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June 22, 2008 

Talk of cross-border action by Afghanistan 'not wise': Rice
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview aired Sunday that threats by Afghanistan to pursue Taliban insurgents across the border into Pakistan were "not wise."

Afghanistan: Legality Of 'Hot Pursuit' Into Pakistan Debated
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 22, 2008
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's threat to send troops after Taliban militants in neighboring Pakistan has kindled debate about cross-border military incursions and international law.

NATO launches artillery twice across Afghan border
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants in Pakistan fired rockets at NATO bases across the border in Afghanistan, killing three children in a village and prompting the alliance to launch a pair of retaliatory artillery strikes, officials said Sunday.

Rockets from Pakistan kill Afghan woman, 3 children
By Elyas Wahdat June 22, 2008
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Rockets fired from Pakistan hit a village in eastern Afghanistan killing a woman and three children, Afghan officials said on Sunday, one of three cross-border attacks around the same time overnight.

6,000 troops urgently needed in Afghanistan: NATO
BERLIN (Reuters) - Up to 6,000 additional troops are urgently needed in Afghanistan and a failure to deploy them will only prolong the presence of Western forces in the country, a German NATO general said on Sunday.

Two civilians hurt after troops open fire in Afghanistan
Sun Jun 22, 3:43 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A man and a child were injured Sunday when NATO-led British troops patrolling the volatile southern Afghan city of Kandahar opened fire on a civilian car, witnesses said.

Pakistan troops 'aid Taliban'
The Observer (UK) / June 22, 2008
New classified US documents reveal that mass infiltration of Frontier Corps by Afghan insurgents is helping latest offensive

Canada to help rebuild Kandahar prison after breakout
Sun Jun 22, 2:27 AM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada will help rebuild a prison in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar following a mass jailbreak at the site by Taliban militants, the foreign ministry said.

Manley warns NATO could fail in Afghanistan
CTV.ca News Staff Sun. Jun. 22 2008 1:34 PM ET
Former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley said Sunday that unless NATO makes a more "serious" troop commitment in Afghanistan, its mission in the war-torn country could fail.

Warlord: My encounter with Taliban mastermind
Backed by the CIA, he fought the Soviets then was sidelined. Now he's back, wreaking havoc among British forces. Raymond Whitaker on meeting Jalaluddin Haqqani
The Independent (UK) / Sunday, 22 June 2008
In a month when Britain has lost nine soldiers in Afghanistan, including the first woman, and hundreds of Taliban fighters were freed by a daring bomb attack on Kandahar's main jail, the British public is only just becoming aware of the malevolent

AFGHANISTAN: Landmines impede civilians' return to volatile Arghandab
KANDAHAR, 22 June 2008 (IRIN) - Dozens of landmines have been discovered in Arghandab District, in the southern province of Kandahar, where fierce fighting between Taliban insurgents and the Afghan army backed by international

Afghan army launches anti-Taliban operation, 5 wounded, 2 others arrested
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-22 19:47:57
KABUL, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Army (ANA) in efforts to further stabilize security in Afghanistan's east central Ghanzi province has launched anti-Taliban operation, a press release of defense ministry issued here Sunday said.

Khuda Bakhesh, Afghanistan: “We are hungry because of floods and drought”
Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) June 22, 2008
Khuda Bakhesh says his family eats only once a day, sometimes only bread and water

These wars are about oil, not democracy
By ERIC MARGOLIS COMMENTARY Edmonton Sun (Canada) / June 22, 2008
PARIS -- The ugly truth behind the Iraq and Afghanistan wars finally has emerged.
Four major western oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Total are about to sign U.S.-brokered no-bid contracts to begin exploiting Iraq's oil fields. Saddam Hussein had kicked these firms out three decades ago when he nationalized Iraq's

Taliban jail break wrong-footed Afghan army
By Jonathon Burch Reuters - Saturday, June 21 06:09 pm
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan security forces knew Taliban militants were planning an offensive near the southern city of Kandahar last week but were distracted by a mass prison break, a senior army officer said on Saturday.

Afghanistan: our allies must fight
22/06/2008 Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and General Sir Mike Jackson, until recently Chief of the General Staff, both writing in today's Sunday Telegraph, pose the same question: what are we doing in Afghanistan?

When the smoke cleared in the Arghandab valley
What began with the Taliban's brazen attack on Sarpoza prison ends in their rout and a grisly scene of death
GRAEME SMITH June 21, 2008 The Globe and Mail
MANARA, AFGHANISTAN -- A stench of death wafted up from piles of bodies, festering in the summer heat of the Arghandab valley. Afghan soldiers held cloths over their faces, pointed to a charred blast site nearby, and described the corpses

Stop killing the Taliban – they offer the best hope of beating Al-Qaeda
The Sunday Times (UK) Simon Jenkins June 22, 2008
The British expedition to Afghanistan is on the brink of something worse than defeat: a long, low-intensity war from which no government will dare to extricate itself. With the death toll mounting, battle is reportedly joined with the Taliban

Afghanistan's deadly double whammy
The Age, Australia Tom Hyland June 22, 2008
WHAM. It's an unfortunately violent acronym, given that it covers the softer side of what Australian troops are doing in southern Afghanistan.

Afghan traders urged to work for improving Pak-Afghan’s ties: Bilour
Associated Press of  Pakistan
PESHAWAR June 22 (APP): NWFP Senior Minister and parliamentary leader of ANP Bashir Ahmad Bilour here Sunday urged the Afghan traders to play their effective role for improving ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan and offered

Alan Watkins: Why not have a by-election on Afghanistan?
Mr Davis has made a stand on the 42-day detention limit. A war we are fighting at the behest of the United States is just as important
Independent, UK Sunday, 22 June 2008
Truly, our system of government is a wonderful thing. The ratification of a treaty can go through virtually on the nod, as it did in the House of Lords last week over the Treaty of Lisbon. Another topic which was hotly debated in the Commons

The obstacles facing Nato in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By Nick Meo 22/06/2008
These are the main problems Nato is confronted with in war-torn Afghanistan:
Afghanistan is now almost the world's sole producer of illicit opium, and most of it comes from Helmand. On British streets, that means cheap heroin. In southern Afghanistan, it means warlords with bloated opium profits, a spiralling addiction

Afghan roads kill or wound five people a day
www.quqnoos.com Written by Pajhwok Saturday, 21 June 2008
About 430 people killed or wounded in last three months, traffic head says
TRAFFIC accidents killed or wounded about five people every day in Afghanistan in the last three months – most of them drug addicts –, according to the country’s traffic chief.

Tactics in Afghanistan: right or wrong?
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom 21/06/2008
There are many views on the roles coalition forces are being asked to play in Afghanistan. We hear from those inside the war-torn country as well as from concerned outside observers

Police round-up 200 young truants
www.quqnoos.com Written by Shakeela Ibrimkhil Saturday, 21 June 2008
Parents complain children hang out in snooker halls instead of school
POLICE in Kabul have rounded up and arrested 200 young people for anti-social behaviour and truancy.

Ghor joins opium-free club - police
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 21 June 2008
Drug eradicated from western province after police destroy poppy crop
THE PROVINCE of Ghor has joined Afghanistan’s group of opium-free regions, according to the province’s police chief.

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Talk of cross-border action by Afghanistan 'not wise': Rice
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an interview aired Sunday that threats by Afghanistan to pursue Taliban insurgents across the border into Pakistan were "not wise."

Rice instead called for cooperation between the two nations after Afghan President Hamid Karzai had angered Pakistan when he threatened cross-border action as a right of "self-defense" against Taliban forces.

"I think it's probably not wise to talk about Afghan cross-border operations," Rice said in the interview with CNN.

"I think it's better that Pakistan and Afghanistan cooperate on their respective sides of the border," she said.

"There are Taliban operating in Afghanistan who have to be defeated. And there are Taliban who are operating in Pakistan, and they have to be defeated, too.

"But I think it's probably better that the respective governments deal with their own problems."

Karzai sent relations between the two allies in the US-led "war on terror" plummeting to a new low a week ago when he said that his war-torn country would be justified in striking Taliban rebels based on Pakistani soil.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi condemned Karzai's "irresponsible, threatening" comments and said Pakistan would "defend its territorial sovereignty."

The volatile situation on the porous 1,500-mile (2,500-kilometer) border was highlighted last week when Pakistan accused "cowardly" US-led coalition forces of killing 11 Pakistani soldiers in an airstrike.
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Afghanistan: Legality Of 'Hot Pursuit' Into Pakistan Debated
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty June 22, 2008
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's threat to send troops after Taliban militants in neighboring Pakistan has kindled debate about cross-border military incursions and international law.

Experts argue there are two claims under international law that might justify an operation inside Pakistan by the Afghan National Army. One is a country's "right of hot pursuit." Another justification is a country's right to self-defense.

Last week, Karzai insisted that his country has the right to chase Taliban fighters who flee into Pakistan's tribal regions after they carry out attacks in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan has the right of self-defense. When [insurgents] cross the territory from Pakistan to come and kill Afghans and to kill coalition troops, it exactly gives us the right to go back and do the same," Karzai said.

Karzai said Afghan forces would kill specific Taliban leaders in Pakistan's tribal regions who are accused of planning and organizing cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.

Islamabad has condemned Karzai's remarks as "irresponsible," saying any incursion by Afghan forces would violate Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi described Karzai's threat as "illegal" under international law, saying the only way to combat extremism in the border region is by noninterference in each others' internal affairs.

Kurdish Parallel

In Kabul, political analysts like Rashid Waziri are arguing that Afghanistan does have a legal right to attack and kill militants in the tribal regions if Pakistan fails to stop them.

"We have the right to strike our enemies inside Pakistan or its tribal territories. The Turkish government gave itself the right to bomb and target Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq and to eliminate their bases. So this is an international right. And everybody can benefit from it," Waziri said.

But Jim Denselow, an expert on defense issues at Kings College London, says there is no valid legal comparison between the Afghan-Pakistan crisis and Turkish incursions into northern Iraq.

"The key difference is that Turkey is justifying its actions in northern Iraq along the lines of previous agreements it had with Saddam Hussein's regime. [Those agreements were] in terms of the 'right of hot pursuit' of Kurdish rebels into Iraqi territory -- which, of course, hasn't been sovereign Iraqi territory since 1991 when the no-fly zones were created and the autonomous entity, which is the Kurdish Regional Government, was essentially born," Denselow said.

"So that's a very specific case. A very unique case of a bilateral agreement between two countries, one of which wasn't even totally sovereign. And, of course, [there is] the fact that Turkey is an incredibly strong power vis-a-vis a weakening Iraqi one."

In addition to Turkey, the right to "hot pursuit" has been raised by Colombia to justify air strikes against FARC rebels fleeing into neighboring Ecuador. Israel has used the same argument to justify military incursions into the Gaza Strip. And in 2000, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda approached the International Court of Justice over the issue when the Ugandan Army claimed the right of "hot pursuit" for its forces to go after militants in Congo.

Law Of 'Hot Pursuit'

Nick Grono, the deputy president of operations for the International Crisis Group, agrees that those cases differ from Afghanistan's situation and that the doctrine of "hot pursuit" probably isn't applicable for Afghan incursions into Pakistan.

Grono notes that "hot pursuit" is a concept under international law that originated out of the laws of the sea.

On land, he tells RFE/RL, the right to "hot pursuit" has evolved and been recognized under international law as the chasing of armed aggressors across international borders.

"I don't think this is a case of 'hot pursuit' that we are talking about [in Pakistan's tribal regions]. Historically, [it] means you are pursuing a fugitive. The doctrine of hot pursuit comes from the law of the sea. And it used to be chasing a fleeing ship, for instance, or chasing someone who retreated into another country," Grono said.

"The conditions applying to hot pursuit are pretty restrictive. That doesn't appear to be what Karzai was talking about. He was talking not so much about pursuing someone as going across the border to hit Taliban leaders who are enjoying safe haven in Pakistan. I suspect that what he was looking at was more a case of preemptive self-defense."

International law on a country's right to self-defense stems from Article 51 of the UN Charter and decisions made by the International Court of Justice.

"There is a provision under international law for self defense," Grono said. "The way it works under international law is that there is a right of preventive self-defense if there is a very immediate threat -- and it is an overwhelming threat -- and if the only possible response is to strike first."

Legal scholars in the U.S. military have had studies published by the U.S. Defense Department which explore the legalities of antiterrorism operations under both the doctrines of "hot pursuit" and self-defense.

Those studies note that other legal justifications for the use of cross-border military force include invitation, peace-time reprisals, protection of a country's own citizens, and humanitarian intervention.

Ultimately, military incursions must be consistent with international law -- as defined by the International Court of Justice. Otherwise, as one study published in 1989 by the U.S. Department of Defense concludes, "those acting to preserve the rule of law in the face of terrorist threats will become indistinguishable from the evils" they seek to prevent.
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NATO launches artillery twice across Afghan border
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Militants in Pakistan fired rockets at NATO bases across the border in Afghanistan, killing three children in a village and prompting the alliance to launch a pair of retaliatory artillery strikes, officials said Sunday.

The clashes could heighten diplomatic tension over Pakistan's inability to stop Islamic militants from operating from its territory — and whether forces in Afghanistan have the right to strike back.

NATO said five rockets were fired at one of its bases in Khost province overnight. At least one hit a house in Kunday, a small village which sits between two military bases, killing the three children. Another hit a NATO base, injuring an Afghan man.

Relatives of the children carried three caskets, draped in colorful cloths, to a graveyard for burial Sunday morning.

NATO said its forces responded "in self-defense" to the attack with artillery fire on the launch site inside Pakistani territory.

In an earlier attack Saturday, three rounds of "indirect fire" — which often refers to mortar or rocket attacks — landed near a NATO outpost in neighboring Paktika province, the alliance said. Three more landed in an Afghan army compound. No casualties were reported.

NATO said those rounds also came from inside Pakistan and responded with artillery fire.

Last year, more than 8,000 people were killed in insurgency-related attacks in Afghanistan — the most since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Violence has claimed more than 1,700 lives so far this year.

Pakistan, like Afghanistan, is a key ally of the United States in its six-year campaign against international terrorism.

But Afghan and U.S. officials blame surging violence in Afghanistan in part on efforts by the new Pakistani government to make peace with Taliban militants on its side of the mountainous frontier blamed for suicide attacks in Pakistan.

Pakistan's army has pulled back some forces from its lawless tribal areas, where al-Qaida and the Taliban find refuge, and has largely held fire during the peace talks — a pause critics say has allowed insurgents to intensify strikes into Afghanistan.

Relations were further strained when U.S. warplanes apparently bombed a Pakistani border post in the Mohmand tribal region this month, killing 11 Pakistani troops — one of a series of cross-border strikes which Islamabad has condemned as an infringement of its sovereignty.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has expressed regret over the Mohmand incident. However, it remains unclear why the Pakistani post was struck.

Asked about the latest NATO artillery strikes, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, spokesman for the Pakistan army, said its troops also fired mortar rounds and small arms at the "miscreants" who attacked the base in Paktika. He reported no casualties.

He said there was an "understanding" that Pakistani forces would engage militants on its side of the border, and had no confirmation of NATO's assertion that it immediately informed Pakistani forces it was under attack.

"If they are doing it (returning fire) on their own, it is not correct," Abbas said.
___
Associated Press writers Stephen Graham in Kabul, Nashanuddin Khan in Khost and Noor Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.
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Rockets from Pakistan kill Afghan woman, 3 children
By Elyas Wahdat June 22, 2008
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Rockets fired from Pakistan hit a village in eastern Afghanistan killing a woman and three children, Afghan officials said on Sunday, one of three cross-border attacks around the same time overnight.

Tension has mounted between the neighbors, with Pakistan saying 11 of its soldiers were killed in an airstrike by U.S. forces operating from Afghanistan on June 10. Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened five days later to send troops across the frontier to hunt down Taliban militants based in Pakistan.

Rockets launched from about 300 meters (yards) inside Pakistani territory landed in a village near the eastern town of Khost on Saturday, close to a large NATO base, killing a woman and three children, provincial governor Arsala Jamal said. Eight people were wounded in the attack, most of them women.

"It was late evening. I was praying in the mosque when suddenly the sound of explosions started," said Aziz Khan, a driver who lives in the village. "I stopped my prayers and rushed outside ... I saw one of the rockets had hit my house.

"Inside I found three of my children dead. My wife and two sons were wounded. My wife had prepared food and gathered the kids to feed them when the rocket hit about 10 meters (yards) away from them. My brother's children and his wife were also there. Four of his kids and his wife were also wounded."

At around the same time on Saturday evening, a rocket fired from Pakistan hit a hospital in northeastern Kunar province, killing one man and wounding two others, the provincial governor said.

Also at the same time, three artillery shells fired from Pakistan landed in an Afghan army camp and three more close to a NATO base in the eastern Afghan province of Paktika, the alliance said. There were no casualties, but NATO forces returned fire.

Pakistan's military denied firing artillery into Paktika and said the rounds could have been fired by militants. A spokesman said he had no knowledge of any incident in Khost or Kunar.

A total of 27 rockets were fired from Pakistan to the Afghan provinces of Paktika and Khost, the Afghan Defence Ministry said.

"The Ministry of Defence condemns this act and asks the Islamic Republic of Pakistan at the first instance to prevent such attacks on the defenceless Afghan people from Pakistani soil," ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zaher Azimi said.

Afghan troops responded by firing 19 artillery rounds from Khost and nine rounds from Paktika which landed in Pakistan.

PAKISTANI DENIAL
Pakistani military spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said international forces and militants exchanged fire on the Afghan side of the border and Pakistani forces also fired at the militants on the frontier in the North Waziristan region.

"No it's not possible. It was not from our fire, it could have been the militants' fire but not from our positions," Abbas said when asked about the NATO report of shells landing close to one of its forward bases and inside an Afghan army compound.

"We openly engaged the militants on the border, who the Afghan forces were also engaging. There is no possibility of our engaging the camps of the Afghan forces inside Afghanistan."

Though Afghanistan and Pakistan are both U.S. allies, their poorly defined border is a major source of distrust.

Afghan and NATO forces battling the Taliban say the militants are able to train and launch attacks into Afghanistan from sanctuaries in Pakistan's lawless ethnic Pashtun tribal belt.

Pakistan acknowledges the Taliban might get some help from militant allies in Pakistan but says it is doing all it can to stop the movement of militants across the border.

(Additional reporting by Robert Birsel in Islamabad and Jonathon Burch in Kabul; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Catherine Evans)
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6,000 troops urgently needed in Afghanistan: NATO
BERLIN (Reuters) - Up to 6,000 additional troops are urgently needed in Afghanistan and a failure to deploy them will only prolong the presence of Western forces in the country, a German NATO general said on Sunday.

Egon Ramms told public radio station Deutschlandfunk that alliance members would end up paying a price later if they did not boost troop numbers now.

"We are talking about a total of 5,000, 6,000 soldiers," Ramms said. "We need these soldiers now, very soon, because we need to hold specific areas, we need to win over Afghanistan's citizens and because at some point, in 2010, 2011 or 2012 we will want to hand over responsibility to Afghan forces.

Roughly 60,000 foreign troops are in Afghanistan, most of them part of the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF), but security has deteriorated over the past two years.

Some 6,000 people were killed in 2007, the deadliest year since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in 2007.

"The troops that I don't have now could lead to delays in the withdrawal of NATO and ISAF," Ramms said. "In other words, the costs that are not being paid now will have a negative impact on the bottom line at some point."

Ramms declined to say how many additional German troops he thought were necessary, but said Germany should increase the number of troops it can send to Afghanistan from a fixed ceiling of 3,500.

The parliamentary mandate for German troops operating in Afghanistan is due to expire in October and Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung is expected to request an increase of at least 1,000 in the troop limit.

(Writing by Noah Barkin)
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Two civilians hurt after troops open fire in Afghanistan
Sun Jun 22, 3:43 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A man and a child were injured Sunday when NATO-led British troops patrolling the volatile southern Afghan city of Kandahar opened fire on a civilian car, witnesses said.

The troops fired several shots at the vehicle, which approached the soldiers while they were on foot patrol near the city's stadium, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

"I saw a child and a man wounded in the firing," the reporter added. The troops fired on a second vehicle, a truck, but there were no casualties, he said.

Authorities were not immediately available for comment and the troops involved in the incident refused to talk to the AFP reporter.

More than 1,000 Afghan and NATO troops fought a major battle with Taliban insurgents massing in villages less than 20 kilometres (16 miles) from the city last week.

The city was the scene of Afghanistan's biggest jailbreak earlier this month, during which hundreds of Taliban prisoners escaped the facility. Since then Afghan and NATO forces have stepped their activities in the city to tighten security.
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Pakistan troops 'aid Taliban'
The Observer (UK) / June 22, 2008
New classified US documents reveal that mass infiltration of Frontier Corps by Afghan insurgents is helping latest offensive

The Pakistani Frontier Corps has been heavily infiltrated and influenced by Taliban militants, sometimes joining in attacks on coalition forces, according to classified US 'after-action' reports compiled following clashes on the border.

According to those familiar with the material, regarded as deeply sensitive by the Pentagon in view of America's fragile relationship with Pakistan, there are 'box loads' of such reports at US bases along the length of the Pakistan-Afghan border. Details of the level of infiltration emerged yesterday on a day when five more US-led soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan. Four of the soldiers died in a bomb and gunfire attack outside the southern city of Kandahar.

Nato officials have reported a dramatic increase in cross-border incidents compared with the same period last year. The US documents describe the direct involvement of Frontier Corps troops in attacks on the Afghan National Army and coalition forces, and also detail attacks launched so close to Frontier Corps outposts that Pakistani co-operation with the Taliban is assumed.

'The reality,' said a source familiar with the situation on the ground, 'is that there are units so opposed to what the coalition is doing and so friendly to the other side that when the opportunity comes up they will fire on Afghan and coalition troops. And this is not random. It can be exceptionally well co-ordinated.'

Another source - who has seen the reporting - described an attack last year where two Frontier Corps outposts appear to have been directly involved in firing on Afghan forces before a militant attack.

Frontier Corps personnel have in the past been implicated in the past in murdering US and Afghan officers. In the most high-profile case, a Frontier Corps member 'assassinated' Major Larry J Bauguess during a border mediation meeting. In another incident, an Afghan officer was killed. Since then the problem appears to have worsened as the Taliban renew their insurgency on the Afghan side of the border.

'The United States and Nato have substantial information on this problem,' said an American official. 'It's taking place at a variety of places along the border with the Frontier Corps giving direct and indirect assistance. I'm not saying it is everyone. There are some parts that have been quite helpful... but if you have seen the after-action reports of their involvement in attacks along the Afghan border you would appreciate the problem.'

James Appathurai, a Nato spokesman, said: 'The real concern is that the extremists in Pakistan are getting safe havens to rest, recuperate and retool in Pakistan and come across the border. The concerns have been conveyed to the Pakistan authorities.'

Seth Jones, author of the Rand report, which found evidence of collaboration, said the issue had been troubling the US even before the invasion of Afghanistan: 'If you go back a decade to the Clinton administration when the US targeted militant camps, members of the Pakistani intelligence services were killed along with militants.'

The allegation that senior Pakistani officials continue to offer lukewarm assistance to the coalition while offering help to the Taliban is also reiterated in Descent into Chaos, a new book by the veteran Pakistani author Ahmed Rashid.

Relations between the US and Pakistan were strained this month when 11 members of the Frontier Corps were killed when the US allegedly bombed their outpost near the border town of Gora Prai during a gun battle with militants on the border. Pakistani sources have questioned why the troops were hiding in a bunker in the midst of the battle and why they were 'unaware' of an hour-long firefight going on so close by.

The issue of the Taliban's ability to cross and recross the border with Pakistan into that country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas is becoming one of the most contentious issues of the war, with many - including Afghan President Hamid Karzai - insisting that his country is involved in a 'regional conflict' and threatening to send troops across the border.

The death of the five soldiers yesterday came as the Taliban stepped up their offensive. It happened a day after two other US-led soldiers died in separate incidents, including a suicide bombing.
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Canada to help rebuild Kandahar prison after breakout
Sun Jun 22, 2:27 AM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada will help rebuild a prison in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar following a mass jailbreak at the site by Taliban militants, the foreign ministry said.

"Canada has contributed to both infrastructure and training" at the Sarpoza Prison in Kandahar City, read a foreign ministry statement attributed to Elissa Golberg, Canada's representative in Kandahar province.

"We will continue to do so, in keeping with the Government of Canada's priorities for Afghanistan announced by (Foreign) Minister (David) Emerson," read the statement released late Friday.

On June 13 a Taliban suicide bomber detonated a bomb that destroyed the main gates of the Sarpoza Prison.

Afghan authorities said 886 prisoners fled, more than 380 of whom were Taliban. NATO's International Security Assistance Force said more than 1,100 prisoners fled, while the Taliban militia said that 400 of its own fighters escaped.

"On behalf of the government of Canada, I signed a letter on Wednesday confirming Canada's intent to rebuild the wall around Sarpoza Prison," Golberg said.

The statement added: "Reports of there being two breaches are incorrect -- there was one breach at the front of the prison, though it was of a tremendous scale."

Canada has some 2,500 soldiers stationed in the Kandahar area belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). There are some 70,000 foreign troops total in Afghanistan.

Some 27 insurgents have been killed and 20 escapees recaptured during a vast manhunt launched after hundreds of prisoners escaped following a brazen Taliban attack on the facility last week.
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Manley warns NATO could fail in Afghanistan
CTV.ca News Staff Sun. Jun. 22 2008 1:34 PM ET
Former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley said Sunday that unless NATO makes a more "serious" troop commitment in Afghanistan, its mission in the war-torn country could fail.

Manley, who led a government-appointed panel that outlined conditions for Canada's continued military commitment in Afghanistan, said the mission is a real test for NATO's credibility.

"When you just look at the commitment, it's about 50,000 troops in Afghanistan. NATO sent 50,000 troops to Bosnia (in the 1990s), which is a country of about 1.8 million. Afghanistan's (population) is over 30 million," he told CTV's Question Period.

Bosnia is a tiny place, while Afghanistan is the size of France, he added.

"They just aren't taking it seriously enough, in my view. The risk of (the mission) coming out without a very satisfactory outcome is a real one."

The Manley panel recommended that NATO find a 1,000-soldier battle group to assist Canada's 2,500 troops in Kandahar province -- one of the most insurgency-wracked parts of Afghanistan. It also said Canada's soldiers should be supplied with helicopters and aerial drones.

NATO has indicated that it will provide the additional troops and equipment. Poland has said it will make two Mi-17 helicopters available to transport hard-pressed Canadian troops around the battlefield in Kandahar province. That should happen later this summer.

A German NATO general said in radio interview Sunday the Western military alliance needs to send as many as 6,000 troops to the region immediately. Egon Ramms told public radio station Deutschlandfunk that the troops are needed to hold on to key areas, win over Afghan citizens, and to allow NATO to eventually handover security control to the Afghan government.

Ramms said NATO's presence in Afghanistan will need to be extended, unless NATO sends more troops now.

Manley said the outcome of events in Afghanistan is important as NATO carries out its first mission outside of Europe.

"The consequences for NATO failing will be very serious," he said.

The prison break

Manley said this month's prison break in Kandahar -- which freed almost 400 Taliban prisoners -- indicates just how quickly the situation in Afghanistan could turn for Canadian and NATO forces.

"It's an indication that (insurgents) are capable of accomplishing something that clearly required not an insignificant degree of coordination," Manley said.

Manley said he was "very dismayed" by news of the prison break, which he said indicates "a break down in our intelligence."

"Information on something like that is something we should have been able to obtain," he said.

CTV Middle East Bureau Chief Janis Mackey Frayer told Question Period that about 30 prison escapees from Sarposa Prison been recaptured. Afghan authorities have said the men are being kept at a secret location, she said.

Officials are now trying to find out how to better co-ordinate Afghan security needs with NATO, she said. Beyond the official investigations into the matter, she said. Frayer said the incident has raised serious questions in the Afghan public.

She said people are wondering how Taliban fighters "can file into town with a tanker bomb, roll up to the front gates of the prison, blow them up, and have mini-buses waiting for the prisoners as they ran out."
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Warlord: My encounter with Taliban mastermind
Backed by the CIA, he fought the Soviets then was sidelined. Now he's back, wreaking havoc among British forces. Raymond Whitaker on meeting Jalaluddin Haqqani
The Independent (UK) / Sunday, 22 June 2008
In a month when Britain has lost nine soldiers in Afghanistan, including the first woman, and hundreds of Taliban fighters were freed by a daring bomb attack on Kandahar's main jail, the British public is only just becoming aware of the malevolent power of Jalaluddin Haqqani.

A man once known only to old Afghan hands is being credited with the resurgence of the Taliban since 2006. He is said to have introduced Iraqi-style suicide bombings to a country where they were unknown and are still considered by many to be un-Islamic. Wily and well connected, he is emerging as the biggest threat to Britain and its Nato allies in Afghanistan, where last month more Western troops were killed than in Iraq for the first time since 2003. He has experienced a comeback as spectacular as that of the movement he is now serving as principal military commander.

When I encountered Haqqani in March 1994, the fortunes of the legendary Afghan warlord were at a low ebb. He was a hero to the CIA and wealthy Arab backers during the fight against the Soviet invaders. As chronicled in the movie Charlie Wilson's War, torrents of money and arms had been channelled through Pakistan's intelligence service to resistance leaders like him. But, after the Russians pulled out in 1989 and the Communist regime collapsed in 1992, Haqqani and his fellow Pashtun chieftains had been outmanoeuvred.

Kabul had been seized by the Tajik commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who installed his party leader, Burhanuddin Rabbani, as President. Now Haqqani was sitting outside the President's office, waiting for an audience in which he would seek favours, and the photograph I took of him shows all the discomfort of a man who would have preferred to be meeting Rabbani on the battlefield.

Already in his late 40s, the mujahedin commander might have been expected to fade into obscurity, especially when Pakistan despaired of his ilk and decided to foster the Taliban instead. Yet 14 years later, he is regarded as the Taliban's most effective military leader. The former darling of the West's intelligence agencies is now their leading target after Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the Taliban figurehead, Mullah Omar.

Haqqani has shown his talent for psychologically significant blows, such as the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai during a military parade in the heart of Kabul in April, and January's attack on a luxury hotel that killed seven and sent shivers through the expatriate community in the Afghan capital.

This has accompanied the steady stream of suicide bombings that undermine Nato's military superiority and keep the civilian population on edge. On Friday, a suicide bomber on foot attacked a foreign military convoy in Helmand province, killing one Nato soldier and five civilians.

How did a man now in his 60s, who appeared to have been pushed to the margins, return to such a central role? Bin Laden himself, of course, was once seen as an asset by the US, and when the wealthy Saudi decided in the 1980s to take up the Afghan cause, one of the first Afghans he met was Haqqani. From a Pashtun clan with clout both in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal territories, Haqqani was able to provide Bin Laden with territory for his first camps. It was an association that later stood him in good stead.

As one of the few Pashtun commanders able to demonstrate effectiveness in fighting the Communists – he seized Khost, the first town to fall to the mujahedin after the Soviet pullout – the rough-hewn Haqqani was admired by Arabs who dreamed of jihad but lacked the nerve to go to war themselves. He visited the Gulf states frequently, learned Arabic and was always able to raise money in the Middle East after the American tap was turned off, enabling him to maintain large numbers of men under arms.

Even when Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) switched horses and backed the Taliban, he remained on good terms with the agency and was able to make a comfortable retreat to his stronghold, Miram Shah, in the Pakistani tribal area of North Waziristan.

Haqqani was the first mujahedin commander to surrender unconditionally to the Taliban, and remained on polite terms with the movement. Although he was never part of the tight inner circle, he took various minor posts during Mullah Omar's five years in power, between 1996 and 2001, eventually becoming interior minister.

He also helped his old associate Bin Laden to set up training camps on his return to Afghanistan. None of this necessarily meant that he was fully committed to the alliance between the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, in the view of his old contacts in the CIA and ISI – but after 9/11 it was time to put that theory to the test.

According to at least one report, Haqqani was summoned to Islamabad and told he could be installed as president of Afghanistan if he formed a breakaway "moderate" faction of the Taliban, excluding Mullah Omar. Presumably, the al-Qa'ida leadership would have been expelled from Afghanistan under the deal. But the warlord declined and returned to his stronghold. According to Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars, a history of American involvement in Afghanistan, it was into Haqqani's territory that Bin Laden fled after he managed to elude the Americans in 2001.

Even then, Haqqani did not immediately assume a prominent role in the Taliban, although his forces were always ready to attack the Americans in eastern Afghanistan. It was only after the movement's 2006 spring offensive ran into trouble that he was asked to take command. The subsequent Taliban resurgence took Nato by surprise and spread dissension among its members over tactics and reinforcements.

Nato insists that it cannot be defeated in battle by the Taliban. That is certainly true – large numbers of Taliban militants freed in the attack on Kandahar jail were later killed when they tried to mass together to seize the city – but it is irrelevant. With a judicious mixture of hit-and-run attacks, suicide bombings and occasional "spectaculars", plus the constant vehicle bombings that claimed four British lives last week, Haqqani can destabilise nearly half the country and hold back economic reconstruction.

Recently, he appeared in a DVD to dispel rumours that he was dead, or that he had handed over to his 34-year-old son, Sirajuddin, who has assumed responsibility for military operations. He is a particularly formidable opponent for the West, with his long-standing connections to Pakistani intelligence apparently protecting him from any intervention in Waziristan, while his Middle Eastern links bring him money and recruits.

"This is not a battle of haste; this is a battle of patience," he says in the DVD. He speaks from experience. The commander I saw in the President's waiting-room 14 years ago appeared to be washed up, but he has outlasted his opponents. The Taliban, formed to get rid of old warlords like him, is now grateful for his help.
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AFGHANISTAN: Landmines impede civilians' return to volatile Arghandab
KANDAHAR, 22 June 2008 (IRIN) - Dozens of landmines have been discovered in Arghandab District, in the southern province of Kandahar, where fierce fighting between Taliban insurgents and the Afghan army backed by international forces has killed over 90 people, mostly insurgents, and displaced thousands of civilians, according to Afghanistan's Ministry of Defence (MoD).

"The Taliban had laid landmines - anti-vehicle and anti-personnel – on roads and footpaths in Arghandab District," Abdul Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the MoD in Kabul, told IRIN.

"We began mine-clearance activities on Thursday [19 June] and it will take several days until we clear the whole area. We hope by Monday [23 June] we will complete mine clearance and after that we will allow people to return to their homes," Azimi said, adding that any previously left unexploded ordinance (UXOs) and abandoned explosive ordinance (AXOs) in the conflict-affected areas would also be removed.

Tens of Taliban fighters reportedly raided several villages in Arghandab District, about 10km north of Kandahar city, in the second week of June and ordered locals to evacuate the area for their safety.

Up to 5,000 people were displaced from their homes when hundreds of Afghan and international forces came to Arghandab to drive back the insurgents on 18 June, according to estimates by the provincial department of the Afghan Red Crescent Society.

No civilian casualties were reported but 92 Taliban fighters and two Afghan soldiers were killed in the battle, which lasted less than 24 hours according to Azimi.

ICBL concerned

Reports of the Taliban's use of anti-personnel landmines have raised widespread concerns about the safety of civilians in conflict areas.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said it wants the Taliban to publicly reiterate their commitment against the use of anti-personnel landmines.

"The ICBL calls upon the Taliban to publicly reconfirm and honour the commitment it made in 1998 to non-use of anti-personnel mines," the organisation said in a statement on 19 June.

A Taliban spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

The Taliban are also accused of destroying several major bridges in Arghandab District, which will complicate food deliveries and transportation.

Arghandab is the greenest and most populous of Kandahar's 17 districts and makes the bulk of the war-torn province's fruit production, particularly pomegranate, which are sold in international markets.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has instructed officials in Kandahar Province to help those displaced by the fighting return home and resume their normal lives, said a statement issued by Karzai's media office on 19 June.

Landmines and UXOs kill and maim up to 60 people every month in Afghanistan, mine clearing organisations say.

Millions of landmines were dumped across Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, killing and wounding over 70,000 people so far, according to the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMAC).
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Afghan army launches anti-Taliban operation, 5 wounded, 2 others arrested 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-22 19:47:57
KABUL, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Army (ANA) in efforts to further stabilize security in Afghanistan's east central Ghanzi province has launched anti-Taliban operation, a press release of defense ministry issued here Sunday said.

The operation dubbed "3rd Thunder" was kicked off in the restive district of Andar district would cover adjoining areas to root out militants, the press release added.

It is the second anti-Taliban operation launched over the past week.

The previous offensive was launched last Wednesday against Taliban militants in Arghandab district of southern Kandahar province during which 94 insurgents had been killed.

"Operation 3rd Thunder was launched on Saturday in Andar district with an objective to wipe out terrorists from the area, establish checkpoint posts, stabilize security and assist the locals," the press release stressed.

The troops in the first day of operation captured two militantsand wounded five others from Qarabagh area, Afghan defense ministry in the press release further said.

Andar district has been considered a hotbed of Taliban insurgents in Ghazni province which links Kabul to southern Kandahar and central Bamyan provinces.

Escalating insurgency and violent incidents have left more than1,500 people dead since January this year in Afghanistan.  
Editor: An Lu 
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Khuda Bakhesh, Afghanistan: “We are hungry because of floods and drought”
Source: United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) June 22, 2008
Khuda Bakhesh says his family eats only once a day, sometimes only bread and water

NILI, Khuda Bakhesh, 62, is a poor farmer in Daikundi Province in central Afghanistan. Bakhesh has been severely affected by recurrent natural disasters. Heavy snowfalls in the winter of 2007 damaged his almond and fig trees, floods destroyed his fields in the spring of 2008 and his hopes for a harvest this summer have been dashed by drought. Bakhesh told IRIN his story:

“Last year heavy snow damaged our almond trees, fig trees and harmed our vineyards. The trees were broken under piles of snow. We did our best to revive some of them in the spring, but floods destroyed everything. Our wheat fields were also washed away by floods. The flood damage was worse than the snow and we lost many things.

“My sons and I made a lot of effort and worked day and night to re-cultivate our fields and revive our livelihood after the floods. But now drought has dried everything. All [water] wells and culverts have dried up and there is very little water to drink let alone for agriculture.

“My sons have gone to Iran to work and help us survive. I have no news of them and don’t know if they have found jobs. I have to feed all the female members of my family in Daikundi.

“We don’t eat three times a day because we don’t have enough food. Often we eat either in the morning or midday and then eat again the next day. We eat whatever is available; sometimes only a piece of bread with water.

“Such is life and it’s what God has given us. We’re hungry and poor because of floods and drought. These are divine scourges and we cannot stop them.

“My daughter is sick and I have brought her to the hospital for treatment. Her prescriptions are very expensive and I had to borrow money from a shopkeeper I know. I already owe 250,000 Afghanis [US$5,000] to people and cannot pay them back. I’ll have to repay my debts and the only way for me is to sell my small piece of land.”
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These wars are about oil, not democracy
By ERIC MARGOLIS COMMENTARY Edmonton Sun (Canada) / June 22, 2008
PARIS -- The ugly truth behind the Iraq and Afghanistan wars finally has emerged.
Four major western oil companies, Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP and Total are about to sign U.S.-brokered no-bid contracts to begin exploiting Iraq's oil fields. Saddam Hussein had kicked these firms out three decades ago when he nationalized Iraq's oil industry. The U.S.-installed Baghdad regime is welcoming them back.

Iraq is getting back the same oil companies that used to exploit it when it was a British colony.

As former fed chairman Alan Greenspan recently admitted, the Iraq war was all about oil. The invasion was about SUV's, not democracy.

Afghanistan just signed a major deal to launch a long-planned, 1,680-km pipeline project expected to cost $8 billion. If completed, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI) will export gas and later oil from the Caspian basin to Pakistan's coast where tankers will transport it to the West.

The Caspian basin located under the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakkstan, holds an estimated 300 trillion cubic feet of gas and 100-200 billion barrels of oil. Securing the world's last remaining known energy El Dorado is a strategic priority for the western powers.

But there are only two practical ways to get gas and oil out of land-locked Central Asia to the sea: Through Iran, or through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Iran is taboo for Washington. That leaves Pakistan, but to get there, the planned pipeline must cross western Afghanistan, including the cities of Herat and Kandahar.

PIPELINE DEAL
In 1998, the Afghan anti-Communist movement Taliban and a western oil consortium led by the U.S. firm Unocal signed a major pipeline deal. Unocal lavished money and attention on the Taliban, flew a senior delegation to Texas, and hired a minor Afghan official, Hamid Karzai.

Enter Osama bin Laden. He advised the unworldly Taliban leaders to reject the U.S. deal and got them to accept a better offer from an Argentine consortium. Washington was furious and, according to some accounts, threatened the Taliban with war.

In early 2001, six or seven months before 9/11, Washington made the decision to invade Afghanistan, overthrow the Taliban, and install a client regime that would build the energy pipelines. But Washington still kept sending money to the Taliban until four months before 9/11 in an effort to keep it "on side" for possible use in a war against China.

The 9/11 attacks, about which the Taliban knew nothing, supplied the pretext to invade Afghanistan. The initial U.S. operation had the legitimate objective of wiping out Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida. But after its 300 members fled to Pakistan, the U.S. stayed on, built bases -- which just happened to be adjacent to the planned pipeline route -- and installed former Unocal "consultant" Hamid Karzai as leader.

Washington disguised its energy geopolitics by claiming the Afghan occupation was to fight "Islamic terrorism," liberate women, build schools and promote democracy. Ironically, the Soviets made exactly the same claims when they occupied Afghanistan from 1979-1989. The Iraq cover story was weapons of mass destruction and democracy.

Work will begin on the TAPI once Taliban forces are cleared from the pipeline route by U.S., Canadian and NATO forces. As American analyst Kevin Phillips writes, the U.S. military and its allies have become an "energy protection force."

ADDED BENEFIT
From Washington's viewpoint, the TAPI deal has the added benefit of scuttling another proposed pipeline project that would have delivered Iranian gas and oil to Pakistan and India.

India's energy needs are expected to triple over the next decade. Delhi, which has its own designs on Afghanistan, is cock-a-hoop over the new pipeline plan.

Russia, by contrast, is grumpy, having hoped to monopolize Central Asian energy exports.

Energy is more important than blood in our modern world. The U.S. is a great power with massive energy needs. Domination of oil is a pillar of America's world power. Let's be realistic. Afghanistan and Iraq are about oil, nothing else.
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Taliban jail break wrong-footed Afghan army
By Jonathon Burch Reuters - Saturday, June 21 06:09 pm
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan security forces knew Taliban militants were planning an offensive near the southern city of Kandahar last week but were distracted by a mass prison break, a senior army officer said on Saturday.

The Taliban have seized the initiative around Kandahar in the past two weeks, freeing up to 400 comrades from the city jail, then occupying villages outside the town. Afghan and foreign troops have launched an offensive to drive them out.

The Taliban had been gathering in the outlying district of Khakrez, planning to move from there to Arghandab, an area of rich orchards just 20 km (12 miles) northwest of Kandahar city.

"We were planning to conduct an operation in Khakrez but unfortunately the incident that happened in the city changed all the programmes," Afghan army chief of operations Lieutenant General Shir Mohammad Karim told a news conference.

The incident he mentioned was one of the biggest jail breaks in modern history. A suicide truck bomber rammed the gates of Kandahar jail on June 13 and militants stormed the building, setting free up to 400 Taliban and about 700 criminals.

The Afghan army, stationed 30 km (50 miles) outside Kandahar, was told of the jail break an hour after it took place, Karim said.

"By the time we got there, there was no use controlling or taking over or searching the jail because the people had gone already," he said.

Fearing a Taliban attack on Kandahar, the army began securing the city, abandoning plans to forestall the attack on Arghandab.

"Unfortunately," said Karim, the jail break "was very successful for them. When we were busy ... securing the city of Kandahar they made use of this opportunity and moved from Khakrez to Arghandab."

On Wednesday, about 700 Afghan troops advanced across the Arghandab river under cover of a smokescreen provided by Canadian artillery and routed the Taliban's resistance .

Afghan forces counted the bodies of 94 militants, Karim said, adding that about 70 percent of the insurgents were foreigners.

While the battle was an important victory for the Afghan army and its NATO backers, the Taliban scored a propaganda coup with the jail break and the ease with which it occupied several villages so close to Afghanistan's second city.

The Afghan army is now carrying out clearance operations around Arghandab to flush out any militants hiding there.

Hundreds of villagers fled the area after NATO forces dropped leaflets warning of the impending offensive and Karim said that he hoped the villagers would return on Monday.
(Editing by Mariam Karouny)
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Afghanistan: our allies must fight
22/06/2008 Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, and General Sir Mike Jackson, until recently Chief of the General Staff, both writing in today's Sunday Telegraph, pose the same question: what are we doing in Afghanistan?

They both answer that our armed forces are fighting to prevent the country falling back under the theocratic dictatorship of the Taliban.

Had Taliban rule been merely brutal, bloody and horribly oppressive - in the way, say, that Robert Mugabe's rule is of Zimbabwe - British and American forces would almost certainly never have been sent to liberate the Afghan people from it.

But as General Jackson and the Foreign Secretary point out, the Taliban leadership was instrumental in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. They provided protection and training facilities for terrorists, and gave al Qaeda a haven from which to incubate the attacks. The Taliban endorsed al-Qa'eda's war on the West.

Britain, in common with every other Western nation, has a direct interest in helping the Americans ensure that Afghanistan never returns to Taliban rule. Unfortunately, very few of the other members of Nato have shown any inclination to perform their share of military service.

Those who do send troops hedge their actions with so many restrictions that they cannot discharge any role effectively.

That reluctance is seriously jeopardising the whole Afghan operation. As we report today, British forces are having to do far more than their fair share of fighting as a consequence of it, and it is becoming increasingly clear that the strains are having a destructive effect.

More than 10,000 British soldiers are unfit for combat - not because of illness or lack of training, but because they are simply exhausted. There is a very serious need for the Nato allies of America and Britain to do what their continuing membership of the alliance implicitly promises.

We hope they can quickly and effectively be shamed into contributing their fair share to protecting their own security.

"Telegraph view" is written by our team of leader writers and commentators. This team includes David Hughes, Philip Johnston, Simon Heffer, Janet Daley, Con Coughlin, Robert Colvile, Iain Martin and Alex Singleton.
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When the smoke cleared in the Arghandab valley
What began with the Taliban's brazen attack on Sarpoza prison ends in their rout and a grisly scene of death
GRAEME SMITH June 21, 2008 The Globe and Mail
MANARA, AFGHANISTAN -- A stench of death wafted up from piles of bodies, festering in the summer heat of the Arghandab valley. Afghan soldiers held cloths over their faces, pointed to a charred blast site nearby, and described the corpses as the bombed remnants of an invading Taliban force much larger than the Canadian military has estimated.

Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid brought a group of local journalists, and one foreign reporter, to the heaped carnage in the village of Manara, about 10 kilometres north of Kandahar city, as part of a broader struggle to define the week of chaos in this province.

After days of responding to emergencies, first to a Taliban raid that freed hundreds of prisoners from a city jail on June 13, and then a short-lived sweep by armed insurgents into a dozen villages north of the city, top officials finally had a moment of relative quiet to reflect on what happened - and to argue over their wildly differing interpretations.

All authorities agree that the Taliban have abandoned Arghandab district in the past two days. But there is major disagreement about the size of the Taliban force that infiltrated this strategic swath of farmland, why they invaded, and what, if anything, they achieved.

Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, the senior Canadian commander in Kandahar, met yesterday with French, U.S. and Canadian officers in charge of marshalling hundreds of Afghan forces into regular patrols of the district in coming days, as they search for roadside bombs and try to ensure the villages are safe enough for residents to go home.

The Afghan government continues to warn thousands of villagers they should stay away from the north side of the Arghandab River, although NATO issued a statement on Thursday saying the region is secure enough for their return.

"They're gone," Gen. Thompson said, referring to the Taliban, as he waved his hand across a map of the district.

A French officer, sitting on a canvas cot in the shade of a troop carrier, gave the Canadian commander a puzzled look. "But why did they come?" he asked.

"What you have to understand about this district is it's all one tribe, the Alokozai," Gen. Thompson said. "They're mostly pro-government. So this was the Taliban demonstrating to the tribe that they're vulnerable. It was a psychological operation, not a military operation."

Afghan officials have described the incursion differently, saying it was a genuine - if misguided - attempt by the insurgents to threaten the provincial capital. Kandahar is the former seat of government for the Taliban, and the governor said he believes the insurgents overreached in the giddy aftermath of their successful jailbreak.

The heart of the Canadian-Afghan disagreement lies with estimates of insurgent numbers.

Gen. Thompson says no more than 100 to 150 insurgents got into Arghandab, while Mr. Khalid says they had roughly 600.

At a meeting inside Arghandab's fortified district administration buildings, the two leaders exchanged good-natured gibes. Mr. Khalid pointed to an Afghan army officer wearing a floppy sun hat, his face covered in sweat, and said the field commander had just informed him that about 200 Taliban had been killed in the recent fighting.

"Why is NATO saying only a few Taliban were there?" Mr. Khalid said.

Getting no answer, the governor pressed his point. He took a mobile phone from an assistant and showed its screen to the Canadian commander: "Look, we have photos," he said.

The Canadian laughed. "One, two," he said, pointing to the small screen. "That's not 200."

Gen. Thompson tried to steer the conversation toward the need for Afghan police to take over security in the district, saying Kandahar has many other urgent priorities for Canadian troops. But the governor seemed intent on making his point, and within an hour he had summoned several journalists to join a vehicle convoy into the heart of the former battlefield.

A video monitor in the dashboard of Mr. Khalid's sport utility vehicle said the outside temperature was 41 degrees, but inside the cool interior of his luxury vehicle the governor seemed relaxed and philosophical.

Like other Afghan officials, he emphasized the role of foreign fighters in Kandahar's insurgency. The dead in Arghandab included many "Pakoolis," he said, suggesting that sightings of insurgents wearing the flat-topped woolen pakool cap indicates a large contingent of Taliban came across the border from Pakistan's frontier region, where that style of headgear is more common among Pashtun tribesmen. Tajiks from northern Afghanistan also wear the same caps, but they play a minor role in the largely Pashtun insurgency.

He also suggested that last week's jailbreak was far too sophisticated to be planned by local insurgents.

"They were very smart, and it was a great victory for the Taliban," Mr. Khalid said. "But I know the Taliban in this province, and they are not so smart."

Rebuilding started yesterday on the Sarpoza prison's destroyed outer wall, a Canadian official said last night, and a temporary structure is expected to be ready within five days. A permanent new gate is planned to upgrade the facility's defences, among other improvements.

Roaring to a halt near the village of Manara, the governor led a parade of visitors on a dusty hike along an irrigation ditch to a place where the trees were darkened with soot and nearby walls had crumbled.

At this spot, Mr. Khalid said, the insurgents had rushed to help a wounded Taliban commander named Mullah Shakoor. The concentration of insurgents was tracked by the foreign troops using aerial reconnaissance, he said, and they were hit by a large bomb.

So many bodies lay jumbled around the blast site, mangled and covered with flies, that it was difficult to count them. Afghan soldiers nearby estimated that perhaps 17 to 19 insurgents had died in the impact of a 225-kilogram bomb.

Mr. Khalid said the commander was among those killed, but an insurgent spokesman said Mr. Shakoor remains alive.

None of the dead insurgents were wearing pakools or gave any other sign of being foreigners.

After conferring with Afghan soldiers near the site, Mr. Khalid revised his estimate of the Taliban dead to 105.

The Afghan Defence Ministry put the death toll at 56, and NATO has not released a figure.

Mr. Khalid also pointed to green plastic containers buried at an intersection nearby, one of many explosive booby traps the Taliban installed before leaving. Soldiers had marked the roadside bombs with red spray paint.

Booming noises rang through the valley later in the day, as foreign troops removed such traps by blowing them up.
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Stop killing the Taliban – they offer the best hope of beating Al-Qaeda
The Sunday Times (UK) Simon Jenkins June 22, 2008
The British expedition to Afghanistan is on the brink of something worse than defeat: a long, low-intensity war from which no government will dare to extricate itself. With the death toll mounting, battle is reportedly joined with the Taliban at the very gates of the second city, Kandahar. There is no justification for ministerial bombast that “we are winning the war, really”.

What is to be done? In 2001 the West waged a punitive retaliatory strike against the hosts of the perpetrators of 9/11. The strike has since followed every law of mission creep, now reduced in London to a great war of despair, in which the cabinet can do nothing but send even more men to their deaths.

In seven years in Afghanistan, America, Britain and their Nato allies have made every mistake in the intervention book. They sent too few troops to assert an emphatic presence. They failed to “hit hard and get out”, as advocated by Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary. They tried to destroy the staple crop, poppies, and then let it go to warlords who now use it to finance suicide bombers, among others.

They allowed a corrupt regime to establish itself in the capital, Kabul, while failing to promote honest administration in the provinces.

They pretended that an international coalition (Nato) would be better than a unitary command (America), which it is not. They killed civilians and alienated tribes with crude air power. Finally, they disobeyed the iron law of postimperial intervention: don’t stay too long. The British ambassador threatens “to stay for 30 years”, rallying every nationalist to the insurgents’ cause.

The catalogue of western folly in Afghanistan is breathtaking.

Britain went into Helmand two years ago on the basis of gung-ho, and gung-ho still censors public debate. Yet behind the scenes all is despair. A meeting of Afghan observers in London last week, at the launch of James Fergusson’s book on the errors of Helmand, A Million Bullets, was an echo chamber of gloom.

All hope was buried in a cascade of hypotheticals. Victory would be at hand “if only” the Afghan army were better, if the poppy crop were suppressed, the Pakistan border sealed, the Taliban leadership assassinated, corruption eradicated, hearts and minds won over. None of this is going to happen. The generals know it but the politicians dare not admit it.

Those who still support the “good” Afghan war reply to any criticism by attempting to foreclose debate. They assert that we cannot be seen to surrender to the Taliban and we have gone in so far and must “finish the job”.

This is policy in denial. Nothing will improve without the support of the Afghan government, yet that support is waning by the month. Nothing will improve without the commitment of Pakistan. Yet two weeks ago Nato bombed Pakistani troops inside their own country, losing what lingering sympathy there is for America in an enraged Islamabad. Whoever ordered the attack ought to be court-martialled, except it was probably a computer.

We forget that the objective of the Afghanistan incursion was not to build a new and democratic Afghanistan. It was to punish the Taliban for harbouring Osama Bin Laden and to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for Al-Qaeda training camps. The former objective was achieved on day one; the latter would never be achieved by military occupation.

A moment’s thought would show that any invasion that replaced the Taliban with a western puppet in Kabul would merely restore the Taliban as champions of Afghan sovereignty. The Americans sponsored them to be just such a puppet in the 1980s, funding some 60,000 foreign mercenaries to join them against the Russians. Intervention reaps what it sows.

Two things were known about the Taliban at the time and they are probably still true. First, under outside pressure their leaders were moving from the manic extremism of their “student” origins, even responding to demands to curb the poppy harvest. The present Nato policy of killing the older leaders and thus leaving young hotheads in charge is daft.

Second, the Pashtun Taliban are not natural friends of the Arab Al-Qaeda, despite Bin Laden being given sanctuary by the Taliban’s Mullah Omar. Bin Laden helped the Taliban by murdering Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Tajik leader, but that put a Tajik price on his head, which no man wants. Then the 9/11 coup made the Taliban pariahs even within the region.

I have yet to find reason to doubt the Afghan experts who predicted in the aftermath of 9/11 that Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda had become “unwelcome guests” in 2001 and that his days in Afghanistan, and probably on earth, were numbered.

Seven recent books on relations between Al-Qaeda and the Taliban discussed in the current edition of The New York Review of Books scream one policy message: do not drive Al-Qaeda, set on crazy world domination, into the arms of the Taliban, set only on Pashtun nationalism. Do everything to separate them. Western strategy has done the precise opposite.

The only policy that meets the original objective is one that supports anyone in the insurgent areas with sufficient authority to deny sanctuary to international terrorists. There is now plainly no way that Nato can do this.

There is much murmuring among realists that “we” should talk to the Taliban, as if we were Her Majesty’s Government dealing with the IRA. The parallel is absurd. American special forces and Anglo-Canadian units in Afghanistan are, as they jokingly admit, rather like Taliban mercenaries, who snatch and hold towns for a while but are unable to command local loyalty. They cannot hope to garrison every settlement.

Hamid Karzai, the outgoing Afghan president, is the only one who can talk. He is no fool and has been attempting to do what Kabul rulers have always done: cut deals with whichever provincial commanders appear to control territory and can forge alliances with local Taliban or whoever. That may not be the grand strategy beloved of western think tanks, but it is the realpolitik of Afghanistan.

The same realpolitik applies to the other player in the game, Pakistan, whose civilian rulers are trying to contain an army of doubtful loyalty and seek peace in tribal areas way beyond their control. Here Al-Qaeda has again forged a lethal alliance with the Taliban, drawing on an inexhaustible supply of young militants from Pakistan and abroad, as in the 1980s. The best policy would be to hurl money at Pakistan’s impoverished non-madrasah schools, rather than starve them and pour 80% of aid into a corrupt Pakistan army.

The Taliban’s chief objective is not world domination but a share of power in Afghanistan. While they cannot defeat western troops, they can defeat Nato’s war aim by continuing to build on their marriage of convenience with Al-Qaeda, which supplies them with a devastating arsenal of suicide bombers.

What is sure is that Al-Qaeda, as a (grossly overrated) “threat to the West”, will not be suppressed without Taliban cooperation. This means reversing a policy that naively equates “defeating” the Taliban with “winning” the war on terror. Fighting in Afghanistan is as senseless as trying to suppress the poppy crop. It just costs lives and money.

While it is implausible for the West to withdraw from Kabul at present, the attempt to establish military control over provincial Afghanistan is merely jeopardising the war aim. Security within the country now depends on fashioning the patchwork of alliances sought, however corruptly, by Karzai. It means dealing with reality, not trying to change it with guns and bombs.

It therefore makes sense to withdraw soldiers from the provinces and forget “nation-building” in the hope that Karzai can exert some leverage over local commanders to separate the Taliban from the Al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan. This is a race against the most appalling strategic catastrophe, a political collapse in Pakistan that may open a new and horrific front involving Al-Qaeda.

It is madness to prolong an Afghan war that can only undermine the most unstable nuclear power in the world, Pakistan. The war is visiting misery on millions and destroying western interests across central Asia. As for the claim made in parliament last week that the war is about safety on Britain’s streets, that is ludicrous.
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Afghanistan's deadly double whammy
The Age, Australia Tom Hyland June 22, 2008
WHAM. It's an unfortunately violent acronym, given that it covers the softer side of what Australian troops are doing in southern Afghanistan.

It stands for "winning hearts and minds", and it refers to development and reconstruction projects designed to undermine support for the Taliban, win the trust of local people and spread the influence of the Afghan Government.

It's the reverse side of the counter-insurgency coin — involving what the military calls "non-kinetic" actions, unlike "kinetic" actions, such as killing insurgents.

The phrase WHAM was coined by the Americans in Vietnam, but the concept failed there, for many reasons, including the fact it was undermined by kinetic traditionalists who argued that if you grabbed the enemy by more sensitive parts of his anatomy, his heart and mind would follow. Afghanistan, of course, is not Vietnam, but there are disconcerting parallels. In both cases, foreign troops were sent to support a government facing an insurgency. In Vietnam, it was the anti-communist government in Saigon. In Afghanistan, it's the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Like the Saigon government, Karzai's administration is unable or unwilling to fill the breathing space that military operations are meant to create, with development, clean governance and security. The Saigon government was massively corrupt. So is Karzai's.

Karzai's failures create dilemmas for foreign forces supporting him: how do you win hearts and minds in a war in support of his government, when resentment of that government's failings fuels the insurgency?
These failures leave ordinary Afghans in an appalling predicament, caught between vicious insurgents, on one hand, and the corrupt, inefficient and often brutal security forces of the government. The predicament was summed up by a tribal elder interviewed by foreign aid agencies for a study reported in today's Sunday Age. "If I could move around freely," he said, "and not be bothered by the Taliban any more at night and by the government during the day, that would be security."

The study stresses Afghan views of foreign troops are far from uniform. Many believe a sudden withdrawal would make their lives worse, and see the troops as the lesser of two evils. "Frankly speaking," an Afghan journalist said, "people hate the government presence, in particular the ANP (the Afghan National Police), more than the international forces."

The study's findings are reinforced by a recent article in the Australian Army Journal by Colonel John Frewen, who served in Afghanistan last year.

He says Afghans regard foreign troops as "a force for good and an agent of progress", that success is possible and abandoning Afghanistan would be "callous and irresponsible". But unless there is rapid development of the justice sector — effective police, judges, courts, lawyers and prisons — military forces will be left to "a repetitious treadmill of killing and capturing insurgents then waiting for more to take their place".

Soldiers, Frewen says, call this "mowing the grass".

While the Taliban are brutal and offer the people nothing, they "do not carry the same stigma of endemic corruption as that of the current Afghan Government". As a result, the Taliban win passive support "because there is no other way to voice political opposition" to a government that is "increasingly despised".

Frewen writes: "Regrettably, the average person's experience of central government is wholly unsatisfactory. Afghans regularly face corruption such as the extortion of money at police checkpoints or by petty bureaucrats during administrative dealings.

"The drug lords have a strong culture of impunity. The population cannot help but feel bitter and helpless when their governor, their judges and their police chiefs are complicit."

The only option for the West, he says, is to stay the course, take a strong stand against corruption and understand a lasting solution will take decades.

Frewen says you can't influence Afghans without looking them in the eye. "Nor can you convince Afghans that their long-term security and prosperity is best served by a government propped up by foreign forces if military contributions are annually reviewed and life-enhancing development is not forthcoming."

Frewen's words prompt a few questions for Kevin Rudd, who says Australia's contribution will be subjected to a "rolling annual review". If Frewen is correct, Rudd's words will hardly reassure ordinary Afghans.

Rudd says he wouldn't have troops in Afghanistan if he didn't believe there was a strategy for victory. Without giving away any secrets, can he give us an idea what that strategy is?
And he says Australia is committed to Afghanistan for "the long haul". How long is a long haul?

Tom Hyland is The Sunday Age international editor.
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Afghan traders urged to work for improving Pak-Afghan’s ties: Bilour
Associated Press of  Pakistan
PESHAWAR June 22 (APP): NWFP Senior Minister and parliamentary leader of ANP Bashir Ahmad Bilour here Sunday urged the Afghan traders to play their effective role for improving ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan and offered the services of his party and provincial government in this regard for regional peace and stability.
Talking to a joint delegation of Pak Afghan traders delegation and representatives of foreign and local electronic media here in Peshawar,  he said Pakhtoon are living on both sides of Pak-Afghan border and shared same language, creed, religion and  mutual relations as well as centuries old historical and cultural values.  The Minister said that Pakhtuns could not see each others in trouble at any side of the country. He said great Khudia Khidmatgar leader Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan was laid to rest in Afghan soil as per his deed due to love with this nation.

Mr Bilour said it was right time there to provide maximum facilities of continuing mutual relations to people of both sides instead of creating new gulf of differences and unrest among them.

He said enemies of Afghan Government and people were also big enemies of Pakistan but peace was the pre-requisite for the region that was only possible with dialogue and Jirgas with opponents rather than war and bloodshed.

Bilour agreed with argument of the delegation that threat of Afghan’s president Hamid Karzai about action in Pakistan tribal areas also turned the Afghan masses upset and gloomy like that of their Pakistani brethren but such extreme was based on certain misunderstandings amended due to lack of effective ties at governmental level.

He said peace of the region and that of entire world was linked with peace in Afghanistan then as he asserted turmoil in this country causing wastage of precious human and national resources.  “The world has to focus on peace instead of bloodshed in this area.” The Senior Minister expressed the confidence that Pak-Afghan governments would take concrete measures for peace and stability in the region by developing effective relation in larger interest of its people besides launching joint ventures for improving land and air routes as well as promoting social and economic activities between the two countries.

“Both the governments can not afford to increase miseries of its people and further disturb peace in the region by hurling allegation,” he maintained.

He, however, assured proper action on certain problems and grievances of the delegation. The Afghan traders lauded policies of ANP government about striking peace agreement in Swat to ensure stability in NWFP as well as saving Pakhtuns of both the countries from flames of war and bloodshed.

They also thanked the Pakistani government and people especially the frontiersmen for hosting millions of Afghan refugees for prolong time and assured that philosophy of non-violence of Afghan pride Bacha Khan would be promoted in Afghanistan to ensure durable peace there.
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Alan Watkins: Why not have a by-election on Afghanistan?
Mr Davis has made a stand on the 42-day detention limit. A war we are fighting at the behest of the United States is just as important
Independent, UK Sunday, 22 June 2008
Truly, our system of government is a wonderful thing. The ratification of a treaty can go through virtually on the nod, as it did in the House of Lords last week over the Treaty of Lisbon. Another topic which was hotly debated in the Commons – the 42-day detention period – is, by contrast, the subject of a by-election, even though the parties divided on party lines.

There is a third kind of question: where the parties choose to agree with one another and to keep the public, as far as they are able to do so, out of the discussion. The example here is the war in Afghanistan.
Week after week, Mr Gordon Brown rises at Prime Minister's Questions and pays tribute to the dead. Mr David Cameron responds with a few well-chosen words. Sometimes, indeed, Mr Cameron becomes even more eloquent than the Prime Minister in his tributes to the fallen. Whereas Mr Brown has redefined the war as an "insurgency", Mr Cameron tells us that our troops are fighting for freedom on the very back streets of Britain.

Nor is Mr Nick Clegg far behind in tooting the trumpet. He did go so far as to wonder whether our boys would still be there in 30 years' time, in which case they would be grandfathers, if they were still alive. Mr Clegg did not make it wholly clear whether he welcomed their continuing presence in that inhospitable country or wanted them to be removed before then. No matter. The leader of the Liberal Democrats is content to remain part of the political consensus.

How much longer can it go on? When the body bags began to come back from Vietnam, later commentators in Britain used the phrase as a metaphor for casualties. They may have meant it literally. But old military men pointed out that, in our wars, soldiers were buried where they had fallen, as sailors were at sea.

In the past few years, certainly since the Iraq war, practice has changed. Casualties are returned, usually in a large transport aircraft, in a Union Jack-covered coffin, and buried with full military honours. And quite right too, if this helps the families. But these spectacles, shown more or less weekly on television, can do little to fortify the reputation of successive Labour governments.

For some reason, enlightened opinion in this country has chosen to depict the war in Afghanistan as a good war – at any rate, a virtuous war – and the war in Iraq as bad. Opinion in the Labour Party is, as we know, a different matter. Labour supported the Iraq war, and luminaries such as Ms Harriet Harman and Mr Jon Cruddas, not to mention Mr Brown himself, should not be allowed to forget that support. I have the division lists at home to prove it.

Labour had also supported the war in Afghanistan two years previously. Mr Tony Blair joined up as soon as Mr George Bush asked him. Indeed, Mr Blair was queuing up with sandwiches and a flask of coffee outside the front door of the recruiting office. The odd thing was that the representatives of enlightened opinion – the prig press, as much as Mr Rupert Murdoch's newspapers – seemed to be equally keen on what the Victorians used to call a punitive expedition.

In fact the US administration clearly had something on an altogether larger scale in its mind. The conflict soon became wider. Indeed, the kidnapping of suspects and transporting them to Guantanamo Bay (or its predecessor) began in 2001 in Afghanistan rather than two years later in Iraq.

I wrote here at the time that Mr Bush was acting out of pique, that the United States had suffered a grievous blow to its pride and that the President must be seen to be "doing something". The chosen course was to invade Afghanistan.

The majority of the plotters of the outrage of 11 September 2001 came from Saudi Arabia, though they lived all over the place, including Germany. Pakistan was as fertile a ground for the production of terrorists as Afghanistan, as it still is, if not more so. And yet, the Western powers would not contemplate invading Pakistan, any more than they would think of laying a finger on the Saudis.

In this country, the umpteenth Afghan war is being dressed up in the language of human rights, notably over the production of opium and the subjection of women. It is largely humbug. The United Kingdom became heavily involved in Afghanistan because Mr Bush asked us to become involved. That is the answer which Mr Brown, Mr Cameron or Mr Clegg should give when the curious voter asks: what are we doing in Afghanistan?

Mr Clegg is pretty hopeless, I am afraid. I doubt whether we shall get much sense out of him in the immediate future. Mr Cameron is playing the patriotic card for all it is worth, which may be less than he imagines. Mr Brown is, through the medium of his lugubrious Defence Secretary, Mr Des Browne, actually increasing our strength in Afghanistan.

Why not have a by-election on our presence in Afghanistan rather than on Mr David Davis's chosen subject? This is about the 42-day limit or, at its broadest, about civil liberties generally. These are undoubtedly important matters. But then, so is going to war.

For seven years, the political parties, all the newspapers and most of the commentators, not including myself, have been supporters of the war in Afghanistan. Mr Davis presumably supports the war, which is why the by-election is no kind of test at all.

Equally, however, Mr Davis's by-election as he has defined it is no test, either. He is at one with his party; he is still, I assume, an official candidate (even though it appears that the Conservatives are not supplying the funds); the other parties are not putting up candidates against him.

Mr Davis's action does not make sense, not because he is losing place and prospects (though he may be losing those as well), but because the result of the contest does not prove anything one way or the other.

This is the analysis of most politicians and political journalists, which I happen to share. But almost as soon as his decision was announced, Mr Davis began to receive messages of support: from public figures (including one from Mr Tony Benn), from people with electronic equipment at their disposal, not least, from columnists operating outside the sphere of politics.

Why, there is even a possible libel action in the offing after Mr Andy Burnham, a Cabinet minister, accused Ms Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty of whispering sweet nothings into Mr Davis's ear about his forthcoming resignation. In fact, Ms Chakrabarti prudently advised Mr Davis to stay put. I should advise Ms Chakrabarti to see the funny side of life.

And so we have a by-election where we have no candidates. We have a war which has been going on for seven years without troubling the political parties. And we have a Prime Minister who travelled to Brussels to receive the unanimous congratulations of his European colleagues for ratifying a treaty – subject to the decision of the High Court – without asking the voters any questions at all.
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The obstacles facing Nato in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By Nick Meo 22/06/2008
These are the main problems Nato is confronted with in war-torn Afghanistan:
Afghanistan is now almost the world's sole producer of illicit opium, and most of it comes from Helmand. On British streets, that means cheap heroin. In southern Afghanistan, it means warlords with bloated opium profits, a spiralling addiction problem, and an opportunity for Taliban gunmen to recruit angry farmers.

The Taliban's version of a hearts-and-minds programme is to offer protection to farmers' opium crops from government eradicators, for a 10 per cent "tax", which is usually paid willingly.

British troops, who patrol through beautiful fields of opium poppies, are only too aware of the scale of the problem.

Afghan farmers in the pretty villages around towns like Musa Qala, retaken from the Taliban last year, fear that the British will destroy their livelihood – and they will continue to fear that until they can make a good living from some other crop. So far, the "alternative livelihoods" programmes promoted by the Department for International Development have been extremely disappointing in persuading farmers to switch from opium to new crops.

Meanwhile, opium will continue to fuel the war. Taliban weapons, ammunition and fighters are paid for by drugs lords who don't want the Afghan government authority that, in theory at least, comes in the Army's wake. For all the counter-narcotics efforts in Kabul and the stern words in Whitehall about tackling drugs, British soldiers understand the drugs problem very well. This spring, as eradication teams made ready in Kandahar, the British were broadcasting radio adverts promising not to destroy opium around Musa Qala. Not this year, at least.

CORRUPTION
There is one gripe above all in both the embassies of Kabul and the teahouses of Lashkar Gah: corruption. The shiny, four-wheel drive cars and the gaudy mansions that have sprouted in the cities must be paid for somehow, Afghans tell each other as they ask what has happened to the billions of dollars of reconstruction money from Western donors.

Then there is the frightening corruption from vast drugs profits, which enriches warlords who were on the ropes when America invaded, but who now wield real power. In shabby government offices, heated through a freezing Kabul winter by one-bar electric fires, the temptation to take a bribe must be considerable. Whatever the truth, the perception of corruption has eaten away at the high hopes of seven years ago.

Afghans must ask themselves why they should go to the effort of honestly building their nation when they are convinced that their leaders are simply interested in stealing to feather their nests, or in this case, their luxury apartments, a short flight away in Dubai.

President Hamid Karzai is one of the few leaders not tainted by claims of personal corruption, and as yet it is too early to call Afghanistan a narco-state. It may yet avoid that fate. But since 2001, no senior figures have been arrested for corruption, and with a population growing ever more cynical, and foreign backers ever more exasperated, this is the problem that the Kabul government simply must tackle.
So far they have shown little ability or willingness to do so.

CRIMINALITY
Afghan drivers bringing supplies to British bases in Helmand get used to being stopped by gunmen demanding money with menaces at dozens of checkpoints. The gunmen are police. They are badly armed, poorly trained, and sent to dangerous, lonely checkpoints where they rarely receive wages. To make up for it they shake down drivers. The drivers must run a gauntlet of bandits, who are less likely to kill them than Taliban guerrillas – although some drivers believe that the gunmen are police by day, guerrillas by night, and robbers all the time.

Merchants in Kandahar talk whimsically about the harsh days of Taliban rule before 2001 when bandits were hanged in market places and there was little risk of hijacking.

In the cities, it is kidnappers who are feared by anybody capable of paying a ransom. Schoolchildren are snatched on the way to classes. Businessmen complain to each other over cups of green tea: what is the point of being successful and attracting kidnappers?

With crime out of control, reconstruction slows to a halt, trust in the government vanishes and a demoralising fear takes hold. And fairly or not, it is Western armies – the powerful forces which drove out the Taliban in 2001 – that are blamed.

IGNORANCE
On patrol with British soldiers in the mountain villages of northern Kandahar province, a little drama is routinely played out. First, guns ready and perhaps helicopter gunships buzzing overhead, compounds are searched for guerrillas or for hidden weapons. Then, as the adrenaline wears off, village elders are invited to sit in a circle, stroking their beards and sipping tea, to listen as an earnest young captain explains the benefits the Afghan government will bring – medicine, electricity, education.

After a while, the eldest villager will rise, usually tottering, and say that those things are all very well, but the village just wants to be left alone. The presence of the British is sure to attract the Taliban – and then there will be fighting, bombing, and deaths.

Many such villages – there are hundreds across the mountains and deserts of the south – are surprisingly welcoming when the British arrive, offering raisins and tea to squaddies and complaining about Taliban fighters who will kill them if they are not fed and sheltered. The chief concern of villagers, however, is not democracy or progress, but survival, and they know the British patrols will soon leave and the Taliban will be back.

In the cities, the modernisation project has far more chance of success, but unlike Iraq, with its educated middle class, there is a desperate shortage of skilled workers. Hospitals lack doctors, entrepreneurs are rare, and the government cannot find enough intelligent, experienced civil servants, especially for the dangerous provinces.

Afghans, even in remote villages, are sick of the medieval conditions they have had to endure for decades. But for a nation devastated by 30 years of war, traumatised by its experience and denuded of talented people, modernising is not proving easy.
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Afghan roads kill or wound five people a day
www.quqnoos.com Written by Pajhwok Saturday, 21 June 2008 
About 430 people killed or wounded in last three months, traffic head says
TRAFFIC accidents killed or wounded about five people every day in Afghanistan in the last three months – most of them drug addicts –, according to the country’s traffic chief.

Afghanistan’s head of traffic, Nooridin Hamdard, failed to give the precise number of people killed in traffic accidents since mid-March, but he said more than 430 people had been killed or wounded on the road since then.

Drug abuse while driving, lack of road awareness and poor roads are among the reasons for the high number of accidents in Afghanistan, Hamdard said.

The government’s traffic department says accidents have decreased by 20% so far this year compared to the same period last year.

Head of the children’s department of the Indira Gandhi hospital, Dr Khalillulah Hodkhel, said only five out of the 132 child car crash victims had died in the hospital in the last two and a half months.

Hamdard said people must co-operate with traffic police.

"It is not possible to employ traffic police at the gates of every school to protect the children, but we teach pupils the laws of the road in 36 schools in the capital," he said.

He said the government planned to publish books on traffic laws for schoolchildren to read.

Driving in Afghanistan without a license is an offence punishable by 6 months in prison and a cash fine.

Drink drivers face up to six years in jail.

Habibullah, a Kabuli driver, said: "When the children go to cross the streets, they are never careful and they run on the roads without looking. This causes most of the traffic accidents."

Hamdard urged mothers and fathers to accompany children on their way to school to reduce the number of traffic accidents.
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Tactics in Afghanistan: right or wrong?
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom 21/06/2008
There are many views on the roles coalition forces are being asked to play in Afghanistan. We hear from those inside the war-torn country as well as from concerned outside observers

THE BRITISH AMBASSADOR
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, British Ambassador in Kabul: “We are here in Afghanistan as part of a 40-nation coalition, not as an independent actor reliving the Great Game. Pulling out would hand a huge propaganda victory to Islamic extremists everywhere, not just in Afghanistan. It would mean breaking our word to the Afghan people and our partners.

“The Taliban would retake the south, the warlords would come down from the north and the civil war would restart. Everything we have done here would unravel, these lands would become a haven for terrorism, and there could be millions of refugees.”

THE TALIBAN COMMANDER
Dr Safu Rahman Danesh, a Taliban commander in central Afghanistan: “The Western forces should get out as soon as possible. We have 75 per cent of the country already. We have support. Time is not important. When the foreigners withdraw, we will decide whether or not to negotiate with the government. We will see how much the Karzai administration is working for religion and how much it is working for the prosperity of Afghanistan. This is nothing to do with foreigners. They are infidels, they are our enemy, they should leave the country. We lose men, but for us dying is winning, if we die we go to a better life. If we live, we live as heroes.”

THE AFGHAN TRIBAL LEADER
Tribal leader from Helmand who did not want to be named: “The foreign forces are here because of the bad luck of Afghans and the disunity of Afghans. Afghans have shown that they give a teeth-breaking punch to foreigners. Now we are divided. Is there any betterment from foreigners? Do we expect anything from them, from someone with a gun? Of course not.

“It is just one of the foreigners’ lies that there would be civil war if they left. We are already in a civil war. All Afghans are victims now. When there is bombing by Nato forces, Afghans die. If there is a suicide bombing by Taliban, then Afghans die. The Afghans understand each other and slowly we will come to a better life. The foreigners should leave.”

THE SOVIET SOLDIER
Vyacheslav Kuznetsov, a veteran of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan: “Afghanistan is the worst place to conduct a war. If the British want to tackle terrorism there they should send in special forces to seek out and attack specific targets. Get in fast and out fast. If the aim is to pacify Afghanistan, you will have to kill every man, woman and child. Commiting troops to a ground war in Afghanistan is doomed to failure.”

THE TALIBAN COMMANDER
Mulla Abdul Haleem Haleem, a Taliban commander in Helmand: “These soldiers cannot bring peace but add fuel to the fire in the already volatile situation. Afghans have never liked foreigners. When it comes to British soldiers, they think they are there to settle the scores of their great-grandparents who came to occupy Afghanistan but were killed and are buried in Helmand.

“Even the children consider the British to be infidels. They believe that they are there to rule, not to bring peace. There is only one solution; Nato troops led by the US should immediately announce the date of their return.”

THE PAKISTANI MINISTER
Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, a former Pakistan interior minister: “It would be better to engage the Taliban in a dialogue than to send more troops. Force has not worked in Afghanistan and the Taliban have shown resolve. They are capable of fighting for years.

“Lack of development work has further complicated the situation. Use of sheer force was tried throughout this period and now it has not worked, another option should be tried: dialogue.”

THE BRITISH ARMY OFFICER
A senior Army officer, who did not want to give his name: “It would be quite wrong to pull out of Afghanistan just because we have a bad week as far as casualties are concerned. Our mission is to bring security to the country and to allow reconstruction and development.

“The majority of British soldiers are proud to serve in Afghanistan. There is a risk, Helmand is a dangerous place, but all of our soldiers are volunteers. They are well-trained and well-prepared for the challenges facing them.

“It is often forgotten that Nato is in Afghanistan because of 9/11. Afghanistan became a training ground for the terrorists who perpetrated those attacks and the attacks which took place in London on July 7, 2005.

“If Nato withdrew from Afghanistan, the country could become a haven for terrorists again. It would be wrong to think that the threat to Western society will disappear if Nato withdraws. We have a moral obligation to remain and help those Afghans who want a better life.”

THE WRITER
Rory Stewart, a former British diplomat in Iraq and author of The Places in Between, a best-selling travelogue on Afghanistan: “Why we are in southern Afghanistan in the first place? It was about terrorism, then to fight drugs and encourage development, then to fight the Taliban. I get suspicious when the reasons keep changing, and while all these things are worthwhile we just might not be able to achieve them.
“We can win battles and build roads and hold training sessions for the Afghan government, but that is very different from creating a stable and functioning nation.

“I think it would be sensible to have significant troop reductions over the coming five years, although that would mean giving up on counter-narcotics or dealing with the Taliban. Counter-terrorism would have to be limited to threats that only posed a direct risk to the outside world.

“We should also remember that Afghanistan is not like Iraq, it is far poorer. About 20 or 30 years of economic growth would be required to even get it looking like Bangladesh.”

THE FORMER AFGHAN MINISTER
Ali Jalali, former Afghan interior minister: “There has been increasing violence since 2006. Since then, in the absence of an overall counter-insurgency strategy, what the international community and the Afghan government are doing is not designed to win the war, rather not to lose.

“That is a major problem. There’s no campaign plan, I believe. The Taliban have suffered a lot, but they can lose men. As long as they have sanctuary across the border, you can kill thousands of them. There’s no military solution. You have to come up with a unified strategy. We need a unified command of all forces that can do three things: fighting, stabilising and peace-keeping.”

THE FORMER COMMANDER
Colonel Tim Collins, the former infantry commander: “We should stay in Afghanistan but we badly need a proper mission statement. The problem is that there is no British foreign policy, so nothing to frame the mission there. We need to understand what success would look like and what we are trying to achieve there.

“It is not for me to decide what the mission should be, but the first thing that needs to happen is for Gordon Brown and David Miliband to spend an hour together to form a foreign policy for the UK. Once they have that, they will be able to derive a defence policy and from that they will be able to establish what the mission should be in Afghanistan.

“The Government thinks it is enough to simply say that we want the good things to happen there and the bad things to stop, to make the world a better place and make happiness be apparent. But that is not a mission. They should be talking to the Afghan government about what they aspire to do, to identify what they hope to achieve and to get time frames for it.”

THE SERVING SOLDIER
Cpl Stephen Quinn, of the Royal Highland Fusiliers 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland in Helmand Province: “I arrived in theatre in March and am due to leave theatre in early October. At first I was tasked with assisting in mentoring the Afghan National Police in Musa Qala and I have recently moved on to Battle Group South Headquarters in Lashkar Gah, to work as an infantry signaller.

“The mission in Afghanistan is going well. Despite the Taliban stepping up their attacks on ISAF, American troops with the assistance of Battle Group South have pushed further south than any ISAF troops have been before. We are here to help rebuild Afghanistan and deny terrorists a safe haven, which I believe is a very worthwhile cause.

“The British public has been very supportive of our mission, the media coverage in Afghanistan is enough to give them a good idea of what is going on and why we are here. Everywhere you turn there are messages of support and parcels labelled: 'To a British Soldier’. All the guys really appreciate the things people send as it can be hard to get certain things out here, particularly in Forward Operations Bases.
“The mission in Afghanistan is justified, we are here by invitation of the government of Afghanistan, every soldier who comes here puts him or herself at risk, but they do so knowing that what they are doing is the right thing to do. It won’t be over soon and everyone here understands it is an enduring operation, but we are all committed and when it is over this will be a better place to live.”

THE SECURITY EXPERT
Dr Paul Cornish, head of the international security programme at foreign policy think tank Chatham House, said: “I think the British mission in southern Afghanistan it is worth it. For all the pain and talk of overstretch, you have to see it within the overall context of Afghanistan’s development.

“Things may not be going perfectly, but I think it is getting to the point where you can see momentum in terms of key development factors, like the numbers of children going into education, access to health services, the spread of the media and so on. There are signs of positive returns.”

THE SHADOW MINISTER
William Hague, shadow foreign secretary: “In Afghanistan we are engaged in a fight against terrorism and extremism which is a threat to us all and 106 of our finest men and women have given their lives for this cause.

“It is common ground in Britain that to achieve a stable Afghanistan we must ensure that those who are fighting and winning these battles have the equipment they need; that other Nato countries take on a greater share of the burden; and that the restrictions imposed by other countries on the way their troops are used are removed. And of great importance, the creation of a viable state is not going to succeed without a sustained effort led by the Afghan president Karzai’s government to root out corruption.

“Eventual success will depend on all of the above, and will take time. But an urgent reform needed without delay is a complete unity of military command.

“Very few military campaigns in history have been won without a unified command.”

THE DEMOCRAT
Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate: “Afghanistan is sliding towards chaos and risks turning into a narco-terrorist state. We need to take more resources and put them into the country. I’ve called for at least two additional combat brigades to support our efforts there. I’ve also called for at least $1 billion in non-military assistance each year.

“We’ve got an opportunity to mount a transatlantic surge in diplomacy, where our Nato allies feel more confident in our overarching strategy, feel that they’re being listened to, and may be willing to re-engage or engage further in Afghanistan in a way that right now they’re resistant to. They’re still frustrated about what’s happened in Iraq and still suspicious about US motives.”

THE REPUBLICAN
John McCain, Republican presidential candidate: “The Taliban’s recent resurgence threatens to lead Afghanistan to revert to its pre-9/11 role as a sanctuary for terrorists with global reach.

“Our recommitment to Afghanistan must include increasing Nato forces, suspending the debilitating restrictions on when and how those forces can fight, expanding the training and equipping of the Afghan National Army through a long-term partnership with Nato to make it more professional and multi-ethnic, and deploying significantly more foreign police trainers. It must also address the current political deficiencies in judicial reform, reconstruction, governance, and anti-corruption efforts.”

THE SOLDIER
Pte Hamilton, 5th Batallion, Royal Regiment of Scotland
'What we are doing here is worthwhile. It will take time but as soldiers we understand sometimes you take one step forward and two steps back. That is the nature of our job. The local people do appreciate the security we give them and to see a new school, a mosque and a health centre in this area is proving popular’

Reports by: Nick Meo, Sean Rayment, Massoud Ansari, Colin Freeman, Tim Shipman, Jasper Copping, Angus McDowall, Nick Holdsworth
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Police round-up 200 young truants
www.quqnoos.com Written by Shakeela Ibrimkhil Saturday, 21 June 2008 
Parents complain children hang out in snooker halls instead of school
POLICE in Kabul have rounded up and arrested 200 young people for anti-social behaviour and truancy.

Many of the young people arrested were school students accused of playing computer games and hanging out in snooker clubs instead of attending class.

Head of the criminal investigation department in Kabul, Ali Shah Paktiawal, said the young people are also suspected of bullying and harassing Kabul’s citizens on the capital’s streets.
 
Police shut down about 40 illegal snooker and video game halls in the last few days.

This is the third time in the last six months that police have rounded-up young boys and school students from the clubs.

Many families in Kabul are worried that their children are failing to attend school because they go to the clubs to meet up with friends.
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Ghor joins opium-free club - police
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 21 June 2008 
Drug eradicated from western province after police destroy poppy crop
THE PROVINCE of Ghor has joined Afghanistan’s group of opium-free regions, according to the province’s police chief.

Police destroyed 100 hectares of opium crops in nine of the province’s districts this year, making Ghor opium free, the police chief said on Friday.

The government believes 14 provinces, including Ghor, are now opium-free and it hopes to raise this figure to 22 by the end of the year.

However, many farmers in poppy-free provinces have started to grow marijuana, making Afghanistan of the largest producers of hashish in the world.

More than 90% of the world’s opium supply comes from Afghanistan, according to the US state department.

The United Nations fears this year may see another record opium harvest, outstripping last year’s bumper crop.

Most opium is grown in the south, funding a Taliban insurgency that threatens security on a daily basis in the region.

About 40% of the country’s opium is grown in Helmand.

In 2007, poppies were eradicated from about 12,300 acres of land, the Ministry of Counter-narcotics says.

But farmers still cultivated a record 477,000 acres of opium last year, according to the UN.

The world body said Afghanistan produced about 34% more opium last year compared to the year before.
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