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June 5, 2008 

US backs talks with some Afghan rebels: ambassador
Thu Jun 5, 9:10 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - The US ambassador in Kabul said Thursday that Washington backed the Afghan government's efforts to reconcile with Taliban and other rebels without power-sharing or ceding control of certain areas.

Australian defense chief wants Afghanistan surge
By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press Writer Thu Jun 5, 6:36 AM ET
CANBERRA, Australia - An additional 10,000 troops are needed to quell a Taliban and al-Qaida insurgency in southern Afghanistan, but European NATO partners appear unwilling to deploy more soldiers, Australia's defense minister said Thursday.

Army chief calls for more funds for Iraq, Afghanistan
Thu Jun 5, 3:04 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - The head of the British Army called for increased resources to be dedicated to the country's military to better support its commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, in an interview published Thursday.

NATO's Commander in Afghanistan Seeks Pakistan Talks (Update1)
By Ed Johnson
June 5 (Bloomberg) -- The new commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan is pushing for talks with the Pakistani military as the alliance says the government in Islamabad's negotiations with Taliban militants are causing a rise in cross-border attacks.

Pakistani foreign minister to visit Afghanistan Friday
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-05 20:23:47
ISLAMABAD, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will pay a day long visit to Afghanistan on Friday, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq on Thursday.

Afghan Borders Concern NATO Force Leader
The New York Times - World By CARLOTTA GALL  June 5, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan-As the new commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan expressed fresh concern over rising activity by militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, two powerful suicide bombs killed two people and wounded several others

Nine Taliban killed in Afghanistan: police
Thu Jun 5, 4:35 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Militant attacks on international soldiers in Afghanistan Thursday left several civilians wounded and nine rebels dead in return fire that included air strikes, officials said.

Helicopter crash kills 2 in Afghanistan
Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan - Two service members died in a helicopter crash Thursday as they were returning from a maintenance mission in southern Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition said.

Indian engineer, two US-led soldiers die in Afghanistan
HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide bomber blew himself up near Indian engineers working on a key road in Afghanistan Thursday, killing one of them, as a US-led coalition helicopter crashed and killed two soldiers.

Suicide blast hits Afghan town, four wounded: police
Thu Jun 5, 1:11 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A suicide attacker blew himself up near international troops in the southern Afghan town of Qalat early Thursday, wounding four civilians, police said.

Afghanistan's natural environment a victim of war: activists
by Bronwen Roberts Thu Jun 5, 2:02 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Years of war saw Afghanistan's forests levelled and its land polluted with fuel and mines, while more recent unchecked building and urbanisation is heaping new pressure on the environment, officials say.

AFGHANISTAN: Fund shortage may shut UN humanitarian air service
05 Jun 2008 11:30:50 GMT
KABUL, 5 June 2008 (IRIN) - The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) may have to abandon its operations in Afghanistan due to a shortfall of US$2.5 million.

Lawyers for Afghan journalist file suit over detention
By Lara Jakes Jordan, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON - Lawyers for an Afghan-born CTV employee being held as an enemy combatant in Afghanistan have filed a lawsuit accusing the U.S. administration of holding him illegally.

Senate: Iranian intel concealed from CIA, DIA
By PAMELA HESS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon officials in late 2001 and 2002 concealed from the CIA and other intelligence agencies potentially useful information gleaned from Iranian agents, said a Senate report released Thursday.

Norwegian base weakest in Afghanistan
Aftenposten Multimedia A/S, Oslo, Norway.
The Norwegian base at Meymaneh is less secure than similar bases belonging to other ISAF forces. "The officers are angry, and I can see why," says Vice Admiral Jan Reksten, in charge of the Norwegian contingent in Afghanistan.

IMF says donor support key to Afghan economic plan
Wed Jun 4, 2008 10:59pm IST
WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) - Donor support will be crucial to the success of Afghanistan's economic development strategy, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

Afghan Fantasist to Face Trial at Guantánamo
by Andy Worthington antiwar.com / June 5, 2008
Now here's a weird one to ponder as the arraignments at Guantánamo commence for five prisoners – including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – who are charged with facilitating the 9/11 attacks.

Parachute Regiment launches surprise attack on Taliban in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk - Property By Thomas Harding in Zabul province, Afghanistan  04/06/2008
The Parachute Regiment began major operations against a Taliban redoubt in Afghanistan on Tuesday, launching a surprise raid on suspected insurgent strongholds.

'Hekmatyar must be tried for war crimes'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008
Poland accuses former Jihadi leader of crimes against humanity
POLAND’S foreign minister has said that former Jihadi leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar should be put on trial for war crimes.

Husband 'cuts off wife's head with scissors'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008
Police say man beheaded his bride three days after their wedding day
A HUSBAND has cut off his wife’s head with scissors three days after their wedding, police have said.

Afghan version of Dragons' Den taps nation's spirit of enterprise
The Scotsman - News By Rose Taylor 05 June 2008
DECADES of conflict have made the average Afghan an extremely self-reliant person. Used to making the most of little, the people of the troubled country have developed an entrepreneurial spirit that can be keenly sensed in any of its cities

Badakhshanis may be forced to flee drought
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008
Hungry residents say they have to eat grass for lack of food
POVERTY and drought are one of the main challenges facing the people in Badakhshan, a threat that may force many inhabitants to flee to neighbouring areas, the province’s governor has warned.

Obama: time to focus on Afghanistan
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008
Likely contender for US presidency says focus on Al-Qaeda needed
SENATOR Barack Obama, who has all but won the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, has spelled out his priorities for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

U.S. Commitment: The US-Afghan Women's Council
Thursday, 5 June 2008, 7:35 am Press Release: US State Department  via Scoop.co.nz
Fact Sheet Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues Washington, DC June 4, 2008
U.S. Commitment to Afghan Women: The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council
In January 2002, President George W. Bush and President Hamid Karzai announced the creation of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. The Council promotes public-private partnerships between U.S. and

Race kicks off amid tight security
Written by www.quqnoos.com Tuesday, 03 June 2008
First run for decades in violence haunted province finishes smoothly
Race kicks off amid tight security First run in decades in violence haunted province finishes smoothly

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US backs talks with some Afghan rebels: ambassador
Thu Jun 5, 9:10 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - The US ambassador in Kabul said Thursday that Washington backed the Afghan government's efforts to reconcile with Taliban and other rebels without power-sharing or ceding control of certain areas.

There is mounting debate in Afghan political circles and media about peace talks with militants, notably former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the radical Hezb-i-Islami faction.

The United States supported Kabul's peace talks with rebels who were not guilty of the "most serious crimes" and willing to accept the government and rule of law, ambassador William Wood told reporters.

However, he added: "We don't believe and I don't think the government itself has any interest in allowing anybody to shoot his way into preferred status, either (for) a share of power or control (of) a locality or anything like that."

He would not comment on reports that Hekmatyar, who has a multi-million-dollar US bounty on his head, was already in talks with government and opposition officials.

"But with the exception of Al-Qaeda and those closely associated with Al-Qaeda, we think this is completely an issue for Afghanistan," he said.

The ambassador said there were "signs" of fracturing within the Taliban, including rapid changes in their chain of command and distancing between factions.

"I think that there are large segments of the Taliban who are genuinely unhappy with the turn toward terrorism of the larger organisation," he said.

"I am not saying the Taliban is on the brink of fragmenting. I am just saying that we are seeing fissures, fracture lines and questionings."

The Taliban took control of government in 1996, ending a brutal civil war in which Hekmatyar was centrally involved serving briefly as prime minister in 1992. The conflict killed about 80,000 people in Kabul alone.

He is believed to be in eastern Afghanistan or Pakistan while leading his faction in attacks against foreign and government targets conducted separately to those of Taliban insurgents.

The Taliban regime was toppled in a US-led invasion in late 2001 when they did not hand over Al-Qaeda leaders for the September 11 attacks.

Their insurgency has steadily gained pace, this year seeing some of the deadliest suicide attacks in the country.
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Australian defense chief wants Afghanistan surge
By ROD McGUIRK, Associated Press Writer Thu Jun 5, 6:36 AM ET
CANBERRA, Australia - An additional 10,000 troops are needed to quell a Taliban and al-Qaida insurgency in southern Afghanistan, but European NATO partners appear unwilling to deploy more soldiers, Australia's defense minister said Thursday.

"At least 10,000 would give us the critical mass necessary to do what we need to do on the military front," Joel Fitzgibbon told The Associated Press at his office in the Australian capital Canberra.

About 65,000 international troops are stationed in Afghanistan, including 51,000 from the 40-nation NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The United States has about 33,000 troops in the country.

"Having spoken to a number of European countries over the course of the last four months, I don't see a lot of hope that anyone else is about to put their hand up anytime soon. That's a worry because if (the extra troops) don't come, progress will continue to be all too slow," he said.

He declined to name the European countries he was referring to.

Fitzgibbon said Australia was already carrying its fair share of the burden with 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, the 10th-largest national contribution and the largest outside NATO.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Canberra could not comment Thursday. A Defense Department official in Washington was not immediately available.

Fitzgibbon said he expected Washington would send more troops to Afghanistan as it withdrew others from Iraq.

He said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom he met at an international security conference in Singapore last weekend, agreed on the need to substantially increase troop numbers in Afghanistan.

"He's certainly given me the impression that the United States remains absolutely committed to the project and he's certainly given me the impression that there's likely to be continuity on that issue across the administration regardless of who wins in November," Fitzgibbon said, referring to the upcoming presidential elections.

The head of Australia's defense force told a Senate inquiry Wednesday the military campaign in Afghanistan "will last at least 10 years."

Fitzgibbon said Thursday that military operations could take less time with adequate resources, although reconstruction of the country will take longer.

Fitzgibbon's center-left government, which came to power in November elections last year, fulfilled a campaign pledge this week by beginning to withdraw 550 combat troops from Iraq. Another 1,000 Australian troops, sailors and air crew will remain in and around Iraq in non-combat roles.
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Army chief calls for more funds for Iraq, Afghanistan
Thu Jun 5, 3:04 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - The head of the British Army called for increased resources to be dedicated to the country's military to better support its commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, in an interview published Thursday.

Speaking to The Sun, General Sir Richard Dannatt, the chief of the general staff, said that given "the insecurity in the world today, and what the armed forces are being asked to do in it, then a slightly increased share of the national wealth going to defence would be appropriate."

"I regard what we are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere as non-discretionary -- we have got to do those things," he said.

Britain has approximately 7,800 soldiers in Afghanistan, most of whom are in the restive southern province of Helmand, along with a further 4,000 troops in Iraq, the majority of which are based around the southern city of Basra.

Dannatt has made outspoken comments in the past -- in an interview in October 2006, he called for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq "sometime soon" because they were contributing to Britain's security problems, but quickly toned down those remarks.
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NATO's Commander in Afghanistan Seeks Pakistan Talks (Update1)
By Ed Johnson
June 5 (Bloomberg) -- The new commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan is pushing for talks with the Pakistani military as the alliance says the government in Islamabad's negotiations with Taliban militants are causing a rise in cross-border attacks.

U.S. General David McKiernan said he shared his predecessor's concerns that Pakistan's ``ungoverned'' tribal areas create a sanctuary for terrorists.

``The NATO mandate does not extend into Pakistan,'' McKiernan told reporters in Kabul yesterday, his first news conference since assuming command from General Dan McNeill a day earlier. ``I intend on personally developing a close relationship with Pakistani counterparts so we can work on issues of security along the border.''

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. intelligence agencies say al-Qaeda uses bases in Pakistan's northwestern tribal region to train, re-arm and plan attacks against troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

The alliance is critical of the new government's truce talks with militants that began two months ago and says terrorist incidents in eastern Afghanistan were 50 percent higher in April than the same month in 2007.

Talks Suspended

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's government told the Bush administration in recent days that it is suspending talks with tribal chiefs in North and South Waziristan districts until they agree to new conditions, including halting all activities inside Afghanistan, the Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site today, citing unidentified U.S. intelligence officials.

The leaders must also make a commitment to stop providing any haven or material support to al-Qaeda and any other non- Pakistani fighters in the region, it said.

Security talks between NATO commanders and their counterparts in Islamabad and Kabul have been canceled in recent months because of political turmoil in Pakistan, including a six-week state of emergency declared by President Pervez Musharraf in November, the December assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf's allies being ousted by opposition parties in February elections.

``I want to re-energize that process,'' McKiernan said, according to an audio file of the briefing on NATO's Web site.

The commander said he intends to travel to Islamabad soon to meet with Pakistan's Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and discuss how to ``get energy back into that tripartite process.''

`Strategic Relations'

Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met yesterday with Kayani and other Pakistani military officials in Islamabad to discuss ``strategic relations, the war on terror and cooperation in this regard,'' according to the U.S. Embassy.

It was Mullen's third trip to Pakistan since becoming chairman in October and comes as the Bush administration seeks to develop relations with Gilani's coalition government.

The U.S. is critical of Pakistan's efforts to secure the border region and has expressed concern about the government's negotiations with militants, including Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was blamed for Bhutto's assassination.

It is offering to deploy troops to train the country's forces or take part in joint operations against militants.

Gilani says the truce talks won't undermine Pakistani military operations against extremists and that his government won't let troops from other nations onto its territory to fight militants.

Training Opportunities

Mullen also met with General Tariq Majeed, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and National Security Adviser Major General Mahmood Ali Durrani, the Pentagon's news service said. They discussed U.S.-Pakistani training opportunities and military equipment issues, according to the American Forces Press Service.

The U.S. has given Pakistan $10 billion in mostly military aid since Sept. 11, 2001, with the aim of securing the nuclear- armed country against al-Qaeda.

It says the network is expanding its support to Taliban militants waging a guerrilla war against the Afghan government and is funding and directing the insurgency.

More than 80 percent of suicide bombers who have carried out attacks in Afghanistan received training or shelter in neighboring Pakistan, the United Nations said last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at ejohnson28@bloomberg.net
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Pakistani foreign minister to visit Afghanistan Friday
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-05 20:23:47
ISLAMABAD, June 5 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi will pay a day long visit to Afghanistan on Friday, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq on Thursday.

The Pakistani foreign minister will hold talks with his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta and meet with President Hamid Karzai and National Assembly Speaker Muhammad Yunus Qanoni.

During the visit, the two sides "will discuss matters of bilateral interest and regional issues." Sadiq told a regular press conference.

Besides, Qureshi will visit Paris from June 10 to 14 to attend the International Conference in Support of Afghanistan.
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Afghan Borders Concern NATO Force Leader
The New York Times - World By CARLOTTA GALL  June 5, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan-As the new commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan expressed fresh concern over rising activity by militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, two powerful suicide bombs killed two people and wounded several others near the Pakistani border on Wednesday.

One car bombing occurred in the eastern Afghan province of Khost and demolished a government office, killing an official and wounding eight civilians visiting the building.

The second appeared to be aimed at a Canadian military convoy in the southern province of Kandahar near the border town of Spin Boldak. Two children were wounded, one of whom later died, according to a local border official, Abdul Razzaq.

The bombings unfolded a day after an American general, David D. McKiernan, assumed command of some 52,000 NATO troops in the country.

At a news briefing in Kabul, General McKiernan said he shared the concerns of his predecessor, Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who is also an American, about rising militancy emanating from Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. He said he would be taking up the issue with Pakistan.

“First, I share General McNeill’s concerns that the ungoverned area in the FATA potentially creates a sanctuary for people with bad intentions, bad intention for both Pakistan and Afghanistan,” he said, using the acronym for Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“I personally intend to develop a close relationship with Pakistani counterparts so we can work issues of security on the border,” he added.

He said one of his first trips as commander would be to meet with the Pakistani Army’s chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to try to resurrect a commission created by NATO and the Afghan and Pakistani militaries to address border issues. In recent months, Pakistan has not taken part in the commission.

Shortly before General McNeill handed over command, he raised concerns about Pakistan’s commitment to curbing militancy on its side of the border. Cross-border attacks from Pakistan have increased sharply since the Pakistani government entered into peace agreements with militants in Pakistan, he said.

General McKiernan said he would hold a “two-part conversation” with General Kayani.

“One part of it is what can be done to assist the government of Pakistan dealing with the problem that is also a Pakistani problem,” he said. “But the second part of the discussion needs to be, how do we exert more control of the border?”

He said one challenge would be to make sure that “the wrong people and items” are not moving back and forth across the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Abdul Waheed Wafa contributed reporting from Kabul, and Taimoor Shah from Kandahar.
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Nine Taliban killed in Afghanistan: police
Thu Jun 5, 4:35 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Militant attacks on international soldiers in Afghanistan Thursday left several civilians wounded and nine rebels dead in return fire that included air strikes, officials said.

In one attack, a suicide bomber ran at a NATO patrol in the town of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, and detonated explosives that he was carrying, deputy police chief Faridullah Khan told AFP.

The international troops suffered no casualties but four young civilian men were wounded, he said from the town which is about 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Kabul.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has US and Romanian soldiers in Qalat.

No one immediately claimed responsibility but the attack was similar to scores of others carried out by the extremist Taliban movement, which makes heavy use of bombings in an insurgency against the Western-backed government.

Also in Qalat, Taliban militants attacked a joint Afghan and ISAF patrol on the main road travelling through the province, Khan said.

The ambush sparked a clash and ISAF aircraft were called in.

"Nine Taliban were killed in the aerial bombing. Their bodies were left at the battlefield and we have the bodies," Khan said.

Afghan and NATO troops suffered no casualties.

There are about 70,000 international soldiers in Afghanistan to help the government defeat insurgency-linked violence, which has grown steadily since the Taliban were removed from government in late 2001 for sheltering Al-Qaeda.
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Helicopter crash kills 2 in Afghanistan
Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan - Two service members died in a helicopter crash Thursday as they were returning from a maintenance mission in southern Afghanistan, the U.S.-led coalition said.

There was no report of hostile activity related to the crash, the coalition said in a statement.

The coalition did not reveal the names or nationalities of the deceased pending notification of their families. The U.S. supplies the majority of air support for the coalition.

The helicopter crashed at around 6:30 p.m. in Kandahar province, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, the top spokesperson for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. The bodies of the two victims have been recovered, she said.

"There was no enemy activity in the area," she said, declining to specify the type of helicopter involved. "They were really close to the return point."

The service members were on a "routine maintenance mission," according to the statement.

Meanwhile, authorities said attacks by coalition and Afghan forces killed more than 10 Taliban militants.

Nine Taliban were killed by airstrikes after militants launched an early morning attack Thursday on an army convoy, said Faridullah Khan, the deputy provincial police chief of the southern province of Zabul.

Elsewhere, the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement that "several militants" were killed and five detained on Wednesday during an operation in Helmand province that targeted a Taliban leader.
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Indian engineer, two US-led soldiers die in Afghanistan
HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide bomber blew himself up near Indian engineers working on a key road in Afghanistan Thursday, killing one of them, as a US-led coalition helicopter crashed and killed two soldiers.

Four Indian guards and an Afghan policeman were also wounded in the suicide blast in the Khashrod district of the southwestern province of Nimroz, where Indian engineers have for years been building a key road to the Iran border.

The insurgent Taliban movement said it had carried out the suicide attack, which was one of two to hit Afghanistan Thursday and similar to scores of others by the militants.

The roadwork team had regularly used the same route, provincial police chief Mohammad Ayob Badakhshi said, but this time a man climbed out of a car as they approached a police checkpoint and started walking towards their vehicles.

"That is when the police on the ground got suspicious and opened fire towards him. He got confused and detonated before getting really close to the vehicle," said Badakhshi.

"As a result of the blast, one Indian engineer was killed, four Indian guards from the construction company and one Afghan police on the ground were wounded."

There have been several attacks during the building of the 218-kilometre (135-mile) road by the Indian government's Border Roads Organisation, and about 10 Indian nationals have been killed over the past few years.

Two died in a double suicide attack claimed by the Taliban in the same district on April 12.

"We strongly condemn this latest act of terrorism on a project being executed for the development of Afghanistan," said India's foreign ministry in a statement.

"Such acts will not deter us from fulfilling our humanitarian commitments."

The road, which will link the border town of Zaranj with an Afghan ring road, has reportedly been completed but is still not open to traffic.

In the second suicide attack Thursday, a man ran at a vehicle of international troops in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, and detonated explosives he was carrying, deputy police chief Faridullah Khan told AFP.

The international troops suffered no casualties but four young civilian men were wounded, he said.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has US and Romanian soldiers in Qalat.

Also in Zabul, Taliban militants attacked a joint Afghan and ISAF patrol on the main road travelling through the province, Khan said. The ambush sparked a clash and ISAF aircraft were called in.

"Nine Taliban were killed in the aerial bombing... we have the bodies," Khan said.

Two international soldiers with the US-led coalition working with ISAF and the Afghan forces, meanwhile, lost their lives when a helicopter crashed during a routine mission near the southern city of Kandahar, the force said.

The cause of the crash was being investigated but there were no reports that the chopper was brought down by hostile activity, it said in a statement.

The coalition did not give the nationalities of the soldiers killed.

The new deaths take to 72 the number of international troops to die in Afghanistan this year, most of them in hostile action.

There are about 70,000 US and NATO soldiers helping Kabul defeat insurgency-linked violence, which has grown steadily since the Taliban were removed from government in late 2001 for sheltering Al-Qaeda.
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Suicide blast hits Afghan town, four wounded: police
Thu Jun 5, 1:11 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A suicide attacker blew himself up near international troops in the southern Afghan town of Qalat early Thursday, wounding four civilians, police said.

The bomber ran at a patrol in the centre of the town, capital of Zabul province, and detonated the explosives he was carrying, deputy police chief Faridullah Khan told AFP.

The international troops suffered no casualties but four civilians, young men, were wounded, he said from the town which is about 400 kilometres (250 miles) south of Kabul.

The media office for the multinational NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which has US and Romanian soldiers in Qalat, could not immediately confirm the explosion.

No one immediately claimed responsibility but the attack was similar to scores of others carried out by the extremist Taliban movement, which makes heavy use of bombings in an insurgency against the Western-backed government.

There were two suicide bombings in the country on Wednesday, one aimed at Canadian troops in the south that killed a child and the other outside a district government in the east that killed one person and wounded several.
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Afghanistan's natural environment a victim of war: activists
by Bronwen Roberts Thu Jun 5, 2:02 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Years of war saw Afghanistan's forests levelled and its land polluted with fuel and mines, while more recent unchecked building and urbanisation is heaping new pressure on the environment, officials say.

As countries mark World Environment Day on June 5, conservationists and officials say Afghanistan faces many and unique challenges.

The post-Taliban government has passed the country's first environmental law and set up a protection agency, but a lack of capacity and expertise dog efforts to recover from the past and cope with the future, they said.

"The environmental loss was second to the human loss," said Ghulam Mohammad Malikyar, founder of Save the Environment Afghanistan, of the decades of war that started with the Soviet invasion of the late 1970s.

Before the conflict, three percent of the country was covered in natural forest, Malikyar said. This has been cut back to 1.5 percent through illegal logging and degradation including from people fleeing war.

"When there was fighting, people migrated to hidden places," he said. "Smugglers and mafia cut trees and took them to neighbouring countries."

The unlawful timber trade is continuing, with some reports of police involvement.

So is the smuggling of falcons with about 1,000 of the birds trapped in the country's deserts every year and smuggled into Pakistan en route to the United Arab Emirates where they can fetch 500 to 30,000 dollars each, Malikyar said.

Another victim has been the endangered snow leopard, native to this area.

"Before the war we had 500 snow leopards," Malikyar said. "Now there is no exact figure but they are estimated at 80 to 120."

The pelts of the elusive animals are however not too hard to come by. In one of dozens of fur shops in Kabul that are filled with sheep, mink and fox, a shopkeeper recently displayed one priced at 2,000 dollars.

At a market for international soldiers at the US military base at Bagram north of Kabul about 180 were seized over a recent two-week period, said Zahid Ullah Hamdard from the National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA).

"There is no legislation to control the export of endangered species."

There is also no wildlife inventory but efforts are under way, led by the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society, to survey animal populations.

Drought, desertification and deforestation have long been problems, particularly for the 80 percent of the population who live off the land, but one of the biggest new challenges is pollution, Hamdard said.

Four million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, many of them flocking to Kabul which is now jammed with four million people, several times more than it was built to accommodate.

Air pollution is fed by roads choked with traffic and the burning of wood and plastic in the absence of electricity; garbage is piled in the streets and rivers; water supplies are often filthy.

"In the rapid development of the past six or seven years, the environmental impact has not been taken into account," Hamdard said. "We will again need to invest resources to recover what we have damaged."

The government -- already dealing with insecurity and widespread poverty -- had however taken some "bold steps" to protect the environment, he said.

One was establishing NEPA in April 2005 and the other was passing the Environment Law, the final version of which came into force in 2007.

There were also moves under way to pass environmental impact assessment regulations for new projects and to protect significant areas, such as a group of startling blue lakes at Band-i-Amir in the central province of Bamiyan.

Discussions are meanwhile under way between Afghanistan, China, Pakistan and Tajikistan to form a transboundary park in the Pamir mountains, Hamdard said.

Afghanistan largely lacks the resources and expertise it needs to tackle its environmental problems, he said.

And there is general lack of understanding of the importance of environmental protection, with awareness-raising key to events planned for World Environment Day.

"During the last 25 or 30 years environment was ignored and neglected and this needs time, capacity and resources to recover," Malikyar said.

Of efforts so far, he said: "It is not enough for a war-stricken country but it can be a step forward."
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AFGHANISTAN: Fund shortage may shut UN humanitarian air service
05 Jun 2008 11:30:50 GMT
KABUL, 5 June 2008 (IRIN) - The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) may have to abandon its operations in Afghanistan due to a shortfall of US$2.5 million.

"We have an annual budget of $19.5 million of which $15.5 million mainly comes from passenger fares. There is a projected shortfall of $4 million," said Loic Lataste, the UN World Food Programme's (WFP) air transport officer in Kabul, adding that the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund had contributed $1.35 million to UNHAS to fill the gap in 2008.

UNHAS is managed by WFP and is the only air service in Afghanistan whose domestic flights are approved by the UN Safety and Security Department and are considered compliant with international flight standards. The service is widely used by UN employees, foreign diplomats and NGOs to travel around the country, as well as to Dubai and Islamabad in Pakistan.

After two meetings with donors, in December 2007 and March 2008, the operation's repeated requests for $2.5 million funding have not received any positive response. "It's a small budget compared to what's spent on humanitarian and development activities in this country," Lastaste said. "We'll be forced to stop our operation in the coming months if we don't receive additional funds."

Fuel prices have gone up by about 100 percent in the past 12 months, making flights very expensive, according to Lataste.

"It's also difficult to find operators who can meet UN flight safety standards and are willing to fly in Afghanistan, mostly due to insecurity," he added.

Intensifying conflict-related violence and deteriorating security in different parts of Afghanistan have increasingly impeded humanitarian and development access. Increased insurgency and criminal attacks have, meanwhile, restricted missions by road to almost half the landlocked country for most aid workers, including UN agencies.

UN employees are only allowed to travel to provincial capitals in the south, west, central and southeast by air and UNHAS is the only security-cleared airline with flights between Kabul and Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, Kuduz, Mazar, Faizabad and Bamiyan.

"The reasons for maintaining UNHAS services in Afghanistan have not changed," Lataste said, adding that domestic airlines were not in compliance with secure flight standards, insecurity was a major concern and roads were poor.

UNHAS says it served 42,000 passengers, mostly UN and NGO staff, and carried 1,100 tonnes of humanitarian cargo in 2007.
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Pakistan Suspends Talks With Tribes on Afghanistan Border
By JAY SOLOMON June 5, 2008; Wall Street Journal Page A8
WASHINGTON -- Pakistan's new civilian government has told the Bush administration it is suspending peace negotiations with tribal groups based along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, according to officials familiar with the discussions.

The move by Pakistan's new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, could bolster ties between Islamabad and Washington as the Pentagon voices increasing concern that the Taliban and other al Qaeda-linked militant groups have used the peace talks, and accompanying cease-fire agreements, to intensify their military strikes inside Afghanistan.

U.S. military and counterterrorism officials are particularly concerned about the activities of the militant Pakistani commander Baitullah Mehsud, whose militia has used a base in the South Waziristan district of the tribal region to conduct raids inside Afghanistan. Mr. Mehsud is charged with assassinating senior Pakistani politicians and security officials. Pakistan's government also accuses him of ordering the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in December.

According to officials familiar with the talks, Pakistani officials have told the U.S. in recent days that Islamabad is suspending the talks with tribal chiefs in both South and North Waziristan until they first agree to new conditions, including a cessation of all their activities inside Afghanistan. They also must voice their commitment to stop providing any safe haven or material support to al Qaeda and other foreign fighters who have created a new safe haven in the tribal areas, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Pakistan, consequently, will maintain its military presence in South Waziristan and continue to conduct offensive operations against militants throughout the tribal belt, unless they agree to the new terms set down by Mr. Gilani's government, these officials said.

"Negotiations will not proceed with the tribal groups until everyone is satisfied that an implementation mechanism exists to secure against attacks on both sides of the border," said a senior Pakistani official familiar with the talks. "And we want to make absolutely certain that the complaints that resulted from previous agreements will not be repeated."

The White House's National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Wednesday he couldn't comment on any continuing discussions between the U.S. and Pakistan on counterterrorism operations.

Last year, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf agreed to truces with tribal groups in the border regions, which U.S. officials said resulted in a surge of attacks against U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces inside Afghanistan. They did, at times, result in reduction in violence inside Pakistan.

Monday, militants detonated a car bomb near the Danish embassy in Islamabad, killing at least six people. Bombings have also continued in the northwest region of the tribal areas in recent days.

Pakistan's new civilian government came into office two months ago pledging to pursue negotiations with tribal leaders as a means to curb violence inside their country. Mr. Musharraf's military activities in the tribal belt have been widely criticized inside Pakistan as forced on Islamabad by Washington.

The Bush administration and Mr. Gilani's government have intensified discussions over counterterrorism strategy in recent weeks. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen is in Islamabad for two days of talks with senior Pakistani military officers, including the army's chief of staff, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani. Islamabad's new ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, has also met with senior Pentagon and State Department officials in recent days, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Gen. David Petraeus.

"These negotiations should remove a major impediment in U.S.-Pakistan relations," the senior Pakistani official said.
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Lawyers for Afghan journalist file suit over detention
By Lara Jakes Jordan, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON - Lawyers for an Afghan-born CTV employee being held as an enemy combatant in Afghanistan have filed a lawsuit accusing the U.S. administration of holding him illegally.

The lawyers are demanding the release of the 22-year-old journalist, Jawed Ahmad.

A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia says Ahmad has been held in Bagram, Afghanistan, for more than six months without being charged.

Ahmad was working for CTV television network when he was detained in October 2007.

Afghan authorities accuse him of being in contact with Taliban leaders, including having video of them and possessing their phone numbers, according to the complaint.

Lawyers with the International Justice Network are comparing Ahmad's case to that of Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press photographer who spent more than two years in U.S. military custody.

Hussein initially was accused of working with Iraqi insurgents but was released in April after Iraqi judges closed his case.

"Given the pivotal role of freedom of the press in the development and maintenance of a true democracy, the United States should not seize journalists like Jawed Ahmed merely because they are doing their jobs," said Barbara Olshansky, a lawyer at the International Human Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School, who is representing Ahmed.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the complaint filed Wednesday.

"Needless to say, we'll have to review the complaint before we decide how to ultimately respond," said spokesman Charles Miller.
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Senate: Iranian intel concealed from CIA, DIA
By PAMELA HESS
WASHINGTON (AP) — Pentagon officials in late 2001 and 2002 concealed from the CIA and other intelligence agencies potentially useful information gleaned from Iranian agents, said a Senate report released Thursday.

The Iranians told Pentagon employees about a tunnel complex in Iran used to store weapons and move its personnel covertly out of the country, likely into Afghanistan in the post 9/11 war period, according to the report by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The Iranians also told of a long-standing relationship with the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the growth of anti-regime sentiment inside Iran, it said.

The new report adds more details to the storied mistrust and lack of cooperation by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with the CIA in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the United States.

It focuses on a much-investigated series of meetings held in Rome over three days in December 2001 as the war in Afghanistan was being waged and the invasion plan for Iraq was in the initial planning stages.

Then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith sent two Pentagon employees to the Rome meetings with Manucher Ghorbanifar, an Iranian dissident already dismissed by the CIA as untrustworthy, and several Iranians who were former and current members of the security service. It also involved an unspecified foreign government's intelligence service.

Ghorbanifar used one of those meetings to press for regime change in Iran, and outlined a plan for it on a napkin, according to the report, saying it would cost about $5 million to start.

The report said then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley failed to inform then-CIA Director George Tenet and then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage fully about the meeting, either before or after it occurred. It said, however, that Hadley and the Pentagon did not exceed their authority in conducting the meeting.

It also said that Defense Department officials refused to allow "potentially useful and actionable intelligence" to be shared with intelligence agencies, even the Pentagon's own Defense Intelligence Agency.

Senate Intelligence Committee Republicans strongly dissented from the report, calling it a "disappointment" to those looking for evidence that anything "unlawful" occurred.
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Norwegian base weakest in Afghanistan
Aftenposten Multimedia A/S, Oslo, Norway.
The Norwegian base at Meymaneh is less secure than similar bases belonging to other ISAF forces. "The officers are angry, and I can see why," says Vice Admiral Jan Reksten, in charge of the Norwegian contingent in Afghanistan.

Faryab province in northwestern Afghanistan has become increasingly restless in recent years. Taliban strength has been growing and there has been fighting in Meymaneh both last fall and in May this year.

Both the military and political heads of the armed forces accept that the base needs strengthening. When the Norwegian force was asked what it needed to defend itself, it asked for 120 troops and long-range weapons. A mobile reaction force was also ordered, so that the allied garrisons in the area could assist each other if any of them came under heavy attack.

Initially they were offered 100 men and long-range weapons. This was pared down to what was termed an absolute minimum of 76, still including mortars.

The most recent tally has fallen to 46 soldiers, with no long-range arms. These will instead be put into storage in Mazar-e-Sharif. This is the sequence of events which has caused tempers to fray.

The base at Meymaneh is a so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team base that provides security and helps with reconstruction in their local area. There are 30 such bases in Afghanistan. The United States alone has 12.

According to defense chief Sverre Diesen and army chief Robert Mood, Meymaneh will in fact be strengthened by the arrival of the arrival of more than 40 troops. The base will house a total of 200 Norwegians, of which 60 are deployed with the helicopter ambulance team currently stationed there. A few Latvian soldiers are also on the base.

"The Swedes, Germans and everyone else have robust rapid response forces. Mortars and armoured assault vehicles are almost always included," says Col. Ivar Halset, who takes over as commander in Meymaneh in July.

"If we come under the sort of attack we experienced in May, we would no longer have weapons superiority over the Taliban," adds Halset.

"The nearest reinforcements are an eight hour drive from Meymaneh and a further four to five hours from the areas where trouble is most likely occur," he concludes.
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IMF says donor support key to Afghan economic plan
Wed Jun 4, 2008 10:59pm IST
WASHINGTON, June 4 (Reuters) - Donor support will be crucial to the success of Afghanistan's economic development strategy, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

In a statement following its review of Afghanistan's plans, the IMF cautioned that better financial management and transparency were also needed to ensure that public spending plans were used efficiently.

"Continued financial and technical assistance from Afghanistan's development partners will be essential for the success of the (economic plan)," Murilo Portugal, IMF deputy managing director, said in a statement.

"It will be important therefore to improve the effectiveness of aid -- most notably through greater harmonization of donor policies, better alignment of donor and country priorities, and development of Afghanistan's institutional capacity for absorbing aid," he said.

The economic plan envisions stepping up public spending and includes provisions aimed at boosting fiscal sustainability and public financial management, improving the business climate, reforming public administration, and bolstering anti-corruption and counter-narcotics efforts. (Reporting by Emily Kaiser, Editing by Andrea Ricci) ((emily.kaiser@thomsonreuters.com; +1 202 310 5444; Reuters Messaging: emily.kaiser.reuters.com@reuters.net))
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Afghan Fantasist to Face Trial at Guantánamo
by Andy Worthington antiwar.com / June 5, 2008
Now here's a weird one to ponder as the arraignments at Guantánamo commence for five prisoners – including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – who are charged with facilitating the 9/11 attacks.

I've always thought that there was something particularly perverse about charging minor Afghan insurgents in specially conceived "terror courts" at Guantánamo, as though there was any case whatsoever to be made that a national of a country at war with the United States could, by resisting foreign occupation, be regarded as a terrorist rather than as a soldier in a war.

I have my doubts about the entire Military Commission process, of course (which was conceived both in haste and as a blatant attempt to rewrite international law), as well as having doubts about some of the other cases put forward for trial by Military Commission, such as those of the Canadian child Omar Khadr and the British resident Binyam Mohamed (charged last week), who was flown around the world to have "confessions" extracted from him through torture, but the charges against the Afghans – Mohamed Jawad, Mohammed Kamin and Abdul Zahir (charged in the first aborted incarnation of the Commissions, and not yet charged for a second time) – have always struck me as even more ridiculously unjust and stupid.

Mohamed Jawad, who was also a teenager at the time of capture, is accused of throwing a grenade that wounded two US soldiers and an Afghan interpreter in a U.S. military vehicle, Abdul Zahir was accused of throwing a grenade at a vehicle containing foreign journalists, and, most feebly of all, Mohammed Kamin is accused of firing rockets at the city of Khost while it was occupied by U.S. forces.

However, even with these precedents, the case of the latest Afghan to face a trial by Military Commission – which was announced with so little fanfare that it was almost overlooked – appears to plumb new depths of misapplied zeal. In its charge sheet, the Pentagon announced that it was charging 32-year old Mohammed Hashim with "providing material support for terrorism" and "spying," based on allegations that, from December 2001 to October 2002, having been "schooled at terrorist training camps," he "provide[d] material support and resources to al-Qaeda," by "conducting reconnaissance missions against U.S. and coalition forces, and by participating in a rocket attack venture on at least one occasion against U.S. forces for al-Qaeda." It is also claimed that he "wrongfully collect[ed] or attempt[ed] to collect information by clandestine means or while acting under false pretenses, for the purpose of conveying such information to an enemy of the United States, or to one of the co-belligerents of the enemy."

While the charges against Hashim appear, on the surface, to line up with those against the other alleged Afghan insurgents, a glance at the transcript of his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (held in 2004 to establish that he had been correctly detained as an "enemy combatant" without rights) reveals that he is either one of the most fantastically well-connected terrorists in the very small pool of well-connected terrorists at Guantánamo, or, conversely, that he is a deranged fantasist. From the resounding silence that greeted his comments at his tribunal, I can only conclude that the tribunal members, like me, concluded that the latter interpretation was the more probable.

Hashim began by explaining that he had been with the Taliban for five years before his capture, but added that he only did it "for the money," and then declared, "What evidence was brought against me, I admit to. I've been telling the same story and I'm not lying about it. I helped out [Osama] bin Laden." After this attention-grabbing start, he claimed that he knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance, because a man that he knew, Mohammad Khan, "used to tell me all these stories and all the details about how they were going to fly airplanes into buildings. He didn't tell me the details, that it was New York, but he said they had 20 pilots and they were going to orchestrate the act." What rather detracted from the shock value of this comment was Hashim's absolutely inexplicable claim that his friend Khan, who had told him about the 9/11 plan, was with the Northern Alliance, the Taliban's opponents, who were also implacably opposed to al-Qaeda.

In what was clearly another flight of fancy, Hashim explained that he and another man, Abdul Razaq, had been responsible for facilitating Osama bin Laden's escape from Afghanistan. Disregarding the large number of accounts which placed bin Laden in the Tora Bora mountains in late November 2001 before his escape to Pakistan, Hashim said that bin Laden "took off" before Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul were captured (i.e. in early November 2001, several weeks before the Tora Bora campaign), and claimed that he and Abdul Razaq had taken bin Laden directly from Jalalabad to the Pakistani border. "It's a way that nobody knows," he said, "it's a secret, the official way we took him to the border. Haji Zaher was our guide. After that, we got into the car. We left them [Osama bin Laden and his wife] at the Pakistani border and we came back. They [Osama bin Laden and his wife] disappeared. They took a Russian jeep and a pickup truck. This is the story about al-Qaeda, that I took part in."

Undermining his story further, Hashim then said that and that he and Abdul Razaq made their way to Kandahar, where they met up with various warlords. "I was told a few days later I should work with these people as a spy," he explained. "This is the story. I received stories and messages from different places. Weapons were coming from Syria to Iraq, when Saddam was President. Syria was sending them [weapons] to Iraq, via Iran to Afghanistan. This is how it worked. Ayman al-Zawahiri [al-Qaeda's deputy leader] was organizing this."

Although he added, "Even if I'm here 20 years, I am going to give the same story; I'm not lying and these things exist," it's impossible not to conclude that Hashim's story was, if not the testimony of a fantasist, then a shrewd attempt to avoid brutal interrogations by providing his interrogators with whatever he thought they wanted to hear. This latter explanation is perhaps suggested by Hashim's closing comments – when asked what he thought of Americans, he said, "now I see Americans, they are nice people. I haven't been beaten up or slapped or anything " – but then again this might have been irony.

Whatever the case, though, nothing about Mohammed Hashim's story suggests that he should be standing trial in a court flagged up by the administration as an innovation required to prosecute "the worst of the worst," who were directly responsible for the 9/11 attacks. As the world's press gathers, and the spotlights are prepared for the 9/11 arraignments, it's another example of how tawdry and incoherent the administration's much-vaunted "terror trials" really are.
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Parachute Regiment launches surprise attack on Taliban in Afghanistan
Telegraph.co.uk - Property By Thomas Harding in Zabul province, Afghanistan  04/06/2008
The Parachute Regiment began major operations against a Taliban redoubt in Afghanistan on Tuesday, launching a surprise raid on suspected insurgent strongholds.

With Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries booming out over loudspeakers, paratroopers embarked on large Chinook helicopters at Kandahar airfield to fly into enemy-held territory.

Accompanied by Apache attack helicopters, the aircraft swept low over a scorched desert landscape of dry river beds.

Flying just 50ft above ground level, the lumbering Chinooks twisted from side-to-side as reports had indicated that the Taliban were equipped with anti-aircraft machineguns and were determined to shoot down an aircraft.

Inside the Chinook, an RAF crewman swept his multi-barrelled machinegun from side to side, searching for targets.

Five minutes before landing, the Paras, their chests crammed with grenades, ammunition and bayonets, clambered to their feet under the weight of 100lb of equipment and body armour.

The helicopter pulled a tight turn, swooping over small, mud-brick compounds surrounded by apricot and mulberry trees before landing next to an orchard.

The troops streamed off – dropping their extra loads of mortars bombs and two gallons of water next to a quad bike and trailer that had just been driven off the aircraft.

Walls were blown through in an uninhabited compound as A Company, 3rd Bn The Parachute Regiment searched the area. A grenade was thrown down a tunnel suspected of containing arms.

It heralded the start of Operation Southern Earthquake in which the British have entered an area of Afghanistan hardly any other Nato troops have previously visited.

"In Zabul there are areas where the Taliban think that they can operate unmolested by us," said Lt Col Huw Williams, the commanding officer of 3 Para.

"We are not going there to find them and fight them but if they come looking for us they are going to find out what we are about."

Behind the colonel's words stands the force of battle-hardened veterans of the intense fighting in Helmand from two years ago in which the battalion distinguished itself with a host of gallantry awards, including a posthumous Victoria Cross for Cpl Bryan Budd.

The soldiers expect that the Taliban will "stand and fight" in areas that are important to them and contain arms depots and cave hideouts.

"The Taliban have told the people that they are strong," said Lt Col Williams, 40. "But we will go to the villages and say, 'We're here, where is the Taliban?'

"We are here to discredit them and to enhance the image of the Afghan government in the eyes of the people."

The Taliban have regarded the mountainous Mizan district of Zabul as a haven but Major Jamie Loden, the commander of A Company, said the Paras' presence would change that. "We will disrupt their ability to carry out insurgent activity and deny them sanctuaries," he said.

Outside the village where we landed, an Afghan told troops that armed Taliban passed through the area "every day" but then refused to answer further questions. As night drew in there were reports that at least a dozen Taliban on motorbikes had been seen in the area.

Over the coming fortnight, The Daily Telegraph will accompany the Paras as they seek to drive out the insurgents, discover their arms dumps and win over the population.
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'Hekmatyar must be tried for war crimes'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008 
Poland accuses former Jihadi leader of crimes against humanity
POLAND’S foreign minister has said that former Jihadi leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar should be put on trial for war crimes.

Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said: “I think Hekmatyar has not been put on trial yet, and I hope that he will be put on trial soon. One of the reasons for my travels to Kabul is to pay my respects to the cameraman who was killed by Hekmatyar.

“I met Hekmatyar in 1993. Soon after, his men killed a BBC journalist because he did not like his reports.”

Sikorski also claimed Hekmatyar had killed one of his close friends, who had “risked his life for the Afghan people”.

Hekmatyar is the founder and leader of one of Afghanistan’s most hard-line Islamic groups, Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA).

He is on America’s list of the world’s most wanted “terrorists” and is frequently accused of colluding with Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels.

At today’s (Wednesday) joint press conference, the foreign minister of Afghanistan, Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta, said the government would refuse Hekmatyar’s wish to see foreign troops withdrawn from Afghanistan.

President Hamid Karzai’s office said last month it was “optimistic” about striking a peace-deal with HIA, a claim bluntly denied by Hekmatyar's party, which says negotiations can only begin once the foreign "devils" have left.

In April 2002, the US Central Intelligence Agency tried and failed to kill Hekmatyar with an unmanned predator drone.

Four years later, he was wrongly reported as captured before. He has allegedly taken credit for Al-Qaeda leader Osma bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora during the US-led invasion of 2001.

In 2003, the US government blacklisted HIA a “terrorist” organisation and the UN put its leader’s name on a list of people accused of supporting the Taliban.
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Husband 'cuts off wife's head with scissors'
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008 
Police say man beheaded his bride three days after their wedding day
A HUSBAND has cut off his wife’s head with scissors three days after their wedding, police have said.

Khwaja Farooq chopped off his 20-year-old wife’s head on Monday night in the Kupruk area of Pul-e-Khumri, the provincial capital of Baghlan, the city’s police chief said.

The 30-year-old Farooq had escaped by the time police surrounded his house a few hours after the beheading.

The reason for the murder is not clear yet.

Head of the hospital in Pul-e-Khumri, Dr Mohammad Yousuf Faiz, said the dead body was carried to the hospital.

Doctors said the bride’s neck had been cut with scissors and that she had also lost a finger on her right hand in the struggle.

Shafiqullah, a 23-year-old neighbour, said: “We had participated in their marriage ceremony three days ago. There was no problem between them, and they were relatives.”

This is the fourteenth murder in Baghlan in the last month.

One month ago, a man shot dead his own wife and a man who he had seen her with in a home in Pul-e-Khumri.

There were 1,800 cases of violence against women in 2007, according to Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission.
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Afghan version of Dragons' Den taps nation's spirit of enterprise
The Scotsman - News By Rose Taylor 05 June 2008 
DECADES of conflict have made the average Afghan an extremely self-reliant person. Used to making the most of little, the people of the troubled country have developed an entrepreneurial spirit that can be keenly sensed in any of its cities and towns. It even extends to the young: it's not unknown for teenagers to run their own businesses.

Now, in an attempt to harness this enterprising nature, comes Dragons' Den – Afghan style.

Fek wa Talash, which translates as "Dreams and Achievement",  is a televised search to find the best business ideas in Afghanistan. Auditions are under way and, like their British counterparts, the Afghan dragons are fielding ideas ranging from the brilliant to the deranged.

"You get all sorts of people," said dragon Seema Ghani, 40, a Kabu businesswoman and government adviser, during a break in filming in Jalalabad. "At times, it gets a bit boring. In Kabul, we had the largest number of people (auditioning] and it was tailor after tailor. It's not really a new business idea."

Ms Ghani, described as "frosty" and "stony" by one viewer, has won the reputation of being the most difficult to impress. She admits this is true.

"I am probably more frank than the other judges. I think (the contestants] should hear how I feel about things. If we are saying (we want] creative and innovate ideas, those should come in front of me – not a tailor."

Afghans are generally considered an entrepreneurial bunch, with children getting involved in family businesses at an early age.

The failure of any government in the past 30 years to provide a stable business environment, in which there is job security and a corporate ladder for people to climb, has served to enhance this entrepreneurial spirit in many.

Already, Fek wa Talash is pulling in good ratings and the plan is to bring it back year after year, says Habib Amari, who is producing the series for Tolo TV.

The auditions in Kandahar produced the highest number of established businessmen with solid ideas seeking to expand their companies. A number of these were so busy they sent along their business managers to audition in their place.

The strength of these businesses caused a certain dilemma for the dragons because, unlike on the UK programme, they are not there to invest their own money.

The contestants are competing for a top cash prize that can be injected into the business. Over the course of the series, the dragons will direct the strongest candidates towards marketing, legal and financial support – all business services that are taken for granted in the West but are new to Afghanistan – and monitor the improvement in their business acumen.

This advice will be dispensed by the show's sponsors, which include telecommunications firm Roshan, the National Bank of Afghanistan and the American development agency USAID.

So far, the most popular idea has been for a plastic recycling plant in Kandahar, which found favour with all the judges.

Dragon Abdul Rahim Zalmai, 28, the chief executive of Afghan petroleum company Napco, said that contestant was already employing about 60 people but wanted to expand. "It fitted my criteria for what we are looking for: a business that can grow, that is sustainable, that employs people and will contribute to Afghanistan. It was a great idea," he said.

And the most ridiculous idea? According to Ms Ghani, it was the young man whose "business idea" was to shut down the city's wedding halls. This, according to his logic, would bring down the price of rice – soaring food prices are currently a huge concern. He also wanted a half-hour slot on Tolo TV each week to instruct women on how to behave.

"I started laughing," Ms Ghani said. "He came from Peshawar and he is probably part of a madrassa – one of those religious schools. I had to start telling him off. He was either a Taleb or completely crazy."

But a young student studying at Herat University did impress the panel. She wanted to build a clothes factory and had done a lot of research and provided a lot of statistics. "It was a great idea. And all of the judges really liked it," said Mr Amari, the producer.
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Badakhshanis may be forced to flee drought
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008 
Hungry residents say they have to eat grass for lack of food
POVERTY and drought are one of the main challenges facing the people in Badakhshan, a threat that may force many inhabitants to flee to neighbouring areas, the province’s governor has warned.

Governor Munshi Abdul Majeed said: “Drought is a big threat for the people, and the animal owners are also worried because the grass on the land is dried and there is nothing for the animals to eat.

“Even the wheat plants, which had grown 10 to 20 cm, are dried out now due to the lack of water.”

Residents say a humanitarian disaster will strike the area if the government fails to help them. Many say they have to eat grass to stave off hunger.

Majeed said 90% of the area is covered with mountains and the lack of dams and irrigation has caused the agricultural fields to dry up.

He said hundreds of families are ready to leave the province for other provinces, but he that the government is planning to run “large projects” in the area to solve the drought.

Residents say they have discussed their problems with the government many times, but their problems have never been solved.

One of the residents said: “People even eat grass because of hunger, but the government does nothing: it only makes promises.

“People have lost their trust on the government; therefore they don’t raise their voice, because the government does not listen to them.”

One old man said: “If the government does not care about the people’s problems, people will lose their trust in the government and Karzai will fail in the next elections.”

Some analysts say poverty and unemployment are the only reasons for insecurity in the country.

Drought in the Alberz district of Balkh has already forced more than 1,500 families to flee to areas near Mazar-e-Sharif, where they live in tents.
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Obama: time to focus on Afghanistan
Written by www.quqnoos.com Wednesday, 04 June 2008 
Likely contender for US presidency says focus on Al-Qaeda needed
SENATOR Barack Obama, who has all but won the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, has spelled out his priorities for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Delivering what his supporters called a victory speech at St Paul, Minnesota, the Illinois senator said the time had come to concentrate on the war in Afghanistan and withdraw troops from Iraq.

"It's time to refocus our efforts on the Al-Qaeda leadership and Afghanistan, and rally the world against the common threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. That's what change is," he said.

Given the poor popularity rating of President George W Bush and his Republican Party, it is widely believed that a Democratic nominee will be the next US president.

Throughout his campaign, Obama has said the Bush administration’s Afghan policy is flawed and that the US should hit high-value “terrorist” targets inside Pakistan.

"Change, Minnesota, is realising that meeting today's threats requires not just our firepower, but the power of our diplomacy: tough, direct diplomacy, where the president of the United States isn't afraid to let any petty dictator know where America stands and what we stand for."

The peace-deals in Pakistan between the government and the country’s rebels have led America to criticise the new coalition government, which it says should take a harder stance against the militants.

NATO in Afghanistan has already blamed the peace-deals on an increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan, especially in the country’s eastern provinces.

The deals have seen the introduction of Sharia law into tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and the withdrawal of the Pakistani military from rebel-controlled territory.
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U.S. Commitment: The US-Afghan Women's Council
Thursday, 5 June 2008, 7:35 am Press Release: US State Department  via Scoop.co.nz
Fact Sheet Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues Washington, DC June 4, 2008
U.S. Commitment to Afghan Women: The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council
In January 2002, President George W. Bush and President Hamid Karzai announced the creation of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council. The Council promotes public-private partnerships between U.S. and Afghan institutions and mobilizes private sector resources to help Afghan women. Specifically, the Council seeks to identify concrete actions to bring real and practical benefits to the women of Afghanistan and to enable them to participate and take leadership roles in the political and economic life of their country. To this end, the Council focuses on four areas: political leadership and legal awareness, economic empowerment, education, and health. In 2006, it added a special children’s initiative, Ayenda. The Council alternates regular meetings between Kabul and Washington, DC to discuss programs and priorities for assisting Afghan women and to review progress. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky co-chairs the Council with the Afghan Foreign Minister and the Afghan Minister of Women’s Affairs.

Since the Council’s inception major accomplishments include:

Education
Women’s Teacher Training Institute. At the opening of UNESCO in 2003, the First Lady announced USAWC’s initiative to establish a Women’s Teacher Training Institute (WTTI). In September 2004, WTTI opened at Kabul University. $10 million was dedicated to WTTI’s first program the Afghan Literacy Initiative. An additional $10 million was also made available for the Learning for Life program which helped teach basic literacy and numeracy to women in rural areas of Afghanistan. From 2008-2013, $40 million will be made available by USAID, in part, to carry forward the work of WTTI by Afghanistan’s National Literacy Center which will expand its mission to include priorities identified in the Afghanistan National Education Strategic Plan.

International School of Kabul (ISK). Also announced by the First Lady at UNESCO, the International School of Kabul opened September 2005 and is designed to provide Afghan children, grades K-12, with a first-rate education through U.S.-style curricula to help prepare them for higher education and leadership roles. Original contribution in 2004 from USAID was $3.8 million. In 2007, USAID provided an additional $4.7 million to support the school.

The American University of Afghanistan. This multi-year initiative established a University, which opened in March 2006, offering English-language business, management, information technology and other professional courses and encouraging the interchange of ideas between Afghanistan and the United States.

Afghan Teacher Education Project (ATEP). In cooperation with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, USAWC supported the pilot phase of ATEP at the University of Nebraska which provides training for Afghan women educators and teachers.

U.S. Leadership Management and Computer Education. In 2002, USAWC brought 14 women from various Afghan government ministries to multiple cities in the United States for an educational exchange program. During their stay, they received training in computers, proposal writing, communications, and leadership management.

Computer Assistance. Microsoft facilitated a donation by DELL Computers of $100,000 worth of computer equipment and software with teaching applications to support the Women’s Teacher Training Institute, the International Association of Women Judges, the Ministry of Education and the Women’s Resource Center in Kabul.

Legal Training/Political Participation/Leadership

Laura Bush Afghan Women’s Leaders Fund. Established in May 2006 by USAID, the Fund provides Afghan women leaders with necessary resources to participate in key training and conferences regionally and in the West.

Political Training and Leadership Exchanges. Between 2004 and 2006, USAID, the Department of State, and Embassy of Afghanistan sponsored a number of exchanges and delegations of Afghan women to attend key training/conferences including plenary sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women in New York, the Global Summit of Women in Mexico City and Seoul, Korea, as well as delegations to the United States for International Women’s Day.

Family Law Study. In cooperation with USAWC, the Woodrow Wilson Center and RAND Corporation researched and published a document, pro-bono, titled “Best Practices” Progressive Family Laws in Muslim Countries, that depicts family laws in 12 Muslim nations.

Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT. Led by Council Member Diana Rowan, CONNECT supports Afghan-led women NGOs and legal training institutions that provide training in Afghan civil law/civil procedure codes and international conventions on civil rights. It has also supported the Afghan Women Judges Association (AWJA) legal aid clinic in Mazar-e-Sharif which provides free legal counsel to 100 vulnerable women each year and increases public awareness about women's rights.

Afghan Women Judges Training. Since 2004, three training programs for Afghan women judges, funded by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), in partnership with the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), have provided visiting Afghan women judges with on-site training in family, criminal and civic law.

International Association of Women Judges. Grant from the State Department (INL) supported legal and judicial awareness classes in 2005 for 300 high school girls and their teachers in Kabul.

Women’s Resource Centers. A total of seventeen centers are completed (one built, in part, by a contribution by Time Warner). Asia Foundation was awarded a $2.5 million grant in December 2005 to help build capacity at the Centers and implement new programming. $1 million was contributed by the Council in 2005 to provide the following services:

* American Councils for International Education (ACIE): ACIE conducted a project to expose Afghan educational administrators and community leaders to different approaches in education and literacy training. The workshop was held at California State University Chico. The participants returned to Afghanistan and conducted training sessions at the Women's Resource Centers.

* World Learning (WL): WL, in partnership with the Afghan Center Kabul, conducted leadership training for six Afghan women at Bluefield College in West Virginia. Council Member Caroline Firestone generously donated DELL computers to these women to help further their training back in Kabul.

* University of Delaware (UD): UD partnered with the Afghan Institute for Learning and Creating Hope International in a program to prepare women to take leadership positions in the Women's Resource Centers.

* Women for Afghan Women (WFAW): WFAW worked with Afghan women entrepreneurs to train them in designing and manufacturing products that can be sold in the United States.

* Great Lakes Consortium for International Training and Development (GLC): GLC, a component of the WSOS Community Action Commission, in partnership with the Reconstruction Authority for Afghanistan (RAFA), conducted a program to foster business development by women in Afghanistan.

* Institute for Training and Development (ITD): ITD's program enhanced the capacity of ten Afghan women educators and NGO and Women's Resource Center workers to educate women and girls and to manage the educational services provided by their organizations.

Afghan Women Leaders CONNECT: Connect has dedicated new resources to expand the existing Women’s Resource Center in Bamiyan to enhance services for women in that province.

Economic Opportunities

Doris Buffet/The Sunshine Ladies Foundation. This contribution helped with the completion of a school in Kabul, supported Arzu carpets and assisted internally displaced people while providing them with essential training programs such as classes on installation of solar paneling. She also generously supports the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, a four-year degree program for Afghan women ages 18-22.

Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women/ Northwood University. Led by Council Member Terry Neese, the Institute teamed up with Northwood University to provide Afghan women business owners with a unique training program in marketing and entrepreneurship. Program participants spend time shadowing women business owners in the U.S. and learn how to open a small business. First program commenced in August 2007; the next is scheduled for summer 2008. The Institute has expanded its program to assist women entrepreneurs from Rwanda.

The New Hudson Foundation (NHF). NHF, established in 2005 by Council Member Caroline Firestone, invests in organizations, programs and people dedicated to providing opportunities for the advancement of the health and well-being of vulnerable people, especially Afghan women and children. Some of NHF’s projects include school upgrades, tree planting, hospital restoration and management and support for the Afghan Red Crescent Society. NHF also generously supports U.S. servicemen in Afghanistan by donating items such as ipods, DVD players and videos.

Artemis Project/The Garvin School of International Management at Thunderbird University provides 15 Afghan businesswomen with advanced entrepreneurship training. Over a 2-year period, the Garvin School continues to mentor the women to help them develop business concepts and provides expertise to help them become mentors/teachers in their homeland. The next class is scheduled to begin in fall 2008. Additionally, in March 2008, Goldman Sachs, a global banking investment firm, announced a historic global partnership called “10,000 Women,” which will provide 10,000 underserved women in predominantly developing and emerging markets with business and management education. Goldman Sachs has committed $100 million over 5 years to this program. Thunderbird University and the American University of Afghanistan are among the program’s first partners.

Arzu Carpets. This program provides training and literacy skills, to Afghan women in the hand knotted Afghan carpet industry. Over 2050 people are currently in the program and Arzu has expanded its operation to Bamiyan Province. With support from USAID, Arzu has more than doubled initial investments. Arzu has been profiled in Time Magazine’s Global Business World Briefing, Forbes, The Financial Times, Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and was featured in Town & Country and Traditional Homes.

Microcredit Loans. In 2003-2004, Daimler Chrysler’scontribution to the Foundation for International Community Assistance (FINCA) opened seven community banks in Herat Province providing critical support to women with access to microcredit loans.

Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program (AEP). Initiated by the U.S. Departments of State and Agriculture, the AEP trained Afghan women at the University of Nebraska in farming and agricultural techniques, as well as business management including access to micro-loans.

Media

PBS, Afghanistan Unveiled. After PBS purchased the rights to the film, Afghanistan Unveiled, and broadcasted it over two hundred PBS affiliates, the film was nominated in July 2005 for an Emmy in the “News and Documentary” category. PBS and Council Member Caroline Firestone helped bring five of the original camera women to New York for the September 19 award ceremony. Council Member Pat Mitchell continues to work with the journalists and is exploring ways to support future endeavors.

Health

Burn Prevention Campaign. TriWest Healthcare Alliance has teamed up with the Council to launch a nationwide public awareness and burn prevention campaign for Afghans. Program launched in August 2007.

Community Dental Project. The New Hudson Foundation linked up with the International Medical Corps to establish Afghanistan’s first community dental care program in Kabul. Program commenced in November 2006.

Health Training. Freddie Mac supported a project through Future Generations in Bamiyan Province that provided accelerated literacy and health skills to village women and provided refresher training to community health workers.

Herat Burn Center. Initiated by Council Member Peter Saleh, the Herat Burn Center opened in 2005, with support from the Defense Department, specializing in treatment for self-immolation victims.

Afghan Family Health Book. In 2004, the Department of Health and Human Services in cooperation with LEAPFROG Enterprises Inc. launched the "Afghan Family Health Book". This "talking book" provides useful and practical information about health practices and hygiene, focusing on health promotion and disease prevention. The books have been distributed via hospitals, clinics, and women's centers in Afghanistan. (DHHS funded)

REACH Program/Midwifery Training. In 2003, USAWC contributed $5 million to the pilot phase of USAID’s Rural Education and Community Health Care Initiative (REACH) which provided accelerated health basic literacy training for women and girls to become midwives and community health worker throughout Afghanistan.

Children

Ayenda – the Afghan Children’s Initiative. In March 2006, Council Members Tim McBride and Shamim Jawad launched Ayenda, a special project of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.The project seeks to raise private resources to help meet the critical needs of Afghan children. To date, $400,000 has been raised. Ayenda has funded Afghan music learning books, supported the Aschiana Foundation, a landmine-free soccer field, and will be establishing the Ayenda Learning Center in Bamiyan in fall 2008.

TriWest Healthcare Alliance. Led by David and Cathy McIntyre, TriWestwill support burn treatment for Afghan children at the Herat Burn Treatment Center in Afghanistan.

Aschiana Foundation. USAID supported the Aschiana Foundation in its efforts to build a new center to educate disadvantaged school children in Kabul. Land was purchased and initial construction of a multi-story center is currently underway.

Meetings

Washington DC, January 17, 2008
Kabul, July 18, 2007
Washington, DC July 5, 2006
Kabul, March 28-April 1, 2005
Washington, DC, Oct. 17-18, 2005
Kabul, February 24-26, 2004
Washington, DC, June, 15, 2004
Kabul, January 8-9, 2003
Washington, DC, July 15-16, 2003
Washington, DC, April 24, 2002

Office of the Senior Coordinator for International Women’s Issues: http://www.state.gov/g/wi
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Race kicks off amid tight security
Written by www.quqnoos.com Tuesday, 03 June 2008 
First run for decades in violence haunted province finishes smoothly
Race kicks off amid tight security First run in decades in violence haunted province finishes smoothly

SCORES of athletes took part in a rare 3km run amid tight security in the troubled province of Uruzgan.

About one hundred sprinters participated in the race, which kicked off at 7.30am in the Saga area of Uruzgan’s provincial capital and finished in front of the office complex in Tirinkot’s centre at about 8.00am.
Dr Roohullah Almas said Abdul Qadeer, Jawad and Sadiqullah finished in first, second and third place respectively.

At the end of the race, the top three sprinters received prizes from Governor Asadullah Hamdam and provincial police chief Matiullah Popal.

The winner was awarded a cash prize of Afg100,000 and a Chinese bicycle, with the runner-up and third place also receiving bicycles for their efforts.

Abdul Qadeer reminded the officials of the urgent need for promoting sports in a province long-haunted by militant-linked violence.

One contender, Neko Agha, questioned the result, alleging the runner-up had covered most of the distance in a car.

But the director scorned the allegation as groundless, arguing judges kept a close watch on the runners until they reached the finish line.

Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and police personnel were out in force to deal with possible insurgent sabotage attempts.

Thousands of people keenly watched the contest, the first in the area in decades.
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