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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (December 2006)


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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (December 2006)

News only - commentary elsewhere, please.  Thanks for helping this "news only" thread system work!

Canadian tanks deployed in Afghanistan combat
Updated Sat. Dec. 2 2006 12:39 PM ET Canadian Press
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PANJWAII, Afghanistan -- It's the reason they're called "rolling thunder.''

The throaty roar of engines announcing the approach of the squadron of Canadian Leopard tanks could be heard from kilometres away as they emerged from the mist and rain Saturday to back up ground troops in the war-torn Panjwaii district.

The 42-tonne monsters left Kandahar Airfield under the cover of darkness early Saturday morning in the first combat deployment of Canadian tanks since the Korean War.

Hours later they rolled down the streets of the village of Panjwaii in an impressive show of force on their way to the nearby forward operating base, or FOB.

Residents of Panjwaii, hearing the rumble of the metal tracks biting into the concrete, rushed from their homes to watch the biggest display of firepower since their war with the Soviets in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

It also caused excitement at the FOB. Battle weary troops, who have been fighting the Taliban on a regular basis, couldn't contain their glee.

"Merry Christmas to the Taliban,'' said one soldier.

"It's time to open a can of whuppass,'' said another.

The tank crews, members of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) armoured regiment based in Edmonton, were excited to be finally joining the fight.
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Conflict takes toll on Canadian non-commissioned officers in Afghanistan
Bill Graveland Canadian Press Saturday, December 02, 2006
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - Soldiers look up to senior non-commissioned officers as mentors and role models, the backbone of the army. When an "NCO" is killed, the loss is felt across the ranks.

The conflict in Afghanistan is taking a serious toll on senior NCOs in the Canadian Forces. The death of Chief Warrant Officer Bobby Girouard, the regimental sergeant major, in a suicide attack on Monday is just the tip of the iceberg. Two warrant officers, six sergeants and two master corporals are among the Canadians killed in Afghanistan.

"Of course it hurts us - as human beings, as men," said Maj. Todd Scharlach, "when you lose key personnel and professional soldiers like Mr. Girouard and all the other soldiers we've lost as well."

"Senior NCO's are really the backbone of a professional army. Their experience is vast," said Scharlach, 38, an operations officer from Kitchener, Ont.

"They're the ones that have risen from the rank of private right up to - in the case of Chief Warrant Officer Girouard - the regimental sergeant major."

Non-commissioned officers play leadership roles but do not have formal commissions - unlike officers who have documents signed by the Queen commissioning them. Warrant officers are given a warrant, a lesser-grade commission.

Scharlach said even officers initially learn from senior NCOs during officer training.

Commissioned officers move in and out of military units all the time. It is the non-commissioned officers who remain, maintaining continuity, enforcing rules, professionalism and pride.
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Disembowelled and murdered for teaching girls
Thursday November 30, 2006 By Kim Sengupta
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GHAZNI - The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely.

But his life was over.

He was partly disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes. The remains were put on display as a warning to others against defying Taleban orders to stop educating girls.

Halim is one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taleban and United States and Afghan forces.

The day we arrived an Afghan policeman and eight insurgents died during an ambush in an outlying village. Rockets were found, primed to be fired into Ghazni city during a visit by the American ambassador a few days previously. But, as in the rest of Afghanistan, it is the civilians who are bearing the brunt of this murderous conflict.

At the village of Qara Bagh, Halim's family is distraught and terrified. His cousin, Ahmed Gul, shook his head. "They killed him like an animal. No, no. We do not kill animals like that. They took away a father and a husband, they had no pity. We are all very worried. Please go now, you see those men standing over there? They are watching. It is dangerous for you, and for us."

Fatima Mustaq, the director of education at Ghazni, has had repeated death threats, the notorious 'night letters'. Her gender, as well as her refusal to send girls home from school, has made her a hate figure for Islamist zealots. "I think they killed him that way to frighten us, otherwise why make a man suffer so much? Mohammed Halim and his family were good friends of ours and we are very, very upset by what has happened. He came to me when the threats first began and asked what he should do. I told him to move somewhere safe. I think he was trying to arrange that when they came and took him."
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Helicopter missing in south Afghanistan
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KABUL (Reuters) - A search is under way for a civilian helicopter that went missing in bad weather on Saturday while ferrying supplies for foreign forces in southern Afghanistan.

The chartered helicopter was headed from the capital of Kandahar province, Kandahar city, to the neighbouring province of Uruzgan when it went missing, a NATO spokesman said in Kabul.

There were no NATO personnel on board.

No further details were immediately available, including the type of helicopter or the number of people on board.

Fourteen British defence force personnel died when their plane crashed in Kandahar during an anti-Taliban offensive in September.
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Capps' Afghanistan trip leaves her a believer
Sat, Dec. 02, 2006   By David Whitney dwhitney@thetribunenews.com
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WASHINGTON — Rep. Lois Capps favors U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. But when it comes to involvement in Afghanistan, the Santa Barbara Democrat thinks the U.S. should be sending more troops and money.

Capps recently was in Afghanistan meeting with President Hamid Karzai and members of the year-old parliament as part of a delegation from the obscure House Democracy Assistance Commission.

"My overall impression was just how challenging and difficult and essential our presence is," Capps said in an interview Thursday.

She said she didn’t realize how fragile the situation was in Afghanistan until she was whisked by armored car through the narrow, crowded streets of Kabul.

"There were bombs that went off while we were in the city," she said. "There were explosive devices."

Capps said she was especially awed by the difficulties faced by the 68 female members of parliament as they struggle against the cultural prejudices that permitted the mistreatment and repression of women by the resurging Taliban.

"Women have double or triple the hurdles to overcome," she said.

At a lunch with about half the women members, Capps said, she learned that several had been threatened when campaigning for office.

"One woman was shot and left for dead," Capps said. "She crawled to a place where she could get some help, and she continued to run.

"They don’t want their country to be unruly. They don’t want warlords to take over. They want freedom."
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Afghanistan Opium Crop Sets Record
U.S.-Backed Efforts At Eradication Fail
By Karen DeYoung Washington Post Staff Writer Saturday, December 2, 2006; Page A01
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Opium production in Afghanistan, which provides more than 90 percent of the world's heroin, broke all records in 2006, reaching a historic high despite ongoing U.S.-sponsored eradication efforts, the Bush administration reported yesterday.

In addition to a 26 percent production increase over past year -- for a total of 5,644 metric tons -- the amount of land under cultivation in opium poppies grew by 61 percent. Cultivation in the two main production provinces, Helmand in the southwest and Oruzgan in central Afghanistan, was up by 132 percent.
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Czech troops take command of Kabul airport in Afghanistan     
December 02, 2006
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Czech troops have officially taken the command of Kabul's international airport as responsibility within the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), Jan Pejsek from the Defence Ministry's press department said on Friday.

The NATO command at the Kabul airport is in charge of comprehensive air traffic operation to the benefit of the multinational forces, individual participants in the operation and civilian air traffic.

The four-month task will be performed by 47 members of the Czech Army, who are led by Colonel Bohuslav Dvorak and include specialists on air control, air information service, flight security and logistics.

It is the first command of the Czech military within the ISAF. Under the Czech command, there will be 500 soldiers and specialists from about 20 NATO members and Afghanistan.

The new contingent, which arrived in Afghanistan on Nov. 25, includes four women, and over one-third of its members have experience in foreign missions. It is supposed to stay in Kabul till November 2007.

At the Kabul airport, there are another 20 Czech troops operating in the meteorological and logistics services and as bomb disposal experts.

There are about 32,000 soldiers in Afghanistan within the ISAF at present. The Czech Republic is contributing 150 soldiers.
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Police Training in Afghanistan
Reporter: Alice Barr
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President Bush says our troops will stay in Iraq until the country can stand alone. A local former police officer is working to bring that day a little closer.
Waylon Weber says he'll miss his kids' soccer games, but that's just one thing in a long list. He leaves tomorrow to spend a year training Iraqi police officers in Afghanistan.
"Once we train enough of them to take over and control their nation, then we can start bringing back, well we can come back and then start bringing back the troops," Weber says.
He spent six years in the Marines. He didn't want to re-enlist and separate from his family for a long period. But he wasn't ready to stop serving.
He says, "If I can go over there for one year and give it 110 % and know that I made a difference or contributed to the cause, that's all that matters to me."
Weber had to resign from the South Beloit police to take this trip. He says that was like leaving another family, but nothing like saying goodbye to his kids.
His son Aaron say, "I was like what am I gonna do without my dad he's gonna miss a whole year of my life."
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Afghanistan and Pakistan try to stop polio on border
Saturday, December 02, 2006 Staff Report
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan are to set up five check posts on their common border to screen children for polio and give them vaccine drops in the hope of eliminating one of the world’s last reservoirs of the disease, Federal Health Minister Muhammad Nasir Khan said on Friday.

The announcement was made following a meeting with his Afghan counterpart Syed Muhammad Amin Fatmi at the Ministry of Health. “We already have two points and the new ones will help monitor all the migrating population,” he told a news conference.

The existing posts are in Chaman and Torkhum. “The World Health Organization will lead the team to help identify the new points,” Nasir said.

At the current points, over 84,000 children were covered by teams in Chaman and 70,000 at Torkhum in the first six months of 2006, officials pointed out.
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Afghan assembly condemns Kasuri assertions for coalition govt in Afghanistan
Saturday December 02, 2006 (0140 PST)
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KABUL: Afghan Parliament strongly condemned the assertions made by Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri recently; suggesting the formation of coalition government in Afghanistan joined by Taliban and termed it as direct interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
Earlier, the meeting of the Afghan Parliament was held under the chairmanship of its speaker, Mohammad Younis Qanooni in Kabul the other day, reports Radio Kabul.

During the session, Afghan parliament members strongly condemned Pakistan's Foreign Minister statement about coalition government joined by Taliban in Afghanistan
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Bodies of 2 soldiers killed in Afghanistan return home
Last Updated: Friday, December 1, 2006 The Canadian Press
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Two Canadian soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan this week arrived home Friday evening in a solemn ceremony.

Flag-draped caskets containing the bodies of Chief Warrant Officer Robert Girouard, 46, of Bathurst, N.B., and Cpl. Albert Storm, 36, of Fort Erie, Ont., were unloaded from a military plane at CFB Trenton.

Their remains were flown back to Canadian soil following a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield on Thursday.

Girouard and Storm, both members of the Royal Canadian Regiment based in Petawawa, Ont., were in a Bison armoured personnel carrier when a suicide bomber in a car drove alongside and detonated his explosives. The Bison had left the Kandahar air base just minutes earlier.

It was the first deadly strike against Canadian troops in Afghanistan in six weeks, shattering a period of relative calm.
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Afghanistan: a chance or a trap for NATO?
18:48 | 01/ 12/ 2006
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MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti military commentator Alexander Bogatyrev) - Afghanistan is one country where Russia is ready to cooperate with NATO, as the latest meeting of the NATO-Russia Council showed. The bloc, however, needed time to mull the offer over.

The first day of the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, which discussed Afghanistan, provided the answer.

Afghanistan is a complicated and painful problem for the organization. Some say the country will decide its future. Five years after the beginning of the operation, NATO is coordinating the international effort in Afghanistan. This removes the ambiguity that prevailed when U.S. and NATO troops acted separately even though the Untied States is a NATO member.

The operation in Afghanistan was expected to give NATO a second lease on life after the end of the Cold War. The Taliban seemed to be the answer to the question of the bloc's objectives and adversaries.

But the meeting in Riga showed that Afghanistan is turning out to be an unbearably high price to pay for the preservation and expansion of the bloc.

At present NATO has to ensure security both in the relatively calm northern provinces of the country and in the south and southeast, where the Taliban are the true masters. Their autumn offensive proved that they have reinforced their positions and are gradually changing their tactics, going over from a guerrilla war to well-organized offensive and defensive operations. Moreover, they are now more frequently attacking in large groups of 300-400.
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6 Taliban militants killed in S. Afghanistan
December 01, 2006         
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Afghan police killed six Taliban insurgents in Zabul province of southern Afghanistan, a local official told Xinhua on Friday.

The police clashed with some Taliban militants in Share Safa district of the province on Thursday night, said Mohammad Rassoul, the district police chief.

Six insurgents were killed and two others arrested, he said, adding there were no casualties of the police.

Zabul has been a hotbed of Taliban insurgents, who clash with Afghan and NATO troops frequently.

Due to rising Taliban-linked violence this year, Afghanistan has plunged into the worst spate of bloodshed since the Taliban regime was toppled nearly five years ago.

Over 3,800 people, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed in this volatile country this year.

Source: Xinhua

Royal Marines in Afghanistan misled by £3,000 rise blunder
01 December 2006
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A Defence Minister accepted yesterday that Royal Marines serving in Afghanistan will have been left "disappointed and upset" after having been led to believe they were getting big increases in their allowances.
More than 4,000 marines were led to believe they were getting a £3,000 bonus. But the Ministry of Defence has since realised the error made by Royal Navy administrators and says the marines will not get the extra money.
Defence Minister Derek Twigg, helping to send off Christmas gift boxes to forces from Regent's Park Barracks in London, said: "A mistake was made but the Navy have done a good job in dealing with it.
"The error was spotted before the money was paid. I can understand that some of the Royal Marines expecting this will be
disappointed and upset about it.
I understand how they might
"But it doesn't detract from the admiration we hold them in in terms of the job they are doing, which has been recognised by the operational bonuses which will be paid to them.
They are a tremendous professional organisation and I believe they will continue to do a very difficult job in difficult circumstances."
The MoD said earlier that the change in the way the allowance was paid aimed to make it simpler to pay.
It said: "The Royal Navy and Royal Marines personnel will be paid under joint Personnel Agency arrangements from this month. Regrettably, the internal Royal Navy instruction was wrong and some personnel are disappointed that they will not receive this substantial uplift."
The marines were told they could receive up to £17 extra a day over six months.
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Ten Taliban killed, two commanders seized in Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR: NATO and Afghan troops killed 10 Taliban rebels and captured two suspected militant leaders in a raid on an alleged suicide bomb cell in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said Friday.

One NATO soldier was lightly wounded in the operation carried out early Thursday in the troubled Sangin district of Helmand province, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

The identity of the suspected insurgent commanders captured in the raid was not revealed.

An ISAF statement said troops seized two suicide vests, several rocket propelled grenades and a cache of equipment and weapons "that were ready to be used in future attacks".

Warplanes and helicopters backed up the troops in the operation, it said, adding that there were no civilian casualties.

Feature: World Bank-UN Report Offers Grim Assessment of Afghanistan Opium Battle, Says Winning Will Take Decades, Not Years
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Printer Friendly Version  Email this Articlefrom Drug War Chronicle, Issue #463, 12/1/06
The effort to wipe out opium production has achieved limited success at best, hurt the poorest Afghans, and riddled the government with corruption from top to bottom, according to a comprehensive report released Tuesday by the United Nations and the World Bank.

"Afghanistan's Opium Economy" says the counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan is failing and the presence of opium in the national economy is so great that it infiltrates not only the economy, but the Afghan state, politics, and society. Providing a real alternative will take decades, not years, the study warns.
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Refocusing on Afghanistan
Lance Dickie / Seattle Times editorial columnistFriday, December 1, 2006
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The spoils of victory and the responsibilities of victory. Each is a manifestation of Democratic control of Congress, and Washington Sen. Patty Murray carries the expectations and weight of both.

First, let me say, she looks terrific in a hard hat.

Murray was in Seattle this week and she sported neither a stingy brim nor a stingy attitude. Along with her OSHA chapeau she brought U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and $750 million in glad tidings for Sound Transit's University Link extension.

Portland's light rail, the envy of Seattle, comes to mind. The system was launched and nurtured by Oregon's long-time Republican senator, Mark Hatfield, when he and the GOP ran things in the 1980s and 1990s. This is what it feels like.

The ghosts of Maggie and Scoop are looking over Murray's shoulder, and they are saying, "Good job." Washington's senior senator picked up an Appropriations Subcommittee gavel with the Democrats' big win last month, and she was elevated into Senate leadership, which sets the agenda.

Congress has a daunting to-do list, and I am starting to hate the word refocus, with its echo of costly sins of omission in public policy. Murray used the word in a conversation with The Seattle Times' editorial board. The question was about Afghanistan.

The United States has been focused on Iraq to our peril in Afghanistan, the senator said, and time has come to refocus on that volatile region.

NATO thinks the same thing. The topic dominated a summit meeting this week in Riga, Latvia. An informed observer, a retired American general and former supreme allied commander in Europe, described events in Afghanistan as "reaching a critical juncture." Read that to mean things are about to fall apart.

NATO has 32,000 troops in the country. Five years after the U.S.-led effort to subdue the Taliban and destroy safe havens for terrorists, the mission and enthusiasm have gotten fuzzy. So has the sense of shared burden.

Only the U.S., Britain, Canada and the Netherlands have combat troops in the south, where the attacks by resurgent Taliban are the most severe. Germany, France and other NATO elements are ensconced in the north and largely refuse to budge. Canada is making a righteous noise about the lopsided share of its troops killed in action, including 36 this year.

Why is there any civilian tolerance for the murder of the peacemakers — the peacekeepers, the bearers of humanitarian aid and advocates for a civil society — by a revived Taliban? These oppressive religious extremists were shoved aside by a relieved nation in 2001.

On one level, the U.S. cannot be matched for military might or good intentions. We can rally the most powerful forces on Earth, and they are organized and overseen by skilled, effective people.

Our leaders — and the indictment is broader than those now in the White House — have two problems overseas: They are culturally clueless and they are easily distracted. They have the attention span of a gnat. The Bush administration gave up on talking to parts of the world for years.

Sainted Tony Blair talks about political solutions, but the U.S. and kindred spirits have a knack for backing the wrong horse. The Taliban enjoy renewed authority because what passes for a central government is inept, corrupt and worse. A U.N. report talks about enabling the opium trade.

Why would Afghanis with a stake in a better future countenance the loathsome Taliban attacking NATO forces? Well, the Taliban might be SOBs, but they are not the foreign infidels who came to visit and never left. Cultural and religious sensibilities exist that we do not get.

I supported the charge into Afghanistan after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, something of a first for me. Usually, diplomacy is not allowed to work, but a hard military punch can have salutary effects; look at the NATO bombing in Kosovo. Punishing, liberating and rebuilding Afghanistan made sense. Five years later, we are still dying there.

I do not expect much out of those who control foreign policy — the Bush White House — but I want those refocused Democrats to explain why Afghanistan remains important to U.S. interests.

It falls to Sen. Murray to ask the questions and return with the answers. Along, of course, with those fat checks.
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Czech army to send field hospital to Afghanistan - press
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Prague- The Defence Ministry wants to send its 6th field hospital with up to 80 military doctors to Afghanistan next year, the daily Pravo writes citing Defence Minister Jiri Sedivy.
Czech President Vaclav Klaus promised at the NATO summit in Riga on Wednesday that the Czech participation in the military mission in Afghanistan would be strengthened.

The army's present plan did not include sending a field hospital. Sedivy said that the army reacted to the request of the British commanders of NATO.

"The hospital is likely to be deployed within the international airport in Kabul," the minister told Pravo.

Sedivy said that the army is able to send the hospital already in February. The step has yet to be approved by the government and parliament.

The Czech field hospital was deployed within missions in Albania, Iraq, and Turkey, and in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003. It can daily carry out 10 serious operations, treat 160 patients, and hospitalise 40 injured.
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A voice for Afghanistan
First female Afghan camerawoman speaks up for silenced women
Emily Senger News Editor November 30, 2006
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The images of Afghan women presented in western media paint a picture of silent, ghostly beings, floating in shrouds of blue burqas, eyes hidden and faces closed to the world. But one brave woman's documentary is challenging these Western misconceptions to provide a face and a voice for the silent struggles of millions of Afghan women.

Twenty-four year-old filmmaker Mehria Azizi and Afganh radio-journalist Najeeba Ayubi came to the University of Calgary Thur., Nov. 23 to screen Azizi's documentary Afghanistan Unveiled. The film is the first made by Afghan camerawomen, and the pair used it as an opportunity to speak out about the importance of free press in a nation marred by five years of oppressive Taliban rule.

"From my side, it's more important that Afghan women should come to other countries," said Azizi. "If you see this movie you will find that Afghan people, still they have difficulties in the world. They are under the pressure of the culture, under the pressure of economic problems, under the pressure of educational problems. The men and women, both of them, but especially women. I do this for the poor people in hopes the international community, the media, they should help Afghanistan because, still, we need them."
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EU completes 1 billion euro aid pledge to Afghanistan
December 01, 2006         
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The European Commission committed 20.6 million euros' aid to Afghanistan on Thursday, completing its 1 billion pledge over five years to support the central Asian country.

Among the final commitments, 10.6 million euros will be used to support Afghanistan's provincial governance and improve service delivery to the local population under the framework of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, while another 10 million euros will be spent on the Afghanistan Variety and Seed Industry Development Project.

With these two decisions, the European Commission has fulfilled its pledge made in 2002 to provide 1 billion euros over five years to support the reconstruction and development process in Afghanistan.

"In 2002 the European Commission promised to be a steadfast partner for Afghanistan. Today we have kept our promise in full, and ahead of schedule," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy.

As of today, around 80 percent of the money committed is already paid out.

The largest part worth 265 million euros is used to support public administration and security sector reform in Afghanistan, covering salaries of 266 thousand civil servants and 66 thousand police personnel.
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NY Times
Afghan District Makes Own Deal With the Taliban
Some critics warn that the peace deal with tribal elders
sets a dangerous precedent and represents a capitulation to
the Taliban.


Articles found 3 December 2006

Cdn tanks fire in battle for 1st time in 50 years
Updated Sun. Dec. 3 2006 5:33 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Canadian tanks were involved in battle on Sunday, for the first time in half a century.

The newly-deployed Leopard Tanks fired their cannons in response to a Taliban rocket attack on the forward operating base near the village of Panjwaii, Afghanistan.

The tank squadron arrived at the base just one day earlier. The convoy made an impressive show of force as it travelled through the village on Saturday, and Sunday's Taliban attack appeared to be a direct response to the display, said CTV's Steve Chao, reporting from the base.

"Just before the sun went down two rockets were fired at the Canadian forward operating base in Ma'sum Ghar where we are currently," Chao told CTV Newsnet.

"In response to the two rockets that were fired, the Canadian Leopard tanks returned fire. We could hear the echo through the mountains where we are and this marked the first time in more than 50 years that Canadian tanks have been involved in combat."

Canada became the first NATO country to send tanks into combat in Afghanistan on Saturday.

"They know we're here ... (and) we think they're somewhat nervous of us,'' Cpl. Andrew Baird, 23, of Parry Sound, Ont. told The Canadian Press.

"I think it surprised them that we arrived and we're here now and we're here to stay.''
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Three troops injured in Afghanistan This is an update on the article below this one
3.03, Sun Dec 3 2006
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Three Royal Marines have been injured in an attack on a convoy in Afghanistan.

A suicide car bomber launched the attack on a military convoy in the centre of Kandahar earlier, Nato said.

The MoD confirmed that the three British service personnel - from 45 Commando Royal Marines - had been injured.

One was described as "seriously ill", while the others are in a stable condition, a spokeswoman added.

She said: "The injured servicemen received first aid at the scene before being evacuated by UK helicopter.

"They are currently receiving medical treatment at an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) medical facility."

The MoD said that at least two Afghan civilians had been killed and a number of others injured when the attacker attempted to ram the British vehicles.
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Suicide car bomber attacks NATO convoy
Story Highlights•Suicide car bomber tries to ram NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan
•Troops fire at several civilian vehicles after blast
•Bomb and shooting kill 3 Afghans, injure 19 people, including 3 NATO troops
•Taliban claims responsibility for car bomb
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- A suicide car bomb exploded next to a NATO convoy in southern Afghanistan Sunday, and troops speeding away from the scene shot at several civilian cars.

Three Afghans were killed in the violence and 19 people were wounded, including three NATO soldiers, officials said.

The blast damaged an open-top NATO vehicle and scattered the pieces of the car bomb over a wide area in Kandahar city.

Three NATO soldiers were wounded, said Squadron Leader Jason Chalk, an alliance spokesman in Kandahar. He did not disclose their nationality.

The suicide bomber tried to ram the convoy as the troops drove through the city, said Razaq Khan, a police officer at the scene.

Two civilians were killed and 10 wounded in the blast, said Dr. Bashir Ahmed of the main Kandahar hospital. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmedi, claimed responsibility for the attack.

After the explosion, soldiers speeding from the scene fired at civilian vehicles and a man on a motorcycle about half a mile from the blast site.

Ahmed said six Afghans were wounded by the gunfire.

Zarar Ahmad Muqbal, Afghanistan's interior minister, told a news conference in Kabul that one civilian was killed and one was injured by the gunfire. He was apparently describing only one car that was hit.

Maj. Luke Knittig, the spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said as the patrol was driving away from the blast site it came across a suspicious car soldiers feared might be a second suicide bomber -- apparently the car Muqbal described.

Chalk said the patrol fired warning shots to keep people away and that some civilians may have been injured as a result.

Isah Mohammad, one of the Afghans injured by gunfire, said from his hospital bed that he was driving through Kandahar with his cousin when the convoy passed them.

"The convoy was coming and there was some gunfire, but I thought it was a wedding ceremony," said Mohammad, who is in his early 30s and was hit in the shoulder and the right leg. "When they got closer, they started shooting at us."

The blast was the fourth suicide attack in the Kandahar region in a week. Two Canadian soldiers were killed last Monday by a suicide car bomb just outside Kandahar.

The bombs typically target NATO and Afghan security forces but more often kill civilians. NATO figures as of last week showed that 227 Afghans and 17 international soldiers have been killed in about 105 suicide bombings this year.
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Grave of soldier killed in Afghanistan will get Wiccan symbol
By Scott Sonner, The Associated Press 12/03/2006
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RENO, Nev. - Friends and family of a Nevada soldier killed in Afghanistan more than a year ago plan to gather at a veterans cemetery Saturday to dedicate what they say is the first government-issued memorial plaque in the country to include a symbol of the Wiccan faith.
The multicultural, interfaith service for Sgt. Patrick Stewart of Fernley will include blessings by American Indians, Jews, Christians and Wiccans, said the Rev. Selena Fox, one of the Wiccan organizers of the memorial.

"There's quite a diversity of people who are going to be there," Fox said Friday before leaving her home in Wisconsin for the trip to northern Nevada.

Stewart's plaque was installed last week on the Veterans Memorial Wall at the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery in Fernley, about 30 miles east of Reno.

The Nevada Army National Guardsmen and four others died Sept. 25, 2005, when their Chinook helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan.

Since then, Stewart's widow, Roberta, has been fighting to make the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognize the Wiccan pentacle - a five-pointed star enclosed in a circle - for plaques and headstones at veterans' cemeteries.

Citing its jurisdiction over maintenance
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Clashes kill seven militants in Afghanistan December 03, 2006         
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Seven militants were killed and four others injured as they clashed with police in Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.

Six Taliban operatives were killed as police resisted their offensives in Darwishan area of Tirin Kot city, capital of the southern Uruzgan province on Friday night, the provincial police chief Mohammad Qasim told Xinhua.

In the fire exchange lasted four three hours two police men were also wounded, he added.

Also on Friday night, police killed one rebel and wounded four others in the central Wardak province, the provincial police chief Mahboub Amiri told Xinhua but declined to give more details.

More than 3,800 people mostly the rebels, according to officials, have been killed in Afghanistan since January last.

Source: Xinhua
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Opposition German Greens Back German Troops In Afghanistan
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A bid to return Germany's opposition Greens party to the pacifist camp failed Sunday at a national party conference in the western city of Cologne, with delegates instead backing a continued presence by German peacekeepers in Afghanistan.

The party has its roots in the pacifist and environmentalist demonstrations that convulsed Germany a quarter of a century ago, but when the Greens were a junior government party from 1998 to 2005, they voted to send troops abroad.

Resolutions passed by the conference called for unspecified adjustments to German policy in Afghanistan and opposed moving German troops to the south to fight the Taliban. But a resolution demanding a withdrawal from Afghanistan failed to win a majority.

"We are responsible for the people of Afghanistan," said party co-leader Claudia Roth.
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Women veterans cope with emotional wounds
POSTED: 1853 GMT (0253 HKT), December 3, 2006
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CHICAGO, Illinois (AP) -- The nightmares didn't start until months after Alicia Flores returned home. The images were stark and disturbing: In one dream, a dying Iraqi man desperately grabbed her arm. In another, she was lost in a blinding sandstorm.

Sometimes, Flores awakened to discover her mouth was dust-dry -- as if she were really stumbling through the scorching, 120-degree desert.

The nightmares bring Flores back to Iraq, and her service in the Army's 92nd Chemical Company. She was just 19 when her unit arrived there. Now 23, she's left with memories of women and children being killed, of hauling bodies, of shooting a teenage Iraqi fighter. "It was him or me," she says.

"I'm fine with what I did over there ...," Flores says. "In my eyes, I did a good thing. It really doesn't bother me. The only thing that bothers me is I just want to sleep more."

Flores is one of a new generation of women who have returned from war to cope with emotional stress or physical wounds that linger long after the sounds of mortar and gunfire have faded.

Studies of Vietnam and Gulf War veterans have documented post-traumatic stress in females -- with higher rates than men, in some cases.

But the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a far larger deployment of women -- more than 155,000 -- with far more females exposed to ambushes, roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and other deadly hazards. And they have been left with an increased risk of combat-like stress.
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Canadian tanks fire first rounds in battle for first time since Korean War
(updated version of earlier CP story listed above)
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, via Macleans.ca, 3 Dec 06
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Canadian tanks fired their cannons in battle for the first time in half a century Sunday, replying to a Taliban rocket attack on their forward operating base.  The squadron of Leopard Tanks arrived at the base Saturday, rolling through the nearby village of Panjwaii with an impressive show of force for local citizens and the Taliban.  The Taliban obviously noticed. Two rebel rockets landed near the base at twilight Sunday, shattering the relative calm with a loud explosions. Canadian troops responded with two mortar bombs, the flash on the mountain top clearly visible from below in the fading light ....

Tanks to take on Taliban
Pak Tribune (PAK), 4 Dec 06
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Canadian troops in the war-torn Panjwaii district rolled out the 42-tonne Leopards in the first combat deployment of Canadian tanks since the Korean War.  Hours later they rolled down the streets of the village of Panjwaii in an impressive show of force on their way to the nearby forward operating base, or FOB.  Residents of the village of Panjwaii rushed from their homes to watch the biggest display of firepower since their war with the Soviets in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It also caused excitement at the FOB. Battle-weary troops couldn't contain their glee. "Merry Christmas to the Taliban," said one soldier ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

The Taliban Gets Closer to Kabul
Der Spiegel, 4 Dec 06
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A report from the German military, the Bundeswehr, warns that the Taliban is approaching Kabul and that attacks on the capital city are likely to increase. Security in nearby districts is already deteriorating.  The regeneration of the Taliban -- which has retaken control of parts of southern Afghanistan -- is no longer fresh news to anyone. But are the insurgent forces preparing to launch a series of attacks on the capital city of Kabul, which is home to peacekeeping troops, the Afghan government and non-government organizations that are helping to rebuild the war-torn country?  The leadership of Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, fear that Taliban attacks on the Afganistan capital of Kabul will likely increase in the coming months. According to a classified report on the state of Afghanistan obtained by SPIEGEL, "militant opposition forces" have made it clear that they will focus fighting during the winter "on the country's largest cities." ....

70 to 80 Taliban killed in Afghanistan
Jason Staziuso, Associated Press, 4 Dec 06
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An estimated 70 to 80 Taliban militants were killed by NATO soldiers in fighting in southern        Afghanistan after police told military authorities where insurgents had gathered, an official said Monday.  NATO soldiers suffered no casualties in the fighting in Helmand province that lasted into early Sunday, said Maj. Luke Knittig, the spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force.  The battle was in a remote location and there was no way to independently confirm NATO's casualty figures, provided by the commander on the ground ....

Nato 'kills 80 Taliban fighters'
Aljazeera.net, 4 Dec 06
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Nato has said its troops have killed up to 80 Taliban fighters in a battle in southern Afghanistan.  A reconnaissance patrol hunting Taliban forces engaged with a large group of fighters approximately 15km from the village of Musa Qala in Helmand Province, a Nato spokesman said on Monday.  No Nato casualties were reported after a four-hour fight supported by helicopters, but three soldiers from Nato's International Security Assistance Force were wounded during an earlier clash.  Fighting in Afghanistan this year is the worst since US-led forces fought the Taliban government in 2001 ....

Articles found 4 December 2006

Afghans bomb, berate British troops
Crowds vent rage after Royal Marines strafe Kandahar while fleeing attack
GRAEME SMITH From Monday's Globe and Mail
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Angry crowds gathered at Kandahar's hospital and shouted epithets at foreign troops yesterday, saying soldiers had raced away from the scene of a bombing and shot at least seven civilians in their hurry to get through the city.

Three elite commandoes from the British Royal Marines were injured about 11 a.m. when a suicide bomber tried to ram his car into their jeep. The events that followed are now under investigation, the British military says, but witnesses describe a military convoy driving at high speed across the city, firing shots in three locations as they apparently tried to warn away other vehicles and pedestrians.

One of the bullets went through the window of a bus and into the forehead of the driver, Aqil Shah, 30, who later died in hospital.

His brother, who was travelling with him as they transported goods from Herat to Kandahar, said they didn't know about the suicide bombing on the other side of town when they encountered the British convoy on the city's western edge.
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Afghanistan: A job half done
By Lyse Doucet  BBC Afghanistan analyst 
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In December 2001, a new future for Afghanistan was mapped out at an international conference in Bonn, beginning with an interim government to replace the Taleban. This week we look at how much has changed since then.
Five years ago, on a cold winter's day in Kabul, news broke that a new Afghan leader had been chosen thousands of miles away in the German city of Bonn.

I reached for a satellite telephone to call Hamid Karzai, still battling against Taleban forces in their last redoubt in the south.

"Am I the new Chairman?" he shouted on a crackling line. On a morning when he had come under fire from misguided American aircraft, Hamid Karzai still had not been told officially.

"That's nice" was his unassuming reply.

Afghans have, in some ways, made an impressive journey since a hastily assembled group of Afghans and foreign envoys forged what became known as the Bonn process.
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Afghan conflict: Reporter's diary
The BBC's Alastair Leithead has spent nine days embedded with UK forces in southern Helmand province, where Royal Marines have been battling Taleban rebels. Here are his daily reports on life with the troops, with the most recent one at the top.
FRIDAY 10 NOVEMBER 0630 (0300 GMT)
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Small stones and fine sand were whipped up into our faces as the Chinook transporter helicopter landed in the desert to whisk us back to Camp Bastion.

Our embedded trip with the Royal Marine Commandos in southern Helmand had come to an end and we loaded up our equipment alongside tyres, a large gun that was being replaced and a few people heading back like us.

The final night had seen the Marine Commandos use two more rockets to kill, they say, a further three Taleban fighters in a bunker they had been monitoring for a number of days.

We accompanied the Afghan National Army on a foot patrol around a village and it was interesting to see the British mentoring and training team's idea of meeting people to gather intelligence rubbing off.

As I said on Thursday, it's the way forward to train up the army and police, but I remain to be convinced as to whether the language and cultural barrier is just too great to see major progress in the next few years.

We left them moving into another village where they came under fire - it's still a dangerous place.

Over the past few days our team of Fred Scott (cameraman), Peter Emmerson (producer) and I have had a unique insight into how the front-line forces operate.

We were very impressed by the soldiers' professionalism, commitment and morale - they welcomed and protected us in a very dangerous environment.

They are a specialist group of Commandos, at the sharp end of the continuing war against the Taleban - and incidentally Monday will mark five years since the coalition forced the Taleban out of Kabul.
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Travelling with the Taleban
The BBC's David Loyn has had exclusive access to Taleban forces mobilised against the British army in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.
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There is no army on earth as mobile as the Taleban.
Taliban interview link
I remember it as their secret weapon when I travelled with them in the mid-1990s, as they swept aside rival mujahideen to take most of the country.

Piled into the back of open Toyota trucks, their vehicle of choice, and carrying no possessions other than their weapons, they can move nimbly.

The bare arid landscape of northern Helmand suits them well.

After one hair-raising race across the desert last week, patrolling the large area where they can move at will, they screamed to a stop at a river bank.

It was sunset, and time to pray before breaking the Ramadan fast they had kept since sunrise.

Before praying, they washed in a dank-looking pool at the side of the almost-dry river bed.

Afghanistan has been in the grip of a severe drought for several years, but the lack of clean water does not seem to concern these hardy men.
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Scandal with the Czech military delegation's transit from Afghanistan via Turkmenistan fomented a diplomatic conflict between Ashkhabad and Prague
04.12.2006 13:28 msk Fyodor Lukianov (Rossiiskaya Gazeta)
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The TU-154 with the Czech military delegation was returning from Afghanistan where several dozens servicemen of the Czech national army participate in the NATO peacekeeping mission. The plane needed a stopover in Ashkhabad, the capital of Turkmenistan, for refuelling. The Czechs even had a special permit from the local authorities.

What happened in Ashkhabad, however, was something nobody had expected. Claiming that the plane was carrying weapons (it did), the Turkmen authorities annulled the permit and all but arrested the Czech board, denying it the permit to takeoff. The passengers were even denied the permission to leave the plane.

The delegation in the meantime included some senior military and civilian officials of the Czech Republic - Chief of the General Staff Pavel Stefka, Jan Vidim of the parliamentary Defense and Security Committee, and others. Delay of the departure resulted in a bona fide struggle for the plane.

There is no saying how long the Czechs would have spent in the Turkmen captivity were it not for the Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov. The Czech Embassy in Moscow was informed that the plane was permitted to depart on the Turkmenbashi's personal order.
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U.S. Report Finds Dismal Training of Afghan Police
Police Academy By Daniel Politi  Monday, Dec. 4, 2006, at 6:41 AM ET
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The New York Times leads with a new report that reveals the police force in Afghanistan is in poor shape, and much of it is due to a lack of training and oversight. The joint report, which was carried out by the Pentagon and the State Department, says the local police force is incapable of performing day-to-day work, and managers can't even keep track of officers or equipment.

Afghanistan, Uzbekistan agree to increase cooperation
Monday December 04, 2006 (1045 PST)
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TASHKENT: Uzbek and Afghan Foreign Minister have agreed to further increase consultation and cooperation about regional peace and security.
This was decided during the meeting of the Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta with his Uzbek Counterpart Vladimir Norufov in Tashkent, Radio Azadi reported on Sunday.

The two leaders have also signed Memorandum of Understanding. Dr. Spanta is on three-day visit to Uzbekistan.

It is said that basic objective of Dr. Spanta's tour is to convince Uzbek government to cooperate in Afghanistan's reconstruction.

It may be noted that Uzbek government had announced last month to provide electricity to Afghanistan. Afghan Foreign Ministry sources said that Uzbekistan release 12 Afghan prisoners before Spanta's visit.
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Report: U-S trained police in Afghanistan can't do their jobs
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WASHINGTON Despite American training, police in Afghanistan are incapable of doing their jobs.

A report by the Pentagon and State Department blames ineffective training, too much reliance on private contractors and lost equipment.

The New York Times says the report found that managers of the (b) billion dollar training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other pieces of equipment can be found.

The report also says there is no effective field training.

09:02 Mon 04 Dec 2006
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The first Bulgarian troops that took part in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan returned to Bulgaria.

Over the past four months 70 Bulgarian soldiers were responsible for the security of the Kabul international airport.

On December 3 Defence Minister Vesselin Bliznakov left for Iraq, where he is to meet other Bulgarian troops taking part in NATO peacekeeping operations.

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Governor says Afghanistan, Iraq worlds apart
War zones - Gov. Ted Kulongonski says progress is possible in Afghanistan; he also talks about his budget
Monday, December 04, 2006 HARRY ESTEVE
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Just back from a weeklong tour of Middle East war zones, Gov. Ted Kulongoski says he sees hope for Afghanistan but only further deterioration in Iraq.

Closer to home, Kulongoski says Oregonians can expect a big boost in state spending on schools and health care during the next two years if he gets his way on the 2007-09 budget, which he is scheduled to unveil this morning.

"The public sees this as a time of opportunity, and they want to invest more in education and health care," Kulongoski told The Oregonian on Sunday while waiting for a flight home from Dallas. "That's what you're going to see: a tremendous investment in education and skills training."
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Crossfire War - German Military Confidential Report on Afghanistan - Taliban
By Willard Payne
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Crossfire War - TEHRAN WATCH - Central Asia Theatre: Tehran - Kabul - Islamabad/Berlin - Brussels; Confidential Document on "Militant Opposition Forces" - Taliban to Concentrate Attacks on Major Afghan Cities During Winter
Night Watch: KABUL - Winter is normally a time for Islamic militant units to regroup in Afghanistan, as they did last year, before this year's spring offensive. But according to a confidential report of the German military in Afghanistan, published by the weekly Der Spiegel, "militant opposition forces" will be concentrating their attacks on major Afghan cities this winter including the capital Kabul. [IRNA]

Berlin has several hundred troops in the capital but according to the report two of the capital districts are openly used by the Taliban as staging areas to prepare attacks. The security situation, in those two districts, has deteriorated to such an extent that the Afghan Army does not dare patrol there at night. All this year reports would mention that the Taliban had been instructed in the latest tactics and explosives Tehran and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards had been sending to Islamic militant and militia units in Iraq.
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'I knew Afghanistan would be tough, but I didn't think it would be this tough'
Monday December 4, 2006 The Guardian
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In the first of a two-part series on the Afghanistan war, Declan Walsh comes under fire while embedded with US troops in the Pech Valley
Globs of rain spat from the slate sky as Echo Company trundled out of the base gates and into the Pech Valley. The supply convoy had dropped early Christmas mail and fresh artillery shells to troops at Camp Blessing, the American base at the end of the steep-walled valley. Now it was heading home.
Shopkeepers stared and children smiled as the six heavily armoured vehicles moved down the greasy road. But just after one village the crowds seemed to vanish. Then a violent rattle shook the air.

"Enemy contact!" yelled Sergeant Thomas Splett, 26, kicking his door open. More bullets cracked overhead as the convoy shuddered to a halt. Leaping out, the American soldiers hunkered behind their trucks and returned fire; soon the valley was echoing with thunderous gunfire.
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US Helicopter Shot Down, 2 US Tanks Destroyed in Afghanistan
Publication time: 3 December 2006, 18:15
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A US helicopter was  shot downed  yesterday in Kandahar by the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. On Sunday, November 3, 2006, at noon,  a Mujahid of the Ialamic Emirate  Abdul Rahim, from same  province, performed a sacrificing attack on a convoy of  US troops in the Hazrat Jai Baba area near the Wool Factory  of the  Kandahar city . Two US  tanks were destroyed and all the Americans aboard were killed or wounded .

After the attack, the Americans fired on civilians and a large number of civilians was martyred.

On December 2, 2006, at 4:00pm, the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate attacked a convoy of US invaders\' troops near the Manogay district of the Kunar province . A US military vehicle was destroyed but there no information is available about the US casualties

Source: Voice of Jihad
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Arbroath-based Marines hurt in Afghanistan bomb attack
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Three Royal Marines injured in suicide car bomb attack
One critical, while two others are stable in hospital
Firefight with suspected insurgents leaves eight wounded

Story in full
THREE Scottish-based Royal Marines were injured yesterday when suicide car bombers attacked a military convoy in Afghanistan.

Witnesses claimed last night that British forces speeding away from the scene in the busy centre of Kandahar opened fire on a number of vehicles, killing at least five civilians. The Ministry of Defence confirmed that an investigation had been launched into the shootings - which were called "not acceptable" by Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.

The British victims were from Arbroath-based 45 Commando Royal Marines. One of them was described as "seriously ill". The others were in stable condition.

At least one of the wounded is understood to be Scottish, while three Afghans were also killed in the bombing at around 11am. Medical authorities in Kandahar reported that eight people brought to the city's main hospital had gunshot wounds.

A spokeswoman for the MoD said shots were fired when the Marines were followed by vehicles after leaving the area of the attack, including one which "weaved in front of them in an attempt to block their progress". Lieutenant-Colonel Andy Price, a military spokesman, said the bomb was detonated alongside an unarmoured British jeep.
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Ahto Lobjakas 12/03/06
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A EurasiaNet Partner Post from RFE/RL
NATO members gathered for a summit in Riga have sent an upbeat message on progress being made in Afghanistan, the alliance’s first-ever mission outside Europe. A number of leaders reportedly agreed to relax restrictions on the use of their troops in Afghanistan by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

In his summary, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer described "real progress" in Afghanistan as the main highlight of the summit. He counseled against visions of "doom and gloom," saying that five years after the defeat of the hard-line Taliban regime, Afghanistan is a democratic society that is "no longer a threat to the world."

The situation in Afghanistan was the exclusive focus of the NATO leaders’ dinner on November 28.

De Hoop Scheffer said alliance leaders believe defeating the insurgency in Afghanistan is a matter of time
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5 US, 3 Puppet Troops Wiped Out in Afghanistan
Publication time: 3 December 2006, 21:34
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Mujahideen of the Islamic State of Afghanistan attacked a US invaders\' convoy in Tararea  area of Manogay district in the Kunar province on Sunday, December 3, 2006, at 9 am local time. Three US military  vehicles  were destroyed and 5 US soldiers  were killed. One Mujahid was also wounded in the attack.

Mujahideen of the Islamic State of Afghanistan  have blown up two pickup vehicles of mercenary soldiers in the Dosarka area of Ismail Khil district of the Host  province on Sunday morning, December 3, 2006.  Three mercenary soldiers were killed and a large numbers of them were wounded, including a tribal chief. No further details on the casualties were available.

Saturday night (December 2, 2006), US invaders\' troops bombed the Landay Nawa area of the Musa Kalla district in the Helmand province after the Mujahideen of Emarat Islami had beaten off  an attack of foreign troops. The invaders moved to this Mujahideen-controlled area from the neighboring Nozad district .  In a sudden attack the  Mujahideen defeated the enemy
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Afghanistan Sugar Plant re-operates
December 04, 2006         
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Afghanistan's only sugar plant has began production after rehabilitation, a press release of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the Untied Nations (FAO) said Monday.

After 15 years of non-operation, the New Baghlan Sugar Company, recommenced sugar production recently, it said.

To keep on running the plant, the FAO assists the farmers to provide high quality sugar beet in some 2,500 hectares of land.

Presently 120 people are working in the plant, which has the capacity of processing 600 to 800 tones of sugar beet a day.

One of this project's most important aspect is the production of sugar is the first step towards self-sufficiency in Afghanistan, the press release said.

Afghanistan needs 830,000 tones of sugar in one year and the newly rehabilitated sugar factory covers only 1.3 percent of the country's need.

Like many other Afghan factories, the Baghlan sugar plant was badly damaged during the past decades of war.

Source: Xinhua

Islamic Emirate Taliban Report Multiple Attacks In Afghanistan; Vow To Continue Jihad
Dec 04, 2006  By Ubaidah Al-Saif, JUS | Translation Copyright © Jihad Unspun 2006
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The Islamic Emirate Of Afghanistan has reported several operations while one of its Commanders has scoffed at NATO's pledge to increase the size of its occupation forces in Afghanistan, saying that after five years of fighting the occupiers, the Taliban have become a mighty military force capable of defeating any occupier.

Commander Mullah Ubaid Ullah said that increasing the number of NATO forces in Afghanistan or its further deployment into the country was not a source of worry for the Taliban Mujahideen, saying that the Taliban can easily continue the fight for 20 years without difficulty if necessary. Ullah added, "After five years of continuous fighting against foreign forces, the Taliban have become a mighty military force and are capable of fighting the strongest force in the world and defeating it". Commander Ullah also reiterated the previous statements from the Taliban that they will increase the number of martyrdom operations against the occupation forces in Afghanistan, a tactic that has proven to be a powerful weapon for the Mujahideen in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

NATO forces leaders have repeatedly asked for additional forces to fight the Taliban due to their inability to quell Taliban efforts to reclaim Afghanistan. A small increase in forces was agreed to at NATO conference in Raga, Latvia and some restrictions to better deploy existing forces were also removed
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EU, NATO consider closer cooperation in Afghanistan
The Associated PressPublished: December 4, 2006
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BRUSSELS, Belgium: NATO, seeking civilian back-up to its military action in Afghanistan, on Monday welcomed the possibility that the European Union may launch an operation there to train and fund local police and judiciary.

"It is very valid that the EU and NATO have as much cooperation as possible," said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer after talks at EU headquarters.

The EU sent a fact finding team to Afghanistan 10 days ago after calls from de Hoop Scheffer for the 25-nation bloc to take a greater role in building an effective police force and courts in the country.

EU officials said the mission was expected to report back next week and it would then decide whether to launch a combined mission to supplement existing police training operations run by individual European governments. It was unclear if the EU would be ready to take a decision by Dec. 14-15, when the Union's leaders hold their year-end summit.
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Sikh soldier returns
Edmonton Sun, Dec. 4

Taliban fighters aren't the only ones clad in turbans in Afghanistan.

Maj. Harjit Sajjan, who finished a nine-month tour of duty in September and received his Canadian Forces service medal at Rexall Place yesterday, says he never doffed his turban in the Middle East.

"I can wear a helmet. I can wear a gas mask. There's nothing that my turban or my beard can prevent me from doing in the military at all," said the 36-year-old Sikh from Vancouver.

"To put a helmet on, you have to have an inner liner. My turban acts like an inner liner, so I just wear the kevlar shell over top."

Sajjan admits turbans are rare among his fellow Canadian soldiers. In fact, he estimates there are fewer than two dozen Sikhs in the Canadian military.

But he's hopeful military recruiters will help bolster that number.

And, Sajjan says, Sikhs have a clearer understanding of the Afghan culture.

"We're not from Afghanistan, but we still understand the cultural backgrounds of Afghanistan," he explained. "It brings a brand new insight into the picture and we can see things a little bit differently and understand things a little bit faster.

"We can then give better advice to the commanders, so they can make their decision."

Nato ambush kills 80 Taliban militants
Fred Attewill and agencies, December 4, Guardian Unlimited

Up to 80 Taliban fighters have been killed by Nato forces in a four-hour firefight in southern Afghanistan.

A tip-off from local police allowed up to 150 Danish troops to join Afghan forces in an ambush on the militants in Helmand province early yesterday morning.

There were no casualties among the Nato soldiers, who were backed by helicopter gunships and fighter jets, a spokesman said.

The fighting took place in a remote district outside the town of Musa Qala, said Major Luke Knittig, the spokesman for Nato's international security assistance force...

He said Nato forces were actively going out and attacking Taliban positions.

"What you're seeing is us doing what we said we would do through the winter months, seek out insurgents where they might otherwise seek safe haven," he said.

"Danish reconnaissance patrols aren't hanging out in the barracks waiting for springtime."..


Beautiful.... don't you just love this kind of stuff?

Concern after Nimrod 'teapot fix' 

Safety concerns have been raised since the Afghanistan crash
New claims about the safety of Nimrod aircraft based at RAF Kinloss are to be raised in the House of Commons.
It has emerged that the crew of a Nimrod used a teapot to block a hatch gap in their plane after a mid-air mechanical fault.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokeswoman said safety had not been compromised.

Moray MP and Scottish National Party defence spokesman Angus Robertson told BBC Scotland he wanted reassurances about the safety of the fleet.

There have been concerns about safety since 12 RAF Kinloss personnel, a Royal Marine and a soldier died when a Nimrod crashed on 2 September in Afghanistan after a suspected technical fault.

This new wave of revelations is not going to instil the crews or families with confidence

Angus Robertson
SNP defence spokesman

In the latest incident, the Nimrod was on an operational flight from Cornwall to Kinloss.

An RAF Kinloss spokeswoman said there was a malfunction with a hatch from which sonar buoys are thrown during search and rescue missions.

The spokeswoman said: "There was a minor malfunction with the hatch cover and the teapot would have been used to make it more comfortable for the crew.

"At no time was air crew safety compromised."

Mr Robertson said: "Family members of service personnel who died have had concerns about maintenance and safety.

"This new wave of revelations is not going to instil the crews or families with confidence.

"I really hope the MoD will be doing everything possible so that there are no repetitions of these technical problems and maintain safety."

The MoD has promised that concerns about the safety of the RAF Nimrod fleet would be fully investigated following the September crash.

Articles found 5 December 2006

More than 100 soldiers from CFB Valcartier leave for Afghanistan
Martin Ouellet, The Canadian Press Published: Monday, December 04, 2006
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QUEBEC -- A contingent of 120 soldiers from the fabled Royal 22nd Regiment left Canadian Forces Base Valcartier Monday to fight the Taliban but also bring humanitarian aid to war-torn Afghanistan.

The soldiers from the regiment, which is better known as the Van Doos, will join their colleagues in Kandahar, in the south of the country, for a nine-month mission.

A military spokesman said 100 of the solders will join the provincial reconstruction team, which has been in place in southern Afghanistan for more than a year.

They will focus on rebuilding community centres and schools and will help supply drinking water to the region.

The remaining 20 soldiers, who have been trained as paramedics, will help provide medical aid.

“It’s a dangerous mission, there are risks,” said Capt. Eric Chamberland, a Canadian Forces spokesman.

“The reconstruction teams are attacked regularly.”

Combat operations overshadowed the reconstruction portion of the Canadian mission this year as the security situation deteriorated. More Afghans and Canadians have died in fighting and bombings in 2006 than at any time since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
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Two Canadians slightly injured in suicide attack
Updated Tue. Dec. 5 2006 7:22 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Two Canadian soldiers were slightly injured in Kandahar Tuesday after a suicide bomber attacked their convoy -- which included CTV's Steve Chao.

"I was two vehicles back from the vehicle that was hit," said Chao. "As we dismounted and got out of the vehicle I could see that the truck that was hit by the suicide bomber had pieces of shrapnel all littered across the front and the windshield was smashed."

The bomber, driving a minivan, detonated his load between a Nyala RG 31 armoured vehicle and a transport truck.

"All of a sudden the soldiers noticed a white vehicle on the side of the road that looked suspicious and seconds later a huge explosion," said Chao.

Two soldiers received minor injuries in the attack, said Chao.

"Fortunately the two Canadian soldiers received only minor cuts and bruises," he said. "We spoke to them afterwards they said they were very fortunate and very happy to be alive after what happened today."

Six Afghan civilians were also hurt in the attack.
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Afghanistan investigates kidnap of German reporter
05 Dec 2006 13:56:13 GMT Source: Reuters
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KABUL, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Afghanistan is investigating reports a German journalist has been kidnapped from a taxi on one of the country's most dangerous roads, the government said on Tuesday.

"The Ministry of the Interior is deeply investigating the case," ministry spokesman Zamari Bahiri said.

Earlier, an agency coordinating security for aid groups, ANSO, said a German journalist had been taken by gunmen from his taxi while driving from Kandahar city to Uruzgan in the lawless south, the heartland of the Taliban.

No further information was immediately available.

Italian photojournalist Gabriele Torsello, 34, was kidnapped by gunmen while on a public bus on the way from from Helmand, Afghanistan's opium centre, to Kandahar in October.
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Afghan reconstruction a frustrating process
Updated Mon. Nov. 20 2006 11:12 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Canada's provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Kandahar province is using a strategy that gives local Afghans input in the rebuilding process.

But the program faces a mounting list of difficulties.

In one case, the soldiers bring Afghan doctors from the city to the remote region of Al Bach in Kandahar province to deliver medical care.

But minutes in, angry elders from a nearby village arrive demanding to know why they've been left out. "Where's our treatment, where's our gifts?" one man shouted.

The Canadian troops are now caught up in a tribal dispute with only one group getting most of the aid.

"I'm not about to get into village squabbles, I'm telling you right now," said Sgt. Nichola Bascon. "It's extremely frustrating."

Corruption is another frustration for the PRT, which is responsible for more than $100 million donated annually by Canada for the rebuilding process.

In February, Canada's military celebrated the groundbreaking for a new police station. But, nine months later, little has been built. The local engineer was fired for mismanagement.

"It's these kinds of missteps that have led many international aid groups to suggest Canada's military has no business being involved in reconstruction," said CTV's Steve Chao, reporting from Afghanistan. "But the reality is that in this dangerous region there are few alternatives."

The head of Kandahar's department for women understands the danger - the Taliban assassinated her predecessor.

"We haven't seen much from Canada's military," says Rona Trena. "But there are so few aid groups left here, so we hope Canadian soldiers can help."

The military insists that its approach of designating responsibility to local villages, letting them determine how to rebuild, is working.

"It's a start and it's a very, very slow progress," said Bascon. "But I'm sure if we stick with it, it will be very rewarding in the long run."
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Kasuri may suggest Waziristan-type peace deal in Afghanistan 
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Islamabad, Dec 04: Hinting that Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri may propose a national reconciliation plan to accommodate Taliban during his visit to Kabul this week, Pakistan today said it wants the leadership there to adopt a deal on the lines of its agreement with tribal elders in the areas bordering Afghanistan.

Kasuri will visit Afghanistan from December 7 to 9 to give final shape to the proposed peace Jirga (convention) of tribal elders from both sides of the border, aimed at finding a viable solution to militancy in the region.

The Foreign Minister was not going to Kabul to dispel any suspicions of Pakistan's backing for Taliban, foreign office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a media briefing here.

"He's not going there to dispel those suspicions," she said to a question whether Kasuri during his visit would dispel the impression that joint Jirgas were aimed at legitimising Taliban.
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AFGHANISTAN: Snowstorms kill five in northern Parwan province
05 Dec 2006 07:29:48 GMT Source: IRIN
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KABUL, 4 December (IRIN) - Five people died and two others were injured on Monday in snowstorms and avalanches in the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan's northern Parwan province, local officials said.

"Three passengers were killed and two others injured when an avalanche hit their vehicle on Salang highway at around 12.00am [local time]," Parwan province police chief Abdul Rahman Saidkhail said from the provincial capital Parwan.

"At around 2.00pm [local time] today, two other passengers were also killed in another snowstorm when their vehicle slipped down into a nearby stream in Jabal Seraj area of Parwan province," Saidkhail added.

The Salang tunnel, which links the capital Kabul to the north of the country, has been closed due to the heavy snowfall, officials said.

"Some eight vehicles carrying passengers have been trapped under the snow," Saidkhail said, adding that rescue teams had evacuated passengers from the eight trapped vehicles.

Heavy snowfall has also closed many roads in the central Bamyan province, among them the Hajigag pass linking Kabul with the area. Traffic between Bamyan and its Yakawlang district stopped on Monday due to the heavy snowfall on the road.

The relatively early start to harsh winter conditions this year has raised concern about more than 100,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in poor conditions across the country and around 2.5 million Afghans currently facing a looming food crisis due to this year's harsh drought.
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U.S. report faults readiness of Afghanistan's police force
Originally published December 5, 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan // Afghanistan's police, who are often paid less than the Taliban militants they are fighting, frequently force those in custody to buy their freedom, a "bribe and release" arrangement undermining the government's legitimacy, a new U.S. report finds.
Police, who earn about $70 a month, routinely are paid less, because senior officers skim from subordinates' salaries, the joint report by the inspectors general of the State and Defense departments found.

The report calls the U.S.-funded program to train and equip the Afghan police "generally well conceived and well executed" but concludes that the police force's readiness to carry out law enforcement duties is "far from adequate."

Among obstacles facing the $1.1 billion training program: illiterate police recruits, a history of low pay and pervasive corruption, and inadequate accountability for equipment after it is turned over to the Afghans, the report said.
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12:08 Tue 05 Dec 2006
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Bulgaria's aviation troops in Afghanistan will be disbanded during an official ceremony in Sofia on December 5 2006.

Bulgarian troops were responsible for the management, flights, cargo and passengers control of the Kabul international airport.

The troops consisted of 70 soldiers. Bulgaria's mission to Afghanistan lasted four months, as a part of NATO's peacekeeping operation in the country.

Bulgaria's soldiers returned from their mission to Afghanistan on the night of December 2 2006.

Defence Minister Vesselin Bliznakov, Army Chief of General Staff Zlatan Stoykov and air force representatives would be present at the ceremony, BNR said.
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U.S. report on police in Afghanistan cites 'bribe/release' set-up
the associated press Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.05.2006
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advertisementKABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan's police, who are often paid less than the Taliban militants they are fighting, frequently force those in custody to buy their freedom, a "bribe and release" set-up that undermines the government's legitimacy, a new U.S. report finds.
Police, who earn about $70 a month, routinely are paid less because senior officers skim from subordinates' salaries, the joint report by the inspector generals of the State and Defense departments found.
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NATO needs new strategy in Afghanistan —Rasul Bakhsh Rais
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Afghanistan has also become divided along ethnic lines, and may face the same fate as Iraq if the US and NATO forces fail in their avowed mission of nation and state building

The year 2006 has not been good for Afghanistan, its people or the coalition states fighting a counterinsurgency war against the Taliban. By all accounts, the year witnessed a remarkable come back by the Taliban, or whatever appellation one might want to give the insurgents currently operating in southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Two emerging trends in the Afghan war are noteworthy: First is the coming on the scene of the suicide-bomber, blowing himself up in crowed places or very close to the Afghan and NATO forces in the region. Hitherto, it was thought that suicide bombing was a problem unique to the Middle East. That is no longer the case. The suicide-bomber has become the most dangerous weapon of our time, and he is now present in Afghanistan as well.
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A Precarious Shelter in Afghanistan
New Refuges for Women Face Permanent Danger of Attack

By Pamela Constable Washington Post Foreign Service Tuesday, December 5, 2006; Page A01
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KABUL -- The room was carpeted and cozy, warm from the wood stove and filled with the chatter of children. But the tales their mothers and older sisters told recently, speaking hesitantly even in the safety of a guarded private shelter, were bone-chilling.

Sahara, an angelic-looking young woman, said she was forcibly married at 11, widowed at 12 and kept as a virtual slave by her in-laws for the next eight years. Unable to endure more beatings, she slipped away early one morning, walked for two days and nights and finally ventured into a police station to ask for help.
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U.S. government blames pilot error for 2004 crash in Afghanistan that killed 6
The Associated PressPublished: December 4, 2006
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WASHINGTON: Pilot error was to blame for the 2004 crash of a U.S. military contractor's plane in Afghanistan's snow-covered Hindu Kush mountains that killed six Americans, federal investigators said Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board report said the pilot made the fatal error of flying a nonstandard route and failing to maintain adequate clearance over the rugged terrain.

Still, the agency said, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Defense Department could do better by providing oversight in faraway lands, including additional use of en route inspections, the NTSB said in urging improved safety practices.

"The board concludes that there is a strong probability that, had the FAA or the DoD conducted direct, in-country oversight of the DoD contract operations, the FAA or the DoD would have detected the deficiencies," the report stated. DoD is the Department of Defense.
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"Pak for comprehensive strategy for restoration of peace in Afghanistan": FO
Tuesday December 05, 2006 (0502 PST)
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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has stressed the need for devising a comprehensive strategy for restoration of peace in Afghanistan.
In her weekly press briefing on Monday, the Foreign Office spokesperson, Tasnim Aslam said that a comprehensive strategy was needed for maintaining tranquility in Afghanistan adding that durable peace could not be restored through military operations.

She underlined the need for exploring other ways to bring durable peace, harmony and political consensus in Afghanistan.

The foreign office spokesperson ruled out change in Pakistan policy on Afghanistan or Taliban saying her statement was published out of context. She said, "We are looking forward what strategy the NATO adopts in Afghanistan". "Pakistan does not propose any solution of the Afghanistan problems; however, it wants stability there," she asserted.
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Afghanistan’s Precipice
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It gets kind of tiresome to constantly churn out bad news about Afghanistan, but the complete lack of focus on the area is appalling. In yet another series of violent clashes with the NATO forces in Helmand, “dozens” of Taliban were killed. But what do these skirmishes accomplish? They certainly haven’t driven back the Taliban, as the Bundeswehr, the German command in-country, believe that major attacks on previously-stable Kabul are now imminent. The snark in me wonders if this nervousness is caused by the “dirty hands” such an engagement would necessitate from the Germans, but it really isn’t a cause for mockery: Kabul should be the success story, but instead the situation in districts just 10km south of the city has deteriorated so badly that troops don’t patrol at night.
But it’s gratifying to see previously strident defenders of Bush’s campaigns come around, even if it is also surely bittersweet—aside from mouth-droppers like the budget of the police trainers (which, at $1.1 billion, is approximately 1 week of the Iraq occupation), seeing those of us who really do want the Afghanistan campaign succeed utterly demoralized by the laziness and incompetence of this administration is depressing.
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Unknown militants attack Chinese construction camp in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn 2006-12-05 02:49:53 
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    KABUL, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) -- Unknown gunmen attacked a remote camp of a Chinese construction company Saturday in northwestern Afghanistan, causing no casualties, an official of the company told Xinhua Monday.

    Chinese workers in the attacked camp of China Railway Shisiju Group Corporation had safely withdrawn to a major base 40 km away, said the official, who refused to be named.

    According to the official, the militants launched a fierce attack against the walled camp in Duabi area of Badghis province at 9:23 p.m. local time on Saturday and Afghan policemen guarding the camp fought back.

    After a fire exchange lasting about one and a half hours, the two sides stopped firing, but the gunmen refused to retreat.

    At around 11:20 p.m., the militants were forced to flee as more policemen from a nearby police station arrived at the site.

    When the clash occurred, there were 30 Chinese workers, who were building a local road, stationed in the camp, which was surrounded by thorny wire netting and entrenchment.

    It is still unclear who were behind the attack and what was the motivation.
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Musharraf suggests Pakistan willing to give up Kashmir claim
Associated Press
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NEW DELHI — Pakistan is willing to give up its claim to Kashmir if India agrees to a far-reaching self-governance plan for the Himalayan region, Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf suggested Tuesday.

While New Delhi and Islamabad have made scant public progress on settling their dispute over Kashmir, officials on both sides privately say advances have been made in so-called “back channel” negotiations, most of them between retired officials from both sides.

Gen. Musharraf's remarks on Tuesday provided a snapshot of what an eventual solution could look like.

He told the independent New Delhi Television that Pakistan would agree to greater autonomy or self-governance for Kashmir with New Delhi and Islamabad jointly supervising the region. Both India and Pakistan claim all of predominantly Muslim Kashmir.
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Articles found 6 December 2006

Canadians target of suicide blast, witnesses say
Updated Wed. Dec. 6 2006 9:40 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Canadian soldiers may have been the intended target of a suicide bomber who killed seven when he blew himself up outside a compound in Kandahar on Wednesday, CTV News has learned.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing outside the office of the Houston-based U.S. Protection and Investigations (USPI) in Kandahar city.

The blast killed two Americans and five Afghans outside the Kandahar compound of the security company. Three others were wounded.

CTV's Steve Chao told Newsnet the assault occurred just opposite the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team in Kandahar.

"What witnesses are telling us is that the suicide bomber was walking on foot in and around the area of the compound," Chao reported from Kandahar.

"This compound is located directly across from the base housing Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team and according to witnesses it seemed that this suicide bomber was in fact trying to hit a convoy that was potentially going to be leaving from the Provincial Reconstruction Team's base."
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Dion to push for Afghan Marshall Plan
CAMPBELL CLARK AND BRIAN LAGHI  From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
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OTTAWA — New Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion said Tuesday he'll have little patience for the rising death toll of Canadian troops in Afghanistan unless there is progress in making that country more secure.

Mr. Dion said Canada must push its allies to build a Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of the strife-torn country, because the current strategy of focusing on combat against the Taliban is not achieving results.

“I cannot give a deadline, but I will not have a lot of patience if I see that we are risking the lives of our soldiers and civilians without any result for the security of the people of Afghanistan,” Mr. Dion said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

“It's an assessment I will do day after day, but I want a result.”
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Spring in Afghanistan: an ugly horizon
Updated Dec. 5, 2006
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Thirty-seven nations have soldiers in Afghanistan, yet 90 per cent of the casualties have been suffered by four of those nations. A Canadian soldier is killed five times more often than the average of all the NATO countries in Afghanistan. Proportionately, those Canadian soldiers stand a greater chance of dying than an American soldier in Iraq.

Though Canada is not amongst the top three troop-contributing nations to the NATO mission, clearly it is shouldering more than its share of both the burden and the risk. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said as much, repeating again at the NATO summit in Riga that the effort in southern Afghanistan "continues to be undermanned" and that Canada is already doing enough.

At that same summit, Harper lobbied other nations to free up their soldiers and contribute more. Even before the summit, most of the founding NATO nations were saying no. The summit changed little in terms of German or French participation. A few offers for a little more, but, on the whole, not what Canada and the NATO leadership were looking for.

So now what?
Winter in Afghanistan is a traditional pause — a hiatus in the many wars and battles that have plagued the nation over too many centuries. NATO and Canada are using the relative calm to strategize, and be assured the Taliban are as well.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, who probably knows more about the Taliban than anyone outside that organization, quotes tribal leaders along the mountainous, lawless border separating Afghanistan with Pakistan as saying the group is recruiting, training and arming thousands of fighters for a full-scale, multi-pronged offensive in the spring.

Canadian soldiers got a glimpse of this in September
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British marine killed in Afghanistan
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A British Royal Marine has died in Afghanistan following an operation aimed at preventing Taliban insurgents from launching attacks from a village in the country's volatile south, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced.

A second marine was injured as members of the UK Task Force sought to dislodge Taliban fighters from Garmsir in southern Helmand province.

Both men were airlifted to Camp Bastion to be treated for their injuries but the one marine died from his wounds.

The dead marine's next of kin have been notified and the second man is said to be in a stable condition after surgery.

Brigadier Jerry Thomas, commander of the UK Task Force in Afghanistan, paid tribute to the dead marine, who is expected to be named tomorrow.

'The thoughts and prayers of all the servicemen and women here in the UK Task Force are with the family and friends of the Royal Marine who lost his life today,' he said.
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Contract insecurity
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What was America's return on investment in Afghanistan?

Congressional oversight committees should determine why there is so little basic security in Afghanistan, despite a billion-dollar American investment in police training.

The inspector generals of the Pentagon and State Department recently reported that the Taliban is reasserting power, opium production is up 60 percent and some political appointees are corrupt. Furthermore, militias could form, as they did in Iraq, if security is not provided by law enforcement agencies, experts have told The New York Times.

Stability seemed possible in Afghanistan five years ago, when U.S. military forces largely defeated Taliban guerrillas. But the Afghans then needed a law enforcement network to provide security. Two years later, no systematic training program existed outside the capital city of Kabul. Then, in 2004, the Virginia-based DynCorp was awarded a federal contract to train Afghan police. But, the inspectors reported, the U.S. failed to adequately oversee DynCorp's efforts. Federal agencies couldn't even find a copy of the contract requested by the auditors.
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Afghan 'suicide bombing kills 7'
POSTED: 0847 GMT (1647 HKT), December 6, 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Seven people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a security contractor's office in southern Afghanistan Wednesday, a U.N. spokesman said .

According to eyewitnesses, five Afghans and two Americans died in the attack on the USPI security company in Kandahar.

The attack happened opposite the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team inside Kandahar, according to Associated Press reports. The blast was the sixth suicide attack in Kandahar province in the last nine days.

Afghanistan this year has plunged into the bloodiest period of violence since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban's radical Islamic government in 2001. A growing insurgency, especially in the country's south and east, has left close to 4,000 people dead, according to the AP.
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Support for Afghanistan wanes as father ponders son’s future
By Ricky Blue December 6 2006
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Afghanistan is a long way away. Back in the hippie era there was ‘black Afghani hash.’ I remember being dismayed when I heard that the words hashish and assassin had the same root because Afghani fighters would eat it just before they went out to slaughter their enemies. Being a peace-and-love hippie myself, I thought it was a peaceful drug and if everyone smoked it, there would be, like, no more wars, man. Of course I don’t think that any more.

I supported Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. It is a United Nations approved, NATO-backed coalition of forces dedicated to rebuilding the country and giving the battered Afghan people a chance to enjoy the fruits of the modern world, like democracy, literacy and sanitation. Secondly, to let it slide back into its Taliban past — think Middle Ages — is to risk it becoming a training ground for hordes of religious psychopaths once again.
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3 NATO Tanks Destroyed, 20 NATO Troops Killed in Afghanistan
Publication time: Today at 15:48 Djokhar time
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A  Mujahid of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Taliban, named  M. Daud, performed a sacrificing attack inside a building of a foreign NGO in the 5th district of the city of Kandahar near Sharkat Meewa today on Wednesday , December 6, 2006 ,at 7 am local time, when puppet Afghani soldiers and foreign troops  gathered there. The action resulted in killing of all  Afghani and 10 foreign soldiers.

The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Taliban beat off an attack and defeated NATO troops in the Ahshet Droop area of the Garmseer district in the Helmand province on Tuesday, December 5, 2006,  when foreign troops intended to penetrate into the Muhahideen-controlled area.

The firefight continued for 10 hours. 10 NATO soldiers killed and 3 NATO tanks were destroyed. The destroyed tanks could be seen in the area.Two Mujahideen were also martyred and 4 others were wounded in the firefight.

The Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Taliban armed  with  heavy and small  weapons  attacked an Afghani mercenary soldiers\'s post in the Pashi Khor area of the Pattan district in the Paktia province late Tuesday, December 5, 2006,burning a quarter of the building.  Eyewitnesses said 2 puppet soldiers had been killed and 3 others had been wounded in the action. The Mujahideen suffered  no casualties, Alemarah reported.
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Seven killed in Afghanistan bombing
Fred Attewill and agencies Wednesday December 6, 2006 Guardian Unlimited
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Two Americans and five Afghans have been killed in a suicide bombing in southern Afghanistan, it was reported today.
The bomber blew himself up as the men walked out of the US Protection and Investigations security company compound in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

Three other people were wounded in the attack, which was the sixth suicide bombing in Kandahar province in the last nine days.

It is believed the Americans had been working as security contractors. The provincial police chief, Asmatullah Alizai, said four of the Afghan victims were policemen and the other a translator.

Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, who claimed to be a spokesman for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, said the attack had been carried out by the militant group.

Kandahar is one of the most lawless areas of Afghanistan, with the central government wielding very little authority there.
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Afghanistan security workers killed   
Six suicide attacks have been carried out in Kandahar in the past nine days
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An attack on a compound for security workers in southern Afghanistan has left at least seven people dead.

Two Americans were among those killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the compound on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Three others were wounded, an official said.

The bomber attacked as the men came out of the compound of a US security company in Kandahar, Rohullah Khan, a company official, said.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said the bomber set off his explosives among a crowd of people standing outside the office waiting to go in to work.

Akhtar Mohammad, an employee of the company, said among those killed was the head of the company's Kandahar office, who he identified as Mr Jack, AIP reported.
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Former Commander Calls for Debate on Afghanistan Mission
Josh Pringle Tuesday, December 5, 2006
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The former commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan says the story Canadians are receiving about the mission in Afghanistan "is like an iceberg. They're only seeing one-third of it."

Brig.-Gen David Fraser suggests the debate over Canada's role in Afghanistan has been ill-informed and bereft of facts

Fraser added "it would be nice to have a debate with all of the facts on the table."

Fraser is blaming the media for focusing on the casualty count, rather than the more nuanced narratives of nation-building.
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Taliban resist British assault in south Afghanistan
06 December 2006 
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GARMSER: British Marines attacked a Taliban-held valley in southern Afghanistan but pulled back after a ferocious counterattack that triggered air strikes and artillery fire, witnesses said.

One Royal Marine was killed and a second wounded during the battle, the UK Helmand Task Force (UKTF) said.

Scores of soldiers ran across a bridge over the Helmand River under a full moon shortly before daybreak and began sweeping south through wheat fields in the south of the province, the opium centre of the world's major producer.

A Reuters cameraman said the Marines initially faced only sporadic resistance but when they advanced, Taliban fighters launched a ferocious, organised riposte with heavy weapons and tried to outflank the British troops.

The fierce resistance illustrated the challenges facing the Nato troops in Afghanistan where they are trying to subdue well-armed Taliban and other militants bolstered by profits from a record opium crop, according to Afghan and foreign officials.
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Afghanistan urged to accept Durand Line
By Our Correspondent
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WASHINGTON, Dec 5: The US and its key allies should urge Afghanistan to recognise the Durand Line of 1893 as the border with Pakistan, say two prominent US scholars.

In a joint article published on Tuesday in the Baltimore Sun, Dennis Kux and Karl Inderfurth urge Kabul to override the decision of the 1949 loya jirga, which, “contrary to international law,” declared Afghan agreements with the British not binding after the formation of Pakistan.

Mr Inderfurth is a former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and Mr Kux is a former US ambassador and a South Asia expert.

Although Mr Karzai does not publicly dispute the border, his government has been reluctant to accept it officially, lest this causes internal political trouble.
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Bulgaria to send additional contingent to Afghanistan
December 06, 2006         
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Bulgaria was to send an additional military contingent to Afghanistan no later than the beginning of next summer, Bulgarian Defence Minister Veselin Bliznakov said on Tuesday.

A 70-member Bulgarian Air Force Contingent, which had handled the overall management of Kabul Afghanistan International Airport (KAIA) from Aug. 1 to Dec. 1, 2006, had already been dismissed.

Negotiations on the period and the location of the deployment as well as the strength of the contingent were underway, Bliznakov added.

He said if parliament passed a resolution, an additional contingent would be deployed in Afghanistan not earlier than next spring and not later than the beginning of next summer.

Intensive preparations for the deployment are taking place, including the supplying of combat materiel, which is increasing costs.

Meanwhile, the minister underlined that "for the time being, there is no option for participating in the dangerous southern or southeastern parts (of Afghanistan)."

The Bulgarian contingent in Afghanistan has successfully completed its mission within the ISAD operation in the country. The mission was the first time Bulgarian peace-keeping troops had commanded independently abroad.

Afghanistan border area of concern: US
By Anwar Iqbal
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WASHINGTON, Dec 5: The White House has said that the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is “an area of concern”, which needs to be addressed.

Commenting on media reports that Taliban insurgents are moving across the border to carry out attacks inside Afghanistan, White House spokesman Tony Snow said that the

Bush administration continued to watch the events in Afghanistan.

He said that when President George W. Bush hosted a dinner for President Musharraf and President Karzai at the White House in September, there were “considerable conversations” about border security.

In that meeting, the Pakistani and Afghan leaders agreed to work on this problem, he said. “It is an area of concern, and it does need to be addressed,” the spokesman said.
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Local realtors prepare care packages for troops in Afghanistan
Paul Forsyth Dec 6, 2006
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While Niagara residents spend Christmas Day snuggled up in heated homes, enjoying the company of loved ones, feasting on turkey with all the trimmings and exchanging gifts, Canada's soldiers in Afghanistan will spend the day half a world away from their families in the lonely fight against terrorism.
But while they won't be enjoying all the luxuries of home, our troops will spend the day knowing folks back in Canada appreciate their sacrifices.

That's in no small part due to the efforts of local realtors who spearheaded a drive to prepare care packages for the soldiers stationed in the deeply troubled country.

Realtors with Royal LePage Niagara Real Estate Centre said they've been overwhelmed by the response to their drive to assemble the packages, containing everything from toiletries and magazines to books and drink mixes.
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6 killed in Afghan bombing
The Associated PressPublished: December 5, 2006
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: A suicide bomber on foot blew himself up outside a compound for security contractors in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing two Americans and five Afghans, officials and witnesses said.

The bomber struck as the men came out of the Kandahar compound of the U.S. Protection and Investigations security company, said Rohullah Khan, an official with the company. Three others were wounded, he said.

The area where the attack happened is located opposite the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team inside Kandahar city. The blast was the sixth suicide attack in Kandahar province in the last nine days.

Provincial police chief Asmatullah Alizai said two foreigners, four Afghan policemen and a translator were killed.
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Afghanistan Counters Criticism Of U.S.-Trained Police Force
5 December 2006
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A spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, Zemeri Bashary, said on December 4 that his ministry is satisfied with the police-training program despite a U.S. government report that concluded the Afghan National Police have trouble carrying out even routine law-enforcement duties, AP reported. The report, by the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon, points to illiteracy, corruption, and low pay as contributors to the failings of the $1.1 billion U.S.-sponsored training program. Bashary conceded that Afghan police would perform better if they were provided with better equipment and weapons. Joanna Nathan of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit analytical organization, said the training and quality of Afghanistan's police force has been one of the international community's greatest failings. RR
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Saving Afghanistan
Barnett R. Rubin From Foreign Affairs, January/February 2007
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Summary:  With the Taliban resurgent, reconstruction faltering, and opium poppy cultivation at an all-time high, Afghanistan is at risk of collapsing into chaos. If Washington wants to save the international effort there, it must increase its commitment to the area and rethink its strategy -- especially its approach to Pakistan, which continues to give sanctuary to insurgents on its tribal frontier.

  Barnett R. Rubin is Director of Studies and a Senior Fellow at New York University's Center on International Cooperation and the author of The Fragmentation of Afghanistan. He served as an adviser to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General at the UN Talks on Afghanistan in Bonn in 2001.


Afghanistan has stepped back from a tipping point. At the cost of taking and inflicting more casualties than in any year since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001 (and four times as many as in 2005), NATO troops turned back a frontal offensive by the Taliban last summer. The insurgents aimed to capture a district west of Kandahar, hoping to take that key city and precipitate a crisis in Kabul, the capital. Despite this setback, however, the Taliban-led insurgency is still active on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, and the frontier region has once again become a refuge for what President George W. Bush once called the main threat to the United States -- "terrorist groups of global reach." Insurgents in both Afghanistan and Pakistan have imported suicide bombing, improvised explosive technology, and global communications strategies from Iraq; in the south, attacks have closed 35 percent of the schools. Even with opium production at record levels, slowing economic growth is failing to satisfy the population's most basic needs, and many community leaders accuse the government itself of being the main source of abuse and insecurity. Unless the shaky Afghan government receives both the resources and the leadership required to deliver tangible benefits in areas cleared of insurgents, the international presence in Afghanistan will come to resemble a foreign occupation -- an occupation that Afghans will ultimately reject.
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Dead Afghanistan soldier's widow wins long battle over Wiccan grave symbol
By Robert Marus Published December 5, 2006
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WASHINGTON (ABP) -- The widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan has finally gotten what she said her husband would have wanted: A pagan religious symbol placed on his government-issued gravestone.

Roberta Stewart, widow of Sgt. Patrick Stewart, saw the grave marker dedicated Dec. 2 in a ceremony at the Northern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Fernley. She had been engaged in a year-long battle with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to have a symbol of the Wiccan faith placed on her late husband's headstone.

Patrick Stewart and four others were killed Sept. 25, 2005, when their helicopter was shot down over Afghanistan. Stewart was one of a few hundred practitioners of Wicca in the armed forces. The neo-pagan faith incorporates elements of ancient European religions and Earth worship.

According to the Defense Department, there are around 1,800 practitioners of Wicca in the armed forces. While the department accommodates them with Wiccan chaplains, VA officials had not yet approved the Wiccan pentacle -- also known as a pentagram -- for use on headstones in military burial grounds. The symbol is a five-pointed star within a circle.

The VA already has approved more than 30 other symbols for use on graves. Most of them are variations on the Christian cross, but they also include the Jewish Star of David, the Islamic star-and-crescent symbol and a whirl that symbolizes atheism.
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Gates concerned that some allies shunning dangerous areas in Afghanistan
The Associated PressPublished: December 5, 2006
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WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary-designate Robert Gates said Tuesday he was concerned about the continuing refusal of some NATO allies to take part in high-risk operations in Afghanistan.

Testifying before his Senate confirmation hearing, Gates said the administration should give "first priority" to encourage these countries to eliminate restrictions.

After the "astonishing success" in defeating the Taliban in 2001, "I think it would be a tragedy for us to let that victory slip through our grasp by later neglect," Gates said.

He said easing restrictions may be difficult for countries, especially those which have legal barriers to participation in dangerous operations.
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Afghanistan investigates kidnap of German reporter
05 Dec 2006 13:56:13 GMT Source: Reuters
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KABUL, Dec 5 (Reuters) - Afghanistan is investigating reports a German journalist has been kidnapped from a taxi on one of the country's most dangerous roads, the government said on Tuesday.

"The Ministry of the Interior is deeply investigating the case," ministry spokesman Zamari Bahiri said.

Earlier, an agency coordinating security for aid groups, ANSO, said a German journalist had been taken by gunmen from his taxi while driving from Kandahar city to Uruzgan in the lawless south, the heartland of the Taliban.

No further information was immediately available.

Italian photojournalist Gabriele Torsello, 34, was kidnapped by gunmen while on a public bus on the way from from Helmand, Afghanistan's opium centre, to Kandahar in October.
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Iraq Study Group Report: Executive Summary
National Public Radio, Dec. 6

As the United States develops its approach toward Iraq and the Middle East, the United States should provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved out of Iraq....

DoD News Briefing with LTG Eikenberry and Minister of Defense Wardak at the Pentagon (Nov. 21)

LTG Karl Eikenberry, U.S. Army, Commander, Combined Forces Command-Afhanistan...

...the United States government is considering improving the capabilities and increasing the rate of development and size of the Afghan National Army and the police...


Canadian's assess the Canadian media and its coverage of the Afghanistan mission
    The Canadian Journalism Foundation hosts panel discussion on this topic

    TORONTO, Dec. 6 /CNW/ - A majority of Canadians believe that when they
think of what they have seen, read or heard, overall in the Canadian media on
Canada's role and mission in Afghanistan they think that the Canadian media
are neither against nor in favour of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan and
are reporting the mission in a fair and balanced way that reflects what's
really going on there according to a new Ipsos Reid survey (attached here)
conducted for and released today by the Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF).
The Foundation is hosting an event in Toronto to further discuss the media's
coverage of Afghanistan.
    Findings also state that one-third of Canadians who believe the Canadian
media is Against Canada's involvement in Afghanistan and as a result tilt
their coverage in a negative way towards the mission and the governments
position and 14% who believe the Canadian media is in favour of Canada's
involvement in Afghanistan and as a result tilt their coverage in a positive
way towards the mission and the governments position.
    But while 44% of Canadians say that they are seeing more coverage about
the combat element in Afghanistan, including the deaths of Canadian soldiers,
and not as much about the humanitarian rebuilding efforts because that
reflects what's actually happening over there, a majority (56%) believe that
they are seeing more coverage about the combat element in Afghanistan because
the media are more interested in reporting on combat and deliberately ignoring
the rebuilding efforts because they're not as exciting.
    The Canadian Journalism Foundation event taking place tomorrow night will
begin at 6:30pm at the Robert Gill Theatre, University of Toronto, followed by
a reception. Panelists include L.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, Chief of Land Staff and
Commander Land Forces Command of the Canadian Forces, Lisa LaFlamme, National
Affairs Correspondent with CTV, John Wright, Senior Vice-President with
Ipsos-Reid and moderator Paul Knox, Chair of Ryerson University School of
Journalism. This event is free of charge and open to the public. For more
information and to register, please visit our website at

    The Canadian Journalism Foundation (CJF) is a not-for-profit organization
that exists to contribute to the achievement of excellence in Canadian
journalism. Through leadership seminars, panel discussions and other
activities the Foundation builds bridges and fosters open, informed dialogue
and debate between leading public and private organizations and the media.


    These are the findings of an Ipsos Reid poll fielded from November 3-6th,
2006. For this survey, a representative randomly selected sample of 1613 adult
Canadians was interviewed via an online survey. With a sample of this size,
the aggregate results are considered accurate to within +/-2.9 percentage
points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult
Canadian population been polled. The margin of error will be larger within
each sub-grouping of the survey population. These data were weighted to ensure
the sample's regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual
Canadian population according to Census data.

    Majority of Canadians (54%) Believe Canadian Media Reporting of
    Afghanistan Mission is "Fair and Balanced"...But One Third (33%) Say
    Media Negatively Tilts Their Coverage Because They're Against the Mission
    While 14% Say Media Tilts Coverage Positive Because They're in Favour of
    The Mission... ...

    A majority of Canadians (54%) believe that when they think of what they
have seen, read or heard, overall in the Canadian media on Canada's role and
mission in Afghanistan they think that the Canadian media are neither against
nor in favour of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan and are reporting the
mission in a fair and balanced way that reflects what's really going on there
    This compares with one-third (33%) of Canadians who believe the Canadian
media is against Canada's involvement in Afghanistan and as a result tilt
their coverage in a negative way towards the mission and the governments
position, versus 14% who believe the Canadian media is in favour of Canada's
involvement in Afghanistan and as a result tilt their coverage in a positive
way towards the mission and the governments position.
    Younger Canadians age 18-34 are the most likely to think that the media
negatively skews their coverage of Canada's mission in Afghanistan (37% vs.
32% among those age 35 and older).

    -  Women are more likely than men to think the media has portrayed the
        Afghanistan mission in a fair and balanced way (58% vs. 49%).
    -  Residents of Quebec (41%) are the most likely to think the media
        skews coverage in a negative way, followed distantly by those in
        Ontario (32%), Saskatchewan/Manitoba (30%) and Atlantic Canada (29%).
    -  Residents of Atlantic Canada (62%) and British Columbia (61%) are the
        most likely to feel the media coverage is unbiased and objective.

    But 56% Of Canadians Say The Media Are More Interested in Reporting on
    Combat and Deliberately Ignore the Less Exciting Rebuilding Efforts...

    A majority (56%) of Canadians believe that they are seeing more coverage
about the combat element in Afghanistan because the media are more interested
in reporting on combat and deliberately ignoring the rebuilding efforts
because they're "not as exciting". This compares with 44% of Canadians who say
that they are just seeing more of the coverage about the combat element in
Afghanistan, including the deaths of Canadian soldiers, and not as much about
the humanitarian rebuilding efforts because that "pretty much reflects what's
actually happening over there-that there's more combat than rebuilding that's
taking place at this time.

    -  There are no demographic variations.

For further information: Jody Jacobson, Canadian Journalism Foundation,
(416) 955-0394; John Wright, Senior Vice President, Ipsos Reid, (416)
324-2900; for full tabular results, please visit
http://www.cjf-fjc.ca/programs.htm or www.ipsos.ca

Articles found 7 December 2006

Soldiers and equipment, doing the job
Article Link

Hard news: five Canadian soldiers received minor injuries in an IED strike around 10:15 a.m. local time, as they were making their way through the Panjwai District near Ma’Sum Ghar. While they were choppered away from the scene for further assessment at KAF medical facilities, four of them have since been released and one is being held overnight for observation. Next of kind for the soldier who will be staying overnight have already been notified.

The LAVIII they were travelling in was only lightly damaged. It has already been recovered from the scene and should be back in service PDQ.

Update: Wow. Not a single story in the MSM that I could see. As a friend mentioned to me this morning: "no bleed, no lede."
posted by Babbling Brooks at 1:23 PM   

15 civilians killed or badly wounded in Afghan blast
Associated Press
Article Link

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy Thursday in southern Afghanistan, leaving 15 civilians killed or wounded, police said.

No NATO troops were hurt in the blast in Kandahar, said Squadron Leader Jason Chalk, a spokesman for the alliance.

The civilians were killed or wounded near the blast site, said Razaq Khan, a police official at the scene. There was no immediate breakdown of the dead and wounded

Three Terrorists Captured; 26 Detainees Released
American Forces Press Service
Article Link

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7, 2006 – Three terrorists were captured in Afghanistan yesterday, and 26 detainees were released from a Bagram facility. Earlier this week, U.S. troops provided humanitarian assistance in eastern Afghanistan.
During an operation near the village of Qasemaul Kalay, in Khowst province, Afghan and coalition forces captured three terrorists who posed a serious threat to peace and stability in Afghanistan, military officials said. No Afghan or coalition forces or Afghan civilians within the compound were harmed during the operation.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan yesterday, 26 detainees were released from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. Officials determined the detainees no longer posed a threat to the government of Afghanistan and were turned over to Afghan government officials.

The detainees were transferred into the “Takhim-E Solh” program, also known as “Peace through Strength.” Under the Takhim-E Solh program, individuals pledge their allegiance to the Afghan government and promise not to take up arms against their nation.

While in the detention facility, all detainees received three meals a day, worship opportunities and comprehensive medical care, officials said. Coalition forces routinely evaluate each detainee’s status and, in coordination with the Afghan government, release selected detainees.

A day earlier, troops from the U.S. provincial reconstruction team at Mehtar Lam responded to three separate requests for humanitarian assistance in Laghman province, in eastern Afghanistan.

They distributed tarps, blankets, rice, beans, cooking oil, salt and tea.
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The Taliban's rules
POSTED: 0006 GMT (0806 HKT), December 6, 2006 By Henry Schuster CNN
Article Link

Editor's note: Henry Schuster, a senior producer in CNN's investigative unit and author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph," has been covering terrorism for more than a decade. Each week in "Tracking Terror," he reports on people and organizations driving international and domestic terrorism, and efforts to combat them.

(CNN) -- This is the time of year that fighting traditionally tapers off in Afghanistan as winter sets in, so it's probably not too surprising that the Taliban's latest offensive is on the propaganda front.

First there were videos, including one obtained by CNN that shows multiple beheadings as well as preparations for attacks and recruitment of suicide bombers.

Now, the Taliban has put out a code of conduct for its commanders and fighters -- including when to kill teachers and how to prevent sexual abuse.

According to Pakistani journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, who obtained a copy of the 30-point plan and provided it to CNN, the instructions have been issued to district level commanders in Afghanistan in a small handbook.

The document, which says it was approved by the elusive Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, was apparently first given to members of the insurgent group's Shura council during a secret meeting in late September or October.

(Coalition military officials say they have not seen the document but have no reason to dispute its authenticity.)

An invitation to all Afghans
The Taliban sent more men to the battlefield this summer than in any of the five years since the group was toppled from power by the Northern Alliance and U.S.-led coalition, but rule one makes it clear that recruitment remains a priority:

"A Taliban commander is permitted to extend an invitation to all Afghans who support infidels so that they may convert to the true Islam."
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General accuses Reid over Afghanistan
Deborah Summers, politics editor Thursday December 7, 2006 Guardian Unlimited
Article Link

The former chief of the army continued his verbal assault on the government today, accusing the home secretary, John Reid, of failing to give "the full picture" when he said he would be happy if UK forces did not have to fire a single shot during their mission to southern Afghanistan.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, General Sir Mike Jackson said it had come as no surprise to him that the army in fact faced fierce resistance from the Taliban.

Gen Jackson's comment came after he used a lecture last night to launch an outspoken attack on the government, warning that strategic failings and "inadequate" funding were putting troops at risk.
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In the heartland of a mysterious enemy, US troops battle to survive
Tuesday December 5, 2006 The Guardian
Article Link

In the final part of our series, Declan Walsh visits Korengal Valley, an al-Qaida hotspot and insurgents' stronghold

If Afghanistan had a tourist industry, the postcard-pretty Korengal Valley would be a star attraction. Majestic mountains soar to the heavens. Sunlight spills over terraced fields. Gleaming snow dusts the jagged peaks.
But for the American soldiers stationed there, Korengal is IED Valley, a perilous, exhausting battlefield and the heart of the US war against al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

The sole route into the valley is a roller-coaster mud track that dips and curves through a high-walled canyon lined with hostile villagers and battle-hungry insurgents. Ambushes are frequent but the soldiers' greatest terror is the improvised explosive device (IED) - a hidden roadside bomb that can rip through a Humvee or tip it over a cliff. Last October Lieutenant Richard Baranski narrowly survived a bombing that seriously wounded three others. It was the fifth time Americans had been hit at exactly the same place, he said.

"We've shot missiles into their houses. We've fired mark-19 [grenades] into their houses. And still they are there," he said, pulling on his seatbelt at the start of another journey up the valley. "God, I hate this road."
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US sees Afghanistan as test of NATO role
At this week's summit, the alliance's success against Taliban insurgents was seen as key to its long-term relevance.
By Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Article Link

RIGA, LATVIA – The question looming over NATO's summit in this Baltic country this week was essentially this: What are friends for?
With the focus on the NATO-commanded counterinsurgency operation in Afghanistan, leaders from President George Bush to Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted to know if just a few NATO countries would continue to carry the weight and face the worst of the danger. Or, would more of NATO's 26 members help out their partners with more troops - and fewer restrictions on how their troops can be used?
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Abroad, Bush tests his persuasive powers
His trip this week addresses sensitive security issues in two countries – Afghanistan and Iraq.
By Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Article Link

RIGA, LATVIA – What was sketched into the presidential agenda as a transatlantic foray to address the North Atlantic Alliance's future has instead become one of the more consequential foreign-policy trips of the Bush presidency - and one of the tougher tests of his international leadership.
From the NATO summit he attends in this Baltic capital Tuesday and Wednesday, to the sit-down with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that he has added to his agenda, this has become the trip of the George W. Bush wars.
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Article Link

Islamabad, 7 Dec. (AKI/DAWN) - Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri is leading a seven-member delegation to Kabul on Thursday afternoon aboard a special aircraft. He will be accompanied by senior officials of the foreign ministry, a representative of the interior ministry and two senior officials from Balochistan and the NWFP provinces have also been included in the delegation. During the two-day visit, Kasuri will meet the top Afghan leadership to discuss the challenges of peace and security in the border areas and the modalities for the proposed jirgas on both sides of the Durand Line.

The foreign minister will hold wide-ranging talks with his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta and is also expected to meet President Hamid Karzai, besides other key Afghan leaders.

"We will have detailed discussions on the purpose, scope and composition of jirgas and how to move forward," a member of the delegation told Dawn.

It is learnt that the proposed jirgas would neither be national nor joint.

They will be held separately at the local level, basically relevant to trouble areas.

The delegation will return on Friday evening, a foreign ministry official said.

AFGHANISTAN: Violence fuels disillusionment and threatens reconstruction - UN
07 Dec 2006 10:35:56 GMT Source: IRIN
Article Link

Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

KABUL, 7 December (IRIN) - Growing insurgency, impunity for criminals and corrupt officials are factors causing signs of despondency and disillusionment among Afghans, according to a report by a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) mission to Afghanistan, released in New York on Wednesday.

The report warns these problems, along with weak governance and the growing drug trade constitute "a grave threat to reconstruction and nation-building" and that Afghanistan's state institutions are too fragile to fully meet the challenges.

"Afghanistan needs additional and sustained support from the international community both for quick gains and for sustained progress over the long term," the report said.

However, the 13-page document says the partnership between the international community and Afghanistan that began with the 2002 Bonn Agreement is still "largely on track" and the commitment of the international community is unwavering.

Recommendations of the UNSC report cover 11 areas, including calls for improved governance, more attention to human rights and the protection of civilians, closer regional cooperation and strengthened efforts to counter poppy cultivation and drug trafficking.
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American game plan in Afghanistan
Thursday December 07, 2006 (1529 PST) Muhammad Ahsan Yatu ahsanyatu@gmail.com
Article Link

Before 9/11, Americans were talking about a war between India and a Talibanised Afghanistan that would be fought after 15 years. It was a convincing forecast. Not only India, but also Russia, China, Iran, Central Asian States and even some European nations would have fought this war jointly, and much earlier. The rise, spread and strength of the Taliban were the reasons behind the emergence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Interestingly, before the birth of SCO, the US was supporting the Taliban as openly as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and UAE did.

The US also tried for the Taliban’s entry into the UN. Not only that, when Russia, enraged by the Taliban militancy, threatened to air raid Kabul, the US and Britain sided with the Taliban. The US, despite the sanctions, continued to help the Taliban regime financially. Only God knows what happened that turned the Taliban against the US. Perhaps they were in a hurry to accomplish the task of Arabisation of the region and wanted to oust the American factor at all costs. The US tried its best to effect reconciliation. In the year 2001, the opinion pages of Pakistani newspapers were full of praise for the Taliban who had brought peace to 90 percent of Afghanistan. Not only that, eminent Pakistani social scientists living in the US suggested the Islamic way of life as the best option for Pakistanis and reconciliation with the extremist religious organisations as the need of the time. These and other US efforts did not bend the Taliban attitude and ultimately 9/11 happened.
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NATO will need more troops next year in Afghanistan: ISAF commander
07 December 2006
Article Link

LONDON - Coalition forces in Afghanistan will need more troops next year if they are to exploit successes achieved this year, the force's commander David Richards told the BBC in an interview aired Wednesday.
Richards, the British commander of the 37-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), also said that he will know that the NATO-led force will have succeeded when it persuaded the "vast majority of Afghans to stay the course."
Asked whether the 32,000-odd troops under his command were sufficient for the campaign in Afghanistan, Richards told the broadcaster: "I've got enough this winter to do what we need to do, to hand over to my successor in February."
"I would worry if my successor had the same number of troops next year, not because we will be necessarily more threatened, but I know he will wish to exploit the success I think we've achieved this year, and he will need more troops, but they're being offered."
Richards also said that success would have been achieved in Afghanistan when the ISAF force had managed to "persuade the vast majority of Afghans to stay the course, to see the visible improvement that we are offering, but have been slow sometimes in delivering."
"Once we're certain that we've got them excited, that we're there with them, we will deliver, then I think the writing is on the wall for the Taliban," he said.
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'Don't cut and run from Iraq and Afghanistan'
By Deborah Haynes
Article Link

London - Britain's former top soldier has accused the government of failing to give its troops, many of whom are risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, the right resources and support.

General Sir Mike Jackson, speaking late on Wednesday, also warned against cutting and running from the two conflict zones.

Jackson, who led the army during the March 2003 invasion of Iraq but retired earlier this year, said the Ministry of Defence had difficulty adjusting plans for what it thought was needed before an operation to the reality on the ground.
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Suicide Bomber Strikes at American Firm in Southern Afghanistan
By CARLOTTA GALL Published: December 7, 2006
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 6 — A suicide bomber blew himself up on Wednesday outside the offices of an American security firm in the southern city of Kandahar, killing two American security officers and nine Afghan members of the staff, other employees at the scene said.

There was some confusion about the number of deaths.

A United States Embassy spokesman confirmed the deaths of two Americans, but police officials said they could confirm the deaths of only five Afghans, instead of the nine reported by people at the scene. A statement from President Hamid Karzai condemning the attack put the total at six, including the two Americans.

The explosion was just yards from a NATO military compound, where a Canadian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team handles reconstruction and development work for the province.

The bomb attack, the fifth in Kandahar in 10 days, seems to fulfill Western military and diplomatic warnings that insurgents would turn to bombings in urban areas now that winter conditions have made fighting in the mountains more difficult. Afghanistan has had more than 100 suicide bombings this year, killing close to 250 people, most of them civilians.
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Extra £600m earmarked for Iraq and Afghanistan
Richard Norton-Taylor Thursday December 7, 2006 The Guardian
Article Link

The cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is increasing, the chancellor indicated in his statement yesterday.
He said the Ministry of Defence had been allocated an additional £600m for operations in the two countries next year and for what he called "other international obligations". This is more than the pre-budget amounts over the past three years.

However, in this year's March budget Gordon Brown significantly increased the previous pre-budget figure and said an extra £800m would be spent this year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday's statement means that, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, British military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost £7bn.
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Editorial Blog Iraq, Afghanistan and Oregon
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Article Link

Here is an updated draft of Thursday's editorial. Please send your comments about this editorial or other editorial topics to the Statesman Journal Editorial Board at salemed@StatesmanJournal.com or in care of Editorial Page Editor Dick Hughes at dhughes@StatesmanJournal.com.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Oregon are worlds apart — and inextricably linked. It is fitting that Ted Kulongoski was one of four governors making a quick, semi-secret trip last week to visit troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a governor, Kulongoski has no role in U.S. foreign policy. But it is his, and our, Oregon National Guard that is training Afghan soldiers and helping build up that impoverished nation. It is his constituents, and our neighbors and family members, who are among the thousands of U.S. troops serving in Iraq.

These Oregon troops are handling difficult but different assignments.

Iraq is a mess. A bipartisan U.S. commission on Wednesday declared the situation was “grave and deteriorating.” Kulongoski said Iraq was just as news accounts had described it: very, very dangerous. “It is a civil war,” he said after returning to Oregon this week.
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Dead marine in Afghanistan named 
Article Link

Jonathan Wigley died as a result of attempts to dislodge Taleban forces 
A marine who died in Afghanistan after a battle with Taleban fighters has been named as Jonathan Wigley, of Zulu Company 45 Commando Royal Marines.
He died following the battle in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.

Marine Wigley, 21, was from Melton Mowbray, in Leicestershire. Another serviceman was injured in the battle.

The fighting came during an operation aimed at dislodging Taleban forces responsible for attacks on the village of Garmsir.

He was wounded and airlifted to the UK military hospital at Camp Bastion, but died of his injuries.

Marine Wigley's commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Duncan Dewar, described him as an "outstanding" Royal Marine who died doing the job he loved.
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10th Mountain troops in Afghanistan begin heading home
Updated: 12/7/2006 6:12 AM By: Amy Ohler
Article Link   
10th Mountain Division soldiers in Afghanistan have begun deploying back to Fort Drum after a one year tour of duty. This week the 91st Military Police Battalion is on its way home.

In a video teleconference from Afghanistan, Commander Major General Benjamin Freakley said the soldiers are ready to come home but they'll remain focused on their mission until then.

Members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and division have about two months left in the deployment.

"We're so thankful to the military families that stand so firmly behind their soldiers. We wouldn't have had the re-enlistment we had without the families. We wouldn't have has the mission success we had both here and in Iraq if the families didn't stand so firmly behind their soldiers," said Major General Benjamin Freakley
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Abundance of youth populates troops serving in Afghanistan mission
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press Published: Thursday, December 07, 2006
Article Link

MAS'UM GHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - With his clean-cut, boyish looks, Matt Blakewood seems barely old enough to shave, let alone serve as a corporal in the Canadian Forces.

"Actually I haven't shaved for a week," admits Blakewood sheepishly, rubbing what little stubble there is on his chin. Blakewood, 21, from North York, Ont., has heard every joke in the book about his youthful appearance. "The lieutenant is on me all the time, and says, 'One day when you're old enough to join the army, you'll know,' " he chuckles.

Blakewood has been in the reserves since he was 17.

"I would have joined when I was 16 if I could, but because of the co-op program at school you had to be in Grade 11 at the time, so I did it when I was 17," says Blakewood, now working with the Psy Ops (psychological operations) unit of the Canadian Battle Group.

How does one decide to pursue a military career while in high school? It started earlier than that, Blakewood says.

"I just thought it would be something noble to do. When I have kids, they can say, 'My dad's in the military' and they can look at me and respect me . . . hopefully," says Blakewood.

"And I think it was like a childhood thing. I used to watch those black-and-white army movies with my dad and it just seemed like a cool thing to do at the time."

Blakewood drives an RG-31 light armoured vehicle as part of his duties and has been under fire. He eventually hopes to go into a career in law enforcement and has started going to college to obtain his diploma.
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MN Air National Guard Members to Go to Iraq, Afghanistan in 2007 
Article Link

DULUTH, MN (AP) -- More members of the Minnesota Air National Guard are heading to Iraq and Afghanistan next year.

The Guard announced today that more than 600 members of Minnesota Air National Guard units based in Duluth and St. Paul will deploy in early 2007.

About 450 of the Air Guard members will deploy from the Duluth-based 148th Fighter Wing, which will fly missions over Iraq. The unit provides close air combat support with its F-16C fighter jets.

Meanwhile, 160 members from the 133rd Airlift Wing in St. Paul are being deployed to support and fly cargo missions in Afghanistan.

Before the latest deployment, there were about 77-hundred Minnesota National Guard soldiers deployed in southwest Asia. That includes about three-thousand from the Air Guard and 47-hundred from the Army National Guard.

Afghanistan: UN study paints generally positive picture of refugee returns
Article Link

Keeping bees in Nangarhar
6 December 2006 – A majority of the 4.7 million Afghan refugees who have returned home since the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime in 2001 feel optimistic about the future even as they believe they are worse off economically than their neighbours, according to a United Nations-commissioned study which cites concerns over future absorption capacity.

“While there have been difficulties for some, the majority of returnees have responded successfully and resiliently to the same challenges and opportunities faced by all Afghans,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) country representative Jacques Mouchet said of the study, which painted a generally positive picture of the integration of returnees into the labour market.

The European Commission-funded report, commissioned by UNHCR and the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and conducted by Kabul-based Altai Consulting, studied more than 600 rural and urban households – about 4,200 people – and 100 enterprises in the provinces of Kabul, Herat in the west and Nangarhar in the east.

Some 40 per cent of the returnees live in these provinces, which have performed well compared to others.
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Canuck soldier died 'fighting evil'
December 6, 2006
Article Link

Military pallbearers carry the casket of Warrant Officer Robert Girouard during a military funeral ceremony at Beechwood Military Cemetery in Ottawa, Wednesday December 6, 2006. Girouard was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan last week.(CP PHOTO/Fred Chartrand)
PETAWAWA, Ont. (CP) - Comrades of slain soldier Robert Girouard hailed him Wednesday as a "quiet, confident" leader who was the most respected man in his operations group.

Family, friends and comrades gathered for a funeral at CFB Petawawa to bid farewell to the chief warrant officer killed in Afghanistan last week. "Bobby died a soldier's death, watching his commanding officer's back," said Col. Dennis Thompson, Girouard's brigade commander.

"He had the courage of his convictions and died fighting evil thousands of miles from here so that the people of Afghanistan might one day live without fear, and enjoy the freedom we blithely take for granted here in Canada.

"In (wife) Jackie's own words: 'Bobby was what a man should be."'

Girouard, the top non-commissioned officer in 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, died when a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle next to his armoured personnel carrier near Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

Cpl. Albert Storm, a decorated soldier from Fort Erie, Ont., was also killed in the attack.

Girouard, who was also regimental sergeant major, acted as mentor and liaison between senior officers and the enlisted ranks.
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Pakistan, Afghanistan to talk on Taliban rebellion
Wed 6 Dec 2006 8:36 AM ETKABUL, Dec 6 (Reuters) -
Article Link

Pakistan's foreign minister arrives in Kabul on Thursday for talks on tribal councils aimed at stemming the growing Taliban insurgency and putting an end to the worst fighting since the strict Islamists were ousted in 2001.

Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri's visit comes amid accusations from senior Afghan intelligence officials Islamabad still supports the Taliban and warnings from Kabul's western allies that the rebels are being bolstered by the ability to shelter in Pakistan.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have agreed on tribal councils, or jirgas, of community leaders from each country to find a solution to the violence.

Afghan and Pakistani tribes were split by British civil servants in the same way as Pakistan and India were divided.

"We hope that the real representatives from across Pakistan will take part in the (Afghan) jirga," spokesman for President Hamid Karzai Karim Rahimi said.

Afghanistan wants all tribes to take part in the councils, not just the Pashtuns from the main Pakistani border areas.

"But still there is a big gap on positions of the two governments on jirgas and other issues," Rahimullah Yusufzai, a newspaper editor and expert on Afghan affairs said.
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Afghanistan hero sells his medal to buy home
Lucy Bannerman December 06, 2006
Article Link

A war hero who became the youngest ever non-officer to be awarded the Military Cross is auctioning his medal because he cannot afford a house.
Liam Armstrong was just 23 when he received the award, Britain’s second-highest military honour, from the Queen.

However, Mr Armstrong, now 27, is selling the medal, which he won in an act of “almost reckless bravery”, so he can set up home with his long-term partner Charlene Reynolds, 24, and 2-year-old daughter Lydia.

Mr Armstrong, of Carlisle, who now works as a trackman with a local railway company, said he has struggled financially since leaving the Royal Marines last year, and he was left with no other option but to sell the cross.

He said: “I want to make sure my daughter has everything she needs. I am not a rich man and the sale will ensure our future as a family.

“The only way for us to get a start in life is by selling it. It’s not ideal but I’m doing it for my daughter. She’s the most important thing in my life. When I thought of it like that it wasn’t a difficult decision.”
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NTSB: Pilot error caused Blackwater plane crash in Afghanistan
December 6, 2006
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A Connecticut man and four others were killed. A sixth who survived the impact but died while awaiting rescue might have been saved if the company had followed proper procedures, the report released Tuesday said.

The CASA 212 twin-engine turboprop was owned by Presidential Airways, a Florida company doing business as Blackwater Aviation, and was flying under a contract with the U.S. Air Force when it crashed on Nov. 27, 2004.

RALEIGH, N.C. --Pilot error caused the crash of an airplane owned by a sister company of Moyock-based Blackwater USA in central Afghanistan two years ago, according to a National Transportation Safety Board report.

The aircraft carried three crew members, three Army passengers and military freight when it took off from Bagram, headed for Farah. Its wreckage was located a day later, 25 miles north of the expected route, but bad weather prevented rescuers from reaching the site for two more days.

The report blamed Presidential for "failure to require its flight crews to file and fly a defined route," and for not providing oversight to make sure its crews followed company policies and Pentagon and FAA safety regulations.

The chief operating officer and general counsel for Prince Group, the parent company of Blackwater and Presidential, said Tuesday that the report was erroneous and politically motivated.

Joseph E. Schmitz said the report was intended to cover for the military's failures, though he declined to describe those failures. He said Presidential would ask the NTSB to reconsider.
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Military wants "large as possible’ slice of flying time
TheChronicleHerald.ca,  CHRIS LAMBIE, Dec. 8

Military planners want as much flying time as they can get from the Aurora long-range patrol aircraft if they are to be used to conduct surveillance flights over Afghanistan.

Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act show Canada’s Auroras, most of which are based at 14 Wing Greenwood in Nova Scotia, are wanted for use in the war-torn country.

The "preferred approach" would be for Canadian Expeditionary Force Command to get "as large as possible" a slice of the Aurora fleet’s yearly flying rate, say documents the military prepared in October.

"This is a critical part of defining any (concept of operations)," say the documents, obtained by the NDP [emphasis added].

The Auroras have been fitted with upgraded equipment that will allow the airplanes to conduct increased and more detailed surveillance over land.

Using the aircraft for overland intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is a new role for Auroras, say the documents, which note the planes may need an army liaison officer to be part of the on-board crew.

The availability of Auroras that are configured to fly over land is limited, the documents say.

"Configuring more aircraft will take time and money."

The Auroras are normally used to conduct fisheries patrols and keep tabs on Canada’s maritime approaches.

But the United States and Australia have used similar P-3 Orion aircraft to conduct surveillance in Afghanistan.

Auroras, which can fly more than 9,000 kilometres without refuelling, have been used in recent years to conduct maritime patrols over the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. They were designed in the 1950s and built in the late 1970s. But they are going through a $1.45-billion modernization project slated to end in 2010.

According to the Defence Department website, the yearly flying rate for the Aurora fleet "has been on a gradual decline over the past decade."

Fallen soldier's 11-year-old daughter becomes youngest memorial cross recipient
Gregory Bonnelle, Canadian Press, 8 Dec 06
Article Link

Eleven-year-old Danika Storm was bestowed a tragic yet historic honour at her father's funeral Friday when military brass informed her she had become the youngest-ever recipient of the Memorial Cross.  Cpl. Albert Storm, one of two soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan last week, lost his own mother years earlier and was divorced from the mother of his two children.  The Memorial Cross, a military memento previously granted only to mothers and widows, fell to Danika at a private ceremony held just hours before Storm - "Stormy" to his friends - received a full military funeral in this southern Ontario town.  The blonde-haired youngster broke down in tears as one of her father's colleagues eulogized the 36-year-old soldier, telling Danika and her brother Joshua, 13, to "be proud of your daddy, a hero." ....

A gift of remembrance
Metro Transit workers create Christmas tree memorial to fallen soldiers

Brent Butcher, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 9 Dec 06
Article Link

Three Metro Transit employees have created a unique memorial to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.  It’s a Christmas tree and its ornaments are the photos of the 44 soldiers who have died.  The tree is at Metro Transit’s headquarters in Dartmouth.  Jeff Campbell, a bus driver, came up with the idea one day when other employees were decorating company headquarters for Christmas ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Taliban says might join Afghan tribal peace talks
Saeed Ali Achakzai, Reuters, 9 Sept 06
Article Link

Taliban insurgents said on Saturday they might join proposed tribal councils aimed at ending mounting violence in Afghanistan, if they were asked.  Afghanistan and Pakistan plan separate and joint councils, or jirgas, in both countries in a bid to stem an insurgency that has triggered the worst fighting since the Taliban's strict Islamist government was ousted from Kabul in 2001.  But they have not agreed on who will take part, and where or when the jirgas will be.  Key government and political leaders on both sides say at least moderate elements of the resurgent Taliban must be included in any talks to end the fighting ....

'Pakistan using delaying tactics in convening Jirga'
Pahjwok Afghan News, 8 Dec 06
Article Link

Political experts have termed lack of interest and struggle to delay peace Jirga a realpoliticking of Pakistan that wants to exploits every opportunity.  It has been decided that the Jirga would hold two sessions. Presidents of both the countries and other representatives will attend its two meetings of the Jirga. First meeting of the Jirga will be held in Kabul while its second meeting will be held in Pakistan. Addressing a press conference, Minister for the Parliamentary Affairs Dr Farooq Wardak Wednesday said Pakistan had made no serious efforts for constituting peace Jirga and had always tried to create hurdles for its formation.  Dr Farooq, who is also head of the Secretariat of the Commission for the preparation of the Jirga, said high-ranking officials, administrative delegations of both the houses of the parliament, chiefs of provincial councils, two influential people of every province and representatives of the refugees would attend the Jirga.  He said Pakistan had not formed any mechanism that they might take the issue of date, nature and participants of the Jirga with them. To a question, he said: "Unfortunately, it seemed to us that there was not enough knowledge about the Jirga in Pakistan, may be they are struggling to delay the meeting." ....

To stop Taliban, Afghans need Pakistan's cooperation
Dennis Kux and Karl F. Inderfurth, San Jose Mercury News, 8 Dec 06
Article Link

Afghanistan topped the agenda at the recent NATO summit in Latvia. President Hamid Karzai faces many major challenges: weak governmental institutions, rampant corruption, lagging economic reconstruction, a booming drug trade, too many warlords and a resurgent Taliban. Over time, with sufficient and sustained international support, and Afghanistan's own efforts, all these difficulties can be addressed -- except for the Taliban.  The Taliban poses a different type of threat. It can lose every firefight with superior NATO, U.S. and Afghan National Army forces and still turn southern and eastern Afghanistan into a ``no development'' zone and stir insecurity in Kabul and elsewhere. As long as the Taliban has a haven in Pakistan, its members can continue their insurgency indefinitely, making it virtually impossible for Afghanistan to become a country at peace with itself and its neighbors.

Key Taliban commander arrested in Afghanistan
China View (CNH), 9 Dec 06
Article Link

Afghan security forces captured a key Taliban commander in Ghazni province of central Afghanistan on Saturday, provincial governor Mirajudin Patan said.  The forces arrested Mullah Mohammad Usman, commander of Taliban militants in the province, Patan told Xinhua.  He said six Pakistanis were also detained in Ghazni province on Saturday, but he did not say if they were connected with the Taliban.  Operations against insurgents in Ghazni province were continuing, Patan added ....

Ex-commanders get jobs in reconstruction projects
Pajhwok Afghan News, 8 Dec 06
Article Link

Over 150 former jihadi commanders, who had surrendered arms under the disarmament programmes like DDR and DIAG, have been employed in the Salma power dam project in the western Herat province.  Salma Dam is one of the biggest power projects, which is being reconstructed at the cost of $80 million assistance provided by the Indian government. Work on the project was launched in the beginning of this year.  Fazil Ahmad Zakiri, head of agriculture and irrigation department in Herat, told Pajhwok Afghan News the 150 former jihadi commanders had joined the government during different phases of the disarmament, de-mobilisation and re-integration (DDR) and disarmament of irresponsible armed groups (DIAG) programmes.  Zakiri said work on the project had restarted after 30 years, which would be accomplished in the coming two years. He added they were trying to employ more people, who had surrendered arms and were eager to take part in reconstruction of the country ....

Articles found 9 December, 2006

11-year-old awarded tragic yet historic honour
Article Link

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — Eleven-year-old Danika Storm was bestowed a tragic yet historic honour at her father's funeral Friday when military brass informed her she had become the youngest-ever recipient of the Memorial Cross.

Cpl. Albert Storm, one of two soldiers killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan last week, lost his own mother years earlier and was divorced from the mother of his two children.

The Memorial Cross, a military memento previously granted only to mothers and widows, fell to Danika at a private ceremony held just hours before Cpl. Storm — “Stormy” to his friends — received a full military funeral in this southern Ontario town.

The blonde-haired youngster broke down in tears as one of her father's colleagues eulogized the 36-year-old soldier, telling Danika and her brother Joshua, 13, to “be proud of your daddy, a hero.”
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Who's got the story on Afghanistan?
Friday, December 08, 2006
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Last night, I attended a panel discussion entitled "The Media, the Military and the Pollsters: Who's got the story on Afghanistan?" at the University of Toronto, presented by The Canadian Journalism Foundation. Thanks to milnewstbay for the heads-up. The moderator was Paul Knox, chair of the Ryerson University School of Journalism. Joining him on stage were panelists LGen Andrew Leslie, Chief of the Land Staff, Lisa LaFlamme, CTV television journalist, and John Wright, senior vice-president of Ipsos-Reid.

Reporting on such a complex situation as Afghanistan has always reminded me of the story of the five blind men who bump into an elephant and wonder what it is. The one who grasps the trunk says it's a snake, the one poked by a tusk declares it a spear, the one feeling along the ribs believes it's a wall, the one that ends up wrapped around a leg calls it a tree, and the one at the back has no idea what it is, but complains to the rest of them that whatever it is, it smells like crap. Each one sees only a part, and so misses the whole. The lesson, of course, is that only from a composite of all the points of view can some sort of accurate picture be drawn - in this case by a combination of military expertise, journalistic inquisitiveness, and pollster data.

In short, I was hoping for a thoughful and on-point discussion of what is a truly important topic. Well, the panelists were certainly thoughtful enough, although not always on-point. The audience, which one of the presenters was careful to point out included John Raulston Saul and numbered about fifty, was less than useful on either count.
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Afghans say life is better since fall of Taliban
By Sally Peck and agencies  08/12/2006
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Jackson: too much is asked of Forces
Despite fears of rising violence, three quarters of Afghans believe their quality of life has improved since the fall of the Taliban, according to a new poll.

Violence continues to play a prominent role in the daily lives of Afghans, with four in 10 reporting experiencing insurgent attacks, including bombings, arson, and killings, in their areas.
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Same Survey, different Take on it
Optimism fades in Afghanistan
Associated Press Published: Thursday, December 07, 2006
Amid growing violence, Taliban resurgence
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WASHINGTON -- Optimism is starting to fade among the people of Afghanistan five years after the fall of the Taliban and amid rising violence in the country, a poll found.

The number of people who think the country is on the right track has dropped 22 points - to 55 per cent - in the last year, according to a poll done in Afghanistan by ABC News and BBC World Service.

The reasons cited most often for the pessimism were a bad economy and the resurgent power of the Taliban militia, whose fundamentalist Islamic rule came to an end with the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

The poll of 1,036 adults was conducted in 31 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces and excluded some of the most violent regions in the country. It was said to have a margin of margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The Taliban was increasingly seen as posing the greatest danger to Afghanistan, with 57 per cent naming the militia, up from 41 per cent a year ago.

Acceptance of growing opium poppies had grown in the last year, however, with 40 per cent saying it was acceptable if a grower had no other way to earn a living. That was up from 26 per cent who felt that way a year ago.

Optimism had declined on a variety of fronts compared with a year earlier. Among them:
- A 17-point drop, to 58 per cent, in the belief that security has improved since the Taliban was in charge.

- A 13-point drop, to 54 per cent, in the belief that life in Afghanistan will get better in the next year.
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Five Taliban militants killed in Afghanistan
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Kabul, Dec. 9 (Xinhua): Five Taliban insurgents were killed and two others injured as they fought security forces in Helmand province in south Afghanistan, the provincial police chief Mohammad Nabi Mullahkhil said on Saturday.

"Some Taliban militants attacked Afghan police and NATO forces in Nawzad district on Friday. The security forces returned fire, killing five militants and injuring two others," Mullahkhil told Xinhua.

There were no casualties on Afghan and NATO forces, he added.

Meanwhile, Taliban's purported spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi confirmed the clash.
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Inquiry into death of marine in Afghanistan
Richard Norton-Taylor Saturday December 9, 2006 The Guardian
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An investigation has been launched into the death of a Royal Marine in Afghanistan amid reports that he was killed by friendly fire. Jonathan Wigley, 21, was fatally wounded this week during fierce fighting against the Taliban in the south of the country. Another marine, who has not been named, was seriously injured.
A British soldier was reported yesterday as saying: "I saw it. It was the A-10. I was 5ft away. We called in a strike on the next trench. Then I saw it swooping toward us. I will never forget that noise. It was horrible."

Low-flying American A-10 aircraft were engaged in fatal friendly-fire incidents involving British troops during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and in the first Gulf war in 1991.
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Pakistan wants refugee camps relocated to Afghanistan
By Our Correspondent
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UNITED NATIONS, Dec 8: Pakistan on Thursday proposed that the Afghan refugee camps should be relocated on the Afghan side and a Marshal Plan-like programme be implemented in south and southeast Afghanistan to control the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

"The international community should seriously consider this proposal which, under the prevailing circumstances, can provide a realistic chance of bringing durable peace and development to Afghanistan," Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram told a meeting of the UN Security Council convened to discuss the report submitted by the Security Council Mission on Afghanistan.

He lamented that the international community had avoided addressing seriously the issue of Afghan refugees, and pointed out that some "three million of them are still in Pakistan without any appreciable international assistance."

Many complaints regarding illegal border crossing would end if these refugees could be repatriated to Afghanistan, he said.

“Pakistan has proposed that the Afghan refugee camps on the border should be relocated on the Afghan side, and we are planning the return of all refugees within three years to Afghanistan. That should put an end to allegations of cross-border movement. But it is surprising that the issue of refugees does not figure in the report of the Security Council Mission," he noted.
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1,130 Arizona troops bound for Afghanistan  
By Art Martori, Tribune December 9, 2006
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Roughly 1,130 Arizona National Guard troops will leave next month to prepare for duty in Afghanistan, representing the state’s two largest deployments since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
They will make up the bulk of Arizona National Guard and reserve troops on active duty both domestically and overseas, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

“Since 9/11, this is the biggest group to go out,” said Maj. Paul Aguirre, an Arizona Guard spokesman. He added that many of the troops already had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Aguirre said the deployments were planned more than a year ago, and that they had nothing to do with recent speculation in Washington, D.C., about a temporary increase in troop levels in the region.
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Gunmen kill 5 family members in Afghanistan; investigation opened into civilian shooting
The Associated PressPublished: December 9, 2006
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GHWANDO, Afghanistan: Following up on a death threat, Taliban militants broke into a house where two teachers lived and shot dead five family members in eastern Afghanistan, bringing to 20 the number of educators killed in attacks this year, officials and a relative said Saturday.

A NATO spokesman, meanwhile, said an investigation was launched into allegations that British forces opened fire on civilians, killing one and wounding six, after a suicide attack earlier this month.

The five family members were killed overnight in the eastern province of Kunar after gunmen climbed over the home's high outer wall using a ladder they had brought with them, said Dr. Ghaleb, a family relative who goes by one name.

A grandmother, a mother and two daughters, who were teachers, were killed, Ghaleb said. A 20-year-old grandson was also killed and a younger grandson injured in the attack in a village in Narang district.
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Mum’s joy at message from Afghanistan
08 December 2006
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The mother of a Dundee-born Royal Navy Lieutenant leading the fight in the care of wounded British soldiers in Afghanistan, today spoke of her joy after reading an “exclusive message” from her son through the Evening Telegraph.
Local alcohol abuse campaigner Frankie Claridge heard from her son, Sandy, for the first time in a week in her copy of yesterday’s Tele.
He is based in Camp Bastion in the Helmand province and spoke to our reporter in the region.

Sandy is second in command of the hospital operating theatre for the camp.

He will not return from his tour of duty until January, so he sent his mum, gran and friends special Christmas wishes during his interview.

“I saw the Tele and it was brilliant. I was absolutely amazed,” said Ms Claridge.

“It was just like an exclusive message to me. What a pleasant surprise.
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Afghanistan's Opium Trade Undermines Pakistan's Efforts To Control Domestic Spread of HIV, Health Minister Says
Dec 08, 2006
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     Afghanistan's opium trade is undermining Pakistan's efforts to control the spread of HIV in the country, particularly among injection drug users, Pakistan's Health Minister Mohammad Naseer Khan said Wednesday, Reuters reports. Pakistan has confirmed 3,556 HIV cases in the country -- more than 300 of whom have developed AIDS -- but officials say the numbers likely are higher. According to Khan, Pakistan has been committed to fighting the spread of the virus, but the country must increase efforts to tackle Afghanistan's opium production, the raw material for heroin, to successfully reduce the virus' spread. "We are committed for a strong program to combat HIV/AIDS, especially the [injection drug] users," Khan said. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crimes said recently that Afghanistan's opium harvest reached a record high this year, and production is 50% higher than in 2005. "Today, in Afghanistan you have the highest production of opium to date. Ten years ago it nearly reached zero," Khan, who attended a U.N. meeting on injection drug use and HIV/AIDS on Wednesday, said, adding, "So that's a huge concern for Pakistan. More has to be done by the government of Afghanistan and also all the donor agencies and coalition forces to stop that production." Khan also said that increasing HIV/AIDS awareness among people living in Pakistan is essential to fighting the spread of the virus. "We don't have to be pornographic about HIV/AIDS, but we must tell our children what it is and how to stay away from it," he said (Reuters, 12/6).

Afghanistan 'losing patience' with Pakistan
Agencies 08/12/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)
Article Link

Kabul: President Hamid Karzai told Pakistan's foreign minister that the Afghan public were growing impatient over insurgent attacks reportedly launched from Pakistan, and warned that instability in Afghanistan would affect Pakistan.

Karzai met with Khursheed Kasuri on Thursday after he arrived for talks on issues including border security.

Karzai said, "The Afghan people are suffering from terrorist violence on a daily basis, and the patience of our people to continue to bear this situation is running thin," adding that both countries needed to work to stop the violence.

He said, "In the same way that Afghans cannot imagine a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan without a peaceful and stable Pakistan, it is also impossible for Pakistan to have peace and stability without a peaceful and stable Afghanistan."

Kasuri responded by saying that by blaming each other the two countries cannot solve their problems.
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Afghanistan faces grave threat in reconstruction: UN report
December 08, 2006          
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Afghanistan is facing "a grave threat" in reconstruction, which is mainly caused by insurgency, narcotics and corruption, said a UN report released on Thursday here.

"The spread of insurgency .. linked with the illegal drug trade, coupled with corruption and failures of governance and the rule of law, collectively pose a grave threat to reconstruction and nation-building in Afghanistan," said the report written by a UN Security Council mission to Afghanistan.

The mission paid a fact-finding visit to Afghanistan from Nov. 11 to 16, during which they met Afghan President Hamid Karzai, senior NATO commanders, civilian societies and other representatives.

Progress in Afghanistan's reconstruction in 2006 "has not been as rapid as had been hoped," the report said, adding "The confidence of the Afghan public in its new institutions and processes was being tested."

Due to rising Taliban-linked insurgency, Afghanistan has plunged into the worst spate of bloodshed this year since the Taliban regime was toppled down five years ago.

Violence has killed about 3,900 people this year in this volatile country, which is four times greater than last year.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan produced 6,100 tons of opium this year, witnessing a sharp rise of 49 percent from last year and accounting for 92 percent of the world's total supply.
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NATO air support may have killed Brit in Afghanistan
Friday, December 8, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM
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A British Marine killed during a 10-hour battle with Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan this week may have been killed by friendly aircraft firing in support, the military said Thursday.

British troops are battling the Taliban in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province as part of NATO's ISAF force. "Friendly fire" deaths are not unusual in Afghanistan. Canadian, U.S. and Afghan forces have previously lost men because of misguided fire.

On Thursday, a suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of foreign troops in the center of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, killing two civilians and wounding 11 more, police and witnesses said.
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U.S. anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan to be bolstered
Accused of a reluctance to aid DEA agents, the Pentagon vows to help.
By Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writer December 8, 2006
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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon, which has resisted appeals to play a bigger role in the campaign to curb Afghanistan's opium trade, is pledging more support for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's counter-narcotics efforts.

Although the $2.3-billion profit from opium trafficking has helped to arm the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents, the Pentagon has said drug interdiction is primarily a law enforcement responsibility that rests with Afghan authorities and British troops in the NATO force in Afghanistan.
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26 Afghans released from U.S. military prison in Afghanistan
The Associated PressPublished: December 7, 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan: The U.S. military has released 26 Afghans who were incarcerated at its detention facility, a statement said.

The men were turned over to the Afghan authorities after it was determined that they do not pose a threat anymore to the government of President Hamid Karzai, a U.S. military statement said Thursday.

Hundreds of Afghans are still held at the detention facility in Bagram, the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan. The U.S. plans to turn over the Afghan nationals in its custody to the Afghan government by next summer.

While in detention, all detainees received three meals a day, worship opportunities and comprehensive medical care, the statement said.
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US told to engage Pakistan and Iran on Afghanistan
Friday, December 08, 2006
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WASHINGTON: The United States was urged by experts on Wednesday to engage Pakistan and Iran in active diplomacy to prevent deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan from sliding towards a new crisis.

Addressing a forum on Afghanistan organised by the US Institute of Peace, Barry Rubin, a former adviser to the former United Nations representative to Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, said that the administration of George W Bush had to achieve a consensus on Afghanistan with both Pakistan and Iran if it hoped to stabilise the country and rein in a growing Taliban insurgency.

US involvement with Iran, he noted, could help pressure Islamabad to suppress Pakistan-based militants blamed for plunging Afghanistan into its bloodiest period of violence since American-led forces overthrew the Taliban regime in 2001. “At the moment we don’t have an active diplomacy on that, probably because we’re not talking to certain people,” Rubin said, referring to Washington’s severed relations with Tehran.
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A country where blood is everything
Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry died in a suicide attack in Afghanistan. The main suspect walked free.

Graeme Smith, Globe & Mail, 11 Dec 06
Article Link - Permalink

When an explosion shook the city of Kandahar in the early afternoon of Jan. 15, Afghan police hurried to the scene to find Canadian troops pulling comrades out of ruined military vehicles. The suicide blast injured three soldiers and killed Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry, the 59-year-old political director of the local reconstruction team.  As a helicopter roared away with the injured, criminal investigators from the Afghan National Police kept their eyes on the ground, picking their way through the twisted metal and charred flesh. They wrote down identification numbers from the engine block and chassis of the bomber's minivan, a silver Toyota Town Ace. They also noted the license plate number, 312.  The last known owner of plate 312, a man named Pir Mohammed, was arrested as the main suspect in Mr. Berry's death. Police say they grew more suspicious after they raided his home, finding a cache of weapons, documents in Arabic, and a photo of a reputed Taliban leader.  But after less than two days in custody, Mr. Mohammed walked out the front door of the investigators' office and disappeared. Why? ....

Afghan rebuild stopped dead
Terrorism and corruption leave nation in pieces and population without hope

Doug Beazley, Calgary Sun, 11 Dec 06
Article Link

Marjdin lives in the shadows of Afghanistan's shattered history.  His home is a half-wrecked bunker in an abandoned army base outside Kabul -- a relic of the Russian occupation so many years ago.  On the snowy hill behind him stands what's left of the old royal palace, shelled half to rubble in the factional wars that followed King Mohammad Zahir Shah's deposal by coup in 1973, the Soviet invasion of 1979 and the Taliban takeover in 1996.  Across the road is a sign marking the site of the former Camp Julien, abandoned when the Canadians moved south to Kandahar last year ....

Troops tough to rattle
Rockets fired on base no big deal

Doug Beazley, Calgary Sun, 11 Dec 06
Article Link

Leave it to the Taliban to screw up a good time.  Minutes after soldiers at Kandahar Airfield massed for a special live show featuring standup comic Shaun Majumder Saturday night, two volleys of insurgent rockets whistled over the camp, forcing everyone to take cover.  "Saturday night! Well hello, Taliban!" Majumder shouted to the crowd after the show started again.  No one was hurt -- the rockets, apparently, hit without detonating. And while the double shot was the most intense rocket attack to hit the base in weeks, no one showed any signs of anxiety ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Taliban regrouping in Pakistan, says think tank
US military reports upsurge in attacks

Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 11 Dec 06
Article Link

Peace deals between Islamic militants and Pakistan's government have created a virtual Taliban mini-state near Afghanistan, giving militants a "free hand" to recruit, train and arm for cross-border attacks, a think tank reported Monday.  The International Crisis Group accused Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government of resorting to "appeasement" of pro-Taliban fighters after poorly planned military operations in North and South Waziristan failed and only fueled more militancy.  The government denied the allegation, but a U.S. military official in Afghanistan confirmed that cross-border attacks had surged this summer and fall, amid the bloodiest violence since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001 for hosting al-Qaida ....

Pakistan’s Tribal Areas: Appeasing the Militants
International Crisis Group, Asia Report N°125, 11 Dec 2006
News release - Report (.pdf)

Taliban and other foreign militants, including al-Qaeda sympathisers, have sheltered since 2001 in Pakistan’s Pashtun-majority Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), seven administrative districts bordering on south eastern Afghanistan. Using the region to regroup, reorganise and rearm, they are launching increasingly severe cross-border attacks on Afghan and international military personnel, with the support and active involvement of Pakistani militants. The Musharraf government’s ambivalent approach and failure to take effective action is destabilising Afghanistan; Kabul’s allies, particularly the U.S. and NATO, which is now responsible for security in the bordering areas, should apply greater pressure on it to clamp down on the pro-Taliban militants. But the international community, too, bears responsibility by failing to support democratic governance in Pakistan, including within its troubled tribal belt ....

Articles found 11 December, 2006

NATO destroys huge weapon cache in E. Afghanistan
December 11, 2006         
Article Link

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has discovered a huge weapon cache and destroyed it in Afghanistan's eastern Nooristan province, a statement of the multinational force received Monday said.

A patrol found a weapon cache in the Nurgaram district of Nooristan province and destroyed at an ISAF camp on Saturday, the statement said.

The weapons and ammunition seized consists of 63 rockets, 137 mortar rounds, 157 rifle rounds, 92 rocket fuses, 63 mortar fuses, 10 RPG launchers and rockets, 48 pieces of 82mm rounds, six pieces of 75mm rounds and three anti-tank mines, according to the statement.

Six more weapon caches have been discovered in Khost province also in east Afghanistan over the past four days, the statement stressed but not disclosed the number and quantity of the ordnances recovered from.

Source: Xinhua

Editorial: Problems in Afghanistan may find their way to U.S. streets
Editorial, MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE Monday, December 11, 2006
Article Link

Here's more discouraging news from the war zone — but this time the war zone is Afghanistan, where the inspector generals from the State Department and Pentagon report that a billion-dollar U.S. effort to train a police force has accomplished just about nothing.

The officers it has trained have difficulty performing rudimentary policing duties; the contractor hired to perform the work is unable to verify how many officers are working, or where, or doing what.
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Nato air strike kills four civilians in Afghanistan
Web posted at: 12/11/2006 8:50:6 Source ::: Agencies
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KABUL • At least four Afghan civilians were killed and one was wounded in a Nato-led air strike against Taleban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, a police commander said yesterday.

The civilians were killed on Saturday in an airstrike that was part of a “mid-scale” operation launched this week against militants in Laghman province just east of Kabul, local police chief, Abdul Karim Omeryar said.

“Yes, a house was bombed by Nato planes. I know four people were killed and one was injured — they were civilians,” the police chief said.

He said intelligence reports indicated Taleban fighters were hiding in the house targeted by International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) warplanes in the province’s Alishing district.

“But only civilians were in that house. The casualties were also civilians,” he said.

The interior ministry in Kabul confirmed the operation, codenamed “Western Hammer” but said it was investigating the civilian deaths.

Isaf also confirmed the raid.
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13 foreign nationals arrested in S. Afghanistan
December 11, 2006         
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Afghan forces have arrested 13 foreign nationals on charge of being involved in conducting terrorist activities in the southern Kandahar province, Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said Sunday.

"Afghanistan National Army captured 13 terrorists from Spin Boldak of Kandahar province on Friday and recovered a number of evidence including explosive devices, wireless set and satellite telephones," Azimi told newsmen at a press briefing.

However, he did not disclose the nationalities of the detained men but added all of them had been handed over to the U.S.-led coalition forces.

Three more persons on charge of having links with Taliban and al-Qaida network were arrested from eastern Khost province days ago.

Spin Boldak, a border town linking Afghanistan with Pakistan, has been the witness of militants' attacks as a suicide bomb attack left over a dozen dead and injured a few months ago.

Source: Xinhua

Mine explosion wounds 2 NATO soldiers in S. Afghanistan
December 11, 2006         
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Two NATO soldiers were injured when a mine struck their convoy in Afghanistan's southern Zabul province on Sunday, a spokesman of NATO troops said.

The mine, which was planted by militants and remotely controlled, damaged four vehicles and wounded two soldiers in Mizan district, Andre Salloum told reporters in Kandahar.

He did not comment if there were any casualties on the insurgents.

Meantime, a purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said the Taliban had carried out the attack and two Taliban fighters were killed in a conflict after the explosion.

More than 3,900 people, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed in Afghanistan this year.

Source: Xinhua
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Afghanistan's opium poppies will be sprayed, says US drugs tsar
Declan Walsh in Kandahar Monday December 11, 2006 The Guardian
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· Calls for herbicide use follow record harvest
· Fears sensitive move will boost support for Taliban

Afghanistan has agreed to poppy-spraying measures in a desperate bid to deflate the soaring drugs trade, America's anti-narcotics tsar announced at the weekend.
The move was urgently needed to prevent Afghanistan becoming a narco-state, said John Waters, the head of the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. "We cannot fail in this mission."

But the prospect of herbicide use aroused criticism from other western officials, who are sceptical of its benefits and fear it will push farmers into the arms of the Taliban. "Nobody in the international community is loving this," said one.

Crop spraying is highly sensitive in Afghanistan. Government officials traditionally reject aerial spraying, saying low-flying planes dispersing clouds of herbicide could destroy licit crops and arouse painful memories of Soviet-era carpet bombing. Reports of limited aerial spraying, in which the US denied involvement, sparked health scare stories among villagers in Nangarhar and Uruzgan province
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Taliban and Allies Tighten Grip in North of Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan, vastly expanding their training of suicide bombers and other recruits and fortifying alliances with Al Qaeda and foreign fighters, diplomats and intelligence officials from several nations say. The result, they say, is virtually a Taliban mini-state.

The militants, the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross-border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year.

The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes and spreading their influence to neighboring areas, according to several American and NATO officials and Pakistani and Afghan intelligence officials.

This year more than 100 local leaders, government sympathizers or accused “American spies” have been killed, several of them in beheadings, as the militants have used a reign of terror to impose what President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan calls a creeping “Talibanization.” Last year, at least 100 others were also killed...

Germans for the South?
Der Spiegel, Dec. 11

The ISAF security mission in Afghanistan may be led by NATO forces, but over one-third of German troops in the country fall entirely under national command, limiting NATO's ability to deploy them. With tensions still simmering over Berlin's refusal to send troops to the dangerous south, the Bundeswehr is considering placing more troops at NATO's disposal.

Following the heated debate at NATO over the deployment of German troops in dangerous southern Afghanistan, Berlin appears poised to shift its position. Top brass in the German military, the Bundeswehr, are considering putting more troops under the command of British General David Richards -- soldiers who could also be deployed to the south, where the Taliban are engaged in heavy fighting with NATO troops.

Currently, close to 3,000 Bundeswehr soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan, but less than two-thirds -- under 2,000 troops -- are under the command of the NATO ISAF force leadership. The remaining troops are entirely under national command, a status that is considered a limitation of their deployment possibilities by NATO.

Among the troops that are not under NATO command are reinforcement troops, airplane mechanics and also coveted special forces, including the teams responsible for operating the so-called "Luna" reconnaissance drones and around 200 telecommunications and radar experts who specialize in eavesdropping on radio signals and telephone calls. Now, SPIEGEL has learned, Berlin's military leadership is considering placing some of these troops under the command of the British general.

The catalyst for the shift is the hope that the Bundeswehr can attain greater influence at ISAF headquarters, where allies have sharply criticized Germany for its unwillingness to send troops into southern Afghanistan. German troops also want to get a better insight into the way the Americans, British and Canadians are managing combat operations in the south [emphasis added].

The Bundeswehr's mandate in Afghanistan is determined by Germany's parliament, the Bundestag. Under that mandate, the military aid that Bundeswehr troops -- who are predominantly stationed in the north -- are allowed to provide in other parts of the country must be "limited in both time and scope."

All on their shoulders
For the soldiers of C Company, joking about the war is often the best they can do

Brian Hutchinson, National Post, December 11 (from p.2)

The men had no time to reflect on what had just happened. They moved across the Arghandab once again. The second advance succeeded, and C Company continued north.

The fighting continued for another five days. On Sept. 6, Cpl. Young found himself in a vicious firefight. "It was hell on Earth," he recalls. Crouched behind a mud wall, the enemy just on the other side, he said a prayer. "All I could think is, 'I'm dead -- I'm dead if they come over the wall.' "

Finally, the Taliban were pushed west, away from a wide corridor made by Canadian combat engineers.

Known as Route Summit, the corridor cuts a straight path north from the Arghandab, through 4.5 kilometres of grape and marijuana fields.

It intersects with Highway One, which links to Kandahar city, the region's main prize.

Still under construction, Route Summit marks the line in this ongoing battle. C Company is there to defend it. Enemy encounters -- or ticks -- still occur. The Canadians now welcome them. "It's nice to be on the defensive for a change," Master Cpl. Niefer says.

Six of their own have been killed since August. Dozens more have been wounded. Most have returned to theatre, including company commander Major Matthew Sprague. He took a piece of shrapnel to the head during the friendly fire incident.

For weeks, home has been a series of ramshackle agricultural compounds such as Strong Point West, or sandbagged strongholds that run along Route Summit.

The soldiers are dog-tired. "We've seen more than our share," says Lieutenant Jeremy Hiltz, 25, before leading another foot patrol. "I've seen it reported back in Canada that we're these emotional wrecks, but that's just bullshit. We keep stepping up to the plate and we hit home runs every day."

Relief may come soon -- or it may not. It almost doesn't matter anymore. "We always get the rod," says Master Cpl. Niefer, referring to the treatment that has seen C Company left to hold the line for an interminably long stretch.

That's not a complaint, he suggests, it's a boast. "We're still out here for a reason. It's because we're the best."

Afghan equation: NATO out, Al Qaeda in
The world would be more vulnerable than ever if the Taliban opens its arms to the jihadists

Rosie DiManno, Toronto Star, Dec. 11

They must be licking their chops these days, the original coven of Al Qaeda principals, plus whatever terrorist alliances have been forged since 9/11.

So many opportunities to re-establish the operational ground that was lost with the invasion of Afghanistan five years ago: Iraq, Somalia, Sudan. And Afghanistan once again, if a handful of NATO nations — those doing all the heavy lifting — bug out under the pressure of domestic politics.

They've always taken the long view, Al Qaeda and its jihadist allies. And they've been perfectly frank about their quixotic intentions — the establishment of a new caliphate across the Middle East and Central Asia. As both bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have stated time and again, in the 18 tapes released, they had every reason to believe the West would buckle and retreat. There is no stomach for casualties and body bags in Western countries. The U.S. backbone is stiffest to losses but, approaching 3,000 military deaths in Iraq, they've clearly had enough of that adventure, absent any glimmer of a resolution.

The U.S. resolve is still firm on Afghanistan, which is why even the radical left of the Democratic party has not called for troop withdrawal from that benighted country. Some 12,000 American troops are serving under NATO command. Canada has a force of about 2,500 in Kandahar, with the next rotation of troops in February: Royal Canadian Regiment out, Vandoos in...

If the Taliban take back Kandahar, whence the original black turban "students'' came, they will not merely impose anew the radical and oppressive version of Islam to which they ascribe and which the vast majority of Afghans loathe, having suffered horribly under this joyless orthodoxy before. They will also, most assuredly, open their arms and their territory to the return of the global jihadists, for whom Afghanistan was so useful — a base for The Base, which is what Al Qaeda loosely means.

Most Canadians don't think Afghanistan is worth dying for, even though the casualties — each one a horror — pale in comparison to combat losses elsewhere, and in our own military history. It matters not that we made grand-sounding promises to Afghans about how we would abide with them, not abandon them again as the U.S. did after the Soviets scrambled, awash in blood. We reserve the right, apparently, to be treacherous and untrustworthy. After all, they're only Afghans, and their despair can't hurt our reputation. And they are despairing, although a recent poll conducted by ABC News and BBC World Service found that nine out of 10 Afghans still considered the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 a good thing for their country.

In a Taliban-seized Kandahar, the long-standing quid pro quo between the ultra-fundamentalists and global jihadists such as Al Qaeda would be rekindled. Their ambitions and plotting have been significantly disrupted, but Al Qaeda — like mercury pooling — would be delighted to coalesce in a refuge that is so familiar, from the caves and compounds that bin Laden loved.

So be very clear that getting out renders no one safer. It would be a world disastrously more vulnerable than it is now...

Military spending far exceeds civilian aid
By SCOTT TAYLOR, ChronicleHerald.ca, Dec. 11

Brig.-Gen. Fraser himself became virtually a household name as a result of the abundant coverage.

Emulating Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier, Fraser won over reporters with his macho demeanour.

Throughout that difficult and trying time, during which our troops found themselves constantly in the media limelight, to my knowledge there was not a single derogatory word published about the Canadian military’s performance...

...it is with some dismay that I see Fraser is embarking upon a speaking tour to "sell the war" to Canadians. He says it’s the media’s fault Canadian citizens don’t see all the good work our troops are doing.

"What was reported this past summer was my operations in Sangin and Helmand — what I did to fight the Taliban," said Fraser. "No one reported the fact that I spent $20-million building roads, schools, wells, and training and monitoring an Afghan corps commander."

This statement is, of course, false.

Canadian journalists have risked their lives to report on the road construction in the Panjwaii district.

After claiming the lives of four Canadian soldiers and wounding a dozen others, construction on this road, at the time of writing, had come to a halt.

The rationale behind building this route was to provide NATO troops with a safer and more direct access into areas controlled by Taliban insurgents. Once the area was secure, the new road would presumably benefit the local villagers, but the impetus behind this project was a tactical solution, not humanitarian aid.

As for the overall figure of $20 million spent on reconstruction projects, this awesome-sounding sum also needs a little perspective.

It is estimated that the incremental cost of our military deployment to Afghanistan is about $4 billion to date and by the time our commitment ends in February 2009, this will have ballooned to more than $9 billion.

According to Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor in November, the cost of sending and equipping the tanks along with engineers and additional artillery assets is $189 million.

As well, Gen. Hillier went out and bought soldiers a Tim Hortons franchise at a cost of $4 million.

The criticism that has been directed at the current mission is that military expenditure far outweighs the money spent on humanitarian aid.

At a current balance of nine parts military to one part civilian aid, this argument appears to have some merit.

Brig.-Gen. Fraser tells his audiences that it would "be nice to have a debate with all the facts on the table."

I couldn’t agree more.

NATO allies need to ‘get real' about Taliban threat, Britain says
Canadian Press, Dec. 11

Britain's Foreign Office minister says reluctant NATO allies need to “get real” about the threat posed by a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

Kim Howells told a diplomatic audience at Canada's Foreign Affairs building in Ottawa that Britons are just as frustrated as Canadians about bearing the brunt of heavy fighting in the country's south.

German, Italian, French and Spanish forces patrol relatively quiet sectors and have refused to allow their troops to engage in combat.

At the NATO summit two weeks ago, those countries agreed to loosen restrictions and promised to help Canadian, British, Dutch and American forces battling the Taliban, but only in emergencies.

Mr. Howells says it seems that there are two classes of NATO troops — those who are allowed to die in order to protect freedom and other soldiers who are not allowed to do so.

Without naming the countries, Mr. Howells says some of the allies are kidding themselves if they believe that they shouldn't get involved just because they haven't been targeted for a major terrorist attack.

Government survival in play over Afghanistan
Randall Palmer, Reuters, 11 Dec 06
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The opposition Bloc Quebecois party raised the possibility on Monday of trying to topple the minority Conservative government early next year over Canada's mission in Afghanistan.  The Bloc, the third largest party in Parliament, said it might try to get the House of Commons to declare non-confidence in the government unless it puts more emphasis on reconstruction in Afghanistan and less on security.  "Maybe if the government refuses to change its mind on that, it is possible that the Bloc will use a confidence motion against the government," Michel Gauthier, the Bloc's House leader, told reporters.

UN Security Council Team Says ISAF Needed, Wanted in Afghanistan
Activity Up in Pakistan Border Areas, ISAF May End Up Protecting Opium Spraying Ops

Tony Prudori, MILNEWS.ca, 10 Dec 06
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A report from a United Nations Security Council team says there is "overwhelming support for the presence of international security forces inside Afghanistan."  The report, "Report of the Security Council Mission to Afghanistan" was compiled by a team of 10 Security Council representatives who visited Afghanistan 11-16 Nov 06.  In addition to meeting with United Nations, NGO and Afghan government officials, the Security Council team met with ISAF Commander General David Richards on 12 Nov for a 45 minute briefing (as well as supper hosted by the General). The team visited, and was briefed by ISAF Regional Command South staff, Kandahar airfield on 14 Nov. From there, they flew the same day to the US-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Qalat in nearby Zabul Province. The 4 Dec 06 report says the team didn't visit Kandahar City becase of security concerns ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Taliban won’t join talks in foreigners’ presence
Daily Times (PAK), 12 Dec 06
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The Taliban on Monday backed away from comments they might join tribal jirgas aimed at ending growing violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Senior spokesman Sayed Tayeb Agha said the rebels would never join such talks as long as foreign soldiers remained in Afghanistan.  “Such jirgas are aimed at protecting American interests only. Such jirgas are neither independent nor do they make independent decisions,” he told Reuters from a secret location.  “The Taliban will not take part in any jirga in the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan because such jirgas have no significance.” ....

A Taliban ministate arises in Pakistan
Carlotta Gall and Ismail Khan, International Herald Tribune, 11 Dec 06
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Pakistan: Islamic militants are using a recent peace deal with the government to consolidate their hold in northern Pakistan, vastly expanding their training of suicide bombers and other recruits and fortifying alliances with Al Qaeda and foreign fighters, diplomats and intelligence officials from several nations say. The result, they say, is virtually a Taliban ministate.  The militants, the officials say, are openly flouting the terms of the September accord in North Waziristan, under which they agreed to end cross- border help for the Taliban insurgency that revived in Afghanistan with new force this year.  The area is becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who not only challenge government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes and spreading their influence to neighboring areas, according to several American and NATO officials, as well as Pakistani and Afghan intelligence officials ....

Pakistan pact with tribesmen falling apart
The Penninsula Online (Qatar), 12 Dec 06
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Pakistani pacts with pro-Taleban militants on the Afghan border have facilitated attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan and allowed the militants to expand influence in Pakistan, a think-tank said.  Instead of appeasing militants, Pakistan must impose the rule of law in its semi-autonomous tribal lands on the border, where Taleban and Al Qaeda sympathisers have sheltered since 2001, disarm the militants and shut their training camps, the International Crisis Group said.  “Despite Pakistani denials, the tribal belt, particularly agencies such as the Waziristans, remains a Taleban sanctuary and a hub for attacks on the US-led coalition and Nato forces and the Afghan government,” the Brussels-based group said in a report to be released yesterday.  Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies, including North and South Waziristan, have never been brought under the writ of any government, including British colonialists who saw the mountainous region as a buffer on the northwestern border of their Indian empire ....

'Jihad equipment is not for personal use': Taliban rules
Declan Walsh, Guardian Online (UK), 11 Dec 06
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A solid set of rules is the bedrock of a successful organisation, as any manager will testify. Afghanistan's Taliban are no different.  Most of the 30 new rules for recruits to jihad, or holy war, are predictably concerned with the finer points of killing and destruction. But others will sound familiar to those in more conventional lines of work - such as directives about using office equipment at home.  "Taliban may not use jihad equipment or property for personal ends," declares rule number nine - perhaps referring to recreational use of AK-47 guns or RPG-7 rocket launchers ....

No smoking - but killing teachers is fine, says new Taleban rulebook
Tim Albone, The Scotsman, 11 Dec 06
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KILLING a teacher is no problem as long as they have received a warning and a solid beating, but taking a beardless boy into your private quarters or spending money without your commander's permission is likely to cause big trouble.  These are just three of the 30 rules the Taleban ruling council have insisted their fighters follow in Afghanistan.  The rules have been approved by "the highest leader of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan", Taleban-speak for Mullah Omar, the one-eyed reclusive leader of the regime who has a £5 million bounty on his head ....