asked too many questions in class. He was also accused of having swapped off-colour jokes with friends via text messaging on his mobile phone.

When the judge read out one text-message anecdote in a tone of high indignation, several people in the audience had to repress a smile.

The court finally adjourned in order to summon witnesses from Balkh province, whose written testimony provided the body of the case. No date has been set for the next session.

The defendant’s brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who has been a reporter with IWPR for the past six years, was visibly upset by the day’s events.

“Welcome to the Middle Ages,” he grimaced.

A foreign diplomat also expressed consternation at the way the trial was being conducted.

“I do not see any way out,” said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonmity.

The government of Afghanistan has come under high-level pressure to find a solution for Kambakhsh, whose case has come up in talks between President Hamed Karzai and several international leaders, including United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Karzai has made public assurances that “justice will be done” but so far has not openly intervened in the case.

In the months since his sentencing, Kambakhsh has become an international figure, his face appearing on posters and the front pages of newspapers. Britian’s Independent newspaper launched a campaign, gathering tens of thousands of signatures to support the young man.

There is a danger that as time drags on, the level of interest will drop, along with the protection it affords.

“Time means nothing to us,” said Qazizada, adjourning the case yet again.

“That is easy for him to say,” said Ibrahimi, as his brother was led out of the court in handcuffs. “He goes home every night. Parwez is spending his time in prison.”
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