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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (January 2008)

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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (January 2008)      

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


Articles found January 1, 2008

Afghanistan says no return for expelled foreign officials
Article Link

* Official says expulsion a message that the govt is ‘watching everyone’

KABUL: The Afghan government Tuesday defended its decision to expel two foreign officials over national security charges, saying “no way is left open” for the pair’s return to the strife-torn country.

The government last week expelled two Westerners - the second most senior European Union official in Afghanistan and a top UN political advisor - accusing them of threatening national security. The UN dismissed the charges as a “misunderstanding” and hoped the pair would be cleared of the allegations.

But the Afghan government is not backing down. “The government’s definite decision is that the two individuals have... been expelled... and no way is left open for their return,” President Hamid Karzai’s senior spokesman, Homayun Hamidzada, told reporters in Kabul. Kabul has said the two expelled officials - Irish national Michael Semple, working for the EU, and Briton Mervyn Patterson - made contact with the Taliban during visits to the southern province of Helmand, a rebel stronghold.
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110-year-old military heirloom a lucky charm for Cdn. soldier in Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - More than a century ago, a young British army private returned home safely from battle along what is now the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He later joined the Canadian Forces during the First World War and survived that conflict as well before going on to raise a family.

Four generations later, Pte. Charles Taylor's great -grandson has found himself in the same region battling another insurgency.

Maj. Walter Taylor was among 133 Canadian soldiers to proudly accept his own tour medal on New Year's Day for service in Afghanistan.

"I'm very glad to be able to follow in my great-grandfather's footsteps," Taylor said, clutching his great-grandfather's 1897 service medal for participating in the Trash Campaign.

"But obviously, for the reasons of the goals we're trying to accomplish here, I certainly hope my great -grandchildren aren't still here," the 34-year-old engineer with the 43rd field squadron quipped after the ceremony.

Just days after the Canadian Forces registered it's 78th death in Afghanistan, the Ottawa native said he holds his great-grandfather's medal close to him as a bit of a talisman or good-luck charm.
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Coalition: Several Taliban Killed in Afghanistan
By VOA News 01 January 2008
  Article Link

Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops say they have killed several suspected Taliban militants during an operation in southern Helmand province.

Coalition officials said in a statement released Tuesday that the latest clash occurred as troops searched a compound for militants associated with the Taliban, as well as others helping foreign fighters.

During the search a gun battle erupted in which several suspected militants died.

A coalition statement said no civilians were killed or injured in the fighting.

The statement adds that a cache of weapons including rifles, rockets and explosives was found and destroyed following following the battle.
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Dispatches From Zambar, Afghanistan
Laying Down Roads in Bin Laden's Lion's Den
Reporter's Notebook By MATT GUTMAN ZAMBAR, Afghanistan, Jan. 1, 2008
Article Link

Share The slop tasted good. Spam cubed with a jack knife, rice, Ramen noodles and a cup of chicken soup, dumped in a steel pot and cooked on a gas burner, until the ingredients reach the right temperature: hot. The sun slunk back behind the snow-capped mountains to the west. The temperature dropped faster. Delta Company, a light infantry unit farmed out to the 82nd Airborne's Second battalion Airborne field artillery regiment, had seized a compound in this hostile village of seemingly identical mud-brick compounds. Just a few miles away are the remnants of the training camp in which Muhammad Atta and other 9/11 hijackers trained. Also nearby is Osama bin Laden's training camp, Al Masadah, or the Lion's Den, where he gained fame in 1988 following a bloody battle with the Soviets. The men of this platoon, infantry men all, accustomed to eating battle rations and sleeping in sub-zero temperatures for months on end, had come looking for a fight. Now they were just trying to get warm. They greedily slurped down Sgt. Rodolfo "Marty" Martinez's slop from the battle rations bag they had sliced in half and used as a bowl. It was the first hot meal in a couple of days, and they were grateful to eat something other than battle rations. Their Humvees were stuffed with thousands of rounds of ammunition. Gunners manned the cannon-ike .50 cal machine guns. And behind each gunner was a LAW anti-tank missile. But five days in and they had not fired a shot. They rumbled into this village as part of a mile-long convoy that ferried in the first coalition troops this town had seen in a year. This was the biggest mission of their 15-month deployment with more than 850 American and Afghan troops involved. The operation was set to last 30 days, with the troops searching each house twice.
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'Be proud; you deserve it,' general tells Canadian troops receiving service stars
Ottawa soldier among honourees also carries great-grandfather's medal from 1897
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 1, 2008 | 11:54 AM ET CBC News
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An Ottawa soldier based in Afghanistan whose great-grandfather fought in the same part of the world 110 years ago was among about 150 personnel honoured with service medals during a ceremony in Kandahar Tuesday.

Maj. Walter Taylor's ancestor served in the Tirah Campaign in 1897-98 in what was then India and is now a region of Pakistan close to the Afghanistan border.
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Assassinated because she was a woman
January 02, 2008
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ARE women across the world mourning Benazir Bhutto? They should be. Not because she was a saint; she wasn't. She was at least a beneficiary of the billions stolen by her husband from the people of Pakistan. Nor did she do anything much for Pakistani women during her two periods of leadership, declining even to try to repeal the infamous Hudood laws whereby rape victims can be punished for adultery.

She should be mourned not because of what she was but because of what she symbolised. Her death was a political assassination, not an honour killing, as some have said.

Nevertheless it was a reminder of what we face. Bhutto was murdered because to her enemies she was Westernised, a traitor to her culture and an American stooge. She was murdered because she had vowed to bring secularism and democracy to Pakistan. She was murdered because she was all these things, and a woman.

"I know I am a symbol of what the so-called jihadists, Taliban and al-Qa'ida, most fear," she wrote in her autobiography, Daughter of the East. "I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education and technology to Pakistan."

Yes, fear is the right word. The fear of women, of women's freedom, and most of all, of women's sexuality, runs through Islamism. It is a large part of Islamist hatred of the West. "The issue of women is not marginal," writes the Dutch scholar Ian Buruma. "It lies at the heart of Islamic occidentalism (anti-Westernism)."

It is the "deep, ignored issue", writes Paul Berman, author of Terror and Liberalism. Why, I wonder, is it mainly men who are making these points?

To call these warriors for God sexually repressed is to absurdly understate it. Consider Mohammad Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers who -- despite having spent his last nights in the US going to strip clubs -- wrote in his will that no pregnant woman or other "unclean person" should come to his funeral and that no woman should visit his grave.
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Settling into Afghanistan: Nearly 6 months after deployment, B Company has suffered and learned a lot from war
Allison Lampert , CanWest News Service Published: Tuesday, January 01, 2008
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ZHARI DISTRICT, Afghanistan -- The soldiers of B Company had spent months preparing for Afghanistan, but the harshness of the war they were about to fight really hit them at their going-away party in June.

The crowds were cheering during a parade along the Grande Allee in Quebec City for the departing soldiers from Valcartier base. Amidst the hoopla, Major Dave Abboud, commander of the Van Doos infantry company, noticed a soldier with his left leg missing below the knee.

Abboud, of the Royal 22nd Regiment's third battle group, said he admired how proud the soldier looked in his military uniform, despite his injury delivered by a roadside bomb.
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Jean celebrates troops devotion, Quebec's birthday
Published: Tuesday, January 01, 2008
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Governor-General Michaelle Jean's addressed the nation New Year's day with a speech that touched on the war in Afghanistan, argued for the need of solidarity at home and abroad and celebrated the 400-year anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.

As Canada counted its 74th soldier to die in the war in Afghanistan last week, Jean fittingly started her address by underlining the courage and devotion of Canadian troops and their families.

"As Canadians we are inspired by the courage, determination and conviction shown by our soldiers overseas," she said.
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Premature mine explosion kills 2 Taliban in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-01 19:32:00
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    KABUL, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) -- Two Taliban insurgents were killed as their mine exploded prematurely in Afghanistan's central Ghazni province in the wee hours of Tuesday, police said.

    "Some Taliban fighters were busy in planting a mine on a road in Nawa district very early today to target government troops. Suddenly it exploded killing two insurgents on the spot," senior police officer in the province Mohammad Zaman told Xinhua.

    However, Taliban purported spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid put the number of militants' casualties three and said three fighters were killed in the premature explosion.

    The year of 2007 has been considered the most violent year since the collapse of the Taliban regime six years ago as more than 6,000 people had been killed in conflicts and Taliban-related violence.
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Articles found January 2, 2008

Comrades pay final tribute to fallen Canadian soldier
Parents 'extremely proud' of son's accomplishments
Allison Lampert , CanWest News Service Published: Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Article Link

The body of Gunner Jonathan Dion, the Canadian soldier killed Dec. 30 when the armoured vehicle he was travelling in struck a roadside bomb near Kandahar City, will return to Canada on Wednesday.

Dion's remains are due to arrive at 2 p.m. local time at the Canadian Forces base at Trenton, Ont., according to a statement from the base.

The 27-year-old native of Val D'Or, Que., died Sunday when his tracked light armoured vehicle, known as a T-LAV, hit an improvised explosive device during a routine patrol in Zhari district, about 20 kilometres west of Kandahar city. Four other soldiers were wounded.

Dion was serving with the Fifth Light Artillery Regiment of Canada, a Valcartier, Que.-based unit of the Royal Canadian Artillery.

Soldiers from Canada and other coalition countries gave Dion their final salute Monday in a sombre ramp ceremony -- the 30th for Canadian soldiers in 2007.

Two of the capless pallbearers began to sob as they loaded his casket into the waiting Hercules aircraft to begin the journey back to Canada.

"This is a very difficult time for the family and friends of Gunner Dion, and our thoughts are with them," said Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche, commander of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

In a statement issued Monday, Dion's parents said they are proud of their son, who loved being a soldier.

"It is never easy for parents to lose a child. We are devastated by the death of Jonathan who, with dignity, gave up his life serving his country with honour and pride alongside his brothers in arms in Afghanistan.
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Canada to focus on mentoring Afghan forces in 2008
Tuesday January 01, 2008 (1013 PST)
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OTTAWA: As Canada prepares for its sixth year in Afghanistan, there is growing consensus that the mission needs to focus on empowering the Afghan army and government with the tools to achieve independence.

An example of this is a small but growing number of Canadian troops heading to Kandahar next year that will find themselves in a mentoring role instead of on the front lines of combat.

Roughly 200 soldiers, under the umbrella of NATO’s Operational Mentor and Liaison Team (OMLT), will arrive this February with the goal of helping to develop the Afghan National Army (ANA).

Col. Francois Riffou, the incoming commander of the Canadian forces mentoring program, has been preparing the new batch of soldiers since April 2007.
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Militants kidnap four Pakistani soldiers: military
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Militants abducted four Pakistani paramilitary soldiers in a tribal area on Tuesday in the first such incident since the death of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, officials said.

Militants, believed to be loyal to alleged Al-Qaeda leader Baitullah Mehsud, seized the soldiers as they descended from their observation post on a hill near Makeen in South Waziristan.

The military said five rebels had been killed and 20 others detained amid fighting following the abduction of the four soldiers.

"Troops retaliated and launched an operation supported by artillery fire," the statement said. "Security forces apprehended 20 miscreants and killed five others."

The rebels had launched rocket and mortar attacks on a military base near Ladda town from rugged terrain bordering Afghanistan, a security official said.

Several militants were injured, but were evacuated by their comrades, the official added.

A local administration official said the attackers were loyal to Mehsud, who is alleged to be an Al-Qaeda leader in Pakistan.
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Police clerk going to Afghanistan
By CARLA GARRETT, SUN MEDIA
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Deb Graf is getting a six-month leave of absence from the Oxford police to work as a fire dispatcher at the Kabul airport.

WOODSTOCK -- A new year brings a new life experience for a local woman heading to Afghanistan this week.

Just four days after ringing in the new year, Oxford Community police clerk Deb Graf will board a plane headed to the war-torn Asian country.

"It's a great opportunity and a great life experience," Graf said. "It's something I have wanted to do for a long time."

For the next six months, the 42-year-old mother of two will work as a civilian fire dispatcher at the Kabul International Airport. She will work at the airfield alongside British, Danish and American troops.

The company that hired her, ATCO Frontec, provides support services to NATO forces from 26 countries as part of the International Security Assistance Force.

Graf, who has worked for the local police force since 1996, was given a six-month leave of absence to go work in Afghanistan.

"We think it's a great opportunity to have someone from our organization go to the other side of the world to try to make it a better life for the people there," deputy Chief Rod Freeman said.

Graf said she has had nothing but "tremendous support" from the chief and her colleagues.

The ongoing support is easing any fears she may have about leaving her husband and two children, a 13-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son, at home.

"They will be well looked after," said Graf, whose father was in the military.
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'If it was jihad then, it's jihad now.'
Colin Freeze, today at 7:56 AM EST Article Link

A former Pakistani intelligence officer says he has a message for Canadian and NATO forces in Afghanistan: “Ultimately you will lose,” he told me a phone interview. “You are not bringing any peace here."

Khalid Khawaja, an English-speaking ex-spy, spoke from Lahore after I called him from Kanadhar, where I am an embedded journalist with the Canadian Forces. The idea was to try to suss out the views of a known extremist, one who might put regional events in a different kind of perspective.

“In [1980s] Afghanistan, when the Russians attacked, the Canadians and Americans and Europeans supported the jihad against the Russians,” Mr. Khawaja said.  Foreign policies and foreign armies may shift over time, he said, but real Muslims stand firm.

"Our religion has not changed," he said. “If it was jihad then, it is jihad now.”

Mr. Khawja is the most accessible of Pakistan's rogue elements. The agency he once worked for, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), has been getting lot of press this week, amid allegations of complicity in the last week’s mysterious assasination of Benazir Bhutto and of continued ISI meddling in Afghanistan. 

These events occurred after Mr. Khawaja's time. During the 1980s and 1990s, he was something of a regional power broker. Firmly ensconced within Pakistan's military-intelligence apparatus, he first served as an Air Force squadron leader, then as an ISI operative, while forging personal relationships with Afghanistan-based  jihadists. He says he has met Osama bin Laden, Taliban Leader Mullah Omar, and just about every Afghan warlord of note.
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ARTICLES FOUND JAN. 3

Forces' Death Rate Higher Than Allies'
Canadian soldiers dying at higher rate than U.S., British troops

National Post, Jan. 3
http://www.nationalpost.com/todays_paper/story.html?id=211624

The death rate among Canadian soldiers fighting around Kandahar has outstripped not only that of U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan, but Americans in the bloody Iraq war as well, the forces' own figures indicate.

A National Defence Department analysis of casualty rates in the first year of operations in and around Kandahar -- obtained by the National Post under Access to Information legislation -- confirms unofficial reports that Canada has suffered a lopsided toll in the conflict.

Canadian soldiers died at a rate 2.6 to four times higher than the British and Americans in Afghanistan and two to 2.6 times higher than U.S. forces in Iraq, according to the April, 2007, number crunching by Barbara Strauss, an official with the Canadian Forces' health services group.

The proportion of Canadian soldiers killed by enemy action is higher even than it was in all but one year of the Second World War, the government document indicates.

The numbers reflect that Canadians are operating in one of the most dangerous pockets of the country, Lieu-tenant-Colonel Jamie Robertson, a National Defence spokesman, said in an interview yesterday. "You can look at statistics, but that doesn't take into account that Kandahar province is very different from even Helmand province next door [where the British operate]," he said.

"It's a totally different threat environment. We are in the former heartland of the Taliban, and obviously they have resorted to tactics designed to force casualties among civilians and security forces whenever possible."

Some experts say another reason for the relative beating taken by Canadian soldiers may be that they have no heavy-transport helicopters of their own [emphasis added], forcing them to rely more on ground transportation and face the threat of roadside bombs.

Others disagree, noting that helicopters have been shot down or crashed in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Canadian deaths at the hands of the insurgents dipped somewhat in 2007, to 27 from 32 the year before, with the rate seeming to slow in the second half of the year. The total since this country first got involved in Afghanistan is 74.

Brigadier-General Guy La-Roche, who heads the Canadian force in Afghanistan, attributed the recent drop in fatalities to new equipment, including the metal-detecting Husky vehicle, and a change in strategy to-ward more foot patrols.

A growing number of Afghan security forces are also helping coalition forces hold more ground won in battles, he said.

The report by Ms. Strauss, dated April 24, 2007, calculates "hostile" deaths during 2006 as a ratio of the total number of Canadian, American and British forces in Afghanistan.

For the Canadians, the death rate ranged from 1.3% to 1.6%, compared with 0.3% to 0.6% for their allies in Afghanistan, and 0.5% to 0.6% for the U.S. forces in Iraq.

The Canadian rate is higher than the proportion of troops killed in action during all years of the Second World War other than 1944 [emphasis added, what about Bomber Command amongst others?], when close to half Canada's 45,000 deaths occurred.

"We are, with the British, in the hotbed of the insurgency," said Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute, a think-tank opposed to Canada's involvement in Afghanistan. He said Canadians need to evaluate seriously whether such losses are justified by the mission in Kandahar [emphasis added].

Another expert, though, cautioned against reading too much into the figures. The numbers in Afghanistan are relatively small, which can skew statistics, and the comparison with the U.S. allies may not be accurate, said Don Macnamara, a retired brigadier-general and board member of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies.

The U.S. forces typically have far more troops involved in support roles and therefore out of harm's way, which would lower their rate of fatalities, he noted.

"Let's not run off with any conclusions before we do further analysis," he said.

US general warns on Afghan defence plan
Financial Times, Jan. 2
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f31af380-b95e-11dc-bb66-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1

British plans to equip tribes to defend their villages against the Taliban will not work in the region of Afghanistan in which UK forces are responsible, the top US general commanding Nato forces in the country warned on Wednesday.

With overstretched international and Afghan security forces struggling to contain the country’s insurgency, some countries, including the UK and Denmark, are pushing for greater use of tribal militias to strengthen efforts against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces.

Last month Gordon Brown, British prime minister, said the UK, which has responsibility for the southern province of Helmand, would increase its support for “community defence initiatives, where local volunteers are recruited to defend homes and families modelled on traditional Afghan arbakai”.

But General Dan McNeill, commander of the International Security and Assistance Force, on Wednesday said the model would be effective only in the south-east, and not in Helmand, the province where UK troops are located. “My information, from studying Afghan history, is that arbakai works only in Paktia, Khost and the southern portion of Paktika and it’s not likely to work beyond those geographic locations,” he said.

Gen McNeill said although there was a role for “local security solutions”, care had to be taken not to fuel inter-tribal fighting...

Mark
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Articles found January 4, 2008

Hundreds of Pakistani families flee sectarian violence, pour into Afghanistan
The Associated Press Thursday, January 3, 2008
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KABUL, Afghanistan: Hundreds of Pakistani families have poured across the border into Afghanistan in recent days as they flee sectarian violence in northwestern Pakistan, officials said Thursday.

Clashes last week between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Pakistan's Kurram tribal area left at least 21 people dead, and authorities imposed a curfew in the troubled area.

Afghan officials said that about 900 families — most of them Sunnis — have fled across the border in the past two weeks to the provinces of Khost and Paktia. The majority of those fleeing are women and children, and most are staying in the homes of friends and acquaintances.

"The situation is under control. There is no serious threat," said Khost Gov. Arsallah Jamal, who noted that about 400 to 500 Pakistani families had fled to the province. "In the past 30 years, we have seen these conflicts between Shia and Sunni in Kurram."

Abdul Rahman Mangal, the deputy governor in neighboring Paktia province, said that about 480 families had come to the border districts there, including about 20 to 30 Afghan families who were living in Pakistan.

The officials said that blankets, charcoal, wood and food had been delivered to assist.

Kurram, a semiautonomous region near Afghanistan, is prone to sectarian violence.
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7 Killed in Afghanistan Suicide Attack
By NOOR KHAN
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber attacked Indian road construction workers and their Afghan police escorts Thursday in southwestern Afghanistan, killing seven and wounding 12, an official said.

The convoy had been traveling on a main road toward the city of Khash Rod in Nimroz province when it was first hit by a remote-controlled bomb that was planted on a motorcycle, wounding one policeman, said Nimroz Gov. Ghulam Dastagir Azad.

The convoy stopped after the primary explosion, and a suicide bomber set off a secondary attack, killing six policemen and an Indian worker, Azad said. Ten policemen and two Indian workers were wounded.
End

Islamist Politicians Emerge As Pakistan's Power Brokers
Unrest Creates a Role For Devout Lawmakers;
'Yes' to Anti-Vice Squads
By PETER WONACOTT January 4, 2008; Page A1
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CHAMKANI VILLAGE, Pakistan -- Just after night fell at a campaign rally last Thursday, conservative Islamist politician Khalid Waqar heard the news: Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's best-known secular politician, was dead.

Here in the Northwest Frontier Province, just miles from Afghanistan and Pakistan's wild tribal areas, Mr. Waqar heard scattered cheers. There was the crack of rifle shots, he recalls, in apparent celebration of the former prime minister's assassination.

He hushed the crowd.

"We are all Muslims," he said. "Benazir was faithful to her country. This is a sad day for Pakistan." Then the 46-year-old Mr. Waqar -- a member of a coalition of religious politicians that some critics accuse of fostering the religious radicalism that Ms. Bhutto vowed to curb -- led a prayer for her.
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Afghanistan warns of dire food shortages
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BERLIN (AFP) — Afghanistan could face serious food shortages in the coming months that could lead to a famine, Economy Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang told a German newspaper in an interview published Friday.

Farhang called on the international community for help, noting that 400,000 tonnes of wheat were still needed to feed the population through the winter and sufficient oil, sugar and flour were also lacking.

"The situation is serious," he told the Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung, adding that President Hamid Karsai had formed a special commission to head off a potential humanitarian disaster.

Farhang said it would cost the Afghan government at least 80 million dollars if it has to buy grain on the free market.

"We call on the World Food Program, (German food aid group) Welthungerhilfe and friendly governments to help us in this crisis," he said.

Farhang said rising grain prices on the global market posed a serious problem while the political crisis in Pakistan made it difficult for food shipments to reach Afghanistan
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Afghan soldiers begin training with Canadian rifles
Allison Lampert, CanWest News Service  Published: Thursday, January 03, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- "Keep it loaded, keep it loaded!," Sgt. Nicolas Girard of the Royal 22 Regiment in Valcartier, Que. tells the Afghan soldiers over the popping of bullets on the rifle range.

"Tell them to keep their rifles loaded," Sgt. Girard tells an interpreter, eager to clear up any confusion over when the soldiers should be removing their magazines during the shooting drill.

Today is the Afghan soldiers' first time on the firing range with their Canadian-issued C-7 assault rifles. The Canadian Forces is in the process of equipping four Afghan army battalions with 2,500 surplus C-7 rifles.

"We are doing this at the request of the Afghan army as the weapons they have at the present time are pretty old," said Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche in an interview with reporters Wednesday. "And they don't have enough of them."

The Afghan army has been asking for the rifles for about three years, despite repeated promises by the Canadian government.

Gen. Laroche attributed the delay in delivering the rifles to red tape.
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Gurkhas a big help to the mission in Afghanistan
Allison Lampert , Montreal Gazette Published: Thursday, January 03, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- They are often referred to as human machines, soldiers with oversized hearts and lungs tucked into smaller than average-sized bodies.

Yet during a recent Christmas Day volleyball match, one observer on the court described the soldiers of the Royal Gurkha Rifles - in their floppy red hats - as "little Nepalese Santas."

Soft-spoken and exceedingly polite, the Gurkhas have become a key Canadian ally in Afghanistan, with the Rifles' C company fighting side-by-side during three recent operations in Kandahar province. Since they arrived in September, the Gurkha company has played an essential role in helping Canadian and Afghan soldiers chase insurgents out of Kandahar's volatile Zhari and Panjwaii districts.
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http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=9346dae9-3f21-4c23-8234-d3d5e1a6fae3

Saturday » January 5 » 2008
 
Canadians find formidable ally in Gurkhas
 
ALLISON LAMPERT
The Gazette


Saturday, January 05, 2008


They are often referred to as human machines, soldiers with oversize hearts and lungs tucked into smaller-than-average bodies.

Yet during a Christmas Day volleyball match, one observer on the court described the soldiers of the Royal Gurkha Rifles - in their floppy red hats - as "little Nepalese Santas." Soft-spoken and exceedingly polite, the Gurkhas have become a key Canadian ally in Afghan-istan.

Since arriving in September, the Gurkha company has played an essential role in helping Canadian and Afghan soldiers chase insurgents out of Kandahar's volatile Zhari and Panjwaii districts.

"The Gurkhas are a very remarkable organization. They have very good fighters," said Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche, commander of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan. "We want to keep on working with them as long as we can." Created after a peace treaty in 1816 between Britain and Nepal, the Gurkha brigade has served as part of the British army.

Selected through rigorous testing in Nepal - Gurkha candidates must climb five kilometres carrying a 70-pound backpack in under 35 minutes - only one in 300 is accepted into the legendary British infantry regiment.

"We've got good quality blokes," said Lt.-Col. Jonny Bourne, commander of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. "A lot of them come from particularly rugged backgrounds." Besides working well with the Canadian soldiers, the Gurkhas are praised for being able to communicate with Afghan soldiers. Reared on Bollywood films, most Gurkhas speak Hindi, which is close to Urdu, a Pakistani language spoken by many Afghans.

But they are best known for their physical prowess, including being able to carry their own weight in ammunition, gear and British-issued SA-80 assault rifles. This strength allows them to jump spectacularly high during their favourite game, volleyball.

"In Nepal, we don't have the big roads that you have in Canada, so we have to carry everything ourselves," said Lance-Cpl. Shree Krishna Gurung, who grew up in a small town in the hills of Nepal.

As a child, he had to walk 90 minutes each way to school, carrying his books and lunch. At age 9, Gurung's family moved closer to a school that would give him a better education - academic proficiency is essential to becoming a Gurkha.

At Kandahar Airfield, the Gurkhas have gained a quasi-mythical reputation among soldiers. After a recent, high-profile battle to chase the Taliban out of Musa Qala in Helmand province, word spread how insurgents fled at the news the Gurkhas were coming.

"One Canadian soldier said to me: 'You guys must have magical, mystical powers,' " recalled 21-year-old rifleman Rajen Limu of C Company.

"I think he was joking." The Gurkhas also are said to mystify the Taliban, who were initially surprised by their presence on the battlefield. With their Asian features, the Gurkhas somewhat resemble Afghan- istan's ethnic Hazara population.

The Gurkhas wear British uniforms with the emblem of Nepal's traditional khukuri knives on their shoulder. About 500 Gurkhas are based at Kandahar Airfield.

High unemployment in Nepal, coupled with the rich history of the storied infantry group, generate huge demand among young Nepalese to become Gurkhas.

"Our forefathers were in the British army, so we followed them," Gurung said. "It's a tradition. In our opinion, being a Gurkha is one of the best jobs."

alampert@ thegazette.canwest.com

Check out The Gazette's Allison Lampert's blog, From Oil to Dust, at montrealgazette.com

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2008








Copyright © 2008 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

 

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Articles found January 5, 2008

How it feels to be at war
Soldiers, doctors and aid workers in Afghanistan try to bring apathetic Canadians into the tent
Pat Burkette, Vancouver Sun Published: Saturday, January 05, 2008
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Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of Its Participants is a collection of 17 first-person accounts -- to be released next Saturday -- by Canadian soldiers, doctors, journalists and aid workers on the front lines in Afghanistan. Co-editor Kevin Patterson, whose idea it was, is a B.C. doctor who earlier this year served for seven weeks as an internist at the Kandahar Air Field hospital. He's also the talented author of the novel Consumption and other books.

Outside the Wire's foreword, by Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire, does what post-war memoirs like Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Studs Terkel's The Good War and Ron Kovic's Born on the Fourth of July couldn't -- namely, provide insight into a war while it's being waged.

Which naturally leads to the book's burning question. When Capt. Casey Balden recounts a roadside bombing, when Cpl. Gordon Whitton writes of his battle on Three Mile Mountain and when Vancouver carpenter Mike Frastacky tells, posthumously, about building a school amid tribal politics, they're really asking us readers: "If you knew more about how and why our guys are getting killed over there, would you still want them to go?"
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In support of the troops
TheStar.com - comment - In support of the troops
January 05, 2008
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Soldier's body arrives home

Jan. 3
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I feel our government does not support the mission in Afghanistan to the extent it should. If our brave soldiers put their lives on the line, then we should be 100 per cent committed to protecting them.

I recall watching a news story on TV showing our troops patrolling Kandahar province during the day while the Taliban plants improvised explosive devices at night. Why are we not using planes, helicopters or remotely piloted vehicles with forward-looking infrared cameras and the like to patrol at night looking for the Taliban while they are planting the IEDs?

Identified positions of nighttime activity in the patrolled areas could, at the very least, be pinpointed by GPS and reported to ground troops so they would know where to expect an IED the next day.

I believe it is possible using currently available technology to monitor every inch of Afghanistan 24 hours a day if we choose to do it. The bottom line is we don't want to spend the money that this would require.

If we are not committed to giving our troops the best support we can, then we should not send them in.


Robert Jones, Richmond Hill

On Nov. 20, 2007, I, along with many residents of Whitby, stood on the Brock St. bridge and either saluted, prayed, clapped, waved flags or sang "O Canada" as the cavalcade carrying the bodies of Cpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp and Pte. Michel Lévesque drove along Highway 401 on that cold, windy day.

I met and talked to strangers while waiting for the cavalcade to arrive. After it passed and was no longer in sight, we shook hands with the couple beside us, and the man said, "It was nice meeting you. Let's hope and pray we don't meet again on this bridge."

Now, just 44 days later, gunner Jonathan Dion has passed beneath that bridge.

How many more times will we and others be standing on the bridges overlooking the Highway of Heroes?

My prayer is that all of the Canadian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan will come home and walk off their planes to their loved ones.
Carol Doughty, Whitby
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Muslim clerics warn Afghanistan president against missionaries
by Daniel Blake Posted: Saturday, January 5, 2008
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The President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has been told by the country’s Islamic council to stop foreign aid groups from converting locals to Christianity.

The influential council of Islamic clergy and ulema (scholars) made the warning in a statement during a meeting with Karzai on Friday in which it also called for the reintroduction of public executions, which have not taken place since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

"The council is concerned about the activities of some ... missionary and atheistic organs and considers such acts against Islamic sharia (law), the constitution, and political stability," the council said in its statement.

"If not prevented, God forbid, catastrophe will emerge, which will not only destablise the country, but the region and the world."
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« Australia: 2007 UAV Outback Challenge (video)Part spy, part sniper: UAVs increasingly in use in war
Allison Lampert , Montreal Gazette Published: Friday, January 04, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Unmanned, aerial spies regularly take to the skies over Afghanistan because of a hunch from the ground.
That hunch might come from a coalition force operative who suspects a white pick-up truck is delivering weapons to insurgents in one of this country’s many isolated, mud-walled compounds. Soon, the U.S. air force pilots who fly Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles over Afghanistan are watching the pick-up truck’s every movement from their base in Nevada.
While the scenario of the truck is fictitious, it illustrates how an increasing number of unmanned aerial vehicles - slow-moving, remote-controlled aircraft with cameras - are being used during wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
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Good News in Afghanistan
Contributed by: psiclone
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Taliban insurgents are depending more on foreign fighters because of increased difficulties recruiting locals, Canadian Brig.-Gen. Marquis Hainse said Sunday.

Coalition forces have observed a greater number of Arabs and other foreign nationals among the insurgents killed recently during battles in Afghanistan's southern provinces said Hainse, ISAF's deputy commander at its Regional Command South.

While the Taliban has used foreign fighters for years, that reliance is increasing because of a local backlash by Afghans against the militant group, he said.

There is more evidence of foreign fighters," Hainse told CanWest News Service in an interview. "These are signs for us that they (the Taliban) have a recruiting problem."

The Taliban movement is also said to have been plagued by an increasing number of defectors, even as its upper echelons were shaken by internal squabbles this week.

"Just the fact that the Taliban, or the insurgents, are showing a lot more interest in reconcilliating with the government in the last couple of months, to me, is a good sign," Hainse said.
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Kandahar mayor teams up with Canadians to reduce pedestrian, auto congestion
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - For a sexually repressed country like Afghanistan that frowns on any contact between men and women who aren't married, it may come as a surprise that even in the bustling marketplace in ultra-conservative Kandahar city, women are regularly subject to sexual harassment and assault.

Even with the ouster of the Taliban, many women rarely leave their homes and those who do seldom go out without the guise of their burka.

Yet in the hustle and bustle of the bazaar, men commonly take advantage of the noisy crowds to whisper obscene comments in women's ears or grab their rear ends.

"That happens on a normal average basis every day," said Rangina Hamidi, a local advocate for women's rights.

Also the daughter of Kandahar Mayor Ghulam Hayder Hamidi, Rangina calls herself her father's "biggest critic," but even she supports his plan to clean up the streets and sidewalks of Kandahar.
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Jonathan Kay on Canada's (newfound) outsized influence on the world stage
Posted: January 04, 2008, 2:27 PM by Jonathan Kay
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A few months ago, a representative from a think tank asked me to participate in an international Internet roundtable — whereby one writer from each country would summarize in about 700 words what he or she predicted would be the most important issues facing his or her country in 2008.

As Canada's representative, I racked my brain thinking about how our relatively tiny country was going to impact global events. Surprisingly, I had lots of ideas. In the past few decades, Canada's role on the world stage has largely consisted of championing multilateral agreements and hectoring other nations about "soft power," human rights and such. But these days, our power is a lot more tangible.

Here is what I came up with:


By Jonathan Kay
in Toronto

As a decidedly second-tier OECD country, Canada usually does little to affect important global trends. But that won’t be true in 2008. On at least three major issues, what happens in Canada will have a crucial impact on events in the rest of the world.

First, there is oil, the price of which has just peaked above the symbolic US$100 threshold, setting off a fresh bout of hand-wringing over energy prices and oil scarcity.
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Afghanistan: Marriage Practice Victimizes Young Girls, Society
By Farangis Najibullah
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Most girls dream about about falling in love, getting married in a beautiful dress, and having a family. But for thousands of young Afghan girls, and millions more across Asia and Africa, marriage often comes before they are old enough for such dreams -- and ends in nightmare.


Torpekay, for example, is an Afghan girl from western Herat Province. Although just 17, she has been married for four years.

Torpekay tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that becoming a wife at the tender age of 13, being forced to serve her husband's family, and having virtually no say in her own life have taken a heavy toll on her. So heavy, she says, that she tried to escape -- by taking her own life.

She survived the attempt, and has been recovering at a local hospital. "I was so angry that I wanted to kill myself," she says, asking that her surname not be used. "I didn't have a knife, I didn't have any drug to inject into myself, so I decided to set myself on fire. Using gasoline was the easiest way."

The issue of child marriages, which affects more than 50 million girls worldwide according to the United Nations, was thrust back in the headlines recently when the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) selected its "Photo of 2007." The winning shot, by American photographer Stephanie Sinclair, shows a 40-year-old Afghan man, Mohammad, sitting next his visibly horror-stricken fiancee, Ghulam. She is barely 11 years old.

"We needed the money," Ghulam's parents, from Ghor Province, were quoted as saying.
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Afghanistan: Foreign Troops Accused in Helmand Raid Massacre
Submitted by blackandred on Sat, 2008-01-05 22:47. Afghanistan Imperialism Terrorism War
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By Matiullah Minapal and Aziz Ahmad Tassal in Lashkar Gah (Afghanistan); January 1, 2008 - IWPR
http://www.rawa.org/temp/runews/2008/01/01/foreign-troops-ac...

Residents of a southern village tell of a night of violence at the hands of foreign and Afghan soldiers.

A young man lies in bed in the Emergency Hospital in Lashkar Gah. His throat is bandaged, and he can barely speak. Holding his hand to his wound, he is clearly in pain as he tells of his ordeal in a whisper, interjecting over and over again, “My two brothers! My two brothers!”

The man’s name is Abdul Manaan, but locals call him “Naanwai”, “the baker”, as he has a bread shop in Lakari, about two kilometres from the village of Toube in the southern Garmseer district of Helmand province.

Abdul Manaan claims he suffered slashes to his neck during a night time raid which locals say was carried out by a mixed force of foreign and Afghan troops helicoptered into Toube on November 18. Eyewitnesses say the soldiers killed 18 civilians in an attack that was brutal even by the standards of the Afghan conflict.

Although the raid is said to have happened three weeks ago, there has been no news or comment about it outside Helmand.

“It was about two in the morning when we heard the aircraft, and I woke up,” said Abdul Manaan. “I looked out but I couldn’t see anything. My two younger brothers who were in another room came to me to ask what was going on, but I told them, ‘Nothing, just go back to sleep’. They went back to bed, as did I.
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Articles found January 6, 2008

Afghanistan's Mullahs demand TV crackdown
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KABUL (AFP) — Afghanistan's Islamic clerics have called on President Hamid Karzai to clamp down on a burgeoning television industry which it accused of spreading "immorality and unIslamic culture."

The call was made during a meeting between Karzai and dozens of clerics from an influential religious council in Kabul on Friday, an official in Karzai's office told AFP under condition of anonymity on Saturday.

"The unrestrained programmes on TV has angered and prompted the Ulemas (scholars) to react," the conservative council comprising religious clerics said in a statement to Karzai, a copy of which was provided to AFP.

"Hop... is spreading immoralities and hurts the sacred religion of Islam," the statement said, referring to an MTV-style music show on Tolo TV, one of the biggest among several private stations launched after the fall of the Taliban regime.

"Afghan Star... encourages immorality among the people and is against Sharia (law)," the statement said referring to an American-Idol-type show on Tolo.

Over a dozen privately run television stations have sprung up following the fall of the Taliban, who banned TV as unIslamic during their strict 1996-2001 rule before they were toppled in a US-led invasion.
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Soldier's Christmas in Afghanistan
By BILL CONNOR | Sunday, January 06, 2008
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My Christmas this year in Afghanistan was a bit unique. However, the description may give readers some idea of how other service members spent that day.

A few may have spent their Christmas on big bases without much work. Unfortunately, as the enemy does not take the day off, workloads and security levels for most actually increase. Interestingly, working hard and staying focused was good for many soldiers, as it kept us from becoming despondent missing our loved ones back home.

I had to deploy from my regular base to a forward position near Taliban lines over the Christmas period. I tell this story of my Christmastime to remind other Americans that throughout Iraq and Afghanistan so many of our sons and daughters sacrificed their holiday for the freedom of others.

The trip began on Dec 20 when I traveled with key leaders in my command and Afghan National Security Force leaders to a forward base. Our destination is one of the few locations in Afghanistan we can see a conventional battlefield situation: friendly forward lines facing Taliban forward lines with only a few hundred meters in between. As soon as we arrived, we heard the sound of friendly mortars (on the base) and artillery pounding enemy positions only about one kilometer away. At the same time, we were briefed where to take cover in the event of missile or even mortar attacks directed at the base on a frequent basis. Incidentally, this base was made up of coalition troops from a certain European nation and soldiers from Nepal (Ghurkas).

During the trip, our party reconnoitered locations throughout the local town for the possible movement of Afghan troops. As part of this visit, we were invited to an elaborate "Eid" meal with a local Afghan leader. Interestingly, in the days before Christmas the Afghans celebrate the "Haj" Eid (Muslim celebration, similar to the Eid after Ramadan). During this three-day period, Afghans take time off work and invite guests to Thanksgiving-type meals. Our meal initially involved hours of social discussions while eating nuts, dried raisons and pistachios. We were then invited to sit down in a circle on bea.jpgul Afghan carpets while the food was brought to the middle of the group
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US military not welcome in Pakistan: army
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ISLAMABAD (AFP) — The Pakistani military reacted angrily Sunday to reports that US President George W. Bush is considering covert military operations in the country's volatile tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

"It is not up to the US administration, it is Pakistan's government who is responsible for this country," chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP.

"There are no overt or covert US operations inside Pakistan. Such reports are baseless and we reject them."

The New York Times reported on its website late Saturday that under a proposal being discussed in Washington, CIA operatives based in Afghanistan would be able to call on direct military support for counter-terrorism operations in neighbouring Pakistan.

Citing unnamed senior administration officials, the newspaper said the proposal called for giving Central Intelligence Agency agents broader powers to strike targets in Pakistan.

Pakistan's western tribal belt is seen as a safe haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants who carry out attacks in Afghanistan, as well as the most likely hideout for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The United States now has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan, the report said.
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War and pests: Saugerties' Anthony Sloan set for Afghanistan as civilan contractor
By Blaise Schweitzer, Freeman staff 01/06/2008
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It isn't just Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine servicemen and women who risk their lives representing the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. Civilian contractors are also behind the scenes there.
Anthony Sloan, 29, of Saugerties, is among them - or he should be shortly.

Today, Sloan is to fly to Houston for two weeks of training prior to being sent to Afghanistan where he is to work as a pest controller for the next year.

Specifically where, he won't know for some time.

"I'm going into it kind of blind," said Sloan.

With a background in the Air Force as well as the family's pest control business, he does have some vision for what his service might be like, but much of it is speculative.

Hired by KBR, a former subsidiary of the defense contractor Halliburton, Sloan will have short stints off for rest and recreation but his on-time will be intense 12-hour days, he said. He isn't even certain if he will have a home base, or whether he will be in constant rotation, ferried from unit to unit on Blackhawk helicopters.

Sloan has only a casual understanding of the sorts of pests he will be dealing with, but he has seen videos posted by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan of the countries' YouTube-famous camel spiders. One showing a spider dangling a struggling lizard makes his spine tingle, he said
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Government stymying efforts to obtain info, commissioner failing to help: critic
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HALIFAX - It's taking in excess of a year for some Canadians to obtain government documents because the federal information commissioner isn't demanding swift action from departments that are bogged down in increasingly lengthy reviews, say critics.

Several recent requests under the Access to Information Act have been returned to applicants with a notice that they require a 240-day extension - a delay three times the previous average, making data outdated and often useless when it is released.

Users of the system say Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has imposed so many layers of scrutiny that even the most benign material gets fetched up in reviews for months, even years.

"The intent is to frustrate efforts ... and ultimately you're going to go away," said Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel and expert in access-to-information legislation.

"By the time (the information) is issued, it has lost some of its value and ultimately you have a Canadian public that's not as well informed as it should be."

People using the legislation to acquire personal information or documents on government activities have found the average wait time for release has risen sharply from 30 to 60 days a couple of years ago to 150 or even 250 days over the last several months

Some departments, like Defence and Foreign Affairs, are so backlogged they're automatically tacking on extensions of more than 100 days to most, if not all, requests. Further extensions can be applied, pushing some requests beyond a year.
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U.S. Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan
NY Times, Jan. 6
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/washington/06terror.html?ref=todayspaper

WASHINGTON — President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.

Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a number of President Bush’s top national security advisers met Friday at the White House to discuss the proposal, which is part of a broad reassessment of American strategy after the assassination 10 days ago of the Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. There was also talk of how to handle the period from now to the Feb. 18 elections, and the aftermath of those elections.

Several of the participants in the meeting argued that the threat to the government of President Pervez Musharraf was now so grave that both Mr. Musharraf and Pakistan’s new military leadership were likely to give the United States more latitude, officials said. But no decisions were made, said the officials, who declined to speak for attribution because of the highly delicate nature of the discussions.

Many of the specific options under discussion are unclear and highly classified. Officials said that the options would probably involve the C.I.A. working with the military’s Special Operations forces.

The Bush administration has not formally presented any new proposals to Mr. Musharraf, who gave up his military role last month, or to his successor as the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who the White House thinks will be more sympathetic to the American position than Mr. Musharraf. Early in his career, General Kayani was an aide to Ms. Bhutto while she was prime minister and later led the Pakistani intelligence service.

But at the White House and the Pentagon, officials see an opportunity in the changing power structure for the Americans to advocate for the expanded authority in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country. “After years of focusing on Afghanistan, we think the extremists now see a chance for the big prize — creating chaos in Pakistan itself,” one senior official said.

The new options for expanded covert operations include loosening restrictions on the C.I.A. to strike selected targets in Pakistan, in some cases using intelligence provided by Pakistani sources, officials said. Most counterterrorism operations in Pakistan have been conducted by the C.I.A.; in Afghanistan, where military operations are under way, including some with NATO forces, the military can take the lead.

The legal status would not change if the administration decided to act more aggressively. However, if the C.I.A. were given broader authority, it could call for help from the military or deputize some forces of the Special Operations Command to act under the authority of the agency.

The United States now has about 50 soldiers in Pakistan. Any expanded operations using C.I.A. operatives or Special Operations forces, like the Navy Seals, would be small and tailored to specific missions, military officials said...

Mark
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Articles found January 7, 2008

Two Canadians die in Afghan accident
TOBI COHEN Canadian Press January 7, 2008 at 9:22 AM EST
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid tribute Monday to two Canadian soldiers who died in a vehicle accident in Afghanistan on Sunday.

In a statement issued Monday, Mr. Harper said the contribution that Warrant Officer Hani Massouh and Corporal Éric Labbé made will not be forgotten.

"They deserve the gratitude of all Canadians for their commitment and the work they performed on our behalf," Mr. Harper said. "Warrant Officer Massouh and Cpl. Labbé made an important contribution to the lives of the people of Afghanistan."

WO Massouh, 41, and Cpl. Labbé, 31, were members of 2nd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment — the Van Doos — based in Valcartier, Que.
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The face of Canadian courage 
'Outside the wire' compiles powerful first-person accounts of war in Afghanistan
PAUL GESSELL CanWest News Service
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Outside the Wire: The War in Afghanistan in the Words of its Participants

Edited by Kevin Patterson and Jane Warren

Random House Canada. $32

Capt. Nichola Goddard was the quintessential Canadian, and not because she has entered history books as this country's first female soldier killed in combat. Her death came, at age 26, May 17, 2006, during a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan's Panjwayi district.

Goddard possessed two quintessentially Canadian qualities. The first is fearlessness on the battlefield. Just ask the Germans, who declared during the First World War that Canadian troops were the toughest to beat and not just at Vimy in France, where we captured key territory our allies had previously and most miserably failed to secure. The second essential attribute of the quintessential Canadian is politeness. The definition of a Canadian, after all, is that of someone who says "thank you" to a cash-dispensing ATM.

Serving with the First Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, Goddard was described by colleagues as courageous in battle, winning the respect of the men who served under her and, simultaneously, astounding the male Afghan elders with whom she was required to meet after lugging herself and 40 kilograms of gear up and down mountains to reach remote villages.

Being the quintessential Canadian, Goddard also scored high on the politeness meter. Like all soldiers, she uttered her share of crude four-letter words to prod her subordinates into action. But she would then write letters, filled with girlie smiley faces, to her father in Calgary, apologizing for using rough language.
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Canada examined bigger Afghan deployment with jets and helicopters: documents
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OTTAWA - The Canadian military initially planned for a much wider involvement in the Afghan war than what it delivered in Kandahar, newly released documents show.

As a battle group of 2,200 soldiers was preparing to face the Taliban two years ago, the air force drew up plans in late 2005 to deploy eight CH-146 Griffon helicopters, specially modified as attack aircraft, and a fleet of CF-18 fighter-bombers.

The proposals were eventually set aside, despite NATO's plea for more aircraft, specifically transport and attack helicopters.

The Griffons and jetfighters were intended to give Canada's troops their own hard-hitting air power, instead of relying on other allied nations, such as the United States and Britain.

Canada eventually chose to send C-130 Hercules transports, which drop supplies to far-flung desert bases.

The country's top military commander said he asked the air force to draw up the contingency plans, but ultimately decided against recommending the deployment of the fighters and helicopters.
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Going for the goat
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I've seen many Canadians here play volleyball and soccer with Afghans, but few foreigners would dare step on a Buzkashi field.

Lester Smith, a project manager from Kingston, Ont., is the first Canadian I've met who's actually played Afghanistan's national sport - think polo but with a dead goat as the ball.

It all started when he was working for the United Nations in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Smith was watching a Buzkashi game just down the block from the UN guest house where he was staying.

One of the players got hurt playing the aggressive game, which involves teams of riders trying to carry the dead, gutted goat, across the field and back to their turf.

Suddenly, an Afghan warlord pulled up in a black Hummer and approached the tall, friendly Ontarian. He was surrounded by bodyguards with AK-47s. But instead of attacking the sole foreigner at the game, the warlord asked Smith if he could ride horses.

Growing up in Kingston, Smith had been riding horses since he was a child, so he said yes. That was all it took. Smith would ride the warlord's Arabian horse during at least nine Buzkashi games.

Children hawking bread at the game to spectators would stop their wheeling and dealing to stare at the curious, pale-skinned foreigner who towered over the other players on the field.

At the beginning his legs ached from the wooden saddle. It also took time for Smith to get used to the aggressive behaviour on the field: his horse would bite at the other horses. And the players would hit and kick each other to get at the goat.

"I'm a gentle person, I wouldn't want to hurt people," Smith said. That was a little over a year ago. Now stationed at the Kandahar Air Field, Smith works for the Quebec company SNC Lavalin.
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Wheat flour crisis worsens in Afghanistan
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KABUL: Owing to the shortage of wheat flour in Pakistan, residents of many areas in Afghanistan, including the central capital Kabul, are suffering from price hike of basic commodities and food shortage.

Afghanistan’s southern, eastern, southeastern provinces and the central capital Kabul are mainly dependent on food import from Pakistan via its border towns of Peshawar and Quetta. However, the prices of daily commodities, especially wheat flour and cooking oil have suddenly jumped in the war-battered country as the authorities in Pakistan have stopped flour smuggling to Afghanistan via many illegal border crossings. Pointing to the crisis, an Afghan minister has sought help from the international community to avoid any food shortage in the country, especially its remote areas which have remained covered under snow with all linking routes blocked in the winter season. Mohammad Amin Farhang, Afghanistan’s Minister for Commerce, has told journalists that his country is facing a shortage of wheat flour and the international community should increase wheat supply to the country to alleviate the looming crisis. Although Afghanistan is popular for its fresh and dry fruits, the country does not grow as much wheat to fulfill the requirements of a small fraction of its population, which mostly depends on rice and wheat flour. Both commodities are not grown in the landlocked country and are mostly imported from Pakistan or other neighbouring countries.
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Royal Marines rescue dogs from Afghanistan
Last Updated: 1:28am GMT 07/01/2008
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Leave no man behind is a rule the military tries to live by, but Royal Marines in Afghanistan appear to have adopted an additional principle: leave no dog behind.

Report claims Army ads 'glamorise war'
A pair of cross-breeds are starting a new life in Britain after Marines from 42 Commando smuggled them across the war-torn country.

The dogs, which were found begging for food, were taken in by the soldiers in Helmand province and spent months living in a bunker, building up their strength on military rations.

When the men ended their deployment they feared for the animals' welfare so they arranged for them to be transported by Afghan people to a rescue centre in Kabul.
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Pakistan: Militants Kill 8 Tribal Elders
By SADAQAT JAN –
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Suspected Islamic militants fatally shot eight tribal leaders involved in efforts to broker a cease-fire between security forces and insurgents in Pakistan's volatile northwest, authorities said Monday.

The men were killed in separate attacks late Sunday and early Monday in South Waziristan, a mountainous region close to Afghanistan where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are known to operate, a security official and the military said in a statement.

The suspected insurgents killed three of the men in a market in Wana, the region's main town, while the other five were killed in attacks on their homes, the security official said. The men were scheduled to meet each other on Monday in Wana to discuss the negotiations, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

Pakistan is an ally in the U.S. war on terrorism, and its security forces have fought intense battles with militants in South Waziristan. Although the government has encouraged moderate tribal elders to broker a cease-fire in the region, there has been little sign of success.

The Pakistan-Afghanistan border area has long been considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, and the U.S. has pressured the government of President Pervez Musharraf to crack down on militants operating in the area.
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Afghans need weapons they know how to use
ChronicleHerald.ca, Jan. 7, by By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target
http://thechronicleherald.ca/Opinion/1002121.html

WHEN I visited the Kabul Military Training Centre last January, I was dismayed to see that the Afghan National Army recruits were equipped with Cold War surplus U.S. camouflage uniforms, an assortment of footwear (ranging from sandals to boots), and a variety of headgear and helmets.

The one thing that was consistent among the Afghan ranks was that they were invariably armed with the ubiquitous AK-47 Kalashnikov assault rifle. For sure a large number of the weapons were worn-out older models produced in a variety of former Warsaw Pact countries. Nevertheless, after nearly three decades of continuous guerrilla warfare, virtually every Afghan male can field-strip and reassemble a Kalashnikov rifle in his sleep by the time he reaches puberty.

In fact, the weapons-handling segment of the Kabul Military Training Centre course was almost redundant, as most of the Afghan volunteers already had a wealth of experience handling their Kalashnikovs...

The basic design and concept of the Kalashnikov family of weapons is perfectly suited to the Afghan theatre of operations. With few working parts, it requires minimal maintenance and is virtually impervious to the elements, such as dust and sand.

As many former Warsaw Pact and Soviet republics are converting their old arsenals from the Kalashnikov family to other infantry weapons produced by NATO countries, there is a worldwide glut of relatively new AK-47s and the even newer AK-74 models.

However, in the six years of trying to create a new Afghan National Army, neither the U.S. nor its NATO allies have tapped into this readily available and cheap pool of surplus weaponry.

Instead, the Afghan army has found itself outfitted with the castoff crap that the Afghan warlords voluntarily turned over to the U.S. when they went through the post-Taliban motions of disarming their followers. Everyone knows the warlords retained their best weapons in hidden caches — including artillery and tanks — but until now it was easier for everyone involved to turn a blind eye to their deception.

Two years ago, when Canadian troops first moved south from Kabul to Kandahar, their Afghan army allies complained to them about the poor condition of their Kalashnikovs. Former defence minister Gordon O’Connor promised the Afghan commanders that he would set things right. Last week, the Canadian government made good on that promise by delivering 2,500 C7 assault rifles that are to be issued to Afghan units directly supporting our troops in Kandahar.

The Canadian C7s are based on the U.S. M-16 and share the same increased accuracy over the Kalashnikov. However, they are also far more complex and require a far higher degree of technical expertise for their continued maintenance. The Americans have previously stated they intend to convert the entire Afghan army’s weaponry to the M-16 family of small arms, but that conversion has yet to be implemented.

On the surface, putting 2,500 modern, serviceable, Canadian-made C7s in the hands of the Afghan soldiers operating alongside our troops may alleviate a short-term local requirement. However, if NATO and the U.S. are serious about building a truly national Afghan army, they need to embark on a procurement strategy that will result in a uniform, serviceable and maintainable arsenal for the long term.

Acquiring a complete stock of new Afghan Kalashnikovs that the Afghans can already operate and repair makes more sense than providing a few battalions of their army with the completely unique and foreign C7 rifle.

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U.S. Officials Review Approach in Pakistan
Fight Against Al-Qaeda May Intensify

Washington Post, Jan. 7
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/06/AR2008010602262.html

The political upheaval in Pakistan and emergence there of a new military leader has revitalized the Bush administration's long struggle to develop a coherent strategy for uprooting al-Qaeda from Pakistan's western tribal areas, U.S. officials said yesterday.

The administration is hopeful that Pakistan's new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani, will support more robust efforts involving U.S. intelligence and military operatives targeting al-Qaeda's terrorist sanctuaries in the country, the officials said.

"Kiyani has a strong recognition that things haven't worked," said one senior military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. "He recognizes the level of competence and proficiency" of Pakistan's forces "will need attention."

The unrest has led to a greater focus in Washington on threats facing Pakistan, including not only terrorism, but increasingly a growing religious insurgency, said another senior military official. "The conditions we face are not waiting, so why should we wait?" he said.

Senior U.S. officials discussed at the White House last week a new proposal to give U.S. Special Operations forces and the CIA greater leeway to conduct operations in the tribal areas...

The Pentagon seeks greater authority to conduct operations while coordinating with the State Department. Adm. Eric Olson, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, visited Pakistan last month and discussed with President Pervez Musharraf and senior military leaders how else the U.S. military can assist in countering "a very complex insurgency," one military official said.

The State Department position is that the U.S. ambassador should approve every operation in Pakistan...

In Pakistan, speculation has intensified for weeks that the Bush administration would act unilaterally in the northwestern frontier to counter al-Qaeda's growing presence.

Some U.S. military sources said that such public speculation, while unfounded, nevertheless serves to lessen the political cost of any U.S. actions.

Still, some Pakistani observers warn that a more visible U.S. presence would almost certainly trigger a backlash against Musharraf. "It would give the militant Islamic parties a strong whip to use against moderates, especially in the northwest territories," said Shuja Nawaz, a Washington-based Pakistani journalist and author.
 

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Articles found January 8, 2008

Military's surge in public esteem could pass, authors warn
David ********,  CanWest News Service  Published: Monday, January 07, 2008
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The charisma of Gen. Rick Hillier and the Afghanistan war have provided the Canadian military with widespread public support and a key role in government but that could prove to be short-lived, warns a new book that examines the attitudes of the next generation of generals.

Canada's defence leadership should prepare military personnel for the potential return to more "Blue Beret" missions rather than the combat-oriented missions of Afghanistan, according to the book Between 911 and Kandahar.

The book points out that recent changes, such as the emergence of the charismatic chief of the defence staff and the clear vision of a defence policy, increased budgets, the commitment of troops to major combat operations and the visible support of Canadians to honour those who have died in Afghanistan, might indicate to officers the "dawn of a new age of enlightenment with the military finally restored to its rightful place in the political-social order."

But it warns this might prove to be fleeting.
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Vehicle tough, but top-heavy
Speedy carrier stands up to bombs, but tends to roll over
JAMES MENNIE, The Gazette Published: 5 hours ago
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The 17-tonne LAV III involved in an accident Sunday that cost two Canadian soldiers their lives is top-heavy and can roll over when forced onto soft ground, a study by a Canadian military think-tank suggests.

But that vulnerability is offset by the Light Armoured Vehicle's increased speed and armament, says the study, done in 2006 by Simon Fraser University's Canadian-American Strategic Review.

"There have been a dozen rollovers involving Canadian Forces LAV IIIs, some with fatal results," researcher Stephen Priestly wrote.

"The most common cause of these incidents is soft ground, either the shoulder or an embankment giving way beneath the vehicle.

"The LAV III is top-heavy, but ... better to ask why LAV IIIs have a high centre of gravity or what the trade-offs were.

"The answer is simple. ... The LAV III is armed with a large, turret-mounted 25-millimetre cannon."

The LAV III's armour protection has stood up well against roadside bombs, the Taliban's weapon of choice in Afghanistan, Priestly noted.

The vehicle's higher centre of gravity is also attributable to high ground clearance that allows the LAV to reach speeds of 100 kilometres an hour, compared with the top speed of 60 kilometres an hour reached by its United States counterpart, the M113, he added.

The performance of the eight-wheeled LAV is expected to come under scrutiny again after the deaths Sunday of two soldiers of the Royal 22e Régiment, killed when their LAV III rolled over on a rain-soaked road 40 kilometres south of Kandahar City.

National Defence Department officials identified the two as Cpl. Éric Labbé, 31, and Warrant Officer Hani Massouh, 41.
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Junior partner in global war
TheStar.com -January 08, 2008 Linda McQuaig
Article Link

For Canadians, watching a televised debate of Republican presidential candidates, like the one last Saturday night, can be a bit like observing an inscrutable species.

Baffling as it is to us, all the candidates reject public health care and celebrate the excellence of the U.S. health-care system, apparently regarding the fact that millions of Americans lack basic coverage as a minor flaw in the system.

Even more disturbing, the Republican presidential hopefuls seem to see the West as engaged in an all-out war against radical Islam in what sounds awfully like a crusades-style "clash of civilizations."

This is instructive for Canadians. Much as Canadian political leaders and commentators emphasize the notion that we're in Afghanistan to help with "reconstruction" and to improve the lot of women – goals Canadians readily support – we can perhaps get a better sense of the real nature of what we've signed on for by listening to these leading Republicans, who come from the same political pool as the war's architect, George W. Bush.

And while Canadians like to think of Afghanistan as a very different war than the one in Iraq, the Republicans clearly see the two wars as simply twin parts in America's battle with radical Islam.
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US Marines open rare 'court of inquiry' into Afghanistan shooting
The Associated Press Monday, January 7, 2008
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CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina: For the first time in more than 50 years, the U.S. Marine Corps launched a special tribunal Monday to publicly investigate allegations a newly formed special forces unit killed as many as 19 Afghan civilians in March after their convoy was rammed by a car bomb.

Many details — including the exact number of civilians killed and injured — remain in dispute, despite the attention the case has attracted in Afghanistan and inside the U.S. military. That makes the rarely used "court of inquiry" an ideal venue for a public investigation, said former military attorney Scott Silliman, now a law professor at Duke University.

"I think they are very much aware of the fact that questions of accountability are very much on the public's mind," he said.

The administrative fact-finding hearing will focus on the actions of two officers: Maj. Fred C. Galvin, commander of the 120-person unit, and platoon leader Capt. Vincent J. Noble. At the end of the inquiry, which is scheduled to last two weeks, the panel will recommend whether the officers should be charged with a crime.

Military prosecutors said Monday the court would consider whether the two officers should be charged with conspiracy to make a false official statement, dereliction of duty, failure to obey a lawful order and making a false official statement. The decion on charges ultimately will rest with Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland, commander of U.S. Marine Forces Central Command.
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Articles found January 9, 2008

ArmorWorks Delivers Vehicle Armor To Protect Canadian Troops
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ArmorWorks announced the early completion and delivery of a production contract to deliver lightweight vehicle armor to Canadian special operations forces. The kits are of the same type of advanced armor protection used by U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The advanced armor provides advanced ballistic protection against small arms fire, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and mines.
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The great Afghan juggle
Both the Grits and the NDP will take shelter in anti-Americanism
J.L. GRANATSTEIN From Tuesday's Globe and Mail January 8, 2008 at 8:27 AM EST
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At the end of January, John Manley's panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan will report to the government. We don't know how it will phrase it or what nuances will be encompassed, but the Manley report is likely to recommend that Canada continue its military presence in Afghanistan, if not necessarily in Kandahar. If so, what will the political response be?

There is no doubt about the New Democratic Party's position. Leader Jack Layton wants Canada out of Afghanistan immediately rather than waiting for the mandated end of the mission in 2009. He also wants negotiations with the Taliban. Those who faithfully parrot the NDP line put it more baldly. Steven Staples of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute sees Canada as "part of a NATO force but really fighting for George Bush," while the University of British Columbia's Michael Byers argues that "it's time to move from a combat-oriented approach to one that focuses on negotiation, peacemaking and nation-building. ... It's time to move NATO troops out, and UN peacekeepers in." If only there was some peace to keep, someone with whom to negotiate and enough stability to permit nation-building to take hold.

The Liberals' position has been different than the NDP's. They were, after all, the government when the decision was made to go into Afghanistan in 2002 and into Kandahar in the current combat role in 2005. Officially, the Grits still continue to support the continuation of the mission until 2009, something for which many Liberal MPs voted - including deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and Bill Graham, the defence minister when the decision to go into Kandahar was taken.

But Bob Rae, the party's foreign affairs critic and now a candidate in the St. Patrick's Day by-election in Toronto Centre, Mr. Graham's old riding, is pushing the party position leftward. "If we continue down the path that [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper wants to take us on, we're really going to be essentially engaged in a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, and I think that's extremely unwise," he was quoted as saying in an article published at year-end. "I don't think that's where people want to be. I think they want to see us in a peacekeeping role. I think they want to see us in a peacemaking role." You can take Bob Rae out of the NDP, it seems, but it's going to be pretty difficult to get NDP ideas out of Bob Rae's orations
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Hunting Death in the Sand: Sgt. Paul Coppicus
  Article Link

DON'T EXPECT MUCH sympathy from Sgt. Paul Coppicus. For the rugged soldier from Moosomin, Sask., tackling challenges on your own initiative is the only way to prove your worth. "When someone comes up to me," says the 37-year-old with barely a twitch of his twirled mustache, "and claims, 'I have a problem dealing with this,' my gut reaction is - so what?"
For a military engineer whose job includes removing LAND MINES - he spent six months in Bosnia in 1996, doing just that - toughness is not a bad character trait. Last week, he was called on to lead a team to the site of the mine blast that killed two Canadians. As that tragedy underscored, Afghanistan is one of the world's most heavily mined countries. Over the last year, thousands of mines have been removed, but they're still being found in areas designated as safe, while new ones are being deployed by the remnants of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In spite of the danger, Coppicus recalls, "The first time going into a minefield in Bosnia was exhilarating. The adrenalin was flowing and I was too nervous to look anywhere other than right in front of me."
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Stepane Dion Seems To Want It Both Ways On Afghanistan
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
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At times it almost sounds like Mr.Dion actually supports the mission in Afghanistan, going as far as to praise Canadian soldiers before insisting Canada needs to withdraw in 2009. The mood of Mr.Dion suggests that he might actually understand, in some form, the importance of finishing the job in the country by continuing to provide an increased security for Afghanistan. The Liberal leader submitted his party's opinions for Canada's role in Afghanistan to the John Manley led blue-ribbon panel today, saying that the Liberals are prepared to remain engaged, but the military should be redeployed somewhere else in the world:
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Two Wars, One Enemy
January 9, 2008
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The Taliban offensive, that has been going on for nearly a year now, is transnational. About 40 percent of the action takes place across the border in Pakistan. Thus while the fighting has killed about 6,500 in the past year (two-thirds of them Taliban) in Afghanistan, 3,600 have died just across the border in Pakistan (40 percent of them Taliban). Civilians are more likely to be the victims in Pakistan, where they are 42 percent of the dead, compared to Afghanistan, where civilians are only 14 percent of those killed in the fighting. NATO is better at killing Taliban, and avoiding civilian casualties.
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Minister says laws coming to protect jobs and schooling for reservists
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VANCOUVER - New federal laws are on they way to protect Canadian reservists who may have to leave their jobs or interrupt their education to serve in the Canadian military.

Federal Labour Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn told a few dozen reservists from Vancouver's 39 Canadian Brigade group Tuesday that it's the least the government can do for those who risk their lives defending our country.

"Reservists should not be penalized in their civilian lives as a result of serving within the Canadian forces," Blackburn said Tuesday.

The legislation to be pushed through the next session of Parliament will allow reservists in federally regulated sectors to take leave without pay and would prevent employers from discriminating against them.

The new laws would also allow students to retain their active student status and put Canada Student Loan payments on hold with no accumulating interest while the student is on leave.

"We realized how could we see those people defending our values around the world ... and when they come back after maybe one year and a half they don't have protection for their job," Blackburn told the group. "This is unbelievable that we didn't act before."
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Man jailed for planning 'revenge' terror mission
By Duncan Gardham Last Updated: 2:10am GMT 09/01/2008
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An al-Qa’eda terrorist who planned to travel from Britain to Afghanistan on a mission of “revenge” has been jailed for four and a half years.
   
Qureshi was arrested carrying almost £9,000
Sohail Qureshi, 29, a dental assistant, was stopped at Heathrow airport with military equipment, thousands of pounds in cash and an autobiographical book called “My father the bomb maker.”

In internet conversations, Qureshi claimed to have been trained by al-Qa’eda and said he was going to Pakistan, Afghanistan or Waziristan, an area which straddles the borders, for two weeks, adding: “Pray that I kill many, brother. Revenge, revenge, revenge.”

Qureshi had been using Samina Malik, a Heathrow sales assistant who dubbed herself the “Lyrical Terrorist”, to check the security situation at the airport, the Old Bailey heard. 
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Tell NATO Canada's combat role must end in 13 months: Liberals
Don't just rename mission 'training,' party tells panel

Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 9
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=5b9ccfd7-365a-40c6-823b-d91317c309fb

The Liberals say Canada's "enormous sacrifice" in Afghanistan must be brought to a close by ending the combat mission in Kandahar, reducing troop deployments and shifting them to training, civilian protection and reconstruction in safer zones.

The Liberals insisted yesterday on a halt to the 2,500-member combat mission in Kandahar as scheduled in February 2009, in a formal submission to a government-appointed panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan, headed by former Liberal politician John Manley.

Expressing suspicion about the minority Conservative government's plans, the Liberals said it would be "a travesty" to simply rename the combat mission a training mission and carry on with perilous counter-insurgency work in which 76 Canadian military personnel and one diplomat have died since 2002.

The eight-page written submission, which contains some sharp criticisms of the government's handling of Canadian policy toward Afghanistan, could serve as the official Opposition blueprint on a key campaign issue in a potential federal election this year.

While it was a Liberal government that first sent the troops to Kandahar in August 2005, the party's submission said it was "never intended to be a life-long effort or even a 10-year commitment."..

The Liberals say Canada's "enormous sacrifice" in Afghanistan must be brought to a close by ending the combat mission in Kandahar, reducing troop deployments and shifting them to training, civilian protection and reconstruction in safer zones.

The Liberals insisted yesterday on a halt to the 2,500-member combat mission in Kandahar as scheduled in February 2009, in a formal submission to a government-appointed panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan, headed by former Liberal politician John Manley.

Expressing suspicion about the minority Conservative government's plans, the Liberals said it would be "a travesty" to simply rename the combat mission a training mission and carry on with perilous counter-insurgency work in which 76 Canadian military personnel and one diplomat have died since 2002.

The eight-page written submission, which contains some sharp criticisms of the government's handling of Canadian policy toward Afghanistan, could serve as the official Opposition blueprint on a key campaign issue in a potential federal election this year.

While it was a Liberal government that first sent the troops to Kandahar in August 2005, the party's submission said it was "never intended to be a life-long effort or even a 10-year commitment."..

Submission available here:
http://www.liberal.ca/story_13465_e.aspx

Other key points of Mr. Dion’s submission to the Panel included:

    * Canada should join with those, like Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who question the utility and effectiveness of air and artillery strikes as a counter-insurgency technique...

Afghanistan: a volatile situation
Conference of Defence Associations, Jan. 9 ( a round-up of press and more)
http://www.cda-cdai.ca/Focus%20Briefs/FB%2009-01-2008%20Afghanistan-volatile%20situation.pdf

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US to send 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan
AP, Jan. 9
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080110/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/us_afghanistan;_ylt=AvUxGxb3T8NEtTq8ekRrZe934T0D

The Pentagon is preparing to send at least 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan in April to bolster efforts to hold off another expected Taliban offensive in the spring, military officials said Wednesday.

The move represents a shift in Pentagon thinking that has been slowly developing after months of repeated insistence that the U.S. was not inclined to fill the need for as many as 7,500 more troops that commanders have asked for there. Instead, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pressed NATO allies to contribute the extra forces.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Wednesday that a proposal will go before Gates on Friday that would send a ground and air Marine contingent as well as a Marine battalion — together totaling more than 3,000 forces — to southern Afghanistan for a "one-time, seven-month deployment."

Gates, he said, will want to review the request, and is not likely to make a final decision on Friday.

"He will take it and consider it thoroughly before approving it," said Morrell. "I just want to get people away from the idea that this is going to be imminently approved by the secretary."

He said Gates "has some more thinking to do on this matter because it's a serious allocation of forces."

Morrell added that Gates' thinking on the issue has "progressed a bit" over time as it became clear that it was politically untenable for many of the NATO nations to contribute more combat troops to the fight.

"The commanders need more forces there. Our allies are not in the position to provide them [emphasis added]. So we are now looking at perhaps carrying a bit of that additional load," the spokesman said.

Morrell said the move, first reported Wednesday by ABC News, was aimed at beating back "another Taliban offensive" that is expected this spring — as has occurred in previous years...

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Articles found January 10, 2008

Already too late for 2009 Afghan pullout, experts say
James Cowan,  National Post  Published: Wednesday, January 09, 2008 Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters
Article Link

It is already too late for Canada to withdraw from combat in southern Afghanistan when the mission expires in 2009, military analysts said Wednesday.

The federal Liberal party this week made a submission to the panel studying Canada's future role in Afghanistan, headed by former finance minister John Manley. In it, the party insisted Ottawa should formally notify NATO now of Canada's intention to end its combat mission in Kandahar next year, contending it would be a "travesty" if the mission continued beyond February, 2009.

But experts Wednesday warned there is not enough time to safely replace the 2,500 Canadian troops in the region with soldiers from other NATO countries. And pulling out without a replacement would endanger the mission's hard-won progress.

"Pulling out Canadian forces from Kandahar in 2009 is risky," said Roland Paris, a former foreign policy advisor with the federal government who now teaches at the University of Ottawa. "It is so soon, that NATO would likely be scrambling to fill the hole, and that could create a real security vacuum in this strategically vital part of the country."

Mr. Paris said it would likely take NATO until 2010 or 2011 to move Canadian soldiers out of the region. Extending the combat mission would offer other advantages as well, such as allowing time to digest the results of the presidential election in the United States.

"It's unclear what the stance of the American government will be under a new administration," Mr. Paris said. "It would make sense to buy some time to take the measure of the United States after the election."
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Portraits aim to honor Canada's fallen soldiers
Wed Jan 9, 2008 7:55pm GMT By Natalie Armstrong
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TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Joanne Tod is sickened every time she hears about the death of another Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, even though she plans to paint the portrait of each and every one.

It's a work, she says, that will remain unfinished until either the war is over or Canada pulls out its troops.

The prominent contemporary artist has painted every detail of what she says are 36 "beautiful faces" but she's yet to catch up to the total of 76 soldiers who have died since the mission began in 2002, including two who died over this past weekend.

"It's a sad questioning of when does it end," Tod told Reuters, calling the piece a gesture of appreciation to the soldiers, and an homage to an uncle -- also an artist -- who was killed during World War Two.

The Toronto artist, who's been painting portraits for 30 years, was moved to begin painting the 6- by 5-inch wood panels last September. She works chronologically and began with four soldiers who were killed by friendly fire during the Afghan mission.

Tod clips the soldiers' photos out of newspapers or searches the Canadian military's Web site. She said she realizes how long the war has gone on because the images begin as formal studio shots and are turning into updated candids of soldiers, wearing their fatigues in the desert.
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One NATO soldier killed, another wounded in southern Afghanistan 
Posted : Thu, 10 Jan 2008 07:41:02 GMT Author : DPA 
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Kabul - One NATO peacekeeping soldier was killed and another wounded when their vehicle was blown up by a mine in southern Afghanistan, the military said on Thursday. The statement did not identify the nationalities of the soldiers, who came under attack on Wednesday, citing the policy of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which does not release the nationalities prior to the relevant national authorities doing so.

Most of the troops serving under the ISAF banner in Afghanistan deployed to southern provinces are US, Canadian, British and Dutch soldiers.

There are more than 41,000 soldiers under ISAF command, while the US-led coalition has more than 10,000 troops, carrying out anti-terrorist operations.

Taliban-led insurgents, whose government was ousted in a US-led campaign in late 2001, have waged a bloody insurgency against the Afghan and international forces in the country. 
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Canada emerges as top buyer of U.S. military products in Americas
David ********, The Ottawa Citizen Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008
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Canada was the top purchaser of U.S. military products and services in the Americas during the past eight years, according to a newly released congressional report.

From 1999 to 2006, Canada entered into agreements to purchase a little more than $2.1 billion U.S. of defence products direct from the United States government through a special process called Foreign Military Sales or FMS.

The figure doesn't include U.S.-built equipment that the Canadian government purchased direct from U.S. companies, an amount that is in the billions of dollars. That total is estimated to be worth around $1 billion per year, while Canadian firms ship a similar amount of products back to the Pentagon and U.S. companies, defence industry officials say.
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   Pentagon may send 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan
Article Link
January 9, 2008 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT) From Barbara Starr CNN
     
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon may send 3,000 Marines to Afghanistan in the coming weeks to beef up U.S. combat capabilities in advance of an expected spring offensive by the Taliban, senior U.S. military officials tell CNN.

U.S. Army General Dan McNeill, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, has made the request, and as of Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is "giving it a hard look," according to Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell.

But in a signal that it is expected to be approved, Morrell told CNN "the request is based upon an anticipated spring offensive by the Taliban. They failed last time and they will fail again this time, but commanders are seeking additional forces to ensure that."

The Marines would be sent on a seven-month tour. There are currently about 26,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It is not known yet where the Marines would come from.
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Two huge decisions are looming for Dion
TheStar.com January 09, 2008 Chantal Hébert
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OTTAWA - Sometime over the next two months, Stéphane Dion will have to decide whether to plunge Canada into a spring election. From all indications, he will make that call in the absence of clear guidance from public opinion. At this point, the Liberals are in second place but they are ultimately no worse off than the Conservatives on the eve of the 2005 campaign.

Besides, pre-election standings are often a mirage. Kim Campbell was well ahead of Jean Chrétien when she called the 1993 election that saw her party reduced to two seats.

Dion is known to view the Liberals' score in the polls as a half-full glass. Like many of his strategists, he takes solace from the fact that the party remains in a competitive position in spite of a dismal fall. With his popularity lagging behind that of the other leaders, he feels he can ill afford to continue to be portrayed as running away from an election by abstaining on confidence matters such as the upcoming budget.

Dion is also convinced that he can out-campaign Stephen Harper. Given the demonstrated capacity of the Prime Minister to damage himself when he is not scripted, he may have a point. Whether that makes up for his own shortcomings and the abysmal Liberal weakness in Quebec remains to be seen.
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Afghanistan: A First Step Toward 'Turning' Moderate Taliban?
By Ron Synovitz Wednesday, January 9, 2008
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For years, Afghan officials including President Hamid Karzai have extended an olive branch to moderate Taliban to lay down their arms and back the government.

But their overtures have been largely rejected -- until now.
 
On January 7, the Afghan government announced that a former Taliban commander who switched sides before a battle last month to secure Musa Qala, a Taliban-held southern town, had been named the government's top official there.
 
By making a deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam, the new district chief of Musa Qala, the government appears to have taken a key step toward changing the face of Afghan politics. And Kabul is hoping the move will encourage more defections by moderate Taliban.
 
From his headquarters in Musa Qala today, Mullah Abdul Salaam told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that his appointment is already fostering reconciliation between the government and moderate Taliban.
 
"There were many problems before. There was no trust before. There was no one you could trust," he said. "People didn't know whom to contact. Now they are talking with me. They give me assurance and I give them assurances. There were many problems before. There was no trust before."
 
Mullah Abdul Salaam was once the Taliban's governor in the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan -- the birthplace of the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, as well as Karzai.
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More Macedonian troops leaves for Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-10 04:41:26   
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    TIRANA, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- A new batch of Macedonian army contingent left for Afghanistan on Wednesday to take part in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission on the ground.

    The fourth rotation of the mission is composed of 127 members of Macedonia's First Mechanized Infantry Brigade and three officers, news reaching here from Skopje reported.

    The Macedonian peacekeepers, under the command of the British army, will take part in providing security to the ISAF command in Kabul, patrolling streets and guarding military bases and facilities.

    "Our detachment has the honor to be part of the mission in the year when Macedonia is expecting NATO membership invitation at the upcoming Bucharest summit, and we will do our best to complete our mission ahead of us," Goran Pertusevski, commander of the contingent said at the sendoff ceremony.

    Macedonia has been longing to join NATO for years. It signed the Adriatic Charter with the United States along with Croatia and Albania in 2003 in order to facilitate its entry into the alliance.
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Marines Testify About Afghanistan Battle
By ESTES THOMPSON – 12 hours ago
Article Link

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) — Two Marines involved in a shooting that killed as many as 19 Afghan civilians testified Wednesday that their unit was responding to an ambush so intense that the crossfire took out tree branches as their convoy of Humvees fled from the scene.

"You could see branches falling across the road ... all along our route," said Sgt. Benjamin Baker. "We were taking semiautomatic small arms fire all along this road."

Baker's testimony followed that of Sgt. Brett Hayes, who told the administrative panel investigating the conduct of two officers involved in the shooting that the convoy was fired upon at least three times after it was attacked by a car bomb.

Hayes said the blast knocked a gunner in his vehicle out of the turret. The gunner returned to his position and began firing, shouting that he was taking small arms fire from both sides of the road near a bridge over a dry riverbed. Hayes said he heard fire from AK-47 rifles and cracks of the bullets passing overhead.

"I'm 100 percent sure we were taking fire," Hayes said. "And I'm sure we had to kill some guys who were shooting at us."

Hayes recalled the March 4 gunfire during the second day of testimony at a rarely used Court of Inquiry, which will recommend whether two officers — Maj. Fred C. Galvin, 38, commander of the 120-person special operations company, and Capt. Vincent J. Noble, 29, a platoon leader — should be charged with a crime.
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US military has no intention to cross into Pakistan’
By Our Correspondent
Article Link

WASHINGTON, Jan 9: So far the US-led forces in Afghanistan have no plan for crossing into Pakistan to target Al Qaeda or Taliban hideouts, says a senior US military commander.

Brig-Gen Joseph Votel, the deputy commanding general for operations for the Combined Joint Task Force in Afghanistan, acknowledged that terrorist activities along the Pak-Afghan border had decreased recently, but said that the enemy also had learned to better coordinate its actions in that region.

“Right now we do not plan or really have any vision for operations with our forces into the Fata or into Pakistan,” Brig-Gen Votel told a teleconference at the Pentagon. “That’s a sovereign country; that’s their responsibility to deal with.”

As a senior commander in the field, Gen Votel has direct access to day-to-day military operations in Afghanistan but his statement contradicts those of other officials in Washington who are often quoted in the US media as saying that the United States will send troops into Pakistan if it has “actionable intelligence” about the presence of Al Qaeda or Taliban militants inside the country.

It also has become a major issue in the 2008 presidential race. At least half a dozen key contenders for the 2008 presidential race have said that if elected they would not hesitate to send troops into Pakistan to conduct anti-terrorism operations.

Brig-Gen Votel, however, painted a totally different picture of joint military operations along the Pak-Afghan border. “I would assess our relationship, both from a US standpoint and from an ISAF-Nato standpoint here in our portion of Afghanistan with the Pakistan military and with the Frontier Corps, to be very, very good,” he said.
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British troops under medical checks for contaminated blood transfusion 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-10 18:57:44   
  Article Link

    LONDON, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- Eighteen British soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are being screened for diseases including HIV after it emerged that they were given contaminated blood transfusion, the Sky News said Thursday.

    According to the report, the soldiers, who were serving in the Afghanistan or Iraq since 2001, were given transfusions using blood supplied by the American military, and the blood may not have been properly screened, leaving a risk it could have been contaminated with HIV, hepatitis or syphilis.

    However, the U.S. military insisted the donors have now been tested for HIV and hepatitis -- and the results came back negative. And it was reported that the donors were American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    But the British Ministry of Defense said it was taking the issue "extremely seriously".

    Defense Minister Derek Twigg said, "These 18 service personnel would almost certainly have died without receiving an emergency blood transfusion at the front line."
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Articles found January 11, 2008

Off to Afghanistan
'Support our troops' decals take on additional meaning for Thorold family
By Doug Draper Thorold Jan 11, 2008
Article Link

Those 'Support Our Troops" decals the City of Thorold now has on all of its municipal vehicles are already beginning to mean more to Fred and Saundra Neale than they did when Fred was among the first members of the city's council to support displaying them this past fall.
The Neales have recently learned that their son-in-law - 45-year-old Mike Breske, a military firefighter and platoon chief at the Canadian Forces' airbase in Trenton - will be shipped off to Afghanistan in February for seven months of service as fire chief for the Canadian military in the war-torn region of Kandahar.

"Definitely, those decals are even more meaningful now and bring everything to bear," said Fred during a recent interview at his home. "It also makes you think more about how precious life is."

For the Neales, it also means following even more closely news reports coming out of Afghanistan on the status of the NATO-led mission where 2,500 Canadians troops are serving and where more than 70 of those troops have lost their lives in ongoing fighting against the Taliban.

"We are confident he will be alright," added Fred of his son-in-law's coming redeployment, "but we still have concerns about him going over there. You never know what is going to happen. But Saundra and I both understand why (Canadian troops) are over there and we think they are doing something positive in Afghanistan."
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The Kabul Tailor Shop
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Article Link

No, this shop is not in Afghanistan. It is right here in Canada. I am a little hesitant to give it’s location because I did not ask permission from the owner to write this little story and also would never want to expose him to danger from some wild radical.

I took a leather jacket to the Kabul Tailor Shop to get the lining of one pocket replaced. My wife and I have been well satisfied with work they have done but have not spoken to the proprietor and his wife for some time. I asked the wife how things were going in their country, Afghanistan. She replied that things were not all that good with the roadside bombs and too many people, including Canadian soldiers, being killed. The lady’s husband joined the conversation and I volunteered that I could understand that some Afghanis may consider soldiers from other countries in their land might be considered invaders. They both responded immediately to say they, and the people of Afghanistan were very pleased to have Canadians there. They had reservations about the American soldiers suggesting the Americans have not yet learned to approach and get friendly with the people, however further on in the conversation they said the Americans are considering training their soldiers, as the Canadian Forces already do, the niceties of this valuable tool for winning over the local populace.

This is where the man’s face lit up and he pointed to a picture of a Canadian soldier and with two apparently Afghani citizens. The picture was from Wainwright Army training base. He proudly said he and other Afghani immigrants become instructors of our Canadian soldiers there on how to greet, shake hands, go to the head man of the village and all the correct ways to respect the Afghani people. I asked to shake his hand and told him I was very proud of him. He said he was thankful for what Canada is doing to return his country to normal but said it was difficult because Afghanistan is surrounded by bad neighbors.
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Top soldier frustrated by 30-month delay for new helicopters
Last Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2008 | 8:54 PM AT CBC News
Article Link

Gen. Rick Hillier says he's frustrated that the Canadian military will likely have to wait 30 extra months to receive a fleet of new helicopters to replace its aging Sea Kings.

"Someone said we've become world-class at maintaining old equipment, but we don't want to be world-class at maintaining old equipment," Hillier, Canada's chief of defence staff, said Thursday in Halifax.

"What we want to do is replace the equipment at a reasonable time so we get the best capabilities for men and women in uniform to do the jobs we ask them to do."

On Wednesday, a senior government source told the Canadian Press that the Canadian military will likely not get the 28 new CH-148 Cyclone helicopters it ordered on time.

The military was supposed to get one Cyclone a month, starting in November, from the Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corp, but the order has been delayed.

Hillier, giving a speech at the historic Pier 21 in the Halifax Harbour, said there were issues getting the latest technologies into the helicopters.
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CFB Gagetown-based soldier charged with trafficking
Updated Thu. Jan. 10 2008 1:49 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
Article Link

Military police said Thursday that a Canadian soldier stationed at the Canadian Forces Base Gagetown has been charged with drug trafficking.

Cpl. Jeremy Springer, attached to the Canadian Forces Armour School, was charged with one count of trafficking in connection with allegations he was distributing marijuana.
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Afghans see value in using female officers
Checkpoint security trumps culture
Allison Lampert, CanWest News Service Published: 2:30 am
Article Link

PASHMUL, Afghanistan - Once rejected by a culture that denies women's basic freedoms, Canada's female soldiers and military police are now in demand in Kandahar province.

Initially barred from working with male Afghans for fear of upsetting southern Afghanistan's conservative sensibilities, female security forces are now badly needed to search women at checkpoints. With insurgents dressing up in burkas to escape detection, demand for female officers at police stations and Afghan military outposts is rapidly growing.

"We are always worried about people who disguise themselves," Canadian Forces Col. Stephane Lafaut says. "The use of Canadian women at police stations will help us. What we are hoping to have one day are female Afghan police officers (at the stations)."
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Hillier says he plans to stop using term 'non-life-threatening injuries'
Article Link

HALIFAX - Canada's chief of defence staff says he plans to stop using the term "non-life threatening injuries" to refer to soldiers who survive attacks but are left with severe and often debilitating conditions.

Gen. Rick Hillier was asked about the term following a speech in Halifax on Thursday by an audience member who argued the phrase is misleading.

Hillier said he doesn't want the public to underestimate the severity of injuries suffered by soldiers serving in places like Afghanistan, which often require months or years of recovery and forever change their lives.

"That's probably a term that I won't use again, because non-life threatening in this day and age can be very severe injuries," Hillier said during the question-and-answer session.

"I don't want to convey the wrong message here. Non-life threatening is because of the incredible skill sets in the medical world that keep them alive when otherwise they would have died."
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Extra U.S. forces for Afghanistan no ticket home for Canadians
Pentagon to send in 3,000 marines for one-time stint
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service  Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008
Article Link

OTTAWA -- Members of the U.S. Marine Corps were among the first western soldiers into Kandahar in 2001, and now they are coming to the rescue again.

But the Pentagon's decision to possibly send in some 3,000 marines to southern Afghanistan for a one-time only, seven-month rotation in no way represents a ticket home for Canada's 2,500 troops in Kandahar.

Nor does it end NATO's perpetual struggle to find enough troops and equipment to break the back of a Taliban insurgency in the south, now emerging from its bloodiest year of inflicting casualties on foreign troops and innocent Afghan civilians.

As early as Friday, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates is expected to approve a request from NATO for the additional 3,000 marines, who would be up and running by April to assist the alliance's International Security Assistance Force in southern Afghanistan.
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Japan rejoins Afghanistan mission
Last updated: Friday 11 January 2008 14:59 UTC
Article Link

Tokyo - Japan has rejoined the US-led war in Afghanistan. Japan's navy will resume refueling United States vessels in the Indian Ocean next month.

The mission was halted two months ago after the opposition refused to extend the mandate. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's government has now used its majority in the lower house to overrule the opposition-controlled upper house. It was the first time this procedure was used in more than fifty years.

Mr Fukuda said the move was vital for Japan's international standing. The opposition argues the mission breaches the country's pacifist constitution and lacks a UN mandate.
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Head of Canada's army faces busy year
Lt.-Gen Andrew Leslie must find and train enough soldiers every six months to fulfil Canada's commitment in Afghanistan

CanWest News, Jan. 11
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=8a5e153d-ed41-4874-a4ae-503a4b22142b

...it is Leslie's job to find soldiers for each six-month rotation of the approximately 2,500 troops bound for Afghanistan.

"It gets more difficult as time goes on, not to send the same people back," says [executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations, retired colonel Alain] Pellerin.

At most, the army has a pool of 9,000 to 10,000 full-time soldiers as well as several thousand part-time reserves to draw from to staff Afghanistan.

The army is responsible for a minimum of 2,200 of the 2,500 that staff each rotation, says Pellerin.

Compounding the challenge is the fact the rate of soldiers leaving the army has risen to 12 per cent from eight per cent.

But Leslie must do more than find warm bodies to ship to Afghanistan with a rifle. He must build a contingent of soldiers that can shoot to kill, deliver aid, and negotiate the cultural divide of that country.

"It's small unit warfare. You've got the young officers and the senior NCOs that have to deal with the population and have to deal with issues that go much further than military issues," says Pellerin.

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ARTICLES FOUND JAN. 12

Dion makes surprise Afghan visit
AP/CP, Jan. 12
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080112.wafghandion0112/BNStory/Afghanistan/home

Canada should be looking at aid projects and other non-combat roles in Afghanistan when its current commitment expires next year, Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion told President Hamid Karzai on Saturday.

Mr. Dion, accompanied by deputy Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, met with Mr. Karzai in the Afghan capital to discuss the future of Canada's role in the war-torn country.

Canada has about 2,500 troops stationed in the southern Kandahar province, a hotbed of the Taliban insurgency against the Karzai government and its western backers.

Their current mandate expires in February 2009, which could force NATO's International Security Assistance Force to rotate troops from other countries into the province — a job for which few other countries have shown enthusiasm.

Canada is expected to decide later this year whether to continue the combat mission, an option favoured by the minority Conservative government.

But Mr. Dion and Mr. Ignatieff, reflecting the feelings of the opposition parties and much of the Canadian public, told the Afghan leader that they believe Canada's combat role should not be renewed.

However, they told Mr. Karzai that the party still supports diplomatic and development efforts, as well as a possible continued military presence in the country, they added.

No word was available on how Mr. Karzai reacted to that position [emphasis added], although Mr. Dion said the Afghan leader did thank Canada for its current contributions during the talks.

"The Liberal Party of Canada is very proud of the contributions our men and women in uniform have made to try to bring peace and stability to this region," Mr. Dion said in a statement later issued on the Liberal party website.
http://www.liberal.ca/story_13481_e.aspx

However, the statement confirmed that both he and Mr. Ignatieff had told Mr. Karzai that Canada's role should change.

"We are not afraid of the risks," Mr. Dion told reports in Kabul. "But we want to sure that we have a balanced mission after 2009 that will be optimally helpful for the people of Afghanistan.

"We are convinced . . . that we will have plenty of things to do (in Afghanistan) that will involve, yes, to take risks. But anywhere we will go — whether Darfur or Haiti — there are always risks [emphasis added]."

Darfur:
http://forums.army.ca/forums/threads/64763/post-653119.html#msg653119

We're already 'protecting civilians'
Given the Liberals' latest proposals for Canada's role in Afghanistan, you have to wonder if they know what we've been doing there all this time

Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 12, by MGEN (ret'd) Lewis MacKenzie
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=379a88ea-5fb7-44f4-aedd-ffab1e14f3be

After 36 years wearing Her Majesty's uniform I am well aware that political direction, no matter how impossible or ridiculous, has to be obeyed -- except in the rare circumstances when the order is illegal. Regrettably in Canada, we have a dearth of any kind of military experience represented in Parliament in general and the Liberal party in particular.

On Tuesday we had the latest opinion of Liberal leader Stéphane Dion regarding Canada's future role(s) in Afghanistan. Calls for withdrawal in 2009 were replaced by "remaining engaged" in Afghanistan with roles including "training, protection of civilians and reconstruction."

The last time I received an order regarding the "protection of civilians" was in 1992 when the UN Security Council, as is its habit, came up with its usual lowest-common-denominator direction and tasked the United Nation's Protection Force in Croatia to "protect civilians" without engaging in combat. After shaking our collective heads at the idiocy of the order, we came up with a scheme to place our troops in badly sighted defensive positions around the civilian concentrations so that anyone attacking them would have to pass through our positions and we could therefore use deadly force in our own self-defence.

In other words, rather than taking the initiative to defeat the threat to the civilians, we were forced to put our soldiers at increased risk to life and limb to appease the sensibilities of the Security Council. Any of our units tasked to protect civilians in Afghanistan, having abandoned their "combat emphasis," would face the same dilemma.

Mr. Dion would also have us emphasize "reconstruction" in our post-February-2009 role. Surely he realizes we are already dedicating significant resources to just that. Has he or anyone from his party visited the paved highways, the causeways, the bridge, the wells, the police stations that Canadian soldiers have "reconstructed"? Projects that could not have been completed without the security provided by other Canadian soldiers carrying out the seemingly politically incorrect "combat role."

Presumably attempting to make excuses for previous decisions by his predecessors, Mr. Dion's party's submission to the government-appointed panel on the future of the mission stated that the combat role was never intended to be "a life-long effort or even a 10-year commitment."

When in the history of mankind was there some sort of contractual agreement regarding how long a nation would sign up and stick around for the fight? It was assumed you would not abandon your allies until the job was done. Like so many critics Mr. Dion seems to be confusing Afghanistan's counter-insurgency with UN peacekeeping operations that operate on six-month mandates issued by the Security Council. If a country gives an indication it will leave the UN peacekeeping mission in a year's time, as Canada did regarding Cyprus in 1992, there is ample opportunity for the UN to find a replacement contingent. With $150 U.S. per soldier per month paid to the coffers of the contributing nations plus free food and accommodation for their soldiers, there is a lineup of Third World countries eager to fill the void.

Perhaps not by coincidence, Mr. Dion's recommendations are actually in line with what is happening on the ground in Kandahar province. It's just too bad the language in his presentation to the Manley panel is presumably designed to sound like something new and therefore misleading to the uninformed. Training of the Afghan Army continues at an accelerated pace as new units stand up and can train some of their own soldiers. Reconstruction is taking place where security permits and those secure areas are being expanded by, dare I say the words, combat operations.

If Mr. Dion had recommended abandoning Kandahar province due to the fact that Canada has paid a heavy price bringing a degree of security to the area while the vast majority of the 26 NATO nations watch from the bleachers, I would have been sympathetic with the argument. I have harboured the same feeling many times during the past year.

Unfortunately, I have come to the painful realization that no other nation is willing to replace us. If we left, the NATO commander in the south would be forced to extend the U.S. and British boundaries into Kandahar province thereby diluting the already inadequate number of boots on the ground even more.

NATO's future as a creditable alliance is in serious jeopardy; however, this is not the time for Canada to abandon its obligations or Kandahar province as only the Afghans will pay the price.

Opposition should be reminded Afghanistan war is UN-approved
While the U.S. pushed for the war, Canada is involved because of NATO

Montreal Gazette, Jan. 12, by Jack Granatstein
http://www.canada.com/components/print.aspx?id=0278567f-9293-47a4-8b58-32a05b729c96

At the end of this month, John Manley's panel on Afghanistan will report to the government. We don't know how it will phrase it, but the Manley report is likely to recommend that Canada continue a military role in Afghanistan, if not necessarily in Kandahar. If so, what will be the political response?

There is no doubt about the New Democratic Party's position. Leader Jack Layton wants Canada out of Afghanistan immediately rather than wait for the mandated end of the mission in 2009. He also wants negotiations with the Taliban. Those who faithfully parrot the NDP line put it more baldly. Stephen Staples of the Rideau Institute sees Canada as "part of a NATO force but really fighting for George Bush," while Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia's Liu Institute argues "it's time to move from a combat-oriented approach to one that focuses on negotiation, peacemaking and nation-building. ... It's time to move NATO troops out, and UN peacekeepers in."

If only there were some peace to keep, someone with whom to negotiate, and enough stability to permit nation-building to take hold.

The Liberals' position has been different from the NDP's. They were, after all, the government when the decision was made to go into Afghanistan in 2002 and into Kandahar in the present combat role in 2005. Officially, the Grits still continue to support the continuation of the mission until 2009, something for which many Liberal MPs voted, including deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and Bill Graham, the defence minister when the decision to go into Kandahar was made.

But Bob Rae, the party's foreign-affairs critic and now a candidate in the coming by-election in Toronto-Centre, Graham's old riding, is pushing the party position leftward. "If we continue down the path that (Prime Minister) Harper wants to take us on, we're really going to be essentially engaged in a counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, and I think that's extremely unwise," he was quoted as saying in an article published at year end.

"I don't think that's where people want to be. I think they want to see us in a peacekeeping role. I think they want to see us in a peacemaking role." You can take Bob Rae out of the NDP, it seems, but it's obviously going to be pretty difficult to get NDP ideas out of Bob Rae.

Recent opinion polls do, indeed, suggest Rae is correct in describing public attitudes. But leaders are supposed to help shape public opinion, not simply follow it. Does Rae now reflect the new Liberal position? The Martin government sent troops to Kandahar precisely to play a counterinsurgency role, not peacekeeping or peacemaking. The government of 2005 understood there could be no peace until the Taliban was either defeated or had its support reduced to a level at which the elected Karzai government could gradually extend its control across the country. What has changed since 2005? Perhaps the Liberal foreign-affairs spokesperson will enlighten us.

What these opposition positions mean is that the Manley report and the Harper government's probable decision to try to extend the Afghan mission beyond 2009 will face a rough ride in the House of Commons. But should it?..

Afghanistan is part of a UN-authorized mission now being conducted by NATO-led forces [emphasis added]. Canada then is not, as Staples puts it so crudely, "really fighting for George Bush." It is, in fact, trying to help fulfill a United Nations mandate. Nor, as Byers has it, "is it time to move NATO troops out, and UN peacekeepers in." The NATO troops are the United Nations forces.

Canadians are quick to argue they stayed out of Iraq in 2003 because it was not an approved United Nations mission. Fair enough (though, contrarily, most Canadians approved intervening in Kosovo in 1999, even though the Security Council pointedly did not authorize that war). But consistency surely demands that when UN authorization is given, Canadians, as self-professed enthusiasts for the world body, support its efforts.

The NDP and the Liberals talk a good game on the UN, praise Mike Pearson, and prattle on about peacekeeping's great virtues (which are many). The contradictions in their positions, however, suggest sanctimonious, opportunistic anti-Americanism plays a large part in deciding where they sit.

Nothing the U.S. supports can be good in Liberal and NDP eyes, it seems, not when anti-Americanism remains a prime vote-getting strategy in Canada.

Afghanistan: The politics of sending in the marines
CBC, Jan. 11, Henry Champ blog
http://www.cbc.ca/news/reportsfromabroad/champblog/2008/01/the_politics_of_sending_in_the.html

The Pentagon today announced it will send 3,200 marines to Afghanistan. They will be deployed in May, in the southern provinces near where the Canadians are, to counter an expected spring offensive by Taliban fighters.

Bush administration officials are now saying publicly that they have given up trying to get more troops for Afghanistan from their recalcitrant NATO allies in Europe.

What they were not saying is that four of their closest allies in this campaign — Canada, Britain, Australia and the Dutch — have all complained that the U.S. must take on a greater combat burden itself. That their losses have been proportionally greater than those of American forces [emphasis added--Dutch, Australians?].

The troops from these countries operate mostly in the troubled southern part of Afghanistan, unlike the relatively quieter eastern portion where most of the U.S. troops are based [emphasis added]. What's more, they do not place combat restrictions on their soldiers, as other NATO countries do, to keep them out of battles.

The timing of this announcement is no accident, coming as it does not long before the report of the independent panel Prime Minister Stephen Harper created to help determine whether Canada should extend its Afghan mission beyond February 2009.

That report, from former Liberal minister John Manley's group, is expected later this month. From Washington's perspective, it is hoped that sending in the marines will have a positive influence on Canada's parliamentary debate.

Is this enough?

But the Pentagon announcement may have the opposite effect in Ottawa, as it emphasizes that the marines will be sent to the southern region to combat a spring offensive by the Taliban — and then they are to leave, seven months later, with no plans to be replaced.

Canadian Lt. Gen. Andrew Leslie was widely quoted in Washington last month when he said recent Taliban gains are a "serious challenge." So having the marines on hand for what is planned to be only a short period may not satisfy Canada's needs [emphasis added].

Officials here in Washington say commanders in Afghanistan want even more troops but have been denied them as deployments in Iraq have strained the American military. "This proposal is pre-emptive," underlines Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. "It does not represent a deterioration in the security situation."

From Washington's point of view, this decision to add another 3,200 troops to the Afghanistan theatre was not easy. But when weighed against the continual complaining from valued NATO allies, it had to be made.

The complaints, for the most part, have been mostly polite, particularly at the highest of levels such as when Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier visited U.S. Secretary of States Condoleezza Rice a few weeks ago.

But in the ranks, the grumbling suggests American commanders are under instructions to keep their troops out of harm's way whenever possible [emphasis added]. The Pentagon is clearly conscious about not wanting to add to the dead and wounded totals already coming out of Iraq...

Of the three main Democratic contenders, Hillary Clinton wants a measured withdrawal of troops from Iraq that would end in 2013, and has no official policy on Afghanistan.

John Edwards wants the troops out of Iraq, beginning immediately and ending within 10 months; no official policy on Afghanistan. Barack Obama wants much the same for Iraq: An immediate withdrawal but allowing 16 months to complete.

He has also officially endorsed the re-deployment of some Iraqi-based troops to Afghanistan. The only one to do so...

Clinton, Obama on Afstan:
http://toyoufromfailinghands.blogspot.com/2008/01/afghanistan-volatile-situation.html

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