Serving you since 1998
June 2008 :   2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30

June 20, 2008 

Afghan villagers return to grim aftermath of fight
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
MANARA, Afghanistan - Corpses lay stinking in the shade of mulberry trees and in the ruins of a collapsed storehouse. Villagers rushed home to see if their livestock had died in the heat. Afghan soldiers placed red signs warning of bombs planted alongside the road.

Afghans count Taliban dead in valley near Kandahar
By Ismail Sameem Fri Jun 20, 7:40 AM ET
MONARAI, Afghanistan (Reuters) - NATO and Afghan forces held mopping up operations, hunting Taliban fighters and burying the dead on Friday, after an air and ground offensive routed hundreds of insurgents from a valley near Kandahar city.

Suicide attack on US convoy in Afghanistan kills seven
by Nasrat Shoaib Fri Jun 20, 7:22 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide attack on a military convoy killed a US-led soldier and six Afghans in southern Afghanistan Friday, a day after a huge operation to drive Taliban rebels from a key stronghold.

Russia, US agree deal on Moscow arms for Afghanistan: ministers
MOSCOW (AFP) - Moscow and Washington have agreed a deal in principle over the supply of Russian weaponry to the Afghan army in its fight against the Taliban insurgency, senior diplomats announced in a statement Friday.

Kidnapped Frenchman released in Afghanistan
PARIS (AFP) - A French businessman who was abducted in southern Afghanistan last month returned home on Friday after he was released safely along with two Afghan colleagues, officials said.

A prophetic voice on Taliban calls out again
By Jane Perlez The International Herald Tribune Friday, June 20, 2008
LAHORE, Pakistan: Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani expert on the Taliban, who until 9/11 knew them better than almost any outsider, has over the decades turned out to be something of a prophet in the region, though mostly of the Cassandra type.

House passes $162B for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan
By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press Thu Jun 19, 8:07 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-led Congress finally appears ready to give President Bush $162 billion in long-overdue funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Guantanamo prisoner details sleep deprivation
By BEN FOX June 19, 2008
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A Guantanamo prisoner testified Thursday that U.S. troops made loud noises, kept the lights on in his cell, and frequently moved him around the prison to deprive him of sleep.

Taliban ambassador wielded power within Guantanamo
By TOM LASSETER McClatchy Newspapers June 19, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan --When U.S. guards frog-marched Abdul Salam Zaeef through the cellblocks of Guantanamo, detainees would roar his name, "Mullah Zaeef! Mullah Zaeef!"

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.

Unfinished Business in Afghanistan
The New York Times - World Editorial June 20, 2008
Five years after President Bush largely dropped the military operation against the Afghan-based Taliban and Al Qaeda so he could invade Iraq, American and NATO troops are needed as much as ever in Afghanistan to hold back a resurgence

Wood: the Taliban are divided
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008
US ambassador says rebels are weakening and dividing
The US Ambassador to Afghanistan, William Wood, has said the Taliban have changed tactics – from insurgent attacks to "terror" attacks – because the militants are a weaker fighting force this year than last.
"Our unified assessment in Kabul is that

Afghanistan crisis worse than Iraq
Toronto Star, Canada Haroon Siddiqui Jun 19, 2008
There's a lot we know about Afghanistan and a lot more we don't. An expert who knows much more than most of us – whose prescient insights I have benefited from for a decade and whom the John Manley commission consulted last year

Battle for villages kills 39; wounds 44
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008
Two days of fighting over Taliban-held villages in south kills dozens
AFGHAN and Canadian troops have killed 36 Taliban fighters and wounded 40 more during an attack to flush out rebels from villages in Kandahar province.

Drivers face police bribes on new road
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008
Police extract money from drivers using recently repaired link road
HAULIERS have already complained about police extortion on the recently opened Kabul-Jalalabad Highway.

Baluch group backs Karzai's troop threat
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008
Washnigton-based group welcomes Karzai's threat to attack rebels in Pakistan
A WASHINGTON-based Baluch group has rallied to Karzai’s side after the Afghan president threatened to send troops into Pakistan to defeat insurgents hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Taliban given 'good lesson'
Canadian general encouraged by campaign, but still cautious
canada.com - Ottawa Doug Schmidt Canwest News Service  Friday, June 20, 2008
ARGHANDAB DISTRICT, Afghanistan
Afghan authorities say hundreds of Taliban fighters have been killed or wounded after being routed in a battle begun Wednesday for a strategic area just northwest of Kandahar City that insurgents took over at the start of the week.

Defending freedom to abuse
National Post By Don Martin 06/19/2008
OTTAWA-Canadian soldiers in the main guard tower at forward operating base Wilson last summer winced when I asked about the sudden lineup of teenage boys along the mud walls of the neighbouring Afghan market.

Afghan clashes point to larger problems
The fighting near Kandahar, though brief, disrupted lives of villagers in a nominally secure area, and raised concerns about communication gaps between Afghan and Western allies.
Los Angeles Times - Print Edition By M. Karim Faiez and Laura King, Special to The Times June 20, 2008
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN-When the Taliban seized a string of villages outside one of Afghanistan's largest cities this week, NATO-led forces moved fast, airlifting in hundreds of Afghan and Western soldiers and sending warplanes

Saudis deport 13 Afghan children
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008
Kids as young as five forced to leave their parents in Saudi Arabia
SAUDI ARABIA has deported thirteen Afghan children after locking them in jail for six months without telling their families where they were.

Taliban assassinate ex-Jihadi leader
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008
Militants accuse former commander of spying for foreign troops
TALIBAN militants have killed a former Jihadi commander accused of spying for the Afghan government and for foreign forces, a Taliban spokesman said.

Back to Top
Afghan villagers return to grim aftermath of fight
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
MANARA, Afghanistan - Corpses lay stinking in the shade of mulberry trees and in the ruins of a collapsed storehouse. Villagers rushed home to see if their livestock had died in the heat. Afghan soldiers placed red signs warning of bombs planted alongside the road.

With the battle in Arghandab valley apparently over, grim signs remained Friday of the fight government and NATO troops waged against Taliban militants who had crept within range of Afghanistan's second-largest city.

The grinding violence that has plagued the country for much of the past three decades persisted elsewhere Friday, with suicide attacks and a roadside bomb killing five civilians and two members of the U.S.-led coalition.

The advance of up to 400 militants on Arghandab early this week raised particular alarm, because it is considered a potential springboard for attacks on Kandahar, the Taliban's capital until U.S. bombs drove the Islamic militia from power in late 2001.

Hundreds of government and NATO troops launched their counter-strike Wednesday, and two days later the provincial governor escorted reporters through army checkpoints on the 10-mile route from Kandahar to witness the aftermath.

In the village of Manara, an Associated Press reporter counted 19 bodies, some of them missing limbs. Some were piled in a mud-brick storehouse, which was missing its roof. Others lay prone in an alleyway beside a tree-shaded stream.

Afghan and French soldiers pointed to a 3-foot-deep crater in a nearby field and to broken and scorched trees as evidence of an airstrike. There was no sign of a gunbattle, though residents of other villages reported hearing heavy fire.

NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco said the fighting was over by early Thursday. He said there had been only small ground skirmishes, though an alliance helicopter had returned fire against gunmen in one incident and warplanes carried out "very limited" airstrikes.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said 56 militants were killed in all. Two Afghan troops also died. However, Gov. Asadullah Khalid said Friday that militants were killed in about 10 locations, and that the death toll was over 100.

He said villagers reported some militants spoke the Pashto dialect of tribes from across the border in Pakistan, who are suspected of harboring Afghan insurgents as well as al-Qaida leaders and sending volunteers of their own.

"We want to tell the Taliban, especially the Pakistani Taliban, that if they come again they will get the same treatment," Khalid said.

NATO sent 600 reinforcements to back government troops confronting the militants, who Afghan officials said numbered some 400 and had seized 10 villages.

The alliance has played down the threat to Kandahar amid concern that the Afghan public, already dismayed over a mass Taliban jailbreak in Kandahar last week, would further lose faith in the central government. Western nations have also urged President Hamid Karzai's administration to get tougher on the corruption and drug trafficking undermining effort to stabilize the country.

Branco said the lone reported civilian casualty and the deployment of 1,100 Afghan troops within 24 hours were "very important" positives from the operation. "We understand people were frightened after the jailbreak," he said. The big NATO deployment was to "make sure everything would go right."

On Thursday, NATO declared Arghandab safe enough for some 700 families who had fled the fighting to return.

Din Mohammed, a farmer returning to Manara with 12 relatives, said Taliban fighters had been bent on combat.

"They said they wanted to fight the Afghan and foreign forces. I asked them what should I do, but they said they didn't care, so I left everything, my land, my possessions, my animals," he said.

"Last night I heard on the radio that the Taliban were either dead or gone, so we came home," he said.

Several other vehicles laden with people and possessions headed into the district, though the governor urged villagers to wait a few more days until troops had finished searching the area for militants and bombs.

In Manara, red warnings signs marked the location of two roadside bombs. At one site, red wires protruded from a green container buried near a bridge, and troops told Khalid not to proceed farther.

Lt. Gen. Sher Mohammad Karimi, the chief of operations for the Afghan Defense Ministry, said the search operation had turned up weapons caches and resulted in a "small number" of arrests.

"We offered to send fresh supplies, but the commanders said there was no need," Karimi said. "That means there is not much problem."
___
Associated Press writers Stephen Graham and Amir Shah in Kabul contributed to this report.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghans count Taliban dead in valley near Kandahar
By Ismail Sameem Fri Jun 20, 7:40 AM ET
MONARAI, Afghanistan (Reuters) - NATO and Afghan forces held mopping up operations, hunting Taliban fighters and burying the dead on Friday, after an air and ground offensive routed hundreds of insurgents from a valley near Kandahar city.

The allies mounted the offensive on Wednesday after the Taliban took control of the Arghandab valley, 20 km (12 miles) northwest of Kandahar.

Around 600 militants, including some who had escaped a week ago during a mass jail break from a prison in the city, had taken up positions in a cluster of villages, according to a provincial official and a Taliban spokesman.

On Friday, the governor of Kandahar province took a group of journalists to the battle zone after 800 Afghan troops, backed by hundreds of, mainly Canadian, NATO soldiers had wrested back control of the district.

They saw the havoc wreaked by shelling on the small mud walled forts that are familiar sights in the Pashtun tribal lands of the region.

In the village of Monarai, the corpses of eight fighters lay under the shade of mulberry trees on the banks of a stream, while a dozen more were piled on top of one another a few meters away.

"We would like to ask you to bury them," Governor Assadullah Khalid told a group of haggard village elders.

Blood-stained sandals and shoes were scattered nearby among broken branches on one scorched patch of earth.

The governor estimated more than 100 Taliban fighters were killed in the onslaught, and said the bodies of many more had been dumped in a ditch elsewhere.

There was no sound of fighting, and few of the several thousand families who had fled earlier this week had begun to return to their homes in a valley known locally for the quality of its grapes, pomegranates and hashish.

Soldiers warned journalists to watch out for land mines planted by the insurgents.

SKIRMISHES
Earlier this week, a Taliban spokesman had said the militants' aim was to retake the city that was the birthplace of their movement.

A NATO spokesman in Kabul spoke of several skirmishes during the fighting in Arghandab, but no large scale encounters with Taliban forces.

"When Afghan and ISAF units moved into the area, they encountered only minor incidents with insurgents and never met or spotted the large numbers of insurgents as claimed," Brigadier General Carlos Branco said.

"There were some air attacks too, but not heavy."

In the past, Taliban fighters have seized control of villages overnight, only to melt away when the NATO and government forces appeared. A gathering of such a large force was atypical of the guerrillas' tactics.

They have most commonly resorted to suicide attacks and roadside bombs to harry NATO and government forces.

The Taliban's commando-style raid on Kandahar jail to spring hundreds of captured comrades last week was a shift in tactics that caught the government and NATO by surprise.

While the mopping up continued in Arghandab on Friday, a suicide bomber attacked a foreign military convoy in Helmand, the province to the west of Kandahar, killing a soldier, an Afghan interpreter and five civilians.

The insurgency has gone through its bloodiest phase in the last two years, as the Taliban regrouped after being driven from power by U.S.-led forces in 2001, and mounting casualties have made some NATO member states hesitant to deploy troops.

The United States and NATO have more than 60,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, fighting alongside 150,000 Afghan troops, and there is growing impatience with Pakistan over Taliban fighters using its territory as a safe refuge.

(Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Valerie Lee)
Back to Top

Back to Top
Suicide attack on US convoy in Afghanistan kills seven
by Nasrat Shoaib Fri Jun 20, 7:22 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide attack on a military convoy killed a US-led soldier and six Afghans in southern Afghanistan Friday, a day after a huge operation to drive Taliban rebels from a key stronghold.

The convoy was driving through a crowded bazaar in the troubled province of Helmand when it was hit by small-arms fire and then an insurgent detonated explosives strapped to his body, officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Taliban had vowed to launch suicide attacks to avenge this week's big offensive by NATO and Afghan troops in southern Kandahar province.

Helmand police chief Mohammad Hussain Andiwal said five Afghan civilians were killed, including two children, and four were injured. He earlier gave a toll of 10 civilians but said later that he had been "misinformed".

Additionally the US-led coalition said in a statement that "a coalition servicemember and a local national were killed this morning in Helmand province when their convoy was struck by a suicide bomber and small-arms fire."

The Afghan national was an interpreter, said the coalition, which did not mention civilian casualties.

The police chief blamed the attack on "enemies of Afghanistan" -- a term frequently used by Afghan officials to refer to the Taliban and their Al-Qaeda allies.

The Taliban, who were ousted from government by US-led forces in late 2001 for failing to hand over Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks, have claimed almost all similar attacks in the past.

Meanwhile, the US-led coalition, which operates alongside NATO, said a soldier was killed instantly and another died later from gunshot wounds during operations against insurgents in Helmand late Thursday.

It did not give their nationalities and there was no claim of responsibility.

Separately, in the western province of Farah, Afghan police forces and NATO launched an operation in Bala Buluk district overnight which left eight Taliban and one policeman dead, provincial police chief Khalilullah Rehmani told AFP.

Police also arrested 20 suspects on suspicion of aiding the rebels, he said.

The Taliban have stepped up an insurgency in the last two years, causing thousands of civilian casualties as well as killing foreign and Afghan troops trying to extend the writ of President Hamid Karzai's fragile government.

The government has been on the back foot since a major jail break a week ago in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban regime, in which hundreds of insurgents escaped.

Taliban militants then streamed into villages in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province early this week, prompting the joint NATO and Afghan operation involving more than 1,000 troops.

The Afghan defence ministry said Thursday that all militants had been cleared from the district by the offensive, which left 56 militants, two Afghan soldiers and a civilian dead.

NATO did not confirm the casualties but said the "highly successful" operation involving air strikes would help allay concerns about the force's capabilities following the jail break.

With nearly 70,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, Karzai has come under growing pressure from his Western allies to improve security.

Separately, a French businessman who was abducted in southern Afghanistan last month has been released safely with two Afghan colleagues, the French Foreign Ministry said Friday.

Afghan officials blamed the Taliban for seizing 37-year-old Johan Freckhaus in Ghazni province on May 29, but there was never any claim of responsibility for the abduction.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Russia, US agree deal on Moscow arms for Afghanistan: ministers
MOSCOW (AFP) - Moscow and Washington have agreed a deal in principle over the supply of Russian weaponry to the Afghan army in its fight against the Taliban insurgency, senior diplomats announced in a statement Friday.

The deal was signed in the Russian capital as part of the United States-Russia Working Group on Counterterrorism (CTWG), although no immediate figures were put on any Russian supplies.

"An agreement in principle to provide Russian military material to the Afghanistan National Army," was concluded during a two-day meeting of the CTWG, the communique said.

Twin NATO and US operations are currently active in Afghanistan, following the US-led invasion of 2001. Russia, as part of the then Soviet Union, fought an 11-year war in Afghanistan from 1978 to 1989.

"We in the past have already provided military equipment to Afghanistan and we feel there is now a demand by the Afghan population and the ability of Afghanistan to take its security in its own hands," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak told reporters.

Kislyak said it was "possible" that Russia could increase the delivery of arms to Afghanistan. "It is possible but I would not be eager to put a number on it," he answered in reponse to a specific question.

Kislyak was speaking alongside the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, William J. Burns, as part of the conclusions of the 16th meeting of the CTWG, which meets alternately in Moscow and Washington.

The CTWG works to improve bilateral cooperation between Russia and the United States, whilst also concentrating on Afghanistan, the fight against drug trafficking, the financing of armed extremist groups and weapons of mass destruction.

The Taliban have launched a deadly insurgency since being removed from power in Kabul in 2001.

There are currently around 70,000 foreign troops in the country.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Kidnapped Frenchman released in Afghanistan
PARIS (AFP) - A French businessman who was abducted in southern Afghanistan last month returned home on Friday after he was released safely along with two Afghan colleagues, officials said.

Johan Freckhaus, 37, was released on Thursday, nearly a month after he was abducted on his way from the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southeast Afghanistan to the capital Kabul, along with the two Afghan colleagues.

"He has arrived on French territory and has been reunited with members of his family," said a French diplomatic source.

The foreign ministry earlier said Freckhaus was in good health and that his two Afghan colleagues had also been freed.

French officials did not elaborate on conditions for the release, but an Afghan official said France had agreed to pay ransom to their captors, whom he identified as the Taliban.

"It was a money deal," said Haji Taj Mohammad Musa, a member of the Ghazni provincial council representing the district where the Frenchman was abducted.

Musa said the Taliban's initial demand was for the release of six Taliban prisoners for the Frenchman, but Afghan authorities refused.

"He was finally released in exchange for money and they paid money," he said.

Freckhaus had been living in Afghanistan for years and headed his own construction company when he was seized in the Gailan district of Ghazni province on May 29. No one had claimed his abduction.

In Kabul, a senior Afghan intelligence officer told AFP that they "were freed today in the morning in neighbouring Wardak province and were handed over to the representatives of the French embassy."

The officer blamed the abduction on Taliban insurgents who were ousted from power in late 2001 by a US-led invasion and have vowed to kidnap foreign nationals to exchange for insurgent prisoners.

"Taliban were first demanding the release of their prisoners from Afghan prisons and their demand was not accepted by the Afghan government," he said.

At the request of the French embassy in Kabul, the families of the kidnap victims entered into direct negotiations with the kidnappers, according to the officer.

"No exchange of prisoners took place and they were released after talks with their families," he said.

In Paris, the foreign ministry stressed in a statement that French officials had used "discretion" which "allowed for a happy and quick ending in this case."

"We thank all those who contributed to this release, in particular the Afghan authorities," said the statement.

"We would like to emphasize now more than ever the very important risks that our nationals face in Afghanistan," it added.

France has 1,600 troops serving in a NATO-led force in Afghanistan that is fighting the Taliban insurgency and is planning to deploy more troops in the coming months.

Last year, two French humanitarian workers for the Terre D'Enfance (A World For Our Children) relief group were kidnapped, several weeks after their abduction amid much speculation that a ransom had been paid.

The AFP news agency had not previously reported on the abduction of the French businessman at the request of French authorities who raised concerns for the safety of the hostages.
Back to Top

Back to Top
A prophetic voice on Taliban calls out again
By Jane Perlez The International Herald Tribune Friday, June 20, 2008
LAHORE, Pakistan: Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani expert on the Taliban, who until 9/11 knew them better than almost any outsider, has over the decades turned out to be something of a prophet in the region, though mostly of the Cassandra type.

A longtime critic of the Taliban who raised alarms about the group back in the mid-1990s, Rashid, 59, has just come out with his fourth book: "Descent Into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia" (Viking, 2008), a caustic compendium of the mistakes by the Bush administration and, by extension, its regional allies, in tackling Islamic militancy.

His central argument is not original: that the money and blood spent on Iraq should have been invested instead in Afghanistan, rebuilding the country after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 drove the Taliban from power, in order to prevent the Taliban resurgence so much in evidence now. Since that was not done, Rashid says, the options for stabilizing Afghanistan have dwindled to one: Pakistan must cut its ties to the Afghan Taliban.

Rashid, who has been roaming the wilds of Afghanistan and western Pakistan since the 1960s, distinguishes between the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the latter a force that is helping to shelter Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda cells in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan.

"The Pakistani Army needs to make a strategic decision to dump support for the Afghan Taliban leadership in Quetta," he said, referring to the desert city in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan where the Afghan Taliban keep a rear base. "The Afghan Taliban can be quietly arrested and put under house arrest."

Only after that, he says, will Pakistan, and by extension, the United States, be able to reduce the threat from Al Qaeda and their brethren, the Pakistani Taliban who operate out of the tribal lands. If the Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are not eliminated, the United States and its NATO allies will find it impossible to win what has turned out to be an unexpectedly prolonged war in Afghanistan, he argues.

Pakistani intelligence and military officials deny that there are any Afghan Taliban in Pakistani territory, but that does not stop Rashid from taking them on. Nor is he shy about pointing out what he considers the mistakes of the Bush administration and its failure to be tougher on the Pakistani government.

For too long, he insists, the Pakistan Army and the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency have protected the Afghan Taliban as a future "strategic asset" against rival India in the event the United States - widely considered a fair-weather friend - withdraws its patronage from Pakistan.

He says the Bush administration was too gentle with President Pervez Musharraf after the Pakistani leader gave his commitment to the campaign against terror following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. "The Americans never said strongly enough that Pakistan had to stop supporting the Taliban - that was because Musharraf was giving them the Al Qaeda types," he said, a reference to the capture of top Al Qaeda operatives who were captured by the Pakistanis and handed over to the United States. Bush should have insisted that Musharraf quash the Taliban too, he said.

The son of a military officer, Rashid got his first taste of guerrilla warfare after graduating from Cambridge in the late 1960s. Steeped in the era's favorites, Marx, Mao and Che, he took off for the hills of Baluchistan. He stayed for 10 years.

He was a guerrilla fighter and political organizer, and with a couple of like-minded Pakistani friends led peasants fighting for autonomy against the Pakistani government and army, with its helicopters and well-armed men.

After bouts of hepatitis and malaria and lost teeth, he emerged not exactly disillusioned, but defeated, he recalled from the comfort of his study overlooking a garden of palms.

The experience proved to be the launching pad for his real career: the prolific chronicler in books, magazines and newspaper columns of Afghanistan, Central Asia, and his homeland, Pakistan, all places that Western writers have found difficult to gain access to, let alone comprehend in their full depth and complexity.

He got to know Afghanistan when he was still behind the lines in Baluchistan in the late 1970s. The Afghan president at the time, Mohammed Daoud, provided sanctuary to Baluch refugees from the separatist movement, and in 1978, Rashid was in Kabul for the Communist coup. He was in Kandahar a year later when the Soviet military rolled in.

"I saw the invasion when all the Soviet tanks came from the town of Herat into the bazaar in Kandahar," he said. "The soldiers got off their tanks and asked for tea. There was no tension."

The tanks continued on to Kabul.

With his perfect English and his British education, he became what he calls the "intellectual repository" for Western journalists who parachuted into the Afghan capital for the Soviet Union's last big invasion. They found Afghanistan the end of the world, and trusted Rashid as their political and cultural interpreter.

It is a role he has played on a larger canvas ever since as a writer and, occasionally, a behind-the-scenes adviser to diplomats who have grappled with what to do about the Taliban.

His book "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia" (Yale University Press, 2001), an account of the rise of the mullahs in Afghanistan, was published just before the Sept. 11 attacks and has sold 1.5 million copies in English, an astonishing number for an academic press.

He was the first foreign journalist, he said, to visit the Taliban in 1994 as they emerged from the debris of civil strife in Afghanistan after the Soviets left.

"I persuaded an ABC television journalist to come with me to Kandahar, and I was shocked they wouldn't allow us to take pictures," he said. "I'd been living with the mujahedeen who loved publicity. When these guys in Kandahar wouldn't be photographed, I suddenly realized this was a completely new thing."

Intrigued, he joined their battle groups and, with his nose for being in the right place at the right time, he was in Kabul with the Taliban when they captured the capital in 1996. In his reporting, for The Far Eastern Economic Review and the British newspaper The Independent, he warned against Pakistan's decision in the mid-1990s to support the Taliban. "I wrote that it meant a continuation of the Afghan civil war."

He eventually wore out his welcome with the Taliban with the publication of his book. These days, he is more likely to be found around the dining table of his Lahore home, which is known for its fine cuisine.

Rashid is sought after for advice by diplomats in Islamabad and Kabul, and by policy makers in NATO capitals and Washington. When she was Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto asked whether he would be interested in becoming ambassador to Afghanistan, but he declined, preferring the rough and tumble of frontier reporting.

His writings have never sat well with the Inter-Services Intelligence, a subject he says he does not want to discuss beyond saying he is "unpopular." Like many Pakistanis, he has watched the unraveling of Musharraf, but he declined to predict his moment of exit.

He is on good terms with Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower, leader of the dominant Pakistan People's Party and regarded as the most powerful man in the country. But after a two-hour lunch with Zardari recently, Rashid said that he worried the new government "has no clue" about the "multilayered terrorist cake" that flourishes in the tribal areas.

Of the new government's attitude to the Islamic militants, he says, "They are not briefed, and I am deeply concerned."

6 killed in south Afghanistan

A suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy as it passed through a town in southern Afghanistan on Friday, killing five civilians and a soldier from the U.S.-led coalition, officials said, The Associated Press reported from Kandahar.

Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, police chief of Helmand Province, said a lone bomber, who was on foot, struck Friday morning as the convoy passed through a market area in the town of Gereshk.

Helmand borders Kandahar Province, where hundreds of NATO and Afghan troops backed by warplanes mounted an operation this week to clear militants from a valley from which they could have threatened Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan.
Back to Top

Back to Top
House passes $162B for wars in Iraq, Afghanistan
By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press Thu Jun 19, 8:07 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democratic-led Congress finally appears ready to give President Bush $162 billion in long-overdue funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The House began debate Thursday afternoon on a bipartisan bill that would put to rest Bush's long-standing battles with the Democrats over war funding. At the same time, Democrats would win help for the unemployed and a generous increase in GI Bill education benefits for military service members.

House passage of the bill also would pave the way for a quick infusion of emergency flood relief for the Midwest, though more is expected to be needed to deal with the major losses in Iowa, Illinois and other states.

The latest installment of war funding would bring to well over $600 billion the amount of money Congress has provided for the unpopular war in Iraq. It also would give Bush's successor several months to set Iraq policy after taking office in January — and spares lawmakers the need to cast more war-related votes closer to Election Day.

"The way it's been set up now, whoever ... is president will have a few months to think through how we are going to extricate ourselves," said House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., a key negotiator.

As debate began, the White House issued a statement endorsing the bill that also noted it's been 500 days since Bush first requested additional troop funding.

The agreement drops restrictions on Bush's ability to conduct the war and gives him almost all of the funding he sought more than a year ago for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Anti-war Democrats are frustrated at their inability to alter the course of the war after taking control of Congress last year.

"The president basically gets a blank check to dump this war on the next president," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. "I was hoping George Bush would end his war while he's president."

But Democrats were pleased about overcoming White House opposition to adding the unemployment and GI Bill provisions.

The White House — and Capitol Hill Republicans — had signaled greater flexibility in recent weeks after Democrats orchestrated impressive votes to more than double GI Bill college benefits and give a 13-week extension of unemployment payments for people whose benefits have run out.

In late-stage talks, Democrats dropped a provision to pay for the GI college benefits by imposing a half-percentage point income tax surcharge on incomes exceeding $500,000 for single taxpayers and incomes over $1 million earned by married couples. They also dropped a plan to extend unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks in states with particularly high unemployment rates.

Democrats and governors across the country emerged the victors in a battle with the White House to block new Bush administration rules designed to cut spending on Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled.

Conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats are upset that the new GI Bill benefits, with costs tentatively estimated at $62 billion over the next decade, will be added to the deficit instead of being "paid for" as called for under House rules.

"We know the day of reckoning is coming," said Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., who said not paying for the GI Bill benefit was "totally irresponsible."

The new GI Bill essentially would guarantee a full scholarship at any in-state public university, along with a monthly housing stipend, for people who serve in the military for at least three years. It is aimed at replicating the benefits awarded veterans of World War II and more than doubles the value of the benefit — from $40,000 today to $90,000.

On war spending, the bill would prohibit U.S. money from being spent on Iraq reconstruction efforts unless Baghdad matches every dollar spent. But negotiators dropped a demand that Bush negotiate an agreement with Baghdad to subsidize the U.S. military's fuel costs so troops operating in Iraq aren't paying any more than Iraqi citizens are.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Guantanamo prisoner details sleep deprivation
By BEN FOX June 19, 2008
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — A Guantanamo prisoner testified Thursday that U.S. troops made loud noises, kept the lights on in his cell, and frequently moved him around the prison to deprive him of sleep.

Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan detainee charged with attempted murder, told a military court he does not know why he was subjected to the military's "frequent flyer" sleep deprivation program in May 2004, nearly 17 months after he was arrested.

"Day and night, they were shifting me from one room to another," Jawad said.

His testimony came in a pretrial hearing at the U.S. war crimes court. Lawyers and human rights groups have accused the military of using sleep deprivation to "soften up" Guantanamo detainees for questioning, but this was the first time a prisoner testified about such treatment.

Jawad's defense has asked the military judge, Army Col. Stephen Henley, to dismiss the charges, saying the sleep deprivation amounted to torture. Prosecutors denied that allegation.

"In no sense is it torture. In no sense is it coercion," said prosecutor and Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld. "In no sense is it such mistreatment that charges should be dismissed."

Prison records obtained by the defense show Jawad was moved between cells 112 times over two weeks in May 2004, sometimes after just a few minutes. The prisoner said bright lights were kept on in his cell, and guards made noises and played loud music to keep him awake.

Jawad testified the sleep disruption caused his blood pressure to rise and resulted in unspecified "mental problems." Records obtained by the defense show he tried to commit suicide on Dec. 25, 2003, even before he was subjected to the "frequent flyer" treatment.

"Islam never permits suicide ... but it was beyond my control," he told the court through a Pashto interpreter. "That's why I tried that."

U.S. authorities have used sleep disruption to prepare prisoners for interrogations, but Jawad's lawyer, Air Force Maj. David Frakt, says his client had already supposedly confessed to throwing a grenade that wounded two American soldiers and their translator in Afghanistan. He had also already been interrogated at least 21 times before May 2004.

Frakt said he believes the sleep deprivation was done for "sport" or as punishment. "Abnormal sleep deprivation is a form of mental torture," he said.

Vandeveld noted in cross-examination of a sleep expert called by the defense that Jawad was sometimes allowed to remain in his cell for up to four hours. He said the prisoner was offered treatment by military psychiatric personnel.

Frakt has also filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on allegations that Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the legal adviser to the military commissions, used what the military calls "unlawful command influence" to make sure the detainee went quickly to trial.

Frakt said Hartmann pushed for charges against his client — even though prosecutors had said they weren't ready — to try to garner public support for the military commissions.

Hartmann was barred last month from participating in another Guantanamo trial after the judge in the case said he lacked impartiality.

Hartmann testified Thursday that he acted within his authority to speed up the pace of prosecutions. He denied allegations that he mistreated military prosecutors under his supervision and had an abusive management style.

The judge did not issue an immediate ruling on either motion.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Taliban ambassador wielded power within Guantanamo
By TOM LASSETER McClatchy Newspapers June 19, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan --When U.S. guards frog-marched Abdul Salam Zaeef through the cellblocks of Guantanamo, detainees would roar his name, "Mullah Zaeef! Mullah Zaeef!"

Zaeef, in shackles, looked at the guards and smiled.

"The soldiers told me, 'You are the king of this prison,' " he later recalled.

Zaeef is the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, famous for his defiant news conferences after 9-11, in which he said the militant Islamist group would never surrender Osama bin Laden.

Pakistani intelligence officers dragged him out of his house in Islamabad in late December 2001 or January 2002 and took him to Peshawar. "Your Excellency, you are no longer Your Excellency," he recalled one of them saying.

The Pakistanis handed him over to U.S. troops, who he said threw a sack over his head and pushed him into a helicopter. The Americans flew him to a warship, where he was held for about a week in a small cell that reminded him of a dog kennel, he said.

"I was afraid about what would happen to me," Zaeef said in an interview in Kabul, wearing slightly crooked gold-rimmed glasses and speaking in a near-whisper. "I didn't know if it was a dream or not. I never imagined this would happen to me."

Yet from mid-2002 till September 2005 at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Zaeef became a leader again. He helped orchestrate hunger strikes and exploit the missteps of a U.S. detention system that often captured the wrong men, mistreated them, then incarcerated them indefinitely without legal recourse.

The insurgency he helped launch in Guantanamo capitalized on the Americans' ignorance of Islamic customs and a pattern of interrupting prayers, shaving off prisoners' beards and searching their copies of the Quran.

U.S. officials didn't respond to repeated requests for comments about Zaeef's role at the camp, but former detainees from Europe to Central Asia spoke of him with reverence that bordered on hero worship.

"People would scream when they saw him: They said, 'We will send you our prayers,' " said Munir Naseer, a Pakistani.

A Kuwaiti bragged that he once lived in a cell next to Zaeef and touched his hand. An Afghan said that men in his cellblock relied on Zaeef's advice about everything from prayer to protest. A Jordanian said that Zaeef often brokered deals between the American military and angry detainees. A Chinese Uighur called Zaeef the "president of Guantanamo."

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, winter 2002

His back hunched, Zaeef clomped through the cold mud that surrounded the detainees' tents, lugging the plastic buckets the men used as toilets. He'd get to a large metal drum, heft a bucket in the air and pour out the excrement and urine, trying not to let it splash him in the face.

"Every time the buckets filled up with urine or feces, the guards told Mullah Zaeef to go empty it," said Mohammed Omar, a teenage Pakistani who was held at Kandahar in early 2002. "They made him and another big Taliban guy do this."

If U.S. soldiers could make a Taliban mullah lug everyone else's feces to the "burn buckets," the foul-smelling drums used to dispose of human waste, there could be no question about who was in charge.

To many of Zaeef's fellow detainees, he looked old and tired, sloshing around in the mud with the rest of them and sleeping in a tent with more than a dozen other men, surrounded by bales of concertina wire and soldiers.

Asadullah Jan, a Pakistani who was imprisoned at Kandahar in early 2002, said the guards zeroed in on Zaeef.

"One time, Abdul Salam was leading prayers," Jan said. "A guard came over and started talking with him. Abdul Salam said, 'Come back in 10 minutes; we're praying.' The guard called on his radio and said that Abdul Salam wouldn't talk. A group of soldiers came down, and in the middle of prayers they came behind him, put their boots on his neck and beat him."

Before he was sent to Kandahar, Zaeef spent a month or two in detention at Bagram Air Base, and he said he was treated brutally there, too.

"The cursing, the punching, the kicking, it was continuous," he said.

It was at Kandahar, however, that Zaeef began to learn how to run a prison from the inside.

At first, the detainees weren't allowed to pray aloud, but then camp officials decided to let each tent have a prayer leader.

"Under the excuse of azzam" — the Muslim call to prayer — "they would spread information between detainees," said Khalid Pashtun, who served as a liaison between the local Afghan government and U.S. forces at the camp. "The prayer leaders (such as Zaeef) would be saying, 'Be careful in interrogation; keep to your story until the end.' "

Zaeef wasn't like many of the other prisoners whom the U.S. and its Afghan allies had swept up. A few years earlier, he'd flown into the Kandahar Airfield as a senior government official. Now he was there as a prisoner.

He was born in Kandahar province in the late 1960s and adopted by his uncle after he was orphaned at age 7. Zaeef's family fled to Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but he returned to Kandahar as a teenager to fight the Soviets with the mujahedeen, Islamic holy warriors. He was known for taking textbooks to the trenches.

Zaeef returned to Quetta, Pakistan, to finish his studies in a madrassa, an Islamic religious school. He focused on Islamic banking and sharia, Islamic law, then went to work as a bookkeeper for a local trading company.

In the early 1990s, Zaeef said, former mujahedeen fighters enlisted his help to fight corrupt warlords in Kandahar, and he took part in the initial meetings of the Taliban. He became a trusted counselor to senior Taliban leaders after the Islamist movement took control of Kandahar in 1994.

Wahid Mujdah, a former Taliban diplomat, said Zaeef was "very, very close" to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, "who had a lot of confidence in him."

As Zaeef told a reporter: "I did not join the Taliban, I helped start it."

After the Taliban swept north to Kabul and seized control of most of the country in 1996, Zaeef helped organize the country's Islamic courts in Kandahar, then moved to Herat to oversee the banking system. He then was brought to Kabul for a succession of Cabinet jobs, such as deputy minister of mining and minister of transportation.

The U.S. military claimed that he'd played a role in directing al Qaida and the Taliban on the battlefield. "In the beginning of the Taliban's rise to power, operational commanders of the Taliban and al Qaida forces in the Shomali and Kabul regions of Afghanistan reported to the detainee (Zaeef) as the deputy of defense for the Taliban," said a summary of evidence prepared for Zaeef's military tribunal.

GUANTANAMO, summer 2002

When he arrived at Guantanamo in the spring or summer of 2002, Zaeef was exhausted from the harsh treatment he'd received at Kandahar and Bagram.

He slept as often as he could and was just another detainee, Internment Serial Number 306. He got up when the guards came, and shuffled off in his orange prison clothes and flip-flops to answer questions about the Taliban leadership.

"He was very weak, physically, when I saw him at Guantanamo," said Mohammed Saduq, an Afghan who'd commanded Zaeef during the fight against the Soviets. "It is very difficult to know the inside of a man, and it's hard to say how it affected him — going from an ambassador to being in a cage — but he told me in Guantanamo that he was suffering badly."

The rules at Guantanamo, Zaeef said, reminded him of Bagram. The men weren't supposed to talk in their cells. They were supposed to say "please" and "sir" when they addressed the guards. In Guantanamo, however, the guards weren't beating the men, he said, and prisoners could speak up.

"After a month, we decided we could not accept these extremist measures. We must react," Zaeef said. "So we began shouting to each other. The soldiers came and asked if we were talking to each other. We said, 'Yes, we are not dogs.' We began throwing water at them, spitting at them; we said, 'If you want to kill us, fine.' "

A high-ranking officer came and spoke to the detainees, Zaeef said. The rules were rescinded. It was a victory in a game of inches.

As the months passed, Zaeef recovered his strength. He said that he began to look around the camp more on his daily trips to interrogations or medical checkups.

In a way, Zaeef said, he was encouraged by what he saw. Interrogators raised their voices from time to time, but they never hit him. Detainees were able to pass messages from one end of a cellblock to the other, and to call out greetings and reports of their last interrogations, none of which the guards could understand.

Slowly, Zaeef realized that it was the sort of place where a man could wage a campaign.

"The soldiers who pushed us got spit at, peed on or had (feces) thrown at them," said Adil Kamil al Wadi, a Bahraini. "It would scare them. They would run to the medic for a shot."

When the soldiers came back from the medic, Wadi said, they'd go to the cell of the detainee and beat him until he no longer could stand.

Zaeef joined a small group of Taliban and al Qaida leaders who were issuing orders and gathering reports; because he spoke fluent Arabic, Pashto and Dari, he could serve as a conduit among Arab, Pakistani and Afghan detainees. His English gave him further power, allowing him to represent those groups in conversations with U.S. military officers.

"We chose the leaders of the blocks," Zaeef said. "If the detainees had any problems, they had to speak with the block leader, who would talk with the block NCO" — the senior enlisted military-police soldier on duty — "and if they could not resolve the issue, they would send a message to us, the leaders of the camp."

U.S. military officers at Guantanamo acknowledged that detainees organized themselves into groups.

Zaeef knew the script. In the 1980s, a central rallying cry for the Islamic warriors who battled the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan — with crucial American support — was that the Soviets were brutal infidels.

Cellblock leaders began spreading messages to the men around them: We must not tolerate these conditions; it's time for a hunger strike. Rumors that guards had mistreated the Quran often accompanied the messages.

Zaeef claimed to a reporter that he'd witnessed several instances of Quran abuse. However, an Afghan former detainee who was at Guantanamo said the stories that Zaeef and others spread — such as soldiers stomping on a Quran — were lies.

The hunger strikes were reported all over the world. Aid groups and defense lawyers pointed to them as proof of Guantanamo's appalling conditions.

Eventually, officials at Guantanamo handed out surgical masks for detainees to hang from the walls of their cells as cradles for their Qurans, to keep them off the floor. Guards were ordered to be quiet during prayers, and orange cones with the letter "P" were placed in corridors during prayer time. Detainees were allowed to wear skull caps, as prescribed by Islamic tradition. Guards were told never to touch prisoners' Qurans and to log every allegation of abuse.

Men such as Zaeef responded by growing more assertive. They wanted more than small wins.

GUANTANAMO TO KABUL, September 2005

In June 2005, detainees at Guantanamo staged their biggest hunger strike yet: As many as 100 men refused to eat.

Prison authorities gathered detainee leaders and discussed their demands. Zaeef represented Afghans and Pakistanis, joining detainee representatives from several other nations.

After consulting with detainees in the cellblocks, Zaeef and the other leaders produced a list of demands that included Geneva Convention rights, court trials, less time in isolation cells, better treatment from the guards and so on.

However, the meetings among the detainees broke down before negotiations with U.S. authorities could proceed, Zaeef said, because the detainees worried that the Americans were eavesdropping to find out who their cellblock leaders were.

Zaeef was released that September.

He's been home for more than two years now, under house arrest by the Afghan government, which relaxes and tightens its control according to his public remarks. Calling on a radio program for the Taliban to regain at least part of their ruling power, for instance, meant that he wasn't permitted to receive visitors for several weeks.

Two guards usually stand out front, next to a faded red door and a sentry house.

Sitting in his reception room, Zaeef sometimes brags about his years at Guantanamo.

He likes to tell about the time guards came to have his beard shaved.

"I refused. I was punching them; I was fighting them," he says. "Then they threw gas (canisters) into my cell. I put my clothes to my mouth and fought them when they came in."

The guards overtook him, dragged him off and shaved him. But for Zaeef, that wasn't the point: He'd resisted.

Asked whether his time at Guantanamo had changed him, Zaeef said that it only further convinced him that America was the enemy of Islam.

He gets regular news reports about the Taliban's brutal campaign to reassert itself in southern Afghanistan.

So, as he did for more than 1,000 days in Guantanamo, he sits and waits for his next chance at power.

Wichita Eagle photographer Travis Heying contributed to this report.
Back to Top

Back to Top
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 .)
Back to Top

Back to Top
Unfinished Business in Afghanistan
The New York Times - World Editorial June 20, 2008
Five years after President Bush largely dropped the military operation against the Afghan-based Taliban and Al Qaeda so he could invade Iraq, American and NATO troops are needed as much as ever in Afghanistan to hold back a resurgence of those forces. Yet Washington and its European allies still do not have an effective and comprehensive strategy to combat the threat.

Despite the presence of more than 50,000 NATO troops — most of them American — and some 140,000 Afghan troops and police, the Taliban and Al Qaeda have gotten stronger over the past two years. And Afghan forces are far from being able to defend the country on their own.

This week, hundreds of NATO and Afghan troops using helicopter gunships engaged in one of their biggest battles in years. The target was an estimated 400 Taliban fighters who had dug into several villages near the southern city of Kandahar, raided the main city jail and freed hundreds of their comrades.

A report by the Government Accountability Office this week concluded that after investing $16.5 billion, the Pentagon and the State Department still lack a “sustainable strategy” for developing the Afghanistan Army and the country’s police force. To understand the full failure, read the fine print: only two of 105 Army units — and not a single police unit — are judged to be “fully capable.”

President Bush should direct the Pentagon and State Department to devise a plan that would ensure that American money is used to build a capable Afghan security force. He should work with European, Afghan and Pakistani leaders to put aside differences and develop a comprehensive military and political strategy to address the Taliban-Qaeda threat on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. International donors, who promised millions more for Afghanistan last week, must keep pressure on President Hamid Karzai to root out government corruption and coordinate closely with the new United Nations representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide.

Meanwhile, NATO allies must beef up their forces — as Britain has promised to do. Allies who put inexcusable restrictions on where and when their forces can operate must remove them.

Afghanistan is scheduled to elect a new president next year, and more turmoil could result if voters are too fearful to go to the polls. An unstable Afghanistan in which extremists and narco-traffickers have a safe haven may well be another Bush legacy. His would-be successors need to explain how they would deal with it.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Wood: the Taliban are divided
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008 
US ambassador says rebels are weakening and dividing
The US Ambassador to Afghanistan, William Wood, has said the Taliban have changed tactics – from insurgent attacks to "terror" attacks – because the militants are a weaker fighting force this year than last.
"Our unified assessment in Kabul is that the Taliban is weaker in 2008 than it was at the beginning of the fighting season in 2007," Wood said during a press conference in Washington.

"Admittedly, they are shifting from insurgent tactics to terrorist tactics, and that means there are more individual incidents, but they tend to be of smaller scale.

"There have been many fewer attacks in Kabul, for instance, even at the terrorist level this year than last year."

He said the Taliban lacked the Afghan people’s trust, had failed to gain territory, and had lost senior commanders and fighters.

Opinion is divided within the Taliban’s rank-and-file members over the justification of attacking civilian targets, Wood said.

"This doesn't mean that the fight is won, by any means. I'm not claiming that.

"But I think that we are we, the United States; we, the international community; and we, the government of Afghanistan, are feeling much more confident as we approach the mid-point of the 2008 fighting season than we felt before we the 2007 fighting season began."

Speaking about Karzai’s threat to send troops into Pakistan, Wood said: "His remarks were aimed at the bad guys who are a common threat to both the Pakistani government and to the people and government of Afghanistan.

“I think that he was addressing a problem. There is a threat in the tribal areas that is a problem for both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and he was reacting to the statement of some extremists there that they felt free to cross into Afghanistan."

Pakistani rebel leader Baitullah Mehsud recently vowed to continue his Jihad in Afghansitan despite negotiating with the Paksitani government for a possible peace-deal.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghanistan crisis worse than Iraq
Toronto Star, Canada Haroon Siddiqui Jun 19, 2008 
There's a lot we know about Afghanistan and a lot more we don't. An expert who knows much more than most of us – whose prescient insights I have benefited from for a decade and whom the John Manley commission consulted last year – says Afghanistan will get worse in the coming months.

Last week's dramatic jailbreak in Kandahar by the Taliban – an embarrassment for which the Canadians blamed the Afghans who blamed the Pakistanis – is a symptom of a bigger problem. The insurgency is getting stronger, notwithstanding steady official assurances that the Taliban have "lost momentum," are "desperate," "worn out," "on the run" and being "hunted down."

Ahmed Rashid, a veteran journalist based in Lahore, is an authority on the region and author of the best-seller Taliban (2001), which, within days of 9/11, became a must-read for world leaders, military commanders and journalists. He now has a new book, Descent into Chaos.

It says that Afghanistan constitutes a worse crisis than Iraq. Not just because of the escalating violence (8,000 Afghans killed last year, and 1,800 so far this year; more NATO troops killed in May in Afghanistan than in Iraq) or the opium that finances the insurgency. Or the ineffective Hamid Karzai who presides over corruption, warlords and drug barons. Or the frightening rise of Taliban sanctuaries and sympathizers across the border in Pakistan.

Afghanistan affects the entire region. The turmoil in Pakistan is well-known. Problems are also brewing in the five Central Asian states, especially Uzbekistan, where a repressive dictatorship is battling (and feeding) a rising Islamic militancy, whose tentacles reach back into Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Central Asia is the new frontier for Al Qaeda."

Rashid, on a book tour of North America, spoke to me by phone on Tuesday from Seattle.

He expects a major Taliban offensive, especially but not exclusively because of support from across the border in Pakistan.

"NATO nations remain divided and weak in their commitment. The American president is a lame duck. The next president won't get around to dealing with Afghanistan until the middle of next year.

"There's a vacuum. The Taliban are going to be taking full strategic advantage in the coming months.

"So long as there are Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan, they will remain a potent military force. The Taliban are expanding in Pakistan much faster than anyone could've imagined."

There's the porous border. And there's the Pakistan military's "double game" of cracking down on militants while keeping some as a proxy for influence in Afghanistan.

However, "Pakistan is not the only one playing a double game. So is the U.S. All it cared about was to get Al Qaeda. It didn't (initially) care about the Taliban."

It nearly abandoned Afghanistan after toppling the Taliban in 2001, making the same mistake it had once before after helping to end the Soviet occupation in 1989, leaving a vacuum in which rose the Taliban, a failed state and the perpetrators of 9/11.

What to do?

"You cannot deal with one country without dealing with the region.

"You cannot deal with Afghanistan without dealing with Pakistan.

"You cannot deal with Pakistan without dealing with India, without making India more amenable to dealing with Pakistani insecurities by dealing with the Kashmir issue or the Indian interference and influence in Afghanistan. The Pakistan military remains fearful of India's involvement in Afghanistan. They fear that Karzai may fall and they need their own proxies in Afghanistan (just as India and Iran have theirs) ...

"You cannot deal with the Iranian role in Afghanistan without dealing with the Iranian nuclear issue."

There is no military solution – not in Afghanistan, not in Pakistan and not in Iran.

"You need a multilateral diplomatic push on several fronts, all going on at the same time, along with a push for democracy, human rights and economic development throughout the region."

Rashid had sounded the alarm bells on Afghanistan long before 9/11 but few listened. One hopes the world heeds him now, well before making many more mistakes.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.

hsiddiq@thestar.ca
Back to Top

Back to Top
Battle for villages kills 39; wounds 44
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008 
Two days of fighting over Taliban-held villages in south kills dozens
AFGHAN and Canadian troops have killed 36 Taliban fighters and wounded 40 more during an attack to flush out rebels from villages in Kandahar province.

Kandahar governor Asadullah Khalid said two Afghan army soldiers were also killed and three were wounded during an on-going operation against rebels in the Arghandab and Maiwand districts.

The NATO-led ISAF force said one Afghan civilian died and another was wounded in the fighting, which started on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, ISAF said Afghan and Canadian troops had made “minor contact” with the rebels, who seized the villages days after hundreds of militants escaped from Kandahar’s central jail.

Hundreds of residents in the two districts have fled their villages to escape the fighting.

On Friday, about 400 rebels escaped Kandahar’s Sarposa jail after fellow militants blew open the prison’s main gates with an explosives-packed water truck.

It is unclear if the escapees were among the fighters in Arghandab.

ISAF spokesman Mark Leity described the streets of Kandahar city as "calm" and said British paratroopers had been deployed to keep the peace.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Drivers face police bribes on new road
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008 
Police extract money from drivers using recently repaired link road
HAULIERS have already complained about police extortion on the recently opened Kabul-Jalalabad Highway.

The drivers say police have set up checkpoints on the newly repaired road, which runs all the way to Pakistan from the capital, and are charging them Pakistani Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 to pass.

Drivers who refuse to pay the bribes have been forced to take the Lata Band road, which can increase journey times three-fold.

One of the drivers said: “I came through the Lata Band way. In the Sarobi area the police stopped me and wanted Rs8,000 from me.

"I told them I have no money and they didn’t allow me to go through the new road. They told me they will only let me go if I pay them.”

Another driver said: “I had to bribe the police Rs6,000, and they allowed me to go along the new road way, because in Lata Band there is no water or food and the road is not asphalted.”

The highway was only opened this week after the government closed it for repair work.

Truck drivers also complain that they have to bribe government officials for their travel permits on the road.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Baluch group backs Karzai's troop threat
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008 
Washnigton-based group welcomes Karzai's threat to attack rebels in Pakistan
A WASHINGTON-based Baluch group has rallied to Karzai’s side after the Afghan president threatened to send troops into Pakistan to defeat insurgents hiding in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American Friends of Baluchistan said Karzai had the right to act in self-defence if rebels operating out of Pakistan continued to launch attacks on Afghan soil.

“The people of Baluchistan would not only welcome but also would provide full support to Afghan forces in defeating the terrorists who are sheltered by Pakistani authorities," the head of the Baloch organisation, Ahmar Mustikhan, said.

“We believe Afghanistan has the complete right to pursue terrorists. There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that today Pakistan is main source of international terrorism," Mustikhan said.

A recent report released by an American think-tank said Pakistan’s secret intelligence service, the ISI, still provides direct support to Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents in Pakistan.

Mustikhan said the government would be justified in attacking Pakistan because the tribal regions have historically belonged to Afghanistan.

“This (Afghan forces attacking terrorists) is what the people of Balochistan have hoped for and prayed for the past 60 years," Mustikhan said.

A senior diplomat-based in Washington said a number of American-based organizations also welcomed Karzai’s speech.

Pashtun MPs in Pakistan this week also welcomed Karzai's comments.

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

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

After its election in February, the government started to negotiate with the Taliban, including the notorious rebel leader Baitullah Mehsud, who the UN accuses of carrying out eight out of every 10 "terror" attack in Afghanistan

Mehsud has vowed to continue his Jihad in Afghanistan despite the peace-talks.

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

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

Diplomatic relations between Pakistan and American took a nose dive last week when Pakistan accused US-led troops in Afghanistan of killing 11 of its border police in an air-strike on the Pakistani side of the border.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Taliban given 'good lesson'
Canadian general encouraged by campaign, but still cautious
canada.com - Ottawa Doug Schmidt Canwest News Service  Friday, June 20, 2008
ARGHANDAB DISTRICT, Afghanistan
Afghan authorities say hundreds of Taliban fighters have been killed or wounded after being routed in a battle begun Wednesday for a strategic area just northwest of Kandahar City that insurgents took over at the start of the week.

All that remained yesterday was the mopping up of scattered, small pockets of resistance, area political leaders and Afghan and Canadian military commanders said from a mountainside perch overlooking the battlefield.

"This will give them a good lesson," Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid said, speaking of the Taliban. Mr. Khalid said residents who had fled the area when the Taliban infiltrated from the mountains to the north will be allowed to return in the days ahead. The operation is expected to wrap up today.

Afghan authorities have to clear out landmines and roadside bombs planted by the insurgents, as well as fix destroyed bridges and culverts. The fighting interrupted the important harvest period in the agriculturally rich valley, and some farmers were already passing through road checkpoints to get back to their crops and livestock.

Military officials did not offer numbers, but Mr. Khalid said no civilians were killed and two Afghan soldiers were the only deaths among the more than 1,000 government and coalition troops who launched an assault across the Arghandab River on Wednesday morning. There was a report of a civilian's body recovered later in the day.

"The enemy is defeated, but the enemy is still present," Canada's Joint Task Force Afghanistan commander, Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson said, using a much more cautious tone than the jubilant Afghan authorities. He said some of the insurgents had escaped the fight into adjoining districts.

"There is no doubt in my mind that further insurgent attacks will take place in the months ahead. Even another event like we saw at Sarposa Prison last week is not unavoidable," he told Canadian reporters last night, referring to last week's spectacular prison raid.

"I'm encouraged by what I saw," Brig.-Gen. Thompson said of the Afghan-led operation that saw Canadians and other NATO forces assume a supportive battle role, including providing helicopter gunship cover. The homegrown victory by Afghan army and police units "will help restore people's confidence in their government institutions -- ISAF (the 40-nation International Security Assistance Force) is going to leave one day," he said.

Brig.-Gen. Thompson said Arghandab, while on the doorstep of the Taliban's birth city, is "not a friendly area to the Taliban" and that Afghan forces were helped by intelligence reports being supplied by locals who wanted the invaders out. The combat zone remains off-limits to reporters, but as the generals spoke, Afghan and Canadian military convoys could be seen moving up and down the wide and mostly dry river bed below.

The Taliban had perhaps hoped that a series of recent assassinations of key local leaders might have eased the way for its fighters to move in and take control of an area that has always been an essential conduit for invaders targeting Kandahar City, Afghanistan's second-largest city. And they were probably also emboldened by their hugely successful raid last week on Sarposa Prison, in which 400 Islamic militants were among the 800 escapees.

The insurgents decided to dig in and fight, but as with every previous confrontation on the battlefield, including over this same piece of real estate last October, the insurgents suffered a stunning defeat. Mr. Khalid said numbers were hard to come by because more insurgent bodies were being recovered throughout the day.

Last night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the prison break in Afghanistan represents "a setback," but he also stressed that the facility was an Afghanistan government institution under the control of the Afghan army, not Canada or any NATO army.

"It's particularly a setback in our plans, as you know, to pass full responsibility to the Afghan authorities by 2011.

"The good news is that the Afghan government has responded very quickly and very directly to this particular challenge and Afghan forces have been working with carefully with Canadian forces to deal with some of the security consequences of that prison break.

"I'm not minimizing the problem this creates for the both of us, but this was an Afghan institution."
Back to Top

Back to Top
Defending freedom to abuse
National Post By Don Martin 06/19/2008 
OTTAWA-Canadian soldiers in the main guard tower at forward operating base Wilson last summer winced when I asked about the sudden lineup of teenage boys along the mud walls of the neighbouring Afghan market.

"Wait a few minutes. You'll see," said one, his lip curling. "It's disgusting."

Sure enough, a handful of uniformed Afghan police officers emerged from their rundown detachment, walked through the barricades and started chatting up the dozen or so teens, some looking decidedly pre-teen.

A few minutes after they returned, the selected kids were waved through the main gates and went straight inside the police station. An hour later, when I left the observation post, the boys were still inside.
This evening ritual is often derided by soldiers as man-love Thursdays.

Afghan officials insist the notion of men and boys getting together the night before the Muslim holy day for sex is a myth. And, sure, it's theoretically possible the cops were merely good-deed-doers giving these teens reading lessons.

But Canadian soldiers insisted we had just witnessed the regular Thursday evening negotiation for sex between Afghan men and boys, apparently for gifts or money.

It raises the disquieting question of how much responsibility Canadian soldiers shoulder, being military guests and all, to stop Afghan activity that would result in rape or child prostitution charges back home.

It should be stressed that the activity at FOB Wilson does not mean Afghan police and army officers are engaged in an epidemic of juvenile sodomy.

But the issue was given fresh legs last week by a military chaplain named Jean Johns, who reported that soldiers under treatment for posttraumatic stress syndrome had been told to "ignore" any assaults or rapes on Afghan civilians they had seen.

The Toronto Star also reports a Canadian soldier overheard an Afghan soldier abusing a young boy in late 2006 and later saw the victim with signs of rape trauma, specifically protrusions of his bowels and lower intestine.

There's not much doubt that while the Canadian military may jackboot the Taliban at will, soldiers have to tiptoe around Islamic justice that clashes with our version of the law and the consequences for breaking it.

If Canadian soldiers had intervened between Afghan police and boys clearly selling themselves for sex, for example, an important partnership would quickly sour. Now that several years' worth of Taliban prisoners have been freed during the Kandahar prison breakout, we arguably need what passes for an Afghan police force more than ever.

Still, Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the Commons he'd met with military leaders yesterday and insisted soldiers "report any allegation of unlawful activity they see."

That's easy for him to say, as Canadian soldiers rumble LAVs through marijuana crops or swaths of opium-producing poppies so vast, a single field would net Canadian law enforcement its annual seizure.

There's not much even top military brass or diplomats can do to prevent marriages forced on pre-teen Afghan girls or women who have been raped from being charged with adultery for failing to convince male justice that the intercourse wasn't consensual. Global pressure barely prevented an Afghan student from being executed for downloading a report on women's rights from the Internet.

Yet Canadians have a right to question the sort of Afghan freedom our troops are being sacrificed to defend if police can molest young boys without fear of our intervention.

No wonder Canadian soldiers come home confiding that killing Taliban insurgents isn't as stressful as knowing an innocent kid might be regularly raped by an Afghan cop inside a Canadian military base.

Man-boy homosexuality has flourished anew in the aftermath of Taliban zero-tolerance laws, albeit a selectively punished offence in that era. Warlords again parade cities with teenage boys known as an "ashna" by their side.

The strict social separation and severe consequences for premarital sex with women have given rise to the cultural wrinkle of men used for sexual recreation and women reserved for reproduction.

But that hardly makes it right when Afghan boys are police rape victims.

And it's a wrong that Canadian soldiers should be encouraged to report so that Afghan officers being trained in law enforcement can be pressured to stop it themselves.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Afghan clashes point to larger problems
The fighting near Kandahar, though brief, disrupted lives of villagers in a nominally secure area, and raised concerns about communication gaps between Afghan and Western allies.
Los Angeles Times - Print Edition By M. Karim Faiez and Laura King, Special to The Times June 20, 2008
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN-When the Taliban seized a string of villages outside one of Afghanistan's largest cities this week, NATO-led forces moved fast, airlifting in hundreds of Afghan and Western soldiers and sending warplanes and attack helicopters into the skies.

In less than 48 hours, they had driven out the insurgents.

Afghan authorities declared Thursday that the brief Taliban incursion near the southern city of Kandahar had been successfully repelled. But the incident illustrated the ease with which even a handful of militants can tie up large numbers of coalition troops and heavy weaponry deployed to counter what NATO repeatedly described as a not particularly serious threat.

The short-lived confrontation in the Arghandab district also showed how thoroughly the insurgents could disrupt the daily lives of villagers in a nominally secure area, and raised concerns of worrisomely flawed communication between Afghan forces and their Western allies.

Moreover, officials acknowledged that the insurgents would probably regroup elsewhere in the area and remain a threat, with the warm summer months traditionally a time when Taliban fighters step up attacks on Western forces.

After moving into nearly a dozen villages in the Arghandab area on Sunday, Taliban commanders said they would use it as a springboard for attacks on Kandahar, the nation's second-largest city and their former power base.

Arghandab is a prime gateway to Kandahar, 10 miles away. The farming area has good roads and plenty of cover for fighters among its wheat fields, pomegranate groves and vineyards.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization officials have insisted that Kandahar, whose security is considered pivotal to the entire south, was never under any real threat. But the alliance put troops on high alert to counter the Taliban threat of suicide bombings.

NATO said its troops, mostly Canadians, did not encounter any significant concentration of Taliban fighters as they backed up Afghan troops in the Arghandab operation. Alliance officials repeatedly questioned Taliban claims that hundreds of fighters had surged into the district.

"No large formation of insurgents were met or spotted; only minor incidents occurred," Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco, the spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, told journalists in Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Thursday.

But villagers said the insurgents, in keeping with their usual battlefield practice, did not attempt to mass and confront the superior firepower of arriving coalition forces. Instead, they sought cover in the region's lush fields once aerial bombardment began, then slipped away.

An Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman, Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi, said he thought many insurgents had fled under cover of darkness Wednesday night.

"The Taliban have just gone to other parts of Kandahar province," said Saadullah Khan, a tribal elder in Arghandab.

The Taliban incursion grew out of a demoralizing blow to the Afghan government: a well-organized attack on Kandahar's main prison.

About 900 prisoners escaped, many of them considered dangerous militants. Taliban commanders said their ranks were substantially bolstered by escapees.

Even though it did not last long, the Arghandab confrontation showed the havoc insurgents could readily inflict on civilians, even in an area barely half an hour's drive from the main coalition base in southern Afghanistan.

Panicked residents fled their farms as the fighting loomed. And departing militants seeded the area with mines, Afghan officials said, which could imperil the harvest of grapes, wheat and pomegranate that was to have begun within days.

From the time the Taliban arrived in Arghandab, statements by the coalition and Afghan authorities were somewhat embarrassingly out of sync, suggesting that the Afghans and their Western allies might not be fully sharing intelligence or conferring closely with each other.

Whereas NATO has superior technical means of intelligence-gathering, including aerial and electronic surveillance, the Afghan authorities generally hear more readily from local officials and village elders.

NATO initially said no significant numbers of residents were fleeing; Afghan officials reported an exodus numbering in the thousands. Eventually, the alliance acknowledged that about 700 families had taken shelter elsewhere, but said there was no humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday, two days after the insurgents had moved in, the Afghan Defense Ministry said the Taliban force numbered about 400; NATO said that estimate was "greatly exaggerated," but never provided its own.

The Defense Ministry said more than 50 Taliban fighters were killed during the 24 hours beginning Wednesday morning.

Kandahar's governor put the total of killed and injured insurgents in the hundreds. NATO did not issue any tally.

"We don't have a definitive assessment, though casualties were inflicted," said NATO spokesman Mark Laity.

Taliban commanders acknowledged only six fighters killed.

The fighting is expected to reignite tensions with Pakistan, which Afghan leaders have accused of granting shelter to Taliban fighters.

Kandahar lies 60 miles from the frontier, and Afghanistan's south and east, which borders Pakistan's semiautonomous tribal areas, are riddled with infiltration routes.

The governor of Kandahar province, Asadullah Khalid, said many in the Taliban force in Arghandab came from Pakistan, including some who answer to Baitullah Mahsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban movement who is based in the South Waziristan tribal area.

On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened to send troops into Pakistan to target insurgents who travel freely back and forth across the frontier.

A spokesman later said the president was trying to convey the urgency of the threat emanating from Pakistan rather than warning of imminent attack.

The comments, however, were seen as an indication of Karzai's frustration as the stubborn Taliban insurgency continues to damage his domestic standing.

laura.king@latimes.com 
Special correspondent Faiez reported from Kabul and Times staff writer King from Istanbul, Turkey.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Saudis deport 13 Afghan children
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008 
Kids as young as five forced to leave their parents in Saudi Arabia
SAUDI ARABIA has deported thirteen Afghan children after locking them in jail for six months without telling their families where they were.

The expelled children, aged between five and 11, were living illegally in Saudi Arabia , according to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Work and Social Affairs.

These children said Saudi police arrested them while they were walking through the streets and locked them in jail for six months before the government deported them to Afghanistan on Monday.

The children have been living in the Alawuddin orphanage since arriving in Kabul, leaving behind their families in Saudi Arabia.

One of the deportees, a 10-year-old boy, said: “I lived in Saudi Arabia for four years with my family, but one day when I was playing football, the police came and arrested me. I spent six months in prison, and then we were sent back to Afghanistan.”

One of the young girls said: “I miss my parents a lot, and I want to go to them.”

Another young boy said: “I was selling chewing gum in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, when the police came and arrested me.”

Deputy of the ministry of work and social affairs said: “These children’s relatives in Afghanistan can come with their documents and identification cards and take these children.”

It is thought the children are from Baghlan, but they say they don’t know any relatives in the province.
Back to Top

Back to Top
Taliban assassinate ex-Jihadi leader
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 19 June 2008 
Militants accuse former commander of spying for foreign troops
TALIBAN militants have killed a former Jihadi commander accused of spying for the Afghan government and for foreign forces, a Taliban spokesman said.

Militants killed former Jamiat-e-Islami commander Zabit Khairi in the northern Jawzjan province on Wednesday, according to Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

Khairi served in the Jamiat-e-Islami party before becoming a pro-government tribal elder under the current regime.

No one has been arrested for the murder.
Back to Top


 Back to News Archirves of 2008
 
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).