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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (January 2008)

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'Death trap' failed to protect soldier from mine
Daily Telegraph, Jan. 22

The soldier from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers died when his vehicle hit a mine on Sunday, the Ministry of Defence said. He was the first British fatality in six weeks.

Five other soldiers, some from 5 Regiment Royal Artillery, were wounded.

The soldiers were travelling in a convoy near the town of Musa Qala, southern Afghanistan. The MoD said they were "disrupting enemy forces and reassuring local Afghans".

The engineer who died was believed to be travelling in the Pinzgauer which took the brunt of the blast. He is expected to be named tomorrow.

With six deaths from Pinzgauers since last August, military observers are questioning their value. Dr Richard North, editor of the Defence of the Realm blog, said the vehicles were "death traps" that should be replaced by mine-resistant Mastiff trucks...

The MoD has bought hundreds of Pinzgauers. They have excellent off-road capabilities but offer little protection against the bombs that the Taliban use.

Articles found January 22, 2008

Was Mr. Gates badly briefed? Or does he simply not understand?
No other contingent, particularly the Americans, has demonstrated greater mastery of dealing with insurgents.
TERRY LISTON From Tuesday's Globe and Mail January 22, 2008 at 6:42 AM EST
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The U.S. Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, shocked the Western world last week, charging that the NATO troops deployed in the south of Afghanistan are, in effect, unskilled cowards who rely on air strikes that cause civilian deaths and hide in their own protected bases in order to avoid casualties. He also charged that they failed to connect with the Afghan security forces. He loudly applauded, in contrast, the U.S. contingent in the eastern provinces.

Whether we support the Afghan mission or not, we must step back and ask: Is that us? Canadians know their soldiers were given the one area of Afghanistan that no one else wants. Even the Americans were relieved to get out, going to the relative safety of the eastern provinces. Kandahar, the ancestral home of the Taliban, was the first city to be captured when the Taliban took power, and the last to fall when they were removed from power in 2001. The city and the surrounding provinces remained quiet, for a time, only because the U.S. focus on the Iraq invasion of 2003 left the south of Afghanistan under the control of the Taliban, war lords and drug dealers.

Consequently, the first Canadian battle groups in Kandahar, based on the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal Canadian Regiment, had to fight a Korean-style conventional campaign to break the huge Taliban force that, under previous (U.S.) management, had brazenly built Soviet-style fighting positions, almost encircling the city of Kandahar.
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Conditional extension of Afghan mission justified, panel says
Mike Blanchfield and Meagan Fitzpatrick, Canwest News Service Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2008
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OTTAWA - Saying the status quo is not an option, the special Manley panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan has called for a conditional extension of the mission and more co-ordination and support from the Harper government and Canada's NATO allies.

"The status quo is not good enough; we need a different approach," panel chair John Manley told a news conference after the release of the report Tuesday morning.

Manley said there is considerable justification for the combat mission, which currently sees about 2,500 Canadians deployed to fight Taliban insurgents in southern Afghanistan.
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Contemplating a Post NATO World
Rick Moran on January 22, 2008 @ 4:42 pm CET
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A very interesting and in the end, a very depressing article in The Guardian this morning about some recommendations by a blue ribbon panel of ex-military leaders in NATO who believe that the organization is in danger of becoming irrelevant to the security interests of its members.

In short, they conclude that NATO is not addressing the fundamental security threats facing the organization in a rapidly changing world and that there is a real danger that NATO itself will not survive many of the challenges facing it.

The headline grabbing part of the article is actually the least surprising - that NATO should maintain its nuclear first strike option. This has always been NATO’s unstated doctrine going back to the cold war given the huge perceived disparity in conventional forces the organization was facing from the Soviets. It was always believed that the US would have to abandon Western Europe in the face of a Soviet attack or launch its missiles. Maintaining this doctrine then is not surprising when faced with the possibility of rogue states or terrorist organizations threatening a launch against a NATO member.

The authors of this “manifesto” are an eye opening lot and “paint an alarming picture of the threats and challenges confronting the west in the post-9/11 world and deliver a withering verdict on the ability to cope.”

General John Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff and Nato’s ex-supreme commander in Europe, General Klaus Naumann, Germany’s former top soldier and ex-chairman of Nato’s military committee, General Henk van den Breemen, a former Dutch chief of staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, a former French chief of staff, and Lord Inge, field marshal and ex-chief of the general staff and the defence staff in the UK.
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Peter MacKay’s terrible day
By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target Tue. Jan 22 - 5:46 AM
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LAST WEDNESDAY was certainly not a stellar day for Defence Minister Peter MacKay. As media outlets were still running stories about the death of Trooper Richard Renaud, the 77th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates was quoted in the Los Angeles Times making disparaging remarks about NATO forces letting down the Americans.

What Gates implied was that the NATO troops — particularly those in southern Afghanistan, where the Canadian contingent is based — were not experienced in counter-insurgency.

Gates compared the situation of the intensifying insurgency in NATO’s southern sector with the relative stability in eastern Afghanistan, which is under U.S. control. The implication being that the Americans know what they’re doing — NATO does not.

Using this logic, one would have to commend the German contingent in Konduz and the Italian military in Herat with having a tremendous grasp of counter-insurgency warfare because those sectors have been almost completely pacified since the Taliban was toppled in 2001.

Of course, Gates is fully aware of the vast regional ethnic diversity of Afghanistan, and his comparison of apples to oranges in this instance was aimed at placating a domestic U.S. audience. War-weary Americans have every right to wonder why 3,200 additional Marines are now being deployed to Afghanistan to fight a war they were told was won in November 2001.

At first, the Pentagon told us it was Pakistan’s fault that the insurgency in Kandahar was being rekindled; now Gates is telling Americans that it’s actually NATO’s fault for not being aggressive enough.

Canadian officers, familiar with the way in which the fiasco in Kandahar evolved, have called Gate’s comments the "height of hypocrisy." Even American Special Forces soldiers who participated in the battles that cleared the Taliban from Kandahar in early 2002 admit that the U.S. strategy was flawed from the outset.

When I visited Kabul last January, I was introduced to a U.S. Navy SEAL who had been assigned as an adviser to the Afghan Northern Alliance. When he learned that I was a Canadian, he had insisted on paying for my drinks. "We sold you guys a bucket of crap down in Kandahar, and for that I apologize," he said.

The SEAL explained that after the Taliban were chased out of the region, the U.S. left just one battalion stationed at the Kandahar airfield and fewer than 500 soldiers in all of Helmand province. The Pentagon had been completely focused on the invasion of Iraq and, as a result, from 2002 to 2005, the once scattered Taliban were able to regroup and rearm.
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Documents reveal evidence of Afghan prisoner abuse
TheStar.com -January 22, 2008 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
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Rights groups in court to seek halt to transfer of Canadian detainees

OTTAWA–His name is shielded from the public, but proof of his abuse at the hands of his Afghan jailers was literally right before the eyes of Canadian officials.

According to newly released documents from a court case brought by human rights groups, a Canadian human rights officer discovered last Nov. 5 an electrical cable and rubber hose alleged to have been used by Afghan jailors in the torture of a prisoner turned over by Canadian forces. The officer, in an interrogation room at the secret police facility in Kandahar, examined a 10-centimetre bruise on the man's back.

"He ... pointed to a chair and stated that the implements he had been struck with were underneath it," reads the court document in the case brought by rights groups seeking to halt the transfer of Canadian detainees to Afghan prisons. "Under the chair we found a large piece of braided electrical wire as well as a rubber hose. He then showed us a bruise on his back that could possibly be the result of a blow."

It is the most shocking example of mistreatment outlined by Canadian prison and foreign affairs officials who investigated abuse allegations in Afghanistan and contained in the documents, which are reports of site visits by Canadian officials to Afghan jails.

Among the other revelations from the documents:

It has been difficult to track prisoners that Canadian soldiers send to local jails because soldiers record the personal information in English while Afghan officials keep records in Pashto.

Very few of those interviewed by the Canadians report being granted access to a lawyer. Most are unaware of the charges against them.

More than a dozen individuals at one prison facility were kept in permanent leg shackles, a practice that falls well below international standards.
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Afghan National Police to receive intensive training
Updated Mon. Jan. 21 2008 1:24 PM ET The Associated Press
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Things are about to change for the beleaguered Afghan National Police in Zhari-Panjwaii where Canadian Forces mentors have been struggling to whip the ill-equipped, underpaid lot into shape over the last few months.

Part two of the Focus District Development campaign is slated to get underway next month, but efforts to register police for the intensive training program are already underway.

Maj. Louis Lapointe, commander of the Police Operational Mentoring Liaison Team, says the eight-week, mandatory program is certain to eliminate some of the equipment, drug and corruption issues plaguing the ANP.

As part of the program, which began in Zabul province nearly two months ago, police will receive specialized investigative, tactical, weapons and ethics training.

They'll also get their very own AK-47, a uniform and a fixed salary, which not all of them currently receive.

The move comes as two new police sub-stations get set to open Tuesday in Panjwaii -- a region deemed the next big focus for Canadian troops according to Brig.-Gen Guy Laroche.
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Kabul's Old City Getting Face Lift
By ALISA TANG The Associated Press Monday, January 21, 2008; 3:16 PM
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Last year the streets in parts of the old city dropped by nine feet.

The reason? A massive garbage haul. Just about every unemployed man in Murad Khane was recruited to clean up years of litter and mud piled on top of the streets. By the time they were done, the streets and alleys were lower.

The garbage project is part of an effort to clean up and restore old Kabul, after six years of relative peace and with millions of dollars from foreign donors.

The Turquoise Mountain Foundation, which is dedicated to traditional Afghan arts and architecture, has spent $1 million on conservation and clean-up in the Murad Khane neighborhood since last year. The Kabul organization is financed by both Western and Middle East donors.

The lower street level at first left Abdul Salaam's door looking oddly out of place, perched three feet higher than the square in front of it. So Turquoise Mountain had to fix his door, too, with fresh mud scars showing where it used to be. The frayed edges of plastic bags still stick out of the wall.
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Pakistani Army Seizes 35 Pro-Taliban Militants in Swat Valley
By Ed Johnson
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Jan. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistani soldiers arrested 35 pro- Taliban militants in the Swat Valley region bordering Afghanistan, as President Pervez Musharraf ruled out letting U.S. troops into his nation's tribal areas to fight terrorists.

Among the insurgents detained was an aide of Maulana Fazlullah, a cleric seeking to impose Islamic law in the region, the military said in a statement on its Web site.

The aide, Moulvi Habib, supported suicide attacks and a decree by Fazlullah ordering the beheading of government officials, according to the statement. Weapons and ammunition were also seized in yesterday's raid in the Chuprial area of the valley, a once popular tourist destination about 250 kilometers (150 miles) from the capital, Islamabad.

The military is battling Islamic extremists along the border with Afghanistan, where U.S. intelligence agencies say al-Qaeda has rebuilt bases. Pakistani officials said last week that soldiers had driven militants from the Swat Valley after a three-month operation.

Pakistan has al-Qaeda ``on the run,'' Musharraf said yesterday in Brussels, at the start of an eight-day European tour to repair Pakistan's battered image.

He rejected what he said was media-driven talk of allowing U.S. troops and NATO's International Security Assistance Force into Pakistan to fight insurgents.

``Nobody should violate our sovereignty,'' the president said. ``Let us handle the situation on our side of the border and let ISAF and U.S. forces operate in Afghanistan, in cooperation with each other.''

NATO Talks

Musharraf met yesterday with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and discussed the campaign against terrorism.

NATO commands a force of 41,000 soldiers fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. The alliance has previously criticized Musharraf for failing to shut down terrorist training camps on Pakistani territory and stop insurgents crossing the mountainous border.

The Pakistani leader is ``part of the solution and certainly not part of the problem,'' Agence France-Presse cited the NATO chief as saying. ``We are fighting the same terrorists that are trying to destabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan.''
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Militants kill five Pakistani troops
January 22, 2008 - 3:23PM
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AdvertisementMilitants attacked a Pakistani fort in the South Waziristan region on the Afghanistan border early on Tuesday, killing five soldiers and wounding seven, the military said.

The militants attacked the Ladha fort and an observation post an hour after midnight.

"Security forces retaliated with fire causing heavy casualties ... the attack was beaten back," the military said in a statement.

The exact number of militants killed could not be ascertained, it said.

Violence has intensified in recent days in South Waziristan, where an al-Qaeda-linked militant leader blamed by Pakistani authorities and the United States for the December 27 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is based.

The militant commander, Baitullah Mehsud, has been blamed for a string of attacks in recent months, compounding a sense of crisis in the nuclear-armed country as President Pervez Musharraf has struggled to hold power in the face of protests from opponents.
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Articles found January 23, 2008

The guts of the Manley panel report
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
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Beyond what's in my earlier post, below are some excerpts that strike me as fundamental to the panel's message (the substantive part of the report is just thirty-two pages). The best possible result, for the internal politics of both Canada and NATO, would be if France provided the 1,000 strong battle group to partner with us at Kandahar. With M. Sarkozy as Président de la République...

...But despite the violence and destruction of conflict, Afghans are achieving substantial development progress. The Afghan economy has been growing by about 10 per cent annually for the past five years, and per-capita incomes have doubled. More than five million refugees have returned to Afghanistan since 2002, a telling indicator of new hope for the future. Some six million children are in school, a third of them girls; school enrolment has tripled in six years. Child mortality rates are improving. Roads are being built, and power lines restored. In short, the evidence of real development is there to see...

...events in Afghanistan, and Canada’s participation in the outcomes, will directly affect Canada’s security, our reputation in the world, and our future ability to engage the international community in achieving objectives of peace, security and shared prosperity. Informed and fair-minded Canadians can differ on the policy choices before us. None need doubt that the future of Afghanistan matters to Canada...

...the international military and development presence in Afghanistan has been explicitly and repeatedly authorized by the UN Security Council—most recently in a Security Council resolution in September 2007; it has also been approved collectively by the 26 member countries of NATO. ISAF, which includes 13 countries along with all NATO members, is thereby defending and enforcing international law [emphasis added]. In this defining way, and in others, the international presence in Afghanistan differs from the later invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States and its coalition partners in that war...

In the face of a serious and potentially strengthening Taliban insurgency, the Panel observed harmful shortcomings in the NATO/ISAF counterinsurgency campaign. The most damaging shortfalls include an insufficiency of forces in the field, especially in high-risk zones in the South; a top-heavy command structure at ISAF headquarters in Kabul; an absence of a comprehensive strategy directing all ISAF forces in collaboration with the Afghan government; limitations placed by some NATO governments on the operations of their units, which effectively keep those forces out of the conflict; and inadequate coordination between military and civilian programs for security, stabilization, reconstruction and development. One source of ISAF inefficiencies, cited by senior NATO officers, is the too frequent rotation of ISAF commanders at its Kabul headquarters and in the regional commands...
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Civilian effort in Afghanistan criticized
TheStar.com - January 23, 2008  Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
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Commitment to reconstruction needs beefing up with development officials on ground, report says

OTTAWA–More civilians – not just soldiers – are part of the prescription for a successful Canadian mission in Kandahar, according to the Manley report on the future of the Afghan mission.

Although the report calls for 1,000 additional NATO soldiers to help out Canadian troops, it also urges that the government try to ramp up the number and responsibilities of civilian officials in the region.

To date, their efforts have been insufficient and ineffective, and some of the problem rests with the Canadian International Development Agency, the government aid organization, the report says.

"Canada's civilian programs have not achieved the scale or depth of engagement necessary to make a significant impact," the report says. "It is essential to adjust funding and staffing imbalances between the heavy Canadian military commitment in Afghanistan and the comparatively lighter civilian commitment to reconstruction, development and governance."

The foreign affairs department, CIDA, the RCMP and corrections officials are represented by a scant 47 civilians spread among the Canadian embassy in Kabul; at Kandahar Airfield, where the soldiers are based; and at a smaller outpost in Kandahar city known as the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

This is in contrast to the 2,500 Canadian soldiers deployed in Afghanistan.

CIDA spends about $100 million each year in the country, but controls only 15 per cent of that amount to be spent on projects that are clearly Canadian. The rest is funnelled to organizations such as the World Bank, or to programs run by the Afghan government.

The report recommends that aid spending should go more toward "direct, bilateral" assistance that addresses the immediate needs of local people, particularly in Kandahar province.

The panel suggests "signature" projects that can be traced directly back to Canadian efforts would go a long way toward winning the support of the Afghan people.

Also, CIDA should rethink its overly restrictive policies, fashioned in Ottawa with no regard for the situation on the ground, that essentially tie its officials to safe areas and alienate them from the people they are trying to help, the report says.
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Families of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan praise Manley report
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HALIFAX - The families of several Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan are praising a report today that recommends troops get better equipment and that NATO take on a greater role in the country.

Jim Davis, whose son Cpl. Paul Davis was killed in 2006, says it's time NATO stepped up and offered more assistance in the volatile southern region where Canada is operating.

He says Canada can't be expected to bear the brunt of the responsibility without help.

Julie Mason lost her husband Master Cpl. Jeff Walsh in 2006 and says it's been a longstanding complaint that soldiers don't have the gear they need to do their jobs.

Both relatives were responding to a report by a panel headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley.

Manley says Canada's mission is noble and justifiable, but is doomed to fail unless other NATO countries shoulder a heavier burden.

Military's best hope for help? Probably the U.S.
TheStar.com -January 23, 2008 Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa bureau chief
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Washington could provide extra troops, choppers, expert says

OTTAWA–From extra troops to new choppers, Ottawa could be turning to the United States to help it meet the conditions that will keep Canadian troops in Afghanistan, a defence expert says.

With NATO allies reluctant to provide additional soldiers for Afghanistan's dangerous southern regions and helicopter production lines sold out, it could be Washington's vast military resources that might be the saving grace, said Brian MacDonald, a senior analyst at the Conference of Defence Associations.

Yesterday, an independent panel said any extension of Canada's military mission should be conditional on NATO allies providing 1,000 more troops for Kandahar as well as Canadian troops getting transport helicopters and unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles.

Ottawa is in negotiations with Boeing to buy 16 Chinook helicopters – the chopper of choice for transport – but they aren't expected to arrive until 2011.
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UNICEF: Afghanistan makes progress in reducing child mortality 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-22 21:47:16      Print
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    KABUL, Jan. 22 (Xinhua) -- The post-Taliban Afghanistan has made significant progress in bringing down the child mortality over the past six years, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) announced here Tuesday.

    "Afghanistan has made tremendous progress on child survival," said Dan Toole, the UNICEF regional director for South Asia, while addressing a function featuring the launch of the agency's State of the World's Children in 2008 report.

    The latest data indicates that Afghanistan has managed to reduce its under-five children mortality by 25 percent since 2001,Toole said.

    However, he stressed that there is a long way for Afghanistan to go to further improve the status of children in the war-torn country, saying "Afghanistan has the second maternity mortality and third child mortality in the world."
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Pakistan soldier killed in tribal rocket attack: army
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MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) — Islamist militants fired rockets at a Pakistani fort in the troubled tribal belt Wednesday, killing one soldier and wounding two in the latest violence to hit the region, the army said.

Rebels attacked the facility at Razmak in North Waziristan, a rugged and semi-autonomous tribal area bordering Afghanistan, at about 7:00 am, an army statement said.

"One security forces personnel embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and two others were injured. Security forces retaliated with artillery and mortar fire," the statement said.

The rocket attack came a day after two soldiers were killed in another militant attack in Razmak.

Separately troops exchanged fire with militants at the Ladha fort in neighbouring South Waziristan, the statement said, a day after clashes there left five soldiers and nearly 40 militants dead.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the latest gunbattle.
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2 women injured in suicide bombing in E Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-01-23 16:09:02      Print
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    KABUL, Jan. 23 (Xinhua) -- A suicide bomber targeted a restaurant in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province Wednesday wounding two women besides killing himself, a local official said.

    "A terrorist tied explosive device in his body blew himself up next a restaurant this morning killing self and wounding two women," Director of Information and Culture of Khost province Deen Mohammad Darvish told Xinhua.

    However, he did not say who was the real target but added the attack took place outside the hotel where locals including personnel of the law enforcing agencies use to frequent it.

    A premature bomb explosion in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province left four persons dead when Taliban loyalists were busy in making handmade bombs.
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Afghanistan: editorial reaction to Manley Report
Summary by Conference of Defence Associations, Jan. 23

Lots of reactions in the Blogosphere


My head is spinning

Warren the K. has a fine post on the Manley panel report at his National Post blog. [Yes, that's two posts in a single day agreeing with Warren Kinsella. It's in Revelations, people! - DJP]

And Christie Blatchford writes some choice words, some aimed at members of the punditocracy:

    Government must now embrace the full, bloody truth of Afghanistan


    It may be naive to expect politicians to find the big nuts that ordinary infantrymen have, but Mr. Manley was a politician, and he seems to have found his.


    The report should be read by anyone who purports to hold an informed view of the mission, particularly those who haven't been to Afghanistan (this includes many of the most regular, not to mention most smarmy, commentators on the subject) and thus haven't been exposed, as the panel members have been, to the visceral punch to the gut packed both by Canadian troops and Afghans themselves.

    Our soldiers have it because they are so fiercely committed even as it is they and their families who suffer most grievously. Afghans have it because they are so fierce, so bloody deprived, yet so full of promise and so worth the effort. Together, they knock your socks off, and most people who spend any time in the country end up as converts...

Terry Glavin has some more choice words in this post:

    John Manley's Afghanistan Panel Report And The Historic Mission of The Left

There are many other reactions:

    Manley report spreads chaos in Punditland

A staider summary of press reaction and other material on Afghanistan, from the Conference of Defence Associations, is here.

Meanwhile, was the fix almost in for finding our "partner" at Kandahar?

Finally, Bruce Rolston at Flit, in a very good politico-military analysis, comes up with a solution to our Afghan problem that might be saleable by the government: keep most of our troops at Kandahar, with the Marines taking on the infantry combat role, coupled with a Canadian withdrawal that...

    ...would be effectively limited in the immediate term to as little as the two companies of Canadian infantry, plus some of their logistical tail, and the battlegroup headquarters...

Mr Rolston also notes the average age of Canadian fatalities in Afghanistan is twenty-nine. Hardly the "kids" many would have you believe.

Mark C.
Articles found January 24, 2008

Canadian soldier killed by IED
GRAEME SMITH Globe and Mail Update January 23, 2008 at 11:30 PM EST
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A Canadian soldier died when a bomb exploded under his armoured vehicle Wednesday, as the military struggles to regain control of a notorious district southwest of Kandahar city.

The improvised explosive device detonated at 1:40 p.m. while bulldozers and troop carriers were trying to clear a safe route through Panjwai district, the scene of many battles between Canadians and insurgents over the past two years.

The soldier was declared dead at the scene, according to Brigadier-General Guy Laroche, Canada's top commander in Afghanistan. The soldier's family has asked for his name to be temporarily withheld. Two other Canadians soldiers suffered minor injuries in the attack. It's the 78th death so far in the Canadian mission, and the fourth death so far this year.

The location of the blast, about 35 kilometres southwest of the city, falls roughly along the informal line of control that divided Canadian-controlled territory from Taliban lands when the latest rotation of troops, mostly from the Quebec-based Royal 22nd Regiment, arrived this summer.
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Suicide bomber falls down stairs ...
Article from: Agence France-Presse Print From correspondents in Khost, Afghanistan January 24, 2008 12:39pm
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A WOULD-be suicide bomber fell down a flight of stairs and blew himself up as he headed out for an attack in Afghanistan, police say.

It was the second such incident in two days, with another man killing himself and three others on Tuesday when his bomb-filled waistcoat exploded as he was putting it on in the southern town of Lashkar Gah.

Yesterday's blast was in a busy market area of the eastern town of Khost, a deputy provincial police chief said.

The would-be attacker tripped as he was leaving a building apparently to target an opening ceremony for a mosque that was expected to be attended by Afghan and international military officials, said Sakhi Mir.

"Coming down the stairs, he fell down and exploded. Two civilian women and a man were wounded,'' Mir said.

Suicide attacks are regular feature of an insurgency led by the extremist Taliban movement that was in government between 1996 and 2001. The most deadly was in November 2007 and killed nearly 80 people, most of them school students.
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Canada Joining the Anglosphere C-17 Club
22-Jan-2008 17:35 | Permanent Link
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When Canada announced a program to replace its aging CC-130 Hercules fleet in November 2005, there was a great deal of speculation about where the C-17 might fit in. The fast answer was that it didn't, but speculation revived following the Liberal government's defeat and the formation of a new Conservative Party government. The new government justified that speculation, creating a separate Strategic Airlift competition – and the shape of its specifications suggested that Canada was about to reprise Australia's recent move and buy at least 4 of Boeing's C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Australia, Britain, and the USA already operate the C-17; NATO is scheduled to buy 3-4 as a shared strategic airlift solution, but the procurement is in limbo.

Canada has traditionally resisted buying strategic airlift, choosing instead to participate in NATO's SALIS consortium that leases ultra-heavy AN-124 aircraft for such roles. Other leased alternatives to the C-17s were available to Canada, including one based on Canadian soil – but in the end, the C-17 was the sole realistic competitor for this C$ 3.4 billion (USD$ 3 billion) program, and is entering service in Canada as the CC-177.

Canada has now taken delivery of its 1st and 2nd CC-177s, and begun flying missions to Jamaica, the Arctic, and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Boeing has announced industrial offsets in Quebec and Atlantic Canada. DID has updated our article, and added new pictures…
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Canada quietly halted Afghan detainee transfers
Updated Wed. Jan. 23 2008 9:59 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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The Canadian government halted the transfer of Afghan detainees last November after a "credible allegation" that a prisoner had been tortured by local authorities, but didn't reveal the decision until this week.

Officials acted after a prisoner told Canadian diplomats he had allegedly been beaten with electrical cables and a rubber hose by Afghan secret police in Kandahar

Earlier this week the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) released documents it said were given to federal government officials and that detailed reports of detainee abuse.

Large portions of the documents were censored but they contained interviews with detainees who claimed they had been "whipped with cables, shocked with electricity and/or otherwise hurt" while in Afghan custody in Kandahar.
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Manley Canada More Inspiring Than Layton and Dion's Can't-ada
Posted January 23, 2008 - 5:28pm by Murray Wood
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John Manley asks a darned good question.  If we as Canadians aren’t willing to lend our military resources when asked to do so by the United Nations in a mission coordinated by NATO, in a country where the democratically elected government wants us there and its citizens desperately need us, then he wonders where and when Canada would do so?

The former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister led an independent review of Canada’s mission that recommends we stay in Afghanistan, with conditions.

Families of Canadian soldiers who have lost their lives in Afghanistan applaud the report.  So does the government of Afghanistan.

But Liberal leader Stephane Dion rejects the recommendations without reading the report.  He still insists our troops must leave by next year.  NDP leader Jack Layton wants them out now. 

Dion and Layton disregard an important truth.  Canadian troops are helping liberate Afghans from religious fanatics who would enslave them.  The Taliban treats women like property; beat sand beheads people like we hand out parking tickets.  Thanks to Canadians, Afghans are leading freer lives, girls are allowed to go to school, teachers don’t have to worry about being killed for daring to teach.  John Manley’s question remains to be answered.
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Canadian troops far from alone
Foreign soldiers abound around Kandahar
Don Martin, National Post  Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008
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OTTAWA -The Afghanistan panel is wrong: We are not alone. There are numerous foreign partners for Canadian soldiers at their Kandahar Air Field headquarters.

The Romanians are there and, last I looked, preoccupied with fixing the stink from a nearby sewage lagoon called Emerald Lake. The Germans have contributed the closest thing to a real restaurant, offering welcome competition to Burger King and Pizza Hut. Portuguese soldiers swing by forward operating bases for a sleepover occasionally, leaving behind gifts of beer and wine. And the Americans constantly make themselves heard as their howling F-16s launch at dawn from a runway beside Canadian sleeping quarters.

There are a handful of other countries strolling the base boardwalk, but even southern regional command officials couldn't explain their responsibilities when I asked last summer.

These are not the sort of partners John Manley, the former Liberal Cabinet minister who chaired a panel probing the Afghanistan conflict, was talking about when he demanded help for stretched and stressed Canadian troops. The way his panel argues it, another 1,000 soldiers must join the Kandahar fight by 2009 or we should abdicate the battle.
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May's words now matter
Green take on Afghan solution unrealistic
John Ivison, National Post  Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008
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OTTAWA -Elizabeth May is keen to shake up Canada's political system by portraying herself as the unpolitical politician and her Green Party as an anti-party.

But she is discovering there is good reason why politicians lack candour and rarely stray beyond their carefully vetted script. In her former life as executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada, she could say outrageous things and nobody cared. But as leader of a party that may have a big say in who runs the country after the next election, she is discovering that her words weigh heavily.

Last May, the Green leader was assailed for her contention that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's environment policy was "worse than Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis." Now, she's in trouble again for inferring that Western soldiers in Afghanistan are "Crusaders."

After the Manley Report on the future of Canada's role in Afghanistan was delivered on Tuesday, the Greens issued a press release rejecting the main conclusions. "The Manley Report fails to consider that the recommendation of more ISAF forces from a Christian/Crusader heritage will continue to fuel an insurgency that has been framed as a 'jihad,' " Ms. May was quoted as saying.
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Poppy politics
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John Manley's otherwise brutally frank assessment of the dismal situation facing Canada and other countries fighting in Afghanistan, curiously glosses over one of the most serious and intractable enemies of the entire effort: Opium.

This week's controversial report by a panel of experts headed by the former Liberal cabinet minister acknowledges only that "the opium trade is a complicating factor in Afghan security, and it is both a result of violent instability and a contributor to it.

"Opium profits flow to the Taliban, to criminal elements and to corrupt government officials," the Manley report notes. "Coherent counter-narcotics strategies need to be adopted by all relevant agencies."

Talk about a problem understated, and a solution easier said than done.

According to the United Nations authority on drugs and crime, the poppy fields of Afghanistan now produce a stunning 93% of the world's heroin.

Writing in the Washington Post this week, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, Richard Holbrooke, calls the Afghan narcotics trade "probably the largest single-country drug production since 19th -century China."

Afghan government officials, he says, "including some with close ties to the presidency," are protecting the drug trade and profiting from it."
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Warren Kinsella: Of Manley and Afghanistan
Posted: January 23, 2008, 8:20 AM by WKinsella
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My Dad was a proud Armed Forces man, and - in my case - I wanted to attend Royal Military College. As a teenager, I even travelled across the country to apply at RMC - but they made clear to me that they wanted engineers-to-be, not lawyers-to-be. (Given what was to come, it made sense, I suppose.)

But I have always been a pretty pro-military Liberal: inside government, I angrily opposed the cuts to the military we Liberals made back in the 1990s; when outside government, and after 9/11, I energetically supported the mission we Liberals initiated in Afghanistan. While it is never to be desired, I believe that the use of military force is sometimes absolutely necessary.

John Manley's report is not what I had been expecting. I had believed the pre-release spin, which was to the effect that it would call for an indefinite extension of the mission. As a citizen, I don't like "indefinite" being applied to anything; nothing is forever, politically and militarily.

But Mr. Manley - as he has done in the past - surprised me, us. His report is a finely-balanced effort, thoughtful, and it poses formidable political challenges for all of our current political leaders. Fine columns about all of that are found here and here and here.
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Karzai says war "engulfing region" around Afghanistan
Wed Jan 23, 2008 2:46pm EST
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DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai said on Wednesday that violence was engulfing his region and called on countries to confront militancy with action not rhetoric.

"While Afghanistan is still a critical battlefield, a rapidly spreading war is engulfing the wider region," Karzai said in a speech to the World Economic Forum.

"Our strategies in this war have often been short-changed by a host of deceptive rhetoric," he said. "Governments in the region need to move beyond rhetoric and cease to seek the pursuit of interests in the use of extremist politics".

Karzai did not accuse any country by name, but his relations with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf have at times virtually broken down over Afghan complaints that Taliban insurgents operate from Pakistan's side of their common border.
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Army Wants to Cut War Tours to 12 Months
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Soldiers' battlefield tours would be cut from 15 months to 12 months beginning Aug. 1, under a proposal being considered by the Army as part of an effort to reduce the stress on a force battered by more than six years at war.

The proposal, recommended by U.S. Army Forces Command, is being reviewed by senior Army and Pentagon leaders, and would be contingent on the changing needs for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Our top priority is going to be meeting the combatant commanders' requirements, so there may be no decision until we get more clarity on that," Army Col. Edward Gibbons, chief of the command's plans division, said Wednesday. He said the goal was to meet those demands while still reducing soldiers' deployments and increasing their time at home between tours.

Gen. George Casey, chief of staff of the Army, has been pushing to move back to one-year deployments, citing the heavy burden that the 15-month stays put on troops and their families. Just last week he hinted the shorter tours could begin this summer.

But defense officials have been reluctant to talk much about the shift because it will depend heavily on what Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, recommends when he gives his assessment of the war to Congress in March or April.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered the move to 15-month deployments about a year ago, as the Pentagon struggled to fight wars on two fronts.
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Pakistani tanks, choppers kill dozens of militants: army
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DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani troops backed by tanks and gunships cleared militant hideouts near the Afghan border amid fierce fighting that left eight troops and 40 rebels dead, the army said Thursday.

Thirty militants have also been arrested during clashes over the past 24 hours in the South Waziristan tribal district, the hideout of an Islamist commander accused of masterminding the killing of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.

Pakistani forces have launched a major operation against extremist positions following days of gunbattles in the barren region, which the United States has identified as a key lair of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

"Reportedly, 40 miscreants have been killed in the last 24 hours and 30 miscreants have been apprehended, many of them injured," an army statement said.

Eight soldiers "embraced martyrdom" while 32 others were injured in the clashes, it said, the heaviest single-day toll in several weeks of fighting since Bhutto's assassination almost one month ago.

Soldiers have cleared militants from strongholds in Spinkai Raghazai, Nawazkot and areas surrounding Tiarza village in the tribal zone, the statement said.
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RAVEN II to Develop Sense and Avoid Systems for Small UAVsCanada: Manley Report Recommends UAVsIN DEPTH
Canada in Afghanistan
What the mission is, and where it might go next
Last Updated January 22, 2008 CBC News
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In the years after the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, Canada steadily increased its military involvement in Afghanistan.

By 2006, Canada had begun a major role in the more dangerous southern part of the country for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). A battle group of more than 2,000 soldiers called Operation Athena was based around Kandahar.

A NASA/MODIS satellite image shows the rugged country in southern Afghanistan where Canadian troops are operating.

For six months ending Nov. 1, 2006, Canada also held the command of one of the main military forces in the area, called Multi National Brigade for Command South. During this time, Operation Medusa, a major offensive against insurgents in Kandahar province, was launched.

The fighting grew fiercer and the casualty count began to rise. By mid-January 2008, 77 Canadian military personnel had died in the country.

A heated debate arose within Parliament, and among Canadians, on the future of the Afghanistan mission. Should troops be pulled out at the end of the existing commitment in February 2009? If so, when? If the mission continues, what should be its focus?
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Few allies can help Canada: Diplomats
Large reinforcements unlikely in Afghanistan

Toronto Star, Jan. 24

Paper ultimatums are unlikely to yield any wholesale solutions for Canada's vexing military struggle in southern Afghanistan, according to European diplomats and analysts familiar with the inner workings of NATO.

While expressing general agreement with the recommendations of Canada's blue-ribbon panel on Afghanistan, European military and political sources said that with the possible exception of the United States, no single ally is in a position to meet the call of providing more than symbolic reinforcements to the project to stabilize Kandahar province...

Political sources throughout Europe shrugged off the panel's recommendation that 1,000 additional NATO troops be found as a condition of Ottawa extending the Canadian mission beyond February 2009. Instead, those privy to the inner workings of NATO negotiations outlined a possibility of NATO allies conjuring so-called "confetti" deployments – small contingents of 100 or fewer troops to aid in the Kandahar mission.

France, Italy and Australia were cited as the most fertile hunting grounds for Canadian officials lobbying for fresh boots in Kandahar.

One diplomatic source acknowledged "conversations are underway" between French and Canadian officials on the possible addition of French forces and training teams to assist the building of the fledgling Afghan National Army...

Speculation abounds, meanwhile, that the U.S., which has the biggest presence in Afghanistan, with troops under its own command and also beneath NATO's umbrella, may by default be forced into filling any Canadian gaps in Kandahar, should Ottawa decide ultimately to draw down its troop levels...

European press snubs findings, NATO refuses to comment
Ottawa Citizen, Jan. 24

NATO spokesman James Appathurai said it is too soon to comment on the Manley panel's recommendations or its stinging criticism of the campaign against Taliban insurgents.

"The (Canadian) government has not taken a position. The Parliament is not taking a position on these recommendations," Mr. Appathurai told reporters during a briefing at alliance headquarters in Brussels. "So NATO will certainly not take a position at this time."

He said the report, which already has been reviewed by Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, was "thorough (and) very well written."

The European media responded to the report with a yawn. At a downtown Paris newsstand, only the London-based Financial Times mentioned the report.

Some analysts have warned that NATO itself could collapse if it fails in Afghanistan, and one German politician recently warned that a Canadian withdrawal could trigger the alliance's demise.

In Kabul, Shattered Illusions
NY Times, Jan. 24

“WELL, at least we’re not in Baghdad,” we used to say when confronted by the vagaries of the Kabul winter. No heat, sporadic electricity and growing disaffection among the population might make us uncomfortable, but those of us living outside the smothering embrace of the embassies or the United Nations had relative freedom of movement and few security worries.

And of course we had the Serena hotel. Its spa offered solace, a gym and a hot shower; we could pretend for a few hours that we were in Dubai.

But a week ago last Monday, Taliban gunmen burst into the lobby, one exploding his ball-bearing vest, one running to the gym and spa area, spraying bullets as he went. Eight people died, and several more were wounded.

It was a rude shock for those of us who used to feel superior to those who cowered behind their reinforced walls, venturing out only in bulletproof glass surrounded by convoys of big men with big guns...

I am no stranger to the insurgency, having spent three years in Afghanistan and much of the past 12 months in Helmand Province. Helmand, center of opium and Taliban, may be the most unstable region of the country. It is also the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan, with British troops clashing frequently with the rebels.

For the past several months we have been hearing that NATO is winning, that the insurgency is running out of steam. Each suicide attack is a last gasp, a sign that the Taliban are becoming desperate.

As the enemy melts away only to regroup, we are expected to believe that this time, surely, they will stay put in their hideouts. The head of the Afghan National Security Directorate described the Serena attack as a sign of the Taliban’s weakness. “An enemy that cannot hold territory, an enemy that has no support among the people, has no other means than suicide bombing,” the security chief, Amrullah Saleh, told assembled reporters.

But those of us who have covered the steady decline of hope in Afghanistan over the past three years know where the relative strength lies.

Not with the central government, whose head, Hamid Karzai, has largely lost the respect of his people with his increasingly bizarre behavior: weeping at the plight of children in Kandahar, begging the Taliban to send him their address, confessing that he is powerless to control the warlords, auctioning off his silken robe to feed widows and orphans.

Not with the foreign troops, who have been unable to provide security or usher in the development that Afghanistan so desperately needs. Civilian casualties, often hushed up or denied, have made NATO a curse in some parts of the country.

Not with the international assistance community, with its misguided counter-narcotics policies, high-priced consultants and wasteful practices. Out of the billions that have supposedly come into the country, only a trickle has been used to good effect.

The Taliban, under whose brutal regime Afghanistan became an international pariah, are steadily regaining ground. Even those who deplore their harsh rules and capricious behavior welcome the illusion of security they bring in their wake...

Jean MacKenzie is the Afghanistan country director for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting.

Taliban offensive unlikely in east Afghanistan: U.S.
Reuters, Jan. 23

A senior U.S. military commander said on Wednesday he did not expect the Taliban to mount a major offensive in eastern Afghanistan this spring, but experts warned of rising violence and a stronger insurgency.

Army Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the top commander of NATO troops in eastern Afghanistan, said Afghan security forces and other civilian authorities had established a stronger presence in the east of the country...

"The people of Afghanistan don't want the Taliban back and the strength of their institutions has grown significantly in the last year," he said at the Pentagon...

U.S. officials say eastern Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan, has become substantially more stable in the past year, thanks to the work of U.S. troops and Afghan officials in countering the influence of Taliban Islamist militants.

But violence overall in Afghanistan has risen steadily for more than two years.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month that total violence was up 27 percent from a year ago and up more than 60 percent in the southern province of Helmand, scene of the heaviest fighting.

Retired Lt. Gen. David Barno, former U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told Congress on Wednesday the security situation has deteriorated significantly since 2004 and the Taliban has clearly gained strength.

"The enemy in Afghanistan -- a collection of al Qaeda, Taliban, Hezb-e Islami and foreign fighters -- is unquestionably a much stronger force than the enemy we faced in 2004," Barno told the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

"I'm afraid it is an undeniable fact," he said.

Barno said the number of roadside bombs in Afghanistan climbed from 325 in 2004 to 1,469 last year. The number of suicide bombings soared from three in 2004 to more than 130 in 2007, according to Barno.

While Rodriguez painted an optimistic picture, Barno and other experts testifying on Capitol Hill said U.S. and NATO success against the Taliban will depend directly on Pakistan's willingness and ability to clamp down on al Qaeda and Taliban fighters based in its remote, largely ungoverned border area...

U.S. to Step Up Training of Pakistanis
Washington Post, Jan. 24

The U.S. military plans to significantly expand and accelerate its counterinsurgency training and provision of equipment for Pakistan's armed forces this year as part of a five-year, $2 billion U.S.-Pakistani effort to help stabilize the country, senior U.S. and Pakistani officials said.

The enhanced cooperation will include U.S. military assistance toward counterinsurgency training, technical gear and assistance to improve the Pakistani military's intelligence gathering and its air and ground mobility, the officials said. If requested by Pakistan, it could also involve U.S. Special Operations Forces working with the Pakistani military as it launches "more aggressive" actions against insurgents in northwest tribal areas, said Ambassador Dell L. Dailey, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator...

U.S. officials said the new strategy is critical, as insurgents once focused on Afghanistan have turned inward to challenge the Pakistani government. "The plan to counter insurgents is to work with the Pakistanis to share intelligence, increase cross-border cooperation between ourselves, the Afghans and the Pakistanis, and to work with Pakistan's military to increase their capability," Adm. William Fallon, the top U.S. commander for the Middle East, told The Washington Post this week...

Much of the increased U.S. military cooperation will be tailored to improve the counterinsurgency operations [a current one at link] of the Pakistani military and Frontier Corps, a large but ill-equipped force that has suffered most of the government's combat casualties in tribal areas. For example, it will involve sending in small teams of U.S. trainers, including Special Forces soldiers, as well as technical experts to work with the Pakistani Air Force and intelligence personnel. The U.S. military is planning to expand the number of trainers for Pakistan's Frontier Corps, possibly including contractors or allied forces, and is also seeking to tap into $37 million in counterterrorism funds for that effort, according to U.S. officials...


Articles found January 25, 2008

Ombudsman probes how PTSD affecting troops returning from Kandahar, families
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EDMONTON - The military ombudsman is investigating how the Canadian Forces is dealing with soldiers who return from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and with their families.

In 2002, before large-scale deployments of troops to Kandahar, the ombudsman's office issued a critical report on PTSD that contained 31 recommendations for change.

Six years later the ombudsman is reviewing half of those recommendations that were not implemented, including a call to establish databases on the number of soldiers with stress-related injuries and on soldiers who kill themselves, and another to improve support programs for the families of those diagnosed with PTSD.

The probe is a follow-up on what progress has been made but within the context of Afghanistan, where an estimated 10,000 Canadian troops have served since 2005.

"The big observation we have made is that there needs to be consistent treatment for people no matter where they live," interim ombudsman Mary McFadyen said from Ottawa.

"We want to ensure that the Canadian Forces is doing what they can to help families. And from the general observations we have made, it appears that there is more work to be done."

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological injury from a severe stress such as military combat, seeing another person harmed or killed, or learning that a close friend or family member is in serious danger.

Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, withdrawal from friends and family and increased aggression. PTSD can lead to depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse. Successful treatment can take years.

A report prepared for the Public Health Agency of Canada last fall in the Atlantic region called PTSD an emerging mental health issue. The report noted that it is important to anticipate how service in Afghanistan will put soldiers at risk for increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use and depression.
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Not easy to get job done
Editorial Jan 25, 2008
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John Manley hopes every Canadian takes the time to read a report released this week on our country's mission in Afghanistan.

With public support for the mission teetering on each Canadian casualty, Mr. Manley said this week Canadians really need to take the time to appreciate and understand the mission before passing judgement on outcomes and potential withdrawal.

Federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion returned from a recent trip to Afghanistan with a pledge to pull Canadian troops from a critical combat role by 2009.

Despite having the opportunity to stand side by side with our troops as they engage a ruthless enemy and attempt to bring peace to one of the most troubled parts of the world, Dion's comments are more about scoring political capital with schizophrenic and uniformed Canadians who measure success through body bags.

Instead of supporting our troops, and the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, Mr. Dion only cares about opinion polls.

But really now?

Just after returning from Afghanistan, Mr. Dion sparked an international row when he suggested NATO forces should intervene in Pakistan. His comments triggered outrage from that powerful South Asian nation, and Mr. Dion quickly retreated.

Mr. Dion and NDP leader Jack Layton have a lot in common. Both want Canadian troops out of Afghanistan because they think it will help win them support from voters. Mr. Layton would re-direct troops to troubled Darfur, while, apparently, Mr. Dion would send them to Pakistan.

Thankfully, neither man is currently running the country at this critical point.

This week, the Canadian public received a non-partisan, arm's length report on the mission in Afghanistan.

And according to Mr. Manley, a former Liberal cabinet minister who led the panel looking into Canada's role in the troubled area, there is no "obvious answer."

What Mr. Manley and his fellow panelists did recommend, however, is that Canada must extend its role in Afghanistan beyond 2009.

"We are recommending a Canadian commitment to Afghanistan that is neither open-ended nor faint-hearted," said the panel.

Unlike Mr. Dion and Mr. Layton, Mr. Manley said Canada's presence in Afghanistan "does matter" and that our commitment "has not yet been completed."

However, the panel is bang on when it suggests Canada only extend its mission beyond 2009 provided key conditions are met:

&149; that a new battle group (made up of other NATO nations) is deployed to assist in Kandahar province, where Canadians have suffered the majority of casualties, and accelerate training of the Afghan National Army.

&149; that the government provide medium-lift helicopters and high-performance unmanned aerial vehicles by February 2009.
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U.S. marine deployment to Afghanistan won't help Canada: Gates
Last Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2008 | 8:38 PM ET CBC News
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U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday that 3,200 marines headed to southern Afghanistan will not provide the Canadian Forces there with the additional troop support recommended by the Manley report.

The marines, slated to stay for seven months following their spring departure, will be on a one-time assignment, Gates said during a Pentagon press briefing.

He said he will be putting pressure on NATO to provide more troops to bolster coalition war efforts in Afghanistan's turbulent south.

"No, it's a one time plus-up, this 3,200 marines that we're sending over there, but I have started a dialogue with my NATO colleagues about falling in behind the marines when the marines come out, for others to go in and take on some of the responsibilities that they will have carried out," Gates said.
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Soldiers deployed to Afghanistan; Twenty-seven troops from Kingston 'looking forward' to mission
Posted By Ian Elliot
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Twenty-seven Canadian Forces soldiers will trade snow for sand today as they leave the city to join the Canadian Forces serving in Afghanistan.

The 27 soldiers are part of a force of around 80 Kingston personnel, all of whom will be on the ground in Kandahar within the next month. The group represents the largest single deployment to Afghanistan from CFB Kingston.

The troops have been training specifically for this mission since September, including participating in a large field exercise with other NATO allies in Norway. Most are signallers who will operate and maintain the communications network.

Although they are leaving their family, friends and homes for almost a year, the soldiers who are leaving today have no qualms about the mission they are undertaking.

"A lot of people do ask why would we want to go there, but this is what we train for. It's what we do," said Capt. Dave Perry.

"It would be like a carpenter who trains all his life and never builds a house."

"We're looking forward to it," concurred Capt. Stan Druskis. "We want to go."

Both men have served on the sort of overseas tours, including Bosnia, that come with military life but this is their first posting to Afghanistan. Perry, who has also done tours in Africa, said this one is different.
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Forces kept Ottawa in the dark on halting detainee transfers
Military commanders acted alone in reversing controversial practice, Prime Minister's Office says
CAMPBELL CLARK With reports from Rhéal Séguin in Victoriaville, Que., Karen Howlett in Toronto and Paul Koring in Ottawa
January 25, 2008
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OTTAWA -- The military did not tell the government that it suspended the transfer of prisoners taken by Canadian troops to Afghan authorities in November, the Prime Minister's Office says.

This week's revelation by government lawyers that Canada had quietly suspended the transfer of people detained in Afghanistan because of a credible allegation of torture has opposition leaders accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of deception.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Harper said yesterday that the Canadian Forces acted alone.

"Our transfer policy and agreement remains unchanged. The Canadian Forces, working with other Canadian officials in Afghanistan, exercise their discretion concerning this policy," the Prime Minister's communications director, Sandra Buckler, said in an e-mail.
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NATO wear and tear
January 25, 2008
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The U.S. can't afford to lose the support of Canada or other allies as the war in Afghanistan falters.

By every measure, the war in Afghanistan is going badly, and NATO is showing the strains. After sacrificing Afghanistan on the altar of its war of choice in Iraq, the Bush administration appears belatedly to have realized the stakes of a Taliban comeback. President Bush has rightly decided to deploy an additional 3,200 Marines, and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has pledged to bankroll an increase of the Afghan National Army, from 70,000 to 80,000 troops. (Gates' predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, wanted to hold that army to 50,000, in a country half again as large as Iraq and with a larger population.)

But these steps have proved insufficient to hold together the international fighting force in Afghanistan. That's because most of the NATO countries don't want to fight -- they believe they signed up for peacekeeping duty, not a "hot war" -- and the rest have battle fatigue. The latest casualty is Canada, where antiwar sentiment threatens to bring down the government. A high-level panel has recommended that the government insist on the deployment of at least 1,000 combat troops from another country (presumably the United States) to the free-fire zone in southern Afghanistan, while the Canadian troops are shifted to the more peaceful north to help with nation building and training Afghan soldiers. Expect a showdown at the next NATO summit in Bucharest in April.
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Afghan-bound soldier faces child porn charges
By The Canadian Press
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CFB Shilo, Man. — A Canadian soldier scheduled to start a tour of duty in Afghanistan in February is staying behind to answer to a child pornography charge.
RCMP have charged Cpl. Timothy Gallacher, 26, with one count of possessing, accessing and making child pornography available on the Internet.

A military spokeswoman confirmed Thursday Gallacher is with the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, just east of Brandon, Man.

He was supposed to go overseas in the next troop rotation.

“Obviously, the Canadian Forces take these types of allegations extremely seriously, and that’s why we do things like pull them off — the soldier in question — off deployments, because it is a serious allegation,” said Maj. Chuck LaRocque, the chief of staff at CFB Shilo.

It would not be fair to deploy a soldier who is facing charges, LaRocque said.
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Former CIDA head in Afghanistan dismisses Manley's development ideas
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OTTAWA - The recent Manley commission report missed the point of development efforts in Afghanistan and sets out unrealistic expectations, says the former head of Canadian aid in Afghanistan.

Nipa Banerjee, who spent three years heading the Canadian International Development Agency's mission in Kabul, says the commission's recommended approach won't do much to add legitimacy to the government of President Hamid Karzai.

She also bristled at the suggestion by the panel, chaired by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, that development efforts have so far made little impact in the brutally impoverished country.

"I don't see how he can say we've been ineffective," said Banerjee, who recently left government to take up an academic position at the University of Ottawa.

The blue-ribbon panel recommended that Canada refocus its $1.2-billion aid-and-development effort on projects that address the immediate needs of Afghans, particularly in Kandahar.

The approach thus far has been to spend money on long-term, institution-building programs and to funnel the support through the government in Kabul.
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Defence chief baulks at more diggers for Afghanistan
Misha Schubert, Canberra January 25, 2008
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DEFENCE Chief Angus Houston has made a case against boosting Australian troop numbers in Afghanistan — despite his political masters leaving the door open to expand the force in a US-led surge to crush a revived Taliban insurgency.

Air Chief Marshall Houston said that, as the 10th biggest contributor of foreign troops and the largest non-NATO deployment, Australia was already "carrying our share of the burden" in the turbulent South Asian nation.

But Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has been careful not to rule out more troops for Afghanistan. Instead, he has warned that any extra commitment hinges on the NATO-led coalition outlining a clearer strategy and lifting its own troop numbers.
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Why Waziristan matters
By Jill McGivering BBC News 
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The Pakistani army says it has cleared militant strongholds in three areas of the tribal region of South Waziristan near the Afghan border.

The military said troops, backed by artillery and helicopters, killed 40 militants and captured another 30.

It is not possible to verify the reports independently. But it is the latest sign that violence in the area is intensifying.

The battle for control in South Waziristan is critical. It is described as one of the most important frontlines in the fight against Islamic extremism, a new proxy war.

It has implications both for the stability of President Musharraf's government and for the struggle for dominance in Afghanistan.

Urged by the United States, which is increasingly alarmed by the situation, the Pakistani authorities are expanding their military forces there.

But any gains on the ground will be hard won.

Militants in the area are drawn from a cluster of local tribes and embedded in local communities.
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U.S. ready to fight militants with Pakistani troops
Thu 24 Jan 2008, 23:14 GMt  By Andrew Gray
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States would be willing to send troops to Pakistan to fight alongside the South Asian country's forces against Islamist militants, U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday.

Gates said Pakistan had not requested such a move and Washington had not presented proposals to Pakistan's leaders. But he made clear the United States was open to providing more direct assistance.
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Exclusive: Afghanistan is the bad war, Iraq the good, says White House co-ordinator
The Times, Jan. 24

Iraq may turn out to be America’s “good war” while Afghanistan goes “bad”, the Bush Administration official responsible for co-ordinating efforts in Baghdad has told The Times.

For years Iraq appeared to be a country spiralling deeper into violence and anarchy with no end in sight to the war, while Afghanistan boasted a popular president, a stable capital city and an insurgency that was no match for US and Nato forces.

According to David Satterfield, America's Co-ordinator for Iraq, the roles may have now been reversed, with violence dropping markedly in Iraq, the economy improving and the first signs of real political progress between rival sectarian and ethnic groups.

By contrast, violence in Afghanistan is growing, divisions are deepening between key Nato allies with forces on the ground and the Taleban is becoming bolder and more deadly with support from militants across the border in Pakistan...

...Iraq may turn out to be America’s “good war” while Afghanistan goes “bad”, the Bush Administration official responsible for co-ordinating efforts in Baghdad has told The Times.

For years Iraq appeared to be a country spiralling deeper into violence and anarchy with no end in sight to the war, while Afghanistan boasted a popular president, a stable capital city and an insurgency that was no match for US and Nato forces.

According to David Satterfield, America's Co-ordinator for Iraq, the roles may have now been reversed, with violence dropping markedly in Iraq, the economy improving and the first signs of real political progress between rival sectarian and ethnic groups.

By contrast, violence in Afghanistan is growing, divisions are deepening between key Nato allies with forces on the ground and the Taleban is becoming bolder and more deadly with support from militants across the border in Pakistan...

The British have made matters worse, says Afghan President
The Times, Jan. 25

Britain and Afghanistan fell out in spectacular fashion yesterday after President Karzai accused his British allies of bungling the military operation in Helmand and setting back prospects for the area by 18 months.

Mr Karzai, Britain’s key ally in Afghanistan, had little praise for the efforts of the 7,800 British troops deployed in his country. Most are in the restless southern Helmand province, where Britain has invested billions of pounds in trying to defeat the Taleban, bolster central government authority and begin reconstruction.

But Mr Karzai said that they had failed in the task, particularly the initial military mission launched nearly two years ago by 16 Air Assault Brigade — a unit that is returning for its second tour this year.

“There was one part of the country where we suffered after the arrival of the British forces,” Mr Karzai told a group of journalists at the Davos Economic Forum. “Before that we were fully in charge of Helmand. When our governor was there, we were fully in charge. They came and said, ‘Your governor is no good’. I said ‘All right, do we have a replacement for this governor; do you have enough forces?’. Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them. And when they came in, the Taleban came.”

Asked if he was blaming British failure for the return of the Taleban, he added: “I just described the situation of mistakes we made. The mistake was that we removed a local arrangement without having a replacement. We removed the police force. That was not good. The security forces were not in sufficient numbers or information about the province. That is why the Taleban came in. It took us a year and a half to take back Musa Qala. This was not failure but a mistake.”..

Britain defends its forces against Karzai criticism
CP, Jan. 25

Britain defends its forces against Karzai criticism

Britain is defending its forces against comments by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in which he reportedly accused them of making the security situation in the country's volatile south worse.

Karzai said mistakes by Britain and the U.S. allowed the Taliban to make inroads in Helmand province, according to The Times newspaper.

"Both the American and the British forces guaranteed to me they knew what they were doing and I made the mistake of listening to them," Karzai was quoted as telling a group of journalists Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "And when they came in, the Taliban came."

Britain's Foreign Office rejected the claim, saying its policy was to work in consultation with Karzai's government.

"Our strategy in Helmand has been to work with the Afghan government to extend their authority throughout the province, creating a secure environment which allows political and economic development," a spokesman said on condition of anonymity in line with ministry practice.

"Our armed forces have suffered losses and shown great determination and bravery to achieve that objective," the spokesman said...

Pakistan's Musharraf Says No US Troops
AP, Jan. 25

Pakistan's president said Friday U.S. troops cannot do a better job than his forces in routing the Taliban and al-Qaida, and the United States should increase its presence in Afghanistan instead to deal with the growing insurgency there.

Pervez Musharraf reiterated that Pakistan opposes any foreign forces on its soil and said ''the man in the street will not allow this -- he will come out and agitate.''

Musharraf was responding to a question about reports that the U.S. government was considering far more aggressive covert operations in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates' offer Thursday to send a small number of combat troops to Pakistan to help fight the insurgency there if Pakistani authorities ask for help.

''This cannot be done by any U.S. force,'' Musharraf told several hundred VIPs at a breakfast on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum. ''Please don't think that the U.S. forces have some kind of a magic wand and they'll come and lead to success.''

''This environment is worse than what they're facing in Afghanistan. The mountains are higher, and there is no communications infrastructure,'' he said.

Musharraf said President Bush told him he respects Pakistan's sovereignty and ''is not asking me, and he's the most important.''

He stressed that there is ''total'' U.S.-Pakistani cooperation on military tactics and strategy on both sides of the border, and ''good coordination'' on intelligence...


Articles found January 26, 2008

Gunmen seize U.S. aid worker in Afghanistan
Updated Sat. Jan. 26 2008 1:06 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
Article Link

Gunmen have captured a burqa-clad U.S. female aid worker in Kandahar province.

They stopped Cyd Mizell, 49, and her driver outside Kandahar City, Assadullah Khalid, the provincial governor, told reporters on Saturday.

Mizell had been living in Kandahar for years and spoke Pashtu, the local language. She didn't travel with armed guards, he said.

Mizell works for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation. It operates food-for-work, irrigation rehabilitation, health care and restoration projects around Kandahar, according to information on its website.

No group has claimed responsibility yet or made any demands. The U.S. Embassy said it has no immediate information about the incident.

Jeff Palmer, the aid group's international director, said the kidnappers had not contacted his group
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New Taliban Chief Entering Limelight
By KATHY GANNON – 6 hours ago
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Sometime in mid-December, as the winter winds howled across the snow-dusted hills of Pakistan's inhospitable border regions, 40 men representing Taliban groups all across Pakistan's northwest frontier came together to unify under a single banner and to choose a leader.

The banner was Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Taliban Movement of Pakistan, with a fighting force estimated at up to 40,000. And the leader was Baitullah Mehsud, the man Pakistan accuses of murdering former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The move is an attempt to present a united front against the Pakistani army, which has been fighting insurgents along the border with Afghanistan. It is also the latest sign of the rise of Mehsud, considered the deadliest of the Taliban mullahs or clerics in northwest Pakistan.

Mehsud is based in the rugged, heavily treed mountains of South Waziristan, one of Pakistan's so-called tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan, where Western intelligence says al-Qaida is regrouping. His organization has claimed responsibility, often backed up by videos, for killing and kidnapping hundreds of soldiers, beheading women and burning schools that teach girls anything other than religion. He also claims he has a steady supply of suicide bombers and strong ties to al-Qaida.
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New U.S. strategy working in east Afghanistan
Sat Jan 26, 2008 12:18pm EST  By Jon Hemming
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SAKYAN, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan village elder Noor Mohammad stroked his white beard as he listened to a local government chief appeal for help to rebuild the economy of this snow-bound plateau shattered by war and the fight with the Taliban.

Mohammad and the other elders at an impromptu shura, or council, think they have seen it all before, but new U.S. counter-insurgency strategy backing Afghan government and security forces in the east of the country aims to break with the past and appears to be achieving some results.

"Many people came here and made promises, but nothing has been done," said Mohammad, the senior elder in the village of Sakyan, a scattered collection of sparse high-walled compounds and snow-bound fields in Paktia province, south of the capital Kabul and close to the border with Pakistan.

Afghan army troops, backed by U.S. forces, are in the middle of an operation in the district, until only a few months ago a Taliban stronghold.
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Support for withdrawal from Afghanistan declines, but divisions remain
Juliet O'Neill ,  Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008
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OTTAWA -- The portion of Canadians who want Canadian troops to withdraw from Afghanistan has dropped seven points to 37 per cent in the aftermath of John Manley's report recommending a conditional extension of the military mission in Kandahar, says an Ipsos Reid poll released Friday.

The portion willing to extend the mission if the role shifts from combat to non-combat, such as training Afghan soldiers or police officers, has risen five points to 45 per cent since October.

The poll for Canwest News Service and Global National, conducted as Canadians digested the Manley recommendations earlier this week, suggests Canadians are open to an extension of a mission for non-combat purposes, said pollster John Wright. The 14 per cent of Canadians willing to extend the mission as is remained unchanged.
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Harper stays clear of decision on Afghanistan report
Andrew Mayeda ,  Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008
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OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed not to let politics dictate his government's decision on the future of the Afghanistan war on Friday, but continued to defer a clear response to the hard-hitting report on the mission by the Manley panel.

"The Manley panel report is a good report-strong, balanced and realistic. I urge you all to read it," Harper said in a campaign-style speech to commemorate his government's second year in power.

"Friends, let me just say this: on a matter of national and global security like this, we will never make a decision based on polls. We will make our decision based on what is right."
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Soldier faces October trial for Afghanistan shooting
Jim Day ,  Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008
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CHARLOTTETOWN -- A soldier from Prince Edward Island will go on trial this fall in the shooting death of a fellow soldier in Afghanistan.

Master Cpl. Robbie Fraser is charged with manslaughter and negligent performance of duty. His trial begins Oct. 14.

Lt.-Col. Bruce MacGregor said he expects to spend about three weeks prosecuting the case.

Fraser, 30, will face the court martial in Shilo, Man., where he is stationed with the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment.

The maximum sentence for manslaughter is life. If found guilty only of negligent performance of duty in connection with the Aug. 9, 2006, death of Master Cpl. Jeffrey Walsh, Fraser could face anything from dismissal with disgrace to imprisonment under two years.
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A Conversation With Hamid Karzai
By Lally Weymouth Sunday, January 27, 2008; Page B03
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With Taliban violence on the rise in Afghanistan and reports of government corruption marring his government's image, Afghan President Hamid Karzai finds himself embattled and on the defensive. Last week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he spoke with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth about the Taliban and Pakistan, his government's challenges and its ties with Iran. Excerpts:

Q. How are the Taliban affecting you in Afghanistan?

A. By trying to prevent progress, by trying to prevent reconstruction, by killing our people, by [preventing] our children in southern Afghanistan from going to school, by killing the community leaders, the religious leaders, intimidating cultural leaders. By all means.

How strong are they now?

They would not be strong without support.

From Pakistan?

I've just had a very good trip to Pakistan, so what I would say is that Pakistan and Afghanistan and the United States and the rest of the world must join hands in sincerity in order to end this problem. They have to take [action]. They have to.
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Ottawa stumbles over transfer of Afghan prisoners
Fri Jan 25, 2008 5:42pm EST By David Ljunggren
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government stumbled on Friday over a decision to halt soldiers from handing over Afghan detainees to local authorities, first appearing to blame the military for not telling ministers and later withdrawing the remarks.

The incident is the latest controversy to affect Canada's 2,500-strong combat mission in southern Afghanistan, where 78 soldiers have died.

Polls show Canadians are split over the mission, which Ottawa wants to extend beyond the scheduled pull-out date of February 2009, and opposition parties accuse Ottawa of mismanagement.

The Conservative government -- which for months dismissed allegations that prisoners captured by Canadians had been abused in Afghan jails -- has been on the defensive since it emerged on Wednesday that the transfer of detainees had been halted in early November because of torture fears.
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Dion says he learned of detainee policy change during Afghan visit
Mike Blanchfield, Canwest News Service Published: Friday, January 25, 2008
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OTTAWA -- The Afghanistan prisoner controversy exploded Friday on the Harper Conservatives with Liberal Leader Stephane Dion's revelation that he was briefed weeks ago that Canada had stopped transferring battlefield detainees to Afghan custody.

Dion's disclosure came as the Afghan detainee affair rippled overseas to NATO headquarters, where Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has asked Canada to explain its Nov. 6 decision to quietly suspend handing over detainees captured by the Canadian Forces to the Afghan government.

That detainee policy shift - publicly disclosed this week in a Justice Department letter - appears to contravene NATO's guidelines that Afghan detainees must be transferred within 96 hours, Canwest News was told Friday.
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Afghanistan: Iran accused as mines are found in Taliban cache
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HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) — Iran was accused of supplying weapons to the Taliban after security forces found dozens of Iranian-made mines in a rebel cache in western Afghanistan.

Afghan police and intelligence agents raided a Taliban compound in Farah province on Thursday and discovered 130 mines, 60 of which were made in Iran, Farah governor Mohyiddin Balouch told AFP.

When asked who could be behind the supply of weapons he replied: "It is the Iran government." He added: "We have intelligence reports that these mines had recently entered Farah from Iran."

He said: "We know that there is a government in Iran which has controls over the borders. Without the knowledge of the Iranian government it is difficult to send weapons out."
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Charter covers prisoners, court told
PAUL KORING From Saturday's Globe and Mail January 25, 2008 at 11:57 PM EST
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OTTAWA — When Canadian troops marched into southern Afghanistan to wage war on the Taliban, they carried the constitutional embrace of the Charter with them, and its protections extend to prisoners they capture on distant battlefields, groups fighting the government in Federal Court argued yesterday.

At issue in the case, which is likely to be decided eventually by the Supreme Court, is whether prisoners captured by Canadian soldiers overseas have the right of recourse to Canadian courts to prevent, for example, their transfer to those who would torture or kill them.

The government argues that detainees are protected by international law and that it, not the Charter, governs whether generals running the war decide to transfer detainees.

Amnesty International Canada and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, seeking judicial review, claim that the Charter's reach extends to those held in prison camps and detention facilities run by the Canadian Forces.
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Prisoner transfer resume once Canada sees 'improvements' in Afghan jails: MacKay
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OTTAWA - Canada will resume handing over captured Taliban fighters to Afghan authorities as soon as the army is confident there is no risk of torture, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Saturday.

The agreement signed with President Hamid Karzai's government last May will be honoured, MacKay insisted at the end of a closed-door strategy session by the government caucus.

The handovers will recommence once "we see there are improvements... in the Afghan prison," he told reporters.

But MacKay was adamant that military commanders on the ground will make the determination as to whether conditions in Afghan jails are good enough to allow for transfers.

He threw a blanket of operational security around what criteria field commanders will use to make their decision.

"We are not going to give the Taliban our playbook," he said. "We are not going to discuss the things we are doing operationally."
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Kabul vetoes Ashdown envoy role
BBC, Jan. 26

Afghanistan has made it clear it does not want Paddy Ashdown to be the new United Nations envoy to the country.

The British peer served as the UN's High Representative and EU envoy to Bosnia from 2002 to 2005.

The Afghan ambassador to the UN told the BBC that while Lord Ashdown was held in high regard, he was not Kabul's preferred candidate.

Zahir Tanin said Afghanistan's choice would be General John McColl, Nato's deputy commander in Europe.

The British general served as the first head of the international security force in Afghanistan in 2002.

Mr Tanin said the Afghan government had been surprised to see Lord Ashdown being portrayed in the British media as the final choice for the post.

Lord Ashdown has not commented on the Afghan remarks.

'Negative atmosphere'

"A negative atmosphere was generated through the media inside and outside Afghanistan, particularly in Britain, which hit a lot of nerves and paved the way for misunderstanding and concerns," Mr Tanin told the BBC.

He said Afghanistan's new preferred candidate was "another British respected figure, General McColl".

"It was about thinking who is going to be more helpful and who is going to be more able to work with the Afghan government and with different elements of the international community in Afghanistan," said Mr Tanin.

Strained relations

The dispute over the appointment comes at a time of strained relations between Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and the West, says the BBC's diplomatic correspondent, James Robbins.

He says that although the UN, which will ultimately make the appointment, has not commented, the disagreement is an important symptom of far wider tensions between President Karzai and Britain.

The Afghan leader has recently criticised the performance of British troops fighting the Taliban in the restive Helmand Province.

He apparently sees Lord Ashdown as too strong a figure, who could look like a rival, our correspondent says.

Meanwhile, there is unease in London and Washington about the president's political authority, with the hope being that Lord Ashdown could help bolster the entire international effort in Afghanistan.


Articles found January 27, 2008

Canada volunteered for tougher Afghan duty
Article Link

MONTREAL -- Canada volunteered to lead NATO in the dangerous Afghan province of Kandahar, according to members of a panel that weighed in on the mission's future.

Panel leader John Manley told Montreal newspaper Le Devoir that British soldiers were originally set to deploy in the provinces of Kandahar and neighbouring Helmand.

But the former Liberal foreign affairs minister says Canada insisted on taking the reins in the volatile province and NATO accepted.

The report says the former Liberal government elected to transfer Canadian troops from the capital of Kabul to Kandahar in 2005.

Fellow panel member Paul Tellier told the newspaper that NATO allies suggested Canada take on a security role in a safer province.
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Ashdown pulls out of Afghan envoy contest
Sun Jan 27, 2008 10:50am GMT 
  Article Link

LONDON (Reuters) - Paddy Ashdown on Sunday withdrew from the contest to be United Nations' envoy to Afghanistan after Kabul said it favoured a British NATO commander for the post.

Violence in Afghanistan over the past two years has been the bloodiest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Islamist Taliban and there have been calls for a high-level envoy to coordinate with the Afghan government, and bodies such as NATO and the EU.

However diplomats say Afghan President Hamid Karzai is wary that a powerful "super-envoy", particularly one from former colonial power Britain, might make his government appear weaker than it already is.

"This job can only be done successfully on the basis of a consensus within the international community and the clear support of the government of Afghanistan," Ashdown said in a statement on Sunday.

"It is clear to me that, in Afghanistan at least, the support necessary to do the job effectively does not exist."

On Saturday, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations Zahir Tanin said Kabul wanted a British NATO commander, General John McColl, to become the U.N. envoy rather than Ashdown.
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Threat to Indians in Afghanistan
27 Jan 2008, 1604 hrs IST,PTI
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NEW DELHI: In the wake of recent terror attack on a convoy of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) workers in Afghanistan, the security of Indians engaged in reconstruction work in the trouble-torn country is being beefed up.

The security measures are being intensified by the Afghan government after a fresh assessment suggested increased threat to the Indians, particularly those engaged in construction of a crucial highway from Delaram to Zaranj.

The assessment of the threat was carried out by a two-member team of senior officials of External Affairs Ministry which went to Afghanistan.

The team, led by Joint Secretary (Afghanistan) T C A Raghavan, was sent in the backdrop of a suicide attack on a BRO convoy in South West Afghanistan earlier this month, in which two ITBP jawans guarding them were killed and five injured.

The team held detailed discussions with the officials of Afghan Foreign and Internal Security Ministries during which it came to be known that the threat to Indian workers was high, the sources said.
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Playing chicken with NATO
Manley’s prescription for Canada’s Afghan mission is to force European allies to step up
By MURRAY BREWSTER The Canadian Press Sun. Jan 27 - 7:13 AM
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THE UNITED STATES may be called on to help meet conditions set down by a blue-ribbon panel for Canada’s continued involvement in the Afghan war, but international observers say the government shouldn’t let European allies off the hook.

"It’s not very hard for NATO to come up with another 1,000 (troops) — it’s always been a question of political will, not capacity," said Paul Heinbecker, a former diplomat who represented Canada at the United Nations.

The panel, headed by former Liberal cabinet minister John Manley, recommended the Conservative government give its military partners until February next year to come up with another battle group — roughly 1,000 soldiers — to reinforce hard-pressed Kandahar province.

If such an assurance isn’t forthcoming, then the federal government should issue notice that Canada’s troops will be withdrawn.

"We need to be very direct with NATO," said Manley, who once served as foreign affairs minister.
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It's Ban Ki-moon's war
A letter of mine in the Globe and Mail (the title is theirs; mine was the one for this post):
By MARK COLLINS Saturday, January 26, 2008 – Page A22
Article Link

Pay heed to Mr. UN

Ottawa -- I find it curious that you chose to publish United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's article Being In Afghanistan Is Dangerous, Not Being In Afghanistan Is More Dangerous (Jan. 24) in the online edition only. Your general readership surely would have been interested in these words of his: "Our collective success depends on the continuing presence of the International Security Assistance Force, commanded by NATO and helping local governments in nearly every province to maintain security and carry out reconstruction projects."

In any event, Canadian politicians such as Jack Layton and Elizabeth May - who advocate having the UN take over the international military presence in Afghanistan - should pay close attention to the words of the UN's own Secretary-General. Though I doubt they will.
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Soldier Psychology
January 26th, 2008
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It’s freezing here in the great city of Toronto. When I lived in Manitoba, -10 would’ve seemed balmy, but I guess my pussification continues the deeper I get into my retirement.

Condolences from all of us to those survived by Cpl. Étienne Gonthier, a soldier who joined the 5ième régiment du Génie de Combat in Quebec in 2004, who died earlier this week.

The 21-year-old combat engineer was supposed to be headed back to Canada from Afghanistan on Friday morning. He is Canada’s 78th soldier killed in the operation in Afghanistan.

Nobody Asked Me But…
Why is it whenever there’s another casualty in Afghanistan we as a public are fed the same line over and over again that “the troops believe in the mission”?

Perhaps Alfred Lord Tennyson said it best in his poem The Charge of the Light Brigade: “Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die.”

Nobody blamed those gallant troopers for riding straight into the Russian cannons in a barren valley thousands of miles from England on the Crimean peninsula. That was the responsibility of their government, which had given the generals the task of achieving a goal believed to be in the national interest of Great Britain.

Somewhere along the line, our politicians, their cheerleaders and the Canadian media who relay their comments have forgotten that the role of soldiers is simply to do their duty.

I’ve mentioned it on this site before that a soldier doesn’t believe in the meaning of quit - so you’ll never get a sound bite that says - “Well after 78 casualties we think it’s pretty much time to conduct a maneuver I like to call the advance in reverse and get out of here.”

For soldiers, it will always suffice to explain their deployment in harm’s way by saying: “Because we’re here, lad.” That is because in order to do their job, they must firmly believe that the country whom they loyally serve have their interests at heart.
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Top Agents in Secret Trip to Pakistan
Article Link

WASHINGTON (AP) — The top two U.S. intelligence officials made a secret visit to Pakistan in early January to seek permission from President Pervez Musharraf for greater involvement of American forces in trying to ferret out al-Qaida and other militant groups active in the tribal regions along the Afghanistan border, a senior U.S. official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity given the secret nature of the talks, declined to disclose what was said, but Musharraf was quoted two days after the Jan. 9 meeting as saying U.S. troops would be regarded as invaders if they crossed into Pakistan to hunt al-Qaida militants.

The New York Times — which first reported on the secret visit by CIA Director Michael Hayden and Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence — said Musharraf rebuffed an expansion of an American presence in Pakistan at the meeting, either through overt CIA. missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan has been under growing U.S. pressure to crack down on militants in its tribal regions close to the Afghan border, a rugged area long considered a likely hiding place for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, as well as an operating ground for Taliban militants planning attacks on coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Several U.S. presidential candidates have hinted they would support unilateral action in the area.
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Fort Bragg soldier dies in Afghanistan
A staff report
Article Link

A Green Beret stationed at Fort Bragg died Friday after being struck by small-arms fire in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Robert J. Miller, 24, was killed near Barikowt, Afghanistan. He was part of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Airborne Group.

The Department of Defense said Miller died while conducting a combat operation. An airstrike using guided bombs helped eliminate the enemy, according to the Air Force.

He was born Oct. 14, 1983, in Harrisburg, Pa., but considered Iowa his home. He enlisted in the Army on Aug. 14, 2003, just after completing one year of college at the University of Iowa, his mother told The Gazette in Cedar Rapids.

Miller became a Special Forces soldier in 2005.

He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and was promoted to the rank of staff sergeant after he deployed in 2006.

He also was awarded the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, two Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, NATO Medal, Parachutists Badge, Ranger Tab and Special Forces Tab.
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washingtonpost.com, Jan. 27

With Taliban violence on the rise in Afghanistan and reports of government corruption marring his government's image, Afghan President Hamid Karzai finds himself embattled and on the defensive. Last week, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he spoke with Newsweek-Washington Post's Lally Weymouth about the Taliban and Pakistan, his government's challenges and its ties with Iran. Excerpts:

Q. How are the Taliban affecting you in Afghanistan?

A. By trying to prevent progress, by trying to prevent reconstruction, by killing our people, by [preventing] our children in southern Afghanistan from going to school, by killing the community leaders, the religious leaders, intimidating cultural leaders. By all means.

How strong are they now?

They would not be strong without support.

From Pakistan?

I've just had a very good trip to Pakistan, so what I would say is that Pakistan and Afghanistan and the United States and the rest of the world must join hands in sincerity in order to end this problem. They have to take [action]. They have to.

The last time I interviewed Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, I thought he was very angry. It's really a crazy situation in Pakistan.

Yes, very much. I found him to be more cognizant of the problems of extremism and terrorism. That's a good sign, and I hope we will continue in that direction.

Do you think Musharraf will do something about it, send forces into the problematic border areas ?

We have to end extremism. We have to end support for extremism in the region. Unless we do that, the picture is one of doom and gloom, for Pakistan, and as a consequence for Afghanistan...

The United States is sending 3,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Will that help?

I'm happy about that, yes. The American contribution to the war against terrorism is fundamental and strong.

Will it make a difference?

It will make a difference when the Americans are clear and straightforward about this fight.

What do you mean by that, Mr. President? "When the Americans are straightforward about the fight"?

They mean what they say. They do what they say.

You think they don't now?

They do now. Straight means they do now. Straight means they really are fighting it.

Do you think they're the right type of troops? Should they be special operations troops?

That's a professional issue. It has to be addressed by the military. What we need is the right number, the right quality and the right-equipped troops.

But you have a problem with foreign forces -- they have limits. The Germans, for example, won't go to the south [the Taliban stronghold].

That has to be settled within the countries of NATO. But we are happy for all the contributions the NATO members are making to Afghanistan. We don't get involved in the details of operations. That's the business of NATO.

Do you plan to have more Afghan troops in the future?

We are training them. We so far have trained 57,000 of our troops. We hope that this training will grow to a larger number and to a higher quality. We are satisfied so far with the training of our Afghan army and with the equipment that we have received from the United States. We hope there will be more. We just got the first consignment of our air wing in the Afghan Ministry of Defense -- that's helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. So that is something that we'd like to push forward.

Are there other things that you're asking the U.S. for?

We're asking for the United States to help us in training and equipping a proper army.

And do you feel that the United States is being responsive to your requests?

Quite. Yes, yes...

An Afghan Province Points the Way
Washington Post, Jan. 27, by David Ignatius

JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- Air Force Lt. Col. Gordon Phillips has logged 5,000 hours in AWACS surveillance planes, one of the high-tech weapons systems that made America such a dominant power against conventional adversaries. But these days, Phillips is very much down on the ground, heading a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) here that's working with villagers to build dams, roads and schools.

Phillips's unlikely role illustrates the dilemma facing the U.S. military: The conventional wars it's good at fighting aren't the ones it's encountering in Iraq, Afghanistan and other unstable areas. The ideal modern warrior has to be something between a Peace Corps volunteer and a Special Forces commando.

The United States seems to be doing most things right here in Nangahar province, on Afghanistan's eastern border, and gaining some leverage in its fight against terrorism. This used to be Taliban country. Pakistan is just east, across the Khyber Pass. To the south are the rugged, snow-capped peaks of the Tora Bora mountains, into which Osama bin Laden fled in late 2001. These days, there are occasional roadside bombings and suicide attacks in the province, but some people have to stop and think a moment to remember the last one.

Success here results from an interesting mix of political and military factors. There's a strong local leader in the provincial governor, Gul Agha Shirzai. This gentleman is not a paragon of democracy; to be frank, he's a warlord. He rules the province with a firm hand, and with a personal fortune that U.S. officials estimate at about $300 million, he has the money to make political deals work.

The American contribution to stability in Jalalabad is twofold. First, there's the PRT effort. With its focus on economic development, the team is reaching out to the very people whose support the Taliban insurgents need to survive. I talked with a local cleric named Mullawi Abdul-Aziz, a small, dark man whose face is creased by the sun. He was once friendly with the Taliban, but he now serves as deputy chief of the provincial council and meets twice a week with Shawn Waddoups, a State Department officer on the PRT. The mullah says he ignores Afghans who criticize him for being too friendly with the Americans.

A second component of U.S. success here is the low-visibility but high-impact mix of combat and intelligence operations. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Milhorn leads a team that seeks, as he puts it, to "tighten down the gate" at the Pakistani border. He's aided by some very high-tech biometric equipment that's being used to check the movement of known insurgents.

When you visit places like Jalalabad and see things working the way they're supposed to, there's always a disconnect with what you've been reading and hearing about the larger war...

Ex-Pakistani Official Says Policy on Taliban Is Failing
NY Times, Jan. 27

SHERPAO, Pakistan — In the walled courtyard of the modest whitewashed mosque, a suicide bomber worked his way into in the middle of a packed congregation and unleashed his explosives during prayers last month, killing 53 villagers and wounding 143 others.

The target of the attack, the former interior minister, Aftab Khan Sherpao (pronounced Share-POW), whose ancestral village sits at the foothills of the tribal region where the Taliban and their partners in Al Qaeda roam largely unfettered, was left unscathed.

But the second attack in eight months on Mr. Sherpao, 64, who was until recently his nation’s most senior law enforcement official, left him more frustrated and more outspoken about the failure of the government to respond aggressively to the rapidly spreading Taliban insurgency that is seeking to destabilize Pakistan.

The weakness of the Pakistani police and the army response to determined and religiously motivated Taliban fighters was allowing the insurgency to get stronger day by day, he said.

“The police are scared,” Mr. Sherpao said. “They don’t want to get involved.” The Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that could help in tracking down leads on suicide bombers, was “too stressed, fighting all over,” he said. The Pakistan Army has forces in the tribal areas where the militants have built their sanctuaries but the soldiers have remained in their headquarters. “They are not moving around,” he said. “That’s their strategy.”..

Pakistan Rebuffs Secret U.S. Plea for C.I.A. Buildup
NY Times, Jan. 27

The top two American intelligence officials traveled secretly to Pakistan early this month to press President Pervez Musharraf to allow the Central Intelligence Agency greater latitude to operate in the tribal territories where Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups are all active, according to several officials who have been briefed on the visit.

But in the unannounced meetings on Jan. 9 with the two American officials — Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the C.I.A. director — Mr. Musharraf rebuffed proposals to expand any American combat presence in Pakistan, either through unilateral covert C.I.A. missions or by joint operations with Pakistani security forces.

Instead, Pakistan and the United States are discussing a series of other joint efforts, including increasing the number and scope of missions by armed Predator surveillance aircraft over the tribal areas, and identifying ways that the United States can speed information about people suspected of being militants to Pakistani security forces, officials said.

American and Pakistani officials have questioned each other in recent months about the quality and time lines of information that the United States has given to Pakistan to use in focusing on those extremists. American officials have complained that the Pakistanis are not seriously pursuing Al Qaeda in the region.

The Jan. 9 meetings, the first visit with Mr. Musharraf by senior administration officials since the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, also included the new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the director of Pakistan’s leading military intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj. American officials said the visit was prompted by an increasing sense of urgency at the highest levels of the United States government that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts to destabilize the Pakistani government.

The C.I.A. has fired missiles from Predator aircraft in the tribal areas several times, with varying degrees of success. Intelligence officials said they believed that in January 2006 an airstrike narrowly missed killing Ayman al-Zawahri, the second-ranking Qaeda leader, who had attended a dinner in Damadola, a Pakistani village.

Pakistani authorities, in interviews, say they have more than 100,000 troops operating in the region, including a sizable force conducting what they said was a major offensive in South Waziristan. But in the White House, the Pentagon and the C.I.A., frustrations remain high, and there is concern that Mr. Musharraf’s political problems will distract him from what the administration regards as its last chance to take aggressive action...

Pakistan says its nuclear weapons are secure
A top official says there is no way a bomb could fall into the hands of extremists.

LA Times, Jan. 27

Facing mounting international concern over how Pakistan safeguards its nuclear arsenal, military officials Saturday insisted that their system was fail-safe and that the weapons would never fall into the hands of extremists.

Retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai said his nation's nuclear security apparatus is "second to none," with a strictly controlled military chain of command, checks and balances, and monitoring of scientists and others with sensitive knowledge.

"There is no conceivable scenario that Pakistan's military weapons are going to fall into the hands of extremists," he told foreign journalists in a briefing at the Chaklala military garrison here. "The weapons are absolutely safe and secure."

Kidwai, who heads the Strategic Plans Division, which oversees Pakistan's nuclear program, acknowledged that officials had become more alert to threats posed from within the volatile South Asian nation, including political turmoil and a rising terrorist threat. Some international experts have questioned whether Pakistan's security is adequate to prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of extremists.

The country was shaken by the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto last month, an attack that many here believe was carried out by government forces. The crime is under investigation, though officials have blamed Taliban militants. Meanwhile, the military has been battling Taliban and other Islamic extremists along the Afghan border.

President Pervez Musharraf, on an eight-day trip to Europe, has faced questions about Pakistan's nuclear program. He has said that the only way weapons could become endangered is if religious militants were to rout the army or come to power in elections. He said neither was "remotely possible."

Pakistan's nuclear question has been an issue in U.S. presidential debates. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested that Pakistan's estimated 50 nuclear warheads should be safeguarded by a joint U.S.-British security team.

On Saturday, Kidwai said Pakistan's arsenal was in the safe hands of 10,000 soldiers who secure facilities and provide intelligence under a control system headed by top military and political leaders...

US Official: Modern Afghan Air Force Is Years Away
Voice of America, Jan. 24

The American officer responsible for helping develop an Afghan Air Force says the small corps is growing steadily, but will not be ready to even begin participating in combat operations for about five years. The officer, Brigadier General Jay Lindell, spoke from Kabul to reporters at the Pentagon Thursday, and VOA's Al Pessin reports.

The aircraft are all old Soviet-or Russian-made models, and the Afghan military pilots are old, too, as pilots go. General Lindell reports their average age is 43. He says they are very experienced on the aircraft they fly, but they do not fly at night or in bad weather, and he says many of the 180 Afghan Army pilots have not flown for years, some for more than a decade.

General Lindell says developing a modern Afghan Air Force will be a long project, involving buying more and newer aircraft and training hundreds of new pilots, starting with English lessons.

"It's not just air frames that we have to acquire, it's obviously the training of the pilots in this close air support role. It's the development of the inter-operation with the Afghan Army," said Lindell. "We're making the plans right now on how we will do that, and we hope to have that capability developed in the year 13 (2013)."

General Lindell says the Afghan Air Force will be recruiting dozens of new pilots in the coming years, and sending them to the United States for training. While the current pilots fly older aircraft, with nearly 50 more planes and helicopters being purchased from several countries during the next few years, the new recruits will prepare for a leap into high technology aviation.

Current Afghan air operations are limited to transporting troops and supplies. Soon, General Lindell says, the corps will add medical evacuation flights. But he says it will take years to develop the capabilities needed to contribute directly to combat and counterinsurgency operations.

"Initially, what we envision, it'll be a U.S.-led squadron as we train the Afghans how to do close air support and how to integrate with the ground forces in the close air support mission," he added.

Some Afghan leaders have expressed a desire to move more quickly to air combat operations. But General Lindell says there is now agreement on how to proceed.

He says even when the Afghan Air Force moves into combat, it will use a relatively simple aircraft, packed with some 21st century technology.

"What we are looking at is a single-engine turbo-prop type aircraft, probably it'll be a two pilot type aircraft," added General Lindell.  "It'll be precision ordnance capable. It'll have a laser designation capability. And we're also looking for a net-centric type aircraft that will be integrated through data link to other aircraft or a joint information operations center. So we plan to bring this air corps up to date with western technology.
[emphasis added--"net-centric"?!?]"..

General Shares Successes, Challenges of Afghan Air Corps
Armed Forces Press Service, Jan. 24
The air corps now has four Antonov fixed-wing transport planes and 16 Mi-17 and Mi-35 helicopters. The general said the force will receive 16 more Mi-17, six more Mi-35 helicopters, and four more Antonovs in the next six months. The air corps also will buy 20 C-27A Spartan aircraft, with the first set to arrive in June 2009 [emphasis added]...


Articles found January 28, 2008

It's called War
Article Link

We’ve watched “Flags of Our Fathers” this weekend that has been disturbing me since. I’ve been thinking about the reason why. Besides the obvious reason of not understanding so much hatred towards people (because of religious beliefs, colour etc.) I realised that what was bugging me was something else.

One of the things I hate about a lot of people nowadays is the fact that they don’t take responsibilities for their actions. A lot of us expect the government, our officials, or even society in general to “think” for us. We relinquish our powers, our ability to think and to do something. Granted, it is much easier to deal with, than having to think for ourselves. A while back I had seen this reportage about parents of military guys. They had interviewed this mother who was all pro-war, and about how wonderful the army had been for her son. The reporter went back a few months later, after her son had been killed in the Middle East. By then she had turned anti-Bush, anti-war, and the army was the worst thing ever. I don’t get that. I really don’t. The army didn’t change. Their weapons have, the way they fight as well, but the fact remains the same; in a war people die.

I don’t want to offend anybody, nor do I want to diminish in anyway what’s happening but I have to say it. Last week there were a lot of newscasts about this military guy, from the Valcartier base who died in Afghanistan. It was all over the news. His death brought the total number of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the mission began in 2002 to 77. We are in a war, and 77 soldiers are dead. Seventy-seven. Why are we making such a big deal about this? Those men were volunteers; they didn’t joined because they had to but because they chose to. When I think about all the men who died during WWII, not by choice, but because their country told them to… I can’t help to wonder if during those years if every single death created such turmoil… I have my doubts about that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m thankful there are men & women out there willing to do this for my, our protection. This weekend I couldn’t help to feel as if the lives of all those fallen before weren’t as “valuable” as those of today’s soldiers. That seriously bothers me. I’ve been to Pearl Harbour and was moved. There was something there that I had not felt before. I’m happy I went and paid my respect to those valiant, courageous people. They deserve as much respect and “publicity” as today’s soldiers.

When I think of Normandie or even Iwo Jima, I can't help to think of the carnage those guys ran into, and yet...I can't hep to think that it is amazing that since 2002 only 77 soldiers lost their lives in Afghanistan. Are we that naïve that we don’t expect our soldiers to get shot at nor to die? Why is it that we, as a nation, find ourselves at war, and expect no casualties? Why is that?
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Sifting out the Afghan 'bad guys'
Taliban not sole danger to leader
Brian Hutchinson, National Post  Published: Monday, January 28, 2008
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ARGHANDAB DISTRICT, Afghanistan - They come at him from all directions.

Agents of the Taliban, who would not hesitate to kill him, if they could get close enough. Tribal rivals who openly defy his authority, or pretend to curry favour while undermining his authority. Villagers begging for his assistance, an indulgence or a command.

Today, inside a walled compound protected by rifle-toting guards, Kalimullah Naqibi, 26, is besieged by angry elders. They are visibly upset that 50 of their local men were arrested last week on suspicion of insurgent activity and hauled off to a police station for interrogation.

The new leader of Arghandab district, which lies just to the north of Kandahar city, Mr. Naqibi fiddles with a string of yellow worry beads and listens politely before gently shooing away the elders.

"It is sad a thing," he said after they have left. "But one of our police commanders said it would be a good idea to round up these 50 suspects. So I agreed. We are trying to find the bad guys. We are being cautious."

With good reason. Mr. Naqibi is still stinging from deadly attacks by Taliban insurgents, launched soon after his famous predecessor -- his father, Mullah Naqib -- died of a heart attack in October.

Seeking to exploit Mullah Naqib's passing and seize an important route from the fertile Arghandab valley south to Kandahar city, 300 Taliban fighters with 300 reinforcements poured into the district. There was little resistance. The Arghandab was theirs.
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So now what do we do with prisoners?
Jan 27, 2008 04:30 AM Michelle Shephard National Security Reporter
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Since 9/11, questions about torture and who's doing it have been deftly sidestepped and hotly debated. Recent events have dragged Canada deeper into the fray

At a rally in Iowa last year, U.S. presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani told voters that he supported "aggressive questioning" of terrorism suspects and "using means that are a little tougher."

What about waterboarding, the process whereby CIA agents have simulated drowning by pouring water over the hooded head of a terrorism suspect to get them to talk, someone asked? Wasn't that torture?

Giuliani wasn't sure. "I'd have to see what the real – what they really are doing. Not the way some of these liberal newspapers have exaggerated it."

Then, without pausing, he continued: "Now the question of torture. We should not torture. America should not stand for torture. America should not allow torture."

The voters clapped.
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8 Taliban killed in clash with police in southern Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A clash between police and the Taliban in a mountainous area of southern Afghanistan left eight militants dead and three officers wounded, a police chief said Monday.

The battle in Dihrawud district of Uruzgan province started Saturday and carried over into Sunday, said Juma Gul Himat, a provincial police chief. The authorities recovered the bodies of the dead militants alongside their weapons, Himat said.
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UN, NATO co-ordinator may not be magic bullet
TheStar.com - January 28, 2008 Olivia Ward FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER
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Strong hand needed in Afghanistan, but whose?

The Manley report on Canada's future in Afghanistan focuses on our national debate over Canadian troops in the war-torn country.

But it also points to the United Nations' crucial but often disorganized role in helping Afghanistan survive, rebuild and evolve as a society. What's needed, the report says, is a new kind of "high-level representative to lead and co-ordinate both the UN and NATO commitments" for better links between the two international pillars.

And, panel chair John Manley told the Star, "we see a lot of meetings being held and nothing happens. Actions may be well intentioned, but they're not achieving success."

Case in point would be Britain's Lord Paddy Ashdown, known in Bosnia as "Paddy Crashdown," for his zeal in clearing out corrupt, seditious and obstructive officials.

Ashdown had been wooed by the UN to fill the job recently vacated by German special representative Tom Koenigs.

But news of the mooted appointment unsettled Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who knew Ashdown's reputation for hands-on management.

Ashdown said he accepted the job in mid-January after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked him to be overall co-ordinator of international aid, government and political efforts in Afghanistan.
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Harper must do more for Canadian forces and their families
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Conservatives focusing more on military hardware and length of the mission to Afghanistan than on the welfare of troops and their loved ones at home

Ottawa (28 Jan. 2008) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) says the Harper government must provide more support for Canadian forces in Afghanistan and take steps to improve the quality of life for their families back home.

National Union President James Clancy has written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging the government to change its priorities in the wake of revelations by outgoing military ombudsmen Yves Côté and recommendations contained in the report from the advisory committee led by John Manley.

"The National Union agrees with Messrs. Côté and Manley that our troops deserve the best in material and social support that our country can offer them. It is no small matter to choose to serve in our military and we must commit to seeing that they are treated well," Clancy writes.

"Unfortunately, as both Messrs. Côté and Manley have indicated, our government has not adequately provided necessary support to our troops or their families.

"Mr. Côté has reported that his office has dealt with far too many families who have faced too much opposition when dealing with either the death or injury of a loved one or when accessing necessary support services. Our country must do better."

Clancy said the Harper Conservatives have established a pattern of allocating money "quickly and easily" for military hardware, and for lengthening the mission in Afghanistan, but they tend to support forces and their families only when embarrassed into doing so.

The National Union remains critical of the continuing presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan.

"The National Union disagrees with the report from the Manley advisory panel on the necessity of Canadian troops staying in Afghanistan," Clancy says.
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Aid worker's captors still unknown
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No one has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of an American aid worker who was snatched from her car on the outskirts of Kandahar Saturday morning, officials with her aid organization in Afghanistan said Sunday.

Cyd Mizell was snatched from a residential area of Kandahar while on her way to work.

Gunmen grabbed Cyd Mizell and her Afghan driver from a residential neighborhood in the southern Afghanistan province.

Her captors have not yet contacted her employer, Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, the group said on its Web site.

"This is a first for our organization and we're really praying for a quick resolution," said Jeff Palmer, international director for the foundation.

A spate of kidnappings have gripped Afghanistan recently, including the abduction of 23 South Korean Christian aid workers and a German woman last year.

To protect themselves, many foreigners have taken to driving around Kandahar with armed guards. Mizell, however, was not being escorted by private or government security, said Zmarai Bashiri, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry.

She "trusted the Afghan nation and respected them," Asadullah Khalid, Kandahar's provincial governor, is quoted as saying on the foundation's Web site. "That's why she was traveling without security guards and actually she didn't ask for security."
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Minn. soldier dies in Afghanistan after possible friendly fire
The Associated Press - Monday, January 28, 2008 MINNEAPOLIS
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Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Ryan Kahler decided he would be a soldier when he was just 10 years old, and he was on his third tour of duty when he was killed in Afghanistan, his father said.

The 29-year-old Granite Falls native died Saturday from possible friendly fire. The U.S. Department of Defense said Sunday that Kahler died in FOB Fenty, Afghanistan, after being shot in Waygul, Afghanistan.

According to the department, an Afghan guard allied with U.S. forces possibly mistook Kahler as an enemy combatant and engaged with small arms fire. The incident was being investigated.

Kahler was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.
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Don't Open a Third Front in Pakistan
washingtonpost.com, Jan. 28, by William Arkin

U.S. intelligence and national security officials now readily admit that al Qaeda is back, and that it together with a growing fundamental Taliban movement is flourishing in parts of Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan. The simple explanation is that the growth is the result of the Iraq war and its drain on our resources, military and intellectual. The solution most favored inside and outside government in Washington is a shift in resources back to the original post 9/11 battlefield, and indeed we are already witnessing new deals being made with the government in Islamabad to bolster the counter-terror effort.

If conventional wisdom takes hold that the Pakistan resurgence is purely the product of an ill-conceived Iraq war, we will not only set ourselves on a faulty course for fighting in the future, but we will fail to understand the actual mistakes we have made in Iraq and Afghanistan, mistakes we could now repeat in Pakistan.

Here is the crisis as it stands in South Asia: We have a central Afghan government facing deepening domestic instability and a Pakistan that threatens to descend into disorder. The al Qaeda organization is retooled and resurgent.

Before the conclusion is drawn then that all that is needed is a Pakistani surge and a shift in resources back to the beginning, let's be honest about what happened in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

First Afghanistan: In late 2001, with the Taliban government in Afghanistan surprisingly and easily defeated, and with al Qaeda on the run, Rumsfeld and company, and the U.S. military particularly in the form of Gen. Tommy Franks, came to the conclusion that the "military" mission was over. So delighted were they with dodging a Soviet-style quagmire and so impressed were they with their lightning military success, they truly believed that the mop up was both minor and easy. No one at the top of the military food chain then believed that there was a long war ahead, and if anyone thought that that "war" was going to need the full participation of the non-military side of American power, no one was clearly articulating it. These were the days when Donald Rumsfeld's description of American fighting a new kind of war focused on Special Forces riding on horseback using laptops to call in air strikes not democracy and other slogans that would later emerge.

The bottom line was a poor assessment of the enemy and an error in understanding our own military achievement.

...the failure was that we didn't understand what happened in Afghanistan, and we continued to ignore that the "enemy" wasn't going to be vanquished at the barrel of a gun. In fact, quite the opposite: The more conventional military might we threw at Iraq and Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa and elsewhere -- the more forces we stuffed into the region in the Gulf states and the Caucasus - the more we activated latent forces of discontent and hatred. U.S. military forces now "occupy" a half dozen Muslim countries in the region, and I can't help but think what many see are uniforms of subjugation and killing...

The danger of the U.S. military becoming more engaged in Pakistan now is not only that once again we are walking into a new country and a new culture that we don't understand, but also that we are leading with our military, thus connoting, no matter how modulated and sensitive that force will be, that we are on the path to yet another occupation, yet the other irony of our back to the future strategy to focus on Pakistan is also that militarily we will hardly commit the number of forces needed to make any short-term difference.

The administration's increasingly public expressions of concern about Pakistan reflect intelligence reports of a gathering storm. Ultimately though, our best military strategy is getting out of the way and assisting Pakistan to deal with the problem. If Washington wants to put more resources into the fight, than bolster the U.S. presence at the border in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is not waiting in some trench line to fight us; they are waiting for us to blunder into yet another country so that they can once again scatter, while proving America's military crusade.

Articles found January 29, 2008

Detainee fallout: take few, free quickly
Details of new policy – and top soldier's outrage – emerge as government ministers refuse comment, citing operational secrecy
MICHAEL VALPY From Tuesday's Globe and Mail January 29, 2008 at 2:00 AM EST
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The Canadian Forces are holding insurgent detainees at their Kandahar Air Force base rather than turning them over to Afghan authorities, are taking fewer prisoners and are quickly releasing some of them.

The information, provided to The Globe and Mail by sources, answers questions about Canada's new policy for handling detainees that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other ministers repeatedly refused to provide Monday, citing the need for combat operational secrecy.

Reports have also emerged that General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, was furious with the Prime Minister's Office's handling of the military's new policy and angrily telephoned Mr. Harper Friday night after letting it be known he was “tired of being used” in political controversy.

After the revelation last week that Canadians ceased turning detainees over to the Afghan authorities in early November after discovering credible evidence of torture, the Prime Minister's Office initially said it hadn't been informed of this by senior officers.
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Tearful goodbyes as latest group of soldiers get ready to head to Afghanistan
January 28, 2008 - 18:41 By: Martin Ouellet, THE CANADIAN PRESS
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CFB VALCARTIER, Que. - Karine Duchaine clutched her seven-month-old infant and looked longingly at her husband Monday, knowing he'll soon be heading to Afghanistan for six months.

"I don't find it easy," Duchaine said. "Nobody wants to see their partner go away for six months but when you live with someone who's in the Forces, you have to expect this kind of thing."

Her husband, Mathieu Gagnon, is one of about 100 soldiers from CFB Valcartier, near Quebec City, who will go to the wartorn country in mid-February to help colleagues based in Shilo, Man., and Edmonton.

Their mission will be to take over from 2,300 Valcartier-based soldiers whose tour of duty is ending.

Marie-Eve Loof, whose husband Yannick Hebert will also be on the mission, said she is confident he will return safely.

"They've been trained and they know the proper techniques to use," Loof said.

"What happens happens but I'm confident. There is a lot of support here to help us."

Provincial Health Minister Philippe Couillard and Quebec City Mayor Regis Labaume attended Monday's ceremony.
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Harper Accepts Manley Panel Report
Josh Pringle Monday, January 28, 2008
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The Federal Government is set to press NATO for more help for Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced the Federal Conservatives accept the Manley panel's "specific recommendation of extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan if, and I must emphasize if, certain conditions are met."

The five member panel headed by former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister John Manley recommended that Canada extend the mission in Afghanistan past the current February 2009 expiry date, if two conditions are met.

The report calls on NATO to find one-thousand soldiers to help Canadian soldiers in the Kandahar region, and the military must expedite the purchase of battlefield helicopters and surveillance aircraft.

Harper told reporters in Ottawa "Canada has done what it said it would do and more. We now say we need help. If NATO can't come through with that help, then frankly I think NATO's own reputation and future will be in grave jeopardy."

The Prime Minister says government officials will launch a diplomatic effort before the NATO meetings in April to meet the conditions in the report.
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NATO Needs More Intel on Afghanistan
By LOLITA C. BALDOR and ROBERT BURNS – 16 hours ago
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Military commanders are looking for more surveillance and other intelligence gathering systems to help aid the fight in Afghanistan, the top NATO commander said Monday.

Gen. John Craddock, who also is chief of U.S. European Command, said that while the U.S. currently provides much of the eye-in-the-sky capabilities — which include unmanned aircraft — other allied nations could also contribute needed sensors and other technologies.

"There is an increased requirement for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," Craddock said during an interview with The Associated Press.

Craddock's comments come as commanders begin to put together their list of troop and equipment needs from the allies in advance of a NATO meeting next month. Last year Craddock presented NATO ministers with a plan that called for several thousand additional troops, as well as helicopters and other equipment needs.

This year, he said the updated request likely would include surveillance capabilities, as well as some troop shifts on the battlefield, which he did not detail.

The problem, Craddock said, is the ongoing competition for what he called the "unblinking eye" — often provided by unmanned aircraft such as Global Hawks and Predators.
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Iraq aid boost to follow troop withdrawal
Anne Davies, Washington January 29, 2008 - 8:59AM
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Australia will step up its civilian commitments of aid and expertise to help with the reconstruction of both Iraq and Afghanistan while winding back its military presence in Iraq, Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith has announced.

Mr Smith made the announcement to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Vice President Dick Cheney on his first official visit to Washington since the Rudd Government's election last year.

High on his agenda was explaining Australia's decision to withdraw its combat troops from Iraq, which he said would be achieved by mid year.

But Mr Smith told Ms Rice Australia was willing to increase its efforts when when it came to helping reconstruction in the two war-torn countries, whether that be through rebuilding infrastructure, increasing aid or providing expertise to help fortify the institutions of government.

"We came to office in November last year with our longstanding commitment that we would withdraw our combat troops from Iraq by the middle of this year," he said at a press briefing after the meeting.
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Kabul residents 'on edge' 
By  Zeina Khodr in Kabul
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The attack on the Serena hotel in Kabul has raised security concerns in the Afghan capital [EPA]

Kabul, the Afghan capital, has changed over the past two weeks since the Taliban penetrated the heavily guarded Serena hotel and killed up to eight people, including a Norwegian journalist.

While the attack hasn't led to an exodus, Westerners who are living in this city and didn't have many security worries are now on edge.

"We aren't panicking but we are watching to see if the situation deteriorates further," Anna Woodiwiss of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, an international non-governmental organisation, told Al Jazeera.

"Of course, as foreigners, we are thinking much more about where we travel ... where we are staying ... and we are trying to be pragmatic and cautious about our security."
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Afghanistan's Die-Hard Governor
Key U.S. Ally In Border Region Has Defied Assassins 3 Times, But They'll Be Back
KHOST, Eastern Afghanistan, Jan. 29, 2008
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(CBS) This story was written by CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick, embedded with U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's eastern Paktia and Khost provinces.

The U.S. military's key ally in Afghanistan's Khost Province is the Taliban's number one target.

"The Governor? That guys needs to watch his back," laughs a soldier who is helping provide protection for Khost Gov. Arsala Jamal at a ribbon cutting for a new power grid.

Security is very tight.

Afghan police snipers man the roofs of nearby buildings, nearby roads have been closed off to traffic and American and Afghan soldiers surround the building where the ceremony will take place. They search it thoroughly before anyone is allowed inside.

Last year, a suicide bomber in a lab coat penetrated security at the dedication for a new hospital wing in Khost, a province along eastern Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

Gov. Jamal arrives at the last minute, rushed in by a convoy of SUVs. His Afghan security personnel prevent anyone from getting close to him as he enters the building.
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10 militants killed in Pakistan
Mark Tran and agencies Tuesday January 29, 2008 Guardian Unlimited
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At least 10 suspected militants were killed when a missile struck a house in north-west Pakistan, officials said today.
The attack took place after midnight in Torkhali, a village in North Waziristan, a tribal region bordering Afghanistan, near the town of Mir Ali.

An intelligence official said six of the dead were Pakistani militants and four were foreigners. Violence has intensified in north-west Pakistan in recent weeks. Most of the fighting has been in South Waziristan, which also lies along the Afghan border.
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Facing reality of counterinsurgency war print this article
The struggle in Afghanistan will take a long time, and 'victory' isn't guaranteed

hfxnews.ca, Jan. 29, by Brian Flemming

Getting into a counterinsurgency war - as opposed to a conventional one, such as the Second World War - is like becoming involved in an illicit love affair: easy to get into but difficult to get out of...

Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's most popular chief of the defence staff in eons, is a truth teller - when his political masters allow him to be one. He once said the Afghan struggle would take a very long time, probably decades.

When he and Canada's soldiers in Kandahar watch Ottawa's political elite - from all parties - dance to the music of the polls, and fail to grasp that it's insane to put artificial time limits on our mission, Hillier must be tempted to hang a sign in his office that says: "War is too important to be left to the politicians."

Military experts say counterinsurgencies since the Second World War have lasted an average of about 10 years. All required the continual convincing of local governments of the staying power of the military aid-givers, like Canada in Afghanistan.

Protecting civilians

And a key mission for those fighting insurgents such as the Taliban is to protect civilians - especially those helping the counterinsurgency - from being systematically slaughtered. Intelligence must also be gathered from locals if the mission is to have any chance of succeeding. Both objectives require real commitments of time and resources.

John Manley's elegant report to Prime Minister Stephen Harper recognizes the difficulty of waging the kind of war Canada is fighting in one of the world's poorest places. But Afghanistan is important. It absorbs this country's largest foreign-aid commitment - $7 billion so far, and counting...

Manley has bought Harper time before he must ask Parliament what to do about the Canadian mission. But all of Harper's options require the leadership qualities last summer's Conservative "attack" TV ads denounced Stephane Dion for not having. Lately, Harper himself has shown few of those qualities.

When Harper heads for Bucharest in April to beard NATO, he should, with passion, put Canada's prestige - bought with buckets of blood - on the line and remind NATO how the Afghan proxy war against the Soviet Empire partly ended the Cold War and prevented thousands of Soviet tanks from roaring across Europe's central plains.

Demonstrate leadership

In thanks for that achievement alone, NATO members should be sending tens of thousands, not 1,000, combat troops to stand beside Canada.

To demonstrate leadership, Harper should immediately appoint a "super-ambassador" for Afghanistan who would report directly to him and to a new special cabinet committee that should be formed to advise him on the most complex policy challenge any Canadian PM has had to face in recent years.

A new openness could pay big dividends for Harper. It might even lead to a retooling of his anal, anti-media communications office.


Report showing Afghan National Army, Canadians and Gurkhas in action.
NATO Asks Germany to Send Combat Troops to Afghanistan
Spiegel Online, Jan. 29

NATO has formally asked Germany to provide combat troops to replace the Norwegian Quick Reaction Force in northern Afghanistan. With Canada warning it will pull out if there is not more support from its NATO allies, the German military may see its role in the country change significantly.

Germany may have managed to avoid the most dangerous fighting in Afghanistan so far, but with NATO asking it to send in combat troops and Canada threatening to withdraw if more allies don't come south, that may not be for long.

NATO has officially requested that Germany send combat troops to Afghanistan, a German Defense Ministry spokesman confirmed Tuesday. The request had been expected for some weeks and the German government had already indicated that it is ready to send the combat troops.

NATO is asking for up to 250 German soldiers to take over from the Norwegian Quick Reaction Force, which is stationed in the north of Afghanistan and is due to end its mission at the beginning of the summer. The Norwegian force has been responsible for providing security to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in the north.

The German government is expected to make its final decision at the beginning of February, and already insists that such a deployment is covered by the current mandate for Afghanistan. It says that the deployment would not differ fundamentally from the tasks currently carried out by the 3,500 German soldiers in relatively peaceful northern Afghanistan (more...).
However, there have been concerns in Germany that this could mark a significant change in the role of the Bundeswehr, or German military, from the reconstruction and training tasks it has carried out up to now.

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, paying a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Tuesday, said a final decision had not been made [emphasis added]. He held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak and met with the ISAF commander Dan McNeill (more...), who said that a German mission in the north of the country would be an important contribution...

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