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June 7, 2008 

As Ills Persist, Afghan Leader Is Losing Luster
By HELENE COOPER The New York Times June 7, 2008
WASHINGTON — After six years in which Hamid Karzai has been the darling of the United States and its allies, his luster may be fading.

Several militants killed in Afghanistan raids
Sat Jun 7, 3:09 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces raided several homes in a district just north of the capital, killing several militants who shot at them, the coalition said Saturday.

Pakistani engineer kidnapped in Afghanistan
07 Jun 2008 13:37:34 GMT
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 7 (Reuters) - Unknown gunmen kidnapped a Pakistani road construction engineer in the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday, the provincial police chief said.

New Canada commander won't change Afghan strategy
Fri Jun 6, 2:26 PM ET
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The officer who will soon take over command of Canada's armed forces made clear on Friday there would be no change in his troops' strategy in Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers clash frequently with the Taliban.

Portugal to send second military training team to Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-07 09:19:06
LISBON, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Portugal's Supreme National Defense Council approved Friday to send another military training team to Afghanistan to help train the Afghan National Army.

Rice due to travel to Paris, Middle East
Fri Jun 6, 6:07 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel next week to Paris for an Afghan donors conference and to the Middle East to push for a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal this year, a statement said Tuesday.

Canada to share Polish choppers in Afghanistan
Doug Schmidt ,  Canwest News Service Friday, June 06, 2008
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Canada's soldiers fighting in Kandahar soon will be getting two much-needed Polish helicopters promised earlier this year, but they'll have to share them with others, including Poland's special forces in Afghanistan

Intrepid Afghan interpreters risk life and limb
KATHERINE O'NEILL From Saturday's Globe and Mail June 6, 2008 at 10:26 PM EDT
MASUM GHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Lucky was 17 and working as a doctor's assistant at a Kabul hospital in 2001 when Afghanistan spiralled into war and he answered the call to head to the front lines.

Bush Urges Congress to Pass Funding for Iraq, Afghanistan Wars
By Holly Rosenkrantz
June 7 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush urged Congress to pass a funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as some lawmakers call for cuts in U.S. forces and a timetable for a complete withdrawal.

Kabul to clear mines on TAPI gasline route in 2 yrs
* Afghan govt to set up 1,000 industrial units along route after clearing landmines
By Zafar Bhutta Daily Times (Pakistan) June 7, 2008
ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan has informed Pakistan that it will clear all landmines from the proposed route of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline within two years, sources within the Pakistan Petroleum Ministry told Daily Times on Friday.

Afghanistan rich in energy reserves
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 6 (UPI) -- Afghanistan has the potential to rely on its own oil and gas reserves to finance redevelopment, a diplomatic official said Friday.

Afghanistan says the aim is to rely solely on its own resources
By Nissar Hoath  on Friday, June 06, 2008 Business 24/7, UAE
Afghanistan has started to tap its natural resources with multi-billion-dollar investments, which until now had been impossible in the war-ravaged country, says its ambassador to the UAE.

Afghanistan rich in energy reserves
United Press International June 6, 2008
KABUL - Afghanistan has the potential to rely on its own oil and gas reserves to finance redevelopment, a diplomatic official said Friday.

No New Guantanamo for Afghanistan
US military rejects accusations that it is building a local replacement for Guantanamo Bay, but Afghans are angered at plans for the new prison.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Hafizullah Gardesh and Jean MacKenzie in Kabul (ARR No. 291, 06-Jun-08)
An American military spokesperson has dismissed any suggestion that a new prison planned for Afghanistan is intended to receive prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, the detention centre in Cuba that is facing increasing criticism in the United States.

U.N. experts rap U.S. "cruelty" to child prisoners
By Robert Evans
GENEVA, June 6 (Reuters) - United Nations experts on child rights criticised the United States on Friday over detention of juveniles at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and voiced concern that some may have suffered cruel treatment.

Afghan cabinet agrees to set up new anti-corruption office RTA
[Presenter] Hamed Karzai, the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, chaired an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers at the presidential palace today to discuss the draft law on the structure and authority of a high-level

When Afghan tempers explode
It was just a traffic jam – but in Afghanistan, that can mean the difference between life and death
Jun 07, 2008 04:30 AM Rosie DiManno Toronto Star,  Canada
ON THE BAGRAM-KABUL HIGHWAY SHORTCUT–I am not an America-basher. I have immense respect for U.S. troops, for all soldiers doing their government's military bidding in distant lands.

Examination at Wagha border: 10 percent of Indian-Afghan cargo to be selected randomly
Business Recorder (Pakistan)
ISLAMABAD (June 06 2008): The government has decided to randomly select 10 percent of the Indian goods/Afghan commercial cargo for physical examination at Wagha border, which would be cleared for transit to Afghanistan under

Paratroopers launch biggest battle in Afghanistan for two years
Telegraph.co.uk - UK By Thomas Harding in Qarat-e-Hazrat  07/06/2008
In one of the biggest air assaults in their history, troops from the Parachute Regiment have spent the last four days deep in Taliban territory.

Experts: Lessons of Soviets in Afghanistan Ignored
NPR - World News By Ivan Watson June 6, 2008
More than six years since the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the international community has pledged billions of dollars and sent tens of thousands of NATO-led soldiers to support the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Pak govt to release 64 Taliban militants
The Asian Age - International By Our Pakistan Correspondent June 6, 2008
Islamabad - The Pakistan government has agreed to release 64 militants loyal to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, popularly referred to as Mulla Radio, as part of a peace deal with the local Taliban.

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As Ills Persist, Afghan Leader Is Losing Luster
By HELENE COOPER The New York Times June 7, 2008
WASHINGTON — After six years in which Hamid Karzai has been the darling of the United States and its allies, his luster may be fading.

Next week, Mr. Karzai, the Afghan president, is to arrive in Paris for a donors conference with attendees from 80 countries and organizations. He will ask for $50 billion to finance a five-year development plan intended to revive Afghanistan’s decrepit farming sector, promote economic development and diversify the economy away from its heavy reliance on opium.

But there is a growing concern in Europe, the United Nations and even the Bush administration that Mr. Karzai, while well-spoken, colorful and often larger than life, is not up to addressing Afghanistan’s many troubles.

A senior State Department official questioned whether Mr. Karzai had the “trust and the backbone” for the job.

“Of course he’s a good guy, and therefore as long as he’s president we’ll support him,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. “But there’s a lot of talk inside the administration saying maybe there’s a need for some tough love to push him to do the right thing.”

One European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity under normal diplomatic rules, said, “We’ve got the standard administration problem of fascination with a flawed figure.” The diplomat likined the support for Mr. Karzai to American backing for President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.

American officials expressed particular frustration over the Afghan president’s refusal to arrest drug lords who are running the country’s opium trade, which many international observers believe the Taliban have used to fuel their comeback. At both the State Department and the Pentagon, some officials are saying that President Bush should use the financial leverage of American aid to Afghanistan to demand that Mr. Karzai do more to crack down on corruption.

One senior Bush administration official said that Mr. Bush remained enamored of Mr. Karzai. Others questioned whether the White House would endorse a tougher line against him at a time when international forces in Afghanistan are continuing to face a resurgent Taliban, and when there are no obvious pro-American alternatives to Mr. Karzai among Afghan leaders.

Still, Mr. Bush has sought to address some of the complaints. Two months ago he began holding twice-monthly video conference calls with his Afghan counterpart that are similar to his regular sessions with Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister.

Asked to comment about Mr. Karzai, a White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said, “President Bush appreciates the work that he’s doing in Afghanistan, but we all know that there is more to be done.”

Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United States, Said T. Jawad, defended Mr. Karzai’s leadership and warned against pointing fingers at a fledgling government. “It’s totally unnecessary to start a blame game,” Mr. Jawad said.

According to American and European diplomats, recent tension has flared around an episode that received little attention outside Afghanistan and that involved Mr. Karzai’s refusal to arrest a notorious Uzbek warlord, Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum.

General Dostum is said to have attacked a rival warlord with a beer bottle this year, almost killing him, and Afghan law enforcement officials sought to arrest him. But Mr. Karzai’s government balked, according to Western diplomats and Afghan officials.

The diplomats — American and European, who spoke on condition of anonymity — said that they urged Mr. Karzai to have General Dostum arrested but that he told them he did not want to pick a fight with General Dostum for fear of alienating his backers.

Richard C. Holbrooke, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, said he confronted Mr. Karzai shortly after the Dostum dustup while on a trip to Afghanistan. Mr. Holbrooke said he had asked Mr. Karzai how he could “let the thugs back you down over a murderous warlord” Mr. Karzai, he said, responded with a shrug.

A senior Afghan official said that Mr. Karzai wanted to arrest General Dostum but decided not to do so because of the strength of forces loyal to General Dostum in northern Afghanistan and because of uneasiness among NATO officials in Afghanistan.

In an interview, Mr. Holbrooke said he saw the episode as “a metaphor for a government that’s perceived as increasingly weak, but whose effectiveness is key to success in Afghanistan.” He added, “I don’t believe the Taliban can win in Afghanistan, because people remember what they really stand for, but the government as it currently functions can’t win, either.”

Administration officials said the recent sessions between Mr. Bush and Mr. Karzai had been constructive but had yet to produce any tangible steps against corruption.

The Afghan president operates from a heavily fortified presidential palace, and has not arrested any drug lords or warlords, while resisting international pressure for a strong coordinator to monitor the political, economic and military effort in Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai has insisted that Afghanistan’s fledgling government should handle the bulk of the job of deciding how to spend international aid.

Bush administration officials and their British counterparts are still fuming over Mr. Karzai’s rejection this year of the British diplomat Paddy Ashdown as a special envoy. The West had pushed him as it searched for a strong international figure, à la George C. Marshall, to help coordinate the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said Mr. Ashdown had been rejected because of negative press and public reaction to his appointment, which touched on Afghan sensitivities about foreign interference and fears of colonial intentions by Britain and others.

But European and American diplomats said it had more to do with Mr. Karzai’s desire, one year before Afghan elections, to improve his image by standing up to Western powers. The diplomats complained that the international community, with more than 62,000 troops in Afghanistan, had a right to demand a strong coordinator representing its interest in the country.

A senior United States military officer in Afghanistan said that the disillusionment with Mr. Karzai was palpable among the wide swath of people he dealt with, including allied military and civilian officials. “Their message is consistent,” the officer said in an e-mail message, speaking on condition of anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivity. “He’s a weak leader.”

Frustration over corruption and ineffectiveness in Mr. Karzai’s government has grown within Afghanistan as well in recent years. In 2006, for instance, members of the Afghan Parliament signed a measure of protest over the government’s poor performance and the low quality of some of Mr. Karzai’s appointments.

Western diplomats said that Afghan drug lords and warlords had bought the freedom they exercise throughout the country by bribing members of Mr. Karzai’s government.

Gen. James L. Jones, a former NATO commander in Afghanistan who now works as one of Mr. Bush’s Middle East envoys, said that while the NATO forces military had been making some strides against insurgents, no amount of additional troops would counter the Afghan government’s inability to rein in corruption and the country’s exploding opium cultivation.

“The Karzai government, which is benefiting so much from the sacrifice, in both treasure and lives, by so many countries, needs to show more willingness to meet the expectations of the international community,” General Jones said in an interview. “This is particularly true with regard to reversing the nation’s economic dependency on narcotics, battling corruption within the government and championing judicial reform as a matter of national security.”
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Several militants killed in Afghanistan raids
Sat Jun 7, 3:09 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces raided several homes in a district just north of the capital, killing several militants who shot at them, the coalition said Saturday.

The operation in the Tagab Valley of Kapisa province, 40 miles northeast of Kabul, targeted a militant leader, the coalition said in a statement. During the operation, militants fired on the Afghan and U.S. forces from covered defensive positions, the statement said.

A separate militant group attacked the joint forces from another building, prompting the U.S. and Afghan soldiers to respond with gunfire and an airstrike, killing the militants. The coalition did not say how many militants were killed.

In the south, armed gunmen killed a tribal leader in a district north of Kandahar city.

Gunmen on a motorbike killed Malim Akbar Khakrezwal, a pro-government tribal leader from the Arghandab region, said Kandahar provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqib.

Khakrezwal's brother was the former police chief of Kabul. He was killed in a suicide bombing in 2005.

The Arghandab district — one of the few areas in Kandahar province inhospitable to Taliban fighters — has seen several leaders die in the last year.

Its leading elder, Mullah Naqibullah, died of a heart attack last year, and Abdul Hakim Jan, the commander of the region's police force, died in a February bombing that killed more than 100 people.

More than 1,500 people have died in insurgency related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count.
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Pakistani engineer kidnapped in Afghanistan
07 Jun 2008 13:37:34 GMT
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 7 (Reuters) - Unknown gunmen kidnapped a Pakistani road construction engineer in the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday, the provincial police chief said.

The Taliban have kidnapped a number of foreigners including 23 South Koreans in July last year, killing two of the group before releasing the rest after a deal with Seoul.

Criminal gangs and drug traffickers have also abducted foreigners and Afghans in recent years.

"This morning, unknown gunmen attacked a car carrying a Pakistani road construction engineer and his driver in the city of Kandahar. They wounded the driver and left him, taking the car and the engineer with them," Provincial Police Chief Sayed Aqa Saqib told Reuters.

Another car belonging to the same construction company hit a roadside mine on Saturday while driving towards Kandahar city, Saqib told Reuters. The mine exploded and killed one Afghan in the car and wounded another, he said.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attacks.

In another incident, Afghan and coalition forces killed several militants on Friday in the eastern province of Kapisa, the U.S. military said on Saturday.

The joint forces were carrying out a search operation when they came under fire from several militants and responded with small arms fire and airstrikes killing several of the militants and detaining three, it said. (Reporting by Ismail Sameem; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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New Canada commander won't change Afghan strategy
Fri Jun 6, 2:26 PM ET
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The officer who will soon take over command of Canada's armed forces made clear on Friday there would be no change in his troops' strategy in Afghanistan, where Canadian soldiers clash frequently with the Taliban.

"We've got a great strategy that's happening right now," said General Walt Natynczyk, who will become chief of defense staff next month.

"The amount of progress that we have made from the past three years, 2-1/2 years, actually, is remarkable."

Critics say Canada's 2,500-strong mission spends too much time fighting the Taliban and not enough helping rebuild the country. So far, 84 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

Natynczyk will replace Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier, who has been a vocal defender of the troops and who has also raised hackles by criticizing politicians he felt were not doing enough for the military.

Natynczyk, a 30-year veteran, commanded Canadian troops in Bosnia and spent 15 months in Iraq as deputy commanding general of the U.S.-led Multi-National Corps. He said the fight against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan is almost identical.

"The tactics, the techniques and procedures are exactly the same and the risks are too," he said.

The Canadian mission in Afghanistan is due to end in 2011.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Peter Galloway)
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Portugal to send second military training team to Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-07 09:19:06
LISBON, June 7 (Xinhua) -- Portugal's Supreme National Defense Council approved Friday to send another military training team to Afghanistan to help train the Afghan National Army.

In a communique released after the meeting, the Defense Council said Portuguese peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan will accomplish their mission and return to Portugal in August.

But to respond to NATO's request for enhancing assistance to Afghanistan, Portugal agreed to dispatch a second military training team to Afghanistan within four months after its troops withdraw, as well as a transport plane to serve the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in the country.

Portuguese Defense Minister Nuno Severiano Teixeira said when he visited Afghanistan last year that his country was committed to maintaining the security and stability of Afghanistan as well as its contributing to its reconstruction.

Portugal sent its first 15-member military training team to Afghanistan earlier this year.

There are currently 161 Portuguese military servicemen serving as a Quick Reaction Force within the framework of the NATO-led ISAF. Most of them are stationed in Kabul.
Editor: Sun Yunlong 
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Rice due to travel to Paris, Middle East
Fri Jun 6, 6:07 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel next week to Paris for an Afghan donors conference and to the Middle East to push for a Palestinian-Israeli peace deal this year, a statement said Tuesday.

Rice leaves Wednesday for Paris to take part in the International Support Conference for Afghanistan, according to a State Department statement.

"The Secretary will underline the need for continued strong support from the international community to meet the development challenges necessary to promote security and democracy in Afghanistan," the statement said.

"She will also accompany the President (George W. Bush) for bilateral meetings with French government officials," it added.

She will then travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah, the West Bank before wrapping up her trip on June 16.

"She will meet with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials to discuss progress being made on the ground to implement both parties' obligations under the roadmap, the situation in Gaza, and the effort underway to achieve agreement this year on the establishment of a Palestinian state," it said.

Drafted by the United States and international partners, the roadmap calls for a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security.

Roadmap obligations call on the Palestinians to stop violence and Israel to halt settlements.

During a speech Tuesday to the pro-Israel lobby, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Rice said a deal on the outlines of a Palestinian state can still be reached, but dropped previous remarks that one could be sealed by year-end.

Her speech came during a visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- whose uncertain political future has in turn fueled doubts about the course of Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations have also made little apparent progress since they were relaunched last November at an international peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland hosted by Bush and Rice.
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Canada to share Polish choppers in Afghanistan
Doug Schmidt ,  Canwest News Service Friday, June 06, 2008
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Canada's soldiers fighting in Kandahar soon will be getting two much-needed Polish helicopters promised earlier this year, but they'll have to share them with others, including Poland's special forces in Afghanistan, the European country's foreign minister said here Friday.

"They will be at Canada's request," Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told reporters during a brief visit with Canadian military and foreign affairs officials. "Ask our military people, but our political will is that they should be by request . . . at the disposal of Canada."

Following meetings Sikorski held in Ottawa in February, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Poland had offered Canada exclusive use of two Russian-built MI-17 helicopters to be located at Kandahar Airfield, where most of the 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan are based. Without tactical air support of its own, Canada has had to rely mostly on ground transportation to resupply its troops in the field.

The bulk of Canada's recent casualties has been from military convoys striking roadside bombs and being targeted by suicide bombers.

"We know how many casualties Canada has taken. Poland is delighted to be backing Canada, not just with words but with action," said Sikorski, who during his earlier visit to Canada, was critical of "free riding" NATO countries sticking to safer areas of Afghanistan.

As it withdraws troops from the conflict in Iraq, Poland is bolstering its number of soldiers in Afghanistan this year to 1,600, from 1,200. It also is sending four transport and four gunship helicopters to Afghanistan this summer. Poland is examining an even greater expansion of its involvement in Afghanistan and considering establishing a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) similar to the Canadian-led effort in Kandahar City.

"The military presence is a necessary condition, but far from sufficient. Developmental assistance, humanitarian assistance, through such initiatives as PRT, is crucial," said Sikorski, a former journalist who covered the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

He said he was impressed with Canada's PRT effort, which is an attempt to bring development and reconstruction to a dangerous area where an international military presence is helping Afghan security forces fight an armed insurgency led by remnants of the former Taliban regime. Half of the Kandahar PRT's contingent of about 300 people are soldiers deployed there for security, while there are only about 25 civilians.
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Intrepid Afghan interpreters risk life and limb
KATHERINE O'NEILL From Saturday's Globe and Mail June 6, 2008 at 10:26 PM EDT
MASUM GHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Lucky was 17 and working as a doctor's assistant at a Kabul hospital in 2001 when Afghanistan spiralled into war and he answered the call to head to the front lines.

But like hundreds of other educated, young Afghan men, both nationals and expatriates, he didn't join the country's struggling army. Instead, he put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold and proudly signed up to be a military interpreter for the coalition forces.

“It is dangerous, but if we don't help our people, who will help them?” he said.

Like other Afghan military interpreters, who are nicknamed “terps” by soldiers, he can't use his real name or be photographed for fear insurgents will target him or his family. He goes by Lucky because Westerners have trouble pronouncing his given name.

After working for the U.S. Army, then the British, Lucky, who is tall, slender and always neatly dressed, was recruited by the Canadian military. He is currently commanding a small interpreter pool at Canada's forward operating base in Masum Ghar, about 40 kilometres southwest of Kandahar.

Like interpreters stationed with Canadians at other outposts, these unarmed men follow soldiers wherever they go, often right into harm's way.

This week, an Afghan interpreter was injured along with three Canadian soldiers when they were hit by a homemade bomb during an operation in the Zhari district.

Dozens more interpreters have been killed or wounded over the years, including one who was decapitated by a piece of shrapnel last year at Masum Ghar when a rocket hit a bathroom where he was showering.

Like the Canadian soldiers with whom they work every day, the interpreters have families back home who constantly worry about their safety.

“My mother wants me to go to Pakistan to study to be a doctor or an engineer like my brothers,” said Abdul, 19. “She doesn't want me doing this. She keeps asking me to stop.”

At Masum Ghar, the interpreters share a large tent on the side of a craggy mountain overlooking the forward operating base. They are on call, and can be sent out to accompany soldiers at any hour of the day.

Many wear military fatigues, as well as sunglasses and scarves around their faces to conceal their identities when they are out in public.

When they aren't working, they cook, sleep or sit around on military cots and talk or listen to music on a battered black audio cassette player, often blaring Indian music.

The starting salary is about $600 (U.S.) month, a hefty amount by Afghan standards. The men are covered by insurance, to be paid out if they are killed or injured on the job.

Most interpreters send all of their earnings home to their families. Many are from Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, and have had a difficult time adjusting to the south's excessive heat and ultraconservative ways.

While Canadian soldiers rotate in and out of Masum Ghar, Lucky and other interpreters have become constants at the busy base.

“Lucky always knows what's going on. Everybody knows him,” said Leading Seaman Mike Bowman, a military medic with the Edmonton-based 1 Field Ambulance. “If you have a problem or need something, you go to him.”

Lucky said the only time he and his crew struggled to do their jobs was when Quebec's Royal 22nd Regiment, also known as the Van Doos, was deployed to Afghanistan last August.

“I needed a terp at times,” he joked.

He said that while he and the other interpreters speak some French, they had a harder time bridging the language barrier between francophone soldiers and local Afghans.

Most Canadian soldiers treat the interpreters like comrades, even brothers, often sharing cigarettes, jokes and stories about their own families.

However, Lucky won't stand for disrespect or abuse toward his men. “You tell your guys to stop calling my guys ‘fucking terps.' That happened yesterday and it's unacceptable,” he recently told a Canadian sergeant, who went to him to complain that some interpreters weren't showing up for work on time.

Lucky is looking forward to the day when he can move back to Kabul and start his life. “I'm so bored with the Taliban. Our country is so bored with fighting.”

He wants to get married – his family is searching for a suitable wife – and finally, after all these years, return to school.

“Maybe, I hope,” he said, when asked whether war-ravaged Afghanistan will ever be at peace.
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Bush Urges Congress to Pass Funding for Iraq, Afghanistan Wars
By Holly Rosenkrantz
June 7 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush urged Congress to pass a funding bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even as some lawmakers call for cuts in U.S. forces and a timetable for a complete withdrawal.

``I often hear members of Congress say they oppose the war, but still support the troops,'' Bush said in his weekly radio address. ``Now they have a chance to prove it.''

Funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is due to run out in July, and the administration's request for more money is stalled in Congress. Bush said the money is ``urgently needed'' to support U.S. involvement.

Congress has attached various domestic spending measures to the president's legislation, which Bush, in his radio address, said violates one of his principles for the bill: that it should not exceed ``reasonable and responsible funding levels.''

Congress wants to include an extension of unemployment benefits in the bill, and offer military veterans more money for tuition, fees and books for college.

For related news: To see the Defense Department's most recent tally of U.S. war casualties, see http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf
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Kabul to clear mines on TAPI gasline route in 2 yrs
* Afghan govt to set up 1,000 industrial units along route after clearing landmines
By Zafar Bhutta Daily Times (Pakistan) June 7, 2008
ISLAMABAD: Afghanistan has informed Pakistan that it will clear all landmines from the proposed route of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline within two years, sources within the Pakistan Petroleum Ministry told Daily Times on Friday.

They said that the Afghan government had assured all stakeholders that the process to rid the area of landmines was already underway and would soon be completed. The Afghan government has also stressed that the proposed route of the pipeline would be freed of the influence of the Taliban, they added. The pipeline route, as defined by an international consultant, would pass through the west and southwest of Afghanistan, including the five provinces of Herat, Farah, Nimroz, Helmand and Kandhar, before reaching Pakistan.

Another 1,000: According to the sources, the Afghan government has said that it has already set up 300 industrial units near the route of the TAPI gas pipeline and would set up a further 1,000 industrial units by clearing landmines.

Turkmenistan is expected to present a gas reserves certification to all stakeholders within the next month. It claims gas reserves of 80 billion cubic metres (BCM) per year. The Government of Turkmenistan has conveyed to all stakeholders that they would be provided with at least 30 BCM annually from the project for the lifetime of the project.

According to official sources, the gas pricing formula for the TAPI gas pipeline may follow the formula adopted for the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline deal, which has been linked to Japan Crude Cocktail.

The sources claimed that talks on TAPI had slowed down due to a hike in oil prices in the international market. They said that the stakeholders were currently observing the international market to gauge the link between oil and gas price hikes.
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Afghanistan rich in energy reserves
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 6 (UPI) -- Afghanistan has the potential to rely on its own oil and gas reserves to finance redevelopment, a diplomatic official said Friday.

Afghan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Abdul Farid Zikria said his country started using foreign investments to conduct geological surveys to develop its own resources, Emirates Business reported.

"Such a strategy will make it possible for us to be self-reliant, confront future challenges and realize the sustainable and comprehensive development of our country," he said.

Zikria said Afghanistan has the potential to produce at least 24,000 MW of energy from its coal, gas and hydrological resources. The $4 billion, 1,044-mile Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will also boost Afghanistan's revenues, he said.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will run from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad gas field to Afghanistan. From there it will be constructed from Herat in western Afghanistan to Kandahar in the south of the country, and then via Quetta in western Pakistan and Multan in eastern Pakistan, and ending at the Indian town of Fazilka.

Afghanistan has uncovered significant oil deposits in Katawaz and Helmand provinces and plans to launch an exploration program for oil and gas in the northern Jozjan province, Zikria said.

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Afghanistan says the aim is to rely solely on its own resources
By Nissar Hoath  on Friday, June 06, 2008 Business 24/7, UAE
Afghanistan has started to tap its natural resources with multi-billion-dollar investments, which until now had been impossible in the war-ravaged country, says its ambassador to the UAE.

And Abdul Farid Zikria invited UAE and other GCC investors to take part in exploration projects, which are being launched after the government adopted foreign investment-friendly policies.

"The aim of the government is to rely solely on its own resources, including natural resources, for the future development of the country," he told Emirates Business. "Such a strategy will make it possible for us to be self-reliant, confront future challenges and realise the sustainable and comprehensive development of our country," he said.

He said his government was undertaking a comprehensive geological survey and had drawn up a plan for the exploration of the country's mineral resources.

The strategy included the exploitation of copper, gold, silver, iron ore, coal, oil and gas, gems such as emeralds, lapis lazuli and rubies, and other minerals.

Another strategic programme, the ambassador said, set out plans to develop the country's power production and oil and gas industries. The country has the potential to produce 24,000MW of electricity from its hydro, gas and coal resources. The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, one of the largest projects of its kind, will add to the country's revenues.

"We are very rich in natural resources," added Zikria.

"Unfortunately, because of more than 30 years of wars we have not been able to use these resources properly. Now, with peace returning and the economy growing fast, we are seeking international support and foreign investment to help us.

"With this support we will become fully self-reliant and cease to be a burden on the international community." He said the government in Kabul has adopted a transparent policy to facilitate all kinds of foreign investment.

"We have policies that guarantee and protect the interests of foreign investors. All their interests and capital invested in the country are protected and secured."

The ambassador said his government has signed a deal with a leading Chinese company to mine the Aynak copper deposit in Logar province, south of Kabul, and build infrastructure.

Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines and Industries signed the deal with China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), which will lead a consortium including China's Jiangxi Copper Company. The project includes the construction of a coal-fuelled 400MW power plant and a rail-road network connecting the north of the country to the southeast.

"The entire project is estimated to cost up to $10 billion (Dh36.7bn) and will be completed in phases. The copper mining deal is for 30 years with an annual extraction of 200,000 tonnes. Aynak contains sufficient ore to produce 11 million metric tonnes of copper.

"This and all the other exploration projects, including oil and gas schemes, offer great potential to the UAE and GCC investors. The Aynak rail-road network will link Central Asia to Pakistan, India and the Arabian Sea." Zikria said a major survey of Afghanistan's natural resources was being carried out by the US Geological Survey and local engineers.

"The initial results revealed that Afghanistan had 10 times more gas and 15 times more oil reserves than was previously thought. "There are significant oil deposits in the south of the country, including ones at Katawaz and in Helmand province. The government will soon announce an oil and gas exploration project in the northern province of Jozjan and will invite foreign investors and exploration firms to become involved.

Zikria said his government plans to sign a deal for iron ore exploration in the centre of the country. Ore will be mined at the 32 kilometre-long Hajigak deposit.

"We are looking for investors to back the project. The deposit is estimated to contain 1,700 million tonnes of iron ore and offers great potential for investment."

A contract for a gold mining project in Takar province has been signed and work is expected to start soon. Extraction capacity is expected to range between 1,700kg and 3,000kg per year.

"Another promising area of foreign investment is the country's agriculture sector. We have rich fertile land with rivers and underground water reserves. With the world facing food shortages the government has developed a strategy for the development of the sector that is open to investment.

"Again the GCC has the opportunity to benefit from the agriculture policy to guarantee their future food supplies," Zikria said.
Key facts: Aghanistan
- A landlocked country with an area of 647,500 sq km. It borders Iran, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan
- Almost half of the country stands on an elevation of 2,000 metres and more with the northern Hindu Kush Mountains having an elevation of more than 7,000m
- 12.1 per cent of the land is arable
- The population, according to a 2006 census, is 31.7 million, with 75 per cent living in rural areas and more than three million living outside the country
- Major cities are Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif
- Ethnic groups include Pushtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimak, Turkmen, Baloch and Nuristani
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Afghanistan rich in energy reserves
United Press International June 6, 2008
KABUL - Afghanistan has the potential to rely on its own oil and gas reserves to finance redevelopment, a diplomatic official said Friday.

Afghan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Abdul Farid Zikria said his country started using foreign investments to conduct geological surveys to develop its own resources, Emirates Business reported.
"Such a strategy will make it possible for us to be self-reliant, confront future challenges and realize the sustainable and comprehensive development of our country," he said.

Zikria said Afghanistan has the potential to produce at least 24,000 MW of energy from its coal, gas and hydrological resources. The $4 billion, 1,044-mile Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will also boost Afghanistan's revenues, he said.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline will run from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad gas field to Afghanistan. From there it will be constructed from Herat in western Afghanistan to Kandahar in the south of the country, and then via Quetta in western Pakistan and Multan in eastern Pakistan, and ending at the Indian town of Fazilka.

Afghanistan has uncovered significant oil deposits in Katawaz and Helmand provinces and plans to launch an exploration program for oil and gas in the northern Jozjan province, Zikria said.

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No New Guantanamo for Afghanistan
US military rejects accusations that it is building a local replacement for Guantanamo Bay, but Afghans are angered at plans for the new prison.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Hafizullah Gardesh and Jean MacKenzie in Kabul (ARR No. 291, 06-Jun-08)
An American military spokesperson has dismissed any suggestion that a new prison planned for Afghanistan is intended to receive prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, the detention centre in Cuba that is facing increasing criticism in the United States.

“This is not going to be Guantanamo Two,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Rumi Nielson-Green, spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force 101, based at Bagram Airfield, north of the Afghan capital Kabul. “That is absolutely false.”

Nielsen-Green also categorically rejected reports by Afghan and US human rights groups that children as young as nine years old were being held at the existing detention facility at Bagram.

“That is absolutely false,” she said. “We have no children at Bagram.”

According to Nielson-Green, the new prison is intended to receive only “unlawful enemy combatants, approximately 16 or older, apprehended by OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] in Afghanistan”.

In mid-May, the Pentagon announced plans to build a 40-acre, 60 million US dollar detention centre to replace the deteriorating facility at Bagram airfield, a base originally built and used by the Soviet Union during its war in Afghanistan in 1979-89.

The new centre will be a big step up from the present one, according to Nielson-Green.

“There will be a great deal of improvement in the quality of life [of detainees],” she said. “There will be a lot more floor space, much more room for communal activities, which is part of their culture.”

There will also be educational and recreational facilities, as well as areas where detainees can meet their families, added Nielson-Green.

The present detention facility was always intended to be temporary, she explained. It houses approximately 625 prisoners, who live in wire mesh cages.

There is no hard data on when the new facility will be up and running. The capacity of the new prison will be roughly equivalent to that of the old one.

According to a New York Times report, it will be able to accommodate up to 11,000 prisoners “in a surge”, but Nielson-Green commented, “That seems a little high.”

Increased capacity may be needed to accommodate more captives from the increasingly bloody war against the Taleban concentrated in the southern part of the country.

The news has made many Afghans uneasy. For many, Bagram conjures up images of arrest, torture and humiliation.

In 2002, two men died in US custody at Bagram. One of them, who went by the name Dilawar, became the subject of a widely acclaimed documentary called “Taxi to the Dark Side”.

Arrested on a tip-off from a man later proved to be a Taleban supporter, he was repeatedly beaten and died after two days in detention.

Since then, dozens, if not hundreds, of prisoners have passed through Bagram on their way to Guantanamo Bay. According to many of them, Bagram is worse than the prison in Cuba.

A researcher who has conducted numerous interviews with prisoners released from Bagram told IWPR that they claimed to have been humiliated, beaten, stripped naked and thrown down stairs during initial interrogations.

“The guards told the prisoners, ‘Now you are no longer in Afghanistan. We can do anything we want,’” said the researcher.

All of those interviewed were later shown to be innocent of the charges against them.

Nielson-Green denied that detainees at Bagram were being ill-treated.

“[They] are not being mistreated and abused,” she insisted. “We adhere to all international agreements, including the Geneva Convention.”

According to Nielson-Green, the US military go “above and beyond” what is required in their treatment of prisoners at Bagram.

“The ICRC has access,” she said, referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

When asked why Afghan humanitarian organisations were not allowed to visit detainees, she said she was “unaware of any requirement” that the military open its doors to anyone other than the ICRC.

One June 2, the Afghan Human Rights Organisation, AHRO, released a report alleging that ten children aged between nine and 13 were being held at Bagram.

A report by the United States government to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the United States acknowledges, delivered in May 2008 also claimed that juveniles were being held at Bagram.

But the US military has repeatedly denied that this is the case.

“It is sometimes difficult to determine the exact age,” said Nielson-Green.

Afghans often do not know the date or even year of their birth, and appearances can be deceiving. But still, Nielson-Green insisted, there were no detainees under the age of 16 at Bagram.

News of the plan for a replacement prison created a minor storm of protest in Kabul, not least from the justice ministry, which said that it had no knowledge of the US plans.

“We know nothing about a new prison being built at Bagram,” an official at the ministry’s prisons department of told IWPR, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There has been no agreement with the ministry of justice. We cannot speak about this.”

Parliament is also in the dark, according to Shukria Barakzai, a member of the Wolesi Jirga or lower house.

“This issue has not been referred to parliament,” she told IWPR.

Barakzai was in no doubt that it was a topic that should be debated by the legislature.

“According to the laws of Afghanistan, the land cannot be given away,” she told IWPR. “No country has a right to make a prison here. And not a single criminal should be handed over to foreigners. This prison at Bagram not only violates the constitution, it calls into question the legitimacy of the present government.”

President Hamed Karzai’s press office refused to comment on the issue.

According to Fazel Rahman Oria, a political analyst and editor of Erada Daily, the prison has become a stumbling block in US-Afghan relations.

“The government will not say this formally, but this issue has been raised between high-ranking authorities of Afghanistan and the United States,” he told IWPR. “It shows the climate of distrust between the two countries.”

The prison, in Oria’s opinion, will deepen the resentment that Afghans already feel towards the foreign presence in their country in general, and towards the Americans in particular.

“There will be a negative social and psychological impact,” he said. “On the one hand, it will damage the relationship between the people and the government of Afghanistan, which is bad enough already. On the other, it will provide ammunition to the opposition, who will tell the people, ‘Yes, your resistance is justified. America is here forever, the Afghan government is a puppet.’

“Hatred of the Americans, which is on the rise, will get more and more powerful.”

AHRO head Lal Gul told IWPR that the new prison was an affront to human rights. The refusal of US forces to allow Afghan human rights groups to visit prisoners has fostered distrust, he said, and the condition of those released from Bagram has given cause for worry.

“We are sure that in this new Guantanamo we will not be able to monitor the prisoners any more than we can now,” he told IWPR. “The overwhelming majority – 95 per cent – of those who are released from Bagram have psychological problems. Some of them are missing body parts. We condemn not only this prison, but all the prisons all over Afghanistan and other places made by the Americans.”

The issue has taken the lid off the long-simmering resentment of US activities in Afghanistan.

“America has been condemned all over the world for Guantanamo,” said political analyst Mohammad Qasim Akhgar. “But now it wants to open Guantanamo Two on Afghan soil, while pretending that Afghanistan is an independent country with an independent government.”

The public reaction to the prospect of the new prison has also been negative.

Sadeq Spinghar, a student at Kabul University, warns that anti-US sentiment is running high.

“The Americans should not rely too much on their military power,” he said. ”A lot of invincible powers have been brought to their knees in Afghanistan.”

Although he is too young to remember much about the Soviet occupation, he thinks the Russians were preferable to what is now happening under the Americans.

“The Russians were in Afghanistan as well, but they didn’t have private prisons. They didn’t arrest children and they didn’t treat prisoners as the Americans do. They showed respect for the civil and Islamic rights of the Afghans.”

This kind of sentiment is heard more and more frequently in Afghanistan, even though it hardly fits with the historical facts.

The official casualty count for the ten-year war with the Soviets was between one and 1.5 million, with millions more displaced. Seven years after the Taleban administration was ousted, precise figures for the number of Afghans killed are difficult to come by, but even the high-end estimates are a small fraction of the death toll from the Soviet war.

Sher Ahmad, a former mujahedin fighter against the Soviets and now a taxi driver, offered a more fatalistic view on the new prison.

“We have all accepted that one day we, or one of our relatives, will be killed or imprisoned,” he said. “If our detainees are sent to Guantanamo, we cannot see them for years. At least if they are here, we have some contact. And one day these Americans will leave, and we will get the building.”

Hafizullah Gardesh is IWPR’s local editor in Kabul. Jean MacKenzie is IWPR’s programme director for Afghanistan. Noorrahman Rahmani, IWPR’s administrative and finance director in Kabul, also contributed to this report.
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U.N. experts rap U.S. "cruelty" to child prisoners
By Robert Evans
GENEVA, June 6 (Reuters) - United Nations experts on child rights criticised the United States on Friday over detention of juveniles at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and voiced concern that some may have suffered cruel treatment.

They also called for an end to recruitment of under-18s into the U.S. armed forces and for a halt to enlistment campaigns aimed specifically at young people from minority groups and poor or single-parent families.

The strictures were issued in a report from the 18-member Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors performance under U.N. pacts, including two signed by Washington on children and armed conflict and on child prostitution.

On under-18s -- defined by the U.N. as children -- held in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Committee said it was "concerned over reports indicating the use of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment."

The 18 experts, nominated by governments but expected to be independent of them, said they had similar reports on abuse of young prisoners held for several years at the U.S. naval base in Cuba's Guantanamo Bay.

They declared themselves "seriously concerned that children who were recruited or used in armed conflict, rather than being considered primarily as victims, are classified as 'unlawful enemy combatants'," and face military tribunals at the base.

In a presentation to the Committee last month, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense Sandra L. Hodgkinson said the United States did detain juveniles who fought its troops so as to protect its forces and innocent civilians.

SPECIAL NEEDS
But it went to great lengths to attend to their special needs while they were held in Iraq, Afghanistan or Guantanamo, she said. At the base in southeastern Cuba, there were no more than 8 juveniles held, only two facing criminal charges.

Hodgkinson said U.S. youths aged 17 could join the military if they had the written permission of their parents or legal guardians, but the Committee said it was concerned "over reported misconduct and coercive measures used by recruiters."

Most members of the Committee are lawyers. They come from countries ranging from South Korea, which provides the chairman, to Canada, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Algeria, Bangladesh, Egypt, Qatar and Italy.

The American Council for Civil Liberties (ACLU), which made a presentation of its own to the Committee, said the report made clear that the United States was breaking global agreements on children in war.
"The message from the U.N. Committee....leaves no doubt that U.S. policies and practices violated universal standards aimed at protecting suspected foreign child soldiers from unlawful treatment and prolonged incarceration," it said.

The United States was also failing to protect its own young citizens "from abusive military recruitment," said ACLU human rights programme director Jamil Dakwar in a statement sent to Reuters in Geneva.

"To claim the high moral ground and assert leadership on the issue of human rights, the U.S. government must take vigorous action to bring its current conduct in line with the Committee's recommendations," declared Dakwar.

There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials in Geneva. Another U.S.-based group, Human Rights Watch, said last month that the United States was holding 513 juveniles under 18 in prisons in Iraq as "threats to security". Some were interrogated for days or weeks, it added.
(Editing by Stephanie Nebehay)
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Afghan cabinet agrees to set up new anti-corruption office RTA
[Presenter] Hamed Karzai, the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, chaired an extraordinary meeting of the Council of Ministers at the presidential palace today to discuss the draft law on the structure and authority of a high-level department set up to oversee the implementation of the strategy against administrative corruption.

At the beginning, the president spoke about the need for establishment of a department to oversee the implementation of the strategy against administrative corruption, and said: "There have been reforms in judicial and prosecution offices, police, detection and investigation units, and other government departments in the past few years, but there are still complaints of bribery and corruption in the departments."
The president added: "The first step that should be taken to seriously fight and curb corruption is to eliminate the culture of defending criminals and those accused, self-exoneration and the culture of accusing others, among government officials.

In order to address the problem, we need to establish a transparent and accurate mechanism. A department should therefore be established to oversee the campaign against administrative corruption in government departments so it highlights what is going on in all legal, judicial, and detection departments. The process shall also highlight and coordinate measures taken by the departments to fight administrative corruption in their relevant ministries and departments so they can correctly identify the causes of corruption and bring to justice the criminals.

Another important point is that departments fighting administrative corruption should first of all be clear of any type of accusations of corruption, bribery, nepotism and injustice."

The president then asked the minister of justice to present the draft law to the meeting. The minister of justice briefed the meeting about the draft law on the structure and authority of the high-level department that will be set up to oversee the implementation of the strategy against administrative corruption, and said:

"Based on Article 50 of the constitution, and based on a presidential decree, a draft strategy for reforms in the administration and the strategy against administrative corruption was developed following meetings chaired by the chief justice of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and attended by the attorney-general, the minister of justice, and other relevant bodies.

Based on the draft strategy, a draft law on the structure and authority of the high-level department that will be set up to oversee the implementation of the strategy against administrative corruption was developed in the light of paragraph 3 of Article 7, and articles 75 and 142 of the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The strategy developed to fight administrative corruption is part of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. The law and the strategy were compiled in view of the provisions of the [UN] convention against corruption to which the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a party.
After scrutiny and verification at a meeting of the [cabinet] legislative committee on 9 Jowza 1387 [29 May 08], the law was presented to the Council of Ministers for approval."

The minister of justice added: "The draft law contains general provisions, definition of administrative corruption, the objectives, monitoring and coordination, independence, area of work and structure of the high-level overseeing department, roles and responsibilities, issuance of instructions, processing of cases, safety of informants and witnesses, registration of property and legal prosecution.

The main objectives of the department, as stated in the draft law, include:

- Taking effective measures to oversee the implementation of the strategy on administrative reforms and the strategy against administrative corruption in all departments.

- Overseeing the performance of different departments in fighting administrative corruption.

- Evaluating the implementation of administrative reform measures, and measures taken to fight administrative corruption by different departments.

- Ensuring transparency in the performance of departments.

- Establishing a healthy, competent and responsible administration and management system.

- Protection of public and private property.

- Reforming and simplifying procedures in government departments

- Ensuring and strengthening the rule of law.

According to Article 6 of the law, the law shall apply to government departments, NGOs, individuals who have agreements with the government and are responsible to offer financial and accounting reports to the government, independent commissions, international organizations that have agreements with the government of Afghanistan and are responsible to offer financial accounts to the government.

Article 7 of the law also states that the structure of the high-level department set up to oversee the implementation of the strategy against administrative corruption, includes the head of the department, deputy head or deputy heads of the department, a consultative delegation, the head of central and regional units, and professional and administrative personnel. Details of the structure shall be regulated by the law.
[Passage omitted: senior officials presented their recommendations about the proposal]

In the light of the given recommendations and ideas, the council of ministers approved in principle the establishment of the department to oversee the implementation of the strategy against administrative corruption.

[Passage omitted: other ministers presented reports at the meeting]

Source: National Afghanistan TV, Kabul, in Dari and Pashto 1530 gmt 4 Jun 08
BBC Mon SA1 SAsPol 050608 sa/ka
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When Afghan tempers explode
It was just a traffic jam – but in Afghanistan, that can mean the difference between life and death
Jun 07, 2008 04:30 AM Rosie DiManno Toronto Star,  Canada
ON THE BAGRAM-KABUL HIGHWAY SHORTCUT–I am not an America-basher. I have immense respect for U.S. troops, for all soldiers doing their government's military bidding in distant lands.

But one day last week, I wanted to throttle a Yank-in-uniform and I think for a split-second he considered killing me too. He, however, had a machine gun.

We were on the highway, heavily congested with vehicles heading for Kabul in the late afternoon traffic.

I found myself directly behind an ambulance.

The queue of vehicles, ineffectually blasting their horns, had come to a dead stop. Afghans got out of their cars to see what was holding things up.

But Afghans, of course, have been repeatedly warned to stay at least 100 metres distant from military convoys, whether they're moving or stationary. This one had been stationary for an hour, no explanation given, and tempers were fraying.

Afghans are immensely patient people. They can squat, as still as marble statues, for hours, just watching the world go by.

But these were Afghan drivers, many with minivans jammed full with women, children, the elderly.

I went forward to have a peek inside the ambulance. Two men lay there, one with all manner of tubes emerging from chest and arm, clearly in a state of medical emergency. The other sat cross-legged, stunned but conscience.

The ambulance attendant said they'd just been in a motorcycle accident. The more severely injured was in need of immediate hospital attention. "They won't let us pass," the attendant complained. "I'm afraid this man will die."

Another motorist, at the head of the line, had already tried flagging the soldiers ahead, pointing repeatedly to the ambulance.

"Perhaps they will listen to you," he suggested, hopefully.

Aw geez.

I know not to approach a military convoy, especially when it's standing still. I've written stories about innocent civilians killed under these very circumstances.

Soldiers, leery of an environment that can explode violently at any moment, have often fired first and asked questions – if even that – later. And only 24 hours previously, not too distant, in the outskirts of Kabul, a suicide bomber had attacked an American convoy. The troops were unharmed but three civilians had been killed.

So I understand their wariness. But no explanation had been given for why we had all come to a standstill in the middle of nowhere, open desert on both sides of the road, or how long we might be there.

I went back to my car and blasted Eminen on the CD-player. I thought, perhaps stupidly, that would give them a clue that I was, more or less, one of them, not an Afghan to fear.

"You go first,'' the first driver had urged. "I'll walk behind you. We must make them listen."

Then, hands in the air, dangling my media credentials from my fingers, I forced one foot in front of the other. Clearly the troops should be able to see I was Western, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, not hiding a weapon or a suicide vest.

Fifty metres away, the air gunner in the rear vehicle lowered his machine gun at me threateningly.

"Don't shoot!" I croaked. "Just let the ambulance pass!"

The doors opened and two soldiers got out, clearly angry.

"You!" he hollered, pointing at me. "Get back where you were."

Then, stomping up to my Afghan colleague, the senior soldier got right in his face. "We've got a problem here," he spat out. "And you are creating an even bigger problem. Now go back to your car or we will have one REALLY REALLY BIG PROBLEM."

I felt the Afghan's humiliation and saw red.

"Don't you f----g talk to him like that. And don't you f----g talk to me like that. This is his country. Not yours, not mine."

The second soldier, a younger fellow who looked intensely embarrassed, whispered to me: "I'm sorry ma'am. It's just been a long day."

And right there, my own rage melted away. We were just two human beings, in an alien place, trying to communicate, to defuse the situation.

An open-bed truck, part of the convoy and carrying heavy munitions, had snapped its containing straps. Whole containers of munitions had broken open on the highway. That's what they were loading up and trying to secure again, halting the entire convoy.

Somebody could have said so sooner; could at least have come back to explain the situation to the motorists now idling as far back as the eye could see.

"This is why Afghans have come to hate Americans," said my driver, who works as an interpreter for ISAF and is a strong advocate of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan is not our country any more. They are our bosses. They treat us sometimes as if we are trespassing on our own land."

After more heated discussion, the ambulance at least was allowed to pass the convoy, racing off to the nearest hospital.

Back among the Afghans, someone produced a soccer ball. Men and boys played to while away the time. Then, in the distance and moving quickly towards us, we spotted a sand storm, roiling up a sepia miasma as it approached.

Everyone jumped back in their cars but it was suffocating inside. I wrapped a scarf around my face and took shelter beyond the open door.

The storm, with high buffeting winds, moved on as fast as it had come, but I was still left spitting sand out of my teeth and hacking.

Finally, the convoy was moving.

It was only a minor incident, a modest confrontation between Afghan civilians – and me – and weapons-bristling foreign troops.

But I suspect some more enemies were made on this afternoon, adding incrementally to the hostility that is rapidly replacing the warm welcome that most Afghans had originally given their "liberators."

The Americans did not have to be so aggressive. They did not have to treat Afghan men like boys.

No one among this group of drivers and passengers meant them any harm. But maybe some day, one of them might.

You never know when that line between courtesy and dishonour has been crossed.
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Examination at Wagha border: 10 percent of Indian-Afghan cargo to be selected randomly
Business Recorder (Pakistan)
ISLAMABAD (June 06 2008): The government has decided to randomly select 10 percent of the Indian goods/Afghan commercial cargo for physical examination at Wagha border, which would be cleared for transit to Afghanistan under the new rules to be announced in budget (2008-09).

Budget makers told Business Recorder on Thursday that the proposed rules (Afghan commercial cargo from India to Afghanistan through Wagha) has been drafted to regulate the transit procedure for India goods transported through land customs station at Wagha.

In budget 2008-09, a separate procedure would also be notified through Customs Rules on transit trade from Afghanistan to India through Wagha customs station. However, movement of Afghan commercial cargo would take place as per authorised routes from Torkham to Wagha and vice versa.

Following are the proposed authorised routes from Torkham to Wagha and vice versa): Route-I (via GT Road); Torkham, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Wagha. Route-II (via Motorway); Torkham, Peshawar, Behra, Lahore, Wagha. The time period for transportation of goods from Torkham to Wagha.

The procedure has specified that the bonded carrier or transporter shall submit import manifest showing the full description, quantity, name and address of importer and exporter etc on arrival of Afghan transit goods at Wagha customs land station.

The authorised clearing agent shall file the goods declaration electronically declaring the type of Afghan Commercial Cargo as "ACC". The system shall assign an electronically generated machine number to the Goods Declaration (ACC). The clearing agent shall obtain hardcopy of the GD and affix machine number manually on import documents ie commercial invoice and packing list.

The goods declaration (ACC) along with the following documents shall be presented at the Afghan Transit Group including original invoice; original packing list; copy of the carrier receipt; copy of Jawaz Nama (Import permit of Afghan Transit Importer) and eight copies of ATTI (Afghan Transit Trade Invoice).

Under the revised rules, appraising officer and deputy superintendent of Afghan Transit Group at Wagha shall scrutinise the import documents and process the Goods Declaration (ACC). Principal Appraiser/Superintendent shall check, pass and out of charge the GD.

The staff posted in transit group shall feed the particulars in computer system and also enter the particulars of the goods declaration in the relevant register. The Pakistan Revenue Automation Limited (PRAL) staff posted in transit section shall electronically pass out the G.D through online system.

On completion of the process, Pakistani customs would select 10% of the Indian goods in transit to Afghanistan randomly for the purposes of examination. The goods shall he allowed to be moved in sea containers of international specifications only.

The goods will be allowed to he loaded on Pakistani authorised trucks having original registration book of vehicle, original valid driving license and computerised national identity card (CNIC) of the driver and loaded trucks will he sealed by the Pakistan Customs Computerised System (PCCSS) customs staff and shall generate a specific form.

The concerned customs officer shall endorse vehicle number, seal number and name of escorting officer on the Afghan Transit Trade Invoice and enter the particulars in computer system. The trucks shall be dispatched to port of exit through authorised routes as mentioned ie Peshawar (Torkham) under Customs escort for cross border of goods to Afghanistan.

On arrival, the border customs staff shall inspect the vehicle and allow the same to cross the border. The particulars of cross border shall he entered in the computer system. Under a separate procedure on transit trade from Afghanistan to India through Wagha customs station, safe transportation of goods has been ensured.

On arrival at Torkham, the authorised agent shall file the Afghan Transit Trade Invoice in quadruplicate on the prescribed form for Afghan transit goods. Afghan registered vehicles loaded with transit trade cargo destined for India will be inspected and released by Torkham customs officials.

The inspection report by the inspector/examiner shall be recorded on the form. The goods will be reloaded and cross-loaded into Pakistan-registered trucks (only upto ten-wheelers) and will be covered with a tarpaulin and wire seals shall be affixed thereto.

All the conveyances will he escorted by an inspector and two sepoys from Torkham upto Transit Shed at City Railway Station, Peshawar. At the Transit Shed at Peshawar, the goods as well as original, duplicate and triplicate copies of ATTI and Convoy Memo will handed over to the Deputy Superintendent Incharge, who shall invariably record the date amid time of receipt along with names of the escorting stall' in a register maintained for the purpose.

At the Transit Shed the goods will be shifted from Afghan trucks to Pakistan-registered trucks, whereas loading/unloading will be witnessed by customs officials who will also ensure detailed examination of the goods. The examination report shall he recorded on all three copies of ATTI.

The duplicate copy shall be retained for record at City Railway Station Peshawar. The original and triplicate copy of ATTI shall be given to the escort officials to be handed over to the Customs officials at Wagha.

Thereafter, the goods loaded in Pak-Registered trucks will be affixed with proper Custom wire seals on the tarpaulin covering the goods in such a manner that any mishandling/tampering can be detected easily. The goods will then be dispatched through the authorised routes as per time schedule given below under proper Customs escort to Wagha.

The vehicles so dispatched will be allowed stopovers only at the approved places. The escorting officials (2 to 6 sepoys depending on the number of vehicles in a convoy) will be responsible of its safe carriage upto Wagha border.

The officials shall record in a register all details of the journey ie route taken, stopovers for meals/prayers/re-fuelling/checking en route by any law enforcing agency or due to any mechanical breakdown of the vehicle. They will also ensure proper acknowledgement receipt from the Customs officials at Wagha.

The original and triplicate copy of ATTI shall be handed over to the Customs officials at Wagha who shall be responsible for reconciliation regarding confirmation of cross border of transit goods to India and sending back the original ATTI bearing endorsement of cross border directly to the originating border station ie Torkham within a week time. All expenses of customs officials incidental to escorting from Torkham upto Wagha will be borne by the owners of the goods, the proposed rules added.
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Paratroopers launch biggest battle in Afghanistan for two years
Telegraph.co.uk - UK By Thomas Harding in Qarat-e-Hazrat  07/06/2008
In one of the biggest air assaults in their history, troops from the Parachute Regiment have spent the last four days deep in Taliban territory.

Breaking one of the last insurgent strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the "Battle of Qarat-e-Hazrat" in Zabul Province ended in an enemy rout.

The Daily Telegraph's Defence Correspondent Thomas Harding watched as British firepower finally turned the tide in the Taliban's own "back yard".

Witnessing the firefight, he reports on a fight which destroyed the idea of Afghanistan's "mythical warriors".

Paratroopers fought their biggest battle in Afghanistan for two years as the Taliban attempted to push them out of their "backyard".

But the inability of the insurgents to make an impact on the British force during its fourth day deep in enemy territory was demonstrated by a brutal rebuff which resulted in an enemy rout.

As last light crept in, a stream of red tracer bullets lit up the sky, zipping 10ft above heads of those in the mudbrick compound held by A Company, 3rd Bn The Parachute Regiment.

"None of the British will leave that compound alive," local intelligence had reported a day earlier.

In reply to the threat, company commander Major Jamie Loden told a meeting of village elders that the Taliban "fight like women" and if they were men "they would dare to fight us".

Two hours later mortar rounds, heavy machine gun bullets and other weapons rained down on the Paras' positions but by the early hours of the morning the Taliban were a beaten force.

In one of the biggest air assaults in the regiment's history, the Paras have landed by helicopter deep in the heartland of Taliban territory in Zabul province to take on the last insurgent strongholds in southern Afghanistan.

For the last week the Paras have been relentlessly patrolling through pretty villages surrounded by apricot orchards and climbing mountains, redolent of wild rosemary, to provoke the Taliban into a response.
In almost every village the local population still lives in terror of the insurgents denying that the Taliban operated in the area.

With the insurgents murdering people who co-operate with security forces their lies were understandable but became more difficult to sustain after the major gunfight.

Using "dead ground" to get close to observation posts on a hill overlooking the Para's compound, the Taliban opened up from 800 yards with a heavy salvo.

Enemy fire was coming in from all directions at a ferocious rate, said one of the soldiers.

Capt Andy Mallet, Patrols Platoon commander on the hill, said mortars landed 20 yards from his position and tracer rounds "were winging past my eyes".

With the enemy sneaking upon the rear position, the soldiers were taken by surprise and in the desperate opening moments of the firefight they struggled to hold them back.

Cpl "Jack" Russell helped lead the counter-attack by running back to his position to grab a GPMG machine gun as his comrades held off the enemy with small arms fire.

"The enemy rounds were all around us," said Cpl Russell. "They were winning the firefight for a little while as they hit us by surprise. It was pretty hairy, like. When I was running back to my position the guys saw rounds landing by my feet."

With the enemy opening up a second front by firing from an orchard on a flank, the pressure intensified.

But the tide of the "Battle of Qarat-e-Hazrat" was turned as the Paras hit the Taliban with a barrage of 40 rounds from their 81mm mortars. It was followed up by machine gunfire and two £30,000 Javelin anti-tank missiles.

The heavy and accurate fire the broke the Taliban will to fight and they ran.

At first they tried to drag back two badly wounded fighters but then abandoned them and another dead insurgent.

Using thermal imaging equipment the troops spotted three heat sources on the ground.

"We had two heat sources that were seen crawling on the floor and one that was static," said Capt Mallet. "After about 45 minutes all three sources then faded."

French Mirage fighters also circled over the scene but were not used as the Taliban withdrew.

Spent bullet casings and smashed apricot trees littered the battle area as the Paras went on dawn patrol.

Major Loden said the battle showed that "contrary to popular belief this confirms that the Taliban are not mythical warriors".

"This shows they cannot match us force on force. When they try and take us on they always lose. They start it we finish it."

He added: "The ethos of the Parachute Regiment is all about being deep in enemy territory surrounded and destroying them regardless of everything they throw at us. So morale is exceptionally high."

Capt Mallet added: "The blokes reacted exceptionally well – they are soldiers and paratroopers. You don't have to ask them twice to start returning fire. They are massively experienced and that showed last night.

A member of the mortars' platoon said: "The Taliban took us from the rear and we gave them a good spanking,"
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Experts: Lessons of Soviets in Afghanistan Ignored
NPR - World News By Ivan Watson June 6, 2008
More than six years since the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the international community has pledged billions of dollars and sent tens of thousands of NATO-led soldiers to support the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

But some veteran Afghan-watchers worry that the West is repeating some of the mistakes that the Soviet Union made when it sent troops to prop up a communist regime in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

On Dec. 27, 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. That marked the start of a 10-year Soviet occupation and a bloody guerilla war between the Soviets and Western-backed Afghan holy warriors, or mujahedeen. The war ended with the Soviets' humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989.

Zamir Kabulov has had a long time to ponder what went wrong with the Soviet occupation. In the 1980s, he was a young Soviet diplomat based in Kabul.

"We underestimated the allergy of the Afghan nation to foreign invaders because we didn't believe ourselves to be foreign invaders at that time," he says.

Kabulov says the Soviets believed they would modernize and develop Afghanistan, much as they had the Soviet Central Asian republics earlier in the 20th century.

"We tried to bring forcefully, artificially, social justice to the country," Kabulov remembers. In doing so, he says, the Soviets neglected Afghan traditions, culture and religion.

Today, Kabulov is back in Kabul — as Russia's ambassador to Afghanistan.

Moscow's Man in Kabul
Nearly 20 years after the last Soviet tank left Afghanistan, the veteran diplomat says he thinks Western governments are ignoring the lessons of the failed Soviet occupation.

"I feel that in the overall position and perception of the international community and its approach to Afghanistan, there is some sort of sense of superiority," Kabulov says. "They believe Afghans are inferior, and they cannot be trusted to rule their own country the way they wish."

Kabulov speaks as he gives a tour of the newly refurbished Russian Embassy in Kabul, which was rebuilt out of the ruins of the sprawling, 37-acre compound that once housed the Soviet Embassy.

The diplomat says Russia would never contribute troops to the 50,000-strong NATO-led coalition currently deployed in Afghanistan because the current NATO approach is a "failed strategy."

"You can double and triple the number of your contingent and still you will lose this war," Kabulov says. "It is not a matter of numbers. It is a matter of the quality of the Afghan National Army and Police."

NATO commanders say training the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police is a top priority. But they have also almost doubled NATO troop numbers from 30,000 to more then 50,000 since 2006.

British journalist Peter Jouvenal, who spent much of the 1980s reporting on the Afghan mujahedeen, believes the Western alliance is on the wrong track in Afghanistan.

"I think they're making all the mistakes the Soviets made," says Jouvenal. "The Soviet Union followed this military approach to Afghanistan, which failed. It took them eight years to realize that."

"That's what's sad about the international community," he says. "They came in on the promise and talk about reconstruction. And now they seem to spend more money on the military, increase of military troops and, consequently, more military operations."

Bagram Air Base, Then and Now
An ear-splitting roar interrupts a recent afternoon on the Shomali plain north of Kabul. A U.S. fighter plane takes off from Bagram Air Base, flying low, thunderous circles over the countryside.

Many of NATO's soldiers in Afghanistan operate out of former Soviet military installations like Bagram. During a recent visit to the air base, U.S. Army officers explain that Bagram is currently in a phase of expansion.

Afghan villagers living next to Bagram remember the days when the Soviets ran the air base.

"They would fill trucks with food and firewood and distribute it to us," says Mir Ahmadi, a 37-year-old farmer. He adds, "If these [American] guys see us starving, they just hang another stone around our necks so that we starve faster."

But some residents of the nearby village of Saida Khan say they are still grateful for the role the Americans played in ending the Taliban's bloody rule of Shomali.

"The Americans come visit us and have tea with us," one village elder says. "The Russians never dared stay here for more than 15 minutes any longer and the mujahedeen would start attacking them."

NATO: Liberators or Unwelcome Foreigners?

"I saw it with my own eyes, the welcome that Afghans gave to foreign forces," recalls Francesc Vendrell, the European Union's top envoy to Afghanistan. He was a United Nations diplomat stationed in the region when the Taliban was overthrown in 2001.

"We were seen as liberators. But that was 6 1/2 years ago and they expected us to be gone by now," he says.

Today's NATO force is far smaller than the 150,000 Soviet soldiers who once occupied Afghanistan. Still, NATO commanders are constantly urging members of the alliance to send more men to help battle a fierce Taliban insurgency that has spread across eastern and southern Afghanistan.

Sayed Muhammed Gulubzoi served as the interior minister in the Soviet-backed Afghan government from 1979 to 1988. He says today's guerilla conflict reminds him of the past.

"In those days, the provincial capitals were in the hands of the government, while the mujahedeen controlled the villages," Gulubzoi says. "We see the same thing happening with the Taliban and the government today."

Gulubzoi, who is now a member of the Afghan parliament, says he doesn't dare visit half of the districts in his native province of Khost, in eastern Afghanistan, because they are controlled by insurgents.

NATO commanders say one of their most daunting challenges is the resentment many Afghans feel toward President Karzai, whose government is widely seen as corrupt and inefficient.

Gen. John Craddock, the NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, says there are three groups of people in Afghanistan today: a pro-government minority, an anti-government minority and an undecided majority.

"Our challenge is to move the undecided into a pro-government position," Craddock says in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Belgium.

John Dixon, the acting director of the American Institute of Afghanistan Studies in Kabul, notes that like the communist leaders of the 1980s, the present government of Karzai is "not popular at all."

Cold Warriors Reflect on History Haunting the Present
During the 1980s, Dixon was a diplomat stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar, the Pakistani border city that served as a sanctuary for the Afghan mujahedeen.

He says the Taliban insurgents are using Pakistan's lawless frontier areas as a staging point for conducting attacks against NATO and the Afghan government, much like the American-backed mujahedeen once did.

Dixon says he feels betrayed by the Taliban. "Sometimes I get irrationally angry at the Taliban, because many of them were in the resistance and they should have been more appreciative of what we did to help them regain their country," he says.

Russia's man in Kabul, Kabulov, says the West is paying the price for the role it played in undermining the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan during the Cold War.

"Dozens of countries participated clandestinely or openly in supporting the mujahedeen with arms and ammunition," Kabulov says. "Now, many of the people who are fighting against your forces today are the same guys or the children of the same guys."
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Pak govt to release 64 Taliban militants
The Asian Age - International By Our Pakistan Correspondent June 6, 2008
Islamabad - The Pakistan government has agreed to release 64 militants loyal to Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, popularly referred to as Mulla Radio, as part of a peace deal with the local Taliban.

The North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) government has agreed to free detained Taliban militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah in three phases, with at least 64 militants to be released in the first phase, a government official said.

The new deal is the follow-up of an accord struck between the Swat Taliban and the government last month.

In the 15-point deal reached last month, the militants agreed to halt suicide attacks and bombing on security forces and government installations. In exchange, the government promised the release of local Taliban militants arrested during military operations and imposition of Nizam-e-Adl.

(justice system) in Malkand division.

Pakistani troops also agreed to withdraw from the restive South Waziristan areas when local Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud will free captured Army and paramilitary personnel.

***
Security measures forum for Oz cabbies
Melbourne, June 6: In the wake of recent unprovoked attacks on Indian taxi drivers that sparked strong protests by the community, the South Australia government has decided to set up a forum to address their security concerns.

The decision came after representatives of the 1000-strong Indian cabbies, met the Indian consul general in Sydney Sujan Chinoy and South Australian multicultural and ethnic affairs chairman Hieu Van Le in Adelaide, demanding better security for the community. It was decided that a regular driver safety issues forum for people of all backgrounds would be set up to raise safety issues and negotiate improvements. The Forum will have its first meeting by June 12, Mr Le said. The Indian drivers’ representatives also agreed to a framework for future discussions and negotiations, through the driver safety issues forum. Meanwhile, authorities also undertook to provide all cabbies with information about how to lodge a complaint. —PTI
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