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May 16, 2008 

8 militants, 1 Afghan soldier killed
Fri May 16, 5:38 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Clashes in eastern and southern Afghanistan left eight militants dead, and a roadside bomb killed an Afghan soldier, officials said Friday.

Taliban man convicted in U.S. for "narco-terrorism"
Thu May 15, 11:18 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A member of an Afghan Taliban cell was convicted by a federal jury on Thursday on charges of narco-terrorism and narcotics distribution, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.

Afghanistan: Watchdog Appeals To Kabul Over 'Blasphemous' Reporter
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty May 16, 2008
There's renewed international concern for Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders is urging the Afghan government to cooperate

Germany To Send 45 Troops To Western Afghanistan - Ministry
BERLIN (AFP)--German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung has approved a short- term deployment of 45 German soldiers from their base in northern Afghanistan to the west of the country, a ministry spokesman said Friday.

The importance of roads in Afghanistan
Fri May 16, 2008 1:45pm BST By Luke Baker
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Spend 30 minutes talking to a U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and chances are he or she will mention one factor as crucial to the stability of the country: roads.

Afghanistan to get $20 mln grant to improve health services - World Bank
05.16.08, 5:35 AM ET Forbes, NY
MUMBAI (Thomson Financial) - The World Bank said its concessionary lending arm, the International Development Association, will provide a $20 million grant to support the Afghanistan government's effort to expand delivery

Afghan women still forced to cover up
May 16, 2008 Rosie DiManno
KABUL–Shrouds are meant for burial.
But not in Afghanistan, where public life for women is still all about the covering up, the obscuring of femaleness.

Think tank's funding tied to getting good press
STEVEN CHASE From Friday's Globe and Mail May 16, 2008 at 4:15 AM EDT
OTTAWA — The Department of National Defence sets quotas for how many times a year a military think tank it subsidizes must appear in the news media, a contract made public at the request of the NDP shows.

Two Canadians wounded in Afghanistan suicide attack
Canwest News Service Friday, May 16, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -  A suicide attack in southwestern Afghanistan wounded two Canadian soldiers and killed one of their Afghan comrades Friday.

Brother suspected in killing of German-Afghan girl
BERLIN (Reuters) - Police investigating the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old German girl of Afghan origin are searching for her brother on suspicion he carried what media believe may have been an "honor killing."

Dry weather may hit Afghan grain crops-FAO
Fri May 16, 2008 7:17am EDT
MILAN, May 16 (Reuters) - Dry and hot weather in central Afghanistan may hit grain crops and worsen tight food supplies in the impoverished country, the United Nations' food agency FAO said on Friday.

Both parties are concerned about underinvestment in the war effort there, says Ambassador Jawad.
By David Cook Christian Science Monitor from the May 16, 2008 edition
November's presidential election should not affect US support for battling the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, that country's ambassador to the US said.

US warns China over weapon links in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan
by P. Parameswaran Thu May 15, 10:01 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States has warned Beijing over reported use of Chinese weapons by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Asian giant's continued sale of arms to Iran, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said.

Afghan aid that works
By Mohammad Ehsan Zia Opinion The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News - May 16 1:00 AM
Kabul, Afghanistan - In Afghan areas where the international aid groups fear to tread, the National Solidarity Program (NSP) is one of the country's most successful development initiatives. The community-led approach to reconstruction

Top Taliban leader vows revenge on America
By HABIBULLAH KHAN May 15, 2008
KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — A top Taliban leader vowed Thursday to target the U.S. after an alleged missile strike killed several people in northwest Pakistan, a threat that could undermine the new government's efforts to negotiate peace deals with militants.

Afghan hijacker 'working as cleaner at Heathrow airport'
Fri May 16, 6:09 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - An Afghan man involved in a hijacking eight years ago was arrested after being found working as a cleaner for British Airways near Heathrow Airport, officials and a press report said Friday.

Taleban free more Pakistan troops
Friday, 16 May 2008 BBC News
Pro-Taleban militants have released another six Pakistani soldiers as part of peace moves with the new government.

A-10 pilots keeping it safe in Afghanistan
By Scott Schonauer, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Friday, May 16, 2008
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — A 200-pound bomb dropped from a U.S. warplane can end a firefight in a heartbeat. That same bomb, however, slightly off target, can be tragic for troops on the ground.

Spanta on a crucial strategic mission to US
Pajhwok Correspondent - May 13, 2008 - 19:10
NEW YORK (PAN): The Foreign Minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Monday began his week-long trip to the United States.

Senate for providing food items on subsidized rates
Najib Khilwatgar - May 13, 2008 - 11:24
KABUL (PAN): The Meshrano Jirga (senate) has called on the government to devise strategy for controlling the rampant price hike of food items and provide basic necessities to the masses on subsidized rates.

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8 militants, 1 Afghan soldier killed
Fri May 16, 5:38 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Clashes in eastern and southern Afghanistan left eight militants dead, and a roadside bomb killed an Afghan soldier, officials said Friday.

The bomb hit a group of Afghan soldiers during a foot patrol Friday morning in southern Kandahar province, said Rehmatullah Khan, the Afghan army commander in Zhari district. One soldier was killed and three were wounded, he said.

In neighboring Zabul province, Taliban militants attacked the compound of the Shinkay district chief Thursday night, and the ensuing hour-long gun battle left five Taliban dead and six wounded, said the district chief, Barat Khan. There were no police casualties, he said.

In eastern Khost province, joint Afghan and foreign forces attacked insurgents as they were planting roadside bombs before dawn Friday in Sabari district, said provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Ayub.

The brief gun battle left two militants dead, he said. Another wounded insurgent later died at a military hospital.

More than 1,200 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency-related violence so far this year, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press.
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Taliban man convicted in U.S. for "narco-terrorism"
Thu May 15, 11:18 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A member of an Afghan Taliban cell was convicted by a federal jury on Thursday on charges of narco-terrorism and narcotics distribution, the U.S. Justice Department said in a statement.

Khan Mohammed, from Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, is the first person to be convicted under a narco-terrorism provision of the USA Patriot Act that went into effect in March 2006, the statement said.

U.S. officials said Mohammed was caught in an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration with the help of a cooperating witness.

"As an enemy of the United States, Khan Mohammed intended to ship heroin to the United States and use profits from the trade to assist the Taliban," DEA administrator Michele Leonhart said. "A dangerous double threat, Kahn Mohammed purchased rockets to attack American and coalition soldiers," she added.

He faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 10.

Mohammed was first indicted in December 2006 on narcotics distribution charges and was brought to the United States in November 2007.

A second indictment in January 2008 charged him with engaging in drug trafficking to fund a terrorist organization.
(Writing by JoAnne Allen, editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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Afghanistan: Watchdog Appeals To Kabul Over 'Blasphemous' Reporter
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty May 16, 2008
There's renewed international concern for Sayed Perwiz Kambakhsh, a young Afghan journalist sentenced to death for blasphemy. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders is urging the Afghan government to cooperate with the lawyer of Kambakhsh, who remains jailed in Kabul awaiting an appeal hearing.

Nearly two months have passed since Kambakhsh was transferred to the Afghan capital from a jail in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif. Yet the young journalism student -- who was sentenced to death at a summary trial in October for allegedly distributing information insulting to Islam -- is still languishing in a Kabul prison with no fixed date for his appeals hearing.

This week, Reporters Without Borders, the international press-freedom watchdog, once again raised its voice, appealing to the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to cooperate with Kambakhsh's lawyer.

Kevin Olivier, who works on Asian issues for the organization in Paris, says the lawyer still has not received the file for the case from the Afghan authorities, which is preventing him from preparing the appeal.

"The case has not progressed since it was transferred to the Kabul court of justice," Olivier says. "We urge the authorities to speed up the procedure so that Kambakhsh's appeal can receive a fair hearing, far from the influence of religious fundamentalists."

Sentenced To Death

A journalism student who wrote for the newspaper "Jahan-e Naw" (New World), Kambakhsh was arrested in October on what rights activists say were trumped up charges of distributing information insulting to Islam. Kambakhsh was said to have distributed printouts of an article by an Iranian blogger about Koranic passages that the author said discriminated against women.

On January 22, Kambakhsh was sentenced to death in a trial that relatives say was held behind closed doors. The case highlights the tension between international human-rights law -- which the Afghan Constitution pledges to uphold -- and some interpretations of Islam.

Reporters Without Borders says his lawyer did not dare attend the trial for fear of reprisals. The watchdog is now urging the Afghan government to ensure the appeals hearing, which has still not been scheduled, will be fair and open.

"This was not the case when he was tried and sentenced to death for blasphemy in Mazar-e Sharif," Olivier says. "We call on foreign governments to continue to intercede on Kambakhsh's behalf."

Appeal Not Scheduled

However, just when his appeal will be heard remains unclear.

"They have not given us an exact time for hearing the appeal, but we hope it will be next month," Kambakhsh's brother, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who is also a journalist, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

In the wake of an international uproar over the case, Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly told a delegation of Afghan journalists in February not to worry about Kambakhsh, to trust the legal system, and that he would be freed soon.

Kambakhsh was finally transferred to Kabul on March 27. He is being held in Pul-e Charkhi prison, in the eastern part of the capital.
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Germany To Send 45 Troops To Western Afghanistan - Ministry
BERLIN (AFP)--German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung has approved a short- term deployment of 45 German soldiers from their base in northern Afghanistan to the west of the country, a ministry spokesman said Friday.

According to German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the troops will be deployed to stop Afghan insurgents using one of the country's main road to travel from the volatile south to carry out attacks in the west and north.

Jung approved the request from the International Security Assistance Force Thursday, the spokesman said. A further 20 German troops will be on standby to work as part of the MedEvac medical evacuation unit.

This isn't the first time German soldiers have taken part in an operation, he said, the last time being in December 2007.

Under the terms of the mandate approved by German lawmakers, the country's 3, 200 troops based in the comparatively safe north of Afghanistan can take part in operations elsewhere in the country as long as they are of a limited nature.

Germany has resisted pressure from North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to deploy troops on a permanent basis to the south of the country where U.S., U.K. and Canadian soldiers are bearing the brunt of a Taliban insurgency.
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The importance of roads in Afghanistan
Fri May 16, 2008 1:45pm BST By Luke Baker
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Spend 30 minutes talking to a U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and chances are he or she will mention one factor as crucial to the stability of the country: roads.

Geographically challenging, with vast desert plains to the south and soaring mountains in the Hindu Kush to the north and east, Afghanistan is remarkably devoid of proper roads given its size and a population approaching 30 million.

There are just 34,000 km (21,000 miles) of useable roadway in the country, of which less than a quarter is paved, according to the CIA World Factbook. By comparison, there are about 10 million km of paved roads in the United States.

Better roads are essential not only for the economy -- so that farmers and merchants can get produce to markets more easily and importers can bring vital foodstuffs into the landlocked country -- but also for security, since police and the army can get more quickly to remote, unstable areas.

Paved roads also make it much harder for the Taliban to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- nearly 750 of which detonated across Afghanistan last year, causing hundreds of deaths. Planting them on pot-holed, dirt tracks is easy.

"I can't tell you how important roads are," said Colonel Pete Johnson, the commander of U.S. forces in southeast Afghanistan, where development lags central and northern areas and paved roads are minimal.

"If we pave roads, there's almost an automatic shift of IEDs to other areas because it makes it so much more difficult for the enemy to emplace them ... Roads here mean security," he told Reuters in an interview last week.

About the only people more insistent than the Americans about the importance of roads are the Afghans themselves, fed up with vehicle-destroying 12-hour journeys to the next major city when a paved road might get them there in under three.

And yet, six years after the United States overthrew the Taliban, comparatively little appears to have been done to improve the network, especially considering how much money has been thrown at it and how important everyone agrees it is.

JOB CREATION
Since 2002, USAID, the organisation through which the U.S. government channels the vast majority of its aid to Afghanistan, has spent $1 billion building 1,700 km of new paved road. Security, "capacity building" and overheads have accounted for nearly a quarter of the cost, according to a USAID official.

The construction works out at $580,000 per km, and with at least two of USAID's upcoming projects the cost will approach $1 million per km, according to the group's own figures. By comparison, the U.S. army corps of engineers budgets $250,000 per km for building paved roads.

Part of the reason for the high price tag is the cost of security, but also the tiered nature of the projects -- USAID subcontracts a major foreign company to do the work, which subcontracts part of it, often to an Indian or Turkish company, which subcontracts local Afghan labour to dig and lay the road.

The contract-awarding process takes time, as does design and planning. The longer the delays, the longer Afghans, around 70 percent of whom are unemployed, remain out of work.

A programme on Afghan TV jokes about the poor quality of the new roads, but then points out that perhaps foreign contractors do it on purpose -- if the roads need mending soon after they are built, more Afghans will end up with jobs.

The latest, much-awaited project is to build a 101 km road from Khost, in southeastern Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan, to Gardez, a city southeast of Kabul, where the road will meet up with the already-paved Kabul-Gardez road.

The project is crucial because Khost, often isolated in winter, will become a key transit point for imports from Pakistan, and occasional exports from Afghanistan, greatly shortening the journey time for international trade.

The $98 million project, due for completion in October 2009, was due to kick off this month. But Louis Berger, the American company subcontracted by USAID to do the work, did not turn up to a meeting with local Afghan officials to inaugurate the road because it did not have sufficient notice to plan security.

USAID said the meeting was rescheduled and took place on May 11. Work has still not begun, but Afghans in the area, many of whom are prepared to work for as little as $3 a day, are excited about the prospect of long-term employment.

"The contractor is currently mobilising equipment and resources to the site," a USAID official said of the project.
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Afghanistan to get $20 mln grant to improve health services - World Bank
05.16.08, 5:35 AM ET Forbes, NY
MUMBAI (Thomson Financial) - The World Bank said its concessionary lending arm, the International Development Association, will provide a $20 million grant to support the Afghanistan government's effort to expand delivery of basic health services, including in insecure areas of the country.

The grant will finance the extension of basic health services provision under the existing performance based partnership agreements (PPAs) to be continued for another nine months, the lending agency said.

Since the provision of services in insecure areas is one of the biggest challenges, the government plans to experiment with different supply and demand-side interventions to increase the utilisation of health services in Helmand, one of the most insecure provinces in the country, the World Bank said.

The successful elements of the Helmand pilot could be replicated in other insecure areas under future operations, the World Bank said.
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Afghan women still forced to cover up
May 16, 2008 Rosie DiManno
KABUL–Shrouds are meant for burial.
But not in Afghanistan, where public life for women is still all about the covering up, the obscuring of femaleness.

Six years after the fall of the Taliban, the cocooning burqa hangs on, even in a liberated capital rushing headlong into modernity, as if leaping millennia in one breathless hurdle.

Tradition, family pressures, shyness and a sense of personal security without violation – all are given as reasons for clutching still to the metres of billowing fabric that cascade from scalp to ankle.

The burqa remains stubbornly ubiquitous, if now worn by a smaller minority of women, at least in the capital. Beyond Kabul, and especially in the ultrafundamentalist Pashtun south, most adult females dare not venture outside without it, wouldn't dream of doing so.

In truth, the burqa doesn't make women one bit less provocative – if that's the fear – because what's forbidden is always tantalizing, in the way of human nature. There's a kind of peek-a-boo coquetry just beneath the concealed surface, a flash of skin below the hemline, painted toenails in strappy sandals, bangles jangling at the naked wrist.

Even the most conservative women, elderly ladies who wear old-fashioned pantaloons under the dress under the burqa, reveal a fancy frill beneath the voluminous swathing.

Emancipation is an incremental thing in Afghanistan, literally measured in centimetres.

Those women who tossed off their burqas after the Taliban were routed now wear skirts that cover nearly as much leg and long-sleeved tops no matter how hot the weather. And they always wrap scarves around their heads and shoulders, often lifting an edge to hide the bottom half of their faces. It's a gesture learned in girlhood.

But at least they can see and breathe more easily. The burqa – so uncomfortable with all that weight of fabric affixed to the tight skullcap – muffles sensory perceptions, causing women to stumble and fall, never being able to see their own feet, the world dimly viewed through an embroidered slit.

There is no religious justification for the burqa. It is entirely a product of paternalism and patriarchy, males asserting their ownership of females – what only they are entitled to see in the privacy of the family home.

But the burqa, more than the chador or the veil, is infantilizing as well, like a newborn's swaddling. By wearing it, women are constricted and controlled, and this hindrance is not just symbolic. It's evoked in every burdened step a female takes.

Mass production of burqas has caused further discomfort since the cheaper version – what's available at bazaars for as little as $5 – is actually manufactured in China and made of polyester rather than more breathable cotton.

Known as the "Herat Burqa," probably because the polyester newcomer first became widely available in that western province, it never loses its pleats or colouring in the wash.

The traditional cotton model – most are blue, but they also come in white, mustard and green – has to be dyed regularly, because it fades, and then needs to be laboriously re-pleated.

More expensive burqas – running about $20 – contain upward of 400 knife pleats. Producing these by hand is a rapidly shrinking cottage industry in Kabul because of the expense and tedious labour involved. Since most of this work is done by women in their homes, it's difficult for an outsider to get a gander.

But the Star obtained permission to watch the burqa-making process in a private household, though forbidden to photograph the females, two teenage sisters who spend hours at their pleating chores after coming home from school.

It is a primitive operation.

Long swaths of material are laid out on what looks like a medieval torture apparatus, held down by bricks and weather-beaten planks, while ancient irons are heated on a propane flame. A sponge is used to wet the garment, or what will become the garment, with a mixture of water, egg whites and starch.

Working methodically, using their toes to help keep things straight, the girls fold and pleat, a few centimetres at a time, rotating hot irons against the fabric as they move along. The small room is stifling.

The girls earn about $2 per garment.

Older brother Masjidi, who does agree to be photographed, is helping out with the order today.

He explains that his sisters are not yet required to wear the burqas they create because of their age – both under 16. But their time is rapidly approaching.

"The burqa will never disappear from Afghanistan," Masjidi says. "That is a complete impossibility."

In other homes around the city – because even traditional burqa-making has become an assembly-line process – men and women both do the detailed embroidery stitching, usually using specially fitted sewing machines; fine-point embroidery by hand can take weeks to complete just one garment. That's for royalty and the wives of warlords.

The pieces are assembled at another stage of production, at another specialist's house.

This is where someone like Mohammed Yaqub comes in. The 50-year-old father of eight spends all day hunkered over a hand-cranked Chinese sewing machine. He cuts the burqa's pleated fabric, quickly fashions the skullcap part, then sews the pieces together.

Yaqub turns out about 140 of these a week and gets 20 cents per completed garment.

After the Taliban fell, Yaqub thought the burqa might soon disappear, at least from Kabul. But that didn't happen.

"Women feel more secure in the streets wearing it. And most men still want their women to hide their faces. It shames the family if they don't."

But Yaqub admits he wouldn't be sorry should the burqa some distant day become a relic.

"I am tired of this work," he says. "And I am going blind doing it."

Columnist Rosie DiManno is on assignment in Afghanistan, where she covered the Taliban's fall in 2001.
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Think tank's funding tied to getting good press
STEVEN CHASE From Friday's Globe and Mail May 16, 2008 at 4:15 AM EDT
OTTAWA — The Department of National Defence sets quotas for how many times a year a military think tank it subsidizes must appear in the news media, a contract made public at the request of the NDP shows.

Critics say the five-year, $500,000 deal with the Conference of Defence Associations crosses the line from promoting debate to paying for supportive commentary - especially troubling when the Harper government is trying to sustain public backing for the Afghan mission.

They say it also raises questions about the millions spent by National Defence each year on grants to other think tanks and universities and called on the department to disclose the terms of those deals as well.

A contract the Conservatives tabled in Parliament this week says the department considers the CDA's key goals to include the need "to consider the problems of National Defence" and "to support government efforts in placing these problems before the public."

The March, 2007, contract says the grant is part of a program to ensure an "independent voice for discussion and debate on security and defence issues outside of the academic sphere." It sets out 13 "expected results" for the CDA, including the requirements to:

"Attain a minimum of 29 media references to the CDA by national or regional journalists and reporters;"

"Attain the publication of a minimum of 15 opinion pieces (including op-eds and letters to the editor in national or regional publications)."

NDP defence critic Dawn Black said the contract's terms make her uncomfortable because she believes it helps the Harper government build public support for Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.

"This is part of that effort to try and sell the war. These are people who support the government position on the war in Afghanistan, and all of the requirements of this contract indicate they need to be in the news and the op-eds and on television across the country."

Alain Pellerin, executive director of the CDA, says his organization has received money from National Defence for decades and the media quotas have been part of the agreement with the military since 2002, when a consulting firm told the department it should draw up more performance-based grant contracts.

He rejected the notion that the CDA is a mouthpiece for Ottawa. He said it has previously disagreed with the party in office, including during the 1990s when former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien's government slashed military spending, as well as when former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin decided against joining the U.S. missile shield plan.

Mr. Pellerin said the CDA has backed the current Afghan mission since the Liberals announced it in 2005 because it believes it's the right course.

He said that media commentary quotas are not something the CDA wanted as a term of its contract, and conceded that the NDP may be right in saying they don't make sense.

"That might be a valid point. ... It's not something we went out and sought," he said.

Stephen Staples, head of the left-leaning Rideau Institute, a critic of Canada's role in Afghanistan, said the CDA has to return the cash to National Defence to maintain credibility.

Mr. Pellerin said those attacking the CDA's contract are critics of the Afghan war who lost the public debate over whether to extend Canada's mission there. The operation was extended to 2011 in March

National Defence declined to answer questions on the contract. A spokeswoman said a five-hour window given to respond was insufficient, adding the department would need until today or next week.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office has in recent months exerted greater control over Department of National Defence communications, particularly after the treatment of detainees captured by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan fuelled controversy. So today media requests to National Defence are often forwarded to the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office, for scrutiny and vetting before a response is given. This process regularly delays answers from National Defence for days.
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Two Canadians wounded in Afghanistan suicide attack
Canwest News Service Friday, May 16, 2008
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -  A suicide attack in southwestern Afghanistan wounded two Canadian soldiers and killed one of their Afghan comrades Friday.

The attack, which occurred around 10:15 a.m. local time, also wounded a second Afghan soldier. The Afghan and Canadian troops were conducting a foot patrol through the village of Nalgham, in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, when a suicide bomber approached on foot and triggered a bomb.

All four soldiers were taken by helicopter to the Kandahar Airfield military base for treatment, but one of the Afghan National Army soldiers did not survive.

The exact nature of the injuries of the surviving soldiers was not immediately available, but the Canadians were able to walk unescorted into the trauma centre and managed to telephone their families back home, according to Canadian Forces spokeswoman Capt. Amber Bineau.

The suicide bomber, described as a young boy of about 10 or 11 years of age, died in the attack.

Military sources say the bomb was detonated from a distance by remote control.

The attack, which took place roughly 45 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City, came after a male insurgent disguised under a burka triggered a suicide bomb outside a police station in southwestern Afghanistan on Wednesday. The local governor claimed 16 people were killed in that blast.
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Brother suspected in killing of German-Afghan girl
BERLIN (Reuters) - Police investigating the fatal stabbing of 16-year-old German girl of Afghan origin are searching for her brother on suspicion he carried what media believe may have been an "honor killing."

Police said on Friday they were conducting an all-out search for the victim's 23-year-old brother, whom they "strongly suspected" was responsible for the attack in a park in a central area of Hamburg on Thursday night.

A police spokeswoman said the motive was unclear in response to German media speculation that the girl's death from multiple stab wounds was the result of an honor killing.

"We are investigating in all directions," she said.

Locals heard the girl's screams and called for help, but paramedics arriving at the scene were unable to save her, police said.

Concern about honor crimes -- motivated by a desire to defend traditional ideas of family reputation, often when the victim has become involved in what is seen as an unsuitable relationship or way of life -- is growing in Germany, which has the second-largest Muslim population in western Europe.

In a high profile case in 2006, a man of Turkish descent was jailed for shooting dead his sister at a Berlin bus stop after she left her husband to live alone.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Giles Elgood)
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Dry weather may hit Afghan grain crops-FAO
Fri May 16, 2008 7:17am EDT
MILAN, May 16 (Reuters) - Dry and hot weather in central Afghanistan may hit grain crops and worsen tight food supplies in the impoverished country, the United Nations' food agency FAO said on Friday.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation said it feared Afghanistan would not have enough water for pasture or the May-August rain-fed grain crop and the later irrigated wheat crop after a shortage of rain during the winter.

"The threat of a poor harvest comes in the midst of an already very tight food security situation," the Rome-based FAO said in a statement.

The aftermath of war, two severe droughts in 2001/02 and 2006 and an ongoing insurgency have increased food supply problems and poverty in Afghanistan.

Half the population live below the poverty line and about 2.55 million people receive food aid, the agency said.

Afghanistan's central areas which normally receive 400-800 mm of rainfall annually have developed a rainfall deficit of 200 mm from October 2007 to March 2008. Rapid and early snow melt has complicated the situation further, the FAO said.

A poor harvest would reduce available food supplies in the country and increase the need for imported wheat and food aid. Afghanistan needs to import more than 0.5 million tonnes of wheat to meet basic food needs, it said. (Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova, Editing by Peter Blackburn)
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Both parties are concerned about underinvestment in the war effort there, says Ambassador Jawad.
By David Cook Christian Science Monitor from the May 16, 2008 edition
November's presidential election should not affect US support for battling the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, that country's ambassador to the US said.

But at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast with reporters on Thursday, Ambassador Said T. Jawad said he was concerned about Pakistan's efforts to arrange what he called a "separate peace" with militants in volatile tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.

"There is a consensus from both parties that there has been some underinvestment in Afghanistan and more resources and funding [are] needed. In fact, the Democrats are more outspoken on the need of focusing on Afghanistan. So I am really not concerned that a change of government or a change of political party in the Congress will affect the degree of the commitment of the United States to Afghanistan," Ambassador Jawad said.

During the breakfast, Jawad voiced his concern about the new coalition government in Pakistan negotiating with militants. "To us, the intention doesn't matter very much, frankly. It is the consequences, the outcome. And we know from experience in the past that the outcome of these kinds of separate peace deals, without including provisions for cross-border infiltrations, will lead to further violence against Afghans, NATO, and coalition forces," he said.

While they receive less news coverage than the war in Iraq, US military activities in Afghanistan have been costly. On Sunday, the Pentagon said that at least 427 members of the US military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001.

The ambassador was cautious in responding to comments Republican presidential candidate John McCain made in a speech Thursday. Senator McCain said he believes the Iraq war can be won within four years, leaving a functioning democracy there and allowing most US troops to come home. In a speech in Columbus, Ohio, he also said Osama bin Laden would be captured or killed within four years and Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan would be reduced to remnants.

When asked if he agreed with McCain's forecast, Jawad said, "It depends on how [many] resources we put in. If we put in adequate resources, if get cooperation of the neighboring countries, full and sincere cooperation of Pakistan, we will defeat Al Qaeda in that framework or even a shorter time. But we should be mindful that in Afghanistan or in Pakistan we are not fighting terrorists as individuals. Removing Osama does not end the threat of terrorism.... We are fighting terrorism as a phenomenon that has many aspects."

His cautious assessment echoes comments made last month by the United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide. In a talk in Washington, Mr. Eide said uncoordinated and under-resourced international efforts and a weak government in Kabul put at risk gains since the Taliban's ouster. Eide, a Norwegian diplomat, said the situation is "urgent." In a meeting with Eide, President Bush said, "We're making progress in Afghanistan, but there is tough fighting.... I know full well we are dealing with a determined enemy."

A UN human rights official in Kabul alleged Thursday that foreign intelligence agents were acting with impunity in Afghanistan and have taken part in secret raids that have killed civilians, according to an Associated Press report. UN envoy Philip Alston said,

"It is absolutely unacceptable for heavily armed internationals accompanied by heavily armed Afghan forces to be wandering around conducting dangerous raids that too often result in killings without anyone taking responsibility for them."

Asked about the report, Jawad said, "Keeping the support of the ordinary citizen while conducting military operations against the bad element is a necessity. The difficult part of that is how to balance between those things. On the one hand, to make sure the criminals, the terrorists, are punished on time but on the other hand not to deprive ourselves from our natural allies, which are the people in the villages and towns who are primarily affected by the terrorists." He said the issue was a matter of "discussion" in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Citizens sometimes turn a blind eye to Taliban forces in their midst, Jawad said. "The reason is that together ... the international community and the Afghan government are not strong enough to protect these people. So if the military operation has come back and the Taliban are pushed aside to the next province or into Pakistan, and then they come back next month, people will be careful [about] cooperating with us."
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US warns China over weapon links in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan
by P. Parameswaran Thu May 15, 10:01 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States has warned Beijing over reported use of Chinese weapons by insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Asian giant's continued sale of arms to Iran, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said.

He said he conveyed the concerns personally to Chinese officials during his visit to Beijing this week.

"Just the other day, Monday, when I was in Beijing, this was one of the issues I raised -- concern about Chinese weapons or Chinese-designed weapons showing up in some of these battle areas, be it Iraq or Afghanistan," he told a congressional hearing on US-China ties.

The US military in Iraq had said its troops had found Chinese-made missiles which they believe were smuggled in by groups in Iran aiming to arm militants fighting US-led forces.

The US military has repeatedly accused Iranian-linked groups of training Iraqi extremists in the use of armor-piercing weapons known as explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs).

Afghan authorities had also seized dozens of Iranian and Chinese-made weapons from Taliban fighters near the border with Iran.

The weapons, including land mines and rocket-propelled grenades, appeared to have been manufactured in Iran and China, reports have said.

Negroponte told the US senators that Washington "made it clear" to Beijing that Chinese entities' continued sale of conventional weapons to Iran "is unacceptable."

He said Chinese officials told him "they have scaled way back their sale of conventional weapons to Iran."

"They had relationships previously where they exported these weapons but they have dialed that back," he said.

Negroponte, a former US intelligence czar, said that China understood Washington's position that Iran presented "a grave international and regional security concern."

Beijing also understood that the US government "reserves the right to apply all multilateral, bilateral and unilateral measures at our disposal to ensure that our concerns are addressed."

"We reinforce this message at every opportunity," he said.

Negroponte also slammed China for expanding trade and investment links with Iran, particularly in its oil and gas sector.

"We believe this expansion undermines international efforts to pressure Iran, and sends the wrong signal to the Iranian regime, especially at a time when other oil companies are heeding their governments' wishes to forgo new investments in Iran," he said.

Negroponte said the Chinese government shared America's "strategic objective of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability."

Washington has spearheaded efforts at the United Nations to rein in Iran's ambitions to master the nuclear fuel cycle, accusing Tehran of seeking to build atomic weapons.

China has voted in the UN Security Council for sanctions on Iranian individuals and companies linked to nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
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Afghan aid that works
By Mohammad Ehsan Zia Opinion The Christian Science Monitor via Yahoo! News - May 16 1:00 AM
Kabul, Afghanistan - In Afghan areas where the international aid groups fear to tread, the National Solidarity Program (NSP) is one of the country's most successful development initiatives. The community-led approach to reconstruction and to rural infrastructure has made achievements in empowering local people, strengthening democracy, and increasing faith in the Afghan government. Yet it risks being underfunded.

Whether we believe that security comes before development or vice versa, one cannot survive without the other. In any postconflict environment, trust must be established between state and society. For the first time in Afghanistan's history, the government is linked to the community through a framework for decision-making. Thanks to the NSP, even illiterate farmers in a remote village hold the keys to their own future.

After three decades of conflict, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries. The average rural household has 7.5 people. Access to safe drinking water, sanitation, electricity, and social services are among the lowest in the world. Literacy is under 30 percent. The way out of this poverty – primary education – is a prospect for only one quarter of rural children.

In this precarious environment, the NSP has been revolutionary. Since its inception in 2003, the NSP has reached over 15.4 million Afghans. These communities have democratically elected community development councils in 352 of Afghanistan's 364 districts. It's helped finance more than 35,000 projects.

Communities are experiencing development for the first time. Projects are dictated from below, avoiding any disconnect between donors and the communities they serve. Some have opted to take advantage of nearby rivers to build small hydropower facilities. Others have built new roads that connect to markets, and district centers. More than 500,000 households have benefited from small-scale irrigation projects.

Since the community development councils give Afghans a sense of local ownership, villagers are volunteering their own labor, doing away with expensive security details. Human Rights Watch has observed that schools built by the NSP have been defended by the communities that participated in their construction. And NSP projects are on average 30 percent cheaper than those built by foreign nongovernmental organizations.

NSP projects advance the international community's development goals: good governance, strengthened women's rights, and improved security.

The direct election of community development councils strengthens Afghanistan's democratic tradition of jirgas and consensus building. Local accountability is improved since corrupt officials are not able to dip into the small disbursements (the average grant is $30,121) without the councils noticing.

Women – 35 percent of council representatives – are involved in all levels of the NSP, debating the merits of various aid projects alongside men.

All of this has been achieved for a relatively small investment of $452 million, a fraction of the money already spent in Afghanistan and other international development efforts.

Compare that to Boston's $14 billion "Big Dig." And that was just to build a tunnel. Although much of the funding for the NSP has been provided by the World Bank, a major pledge by the US at the Paris Donors' Conference in June would symbolize US commitment and encourage others to rally. Distinguished institutions, such as the US Institute of Peace, and Oxfam have called for the program's expansion and full funding.

Across Afghanistan, there are millions of hardworking people who have invested time and energy into making their community development succeed. They have thrown their chips in with the Afghan government and the NSP. We cannot abandon them when the job is half done. NSP's second phase is facing a budget shortfall of $160 million.

An investment in Afghanistan's successful reconstruction is a down payment against terrorism. Without adequate resources, we will be forced to downsize development projects just as they are beginning to build trust between rural communities and the government. The goodwill of the Afghan people remains our most important asset in the struggle against global terrorism, an asset that we can maintain with a relatively modest investment in the National Solidarity Program.

• Mohammad Ehsan Zia is the minister of rural rehabilitation and development for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
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Top Taliban leader vows revenge on America
By HABIBULLAH KHAN May 15, 2008
KHAR, Pakistan (AP) — A top Taliban leader vowed Thursday to target the U.S. after an alleged missile strike killed several people in northwest Pakistan, a threat that could undermine the new government's efforts to negotiate peace deals with militants.

Blasts destroyed a compound Wednesday in Damadola village, a militant stronghold in the Bajur tribal region near the Afghanistan border. A similar attack in 2006 reportedly missed al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

The governor of the turbulent North West Frontier Province condemned the incident as an "attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan" that would hamper the country's efforts against terrorism. He said the dead included an 8-year-old boy.

Residents said they saw a U.S. aircraft flying in the area before two explosions rocked the village. The U.S., which has not commented on the incident, is believed to operate unmanned drones out of Afghanistan.

Faqir Mohammed, a cleric and deputy leader of Pakistan's Taliban movement, vowed revenge after attending a funeral for seven men who were said to have been killed.

"America martyred our people, and the blood of our brothers will not go to waste," Mohammed said. "God willing, we will avenge it by targeting America."

Later Thursday, several thousand protesters attended rallies called by Islamist political parties in Damadola and Khar, Bajur's main town. Demonstrators chanted "Death to America" and slogans against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The alleged missile strike could embarrass Pakistan's new government, which is trying to pursue peace deals with militants. The negotiations have stirred alarm in the U.S., which long backed Musharraf's more forceful tactics. Western officials worry that such deals may simply give militants time to regroup and plan attacks in Afghanistan and the West.

Maulvi Umar, a Taliban spokesman, has said the movement will continue fighting in Afghanistan despite any peace deal it might reach in Pakistan. Both countries have suffered from a series of militant attacks.

Responding to the latest incident, Umar said "we will avenge this but will continue talks with the government."

The explosions were thought to be the first such attack since the new government took power six weeks ago. A spate of strikes in March killed at least 25 people in the border region, fueling speculation that Musharraf, whose allies then led the government, gave tacit approval to U.S. forces targeting foreign militants inside Pakistan.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said Thursday he was "not aware" of any such approval. Pakistan insists it does not allow U.S. forces to operate on its territory.

Pakistan's military spokesman declined to comment Thursday. The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad deferred comments to officials in Washington, who could not be immediately reached.

Sadiq declined to discuss the implications of Wednesday's blast because investigators were still trying to determine if it was caused by a missile, a rocket or an "internal explosion."

But Gov. Ovais Ahmed Ghani described the incident as a missile strike that would undermine public backing for counterterrorism efforts.

Pakistan has previously passed off several similar incidents as accidental detonations of explosives stashed in militant hideouts.

Who or exactly how many people were killed in the latest alleged strike remained unclear.

An Associated Press reporter visiting Thursday saw dusty shoes and clothes splattered with blood amid debris at the compound, which was guarded by armed militants. The roofs of three rooms had caved in.

On Wednesday, villager Ibrahim Khan said at least 15 people were killed while local Taliban leaders gathered for a feast at the targeted house. The Taliban's Umar said more than 10 died, including women and children.

In 2006, a missile strike targeted al-Zawahri in Damadola — apparently launched from a Predator drone controlled by the CIA in Afghanistan. At least 13 villagers were killed, but the al-Qaida deputy chief escaped unharmed.

Associated Press writers Ishtiaq Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Bashirullah Khan in Miran Shah and Zarar Khan, Munir Ahmad and Stephen Graham in Islamabad contributed to this report.
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Afghan hijacker 'working as cleaner at Heathrow airport'
Fri May 16, 6:09 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - An Afghan man involved in a hijacking eight years ago was arrested after being found working as a cleaner for British Airways near Heathrow Airport, officials and a press report said Friday.

Nazamuddin Mohammidy, 34, was among nine Afghans who threatened to blow up a Boeing 727 during a four-day stand-off with police at London Stansted Airport in 2000.

This week he appeared in court after police pulled his car over, on suspicion of being a bogus taxi driver, only to discover his identity and that he had a security pass as a cleaner for British Airways, said The Sun newspaper.

"He had a British Airways pass on him. It was discovered he was in breach of bail and he was arrested. Then it emerged he was one of the Stansted hijackers," a source told the daily.

"There's got to be something seriously wrong with a country that lets a hijacker work at an airport. It's shocking."

According to the tabloid, Mohammidy lives near Heathrow in west London and has spent months employed by a local company which has a contract to clean a British Airways training centre.

A British Airways spokesman said Mohammidy did not work inside the airport and did not have an airside pass.

"We have been helping the police with their inquiries into a man who is employed by our cleaning contractors. He does not work at the airport and does not hold an airside pass.

"He works at one of our properties about a mile away," he said.

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed the man was to appear in court again next Monday.

"A man has been arrested at Heathrow and is going to appear in court. he has been charged with bodily assault and was in breach of bail," a spokesman told AFP.

Mohammidy is accused of beating up his former landlord, according to The Sun tabloid, which quoting him as saying: "I have nothing to say."

The 2000 hijacking made headlines around the world, when the nine Afghans forced the aicraft's pilot to land at Stansted, threatening to blow up its 173 passengers and crew unless granted political asylum.

They eventually surrendered to police and crack special forces troops after a tense 70-hour siege.

The hijackers were convicted at London's Old Bailey central criminal court, but their convictions were controversially quashed in 2003, citing the "duress" of fleeing the Taliban, and they were granted the right to stay in Britain. Back to Top

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Taleban free more Pakistan troops
Friday, 16 May 2008 BBC News
Pro-Taleban militants have released another six Pakistani soldiers as part of peace moves with the new government.

The military said the handover took place on Thursday in the South Waziristan tribal area. It brings to 18 the number of soldiers freed this week.

On Wednesday, more than 30 people detained by the Pakistani military were handed over to the militants.

Scores of Pakistani soldiers were taken hostage by militants in the tribal region near Afghanistan last year.

Nato has criticised the deals by Pakistan's new government, saying cross-border attacks in Afghanistan are on the rise.
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A-10 pilots keeping it safe in Afghanistan
By Scott Schonauer, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Friday, May 16, 2008
BAGRAM, Afghanistan — A 200-pound bomb dropped from a U.S. warplane can end a firefight in a heartbeat. That same bomb, however, slightly off target, can be tragic for troops on the ground.

The margin of error, the difference between helping allies and making a horrific mistake, is microscopically thin for pilots thousands of feet in the air. Bad judgment, poor communication or both can alter fate in seconds.

Pilots with the Spangdahlem, Germany-based 81st Fighter Squadron know the risks all too well.

When the squadron last deployed to Afghanistan in 2006, a pilot mistook a trash fire and strafed a group of coalition troops battling Taliban forces. The strike killed a Canadian soldier and injured dozens, putting greater scrutiny on how American pilots try to avoid fratricide.

In February, when the 81st returned to Afghanistan, they arrived better prepared to avoid a similar tragedy, said the unit’s commander Lt. Col. Timothy Hogan. But as the unit’s four-month deployment ends this month, the friendly-fire incident has loomed as a stark reminder of how easily things can go wrong.

"Until your replacements are here and until your job is done, my guys are staying keenly focused on the mission," Hogan said, "because it’s life or death."

While the squadron left Germany with improved equipment and training, there continue to be challenges in delivering close-air support, or CAS.

There are not enough Air Force controllers on the ground to meet the need, and some allied countries don’t have any. While some controllers are carrying the newest and latest equipment, many NATO countries do not.

Finding friend or foe

The Sept. 4, 2006, friendly-fire incident happened just days before the squadron was to return to Germany. When the investigation came out, Hogan sat the pilots down, reviewed the tapes, talked about the situation and about how to avoid a similar mistake in the future.

Providing close-air support for soldiers is the squadron’s main mission here, and it is the specialty of the jet they fly — the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Before arriving at Bagram, pilots trained for a month in Nevada and for a month in Florida.

Maj. Brett "Mirv" Herman has 16 years in the Air Force, but this is his first time in Afghanistan. He arrived expecting to drop bombs and fire the A-10’s gun with the frequency of a video game. That hasn’t been the case. Pilots fired only half as many 20 mm rounds as during the last deployment. But things have gradually intensified with the rise in temperatures.

Herman’s missions have included guarding coalition convoys and performing screaming flyovers as a "show of force" to scare off Taliban fighters. His most memorable mission occurred when a group of soldiers a few miles outside their base came under attack. Herman provided cover as they sprinted back safely to the base carrying full packs.

"Being here and protecting the ground guys, I wouldn’t trade it for anything," Herman said. "I like it. Having them feel more secure with me overhead is a good feeling."

While he has only shot his guns once, he discovered how difficult it is to distinguish between friend and foe. "The bad guys, what they do a lot is shoot and scoot," Herman said.

"They’ll take one or two shots, and then they’ll run. Run back into a village and hide among the locals, or they’ll find a hiding place nearby … and you can’t find them. And we’re not going to indiscriminately drop bombs."

High-tech help

Technology has helped fill in some gaps.

Since their last deployment, the 81st received upgraded radios that are faster and have better sound quality. Their old radios could cut off transmissions sent in "decryption" mode if the sender did not wait several seconds before speaking. For example, a controller could yell, "Hold your fire!" but it might come out "Fire!"

Controllers on the ground also are using a software program that receives streaming video from a camera mounted on the jet. The system — called ROVER, or Remotely Operated Video Enhanced Receiver — gives controllers an aerial view and allows them to guide pilots to the target by looking at the imagery.

The controllers used the technology the last time the 81st deployed to Afghanistan, but Hogan said many JTACs didn’t carry the computers in the field because they were too cumbersome. Smaller computers have made it easier to carry and use.

"It’s a huge benefit. It builds my [situational awareness]," Herman said. "So I can say, ‘OK. I know who’s good. I know who’s bad. Now, let’s go and take care of the bad guys.’ "

It is difficult to say whether the newer radios and the use of the ROVER have improved the accuracy and effectiveness of close-air support. But Hogan said both have created a "warm fuzzy" reassurance, adding that the mission is "not so much a science as it is an art."

Laptops and video feeds are helpful, but controllers can’t always rely on them to do their job.

"We like to learn how to use them and be able to use them in the way they were created to be used," Senior Airman Dan Collins said. "But, in the worst-case scenario, you don’t want to be the guy who can’t do his job because his battery died."

Tough but rewarding

Even if a controller does everything seemingly right, it’s also up to the pilot to make sure he or she delivers the bomb on target. That reliance has created a bond between both JTACs and pilots unlike anything else in the Air Force.

When controllers finish their deployments and return to Bagram to catch their flight back home, many of them make a point to visit the pilots at the squadron. Some visit the pilots to just shake hands and show their appreciation.

"And I look at them and I say, ‘Dude, I could never do what you do,’ " Herman said. "And they say, ‘Well, we’re glad you’re there.’ It’s a mutual respect for both of us."
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Spanta on a crucial strategic mission to US
Pajhwok Correspondent - May 13, 2008 - 19:10
NEW YORK (PAN): The Foreign Minister, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Monday began his week-long trip to the United States.

 During the visit he would meet top leaders of the Bush Administration including the Vice-President, Dick Cheney; Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and the Defense Secretary, Robert Gates.

The focus of his crucial trip to the US, diplomatic sources told Pajhwok Afghan News would be to review the Afghan-US strategic partnership and looks into the ways and means how to strengthen it and the upcoming Paris donors conference next month.

Spanta began his official trip Monday by meeting the Director of the National Intelligence, John Michael McConnell, the USAID Director and National Security Adviser, Steve Hadley. He is also scheduled to meet John Walter, White House Drug Control Policy Officer.

Among his other meetings in Washington include those, with number of powerful including Senator John Kerry. He is also scheduled to address a meeting of the House Foreign Relations Committee, which would be chaired by Gary Ackerman. Spanta is also scheduled a closed door meeting with the members of US Institute of Peace a Washington-based think tank.

Among the issues to be discussed during his meetings with the Bush Administration officials are assessments of the security situation in Afghanistan in the aftermath of assassination bid on President Hamid Karzai; counter-terrorism cooperation with Pakistan, Afghan-Pak relations after elections in Pakistan, cross-border terrorism activities, the peace jirga and the current food crisis in Afghanistan.

During his meetings with Cheney and Gates, Spanta is also likely to discuss the performance of US / NATO troops in Afghanistan. With Walter they issues related to counter narcotics would be taken up, diplomatic sources said.
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Senate for providing food items on subsidized rates
Najib Khilwatgar - May 13, 2008 - 11:24
KABUL (PAN): The Meshrano Jirga (senate) has called on the government to devise strategy for controlling the rampant price hike of food items and provide basic necessities to the masses on subsidized rates.

The upper house in a report provided by the economic, financial and budgetary committee said the government must take the lead in providing the basic food materials to market at lower prices.

The senate recommended the government to take trade of food and fuel items out of the private sectors manipulation.

Both food and fuel supplies have registered a record-level increase in prices during one year in Afghanistan.

The report prepared on one-month assessment found that an international soar in prices, decreased import of wheat from neighboring countries in the past year and lack of control of the market by the government were the main reasons for skyrocketing of prices during the past five years.

Haji Muhammad Akbar, head of the economic, financial and budgetary committee of the senate, told Pajhwok Afghan News the government, particularly the commerce ministry, has failed to prepare a good strategy to prevent such food crises.

The report which contains recommendations for the government for getting out from the current food shortage and high prices crisis will be sent to the lower house for approving it.
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