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June 19, 2008 

Afghan and NATO forces rout Taliban: governor
By Ismail Sameem Thu Jun 19, 9:00 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan and NATO-led forces killed or wounded hundreds of Taliban on Thursday in an offensive to clear the militants from the outskirts of Kandahar city, according to the provincial governor.

Afghan Civilian Killed In Anti-Taliban Operation: NATO
KABUL (AFP) 19 June 2008- One Afghan civilian was killed and another wounded in an ongoing assault by local and NATO forces on Taliban militants near the southern city of Kandahar , the international force said Thursday.

AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN: Insecurity, uncertainty stop return of Afghan refugees
PESHAWAR, 19 June 2008 (IRIN) - Ghazala Khan, 17, often has dreams about Kabul, the capital of neighbouring Afghanistan, where her parents grew up.

AFGHANISTAN: Returnees may become refugees again - ministry
19 Jun 2008 15:42:37 GMT
KABUL, 19 June 2008 (IRIN) - The worsening security situation, unemployment, the food crisis, drought, shelter problems and lack of socio-economic opportunities may force some Afghans who have returned to their country in the past six years

Afghanistan overtaking Iraq as focus of terror war: analysts
by Waheedullah Massoud Thu Jun 19, 7:27 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - With Taliban rebels launching mass jail breaks, threatening a major city and killing more foreign troops than ever, Afghanistan is replacing Iraq as the focus of the "war on terror", analysts say.

Pipeline opens new front in Afghan war
Canadian role in Kandahar may heat up as allies agree on U.S.-backed energy route through land-mine zones and Taliban hot spots
Globe and Mail (Canada) June 19, 2008 SHAWN MCCARTHY GLOBAL ENERGY REPORTER
OTTAWA -- Afghanistan and three of its neighbouring countries have agreed to build a $7.6-billion (U.S.) pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to energy-starved Pakistan and India - a project running right through the volatile Kandahar province

Military confirms first female fatality in Afghanistan
Thu Jun 19, 7:22 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - The military on Thursday confirmed the country's first female fatality in Afghanistan, after she and three male colleagues were killed in an explosion in the south of the country.

Obama: U.S. should avoid making bin Laden a martyr
By Caren Bohan June 18, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says if Osama bin Laden is captured alive, the United States should bring him to justice in a way that avoids turning the al Qaeda leader into a martyr.

New Report Faults Afghan Police Progress
Voice of America By Dan Robinson Capitol Hill 18 June 2008
U.S. lawmakers have sharply questioned key officials about a new report that is critical of U.S efforts to develop an effective national police force in Afghanistan. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, the Defense Department

U.S. trainers have key mission in Afghanistan
An Army officer from California heads a team working to train police in a country where the officers often are corrupt.
By David Zucchino Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 19, 2008
FARAH, AFGHANISTAN — There were two good reasons why Army Capt. Dave Panian made a perilous journey across the desert to this dusty provincial capital.

Untangling Afghanistan
It's time for a proper cost-benefit analysis of Britain's military presence in Afghanistan
James Denselow guardian.co.uk, Thursday June 19, 2008
Are we witnessing the continued "march of freedom" (as President Bush says) and the transformation of Afghan security (as Gordon Brown says)? Or is the steady drip-drip of violence and apparent slippage evidence of a strategically bankrupt foreign policy

U.S. abuse of detainees was routine at Afghanistan bases
By Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers Wed Jun 18, 5:15 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - American soldiers herded the detainees into holding pens of razor-sharp concertina wire, as if they were corralling livestock.

Minister defends use of light armoured vehicles in Afghanistan
James Sturcke and agencies guardian.co.uk, Thursday June 19, 2008
The government today defended the continued use of lightly armoured Land Rovers by British troops in Afghanistan after the latest deaths in the country.

Britain's allies must do more in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk 19 June 2008
With the poppy harvest in Helmand province safely gathered in, the killing season has started in earnest. The loss of four soldiers in a roadside bombing near Lashkar Gah on Tuesday brings the British death toll to 106. Nine troops have died in the past 10 days.

Afghanistan Border Diplomacy in Jeopardy
The recent prison breaks in Kandahar and threats of cross-border raids into Pakistan have left diplomats ratcheting up the rhetoric.
By Jeff Davis – Embassy magazine (Canada), June 18th, 2008
Canadian-led efforts to pacify the dysfunctional Afghan-Pakistani border may be in jeopardy after a massive jailbreak in Kandahar and provocative statements by Afghan President Hamid Karzai about possible cross-border raids into Pakistan.

Taliban kill each other in gun battle
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Foreign and Afghan Talibs clash in west - 30 killed; 12 wounded
CLASHES between Afghan Taliban fighters and foreign Taliban fighters have left 30 rebels dead and 12 more wounded, local authorities say.

ISAF troops to boost education in Afghanistan
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) 18 Jun 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – Regional Command Capital (RC-C) troops have recently conducted several Civilian Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities in the western part of Deh Sabz district, a village consisting of 450 families.

Museum owner says ISI backs Khurram
www.quqnoos.com Written by Mukhtar Soar Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Culture minister accused of receiving support from Pakistan's secret service
THE OWNER of some of Afghanistan’s first privately owned museums has accused the minister of information and culture of receiving support from Pakistan’s secret service.

Kandahar Aid Focus to Hit National Programs
Despite applause from Afghan officials over the years for channelling aid through multilateral funds, Ambassador Omar Samad says change is necessary.
By Lee Berthiaume - Embassy, June 18th, 2008
Over the years, numerous Afghan ministers and senior government officials have passed through Ottawa, meeting with their Canadian counterparts and occasionally the media to discuss the situation in the Central Asian country.

A tale of two empires and Afghanistan
Khaleej Times - Opinion BY AIJAZ ZAKA SYED 19 June 2008
THERE'S an old adage in Urdu that when you are going through rough times, your closest friends abandon you and your own shadow deserts you.

Huge surge in number of drug addicts - minister
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Unemployment and poverty spark rise in drug abuse, minister says
THE MINISTER of anti-narcotics has expressed deep concern at the rapidly increasing number of drug addicts in Afghanistan.

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Afghan and NATO forces rout Taliban: governor
By Ismail Sameem Thu Jun 19, 9:00 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan and NATO-led forces killed or wounded hundreds of Taliban on Thursday in an offensive to clear the militants from the outskirts of Kandahar city, according to the provincial governor.

NATO spokesmen in Kabul said it was too early to say whether Taliban fighters, including many who escaped during a mass jail break last week, had been routed from positions among the orchards and farms of Arghandab district, northwest of Kandahar.

On Thursday, Afghan and mostly Canadian NATO forces attacked enemy positions, having used helicopter gunships at the start of what had shaped up to be one of the biggest battles in Afghanistan in recent years.

NATO has said the offensive, which began on Wednesday, was expected to last until the weekend, and it estimated that some 600 Taliban fighters had slipped into the Arghandab valley.

Kandahar provincial governor Assadullah Khalid told a news conference that the Taliban had been driven out, and troops were searching villagers' houses for fighters left behind.

"The Taliban have been cleared totally from Arghandab district," Khalid said.

"They have suffered hundreds of dead and wounded and many of their casualties are Pakistanis," he said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimi also said Arghandab district had been retaken, and 56 insurgents killed. Azimi said two Afghan army officers had been killed and two wounded.

Yet, NATO officials said there had been no major encounters or heavy bombardments and it was too early to agree with Governor Khalid's assessment that the Taliban had been evicted.

"I think he says that on the basis that there has been no engagement," said the spokesman, Captain Mike Finney.

Another spokesman said the operation was still going on.

"There are couple of things that need to be done," said Brigadier General Carlos Branco, without elaborating.

The Taliban could not be reached for comment.

TYPICALLY TAKE BUT CAN'T HOLD
About 800 Afghan government troops, backed by hundreds of NATO soldiers, are fighting the Taliban insurgents who seized seven villages in the district on Monday.

A Taliban spokesman said its objective was to retake Kandahar, the birthplace of the Islamist movement which seized the power in 1996 and was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

Analysts said the raid on the jail and the infiltration into Arghandab showed the Taliban's confidence was growing at a time when NATO casualties were mounting and questions were being raised among NATO member states about the Afghan mission.

Security has deteriorated despite the presence of about 60,000 foreign troops and about 150,000 government troops.

Major-General Marc Lessard, the commander of NATO forces in south Afghanistan, said the infiltration of Taliban into Arghandab and the jailbreak were setbacks for NATO.

"They've definitely managed to achieve some kind of tactical success, there's no doubt there," Lessard told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Typically, the Taliban have been unable to hold on to captured villages, and melt away to step up suicide bomb attacks and ambushes on NATO and Afghan forces.

In January, the militants attacked a luxury hotel popular with Westerners in Kabul and in April they tried to assassinate President Hamid Karzai as he was watching a military parade.

The Afghan government says some members of its own security forces had helped the Taliban mount both the attack on the Kandahar jail and the attempt on Karzai's life.

(Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Sanjeev Miglani)
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Afghan Civilian Killed In Anti-Taliban Operation: NATO
KABUL (AFP) 19 June 2008- One Afghan civilian was killed and another wounded in an ongoing assault by local and NATO forces on Taliban militants near the southern city of Kandahar , the international force said Thursday.

 As the operation to drive rebels from Arghandab district entered its second day, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said the Taliban "did choose not to fight" and there had been only minor clashes.
 "Unfortunately we have to regret the death of a local national" while another was wounded and evacuated to the ISAF base at Kandahar air field, ISAF spokesman General Carlos Branco told AFP.

Branco said two Afghan soldiers and three civilians working for ISAF were wounded in fighting on Wednesday.
 
Afghan officials have said that two Afghan troops were killed along with
35 militants as soldiers backed by helicopter gunships troops pushed into villages where insurgents were holed up.
 
The ISAF spokesman said that "during the first 24 hours of operations only small pockets of insurgents were encountered so only minor incidents occurred and some of them are still going on."
 
"ISAF used air power only against positively identified groups of insurgents that targeted one helicopter, which acted in self defence,"
he said, adding that the incidents were "mainly exchange of small arms fire and skirmishes."
 
Branco also played down reports about the number of Taliban, which Afghan officials and rebel spokesmen said is in the hundreds, adding that they have "not engaged decisively, limiting their activity to small disruptive attacks."
 
"So far our assessment is that if the insurgents are there they have not the numbers and the foothold that they previously claimed and, obviously, they did choose not to fight," Branco said.
 
The spokesman said that regarding the future of the operation, Afghan and NATO forces would "continue to progress steadily, avoiding civilian casualties and potential IED's left behind, and we do not expect any dramatic changes in the behavior of the insurgents."
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AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN: Insecurity, uncertainty stop return of Afghan refugees
PESHAWAR, 19 June 2008 (IRIN) - Ghazala Khan, 17, often has dreams about Kabul, the capital of neighbouring Afghanistan, where her parents grew up.

However, born to parents who reached adulthood and married in Pakistan, Ghazala is aware that Kabul is no longer what it may have been in the past, and is far from certain that she wishes to return.

"I have cousins in Kabul whom I have never met. But then I also hear that the city is still full of broken buildings, that living costs there are very high and that there is a great deal of insecurity," Ghazala told IRIN. She is torn between wishing to see the city her parents talk nostalgically of, and staying on in Peshawar, where she now has roots.

"I am going to college here. I'm not sure if I could do that in Kabul," says Ghazala. The fact that her father is Hazara, belonging to an ethnic minority group that has faced consistent discrimination in Afghanistan, most notably under the former Taliban regime, further complicates decision-making for the family.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has repatriated 3.3 million Afghans since 2002, including 120,000 from Pakistan in 2008, but some two million registered Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan. The number of unregistered refugees is unknown.

Many, like Ghazala's family, are torn between a desire to return and fears that this may place them in a perilous situation in Afghanistan, given that the economic and security situation in the country is still fragile.

"My uncle went back in 2005, but they have slipped back into Pakistan. They say things there are very grim. Now we will stay here," says Dilbaz Khan, 28. He complained of harassment by police in Peshawar, but said: "This is still better than the situation in Afghanistan."

The largest number of refugees is in the North West Frontier Province. However, as the bigger camps in the province have been shut down, some have been switched to camps in Punjab Province, in line with Pakistani government policy. The refugees have been termed a "security threat" by the government in the past.

There is also a small population of refugees in the southwestern province of Balochistan, from where returns have been slow. Only 5,000 refugees have returned from the province this year. Khalid Mahgoub, the UNHCR's field protection officer in Quetta, attributes this to the fact that "many refugees here are from southern regions of Afghanistan where the security situation has been worsening."

Kamran Arif, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist based in Peshawar, agrees. "Naturally, no refugee wants to return to an unsafe situation, and conditions in Afghanistan are often unsafe," he told IRIN.

Carpet weavers

Among the refugees who remain on in Peshawar are around 600 carpet weavers, based at the now defunct Jalozai Camp. Though the camp was closed a few weeks ago, and most of the 70,000 refugees who lived there moved back to Afghanistan, the Pakistan authorities agreed to allow the carpet weavers to stay at the camp. A programme under which these highly skilled weavers would train locals is planned.

Maqbool Shah Roghani, in charge of the repatriation process at Jalozai camp, said all the buildings at the camp, including a university hospital, had been handed over to the Peshawar district administration.

But even as refugees continue to depart, there are Afghans who seem keen to continue to live in the only place they have known as home. "I have never been outside Peshawar. It is all I know of the world," said Ghazala.

Other younger Afghans are reluctant to go back to an Afghanistan where a great deal of insecurity persists. Reports of renewed fighting in some parts of Afghanistan and the fact that they have jobs in Pakistan explain their hesitation.

It seems likely that a considerable proportion of Afghans who came to Pakistan as refugees - in a process that began in 1979 with the Soviet invasion of their country - will choose to live on here, rather than return to a homeland that remains insecure and where economic survival is uncertain, particularly at a time when rapid food price inflation has made life especially hard.
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AFGHANISTAN: Returnees may become refugees again - ministry
19 Jun 2008 15:42:37 GMT
KABUL, 19 June 2008 (IRIN) - The worsening security situation, unemployment, the food crisis, drought, shelter problems and lack of socio-economic opportunities may force some Afghans who have returned to their country in the past six years to cross international borders again in search of a better life, Afghanistan's Ministry of Refugees and Repartition (MoRR) warned.

"Returnees may re-emigrate to neighbouring countries," Abdul Qadir Zazai, chief adviser to the MoRR, told IRIN in Kabul.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said insurgency-related violence had displaced some Afghans and forced others to cross international borders.

"Their numbers are certainly higher than in 2002-2003," Salvatore Lombardo, the UNHCR representative in Afghanistan, told IRIN.

The warning comes amid international recognition that Afghanistan is the leading country in the world in terms of returns - with over five million refugees repatriated since 2002.

Over three million Afghan refugees have voluntarily returned home from Pakistan, about 856,000 have repatriated from Iran and over 14,700 have returned from other countries, according to the UNHCR.

At the height of the exodus, about eight million Afghans were living outside their home country, the agency said.

Poverty

Owing to decades of conflict, natural disasters and overall underdevelopment, Afghanistan's poverty ratings are among the highest in the world. Over half of its estimated 26.6 million population live below the poverty line on less than US$1 a day.

The return of over five million refugees - although a spectacular achievement for the post-Taliban government - has exacerbated access to scare resources in the country, aid workers say.

"We all know what Afghan citizens are facing daily in their lives. Returnees are experiencing the same problems: lack of land, shelter, clean drinking water, education, access to jobs and health facilities," Lombardo said.

Land, shelter

To tackle one of the most pressing problems of most returnees - lack of shelter - President Karzai authorised a land allocation scheme to settle landless returnees.

According to the MoRR, over 100,000 families have applied to the scheme in the past four years, but only about 10,000 have received land on which to build a home.

"We don't know where to go and settle," said Mohammad Hussain who has returned with his family from Pakistan.

"We'll set up a camp somewhere in the country," said another returnee, Hashim, at the UNHCR encashment and transition centre in Kabul where returnees stay for up to 48 hours.

A small number of those who have received land through the government scheme have their own difficulties, such as the financial inability to build their houses, their lack of a livelihood and lack of basic services such as health and education in the designated areas.

Those who return to their original homes also find it difficult to re-establish a life after years of absence.

According to the UNHCR, since 2002 it has assisted 170,000 poor returnee families to rebuild their shelters, and plans to help 10,000 more in 2008.

Millions still abroad

Despite a massive return to Afghanistan in the past six years - representing "the single largest repartition operation in UNHCR's 58-year history" - Afghans still make up the largest refugee population in the world under the UNHCR's care, the organisation said in a statement.

About three million Afghan refugees currently live in two neighbouring countries, Pakistan and Iran. There are also hundreds of thousands of unregistered Afghans who live and work in both countries but do not enjoy refugee status and are liable to forced deportation.

Iran deported tens of thousands of unregistered Afghans in 2007 which pushed its war-ravaged and ill-prepared neighbour into a humanitarian emergency and political crisis.

"Iranian border security has killed 15-20 individual economic migrants so far this year who wanted to enter Iran illegally," said the MoRR's Zazai, adding that the emigrants were wrongly labelled as "terrorists and smugglers".

Deportations

As conflict, natural and man-made disasters, and food insecurity drive some Afghans to neighbouring countries, both Iran and Pakistan have refused to accommodate new immigrants, calling them "illegal intruders" who will be deported.

The UN says "undocumented Afghans" in Pakistan and Iran do not come under its "protection and care" and should be dealt with through domestic laws.

Iranian and Pakistani officials have repeatedly said "undocumented Afghans" are subject to arrest and deportation because they have broken the law by "illegal" entry.

Zazai said "the time has passed when Afghans could travel to Iran and Pakistan and be considered refugees".
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Afghanistan overtaking Iraq as focus of terror war: analysts
by Waheedullah Massoud Thu Jun 19, 7:27 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - With Taliban rebels launching mass jail breaks, threatening a major city and killing more foreign troops than ever, Afghanistan is replacing Iraq as the focus of the "war on terror", analysts say.

The Islamist movement has dealt a series of stunning blows to President Hamid Karzai's fragile government in the past week, causing jitters among Western nations who together have around 70,000 troops in the country.

Hundreds of insurgents escaped from a prison in Kandahar on Friday and within days rebels had massed in villages outside the southern city, forcing 1,000 Afghan and NATO troops to launch a major offensive to drive them out.

Democratic US presidential candidate Barack Obama spelt out his priorities if elected by saying on Monday that the real front of the "war on terror" was now Afghanistan and that the US mission in Iraq had been a disaster.

Further underscoring the instability is the fact that Afghanistan was deadlier for foreign forces than Iraq during the month of May for the first time since the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

In Iraq the number of coalition soldiers killed dropped to 21 last month, 17 of them in action, according to US Defense Department statistics on the independent icasualties.org website.

But nearly seven years after US-led forces invaded Afghanistan to oust the Taliban in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, coalition soldier deaths in Afghanistan rose to 23 during May, 19 of them by hostile fire.

"At the end of the day they have to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and win against it here, not in Iraq," Ahmad Behzad, a member of Afghanistan's parliament and a former journalist, told AFP.

"If Taliban get grounded here and stronger its impact will be seen in US and in the West."

In a sign of international concern, world donors gathered in Paris a week ago pledged 20 billion dollars to rebuild Afghanistan but also called on Karzai to do more to fight corruption and strengthen the rule of law.

But the conference was followed a day later by the Kandahar jail break, in which a Taliban suicide bomber blew up the main gates of the building to free more than 1,000 prisoners, causing widespread alarm.

"The Taliban are making use of the summer to assert themselves, which is being taken by the Americans with great alarm," Hasan Askari, a political analyst at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC, told AFP.

Behzad, the MP, said the consensus among donors and also in the US election campaign on the need to focus on Afghanistan was a positive sign, despite the fears of a Taliban resurgence.

But the focus until now on Iraq had made international forces in Afghanistan more vulnerable, he said, adding: "It gave time for Taliban to regroup, plan better and attack softer targets, and hurt the troops."

Prominent historian and analyst Habibullah Rafi said international forces in Afghanistan had to review their tactics in the wake of the scores of civilian deaths in military operations since 2001, leading to resentment.

"Unless the government changes its tactics, unless the international forces change the way they conduct operations, I would say the violence would increase even more," Rafi told AFP.

Analysts said that quitting Afghanistan was not an option for the US-led coalition and the separate NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, but that they were in a "very difficult position."

"If they abandon this place they are going to get hurt back home," said analyst Waheed Mujda, suggesting failing to wipe out the threat in Afghanistan could increase the likelihood of terror attacks in coalition countries.

"But if they fight for it they need more money and resources than at the beginning when it was easy," added Mujda, a former anti-Soviet fighter who served in the ministry of foreign affairs under the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.
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Pipeline opens new front in Afghan war
Canadian role in Kandahar may heat up as allies agree on U.S.-backed energy route through land-mine zones and Taliban hot spots
Globe and Mail (Canada) June 19, 2008 SHAWN MCCARTHY GLOBAL ENERGY REPORTER
OTTAWA -- Afghanistan and three of its neighbouring countries have agreed to build a $7.6-billion (U.S.) pipeline that would deliver natural gas from Turkmenistan to energy-starved Pakistan and India - a project running right through the volatile Kandahar province - raising questions about what role Canadian Forces may play in defending the project.

To prepare for proposed construction in 2010, the Afghan government has reportedly given assurances it will clear the route of land mines, and make the path free of Taliban influence.

In a report to be released today, energy economist John Foster says the pipeline is part of a wider struggle by the United States to counter the influence of Russia and Iran over energy trade in the region.

The so-called Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline has strong support from Washington because the U.S. government is eager to block a competing pipeline that would bring gas to Pakistan and India from Iran.

The TAPI pipeline would also diminish Russia's dominance of Central Asian energy exports.

Mr. Foster said the Canadian government has long ignored the broader geopolitical aspects of the Afghanistan deployment, even as NATO forces, including Canadian troops, could be called upon to defend the critical energy infrastructure.

"Government efforts to convince Canadians to stay in Afghanistan have been enormous," he says in a report prepared for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, a left-of-centre think tank in Ottawa.

"But the impact of the proposed multibillion-dollar pipeline in areas of Afghanistan under Canadian purview has never been seriously debated."

In an interview, Mr. Foster - a former economist with Petro-Canada, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank - said he believes the TAPI project could provide major benefits for Afghanistan and the region generally. If the project proceeds - and serious obstacles remain - Afghanistan's national government could reap $160-million (U.S.) a year in transit fees, an amount equivalent to half the government's current revenue.

But he said the security issues remain daunting and the Canadian military could - wittingly or not - become embroiled in a "new great game" over energy security that is playing out in the region.

Acting Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson - who chairs the cabinet committee on Afghanistan - would not comment on the pipeline yesterday. When asked about the project earlier this spring, he said only that Canada wants to see Afghanistan develop a "legitimate and legal economy that can sustain a credible, viable state."

Backed by the opposition Liberals, the Conservative government has committed to keeping the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan until 2011, although there is growing skepticism that the engagement will end at that point.

New Democratic Party MP Paul Dewar said the government needs to be more forthcoming about the four-nation project and whether Canadian forces would end up guarding the pipeline.

Though experts remain skeptical that the project will get off the ground, the four countries appear determined to prove them wrong.

With the backing of Manila-based Asian Development Bank, ministers from the four countries met in late April and agreed to start construction of the pipeline by 2010, and begin supplying gas by 2015, although critical financial issues must still be worked out.

At a donor's conference attended by a Canadian delegation last November, countries committed to "assist Afghanistan to become an energy bridge in the region" and to accelerate work on the TAPI pipeline "to develop a technically and commercially viable project."

There was no public discussion of who would provide the security for the project.

The pipeline proposal goes back to the 1990s, when the Taliban government held talks with California-based Unocal Corp. - and its U.S. government backer - while considering a competing bid by Argentina's Bridas Corp. Those U.S.-Taliban talks broke down in August, 2001. India, which desperately needs natural gas imports to fuel its growth, later joined the revived project.

Last week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said the U.S. government has a "fundamental strategic interest" in Afghanistan that goes well beyond ensuring it is not used as a launching pad for terrorism, which was the original justification for the UN-sanctioned NATO mission of which Canada is a part.

That objective remains paramount, Mr. Boucher said, but he added that there is a "historic opportunity ... of having an open Afghanistan that can act as a conduit for energy, ideas, people, trade, goods from Central Asia and other places down to the Arabian Sea."

Stephen Blank, a professor at the U.S. Army War College, in Carlisle Barracks, Pa., said the U.S. government is particularly eager to provide an alternative to the proposed $7.5-billion (U.S.) Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, which those three countries have agreed to pursue.

"From the U.S. viewpoint, the idea of blocking Iran is of paramount significance," he said.

As well, the United States is pushing the TAPI pipeline as one of several natural gas export options from Central Asia that would bypass Russia, which until now has maintained a stranglehold on gas exports from the region.

But Dr. Blank - who has written extensively on energy-related geopolitics in the region - said he doesn't believe the TAPI pipeline will be built any time soon due to security concerns.

Still, the project is seen as a key part of Afghanistan's strategic development plan, which Canada and its NATO partners have endorsed as critical to establishing its political stability.

***

Protecting pipelines

Assaults on oil infrastructure and the added cost of protecting key facilities have added a "fear premium" of roughly $10 per barrel. The cause and effect are not lost on terrorists whose aim is to inflict economic as well as physical damage. "The killing of 10 American soldiers is nothing compared to the impact of the rise in oil prices on America and the disruption that it causes in the international economy," exhorts one jihadist website.

Here are some ways pipelines are protected from attack:

Design The cheapest and most effective protection is to prevent easy access by surrounding pipelines by walls and fences, and making the pipes harder to sabotage by burying them. To further protect pipes, they can be wrapped in carbon fibre to mitigate the effects of explosive devices. Facilities that must be above ground, such as compressor and pumping stations, can be encased in concrete thick enough to resist bomb blasts.

Private armies In Iraq, close to 14,000 security guards have been deployed along pipelines and in critical installations. Companies tried paying tribes and powerful warlords to protect pipes on their territory with limited success. Rival tribes would often blow up a pipeline and then claim to be more deserving of the protection money.

Sensing Systems New technologies for seismic sensing of underground vibrations can provide early warning when saboteurs approach a protected area. Such systems may be expensive, but by making possible the remote monitoring of much of the pipeline network, operators can eliminate the need for large numbers of troops and instead rely on smaller numbers of rapid-response teams.

Air surveillance Small and medium-size unmanned aerial vehicles and unmanned helicopters can stay in the air up to 30 hours and send images to a central control station where they can be reviewed by security teams. Some defence contractors are developing UAVs mounted with automatic weapons to be used against saboteurs.

Recovery time When an attack does occur, its effect can be minimized with speedy repairs. Saboteurs often target pipelines at critical junctions or hit custom-made parts that take longer to replace. Operators should be equipped with sufficient inventories of spare parts.

Source: Oildom Publishing
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Military confirms first female fatality in Afghanistan
Thu Jun 19, 7:22 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - The military on Thursday confirmed the country's first female fatality in Afghanistan, after she and three male colleagues were killed in an explosion in the south of the country.

The defence ministry in London said that Corporal Sarah Bryant, of the Intelligence Corps, was killed when the vehicle she was travelling in hit a mine in Helmand Province on Tuesday.

The 26-year-old, who had previously served in Iraq, had been in Afghanistan since March. The three others who died were said in British media reports to have been special forces reservists. A fifth soldier was wounded.

Bryant's husband, Carl, also a corporal in the Intelligence Corps, said in a statement that he was "devastated beyond words" at her death and described her as an "awesome soldier who died doing the job she loved".

Commanding officers praised her professionalism and abilities while colleagues in the small psychological operations team said she would be sorely missed.

Bryant, from the county of Cumbria, in northwest England, is the seventh British female soldier to die since troops were sent to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The four deaths Tuesday brought to 106 the total number of British troops to die or be killed in Afghanistan since operations began in late 2001 to oust the country's hardline former rulers the Taliban.
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Obama: U.S. should avoid making bin Laden a martyr
By Caren Bohan June 18, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says if Osama bin Laden is captured alive, the United States should bring him to justice in a way that avoids turning the al Qaeda leader into a martyr.

After meeting a team of foreign policy advisers, including some seasoned diplomats he has newly recruited in the run-up to November's election, Obama hit back at efforts by his Republican rival John McCain to paint him as weak on fighting terrorism.

McCain allies including Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States by al Qaeda in 2001, have accused Obama of having a "pre-9/11 mindset" that focuses on law enforcement in the war on terror.

But Obama linked McCain's national security approach to that of President Bush, calling it "disastrous" and citing the failure to capture bin Laden as evidence.

"The record shows that George Bush and John McCain have been weak on terrorism," Obama told reporters. "Their approach has failed. Because of their policies, we are less safe, less respected and less able to lead the world."

Asked by a reporter how he would proceed if bin Laden were caught during his presidency, Obama said, "we may not be able to capture him alive" and that he may be killed.

"It does not make sense for me to speculate in terms of what the best approach would be in trying him and bringing him to justice," Obama said.

"I think what would be important would be for us to deal with him in a way that allows the entire world to understand the murderous acts that he's engaged in and not to make him into a martyr."

Also key, the Illinois senator said, was "to assure that the United States government is abiding by basic conventions that would strengthen our hand in the broader battle against terrorism."

Obama, who has sharply criticized the use of the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba to hold suspected terrorists, talked of the Nuremberg trials set up after World War II to prosecute Nazi war criminals as an example of how justice could be administered in keeping with a "universal set of principles."

In a series of exchanges reminiscent of the 2004 campaign, McCain's advisers have pounced on Obama for saying terrorism suspects could be treated as criminals "within the constraints of the Constitution."

'POLITICAL BLUDGEON'
In an ABC News interview Monday night, Obama contrasted the indefinite detention of Guantanamo Bay detainees with the criminal prosecution of the 1993 World Trade Center bombers.

Giuliani and other allies of McCain, an Arizona senator, countered that the fight against terrorism was mishandled prior to Sept. 11.

The approach at that time was a "critical mistake," Giuliani told reporters in a conference call, because it dealt with terrorism "as a defensive matter."

"When the 1993 attack took place at the World Trade Center, the response to it was a criminal prosecution but nothing beyond that," he said.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said Obama's national security approach was "ideologically driven" and criticized him for opposing last year's troop buildup in Iraq.

Obama has accused the McCain campaign of using the Sept. 11 attacks as a "political bludgeon" in an effort to distract from the failed policy of pursuing the Iraq war, which the Democrat said had made America less safe by shifting resources away from stabilizing Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban and pursuing al Qaeda militants.

"I refuse to be lectured on national security by people who are responsible for the most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States," Obama said.

"The people who were responsible for murdering 3,000 Americans on 9/11 have not been brought to justice," he said. "They are Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda and their sponsors -- the Taliban."

Obama spoke after meeting with a newly configured panel on national security that includes several seasoned hands from the administration of former President Bill Clinton, including former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher.

The panel also includes members of Obama's existing inner circle, such as Susan Rice, one of his top foreign policy advisers, and former national security adviser Anthony Lake.

Some of these advisers could fill Cabinet posts or other senior jobs if Obama becomes president.

(Additional reporting by John Whitesides and Jeff Mason; Editing by John O'Callaghan)
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New Report Faults Afghan Police Progress
Voice of America By Dan Robinson Capitol Hill 18 June 2008
U.S. lawmakers have sharply questioned key officials about a new report that is critical of U.S efforts to develop an effective national police force in Afghanistan. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, the Defense Department is disputing the report's findings.

The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress, paints a negative picture of what has been accomplished in building a new police force for Afghanistan.

While some progress has been made in training and equipping Afghanistan's army and police, the GAO says the United States still lacks detailed plans and cost estimates for completing and sustaining both forces.

The report calls for more clearly defined objectives and a spending plan, saying that without a capable and self-sustaining army and police, Afghanistan could again become a safe haven for terrorists.

Representative John Tierney, chairman of a House subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs, summarizes some key findings:

"There are 433 Afghanistan National Police units," said Congressman Tierney. "Zero are fully capable, three percent are capable with coalition support, four percent are only partially capable, 77 percent are not capable at all, and 68 percent are not formed or not reporting."

Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Ambassador David T. Johnson, says developing Afghanistan's police has been challenging.

"Afghan capacity is lacking, and we need to link policing to a viable justice and corrections system," said David T. Johnson. "Moreover, in some areas, particularly in the South, a relatively lightly-armed police face heavily-equipped insurgents resulting in casualty rates three times higher than those of the Afghan National Army [ANA]."

He puts the figure of Afghan police trained since 2003 at about 94,000. But while capabilities and professionalism have improved, he adds, long-term international support will be required, along with reforms in Afghanistan's judicial system.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South Asia, Retired Major General Bobby Wilkes, says the original goal of a professional, ethnically-balanced police force of 62,000 by the end of 2010 was revised last year to 82,000, in consultation with the Afghan government and coalition partners.

However, what he calls a resilient insurgency has increased pressure to build an effective police force.

"Police are the most visible expression of the Afghan populace, of the central government's writ and strength," said Bobby Wilkes. "The insurgents recognize this fact and it is no surprise that they are increasingly targeting the ANP."

Wilkes says Afghan police progress lagged in part because the United States did not become significantly involved in police training until 2003, with the Pentagon expanding its role only in late 2005. Other shortcomings include endemic corruption and an insufficient number of trainers and mentors.

At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department has what he called a bit of a different perspective.

Noting that the Pentagon's own update on progress in Afghanistan has yet to be issued, he said:

"With respect to the Afghan National Security Force Development Program, we believe that it's well-reasoned, that it is a successful program that's building on the Afghan government's capacity to respond to the insurgency, provide stability and implement the rule of law throughout Afghanistan," said Bryan Whitman.

Congressman Tierney referred during the hearing to a Pentagon assessment that only six police units are partially capable, six capable with coalition support, 296 units not capable, 57 not formed and not reporting, with additional pessimistic findings for Afghan border police and counter-narcotics units.

Bipartisan concern about Afghan police training was evident in these comments by Republican Christopher Shays and Democrat Jim Moran.

SHAYS: "I want to go on record in saying, this is typical of what we did in the bad years in Iraq. We under-estimated what we needed for the police and what we needed for security forces."

MORAN: "We have not made Afghanistan a sufficient priority. We have said that time and again, and yet, it doesn't change."

Wednesday's hearing was attended by some Afghanistan political and government leaders, who were invited by lawmakers to provide input on the question of Afghanistan's police force. 
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U.S. trainers have key mission in Afghanistan
An Army officer from California heads a team working to train police in a country where the officers often are corrupt.
By David Zucchino Los Angeles Times Staff Writer June 19, 2008
FARAH, AFGHANISTAN — There were two good reasons why Army Capt. Dave Panian made a perilous journey across the desert to this dusty provincial capital.

He wanted to check on his close friend, a district police chief whose family had been threatened by the Taliban. He also wanted to pry loose salaries for the chief's police officers, who were owed two months' pay.

Panian, a lanky officer from San Diego, heads a small U.S. Army team training local police officers near the village of Bala Buluk, 40 miles northeast of Farah in southwestern Afghanistan, where his friend Haji Khudaydad is the chief.

Training is the easy part. The hard part is cutting through threats, bureaucracy, cronyism and corruption.

The effectiveness of the police and other local officials is growing in importance as the Taliban moves to regain territory in southern Afghanistan this summer. Afghan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops battled the Taliban on Wednesday for control of villages around the city of Kandahar, about 220 miles east of Farah.

Throughout the country, police officers often have been little more than hired guns who raise money for local warlords through illegal taxes, shakedowns and corruption. Many policemen and district officials sell weapons and opium. Some collude with the Taliban.

Trainers such as Panian from the U.S. military and its foreign partners have been working since 2003 to reform the police.

Some units have fought effectively alongside U.S. forces, but others remain mired in cronyism and organized crime enterprises.

With new fighting in southern Afghanistan, the role of police chiefs such as Khudaydad and the loyalty of their officers are crucial.

So Panian got into a shouting match with police finance officers who refused to release last month's pay. He ended up storming over to the local bank and coming out with a plastic bag stuffed with the equivalent of $14,000 in afghanis, the local currency. But first he warned the officials that there would be "hell to pay" if they didn't cough up this month's pay the next day.

Then Panian found out that even though the Taliban had put a $30,000 bounty on Khudaydad, officials refused to help him move his wives and children out of the provincial capital and into the protection of relatives and tribesmen.

After a harrowing seven-hour nighttime drive across the desert in a convoy of policemen, U.S. soldiers and Marines, Khudaydad was delivered back to his Bala Buluk compound. He was relieved to be out of Farah.

"I don't trust those people," Khudaydad said of certain provincial officials.

In Bala Buluk, Panian's 14 trainers live in a spartan compound next to district police headquarters.

They have run about 100 police officers through an eight-week police academy in Herat, about 140 miles to the north, and mentored Khudaydad's officers daily for six months.

"I won't deny there's still corruption, but it's at a much lower level," Panian said.

He and his trainers forced out two previous chiefs. One extorted cash from shopkeepers and imposed taxes on passing vehicles. The other ran drugs and guns, U.S. team members said.

The trainers maneuvered Khudaydad into the chief's job, even though he's a sergeant major, not an officer. They consider him tough, fair and honest.

"He's not blameless, but he's as good as they come based on what we've seen here," Panian said.

Khudaydad, who appears to be in his mid-40s, has a long face, a wispy black beard and expressive brown eyes. He seems to command respect from his men, who listen closely when he speaks.

He fought against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, and in 2001 turned against the Taliban, which he says has killed 38 family members and fellow tribesmen, including four nephews and two sons.

Twelve of his officers have died since he took over as chief April 2. Some were killed in a vehicle accident, but others died, along with a U.S. trainer, fighting the Taliban in late May.

The Taliban controls much of the countryside in Farah province, where its fighters plant roadside bombs and mount occasional ambushes. A roadside bomb killed four Marines on Saturday.

"I waited a long time for the Americans to come," Khudaydad said, referring to training, weapons and equipment that U.S. forces have provided.

Marine 2nd Lt. Matthew Bohn, who will replace Panian this month as leader of the local U.S. police training program, said he asked Khudaydad how the Marines could help him.

Bohn said that Khudaydad replied, "Help me kill Taliban."

Panian said he trusts Khudaydad enough to leave only a few U.S. soldiers to guard the base while the rest go out on patrols.

The arrival this month of a platoon of Marines from Twentynine Palms, Calif., led by Bohn, who is from Davis, has beefed up the outpost's defenses.

Overall, the trainers have little faith in the police structure. Motorist shakedowns are common, they say, because of a system of tribute that goes all the way up the chain of command.

"The honest officers see corruption up and down the chain and nothing gets done about it, so naturally they get discouraged," said Capt. Michael Noriega, the U.S. team's operations chief.

A starting police officer earns the equivalent of $100 a month. Sergeants earn $150 to $170.

They are chronically short of supplies.

Unless U.S. officers go with him to Farah, provincial officials don't provide anything, Khudaydad said.

"They refuse us when we go alone."

Khudaydad provides the Americans entree into the tribal power structure, an important component of the fight against the Taliban. He also in effect acts as the district sub-governor because the appointed official rarely shows up for work, Panian said.

And because of his tribal ties and lifelong connections to local elders, Khudaydad provides valuable intelligence. His information was instrumental in operations last month that killed 72 to 115 Taliban fighters, trainers said.

But there are tensions among police units over equipment and authority, and between some police and Afghan army units. Khudaydad's policemen got into a shootout with an army unit that tried to push past a checkpoint this month.

The next morning, Panian brought the police and army unit commanders together; it was the first time they had met.

"We need to be brothers here, not split up into separate little groups," the captain told the officers, who sat cross-legged on the floor of Khudaydad's cramped office. Other commanders should rely on Khudaydad to bridge differences between the police and army, he said.

"He might look like Taliban, but he has the heart of a lion," Panian said. "I trust him with my life."

The army platoon leader, a sunburned young man, stood up and shook hands all around. "No problem," he said. "The Taliban is your enemy -- and our enemy."

The pay issue was not so easily resolved. Sitting in a dingy office in Farah with the three police finance officers, Panian first pleaded, then challenged the men. But they said they were powerless; the pay was stalled somewhere up the line.

One of the officers smirked, with a "What do you expect me to do?" expression.

Panian, his face reddening, turned to his interpreter and said, "If he doesn't stop laughing and start taking his job seriously, I'm going to slap him. He disgusts me. Tell him that."

The interpreter relayed the message. The man stopped smiling.

The finance officers said that if Panian sent a policeman the next day with certain paperwork, this month's pay would be released. (The salaries were indeed paid the next afternoon.) But if Panian wanted last month's pay, he'd have to go to the bank himself.

Panian emerged from the bank an hour later with the bag bulging with cash.

"I bought myself a Mercedes," he joked with Khudaydad later.

Accompanying Panian was Bohn, his successor, learning the job. He paid close attention to Panian's little drama. The next time, it would be Bohn's turn.

He said he was ready to take charge, though he had not anticipated "all the little intricacies of Afghan politics." He has a lot to learn.

Bohn is 25, with 19 months in the Marine Corps and 10 weeks in Afghanistan. Panian is 34, with 14 years in the Army and six months in Afghanistan. Bohn said he wanted to build on Panian's accomplishments and "put a Marine spin" on the training program.

With the previous month's pay secured, Panian and Bohn stepped outside the Farah pay office and into the searing sunshine.

"Not good, man," Panian told the lieutenant. "Get used to it."
david.zucchino@latimes.com
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Untangling Afghanistan
It's time for a proper cost-benefit analysis of Britain's military presence in Afghanistan
James Denselow guardian.co.uk, Thursday June 19, 2008
Are we witnessing the continued "march of freedom" (as President Bush says) and the transformation of Afghan security (as Gordon Brown says)? Or is the steady drip-drip of violence and apparent slippage evidence of a strategically bankrupt foreign policy adventure that has too much pride invested in it to change course? Is there even a case for saying we have won already? Or have the initial reasons for going into the country (Taliban and Bin Laden) opened up a series of ideological-strategic conundrums about the nature of military intervention and state-building that we simply have no answer to?

We need a proper cost-benefit analysis of Britain's presence in the country. It is often said that success has a thousand fathers and that failure is an orphan; the difficultly in Afghanistan is working out what possible indices for success or failure exist. Take the increase in troop numbers for example - the narrative of the US surge in Iraq suggests that it turned the situation around and now that things are better numbers can be reduced. The opposite argument is applied to Afghanistan where British officers have said that "the more successful you are in counter-insurgency, the more troops you need to police the ground you've won".

Sometimes the best indicators of success we have for Afghanistan are anecdotal evidence; Jason Burke is correct when he speaks of the positives in seeing "the sight of a bustling Kabul or the repopulated Shomali plains or the crowded bazaars of towns like Mazar-e-Sharif, Pul-e-Khumri and Jalalabad".

Afghanistan has certainly always seemed more successful than Iraq. It possess the legitimacy born of the "World Cup" of multilateral wars, with 42 countries involved, as well as many of the major international organisations (Nato, UN etc) who were absent in Iraq. Yet as a European Council on Foreign Relations report in January made clear, such "multilateralism" concealed a "potluck dinner" philosophy with each country providing significant caveats to their troops' rules of engagement. Even the argument that we are there to help rebuild Afghanistan is diluted by the fact that the majority of US forces there are under the counter-terrorism programme, Operation Enduring Freedom.

However, casualties alone are not significant enough for us to withdraw. More so than Iraq, the initial conflict was a breeze with bearded Special Forces and B52s helping get the Northern Alliance to Kabul in weeks. Yet now Britain has been in Afghanistan for almost seven years, with 106 soldiers killed and troop levels about to hit the highest to date. British casualties are extremely low for any modern conflict - the Falklands War saw 258 die in two weeks. Despite heavy fighting, only 20 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far this year, which is only four more than the number of London teenagers stabbed to death in a similar time frame.

The real point is that any level of casualties is unacceptable to a public that does not see the purpose of a conflict. If Iraq was Blair's war with faulty intelligence, pandering to the Americans and spin over substance, then maybe Afghanistan is Brown's war – with real confusion in Britain as to what success can be achieved. Poppy harvests continue to blossom and any progress in security is undermined by the perceived slippage in the form of the Taliban capturing villages, the attempted assassination of Karzai and recent mass prison breakout. In a Sky News interview with the Taliban they claimed that "The US troops do not have any authority. When you go off the roads and into the countryside, everything is in our hands."

It seems that domestically is not the only area where Brown struggles to articulate his vision. Talking yesterday about Afghanistan he came up with cliché heaped upon cliché, saying there is "still a job to be done", rejecting "artificial timelines" before unleashing the biggest whopper that "it is in the British national interest to confront the Taliban in Afghanistan or Afghanistan would come to us".

Such scaremongering may work in American which has experienced the real consequences of an abandoned post-Cold War Afghanistan, but they have little currency in a Britain far more threatened from indigenous attackers whose actions are partly explained by a radical reaction to British foreign policy misadventures themselves. So, Mr Brown, what are we doing in Afghanistan?
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U.S. abuse of detainees was routine at Afghanistan bases
By Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers Wed Jun 18, 5:15 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - American soldiers herded the detainees into holding pens of razor-sharp concertina wire, as if they were corralling livestock.

The guards kicked, kneed and punched many of the men until they collapsed in pain. U.S. troops shackled and dragged other detainees to small isolation rooms, then hung them by their wrists from chains dangling from the wire mesh ceiling.

Former guards and detainees whom McClatchy interviewed said Bagram was a center of systematic brutality for at least 20 months, starting in late 2001. Yet the soldiers responsible have escaped serious punishment.

The public outcry in the United States and abroad has focused on detainee abuse at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba , and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq , but sadistic violence first appeared at Bagram, north of Kabul , and at a similar U.S. internment camp at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan .

"I was punched and kicked at Bagram. ... At Bagram, when they took a man to interrogation at night, the next morning we would see him brought out on a stretcher looking almost dead," said Aminullah, an Afghan who was held there for a little more than three months. "But at Guantanamo, there were rules, there was law."

Nazar Chaman Gul , an Afghan who was held at Bagram for more than three months in 2003, said he was beaten about every five days. American soldiers would walk into the pen where he slept on the floor and ram their combat boots into his back and stomach, Gul said. "Two or three of them would come in suddenly, tie my hands and beat me," he said.

When the kicking started, Gul said, he'd cry out, "I am not a terrorist," then beg God for mercy. Mercy was slow in coming. He was shipped to Guantanamo around the late summer of 2003 and imprisoned there for more than three years.

According to Afghan officials and a review of his case, Gul wasn't a member of al Qaida or of the extremist Taliban regime that ran Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001. At the time he was detained, he was working as a fuel depot guard for the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

When U.S. soldiers raided the house he was visiting, acting on a tip from a tribal rival who was seeking revenge against another man, they apparently confused Gul with a militant with a similar name - who was also imprisoned at Guantanamo, according to an Afghan intelligence official and Gul's American lawyer.

The eight-month McClatchy investigation found a pattern of abuse that continued for years. The abuse of detainees at Bagram has been reported by U.S. media organizations, in particular The New York Times , which broke several developments in the story. But the extent of the mistreatment, and that it eclipsed the alleged abuse at Guantanamo, hasn't previously been revealed.

Guards said they routinely beat their prisoners to retaliate for al Qaida's 9-11 attacks, unaware that the vast majority of the detainees had little or no connection to al Qaida.

Former detainees at Bagram and Kandahar said they were beaten regularly. Of the 41 former Bagram detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, 28 said that guards or interrogators had assaulted them. Only eight of those men said they were beaten at Guantanamo Bay .

Because President Bush loosened or eliminated the rules governing the treatment of so-called enemy combatants, however, few U.S. troops have been disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and no serious punishments have been administered, even in the cases of two detainees who died after American guards beat them.

In an effort to assemble as complete a picture as possible of U.S. detention practices, McClatchy reporters interviewed 66 former detainees, double-checked key elements of their accounts, spoke with U.S. soldiers who'd served as detention camp guards and reviewed thousands of pages of records from Army courts-martial and human rights reports.

The Bush administration refuses to release full records of detainee treatment in the war on terrorism, and no senior Bush administration official would agree to an on-the-record interview to discuss McClatchy's findings.

The most violent of the major U.S. detention centers, the McClatchy investigation found, was Bagram, an old Soviet airstrip about 30 miles outside Kabul . The worst period at Bagram was the seven months from the summer of 2002 to spring of 2003, when interrogators there used techniques that when repeated later at Abu Ghraib led to wholesale abuses.

New detainees were shoved to the floor of a cavernous warehouse, a former Soviet aircraft machine shop that stayed dim all day, and kept in pens where they weren't allowed to speak or look at guards.

The Afghan government initially based a group of intelligence officers at Bagram, but they were pushed out. Mohammed Arif Sarwari , the head of Afghanistan's national security directorate from late 2001 to 2003, said he got a letter from U.S. commanders in mid-2002 telling him to get his men out of Bagram.

Sarwari thought that was a bad sign: The Americans, he thought, were creating an island with no one to watch over them.

"I said I didn't want to be involved with what they were doing at Bagram - who they were arresting or what they were doing with them," he said in an interview in Kabul .

The rate of reported abuse was higher among men who were held at the U.S. camp at Kandahar Airfield . Thirty-two out of 42 men held there whom McClatchy interviewed claimed that they were knocked to the ground or slapped about. But former detainees said the violence at Bagram was much harsher.

The brutality at Bagram peaked in December 2002 , when U.S. soldiers beat two Afghan detainees, Habibullah and Dilawar, to death as they hung by their wrists.

Dilawar died on Dec. 10 , seven days after Habibullah died. He'd been hit in his leg so many times that the tissue was "falling apart" and had "basically been pulpified," said then-Lt. Col. Elizabeth Rouse , the Air Force medical examiner who performed the autopsy on him.

Had Dilawar lived, Rouse said in sworn testimony, "I believe the injury to the legs are so extensive that it would have required amputation."

After Habibullah died, a legal officer for U.S. forces in Afghanistan asked two military police guards at Bagram to demonstrate how they'd chained detainees' wrists above their heads in a small plywood isolation cell.

"Frankly, it didn't look good," Maj. Jeff Bovarnick , the legal adviser for the Bagram detention center from November 2002 to June 2003 , said during a military investigation hearing in June 2005 .

"This guy is chained up and has a hood on his head," Bovarnick continued. "The two MPs that were demonstrating this took about five minutes to get everything hook(ed) up; and I was thinking to myself, if this was a combative detainee, it must have been a real struggle for them to get him to comply, and the things they must have been doing to make him comply."

The only American officer who's been reprimanded for the deaths of Habibullah and Dilawar is Army Capt. Christopher Beiring , who commanded the 377th Military Police Company from the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2003.

Beiring told investigators that he'd received no formal training in leading a military police company, "just the correspondence courses and on-the-job training."

Then-Lt. Col. Thomas S. Berg , the Army lawyer who investigated Beiring in the deaths of Habibullah and Dilawar, argued that: "The government failed to present any evidence of what are 'approved tactics, techniques and procedures in detainee operations.' "

On Berg's recommendation, the charges against Beiring were dropped, and he was given a letter of reprimand.

"It's extremely hard to wage war with so many undefined rules and roles," Beiring said in a phone interview with McClatchy . "It was very crazy."

The commander of the military intelligence section that worked alongside Beiring's military police company at Bagram, Capt. Carolyn Wood , declined to comment.

The soldier who faced the most serious charges, Spc. Willie Brand , admitted that he hit Dilawar about 37 times, including some 30 times in the flesh around the knees during one session in an isolation cell.

Brand, who faced up to 11 years in prison, was reduced in rank to private - his only punishment - after he was found guilty of assaulting and maiming Dilawar.

'EVERYBODY STRUCK A DETAINEE'
U.S. soldiers' testimony in military investigations after the deaths of Habibullah and Dilawar suggested that detainee abuse at Bagram occurred from the summer of 2002 to spring of 2003, a period of about seven months.

Soldiers who served at Bagram before that time said detainees were never beaten. Col. Matthew Bogdanos , a Marine Reserves officer who worked there from December 2001 to April 2002 , said in an interview that none of the soldiers or American operatives he knew had resorted to abusing detainees.

An Army interrogator who was based at Bagram in the spring of 2002 and later wrote a book under the pseudonym of Chris Mackey for security reasons, said in an e-mail exchange that while soldiers pushed the limits - such as using stress positions and sleep deprivation - he never saw or heard of detainees getting beaten.

Former detainees interviewed by McClatchy and by some human rights groups, however, claimed that the violence was rampant from late 2001 until the summer of 2003 or later, at least 20 months.

Although they were at Bagram at different times and speak different languages, the 28 former detainees who told McClatchy that they'd been abused there told strikingly similar stories:

-- Bashir Ahmad , a Pakistani who fought with the Taliban, said that in the late spring or summer of 2003, U.S. troops would chain him to the ceiling by his hands or feet. "Then they would punch me or hit me with a wood rod," he said.

-- Brahim Yadel, a French citizen, said he was punched and slapped during interrogations at Bagram in December 2001 .

-- Moazzem Begg , a British citizen, said he was assaulted regularly at Bagram for most of 2002, until he was transferred to Guantanamo in January 2003 .

-- Akhtar Mohammed , an Afghan, said that at Bagram during the spring of 2003, "when they moved me to the interrogation room they covered my eyes, and took me up steep stairs. I always fell on the ground. And when I fell down, they punched and kicked me."

-- Abdul Haleem , a Pakistani, said that U.S. soldiers threw him to the ground at Bagram in 2003 and kicked him in the head, "like they were playing soccer."

-- Adel al Zamel , a Kuwaiti, said guards frequently waved sticks at him and threatened to rape him at Bagram during the spring of 2002. During an interview in Kuwait City , Zamel shook his head and said he remembered hearing detainees being beaten and "the cries from the interrogation room" at Bagram.

He wasn't the only person to report sexual humiliation.

Sgt. Selena Salcedo , a U.S. military intelligence officer, said that sometime between August 2002 and February 2003 she saw another interrogator, Pfc. Damien Corsetti , pull down the pants of a detainee and leave his genitals exposed.

In a 2005 sworn statement in the court-martial of Corsetti, she said she'd left the room and that when she'd returned the detainee was bent over a table and Corsetti was waving a plastic bottle near his buttocks. She said she didn't know whether the detainee had been raped.

Corsetti was acquitted of any wrongdoing. He didn't respond to a request for comment submitted through his attorney. Salcedo pleaded guilty to kicking a detainee - Dilawar - and grabbing his ears during a December 2002 interrogation.

Soldiers who served at Bagram starting in the summer of 2002 confirmed that detainees there were struck routinely.

"Whether they got in trouble or not, everybody struck a detainee at some point," said Brian Cammack , a former specialist with the 377th Military Police Company , an Army Reserve unit from Cincinnati . He was sentenced to three months in military confinement and a dishonorable discharge for hitting Habibullah.

Spc. Jeremy Callaway , who admitted to striking about 12 detainees at Bagram, told military investigators in sworn testimony that he was uncomfortable following orders to "mentally and physically break the detainees." He didn't go into detail.

"I guess you can call it torture," said Callaway, who served in the 377th from August 2002 to January 2003 .

Many human rights experts say the U.S. military began cracking down on detainee abuse at Bagram in 2004, in response to the public outcry over pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq .

RETRIBUTION FOR 9-11
Asked why someone would abuse a detainee, Callaway told military investigators: "Retribution for September 11, 2001 ."

When detainees first had their hoods removed on arriving at Bagram, looming behind them was a large American flag and insignia of the New York Police Department , a reminder of Sept. 11 .

Almost none of the detainees at Bagram, however, had anything to do with the terrorist attacks.

Bovarnick, the former chief legal officer for operational law in Afghanistan and Bagram legal adviser, said in a sworn statement that of some 500 detainees he knew of who'd passed through Bagram, only about 10 were high-value targets, the military's term for senior terrorist operatives.

That hardly mattered.

Khaled al Asmr , a tall, gaunt Jordanian, was hauled off a U.S. military cargo plane at Bagram in early 2002. Flown in from Pakistan in heavy shackles and with a hood on his head, he was accused of being an al Qaida operative with possible connections to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Standing in an interrogation room, Asmr said, he'd already been punched in the face several times by American guards. Two Americans walked into the room, wearing civilian clothes. They pulled out pistols and held them to either side of his head as a third American man entered and walked up to Asmr, according to his account.

The third man leaned toward Asmr's face and whispered, his breath warm, "I am here to save you from these people, but you must tell me you are al Qaida."

Asmr, who told his story to a McClatchy reporter in Jordan , was declared no longer an enemy combatant after a 2004 U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo. He said he'd known some al Qaida leaders, but that was more than 15 years earlier, during the U.S.-backed Afghan uprising against the Soviets.

Nazar Gul was of even less intelligence value. None of the Afghan security or intelligence officials whom McClatchy interviewed said they'd heard of Gul, making it unlikely that he was the dangerous insurgent the U.S. said he was.

Gul's American attorney, Ruben L. Iniguez , went to Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2006 to check the details of his story of working as a guard for the Afghan government, and later said in sworn court filings - which included videotaped testimony by witnesses - and in an interview with McClatchy that every fact checked out.

A LAWLESS PLACE
The mistreatment of detainees at Bagram, some legal experts said, may have been a violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, which forbids violence against or humiliating treatment of detainees.

The U.S. War Crimes Act of 1996 imposes penalties up to death for such mistreatment.

At Bagram, however, the rules didn't apply. In February 2002 , President Bush issued an order denying suspected Taliban and al Qaida detainees prisoner-of-war status. He also denied them basic Geneva protections known as Common Article Three, which sets a minimum standard for humane treatment.

Without those parameters, it's difficult to say what acts were or were not war crimes, said Charles Garraway , a former colonel and legal adviser for the British army and a leading international expert on military law.

Bush's order made it hard to prosecute soldiers for breaking such rules under the military's basic law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in large part because defense attorneys could claim that troops on the ground didn't know what was allowed.

In sweeping aside Common Article Three, the Bush administration created an environment in which abuse such as that at Bagram was more likely, said Garraway, a former professor at the U.S. Naval War College .

"I think it's completely predictable, because you no longer have standards," he said.

In 2006, Bush pushed Congress to narrow the definition of a war crime under the War Crimes Act, making prosecution even more difficult.

UNTRAINED, UNDISCIPLINED
The military police at Bagram had guidelines, Army Regulation 190-47, telling them they couldn't chain prisoners to doors or to the ceiling. They also had Army Regulation 190-8, which said that humiliating detainees wasn't allowed.

Neither was applicable at Bagram, however, said Bovarnick, the former senior legal officer for the installation.

The military police rulebook saying that enemy prisoners of war should be treated humanely didn't apply, he said, because the detainees weren't prisoners of war, according to the Bush administration's decision to withhold Geneva Convention protections from suspected Taliban and al Qaida detainees.

The military police guide for the Army correctional system, which prohibits "securing a prisoner to a fixed object, except in emergencies," wasn't applicable, either, because Bagram wasn't a correctional facility, Bovarnick told investigators in 2004.

"I do not believe there is a document anywhere which states that ... either regulation applies, and there is clear guidance by the secretary of defense that detainees were not EPWs," enemy prisoners of war, Bovarnick said.

Compounding the problem, military police guards and interrogators lacked proper training and received little instruction from commanders about how to do their jobs, according to sworn testimony taken during military investigations and interviews by McClatchy .

The guards who worked there from the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2003 were all reservists from the 377th Military Police Company , based in Cincinnati , and many of the military intelligence interrogators serving at the same time were from the Utah Army National Guard .

Good order and discipline had evaporated.

1st Sgt. Betty Jones said during a 2004 interview with investigators that a fellow military police sergeant and his men on several occasions were "drunk to the point that they could not go to duty."

Salcedo, the military intelligence soldier, said in her statement at Corsetti's court-martial that she and others drank alcohol during their time at Bagram, and at one point smoked hashish on the roof of a building.

Cammack told McClatchy that one of his sergeants drove a John Deere Gator, a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle, to a nearby town and traded with locals for bottles of vodka.

"Really, nobody was in charge ... the leadership did nothing to help us. If we had any questions, it was pretty much 'figure it out on your own,' " Cammack said. "When you asked about protocol they said it's a work in progress."

PENTAGON RESPONSE
Senior Pentagon officials refused to be interviewed for this article. In response to a series of questions and interview requests, Col. Gary Keck , a Defense Department spokesman, released this statement:

" The Department of Defense policy is clear - we treat all detainees humanely. The United States operates safe, humane and professional detention operations for unlawful enemy combatants at war with this country."

No U.S. military officer above the rank of captain has been called to account for what happened at Bagram.

The head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan when prisoners were being abused at Bagram, then-Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill , declined an interview request. McNeill was later made the commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan , a post he held until recently.

His predecessor, then-Maj. Gen. Franklin L. "Buster" Hagenbeck , said in an e-mail exchange that from late 2001 to 2002, his attention wasn't on detainee facilities.

"Unfortunately, I have nothing to add to your reporting ... I was focused on battling the Taliban and al Qaida, as well as reconstruction and coordinating with the nascent Afghan government," Hagenbeck wrote. "I do not personally know of any abuses while I was there, and we focused on treating all with dignity and respect - even, and perhaps especially, those persons in our custody."

Hagenbeck is now the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point .

Capt. Carolyn Wood , who led the interrogators at Bagram, was sent to Abu Ghraib in the summer of 2003 and assumed control of interrogation operations there that August.

A military investigation that followed the Abu Ghraib scandal - known as the "Fay-Jones Report" for the two generals who authored it - found that from July 2003 to February of 2004, 27 military intelligence personnel there allegedly encouraged or condoned the abuse of detainees, violated established interrogation procedures or participated in abuse themselves.

The abuse resembled what former Bagram detainees described.

A key factor in serious cases of abuse at Abu Ghraib, the report found, was the construction of isolation areas, a move requested by Wood, who said that "based on her experience" such facilities made it easier to extract information from detainees.

Wood remains an active-duty military intelligence officer.

( Matthew Schofield contributed to this report from Paris and Lyon, France .)
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Minister defends use of light armoured vehicles in Afghanistan
James Sturcke and agencies guardian.co.uk, Thursday June 19, 2008
The government today defended the continued use of lightly armoured Land Rovers by British troops in Afghanistan after the latest deaths in the country.

The four British troops killed by a Taliban roadside bomb on Tuesday were in a Snatch Land Rover, the armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth confirmed.

Corporal Sarah Bryant and three SAS reservists were east of Lashkar Gah in Helmand province in the south of the country when their vehicle was blown up.

The Snatch has been heavily criticised because of its lack of protection against roadside bombs.

The minister told MPs that other vehicles, such as the more heavily armoured Mastiff, "would not have been suitable for the task they were doing in the area in which they were required to work".denies

He said the vehicle was fitted with electronic counter-measures designed to jam mobile phone signals used to trigger improvised explosive devices.

Ainsworth insisted commanders needed a range of vehicles for different terrain and operations.

"We are seeking all the time to extend the range of vehicles that are available," he said.

"Whether or not we are going to be able to take away these small platforms without taking away a whole area of capability is something that will need to be thought of very seriously.

"Obviously Snatch has suffered some considerable setbacks and we have lost lives in Snatch Land Rovers.

"But all that I am being told by commanders on the ground, is that they still need Land Rover-based platforms ... and they will do for the foreseeable future."

The Tory defence expert Patrick Mercer, a former colonel, said the Snatch was "entirely unsuitable" for operations in Afghanistan and called for the vehicles to be withdrawn from service.

The Snatch had originally been designed as a vehicle to transport troops in Northern Ireland, said Mercer, who was involved in its adoption by the military.

Mercer said the Snatch was conceived for the "relatively benign environment" of Northern Ireland's asphalt roads.

"They are entirely unsuitable for operations in Afghanistan. The reason they are there is because that's all the military, or the army in particular, have got," he said.

Mercer called for an assurance that the vehicles will be taken from service in Iraq and Afghanistan "as soon as is humanly possible".

He said troops in Afghanistan were "cursing" the Snatch which was a "death trap for so many men and women".
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Britain's allies must do more in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk 19 June 2008
With the poppy harvest in Helmand province safely gathered in, the killing season has started in earnest. The loss of four soldiers in a roadside bombing near Lashkar Gah on Tuesday brings the British death toll to 106. Nine troops have died in the past 10 days.

The latest incident was made all the more poignant by the fact that the casualties include the first British woman to die in action in Afghanistan.

The loss of life, terrible though it is, must not deflect this country from a vital mission. As Gordon Brown said on Monday, when he announced the deployment of additional forces, it is in our national interest to confront the Taliban in Afghanistan “or Afghanistan will come to us”.

The scale of our losses should, however, prompt a reassessment of military strategy in two areas. First, the division of the allied effort against the Taliban between Nato’s International Security Assistance Force and the separate US-led Operation Enduring Freedom is cumbersome. A unified command structure with America in the lead role would make more sense, not least because the US provides the lion’s share of forces to this theatre.

Second, our allies in Europe must start to shoulder their responsibilities. There have been two Nato conclaves already this year, aimed at sharing the burden more fairly and neither, so far, has produced any tangible results. The Americans, British, Canadians and Dutch continue to bear the brunt of the action – and the losses.

The contribution of our two biggest Continental allies, France and Germany, remains half-hearted. Germany has anachronistic constitutional impediments that inhibit it from front-line deployment.

France has no such inhibitions. President Sarkozy has announced France’s return to Nato’s command structure. He should mark the event by announcing that France will, at long last, start to shoulder a commensurate share of the military effort in Afghanistan.

Away from the military sphere, the work of nation-building needs to be re-energised. At the Afghan donors conference in Paris last week – the fourth such conference since the Taliban were toppled in 2001 – President Karzai passed round the hat for another £12.5 billion of Western aid to cover the next five years, doubling the amount that has already been spent.

For the first time, Mr Karzai faced open criticism for his failure to stamp out corruption in the regime he leads. Aid programmes, particularly those aimed at infrastructure and social provision, are crucial to the hearts and minds campaign among the Afghans. But if the Western aid is being poured in one end only to be siphoned off by corrupt officials at the other, that process is doomed.
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Afghanistan Border Diplomacy in Jeopardy
The recent prison breaks in Kandahar and threats of cross-border raids into Pakistan have left diplomats ratcheting up the rhetoric.
By Jeff Davis – Embassy magazine (Canada), June 18th, 2008
Canadian-led efforts to pacify the dysfunctional Afghan-Pakistani border may be in jeopardy after a massive jailbreak in Kandahar and provocative statements by Afghan President Hamid Karzai about possible cross-border raids into Pakistan.

Some 1,000 inmates escaped when dozens of Taliban fighters sacked the sprawling Sarposa prison in Kandahar on Friday.

While many were common criminals, around 400 were reportedly captured Taliban insurgents. A security cordon was immediately struck to try to recapture the escapees, only a few dozen were recaptured.

Speaking to reporters Sunday, Mr. Karzai said his "patience was running thin" with cross-border Taliban raids.

"Afghanistan has the right of self-defense when they [the militants] cross territories," Mr. Karzai said. "It exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same." Mr. Karzai also called out by name his foes across the Pakistani border.

"[Pakistani warlord] Baitullah Mehsud should know that we will go after him now and hit him in his house. And the other fellow, [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar of Pakistan, should know the same."

The security environment now remains tense as hundreds of militants amass in villages outside Kandahar and Canadian Forces face down fighters they may have captured in the very same area last year.

Embassy requested an interview with Pakistani High Commissioner Musa Javed Chohan to discuss Mr. Karzai's comments. It was not granted, but the Pakistanis submitted a written statement by email.

Pakistani High Commission spokeswoman Mamoona Amjed characterized Mr. Karzai's musings about mounting cross-border raids as "irresponsible," "unacceptable" and "threatening."

Ms. Amjed called the statements an affront to Pakistani sovereignty, adding that stabilizing Pakistani territory is Pakistan's business alone.

"On the Afghan side of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Afghan National Army, ISAF and U.S. Army could take whatever action they want against the terrorists," she wrote. "On the Pakistani side of the border, it is the Pakistani troops who have the sole responsibility to take action.

"Pakistan shall defend its territorial sovereignty and will not allow anybody to interfere in its internal affairs," she continued. "Any statement that negated this basic principle and did not show respect for the territorial sovereignty would not help in the war on terrorism."

Ms. Amjed wrote that "the armed forces of Pakistan are fully capable to stop any insurgency," and reiterated the Pakistani position that a combination of political, socio-economic and military efforts are needed to bring a "permanent end to militancy."

Afghan Ambassador to Canada Omar Samad, however, expressed doubt about Pakistan's ability, or will, to evict the Taliban militants taking refuge in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), situated along the shared border.

In the past months, Mr. Samad said, security in the region has deteriorated. "Since April we have seen a considerable increase in cross-border activity, infiltration and terrorist action in Afghanistan. That has to stop," he said. "It seems to us that over the past few months there is a weakening in the efforts by Pakistan to crack down on the most dangerous elements."

The cause of the problem, Mr. Samad implied, was the unilateral decision by the new Pakistani government to sign a peace agreement with Taliban militants in the FATA. In May, Pakistan's newly-elected government signed a deal with the FATA stipulating that the Pakistani government will gradually draw down military forces in the areas in exchange for militants laying down their arms.

Mr. Samad says the deal, done without Afghan consent, externalizes violence on his country. "Entering into negotiations and talks on one side of the border is a half-cooked measure that does not encompass a comprehensive solution that would resolve the issue once and for all," he said. "All it does is shift the pressure on the Afghan side, on the Afghan people, and on coalition and ISAF forces, including Canadians."

As for President Karzai's comments, Mr. Samad took a step back, signalling that cross-border raids by Afghan forces are not imminent. "Those statements were by no means meant to further irritate relations," he said. "We respect Pakistan's territorial integrity and its sovereignty."
Nevertheless, he said, Mr. Karzai's statements echo the concerns of Afghans.

"[The comments] were meant to highlight a very serious issue that is on the minds of every Afghan, and the president of Afghanistan's duty is to reflect that," he said. "The Afghan people are upset by the continued activity of militants crossing our borders, coming into Afghanistan, killing our women and children, torching our schools, and posing a threat, a direct threat, to our national security and wellbeing."

Such heated rhetoric from both Afghan and Pakistani officials does not bode well for ongoing Canadian-led diplomatic efforts to pacify the border by facilitating bilateral dialogue. And while Mr. Samad said Canada's efforts are welcome, more existential concerns are on the minds of Afghans.

"It is a positive initiative, but these types of initiatives will not eventually yield any results unless we take care of the security threat that exists," he said. "We cannot be talking management, trade, people-to-people issues on one hand, and on the other hand be attacked, continuously attacked, by extremists and terrorists."

Canada Wants More from Pakistan

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, while in London last week after the raid, criticized the Pakistani government's recent decision to strike a deal with the FATA and draw down its military forces in the region.

"With a new government, there was hope that this was going to lead to greater, more robust participation on their part. It hasn't quite turned out that way," Mr. MacKay told reporters. "In fact, some would argue that it may get worse if they're cutting deals with the Taliban."

Appearing on CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Mr. MacKay reiterated his appeal to the Pakistanis.

"We need the co-operation of the surrounding countries, most notably Pakistan," he said. "The Pakistan government is very aware, particularly in the south, of the insurgency that is coming from their country into Afghanistan, and that has to be addressed."

Mr. MacKay called for calm and for both countries to resume attempts at a diplomatic solution for the border. The man leading Canadian border diplomacy efforts, Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan Arif Lalani, declined to comment on the recent developments.

In a scrum Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said he does not think Mr. Karzai's threat of cross-border raids is truly reflective of Afghan national policy.

"The president, I think, was under an awful lot of pressure and probably shocked at what happened [at Sarposa Prison]," he said. "[It was] an unfortunate statement."

Mr. Emerson added that "we think diplomacy is the way to go in dealing with Pakistan," and that Canada would continue in its efforts to reinforce border co-operation. He agreed, however, that the Pakistanis needed to step up their efforts on the border.

Fresh criticism also came from the Senate defence committee last week, which labelled Pakistan a "bad neighbour" in their newly-released report "How Are We Doing in Afghanistan? Canadians Need to Know."

The report discusses the role of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in the region, and says residents in Kandahar's Panjwaii district told committee members on a recent trip that the ISI was "actively attempting to destabilize Afghanistan."

The report describes the border as "flimsy" and speaks about the disenfranchisement of the Pashtun tribes who live on the border, and their lack of loyalty to the Karzai regime.
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Taliban kill each other in gun battle
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 18 June 2008 
Foreign and Afghan Talibs clash in west - 30 killed; 12 wounded
CLASHES between Afghan Taliban fighters and foreign Taliban fighters have left 30 rebels dead and 12 more wounded, local authorities say.

Deputy governor of Farah province, Muhammad Younus Rasoli, said the inter-Taliban clash happened on Sunday, but he failed to say why the Taliban fighters had attacked each other.

Rasoli said a number of Pakistani, Chechyan and Arab Taliban fighters had entered the Gulistan district through Helmand province with the intent of attacking government buildings.

He said Afghan Taliban had resisted the foreign fighters.

Police chief in Farah, Khalilullah Rahmani, said the exact death toll suffered by both sides was unclear.

The Taliban have refused to comment on the incident.

The Gulistan district was captured by the Taliban several times last year.
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ISAF troops to boost education in Afghanistan
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) 18 Jun 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – Regional Command Capital (RC-C) troops have recently conducted several Civilian Military Cooperation (CIMIC) activities in the western part of Deh Sabz district, a village consisting of 450 families.

Two weeks ago, preliminary meetings were held with the responsible Malek, ensuring his cooperation for the duration of the French CIMIC visit.

The French Battle Group deployed in the North of Kabul belongs to RC-C and is active, in coordination with all Afghan authorities, in the economic, social and cultural development of the area.

About 120 students received the necessary material to attend classes and pursue their education.

One of the teachers’s expressed his satisfaction for what was being done, ‘We thank you for helping our students to work, and we hope you will come back soon.’

Over the last year, the French government has constructed four schools, worth more than 175,000 euros, in the area of Kabul.

Contact Information

ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)79 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291
pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/
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Museum owner says ISI backs Khurram
www.quqnoos.com Written by Mukhtar Soar Wednesday, 18 June 2008
Culture minister accused of receiving support from Pakistan's secret service
THE OWNER of some of Afghanistan’s first privately owned museums has accused the minister of information and culture of receiving support from Pakistan’s secret service.

The allegation made by private museum owner Ahmad Shah Sultani is the latest in an escalating war of words between the museums’ officials and the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Last week, Mr Sultani accused the government of failing to track down robbers who he says broke into his museum in Herat and stole 700 precious artefacts.

The minister of information, Abdul Karim Khurram, denies the looting ever took place and claims Sultani’s museums are not registered with the government.

Khurram said Sultani has no legal proof of the origin of the 30,000 historic items in his possession.

On Tuesday, Mr Sultani showed journalists documents which he says prove the government had already officially registered his museums in Kabul and Herat.

He said the documents showed that a delegation from the ministry had visited his museums to register the monuments several years ago.

He accused “foreign hands” of influencing the ministry’s attitude towards him.

"If a coup d’etat occurred and the government was destroyed and then Mr Khuram’s government came to power, I would be certain that the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) was behind it," he said.

The minister of information refused to comment. Sultani, who says it took him 30 years to finish his collection, claims the historical monuments come from Italy, Germany, France and Dubai.

More than 30,000 historical artefacts, including gold, bronze and silver coins are kept in the museum.
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Kandahar Aid Focus to Hit National Programs
Despite applause from Afghan officials over the years for channelling aid through multilateral funds, Ambassador Omar Samad says change is necessary.
By Lee Berthiaume - Embassy, June 18th, 2008
Over the years, numerous Afghan ministers and senior government officials have passed through Ottawa, meeting with their Canadian counterparts and occasionally the media to discuss the situation in the Central Asian country.

Often when discussing Canadian aid, the subject turned to funding mechanisms like the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, set up in 2002 to pool foreign aid funding from around two dozen international donors for use by the Afghan government.

The Afghan officials always lauded the fact that the majority of Canadian aid was directed through such funds, enabling the Afghan government to implement the projects it deemed necessary and helping the entire country, not just Kandahar.

"We like this system in place because it increases donor confidence. It enables the government of Afghanistan to spend effectively and accountably," Afghan Education Minister Haneef Atmar said last October.

Now, senior officials say Canada will be funnelling much less money through such funds and spending less on national-level programs as part of its shift to increase the amount of Canadian aid going into Kandahar from 17 to 50 per cent and decision to focus on three so-called signature projects.

However, despite past applause from Afghan officials, Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad and CIDA Minister Bev Oda have played down concerns the move will affect donor co-ordination or undermine the Afghan national government's legitimacy.

"Development requires continuous adjustment," Mr. Samad said Monday. "Aid effectiveness means that you need to change and modify a position if need be to make it more effective and to make it more successful. So at this point, we have reached a stage where we need to balance things in such a way that we do not put all our eggs in one basket."

On June 10, Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Ms. Oda held a press conference to release the Cabinet committee on Afghanistan's first report.

The report included six policy priorities with objectives that will be measured by specific benchmarks. According to a Privy Council Office Afghan task force official, those benchmarks, such as the number of Afghan National Army soldiers that must be trained and equipped in Kandahar, are still being developed and should be made public later this summer.

On the aid side, the ministers said an additional $600 million has been promised through to 2011, bringing to $1.9 billion the amount Canada will have contributed to aid over 10 years.

In addition, they said Canada will spend around $200 million on three signature projects in Kandahar: Building 50 schools in the province; support for the rehabilitation of the Dahla Dam and its irrigation and canal system; and expanded support for polio immunizations.

Finally, they revealed the government will shift 17 per cent of aid funding going to Kandahar to 50 per cent.

The following day, David Mulroney, deputy minister of the Privy Council Office's Afghanistan task force, appeared before the Special Committee on Canada's Role in Afghanistan where he confirmed that the multilateral trust funds will be hit by the new focus.

"We're in some cases phasing out and in other cases we will reduce our payments so that we can focus more on Kandahar," he said. "This is a direct reflection of the observations made by the Manley panel that too much of our assistance was going to these, one or two levels removed.

"We didn't have a hands-on, eyes-on sense of how we were having an impact on the ground. It wasn't being as directly felt. It was too long term."

While Mr. Mulroney didn't provide specifics, he said some of the national-level programs and multilateral funds will still receive Canadian aid, mostly those that keep the Afghan government running and those run by Canadians NGOs.

"We don't have to do everything at the national level and at the Kandahar level," he said. "There are programs that others can step in behind us and fund—we're the third largest funder—while we get to work and deliver on real change in Kandahar.

"So we will try to minimize the impact on programs that resonate with Canadians that are important. But there will be an impact at the national level as we try to do more in Kandahar."

The following day, donors met in Paris to discuss the future of Afghanistan and agreed to, among other things, increase support for national and sub-national state institutions in Afghanistan, channel more aid through the Afghan national government budget and ensure the benefits of development reach all provinces equitably.

Speaking to Embassy that same day, Ms. Oda dismissed suggestions the new focus on Kandahar will undermine those objectives.

"The co-ordination aspect is not going to be a challenge at all," she said. "This is something that Canada led the discussion on, and now we're seeing that many, many agencies and organizations are going to be taking action on co-ordination, so it's not going to be a problem.

"We have a significant presence still nationally. Our influence is not only measured by dollar contribution. It's measured by good measurement and our ability to be co-operative workers with other donors."

"We are very happy to see that, aside from the military contributions Canada is making in terms of stability, it is matching it with very meaningful aid," Ambassador Samad said when asked about the increase in Canadian aid.

At the same time, he said, his government is fully in favour of the shift in Canada's aid focus. In fact, he added, Canadian and Afghan officials worked together to identify what would eventually be the three signature projects.

He said that while it was beneficial for Canada to channel most of its aid through trust funds during the early stages of Afghanistan's recovery, the time has come to change tactics.

"We can't say that there's one model that works better than others," he said. "If you've tried one and it has reached a certain level of saturation, then you need to look at what else is missing. And in this case, there were some models that lacked attention."

To that end, Mr. Samad indicated it was time to address the needs of average Afghans.

"When Afghans are asking for electricity, we need to look at our resources, we need to look at the raw material that is required and the structures that are needed in order to provide them with the energy that is needed," he said. "Seven years is a very long time for the Afghans to be patient with very little electricity available. Now is the time to focus on these high-value initiatives."

There has been concern raised by some that signature projects will undermine the Afghan national government's legitimacy as the government has to be seen to be helping average citizens. Mr. Samad dismissed such suggestion.

"Those people who are so concerned about such issues not only, in my opinion, have to be more flexible with their approach," he said. "Afghans like to say a hundred years from now or two generations from now that such road or such hydro-electric dam or such hospital was built by Canadians, and they will do that."

As for whether donor co-ordination will suffer, the ambassador said he wasn't worried.

"Each donor's policy is going to not only align itself with the Afghan National Development Strategy, but also with those pillars that are central to each country's focus," he said. "So depending on what the focus of each donor is, the realignment and the redefinition of the policy and the aid delivery mechanisms will be adjusted."

Oxfam Canada president Robert Fox wasn't convinced and recalled warnings against such projects and a provincial focus delivered by six female Afghan parliamentarians when they visited Ottawa in March.

"We're creating perverse incentives to instability because we're devoting our aid to parts of the country where there's the greatest conflict," he said, "and there are other parts of the country which are more poor and where investments in development would have a bigger impact and that are going without.

"For us to shift from 17 per cent to 50 per cent in Kandahar means that our security agenda is trumping our development agenda."
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A tale of two empires and Afghanistan
Khaleej Times - Opinion BY AIJAZ ZAKA SYED 19 June 2008
THERE'S an old adage in Urdu that when you are going through rough times, your closest friends abandon you and your own shadow deserts you.

You can't really accuse President Hamid Karzai of being a friend of Pakistan. Even though he enjoyed the Pakistani hospitality for long years as a refugee in Quetta as he ran from the Russians and the Afghan jihad in 1970s and '80s, he never counted himself among Pakistan's friends. Actually, the feeling is mutual. There's no love lost for the Afghan president in Pakistan either.

Yet the idea of Karzai in hot pursuit of Taleban into Pakistan is not easy to stomach — and not just for Pakistan. The land of the pure is surely going through real rough times when people like Karzai begin to threaten it.

The man known in much of Afghanistan as the President of Kabul — even there he needs the constant protection of his American friends to venture out of the presidential palace — is threatening to send in the Afghan and coalition forces into Pakistan to hunt Taleban in their safe havens inside Pakistan.

This has come soon after the US air strike that killed 11 Pak soldiers last week on the Pakistani side of the Afghan-Pak border. Little did the Pakistani troops hunting the insurgents along the troubled frontier with Afghanistan realise that they were in turn being hunted by their allies in the US-led coalition.

So this so-called war on terror and the Great Game in Central Asia gets interesting — and deadlier — by the day. It began with the Americans, Nato troops, the Afghan and Pakistani forces fighting the Taleban and remnant elements of Al Qaeda.

Today, everybody seems to be fighting everybody else across this vast battlefield that stretches from the border with Iran to the Afghan border with Tajikistan. No one knows who is on whose side. More to the point, no one seems to have the faintest idea WHAT they are fighting for.

As in Iraq, the goal posts in this US war too keep shifting — from fighting terror to promoting freedom and democracy, as Bush keeps telling us.

Understandably, the people of Afghanistan have been the real victims of this war. But they have long been used to this permanent state of war. Their fate seldom seems to change, even though the pretenders to rule them keep changing faster than you could say the Khyber Pass.

Since long before the coalition of the willing began carpet-bombing Afghanistan in the name of peace, this great land has been witness to an endless pageant of invading armies — from Alexander the Great to the Russian commies.

None of those invaders were able to tame the wild, fiercely free-spirited Afghan though. No one ever has. Even the wily Brits with their tried and tested mantra of 'divide and rule' failed to conquer Afghanistan. You can invade and attack Afghanistan but you can't rule it. The great Soviet Empire with the world's largest army and nuclear arsenal that kept the US presidents awake at night blew itself up trying to rule it.
And now another superpower is hopelessly stuck in Afghanistan, as it tries to persuade itself and its dispirited coalition partners that they can still win this war.

That this war has entered a critical phase is evident from the reckless talk of Karzai. Either the Afghan leader thinks he can get away with this at a time when Pakistan is preoccupied with its own existential woes. Or he has been given the not-so-subtle signals from Washington to turn up the heat on Islamabad.

Whatever the explanation, it's a message to Pakistan that its stock in Washington and in the region has dramatically fallen.

For how come someone so critically dependent on his Western friends for his own survival could glower and make faces at the nuclear-armed Pakistan? Especially when Karzai's reign in Afghanistan hardly extends beyond the presidential palace in Kabul.

And the mighty Afghan army that he is threatening to unleash on Pakistan and that's supposed to protect him and his people ran helter-skelter with their weapons under their arms when Karzai came under attack in April at a military parade in Kabul.

The Afghan president managed to flee to safety with the help of coalition forces. The British ambassador saved his life by throwing himself into the US ambassador's car. Is this the army that would fight Taleban inside the lawless territory of Pakistan?

This is an ultimate affront to Pakistan, the country of 170 million people that sees itself as the leader of the Muslim world and in the league of big players like India and China. It boasts one of the most professional armies in the world that fought three big wars with a giant like India.

So what a fall for Pakistan that the worthies like Karzai are threatening to bomb it! But the people of Pakistan have to look no further than Islamabad to know who is to blame for this state of affairs.

The man who once regaled us all with his splendid idea of Enlightened Moderation is also responsible for many of Pakistan's woes today. Perhaps no other country has suffered as much as Pakistan has by joining the neocon war on the Muslim world.

Okay, it may have brought Pakistan the much-needed financial aid most of which ended up in the pockets of the generals and politicians.

But Jinnah's Pakistan has paid a far greater price for enthusiastically signing itself in the directionless and disastrous US war.

Thanks to Musharraf, Pakistan has ended up as the main front of the West's war. Which will continue long before Bush and Mush have hung up their boots and retired.

But if Pakistan, Afghanistan and just about everyone associated with this lost war is feeling the heat, the US itself is not likely to emerge any better when this whole business is over.

In his new book, \ Patrick Buchanan argues that had it not been for the disastrous mistakes Britain made under Churchill, the world wouldn't have witnessed WWII.

This is interesting, coming as it does from Buchanan, the man respected as the guru of the US Conservatives. Buchanan often talks sense despite being a conservative.

Singling out Churchill, the acclaimed author and pundit blames the late British PM for the strategic mistakes that not only drove Britain into an unnecessary war with Hitler's Germany but wrecked the whole of Europe and the world by expanding the conflict.

Writing about his book, Buchanan says: "The colossal blunders by British statesmen reduced Britain from the greatest empire since Rome into an island dependency of the United States in three decades."

Comparing Churchill to Bush may be a grave injustice to the great British statesman — I love his inimitable wit and sense of humour — but I do see some parallels in how the British empire imploded under its own dead weight and the perilous path chosen by Bush's America.

If the two Great Wars transformed the Empire in which the sun never set into a bankrupt island, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq threaten to do the same to the most powerful country the world has ever seen. For this empire is treading the same path the British empire trod in the early 20th century.

Aijaz Zaka Syed is a senior editor of Khaleej Times. The views expressed here are his own. Write to him at aijazsyed@khaleejtimes.com 
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Huge surge in number of drug addicts - minister
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 18 June 2008 
Unemployment and poverty spark rise in drug abuse, minister says
THE MINISTER of anti-narcotics has expressed deep concern at the rapidly increasing number of drug addicts in Afghanistan.

General Khodaidad said in a press conference on Tuesday that the number of drug addicts in the country had increased to 1.5 million – up from 900,000 in the last two years.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Abdullah Fahim, said 13% of all drug addicts were women.

Afghanistan produces about 93% of the world’s opium, according to the UN, and is fast becoming one of the world’s largest producers of cannabis.

General Khodaidad warned the government that the number of drug abusers would keep on rising if it failed to come up with a way of weaning drug addicts off their addiction.

The minister said opium is still grown in areas where the government lacks control and law enforcement is weak.

Unemployment and poverty are the main reasons for the increase in the number of drug addicts, he said.

Drug addiction has increased in Balkh, Kandahar, Herat, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Samangan and Faryab provinces, according to the ministry.

Khodaidad said the government needed to build more drug clinics on top of the 40 that already exist to combat the rise in addiction.

He said opium is still mainly cultivated in Kandahar, Uruzgan, Helmand, Farah, Zabul and Nimroz provinces but that the drug had been wiped out from 20 provinces.
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