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May 14, 2008 

Afghans to ask for $50 bln aid at Paris conference
By Jon Hemming Wed May 14, 4:31 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan will ask international donors for $50 billion in aid at a conference in Paris next month, President Hamid Karzai's senior economic advisor said.

Afghanistan seeks $50 billion in aid
Ishaq Nadiri By FISNIK ABRASHI Associated Press Wed May 14, 5:39 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan will ask international donors next month for $50 billion to fund a five-year development plan, a presidential aide said, despite growing criticism that aid money is being wasted.

Hunger adds to Afghanistan's nightmare
By Carlotta Gall International Herald Tribune Wednesday, May 14, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: Thieves raided the city flour market in broad daylight a few weeks ago, shooting and wounding two people before escaping with their loot.

Marines stay in Afghan town after Taliban influx
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
GARMSER, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines who once planned to be in this southern Afghan town for just a few days are extending their mission by several weeks after facing an influx of Taliban fighters.

13 Taliban, 2 police killed in clashes in southern Afghanistan
May 14, 2008 Associated Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A police chief says clashes in southern Afghanistan have killed 13 Taliban militants and two policemen.

Afghan teacher killed after speech condemning suicide bombings
May 14, 2008 Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan: A teacher was shot to death in northern Afghanistan after he gave a speech condemning suicide bombings, officials said Wednesday.

Afghanistan's police force a weak link: general
CTV.ca News May 14, 2008
Afghanistan's police force is about three years beyond the Afghan National Army in its development, and that poses a problem, says Canada's outgoing commander in Afghanistan.

NATO concerned Pakistani agreements with militants rise in violence in eastern Afghanistan
Associated Press - May 14, 2008 10:53 AM ET
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - NATO says attacks by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan rose sharply in April.

Over 360,000 affected by reduced health services
KABUL, 14 May 2008 (IRIN) - The killing and abduction of dozens of health workers in the past two years has prompted officials to shut down at least 36 health facilities in Afghanistan's volatile southern and eastern provinces

Afghanistan protests to Iran over border killings
May 14, 2008
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan has protested to neighbouring Iran over the killing of a number of its nationals by Iranian forces, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

Afghan president condemns Jaipur bombings
Wed, May 14 05:11 PM
Kabul, May 14 (Xinhua) Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned Tuesday's serial blasts in India's pink city of Jaipur that killed 63 people and injured 216.

Ban on sex for soldiers in Afghanistan is lifted ... sort of
By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Wednesday, May 14, 2008
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Single soldiers and civilians working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan can now have sex legally. Sort of.

173rd Airborne soldier gets four years for break-in on Afghanistan base
By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Tuesday, May 13, 2008
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A 173rd Airborne Brigade soldier will spend four years in prison for breaking into an Afghan electronics shop and assaulting an Afghan army sergeant who stumbled upon him and two other U.S. troops as they were committing the crime.

Afghan cure 'will take up to 10 years'
May 14, 2008 04:30 AM Toronto Star Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
GATINEAU, QUE.–It will take a decade for Afghanistan to conquer the scourges of corruption and drug production that are holding back progress in the country, Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad says.

Help us keep Afghanistan poppy-free, Afghan ambassador asks
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Afghanistan's ambassador wants Canada and other members of the international coalition fighting in his country to offer incentives to Afghan farmers as a way to ensure poppy-free regions remain that way.

To guard Afghan treasure, silence golden
By Bay Fang Chicago Tribune, United States Washington Bureau 11:48 PM CDT, May 13, 2008
WASHINGTON—For years they kept the secret. A dozen men, the "key-holders" of a fabulous treasure, told no one about the gold they'd buried deep in a palace vault, hidden from the ravages of war, looting and a regime bent

Afghan army conducts first artillery live-fire exercise
www.chinaview.cn  2008-05-13 16:18:20
KABUL, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Army (ANA) has accomplished its first artillery live-fire exercise backed by mentors from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), an ISAF statement issued here Tuesday said.

Afghan army commander in Kandahar asks Kabul for extra troops
The Canadian Press May 14, 2008 at 6:31 AM EDT
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The commander of Afghan army troops in Kandahar has asked his country's Defence Ministry to send two more battalions of soldiers to the troubled southern province.

Militants behead 'US spy' in Pakistani tribal area
Wed May 14, 4:48 AM ET
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, May 14, 2008 (AFP) - Pro-Taliban militants beheaded a soldier in a Pakistani tribal area after accusing him of spying for US forces across the border in Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.

MPs raise minimum wage for civil servants
Written by www.quqnoos.com Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Teachers to benefit immediately while other rises may take four years
MEMBERS of Parliament in the Lower House have agreed to raise the minimum wage for low ranking civil servants by Afg700 ($14) per month.

Police: Iran bribes militants to halt dam
www.quqnoos.com Written by M Reza Sher Mohammadi Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Iran attempts to block dam construction by paying off 'enemies', police say
IRAN is meddling in the internal affairs of Farah province, according to the area’s local police chief.

Protesting MPs end boycott of parliament
Makia Monir - May 11, 2008 - 17:09
KABUL (PAN): Some 100 members of the lower house of the parliament protesting over the declaration of separate constituency for Kuchis ended their boycott on Sunday after one month and attended the session.

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Afghans to ask for $50 bln aid at Paris conference
By Jon Hemming Wed May 14, 4:31 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan will ask international donors for $50 billion in aid at a conference in Paris next month, President Hamid Karzai's senior economic advisor said.

Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries and depends on aid for 90 percent of its spending as it tries to rebuild an economy shattered by 30 years of war and also fight off a Taliban insurgency that killed 6,000 people last year.

International donors have pledged some $24 billion at three donor conferences since 2002, but the level of aid to Afghanistan is still many times lower per head than to other countries struggling emerging from conflict such as Kosovo or East Timor.

After the toppling of the Taliban by U.S.-led and Afghan forces in 2001, both the international community and Afghan officials underestimated the scale of damage to the economy and infrastructure and also did not foresee the re-emergence of the Taliban and the ongoing burden of fighting the insurgency.

"We did not know the level and depth of destruction of this country," Ishaq Nadiri, Karzai's senior economic advisor, told reporters late on Tuesday.

"The Afghan disaster was complete," he said. "The level of destruction was unlike anything I have seen in the developing world with the loss of human capital, physical capital and social capital.

"The collapse of Afghanistan was total, so now we have to build on all fronts simultaneously," he said.

SECURITY, INFRASTRUCTURE PRIORITIES
To complicate matters, Afghanistan has to deal with more than 60 major donors -- countries and international organizations -- each with its own agendas and priorities, resulting in development efforts that are piecemeal, fractured and full of inefficiencies, analysts say.

The appointment of Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide as the U.N.'s special envoy in March was intended to bring better coordination of international efforts in Afghanistan.

Kabul has now also drawn up a 5,000-page national development strategy, overseen by Nadiri, setting out its goals which it is to present to the June 12 Paris conference hosted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Of the $50.1 billion the Afghan government is seeking, Kabul wants more than half spent on security and infrastructure, the lack of which hamper almost every level of economic development.

But it is far from certain whether donors will come up with such a large amount of funds.

Of the $24 billion pledged since 2002, aid agencies say only $15 billion has so far been spent and some 40 percent of that returns to donor countries in profits and salaries.

Major donors have failed to fulfill their pledges of aid and the Afghan government has been unable to spend some of the funds due to poor security in areas where they were targeted.

"We hope to get it all, but we may not," said Nadiri. "You know pledges are one thing and donations are another."

(Editing by John Chalmers)
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Afghanistan seeks $50 billion in aid
Ishaq Nadiri By FISNIK ABRASHI Associated Press Wed May 14, 5:39 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan will ask international donors next month for $50 billion to fund a five-year development plan, a presidential aide said, despite growing criticism that aid money is being wasted.

About $14 billion is to go toward improving deteriorating security, but the key target is reviving the decrepit agricultural sector, Ishaq Nadiri, senior economic adviser to President Hamid Karzai, told reporters late Tuesday.

The plan will be presented to international donors June 12 in Paris.

"We expect a strong political commitment to Afghanistan," Nadiri said.

Afghanistan is struggling to recover from a quarter century of war. More than six years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, the country is mired in poverty and insurgent attacks are increasing. It also produces about 93 percent of the world's opium, the raw material of heroin.

The slow pace of development is hobbling public support for Karzai's Western-backed government as Afghans grapple with food shortages and the sharply rising cost of living. Official corruption is endemic.

"We are building a state, and that is a costly exercise," Nadiri said. "The country had lost its human, physical and social capital ... the collapse of Afghanistan was total."

An estimated 34 percent to 42 percent of Afghans still live below the poverty line. Despite significant improvements in health care, Afghanistan has the world's second-highest maternal mortality rate.

It is also highly dependent on aid. The United Nations, NATO and other international institutions are trying to better coordinate military and civilian reconstruction, widely regarded as fragmented and ineffectual. There is growing concern over how the aid money is spent.

Since 2001, the international community has pledged $25 billion in help but has delivered only $15 billion, according to a report by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an alliance of 94 international aid agencies.

Some 40 percent of it — or $6 billion — goes back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report found.

The new five-year development plan is part of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, a 5,000-page document drafted after a two-year consultative process across Afghanistan and abroad. It will be presented in Paris.

Nadiri acknowledged the government lacks the capacity to administer its aid money alone, but insisted it remains more effective than the myriad of international organizations.

Currently, one-third of foreign aid money is managed by the Afghan government and the rest by donors themselves.
___
On the Net:
Afghanistan's National Development Strategy: http://www.ands.gov.af/
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Hunger adds to Afghanistan's nightmare
By Carlotta Gall International Herald Tribune Wednesday, May 14, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: Thieves raided the city flour market in broad daylight a few weeks ago, shooting and wounding two people before escaping with their loot.

"We are not feeling safe," Haji Hayatullah, one of the flour merchants, said sitting on the floor of his shop with sacks of flour stacked around him. "We don't have security and we don't trust the government to provide it." The merchants got together and hired eight private security guards.

Yet their fears remain, not only about gunmen, but also because they sense a growing hunger and desperation in the general population.

Flour and bread prices doubled in the space of two weeks in Afghanistan last month after Pakistan stopped wheat and flour exports. The traders said they smuggled in flour through a mountain road instead. A government distribution of flour in Kandahar and its outlying districts eased cost fears slightly and the price of flour dropped back down a bit.

Yet with inflation at 22 percent just in the month of February for food staples, prices remain too high for most.

While there have been no riots in Afghanistan over food prices, the economic pain and hunger are hitting the poor and unemployed, officials warn. Teachers have threatened to strike and there have been some angry demonstrations.

"Prices are a big problem for our people," Haji Hayatullah said. "People do not grow enough and so we rely on imports from Pakistan and the prices are going up daily. It is very hard for the people. Unemployment is the biggest problem, people are very poor. I fear if this continues, people will loot the market."

Afghanistan is in a particularly unforgiving situation, Anthony Banbury, director for Asia at the United Nations World Food Program, said during a visit to Kandahar.

It is one of the poorest countries in the world and it is grappling with a prolonged conflict - and all the attendant problems of lawlessness, displacement, poorly developed markets and destroyed infrastructure, which leave the population especially vulnerable to price shocks, he said.

"For millions of Afghans, the poorer segments of society, who spend up to 70 percent of their meager income on food, these food price rises put the basic necessities simply out of their reach," Banbury said at a news conference on his return to Kabul.

About six million people in Afghanistan are already receiving food aid, and with the sharp price rises and signs that the harvest this year may not be good, the World Food Program is gearing up to try to help even more.

It has agreed with the government to reopen an assistance plan through bakeries for the urban poor, a program that it ran during the years of the Taliban government but closed down in the years since. The government is also asking for help in providing food aid to 172,000 teachers countrywide, some of whom are not coming to work because they cannot make ends meet. That alone is an indication that things are getting harder, Banbury said.

"Every school we went to, in every classroom, the teachers were saying we need more salary or food," he said.

A beggar, Sardar Muhammad, 80, squatting in one of the flour shops in Kandahar, said, "The people are dying of hunger." His two sons work as day laborers in the market but they do not earn enough to feed the family, he said.

The Afghans appealed for help in January. The World Food Program raised $75 million for six months of food assistance, Banbury said. The government is spending an additional $50 million on a general distribution of flour. Planning is now under way to increase WFP assistance for the next six months.

Yet agency officials warned that food aid was not a long-term answer to Afghanistan's hunger.

Despite the billions spent here over the last six years, international donors have failed to invest substantially in agriculture, the sector on which the majority of the population survives, Banbury said.

The government was turning to the World Food Program in an emergency but he warned that it should not be seen as the way to solve the problem.

"WFP is in the country and has the capacity to act," he said. "But it has to be part of a broader, long-term strategy."

He called for a countrywide program to distribute better seeds and tools to farmers to help increase food production. "Farmers are the most rational people in the world," Banbury said. "If you give them the seeds, they'll do it.

"They need seeds. Again and again, we heard that. But it has been coming in too little, too late. There is no coordinated strategy."

He said one agricultural assistance program in southern Afghanistan had received 30 percent of its seeds after the planting season was over.

"The solution has to be food production not food aid," Banbury went on. "It will never be solved if the government and the donors do not take the right steps, and that has not happened except in very small pockets."
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Marines stay in Afghan town after Taliban influx
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
GARMSER, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines who once planned to be in this southern Afghan town for just a few days are extending their mission by several weeks after facing an influx of Taliban fighters.

The change in plans shows that despite a record number of international troops in the country, forces are still spread thin and U.S. commanders must make tough choices about where to deploy them.

Manpower problems are acute in Helmand, the largest and probably the most dangerous province in Afghanistan, where the U.S. 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived late last month to open a route to move troops to its southern reaches near the border with Pakistan.

Britain has about 7,500 soldiers in the province, but does not have enough troops to move south of Garmser, a district still largely held by the Taliban and bursting with opium poppy fields.

The 2,400-strong Marine unit met stiff resistance as they moved in. Between 100 and 400 Taliban fighters moved into the Garmser area as the poppy harvest got under way, apparently to defend their interests in the lucrative drug trade.

Maj. Tom Clinton Jr. said the Marines would be in Garmser for several more weeks. It means the Marines might not take part in an operation that was planned in another southern province this month.

"The number of fighters that stood and fought is kind of surprising to me, but obviously they're fighting for something," Clinton said, alluding to poppies. "They're flowing in, guys are going south and picking up arms. We have an opportunity to really clear them out, cripple them, so I think we're exploiting the success we're finding."

Helmand is the hub of opium production in Afghanistan, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the global supply of this raw material of heroin. The Taliban are believed to derive tens of millions of dollars from the trade.

Still, the Marines have been careful not to alienate residents by destroying the poppy fields that poor farmers rely on for income. Commanders say their goal is to rid the region of Taliban fighters so the Afghan government can move in and tackle the drug problem.

The prospects of that happening appear remote. Although thousands of acres of poppy fields are eradicated annually in Afghanistan, it is only a small fraction of the total area sown. Year after year, production has soared and security has deteriorated.

In recognition of the growing threat posed by Taliban militants, there are now almost 70,000 international soldiers in Afghanistan. The U.S. has 33,000, the most since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001 ousted the Taliban for giving haven to al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

U.S. forces have mostly operated in the east of the country, rather than the south, where NATO has struggled to find nations willing to fight the increasingly bloody insurgency.

U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has said he needs three more brigades — two for combat and one to train Afghan soldiers, roughly 7,500 to 10,000 additional soldiers.

When the Marines eventually leave Garmser, any gains the 24th has made could be quickly erased unless other forces from NATO or the Afghan government move in.

"We can't be a permanent 24/7 presence. We don't have enough men to stay here," said Staff Sgt. Darrell Penyak, 29, of Grove City, Ohio. "We would need the ANA (Afghan army) to move in, and right now the way we're fighting, there's no way the ANA can come in. They couldn't handle it."

Afghanistan's army and police forces are steadily growing, but are still not big — or skilled — enough to protect much of the country. Spokesmen for both forces said they were not aware of plans to send forces to Garmser.

Col. Nick Borton, commander of British forces in the southern part of Helmand, recently visited U.S. positions in Garmser, where he told the Americans he'd be happy if they stayed on.

"If they're here for only a short time, we can't build very much off that," he said. "Their presence for a few days doesn't really help us."

A representative of the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. government aid arm, told Marine battalion commander Lt. Col. Anthony Henderson that "people lose faith if you pull out."

The next day, at a meeting of Marines and Afghan elders, the bearded, turban-wearing men told Marine Capt. Charles O'Neill that the two sides could "join together" to fight the Taliban. "When you protect us, we will be able to protect you," the leader of the elders said.

Despite uncertainties over how secure Garmser, O'Neill liked what he heard.

"We have something here we can really exploit, if we can get some Afghan national police here," he said. "The Marines can definitely do the job, but we're not a permanent presence. With their own people providing their own security they can really get something done."
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13 Taliban, 2 police killed in clashes in southern Afghanistan
May 14, 2008 Associated Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A police chief says clashes in southern Afghanistan have killed 13 Taliban militants and two policemen.

Helmand provincial police Chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal says six other officers were wounded in the clashes.

Andiwal says 10 militants were killed in Helmand's Marja district after they attacked a police checkpoint late Tuesday and killed two officers. Five other officers were wounded in the attack.

Andiwal says three militants died in another attack on police in the same region Tuesday that left one police officer wounded.

Southern Afghanistan is the center of the Taliban-led insurgency.

At least 1,200 people _ mostly militants _ have died in insurgency-related violence in 2008 according to a tally by The Associated Press.
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Afghan teacher killed after speech condemning suicide bombings
May 14, 2008 Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan: A teacher was shot to death in northern Afghanistan after he gave a speech condemning suicide bombings, officials said Wednesday.

Abdul Hadi criticized such attacks as un-Islamic and un-Afghan during a speech Tuesday in the Archi district of Kunduz province, said Khair Mohammad Subat, the provincial education department director.

Hadi spoke at a gathering of about 700 people, including the Kunduz governor, and was on his way home when he was killed, Subat said.

Kunduz police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi said police were investigating. No arrests have been made.

In January, Education Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar said the number of students and teachers killed in Taliban attacks spiked in the past year in a campaign to close schools and force teenage boys to join the Islamic militia.

According to UNICEF, there were 236 school-related attacks last year.

In central Logar province, meanwhile, education department director Kamaluddin Zadran said three girls schools have been set ablaze in the past three weeks.

Girls were barred from schools under the Taliban regime. After the Taliban fell in 2001, girls were allowed to return to attend, but many conservative and uneducated Afghans still forbid their girls from going.

Arsonists regularly attack girls schools. Last year, gunmen killed two students walking outside a girls school in Logar.

Education Ministry statistics indicate only 35 percent of students enrolled are girls.
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Afghanistan's police force a weak link: general
CTV.ca News May 14, 2008
Afghanistan's police force is about three years beyond the Afghan National Army in its development, and that poses a problem, says Canada's outgoing commander in Afghanistan.

"There's still a lot of work left to be done, and I think everybody in Afghanistan understands that," Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche told reporters in Kandahar on Wednesday.

The capacity of the Afghan police must be built up, otherwise it will have an impact on the country's security in the long term, he said.

This is a task for not just Canada but the entire international community in Afghanistan, he said.

Some analysts have said that Afghan police not only lack training in basic policing, they lack the training and equipment to defend themselves against Taliban attacks.

Laroche officially handed over command responsibility to Brig.-Gen. Dennis Thompson on Wednesday, ending a tour of duty that began in August.

The Zhari and Panjwaii districts remain hotspots within Kandahar province, Laroche said.

In the fall of 2006, Canadian troops engaged in what was called the heaviest combat since Korea in Panjwaii.

While there isn't the same intense fighting now, those areas still aren't safe enough for non-governmental organizations to be able to operate there, he said.

"You have to be able to create security bubbles and development zones in those districts," he said, adding, "it's going to take a while."

But those are only two districts out of 17. The hope is to raise the security level to that of Arghandab or Daman districts, he said.

Thompson didn't comment to reporters on Wednesday, but he has said the plan is to step up development efforts.

More Afghan troops?

At the handover ceremony, an Afghan army commander in Kandahar province told reporters he has asked the army's chief of staff for another two battalions of troops.

"If I get two more kandaks (battalions) I will provide security for (the) whole province," said Brig.-Gen. Gul Aqa Naibi, who heads the Afghan 205 Corps.

A unit from the 205 Corps' 1st Brigade is in charge of Zhari District, having taken over responsibility in January.

"What we have seen the past four months is remarkable," Laroche said.

"They are taking the initiative. They are very proactive."

Laroche hoped that another Afghan unit could take over security in Panjwaii, with Canadian troops playing a supporting role.

"Are we going to get more in the near future? I'm not sure," he said.

"The more troops you've got, the more progress you're going to make and more rapidly you're going to meet the finish line."

During an appearance at a forum before the April NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said a "realistic" plan would be having Afghan forces "manage the security environment going forward -- manage it, not necessarily eliminate the insurgency."

With files from The Canadian Press
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NATO concerned Pakistani agreements with militants rise in violence in eastern Afghanistan
Associated Press - May 14, 2008 10:53 AM ET
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - NATO says attacks by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan rose sharply in April.

Alliance spokesman James Appathurai says attacks in Afghanistan's east went up 50% in April compared to the same period last year.

He says NATO is concerned the rise stems from agreements between Pakistani authorities and militants inside Pakistan

He said Wednesday that NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer plans to travel to Islamabad soon for talks with the Pakistani government.
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Over 360,000 affected by reduced health services
KABUL, 14 May 2008 (IRIN) - The killing and abduction of dozens of health workers in the past two years has prompted officials to shut down at least 36 health facilities in Afghanistan's volatile southern and eastern provinces, depriving hundreds of thousands of people of basic health services, according to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

"More than 360,000 people in Helmand, Kandahar, Farah, Zabul and Paktika provinces are deprived of health services due to insecurity," Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the MoPH, told IRIN in Kabul on 14 May.

Afghanistan has managed to reduce slightly its high infant mortality rate from 165 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births in 2001 to about 135 per 1,000 in 2006, but it is still struggling to deliver basic health services in some 85 percent of the country's territory, according to the preliminary findings of a Johns Hopkins University household survey in 2007.

However, insurgency-related violence and increased attacks on health workers have put the country's public health achievements at risk, experts warn.

Deaths, abductions

Taliban insurgents and other criminal groups have repeatedly attacked aid workers, including health providers, mainly for political reasons. The Taliban reportedly demanded the release of their fighters from jails in exchange for the release of health workers they held hostage in March 2007 [http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/03/29/asia/AS-GEN-Afghan-Violence.php].

"Forty health workers have been killed and/or kidnapped while delivering health services in the past two years," said Fahim. "They were all innocent people who were working for a noble humanitarian cause," he said.

As the conflict has intensified and spread, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the UN and other aid agencies have increasingly voiced concern about the "diminishing humanitarian space" [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=75902] which is increasingly impeding access to the most vulnerable communities across Afghanistan.

In April the president of the ICRC, Jakob Kellenberger, [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=77755] said the Taliban had agreed not to attack humanitarian health activities in areas under their influence. However, an official of the Ibn Sina non-governmental organisation (NGO) which provides basic health services in the south and southwest said access had not improved since Kellenberger's talks with Taliban leaders.

"Our 14 health posts in Helmand Province and two in Zabul Province still remain closed and we see no positive signs that the Taliban will allow us to re-open them in the near future," said the official who preferred anonymity for security reasons.

Undiagnosed, untreated diseases

Health officials in Kabul said they did not know for sure what kind of diseases might be affecting isolated communities and what alternative treatment options were available.

"All we know is that TB [tuberculosis], malnutrition, polio, obstetric problems and some infectious diseases are common in those areas," Fahim said, adding that several polio cases had been reported in Kandahar and Helmand provinces in the past six months.

People in the affected areas either trek to provincial capitals for treatment or rely on medicines given to them by irregular traders who often sell medicines without a proper diagnosis having been carried out.

Taliban insurgents have responded negatively to repeated calls by the MoPH and NGOs involved in health activities to allow health workers to access insecure areas.

"Unless we receive reliable assurances that our staff will not be attacked, and will be treated humanely, we will not put their lives at risk by sending them to insecure areas," said Fahim.
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Afghanistan protests to Iran over border killings
May 14, 2008
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan has protested to neighbouring Iran over the killing of a number of its nationals by Iranian forces, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry summoned the Iranian charge d'affairs and expressed its strong concern on Tuesday about the killings which happened a day earlier on Iranian soil near the south-western Afghan province of Nimroz.

It was the second killing of Afghans by Iranian forces in less than a month, the ministry said in a statement. It did not give details of Monday's incident or numbers involved.

Afghanistan's western border is generally peaceful though smugglers occasionally clash with security forces. Iran is a conduit for drugs smuggled from Afghanistan, the world's biggest producer of opium.

Last month, an Afghan teacher was killed and two Iranian border guards were wounded in a gunbattle between Iranian and Afghan forces in Nimroz, the Afghan government said.

The clash broke out after four Iranian border guards crossed into an Afghan village and beat up a number of residents, it said.

Also in April, Afghan police said Iranian border guards killed 13 Afghan refugees on the Afghan side of the border.

(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin, editing by David Fox)
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Afghan president condemns Jaipur bombings
Wed, May 14 05:11 PM
Kabul, May 14 (Xinhua) Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned Tuesday's serial blasts in India's pink city of Jaipur that killed 63 people and injured 216.

In a statement released by the presidential office Wednesday, the Afghan president termed the blasts as 'an act of terrorism', and expressed condolences to the families of the victims. 'The people of Afghanistan who have suffered from terrorism over the past several years share the pain and sadness of the people of India,' Karzai said in his statement. Eight bombs went off Tuesday evening in 15 minutes within a one kilometre radius in Jaipur.
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Ban on sex for soldiers in Afghanistan is lifted ... sort of
By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Wednesday, May 14, 2008
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — Single soldiers and civilians working for the U.S. military in Afghanistan can now have sex legally. Sort of.

A new order signed by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-101, has lifted a ban on sexual relations between unmarried men and women in the combat zone.

General Order No. 1 outlines a number of prohibited activities and standards of conduct for U.S. troops and civilians working for the military in Afghanistan. Previously, under the regulation, sexual relations and "intimate behavior" between men and women not married to each other were a strict no-no. The regulation also barred members of the opposite sex from going into each other’s living quarters unless they were married to each other.

But the latest version of General Order No. 1 for Afghanistan, which Schloesser signed April 19, eases those restrictions.

The new regulation warns that sex in a combat zone "can have an adverse impact on unit cohesion, morale, good order and discipline."

But sexual relations and physical intimacy between men and women not married to each other are no longer banned outright. They’re only "highly discouraged," and that’s as long as they’re "not otherwise prohibited" by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, according to the new order.

Single men and women can now also visit each other’s living quarters, as long as everyone else who lives there agrees, and as long as visitors of the opposite sex remain in the open "and not behind closed doors, partitions or other isolated or segregated areas," according to the new regulation.

Unmarried men and women who are alone together in living quarters must leave the door open, according to the new policy.

Men and women "will not cohabit with, reside or sleep with members of the opposite gender in living spaces of any kind," unless they are married or if it’s necessary for military reasons, the new policy states.

A cursory reading of the order would seem to suggest that unmarried men and women could have sex in their living quarters, as long as all other persons who live there agree, or if they left the door open, if they were otherwise alone. But that’s not the case, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for Regional Command East and Combined Joint Task Force-101.

"Sex in both scenarios … would be a chargeable offense under the UCMJ," Nielson-Green said, referring to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

Nielson-Green said the policy change was "not significant on a practical level" since it simply aligns General Order No. 1 in Afghanistan with similar policies in the region. Neither U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor Multi-National Forces-Iraq bar sexual relations between unmarried men and women in their version of the order, she said.

"The expectation is that troops should behave professionally and responsibly at all times," Nielson-Green said, adding that while the new regulation does not condone sex, it "does recognize that such behaviors happen, and if they result in any chargeable offenses, then appropriate actions will be pursued."

"The bottom line is that the troops are responsible for their own behavior," Nielson-Green said. She declined to "speculate" on the conditions under which soldiers could engage in legal sexual behavior.

The UCMJ contains several provisions under which sexual relations are prohibited between men and women. For instance, married persons cannot engage legally in sex with anyone other than their spouse, or they can be prosecuted for adultery. Sexual relations between subordinates and higher-ranking personnel are prohibited within the same chain of command. Sexual relations between officers and enlisted personnel are generally prohibited as well. Homosexual relations are completely prohibited under the code.

Nielson-Green said the new policy does allow commanders to make the provision on sex more restrictive, as long as they have approval from the CJTF-101 commander.

In eastern Afghanistan, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is nearing the end of its 15-month deployment, won approval to stick with the old policy that bans sexual relations between unmarried soldiers.

Maj. Will Helixon, the brigade judge advocate, said the issue was basically one of fairness.

"After we’ve treated the soldiers this way for a year, it’s not really right to change," said Helixon said. "That’s the bottom line."

According to Helixon’s staff, 28 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade have been punished for having sex in Afghanistan or for violating the no-entry rule in the past year. Those punishments ranged from letters of reprimand to field-grade Article 15s.

At Forward Operating Base Fenty, near Jalalabad, the reaction of soldiers to the lifting of the sex ban was mixed. Some soldiers declined to comment. Others said they were married, so the change would not affect them. Some thought it simply create more problems. "I think it’s a bad idea," said Pfc. Shane Inman, 30, of Fort Dodge, Iowa. "I think there’s going to be a lot more pregnancies going around. Not that there already isn’t. But at least they won’t get in trouble for it."
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173rd Airborne soldier gets four years for break-in on Afghanistan base
By Drew Brown, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Tuesday, May 13, 2008
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A 173rd Airborne Brigade soldier will spend four years in prison for breaking into an Afghan electronics shop and assaulting an Afghan army sergeant who stumbled upon him and two other U.S. troops as they were committing the crime.

Pfc. Mark A. Fripp Jr., 20, of Beaufort, S.C., also received a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and reduction in rank to E-1 in the May 7 sentencing after being convicted during a court-martial of conspiracy, larceny, housebreaking and assault charges, according to the prosecutor in the case.

Fripp and two other soldiers from Fusion Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, used bolt cutters shortly after 1 a.m. on Nov. 16 to break into an electronics shop owned by an Afghan man at Forward Operating Base Fenty in eastern Afghanistan, said Capt. Eric Hanson, a prosecutor for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

One soldier stood outside with his rifle, acting as a lookout, while Fripp and the other soldier stole more than $8,000 worth of DVD players, computer hard drives, cell phones, SIM cards and other items including the shop’s cash box, stuffing them into two Army-issue duffel bags, Hanson said.

But as Fripp and the other soldier were looting the shop, Afghan army Sgt. Noor Rahman walked by and ran into the lookout. The lookout tried to distract Rahman, asking him for a light for his cigarette, but the Afghan sergeant heard a noise and spotted Fripp and the other soldier inside, Hanson said.

A struggle ensued as Rahman grabbed one of the duffel bags and Fripp and the other soldier tried to take it from him. The soldier acting as lookout then locked and loaded his weapon and pointed it at Rahman, Hanson said.

After Rahman froze, the three Americans fled but Rahman had managed to hang on to one of the duffel bags. It was stenciled with the name of the soldiers’ unit. In the side pocket, one of their names was on a packing list, Hanson said.

When military police and unit commanders searched the suspects’ tent around 10 a.m. the next morning, they discovered bolt cutters under Fripp’s bed, Hanson said. Several stolen items were also recovered.

Forensic testing later matched the bolt cutters to two severed locks the suspects left at the scene, Hanson said. Fripp is now in U.S. custody at a holding facility in Kuwait until authorities decide where he will serve out his sentence.

Hanson said the two other suspects in the case are still in Afghanistan, but charges against them are expected soon.

Hanson said the incident had produced a “measurable negative effect” on relations between Afghans working on Forward Operating Base Fenty and American troops stationed there. He said the crime had also undermined U.S. efforts to mentor Afghan troops in how to properly treat civilians.

Maj. Will Helixon, the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s judge advocate, said the stiff sentence that Fripp received also sends a strong message to U.S. forces.

“It says, ‘Hey troops, if you’re going to commit crimes against Afghans, then you’re going to pay the price,’ ” he said.
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Afghan cure 'will take up to 10 years'
May 14, 2008 04:30 AM Toronto Star Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
GATINEAU, QUE.–It will take a decade for Afghanistan to conquer the scourges of corruption and drug production that are holding back progress in the country, Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad says.

At a luncheon speech, Samad said 20 regions of the country have been declared poppy-free this year, up from 16 last year. But it will take cash and other incentives from the national government and international community to continue that trend.

It will be a battle to ensure that southern Afghanistan quits producing opium, the key ingredient in heroin. Afghanistan produces an estimated 95 per cent of the world's opium supply.

Better security, governance and a strong program to help farmers turn to other crops are vital to accomplishing that goal, Samad said.

"I think that all these measures will take up to 10 years to make a difference," he added.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government is preparing a five-year national development strategy to refocus international assistance efforts and put the country on the road to self-sufficiency. To be presented next month at a donor conference in Paris, the plan will focus on security, governance and economic and social development.

Tackling corruption will be among issues addressed in the document. Samad suggested more focus be placed on training poorly paid local officials than on punishing them for corrupt practices.

Ottawa plans to step up efforts to build the competency and capacity of Karzai's government by boosting its Kabul Strategic Advisory Team by about half-a-dozen civilian officials who will school their Afghan counterparts in the art of bureaucracy and communications, said Mike Capstick, a retired Canadian Forces colonel who led the team from August 2005 to August 2006.
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Help us keep Afghanistan poppy-free, Afghan ambassador asks
The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Afghanistan's ambassador wants Canada and other members of the international coalition fighting in his country to offer incentives to Afghan farmers as a way to ensure poppy-free regions remain that way.

Omar Samad said there are about 20 provinces now in the North, East, Northeast and Central regions of the country that are considered poppy-free. This is up from 16 this time last year.

"When the province goes poppy-free and there are forces that want to reverse this trend, the government and the international community needs to step in, and they need to provide incentives and rewards in some ways to the farmers and to those who are keeping the province free of poppies."

Poppies are used to produce heroin that is sold to the international community. The Taliban profits from those sales to fund their insurgency against Canada and other NATO allies in Afghanistan. Farmers are paid about $10 a day to harvest the poppies.

Many of the poppy fields under Taliban control are in the south of Afghanistan where Canadians have spear-headed the fight against an insurgency.

Incentives that might lead to a decline in the poppy crop "doesn't mean cash, per se," the ambassador said.

"It could mean rural development, it could mean clinics, it could mean roads, it could mean providing them with agricultural machinery and so on and so forth."

Samad does admit that there is always a risk that those losing money from the banned poppy harvest could be swayed to the join the Taliban if they are promised income.

"But the history in the past two or three years in most of these provinces shows that there is very strong, popular support, even amongst farmers, for not resorting to poppy cultivation."

Earlier this month, the ambassador told the a House of Commons committee on Afghanistan that his country aims to increase the number of poppy-free provinces and reduce the poppy growing fields by a minimum of 25 per cent throughout 2008 and 2009.

Increasing security, better governance and implementing a program designed to help affected farmers with items like alternative livelihoods and rural development are the key ways to put an end to poppy production, according to Samad.

However, this is not going to be a quick fix, he says.

"I think that all of these measures will take ten years to make a difference."

The increasing price for wheat may also end up being a boost to efforts to reduce poppy production. Farmer in some parts of Afghanistan are planting more wheat to take advantage of higher demand and rapidly rising prices.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have been toiling in bone dry, 40 C heat for the last few weeks to bring in the poppy harvest, expected to be the largest in southern Afghanistan in living memory. The picking, all done by hand, is expected to go on for another two or three weeks.

What comes after that is what worries NATO commanders in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the two biggest poppy producing regions in the country.

Once unemployed, those thousands of mostly illiterate field hands become a deep recruiting pool for the Taliban. Often they are bought off with money made in large part from the spoils of refining poppies into opium and heroin for the illicit drug trade.
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To guard Afghan treasure, silence golden
By Bay Fang Chicago Tribune, United States Washington Bureau 11:48 PM CDT, May 13, 2008
WASHINGTON—For years they kept the secret. A dozen men, the "key-holders" of a fabulous treasure, told no one about the gold they'd buried deep in a palace vault, hidden from the ravages of war, looting and a regime bent on destroying Afghanistan's cultural heritage.

Now, some 20 years later, that collection thought lost forever is being exhibited for the world to see. Opening in the U.S. with a show in Washington on May 25, it spans the beginning of the Silk Road trade through a country most Americans associate with violence and destruction.

"The story of the hidden treasures is like the story of Afghanistan," noted Said Tayeb Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. "It is about precious culture and traditions covered by the ashes of war and neglect. You don't know what remains under the ashes, and when you see the glitter of gold, you almost can't believe it."

The exhibition is filled with artifacts of almost unbelievable artistry—collapsible gold crowns that belonged to nomad princesses, a chubby Aphrodite figurine with wings and a forehead mark in the Indian tradition, a golden tree hung with pearls for fruit.

Accompanying the collection as it travels to Washington, San Francisco, Houston and New York are some of the key-holders, the men who protected the collection from the violence of mujahedeen and Taliban.

"In Afghanistan there's a different curatorial system—these men are bonded by law to their collections, and they bear personal responsibility for them," said Fredrik Hiebert, curator of the U.S. exhibition.

Sitting beside him on a couch in the National Gallery of Art, looking somewhat ill at ease, Abdullah Hakim Zada, one of the key-holders, said that when he and his comrades packed away the treasures, they could not have foreseen that there would be a civil war followed by the reign of the Taliban. "At times during the years, we worried that we hadn't put the right materials in the boxes for them to be stored so long," he said.

Throughout his career as an Asian archeologist, Hiebert said everyone in the field thought the famous Afghan collection lived on only in legend. Rumors abounded: that it had been taken to Moscow after the Soviet invasion, that it had been looted or stolen, that the gold had been melted down. Afghanistan's National Museum had been shelled and set on fire, and its storerooms looted.

The so-called Bactrian Hoard, one of the greatest archeological finds of the 20th Century, is the heart of the trove, discovered accidentally in 1978 by Russian archeologist Viktor Sarianidi, Hiebert's mentor. Six 2,000-year-old nomadic tombs, from an area in northern Afghanistan that was once an important crossroads on the Silk Road, contained more than 20,000 beautifully crafted pieces.

Before Sarianidi could study the items, the Soviets invaded, and he rushed the pieces to Kabul, where they went to the National Museum. That was the last he saw of them.

Unbeknownst to him, 10 years later, as the communist government weakened and rockets rained on the city, a group of museum workers packed the most important artifacts into boxes, sealed them with their signatures and brought them to the presidential palace, where they were stored in a vault.

"Only 13 to 20 people knew about the treasures, and as fighting between the different groups got worse we decided not to tell anyone about them," said Omara Khan Masoudi, now director of the National Museum in Kabul.

It was not until 2003 that a new government under President Hamid Karzai entered the palace and discovered — in a massive Austrian-made vault, alongside the government's gold bullion — piles of sealed boxes. Hiebert heard about these and traveled to Kabul that October with his colleague Thomas Barfield, now chairman of the anthropology department at Boston University. They met with then-Minister of Finance Ashraf Ghani.

"The question then was, did it really exist?" said Barfield. The archeologists remained skeptical – until, two hours before their plane was supposed to leave, Ghani took them to the palace basement. " 'Well, boys,' [Ghani] said, 'I can't show you the gold, but I can show you the silver.' And he opened his hand and showed us this two-headed ancient Greek coin, almost as big as his palm, that we had also thought were completely gone. That was when we thought, if this stuff exists, there's no reason to doubt the Bactrian gold was there too."

Ghani told Hiebert that if he agreed to do a scientific inventory on the items, they would open the boxes thought to contain the gold.

A group of ministers and scholars, including Sarianidi, gathered around to open the sealed boxes with a power saw, sparks flying. "We literally didn't know what we would find," Ghani said in a telephone interview. "When we saw that it was actually what we hoped, it was the feeling of regaining a part of your being, of connecting our generation to those who lived thousands of years before us and for millennia to come."

Still, further squabbles erupted before the collection left the country for the exhibit. Some feared letting it out at all. Others thought Afghanistan should negotiate for more money.

"I pushed the idea that no matter where it goes, it should be touring for the next 10 years," said Tim Moore, cultural attache at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

In the end, this is the story of the hidden treasure, and the fact that it survived. "It was our job," key-holder Masoudi said. "Even if we just saved one piece or 100 pieces, we cannot be too proud, because it is just our job. Archeological pieces belong not to one person, but to the world."
bfang@tribune.com
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Afghan army conducts first artillery live-fire exercise
www.chinaview.cn  2008-05-13 16:18:20
KABUL, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Army (ANA) has accomplished its first artillery live-fire exercise backed by mentors from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), an ISAF statement issued here Tuesday said.

The exercise, conducted by the 207th ANA Corps Combat Support Battalion at a firing range close to the corps' barracks, "taught soldiers the skills to use manual wind speed measuring devices and calculators to check fire data," it said, without giving the exact exercising date and place.

Describing mentoring and supporting the ANA as one of its key military tasks, the ISAF said it is helping Afghan government to bring the ANA up to operating capability primarily through the provision of operational mentoring liaison teams (OMLTs).

The NATO-led military said the OMLTs support ANA training, deploy on operations in an advisory role, and coordinate operations between ANA and ISAF.

The new ANA, which has been established with foreign training support and gradually equipped with western-made weapons, has reached a number of 76,000 in strength, according to Afghan defense ministry.

A total of 47,000 multi-national ISAF troops are deployed in Afghanistan to help with stabilization and reconstruction. They offer support to ANA in various operations.
Editor: Bi Mingxin 
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Afghan army commander in Kandahar asks Kabul for extra troops
The Canadian Press May 14, 2008 at 6:31 AM EDT
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The commander of Afghan army troops in Kandahar has asked his country's Defence Ministry to send two more battalions of soldiers to the troubled southern province.

Brig.-Gen. Gul Aqa Naibi, who is in charge of the Afghan 205 Corps, made the request to the chief of army staff and he's hopeful it will be granted.

He says the addition of two more infantry battalions — called kandaks — to the three already on the ground would allow him to provide security for the whole province.

Brig.-Gen Guy Laroche, who formally stepped down Wednesday as commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan, says more Afghan troops would definitely help.

The fledgling Afghan army has been carrying more of the fight against the Taliban in rural areas outside of Kandahar, with Canadian troops playing a supporting role.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada's best hope to eventually withdraw from the war-torn country involves getting Afghans to take over more of their own security.
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Militants behead 'US spy' in Pakistani tribal area
Wed May 14, 4:48 AM ET
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, May 14, 2008 (AFP) - Pro-Taliban militants beheaded a soldier in a Pakistani tribal area after accusing him of spying for US forces across the border in Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.

The headless body of Feroze Khan was found lying in an open area outside Naurak village in the restive North Waziristan district, a security official told AFP.

"The body had bullet wounds and its severed head was lying nearby," the official said.

A note found near the body said the man was a "US spy" and had been punished because he was spying on "mujahedin" (holy warriors) activities in the area, he said.

The official said that Khan was kidnapped by militants on April 23.

Separately, authorities found the bullet-riddled body of a security man near Khar, the main town of Bajaur tribal district, another volatile region bordering Afghanistan.

"He was shot by unknown attackers during the night while on patrol duty," Bajaur security officer Muwaz Khan told AFP, adding that "terrorists" were responsible.

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

The rugged tribal region is a known hub of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who are accused by the US and Afghan governments of using the area to launch cross border attacks on international coalition troops deployed in Afghanistan.
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MPs raise minimum wage for civil servants
Written by www.quqnoos.com Tuesday, 13 May 2008 
Teachers to benefit immediately while other rises may take four years
MEMBERS of Parliament in the Lower House have agreed to raise the minimum wage for low ranking civil servants by Afg700 ($14) per month.

Although yesterday’s (Monday) decision to raise the minimum salary from Afg4,300 to Afg5,000 was welcomed by school teachers, who will immediately benefit from the rise, the government has said it will only implement the rise in four years time.

Many Members of Parliament had called on the government to raise the minimum wage to Afg7,000 but the finance minister, Anwar ul-Hah Ahadi, said the government’s budget was too low.

Teachers, who have gone on strike in many parts of the country in protest at low wages, have been given a bigger pay rise, with a minimum starting salary of Afg6,200, which will rise to Afg8,000 in four years.
The highest monthly salary for a teacher has risen to Afg22,000.

MPs believe pay rise for government employees and civil servants should increase immediately, but the Finance Ministry has said the rises will be phased in and will take up to four years to fully implement.
Representatives from every parliamentary commission will meet with officials from the ministry to settle the disagreement.

Yesterday, MPs also called on the government to give food coupons on top of civil servant salaries.

Kabul MP Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf said if wages rises and the government failed top hand out coupons, the cost of food would increase in line with the pay rises.

The government employs about 300,000 people and the majority of these are teachers.
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Police: Iran bribes militants to halt dam
www.quqnoos.com Written by M Reza Sher Mohammadi Tuesday, 13 May 2008 
Iran attempts to block dam construction by paying off 'enemies', police say
IRAN is meddling in the internal affairs of Farah province, according to the area’s local police chief.

Farah’s head of police, Khalilullah Rahmani, said today (Tuesday) his police force had evidence Iran was bribing the “government’s enemies” to halt the construction of a major water dam in the province.

“We have information that the Iranian government is paying the government’s enemies to stop the construction work of Bakhsh Abad water dam located on the province’s Helmand River,” Rahmani told our correspondent after visiting the dam.

He refused to give further details about the “evidence”.

Last week, security forces arrested an Iranian citizen for training the Taliban in the Bakwa district of the province.

The Iranian authorities have always denied both interfering in Afghanistan’s internal issues and supporting the country’s insurgents.
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Protesting MPs end boycott of parliament
Makia Monir - May 11, 2008 - 17:09
KABUL (PAN): Some 100 members of the lower house of the parliament protesting over the declaration of separate constituency for Kuchis ended their boycott on Sunday after one month and attended the session.

The protesting MPs came back to the parliament sessions after talks were held between their representative and the rest of the parliamentarians.

Due to the boycott since last one month the 249-member parliament was unable to make any legislation due to the lack of quorum.

The protest started after the lower house through a majority vote declared the whole of Afghanistan as a single constituency for the Kuchi nomads.  The protesting MPs said it was a privilege to a particular Afghan tribe and was a violation of the constitution.

Their resentment was further inflamed by remarks by a Kuchi MP, Alam Gul, who told those protesting that they were migrants to Afghanistan and that the original residents were Kuchis.

The lower house speaker Younus Qanuni said Alam Gul Kuchi, the MP who provoked the protest, should officially apologize for his remarks.

The protesting MPs were lead by Shia Hazara leader Muhammad Muhaqiq whose fellow ethnic group has been in dispute with Kuchi tribes in parts of the country over land ownership.
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