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December 21, 2009 

Afghan Killing Bares a Karzai Family Feud
By JAMES RISEN December 20, 2009 The New York Times
WASHINGTON — On Oct. 16, four sport utility vehicles barreled into Karz, Afghanistan, the hometown of the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, and pulled up to the home of one of his cousins, Yar Mohammad Karzai.

Taliban in suicide vests attack Afghan city
by Khan Mohammad – Mon Dec 21, 9:11 am ET
KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) – Two Taliban gunmen wearing suicide vests and carrying rocket launchers stormed an Afghan apartment block Monday, sparking a gun battle with police that killed them both, officials said.

Afghan Forces Kill Taliban Militants Who Seized Building in East
VOA News December 21, 2009
Officials say militants armed with heavy weapons and wearing suicide vests stormed the building Monday near a police station in Gardez.

Royal Military Police soldier killed in Afghanistan
Monday, 21 December 2009 BBC News
A soldier from the Royal Military Police has died in a possible "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

Afghans lose faith in new Karzai cabinet weakened by graft claims
Financial Times By Matthew Green in Islamabad and Fazel Reshad in Kabul December 21 2009
The weekend decision by Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, to favour continuity over sweeping reform in his new cabinet will improve his frayed relations with the west but do little to bolster support for a government weakened by entrenched graft.

Afghanistan's Karzai shrugs off criticism of his cabinet picks
The Christian Science Monitor By Tom A. Peter 12/20/2009
Nearly half of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's 23-member cabinet will carry over from his last term, and it will include a former warlord, and only one woman.

Fighting a Smarter War in Afghanistan
Soldiers go home, but their knowledge doesn't have to
Wall Street Journal By ANN MARLOWE DECEMBER 20, 2009
No substantial business sends its sales force out to sell a product without supplying them with market research. But we are doing just that to our troops in Afghanistan. We've spent an estimated $173 billion in fiscal year 2009 selling

S Korean minor parties opposes troop dispatch to Afghanistan
SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's four opposition parties on Monday vowed to oppose the government's plan to extend the period of troop dispatch to Afghanistan, local media reported.

US Success In Afghanistan Depends On Karzai
NPR Jackie Northam December 21, 2009
One of the primary elements of the Obama administration's new strategy in Afghanistan is a stable government in Kabul. The United States needs a reliable partner so that programs and policies can be implemented.

US denies 'improper' call for Austrian support
December 21, 2009
VIENNA (AFP) – US Ambassador William Eacho hit back Monday at comments by Austria's defence minister that Washington had exerted "improper" pressure on Vienna to commit more troops to Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, U.S. Success Depends On Karzai
by Jackie Northam NPR - National Public Radio December 21, 2009
One of the primary elements of the Obama administration's new strategy in Afghanistan is a stable government in Kabul. The United States needs a reliable partner so that programs and policies can be implemented.

Belgian PM ends Afghanistan tour
KABUL, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme who paid an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Sunday left Kabul Monday, an Afghan government official said.

Pakistan, Afghanistan talks hit a snag
Dawn (Pakistan) December 21, 2009
KABUL: The final round of technical level talks between Pakistan-Afghanistan for new transit trade agreement were attempted as Pakistan wants assurance that the new agreement would not be misused for terror financing, drug trafficking and arms trade.

Pakistani tribesman asked to cooperate with army
ISLAMABAD, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in a Pakistani tribal region Monday issued written notices to general public, asking them to cooperate with security force during patrols.

UN fights hunger in Afghanistan
Associated Press By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU 21 Dec 2009
AQCHA, Afghanistan - While international forces in Afghanistan battle militants hiding in the mountains, aid agencies are fighting an even more elusive enemy: malnutrition.

Hamid Karzai's multiple personalities: Afghanistan's man in the middle
San Francisco Examiner Michael Hughes December 21,2009
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has always tried to be all things to all people – partly out of necessity and partly due to his nature – and he tried his level best to do so again on Saturday when he announced his new cabinet.

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Afghan Killing Bares a Karzai Family Feud
By JAMES RISEN December 20, 2009 The New York Times
WASHINGTON — On Oct. 16, four sport utility vehicles barreled into Karz, Afghanistan, the hometown of the country’s president, Hamid Karzai, and pulled up to the home of one of his cousins, Yar Mohammad Karzai.

Teams of armed guards blocked the street and herded passers-by into a nearby mosque while seizing their cellphones, then removed the front door of the house, according to Karzai family members and several people from the mosque. A man in traditional white Afghan robes, accompanied by two security guards, walked inside and found two of Yar Mohammad Karzai’s children, 18-year-old Waheed and his 12-year-old sister, Sona, doing their schoolwork in their bedroom.

The girl later said that she remembered the robed man raising a pistol and shooting Waheed three times as she shouted: “Don’t kill my brother! Don’t kill my brother!”

As the intruders fled, firing their weapons, a cousin, Zalal Karzai, 25, came running from elsewhere in the house and saw Waheed stagger from the bedroom. “What happened to you?” Zalal Karzai recalled asking.

“ ‘Hashmat shot me!’ ” he said the youth screamed back.

Waheed Karzai, who relatives say provided the same account to other family members before dying two days later at an American military hospital in Kandahar, was referring to Hashmat Karzai, 40, a first cousin of the president and the owner of a private security company that has close ties to the Afghan government and millions of dollars in contracts with the United States military.

The murder in Karz, the identity of the man accused of being the killer and the fact that the episode involves Afghanistan’s most prominent family make for a dramatic — and divisive — tale, one that has not been previously reported. The killing has set off a bitter split within the family in Afghanistan and the United States, with charges, countercharges and claims of a cover-up by Afghan officials.

Some relatives said they believed that the death was vengeance for an “honor killing” of Hashmat Karzai’s father nearly 30 years ago by Yar Mohammad Karzai. For his part, Hashmat Karzai denies any role in Waheed’s death, instead saying that the boy was shot by drug dealers intending to harm someone else.

“They mixed up the houses and killed the boy by mistake,” Hashmat Karzai said in a telephone interview from Dubai, where he is staying with his family. “I had nothing to do with it.”

There has been no investigation of the shooting by the Afghan government nor any mention of it in the press. The F.B.I. questioned Hashmat Karzai a month ago, he acknowledged, but it is not clear whether American investigators are pursuing the matter. An F.B.I. spokesman declined to comment.

While some family members accuse the Karzai government of stonewalling, they do not claim that the president played an active role in blocking an investigation. Instead, they blame several of his brothers, including Ahmed Wali Karzai, the political boss of Kandahar and southern Afghanistan, for trying to hush up relatives and forestall an official inquiry, perhaps with the president’s knowledge.

“Not a single soul has come to investigate,” Yar Mohammad Karzai, 62, said in a recent telephone interview. “I told one local official, what do you want me to do, knock on Obama’s door?”

Noor Karzai, 40, a cousin who lives in Maryland, expressed similar disappointment. “They are protecting Hashmat,” he said. “He is sitting in Kabul getting money from the U.S. government. No one will touch him. We are sending billions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money to Afghanistan, and this is how the government operates.”

A spokesman for the Afghan president said that the case was a criminal matter and denied that the president sought to interfere. Reached by telephone on Saturday, Ahmed Wali Karzai declined to comment on the matter, as did officials at the United States Embassy in Kabul.

Frustrated by the seeming inaction on the killing, nearly a dozen family members agreed to be interviewed for this article. Some, including Yar Mohammad Karzai, Sona Karzai and Zalal Karzai, who witnessed aspects of the shooting or its immediate aftermath, also provided documents about the killing. They include a complaint that Yar Mohammad Karzai filed with the Dand district police in Kandahar Province naming Hashmat Karzai as Waheed’s assailant, the boy’s hospital records and a death certificate stating that he died of gunshot wounds.

Other family members, saying they feared retribution, agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, as did three witnesses from the Karz mosque. All three said they heard the shooting across the street; one identified Hashmat Karzai as the robed man he saw exiting the house.

The death of Waheed Karzai came after the Afghan election in August, in which President Karzai’s government was widely accused of electoral fraud and attacked for corruption.

The activities of the president’s family have fed some of the criticism. Afghan and American officials, for example, have said that Ahmed Wali Karzai has been involved in or benefited from drug trafficking, while another brother, Mahmoud, has been accused of exploiting his family name to get lucrative business deals. Some relatives said they believed that news of the fatal Karzai family feud would have been an embarrassment for the president.

According to family members, the roots of the dispute go back to when Yar Mohammad Karzai was about 5, and his father arranged a marriage between him and another Karzai cousin. But when the girl grew up, she left Karz, became a teacher, married another man and eventually settled in the United States.

Relatives say Yar Mohammad Karzai was angered by the woman’s rejection and her family’s failure to make amends by offering a formal divorce or an apology. To punish her family, relatives said, Yar Mohammad Karzai fatally shot Khalil Lula Karzai, the girl’s brother, in 1982 or 1983 in Quetta, Pakistan, where both men were then living.

In an interview, Yar Mohammad Karzai declined to say whether he had killed Khalil Karzai, who was Hashmat’s father. He was never charged in the death, though he said he was briefly arrested in 1997 or 1998 when Hashmat Karzai pressed the Taliban government to detain him. Because the crime occurred in Pakistan, however, the Taliban soon released him. Both men went to Quetta, where family members pressed Hashmat to drop the matter and mediated a peace deal between the men.

But, Yar Mohammad Karzai said, he knew it was not over.

“I never felt comfortable with the closing of this story,” he said. “And neither did Hashmat.”

Hashmat Karzai disputes that. “The father killed my father, we captured him more than 10 years ago and brought him to Pakistan, and we chose to have forgiveness,” he said. “In Islam, I have the right to kill him, but I chose not to do so.”

After Khalil Karzai’s murder, his family moved to the United States and settled in Maryland. Hashmat, the oldest son, became an American citizen, and until 2007 worked at a Toyota dealership in Virginia.

He returned to Afghanistan, where his younger brother, Hekmat, 36, runs the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, a Kabul-based research organization that supports the Karzai government. Before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Hekmat was a student and worked in restaurants in the Washington area.

After the American invasion of Afghanistan, he served as a political officer at the Afghan Embassy in Washington. In 2006, he moved back to Kabul to start his research group. He said he briefed American military officials on his research. Several family members described him as an informal adviser to President Karzai and said they believed that his influence helped his brother’s rise in Kabul.

Soon after arriving in Kabul, Hashmat Karzai took over the Asia Security Group, a company that now employs 500 to 600 guards, he said. In recent months, Asia Security has been awarded $16.2 million in five contracts with the United States military to provide security for five American bases in Afghanistan, according to Col. Wayne M. Shanks, an American military spokesman.

According to its Web site, Asia Security also has other major American customers in Afghanistan, including DynCorp International, a Virginia-based firm with large contracts with the American government in Afghanistan. Hekmat’s Karzai’s research center is also an Asia Security client, the Web site said.

This year, Hashmat Karzai began building a large house in Karz, near Yar Mohammad Karzai’s home. Some relatives say they believe that Waheed Karzai was singled out as a way to inflict deep pain on his father.

“If he had killed Yar Mohammad Karzai, it would have been wrong, but we would have understood,” said Mohammad Karzai, a cousin from Maryland. “The family would have been silent about it. But instead, he killed an 18-year-old boy who had nothing to do with this feud.”

Hashmat Karzai agrees that Waheed was an innocent victim, but he attributed his death to drug dealers. He said that Yar Mohammad Karzai and his brothers were involved in the drug trade — an allegation that Yar Mohammad rejects — and that one brother cheated some dealers. Intending to kill that man’s son, they mistakenly shot Waheed, Hashmat Karzai said.

He said he told President Karzai and Ahmed Wali Karzai that he played no part in the crime. He added: “Why would I do a killing there, right where I am building a house? That would be stupidity.”

The village of Karz is in Kandahar Province, about three miles outside the city of Kandahar, where Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the president’s brothers, wields enormous political power. But after Waheed’s killing, government officials in the Kandahar area were strangely unhelpful, according to Yar Mohammad Karzai and other family members.

Immediately after the shooting, Yar Mohammad Karzai said, he called the nearest police station. But no one answered the phone, he recalled. He soon realized that the convoy had come to the shooting scene and gone without having to stop at a police checkpoint on the road into Karz.

Frantic to get help, Zalal Karzai said he called a friend working for President Karzai in Kabul, who gave him a private number for Ahmed Wali Karzai in Kandahar. Reaching someone in that office, he reported the killing. Later that night, some police officials went to the scene of the shooting, collected some shell casings and left. Yar Mohammad Karzai said they had not returned since then.

Meanwhile, at least three of President Karzai’s brothers — Ahmed Wali, Mahmoud and Qayum — have been urging family members to allow relatives to deal with the killing privately without bringing in the police, said Noor and Mohammad Karzai, the brothers from Maryland.

“My mom talks to Qayum and Ahmed Wali every day,” said another family member in the United States. “They have both told her, ‘Why don’t you keep quiet and we will take care of it?’ ”

Yar Mohammad Karzai said that Ahmed Wali Karzai had come to his house to offer his condolences. “But he never mentioned what had happened or who did it,” he said. “Later, when a family member asked him about the killing, he said, ‘You know who did this, why do you need to hear it from me?’ ”

Some family members in the United States have become so Americanized that they are unwilling to abide by Afghan traditions and have gone to the United States authorities about the case. Mohammad Karzai said he contacted the F.B.I. Later, he said he got an angry call from Hashmat Karzai, who reported that an F.B.I. agent had interviewed him. Hekmat Karzai, who also said his brother did not kill Waheed, acknowledged that he was questioned by the F.B.I. as well.

The shooting has left the family badly shaken, especially Sona.

“I can’t sleep in my room anymore,” she said in a telephone interview from Karz. “I sleep with my parents now.”
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Taliban in suicide vests attack Afghan city
by Khan Mohammad – Mon Dec 21, 9:11 am ET
KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) – Two Taliban gunmen wearing suicide vests and carrying rocket launchers stormed an Afghan apartment block Monday, sparking a gun battle with police that killed them both, officials said.

The attack was the latest in an ongoing and increasingly deadly insurgency being waged by the remnants of the Taliban and comes a day after security forces killed nearly two dozen rebels in raids across the country.

The militants seized the building near police headquarters in Gardez, capital of eastern Paktia province, at about 10:00 am (0530 GMT) and began firing at security forces as they surrounded the building, an official said.

Eastern Afghanistan is one of the worst flashpoints of violence in the insurgency, which is now at its bloodiest since US-led troops ousted the country's Taliban regime in late 2001.

"It's now over. They were two people and both have been killed," the provincial police chief, General Azizuddin Wardak, told AFP. Three civilians, including a woman, plus a police officer were wounded, he added.

A purported Taliban spokesman, speaking from an unknown location, said the Islamist militia carried out the operation.

Wardak said earlier that four militants were killed but subsequent checks showed that two of the four were wounded civilians.

The militants were armed with rifles, rocket launchers and grenades, and were wearing bomb-packed suicide vests, the police chief said.

Their bombs went off under police fire, he said. He did not give further details, saying the incident was being investigated.

Security forces surrounded the residential apartment block about 200 metres (yards) from a quick reaction police unit, he said.

Coordinated gun and suicide attacks, usually targeting Afghan government officials and security installations, have become increasingly frequent.

Three Taliban militants armed with suicide vests and machine guns stormed a United Nations guesthouse in Kabul in October, killing eight people including five UN staff.

The interior ministry also confirmed that two militants were killed during Monday's attack in Gardez.

Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary said one was shot while trying to run at the security forces, but his vest detonated.

"The explosives he had on his body exploded after our security forces opened fire at him," Bashary said, adding that a second militant was shot dead later.

Paktia lies on the border with Pakistan, where the Taliban have havens and where the United States is putting increasing pressure on Islamabad to crack down on militants who use Pakistani territory to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

Military and government officials also announced Monday that about two dozen rebels had been killed in recent raids across the war-ravaged country.

In southern Helmand province -- rife with Taliban fighters -- eight militants were killed on Sunday in a joint operation by Afghan and foreign forces, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Seven were killed the same day in a similar raid in the northeastern province of Kunduz while six others died in Wardak province, it added.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said separately it killed two militants on Monday in Ghazni province, south of Kabul.

Bidding to contain the resurgent Taliban, US President Barack Obama and NATO allies have pledged an extra 37,000 troops for Afghanistan, which should take the overall foreign deployment to 150,000.
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Afghan Forces Kill Taliban Militants Who Seized Building in East
VOA News December 21, 2009
Officials say militants armed with heavy weapons and wearing suicide vests stormed the building Monday near a police station in Gardez.

Afghan officials say security forces have killed two heavily-armed Taliban militants who seized a building in an eastern provincial capital.

Officials say the two militants stormed the building Monday near a police station in Gardez, the capital of Paktia province. Officials say Afghan forces killed the attackers in a gun battle that lasted several hours. The fighting also wounded three civilians and a police officer.

Officials earlier had reported that security forces killed three attackers, some wearing suicide vests. A deputy police chief later told the Associated Press that no suicide vests were found. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault.

In another development, the Afghan government says 16 militants were killed in operations Sunday in the provinces of Helmand (in the south), Kunduz (in the north) and Wardak (in the east).

Insurgent violence in Afghanistan has increased this year to its highest level since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001. Taliban militants are seeking to overthrow the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and drive international forces out of the country.

On Sunday, Mr. Karzai presented his proposed new 23-member Cabinet to parliament. He has been under international pressure to clean up the corruption that plagued his previous administration, and said his nominees will be held accountable for any corruption.

Opponents criticized Mr. Karzai for including only one woman and no opposition members in the Cabinet list despite his pledge to work closely with the opposition.

But Mr. Karzai said almost half of his nominees are new, and he promised to form a new Ministry for Literacy led by a woman, and to appoint women as deputy ministers. Parliament must approve the new Cabinet before it can begin work.

It is the first major test of his governance since being re-elected in August in a disputed national vote marred by fraud.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
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Royal Military Police soldier killed in Afghanistan
Monday, 21 December 2009 BBC News
A soldier from the Royal Military Police has died in a possible "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

The MoD said the soldier was killed as the result of "small arms fire" in the Sangin area of Helmand on Sunday. The incident is being investigated.

Next of kin have been informed but the soldier has not yet been named.

His is the 104th UK military death in Afghanistan this year. So far 241 UK service personnel have died since 2001.

The MoD said there was "a possibility that the latest death in Afghanistan was caused as a result of friendly fire".

"The incident is being investigated in Afghanistan but no firm conclusion will be reached until after the coroner's inquest," a spokesman said.

"The MoD will not release any further information until the coroner's inquest concludes in due course."

Lt Col David Wakefield, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: "It is my sad duty to inform you that a soldier from The Royal Military Police was shot and killed last night in the Sangin area of Helmand Province."

On Saturday, a British soldier died in an explosion while on foot patrol in the Nad-e-Ali area of Helmand.

He was named as Cpl Simon Hornby, 29, from 2nd Battalion, the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.
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Afghans lose faith in new Karzai cabinet weakened by graft claims
Financial Times By Matthew Green in Islamabad and Fazel Reshad in Kabul December 21 2009
The weekend decision by Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's president, to favour continuity over sweeping reform in his new cabinet will improve his frayed relations with the west but do little to bolster support for a government weakened by entrenched graft.

"Every one of these ministers will leave the country if things get worse. Even now most of their family members are abroad," said Mohammed Mehdi Saie, a businessman. "They have filled up their pockets, their children's pockets and their grand-children's pockets."

The Obama administration is relying on a handful of trusted technocrats in key portfolios to anchor the Afghan government's part in the US strategy to contain the Taliban by sending 30,000 more troops.

In the Afghan capital, a public that has watched the Taliban wage an audacious campaign of suicide bombings under these ministers' watch fear continuity will simply mean more graft and nepotism.

"Afghans don't have any faith in these ministers," said Mohammad Quraish, a civil servant. Mr Karzai's western backers had feared he might bow to demands from regional military strongmen who backed his re-election at August's heavily rigged polls to elbow aside leading reformers and grant supporters lucrative cabinet sinecures.

Although Ismail Khan, a former warlord from Herat province, retained his energy portfolio, Mr Karzai kept US and UK favourites in the defence, interior, finance and agriculture portfolios in a line-up submitted to parliament for approval on Saturday.

In another nod to the western powers, he dismissed two ministers who have been embroiled in corruption allegations.

Mr Karzai signalled his intention to replace Mu-hammad Ibrahim Adel, the mining minister. Mr Adel has been accused in media reports of taking a $20m (14m, £12m) bribe to steer a $3bn copper mining pro-ject to a Chinese company. He has denied the claims.

The president also indicated he wanted to replace Sediq Chakari, who heads the religious affairs ministry, which is embroiled in allegations of embezzlement. Mr Chakari has denied involvement but says two of his employees are under investigation.

But there were no obvious signs of concessions to Abdullah Abdullah, Mr Karzai's main rival at the polls, although the president has yet to name deputy ministers and provincial governors.

In the security sphere, where building up Afghan forces is critical to President Barack Obama's hopes of starting to draw down US troops in mid-2011, the retention of the interior and defence ministers still poses dilemmas. Abdul Rahim Wardak, defence minister, is liked by the US but his age and health concerns have raised questions over how effective a role he will be able to play. Analysts say replacing him may provoke a power struggle within the military.

Mohammed Hanif Atmar, who as interior minister must build up the notoriously corrupt police force, has also seen his reputation tarnished by evidence that top officers connived in flagrant electoral fraud.
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Afghanistan's Karzai shrugs off criticism of his cabinet picks
The Christian Science Monitor By Tom A. Peter 12/20/2009
Nearly half of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's 23-member cabinet will carry over from his last term, and it will include a former warlord, and only one woman.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his cabinet minister choices on Sunday amid rising criticism that his selections will do little to solve the country's problems. Many international observers and Afghan officials saw the selection of a new cabinet as the first test of Mr. Karzai as he begins his second term.

After Karzai's reelection was marred by widespread fraud allegations, the Afghan leader is working hard to prove his ability to overcome the country's rampant corruption and appease disillusioned Afghans and Western partners. Nearly half of Karzai's 23-member cabinet will carry over from his last term, and it will include a former warlord, and only one woman, the minister of women's affairs.

Several of Karzai's nominees have been accused of wrongdoing, poor performance, and corrupt practices. Karzai has pledged to bring anyone in his cabinet to justice if they are found guilty of corruption or other unlawful practices, however, he said he would allow the justice system to take it's course rather than taking independent action. Al Jazeera reports that amid such criticisms, Karzai is likely feeling pressure from all sides.

“You have the Afghan people and some members of the Afghan parliament saying that, by his choices, Karzai is betraying his commitments ... on ending the culture of corruption, which has been so pervasive in Afghanistan,” said [Hashem Ahelbarra, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul]. "It seems that this is going to be a government of appeasement because he is beholden to the warlords who endorsed him in the election. At the same time, he has to answer some of the demands of the international community.”

Despite concerns though, many Western governments and international organizations have expressed guarded, but generally positive statements about Karzai's choices. The Los Angeles Times reports that the general consensus is that while the new cabinet is less than ideal, it “could have been much worse.”

The list "is certainly a step in the right direction," said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the U.N. mission here. "The signs are encouraging."

On Saturday, Karzai removed two of his cabinet choices from the list due to corruption allegations against them, which Iran's Press TV reports was an initial step toward alleviating the concerns of Western governments. Subsequently, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen commended Karzai's nominations on Sunday, praising the new leaders “stated commitment to fighting corruption.”

The cabinet nominees still must undergo parliamentary confirmation. In his continued defense of his picks, Karzai said that he will demand accountability from his cabinet members and remove anyone who violates the law. He added that he made the cabinet a “mirror of the Afghan people,” representative of all slices of life, reports Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Throughout Afghanistan though, there seems to be little hope that the new government will effectively eradicate corruption or bring about any significant changes. Aside from having only one woman to represent the nation's women, other Afghans have opined that if these same people could not fix the nation's problems over the last eight years, it is unwise to expect that they will do much in the coming five years, reports Xinhua.

"These faces have failed to bring a change in our life over the past eight years; and so, their remaining in office would not change our life in the next five years particularly in the face of reduction to world community's contribution," an ordinary Afghan citizen Farooq Shah guessed.
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Fighting a Smarter War in Afghanistan
Soldiers go home, but their knowledge doesn't have to
Wall Street Journal By ANN MARLOWE DECEMBER 20, 2009
No substantial business sends its sales force out to sell a product without supplying them with market research. But we are doing just that to our troops in Afghanistan. We've spent an estimated $173 billion in fiscal year 2009 selling a product to Afghans—cooperation with their government—without much idea why some people buy it and others don't.

On the platoon and company level, where American troops conduct ground-level counterinsurgency (COIN) in the Afghan Pashtun belt, we're fighting a good war. During five embeds with the Army from 2007 to last month, I've seen lieutenants and captains survey their area of operations, collecting information on the economy and patterns of work and travel. They regularly sit down with local elders to collaborate on development and security measures.

This approach has long been recommended by COIN experts and the American COIN field manual as the way to fight a "population-centric" war—as opposed to an "enemy-centric" or "terrain-centric" war. Our task in Afghanistan is to gain the cooperation of the population; without tacit support from the people, the insurgency will wither away.

The problem is that valuable data are collected, but then aren't analyzed, or not at the level where the rubber meets the road. What's more, experienced soldiers leave. So most of our soldiers are operating with bare guesses about where the leverage points are in their local populations.

In many areas it's obvious that a certain tribe's territory or a certain district is more dangerous than others nearby. Or desertion is a bigger problem in some units of the Afghan National Army than others. But the "whys" are lacking.

Maybe people who live upstream in the irrigation system are more tribally cohesive than those dependent on them downstream. Maybe people who grow one type of crop have different characteristics than those who grow another. Maybe soldiers with certain backgrounds tend to desert. I've never seen an attempt to test such hypotheses.

West Point cadets "are required to take a course in Probability and Statistics," according to Col. Tim Trainor, head of the academy's Systems Engineering department. But from what I've seen, they don't seem to be asked to use those skills in theater.

The problem goes beyond the level of districts or provinces. Commanders have come and gone. Some of their notes about local leaders, genealogies, economics, politics and culture have made their way up and down the chain of command, and some haven't. There is no general Web site on Afghanistan that incorporates intel reports, commanders' notes and population surveys for our men and women on the ground.

There are extenuating circumstances. Data are rare in Afghanistan. There hasn't been a census since the 1960s, and the rural population is around 89% illiterate. Moreover, the Army's quantitative experts were until recently concentrating on Iraq.

The good news is that more sophisticated methods are now being introduced in Afghanistan. Col. Pamela J. Hoyt heads the first team tasked with analyzing data in Afghanistan for the generals who set policy.

"What we have found, as you state, is that data is not in one repository with easy access," Col. Hoyt wrote to me in a Dec. 15 email. She's developing a database using previous surveys as well as "a model to evaluate if the Afghan National Army can achieve their growth objective given historical recruiting, attrition, and re-contracting rates, and increased recruiting levels."

It seems odd that this model would follow, rather than precede, this fall's announcements by Gen. Stanley McChrystal about the projected growth of the Afghan National Security Forces. But data management gaps permeate the Afghan war.

For example, everyone agrees that developing the Afghan National Police is crucial. Yet in Zabul Province this November, I learned from interviews that 80% of the police in the biggest town, Shajoy, don't speak the local Pashtu language; none are from the province. Unsurprisingly, the police are hated by locals and Shajoy is racked by suicide attacks. How would you like to be stopped by a patrolman who didn't speak English?

Not all of the police in the Pashtun belt are non-Pashtun. In Khost, I met local residents in the force. But it seems that no one on the American or Afghan side is coordinating the deployment of police to assign Pashtu speakers to Pashtun provinces. Our troops deserve a little more help than this.
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S Korean minor parties opposes troop dispatch to Afghanistan
SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- South Korea's four opposition parties on Monday vowed to oppose the government's plan to extend the period of troop dispatch to Afghanistan, local media reported.

Four lawmakers representing the opposition parties, including the liberal-leaning main opposition Democratic Party and left-leaning Democratic Labor Party, issued a joint statement to parliament denouncing the ruling Grand National Party's move to pass the troop redeployment bill.

"We cannot accept the troop redeployment to Afghanistan, and will do our best to stop it," the statement read, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The statement comes as the country's parliamentary Defense Committee plans to hold a meeting later Monday to discuss the government-initiated troop extension bill.

South Korea's Minister of National Defense Kim Tae-young said last week the troop deployment is in the national interest and potential damage would not automatically lead to withdrawal.

Kim also said his ministry is in close cooperation with Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure safety of South Koreans in the war-torn Central Asian country.

According to the government plan, currently awaiting parliamentary approval, the 350 troops will be stationed in Parwan Province, north of Kabul, in order to protect the South Korean Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT).

The South Korean government said the main mission of the troops will be to guard the PRT base and escort and protect the activities of civilian aid workers.

South Korea pulled out of Afghanistan in 2007 when 23 South Korean Christian missionaries were held captive by the Taliban, with two of them killed and the rest released.

Since then, Seoul has only taken the role of providing medical and vocational training by assisting the United States and only two dozen South Korean volunteers work inside the U.S. Air Force Base in Bagram, north of Kabul.

Afghanistan's rebel militant group Taliban has recently issued a threat against the planned troop dispatch, which South Korea's defense ministry last week played down by calling it "conventional."
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US Success In Afghanistan Depends On Karzai
NPR Jackie Northam December 21, 2009
One of the primary elements of the Obama administration's new strategy in Afghanistan is a stable government in Kabul. The United States needs a reliable partner so that programs and policies can be implemented.

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony with an array of foreign diplomats in attendance.

But that didn't mask the fact that Karzai's second — and under the constitution, his final — term as president was being ushered in after a messy and fraudulent election that has left lingering questions about his legitimacy.

"President Karzai is not an elected president; he was declared winner by the Independent Election Commission," says Haroun Mir, director of the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies, a think tank in Kabul. Members of the commission were named by Karzai.

Mir says Karzai's new administration suffers from a crisis of credibility. "President Karzai knows that he's in a very, very weak position."

Mir says Karzai needs to do better — for his own good and for the country. "He knows that there is no alternative for Afghanistan," Mir says. "If he fails, with him the Afghan people will fail and the international community will fail."

An Uneasy Partnership
The international community may not like how Karzai ended up back in power, but it has to work with him. The United States and Britain in particular have regularly admonished Karzai — both in private and in public — for not taking steps to stop the country's downward spiral.

During his inauguration speech, Karzai seemed to say all the words his audience wanted to hear, promising to stamp out rampant corruption and the flourishing drug trade, pull together an inclusive government and provide security and services to the people.

Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, says it all sounded good. But he says Karzai may be a bit like the boy who cried wolf once too often.

"People are ... not counting on what the president said in the inaugural speech because they've seen so much of that, promises in the form of speech," Nadery says. "Now they're very much looking carefully at how he delivers."

The United States is also watching what Karzai delivers. Washington has renewed its demands on Karzai to show progress. The Obama administration believes a strong and credible government will help instill trust in the people and make them less likely to side with the Taliban.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Karzai has become — you know, in the epithets of many Afghans, he's known as the 'mayor of Kabul.' He has been unable to really get out because of the security risks."

Rondeaux says if Karzai cannot travel beyond Kabul, he can't truly gauge the needs in Afghanistan's provinces. "He won't have any input from the outside. He'll always be dependent on his sort of inner circle at ... the palace in Kabul to read the picture for him," she says.

Rondeaux says that can be very dangerous. "There are lots of Rasputins running around the Kabul palace right now," she says, referring to the Russian political figure often blamed for discrediting the Romanov dynasty ahead of the Bolshevik revolution.
Local Efforts

District and provincial councils can't pick up where the central authority fails because of the way the government is set up, says Nadery with the Human Rights Commission.

"There are serious problems in the way the government is structured. It's very top-down and it paralyzes and delays and slows a lot of decision-making at the local level," he says.

The city of Jalalabad, the seat of Nangarhar province, is just a two-hour drive east of the capital. Lacking representative local leaders and suffering a wide gap between rich and poor, the province represents a familiar pattern in Afghanistan.

As in all other provinces, Nangarhar's governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, is appointed by the president, rather than elected by the people — which means the only person to whom the governor is accountable sits in the palace in Kabul.

There is a lot of money in the area from mining and import duties from the nearby border with Pakistan. Nangarhar is purported to have more millionaires than any other province in Afghanistan. Sherzai is among them.

There is enormous poverty in the area, too. There are many beggars on the streets and few obvious public services. The bureaucracy — from the local council to Kabul — slows or altogether prevents programs from being carried out.

Mullahjahn Shinwareh, a tall, grim-faced provincial councilor in Jalalabad, says there needs to be change. Local government in Afghanistan needs more autonomy, he says.

Enlarge Tom Bullock/NPRProvincial councilor Mullahjahn Shinwareh has started his own negotiations with moderate members of the Taliban.

So Shinwareh is embarking on a program without waiting for Kabul's approval. He and councilors from three surrounding provinces are organizing a jirga — a meeting of elders — to talk with members of the Taliban in the area.

Shinwareh says the jirga will not deal with extremists or al-Qaida, just moderates who are willing to negotiate. The elders will ask them what they need. If the program is successful, they will try to extend it to other provinces.

Shinwareh says this is something the central government should be doing.

'A Very Heavy Responsibility'

But the government in Kabul hasn't laid out a detailed plan for the country and seems to do everything piecemeal — often implementing programs or policies only after a push from Washington, according to Western diplomats.

Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament from Kabul, says the United States and others need to understand there are limits to the Afghan government's abilities, and that the international community may be asking too much of the Karzai government in too little time.

"This is really a very heavy responsibility on our weak shoulders," she says.

The Afghan government wants the U.S. to help until the country can stand on its own, Barakzai says. "It's like we are lost on our way from where we should start first."

Eight years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban, the U.S. and other nations have made it clear their collective patience with the Karzai government is running out. But with no cohesive opposition, and no new political leaders on the horizon, the international community will have to continue to deal with a flawed but vital partner.
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US denies 'improper' call for Austrian support
December 21, 2009
VIENNA (AFP) – US Ambassador William Eacho hit back Monday at comments by Austria's defence minister that Washington had exerted "improper" pressure on Vienna to commit more troops to Afghanistan.

"It is the duty of any ambassador to defend the interests and policies of his or her country... This is in no way 'improper'," Eacho said in a letter to the Austrian daily Der Standard, published in German.

"Neither does this term apply to my endorsement of support for Afghanistan -- after all, this is a mission that is based on a UN mandate and which at least 43 nations... are taking part in," the US ambassador to Vienna added.

In an interview with Der Standard published on Friday, Austrian Defence Minister Norbert Darabos complained that Eacho had repeatedly and publicly urged Austria on to commit more troops to Afghanistan.

"The pressure from the Americans is relatively strong. Sometimes it is a little improper.

"He (Eacho) should accept that Austria is a sovereign state. We will not give in to this pressure," Darabos added.

Eacho, in Monday's letter, insisted that Austria need not contribute a military force but could also provide support in areas such as "development, governance, and rule of law."

But Darabos said Austria preferred to concentrate on its military commitments in the Balkans and the Golan Heights.

Vienna dispatched 60 men in 2002 to the NATO-led International Security Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), of whom only three remain, all stationed in Kabul.
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In Afghanistan, U.S. Success Depends On Karzai
by Jackie Northam NPR - National Public Radio December 21, 2009
One of the primary elements of the Obama administration's new strategy in Afghanistan is a stable government in Kabul. The United States needs a reliable partner so that programs and policies can be implemented.

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai was inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony with an array of foreign diplomats in attendance.

But that didn't mask the fact that Karzai's second — and under the constitution, his final — term as president was being ushered in after a messy and fraudulent election that has left lingering questions about his legitimacy.

"President Karzai is not an elected president; he was declared winner by the Independent Election Commission," says Haroun Mir, director of the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies, a think tank in Kabul. Members of the commission were named by Karzai.

Mir says Karzai's new administration suffers from a crisis of credibility. "President Karzai knows that he's in a very, very weak position."

Mir says Karzai needs to do better — for his own good and for the country. "He knows that there is no alternative for Afghanistan," Mir says. "If he fails, with him the Afghan people will fail and the international community will fail."

An Uneasy Partnership

The international community may not like how Karzai ended up back in power, but it has to work with him. The United States and Britain in particular have regularly admonished Karzai — both in private and in public — for not taking steps to stop the country's downward spiral.

During his inauguration speech, Karzai seemed to say all the words his audience wanted to hear, promising to stamp out rampant corruption and the flourishing drug trade, pull together an inclusive government and provide security and services to the people.

Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, says it all sounded good. But he says Karzai may be a bit like the boy who cried wolf once too often.

"People are ... not counting on what the president said in the inaugural speech because they've seen so much of that, promises in the form of speech," Nadery says. "Now they're very much looking carefully at how he delivers."

The United States is also watching what Karzai delivers. Washington has renewed its demands on Karzai to show progress. The Obama administration believes a strong and credible government will help instill trust in the people and make them less likely to side with the Taliban.

Analysts say there are some immediate steps Karzai could take to show his resolve, such as indicting senior officials for corruption or drug trafficking.

A Limited Reach

Another critical test for Karzai will come with the influx of tens of thousands of additional American troops.

The surge ordered by President Obama will bring total U.S. forces in Afghanistan to about 100,000 and provide Karzai a chance to see if he can provide enough Afghan soldiers to partner with U.S. troops — a key provision in the new Obama strategy.

Once areas have been cleared of militants, it's up to Karzai's administration to build local governance.

Candace Rondeaux, a senior analyst for Afghanistan at the International Crisis Group, says this will be difficult for Karzai, whose reach extends only so far.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Karzai has become — you know, in the epithets of many Afghans, he's known as the 'mayor of Kabul.' He has been unable to really get out because of the security risks."

Rondeaux says if Karzai cannot travel beyond Kabul, he can't truly gauge the needs in Afghanistan's provinces. "He won't have any input from the outside. He'll always be dependent on his sort of inner circle at ... the palace in Kabul to read the picture for him," she says.

Rondeaux says that can be very dangerous. "There are lots of Rasputins running around the Kabul palace right now," she says, referring to the Russian political figure often blamed for discrediting the Romanov dynasty ahead of the Bolshevik revolution.

Local Efforts

District and provincial councils can't pick up where the central authority fails because of the way the government is set up, says Nadery with the Human Rights Commission.

"There are serious problems in the way the government is structured. It's very top-down and it paralyzes and delays and slows a lot of decision-making at the local level," he says.

The city of Jalalabad, the seat of Nangarhar province, is just a two-hour drive east of the capital. Lacking representative local leaders and suffering a wide gap between rich and poor, the province represents a familiar pattern in Afghanistan.

As in all other provinces, Nangarhar's governor, Gul Agha Sherzai, is appointed by the president, rather than elected by the people — which means the only person to whom the governor is accountable sits in the palace in Kabul.

There is a lot of money in the area from mining and import duties from the nearby border with Pakistan. Nangarhar is purported to have more millionaires than any other province in Afghanistan. Sherzai is among them.

There is enormous poverty in the area, too. There are many beggars on the streets and few obvious public services. The bureaucracy — from the local council to Kabul — slows or altogether prevents programs from being carried out.

Mullahjahn Shinwareh, a tall, grim-faced provincial councilor in Jalalabad, says there needs to be change. Local government in Afghanistan needs more autonomy, he says.

So Shinwareh is embarking on a program without waiting for Kabul's approval. He and councilors from three surrounding provinces are organizing a jirga — a meeting of elders — to talk with members of the Taliban in the area.

Shinwareh says the jirga will not deal with extremists or al-Qaida, just moderates who are willing to negotiate. The elders will ask them what they need. If the program is successful, they will try to extend it to other provinces.

Shinwareh says this is something the central government should be doing.

'A Very Heavy Responsibility'

But the government in Kabul hasn't laid out a detailed plan for the country and seems to do everything piecemeal — often implementing programs or policies only after a push from Washington, according to Western diplomats.

Shukria Barakzai, a member of parliament from Kabul, says the United States and others need to understand there are limits to the Afghan government's abilities, and that the international community may be asking too much of the Karzai government in too little time.

"This is really a very heavy responsibility on our weak shoulders," she says.

The Afghan government wants the U.S. to help until the country can stand on its own, Barakzai says. "It's like we are lost on our way from where we should start first."

Eight years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban, the U.S. and other nations have made it clear their collective patience with the Karzai government is running out. But with no cohesive opposition, and no new political leaders on the horizon, the international community will have to continue to deal with a flawed but vital partner.
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Belgian PM ends Afghanistan tour
KABUL, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme who paid an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Sunday left Kabul Monday, an Afghan government official said.

"Prime Minister Yves Leterme after visiting Afghanistan yesterday and exchanging views with Afghan leaders including President Hamid Karzai on bilateral issues left Kabul today," the official told Xinhua but declined to be identified.

During his tour to Afghanistan Leterme pledged to increase his government's civilian and military aid to the conflict-torn country.

Some 530 Belgian troops have been serving in Afghanistan within the framework of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help stabilize peace in the post-Taliban nation.

Foreign officials normally pay surprise visit to the militancy-plagued Afghanistan due to security reasons and depart home in the same manner.
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Pakistan, Afghanistan talks hit a snag
Dawn (Pakistan) December 21, 2009
KABUL: The final round of technical level talks between Pakistan-Afghanistan for new transit trade agreement were attempted as Pakistan wants assurance that the new agreement would not be misused for terror financing, drug trafficking and arms trade.

The two sides couldn’t reach on an agreement in the three day round and decided to hold another session in early January.


It was the final round of technical level talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan to finalize the modalities of the Pak-Afghan Transit Trade Agreement.

But the US monitored talks hit snags after Islamabad’s proposal of attaching tough security related strings.

Afghanistan wants Pakistan to allow Afghan trucks to transport goods through Pakistan’s territory from Chaman and Torkhum border to Wagha border and Karachi and Gawadar port without being unloaded and checked.

Whereas Pakistan wants authority to inspect the trucks so that any illegal goods couldn’t be transport.

Pakistan also wants to know that whether the trucks would return empty from Wagha border or would have something load in them.
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Pakistani tribesman asked to cooperate with army
ISLAMABAD, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in a Pakistani tribal region Monday issued written notices to general public, asking them to cooperate with security force during patrols.

The notices have been posted in the front of shops and streets in northwest Pakistan's Khyber tribal agency, which seek full cooperation with the Army, frontier corps and local militia force whenever they were moving or want to search.

Suspected militants are very active in Khyber Agency bordering Afghanistan, and they regularly attack tankers and trucks carrying oil and supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan.

It was requested that security forces would impose curfew for safety reason. The administration also cautioned general public against overtaking driving vehicles.

The notices urged the people to remain at homes at nights and do not carry weapons, and hands up when security forces ask them in case of emergency.

"It would be on your responsibility if you ran away from security forces asking you for checking", the notice elaborated. The notice also banned vehicles of black glasses in Landikotal, the center of Khyber Agency.

The people said they would cooperate with the security forces but hoped that the Army should take them into confidence at the time of emergency.

They urged the administration not to violate the Pashtoon traditions and culture.
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UN fights hunger in Afghanistan
Associated Press By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU 21 Dec 2009
AQCHA, Afghanistan - While international forces in Afghanistan battle militants hiding in the mountains, aid agencies are fighting an even more elusive enemy: malnutrition.
The World Food Program and UNICEF have launched a project to feed thousands of mothers and children — some too weak to cry. Aid workers hope a high-protein diet distributed through a network of village clinics can help them through the winter.

Despite the billions spent in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to oust the Taliban, the country is still comparable to the worst humanitarian crisis zones in Africa. Afghanistan has the world's highest maternal mortality rate and the second-highest child mortality rate — and hunger is a major reason why, the United Nations says. This year, centers across the country will feed 100,000 children and 35,000 pregnant or breast-feeding women.

Dozens of mothers, many clad in full burqa body veils, crouched in the clinic in Aqcha waiting for rations. The room was eerily silent except for gusts of wind that howled through the open door. Dozens of toddlers in their arms didn't make a sound.

"Most of the children are too tired and hungry, they don't have the energy to cry," said Dr. Nasrullah Sulfane, who oversees the program here.

The mothers received their weekly ration: 25 grams (0.88 ounces) of cooking oil with 215 grams (7.58 ounces) of corn and soya flour per child. The food doesn't cover all the children's needs, but it aims to provide the extra calories needed to avert the worst consequences of hunger.

The program was launched in August amid widespread security concerns because Afghanistan's insurgents have increasingly tended to target aid workers. There also were worries that conservative villagers would not let their women go to the feeding centers, where they might encounter foreigners regularly. That didn't happen in Aqcha, a remote town lost on the barren steppes of northern Afghanistan.

"So far, attendance is a real success," Sulfane said. "I think all the families understand the benefits of free food."

Before receiving their rations, mothers balanced their toddlers on a scale used to identify children in deteriorating condition.

Two-year-old Sharafuddin weighed in at 9.5 kilograms (20.94 pounds).That's extremely light for a 2-year-old boy, but the aid workers were thrilled — a month before, he had weighed just 8 kilograms (17.64 pounds).

"We're very happy for him. He's just graduated to 'moderately malnourished,'" said Nih Mohammed, the records manager who handed out the rations.

Fed with "Plumpy Nut," a special fat-rich paste made from peanut butter, Sharafuddin had gained enough weight to go home to his family, a high priority because most parents can't afford to remain at a clinic, away from their fields and their other children.

"I'm happy that he's better, but he's still going to be hungry," said the boy's mother, Fatima, who like many Afghans goes by one name.

Her five other children were skinny too, she said, though Sharafuddin was in the worst condition. He was born during Afghanistan's 2007 drought when the family had little food and Fatima didn't have breast milk.

"He's been very ill three or four times, and he often has diarrhea," said Fatima, whose husband is a farm hand in a village about a one-hour walk from the clinic. "All my children and all the other children in the village would need rations too."

Because there isn't enough food for everybody, the $1-million-per month handout to feeding centers focuses on new mothers and children under five, when hunger causes the most damage.

The last government survey, conducted in 2004, shows that 48 percent of Afghan children are malnourished and another 5 percent acutely malnourished.

"Since then, there are some areas where it has gotten worse," said Anna-Leena Rasanen, the WFP's nutrition program officer for Afghanistan. In certain zones, child malnutrition now hovers above the U.N.'s emergency level of 15 percent, she said.

Indicators tracked by U.N. and Afghan government agencies paint an alarming picture of chronic hunger: 70 percent of children lack iodine, which can cause mental disabilities. A lack of vitamins and proper nutrients means much of the population has poor eyesight. Stunted growth is widespread. A quarter of Afghan children die before the age of five and nearly 2 percent of women die while giving birth.

The WFP will spend US$319 million in Afghanistan this year, its second-largest humanitarian budget worldwide after Sudan. Aid includes handing out daily lunches to 1.4 million students as an incentive for parents to send their children, especially girls, to class.

The Aqcha feeding center is the only one in a district of about 100,000 people. Dr. Sayed Ahmad Shah said three children died of hunger-related disease last year in the district, but none so far this year.

"The whole purpose of handing out food is that we're now avoiding acute emergency cases," he said, touring the crowded clinic to reach a ward for the worst of the malnourished children.

"Look, the room is empty. There are no cases," Ahmad Shah said, pushing open the door to the room, packed instead with pregnant women about to give birth.

They had taken over the ward because their wasn't enough space for them elsewhere.

"Well," said Ahmad Shah, who hastily closed the door after hearing surprised cries. "What I meant is that it's now empty of sad cases."
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Hamid Karzai's multiple personalities: Afghanistan's man in the middle
San Francisco Examiner Michael Hughes December 21,2009
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has always tried to be all things to all people – partly out of necessity and partly due to his nature – and he tried his level best to do so again on Saturday when he announced his new cabinet.

Yet, in his attempt to appease each and every party that has a stake in Afghanistan's future, including the Western democracies, Afghan lawmakers, Afghan citizens, tribal warlords and, yes, even moderate Taliban - he seems to have satisfied not but one.

Karzai appeared a bit rankled Saturday by suggestions from critics that his new cabinet selections represented business as usual and would do nothing to change the culture of corruption that has beset his administration. Karzai then attempted to soothe this angry lot, which primarily consists of Afghan lawmakers, maintaining that 50% of the nominees were new.

Skeptics have valid reasons to object, however, considering Karzai decided to retain disreputable figures such as Vice President and part-time warlord Mohammed Fahim, an alleged war criminal and drug trafficker. He also kept warlord Karim Khalili on as second Vice President and Ismail Kahn as Minister of Energy and Water, another warlord who's been accused of human rights violations.

Does this make Karzai a bad guy? Or is he the ultimate politician? Graft and patronage are nothing new to us Americans – for us to judge is somewhat laughable – plus even the most adept at playing political hardball must admire Karzai's cunning. Karzai is not keeping the warlords around because he wants to – he feels he must, because these miscreants were more trouble out of office. As Michael Corleone would say - keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

But, reasons for Karzai's duplicity run deeper than pure politics. We have to delve into the depths of Hamid Karzai's psyche to understand why and how he is able to meet with human rights activists on one day, and partner with warlords on another. Karzai could be Machiavelli in the morning, but a hero who would sacrifice anything for country by nightfall. And he's proven both time and again.

Once he fired the policemen and a prosecutor involved in a rape case in which the guilty parties were able to walk. The incident disgusted him, yet on another occasion he freed three rapists in order to mollify a key political ally. Today when questioned about it, Karzai seems numb and neutral to the horror of it because he has an amazing capacity to compartmentalize. To Karzai, the greater good was served, as despicable as that sounds.

His leadership approach is a combination of three drastically different styles and belief systems. Karzai is a Pashtun tribal leader at core, and in tribal culture you depend on the loyalty of individuals rather than institutions. The second component is jihadi politics, which is the wheeler and dealer side of Karzai, and finally, the last face he shows is the one he flashes to America, which is his democratic one.

But his desire to be a uniter and not beholden to any one party has caused him to have none. Because of this, he trusts nobody and seriously believes everyone is out to get him. Over the course of the past few years he has developed a Nixon-like paranoia that has become worrisome to friends and family.

According to a recent New York Times feature article earlier this year by Elizabeth Rubin, he was on the verge of losing it, and might still be:

In January, when Karzai lashed out at one of his vice presidents in a cabinet meeting, accusing him of conspiring with foreigners, then threatened to go to the mountains to fight the invaders himself, word went around that Karzai was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Dr. Azam Dadfar told Ms. Rubin, in the same article, that Hamid Karzai is the poster child for Afghan multiple-personality disorder. Dr. Dadfar, who is one of the few psychiatrists in Afghanistan that is trained in psychoanalysis, believes that as a result of decades of constant war and growing up in jihad, a new Afghan character type emerged that has impacted an entire generation. According to Dadfur:
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