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May 27, 2008 

Bombs, attacks kill 24 in Afghanistan
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Roadside bombings and insurgent attacks Tuesday killed 24 people in Afghanistan, including 13 police officers, while U.S.-led coalition operations killed several militants, officials said.

Three policemen, one civilian killed in Afghan bomb blast: official
May 27, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - Three policemen and a passerby were killed in a roadside bomb attack near the Afghan capital on Tuesday, an official said, as eight civilians died in a similar blast elsewhere.

Afghanistan concerned over Pakistan talks with militants
May 27, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan Tuesday voiced concerns over peace talks between Pakistan and Taliban-linked militants active in the rugged tribal areas along its frontier saying such deals could increase violence.

NATO urges Pakistan to prevent Afghanistan spillover
May 27, 2008
BERLIN (Reuters) - NATO's secretary-general urged Pakistan on Tuesday to prevent a spillover of violence from its border region into Afghanistan and called for stronger political dialogue between Pakistan and the U.S.-led alliance.

Afghanistan: Secret Taleban cells spread lessons of jihad in Kabul University
Jeremy Page, Kabul The Times (UK) May 27, 2008
To his professors and peers at Kabul University, Abdul is the epitome of a model student.

FACTBOX - Security developments in Afghanistan, May 27
May 27 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan reported in the past 24 hours:

Canadian quietly writes humanitarian law into Afghan security contracts
Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA - The Canadian military has quietly revised its contracts with private-security providers in Afghanistan to ensure they obey international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks on civilians.

Commons defence committee kept under wraps during secret Afghan visit
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A group of parliamentarians, most of them members of the House of Commons defence committee, have wrapped up a top secret visit to Afghanistan.

Military ponders stronger combat vehicle to withstand Afghan roadside bombs
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The ever-increasing explosive power of roadside bombs in Afghanistan has Canada's Defence Department and the army examining the idea of buying larger, more heavily armoured vehicles

Alarming Rise of Suicides Among Afghan Women
By Mandy Clark Kabul 27 May 2008 Voice of America
Greater freedom for the women of Afghanistan was one of the promises of the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. U.S. and Afghan officials say there have been significant improvements, noting that some two million women and girls are now attending

Factbox - Security developments in Afghanistan, 27 May 2008
May 27 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan reported in the past 24 hours:

At Afghan outpost, relative luxury of Kandahar is world away
KATHERINE O'NEILL From Tuesday's Globe and Mail May 27, 2008 at 4:37 AM EDT
PANJWAI DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN — Warrant Officer Devin Ramos had flashbacks to Vietnam movies the first time he was dropped off by a helicopter at one of the tiny outposts the Canadian military has scattered throughout the Panjwai district.

Afghanistan is getting rebuilt
By JAMES EMERY (Middle East Times)  May 27, 2008
"Reconstruction is the key to moving forward beyond the insurgency," said Joshua Gross, media relations director for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. "We are starting from scratch. The task that awaited the Afghan government

EU to double police trainers in EUPOL mission in Afghanistan
Source: European Union (EU) / May 26, 2008
The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council has decided the EU should double the number of participants in the EUPOL mission in Afghanistan. This measure will strengthen efforts towards police reform. The decision

EU to enlarge police mission in Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn  2008-05-27 04:09:15
BRUSSELS, May 26 (Xinhua) -- European Union foreign and defense ministers agreed here on Monday to double the scale of its police mission in Afghanistan to around 400 personnel.

Ukraine's Economics Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn met with Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta
NRCU - Ukrainian Radio, Ukraine
The parties discussed Ukraine's cooperation in oil and gas area with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Iranian Turbines to Help Address Electricity Problem in Afghan Capital
Tuesday, 27 May 2008, 06:00 CDT
Text of report by state-owned National Afghanistan TV on 26 May
[Presenter] The Islamic Republic of Iran donated two thermal [power generating] turbines, costing 10m dollars, to the Water and Energy Ministry today.

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Bombs, attacks kill 24 in Afghanistan
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Roadside bombings and insurgent attacks Tuesday killed 24 people in Afghanistan, including 13 police officers, while U.S.-led coalition operations killed several militants, officials said.

In southern Kandahar province, Taliban insurgents killed nine police in a two-pronged attack before dawn in Shorabak district, said provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqib.

Insurgents first attacked a police checkpoint, killing five officers, Saqib said. Two roadside bombs then hit two vehicles carrying police reinforcements, killing four more officers and wounding three.

Another roadside bomb in Logar province, south of Kabul, killed four police, said deputy police chief Abdul Majid Latifi.

Militants regularly target the country's fledgling police force, which is seen as weaker than the better-trained and equipped Afghan army. At least 72 police officers were killed in insurgent ambushes and bombings in April alone.

More than 900 policemen were among the 8,000 people killed last year. The high death toll comes despite some $4 billion spent by the U.S. to train and equip the police in the last three years.

In western Farah province, a roadside bomb hit a bus Tuesday, killing eight civilians and wounding another, said Farah deputy governor Younus Rasuli. All the casualties were men.

The western Afghan provinces bordering Iran are frequently hit by insurgent attacks. Militant bomb attacks usually target military and police convoys, but civilians are often killed as well.

In Kandahar, a Taliban insurgent was planting a mine under a bridge in Daman district when it prematurely exploded, killing the insurgent and three children who were playing nearby, Saqib said.

In Logar, protesters blocked a road after foreign troops killed a cleric during an operation before dawn Tuesday, local leaders said.

Abdul Hakim Sulaimankhel, chief of Logar's provincial council, said foreign troops raided a house and killed a cleric in Pul-e Alam district. Four suspects were arrested.

He said 300 protesters carried the cleric's body to a main road and blocked it. They demanded that the suspects be released.

The U.S.-led coalition said it was not involved in the operation, and NATO officials did not immediately have details of the incident.

U.S.-led coalition troops, meanwhile, killed "several militants" Tuesday during two separate operations targeting insurgents in eastern Paktia province and southern Helmand province.

The forces discovered and destroyed several weapons in Paktia and a cache of narcotics in Helmand.

U.S. Marines moved into Garmser late last month and have been battling militants in almost daily battles ever since.

More than 1,200 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency-related violence so far this year, according to a count by The Associated Press.
___
Associated Press writer Noor Khan contributed to this report from Kandahar.
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Three policemen, one civilian killed in Afghan bomb blast: official
May 27, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - Three policemen and a passerby were killed in a roadside bomb attack near the Afghan capital on Tuesday, an official said, as eight civilians died in a similar blast elsewhere.

The explosion in Logar province, just south of Kabul, ripped through a police vehicle and was immediately blamed on Taliban rebels.

"It was a remote control bomb that struck one of our police vehicle patrolling the area," Logar province police chief Ghulam Mustafa told AFP.

"Three policemen and a civilian passerby were martyred," he said, blaming the attack on Taliban militants though there was was no immediately claim of responsibility.

"We blame the Taliban for this attack."

Hours earlier, a similar blast in the country's southwestern province of Farah killed eight civilian bus passengers.

Insurgent attacks have increased in recent months after the traditional winter lull, despite the efforts of tens of thousands of Afghan and international soldiers.

Last year was the deadliest for insurgency-linked violence with more than 8,000 people killed, most of them militants. Some analysts say the extremists cannot be defeated through military action.
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Afghanistan concerned over Pakistan talks with militants
May 27, 2008
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan Tuesday voiced concerns over peace talks between Pakistan and Taliban-linked militants active in the rugged tribal areas along its frontier saying such deals could increase violence.

Top Pakistani militant leader Baitullah Mehsud, who is based in restive South Waziristan tribal district, vowed last week to continue attacks in Afghanistan while pursuing peace talks with Pakistan.

"We welcome any political efforts by Pakistan to find solutions for internal problems," Homayun Hamidzada, spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, told reporters.

"But such agreements should not result in intensified attacks and infiltration of terrorists to Afghanistan," the spokesman said.

He said Kabul had conveyed its concern officially to Islamabad, with whom it is seeking friendly relations.

"Pakistan as a sovereign country has the responsibility not to allow its soil to be used for terrorist activities against its neighbours.

"If such activities take place, it will undermine its sovereignty," the spokesman said.

Afghan officials have repeatedly blamed Pakistan for turning a blind-eye to alleged Taliban militant training centres and finance networks in its semi-autonomous border regions.

Islamabad has strongly rejected the accusations.

Pakistan has already signed a peace deal with pro-Taliban militants in the Swat Valley, about 99 kilometres (55 miles) from Afghanistan, to quell the violence.

Islamabad has repeatedly suggested it could fence its long porous border with Afghanistan to stop crossborder infiltration. Hamidzada said to fence the border was not a solution.

"We must go to the roots of the problem. The problem is the hideouts, the nests of terrorism and Pakistan should neutralise that and not divide families by the fence," he said.

The Taliban regime was ousted from government in Afghanistan by US-led military in 2001 when they refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, blamed for the September 11 attacks.

The network has allegedly regrouped in Pakistan and a Pentagon report last week said the growth of Al-Qaeda safe havens there was "troubling."

Last year was the deadliest of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, with 8,000 people killed, according to UN figures. Most of the dead were rebels, though 1,500 civilians and several hundred soldiers were also slain.
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NATO urges Pakistan to prevent Afghanistan spillover
May 27, 2008
BERLIN (Reuters) - NATO's secretary-general urged Pakistan on Tuesday to prevent a spillover of violence from its border region into Afghanistan and called for stronger political dialogue between Pakistan and the U.S.-led alliance.

Faced with a wave of suicide attacks, Pakistan has begun negotiations with Taliban militants who control much of the mountainous region on its side of the border with Afghanistan and thinned out the number of troops in the area.

But NATO's force in Afghanistan has said the peace talks have led to an increase in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan.

"It is...important for Afghanistan's neighbours to be involved in a constructive manner and especially for Pakistan to prevent spillover across its border with Afghanistan," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told members of NATO's parliamentary assembly at a meeting in Berlin.

"It is of great importance that the alliance establishes and increases its political dialogue with Pakistan," Scheffer said, adding he hoped to travel to Pakistan in the autumn.

"I hope to discuss this in a very constructive spirit," he said. "The right approach is to consider Pakistan as part of the solution, not part of the problem ... It's important that apart from military dialogue, to have serious political dialogue."

Afghan forces, backed by more than 60,000 foreign troops, are engaged in daily battles with Taliban militants, mostly in the south and east, the areas closest to the border.

A Pakistani government official said on Monday Pakistan was determined to stop militants crossing to fight Western troops in Afghanistan and is activating tribal leaders to squeeze out the militants.

Afghan officials have often accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to use Pakistani territory as a safe haven from which to direct and launch attacks and also rest and regroup.

Many al Qaeda and Taliban militants fled to Pakistan's border lands, that have never come under the full control of any government, after U.S-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001.

(Reporting by Kerstin Gehmlich; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
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Afghanistan: Secret Taleban cells spread lessons of jihad in Kabul University
Jeremy Page, Kabul The Times (UK) May 27, 2008
To his professors and peers at Kabul University, Abdul is the epitome of a model student.

The 21-year-old law undergraduate takes copious notes in class, always finishes assignments on time and hopes to become a teacher when he graduates.

What they do not know is that when class is over he spends his time on less wholesome activities - watching videos of bomb attacks on American troops and plotting to overthrow the Afghan Government.

Abdul is not just a Taleban sympathiser: he is a member of a secret Taleban cell at Kabul University that claims several hundred members and is a worrying new sign of the movement’s expanding influence.

“At the time of the Taleban there was security and basic justice and prices were not as high as now,” Abdul told The Times. “There also was not as much corruption. Lots of aid money comes to Afghanistan and disappears. We want to liberate our country, to remove these authorities and do something for the people.”

The university cell does not fight but is ready to take up arms if called upon by its leaders, according to Abdul and another member, who gave false names. “I’ll fight until I die but I won’t do suicide because it’s forbidden in Islam,” said Abdul, who claims to have recruited nine other students.

The university cell illustrates how the influence of the Taleban has spread beyond its traditional support base in the south - and right to the heart of Afghanistan’s most prestigious educational institution and its largest with 12,000 students. It also shows how the movement appeals to educated young Afghans as well as the poor, illiterate farmers who make up the bulk of its fighting force.

At the same time it suggests that the Taleban is divided between extremists, who target civilians and reject all forms of modernity, and relative moderates, who want development but oppose foreign troops.

Abdul said that he was recruited by a Taleban “representative” from his region a month after he arrived at the university last year. One of his motivations was a Nato air raid on his village in the eastern province of Paktia, which he says killed 25 people, including several cousins, last year.

Javed, a literature student, said that he joined the Taleban after three months at the university, angered by the death of a 19-year-old woman in a house raid by American troops in his village in the southeastern province of Khost. He said that he had since recruited 16 other students.

Javed and Abdul said that they did not know the identity of their ultimate leader on campus because the cell was structured to prevent members from informing on one another. “Everything is very secret. Everyone knows one or two people,” Javed, 25, said.

“We don’t know how many we are because we don’t get together in a conference hall.

But there are hundreds and the numbers are increasing.”

Several other students and teachers said that they were aware of the cell but refused to discuss it with a foreign reporter. Abdul Azim Noorbaksh, a university spokesman, admitted that Taleban activity was a problem on campus but said that the university authorities had no power to stop it.

“We try to teach students to choose some better alternative,” he said. “If they join a political or religious movement, that’s their own business. It is up to the Government to respond.”

The Interior Ministry said that it was keeping a close eye on the campus, where political activity is banned, but did not yet regard the Taleban cell as a serious problem.

“Their ideology is very different from those fighting the Government,” Abdul Hakim Asher, an Interior Ministry spokesman, said. “They are ordinary students. They are not a threat.”

Abdul and Javed agreed that they had no sympathy for Taleban militants who killed civilians, used suicide bombers and burnt down schools. “They are supported by the Pakistanis,” Javed said. “We are with the real Taleban, who only target foreign troops.”

The pair also said that their leaders, while wanting to introduce Sharia, tolerated music, films, men without beards and women’s education.

They said that there was nothing moderate about their hatred of President Karzai and the international community, which they said had brought nothing but corruption to Afghanistan. “They haven’t done anything in seven years,” Javed said. “The international community isn’t here to bring peace and security, but to destroy our country and to kill Muslims.”
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FACTBOX - Security developments in Afghanistan, May 27
May 27 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan reported in the past 24 hours:

LOGAR - Four Afghan police were killed on Tuesday when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in Logar province to the south of capital, Kabul, a provincial officer said.

LOGAR - Hundreds of people blocked a highway linking Kabul with the southeastern areas on Tuesday in protest over the killing of a school teacher by U.S.-led forces in an overnight raid in Logar. An Afghan official working for the U.S. military said the victim had links with Taliban insurgents.

GHAZNI- Five Taliban and two police died in a clash on Monday in a district of Ghazni, which lies to the southwest of Kabul, a district official said on Tuesday.

KANDAHAR - Unidentified gunmen kidnapped four Afghan employees of a foreign funded health group in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday.

(Compiled by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Alex Richardson)
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Canadian quietly writes humanitarian law into Afghan security contracts
Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service
OTTAWA - The Canadian military has quietly revised its contracts with private-security providers in Afghanistan to ensure they obey international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks on civilians.

Canada employs Western private-security firms and Afghan contractors to guard government officials and visiting VIPs, as well as military installations in Kandahar province where the bulk of Canada's soldiers are based. The military insists such private contractors do not engage in "offensive operations."

But contracts obtained by Canwest News Service under the Access to Information Act show the military has added provisions requiring contractors to spare civilians and submit to weapons inspections to ensure they are not carrying arms that violate international law.

In August 2007, for example, the federal government hired a contractor to provide security for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar City, which co-ordinates rebuilding efforts in the province. The contract was worth $265,200 and expired in January. Much of the contract has been blacked out, including the contractor's name and the exact scope of the work.

Under a section called "rules of engagement," the contractor is required to "read and abide by" the International Committee of the Red Cross' code of conduct for combatants, a summary of which is attached to the contract.

The code obliges combatants to attack only military targets and "spare civilian persons and objects," among other things. It also requires them to collect and care for wounded enemies and spare enemy prisoners.

Canadian military officials can also inspect the weapons and ammunition of the contractor without notice. Any weapons or ammunition "found to be in violation of the Law of Armed Conflict or any treaties ratified by Canada" will be confiscated, the contract states.

The law of armed conflict is the term used within the Canadian Forces to describe the vast body of treaties and customs that make up international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions. A wide range of arms are banned under international law, such as chemical and biological weapons and "indiscriminate" weapons that expose civilians to unnecessary risk.

Earlier versions of the contract to provide security at the PRT do not include the provisions concerning international law.

Western militaries have relied on private-security firms for decades, but their extensive use in Afghanistan and Iraq has attracted intense scrutiny. Last fall, employees of Blackwater USA, hired to guard a convoy of U.S. State Department officials, opened fire in a Baghdad square, allegedly killing at least 17 civilians.

The controversy intensified when it emerged State Department contractors had been granted immunity from Iraqi law by the United States. The House of Representatives later passed a bill making contractors accountable to U.S. law, but Justice Department officials have expressed doubts about their ability to prosecute Blackwater personnel.

In Canada, critics have decried the secrecy surrounding the use of private contractors and called on the government to clarify their legal status.

Ottawa has hired a number of British-based firms to provide private security in Afghanistan. These include Saladin Security, which guards the Canadian embassy in Kabul and Hart Security, which protects Canada's Strategic Advisory Team, a small group of military officers and foreign-affairs officials in Kabul. Another British firm, Blue Hackle Security, provides security for the Joint Co-ordination Centre in the heart of Kandahar City, next to the governor's palace.

But the military has refused to identify all the private-security contractors it employs in Afghanistan, in part because some of them are Afghan contractors and the military says that identifying them would put their lives at risk.

Last fall, Canwest News Service found at least 29 contracts, totalling $1.14 million, went to a corporate entity known simply as "Sherzai," raising the question of whether the contracts were awarded to Gul Agha Sherzai, a powerful warlord and former governor of Kandahar.

The status-of-forces agreement between Canada and Afghanistan signed in Dec. 2005 suggests contractors are governed by Canadian, not Afghan, law. According to the agreement, civilian contractors hired by the Canadian government are considered "Canadian personnel," who are "immune from personal arrest or detention" in Afghanistan without the consent of the senior Canadian military commander in Afghanistan.

But the Aug. 2007 contract to provide security at the PRT says the contractor and his employees are not "Canadian personnel" as defined under the 2005 agreement.

The notion that private contractors hired by the Canadian government in Afghanistan could fall outside Canada's legal jurisdiction is "disturbing," said Michael Byers, Canadian Research Chair in International Law and Politics at the University of British Columbia.

"Everyone's been calling for an expansion of the jurisdictional and procedural mechanisms to apply some basic rules to these people, so to simply withdraw at least one of the options is nonsensical," said Byers.

The contract also contains a clause on handling detainees. The contractor must adhere to Red Cross codes of conduct, notify Canadian commanders and "shall arrange with the nearest Afghan authorities to turn over the detainee," the contract states.

But the contract makes no mention of how prisoners should be monitored, and thus appears to circumvent a high-profile agreement signed by the two countries last year governing the transfer of detainees, said University of Ottawa law professor Amir Attaran.

"These people are toting guns and entitled to shoot them, but they're not subject to the Canadian chain of command. They're not Canadian personnel... and their activities are calculated to overlap with some of the most controversial things that Canadians do, like taking detainees," said Attaran.

The Department of National Defence did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
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Commons defence committee kept under wraps during secret Afghan visit
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A group of parliamentarians, most of them members of the House of Commons defence committee, have wrapped up a top secret visit to Afghanistan.

The two-day trip to Kabul and Kandahar was meant to showcase the changing face of Canada's mission for MPs, but was highlighted by extraordinary restrictions - not all of them aimed at the Taliban.

Journalists embedded with the Canadian army at Kandahar Airfield were barred from covering the committee's movements. The only allowed access to them a short time before their departure, apparently on orders from Privy Council Office in Ottawa.

Instead, the army's combat camera unit, which is usually in field, was assigned to cover all aspects of the MPs trip - including a visit outside the main base to the provincial reconstruction base - and to "hand out" photographs and video to civilian journalists.

It was an extraordinary break with previous visits of dignitaries and appeared aimed at limiting political miscues, such as former foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier's ill-timed gaffe last month involving corruption and Kandahar's governor.

New Democrat Paul Dewar says no one has to worry about Bernier making a mistake any more and there shouldn't have been any worries about them.
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Military ponders stronger combat vehicle to withstand Afghan roadside bombs
The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The ever-increasing explosive power of roadside bombs in Afghanistan has Canada's Defence Department and the army examining the idea of buying larger, more heavily armoured vehicles to shuttle troops around the battlefield.

Defence sources in Ottawa say the department will consider "a more robust combat vehicle" as it looks toward eventually replacing the hardy LAV III, which has done yeoman's service in the war-torn region.

Planning is only in the discussion stages, but high-level sources says "broader options" than just a straight up purchase of more light armoured vehicles are being considered.

The idea would be to pick a vehicle "somewhere between a battle tank and a light (armoured) vehicle" for soldiers to use in close combat.

Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, said recently that the military is starting to look for a replacement for the LAV III, given the way the Afghan war is chewing up the army's stock fighting vehicles.

The army is interested in buying the next generation of light armoured vehicle, known as the LAV-H, which is heavier, longer, better armoured and engineered with the lessons of Afghanistan in mind.

But defence sources say that consideration is also being given to acquiring some kind of tracked carrier, possibly between 30 to 35 tonnes in weight.

"The Americans, the Germans, the British and the Dutch, the Danes are all looking at their next families of vehicles (and) they'll probably be track," said one source.

American forces have for years used the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, which carries just as many soldiers and has the same 25 mm chain gun armament as a LAV. But the Bradley has much more armour to withstand bombs and runs on tracks, not wheels.

The Germans are developing a new generation of heavy tracked fighting vehicle with Puma, which is expected to begin entering service in 2010.

"There's quite a few out there," the source said.

The army is "interested in some other LAVs, but we're just looking at other options right now."

Canadian soldiers worship their LAVs, but the Taliban have been progressively building bigger explosive charges to plant alongside paved roads, or bury in dried up riverbeds and trails that criss-cross Afghanistan's desert landscape.

The light vehicles handle well both on and off the road, except in boggy terrain where the added armoured and equipment has a tendency to weigh them down.

During an operation in mid-May, an entire platoon of LAV IIIs became stuck in the mud of a farm field on the outskirts of Kandahar City and had to wait for another unit to come and pull them out.

"There's only one swamp in Afghanistan and we had to find it," a soldier joked at the time.

Semi-friendly villagers gathered at the edge of the field to gawk at the helpless, huge vehicles, which the Afghans have nicknamed "green monsters."

Some soldiers said tracked vehicles might not have gotten stuck and left them vulnerable to possible attack, but the point was debatable.

In this kind of hit-and-run war, soldiers know that speed means everything and that's why many of the troops were deeply skeptical of the suggestion that heavier tracked vehicles are the way to go.

Tracks can be more difficult to maintain than wheels, and in a rugged place like Afghanistan things are breaking all the time.

"If it's high maintenance in a country like this where everything has to be flown in because it's double landlocked, you can shut down a whole battle group waiting for parts," said Cpl. Darrell Rostek, of 7 Platoon, Charlie Company, of the 2 Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battle group.

"Whereas this thing, it's wheeled. There are pros and cons for both, but you'd better pick the right one."

A LAV III can still move and fight with more than half of its tires blown.

During Operation Medusa in the fall of 2006, Canadian commanders discovered the LAV IIIs had a tough time getting over the grapefield berms in the Panjwaii district.

It was one of the reasons the army chose to quickly deploy older, tracked Leopard C2 tanks. For that reason, some soldiers think something like an M2 Bradley fighting vehicle would be good addition, as long as the army maintained a mixture of wheeled and tracked vehicles.

"If it came out of the lessons learned, might as well give it try," said Cpl. Bryan Rowlandson, a reservist with the Calgary Highlanders.

"It doesn't hurt to try."
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Alarming Rise of Suicides Among Afghan Women
By Mandy Clark Kabul 27 May 2008 Voice of America
Greater freedom for the women of Afghanistan was one of the promises of the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. U.S. and Afghan officials say there have been significant improvements, noting that some two million women and girls are now attending school, something that was forbidden under the extremist Taliban government. But despite Western efforts, many Afghan women say their lives have not improved significantly and an increasing number of women are committing suicide by burning themselves to death as a way to escape physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Mandy Clark reports from Kabul.

Badly burnt and barely alive in a shabby Kabul hospital, a 15 year old girl lies in agony. The burn unit surgeon, Dr. Sarwani Sahab says these types of injuries are becoming more common among young Afghan women.

"In Afghanistan, young girls, maybe from 18 to 35, is a big problem for self-burning here," said Dr. Sahab.

The girl is from Kandahar province and insists she was burnt by a lantern but doctors believe it was a failed suicide attempt. They say her chance of survival is 50-50.

This young girl's story is becoming increasingly common. An Afghan women rights group say that last year, almost 500 women chose death or disfigurement to a life of despair by setting themselves on fire to escape forced marriages, slavery or sexual and other types of abuse. For those who live through this form of suicide attempt, the scarring can be a death sentence in itself.

The survivors who leave this ward cannot return home because of the shame they brought on their family. Some will live the rest of their lives on the streets or if they're lucky, they may find a safe house.

There are other women who brave the wrath of society and try to help these young burn victims. Many risk their own lives to do so.

Political activist, Malalai Joya is one of them and agreed to speak with VOA. She was elected as a member of the Afghan parliament in 2005 but was kicked out of government. She says it was because of her views. Security around Joya is tight, it has to be; she has survived four assassination attempts because of her fight for women's rights.

"They burn themselves in many cases because they prefer to die than have this hell life," Joya. "It is so sad for me, it is impossible, I cannot find the words to show, to express my suffer, my sadness."

But her work is having an impact.

Razia is another burn victim. Razia gives only her first name. She says her failed suicide bid bought her freedom.

She tells how a warlord from her village threatened to kill her if she did not allow him to marry her 13-year-old daughter. As a war widow, she had no one to protect her. Razia says she hoped if she died, an orphanage would take in her children. But she survived. A women's group found her in the hospital and offered her and her children a safe house.

She says she was dead at that time, but God gave her a new life.

Afghan officials are quick to point out that women now do have greater freedom and opportunities since the fall of the extremist Taliban regime. They say some two million women and girls are now getting an education - something that was forbidden under the Taliban.

But, women's rights advocate Palwasha Hassan says not enough work has been done to help Afghan women. However, she says people should not lose heart.

"I think we cannot lose this opportunity and say 'ok, in Afghanistan nothing can be changed because we have a traditional system and this and that.' You have to start from where you can so if this is the opportunity, it should not be missed," said Hassan.

Abuse against women and suicide attempts to escape it are all too frequent problems in the strict traditional societies of South Asia and the Middle East. But, in Afghanistan, the ouster of the Taliban regime was supposed to change that. Many Afghan women are still waiting for that to happen.
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Factbox - Security developments in Afghanistan, 27 May 2008
May 27 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan reported in the past 24 hours:

*DEL ARAM - A roadside bomb ripped through a bus and killed eight civilians, including a woman and a child, in Del Aram district of western Farah province on Tuesday, deputy provincial governor, Mohammad Younus Rasuli said.

LOGAR - Four Afghan police were killed on Tuesday when a roadside bomb struck their vehicle in Logar province to the south of capital, Kabul, a provincial officer said.

*LOGAR - More than one thousand people blocked a highway linking Kabul with the southeastern areas on Tuesday in protest over the killing of a school teacher by U.S.-led forces in an overnight raid in Logar. An Afghan official working for the U.S. military said the victim had links with Taliban insurgents.

GHAZNI- Five Taliban and two police died in a clash on Monday in a district of Ghazni, which lies to the southwest of Kabul, a district official said on Tuesday.

KANDAHAR - Gunmen on Tuesday freed four Afghan employees of a foreign-funded health group they had kidnapped in the southern province of Kandahar on Monday.

KANDAHAR - Two police officers in a remote area of the province were killed by a Taliban raid on a police post on Monday.

(Compiled by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Valerie Lee)
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At Afghan outpost, relative luxury of Kandahar is world away
KATHERINE O'NEILL From Tuesday's Globe and Mail May 27, 2008 at 4:37 AM EDT
PANJWAI DISTRICT, AFGHANISTAN — Warrant Officer Devin Ramos had flashbacks to Vietnam movies the first time he was dropped off by a helicopter at one of the tiny outposts the Canadian military has scattered throughout the Panjwai district.

"It reminded me of a little fort bristling with machine guns and wire," he said.

The 34-year-old Edmonton-based soldier with the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry has spent the bulk of his tour since he arrived in February stationed at outposts, and recently headed up the one in Zangabad.

The station, which is officially named Platoon House Boyes, opened late last year in an effort to hold ground in the hotly contested and turbulent Panjwai district and help train Afghan police. It is named in honour of Sergeant Jason Boyes who was killed in March after stepping on an explosive device a few hundred metres from the station.

While the outpost at Zangabad, a tiny farming community located deep in Taliban territory, is only about 40 kilometres southwest of Kandahar Airfield, the two are entirely different worlds.

At Kandahar Airfield, Canadian soldiers can buy almost anything, including lattes, burgers and massages. There's air-conditioning and a seemingly endless supply of hot water.

At the outposts, there is no plumbing or mess halls or air conditioning, and daytime temperatures now top 40 C. Soldiers use a urinal and outhouse, complete with honey bags - plastic bags filled with waste.

WO Ramos said the isolation is hard for many soldiers. "There are not a lot of visitors. This place isn't really on the tour," he joked.

Some people stationed at these outposts feel like a "pin on a map" for Canada's war effort in Afghanistan because of the lack of contact with KAF and other soldiers.

Concerns about isolation have increased in recent weeks because road convoys to resupply the soldiers have become extremely rare as a result of concerns about improvised explosive devices, or roadside bombs. Soldiers are left to hike in and out of the volatile area with all their belongings. Supplies, including military rations, water and fuel, are delivered by helicopter drops.

Everything has become a luxury, including mail.

Private Mark Day, who was posted to Zangabad earlier this month, brought a stack of letters for some soldiers when he arrived by foot.

"It was the least I could do," he said. "I know how cut off you can feel." Before Zangabad, the 25-year-old Edmonton-based soldier, who is with 3PPCLI, had been stationed at another outpost further south.

Soldiers also have access, usually two to four times a week, to the outpost's satellite phones and Internet connection. Pte. Day said the key to fighting boredom is keeping busy.

When not out patrolling or meeting with locals, soldiers often work around the outpost, including building common areas. Nothing is wasted.

Zangabad's soldiers - most of them have been men - also work out at the makeshift gym or trade movies or video games to play on their personal computers. A lot of time is spent talking, with many conversations starting with the phrase: "When I get back ..."

During the day, most sleep, read or listen to music - anything to stay out of the sun.

"The life of a soldier is 95 per cent the daily, mundane routine stuff and five per cent high-adrenalin excitement," WO Ramos said.

He said building morale is always a challenge and that depression is an ongoing concern, especially when soldiers return from their leave. "It usually takes them a week to get back in the groove."

It doesn't help that one of the only places to get any privacy is the outhouse.

One major morale booster was the arrival of Wiley in March. The puppy was about to be killed by two Afghan boys near a neighbouring outpost earlier this year because one of its hind legs was broken.

However, some Canadian soldiers stepped in and saved the animal by trading a bottle of water and a granola bar for the injured dog. Wiley often accompanies the soldiers when they leave the outpost on patrols, despite having the use of only three legs.

Zangabad used to have two donkeys, Rebecca and Jackass, to help with chores, but one went missing and the other was sold for $45 because it was too much trouble.

Soldiers also have started buying produce and meat from local bazaars to freshen up their diets. At Zangabad earlier this year, soldiers saved the fruit from their rations and made fruit turnovers. At the outpost in nearby Talukan, soldiers are buying flour to make their own bread.

Despite the hardships, WO Ramos said the majority of soldiers who are stationed at the isolated stations are happy with their assignment.

"This is an adventure. It's something you'll remember. It's why you are in the army," he said.
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Afghanistan is getting rebuilt
By JAMES EMERY (Middle East Times)  May 27, 2008
"Reconstruction is the key to moving forward beyond the insurgency," said Joshua Gross, media relations director for the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. "We are starting from scratch. The task that awaited the Afghan government in 2001 and 2002 was very daunting."

One of the reasons why insurgents disrupt the reconstruction of Afghanistan is because humanitarian projects increase the prestige and power of President Hamid Karzai.

Instability and security concerns are the greatest obstacles to reconstruction.

"This is why the southern provinces are so unstable," explained Gross. "The lack of security and the lack of reconstruction fuel each other. The Taliban are burning down schools, burning down mosques, and attacking imams. The Taliban have no charismatic leadership. They operate by trying to establish a sense of fear and insecurity."

In spite of Taliban and al-Qaeda efforts to disrupt progress in Afghanistan, much has been done by a host of international agencies committed to rebuilding the country and improving the lives of over twenty million Afghans. Even without the continued conflict, the reconstruction of Afghanistan is a monumental task.

Afghanistan is a remote, rugged country consisting of steep mountain ranges and vast desert-like areas. Only 12 percent of the land is arable. The country lacks roads, bridges, electricity, and essential raw materials and equipment. Virtually everything, from bulldozers and cranes to basic tools and trained personnel, has to be brought in from another country. The logistical considerations are staggering. Once the equipment is in Afghanistan, it can be even more problematic to get it to the respective province and community where it is needed.

Over 75 percent of the Afghan population lives in isolated rural areas, cut off from the capital and the outside world. Electricity, indoor plumbing, clean drinking water, public services, and the capacity for rapid communication and media coverage with Kabul are generally nonexistent. Less than 10 percent of the population has electricity. Telephones, radios, and television sets are few in number and generally limited to the larger cities.

Three decades of warfare have left Afghanistan in ruin. Most irrigation systems, orchards, buildings, bridges, and roads have been destroyed. Nothing significant was built during the last 29 years. Medical services were primitive to nonexistent and vaccinations largely unknown.

The average life expectancy in Afghanistan is only 43 years and only 2.4 percent of the population lives to reach age 65. Infant mortality rate is 160.2 per 1000 births, fifty times higher than that of Japan.

The education for most Afghan men living in rural areas is three to four years of grade school, mostly spent studying the Koran; for women, it's even less. Seventy-two percent of Afghans are illiterate. This makes it easy to find unskilled laborers, but nearly impossible to find engineers, mechanics, machine operators, or anyone who can adequately read, comprehend, or follow blueprints, surveys, or instruction manuals.

Under Karzai, there have been significant strides made in providing education, a key to the future of Afghanistan. During the Taliban reign, about 900,000 boys attended school. That number has swelled to over 6 million children, including boys and girls, in spite the Taliban's relentless campaign against education that has destroyed or closed hundreds of schools and killed or wounded countless teachers and students.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and other relief organizations are also providing vocational training to adults. This training has been especially helpful for thousands of war widows, enabling them to support themselves and their children.

A recent survey of Afghan women indicated they feel far better off under the current administration and have greater economic opportunities. There are still numerous women's issues to deal with, from forced marriages to equal rights, but the momentum is moving in the right direction.

USAID built the ring road connecting Kabul to Kandahar and Kandahar to Herat. It will complete the circle by connecting Herat to Kabul. It is also building secondary roads to connect villages and outlying provinces to the ring road. Better roads will enable crops, goods, livestock, and people to get to markets.

"We are also doing cobblestone roads built by the local people," said Sepideh Keyvanshad, the USAID officer in charge of the Afghanistan desk. "It's very labor intensive so you are providing employment. We also provide seed, fertilizer, livestock, loans, and other employment opportunities."

These programs have the potential of offering work and hope to thousands of young men, instead of chronic idleness, which leaves them vulnerable targets for Taliban recruiters.

USAID splits its Afghan programs into three different sectors: economic growth and development, social sector restructuring, democracy and governance.

"We want Afghanistan to be a country that can take care of itself," said Keyvanshad.

USAID's biggest obstacles are security, terrain, and lack of equipment and materials.

"The terrain of the country is incredibly harsh," continued Keyvanshad. "We are also aware of the rapid pace in which we are expected to rebuild the country."

The Taliban have tried to disrupt or destroy every program designed to help poverty-stricken Afghans.

"There are schools being burned, there are clinics being burned," said Keyvanshad. "It [Taliban] destroys what has already been built and creates fear in people who might want to send their children to school. It also undermines the governance in the area."

The Afghan Ministry of Health, in conjunction with USAID, the European Union, the World Bank and a number of international aid organizations, have made significant strides in improving medical care for Afghans.

Only 8 percent of the population had access to medical care under the Taliban. The quality was substandard, especially for women who were relegated to primitive facilities that lacked electricity and basic equipment. Currently, 80 percent of the population has access to medical care, in spite of the efforts of the Taliban to destroy clinics and kill or threaten medical practitioners and their assistants.

USAID has built or refurbished clinics and hospitals and helped bring in electrical power. It has done a lot of vaccinations and child mortality has actually dropped. USAID is also training community health workers, usually couples who are related or married, to provide basic health care.

The needs of Afghanistan are overwhelming. Nevertheless, a contingent of international relief agencies has made tremendous strides, especially in light of the magnitude of the needs, difficult terrain, and growing insurgency.

Realistically, it is going to take at least 10 years to build up the infrastructure of Afghanistan and repair the devastation of 30 years of warfare, neglect, and decay.

As for the provinces under Taliban control, nothing meaningful will be accomplished until the Taliban are eradicated and security is restored, and that is going to require a sizeable increase in Western troops.
--
Professor James Emery is an anthropologist and journalist who has reported on regional conflicts and the drug trade for over 20 years, including five years overseas.
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EU to double police trainers in EUPOL mission in Afghanistan
Source: European Union (EU) / May 26, 2008
The EU General Affairs and External Relations Council has decided the EU should double the number of participants in the EUPOL mission in Afghanistan. This measure will strengthen efforts towards police reform. The decision, adopted at today's meeting chaired by the Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Dimitrij Rupel, underlined that security and the rule of law are essential for progress in Afghanistan. The consolidation of the rule of law, which is particularly weak in the areas where safety is not guaranteed, is of crucial importance for consolidating the democratic process in Afghanistan, also in terms of the presidential elections in 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2010. In the future, the operation of the EUPOL mission will also be closely coordinated with other international actors, mainly the United States, taking into consideration the Afghan regime.

In the conclusions of today's meeting, the ministers also highlighted issues related to further strengthening the fight against corruption, introducing local self-government and implementing a strategy for the fight against drugs.

The President of the EU Council, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, underlined that this is a continuation of the discussion by foreign ministers in the margins of the March European Council. At that time, the ministers agreed that the situation in Afghanistan needed more attention, which should be appropriately expressed in the EU's positions to be represented at the Paris Conference on 12 June. "I believe that today's conclusions properly reflect what we have to focus on: what we could do more and what we can do better for Afghanistan," said Dr Rupel.

The decision that the EU should double the EUPOL mission will, according to the Slovenian Foreign Minister, be "an important contribution to facing the challenges ahead of us"; it conveys a clear message about EU commitments to the international community and the Afghan government. "Timely planning, meticulous preparations and evaluation of the needs in the field will guarantee an efficient use of our resources. EUPOL, however, is only as good as its forces; therefore, our Member States will have to provide for the secondment of highly qualified forces also in the future," said the Slovenian Foreign Minister, additionally pointing out the presidential elections in 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2010 as future challenges. "Our success will be measured by the success of these elections, and it is on us to contribute to them. That's why we should consider financial and other forms of assistance," said Minister Rupel with regard to Afghanistan.
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EU to enlarge police mission in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-05-27 04:09:15
BRUSSELS, May 26 (Xinhua) -- European Union foreign and defense ministers agreed here on Monday to double the scale of its police mission in Afghanistan to around 400 personnel.

The ministers meeting in Brussels "decided the EU should double the number of participants in the EUPOL mission in Afghanistan," a statement from the EU's Slovenia presidency said.

"The consolidation of the rule of law, which is particularly weak in the areas where safety is not guaranteed, is of crucial importance for consolidating the democratic process in Afghanistan," the E.U. presidency said.

The current EU police mission, formed by 200 police, law enforcement and justice experts is to help train Afghan police force.     
Editor: Mu Xuequan 
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Ukraine's Economics Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn met with Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta
NRCU - Ukrainian Radio, Ukraine
The parties discussed Ukraine's cooperation in oil and gas area with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
"Bilateral cooperation in geologic exploration, including minerals production as well as energy cooperation is of great importance for Ukraine," the Minister said. During the meeting, Bohdan Danylyshyn informed that the Ministry elaborates a draft intergovernmental Ukraine - Afghanistan agreement on mutual protection of investments. The instrument will be delivered to the Afghan party after passing through the relevant domestic procedures. Apart from this, Mr Danylyshyn said that an Intergovernmental Ukraine - Afghanistan Commission on Trade Economic Cooperation will be an efficient mechanism in developing the bilateral cooperation. The relevant draft agreement was worked out by the Economics Ministry, was coordinated with the Afghan party and now it undergoes a domestic coordination procedure in the relevant ministries and agencies of Ukraine. For his part, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta noted that Afghanistan sees Ukraine as an essential trade economic partner and expressed hopes that this meeting will contribute to deepening cooperation between the states.
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Iranian Turbines to Help Address Electricity Problem in Afghan Capital
Tuesday, 27 May 2008, 06:00 CDT
Text of report by state-owned National Afghanistan TV on 26 May
[Presenter] The Islamic Republic of Iran donated two thermal [power generating] turbines, costing 10m dollars, to the Water and Energy Ministry today.

Each of the turbines produces 25 megawatts of electricity.

My colleague Nabiollah Hosayni has more.

[Correspondent] Thermal and hydro power plants currently generate 100 megawatts of electricity in Kabul City. This does not meet the needs of the Kabul residents.

Mohammad Sarwar Sediqi, head of the Kabul Power Department, says the Water and Energy Ministry is trying to address the needs of the Kabul residents from the electricity point of view.

After regular contacts with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country agreed to donate two thermal electricity plants to the ministry so the ministry can, to some extent, address the lack of electricity.

[Mohammad Sarwar Sediqi, head of Kabul Power Department] With the installation of the plants, 50,000 families will enjoy electricity services, and I can say that, with the total power generating plants that we have in Kabul, 80 per cent of the people's problems regarding lack of electricity will be addressed in the city.

[Correspondent] While handing over the plants to the Afghan authorities, Darmani, advisor of the Iranian ministry of energy and water, spoke about the performance and features of the plant.

He said the quality of the plants was guaranteed for three years, and that they would start functioning two months after being installed.

[Darmani] The two turbines will produce around 50 megawatts of energy, which is equivalent to the energy currently produced by plants already installed here. The two turbines can also help the Kabul electricity network with the same capacity.

[Correspondent] Nesar Ahmad Faizy, advisor of the Energy and Water Ministry, expressed appreciation for the donation by the Islamic Republic of Iran in developing the electricity network.

He also thanked the security forces for helping the transfer of the power plants.

Originally published by National Afghanistan TV, Kabul, in Dari and Pashto 1530 26 May 08.
Source: BBC Monitoring South Asia
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