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June 28, 2008 

Afghan, U.S. troops kill 32 Taliban in clashes
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops killed 32 Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, including some who dressed as women in an attempt to escape, the U.S. military said on Saturday.
Afghans find body of ex-president slain decades ago
Sat Jun 28, 2008 8:35pm IST
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan authorities have discovered mass graves containing the bodies of ex-President Mohammad Daud Khan, family members and aides, who were killed in a Soviet-backed coup three decades ago, his grandson said.

Pakistan launches strike at Taliban hideouts
By KATHY GANNON Associated Press / June 28, 2008
KHYBER AGENCY, Pakistan - Pakistani forces bombarded suspected militant hideouts with mortar shells Saturday as the government launched a major offensive against Taliban fighters threatening the main city in the country's volatile northwest, officials said.

Taliban Imperil Pakistani City, a Major Hub
The New York Times - World By JANE PERLEZ and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH  June 28, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan-In the last two months, Taliban militants have suddenly tightened the noose on this city of three million people, one of Pakistan’s biggest, establishing bases in surrounding towns and, in daylight, abducting residents for high ransoms.

Can Pakistan's new anti-militancy strategy work?
BBC News, UK By M Ilyas Khan BBC News, Karachi Friday, 27 June 2008
The Pakistan government appears to be making new efforts to establish its control in north-western territories bordering Afghanistan.

US warns Taliban will step up fight in new Afghan areas
by Daphne Benoit June 28, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Taliban will likely try to boost its presence in new areas of Afghanistan while continuing to fight in its south and eastern strongholds, the Pentagon warned in a new report.

British soldier killed in Afghanistan
Sat Jun 28, 8:03 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - A British soldier has died and two others were injured when their patrol vehicle rolled over in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Saturday.

Breakfast with Kabul's shadowy spy-master
Feared security official denies using torture while helping to spread `legitimate paranoia'
The Toronto Star (Canada) June 28, 2008 Rosie DiManno Columnist
KABUl–He is, this fellow who was smiling pleasantly across eggs-over-easy, among the most feared men in Afghanistan. I cannot reveal his name. That proviso for the interview came directly from President Hamid Karzai.

Helmand is Afghanistan’s biggest trouble spot, Pentagon says
Los Angeles Times - World News By Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers June 28, 2008
WASHINGTON-The southern Afghan province of Helmand, part of the Pashtun heartland from which the Taliban emerged in the 1990s, has become the most violent and narcotics-plagued region in the country by far, according

Ex-Taliban fighter tells of training, cash, orders from Pakistani military
The Canadian Press / June 27, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A former Taliban fighter has provided a gripping first-hand account of being secretly trained by members of the Pakistani military, paid $500 a month and ordered to kill foreigners in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan calls for further cultural cooperation with Iran
Kabul, June 28, IRNA
Afghanistan's Vive-President Mohammad Karim Khalili said on Saturday that his country should boost cultural cooperation with Iran given the two sides' strong religious, lingual and historical commonalties.

Islamabad, Isaf to reactivate tripartite commission
Pakistan Dawn, Pakistan By Baqir Sajjad Syed June 27, 2008
ISLAMABAD-Pakistan’s military authorities and Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan agreed on Friday to reactivate the tripartite commission. According to defence sources, the next meeting of the commission

Afghanistan exports 93 per cent opiates via Pakistan
[ANI] - Peshawar, June 27 : North West Frontier Province's (NWFP) Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) chief Brigadier Parvez Khalid Babar has said that Afghanistan exports 93 per cent of illicit opiates to the world via Pakistan and, it is not possible

Kabul's kids master the flip tricks as skateboarding invades the streets
Australians offer free classes to reach out to young people in the city
Guardian Unlimited - News - Top Headlines Declan Walsh in Kabul The Guardian Saturday June 28, 2008
Waheed Ullah, a scruffy Kabul shoeshine boy, had never heard of skateboarding, let alone tried it. Then one evening he put down his tin of polish, perched his gangly body on a battered skateboard and pushed off.

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Afghan, U.S. troops kill 32 Taliban in clashes
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops killed 32 Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, including some who dressed as women in an attempt to escape, the U.S. military said on Saturday.
The Taliban opened fire with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades on a patrol of Afghan security forces and coalition troops in Uruzgan province on Thursday, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The patrol returned fire then moved to higher ground and called in air strikes, killing three militants.

Militants soon attacked the patrol again, the statement said, and 29 more insurgents were killed.

"During this engagement, insurgents attempted to disguise themselves in women's clothing in order to escape," it said.

The number of NATO and coalition troops in Afghanistan has been increased and more Afghan soldiers and policemen are on duty, but there has been no let-up in the violence and the Taliban insurgency shows few if any signs of weakening.

More than 6,000 people were killed in Afghanistan last year and there are signs that this year the toll could be higher, with neither side able to gain the upper hand.

(Writing by Jon Hemming; editing by Andrew Roche)
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Afghans find body of ex-president slain decades ago
Sat Jun 28, 2008 8:35pm IST
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan authorities have discovered mass graves containing the bodies of ex-President Mohammad Daud Khan, family members and aides, who were killed in a Soviet-backed coup three decades ago, his grandson said.

"Two mass graves, one containing 16 bodies and the other 12, were found. We recognised by their shoes and clothes that the graves belonged to the deceased Daud Khan, his family and cabinet members," his grandson Mahmoud Ghazi Daud told reporters on Saturday.

He did not give further details on the identification process or provide more details on the discovery.

The graves were recently discovered by a commission appointed in April by President Hamid Karzai at the request of Daud Khan's family.

Daud Khan, Afghanistan's first president, was shot dead in the presidential palace in a military coup in April 1978.

Many Afghans see it as one of their country's darkest days, because it was followed by a decade of Soviet occupation, civil war, and the rise of the Taliban, who were toppled by U.S.-led troops in 2001.

Some two million people are believed to have been killed since the 1978 coup and more than six million have fled the country.

Daud Khan came to power in a coup himself when he overthrew his cousin Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, in 1973.

He tried to counter the influence of Islamists and established a republic, introducing reforms and eventually favoured relations with the West over the Soviet Union.
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Pakistan launches strike at Taliban hideouts
By KATHY GANNON Associated Press / June 28, 2008
KHYBER AGENCY, Pakistan - Pakistani forces bombarded suspected militant hideouts with mortar shells Saturday as the government launched a major offensive against Taliban fighters threatening the main city in the country's volatile northwest, officials said.

The offensive in the Khyber tribal region marked the first major military action Pakistan's newly elected government has taken against the militants operating in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

The government had said it preferred to try to defuse tension with the groups through negotiations, but with threats by Islamic militants to the city of Peshawar growing in recent weeks, the military decided to take action.

Khyber also is a key route for moving U.S. military supplies into neighboring Afghanistan.

By Saturday afternoon, the paramilitary Frontier Corps began shelling suspected militant hideouts in the mountains in Khyber.

"We have occupied, captured all important heights, and we have taken control of the area," said Maj. Gen. Alam Khattak, the Frontier Corps' head. He said his troops destroyed three militant centers and killed a gunman. The operation was expected to last up to a week.

In response to the operation and other recent confrontations with security forces, Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban leader in Pakistan, said he was suspending talks between his allies and the government. He implied his forces could cause trouble in Pakistan's main cities.

"Peace cannot be brought with force and aggression. This will be very unfortunate for the Pakistani nation if fighting starts again," he told The Associated Press by telephone.

Fasih Ullah, a police officer in Khyber, said 700 Frontier Corps troops moved into Khyber late Friday for the operation.

A round-the-clock curfew was imposed in the Bara area bordering Peshawar, and heavy contingents of troops blocked the main road into Khyber, said Mujeeb Khan, a senior local official.

A top official with a local law enforcement agency called the Frontier Constabulary said his forces had brought in reinforcements and heavy weapons to protect Peshawar and its more than 1 million residents from insurgents who might try a counterattack.

"We have increased our strength we will not let any militant come this way," Tauseef Haider said from the constabulary's brick outpost in Shahkas, on the edge of the tribal area just outside of Peshawar.

Across from the outpost was an expanse of flatland covered in bushes and foliage in front of undulating hills that turned into mountains.

In a sign of expected resistance, a Taliban-linked group said an offensive in the area will only create more problems.

"If the government thinks there is any issue to address, that should be resolved through talks, not by the use of force," said Munsif Khan, spokesman for the Vice and Virtue Movement. "We are ready for talks with the government."

Vice and Virtue, led by militant leader Haji Namdar, is suspected of carrying out operations against coalition soldiers across the border in Afghanistan. Namdar has sought to impose his own strict brand of Islamic law in the region. He is at odds with Mehsud.

Menghal Bagh's fighters have waged attacks in Peshawar in what provincial officials say was an attempt to intimidate the population and show the group's ability to wield influence outside the tribal regions.

Bagh's followers have also been blamed for threatening convoys of supplies bound for coalition forces in Afghanistan.

In the first hours of the operation, authorities blew up Menghal Bagh's headquarters, and he fled to the remote Tirah Valley along the Afghan border, an intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Mahmood Shah, a former security chief in Pakistan's tribal regions, said the Taliban control the country's entire tribal belt and "everyone now is waiting for some action from the federal government."

"They are on our doorstep," Shah said. "The situation is like water flowing into a field and until you have some obstruction to stop it you will drown. We are drowning."

Two weeks ago, a Taliban force from Khyber sent its militants into Peshawar and kidnapped 16 Christians who were later released.

Misrri Khan, who works for a tribal paramilitary force that patrols Khyber, said the militants kidnapped 16 of his fellow officers and threatened to behead them — and then take more captives — if they did not abandon their checkpoints in the area. Khan said the force refused.

The Pakistani offensive comes as the Pentagon reports that security is "fragile" in many parts of Afghanistan. "The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and have coalesced into a resilient insurgency," states the report, which was released Friday.

Though coalition forces have had some success fighting the Taliban, terrorist attacks and bombings are likely to continue and even escalate this year, the report concludes.

February elections brought a new civilian government to power, eclipsing former army strongman and U.S. ally President Pervez Musharraf. In a shift in policy, the new administration has supported peace efforts with Taliban militants to try to curb an explosion in violence in the northwest over the past year.

But Pakistan's Western allies are increasingly concerned that easing up military pressure on the militants has given them more space to operate — letting them strengthen their position in Pakistan's border regions and giving them more freedom to attack U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was in Peshawar on Saturday on a trip he said was unrelated to any impending operation.

At meetings in Peshawar on Friday, federal and provincial representatives hammered out the details of the Khyber operation. They also discussed the situation in the restive Swat area, where the provincial government has signed a peace deal with a radical pro-Taliban cleric, provincial officials said.

Afrasiab Khattak, chief negotiator for the provincial government, told the AP that the province is considering a second military operation in Swat, where militants forced out by an army offensive last year are now regaining a foothold.
_____

Associated Press writer Riaz Khan in Peshawar, Ishtiaq Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Habibullah Khan in Khar contributed to this report.
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Taliban Imperil Pakistani City, a Major Hub
The New York Times - World By JANE PERLEZ and PIR ZUBAIR SHAH  June 28, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan-In the last two months, Taliban militants have suddenly tightened the noose on this city of three million people, one of Pakistan’s biggest, establishing bases in surrounding towns and, in daylight, abducting residents for high ransoms.

The militants move unchallenged out of the lawless tribal region, just 10 miles away, in convoys of heavily armed, long haired and bearded men. They have turned up at courthouses in nearby towns, ordering judges to stay away. On Thursday they stormed a women’s voting station on the city outskirts, and they are now regularly kidnapping people from the city’s bazaars and homes. There is a feeling that the city gates could crumble at any moment.

The threat to Peshawar is a sign of the Taliban’s deepening penetration of Pakistan and of the expanding danger that the militants present to the entire region, including nearby supply lines for NATO and American forces in Afghanistan.

For the United States, the major supply route for weapons for NATO troops runs from the port of Karachi to the outskirts of Peshawar and through the Khyber Pass to the battlefields of Afghanistan.
 Maintaining that route would be extremely difficult if the city were significantly infiltrated by the very militants who want to defeat the NATO war effort across the border.

NATO and American commanders have complained for months that the government’s policy of negotiating with the militants has led to more cross-border attacks in Afghanistan by Taliban fighters based in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

But the brazen campaign of intimidation in Peshawar, just 90 minutes by highway from Islamabad, the capital, shows that the Taliban threat now cuts deeply on both sides of the border, not just with suicide bombings but also with the persistent presence of militants among the population.

In this hard-boiled provincial capital, the linchpin of the North-West Frontier Province, the fear is palpable. Many of the rich have fled their mansions and left for Dubai. Middle-class families are packing for other places in Pakistan, and the poor are vulnerable to the militants’ entreaties.

“If this trend continues, there will be complete peace because the city is under the Taliban, or civil war because of the fighting,” said Samullah Shinwari, 31, the father of four children, who is selling his lucrative shopping mall and two ancestral family homes and moving to Islamabad.

With the militants crowding in, the national government called a special meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday to address the rapidly deteriorating security situation.

The day before, a sympathizer of the Taliban, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, shocked the National Assembly when he said that the entire North-West Frontier Province, including Peshawar, was on the brink of being engulfed by extremism.

The government’s control, he warned, was “almost nonexistent” in the province, an integral part of Pakistan and one of just four in the country. The specter of the fall of Peshawar threatens the fabric of the country.

The government issued a statement after its meeting announcing that it was turning over security of the province directly to the army. In the tribal areas, the police and the paramilitary Frontier Corps would remain the first line of defense, and the policy of peace deals with the militants would continue, the statement said. The military would be a force of last resort.

On Friday extra police officers were patrolling the main roads of Peshawar and its entry points from the tribal region.

There were reports that the Frontier Corps planned an operation in the coming days in the Khyber agency, adjacent to the city, to clean out Islamic militants under the sway of Mangal Bagh, a former bus driver who has grown into one of the most feared extremist leaders, commanding thousands of men.

But whether there was sufficient resolve to push back the startling gains by the militants was a point of debate.

“The government is helpless,” said Arbab Hidayat Ullah, a former senior police officer here. “It has lost its wits. The police have lost so many men at the hands of the Taliban they are scared.” Mr. Ullah said that the police of Peshawar had a considerable budget, but that the money had little impact and that the void allowed the brute force of the Taliban to flourish.

Despite its proximity to the capital, Peshawar has always been a world unto itself, and the province and the tribal areas have been largely forgotten by successive Pakistani governments. They have reaped slim allocations from the federal budget and received minimal governance.

Until now, the people of Peshawar have pretty much liked it that way, providing for themselves or growing rich on the smuggling routes that come with its position as the entrance to the semiautonomous tribal lands. The city has also long been a staging area for intrigue.

In the 1980s, the Americans used the city as rear base for the mujahedeen, the Islamic fighters supplied by Washington to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden came here in 1985 to help in that effort, and almost exactly 20 years ago, in August 1988, Mr. bin Laden held meetings at a house here that gave birth to Al Qaeda, according to a new history, “The bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century” by Steve Coll.

Today the Taliban, sometimes working with Al Qaeda, have almost total control over the tribal agencies, and their influence has steadily bled into Pakistan proper, as they “Talibanize” and challenge nearby areas.

The Taliban militants are a fractious mélange of various groups, law enforcement and local officials say. A survey of the towns close to Peshawar reveals the mixture.

To the south in Darra Adam Khel, forces of the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan, an umbrella group of Taliban, took virtual control of the city some time ago. The group is led by Baitullah Mehsud, who is accused by the Pakistani government of masterminding the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December and running scores of suicide bombers on both sides of the border.

To the east, a militant named Mangal Bagh leads a group called Lashkar-i-Islam. He holds sway in the Khyber agency and is so flush with men and money that he is fighting another Islamic group in the Tirah valley, law enforcement officials said.

To the north, the forces of Tehrik-e-Taliban established a prison in the town of Michini several months ago. And in the town of Warsak, the Taliban have constructed a training camp, the officials said.
In Shabqadar, a few miles away, the Taliban turned up in the central square and posted a notice urging people to contact them rather than the courts to settle their disputes, said Ahsanuddin Khan, the deputy superintendent of police.

On Thursday, in Tangi, near Charsadda, four pickup trucks of armed men with beards, long hair and scarves wrapped around their faces pulled into a school where polling places for women were set up for a special election for the provincial assembly. The militants ordered men present in the grounds of the school to leave.

“There were too many Taliban,” said Laila Gul, a worker for the Pakistan Peoples Party. “They fired into the air. One of them said he would explode the grenade on his belt.” In response, two battered trucks of the North-West Frontier police turned up, with a few elderly officers, but the intruders were allowed to get away.

In Charsadda, just 20 minutes from Peshawar, menacing convoys of Taliban men have showed up in recent weeks, their presence unchallenged, and almost accepted, said Munir Orekzei, a tribal leader and a member of the National Assembly.

On Friday, Waliur Rehman, a local Taliban commander, oversaw the execution of two men before thousands of people in Bajur, accusing them of helping the United States carry out a missile strike in Damadola that killed 14 people last month.

Gunmen with daggers pounced on one of the men, decapitating him and waving his severed head at the cheering crowd, according to The Associated Press.

In all of these places, the militants use a mixture of fear and social co-option, techniques similar to those used by their kin in Afghanistan in the 1990s, when the Taliban emerged after the retreat of the Soviets and the end of the American financing for their mujahedeen proxies.

One of the first targets of the Taliban are usually criminals with whom they often fashion a symbiotic relationship, officials here said. Often the Taliban attack criminals and in that way increase their social standing with local people.

And then to win favor with the Taliban, the criminals grow their hair and their beards, and join forces with the militants, they said. In this way, the criminals get protection from the militants for the money they give to the Taliban from their extortion rackets.

Last weekend 16 Christians were abducted from a house in an upscale section of Peshawar. They were released after negotiations with the police, but the landlord, a Muslim, was held longer and released only on the stipulation that he attend Islamic revival meetings for the next three months.

Unnerving for reasonably tolerant Peshawar was the recent kidnapping of four prostitutes from a house in Hayatabad, the most expensive area of the city, adjacent to the Khyber agency.
Abduction of young boys has also become common in Hayatabad: in the last few weeks a dozen boys have been snatched by militants demanding that they become jihadists rather than sit idly at home, said Masood Afridi, a doctor who lives there.

Nobody knows exactly when the Taliban will actually try to take on Peshawar.

Few people expect a direct assault but rather a mounting campaign of intimidation and fear, and the posting of heavily armed men at carefully chosen strategic points. Some people believe that once the summer fighting in Afghanistan is over and more Pakistani Taliban return home, they will turn their sights on Peshawar.

Not knowing the militants strategy was one thing, but the government’s strategy was nonexistent, complained Waris Khan Afridi, a tribal leader from the Khyber agency and a former member of the National Assembly.

“There is no strategy to counter them,” he said. “Very soon, the Taliban will go to Peshawar and say: ‘Hands up.’ ”
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Can Pakistan's new anti-militancy strategy work?
BBC News, UK By M Ilyas Khan BBC News, Karachi Friday, 27 June 2008
The Pakistan government appears to be making new efforts to establish its control in north-western territories bordering Afghanistan.

But there is little sense yet of how far it is prepared to confront the various militant groups who control large amounts of territory there.

After assuming power over two months ago, Pakistan's new democratic government said it would negotiate with the tribes of the north-west to curb cross-border raids into Afghanistan and to end the domestic militancy that caused havoc in Pakistan last year.

On Wednesday, a high-level meeting presided by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani authorised the army to back these talks with a credible threat of force.

The US administration has apparently endorsed this strategy, with Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Richard Boucher, terming it "a very important development".

But the coalition forces in Afghanistan are still wary, insisting that dialogue and peace deals in the past have only resulted in militants spending more of their time fighting in Afghanistan.

'Deliberate strike'
The government's new strategy follows two important developments in the border region.

One was a US air strike that killed more than 10 Pakistani soldiers at a border post in the Mohmand tribal region on 11 June.

Most officials and analysts in Pakistan believe it was a deliberate strike to punish Pakistan for not doing enough to prevent militants from crossing into Afghanistan.

The other is the brief kidnapping last week of 16 local Christians by the militants from the heart of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province (NWFP).

Between Peshawar and Afghanistan lies the strip of territory officially known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).

But the official title is misleading. This is the area that the British empire never managed to subdue.

In reality, the Pakistan government let the various bellicose tribes of the area govern themselves until President Musharraf was pressured by the US to take action against the militants.

One of the most disturbing developments for the Pakistani government is how in recent months the police in Peshawar have abandoned night patrols in many parts of the city and surrounding areas because of the spreading militant threat.

The militants are becoming increasingly brazen in the city - one of Pakistan's four provincial capitals.

Bases for attack
To get an overall view of the scale of the militant threat in the north-west take a look at the map.

The worst areas are the Swat district of NWFP, the adjacent district of Dir, and then, dipping south-westwards in a more or less straight line, the tribal areas along the Afghan border.

The Swat and Dir districts were used as bases by militant groups fighting in Indian-administered Kashmir during the 1990s.

The Fata tribal areas have served as a launching pad for Afghan guerillas ever since the 1980s when the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

Both the operations, which ran for decades, were planned, controlled and funded by the country's top intelligence service, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).

President Musharraf tried to flush the militants out, but failed.

Since then, the militant movement has evolved into a larger entity of loose knit groups.

Sympathise?
Some analysts argue that the militants have flourished because of the mistakes and failures of the army. It is often criticised for sidelining the tribal administrations and conducting indiscriminate operations that killed innocent civilians.

Others say that there are still many elements with the military and wider security services and government who still sympathise with, and actively support, the militants.

The government's new strategy unveiled on Wednesday appears to be a reversion to the traditional system inherited from the British colonial rulers.

It involves graduated responses in order of severity to keep the semi-autonomous tribes under control.

There is consultation through the age-old calling of jirgas, or councils of tribal elders.

Then there can be economic blockades of erring tribes.

If that fails, then the government can resort to punitive military strikes.

But can such an approach work?

'Precise targeting'
Hardcore Islamist militants, such as Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan, have shown themselves to be well-armed. They have successfully tapped into widespread anti-American sentiment.

In addition, the waning of central government influence has been exacerbated by a growing number of criminal gangs posing as the Taleban.

They are involved in kidnapping for ransom and the smuggling of Afghanistan's opium abroad. Many are unemployed youth with nothing better to do.

Brigadier (Rtd) Mehmood Shah, a former security chief of the tribal areas, says the military need to be selective.

"There are very few people that need to be dealt with... military action must precisely target only the hardcore militants."

Alternatives, he warns, may only alienate further local people who have grown tired of the violence.

"A no-hold-barred operation, like the one that Americans want, will be counter-productive."

So will we see firm talks with militants backed by targeted action in the coming weeks and months?

"The federal government has discussed some related issues with us, but we think it is not enough," says Afrasiab Khatak, who heads the Awami National Party in the NWFP which swept to power there in February's elections.

"It is still not clear if our security establishment has really decided to dump the Taleban."

If Mr Khatak's doubts are well-founded, then many fear we are in for a period of "cosmetic" military actions aimed at containing the militants, rather than eliminating the militant threat altogether.
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US warns Taliban will step up fight in new Afghan areas
by Daphne Benoit June 28, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Taliban will likely try to boost its presence in new areas of Afghanistan while continuing to fight in its south and eastern strongholds, the Pentagon warned in a new report.

"The Taliban will challenge the control of the Afghan government in rural areas, especially in the south and east. The Taliban will also probably attempt to increase its presence in the west and north," the Pentagon said in its first report to Congress on security in the country.

The hardline Islamic militia, which was routed from power in Afghanistan by a US-led coalition in 2001, has regrouped since then and "coalesced into a resilient insurgency."

The Taliban has continued to strengthen, resulting in an upswing in violence in 2007 that saw some 6,500 people killed in suicide attacks, roadside bombings and other violence.

The insurgency has been fiercest in the Taliban strongholds of southern Afghanistan and to the east, bordering Pakistan.

The Pentagon report, which recorded events up to April, acknowledged that international forces had "caused setbacks to the Afghan insurgency, including leadership losses and the loss of some key safe-havens in Afghanistan.

"Despite these setbacks, the Taliban is likely to maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks and bombings in 2008."

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime in Afghanistan over its support for the Al-Qaeda network.

But violence in the region has steadily increased in the past two years despite the presence of some 70,000 multinational troops in Afghanistan, including soldiers under US command and others under NATO's authority.

The 72-page "Report on Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan" is the first such report to Congress, and a similar accounting will be now made every six months in the same way that the Pentagon tracks the war in Iraq.

In all, 106 foreign soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since January, the majority slain by roadside bombs, according to an AFP tally based on military statements.

According to the report, as of early 2008 "the most significant threat to stability" in northern and western Afghanistan came "from warlords, criminals and drug traffickers. The power of these entities is increasingly challenged by the growing competence of local and national government."

The country's thriving drug trade "remains a significant challenge" for the government and the international forces. "While progress has been made in some areas, overall counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan have not been successful," the report said.

Concerning Iran, "there is evidence that the insurgency ... has been provided with lethal aid originating in Iran since at least 2006."

However these explosives and weapons have "not proven militarily significant," and it is "unclear what role, and at what level the Iranian government plays in providing this assistance."

US officials "monitor and take seriously any such assistance to the insurgency," the report read.

The report notes a sharp rise in the use of roadside bombs, what the military calls Improvised Explosive Devices: US officials reported finding 2,615 roadside bombs in 2007, up from 1,931 in 2006.

The greatest challenge "to long-term security within Afghanistan is the insurgent sanctuary within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan," the report said.

On Thursday, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates lashed out at Pakistan's failure to put pressure on Taliban forces on the country's border with Afghanistan.

A 40 percent spike in attacks in east Afghanistan in the first five months of 2008 "is a matter of concern, of real concern, and I think that one of the reasons that we're seeing the increase ... is more people coming across the border from the frontier area," Gates told a news conference.

While stressing the US "moral responsibility" in Afghanistan, the Pentagon report said success "will never be achieved through military means alone, but through a comprehensive approach that involves the elements of power: military, diplomatic, and economic."
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British soldier killed in Afghanistan
Sat Jun 28, 8:03 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - A British soldier has died and two others were injured when their patrol vehicle rolled over in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Saturday.

The accident, which the MoD said "was not combat-related", happened in central Helmand, southern Afghanistan, late Friday.

All the soldiers involved were from 13 Air Assault Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps. The injuries sustained by the two soldiers who survived are not thought to be life-threatening, the MoD said.

The incident brings to 109 the British death toll in Afghanistan since operations began in late 2001.
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Breakfast with Kabul's shadowy spy-master
Feared security official denies using torture while helping to spread `legitimate paranoia'
The Toronto Star (Canada) June 28, 2008 Rosie DiManno Columnist
KABUl–He is, this fellow who was smiling pleasantly across eggs-over-easy, among the most feared men in Afghanistan. I cannot reveal his name. That proviso for the interview came directly from President Hamid Karzai.

The Star can describe him only as a "top official" with the National Directorate of Security – Afghanistan's blood-chilling domestic intelligence service.

"I am a spy," he shrugs.

A torturer, perhaps, if human rights agencies are to be believed, or at least the man who bids others to do torturing on the nation's behalf, in pursuit of critical information: thousands of agents fanning across the land, infiltrating Taliban cadres, listening, watching, detaining.

"We do not torture," he objects. "But interrogation is not negotiation. It's not chatting over coffee. It's a very intense conversation. We conduct very intense conversations to get information from people.

"But the law is very clear. We cannot physically harm a suspect. We do not slap, we do not beat, we do not use electrical prods.

"I agree that most Afghans are afraid of the NDS. But I think there is a legitimate paranoia that has to be there in order for this agency to be effective. We need to be highly disciplined and watchful from the shadows. That creates both respect and paranoia."

Although his name would be instantly recognizable, at least to Afghans, not so his face, rarely photographed. It is a surprisingly young face and he is a surprisingly young man for so senior a position, elegantly dressed in civilian clothes, his manners impeccable.

He invited the Star to breakfast – as a personal favour to a diplomat friend – the table in a boardroom adjacent to his office laid out with damask linen and silver cutlery.

He reacts with mild annoyance when reminded of the detainee issue that scandalized Ottawa last year, reports of inmates tortured at the NDS prison in Kandahar.

"One case," he insists. "One case that was brought to us by a Canadian official, investigated and verified. There was truth in what we heard. So, a colonel at that prison was charged and a massive management reshuffle was conducted.

"These other claims that were reported in the Canadian media had no merit."

Spy-craft, given its inherently clandestine nature, is a subject infrequently examined, as secretive in Afghanistan as anywhere else. But the NDS, for all its frightening reputation, is integral to the country's survival, tasked as the first line of defence against Afghanistan's many enemies.

Western diplomats acknowledge the agency's efficiency.

"Across the country, they are probably the most effective and the most important institution for fighting this insurgency," says Christopher Alexander, Canada's former ambassador and now No. 2 at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. "Because they can tell where these people are. It's not by having battalions of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) troops. It's by having informers and intelligence trained in these networks.

"This is a much more intelligence-driven security challenge than anything that's happened in Iraq, where the kinetic use of force and the protection of those few elements that are truly reliable is the name of the game. Here, it's a question of identifying groups – small groups of people – that try to blend in with the population before they're able to have their effect. And the NDS has done a really first-rate job of that."

The man who cannot be named claims the agency has a 40 per cent success rate in thwarting terrorist plots before they can be launched. That may seem low but attacks are a daily occurrence in Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, the agency has to wear the can on three spectacular intelligence failures so far in 2008: a suicide attack against the five-star Serena Hotel in January; April's assassination attempt on Karzai during a military parade; and this month's breakout at Sarposa prison in Kandahar.

In fact, the NDS discovered the assassination bid in advance – two cells involved – and very nearly prevented it. "We had learned what type of attack was planned against the parade. We gave this information to the president and his security officials."

Afterward, eight senior security officials, including the defence ministry's chief of detection and intelligence and Kabul's police chief, were suspended.

"Disgraceful," says the man now ripping apart a piece of bread. "But in Afghanistan, there are a vast number of people who, by virtue of their political connections, influence, friendship and tribal ties, can put themselves close to the president and cause terrible harm."

Trying to stay on top and just ahead of this combustible mix is an endless challenge. Last year, the agency submitted 15,000 reports on suspected Taliban activity to coalition military authorities and foreign embassies.

Internal corruption, enemies of the government operating within its own security agencies, remains a frustrating and stubborn reality. But this highly informed man, who knows where so many of the bodies are buried, points his finger directly at Pakistan as meddlesome neighbour stoking the insurgency.

"We are sitting here, down the stream, suffering from contaminated water flowing from Pakistan. These people are killing our children, killing Canadians. And what are we to do about it?

"Should we bomb them? Or do we negotiate? But how can you negotiate from a position of weakness?

"We are situated between a Shia state in the West (Iran) and a radical Sunni extremist state in the East (Pakistan). It is a very tough neighbourhood."

Strategically, he argues, there were many mistakes made after the Taliban was ousted in 2001. In retrospect, for example, demobilizing regional militias might not have been such a brilliant idea.

"We have a large population of unemployed and poverty is the father of instability. We also have a large population that has learned the skills of war. A decision was made that the priority would be building up the Afghan National Army. So we disarmed the militias without having anything ready to put in their place.

"The Taliban was defeated by provincial tribal forces that was not out of a single command structure. We took that away before our national security forces were in their infancy, unable to take full control. These militias had been very effective pushing the Taliban out of villages and providing a degree of protection to those communities.

"When that was gone, the Taliban were able to come back and now we aren't able to operate at all in some of those regions. A vacuum was created and the Taliban filled it, in Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul ..."

The other vital error, he continues, was not crushing the Taliban when the opportunity was there by pursuing them right into their Pakistan boltholes.

"The increase in attacks happened when we failed, collectively, to formulate a policy in regards to terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan.

"The policy here was that we should `consult' with Pakistan authorities. Go to them as fellow Muslims and say: `Brother, what can you do?'

"They've not done very much. Basically, what this means is that we never defeated the Taliban. We just pushed them to safe regions on the other side of the border, where they could reorganize.

"We must cross that border."

Further, American military commanders failed to develop a co-ordinated plan encompassing Afghanistan's nascent security forces.

"The Americans were never clear on what they wanted to achieve. Did they want to chase Al Qaeda or deal with the Taliban? What set of tasks could best be performed by Afghan security forces? Because there are places in Afghanistan where we would have been better able to mount operations.

"To this day, there is no framework, no single agreement, upon strategy beyond a broad agreement that the war against the Taliban must continue.

"Seven years after the collapse of the Taliban, and there's still no broad, strategic perspective."

This man with no name well understands the disillusion and impatience in NATO capitals, why the Canadian public may have grown weary of the whole Afghanistan mission, see in its fate no direct consequence to this country. But that, he argues, is to forget the tragedy of exported terrorism that was incubated in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

"I imagine Canadians are asking themselves, how long should we be there? Why are our men and women, in their 20s, getting killed in Afghanistan?

"But is it necessary for a threat to come all the way to your doorstep before you feel it? We are fighting this war now in one corner of the world but the threat is global.

"These people, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, are of the view that the current world civilization is a Western one. Whatever benefits are in that civilization, they say, are not for us. So they want their world disconnected from the rest of the world. They want values completely different from what we all believe in: human rights, tolerance, political parties, transparency, progress, equality between men and women.

"We are fighting this battle here, now. But in a broader sense, the West is also fighting on its own behalf against these medieval forces."

Have fortitude, the man with no name pleads, and don't abandon Afghanistan again.

"There is a massive exercise here called democracy. And it is very new for all of us." Columnist Rosie DiManno has returned from a six-week assignment in Afghanistan.
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Helmand is Afghanistan’s biggest trouble spot, Pentagon says
Los Angeles Times - World News By Peter Spiegel and Julian E. Barnes, Los Angeles Times Staff Writers June 28, 2008
WASHINGTON-The southern Afghan province of Helmand, part of the Pashtun heartland from which the Taliban emerged in the 1990s, has become the most violent and narcotics-plagued region in the country by far, according to the first formal Pentagon report to Congress on the Afghan conflict.

Security for Helmand is the chief responsibility of Britain, which has about 8,200 troops in the province. Since British forces took command of the province two years ago, 103 of their soldiers have been killed.

In March, the U.S. sent 2,400 Marines to the southernmost part of the province to assist the British, and the Marine unit has come under heavy attack since.

Because of the ongoing violence, the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based Marines could have their seven-month tour extended by a month, although Pentagon officials emphasized Friday that U.S. Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, the overall commander in Afghanistan, has made no formal request.

"The Marines have been highly successful," said a senior Pentagon official, who requested anonymity when discussing internal decision-making. "The question will be how do we build upon that to get to the stability and hold endgame."

The report, submitted to Congress on Friday, paints a bleak picture of the prospects for containing violence in Afghanistan this year, confirming previous assessments that the Taliban have succeeded in regrouping in many areas.

Though it cites gains by NATO and Afghan military forces in 2007, the report acknowledges that the Taliban are "likely to maintain or even increase the scope" of their terrorist attacks and bombings this year.
"The Taliban will challenge the control of the Afghan government in rural areas, especially in the south and east," the report says.

According to the report, the number of attacks in Helmand during the first 10 weeks of the year reached nearly 2,500, more than the three next-most violent provinces combined.

In addition, the report says Helmand now accounts for 53% of all poppies grown in Afghanistan, which has become the world's largest producer of opium.

According to a military official who briefed reporters on the new report's findings, the violence in Helmand is the result of the continuing shortage of troops who make up the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force.

"That province had a lot of Taliban in it because of the resource shortfalls of ISAF forces," said the military official, who was not authorized by the Pentagon to speak publicly. "The Taliban operated there, so hence they could attack there."

The report also says Afghanistan's stability continues to be hampered by the actions of neighboring countries, such as Pakistan's decision to enter into cease-fire negotiations with militant groups near the Afghan border. Some military officials believe the talks have allowed the extremist groups to turn their attention to attacking Afghan targets.

In addition, the report says Iran has been supplying Afghan insurgents with weaponry since at least 2006, though it adds that the assistance has "not proven militarily significant" on the battlefield.

peter.spiegel@latimes.com
julian.barnes@latimes.com
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Ex-Taliban fighter tells of training, cash, orders from Pakistani military
The Canadian Press / June 27, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A former Taliban fighter has provided a gripping first-hand account of being secretly trained by members of the Pakistani military, paid $500 a month and ordered to kill foreigners in Afghanistan.

Mullah Mohammed Zaher offered a vivid description of a bomb-making apprenticeship at a Pakistani army compound where he says he learned to blow up NATO convoys.

He's one of three former Taliban fighters introduced to The Canadian Press by an Afghan government agency that works at getting rebels to renounce the insurgency.

Zaher insists he was neither forced to go public with his story nor coached by Afghan officials, whose routine response to terrorism on their soil is to blame neighbouring Pakistan.

Pakistan officially sides with the West against the insurgents and vigorously denies mounting accusations that it is a two-faced participant in the war on terror.

A report produced for the Pentagon and released this month by the Rand Corp., a U.S. think-tank, claims individuals in the Pakistani government are involved in helping the insurgents.

An illiterate, career warrior, Zaher has not seen the 177-page report. But he made a series of claims in a 90-minute interview that supported its broad conclusions - and offered a deluge of new details.

He described how men in khaki army fatigues housed, fed, paid and finally threatened insurgents into carrying out attacks on foreign troops.

Perhaps most startling of all was his description of the repeated warning from Pakistani soldiers about where trainees would be sent if they refused to fight: Guantanamo Bay.

He said there was an inside joke among insurgents whenever the Pakistanis turned over a high-profile rebel to the Americans for detention at the U.S.-run prison camp in Cuba.

"Whenever we heard on the news that Pakistan caught a Taliban commander, we used to say: 'He stopped obeying them'," Zaher said through a Pashto-language interpreter.

Two other former insurgents interviewed by The Canadian Press said they were aware of colleagues being trained in Pakistan, but said such fighters were part of an elite minority.

Mullah Janan said he heard that some of his Taliban comrades had received training in Pakistan, with many more receiving shelter or medical treatment across the border.

When infighting broke out between Taliban factions, Janan said, mediators from Pakistan even came across the border to help settle the dispute.

Zaher said he was among the elite.

He said he arrived in 2003 for his first of several training sessions at a walled military compound in the Nawakilli area outside Quetta, Pakistan.

He said he was greeted warmly by men in military fatigues, introduced to his fellow trainees and taken to a single-storey white building where for the next 20 days he would eat, sleep and learn the finer points of waging jihad.

On his first day there he quietly sipped tea and gobbled down a hearty meal of chicken curry, and said he was brought to a classroom the next morning.

He said he remembers only the last name of the man in the khaki uniform, Khattak, who presided over the orientation session.

The man told his pupils their homeland had been invaded again by non-Muslims, just as it had been by the Soviets in the 20th century and the British in the 19th.

Zaher said the group was told that the infidels had been stopped before and they must be stopped again.

"You are supposed to get good training here - and you are supposed to go and kill them there," Zaher recalled being told.

"We have to kick their asses out of Afghanistan and send them back to their own country ... We have to fix mines for them, destroy them and get them out of Afghanistan."

Zaher said he learned to produce a variety of explosives. They ranged from a crude bomb with wiring and fertilizer stuffed into a plastic jug, to more sophisticated remote-contolled devices.

"I can even make a bomb by buying stuff at the bazaar - for $10."

Zaher said he attended three sessions at the compound, lasting from 20 days to two months.

A half-dozen trainees would sleep on the floor in a common dormitory in the single-storey white building, he said.

On a typical day, they had breakfast at 10 a.m., lunch at 2 p.m., and spent every other waking hour learning how to kill foreigners.

Zaher said he doesn't know how many soldiers died from the bombs he planted on roads in Zhari, Panjwaii, Khakrez and Maywand districts of Kandahar province. And he said he has no idea whether the vehicles he blew up were Canadian, American or British.

He showed no remorse.

On the contrary, his dark eyes softened, his smile sparkled and his nasally voice quivered with excitement as he listed the places where he had ended enemies' lives.

"Sure, I've killed many foreigners," he said. "I was very happy when I killed people. That was supposed to be my task - and it made me very happy."

Zaher said he doesn't know much about Canada except that it's a foreign country.

The Canadian military began moving operations from Kabul to Kandahar in August 2005, initially establishing a provincial reconstruction team. By February 2006, some 2,000 Canadian troops had arrived and taken charge of security in Kandahar province.

Zaher said he left the insurgency about two-and-a-half years ago - around the time the Canadians entered Kandahar in force.

He wanted to come back home.

Upon being offered amnesty under the Afghan government's reconciliation program, he crammed his family and a few possessions into their Mazda minivan, rolled out of Pakistan in the middle of the night and moved into Kandahar city's District Six.

Zaher has since trimmed his once-bountiful beard and turfed his turban in favour of a white skull cap.

But he eagerly showed off old pictures of himself holding rocket launchers, AK-47 assault rifles and dressed in trademark Taliban garb.

Zaher said he was a district commander outside the capital under the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan. After the Taliban were ousted by U.S.-led forces in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, he returned to Kandahar and struggled to adapt to the changed life.

He said he grew tired of being harassed, threatened and extorted by corrupt officials in the new Afghan government.

Like many of his friends, he fled to Pakistan in 2003.

Almost immediately upon arriving in Quetta, he said he received phone calls from his old allies offering him a lucrative opportunity to work with the Pakistanis.

He called them generous employers.

They gave him a motorbike and later upgraded it to the minivan. He said he lived in a rent-free house in Quetta big enough to accommodate him, his wife and their 10 children.

And he said he could ask anytime for an advance of up to three months on his salary.

Because he was illiterate, Zaher said the soldier who handed over the cash accepted an ink thumbprint as proof of payment.

But the generosity came with strings attached.

He was expected to spend about half the year fighting in Afghanistan.

If he wanted to see his family in Pakistan, he had to find someone to replace him in Afghanistan. It was like shift work. "He would come from Pakistan, replace me, and I would go home to Quetta. It was very important for me to find a replacement."

There was another catch.

Each time he received his payment, and every time he went for training, soldiers would remind him about what happened to trainees who refused to fight in Afghanistan.

"'If you don't go there, you will go to Guantanamo'," Zaher said.

"People who were saying they didn't want to do the training ... they were sent to Guantanamo. They were accused of being Talibs and they're getting punished over there."

The Pakistani government has strongly denied allegations that hardline Islamist factions within its security forces have been helping the Taliban.

How could the army possibly be aiding the insurgency, Pakistani officials argue, when pro-Taliban rebels have killed far more soldiers from Pakistan than any other country?

The Rand Corp. report offered several possible reasons why certain elements in the Pakistani government would support the Taliban.

Islamic militancy is only one of those factors, wrote Seth Jones, the report's author.

His report said Pakistanis want to continue exerting more influence in Afghanistan than their arch-nemesis, India - an emerging economic superpower that has helped bankroll a number of construction projects including Afghanistan's new parliament building.

Jones suggested some people in Pakistan may want to hedge their bets in Afghanistan in case of a NATO defeat, maintaining close ties to the rebels as a backup plan.

Finally, Jones said they want to keep Pakistan's Pashtun population loyal - an unstable Afghanistan next door will solidify their sense of belonging to Pakistan.

Among former insurgents, Pakistan's involvement is described as a matter of fact.

Mullah Mirza Akhun said he met some of his old friends two months ago when he travelled to Quetta to get medical treatment for his mother.

"I met some Taliban there - and they offered me a job," said the Kandahar resident, a self-described former Taliban commander.

"I was told by some of my friends that the Pakistani government can give you training to destroy Afghanistan."

"But I refused."

A.R. Khan, a Kandahar-based journalist, did additional reporting and provided translation during the interviews.
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Afghanistan calls for further cultural cooperation with Iran
Kabul, June 28, IRNA
Afghanistan's Vive-President Mohammad Karim Khalili said on Saturday that his country should boost cultural cooperation with Iran given the two sides' strong religious, lingual and historical commonalties.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the first Teachers Training Center for Afghan teachers in Kabul, Khalili appreciated Iran's cooperation in establishing the center and stressed the need for deepening of the two nations' relations.

Iran's Minister of Education Ali-Reza Ali-Ahmadi, who is currently in Kabul at the head of a delegation, said that the training center has been set up per agreements reached by the two countries.

He added that Iran and Afghanistan share lingual, religious and cultural commonalties and they both speak Persian that is part of the world civilization.

Referring to Iran's nuclear success as well as the country's progress in medical sciences, Ali-Ahmadi said that the neighboring countries are keen to get familiar with Iran's scientific achievements.

Afghan Minister of Education Mohammad Hanif Atmar, for his part, said that Iran is Afghanistan's most friendly country.

He said given the fact that the number of students are increasing in Afghanistan and the country lacks skilled teachers, the newly established center can solve these problems.

He also called the Teachers Training Center as a token of friendship between the two nations.

The first Teachers Training Center in Afghanistan has been build in three years at the cost of five million dollars granted by Iran.
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Islamabad, Isaf to reactivate tripartite commission
Pakistan Dawn, Pakistan By Baqir Sajjad Syed June 27, 2008
ISLAMABAD-Pakistan’s military authorities and Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan agreed on Friday to reactivate the tripartite commission. According to defence sources, the next meeting of the commission will take place next month.

The agreement was reached during meetings of visiting Isaf Commander Gen David McKiernan with Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Tariq Majeed and National Security Adviser Maj-Gen (retd) Mehmood Durrani. Gen McKiernan, who recently took charge of the 53,000-troop Isaf, was on his first visit to Pakistan.

The commission, which brings together representatives of the Pakistan Army, Afghanistan National Army and Isaf for coordinating action against militants, has not met in the last four months.

During this period a subordinate mechanism of the commission, called the border security sub-committee, kept functioning.

During his meetings, Gen McKiernan focused on building closer relationships with Pakistani officials for better coordination in their efforts to improve security along the troubled frontier.

“General Tariq stressed the need to develop trust-based relations at all levels among coalition partners and to comprehensively understand the prevailing dynamics,” an ISPR statement said.

Regretting the Mohmand Agency incident, Gen McKiernan expressed sadness over the death of 11 paramilitary troops killed in the US air strike earlier this month.

The sources said the visiting Isaf commander also discussed the overall security situation in the region, situation on Pakistan-Afghanistan border, illegal cross-border movements of militants and the ongoing military cooperation and intelligence-sharing between Pakistan and Isaf.

Pakistan’s military authorities deplored the allegations and vitriolic statements emanating from Kabul, unequivocally telling Gen Mckiernan that the blame game started by Afghanistan would harm cooperation in the “war on terror”.
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Afghanistan exports 93 per cent opiates via Pakistan
[ANI] - Peshawar, June 27 : North West Frontier Province's (NWFP) Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) chief Brigadier Parvez Khalid Babar has said that Afghanistan exports 93 per cent of illicit opiates to the world via Pakistan and, it is not possible to keep the 2500-kilometre-long Pak-Afghan border under vigil due to lack of resources.

It is impossible to prevent the flow of illicit opiates from Afghanistan as the ANF still lacks resources to counter drug mafia at Pak-Afghan border, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and NWFP.

Addressing a programme organised by the ANF in NWFP in connection with World Anti Narcotics Day, Babar said the greatest beneficiaries to the illicit drugs' export were militants in both Afghanistan and Pakistan's FATA.

He said that terrorism and drugs were interlinked and militants were greatly benefiting from drugs' exportation from Afghanistan to Pakistan and to the rest of the world but with the efforts of the ANF, Pakistan is now on top of the drug demand reduction countries of the world.

He informed currently there are 500,000 heroin addicts in Pakistan. Pakistan is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention as amended by the 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances.

The United States provides counter-narcotics and law enforcement assistance to Pakistan under a Letter of Agreement (LOA). This LOA provides terms and funding for cooperation in border security, poppy eradication, narcotics law enforcement, and drug demand reduction efforts, he said according to the Daily Times.

There is no mutual legal assistance treaty between the US and Pakistan, nor does Pakistan have a mutual legal assistance law and has not been helpful with US requests. The US and Pakistan's extradition agreement is carried out under the terms of the 1931 US-UK Extradition Treaty, which continued in force after Pakistan gained independence in 1947.

Pakistan's federal government struggled this year to contain and eradicate poppy in the FATA agencies where both the Pakistani Army and the Frontier Corps NWFP (FCN) are combating militancy. Both the FCN and Frontier Corps Balochistan (FCB) remain frequently engaged with militants and have limited resources to combat poppy cultivation, he added.
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Kabul's kids master the flip tricks as skateboarding invades the streets
Australians offer free classes to reach out to young people in the city
Guardian Unlimited - News - Top Headlines Declan Walsh in Kabul The Guardian Saturday June 28, 2008
Waheed Ullah, a scruffy Kabul shoeshine boy, had never heard of skateboarding, let alone tried it. Then one evening he put down his tin of polish, perched his gangly body on a battered skateboard and pushed off.

"Hey, I like it!" said the 14-year-old, coasting across an empty water fountain. Then he tumbled over, picked himself up and started again.

Skateboarding is the latest teen craze to hit Kabul. It was started by three Australians who see the street sport as a way to help young Afghans and redefine the way rich foreigners interact with them.

"They're born naturals," said Oliver Percovich, watching a dozen kids whiz around the fountain outside an upmarket restaurant. "They've got more balance than western kids, mainly because they're not scared to fall and get up again."

That could be the story of childhood in Afghanistan, which has the world's highest percentage of school-age children but some of the toughest conditions. Despite progress since 2001, illiteracy is rife, beggars swarm the streets of Kabul and there are 600,000 child drug addicts. Just 1% of students make it to university.

Skateistan, as the project is called, started 18 months ago with 10 secondhand skateboards that Percovich, 34, scrounged from friends in Melbourne. It is a departure from the macho image of sport in a country where the national pastime, Buzkashi, features two teams of horsemen fighting over a calf carcass. Dog fighting and cock fighting are also popular.

Skating is non-competitive, creative and urban. The organisers hope the sport will come to define fun in the post-9/11 era, just as the bestseller The Kite Runner symbolised childhood in 1970s Kabul.
For the Australians it also offers a new way of dealing with Afghans. After following his girlfriend to Kabul 18 months ago, Percovich quickly came to understand Afghans' disillusionment with the insular expatriate lifestyle.

"I found it quite strange that other foreigners didn't actually get out of the four-wheel drives," he said. "After three weeks I was telling people who had been here for two years what the city was like."
While conceding that security restrictions have penned many foreigners behind security barriers, Percovich remains critical. "A lot of them are the best graduates from Harvard or Oxford. They're 22 or 23 and on massive salaries. And, quite frankly, they're pretty hopeless at their jobs," he said.

Skateistan tried to be different. It started small, offering free skateboarding classes in public spaces, with virtually no budget.

The strategy took the Australians to some unusual venues, including the Russian pool, an empty pool overlooking the city frequented by hash smokers and used for Friday night dog fights. Under Taliban rule it was used for public executions.

Curious novices The impromptu classes are attracting a swarm of curious novices. A local slang is developing. Children call the sport "sikii" because it resembles skiing without the snow. And some of the first generation of Afghan skateboarders have become volunteers, passing their tricks on to others.

"To me, skateboarding is like a brotherhood," said Hamid Shahram Shahimy, a 22-year-old with a trimmed beard who skates while listening to hip-hop on his iPhone.

Most kids want to give it a go. Haroon Bacha, a polite 12-year-old wearing a brown shalwar kameez, started skating after seeing the classes from the window of his first-floor apartment. Days later he brought his two-year-old sister, Baher, for a lesson.

Girls are encouraged. Nahroo, an exuberant nine-year-old in a green dress, complained that the boys tried to push her off her skateboard. "I won't let them," she declared.

Sharna Nolan, an Australian woman, said they were trying to reach out to parents to ensure no misunderstandings in a society that prizes the honour of females.

Street toughies are also welcome, although they can be difficult. One boy was asked to leave last week after he assaulted Shahimy, a trainer, with a rock in the face. Yesterday he was having a stitch removed from his cheek. "They're exactly the kids we need to work with, they don't know any other way to solve problems," said Percovich.

After a fragile infancy, expansion is on the cards. A skateboarding company has donated 40 boards, shoes and safety pads, which are waiting to be shipped out.

Percovich and his partners have plans to build the city's first skate park. But for funding they have had to apply to the development agencies they profess to despise. "It's something we grappled with," said Percovich. "In the end, we decided it's better we get the money than someone else."

If the skate park is built, it will be passed into Afghan ownership within 12 months, he said, promising that, unlike many aid projects, it would not collapse. "The relationship between Afghans and foreigners is getting more distant," he said. "At least we're not pointing guns at them."
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