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March 26, 2008 

Car bomb in Afghan market kills 8: police
KABUL (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded in a market in the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Wednesday killing at least eight people and wounding 17, police said.

Sarkozy pledges troops to Afghanistan, new cooperation with U.K.
The Associated Press Wednesday, March 26, 2008
LONDON: French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in London Wednesday for a two-day state visit at which he hoped to create a "new Franco-British brotherhood" to face such issues a nuclear energy, defense, immigration

Taliban again threaten spring offensive
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Wed Mar 26, 6:23 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The Taliban says it will use new techniques and draw on years of fighting experience to again increase attacks in Afghanistan this spring.

Afghanistan: Army Reaches 70,000 Mark, As Taliban Vows New Offensive
By Ron Synovitz RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
Officials in Kabul say the Afghan National Army soon will number 70,000 combat-ready soldiers -- the strongest the force has been since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

Germany says meeting its Afghan aid pledges
Wed Mar 26, 1:37 AM ET
BERLIN (AFP) - Germany dismissed allegations by aid groups that it had provided less than two-thirds of the aid it pledged for Afghanistan's reconstruction since the fall of the Taliban.

Abducted Afghan passengers released in Pakistan's tribal region
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-26
ISLAMABAD, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The passengers kidnapped in northwestern Pakistan's tribal region were released on Wednesday, local TV channel DAWN NEWS reported.

Canada's MacKay Seeks EU Forces in Afghan South, Spiegel Says
By Patrick Donahue
March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay called on Germany, France, Spain and Italy to send more combat troops to the volatile south of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban insurgency

Threats holding back reconstruction in Afghanistan
by Beatrice Khadige Tue Mar 25, 2:03 AM ET
PANJWAYI, Afghanistan (AFP) - Taliban attacks against the state and its symbols have left thousands dead in Afghanistan and are holding back plans to develop the country from the ruins of war, meaning much more international

Pakistan's brutal beneficiaries betray their refuge
Globe survey finds Taliban have only harsh words for nation that allegedly supports them, claiming large parts of it belong to them
GRAEME SMITH gsmith@globeandmail.com March 26, 2008 Globe and Mail, Canada
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Despite a long history of using Pakistan as a safe haven, Taliban on the front lines of the insurgency say they have no loyalty to their neighbouring country.

Afghan Soldiers Train at US Army Base
By Greg Flakus 25 March 2008 Voice of America
US troops at Fort Riley, in the Midwestern state of Kansas, are training for deployment in Afghanistan along with 31 soldiers from Afghanistan's National Army. Some 300 US soldiers are in the current exercise and

'Leave Taleban to Afghans' call
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 BBC News
An influential Afghan minister has called on the West to allow local communities in Afghanistan to take over the fight against the Taleban.

NATO to issue declaration in supporting Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-26
KABUL, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would repeat its continued support to the post-Taliban Afghanistan by issuing a declaration at its next summit held in Bucharest early next month

Afghanistan: Nazia, Afghanistan: "My husband cut off my ears and nose and broke my teeth"
QALAT, 26 December 2007 (IRIN) - Doctors at a hospital in Qalat, capital of Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan, are treating a brutally tortured woman whose husband cut off both her ears and nose, broke her teeth and shaved her head only three months after their marriage. The victim, 16-year-old Nazia, is also suffering from psychiatric distress due to her experience, according to a doctor in Qalat hospital.

Canada doing "the whole job" in Afghanistan: U.S. ambassador
Mike Blanchfield ,  Canwest News Service Tuesday, March 25, 2008
KABUL - The Canadian Forces are single-handedly responsible for making Kandahar a more secure place, and the United States will make sure they receive the extra 1,000 troops needed to remain there, says the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

New Pakistan leaders target militants
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / March 26, 2008
KARACHI - With Pakistan's democratically elected government now installed and Yousuf Raza Gillani sworn in as the new prime minister, the administration can get down to one of the main businesses of the day: dealing with militancy.

Afghanistan named third most volatile country
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia Richard Norton-Taylor in London March 26, 2008
AFGHANISTAN emerged as the world's third most volatile country, topping even Iraq, according to a report published yesterday, two days after Afghanistan's bloodiest attack in months on a non-government organisation.

Car bomb in Afghan market kills 8: police
KABUL (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded in a market in the southern Afghan province of Helmand on Wednesday killing at least eight people and wounding 17, police said.

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.

But provincial police chief Hussain Andiwal said no members of the security forces were in the farmers' market in Girishk district when the bomb went off.

"The explosives were inside a car parked in a weekly market where a sizable number of people were buying and selling goods," Andiwal said. "The target was civilians. There no foreign or Afghan forces in the area."

Children were also among the victims, he said.

A Taliban spokesman denied responsibility for the attack. The Taliban launched about 140 suicide attacks in Afghanistan last year, but routinely deny responsibility for attacks where there are a large number of civilian casualties.

The Taliban spokesman said militants had killed several Afghan policemen with a remote-controlled roadside bomb in the same district earlier in the day. Helmand police chief Andiwal said two Afghan policemen were killed and two wounded in that attack.

Last year saw a record level of violence in Afghanistan that killed nearly 6,000 people, about a third of them civilians.

(Writing by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Jon Hemming)
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Sarkozy pledges troops to Afghanistan, new cooperation with U.K.
The Associated Press Wednesday, March 26, 2008
LONDON: French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in London Wednesday for a two-day state visit at which he hoped to create a "new Franco-British brotherhood" to face such issues a nuclear energy, defense, immigration, and the downturn in the global economy.

The French president ? accompanied by his glamorous wife, the model-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy ? was greeted by Queen Elizabeth II, rows of cavalrymen and a military band. He was making the first state visit to Britain by a French president in 12 years.

The leader nicknamed the "bling-bling president" because of his extravagant tastes, appeared reserved and somber in a dark overcoat as he reviewed the Horse Guards ? part of a concerted effort in recent weeks to appear more statesmanlike.

During the 36-hour trip he will be a guest of the queen at Windsor Castle, hold talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and address members of both Houses of Parliament.

Sarkozy is seeking to demonstrate that, under his leadership, France is putting aside differences over the 2003 Iraq war and revitalizing relations with both the U.K. and the United States.

In an interview broadcast Wednesday, Sarkozy said France is committed to NATO's action in Afghanistan and indicated he is willing to send more troops to the country if France's allies are also ready to stay, give Afghans more responsibility and better coordinate nonmilitary efforts.

"Can we afford to lose in Afghanistan?" Sarkozy told British Broadcasting Corp. radio. "Of course not. In Afghanistan, what is at stake is part of our battle against world terrorism."

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

"If all the terms and conditions are met, why not send in more troops?" Sarkozy said in the radio interview recorded in Paris, France, on Tuesday.

Sarkozy also stressed his admiration for what he called British strength and dynamism, calling for "a new Franco-British brotherhood."

"It has been long enough now that we have not been at war, that we are not wrangling," he told the BBC. "Perhaps we can move from being cordial to being friendly ? that's my first message."

Sarkozy's meetings with Brown on Thursday will touch on a number of weighty topics: expansion of France's military role in NATO and Afghanistan, a possible joint nuclear energy program, immigration, and the credit crisis that has spread from the United States to Europe.

"I believe that our talks over the next few days will be very constructive," Brown told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

Rows of red-jacketed mounted cavalrymen lined the route as the couple arrived at Windsor Castle and were formally received by the queen and Prince Philip.

Bruni-Sarkozy, in a smart high-necked gray jacket and matching hat, curtsied as she was introduced to the queen. French tricolors and Union flags fluttered from lampposts in a light breeze as the band of the Grenadier Guards played the national anthems of both countries.

After lunch with the queen, Sarkozy and his wife will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey ? a gesture designed to emphasize the two world wars Britain and France have fought together ? and the president will give a speech to lawmakers and peers in the Royal Gallery of Britain's Parliament.

Such pomp ? and the opportunity to appear dignified ? is important to Sarkozy, who is facing a France worried about the cost of living, a stagnant economy and a slowing growth rate. The malaise was typified by an outburst last month at an agriculture fair when a man in the crowd asked the president not to touch him because it would get him "dirty."

Video of the episode showed Sarkozy telling the man to get lost and using an expletive in a phrase whose mildest possible translation is: "Get out of here, you poor jerk."

The president's approval ratings have dropped to around 40 percent from a high of around 65 percent in July. The barrage of photo opportunities designed to help lift those ratings includes a state banquet later Wednesday at Windsor Castle hosted by the queen. Sarkozy has he expects guests to be impressed by his ceremonial outfit.

His focus Thursday will be on a series of meetings with Brown and a summit with a host of French and British ministers at London's Emirates Stadium, home of the popular Arsenal soccer club, an English team with a French manager and some top French players.

In an interview appearing Wednesday in France's Le Monde daily, Brown said France and Britain could work together on projects including reforms of the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He suggested the World Bank could be transformed into a bank financing environmental and development projects, while the IMF could become a financial crisis alert system.

Ministers plan to use the summit to thrash out thorny issues including slow progress on a joint call for a 26,000-strong peacekeeping unit of U.N and African Union troops for Sudan's western Darfur region and new support for French language lessons in British schools.

Sarkozy, who said Tuesday he could "not close the door to any possibility" of a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, is likely to raise China's handling of protest in Tibet. Brown insists he will attend the Olympics.
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Taliban again threaten spring offensive
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Wed Mar 26, 6:23 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The Taliban says it will use new techniques and draw on years of fighting experience to again increase attacks in Afghanistan this spring.

A statement attributed to Taliban senior commander Mullah Bradar also warns Afghans working with the government to quit their jobs or risk being targeted.

Bradar said the Taliban is aiming to collapse the government of President Hamid Karzai. He said the militants would continue their attacks until the government is ousted and U.S. and NATO forces withdraw.

U.S. and NATO military officials dismiss the idea of a Taliban spring offensive and say the only offensive that will take place this year in Afghanistan is one by Western and Afghan troops.

"It's the same old story, it's the same old nonsense," Mark Laity, the NATO spokesman in Kabul, said Wednesday. "What are they saying they will do? More destruction, more unhappiness, more misery. What is there that will present any hope for the Afghan people?"

Violence has risen during the warmer months of spring and summer the last several years, usually through a spike in roadside and suicide bombs. But the Taliban does not have the number of fighters or the military equipment needed to mount a conventional offensive against the U.S., NATO or Afghan troops.

Still, last year was Afghanistan's most violent since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 8,000 people were killed, including some 1,500 civilians, according to the U.N. But most of those deaths were of militants killed in U.S. and NATO strikes.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for Afghanistan's Defense Ministry, said the Taliban announcement was nothing but propaganda.

"In the past they've used all their power against the Afghan National Army, but they failed," Azimi said. "Thousands of Taliban were killed last year. The ANA has increased its numbers. Important Taliban leaders have been killed."

The Afghan army, which is being trained and equipped by U.S. and other NATO experts, now stands at 63,000 strong, Azimi said. The international community has agreed to expand the army to 80,000 troops, though Azimi has called for the force of 200,000.

Azimi also said the Taliban is suffering from infighting in its ranks, including disagreements between Taliban leader Mullah Omar and powerful Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud.

The director of U.S. national intelligence said in February that the Taliban control about 10 percent of Afghanistan, and a U.N. report this month said 10 percent of the country's districts are inaccessible to aid workers. Afghanistan's top intelligence chief has said only eight of Afghanistan's 364 districts are not under government control.
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Afghanistan: Army Reaches 70,000 Mark, As Taliban Vows New Offensive
By Ron Synovitz RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan
Officials in Kabul say the Afghan National Army soon will number 70,000 combat-ready soldiers -- the strongest the force has been since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

The buildup has come amid urgent calls within NATO for more combat troops to be sent to assist counterterror and stabilization efforts in that country. But the Afghan government says it will be years before Afghan forces are able to provide security throughout the country by themselves -- and the Taliban says it's not worried about the growth of the army.

In early 2002, just weeks after the collapse of the Taliban regime, the transitional government in Kabul announced a bold schedule to build the Afghan National Army from scratch. That schedule called for the recruitment and training of 70,000 Afghan soldiers before the presidential election in the fall of 2004.

But that target proved to be overly optimistic. Until this year, desertions were so high among the fully trained Afghan soldiers that Kabul had difficulty maintaining a force of 30,000 troops.

Now, six years after the 70,000-soldier announcement, the goal is finally within reach.

General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Defense Ministry, tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the recruitment, training, and retention of Afghan soldiers during the winter has been better than ever.

"We have succeeded to bring about enormous changes in the quality and quantity of troops in the Afghan National Army compared to previous years. From [about early May], we will be able to have at least 70,000 soldiers deployed to fight against the enemy," Azimi says. "Last year, this number was about 30,000 soldiers. And our army is very well equipped this year. We have obtained new weapons and other military equipment. Our air force has been reestablished. And we have formed new commando and engineering battalions."

Spring Offensive?

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusef Ahmadi, in an exclusive telephone interview with Radio Free Afghanistan, dismisses Azimi's remarks about the strengthening of the Afghan National Army.

"They can't do anything," Ahmadi says. "They have been claiming for years that they are going to have 70,000 soldiers, but our view is that these are only paid soldiers who are temporary workers. These people aren't able to fight against our mujahedin, who are fighting jihad on the basis of their faith."

Ahmadi claims the Taliban is planning a series of attacks in the coming days, called Operation Unforgettable Lesson, that is part of a spring offensive.

"It will cover all of Afghanistan -- the big cities and the small cities," Ahmadi warns. "We will attack all those areas where our enemy is present. We will use our old tactics as well as new tactics. I can't disclose what these new tactics are because that is a military secret, but you will see when it starts."

Ahmadi also tells Radio Free Afghanistan that Taliban militants will focus their attacks on military bases where foreign troops have been deployed. He says Taliban fighters will try to refrain from carrying out attacks in situations where there are many civilians.

"Everything will be included in this operation," Ahmadi says. "We will be looking at an area first and then we will attack according to the situation in each particular area. Suicide attacks will be included."

For his part, however, General Azimi dismisses Ahmadi's remarks as an attempt by the Taliban to manipulate public opinion in Afghanistan.

"Propaganda plays a significant role in military operations, especially in guerrilla and militia fighting," Azimi says. "It is a very strategic tactic. When the enemy does not have the ability to defeat a well-organized military force, they start trying to terrify innocents. [The Taliban] now fights a psychological battle. This is their pre-operational battle."

International Presence

The strengthening of the Afghan National Army comes as the United States, Britain, and Canada have sought to get other countries in the NATO alliance to send more soldiers into the combat zones of southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Last week, during a visit to Kabul by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the growth of the Afghan Army will take some pressure off of NATO. But with militant violence on the rise, Karzai said international security forces were still needed to help provide security throughout the country.

"The continuation of NATO's role in Afghanistan and the fight against terrorism -- and providing stability for Afghanistan -- is very, very important. The Afghan army is also doing very, very well," Karzai said. "In my meetings with the Afghan people, I find out that the army is more and more seen as a force that brings stability. So as the Afghan army gets stronger and stronger, [there will be less] pressure on international security forces. Until then, the cooperation between Afghanistan and the rest of the international community is a must -- both for the war against terrorism and for stability in Afghanistan."

Karzai also warned that Kabul would be dependent "for a long time" on international security forces to help train and equip Afghan government forces.

"We like an effective continuation of the two missions that we have here. One is the fight against terrorism. The other is the rebuilding of Afghanistan -- and especially the rebuilding of the security institutions; the army," Karzai said. "As it is a gradual improvement on our side, it is also a gradual reduction of responsibility on the shoulders of the international community; but that is not going to be [completed] anytime soon. Afghanistan will need for a long time support from the international community in the rebuilding exercises here in Afghanistan and in the strengthening of the Afghan security institutions."

RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Freshta Jalalzai contributed to this report from Prague
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Germany says meeting its Afghan aid pledges
Wed Mar 26, 1:37 AM ET
BERLIN (AFP) - Germany dismissed allegations by aid groups that it had provided less than two-thirds of the aid it pledged for Afghanistan's reconstruction since the fall of the Taliban.

"Afghanistan can trust Germany as a partner," Overseas Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said Tuesday.

She said Germany was the fourth biggest bilateral donor of aid to the war-ravaged nation, pledging 900 million euros (1.4 billion dollars) for the period 2002 to 2010.

Of that pledge, she said 76 percent of the funds were already in the pipeline for Afghanistan by the end of 2007.

"We cannot explain how these allegations came about," foreign ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told a regular government news conference, adding that his ministry had paid 97 percent of the funds pledged to Afghanistan in recent years.

Aid agencies reported Tuesday that Western countries had failed to deliver 10 billion dollars, or 40 percent, of promised aid to Afghanistan and said two-thirds of what does arrive bypasses the Afghan government.

Meanwhile about 40 percent of assistance returns to donor nations as corporate profits and high consultant costs, according to a report by the Agency Coordinating Body For Afghan Relief (ACBAR) of aid groups.

The international community has pledged 25 billion dollars to Afghanistan since 2001, when the extremist Taliban government was toppled in a US-led invasion, according to the report.
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Abducted Afghan passengers released in Pakistan's tribal region
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-26
ISLAMABAD, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The passengers kidnapped in northwestern Pakistan's tribal region were released on Wednesday, local TV channel DAWN NEWS reported.

The passengers were released after successful talks between the negotiation team sent by local authorities and the kidnappers, said the report.

Some armed tribesmen on Wednesday kidnapped 40 passengers in a bus heading to Afghanistan to demand release of their relatives arrested in Afghanistan earlier this month.

The Pakistan-Afghan Friendship Bus was heading to the eastern city of Jalalabad, the capital of Ningrahar province in Afghanistan, when hijacked by tribesmen at Zakhakhel area of Khyber agency, the News Network International news agency reported.

Witnesses said the driver was held at gun-point by the tribesmen and was forced to go to an unknown destination.

All the passengers were stated to be Afghan nationals. Kidnappers said the Afghan authorities had arrested three Pakistani tribesmen 20 days ago.

Pakistan and Afghanistan last year launched the friendship bus between Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's northwest frontier province and Jalalabad to facilitate the people.

The local authorities started search of the hijacked bus to seek release of the hostages.
Editor: Du Guodong 
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Canada's MacKay Seeks EU Forces in Afghan South, Spiegel Says
By Patrick Donahue
March 26 (Bloomberg) -- Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay called on Germany, France, Spain and Italy to send more combat troops to the volatile south of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban insurgency, Germany's Der Spiegel magazine reported.

``Of course,'' MacKay responded in an interview with the magazine's online edition when asked whether Germany should send more soldiers to the south. ``We also want more French, Spanish, Italian troops in the south,'' the minister said.

NATO allies such as the U.S., the U.K. and Canada are seeking more military support in Afghanistan's south, where the insurgency directed against foreign troops and the western- backed government of President Hamid Karzai has been strongest.

Speaking about German forces, which are mostly stationed in the relatively quiet north, MacKay said they aren't ``cowards'' and many would like to be sent to the south, Spiegel said. While there are political limitations in Germany on sending troops into combat, there are ``international obligations'' placed on all countries, MacKay said.
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Threats holding back reconstruction in Afghanistan
by Beatrice Khadige Tue Mar 25, 2:03 AM ET
PANJWAYI, Afghanistan (AFP) - Taliban attacks against the state and its symbols have left thousands dead in Afghanistan and are holding back plans to develop the country from the ruins of war, meaning much more international aid is spent on security than reconstruction.

In Kandahar province the threat from Taliban-linked militants cannot be underestimated, especially when foreign troops are present, like the Canadian soldiers guarding a road project in Panjwayi.

Work on a section of the road being constructed in hot and unstable southern Afghanistan was halted when a suspicious package was spotted.

"A package was dropped where both Canadian and Afghan soldiers work with locals," said Captain Eghtedar Manouchehri, commander of a Canadian base nearby.

"It prevented the work today because we saw very suspicious activity."

In the end, it turned out to be nothing more than an ordinary bundle.

But the troops cannot be too careful with Taliban militants fashioning various forms of improvised explosives to use in their battle against the Afghan government and nearly 70,000 international soldiers supporting it.

It was the first time since the start of the project in mid-February that work was halted on the 6.5-kilometre (four-mile) section of road outside the hamlet of Bazaar-i-Panjwayi, said project director Captain Pascal Blanchette.

There have, however, been other incidents at the project 40 kilometres west of the city of Kandahar, one of the most volatile areas of Afghanistan.

"We have already been fired on once and we found knives on workers, which is not allowed," Blanchette said.

But the work always went ahead. "And it will continue," he said.

The construction, expected to cost 4.5 millions dollars -- making it the largest development project undertaken by the Canadian military in Afghanistan, should be completed in October.

It might take a bit longer, said Blanchette, insisting that it must be done by manual labour rather than with machines to create the maximum number of jobs and pass on basic skills so locals can build their own roads in future.

The labourers are paid 20 percent more than local wages: 300 afghani (six dollars) a day as opposed to 250.

Besides providing income for 350 families, soon to rise to 450, the wages should be able to persuade men not to take up part-time work with the Taliban or drug traffickers.

Panjwayi does not see the same level of Taliban influence as it once did after a massive NATO operation, primarily involving Canadians, in 2006, said Warrant Officer John Beddaws.

NATO commanders reported at the time that around 1,000 Taliban were killed in what they said amounted to the Taliban's biggest defeat since they were driven from government in late 2001.

The charming town of Bazaar-i-Panjwayi, flanked by hills, does busy trade and has a new school recently built by Canadian soldiers. Near the houses of traditional mudbrick are fields of vegetables and grapevines, and pastures in which sheep graze.

A little further on are cannabis and opium crops, extending for dozens of hectares (acres).

Afghanistan produces about 90 percent of the world's opium, most of it from the southern provinces.

To try to turn the region away from this illegal crop the Canadians have announced the construction of a 4.5 kilometre stretch of road to link the neighbouring district of Zhari to the main highway running through the south.

The Taliban ruled this country with an iron fist from 1996 until they were removed in 2001 in a US-led invasion for harbouring Al-Qaeda.
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Pakistan's brutal beneficiaries betray their refuge
Globe survey finds Taliban have only harsh words for nation that allegedly supports them, claiming large parts of it belong to them
GRAEME SMITH gsmith@globeandmail.com March 26, 2008 Globe and Mail, Canada
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Despite a long history of using Pakistan as a safe haven, Taliban on the front lines of the insurgency say they have no loyalty to their neighbouring country.

A survey of 42 insurgents in Kandahar found most were critical about Pakistan, where they are reported to have headquarters and supply lines, and most were critical of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, often using the harshest language to describe him.

Some insurgents claimed they want to fight for the seizure of vast swaths of Pakistan's territory in the name of expanding Afghanistan to include the major cities of Quetta and Peshawar. Every fighter asked said those two cities belong inside Afghanistan, and all of them rejected the existing border as a legitimate boundary between the countries.

The Globe and Mail's modest sample of Taliban opinion may only reflect an effort by the insurgents to hide their sources of support in Pakistan, analysts say, or it may point to something more troubling: the growing indications that parts of the insurgency are no longer controlled by anybody.

"If they are supported by ISI [Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency], why are they attacking Pakistan?" said Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, after reviewing The Globe's raw video footage. "Why would the ISI want these kinds of activities in Pakistan? It's out of control. Nobody is able to control it."

"This is Afghan government propaganda, about the Pakistan government controlling the Taliban."

Few historians dispute that Pakistan's intelligence services played a decisive role in establishing the Taliban movement in 1994, and Islamabad appeared to retain a strong influence over the regime that seized Kabul two years later.

President Musharraf formally cut ties with the Taliban in 2001, but in recent years a growing number of observers have accused Pakistan's agents, or former agents, of continuing their assistance for the radical movement.

"With the collaboration of elements within one of Pakistan's ... intelligence services, the ISI, the Pashtun borderlands have become a safe haven for the Taliban," write Thomas Johnson and Chris Mason, of the Naval Postgraduate School in California, in a coming issue of the journal International Security.

The Afghan government strongly endorses that view, often helping journalists arrange interviews with captured insurgents who tell stories of training centres in Pakistan.

During one such interview session last year at the Kandahar Governor's Palace, an Afghan intelligence official paraded out a group of prisoners who described themselves as Pakistanis persuaded to wage jihad against foreign troops in Afghanistan after attending madrassas in Pakistan. They gave details of an informal training camp in Chaman, Pakistan, that suggested the insurgents were making little effort to hide their activities from local authorities.

If the Taliban are creatures of Pakistan, however, The Globe and Mail's survey suggests they are not a particularly obedient creation.

Some parts of the Taliban in particular, such as the recently created Pakistani Taliban group led by Baitullah Mehsud, have proven themselves more of a threat within Pakistan than anywhere else.

"The Islamist extremist Frankenstein is no longer confined to the whims of political power games," wrote Irm Haleem, a South Asian expert who teaches at New York's Seton Hall University, in an article this month that devoted itself to the comparison between the Taliban and Mary Shelley's mythical creature.

Every insurgent asked by The Globe researcher said huge parts of Pakistan belong to Afghanistan, but they offered varying ideas about how much territory should be claimed and how it is historically justified.

One fighter said that only half of Pakistan's provinces, Sindh and Punjab, rightfully belong in the country.

"Those areas of Pakistan were small," the fighter said. "In the time of Zahir Shah or someone else, then they made this line [the new border]." Another gave a similar explanation for the loss of Quetta and Peshawar: "The King Zahir Shah sold them, but when Mullah Omar was in Kandahar, he saw the contracts and the contracts were expired."

In fact, the Durand Line agreement established the southeastern border of Afghanistan in 1893, long before the reign of King Zahir Shah, which lasted from 1933 to 1973. Pakistan and Afghanistan still formally disagree about whether the agreement has expired.

Some of the Taliban seemed to be appropriating the nationalistic cause of reclaiming the Durand territory as part of the insurgency's agenda.

"They [Quetta and Peshawar] absolutely belong to Afghanistan, and if we become successful in our war we will take it back from Pakistan, because it is a part of our holy Afghanistan," one insurgent said.

"Unfortunately, at the moment, Afghanistan is in a big pressure: Non-Muslims are here," another fighter added. "But when the non-Muslims leave Afghanistan, then it [the Durand territory] can never be a part of Pakistan. We will erase the Durand line."

Others blamed the government of President Hamid Karzai for failing to raise the issue with Islamabad, implying that Mr. Karzai cannot take action because he is controlled by foreign powers.

One fighter, asked why Pakistan retains control of the territory, said, "Because there is no Islamic government, all of them are non-Muslims, and the government of Pakistan is also a non-Islamic government, and that's why."

"The British handed it over to them," another said. "Where is the government? It belongs to the Americans now."

"So the Americans don't want it to be a part of Afghanistan?" he was asked. "He [Mr. Musharraf] is also a son of the Americans, and Karzai is as well. So if he [President George W. Bush] takes it from one son and gives it to another, what does he gain here?"

Despite their talk about Pakistan's unfair seizure of the Pashtun lands, the Taliban were strongly reluctant to accept the idea of "Pashtunistan" as a separate country, a concept raised by some ethnic nationalists in the border region. Only four respondents said they favour the creation of a new country for Pashtuns.

These front-line fighters likely don't realize the close relationship between Pakistan's government and the insurgents, said one Western expert in Kandahar.

"How many idealists have been manipulated by Machiavellian masters who kept themselves hidden in world history?" the observer said. "They almost certainly are not aware of the Pakistan government's involvement in their movement."

A former Afghan intelligence officer, whose experience in Kandahar spans three decades, agreed that the Taliban are unaware of their masters.

"The ISI co-ordinates Taliban activities, for sure," the retired officer said. "But the ISI has a few members who are leading the Taliban and the Taliban don't always understand the Pakistan role behind them. If the Taliban were aware they are puppets, they would stop fighting."

During a long afternoon of discussion last year in Kandahar, a Taliban sympathizer chuckled at the idea of the insurgents as unwitting pawns.

"The Pakistanis have two faces," said the full-bearded man, with an ample belly and a quick laugh. "They're friends with Talibs and Americans at the same time. They are betrayers of Islam."

He continued: "Pakistan gets money from Americans and uses many tricks against the Taliban. They give the Taliban money, training and places to stay. On the other side, they arrest them and sell them. ... The small Taliban don't understand this."

The series

The Globe and Mail's groundbreaking six-part series probes the heart of the Taliban

insurgency in Afghanistan.

Based on video-recorded

interviews with 42 fighters

connected with insurgent groups in Kandahar province, the research provides a glimpse of who they are, their motivation and their goals.

ON GLOBEANDMAIL.COM

A GlobeDocs video feature

accompanying each of the stories in the series.

Raw footage of 42 video

recordings of the Taliban fighters.

IN THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SATURDAY

The Taliban defy conventional wisdom

MONDAY

What motivates the Taliban

YESTERDAY

The tribal clash underlying the conflict

TODAY

The Taliban and Pakistan

TOMORROW

What the Taliban know about

the outside world

FRIDAY

Why the Taliban are embracing suicide bombing
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Afghan Soldiers Train at US Army Base
By Greg Flakus 25 March 2008 Voice of America
US troops at Fort Riley, in the Midwestern state of Kansas, are training for deployment in Afghanistan along with 31 soldiers from Afghanistan's National Army. Some 300 US soldiers are in the current exercise and, as VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Fort Riley, they are getting a good preview of the kind of conditions and problems they will face after they deploy to Afghanistan.

In this exercise, the soldiers are raiding the suspected base of an insurgent group in order to apprehend what they call "a bad guy." The training takes place in a mock Afghan village complete with so-called enactors, usually Afghan Americans, who play the role of villagers and combatants. Soldiers must safely enter the village, locate the house of the insurgents and enter without harming any of the civilians who wander the streets nearby.

Carrying out such an operation requires cultural sensitivity and knowledge of local traditions. US soldiers are taught to respect local village leaders and to work closely with Afghan security forces and that is one reason the Afghan soldiers are here taking part in these exercises.  US Army advisors do most training of Afghan soldiers in Afghanistan, but these 31 men are here so that they can help US soldiers learn how to work with Afghan counterparts before they leave Fort Riley.

Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl , one of the authors of the US military handbook on counterinsurgency, says gaining a better understanding of the Afghan people is a key factor in defeating al-Qaida and the Taliban.

"It is extraordinarily important to understand the culture and not just have cultural awareness, but actually have cultural competence: to be able to work inside the culture, to understand how different people think and what they value," he said.

The Afghans train here with the vehicles, weapons and gear they will use back home. They interact with their US counterparts through interpreters, although most of them have learned a little English and some of the US soldiers have also picked up some Pashto and Dari, the languages spoken in Afghanistan.

Afghan Army Sergeant Rahmat-ullah Ahmed Zai says troops from both countries can learn something from each other.

"The American soldiers learn from us about the terrain in Afghanistan and we learn from them about advanced military technology," he noted.  "They have more theoretical knowledge, while ours is more practical."

He says the soldiers from both armies are focused on the same mission.

"Their goal and our goal is the same: the elimination of the enemy, al-Qaida, the terrorists and the drug traffickers," he added.

The commander of the Afghan detachment here is Captain Najibula Askardzada. He says this training is part of an effort to strengthen his nation's security forces so that the country can recover from 30 years of war.

"In order to rebuild the foundations of the country-schools, clinics, mosques-the Afghan people need security and that can only be provided by soldiers with better training, weapons and equipment," he explained.

Major General Robert Durbin, who was in Afghanistan before assuming command of Fort Riley last year, says US troops are still needed there, but he says Afghan troops will one day be able to operate effectively alone.

"I still think we are a year or two, maybe three, from achieving that, but we already have independent operations from some of their highest quality forces, their commando forces, that have demonstrated their capabilities," he said.

In the meantime, Colonel Nagl says the training exercises with Afghan troops here contribute to making US efforts in Afghanistan much more effective.

"It is really the difference between theory and practice and every step we can take our trainers along the road to being a great adviser here at Fort Riley is a step they do not have to learn on the ground in Afghanistan," he noted.

Nagl and other US officers praise the Afghans for their resilience and hard work and they say friendships forged through these exercises help strengthen the bond between the two nations.
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'Leave Taleban to Afghans' call
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 BBC News
An influential Afghan minister has called on the West to allow local communities in Afghanistan to take over the fight against the Taleban.

Education Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar said the answer lay in what he called the "Afghanisation" of security.

Mr Atmar, who is a close ally of President Hamid Karzai, said Afghan forces needed more training.

In the latest violence, officials say the Taleban killed six people in the western province of Herat.

Traditional system

While Nato leaders have been calling for member countries to commit more troops to Afghanistan, Mr Atmar told the BBC that this was not the answer.

He says a traditional Afghan system, with local communities being allowed to practice self-defence, would be more effective.

He believes that Afghan forces could defeat the Taleban in five years, instead of the 15 he believes Nato would need.

And with at least 10 times as much money being spent on foreign troops as on Afghan forces, he believes that money could be better spent in training and providing resources.

The BBC's Elettra Neysmith says "Afghanisation" is a popular concept at the moment within Nato.

She says it has been cynically described as a "get out of jail free" card for Western countries mired in the deepening Taleban insurgency.

But Mr Atmar says the "Afghanisation" of security has worked successfully in provinces like Khost and Paktia in the south-east, where the Taleban are active.
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NATO to issue declaration in supporting Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-26
KABUL, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would repeat its continued support to the post-Taliban Afghanistan by issuing a declaration at its next summit held in Bucharest early next month, the alliance senior civilian envoy to Afghanistan said Wednesday.

"NATO will issue at the summit in Bucharest a public declaration on Afghanistan to support the country and the statement of course had been agreed by the 26 of NATO leaders," Maurits Jochems told newsmen at his first meeting with the press here in the Afghan capital.

He also said that the alliance in the declaration would focus on four elements which include confirmation of long-term support to Afghanistan, underlining the support to Afghan leadership, coordination of international efforts and regional cooperation particularly among those nations neighboring Afghanistan.

Afghanistan issue, he added, would be debated at the second day of the three-day summit which will open in Romanian capital next Wednesday.

The newly appointed of the NATO's senior civilian envoy to Afghanistan also termed the summit very important, adding the presence of President Hamid Karzai, UN chief Ban Ki-Moon and the head of European Commission at the summit indicates its importance.

The summit is taking place amid increasing Taliban insurgency and rift among NATO states over reinforcing troops to Afghanistan.

However, Jochems stressed that NATO will have enough troops to fight insurgents in Afghanistan.

More than 55,000 troops from NATO-led International security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S.-led Coalition forces have been serving in Afghanistan to stabilize security and accelerate reconstruction process in this war-torn country.
Editor: Du Guodong 
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Afghanistan: Nazia, Afghanistan: "My husband cut off my ears and nose and broke my teeth"
QALAT, 26 December 2007 (IRIN) - Doctors at a hospital in Qalat, capital of Zabul Province in southern Afghanistan, are treating a brutally tortured woman whose husband cut off both her ears and nose, broke her teeth and shaved her head only three months after their marriage. The victim, 16-year-old Nazia, is also suffering from psychiatric distress due to her experience, according to a doctor in Qalat hospital.

From her bed in Qalat hospital Nazia told IRIN her story:

"My family wedded me to Mumtaz (a 40-year-old man) some three months ago, in Pakistan. Soon after our marriage we moved to his house in Qalat where his relatives told me he had another wife who had died a year ago. In Qalat my husband was jobless and was always complaining about economic problems. Two weeks after we moved to our new home he beat me for no obvious reason.

"One day I asked him to let me go to a party at my in-laws. He agreed and said I should return home in the afternoon. That day, although I came home early, I found him very angry. He beat me again, worse than the first time, and warned that he would kill me if I stepped outside the home again. He also told his brother and nephews not to come to our house in his absence.

"Day-after-day Mumtaz's suspicion increased. He was thinking other men were visiting me while he was not at home. He did not listen to my pleas and was always saying that all women are bad and unfaithful to men. During this time he often beat me with a stick.

"One night he hit me so much that I fainted. When I regained consciousness I found my head had been shaved. I cried so much, but he did not care.

"One week later he knocked me down, bound my hands, and then broke my teeth with a stone. He also poured boiling water on my feet. After this I could not walk and was in a lot of pain, but he said I was only pretending.

"No one was coming to our house so I could not tell anyone about my situation. I had nowhere else to go either. My family lives in Pakistan.

"One night I could not cook dinner for him because I could not stand on my feet. He got so upset when he found that there was nothing for him to eat. He started beating me. Again, he bound my hands with a piece of cloth. I felt a terrible pain in my left ear and then blood was flowing down my face. I thought that he wanted to kill me so I started screaming. Then I felt a similar pain in my right ear and more blood.

"I tasted a mixture of blood and tears in my mouth while my voice was fading. I felt the worst pain in my life only a few seconds later when my husband used his knife to cut off my nose. I fainted.

"Now I do not know where my husband has gone."
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Canada doing "the whole job" in Afghanistan: U.S. ambassador
Mike Blanchfield ,  Canwest News Service Tuesday, March 25, 2008
KABUL - The Canadian Forces are single-handedly responsible for making Kandahar a more secure place, and the United States will make sure they receive the extra 1,000 troops needed to remain there, says the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

In an exclusive interview Tuesday night at his apartment in the U.S. Embassy compound in the Afghan capital, William Wood lauded Canada's battlefield efforts and acknowledged the Forces have suffered a disproportionate number of deaths.

Wood said that while the U.S. certainly would contribute extra forces in response to Canada's requirement for 1,000 soldiers, medium-lift helicopters and UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), he hoped other international partners would be required to pony up, as well.

Wood said there is "no question" Kandahar is a more secure place than it was one year ago, and he particularly cited the Forces' earlier battles in the Panjwaii district as being particularly significant.

"There's no question that Canadians are doing the whole job," Wood said.

"There's no question that the Canadians have suffered an extraordinary proportion of losses, bravely and with dedication."

Eighty-one Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have died in Afghanistan since 2002.

Wood said the U.S. decision to deploy 3,200 Marines to southern Afghanistan for a temporary seven-month deployment was "at least in part, in response to the Canadian request." The Marine deployment is a stopgap that does not address Canada's long-term ultimatum.

"I don't think the Canadians are over their head. They've got a tough job that they've accepted. They've reaffirmed their acceptance of it. And they count on their allies to help them" just as much as their allies need them, he said.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has said Canada would prefer one nation to partner with in the south. But Wood suggested more than one country would answer Canada's request for troops, helicopters and UAVs.

"It will be found from an alliance mechanism, not from one country."

Asked if the U.S. would be put in a position to underwrite the whole requirement, Wood said: "I don't know. We'll certainly contribute."

Speculation has been rife France would partner with Canada, but Paris is determined to hold its cards close to its vest until next week's summit of NATO leaders in Bucharest, Romania.

Wood said the most important message to come from next week's summit would be a renewed sense of solidarity among the alliance's 26 members and 13 coalition partners in the International Security Assistance Force, as well as other international partners that are providing economic assistance.

"Our principal enemy is the sense that we're going to get tired, that we're going to lose interest or if they can just outlast us. 'They' can be the Taliban. 'They' can be al-Qaida. 'They' can be the forces of corruption," Wood said.

"If they could just outlast us, then they win. I think the principal message of Bucharest is we need to find a new strategy because we're sticking, and we're sticking in force with resources and with determination."

Wood played down the well-publicized differences of opinion that have emerged within NATO and ISAF in recent months.

NATO diplomats are working on a "vision statement" they hope will present a stronger sense of solidarity and momentum from the Bucharest summit.

Wood said any student of history has only to remind themselves of the legendary rivalries between Allied generals during the Second World War to understand that disagreements among military partners are not fatal, and are rooted in concerns for the well-being of the young soldiers they send into harm's way.

"No nation has any resource more important than its young people. No nation will fight harder to ensure that its young people are pursuing precisely its vision," he said.

"Alliances are intrinsically hard. They are intrinsically good, intrinsically important, but they are intrinsically hard."
Ottawa Citizen
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New Pakistan leaders target militants
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / March 26, 2008
KARACHI - With Pakistan's democratically elected government now installed and Yousuf Raza Gillani sworn in as the new prime minister, the administration can get down to one of the main businesses of the day: dealing with militancy.

There has been much talk of a public backlash against the military operations orchestrated by President Pervez Musharraf against militants in the tribal areas and that the new government will seek to reverse the policies he adopted in the "war on terror" during his eight years as a military ruler.

However, Asia Times Online investigations reveal that the ruling coalition, dominated by assassinated former opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) and the Pakistan

Muslim League (PML) of Nawaz Sharif, will attempt, through dialogue, to split the militants so that the Taliban and al-Qaeda will be exposed, much as has happened with the Sunni-dominated Awakening Councils that have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

This decision comes at an important time. The Taliban have opened up a new front in Khyber Agency in Pakistan, as predicted by Asia Times Online last week (Same game, new rules in Afghanistan) . On Sunday, about 36 oil tankers that supply fuel to United States-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan were blown up in Khyber Agency. At least 70 people were injured. On Tuesday, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher and Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte began talks in Pakistan to discuss, among other issues, the new government's role against militants.

Asia Times Online contacts maintain the government will stick to a script agreed with Washington before February's elections that all efforts will be made to bring public support behind the "war on terror" and more military operations against militants.

"Everything will remain the same. The only difference is that politicians will do their job and the military will do its job. Nobody will try to overlap with another," said a contact who is a close aide of the PPP's co-chairman, Asif Zardari, and who is also close to Washington.

The main role will be played by the Pashtun sub-nationalist Awami National Party (ANP), which leads the ruling coalition in North-West Frontier Province. The ANP has already scheduled tribal jirgas (councils) aimed to demilitarize the tribal areas and separate local tribals from radical jihadis, whether they be local or foreign.

Indeed, the anti-Taliban networking has already resulted in several al-Qaeda and Taliban targets being hit. And importantly, leading Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is on a "most wanted" list in Afghanistan, have left the North Waziristan tribal area for a safer district.

Government at work, eyes on Sharif

Apart from dealing with militancy, the new government has already tackled some sensitive issues.

On Monday, dozens of judges detained under emergency rule were released on the orders of Gillani, including former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. The judges were sacked last November by Musharraf shortly before the Supreme Court was to adjudicate on whether his re-election as president was legal.

The government is now expected to seek the release of insurgents from Balochistan province.

Former premier Sharif is said to be a conservative and he has already opened up dialogue with militants. He is using several channels, one being Javaid Ibrahim Paracha, a former member of Parliament from Sharif's PML who openly provided shelter for Arabs who had fled from Afghanistan into Pakistan after the US-led invasion there in 2001.

According to sources close to Sharif, the dialogue is aimed at stopping the militants from attacking Pakistani cities. But this does not mean that Nawaz is soft on the militancy. Rather, the sources say, Sharif's aim is to isolate the al-Qaeda leadership to get it arrested.

For the militants, the battle continues. "We will continue to choke all the supply lines to NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] forces that go through Khyber Agency. At the same time, we will also cut off food supplies that go over land routes. If this is successful for a few months, it will be more devastating than a spring offensive," commented a top Pakistani al-Qaeda leader from the tribal headquarters of Miranshah in North Waziristan.
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Afghanistan named third most volatile country
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia Richard Norton-Taylor in London March 26, 2008
AFGHANISTAN emerged as the world's third most volatile country, topping even Iraq, according to a report published yesterday, two days after Afghanistan's bloodiest attack in months on a non-government organisation.

While Iraq ranked at No. 22, thanks to lower violence, the presence of a large US-led international force and an economy buoyed by high oil prices, only the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and Somalia topped Afghanistan, according to the report by Jane's Information Group.

Another report published yesterday said Afghanistan was being deprived of $US10 billion ($10.96 billion) of promised aid, and 40 per cent of the money went on corporate profits and consultancy fees.

The failure of Western donors to keep their promises, compounded by corruption and inefficiency, is undermining the prospects for peace in Afghanistan, the second report warned.

Published by Acbar, an alliance of international aid agencies working in the country, it says the world has pledged $US25 billion to Afghanistan since 2001 but only $US15 billion has been delivered.

In the most recent violence gunmen killed five members of a mine-clearing team and wounded seven more in northern Afghanistan on Sunday. Two other mine-clearers were killed on Monday.

Casualties also mounted from the bombing of dozens of fuel tankers that supply US military bases at a Pakistan-Afghan border crossing on Sunday. By Monday 65 wounded people had been admitted to hospitals.

Meanwhile, the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, is expected to seek Britain's backing for a Frenchman to take one of NATO's top jobs in return for sending 1000 extra troops to Afghanistan, aides have revealed.
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