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May 15, 2011 

Kerry warns Pakistan on Afghanistan stability
By the CNN Wire Staff May 15, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- There are "disturbing" signs Pakistan's government knows about insurgents crossing from their country into Afghanistan, U.S. Sen. John Kerry said Sunday as he toured the region.

Obama administration is divided over future of U.S.-Pakistan relationship
Washington Post By Karen DeYoung and Karin Brulliard Sunday, May 15, 2011
Two weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration remains uncertain and divided over the future of its relationship with Pakistan, according to senior U.S. officials.

Afghan intelligence says children recruited to conduct Taliban suicide attacks
By Associated Press, Sunday, May 15, 3:27 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan — The orders from their religious teacher were clear: Go to Afghanistan, strap on a suicide vest and kill foreign forces.

Suspected Midland drug kingpin linked to family of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai
May 15 2011 by Ben Goldby, Sunday Mercury
A SUSPECTED Midland drug kingpin has been linked to the family of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

Miami imam, 2 sons charged with supporting Taliban<br> By RASHA MADKOUR and SHERIN ZADA, Associated Press – Sun May 15, 8:27 am ET
MIAMI – An elderly Miami imam and two of his sons have been arrested on federal charges they provided some $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, while three others in Pakistan have been indicted on charges of handling distribution of the funds, authorities say.

Burqa dilemma for Afghanistan's women skiers
by Emmanuel Duparcq – Sat May 14, 1:12 pm ET
KHOSHKAK, Afghanistan (AFP) – Villagers in a tiny mountain hamlet in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley saw a remarkable thing recently -- a group of women putting on skis.

Pride and regret for Canadian troops leaving Afghanistan as mission winds up
By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The slight swagger in the steps of Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan these days is tempered by wistfulness over what has been and what might yet come.

British marine killed in Afghanistan blast
Sun May 15, 9:43 am ET
LONDON (AFP) – A British marine was killed Sunday in a blast in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence in London announced.

Tackling mental health problems in Afghanistan
A Kabul psychiatric center tries to help patients through medications and therapy. With limited funds and ingrained views about mental health, it is a challenge.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times May 15, 2011
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan - The group therapy session at Afghanistan's flagship mental health hospital began, as many do, with sharing.

Pakistan may cut Nato's Afghan supply line after Osama bin Laden killing
Senior politicians vow to review ties to America after discord over drone attacks and assassination of al-Qaida leader
Guardian.co.uk By Declan Walsh Saturday 14 May 2011
The security of Nato's main supply line into Afghanistan came under threat on Saturday as Pakistani parliamentarians voted to review all aspects of their relationship with the US amid worsening political fallout from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Russian veteran warns of "unsolvable" Afghan violence
Reuters By Amie Ferris-Rotman Sun May 15, 2011
RUZA, Russia - Violence will erupt in Afghanistan once NATO-led forces complete their planned pullout, repeating the aftermath following the Soviet exit, the head of Russia's Union of Afghan Veterans said in an interview.

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Kerry warns Pakistan on Afghanistan stability
By the CNN Wire Staff May 15, 2011
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- There are "disturbing" signs Pakistan's government knows about insurgents crossing from their country into Afghanistan, U.S. Sen. John Kerry said Sunday as he toured the region.

"Yes, there are insurgents coming across the border," he said at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. "Yes, they are operating out of north Waziristan (Pakistan) and other areas of the sanctuaries and yes, there is some evidence of Pakistan government knowledge of some of these activities in ways that is very disturbing."

There are "deep reservations" among some American lawmakers about whether Pakistan shares Washington's goals in the region, he added, visiting Afghanistan two weeks after U.S. Navy SEALs tracked down Osama bin Laden and killed him in Pakistan.

But, he said, "Pakistan has supported our efforts to diminish the capacity of al Qaeda over the last several years. Pakistan has allowed us to have intelligence personnel operating in Pakistan in ways that helped us to capture Osama bin Laden."

"That said, we are at a moment where we have to resolve some very serious issues. They understand that, we understand that," said Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The May 2 death of bin Laden opens the possibility for a "new phase" of American operations in the region, he said.

Combat continues in Afghanistan unabated, two incidents Sunday show.

A British Marine was killed in Afghanistan Sunday, the British Ministry of Defence announced.

He was killed by an improvised explosive device while involved in an operation to search a compound in Helmand Province, the ministry said, adding that his family had been told of his death.

And a Taliban leader and two associates were captured in Balkh province, NATO's International Security Assistance Force announced.

A joint Afghan-coalition security force captured the deputy governing Taliban official for the province, and killed an insurgent, ISAF said.

CNN's Christine Theodorou, Anisha Bhandari and Alex Felton contributed to this report.
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Obama administration is divided over future of U.S.-Pakistan relationship
Washington Post By Karen DeYoung and Karin Brulliard Sunday, May 15, 2011
Two weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration remains uncertain and divided over the future of its relationship with Pakistan, according to senior U.S. officials.

The discovery of the al-Qaeda leader in a city near Pakistan’s capital has pushed many in the administration beyond any willingness to tolerate Pakistan’s ambiguous connections with extremist groups. After years of ineffective American warnings, many U.S. officials are concluding that a change in policy is long overdue.

Those warnings are detailed in a series of contemporaneous written accounts, obtained by The Washington Post, chronicling three years of often-contentious meetings involving top officials of both countries. Confirmed by U.S. and Pakistani participants, the exchanges portray a circular debate in which the United States repeatedly said it had irrefutable proof of ties between Pakistani military and intelligence officials and the Afghan Taliban and other insurgents, and warned that Pakistani refusal to act against them would exact a cost.

U.S. officials have said they have no evidence top Pakistani military or civilian leaders were aware of bin Laden’s location or authorized any official support, but his residence within shouting distance of Pakistani military installations has brought relations to a crisis point.

Some officials, particularly in the White House, have advocated strong reprisals, especially if Pakistan continues to refuse access to materials left behind by U.S. commandos who scooped up all the paper and computer drives they could carry during their deadly 40-minute raid on bin Laden’s compound.

“You can’t continue business as usual,” said one of several senior administration officials who discussed the sensitive issue only on the condition of anonymity. “You have to somehow convey to the Pakistanis that they’ve arrived at a big choice.”

“People who were prepared to listen to [Pakistan’s] story for a long time are no longer prepared to listen,” the official said.

But few officials are eager to contemplate the alternatives if Pakistan makes the wrong choice. No one inside the administration, the official said, “wants to make a fast, wrong decision.”

Every available option — from limiting U.S. aid and official contacts, to unleashing more unilateral ground attacks against terrorist targets — jeopardizes existing Pakistani help, however undependable, in keeping U.S. enemies at bay. Military success and an eventual negotiated settlement of the Afghanistan war are seen as virtually impossible without some level of Pakistani buy-in.

“The fact of the matter is that we’ve been able to kill more terrorists on Pakistani soil than just about anyplace else,” President Obama said last week on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” “We could not have done that without Pakistani cooperation.”

For now, the administration is in limbo, awaiting Pakistan’s response to immediate questions about bin Laden and hoping it will engage in a more solid counterterrorism partnership in the future.

That outcome seems increasingly in doubt. In Pakistan, officials’ pledges following the bin Laden raid that Pakistan would never let its territory be used for terrorist strikes against another country have turned to heated accusations of betrayal by the United States.

There have been few high-level contacts with the Pakistanis since the raid. Telephone calls last weekend to Pakistan’s military chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani by White House national security adviser Thomas E. Donilon and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were said to be inconclusive at best.

Top administration national security officials have held several meetings on Pakistan in the White House Situation Room, and more are scheduled this week. No decision has been made on whether Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will make a previously scheduled trip to Pakistan later this month.

“This is supposed to be a continuation of the strategic dialogue” Clinton started with Pakistan last year, said a senior Pakistani official who expressed rising disappointment that the civilian government has echoed the bellicose military response.

Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), who has served as go-between for the administration during previous clashes with Islamabad, traveled to the region late last week with a message of urgency from the White House and warnings about the unsettled “mood of Congress,” one U.S. official said.

While U.S. lawmakers call for reconsideration of $3.2 billion in annual U.S. aid, public outrage has grown in Pakistan as more details have emerged about the raid. Months in the planning, CIA Director Leon Panetta said it was conducted without informing Pakistan for fear of leaks or interference. Humiliated and angry, Pakistan’s powerful army and intelligence service have warned that they will “resist” any future such operations and reexamine the broad range of bilateral cooperation.

In an emotional, closed-door session of Parliament on Friday, intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), offered to resign after apologizing for what he said had been an intelligence lapse. It was unclear whether he was referring to the failure to intercept U.S. raiders or the discovery of bin Laden’s years-long presence near a military garrison in the city of Abbottabad.

According to U.S. and Pakistani officials, talk has resurfaced in Islamabad of ejecting up to 80 percent of the approximately 120 U.S. Special Forces troops engaged in training Pakistan’s Frontier Corps soldiers. The issue was first raised earlier this year after a CIA employee with a U.S. diplomatic passport shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.

ISI control over visas issued to U.S. diplomats and intelligence officials, eased as a gesture of cooperation last year, has been reimposed, officials said.

The feeling among senior military officers is that “these Americans have let us down, they’re after us,” and involvement with the United States has “ruined our army and . . . our country,” one retired senior officer said. The military view, he said, is that “We were a very noble country before we got involved in this stupid, so-called Bush war” in Afghanistan.

According to the internal accounts, the Americans tried time and time again to convince the Pakistanis to change what former CIA official Bruce Riedel, who authored Obama’s first Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review in early 2009, called their “strategic calculus” that ties with the Pakistan-based Afghan Taliban were the only way they could maintain their strategic influence in neighboring Afghanistan.

But the accounts show consistent Pakistani suspicion that the Americans would ultimately betray them in Afghanistan, leaving Pakistan surrounded by an unfriendly government on their western border, allied with India, their historical adversary to the east.

A July 29, 2008, Washington meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and his national security adviser, Mahmud Ali Durrani, and then-CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, his deputy Stephen R. Kappes and Anne W. Patterson, then the U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, illustrates the wariness on both sides.

The previous day, a U.S. drone-launched missile had killed Abu Khabab al-Masri, described as al-Qaeda’s chief bomb-maker and chemical weapons expert, in South Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghanistan border.

Hayden apologized for collateral damage (news reports said three civilians were killed), and the strike had occurred during Gillani’s visit to the United States. The CIA director noted that the ISI had not contributed any targeting information.

Both sides referred to repeated Pakistani requests that the United States place Baitullah Mehsud, a leader of Pakistan’s increasingly lethal domestic insurgency, at the top of the hit list.

Kappes agreed that Mehsud was a legitimate target, but said that Sirajuddin Haqqani, a North Waziristan-based Afghan whose insurgent network regularly attacked U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, was a far higher U.S. priority.

Pakistan’s insistence that it had no intelligence on Haqqani’s whereabouts was disingenuous, Patterson said during the meeting. The ISI was in “constant touch” with him, and the madrassa where he conducted business was clearly visible from the Pakistani army garrison in North Waziristan. (Mehsud was killed in an August 2009 drone strike. Haqqani remains high on the U.S. target list.)

In a series of December 2008 meetings following the terrorist attack in Mumbai that left nearly 200 people dead — including six Americans — top Bush administration officials told Pakistan there was “irrefutable” intelligence proof that the Pakistani group Lashkar-i-Taiba was responsible.

A written communication delivered to Pakistan said that “it is clear to us that [Lashkar-i-Taiba] is responsible . . . we know that it continues to receive support, including operational support, from the Pakistani military intelligence service.”

As the Obama administration continued efforts to persuade Pakistan — while escalating the number of drone strikes — Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, as well as Durrani and other officials, were repeatedly told that the United States would reach a breaking point.

In a November 2009 letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, Obama offered a new level of partnership — later buttressed with increased military and economic assistance. But he warned that the existing state of affairs, with Pakistan seeing insurgent groups as proxies for influence in Afghanistan, could not continue.

The following May, a Pakistani immigrant, the son of an army officer, allegedly tried to explode a car bomb in New York’s Times Square. Subsequent investigations traced his training to Pakistani insurgent camps.

In October, Obama dropped in on a high-level White House meeting between his national security team and Kayani. Referring to the Times Square bombing attempt, Obama warned that if a successful attack in this country were traced to Pakistan, his hands would be tied in terms of the future U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

In an interview last week in Pakistan, Durrani said he was not surprised at the unilateral U.S. attack on bin Laden. “The Americans had made it clear long ago that if they find a high-value target of this level, wherever in the world [they would] go after it,” he said.

What surprised him, Durrani said, was that “it made me look stupid” after years of talks with U.S. officials in which “I kept on trumpeting at the top of my voice, ‘Osama bin Laden cannot be here.’ ”

Brulliard reported from Islamabad.
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Afghan intelligence says children recruited to conduct Taliban suicide attacks
By Associated Press, Sunday, May 15, 3:27 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan — The orders from their religious teacher were clear: Go to Afghanistan, strap on a suicide vest and kill foreign forces.

With that, 9-year-old Ghulam Farooq left his home in Pakistan with three other would-be boy bombers and headed into eastern Afghanistan.

They were told there would be two members of the Taliban waiting for them at the Torkham border crossing in Nangarhar province. Instead, members of the Afghan intelligence service who had been tipped to the boys’ plans arrested them at the border.

“Our mullah told us that when we carried out our suicide attacks, all the people around us would die, but we would stay alive,” Farooq said Saturday, sitting inside a juvenile detention facility in the Afghan capital.

He was one of five alleged suicide bombers — all boys in adolescence or even younger — whom the Afghan intelligence service paraded before reporters, photographers and cameramen at a news conference on May 7 in an effort to turn public opinion against the Taliban.

Farooq and the other boys are being held at a detention facility that resembles a vocational training center. There are no armed guards, and the facility has classrooms and playgrounds. During a visit to the center, Farooq was smiling and said he was going to school and that he and the other boys were being given the opportunity to learn carpet weaving, carpentry and other handicrafts. The facility has dozens of boys, most detained in criminal cases.

Afghan intelligence officials say the Taliban turns to young boys because they are easier to recruit than adults and tend to believe what recruiters tell them.

“The Taliban are recruiting children in their ranks and using them to carry out suicide attacks in Afghanistan,” Latifullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Afghan intelligence service, told reporters. “These innocent children have been cheated and sent to Afghanistan.”

The Taliban denies the accusation. In a statement issued a week ago, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the insurgency’s code of conduct prohibits young people from staying in military centers with fighters. Instead, he alleged that the youths were working for the Afghan police and public and private security companies.

“These children have joined the ranks of the enemy on the enemy’s luring, taking advantage of their ignorance and lack of knowledge,” he said.

In fact, the use of children to conduct suicide bombings is not a new tactic in the nearly decade-long war, Afghan officials say.

Confirmed cases are rare, and it’s difficult to identify the bodies of bombers who blow themselves up. But Mashal said there had been a recent increase in the use of children.

In the past two months, he said, child suicide bombers executed two deadly attacks. The arrest of Farooq and three other boys allegedly heading toward suicide attacks came earlier this month, and Mashal said authorities are holding a fifth child who was about to carry out a bombing but then decided against it.

Farooq, clad in a dark green Afghan-style shirt, said he was persuaded to become a suicide bomber by a mullah in a mosque near Peshawar, Pakistan. His story could not be independently verified.

“He told us that there are infidels in Kabul and we must carry out suicide attacks against them,” the boy said. “We were taught how to use a suicide vest in the Spin Mosque in Kher Abad near Peshawar where we live.”

“I want to go home,” he added. “I miss my family.”

Ten-year-old Fazel Rahman, another member of the foursome, corroborated the story at the news conference, even using similar phrasing to Farooq’s.

“The mullah in the mosque told us that the infidels were in Kabul and everyone should go for jihad” and that the bombers themselves would survive, Rahman said.

He said he was happy to be alive but wanted to return home. “Our families don’t know where we are,” he said.

Afghan authorities are discussing whether to charge or release the boys.

The most recent suicide attack carried out by a child occurred on May 1. Police said a 12-year-old blew himself up in a bazaar in the Barmal district of Paktika province in the east, killing four civilians and wounding 12 others.

Among the dead — and the likely target of the attack — was Sher Nawaz, head of a new district council in the Shakeen area of Paktika province, the provincial governor’s office said.

On April 13, a 13-year-old suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest in Asmar district of Kunar province. The blast in eastern Afghanistan killed 10 people, including five schoolboys and an influential tribal elder, Malik Zareen, who was a former military commander who supported the Afghan government.

Police said the target of the attack, which occurred at a local meeting of tribal elders was Zareen, a leader of Afghan forces during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.

The Afghan Ministry of Education called the suicide bombing an “anti-Islamic and inhumane act.” Afghan President Hamid Karzai also condemned the bombing, saying that by killing tribal leaders, the attacker was trying to silence the voice of the Afghan people.

Earlier this year, under the direction of a mullah in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, 14-year-old Noor Mohammad donned an explosives vest and traveled to a coalition outpost in Andar district. But he backed out.

He, too, was among the youths brought before reporters and photographers in Kabul.

“The Taliban taught me how to use a pistol, how to push the button of a suicide vest and drive a motorbike,” the boy told reporters. “On the day that I had to carry out the suicide attack, I decided not to. I joined with the (pro-government) forces and I didn’t carry out the attack.”

He never explained why he changed his mind.

There have been other cases. On Feb. 26, the intelligence service announced the arrests of a Pakistani boy and two teenagers — one from Afghanistan and the other from Pakistan — who claimed they had been coerced into becoming would-be suicide bombers.

Akhtar Nawaz, 14, from South Waziristan in Pakistan, said six men in a vehicle nabbed him off the street while he was walking home from school.

“They told me that I had to carry out a suicide attack,” Nawaz told reporters. “I told them I didn’t want to, but they forced me to go with them. They told me that there were foreigners in Afghanistan and if I carried out a suicide attack, I would go to heaven.”

Nawaz said the men took him to various locations and taught him how to shoot a pistol and detonate a suicide vest. His mission, he said, was to shoot guards at an Afghan military compound in Khost province, then to ride inside on a motorcycle and detonate his explosives. He said he was told that if the detonation button on his vest didn’t work, he should detonate the explosives by shooting himself with the pistol.

He said he was driven to Khost and shown the target but decided not to go through with the attack at the last minute, turning himself in to Afghan security forces instead.

___

Associated Press Writer Deb Riechmann contributed to this report.
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Suspected Midland drug kingpin linked to family of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai
May 15 2011 by Ben Goldby, Sunday Mercury
A SUSPECTED Midland drug kingpin has been linked to the family of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

Robert Dawes, 39, from Nottingham, was extradited to Spain from Dubai last month to face charges connected to a massive cocaine ring which allegedly flooded Britain with Class A drugs.

While Spanish prosecutors prepare to try the Midland man for smuggling and distributing narcotics, reports of links have emerged between Dawes and a nephew of President Karzai.

Afghanistan has a reputation as one of the world’s largest producers of heroin, and the US has estimated that up to $10 million a day leaves the country for Dubai, which has acted as a money laundering centre for Afghan druglords in recent years.

Jamil Karzai, a nephew of the Afghan president, was allegedly seen at Dawes’ offices meeting the suspected kingpin’s right-hand man, Manchester-born Raphael Nasr.

“Raphael is our best friend and is kind of family now,” Karzai allegedly told an undercover investigator. “We can do good business there. If we all get together we can have something really good.”

Asked about Dawes, Karzai allegedly said: “I’ve spoken with him, yeah, I’ve spoken with him, I think, a couple of times.” Meanwhile, Nasr told the investigator, who was posing as a broker for a client looking at business opportunities in Afghanistan, that he had strong links to Jamil Karzai.

The Afghan, who heads the Youth Solidarity Party, was an MP in Kabul until losing his seat in 2010.

When later confronted, Nasr admitted that he was friends with members of the Karzai family and Robert Dawes, but denied he was involved in any criminality. Karzai denied that he knew Nasr or Dawes.

In a statement released last week, the Spanish Civil Guard described Dawes as “the boss of an important English drug trafficking organisation”.

Arrested

He was arrested after a joint operation between the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), the Spanish Civil Guard’s Central Operative Unit in Madrid, and Belgian police.

A further 22 people were taken into custody as part of the probe, nine of them in the UK, eight in Spain, four in Belgium and one in the United Arab Emirates.

Officers seized millions of pounds worth of drugs, including more than five tons of cannabis resin, 100 kilos of heroin and 210 kilos of cocaine. They also recovered four firearms and £90,000 in cash.

Dawes was extradited from Dubai to Spain after completing a jail sentence imposed in 2008 for money laundering. Spanish prosecutors say he was able to continue running his operation from his jail cell in the United Arab Emirates.

He fled the UK for Spain nearly ten years ago and left his base in Mijas Costa for Dubai in 2007 after a number of his alleged associates were arrested.

Police in Britain have swooped on members of Dawes’ family, including his brother John and father, Arthur. Both were jailed in 2005 for drugs offences and money laundering.

Dawes has previously been named by SOCA as “a highly significant international criminal” wanted in the UK and other European countries.

He is under investigation in Holland for the 2002 murder of teacher Gerard Meesters, who was shot outside his home in Groningen.

British police are also said to want to interview him about the unsolved murder of father-of-two David Draycott, who was shot at his home in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, in 2002.

ben.goldby@sundaymercury.net
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Miami imam, 2 sons charged with supporting Taliban
By RASHA MADKOUR and SHERIN ZADA, Associated Press – Sun May 15, 8:27 am ET
MIAMI – An elderly Miami imam and two of his sons have been arrested on federal charges they provided some $50,000 to the Pakistani Taliban, while three others in Pakistan have been indicted on charges of handling distribution of the funds, authorities say.

Hafiz Muhammed Sher Ali Khan, 76, was arrested Saturday at the Miami Mosque, also known as the Flagler Mosque. One of his sons, Izhar Khan, 24, another imam at the Jamaat Al-Mu'mineen Mosque in nearby Margate, Fla., was arrested there. Another son, Irfan Khan, 37, was detained in Los Angeles. The three are U.S. citizens. Their mosques are not suspected of wrongdoing, authorities said.

Also named in the indictment are three others at large in Pakistan — Hafiz Khan's daughter, grandson and an unrelated man, all three charged with handling the distribution of funds, authorities said. The Pakistani Taliban are designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

The indictment lists about $50,000 in transactions. According to the indictment, the funds were used to buy guns, support militants' families and promote the cause of the Pakistani Taliban. It alleges that Hafiz Khan owns the religious school in northwest Pakistan that shelters members of the Pakistani Taliban and trains children to become militants.

Khan's 19-year-old grandson, Alam Zeb, who is accused of collecting and distributing money sent from the U.S. to the Pakistani Taliban, denied the charges against him and his family Sunday.

"It is baseless," Zeb told The Associated Press in Sarsnai, a village in Pakistan's Swat Valley where the elder Khan used to live and established a madrassa, or Islamic school.

Zeb also denied U.S. allegations that the madrassa that Khan founded is used to shelter or support the Pakistani Taliban or has trained sent children off to learn how to fight Americans in Afghanistan.

The oldest of four brothers, Zeb also expressed surprise at the allegations against his uncle, Izhar Khan. He said the uncle spent about a month in the village a year ago — what Zeb said was the man's first visit in 12 years.

He said he learned about the allegations Sunday from his mother, Amina Khan, who also has been accused of collecting and distributing money for the Pakistani Taliban. She was identified in the court documents as the daughter of the elder Florida imam.

In the United States, attempts to reach the U.S. men's attorneys and families were unsuccessful. However, another son of Hafiz Khan, Ikram Khan, told The Miami Herald that his father was too old and sick to be involved in the plot.

"None of my family supports the Taliban," he told the newspaper. "We support this country."

If convicted, the South Florida men face 15 years in prison for each of the four counts listed in the indictment. All three are expected in court Monday.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said suspicious financial activity triggered the investigation three years ago.

U.S. authorities said the indictment recounts recorded conversations in which Hafiz Khan allegedly voices support for attacks on the Pakistani government and U.S. troops in the region, officials said.

The Pakistani Taliban is a wing of the terrorist group that originated in Afghanistan. It claimed responsibility for paired suicide bombings Friday that killed 87 people in what it said was vengeance for the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden. The group has also been linked to the Times Square car bombing in New York in May 2010.

The Pakistani militant group is allied with al-Qaida, is based in the northwest of Pakistan near the Afghan border and has links to that country's Taliban insurgency.

The Miami Mosque — a small, white house in a crowded residential area — was founded in 1974 and is the oldest mosque in the city, according to Mohammad Shakir, a local Muslim community leader. Hafiz Khan has been leading prayers at the mosque for about 14 years, Shakir added.

Hafiz Khan has been suspended indefinitely as imam, said Asad Ba-Yunus, a spokesman for the Muslim Communities Association of South Florida, which runs the mosque. He said his organization is not aware of any attempts to raise funds for illegal activity that took place on its properties.

In Pakistan, Zeb told AP that Khan regularly sent money from the U.S., but said it was only used to fund operations of the five-room madrassa, which is housed in a cement building.

"By Allah's will, he sent money for the madrassa expenses, which we used to pay off the salaries of the teachers and nothing else," Zeb said.

Rahmat Bacha, a 46-year-old villager who took over operations of the madrassa about a year and a half ago, said only about 100 girls attend the school, where they learn the Quran and how to read and write in Urdu.

However, an AP reporter saw several boys attending classes as well.

Khan ran the madrassa until he left for the U.S. more than 15 years ago, said Bacha. Another local villager, Naseeb Ahmed, ran the school until about two years ago when all of the villagers fled to refugee camps at the start of an army operation against the Pakistani Taliban in Swat. The school was closed and opened again about a year and a half ago, said Bacha.

Other residents of Sarsnai village, which has a population of about 2,500, said they were surprised by the allegations against the madrassa and Khan and his family.

"We have not noticed any bad things in the madrassa so far," said Shah Bacha, a 50-year-old shopkeeper. "Only girls are studying there, and I have known Sher Khan since my childhood, and there was nothing wrong with him."

Ramzan Ahmed, whose brother was the village elder, said locals never suspected Khan or his family of supporting the Pakistani Taliban.

"We respected him always as he deserved," Ahmed said. "I don't know what made the Americans think of him as an aide to terrorists."

___

Zada contributed to this report from Sarsnai, Pakistan.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of Pakistani village, 'Sarsnai.')
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Burqa dilemma for Afghanistan's women skiers
by Emmanuel Duparcq – Sat May 14, 1:12 pm ET
KHOSHKAK, Afghanistan (AFP) – Villagers in a tiny mountain hamlet in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley saw a remarkable thing recently -- a group of women putting on skis.

The men and children of Khoshak, tucked at the snow-covered foot of the Koh-e-Baba peaks, could hardly tear their eyes off the 10 women in headscarves and long coats laughing as they wrestled with their poles and bindings.

Here most women won't even leave the house without a full veil covering their faces.

"Women skiing? I'm against it if they do it without the burqa," declared Afzal, as he fingered his prayer beads, clearly unconvinced by what he called this "Western thing".

Nando Rollando, an Italian instructor charged by the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) with running the first skiing lessons the area has ever seen, expected this kind of resistance.

He had no trouble finding a dozen or so local boys keen to tackle the slopes, but when he suggested doing a special lesson for women with the local UN mission, he was met with reluctance, even among his colleagues.

"One of them told me he would send his son to ski but not his daughter. That dampened my enthusiasm," he said.

One of his best pupils from Khoshak, 13-year-old Said Shah, watched the women skiing from behind his flashy sunglasses.

But while he was happy to show off his fake designer shades on the slopes, he was clear that the women should dress more demurely.

"If women are interested (in skiing) they have to put hijab (burqa) or at least to cover their face," he said.

More than half of the women in the rural parts of this province -- regarded as among the country's least conservative -- wear the burqa, according to a UN official, but in the capital Bamiyan the figure drops to just over 20 percent.

The women learning to ski are the polar opposite of the rural women in blue burqas. Aged in their 20s and 30s, they are students or work in town and come from progressive families, according to the AKF.

On the slopes with Rollando, they fight through their apprehension and are soon shouting and laughing as they fall about on the snow.

"It's the first time I do something for myself," one said. Another said it had given her the chance to "discover herself".

For 28-year-old Zahra, the rough and tumble of the sport -- she fell over and hurt her back -- didn't stop her enjoying herself.

"It is very difficult to control skis, but very exciting," she said.

Naz Dana, a timid 16-year-old in a golden yellow headscarf has had to put up with snide remarks about women skiing -- from women as well as men -- but she was clear that she thought the veil was both impractical and unnecessary.

"With a burqa, it would be impossible to see the piste," she said.

"Skiing can be done without a burqa and in accordance to Islamic regulations."

On the heights of Bamiyan, mullah Said Nasrullah Waezi agreed.

"If the woman is properly covered from toe to head, with a scarf, she does not need the burqa that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda want," he said.

"It is good if the coach is a woman, or a man who keeps his distance."

It's a compromise that volleyball, the most popular sport among young women in Bamiyan, has yet to find -- without a gym where they can play away from the gaze of men, the town has no team.
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Pride and regret for Canadian troops leaving Afghanistan as mission winds up
By Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The slight swagger in the steps of Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan these days is tempered by wistfulness over what has been and what might yet come.

As the sun sets over their five-year mission in some of the most hostile territory anywhere, there's a proud yet not quite fulfilled sense of accomplishment.

"There's a little bit of bitterness," says Maj. Francois Dufault, deputy commander of Canada's last deployed battle group.

"We're battling for the last period but we will not be able to touch the Stanley Cup, because the Americans or other contributors will raise the cup in the air while we'll be out in the bleachers watching."

It's a sentiment heard often among troops who are finally seeing the fruits of the Canadian effort — cultivated in blood, limb and sweat —finally begin to ripen.

While progress can be measured in part by the dramatic decline in deaths and injuries over the past 10 months, perhaps the more important measure is in the stark changes on the ground _ changes often lost on the Canadian public back home.

There is little doubt that Canadian troops have brought an air of security to the areas in which they now operate, mostly Dand and the once seemingly implacable Panjwaii district.

Two years ago, for example, Canadians dared only enter the hostile Panjwaii town of Salavat with a full battle group of soldiers, tanks and other heavy machinery of war.

The moment they withdrew, the insurgents swept back in.

Today, the soldiers stroll the laneways of the town in small groups, watching hundreds of kids make their way each day to school. They kibbitz with residents and elders. They talk about governance and development.

A road — a Canadian initiative — runs the length of Panjwaii into areas soldiers seldom ventured even six months ago. The road ends in a village Canadians were forced by frequent insurgent attacks to abandon three years ago.

A trip of several kilometres between the operating bases of Sperwan Ghar and Ma'sum Ghar, something that used to take hours of painstaking checking for IEDs, is now quick and routine.

Afghan soldiers and police patrol regularly. District and local leaders offer a semblance of governance.

All of this has been made possible by the surge in American troops, more Afghan soldiers and police, and the drastic reduction in Canada's area of operations.

Gone are the intractable districts of Arghandab and Zhari that cost so many Canadian lives. Gone is the seething city of Kandahar.

Gone is the fire-brigade approach: Put out part of a forest fire and rush to the next hot spot even as the previous one flares.

That 155 Canadians have died on the mission, and more than 650 were wounded in combat, has prompted criticism that the years the troops spent seemingly spinning their wheels were a waste of lives and effort.

Col. Acton Kilby, director of stabilization at regional command south headquarters, flatly rejects that notion.

Canada, he said, ensured the south "was not completely lost."

"Had we not done that, we could have surged, but we would have been faced with a problem and dynamic that would have been exponentially more difficult," Kilby says.

Lt.-Col. Peter Devlin, chief of land staff, says the stature of the Canadian military has grown immeasurably both at home and abroad because of the country's contribution to the Afghan war effort.

The troops have developed a hard-won skill set they could not have learned any other way.

Still, how much of Canada's current on-the-ground success will endure beyond the July 31 end date for its combat operations remains to be seen. Peace, after all, remains elusive.

And, of course, the small area Canada now operates in and is set to leave is just a fractional part of a still-roiling Afghanistan.

Despite some strong individual bonds forged, Dufault doubts the Afghans in the south will remember the sacrifices Canadians made.

"Definitely, the short-term memory of Afghan people will probably be of the Americans _ it bothers me a little bit."

Still, he says, the Canadian blood spilled _ including that of some of his own men and friends _ has been for a purpose.

"Any soldier who's lost his life here has not died in vain _ they made us proud," Dufault says.

"I miss them. At the same time, I know they died doing something they liked."
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British marine killed in Afghanistan blast
Sun May 15, 9:43 am ET
LONDON (AFP) – A British marine was killed Sunday in a blast in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence in London announced.

The troop, from 42 Commando Royal Marines, was killed by an improvised explosive device while searching a compound in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand Province.

"The Royal Marine was involved in an operation which was investigating suspected insurgent activity in a number of compounds in the Loy Mandeh Wadi area," said Task Force Helmand spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick.

"He was fatally injured by an IED early this morning. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."

The death brings to 365 the number of British troops killed since operations in Afghanistan began in October 2001. Of these, at least 320 were killed through hostile action. The marine was the 17th to die this year.

The troop's next of kin have been informed.

Britain has about 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, making it the second-largest contributor after the United States to the NATO-led coalition.

They are based in central Helmand, battling Taliban insurgents and training up local security forces.
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Tackling mental health problems in Afghanistan
A Kabul psychiatric center tries to help patients through medications and therapy. With limited funds and ingrained views about mental health, it is a challenge.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times May 15, 2011
Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan - The group therapy session at Afghanistan's flagship mental health hospital began, as many do, with sharing.

Foruzan, 28, a slight woman in a black and silver head scarf, told the psychologist she was possessed by an evil spirit, or jinn. She sought help at a shrine, she said, and thought she was healed. But then the heartburn returned.

Beside her, Parvin, 20, a rosy-cheeked student, who like other patients at the hospital asked that only her first name be used, said she suffers intense headaches and needs medication to think clearly at school.

Worst off was Shaima, 35, hunkered in a corner weeping into her blue burka. Her husband beat her, she said, and threw her out of their house the night before, leaving her at the mercy of her brother, who calls her crazy because she is always crying.

It was a typical morning for Abdul Wahab Yarzada, a psychologist at the 60-bed Kabul Psychiatric and Drug Dependency Treatment Center. Each day, he hears a flurry of maladies, many related to the ongoing conflict, from fishar (stress) to asabi (nerves) to jigar khun, which literally means "liver blood," but describes a sense of hopelessness.

Some have already chosen to, as they say in Dari, "leave this world": withdraw rather than confront the adversities of life in the war-ravaged country.

Experts estimate that 60% of the Afghan populace suffers from mild to severe mental illness. Yarzada and the rest of the hospital's three dozen psychiatrists and psychologists see as many as 160 patients a day at the crumbling 26-year-old facility that they are still rebuilding after a bombing six months ago.

Afghan leaders have vowed to use an infusion of international aid to improve medical services and have made mental health a priority. Yet the Kabul hospital is struggling to improve therapy and expand neighborhood clinics in an extremely poor country where mental health treatment remains a luxury.

The hospital is supposed to receive $300,000 from the Afghan government this year, but it has not yet been paid, said the hospital's director, Dr. Timono Shah Musamim. The hospital recently received a $1.6-million grant from the European Union to renovate the buildings, provide medical supplies and staff training.

At the group therapy session last month, women took turns as they sat in a circle of folding chairs in the high-ceilinged former German factory. The only decorations on the chipped aqua walls were a map of Afghanistan and a diagram of the brain.

Parvin said that talking about her problems has helped relieve her depression as much as the antidepressant medication a private doctor had prescribed.

"When I speak out, I say what is inside me and they understand and give me direction on what to do," she said.

Dr. Peter Ventevogel, an Amsterdam-based psychiatrist who has worked to improve Afghanistan's mental health care through the nonprofit Healthnet TPO, said the hospital's staff has advanced in recent years.

"It's a new way of thinking that a patient with a mental disorder is someone you have to consult," Ventevogel said. "Those are notions that are not yet ingrained in the healthcare system in Afghanistan. The whole idea of client participation is a difficult one."

Yarzada and other Afghan therapists at the hospital have been training with a medical anthropologist to practice more transcultural therapy, which incorporates patients' traditional beliefs about mental illness, treating them for what they believe ails them.

It is still common in Afghanistan for families to chain the severely mentally ill at home or at Sufi shrines such as Mia Ali Baba outside Jalalabad, where they are left to subsist for weeks on water and peppered bread.

Patricia Omidian, a medical anthropologist who has studied Afghanistan's mental health system, said the Kabul hospital is confronting overwhelming need. Though doctors cannot provide all the social support patients come looking for, they have come a long way since 2003, she said, when she saw patients chained to the metal-framed beds.

"They got the shackles off. There was a real effort," Omidian recalled. "I work in Pakistan, and there are still shackles in some of the mental institutions. In some ways I think Pakistan is actually behind Afghanistan. For instance, in Afghanistan you can talk more openly about mental health and, maybe it's because of the war, but there is a recognition that people need help when they suffer."

The greatest challenge for the Afghan therapists probably will be the limits on what they can accomplish in a society that, even after NATO forces leave, will remain in crisis, said Ken Miller, a Cambridge, Mass.-based psychologist who has published several studies about mental health in Afghanistan.

"We think about war zones and attribute many of those mental health problems to the war. And there is certainly some truth to that. But the conditions of everyday life have a tremendous impact on mental health," Miller said.

"That makes it harder for mental health professionals. It's much harder to reduce someone's depression when that depression is related to extreme poverty. People go home to these extreme adversities and that's where they live their lives."

For Shaima, the woman with an abusive husband, the psychologist suggested family therapy.

She frowned.

"You have to bring your husband or your brother here so we can find out what is happening," Yarzada said.

Shaima was not sure she could persuade her husband, an unemployed teacher about 30 years her senior, to attend therapy sessions. He is a private person and has relatives who work at the hospital, she said. As for her brother, she was afraid she would cause more family problems if she told him about the beatings.

The doctor nodded, then rose to leave. They were out of time. Her problems would have to wait until next week.

"I get well here sometimes," Shaima said as she left the hospital, "But when I go home, all that bad behavior makes me sick again."

molly.hennessy-fiske@latimes.com

Special correspondent Aimal Yaqubi in Kabul contributed to this report.
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Pakistan may cut Nato's Afghan supply line after Osama bin Laden killing
Senior politicians vow to review ties to America after discord over drone attacks and assassination of al-Qaida leader
Guardian.co.uk By Declan Walsh Saturday 14 May 2011
The security of Nato's main supply line into Afghanistan came under threat on Saturday as Pakistani parliamentarians voted to review all aspects of their relationship with the US amid worsening political fallout from the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The unanimous motion was passed in the early hours of Saturday morning at the conclusion of an extraordinary 10-hour parliamentary session when the military's top brass offered apologies and admissions of failure, and the country's spy chief offered to resign.

Condemning the 2 May raid on bin Laden's house in Abbottabad, 35 miles northeast of Islamabad, as a "violation of Pakistan's sovereignty", parliament voted unanimously to review the country's terms of engagement with Washington.

In feisty speeches lawmakers warned against further "unilateral action", including CIA drone strikes, and urged the government to consider cutting the Nato supply line that runs from Karachi to Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass and Balochistan.

Suspicious of Pakistan's failure to capture bin Laden but recognising the importance of the supply line and pursuing other al-Qaida fugitives, the Obama administration is dispatching Senator John Kerry – the "good cop" of US diplomacy with Pakistan – to Islamabad on Sunday.

"We're not trying to find a way to break the relationship apart, we're trying to find a way to build it," he told reporters in Kabul on Saturday.

Kerry arrives in Pakistan at a time of unprecedented criticism of the powerful military. On Friday night top generals were submitted to harsh questioning from parliamentarians during a marathon session that stretched late into the night.

The inter-services intelligence (ISI) chief General Shuja Pasha, one of the most powerful figures in the country, admitted to an "intelligence failure" on Bin Laden, insisting that the ISI had been kept in the "complete dark" by the US over the raid, and tendered his resignation to prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. It was not accepted – a sign that the government, led by Asif Ali Zardari, has decided to support the weakened military.

The fragile civilian government is gambling that its pro-army stance will guarantee it a full term in office. "It was politically a very astute move," said Talat Masood, a retired general and political analyst.

Another striking revelation came from the deputy air force chief, who admitted that CIA drones take off from Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province. But he insisted that the drones were unarmed – those carrying missiles came from Afghanistan, he said – and that Shamsi was actually under the authority of the United Arab Emirates, which built the remote airstrip in the 1990s for rich sheikhs on bird-hunting expeditions.

Despite having been technically held in camera, details of the parliamentary session leaked out to the media. One MP told the news website Dawn that the air force chief claimed to have ordered his jet fighters to shoot down US helicopters with Bin Laden's body on board when they were leaving Pakistan, but they were too slow.

Although generally apologetic, in some instances the generals struck back at their critics. When an MP from a religious party attacked Pasha, the spy chief told the mullah that was in no position to talk because he had received funds from Libya and Saudi Arabia.

The parliamentary motion appeared intended to deflect attention from uncomfortable questions about Bin Laden's Pakistan sanctuary onto complaints about US breaches of sovereignty. But the opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted from power in a 1999 military coup, said he was determined to seek greater accountability of army power. "The elected government should formulate foreign policy. A parallel policy or parallel government should not be allowed to work," he told a news conference yesterday.

Deteriorating relations with the US are further complicated by a bitter row between spies on both sides. The fact that the CIA could run such a massive operation to capture Bin Laden had deeply embarrassed the ISI, said Vali Nasr, a former Obama administration advisor. "It's not just a diplomatic embarrassment, it's a counter-espionage failure," he said. "Suddenly the ISI is scared of what the CIA is capable of doing."

In a further sign of cooling relations General Khalid Wynne, chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff committee, has cancelled a five-day visit to the United States due to start on 22 May.

The US has begun to look to central Asian countries to reduce its reliance on Pakistan for military supplies to Afghanistan. The cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has already threatened to have his supporters block military trucks passing through Peshawar.

But outside parliament, the gap between political rhetoric and ground realities is as stark as ever in Pakistan. On Friday a CIA drone fired missiles that killed five people in the tribal belt, the fourth such attack since 2 May.

Yesterday the death toll from Friday's Taliban suicide attack on a paramilitary training centre climbed to 89; a Taliban spokesman said the vicious bombing was to avenge the al-Qaida leader's death and warned of more to come.
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Russian veteran warns of "unsolvable" Afghan violence
Reuters By Amie Ferris-Rotman Sun May 15, 2011
RUZA, Russia - Violence will erupt in Afghanistan once NATO-led forces complete their planned pullout, repeating the aftermath following the Soviet exit, the head of Russia's Union of Afghan Veterans said in an interview.

Moscow is still haunted by its own disastrous, decade-long war in Afghanistan, where some 15,000 Soviet soldiers died fighting mujahideen insurgents before pulling out in 1989.

Frants Klintsevich, also a deputy in the Russian parliament, said he understands the desire to try to tame Afghanistan, but that "the problem of radical Islam will not be solved there, its violence cannot be solved. It is simply unsolvable".

He spoke to Reuters at an annual veterans' convention just outside of Moscow, where he conducted a wreath-laying ceremony with generals in full military regalia, many left blinded or crippled. Russian veterans are so tightly tied to the catastrophic conflict, they refer to themselves as "Afghans".

An increasingly unpopular war now in its tenth year, violence in Afghanistan has intensified. In 2010 all sides took record casualties, making it the worst year since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban government in late 2001.

"As soon as the Americans and Europeans leave, the Taliban will crack down on everything," said Klintsevich, 53, who as a colonel between 1986-88 won praise from Moscow for quickly learning the Dari language and using it to negotiate with mujahideen.

INFIGHTING, COLLAPSE
After the dispirited Soviet exit, the Afghan communist government collapsed, leading to infighting between warlords, a civil war that reduced Kabul to rubble and paved the way for the Taliban's rise to power in 1996.

With around 100,000 troops, the U.S. has the lion's share of up to 150,000 NATO-led foreign forces in Afghanistan. In its time, the Soviet Union sent 115,000 troops.

U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to begin gradually bringing U.S. troops home from July, with NATO eyeing a full handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

"They (NATO and the United States) are 100 percent repeating the same mistake we made by entering into a war in that country," Klintsevich said.

He said he wished the United States had consulted Russia before entering the war because Russia has more than 200 years' experience of dealing with Afghanistan and is now vying to boost its clout in the country amid fears of growing Islamism.

"They should have invited Russian specialists, involved Russia, really studied how they could use Russia. But unfortunately Americans think they know everything," he said.
(Editing by Paul Tait and Daniel Magnowski)
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