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June 2, 2008 

SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH AFGHAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI
Spiegel Online, Germany
'I Wish I Had the Taliban as My Soldiers'
President Hamid Karzai has come under fire for not doing enough to stem corruption in Afghanistan. He speaks to SPIEGEL about the coalition forces' ties with warlords, rumors about his family's influence and why he believes dirty deals are sometimes necessary.

Western forces to blame for rising violence in Afghanistan: Karzai
Monday, June 2, 2008 CBC News  Canada
Afghan President Hamid Karzai puts the blame for rising violence in his country on international forces, saying they have mismanaged the fight against the resurging Taliban.

Taliban flee U.S. Marines onslaught in Afghanistan
By Jon Hemming
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents are fleeing south towards the Afghan border with Pakistan in the face of a U.S. Marines offensive in volatile Helmand province, the NATO commander in Afghanistan said on Monday.

NATO: 10 militants killed in Afghan battle
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Mon Jun 2, 3:37 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO military aircraft supported Afghan police in a 12-hour firefight in western Afghanistan that killed at least 10 militants, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Monday.

Japan may send troops to Afghanistan: PM
Sun Jun 1, 4:43 PM ET
TOKYO (AFP) - Japan is considering whether to send its first troops to Afghanistan on a reconstruction mission, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Sunday.

U.N. envoy urges 'New Deal' for Afghan aid
02 Jun 2008 15:41:51 GMT By Wojciech Moskwa
OSLO, June 2 (Reuters) - The international community must start trusting the Afghan government more and give it a much bigger role in distributing aid, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

Afghan insurgents 'on brink of defeat'
By Thomas Harding in Lashkar Gah 01/06/2008 Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
Missions by special forces and air strikes by unmanned drones have "decapitated" the Taliban and brought the war in Afghanistan to a "tipping point", the commander of British forces has said.
The new "precise, surgical"

AFGHANISTAN: Jalozai camp closed, returnees face difficulties at home
02 Jun 2008 11:11:56 GMT
JALALABAD, 2 June 2008 (IRIN) - The once largest Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Jalozai, has been closed down and most of its residents have returned to Afghanistan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said.

More than 120,000 Afghan refugees home this year: UN
KABUL, June 1, 2008 (AFP) - More than 120,000 refugees have returned to Afghanistan this year with UN help, the world body's refugee agency said Sunday, warning the country had limited capacity to take people back.

Afghan at Gitmo seeks dismissal of charges
Wed, May. 28, 2008 By DAVID McFADDEN Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An Afghan detainee at Guantánamo Bay was the alleged victim of an abusive tactic meant to decrease his resistance to interrogation, a Pentagon-appointed defense attorney said Wednesday in a motion to dismiss charges.

Outgoing ISAF commander urges neighbors of Afghanistan to support peace
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-02 21:00:47
KABUL, June 2 (Xinhua) -- The outgoing commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan General Dan McNeill on Monday urged Afghan neighboring states to support peace in the war-torn nation.

Taliban Leader Flaunts Power Inside Pakistan
New York Times, United States By JANE PERLEZ  June 2, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -With great fanfare, the Pakistani Army flew journalists to a rugged corner of the nation’s lawless tribal areas in May to show how decisively it had destroyed the lairs of the Taliban, including a school for suicide bombers, in fighting early this year.

Ahmed Rashid's 'Descent into Chaos': terrifying
The 'Taliban' author's latest book details the betrayals and confusions fuleing the endless war in Afghanistan
statesman.com By Roger Gathman SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN Sunday, June 01, 2008
In 2000, when Ahmed Rashid published "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia," few Americans gave Afghanistan much thought. Though Bill Clinton had launched cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan

Pahstany Bank reclaims $5.9m from French bank
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 01 June 2008
Afghan bank finally claims back its cash after 22 years - with interest
PASHTANY Bank has finally reclaimed the seven million French francs that a bank in France had blocked for the past 22 years.

Program aims to vaccinate a million Afghanistan children
CBC.ca, Canada Sunday, June 1, 2008
The United Nations children's agency and the World Health Organization have begun a three-day campaign to vaccinate more than a million children against polio in southern Afghanistan.

AIDS victims on rise in Kunduz
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 01 June 2008
Deadly disease increases three-fold in six months in northern province
THE NUMBER of patients suffering from AIDS in Kunduz has increased three-fold in the last year, the province’s central hospital has said.

Afghanistan: IDPs in Helmand need urgent aid
LASHKARGAH, 1 June 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of Afghans who fled their homes in the Garmser district of southern Helmand province in late April because of fighting between the US military and Taliban insurgents have yet to receive any form of aid, provincial officials said.

Prison ships, torture claims, and missing detainees
America may have held terror suspects in British territory, despite UK denials
guardian.co.uk, UK Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor Monday June 2 2008
The controversy over prison ships was first highlighted in June 2005 when the UN's special rapporteur on terrorism spoke of "very, very serious" allegations that the US was secretly detaining terrorism suspects in various locations around

Pomegranates and Pakistan: our role in Afghan peace
The Calgary Herald Monday, June 02, 2008
That pomegranates from Afghanistan went on sale in British Columbia supermarkets is hardly an earthshaking event. However, for a country bootstrapping itself back to functionality after almost 30 years of war, even such tokens of normality

U.S. offensive in Helmand taking pressure off the Canadians in Kandahar
World Murray Brewster THE CANADIAN PRESS Sunday, June 1, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -U.S. marines clawed their way south along the Helmand River valley over the weekend in an ongoing push that the commander of the battle-hardened assault force hopes is easing the pressure on the Canadians in neighbouring Kandahar.

Pakistani Movies Replacing Indian Films in Afghanistan - Paper
RedOrbit, TX Sunday, 1 June 2008
Text of report by private Afghan newspaper Arman-e Melli on 1 June
More and more Pakistani films are being shown in a number of cinemas in the country. These movies have gained popularity in negative ways through their specific dance scenes.

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SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH AFGHAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI
Spiegel Online, Germany
'I Wish I Had the Taliban as My Soldiers'
President Hamid Karzai has come under fire for not doing enough to stem corruption in Afghanistan. He speaks to SPIEGEL about the coalition forces' ties with warlords, rumors about his family's influence and why he believes dirty deals are sometimes necessary.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, much has been written about the failures of the international community in Afghanistan. But a good part of the so-called insurgency in the south and east of your country appears to have more to do with a protest movement against a bad government and corrupt elite. It doesn't seem like much of an exaggeration to talk about a resurgence of the Taliban. Is it not true that many Afghans are only joining the Taliban because they don't consider them to be corrupt?

Hamid Karzai: I disagree. That is absolutely wrong.

SPIEGEL: Some Afghan people say that the president himself, who is appointing high-ranking officials in Kabul and in the provinces, is fueling the insurgency with these personnel decisions. Is that there any truth in that?

Karzai: Governance has improved immensely in Afghanistan. For the first time in six years, the Afghan budget has become transparent, there are no longer any secret funds. Before, the governors did whatever they wanted. Now there is a reporting requirement and there are former governors who were criminal or corrupt who are now in prison, like the former governor of Baghdis province. Of course the country needs more time, but the problems we have in the south and east are not because of bad governance.

SPIEGEL: Then what are the reasons for the difficult situation there?

Karzai: There is a lot of interference from abroad. The south part of the country has always been the center of the Taliban activity; they came from there. And there are also traces of the mujahedeen's decades-long battle. These are all factors.

SPIEGEL: Some of your closest aides are suspected of stealing land, drug smuggling and having illegal militias, among them respected governors and police chiefs. Your attorney general, Abdul Jabar Sabet, just named a few of them, including the governor of Nangarhar. Why do you still protect these people?

Karzai: I am not protecting anybody. We are trying to govern Afghanistan and bring peace and stability. I know about the problems with the police. The international community finally agreed after two years of very intense and angry negotiations that the police are a problem and in the middle of 2007 they began to work with us. The checkpoints on the roads, for example, were developed during the years of the Soviet invasion, a time when the country became lawless and each local commander set up his own checkpoint to collect money.

SPIEGEL: During the Taliban times there were no checkpoints at all.

Karzai: That was the best aspect of the Taliban. They did a lot wrong, but they also did a few things right. I wish I had the Taliban as my soldiers. I wish they were serving me and not people in Pakistan or others. When we came back to Afghanistan, the international community brought back all those people who had turned away from the Taliban …

SPIEGEL: … you mean the brutal commanders who fought in the civil war …

Karzai: … who then became partners with the foreign allies and are still paid by them today for their support. It is not always easy for me to find a way that can enable Afghanistan's administration to function.

SPIEGEL: Dirty deals are still necessary for the stability of Afghanistan?

Karzai: Absolutely necessary, because we lack the power to solve these problems in other ways. What do you want? War? Let me give you an example. We wanted to arrest a really terrible warlord, but we couldn't do it because he is being protected by a particular country. We found out that he was being paid $30,000 a month to stay on his good side. They even used his soldiers as guards …

SPIEGEL: That sounds like the story of Commander Nasir Mohammed in Badakhshan, a province where German soldiers are based.

Karzai: I don't want to name the country because it will hurt a close friend and ally. But there are also many other countries who contract the Afghan militias and their leaders. So I can only work where I can act, and I must always calculate what will happen before doing anything.

SPIEGEL: There is a list of high-level drug lords and smugglers, and a number of well-known figures in the establishment. Some are your advisors and some are even alleged to be part of your cabinet. Why haven't we seen the trial of a single prominent person?

Karzai: This list is a myth. I have never received such a list. I have asked the international community to deliver this supposed list to me, but it has never been presented.

SPIEGEL: Your former interior minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, claimed to possess such a list.

Karzai: Then you would have to look for that in the archive of the Interior Ministry. It is also incorrect what you say: A lot of drug smugglers have been taken to court. Why are you quoting Mr. Jalalai as having this list?

SPIEGEL: Because he once publicly stated he did. Are you doubting his credibility because he was one of the ministers who became entangled in a corruption scandal surrounding the appropriation of land for construction in Kabul?

Karsai: Some members of the international community are strongly connected to corrupt elements and use them as their sources. Let me tell you about another case: One of our allies in the coalition gave a commander in another part of the country land and money for his loyalty. Should I bring him to trial? Should I bring Mr. Jalali to trial?

SPIEGEL: Why not?

Karzai: You cannot expect us to punish an Afghan who has lived his whole life in this country, who has suffered, sacrificed his family, given blood for this country, for having committed a little crime or a little corruption. And then the person who had long been away and first came back with the international community and loots the country can get away with it? This cannot be allowed to happen.

SPIEGEL: Since you became president, your family has become highly successful in the business world and also in politics. Your brother Mahmoud Karzai is currently CEO of a cement plant in Pul-i-Khumri in the northeast that was the envy of many competitors. Two other brothers, Qayum and Ahmed Wali, are powerful politicians in the southern part of the country. Many there say that no decisions can be made without the approval of the Karzais. Is there a grain of truth to that?

Karzai: This is really a lot of rubbish. Ahmed Wali has been accused of drug dealing. I have thoroughly investigated all these accusations, and of course none of them are true. Mahmoud was a businessman for a number of years in the United States, he even has an American passport. He was very successful there and made a lot of money. He returned when the US came to Afghanistan. Now he has become the CEO of a factory and there is nothing wrong with that.

SPIEGEL: He is also the head of a large group of investors that is doing big business in Afghanistan. Is it helpful to be a close relative of the president?

Karzai: To the contrary. It has made things more complicated for them because I make things very difficult for them, extremely difficult. That applies to Mahmoud, too. He is very carefully observed, not just by me, but also from the ministers, who I have instructed to strictly observe him. It is similar for Ahmat Wali: These stories about him being involved in drug smuggling emerged in 2004 after the presidential elections. The story appeared in the New York Times. I immediately called the US ambassador, American intelligence, the British, the Europeans. I called them five times and they said, "Mr. President, these are rumors, probably propaganda." No one presented any evidence, nothing.

SPIEGEL: The south is the hub of drug smuggling. Is it possible that Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the most influential politicians in Kandahar, who leads the provincial council, doesn't have the slightest idea what is going on or has nothing to do with it?

Karzai: Yes, it is very much possible. Our family has been influential in this part of the country for 300 years. I am the president of Afghanistan today, but I do not have the slightest idea who is involved in the drug business there. Nor is the drug dealing solely a problem for Afghanistan. The lion's share of the money goes to the international mafia and not to Afghans.

SPIEGEL: You meet regularly for negotiations with representatives of the Taliban -- like Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban's former foreign minister, or Mullah Saif, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan -- but so far without any results. And yet we still see new suicide attacks almost every day.

Karzai: Negotiations aren't moving forward the way we would like them too. But we will continue. Taliban who are part of al-Qaida should in no way be permitted to return. But those who have joined the Taliban out of fear or because they were needy are Afghanistan's native sons and they are more than welcome back in their country.

SPIEGEL: You are expected to run for a second term in office in 2009. Why do you believe you would make the best president?

Karzai: I don't claim to be the best. I hope that this country will soon have the opportunity to find people even better than me. Still, I do have one legacy I would like to leave behind: the legacy of democratic rule. I have also been looking for alternatives, my own replacement.

SPIEGEL: Being the president of Afghanistan is an almost impossible job. How are you able to remain perpetually optimistic?

Karzai: I believe I have led this country very well. Yes, I have made mistakes. I was not in a situation to solve problems like corruption and impunity. But that was beyond my power and beyond the time limit that I have at my disposal. However, we have saved this country from another civil war and people from starving. And the same people who once fought against each other in the streets of Kabul are now sitting in parliament. Afghanistan's flag is flying all over the world. There are new roads, the first students received their degrees from Kabul University a few days ago. That is great!

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Susanne Koelbl and Ullrich Fichtner.
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Western forces to blame for rising violence in Afghanistan: Karzai
Monday, June 2, 2008 CBC News  Canada
Afghan President Hamid Karzai puts the blame for rising violence in his country on international forces, saying they have mismanaged the fight against the resurging Taliban.

Karzai said in an interview on Indian television that the West risks losing peoples' goodwill and that its forces should have done more to crack down on Taliban and al-Qaeda bases outside the country.

In the interview with CNBC TV 18 aired Monday, he didn't directly mention bases in Pakistan, but his government has singled out that country in the past.

Karzai's criticism — including his insistence that civilian casualties must stop — is important in light of his stated plan to stand for re-election next year. The president is often criticized in Afghanistan for being too close to the United States and Britain.

The president said Western forces did not focus on "sanctuaries of terrorists" despite his government's warnings over the past five years.

"It was a serious neglect of that, in spite of our warning," he said, adding that other former members of the Taliban who had given up arms were unfairly hunted down within Afghan borders.

"Some of the Taliban who have laid down their arms, who are living in the Afghan villages peacefully, who have accepted Afghanistan's new order, they were chased, they were hunted for no reason, and they were forced to flee the country," he said, according to Reuters.

An American-led coalition drove out the ultra-conservative Islamic Taliban government in late 2001. The United States accused the Taliban government of harbouring Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, which Washington blamed for a number of deadly attacks.

The Taliban is now fighting to bring down the Afghan government and drive out the foreign troops who back it.
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Taliban flee U.S. Marines onslaught in Afghanistan
By Jon Hemming
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents are fleeing south towards the Afghan border with Pakistan in the face of a U.S. Marines offensive in volatile Helmand province, the NATO commander in Afghanistan said on Monday.

U.S. Marines have been pushing south from the former Taliban stronghold of Garmsir in Helmand for a month in an operation meant to cut off insurgent infiltration routes from Pakistan.

"They have shown under some amount of pressure they flee to their sanctuaries," General Dan McNeill told a news conference.

"In the last two days we have had many reports ... that the insurgents after experiencing these several weeks of pressure below Garmsir are trying to flee to the south perhaps to go back to sanctuaries in another country," he said.

While McNeill was careful not to name any country, the only nation with which Helmand shares a border is Pakistan.

Mainly British troops have been battling the Taliban in Helmand since March 2006, capturing a string of towns in the fertile strip along the Helmand River cutting through the desert.

But Garmsir, the southernmost town of any size in Helmand, and its surrounding villages had previously evaded capture.

Washington dispatched 3,200 U.S. Marines to Afghanistan in March to bolster mainly British, Canadian and Dutch troops in southern Afghanistan after other NATO allies failed to come up with reinforcements.

REGIONAL DANGER
Afghan officials have accused Pakistan of harboring Taliban militants, giving the insurgent leadership a base from which to direct operations and allowing fighters to use Pakistani soil for training, rest and recuperation.

Pakistan admits there is a Taliban presence in its border regions beyond government control, but says it does not help the insurgents, pointing out hundreds of Pakistani troops have died fighting the militants.

NATO and Afghan officials have also cautioned Pakistan over peace talks with Pakistani Taliban insurgents, saying such truces free up the insurgents to launch more attacks into Afghanistan.

"If there are insurgencies in places not in Afghanistan, but very close by, and security forces are not taking them on, I don't think that bodes well for the whole region," said McNeill, who is to hand command of NATO's 50,000-strong International Security Assistance Force to another U.S. general on Tuesday.

"If there is no pressure on insurgents in sanctuaries out of the reach of security forces in this country then I think (insurgent) numbers are likely to grow," he said.

Still not mentioning any country by name, McNeill implied the danger of such truces was that they could backfire.

A suspected suicide car bomber killed six people and wounded 25 in the Pakistani capital on Monday.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, Afghan forces backed by foreign troops killed 48 Taliban rebels in clashes and airstrikes in the northwest of Afghanistan on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said.
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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NATO: 10 militants killed in Afghan battle
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Mon Jun 2, 3:37 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO military aircraft supported Afghan police in a 12-hour firefight in western Afghanistan that killed at least 10 militants, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Monday.

Afghan officials claimed a much higher death toll, saying dozens of militants were killed.

A spokesman for the police in western Afghanistan, Haji Raouf Ahmedi, said 150 militants attacked a police checkpoint Sunday, triggering the daylong battle in Murghab district, near the border with Turkmenistan.

Ahmedi said 46 militants were killed and 30 wounded, though he said police recovered the bodies of only five militants. Asked how he knew 46 were killed, Ahmedi replied, "We have reports."

Ahmedi said one policeman was also killed.

The governor of Badghis province, Ashraf Nasery, said 49 militants were killed and 35 wounded. He attributed the death toll to "intelligence reports."

He labeled the militants "the enemies of Afghanistan" but offered no more clues as to who they were.

A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Kabul said the alliance had reports of 10 militants killed in the battle. He said ISAF media rules prevented him from giving his name.

It was not possible to get independent confirmation of the toll at the remote battle site. Afghan officials have on occasions in the past exaggerated militant death tolls.

It was the second time in two days that Afghan officials made claims of large numbers of militant deaths. On Sunday, the Interior Ministry said Afghan forces had killed more than 100 militants in a three-day fight in Farah province, but no officials could say how they reached that toll and two admitted that no bodies were left on the battlefield to count.

But the fighting in the two remote areas of the country — in Badghis and Farah — could signal a new strategy by militants to attack areas where NATO and U.S. forces have little presence.

The majority of NATO's fighting forces are centered in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, far from the attacks in Badghis and Farah. NATO and U.S. troops are in the country to battle Taliban militants trying to bring down the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Militant fighters the last two years have stepped up attacks on the country's fledgling police, who have little training and weaponry. Last year more than 900 police were killed in militant attacks.
___
Associated Press reporter Amir Shah contributed to this report.
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Japan may send troops to Afghanistan: PM
Sun Jun 1, 4:43 PM ET
TOKYO (AFP) - Japan is considering whether to send its first troops to Afghanistan on a reconstruction mission, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Sunday.

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

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

"If conditions on the (Afgan) ground allow, Japan can offer its cooperation in activities on the ground. I'm always thinking of that possibility," Fukuda told reporters when asked about sending troops.

"My attitude is that we should do what we can do," he added.

His comments came one day after Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the government was studying widening Japan's contribution on Afghanistan, in addition to a military refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean.

Japan renounced the use of force under a US-imposed constitution after it was defeated in World War II.

Already a major financial power on the global stage, it has now begun also to seek a greater presence in international security affairs to help carve out an expanded world role, including a permanent UN Security Council seat.

Japan sent ground soldiers to Iraq in 2004 on a non-combat reconstruction mission -- the first time since World War II that Tokyo deployed troops to a nation where fighting was ongoing.

They flew home in 2006 -- without firing their weapons and having suffered no casualties -- after they helped reconstruct a relatively peaceful southern province, building water supply facilities and providing medical assistance.

In January, Fukuda's government ordered two naval ships back to the Indian Ocean after forcing through the resumption of the mission to provide fuel and other support to coalition forces operating in Afghanistan.

The naval mission had been suspended in November after Japan's opposition won the upper house of parliament and insisted the officially pacifist nation should not take part in "American wars."

Japanese media have reported that Tokyo plans to send military personnel to Sudan to take part in UN peacekeeping operations.
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U.N. envoy urges 'New Deal' for Afghan aid
02 Jun 2008 15:41:51 GMT By Wojciech Moskwa
OSLO, June 2 (Reuters) - The international community must start trusting the Afghan government more and give it a much bigger role in distributing aid, a senior U.N. official said on Monday.

Kai Eide, the United Nations' special envoy to Kabul, said next week's aid conference in Paris will allow the international community to forge a "New Deal" with Afghanistan and help set development priorities.

Kabul has said it hopes to raise $50 billion in Paris but Eide emphasised the need for stronger Western support to the Afghan authorities.

"We should not judge Paris on the amount of money pledged," the Norwegian diplomat told foreign correspondents in Oslo.

"We need an enhanced, strengthened partnership between the Afghan authorities and the international community," said Eide, who was appointed special envoy in March.

More than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban, Kabul and its Western backers face a revived insurgency and a public frustrated with the lack of security and disappointed at the slow pace of development.

Eide said the development plan for Afghanistan, which will depend on international aid, must be controlled and implemented by local authorities, not foreign states, to keep credibility.

He said that too often foreigners feel they must "win over the hearts and minds" of ordinary Afghans. But he said that was a task the Afghan authorities must do to become more effective.

Analysts say some two-thirds of Afghan aid has not been channelled through the Kabul government, partly because donors fear large chunks of their cash will disappear into the pockets of corrupt officials. This keeps the state weak and gives it little if any control over development, Eide said.

"You would get absolutely nowhere if you don't start trusting the Afghans more. It is their society," he said.

The twin priorities at the Paris conference will be to strengthen Afghan state institutions, including the justice system and police, and to boost the fledgling Afghan economy, especially in agriculture and energy, Eide said.

The international community should admit that resources have not been spent as effectively as possible, and the Afghans should pledge to do more to fight corruption, he said.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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Afghan insurgents 'on brink of defeat'
By Thomas Harding in Lashkar Gah 01/06/2008 Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
Missions by special forces and air strikes by unmanned drones have "decapitated" the Taliban and brought the war in Afghanistan to a "tipping point", the commander of British forces has said.
The new "precise, surgical" tactics have killed scores of insurgent leaders and made it extremely difficult for Pakistan-based Taliban leaders to prosecute the campaign, according to Brig Mark Carleton-Smith.

In the past two years an estimated 7,000 Taliban have been killed, the majority in southern and eastern Afghanistan. But it is the "very effective targeted decapitation operations" that have removed "several echelons of commanders".

This in turn has left the insurgents on the brink of defeat, the head of Task Force Helmand said.

"The Taliban are much weaker," he said from 16 Air Assault Brigade headquarters in Lashkar Gah.

"The tide is clearly ebbing not flowing for them. Their chain of command is disrupted and they are short of weapons and ammunition."

Last year's killing of Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban chief, most likely by the Special Boat Service, was "a seminal moment in dislocating" their operation in southern Afghanistan, said Brig Carleton-Smith, 44, who has extensive operational experience in Afghanistan and Iraq and has commanded elite Army troops.

"We have seen increasing fissures of stress through the whole organisation that has led to internecine and fratricidal strife between competing groups."

Taliban fighters are apparently becoming increasingly unpopular in Helmand, where they are reliant on the local population for food and water.

They have also been subjected to strikes by the RAF's American-made Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle and the guided Royal Artillery missile system, which have both proved a major battlefield success.

"I can therefore judge the Taliban insurgency a failure at the moment," said Brig Carleton-Smith. "We have reached the tipping point."

The task is now to regenerate the economy to win over the civilian population of Helmand, the base for 8,000 British soldiers.

Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, appears to be a town on the cusp of an economic boom if security remains stable.

A new airport will be ready by the end of this year and a packaging factory by the end of next year.

This could enable the soil-rich "fruit basket of Afghanistan" to export its food.

Alternative crops, such as wheat or rape, could prove a greater attraction than Helmand's massive opium trade, especially as international prices continue to rise.

Much of the Taliban operation is run by Mullah Omar and to a lesser extent al-Qa'eda from their headquarters in Quetta, across the border in Pakistan.

The ability of what is known as the Quetta Shura leadership had been "hugely reduced" and its influence "increasingly marginalised", the brigadier said. Michael Ryder, the senior Foreign Office official in Helmand, agreed that intelligence assessments suggested that the Taliban had become "fractured and fragmented".

"There's a lot of suspicion from southern Taliban commanders of the agenda of Quetta Shura," he said, with the leaders trying to draw in an estimated £20 million a year from the opium trade.

The number of Afghans involved in the insurgency has also fallen, with increasing numbers of Pakistanis, Chechens, Uzbeks and Arabs found dead on the battlefield.

However, with the shortage of helicopters still a problem, most movement is by road and Brig Carleton-Smith warned that British forces must prepare for an increasingly Iraq-style insurgency as the Taliban modified its tactics from pitched battles to ambushes and roadside bombs.
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AFGHANISTAN: Jalozai camp closed, returnees face difficulties at home
02 Jun 2008 11:11:56 GMT
JALALABAD, 2 June 2008 (IRIN) - The once largest Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Jalozai, has been closed down and most of its residents have returned to Afghanistan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said.

More than 120,000 Afghan refugees have been repatriated from Pakistan, almost half from Jalozai, since March 2008, with UNHCR assistance.

"About 53,000 of all returnees were living in the Jalozai camp," Nadir Farhad, a UNHCR spokesman in Kabul, told IRIN.

Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees have settled in the Jalozai camp since the 1980s when Afghanistan was engulfed in war after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and subsequent fractional fighting among various militia groups in the 1990s.

The camp has been shut according to an agreement reached between the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the UNHCR in 2006; however, implementation has been delayed for humanitarian reasons.

"Refugees have returned voluntarily," Farhad said. "They had the option to either return to Afghanistan or move to other areas inside Pakistan."

"Refugees were given the option to relocate inside Pakistan or repatriate. The majority of them chose to repatriate because they either found relocation unattractive or they didn't have the means to sustain themselves outside the camp," he added.

In March 2008, UNHCR had estimated the number of refugees living in Jalozai at between 80,000 and 100,000 individuals. With about 54,000 now registered as returnees, the remaining thousands apparently have moved to other locations inside the host country, UNHCR said.

Returnees become IDPs

The majority of the repatriated families from Pakistan have moved to eastern Afghanistan - particularly to Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar provinces, according to UNHCR.

While most returnees have moved to their places of origin across the country, 2,650 families – about 14,000 individuals – have set up temporary settlements in five locations in Nangarhar and one in Laghman provinces.

"Some families have not been able to return to their places of origin because of tribal conflicts, landlessness, or insecurity," UNHCR said in a statement on 2 June. The repatriated refugees who have become internal displaced persons (IDPs) in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces have been suffering various difficulties, UNHCR and government officials conceded.

"Almost all of them suffer lack of access to basic needs such as food, water, healthcare and shelter," Abdul Qader Zazai, adviser to the Ministry of Refugee and Returnee Affairs (MRRA), told IRIN in Kabul.

Backed by UNHCR, the provincial department of rural rehabilitation and development has facilitated water delivery by tankers and has also started projects to dig wells where possible, a local official said.

Mobile health clinics have also been facilitated but only for some returnees/IDPs, Zazai said.

Although water delivery and mobile health services have only temporarily met the most immediate needs of IDPs, there are growing needs for long-term and sustainable solutions to effectively reintegrate returning families who either do not have land and/or cannot go to their original areas for various reasons.

Land allocation and distribution is one solution the MRRA has adopted in several cases to tackle the crisis of landless returnees in the country. However, the process has largely been disorganised, highly bureaucratised and lacks transparency and has failed to effectively address mounting challenges, critics say.
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More than 120,000 Afghan refugees home this year: UN
KABUL, June 1, 2008 (AFP) - More than 120,000 refugees have returned to Afghanistan this year with UN help, the world body's refugee agency said Sunday, warning the country had limited capacity to take people back.

Ninety-nine percent of the 123,244 returnees had arrived from Pakistan and most of the remainder from Iran, UNHCR public information officer Mohammad Nadir Farhad said in a statement.

Most of the returning families had gone back to where they had originally come from, he said.

But several temporary settlements had sprung up as 'some families have not been able to return to their place of origin because of tribal conflicts, landlessness or insecurity.'

Strife-torn Afghanistan has one of the biggest refugee populations in the world.

People began to flee in the 1970s and eight million were outside their country by the 1990s.

Since 2002, the year after the fall of the Taliban government, the UNHCR has helped more than four million Afghans return home but there are still about two million in Pakistan and one million in Iran.

Afghanistan is battling to defeat a growing Taliban-led insurgency that is hampering development. Its weak economy and unemployment rate of about 40 percent has led many men to cross into Iran illegally to work.

'Afghanistan's capacity to absorb additional returns sustainably and avoid placing additional pressures on existing patterns of out-migration is limited,' Farhad said.

'This is one of the key factors behind UNHCR's position that repatriation must remain voluntary and gradual in order to ensure that it is a durable and not temporary solution.'
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Afghan at Gitmo seeks dismissal of charges
Wed, May. 28, 2008 By DAVID McFADDEN Associated Press
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An Afghan detainee at Guantánamo Bay was the alleged victim of an abusive tactic meant to decrease his resistance to interrogation, a Pentagon-appointed defense attorney said Wednesday in a motion to dismiss charges.

Air Force Maj. David Frakt filed the motion to dismiss war-crime charges against Mohammed Jawad because he was allegedly subjected to a sleep-disruption technique that involved round-the-clock cell transfers at the isolated U.S. detention center in Cuba.

Frakt alleged that Jawad underwent the so-called "frequent-flyer program" at the U.S. base a total of 112 times during a two-week period in May 2004. Jawad, a 23-year-old accused of a grenade attack that wounded two U.S. soldiers, was about 19 at the time.

He claims Jawad, who he said tried to commit suicide on Christmas Day in 2003, was "tortured" because a U.S. military investigation report said the practice had allegedly been banned by the base commander earlier in 2004.

"It is inconceivable to me that my client, a suicidal teenager with no ties to al-Qaeda, who had already been incarcerated for over 16 months and interrogated over 20 times, would be a candidate for any sleep deprivation interrogation program," Frakt said.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, declined to discuss Jawad's case since it is currently before a military judge, but he reiterated the Defense Department's policy of humane treatment of detainees.

Frakt alleged that prison records provided by the government in discovery chronicled the sleep-disruption practices to "soften" his client for interrogation sessions.

Under the Military Commissions Act, which governs America's first war-crimes trials since the World War II era, statements obtained through torture are not admissible. But some statements obtained through "coercion" may be admitted at the discretion of a military judge.

At his arraignment in March, Jawad, who was forcibly carried out of his cell after refusing to attend the court hearing, said he had been mistreated at Guantánamo Bay and denounced the tribunal system as unjust. He did not enter a plea to charges of attempted murder and intentionally causing serious bodily injury, which carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The U.S. military says it plans to prosecute roughly 80 of the 270 men now held as enemy combatants at Guantánamo on suspicion of links to terrorism, the Taliban or al Qaeda.
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Outgoing ISAF commander urges neighbors of Afghanistan to support peace
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-02 21:00:47
KABUL, June 2 (Xinhua) -- The outgoing commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan General Dan McNeill on Monday urged Afghan neighboring states to support peace in the war-torn nation.

"We would hope that all of those neighbors of Afghanistan would want good security and stability within Afghanistan and we hope there are action and would support that concept," the General told newsmen at his last press conference as NATO's commander in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan has six neighbors," he said, adding "security and stability in Afghanistan would affect the entire region and not only Afghanistan."

The 62-year old U.S. general made this comment after 16 months of mission as commander of the multinational force amid reported peace deal between Afghanistan's immediate neighbor Pakistan and pro-Taliban militants in the semi-autonomous tribal areas alongside Afghan borders.

Meanwhile, the outgoing commander of the 47,000-strong ISAF troops stressed that the military alliance is here to help Afghans to stand on their feet.

"I believe that what NATO says here to do is to help the Afghan people get back on their feet," McNeill said, adding "they are mostly to help in the mode to achieve long-term security and stability in Afghanistan." 
Editor: An Lu 
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Taliban Leader Flaunts Power Inside Pakistan
New York Times, United States By JANE PERLEZ  June 2, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan -With great fanfare, the Pakistani Army flew journalists to a rugged corner of the nation’s lawless tribal areas in May to show how decisively it had destroyed the lairs of the Taliban, including a school for suicide bombers, in fighting early this year.

Then, just days later, the usually reclusive leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, held a news conference of his own, in the same region, to show just who was in charge.

He rolled up in an expensive-looking Toyota pickup packed with heavily armed Taliban fighters, according to the Pakistani journalists invited to attend. Squatting on the floor of a government school, Mr. Mehsud, clasping a new Kalashnikov, announced he would press his fight against the American military across the border in Afghanistan.

“Islam does not recognize boundaries,” he told the journalists, in accounts published in Pakistani newspapers and reported by the BBC. “There can be no deal with the United States."

Mr. Mehsud’s jaunty appearance in his home base, South Waziristan, a particularly unruly region of Pakistan’s tribal areas, underscored the wide latitude Pakistan’s government has granted the militants under a new series of peace deals, and its impact in Afghanistan, where NATO and American commanders say cross-border attacks have surged since talks for those peace deals began in March.

The impunity of Mr. Mehsud’s behavior has outraged the Bush administration, which is pressing the Pakistani government to arrest and prosecute him.

“Bringing Baitullah Mehsud, the head of this extremist group in South Waziristan — capturing him and bringing him to justice, which is what should happen to him,” is what the United States wants from Pakistan, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte said last month in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But the Pakistani government, which at times has considered Mr. Mehsud an ally and is now fearful of his power, appears reluctant to hunt him down. Days before his news conference, Pakistani forces pulled back from his realm in South Waziristan as part of the peace deals.

American and Pakistani officials accuse Mr. Mehsud of masterminding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, in December and sending scores of suicide bombers here and in Afghanistan, while forging a symbiotic relationship with Al Qaeda on Pakistan’s frontier.

Interviews with former military officials and government officials, local residents and a former Taliban member who worked in proximity to Mr. Mehsud’s inner circle portrayed him as a militant leader who is barely educated, attracts more knowledgeable people to his side and is ruthless in his goal of an extreme form of Islamic rule.

He and his main ally, Qari Hussain, whom officials and associates have described as a highly trained and vicious militant, have methodically built up strongholds in North and South Waziristan — killing uncooperative tribal leaders, recruiting unemployed young men to their jihad and filling the vacuum left by a lack of government services. Now, they also have lieutenants and allies across the tribal region.
In South Waziristan, they run training camps for suicide bombers, some of them children, according to the former Taliban member. Their realm is so secure that in April Mr. Mehsud’s umbrella group, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, held a conference of thousands of fighters that culminated in a public execution, according to a local resident.

Local Pakistani authorities say they are helpless to deal with Mr. Mehsud’s group. In a measure of their despair, on Wednesday the authorities in the Mohmand district, where the conference and public execution were held, announced a truce with the Taliban.

Mr. Mehsud was once a minor figure in the small Shabikhel branch of the fierce Mehsud tribe that lives in South Waziristan, whose inhospitable territory remained a sliver of imperial India left unconquered by the British.

But he managed to enhance his stature through the ambivalence — or protection, according to some officials — of the Pakistani authorities, say former Pakistani military officials and tribal leaders. His strength grew quickly after February 2005, when the military, then under the control of President Pervez Musharraf, signed a peace deal with him.

“That was when I knew the army was not serious,” said a tribal leader who has dealt with Mr. Mehsud and would not be named for safety reasons. “If the army took firm action they could crush him in two months.”

Instead, the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence, the overarching Pakistani intelligence agency, wanted to keep Mr. Mehsud “in reserve,” said the tribal leader, who is also a former military officer.

In essence, the Pakistani authorities stuck to a long-standing policy of “strategic depth” in Afghanistan as a bulwark against its enemy India, and Mr. Mehsud was a tool in that game, he said.

A retired brigadier, Mehmood Shah, said the 2005 peace deal amounted to a total “surrender” to Mr. Mehsud, from which he had advanced virtually unhindered. Against his advice, Mr. Shah said, army checkpoints in key areas of Mehsud territory — in particular, the Makin bazaar, a favored Taliban hangout, and the strategic Karama mountain range — were abandoned after the 2005 agreement.

During the January offensive against Mr. Mehsud, he hid among the civilians around the Makin bazaar, using them as shields and making it tricky to capture him, said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the spokesman for the Pakistani Army.

Much of Mr. Mehsud’s strength lies in his alliance with Mr. Hussain, a militant groomed in the anti-Shiite group Laskar Jhangvi. Mr. Hussain, who turned up to greet the journalists, is younger than Mr. Mehsud and more confident. He belongs to the more prominent Behlolzi clan of the Mehsud tribe, Mr. Shah said.

Mr. Hussain organized the training schools for suicide bombers and a production site for making violent propaganda DVDs designed to encourage young men to join the cause of jihad, the former Taliban member said in an interview.

Introduced to The New York Times by an intermediary who vouched for his credibility, the former Taliban member, in his early 20s, could not be named for fear of retaliation.

Not all of what the former Taliban member said could be independently corroborated. Major points of his account conformed with public events and with details provided, separately, by former military and civilian officials.

He said he had worked in the propaganda wing of Mr. Mehsud’s cohort from May 2006 to May 2007, and left after Mr. Hussain ordered the killing of eight of his relatives in a dispute. But he remained on friendly terms. “Baitullah Mehsud is nothing without Qari Hussain,” he said.

He described Mr. Hussain as a kind of enforcer, a deputy to Mr. Mehsud who would order killings of tribesmen and often personally slit a person’s throat. Fighters traveling to or from Afghanistan usually consulted with Mr. Hussain first, he added.

Mr. Hussain ran the school for suicide bombers where he would indoctrinate boys as young as 10, the former Taliban member said. “He called every child by his name, and talked to him about life in the next world,” he said.

By the time the army began its assault on the Mehsud forces in South Waziristan in January, the results of which it showed off to journalists on the tour in May, Mr. Hussain was one step ahead of them, the former Taliban member said. Mr. Hussain had already moved the suicide bombing school to North Waziristan, he said. There, he said, Mr. Mehsud and Mr. Hussain enjoyed the protection of Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan who has ties to Al Qaeda, according to American intelligence officials.

The relationship between Mr. Mehsud and Al Qaeda was secretive, with Al Qaeda the dominant partner that treated the Taliban as supplicants, the former Taliban member said.

He described Al Qaeda as “the Arabs” who would help the Taliban in South Waziristan with military training. Taliban who wanted the training would be blindfolded so they would not know where they were going, he said.

In recent months, Mr. Mehsud’s deputies have become entrenched in the tribal areas far from South Waziristan. Another deputy of Mr. Mehsud’s, Fakir Mohammed, is in control of much of Bajaur Agency, the northern-most point of the tribal region, according to officials in Peshawar.

In the Khyber region, a transit route for NATO fuel convoys bound for Afghanistan from Karachi, Mr. Mehsud’s allies have organized tribal killings.

The spread of the Pakistani Taliban threatens even Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province bordering the tribal areas, the inspector general of police, Malik Naveed Khan, warned.

“They are now on the periphery,” Mr. Khan said in an interview. If nothing is done, it could be “a matter of months” before Peshawar falls, he said.

To woo young men away from the Taliban, he wants to create a broad “conservation corps” to employ 300,000 men — approximately one from every family — to build roads and bridges in the impoverished tribal region. The men would get a stipend to counter the generous 13,000 rupees (about $200) the Taliban pay some members each month.

“The economic effect will be immediate,” said Mr. Khan, who says he is impatient with a slow-moving $750 million five-year American aid program that began a few months ago. He recites his ideas to the many American development experts who come through his door offering to help.

The Americans all say about his employment plan, modeled after President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s: “ ‘We are thinking about it,’ ” he said. “I say: ‘Don’t think about it, do it.’ ”
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Ahmed Rashid's 'Descent into Chaos': terrifying
The 'Taliban' author's latest book details the betrayals and confusions fuleing the endless war in Afghanistan
statesman.com By Roger Gathman SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN Sunday, June 01, 2008
In 2000, when Ahmed Rashid published "Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia," few Americans gave Afghanistan much thought. Though Bill Clinton had launched cruise missiles at Osama bin Laden's Afghanistan headquarters in 1998, by 2000 the issue had been so forgotten that in the foreign policy debate between Al Gore and George Bush, neither the Taliban nor al Qaeda were mentioned by the questioners or the candidates.

Rashid's ominous book fell on deaf ears. Americans weren't much interested in Afghanistan's toxic mixture of Pakistani foreign politics (Pakistan's secret police more or less created the Taliban) and Islamicist extremism. Even al Qaeda's October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole did little to disturb Americans, much less the presidential election that took place three weeks later.

Then came 9/11 and, supposedly, everything was going to be different. ("Taliban," for instance, became a best-seller more than a year after its publication.) In the aftermath of the attack, Afghanistan was invaded by the U.S. and the Taliban was thrown out. The American press celebrated this as a triumph, and compared it gleefully to the Soviet Union's record in Afghanistan. After all, the Soviets spent a decade failing to impose their will on that country. Surely the U.S. had found the magical formula — advanced military technology and good intentions — to win all wars cheaply and quickly.

The triumphal certainties of that moment have warped into the amorphous uncertainties of today, symbolized by the Schrödinger's Cat status of Osama bin Laden. Is he in Afghanistan? Is he dead? Is that him in this or that video? Both the American and Pakistan governments have seemed content to let him exist more as a useful bogeyman of the past than as a living, breathing and plotting man of the present.
Meanwhile, the war in Afghanistan continues. In the past two years, 12,000 people have died in it, as a resurgent Taliban sorties out from its bases in Pakistan to take on Hamid Karzai's government in Afghanistan. Many of the casualties are the results of American aircraft strikes. There were 2,100 air strikes in the last six months of 2006, for example.

How did we get here?

'Chaos' theory
In his new book, "Descent Into Chaos," Rashid, who seems to know everybody of note in Afghanistan and Pakistan and has upper tier sources in D.C. as well, has assembled that story in Rashomon-like fashion, traveling from one national viewpoint to another. The strong narrative theme is that the United States, Pakistan and Afghanistan — each led by a stubborn man trapped in his own bubble — have strategized with little regard for each other in pursuit of incongruous goals. The Bush administration, after December 2001, wanted nothing more than to put Afghanistan on the back burner as it ramped up to invade Iraq. The people of Afghanistan, after suffering under the Taliban for years, wanted freedom, but they also wanted to make a living — and the only Afghani export product that has a real international demand is heroin. Pakistan, under General Pervez Musharraf, was playing the deepest game; its real concern is always to stymie its perceived rival, India.

And so, for seven years, these nations, ostensibly friendly, have double-crossed each other and sent conflicting messages. Meanwhile, the Taliban, which regrouped in Pakistan just over the border from Afghanistan, has regained power as the U.S. loses interest.

The trouble began in the early phase of the war the press celebrated, back in 2001. Osama bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora has been well documented; Rachid notes that "Pakistani officers ... were amazed that Rumsfeld would not even put 1,000 U.S. soldiers into battle," and concluded that America was not serious about the war. This reaffirmed Musharraf's belief that the Americans would grow tired of Afghanistan and allow it once again to fall to forces more pliable to Pakistani ministration, namely, the Taliban.

Less noted was another great escape. In Kunduz, in the northeastern part of Afghanistan, the U.S. surrounded 8,000 Taliban, Arab and Pakistani forces in November 2001. The Pakistanis were ISI, Pakistan's secret service, who were fighting with their Taliban allies against the Americans. At Musharraf's request, the Americans allowed Pakistan to send in tow planes and airlift its people out. It's unclear who, precisely, was evacuated, but according to Rashid's sources, "Hundreds of ISI officers, Taliban commanders and foot soldiers belonging to the IMU (an Uzbekistan guerilla group) and al-Qaeda personnel boarded the planes."

The Pakistan factor
In short, the American victory in 2001 was not a final triumph, but a station in a war that has proceeded briskly ever since. It is a most curious affair. The U.S. has proclaimed, over and over again, that our great ally in the war is Pakistan. And we have poured a lot of money into Pakistan — $10 billion in overt aid, and an equal amount, Rashid estimates, in secret aid.

In return, Pakistan allowed the U.S. to use its ports to disembark military goods, a vital logistics advantage in 2001. And, when really pushed, Musharraf has used his military against the Islamicist guerrillas operating within Pakistan. This has always led to disaster. Time after time, the military has been either defeated or stymied by the guerrillas. The reason, Rashid suggests, is rooted in the secret part of Musharraf's strategy: Far from cutting links with the Taliban and al Qaeda's guerilla allies, the ISI has supplied them with intelligence and money.

Why didn't this cause an uproar in D.C.? There are two important reasons. First, Musharraf carefully cultivated Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who believed that the general was standing between order and chaos in nuclear-powered Pakistan. Second, Rumsfeld, who took responsibility for Afghanistan away from the State Department, was averse to nation building. For him, it was better to say the war was over than that it had barely begun.

Furthermore, focusing on Afghanistan would divert resources from Iraq. Thus, Musharraf's maneuvers were allowed by a White House more fearful of paying attention to Afghanistan than of things going wrong in Afghanistan. Even as the Taliban was mounting its largest campaign in 2006, Rumsfeld was removing American troops from the country.

Finally, Rashid gives us an account of the Afghanistan government that mirrors his disappointment with his friend, Hamid Karzai. Karzai, who was elected with such hopes, has turned out to be a feckless leader, unable to outmaneuver Pakistan and doubly unable to understand democracy. Karzai associates political parties with the Communist Party in Afghanistan of the '80s, and would prefer that Afghanistan not have any. A democracy without parties is either a dictatorship or an oligarchy. Afghanistan tends towards the latter. Karzai relies on tribal leaders and, increasingly, warlords.

Back to the back burner
Rashid's narrative isn't always easy to follow. "Descent into Chaos" — the title is, perhaps, unintentionally apt — is packed with the names of obscure Afghanistan valleys and warlords, with a shifting caravanserai of paramilitary organizations and cadres of advisers from Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and NATO. Sometimes this has a distinctly dulling effect.

But the outlines of the story are important. What Rashid has described is a stalemate that could go on for decades, unless the U.S. rethinks certain basic premises.

In his 2004 book, "A Treatise on Efficacy: Between Western and Chinese Thinking," the China scholar Francois Jullien contrasted the military strategies of the famed thinkers Sun Tzu and Carl von Clausewitz. Jullien noted that Sun Tzu believed in transforming the enemy force — bringing them over to one's side, destroying their belief in themselves — whereas Clausewitz insisted on annihilating the enemy. The American military's reliance on technological superiority is a direct product of the Clausewitzian worldview. But as Rashid shows, it is the wrong strategy to pursue in Afghanistan, especially as the U.S. has signaled weakness at every turn by depending on a treacherous ally — Pakistan — to effect the destruction of al Qaeda.

The last time the U.S. engaged in a two-front war was in 1941 — and that lasted only four years. Seven years after the commencement of the war in Afghanistan, we seem no closer to capturing Osama bin Laden or defeating the Taliban. It might be time to concentrate on finding mediators (for instance, the Saudis) rather than saber rattling and investing in Afghanistan's infrastructure rather than airstrikes and endless patrols. In other words, it might be time to trade in Clausewitz for Sun Tzu.

But there seems little chance of that happening any time soon. As "Descent into Chaos"arrives in bookstores, we are in the midst of another election season and, again, little attention is being paid to Afghanistan.
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Pahstany Bank reclaims $5.9m from French bank
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 01 June 2008 
Afghan bank finally claims back its cash after 22 years - with interest
PASHTANY Bank has finally reclaimed the seven million French francs that a bank in France had blocked for the past 22 years.

The director of the Afghan bank said the money – a total of $1.5 million – had been placed in a French bank two decades ago but that political changes in Afghanistan had caused the bank to lose the receipt for the cash.

Now the bank has found the receipt and claimed back the money with interest, making the total $5.9 million.

The $4.5 million raised gained in interest over the past two decades is the hjighest in the banks 53 year history.

The bank’s director, Hayatullah Diani, said the banks had lost $10 million this year alone because of unpaid debts.

“We have announced through the media that our borrowers must pay their debts, otherwise we will freeze their properties,” Diani said.  
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Program aims to vaccinate a million Afghanistan children
CBC.ca, Canada Sunday, June 1, 2008
The United Nations children's agency and the World Health Organization have begun a three-day campaign to vaccinate more than a million children against polio in southern Afghanistan.

At one of the clinics that opened Sunday, women in burkas brought their children to a small table outside the hospital in downtown Kandahar.

There, the children were instructed to open their mouths to allow a UNICEF worker to drop in pink liquid, one of many doses they'll receive for the vaccine to be effective.

The deputy governor of Kandahar province, Ghulam Jailani, kicked off the three-day vaccination campaign by delivering doses to two children.

Speaking to reporters, he acknowledged there are security problems in southern Afghanistan and said his staff is urging elders to allow health workers into their villages to deliver the vaccine safely.

Dr. Shahwali Popal, a health specialist with UNICEF, said the UN is using what the agency calls access negotiators — people who talk to the mullahs, teachers and local elders — and the strategy to eradicate a viral disease that can cause paralysis and deformities seems to be working.

"Even sometimes the health authorities are receiving calls from the communities asking why the teams are not coming to this location, so it means the involvement of the community is increasing," he told CBC News.

Popal said some areas are still too dangerous to visit, and already this year cases of polio have been reported in the region, but overall the number of children with polio is dropping in Afghanistan.
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AIDS victims on rise in Kunduz
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 01 June 2008 
Deadly disease increases three-fold in six months in northern province
THE NUMBER of patients suffering from AIDS in Kunduz has increased three-fold in the last year, the province’s central hospital has said.

A departmental head at the hospital, Dr Muhammad Nasim Basharat, said the number of AIDS patients have increased from six people in the province to 18 people in the space of six months.

Basharat said some of his AIDS patients are women.

He called for the government to release more information about AIDS because patients often fail to get treatment when they are infected with the disease.

A recent study found that there was an alarming lack of AIDS awareness in Afghanistan, with a large segment of people polled by the Afghan Red Crescent Society saying AIDS sufferers should be banned form work and school.

AIDS is a viral disease which destroys the body’s immune system and finally kills its victim.

The virus can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, using infected syringes and during unclean medical operations.

AIDS can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her child.

Dr Basharat said: “Most of the AIDS patients have returned form Iran and Tajikistan, and they have been infected by the HIV virus in those countries.”

He said there may even be more AIDS sufferers in Kunduz because many have failed to get their blood tested.

The ministry of health says there are about 400 registered AIDS sufferers in the country.

The spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Dr Abdullah Fahim, said in a conference held on international AIDS day on May 9 that there are an estimated 3,000 people infected with AIDS in the country.

Data on AIDS in Afghanistan is sparse, but the World Bank says about 245 cases of HIV have been reported to date and that what it calls Afghanistan’s “emerging epidemic” is triggered by injecting drugs and unsafe paid sex.

A 2006 study found three per cent of Kabul addicts who injected drugs were HIV positive.

The World Bank says about 32% of these addicts have gay sex with men and boys, with 69% paying for sex.

The World Health Organisation and UNAIDS estimate that there could be between 1,000 and 2,000 Afghans living with HIV.

About 33 million people live with AIDS in the world, out of which 15.4 million are women and 2.5 million are children under 15-years of age.
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Afghanistan: IDPs in Helmand need urgent aid
LASHKARGAH, 1 June 2008 (IRIN) - Thousands of Afghans who fled their homes in the Garmser district of southern Helmand province in late April because of fighting between the US military and Taliban insurgents have yet to receive any form of aid, provincial officials said.

Ahmad Shah, 43, a displaced person (IDP) from Garmser, standing under the scorching sun with others outside the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) office in Lashkargah, said: "Now my family and I live almost 10km from Lashkargah city. I have made a shelter from blanket pieces to live under in an open area."

Shah said that over the week he could provide just one meal of potatoes and flat bread for his family. "I left my home with four children and my wife three weeks ago because of fighting. Now I need a tent, I need food, my children may die under the hot burning sun of Lashkargah," he shouted.

Helmand is widely described as a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency that the Afghan government is trying to root out. International rights watchdogs, including Human Rights Watch (HRW), have accused the Taliban, of not protecting and deliberately targeting civilians [http://hrw.org/englishwr2k8/docs/2008/01/31/afghan17600.htm].

Capt Kelly Frushour, a US military spokeswoman in Kabul, told IRIN in early May about 2,400 US marines had been sent to the volatile province- to defeat the insurgents and improve security in the area [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=78005].

Gulab Mangal, governor of Helmand province, told IRIN that more than 4,000 families had been displaced over the past month and needed assistance in different districts of Helmand, including the capital Lashkargah. "But so far these families haven't got any food or non-food assistance," Mangal said.

Emergency help

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), almost 180 tonnes of food, including wheat, pulses, oil and iodised salt, have been sent to Lashkargah in anticipation of IDPs affected by natural disasters, or displaced due to fighting in the area.

"Provincial government officials have submitted requests to the UN with a list of 1,500 battle-affected IDP families [about 9,000 people in Laskhargah city] in need of immediate emergency food and non-food items," Rick Corsino, WFP representative in Kabul, told IRIN.

But the ARCS expressed concern that the food distribution had not started yet while the affected people were in dire need of assistance.

"I met families in the outskirts of Lashkargah city, who had not had food in days, lying under the trees and in the sun in that hot weather in Helmand," Asadullah Mayar, head of ARCS in Helmand, told IRIN.

WFP in Kabul said the reason for the delay was to identify the really needy people. "Our partner NGOs are working right now in Lashkargah and surrounding areas to identify the affected people so that we don't give the assistance to those who don't need it," said Corsino.

Corsino added that as soon as they heard from the assessment team, they would ask their partners to start distribution.

However, governor Mangal emphasised that more aid was needed as the number of displaced families needing food and shelter was higher than 1,500.

Thousands of people have reportedly died and tens of thousands been forced out of their homes due to the fighting in Helmand province over the past few years. The conflict has also impeded humanitarian and development activities, which has exacerbated poverty there, said aid agencies.
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Prison ships, torture claims, and missing detainees
America may have held terror suspects in British territory, despite UK denials
guardian.co.uk, UK Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor Monday June 2 2008
The controversy over prison ships was first highlighted in June 2005 when the UN's special rapporteur on terrorism spoke of "very, very serious" allegations that the US was secretly detaining terrorism suspects in various locations around the world, notably on vessels in the Indian Ocean.

The US authorities have not denied that ships have been used to incarcerate detainees. Questioned four years earlier about the purpose of holding prisoners on ships, specifically the USS Peleliu, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, spokesman for the US joint chiefs of staff, replied: "I don't know the specifics. Central command determines for either medical considerations, for the protection of those individuals, for the isolation in the sense of not having forces that would try to come get somebody out of a detention centre, for a security aspect, and obviously an interest to continue interrogation."

The US has admitted that the Bataan and Peleliu were used as prison ships between December 2001 and January 2002. After the post-September 11 bombing of Afghanistan, General Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces, referring to the "American Taliban", John Walker Lindh, said: "We will continue to control him on the Peleliu until the determination is made regarding whether we handle him within the military or whether he is handled on the civilian side."

Lindh is now serving a 20-year sentence in jail in California.

President George Bush admitted in September 2006 that the CIA operated a secret network of "black sites" in which terrorist suspects were held and subjected to what he called "enhanced interrogation techniques", a term described by the Council of Europe as "essentially a euphemism for some kind of torture".

The CIA is also believed to have run prisons in countries in almost every continent, including Thailand, Afghanistan (at Bagram, near the military airport, north of Kabul), Poland, Romania, and Djibouti, the former French colony at the southern end of the Red Sea, as well as at Guantánamo Bay.

It may also have secretly imprisoned suspects in the British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia, despite UK government denials. In addition, prisoners have been subjected to "extraordinary rendition" - secretly transported to destinations where they risked being tortured. There is evidence a number were tortured.

Prisoners seized by the US in the west as well as Afghanistan and elsewhere have been flown to prisons in Syria, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt.

According to a US Congress report, up to 14,000 people may have been victims of rendition and secret detention since 2001. Some reports estimate there have been twice as many. The US admits to have captured more than 80,000 prisoners in its "war on terror".

The human rights group, Reprieve, points to a statement by Bush on September 6 2006 that "the secret prisons are now empty". Reprieve says this is not the case.
Over the past six months alone, Reprieve and other human rights groups have uncovered over 200 new cases of rendition and secret detention. Many prisoners remain unaccounted for, held without any legal protection.

Years of questioning by MPs and by the media, including the Guardian, met with repeated and categorical denials from ministers that Britain had colluded in America's rendition programme in any way since 2001.

The Guardian reported that the CIA had flown aircraft used for rendering prisoners in and out of UK civilian and military airports hundreds of times. Ministers said no prisoner had been on board any of them. Specific allegations about the use of Diego Garcia were similarly dismissed.

Then last year, parliament's intelligence and security committee (ISC) suggested that Britain had protested about US policy. "Although the US may take note of UK protests and concerns, this does not appear materially to affect its strategy on rendition," the committee reported.

It added that both MI6 and MI5 "were slow to appreciate [the] change in US rendition policy", specifically over the case of Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, British residents seized by the CIA in the Gambia and sent to Guantánamo Bay.

Paul Murphy, then chairman of the ISC, and now the Welsh secretary, said : "Our inquiry has not been helped by the fact that government departments have had such difficulty in establishing the facts from their own records in relation to requests to conduct renditions through UK airspace".

In February, the foreign secretary, David Miliband , in a humiliating episode, admitted to MPs that contrary to earlier explicit assurances, two US rendition flights landed at Diego Garcia in 2002. British and US officials refused to give details about the two detainees in question, other than that one was in Guantánamo Bay and the other had been released. Miliband said he had asked his officials to compile a list of all UK-related flights on which rendition had been alleged.

Manfred Novak, the UN's special investigator on torture, has said he has credible evidence from sources he cannot reveal that detainees were held on Deigo Garcia between 2002 and 2003. Nothing more has been heard about the matter.

However, shortly after Miliband's admission, Ben Griffin, a former SAS soldier, said that individuals detained by SAS troops in a joint UK-US special forces taskforce had ended up in interrogation centres in Iraq, including Guantánamo Bay. "These secretive prisons are part of a global network in which individuals face torture and are held indefinitely without charge," he said.

"All of this is in direct contravention of the Geneva conventions, international law and the UN convention against torture." The Ministry of Defence obtained a high court injunction preventing him from making any further allegations.
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Pomegranates and Pakistan: our role in Afghan peace
The Calgary Herald Monday, June 02, 2008
That pomegranates from Afghanistan went on sale in British Columbia supermarkets is hardly an earthshaking event. However, for a country bootstrapping itself back to functionality after almost 30 years of war, even such tokens of normality as exporting a few crates of fruit take on significance. A few years ago, it wouldn't have been conceivable.

It's progress, and Canadians can take some encouragement from it. But as the season for war returns with the Afghan spring and Ottawa prepares to announce how it will implement the recommendations of the Manley report, it's reasonable to ask: is aid to Afghanistan enough? Can one ever achieve stability without doing for the Pashtun on the Pakistan side of the border what the international community is attempting to do on the Afghan side?

It is something the international community must consider. Afghanistan has a long way to go and whether Afghans ever enjoy the ideals of peace, order and good government to which Canadians aspire will depend on whether its border with Pakistan can be secured.

It is a sufficiently challenging task from a physical perspective: established crossings are chaotic and the mountainous terrain is criss-crossed with unmade tracks over which flows a destabilizing stream of weapons and terrorists in and out of Afghanistan. However, if unequal conditions on either side of the border become an economic incentive for Pashtun farm boys to sign up with the Taliban, it makes the job much more difficult.

The recent debate over the future of Canada's military involvement suggests while the troop commitment is stable, Ottawa hopes to increasingly turn over operations to the Afghan National Army. If it now follows Manley's suggestions, one may expect it to emphasize a more active role in reconstruction and diplomacy.

This is a job Ottawa now finds itself peculiarly well-situated to do. The previous Pakistani government was in no hurry to promote a strong Afghanistan on its northern border and bi-national sensitivities hindered the resolution of even such modest dilemmas as what hours the border offices should keep.

According to Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan, Arif Lalani, who visited Calgary recently, the Canadian army's battlefield performance and this country's self-evident lack of conflicting interests means it is now perceived as an honourable and acceptable mediator between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In such a difficult part of the world, one should become an optimist slowly. Even so, recent events have persuaded the new Pakistani government instability can flow in both directions. That Canadian-brokered talks began on neutral ground in Dubai a few months ago, is a hopeful sign. Parliament watchers expect Ottawa's statement on its Afghan strategy soon.

However Ottawa defines its goals, though, it's worth remembering Afghans want the same thing Canadians want -- to be left alone and have a credible government. With the Taliban losing the military struggle and reduced to attacking Afghan civilians, the last six years have seen astonishing progress towards that goal.

Using development aid seems an obvious next step and deploying it on both sides of the border, a wise one.
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U.S. offensive in Helmand taking pressure off the Canadians in Kandahar
World Murray Brewster THE CANADIAN PRESS Sunday, June 1, 2008 
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -U.S. marines clawed their way south along the Helmand River valley over the weekend in an ongoing push that the commander of the battle-hardened assault force hopes is easing the pressure on the Canadians in neighbouring Kandahar.

The level of fighting "has stayed fairly consistent" since they began arriving in southern Afghanistan earlier this spring, but "the last three days have probably been the most intense as we move further south," said Col. Pete Petronzio, who leads the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

"My marines are doing a great job."

The buoyant tone is also reflected in British ranks where a senior commander declared Sunday that the Taliban were on the run and "licking their wounds" in Helmand province, long a cauldron of militant activity.

Brig.-Gen. Gordon Messenger told the British media that insurgents had been tactically routed and intelligence estimates suggested they were now retrenching in Farah province, on the northwest border of Helmand.

Canadian commanders were also cautiously optimistic with a report Saturday of the death of a mid-level Taliban group commander - Mullah Tohr Agha - in a combined Canadian-Afghan operation in the troublesome Zhari district last week.

Petronzio also cautioned that his 2,200 troops were still very much in the thick of the fight and the area around Gamsir, where marines have been operating, was still being "cleared" of militants, who have engaged U.S. troops in a series of vicious firefights and laced the area with booby traps and roadside bombs.

He dismissed reports from aid agencies that claimed thousands of people had been displaced by the fighting, saying the marines had noticed some families fleeing north after being driven from their homes by insurgents.

The concentration of force in the winding river valley - a major supply and infiltration route from Pakistan - has given the Canadians the freedom to focus on the most volatile Taliban hotbeds in Kandahar, namely the Zhari and Panjwaii districts west of the provincial capital.

It has also eased pressure on the British further up river, where almost 8,000 troops have fought repeated bloody campaigns over two summers to stamp out militants, particularly around the strategically important Kajaki dam, a semi-active hydro-electric facility.

Petronzio described the marine action as "attempting to put a stopper in the bottle as far south as we can."

It is a messy, dangerous job because Garmsir, where the British were under almost constant fire before the marines arrived, is "an incredibly tough place to be."

Although fighting season is still young, the violence in Kandahar province has appeared lighter than previous years.

"I hope that is a direct positive effect" of the marine presence, Petronzio added. "And I hope with time we will see more direct, larger regional effect than just localized ones in Garmsir."

The 47-year-old marine colonel, who served in Iraq and Kosovo, was effusive in his praise for Canadian troops and was eager to dispel the notion that his unit was there to save to the day for NATO.
"I really strongly believe that we didn't come to anyone's rescue," he told Canadian reporters in a wide-ranging and candid interview.

"We're a bunch of guys that came here to do a job. And as professionals in the profession of arms we are no different than the Canadians, than the Brits, than the Dutch. We just came to help."

The Canadians, he said, were the ones doing the rescuing early in April when a marine convoy struck a huge roadside bomb near Forward Operating Base Wilson in the Zhari district.

Two marines 1st Sgt. Luke Mercardante, 35, and Cpl. Kyle Wilks, 24, were killed and two seriously wounded in the April 15 incident, where Canadian troops rushed to provide assistance and care for the casualties - something Canadian commanders have never discussed.

The marine deployment is scheduled to last seven months in total and Petronzio wouldn't speculate on whether it would be extended.

He said their mission is classic counter-insurgency, which he described as clear, hold and build.

But Petronzio conceded the marines are best suited for the two phases.

"We may not be uniquely suited to the build," he said.

"So there will probably have to be someone who does that for a living, you know, to kind'a come in behind us."
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Pakistani Movies Replacing Indian Films in Afghanistan - Paper
RedOrbit, TX Sunday, 1 June 2008
Text of report by private Afghan newspaper Arman-e Melli on 1 June
More and more Pakistani films are being shown in a number of cinemas in the country. These movies have gained popularity in negative ways through their specific dance scenes.

These Pakistani movies are shown at a time when officials, in particular the Information and Culture Ministry officials, have chanted slogan against moral corruption. They have banned the broadcast of a few Indian soap operas by private television channels. This problem has been continuing between the Information and Culture Ministry and Tolo TV.

Experts complain about lack of an active stance against the showing of corrupt Pakistani movies, which are unfortunately increasing in cinemas and markets in Kabul and other cities. Earlier, these movies were popular in cinemas in Peshawar, Punjab and Sindh. They had their specific viewers. Half-naked posters of movie actresses were displayed at Ferdaws, Shamh and [ellipses as published] cinemas located in the centre of Peshawar to attract attention of passers-by. Though the Pakistani politicians and leaders of the Pakistani Taleban (Baitullah Mehsud and others) have repeatedly seen posters of actresses of their own country, they are thinking about jihad in Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan want extensive fight against corruption regardless of which country it comes from.

Originally published by Arman-e Melli, Kabul, in Dari 1 Jun 08.
Source: BBC Monitoring South Asia
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