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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread December 2008

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US deaths in Afghanistan drop dramatically
AP foreign, Monday December 1 2008


Associated Press Writer= KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Only one American serviceman died in Afghanistan in November, a dramatic drop from earlier months that the U.S. military attributed to a campaign targeting insurgent leaders, an improvement in Afghan security forces and the onset of winter.

Twice this year, monthly U.S. death tolls in Afghanistan surpassed the monthly toll in Iraq, highlighting the differing trends in the two war zones; security in Iraq has improved while it has deteriorated in Afghanistan.

U.S. troops suffered an average of 21 deaths in Afghanistan each month this year from May to October — by far the deadliest six-month period in Afghanistan for American forces since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The Afghan Defense Ministry does not release fatality figures.

Militants this year have unleashed increasingly powerful roadside bombs and sophisticated, multidirectional ambushes. The deadlier attacks, combined with a record number of U.S. troops patrolling Afghanistan's vast provinces, has this year led to more U.S. military deaths than ever before in Afghanistan — 148.

But the only American military death recorded last month came when a suicide bomber rammed his car into a military convoy Nov. 13 as it was passing through a crowded market in eastern Afghanistan. The blast killed Sgt. Jonnie L. Stiles, 38, who was serving with the Louisiana Army National Guard.

U.S. spokeswoman Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green said a U.S. military campaign to target insurgent leaders and bomb-making cells as well as Pakistani military operations across the border have helped lower levels of violence.

Also, insurgents in Afghanistan, particularly in mountainous areas, typically scale back their operations during the winter months, and that may have contributed to the declining trend, U.S. military spokesman Col. Jerry O'Hara said.

"That's some of it," he said. "But really we attribute it more toward our improvement in our tactics and techniques and procedures, along with the increased capability of the Afghan security forces."

O'Hara said the number of attacks in the Kabul region was 50 percent lower in January to October this year than during the same 10-month period in 2007. "And again, we attribute that to not only the Afghan security forces, but you have to give credit to the Afghan people for their personal involvement in the form of tips and their reports to Afghan security forces," he said.

Eleven U.S. troops died in Afghanistan in November 2007, meaning the year-on-year drop is also significant.

The U.S. still has more than 140,000 troops in Iraq, but violence there has fallen off dramatically in recent months. Over the past six months it has become more dangerous to serve in Afghanistan, where the death rate among U.S. troops has been higher than in Iraq.

A near-record 32,000 American forces are deployed in Afghanistan.

In two months this year, more U.S. forces died in Afghanistan than Iraq, even though there are four times as many Americans deployed in Iraq. In July, 20 U.S. forces died in Afghanistan; 16 died in Iraq. In September, 16 died in Afghanistan; 14 died in Iraq.

Sixteen U.S. troops died in Iraq last month.

O'Hara said the military mourns every death and that the number of casualties is not a measure of effectiveness for the military.

"Our measures of effectiveness are increased security, increases in development, increases in people's attitudes toward their own well being," said O'Hara. "And certainly we're always adjusting our tactics based on what we see on the battlefield and what we are able to learn through intelligence about the insurgents."

The commander of NATO, Gen. John Craddock, said last week that the Taliban insurgency was growing more "virulent," saying violence jumped by 40 percent this year. Last year 111 U.S. troops died in Afghanistan, meaning deaths this year will likely have increased between 30 percent and 40 percent by the end of the year.

More than 5,900 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency related violence in Afghanistan this year, according to an Associated Press count of figures from Afghan and Western officials.

On Monday, a suicide bomber apparently trying to target Afghan police blew himself up in a crowded market in southern Afghanistan, killing eight civilians and two policemen, said Helmand provincial police chief Asadullah Sherzad.

In Kabul on Sunday, a suicide bomber attacked a German Embassy vehicle, killing two Afghan civilians.

Taliban and other militant suicide bombers frequently target Afghan and international military forces in their suicide attacks, but many more Afghan civilians typically die in the attacks than do government officials or military personnel.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Elsewhere on Monday, gunmen on a motorbike killed a district chief in central Afghanistan, a provincial spokesman said.

It was not clear who was responsible, but Taliban militants regularly assassinate government officials in their attempt to weaken the grip of President Hamid Karzai's administration in the provinces.

Taliban commander, district chief killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Continued violence and conflicts have claimed the lives of a district chief and a Taliban local commander in Afghanistan, officials said Monday.

   Militants riding a motor bike shot dead Abdul Rahim Disiwal, the chief of Andar district in Ghazni province of southeastern Afghanistan, Monday morning, spokesman of provincial administration Ismael Jihangir said.

   The late Disiwal, according to Jihangir was on his way to office when the rebels opened fire killing on the spot.

   In another development, Afghan security forces raided the hideout of a Taliban commander named Ghazi in Sarobi district 60 km east of capital city Kabul and eliminated him.

   "Security forces stormed Ghazi's hiding place late Saturday night and killed him along some of his armed men," police chief of Sarobi district Abdul Jamil Shamal said.

   Taliban insurgents have yet to make comment.

   Spiraling conflicts and Taliban-linked insurgency have claimed around 5,000 people with some 2,000 civilians so far this year in strife-torn Afghanistan while Taliban insurgents have vowed to intensify assaults against interests of Afghan government and international troops before the coming winter.


Suicide Bomber Kills 7 in Afghanistan

Published: December 1, 2008

KABUL, Afghanistan — A man wrapped in explosives approached a police car passing through a crowded marketplace in the southern province of Helmand on Monday and detonated himself, killing at least seven people and wounding at least 27, the local authorities said.

The attack, coming on the busiest shopping day of the week in the town of Musa Qala, seemed intended to inflict the highest number of casualties possible. Five of the dead were civilians and two were police officers, while all but five of the wounded were civilians, said Asadullah Sherzad, the police chief of Helmand Province.

Helmand, with a vast opium poppy crop and an entrenched Taliban insurgency, has been one of the most violent provinces in Afghanistan. While the suicide bombing on Monday had the hallmarks of the Taliban, the group did not immediately claim responsibility.

Suicide bombers in Afghanistan have usually attacked Afghan and international security forces, though the bombings usually cause more casualties among civilians than among security forces.

In the past few years NATO and Afghan forces have had extraordinary difficulty securing Musa Qala in the face of a resurgent Taliban.

British forces, who were given military responsibility for Helmand Province, pulled out of Musa Qala in the fall of 2006 under an agreement with local elders who promised to ensure that the Taliban fighters would stay out of the town.

But three months later, the Taliban overran the town and dismissed the ruling council of elders. The district became a Taliban haven until British forces retook the area in December 2007. The district remains hemmed in by the Taliban.

In Ghazni Province in central Afghanistan, gunmen on two motorbikes shot and killed a district chief early Monday, the provincial spokesman said.

The gunmen attacked the district chief, Abdul Rahim Desewal, as he left his house in the city of Ghazni, said the spokesman, Ismail Jahangir. Mr. Desewal’s bodyguard was wounded in the attack and died later at a hospital, Mr. Jahangir said.

The police detained five suspects and found two AK-47s and two motorbikes thought to have been used in the crime, Mr. Jahangir said.

Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting from Kabul.


Fallen hero starts the journey home from Afghanistan
Ian McPhedran
December 02, 2008 12:00am

THE body of Lt Michael Fussell has started its long journey home from the violent mountains of Afghanistan to the tranquillity of the NSW North Coast.

The 25-year-old died instantly last Thursday when an improvised explosive device blew up as he walked past during a foot patrol.

His casket was carried on a patrol vehicle from the Special Operations Task Group compound inside Camp Holland at Tarin Kowt to a waiting RAAF C-130 Hercules transport plane.

As a lament from a lone piper echoed across the barren landscape, the vehicle passed between a guard of honour consisting of two rows of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops from Australia, the Netherlands and Afghanistan.

His mates from the 4th Battalion, wearing distinctive beards, then placed the coffin in the back of the plane and the ramp ceremony was over.

A seventh dead Australian soldier was on his way home.

At the start of the ceremony at an outdoor chapel, special forces commander

Lt-Col Paul Kenny described Lt Fussell as a highly regarded and respected officer who had served with distinction during his brief career.

"He lived and died for the enduring Australian values of freedom and justice," Lt-Col Kenny said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd also paid tribute in Parliament yesterday to the young commando from the Sydney-based 4th Battalion.

"Those of us who have been abroad and met and spent time with our men and women in uniform know the type of bloke this fellow was, a very great Australian," Mr Rudd said.


'I'm shaking as I'm telling you the story'
Captured by the Taliban

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The young journalist says he trembles as he remembers his days in Taliban custody.

Aziz Popal, 25, returned home to Kandahar yesterday, one of two local reporters set free by the insurgents who grabbed them on the country's main highway last week.

His story was exceptional only because he was brave enough to tell it. Afghans are captured by insurgents and bandits on a daily basis, but their cases are rarely publicized. High-profile foreigners who survived kidnappings in recent weeks, such as the CBC's Mellissa Fung and Dutch journalist Joanie de Rijke, become the subjects of massive hunts by security forces. But ordinary Afghans must find their own way to freedom, using whatever help they can muster from friends and relatives - or only good luck. "I'm shaking as I'm telling you the story," Mr. Popal said by telephone last night. "They didn't beat us. But mentally I'm still not okay."

Mr. Popal covers the deteriorating security in Afghanistan as a reporter for Hewad TV, a private station in Kandahar, so he knew the risks when his relatives called him in Kabul and told him to return home urgently. He went to the ticket offices of two commercial airlines that fly to Kandahar, but all flights were full in the busy season before the Eid holiday. His family still insisted he get home, he said, because his mother was feeling ill. "I was in a hurry and under a lot of pressure," he said.

He decided to try the dangerous six-hour drive with a colleague, Dawa Khan Menapal of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Afghan professionals who travel that road sometimes strip themselves of anything that might link them with the foreign presence in the country, leaving behind their ID cards, hiding personal electronics, and clearing numbers from their cell phones. But the journalists didn't have time for such preparations, and climbed into a Toyota Corolla with all the accessories of their profession: notebook, camera, and mini-disc audio recorder.

Near a bridge in Zabul province, they were confronted by five men with big beards, armed with Kalashnikov rifles, heavy machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The insurgents took away their phones and confined them in a nearby village with two other travellers caught in the same roadblock. Local residents gave them shelter, dried meat, soup and blankets.

Only about a fifth of the houses in the village were occupied, he said. Villagers who remained appeared to be helping the insurgents, but they might have been assisting out of fear. Residents told him the Taliban had been regularly using the settlement as an informal prison, and had executed many people suspected of collaborating with the government. "That area is totally controlled by the Taliban," he said. "Some time ago the Taliban killed some people in the village, so people were afraid of them." He also suggested a different reason why the locals might be helping the insurgents: "They're very religious people and the Taliban are doing Islamic works."

Bandits and armed groups allied with the Taliban sometimes capture people on the same highway, but Mr. Popal said he felt sure his captors belonged to the central Taliban organization. They did not steal any money from him, he said, and they spoke politely. "We weren't tortured, nothing, not even harsh words," he said.

Still, the journalists felt anxious. The Taliban had celebrated their capture because they initially believed they had caught reporters who work for major news outlets, and they hoped for a ransom or a prisoner swap. They waited three days as their captors spoke by phone with their bosses in Pakistan, trying to determine their fate. The Taliban finally decided to set them free after establishing their identities as local journalists, he said.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed that they were released unconditionally. Their captors gave back all their possessions and they drove home safely, Mr. Popal said, adding that they might have suffered worse if the Taliban had connected them with international media.

Foreign journalists face increasing risks in Afghanistan; some correspondents have responded by limiting their travels in the dangerous south and east, instead relying on information from Afghan staff and local wire reporters. But many Afghan journalists are now curtailing their own movements, too, hurting their ability to monitor the war.

Security consultant Sami Kovanen counted 230 kidnappings in Afghanistan so far this year, as of Nov. 23, and many others are unreported.

"Life is very dangerous now in Afghanistan," Mr. Popal said. "If I get a chance, I will stay in a foreign country for a while, until Afghanistan becomes normal again."

NATO trucks attacked in Pakistan; bomber kills 8
AP foreign, Monday December 1 2008


Pakistan (AP) - Militants destroyed trucks ferrying Humvees to Western forces in Afghanistan on Monday in an attack that killed two people and underscored the vulnerability of the crucial supply line.

The raid on a terminal in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar came as the country faces rising tensions with its eastern neighbor India in the wake of the terror attacks in Mumbai.

New Delhi has said the attack was carried out by Pakistani gunmen. Islamabad has said the militants had no link to the government and has promised to cooperate with the investigation, but the accusations have triggered fears of a flare-up between the nuclear-armed rivals that could severely affect the U.S.-led antiterror campaign in the region.

Peshawar, which sits along the supply route from Pakistan to Afghanistan, has seen an upsurge in violence in recent weeks, including the slaying of an American working on a U.S.-funded aid project.

The city lies close to the lawless, tribal regions along the Afghan border, where Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaida leaders are believed to be hiding out.

Several gunmen fired rockets and automatic weapons at the Faisal terminal, a depot on the edge of the city for trucks that carry vehicles and other supplies. A driver and a clerk died in the attack, which also destroyed 12 trucks, said police officer Ahsanullah Khan, giving no more details.

An AP Television News reporter saw two Humvee military vehicles on board the trucks that were gutted by flames in the attack.

Up to 75 percent of the supplies for Western forces in landlocked Afghanistan pass through Pakistan after being unloaded from ships at the Arabian sea port of Karachi.

NATO says it is investigating alternative supply routes through Central Asian nations to reach its forces, which are fighting a resurgent Taliban seven years after the fall of the Taliban.

The alliance and U.S. officials say losses along the supply route are not affecting their operations in the country in any way, however.

In early November, suspected Taliban militants hijacked several trucks carrying Humvees near the Khyber Pass and paraded them for TV cameras, in what was seen as major propaganda boost for the insurgents.

Pakistan halted traffic along the road for several days while it arranged for armed troops to guard the slow-moving convoys.

Al-Qaida and Taliban militants in the northwestern border region are blamed for rising attacks in Pakistan and also in Afghanistan.

Pakistani troops are battling the insurgents in at least two regions, including the Swat Valley, the scene of a suicide attack Monday on a security checkpoint that killed 8 people and wounded 40, authorities said.

The bomber detonated his car while queuing up at the checkpoint, an officer at the Swat media center said on customary condition of anonymity. The identities of the dead were not known.

Meanwhile, fighting between rival political and ethnic gangs continued in parts of Karachi, raising the death toll to 32 in three days of violence, said city police chief Waseem Ahmed.

Gang fighting is common in Karachi, the largest city and commercial hub of Pakistan.


Canadians have 'obligation' to step in
Despite troubled mission in Afghanistan, poll finds majority still believes country has a duty to intervene in man-made humanitarian crises such as ethnic cleansing, starvation and terrorism


December 1, 2008

Canadians are keenly aware of international events and are strong supporters of humanitarian intervention in troubled foreign countries, according to new polling data.

Seventy-two per cent of people polled by the Innovative Research Group last month thought the international community had an obligation to step in and stop man-made humanitarian crises, while 18 per cent did not and the rest were not sure or would not answer.

Support for such action, the nature of which was not specified in the poll, was highest among those aged 35 to 64 and was almost evenly split between men and women.

Pollsters also sought to test the strength of respondents' convictions by presenting arguments for and against international action and then re-posing the question. The results were essentially the same.

"The overall aggregate numbers stayed quite stable," said Greg Lyle, head of IRG. "That's an indication that people had already considered these arguments and knew where they stood."

The poll question mimics a resolution that will be debated tonight in Toronto. Peace activist Mia Farrow and Gareth Evans, president and CEO of the International Crisis Group, will square off against John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and retired general Rick Hillier, former chief of defence staff.

Their exchanges, part of a series called the Munk Debates, will be broadcast live at Cineplex Odeon theatres across the country.

Rudyard Griffiths, co-organizer of the debate, said the polling data was striking in light of Canada's commitment in southern Afghanistan.

"This is not an academic exercise for Canadians," he said. "They've agreed with that resolution against the backdrop of Canada's increasingly difficult, if not troubled, mission in Afghanistan."

The mission was not initially billed as a humanitarian intervention but its backers have increasingly used the language of intervention to shore up support. Schooling for girls, the promotion of democracy and protecting Afghans from tyranny are used as arguments for Canada staying in Afghanistan.

"Humanitarian intervention is not peacekeeping," Mr. Griffiths noted. "You're taking a side to impose some semblance of order and stability."

A separate IRG poll, released Friday, gave insight into the willingness of Canadians to support economic sanctions, humanitarian aid and military action. The questions asked in the poll did not specify which countries or international organizations should perform the intervention.

Military action garnered the lowest support of the three options, but the majority agreed it was justified in a number of circumstances. These included ethnic cleansing, widespread human-rights abuses, terrorism, large-scale non-combatant deaths due to civil war, mass starvation and illegal weapons of mass destruction programs. Forty-four per cent of respondents supported military action against countries that denied basic democratic freedoms.

Although Taliban-era Afghanistan fulfilled a number of these criteria, the mission there remains controversial, particularly in Quebec.

Queen's University professor Douglas Bland said the role has become so controversial that "most" Canadians now oppose the mission, and that this will be "Canada's last war."

Writing last week in The Globe and Mail, he said Canada went into Afghanistan not knowing how costly it would be in terms of "dollars, people, material, and political capital."

"No government will again commit Canada to any mission even suggestive of the situation previous governments committed themselves to in Afghanistan," concluded Prof. Bland, chair of the Defence Studies Program at the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University in Kingston.

"These types of missions will be avoided not merely because of their inherent costs and complications, but because there is no domestic political advantage in committing Canada to them."

But Mr. Lyle interpreted the IRG polling to indicate a greater willingness for action.

"[Canadians] think we have an obligation to do things and we think we can do things," he said. "It's a pattern of stepping up in the world. Canadians are ready to get out there and make a difference in the world."

The two polls were conducted by telephone between Nov. 5 and 10. They each surveyed 1,015 people and each has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The Munk Debates are semi-annual evening public policy debates backed by Peter Munk, founder and chair of the world's largest gold miner, Barrick Gold Corp.


German general breaks silence on Afghanistan
By Judy Dempsey
Published: November 30, 2008

BERLIN: Breaking with a military tradition of keeping silent about policy, a top German general has branded his country's efforts in Afghanistan a failure, singling out its poor record in training the Afghan police and allocating development aid.

The comments came from General Hans-Christoph Ammon, head of the army's elite special commando unit, or KSK, whose officers are in Afghanistan fighting alongside U.S. forces against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Germany was responsible for training the Afghan police, but the German Interior Ministry, led by the conservative Wolfgang Schäuble, has come under repeated criticism from the United States and other NATO allies for providing too few experts and inappropriate training.

The training scheme was "a miserable failure," Ammon told DPA, the German press agency, after describing the German record in Afghanistan to a gathering last week of a reservists' association. The government had provided a mere €12 million for training the Afghan Army and police while the United States has already given more than $1 billion, he said.

"At that rate, it would take 82 years to have a properly trained police force," he said. More damaging for Germany's reputation, Ammon said, was that its police-training mission was considered such a "disaster" that the United States and EU had taken over responsibility.

The Defense Ministry said Ammon was expressing his personal views. Even so, because such views are rare, security experts said they showed the level of frustration building among senior military officers over German reluctance to provide adequate financing for Afghan mission or even explain to the public why Germany has 4,500 soldiers there.

Neither Chancellor Angela Merkel nor her conservative defense minister, Franz-Josef Jung, have been willing to debate the issue publicly.

For the first time since German soldiers were sent to Afghanistan six years ago, Jung referred in November to the "Gefallene," or fallen soldiers, who had died there.

Until now, any German soldiers killed in Afghanistan were referred to as casualties. In addition, the word "Krieg," or war, has been banned from use in any Defense Ministry public statements or speeches, say advisers to the ministry.

"I keep saying that it is time the public was told why we are in Afghanistan, what is happening there and what we are doing there," said Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, general secretary of the Christian Social Union, the allied party of the Christian Democrats led by Merkel.

Merkel, who has visited Afghanistan just once in three years in office, said in an interview with the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that she was prepared to defend the mission in Afghanistan in the national election campaign next year. That could be a high-risk strategy given that the mission is highly unpopular with the public.

The foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democrat who will run against Merkel to become chancellor, supports the mission.

But as foreign minister, he has to strike a balance between defending the war and taking account of the unpopularity of it. The pacifist wing in his party opposes keeping German troops there, particularly given the increasing attacks.

Two Afghan civilians were killed Sunday by a suicide bomber after he had strapped explosives to his body, targeting a vehicle used by German military attachés, the Afghan police said. No Germans were wounded.

Merkel, who will give a major speech Monday at the congress of her Christian Democratic Union party, is coming under pressure from a small group of defense and foreign policy advisers inside and outside her party to address the subject of Afghanistan.

The matter is considered urgent because President-elect Barack Obama has made Afghanistan a foreign policy priority. NATO officials said last week that they were expecting the incoming U.S. administration to ask NATO allies to contribute more troops and experts in order to beat back the Taliban and train up an Afghan Army and police force.

Only then, Obama has said, can the Afghan forces take responsibility for the security of their own country.


Over 60 Taliban militants killed in Afghanistan
13:30  01/ 12/ 2008

KABUL, December 1 (RIA Novosti) - Around 60 militants belonging to the radical Islamic Taliban movement have been killed in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours, a spokesman for the country's Defense Ministry said on Monday.

The spokesman said that 33 militants were killed in the southern Helmand province, and that others were eliminated in military operations in the eastern provinces of Kandahar and Farah, as well as the western Ghazni province. In addition, 17 militants were arrested in the eastern province of Pactiv.

An Islamic Party of Afghanistan warlord who may have be responsible for an attack which left 10 French soldiers dead in August was also killed in an operation in the Sarobi district about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the capital Kabul.

Three civilians were killed and six injured in an attack by a suicide bomber on a German embassy convoy in the Afghani capital on Sunday. The embassy staff were travelling in an armored vehicle and escaped without injury.

Taliban militants attacked on Sunday an ISAF convoy in the central Wardak province, but no casualties among foreign troops have been reported.

An ISAF military base near the city of Meydan Shahr in the same province also came under rocket fire. Again, no casualties have been reported.

This year has seen the worst rise in violence in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led international force overthrew the hard-line Islamic Taliban movement in 2001. U.S. president-elect Barack Obama has pledged to boost the U.S. troop presence in the war-ravaged country, and has also said he will order a step up of attacks on militants on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, including raids into Pakistan.

" If the United States has Al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights," said Obama during a presidential debate, "and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out."

His comments followed a speech in August, 2007 during which he said that the U.S. under his presidency "would send troops into Pakistan to hunt down terrorists even without local permission if warranted."
I'm very interested to see these munk debates but there aren't any cineplex theatres around here. If anyone is going to go watch them, could they post on here how they turned out?

Afghan Strategy Poses Stiff Challenge for Obama
NY Times, Dec. 1, by Michael R. Gordon
Mr. Obama and his aides have yet to outline a strategy for precisely how many reinforcements would be sent and how specifically they would be employed.

But the Pentagon is already planning to send more than 20,000 additional troops in response to a request from Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials say that force would include four combat brigades, an aviation brigade equipped with attack and troop-carrying helicopters, reconnaissance units, support troops and trainers for the Afghan Army and the police.

The first of the combat brigades is to deploy in the eastern part of Afghanistan, while the rest of the brigades are expected to be sent to southern and southwestern Afghanistan. All told, it would increase the number of American troops in Afghanistan to about 58,000 from the current level of 34,000, and add to the approximately 30,000 other foreign troops who are operating there under a NATO-led command.

The Pentagon schedule for sending the troops bears little resemblance to the 2007 buildup in Iraq. Pentagon officials said it would take 12 to 18 months to deploy [emphasis added] the reinforcements. (In contrast, more than five brigades were sent to Iraq for the surge within five months...

But compare with this, Oct. 29:
The Pentagon has approved the deployment of one additional combat battalion and one Army brigade, or about 4,000 troops, set to arrive in Afghanistan by January. Commanders have already requested three more combat brigades -- 10,500 to 12,000 troops -- but those reinforcements depend on further reductions from Iraq and are unlikely to arrive until spring or summer [emphasis added], according to senior defense officials. Now, U.S. commanders are asking the Pentagon for 5,000 to 10,000 additional support forces to help them tackle the country's unique geographic and logistical challenges...

South Asia is biggest threat to U.S., Obama says
Globe and Mail, Dec. 2
"The situation in South Asia, as a whole, and the safe havens for terrorists that have been established there represent the single most important threat against the American people."

Although he didn't name Pakistan, Mr. Obama left little doubt that he was referring to that country where large sections remain beyond the control of the government.

"We're going to have to mobilize our resources and focus our attention on defeating al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and any other extremist groups that intend to target American citizens," Mr. Obama said.

Echoing Mr. Gates, who is now expected to remain for at least another year at the Pentagon, Mr. Obama said: "As Bob said not too long ago, Afghanistan is where the war on terror began, and it is where it must end."..

Jock Stirrup: More British troops could be sent to Afghanistan
More British troops will be sent to Afghanistan next year, the head of the Armed Forces has signalled.

Daily Telegraph, Dec. 1

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defence staff, said that more service personnel could be deployed in Afghanistan as Britain withdraws from Iraq.

But he insisted that the additional force sent to Afghanistan must be smaller than the 4,000 troops that will soon leave Iraq.

Air Chief Marshal Stirrup's remarks, in a lecture at the Royal United Services Institute, come as US President-Elect Barack Obama urges a major Western reinforcement in Afghanistan.

Britain currently has 8,100 troops there, compared to 4,000 in Iraq.

The defence chief said the UK was now "close" to a "dramatic" reduction in numbers in Iraq, but insisted that there could be no "one-for-one" transfer from there to Afghanistan. He also repeated calls for Britain's overall foreign commitments to reduce.

But in a shift from previous statements, he added: "I'm not saying that we couldn't or shouldn't do more in Afghanistan if we judge that to be necessary."..

US defence officials are believed to have suggested that the UK should send more than 2,000 more troops to Afghanistan in the New Year, when British generals are due to assume command of Nato forces in southern Afghanistan.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, last week revealed that British ministers are willing to consider Mr Obama's plans. "If there are requests for help, we'll look at them hard," Mr Miliband told the Daily Telegraph.

Air Chief Marshal Stirrup and other Forces chiefs had previously appeared cool about a bigger Afghan force. His comments on Monday night remove any obstacle to more British troops being deployed in the New Year.

In his lecture, the CDS gave a stark assessment of Nato's work in Afghanistan. "We shouldn't be satisfied with our progress in 2008," he said.

In particular, he said the Taliban are winning on "information operations," successfully spreading propaganda about civilian casualties caused by Nato forces and leaving Afghan civilians frightened and insecure.

He said: "They've beaten us to the punch on numerous occasions, and by doing so they've magnified the sense of difficulty and diminished the sense of progress. This is down in part to their skill, and in part to our own failings."

Air Chief Marshal Stirrup also urged politicians and voters to keep a sense of perspective about what can be achieved in Afghanistan.

Referring to Afghanistan as "in many respects a Medieval country," he said the best the West can hope for is to help the country make gradual and modest progress towards security and democracy.

"Terms like winning and victory have no place in the lexicon there," he said.

Articles found November 3, 2008

Afghanistan Says It Will Sign Cluster Bomb Treaty
By WALTER GIBBS and KIRK SEMPLE Published: December 3, 2008
Article Link

OSLO, Dec. 3 — In a last-minute change, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan agreed on Wednesday to join some 90 other nations signing a treaty banning the use of the cluster munitions that have devastated his country in recent years.

The decision appeared to reflect Mr. Karzai’s growing independence from the Bush administration, which has opposed the treaty and, according to a senior Afghan official who requested anonymity following standard diplomatic protocol, had urged Mr. Karzai not to sign it.

“Until this morning, Afghanistan was not going to be a signatory,” said Jawed Ludin, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the Scandinavian countries and the leader of its delegation here. He said the president’s change of heart came as a result of pressure by human rights organizations and cluster-bomb victims, including Soraj Ghulam Habib, a 17-year-old boy from the city of Herat who lost both legs when he accidentally stepped on an explosive cluster remnant seven years ago.

Mr. Ludin’s announcement was greeted by raucous cheers in Oslo’s City Hall, where the signing ceremony began Wednesday after two years of diplomatic work by Norway. By the end of the day 91 nations — including 18 of 26 NATO members — had signed the treaty, officially called the Convention on Cluster Muntions, which bars adherents from using, producing, selling or stockpiling cluster munitions.

Norway’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, said he expected several more nations to sign on Thursday. Among them, however, will not be the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and several Middle Eastern states. But Mr. Gahr Stoere said universal compliance was not necessary for the cluster-bomb treaty to work

“What we’ve adopted today is going to create profound change,” he said. “If you use or stockpile cluster weapons after today you will be breaking a new international norm.”

Whether dropped from aircraft or fired from artillery, cluster bombs can scatter dozens or even hundreds of smaller explosives across an area the size of a football field. Some bomblets fail to explode upon hitting the ground and, like landmines, can remain a deadly hazard to children, farmers and other civilians long after a conflict ends.
More on link

French aid worker freed in Afghanistan
3 hours ago
Article Link

PARIS (AP) — A French aid worker kidnapped at gunpoint in the Afghan capital and later seen in an emotional hostage video was released by his captors Wednesday and is "doing well," President Nicolas Sarkozy announced.

Dany Egreteau, a 32-year-old worker for Solidarite Laique, or Secular Solidarity, was captured by gunmen in Kabul on Nov. 3 as he drove to work with another aid worker who managed to escape. An Afghan who tried to prevent the kidnapping was killed.

"I rejoice over his liberation, which happened several minutes ago," Sarkozy said in a surprise announcement while on a visit to Compiegne, north of Paris.

"He is doing well. His family is being notified," the president said, adding that medical exams were being conducted before he is returned to France on Thursday.

"We had been very concerned for him," Sarkozy added.

Egreteau has appeared in a video with a rifle pressed to each side of his head and chains around his legs. In the video, obtained by news agencies in Afghanistan on Nov. 26, Egreteau, streaked with dirt, pleaded for his release, barely seeming to open his eyes.

"I have been here for the last eight days, fully in the black," he said, his voice trembling at times.

He referred to a ransom demand, begging for someone to pay it.
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US forces kill 10 Taliban militants in Afghanistan
December 03, 2008 10:56 EST
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The military says U.S. troops killed 10 Taliban militants during operations in southern and central Afghanistan yesterday.

In a statement, the military says a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol was doing reconnaissance in southern Helmand province when militants attacked from multiple positions using small-arms, indirect and rocket fire. Seven militants were killed in the battle.

The other clash took place in Ghazni province, where U.S. troops were targeting a militant leader coordinating Taliban activities in the province. They killed three militants during a firefight.

Meanwhile, at a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan, a hearing continues into allegations that two U.S. soldiers mistreated a detainee in August. They are facing an Article 32 hearing, similar to a civilian grand jury investigation, to determine whether they should be brought to trial.
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The War On Buggery
December 2, 2008
Article Link

Homosexuality is a dirty little secret in southern Afghanistan, and this has become a big issue in Canada. Recently, several Canadian soldiers have complained to  chaplains that troops were ordered to ignore incidents of Afghan soldiers buggering young boys. Now there is a public uproar in Canada over the issue.

Foreign troops operating in southern Afghanistan quickly learn that this is a place where men are men, even if they are sexually attracted to other men, and especially boys. Other Afghans know about this, and a favorite bit of humor on the subject asks, "why do male birds fly over Kandahar flapping only one wing?" The punch line is, "so they can use their other wing to protect their rear end." Naturally, foreign troops are told to be careful with local ways, and not offend Afghans by mocking or criticizing local customs that offend, or amuse, foreign sensibilities.
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IEDs on highways greet rare shura for Afghan women in Panjwaii
1 day ago
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — In what was once a hotbed of Taliban activity, the burka-clad women filed slowly into a local community centre, eager for a rare chance to voice their opinions in a society dominated by men.

They were on hand for a women's shura in the traditionally conservative village of Bazar-e Panjwaii, a place that has borne witness to countless battles over the decades - from fighting off invading Soviets to the more recent clashes between insurgents and Canadian soldiers.

Shuras, also known as tribal or village councils, have long played an important role in Afghan society. Usually comprised of respected male elders, shuras are gatherings where conflicts are resolved, community issues are debated, and steps are taken to meet community needs.

The notion of an all-women shura is counter-intuitive in a country where females are largely subjugated. But numerous women's shuras have taken place in Afghanistan over the years, although none in the birthplace of the Taliban - until now.

"They trickled in at the start," said Maj. Steve Nolan, the OMLT (Operational Mentoring Liason Team) commander, which trains and mentors members of the Afghan National Army.
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Articles found November , 2008

Governor Raufi of Kandahar fired: reports
Updated Thu. Dec. 4 2008 7:29 AM ET CTV.ca News
Article Link

The governor of Kandahar, the southern Afghan province where about 2,000 Canadian soldiers are stationed, says he has been sacked.

Rahmatullah Raufi also says powerful people in the region have sabotaged his work.

"Last night I received a call from Kabul saying that you are fired," Raufi told The Associated Press.

"Personally I do not want to work either, because some of the powerful people (in Kandahar) were creating problems in my job."

He did not say who fired him, according to AP.

Last month, Raufi burned a stash of drugs, including heroin and hashish. He said drugs had "burned" his country, and this why he torched the contraband. Critics have accused the Afghan national government of not doing enough to curb the drug trade.

Raufi became governor in August, taking over for a controversial predecessor.

Asadullah Khalid, the former governor, was mired in corruption and torture allegations for much of his tenure.

In fact, Canada's former Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier committed a major faux pas earlier this year when he publicly raised questions about Khalid. Bernier had called on Afghanistan President Hamad Karzai to replace the controversial figure.

Canada's Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ron Hoffmann gave a muted response to Raufi's reported dismissal, according to The Canadian Press.
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Canada Up-Armoring its LAV-IIIs
03-Dec-2008 13:13 EST
Article Link

The Government of Canada recently awarded “EODC Engineering, Developing and Licencing Inc.” of Ottawa, Canada C$ 81.5 million (about $65.5 million ) worth of contracts to provide for add-on-armour kits, modules and spares for its LAV III wheeled armored personnel carriers. LAV-III vehicles are known as Piranha-III in Europe, and are the base platform for the USA’s Stryker family of vehicles. Canadian LAV-IIIs have seen extensive use on the front lines of Afghanistan, where they have both achieved important successes and demonstrated key limitations.

The first, C$ 68 million contract, includes kits, modules, and spares for LAV III supplemental armor, as well as the repair and overhaul of their current modules and kits. An additional contract estimated at C$ 13.5 million was also awarded to EODC to provide “an Improvised Explosive Device Protection Kit.” The government release adds that EODC is the sole-source supplier because it owns the intellectual property rights. As the CASR think tank points out, Engineering Office Deisenroth Canada (EODC) is a subsidiary of Germany’s IBD Deisenroth; and IBD Deisenroth’s site makes it clear that Canadian LAVs have already started to use AMAP-IED armor
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Canada doubles number of mentors for Afghan Uniformed Police
4 hours ago
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The Afghan Uniformed Police will be getting more help now that the number of civilian police team members in Kandahar province is being doubled.

RCMP Supt. Joe McAllister said the number of officers, who will mentor AUP officers, is increasing from 12 to 24. A batch of new mentors has arrived from training and will be in Kandahar city and the Canadian forward operating bases in the Zhari and Panjwaii districts for the next year.

McAllister said the training of the AUP failed in the past because they were given a brief amount of instruction and then left on their own to deal with the Taliban.

He said the police remain what he calls a "soft target" for the Taliban but there is still no lack of volunteers to join up and wear the uniform
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Double suicide attacks kills five in Afghanistan: official
4 hours ago
Article Link

KABUL (AFP) — Two suicide attacks against a counter narcotics office and the intelligence agency Thursday killed at least five people and wounded ten others in eastern Afghanistan, an official said.

A suicide attacker rammed his explosives-laden Toyota pick up truck into the entrance of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in Khost city, the capital of Khost province, killing two agency employees.

"The suicide car bomb at the intelligence office martyred two intelligence workers and wounded three others," Tahir Khan Sabari, the deputy governor of Khost province, told AFP.

Separately, another suicide bomber wearing an Afghan army uniform and carrying an AK-47 machine gun tried to get into the adjacent counter narcotics building but was stopped by police guards who shot at him, he said.

"Police fired at him and explosives strapped to his body went off, killing three policemen and wounding seven others including three civilians," Sabari said.

Sabari said police were still looking for other militants who were also wearing army uniform and were reported to have entered the NDS offices right after the first suicide blast.
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NDP will not oppose Afghan war while in coalition
14 hours ago
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OTTAWA — New Democrats will stop opposing Canada's war in Afghanistan while the party is in league with the Liberals, the NDP's deputy leader declared Wednesday.

It's a significant concession for a party that has been the standard-bearer for the peace movement in Canada.

"The NDP is putting aside its differences that have existed historically with the Liberals on such issues as Afghanistan," said Thomas Mulcair, the party's only MP in Quebec.

"Because we understand, in the interest of the Canadian population, the overarching principle is that we act on the economy and in the interest of Canadian families."

In order to seal its coalition with the Liberals on Monday, NDP Leader Jack Layton gave up the party's demand for a reversal of planned corporate tax cuts, but made no mention of the war.

Asked this week whether their position on Afghanistan had changed, several New Democrat MPs laughed nervously and ducked the question.

Political observers have said the fourth-place party, long-known as the conscience of Parliament, has to make key compromises to keep the coalition together.
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Strategic Motivations for the Mumbai Attack (longish piece--the conclusion)
Stratfor.com, Dec. 1
It is possible that New Delhi will make a radical proposal to Rice, however. Given that the Pakistani government is incapable of exercising control in its own country, and given that Pakistan now represents a threat to both U.S. and Indian national security, the Indians might suggest a joint operation with the Americans against Pakistan.

What that joint operation might entail is uncertain, but regardless, this is something that Rice would reject out of hand and that Obama would reject in January 2009. Pakistan has a huge population and nuclear weapons, and the last thing Bush or Obama wants is to practice nation-building in Pakistan. The Indians, of course, will anticipate this response. The truth is that New Delhi itself does not want to engage deep in Pakistan to strike at militant training camps and other Islamist sites. That would be a nightmare. But if Rice shows up with a request for Indian restraint and no concrete proposal — or willingness to entertain a proposal — for solving the Pakistani problem, India will be able to refuse on the grounds that the Americans are asking India to absorb a risk (more Mumbai-style attacks) without the United States’ willingness to share in the risk.
Setting the Stage for a New Indo-Pakistani Confrontation

That will set the stage for another Indo-Pakistani confrontation. India will push forces forward all along the Indo-Pakistani frontier, move its nuclear forces to an alert level, begin shelling Pakistan, and perhaps — given the seriousness of the situation — attack short distances into Pakistan and even carry out airstrikes deep in Pakistan. India will demand greater transparency for New Delhi in Pakistani intelligence operations. The Indians will not want to occupy Pakistan; they will want to occupy Pakistan’s security apparatus.

Naturally, the Pakistanis will refuse that. There is no way they can give India, their main adversary, insight into Pakistani intelligence operations. But without that access, India has no reason to trust Pakistan. This will leave the Indians in an odd position: They will be in a near-war posture, but will have made no demands of Pakistan that Islamabad can reasonably deliver and that would benefit India. In one sense, India will be gesturing. In another sense, India will be trapped by making a gesture on which Pakistan cannot deliver. The situation thus could get out of hand.

In the meantime, the Pakistanis certainly will withdraw forces from western Pakistan and deploy them in eastern Pakistan. That will mean that one leg of the Petraeus and Obama plans would collapse. Washington’s expectation of greater Pakistani cooperation along the Afghan border will disappear along with the troops. This will free the Taliban from whatever limits the Pakistani army had placed on it. The Taliban’s ability to fight would increase, while the motivation for any of the Taliban to enter talks — as Afghan President Hamid Karzai has suggested — would decline. U.S. forces, already stretched to the limit, would face an increasingly difficult situation, while pressure on al Qaeda in the tribal areas would decrease.

Now, step back and consider the situation the Mumbai attackers have created. First, the Indian government faces an internal political crisis driving it toward a confrontation it didn’t plan on. Second, the minimum Pakistani response to a renewed Indo-Pakistani crisis will be withdrawing forces from western Pakistan, thereby strengthening the Taliban and securing al Qaeda. Third, sufficient pressure on Pakistan’s civilian government could cause it to collapse, opening the door to a military-Islamist government — or it could see Pakistan collapse into chaos, giving Islamists security in various regions and an opportunity to reshape Pakistan. Finally, the United States’ situation in Afghanistan has now become enormously more complex.

By staging an attack the Indian government can’t ignore, the Mumbai attackers have set in motion an existential crisis for Pakistan. The reality of Pakistan cannot be transformed, trapped as the country is between the United States and India. Almost every evolution from this point forward benefits Islamists. Strategically, the attack on Mumbai was a precise blow struck to achieve uncertain but favorable political outcomes for the Islamists.

Rice’s trip to India now becomes the crucial next step. She wants Indian restraint. She does not want the western Pakistani border to collapse. But she cannot guarantee what India must have: assurance of no further terror attacks on India originating in Pakistan. Without that, India must do something. No Indian government could survive without some kind of action. So it is up to Rice, in one of her last acts as secretary of state, to come up with a miraculous solution to head off a final, catastrophic crisis for the Bush administration — and a defining first crisis for the new Obama administration. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once said that the enemy gets a vote. The Islamists cast their ballot in Mumbai.

Afghanistan, Mumbai
Conference of Defence Associations media round-up, Dec. 4


Don't put civilians in harm's way
Ottawa Citizen, Dec. 5, by Nipa Banerjee

A recent news report
that Canadian civilians were being posted to areas in Kandahar known for fearsome fighting (Panjwaii and Zahri) sends shivers down my spine. What is the rationale for putting Canadian officials' lives in danger?..

Is this deployment pure sensationalism in the venture of earning Canadian public support? Or does this reflect our government's artless response to the Manley Commission critique of Canada's Afghanistan mission as disproportionately military-oriented?

It seems that this desperate effort is not for aiding Afghanistan but an attempt to raise the civilian profile and give a civilian face to our Afghan mission [emphasis added]. Some army officials say that in effect, the civilian officials will hardly be functional, being placed in the forward operating bases under the custodial protection of the Canadian troops, making the much desired civilian face invisible.

Besides, should Canadian visibility even be an objective of our Afghan mission? Are we not there to stabilize the country? Isn't this stabilization to be achieved through promotion of security, capacity and, most critically, legitimacy for the Afghan government? How will Canadian visibility manage to attain the legitimacy objective?

To enhance the Afghan government's legitimacy it is necessary to increase its presence in the most conflict-prone districts for earning the loyalty and support of the people against the Taliban rampage. To attain this, the Afghan government, rather than Canadian officials, must be visible and seen to deliver essential services...

This deployment is another indicator that our Afghan mission strategy is not well thought out. Endangering Canadian lives in the false hope of gaining a civilian face or higher Canadian visibility for our Afghan mission, in order to address an independent commission's recommendations, is not the smartest move...

Nipa Banerjee served as the head of Canada's aid program from 2003 to '06. She currently teaches international development at the University of Ottawa and continues to visit Afghanistan frequently, pursuing her professional interests.

Three Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan
CF news release, CEFCOM NR 08.040 - December 5, 2008

OTTAWA – Three Canadian soldiers were killed as a result of an improvised explosive device attack on their armoured vehicle during a joint patrol with Afghan National Army soldiers in the Arghandab District. The incident occurred approximately 15 kilometers west of Kandahar City at about 9:00 a.m., Kandahar time on 5 December 2008.

The Canadian soldiers were participating in a vehicle patrol with their Afghan colleagues when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device. The three soldiers were killed instantly by the explosion.

Killed in action were Corporal Mark Robert McLaren and Private Demetrios Diplaros. The primary next of kin for all three soldiers have been notified; however, the third name will not be released at this time at the request of the family.

In an unrelated incident, earlier on the same day, two Canadian soldiers were seriously injured when an improvised explosive device detonated in the vicinity of a joint Canadian - Afghan foot patrol in Zharey District. The incident occurred at approximately 8:00 a.m., Kandahar time, approximately 30 kilometers west of Kandahar City.

A cordon was quickly established and the soldiers were evacuated by helicopter to the Multi-national Medical Facility at Kandahar Airfield where one soldier is reported to be in serious condition and the other is reported to be in fair condition. The names of the injured soldiers will not be released.

Today Canada lost three fine soldiers. It is our hope that the focus remains on the lives and sacrifices of our soldiers as they served Canada in an effort to bring peace and security to the people of Afghanistan.

Canadian Press
Three more Canadian soldiers were killed Friday in Afghanistan, pushing to 100 the total number of troops Canada has lost as part of its mission in this battle-weary country.  The troops - Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, Pte. Demetrios Diplaros and a third soldier whose name was withheld at the request of the family - were riding in an armoured vehicle in the Arghandab district, west of Kandahar city, when they struck an improvised explosive device.  All three were members of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont., said Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan.  The tragedy marks the first Canadian fatalities in Afghanistan in nearly three months, but pushes the seven-year-old deployment to a tragic milestone that's likely to trigger a careful examination of Canada's role in the NATO-led mission.  "Canada lost three fine soldiers today," he said.  "Already there is talk of numbers and milestones, but it is my hope that the focus remains on the lives and the sacrifices of these brave soldiers as they serve Canada in the effort to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan."  In a separate incident, two other Canadian soldiers were injured, one seriously, in an explosion during a foot patrol in the dangerous Zhari district west of Kandahar city that occurred about an our before the fatal attack, Thompson said....

National Post
Three Canadians were killed in Afghanistan on Friday bringing the country's military death toll in the war-torn country to 100.  The incident occurred at approximately 9 a.m. Kandahar time, when an improvised explosive device detonated near the soldiers' armoured vehicle during a patrol near the border between Afghanistan's Arghandab and Zhari districts.  Dead are Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren and Pte. Demetrios Diplaros of the 1st Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Petawawa. The identity of the third deceased soldier is being withheld at the request of the family.  Today's fatalities brought the death toll at Petawawa to 26.  In a second unrelated incident, two more Canadian soldiers were injured, one seriously, when an IED detonated in the vicinity of a foot patrol of Canadian and Afghanistan soldiers in the Zhari district....

Three Canadian soldiers were killed and two were wounded in separate incidents in Afghanistan on Friday, raising to more than 100 the number of Canadians who have died while serving in the war-torn country.  Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of Canadian troops, identified two of the latest casualties as Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren and Pte. Demetrios (Dip) Diplaros, both based in Petawawa, Ont. They died after the armoured vehicle they were in struck an improvised explosive device (IED).  The name of the third soldier who died was being temporarily withheld at the request of the family, Thompson said.  The blast occurred at about 9 a.m. local time, said the CBC's David Common, reporting from Kandahar.  "We can presume it was a very large device because, of course, this was an armoured vehicle," said Common.  In the second incident, the two soldiers were seriously injured in an explosion while on foot patrol in Zhari district, west of Kandahar City....

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Name of third Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan released
CEFCOM news release NR 08.041, 5 Dec 08
News release link

The third soldier killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on December 5, 2008, was Warrant Officer Robert John Wilson.  WO Wilson was a member of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment from Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario, serving with the Task Force Kandahar Operational Mentor and Liaison Team.  He was killed with Corporal Mark Robert McLaren and Private Demetrios Diplaros, in an attack by improvised explosive device on their armoured vehicle, during a joint patrol in the Arghandab District with Afghan National Army soldiers. The incident occurred approximately 15 kilometres west of Kandahar City at about 9:00 a.m. Kandahar time.

Three ISAF soldiers killed in southern Afghanistan
NATO news release PR# 2008-689, 6 Dec 08
News release link

KABUL, Afghanistan — Three ISAF soldiers were killed in an IED strike yesterday morning in southern Afghanistan.  “These soldiers died honourably, helping bring security to Afghanistan,” said Brigadier General Richard Blanchette, ISAF spokesperson. “These dedicated professionals have risked their lives for a safe and stable Afghanistan.  Our thoughts go out to their families during this time.”  It is ISAF policy not to release the nationality of any casualty prior to the relevant national authority doing so.  Next of kin have been notified.

Bodies of 3 Canadian soldiers on their way home after solemn ramp ceremony
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 6 Dec 08
Article link

It's a scene that has played over and over on the tarmac at Kandahar Airfield. Solemn soldiers from several countries, a bagpiper and coffins draped with the Canadian flag carried by grieving comrades.  The ramp ceremony - it's an event that soldiers dread but wouldn't miss. While the world hears about the casualties of war and the death toll continues to rise - the soldiers here don't talk about numbers - they talk about the friends lost and experiences shared.  More than 2,000 soldiers from a dozen countries turned out Saturday as the setting Afghan sun turned the sky a brilliant shade of bronze ....

'We lost three great Canadians'
More than 2,000 attend emotional ramp ceremony

Ethan Baron, Ottawa Citizen, 7 Dec 08
Article link

More than 2,000 NATO soldiers lined the tarmac to pay their respects yesterday as comrades of the three latest Canadians to die in Afghanistan carried the caskets to a waiting airplane for their final journey home.  Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, 23, Pte. Demetrios Diplaros, 24, and Warrant Officer Robert John Wilson, 38, died Friday morning when their armoured vehicle struck a bomb in the road. The vehicle was hurled more than 80 metres and a crater nine-metres deep was left in the highway.  "We lost three great Canadians," Col. Joseph Shipley said as a magnificent sunset faded to darkness. The commander of the unit in which all three blast victims worked training the Afghan army said that the men "were doing an incredible job .... They've made the sacrifice for something they believed in." ....

Ramp ceremony held for killed Canadian soldiers
CBC.ca, 6 Dec 08
Article link

More than 2,000 Canadian, U.S., Dutch and British soldiers turned out for a ramp ceremony at Kandahar Airfield on Saturday to pay tribute to three comrades who died in the line of duty.  The soldiers stood quietly at twilight as the bodies of Cpl. Mark McLaren, Pte. Demetrios Diplaros and Warrant Officer Robert Wilson were sent home.  The three men were killed west of the city of Kandahar on Friday when their armoured vehicle struck a roadside bomb — pushing the number of Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan to 100 since the mission began in earnest in 2002 ....

Troops salute fallen colleagues
GRAEME SMITH, Globe and Mail, 6 Dec 08
Article link

Dusk was falling over Kandahar Air Field this evening as troops gathered on the tarmac to salute the flag-draped caskets of three Canadian soldiers.  The remains of Warrant Officer Robert Wilson, Corporal Mark Robert McLaren, and Private Demetrios Diplaros were hoisted on the shoulders of their colleagues and carried slowly into the back of a waiting transport plane, to the sound of bagpipes.  Among more than 2,000 soldiers who gathered for the farewell ceremony was Master-Corporal Debra Starr Hendrickson, who wept and leaned on her colleagues as her slain husband Warrant Officer Wilson was loaded into the aircraft.  "As we prepare to carry our dear friends home, let us remember the joy and zeal that these men poured into this mission," said Major Michel Dion, a military padre ....

Bodies of slain soldiers on their way home
CTV.ca, 6 Dec 08
Article link

Comrades carried the caskets of three slain soldiers to a waiting military plane at Kandahar Airfield on Saturday, as 2,000 soldiers from a dozen countries stood at attention.  The bodies of Cpl. Mark Robert McLaren, Warrant Officer Robert John Wilson and Pte. Demetrios Diplaros are now being flown back to Canada.  Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of Task Force Kandahar, said the soldiers who attended the ramp ceremony may have come from different countries, but they all share a common bond ....

Canadian Air Wing ready to patrol the skies over Afghanistan
Canadian Press, 7 Dec 08
Article link

The Canadian Forces is expanding its presence in the skies over Afghanistan with it's own air wing that will serve under the auspices of the NATO command.  Canada's battle group moved into southern Afghanistan in 2006 without any helicopters, unlike the British, U.S., and Dutch forces.  The lack of air assets forced the Canadians to rely heavily on road convoys which has proven dangerous for troops because of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers.  Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, the commander of Task Force Kandahar, said this is the airforce "equivalent of committing a brigade" to overseas operations ....

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It look akin to old medic article about last week attack....

Militant attack burns NATO supply containers (Depot located just outside Peshawar, Pakistan)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Dozens of containers, possibly holding supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan,
burned after militants attacked a Pakistani freight terminal with mortars and grenades early Sunday, according
to Pakistani police officials.

A security guard was killed and two employees were wounded in the attack on the Faisalal terminal just outside
of the city of Peshawar, according to officials. Companies hired by NATO to drive fuel, food and other supplies
to troops fighting the Taliban use the terminal to park containers waiting for convoys across the border into Afghanistan.

The fire started by the attackers destroyed 62 containers, according to Peshawar Senior Police Superintendent Kashif Alam.
Some of the dozens of attackers were captured, Alam said. He criticized the contractors for not providing enough security
for the terminal.

Militants attacked another Peshawar terminal a week ago, destroying several trucks. Trucks moving from Pakistan
to Afghanistan have been attacked in recent months, including one incident in which dozens of trucks with fuel for
NATO forces were burned while parked in the Khyber agency of tribal region last March.

Last week, militants fired rockets at a supply terminal in Peshawar that sat along a route from Pakistan to Afghanistan.
The attack left two people dead, two others wounded and 12 trucks ablaze, Peshawar police said. Pakistan's central
government has long exerted little control in the area, but it launched an intense military offensive in late July to flush
out militants. As retaliation for the military presence, the Taliban has carried out a series of deadly bombings -- and
said the attacks will continue until the troops pull out.

Convoys carrying food and military supplies to U.S. troops in Afghanistan have regularly come under attack.

Articles found Dec 7, 2008

Taliban militants release four policemen in Afghanistan 
17:33 | 07/ 12/ 2008
    Article Link

KABUL, December 7 (RIA Novosti) - Taliban militants have freed four policemen captured during an assault on November 28 on a military convoy in the province of Badghis in northwestern Afghanistan, local security officials said on Sunday.

The policemen were set free after local elders and tribe leaders held talks with the militants, the officials said.

On the night of November 27-28, a 300-strong Taliban force attacked a military convoy of the Afghan national army and national police in the province's Murgab area, killing 68 personnel and capturing 19 soldiers and 8 policemen.

This year has seen the worst rise in violence in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led international force overthrew the hard-line Islamic Taliban movement in 2001.
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Twelve insurgents, five soldiers killed in Afghanistan
7 hours ago
Article Link

KABUL (AFP) — Twelve Taliban militants and five Afghan soldiers were killed in separate violence across the country over the weekend, officials said Sunday.

Most the militants died when they attacked a police post in Afghanistan's restive southern Helmand province late Saturday, triggering a gunbattle that also left policemen wounded.

Police arrested two militants but another two escaped, Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor, told AFP.

"Nine Taliban were killed and they left their bodies at the battlefield. Four Taliban and three policemen were wounded," he said.

Separately, US-led coalition forces said they killed three insurgents outside the capital Kabul on Saturday.

The Afghan army said five of its soldiers died and three others were wounded in two roadside bomb explosions on Saturday.
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Militants torch Afghan supplies
BBC, Dec. 7

More than 90 lorries supplying US forces in Afghanistan have been set on fire in a suspected militant attack in north-west Pakistan, police say.

Police said at least one person was killed as about 300 gunmen using rockets overpowered the guards at a terminal near the city of Peshawar.

Some of the lorries were laden with Humvee armoured vehicles.

There have been a series of attacks on convoys recently - although not on this scale, says the BBC's Martin Patience.

The road from Peshawar to Afghanistan is a major supply route for US and Western forces battling against the Taleban.

A US spokesman, Lt Col Rumi Nielsen-Green, said the incident was "militarily insignificant".

"So far there hasn't been a significant loss or impact to our mission," she said.

But, with 300 lorries crossing the border each day, military officials will be deeply concerned that their supply line can be disrupted in this manner, our correspondent in the Afghan capital, Kabul, says.

US military sources say that most of the additional US troops being sent to Afghanistan early next year will be deployed around the city...

Security along the road leading to the border has deteriorated this year with soldiers recently carrying out an offensive in the Khyber region to drive militants away from the outskirts of Peshawar, the main city in the north-west.

Hauliers say that more than 350 trucks carry an average of 7,000 tonnes of goods over the Khyber Pass to Kabul every day.

Almost 75% of all supplies for Nato forces in Afghanistan come through Pakistan, the majority through Peshawar [emphasis added].

Last month, militants looted 12 lorries carrying Humvees and food aid as they travelled through the Khyber Pass...

U.S. Plans a Shift to Focus Troops on Kabul Region
NY Times, Dec. 6

Most of the additional American troops arriving in Afghanistan early next year will be deployed near the capital, Kabul, American military commanders here say, in a measure of how precarious the war effort has become.

It will be the first time that American or coalition forces have been deployed in large numbers on the southern flank of the city, a decision that reflects the rising concerns among military officers, diplomats and government officials about the increasing vulnerability of the capital and the surrounding area.

It also underscores the difficult choices confronting American military commanders as they try to apportion a limited number of forces not only within Afghanistan, but also between Afghanistan and Iraq...

The new Army brigade, the Third Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum, N.Y., is scheduled to arrive in Afghanistan in January and will consist of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers. The “vast majority” [emphasis added] of them will be sent to Logar and Wardak Provinces, adjacent to Kabul, said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for the American units in eastern Afghanistan. A battalion of at least several hundred soldiers from that brigade will go to the border region [emphasis added] in the east, where American forces have been locked in some of the fiercest fighting this year.

In all, the Pentagon is planning to add more than 20,000 troops to Afghanistan in response to a request from Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top commander in Afghanistan. Those troops are expected to be sent to violent areas in the south...

The plan for the incoming brigade, then, means that for the time being fewer reinforcements — or none at all — will be immediately available for the parts of Afghanistan where the insurgency is most intense.

It also means that most of the newly arriving troops will not be deployed with the main goal of curbing the cross-border flow of insurgents from their rear bases in Pakistan, something American commanders would like and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has recommended...

...Military officials say that if General McKiernan’s requests are met, deployments in the next year and a half or so will include four combat brigades, an aviation brigade equipped with attack and troop-carrying helicopters, reconnaissance units, support troops and trainers for the Afghan Army and the police, raising American force levels to about 58,000.

The United States and NATO forces are hoping to expand the Afghan Army to 134,000 from nearly 70,000 over the next four or five years...

Of immediate concern, American and NATO commanders say, is the need to safeguard the capital, to hit new Taliban strongholds in Wardak and Logar [emphasis added], and to provide enough security in those provinces for development programs, which are essential to maintaining the support of Afghan villagers...

Wardak and Logar had been relatively secure until late last year. But by most accounts, Taliban activity has soared in the two provinces in the past year, as the insurgents have stepped up attacks against Afghan and foreign forces, sometimes even controlling parts of major roads connecting Kabul to the east and south...

Pentagon plans troop surge in Afghanistan
The Times, Dec. 6

The Pentagon has begun a massive building operation to construct new barracks and facilities in Afghanistan for 20,000 extra US troops that will pour into the country early next year.

The surge of additional forces, to combat the perilous and rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, comes amid growing tensions between the US and Britain over the possible deployment of extra UK troops - and the performance of British soldiers already there.

There are 8,100 British troops in Afghanistan, mostly deployed in the southern Helmand province, where the Taleban insurgency has been the most fierce and effective. The US has had to send forces south to bolster the British and Canadian contingents, amid growing allegations among American military officials that the British have not effectively taken the fight to the enemy.

Three Canadian troops were killed on Friday by a roadside bomb outside the southern city of Kandahar, and on Thursday two Danish soldiers were killed.

The huge construction programme, which is already so detailed that the Pentagon has plans down to the last latrine and billet, was announced on Friday by Major General Michael Tucker, the deputy US commander in Afghanistan. It is to house the 20,000 extra troops, who will be joining the 32,000 American forces already there. General Tucker refused to say where the new facility will be.

"There's a very huge building campaign that has already begun. We're pushing dirt as we speak for the arrival of these forces." He added: "We have done in depth studies on specifically to the man how many building spaces, how many helicopter pads...how many latrines, how many dining facilities...down to the actual number of boots on the ground."..

Articles found December 8, 2008

Obama security advisor is a fan of Canada
Matthew Fisher, National Post   Published: Monday, December 08, 2008
Article Link

Canada has an admirer in James Jones, the former Marine Corps commandant and supreme commander of NATO whom president-elect Barack Obama chose last week as his national security advisor.

Jones has spoken of how impressed he was by Canada's army when it shifted from Kabul to Kandahar in the spring of 2006.

"I think the Canadian leadership in the south is the answer to what was a clearly open question in some communities. Would NATO fight if tested?" the general said during an hour-long interview at SHAPE headquarters in Belgium a few weeks before he retired at the end of 2006. "They chose to test Canada and Canada responded magnificently."

Canada has returned the compliment. Because Jones had "invariably been responsive to Canadian concerns and has provided strong support to Canadian commanders in theatre," he was awarded the Meritorious Service Cross by Governor-General Michaelle Jean last year.

Jones brings a critical, knowledgeable eye to the Afghan file, which Obama has identified as a top priority. A window into his thinking can be found in the publication earlier this year of a report on the war by the Atlantic Council of the United States, which he chaired. "Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," became the report's highly publicized signature line.

Asked two years ago about how the war had been prosecuted up until then, Jones intimated that the initial strategy had been flawed. If Afghanistan was looked at like it was the face of a clock, coalition forces had started out in a counter-clockwise direction, heading west from Kabul and then southwest, establishing themselves in the tamest parts of the country before heading towards the Taliban heartland. If a clockwise strategy had been pursued first, the Pakistani border and Kandahar would have been tackled much earlier and the insurgency might never had had a chance to reestablish itself.
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Canadian Forces launch new air wing in Afghanistan
Updated Sun. Dec. 7 2008 4:28 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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A newly-launched air wing has significantly increased the capabilities of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan by reducing their reliance on ground transport, say Canadian military officials.

Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson, commander of Task Force Kandahar, said the Joint Task Force (Afghanistan) Air Wing has given Canadian Forces the kind of operational air support that has not been seen in decades.

"For the air force, this is extremely significant," he told The Canadian Press.

"Now we're not talking about an individual unit which would be the army equivalent of a battalion. This is the equivalent of committing a brigade to overseas operations. I don't think this has occurred since the Korean time (war)."

The air wing includes four units made up of 450 troops and has six CH-47D Chinook helicopters, eight CH-146 Griffon helicopters, six civilian Mi-8 helicopters and various unmanned surveillance aircraft included in its inventory.

The Canadian Forces had C-130 Hercules transport planes in service prior to the development of the new air wing.

Thomson estimated that the air wing has "doubled or tripled" the capability of Canadian troops, by lessening their reliance on road convoys which are at continual risk of bombings and other ground-based attacks.
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Governor General announces the awarding of Military Valour Decorations, Meritorious Service Decorations and a Mention in Dispatches
Governor General News Releases and Messages, February 6, 2007
General James L. Jones, M.S.C.
McLean, United States of America
Meritorious Service Cross (Military Division)

Since 2003, General Jones of the United States Marine Corps has provided outstanding leadership to NATO at a critical time in the Alliance’s history. During his mandate as Supreme Allied Commander Europe, NATO’s operations in Afghanistan expanded to include the entire country, and thousands of Canadian military personnel served under his command. Although operating at the highest strategic level, General Jones has always had the interests of individual soldiers at heart. He has invariably been responsive to Canadian concerns and has provided strong support to Canadian commanders in theatre. His service to NATO and to our military personnel has brought great benefit to the Canadian Forces and to Canada.

Second supply attack in Peshawar
BBC, Dec. 8

Suspected militants in the Pakistani city of Peshawar have attacked another terminal holding Nato-bound equipment, the second such attack in two days.

The attackers struck the terminal on the outskirts of the city, torching up to 50 vehicles.

On Sunday a guard was killed and more than 90 lorries were set on fire when 300 gunmen attacked the first terminal.

The road from Peshawar to Afghanistan is a major supply route for US and Western forces battling the Taleban...

Terminals in Peshawar have only lightly armed guards who are deployed to tackle theft rather than insurgent raids.

But raids on terminals supplying US and Nato forces in Afghanistan are increasing.

The US played down Sunday's attack, saying the incident was "militarily insignificant".

But the BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul says that with 300 lorries crossing the border each day, military officials will be deeply concerned that their supply line can be disrupted in this manner.

Witnesses said Sunday's attackers destroyed 96 flat trucks and six containers.

The manager of the depot, Kifyatullah Khan, told Associated Press: "They were shouting Allahu Akbar (God is Great) and Down With America."

Security along the road leading to the border has deteriorated this year with soldiers recently carrying out an offensive in the Khyber region to drive militants away from the outskirts of Peshawar, the main city in the north-west. 

Articles found December 9, 2008

Taliban commander killed in Afghan-NATO operation
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghan and NATO troops killed a Taliban commander who was responsible for suicide bombings, kidnappings, and torture, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Tuesday.

Muhammed Bobi was killed overnight during a joint operation between the Afghan and NATO troops in the Pol-e Alam district of Logar province, just south of the Afghan capital, Kabul, ISAF said.

Bobi facilitated suicide bombings against local civilians and troops from NATO and the Afghan National Security Forces, ISAF said. He was also involved in the torture and kidnapping of local civilians and was linked to a number of crimes in the area, ISAF said.
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9 militants arrested in E Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-12-09 14:14:39   

    KABUL, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Police (ANP) and the U.S.-led Coalition forces detained nine suspected militants during a combined operation, said a Coalition statement released here on Tuesday.

    The operation, launched to disrupt the Haqqani network in eastern Afghan province of Khost on Monday, targeted a Haqqani commander known to direct and assist with the movement of weapons and foreign fighters into the region, the statement said.

    Moreover, the combined force during the operation encountered an armed militant who refused to comply with their instructions and displayed hostile intent, it said. "The force engaged the militant with small-arms fire and wounded him
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Convoy attacks trigger race to open new Afghan supply lines
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Richard Norton-Taylor, Julian Borger and Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
The Guardian, Tuesday December 9 2008

Nato countries are scrambling for alternative routes as far afield as Belarus and Ukraine to supply their forces in Afghanistan, which are increasingly vulnerable to a resurgent Taliban, the Guardian has learned.

Four serious attacks on US and Nato supplies in Pakistan during the past month, including two in the past three days, have added to the sense of urgency to conclude pacts with former Soviet republics bordering Afghanistan to the north.

Nato is negotiating with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to allow supplies for Nato forces, including fuel, to cross borders into Afghanistan from the north. The deal, which officials said was close to being agreed, follows an agreement with Moscow this year allowing Nato supplies to be transported by rail or road through Russia.

The deal could allow more fuel for Nato forces to be transported from refineries in Baku, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. Most of the 75m gallons of fuel estimated to be used by Nato forces annually in Afghanistan comes from refineries in Pakistan.

Germany and Spain, whose troops are based in more peaceful northern Afghanistan, have negotiated separate bilateral air transport agreements with Russia.
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Kandahar base braces for wave of U.S. troops
Massive new construction program under way at sprawling facility in order to accommodate expected doubling of population

Globe and Mail, Dec. 9

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The coming transformation of the war in Kandahar is summarized in a cartoon posted inside Canada's military headquarters. It depicts a huge wave crashing toward a tiny sandcastle on a beach, indicating the overwhelming force of many thousand U.S. troops expected to sweep into southern Afghanistan next year.

The New York Times reported this weekend that the first brigade of new troops will go north to protect Kabul, the capital city, but a massive new program of base construction shows the United States preparing to send a bigger share of its additional forces to Kandahar in the south.

Engineers say they're planning an $850-million (U.S.) expansion of Kandahar Air Field in the coming year, approximately doubling the population of the sprawling facility to make it the largest military base in Afghanistan. That means space available for a minimum of 12,000 more personnel to stand alongside Canada's troops in Kandahar.

"It's a huge expansion of the population coming," said Lieutenant-Colonel Kevin Horgan, a Canadian who serves as KAF's base engineer. "It's not an if, it's not even a when. It's just coming, and we're doing everything we can to support the inflow."

The precise number of troops expected changes frequently, engineers say; one U.S. officer said his superiors are telling him to prepare for a minimum 60-per-cent expansion of KAF in the next two years, while other plans have the base nearly tripling its population in a year. Col. Horgan, who co-ordinates the expansion plans on behalf of the base commander, said it's "almost guaranteed" that KAF will double in size within 12 months.

Whatever the size and timing of the expansion, however, it shows a shifting emphasis in the war. For years, the largest military facility in the country has been Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, the main hub for U.S. forces concentrated in the mountainous eastern region where the Taliban insurgents are reportedly mixed with other extremists such as al-Qaeda fighters.

Now the balance of American power appears to be shifting south [emphasis added], toward the deserts and river valleys where the Taliban were born and a majority of the insurgents are local tribesmen.

"It will be quite a bit bigger than Bagram," said Lieutenant-Colonel John Uptmor, a U.S. engineer who is leading the U.S. expansion at KAF. His team of planners works punishing hours in a small trailer preparing for the influx; he says the work leaves him so exhausted that he no longer dreams during his short spells of sleep...

..One of the most expensive buildings under construction is a $35-million (U.S.) hospital, twice the size of KAF's current medical facility. Patients are now treated in a series of tents, containers and plywood huts, based on a Vietnam-era building kit that has been renovated 17 times as the number of casualties grows.

"Right now, we've got bits and pieces of everything, and wires hanging from the ceiling - it's quite scary," said Major Don Schell, deputy commander of the health unit.

The new hospital will be made of concrete strong enough to resist the 107-millimetre rockets that regularly slam into the base, like several other buildings under construction. Even the new Italian restaurant is equipped with thick concrete walls, giving a more permanent appearance than the Tim Hortons, Subway and Burger King outlets all camped in modified trailers.

That impression of long-term planning will grow stronger as road paving begins next year on major routes around the base, and technicians start laying down a fibre-optic network for communications. Col. Horgan said the engineers aren't preparing for a long occupation, however; he said the permanent structures are being designed for eventual handover to Afghan forces...

AP Interview: Marines will shift to Afghanistan
AP, Dec. 8

There is a growing consensus among defense leaders to send a substantial contingent of Marines to Afghanistan, probably beginning next spring, while dramatically reducing their presence in western Iraq, the top Marine general told The Associated Press on Monday.

Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, said in an interview that Marine units tentatively scheduled to go to Iraq next spring are already incorporating some training for Afghanistan into their preparations.

He said he has had discussions with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and believes the Pentagon chief "would not object to the idea of a fairly strategic shift of focus of Marines from Iraq to Afghanistan."

"I don't want to put words in his mouth," said Conway, who has made no secret of his belief that Marines could be put to better use fighting in Afghanistan than their current peacekeeping, nation-building mission in Iraq. Gates understands, he said, "my public stance on the fact that we can be better used elsewhere. And he certainly hasn't told me to pipe down. So I like to think he understands the logic of it."

At the same time, Conway said that when the 22,000 Marines in Iraq's Anbar province leave, he believes they should all go, and not leave training teams behind.

More than a year ago, when early discussions of sending more Marines to Afghanistan became public, Gates signaled opposition to the idea, preferring to maintain the concentration on Iraq.

At that time, Conway said that Gates and others believed the timing wasn't right to shift the Marines out of Anbar province.

On Monday, however, Conway took a decidedly different tone.

"I just see that people have, over time, understood we don't want to take over Afghanistan, such as was rumored when we first started talking about a shift of forces," Conway said. Instead, he said officials now realize that the Marines are an expeditionary fighting force that is better suited to the Afghanistan battle...

Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has said he needs up to 20,000 additional troops, including four combat brigades and thousands of support troops.

Other military leaders have cautioned, however, that they first need to build the infrastructure to accommodate the troops – including housing and helicopter pads.

Conway countered that the Marines could move in far more quickly because they don't need to wait for such logistical improvements
[emphasis added].

"We're prepared to live austere for a time in order to take the fight to the enemy and build our infrastructure around us on deck," said Conway. "We have done that before, we can do it again."

Marine units generally enter combat with whatever resources they need, including their own combat aviation units and helicopters that would enable them to move through the mountainous terrain.

In particular, Conway said that there are serious problems in southern Afghanistan that the Marines can address [emphasis added]. Insurgents there, he said, have lines into Pakistan, much like the Sunni Arab insurgents in Iraq's western Anbar province had remote passages from Syria, to move fighters and finances.

Gates has not yet approved additional forces for Afghanistan, but it's expected he may do that fairly soon. After that, military leaders will decide which units will go... 


MacKay declines Gates's suggestion to extend Afghanistan mission
CBC, Dec. 11

Canada's defence ministry has ruled out extending its combat mission in Afghanistan past the 2011 scheduled deadline despite hints from U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates that Ottawa should reconsider its end date.

"Nothing has changed since the parliamentary motion was passed," said Dan Dugas, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay. "We're done with the Kandahar combat mission in 2011."

Ottawa's response follows comments made Thursday by Gates , who was asked by a reporter whether Canada should continue its mission.

"The countries that have partnered with the United States and Afghanistan here in [regional command] south have made an extraordinary commitment and proportionately none have worked harder or sacrificed more than the Canadians," said Gates, who arrived at Canada's main base in Kandahar on Thursday.

"They have been outstanding partners for us and all I can tell you is has been the case for a very long time, the longer we can have Canadian soldiers as our partners the better it is [emphasis added]."

Dugas said that Gates has "always been gracious about Canada's role in the UN-mandated mission."

But he added that "the minister and government have been very clear that Parliament has decided that our mission there ends in 2011."

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reaffirmed that he will abide by a motion passed in the House of Commons that Canada would withdraw the bulk of its military forces in Afghanistan as scheduled in 2011.

CBC's David Common said Gates comments should not be considered a formal request, but that they are significant because the defence secretary is staying on in that role under Barack Obama's administration. As well, the president-elect has said getting more troops to Afghanistan is a priority.

Gates also told reporters that the Pentagon will move three brigades into Afghanistan by next summer [emphasis added], the most specific he's been on when he'd begin meeting the requests of ground commanders asking for 20,000 troops.

The extra troops are expected to be deployed to Kabul to secure the capital before moving to Kandahar [I doubt the troops in the Kabul area will move, rather further new troops will deploy to the south], considered the epicentre of violence and where most of the 2,500 Canadian soldiers in the region are based...

He also said the mission needs to focus better on building the Afghan army and better co-operation with Kabul on security operations...

Gates: More brigades to Afghanistan by summer
AP, Dec. 11
Gates said he has no details on the expected deployments to Afghanistan next year, adding that he has not approved any orders for specific units. He said the Joint Chiefs may have identified the units, but he's not aware of those decisions.

He added that he does not know when he will be able to send the fourth requested brigade [emphasis added].

Gates and other U.S. officials have endorsed efforts to pour four combat brigades and thousands of support troops into Afghanistan to stem the spike in violence and tamp down the resurgence of the Taliban.

Officials already had announced that one unit — the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division — would go to Afghanistan in January and that they would try to meet the rest of the troop requirements as soon as possible. But military leaders have resisted disclosing which units or how quickly they would go, saying much depends on how quickly troop levels can be cut in Iraq. A brigade is about 3,500 troops...

The top Marine officer, Gen. James Conway, told The Associated Press this week that he believes there is a growing consensus that Marines could be used to fill part of the need in Afghanistan. If approved, he said, some could go there in early spring [emphasis added].

"It's clear that the Marines want to be in the fight, that's what you'd expect," said Gates, adding that it's clear that the security situation has greatly improved in Iraq's Anbar province, where the bulk of the Marines are. "I don't have a problem with Gen. Conway's desire to have a bigger part of the mission in Afghanistan for the Marine Corps."

He said he will wait for recommendations from his military leaders.

There are 31,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, including 13,500 with the NATO-led coalition and 17,500 training Afghan troops and fighting the insurgency...

5,000 US troops to help British with Taleban stalemate in Afghanistan
The Times, Dec. 11, by Michael Evans, Defence Editor

America is planning to send at least 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan's Helmand province to help out beleaguered British troops, according to defence sources in Washington and Kabul.

Ministers are expected to examine early next year whether British reinforcements will also be sent to boost the present force of 8,100 troops in the British-controlled province...

General David McKiernan, the American commander of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) and the US Operation Enduring Freedom, admitted yesterday that the battles with the Taleban in Helmand and elsewhere in southern Afghanistan had run into a tactical stalemate [emphasis added], despite attritional attacks against insurgency leaders...

Under current planning, 5,000 [US troops] will go to Helmand, another 5,000 will be based in neighbouring Kandahar [emphasis added], and also in Zabul and Oruzgan provinces in the south, and the remainder will be sent to eastern Afghanistan...

The decision to send 5,000 to Helmand will lead to a restructuring of the forces in the province, with control being split between the British in the north and the US in the south [emphasis added]...

Articles found Dec 11, 2008

Prince Harry to return to Afghanistan as helicopter pilot
Prince Harry will return to front line in Afghanistan after he passed the selection process to become a helicopter pilot with the Army Air Corps. 
By Andrew Pierce Last Updated: 9:54PM GMT 11 Dec 2008
Article Link

The Prince will begin his pilot training next month after passing a four-week course to assess whether he had the ability to fly.

He is following in the footsteps of the Duke of York who flew helicopters in the Royal Navy in the Falklands War. The Duke, who is Prince Harry's godfather, was a key influence in his decision to volunteer for training as a helicopter pilot in the Army.

Prince Harry, 24, the first member of the Royal family to serve on a military front line since the Falklands in 1982, has been told that he will be able to go back to Afghanistan with his unit.

As a soldier on the ground the Prince is feared to act as a magnet for bombs putting the lives of those around him at an increased risk. He would also be at risk of kidnap. But life as an airborne soldier, while still extremely dangerous, is less likely to cause problems for his fellow troops.

A Clarence House spokesman said: "If Prince Harry qualifies as an Army Air Corps pilot, he will, like any officer, be available for operational service wherever the AAC flies." Afghanistan is a regular tour of duty for the AAC. One source said: "If his unit goes to Afghanistan Prince Harry will go with them. No doubt about it."

Prince Harry will be thrilled to return to the front line after his 10-week deployment in Helmand Province was cut short early this year after details of his posting was leaked on an overseas internet site. He had the lives of British troops in his hands in his key role as a battlefield air controller.
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NEDA Telecommunications, Afghanistan's Largest ISP to Deploy Quick Start IP Trunking Solution from O3b Networks, Ltd.
Afghanistan's largest ISP to use O3b Networks' low-latency constellation to expand internet services throughout the provinces and urban centers
Last update: 11:21 a.m. EST Dec. 11, 2008
Article Link

ST. JOHN, Jersey, Channel Islands, Dec 11, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- O3b Networks the developer of a new fiber-quality, satellite-based, global Internet backbone for telecommunications operators and Internet Service Providers announced today that NEDA Telecommunications will deploy O3b Networks' Quick Start service as part of a multi-year, multi-million dollar agreement. The agreement will provide low-latency, fiber quality, internet connectivity between Afghanistan and the global internet infrastructure.
O3b Networks, funded by Google Inc., Liberty Global, Inc. and HSBC Principal Investments, recently announced it will deploy the world's first ultra-low-latency, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), Ka-band, fiber-speed satellite network. The network is designed to improve Internet access for millions of consumers and businesses in emerging and developed markets, as well as selected vertical markets. Service activation and ground equipment is scheduled for late 2010.
"O3b Networks allows us to significantly enhance our ISP services," said Paul Shaw, CEO of NEDA. "With O3b's low-latency connection to the global internet, our customers will be able to fully utilize today's web 2.0 applications. There is a substantial and continuously growing demand all across Afghanistan for Internet services. Throughout the world low latency access to the Internet at significantly lower costs is proving to be a key factor in economic and social development. We are proud to be a part of bringing the O3B service to Afghanistan, and helping Afghanistan to compete on an equal basis with the rest of the world."
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Turkey aid to Afghanistan reaches to 15,000 families
  Article Link

Turkey sent food, clothing and stationery assistance to 15,000 Afghan families and 9,000 Afghan students, as well as providing direct health service to 750,000 Afghans.

Some 300 Afghan students were also granted scholarships to study in Turkey.

Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) trained 1,600 Afghan personnel in Afghanistan as well as more than 500 Afghan personnel in Turkey within the scope of a military training cooperation.

The Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA) Afghanistan Coordination Office stated that 35 new schools were built, seven schools were renovated and 42 schools were furnished in Afghanistan.

Within the scope of health projects, Turkey built one hospital and five clinics, renovated two hospitals, and operated seven hospitals, three clinics and one midwife training center, providing direct heath services to 750,000 Afghan citizens.

Torture of Afghan detainees continues, say human rights groups
Article Link

OTTAWA — An agreement between Canada and the Afghanistan government has not stopped the torture of Afghan detainees after Canadian troops hand them over to Afghan security forces, the Federal Court of Appeal heard Wednesday.

A lawyer for human-rights groups that want to extend Canadian human-rights protection to the detainees told court the agreement reached in February has not ended abuses that came to light in 2007.

"It is our submission it is not working," lawyer Paul Champ told a court tribunal. "There are still human-rights abuses in Afghanistan."

Champ later said investigations by UNICEF and the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission have found recent evidence of torture in Afghanistan.

But he said it has been impossible to obtain information from the Canadian Forces about the treatment of prisoners they hand over to Afghan police.

Champ urged the tribunal to overturn a Federal Court ruling earlier this year that rejected an application by Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association for a court order to halt Canadian transfers because they violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
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Warlords Toughen US Task in Afghanistan
By Aryn Baker / Kabul Tuesday, Dec. 09, 2008
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Like many mothers in Afghanistan, Maghferat Samimi has affixed the photo of a child to her mobile phone. But the two-and-a-half-year-old is not her daughter. She is a rape victim, one of scores that Samimi, a researcher with the Afghan Human Rights Organization, has documented in the country's northern provinces over the past six months. Witnesses to the child's abduction by a local militia commander — a person who would once have been called a "warlord" — have had their rape claim backed up by a nearby hospital, but the district police chief maintains that the child fell on a stick. The police chief's refusal to issue an arrest warrant, he says, has nothing to do with the fact that he is friends with the militia commander. Seeking justice from government officials, says Samimi, "is like going to the wolves for help, when the wolves have stolen your sheep." That is what it is like in Afghanistan, where lawless warlords are now the law.
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International Datacasting Corporation Wins $2.7 Million Government Contract for Canadian Forces Radio and Television Network
Last update: 12:24 p.m. EST Dec. 9, 2008
Article Link

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Dec 09, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- International Datacasting Corporation (CA:IDC: news, chart, profile) , a global leader in advanced solutions for broadband multimedia content distribution via satellite, announced today that it has won a competitive tender with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) to continue broadcasting radio and television channels to Canadian Forces serving overseas. Valued at $2.7 million for the first year, the contract has renewal options for an additional two years for a total potential value of more than $8.1 million.
The Canadian Forces Radio and Television (CFRT) network delivers entertainment programming, sports and news over two television channels (English and French) as well as FM radio. IDC has been providing this service since 2000 to Canadian Forces and peacekeeping troops deployed in regions around the globe including the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. Today CFRT serves Canadian Forces stationed in Afghanistan and on ships at sea in the region.
IDC is responsible for all aspects of programming including negotiating rights and permissions, scheduling, recording, and uplinking the network from its Ottawa based network operations centre. This is the fourth time IDC has won the competition for this contract, an indication of the ongoing excellence of the service.
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GAP said:
International Datacasting Corporation Wins $2.7 Million Government Contract for Canadian Forces Radio and Television Network
Last update: 12:24 p.m. EST Dec. 9, 2008
Article Link

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, Dec 09, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) -- International Datacasting Corporation (CA:IDC: news, chart, profile) , a global leader in advanced solutions for broadband multimedia content distribution via satellite, announced today that it has won a competitive tender with the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) to continue broadcasting radio and television channels to Canadian Forces serving overseas. Valued at $2.7 million for the first year, the contract has renewal options for an additional two years for a total potential value of more than $8.1 million.
The Canadian Forces Radio and Television (CFRT) network delivers entertainment programming, sports and news over two television channels (English and French) as well as FM radio. IDC has been providing this service since 2000 to Canadian Forces and peacekeeping troops deployed in regions around the globe including the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. Today CFRT serves Canadian Forces stationed in Afghanistan and on ships at sea in the region.
IDC is responsible for all aspects of programming including negotiating rights and permissions, scheduling, recording, and uplinking the network from its Ottawa based network operations centre. This is the fourth time IDC has won the competition for this contract, an indication of the ongoing excellence of the service.
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Link to 10 Nov 08 proposal call:
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