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March 3, 2008 

Twenty Taliban killed, injured in Afghan clash
Mon Mar 3, 4:43 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - More than 20 Taliban-led rebels were killed or injured in an operation by Afghan security forces and NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, the defence ministry said Monday.

3 NATO soldiers wounded in Afghan blast
By RAHIM FAEIZ, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide car bomber attacked a government building protected by NATO and Afghan troops in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, collapsing a guard post and wounding three NATO soldiers inside, officials said.

Afghanistan says U.S. control estimates baseless
By Sayed Salahuddin Mon Mar 3, 5:15 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan said on Monday it was stunned by a U.S. intelligence assessment that the Afghan government controlled only 30 percent of the country and Taliban insurgents held 10 percent, calling the report totally baseless.

Russia warns coalition not to misuse Afghan mission
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - Russia has warned the United States and NATO to not use their presence in Afghanistan for any possible regional political or economic purposes other than fighting terrorism.

NATO chief says alliance making headway in Afghanistan
Sun Mar 2, 2:47 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Sunday the alliance's mission in Afghanistan was making progress in its fight against the Taliban insurgency.

US to train Pakistan military officers
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Sun Mar 2, 1:48 PM ET
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - U.S. trainers will travel to Pakistan this year to teach military officials counterinsurgency techniques to aid soldiers along the Afghan border in the fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants, U.S. officials said Sunday.

Taliban says they knew Harry was in their midst: Newsweek
Sun Mar 2, 11:53 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghan militants have said they knew that Britain's Prince Harry had been among soldiers recently deployed in their country and had been gunning to get him, a US magazine reported Sunday.

The Significance of the Elections in Pakistan
By Hekmat Karzai 27 February 2008
Pakistan held its parliamentary elections in a transparent manner. While these elections are a milestone for the country, it will have serious implications on Pakistan, the region and the international community.

Al-Qaeda releases web eulogy of Afghanistan strategist
USA Today - Mar 02 2:02 PM
Digg del.icio.us Newsvine Reddit FacebookWhat's this?CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaeda released Sunday on militant websites a new video eulogy of its top Afghanistan strategist, Abu Laith al-Libi, showing his corpse for the first time.

Afghan foreign minister condemns Danish reprint of Prophet Muhammad cartoon
The Associated Press Monday, March 3, 2008
COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Afghanistan's foreign minister on Monday condemned a Danish cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, saying that freedom of speech should not be used "to make a billion Muslims cry."

Anti-Koran Dutch film could harm troops in Afghanistan, warns Nato secretary
3rd March 2008 Daily Mail
The airing of a Dutch film criticising Islam will have repercussions for troops in Afghanistan, according to Nato's secretary general.

Comment: Afghan effort gets much-needed help
Matthew Fisher, Canwest News Service Monday, March 03, 2008
AT KANDAHAR AIRFIELD -- Whether Canada, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands are getting the combat help they require from their NATO cousins to confront the Taliban in southern Afghanistan is a delicate

UNFPA looks for more funds to support Afghan women
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-03 19:23:59
KABUL, March 3 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Population Fund for Afghanistan (UNFPA) which currently has 5 million U.S. dollars for supporting women in Afghanistan is looking for more funds, according to country representative

Canada's Afghanistan mission
Globe and Mail Update March 3, 2008 at 9:43 AM EST
The numbers are bad. The reality is rose. The government controls less than a third of the country. Taliban and local warlords controls the rest, The Globe and Mail's Paul Koring and Graeme Smith wrote in an article The ugly truth in Afghanistan Saturday.

Afghan council wants soap operas off TV
Nick Meo, the San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service Monday, March 3, 2008
(03-03) 04:00 PST Kabul, Afghanistan -- With suicide bombers increasing their activities, spiraling opium production, and nearly half the country prey to Taliban guerrillas, Afghanistan's spiritual guardians are focusing on a new peril: Indian soap operas.

Al-Qaida releases video showing body of its slain Afghan strategist
Associated Press - March 2, 2008 8:43 PM ET
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Al-Qaida has released a new video eulogy on militant Web sites of its top Afghanistan strategist.

General criticises Afghanistan troop restrictions
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By David Blair in Kabul 03/03/2008
Nato's commander in Afghanistan voiced his "frustration" with the restrictions imposed on the Alliance's forces yesterday and said these "national caveats" were hindering the fight against the Taliban.

Australia's relationship with the US faces tests
The Age, Australia Daniel Flitton March 3, 2008
The Afghanistan conflict and other issues could mean trouble for Rudd.
KEVIN Rudd joked he'd throw a prawn on the barbie to mark the recent visit by Bob Gates, oblivious to the fact that the US Secretary of Defence is allergic to seafood. It was only a small snag in protocol, hardly a diplomatic incident

Making the mission work
With political consensus reached, Canada must now ensure its efforts in Afghanistan succeed
Toronto Star, Canada Thomas Axworthy Mar 02, 2008
Parliament is convulsed with the issue of whether Canada should commit to three more years of fighting a war in Afghanistan. A more realistic time frame would be to add 25 years to that perspective.

EDITORIAL: Who is behind the terrorism?
Daily Times, Pakistan Monday, March 03, 2008
The caretaker interior minister, Lieutenant General (Retd) Hamid Nawaz Khan, has done the predictable thing that he learned in PMA by saying on Saturday that India, Afghanistan and the United States had a hand in the terrorism in Pakistan.

Women MPs: Afghanistan ranks 27th
Online - International News Network, Pakistan Sunday 02nd March, 2008
UNITED NATION: Afghanistan ranks 27 in a list of 188 countries on giving representation to women in national parliament, a UN report released said.

Twenty Taliban killed, injured in Afghan clash
Mon Mar 3, 4:43 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - More than 20 Taliban-led rebels were killed or injured in an operation by Afghan security forces and NATO troops in southern Afghanistan, the defence ministry said Monday.

The operation in the Taliban-dominated southern province of Helmand took place on Sunday, the same day that a Canadian soldier serving with NATO's International Security Assistance Force died in neighbouring Kandahar, it said.

The Canadian soldier who died in a road-side bomb explosion took to 21 the number of Western soldiers killed since January, according to an AFP tally based on official reports. Most have been killed in hostile attacks.

"In an assault and clean-up operation in Helmand's Sangin district more than 20 terrorists were killed and injured," the ministry said in a statement, without pacifying the figures.

ISAF backed up the operation by the Afghan army, the statement added.

Helmand, which is Afghanistan's top opium-producing region, has been badly hit by a Taliban-led insurgency which hit record levels last year that left over 6,000 people dead, mostly rebels.

The restive province hit world headlines this week after Britain's Prince Harry, who had been deployed there for 10 weeks, was pulled out amid fears he would be targeted by insurgents after US media leaked the news of his mission.

The prince was serving with the 7,200-strong British contingent based in Helmand under NATO command.

The Taliban, ousted from government in a US-led invasion in late 2001, have been trying to topple the Western-supported government in Kabul and force out 60,000 Western troops based here.
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3 NATO soldiers wounded in Afghan blast
By RAHIM FAEIZ, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide car bomber attacked a government building protected by NATO and Afghan troops in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, collapsing a guard post and wounding three NATO soldiers inside, officials said.

Two Afghan policemen were also wounded in the attack, said district chief Lutfullah Babakarheil.

The attacker rammed the explosives-laden car into the gates of the building in the Yaqoubi district of eastern Khost province, said Khost Gov. Arsallah Jamal.

Babarkeil initially said the building was an American base. But Jamal said it was an Afghan government district building inside compound that also houses a unit of U.S. soldiers.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dave Accetta, a spokesman for NATO troops in eastern Afghanistan, said three NATO soldiers were wounded when the guard post collapsed. They were evacuated for medical care to the main U.S. military base at Bagram airfield.

Accetta would not disclose the soldiers' nationalities because of strict rules set by NATO. However, the majority of international forces in Khost province are American.

Clashes and raids in the south, meanwhile, left more than 20 Taliban fighters dead or wounded, officials said.

On Sunday, U.S.-led coalition troops targeted a Taliban commander in Garmser district of Helmand province, the coalition said.

"Several insurgents were killed when they fired on coalition forces," who detained four men with suspected links to the militants, the coalition said in a statement.

Also Sunday, Afghan and foreign troops clashed with militants in Helmand's Sangin district, resulting in 20 casualties, the Defense Ministry said. It did not provide a breakdown of the number of dead and wounded militants.

Separately, a Canadian soldier was killed by a roadside bomb west of Kandahar city on Sunday, said Brig. Gen. Guy Laroche, the commander of Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

Since 2002, 79 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan, including five soldiers this year. Most have been killed by roadside bombs.

Canada has deployed about 2,500 troops to fight the Taliban in the volatile south, but has threatened to withdraw if other NATO countries fail to provide 1,000 additional troops for Kandahar province, one of the centers of the Taliban-led insurgency.

Afghanistan's intelligence chief, meanwhile, rejected an assessment by his U.S. counterpart that 10 percent of the country is under Taliban control, calling the figures "completely baseless."

Michael McConnell, the U.S. National Intelligence Director, told a Senate committee last week in Washington that Afghanistan's central government controls just 30 percent of the country, the Taliban controls about 10 percent, and local tribes control the rest.

Afghan and Western officials have disputed the figures.

"All the percentages given are completely baseless for us," Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh told a news conference Monday in Kabul.

Saleh said only eight of Afghanistan's 364 districts — comprising 2 percent of the Afghan population or 5 percent of its territory — are not government controlled.

Saleh also took issue with McConnell's assertion that the 60 percent of the country controlled by tribal leaders is not under direct government control.

"We are a very distinct country, in our culture, in our way of governance, in our history," Saleh said. "While in America, an administration fully backed by tribal chiefs or dominated by tribal chiefs may be seen as liability ... here we see it as a very strong asset."

Last year was the deadliest in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 6,500 people — mostly militants — were killed in violence linked to the insurgency, according to an Associated Press count.
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Associated Press reporter Fisnik Abrashi contributed to this report
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Afghanistan says U.S. control estimates baseless
By Sayed Salahuddin Mon Mar 3, 5:15 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan said on Monday it was stunned by a U.S. intelligence assessment that the Afghan government controlled only 30 percent of the country and Taliban insurgents held 10 percent, calling the report totally baseless.

The assessment by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell last week came amid warnings by Western think-tanks, politicians and diplomats that Afghanistan could revert to becoming a failed state and slide back into anarchy.

McConnell said the rest of Afghanistan, or 60 percent of its territory, was under the control of tribal groups.

NATO, which leads a 43,000-strong force in Afghanistan, has already disputed McConnell's account.

Afghanistan's intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, said the Afghan government was stunned by McConnell's assessment.

"We regard the percentage mentioned ... as totally baseless," Saleh told a news conference.

He conceded the government did not have a presence in numerous districts of Afghanistan, but said that did not mean the Taliban insurgents controlled them.

Afghanistan had a deeply rooted tribal society and traditionally tribes formed the basis of a successful administration of the country, Saleh said.

He said President Hamid Karzai's government enjoyed the support of political elites and tribal chiefs.

"Given the history of this country and its national formation and way of governance, we feel proud that we have the support of tribal leaders."

"While in America an administration fully backed by tribal chiefs or dominated by tribal chiefs may be seen as liability, here we see it as a strong asset," Saleh said.

When asked why his account of the Afghan government's control differed so much from that of McConnell, Saleh said: "I am in touch with reality. I am sitting in Afghanistan."

In the last two years, Afghanistan has gone through its worst period of violence since U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.

More than 11,000 people have been killed since 2006, the drugs industry is booming, corruption is rife and frustration is high among ordinary Afghans about the lack of security and development six years after the Taliban were removed from power.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)
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Russia warns coalition not to misuse Afghan mission
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - Russia has warned the United States and NATO to not use their presence in Afghanistan for any possible regional political or economic purposes other than fighting terrorism.

More than 50,000 foreign troops under the command of NATO and the U.S. military are stationed in Afghanistan where the U.S.-led coalition overthrew a Taliban government in 2001.

"We see the military presence of armed forces of the United States of America and NATO ... in Afghanistan just in the framework of our common campaign against terrorism," Russia's Ambassador to Kabul Zamir Kabulov told the BBC Persian service.

"As long as this presence goes on for this end, we have no concern. But if the military presence is for other political or economic gains in Afghanistan and in the region, (then) this certainly and definitely will cause special concerns."

Russia, he told the station in an interview aired on Monday, will "definitely react" if NATO and the United States were after economic and political gains in Afghanistan and in the region.

He did not elaborate further. "May it not be that our partners have other programmes ... under the pretext of war against terrorism," he added.

Russia is the inheritor of the former Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan in 1979, pulling its forces out some 10 years later in the face of determined resistance from mostly Western-backed Afghan factions.

Its ties were at their worst when the radical Islamic Taliban movement was in power and it backed Afghan opposition groups that helped the coalition with the Taliban's removal.

U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government after it refused to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks on America.

Since then, apart from Afghanistan, the United States has set up bases in several Central Asian states that are former colonies of Moscow and rich with natural resources.

The Kremlin is also opposed to the expansion of NATO in its former satellite states in Eastern Europe and has warned against the setting up of missile bases by the United States in the region.

NATO and the U.S. military say they will remain in Afghanistan until the Western-backed Afghan forces manage to stand on their own feet, but have not set a firm timetable for withdrawal of troops from the country.
(Editing by Jerry Norton)
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NATO chief says alliance making headway in Afghanistan
Sun Mar 2, 2:47 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Sunday the alliance's mission in Afghanistan was making progress in its fight against the Taliban insurgency.

Despite increasingly bloody clashes with a resurgent Taliban Islamist militia, the NATO chief said in an interview with CNN television the situation was "looking quite good."

"We are making a lot of progress. The international community should I think better know the meaning of the word 'patience,'" he said.

Saying he was "cautiously optimistic" after a recent visit to Afghanistan, Scheffer said the country was headed in a positive direction after years of poverty and war.

"We do see millions of children in school. We see the literacy rate going up. We see health care going up. Over 80 percent of Afghans have access to health care.

"In 2001, do not forget, Afghanistan was in the Middle Ages," he said.

"If you look between '01 and '08, there is a lot of progress, although the challenges, of course, are formidable."

US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to topple the Taliban regime allied with Al-Qaeda.

The NATO chief spoke after holding talks on Afghanistan and other issues Friday with President George W. Bush, who has urged alliance members to contribute more troops for combat in southern Afghanistan.

Scheffer said he expected more troop contributions for Afghanistan at an April summit in Bucharest.

"You will see at the summit in Bucharest ... without any doubt even more of the forces coming in," he said, without providing further details.

The Bush administration has been pressing its allies to commit more troops to Afghanistan, but many countries face fierce opposition at home and will only allow their forces to be deployed for training missions -- not for combat in the south.
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US to train Pakistan military officers
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer Sun Mar 2, 1:48 PM ET
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - U.S. trainers will travel to Pakistan this year to teach military officials counterinsurgency techniques to aid soldiers along the Afghan border in the fight against al-Qaida and Taliban militants, U.S. officials said Sunday.

The training will also leave the Pakistani border force better able to cooperate with U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, a U.S. military official said.

Twenty-two U.S. trainers will arrive in "drips and drabs" this year and could be in place as soon as June or as late as October, the military official said on condition he not be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Militant attacks have increased sharply in Pakistan's border region in the last year. More than 40 people were killed in a suicide bombing in the North West Frontier Province on Sunday, the third suicide blast in the region in as many days.

Rising attacks in Pakistan have led to a corresponding drop in attacks across the border in eastern Afghanistan — where the majority of the 28,000 American troops in the country are based. But officials are worried the increasing instability is allowing al-Qaida to re-establish a presence in the border region.

President Pervez Musharraf — who has struggled to hold on to power over the last year — was the head of the military until late November, when he stepped down. U.S. officials believe Musharraf's political troubles have distracted him from the fight against militancy.

The U.S. trainers will primarily assist Pakistan military officials who will then do the actual training of the Frontier Corps, said Elizabeth Colton, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

The initial plans call for some 8,500 Frontier Corps members to benefit from the U.S. training, said the military official. Current plans call for the American personnel to be in Pakistan for up to two years.

The Pakistani army is having trouble dealing with the rising insurgency in part because the army is set up to defend Pakistan from outside invaders and not counterinsurgency warfare, the official said.

The military official said a report in the New York Times on Sunday saying up to 100 U.S. personnel would help train the Frontier Corps overstated the number involved. He said plans called for 22 trainers to travel to Pakistan.

The official refused to say what units the American personnel would be drawn from.

The Pakistan army — which is primarily ethnic Punjabi — is seen as a foreign force in Pakistan's border region, which is ethnic Pashtun.

The U.S. military official said it was necessary to train the indigenous Pashtun force that makes up the Frontier Corps so that the local population regards it and supports it as their own force.
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Taliban says they knew Harry was in their midst: Newsweek
Sun Mar 2, 11:53 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Afghan militants have said they knew that Britain's Prince Harry had been among soldiers recently deployed in their country and had been gunning to get him, a US magazine reported Sunday.

A veteran Taliban field officer, deputy commander Mullah Abdul Karim, told Newsweek magazine that he sent his men out hunting for the prince after receiving an urgent message from Taliban intelligence in late December or early January that "an important chicken" had joined British troops in his area of operations.

"He is our special enemy," said Karim, speaking to Newsweek via satellite phone from the eastern Helmland region of Afghanistan last week.

"Our first option was to capture him as a prisoner, and the second, to kill him," the magazine reported on its website Sunday.

The Taliban claimed to have learned that Prince Harry was serving with Britain's troops in southern Afghanistan despite London's best efforts to keep the secret under wraps.

Karim said his men once or twice reported possible sightings of Harry's armored convoy in their area of operations, but his fighters never got close to their target.

Britain pulled the prince out of Afghanistan fearing he would be specifically targeted by insurgents after a popular US news website last week revealed his presence in the battle zone.
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The Significance of the Elections in Pakistan
By Hekmat Karzai 27 February 2008
Pakistan held its parliamentary elections in a transparent manner. While these elections are a milestone for the country, it will have serious implications on Pakistan, the region and the international community.

ON 18 FEBRUARY, the people of Pakistan went to the polls to elect a new government despite fear of violence and questions whether their votes would count.  Many were skeptical about the outcome since there were several reports that the elections would be rigged to favor President Pervez Musharraf and his allies and terrorists bombed election rallies. 

Other than some minor disturbances, however, the elections were relatively peaceful and, for the most part, transparent.  The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), once led by the charismatic Benazir Bhutto and now by her husband Asif Ali Zardari, and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) led by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, won a significant number of the seats. President Musharraf’s supporters came a distant third and accepted defeat.

Prelude to the Elections

In the last few years, violence and suicide attacks have not only taken place in North Western Frontier Province (NWFP), bordering Afghanistan, but also in the capital Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where the military General Headquarters resides.  Extremism, which was earlier confined to the tribal areas, spread to urban centres.

Five major events -- all of which have taken place in the last year -- dealt a severe blow to President Musharraf’s popularity: the dismissal of the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry; the siege of the Red Mosque in the capital Islamabad where hundreds were killed; full-fledged battle with the extremists in Swat after they overran several security posts; the imposition  of a state of emergency; and the assassination of Benazir.

Broader Implications

The parliamentary election was a key milestone in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan voted in a transparent manner and demonstrated that they wanted a change. The next government that will take office will have a clear democratic mandate to bring about that change. Most crucially, the new government must govern effectively to avoid the fate of previous civilian governments, which were brought down due to charges of wide-spread corruption.

Clearly, the election in Pakistan proved that civil society in Pakistan is responsible and strong.  It has rejected the forces of extremism and militancy and instead voted for individuals and parties that are moderate and committed to change. 

The Pakistani Army should be also commended by remaining neutral in this election, unlike in the last parliamentary election where they supported the Musharraf government policy of weakening the major moderate parties and favouring the conservatives. The Army’s position in this election signifies a major step towards de-politicisation of the army. 

The most important implication of the elections is that the Pashtuns living in Pakistan have supported moderation and secularism rather than extremism.  In many aspects, particularly in the Western media, Pashtuns were wrongly associated with the Taliban and other radical elements. But this election has proved that Pashtuns, when given the choice, will chose moderation over extremism.  

The Awami National Party (ANP), the main Pashtun secularist party, has ousted from power the Islamist parties of Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in NWFP and will send 10 representatives to the National Assembly. 

The ANP has roots in the teachings of Khan Abdul Ghafar Khan, one of the greatest Pashtun political and spiritual leaders of the 20th century.  Ghafar Khan, also known as Bacha Khan, was a close companion of Mahatma Gandhi during the movement for independence and dedicated his life to the struggle of the Pashtuns through non-violence.  His principles guide the ANP, which was founded by his son, Khan Wali Khan, and is now led by his grandson, Asfandiar Wali Khan.

Way Forward

After intense negotiations, the PPP and PML (N) have agreed to form a coalition government.  Some in this coalition will push for the impeachment of President Musharraf. However, for the sake of stability and the sake of Pakistan, both the coalition government and President Musharraf must work together to save their country from terrorism and extremism. President Musharraf, for his part, must be given credit for holding transparent elections and not meddling in the process.

After years of dictatorship, the people of Pakistan chose democracy and moderation.  The new government is expected to challenge the extremists for its own survival.  The war against terrorism has now assumed more domestic significance than ever before.

Hekmat Karzai is Director of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) in Kabul, Afghanistan. He graduated with a M.Sc in Strategic Studies from the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS), Nanyang Technological University. He served as a RMS Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Political Violence and Terrorism Research, and was also a Fellow at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at the Georgetown University. He previously also served as First Secretary of the Afghanistan embassy in Washington.
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Al-Qaeda releases web eulogy of Afghanistan strategist
USA Today - Mar 02 2:02 PM
Digg del.icio.us Newsvine Reddit FacebookWhat's this?CAIRO (AP) — Al-Qaeda released Sunday on militant websites a new video eulogy of its top Afghanistan strategist, Abu Laith al-Libi, showing his corpse for the first time.

The video, titled "The Road's Companion," marks the second video eulogy of Abu Laith in less than a week, showing his apparent importance to the movement.

"Nation of Islam, we pay tribute today to a courageous hero of Islam, an unmatched commander, one of Islam's greatest ... losing him was a real loss and his absence is a real lack," eulogized al-Qaeda militant Abu Yahya al-Libi, appearing in front of an image of him leaning over Abu Laith's battered corpse.

Abu Laith was seen as a top al-Qaeda strategist in Afghanistan and was killed in late January by a missile from a U.S. Predator drone that struck his safehouse in Pakistan.

Pakistani intelligence considered him the operational commander of al-Qaeda in the border region and one of the militant group's most high-profile figures after its leader, Osama bin Laden, and Ayman al-Zawahri, who issued his own video eulogy Wednesday.

FIND MORE STORIES IN: Afghanistan | al-Qaeda | Osama bin Laden | Pakistan | Islam | Ayman al-Zawahri | Road | Bagram | Abu Laith al-Libi | Companion
The 20-minute video begins with old footage of Abu Laith talking superimposed over the face of his dead body showing extensive bruising.

Abu Yahya, who gained fame for escaping from Afghanistan's notorious Bagram prison and has appeared in several videos of his own, then appeared to deliver his own words of praise for the fallen al-Qaeda leader.

"One of the hardest aspects of what we have witnessed in the field of jihad ... is saying goodbye to loved ones and the absence of companions," he said. "We say in our calamity that the eye is bursting with tears and the heart is soaring with grief."
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Afghan foreign minister condemns Danish reprint of Prophet Muhammad cartoon
The Associated Press Monday, March 3, 2008
COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Afghanistan's foreign minister on Monday condemned a Danish cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, saying that freedom of speech should not be used "to make a billion Muslims cry."

Rangin Dadfar Spanta told reporters during a visit to Denmark that he respected differences in cultures, but suggested Danish newspapers abused the freedom of expression when they reprinted the cartoon three weeks ago.

Spanta said freedom of speech should be used to promote "equality and peace between nations" and to exchange information.

"The freedom of speech must not be used to make a billion Muslims cry," he said.

The drawing, which depicts Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, was one of 12 Danish newspaper cartoons that triggered major protests in Muslim countries in 2006.

Newspapers in Denmark reprinted the cartoon Feb. 13 to promote freedom of speech after Danish police said they had uncovered a plot to kill the artist who drew it.

The reprinting sparked protests in several Muslim countries, with Sudan President Omar al-Bashir calling for a boycott of Denmark in the Muslim world.

Hundreds of demonstrators set Danish and Dutch flags ablaze in northern Afghanistan on Sunday to protest the cartoon and a forthcoming Dutch film criticizing the Quran.

Sudan's ambassador was summoned to Denmark's Foreign Ministry on Monday to explain the boycott of Danish goods.

After the meeting, Ambassador Mohamed Ali Eltom told reporters that medical supplies would be exempt from the boycott, including insulin from the Danish drug maker Novo Nordisk.

He also said Danes would be barred from entering Sudan, but Danish citizens already in the African country would not be expelled.

"The Danes who are in Sudan are very well respected and protected," he said. "We're are a friendly nation and we're a peaceful country."

In response to al-Bashir's comments last week, Danish Aid Minister Ulla Toernaes said Thursday that Denmark would oppose any international debt relief deal for Sudan.
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Anti-Koran Dutch film could harm troops in Afghanistan, warns Nato secretary
3rd March 2008 Daily Mail
The airing of a Dutch film criticising Islam will have repercussions for troops in Afghanistan, according to Nato's secretary general.

Jaap de Hoop raised his fears after Afghans protested yesterday against the film being made by far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders.

Mr Wilders has already been warned by the Dutch government that his film will have effects on the country's political and economic interests.

Mr Wilders, who has in the past called for the Koran to be banned, likening to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, says the film is about the Koran but did not reveal any details about it.

In a TV interview, Mr de Hoop said: "If the [troops] find themselves in the line of fire because of the film, then I am worried about it and I am expressing that concern." The project has already been condemned by several Muslim countries, including Iran and Pakistan.

During protests against the film yesterday, hundreds of Afghans took to the streets in the norther city of Mazar-i-Sharif, burning Dutch flags and calling for the withdrawal of Dutch troops from the Nato force.

The protesters also criticised the recent republication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in several Danish newspapers.

Mr Wilders' film, which describes the Koran as "an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror" will be shown in March and released on the internet.

He has been told by the Dutch government that he may have to leave the country for his own safety.
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Comment: Afghan effort gets much-needed help
Matthew Fisher, Canwest News Service Monday, March 03, 2008
AT KANDAHAR AIRFIELD -- Whether Canada, the United States, Britain and the Netherlands are getting the combat help they require from their NATO cousins to confront the Taliban in southern Afghanistan is a delicate matter that will preoccupy the alliance when its foreign ministers meet in Romania early next month.

Viewed from the Kandahar Airfield, NATO's manpower situation does not look nearly as gloomy as it does in Western capitals.

A building boom that started in the fall of 2005 in anticipation of the arrival of the Canadian task force, has never really stopped. In recent months it has clearly been gaining pace.

Over the past few months the U.S. Army has added armed surveillance helicopters to its Afghan arsenal. The Canadians are building new offices and have plans to move some of their troops from tents to much comfier trailers. The French are laying the foundations for what looks like a permanent camp for their airmen, who arrived last fall with Mirage attack aircraft and have since upgraded to new generation Rafale jets. According to the Belgian media, they are sending F-16 jets to Kandahar this summer.

As well as the Belgians, there have been Danish and Polish add-ons, too. They are joining Romanians, a smaller number of Bulgarians and Slovaks and a burgeoning community of Australians in their clown-like yellow and brown camouflage.

Space will get tighter with the pending arrival in southern Afghanistan of 3,200 Marines from bases in North Carolina and California. Not all of them will end up based at Kandahar, but enough men sporting the Corps' distinctive "high and tight" hair cuts are already here to have made a noticeable impact on the airfield's increasingly crowded and dusty roads, in the PX and the growing number of chow halls as well as at the Tim Hortons, which has already proven so popular with other U.S. troops as well as with the British and the Dutch that Canadians must sometimes wait half an hour for their "double" fix.

Although nothing has been confirmed, the chatter in Washington has been that some of the Marines, who are bringing badly needed helicopters as well as a large number of infantry, are likely to conduct joint operations with Canadian and British forces in Kandahar and neighbouring Helmand.

Additionally, as Britain's war in Iraq has wound down, the number of British troops in the south is set to increase from about 4,500 to 8,700 by the end of the year, according to media reports from London.

While NATO has been slowly cobbling together a bigger and better fighting force in the south, political leaders from London, Washington and Ottawa have continued to plead for more help from bigger NATO countries. Of the big four sitting out the war, or rather putting their troops on the war's margins in the west and north of Afghanistan, only France, which has had commandos in the south before, is likely to contribute a meaningful number of troops in the south.

Having attracted relatively little criticism, the Italians and the Spaniards seem content to remain below the parapet. The Germans have received by far the most heat because of NATO's non-combatants in Afghanistan they have such a large number of fresh combat troops, attack aircraft and transport helicopters back at home.

While most German soldiers have said they are keen to do their part, it remains highly unlikely that Berlin will change its stance, no matter how much its allies complain. Given the country's particular military history, the German media and public still adamantly resist the idea that their boys should be allowed to go anywhere with guns.

Notwithstanding the Germans, the Italians and the Spanish, a significant number of combat troops and combat aircraft are joining the fight at a time when senior commanders and military experts have declared that they are urgently needed. And more Marines may become available next year if the calmer trend in Iraq continues.

Whether the Marines, the additional Brits and the other NATO forces now converging on southern Afghanistan will be enough to help those already on the ground to turn the tide against a Taliban insurgency that got its second wind when the White House shifted its focus to Iraq in 2003, may not be known for two or three years. That would be just about the same time that Ottawa intends to bring its troops home after nine years on the far side of the globe.
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UNFPA looks for more funds to support Afghan women
www.chinaview.cn  2008-03-03 19:23:59
KABUL, March 3 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Population Fund for Afghanistan (UNFPA) which currently has 5 million U.S. dollars for supporting women in Afghanistan is looking for more funds, according to country representative of the body on Monday.

"Our current budget this year is approximately 5 million U.S. dollars and we are looking forward to significantly increase it," Ramesh Penumaka, country representative of the UNFPA, told newsmen at a press conference here.

He also said that objective of the body is to foster women empowerment and gender equity in the war-torn country.

Meanwhile, the official acknowledged the improvement of women rights in the country.

A report issued by the integrity said that out of 23.6 million of Afghanistan 48.9 percent is female.

Women represent 27 percent of the post-Taliban country's National Assembly (68 out of 249 seats in Wolesi Jirga or Lower House and 23 out of 102 in Mushrano Jirga or Upper House of parliament).

Nevertheless, UNFPA admitted that forced marriage as a big problem of women in Afghanistan, and many Afghan girls are married before completing the age of 18.

Moreover, maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan is still high as one woman, according to Penumaka dies every 29 minutes due to reproductive health related complications (1,600 to 1,900 deaths per 100,000 live births, the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world).
Editor: An Lu 
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Canada's Afghanistan mission
Globe and Mail Update March 3, 2008 at 9:43 AM EST
The numbers are bad. The reality is rose. The government controls less than a third of the country. Taliban and local warlords controls the rest, The Globe and Mail's Paul Koring and Graeme Smith wrote in an article The ugly truth in Afghanistan Saturday.

"The prospect of another year of rising bloodshed has forced a moment of reckoning. Almost everybody involved with Afghanistan is taking a hard look at the country's future, even as Canada's Parliament takes stock of its role in the war," they wrote.

"The Liberals nearly forced an election this spring over a government motion to extend the mission to 2011 — and although the extension now seems likely to pass when it comes to a vote next month, the mission is increasingly a source of raucous debate in Canada and among its NATO allies."

What do you think? Is Canada's flagging nation-building effort flagging? We are pleased that Mr. Koring will be online Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. to answer your questions and respond to your observations.

Submit a question through the comment feature on this story or come back tomorrow to join the conversation.

Your questions and Mr. Koring's answers will appear below once the discussion begins.

Mr. Koring, a 20-year veteran foreign correspondent, has been based in Washington since 1996. He has reported on several occasions over the past few years from Afghanistan.

Prior to moving to the U.S. capital, Mr. Koring was based in London. From 1983 to 1995, he spent considerable time in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, and covered the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent Eastern European revolutions in 1989 and the Balkan war in the 1990s. He has also reported from South Asia, Russia and Africa.

Editor's Note: globeandmail.com editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.
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Afghan council wants soap operas off TV
Nick Meo, the San Francisco Chronicle Foreign Service Monday, March 3, 2008
(03-03) 04:00 PST Kabul, Afghanistan -- With suicide bombers increasing their activities, spiraling opium production, and nearly half the country prey to Taliban guerrillas, Afghanistan's spiritual guardians are focusing on a new peril: Indian soap operas.

In an echo of Taliban-era fundamentalism, the Islamic Council of Scholars won the backing in January of a powerful government minister in its campaign to get dozens of wildly popular Indian dramas off the nation's TV screens.

Abdul Khuram, the minister of information and culture, threatened television executives with prosecution if they continue to broadcast programs that the ministry deems offensive to public morality. The council singled out scenes that depict romance and Hindu gods in the homes of soap opera characters as "spreading immorality and un-Islamic culture."

Khuram's announcement came after dozens of clerics met with President Hamid Karzai in January to demand that the government ban such programs. The corny dramas have won thousands of Afghan devotees who enjoy the escapist world of the fictional rich residents of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay.

"The people like these shows. They take their minds off their troubles," said Farhad Hazatulla, a 22-year-old university student. "They do no harm. These old men (on the Islamic Council) live in the past."

The Islamic Council is a group of prominent clerics and scholars (known as the Ulema) who advise the Kabul government on religious matters and reflect a deep conservatism that prevails in Afghan society six years after the fall of the Taliban, most analysts agree. The battle to censor television is a throwback to Taliban rule, when entertainment was banned and Kabul residents risked imprisonment by secretly watching smuggled videos in their homes.

"The Taliban's most unpopular policies had to do with bans on music, kite flying, photography, chess - anything that could be classified as fun," said Jean MacKenzie, country director for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, a British nongovernmental organization. "Now with the Taliban gone, the Ulema are stepping in to take up the slack."

In recent months, the council has been increasingly vocal against perceived corruption of society by foreign television and movie channels. They have urged Karzai's government to remove Afghan rappers and pop stars from the airwaves and have chastised Afghans who watch television when they should be going to the mosque. Before turning their sights on Kabul's buoyant new media world, the clerics campaigned to bring back public executions, last seen in the main soccer stadium under the Taliban.

New TV stations have proliferated in the last three years, offering a mix of hard-hitting news that is often critical of the government and light entertainment that draws the wrath of religious hard-liners. Indian soaps are said to be popular even in the conservative province of Helmand and in remote areas where residents are willing to exhaust precious fuel to crank up their generators to watch evening soaps.

Tolo TV, Afghanistan's first commercial channel, shows three Indian dramas: "The Story of Every House," "The Trials of Life" and "Because a Mother-in-Law Was Once a Daughter-in-Law Too." Some channels air as many as six Indian soap operas daily.

"In most countries, such family-obsessed dramas with wooden acting and creaking sets would be thought to be tame," said Saad Mohseni, director of Tolo TV.

Council clerics accuse the dramas of encouraging idol worship, even though Hindu images are pixelated and scenes of Hindu worship are cut. The hardliners have also targeted Tolo TV's flagship pop programs - "Hop," a local MTV-style show, and "Afghan Star," the nation's version of "American Idol" in which demure female participants sing while wrapped in traditional head scarves.

"The unrestrained programs on TV have angered and prompted the Ulemas to react. 'Hop' ... is spreading immoralities and hurts the sacred religion of Islam," said a council statement after its meeting with Karzai. " 'Afghan Star' ... encourages immorality among the people and is against Shariah (Islamic) law."

Some viewers agree.

Qadeer, a restaurant guard, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, says dramas that "show boys and girls together who are not married is against Islamic culture. The Taliban can make propaganda out of this - that it shows the moral degradation of Kabul under President Karzai."

Humayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Karzai, says the government is concerned about some television shows, especially Indian soap operas and music programs.

"The president has instructed the minister of information and culture to look into these concerns and to discuss the matter with the TV channels," said Hamidzada.

Mohseni, the director of Tolo TV and one of three Australian-Afghan brothers who set up the media company that includes Tolo and an FM radio station, accused the Ulema and the minister of using the issue to win support among religious conservatives.

"We have so many problems in this country - kidnapping, terrorism, inflation - so why is the government making a big deal about something that is pleasing to the eyes and ears of most Afghans?" asked Mohseni. "Our soap operas and pop shows are a bit of enjoyable escapism for viewers and take their minds off some of the misery that people have to face in this country. And 'Afghan Star' is a talent show - it is so tame. It is worrying that we are once again witnessing radicalization of Afghanistan."

MacKenzie of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting worries that the council's pressure is further weakening the Karzai government.

"By trying to force their own interpretation of Islam on an unwilling society," she said, "they risk undermining what little authority the central government has left."

This article appeared on page A - 19 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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Al-Qaida releases video showing body of its slain Afghan strategist
Associated Press - March 2, 2008 8:43 PM ET
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Al-Qaida has released a new video eulogy on militant Web sites of its top Afghanistan strategist.

The video shows the body of Abu Laith al-Libi (ah-BOO' LAYTH ahl-LIH'-bee), who was killed in late January by a missile from a U.S. Predator drone that struck his safehouse in Pakistan.

It marks the second video eulogy of Abu Laith, demonstrating the slain commander's importance to the movement.

The video's release coincided with the publication of a book by Al-Qaida's Number-2 man, Ayman al-Zawahri (AY'-muhn ahl-ZWAH'-ree). The book slams radical militants who have disavowed armed struggle and turned their backs on violence.
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General criticises Afghanistan troop restrictions
Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom By David Blair in Kabul 03/03/2008
Nato's commander in Afghanistan voiced his "frustration" with the restrictions imposed on the Alliance's forces yesterday and said these "national caveats" were hindering the fight against the Taliban.

General Dan McNeill, leader of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), called for more troops to be sent to Afghanistan and gave the Daily Telegraph a vivid description of the difficulties he faces.

Some of the 40 nations who have contributed troops to his command, including France and Germany, have imposed limits on what their soldiers can do.

"I would like the force to be resourced to a level which I think is appropriate for the task in hand and within the force I would like the caveats to be eliminated," said Gen McNeill.

A chart showing what each national contingent is willing to do hangs in Gen McNeill's office in Kabul. Red stickers denote jobs which are ruled out, yellow stickers show what a force might do but only with their home government's permission.

Germany, for example, insists on keeping its 3,200 troops in the relative safety of northern Afghanistan where reconstruction - not combat is their primary task.

Gen McNeill, an American veteran of the Vietnam war, said these restrictions were "frustrating in how they impinge upon my ability to properly plan, resource and prosecute effective military operations".

Gen McNeill, 61, added: "It's hard to mass [troops] when you sometimes have to ask all the way back to governments 'may I use your force in this location in this manner'?"

As for deploying rapidly, Gen McNeill said: "If we can move faster than our adversary we have an edge over him. If I have to take the time to see who can make this move and who cannot if I request them, it's hard to avail myself of speed. Therein lies the issue."

He added: "It requires me to expend energies that without an imposition of such restrictions and constraints, I'd be able to put that energy into things that are far more important."

When he took over ISAF a year ago, Gen McNeill tried to adopt a philosophical attitude. "I could rail and carry on as much as I wanted about the caveats," he said, but the most productive option would be to "look at what the possibles were".

Gen McNeill would duly refer to home governments whenever he needed their troops to perform a task ruled out by their national caveats.

"I'd make contact with their ministry of defence and say 'here's what I intend to do, here's where I need to do it. As you can clearly see, your force has the only capacity I have, I'm respectfully asking you to allow me to let this occur'," he said.

Gen McNeill's success rate for these requests was "excellent" for a "baseball batting average" but "terrible" for the purpose of fighting a war.

Meanwhile, the brunt of the fighting in the Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan is borne by five Nato countries with no "caveats" - America, Britain, Canada, Denmark and Holland.

ISAF deploys 43,250 troops drawn from all 26 Nato member states and 14 other friendly countries. Britain, with 7,800 troops, and America with 15,000, are by the far the largest contributors.

But Afghanistan is 50 per cent bigger than Iraq and has at least three million more people yet ISAF is only a quarter of the size of the force in Iraq.

More troops were needed, said Gen McNeill, or Nato would "run the risk" of losing the support of the Afghan people.
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Australia's relationship with the US faces tests
The Age, Australia Daniel Flitton March 3, 2008
The Afghanistan conflict and other issues could mean trouble for Rudd.

KEVIN Rudd joked he'd throw a prawn on the barbie to mark the recent visit by Bob Gates, oblivious to the fact that the US Secretary of Defence is allergic to seafood. It was only a small snag in protocol, hardly a diplomatic incident. And besides, nothing was going to deter the Labor Government using the recent high-level talks with US officials to hammer its message — Australia's alliance with America is above politics, Labor or Liberal, Republican or Democrat.

So far, there is little evidence to signal otherwise. The plan to withdraw Australian combat troops from Iraq has been pragmatically accepted in Washington, helped because Labor has been at pains to ensure the Iraq pull-out, combined with ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, is not seen as a repudiation of the close personal ties John Howard fostered with the Bush Administration.

But Labor has not always had such a cosy attitude towards the world's great powers. Indeed, since the earliest days of Australian federation, an undercurrent of isolationist thought has suffused Australian politics — rarely gaining much support, but enough to make waves.

Way back in 1903, Labor senator William Higgs argued, "If we keep to our own territory, if we avoid interfering with foreign nations, if we refuse to be drawn into the vortex of militarism, we shall be perfectly safe in Australia."

A century later, there are obvious echoes of this sentiment. Former Labor leader Mark Latham left politics a bitter opponent of close military ties with America. "The US Alliance is a funnel that draws us into unnecessary wars; first Vietnam and then Iraq," he wrote in The Latham Diaries, published in 2005.

Latham wanted Labor to be the anti-war party of Australian politics, claiming New Zealand had found the right approach to world affairs. And while Latham's name is a dirty word in Labor circles these days, his concern that Australia has sacrificed its independence in foreign policy is still felt by a significant portion of the community.

Labor's pro-America faction (jeered by Latham as the "Big Macs") is now ascendant. But with Australian troops fighting in a distant conflict in Afghanistan and talk about joining the controversial US missile defence project, Rudd could yet find Australia's alliance with America stirring up political trouble at home.

Afghanistan is likely to become the focus of most discontent. The conflict has stretched over six years since the US-led invasion — and nobody is seriously talking about a quick resolution. National deployments are being measured in years, at least as long as the Rudd Government's term in office, and often beyond.

Australia has suffered few casualties, though the fighting has been intense at times. Yet polls show the public is evenly split on the merits of Australia's involvement.

Afghanistan is not as unpopular as Iraq, but more people are beginning to question the long-term goals and costs of the operation.

The US wants an even greater commitment of international troops to stop Afghanistan from sliding into an Iraq-type insurgency. When Secretary Gates visited Canberra, he warned that the nature of the conflict is shifting. "It's kind of kaleidoscopic," he said. "Every time you twist the tube, it changes a little bit."

Gates is one of the architects of the so-called "surge" strategy in Iraq, which supporters now claim is making progress. America has already promised an extra 3000 troops will go to Afghanistan, and by drawing a direct link between both conflicts, he is making it clear the US also expects its allies to play a greater role.

"The problem is that while we were able to clear the Taliban in certain areas when we have an operation, we don't have enough force to be able to hold some of those areas. It's the same kind of problem we encountered in Iraq," he said.

Because the Taliban loses every direct confrontation with international forces, the US believes there will be more terrorist attacks in the months ahead. In January, a suicide squad struck Kabul's luxury hotel, home to many foreigners and the Australian embassy at the time. Gates also expects more random killing of school teachers and local officials, and an increased reliance on roadside bombs — all because the Taliban hopes to sap the will of the international coalition.

Could this tactic work? European countries are wavering in their commitment to Afghanistan, and Canada has decided to withdraw in 2011.

If the NATO allies fail to provide additional troops, is the current situation serious enough to warrant a further deployment of Australian troops? Will Australian politicians have the stamina to support a conflict that could drag on for years, with no end in sight? The Government has now ruled

out more troops, saying Australia will increase its "capacity building" efforts, training Afghanistan's army and police.

But these efforts are beset by what is now an increasingly familiar conundrum — figuring out how to foster local self-reliance when the security situation is so bad.

Last week was an example of just this kind of problem. Australian soldiers had to fight off a number of Taliban attacks while attempting to build a patrol base for the Afghan army.

In opposition, Labor consistently argued that Australia could be a close partner to America without always agreeing with Washington.

Afghanistan could well prove to be the test of that conviction.
Daniel Flitton is diplomatic editor.
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Making the mission work
With political consensus reached, Canada must now ensure its efforts in Afghanistan succeed
Toronto Star, Canada Thomas Axworthy Mar 02, 2008
Parliament is convulsed with the issue of whether Canada should commit to three more years of fighting a war in Afghanistan. A more realistic time frame would be to add 25 years to that perspective.

This sober assessment was the major theme of a conference hosted by Queen's University in Ottawa last week. As Parliament next door debated the government's motion to extend the combat role to 2011, speakers with first-hand experience in Afghanistan debated the realities of what it would actually take to protect Afghanistan from predators and to rebuild this shattered state.

The Manley Report on Afghanistan also addressed this issue. Most commentary focused on the recommendations that NATO provide another 1,000 troops in Kandahar. However, the report also had some very pertinent sections on Afghanistan's challenges in rebuilding.

Progress has been made but the problems, as the conference speakers reiterated, are vast, and the international community is poorly motivated and poorly organized to meet them.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world – the per capita GDP is $1,640 U.S. compared with $36,821 in Canada. It ranks 174th out of 178 countries in the United Nations Development Program index on human development. Foreign aid totalled more than $3 billion U.S. in 2005, providing 90 per cent of the public spending in Afghanistan. However, such a sum is still much lower than illicit opium income.

Afghanistan is the world's largest exporter of opium, estimated by some to represent a street value of $60 billion U.S. This means that reconstruction in Afghanistan faces a triple whammy: NATO tries to eradicate the poppy in the south; the Taliban turns the disgruntled farmers against the West; drug lords have their own private militias. So, even if the Taliban were defeated, they might be replaced by drug cartels that live off corrupting the police. Replacing a Taliban-terrorist state with a narco-terrorist state is not progress.

The international community's effort to combat poverty and drugs is hampered by Afghanistan's security problems.

One of our conference speakers, who worked for USAID, described what it was like working in Herat. Her security detail consisted of 10 guards. When she went for a meeting with the province's governor, he had a security detail even larger.

A meeting to discuss women's development resembled a scene out of Chicago in the 1920s with Al Capone and his gang meeting Frank Nitty with his guards. How can development take place when you cannot meet the people you are trying to help?

Another conclusion of the conference was that the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan are inextricably linked. The Taliban were largely created by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and elements of that directorate are still helping the Taliban today. The Taliban and their Al Qaeda allies live and train in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province and slip into Kandahar to do their dirty work, and then return to the safety of their sanctuary. Let there be no doubt – it will be impossible to defeat the Taliban if this safe sanctuary continues.

NATO and Canada must face up to the fact that to prevail in Afghanistan, Pakistan must be prevented from falling into chaos. The government of Pakistan must be assisted to restore its authority in the Northwest Frontier Province. This is a tall order. If we are making scant progress in assisting the 28 million Afghans, what can we do to mitigate the far larger problems of a Pakistan, which has a population of 165 million and nuclear weapons? Does NATO or Canada even have a Pakistan strategy? If we do not get a handle on Pakistan, the Canadian lives lost to date in Afghanistan and the additional losses we will endure by 2011 will all be for naught.

Afghanistan has made tremendous strides. It has freely elected a president and a legislature, and the next election cycle begins in 2009. This second election cycle will demonstrate whether democracy can be consolidated. Canada must do everything it can to help the Afghans in this crucial next phase of their democratic development.

Yet, if democracy has advanced, problems in governments remain. Public administration capacity is lacking throughout the country. The backbone of democracy, for example, is the rule of law. Yet, only 11 per cent of Afghan's judges have a university law degree and nearly half of the judges have no judicial training. How can Afghan citizens trust their legal system when half of the judges know no law?

The Manley Commission also addressed this dearth in public administration capacity. CIDA should concentrate on training Afghan public servants and on creating a local civil service college. As one of our presenters said: "Clean water will never deliver a clean government, but a clean government is far more likely to deliver clean water."

The Liberal and Conservative parties have now agreed to extend the combat mission – ending that debate. Now, the priority must be how to make that mission a success, which is an immense challenge.
Rebuilding a failed state while fighting a war against guerrillas, who have a safe sanctuary, is the single most difficult foreign policy commitment that Canada has made since 1945.

Thomas Axworthy is chair of the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University.
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EDITORIAL: Who is behind the terrorism?
Daily Times, Pakistan Monday, March 03, 2008
The caretaker interior minister, Lieutenant General (Retd) Hamid Nawaz Khan, has done the predictable thing that he learned in PMA by saying on Saturday that India, Afghanistan and the United States had a hand in the terrorism in Pakistan. He admitted he had no proof of this involvement but that “people” had this perception. His “rational” explanation did not go further than the “circumstantial evidence” that the Taliban-Al Qaeda offensive in Afghanistan had gone down in the same measure as incidents of terrorism had gone up in Pakistan. He said suicide-bombings and other acts of organised violence needed big funding and this could come only from states unfriendly towards Pakistan.

The manner in which the charge was made was meant to be disingenuous; but it reflects lack of intellectual depth. The argument on offer is that that it was the “people’s” perception that these foreign powers are behind the trouble. But the framing of the sentence suggests that the establishment is once again ready to spread the evil rumour and make the political environment of Pakistan more toxic. Earlier, a similar charge was made in relation to the uprising which the Musharraf establishment faced in Balochistan. But in that instance, there was some proof in hand and there were some people — definitely excluding the Baloch — who were willing to buy the line.

Some of the national brainwash may accept the India angle contained in this newly refurbished “revelation”, but, more dangerously for Islamabad, the entire national psyche is also dying to believe that the United States too is deceiving Pakistan in its overtures of friendship while in fact it is pursuing the agenda of annihilating Muslims wherever they may be found. Since the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai is seen as a useless appendix of the American military dominance in Afghanistan, there is easy access to the domestic mind through an accusation of this kind.

What is the spokesman of the establishment trying to do? Is he expressing the anger of his establishment over the newborn tendency in the Washington establishment to speak with many voices, some of them not as loyal to President Musharraf as they used to be? Is he reacting to the change of tack in the State Department as expressed by its deputy secretary Mr John D Negroponte recently? By tilting at India again, is he reaffirming that Pakistan is miffed at India for not budging on Kashmir? If that is so, then he should know that the military point of view in the policy on Kashmir is passé, and it will bring no kudos to him from anyone who wants Pakistan to survive and grow.

Now let us look at the sub-text of what was said on Saturday. Since three countries are hounding Pakistan through terrorism, it was implied, it becomes incumbent on Pakistan to take countervailing action. But no one knows how our establishment will strike against the United States and deter it from making mischief in Pakistan. At the most we can withdraw the hundred thousand Pakistani soldiers away from the Durand Line and the Tribal Areas, which will of course compel the Americans to switch off the funds to Pakistan that sustain these operations (and possibly others not mentioned, as reported in the foreign media recently) and go after the terrorists directly. Or our establishment can set on feet conspiracies to create chaos in Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s in the name of “strategic depth”. In parallel to that, of course, it can teach India a lesson by reviving the old jihad there!

If the news has not reached the relevant quarters then let us inform them for the nth time that in the case of both India and Afghanistan, our “strategic” policies in the past have brought Pakistan nothing but a sense of defeat. These policies of jihad and strategic depth are discredited and Pakistan can adopt them again only at the risk of certain isolation and censure at the global level. It is a blunder of comprehension on the part of such disseminators to think that their message will resonate with the people of Pakistan or the politicians. The people of Pakistan may err now and then in welcoming military rule, but they certainly don’t love defeat.

The retort to this line of propaganda has come from the co-chairman of the PPP Mr Asif Zardari who has “de-linked” Kashmir from the process of normalisation of relations with India. In his latest statement delivered on the day the interior minister was delivering himself of his “anti-everybody” wisdom, Mr Zardari gave priority to the pursuit of bilateral trade, giving everybody “time to grow up” in India and Pakistan. The only elements who will buy the line fed by the establishment are the people who are carrying out terrorism in Pakistan, simply because it exonerates them. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: Caring for oneself

The federal caretaker minister for Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis is making things difficult for his ministry and for himself by breaking rules and then hounding the civil servants who object. His trouble began when he tried to shift the funds of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) from the authorised bank to another place. He has followed that with more irregularities and challenges people to catch him if they can. Oddly, he is the father of an earlier minister of state — for privatisation and investment — in the Shaukat Aziz cabinet who had to resign because of his less than honest functioning.

There are other cases even more blatant than this one. Unfortunately, most of what was said by the opposition about the ill-intent behind the selection of some of the caretaker cabinet has turned out to be true. This is actually unfair to the many people of good repute who accepted to work as caretakers because they thought they could serve meaningfully in an interim period of three months. But clearly some “caretakers” come in only to take care of themselves.
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Women MPs: Afghanistan ranks 27th
Online - International News Network, Pakistan Sunday 02nd March, 2008
UNITED NATION: Afghanistan ranks 27 in a list of 188 countries on giving representation to women in national parliament, a UN report released said.

The report World Map of Women in Politics 2008 a joint publication of the UN and Inter-Parliamentary Union was released at the United Nations headquarters in New York. In fact, the report revealed that Afghanistan with 27.7 percent of women MPs in Lower House and 21.6 percent in Upper House is placed significantly above all the seven other South Asian Countries.

India that had its first women Prime Minister in 60s and at present has a woman President, besides the most powerful individual being a woman is ranked 107. Immediate neighbor Pakistan, which had its first women Prime Minister in 80s is ranked 51, the report said.

Releasing the report, Anders Johnsson, Secretary General of the Inter-parliamentary Union, said Afghanistan is in a better position at least in this sphere as compared to other South Asian countries because of the international effort in this regard in the post-Taliban era.
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