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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (February 2008)

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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (February 2008)       

News only - commentary elsewhere, please.
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Articles found February 1, 2008

Prosecute man for Web posts, says Senator
Toronto-area man supported attacks against Canadian soldiers
Stewart Bell, National Post  Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008
Article Link

A Mississauga man who has been posting messages online supporting attacks against military targets in Canada should "absolutely" be prosecuted, the chairman of the Senate National Security and Defence Committee said Thursday.

Comparing the comments to "shouting fire in a theatre," Senator Colin Kenny said if Crown prosecutors are unable to convict the Bangladeshi-Canadian for condoning the killing of Canadian soldiers, the law should be revisited.

"I don't think that any free speech case is going to be a slam dunk and I am surprised that the Crown is setting that high a standard before they will undertake a prosecution," said the Senator, also a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee.

The Liberal Senator made the comments after reading a sample of the Internet postings of a University of Toronto at Mississauga student who is under RCMP investigation for calling attacks against soldiers in Canada a "legitimate" way to force Ottawa to withdraw from Afghanistan.
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Canadians holding prisoners at Kandahar base: Afghan official
Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, January 31, 2008
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Afghan prisoners captured by Canadian soldiers are being held at Canada's air base in Kandahar, an Afghan human rights official told CBC Radio Thursday.

In an interview with As it Happens, Sareed Hamady from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said Canadian officials have told his office they are holding 18 to 20 prisoners at the base, all captured since Canada stopped handing over detainees to the Afghans in November.

The Conservative government has been under constant pressure to reveal the whereabouts of their Afghan detainees since news of the change in Canadian policy was revealed in court documents last week.
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Other Afghanistan developments
Fri, February 1, 2008 By SUN MEDIA NEWS SERVICES
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OTTAWA -- The chief of personnel and the surgeon-general of the Canadian Forces say the military can do significantly better when it comes to helping soldiers who return from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder. Maj.-Gen. Walter Semianiw told a House of Commons committee that great strides have been in military health care since Canadian troops first deployed to Afghanistan in 2002. His comments come as the military ombudsman examines how stress casualties have been treated once they return from the battlefields of Kandahar. "We've done a hell'uva lot to . . . get this thing better," was Semianiw's response to questions from the Liberals about the quality of care afforded soldiers. "We've got a hell'uva way to go, but we're on the way to getting it right."


CAIRO, Egypt -- Abu Laith al-Libi, a top al-Qaida commander in Afghanistan blamed for bombing a military base while U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney was visiting last year, was killed in Pakistan by an air strike late Monday or early Tuesday, a U.S. government official said. The strike was conducted by a Predator unmanned drone, the official said. It was carried out against a facility in north Waziristan, the lawless tribal area bordering Afghanistan. The Predator is an unmanned aircraft developed by the CIA that can be armed with Hellfire anti-tank missiles. The U.S. spy agency first used the remotely piloted reconnaissance aircraft as a strike plane in November 2002 against six alleged al-Qaida members travelling in a vehicle in Yemen. The U.S. says al-Libi -- whose name means "the Libyan" in Arabic -- was likely behind the February 2007 bombing at the U.S. base at Bagram in Afghanistan during a visit by Cheney. The attack killed 23 people, but Cheney, deep inside the base, was not hurt.
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Senior Afghanistan Qaeda leader Libi killed
Thu 31 Jan 2008, 23:27 GMt  By Randall Mikkelsen
Article Link

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior Al-Qaeda leader in Afghanistan, described by Western authorities as one of Osama bin Laden's top six lieutenants, has been killed, U.S. officials and an al-Qaeda-linked Web site said on Thursday.

The Web site said Abu Laith al-Libi had been killed in Pakistan, suggesting he may have died in a suspected U.S. missile strike that killed up to 13 foreign militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan border area this week.
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French defense minister gives no ground on US Afghanistan combat requests
The Associated Press Thursday, January 31, 2008
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WASHINGTON: France's defense minister met with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Thursday and gave no ground to Gates' campaign to get more combat help in Afghanistan from French and other NATO troops.

Herve Morin said in his first visit to Washington that the United States and France share the same goals as far as helping get "Afghanistan back on its feet."

As Gates looked on, Morin said: "The problem in Afghanistan is not only a military problem. We need a comprehensive solution. This comprehensive solution is a political, economic solution; for instance, the possibility for the Afghans to start new crops, different from opium, which is, right now, the main product in Afghanistan."

Gates has been trying to persuade NATO allies to contribute more troops and equipment to the fight, with little success. France, Germany, Italy and Turkey have troops with the coalition forces in Afghanistan but refuse to send significant numbers of combat troops to the main combat area, in southern Afghanistan.

Still, Gates offered an upbeat assessment of his discussion with Morin, France's defense minister for the past eight months.
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Afghanistan a second home for Canadian soldiers as war reshapes Forces
Article Link

OTTAWA - In the three years he's been married, Maj. Jay Adair has been either in Afghanistan or getting ready to travel to or from Afghanistan.

When he's not there, he's thinking about it. He keeps track of the soldiers and local people whom he befriended in Afghanistan. Around home in Shilo, Man., Adair and his wife, Capt. Leslie Adair, an air force pilot, often talk about Afghanistan.

Adair, 32, has read voraciously about the country, devouring book after book until it became too much even for him. He's decided to quit cold turkey.

"Yeah, that's gonna stop," he said.

Neatly sealed in a plastic pouch and placed atop his duffle bag is stack of John Steinbeck novels that he hopes to read when he is overseas again.

Best of luck.

As battle group operations officer for the new rotation going into Kandahar in February, Adair will likely have little spare time on his third tour of Afghanistan since 2002. The last time he was there, he was the deputy commander of a rifle company that saw some of the bloodiest fighting.
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Another Day, Another Scandal: Kandahar Governor Personally Tortures
Friday, February 01, 2008
Article Link

Whooee! Well friends an' foes, when do we stand up and say:

"Not in my name!"?

The Globe & Mail is reporting that way back in April 2007, Canada had strong indications that the Governor of Kandahar Province was personally involved in the torture and mistreatment of detainees.

Ottawa kept abuse charges against ally secret
Kandahar governor accused of beating and using electric shocks on detainees in secret Afghan prisons

From Friday's Globe and Mail

February 1, 2008 at 2:00 AM EST

The Harper government knew, but tried to keep secret since last spring, allegations that the governor of Kandahar was personally involved in torture and abuse of detainees.

The allegations against Governor Asadullah Khalid, appointed directly by President Hamid Karzai and a key political partner to Canada's nation-building efforts in southern Afghanistan, were regarded as sufficiently credible that senior officials in Ottawa were immediately informed and Canadian diplomats secretly reported them to the International Red Cross and Afghanistan's main human-rights group.

Government documents detailing the accusations were heavily censored by the government which, claiming national security, blacked out the references to “the governor.” But multiple sources, both inside and outside the government, confirm that the words “the governor” have been censored as have whole passages referring to secret cells allegedly run by Mr. Khalid outside the official prison system.

Rumours have long linked Mr. Khalid to secret prisons. That he had close ties with U.S. intelligence agents and special forces had been known since Canadian troops arrived in southern Afghanistan in early 2006. But Ottawa didn't confront an accusation of the governor's direct involvement in the interrogation and torture of prisoners until it sent diplomats to inspect the main secret police prison in Kandahar on April 25, 2007.
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Colin Kenny . On our own in Kandahar
Ottawa Citizen, Feb. 1
...Not only did Mr. Harper say his government would "never" answer questions about how many prisoners Canadian troops take or what is done with them, he "misspoke" by saying vital pieces of equipment are on order when they are not...

...the only major flaws I can find in the Manley report are first that the 1,000 additional troops it deems to be needed in Afghanistan aren't nearly enough, and second, it doesn't go far enough in connecting Canada's precarious situation in Kandahar to inadequate political will and defence funding in Ottawa.

The report blames Canada's European NATO allies for not being willing to fight in Kandahar. It even suggests that Canada should pull out in February 2009 if countries like Germany don't come through with troops.

That recommendation is a bald-faced bluff. Earlier in its report, the panel detailed how disastrous it would be for both Afghanistan and Canada if we were to pull out before the Afghanistan government is strong enough to ward off the Taliban. There is no way it is going to have that kind of strength a year from now.

Secondly, the United States is sending in 3,000 Marines to bolster Canadians, Dutch and British troops in the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan. Is Canada going to walk out while the Americans are walking in? Is that going to happen when one of the main reasons Canada is in Afghanistan (curiously not mentioned as one of the panel's five main reasons) is to mollify Washington in the wake of Mr. Chrétien saying no to Iraq?

Not bloody likely.

Rather than blaming our European allies for non-support, the panel might better have taken a hard look at why Canada's military capacity isn't sufficient to succeed in Kandahar, where Canada insisted on playing the lead role right from the get-go.

Why aren't we doing better in Kandahar? Because a succession of Canadian governments have failed to recognize that militaries must be funded to overcome inevitable surprises. Warfare is all about surprises, and Canada got badly surprised in Kandahar. Our military simply hasn't been given the resources to deal with the unexpected.

In 2005, Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier made a three-pronged commitment: first, to send Canadian troops to Kandahar as replacements for U.S. troops (who appeared to have chased the Taliban out of their home province); second, to develop backup capacity in the Canadian Forces to allow them to deploy to more than one overseas theatre at any given time; and third, to reinvent the Canadian Forces.

Three years later, the Kandahar mission is wobbly at best, we have no capacity to deploy significantly in any other theatre, and the promised growth and transformation of the Canadian Forces has been set back on its heels. That's partially because we bit off more than we could chew in Kandahar, and partially because the government hasn't provided the funds to succeed at even one of these commitments - let alone all three.

In Kandahar, it turned out that the Americans had not defeated the Taliban. They were in strategic retreat. Rebuilt with funds from the poppy fields and young recruits from radical religious schools in Pakistan, the Taliban is coming on strong. Gen. Hillier has publicly acknowledged the resurgence of the Taliban came as a surprise.

The Manley panel notes that Canada lacks helicopters and modern Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for reconnaissance. It criticizes the Europeans for not giving us the helicopters. Well, we had helicopters, but the Mulroney government sold them to the Dutch in the early 1990s to save money. The current government says it wants to buy more, but months have gone by with no sign of a contract, and we probably couldn't get them until late 2011 if a contract were signed today.

The prime minister told the Commons that the helicopters and UAVs are "on order." That simply isn't true. Yes, the government is talking to Boeing about a potential contract. That isn't the same as "on order [emphasis added]."

As for the UAVs, the military pleaded with the Prime Minister's Office to buy modern models - like Predators - off the shelf. Predators would be a huge improvement over the unreliable Sperwers now being used. But the prime minister overruled Gen. Hillier, and mired their acquisition by insisting upon a politically correct bidding process [emphasis added].

Meanwhile, Canada's casualty count rises.

This government's obfuscation about what Canada is doing in Afghanistan is bad. But it is committing a far greater sin by disguising parsimonious military spending with tough-guy verbiage.

The NATO target for member countries' defence spending is two per cent of GDP. Canada's current defence spending is 1.2 per cent of GDP. There are no plans to close that huge gap [emphasis added].

Let's get real about why we're not doing better in Afghanistan. It's the money, stupid.

Senator Colin Kenny is chair of the National Security and Defence Committee.

Harper warns Britain on Afghanistan
Second day in a row ally pressed to supply troops

National Post, Feb. 1

Prime Minister Stephen Harper escalated diplomatic pressure on Canada's NATO allies yesterday, warning Britain's Gordon Brown that Canada will end its combat mission in Afghanistan next year unless the military alliance supplies 1,000 more troops for southern Afghanistan.

For the second consecutive day, Mr. Harper pressed a major Canadian ally to step up cooperation, calling the British Prime Minister the day after he delivered the same message to U.S. President George W. Bush in a 20-minute telephone call.

Mr. Harper briefed both leaders on last week's report of the independent Manley panel and its core ultimatum: Canada will end its combat operations in Kandahar by February, 2009, unless its allies provide another 1,000 troops and much-needed military hardware.

"Without that, Canada's mission will end in a year's time [emphasis added]," said a statement from Mr. Harper's chief spokeswoman Sandra Buckler...

Washington prête main-forte à Ottawa (Google translation, amended by me)
Le Devoir, Feb. 1

The United States has put its weight on the side of Canada in its diplomatic battle to persuade another country to come and lend a hand to Canadian soldiers in Kandahar. Yesterday, Washington sent unequivocal messages to France and Germany, urging them to do more to support Canada in southern Afghanistan.

In Berlin, German Minister of Defense Franz Josef Jung, received from his American counterpart, Robert Gates, a letter in an "unusually harsh tone," according to sources of the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. This page and a half missive asks Germany to contribute to the efforts of the United States, Canada and Britain in the south of Afghanistan, the most unstable region of the country.

The Pentagon particularly wants Berlin to send 3,200 soldiers to the south to replace--starting in the fall--the 3,200 marines that Washington will deploy on a temporary basis between March and September to lend a hand in the provinces of Kandahar and Helmand. The United States has already indicated that the force is not permanent and that it has no intention, at this time, to assist Canada in Kandahar for the longer term.

In his letter to Berlin, "Robert Gates asks for the provision [by Germany] of helicopters and combat troops," according to the newspaper. Ottawa for its part is looking for helicopters to assist its military on the ground.

The U.S. Defense Secretary recognizes the worth of German service in the north of Afghanistan "but complains about an imbalance within the NATO forces. Some countries refuse to engage in combat, while others are fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda, argued Robert Gates in his letter. He therefore called on Germany to add soldiers to its current strength of 3100 military and warns Berlin against the risk of "increased" divisions within NATO and a "loss of credibility", according to today's edition of the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

And France ...

Along with this frank and direct approach, Washington also put pressure on France yesterday. The french Minister of Defense, Herve Morin, visited the American capital to meet Robert Gates. At a press conference, the two men dodged questions on the future role of France in Afghanistan, but a spokesman for the State Department, Sean McCormack, said that the United States wanted France to send reinforcements for the Canadian troops deployed in southern Afghanistan. The Pentagon reiterated to France that European countries must do more.

France has given a new impetus to its mission in Afghanistan since the arrival in power of Nicolas Sarkozy. Paris currently has 1300 troops in Kabul, in addition to helping train the Afghan army.

In Ottawa, several sources say that France is a serious hope - with Washington and London - to assist Canada in Kandahar. The French Embassy in Canada says that the Manley report is being "scrutinized in Paris."

The two capitals have been in talks for several months about possible assistance, Jean-Christophe Fleury, spokesman for the embassy, told Le Devoir. "Discussions will intensify in the lead-up to the NATO summit in Bucharest, " he said. To show that it is not insensitive to the problems of Canada in Kandahar, France has sent six Mirage fighter jets to support the Canadian soldiers. The planes have been deployed since September. "We are a trusted ally, so it is normal to turn toward us," said Jean-Christophe Fleury. He said that France is considiering its role in Afghanistan...

US Demands More German Troops at Taliban Front
Spiegel Online, Feb. 1

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has sent a letter to his German counterpart demanding more German engagement in Afghanistan. Berlin has long resisted such demands, but the pressure to fight is mounting...

When the NATO defense ministers meet in Vilnius, Lithuania next Thursday, Afghanistan promises to be number one on the agenda. Specifically, the demands made by the US and Canada that Germany send combat soldiers to the southern part of the country.

[Franz Josef] Jung [German defence minister] already has a good idea of what awaits him in the Lithuanian capital. Earlier this week, he received a confidential letter from the US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. In the eight page missive, Gates made US expectations clear when it comes to NATO's strategy in Afghanistan.

And they're quite a bit different from Jung's position. Last year, the German defense minister presented a paper on "integrated security" and civilian-military reconstruction. Gates, on the other hand, places the emphasis on combat -- for him, counterinsurgency, the armed fight against the Islamist insurgency, has priority.

This focus, Gates writes in his letter, explains why Washington is now sending 3,200 Marines to Afghanistan -- troops which will join the 26,000 soldiers already stationed in Afghanistan. The Marines, though, will stay for seven months at the most, after which other NATO allies are expected to take up the slack. Where Gates is pointing the finger, though, is clear: at the Germans.

'Targeted talks with individual nations'

Early in the week, the Canadians also ramped up the pressure on Berlin. After losing 78 soldiers in Afghanistan, Ottawa issued a clear threat to its allies at NATO headquarters in Brussels: Either the Europeans send 1,000 combat troops, together with helicopters, to Kandahar, or Canada will completely withdraw its roughly 2,500 soldiers from Afghanistan next year.

The Canadians also announced that they plan to hold "targeted talks with individual nations" in Vilnius. This effort is also directed mainly at Germany [emphasis added].

Germany's military, the Bundeswehr, currently has about 3,340 of its total of 250,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. Although the Bundeswehr's Afghanistan campaign is already deeply controversial in Germany, the United States and Canada feel that the Germans aren't contributing enough to the NATO effort.

Officials at the German defense ministry have called the Gates letter an "outrage." The Americans, they say, are fully aware of the special circumstances -- conditions imposed by the German parliament -- under which German forces currently operate in Afghanistan.

So far the German government has managed to fend off all demands to send troops to the war-torn south. This time Jung hopes to defuse the allies' objections by citing Germany's strengthened commitment in northern Afghanistan...

Shoot Only in Self Defense

Under the conditions, German soldiers are "barred from the use of deadly force unless an attack is underway or is imminent." In other words, the German troops are only allowed to shoot in self-defense. Strictly speaking, the Germans would have to leave Taliban units untouched if they were merely forming but had not opened fire.

This sort of restriction defies both the demands of US Defense Secretary Gates and NATO practice. It has long been standard for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to actively track down and kill Taliban leaders. Bombing campaigns are also conducted against Taliban units, even when they are not specifically attacking ISAF troops.

In Vilnius, allies and NATO military leaders are expected to urge Jung to abandon the current rules of engagement for German soldiers, thereby forcing him to react to the dramatic situation in Afghanistan. The ISAF stabilization mission, which initially was rarely involved in combat operations, has turned into a combat effort in many parts of the country, and allies will likely demand that Germany, as a NATO partner, do its part and fight alongside its allies -- without conditions.

A look at the Bundeswehr's Web site reveals the extent to which Jung's department has ignored reality. According to the site, fighting the Taliban is the "responsibility of the (US-led) Operation Enduring Freedom," and is thus "strictly separated" from NATO's ISAF mission [emphasis added].

U.S. raises alarms over mission
Greatest threat is abandonment, international community told

National Post, Feb. 1

The United States expressed concern yesterday [Jan. 31] that the international community would abandon Afghanistan, cautioning that success in the insurgency-wracked nation was "not assured."

"The greatest threat to Afghanistan's future is abandonment by the international community," Richard Boucher, the State Department's top official for Afghanistan, told a Senate hearing on the turmoil in Afghanistan.

He said the mission in Afghanistan needed more troops and equipment, such as helicopters, pointing out that "too few of our allies have combat troops fighting the insurgents, especially in the south."..

"Success is possible but not assured [emphasis added]," said Mr. Boucher, who came under intense questioning from senators at the hearing. "Therefore, the international community needs to continue and expand its efforts."

"We expect more from our NATO allies; we have promised the Afghan people to assist in stabilizing their country, and we must give NATO personnel the tools they need to make good on that promise," he said...

Drawn and Quartered

...as matters stand, the Punjabi-dominated regime of Pervez Musharraf is headed for a bloody confrontation with the country’s Pashtun, Baluch and Sindhi minorities that could well lead to the breakup of Pakistan into three sovereign entities.

In that event, the Pashtuns, concentrated in the northwestern tribal areas, would join with their ethnic brethren across the Afghan border (some 40 million of them combined) to form an independent “Pashtunistan.” The Sindhis in the southeast, numbering 23 million, would unite with the six million Baluch tribesmen in the southwest to establish a federation along the Arabian Sea from India to Iran. “Pakistan” would then be a nuclear-armed Punjabi rump state.

In historical context, such a breakup would not be surprising. There had never been a national entity encompassing the areas now constituting Pakistan...

Selig S. Harrison is the director of the Asia program at the Center for International Policy and the author of “In Afghanistan’s Shadow,” a study of Baluch nationalism.


Articles found February  4, 2008

Rebuilding Afghanistan Impossible Without Combat: Gen. Hillier
Friday, February 01, 2008
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Canada's top soldier says an Afghan governor accused of personally torturing prisoners has done some "phenomenal work" and that allegations against him have yet to be proven as fact.

Hope the Leftists are listening this time. They've been listening so far when they found what he said to be convenient to their agenda. Will the Leftists still have an open mind now?

"Allegations are just that -- allegations obviously," Hillier told reporters.

Too bad the reporters seem to forget that allegations are only allegations and then proceed to make a big, incessant stink over allegations as if they were damning, proven facts.

Hillier also commented Friday on Canada's role in Kandahar. He said that Canadian soldiers cannot stay in the province and be expected to avoid combat.

"Certainly if you're in Kandahar you're going to be in combat operations,'' Hillier told reporters after delivering a speech at an Arctic conference.

"If you're there, you're going to be in the middle of a firefight some way or another.''
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Lorne Gunter on Censoring Salman Hossain: The right to be loathsome
Posted: February 01, 2008, 1:00 PM by Dan Goldbloom  Lorne Gunter
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The tough thing about free speech is that the only true test of one’s belief in it comes from defending those one most vehemently opposes — not merely those one agrees with. The case of Salman Hossain, a Bangladeshi-Canadian university student from Mississauga, Ont., illustrates my point.

This past Monday, I penned a column castigating Canada’s politically correct bureaucrats, politicians and human rights investigators for abandoning the free-speech tenets of Western civilization in the face of a few loud complaints made by radical Islamists against writers they felt had slighted their faith. Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn are two prominent victims of this “suicide by tolerance,” whereby governments and human rights commissions permit the desire of favoured interest groups not to be offended to trump our ancient and immutable right to free speech.
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Canadian takes command of 12,000 NATO troops
Updated Sat. Feb. 2 2008 10:08 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Dignitaries, politicians, and military officials attended a handover ceremony in Afghanistan Saturday where a Canadian has taken command of NATO troops in the country's southern region.

Canadian Maj.-Gen. Marc Lessard will lead 12,000 NATO soldiers that are part of the Regional Command South, which covers six Afghan provinces.

Lessard will be in charge of the Taliban stronghold for the next nine months. The general admits the insurgents are gaining in strength.

"The truth is there has been a 50 per cent increase in incidents," Lessard said.

He's calling for aggressive war-fighting to combat the rising tide of violence.

"In every occasion the Taliban were blocked, they didn't achieve any real success. So, what we are doing? We blocked in 2007. In 2008, we are going on the offensive," he said.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay issued a statement saying that Lessard's new command "clearly demonstrates Canada's leadership role within NATO and the international community in bringing peace and stability to Afghanistan."

Battling the Taliban, however, will likely lead to more Canadian and NATO casualties. That could make things difficult for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is lobbying NATO leaders to dispatch another 1,000 combat troops to the frontlines
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What he said...
Sunday, February 03, 2008
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The inimitable Chris Taylor thought this too political to cross-post to The Torch. I disagree: we call bullshit on politicians all the time, as required. And right now, Rae requires it.

* * *

Rae to Hillier: STFU killbot, we know what we're doing

A lot of folks are incapable of hearing the truth, particularly if they are politicians or those whose livelihood depends on politicians.

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's top soldier, in a move sure to be appreciated by the minority Conservative government, dismissed on Friday proposals made by the main opposition party that the military mission in Afghanistan refrain from combat operations next year.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper wants Canada's 2,500 troops in the southern city of Kandahar to stay in Afghanistan beyond the scheduled end of their mission in February 2009.

The opposition Liberals -- who are keeping the government alive in Parliament -- say they will only back an extension if the troops focus solely on training Afghan troops. So far 78 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan.

General Rick Hillier, the blunt-spoken chief of the defense staff, told reporters there was no chance of the soldiers being able to avoid clashes with Taliban militants.

"If you're in Kandahar, you're going to be in combat operations ... the Afghan army is not yet capable enough to be able to handle security by itself," he said when asked about the Liberals' position.
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Military turns to technology to fight deadly roadside bombs
TheStar.com - Canada - February 01, 2008 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
  Article Link

Allocates $5 million to deal with deadly threat

OTTAWA–The military has set aside $5 million to commission new technologies to help locate roadside bombs in Afghanistan. The forces are also in the market for two "neutralization vehicles" that can detect and dismantle landmines to clear the way for soldiers.

The "urgent" search for new methods to combat the scourge of improvised explosive devices comes after a month in which the Taliban's weapon of choice has killed four Canadian soldiers in Kandahar province.

Since 2005, when the Canadian Forces were sent to southern Afghanistan, there have been 34 successful attacks by roadside bombs. Twenty-eight soldiers have been killed and 72 have been wounded, according to statistics published on the Canadian American Strategic Review website.

The search for new ways to detect hidden explosives has been put on a fast track so that proposals from both industry and academia will be given the green light by mid-April. Defence Research Development Canada, the new-technology wing of the Canadian Forces, is specifically seeking new ways to predict the threat of bombs through intelligence gathering, behavioural analysis and "psychological operations."
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Afghan-Canadians say their insights on homeland largely untapped by Ottawa
Article Link

When Waheed Soroor sings of Afghanistan, it's of a country of peace, of celebration and of love.

The Toronto-based musician performs mostly for fellow Afghan-Canadians. But as politicians debate and soldiers fight over the future of his homeland, Soroor wishes he could sing to them of what he wishes for Afghanistan.

He and other Afghan-Canadians say the government hasn't tapped the skills, experience and insight of the Afghan diaspora in Canada, potentially losing out on a vast store of knowledge that could benefit Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

"There's a lot of intellectuals, a lot of people that we have that I don't believe are involved in this process," Soroor said.

He points to his parents as an example. Both were active members of Kabul's arts community until the family fled the country in 1982. They still maintain close ties with people there.

Soroor said the government has never asked for their input on what their fellow citizens might need and want from Canadians.
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Top soldier praises Kandahar governor
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OTTAWA, WASHINGTON -- Canada's top soldier says the governor of Kandahar province is doing "phenomenal work," and that allegations of torture against him are up to Afghans to investigate.

And while the opposition asked why Canadians weren't informed about the allegations 10 months ago, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the prisoner who made the charges against Governor Asadullah Khalid was not handed over by Canadians and that it's an issue for Kabul to deal with.

The two men made their remarks as opposition members demanded that the Harper government put pressure on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to investigate the allegations. They also wanted to know what the Department of Foreign Affairs did with the information and why it has taken this long for it to emerge.

General Rick Hillier confirmed he was aware of allegations against the governor, but said it is up to the Afghan government to deal with them. He also praised Mr. Khalid for the work he has done in Kandahar.
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J.L. Granatstein on Canada's Role Abroad: Mike Pearson's true heir: Stephen Harper
Posted: February 02, 2008, 1:30 PM by Dan Goldbloom
Article Link

In many of the recent interviews he gave after the report of his Afghanistan Panel appeared, John Manley made crystal-clear that Canada’s mission in Kandahar serves to uphold the United Nations Charter. As a card-carrying Liberal, he did not hesitate to add that, “Lester Pearson’s fingerprints are all over the charter.”

He was right. Pearson’s hand was evident in all the decisions and policies that established the fundamental Canadian foreign-policy values that we cherish. They are liberal values, and they have been Liberal values, too.

We need to remember that Mike Pearson served in the Great War in a hospital unit and as a trainee pilot. He saw the death of his generation, the loss of many close friends. He joined the Department of External Affairs late in the 1920s, and he watched the failure of appeasement during the Great Depression. As a senior diplomat in London, Ottawa and Washington during the Second World War, he was one of the Canadians who helped to hold together the Allied coalition that defeated Hitler.

And he drew the lessons of the Second World War properly. Collective security was the answer, and the United Nations Charter called for the nations of the world to unite to crush aggressors.
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Warsaw antes up
Poland's foreign minister pledges air support for Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan
Michael Petrou | Feb 4, 2008 | 12:19 am EST
Article Link

Also at Macleans.ca: Paul Wells follows rumblings that French paratroopers may soon join Canadian troops in Kandahar
Poland is putting two of the eight helicopters it is sending to Afghanistan "at the disposal of Canada," the country’s foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, disclosed Sunday in an interview with Maclean’s.
The pledge goes some way toward meeting the conditions Prime Minister Stephen Harper has placed on extending Canada’s military mission in Kandahar province beyond February 2009. Harper accepted the recommendations of an independent panel chaired by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, which argued that Canadian soldiers should stay in Kandahar on two conditions–that they are joined by another battle group of about 1,000 soldiers and that they secure the use of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles.
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Afghan mission tough PR sell
Insider, critics, Manley all say tight-lipped style is failing Canadians
Feb 04, 2008 04:30 AM Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa bureau chief
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OTTAWA–Several times a week, senior federal officials gather by phone to plot strategy for pitching the controversial Afghan mission to Canadians.

They dial in from defence headquarters, foreign affairs, the RCMP and the Canadian International Development Agency. Sandra Buckler, the prime minister's director of communications, is an occasional participant.

Moderated by David Mulroney, the foreign affairs official who leads the Afghanistan task force, the phone calls are a key part of Ottawa's public relations campaign for handling the issues and problems that surround the mission.
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'Our hearts are breaking with them'
Canada's top general speaks on coping with loss and the military's good work in Afghanistan
Donna Jacobs, The Ottawa Citizen Published: Monday, February 04, 2008
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In an interview for last week's column, Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of the defence staff, answered the controversial question: Why are Canadian troops at war in Afghanistan?

A soldier's wife responded: "My spouse and his son are both military and both would follow him to hell and back. General Rick speaks for the troops as much as he does himself and calls the situation as he and they see it.

"Duty, courage and honour are traits clearly embodied in both. The responsibilities of being a citizen -- not only of Canada but of the world -- are as great and onerous as the rights and freedoms are benefits.
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Analysts fear government creating "fog over information"
Norma Greenaway, Canwest News Service Published: Sunday, February 03
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OTTAWA -- Since getting a tongue-lashing from the Manley panel, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has offered a mea culpa of sorts for not being open enough with the Canadian public about what's going on in Afghanistan, and he has promised to try to do better.

Well, don't hold your breath, government analysts advise.

Robert Marleau, the information commissioner of Canada, says that contrary to Harper's election pledge to make transparency a hallmark of his administration, a "fog over information" has crept across the government's activities.
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Articles found February 5, 2008

Freedom for sale in Afghanistan jails
Posted in Governance by afghandevnews on February 5th, 2008
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Report says bribes for Taliban detainees vary from a few hundred dollars to more than $10,000
* Bribes do not work with US troops and Afghan National Army

LAHORE: Corrupt Afghan policemen, judges and jail authorities are sabotaging the war on terror in Afghanistan by releasing captured Taliban militants from jails in exchange for bribery, according to a recent Newsweek report.

It says that hundreds of captured militants every year appear to be buying their way out of official custody.

The magazine quotes National Directorate of Security (NDS) spokesman Saeed Ansari as denying the charges that the directorate has ever taken payment for releasing prisoners.

The NDS is controlled by a powerful and nearly untouchable political clique from the Panjshir valley, and runs its own secret court system, according to the report.

Canadian troops in Afghanistan stopped transferring captured Taliban to the directorate three months ago, because of allegations of NDS torture and corruption, the report says.

Abdul Bari, a Taliban field officer, tells the magazine about how he bought his way out of an Afghan jail. According to Bari, he was arrested a little more than a year ago while visiting his relatives in Kabul. The police was only able to seize a handbook from him on which he had scribbled his will. That evening, the city’s deputy police chief paraded handcuffed Bari on television, and called him the leader of a suicide bombers’ squad who was aiming to target the capital. The next day Bari was handed over to the NDS. He was expecting more than a decade in the prison – if he survived torture in NDS jails.

Newsweek quotes the Taliban militant as saying that his cousin, a female in her 20s, managed to visit him in the jail after bribing officers to stop torturing Bari. “Instead of being hauled before a clandestine NDS court and sentenced, Bari was back in the field with Taliban forces after 52 days of his arrest. The price, he says, was $1,100 in bribes to NDS officers,” the report says.

Bari also tells the magazine that main conversation topic among Taliban inmates is how to arrange bribes for their release, adding that 60 to 70 percent of the Taliban detained by the local police are freed as soon as payoffs can take place.

The report also quotes a senior government official as saying that his forces have sent “a significant number” of Taliban detainees to Kabul with “strong evidence”.
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Christopher Sands on counter-insurgency: Lessons from Baghdad
Posted: February 04, 2008, 1:30 PM by Dan Goldbloom  Christopher Sands
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U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, unlike his predecessor Donald Rumsfeld, is known as someone with good manners (he was an Eagle Scout, after all) and the quiet manner of a consummate Washington insider (he was a CIA agent, National Security Council staffer and eventually director of the CIA).

It surprised a lot of people then, when he gave a Jan. 16 interview to the Los Angeles Times in which he criticized the level of training of non-U.S. NATO forces deployed in southern Afghanistan — a contingent that includes more than 2,500 Canadians taking part in the United Nations-sanctioned and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Canada’s commitment to the ISAF in Afghanistan is scheduled to end on Feb. 1, 2009 — just 12 days after the next U.S. president is sworn in. That’s before any cabinet secretaries will be in place, including Gates’ successor, who will face a serious challenge when it comes to replacing the Canadians. Unlike some NATO countries, Canada has been willing to send troops to engage in combat operations, and not just for guard duty in relatively safe parts of the country.

Public criticism is a poor reward for any ally willing to put its young soldiers in harm’s way — what was Gates thinking?

It turns out that Gates — who has since apologized, calling Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay personally to reassure him that Canada’s sacrifices were much appreciated — was reflecting a growing consensus among Washington military strategists.

The new U.S. counter-insurgency strategy developed by General David Petraeus began showing remarkable results in Iraq in 2007, and it won broad respect among U.S. military planners. Before long, there was a clamour to bring this approach to Afghanistan and the Pakistan border region, where al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are reputedly hiding.
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Dion to meet with Harper over Afghan mission
Juliet O'Neill ,  Canwest News Service Published: Monday, February 04, 2008
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OTTAWA - Stephane Dion, whose Liberal party likely will have the deciding vote on Canada's future military role in Afghanistan, appeared to leave little room for negotiation when he takes part in a rare meeting Tuesday with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss government plans for the combat mission.

Dion told reporters Monday he is firm in his position that Canada's combat mission in Kandahar should be ended as scheduled in February, 2009, and he "obviously" will not allow a free vote by Liberal MPs on a government motion that is expected to seek an extension.

Dion shot down a call last week by Keith Martin, Liberal Development critic, for a free vote. On Friday, a Dion official said it was premature to decide until Parliament knows exactly what Harper is going to propose. Monday, Liberal Defence critic Denis Coderre said: "We will vote as a party."
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Canadian prison makes sense
The Gazette Published: 7 hours ago
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Canada is reported to be considering building a prison for its own use inside the enormous Afghan prison in Kabul. The Kabul prison, Pul-e-Charkhi, currently holds 3,200 prisoners, some political, others ordinary criminals. Pul-e-Charkhi is a compound, made up of a number of buildings, most in an advanced state of disrepair.

A prison within a prison, administered by Canadians and holding prisoners captured by Canadian forces, might make a kind of bizarre sense, but only temporarily. It will take a good two years before the Afghan prison system will be well enough administered to be free of abuse, the Afghanistan Compact has estimated. (The compact is a framework for co-operation negotiated by Afghanistan, the United Nations and the international community.)
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Revealed: British plan to build training camp for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan
By Jerome Starkey in Kabul Monday, 4 February 2008
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Britain planned to build a Taliban training camp for 2,000 fighters in southern Afghanistan, as part of a top-secret deal to make them swap sides, intelligence sources in Kabul have revealed. The plans were discovered on a memory stick seized by Afghan secret police in December.

The Afghan government claims they prove British agents were talking to the Taliban without permission from the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, despite Gordon Brown's pledge that Britain will not negotiate. The Prime Minister told Parliament on 12 December: "Our objective is to defeat the insurgency by isolating and eliminating their leaders. We will not enter into any negotiations with these people."

The British insist President Karzai's office knew what was going on. But Mr Karzai has expelled two top diplomats amid accusations they were part of a plot to buy-off the insurgents
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Army depleted by long-term sick and injured: report
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LONDON (AFP) — The manpower strength of the army has been markedly depleted by sickness and injury, The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday.

According to figures it obtained from the Ministry of Defence, of the 10 battalions that recently deployed to, or are currently in, Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 400 soldiers were left behind because they were "unfit to deploy".

That works out to around one in every 14 of the soldiers that were sent to the two countries.

The report comes after a parliamentary committee warned a week ago that pressure on Britain's military to meet its commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq has battered morale and spurred experienced officers to leave.

There are currently 7,700 British troops in Afghanistan, with a further 4,500 in Iraq.

According to the Telegraph, among the battalions that had to leave soldiers behind were the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, currently in Afghanistan's restive southern Helmand province, which had 50 long-term sick troops.

The 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery also had to leave behind nearly a tenth of its 388 soldiers.
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Women, children killed in southern Afghanistan raids
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HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) — Raids by Afghan and NATO troops against Taliban insurgents in southern and southwestern Afghanistan killed several civilians, among them children, local officials said Monday.

Ten people were killed in southwestern Farah province and two others were killed in southern Helmand province, they said. Authorities from Farah gave conflicting figures for the number of civilians killed.

The strike in Farah late Sunday, involving ground and air forces, took place in Bakwa district, which has seen a series of attacks by fighters with the Taliban movement, in government between 1996 and 2001.

The governor of Bakwa district said that two women and three children were among the dead and only one Taliban fighter was killed.

"A Taliban commander had been invited to the house," said Khan Agha. "In the operation nine people were killed, which includes two women and three kids." The rest were men.

But provincial governor Ghulam Mohaidun Balouch said that out of 10 people killed in the raid on a Taliban "cell" most were rebels.
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Japan mulls providing another $110 mln in aid to Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-02-05 17:34:39   
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    TOKYO, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government is ready to provide 110 million U.S. dollars in fresh aid to Afghanistan to assist the nation's reconstruction process, Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said Tuesday.

    Among the sum of assistance, about 90 million dollars will be implemented for projects around the Afghan borders with Pakistan and Iran, the foreign minister said in his speech at the opening session of a two-day Afghanistan reconstruction international conference.

    Japan also intends to implement assistance of about 13 million dollars for enhancement of literacy through UNESCO and of about 9 million dollars for enhancement of border management through Afghanistan government, Komura said.

    Afghan Foreign Minister Dadfar Spanta in his part expressed gratitude for the international community's assistance to his country and called for continuous support for Afghanistan's reconstruction and development.
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Afghanistan: time for a decision
Conference of Defence Associations' media roundup, Feb. 6

Articles found February 6, 2008

Manitoba launches yellow ribbon drive
TheStar.com - February 05, 2008 THE CANADIAN PRESS
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WINNIPEG–Manitoba's NDP government is endorsing a campaign by two retired soldiers to send hundreds of yellow ribbons to Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan.

Premier Gary Doer says it's important to show support to the soldiers for their bravery, and to the troops' families for their sacrifice.

About 800 Manitoba-based soldiers will be heading to Afghanistan over the next few weeks.

Ribbons will be located at Winnipeg malls and several legions across southern Manitoba, making it easy for people to support the soldiers, says retired lieutenant-colonel Joe Greenberg, one of the campaign's organizers.

Organizers hope to collect 10,000 signatures.

The ribbons will be sent to Kandahar sometime in the spring, along with flags from Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg.
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A certain Afghan seems to be confusing...
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
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...special forces operations with Petraeus-style counterinsurgency:

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- As the most powerful Afghan official in the troubled southern province of Kandahar, Ahmed Wali Karzai says he knows just how to tame the shadowy Taliban campaign of suicide bombs and assassinations that have raised the specter of a country sliding toward anarchy.

He wants more American soldiers on the ground."The Canadians are fine, but Americans are Americans -- the mentality is different," said Karzai, chairman of the provincial council in Kandahar where the Canadian-led military mission has struggled to contain the regrouped Taliban.

Amid the recent deluge of discouraging reports citing declining security in swaths of southern Afghanistan, Karzai's is a rare voice of optimism, claiming that U.S. special forces already have begun to turn the tide in Kandahar with targeted strikes against individual commanders of the fundamentalist group, which was ousted from power six years ago.
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Kandahar police shoot it out with new foe – themselves
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail February 6, 2008 at 4:44 AM EST
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For the third time in recent months a gunfight erupts within the ranks of area security forces, leaving three officers dead

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The biggest firefight in Kandahar city over the past few weeks was not a battle against insurgents but a squabble among Afghan police, the provincial police chief has confirmed.

Local radio initially reported that gunfire heard in Kandahar's northern slums on Sunday afternoon was a skirmish between police and Taliban, but witnesses later said the fighting erupted after local police caught a group of fellow officers trying to buy opium.

Three police were killed and five wounded and a civilian was injured in the crossfire, Police Chief Sayed Agha Saqib said.

It's at least the third time in the past eight months that deadly gunfights have erupted within the ranks of Kandahar's security forces, even after Canada has focused attention on training the police and Canadian politicians describe Afghan forces as taking greater responsibility for local security.
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Canada won't build, run Afghan jails, Bernier says
TheStar.com - February 05, 2008 THE CANADIAN PRESS
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OTTAWA–Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier says Canada won't build a detention facility in Afghanistan or participate in the management of its prisons, despite suggestions that doing so might keep local authorities from abusing enemy captives.

"We will not be building a prison in Afghanistan; we will not manage a prison in Afghanistan," he told the House of Commons during question period on Tuesday.

"We are there to help the Afghan government and people to achieve prosperity and security in their country."

One way to protect enemy prisoners from abuse at the hands of Afghan authorities is to have Canadian and NATO officials help manage jails, lawyers for a pair of human-rights groups said in a court document filed last week.

Attorneys for Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association made the suggestion in a Federal Court document as part of their effort to block transfers of prisoners to Afghan control.

"Co-management of detention facilities by Afghan authorities and Canadian, NATO or other international officials could be one option that provides substantive safeguards against torture until Afghan officials have developed the capacity and training to reliably meet international standards," they said.
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Senior Khadr found Canada boring: book
New Biography; Extremist did not stay long in 'dirty swamp'
Stewart Bell, National Post  Published: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
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The late extremist Ahmed Khadr found Canada boring and only returned to the "dirty swamp" of Canada for medical treatment and money, says a new biography by al-Qaeda sympathizers.

The patriarch of the Khadr family, whose son Omar is before a Guantanamo Bay military tribunal this week, is one of 120 dead terrorists featured in a book published online by the Al-Fajr Media Center.

The flowery tribute portrays the Egyptian-born Khadr as little more than a Canadian of convenience, who retreated here only to collect money and have his war wounds treated. It also provides a glimpse of the disdainful way extremists view Canada.

"After much hesitation he [Khadr] decided to go to Canada, the country of money and business, and there he roamed the alleys of false civilization," it says, but he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and moved to Pakistan in 1985.

"And after staying a long time, the philanthropist went back
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Vote on Afghan mission could come in late March
Canwest News Service, Feb. 6

The Harper government will set the stage for a possible spring election on Canada's role in the Afghanistan war by tabling a motion as early as Thursday calling for an extension of the mission in line with last month's Manley report.

Debate on the motion is expected to begin next week, but it is not clear when a vote will come. Officials in the Prime Minister's Office suggested Wednesday the debate could last for weeks.

"If we believe our NATO allies will be forthcoming with the assistance we have asked for, the vote will take place in late March," Carolyn Stewart- Olsen, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's press secretary, said in an e-mail.

The motion is expected to adopt the central recommendation of the panel led by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley. In its report, the panel recommended extending the mission beyond February 2009, the current expiration date, provided Canada can secure more equipment and convince its allies to commit roughly 1,000 more troops.

Government officials would not confirm if the motion will be declared a matter of confidence, meaning its defeat would trigger an election, but Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said he was told by Harper it will be a confidence motion.

The prime minister sprang the motion on Dion in a meeting Tuesday to discuss the Manley report.

Olsen said the government wants to encourage a "fulsome public debate" on the future of the war. But some Conservative insiders believe the move is designed to expose the divisions within the Liberal caucus, forcing the Grits to once again air their differences on the war in a public debate.

The Liberals are seen to have the deciding vote on the mission. The NDP are standing firm in their demand for an immediate withdrawal, while the Bloc Quebecois continues to urge a pullout by February 2009.,,

Dion declared his caucus unified on Wednesday, and reiterated his position that Canada should shift to non-combat operations in February 2009. The Liberal leader pledged to be flexible, but again warned that his party will not accept a "never-ending mission."

A draft of the motion is believed to promise a review of the mission in 2011, but Liberals say it is unacceptable because it doesn't include a firm end date and emphasizes the combat aspect of Canada's mission. They have dubbed it "Manley lite," because unlike the report by the Manley panel, the motion contains no proposals for additional diplomacy or development, according to sources familiar with the draft.

However, Deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff appeared to open the door to negotiation [emphasis added] when asked whether the Liberals' end date for combat operations is flexible. It is expected that opposition parties will have the chance to amend the motion.

"I live in hope of reason and good sense from the prime minister, I never give up," Ignatieff said. "So there are possibilities there. I won't enter into the details about timing. That's the kind of stuff we have to work out, they have to work out."..

NATO defence ministers to confront Afghan divisions
Canwest News Service, Feb. 6

VILNIUS, Lithuania - Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay heads today into a potentially acrimonious meeting of western allies deeply divided over the war against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is expected to urge the alliance's 26 members to show greater solidarity and end the public finger-pointing.

There are fears the public spat could bury recent good news, from NATO's perspective, such as Belgium's commitment of four fighter jets and an extra 140 soldiers this year.

Ther is also talk that one or two other countries might announce here larger contributions to the war effort.

"This is a critical week for the alliance," Christopher Langton, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Agence France Presse.

The stick poking at the hornet's nest is U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who annoyed allies like Britain, Canada and the Netherlands in January by questioning the counter-insurgency skills of NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Then last week he upset Germany, which has more than 3,000 troops in Afghanistan's relatively peaceful north, with a letter to allies pressuring them to do more to battle the Taliban.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's fragile coalition government could collapse, say analysts, if her government defied largely pacifist public opinion and tried to shift troops to combat zones. Many Germans have been led to believe Afghanistan is a nation-building or peacekeeping mission, and not war, they say...

Canada, meanwhile, has also put pressure on European countries like Germany and France to do more.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is reportedly prepared to force an election on the issue, said Canada will end the 2,500-soldier mission in Kandahar a year from now unless it gets the aid of 1,000 extra allied troops and new equipment.

One European observer said Canada might have better luck looking outside NATO for help, perhaps by going to Australia, New Zealand, or one of three Muslim countries - Egypt, Jordan or Morocco [!?!]...

France could answer Canada's call for troops in Kandahar
Canwest News Service, Feb. 6

OTTAWA - France is seriously considering a military contribution to southern Afghanistan, fuelling optimism NATO won't have to do without Canadian troops in volatile Kandahar.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is said to be seriously considering Canada's position that it would withdraw its 2,500 combat troops from Kandahar next year unless another NATO country can supply an additional 1,000 troops.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to Sarkozy on Tuesday by telephone and relayed the core demand of the report by the independent panel headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley: that Canadian troops would not stay in southern Afghanistan past February 2009 unless the extra troops were found...

France and Germany, which have about 4,500 troops between them in less volatile parts of Afghanistan, are facing increasing pressure within NATO for more troops in Kandahar, where Canada and its British, U.S. and Dutch allies are doing the bulk of the front-line fighting against the Taliban insurgency.

Germany has flatly rejected redeploying any of its 3,200 troops from its area of responsibility in northern Afghanistan, or adding extra to the south.

France, however, is considering adding to its 1,300 Afghanistan deployment, most of which is based in Kabul.

"People are optimistic Canadians will get the troops. The French are the obvious choice," said a well-placed western official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

However, two sources have also stressed that they did not expect any formal announcement of an extra French military contribution to Afghanistan to flow from the defence ministers meetings in Vilnius Thursday. Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay is attending.

In his conversation with Sarkozy, Harper publicly acknowledged the contributions that the French military are making elsewhere in the world, particularly in the African country of Chad, where unrest from neighbouring Darfur has spilled over.

"The conversation began with the prime minister thanking President Sarkozy for the assistance France has provided to Canadians seeking to leave Chad in the wake of the violence there," Sandra Buckler, Harper's spokeswoman, said in a statement.

However, Sarkozy, who has been re-building France's relations with the United States, would clearly have appreciated Harper's public thank-you for the efforts of the 1,000 French troops in Chad.

A spokesman for the French Embassy in Ottawa said any decisions about further troop deployments were weeks away.

The French have in the past taken exception to suggestions by Canadian that its troops are not pulling their weight in southern Afghanistan. Manley recommended that Canada end such "megaphone diplomacy" when trying to persuade some NATO countries to do more in southern Afghanistan.

France's annoyance stems from the fact that it has deployed more than 10,000 troops deployed on foreign soil in United Nations missions or other bilateral operations, including in Lebanon, in the West African country of Cote d'Ivoire and Kosovo...

Germany Sending Small Combat Unit to Afghanistan
Spiegel Online, Feb. 6

The German government said on Wednesday it will send a unit of combat troops to northern Afghanistan as part of a NATO Quick Reaction Force to replace a Norwegian unit of 250 soldiers. But it reiterated its rejection of US and NATO calls to deploy troops to help its allies fight the Taliban in the south.

The German government on Wednesday rejected accusations from NATO allies that it wasn't bearing its fair share of the burden in Afghanistan and reiterated its refusal of a US request for German troops to be deployed from the relatively peaceful north to help fight a Taliban insurgency in the south.

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Germany was already the third-biggest troop provider in Afghanistan and that redeploying troops away from the north would be a "decisive mistake."

He did however repeat Germany's vague pledge to provide its NATO allies with military assistance when required, and announced that Germany will be sending a unit of combat troops to northern Afghanistan to replace the 250-strong Norwegian Quick Reaction Force being withdrawn...

No retreat from the War on Terror
If the West backs out of Afghanistan the consequences would be plainly catastrophic

The Times, Feb. 5, by David Aaronovitch

In recent days, and unsurprisingly, it has become common to hear the mournless rites being read for liberal interventionism. If anyone has opined publicly about Afghanistan in the last week - and plenty did - it was to regret our presence there and to wish us away. If ever an argument was being won by default this was it, especially since those making the case for quitting were far too exuberant to want to slow up and allow for the possible objections to their reasoning...

In the current circumstances of the failure of the opium strategy, the bloody fighting in Helmand, the row inside Nato and the argument about Paddy Ashdown's unacceptability to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, much of this pessimism seems appropriate. But if we are to follow its dictates, its proponents should do a better job of spelling out what it means. Anyone who still favours a military presence is easily decorated with the order of the armchair commentator, but let us see what other commentators are prepared to sit through.

Canada has already threatened to pull out its troops from Kandahar province in a year's time if other Nato countries don't contribute more. We must assume that if Britain were to begin to talk about a draw-down, then Canada would carry out this threat. British forces would then be exposed in Helmand and, presumably, would also withdraw. Let us suppose that an angry and abandoned US follows the “lead” offered by its allies, and itself pulls out, leaving itself only an air-to-ground interdiction capability.

Here are the likely consequences of such a pattern. The Afghan Government would collapse, to be replaced by an overt civil war fought between the Taleban and local governors in the various provinces. A million or more Afghan refugees would again flee their country, many of them ending up in the West. Deprived of support from the US, as recommended by our commentators, President Musharraf or a successor would effectively withdraw from the border regions, leaving a vast lawless area from central Afghanistan to north central Pakistan. Al-Qaeda and other jihadists would operate from these areas as they did before 9/11. This time these forces - already capable of assassinating a popular democratic politician - would seriously impact upon the stability of Pakistan, which is a nuclear state.

Jihadists everywhere, from Indonesia to Palestine, would see this as a huge victory, democrats and moderates as a catastrophic defeat. There would hardly be a country, from Morocco to Malaysia, that wouldn't feel the impact of the reverse. That's before we calculate the cost to women and girls of no longer being educated or allowed medical treatment. And would there be less terror as a result?

We have been here before. After the Afghans managed to defeat the Russians, the Yanks - and everyone else - left Afghanistan alone, to be swallowed up by the Taleban. Who then let Osama bin Laden in. It wasn't us who provoked the ferocious Pashtun in 2001, it was their Mullah Omar who gave sanctuary to the topplers of the twin towers. Many of bin Laden's people had themselves been radicalised by the failure of the West - in another non-intervention - to prevent Serb atrocities against Bosnian Muslims.

Whatever the failures of Western policy - which have usually been about doing too little, not too much - they will not be dealt with by the creation of a new myth of non-interdependence. Just as the genocide in Darfur has refused to confine itself within the borders of the Sudan, but has now destabilised neighbouring Chad, so anything that happens in Pakistan or Afghanistan, whether we cause it or not, will come back to us in the shape of fleeing people, apocalyptic ideologues, weapons proliferation and the export of terror.

Fortunately, it isn't just David Miliband who recognises this. Today America may decide that the next presidential election will be between John McCain and Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. All three recognise that America must continue to be the ideological and physical arsenal of democracy. Thank God.

Articles found February  7, 2008

Pakistan's Taliban offers truce, Army demurs
Militants in the country's tribal belt seem to be maneuvering for time and space, analysts say.
By Mark Sappenfield | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor from the February 7, 2008 edition
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New Delhi - In a curious development highlighting the confusion in Pakistan's tribal areas, the Taliban announced Wednesday it had declared a cease-fire with Pakistani forces. But Pakistani forces promptly denied it.

It appears that the militants in the tribal belt are maneuvering for time and space. Taliban leader Mullah Omar has recently been trying to turn the Taliban's attentions toward Afghanistan, not Pakistan. This cease-fire claim could represent an effort to call off Pakistan operations so that the Taliban can refocus and regroup.

If so, the Taliban are seeking to continue a trend that has played out repeatedly since Sept. 11, 2001: When the military has stepped in to contain unruly militants, the militants have reached cease-fires with the Army.

"In the past, these cease-fires have resulted in militants being able to bide more time, build up resources, and then make much more effective attacks," says Ahmed Rashid, author of "Taliban."

Most notably, the Army pulled out of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) entirely after a 2006 cease-fire in exchange for a promise from tribal chiefs to expel militants. The deal is seen as a failure that allowed the number of Mmilitants to grow tremendously.

Instead of withdrawal, experts say, a cease-fire should lead to greater Pakistani engagement with tribes in FATA, which have ruled themselves with little state interference for a century. But since the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, the remnants of the Taliban and Al Qaeda have crossed from Afghanistan into the tribal areas and supplanted local tribal chiefs. They have killed many who opposed them; most moderate tribal leaders have fled to Peshawar or Lahore.
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France mulls troops for mission in south
NATO defence ministers meet
Mike Blanchfield and peter O'neil,  Canwest News Service  Published: Thursday, February 07, 2008
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France is seriously considering a military contribution to southern Afghanistan, fuelling optimism NATO won't have to do without Canadian troops in volatile Kandahar.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is said to be giving thought to Canada's position that it would withdraw its 2,500 combat troops from Kandahar next year unless another NATO country can supply an additional 1,000 troops.

Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, spoke to Mr. Sarkozy on Tuesday by telephone and relayed the core demand of the report by the independent panel headed by former Liberal Cabinet minister John Manley: that Canadian troops would not stay in southern Afghanistan past February, 2009, unless the extra troops were found.

In Vilnius, Lithuania, where NATO defence begins two days of meetings, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is expected to urge the alliance's 26 members to show greater solidarity and end the public finger-pointing.

There are fears the public spat could bury recent good news, from NATO's perspective, such as Belgium's commitment of four fighter jets and an extra 140 soldiers this year.
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NATO talks might get nasty
TheStar.com - February 07, 2008 Mitch Potter EUROPE BUREAU
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Canadian arm-twisting for more troops will coincide with pressure on some allies to step up

VILNIUS, Lithuania–A final flurry of diplomatic shrapnel flew in all directions yesterday as embattled NATO leaders gathered for the first in a series of crucial meetings that could determine Canada's fate in Afghanistan.

Defence ministers of the 26-nation alliance, including Canada's Peter MacKay, sit down today in the Lithuanian capital ostensibly to lay the groundwork for what promises to be a decisive NATO spring summit in Bucharest.

But even before the sessions began, the already fractious alliance was scolded anew by fresh broadsides from the United States and Britain aimed at overcoming European reluctance to increase its military footprint in Afghanistan.

In Washington, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said the disproportionately heavy duties carried by Canadians, British, Australians, Dutch and Danes "put a cloud over the future of the alliance."

"I worry a great deal about the alliance evolving into a two-tiered (NATO), in which you have some allies willing to fight and die to protect peoples' security and others who are not," Gates said during U.S. Senate defence spending hearings.

In London, Prime Minister Gordon Brown told Parliament "we need a proper burden sharing" in Afghanistan. In a separate meeting, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice the U.K. would maintain but not increase the 7,700 soldiers it commands in the southern province of Helmand.

"I do think the alliance is facing a real test here," Rice told reporters. "Our populations need to understand this is not a peacekeeping mission," but rather a long-term counter-insurgency, she said.
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CIDA minister says 'PR' Afghan aid project not in the cards
Mike Blanchfield ,  Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
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OTTAWA - Canada does not need a "signature" aid project in Afghanistan, says the federal minister whose department was the subject of scathing criticism by the Manley report.

Commenting publicly for the first time since the criticism, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda poured cold water on the recommendation for "at least one 'signature' project (a hospital, for example, or a major irrigation project) identified with Canada and led by Canadians."

Oda said the Canadian International Development Agency doesn't do projects "for purely PR purposes."

"Just to do a signature project for the sake of it certainly is not what motivates our decision-making," Oda said, before admitting that CIDA would be looking at ways to increase the visibility of Canada's much-maligned aid delivery in southern Afghanistan.

"When you say signature, you know, do you expect the Canadian flag there? You have to actually try to determine what you mean by signature project?"

Former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley called on CIDA to refocus its delivery of aid in Afghanistan, including picking a "signature" project to show a tangible gain in helping rebuild Afghanistan.

Manley criticized the management of CIDA's few staff on the ground in Afghanistan as a cloistered group, hamstrung by rules and procedures back in Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper later said he wanted Canada's aid projects to have a "higher profile."
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Few can meet Canada's Afghan troop demand: MacKay
CAMPBELL CLARK  Globe and Mail Update February 7, 2008 at 8:10 AM EST
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VILNIUS — Canada is hoping to find a single country willing to send 1,000 troops to Kandahar, but Defence Minister Peter MacKay conceded today it might come down to cobbling together smaller contingents from several countries.

On the first day of a meeting of NATO defence ministers, Mr. MacKay noted there are a few countries that might be able to meet Canada's demand for 1,000 reinforcements – including the U.S. and Britain, which already have troops in southern Afghanistan, or possibly France – but noted that last year the Dutch had to rely on smaller deployments from several allies.

“The Dutch were able to – I don't mean to sound derogatory – cobble together a combination of countries to fit the bill,” Mr. MacKay told reporters. “Our preference would be a single commitment.”
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Kabul officials sent to monitor detainees
Move designed to assuage Canadian fears
GRAEME SMITH From Thursday's Globe and Mail February 7, 2008 at 3:50 AM EST
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Under pressure from Canada to act on allegations of abuse, the Afghan government has dispatched two senior intelligence officers to Kandahar in recent days to inspect detention cells and oversee the treatment of detainees.

The move was revealed by a member of Afghanistan's feared intelligence service at a meeting in Kabul yesterday with Canadian and NATO officials, and reflects the Afghan government's strong desire to persuade Canada it is safe to resume transferring detainees to local authorities.

It's part of Kabul's response to Canadian concerns about torture and mistreatment in Afghan custody, said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy chairman of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, who participated in the meeting.

"We hope it will pave the way for transfer of detainees," said Mr. Hakim, whose agency has been pushing for a resumption of the transfers that Canada halted in early November after finding evidence of abuse at the Kandahar National Directorate of Security.
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Canadians fired almost five million bullets in Afghanistan in two years
David ********, Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, February 06, 2008
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OTTAWA  -- Canadian troops fired more than 4.7 million bullets at insurgents over the last 20 months in Afghanistan, according to new statistics released by the military.

In an abrupt reversal tonight, the Defence Department issued the figures requested by the Ottawa Citizen two weeks ago.

The request was made after U.S and British governments provided similar figures to the public.

But a top general warns Taliban insurgents based in the mountains around Kandahar are reading articles in the Ottawa newspaper on a regular basis and that the military has to be careful about what details it releases.

According to an e-mail from the Defence Department, for the period between April 2006 and December 2007, troops fired more than 2.9 million rounds of 5.56-mm ammunition, the standard bullet used in Canadian rifles.

Troops fired more than 1.6 million rounds of 7.62-mm machine-gun bullets and more than 115,000 rounds of .50-calibre machine-gun ammunition during the same time frame.
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Afghanistan to slash poppy production 
February 07 2008 at 06:24AM 
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Tokyo - Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said on Wednesday that his country, the world's top source of opium, is determined to slash poppy production by 25 percent this year.

"Afghanistan believes we have only one choice," Spanta said. "Poppy can destroy us or we destroy the poppy. We don't have any other choice."

"We believe this year we can reduce 25 percent of poppy production in Afghanistan," said Spanta, who was in Tokyo to attend talks among the war-torn country's donors.

Afghanistan grows about 90 percent of the world's illicit opium with production hitting a new high last year.

A United Nations survey released earlier in the day said opium production may drop slightly this year from a record spike but that world-high cannabis output is likely to rise.
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Articles found February 8, 2008

France ready to help Canada in Afghanistan
TheStar.com -  February 08, 2008  Mitch Potter EUROPE BUREAU
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VILNIUS, Lithuania–Canada throttled up the pressure on its NATO allies behind closed doors here yesterday, and France stepped up to give the strongest public signal yet that it stands ready to "help the Canadians."

As defence ministers gathered for a critical meeting on how alliance members are sharing the burden of fighting in southern Afghanistan, Canada's Peter MacKay delivered an ultimatum to some of the world's most powerful military leaders and reluctant NATO counterparts.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was to introduce a motion in the House of Commons today that would extend Canada's mission in Afghanistan beyond the scheduled pullout date of February 2009 if more NATO troops and equipment are sent to Kandahar to help.

France's defence minister, Hervé Morin, was among those listening to MacKay's pitch and when he emerged from the closed-door meeting he announced that his country was ready to respond – significantly, and shortly.

"I said we would help the Canadians," Morin told reporters. But the details would have to wait until a final decision from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is leading a discussion within his government about its Afghanistan strategy.

"Give it a few more days and it necessarily wouldn't be a bad thing," Morin added.

Sources told The Canadian Press in Ottawa that Canadian officials were heading to Paris – and potentially to other locations – to thrash out the issue.

In France, Sarkozy's spokesperson David Martinon said no decision has been reached yet, but details emerged yesterday of intensive talks between officials from the two countries in the wake of a telephone conversation he had with Harper on Tuesday.
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Numbers of wounded dropped sharply in 2007, military reports
GLORIA GALLOWAY  February 8, 2008
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OTTAWA -- The number of Canadian soldiers wounded in battle dropped significantly last year as direct gun battles with the Taliban appeared to decrease.

The Canadian Forces decided last fall that, for operational reasons, it would provide annual, rather than weekly, reports on military personnel hurt on overseas deployment.

The report made public yesterday showed that in 2006, 180 Canadian soldiers received medical treatment for wounds directly attributable to combat - including those who were injured by improvised explosive devices or hit by friendly fire, and people suffering from acute psychological trauma. In 2007, that number fell to 84.

The military did not explain the decline. But Stephen Staples, the director of the Rideau Institute, an Ottawa-based think tank on international affairs, said there is a general understanding that the Canadian military is doing less direct combat.
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Longer troop deployments urged
TheStar.com -February 08, 2008 Mitch Potter EUROPE BUREAU
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NATO commander says 6-month tours undertaken by Canadians in Kandahar too short to get job done

VILNIUS, Lithuania–Last month, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates frayed tender NATO nerves by suggesting some allied troops in southern Afghanistan come up short in the battle against insurgents.

Now the senior U.S. commander on the ground in Afghanistan has elaborated on the theme, saying that six-month deployments such as those undertaken by Canadian soldiers lack the longevity to get the job done American-style.

In a blunt assessment of the alliance's shortcomings in Afghanistan, top NATO commander Gen. Dan McNeill told reporters at the Pentagon he is hamstrung by "a minimalist force" too few in number and too burdened by political and military obstacles to match the counter-insurgency efforts of U.S. troops.

Praising the "absolutely amazing" progress in U.S.-controlled sectors of eastern Afghanistan against the struggles encountered by Dutch, British and Canadian troops in the south, McNeill contrasted the elongated 15-month rotations of American troops against the six-month rotations that are the norm for Canadian soldiers.

"What does 15 months mean? The American soldier ... develops a relationship with the terrain, with the indigenous people and their leadership, and with the enemy. And they have sufficient time to exploit that relationship to their advantage," McNeill said. "Secondly, ... Congress well endows the commanders in the U.S. sector with reconstruction money, bureaucratically unencumbered, more or less, so that they can apply those monies in a pure and comprehensive way in counter-insurgency operations, and they can see to immediate and genuine needs, not just once."

Asked to contrast that approach against other nations involved in the fractious south, where most of Canada's 2,500 troops are deployed, McNeill said: "Most of the other forces are typically on a six-month tour length. They probably are not as well-endowed by their governments as U.S. soldiers are. Some of them don't have the same level of pre-deployment training."
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NATO chief says Afghan government must improve
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VILNIUS (AFP) — The NATO chief on Friday called on Afghanistan to improve its government and boost support for its security forces to step up the fight against the Taliban.

Speaking at a NATO defence ministers meeting dominated by the conflict in Afghanistan, Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer warned that "governance must visibly improve."

The ministers set aside a dispute over foreign troop levels in the country to discuss international aid for Afghanistan with representatives of the United Nations, European Union, World Bank and Afghanistan's Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak.

"Governance must visibly improve, so that the Afghan people have trust in their leaders," the NATO chief told the meeting.

"The police need robust support to develop and they need it now. The narco-economy must be replaced by a legal, sustainable economy. And the Afghan army must get more support from NATO nations and from partners, to stand on its own feet and defend its own country," he added.

Scheffer said "NATO will play its part -- but NATO and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) are only part of the answer."
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Diplomat with 'encyclopedic knowledge' to lead civilian efforts in Kandahar
DANIEL LEBLANC From Friday's Globe and Mail February 8, 2008 at 5:00 AM EST
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OTTAWA — Ottawa is putting a new face at the top of its team in Kandahar, nominating diplomat Elissa Golberg to oversee Canada's mission in a province that needs aid and development to emerge from decades of war.

Ms. Golberg was named this week to the new position of representative of Canada in Kandahar, after having served as executive director of the Manley panel on the country's future role in Afghanistan.

In fact, her nomination is seen as part of the federal response to last month's Manley report, which urged the government to revamp its aid efforts and offer assistance that addresses the "immediate, practical needs of the Afghan people."

In previous years, the most visible elements of Canada's presence in Kandahar were the 2,500 soldiers in the province. But the internal announcement of Ms. Golberg's nomination made it clear that she will be at the top of the ladder in Kandahar, giving more prominence to Canada's civilian presence.
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Judge blasts Ottawa on Afghan detainees
Though court won't block transfers, human-rights groups hail ruling as proof existing safeguards cannot prevent prisoner abuse
PAUL KORING February 8, 2008
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A Federal Court judge has refused to block detainee transfers, but lambasted the Harper government for failing to put adequate safeguards in place to prevent prisoners from being tortured in the hands of Afghanistan's security forces.

In a ruling released yesterday, Madam Justice Anne Mactavish said she had "very real concerns as to the effectiveness of the steps that have been taken thus far to ensure that detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces to the custody of Afghan authorities are not mistreated."

However, she refused a request by Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association for an injunction blocking all transfers. But she says those concerns are not an issue, at least for now.

"It is not clear at this point when, and indeed if, detainee transfers will ever resume," Judge Mactavish wrote.
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Pakistan's woes may be helping NATO in Afghanistan
Fri Feb 8, 2008 4:59am IST By Kristin Roberts and David Morgan
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Political turmoil in Pakistan may have stemmed the flow of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters into neighboring Afghanistan, as militants shift their focus to the government of President Pervez Musharraf, U.S. officials say.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Congress this week that the Pentagon is trying to determine whether a drop in the number of fighters crossing into Afghanistan is a by-product of a suicide bombing campaign in Pakistan run by al Qaeda and Taliban militants.

"They (militants) are now facing the other direction and sending some resources to try and attack, to try and undermine Pakistani stability," Gates told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

The top commander of NATO troops in the eastern region of Afghanistan that borders Pakistan agreed, saying the number of fighters crossing into his area was down due in part to increasing security problems in Pakistan.

"Right now, as far as the infiltration, it's actually been a little bit down lately," Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez said.

"That's due to several reasons. One, of course, is the instability and what's going on in Pakistan and some of the challenges that are going over there, going over in Pakistan."

The reduced flow of fighters -- down as much as 40 percent since November, according to U.S. officials -- could mark a significant opening for the Afghan government, some officials said.
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Suicide car bomber kills three in Afghanistan
Fri Feb 8, 2008 5:27am EST
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GHAZNI, Afghanistan, Feb 8 (Reuters) - A suicide car bomber targeting an army convoy killed three people on Friday in Afghanistan, witnesses said.

The Afghan army convoy was passing along a road in Ghazni town which lies southwest of capital Kabul, they said.

Two civilians and one soldier were killed in the attack, which also wounded five more soldiers, they added.
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Articles found February 9,2008

'Never easy to leave your children'
By Sun Media
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There was hardly a dry eye in the house at Edmonton Garrison this morning as the first of 1,300 Edmonton-based soldiers deployed to Afghanistan.

It was one of several deployments that will continue almost daily through February, as local soldiers rotate into Kandahar to relieve the Quebec-based troops currently stationed there.

Today's group totaled 139 men and women from various units, including 3 Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and 1 Service Battalion.

Dubbed Task Force 1-08, the group represents the largest contingent of Edmonton-based troops to enter Afghanistan since a similar rotation in February, 2006.

The lecture hall where the soldiers gathered to bid farewell to loved ones was filled with optimism, although dozens of spouses and children lost the battle to hold back their tears.

"We're excited to be going, we've learned a lot since our last rotation and things are getting better for us over there," said Cpl. David Lefebvre, who leaves a wife and three children in Edmonton during his six-month tour.
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'My men don't want to come back after 2009'
Much remains to be done in Kandahar, soldiers and civilians agree
Brian Hutchinson, Canwest News Service  Published: Friday, February 08, 2008
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- "My men don't want to come back after 2009," said the captain, a grizzled army veteran. A bold comment. Sitting across from him at the breakfast table, at a Canadian forward operating base in volatile Panjwaii district, was a full colonel.

The captain continued. "You know why? Because they're scared. It's f---ing dangerous out here." The colonel looked at him and said nothing.

But the remarks were notable.

They came as politicians in Canada prepare to debate the possible extension of the military's combat role in Kandahar beyond February, 2009. A motion to lengthen the mission was tabled inside the House of Commons in Ottawa on Friday.

In Kandahar, there is no clear consensus. Some, like the captain's troops in Panjwaii, are not keen on returning. Others are already steeling themselves mentally for another tour.
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Liberals reject Tory motion on Afghanistan
TheStar.com -Feb. 9, 2008. February 09, 2008 ALLAN WOODS and bruce campion-smith in ottawa Petti Fong in vancouver
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OTTAWA—Canadian troops would cut back on their combat role and focus on training Afghan security forces under a Conservative proposal to extend Canada’s military role in Kandahar to 2011.

But in a political standoff that could spark an election, the federal Liberals yesterday rejected the motion on extending the Afghan mission introduced yesterday by the Tories. The Liberals announced they’re planning their own “very detailed” recommendations for Canada’s Afghan mission that rule out combat altogether.

“We have a motion that we cannot accept today. We will come with our own proposal (next) week,” Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion told reporters in Vancouver.

“If the government is intransigent and the government wants an election at any cost, we will have an election and we will win,” Dion said. “You ask me if an election is possible, everyone in Canada knows it’s possible.”

Dion even accused the minority Conservatives of deliberately setting up their own political demise on the issue to force an election.

“It is very difficult to keep alive a government that does not want to live,” he said. “The government is willing to go to an election and willing to go to any device to go to an election.”
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Pakistan military strikes ceasefire deal with Taliban
U.S. Caught Off-Guard
Peter Goodspeed, National Post  Published: Saturday, February 09, 2008
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Desperate for a violence-free election on Feb. 18, the Pakistan military has orchestrated a ceasefire with the very Taliban leader they accused of ordering the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The deal was struck on Wednesday, after secret talks between Islamist fighters, tribal elders and Pakistan's military, but Islamabad officials would not confirm the pact.

While members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban group, led by al-Qaeda-linked commander Baitullah Mehsud, proclaimed a unilateral ceasefire, Hamid Nawaz, Pakistan's Interior Minister, insisted the government was simply ready for "dialogue" with the insurgents.
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Cold snap kills 760 in Afghanistan: authority
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KABUL (AFP) — More than 750 people have died in the harshest winter to have hit Afghanistan in decades, the disaster authority said Saturday.

More than 500 homes, mostly traditional mud brick houses, have been destroyed and tens of thousands damaged by the heaviest snowfalls in 30 years, said Ahmad Shkeb Hamraz, an official at the National Disaster Management Authority.

Nearly half the villages in the poverty-stricken country were still cut off from major cities, he told AFP.

"According to the latest figures, about 760 people have died since the start of the winter across the country," Hamraz said. "The figures are likely to increase as more information and data are being collected," he added.
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Much remains to be done in Kandahar
Brian Hutchinson ,  Canwest News Service Published: Friday, February 08, 2008
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan-"My men don't want to come back after 2009," said the captain, a grizzled army veteran. A bold comment. Sitting across from him at the breakfast table, at a Canadian forward operating base in volatile Panjwaii district, was a full colonel.

The captain continued. "You know why? Because they're scared. It's f-ing dangerous out here." The colonel looked at him and said nothing.

But the remarks were notable.
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Articles found February 11, 2008

Canadians 'winning' in Kandahar, general says
Detailed assessment by top commander shows decrease in ambushes in key districts
GRAEME SMITH From Monday's Globe and Mail February 11, 2008 at 4:51 AM EST
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Secret military statistics show that Taliban attacks have decreased in Kandahar's core districts in the past year, illustrating the success of Canada's new strategy of pulling back its troops into the heart of the province, a top military commander says.

Insurgent ambushes have fallen in four of Kandahar's 17 districts as the latest rotation of troops has focused on protecting the vital zone around the provincial capital, said Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, although he did not give specific numbers.

The assertion that Canadian forces have created a bright spot amid the darkening security picture in southern Afghanistan represents the military's first detailed response to several academic reports in recent months that have described NATO as losing the war.

Gen. Gauthier, commander of all Canadian forces overseas, invited reporters for an unusually open discussion in Kandahar during the weekend, taking questions for nearly an hour in an attempt to show that his troops are making progress.
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Afghanistan: A Canadian soldier's second home
Unfulfilled promise to expand Canada's military means individual soldiers return to war zone more often
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In the three years he's been married, Maj. Jay Adair has been either in Afghanistan or getting ready to travel to or from Afghanistan.

When he's not there, he's thinking about it. He keeps track of the soldiers and local people whom he befriended in Afghanistan.

Around home in Shilo, Man., Adair and his wife, Capt. Leslie Adair, an air force pilot, often talk about Afghanistan.
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An election call over Afghanistan? Bring it on
TheStar.com - February 10, 2008 Thomas Walkom
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Stéphane Dion's Liberals wanted to avoid an election focused on Afghanistan. They will not get that chance.

The resolution tabled in the Commons two days ago by Prime Minister Stephen Harper's governing Conservatives is blunt and to the point. Subject to conditions that now seem likely to be met, it calls for Canadians troops to stay on fighting in Kandahar until at least the end of 2011.

It essentially says that those who don't support the government are sissies. And it dares the opposition to defy it.
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Back to Afghanistan
First group of local troops returns to Kandahar
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The local soldiers who began deploying to Afghanistan yesterday will wage a different war than the one they fought two years ago, their commanding officer said in a recent interview with Sun Media.

This is the second mass rotation of Edmonton troops to Kandahar since 2006, and for the first time they will be embedding with the Afghan National Army and battalions, and Afghan police.

They will do so under the guise of Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams (OMLT) - which the military affectionately calls "omelettes."

Their job is to teach the skills needed to one day reclaim the country and maintain security without help from NATO.

"There has been a lot of progress since our rotation in 2006 and we're excited to get back to Afghanistan," said Col. Jon Vance, commander of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at Edmonton Garrison.
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Afghan Debate Gets Ugly
Toronto Globe and Mail February 9, 2008 By Brian Laghi and Bill Curry, Globe and Mail
Ottawa seeks to extend mission as barbs fly in the Commons
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OTTAWA — The federal government moved yesterday to extend Canada's military mission in Afghanistan to 2011, prompting both the Conservatives and the Opposition Liberals to descend into political posturing that could define a coming election campaign.
If left unresolved, the gulf between the political parties could lead to a federal election campaign in the coming weeks, as the government declared that its parliamentary motion on the Afghan mission would be considered a vote of confidence.
Although both the Tories and the Liberals pledged an interest in co-operating on the issue, it took only a few hours before MPs began trading abrasive rhetoric.
Government House Leader Peter Van Loan accused the Liberals of sympathizing with the Taliban when he was asked about the policy of Canadian soldiers transferring captured prisoners into Afghan hands.
"What we will not do is what the agent for the Taliban intelligence agency wants us to do over here, which is release to them information on detailed operations in the field," he said in the House of Commons.
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Canadian Forces ads combining action with compassion more likely to appeal: study
Don Butler ,  Canwest News Service Published: Sunday, February 10, 2008
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OTTAWA - Recruiting ads that convey the excitement of a military career as well as the potential for helping others are most likely to appeal to Canadians.

So says a study that pre-tested a new round of television and print ads being prepared as part of the Canadian Forces' ongoing "fight" recruitment campaign. The Decima report, dated Nov. 13, 2007, was recently posted on a government website.

Decima tested five scenarios for TV ads and three print ads with 10 focus groups across Canada last fall to determine which were most effective. Another goal was to help the Department of National Defence understand the "values, motivators and reservations" that influence those considering a career in the military. Another conclusion was that many Canadians have "quite vague impressions" of what it's like to work in the Canadian Forces. The clearer their impression, though, the more positive it is.

The research suggests there are two "primary drivers" that stimulate interest in a military career - excitement and risk, and helping others. Among parents, long-term career opportunities, financial support for education and helping people are major drivers.

The drawbacks of a military career cited by participants include the risk of harm or death, being far from family and friends, discipline and rules, basic training and the possibility of having to harm another person.

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Dion's ploy will get soldiers killed
TheStar.com - February 11, 2008 Rosie DiManno
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Number of Canadian troops killed in combat in Afghanistan last year: 0.

This would be the combat component of the mission that Liberal leader Stéphane Dion wants ended by next February and upon which he seems prepared to trigger a national election that Canadians don't want.

Number of Canadian troops killed by improvised explosive devises in Afghanistan in 2007: 12.

Number of Canadian troops killed by roadside bombs and land mines in 2007: 11.

The last Canadian casualty in conventional combat – died fighting – came during the latter stages of Operation Medusa, four servicemen perishing during a ground offensive on Sept. 3, 2006.

Since that time, there have been deaths in rollovers, helicopter crashes, suicide bombings and accidents but none from aggressively engaging the enemy.

If Liberals are trying to spare Canadian lives – by venturing passively, ducking into calmer territory and promoting reconstruction in the absence of a secure environment – an anti-combat insistence is utterly without merit.
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French Rafale jets take off from Afghan base for first time
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KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AFP) — Two French Rafale fighter jets took off from the main NATO air base in southern Afghanistan for the first time Monday in support of international efforts against extremists.

The multi-purpose jets, which arrived at the base in the volatile southern province of Kandahar last week, set off on an air patrol with French Mirages also stationed at the Kandahar Air Field, an AFP correspondent said.

Rafale aircraft, in service for two years, took part last year in a four-month mission in support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) but were then based in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.More on link

Have charter, won't travel
National Post  Published: Monday, February 11, 2008
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Thursday's federal court ruling on the treatment of Afghan war detainees made for a good news/bad news sort of occasion. The good news is that federal court Justice Anne Mactavish refused to order our soldiers to stop transferring enemy prisoners into the custody of the Afghan government. The bad news is that she based her judgment not on the merits of the case, but on the fact that Canada's recent decision to suspend such transfers temporarily has rendered the issue moot. Judge Mactavish's judgment leaves the door open for judicial intervention if circumstances require our soldiers to resume prisoner transfers at some future date.
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Afghan injured after vehicle fails to stop for Canadian convoy
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The military is investigating another shooting incident involving soldiers and Afghan civilians in Kandahar.

One person was injured Sunday after Canadian soldiers fired on a Toyota that ignored warnings to stop as it approached a convoy.

The convoy had been leaving the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team base on the outskirts of the city.

A military spokeswoman said a passenger in the vehicle was wounded and immediately taken inside the base for treatment. His injuries were described as superficial and he was released.

"It's always regrettable," Capt. Josee Bilodeau said of the incident. The military has launched an internal investigation.

Despite an increased public awareness campaign aimed at keeping Afghans away from military convoys, it's the second such reported incident in the last two weeks.

On Jan. 30, soldiers fired into the engine block of a car that approached a convoy moments after it had been the failed target of a suicide attack.
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Road paving in southern Afghanistan helps the living, honours the dead
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PANJWAII DISTRICT, Afghanistan - Roads are for the living but the Canadian military has begun a massive road-building project that will also honour the dead in one of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan.

The $4.5 million project to pave 6.5 kilometres of road that a local elder called the "Spine of the Panjwaii" is a two-year undertaking that will give jobs to more than 400 Afghans.

It also demonstrates the Canadian military's efforts to stabilize the region west of Kandahar city.

Years of war, roadside bombs and the punishing extremes of weather have laid siege to the main route passing through Panjwaii district, the heartland of Kandahar province and birthplace of the Taliban.

Chunks of pavement are interspersed with gravel and sand, perfect hiding spots for the dozens of IEDs - improvised explosive devices - that have been sown along the road in the last two years.

"There's not a day where we don't hear about an IED on that road or find an IED on that road," said a Canadian soldier who works with the Afghan military.
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Report: Norway evacuates embassy in Afghanistan
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Oslo (AP): Norway has evacuated all personnel from its embassy in the Afghan capital and sent them to secret locations after closing it because of terror threats, the Dagbladet newspaper reported Monday.

The embassy was closed Sunday because of unspecified threats nearly four weeks after a suicide attack on a Kabul hotel killed eight people, including a Norwegian journalist. Norway's foreign minister was also there at the time, but was not injured.

It was not clear how long the embassy would remain closed.

A foreign ministry official said that the embassy had been evacuated, but refused to give any details, according to Dagbladet.

``I will not comment on where the staff from the embassy are now staying,'' foreign ministry spokeswoman Kristin Melsom was quoted as saying.

The ministry's duty spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
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3 policemen injured in bombing targeting provincial official in S Afghanistan  
www.chinaview.cn  2008-02-11 18:34:15    
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   KABUL, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Three policemen were injured when a convoy of governor hit mine planted by militants in Shah Wali Kot district of southern Afghan province of Kandahar Monday morning, said a statement from the governor house of Kandahar.

   Asadullah Khalid, the governor of Kandahar province, was escorted to join a development project and deliver speech in Shah Wali Kot district when his convoy were struck by remote mines on the way, the statement said.

   "Three policemen were injured, but Asadullah Khalid didn't get hurt," it said, " two suspected person have been arrested so far."
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Canada seeks refurbished U.S. army helicopters for use in Afghanistan
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LONDON - Canada's Defence Department has approached the Pentagon about obtaining as many as six refurbished U.S. army battlefield helicopters for use in Afghanistan, defence sources tell The Canadian Press.

The request for information was made as part of a worldwide search for medium-lift transport to get Canadian soldiers off the dangerous highways and biways of Kandahar.

Almost two years ago, Canada's air force was offered, but turned down access to used Chinooks under a program called Cargo Helicopter Alternate Procurement Strategy, or CHAPS.

With the Manley commission laying down helicopters as a requirement for extending Canada's mission, defence officials are scrambling to fill the order.

The helicopters said to be under consideration are 'D' model CH-47 Chinooks, a slightly older variety of the 'F' model Canada's air force hopes to buy, said a NATO source.

The aircraft would be refurbished by Boeing and would be available for delivery well within the one-year time frame set out by the independent commission.

"There's not a lot of time, but its doable," said a defence source.
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Australia kept in the dark on Afghanistan plans: Fitzgibbon
Posted Mon Feb 11, 2008 9:48am AEDT
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Federal Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has accused the previous Coalition government of sending Australian soldiers to war in Afghanistan without seeing key planning documents.

Mr Fitzgibbon has returned from NATO talks in Lithuania and is confident a new strategy for defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan will emerge at the next summit in April.

But he says he is shocked that up until now, Australia has not had access to crucial information on NATO strategy.

"I'm frankly very surprised and disappointed that the former government was making decisions to send our men and women to war, and to keep them at war, without having a seat at the decision-making table - basically doing so on a no-questions-asked basis," he told ABC Radio's AM program.

"A government can't make informed decisions about whether to send our people to war and to lead them in the battlefield if it doesn't have information about the strategy and therefore can't make an assessment about the prospect of success."

Mr Fitzgibbon says he "made it clear" that from now on Australia would expect to have a say in NATO's decision-making on Afghanistan strategy.

And he says he received a personal assurance from NATO's secretary-general that he would do "all he can to address the situation".

Asked if AustraIia could realistically expect to have an influence on NATO decision-making he said: "I firmly believe we can".

"We have a lot to offer in this regard and as a country, making such a significant contribution relative to our size, and as a non-NATO country, we are entitled to have our say and I expect that we will get that opportunity in the future.
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Training IS combat
Monday, February 11, 2008
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As the debate around the future of the Afghan mission heats-up, I've been reading from my previously mentioned media friends how the Conservatives’ proposed motion extending the mission is designed to give Stephane Dion and the Liberals an out. I don't buy it.

There is enough in the wording for Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion to bend from his implacable position that combat operations must cease by February 2009, while still not losing face -- or more importantly, to not appear to be a weak, indecisive leader.

The Conservative motion calls for an extension of Canada's military commitment to Afghanistan to the end of 2011, under certain conditions. It calls for a gradual drawing down of combat and aspires to more emphasis on training.
While all of this appears to fall short of Dion's core position -- stop shooting at the Taliban exactly one year from now -- there is enough in the wording for Dion to hang his political hat on.

No, there’s really not. The fact is, training can’t be spun as not combat, because training IS combat. Manley commission member Pamela Wallin said as much during a recent speech at the University of Toronto (paraphrased form my notes):

*They want us to train them, and that’s a large part of what we’re doing there. But training is fighting, there’s no place to go shoot practice rounds. We train them while they fight with us, and them we start to move into the background as they take over.
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Afghanistan's forgotten war
By Osama Al Sharif, Special to Gulf News Published: February 10, 2008, 00:45
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With media and public opinion attention focused almost exclusively on Iraq, it is sometimes easy to forget that there is another war going on in Afghanistan. And in recent weeks it appeared that America and its Nato allies are not sure of how to bring their seven-year campaign in that country to a satisfactory closure.

But it is in that derelict country that the war on terrorism was launched following the attacks on America in September 2001. Coalition bombing and a land invasion by the Northern Alliance toppled the Taliban government and drove its fleeing supporters deep into Pashtun areas along the Pakistan borders.

By mid-November 2001 it appeared that the Taliban movement was wiped out although its leader Mullah Omar and Al Qaida's Osama Bin Laden and most of his lieutenants remained at large.

From there on the task of aiding the transitional government of President Hamid Karzai was handed over to the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), which is a Nato-led force whose initial mission was to secure Kabul against attacks by Taliban and Al Qaida. Today that force is more than 40,000 strong and its mandate has been expanded to cover the entire country.
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Kandahar governor survives bomb attack
Updated Mon. Feb. 11 2008 6:54 AM ET The Associated Press
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- The governor of an important and volatile southern province in Afghanistan escaped an apparent assassination attempt Monday after a bomb exploded by his vehicle convoy, officials said.

The bomb, aimed at the convoy of Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid, wounded three civilians, Khalid's office said in a statement. Khalid was not wounded.

Kandahar is the former stronghold of the Taliban movement and is a major producer of opium poppies. The province has seen fierce fighting involving U.S., NATO and Taliban forces the last two years.

The blast against Khalid's convoy follows a suicide bomb attack that killed the deputy governor of neighbouring Helmand province late last month as he was praying inside a mosque in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Militants have often attacked governors and other officials affiliated with President Hamid Karzai's government in an attempt to weaken the government's command over the country. Khalid has survived previous assassination attempts.
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Two Myths About Afghanistan (first part is about President Karzai)
Washington Post, Feb. 11
Today, most Afghans are living in the best conditions they have ever known, slowly growing their country out of poverty. Most of the north and west is peaceful. Much of the east is, too, except some areas that are very undeveloped and very remote or directly border Pakistan's lawless tribal belt. American estimates for the 14 provinces and 158 districts of Regional Command East show that 58 percent of the kinetic activity there last year (direct fire, indirect fire and detonations of improvised explosive devices) occurred in three provinces (Konar, Paktika and Ghazni). Fifty-two percent occurred in 12 of the 158 districts, and about 75 percent took place in 30 of the districts.

The American war in Afghanistan is not a shooting war; most of our casualties are the result of IEDs, which insurgents use because they can't capture and hold territory, or prevail in firefights with American troops or the Afghan National Army (ANA). The numbers are not what many might think: In 2007, there were 89 suicide bombings and 94 car bombings..

Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the coalition forces in six provinces in Regional Command East, told me that the ANA has not lost an engagement with the Taliban since last April. Fewer than 300 U.S. soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan since the invasion six years ago. We lost 83 soldiers plus two military civilians to hostile causes in 2007, when 24,000 to 27,000 personnel were in country. In 2006, 98 died. The decrease in deaths in action last year is even more significant when you consider the danger our troops were exposed to. American strategy has evolved from concentrating forces in large forward operating bases to building up provincial reconstruction teams in province capitals to establishing combat outposts in district centers (county seats) this past year.

In 2007, the Army's counterinsurgency strategy of stationing platoons in district centers and delivering quick infrastructure aid started to produce visible results for ordinary Afghans in the east. Not all areas in the Pashtun belt are equal -- Khost, for instance, is thriving, while Ghazni is still very poor -- but security is improving. When Schweitzer took command early last year, 20 of the 85 districts were "green," or on the side of the Afghan government. By year-end, 58 were classified as "green."

I saw this as an embedded reporter in Ghazni province in November. The young captain in charge of Four Corners, once the "worst neighborhood" in Ghazni, told me that in the spring of 2007 his base had taken fire twice a week, but as of late November it hadn't been rocketed in 60 days.

One reason may be Ghazni's new roads. Roads are development magic, and the U.S. Army is building them like crazy. In Ghazni alone, 10 roads have been funded at a cost of $5 million, and an 11th is in the approval process. Freight truck traffic along Highway 1, which runs from Kabul through Ghazni City to southern Zabol province, more than quadrupled in 2007.

In March, the Army paved a seven-kilometer stretch near Four Corners. This road, nicknamed "Route Rebel," used to be the second worst in Afghanistan for IEDs, which kill far more Afghan civilians and police than they do coalition troops. Daily traffic on "Route Rebel" has gone from 20 to 200 cars. There hadn't been any roadside bombs in eight months when I visited in late November -- it's much harder to plant them on asphalt.

Considering where it started, Afghanistan isn't doing too badly. It would be doing much better with a courageous, inspired president committed to honest and transparent government.

Ann Marlowe, a freelance writer, was embedded with U.S. forces twice in 2007. She has visited Afghanistan nine times since 2002.

Articles found February 12, 2008

Canada boosts chopper firepower in Afghanistan
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
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The Canadian military is looking at sending as many as six Griffon helicopters to Afghanistan to provide additional firepower and surveillance for troops.
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny said he has been told the Griffons will be used in an attack helicopter role and will be equipped with weapons and sensors needed to strike at enemy formations. The deployment of the choppers would be done as soon as possible, he said.
"It can't happen soon enough," said Mr. Kenny, chairman of the Senate defence committee. He has been pushing for the deployment of the Griffons to Afghanistan as a way to further protect Canadian troops and cut down on casualties. Canada does not have its own helicopters in Afghan-istan. Military officials, however, said a decision on the choppers has yet to be made, but planning on the option is advanced.
The idea of basing a "Griffon six-pack" in Kandahar is being proposed as one option for the Harper government, which has yet to approve the chopper deployment.
In addition, Public Works and Government Services Canada announced that it intends to award a sole-source contract to a U.S. firm for the purchase of three high-speed mini-guns to be installed on helicopters. The electrically-driven Gatling guns can fire up to 3,000 bullets a minute and the purchase includes the equipment to mount the weapons on to helicopters such as the Griffon.
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Dion camp stands united on Afghanistan
MPs overcome divisions to accept Liberal Leader's position on role of troops
JANE TABER From Tuesday's Globe and Mail February 12, 2008 at 4:38 AM EST
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Liberal MPs overcame divisions and united behind Stéphane Dion's position that Canadian troops should stay in Afghanistan past 2009 in a "defensive-security" role, bringing the party a step closer to a compromise with the Conservatives.

The Conservatives have introduced a motion in the House of Commons to extend the combat mission to 2011. The vote on the motion, based on recommendations from a panel chaired by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, will be considered one of confidence in the government.

Last night, the Liberal caucus agreed on an amendment to the motion that offers support for a military presence in the Kandahar region of southern Afghanistan to February, 2011, but makes no mention of a combat role. Instead, a source said, Canadian Forces would train the Afghan army and provide "defensive security" - in other words, militarily engage hostile forces only to protect themselves, civilians and development.
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Ambassador goes missing in Afghanistan
By Danny Kemp February 12, 2008 04:19pm Article from: Agence France-Presse
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PAKISTANI authorities are searching for the country's missing ambassador to Afghanistan after he was feared abducted in a troubled tribal area where Taliban militants are active.

The diplomat's disappearance yesterday highlighted the spiralling insecurity ahead of crucial elections next week in the nuclear-armed nation, a key ally in US efforts against Islamic extremism.

The envoy, Tariq Azizuddin, was heading to the Afghan capital Kabul with his driver when they disappeared in the Khyber tribal district, a lawless northwestern region bordering Afghanistan, the foreign office said.

"He has gone missing, we are confirming he is missing but at this stage I cannot give you any more details," foreign office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq said.
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Answer to Afghanistan question more complex than adding troops
TheStar.com - February 12, 2008 James Travers Ottawa
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Just weeks ago, John Manley's report was part of the Afghanistan solution. Now it's part of the problem. Instead of informing a complex debate, its pivotal recommendation is being used to force a simplistic political choice and perhaps a federal election.

To the beat of campaign drums, Stephen Harper is demanding a yes-or-no answer to a public policy question Manley panellist and former top mandarin Paul Tellier calls the most difficult in memory. Clever as ever, the Prime Minister is remanufacturing Manley's minimum condition for continuing the Kandahar mission into a vital component for Afghanistan success.

Adding 1,000 NATO troops and more air support won't fix what's wrong with this attempted rescue of a failing state. As Manley found and studies warn, unco-ordinated strategies countering the insurgency, corruption and the booming opium business aren't working and demand hurried reconsideration.

That's not happening here. Neither the government's motion to stay the course at least until 2011 nor opposition objections come close to the heart of a matter costing lives and billions. What matters most is not how long the military stays or if its primary purpose is to fight, train, or reconstruct; it's what can reasonably be achieved.
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The Afghanistan question isn’t one for partisan political manoeuvering
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First, just a few facts. NATO forces entered Afghanistan late in 2001. In the final months of that year some 12 coalition troops died. In 2002 a further 69 died. In 2003 and 2004, 57 and 58 died. In 2005 130 died. In 2006, 191 died and in 2007, 232 died.

You may rightly wonder just how effective the NATO occupation has been given the spiralling number of troop deaths.

The stated purpose of the coalition occupation of Afghanistan was to capture Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda fighters, and to replace the Taliban government with a stable pro-Western government. Neither of these objectives has been achieved.  Bin Laden is still free, and there is no stable government.  The Karzai government is largely ineffectual outside of Kabul and totally ineffectual in the southern parts of the vast country.

The occupation of Afghanistan was “justified” as a response to the bombing of the World Trade Centre — no Afghans were involved in the attack. Just fewer than 3000 people died in the 9/11 attack in New York. Many times that number of Afghan civilians have since died as a direct result of the occupation by NATO.  It is very difficult to get accurate figures, but many have died as a result of NATO air strikes against suspected Taliban or al Qaeda positions. For example, between 50 and 80 Afghan civilians were killed by NATO air strikes on the village of Hyderabad in southern Afghanistan on June 29, 2007.
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Pause in Iraq Doesn't Harm Afghanistan War
Washington Post, Feb. 12, by William Arkin

Lurking behind the many expressions of disappointment over Defense Secretary Robert Gates's decision to pause troop withdrawals from Iraq is not just politics and concern for the troops but also Afghanistan. For months, Iraq war opponents have been positing the second-class war as more central to the fight against terrorism, and there have been many voices in favor of the magic of a "surge" there to turn things around...

The Iraq versus Afghanistan contest seems all the more fitting given Gates' criticism of NATO allies for not doing more. Last week he called the alliance increasingly "two-tiered" and questioned why some were "ready to fight and die in order to protect people's security and others ... are not."..

But here is the dirty little secret about the war in Afghanistan: the best minds in the Pentagon looking at the problem don't think we need more troops there.

If indeed the war against terrorism is "the long war" that many in the military assert it is, than there is growing recognition that the best way to fight that war is through an "indirect approach."

That's the view of Michael Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and the senior war on terrorism policy-maker in the Pentagon. Speaking to reporters last week, Vickers said that he didn't "think the answer to Afghanistan is taking forces from Iraq and putting them in Afghanistan." Success in Afghanistan, he said, was only going to come by working "by, with and through" host-nation forces -- rather than "surges" of U.S. troops.

"Insurgencies have to be won by local capacity," Vickers said. He not only thinks that this is the best way to achieve victory in a counterinsurgency, but the only way to garner long-term domestic political support for the mission. Moreover, Vickers says, the Afghans themselves want to win the war themselves.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway agrees with Vickers that the war against terrorism can only be won "from within." In a presentation before a defense industry conference this week, Conway showcased the much more sophisticated thinking on fighting terrorism -- indirect, soft power, local competence -- that has emerged in the past two years: "It's not a war that we can win," he said. "It is a war that moderates in the region must win over time for us to eventually be successful. It has to be handled from within."

Even though things are going in the opposite direction in Afghanistan in comparison with the relative military success in Iraq, Conway questioned whether another surge was as much a sure thing to turn the tide. First, he said, Marines who are more suited to the expeditionary fight in Afghanistan, and more suited to the terrain, are already increasing their presence in the country. Second, he credited the NATO coalition with making a true difference and also with making the fight better there. Finally, Conway observed that the Taliban were changing their tactic this winter, not going across the Pakistani border to regroup until spring. He didn't say it, but clearly the implication is that Pakistan has had some success in denying the Taliban sanctuary on their soil, a fact that should significantly shift the equation of fighting on the ground.

In the end, Conway echoed Vickers in saying that it was up to the Afghan National Army and Kabul to win the fight. And in keeping with the long war theme, he said, surge or not, he didn't see any short-term solution. Afghanistan is "a fight the nation will continue to see boil for some time," he said.

NATO's Afghan Stumbles
Washington Post, Feb. 13, by Michael Gerson
For two decades, NATO's main purpose has not been "to fight" but to earnestly debate its own role and relevance. And it does have an important role. The prospect of NATO expansion provides incentives for reform from the Balkans to Ukraine. And it seems wise to maintain a military alliance of democracies in Europe, with Russia increasingly convinced that one Cold War was not enough.

But by Gates's standard -- a willingness to share military burdens and sacrifice in a common cause -- NATO hardly exists. During the past 15 years, Europe has taken a peace dividend so massive that the slightest military exertion leaves it bent and gasping for air. And public support for the Afghan mission is shallow across Europe. More than 50 percent of Germans believe their nation should withdraw from Afghanistan. German authorities seem proud of resisting that pressure by maintaining a contribution of 3,200 troops -- a rather pathetic boast from a wealthy nation of 80 million people. Administration arm-twisting is likely to result in the contribution of few thousand additional troops by Germany and France. But no one believes this would mark a turning point in the Afghan war.

We are not merely facing another crisis of NATO as we did in the Balkans. We are facing a broad insurgency in Asia that is actively preparing for violence against the "near enemy" in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- and the "far enemy" in Europe, India and the United States.

Americans are accustomed to thinking of the Afghan war as a Taliban uprising supported from havens in Pakistan. In reality, we are seeing a broad, borderless, regional revolt in the Pashtun tribal belt, two-thirds of which lies in Pakistan. In southern Afghanistan, the Taliban is pressing to retake Kandahar and other areas. In eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban are more internationalized -- influenced by Pakistan and al-Qaeda -- and seek both to maintain the havens and take terrorist shots at Western Europe and America. In the semi-autonomous tribal regions of Pakistan, large madrassa facilities feed a radicalism with global ambitions of murder -- and radical tribal leaders put increasing pressure on settled areas.

The normal, historical response to this kind of challenge would be to pay off various tribes and turn them against each other. Pakistan has tried. The problem is that these tribes, unlike in the past, shelter a transnational threat. Terrorists and radicals exploit long-standing local grievances to gain global reach. And so our safety increasingly depends on the security and development of places such as South Waziristan and Swat -- which is the real lesson of Sept. 11.

Yet every element of our response seems hobbled. In Afghanistan, corruption has flourished, and responsible leaders are in short supply. Pakistan is unprepared to fight a counterinsurgency campaign in the tribal regions -- and seems only half convinced that one is necessary. Civilian reconstruction and military efforts in Afghanistan are uncoordinated. NATO military efforts in the south are reminiscent of Iraq a year ago -- we "clear" but cannot "hold" long enough to "build." And while it is easy for Americans to complain about the Europeans, our military is also badly overstretched.

Success in Afghanistan and Pakistan will require a long-term commitment. America will need to take a broader military role in southern Afghanistan; the Afghan military will need to be massively expanded; the Pakistani military will need to be trained, aided and motivated to fight tribal extremists. But meanwhile, the threat of terrorism germinates, sprouts and grows to ugly maturity in one of the most remote and confusing regions of the world.

Still, NATO is not on the verge of a decisive loss in Afghanistan. We are either winning slowly or losing slowly. It is just hard to tell which [emphasis added].


French decision on Kandahar still weeks away
CP, Feb. 13

A fog of uncertainty could hover over Canadian politics for weeks as parties vote on the future of the Afghan mission and possibly even fight an election on it -- without being aware of one critical detail.

It's far from certain they will know whether Canada's NATO allies will provide the 1,000 troops the Conservatives have declared a key condition for continued involvement in Kandahar.

One of those key allies said yesterday it will be another seven weeks before it announces whether it will send reinforcements for Canadian troops in Kandahar. French diplomats say they are weighing a handful of options -- including sending soldiers to the volatile southern region where they would work with the Canadians.

France's ambassador to Ottawa, Daniel Jouanneau, confirmed French President Nicolas Sarkozy will announce his decision at an April NATO summit in Bucharest after weighing a variety of military concerns.

"It's an ongoing reflection," Jouanneau said. "This reflection will continue over the coming weeks and will run its course in Bucharest."

The French say they conveyed their message to a high-level Canadian delegation to Paris last week which included Prime Minister Stephen Harper's chief of staff Ian Brodie, his foreign policy adviser Susan Cartwright and Canada's top soldier, Rick Hillier.

Canadian officials also hope the Americans and Poles could help supply the 1,000 Kandahar-bound troops demanded [emphasis added] in the recent Manley report...

Articles found February 14, 2008

Germany may increase Afghanistan troops: The Frankfurter Rundschau
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition plans to discuss raising the upper limit on the number of troops Germany can send to Afghanistan under its parliamentary mandate, a paper reported on Thursday.
The Frankfurter Rundschau cited unnamed coalition sources as saying an increase of at least 500 troops was expected and that Germany's parliamentary mandate would definitely be changed.
The existing mandate, which expires in mid-October allows Germany to send up to 3,500 soldiers to Afghanistan.
The paper said a meeting to discuss the increase would include senior figures in Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democrats (SPD), with whom she shares power.
The paper gave no further details.
Germany is under mounting pressure from its NATO allies to boost the number of soldiers it has in Afghanistan and to send them to the more dangerous southern part of the country.
The government denied a magazine report at the weekend which said it was planning to expand the number of soldiers it could send to Afghanistan by 1,000 to 4,500 and broaden their base of operations from the north to the west.
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Afghan vote may have to take place without assurance of French help
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OTTAWA - A fog of uncertainty could hover over Canadian politics for weeks as parties vote on the future of the Afghan mission and possibly even fight an election on it - without being aware of one critical detail.

It's far from certain they will know whether Canada's NATO allies will provide the 1,000 troops that the Conservatives have declared a key condition for continued involvement in Kandahar.

One of those key allies said Tuesday that it will be another seven weeks before it announces whether it will send reinforcements for Canadian troops in Kandahar.

French diplomats say they are weighing a handful of options - including sending soldiers to the volatile southern region where they would work with the Canadians.

They say French President Nicolas Sarkozy will make a decision and announce it only at an April NATO summit in Bucharest.
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Insurgents killed, 9 armed individuals detained in S Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-02-14 16:50:41   
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    KABUL, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-led Coalition forces have killed several insurgents and detained nine armed individuals in southern Afghan provinces of Uruzgan and Zabul during two separate operations, the military said Thursday.

    The forces using aerial-delivered munitions attacked a group of insurgents on motorcycles in Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan province Wednesday, killing "a number of insurgents," said a Coalition statement released here.

    It added that the militants were associated with a Taliban leader responsible for conducting anti-government activities in the area.

    In a follow-on search of compounds in the district targeting the local-based Taliban leader and his followers, the Coalition said they killed "a number of armed insurgents" and detained three armed individuals.

    "Several AK-47s, ammunition vests and grenades were recovered," the statement noted.

    In neighboring Zabul province, Afghan and Coalition forces
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Diplomats assigned to troop search
CanWest News Service, Feb. 14

Canada and its allies must do a better job of co-ordinating security and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and that means finding a new United Nations super envoy, Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier said yesterday.

In an interview, Mr. Bernier echoed the dire assessment of British politician Paddy Ashdown, the man Afghanistan recently rejected for the job of super envoy. Yesterday, Mr. Ashdown wrote the West faced "a real possibility" of defeat in Afghanistan unless it rises above its "disconnected collection of unco-ordinated tactics" in the country.

In Canada, the Manley report criticized the government's lack of centralized control over the efforts of the military, its diplomats and development strategy, something Mr. Bernier did not dispute.

"We need strong international leadership. We need better co-ordination. That's why my government asked for a UN special envoy on Afghanistan and the Manley report told us that: that the international community must better co-ordinate their work," Mr. Bernier said...

Afghan war being botched: minister
Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 15

THE Defence Minister, Joel Fitzgibbon, has denounced the handling of the war in Afghanistan and says the allies are disunited, lack a clear plan and have failed to deal with the drug trade.

In a scathing assessment of the progress of the war, Mr Fitzgibbon yesterday laid out a string of failures and warned that a new strategy was required to ensure the Australian contribution was not "for nil".

"Alarmingly, I [have] found a lack of common objectives amongst the partners," he told Parliament. "No coherent strategy, confused chains of command and blurred lines of responsibility, a failing counter-narcotics strategy, the absence of benchmarks for progress, a crisis in burden sharing, with a number of NATO countries failing to meet or live up to their side of the bargain - and poor progress in advancing Afghan security forces towards the critical mass in skill required for them to be able to hold our military gains."

He referred to recent comments by the British politician and diplomat Paddy Ashdown, who this week said the NATO-led forces were in disarray and "defeat is now a real possibility".

"What a tragedy failure in Afghanistan would be for all of those who have given their lives for the cause or have been badly injured," Mr Fitzgibbon said. "What an ominous development it would be for global security and for the Afghan people. What a tragedy it would be if all the good work done so far in the end were to count for nought."

Before the election Labor signalled a strong commitment to Afghanistan, and the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, told the US President, George Bush, that Australia would consider "further reasonable requests" for additional troops. But Mr Fitzgibbon has resisted recent calls by the US for other countries to increase troop levels, saying Australian forces have been hampered by a failure by their "political masters" to develop a clear plan...

A strategy to save Afghanistan
Financial Times, Feb. 12, by Paddy Ashdown

The great sixth century BC military strategist Sun Tzu wrote: “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

With fighting in Afghanistan now entering its seventh year, no agreed international strategy, public support on both sides of the Atlantic crumbling, Nato in disarray and widening insecurity in Afghanistan, defeat is now a real possibility. The consequences for both Afghanistan and its allies would be appalling: global terrorism would have won back its old haven and created a new one over the border in a mortally weakened Pakistan; our domestic security threat would be gravely increased and a new instability would be added to the world’s most unstable region.

David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, is right – in the face of these consequences, withdrawal is not an option.

But then neither is continuing as we are. So what should we do?..

Articles found February 15, 2008

Canadian troops face highest risk fighting in Afghanistan
Friday, February 15, 2008
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Canadian soldiers fighting in southern Afghanistan are three times as likely to be killed as British troops and four times more likely to die than American GIs, according to a report by the Centre for Policy Alternatives, an independent think-tank.
The claim has also been supported by a separate study for Canada's Department for National Defence, which said its country's servicemen were "at significantly higher risk" in Kandahar than UK troops in neighbouring Helmand or US forces along the Pakistan border to the north-east.
The casualty toll has now become a major political issue which could topple Canada's minority government. Ottawa has threatened to end its military involvement in Afghanistan from next January unless other Nato countries deploy at least 1000 combat troops and transport helicopters.
Ottawa has a 2500-strong contingent in the Taliban heartland, but only 1000 of them are fighting soldiers, with the others in supporting and supply-chain roles.
Canada's military death toll stands at 78 from its front-line units, compared with 87 British soldiers from a "bayonet strength" of more than 3000 and a total garrison of 7800. The Americans have lost 415 soldiers from a total of 28,000.
Since the US-led invasion to topple the Taliban regime in 2001, a total of 698 Nato, US and allied soldiers have died.
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Ottawa to hold weekly Afghan briefings, but keep tight lid on information
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OTTAWA - The Conservative government threw open the doors to weekly briefings on the Afghan mission Thursday, only to have the Canadian Forces warn it will still have to keep plenty of secrets.

The general in charge of all of Canada's overseas military operations says they're doing their best to balance the public's right to know with the need to safeguard operations and lives.

Lt.-Gen. Michel Gauthier, head of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, said there is a recognition that both the positive achievements and the "challenges" need to be disclosed.

The Manley panel report on the future of the Afghan mission criticized the Conservative government for not providing the public with enough information about the war - an appraisal Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he accepted. The government recently announced update briefings on the mission would be held weekly, instead of monthly.

Opposition parties have long complained that here has been too much secrecy, especially around the issue of handling prisoners.
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Canadian public servants in Afghanistan to get danger pay
Last Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2008 | 5:43 PM ET CBC News
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A special "risk and hardship" premium of up to $10,015 will be paid to Canadian federal public servants on assignment in war-torn Afghanistan.

It is the first time such danger pay has been offered to federal public servants in a war zone, confirmed Pierre-Alain Bujold, spokesman for the Treasury Board of Canada, in an e-mail Thursday.

"The current challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified employees is particularly felt in areas where employees are confronted by a high level of risk and hardship," he said. "This incentive will support Canada's objectives in Afghanistan while these conditions persist."

The Treasury Board approved the premium on Jan. 18. Paid monthly, it will be worth:

$8,585 a year for those working in Kabul.
$10,015 a year for those working in Kandahar.
Canadian soldiers get $12,000 a year in premiums while in Afghanistan.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, about 60 federal employees are currently serving in Afghanistan. Most are diplomats at the Canadian embassy in Kabul, but some are corrections, justice, RCMP, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) employees.
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Love is tough in Afghanistan
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KABUL (AFP) — Five young Afghan women slipped out to lunch in an upmarket Kabul eatery on Valentine's Day, each wearing a red scarf in a wink to the day of love -- a difficult pursuit in Afghanistan.

"It was fun. We also bought a cake," said one of them, a 26-year-old employee of an international nongovernment organisation who asked to be called Jamila to hide her identity.

The red scarves were a sign known only to this group of friends whose brush with foreigners introduced them to Valentine's Day -- an event largely unknown in Afghanistan, where love outside of marriage is taboo.

Three of them even have boyfriends but it would be a scandal if their parents found out.

They had bought the guys gifts to be handed over at an early dinner, Jamila said. "But, of course, it is a secret occasion that no one is meant to know about except us."

Sharifa, another modern Kabuli girl, told her relatives she was having lunch with her best girlfriend. "She is trusted by our family," the 23-year-old said the day before February 14. "Instead I will go out with my boyfriend."

Her lunch was a daring breach of cultural and religion in a society where rigid custom means unrelated girls and boys rarely mix and marriages are fixed by parents
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Kerala to serve as model for Afghanistan
Staff Reporter
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KASARAGOD: Watershed development projects in Kerala will serve as a model for the rural reconstruction programmes being implemented in Afghanistan, Abdul Manan Azizi, technical advisor, Afghanistan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, has said.

He was speaking to The Hindu here on Thursday after visiting the Swajaladhara project at Kayyur-Cheemeni panchayat and the Jalanidhi project at Kodom Belur panchayat in the district. Mr. Azizi is part of an eight-member team of engineers working in various projects of the World Bank in Afghanistan who are now on a visit to India.

Mr. Azizi said his country was facing shortage of water. Rural people had to walk on foot several kilometres every day to bring drinking water to their homes. In the context, the focus on rural reconstruction was ensuring supply of potable water to all, Mr. Azizi said.

Mr. Azizi said he was impressed by the functioning of local bodies in Kerala and the decentralisation of power here. “Local bodies named Shouras function in Afghanistan and elections are being held to them,” he said. They looked after rural reconstruction and awarded development projects to various agencies, Mr. Azizi added.
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4 Afghan policemen killed in clash in southwest Afghanistan
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KABUL, Afghanistan - Insurgents ambushed a police vehicle in southwestern Afghanistan and the three-hour gunbattle that followed left four policemen dead.

Two other police officers were wounded in Thursday's clash in Nimroz province, said Gen. Mohammad Ayub Badakhshi, the provincial police chief. Reinforcements were sent to assist but the insurgents escaped, Badakhshi said.

Afghanistan has seen a massive spike in insurgency-related violence, with more than 6,500 people dead in 2007, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and western officials.
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Web warning issued for soldiers in Afghanistan
TheStar.com -February 15, 2008 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
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Innocent photos and reports to families can provide information to insurgents, general says

OTTAWA–The Internet poses a major security threat to Canadian soldiers fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan, a ranking Canadian military official says.

Brig.-Gen. Peter Atkinson, a top strategic adviser to Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, says sites like Facebook are an "invaluable tool" for deployed soldiers to keep in touch with their families. But he warned that seemingly innocuous photos, videos and news reports can be the source for as much as 80 per cent of the intelligence that insurgents routinely gather on operations.

YouTube and personal Web logs are uncensored and can pose a threat, but Wikipedia is among the most dangerous of the public-access websites, he said. Wikipedia is an online public encyclopedia that allows individuals to submit entries on a wide range of subjects.

"Due to its collaborative content contribution, anybody can add to the content, providing a compilation of details on a specific incident, like the descriptions of a casualty, photos, locations and news articles contributed by several sources," Atkinson told reporters.

He said Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders use such information to determine the accuracy of their attacks.

"Because of the speed and capacity of today's technology, we are virtually providing the enemy with his battle damage assessment instantly," he said. "We need to make their collection efforts as difficult as possible by denying them 80 per cent of the solution. This will make it difficult for groups like Al Qaeda to plan their operations."

His warning came in a briefing to journalists on the Afghan mission, part of the government's attempt to avoid criticism that it is being too secretive about its part in the NATO operation.
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Articles found February 16,2008

UK Soldiers Seize Ton of Opium, Heroin Haul in Afghanistan
Thursday February 14, 2008 (0843 PST)
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KABUL: British and Afghan troops seized a ton of opium and 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of heroin powder as part of an effort to cut off funding for Taliban insurgents.
The bust, made north of the town of Sagin in the southern Helmand province, came after soldiers fought with a ``large number’’ of insurgents, who tried to protect the drug lab with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence said in an e-mailed statement.

Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s opium, and is set for a near-record crop in 2008 that will add at least $100 million to the militant Islamist movement’s war chest, the United Nations said Feb. 6.

``We know that drug production is closely linked to insurgent activity,’’ Lieutenant Colonel Simon Millar said in a statement from Helmand. ``Not only does it hold the local Afghan people down under oppression, but it directly funds the violence that, together with the government of Afghanistan, we are committed to stop.’’

The fighting and seizure took place three days ago, the ministry said. The British and the Afghan army suffered no casualties.
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Bomb Kills 40 in Pakistan
Azhar Masood, Arab News
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ISLAMABAD — Forty people were killed and more than 90 wounded in a suicide car bomb blast outside the election office of Riyaz Hussain Shah, a Pakistan People’s Party candidate, in the tribal district of Parachinar near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan yesterday, the last day of campaigning for elections.

Talking to the media later, Shah said that though he was present in the office at the time of the blast, he escaped unhurt.

Separately, police in the south of the country said they had foiled another attack planned for polling day tomorrow.

Campaigning for the elections to a new parliament and provincial assemblies has been overshadowed by security fears, especially since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and suicide bomb attack on Dec. 27. Opposition politicians have also complained of vote rigging.
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Troops will fight Taliban without vital Chinooks
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondant Last Updated: 12:04am GMT 17/02/2008
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British troops serving in southern Afghanistan have been warned that no extra Chinook helicopters will be made available for at least 12 months, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

The delay has frustrated Army commanders and could undermine operations against the Taliban, who are expected to launch a full-scale spring offensive against British and Nato forces.

The helicopter shortage will force more troops to travel by armoured vehicle, rendering them vulnerable to attack with bombs and mines, which have been responsible for many deaths in the past 18 months.

Commanders had hoped eight Chinooks, originally acquired from Boeing in the United States in 1995, would be made available to counter any spring offensive.
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Afghanistan establishes Disease Early Warning System 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-02-16 22:00:58      Print
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    KABUL, Feb. 16 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan has established Disease Early Warning System (DEWS) to further improve the country's health sector, said a statement of Afghan Public Health Ministry released here Saturday.

    The system was established in mid December 2006 and so far has formed 126 reporting sites nationwide, it said.

    Nearly three decades of war, inadequate housing and poor environmental conditions are blamed for diseases in Afghanistan.

    Diarrhea, Acute Respiratory Infections (ARI), particularly pneumonia and influenza, meningococcal diseases, viral hepatitis, measles, typhoid, hemorrhagic fever, tuberculosis, cholera and malaria are common among the poor people, according to the health ministry.

    DEWS stresses detecting outbreaks of diseases very early and responding to them on time and efficiently, it said.
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Put Afghanistan facts on table and have a real debate
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In the late evening last Thursday, the Harper government released figures for 2006 and 2007 of the number of Canadian soldiers injured in Afghanistan. In 2006, according to the government, 180 soldiers were wounded and in 2007 the figure was 84 soldiers wounded. The reduction in the number of casualties is welcome news but it appears that the figures for 2006 published by the Harper government do not correspond with the figures of the commanding general.

Brig.-Gen. David Fraser commanded the NATO troops in Afghanistan for the period Jan. 15, 2006 to Nov. 27, 2006. Upon his return to Canada he spoke to the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, wherein he told his audience that during his tour of duty 36 soldiers were killed and more than 200 were wounded.

In the same speech Brig.-Gen. Fraser stated the debate over Canada's role in Afghanistan has been ill informed and bereft of facts. Prior to the speech by the brigadier general, then Minister of Defence Gordon O'Connor, speaking to NATO members in November, conceded the Harper government had not done well in it's message to Canadians as to the role of Canada in that region.
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Rodeo game for troops
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Blue Rodeo is heading to Afghanistan to entertain the Canadian troops -- and they're bringing some muscle with them.

One of Canada's most popular bands passed through Ottawa Thursday night on their latest tour. After the show, band members said they're looking forward to travelling to Afghanistan next month with a posse of former NHLers, including tough guys Bob Probert and Chris Nilan.

Prior to shows in Montreal, Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor told reporters: "We'll do a show and play a ball hockey game (against Canadian soldiers). Those guys better watch out. I know they've survived the Taliban, but they are going to lose a few teeth when we arrive."

Keelor is a former goaltender, who once had a tryout with the junior Toronto Marlies. He said after Thursday's show here at Scotiabank Place -- in which he offered up a stark rendition of Dark Angel that was a highlight of the gig -- that he hasn't played hockey since then.


Senators rookie Cody Bass had surgery to deal for a skate bite, in which the laces cut into the skin on the foot. Senators coach John Paddock said Bass will be lost to the club for up to six weeks.
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Unit drills for roadside hazards of Afghanistan
Canadians train in desert
El Paso Times Staff Article Launched: 02/16/2008 12:00:00 AM MST
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McGREGOR RANGE, N.M. -- A mound of sand the size of a small loaf of bread blended into a McGregor Range road on Friday, looking to the untrained eye like every other wave and ridge along the well-trodden path.

As about 20 soldiers from the Third Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, marched by, boots landed on one side and then the other until one hit directly on it.

A loud bang came from the side of the road and a starburst of sparks shot into the sky.

In Afghanistan, where the soldiers are headed in September, there would have been casualties, said Sgt. Juan Santana, an instructor with the 5th Armored Brigade, 1st Army Division West, which runs the range's training operations. The simulated roadside bomb was what the Army calls a "victim-operated improvised explosive device."

About 3,000 Canadian soldiers with the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group traveled to Fort Bliss and began a month-long training routine on Thursday. The Canadians transported about 500 pieces of equipment, including tanks and light armored vehicles, or LAVs, the rough equivalent of a U.S. Stryker vehicle and the Canadian Army's workhorse.

About 2,500 of those soldiers will deploy to Kandahar, where they will form small teams to embed with and train Afghan istan security forces. "IEDs are the biggest problem we have

in Afghanistan," said Lt. Andrew Hennessy, the 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group spokesman.
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Man guilty of helping to supply terror equipment
Vikram Dodd, crime correspondent The Guardian, Saturday February 16 2008 Article history ·
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This article appeared in the Guardian on Saturday February 16 2008 on p4 of the UK news section. It was last updated at 00:02 on February 16 2008. A man was yesterday convicted of being part of a cell whose leader planned to kidnap and behead a British soldier.

Zahoor Iqbal, 30, of Perry Barr, Birmingham, was found guilty at Leicester crown court of one count of helping Parviz Khan supply equipment to terrorists in Pakistan, near the Afghanistan border, to aid attacks on coalition forces. He was cleared of possessing a document or record likely to be useful to a terrorist: a computer disk entitled Encyclopaedia Jihad.

Khan has admitted four charges linked to the kidnapping plot and other offences. He was the only defendant charged over the plan to murder a soldier.

During the trial, Iqbal denied prosecution claims that he helped Khan send the illegal cargoes to terrorists, saying he thought their trips to wholesalers were to buy relief aid for the victims of the Kashmir earthquake in October 2005.

The defendant, a school attendance and mentoring officer, told jurors he believed the invasion of Iraq "was the right thing to do". He did not subscribe to Khan's extremist views, he said, and had no sympathy with the July 7 London bombers. He was remanded in custody for sentencing
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Canada's mission in Afghanistan just and right says Romeo Dallaire
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As a leading middle power in the world, Canada's responsibility to humanity extends far beyond its borders, according to the retired general who led the United Nations peacekeeping force in Rwanda.

Retired Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, now a senator, was in Pembroke Thursday to speak to a capacity crowd at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 72 at a fundraising lunch for candidate Carole Devine, sponsored by the Federal Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke Liberal Riding Association.

Afghan mission just and right

Senator Dallaire sees Canada's role in Afghanistan as establishing rule of law, good governance and human rights. He feels it is a just and right mission that Canada should be involved in.

"It's an essential role based on a very solid UN (United Nations) resolution," he said to a group of reporters before the lunch, responding to the question of whether Canada should pull out of Afghanistan.

Although he doesn't know when Canada's commitment should end, he believes NATO should remain in Afghanistan until 2011 and that other NATO countries should take on more responsibility in the mission.

In this new era, we are responsible to protect and assist nations where the government is abusing the human rights of its people, he said.
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