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March 18, 2008 

Air raid kills civilians in Afghan south: lawmaker
KABUL (Reuters) - An air strike by foreign forces has killed more than 30 people, including civilians, in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.

Afghans demonstrate against 'deployment of Russian troops'
KABUL, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - Mass protests against the alleged "deployment of Russian troops" in Afghanistan have been held in the Afghan city of Gardez, some 95 kms (60 miles) south of Kabul, national media reported on Tuesday.

US Marines back-up arrive in Afghanistan: army
KABUL (AFP) - Hundreds of the 3,600 US Marines due in southern Afghanistan to reinforce international efforts against extremists are on the ground and preparing for their mission, their unit said Tuesday.

Afghan govt must bring rights abusers to justice: U.N.
By Jonathon Burch
KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan government needs to take more action to bring human rights abusers to justice and end the culture of impunity that undermines faith in the state, the United Nations said on Tuesday

Afghan security forces kill two Taliban militants, capture five: police
Tue Mar 18, 5:52 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghan security forces killed two Taliban militants who were involved in a recent attack on a mobile phone tower in western Afghanistan, police said Tuesday.

Shooting rocks main Afghan prison
Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 15:06 GMT BBC News
Afghan security forces have sealed off the country's main high-security prison after days of unrest there.

NATO:Talks With Moscow On Transit To Afghanistan -AFP
KABUL (AFP)--NATO said Tuesday it was in talks with Moscow only about transporting equipment and personnel into Afghanistan via Russia and not about the sensitive issue of bringing Russian troops into the country.

AFGHANISTAN: Students play truant to work in Helmand's poppy fields
18 Mar 2008 15:11:43 GMT
LASHKARGAH, 18 March 2008 (IRIN) - Esmatullah, aged 14, had pains in his back and legs from working in a poppy field in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, on 5 March. He has been absent from school since that date.

Afghanistan Launches the Privatization of Afghan Telecom
Cellular-News.com - Mar 18 6:08 AM
Afghanistan's government has announced plans for the privatization of Afghan Telecom Corporation. The Ministry of Communications and IT released a Request for Expressions of Interest (REI) in the sale of 80% of the shares

Report: Bomb destroys truck carrying fuel for coalition forces in Afghanistan
Associated Press / March 18, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's state news agency says a roadside bomb has struck an oil tanker carrying fuel for U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan. No one was hurt.

Afghanistan will require perseverance
OTTAWA, March 17 (UPI) -- Despite recent threats of a Canadian troop pullout from Afghanistan, Canada's top defense official says rebuilding the country will require perseverance.

U.S. Adapts Cold-War Idea to Fight Terrorists
By ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER March 18, 2008 The New York Times
WASHINGTON — In the days immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, members of President Bush’s war cabinet declared that it would be impossible to deter the most fervent extremists from carrying out even more

Afghan escape hatch opens in 2009
March 18, 2008 - JAMES TRAVERS, TORONTO STAR
OTTAWA - There are so few ways of escaping a quagmire that Canada's trouble in finding a Kandahar partner could prove more blessing than curse. Should NATO fail to meet Parliament's minimum conditions for extending
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Air raid kills civilians in Afghan south: lawmaker
KABUL (Reuters) - An air strike by foreign forces has killed more than 30 people, including civilians, in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.

The raid happened on Monday in a village in the province's Sangin district, scene of a series of battles between Taliban insurgents and foreign troops in recent years, she said.

Civilian deaths are a sensitive issue for the foreign forces in Afghanistan under the command of the U.S. military and NATO and for President Hamid Karzai's government.

"More than 30 people have lost their lives and it is said that the Taliban and civilians were amongst those killed," Nasima Niyazi, who is a member of the lower house of the Afghan parliament representing the province, told Reuters.

She did not have any more details about the air strike.

But several people who identified themselves as residents of Sangin said the raid targeted a picnic spot where civilians had gathered to play traditional sports. The Taliban said 40 civilians were killed and 60 more wounded.

Both NATO and U.S.-led troops are stationed in Helmand, a bastion for Taliban insurgents and the key drug-producing region of Afghanistan, the world's top supplier of heroin.

A spokesman for NATO in Kabul said the alliance had carried out an air attack to the south of Sangin and a total of 12 insurgents were killed while driving in three cars.

The strike comes amid spiraling violence in the past two years in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban's hardline Islamist government in 2001.

More than 12,000 people, nearly a quarter of them civilians, have been killed by the violence.

Civilian deaths have sparked protests and added to growing frustration among ordinary Afghans that Karzai's government and its Western backers have not brought more security to the country.

(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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Afghans demonstrate against 'deployment of Russian troops'
KABUL, March 18 (RIA Novosti) - Mass protests against the alleged "deployment of Russian troops" in Afghanistan have been held in the Afghan city of Gardez, some 95 kms (60 miles) south of Kabul, national media reported on Tuesday.

The peaceful protests are said to have been triggered by an article in a Polish newspaper which said that Russia could join the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in exchange for NATO denying membership of the military alliance to the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia.

"Russians are preparing not only to offer the alliance [NATO] their railways and airspace, but also their military base in Uzbekistan, which was used by the Soviet Army in the 1980s," the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper wrote.

Afghanistan has of late seen increasing numbers of attacks by Taliban militants on NATO-led forces, with suicide bombings becoming a regular occurrence.

However, the first deputy press secretary of the Russian president, Dmitry Peskov, said on Tuesday in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station that rumors of Russia sending troops to the country were 'absolutely untrue'.

Any return of Russian troops to Afghanistan would be certain to be greeted with open hostility from Afghans. The Soviet Union was involved in a bitter decade-long conflict in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. A million Afghan civilians and fighters are estimated to have lost their lives during the fighting. Some 15,000 Soviet soldiers also perished, and the return of Russian soldiers to the country would also be extremely unpopular in Russia.

According to local political analysts, the publication of the article in the Polish newspaper was intended for several purposes. Firstly, it distracts public attention from Holland and Denmark amid a wave of protests against the planned release of an 'anti-Islam' film and the reprint of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, respectively.

It also creates an image of an external threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan in order to give a more plausible explanation for NATO's military presence in the country, analysts said.

Political analysts have also pointed out the fact that the protests were held almost immediately following the publication of the article. Around half of Afghanistan's population is illiterate, unable to read even in the official language of Afghanistan, let alone Polish. This, say the analysts, points to the 'planned' nature of the protests.
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US Marines back-up arrive in Afghanistan: army
KABUL (AFP) - Hundreds of the 3,600 US Marines due in southern Afghanistan to reinforce international efforts against extremists are on the ground and preparing for their mission, their unit said Tuesday.

They began arriving last week and are preparing facilities for when the other troops arrive, acclimatising and gathering information about the area, their public relations officer told AFP.

The "majority" of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit of 2,300 soldiers had arrived, Staff Sergeant Robert Piper said without providing a number for security reasons.

The unit would work under the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and "conduct full-spectrum operations to capitalise on recent ISAF and Afghan Nation Security Force successes."

A second group was due in the coming weeks and would assist with the training and development of Afghan security forces, he said.

Another batallion from the 7th Marine Regiment will make up the other 1,300 personnel.

"These Marines will bring the total number of Marines deployed to Afghanistan to approximately 3,600," Piper said.

The full deployment is expected to be on the ground by late April, as Taliban-linked unrest picks up with the arrival of warmer weather.

Their deployment comes as NATO leaders called on their partners to send more troops and equipment to fight the Taliban, particularly in southern Afghanistan where the rebels are most active.

Some nations under pressure in the south, notably Canada, have threatened to leave unless they get support.

Last year was the bloodiest of a Taliban-led insurgency, with more than 8,000 people killed in 2007, most of them rebels but including 1,500 civilians, according to United Nations figures.

Officials insist the strategy to defeat the insurgency is making headway but acknowledge this year will be just as deadly, with the Taliban vowing a wave of suicide attacks, undermining public confidence.

ISAF consists of about 47,000 soldiers from nearly 40 nations, while the separate US-led coalition numbers 20,000, the majority US soldiers.
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Afghan govt must bring rights abusers to justice: U.N.
By Jonathon Burch
KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan government needs to take more action to bring human rights abusers to justice and end the culture of impunity that undermines faith in the state, the United Nations said on Tuesday

Six years ago, the United States relied on air power, special forces and a loose alliance of Afghan warlords to topple the Taliban government after the hardline Islamist movement refused to give up al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11 attacks.

Many of the warlords are accused of serious rights abuses during Afghanistan's three decades of war. They now dominate the parliament and some hold key positions within the state, but little has been done to bring them to book.

"You have heard of the phrase 'action speaks louder than words'. Here in Afghanistan the lack of action speaks volumes," Norah Niland, the UN's Chief Human Rights Officer in Afghanistan told a news conference.

"I think there is a lack of political will both within Afghanistan and without," she said.

Afghan forces and more than 50,000 foreign troops are now struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban campaign of guerrilla war, backed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks. Some 6,000 people were killed last year, the most violent since 2001.

Many Afghans are growing weary of the presence of foreign troops, official corruption and the ongoing lack of security.

Alongside the military campaign, analysts say President Hamid Karzai's government and his Western backers need to do more to strengthen governance and state institutions to help bring peace.

"There is a realization that the conflict cannot be overcome by military means alone, and that an overarching civilian-led strategy is necessary to help bring about Afghanistan's long-term stability and development," the United Nations said in a recent report.

Suspects are often released without proper investigation and police have failed to act when confronted with powerful local interests, the report said. The result was a lack of public confidence in the government and state institutions.

Despite disappointments, most Afghans are committed and determined to end human rights violations, she said.

"Re-establishing the rule of law and ending impunity for past and present crimes remains key to securing peace and stability in Afghanistan," the U.N. report said.

Other areas of concern for human rights in Afghanistan were the position of women, poverty and poor access to healthcare.

Although women enjoy more freedoms since 2001, Niland said they are still excluded from certain areas of society and often suffer high levels of violence. Many women victims of sexual offences are imprisoned on charges of immorality.
(Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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Afghan security forces kill two Taliban militants, capture five: police
Tue Mar 18, 5:52 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghan security forces killed two Taliban militants who were involved in a recent attack on a mobile phone tower in western Afghanistan, police said Tuesday.

Five other rebels were captured following the clash in Obe district of Herat province late Monday, regional police spokesman Abdul Rauf Ahmadi told AFP. One of the captured men was wounded, he added.

"The terrorists killed were part of a group which is responsible for attacking a cell phone mast in the district on March 11," Ahmadi told AFP.

Taliban rebels have attacked about a dozen cell phone masts since issuing a warning last month that they would target the technology, which they say is being used to pinpoint their hideouts.

Taliban were ousted from power in late 2001 but the remnants of the militia are still waging an insurgency which was in its deadliest phase last year.

Their insurgency includes suicide bombings and roadside explosions.

In a suicide attack Monday two Danish and one Czech solider were killed in southern Helmand province. Taliban claimed responsibility.

In a separate incident Afghan army troops on Monday killed a Taliban-linked rebel who was planting a mine on a road in the eastern province of Kunar where the insurgents are active, the defence ministry said in a statement.

More than 60,000 international troops, the bulk of them under the command of NATO, are based in Afghanistan to help the Afghan government provide security and speed up a post-Taliban reconstruction of the war-ravaged nation.
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Shooting rocks main Afghan prison
Tuesday, 18 March 2008, 15:06 GMT BBC News
Afghan security forces have sealed off the country's main high-security prison after days of unrest there.

Gunfire has been heard from the Pul-e-Charkhi prison, a huge complex built in the 1970s on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul.

Inmates are in control of parts of the prison and say they have taken two Afghan soldiers hostage.

Pul-e-Charkhi is now used to house common criminals as well as al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects.

Protest
Our correspondent says the stand off between prisoners and Afghan security forces, which began on Sunday, appears to be worsening.

Large numbers of soldiers and police have been arriving at the notorious jail which houses some of Afghanistan's most dangerous criminals and Taleban militants.

Inmates had taken control of sections of the building as part of a continuing protest against the authorities.

A number of prisoners contacted the BBC by mobile phone and said that seven inmates had been injured.

They also said that two Afghan national army soldiers had been captured and they would be killed unless mediators were sent in to resolve the dispute.

Our correspondent says it has not been possible to verify if the soldiers had been held.

There has been no official response from the Afghan government, but the defence minister told parliament an operation was being planned to raid the prison after parts of the building were overrun.

An Afghan member of parliament who visited the jail on Monday said the situation had become very tense.

The dispute has been going on for two weeks since an attempted jail-break and the arrest of a large number of prison visitors.

There have been sieges and riots in the past at the prison.

Four years ago the jail was raided by the military after some prisoners tried to escape.
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NATO:Talks With Moscow On Transit To Afghanistan -AFP
KABUL (AFP)--NATO said Tuesday it was in talks with Moscow only about transporting equipment and personnel into Afghanistan via Russia and not about the sensitive issue of bringing Russian troops into the country.

NATO spokesman in Afghanistan Mark Laity dismissed as "entirely mistaken" media reports suggesting Moscow could send troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) fighting the Taliban.

The 1979-1989 Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan spawned a bitter resistance that cost thousands of lives and turned resistance commanders into heroes.

"NATO is in discussion with Russia on stepping up cooperation but the main elements of those discussions are on arrangements for air and land transit of NATO equipment and personnel through Russia," Laity told reporters.

"It's about going through Russian territory, it is not about Russians being in Afghanistan," he said, stressing talks were about "transport, not troops."

There was also some discussion about the possibility of training Afghan counternarcotics officials in Russia, Laity said.

The spokesman stressed that all developments would have to be approved first by the Afghan government, a point echoed by US ambassador William Wood.

He told reporters separately that the US government supported the decisions of the Afghan government. "No troops can be in Afghanistan without Afghanistan's consent," he said.

A senior NATO official said earlier this month that NATO and Moscow were making "real progress" in talks on allowing ISAF supplies to transit Russian territory.

Robert Simmons, NATO's special envoy for the Caucasus and Central Asia, said both sides hoped a deal could be reached before the April 2-4 NATO summit in the Romanian capital Bucharest.

But officials have rejected media reports, including in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, that Moscow is ready to send troops to ISAF if the alliance agrees to block the entry of Georgia and Ukraine.

In eastern Afghanistan Monday, fighters in the Soviet resistance were joined by tribal elders and others in a protest of about 100 people called to oppose any Russian military presence in the country, Afghan media said.
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AFGHANISTAN: Students play truant to work in Helmand's poppy fields
18 Mar 2008 15:11:43 GMT
LASHKARGAH, 18 March 2008 (IRIN) - Esmatullah, aged 14, had pains in his back and legs from working in a poppy field in Helmand Province, southern Afghanistan, on 5 March. He has been absent from school since that date.

Esmatullah hails from the province's Marja District where he attended school, but due to insecurity and repeated attacks on schools, Esmatullah's family sent him to Lashkargah, the provincial capital, to continue his education.

When he returned to his home village for a weekend to visit his family, his uncle told him to help him clear their vast poppy fields of weeds.

In the run-up to the poppy harvest in May and June farmers in Helmand Province weed the poppy fields – enabling poppy flowers to grow faster and stronger and produce more opium.

Helmand Province alone produced about 40 percent of Afghanistan's 8,200 metric tonnes of opium in 2007, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported.

"I have to work and make money to pay for a rented room in Lashkargah and pay for other expenses while I am attending school there," Esmatullah told IRIN.

Another 12-year-old student from Helmand's Nad Ali District said he, his father and brothers worked as labourers in poppy fields to feed their extended family and pay for his education in Lashkargah.

"We do not have our own land, but we earn 200-250 Afghanis [US$4-5] per person for a day's work on others' fields," Gul said.

Hundreds absent from school

Helmand Province is widely affected by insurgency-related violence and dozens of schools have remained closed, particularly in rural areas, due to frequent attacks on educational facilities, teachers and schoolchildren.

As a result, hundreds of students from rural areas have flocked to schools in Lashkargah where schools have remained open despite widespread security threats. Many of these students live in rented rooms in Lashkargah, and cannot regularly travel to their homes for both security and financial reasons.

"I pay 4,000 Afghanis [$80] per month for a shared room in Lashkargah," said Abdul Hadi, a student from Marja District, adding that he had to work in poppy fields to pay for his education expenses because his parents could not help.

Most students had reportedly been absent from schools in Lashkargah in March 2008, the provincial Department of Education (DoE) confirmed.

"This is very unfortunate… hundreds of students have gone to the poppy fields to earn money," said Rahimullah, the director of DoE in Helmand Province.

Underreported, vulnerable

Humanitarian reporting on the plight of children in insurgency-affected provinces in southern Afghanistan, particularly Helmand Province, is limited owing to the lack of reliable facts, figures and information, aid workers and media reports say.

Due to security restrictions no non-governmental organisations (NGOs) dealing with children's rights and protection, including the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), operate in Helmand Province.

UN agencies and other aid organisations rely on the limited capacity of provincial government bodies to conduct assessments, deliver aid and implement development projects.

"Lack of access is our major problem," conceded Shamsullah Tanwer, a researcher on the rights of children in Helmand and Kandahar provinces with Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).

"The issue of children working in poppy fields is a serious problem," Tanwer told IRIN on the phone from his office in Kandahar. "It's the right of every child to go to school… and child labour is illegal, particularly on illicit poppy fields," he said.

Children working in poppy fields not only miss out on their education and do an onerous job over long hours, but are also vulnerable to drug addiction, particularly during harvest season, experts say.

"The challenge is how we can reach, help and support these children," said Tanwer of the AIHRC.

According to the UNODC, Afghanistan supplies an estimated 93 per cent of the global illicit market for opiates.
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Afghanistan Launches the Privatization of Afghan Telecom
Cellular-News.com - Mar 18 6:08 AM
Afghanistan's government has announced plans for the privatization of Afghan Telecom Corporation. The Ministry of Communications and IT released a Request for Expressions of Interest (REI) in the sale of 80% of the shares of the company, in what it says will be the most ambitious privatization project in Afghanistan to date.

Interested Parties have until the 4th of April to submit their expressions of interest.

Afghan Telecom currently operates a fixed wireless CDMA network in 110 districts, with coverage expanding to 365 districts. The company also plans to introduce village communications network that will connect 5,000 villages to telecoms services.
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Report: Bomb destroys truck carrying fuel for coalition forces in Afghanistan
Associated Press / March 18, 2008
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Pakistan's state news agency says a roadside bomb has struck an oil tanker carrying fuel for U.S.-led coalition forces in neighboring Afghanistan. No one was hurt.

The Associated Press of Pakistan says the truck "burst into flames" after the explosion Tuesday near Peshawar, a city near the Afghan border.

The tanker carrying 44,000 liters (11,624 gallons) of fuel was completely destroyed.

The report did not say who may have been involved. But authorities have blamed Islamic militants for similar attacks in the past.
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Afghanistan will require perseverance
OTTAWA, March 17 (UPI) -- Despite recent threats of a Canadian troop pullout from Afghanistan, Canada's top defense official says rebuilding the country will require perseverance.

Canadian Minister of National Defense and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency Peter MacKay recently spoke at the 2008 Brussels Forum in Belgium to discuss Canada's role in Afghanistan. MacKay says despite continued security challenges, rebuilding Afghanistan will require perseverance, the Canadian Office of National Defense reported.

"Rebuilding Afghanistan after decades of war is a long-term undertaking that requires perseverance and commitment," MacKay said in a statement. "Challenges remain, yet real progress is being achieved in partnership with the international community and the Afghan people themselves and is improving the lives of millions of Afghan men, women and children."

During the two-day foreign policy meeting, world leaders discussed pressing challenges in Afghanistan, including continued militant conflict regions and the economics of the country. MacKay called on NATO allies to address the need for further troop commitments needed for security.

"Canada is playing a leading role in the United Nations-mandated NATO mission to Afghanistan," MacKay said. "Our Allies recognize our value as a responsible partner in this mission. The findings of the Manley Panel have been well received by our Allies and they are aware of the need for further commitments by NATO forces."
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U.S. Adapts Cold-War Idea to Fight Terrorists
By ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER March 18, 2008 The New York Times
WASHINGTON — In the days immediately after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, members of President Bush’s war cabinet declared that it would be impossible to deter the most fervent extremists from carrying out even more deadly terrorist missions with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Since then, however, administration, military and intelligence officials assigned to counterterrorism have begun to change their view. After piecing together a more nuanced portrait of terrorist organizations, they say there is reason to believe that a combination of efforts could in fact establish something akin to the posture of deterrence, the strategy that helped protect the United States from a Soviet nuclear attack during the cold war.

Interviews with more than two dozen senior officials involved in the effort provided the outlines of previously unreported missions to mute Al Qaeda’s message, turn the jihadi movement’s own weaknesses against it and illuminate Al Qaeda’s errors whenever possible.

A primary focus has become cyberspace, which is the global safe haven of terrorist networks. To counter efforts by terrorists to plot attacks, raise money and recruit new members on the Internet, the government has mounted a secret campaign to plant bogus e-mail messages and Web site postings, with the intent to sow confusion, dissent and distrust among militant organizations, officials confirm.

At the same time, American diplomats are quietly working behind the scenes with Middle Eastern partners to amplify the speeches and writings of prominent Islamic clerics who are renouncing terrorist violence.

At the local level, the authorities are experimenting with new ways to keep potential terrorists off guard.

In New York City, as many as 100 police officers in squad cars from every precinct converge twice daily at randomly selected times and at randomly selected sites, like Times Square or the financial district, to rehearse their response to a terrorist attack. City police officials say the operations are believed to be a crucial tactic to keep extremists guessing as to when and where a large police presence may materialize at any hour. “What we’ve developed since 9/11, in six or seven years, is a better understanding of the support that is necessary for terrorists, the network which provides that support, whether it’s financial or material or expertise,” said Michael E. Leiter, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

“We’ve now begun to develop more sophisticated thoughts about deterrence looking at each one of those individually,” Mr. Leiter said in an interview. “Terrorists don’t operate in a vacuum.”

In some ways, government officials acknowledge, the effort represents a second-best solution. Their preferred way to combat terrorism remains to capture or kill extremists, and the new emphasis on deterrence in some ways amounts to attaching a new label to old tools.

“There is one key question that no one can answer: How much disruption does it take to give you the effect of deterrence?” said Michael Levi, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of a new book, “On Nuclear Terrorism.”

The New Deterrence

The emerging belief that terrorists may be subject to a new form of deterrence is reflected in two of the nation’s central strategy documents.

The 2002 National Security Strategy, signed by the president one year after the Sept. 11 attacks, stated flatly that “traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and the targeting of innocents.”

Four years later, however, the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism concluded: “A new deterrence calculus combines the need to deter terrorists and supporters from contemplating a W.M.D. attack and, failing that, to dissuade them from actually conducting an attack.”

For obvious reasons, it is harder to deter terrorists than it was to deter a Soviet attack.

Terrorists hold no obvious targets for American retaliation as Soviet cities, factories, military bases and silos were under the cold-war deterrence doctrine. And it is far harder to pinpoint the location of a terrorist group’s leaders than it was to identify the Kremlin offices of the Politburo bosses, making it all but impossible to deter attacks by credibly threatening a retaliatory attack.

But over the six and a half years since the Sept. 11 attacks, many terrorist leaders, including Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, have successfully evaded capture, and American officials say they now recognize that threats to kill terrorist leaders may never be enough to keep America safe.

So American officials have spent the last several years trying to identify other types of “territory” that extremists hold dear, and they say they believe that one important aspect may be the terrorists’ reputation and credibility with Muslims.

Under this theory, if the seeds of doubt can be planted in the mind of Al Qaeda’s strategic leadership that an attack would be viewed as a shameful murder of innocents — or, even more effectively, that it would be an embarrassing failure — then the order may not be given, according to this new analysis.

Senior officials acknowledge that it is difficult to prove what role these new tactics and strategies have played in thwarting plots or deterring Al Qaeda from attacking. Senior officials say there have been several successes using the new approaches, but many involve highly classified technical programs, including the cyberoperations, that they declined to detail.

They did point to some older and now publicized examples that suggest that their efforts are moving in the right direction.

George J. Tenet, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, wrote in his autobiography that the authorities were concerned that Qaeda operatives had made plans in 2003 to attack the New York City subway using cyanide devices.

Mr. Zawahri reportedly called off the plot because he feared that it “was not sufficiently inspiring to serve Al Qaeda’s ambitions,” and would be viewed as a pale, even humiliating, follow-up to the 9/11 attacks.

And in 2002, Iyman Faris, a naturalized American citizen from Kashmir, began casing the Brooklyn Bridge to plan an attack and communicated with Qaeda leaders in Pakistan via coded messages about using a blowtorch to sever the suspension cables.

But by early 2003, Mr. Faris sent a message to his confederates saying that “the weather is too hot.” American officials said that meant Mr. Faris feared that the plot was unlikely to succeed — apparently because of increased security.

“We made a very visible presence there and that may have contributed to it,” said Paul J. Browne, the New York City Police Department’s chief spokesman. “Deterrence is part and parcel of our entire effort.”

Disrupting Cyberprojects

Terrorists hold little or no terrain, except on the Web. “Al Qaeda and other terrorists’ center of gravity lies in the information domain, and it is there that we must engage it,” said Dell L. Dailey, the State Department’s counterterrorism chief.

Some of the government’s most secretive counterterrorism efforts involve disrupting terrorists’ cyberoperations. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, specially trained teams have recovered computer hard drives used by terrorists and are turning the terrorists’ tools against them.

“If you can learn something about whatever is on those hard drives, whatever that information might be, you could instill doubt on their part by just countermessaging whatever it is they said they wanted to do or planned to do,” said Brig. Gen. Mark O. Schissler, director of cyberoperations for the Air Force and a former deputy director of the antiterrorism office for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Since terrorists feel safe using the Internet to spread ideology and gather recruits, General Schissler added, “you may be able to interfere with some of that, interrupt some of that.”

“You can also post messages to the opposite of that,” he added.

Other American efforts are aimed at discrediting Qaeda operations, including the decision to release seized videotapes showing members of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a largely Iraqi group with some foreign leaders, training children to kidnap and kill, as well as a lengthy letter said to have been written by another terrorist leader that describes the organization as weak and plagued by poor morale.

Dissuading Militants

Even as security and intelligence forces seek to disrupt terrorist operations, counterterrorism specialists are examining ways to dissuade insurgents from even considering an attack with unconventional weapons. They are looking at aspects of the militants’ culture, families or religion, to undermine the rhetoric of terrorist leaders.

For example, the government is seeking ways to amplify the voices of respected religious leaders who warn that suicide bombers will not enjoy the heavenly delights promised by terrorist literature, and that their families will be dishonored by such attacks. Those efforts are aimed at undermining a terrorist’s will.

“I’ve got to figure out what does dissuade you,” said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, the Joint Chiefs’ director of strategic plans and policy. “What is your center of gravity that we can go at? The goal you set won’t be achieved, or you will be discredited and lose face with the rest of the Muslim world or radical extremism that you signed up for.”

Efforts are also under way to persuade Muslims not to support terrorists. It is a delicate campaign that American officials are trying to promote and amplify — but without leaving telltale American fingerprints that could undermine the effort in the Muslim world. Senior Bush administration officials point to several promising developments.

Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul Aziz al-Asheik, gave a speech last October warning Saudis not to join unauthorized jihadist activities, a statement directed mainly at those considering going to Iraq to fight the American-led forces.

And Abdul-Aziz el-Sherif, a top leader of the armed Egyptian movement Islamic Jihad and a longtime associate of Mr. Zawahri, the second-ranking Qaeda official, has just completed a book that renounces violent jihad on legal and religious grounds.

Such dissents are serving to widen rifts between Qaeda leaders and some former loyal backers, Western and Middle Eastern diplomats say.

“Many terrorists value the perception of popular or theological legitimacy for their actions,” said Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser. “By encouraging debate about the moral legitimacy of using weapons of mass destruction, we can try to affect the strategic calculus of the terrorists.”

Denying Support

As the top Pentagon policy maker for special operations, Michael G. Vickers creates strategies for combating terrorism with specialized military forces, as well as for countering the proliferation of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

Much of his planning is old school: how should the military’s most elite combat teams capture and kill terrorists? But with each passing day, more of his time is spent in the new world of terrorist deterrence theory, trying to figure out how to prevent attacks by persuading terrorist support networks — those who enable terrorists to operate — to refuse any kind of assistance to stateless agents of extremism.

“Obviously, hard-core terrorists will be the hardest to deter,” Mr. Vickers said. “But if we can deter the support network — recruiters, financial supporters, local security providers and states who provide sanctuary — then we can start achieving a deterrent effect on the whole terrorist network and constrain terrorists’ ability to operate.

“We have not deterred terrorists from their intention to do us great harm,” Mr. Vickers said, “but by constraining their means and taking away various tools, we approach the overall deterrent effect we want.”

Much effort is being spent on perfecting technical systems that can identify the source of unconventional weapons or their components regardless of where they are found — and letting nations around the world know the United States has this ability.

President Bush has declared that the United States will hold “fully accountable” any nation that shares nuclear weapons with another state or terrorists.

Rear Adm. William P. Loeffler, deputy director of the Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction at the military’s Strategic Command, said Mr. Bush’s declaration meant that those who might supply arms or components to terrorists were just as accountable as those who ordered and carried out an attack.

It is, the admiral said, a system of “attribution as deterrence.”
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Afghan escape hatch opens in 2009 
March 18, 2008 - JAMES TRAVERS, TORONTO STAR
OTTAWA - There are so few ways of escaping a quagmire that Canada's trouble in finding a Kandahar partner could prove more blessing than curse. Should NATO fail to meet Parliament's minimum conditions for extending the mission until the end of 2011, Canada can and should march away next year with a clear conscience.

That's not what Stephen Harper wants or John Manley intended when he effectively set the bar for staying the Afghanistan course at 1,000 more troops and additional air support. But honourable withdrawal is better than wasting more lives and billions on a failing rescue of a failing state.

Sooner rather than later, the United States and the ambivalent alliance it leads must decide to go big in Afghanistan or come home. Three, five or 10 more years of equivocal, disjointed effort won't make that country secure or drag it from clan feudalism to modern democracy.

More troops, more reconstruction and, most of all, a more cohesive, co-ordinated strategy are required to morph wishful thinking into any real hope of making peace talks more attractive to insurgents than prolonged war.

To their credit, Manley's panellists spotted that central problem and addressed the best available solutions. Before attaching caveats to Canada's post-2009 role, their report urged NATO to quickly get its act together. Along with more boots and cash it argued for tough talk about porous borders with Afghanistan's neighbours and a crackdown on the Karzai administration's own endemic corruption.

Predictably, the importance of that sound advice was lost in Ottawa in politics. Conservatives determined to neutralize Afghanistan as an election issue and Liberals desperate to paste a veneer over internal cracks happily limited the discussions to the terms for keeping Canadians in Kandahar longer. Sidelined in last week's pro forma, shamefully poorly attended parliamentary debate was serious examination of the conditions necessary for Afghanistan success.

The net result is not encouraging. In setting low thresholds for its continued participation, Canada is making it too easy for NATO to maintain an unsatisfactory status quo. Worse, the alliance will escape any serious self-examination of its resolve if, as is increasingly expected, the U.S. either directly or indirectly provides Canada's additional support.

What's needed in Afghanistan goes far beyond another battle group, new helicopters and surveillance drones. As Manley stressed, NATO must fit action to words by proving that the mission is the priority.
If that's beyond member nations' political will – as it may well be – Canada deserves to know now, not at the end of 2011. Since first sending troops to help secure Kabul after the Taliban fled, this country has exceeded all clichéd expectations for middle powers. It has punched above its weight, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with allies and repeatedly paid the ultimate price.

This week that cost rose to 81 soldiers and one diplomat. It's certain to keep rising no matter how much the focus shifts from fighting to training the Afghanistan army and police. So it's neither unreasonable nor premature for this country to seek assurances that stretch well beyond the modest help the Prime Minister is now trying to winkle out of reluctant allies.

Supporting the troops is about more than flag-waving patriotism. It's about doing everything possible to create winning conditions and knowing when to stop asking soldiers to do the impossible.
James Travers' national affairs column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
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