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March 25, 2008 

Afghan aid money spent on high salaries
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Too much money meant for Afghanistan aid is wasted, with a vast amount spent on foreign workers' high salaries, security and living arrangements, according to a report from humanitarian groups published Tuesday.

Afghan peace hurt by failed aid pledges: agencies
By Jon Hemming March 25, 2008
KABUL (Reuters) - Peace in Afghanistan is being undermined by the failure of Western nations to deliver promised assistance, aid agencies said on Tuesday.

4 police, 2 others killed in Afghanistan
Tue Mar 25, 3:09 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Gunmen have attacked a group of police along Afghanistan's border with Iran, killing four police and two civilians.

Afghan troops kill Taliban rebels after ambush
KABUL March 25 (Reuters) - Afghan forces killed and wounded a number of Taliban militants after fighting off an ambush in southern Afghanistan, the Afghan Defence Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Afghan Defense Ministry Dismisses New Taliban Threat
KABUL (AFP)--The Afghan defense ministry said Tuesday its security forces were stronger than ever this year and dismissed a Taliban threat to expand its operations countrywide starting this spring.

Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan to bolster economic, cultural ties
Dushanbe, March 25, IRNA
The three Persian speaking neighboring countries of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan here on Tuesday issued a joint communique for expansion of trilateral economic and cultural relations.

Fate of US aid worker a mystery two months on, say officials
by Beatrice Khadige
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Mystery surrounds the fate of a US aid worker who was kidnapped with her Afghan driver two months as there has been no word from their captors, officials said Tuesday.

France: No decision yet on Afghan forces
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer Tue Mar 25, 8:29 AM ET
PARIS - France's defense minister said Tuesday that military strength alone won't bring stability to Afghanistan, even as France considers increasing the number of troops there.

AP Interview: French defense minister says NATO in control in Afghanistan
The Associated Press  March 25, 2008
PARIS: Even as it considers boosting its troops in Afghanistan, France believes military means are not enough to bring stability to the country, the French defense minister said Tuesday.

Turkish PM: Cheney Didn't Ask For Help In Afghanistan
March 25, 2008
SARAJEVO, Bosnia (AFP)--Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney didn't ask Turkey to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Turkish army chief says sending troops to Afghanistan is state policy
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-25 07:45:16
ANKARA, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Chief of General Staff Yasar Buyukanit said Monday that sending Turkish troops to Afghanistan was not the policy of Turkish Armed Forces, but a state policy, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

Army begins using $150,000 artillery shells in Afghanistan
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canadian army gunners in Afghanistan are now cleared to fire GPS-guided artillery shells at Taliban militants - at the cost of $150,000 a round.

We can't just extend the mission
Our panel found that more of the same in Afghanistan was not good enough
JOHN MANLEY From Tuesday's Globe and Mail March 25, 2008 at 6:45 AM EDT
Parliament's recent vote to conditionally extend the mission in Afghanistan sets the table for a historic opportunity to remodel Canada's Afghan mission. It also enables Canada, working with the United Nations and like-minded countries

Iraq "more stable" than Afghanistan
Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:49 AM BST By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq has emerged as a more stable country than Afghanistan, thanks to lower violence, the presence of a large U.S.-led international force and high oil prices, according to a report published on Tuesday.

Top WFP Official in Canada to highlight food price rise crisis
Source: United Nations World Food Programme March 25, 2008
Ottawa – Following the United Nations World Food Programme's extraordinary emergency appeal last week to world government leaders for critical funds to address soaring food and fuel prices, the agency's Deputy Executive Director

Taliban militants kill Afghan 'US spy' in Pakistan: official
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) — Taliban militants shot dead an Afghan refugee in a Pakistani tribal area, accusing him of spying for US forces operating in neighbouring Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

Afghans learning a better way to match Taliban pay
by Bronwen Roberts Mon Mar 24, 12:08 AM ET
ASADABAD (AFP) - Under the gaze of snowy peaks on which insurgents operate, Afghan and US officials open a trade centre they expect will find men jobs and take them out of the reach of rebel recruiters.

Tribal animosity drawing Taliban recruits
According to The Globe's survey, the majority of insurgents in the south do not come from tribes well-represented in local government
GRAEME SMITH gsmith@globeandmail.com March 25, 2008 Globe and Mail, Canada
Canadian troops and their allies have been drawn into an ancient tribal feud that simmers beneath the conflict in southern Afghanistan.

Clark says no plans for bigger Afghan commitment
Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand | Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Prime Minister Helen Clark says New Zealand is not planning any major changes to its commitment in Afghanistan.

ADB initiative to revive TAP gas pipeline project
By Ihtasham ul Haque Dawn (Pakistan) March 25, 2008 issue
ISLAMABAD, March 24: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is "regrouping" officials of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the third week of April to revive the TAP gas pipeline project in view of the energy shortage in the region.

Afghan president congratulates new Pakistani PM
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-25 20:30:05
KABUL, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday congratulates new Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Riza Gilani on assuming office and hoped that the new government will overcome extremism.

NWFP police continue deporting Afghan refugees
* 60 refugees deported in a month during efforts to improve law and order in the province
By Akhtar Amin Daily Times, Pakistan
PESHAWAR: The Frontier police has started deporting suspected Afghan refugees through courts to improve the law and order situation in the province, Daily Times learnt on Monday.

Afghanistan's youngest migrants adrift on the road to asylum
By Niki Kitsantonis International Herald Tribune March 24, 2008
PATRAS, Greece: Hundreds of child refugees from Afghanistan are camped around this port in western Greece, hoping to sneak onto a ferry to Western Europe. But the boys, some as young as 8, are being preyed on by traffickers

Afghan Parliament Wants Kabul Barriers Removed -AFP
KABUL (AFP)--An Afghan parliamentary committee said Tuesday it wanted security barriers blocking roads in the capital, including around a five-star hotel attacked by Taliban in January, to be removed.

Afghan refugee third in national spelling bee
NZPA via Yahoo!Xtra News - Mar 24 12:01 PM
An Afghan refugee who did not speak a word of English until about six years ago has been judged the country's third-best speller.

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Afghan aid money spent on high salaries
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Too much money meant for Afghanistan aid is wasted, with a vast amount spent on foreign workers' high salaries, security and living arrangements, according to a report from humanitarian groups published Tuesday.

The prospects for peace in Afghanistan are being undermined because Western countries are failing to deliver on aid promises — and because much of the aid money they do send is going to expatriate workers, according to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an alliance of 94 international aid agencies.

Since 2001, the international community has pledged $25 billion in help but has delivered only $15 billion, the alliance said. Of that $15 billion, some 40 percent of it — or $6 billion — goes back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report found.

"A vast amount of aid is absorbed by high salaries, living, security, transport and accommodation costs for expatriates working for consulting firms or contractors," the report said. The costs are increasing with a recent deterioration in security, it said.

The cost of a full-time expatriate consultant working in Afghanistan is around $250,000, according to the group.

This is some 200 times the average annual salary of an Afghan civil servant, who is paid less than $1,000" per year, the report said.

Amy Frumin, an international affairs fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations who spent a year in Afghanistan as an officer on a U.S. Agency for International Development reconstruction team, said blaming high expat salaries is unfair.

"You have to pay them good money to do that. They're still having trouble finding people to fill these positions. It's a dangerous place. Not many people are willing to risk their limbs," she said.

The report said that Afghanistan's biggest donor, USAID, the U.S. government's aid arm, allocates close to half of its funds to five large U.S. contractors and that "it is clear that substantial amounts of aid continue to be absorbed in corporate profits."

The five companies are KBR, the Louis Berger Group, Chemonics International, Bearing Point and Dyncorp International, the report said.

Donors, especially the United States, should ensure the primary objective of aid programs is poverty reduction and that they address genuine Afghan needs and build Afghan capacity, it said.

The report also said the United States has not delivered $5 billion worth of aid it pledged to help rebuild Afghanistan, and other donors have fallen short by about that same amount.

Jim Kunder, acting deputy administrator of USAID, said he recognized there are always concerns about the speed in which aid is delivered but he said the envisioned work is being done.

"The U.S. government is on track to provide the aid to Afghanistan that it pledged," Kunder said in a telephone interview from Washington.

He said the report didn't recognize that often much of the cash earmarked for projects isn't spent until the work is completed. Roads and schools are being built and the Afghans are being helped to create democratic institutions even though the final bills haven't come in, he said.

USAID said it had pledged $25.8 billion, and of that $17.4 billion has been spent or is in the pipeline. Kunder said the money has gone to a broad variety of projects, including "supporting the national elections, constructing roads, reducing infant mortality by 22 percent, putting more than four million Afghan children in schools."

Previous reports by aid groups have said the international community is spending far less aid money in Afghanistan per capita — and putting far fewer soldiers on the ground — than it has in previous conflicts.

In the two years following the U.S.-led invasion, Afghanistan received $57 per capita in aid, while Bosnia and East Timor received $679 and $233 per capita respectively, the ACBAR report said.
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Associated Press writers Lindsay Holmwood and Kent Kilpatrick in New York contributed to this report.
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Afghan peace hurt by failed aid pledges: agencies
By Jon Hemming March 25, 2008
KABUL (Reuters) - Peace in Afghanistan is being undermined by the failure of Western nations to deliver promised assistance, aid agencies said on Tuesday.

Afghanistan relies on international aid for 90 percent of its spending as it tries to rebuild state institutions shattered by nearly 30 years of war and at the same time fight off a renewed Taliban insurgency that killed 6,000 people last year.

Foreign spending on aid and development is dwarfed by that spent on international military operations in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military alone now spends some $100 million a day fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, but spending on aid by all donors since 2001 amounts to only $7 million a day.

"Given the links between development and security, the effectiveness of aid also has a major impact on peace and stability," the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) said in a report.

"Yet thus far aid has been insufficient and in many cases wasteful and ineffective," said ACBAR, an umbrella group for non-governmental organizations working in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan received just $57 per capita in aid in the two years after international intervention, compared with $679 a head in Bosnia and $233 in East Timor, it said.

"$10 BILLION SHORTFALL"
The international community has pledged to spend some $25 billion on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan.

But, the report said, "just $15 billion in aid has so far been spent, of which it is estimated a staggering 40 percent has returned to donor countries in corporate profits and salaries."

While there are problems delivering development due to poor security, government corruption and the ability of the country to absorb aid, major donors have fallen far behind on their pledges, ACBAR said.

The United States, by far the biggest donor, has paid out only half of the $10 billion it committed in aid to Afghanistan for the period 2002-2008, the Asia Development Bank and India only a third of their pledged assistance for the same period.

Two-thirds of international assistance to Afghanistan bypasses the Afghan government, undermining the rebuilding of its state institutions. Donors also do not coordinate well among themselves and with the Afghan government, the report said.

Afghanistan called for funds to be channeled through government coffers.

"The Afghan government has always said that implementing and funding projects through non-governmental resources costs much more and relying on international experts does not lead to money coming into the country but in fact the money is sent out," said Afghan presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada.

Fears of Afghan official corruption soaking up donor funds may be misplaced, analysts say, as countries such as Britain and Japan that support the government directly, channel assistance through an independently audited World Bank trust fund.

ACBAR called on donors to increase spending on development and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, fulfill their pledges of aid, coordinate spending more effectively and channel more funds through the Afghan government.

But the European Commission said the ACBAR report miscalculated the aid commitment and distribution figures.

"We are delivering at the moment, there is no backlog, there is no delay, shortfall or lagging behind," EC spokeswoman Christiane Hohmann told a regular news briefing in Brussels.

She said criticisms of aid efficiency were already being addressed: "We know there is always room for improvement and donors are working on that," she said, adding that one of the problems was the low absorption capacity of the government.

The maximum figure for Commission spending on technical assistance through NGOs that did not stay in the country was 30 percent, Hohmann said.

"If you go to a country that needs to be rebuilt from scratch, you need to import that knowledge and the expertise, and of course that doesn't come free of charge," she said.

(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul and David Brunnstrom in Brussels; Editing by Bill Tarrant)
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4 police, 2 others killed in Afghanistan
Tue Mar 25, 3:09 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Gunmen have attacked a group of police along Afghanistan's border with Iran, killing four police and two civilians.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary blamed the Tuesday attack near Kalata Nazar in Herat Province on the "enemy" of Afghanistan. But it wasn't clear if that meant Taliban fighters, drug runners or criminals.

Smugglers carry tons of heroin made in Afghanistan over the border into Iran each year.

Bashery said four police from the country's border force were killed along with two civilians. The gunmen fled the scene. Back to Top

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Afghan troops kill Taliban rebels after ambush
KABUL March 25 (Reuters) - Afghan forces killed and wounded a number of Taliban militants after fighting off an ambush in southern Afghanistan, the Afghan Defence Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

Taliban insurgents have vowed to intensify attacks on Afghan and foreign troops countrywide, launch a wave of suicide bombings and attack supply lines from Pakistan this year in their campaign to overthrow the pro-Western Afghan government.

Taliban fighters ambushed an Afghan army patrol in the Mizan district of Zabul province on Monday, the Defence Ministry said.

"The operation is still going on and we are assessing information about the precise figure of enemy casualties," said Defence Ministry spokesman Zahir Murad.

Also in Zabul province, the Taliban killed an Afghan civilian accused of spying for NATO troops, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist movement said.

Elsewhere, four Afghan policemen and two civilians were killed when the Taliban ambushed their vehicle in the Ghoryan district of Herat province close to western border with Iran on Monday, a senior police official said.

Some 6,000 people, around a third of them civilians, were killed in fighting in Afghanistan last year. (Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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Afghan Defense Ministry Dismisses New Taliban Threat
KABUL (AFP)--The Afghan defense ministry said Tuesday its security forces were stronger than ever this year and dismissed a Taliban threat to expand its operations countrywide starting this spring.

The U.S.-funded Afghan army in particular was in a "very, very good position" compared with a year ago, it said, describing the Taliban as fragile. Last year was the bloodiest of an insurgency launched by the Islamic rebels after 2001.

A Taliban representative called media with a statement said to be from one of the insurgent movement's most senior members, Mullah Bradar, to announce Operation Ebrat, which means "lesson" in Pashtu.

"This will be a new type of operation to expand operations countrywide and surround the enemy wherever they are and encounter them," according to the statement read to an AFP reporter over the telephone.

It said the Taliban's "holy jihad" would continue until international troops left Afghanistan and President Hamid Karzai's administration collapsed.

Victory would be when "an Islamic system is in place in independent Afghanistan," the statement said, calling on Afghans to join a "holy freedom war."

The defense ministry said the announcement was part "of a psychological campaign and not a reality which could implemented on the ground."

"The national army has significantly improved in terms of capability, capacity and skills compared to the beginning of last year," it said, referring to the start of the Afghan year on March 20.

"New and modern equipment has been given to the national army. The air force has been revived and activated."

Afghan National Army Commando battalions have been formed and engineering battalions are working across the country, it said, adding that international forces are providing security.

The Taliban had meanwhile lost its leading figures, it said, claiming there were also disputes in the group's ranks.

A U.S.-led coalition removed the Taliban from government in late 2001 because the extremist regime had sheltered Al-Qaida.
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Iran, Tajikistan, Afghanistan to bolster economic, cultural ties
Dushanbe, March 25, IRNA
The three Persian speaking neighboring countries of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan here on Tuesday issued a joint communique for expansion of trilateral economic and cultural relations.

The statement, including a prelude and 12 clauses, was endorsed by Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki and his Tajik and Afghan counterparts Khan Zarifi and Rangin Dadfar Sepanta respectively.

The document states that the three foreign ministers had in their meeting discussed issues of trilateral interest as well as regional and international issues in a friendly atmosphere, reaching the agreement to hold regular consultation on political issues and enhancing cooperation for promotion of regional stability and security.

The three sides will take joint efforts against such phenomena as terrorism, extremism, internationally organized crimes, smuggle of drugs and other new challenges and threats.

The three sides will implement a June 2003 trilateral protocol for passenger and cargo transfer on the international level and they will follow up a project for laying railway track stretching from Iran's Sangan to Afghan Herat and Shirkhan and from there to Tajikistan's Dushanbe.

They also stressed implementation of a 2005 energy project which foresees setting up a 500 kilovolt high voltage power transmission line from Iran to Afghan cities of Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif and from there to Tajikistan's border.

The Tajik party too has suggested establishment of a hydraulic power plant on a Tajik domestic river.

The three sides agreed on formation of a joint investment company based on their laws and international standards to run with domestic and foreign financial resources.

The three neighbors will based on the agreement cooperate in providing skilled manpower for recruitment in due projects.

Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan will facilitate their nationals' visit to their territories and to this end they will open up onsulate officials in the cities they agreed to.

They will based on the agreement have cooperation in the fields of education, science, health, cultural heritage and tourism and set up a TV network in Dushanbe to prepare and broadcast Farsi, Tajik, Dari and Pashtun programs.

The three foreign ministers also agreed on holding a ceremony in commemoration of the great Farsi poet Abu Abdullah Rudaki in Dushanbe, Tus, Tehran and Balkh.

They also stressed trilateral cooperation within framework of the UN, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and other international and regional organizations.

The three parties also agreed on formation a follow up council at the level of their deputies foreign minister to follow up implementation of agreements regarding expansion of trilateral political, economic and cultural ties. The first meeting of such a council would be held in Kabul this year.

Foreign Ministers of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan have termed outcome of their Dushanbe meeting "positive" and stressed continuation of such meetings in the future.
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Fate of US aid worker a mystery two months on, say officials
by Beatrice Khadige
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Mystery surrounds the fate of a US aid worker who was kidnapped with her Afghan driver two months as there has been no word from their captors, officials said Tuesday.

Cyd Mizell, 50, and her driver Abdul Hadi were snatched on January 26 while driving to work at the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation (ARDLF), a small nongovernment group that works with poor communities in Asia.

ARDLF said in a statement a month later that it had received "information over the past few days indicating that our two aid workers have been killed."

This was, however, never confirmed and an ARDLF employee in southern Kandahar city, where they were taken, said Tuesday that they were just "rumours".

"The case is still open," a US official said Tuesday.

The kidnappers never contacted authorities, said Assadullah Khalid, the governor of the volatile southern province of Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban movement waging a deadly insurgency that has included kidnappings.

"No conditions were set," he told AFP.

The Taliban have repeatedly denied involvement, with spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed saying again Tuesday: "Our military friends have not abducted the American woman."

Mizell was wearing a burqa, an all-covering garment worn by women in rural Afghanistan, when she went missing.

She speaks the local Pashtu language and had been teaching English, sewing and embroidery to women -- some of whom joined a protest days after her disappearance to demand her release.

But Khalid said she had not taken sufficient security for a foreign national in this volatile part of Afghanistan, where crime combines with insurgency to create a precarious environment.

"She was not careful at all," he told AFP. "She lived alone in her house, didn't accept any security. She didn't even live inside the city."

The police have not been able to find out what happened.

"I don't think she is somewhere near Kandahar city," said provincial police chief Sayed Aqa Saqib. "It is possible that the abductors keep her somewhere far."

Sarah Chayse, another American woman who has been based in Kandahar for years, also thinks Mizell may have been moved away, perhaps to tribal areas of Pakistan where the Taliban have bases.

The kidnapping was an "enormous event because it is the first time that an American woman has been targeted in this manner," she said.

ARDLF work has, meanwhile, ground to a halt, said interim director Altaf Ahmad Rahimi, adding that he had no idea why Mizell would have been targeted.

"We haven't done anything bad... This is the first tragedy, the first crisis."
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France: No decision yet on Afghan forces
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer Tue Mar 25, 8:29 AM ET
PARIS - France's defense minister said Tuesday that military strength alone won't bring stability to Afghanistan, even as France considers increasing the number of troops there.

France has not yet decided how it will boost its contribution to NATO's Afghan mission beyond the 1,500 troops it has there already, Defense Minister Herve Morin told The Associated Press. Most operate in the capital, Kabul, and its northern suburbs.

The decision is expected at a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, next week.

Any enhanced French role must be considered as part of a "global approach" in Afghanistan, Morin said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has said as much in a letter to counterparts, he said.

"Even if you have military control, it's not enough," Morin said. "There has to be an accompanying plan that allows the Afghans to progressively create the conditions of their own development — and thus their own autonomy — and to take their destiny in their hands."

He declined to confirm recent newspaper reports in Britain and France that France's government would contribute about 1,000 more troops, saying "there is no figure."

Speculation has been widespread about whether new French troops would be deployed in southern Afghanistan, a key hub of insurgent violence.

Morin appeared to suggest, however, that Paris would not send troops to the south. A deployment to the eastern part of Afghanistan would be more contiguous with its forces in Kabul.

Canada has warned that it would pull its 2,500 troops from southern Afghanistan's dangerous Kandahar province if other NATO allies do not offer more help. Canada wants 1,000 more troops for anti-Taliban efforts.

More than 8,000 people died in violence in Afghanistan last year — the highest annual toll since the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other senior U.S. officials have appealed to NATO allies to boost what has grown to a 43,000-strong force in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have repeatedly vented frustration that appeals for more troops have fallen flat. Gates has even warned of a fissure within the NATO alliance over the issue.
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AP Interview: French defense minister says NATO in control in Afghanistan
The Associated Press  March 25, 2008
PARIS: Even as it considers boosting its troops in Afghanistan, France believes military means are not enough to bring stability to the country, the French defense minister said Tuesday.

President Nicolas Sarkozy has said as much in a letter to counterparts, insisting any enhanced French role must be considered as part of a "global approach" in Afghanistan, Defense Minister Herve Morin told The Associated Press in an interview.

"Even if you have military control, it's not enough," he said. "There has to be an accompanying plan that allows the Afghans to progressively create the conditions of their own development — and thus their own autonomy — and to take their destiny in their hands."

Morin said France has not yet decided how it will boost its contribution to the Afghan mission — beyond the 1,500 troops it has there already. Most operate in the capital, Kabul, and its northern suburbs. The French decision is expected at a NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, next week.

"We are examining hypotheses," Morin said. He declined to confirm newspaper reports in both Britain and France in recent days saying France's government would contribute about 1,000 more troops.

"There is no figure," he said.

Speculation has been widespread about where the new French troops would be deployed — such as in southern Afghanistan, a key hub of insurgent violence, or in another hot area, the east, along the border with Pakistan.

Morin appeared to suggest, however, that Paris would not wade into the south, saying "we naturally have more of an interest" in possibly avoiding zones where France is not present now.

A deployment to the east would be more contiguous with its forces in the Afghan capital.

Canada has warned that it would pull out its 2,500 troops from Afghanistan if other NATO allies do not offer more help. It wants 1,000 more troops for anti-Taliban efforts.

NATO has been under strain with revived insurgent violence in Afghanistan. More than 8,000 people died in violence there last year — the highest annual toll since the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and other senior U.S. officials have appealed to NATO allies to boost what has grown to a 43,000-strong force in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force.

U.S. officials have repeatedly vented frustration that appeals for more troops have fallen flat. Gates has even warned of a fissure within the NATO alliance over the issue.
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Turkish PM: Cheney Didn't Ask For Help In Afghanistan
March 25, 2008
SARAJEVO, Bosnia (AFP)--Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney didn't ask Turkey to send more troops to Afghanistan.

"We were not asked, in any way, to increase the number of (Turkish) soldiers in Afghanistan, during the talks with Cheney on Monday," Erdogan, in a visit to Bosnia, told journalists.

The request was not made "during the meeting of the two delegations nor during the one-on-one talks," he said.

Cheney met Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul, and chief of general staff, General Yasar Buyukanit Monday in Ankara on the last leg of a nine-day overseas tour.

Washington has been pushing its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, including Turkey, to step up efforts to help rebuild war-wracked Afghanistan and crush the Taliban Islamist militia ahead of an alliance summit in Bucharest next week.

Turkish authorities remained split over the issue.

Last week, Turkey's Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Ankara would soon decide whether to send more troops to Afghanistan, a day after Buyukanit opposed the idea, saying that his forces were already busy fighting outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party separatists.
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Turkish army chief says sending troops to Afghanistan is state policy
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-25 07:45:16
ANKARA, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Turkish Chief of General Staff Yasar Buyukanit said Monday that sending Turkish troops to Afghanistan was not the policy of Turkish Armed Forces, but a state policy, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

Buyukanit made the remarks at a reception held on the occasion of Pakistan's National Day in Ankara, capital of Turkey.

Upon a question on the dispatch of Turkish troops to Afghanistan, Buyukanit was quoted as saying that "this is not the policy of Turkish Armed Forces, this is a state policy. I will only say that".

Turkish government and military are at odds over sending more combat troops to Afghanistan, local newspaper Turkish Daily News reported last Thursday.

Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said the government might consider sending more combat troops to Afghanistan." Turkey has its own terrorism problem but on the other hand it has responsibilities of being a NATO member when fighting against terrorism," Babacan said during a joint press conference with the visiting Afghan FM Rengin Spanta Wednesday.

"The general tendency is to support Afghanistan in all ways, including military ones," he added.

Spanta, for his part, told reporters that he had asked for Turkey's support in fighting against Afghanistan's terrorism problem. "Their response was positive."

However, Buyukanit had said earlier that the military would not dispatch even a single troop to the southern region of Afghanistan to fight against the Taliban.

"Our troops in Kabul are under the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), which has no mission to fight against terrorism. Our troops are not there for this purpose," said Buyukanit.

NATO and the United States are pressuring allies to do more for the 42,000-strong mission in Afghanistan. NATO will discuss the Afghanistan mission in the upcoming NATO summit that will take place in April in Bucharest, Romania.
Editor: Bi Mingxin 
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Army begins using $150,000 artillery shells in Afghanistan
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Canadian army gunners in Afghanistan are now cleared to fire GPS-guided artillery shells at Taliban militants - at the cost of $150,000 a round.

The Excalibur shell could very well be the most expensive conventional ammunition ever fired by the military.

Supporters argue that the weapon, which has the ability to correct itself in flight, has pinpoint accuracy. They predict that will cut down on the mounting civilian death toll from air strikes in a war-torn region, where insurgents often hide among the population.

"It lands exactly where you want it to land," said Lt.-Col. Jim Willis, a senior officer in charge of acquiring the munitions.

"It provides more safety."

About 18 months ago, the army announced its intention to buy a handful of the experimental shells to go along with its brand new 155-millimetre M-777 howitzers.

Introducing the weapon to the army's arsenal has been slower than expected because of concerns related to the shell's performance in cold weather and precautions to make sure the GPS signals can't be jammed or scrambled by insurgents.

Willis said battery guns supporting Canada's battle group in Kandahar recently test fired the shell in the desert and the new weapon performed flawlessly. He wouldn't say how many shells were fired.

A U.S. army unit in eastern Afghanistan conducted its own tests late last month and has also cleared the Excalibur for action.

The price tag has provided fodder for critics of the war, who've described the shell as overkill and noted that the cost is like firing a Ferrari.

U.S. defence contractor Raytheon began promoting the shells in the fall of 2006 as the "next generation" of artillery munitions.

Willis, an officer with 32 years experience with big guns, said he believes the Excalibur represents a quantum leap forward because instead of firing a dozen shells at one target, only one round is needed.

The Defence Department spent $150,000 a round in the fall of 2006 on the first batch of shells off the production line. Willis says, as time goes on, they are expecting the cost to drop to $86,000 per shell.

Ordinary high-explosive rounds cost up to $2,000 apiece.

The Excalibur shell uses satellite signals and software to guide it to within 10 metres of its intended target, even when fired from up to 40 kilometres away. Regular shells are said to be accurate to within 50 metres.

Willis conceded that army planners have noticed a difference in performance during freezing temperatures, but added that the shell is being used in hot weather in Afghanistan.

The question of whether the Excalibur has been led astray by sophisticated interference technology was something both the army and defence industry officials were reluctant to address.

Safeguards are in place to make sure a round doesn't land among friendly troops - or in the midst of civilians, said Willis.

The system "has counter-measures built in, but obviously I can't get into the details here," he said.

"Aside from the counter-measures, it flies so quickly to a target that the chance of it being jammed is remote."
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We can't just extend the mission
Our panel found that more of the same in Afghanistan was not good enough
JOHN MANLEY From Tuesday's Globe and Mail March 25, 2008 at 6:45 AM EDT
Parliament's recent vote to conditionally extend the mission in Afghanistan sets the table for a historic opportunity to remodel Canada's Afghan mission. It also enables Canada, working with the United Nations and like-minded countries, to significantly influence how the international community deals with failed and failing states. But these achievements will only be realized if the opportunity to do things better is not lost.

Ottawa's bookshelves are full of reports by panels, task forces, special committees and royal commissions. Many of these were forgotten almost as soon as they were published.

From that point of view, the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan was a roaring success. Embraced by the government, it provided the Official Opposition enough room to be able to reach a consensus with the government. The two major political parties put aside partisanship on this issue (something very rare in this period of minority government) and found room to compromise. To that extent, Canadians should be pleased. An election in which the parties attempted to differentiate themselves on the question of Canada's future in Afghanistan would have made Canadians and our allies very uncomfortable and may have increased threats to Canadian troops in the field.

Of concern, however, is the degree to which the panel's report has been reduced to the simple proposition that Canada should stay in Afghanistan if NATO provides an additional 1,000 troops. A military partner in Kandahar as a condition for Canada's continuing security role was a key recommendation, but, if that is the only aspect that receives attention, our panel's efforts will have been almost as much in vain as those whose reports sit on the bookshelves of Ottawa. (It is worth noting that the condition has served to increase the focus of several NATO countries on the situation in Afghanistan and may have encouraged France to possibly increase its troop commitment, something that was by no means certain when the panel reported in January.) Our panel found that more of the same in Afghanistan was not good enough. Our assessment, overall, was that at the present time, NATO and its allies are failing in the mission in Afghanistan. And the consequences of not reversing this failure would be severe for global security, for NATO, and for the UN and its ability to intervene effectively in failed and failing states.

We need a new and different approach to our mission in Afghanistan. In particular, there must be greater emphasis on diplomacy, reconstruction, development and building Afghan institutions of governance.

To get the needed results, we recommended that the Prime Minister personally lead a diplomatic initiative, making Canada's voice heard to a degree commensurate with our sacrifice. The objective would be not simply additional troops in Kandahar, but a comprehensive political-military plan for NATO, the UN and participating countries. Six years after the collapse of the Taliban government, we were shocked to find so little co-ordination and commonality among key participants in Afghanistan.

In addition, we urged the Prime Minister to demand concerted efforts by the government of Afghanistan to improve governance by tackling corruption and ensuring delivery of basic services to the Afghan people. Many Afghans are lost to the insurgency because they find their government to be corrupt and ineffective. Insurgencies are rarely, if ever, resolved by military means, so Canada should encourage political reconciliation with those who will renounce violence and accept the democratic constitution.

Finally, we called for forceful representations with Afghanistan's neighbours, especially Pakistan, to reduce risks to regional stability.

In general, our panel found that the civilian effort in Afghanistan has been drastically overshadowed by the military one, imperilling support for the mission. Canada's light civilian engagement (47 people in the country) compared to the military (about 2,500) belies the importance of the civilian component of the mission. Enhancing our civilian content would reflect the priorities of Canadians and the needs of Afghans. Choosing and funding development projects that meet the needs of the Afghan population for roads, irrigation, electricity, schools and health care would contribute significantly to winning the hearts and minds of the people who need to be convinced that their lives will be improved by supporting their government rather than the insurgency.

In adopting our report, Parliament added a definite termination date - an entirely political decision that can be revisited at a later date if Parliament so chooses. We did not recommend a fixed date for the end of the military mission because we could find no operational rationale for any particular date. Our focus was on the task that our military must undertake - to train Afghan forces to take over security responsibility in their country.

If the 2011 date for the withdrawal of Canadian forces is to be met, the government must establish a series of clear milestones to be met between now and then. One thing is certain: Afghanistan's development and governance challenges will not be fully met by 2011. Let's hope it's not necessary to create another panel in 2010 to advise on Canada's role after 2011.

The world will face more cases of needing to intervene in failed states, and Afghanistan is a test case. Canada's renewed commitment provides us with an opportunity to shape these approaches. Let us not squander the opportunity.

John Manley, a former Liberal foreign minister, was chairman of the Harper government's Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan
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Iraq "more stable" than Afghanistan
Tue Mar 25, 2008 9:49 AM BST By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraq has emerged as a more stable country than Afghanistan, thanks to lower violence, the presence of a large U.S.-led international force and high oil prices, according to a report published on Tuesday.

The report by the British-based Jane's Information Group ranked Afghanistan as the world's third most-unstable country after the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and Somalia.

By contrast, Iraq was at No. 22 where it appeared among several African countries including Niger, Nigeria, Burundi and Equatorial Guinea.

The report, titled "Jane's Country Risk Ratings," was the first of its kind for the publisher and contained no comparison figures. But a June 2007 ranking of failed states by Foreign Policy magazine called Iraq the world's second-most unstable country with Afghanistan at No. 8.

Meanwhile, the United States failed to rank among the top tier of the world's most stable countries in the ratings, which measured 235 countries, territories and entities according to two-dozen stability factors.

Vatican City was ranked most stable, followed by Sweden, Luxembourg and Monaco. But Jane's judged the United States to be only the 22nd most stable country -- just below Australia and Portugal -- due to international drug trafficking and the proliferation of small arms within U.S. society.

"Iraq is more stable than Afghanistan," said Christian Le Miere, managing editor of Jane's Country Risk, which complied the ratings. He said Iraq has benefiting from several stabilizing factors including the world's highest number of international troops per capita, an economy buoyed by high oil prices and a sharp decline in violence.

"With the combination of international troops, the government can extend its will to any area under its administration," he said.

"Compare that to Afghanistan, where the government has less control over its territory, the economy is made up by some estimates about 50 percent from opium and has very little to draw on for resources."

Afghan violence has grown steadily over the last two years to the highest level since U.S.-led forces ousted Taliban rule after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, despite the presence of 43,000 NATO-led troops.

But in Iraq, violence is down more than 60 percent since last summer when the Bush administration completed its build-up of forces known as "the surge." There are currently about 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

U.S. officials attribute the drop in violence to several factors including the troop build-up, a cease-fire by anti-U.S. radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr and the emergence of U.S.-allied Sunni tribesmen.

The Bush administration is now in the process of withdrawing five combat brigades from Iraq by July and could draw down more troops later in 2008 after an expected pause.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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Top WFP Official in Canada to highlight food price rise crisis
Source: United Nations World Food Programme March 25, 2008
Ottawa – Following the United Nations World Food Programme's extraordinary emergency appeal last week to world government leaders for critical funds to address soaring food and fuel prices, the agency's Deputy Executive Director for Hunger Solutions, Sheila Sisulu, starts meetings today with Canadian officials.

During her three-day trip to Canada, Sisulu will discuss the devastating impact of record-high food prices on millions of poor and hungry people. On 25 February, WFP – which plans to feed more than 70 million people this year -- announced a US$500 million budget shortfall. In the three weeks since, food prices have increased a further 20 percent. High commodity prices show no sign of abating any time soon.

"We are seeing a new face of hunger – people who suddenly can no longer afford the food they see on store shelves. Prices have soared beyond their reach," said Sisulu. "The world must respond to help the new hungry as well as the world's 'bottom billion' – those already struggling on less than dollar a day.. That same dollar today buys much less food."

Rising food and fuel prices, competition between biofuels and food, increased demand for food by countries with emerging economies and erratic weather are hitting hardest those on the poverty line.

In 2007, Canada was WFP's third largest donor, providing 176 million Canadian dollars to help feed the world's hungry.

Canada was also one of the first countries to contribute when the Afghan Government and the UN appealed in January this year for help to feed an additional 2.5 million people hit by rising food costs. WFP requested US$77 million to deliver 89,000 metric tons of food to the poorest Afghans and Canada responded with 10 million Canadian dollars.

The urgent plea came after wheat prices in Afghanistan increased by 67 percent in less than a year. On average, Afghans who are not engaged in agriculture now spend three quarters of their income on food.

During her meetings this week, Sisulu will urge Canada to contribute additional funding by 1 May to avoid the need to cut rations or to dramatically reduce the number of people WFP feeds.

WFP is working closely with donor governments, UN partners and experts, as well as governments in beneficiary countries, on long-term solutions while simultaneously tackling these emergency needs.

Note to editors: Ms. Sisulu is available for media interviews during her trip. Contact Julie Julie Marshall, WFP/Canada, Tel. +1-905-664 2005, Cell. +1-905-818 2664

For more information please contact :

Brenda Barton, Deputy Director Communications, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602, Cell. +39-3472582217 (ISDN line available)

Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Cell. +41-792857304

Jennifer Parmelee, WFP/Washington, Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149, Cell. +1-202-4223383

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Cell. +1-646-8241112, luescher@un.org
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Taliban militants kill Afghan 'US spy' in Pakistan: official
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) — Taliban militants shot dead an Afghan refugee in a Pakistani tribal area, accusing him of spying for US forces operating in neighbouring Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday.

A note left on the body of 40-year-old Abdullah Jan said he "met his fate because he was spying for the Americans," said an official in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district.

"The man was shot from close range and his body was found near a paramilitary camp five kilometres (around three miles) west of Miranshah," the official said.

Residents said Taliban militants had kidnapped the man last week from Miranshah bazaar.

Militants have killed several tribesmen in recent months, accusing them of spying for the US-led coalition forces across the border.

The rugged tribal region is a known hub of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who are accused by US and Afghan governments of using the area to launch cross border attacks on international coalition troops deployed in Afghanistan.
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Afghans learning a better way to match Taliban pay
by Bronwen Roberts Mon Mar 24, 12:08 AM ET
ASADABAD (AFP) - Under the gaze of snowy peaks on which insurgents operate, Afghan and US officials open a trade centre they expect will find men jobs and take them out of the reach of rebel recruiters.

The gleaming new Kunar Construction Centre -- 10 kilometres (six miles) from the border with Pakistan, where extremists are said to have bases -- offers courses in plumbing, painting, masonry and other building skills.

"It is the graduates of this school who are going to rebuild your country," US Navy Commander Larry LeGree tells a room of local men in traditional dress guarded by heavily armed Afghan forces and US troops.

Afghanistan's rugged and remote Kunar province is a key battleground in an extremist insurgency hindering the government's efforts to bring stability to a country devastated by nearly three decades of war.

Twenty international soldiers have lost their lives here since May, a US commander says, and there are about three attacks on security forces a week.

It is near here that some say Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who was sheltered by the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, was last sighted. Many now believe he is hiding just across the border in northwestern Pakistan.

There is also talk that wanted radical commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had a meeting in the area recently. His powerful deputy Kashmir Khan once lived on a mountain just behind the new centre, says a local.

"These insurgents are always on the top of the mountains," says Kunar governor Fazlullah Wahidi.

Most are from outside the country, he says. "They come and spend some time in Kunar and they go to other areas."

This section of the border does not see the same bulk of infiltration as the flatter southern part, where large groups of former madrassa students come over, says Lieutenant Colonel William Ostlund.

"Here smaller groups of command and control people bring in specialised equipment and finances to pay very poor and uneducated people that live in the mountains to attack," he said.

This includes an Al-Qaeda element from mainly Arab countries who have had some form of training in Pakistan, says Ostlund, the most senior US military commander in Kunar.

"They will sit on the hill and tell the young fighters what to do and how to do it but few of them engage in the fighting themselves."

The incentive for these fighters is cash, he says. And the US government-funded trade school aims to help "fighting-age males" to match, through legitimate jobs, the money they would get from insurgent activity.

"We need to pay construction workers more than the Taliban are paying their soldiers, fighters and porters," says Ostlund, putting porters' pay at about 100 dollars a month and fighters' at 150.

The new centre will plug into an expected construction boom that will be worth 3.5 billion dollars over the next few years, say its sponsors at the US government's aid agency, USAID.

It is targeted to the "at-risk population" -- men aged between 18 and 35 who may be persuaded to carry out a rocket-propelled grenade attack for about six dollars, says Captain Steve Fritz, who headed the centre's construction.

"There is a sense that this is more an economic fight," he says.

The strategy is one of several being used by the Afghan government and its international allies to defeat a Taliban insurgency that was countrywide its bloodiest last year with more than 8,000 people killed, most of them rebels.

In Kunar, as in other parts of the country, more police are being trained: provincial police chief General Abdul Jalal Jalal says, however, he needs at least double the 1,000 men he has.

There are also moves to draw insurgent leaders, like Hekmatyar, into dialogue. And there is new emphasis on improving provincial-level governance, with Wahidi's appointment in November seen as promising.

Military efforts are meanwhile making headway, Ostlund says. Troops in Kunar are initiating up to half of contacts with the rebels, up from only two to five percent about a year ago.

And the number of "significant acts" dropped from 156 in September to 60 in February, he says.

"The security allows a bubble for the government to develop, and behind development comes economic prosperity.

"As soon as people can tap into the good governance and the economic benefits of good government... they understand they have more to gain by being part of the government than by living up in those mountains there or over in Pakistan," says Ostlund.
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Tribal animosity drawing Taliban recruits
According to The Globe's survey, the majority of insurgents in the south do not come from tribes well-represented in local government
GRAEME SMITH gsmith@globeandmail.com March 25, 2008 Globe and Mail, Canada
Canadian troops and their allies have been drawn into an ancient tribal feud that simmers beneath the conflict in southern Afghanistan.

In a sample of ordinary insurgents, 42 fighters in Kandahar province were asked by The Globe and Mail to identify their own tribe, and the results point to a divide within the Taliban ranks: Only five named themselves as members of the three major tribes most closely associated with the government, suggesting that tribal animosity has become a factor that drives the recruitment of insurgents.

"This government is a family business," said a prominent Afghan aid worker in Kandahar. "The other tribes get angry when a few tribes have all the power."

Afghan tribes often share the same ethnicity, religion, language and culture, but they're divided along ancestral lines that resemble the branches of a huge family tree. Little except bloodlines distinguishes most tribes from each other, but struggles for power among the tribes have been a source of bloodshed for centuries in this harsh land.

The small survey did not include enough interviews to draw firm conclusions about the tribal makeup of the Taliban, and the results may be biased by the tribal identity of the researcher who conducted the interviews since it would have been easier for him to find his fellow tribesmen in Taliban-controlled districts.

But the findings appear to support the impression of many analysts that the Kandahar insurgency draws fighters most heavily from the tribes outside of the Zirak Durrani tribal federation, which dominates the local government.

The Taliban interviewed claimed origins from 19 different tribes, all of them part of the Pashtun ethnic group that occupies most of southern Afghanistan. The largest numbers came from the Noorzai and Eshaqzai tribes, which accounted for 16 of the 42 surveyed. Many members of those two tribes live in the most dangerous parts of the Panjwai valley, where Canadian troops have been fighting for the past two years, and they often complain about being alienated from Kandahar's government, with little representation in the administration.

The Popalzai tribe of President Hamid Karzai, by contrast, had relatively few members in the sample of insurgents. Only two Taliban identified themselves as Popalzai, and they appeared to have personal reasons for participating in the insurgency: One said his family had been bombed by foreign troops and the other said the government repeatedly eradicated his opium fields. There was a similar lack of insurgents from other tribes usually aligned with the government.

"Currently there is war between the tribes," said a former Afghan intelligence officer, whose experience in Kandahar spans three decades.

But another observer said the friction between tribes still hasn't reached that point.

"We don't have a true tribal war here, yet," said Neamat Arghandabi, head of the National Islamic Society of Afghan Youth, who said he remembers such feuding during the period of chaos in the early 1990s that followed the withdrawal of Soviet forces. "It's the worst," he said. "It has no borders, everybody fights each other and you have to hide your roots. But for now, it's like competition among political parties."

The fact that certain tribes are more heavily represented than others within the Taliban appears to be a touchy point with the insurgent leadership, which prefers to describe religion as the group's unifying force. The Globe and Mail's researcher was sharply criticized by Taliban when they learned he had been surveying the tribal background of insurgents.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, scoffed at the idea of a tribally motivated insurgency as he watched The Globe's videos at his home in Kabul. "Among the Taliban, there is no difference between the tribes," Mr. Zaeef said. "The tribe issue among Taliban is not important."

But academics who monitor Afghanistan are paying increasing attention to the issue. Thomas Johnson, director of the Culture and Conflict Studies program at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, was among the first academics to describe the tribal underpinnings of the war.

Three tribes that dominated Kandahar in the years after the Soviet withdrawal, the Popalzai, Barakzai and Alokozai, all from the Zirak Durrani group, lost significant power when the Taliban swept the country from 1994 to 1996, Mr. Johnson said. In their place, the tribal groups aligned with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar installed themselves in the seats of government. The Taliban leader's own tribe, the Hotak branch of the Ghilzai federation, occupied seven of the senior positions in Mullah Omar's regime, according to Mr. Johnson's analysis.

The latest government in Kandahar has largely returned the Zirak Durranis to power, Mr. Johnson said, which reflects a tribal struggle that goes back hundreds of years.

Afghan government officials vigorously disagree with emphasizing the tribal element of the conflict, framing the war as a struggle against terrorism, but Mr. Johnson said they are playing down the role of the tribes.

"[They] can't face reality, and it is a recognition that the real conflict runs much deeper and will be much more difficult to resolve," Mr. Johnson said.

But many experts say it's wrong to view the tribal aspect of the war as a reason for despair, because the notion that the tribes always fight each other is false. Afghanistan has enjoyed decades of peace among the tribes, as recently as the 1960s and 1970s.

"Power dynamics have something to do with it; there were relatively more Ghilzai in the Taliban government, and that gave the current Durrani leadership an excuse to under-represent them in government," said Sarah Chayes, an American author who lives in Kandahar. "But I think it is wrong to characterize this conflict as a manifestation of age-old tribal conflicts, or as a kind of fight for the spoils among groups eagerly trying to loot Afghanistan. Treating it that way will be a self-fulfilling prophesy."

The tribes have gained power as an alternative political force only because the central government is weak, Ms. Chayes said, and bringing a clean and responsible government to the province would likely dampen Afghans' enthusiasm for the tribal system.

"Tribes that feel themselves to be mistreated by the government may act in a concerted way, like the Alokozais in Khakrez district deserting en masse to the Taliban, but this has been a reaction to the very tribal dimension of the actions of certain Kandahar leaders," Ms. Chayes said.

But a wealthy member of the Noorzai tribe, a group that often complains of being disenfranchised, said he thinks the cycle of tribes squabbling for power has already gained its own momentum and will be difficult to stop.

"Some warlords were against our tribes, and they wanted revenge against them," said Din Mohammed, a grey-bearded elder who owns a construction company. "They wanted to push these tribes out of the new government, put pressure on them, so these people went to Pakistan. And Pakistan supported them and sent them back to Afghanistan, and now the fighting is more and more."

Tribes of Kandahar

The Kandahar insurgency draws fighters most heavily from the tribes outside the Zirak Durrani tribal federation, which dominates the local government.

PASHTUN

An estimated 13 million Pashtuns live in Afghanistan, mostly in the south and east. In Kandahar, they have two main branches: The Durrani and Ghilzai.

DURRANI

ZIRAK DURRANI and PANJPAI DURRANI

Tribal identity often influences a person's politics, and whether he or she supports or opposes the government of President Hamid Karzai. Zirak Durranis tend to favour the government, while Panjpai Durranis and Ghilzais often feel disenfranchised.

Government-aligned tribes

POPALZAI

President Hamid Karzai rules in the capital, while his brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, plays a major role in Kandahar as chairman of the provincial council.

ALOKOZAI

The late Mullah Naqib was the President's biggest ally in the south, and his tribesmen remain an important bulwark around the city.

BARAKZAI

Former Kandahar governor Gul Aga Shirzai retains influence and business ties to the province through his tribe.

ACHAKZAI

Abdul Razik, a flamboyant young police chief who controls the road crossing to Pakistan, is among this tribe's leading members.

Non-government-aligned tribes

NOORZAI

The politician Arif Noorzai may lead this tribe officially, but arguably its most influential member is Hafz Majid, a senior Taliban leader. The Noorzai are heavily represented west of Kandahar city.

ALIZAI

A bitter conflict between this tribe's leader in Kandahar, Habibullah Jan, and Ahmed Wali Karzai was a source of instability in the province until the two men reached a negotiated truce.

ESHAQZAI

With many of their home villages in the conflict zones of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, they are reportedly fighting to defend their opium business.

GHILZAI

HOTAK

TOKHI

NASIR

TARAKI

GRAEME SMITH/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCES: TRIBAL HIERARCHY AND DICTIONARY OF AFGHANISTAN: A REFERENCE AID FOR ANALYSTS (Feb., 2007); COURAGE SERVICES INC., GIUSTOZZI, ANTONIO AND ULLAH, NOOR (2007) THE INVERTED CYCLE: KABUL AND THE STRONGMEN'S COMPETITION FOR CONTROL OVER KANDAHAR, 2001-2006, CENTRAL ASIAN SURVEY, 26:2, 167 - 184, BBC

The series

Running through this week,

we will probe the heart of the

Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan in groundbreaking research by The Globe and Mail. Based on

video-recorded interviews of 42 fighters connected with insurgent groups in Kandahar province,

the research provides us with

a glimpse of who they are,

their motivation and goals.

On globeandmail.com

A GlobeDocs documentary to accompany each of the stories in Graeme Smith's six-part series.

Raw footage of 42 video

recordings of the Taliban fighters.

In The Globe and Mail

TODAY The tribal clash

underlying the conflict

TOMORROW The Taliban

and Pakistan

THURSDAY What the Taliban know about the outside world

FRIDAY Why the Taliban are

embracing suicide bombing
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Clark says no plans for bigger Afghan commitment
Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand | Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Prime Minister Helen Clark says New Zealand is not planning any major changes to its commitment in Afghanistan.

Miss Clark will attend a Nato leaders' summit on Afghanistan to in Bucharest at the start of next month following the Queen's memorial service to Sir Edmund Hillary in London.

Reuters has reported that the United States would use the meeting to urge allies to send more troops to the war-torn country.

It quoted Vice-President Dick Cheney saying the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan would be high on the agenda.

"ISAF has made a tremendous difference in the country and America will ask our Nato allies for an even stronger commitment for the future," he said.

Miss Clark said she felt it was important to attend the summit because New Zealand defence personnel had been there on and off for the past six-and-a-half years.

"I'm not sure that it's set up as some kind of pledging meeting, although others have made their views known about who should be doing what there," she told reporters.

Miss Clark said the meeting would allow New Zealand's views to be heard at the highest level.

"The views are to ensure the Nato strategy is a multi-pronged one because a military strategy on its own doesn't make the difference for Afghanistan."

She said there needed to be a development strategy, good governance and reconciliation but it was hard to make progress until there was security.

New Zealand was not alone.

"I understand that our thinking finds a lot of favour around Nato; many countries are also thinking along the same lines about a multi-pronged approach and realising you can't make a difference just through military means."

She said New Zealand was not planning any fresh initiative in the country.

The Nato summit is being held from April 2-4.

The United States, British, Canadian and Dutch troops are engaged in the bulk of the fighting in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Other Nato allies, notably France and Germany, have so far resisted US pressure to allow their soldiers to operate outside the relative safety of the north of the country.

New Zealand troops, about 100, largely operate in the relatively peaceful province of Bamyan largely carrying out peacekeeping work and military patrols as well as assisting aid projects in the region.
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ADB initiative to revive TAP gas pipeline project
By Ihtasham ul Haque Dawn (Pakistan) March 25, 2008 issue
ISLAMABAD, March 24: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is "regrouping" officials of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the third week of April to revive the TAP gas pipeline project in view of the energy shortage in the region.

Sources in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources told Dawn on Monday that India was willing to attend a meeting of steering committee of the $6 billion, 2,000km-long project in which it has the status of an observer.

However, the sources said there were still challenges to the project.

They said that the security situation in Afghanistan and relations between Pakistan and India needed to be improved and fuel subsidies in the two countries would have to be phased out.

Above all, the long-term competitive advantage of the TAP over the option of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) has to be determined.

The TAP pipeline of 56-inch diameter needs at least 30 billion cubic metre (BCM) of gas per year from Turkmenistan to reach Pakistan via Afghanistan.

The sources said that an earlier steering committee meeting of the TAP project, scheduled for Nov 27-28 last year, did not take place after Turkmenistan signed an agreement with Russia?s gas giant Gazprom to increase gas supplies to Europe at enhanced rates.

The sources said that senior Pakistani officials had been informed by Iran that it had sorted out 40 to 50 per cent "logistic issues" to undertake the work on the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project.

Pakistan asked Iran earlier this month to finalise the project by April because of its rising gas requirements. And Iran said it was holding final talks with India to persuade it to join the project. Iran has told Pakistan that if India continued to show its reluctance under the US pressure to join the project, Iran will invite China to join the project.

"Chinese have told us that they are ready to join it," a source said. Pakistan has asked Iran to enhance the volume of gas to be supplied by 50 per cent if India opts out of the deal.

And in that case Pakistan will be making a formal request to the Iranian side to allocate an additional volume of 1.05 BCFD (billion cubic feet of gas per day).

Pakistan is to get a total of 2.1 BCFD of gas from the IPI project and India 3.2 BCFD. If India stays away, the pipeline length will come down to about 1600km, reducing the project cost. The volume of gas that Pakistan will get will increase to about 3.2 BCFD.

The sources said that the government was working on yet another project to meet its growing gas requirements. The Sui Southern Gas Company was accelerating work on developing an LNG terminal in Karachi. Next month, the sources said, a contract would be awarded for developing the terminal for which "floating storages" were being procured for fast-track import of gas from Qatar and other countries. Korea and Japan have developed this system and Pakistan wanted to follow suit by acquiring special vessels. Instead of exporting raw gas, Qatar will be adding value and export LNG to get a better price.
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Afghan president congratulates new Pakistani PM 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-25 20:30:05
KABUL, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday congratulates new Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Riza Gilani on assuming office and hoped that the new government will overcome extremism.

"Terrorism and extremism are the problems of the region and we are hopeful that the new government of Pakistan will overcome the menace," a statement issued by the Presidential Palace said.

Riza Gilani, a loyalist to slain Benazir Bhutto, the late chairperson of Pakistan People's Party, was sworn in as Pakistani prime minister on Tuesday.

The Afghan president in the message also hoped that relations between Kabul and Islamabad would improve further during the new government of Pakistan.
Editor: Sun Yunlong 
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NWFP police continue deporting Afghan refugees
* 60 refugees deported in a month during efforts to improve law and order in the province
By Akhtar Amin Daily Times, Pakistan
PESHAWAR: The Frontier police has started deporting suspected Afghan refugees through courts to improve the law and order situation in the province, Daily Times learnt on Monday.

Frontier police sources said the police had started a crackdown against suspected Afghan refugees four months ago. They further revealed that the police had been arresting and deporting the refugees following a series of suicide attacks and bomb blasts in the province.

On Sunday, the Tatara Police Station situated in Hayatabad arrested four suspected Afghan refugees and charged them under Section 14 of Foreigners Act. The arrested Afghans are Mohammad Daud, son of Mohammad Qasim, Khan Kaku, son of Saeed Gul, Ahmad Zia, son of Shahji and Manzar Gul, son of Chando.

The police, on Monday, produced all the arrested in the court of Judicial Magistrate Syed Mudasir Shah. The public prosecutor in his submissions before the court stated that none of the refugees had legal documents to stay in Pakistan and thus had been charged under the Act.

The local court announced a sentence of five days for Mohammad Daud and a fine of Rs 2,000. The court also ordered his deportation to Afghanistan after he had served his prison sentence.

The court also handed out a six-day sentence to the other three suspected Afghans and a fine of Rs 1,000 to each. The court ordered the police to deport them to Afghanistan after they had completed their six-day imprisonment.

60 refugees deported in a month: The police sources said, first the police charged the suspected Afghans, who had no legal documents for their stay in Pakistan, under Section 14 of Foreigners Act.

The police then produced the arrested Afghans at courts in the jurisdiction of the concerned police stations. The courts ordered five to 10 days’ imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 for the refugees’ illegal stay in the country. The courts then passed deportation orders after the refugees completed their minor sentences. During the previous month, sources said, about 60 Afghan refugees had been deported through courts.

The Pakistan government had time and again warned the unregistered Afghan refugees to leave Pakistan through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) otherwise action would be taken against them under the country’s laws.

Out of 2.4 million, 2.15 million refugees have been registered and issued Proof of Registration Cards (PoRs) while 250,000 did not apply for registration. According to sources, police are trying to deport suspected Afghans through courts due to worsening law and order situation in the province and the country as well.
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Afghanistan's youngest migrants adrift on the road to asylum
By Niki Kitsantonis International Herald Tribune March 24, 2008
PATRAS, Greece: Hundreds of child refugees from Afghanistan are camped around this port in western Greece, hoping to sneak onto a ferry to Western Europe. But the boys, some as young as 8, are being preyed on by traffickers in what the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees calls "a humanitarian crisis."

Most of the children said their parents in Afghanistan had paid smugglers to escort them to safety. Many stopped off for months in Iran before fleeing westward to escape deportation to their war-torn homeland. For most, Patras is the penultimate stop of their long journey to Western Europe. But they are far from the sanctuary they seek.

The Greek office of the United Nations refugee office wants "immediate support" for about 400 children who scattered across Patras last month when the police dismantled a makeshift settlement that mushroomed near the port's entrance over the past few years. The police detained half the camp's 3,000 adult residents, almost all Afghans. Since then many of the children have slept on streets and in squares, falling victim to new traffickers offering an organized crossing, aid groups said.

Some children were rounded up this month before the city's annual carnival - which attracts thousands of visitors - and sent to hostels in other cities. But most are still adrift in Patras.

The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, said he was worried about the children and wanted the local authorities to set up camps for them. "Special assistance should be urgently given to the minors," he said.

But the authorities here have refused to do so, arguing that a camp would become a magnet for ever more migrants.

Aid groups said children should be regarded as minors rather than migrants. Giorgos Karapiperis, a doctor with a local Red Cross team that is offering shelter and advice to the migrants, said: "We are closing our eyes to a real problem. There are laws which dictate that we help such children."

The death of a 15-year-old on a ferry leaving Patras could have been prevented if such laws had been upheld, said George Moschos, the Greek ombudsman for children's rights. The boy had hidden under a truck and had suffocated on its exhaust fumes. A deportation order was found by the Italian authorities in his pocket.

Port officials in Patras said children hide on trucks regularly. "Around 600 trucks board ships here daily," an official said. "We try to check them all but it's chaos."

Members of relief organizations said most of the children refused to apply for asylum here because they wanted to move on. "They want to reach their final destination so they can start working and repay their debt to traffickers," said Karapiperis of the Red Cross. He said they take out "loans" of €1,000 to €7,000 - on top of their parents' payment - to continue journeys from Iran, through Turkey, to Greece.

The director of the UN refugees' office in Tehran, Sten Bronee, said most adult Afghans entering Iran are "absorbed" amid two million fellow refugees. But he added: "The fact that no child migrants seek our help suggests they are being escorted by smuggling rings."

Sometimes loans are agreed on in Patras. One Afghan, 9, said he paid traffickers €800 to take him to Italy. He was taken out of the port but then returned to Patras. He said his parents had given him the money, which was carried by an adult in his group.

The boy was one of about 900 migrants who were returned to Patras last year under the European Union's Dublin Regulation, which stipulates that refugees seek asylum in the first EU country they enter. The authorities in Patras complain that they are flooded with "returns" from Italy.

Rights groups said people under 18 should not be included in the returns. "Authorities should give child migrants the benefit of the doubt if they are not sure of their age and let them stay," said Giusy D'Alconzo of Amnesty International's office in Rome.

The lack of a common European standard for tests to assess the age of young migrants who have no documents hampers efforts to protect minors, said Lars Olsson of Save the Children in Sweden, a popular destination for Afghans. "A child might come to Sweden and be returned to Greece without ever being recognized as a minor," he said.

Norway - which stopped returning migrants to Greece last month because of concerns about "possible breaches of asylum seekers' rights" - grants residence to most children. A few child refugees have disappeared from state-run centers but no forced labor networks have been traced to them, said Gunn Stangeland Fadnes who runs one such center. "They probably continue their journey to another European country," she said.
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Afghan Parliament Wants Kabul Barriers Removed -AFP
KABUL (AFP)--An Afghan parliamentary committee said Tuesday it wanted security barriers blocking roads in the capital, including around a five-star hotel attacked by Taliban in January, to be removed.

In a meeting with the city mayor and police, officials decided that "Kabul municipality (should) take necessary steps to remove the barriers and inform related organizations," the committee said in a statement.

Kabul traffic is often gridlocked because of barriers that block off entire roads and large concrete anti-blast blocks that are positioned in main thoroughfares.

The Taliban's sophisticated attack on the luxury Kabul Serena hotel in January has prompted even more barricades to be added, mostly around embassies, international agencies, foreign military bases and government offices

The Serena, where three foreign nationals were among eight people killed, has itself undergone a security overhaul and has sandbags at its gates.

The Taliban threatened after the attack to target more places frequented by foreign nationals.

The Afghan cabinet ruled in 2006 that concrete barriers must be cleared and streets opened. Some international groups objected, however, and the decision was never fully implemented.
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Afghan refugee third in national spelling bee
NZPA via Yahoo!Xtra News - Mar 24 12:01 PM
An Afghan refugee who did not speak a word of English until about six years ago has been judged the country's third-best speller.

Abbas Nazari finished third in the national spelling bee in Wellington on Saturday.

The 12-year-old student at Christchurch's Burnside High School made the final three of the championships but was stumped in round five with "silhouetted", The Press reported.

He missed out a 't', a mistake he put down to nerves as it was a word he knew.

Abbas came to New Zealand via Nauru as one of the Tampa refugees. In 2001, he was one of more than 400 refugees rescued from a distressed fishing vessel north of Australia by the Norwegian freighter MS Tampa.

They were refused permission to land on Australian soil.

Abbas, however, spent just one day on the Pacific island of Nauru before being flown to New Zealand in late 2001 with his family.

"When we came to New Zealand we were so deprived of knowledge," Abbas said.

"I didn't know any English so I stayed at home and I could only watch TV or study, so I studied and caught up with all the rest."

At home the family still speaks its native Afghan language, Dari.

Thomas North of Hamilton won the spelling bee and Hugo Carnell of Auckland was second.
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