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May 20, 2008 

Afghan govt says to decide how long NATO troops stay
Tue May 20, 8:35 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan government will decide when foreign troops will leave the country, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, but added they would be needed until Afghan security forces could stand on their own feet.

Afghan minister says Pakistan Taliban 'appeasement' dangerous
Tue May 20, 8:04 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan's foreign minister said Pakistan's policy of "appeasing" the Taliban is dangerous, reiterating concern that peace talks between Islamabad and rebels would see more cross-border attacks.

5 nomads die in roadside blast in Afghanistan
Tue May 20, 7:13 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A provincial governor says a roadside blast has killed five nomads and dozens of sheep in southwestern Afghanistan.

Two NATO soldiers die in Afghanistan
Tue May 20, 1:40 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Two NATO soldiers were killed in separate incidents in southern Afghanistan, the alliance's International Security Assistance Force said.

Surge In Attacks Leaves 17 Dead In Afghanistan - Officials
KABUL (AFP)--Police prevented a suicide bomber from driving a stolen police jeep packed with explosives into a base in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday, but a series of other attacks around the country killed 17 people.

Top military officer says violence up in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON - Violence in Afghanistan is increasing, as security in Iraq in recent months has improved, the top U.S. uniformed military officer told Congress Tuesday.

Afghan cop beheaded, bombs kill seven civilians
Tue May 20, 8:00 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Taliban militants beheaded a policeman in Afghanistan and killed an aid agency's driver in a separate attack, while bombs killed seven civilians, authorities said Tuesday.

Rebels hide among families to enter Afghanistan: ISAF
Mon May 19, 4:54 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Insurgents are crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan, where attacks have spiked in recent weeks, hidden among hundreds of families that make the trip daily, the NATO force here said Monday.

Afghan teenage cluster bomb victim battling for ban
by Robin Millard Tue May 20, 2:22 AM ET
DUBLIN (AFP) - Afghan teenager Soraj Ghulam Habib, whose legs were blown off by a cluster bomb, is campaigning hard for a ban on such lethal munitions that would spare other children from his tragic fate.

US: 500 youths detained in Iraq; 10 in Afghanistan
By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN, Associated Press Writer Mon May 19, 4:47 PM ET
NEW YORK - The U.S. military is holding about 500 juveniles in detention centers in Iraq, and has about 10 detained at the U.S. base at Bagram, Afghanistan, the United States has told the United Nations.

Canadian aid group helps Afghan women learn sewing, business skills
Mon May 19, 4:42 PM
WINNIPEG (CBC) - A Canadian aid group is supporting a program in Kandahar that helps about 100 Afghan women learn to sew and get a start in a small business.

Seesaw Afghan war strains ties among allies
By Carlotta Gall The International Herald Tribune Tuesday, May 20, 2008
KHAKREZ, Afghanistan: Last autumn, groups of Taliban fighters swarmed into every village in this district in southern Afghanistan. U.S. forces arrived to sweep them out in January, people here say. By April, the Taliban were back

Iran Urges UN To Secure Interest In Afghan Nation
TEHRAN, May 20 (Bernama) -- Iran on Tuesday urged the United Nations to secure interest of the Afghan nation, its Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, was quoted by Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as saying.

Helmand farmers fight to defend opium crop
Rather than watch their poppy fields being destroyed, growers take up arms alongside the Taleban.
By Mohammad Ilyas Dayee in Helmand (ARR No. 290, 19-May-08)  Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) 19 May 2008
Until recently, the Marja area of Helmand province, close to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, enjoyed relative peace. The main occupation here is farming, albeit with a specific twist – opium poppies take up almost all the arable land.

Westerners Play Pivotal Role in Afghan Rebuilding
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR
Morning Edition, May 20, 2008 · U.S. Navy Cmdr. Larry Legree spent a year fighting insurgents in Kunar, a mountainous province northeast of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

Bush asks Gillani, Karzai to jointly combat terror
May 20, 2008
Islamabad (PTI): US President George W Bush has asked his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai and Pakistan premier Yousuf Raza Gillani to work jointly to combat terrorism in the region, a leading Pakistan daily reported on Tuesday.

Afghan MPs protest Koran desecration in Iraq
(AFP) 20 May 2008 via Khaleej Times
KABUL - A number of Afghan MPs walked out of parliament on Tuesday to protest at the shooting of the Muslim holy book the Koran by an American soldier in Iraq, demanding the troop be tried, witnesses said.

Wheat flour shortage affects Afghan refugees in Balochistan
MUHAMMAD KHAIL, Pakistan, May 19 (UNHCR) – Images of people queuing in front of utility stores late last year to buy wheat flour was still fresh in everyone's memories when another food crisis emerged recently in Pakistan.

India to help Afghanistan set up local government agencies
Kabul, May 19 (IANS) India has pledged to help Afghanistan set up local government institutions by deputing Indian experts here as well as by attaching Afghan local representatives with Indian local governance bodies.

WFP trucks attacked in Afghanistan
KABUL, May 19 (Xinhua) -- An aid convoy of the UN World Food Program (WFP) has been attacked by militants in south Afghanistan, the UN Assistant Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Monday.

Policemen arrested for murdering wife and son
www.quqnoos.com Written by M Reza Sher Mohammadi Monday, 19 May 2008
Police say man shot dead wife and son before fleeing scene
A POLICEMAN has been arrested for shooting dead his wife and son in the centre of Herat City after a family row erupted in their home, a police spokesman has said.

From Afghanistan to Cannes: how Jude Law joined film-maker's campaign for a world day of peace
Ten-year drive to spread the word started in a field near Salisbury
Loads more coverage from Cannes Mark Brown in Cannes Tuesday May 20, 2008 The Guardian
It was the day movie celebrity met world peace. Jude Law yesterday swept into the Cannes film festival to explain why he was helping a documentary-maker who for the last 10 years has campaigned for an official day of ceasefire and non-violence.

AFGHANISTAN: NATO ALLIES EXPERIENCING "BATTLE FATIGUE"
EurasiaNet, NY Richard Weitz 5/19/08 A EurasiaNet Commentary
In early April, NATO allies reaffirmed their commitment to Afghanistan’s democratization process, issuing a statement that proclaimed the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul to be the alliance’s "top priority." Nevertheless

Goat-rearing Afghan nomads inspire U.S. designer
By Luke Baker Tue May 20, 2:35 AM ET
KABUL, May 20 (Reuters Life!) - On the face of it, the Kuchi nomads of Afghanistan, a tribal people accustomed to rearing goats, are not a straight-forward fit for high-end fashion.

Poll reveals 'alarming' lack of AIDS awareness
Written by www.quqnoos.com Monday, 19 May 2008
Red Crescent says 'dangerous misconceptions' exist
MORE than half of Kabul’s students believe victims of the deadly HIV virus should be isolated from their communities, with more than one third arguing that sufferers should be banned from work and school.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society’s (ARCS)

Canadians play up common cultural grounds with Afghans
National Post, Canada Ryan Cormier Canwest News Service Monday, May 19, 2008
SHAH WALI KOT, Afghanistan -Canadian soldiers are striving to find common ground with Afghans along cultural lines as the Taliban begin to launch attacks that shatter those same boundaries.

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Afghan govt says to decide how long NATO troops stay
Tue May 20, 8:35 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan government will decide when foreign troops will leave the country, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, but added they would be needed until Afghan security forces could stand on their own feet.

"Whenever ... the Afghan security forces and its national army acquire the ability to defend this water and soil against international terrorism and foreign interventions, there will be no need for the presence of international military forces in Afghanistan," Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told a news conference.

"And the government of Afghanistan itself will specify as to when and who needs to be (here) or go," Spanta replied when asked by a reporter whether the government had set any time frame for the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country.

Currently some 60,000 foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military are stationed in Afghanistan where the al Qaeda-backed Taliban movement has made a comeback since 2006.

And the number of Western-trained and funded Afghan security forces fighting against the militants stands at nearly 150,000.

The Taliban are mostly active in southern and eastern areas along the border with Pakistan where the militants have bases and sanctuaries in lawless tribal areas, dominated by ethnic Pashtuns who form the bulk of the Taliban.

U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and toppled Taliban's Islamist government after its leadership refused to hand over al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, the architect of Sept 11 attacks on the United States.

Top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are still at large.

Some Western officials have said the foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan for a long time but have not specified any withdrawal period. Others say the troops will leave the country when the Afghan forces manage to defend the country.

More than 12,000 people have been killed in the past two years in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since Taliban's ouster.

In the latest incident, two foreign soldiers, one of them British, were killed in two separate attacks in southern Afghanistan on Monday.
(Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin, editing by Valerie Lee)
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Afghan minister says Pakistan Taliban 'appeasement' dangerous
Tue May 20, 8:04 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan's foreign minister said Pakistan's policy of "appeasing" the Taliban is dangerous, reiterating concern that peace talks between Islamabad and rebels would see more cross-border attacks.

Pakistan's new government is in negotiations with Taliban militants along its tribal belt, from where Afghan and Western officials allege the insurgents plot and organise attacks in Afghanistan including against foreign troops.

"Anyone thinking that they are able to reach peace in the region through what we call an appeasement policy -- we consider it is a wrong and dangerous policy," Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told reporters.

The talks launched by a new government that defeated President Pervez Musharraf's allies in elections have led to a marked tailing off in a wave of suicide attacks across Pakistan.

However, NATO said last week that attacks in April in eastern Afghanistan, along the border with Pakistan, were up 52 percent from the same period last year.

A peace deal with Pakistani Taliban in 2006 led to a spike in violence just across the border.

Describing the 2006 deal as bad for Afghanistan, Spanta said the government was "extremely and infinitely concerned" about Islamabad's moves, which officials in Pakistan say have seen troops redeployed in the tribal zone.

He cited media reports saying Taliban had said they wanted peace in Pakistan so they would be able to continue jihad (holy war) in Afghanistan.

"As the victim of terrorism, we have the right to say we're concerned," the minister said, adding Kabul had spoken of its fears with Islamabad and Washington.

"No doubt reconciliation is a key part in the fight against terrorism," he said.

But he added: "If we are to fight them, we have to fight together. War and peace at the same time is impossible."

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in September 2007 that he was ready to hold talks with Taliban militants in his country in an effort to end their insurgency.
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5 nomads die in roadside blast in Afghanistan
Tue May 20, 7:13 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A provincial governor says a roadside blast has killed five nomads and dozens of sheep in southwestern Afghanistan.

The Nimroz province Gov. Ghulam Dastagir says the nomads were transporting sheep on a truck when their vehicle hit the freshly planted bomb late on Monday.

Dastagir accused Taliban militants for the blast. It happened on the road frequently used by Afghan and foreign troops.

More than 1,200 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency-related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press.
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Two NATO soldiers die in Afghanistan
Tue May 20, 1:40 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Two NATO soldiers were killed in separate incidents in southern Afghanistan, the alliance's International Security Assistance Force said.

One was killed by "enemy hostile action" and the other died in a bomb blast, ISAF said in a statement that gave no further details.

The 40-nation force does not release the nationalities of its casualties before this is made known by their home nations.

The British government said later that one of its soldiers had been killed in an explosion in southern Afghanistan.

The soldier was taking part in a routine foot patrol in Musa Qala, Helmand province, earlier Monday when he was caught in an explosion, the Ministry of Defence said, without saying if it was the same incident reported by ISAF.

Around 7,800 British troops are deployed in southern Afghanistan following the 2001 US-led assault which drove the hardline Taliban from power.

The deaths took to 56 the number of foreign troops killed in Afghanistan this year. Most died in hostile action.
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Surge In Attacks Leaves 17 Dead In Afghanistan - Officials
KABUL (AFP)--Police prevented a suicide bomber from driving a stolen police jeep packed with explosives into a base in Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday, but a series of other attacks around the country killed 17 people.

A policeman spotted the bomber and shot at him before he could enter the police camp in Delaram, a district in the southwestern province of Farah, deputy provincial governor Mohammad Younus Rasouli told AFP.

"As the police opened fire, the bomber blew up the vehicle, which was packed with explosives. Two police officers, including the one who fired, were very slightly injured," Rasouli said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the extremist Taliban militant group has been behind most of a wave of bombings and suicide attacks over the past two years.

The 17 killed in other fighting included two NATO soldiers in neighboring Helmand province, 6 rebels in a battle about 60 miles south of Kabul, two civilians killed in a car bombing in Wardak province, a police officer slayed in Farah province, five civilians killed in a truck bombing in Nimroz province and a tanker driver in the eastern province of Khost.
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Top military officer says violence up in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON - Violence in Afghanistan is increasing, as security in Iraq in recent months has improved, the top U.S. uniformed military officer told Congress Tuesday.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said that Iran's Revolutionary Guard is directly jeopardizing peace in Iraq.

"Restraint in our response does not signal lack of resolve or capability to defend ourselves against threats," Mullen said in prepared testimony before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

Mullen said the U.S. is deploying more troops to Afghanistan and encouraging local forces to do the same to contend with a growing insurgency, increased attacks and a burgeoning drug trade.

"In short, a stable Iraq and Afghanistan that are long-term partners and share our commitment to peace will be critical to achieving regional stability and security," he said.

"This will require years, not months, and will require the support of the American people, our regional allies and concerted action by the Iraqi and Afghan people and their leaders," Mullen added.

Sen. Arlen Specter, a member of the panel, said he is most concerned about the Bush administration's refusal to fully engage Iran in diplomatic discussions. U.S. diplomats have met with Iranian officials as part of a broader regional conference on Iraq, but insisted that discussions be limited to Iraq.

The U.S. accuses Iran of trying to develop a nuclear weapon, supporting terrorist groups and encouraging violence in Iraq by providing weapons and other material support to Shiite militants there.

Specter, R-Pa., said he has seen talks with North Korea and Libya bear fruition and thinks similar progress could be made with Iran.

If the government refuses to engage Iran, "we're missing a great opportunity to avoid a future conflict," Specter said.
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Afghan cop beheaded, bombs kill seven civilians
Tue May 20, 8:00 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Taliban militants beheaded a policeman in Afghanistan and killed an aid agency's driver in a separate attack, while bombs killed seven civilians, authorities said Tuesday.

The decapitated body of the policeman was found in the southwestern province of Farah on Monday, a day after he had been captured by Taliban fighters, the police spokesman for the region told AFP.

He was caught while travelling home for a holiday, said spokesman Abdul Mutalib Rad, blaming Taliban extremists.

The militia, which was in government between 1996 and 2001, has carried out several beheadings as part of an insurgency that targets government employees and security forces, as well as US and NATO troops.

In a separate incident, militants fired mortars at an aid agency's water tanker in eastern Afghanistan, an Afghan army spokesman said.

"Then they came and killed the driver and stole his tanker," said Mohammad Gul, blaming the "opposition".

In southwestern Nimroz province meanwhile, a mine blew up a truck transporting sheep and killed five men and several of the animals, provincial governor Ghulam Dastgir Azad said.

It was not clear if the device was newly planted or left over from other conflicts in Afghanistan, which has suffered from nearly 30 years of strife including the 1979-1989 Soviet invasion and subsequent civil war.

And in Wardak, near Kabul, a mine apparently intended for police exploded under a civilian car and killed two people, deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Asif said.

Violence from a Taliban-led insurgency launched months after they were toppled from government in a US-led invasion in 2001 has spiked in recent months and several operations are under way against the Islamic fighters.

Afghan authorities are assisted in their battle to stop the unrest by about 70,000 US and NATO soldiers.

Two soldiers with NATO's International Security Assistance Force were killed in separate insurgency-related incidents in southern Afghanistan Monday, ISAF said.

One was a British national who was caught in an explosion while on foot patrol near the southern town of Musa Qala, the British military said late Tuesday. The nationality of the other soldier has not been released.

Musa Qala in Helmand province was a Taliban base and opium and heroin centre for 10 months before Afghan and international soldiers marched in in December and took control.

It has seen a series of attacks in recent days, including a suicide bombing Sunday that killed four people.
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Rebels hide among families to enter Afghanistan: ISAF
Mon May 19, 4:54 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Insurgents are crossing from Pakistan into Afghanistan, where attacks have spiked in recent weeks, hidden among hundreds of families that make the trip daily, the NATO force here said Monday.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is using a range of intelligence and surveillance systems to detect the rebels to thwart attacks along the eastern frontier, an ISAF spokesman told AFP.

"There is already a good ISAF presence along the border," General Carlos Branco told AFP, adding that the number of troops may have increased but this was not a dramatic rise or necessarily related to the steady increase in rebel activity.

"The border in Regional Command East is crossed daily by families whose members live in both sides," Branco said, referring to several eastern provinces where the insurgency is intense.

"The insurgents use these movements to disguise their activities and intentions.

"But to track their activity, ISAF has a wide range of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems available." he added.

NATO said in Brussels last week the level of attacks in Afghanistan from Pakistan -- where militants have bases -- was up in April by about 52 percent compared with the same period last year.

It urged Pakistan to improve security on the border, where Islamabad says it already has tens of thousands of troops stationed.

Pakistan's new government has also launched negotiations with Taliban militants based in its tribal belt along the border, a move that worries Afghan officials after a 2006 deal in Pakistan saw a spike in attacks in eastern Afghanistan.

Authorities meanwhile said a Pakistani national planning a suicide bombing was captured in the eastern province of Khost on Monday.

"A Pakistani national who was intending a suicide bombing was captured today in Khost," the interior ministry said in a statement. Two suicide vests the man was carrying were also seized, it said in a statement.

The Taliban, ousted from power in Afghanistan in late 2001 for harbouring Osama bin Laden, have been using Pakistan's lawless tribal belt to stage attacks in Afghanistan.

NATO has about 47,000 troops in the ISAF in Afghanistan, with the aim of spreading the rule of the central government and fostering reconstruction in the conflict-torn country.
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Afghan teenage cluster bomb victim battling for ban
by Robin Millard Tue May 20, 2:22 AM ET
DUBLIN (AFP) - Afghan teenager Soraj Ghulam Habib, whose legs were blown off by a cluster bomb, is campaigning hard for a ban on such lethal munitions that would spare other children from his tragic fate.

A 10-year-old boy when the unexploded bomblet left him close to death, Habib, now 17 and wheelchair-bound, is in Dublin to press officials from 109 countries who have gathered to thrash out a landmark ban on cluster bombs.

The conference, due to conclude on May 30, is aiming for a wide-ranging international pact that would completely eliminate the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions among signatories.

Habib's childhood curiosity with a funny-looking object left him a whisker from death, yet another innocent civilian victim of deadly cluster bombs.

"One day, I went out with some of my cousins for a picnic in a public park," the softly-spoken teenager, from Herat province in north-western Afghanistan, told AFP through a Dari-speaking interpreter.

"It was the beginning of New Year in Afghanistan and on the way home, on the sidewalk, I saw a yellow can. I picked it up and wanted to open it. When I threw it down, it exploded."

The same colour as the emergency food parcels air-dropped by US planes, the yellow can was in fact a BLU-97, a sub-munition dropped in a cluster bomb during the US aerial bombing campaign to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

"It's a dangerous weapon but it looks nice, it looks very interesting to a child," he said.

Taken to hospital, the doctors wanted to give the 10-year-old a lethal injection, judging that his life was not worth living given the extent of his injuries.

"He said to my father, 'it's not good for his future life to be like this, let's let him die,'" Habib said.

But the boy's father disagreed and the youth was operated on. A week later, a small piece of sub-munition was found in his stomach, which had entered his body through his leg. Again, the medics operated.

After four months, he was allowed to return home, with daily visits from the doctors. Further operations followed.

The physical horror of his ordeal is visible, but the emotional and social damage is not.

Leaving hospital, the destruction of his childhood became clear.

"Cluster munitions injure but also do not lead us to be in society," Habib said.

"I wanted to go outside and play with my friends, but they did not want to play with me. They said that now I was a wheelchair user, I was not able to do anything."

Fighting his corner, his uncle pushed for him to be allowed in school.

"It was a social problem that nobody would play with me," he said.

"I had a lot of dreams, to do for my friends, my family, my community and my country; it destroyed all my dreams and all my wishes."

He is not the only one whose childhood has been wrecked by cluster bombs. Campaigners say they disproportionately affect civilians, with Handicap International estimating that 60 percent of civilian casualties are children.

"There are a lot of people affected by cluster munitions in Afghanistan, especially in Herat," Habib said.

"In my rehabilitation centre, one of my classmates also lost both his legs."

Habib is clear about the outcome he wants from the talks at Croke Park stadium in Dublin.

"I'm calling on all the states, especially those here, to stop it, join with us and let the children have peace and a life without cluster munitions.

"I hope from this conference that we come out with good results to save future lives," he said.

"It's the responsibility of those countries ... save the lives of children and give them a brilliant future."

Habib now works in Herat with the Kabul-based ALSO, the Afghan Landmine Survivors' Organisation.

"I try to bring back the dreams I had before: to work hard and offer the help that I can to my people, my community and my country," he said.
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US: 500 youths detained in Iraq; 10 in Afghanistan
By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN, Associated Press Writer Mon May 19, 4:47 PM ET
NEW YORK - The U.S. military is holding about 500 juveniles in detention centers in Iraq, and has about 10 detained at the U.S. base at Bagram, Afghanistan, the United States has told the United Nations.

A total of 2,500 youths under the age of 18 have been detained, almost all in Iraq, for periods up to a year or more in President Bush's anti-terrorism campaign since 2002, the United States reported last week to the U.N.'s Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Civil liberties groups such as the International Justice Network and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) denounced the detentions as abhorrent, and a violation of U.S. treaty obligations.

In the periodic report to the United Nations on U.S. compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United States confirmed that "as of April 2008, the United States held about 500 juveniles in Iraq."

"The juveniles that the United States has detained have been captured engaging in anti-coalition activity, such as planting Improvised Explosive Devices, operating as lookouts for insurgents, or actively engaged in fighting against U.S. and Coalition forces," the U.S. report said.

The majority are believed to be 16 or 17 years old. In the United States a 17-year-old can enlist in the U.S. army, with parental consent.

The report said that of the total of 2,500 juveniles jailed since 2002, all but 100 had been picked up in Iraq. Of the remainder, most were swept up in Afghanistan.

The U.S. military says it has held eight juveniles, ages 13-17, at Guantanamo since the detention center opened in 2002.

"It remains uncertain the exact age of these individuals, as most of them did not know their date of birth or even the year they were born," the report says. But U.S. military doctors who evaluated them believed that three were under age 16.

Six were released and two are now adults facing war-crimes charges.

Canadian Omar Khadr, now 21, was captured in July 2002 and is charged with murder for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. special forces soldier. Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who the military says is about 23, faces charges of attempted murder for a 2002 grenade attack that wounded two U.S. soldiers.

In Afghanistan, "as of April 2008, there are approximately 10 juveniles being held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility as unlawful enemy combatants," the report said.

In Bagram, a U.S. military spokesman, Marine 1st Lt. Richard K. Ulsh, told the AP on Sunday: "At any time there are up to 625 detainees being held at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. There are no detainees being held under the age of 16 and, without getting into specifics due to the frequent fluctuation in the number of detainees being held, we can tell you that there are currently less than 10 detainees being held under the age of 18."

Civil liberties groups were outraged.

"It's shocking to me that the U.S. government has not figured out a way to keep children out of adult prisons. It's outrageous, and it is not making us any safer, I can say that about Afghanistan from personal experience," Tina M. Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, said Sunday.

Her group brought lawsuits on behalf of the Guantanamo detainees in 2006, and has taken on the cases of adult detainees in Bagram. She said the U.S. military does not release the names of juveniles it is holding in Bagram, so her group is trying to learn who they are by finding Afghan relatives.

"It is shocking to know that the U.S. is holding hundreds of juveniles in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even more disturbing that there is no comprehensive policy in place that will protect their rights as children," Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Human Rights Program, said in a statement. "Juveniles and former child soldiers should be treated first and foremost as candidates for rehabilitation and reintegration into society, not subjected to further victimization."

"Although age is not a determining factor in whether or not we detain an individual under the law of armed conflict, we go to great lengths to attend to the special needs of juveniles while they are in detention," the U.S. report said.

According to the ACLU, the lack of protections and consideration for the juvenile status of detainees violates the obligations of the U.S. under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict that the U.S. ratified in 2002, as well as universally accepted international norms.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child is scheduled to question the U.S. delegation on its compliance with its obligations on May 22 in Geneva.

The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the General Assembly in 1989, with backing at the time from the U.S. government of President Bill Clinton, and with strong lobbying from then-first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who now is competing for the Democratic Party presidential nomination with Barack Obama.
___

Associated Press writer Fisnik Abrashi contributed to this report from Kabul, Afghanistan.

___

On the Web:

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child questions and U.S. responses:

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/crc/docs/AdvanceVersions/CRC.C.OPAC.USA

.Q1.Add1.doc

International Justice Network:

http://www.ijnetwork.org/content/view/73/38/

American Civil Liberties Union:

http://www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/35286prs20080514.html

(This version CORRECTS that two detainees first held as juveniles remain at Guantanamo.)
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Canadian aid group helps Afghan women learn sewing, business skills
Mon May 19, 4:42 PM
WINNIPEG (CBC) - A Canadian aid group is supporting a program in Kandahar that helps about 100 Afghan women learn to sew and get a start in a small business.

Launched a few months ago, the Afghan government-run program started as a way to teach women how to sew.

Officials with a Canadian aid organization called Development Works took notice and hired the women to sew about 100 vests for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). That led to another contract for another 1,200 vests and knapsacks.

The director of Women's Affairs in Kandahar province says the program shows women can be successful at business.

"We have some women here who ... can run a big business. This is the beginning. And we can show that women can do what men can do," Ruma Tareen said, through a translator.

The business offers Afghan women a rare opportunity to earn a living, she said.

"You know, in Afghanistan, the women are not given opportunities, especially in Kandahar City, the women are not allowed to go out and work," she said.

Tareen says the new business is facing the same kind of issues most new businesses face. While the government funding pays for materials and salaries, there's no money left over for advertising.

"We need some advertisements, just like commercial advertisements. So the neighbouring countries, or outside countries can see what they can make. When they see it, I'm sure they will buy it," Tareen said.

She says she's hopeful the business will one day be able to export products to Canada.
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Seesaw Afghan war strains ties among allies
By Carlotta Gall The International Herald Tribune Tuesday, May 20, 2008
KHAKREZ, Afghanistan: Last autumn, groups of Taliban fighters swarmed into every village in this district in southern Afghanistan. U.S. forces arrived to sweep them out in January, people here say. By April, the Taliban were back, surrounding the district center in a show of force that froze villagers in their tracks. Then the insurgents melted away again.

Khakrez, two hours north of the city of Kandahar, is just one corner of a complex war in Afghanistan. But the seesaw nature of the fight here speaks to the larger problems facing NATO and U.S. forces seven years into a conflict that shows few signs of winding down.

Increasingly, the question before the allies is how much longer it will take in crucial provinces, like Kandahar, to lock in tentative gains and bring real security and strong government to Afghans. An equally important question is whether that can be done before the war wears down relations within the U.S.-led alliance, and between the alliance and the Afghan people.

"No one claims this is going to be a year of full stabilization or even declining violence, let alone an end to the conflict," said Christopher Alexander, deputy special representative for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

But, he added, "there is a different picture in different places," which makes it extremely difficult to gauge progress in the war and has helped generate diverging views of the conflict among Afghan officials and their U.S. and NATO allies.

NATO and other Western officials in Afghanistan say that the Taliban are weakened and that the Afghan forces and government are slowly growing stronger. But some U.S. officials also talk of an insurgency and drug-related criminality that are expanding. The public perception, too, is that things are getting worse.

It does not help that NATO members are working at different speeds in the various parts of the country where they operate. Each ally strikes its own balance between fighting and peacekeeping.

Meanwhile, the insurgent forces fluctuate, surging into places and then melting away.

With the arrival of spring and a new fighting season, some local officials say NATO must move faster to strike the Taliban while the insurgents are weak, to prevent another summer surge and to gain people's confidence. Frightened people will not support the government while it remains so weak, they say.

"This is the time to do something, to move against them," said Hajji Agha Lalai, who runs the Kandahar branch of the Afghan peace and reconciliation commission, which seeks to persuade members of the Taliban to give up fighting. "But I don't know what they are doing," he said of NATO forces.

That sense of frustration extends to U.S. and NATO officials watching the war from Western capitals, who complain that two years after a Taliban surge, NATO members are struggling to keep up their commitments and fashion a unified approach to the war.

The U.S. military, already stretched by maintaining 140,000 troops in Iraq, just sent 3,000 marines to Afghanistan, most of them to bolster NATO forces in the south.

Increasingly, NATO allies, who are under growing pressure to bring troops home, are balking at sending soldiers to reinforce the 65,000 foreign troops - 34,000 of them American - already in the country. Senior Bush administration officials say they may send an additional 7,000 U.S. troops next year to fill the gap.

The strains come after the war's bloodiest year. The fighting killed more than 8,000 people in 2007, among them 1,500 civilians, according to the United Nations. The majority of those killed, about 5,000, were insurgents, it says.

The number of insurgent attacks has risen sharply in the past two years, and NATO officials are already reporting an increase in cross-border attacks in the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan's tribal regions. Some U.S. officials interpret that as a sign that the insurgency is expanding.

"It's been sustained in the south, it's grown a bit in the east, and what we've seen are elements of it spread to the west and the north," the director of U.S. national intelligence, Mike McConnell, told a Senate subcommittee in February.

But not all agree that an increase in attacks means the insurgency is growing. In fact, some U.S., NATO and Afghan officials take it as a sign that the Taliban forces are depleted and are now fighting in smaller groups and relying more on ambushes and roadside bombs.

The Afghan intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, disagreed with much of McConnell's analysis, for instance. Saleh, along with Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and senior NATO officials, says that the Taliban are actually weaker, but that the government remains weaker still.

No Afghan official is calling for more foreign troops, but they are calling loudly for help to build up their own security forces, which are much more acceptable to the people and more nimble than foreign forces in the villages.

Large parts of the north and center of the country are peaceful, they point out. Especially in the eastern provinces, where U.S. forces doubled their strength two years ago, more districts are stable, and the fighting has narrowed to smaller pockets, an assessment with which the United Nations concurs.

The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Major General Jeffrey Schloesser, said that while he expected an increase in violent incidents in 2008, the momentum had shifted to the Afghan forces, which were developing well. "Time is no longer on the side of the insurgent," he said recently.

A growing number of Taliban fighters, in fact, are sending signals that they want to lay down their arms, Afghan government officials say. The UN mission in Afghanistan says it, too, has had more Taliban members knocking on its doors, asking what guarantees they can expect from the government and international organizations if they come over to the government.

Those in contact with the government include senior members of the former Taliban government and even the renegade mujahedeen commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who also controls several militant commanders fighting American troops, a senior Afghan official said.

The contacts reflect war weariness among the insurgents, the official said.

Here in the southern provinces, where the Taliban staged a spectacular resurgence in 2006 against incoming NATO troops - mostly Canadians, British and Dutch - local people say they have been badly battered by the fighting, too.

Brigadier General Harm de Jonge, the Dutch deputy commander of the NATO force in southern Afghanistan, said that many local Taliban leaders had been killed over the past year - something Afghan elders and villagers confirmed - and that the effect was apparent.

"You see a kind of fragmentation, a dissynchronization of the Taliban," he said. "There is a lack of logistics in some areas."

Besides taking the fight to the Taliban, a major part of the NATO mission is training and developing the Afghan Army. The Afghans now have four of their own brigades in the south, in each of the most troubled provinces - Kandahar, Helmand, Oruzgan and Zabul - and are leading their own operations in two of them, de Jonge said.

"We are making progress," he said, "but it's going to take quite a long time."

Meanwhile, the insurgency remains dangerous and intractable, fueled by drug trafficking. In the city of Kandahar and in troubled districts like Khakrez, there is fear, uncertainty and displacement among the population.

In Khakrez, the police based in the district center do not leave their compound, villagers said. "People take care of their own security," said Hajji Shah Wali, a local elder.

As the Taliban's forces have been depleted, they have become nastier, Afghan officials say. Younger, more radical commanders have replaced the older mujahedeen leaders who often had strong ties to the communities and would to some extent listen to the tribal elders.

That is less the case now. There have been some sinister disappearances and nighttime killings that indicate a greater ruthlessness among the Taliban, said Hajji Lalai, the head of the peace and reconciliation commission in Kandahar.

"From their posture and appearance, people look worried," he said. "They are wondering what's going to happen."

Elders in Khakrez said that village schools were closing because teachers were afraid to show up. Parents were also keeping their children home, fearing for their safety.

"Last year was a very bad year," said one villager, Ghulam Farouq. "A policeman was killed outside the district center, and he lay in the road for three days and no one dared to pick him up." The governor of Kandahar Province, Asadullah Khaled, who visited the Khakrez district at the end of April, says he is now able to drive to every district of the province, which was not the case last year.

The violence and intimidation have forced more than 10,000 families to flee their homes since March 2007, according to the Afghan Red Crescent Society. The International Committee of the Red Cross has helped nearly 9,000 families - about 60,000 people - displaced by the conflict in southern Afghanistan in 16 months.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Jacob Kellenberger, warned after a recent visit to Kandahar that there were certainly more people in dire need in remote areas who could not be reached.

General de Jonge said the military plan for the south was a "step by step approach," concentrating on the most populated areas first, installing local governments and giving district governors the security and support. Development projects are an important element to show the people that something concrete is being done for them, he said. "We must show to the people in the fields that the government is improving their basic needs," he said.

But the people plead above all for a strong hand. "If the government is strong enough, the Taliban cannot come here," said one farmer, Ismatullah, who uses only one name. "If the government is weak, the people will not support it."
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Iran Urges UN To Secure Interest In Afghan Nation
TEHRAN, May 20 (Bernama) -- Iran on Tuesday urged the United Nations to secure interest of the Afghan nation, its Secretary of Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili, was quoted by Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as saying.

Speaking to Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan Kai Eide, Jalili said that the Afghan nation is suffering from war and devastation over the past three decades.

He outlined Iran's humanitarian assistance to that war-torn country in the past three decades.

The Islamic Republic of Iran enjoys the best possible relations with the Afghan government, he said, stressing that even in the course of its eight-year war with Iraq, Iran was hosting millions of Afghan refugees.

"If instead of dispatching tanks to Afghanistan, the NATO had sent tractors to that country, Afghanistan would have seen more stability and security," Jalili said.

Afghanistan does not need tanks and weapons, but it is in need of humanitarian approach by the big powers and the United Nations, the Iranian diplomat noted.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran considers Afghan stability and security as its own," he said, stressing that Tehran has fulfilled all its commitments to the Afghan reconstruction.

Jalili emphasized that Tehran would continue its constructive cooperation with the UN special representative for Afghanistan.

Eide, for his part, briefed Jalili on his plans and programs in Afghanistan and lauded Iran's stand in terms of Afghan stability and security.

The UN is trying to leave the Afghan affairs, including the reconstruction operations, to the Afghan nation through strengthening the Kabul government, he added.

"Since the Afghan problems are first political and then economic and social, so that military solution is not suitable for them," the UN official reiterated.

Praising Iran's anti-drug campaign, Eide appreciated the Islamic Republic's readiness for cooperation with the United Nations.
-- BERNAMA
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Helmand farmers fight to defend opium crop
Rather than watch their poppy fields being destroyed, growers take up arms alongside the Taleban.
By Mohammad Ilyas Dayee in Helmand (ARR No. 290, 19-May-08)  Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) 19 May 2008
Until recently, the Marja area of Helmand province, close to the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, enjoyed relative peace. The main occupation here is farming, albeit with a specific twist – opium poppies take up almost all the arable land.

The calm ended last month when the Afghan government decided to send “eradication teams” into Marja to destroy the crop.

Local residents say the tougher new line yielded little other than angering and radicalising the farmers.

“Marja used to be a very calm district, but when the [eradication] campaign personnel came here, it turned all the farmers into Taleban fighters,” said Janan, who lives in the Wansi Block area of Marja.

“They all got guns and now they’re fighting alongside the Taleban.”

According to Janan, the fighters successfully held off the eradication teams, sent in by the interior ministry in Kabul and consisting mostly of Afghan National Police officers. The result was that almost none of the crop was destroyed.

"To be honest, I am very happy that the campaign has failed in the Marja district,” said Janan. “We’d lose everything if the Taleban didnt help us. We wouldn’t have anything to eat if our poppy fields were destroyed. I thank God for the Taleban.”

Helmand is the undisputed poppy centre of the world, supplying almost half the raw material for heroin sold on international markets.

In previous years, efforts to eradicate the crop have faltered, largely due to corruption. This year, the government announced a major counter-narcotics initiative, and farmers complained that police were no longer as susceptible to bribery as they used to be.

The Taleban have mounted their own campaign to capitalise on the anger and desperation of Helmand’s farmers. According to local residents, the insurgents have been distributing guns and turning farmers into fighters.

“Residents and farmers were very concerned when the [anti-poppy] campaign people arrived in the Sistani area of Marja,” said Rahimullah Sistani, who lives there.

“The farmers thought they were going to lose their crops, but the Taleban promised them protection. Almost all of the farmers in the Sistani area took guns and stood alongside the Taleban. They started attacking the campaign personnel every night. In five days they were able to defeat this huge campaign, something that we’d thought was out of the question. On the sixth day, the campaign people left Marja.”

Mullah Mohammad Qasem, a local Taleban commander, confirmed that his men were working with the local farmers. He was also quite open about the Taleban using drug money to fund their operations.

“We prevent the destruction of poppy fields because we have bought [weapons] on the black market out of the heroin money,” he told IWPR. “We do whatever will weaken the Afghan and International forces."

The fight has left Marja residents relieved that their crop was saved, but concerned for the future.

“The situation in Marja is very bad,” said Abdul Haq, a man from the Sipan area. “We cannot take our sick to get treatment, for fear of the Taleban fighters and the government.”

Abdul Haq poured scorn on the eradication team, and expressed pride in the resilience of local people.

“The police in the poppy eradication campaign are really incompetent. I never thought they would leave the district this way,” he said. “It is true that the ordinary people are also very powerful. All of Marja’s residents stood up against the poppy eradication campaign. Thank God they [police] left the district, otherwise there would have been a serious battle here.”

A policeman in the Sipan area, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the eradication efforts had failed.

“A huge campaign involving many people came to Marja, but it was unable to confront the Taleban,” he said. “The Taleban in Marja are very strong. They attack us every night. That is the only reason why the campaign failed.”

Mohammad Gul, one of the officers with the poppy eradication force, disagreed.

“It is not true that the Taleban in Marja are strong. The reason we did not eradicate any poppy fields is because we did not receive orders from the interior ministry to launch the campaign. Anywhere we go, we launch our campaign [only] after receiving an order from the centre.”

He admitted that some fighting had taken place, "It is true that we came under attack from Taleban at some points, but that doesn’t mean they were strong enough to confront the campaign forces. I have no idea why we didn’t launch the poppy eradication campaign in Marja district."

Ali Mohammad, who lives in Marja, said the police were lucky to get away with their lives.

“The police had a lot of personnel and many vehicles. I cannot understand why they did not destroy any poppy fields,” he told IWPR. “But the farmers were all saying that they would resist until they were caught or killed. The interior ministry team was lucky to leave quickly.”

The final results of this season’s poppy eradication campaign have yet to be tabulated, but preliminary figures reported by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime suggest that several thousand hectares of land have been destroyed in Helmand, out of at least 100,000 hectares cultivated with the crop. That is at least an improvement on last year, when an area less than 1,000 hectares is believed to have undergone eradication.

The area under cultivation is believed to have remained more or less stable, because there is little more arable land available to grow poppy.

Counter-narcotics officials with Helmand’s provincial government have been conducting their own campaign, and they are proud of the results. They complain, however, that the Afghan interior ministry and the police units it deployed failed to coordinate with them.

“We have destroyed 7,500 hectares of poppy,” said Fazel Ahmad Shirzad, a senior official with the Helmand counter-narcotics department. “I have no idea what the interior ministry’s team has done. They have not been in touch with us.”

Shirzad insisted that his teams were not intimidated by local resistance.

“We don’t care how the farmers react,” he said. “We destroy the poppy at any cost.”

The official expressed some frustration with the extent of the interior ministry’s operation in Marja. They “should not have left. They did not stay in Marja long enough”, he said.

Few topics are as likely to produce such anger as poppy – on either side of the divide. In Helmand’s monoculture economy, almost everyone is involved in some way with the poppy industry, either fostering it or trying to stamp it out.

Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, Helmand’s chief of police, gave a rousing speech when the season’s eradication campaign kicked off, saying, “This time we will use all of our resources and destroy all of the poppy.”

His police then launched a campaign, which, according to farmers, was fierce and efficient.

Mohammad Ismail, a resident of Babaji village, lost his fields to Andiwal’s men.

“The municipal team is very cruel,” he said bitterly. “They destroyed my lands. We were able to give them money last year, but this year they didn’t take bribes.”

The resolute campaign pursued by the provincial administration may have set the scene for the Taleban’s success in Marja. The uncompromising nature of the eradication effort, contrasting with the more malleable approach seen in past years, clearly angered the farmers and spurred them to take up arms – and find allies where they could.

“The campaign destroyed lands belonging to pro-government farmers,” said Ali Shah Mazlumyar, a tribal elder from the area. “Then the Taleban showed those farmers that they could protect them. So even the pro-government farmers took up arms and stood with the Taleban when the interior ministry came.”

Many growers are grateful for the respite brought by the withdrawal of the government team.

“Thank God the campaign in Marja did not destroy any fields,” said Mohammad Ibrahim, a shopkeeper in Marja, who said he has ten jeribs of land under poppy, equivalent to 20,000 square metres.

“I have heard that the campaign in Nad Ali was conducted by a local police team who destroyed the poppy completely. Thank God there’s been no such campaign in Marja.”

Mohammad Ilyas Dayee is an IWPR-trained journalist in Helmand.
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Westerners Play Pivotal Role in Afghan Rebuilding
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR
Morning Edition, May 20, 2008 · U.S. Navy Cmdr. Larry Legree spent a year fighting insurgents in Kunar, a mountainous province northeast of Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.

He didn't do it with guns. Instead, Legree, former head of Kunar's provincial reconstruction team, used development to undermine insurgents and win over residents.

Take, for instance, two bridges being built across the Kunar River.

Legree says once completed, the bridges will connect residents of this isolated part of the province along Pakistan's border with the rest of Afghanistan — and that the bridges will trigger a chain reaction.

"We've seen it everywhere else. Once we build roads through these valleys and we build bridges that connect population areas, economics just go through the roof," Legree says.

Once people are living above bare subsistence — where they are susceptible to Taliban influences — they begin to care about "starting a small business, selling excess commodities and getting to secondary and tertiary markets," he says.

The projects also provide badly needed employment in Kunar. Plus, workers earn the equivalent of $5 a day, a decent salary by local standards.

The Military and Development

The Kunar provincial reconstruction team, or PRT, is one of about two dozen in Afghanistan, mostly run by officers from NATO countries in far-flung provinces. They are the face of Western development aid for millions of Afghans.

Nowadays, these teams work closely with local Afghan leaders, letting them propose and vet projects, which the military then reviews and funds.

Since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, the country has received billions in foreign aid. But many challenges face those trying to rebuild the war-torn country — including the many Westerners involved in the effort.

For example, the PRTs have many Western critics who argue the military shouldn't be in the development business. They say experienced civilian agencies are better equipped for the job.

And unlike the military teams, civilians don't leave Afghans with the impression that foreign soldiers are in charge.

The military counters that civilian aid organizations refuse to go to unsafe areas where the PRTs are.

The Kunar team regularly fires its howitzer at insurgent positions in the Korengal Valley several miles away.

The militants, with local help, make Kunar one of the more dangerous places for U.S. troops in Afghanistan — even though the Americans are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing this province.

Legree's successor is Cmdr. Dan Dwyer. The Navy pilot firmly believes the PRTs must stay and continue developing volatile areas like Kunar.

"We can't have governance, we can't have security, if people can't move around their own backyard," Dwyer says.

U.S. Agencies' 'Tremendous Responsibility'

Spending vastly more than the PRTs on reconstruction is the U.S. Agency for International Development, which tackles long-term projects, many of them in dangerous areas.

One example is Afghanistan's "ring road," which is to be finished next year. It's a paved beltway designed to connect key Afghan cities to each other and neighboring countries.

Yet many Afghan officials grumble that USAID does not consult with them enough on projects or contracts. They say America may be the country that donates the most money to Afghanistan, but it is also the one that gives Afghans the least control.

U.S. officials argue that there hasn't been anyone for them to turn the projects over to, that the Afghan government needs to develop more capacity, and that corruption is too rampant for the agency to simply hand over the pot of money.

Susan de Camp is the U.S. agency's representative in Khost province, southeast of Kabul. She notes that USAID has a "tremendous responsibility."

"[USAID] is the development arm of the U.S. government. And accountability is first and foremost. Failure is not an option. One bad project and your whole reputation is down the tubes. … It doesn't matter if you have 500 projects out there," de Camp says.

She and others say strict accounting standards and a dearth of qualified Afghan companies have led the U.S. agency to hire foreign contractors to do much of the work. The for-profit companies, in turn, subcontract with regional or local laborers to build the projects.

Report: U.S. Wasting Aid Money

Many people involved in aid work here criticize that approach. One controversial report released this year by Oxfam, a leading British charity, accused the Americans of wasting development money.

Anja de Beer heads the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, a nongovernmental organization in Kabul that provided the research for the report.

De Beer notes that a large portion of USAID money goes to big for-profit companies — which results in much of the money going back to the donor country through profits, consultant salaries, and procurement regulations under which materials are not necessarily purchased in Afghanistan.

Many donors have rejected the report's findings, accusing the authors of using faulty numbers and wanting more development money for their own agencies. They also preach patience to Afghans, saying that building their country from the ground up takes time.

Christopher Dell, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, says people tend to forget how bad conditions were in the past.

He points to the fact that in 2001, Afghanistan had only 15 phone lines that could call the outside world. Now, the country has several million mobile phone subscribers who can call anywhere.

Nonetheless, the newly arrived United Nations special envoy, Kai Eide, says it would be wrong to ignore the Oxfam report.

He says the report "pointed the finger at exactly the right problems: how do we manage to spend our money better, how can we leave more money in this country, how can we develop Afghan capabilities better because they have to be developed if our efforts are to be sustainable?"

Some of those answers may come at a conference in Paris next month. There, the Afghan government is planning to ask donors for $50 billion to implement its first nationwide strategy for development.
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Bush asks Gillani, Karzai to jointly combat terror
May 20, 2008
Islamabad (PTI): US President George W Bush has asked his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai and Pakistan premier Yousuf Raza Gillani to work jointly to combat terrorism in the region, a leading Pakistan daily reported on Tuesday.

The Federally Administered Tribal Areas in north-west Pakistan, which remain a hot bed for Taliban militants, also figured in the talks between US President and Gillani, a White House official said while briefing newsmen on the meetings Bush held with the two leaders in Egypt last week.

"Well, the president's message has remained consistent, that we have to work with our allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan to confront the dangers that we all face mutually," Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel said when asked what message Bush conveyed to the two leaders.

The official Voice of America radio had also reported that US conveyed its opposition to peace talks with tribal militants in NWFP, initiated by the new government in Pakistan at the Bush-Gillani meeting.

The two leaders had not publicly addressed the issue while speaking to reporters after their talks, Dawn newspaper said.

Earlier transcripts released by the White House indicated that the Bush-Gillani talks also focused on insurgency in the tribal areas.

Referring to a US National Intelligence Estimate, released last year, Stanzel said it talked at length about "our concerns with terrorism taking root" in the Pakistan's FATA areas bordering Afghanistan.

Talking about the meetings on sidelines of the World Economic Forum, the White House official noted that the three nations agreed to continue working together.
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Afghan MPs protest Koran desecration in Iraq
(AFP) 20 May 2008 via Khaleej Times
KABUL - A number of Afghan MPs walked out of parliament on Tuesday to protest at the shooting of the Muslim holy book the Koran by an American soldier in Iraq, demanding the troop be tried, witnesses said.

US President George W. Bush has already apologised to Iraq over the incident on March 11 in which the Koran was riddled with bullets, according to Iraqi authorities.

About 70 lawmakers took part in the protest on Tuesday, according to the witnesses.

"The people of Afghanistan can tolerate anything but we would never tolerate insult to our religion and the Koran," said Sliman Yari, a member of the upper house of the Afghan parliament.

"The soldier who has committed this unforgivable crime must be tried," said another MP, Arsala Jamal, as others shouted "Down with Americans, down with the infidels."

US military authorities have apologised to the local community west of Baghdad where the incident took place. They described it as "both serious and deeply troubling," but stressed it was an "isolated incident and a result of one soldier's action."

The United States, which toppled the Taliban regime in 2001, has a military presence in Afghanistan and is fighting an Islamist insurgency by Taliban loyalists.
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Wheat flour shortage affects Afghan refugees in Balochistan
MUHAMMAD KHAIL, Pakistan, May 19 (UNHCR) – Images of people queuing in front of utility stores late last year to buy wheat flour was still fresh in everyone's memories when another food crisis emerged recently in Pakistan. The shortage of food and the skyrocketing prices have multiplied problems of the already poverty-stricken Afghan refugees and needy locals living in south-western Pakistan.

Muhammad Khail is one of the poorest Afghan refugee villages in Balochistan province. It is just 116 kilometres from the provincial capital of Quetta, but takes three hours by car to reach due to poor road conditions. The majority of the inhabitants here used to be nomads, with limited skills to meet their daily needs. The current food shortage has affected Muhammad Khail more than any other village due to its isolated location from urban settlements.

"One can live without tea, meat, rice and vegetables, but how can one live without wheat flour? This is the only luxury we have, which now seems out of our reach," said Haji Gulab, a 50-year-old Afghan in Muhammad Khail.

The flour shortage that emerged in Pakistan late last year has resulted in food price inflation. Reports indicate that wheat prices have gone up by 130 percent in the first quarter of this year in Pakistan, due partly to rising global fuel prices and increased demand for food commodities.

"A bag of 20-kilogramme flour is being sold at 420 rupees (US$6.70) to 560 rupees, whereas the government fixed rate was 380 rupees," said an exasperated Jan Muhammad, 55, in Muhammad Khail. "Such a small amount of flour is hardly enough for three to four days; what would we eat the rest of month?"

Earlier this year in February, the government of Pakistan deployed one of the border security forces, the Frontier Corps (FC), within cities to halt flour smuggling to Afghanistan and to ensure the fair and smooth distribution of flour to consumers.

"The FC was providing flour to those who produced their Pakistani National Identity Cards, which we don't have. We are very grateful to our Pakistani brothers, who purchased the flour and sold it to us," said an Afghan working as a daily wage labourer. "But they cannot help us anymore, because the flour is so scarce that they hardly feed their families."

Muhammad Khail is home to some 6,000 registered Afghans. The majority of the men are daily wage labourers or run small grocery shops. Their monthly average income is approximately 3,500 to 4,000 Pakistan rupees (US$56-US$64).

"We are unable to go to the cities [to buy flour] due to the increase in transport fares; they say that the increase in the fuel prices has resulted in a price hike. Rice, beans, meat, edible oil, milk and flour, the price of each item has increased so that now one can buy them in dreams only," lamented Haji Gulab.

"The wheat flour situation at Muhammad Khail may be an extreme example because of its isolated location," noted John Solecki, head of the UNHCR office in the provincial capital, Quetta. "However, the situation facing the residents in Muhammad Khail is indicative of some of the challenges faced by Afghans [and locals] elsewhere in Balochistan."

The UN refugee agency is working with the local authorities to alleviate the wheat flour shortage facing Afghans in Balochistan's most remote refugee villages. The Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees is hopeful that it will soon be able to bring flour to Muhammad Khail and Malgagai refugee villages.

Until then, the daily struggle to survive continues. "For our survival we are now forced to make flour out of the substandard wheat and grain that we once fed our animals, because we can't afford to buy expensive flour," said Haji Gulab. "I can go hungry for days, but I can't see my children dying of hunger."
By Duniya Aslam Khan In Muhammad Khail, Pakistan
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India to help Afghanistan set up local government agencies
Kabul, May 19 (IANS) India has pledged to help Afghanistan set up local government institutions by deputing Indian experts here as well as by attaching Afghan local representatives with Indian local governance bodies.

This was decided during Panchayati Raj Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar's four-day visit beginning Saturday. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on the first day of the visit, envisaging the setting up of an India-Afghanistan Joint Working Group (JWG) on Local Governance. The JWG will include officials from the Panchayati Raj ministry and the National Institute of Rural Development, Hyderabad, as well as the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and Independent Directorate of Local Governance. It will recommend a schedule of activities for bilateral exchanges to the Joint Forum on Local Governance. Aiyar met Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) director general Jelani Popal Sunday and discussed synergies between the Panchayati Raj, the local governance system in India, and the proposed sub-national governance structures and processes in Afghanistan.

The Indian embassy here said in a statement that they discussed support to Afghanistan by way of deputation of Indian policy and legal experts for formulating sub-national policy and legislation. 'It was agreed that a select number of sub-national representatives will be suitably placed with Panchayati Raj bodies in various parts of India for gaining first-hand knowledge of the working of the local self-governance system,' it said. Aiyar Monday participated in a brain-storming symposium on sub-national governance under the aegis of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 'During the session, the decentralization experiences of the two countries were shared, common sub-national governance issues identified as well as ways determined in which the Indian experience could complement the emerging sub-national structures in Afghanistan,' said the statement.
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WFP trucks attacked in Afghanistan
KABUL, May 19 (Xinhua) -- An aid convoy of the UN World Food Program (WFP) has been attacked by militants in south Afghanistan, the UN Assistant Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Monday.

A convoy of 79 commercial trucks loaded with WFP food left southern Afghan city of Kandahar for western Herat and Nimroz provinces on May 17, Aleem Siddique, a UNAMA spokesman told a weekly press briefing here.

"The convoy, which was escorted by the Afghan National Police, was attacked by anti-government elements using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades on the main ring road in Maiwand district of Kandahar province," he said.

In the attack, he added, two trucks loaded with WFP food were hit by rocket-propelled grenades and burned down, which resulted in the loss of 84 tons of wheat for 10,500 people.

"Thankfully, no human casualties have been reported," the UNAMAspokesman further said.

In a separate incident on May 8, a commercial truck with 48 tons of WFP wheat for 6,000 people went missing on the way from Kandahar to Herat, he added.

According to WFP, more than 30 attacks against commercial vehicles or convoys carrying WFP food were reported in 2007 and a total of 870 tons of food, valued at 730,000 U.S. dollars, were lost last year.

In at least four of the incidents last year, vehicle crew members and Afghan police escorts were either killed or wounded.

Condemning the "unscrupulous theft and pointless destruction" of life-saving food aid, Siddique said, "This is particularly upsetting in light of the current food security situation we are facing in Afghanistan." He said UNAMA wanted an immediate end to the attacks.
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Policemen arrested for murdering wife and son
www.quqnoos.com Written by M Reza Sher Mohammadi Monday, 19 May 2008
Police say man shot dead wife and son before fleeing scene
A POLICEMAN has been arrested for shooting dead his wife and son in the centre of Herat City after a family row erupted in their home, a police spokesman has said.

Deputy spokesman for the western police force, Abdul Mutalib Ras, said the policeman may have been smoking drugs when he allegedly shot his wife and son yesterday (Sunday).

The unnamed policeman was captured in the city after trying to escape and is now in prison, police said.

Also in Herat, four unknown gunmen kidnapped an Herati, Haji Rahmudin, on the highway that ends in the province’s Gulran district, police said.

The four men stopped the man’s car before dragging him out of the vehicle and pushing him inside their own car, leaving the rest of his family alone.
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From Afghanistan to Cannes: how Jude Law joined film-maker's campaign for a world day of peace
Ten-year drive to spread the word started in a field near Salisbury
Loads more coverage from Cannes Mark Brown in Cannes Tuesday May 20, 2008 The Guardian
It was the day movie celebrity met world peace. Jude Law yesterday swept into the Cannes film festival to explain why he was helping a documentary-maker who for the last 10 years has campaigned for an official day of ceasefire and non-violence.

Law said he had become a "sounding board" and "therapist" to campaigner Jeremy Gilley and ended up travelling with him to Afghanistan to help spread his message for a world peace day to be held every year, on September 21.

By any standards it has been a remarkable campaign. From having the idea in a field in Salisbury 10 years ago, Gilley has been on an almost manic one-man mission to travel the world and garner support. A UN resolution was passed in 2001 to support the day and it helped to lead to more than 1.4 million children in Afghanistan being vaccinated against polio.

Throughout his campaigning and travelling Gilley has been filming, and the result is the documentary The Day After Peace, which had its world premiere in Cannes last night.

Law and Gilley explained their motives at a somewhat incongruous venue - a lavish, high-security hotel marquee on the Cannes beach, a place of private yachts, champagne and money.

The actor said he had got involved because it was a simple, powerful message and because it was also about film. "I make films and he uses film to spread this message."

He said he wanted to go to Afghanistan to "feel, smell and see" for himself what was happening there.

"Feeling first-hand the presence of the frontline, being able to feel the hope of the people. There's a very cynical, violent image of Afghanistan and of course there is the frontline there, but there's a massive amount of reconstruction and hope."

He said it was not just about persuading politicians about the cause - it was about negotiating with people on the ground. Law said everyone could do something on the day of peace and challenged one questioner: "What are you going to do on September 21, mate? It's easy. You apologise to someone you've upset, you say thank you to someone or you get a group of people together and you recognise peace. It's like turning it into a birthday, or turning it into a party of sorts."

In the documentary, Gilley and Law are filmed chatting, with the former saying he is going to Afghanistan.

"I'm not doing anything in July. Which eight days?" asks Law.

July 20-28, replies Gilley.

"Are you serious?" says Law.

"If you want to come, then come," says Gilley.

Gilley has also gathered support from big business such as Coca-Cola, Puma and Ben & Jerry's, and he explores the ethics of that in the film.

The campaign began after Gilley read a book by Frank Barnaby saying that the media had a special responsibility to be careful about what images and thoughts they string together. From that he had the idea of a world peace day - and making a film about it.

He describes the day the then UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, was due to make an announcement on the UN's support - it was September 11 2001, and there is footage of the event being postponed as it becomes clear that something awful has happened nearby.

The mass polio vaccination in Afghanistan came about after talks with Unicef and the World Health Organisation.

Gilley said he hoped his film would inspire and empower young people to believe that they could do something - everybody can do something, he said.

"You can be an ordinary person with no qualifications and you can have an idea that could save people's lives."
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AFGHANISTAN: NATO ALLIES EXPERIENCING "BATTLE FATIGUE"
EurasiaNet, NY Richard Weitz 5/19/08 A EurasiaNet Commentary
In early April, NATO allies reaffirmed their commitment to Afghanistan’s democratization process, issuing a statement that proclaimed the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul to be the alliance’s "top priority." Nevertheless, a growing number of Afghans, Europeans, and Americans involved in counter-insurgency operations privately profess that they are war-weary. This dichotomy is raising the possibility that many foreign actors involved in Afghanistan are willing to scale back reconstruction objectives in order to end the fighting, declare victory, and leave.

Speculation is rising that both President Hamid Karzai’s administration and the Western allies, who shoulder the burden of fighting Islamic radical insurgents, are entertaining notions of a negotiated settlement. For Karzai, the yearning for such a settlement is nothing new. He’s been probing for one for the past several years. In 2007, for example, Karzai repeatedly offered to negotiate with a variety of opponents, including; "moderate" Taliban leaders; renegade warlord commanders, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has been designated a terrorist by the US State Department; and other elements. Karzai’s single condition for talks is that his interlocutor(s) agree to end armed operations and embrace the basic tenets of the Afghan constitution. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

If "they would want a position in the government," Karzai said during a September 2007 news conference, referring to his armed enemies, "I will give them a position." Observers speculate that Karzai might be interested in securing a peace agreement with the Taliban to bolster his flagging support before Afghanistan’s upcoming presidential elections.

It’s only been in recent months that the negotiating interest of Western allies appears to have picked up. And even then, many Western states seem conflicted about the idea of talking to Islamic insurgents. This point was illustrated clearly in late April and early May, when reports began circulation that Canadian officers in southern Kandahar Province, a Taliban hotspot, were reportedly opening channels of communication with the insurgents. Those reports were swiftly denied, however, by Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay.

Thus far, Taliban leaders have insisted on wide-ranging government concessions as a pre-condition for negotiations, including political control over 10 southern provinces, the withdrawal of all foreign troops backing the Karzai government, and the release of Taliban prisoners. Such steep demands are, for now, precluding the possibility of substantive discussions.

In Pakistan, government officials have actively engaged Islamic militant elements in the hopes of stabilizing the country’s volatile tribal areas, located along the border with Afghanistan. Islamabad has suggested that a truce with the militants would help pacify Afghanistan, but NATO leaders have argued the opposite; that allowing the Taliban to secure their rear areas would lead to an increase in operations inside Afghanistan.

The wide gulf separating Karzai’s administration from the militants has led some experts to endorse pursuing a network of local settlements, rather than a single national coalition government that would have to include both Karzai and his diverse opponents. These analysts believe that granting some local warlords and Taliban leaders formal or de facto control of Afghanistan’s most unstable provinces would recognize the reality of the limited powers of the Karzai government – which U.S. intelligence believes controls only 30 percent of the country. Such a solution also could satisfy the many Taliban who are believed to be fighting mainly for money, influence, or other non-ideological/theological reasons.

Skeptics of de facto political regionalization argue that the experience in 2007 with a short-lived Taliban administration in the southern Afghan city of Musa Qala demonstrates that even major concessions will not moderate Taliban demands. After hard-pressed British commanders accepted the Taliban’s de facto occupation of the town, the group began to implement in Musa Qala the kinds of extremist social and political policies that had marked Taliban rule before September 2001.

After Afghan and foreign troops recaptured Musa Qala, the Afghan government selected a former Taliban commander who had switched sides before the battle as its senior envoy there. Mullah Abdul Salaam, the new district chief of Musa Qala, argues that his appointment would encourage further Taliban defections.

Opponents of formal regional settlements note the problems that Pakistani authorities have encountered while negotiating with militants in South Waziristan and other unstable regions along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Recurring difficulties have included differing interpretations of agreed terms, the refusal of all insurgent groups to embrace a settlement and the reluctance of extremists to curtail insurgent use of their territory for cross-border operations into Afghanistan.

Another problem in Pakistan, which would also bedevil any Afghan settlement, is how to deal with groups professing allegiance to al-Qaeda. Afghan, Pakistani, and Western officials still consider the organization an irreconcilable and unacceptable negotiating partner, but its elements retain support among many Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Determining an appropriate Eurasian regional framework in which to address the Afghan conflict also remains a contentious issue. American and European counterinsurgency experts have long recognized the need to work with Pakistan to curtail the movement of insurgents across the Afghan-Pakistan border. They are also eager to expand the role of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions that could contribute to Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction.

Yet, when Kai Eide, the newly appointed UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, was asked last month at a presentation at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington: "Is there any chance of a possible future to see NATO troops replace by UN troops?" Eide replied that, "I think the answer to that is no" because the United Nations lacks NATO’s unique command structure and force generation system.

Eide also argued that any political settlement should preserve the civil rights Afghans have achieved since 2001, including female education and other developments opposed by the Taliban. The 2001 Bonn Agreement, the 2006 London Compact, and NATO’s April 2008 Bucharest Declaration list a range of political, economic, and social objectives for Afghanistan that stand in direct conflict with Taliban policies.

While perhaps hoping for an early exit from Afghanistan, NATO nevertheless continues to plan for a protracted stay. In an effort to achieve a significant reduction in the cost of reconstruction, the Atlantic alliance is pressing ahead with an inter-continental rail link that would enhance the movement of reconstruction assistance from Europe to Afghanistan. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

Editor’s Note: Richard Weitz is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.
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Goat-rearing Afghan nomads inspire U.S. designer
By Luke Baker Tue May 20, 2:35 AM ET
KABUL, May 20 (Reuters Life!) - On the face of it, the Kuchi nomads of Afghanistan, a tribal people accustomed to rearing goats, are not a straight-forward fit for high-end fashion.

But their intricate embroidery, jewellery and clothing, with pieces of metal or coins sewn into the fabric, are designed to catch the eye -- and that's exactly what they've done for American accessories and clothes designer Elizabeth Muir.

Muir has spent much of the past year in Afghanistan, trawling the bazaars, leather workshops and artisan markets of Kabul, drawing inspiration for a fresh collection.

And during those hours of exploration, what drew her the most were the colors and vibrancy of the nomads' clothing.

"I just love the Kuchis," she says enthusiastically.

"They're like the gypsies of Afghanistan. I love their jewellery and their textiles. When I was going to the bazaars and artisan shops, the stuff I really gravitated towards was the fabric and embroidery of the Kuchis."

Along with other influences, including traditional Afghan wedding clothes with their highly detailed embroidery, and the purity and simplicity of Afghan cotton, Muir started sketching designs and putting together a collection.

While a successful accessories designer in the United States -- her glitzy, eye-catching belt buckles are worn by rock stars and country singers -- clothing was a new departure for Muir.

With long experience in central Asia, her day job in Afghanistan is as a consultant on international development for an American company, and so design was an after-hours pursuit.

Still, she pulled together the fabrics and designs, found a factory run by an Afghan woman employing Afghan war widows to stitch the clothing, and slowly the collection took shape.

"It took time. They didn't always get it the way I wanted first time, but we worked together and in the end it was great," says Muir, 39, a Washington, DC native.

MIAMI FASHION
In October last year, she showed her first pieces on the catwalk at Fashion Fights Poverty, a U.N.-sponsored event in Washington. The reception was good and she was invited to show a fuller collection at Miami Fashion Week, held last month.

Returning to Kabul she really got down to work, coordinating with leather workers and other artisans to source the materials and craft more designs. All went to plan until she flew from Kabul to the United States with the collection in her luggage.

"I was in New York and my luggage was lost somewhere in Dubai," she says, grimacing at the memory.

She flew to Miami anyway and somehow the airline managed to ship the undamaged collection to her hotel with hours to spare.

Miami was again well received and she's now looking at showing a collection in Milan and getting the designs into boutiques in Los Angeles, across Europe and Dubai.

"I feel like Dubai is really the place where it's going to take off, not necessarily because it's in the Middle East, but because Dubai is just really booming. I think from a fashion and a business point of view, it's going to be huge."

Back in Kabul once again, Muir is focusing on leather and on incorporating Afghan stones into her next designs.

"It's easy to get ideas and be inspired here," she says. "My dream would be to expand it so that it becomes an alternative livelihood for the people, and the artisans really benefit."
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)
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Poll reveals 'alarming' lack of AIDS awareness
Written by www.quqnoos.com Monday, 19 May 2008
Red Crescent says 'dangerous misconceptions' exist
MORE than half of Kabul’s students believe victims of the deadly HIV virus should be isolated from their communities, with more than one third arguing that sufferers should be banned from work and school.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society’s (ARCS) poll of 570 students from 27 of the capital’s high schools found many people had “dangerous misconceptions” about how AIDS is transmitted.

The ARCS said: “Alarmingly, many students do not know how to behave towards someone infected with HIV/AIDS. A large segment, 39%, believed that these people should not be allowed to go to school or work.”

It said students, parents and even health workers were ill-informed about the disease.

The ARCS’s health delegate in Kabul, Pitambar Aryal, said: "We now have accurate knowledge about the level of misinformation and information gaps at various levels of Afghan society and this will enable us to tailor our future program accordingly."

The ARCS plans to implement an HIV/AIDS prevention program targeting school age adolescents in Kabul.

Data on AIDS in Afghanistan is sparse, but the World Bank says about 245 cases of HIV have been reported to date and that what it call’s Afghanistan’s “emerging epidemic” is triggered by injecting drugs and unsafe paid sex.

A 2006 study found three per cent of Kabul addicts who injected drugs were HIV positive.

The World Bank says about 32% of these addicts have gay sex with men and boys, with 69% paying for sex.

The World Health Organisation and UNAIDS estimate that there could be between 1,000 and 2,000 Afghans living with HIV.
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Canadians play up common cultural grounds with Afghans
National Post, Canada Ryan Cormier Canwest News Service Monday, May 19, 2008
SHAH WALI KOT, Afghanistan -Canadian soldiers are striving to find common ground with Afghans along cultural lines as the Taliban begin to launch attacks that shatter those same boundaries.

Troops in C-Company adhere to the concept of ‘nang aow namoos,' which has no literal translation, but is based on dignity, honour and family.

Maj. Stacy Grubb, commanding officer of the Shilo, Man.-based company, wouldn't have it any other way.

"So much about Afghanistan is about the culture and how people live," he said. "We can't go around with the mindset of terrorist-killers when our centre of gravity is the everyday people."

He tells his soldiers to look for their own values in Afghans and use it to their advantage.

Honour is a strong concept among the Afghans, and Grubb believes helping one local can have a "multiplier effect" among an entire family.

"Everyone here is like everyone else, they want to provide for their families," Grubb said from the forward operating base he commands. "We take the good things like that, which we have in common, show the soldiers and work on that."

If you support family ties and encourage government support, the theory goes, conditions that nourish insurgency will cease to exist.

Naturally, this has to be done with some attention still paid to security. The balance is somewhere between trigger fingers and open arms.

"We have to emphasize those common areas between people. There's not a terrorist behind every bush in every compound," Maj. Grubb said.

It's a hard philosophy to employ when the Taliban have now expanded their list of potential suicide-bomber to include children, men disguised as women and the mentally ill.

On Friday, two Canadian soldiers were injured and an Afghan National Army member was killed when a boy with a bomb strapped to his young frame approached them and exploded.

Reports have put the bomber's age between 10 and 13.

Canadian military investigators haven't been able to determine whether the bomb was remote-detonated or set off by the boy himself.

That incident happened about 40 kilometres southwest of Kandahar City.

While suicide bombings are nothing new for the insurgents, the use of Afghan children and concealing bombs under burkas are. The attacks signify that insurgents have disregarded cultural and traditional boundaries in the interest of killing coalition forces.

As the Canadian military sees it, they are "last-ditch efforts" that smell of desperation.

However, that does not make them any less dangerous, particularly when one of the goals of the Canadian Forces is not to see every Afghan they approach as a threat.

Afghan children regularly swarm Canadian soldiers in villages, thrilled by the sight of them and entranced by their equipment. Soldiers repay the enthusiasm with smiles, high-fives and occasionally candy handouts.

That may now change. An exuberant and knee-high highlight of the mission is suddenly a possible threat.

"Make sure they don't have anything clenched in their fists," soldiers in C-Company warned each other Sunday as flocks of children swarmed around them in the Shah Wali Kot district.

Some soldiers walked away from groups of children, making it clear they didn't want to be in close proximity.

Last week, a male insurgent disguised under a traditional female burka triggered a suicide bomb outside a police station in southwestern Afghanistan. According to Afghan police, 16 people were killed.
Edmonton Journal
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