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June 6, 2008 

Airstrike kills 20 militants in Afghanistan
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - An airstrike has killed at least 20 militants in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Friday.

Pakistan FM says peace talks not with 'terrorists'
KABUL (AFP) - Pakistan's foreign minister said in Afghanistan Friday that his government was not in talks with "terrorists" but only with "peace-loving" elements as part of a multipronged strategy to fight extremism.

Food prices alone won't stop Afghan opium growers: experts
by Bronwen Roberts Fri Jun 6, 1:08 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Global food price rises may push some Afghan farmers to plant wheat instead of opium but officials say any real switch will only come from government pressure as poppies are still more profitable.

Afghanistan: Teen Describes Madrasah Effort To Make Him A Suicide Bomber
KABUL/PRAGUE -- Ever since he was caught three months ago in Afghanistan's Khost Province trying to carry out a suicide attack, 14-year-old Shakirullah has been pondering how he went from childhood in Pakistan to imprisonment

Gunman kills key Afghan adviser in district pacified by Canadian troops
Fri Jun 6, 8:29 AM By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The senior adviser to the tribal leader in one of the few relatively peaceful districts of Kandahar province was gunned down Friday, the latest in a wave of killings and attempted assassinations of major

In Afghanistan, theft still plagues U.S. military
Two years after the U.S. military took steps to get the problem under control, the smuggling of equipment and sensitive material from U.S. bases in Afghanistan continues.
By Kim Barker Chicago Tribune correspondent 11:34 PM CDT, June 5, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan — The red shipping container was filled with supplies for U.S. soldiers just arriving in Afghanistan: camouflage netting, a new radio kit, bayonets, computer equipment, a wooden American flag and personal belongings

Pop culture tests Afghan conservatism
By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY
KABUL, Afghanistan — The ups and downs of Afghan Star — Afghanistan's version of American Idol — can tell you a lot about how this country is changing.

Young Afghan journalist finds refuge at Doha Centre for Media Freedom
6/6/2008 Source ::: The Peninsula
DOHA • Nilofar Habibi, a young Afghan TV presenter whose life was in danger, has become the first journalist to be given temporary refuge by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom. The programme host in a local public television station, Herat TV

Government Of Japan Provides US$4.33 Million To Support Maternal And Child Survival In Afghanistan
Medical News Today - Jun 06 6:15 AM
Health programmes in Afghanistan will receive a boost with a new US$ 4.33 million grant from the Government of Japan. Under a new agreement signed with UNICEF today, approximately 7.5 million children in the Islamic

Attacks can't slow down Afghan police officer
Doug Schmidt ,  Canwest News Service Thursday, June 05, 2008
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - At least four times already that day, the man under a bulky cloak had caught the eye of Amanullah, an Afghan police officer patrolling the bazaar district of Spin Boldak, a city in southern Kandahar

FEATURE-Afghan refugees struggle to find a home
06 Jun 2008 12:03:20 GMT By Jonathon Burch
HERAT, Afghanistan, June 6 (Reuters) - It took 13 years for Sanobar and her five sons to get a home of their own after returning back to Afghanistan.

Accused 9/11 mastermind welcomes martyrdom
By ANDREW O. SELSKY Associated Press Fri Jun 6, 7:05 AM ET
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks said he welcomed martyrdom at U.S. hands, as he and four codefendants faced trial for war crimes without the benefit of lawyers.

Aid path undermining Karzai regime, expert warns
STEVEN CHASE Globe and Mail (Canada) June 6, 2008
OTTAWA — International donors, and increasingly Canada, are undermining the Afghan government's efforts to build its legitimacy with citizens by funnelling assistance through the foreign "aid industry" instead of through the Karzai regime's

Afghanistan's football goals
By Chris Wang in Colombo Al Jazeera (Qatar) / June 6, 2008
Harez Habib, Afghanistan midfielder, scored both his team's goals in their 2-2 draw with co-hosts Sri Lanka at the 2008 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in Colombo.

U.S. plan threatens Canadian command
Proposal would see American general taking Canada's place in NATO's regional rotation in 2010
PAUL KORING From Thursday's Globe and Mail June 5, 2008 at 4:56 AM EDT
WASHINGTON — Canada may lose its next and perhaps last chance to command NATO forces battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan under a new plan that will insert an American general into the rotation, according to defence

‘Hekmatyar will increase attacks on Polish troops’
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008
HIA spokesman says Poland will pay for war crimes accusation
HEZB-E-ISLAMI Afghanistan (HIA), led by fugitive ex-Jihadi leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has threatened to increase attacks on Polish troops in response to allegations made by Poland’s foreign minister.

Polish foreign minister calls for trial of fugitive Afghan leader
Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV, on 4 June
[Presenter] The Polish foreign affairs minister has called for trial of Golboddin Hekmatyar.
Addressing a joint news conference with Afghanistan's foreign minister, he [Polish foreign minister] said Golboddin Hekmatyar had not been tried for the crimes he has committed. He expressed the hope that Hekmatyar would be brought to justice.

Afghan MP see political motives behind delay in population census
Text of report by privately-owned Afghan Ariana TV on 4 June
[Presenter] Some MPs believe the delay in implementation of population census have political motives and that a transparent election is only possible with accurate population census. However, the Central Statistics Office says registration

Pakistan police foil terror plot near Islamabad
June 6, 2008
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistani police have foiled a major terror plot, seizing three explosives-packed vehicles and arresting six people including three would-be suicide bombers near Islamabad, officials said Friday.

Taliban warn drug dealers, music shops
Gulf Times - Home  Friday, 6 June, 2008
Pakistani Taliban militants yesterday gave music shop owners and drug dealers a 10-day deadline to close down or face the consequences, local officials and residents said.

 In Afghanistan, the NATO-led Force is 'Underresourced' For the Fight Against the Taliban
When it comes to combat, it is a coalition of the willing and not-so-willing
U.S. News & World Report, DC By Anna Mulrine Posted June 5, 2008 KANDAHAR
Ask American troops in Afghanistan what ISAF means, and you are opening the door to a running joke: "I Saw Americans Fight," and "I Suck at Fighting," and "I Sunbathe at FOBs" (a reference to the heavily fortified and largely safe forward operating bases)

Hekmatyar's son-in-law calls for Afghan unity
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008
Top Hezb-e-Islami member urges Afghans to cut ties with foreign 'devils'
THE son-in-law of one of the country’s most notorious ex-Jihadi leaders has been welcomed by a large number of tribal elders and Members of Parliament days after his release from prison.

Tanin made vice-president of UN assembly
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008
Afghan ambassador to the UN will take up new role on General Assembly
AFGHANISTAN’S ambassador to the United Nations, Dr Zahir Tanin, has been chosen as the vice-president of the UN’s General Assembly.

Ceremony honours famous Afghan singer
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008
The late Muhammad Hussain Zarahang is remembered by fans
A REMEMBRANCE ceremony has been held in Kabul in memory of the famous Afghan classical singer Muhammad Hussain Zarahang, who died 26 years ago to the day.

Canada Practicing Diplomacy on Afghanistan's Border
By Jeff Davis - Embassy magazine (Canada) , June 4th, 2008
While Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan has been leading diplomatic efforts to secure the Afghan-Pakistan border, both countries are calling for the other to get serious about stopping the Taliban insurgents who crisscross the porous border with apparent ease.

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Airstrike kills 20 militants in Afghanistan
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - An airstrike has killed at least 20 militants in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Friday.

Capt. Christian Patterson, a U.S.-led coalition spokesman, said the airstrike occurred Thursday in Paktika province, which borders Pakistan. He said 20 militants were killed, but provided no details.

Afghan officials said coalition aircraft attacked a band of insurgents in Orgun, a district close to the Pakistani border where U.S. troops have a base, after dark Thursday evening.

Provincial police Chief Gen. Nabi Mullakhel said surviving insurgents removed the bodies from the scene. He said villagers reported that 32 militants died.

Ghamai Mohammed Yar, a spokesman for the provincial governor, also put the toll at 32, citing Afghan intelligence reports. He claimed that most of the dead were foreign fighters, including Pakistanis and Central Asians.

It was not immediately possible to reconcile the differing tallies.

NATO has reported a surge in violence in eastern Afghanistan blamed on resurgent Taliban militants, some of whom operate out of Pakistan's lawless tribal areas.

U.S. and NATO officials have blamed the uptick on cease-fires and peace talks between the Pakistani government and militants.

Pakistan insists it is only negotiating with Pakistani militants willing to renounce violence and that it will not allow its territory to be used for attacks on Afghanistan.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, police said a suicide bomber blew himself up Thursday near a convoy carrying road construction workers in the southern province of Nimroz, killing one Indian worker and injuring four other people.

In Paktika's Waz Daka district, a woman and a male relative died Thursday when a mine blew up near the tractor they were riding toward a clinic, police Chief Mullakhel said. The woman's child was wounded, he said.
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Pakistan FM says peace talks not with 'terrorists'
KABUL (AFP) - Pakistan's foreign minister said in Afghanistan Friday that his government was not in talks with "terrorists" but only with "peace-loving" elements as part of a multipronged strategy to fight extremism.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi met President Hamid Karzai and other officials amid concern in Afghanistan that Pakistan's dialogue with Taliban militants on its soil will only lead to more extremist attacks this side of the border.

"We will not engage with terrorists," Qureshi told reporters. "Those who pick up arms and guns are neither your friends or our friends."

"We are engaging with those elements that are peace-loving and want stability in their regions and want to live a normal peaceful life."

The new government launched the talks after defeating allies of US-backed President Pervez Musharraf in elections in February. It says his military-based strategy was merely fuelling militancy.

Qureshi said Islamabad believed it needed to adopt a more comprehensive approach to fighting extremism that included political engagement, socio-economic development and "when required" military measures.

Pakistan has already signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in the Swat Valley, about 99 kilometres (55 miles) from Afghanistan. That has seen soldiers leave the area and the rebels implementing Islamic Sharia law.

It is in talks with Al-Qaeda-linked leader Baitullah Mehsud, who has vowed to continue "jihad" (holy war) in Afghanistan while pursuing peace negotiations.

Karzai told the Pakistani minister that Islamabad's peace moves with Taliban extremists could have "destructive" consequences for both nations, and emphasised the need for a "strong fight" against such groups, his office said.

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told reporters he had raised similar concerns.

"I informed Mr. Qureshi of the very serious concerns of Afghan people and government regarding the peace initiatives between Pakistani government authorities and Pakistani Taliban," he said after talks with his counterpart.

"This is a serious concern and will have dangerous consequences for Afghanistan," Spanta told a joint press conference.

The two top US allies on the "war on terror" have bickered for years about the extremist violence growing in both countries, with each accusing the other of not doing enough to fight it.

Afghan and NATO officials have said that Pakistan's previous attempts at peace deals with militants along the border have seen a rise in attacks in Afghanistan where the Taliban were removed from government late 2001.

The US ambassador in Kabul, William Wood, 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.
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Food prices alone won't stop Afghan opium growers: experts
by Bronwen Roberts Fri Jun 6, 1:08 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Global food price rises may push some Afghan farmers to plant wheat instead of opium but officials say any real switch will only come from government pressure as poppies are still more profitable.

This year's worldwide jump in prices has hit impoverished Afghanistan hard, with wheat -- the country's dietary staple food -- doubling in some areas and reports of people eating grass to survive.

Opium, of which Afghanistan produces more than 90 percent of world supply, is planted at roughly the same time as wheat, at the end of the year.

The recent hikes were too late to influence the last sowing season, and agencies working to slash opium production are looking to the next planting period, around October-November, to see if farmers will make the switch.

Loren Stoddard from the US government's aid agency USAID is hopeful.

"The food security crisis, while it is going to hurt people, is going to make the point to everyone in Afghanistan that poppy is not such a great business," he said in an interview.

"You can't eat it... it's a hard lesson this year," said Stoddard, the group's director of alternative development and agriculture in Afghanistan.

The rising prices mean farmers could earn more with wheat than before, especially if yields are improved via better irrigation, seeds and fertilizer, said UN Food and Agriculture Organisation representative Tekeste Tekie.

"I don't know to what degree but the price itself is a good incentive to encourage them to switch," he said.

Soaring food prices have sparked hunger, poverty and violence around the world, prompting a UN summit this week on how to tackle the crisis.

Still, the gap in profits from essential wheat and illegal opium remains huge.

A hectare (2.47 acres) of wheat under irrigation can earn a farmer 1,500 dollars, said the FAO. The same area of opium can bring in about 5,000 dollars, said the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report in February.

This is one reason UNODC representative Christina Oguz said a significant switch to wheat was unlikely, with the rise in food prices perhaps even resulting in farmers returning to the illegal crop.

"If food prices go up in areas where poor farmers have stopped cultivating opium and they do not get support to survive... then there is a risk that they will go back to cultivating opium again next year," she said.

Besides the price, opium offers farmers security in the form of loans from buyers of the drug and because it can be kept for years without deteriorating, a key factor in a country lacking cold storage facilities and roads to markets.

"You can get a loan if the only security you provide is the future harvest," Oguz said. "You can't get that for wheat or carrots."

"You know that there is always a market for it, it is not as difficult to store as potatoes or wheat."

She added: "Traders come to your doorstep and they get it from you. You don't have to do anything more than sow it and harvest it."

There has been some success this year in ridding whole provinces of opium fields, Counternarcotics Minister General Khodaidad has said.

He told AFP he expected a survey underway to put the number of "poppy-free" provinces at 20 out of 34, up from 13 last year.

These provinces are mostly in the relatively stable north, where strong leaders have been able to spread the anti-opium message and focus on what farmers need to keep away from poppies.

However, if authorities "don't support the farmers, of course they will go again to grow poppy," Khodaidad said in northeastern Badakhshan province, long one of the nation's top producers and this year likely to be "opium-free."

Afghanistan's real drugs headache is, however, in the south and southwest where around two-thirds of the opium is grown and much of it converted into heroin, the form in which about 60 percent of opium leave the country.

The drugs also finance a Taliban-led insurgency that is more virulent in those areas where government authority is also the weakest.

Opium growers in these main producing parts generally have "the best land, the best irrigation, the best road support," said Stoddard, playing down the "poor farmer" argument.

While food prices may help, the real success in forcing farmers off opium will be firm action from the authorities.

"Economic incentives alone generally do not change people's decisions," he said.

"The thing that pushes them over the edge is strong law enforcement, strong government leadership."
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Afghanistan: Teen Describes Madrasah Effort To Make Him A Suicide Bomber
KABUL/PRAGUE -- Ever since he was caught three months ago in Afghanistan's Khost Province trying to carry out a suicide attack, 14-year-old Shakirullah has been pondering how he went from childhood in Pakistan to imprisonment in Kabul as an international terrorist.

Just one year ago, Shakirullah was living with his family in his native tribal region of South Waziristan, in Pakistan. The world Shakirullah knew in his village of Jandul revolved around his father, Noor Ali Khan, his mother, and three older brothers.

But Shakirullah's childhood in the rugged mountain region near the Afghan border came to a dramatic end last fall when his family sent him to a religious boarding school -- the nearby Salib madrasah in South Waziristan -- to receive instruction from conservative Islamist clerics.

The boy says teachers had taught him the Koran for half a year, then gave him an explosives-packed suicide vest and took him across the border into Afghanistan.

Shakirullah was picked up before he could blow himself up near U.S. troops, a mission that minders at his Pakistani madrasah assured him would bring him eternal life.

He is now being held at a facility run by Afghanistan's national intelligence service -- a detention center that keeps the teenager separated from older Taliban fighters, hardened criminals, and convicted murderers.

'Never Die'

When Afghan officials allowed RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan into the facility to interview Shakirullah, the boy describes a militant network in Pakistan that "forced" him to become a suicide bomber. The teen also directly implicates clerics at the madrasah as being part of that network.

"[I was attending] Salib madrasah. About 50 other people were attending," Shakirullah said. "The teachers were all from Pakistan. I was there for five or six months."

Shakirullah says that his instruction focused entirely on the Koran while he was at the madrasah. But he says the clerics started urging him to become a suicide bomber after he finished studying the Koran.

Shakirullah also says several of the teachers at the madrasah told him that he would "never die" if he sacrificed himself as a suicide bomber in neighboring Afghanistan.

According to Shakirullah, his teachers increased their pressure on him to commit a suicide-bomb attack after he asked to see his mother and father. He says his teachers told him he was not allowed to see his parents before the attack, but assured him that he would "come back" to see them afterward.

Shakirullah identifies a teacher at the madrasah named Azizullah as the person who transported him across the border into Afghanistan's Khost Province, urging him to blow himself up. He says Azizullah also provided him with an explosives-laden vest and instructed him to detonate the device when he got close to a group of U.S. soldiers.

"They told me to go to Afghanistan and carry out a suicide attack and that I would come back," Shakirullah says. "[Azizullah] didn't allow me to inform my family. I was forced to come [to Afghanistan]. When I finished [studying] the Koran, they told me, 'Now you carry out a suicide attack and you will come back to visit your parents.' Then I was brought to Afghanistan."

Close Call

Authorities in Kabul say troops from the Afghan National Army first noticed the teenager as he was walking alone toward a security checkpoint in Khost Province.

Observing that the boy was acting confused and was wearing a suspiciously oversized vest, the Afghan soldiers stopped Shakirullah from detonating the explosives. Instead, they took him into custody for questioning.

Shakirullah says his Afghan jailers have treated him well and that he has not been abused or tortured during the many interrogation sessions he has undergone.

He says that in the three months since his arrest, he has had plenty of time to think about how his teachers at the madrasah took advantage of his impressionable age.

Shakirullah now says the madrasah teachers lied to him -- giving him "bad advice and trying to kill me along with other Muslims."

As for the future, Shakirullah says he is happy just to be alive and safe. But he says he wants to continue his studies to better understand how he was led astray by the madrasah teachers. The boy also says that he misses his mother and wants desperately to see her again.

reported by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Rezwan Murad in Kabul and Jan Alekozai in Prague; written by Ron Synovitz in Prague
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Gunman kills key Afghan adviser in district pacified by Canadian troops
Fri Jun 6, 8:29 AM By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The senior adviser to the tribal leader in one of the few relatively peaceful districts of Kandahar province was gunned down Friday, the latest in a wave of killings and attempted assassinations of major Afghan government supporters.

Malim Akbar Khakrezwal, 55, a former mujahedeen leader and a key supporter of the leader of the Alokozai tribe in the Arghandab district, was shot and killed outside his home in the village of Lowwal, just outside Kandahar city.

His death is being seen by Afghan authorities as an attempt to destabilize the district, which Canadian troops fought a bloody campaign last fall to reclaim from Taliban militants.

Arghandab, one of the few relatively peaceful and prosperous regions in the province, is tenuously held together by a 25-year-old tribal leader who depended on Khakrezwal for support.

Neither Canadian military or civilian officials have commented on his murder.

Khakrezwal was a strong supporter of the Canadian presence. He was an outspoken critic of the Taliban, and also of the controversial provincial governor Assadulah Khalid.

Gen. Syed Aqa Saqib, Kandahar's provincial police chief, said there has been no claim of responsibility so far but added he wouldn't be surprised if Taliban militants were responsible.

"He was very popular and respected," Saqib said.

Four weeks ago, militants planted a homemade bomb outside the home of the deputy commander of the Afghan intelligence service in Kandahar. The National Directorate of Security official, whose name was banned from publication, escaped unharmed.

The Taliban target government officials and supporters to undermine confidence in Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has survived at least three assassination attempts - the latest during a military parade in Kabul on April 28.

Khakrezwal was a confidant of the late Mullah Naquib, a powerful Alokozai tribal leader and former governor of Kandahar. It was Naquib, a prominent figure in the anti-Soviets jihad, who kept a lid on Taliban influence in the Arghandab, north of Kandahar city.

His death from a heart attack last fall set off a wave of attacks in the region, including the beheading of seven Afghan police officers captured at a checkpoint last December.

At the time, there fears among Canadian military commanders that the relatively quiet region, known as the gateway to Kandahar, would spiral out of control like Panjwaii and Zhari districts to the west.

The Taliban did attempt to take the Arghandab but were halted and beaten back into the mountains of Sha Wali Kot district by Canadian troops.

Mullah Naquib's son, Kareemullah Naqibi, who is barely 25 years old, was anointed as his successor. But his hold on the region has been tenuous, commanding nowhere near the respect of his father.
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In Afghanistan, theft still plagues U.S. military
Two years after the U.S. military took steps to get the problem under control, the smuggling of equipment and sensitive material from U.S. bases in Afghanistan continues.
By Kim Barker Chicago Tribune correspondent 11:34 PM CDT, June 5, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan — The red shipping container was filled with supplies for U.S. soldiers just arriving in Afghanistan: camouflage netting, a new radio kit, bayonets, computer equipment, a wooden American flag and personal belongings, from Cheer laundry detergent to a copy of the fiction thriller "Consent to Kill."

A truck carrying the shipping container in early May to the newly deployed 201st Engineer Battalion of the Kentucky National Guard was stolen just before reaching Bagram Air Base, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan.

It was one of 13 Bagram-bound shipping containers stolen and recovered by Kabul police in a single week, said Ali Shah Paktiawal, director of criminal investigations.

"I think something's wrong on the inside," an angry Paktiawal told three Americans in civilian clothes who drove an hour from Bagram to the police station to see the shipping container.

"It's possible," said one of the Americans with a shrug.

Two years after the U.S. military took steps to get the problem under control, the smuggling of equipment and sensitive material from U.S. bases in Afghanistan continues.

The stolen goods are not difficult to find, sold in bazaars near most of the military bases. At the market outside Bagram in late May, the Tribune found shops selling everything from army medical kits to small computer memory devices, known as "thumb drives" or "flash drives," containing military records, soldiers' Social Security numbers, maps and other documents labeled with security warnings.

The culprits are likely Afghans who work for the Americans inside the base, and the fear is that the lost equipment or information could wind up in the hands of insurgents and therefore pose a danger to U.S. forces.

The problems persist despite U.S. officials acknowledging the problem two years ago following media reports about computer memory drives being sold outside Bagram. The military took several measures in response, including warning soldiers about how they should handle personal items.

But the men who sell the stolen items at bazaars outside Bagram and in Kabul say the amount of military merchandise available has increased in the past year, and Paktiawal said his police are recovering more shipping containers than before.

A U.S. official from a military base in Kabul, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was seeing shipping containers smuggled "all the time." But Capt. Christian Patterson, a spokesman for the U.S. base at Bagram, said the amount of smuggling has actually decreased in the past year.

"Any amount of smuggling is taken seriously and investigated thoroughly," he wrote in response to e-mailed questions.

Smuggling off military bases has always been common in Afghanistan. Fuel trucks have been hijacked on their way into the country from Pakistan. Some goods bound for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, end up in the compounds of government officials, said an ISAF official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A market just a few yards away from Bagram's front gate is a smugglers' paradise. Here, it's possible to buy soldiers' stolen iPods and "Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom" mugs for half as much as inside the gates.

A shop run by Ahmad Nasir, 26, sells camouflage uniforms and a medic's camouflage backpack stuffed with supplies. Among the items he was selling were a Palm Pilot cut out of a U.S. military vehicle, and "The Radio Telephone Operator Handbook" from the Army in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., marked "for official use only."

"The boys inside are stealing everything," Nasir said. "There is no obstacle. Once the Americans tried to stop them, and then there was no business here."

Used thumb drives containing military records are also sold in the market, despite measures taken by the military after a Los Angeles Times story in April 2006 showed sensitive material was on some drives that ended up there. At that time, U.S. soldiers bought all available thumb drives and for months inspected the market. The army also put out a new training pamphlet called "New Technology New Threats" advising soldiers that thumb drives and iPods should be treated as a security threat.

The pamphlet also referred to the leak of social security numbers as "troubling" because a soldier "can be a victim of lifelong credit fraud — which could be used by the terrorists to fund their operations."

The drives again are easily available just outside the gates of Bagram. Most of the more than 50 used drives examined by the Tribune in late May had the ability to set a password, but only five were password-protected. The information was considered so valuable, used thumb drives from Bagram were significantly more expensive than new thumb drives from Bagram.

Many used drives contained soldiers' personal documents, such as family pictures, but some information was sensitive. One drive showed an overview map of the U.S. base at Jalalabad Airfield, which clearly marked the locations where the Special Forces and the CIA worked.

Another thumb drive, apparently stolen in May, listed the military leaves scheduled this year for 350 soldiers in Task Force Cincinnatus, which operates out of Bagram. This drive also included the Social Security numbers of 99 soldiers, their leave dates and their bases in Afghanistan.

Other thumb drives showed soldiers' home addresses, work histories and religion. Detailed pictures and diagrams pointed out key instruments of the Apache helicopter, used in Afghanistan. Soldiers outlined the faults of a new ground mobility vehicle designed for the Special Forces.

One drive, stolen from the possessions of a recently arrived soldier in Kentucky's 201st battalion, included another battalion's 116-page game plan for tactical operations in Afghanistan, including how to search homes and people and what to look for. "SECURITY WARNING!" the section on vehicle searching said. "All individuals handling this information are required to protect it from unauthorized disclosure."

On the same drive, a pamphlet from the Combined Explosives Exploitation Cell for Afghanistan was marked "controlled and limited distribution" and "sensitive materials." The material "is sensitive and requires safeguarding," said the 29-page pamphlet, outlining bomb triggers, kinds of bombs and timers. The pamphlet had pictures of how motorcycles and rickshaw carts are disguised as bombs.

When asked about such smuggling, Patterson, the military spokesman, said joint patrols of police and coalition forces investigate the presence of illegal goods wherever found.

"Maintaining the safety of our service members and their personal information is paramount," he wrote in an e-mail. "Careful monitoring occurs to prevent digital storage devices with sensitive information on them from appearing off base and endangering Bagram personnel. When these items are discovered, they are confiscated immediately."

It isn't quite clear how the merchandise is stolen, especially shipping containers, larger than many Afghan homes and carried on large trucks. Sometimes the culprits are the Afghans who work on the base; at several shops in the teeming market outside Bagram, workers offered to have their friends inside steal whatever was needed. Sometimes the thieves are Afghan soldiers.

As part of a program called Afghan First — which encourages the international community to support fledgling Afghan businesses — most of the companies that move shipping containers from one base to another are locally run, Patterson said.

He said the investigation into the shipping container stolen before it reached Bagram was ongoing and the container was still being held by the Interior Ministry.

Afghan officials would not let a reporter see most of the equipment inside but did allow her to watch some of it being unloaded.

"There are weapons. There are sensitive items," said a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, who knew what was inside the container.
kbarker@tribune.com
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Pop culture tests Afghan conservatism
By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY
KABUL, Afghanistan — The ups and downs of Afghan Star — Afghanistan's version of American Idol — can tell you a lot about how this country is changing.

In this year's version of the smash TV hit, one of the three finalists was from the troubled province of Kandahar. This was a big step for a conservative area that gave rise to the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic regime that prohibited all Western influence until it was toppled by the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Even more remarkable: The finalist from Kandahar, 20-year-old Lima Sahar, was female.

The host of Afghan Star says the conservative strains in Afghan society remain strong. When Dauod Sediqi travels to Kandahar to oversee tryouts for the shows, he takes a plane instead of driving because he fears he might be targeted by Islamic militants.

"In the major cities of Afghanistan, people love me," says Sediqi, 27, who wears Dolce & Gabbana shirts and lathers his hair with mousse. "But there are some places in Afghanistan where it is not safe for me to go."

Such contradictions abound in the rapidly expanding, ever-changing world of the Afghan media. Dozens of new TV stations, newspapers and magazines are proliferating and testing the limits of what is acceptable, while Taliban sympathizers and others lash out at what they see as heretical foreign influence.

Dozens of armed, masked Taliban insurgents barged into mosques in Logar province south of Kabul last month, threatening anyone who watched "un-Islamic" television programs, Information Ministry official Najib Manelai told Reuters.

The female owner of a radio station was killed by gunmen last year, and the female host of an MTV-style music show was gunned down in 2005.

Not all of the resistance has come from extremists.

The pro-Western, pro-U.S. government of President Hamid Karzai also has put its foot down after deciding local norms were violated.

In April, the Ministry of Culture and Information banned five popular Indian soap operas, saying they violated Islamic and Afghan values. Afghan television networks had dubbed the shows into local languages and edited out anything offensive — revealing shots of women, references to Hindu practices and alcohol consumption — but their efforts were not enough.

The ban is before the Afghan attorney general and may go to court.

In March, the lower house of parliament called for an end to dancing and other "un-Islamic" practices on television. The resolution passed after the nation's No. 1 television network — privately run Tolo TV — aired men and women dancing together onstage at a film awards show.

The staff of Tolo TV — founded in 2004 by Afghan-Australian entrepreneur Saad Mohseni and his siblings — has reacted to the climate of oppression by using it as creative inspiration.

Behind stone walls and barbed wire at the Tolo headquarters, there's a buzzing newsroom; a garden where writers sit alone brooding over scripts; and a canteen where women in jeans and men in T-shirts and sunglasses trade ideas and gossip.

Each Wednesday night, Tolo airs Danger Bell, one of its most popular programs. Comedian Hanif Hamgam uses satirical songs, skits and gags to skewer politicians of all stripes.

"I don't respect anybody," he says. "No matter how tragic the news, people must laugh."

One of Hamgam's favorite targets is Culture Minister Abdul Karim Khurram, installed two years ago with fundamentalist support.

"I always criticize the culture minister," Hamgam says. "He is an uncultured guy."

Tolo, convinced that Khurram is an enemy of free expression, has been broadcasting video of the minister declaring that "all this stuff … which they bring to us from the West and from Europe and call it freedom of speech and so on — this is just useless talk."

Khurram, a onetime follower of fundamentalist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, says the comments were taken out of context; he says he was critiquing someone else's view, not expressing his own.

"I have lived in the West," the French-educated minister says. "I want the same rights for Afghans."

Khurram says some shows do go too far — showing unveiled women, singing, dancing and religions other than Islam.

"These things are not reasonable in our culture," Khurram says. "University professors, religious scholars and students all complained that they are not fit for Afghan families."

Tolo programming manager Hussain Naikzaid counters, "We haven't had complaints from ordinary people."

On the campus of Kabul University, accounting student Ahmed Shekib Noor, 20, says he likes watching Indian soap operas and admires Afghan Star finalist Lima Sahar.

Noor doesn't understand why clerics want to banish singing and dancing from the airwaves.

"This is a democracy," he says. "Why shouldn't they sing?"
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Young Afghan journalist finds refuge at Doha Centre for Media Freedom
6/6/2008 Source ::: The Peninsula
DOHA • Nilofar Habibi, a young Afghan TV presenter whose life was in danger, has become the first journalist to be given temporary refuge by the Doha Centre for Media Freedom. The programme host in a local public television station, Herat TV, arrived in Doha on June 2.

"Habibi feared for her life after being attacked twice in week just for trying to do her job," the Centre said. "We are happy and relieved to see her safe and sound. By providing this kind of refuge, the Centre is also demonstrating the Qatar government's clear determination to promote freedom of expression."

"I finally feel I am in a safe place and out of danger, but I fear for the journalists I work with. Attacks on freedom of expression are on the increase in Afghanistan, especially against women journalists," said Habibi on her arrival. "I plan to use the Centre's offer of a three-month stay to demonstrate my commitment to journalism and to improve my professional expertise with the help and support of the local media," she added.

Created by the Emir in a decree on December 9, 2007, the Doha Centre for Media Freedom seeks to promote the right of all people throughout the world to free and independent news and information.

Under the patronage of H H Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned and in close cooperation with Reporters Without Borders, the centre plans to serve both as a refuge for journalists, and as a place for discussing and preparing proposals on how freedom of opinion and expression can be better defended.
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Government Of Japan Provides US$4.33 Million To Support Maternal And Child Survival In Afghanistan
Medical News Today - Jun 06 6:15 AM
Health programmes in Afghanistan will receive a boost with a new US$ 4.33 million grant from the Government of Japan. Under a new agreement signed with UNICEF today, approximately 7.5 million children in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will benefit from improvements in infectious disease prevention and control as a result of the funding.

The agreement was formally signed by H.E. Mr. Hideo Sato, Ambassador of Japan and Ms Catherine Mbengue, UNICEF Representative for Afghanistan in the presence of Afghanistan's Minister of Public Health (MoPH), Dr. S. M. Amin Fatimie at a special ceremony today.

The grant will enable the Government of Afghanistan to procure essential supplies, including vaccines to prevent and control infectious diseases and to further accelerate the on-going polio eradication efforts. The funds will help bring in an estimated 21.7 million oral polio vaccine (OPV) doses, BCG vaccine for routine immunization, injection supplies as well as vaccine carriers to help reach remote areas.

"This grant will go a long way to sustain and strengthen the Government of Afghanistan's Polio Eradication Initiative," said UNICEF's Representative in Afghanistan, Catherine Mbengue. "I would like to commend the tremendous achievement of the Government in reducing the number of polio cases in the country from 63 in 1999 to only 8 so far in 2008."

"This is the result of the efforts and commitment of the Government and also of thousands of health workers, volunteers and social mobilizers working tirelessly in the field. UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and all partners are determined to support this gigantic effort to make polio eradication a reality in Afghanistan and the world," she said.

UNICEF has been working with MoPH to meet this challenge through social mobilisation and community engagement involving religious leaders, teachers, village elders, and community health workers in motivating families to get children immunized.

Afghanistan continues to be one of the only four countries in the world where polio remains endemic and its eradication is a top priority for the Government. The Japanese funding will be used for district level planning; vaccine and immunization logistics; door-to-door polio immunization campaigns; monitoring and evaluation; advocacy and public information; and social mobilization and community engagement.

Routine coverage for the OPV is currently around 83%, but during polio campaigns like the ones to be funded through the Japanese grant, the coverage for Afghanistan, excluding the southern region, goes up to 95%. Coverage in the southern region continues to hover around 85% largely due to lack of security which hinders access to households.

Japan has been a long-term supporter of UNICEF's work with the Government of Afghanistan, notably in the areas of health and education. Since 2000, the Japanese contribution to UNICEF in Afghanistan has been about US$ 90 million.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
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Attacks can't slow down Afghan police officer
Doug Schmidt ,  Canwest News Service Thursday, June 05, 2008
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - At least four times already that day, the man under a bulky cloak had caught the eye of Amanullah, an Afghan police officer patrolling the bazaar district of Spin Boldak, a city in southern Kandahar Province near the Pakistan border, and a known gateway for insurgents mixed amongst the returning refugees.

"All the time he is watching us. I said to my assistant, let's go and check him, this man is very dangerous, maybe," Amanullah said this week, in an interview through a Pashto interpreter.

As Amanullah exited his vehicle, the man he recalls having green eyes and green clothes bolted.

"I got out my pistol and shouted, 'Stop!' But he ran away," said the officer. The suspect sprinted to a second man at the market who was also bulkily clad, and the two took off, Amanullah in pursuit. He said he waited until the two had exited the busy bazaar before firing his pistol.

"I shot one and there was an explosion," said Amanullah. Four civilians and the two suicide bombers were killed in the April 22 incident, and eight others were wounded, including Amanullah.

"This is the second time I shoot a suicide bomber," he says from a hospital bed where he is still recovering from serious injuries.

Three months earlier, a man sitting under a tree in Spin Boldak got up when he saw Amanullah's patrol car approach.

"He is running towards me. I told him three times, stop, don't run at me. He didn't. I had my gun, I shot him - he exploded," said Amanullah. The bomber was the only casualty that time.

"We love Amanullah, he's quite famous here and quite a character," says Lt. Shannon Stafford-Ngoviky, a general duty nurse officer at Kandahar Airfield's Role 3 hospital, where Amanullah remains, more than a month after being airlifted out of Spin Boldak.

A big bear of a man by Afghan standards, he's referred to by most, in an affectionate and respectful manner, as Palawan, a Dari term that translates to "the big one." Brawn is an admired quality in this male-dominated society with its warring tradition.

"I'm a wrestler," he says proudly.

Before the interview, Amanullah grimaces, and tears silently stream down his face as he rolls onto his side, trying to find the best position, any position, where the fewest number of his wounds can rub against something.

His body is covered in cuts, gashes and fresh surgical scars, a series of steel pins and rods hold his shattered right leg together and there are bandages and gauze covering wounds distributed from head to toe. One long stretch of stitching runs up his left leg, while another row flows down the centre of his head from the crown to just above where his eyebrows almost meet.

Amanullah was delivered to this Canadian-led multinational medical unit, one of the top trauma facilities in the country, as an unconscious and anonymous uniformed officer with the Afghan security forces and entered into the Role 3 log as "John Doe 22" - the 22nd unknown hospital admission to that point in 2008.

While Amanullah's story illustrates the dangers faced daily by the young Afghan national security forces, he also displays the courage required for a job that is targeted on a daily basis by insurgents and other lawless elements. When Amanullah speaks, the other young wounded Afghan police in his ward sit up, straining to listen.

"Yes, I love the job. I don't want to do another job," he says. Two near-misses with death, and now likely a targeted man for speaking out, Amanullah said he can't wait to get back out on the street.

"I'm not concerned. I'm helping the Afghan people - I want to fight with my enemy," says Amanullah, a father of two who looks much older than his 24 years.

Told of Wednesday's suicide bomber attack against a Canadian military convoy in Spin Boldak, Amanullah listens intently before concluding: "That's good - only two injured."

Suicide bombers now pose a near-daily threat in Afghanistan.
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FEATURE-Afghan refugees struggle to find a home
06 Jun 2008 12:03:20 GMT By Jonathon Burch
HERAT, Afghanistan, June 6 (Reuters) - It took 13 years for Sanobar and her five sons to get a home of their own after returning back to Afghanistan.

Their story is not unusual. Many Afghan refugees struggle to rebuild their lives in their shattered homeland after spending years, sometimes decades, in Pakistan and Iran where they fled over the last 30 years of almost continual war.

Sanobar and her husband left Afghanistan to escape intense fighting during the Soviet occupation. Sanobar's husband worked as a labourer in Tehran, while Sanobar stayed near the border.

"Life was good in Iran. My husband was working and he was able to look after us," she says. "But I was scared the Iranian government would put pressure on us to leave so we came back."

Several years after returning to Afghanistan, her husband had a nervous breakdown and left the family to fend for themselves. She has not seen him since.

Since major repatriation programmes resumed in 2002, after the overthrow of the Taliban, more than 5 million Afghans have returned to their country. Many were deported, particularly from Iran and often to protests by the United Nations and aid agencies.

There are also tens of thousands of internally displaced Afghans who have fled the ongoing Taliban insurgency and inter-ethnic strife.

Between January and the middle of May this year, more than 100,000 Afghans were deported from Iran. Some 250,000 were deported in 2007.

There are still some 2 million Afghans living in Pakistan and another 1 million in Iran, making Afghans the second largest refugee population in the world. Around 1 million unregistered Afghans are also in Iran, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says.

When they first arrived back in Afghanistan, Sanobar and her family lived in a tent in the mountains herding livestock, but droughts soon forced them down into the villages and with no land of their own they were passed from house to house.

"Life was miserable," says Sanobar, "we had no shelter. We kept moving from one house to another."

But Sanobar and her sons now have a home of their own, built with help from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), one of the partners of UNHCR, providing shelter to refugees.

Since May 2007, NRC has been constructing homes for refugees and displaced Afghans in Herat, focusing on the most vulnerable. Half of the beneficiaries are female-headed households like Sanobar's and while most of the construction is carried out by NRC, the recipient is expected to help.

"Me and my sons helped build it. I fetched buckets of water and made the bricks," Sanobar explains proudly, sitting on the mud floor of one of her rooms.

The house is made from bricks of mud, water and straw and is similar to traditional Afghan houses found all over the country, especially rural areas. The walls are thick and provide cool respite from the baking sun outside.

"We have shelter now," she says, pointing to the ceiling, "I don't want to go back to living in a tent."

Sanobar weaves carpets in one room, selling them to buy food. She took her two eldest sons out of school so they could work. One is a shepherd and another collects rubbish. Despite her struggles, Sanobar is happier with her new life.

UNCERTAIN FUTURE
Despite a growing economy, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Unemployment is around 40 percent and most returning refugees face an uncertain future.

According to UN figures, there are still an estimated 150,000 displaced Afghans. Most of them live in camp-like conditions, often ten people to a room.

In a camp just outside the city of Herat, lives Mohammad Zair, who fled to Herat with his family to escape fighting in the north. For the past eight years, Zair has lived with fourteen other members of his family in a small mud hut built by the UN.

"We have nothing, life is finished," he says. "The villages receive assistance but we get nothing."

The government wants them to return to their places of origin but after years away, most have nothing to return to.

"I cannot go," Zair shouts. "The government can either kill me or give me some land, or they can give me a document to say I'm not Afghan and I will leave the country," he says, pointing towards Iran. (Editing by Megan Goldin)
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Accused 9/11 mastermind welcomes martyrdom
By ANDREW O. SELSKY Associated Press Fri Jun 6, 7:05 AM ET
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks said he welcomed martyrdom at U.S. hands, as he and four codefendants faced trial for war crimes without the benefit of lawyers.

Thursday's arraignment at this isolated U.S. Navy base marked the first time that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the former No. 3 leader of al-Qaida, has been seen since he was captured in Pakistan in 2003.

Judge Ralph Kohlmann said he would set a trial schedule later.

Mohammed said he would welcome being executed after the judge warned him he faces the death penalty if convicted of organizing the attacks on America.

"Yes, this is what I wish, to be a martyr for a long time," Mohammed said. "I will, God willing, have this, by you."

Mohammed wore dark-framed prison-issue glasses, a turban and a bushy, gray beard and was noticeably thinner. It was a stark change from the slovenly man with disheveled hair, unshaven face and T-shirt seen in the widely distributed photograph after his capture in Pakistan. He looked older than his 45 years.

One of the civilian attorneys he spurned, David Nevin, later told The Associated Press that he would attempt to meet with Mohammed to "hear him out and see if we can give him information that is helpful."

Asked how any attorney could defend a man who wants the death penalty, the Boise, Idaho, lawyer said: "It's a tricky matter. I don't have a good answer for you."

Waleed bin Attash, who allegedly selected and trained some of the hijackers, asked the judge whether the Sept. 11 defendants — who all face possible death sentences — would be buried at Guantanamo or if their bodies would be shipped home if they were executed.

Kohlmann, a Marine colonel with a crewcut who was dressed in black robes, refused to address the question.

The five co-defendants were at turns cordial and defiant at their arraignment, the first U.S. attempt to try in court those believed to be directly responsible for killing 2,973 people in the bloodiest terrorist attack ever on U.S. soil. All five said they would represent themselves.

But defense attorneys said four men intimidated a fifth defendant to join them in declaring they didn't want attorneys.

At a news conference, the military defense attorneys denounced the court for allowing the defendants to talk among themselves before and during their joint arraignment, saying this is when Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi was pressured into going without a lawyer.

"It was clear Mr. Mohammed was trying to intimidate Mr. Hawsawi," said Army Maj. Jon Jackson, his lead military attorney. "He was shaking."

Chief military defense counsel Stephen David, an Army colonel, said the fact that the alleged coconspirators were allowed to talk unhindered in the courtroom in their first meeting since they were captured years ago was troubling.

"We will have to investigate," David said.

The other defendants appeared to be in robust health but al-Hawsawi, who allegedly helped the Sept. 11 hijackers with money and Western-style clothing, looked thin and frail and sat on a pillow on his chair.

Army Col. Lawrence Morris, the chief prosecutor at the military trials here, said his office was not responsible for controlling when defendants talk to each other, but said they should not be pressured into renouncing their lawyers.

"The government is as concerned as the defense on the integrity over counsel relationships," he said.

The war-crimes tribunal is the highest-profile test yet of the military's tribunal system, which faces an uncertain future. The tribunals have faced repeated legal setbacks, including a Supreme Court appeal on the rights of Guantanamo detainees that could produce a ruling this month halting the proceedings.

The arraignment, in which no pleas were entered, indicated that hatred for the United States among some of the defendants remains at a boil.

The other defendants are Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, known as Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew and lieutenant of Mohammed; and Waleed bin Attash, who allegedly selected and trained some of the hijackers.
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Aid path undermining Karzai regime, expert warns
STEVEN CHASE Globe and Mail (Canada) June 6, 2008
OTTAWA — International donors, and increasingly Canada, are undermining the Afghan government's efforts to build its legitimacy with citizens by funnelling assistance through the foreign "aid industry" instead of through the Karzai regime's own programs, a former head of Canada's aid program there says.

"The way to fight terrorism is to try to establish the legitimacy of the [Afghan] government and its visibility across the land," Nipa Banerjee, who teaches international development at the University of Ottawa, said in an interview.

Prof. Banerjee, who led Canada's aid program in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2006, said she is worried the Harper government is increasingly shifting aid from Afghan government programs to third-party groups.

She thinks one motivation for this is to build development community support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan. "Our government thinks they are getting public support and [non-governmental organization support] for their mission if they fund NGO programs," she said.

Prof. Banerjee wrote in the June issue of Policy Options magazine that the Afghan government's national programs can provide "concrete evidence" to Afghans that the country is able to take care of its people.

"[Afghans] are disappointed with the deteriorating security situation and fearful of Taliban advances," she wrote. "They long to see increased visibility and presence of their own government in governance."

Yet she said much of development aid - including from the largest donors, the United States, Germany and Japan - is being delivered outside of Afghan government programs.

"Two-thirds of foreign assistance [is] deliberately bypassing the Afghan government, thereby undermining the government's role in state and institution building and exacerbating the capacity crisis in government," Prof. Banerjee wrote in Policy Options.

She said she wants next week's Paris Conference in Support of Afghanistan to help refocus aid through the Afghan government - echoing the Karzai administration.

Prof. Banerjee estimated that about $70-million of Canada's $170-million in annual aid for Afghanistan is being delivered through channels outside the Afghan government. She said that is a shift in recent years from aid largely funnelled through Kabul.

The Harper government is trying to shift focus away from casualties, the only broadly watched benchmark currently tracked by news media. It is preparing a series of criteria, from education levels to development work, to report progress in Afghanistan.

During a weekly briefing on the Afghan mission yesterday, a senior Canadian government official declined to respond directly to Prof. Banerjee's charge that Ottawa is buying the support of development groups.

However, Khalil Shariff, chief executive officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada, which conducts Afghan development work partly funded by Ottawa, disputed the notion that aid delivered by non-governmental groups is hampering Kabul's efforts to build legitimacy.
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Afghanistan's football goals
By Chris Wang in Colombo Al Jazeera (Qatar) / June 6, 2008
Harez Habib, Afghanistan midfielder, scored both his team's goals in their 2-2 draw with co-hosts Sri Lanka at the 2008 South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship in Colombo.

The impressive double were Habib's first goals for Afghanistan in his fourth match for the national team, but he has not set foot in his native country since he was three years old.

Habib played his first football in Germany at the age of four, after his parents decided to move their family to Europe due to the civil war in Afghanistan.

However the 26-year-old, who will play for KSV Hessen Kassel in Germany's third division next season, had no hesitation in signing up for national duty on the football field when his motherland came calling.

"I could have tried to play for Germany, but of course when the Afghan federation asked me if I wanted to play for Afghanistan, there was no doubt about that to play for my home country," Habib told Al Jazeera during team training in Colombo.

"Yesterday was my fourth game for the national team, and yes they were my first two goals in one game… it's like a dream.

"Of course it is a great honour to play for my country and score two goals in such a big game."

German influence

The Afghanistan squad, coached by German Klaus Stark, is heavily influenced by Deutschland, with eight players plying their trade in the German leagues, and the team medical staff also from the Central European country.

"We have 22 boys, and eight of us come from Germany, and the rest from Afghanistan. We have the perfect mixture," Habib said.

With the fall of the Taliban in 2001, participation in football and other sport in Afghanistan is on the rise as the populace continues its return to democratic life.

For Habib however, his life is currently in Germany, although he would one day like to return to the mountainous Central Asian nation.

"There was no time to go back to Afghanistan, because it was always very dangerous and my parents went two times in the last 15 years, but myself no," he explained.

"When I go back it will probably only be for a holiday, maybe for a month to visit my family, but I think for living it is not possible.

"I am studying and my whole life is in Germany and it's very hard to change."

National symbol

Afghanistan, who did not play an international match between 1984 and 2003, are continuing to work their way back into world football, with their appearance at a third-consecutive SAFF championship testament to the country's desire to be noticed in the global game.

"I know that month to month, everything is developing… I see it in the national team," Habib said.

"Last October I played my first game in a World Cup qualifier against Syria, and everything was on an amateur level.

"But after then, game to game we have developed a lot with the coaching team, our uniforms, everything."

Although it appears Germany will be his home in the near future Habib still has strong feelings about Afghanistan, and there is no doubt his desire for national success is translated to his will to win on the pitch.

"My family tell me that there is a very enthusiastic atmosphere back in Afghanistan and of course the national team is helping that," said Habib.

"Football is one of the most popular sports and if our team, which is a national symbol for Afghanistan, can be successful, it's a great result for our country.

"We are not a famous football country, but after our results lately, other countries are starting to take us seriously."
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U.S. plan threatens Canadian command
Proposal would see American general taking Canada's place in NATO's regional rotation in 2010
PAUL KORING From Thursday's Globe and Mail June 5, 2008 at 4:56 AM EDT
WASHINGTON — Canada may lose its next and perhaps last chance to command NATO forces battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan under a new plan that will insert an American general into the rotation, according to defence officials in Ottawa and Washington.

Several senior U.S. military officials have called for an end to the revolving-door rotations of allied commanders serving relatively short nine-month rotations before handing over to a general from another country, usually with a different approach to waging a counterinsurgency.

The compromise under consideration is designed to placate allies who fear the Americans wanted to install a U.S. general permanently as the head of Regional Command South, which includes the embattled provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. The rotation will be lengthened to a full year.

An American general will also be added into the rotation that until now had involved only Canadian, British and Dutch, the three major troop contributing countries fighting in southern Afghanistan.

Under the new proposal, a Dutch general will take command of RC South in November this year, followed by a British general in November of 2009 and a U.S. general in November of 2010.

"Canada will no longer be involved in the command rotation of RC South," Nancy Cook, a civilian spokeswoman for the Defence Department in Ottawa, said. "Canada will be out of Afghanistan in 2011."

Currently, Canadian Major-General Marc Lessard is about halfway through his nine-month stint as NATO's commander in southern Afghanistan. There is no plan to lengthen his tour.

Under the existing nine-month rotations, another Canadian general would have taken over command of southern Afghanistan in the spring of 2010.

It remains unclear whether the new plan has been accepted by the British and the Dutch and whether it needs NATO approval.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates has discussed the change in command rotations with his counterparts.

"There is no official change to announce," said Dan Dugas, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay. "This has yet to be taken to NATO, as far as I know, and has only been discussed at ministerial level," he added in an e-mail response to questions.

Some senior U.S. officers, including General Dan McNeill, who has had overall command of the entire NATO operation in Afghanistan for the past 15 months, have made it clear they believe that rotating regional commands among nations causes problems.

"Different nations bring in different cultures," and those differences, especially when it involves integrating Afghan forces in combined operations, have caused difficulties, Gen. McNeill said recently at the end of his tour. He said he hoped governments would consider "one country leading a multinational headquarters in the south."

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the generals are "certainly entitled to their opinions in this. But we work with allies in RC South and throughout the country. And we take their considerations into account."

The arrival of significant numbers of American ground troops in southern Afghanistan - already many special forces operate there under a separate U.S. command - underpins Washington's push to get a U.S. general into the command rotation in the south.

Some of the Americans are expected to fill Ottawa's demand for at least 1,000 more soldiers to reinforce the Canadian contingent in Kandahar.

A U.S. general already commands the eastern regional command in Afghanistan, reporting to a more senior U.S. general with overall command of NATO forces in the entire country.

German and Spanish generals hold other regional commands, especially in the quieter areas of northern and western Afghanistan.

Another Canadian general, one rank lower, a brigadier-general, is usually assigned national command of the Canadian contingent in Kandahar but that is separate from the NATO post.
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‘Hekmatyar will increase attacks on Polish troops’
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008 
HIA spokesman says Poland will pay for war crimes accusation
HEZB-E-ISLAMI Afghanistan (HIA), led by fugitive ex-Jihadi leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has threatened to increase attacks on Polish troops in response to allegations made by Poland’s foreign minister.
 
The self-styled spokesman of HIA, Haroun Zarghun, said the hard-line Islamic group had ordered its fighters in Afghanistan to ratchet up attacks on Polish soldiers based in the country.

Zarghun said the order was a reaction to comments made yesterday by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who said Hekmatyar should go on trial for war crimes.

Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said yesterday: “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”.

Sikorski also urged Karzai’s government to reject peace-talks with HIA, which America has blacklisted as a “terrorist” organisation.

Zarghun said Poland should be grateful to the mujahideen for freeing Poland of “Soviet evil”.

He said the Polish minister was trying to please the US by making the remarks.

Poland has contributed 1,600 troops to the 40-nation NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which is helping the Afghan government to fight Taliban and Al-Qaeda insurgents.

Zarghun denied rumours that Hekmatyar's son in-law, Dr Ghairat Bahir, had been released from prison this week to pave the way for peace-talks between HIA and the government.

He said the HIA would only talk to the government if there was a clear timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
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Polish foreign minister calls for trial of fugitive Afghan leader
Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV, on 4 June
[Presenter] The Polish foreign affairs minister has called for trial of Golboddin Hekmatyar.
Addressing a joint news conference with Afghanistan's foreign minister, he [Polish foreign minister] said Golboddin Hekmatyar had not been tried for the crimes he has committed. He expressed the hope that Hekmatyar would be brought to justice.

Afghanistan's minister of foreign affairs, meanwhile, rejected the conditions set by Golboddin Hekmatyar on withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

My colleague Hamed Haydari has more on this.

[Correspondent] On his visit to Kabul, Poland's foreign affairs spoke about the continuation of his country's cooperation with Afghanistan.

He added that 2,400 Polish troops, currently serving in Iraq, will leave Iraq some time in the future and that they would be deployed to Afghanistan. He also said they would send eight helicopters to Afghanistan.

The Afghan minister of foreign affairs expressed appr! eciation of Polish cooperation with Afghanistan, and said foreign troops had a legitimate presence in Afghanistan.

[Dr Rangin Dadfar-Spanta, foreign affairs minister] In all our interviews in recent months, we have said that Afghanistan's right of leadership, both in security and reconstruction sectors, should be materialized as soon as possible, so we assume the responsibility. Once this happens, foreigners will leave the country. This is not something that will happen on demand of Mr Hekmatyar or anyone else.

[Radoslaw Sikorski, Polish foreign minister, in English with Dari translation superimposed] I met the gentleman [Golboddin Hekmatyar] once in 1993. A short while after that, his men killed a BBC correspondent because Hekmatyar did not like his reports.

In 1987, a personal friend of mine, Andy Skrzypkowiak, who put his life at risk to show to the world the resistance and efforts by the people of Afghanistan for the sake of independence of their count! ry, was killed by men loyal to Hekmatyar in Nurestan Province.

I believe Mr Hekmatyar has not been brought to justice for either of his crimes, and I hope this happens. One of the reasons I am in Kabul is to place a plaque in memory of Andy Skrzypkowiak, the cameraman killed by Hekmatyar's men.

[Correspondent] Poland currently has 1,020 soldiers serving in Afghanistan. With an increase of 400 more soldiers, Poland will take over the responsibility of security in Ghazni Province from the US troops in six months.
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Afghan MP see political motives behind delay in population census
Text of report by privately-owned Afghan Ariana TV on 4 June
[Presenter] Some MPs believe the delay in implementation of population census have political motives and that a transparent election is only possible with accurate population census. However, the Central Statistics Office says registration of people to take part in voting for the presidential elections and implementation of population census at the same time is something impossible and not feasible.

[Reporter] Abdorrahman Ghafuri, head of the Central Statistics Office says the population census was supposed to have started this July, but this coincided with the start of the electoral commission's registration of voters for the next presidential election. However, some MPs believe that a transparent election is subject to having accurate population census.

[MP from Kabul, Abdol Kabir Ranjbar] I believe there are political motives behind the delay in population census. One of the most important measures for transparency of elections is accurate and proper! census.

[MP from Badakhshan, Fawzia Kofi] Usually in other countries elections are held as per the available accurate census. Transparency in the entire process requires classification of the population and those eligible to vote. Unfortunately, we cannot expect fair and transparent elections without a proper census.

[Reporter] According to Abdol Rahman Ghafuri, the population census should not be used for political objectives. The population census is aimed at paving the way for social and economic development.
[Abdorrahman Ghafuri] We were supposed to start the process in July and at the same time the [voter] registration was starting in July. Therefore, it is very difficult for us to launch this process simultaneously. On the other hand, population census is something nonpolitical and some political parties should not misuse it. The people will also be unclear whether we are doing the census for political reasons or for the sake of development p! Rejects in Afghanistan.

[Reporter] According to the head of Central Statistics Office, the population census will start in two years and only the citizens of Afghanistan living in the country will be included in the process. He says there is no sufficient budget to carry out census for Afghans living abroad.
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Pakistan police foil terror plot near Islamabad
June 6, 2008
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistani police have foiled a major terror plot, seizing three explosives-packed vehicles and arresting six people including three would-be suicide bombers near Islamabad, officials said Friday.

The discovery of the massive bombs in the army headquarters city of Rawalpindi, which adjoins the capital, comes just days after a deadly suicide car bomb attack outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad.

Security forces placed the two cities on red alert following the discovery of the explosives, which amounted to nearly 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds) in total between the three cars.

Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik was quoted by local television stations as saying six "terrorists" including three suicide bombers had been arrested and three explosives-laden vehicles were seized.

The bombers "wanted to target installations of national importance," he told ARY One television.

"It was a major terrorist plot aimed at causing death and destruction in the twin cities," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"Security agencies got a tip-off that some explosives-laden vehicles would enter the twin cities and police tightened security on the road and launched checking of vehicles," the security official told AFP.

"On Thursday they impounded three vehicles each fitted with 100 to 150 kilograms of explosives... The vehicles were meant to cause terrorist attacks in the twin cities," he said.

The official said only four people had been rounded up.

Al-Qaeda claimed in purported Internet statements Wednesday to have carried out the attack on the Danish mission in revenge for the publication in Danish newspapers of cartoons insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Six people were killed, including a Danish national and two local employees at the embassy, and nearly 30 were wounded in the bombing.

The discovery of the bombs will raise fresh concerns at home and abroad over the new Pakistani government's efforts to negotiate with Taliban militants allegedly backed by Al-Qaeda in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The peace talks have led to a lull in suicide attacks in the country following a wave of such attacks during the previous year which claimed more than 1,000 lives.

The new government says it is steering away from the policies of US-backed President Pervez Musharraf, a key US ally in the "war on terror" whose political backers lost elections in February.

But US and NATO officials with troops in Afghanistan and the government in Kabul have all warned against any attempt to negotiate with extremists, warning that it will give them space to regroup.

European Union anti-terror coordinator Gilles de Kerchove urged member nations on Thursday to help Pakistan's new government combat terrorism, and in particular Al-Qaeda, more effectively.

"It's a tremendous challenge," he told reporters after briefing the EU's 27 interior ministers in Luxembourg. "We have to help this government act quickly to help lower the pressure" militants are putting on it.
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Taliban warn drug dealers, music shops
Gulf Times - Home  Friday, 6 June, 2008
Pakistani Taliban militants yesterday gave music shop owners and drug dealers a 10-day deadline to close down or face the consequences, local officials and residents said.

Using megaphones, the hardline Islamist rebels drove through Mir Ali town in the semi-autonomous tribal region of North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan to deliver the chilling warning, they said.

The ultimatum came a day after three people were wounded and around two dozen shops destroyed by bombs planted at music shops in conservative northwestern Pakistan.

“Drugs and music shops are destroying the tribal culture. We will not allow this conspiracy in our area,” Miranshah shopkeeper Enayat Khan quoted the Taliban as saying.

“We will follow their order. We don’t want to take the risk, we will change our business to survive,” another shopkeeper said, requesting not to be identified.

Local administration officials confirmed the announcement. They said they gave a similar deadline to tribesmen to stop selling opium, alcohol and hashish in the lawless region.

Mir Ali is the second biggest town in North Waziristan, a Taliban stronghold.

Militants blew up some two dozen video and music shops in the region’s main town Miranshah after the expiry of another deadline this week.

Militants have bombed dozens of entertainment shops in the region in recent years, saying that music and movies are against the teachings of Islam.

They are seeking to emulate the ultra-orthodox Taliban who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 and also banned music.

Pakistan’s new government launched peace talks with the rebels after coming to power in March, saying that the strongman policies of US-backed President Pervez Musharraf were fuelling militancy. - AFP
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In Afghanistan, the NATO-led Force is 'Underresourced' For the Fight Against the Taliban
When it comes to combat, it is a coalition of the willing and not-so-willing
U.S. News & World Report, DC By Anna Mulrine Posted June 5, 2008 KANDAHAR
Ask American troops in Afghanistan what ISAF means, and you are opening the door to a running joke: "I Saw Americans Fight," and "I Suck at Fighting," and "I Sunbathe at FOBs" (a reference to the heavily fortified and largely safe forward operating bases) are among the more popular punch lines. In fact, ISAF is the acronym for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, which is made up of soldiers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, and 35 other nations.

And the U.S. soldiers who offer up the jokes are only half kidding. Their point is a serious one: that troops from the United States—along with just a handful of other countries—do the bulk of the heavy fighting, while a number of other ISAF detachments are limited by their own governments' combat restrictions. These include prohibitions, or "caveats," against, for example, fighting in the snow for troops from some southern European nations. Other soldiers are required to stay in calmer areas of the country or to keep their aircraft grounded at night or to consult their home legislatures before operating near the volatile Pakistani border.

These are handicaps, to be sure, though last week the outgoing head of ISAF took exception to criticism of the coalition. As he prepared to hand over the reins of the command he has held since February 2007, American Gen. Dan McNeill pointed out that the number of international soldiers in Afghanistan has grown from 36,000 troops at the beginning of his tenure to nearly 53,000 today. It is proof, he asserted, of the international alliance's commitment to the country. "That says to me that all the wags who in late 2006 and early 2007 were predicting the failure and fracture of the NATO alliance probably got it wrong," he said.

Troop shortage. But "probably" remains the operative word. And considerable challenges awaited Gen. David McKiernan, the former commanding general of the U.S. Army in Europe and former commander of ground forces during the 2003 Iraq invasion, as he took the helm of ISAF June 3. Violence is up 50 percent in eastern Afghanistan compared with 2007, and the drug trade is exploding. Last year, too, there were 140 suicide bombings here, a record number. ISAF fields one third the number of foreign troops in Iraq, yet Afghanistan is 50 percent larger and has some 4 million more people. So, despite the increase in troop numbers, McNeill says the country still needs more. "It's an underresourced force," he said. "That's been a constant theme since I've been here."

It is a theme that has been echoed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as well, who has expressed concern that NATO could become a "two-tiered alliance," with only a handful of countries—namely Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States—willing to "fight and die" against the Taliban. Gates lobbied hard in Europe earlier this year for more troops, writing to every alliance defense minister. France agreed to 700 more soldiers, and Poland 400 plus eight badly needed helicopters. Georgia (which hopes to become a NATO member) is sending 500 soldiers.

But beyond that, there were no big takers among NATO leaders facing their own political pressure on the home front. In the end, the United States upped its own commitment—something the Pentagon initially said it would not do—sending 3,200 marines into Helmand province, the heart of the drug trade and Taliban resistance.

It has been a tough fight for them. Marines are now on Day 30-plus of what was initially expected to be a three-to-five-day campaign, as they live without electricity or running water and face Taliban reinforcements who continue to flow into their territory from neighboring Pakistan. But they are making key strides, military officials say, with a recent operation to block escape routes and cut off Taliban supply lines.

"Mowing the lawn." They are operating in an area that British forces, hobbled by insufficient troop levels, have tried to clear before. One British commander referred to it as "mowing the lawn," since the insurgency seems to just grow back.

The question is, what happens next? Other allies—France, for one—have suggested that Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government will need to hold reconciliation talks with insurgents from the former Taliban regime but not until some level of security is established. Earlier this year, the American ambassador to Afghanistan sought advice from a former Taliban commander, asking what ISAF could do to reduce popular support for the Taliban. Reconciliation steps are important in Afghanistan, note allies, who see the fight here as a classic counterinsurgency struggle.

Such campaigns place a premium on unity of command, which can be tricky to achieve, notes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Stephen Biddle. "You can easily imagine thousands of operations at cross hairs with each other," he says. "It's tremendously easy to let everything splinter, and that's if everyone's from the same country." And here, that's not the case. As a result, there have been some glitches. Most recently, when marines here first arrived, they were in a holding pattern for a month while ISAF's Regional Command South, led by Canada, wrestled with how exactly to use them and what precisely would be their operational goals.

Further, there is what some military officials describe as lingering U.S.-British tension over the handling of operations in Basra, Iraq, earlier this year, when the U.S. military was training Iraqi security forces for a mission that the Iraqis executed prematurely in the area under British security oversight. While British forces were said to feel left out of the loop, their sentiment left some U.S. forces nonplused. "Brits are so enamored with what they did in [Northern] Ireland," says one senior U.S. military official. "They think they have all this great [counterinsurgency] background, but at the highest levels, they are very politically sensitive and not very aggressive. In Afghanistan, I have seen them reach in and say, 'This colonel here has too many casualties.' "

But these are differences among higher-level officials and not among the soldiers in the field. "The Brits are great," says one marine, to widespread nods among comrades in the courtyard around his austere outpost in Helmand. British troops here, for their part, return the sentiment and express wonder at the myriad small restrictions on U.S. troops—such as prohibitions against wearing civilian clothes like jeans or sandals or against having a beer during their downtime, as is permitted soldiers from some other nations.

On a recent evening, down the road from a U.S. Marine outpost in Helmand province, a Scottish soldier played a plaintive sunset serenade, the "Marine Corps Hymn," on his bagpipe. As they settle in for a long, hot summer, these troops are keenly aware that they are fighting a tenacious enemy together.
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Hekmatyar's son-in-law calls for Afghan unity
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008 
Top Hezb-e-Islami member urges Afghans to cut ties with foreign 'devils'
THE son-in-law of one of the country’s most notorious ex-Jihadi leaders has been welcomed by a large number of tribal elders and Members of Parliament days after his release from prison.

During a conference yesterday (Wednesday) in Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, Dr Ghairat Bahir, the son-in-law of the radical Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, called on Afghans to unite, criticising the political coalitions in Parliament.

He also called foreigners in Afghanistan “devils”.

Bahir, who is one of the most high-ranking members of Hekmatyar’s hard-line Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) party, said: “We must have respect for each other, and, in order to defeat our enemies, we must not look for help from others.

“Unfortunately in our current policy, we seek help from the ‘devils’ – the foreigners – to defeat some of the opposition.”

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 foreigners have left.

Bahir, who is married to Hekmatyar’s daughter, was released last week after being transferred from Bagram airbase to Pul-e-Charki.

He was arrested four years ago in Islamabad by Pakistan’s secret service before being handed over to American forces in Bagram airbase.

At yesterday’s conference, Bahir said the September 11 attacks on America’s World Trade Centre in 2001 had changed the political map of the world.

“Non-Islamic countries reacted strongly for their own national benefits because everyone remembers the September 11 attack and because 3,000 people were killed in this sad incident,” he said.

Before his arrest, Bahir acted as HIA’s political representative in Islamabad and was also Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan from 1994 to 1996, during Rabbani’s presidency.

HIA, which Hekmatyar founded in the mid-1970s, was long-considered one of Afghanistan’s most radical Islamic groups before the emergence of the Taliban.

In 2003, the US government blacklisted HIA as a “terrorist” organisation and the UN put Hekmatyar’s name on a list of people accused of supporting the Taliban.

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 allegedly took credit for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora during the US-led invasion of 2001.
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Tanin made vice-president of UN assembly
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008 
Afghan ambassador to the UN will take up new role on General Assembly
AFGHANISTAN’S ambassador to the United Nations, Dr Zahir Tanin, has been chosen as the vice-president of the UN’s General Assembly.

Although the UN elects 21 vice-presidents every year, Tanin said his new role meant Afghanistan could play a greater role on the world stage.

Tanin became vice-president yesterday (Wednesday) and will serve under newly elected president Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua.

"With this election, we start to put Afghanistan back to a stage where it should play an active role on the world stage, the United Nations in particular," Tanin said.

Tanin promised that Afghanistan would play a significant role in promoting international peace, security, human rights and development.

So far, only one Afghan has served as the General Assembly’s president. – Abdul Rahman Pajhwok, who was elected for a year in 1966.

A spokesperson for the General Assembly’s president, Janos Tisovszky, said Afghanistan was elected from among Asia’s quota of five members.

Tanin will take up his new role on September 16.
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Ceremony honours famous Afghan singer
Written by www.quqnoos.com Thursday, 05 June 2008 
The late Muhammad Hussain Zarahang is remembered by fans
A REMEMBRANCE ceremony has been held in Kabul in memory of the famous Afghan classical singer Muhammad Hussain Zarahang, who died 26 years ago to the day.

The ceremony was held today (Thursday), oragnised by the Cultural Convention of Jilwagah and attended by actors and people who enjoyed Zarahang’s music.

Muhammad Hussain Zarahang was born in 1923 in Kharabat Street, Kabul and died in 1982.

He learnt music with his father and then spent 16 years studying music with Ashiq Ullah, the founder of the ‘Patiala’ style of music, in India.

He was one of the first musicians to join Radio Afghanistan and was awarded the title of best classical singer in 1953.

He received more than 20 medals and titles in India such as “mountain of music” and “leader of the music”.

One of the reasons most Afghans are familiar with the poems of the famous Persian poet Abdul Qadir Bedil is thanks to their interest in Zarahang.

Zarahang died because of a heart attack on June 5 1982 and was buried in the Shuhadai Sahihin area of Kabul.

More than 400 of his songs are still played today.

His elder son, Altaf Hussain, followed his father’s path and is now one of the most famous singers in Afghanistan.
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Canada Practicing Diplomacy on Afghanistan's Border
By Jeff Davis - Embassy magazine (Canada) , June 4th, 2008
While Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan has been leading diplomatic efforts to secure the Afghan-Pakistan border, both countries are calling for the other to get serious about stopping the Taliban insurgents who crisscross the porous border with apparent ease.

Meanwhile, a visiting U.S. diplomat has issued a clarion call for a broader regional compact that would see Afghanistan's neighbours get their acts together.

In an interview with Embassy last week, Mr. Lalani said that he has been working for months to help bring together Afghan and Pakistani officials so they can improve management of their shared border.

The almost 2,500-kilometer-long border has been a nagging problem for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the international community, including Canadian troops based in Kandahar. It is widely known that Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters use the Pakistani border areas as safe havens from which to prepare and launch attacks into Afghanistan.

Mr. Lalani said his Canadian-led border co-operation effort began six months ago, when he and his senior staff brought together officials from various ministries on both sides of the border.

The initial meeting, held in Dubai, involved officials from both countries' ministries of foreign affairs, interior, and trade promotion.

After a brief hiatus during the recent Pakistani election, the process resumed with two more meetings in Pakistan. The next two meetings are scheduled to be held in Afghanistan.

The first success, Mr. Lalani said, was getting the process started.

"Accomplishment one was getting them together, because they weren't getting together on their own," he said. "It was Canada that brought them together."

At the table, Mr. Lalani said Canada tries to impart lessons learned through managing its own border with the United States. The goal, he said, is a border that is open, accessible and secure.

This is essential, he said, to the economic development of Afghanistan

"If we're going to get trade going, they need to have a secure, reliable border to get their products out," he said.

Mr. Lalani said he is working with Afghan and Pakistani officials to develop a joint agenda for border improvement projects. This agenda now includes improvement to border infrastructure, building and upgrading of border stations and the training of guards.

Mr. Lalani said that once the two countries develop their joint agenda, he hopes to bring the plan to the G8, which could provide both financial and political support to help make the agenda a reality.

But for now, he said, he is concentrating on removing some very basic wrenches from the gears of border machinery.

For example, he said, "they don't even have an agreement on the common opening times on each side of border."

Afghans, Pakistanis Point Fingers

While Canada is trying to foment Afghan-Pakistani co-operation along the border, there remain strong indications the two sides aren't seeing eye to eye as each is calling on the other to step up its game and crack down on the violent extremists hurting both countries prospects for peace and prosperity.

Afghan Ambassador to Canada Omar Samad told Embassy last week that he appreciates Canada's efforts to boost border co-operation.

"We welcome any international efforts, including Canada's, to help us bring stability to the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan through any non-military initiatives that would promote understanding and trade co-operation," he said.

However, Mr. Samad expressed concern with Taliban strongholds in Pakistan's border regions.

"Afghanistan's security concerns are tied to regional dynamics," he said. "To seek a real and comprehensive solution to some of the outstanding issues, [addressing] terrorist safe havens, training grounds and channels of funding have to be part of such a solution."

Mr. Samad also expressed displeasure with the new Pakistani government's decision to sign a peace agreement with Taliban militants in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the border. The May deal stipulates that the Pakistani government will gradually draw down military forces in the areas in exchange for militants laying down their arms.

Mr. Samad called the move, which was done against American advice, "one-sided."

"If it's not as part of comprehensive, all-party agreement, it may not be a solution for all of us," he said. "Because the threat is of a transnational nature, you need to look for solutions that are not just local but also address all other aspects of the problem."

While acknowledging Taliban are taking refuge in his country, Pakistani Ambassador to Canada Musa Javed Chohan disagreed that his country is not pulling its weight on the border.

"Its best to avoid the blame game," he said,

Mr. Chohan said that Pakistan is a "frontline state" in the War on Terror, and is working hard to stem the flow of insurgents across the mountainous border.

"We are taking very rigorous action," he said, adding that there are more than 100,000 Pakistani troops manning 1,000 military posts along the border. Just this year, he added, some 1,500 of these troops have died in combat.

To underline the point, Mr. Chohan said the number of troops Pakistan has on the border exceeds the NATO/ISAF contingent in Afghanistan.

Mr. Chohan said the Pakistani government had considered deploying land mines on the border but decided against it. The next idea was fencing off a high-traffic section of the border near the tribal areas, but he said this effort was frustrated by protests from Afghan authorities.

So who needs to do more? Mr. Chohan says it's the Afghans.

"We do hope the Afghan authorities would do more to address the issues," he said. "The problem is in Afghanistan. Its an Afghan problem."

However, Mr. Chohan said, military efforts alone will not be enough to settle the problems in the volatile tribal areas.

He said Pakistan's strategy is to increase stability by boosting the socio-economic wellbeing of marginalized tribals. While military force will be used against those that refuse to put down their weapons, he said, those that do are welcome to return to the national political fold.

"Political engagement is possible only with those who renounce militancy and violence; don't allow the use of our territory against any other country, and do not help foreign terrorist elements to find hideouts in our territory," Mr. Chohan said.

Mr. Chohan said the government is also trying to improve the incomes of impoverished FATA residents. The government has established so-called "reconstruction opportunity zones" to try to create industrial jobs and boost incomes.

He said his government has proposed to the United States that it allow duty-free access to the U.S. market for products made in the special zones. He added that he has proposed a similar deal to Canada.

"You have to promote the socio-economic development of that region which is very poor and backward," he said. "[We need to] establish industry so people there are gainfully employed."

Regional Approach Needed

Last week, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs Karl Inderfurth visited Ottawa to spread around some big ideas about how to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.

Mr. Inderfurth, who worked on the recent Afghanistan Study Group Report, said at a speech at the University of Ottawa that a broader regional approach is needed to stabilize Afghanistan.

Mr. Inderfurth pointed out that the Afghanistan Study Group, the Atlantic Council of the United States, the UN Security Council, the "vision document" produced at the NATO Bucharest conference and Canada's own John Manley-headed Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan are unanimous in calling for increased focus on regional diplomatic cohesion.

Quoting the Afghanistan Study Group Report, Mr. Inderfurth said that "to reach the international goal of stable and peaceful Afghanistan, Kabul needs to have better and more reliable relations with its neighbours and the major states of Asia—Russia, India and China. Achieving this calls for a much more comprehensive and sustainable diplomatic effort to engage all regional players."

He added that engaging Iran, India, the states of Central Asia and, of course, Pakistan are also crucial.

To increase regional co-operation, Mr. Inderfurth is calling for an international conference, led by UN Special Representative in Afghanistan Kai Eide, to be held to bring together all concerned parties.

"Over the longer term...the UN should convene a high level international conference attended by all Afghanistan's neighbours and other concerned major powers," he said. "The goals would be a multilateral compact that recognizes Afghanistan's borders, pledges non-interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs, explicitly bans the supply of arms to non-governmental actors and affirms that... Afghanistan be recognized as a permanently neutral state."

Unless a more coherent regional approach can be crafted, he said, NATO's gambit in Afghanistan could fail.

"Without a genuine long-term commitment on the part of US, Canada and the international community we will fail again," he said. "And they and we will again pay a grievous price."
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