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May 5, 2008 

Taleban 'killing more civilians'
By Martin Patience BBC News, Kabul Monday, 5 May 2008
The rate of Afghan civilians killed in Taleban attacks this year has increased compared to 12 months ago, Nato-led forces and local organisations say.

Afghanistan: Government Workers Arrested In Plot To Kill Karzai
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty May 5, 2008
Authorities in Kabul have arrested two Afghan government workers for alleged involvement in last week's failed plot to kill President Hamid Karzai.

Pakistan Taliban leader gives beard warning: residents
May 5, 2008
KHAR, Pakistan (AFP) — A Pakistani Taliban leader has warned local tribesmen to grow beards within the next two months in accordance with Islamic teachings or face harsh punishment, residents said Monday.

Taking Back The Frontier
The Washington Post By Ahmed Rashid 05/05/2008
LAHORE -The most dangerous place on Earth -- the Pashtun tribal belt straddling Pakistan's border with Afghanistan -- is about to get more dangerous. As the summer offensive by al-Qaeda and the Taliban against U.S. and NATO

Accidental Explosions Kill 4 Children, 3 Police Officers in Afghanistan
By VOA News 05 May 2008
Afghan officials say two separate accidental explosions killed four children and three police officers in the capital, Kabul, Monday.

Amid War, Afghanistan Builds Its First National Park
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR (National Public Radio)
May 5, 2008 · In Afghanistan, Americans are working with the government in Kabul to create something that's never existed before in this war-ravaged country — a national park.

Sticks-and-stones diplomacy works in Afghanistan
Globe and Mail, Canada FRASER CLARK Special to Globe and Mail Update May 4, 2008
It was a day unlike any other I have experienced in Afghanistan and one I won't soon forget.
As our tiny convoy lumbered into a central Kandahar City village, the mid-morning sun drove temperatures above 35 degrees. Dozens of small children swarmed our hefty, olive-coloured LAV III's, jockeying for position to greet the soldiers

Bush asks for $3.7bn to beef up Afghan security
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 04 May 2008
President asks for billions of dollars to continue 'global war on terror'
UNITED States President George Bush has said Afghanistan needs $3.7 billion to expand the size of its security forces as part of the “global war on terror.”

Poll: government should give up hunt for Daoud
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 04 May 2008
Half polled say government is wasting time by searching for president's body
HALF the number of voters in last week’s poll said the government should give up the hunt for the body of Afghanistan’s first president, Mohammad Daoud, who was assassinated during the 1987 revolution.
Exactly 50% of those polled by Quqnoos.com

Prince Harry receives Afghanistan medal
May 5, 2008
WINDSOR (AFP) - Prince Harry received his first army campaign medal as his regiment was decorated for its service in Afghanistan in a ceremony here Monday.

Chopper hit by rebel fire in Afghanistan
Mon May 5, 7:09 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A civilian helicopter was hit by insurgent gunfire in mountainous eastern Afghanistan on Monday, forcing it to make an emergency landing at a NATO military base, the alliance force said.

Singapore sends military engineers to Afghanistan
Mon May 5, 5:47 AM ET
SINGAPORE (AFP) - Singapore is sending two military construction engineering teams to Afghanistan, the defence ministry said Monday.

Canada should ease Afghan hunger
Calgary Herald (Canada) Monday, May 05, 2008
Spiking food prices are an acute danger not only to the world's poor, but to the strategic aims of NATO in Afghanistan, making it all the more imperative that the hunger of Afghans be alleviated as soon as possible.

Bangladesh, Afghanistan play in opener today
The Daily Star (Bangladesh) / May 5, 2008
Bangladesh will look forward to a winning start when they take on fellow South Asian opponents Afghanistan in the opening match of the AFC Challenge Cup Group C qualifying rounds in Bishkek today.

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Taleban 'killing more civilians'
By Martin Patience BBC News, Kabul Monday, 5 May 2008
The rate of Afghan civilians killed in Taleban attacks this year has increased compared to 12 months ago, Nato-led forces and local organisations say.

However, Nato's claim that the number of civilians killed by its forces has reduced has been disputed.

Senior officials in the Nato-led force say that 240 civilians were killed in Taleban attacks from January to mid-April this year.

That is a six-fold increase on the same period in 2007.

No tally

The officials said most of these deaths were from Taleban suicide bomb attacks aimed at international forces.

They also said that there had been a dramatic reduction in the number of civilians killed by Nato troops, dropping from 31 to four this year.

But these figures were disputed by local organisations.

One group which monitors security and advises aid workers said that at least 60 civilians had been killed by international troops this year.

The American-led coalition, which operates outside Nato's remit, says that it does not keep a tally on civilian casualties.

Civilian deaths caused by international forces cause enormous anger across the country and have turned many people against the international community and the Afghan government.

In the past, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said no civilian death is acceptable.

He has also been very critical of military operations which have killed or injured local people.
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Afghanistan: Government Workers Arrested In Plot To Kill Karzai
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty May 5, 2008
Authorities in Kabul have arrested two Afghan government workers for alleged involvement in last week's failed plot to kill President Hamid Karzai.

Afghan officials say the government employees who were arrested were low-ranking workers in the Defense and Interior ministries. Karzai escaped unharmed, but three others were killed in the attack.

Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak identified one of the arrested government workers as a man named Jawed from Kapisa Province, north of Kabul. Wardak says Jawed repaired weapons at an Afghan Defense Ministry factory. He alleges Jawed provided two AK-47 assault rifles and a machine gun to three gunmen who attacked Karzai during a Kabul military parade on April 27.

Wardak identified the second suspect as a police nurse named Zalmay from the Jabal Saraj district of Parwan Province, also north of Kabul. Wardak says Zalmay had been in contact with one of the key organizers of the failed assassination plot.

Although authorities in Kabul have not released details about who they think organized the plot, Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh insists the masterminds behind the attack on Karzai were Al-Qaeda-linked militants based in neighboring Pakistan. Saleh says Kabul has provided information on the militants' whereabouts to "relevant international sources" who have the capacity to "put pressure on those people who are outside our borders."

"Pakistan has agreed with them and told them that jihad is fair against the people of Afghanistan," Saleh says. "This should once again make our people united and see how deep the roots of this crisis go."

Escaped To Pakistan

Saleh says a raid on April 30 by Afghan security forces on a Taliban hideout in Kabul killed a militant involved in planning a suicide-bomb attack on Kabul's Serena Hotel in January that killed eight people. Saleh says that militant, known as Humayun, had escaped to Pakistan after the Serena Hotel bombing but returned to support last week's attack on Karzai.

Intelligence officials have said previously that Humayun had links to a network headed by militant leader Siraj Haqqani. That network is associated with the Taliban and also is thought to have links to Al-Qaeda fighters. It is part of a myriad of militant groups that support Afghanistan's former hard-line Islamist regime and that are trying to topple Karzai's Western-backed government.

Saleh charges that the recent violence in Kabul shows that authorities in Pakistan's tribal regions continue to allow Al-Qaeda-linked militants to cross into Afghanistan to commit terrorist attacks.

"In what the Pakistanis are doing, we see two faces," Saleh says. "On one hand, we see a fight against terrorism. But on the other hand, they are agreeing with terrorist groups -- telling them to stay out of Pakistani cities but turning a blind eye if they go to Afghanistan."

Pakistan has repeatedly denied such allegations from Kabul in the past, noting that Pakistani security forces have arrested Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked suspects on its soil. The United States has launched missile strikes on suspected Al-Qaeda hideouts in Pakistan, even though Islamabad condemns those attacks as a breach of its sovereignty.

Domestic Political Rivals

Last week's attack on Karzai led to speculation and allegations in Afghanistan's lower chamber of parliament, the Wolesi Jirga, that Karzai's domestic political rivals may have been involved.

Legislator Shukria Barakzai tells RFE/RL that she does not think the arrests of the two Afghan government workers will be the final result of the investigation by a specially appointed Afghan commission. Barakzai says such an assassination attempt is a "major plot" that could not have been planned by just one or two people.

"I think Afghanistan's current administration has two kinds of enemies," Barakzai says. "One kind goes by the name 'Taliban' and clearly says that it is the enemy. The second is inside the system itself, representing old political parties with old aims. They are destroying the system from the inside. If this appointed commission doesn't find anything else besides these two low-ranking government employees, nobody in Afghanistan will trust such commissions in the future."

Last week, Afghan lawmakers passed a vote of no confidence against Wardak, Saleh, and the interior minister after they revealed they had been aware of a plot against Karzai but failed to stop it. Despite the no-confidence vote, all three security officials retained their jobs.

RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Zakfar Ahmadi in Kabul and Ibrahim Amiri in Prague contributed to this report
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Pakistan Taliban leader gives beard warning: residents
May 5, 2008
KHAR, Pakistan (AFP) — A Pakistani Taliban leader has warned local tribesmen to grow beards within the next two months in accordance with Islamic teachings or face harsh punishment, residents said Monday.

The threat came amid an apparent increase in incidents of militants trying to enforce Islamic Sharia law in Pakistan's tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, where the new government is trying to make peace with hardliners.

"Men must grow beards and stop shaving within the next two months," residents quoted senior Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad as telling dozens of people at a mosque in Khar, the main town in Bajaur tribal district.

Beards were mandatory under the harsh Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 as part of a strict morality code that also made women wear the all-encompassing burka and outlawed music and other entertainment.

"It is un-Islamic to shave beards. Harsh punishments will be awarded to all violators," added Mohammad, the central vice chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban Movement) and also a Muslim cleric.

The group is an umbrella organisation of Taliban factions in Pakistan's tribal belt. Its leader, Baitullah Mehsud, has been accused of masterminding the slaying of former premier Benazir Bhutto in December.

Mohammad told a rally in March that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and fugitive Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Omar were not enemies of Pakistan.

Suspected Islamic militants have been meting out vigilante justice in the tribal belt and targeting "un-Islamic" hair salons, music and video shops with explosive devices for the past few years.

But activities have increased in recent weeks amid a lull in military operations and fighting since a new government took power after defeating President Pervez Musharraf's allies in elections.

Last week Pakistani Taliban militants publicly executed an alleged criminal involved in kidnappings for ransom in Mohmand, another of the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas.
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Taking Back The Frontier
The Washington Post By Ahmed Rashid 05/05/2008
LAHORE -The most dangerous place on Earth -- the Pashtun tribal belt straddling Pakistan's border with Afghanistan -- is about to get more dangerous. As the summer offensive by al-Qaeda and the Taliban against U.S. and NATO troops gets underway in Afghanistan and the militant groups threaten to resume their attacks on Pakistan's army, the newly elected government in Islamabad needs the support and patience of the Bush administration rather than Washington's single-minded desire for military solutions.

Much has been made in the United States about the possibility that Pakistan's coalition government is about to cut a deal with Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban who rules over much of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Such a deal would free up Pakistani and Afghan Taliban members for the summer offensive in Afghanistan.

Almost every global terrorist plot carried out or prevented since 2004 has been traced to training, funding or material support from al-Qaeda based in these areas. The key to changing the status quo in the tribal areas is major political reform. Instead of archaic colonial laws, the tribal areas need a strategic vision and political changes based on consultations with the people living there.

The Pashtun tribes in the tribal areas must be given the political and social opportunities available to all Pakistanis, and the authority of the state must prevail. Ultimately, such reforms must lead to the people making a democratic decision about their status -- such as establishing a separate province or becoming part of the neighboring Pashtun-majority North-West Frontier Province.

Benazir Bhutto spoke about the urgent need for such reforms. Her Pakistan People's Party leads the coalition government with the Awami National Party, a secular Pashtun group whose leader, Afsandyar Wali, has said much the same.

In the short term, the government could open a dialogue with all the tribes, Pashtun civil society and even those Taliban members who will lay down their weapons. It could more effectively isolate the extremists if it had a political future to offer the people of the tribal areas.

Yet the government appears to be backsliding on long-term reform. The parties are being squeezed by the army, which wants a quick, localized peace accord with the Pakistani Taliban (which would give its troops breathing space) and by the Bush administration, which is suspicious of long-term political programs and wants U.S. troops to be able to pursue extremists in the tribal areas.

Right now, though, only the extremists have a clear vision for the tribal areas -- they want a state ruled by Islamic law, independent of Pakistan, where al-Qaeda and extremist groups can congregate.

The deal under discussion is inadequate. The Pakistani Taliban would stop its attacks on Pakistan's army and free several hundred hostages but would make no promises about ceasing attacks in Afghanistan. The government would largely hand over to extremists major swaths of the tribal areas and free Taliban leaders it is holding. Pakistan's army has struck similar accords -- and been commended by President Bush -- yet these deals have collapsed and led to a further concentration of extremists.

The key is the army. Even though Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, the army chief, has expressed willingness to follow the civilian government, the army calls the shots in the tribal areas. Pakistan's government cannot implement change there without army support. Kiyani wants political leaders to take "ownership" of the war on terrorism, but the army first needs to make strategic changes for the good of the region and the country.

First, it must curtail the Afghan Taliban leadership, which draws recruits, supplies and support from elements within Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban is guiding the Pakistani Taliban in the tribal areas and farther south in Baluchistan province, where the Afghan Taliban leadership is largely based.

Second, the army must accept that no political process or development programs can succeed in the tribal areas unless linked to similar efforts in the Afghan provinces where the same Pashtun tribes live. (Afghan President Hamid Karzai is trying, unsuccessfully, to woo the Afghan Taliban.) Such efforts require a much better relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan than has existed since 2001. The army needs to support improvements in relations. For its part, Afghanistan must ultimately recognize the Durand Line, a border between the two countries that no Kabul government has acknowledged.

Third, the army needs to make clear that it supports political reform in the tribal areas and will protect tribal leaders and Pashtun civilians there. Since 2004 tens of thousands of Pakistanis have fled the tribal areas rather than live under the Taliban. Hundreds of Pashtuns have already been executed by the Taliban. The army must help the refugees return and protect them while the government provides economic support. Only then can the state develop a serious Pashtun lobby for political changes in the tribal areas.

Given its massive military aid to Pakistan, the Bush administration could push the army to take such steps while also encouraging the army and the government to promote an effective plan for the tribal areas. Instead, the United States is again pushing military action -- a course that will further alienate the Pashtuns, weaken a fragile civilian government and absolve the army of responsibility for changes it must make.
Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani journalist, is the author of "Taliban" and "Jihad." His latest book, "Descent into Chaos: U.S. Policy and the Failure of Nation Building in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia," will be published next month.
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Accidental Explosions Kill 4 Children, 3 Police Officers in Afghanistan
By VOA News 05 May 2008
Afghan officials say two separate accidental explosions killed four children and three police officers in the capital, Kabul, Monday.

In the first incident, authorities said a group of children was playing with an old artillery shell when it exploded. The blast killed four of the children.

Afghanistan remains littered with unexploded munitions and landmines after decades of war.

The second blast happened as a group of police officers was preparing for a mission.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said one of the officers accidentally dropped a rocket-propelled grenade.

The explosion killed three officers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.
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Cousin and friends gang rape and kill girl, 8
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 04 May 2008
AN EIGHT-year-old girl has been suffocated and gang raped by her cousin and his friends, according to a security official in Takhar.

The young girl’s cousin and three of his other friends gang raped her yesterday (Saturday) before dumping her body in a field in the Sarai Sang area of Taloqan city, according to the head of the province’s security department, Ziauldin Mahmoodi.

Mahmoodi said the girl, who neaigbours said was polite and well-mannered, lived with her uncle’s family because her own parents were dead.

He said the suspects are now in police custody and that the four men had already admitted raping and killing the girl.

The head of Takhar’s central hospital, Ainuddin Aini, said a post-mortem revealed the girl had been suffocated after the four men raped her.

The head of the Human Rights Commission in the north-eastern province, Muhammad Zahir Zafari, condemned the rape and the killing.

He also said the number of rape victims may increase because the criminals who carry out the attacks are often released and avoid facing trial.
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Amid War, Afghanistan Builds Its First National Park
by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR (National Public Radio)
May 5, 2008 · In Afghanistan, Americans are working with the government in Kabul to create something that's never existed before in this war-ravaged country — a national park.

It takes several hours by four-wheel drive vehicle to get to the 220-square-mile site – riding on rocky roads that wind through mountains and across streams.

But the drive is easy compared to the obstacles planners face to make this park in central Bamyan province a reality.

The Natural Wonders of Band-e-Amir

Between mountains in the Hindu Kush range lie six, sky-blue lakes. They are the lifeline of 15 villages where people live pretty much as they have for centuries.

The lake region and its many streams, called Band-e-Amir, boasts some of the most beautiful landscape in Afghanistan — including crystal-clear waterfalls, cascading over naturally formed dams that keep the lakes in place.

Such natural wonders make Band-e-Amir the perfect place to create Afghanistan's first national park, says Bamyan Governor Habiba Surabi.

"This is one of our desires, one of our wish that we at least will have something for the tourism attraction, the tourism destination here in Bamyan," he says.

Surabi and other Afghan officials have joined forced with the Wildlife Conservation Society, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other foreign donors to make the park a reality. Not just as a tourist haven, but as a place where the country's fledgling conservation laws can take root.

A planned, paved road will make Band-e-Amir more accessible, although it could take years to build.

"There was just kind of sense with the donor community as well as the government that this particular natural resource was something that was so attractive, desirable and generally worth of protection that it needed to be sort of made an example of," says Loren Stoddard, USAID's director of alternative development and agriculture office in Afghanistan.

Challenges Lie Ahead

But, there are problems in the effort to create a national park. There are animal droppings everywhere. Plastic bags that are discarded flutter about in the wind. There are also empty bottles that are littering the area.

Sayed Hussein runs a flour mill built three generations ago next to some of the waterfalls at one of the lakes.

The 60-year-old is one of many villagers who are nervous about the proposed park. To him and many others across Afghanistan, conserving natural resources is a foreign concept. Natural resources are what they depend on to survive.

Trees are cut down for firewood. Landscapes are turned into farmland and pastures to grow food and raise livestock. Trash is hauled to the edges of one's neighborhood to be dumped or burned. Water is harnessed for consumption and power.

So to Hussein, the waterfalls next to his mill aren't something beautiful to be gawked at. They are a way to power the heavy stone wheels that grind wheat into flour.

He is reluctant to consider how he might change his life to make the park work.

But villagers do get a say in what happens here. Decisions about the proposed park and its rules are in the hands of a committee that includes not only the government in Kabul and its Western advisors, but Band-e-Amir elders and other village representatives.

A Homegrown Park

Peter Smallwood, who is country director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, says the aim is for the park to be a homegrown one. It would be a national landmark that benefits residents and tourists.

"I don't think that our job here … is to recreate an American park. And in fact, other than gentle nudges, I don't really want to be saying 'here is the vision.' I want the vision to be grown from theirs," Smallwood says.

So the park will likely have some features one doesn't usually see in the West. Like a Shiite Muslim shrine on one lakefront that will remain open.

Even so, the committee's ideas on creating this park aren't necessarily popular with residents.

Some accuse the Asian Development Bank, which built the park's first ranger station, of failing to pay the owner for the land. Others complain that the committee has yet to come up with a new location for the marketplace that was moved from the lakefront area last fall.

A local teacher, Roghiah, says that park planners should also hurry up with a plan for the herders of sheep, goats and other livestock, who take their flocks to the lakes to drink and graze on nearby mountainsides.

"Our entire livelihood depends on farming and livestock. But no one — not the government nor the committee — has given us any real assurance with regards to how we can continue living here," Roghiah says.

Building a Park Amid War

American proponents of the park say those decisions must come from the Afghans themselves.

Smallwood, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, admits it's slow-going. Like getting the Afghan government to establish a general set of rules for protected areas. That's the last hurdle before the park officially opens.

With the ongoing war against the Taliban elsewhere in the country, he and others say it's hard to get the government to focus on protecting the environment.

Band-e-Amir Park Ranger Sayed Zaher says he and the other three rangers assigned here have not been paid in four months since the government took charge of them from the Wildlife Conservation Society.

But he adds that he believes in what he's been hired to do. And that he's having some success in getting fellow Band-e-Amir residents to cooperate with conservation measures.
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Sticks-and-stones diplomacy works in Afghanistan
Globe and Mail, Canada FRASER CLARK Special to Globe and Mail Update May 4, 2008
It was a day unlike any other I have experienced in Afghanistan and one I won't soon forget.

As our tiny convoy lumbered into a central Kandahar City village, the mid-morning sun drove temperatures above 35 degrees. Dozens of small children swarmed our hefty, olive-coloured LAV III's, jockeying for position to greet the soldiers as they dismounted from their vehicles. As we halted amidst the entrepreneurial chaos of an Afghan market on this Friday morning – the official day of rest in Afghanistan – colourful pashminas, trinkets and other sundries found in a Third World bazaar were randomly laid out for sale. Meanwhile, young Pashtuns jumped up and down blurting-out “Bic,” as their fingers madly scribbled the actions of an invisible marker into their palms; they wanted our pens.

Normally, Canadian convoys stop in neighbourhoods like these to meet with the locals, see how they're getting on and to let them know ISAF hasn't forgotten them.

But the Canadians were in this neighbourhood for a different reason.

“Our intent really is to stop the kids from throwing rocks at our vehicles,” quipped Lieutenant Dan Hogan, a platoon commander with Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team. “We regularly drive through these villages during our patrols. And as kids will inevitably be kids, some in this area have taken to throwing rocks at our vehicles; not unlike kids at home throwing snowballs at passing cars: the same thing is happening here. We really want to curb this trend, though, as on a couple of occasions, these rocks have broken mirrors on our vehicles. As such, we're conducting this patrol in an effort to gain positive face-time with the kids and to ask them to stop throwing the rocks.”

Ask? Could our soldiers be more quintessentially Canadian than this?

Meanwhile, dozens of boys and girls, uninhibited by any cultural norms and obviously not intimidated by our weapons or body armour, welcomed us into their enclaves. Many cheered with excitement while others shook our hands vigorously. And in the midst of this youthful melee, our patrol commander sought out village elders to engage them in small talk and to pass along our message: Please don't throw stones at us.

Several children, to our surprise, confidently asked us questions with dramatic, lilting tones: “How are you?” and “How old are you?” were the typical catchphrases, while others inquired, “What is your name?” and “Where are you from?”

As they asked their questions, others rushed in, wide-eyed and smiling, and tried to teach us some of their own expressions. In our best Pashto dialects, we gave Salaam aleikum – “peace be with you.” Encouraged by our responses, the kids continued to walk with us, teaching snippets of their language along the way.

Their effect was incredible. Their innocence and inquisitiveness couldn't help but move the hardest of our soldiers, whose icy and seemingly impenetrable stares – set in place by months of training and for some, previous combat experience – suddenly broke into broad-brimmed smiles and laughter that only these influential young diplomats could achieve.

One child, who couldn't have been any more than eight-years-old, approached me and with a disarming smile, extended his hand in goodwill. Instinctively, I placed my hand in his, removing mine from my rifle and, for those few seconds, sealing a fleeting bond of friendship with this young Afghan.

My lighthearted companion kept pace with our patrol as we sauntered along the great canal bisecting the city, smiling at us the entire time. As we made our way from village to village, he carried on a conversation with me in Pashto – I couldn't speak a stitch but this didn't seem to matter to him – while cleverly rolling a bicycle tire with a small stick, strutting his stuff it seemed, for our entertainment.

Those kids have given me lifelong memories of an Afghanistan I previously thought was all misery and squalor. The ability of these children to overlook their desperate circumstances and so easily reveal their innocence speaks of their incredible resilience and ability to see the good around them.

This foot patrol was designed to stop children from throwing rocks at our vehicles. But I would argue this patrol achieved much more than this – the often-ungraspable sentiments of friendship, trust and hope.
It is often heard that “tanks, troops and guns cannot win the hearts and minds of ordinary Afghans.” While I do not agree with that statement given my experience here, it was Canada's soldiers whose hearts and minds were won over by the children of Afghanistan.

Captain Fraser Clark is a public affairs officer with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team
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Bush asks for $3.7bn to beef up Afghan security
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 04 May 2008
President asks for billions of dollars to continue 'global war on terror'

UNITED States President George Bush has said Afghanistan needs $3.7 billion to expand the size of its security forces as part of the “global war on terror.”

Bush has also asked the US Congress for an extra $1.1 billion to improve democracy, governance, agriculture, counter-narcotics, humanitarian aid and security operations in Afghanistan.

The proposal forms part of Bush’s $70 billion war-funding request sent to Congress on May 2 as part of what he calls his “global war on terror”.

Bush has also asked for $770 million to provide emergency food aid to combat the effects of the global food crisis, including support for agriculture programs.

A significant portion of this is expected to go to Afghanistan, which is facing acute food shortages thanks in part to the rise in the cost of wheat, a predicted poor harvest, and Pakistani export bans on flour.

The US President has also proposed $193.2 million for Pakistan to fund military and economic assistance, increase diplomatic activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Area and expand the operations led by the US’s development agency, USAID.
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Poll: government should give up hunt for Daoud
Written by www.quqnoos.com Sunday, 04 May 2008
Half polled say government is wasting time by searching for president's body
HALF the number of voters in last week’s poll said the government should give up the hunt for the body of Afghanistan’s first president, Mohammad Daoud, who was assassinated during the 1987 revolution.
Exactly 50% of those polled by Quqnoos.com said the government was wasting its time by setting up a special commission to track down President Daoud’s remains, which have remained a mystery every since he was assassinated.

A third of those polled said the government should search for the body of Daoud, the man who overthrew his own cousin, King Zahir Shah, while the king was in Italy in 1973.

About 16% of those who voted said they didn’t care whether the government hunted for the body or not.

As president, Daoud launched ambitious social and economic development projects, including a railway linking Iran with Afghanistan.

His first 5-year plan was hailed as a success by many at the time, but Daoud’s republic relied heavily on military, economic and political support from the USSR.

His attempts to garner support among the Arab Gulf States, Iran, Pakistan and the West came too late and he was overthrown by a PDPA coup on April 27 1978.

Have you say
To have your say in this week’s poll, go to the right of your screen and tick one of the boxes.

This week, we ask: Who masterminded the plot to kill President Karzai?
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Prince Harry receives Afghanistan medal
May 5, 2008
WINDSOR (AFP) - Prince Harry received his first army campaign medal as his regiment was decorated for its service in Afghanistan in a ceremony here Monday.

Harry, 23, third in line to the throne, was among 170 members of the Household Cavalry decorated by his aunt Princess Anne in her capacity as colonel of the Blues and Royals regiment, to which the prince also belongs.

Harry's girlfriend Chelsy Davy, brother Prince William and father Prince Charles watched the ceremony at Combermere Barracks in Windsor, west of London.

Known as Lieutenant Wales in the army, Harry served at Garmsir and Musa Qala in the southern province of Helmand during a four-month tour which for him ended in February after 10 weeks when a news blackout was broken.

The prince, dressed in fatigues and blue beret, smiled during a 30-second conversation with Anne.

Following the medal ceremony Harry marched with his comrades through the streets of Windsor to the garrison church for a service of thanksgiving.

Hundreds of well-wishers clapped as the 10-minute march passed through the town.

Joey Jones, 82, waved the national flag as the service personnel filed past.

"I thought I would come to support the soldiers and especially because Prince Harry was parading," she said.

"I think they have a rotten job and for what they're doing out there we should show some support."

Britain has some 7,800 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 40-nation NATO-led coalition. Most are based in Helmand, where fighting against Taliban insurgents has been among the fiercest.
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Chopper hit by rebel fire in Afghanistan
Mon May 5, 7:09 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - A civilian helicopter was hit by insurgent gunfire in mountainous eastern Afghanistan on Monday, forcing it to make an emergency landing at a NATO military base, the alliance force said.

No one was injured in the incident in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

"The helicopter made a landing at an ISAF base, in central Kunar, after taking machine gunfire from an unknown number of insurgents," ISAF said in a statement.

"The aircrew inspected the aircraft and found one bullet hole that did minor damage to the helicopter."

The chopper was contracted by the military, the force said without being able to immediately provide further information.

Insurgents battling the Afghan army and its international allies have shot at several military helicopters, most often missing.

But a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) brought down a Chinook helicopter in Kunar in June 2005, killing 16 US soldiers. The province has steep mountains on which insurgents are said to operate.

In another attack, seven ISAF soldiers -- all Americans except for a Briton and Canadian -- were killed in May 2007 when a helicopter crashed in southern Afghanistan after apparently being struck by an RPG.
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Singapore sends military engineers to Afghanistan
Mon May 5, 5:47 AM ET
SINGAPORE (AFP) - Singapore is sending two military construction engineering teams to Afghanistan, the defence ministry said Monday.

In the tiny city-state's latest military contribution to the area, 12 team members will be deployed in two groups over about six months in central Bamiyan province, the ministry said.

They are to supervise construction of a regional health training centre and will be part of the New Zealand Defence Force provincial reconstruction team, it said.

"This deployment is part of Singapore's overall contribution to the international humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan," the defence ministry said in a statement.

Singapore last year sent a five-man medical team to Bamiyan, and a Singapore Air Force refuelling aircraft left last month for the Gulf where it will support multi-national forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ministry said earlier.

Singapore, which US President George W. Bush visited in 2006, has been an unwavering US ally.
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Canada should ease Afghan hunger
Calgary Herald (Canada) Monday, May 05, 2008
Spiking food prices are an acute danger not only to the world's poor, but to the strategic aims of NATO in Afghanistan, making it all the more imperative that the hunger of Afghans be alleviated as soon as possible.

While the Canadian government announced an extra $50 million in aid this week for poor nations affected by rising food costs, none of the money is specifically earmarked for Afghanistan. This omission urgently needs to be corrected as a prolonged food shortage will undermine Afghanistan's fragile multi-ethnic confidence in the national government of President Hamid Karzai and severely imperil NATO's efforts to bring peace to the volatile country.

As the snows of the harsh Afghan winter melt, efforts by the Taliban to disrupt international reconstruction are expected to intensify and starving men with few prospects and no relief in sight are likely to provide the insurgents with a ready supply of recruits. Military forces in Afghanistan -- including Canada's contingent in the violent southern province of Kandahar -- will find themselves facing ever larger numbers of foes sowing ever more chaos. Without money specifically directed at easing local hunger, it will be even harder to win hearts and minds, and maintain bulwarks against the Taliban.

Even in areas unwilling to support the Taliban, food price hikes will force desperate people to sell their possessions in order to survive, further impoverishing them and limiting their options for survival. Desperate times lead to desperate measures and the insurgents will suddenly find a welcome where they previously received the cold shoulder.

The Taliban might not have to try very hard. Famine will be a propaganda gift, further "proof" for their arguments that NATO's presence in the country is part of a nefarious plot to wage war on Islam and exterminate Muslims. Bereft of provisions for food aid, NATO forces would be reduced to merely arguing that rising food prices are the result of a complex combination of factors beyond the control of any one government. In a starving and poorly educated country, it is not hard to imagine how that will go over.

The solution to Afghan hunger will have to come from beyond the country's borders because, while rising food prices are expected to benefit many of the world's farmers, the same cannot be said for those in Afghanistan. Isolated physically and technologically from world markets, and lacking access to seed and equipment, Afghan farmers will find it difficult to expand or switch cultivars and reap the benefits of high prices besides feeding their own people. Many are also in thrall to local warlords involved in the drug trade and have no choice but to grow poppies.

The World Food Program currently administers a $77 million food aid program in Afghanistan, but this will run out by June. Unless NATO is willing to accept no return on all the men, money and equipment it has poured into Afghanistan, member nations will have to assume a large share of the burden of feeding Afghans. If not, starvation and war will undo all the coalition's hard-won gains and could leave Afghanistan truly beyond hope.
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Bangladesh, Afghanistan play in opener today
The Daily Star (Bangladesh) / May 5, 2008
Bangladesh will look forward to a winning start when they take on fellow South Asian opponents Afghanistan in the opening match of the AFC Challenge Cup Group C qualifying rounds in Bishkek today.

The match will kick off at the refurbished 19,000-seater Spartak Stadium in the Kyrgyzstan capital at 5.30pm Bangladesh time.

In their two previous meetings, Bangladesh drew 2-2 with Afghanistan before winning 4-1 in the Asian Cup qualifiers in 1979 at home although the two under-23 sides drew their SA games match in 2006 in Sri Lanka.

Hosts Kyrgyzstan, however, start as favourites after Laos's 11th hour pullout on Friday reduced the action to a three-horse race.

Bangladesh, who hosted the inaugural edition of this competition in 2006, will have to topple both the teams as only the group winners are assured of a place in the finals to be held in south Indian city of Hyderabad from July 30-August 10.

With all of Laos's matches cancelled, the home team fans will have to wait until May 7 to see Kyrgyzstan launch their campaign against Afghanistan though coach Nematjan Zakirov told the-afc.com that the South-East Asian side's withdrawal hardly made matters easy.

"Though Laos are not participating anymore, these matches will not be an easy task for my players," said Zakirov whose charges lost to Oman 2-0 in a preparatory friendly recently.

The highlight of the group games -- provided Afghanistan do not upset the mighty odds stacked against them -- is set to be the Kyrgyzstan versus Bangladesh match on May 9 when the two renew their rivalry after the Nehru Cup last August in India where the Central Asians won convincingly 3-0.

While Kyrgyzstan lost to eventual winners Tajikistan in the semifinals of the inaugural edition of Challenge Cup, Bangladesh were ousted form the quarterfinals by the same opposition.

Newly appointed Bangladesh coach Abu Yusuf, who rued not playing any preparation match, was confident about his team's chances.

"We have played before against Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan and their level is the same as ours," said Yusuf after arriving in the Kyrgyz capital.

"Sometimes you might not play good, might not understand your partners, but this time we understand each other well, and I hope with our good planning we can win," the former Bangladesh defender said.

One match less in the qualifiers, however, will frustrate Bangla-desh's plans as they are looking forward to play as many international matches as possible s preparation for next month's SAFF Championship in Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The opening match would be still important for Yusuf's men, who have been drawn with the Afghans in their SAFF Champion-ship group.

Despite their low FIFA ranking of 196, Afghanistan coach Klaus Staerk was optimistic of a decent show.

"We have to show our best performance and everything will be fine," said Staerk, who led the Afghans in the opening instalment of this tournament in Dhaka where they finished at the bottom of their group with two draws.

"If we lose then it is still not a problem but we expect to perform to the best of our ability."

Sri Lanka became the first team to qualify for the finals from Group A with a draw against hosts Chinese Taipei and a win over Guam before thrashing contenders Pakistan 7-1 to the top position last month.

DPR Korea, Turkmenistan, hosts India and Myanmar have direct entry to the finals of the tournament which helps to achieve AFC's aim of raising the level playing field within Asia besides helping to discover home grown talent.
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