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June 29, 2008 

UN official: Afghan civilian deaths up 60 percent
By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer Sun Jun 29, 12:56 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The number of civilians killed in fighting between insurgents and security forces in Afghanistan has soared by two-thirds in the first half of this year, to almost 700 people, a senior U.N. official said Sunday.

British soldier among 23 killed in Afghan unrest
Sun Jun 29, 8:32 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A British soldier with NATO forces was killed Sunday in southern Afghanistan, officials said, as 12 policemen and 10 Taliban rebels died in different incidents elsewhere in the war-wracked country.

No Afghan peace while Taliban have sanctuary: NATO
By Hamid Shalizi Sun Jun 29, 6:59 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan will not be secure as long as insurgents are allowed to operate freely in sanctuaries on the Pakistan side of the border, a NATO spokesman said on Sunday.

Pakistan presses on with offensive vs. militants
By RIAZ KHAN Associated Press June 29, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Pakistani paramilitary forces destroyed a handful of militant centers and uncovered alleged torture cells as they pressed ahead Sunday with an offensive against extremists near the Afghan border, officials said.

FACTBOX - Security developments in Afghanistan, June 29
Reuters - Sunday, June 29 01:04 pm
HELMAND - A British soldier from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan at 12:40 p.m. British time on Sunday:

In Courts, Afghanistan Air Base May Become Next Guantanamo
By Del Quentin Wilber Washington Post Sunday, June 29, 2008; Page A14
Jawed Ahmad, a driver and assistant for reporters of a Canadian television network in Afghanistan, knew the roads to avoid, how to get interviews and which stories to pitch. Reporters trusted him, his bosses say.

THE U.A.E. Afghan nationals asked to acquire proper documents
Asma Ali Zain (Staff Reporter) Khaleej Times Online 29 June 2008
DUBAI - Over 50,000 Afghan nationals in Dubai, holding Pakistani passports, have been asked to acquire proper travel documents from the Afghanistan consulate.

Worsening Afghan security hurts humanitarian effort
Sun Jun 29, 2008 1:04pm EDT By Jon Hemming
KABUL (Reuters) - Worsening security in Afghanistan is creating more humanitarian problems and making the delivery of much needed assistance even more difficult, a top U.N. official said on Sunday.

Afghanistan in top ten most corrupt nations
www.quqnoos.com Written by PAN Saturday, 28 June 2008
Latest corruption league places the country in the bottom ten
AFGHANISTAN ranks in the top ten most corrupt countries in the world, according to a new league table of corrupt nations.

Getting Back to Afghanistan, the Forgotten War Fiercely Debated!
Asian Tribune, Thailand By Philip Fernando in Alaska for Asian Tribune Sun, 2008-06-29
The forgotten war is back on the screen. Its rising death toll has rudely awakened the world. On Tuesday a blast killed NATO soldier on patrol in southern Afghanistan. An official statement said that it occurred in Nahri Sarraj

Pakistani Forces Move In On Taliban
U.S. Has Urged Action Against Insurgents
Washington Post - Asia/Pasific By Candace Rondeaux Washington Post Foreign Service Sunday, June 29, 2008
KABUL-Hundreds of Pakistani military and police forces moved into the key northwestern city of Peshawar on Saturday to head off a possible attack by the Taliban and other Islamist insurgents, marking the first major military operation in

Prince Harry 'had to be held back' from taking on the Taliban in Afghanistan
By Richard Holt  Daily Telegraph (UK) - Jun 29 6:12 AM
He says the Prince was "like a dog on a lead, having to be held back" when orders were given not to engage with insurgents who were targeting Household Cavalry patrol.

Idahoan's old design helped Afghan farms
By John Miller Associated Press  June 29, 2008 via Deseret Morning News
BOISE — To help poor Afghan villagers make money on potatoes instead of opium poppies, Idaho farmer Pat Rowe borrowed a root cellar design common across his home state's famous potato country in the 1930s and 1940s.

Woman gets 11 years for running Kabul brothel
Reuters 29/06/2008
BEIJINGA Chinese woman was sentenced to eleven years in jail for operating brothels in Kabul, the China Daily and Chinese language media reported on Saturday.

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UN official: Afghan civilian deaths up 60 percent
By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer Sun Jun 29, 12:56 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The number of civilians killed in fighting between insurgents and security forces in Afghanistan has soared by two-thirds in the first half of this year, to almost 700 people, a senior U.N. official said Sunday.

The figures are a grim reminder of how the nearly seven-year war has failed to stabilize the country and suggest that ordinary civilians are bearing a heavy toll, particularly from stepped-up militant attacks.

John Holmes, the world body's humanitarian affairs chief, said the insecurity was making it increasingly difficult to deliver emergency aid to poor Afghans hit by the global food crisis.

"The humanitarian situation is clearly affected and made worse by the ongoing conflict in different parts of the country," Holmes told reporters in Kabul during a multi-day visit.

"Most of those casualties are caused by the insurgents, who seem to have no regard for civilian life, but there are also still significant numbers caused by the international military forces," he said.

Holmes said U.N. figures show that 698 civilians have died as a result of the fighting in the first half of this year. That compares to 430 in the first six months of 2007, a rise of 62 percent.

Militants caused 422 of the recorded civilian casualties, while government or foreign troops killed 255 people, according to the U.N. numbers. The cause of 21 other deaths was unclear.

Holmes said the proportion of civilian casualties caused by security forces had dropped from nearly half last year and that clashes had become less dangerous to ordinary Afghans.

"It is clear that the international military forces are making every effort to minimize civilian casualties and recognize the damage this does and want to deal with that," he said.

"Nevertheless these problems are still there and we need to deal with them and make sure that the safety of civilians comes first and international humanitarian law is respected by everybody."

NATO's reaction to the U.N. figures was cool.

"The U.N. Human Rights rapporteur made an accusation (in May) that we had killed 200, and I said then that those numbers were far, far higher than we would recognize, and that is still the case," said Mark Laity, a spokesman for the alliance in Kabul.

Laity provided no alternative figures.

Afghan leaders including President Hamid Karzai have accused NATO and the U.S.-led coalition of recklessly endangering civilians by using excessive force, including airstrikes, in residential areas.

Foreign commanders insist they take all reasonable precautions to avoid killing innocents and say militants routinely fire on them from houses and flee into villages.

Holmes said he came to Afghanistan because the humanitarian situation was "serious and is getting worse."

Drought in parts of northern and western Afghanistan has exacerbated food shortages caused by rising global prices for staples such as wheat and rice.

Holmes said the U.N. was providing food aid to 2.5 million people but would soon join the government in appealing to international donors for more funds to expand the program.

He said U.N. agencies and aid groups were finding it hard to reach vulnerable communities because of the risk that its staff would be attacked. He said the world body would try to negotiate "days of tranquility or humanitarian corridors" with militants so that aid could get through safely.

U.N. food convoys have suffered 11 armed attacks this year, including one on Sunday in which several trucks were burned, and lost a total of 340 tons of food, he said.
___
Associated Press writer Jason Straziuso contributed to this report.
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British soldier among 23 killed in Afghan unrest
Sun Jun 29, 8:32 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A British soldier with NATO forces was killed Sunday in southern Afghanistan, officials said, as 12 policemen and 10 Taliban rebels died in different incidents elsewhere in the war-wracked country.

The violence comes as rebels loyal to the ousted Taliban militia have stepped up attacks in recent weeks, turning June into the deadliest month for the 70,000-strong international force based in Afghanistan since 2001.

"An ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldier died in an explosion while on a security patrol with an Afghan National Army unit," the alliance force said in a statement earlier Sunday in Kabul.

The British defence ministry in London said the soldier was part of a checkpoint team that had gone to investigate reports of a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a civilian aircraft at the airport.

His death took to 109 the number of foreign soldiers killed here this year, according to an AFP tally based on reporting. Forty-two of them have died since the start of the month, the AFP count shows.

In a separate incident, about 150 militants stormed a government building in southwestern Farah province early Sunday, killing four police and losing seven of their own fighters, deputy provincial governor, Mohammad Younus Rasouli told AFP.

Five other officers and three rebels were injured in the clashes, which started shortly after midnight.

A district chief was also slightly injured during the battle and a pro-government tribal elder was captured by militants, Rasouli said.

Separately, Afghan security forces backed by international troops launched an offensive against Taliban militants in Wardak province early Sunday, Mohammad Aleem Kohstani, a regional police commander, told AFP.

"Three Taliban have been killed so far. The operation is underway," Kohstani said, adding that security forces had surrounded a cave believed to be a Taliban hideout.

The operation in Wardak was launched after violence from a Taliban-led insurgency spiked in recent weeks. Three US-led soldiers were killed in a bomb blast in Wardak on Friday.

"The operation has been designed to root out Taliban from the area," Kohstani said.

Separately, Taliban rebels killed eight policemen in an ambush in Faryab province, the interior ministry said.

"I can confirm that eight border policemen were killed today in an ambush in Dawlat Abad district, in Faryab province," Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.

He blamed the attack on the "enemies of peace and stability", which usually refers to the Taliban.

The Pentagon warned Friday that the insurgency was likely to expand its influence into new areas such as the north and west, which have so far remained quiet compared with the country's south and east.

But NATO officials in Afghanistan said the Islamic rebels could not spread the insurgency.

"Undoubtedly, the Taliban would like to expand their influence," Mark Laity a civilian spokesman for the NATO force in Afghanistan said.

"But so far this year we assess that we've contained the insurgency to just about the same areas as in 2007 and 2006. They would like to expand (but) that doesn't mean they would succeed," Laity told AFP.

General Carlos Branco, the chief military spokesman for ISAF also said the rebels were incapable of such a move.

"(The) Arghandab operation proved insurgents are unable to hold ground and to face us toe to toe," he told a press conference, referring to a recent operation by Afghan and ISAF forces against Taliban massing in villages near the southern city of Kandahar.

"They are not expanding their zone of influence," Branco added.

The NATO officials said the recent increase in the number of attacks were due to seasonal conditions, more NATO operations in Taliban strongholds and talks between Islamabad and the rebels there.
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No Afghan peace while Taliban have sanctuary: NATO
By Hamid Shalizi Sun Jun 29, 6:59 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan will not be secure as long as insurgents are allowed to operate freely in sanctuaries on the Pakistan side of the border, a NATO spokesman said on Sunday.

With international forces in Afghanistan struggling against what the U.S. Pentagon describes as a "resilient insurgency," Pakistan is coming under increasing pressure to stop militants operating out of remote enclaves in ethnic Pashtun border lands.

"We know that as long as the insurgents operate safely on the Pakistan side of the border, then there can not be security in Afghanistan," NATO spokesman Mark Laity told a regular news conference in Kabul.

Pakistani forces launched an offensive in the Khyber region on Saturday to clear militants from the approaches to the city of Peshawar.

But the militants being attacked are from a faction that does not have a reputation for crossing into Afghanistan to fight Western troops backing the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Laity made no mention of the Pakistani offensive but referring to Pakistani government efforts to end surging militant violence through negotiations, said militants could not be given a free hand.

"There will be no settlements on peace on either side of the boundary while insurgents are able to operate freely," he said.

According to a U.S. general in Afghanistan, attacks by insurgents have jumped by 40 percent in eastern areas bordering Pakistan in the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year.

In a report to the U.S. Congress on Friday, the Pentagon singled out the havens for insurgents in Pakistan as the biggest threat to security in Afghanistan.

The 72-page report offered some of the starkest U.S. comments yet on Pakistan's border areas.

"The greatest challenge to long-term security within Afghanistan is the insurgent sanctuary within ... Pakistan," it said.

Pakistan says it is doing all it can to stop militants crossing into Afghanistan and hundreds of Pakistani soldiers have been killed battling militants in border areas in recent years.

Pakistan backed the Taliban when they emerged in the chaotic early 1990s and after they imposed their brand of hardline rule over most of Afghanistan in 1996.

But Pakistan dropped support for the Taliban and joined the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States which were organised by Osama bin Laden, a guest of the Taliban.

But Afghanistan says elements in Pakistan still support the militants.

(Writing by Sayed Salahuddin; editing by Robert Birsel)
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Pakistan presses on with offensive vs. militants
By RIAZ KHAN Associated Press June 29, 2008
PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Pakistani paramilitary forces destroyed a handful of militant centers and uncovered alleged torture cells as they pressed ahead Sunday with an offensive against extremists near the Afghan border, officials said.

A spokesman for Pakistan's top Taliban commander promised Sunday that militants would retaliate against the government, and were suspending efforts to reach and implement peace deals.

The operation in the Khyber tribal area is a shift for Pakistan's new government, which has sought to reduce violence through the peace deals. But with extremists increasingly threatening Peshawar, a major northwest city, and ambushing supply convoys bound for U.S.-led coalition troops in Afghanistan, the government turned to its troops.

The paramilitary Frontier Corps killed one attacker but encountered relatively little resistance since launching the operation Saturday, officials said.

Troops, backed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, quickly cleared militants out of Khyber's Bara region, said Muhammad Siddiq Khan, a local official. They then moved into areas outside Bara.

The troops destroyed at least four militant centers and uncovered a privately run jail, said Habibullah Khan, additional chief secretary for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

"The criminals were running a parallel administration in the area," Khan said. "They were kidnapping the people, trying them and punishing them and the government is fully determined not to allow anyone to run a parallel administration."

Khan said the jail contained what he called "torture cells" with special equipment, but offered no details.

Rehman Malik, head of the Interior Ministry, said forces destroyed a radio station used by the militants to broadcast propaganda.

Khan said the operation would continue for several more days and insisted it was not aimed at any particular militant group.

The semi-autonomous tribal areas, where the federal government has long had limited authority, are home to many militant groups, some of whom are engaged in feuds.

On Saturday, authorities blew up the headquarters of militant leader Menghal Bagh, who had apparently fled. The operation was also expected to target Haji Namdar, whose Vice and Virtue Movement is suspected of attacks against coalition soldiers in Afghanistan.

Baitullah Mehsud, the top Taliban leader in Pakistan, said he was suspending talks between his allies and the government. His spokesman, Maulvi Umar, said the Taliban would avenge any government use of force in the tribal areas and other border regions. He said the government was not honoring its commitment to peace efforts.

"The government should not ruin the country just to please the Western world and should immediately halt the operation in Khyber agency," Umar told The Associated Press on Sunday. "If it is not stopped it will bear very grave results."

American officials have complained that peace deals with militants will simply give them time to regroup and plan new attacks, including across the border in Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Sunday defended the deals, but warned that authorities will use force "if (the groups) backtrack from their agreements and damage state property."

Gilani said the government was forced to take action because it faced an "immediate problem" from militants near Peshawar and in the Swat Valley.

Afghan officials welcomed the operation in Khyber and reiterated their suspicion that a surge in violence in Afghanistan was partly due to the lack of pressure on militants in Pakistan's tribal areas.

"We endorse this operation, we want this operation to be continued and we want this operation to be successful," Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said.

NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Carlos Branco said "everything that can minimize the threat in Afghanistan is good for us."

Maj. Gen. Alam Khattak, head of the Frontier Corps, has hinted this would not be the only operation against militants and other officials said the Swat region could be next.

On Sunday, a remote-controlled bomb blast killed two soldiers on a foot patrol in Swat's Matta area, a former militant stronghold, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said.

Pro-Taliban fighters have battled security forces in Swat in recent months, despite a peace deal between militants and the new provincial government.

___

Associated Press writers Sadaqat Jan and Zarar Khan in Islamabad and Stephen Graham in Kabul contributed to this report.
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FACTBOX - Security developments in Afghanistan, June 29
Reuters - Sunday, June 29 01:04 pm
HELMAND - A British soldier from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan at 12:40 p.m. British time on Sunday:

FARYAB - Eight Afghan police were killed in a Taliban ambush on Saturday night in the northwestern province of Faryab, the deadliest single attack by the militants in the province since their ouster in 2001, officials said on Sunday.

FARAH - Four Afghan police and eight Taliban were killed in a clash late on Saturday after Taliban insurgents stormed a police post in the western province of Farah, a provincial official said on Sunday.

HELMAND - A British soldier from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was killed in a blast in the southern province of Helmand on Saturday, the alliance said on Sunday.

WARDAK - A clash between Taliban and Afghan forces led to the brief closure of a highway on Saturday in Wardak province linking Kabul with southern and western regions, travellers said. There were no immediate reports of casualties on either side.

KUNAR - Several foreign and Afghan soldiers were wounded in an overnight rocket attack in the eastern province of Kunar, an official from the area said.

(Compiled by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
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In Courts, Afghanistan Air Base May Become Next Guantanamo
By Del Quentin Wilber Washington Post Sunday, June 29, 2008; Page A14
Jawed Ahmad, a driver and assistant for reporters of a Canadian television network in Afghanistan, knew the roads to avoid, how to get interviews and which stories to pitch. Reporters trusted him, his bosses say.

Then, one day about seven months ago, the 22-year-old CTV News contractor vanished. Weeks later, reporters would learn from Ahmad's family that he had been arrested by U.S. troops, locked up in the U.S. military prison at Bagram air base and accused of being an enemy combatant.

Lawyers representing Ahmad filed a federal lawsuit early this month challenging his detention on grounds similar to those cited in successful lawsuits on behalf of captives at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The lawyers are hoping to turn Ahmad's case and a handful of others into the next legal battleground over the rights of terrorism suspects apprehended on foreign soil. More lawsuits are expected on behalf of Bagram detainees in coming months, the lawyers said.

The lawsuits seek the right of habeas corpus for the detainees. Habeas corpus is a centuries-old legal doctrine that gives people taken into custody the right to challenge their detention before a judge.

Although legal experts expressed uncertainty about the potential for success, the detainees' lawyers say they are optimistic. They note the Supreme Court's decision two weeks ago that granted detainees at Guantanamo Bay the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.

"They stopped sending people to Guantanamo and are sending them to Bagram instead," said Barbara J. Olshansky, who represents Ahmad and is the legal director of the International Justice Network, a nonprofit organization that provides legal support to detainees. "In some ways, we have a stronger case than Guantanamo."

The U.S. military referred questions about the habeas corpus petitions to the Justice Department and declined to confirm whether any of those who filed suits are being held at Bagram. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, saying lawyers are reviewing the Supreme Court's June 12 decision in Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. U.S.

In legal filings, however, the Justice Department has fiercely fought the Bagram suits, arguing that "Bagram airfield is in the zone of war" and not in a peaceful locale such as Guantanamo.

"To provide alien enemy combatants captured at the battlefield and detained in a theater of war the privilege of access to our civil courts is unthinkable both legally and practically," the government argued.

Human rights groups and activists have become increasingly concerned about the U.S. military prison at Bagram, about 40 miles north of Kabul. The prison has grown steadily over the years and has about 600 detainees, military officials said. The military is planning to spend $60 million to build a new, larger facility that would house the same number of captives but could accommodate as many as 1,000.

Some of the Bagram prisoners have been there since 2002, activists said. Although the vast majority were picked up in Afghanistan, activists and lawyers say at least a few were arrested in other countries.

"It provides a convenient place to hold people who you might not want the world to know you are holding," said Tina Monshipour Foster, a lawyer who represents Bagram detainees.

Military officials would not say whether people arrested in other countries are housed at Bagram. But they said they regularly review each detainee's status, release those who are no longer thought to be combatants and turn others over to Afghan authorities.

Haji Wazir, whose federal lawsuit was filed in 2006, has been held as an enemy combatant since 2002, according to lawyers and human rights activists. But he "is not a commander, not a member of the Taliban or al-Qaeda," said Lal Gul, chairman of the Afghan Human Rights Organization. "He is a businessman."

Gul also complained about the arrest of Ahmad, whose bosses say they are frustrated that he has not had his day in court.

"We have been told nothing about him," said Robert Hurst, president of CTV News, who spent several days with Ahmad in 2006 while visiting Afghanistan. "When we ask, we are told we don't have the right to even ask that question. . . . Our reporters felt very secure around him. He is an excellent young journalist."

Legal experts say they are not sure how the courts will treat the lawsuits. The Supreme Court's majority opinion in the Guantanamo cases, written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, focused only on detainees held at the naval base in Cuba. In it, Kennedy took pains to examine the particular circumstances surrounding the detentions, according to David Cole, a law professor at the Georgetown University Law Center.

Among the factors that tilted the ruling in favor of the detainees: The government had complete control over Guantanamo, the detainees had been held for years without trial, and the prison was not near a battlefield.

Lawyers may be successful in applying similar tests to those being held elsewhere, Cole said.

"Bagram will be the next battleground," he said. "Kennedy's decision in Boumediene leaves open the question as to what other places the writ of habeas corpus extends."

Other legal scholars said they think the courts will be reluctant to grant Bagram detainees such hearings, because the prison is in an area that the U.S. military considers a war zone.

Kennedy alluded to that issue when he wrote that "if the detention facility were located in an active theater of war, arguments that issuing the writ would be 'impracticable or anomalous' would have more weight."

"It seems unlikely that the conditions there are comparable to the conditions" at Guantanamo Bay, said Jonathan Siegel, a law professor at George Washington University.

But Siegel added that Kennedy and other justices "expressed impatience with the notion that the United States can hold people indefinitely without charge."
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THE U.A.E. Afghan nationals asked to acquire proper documents
Asma Ali Zain (Staff Reporter) Khaleej Times Online 29 June 2008 
DUBAI - Over 50,000 Afghan nationals in Dubai, holding Pakistani passports, have been asked to acquire proper travel documents from the Afghanistan consulate.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, the Consul-General of Afghanistan in Dubai, Rashid Mohammadi, said, “According to the constitution of Afghanistan, Afghan nationals are allowed to hold two passports at the same time - Pakistani and Afghan passports. However, we are still urging all Afghan nationals in the UAE to apply for passports of their country since stability and security has returned to the country.”

 

During the 1970s war in Afghanistan, several Afghan nationals crossed over the border to Pakistan and later secured Pakistani passports so as to travel to the Gulf countries in search of jobs. Since then, many of the Afghan nationals have been holding Pakistani passports and are considered Pakistani nationals.

At present, there are over 70,000 Afghans in the UAE, of which 40,000 are residing in Dubai, while at least 50,000 are still holding Pakistani passports.

“Since we did not have a diplomatic office in the UAE until 2004, we could not ask the Afghan nationals to change their passports. But now, with the coordination of UAE authorities, we are cancelling/issuing up to 6-7 passports every week,” explained Mohammadi.

He also said that the entire process could take up to 10 days. “We, however, have to advertise in the papers that an Afghan national is giving up his Pakistani passport and is being issued an Afghan travel document. The next step is to transfer the visa. The new passport costs $104 for five years,” he added.

“This exercise is ongoing in all Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, Oman and elsewhere, and we are urging all Afghan nationals to revert to their original nationality,” he explained.

Officials from the Pakistani consulate in Dubai welcomed the move and said they were providing all the required assistance.
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Worsening Afghan security hurts humanitarian effort
Sun Jun 29, 2008 1:04pm EDT By Jon Hemming
KABUL (Reuters) - Worsening security in Afghanistan is creating more humanitarian problems and making the delivery of much needed assistance even more difficult, a top U.N. official said on Sunday.

Since their removal from power in 2001, the Taliban have regrouped and have now created what the Pentagon called this week a "resilient insurgency" that was likely to increase both in pace and scope this year with more attacks in more areas.

"Security is deteriorating, there are more security incidents in various parts of the country and that complicates access and of course it creates humanitarian problems as well because people are displaced and unable to go back to their homes," said U.N. Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes.

Fighting between Taliban insurgents on one side and Afghan and international troops on the other killed some 8,000 people last year, more than 1,500 of them civilians, the U.N. says.

But Afghanistan has now suffered nearly 30 years of conflict which has caused massive upheaval. Millions have fled to neighboring countries, many more were internally displaced and on top of all that, floods and drought have added to the misery.

The U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) distributed 220,000 tonnes of food to some 5.7 million Afghans last year out of an estimated total population of 31 million.

But 55 humanitarian convoys were attacked or looted by gunmen last year resulting in the loss of 1,000 tonnes of food. Forty humanitarian workers were killed and 89 abducted, seven of those were later killed by their captors.

The U.N. now rates 78 of Afghanistan's 398 districts as "extremely risky" and its agencies are unable to operate there.

TALKING TO THE TALIBAN
"Some of the things the Taliban ... are doing -- for example attacking humanitarian convoys, killing humanitarian workers, abducting humanitarian workers -- are making our lives extra difficult and are completely contrary to any international humanitarian law," Holmes told Reuters in an interview.

Nevertheless, Holmes said he was considering opening dialogue with the Taliban to try to ensure safe passage for humanitarian assistance, mainly in the south and east, where the insurgents are most active and control many remote rural areas.

"Now talking to the Taliban ... is a very sensitive issue and certainly we wouldn't be engaging in any kind of political discussions with the Taliban, that's not what we do," said Holmes.

"That's something we'll need to look at to see whether it makes sense. We need to talk to the Afghan government about that as well.

"Our objective is to help people in need whoever they may be, wherever they may be. We have nothing to do with any political or military agenda, we are simply trying to help people in need and sometimes that means talking to people who control particular areas," said Holmes, a former British diplomat.

The worldwide rise in food prices was also badly affecting Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world. The U.N. and the Afghan government launched a largely successful appeal in January for $81 million to help those affected by rising prices.

The U.N. is now considering whether to appeal for more funds to help feed Afghans after what is expected to be a poor wheat harvest this year due to poor rains during the winter.
(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
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Afghanistan in top ten most corrupt nations
www.quqnoos.com Written by PAN Saturday, 28 June 2008 
Latest corruption league places the country in the bottom ten
AFGHANISTAN ranks in the top ten most corrupt countries in the world, according to a new league table of corrupt nations.

The Global Corruption Report 2008, released by Transparency International, ranked Afghanistan 172nd out of 180 countries.

Burma and Somalia are the most corrupt, the groups says, while Denmark, New Zealand and Finland top the league as the least corrupt nations.

Iran comes in 131st place and Pakistan 138th.

Transparency International’s report on corruption aimed to show how water supply is often a wheel of corruption.

"Instances of unequal participation also occur when armed militia leaders, well-connected figures and large landowners force the election of their own nominee as water master and skew water distribution in their favour," the report said.

Despite international pledges to combat corruption, the Afghan government and its donor countries have been slow to develop mechanisms to prevent corruption in both rural and urban Afghanistan, the report said.
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Getting Back to Afghanistan, the Forgotten War Fiercely Debated!
Asian Tribune, Thailand By Philip Fernando in Alaska for Asian Tribune Sun, 2008-06-29
The forgotten war is back on the screen. Its rising death toll has rudely awakened the world. On Tuesday a blast killed NATO soldier on patrol in southern Afghanistan. An official statement said that it occurred in Nahri Sarraj, a district of Helmand province.

The fighting between Taliban-led militants and NATO security forces is surging across the south and east of Afghanistan. Tuesday’s death brought the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this month to 35. Iraq took away the focus from Afghanistan. The world is taking a closer look again. The two wars have left the Forces "stretched beyond the capabilities we have," Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup said.

It is the first time the most senior officer in the British military has expressed such grave doubts about the struggle faced by troops fighting wars on two fronts. Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup of UK said that fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan wars have stretched the forces beyond their capacities.

Some of the NATO countries involved in this exercise have spoken rather harshly of the situation there. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier publicly had called for the Afghan government to fire the governor of Kandahar, the province to which 2,500 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) troops are deployed. He had withdraw his comments later stating that he had never intended to impinge on Afghanistan’s right as a sovereign nation to choose its own government personnel. France had agreed to increase the size of its contribution to the US-NATO occupation force in Afghanistan. US presidential candidates are talking of the fight in Afghanistan. Afghans deserve a bigger share of the public square. They had suffered immense hardships during the past five years.

The NATO countries in this conflict are struggling to focus on what needs to be done. The tough stand taken Canadian Minister Bernier’s position is getting the full respect it deserves. NATO partners are demanding greater accountability by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. They have stated that he should work in concert in order to get achieve some progress. Kandahar is a bone of contention. Its governor has been under fire.

According to media reports, Canadian officials had been privately pressing the Afghan government to Kandahar governed better. It is easily said than done. Canada has been insisting that steps be taken sooner. Canadian troops are playing a major role in fighting the rebels in there.

Karzai is in a bind. If he stays wit the status quo he would seem oblivious to the criticism that had been made. But if he makes a change it will be obvious to Afghans where the real power lies. Canada’s role in Afghanistan is considered crucial. It has a large force deployed to Kandahar, the historic center of the Taliban where Karzai government faces stiff opposition. The CAF has sent 15 officers to various departments of the Afghan government, including the president’s office, to serve as advisors. Karzai cannot afford to lose that help.

Most critics agree that greater democratization is an urgent need. The Canadian government is trying hard to achieve such a move. It has objected to some of the more banal activities going on there, the venal and anti-democratic character of the regime.

Conservative Prime Minster Stephen Harper has championed Canada’s leading role in cleaning up things there. Canada is calling for a bigger share of the public square in Afghanistan. Canada’s corporate media is behind that call. Recent statement of Prime Minister Harper is very clear: “We have talked to the government of Afghanistan from time to time about concerns on the performance of that government and we will continue to talk to them from time to time.”

Is Canada competing with the US for a greater share of influence in that region? Canada may be getting away from the notion that the role it plays in Afghan war is not as a peace keeper but a key partner sharing the burden of success with all others in the NATO. Several media outlet had toyed with the idea that Canada was now a fully pledged partner on global war on terror. This is a portrayal of the Canadian armed forces as a fighting force, a modern and fully capable tool in its diplomatic efforts.

The opinion inside United States also favors a faster answer to the problems there. Some of the Republicans had criticized Senator Barrack Obama who was the chair of a senate committee on Afghanistan for not holding any hearings under his stewardship. This might turn into a major election issue unless things are brought under control.

International observers seem to thinks that NATO armed forces are fighting to prevent the country falling back under the theocratic dictatorship of the Taliban. The attack on 9/11 precipitated this war. If not for that event the US and British troops would not been sent there. What is now going on in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe is ten times more brutal, bloody and horribly oppressive. No plans are afoot to liberate that country. The Taliban endorsed al-Qaeda’s war on the West. NATO is now saddled with a major war on their hands.

Those who have sent troops there are hedge their actions with so many restrictions that they cannot discharge any role effectively. That reluctance is key to the present impasse seriously jeopardizing the whole Afghan operation. The British, we are told have 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, according to most observers. Over 10,000 British troops are over-worked and may be not hundred percent combat ready according to critics.

The latest reports indicate that NATO leaders are likely to approve an increase in troop deployments to Afghanistan, the head of the military alliance said Wednesday. NATO has maintained that the war in Afghanistan is being prosecuted according to plan.

General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said recently that NATO is close to having the number of troops it needs for Afghanistan, where 47,000 foreign troops take part in the NATO-led mission. NATO's role in Afghanistan has divided the alliance amid concerns that some countries aren't sharing the same combat burdens.

US President had repeated calls to NATO members to send more troops. He was citing a recent recording from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden that threatens attacks on Europe, Bush said the war in Afghanistan must be won. Some feel that U.S. and NATO forces are battling a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan nearly seven years after al Qaeda's 2001 terrorist attacks on US soil, Though 25 NATO allies and 13 other countries have contributed forces, the bulk of the recent fighting has been done by U.S., Canadian, British and Dutch troops.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, which has 15 percent of the troops in Afghanistan, has also called for more burden-sharing among NATO members. The internal NATO disagreements also center on risk-sharing, with some countries contributing troops but keeping them out of the tough fighting in southern Afghanistan.

The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is expected to rise over the summer, to 32,000 from the current 28,000, with most of the increase coming from a deployment of 3,200 Marines.
- Asian Tribune -
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Pakistani Forces Move In On Taliban
U.S. Has Urged Action Against Insurgents
Washington Post - Asia/Pasific By Candace Rondeaux Washington Post Foreign Service Sunday, June 29, 2008
KABUL-Hundreds of Pakistani military and police forces moved into the key northwestern city of Peshawar on Saturday to head off a possible attack by the Taliban and other Islamist insurgents, marking the first major military operation in Pakistan's fractured border region since a new government was elected in February.

The buildup of security forces in Peshawar, a provincial capital of 3 million about 30 miles from Afghanistan, and a nearby tribal area may signal a strategic shift in the country's struggle to quell extremist activity. Meanwhile, a top Taliban leader in Pakistan said he was suspending talks between his allies and the government.

The United States has been pushing the Pakistani government to move more aggressively against the insurgents, as residents and government officials in the region have expressed growing concern that Peshawar could soon fall under Taliban control. However, many in the region fear that a major clash between Pakistani security forces and the insurgents could spark a large-scale conflict that could engulf the entire North-West Frontier Province in violence.

The stepped-up activity in northwest Pakistan comes as fighting has grown across the border in Afghanistan. At least 36 troops of the U.S.-led NATO coalition have been killed in Afghanistan this month, including three U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter who died Thursday in a bomb attack in the central-eastern province of Wardak. Residents who witnessed the attack said at least two of the soldiers were beheaded and their bodies left in a nearby field. A military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that some of the bodies had been mutilated.

In Pakistan, paramilitary troops, soldiers and police began streaming into Peshawar and the Khyber Agency tribal area on Friday after several contingents of heavily armed Islamist fighters were seen massing near the city.

The military incursion occurred soon after the peace talks with the Islamabad government were suspended by Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban leader. Mehsud, charged by the government with being behind the December assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, threatened to strike in other key 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, after paramilitary troops lobbed mortar fire at several centers of insurgent activity in Khyber Agency.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Alam Khattak, commander of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, said in a televised news conference Saturday that he expects the operation in the Peshawar area to last four to five days. Khattak said Pakistani security forces launched the strike at the request of the provincial government.

"This is an operation with the limited objectives of applying adequate force to increase the parameters of security in Peshawar and establish the government here where it has been challenged," Khattak said.
Residents in Khyber Agency said several army tanks and armored vehicles could be seen patrolling the streets of Bara, a main town in the area, as helicopters flew overhead. In recent months, clashes in Khyber Agency involving Taliban fighters have killed dozens of people.

Peshawar has witnessed periodic clashes with Taliban fighters and local warlords over the past year. Until now, however, Pakistani authorities have steered clear of direct or large-scale confrontations with the rising number of insurgents in the area.

The strategically located Khyber Agency is named after the famous Khyber Pass, for centuries a vital trade route leading to Central Asia, from India and Pakistan via Afghanistan. Today, it is the key route for military supplies to U.S. and NATO forces operating in Afghanistan.

Peshawar has long been a hothouse of militant extremism, playing host to several Islamic fundamentalist heavyweights, including at one time Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. But within the past two years, lesser-known Islamist insurgents and local warlords have taken center stage. More than a half-dozen top warlords with Taliban links or sympathies operate openly in the seven tribal agencies, including the Khyber Agency.

In more recent months, extremist warlord Mangal Bagh Afridi has presented the greatest threat to security in the region. Leader of Lashkar-e-Islam, an increasingly powerful militant group, Bagh rose to power through his activism with local trade unions in the area.

Lashkar-e-Islam has essentially formed its own shadow government in the tribal agency. Despite an official government ban, the group operates its own pirate FM radio station as part of its effort to gain the sympathies of the local tribesmen, recruit new fighters and terrify their opponents. Residents and officials in the agency say Bagh's fighters now control a vast majority of the tribal agency.

Although Bagh has publicly denied any connections to the Pakistani Taliban or al-Qaeda, his efforts to impose strict Muslim codes in Bara mark him as one of the more ardent extremists operating in the region.
A senior Pakistani government official in Peshawar said authorities have been aware of Bagh's exploits but have refrained from moving against him. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said high-ranking military intelligence officials in Islamabad, the capital, had ordered authorities in Peshawar to allow Bagh to continue operating his shadow government.
"Mangal Bagh has been here for quite some time now, but it's a fact that we have tolerated him because we've been told to do so," the senior official said.

On Saturday, Pakistani security forces in the Sipah section of Bara destroyed Bagh's house, according to residents and local officials. Officials said Bagh had fled to a remote area northwest of Bara.

"It's like an undeclared curfew here now in Bara and other parts of Khyber Agency," said a resident of Bara, Ashraf ud-din Pirzada. "It is a very confusing situation for the local people. On the one hand, they don't like bloodshed. On the other hand, they want to get rid of this situation created by Mangal Bagh and his Lashkar-e-Islam."

Paramilitary troops also destroyed Lashkar-e-Islam's headquarters in the town of Shalobar near Bara. Shoaib Afridi, a Lashkar-e-Islam commander, was injured and another of the group's fighters was killed during the assault on the headquarters, according to local media.

Special correspondents Imtiaz Ali in Peshawar and Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.
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Prince Harry 'had to be held back' from taking on the Taliban in Afghanistan
By Richard Holt  Daily Telegraph (UK) - Jun 29 6:12 AM
He says the Prince was "like a dog on a lead, having to be held back" when orders were given not to engage with insurgents who were targeting Household Cavalry patrol.

"Wanting to go after the Taliban like that was just typical of his attitude," he said.

When the third in line for the throne became aware that a group of fighters were planning to attack he said:

"It's the Taliban. Let's turn around and get them," according to his colleague.

But orders came through that the soldiers were not to take on the enemy, but only to fire warning shots.

"Harry was p----- off," the soldier said.

"Wanting to go after the Taliban like that was just typical of his attitude."

The incident took place in February, during what was due to be a 14-week tour of Afghanistan for the Prince.

He was withdrawn after 10 weeks following a media leak of his deployment which led to the safety of his regiment being compromised.

"We could do with him back in Afghanistan," the soldier told The News of the World. “Harry would make a great officer.”

"The fact he wanted to go after the Taliban was why he was liked by his men," he added.

"They had a lot of time for him. He mucked in with everything."

The Prince also shared an extreme distaste for landmines with his mother, the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

"You could see it in his face when he saw an Afghan landmine victim we were helping,” the soldier said.

"He said landmines were ‘monstrous' things but he knows you've just got to get on with it and deal with them."

He added: "Harry was furious he had to go home. We could tell he wanted to stay as one of the lads."

After news of Prince's Harry's secret deployment in Helmand Province broke, Taliban insurgents threatened to step up attacks on British Forces.

A Taliban spokesman said that his presence in the region meant that the Royal Family had joined in the "aggression against Muslims".

During his tour the Prince acted as a Forward Air Controller, calling in air strikes, carrying out surveillance of Taliban fighters, and plotting bombing raid coordinates.
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Idahoan's old design helped Afghan farms
By John Miller Associated Press  June 29, 2008 via Deseret Morning News
BOISE — To help poor Afghan villagers make money on potatoes instead of opium poppies, Idaho farmer Pat Rowe borrowed a root cellar design common across his home state's famous potato country in the 1930s and 1940s.

The 68-year-old Rowe, whose family raises tubers and wheat on 2,000 acres near American Falls, went to the country as part of a $6.4 million U.S. Department of Agriculture program meant to fill gaps in Afghanistan's food supply chain and develop agriculture to compete with the forbidden poppies that fuel the country's heroin trade.

As part of his work in Bamiyan, located about 100 miles west of Kabul, Rowe said it was important his potato sheds not be too sophisticated. They had to be built with materials readily available in the impoverished valley between the Hindu Kush and the Koh-i-Baba mountains with only dirt roads, a gravel runway, scant trees and almost no electricity.

Before leaving, he took notes from neighbors on Idaho's Snake River plain who had an old root cellar on their property.

"You look at what people are using and see what they are doing," Rowe said of his trip. "You don't want to be a crazy foreigner with all these ideas. You've got to be practical with the application."

Rowe's work in January 2006 won mention earlier this month by first lady Laura Bush.

She was in France for the International Conference in Support of Afghanistan on June 12 when she brought up Rowe's root cellars in a speech before an audience that included French President Nicolas Sarkozy, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

"Afghan potato farmers in Bamiyan have learned storage methods from an Idaho potato farmer that are making their crops more profitable," said Bush, who had made an unannounced trip to Bamiyan four days earlier.

Paul Sippola, the Central and South Asia program officer for private Washington, D.C.,-based nonprofit development outfit CNFA, which ran the Department of Agriculture aid program, said Rowe's retro cellar design was used in about 50 potato storage sheds in Afghanistan.

It's now being replicated with a few modifications to suit local needs in Pakistan's Kashmir region, where seed potato farmers' livelihoods were devastated by the 2005 earthquake, Sippola said.

"It's essentially the same one that Pat developed," he said in a phone interview. "Pat's work, which started in Afghanistan, has really grown. It's fed over into some of our other programs because the success of it has been really pronounced."

Rowe is a veteran of nearly 30 U.S. government-sponsored trips to developing countries, including Egypt, China and Zimbabwe to help promote new agricultural techniques.

Farmers in Bamiyan, an ancient village on the Silk Road that spent 1,500 years in the shadow of two huge Buddha statues before they were dynamited by the Taliban in 2001, had no efficient way to store potatoes following their harvest, leading to drastic food-price increases and shortages.

"When the harvest is on, there's a glut," Rowe said. "If they could store them there, they can double or triple their money. "I was told once they were built, price of potatoes doubled as soon as harvest was over. If you had enough of those sheds built, it would make more food available to people at a reasonable price."

Afghanistan has seen a spiraling heroin trade and resurgent violence, even as the U.S. and NATO have poured thousands of new troops into the country. Last year, more than 8,000 people were killed in insurgency-related attacks, and violence has claimed more than 1,500 lives this year.

Still, Rowe said he felt safe in wintry Bamiyan, where he remembers there was a skiff of snow on the ground, the surrounding mountains were bleak and bare, and his 45-minute return flight to Kabul was delayed for days by storms.

"It was colder than hell," he remembers. "It was just plumb uncomfortable."

Winning a mention from Laura Bush is a sign that Rowe's root cellars accomplished what he'd intended.

"Just the fact that somebody in Bamiyan remembered," he said. "Something went on good there. The people are good people. The folks I worked with, I'd swim the Snake River for them."
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Woman gets 11 years for running Kabul brothel
Reuters 29/06/2008
BEIJINGA Chinese woman was sentenced to eleven years in jail for operating brothels in Kabul, the China Daily and Chinese language media reported on Saturday.

Wang Min, from Shanghai, was charged with operating prostitution joints that fronted as bars in the Afghan capital, and with bringing unemployed women, all over 40, from the industrial city of Chongqing on the Yangtze River to work with her.

An accomplice was sentenced to six years in a Chongqing court on Friday, after the women were sent back to China in February.

They had run a Turkish restaurant, followed by the Berlin Restaurant and the Feifei bar in Kabul, before being arrested by Kabul police in October.

Chinese prostitutes in Kabul told Reuters reporters last month that they earned more than they could in China, even though the security situation made them reluctant to leave brothels hidden in one of Kabul's wealthier neighborhoods.
(Reporting by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
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