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June 8, 2008 

First lady in Afghanistan to highlight progress
By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Sun Jun 8, 8:08 AM ET
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan - First lady Laura Bush, on a mission to highlight signs of rebirth in war-weary Afghanistan, ventured outside of Kabul on Sunday to an area that symbolizes both the destruction of war and Afghanistan's attempt at rebirth.

Laura Bush: U.S. to offer $40 mln for education in Afghanistan
KABUL, June 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. first lady Laura Bush announced here Sunday the United States would provide 40 million U.S. dollars to the field of education in Afghanistan.

BBC reporter among 16 dead in Afghanistan
June 8, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - An Afghan reporter for the BBC was found dead in southern Afghanistan on Sunday as authorities reported that 15 other people were killed in a wave of unrest linked to a Taliban-led insurgency.

Afghan census postponed for two years - U.N.
June 8, 2008
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's first population census, due to start this month, has been postponed for two years due to worries about confusion with voter registration and poor security, the United Nations said on Sunday.

Bush's former Iraq ambassador to seek Afghan presidency
With Hamid Karzai seen as ineffective, many people are looking to someone with serious influence in Washington
The Independent (UK) By Kim Sengupta in Kabul Sunday, 8 June 2008
In his time, he has been President George Bush's point man in Baghdad, Kabul and the UN, as well as a lobbyist for both the Taliban and international oil companies. Now Zalmay Khalilzad is preparing to run for the presidency of his native Afghanistan.

The Homegrown Young Radicals Of Next-Gen Jihad
Washington Post, United States By Marc Sageman Sunday, June 8, 2008
We are fighting the wrong foe. Over the past six years, the nature of the international Islamist terrorist threat to the West has changed dramatically, but Western governments are still fighting the last war -- set up to fight an old al-Qaeda that is

Soldiers in Helmand unearth British rifles lost in 1880 massacre
Weapons taken after a Victorian defeat in Afghanistan have been recovered – and repatriated as antiques
The Independent (UK) By Keith Howitt Sunday, 8 June 2008
British soldiers serving in Afghanistan have recovered weapons looted from the bodies of their Victorian forebears.

Pakistan, Afghanistan to adopt joint boarder security mechanism
ISLAMABAD, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan and Afghanistan Sunday agreed on a joint boarder control mechanism and regular exchange of information, Pakistani Interior Secretary Rahman Malik said.

Afghanistan to clear landmines from TAPI pipeline route
Islamabad, June 8 (PTI) 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. The Afghan government had assured all

Afghan Heroin Suspect Was U.S. Asset, He Says
The New York Times - World By ALAN FEUER June 8, 2008
In August 2004, in a hotel room overlooking the Persian Gulf, an Afghan mujahedeen commander met with two Americans to talk about the Taliban, the heroin trade and the possibility of helping the United States by revealing what he knew

A Million Bullets: The Real Story of the British Army in Afghanistan
The Times  By James Fergusson Sunday June 8, 2008
The Sunday Times review by Christina Lamb Afghanistan was supposed to be the good war. Unlike Iraq, foreign troops had gone in under a United Nations mandate and the majority of people had welcomed them as harbingers of peace after

Pakistan seeks to allay Afghan peace fears
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008
Foreign Minister promises to keep 'terrorists' from peace-talks
PAKISTAN has assured Afghanistan that its peace-talks with Taliban rebels will not bump up the number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan.

Poland repeats HIA war crimes jibe
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008
Foreign minister sticks to his guns despite Hekmatyar's Polish troop threat
POLAND’S foreign minister has reiterated calls for ex-Jihadi leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to be tried as a war criminal despite warnings that Hekmatyar's fighters will step up attacks on Polish troops for the comments.

Herat closes road to preserve history
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008
City inches one step closer to world heritage status with road closure
THE ROAD passing through one of Herat’s most iconic historical monuments has finally been blocked off in an attempt to prevent the destruction of the ancient site.

Militants set fire to girls' school with petrol
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008
Teachers and students told their lives will be in danger if school re-opens
UNKNOWN militants have burned down part of a girls’ school in Baghlan and threatened further attacks if the school re-opens.

When Afghan tempers explode
It was just a traffic jam – but in Afghanistan, that can mean the difference between life and death
The Toronto Star - Canada Rosie DiManno Columnist Jun 07, 2008
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.

Police burn 18 tonnes of drugs in four months
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008
Helmand governor says he will continue fight to rid province of drugs
COUNTER-NARCOTICS police have destroyed about 18 tonnes of narcotics in Helmand over the past four months, officials have said.

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First lady in Afghanistan to highlight progress
By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Sun Jun 8, 8:08 AM ET
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan - First lady Laura Bush, on a mission to highlight signs of rebirth in war-weary Afghanistan, ventured outside of Kabul on Sunday to an area that symbolizes both the destruction of war and Afghanistan's attempt at rebirth.

Mrs. Bush, on her third unannounced visit to the country, flew into the Afghan capital then immediately boarded a helicopter for a 50-minute flight to Bamiyan Province, the farthest she has traveled from Kabul.

Her chopper touched down in a dusty field at a provincial reconstruction team compound operated by New Zealand. From there she could see the empty niches in a cliffside where two giant Buddha statues once stood.

They were carved into the sandstone cliffs more than 2,000 years ago, but were demolished by the Taliban, which considered them idolatrous and anti-Muslim, in March 2001. Destruction of the historical and cultural treasures prompted an outcry from the international community.

The first lady's visit comes ahead of a donors conference in Paris, where the U.S. hopes billions of dollars in international aid will be pledged to help the embattled nation. Afghanistan was ruled by the repressive Taliban until U.S. forces invaded following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"The people of Afghanistan don't want to go back and live like that," Mrs. Bush told reporters on her plane as it made the nearly 14-hour flight to the Afghan capital. "They know what it was like. The international community can't drop Afghanistan now, at this very crucial time."

President Bush, in an interview in Washington on Friday with RAI TV of Italy, said bluntly, "Afghanistan is broke."

Afghanistan is seeing a resurgence of violence and a spiraling heroin trade. Last year, more than 8,000 people were killed in insurgency-related attacks — the most since the 2001 invasion — and violence has claimed more than 1,500 lives this year.

Mrs. Bush is spending several hours on the ground to meet with President Hamid Karzai, visit U.S. troops and see a police training academy that is training female recruits.

President Bush has defended Karzai against critics who say his government is weak and isn't doing enough to battle corruption and drug trafficking. Mrs. Bush said the U.S. and other nations should not blame Karzai unless they are going to give him credit for all the progress that's being made.

"It's really not that fair," she said. "I think it's undermining, frankly, to blame him for a lot of the things that may or may not be his fault. He inherited — just by becoming president — a country that's been totally devastated. It is very, very difficult when you have al-Qaida and Taliban all over the borders and making incursions into Afghanistan, and it's intimidating for everyone."

The first lady's trip is more sharply focused on hopeful signs of progress.

She met with female trainees at Afghanistan's National Police Bamiyan Regional Training Center. She celebrated the construction of a paved road that is linking up the Bamiyan airport with its bazaar and town center and went to a learning center under construction that will double as an orphanage.

Several dozen future students, all school-age children in traditional white scarfs, sang to the first lady at the center, a project of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council. The council was set up to help women gain the skills and education deprived them under years of the Taliban.

"Of course we want more girls in school and I think that's really key to the success of Afghanistan," Mrs. Bush said. "There's a huge increase in the number of kids in school. There are almost 6 million kids in school now compared to 2001 when there were maybe a million, but no girls."

Mrs. Bush is addressing the donors conference Thursday in Paris. France, the host of the gathering, has set a goal of raising $12 billion to $15 billion to fund Afghan reconstruction projects through 2014. The United States is looking to contribute about a quarter of that.

International donors have pledged about $32.7 billion in reconstruction funds for Afghanistan since 2001, of which $21 billion has come from the United States.

"A group of Afghan women who visited me most recently at the White House said: 'You know, we're really afraid. We think it is our chance right now, and if we don't get this chance — if Afghanistan backslides back into the Taliban — then we'll never get it,'" Mrs. Bush said.

"It's more important than ever for the international community to continue to support Afghanistan — certainly for the U.S. to continue to support Afghanistan — because we don't want it to be the way it was when the Buddhas were destroyed."

Mrs. Bush is spending about nine hours in Afghanistan before flying to Slovenia, where she'll meet up with President Bush on Monday for his final U.S.-European Union summit. Her stop-off in Afghanistan goes along with the president's effort to convince European leaders that they have a keen interest in the future of Afghanistan.

The administration worries that Europe may not comprehend the magnitude of the threat that radical elements in Afghanistan pose to European security. The U.S. wants European nations to not only supply additional military assistance to Afghanistan, but also pledge more money to build up the country wrecked by years of war.

"It's very important for the international community to redouble their efforts so that the word gets out to the people of Afghanistan that the rest of the world is with you and that we're not going to leave you right now while the Taliban and al-Qaida are trying to intimidate you," Mrs. Bush said.
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Laura Bush: U.S. to offer $40 mln for education in Afghanistan 
KABUL, June 8 (Xinhua) -- U.S. first lady Laura Bush announced here Sunday the United States would provide 40 million U.S. dollars to the field of education in Afghanistan.

Mrs. Bush, who made a surprise visit to the war-torn country on Sunday, said at a news briefing here that this sum of money would be provided over the next five years, adding the contribution would further enable Afghans to go to school and learn skills.

A portion of the amount would go to the Kabul-based American University of Afghanistan where 300 students are currently studying in the fields of business, information technology and computer science, the U.S. first lady said.

"The United States is proud to support 16 universities in Afghanistan including the American University of Afghanistan," she said.

Laura Bush, who earlier Sunday visited Afghanistan's central province of Bamyan, also called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and exchanged views on matters pertaining mutual interests including the coming donors' conference in Paris.

Both Karzai and Mrs. Bush would be attending the conference, which will open on June 12 and where Afghanistan's achievement over the past six years and the Afghan government's national strategy for development would be discussed and evaluated.
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BBC reporter among 16 dead in Afghanistan
June 8, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - An Afghan reporter for the BBC was found dead in southern Afghanistan on Sunday as authorities reported that 15 other people were killed in a wave of unrest linked to a Taliban-led insurgency.

The reporter, working in the volatile southern province of Helmand, was kidnapped on Saturday and his body was found near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, the Afghan Independent Journalists Association said.

An employee with the BBC in Kabul confirmed on condition of anonymity the death of the reporter for its Dari and Pashtu services.

Afghanistan's ministry of information said in a statement it "strongly condemns the brutal killing".

The reporter had been taken from his home and murdered "for being a journalist," it said.

"In Afghanistan terrorists, smugglers and the enemies of law are a big threat to journalists," it said.

Helmand sees some of the worst violence in an insurgency by the extremist Taliban, who were in government between 1996 and 2001.

Several journalists have been attacked in Afghanistan this year, but the killing of the BBC reporter appeared to be the first in 2008.

Five Afghan journalists were slain in Afghanistan in 2007, according to the Kabul-based South Asia Media Commission.

Among those killed was reporter Ajmal Naqshbandi, who was beheaded by Taliban insurgents in Helmand in April after they captured him with Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo.

Mastrogiacomo was freed after President Hamid Karzai's government released five jailed Taliban members in a deal that was criticised by the United States and others.

In other violence on Sunday, Taliban rebels ambushed a police convoy on a main road in the central province of Ghazni and killed six policemen, the interior ministry said. Two civilians died in the crossfire.

"The enemy ambushed today one of our police convoys. As a result, six police and two civilians were killed," ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.

In another attack blamed on the Taliban, a district deputy governor and three of his bodyguards were killed in an ambush in the eastern province of Khost, provincial governor Arsala Jamal told AFP.

One man was wounded in Khost's provincial capital when a bomb exploded under a bridge about 50 metres (yards) from a regional UN office, provincial spokesman Khaibar Pashtun said.

Elsewhere, Taliban fighters ambushed a police patrol in the southern province of Uruzgan in the early morning hours, killing one policeman and wounding two others, provincial police chief Juma Gul Hemat said.

Police later arrested five Taliban gunmen and 13 suspected militants, he added.

Meanwhile, two Taliban were killed in Helmand when a mine they were planting in a road exploded prematurely, said provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal.

The Taliban were toppled from government in a US-led invasion for harbouring the Al-Qaeda network involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Insurgent violence was its deadliest last year, with 8,000 conflict-related fatalities. Most of the dead were Taliban fighters though about 1,500 civilians lost their lives.

The latest violence came as US First Lady Laura Bush made a short trip to Afghanistan to meet Karzai and reaffirm Washington's support for the troubled country.
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Afghan census postponed for two years - U.N.
June 8, 2008
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's first population census, due to start this month, has been postponed for two years due to worries about confusion with voter registration and poor security, the United Nations said on Sunday.

The last attempt at a census in 1979 was never completed due to the outbreak of conflict which has ravaged the country almost continually ever since and made millions flee to neighbouring countries or other parts of Afghanistan.

Without a proper census, policy makers have to rely on less scientific methods of determining the location and composition of the population and how to allocate much needed government funds and international aid.

The census is also central to a $50-billion five-year development strategy Afghanistan is due to present to international donors at a conference in Paris this week.

The cabinet postponed the census on the recommendation of the National Census Committee based on reports by international agencies, the U.N. population agency (UNFPA) said.

Carrying out voter registration for 2009 presidential elections and a population census in the same year risked politicising the census and would jeopardise statistical integrity, UNFPA said.

Poor security in many parts of the country where Taliban insurgents are engaged in daily battles with Afghan and foreign forces was also a "major challenge", the UNFPA said.

U.S.-led forces overthrew the fundamentalist Taliban government more than six years ago.

A district census official was killed in the eastern province of Paktia in April this year. Some 12,000 people have been killed since the Taliban relaunched their insurgency to overthrow the Afghan government and drive out foreign troops in early 2006.

Unfamiliarity with the concept of a population census in Afghan society, the need for more public outreach as well as a lack of data collectors were also reasons for delaying the census, the agency said.

The UNFPA carried out a nationwide household listing exercise which provided population estimates used in planning the parliamentary elections of 2005. The U.N. estimates Afghanistan's population at more than 31 million.
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Bush's former Iraq ambassador to seek Afghan presidency
With Hamid Karzai seen as ineffective, many people are looking to someone with serious influence in Washington
The Independent (UK) By Kim Sengupta in Kabul Sunday, 8 June 2008
In his time, he has been President George Bush's point man in Baghdad, Kabul and the UN, as well as a lobbyist for both the Taliban and international oil companies. Now Zalmay Khalilzad is preparing to run for the presidency of his native Afghanistan.

Representatives of Mr Khalilzad, currently US ambassador to the UN, have discreetly sounded out various factions to ascertain his chances in the election scheduled for 2009. Although the incumbent, Hamid Karzai, is expected to run again, he is increasingly unpopular at home while his Western backers see him as ineffectual against the Taliban.

Three meetings have been held with opposition groups in recent months to promote Mr Khalilzad, pictured, as a "unifying" candidate in a country where deep divisions have begun to emerge between the Pashtun communities of the south and the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras of the north.

Mr Khalilzad, a Pashtun, was born in Laghman province in the south-east of the country, but raised in Mazar-i-Sharif in the north. He is on good terms with some former leaders of the Northern Alliance who have split from the Karzai government.

Speculation about the 56-year-old Mr Khalilzad's political ambitions sparked into life when he gave a TV interview, saying he was placing himself "at the service of the Afghan people". He was also said to be considering resigning from his post at the UN. The highest-ranking Muslim in the US administration, he was made the effective viceroy of Afghanistan after the 2001 invasion by President Bush before being moved on to Iraq to sort out the mess left by Paul Bremer.

The candidacy of Mr Khalilzad, a Rhodes scholar who has spent most of his adult life in the US and has an American wife, may come as a surprise, but many Afghan commentators say he would enjoy a high degree of support.

"A lot of people in this country feel that things were getting done while he was in charge and have deteriorated since he left," said Waheed Muzhda, a leading political analyst. "He kept the warlords much more in check, the Taliban had not come back and corruption was nothing like as bad as it is now. His close connection with the US government is actually in his favour. Many see Karzai as a US puppet anyway, so the feeling is, why not have someone who has got some actual influence in Washington, and can do some good for Afghanistan?"

Diplomatic sources agree that Mr Khalilzad seems to be using his UN post to pave the way for a run at the Afghan presidency. He was accused of undermining the prospect of Paddy Ashdown becoming the UN representative in Afghanistan because he didn't want a heavyweight international figure, controlling a huge budget, as a potential rival.
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The Homegrown Young Radicals Of Next-Gen Jihad
Washington Post, United States By Marc Sageman Sunday, June 8, 2008
We are fighting the wrong foe. Over the past six years, the nature of the international Islamist terrorist threat to the West has changed dramatically, but Western governments are still fighting the last war -- set up to fight an old al-Qaeda that is now largely contained. Unless we understand this sea change, we will not be able to ward off the new menace.

The version of al-Qaeda that Osama bin Laden founded is a fading force. After a week in which five detainees who allegedly planned the Sept. 11, 2001, atrocities were arraigned before a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it's worth remembering that the terrorists behind 9/11 were mostly young, well-educated middle-class expatriates from Muslim countries who had become radicalized abroad, especially in the West. Such key 9/11 plotters as Mohamed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ziad Jarrah and Marwan al-Shehhi met and became radicalized as students in Hamburg, then went to Afghanistan looking for al-Qaeda. But over the past six years, most of the professional terrorists who fit this profile have been eliminated during the U.S.-led manhunt for "high-value targets." The few that remain are huddled in the Afghan-Pakistani border area, struggling to extend their reach beyond Pakistan.

That old guard is still dangerous and still plotting spectacular attacks. But it is the new wave that more urgently requires our attention. This cohort is composed of homegrown young wannabes who dream of glory and adventure, who yearn to belong to a heroic vanguard and to root their lives in a greater sense of meaning. Inspired by tales of past heroism, they hope to emulate their predecessors, even though, for the most part, they can no longer link up with al-Qaeda Central in the Pakistani badlands. Their potential numbers are so great that they must now be seen as the main terrorist threat to the West.

This threat is not well understood by U.S. policymakers. After 9/11, I realized that spectacular instances of collective violence such as terrorism and the Holocaust tend to be the product of small-group dynamics, not individual action. (As a former CIA case officer who ran programs in Afghanistan in the 1980s, I learned how hard it was to motivate groups to perform field operations.) I began putting together graphs and charts to see how friendships and kinship groups had shaped al-Qaeda's networks. I was able to recognize these concepts precisely because of my isolation from the U.S. government, which was focusing on old, top-down, command-and-control theories. And I worry again today that those charged with protecting us are not being imaginative or rigorous enough to understand the next generation of jihadists.

Unlike their pre-9/11 predecessors, today's would-be terrorists are usually the poorly educated teenage children of unskilled and secular Muslim immigrants. They have been born, raised and radicalized in their host countries (unlike, say, Atta, an Egyptian who recoiled at modern Germany). This new generation's youth culture celebrates a sort of "jihadist cool."

Consider the "Hofstad Netwerk" in the Netherlands, which I believe is typical of this new wave. It consists mostly of young people who were born in Holland or immigrated to that country very early in life. They met around their neighborhoods, in Internet cafes or in online chat rooms, then self-radicalized through their admiration for the supposed Islamist heroes fighting the West. One man linked to this cohort, Mohammed Bouyeri, repeatedly shot the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004 on an Amsterdam street. Other members of this informal network reportedly planned to murder prominent Dutch politicians and bomb the Dutch parliament, a nuclear power plant and Amsterdam's international airport.

Or consider another network that sprang up in placid surroundings: the group of second-generation immigrant men and youths in the Toronto suburbs who Canadian authorities allege plotted to set off truck bombs in Toronto, bomb the Canadian Parliament and kill Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They reportedly spent time praising their terrorist heroes on the Internet and living out mujaheddin fantasies by playing paintball games in rural Ontario.

What makes next-gen terrorists tick? How did these ordinary kids come to be so attracted to political violence? The process of radicalization consists of four prongs, which need not occur in sequence. Here's the recipe: having a sense of moral outrage; seeing this anger as part of a "war on Islam"; believing that this view is consistent with one's everyday grievances; and mobilizing through networks.
Many Muslims feel a powerful sense of moral outrage at the treatment of their coreligionists, be it the sight of U.S. troops killing Muslims in Iraq or the aftermath of police harassment of local mosques. To lead to political violence, a next-generation jihadist must come to believe one simple sound bite: that there is a "war against Islam."

Unlike their fanatical predecessors in the old al-Qaeda, the new terrorists are not particularly religious. The defendants in the Hofstad trials, the March 2004 Madrid bombing trial, the Toronto case and the many trials in Britain are not intellectuals, let alone Islamic scholars. Many became religious only a few months before their arrests, and some are not religious at all. The new generation is not likely to be swayed by abstract arguments. Young jihadist wannabes do not go to Iraq to have theological debates; they go there to blow themselves up.

The problem has been worse in Europe than in the United States. In the land of the American dream and the melting pot, a broader, more inclusive view of American-ness undermines the jihadist insistence that the U.S. government is at war with its Muslim citizens. Notwithstanding some ugly jeering by nativist bigots and some clumsy profiling by law enforcement, ordinary Muslim Americans simply do not feel some "war on Islam" in their daily experiences.

But things are far less cheerful in Europe. The children of unskilled Muslim immigrants there face discrimination across the continent, resulting in striking unemployment rates. Many non-Muslim Europeans resent having to compete with Muslim immigrants for low-level jobs and worry that poor immigrant suburbs mean higher crime rates. Anti-immigrant sentiment, which propelled far-right parties to win around 20 percent of the vote in contests in France, Austria and Switzerland in recent years, only reinforces the message of rejection -- and produces grist for the terrorists' mill.

There are many angry young Muslims in the world, of course. What transforms a tiny number of them into terrorists is mobilization by networks. Until a few years ago, these networks were made up of face-to-face groups: local gangs of young immigrants such as the Hofstad group or expatriate students such as the Hamburg cell that planned 9/11. These cliques of friends became radicalized together. The group acted as an echo chamber -- amplifying grievances, intensifying members' bonds to one another, deepening their rejection of the values of the host society and making it easier to gradually separate themselves from it.

Over the past two or three years, face-to-face radicalization has started to be replaced by online radicalization. People's beliefs used to be changed in small cliques; now they are being altered in jihadist Internet forums. These forums have become virtual marketplaces for extremist ideas -- the "invisible hand" organizing terrorist activities worldwide. They are transforming the terrorist movement, attracting ever younger members and women, who can now join in the discussions.

The West has successfully contained the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11. But al-Qaeda has adapted from the bottom up, producing a network that's scattered, disconnected and decentralized. The new jihadist movement doesn't have an operational leader, but it is every bit as dangerous as the old one.

marcsageman@gmail.com 
Marc Sageman is a sociologist, forensic psychiatrist and scholar in residence at the New York Police Department. He is the author of "Understanding Terror Networks" and "Leaderless Jihad."
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Soldiers in Helmand unearth British rifles lost in 1880 massacre
Weapons taken after a Victorian defeat in Afghanistan have been recovered – and repatriated as antiques
The Independent (UK) By Keith Howitt Sunday, 8 June 2008
British soldiers serving in Afghanistan have recovered weapons looted from the bodies of their Victorian forebears.

Rare Martini-Henry rifles lost in the bloody defeat at Maiwand in July 1880 have been retrieved 128 years later by troops fighting the Taliban and al-Qa'ida in Helmand province.

Two of the rifles, dated 1874 and 1878, are currently on sale in a Sussex antique shop for £1,100 apiece.

Mark Hawkins, co-owner of The Lanes Armoury, Brighton, said: "When we first fought the Afghans, we kept sending out armies who lost. The Afghans killed our chaps and took their weapons.

"Now British officers are finding these guns, recognise them for what they are, and are getting permission to bring them back. We've had a few through. I think a soldier might pick up a couple, keep one as a souvenir of his time in Afghanistan, and bring the other to us."

Peter Smithurst, senior curator of historic firearms at the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds, said: "The Martini-Henry was the first purpose-made breech-loading rifle introduced into British service. It is an iconic rifle."

The Martini is particularly popular with collectors, he said, because of both its place in the development of firearms technology and for the role it played in the famous battles of Britain's colonial campaigns.

Mr Smithurst said Afghanistan was increasingly a source of antique firearms. "I have been getting quite a few email inquiries from British servicemen and the American forces as well."

Mr Hawkins said: "The Martini-Henry is a very, very collectable gun – almost entirely down to Michael Caine and the film Zulu. Everyone who has seen that film has seen the Martini-Henry and knows it is the rifle used by the British in that era."

Unlike the successful defence of Rorke's Drift in 1879, as featured in Zulu, the battle of Maiwand a year later was one of the worst British defeats of Queen Victoria's 63-year reign. A 2,500-strong Anglo/Indian force was routed by an Afghan army of about 12,000 men.

Among the 1,000 British and Indian dead were 286 men of the Martini-armed 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, who made a last stand in a walled garden in the village of Khig. When only two officers and nine men of the 66th remained alive, they charged the hordes of tribesmen surrounding them.

An Afghan witness described the end: "These men charged from the shelter of a garden and died with their faces to the enemy. So fierce was their charge, and so brave their actions, no Afghan dared approach to cut them down. Standing in the open, back to back, firing steadily, every shot counting, surrounded by thousands, these British soldiers died. It was not until the last man was shot down that the Afghans dared to advance. The behaviour of those last 11 was the wonder of all who saw it."

The weapons they wielded so gallantly could finally be returning home.
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Pakistan, Afghanistan to adopt joint boarder security mechanism
ISLAMABAD, June 8 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan and Afghanistan Sunday agreed on a joint boarder control mechanism and regular exchange of information, Pakistani Interior Secretary Rahman Malik said.

Malik, advisor to the Pakistani prime minister on interior affairs, discussed border security with the Afghan authorities in a brief visit to Kabul.

The visit was unscheduled and was kept secret from the media.

Malik paid the Kabul visit two days after Foreign Minister ShahMehmood Qureshi visited Kabul on his first visit to Afghanistan.

Malik told reporters that the Pakistani additional secretary and Afghanistan's deputy minister would regularly exchange information on daily basis.

"I have told the Afghan officials that they will have to take measures for security in the pattern of Pakistanis' measures to ensure peace with joint efforts," he said.

He said that he had told the Afghan government that the Pakistani government had not signed any deal with Taliban and that it was not holding talks with terrorists.

"We are only talking to the tribal elders who have a role to play for peace," Malik said.

"The government will not hold dialogue with law breakers but will talk to the peace-loving people," the advisor said.

The Afghan government has expressed concern at the Pakistani government's talks with the militants, saying that it would increase attacks in Afghanistan.
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Afghanistan to clear landmines from TAPI pipeline route
Islamabad, June 8 (PTI) 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. The Afghan government had assured all stakeholders that the process to rid the route of landmines is already underway and will soon be completed. The Afghan government has also stressed that the route should be freed of the influence of the Taliban, said sources in Pakistan's petroleum ministry.

The pipeline's route, as defined by an international consultant, will pass through the five Afghan provinces of Herat, Farah, Nimroz, Helmand and Kandhar before reaching Pakistan, the sources told the Daily Times newspaper.

The Afghan government has said it has set up 300 industrial units near the route of the gas pipeline and will set up another 1,000 industrial units after clearing landmines, the sources said.

Turkmenistan is expected to present an audit of its gas reserves to all stakeholders within the next month. It claims it has adequate gas reserves to supply 80 billion cubic metres (BCM) of gas per year through the pipeline.

The Turkmenistan government has informed all stakeholders that they would be provided with at least 30 BCM a year for the lifetime of the project.

The gas pricing formula for the TAPI pipeline may follow the formula adopted for the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline, which has been linked to the price of Japan Crude Cocktail.

The sources said talks on TAPI had slowed down due to a hike in oil prices in the international market. They said the stakeholders are currently observing the global market to gauge the link between oil and gas price hikes.
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Afghan Heroin Suspect Was U.S. Asset, He Says
The New York Times - World By ALAN FEUER June 8, 2008
In August 2004, in a hotel room overlooking the Persian Gulf, an Afghan mujahedeen commander met with two Americans to talk about the Taliban, the heroin trade and the possibility of helping the United States by revealing what he knew about the complex political situation back home.

The commander’s name was Haji Bashir Noorzai. The Americans he spoke with in the bustling desert emirate of Dubai were federal contract agents who, court papers say, told him they were on a special project to track the “financial support” of terrorist organizations in Afghanistan.

After discussions spanning three days, the agents told Mr. Noorzai they wanted him to come to the United States to continue discussions, and promised that he would not be arrested. He might have had a reason to believe them: his lawyer says he had worked with the United States before, helping combat the Taliban.

What happened next was either a betrayal or an act of covert justice, depending on who is asked. When Mr. Noorzai arrived in the United States in mid-2005, he was picked up at the airport and whisked off to an Embassy Suites hotel where two weeks later, after much questioning, he was arrested, accused of shipping heroin to New York.

This week, after three years in jail, Mr. Noorzai, 45, will finally have a chance to answer that charge at a federal drug trial in New York. The trial, scheduled to open Wednesday, is likely to be part Steve Coll, part Robert Stone: as much a spy tale as a dissection of United States policy, which some say favored befriending suspected drug smugglers, at least temporarily, if they could help in the fight against terrorism.
Mr. Noorzai has pleaded not guilty to charges that he smuggled heroin into New York and denies any involvement in drug trafficking. His lawyers are expected to argue that he was duped at his meetings in Dubai in 2004. The government contends not only that he dealt drugs — he was once described as the Asian counterpart to Pablo Escobar, the Colombian cocaine king — but that the agents who offered him free passage were not allowed to do so.

Before his arrest in April 2005, Mr. Noorzai was a wealthy leader of the so-called Noorzai tribe, a transnational clan with a million members in southern Afghanistan and the Baluchistan Province of Pakistan. He spent his time mainly in Quetta, Pakistan, with three wives and 13 children, but maintained other homes in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates.

In 1982, court papers say, he led a thousand-strong army in the Afghan war against the Soviets and, eight years later, according to his lawyer, agreed to track down missing Stinger missiles provided to the Afghan resistance by the C.I.A. In 1996, the government says, Mr. Noorzai disarmed his forces and threw his support behind the Taliban, which had just stormed into Kabul.

His lawyer, Ivan Fisher, has argued that Mr. Noorzai’s cooperation with the United States was frequent and extensive, especially after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and a later detention by American forces in Afghanistan. Mr. Fisher says Mr. Noorzai was freed after he agreed to work for the United States.

Mr. Fisher says Mr. Noorzai followed through on his promise. In 2002, for instance, Mr. Fisher said, Mr. Noorzai handed over 15 truckloads of weapons, including some 400 antiaircraft missiles, that the Taliban had hidden on tribal land. He also acted as a liaison between the Taliban and the United States, helping to persuade a former foreign minister for the Taliban, Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, to meet with the Americans, his lawyer said.

At the same time, he was a major player in the Afghan drug trade, officials of the Drug Enforcement Administration say, controlling vast poppy fields that supplied a large share of the world’s heroin. As an early backer of the Taliban, he gave the group explosives, weapons and manpower in exchange for their protection of his opium crops, his heroin labs and smuggling routes, officials say.

In June 2004, the State Department placed Mr. Noorzai’s name on a list of the most wanted drug lords in the world. Two months later, the two contractors contacted Mr. Noorzai (at least in part through Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, court papers say) and arranged a series of meetings, from Aug. 7 to Aug. 9, 2004, at the hotel in Dubai. They told him they were working for the F.B.I. and the Department of Defense.

The contractors, whom court papers identify only as Mike and Brian, told Mr. Noorzai that they were studying financial networks supporting terrorists in Afghanistan. According to a transcript of the first day’s conversation, which was taped by the agents, Mike told Mr. Noorzai that “the goal of this project is not to arrest anybody, apprehend anybody, secretly follow anyone.”

In fact, Mike said, Mr. Noorzai should “come to the United States for a couple weeks as we have discussed,” later adding: “It’s like a little vacation. For probably two weeks and back to Dubai.”

After another meeting in Peshawar, Pakistan, that year, the discussions seemed to fizzle out. But then, in March 2005, court papers say, Mike and Brian got back in touch with Mr. Noorzai and met him again in Dubai. The government says the agents were working for the D.E.A. at this time, but acknowledges that they did not tell Mr. Noorzai.

They arranged for him to travel to New York, but did not tell him that two months earlier, in January 2005, he had been secretly indicted by a federal grand jury in Manhattan.

When he arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport, on April 13, 2005, he was met by Drug Enforcement Administration agents who made small talk while they drove him to an Embassy Suites hotel near ground zero. They debriefed him over 11 days, reading him the Miranda rights every morning. Mr. Noorzai waived his right to a lawyer.

He apparently felt comfortable enough, court papers say, to have called his cousin in Pakistan one day to tell him things were fine. He called his mother that same day, saying he was in New York and working, and had not yet booked a ticket back to Pakistan.
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A Million Bullets: The Real Story of the British Army in Afghanistan
The Times  By James Fergusson Sunday June 8, 2008
The Sunday Times review by Christina Lamb Afghanistan was supposed to be the good war. Unlike Iraq, foreign troops had gone in under a United Nations mandate and the majority of people had welcomed them as harbingers of peace after decades of Afghan fighting Afghan. When the Royal Marines drove into Kabul in December 2001, as the first foreign peacekeeping forces following the ousting of the Taliban, locals came out into the streets to cheer.

More than six years on, that goodwill has well and truly evaporated. Despite a tenfold increase to 47,000 in peacekeeping forces (or international stabilisation assistance as it is known in UN jargon), the Taliban are on the rise and much of the country has become a more violent place. Last year was Afghanistan's bloodiest since 2001; 8,000 people were killed in fighting, among them 1,500 civilians, according to the United Nations. Not only have the Taliban been steadily creeping beyond their traditional areas of influence in the south and the east of the country, but 2008 has seen them launch audacious attacks in the Afghan capital.

Last week, the out-going Nato commander described the war as “under-resourced”. Yet far from inspiring nations who have troops there to send reinforcements, this is more likely to raise the Iraq-like question of whether they are achieving anything by their presence. It is a debate that has been raging in Canada - which has taken heavy casualties - and it would be surprising if it does not soon become an issue in Britain and America, the two nations that contribute the most troops and are engaged in the bulk of the fighting.

The past few years have seen a slew of books on what went wrong in Iraq - now it's Afghanistan's turn. James Fergusson's A Million Bullets focuses on the experience of the British troops sent to Helmand in southern Afghanistan in April 2006. What had been billed as a reconstruction mission, where it was famously hoped not a single shot would be fired, has ended up as the army's fiercest fighting for 50 years.
Fergusson has been slightly pre-empted by Patrick Bishop's excellent 3 Para, which tells in gripping detail the story of the first combat troops on the ground, in their own words. But where Bishop's book is written in Boy's Own fashion, with little analysis of the situation, A Million Bullets is more introspective. Fergusson's aim is to answer the important question of what Britain is doing in Afghanistan and what, if anything, is being achieved. He also desires to show the war from the other side, and bravely (or foolishly, had it gone wrong) sets up a meeting with a Taliban commander. The Taliban tell him they are baffled as to why, after three past wars of which the first two were disastrous, the British would again become involved in Afghanistan. “A clever man does not get bitten by a snake from the same hole twice,” says one. But we learn little that we don't already know from Fergusson's meeting. The people we don't hear from - as is too often the case - are the ordinary Afghans.

Instead, Fergusson keeps getting drawn back to the action in Helmand in 2006. In an attempt to cover ground untouched by Bishop, he focuses on the non-Paras (the Gurkhas, the Fusiliers, the Royal Irish, the Household Cavalry and the RAF), all of whom feel they are the unsung heroes. With the usual squaddie resentment towards the Paras (who, they point out bitterly, received most of the medals for the tour), they are only too eager to tell their stories. Fergusson is clearly a sensitive interviewer and he elicits some fascinating material. But he is hampered by the fact that he was not there. Bishop was not there, either, yet in 3 Para he still managed to convey the heat, the dust and the fear of spending months under siege in platoon houses in small towns. Where Fergusson does succeed brilliantly is in detailing the emotional impact on soldiers - mostly in their twenties, who had never fired on anybody - killing for the first time and seeing comrades killed.

The most vivid part of the book is the story of the Fusiliers who were sent to the small market town of Nawzad (spelt Now Zad here) for two days and ended up staying 107, enduring 149 contacts. Not only did they feel abandoned to their fate, but lack of coordination between the British and the Americans left them having to deal with the fallout from attacks on locals by American special forces. One captain, with a 22-year-career in the army, tells how, before being deployed to Helmand, he had fired precisely 11 shots in anger, all in Northern Ireland. In just one hour in Nawzad (his first) he fired far more. Dean Fisher of the Fire Support Group fired 40,000 rounds. He described their five months under siege as worse than jail. “I've been in prison and at least you get electricity. And nobody's shooting at you. There were times when you'd just be lying in your trench and thinking to yourself, ‘What am I doing here?'”

Afterwards all of them had problems in readjusting, unable to explain what they had endured to friends and relatives. Inevitably, this put a strain on marriages - in 2006, one battalion alone experienced six divorces and 10 separations. One can only begin to imagine the agony of Fusilier Matt Seal, under siege in Nawzad, rushing to the long-awaited postbag hoping for a letter from home. Instead he found an envelope containing divorce papers.

Yet in some senses he is one of the lucky ones; 97 British servicemen have not made it home alive. Seal, like many others, must be asking is it worth it.

A Million Bullets by James Fergusson Bantam Press £16.99 pp358
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Pakistan seeks to allay Afghan peace fears
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008 
Foreign Minister promises to keep 'terrorists' from peace-talks
PAKISTAN has assured Afghanistan that its peace-talks with Taliban rebels will not bump up the number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmud Qureshi, who was in Kabul yesterday (Friday), promised to keep “terrorists” out of any peace-talks.

Qureshi said at a joint press conference with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Dr Rangin Dadfar Spanta: “We will not engage with terrorists, we will not compromise with terrorists.

"And those who would take up arms and guns are neither your [Afghanistan’s] friends nor our friends.”

It is thought Pakistan’s government is talking to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who the UN accuses of masterminding eight out of every 10 “terror attacks” in Afghanistan.

Qureshi said Islamabad was only talking to “peace-loving” rebel groups as part of a multi-pronged strategy to fight “extremism”.

“We are engaging with those elements that are peace-loving and want stability in their regions and want to live a normal peaceful life,” he said.

ISAF recently said the peace-deals in Pakistan's tribal areas had already increased militant attacks in Afghanistan, especially in the east of the country.

Qureshi, whose governemnt has withdrawn the army from some areas along the Afghan-Pakistani border, argued that a mix of political engagement, socio-ecomnic development and military muscle was needed to defeat the rid Pakistan of “extremism”.

Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said: “I informed Mr Qureshi of the very serious concerns of the Afghan people and government regarding the peace initiatives between Pakistani government authorities and Pakistani Taliban.

“This is a serious concern and will have dangerous consequences for Afghanistan.”

The Pakistani minister told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Pakistan wanted to start a new relationship with Afghanistan.

Qureshi said the relationship would be based on mutual trust and understanding for each the two countries’ interests and concerns.

“We do not make any distinction between the interests of Pakistan and those of Afghanistan. Pakistan also supports Afghan government’s efforts for national reconciliation,” he said.
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Poland repeats HIA war crimes jibe
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008 
Foreign minister sticks to his guns despite Hekmatyar's Polish troop threat
POLAND’S foreign minister has reiterated calls for ex-Jihadi leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar to be tried as a war criminal despite warnings that Hekmatyar's fighters will step up attacks on Polish troops for the comments.

Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski again accused Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) party of committing war crimes after a visit to the shrine of Ahmad Shah Massoud in the Panjshir Valley yesterday (Friday).

He said: “The Afghan government and its people will decide whom they will negotiate with but, about Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, I will say that these are my personal feelings about him.”

HIA has said it will step up attacks against Polish troops in Afghanistan because of Sikorski’s comments, whcih were made for the first time on Wednesday.

Some Members of Parliament accused Sikorski of meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs while some of the country’s political analysts said Sikorski allegations lacked evidence.

Hekmatyar is the founder and leader of HIA, long-considered one of Afghanistan’s most hard-line Islamic groups.

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

The government said recently it was “optimistic” about holding peace-talks with HIA.

Hekmatyar says negotiations will never happen until foreign troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan.

The release of Hekmatyar’s son-in-law from jail has been seen by some as a sign that negotiations have already begun, suggestions strongly denied by HIA.

Hekmatyar’s son-in-law and one of HIA’s most senior political representatives, Dr Ghairat Bahir, said his release from jail last week had nothing to do with any negotiations.

The American ambassador in Kabul, William Wood, said on Thursday his country supported the Afghan government’s peace-talks with the country’s rebel groups.

The US supports talks with opposition groups whose members have not committed serious crimes and who have accepted the country’s constitution, Wood said.
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Herat closes road to preserve history
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008
City inches one step closer to world heritage status with road closure
THE ROAD passing through one of Herat’s most iconic historical monuments has finally been blocked off in an attempt to prevent the destruction of the ancient site.

The UN has said in the past that Herat city would only achieve world heritage status if the road running through the centre of the historic Mussalah Complex was closed to traffic.

UNESCO said cars and trucks were destroying the complex by passing along the road.

Officials in Herat said the road was closed on Tuesday and that even small vehicles are not allowed to use it.

Head of the information and culture department in Herat, Nimatullah Sarwary, said a delegation from Herat will travel to Italy to discuss Herat’s inclusion in UNESCO’s list of world sites.

He said Herat’s authorities had started building another road to replace the closed one.

UNESCO’s has also said Herat authorities must prevent modern buildings from springing up around the city’s historical monuments.

United Nations spokesman Nilab Mubariz said: “The UN has welcomed this action of Herat’s officials, but the officials must specify the geographic limitation of these historical monuments, and prepare a technical assessment of these areas, before this area gets on the UNESCO list.”

Nimatullah Sarwary said UNESCO already has enough information about the monuments.
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Militants set fire to girls' school with petrol
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008 
Teachers and students told their lives will be in danger if school re-opens
UNKNOWN militants have burned down part of a girls’ school in Baghlan and threatened further attacks if the school re-opens.

Abdul Wasi Shaheed girl’s secondary school in the Yakawlang area of Khinjan district was set alight last night (Friday) after the arsonists poured petrol on three of the school’s tents.

One of the area’s elders, Haji Gul Ahmad, said the furniture and the carpets in the school were also burned.

He said the school’s guards had been warned that the lives of the teachers and the students would be in danger if the school continued to teach girls.

But the head of the education department of Baghlan, Mir Muhammad Sarwar Wasifi, said only one tent, some furniture and carpets were burned.

Wasifi said the arsonists had tied up the hands and feet of the school’s guards before setting the school on fire.

He said he had sent a delegation to investigate the arson.

The security commander of the district, brigadier Muhammad Asif, said the school was put on fire by enemies of the government.

Abdul Wasi Shaheed girls’ secondary school was built two years ago and has 700 students.

Several schools have been set on fire since the start of this year, especially in the south and south-western parts of the country.

Taliban deny setting the schools on fire.

Last year, 53 schools were set alight. In 2006, about 187 schools were set ablaze and about 85 teachers and students were killed, according to the Ministry of Education.
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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
The Toronto Star - Canada Rosie DiManno Columnist Jun 07, 2008
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 conscious.

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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Police burn 18 tonnes of drugs in four months
Written by www.quqnoos.com Saturday, 07 June 2008 
Helmand governor says he will continue fight to rid province of drugs
COUNTER-NARCOTICS police have destroyed about 18 tonnes of narcotics in Helmand over the past four months, officials have said.

The drugs, which were set fire to, included hashish, heroin, poppy seeds and alcohol seized in the Greshk and Nad Ali districts, as well as in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, during the last four months, the province’s counter-narcotics director said today (Saturday).

Fazal Ahmad Sherzad said 15 people caught with the drugs had been handed over to the provincial attorney’s office for interrogation.

Governor Muhammad Gul Mangal reaffirmed his commitment to rid the province of poppies and of the drug trade, which is responsibly for more than two-thirds of the opium grown in Afghanistan.

"Our security officials are trying to curb drug smuggling and prevent poppy cultivation," said the governor.

Meanwhile, police recovered about 20 kilograms of heroin in the eastern Nangarhar province today.

Police spokesman Col Abdul Ghafoor said the heroin was seized late Friday evening.

The country grows about 93% of the world's opium, according to the United Nations.
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