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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread July 2008

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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread July 2008              

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

Grey Cup arrives in Afghanistan
Doug Schmidt, Canwest News Service  Published: Monday, June 30, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Canadian Forces Capt. Ryan Matthies stood back in disbelief, seemingly trying to comprehend what he had just done.

"Dude . . . I just touched the cup!" the soldier said, staring at his hands.

When it was the turn for fellow officer Capt. Kent Judiesch to approach the venerable Grey Cup, he balked and remained at a respectful distance.

"It's holy, I can't get any closer," said Judiesch.

The iconic Grey Cup is making its first visit to the troops in Kandahar for this year's Canada Day celebrations.

Matthies and Judiesch weren't the only football fanatics who got up close and personal with the holy grail of the CFL when it was unpacked Monday night local time at Canada House. But the pair had special reason to rejoice - both are Saskatchewan natives and lifelong fans of the Roughriders, the defending Grey Cup champs.

Both were children, but claim to remember, the most previous time the "green and white" brought home the trophy in 1989.

"This brings tears to my eyes," Roughrider legend and CFL hall of famer Roger Aldag, a beefy veteran offensive guard who owns a Grey Cup ring from that 1989 game, said of the manly display of affection.
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Why Gen. Hillier was so loved by his troops
George Petrolekas, Citizen Special Published: Tuesday, July 01, 2008
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He was our own JFK; a man who stirred our emotions and hopes like no other CDS before him.

While many pundits have sought to define the tenure of departing Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Rick Hillier, in the oblique forms of masterminding our Afghanistan role or the re-equipment of the Canadian Forces, such opinions miss the essence of the man. And while those are things he certainly had a hand in, his tenure is better marked by the words of soldiers who wistfully mark his passage with regret that their greatest champion has left.

I first became close to the general as he prepared to take over the NATO mission in Kabul. At the time, I was acting as his point man for the Canadian team of officers and soldiers that would dominate the NATO mission in 2004. The first day he met his international staff, he disdained the norms and, instead of lecturing, he launched into a two-way dialogue with every single person regardless of national provenance and linguistic ability. Quite something in a span of three hours with more than 300 people in the room. But magically, he was able to do so and thus made everyone feel important and a part of what they were about to embark on.
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NATO, Pakistan troops eliminate several militants along Afghanistan-Pakistan border 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-07-01 12:54:43   
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    KABUL, July 1 (Xinhua) -- The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in coordination with the Pakistan military killed several insurgents along the Afghanistan border on Tuesday, said an ISAF statement.

    An ISAF outpost based in the Spera district of eastern Afghanistan's Khost province was attacked by rebel's rockets, the statement said.

    The ISAF, according to the statement, responded with mortar, artillery fire and close air support, killing several militants.

    The fleeing militants crossed into Pakistan where ISAF forces thus coordinated with the Pakistan border force firing artillery on the retreating insurgents inside Pakistan, it said.

    There were no non-combatant casualties on ISAF or Pakistan forces reported, it added.

    Attacks on international troops are on the rise during past weeks spreading from the south to the east, while Taliban militants continue to demonstrate their strength through suicide and roadside bombings.
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Pakistan: Negligent on Terror?
Monday, Jun. 30, 2008 By ARYN BAKER/ISLAMABAD
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It's almost like a bad joke. A bus driver, a ski lift operator and a gym rat have turned the Islamic world's only nuclear-armed nation upside down. On Saturday Pakistani forces chased militants led by former bus driver Mangal Bagh from the fringes of Peshawar, a provincial capital 30 miles from the border with Afghanistan and a key transit point for vital supplies destined for U.S. and NATO forces fighting the Afghan insurgency. In Swat, a one-time tourist haven 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad, militants set five schoolgirls on fire, torched a primary school and burned down the country's only ski resort. Mullah Fazlullah, leader of the local Taliban chapter, used to work the chairlift. Last year he nearly brought the Pakistani military to its knees in brutal fighting that turned "little Switzerland" into something resembling Afghanistan before the fall of the Taliban in 2001. The government sued for peace. Fazlullah agreed, on the condition that he be able to implement Islamic law in the area. Meanwhile, in Waziristan, followers of Baitullah Mehsud, the physical trainer turned assassin have slaughtered at least 22 peace negotiators who arrived on behalf of the government seeking to cement a ceasefire accord. Both the CIA and Pakistan's intelligence agencies say he is behind the attack that killed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December. Three years ago no one had even heard of these men. What happened?
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Officials: Hunt For Al Qaeda Ineffective
U.S. Lacks A Real Strategy To Battle Al Qaeda In Pakistan, Experts And Officials Say
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2008
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(CBS) Despite billions of dollars spent and more than 500 U.S. soldiers having been killed in Afghanistan in the hunt for al Qaeda, there's increasing evidence that the terror group is making a comeback just across the border in Pakistan's lawless tribal territories, where the Pakistani government has little or no control.

Pakistan's latest attempt to oust al Qaeda and the Taliban from their safe havens in the frontier area has been, according to U.S. officials, ineffective.

Pentagon consultant Seth Jones of Rand Corp. says it's not even close to what's needed, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin.

One militant leader was actually tipped off to the coming offensive by sympathizers within the Pakistani military.

“What's needed in the tribal area is a much longer approach, clearing territory and holding it,” Jones said.

This offensive is focused in the area of the Khyber Pass, where the Taliban publicly execute suspected American spies and mount cross-border raids into Afghanistan, Martin reports.

“The command-and-control structure of every major insurgent group is in the Pakistani side of the border,” Jones said. “So this is critical to success in Afghanistan.”

In June, more American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq.

“It's reasonable to argue that the situation is far worse today than it was four or five years ago,” said CBS News homeland security consultant Paul Kurtz.

That goes not only for Afghanistan, but also for the U.S. “The most likely area that's going to be linked to an attack in the United States is coming from this area,” Jones said.
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Afghanistan troop deaths outnumber those in IraqAngela Balakrishnan and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday July 1, 2008
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Militants in Afghanistan killed more US and Nato troops than those in Iraq in June after a fresh spate of rebel attacks that highlighted the growing strength of the Taliban.

A count by Associated Press (AP) found that at least 45 international troops, including 27 from the US and 13 British, died in Afghanistan last month, compared with 31 international soldiers killed in Iraq, of whom 29 were from the US.

It was the second consecutive month that more troops were killed in Afghanistan, where international forces suffered their deadliest month since the 2001 US-led invasion.

The figures follow a report by the Pentagon last week that forecast the Taliban would maintain or increase the rate of attacks along the Pakistan border where US troops operate. Attacks are already up by 40% this year from 2007.

Fighting between militants and international troops is intensifying in the southern half of Afghanistan. AP's tally places the total death toll at 2,100 in the past six months.
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Deadly blast destroys Pakistan militant's house
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PAR QAMBARKHEL, Pakistan (AFP) — An explosion killed six people at a Pakistani militant's house Monday on the third day of a government offensive, as a US official arrived in Islamabad for counter-terrorism talks.

Militant chief Haji Namdar, who survived the blast in the northwestern Khyber tribal district, and a security official said the house was destroyed by military action but the government said troops were not involved.

Pakistan, which is under growing Western pressure over its efforts to negotiate with Taliban militants, launched an operation in Khyber on Saturday and says it has saved the northwestern city of Peshawar from rebel advances.

Richard Boucher, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, flew into in Islamabad on Monday for talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other senior officials.

Gilani told Boucher that Pakistan was following a policy of dialogue with hardline elements who have laid down their arms and joined mainstream politics.

"We will however never negotiate with militants nor allow foreigners to use our soil against another country," a government statement quoted Gilani as saying.
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Mystery blast kills 8 at Pakistan militant base
By RIAZ KHAN – 20 hours ago
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — An explosion wrecked a militant compound Monday, killing as many as eight people while Pakistani paramilitary forces pushed deeper into a border region where extremists threaten the city of Peshawar and a key supply line for U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Pro-Taliban Militants targeted by the offensive in the Khyber tribal area claimed a missile was fired from nearby Afghanistan, but a Pentagon official said he knew of no cross-border attack and a Pakistani officer said stored explosives blew up.

The nighttime blast, which buried bodies in piles of shattered masonry and mud bricks, came at the start of the third day of an offensive by Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps.

Troops faced no resistance Monday and were able to occupy key hilltops and re-establish checkpoints that had been abandoned by tribal police, said a senior Frontier Corps officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment to journalists.

He said troops in the Bara area, which starts on the outskirts of Peshawar, advanced in the direction of the remote Teerah valley. But it remained unclear if the Frontier Corps planned to push into the valley, where militants are thought to have fled.

So far, the Frontier Corps reported destroying several militant posts, including a radio station and alleged torture cells, but claimed to have killed just one insurgent.

The Interior Ministry said the operation was launched to protect Peshawar from "law breakers and militant groups" and would continue until "all the objectives are achieved." It has outlawed three armed Islamic groups operating in the region.
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It's never as simple as a 3:31 piece on The National
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Brian Stewart did a piece a few nights ago on accountability for "night raids" in Afghanistan by Canadian and allied special forces, and I've been meaning to write something about it ever since.

Stewart and Mansbridge ask a lot of questions, but don't provide many good answers. But that certainly doesn't stop them from making insinuations and giving inaccurate impressions to their viewers.

For starters, look at Mansbridge's introduction to the segment:

Canadians are told their soldiers are rebuilding Afghanistan, fighting to defend the lives of the Afghan people. But elite Canadian soldiers are also carrying out secret military raids, raids which have resulted in the deaths of Afghan civilians. The United Nations is demanding answers. But the Canadian military is neither talking nor offering any accountability...

There's so much spin packed into so few words, it's going to take some effort to unpack it. Stay with me, here.

First off, Canadian soldiers are rebuilding Afghanistan, and they are defending the lives of ordinary Afghans. Yet the CBC questions it, by prefacing their statement with "Canadians are told..."
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Crowd to send big thanks to the troops
By LAURA FRASER Cape Breton Bureau Tue. Jul 1 - 4:32 AM
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Long before the fireworks begin, a group of Cape Bretoners will look up at the sky together, dressed in the brightest of red and flashing the whitest of smiles.

Organizers of Canada Day events in Dominion are hoping people will come from across the island and fill Hawks Ball Field this evening as a plane flies over and a photo is snapped to send to troops overseas.

After the photo is taken, the rhythmic drone of a Forces helicopter will fill the air with the same noise heard by those serving in Afghanistan.

"Every 50 years, you get an idea, and this was mine," organizer Michael McNeil joked, then turned serious. "We’re looking to send a nice strong message, if nothing else, to the soldiers that are over there, so they know we’re thinking of them."

Mr. McNeil said that although the event is being held in Dominion, he’s asking people to come from all over Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

"We’re just trying to get people out and waving some flags. And if, by some chance, we knock on the door of the Guinness Book of World Records, great. But if not, we still get the message across to our troops."

Mr. McNeil said he doesn’t have a personal connection to anyone overseas but he thinks about the hardships met by the soldiers.

"The message I’d like to send to them is: ‘Come on home — all of you,’ " he said. "I know they’re fighting for a cause, but the sooner we get our boys back home — especially all in one piece — and this conflict’s over, the better it’s going to be."

Local photographer Jason Turnbull will be going up in a plane at about 6:30 p.m. to take the photo, which will be sent overseas in a package, along with more than 200 cards collected from MacDonald Elementary School students.
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Articles found July 2, 2008

Canadian convoy encounters suicide bomber in Afghanistan
Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, July 02, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Canadian soldiers on a mounted patrol near the border with Pakistan encountered a suicide bomber in a vehicle this morning, Canadian Forces officials have confirmed.

No Canadian personnel were injured in the attack, although three Afghan nationals were rushed to hospital by police. There was no further information on their condition.

Earlier reports quoting an Afghan police border commander had suggested two Canadians had been injured in the attack, which occurred in the Spin Boldak region at about 11 a.m. local time. However, military authorities discounted the reports, saying there was not even damage to Canadian vehicles.
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NATO official: Equipment needed for Afghanistan
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VIENNA, Austria (AP) — More helicopters, surveillance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles are needed in Afghanistan to support the forces there, a senior NATO official said Wednesday.

U.S. Gen. John Craddock, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, also said he wants national authorities to reduce or drop restrictions on how and where troops from their countries can be used in the alliance's Afghanistan mission.

But he said the key to success in the war-ravaged country is not winning by military means. Instead, the focus should be on development and governance, he said.

"We need more full motion video — and that's generally unmanned aerial vehicles — we need more surveillance aircraft ... we need helicopters, medium- and heavy-lift helicopters," Craddock told reporters on the sidelines of an annual security conference at the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Craddock declined to provide specific figures, but said "substantial numbers" of helicopters were needed. He said some have been leased commercially to fill the gap.

"That is not something we want to do, particularly," when participating nations have the capacity, Craddock said.

He said he would welcome more troops in Afghanistan, but stressed he was more focused on capabilities than numbers.
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Pakistani forces demolish militant-linked buildings: official
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BARA, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistani forces demolished two buildings used by militants in the Khyber tribal district on Tuesday on the fourth day of an operation against rebels there, officials said.

Pakistan said it launched the operation in Khyber on Saturday to tackle militants who were threatening the northwestern city of Peshawar and attacking convoys supplying NATO and US troops in Afghanistan.

Security forces on Tuesday blew up an empty building used as a local headquarters of the the hardline Lashkar-e-Islami in the Khajoori area, a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The building was previously the residence of Lashkar-e-Islam's founder, Mufti Munir Shakir.

"No one was injured or arrested as the building was completely empty when blown up through dynamite," he added.

Separately Lashkar-e-Islam followers attacked the empty house of a religious leader who was a rival of LI's chief, Mangal Bagh, in the town of Pir Killay near the Afghan border, the officials said.
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Coalition chopper downed in Afghanistan
By STEPHEN GRAHAM – 5 hours ago
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A helicopter from the U.S.-led forces was shot down south of the Afghan capital Wednesday, but the crew escaped without serious injury, the coalition said.

In the south, a suicide car bomber targeted a NATO patrol near the Pakistani border, wounding several Afghans, the alliance said.

Small-arms fire downed the UH-60 Black Hawk in Kherwar district of Logar province. The pilots were able to land the aircraft and evacuate everyone on board before it caught fire, a statement said.

Logar police chief Mohammed Mustafa Khan said reports from his officers in the remote district suggested Taliban militants shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

The coalition said another helicopter returned later and destroyed the wreckage with precision fire.

Helicopter crashes have been among the deadliest incidents for international troops in Afghanistan.

Most recently, seven soldiers died when a Chinook helicopter was shot down during an air assault in the southern province of Helmand in May 2007.

However, mechanical failure and accidents are just as great a risk as enemy fire in Afghanistan's craggy mountains and dust-filled deserts.
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Canada Day another day at the office for some Canadian troops
Doug Schmidt, Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, July 02, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- July 1 was a day of partying for some of Canada's 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, but it was also a regular workday for many, as the battle group joined in a surprise attack on a Taliban stronghold southwest of Kandahar City.

Afghan national security forces and British airborne soldiers were dropped by helicopters into an area identified as harbouring insurgents. Canadian troops with the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry battle group established blocking positions to ensure militants could neither enter nor leave the targeted area.

"This particular area was an insurgents' hornet's nest," said Task Force Afghanistan spokesman Maj. Jay Janzen. He said no Afghan security or allied international troops were killed or wounded in the single-day effort, and "we believe there was no collateral damage."
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FACTBOX-Security developments in AfghanistanJuly 2
Wed Jul 2, 2008 9:55am BST
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(Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan reported as of 9 a.m. British time on Wednesday:

LOGAR - A U.S.-led coalition UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was shot down by small-arms fire on Wednesday in Logar province, to the south of Kabul, but there were no serious injuries, the U.S. military said.

SPIN BOLDAK - A suicide car bomber targetted a NATO convoy on a road near the southern town of Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan on Wednesday, wounding two Canadian soldiers, three Afghan police and two civilians, police said.

GHAZNI - Four Taliban insurgents were killed while planting a roadside bomb late on Tuesday in Ghazni province to the southwest of Kabul, an official said.

WARDAK - Afghan forces were searching on Wednesday for a Chinese road construction worker who was seized along with his driver in Wardak province a day earlier, an official said.

KANDAHAR - Eight Taliban fighters were killed in a clash with Afghan army after the militants ambushed an army convoy on Tuesday in Kandahar province, the Defence Ministry said.

Reuters could not establish contact with the Taliban to get their comment for any of the reported incidents.

(Compiled by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by Robert Birsel and Jerry Norton)
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Security threat postpones Canada Day for many in Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — For many Canadians working in Afghanistan, there were no celebrations on this Canada Day.

A heightened security threat postponed the festivities for 300 mostly young people who work at the Canadian-run reconstruction base near downtown Kandahar city.

While their colleagues at Kandahar's main NATO base played hockey, took in shows, enjoyed a barbecue and posed for pictures with the CFL's Grey Cup, it was business as usual on the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

At this tiny base that is the main hub for development work in Kandahar province, Canadian soldiers and civilian staffers carried on with the myriad tasks they perform every day.

They worked on projects to build schools, develop a modern justice system, train Afghan security forces, eradicate polio, and they sent gifts donated by Canadians to orphans.

According to the latest intelligence reports this reconstruction camp is a coveted Taliban target.

The people stationed here hope to have a Canada Day party in the coming days.
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Hillier marks last day as Canada's top soldier
Updated Tue. Jul. 1 2008 5:45 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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On his last day as Canada's top soldier, Gen. Rick Hillier says he's proud of the "incredible renaissance" that's occurred in the public's support for the nation's troops.

Speaking from Parliament Hill, where hundreds of people had gathered for Canada Day ceremonies, Hillier told CTV Newsnet that seeing public displays of national pride was "actually inspirational -- and I don't use the term lightly."

He said over the past few years, he has witnessed growing concern among ordinary Canadians for men and women in uniform.

"(The public's) appreciation for them, their value for the work that they do and their understanding for the stresses that (soldiers) undergo has been enormously changed over the last two to three years," he said.

Former prime minister Paul Martin appointed Hillier chief of the defence staff three years ago. During his tenure, he gained the respect and loyalty of his troops and has come to represent the face of Canadian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan.

Hillier said Afghanistan still has a long way to go before it is ready to take care of its own security needs. He said Canada, the U.S., and NATO countries are making progress, but it's "very, very slow."

He said he is confident that Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk -- who will take over for Hillier Wednesday at 10 a.m. -- will be an effective leader.

"(He) is probably the best officer I have had the chance to work with," said Hillier.

Hillier said he will leave it up to Canada's political leaders to decide if it is in the national interest to stay in Afghanistan beyond the current commitment. When it comes to his own future, Hillier remained coy, but he hinted that he would "consider a book."
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Behind the scenes soldier takes on top job
Mike Blanchfield ,  Canwest News Service Published: Tuesday, July 01, 2008
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OTTAWA - He is one of the few Canadian soldiers to have served in Iraq, and to be trusted with the command of American soldiers. He led multinational forces through the delicate and dangerous ethnically charged battlefields of the Balkans.

But it is the wars that Lt.-Gen. Walt Natynczyk has waged behind the scenes, trying to bust the bureaucratic bunkers of official Ottawa in his capacity as Canada's No. 2 soldier for the last two years that may serve him best when he is sworn in Wednesday as Canada's new chief of defence staff.

"The further you are from the sound of the guns, the less you understand," was how Natynczyk described the challenges of senior military leadership one month ago for the Senate security and defence committee.
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A country worth fighting for
Members of military proud of their role serving Canada
Posted By Denis Langlois
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Cpl. Ben Watson has an unwavering pride in his country.

In his role as a reservist with Canada’s military, the Tobermory native said he has heard the stories of many Canadian troops and marched alongside countless experienced soldiers. He has trained extensively at the Meaford military base.

“It makes me appreciate how free this country is,” the 20-year-old Grey and Simcoe Foresters member said Tuesday as Canadians celebrated the nation’s 141st birthday.

Watson has been a reservist for the past three years and is planning to be deployed to war-torn Afghanistan in 2010.

Watson and many other Canadian soldiers who are training this summer at Land Force Central Area Training Centre Meaford were at Kelso Beach Park for the city’s Canada Day celebrations.

The uniformed soldiers handed out army-inspired bracelets, chains and other goodies to eagerly awaiting children. They took turns painting kids’ faces in a camouflage design, showed off army trucks and other gear and talked about military life and their army experiences.

Doug Cleverley, the city’s events facilitator, said it was a natural fit to include the soldiers in Owen Sound’s Canada Day festivities.

“We’re celebrating our pride as Canadians and I don’t think anything celebrates our national pride more than our military,” he said in an interview.
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Inside the Taliban jailbreak
GRAEME SMITH From Wednesday's Globe and Mail July 2, 2008 at 2:01 AM EDT
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The prison cells that once held Taliban sit almost empty, with little remaining except rubbish: plates of rice ready for meals never eaten, and sandals discarded by fugitives who ran away in bare feet. Some of the debris inside Sarpoza prison offer hints about what happened amid the chaos last month when the Taliban accomplished one of the largest jailbreaks in modern history, freeing at least 800 prisoners and rampaging into Kandahar without facing any serious resistance from Canadian troops or the other forces assigned to protect the city.

A chunk of metal the size of a picnic table sits 125 metres away from the site where a truck bomb hit the gate, testifying to the force of the explosion. In a room where prison officials believe the inmates planned their escape, bullet casings on the floor suggest the prisoners had smuggled at least one handgun into the cells.

With those scattered bits of evidence, and a dozen interviews with witnesses, a picture emerges of the way security collapsed in the largest city in southern Afghanistan on the evening of Friday, June 13. Details of the attack show not only why the city defences fell apart; they also illustrate how the notorious problems of the Afghan mission – corruption, poor intelligence, a distrustful population, weak Afghan security forces, a lack of foreign troops – made the ingredients of a disaster.

The Canadian military has not escaped blame. In a private session two days after the attack, Kandahar's provincial council strongly criticized the foreign troops for arriving at Sarpoza roughly two hours after the jailbreak started. They demanded to know why Canadian soldiers watched the prisoners run away and failed to chase them. Witnesses say that hundreds of inmates spent their first night of freedom camping in the fields only a few kilometres south of the prison, within easy reach of the Canadian soldiers sent to investigate.
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Articles found July 3, 2008

New top general sees soldiers out of Afghanistan by 2011
STEVEN CHASE From Thursday's Globe and Mail July 2, 2008 at 8:41 PM EDT
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OTTAWA — Canada's new top general says he's still confident Canadian soldiers can quit combat operations in Kandahar by 2011, despite a surge in Taliban attacks and gloomier assessments of the Afghan war from the Pentagon.

General Walter Natynczyk replaced Rick Hillier as Chief of the Defence Staff in Ottawa on Wednesday in a pomp-and-circumstance-charged ceremony that ended with the departing top soldier riding off into retirement.

In his first news conference as the Canadian Forces top commander, Gen. Natynczyk batted down concerns about the strength of Afghan insurgency – worries that have arisen since Taliban fighters freed 800 prisoners from a Kandahar jail, including 400 sympathizers, on June 13.

The upsurge reflects the fact that the spring and summer fighting season is always busier, he said.
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Suicide bomber targets Afghan governor
By STEPHEN GRAHAM – 23 hours ago
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber targeting an Afghan governor killed four people Wednesday, while a U.S.-led coalition helicopter crew escaped without serious injury after being shot down south of the capital, officials said.

The governor of Nimroz province, Ghulam Dastagir Azad, said a suicide bomber on foot blew himself up near the governor's convoy late in the afternoon Wednesday, killing three police officers and a civilian. Azad said he was not wounded.

Also Wednesday, gunfire brought down the UH-60 Black Hawk in the Kherwar district of Logar province. The pilots landed the aircraft and evacuated before it caught fire, a coalition statement said.

Another helicopter returned later and destroyed the wreckage with precision fire, it said.

Logar police Chief Mohammed Mustafa Khan said reports from his officers in the remote district suggested Taliban militants shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.

NATO said the suicide car bomber tried to hit a patrol near the town of Spin Boldak near the Pakistan border. Initial reports showed no troops were hurt, but there were "some local national" casualties, it said.
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FACTBOX-Security developments in Afghanistan
Thu Jul 3, 2008 1:21pm BST
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July 3 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan reported until 1200 GMT on Thursday:

LOGAR - Five Afghan soldiers were killed on Wednesday when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle, which was part of a convoy in Logar province to the south of Kabul, police said.

BADGHIS - Taliban insurgents ambushed a convoy of Afghan soldiers but 25 of the attackers were killed in a subsequent clash in the northwestern province of Badghis on Wednesday, an official said, adding there were no casualties among the soldiers.

SPIN BOLDAK - A roadside bomb struck a NATO force convoy, destroying a vehicle, but caused no casualties near Spin Boldak town on the border with Pakistan on Thursday, an official said.
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Coalition strike kills 33
U. S.-led forces bomb militant group in Afghanistan
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U. S.-led coalition forces used helicopters and a bomber to attack insurgents massing in eastern Afghanistan under cover of darkness, killing an estimated 33 people, the military said yesterday.

Reconnaissance aircraft spotted "large groupings" of insurgents armed with heavy machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades on Monday night in Khost province, the coalition said.

"After positively identifying the militants, coalition forces engaged them with attack helicopters and a close air support bomber, killing approximately 33 militants," spokesman 1st Lieut. Nathan Perry said.

Fighting between militants and security forces is intensifying in the southern half of Afghanistan. More than 2,100 people died in the violence in the first six months, according to an Associated Press tally.

An Afghan army officer said the clash in Khost began when Taliban militants attacked coalition and Afghan forces patrolling in Tani, a district on the border with Pakistan.

Col. Mohammed Israr, a battalion commander in Khost, said Afghan intelligence reports put the number of enemy dead at about 20.

Israr also said that the group of about 50 militants had crossed from Pakistan, where some Taliban and al- Qaida militants seek refuge, and retreated in that direction under heavy coalition fire.
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Pakistan arrests tribal fighters 
A government statement said local people had welcomed the operation [AFP]
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Pakistani security forces claim to have arrested 18 fighters and to have destroyed two major opposition sites in the country's Khyber tribal district.

An official statement released on Wednesday said that the operation was successful, and that the main bazaar in the town of Bara was under curfew with troops patrolling the area.

The operation is part of an intense campaign to counter the threat of violence in the province reaching Peshawar, the northwest provincial capital.

The operation was launched on Saturday, with the intention of preventing attacks on convoys supplying foreign troops in Afghanistan
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NATO says more helicopters and planes needed in Afghanistan
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VIENNA: More troops are needed in Afghanistan, but, more importantly, additional helicopters and surveillance aircraft are required to enable forces already there to react more flexibly, a top NATO official said Wednesday.

Speaking to journalists at the Vienna headquarters of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander of Europe, US General Bantz John Craddock, acknowledged that more troops were necessary. “Yes, we sure would,” Craddock replied when asked whether NATO would welcome additional troops from countries such as Spain, France or Germany at trouble hotspots in Afghanistan. “We would like to see increased contributions.”

But he declined to specify an exact number. “I’m not so much focussed on a number. I’m focussed on capability,” Craddock said. Many countries had contributed troops, but at the same time laid down limitations as to where they could go or what they could do, the general complained. “Right now, I believe there are either 78 or 80 caveats from 40 participating nations: restrictions and constraints that are placed on forces,” both geographical and functional.
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Deal lets US drones raid Bin Laden 
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WASHINGTON: Pakistan long ago gave Washington the right to launch an immediate Predator drone strike on Osama bin Laden, without first notifying Islamabad, if he is located in tribal areas, The Washington Times reported yesterday.

President Pervez Musharraf granted this exception to other limits on US counterterrorism operations in his country "early" in the war against Al Qaeda, launched in Afghanistan in October 2001, the Times said, citing "a knowledgeable official."

Islamabad does not allow US military ground forces on its soil, limiting the US presence to "scores" of CIA and paramilitary operatives, the Times noted, even though the Al Qaeda chief is widely thought to be holed up in rugged tribal areas.

US Assistan Secretary of State Richard Boucher, meanwhile, said Pakistan's politicians should stop squabbling over the fate of Musharraf and focus on pressing problems of rising Islamist militancy and soaring prices.

US ally Musharraf has become increasingly isolated since his allies faced a humiliating defeat in February elections but critics say differences in the new coalition over the how to deal with him has virtually paralysed government.
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Former Kandahar military adviser blasts Canada's Afghan diplomacy
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OTTAWA — Military efforts in Afghanistan are being stalled by the perceived weakness of Canada's diplomatic and aid agencies, says the former cultural adviser to Canada's top soldier in Kandahar.

Despite having spent six years in the country, Canada still hasn't mastered the intricacies of dealing with Afghanistan's tribal culture and it's having a negative impact on the mission as a whole, said Malgarai, the Afghan-Canadian man who spent 13 months with the military in Kandahar.

Malgarai asked that only his first name be used to protect his family.

"The channel of communication is very weak," he told The Canadian Press in an exclusive weekend interview.

"You know communication co-ordination exists, you know that everybody is working together but in reality it doesn't work that way."

Malgarai was known as "Pasha" to the soldiers and Afghans he worked with as a language and cultural adviser to Brig-Gen. Guy Laroche, the former commanding officer of Canada's military effort in Kandahar, whose term ended in May.
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Business as usual for many Canadians in Afghanistan
The Canadian Press July 1, 2008 at 12:17 PM EDT
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KANDAHAR — For many Canadians working in Afghanistan, it was business as usual on Canada Day.

The high-risk security climate has delayed celebrations at the Canadian-led reconstruction base in Kandahar City for the 300 people working there.

Young Canadian soldiers and civilians continued doing what they do every day: building schools, sending gifts to orphans, developing a modern justice system, training Afghan security forces, and helping to eradicate polio.

Warrant Officer Steve Merry of Edmonton will organize some of the Canada Day festivities at the reconstruction base – whenever they happen. He said he does not mind the postponement, because there's no better way to celebrate being Canadian than working to help others.
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Inside the Taliban Jailbreak
BY Herschel Smith 10 hours, 50 minutes ago
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We have previously discussed the Kandahar jailbreak by the Taliban (including the subsequent combat action in and around Kandahar), but at the time there were many unanswered questions.  While the main stream media foolishly focused their attention on the evolution of the Taliban into well-organized guerrilla fighters, The Captain’s Journal likened it more to a Mad Max movie.  The Taliban relied on a few RPGs, a small amount of command and control on the ground, and 30 or so motorcyclists with rifles.  The fault was with the Afghan police and ISAF forces, we surmised.  We posed the question(s):

Where was the force protection?  Where were the vehicle barriers (you know, those mechanically operated devices that flatten your tires if you go over them the wrong way)?  Where were the concrete truck barricades?  Where was the training?  Where was the supervision?  Forget expensive UAVs and road construction for a minute.  What about spending a little money on teaching the Afghan police about combat and force protection.  Failure to do so has cost us the freedom of 400 Taliban - and potentially U.S. lives to capture or kill them again.

Many of these questions have been answered in a recent Globe and Mail article entitled Inside the Taliban Jailbreak.  Read carefully near the end of the citation below to see just how the Canadians have approached management of this prison.

The prison cells that once held Taliban sit almost empty, with little remaining except rubbish: plates of rice ready for meals never eaten, and sandals discarded by fugitives who ran away in bare feet. Some of the debris inside Sarpoza prison offer hints about what happened amid the chaos last month when the Taliban accomplished one of the largest jailbreaks in modern history, freeing at least 800 prisoners and rampaging into Kandahar without facing any serious resistance from Canadian troops or the other forces assigned to protect the city.
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Articles found July 4, 2008

Marines Have to Stay Longer in Afghanistan
By Charlie Brett 14:36, July 4th 2008
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The Marine Corps announced yesterday that about 2,000 Marines who were fighting the Taliban would remain in Afghanistan at least one more month beyond their seven-month tour. According to the Baltimore Sun, the decision was taken by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates after Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there was a shortage of combat troops and the measure was necessary.

The decision came after Robert Gates had repeatedly said over the last months that there was no such plan of extending the Marine’s tour. U.S. officials said that the Taliban were getting stronger and the situation in Afghanistan was getting worse.

Barack Obama, the presidential candidate, said he agreed with Mike Mullen that more troops had to be sent in Afghanistan. Also, a spokesman for John McCain said the senator “agreed that the military is overstretched,” reported the New York Daily News.

At the moment there are 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and about 25,000 allied troops, commanded by NATO. 14,000 U.S troops were under the command of the International Security Assistance Force and the other 18,000 were under U.S command.

Maj. David Nevers, a Marine Corps spokesman said that the Marines had to continue their operations in southern Afghanistan just like before.

The Pentagon released a report last week which stated that the Taliban had gained influence over this last year and their strength had grown after they were removed by U.S. troops in 2001. The report also stated that bomb and suicide attacks increased between 2006 and 2007.
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US says airstrikes hit Afghan insurgents
By FISNIK ABRASHI – 2 hours ago
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military said airstrikes by its attack helicopters hit two vehicles carrying insurgents Friday in eastern Afghanistan. Afghan officials said civilians were traveling in the vehicles.

1st Lt. Nathan Perry, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said the airstrikes in Nuristan province hit militants who had earlier attacked a U.S. military base with mortars.

The helicopters identified the militants' firing positions, tracked them down and destroyed the vehicles that were traveling in, he said.

"These were combatants. These were people who were firing on us," Perry said. "We have no reports of noncombatant injuries."

He gave no account of casualties in the vehicles.
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Gunmen kill 8 police in southern Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Kandahar's police chief says gunmen have killed eight officers at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan.

Sumanwal Matiullah says the gunmen threw a grenade at the checkpoint before spraying the policemen with gunfire.

Matiullah said the attack happened in Kandahar's Panjwayi district late Thursday. One officer was also wounded and two others are missing
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Crew rescued from downed helicopter in Afghanistan
Pilots able to land in Afghan field before aircraft caught fire
By Kent Harris, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Thursday, July 3, 2008
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BAGRAM, Afghanistan — A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter was shot down Wednesday in southern Logar Province, south of Kabul. Pilots managed to land the aircraft before it caught fire, according to the military, and no major injuries were reported to any crewmembers or passengers.

It was the sixth time an American helicopter has either crashed or been involved in what the military terms a "hard landing" in Afghanistan since May, according to 1st Lt. Nathan Perry, a public affairs officer with Combined Joint Task Force-101, which oversees most U.S. operations in the country.

Wednesday’s incident occurred in the Kherwar District, according to a press release issued by the task force. Perry said the helicopter was hit by small-arms fire and landed in an empty field.

The Black Hawk was conducting a routine mission, he said, and not participating in any operation that involved U.S. or coalition ground forces. But U.S. forces were able to quickly respond to the scene, pick up the crew and passengers and destroy the downed helicopter, Perry said.

"The whole event happened very quickly," he said.

He said he could not provide information on whether U.S. or coalition forces had made contact with those thought to have shot down the helicopter.

"That’s all part of the investigation," he said, noting that such investigations take undetermined amounts of time to conduct.
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One in five Afghan troops leave fledgling military force: documents
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OTTAWA — As many as one of every five soldiers in the Afghan National Army leaves the fledgling fighting force, which Canada hopes will eventually take the lead in the war-ravaged country, say newly released documents.

Defence Department documents prepared in May 2007 say between 10 and 20 per cent of Afghans who go through military training end up leaving the army.

The documents, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, note dropout rates are seasonal, with more soldiers typically leaving in the winter.

Afghan soldiers' absenteeism is often described as temporary, as they return to other parts of the country for an extended break or to bring money home to their families.

"In general the current attrition rate of the Afghan National Army (ANA) is 10-20 per cent," says one document.

"This number varies seasonally being higher in the winter. Often this absenteeism is temporary as members return to other parts of the country for an extended break or to bring money home to their families."

The role of Canadian soldiers is increasingly shifting to one of support to the Afghan National Army, which has planned and executed its own successful operations against militants.
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Harper welcomes quieter incoming commander
Outgoing chief takes parting shot. Successor sworn in for Hillier, who targets critics for being 'field marshal wannabes'
MIKE BLANCHFIELD, Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, July 03
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled yesterday he is expecting his new chief of the defence staff to be less flamboyant and outspoken, even as departing General Rick Hillier fired one last shot at his critics for being "field marshal wannabes."

"Today's ceremony is not about either of these outstanding officers because it is not about any one individual in particular," Harper told a lengthy change-of-command ceremony in which General Walt Natynczyk was sworn in as Hillier's successor.

"It is about the continuity of one of our most essential national institutions: the ultimate guardian of Canada's sovereignty, security and place in the world."
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Fired Kandahar police chief says Canadians let him down
GRAEME SMITH From Friday's Globe and Mail July 3, 2008 at 7:06 PM EDT
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Stripped of his uniform and placed under investigation after last month's spectacular jailbreak, Kandahar's former police chief lashed out Thursday at what he described as Canada's failure to help capture the hundreds of prisoners who escaped the shattered prison.

Sayed Agha Saqib, dining on a lavish meal of lamb and chicken at his home in Kandahar city last night, asked why Canadian soldiers did not chase the fugitives running away from Sarpoza prison on June 13.

“My police didn't have modern weapons, and they didn't have night-vision goggles,” Mr. Saqib said. “So why did you want us to go into those fields? It was the responsibility of NATO and the ANA [Afghan National Army].”
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Ten Canadian soldiers on leave get Stampede royal treatment
Sherri Zickefoose, Calgary Herald Published: Friday, July 04, 2008
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Canadian Forces soldiers recently returned home from Kandahar are welcoming a different kind of parading in Calgary today.

As special guests of the 2008 Calgary Stampede, 10 soldiers and their families are being honoured at this morning's annual parade and at tonight's grandstand show.

As part of their three weeks home on leave, the soldiers are also being treated to free admission and rides.
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Articles found July 7, 2008

Explosion kills Canadian soldier in Afghanistan
Pte. Colin William Wilmot, medic with Edmonton Garrison, was on foot patrol
Graham Thomson, Canwest News Service Published: Monday, July 07, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Another Canadian soldier has died in the deadly ground of Afghanistan's Panjwai district just west of Kandahar City.

Pte. Colin William Wilmot suffered fatal wounds when an explosive device detonated while he was on a foot patrol early Sunday morning.

He was a medic with 1 Field Ambulance at Edmonton Garrison.
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40 dead in suicide attack on India's Afghanistan embassy
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KABUL: A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-filled car into the gates of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 40 people including four Indian nationals, officials said.

The blast in the heart of Kabul scattered human flesh and severed limbs outside the embassy of India, one of Afghanistan's staunchest allies as the war-torn country battles an increasingly bloody Taliban insurgency.

A spokesman for the hardliners however denied the Taliban were involved in the attack, the deadliest in Kabul since the insurgency began after the Taliban regime was removed in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
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Afghan cops hold key to exit
Top Canadian trainer won't say how many
MIKE BLANCHFIELD, Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, July 05
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Canada's senior police trainer in Kandahar would not say yesterday how many Afghan National Police ultimately needed to be trained there before Canadian soldiers can safely withdraw, dismissing the question as a "numbers game."

Training enough Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police is the key to the exit strategy of Canada and its allies in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. ISAF has said that Afghanistan needs a properly trained police force of 82,000 before it can scale back its 50,000-strong international protection force.

But the Canadian government has not said how many police are needed in Kandahar province, the traditional Taliban stronghold. Canada, which currently holds the ISAF command for Afghanistan's southern sector, plans to withdraw its 2,500 troops by 2011.
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Attacks on Canadian convoys fail
Jul 02, 2008 02:18 PM THE CANADIAN PRESS
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Afghan insurgents twice attempted to blow up Canadian Forces convoys without any success, the military announced today.

In one case, a Canadian armoured vehicle was unscathed and a suicide attacker wound up dead.

In the other, a vehicle was retrieved from a crater after a bomb detonated and it also drove off without significant damage.

The suicide strike occurred today as Canadians were patrolling near the border town of Spin Boldak, next to Pakistan.

An explosives-packed car blew up near the Canadian convoy and while it did no damage to the military vehicles, it injured three Afghan nationals in the vicinity and they were taken to hospital.

Also today, a Canadian media crew returned from an operation in rural Kandahar and said they saw an explosion send an armoured vehicle slumping into a bombed-out crater.

The CBC crew said they witnessed the attack earlier this week as they entered Panjwaii district during an operation to clear insurgents out of a safehouse being using as a bomb factory.

The explosion sent a spike of black smoke gushing into the air, encircled by a mini-cyclone of brown dust.
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Warm salute greets troops
Val Fortney, Calgary Herald Published: Saturday, July 05, 2008
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April Simmons just can't stop smiling. And it's pretty easy to understand why.

For two glorious hours Friday morning, the military mom has had the best front- row seats to the Stampede

Parade. Her two little boys, MacKenzie, 3, and John, 5, are nearly delirious over the free cookies, jellybeans and juice they've consumed while watching horses, clowns, floats and marching bands pass by.

"This is absolutely amazing," says Simmons, a 19-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, whose job is to help deploying soldiers fill out the required paperwork before leaving for places like Afghanistan.

"This is the best time we've ever had."

Simmons isn't just thrilled over the fact she's among several military families invited to sit in the bleachers provided by the Stampede Parade committee, a coveted spot at the start of the parade for supporters of the parade and other special guests.

She's just out-and-out thrilled over the way local members of the military are being embraced by Calgary as a whole. "We have no base, but there are still so many of us here," says Simmons of the hundreds of reservists and regular force members living in the city. "Lately, there has been so much positive recognition, it has been an incredible boost for us."
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Swatting Flies...and Failing to Pay for It (UPDATED and Corrected)
Sunday, July 6, 2008
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PLEASE SEE UPDATE FROM THE GOOD USMC PAO ON THE GROUND - David Zucchino is the second American reporter (he was scooped several weeks ago by Mike Phillips in the Wall Street Journal) to write recently on attempts by the US Marine Corps to pay Afghans for damage caused during the clearing of Garmser District, Helmand Province in the South of Afghanistan.

The subtext of both his and the Phillips' article is that while USMC has made great progress in its efforts to clear the Taliban out of Garmser, a shot aimed at disrupting an area that has essentially remained outside of government control since 2001, much remains to be done.

Disturbingly, US bureaucracy is hampering efforts to repay those whose homes have been destroyed in the fighting.

The Marines, meanwhile, in their efforts to win "hearts and minds" seem to have failed to follow a key imperative of our new counterinsurgency doctrine: manage information and expectations (Kip assumes they were promised the money, and it was not delivered...so this is not necessarily a knock on them. The rule remains promise far less than you are absolutely sure you can deliver--unless the money is in hand, don't promise it--and feel free to exceed expectations if more arrives).

US Marines have been logging the complaints of villagers and offering them money...except there is not money to be offered right now. Undoubtedly some of these villagers will eventually get paid but likewise others will not, breeding resentment and inviting the Taliban to make up for some of the difference. In a war where we are getting many of the big things wrong, it would be useful to get the small things right.

Ensuring cash liquidity for our troops on the ground is a no-brainer (It is far better for our efforts to punish those bad eggs who abuse the privilege than to withhold money).

The question still remains how we will hold the gains we have made in Garmsir so as not to do a repeat of Panjawe 2006-2007, where Canadian forces consolidated after moving into small outposts, ensuring a retrenchment of the Taliban and a loss of ISAF credibility with villagers on the fence. That we haven't answered this question is probably a key reason that the Marines have been extended for 30 days despite numerous promises that they would not be (and the DOD wonders why it has a credibility problem with its soldiers!)
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What Afghanistan needs is infrastructure
By Christopher Booker Last Updated: 12:01am BST 06/07/2008
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What connects the row between France's President Sarkozy and the EU's trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, with the recent upsurge in the deaths of British soldiers in Afghanistan?

Mr Mandelson, representing the EU in the Doha world trade talks, calls for an end to that EU and US protectionism which, through tariff barriers and the dumping of subsidised exports, is inflicting immense damage on the Third World.

Mr Sarkozy, representing French farmers, claims that this will cost European agriculture 20 per cent of its production and 100,000 jobs.
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Eye Witness: Afghan Suicide Bomber Misses German Target
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A suicide bomber who targeted German troops based in Afghanistan's northern Kunduz province injured three schoolgirls, an official said on Sunday.

Abdul Rahman Aaqtash, a senior provincial police official, told German news agency DPA that "a suicide bomber targeted a German Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Dubandi area of Chahardara district, injuring only three schoolgirls."

None of the troops was injured and the injuries to the schoolgirls were not life-threatening, Aaqtash said.

"I was at the scene and shook the hands of the four soldiers," he said.

A German military spokesman denied that German soldiers were involved.

"German soldiers were neither the target nor the victims of an attack," the spokesman told DPA.
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U.S. at Odds With Afghans on Airstrike
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: July 5, 2008
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The American military said airstrikes by its attack helicopters in eastern Afghanistan hit two vehicles carrying insurgents on Friday, but a provincial governor said 22 civilians, including a woman and a child, had been killed. Also Friday, gunmen in the southern province of Kandahar assassinated a member of Parliament, a provincial official said.

A spokesman for the American-led coalition, First Lt. Nathan Perry, said the airstrikes in Nuristan Province had hit militants involved in an earlier mortar attack on an American military base. The helicopters identified the firing positions of the militants, tracked them down and destroyed the vehicles they were traveling in, he said.

“These were people who were firing on us,” the lieutenant said. “We have no reports of noncombatant injuries.” He gave no account of casualties in the vehicles.
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Pakistan eases assault on militants in tribal area
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BARA, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani security forces have eased an operation against insurgents in a tribal region near the border with Afghanistan as local elders try to negotiate peace with a militant leader, a government official said Saturday.

Muhammad Ali, an official at the government's crisis management center, said the operation in the Khyber area was still under way, "but in a mild tone."

Ali said the government had halted the demolition of militant centers and that a round-the-clock curfew in the troubled town of Bara — a key focus of the operation — was being relaxed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The offensive was launched June 28 to flush out militants threatening the nearby city of Peshawar and to secure a road used to send supplies to U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. It is a shift for Pakistan's new government, which has sought to end militant violence primarily through peace deals since coming to power after February elections.

A key target of the operation is Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group headed by Mangal Bagh that is accused of trying to impose its own Taliban-style Islamic rule in Khyber.

Amal Khan, leader of a 35-member council of elders, said he had met with Bagh and the militant leader showed interest in peacefully ending the operation.

"Today, I will meet with the government to inform it of what we discussed with Mangal Bagh," Khan said.
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1.4 tonnes of opium seized in Afghanistan: police
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KABUL (AFP) — Afghan security forces seized 1.4 tonnes of opium in western Afghanistan near the border with Iran, authorities said Saturday.

Seven men were detained in connection with Thursday's haul in Herat province, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Afghanistan is the world's top opium producer and last year produced 8,200 tonnes of the substance, or 92 percent of global production.

About 60 percent of the opium leaves the country in the form of heroin, according to UN figures.

Islamic Taliban insurgents earn millions of dollars every year from the trade, officials say.
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Gunmen kill lawmaker in southern Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A prominent Afghan lawmaker has been gunned down outside his house in Kandahar province, in an assassination that authorities fear could prompt a surge in rebel violence.

Habibullah Jan was shot repeatedly as he made his way from a guest house to his main residence late Friday in the Sanzari area near Kandahar city, Afghan officials said Saturday.

One prominent politician said he warned the member of parliament just this week that he could be targeted by assassins, and he expressed fear that Jan's death could create a vacuum for the insurgency.

Ahmed Wali Karzai said he told Jan over lunch just two days earlier that he should leave the area because of threats on his life.

"I suggested he leave Sanzari as soon as possible because it was dangerous for him," said Karzai, chief of the provincial council and brother of President Hamid Karzai.

"Habibullah Jan agreed and said, 'Yes I have to go to Kabul with my family.'

"But unfortunately before he got killed before he left Sanzari."
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New chief on hand as tribute to troops raises $140,000
Michelle Butterfield, Calgary Herald Published: Sunday, July 06, 2008
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It was a sea of yellow bandanas, scarves and ties at Spruce Meadows Saturday as hundreds of military families, alongside thousands of fans, spent the afternoon honouring the men and women of the Canadian military.

As part of the annual Queen Elizabeth 11 Cup, thousands of people donned yellow shirts, while volunteers sold yellow neckties, scarves and bandanas to raise money for the Canadian Military Families Fund.

More than $140,000 was raised from sales of yellow merchandise and the support of corporate donors -- a welcome addition to a fund that helps military families in crisis.
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Afghanistan: regional intrigue (July 7 press survey from the Conference of Defence Associations)

Articles found July 9, 2008

Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan
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SYDNEY (AFP) — An Australian special forces soldier has been killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan which wounded three other troops, the army said Wednesday.

Signaller Sean McCarthy, 25, was the sixth Australian to die in combat in Afghanistan since 2002 and the fifth in the past nine months.

The head of the Australian Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said McCarthy died after the vehicle he was in was hit by an improvised bomb during a patrol on Tuesday afternoon.

Two other Australian Special Operations Task Group soldiers and a trooper from another member nation of the coalition fighting a Taliban rebel insurgency were wounded in the attack.

Houston said New Zealand-born McCarthy was an "experienced, professional, and highly skilled soldier" on his second tour in Afghanistan.

The military chief did not reveal the location of the attack but Australia's 1,000 troops in Afghanistan are mostly assisting a Dutch-led reconstruction operation in the southern province of Uruzgan, a former Taliban stronghold.
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2 soldiers killed in separate Afghan blasts
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Two soldiers were killed and seven others injured Tuesday in two separate roadside bomb blasts in Afghanistan, officials said.

According to NATO, one solder was killed and four others wounded by a roadside bomb while on patrol in the eastern province of Kunar.

It did not release the nationality of the dead soldier. Most of the foreign troops in the area are American.

In a separate announcement, Australian officials said one of their soldiers was killed by a roadside bomb while on patrol Tuesday in Uruzgan province. Signaler Sean McCarthy, 25, was the sixth Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan, said Marshal Angus Houston, a defense official.

Three other soldiers were injured in the blast, he said, two Australians and another from an unidentified allied country.

Separately, a provincial police chief says five insurgents and two policemen died during a clash in central Ghazni province.

Khan Mohammad said seven other militants were wounded during the Tuesday battle in Muqur district.
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Top soldier vows to do more for Navy
Natynczyk touches on all forces in wide-ranging interview
Matthew Fisher ,  Canwest News Service Published: Tuesday, July 08, 2008
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ABOARD HMCS IROQUOIS IN THE PERSIAN GULF - "I've got to deliver," was the message that Gen. Walt Natynczyk took halfway around the world with him to his first meeting with a front-line operational unit since becoming Canada's new chief of defence staff six days ago.

"I've got to lay keels for ships. I've got to fill up the navy divisions aboard ships. I have to make sure they have the training that they require," Natynczyk said Tuesday during an interview on board HMCS Iroquois.

The 36-year-old destroyer has been leading a coalition task force that includes two other Canadian warships. They have been hunting for pirates along the Somali coast and for smugglers in the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Sea whose cargoes of drugs and alcohol help bankroll al-Qaida and the Taliban.
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Afghanistan: 400 militants killed in US Helmand mission, says colonel
David Batty guardian.co.uk, Wednesday July 9, 2008
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US marines in southern Afghanistan have killed 400 Islamist militants in the past three months, one of their commanders said today.

Colonel Peter Petronzio, the commander of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said the figure came from the governor of Helmand province, where his troops have been deployed since late April.

Around 2,200 US marines were posted to the town of Garmser, in Helmand province, in an effort to rid the area of pro-Taliban fighters. After months of fighting with insurgents around the town, Petronzio said, the area was more stable but not yet secure.

"The Taliban proved they wanted to fight for Garmser and we took the fight to them," he said.

Petronzio said Nato and Afghan forces remained committed to driving insurgents out of the region, which is an important gateway for fighters smuggling weapons from Pakistan. "If the Taliban are waiting for us to leave, they will have a very long wait," he said.
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Articles found July 10, 2008

PM too bullish on Afghan challenge, critics warn
STEVEN CHASE From Thursday's Globe and Mail July 9, 2008 at 11:32 PM EDT
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OTTAWA — Talk to the U.S. military's top brass and you'll hear how their highest ranking officer is “deeply troubled” about the challenge in Afghanistan as Taliban attacks intensify.

But talk to the Canadian government or military and instead you'll be told the recent “uptick” in Taliban attacks is simply what's expected during the busy spring-summer fighting season in Afghanistan.

Critics say the Harper government and Canada's top soldier are too rosy in their public assessments of the Afghan war, analysis that is out of step with far grimmer readings from the Pentagon.

“There is a clear disconnect between the Canadian view and the American view,” said Liberal defence critic Bryon Wilfert, whose party backed a Conservative motion this spring to extend Canada's military foray in southern Afghanistan to 2011. “I think the Harper government is afraid that maybe people will ask, ‘Is this winnable?'
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Pakistan strikes pact with militants after sweep
Thu Jul 10, 2008 5:01pm IST By Ibrahim Shinwari
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan, July 10 (Reuters) - Pakistani authorities have signed a deal with Islamist militants after they agreed to stop threatening the northwestern city of Peshawar and dismantle training camps, officials said on Thursday.

Militants have been expanding their influence across northwestern Pakistan and violence surged after the army stormed a militant mosque in Islamabad a year ago, raising worries about prospects for the nuclear-armed U.S. ally.

Western allies and Afghanistan have expressed concerns about Pakistan's peace pacts with militants in its ethnic Pashtun tribal areas on the Afghan border.
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US sending more air power to Afghanistan
By Anwar Iqbal
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WASHINGTON, July 9: The United States is sending more air power to Afghanistan amid reports that American commandos are poised to stage hot pursuit raids into Fata.

Three US lawmakers — Gene Green, Michael McCaul and Henry Cuellar — said the plans for stepped-up US military operations were in response to Pakistan’s failure to disrupt terrorist training camps and cross-border attacks from Fata.

On Tuesday, US military officials told reporters in Washington that the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln and its escort vessels were moved out of the Gulf to the Arabian sea, shortening the time that the carrier’s strike planes must take to support operations in Afghanistan.

The officials said that since violence is down dramatically in Iraq, US military planners believe it was possible to focus some air capabilities away from Iraq and more on Afghanistan.

The three lawmakers told the Houston Chronicle in separate interviews that they were briefed about the US plan to stage hot pursuit raids into Fata during a recent trip to the region.
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Government of Canada Invests in the Security of Our Troops
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
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GATINEAU, QUEBEC, Jul 09, 2008 (MARKET WIRE via COMTEX) ----The Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) and Secretary of State (Agriculture), and the Honourable Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, today announced that the Government of Canada has awarded a $374 million contract to General Dynamics Land Systems Canada (GDLS-C) to provide a full range of services to the Canadian Forces Wheeled Light Armoured Vehicles fleet.

"As the sole manufacturer of the Wheeled Light Armoured Vehicles, General Dynamics Land Systems Canada is the only company capable of providing the full range of services needed to maintain these state-of-the-art vehicles well into the future," said Minister Paradis, adding, "The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that the Canadian Forces are equipped with the services they need to support their operations."

"Canada's fleet of LAV III vehicles form the backbone of operations in Afghanistan," said Minister MacKay. "They continue to prove their worth in the exceptionally demanding Afghanistan environment. This contract will ensure that these vehicles receive the maintenance support needed to perform in challenging operations for years to come."

The services provided for in the contract include fleet management, publication and technical data management, program management, spare parts, repair and overhaul services, training support, technical services and field service representation. The contract was awarded on a sole-source basis as GDLS-C is the designer of the Wheeled Light Armoured Vehicles and, together with its prime suppliers, owns most of the intellectual property rights or has exclusive access to all of the proprietary technical data related to this equipment. The contract period is from June 1, 2008, to March 31, 2013.
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Articles found July 11, 2008

Choice cast-offs
Dutch making good use of discarded Canadian Chinook choppers
GRAHAM THOMSON, Canwest News Service Published: 5 hours ago
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The Dutch are certainly not trying to rub Canada's face in it - but there's at least a touch of irony in a recent ceremony at Kandahar Airfield for a Royal Netherlands Air Force helicopter that passed its 10,000th hour of operations.

The old workhorse of an aircraft once belonged to Canada until it sold off its entire fleet of Chinooks to the Dutch as a cost-cutting
effort in the early 1990s.

Now, while Canadian soldiers wait for a squadron of their own new helicopters to airlift them over the bomb-

infested roads of Kandahar province, the Dutch are happily using our old fleet.

"Over here I think it's the only helicopter that matters," said Maj. Remy of the RNLAF, who would not give his last name for security reasons. "I'm not saying that because I do fly the Chinook but everything actually is dependent upon the Chinooks."

The rugged Chinooks are able to lift heavy loads of equipment and troops that otherwise would have to be transported by convoys of armoured vehicles that are attacked with disturbing frequency by insurgents. Most of Canada's fatalities have been the result of roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

Several federal papers, including the Manley commission report, have strongly pressed the Canadian government for dedicated battlefield helicopters. However, getting the helicopters is proving problematic. A

$4-billion program to buy new Chinooks has been troubled by delays and the government has scrambled to buy six used Chinooks from the U.S. army that won't be available until late this year or early 2009.
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NATO Base In Afghanistan Gets Major Expansion
by Ivan Watson
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Iraq's government is taking a hard line with Washington over how long and under what conditions U.S. troops can remain in the country, but in Afghanistan, officials seem to have accepted the indefinite presence of more than 70,000 foreign troops on their soil.

It has been more than six years since the remnants the Taliban regime fought a "last stand" against U.S. and Afghan forces at the airport in Kandahar. Since then, Kandahar Air Field has grown into a vital NATO air base.

The base in southern Afghanistan is now a walled, multicultural military city that houses some 13,000 troops from 17 different countries — the kind of place where you can eat at a Dutch chain restaurant alongside soldiers from the Royal Netherlands Army.

Hockey In The Desert

Not far from U.S. troops who play basketball to the beat of blaring rap is the surreal sight of Canadian troops in heavy pads and helmets playing street hockey in an outdoor rink in the middle of the Afghan desert, the clatter of hockey sticks mingling with gunfire from a shooting range at the edge of the base.

"It is a key air field for the whole of Afghanistan, but particularly for the south," Air Commodore Bob Judson, its British commander, said in a phone interview
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Villagers Kill Taliban Leader in Northwestern Afghanistan
By VOA News 10 July 2008
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Afghan officials say villagers in northwestern Afghanistan have killed two Taliban militants.

US Marines patrol in the town of Garmser in Helmand Province of Afghanistan, 10 Jul 2008 
Officials in Faryab province Thursday said militants were trying to abduct aid workers in Qaysar district on Wednesday when villagers confronted them, killing two, and forcing 10 others to flee.

One of the militants killed was reportedly a Taliban-appointed shadow governor for the province.

In central Afghanistan Thursday, the NATO-led coalition says its forces in Logar province killed a suspected Taliban militant, Mohammad Daud Rahimi, believed to have been involved in planning suicide bombings
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U.S. Senate confirms Petraeus' nomination as central command chief 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-07-11 03:47:30 
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    WASHINGTON, July 10 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed the nomination of Gen. David Petraeus as the chief of the U.S. military's Central Command that takes charge of Middle East and Central Asia areas.

    By voting 95 to 2, the Senate allowed the 55-year-old general, who is currently the top commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, to take his new post whose responsibilities include the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

    The floor is also expected to approve the nomination of Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the former deputy top commander in Iraq, to replace Petraeus as the chief military officer in Iraq.

    Petraeus was named to command U.S. troops in Iraq in late 2006 by President George W. Bush and directed the president's troop "surge" plan.

    When announcing Petraeus' nomination in April, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that he has been successful for his current assignment in Iraq and is the best man to run the Central Command.
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British troops in Afghanistan injured by friendly fire
James Sturcke guardian.co.uk, Thursday July 10, 2008
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Nine British troops have been injured in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said tonight.

The soldiers were mistaken for Taliban forces by a British Apache helicopter during a skirmish yesterday in Helmand province.

The most seriously injured soldier has been airlifted back to the UK and is in a stable condition, the MoD said. Another two are under observation at the British field hospital at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

The remaining casualties suffered light injuries and have returned to duties.

The "blue-on-blue" incident happened when a routine British patrol requested air support after encountering hostile forces near a forward operating base called Gibraltar, the MoD said.

After successfully engaging one enemy position, the Apache fired upon another position thought to be held by enemy forces.

"In the confusion of a rapidly changing situation, and in what is a challenging environment, it would appear that friendly forces were mistaken for the enemy and as a result three members of the patrol were seriously wounded and six more were classified as walking wounded," the MoD said in a statement.

An investigation into the incident is under way.
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NATO commander seeks AWACS planes for Afghanistan
Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:23pm EDT  (Adds German reaction in paragraph 5)
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BRUSSELS, July 10 (Reuters) - NATO's commander in Afghanistan has asked the alliance to send surveillance planes to help the battle against insurgents there, an official said on Thursday.

The request, if approved, could pose political problems for Germany, which supplies many of the personnel for the planes and which might need parliamentary approval for the deployment.

"COM-ISAF has requested it in a letter to SACEUR," a NATO official said of a request by U.S. General David McKiernan to NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe General John Craddock.

"There's been no decision yet," added the official, who requested anonymity.

A spokesman for the German Defence Ministry said on Thursday the letter had not yet been received in Berlin and there had not been any official request by NATO.

No details were available on the reasons for the request, but NATO commanders have long complained about the difficulty of carrying out proper surveillance of a country the size of France with poor or non-existent internal infrastructure.

NATO owns a fleet of 17 Boeing Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) radar aircraft based in Geilenkirchen, central Germany. According to its website, it has a second but smaller component comprising seven British-manned planes in Britain.

Equipped with radar capable of tracing air traffic over large distances and at low altitudes, the planes would be useful in coordinating the helicopters on which the 53,000-strong NATO-led mission depends for much of its mobility.

Nearly a third of the 1,600 personnel on the Geilenkirchen base are German, although the planes could theoretically be deployed with crews of other nationalities.

The German presence in Afghanistan has for months been close to the limit of 3,500 troops allowed by its parliament mandate.

That expires in October and Berlin wants to raise that threshold by an extra 1,000 troops in a new mandate. German involvement in the AWACS deployment could mean having to raise the upper limit further and define the tasks of the AWACS.
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They lost limbs serving Canada, now Afghan translators hope to live there
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — They lost their limbs serving Canada, and now they're asking to be allowed into the country.

They are among the scores of young Afghan men who have been maimed or killed while working as interpreters for the international armies fighting in their homeland.

They have been shot at, blown up, tortured and threatened.

In at least one case, several interpreters' bodies were strung up in a public square and left to rot there for weeks as a lesson to anyone else thinking of helping the foreigners.

Hasham is one of these young men. One who survived.

Sporting a boyish smile and a late adolescent's peach fuzz, he describes how his future in Afghanistan vanished when a roadside bomb tore off his left leg.

Hasham dragged himself across the carpet in his living quarters Friday, pulled on his only shoe, and hopped up to retrieve a document stored in a safe place by the door.

It is a letter from Canadian soldier Maj. Mike Lake, lauding him for his bravery and loyalty.

Hasham proudly hands over the letter and asks a Canadian journalist to use it to get him into Canada.

When told it's not that simple to immigrate to Canada - there are forms, fees, criteria, and paperwork - he breathes an exasperated sigh.
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Afghan Warlords, Formerly Backed By the CIA, Now Turn Their Guns On U.S. Troops
They defeated the Soviets with Washington’s help, but now they attack Americans as the new occupiers
By Anna Mulrine Posted July 11, 2008
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KABUL—The war in Afghanistan reached a wrenching milestone this summer: For the second month in a row, U.S. and coalition troop deaths in the country surpassed casualties in Iraq. This is driven in large part, U.S. officials point out, by simple cause and effect. Marines flowed into southern Afghanistan earlier this year to rout firmly entrenched Taliban fighters, prompting a spike in combat in territory where NATO forces previously didn't have the manpower to send troops. "We're doing something we haven't done in seven years, which is go after the Taliban where they're living," says a U.S. official.
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Articles found July 12, 2008

Some good people flying shotgun for some good new Army trucks
Thank goodness for our American allies:
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Friday, July 11, 2008

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Nobody wore a cowboy hat and there wasn't a horse in sight, but everyone who turned up for Calgary Stampede Days in Kandahar was carrying a real gun.

Canadian soldiers held a pancake breakfast at the Kandahar Airfield on Thursday to celebrate the Stampede, and used the occasion to informally thank American helicopter pilots for saving a Canadian convoy from a suicide bombing attack on July 2.

"It was pretty scary," said Pte. Phelycia Black, who was driving one of Canada's new Mercedes-Benz armoured trucks (more here) on her first trip outside the wire when the incident occurred.

We were on a gravel road, so it was dusty. All we saw was a dark vehicle
coming to our left."

Americans flying as lookouts above the convoy could see exactly what was about to happen and radioed a warning to the Canadians below, giving them a split second to veer away as the bomber blew himself up. The explosion killed the bomber and wounded three Afghan civilians. No Canadians were hurt.

Black, based out of Wainwright, thanked the Americans, who accepted the Canadian gesture -- along with a plateful of pancakes drenched in maple syrup.

"They saved our lives," said Black. "Seeing how it was my first time, I wasn't sure what to expect, but from now on that's all I'm going to be watching for."..

Some troops might grumble about the lack of helicopters, but they have nothing but praise for the new armoured trucks that look like 18-wheelers on steroids and come with a fridge in the cabin for their bottled water.

Black said the vehicle is so solidly armoured that the detonation of the suicide bomb seemed like little more than a "poof" even though the helicopter pilots described it as a huge fireball.

"In our new trucks, you don't feel anything," said Black...
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Dep't of National Defence / Canadian Forces  News Release
Actros  AHSVS  ( Armoured Heavy Support Vehicle System )

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The Department of  National Defence has awarded an $87 M contract to provide 82 Armoured Heavy Support Vehicles to the Canadian Forces. The new vehicles are a militarized  Mercedes-Benz  Actros  truck.

  For details, see AHSVS Project.  A key AHSVS element is its armoured cab developed by LMT (Pretoria, South Africa) for Daimler Chrysler. It protects against mines, IEDs, & projectiles, etc. but only weighs 2000kg

The content of the DND / CF Armoured Heavy Support Vehicle System (AHSVS) Backgrounder is reproduced directly below.  Beneath that is the DND / CF News Release for the Mercedes Actros purchase. Both were published on 10 May 2007.

DND/Canadian Forces Backgrounder

Renewing the Canadian Forces' Heavy Truck Capability

BG–07.015 - May 10, 2007


Afghanistan and other recent conflicts have shown that lethal and readily available anti-armour weapons, such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), are spreading globally. Protecting personnel, whether it be in a heavily armoured main battle tank or in the armoured cab of a logistics support vehicle, is a priority for ensuring successful and effective operations in today’s security environment.
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NATO Cowards Called To Account
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U.S., British, Canadian and Dutch diplomats are leaning hard on other NATO members to provide more meaningful support in Afghanistan. This is not the first time such complaints have been made, but because U.S., British, Canadian and Dutch troops are doing nearly all the fighting, while most of the 50,000 NATO troops (particularly the Germans and French) stay in the north, where there is very little action, tempers are getting short. What particularly irritates the four "fighting nations" are the 70-80 "special instructions" the other NATO nations have attached to the use of their troops in Afghanistan.

This pressure has had some effect. France is moving some of its combat troops to eastern Afghanistan, where there has been an increase in the number of Pakistani Taliban crossing the border. Some nations have offered to send much needed helicopters and medical units, but even this will take time. Since the end of the Cold War in 1991, most European nations have sharply cut their military spending (as a percentage of GDP), and just let their armed forces quietly fall apart. This has become embarrassingly obvious as they are now called on to step up help out in Afghanistan. Many politicians said yes, only to find themselves caught short by the realities of their decrepit armed forces.
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US to investigate air strike that killed 47 Afghan civilians
By Leonard Doyle in Washington  Saturday, 12 July 2008
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An Afghan investigation into the bombing of a wedding party by US warplanes has found that 47 civilians, including 39 women and children, were killed in an air strike last Sunday.

The attack took place in the eastern province of Nangarhar when survivors say aircraft bombed a convoy bringing a bride to her new husband's village. After the bombing, the US military released a statement saying it had been targeting a large group of Taliban militants.

After first claiming that there were no civilians in the area the US announced its own inquiry into the incident.

But Afghan investigators were unequivocal. "I reject the coalition statement saying that all those killed were militants," said Burhanullah Shinwari. The deputy speaker of the upper house told Reuters: "There aren't any Taliban or al-Qa'ida even several kilometres near to where the air strike took place."He spoke after attending prayer ceremonies for the 47 victims in the provincial capital, Jalalabad.

The US has been warned that it faces "crippling, long-term consequences" in its efforts to stabilise Afghanistan if Taliban sanctuaries inside Pakistan are not eliminated
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'It's impossible to conquer the Afghans'
PAUL KORING  From Saturday's Globe and Mail July 12, 2008 at 12:44 AM EDT
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MOSCOW — Head bowed, exhausted, the statue of a young soldier back from Afghanistan's killing fields is flanked by long, grim, lists of his dead comrades. It's a cautionary monument for Western politicians and generals who boldly boast they will succeed where the Soviets failed.

In Russia, a country chock full of heroic memorials to enormous military sacrifice, the uniquely dejected pose of the helmetless Afghan combat veteran in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg is a sobering reminder that great powers have an unhappy history of overreaching and then being driven ignominiously from Afghanistan.

“Canadians and Americans are learning the hard way. You have been there seven years and you have no prospect of early victory,” said Ruslan Aushev, a highly decorated combat veteran who served two tours, totalling nearly five years with the Soviet army in Afghanistan. “We knew by 1985 that we could not win,” he recalls. It then took Moscow four more years to extricate hundreds of thousands of troops from Afghanistan, while claiming victory on the way out. Afghanistan was plunged into civil war.

In Russia, there's a widespread view that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has failed to heed the lessons of history.
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Articles found 120820EDT Jul 08

Healing on the Albany! Ready to Go!
News release, 10 July 2008
Release link - Area map

On July 12th, seven American and three Canadian soldiers will be the guests of a Canadian adventure travel company, Wilderness North of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada and marks the first time the American non-profit group Project Healing Waters (PHW) will stage an event outside of the U.S. and one that includes non-U.S. soldiers.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. (www.projecthealingwaters.org) was started at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC by retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson through partnerships with the Federation of Fly Fishers and The National Capital Chapter of Trout Unlimited. The program grew and is now a nationwide program serving vets across the United States and now, Canada. The skills required to fly fish and tie flies have proven to be a valuable tool in the rehabilitation of these heroes who have been wounded from all conflicts that the U.S. and Canada have been involved in.....
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Sault streets showered with yellow ribbons
Military families show support for kin in Afghanistan

Brian Kelly, The Sault Star, 12 Jul 08
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It was mission accomplished for May Adshead Saturday.

The facilitator of Sault Ste. Marie Military Family Support Group and 14 other volunteers spent an hour staple gunning and wrapping about 300 yellow ribbons on poles on Queen Street East, Pim Street, Great Northern Road And Second Line from Great Northern to Leighs Bay Road.

The colourful markers show backing for about 20 Sault residents serving in Afghanistan in the regular and reserve forces.

"Their community is behind them, supporting them," said Adshead.

"I think (the ribbons) are awesome."

A fundraising barbecue held Canada Day at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25 and personal donations from support group members covered the roughly $100 supply cost.

The ribbons will stay up on Queen Street until September and the remaining streets until early 2009....
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Battle fatigue
A weary soldier in his 50s characterizes the stressed-out state of special forces

Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, 12 Jul 08
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Jackson spoke almost nostalgically of those early days in Afghanistan, when everything – and everyone – was fresh, the morality unconfusing. Comparing notes, we realized we were choking on the same dust at Kandahar Airfield six years and four months ago when the first Canadian combat boots hit the ground.

Back then, KAF looked like a Special Forces Olympics, acrawl with elite teams on loan from at least a dozen Western armies.

Jackson was amused to learn the Toronto Star was unceremoniously "unembedded" from the base for reporting countries that sent them.

Jackson rubbed shoulders more than a little with Canada's own JTF2 commandos and pronounced them "as good as ours." Which, in and of itself, is more than Ottawa will let Canadians know.

He last visited KAF three months ago, depressed that the biggest changes in southern Afghanistan are to be found at the base itself.

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Suicide Attack Kills Three In Southern Afghanistan
Reuters/Radio Free Europe, 13 Jul 08
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A suicide bomber killed two soldiers and a child on July 12 in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, in an attack targeting an Afghan security forces convoy, the provincial police chief said.

Taliban militants carried out more than 140 suicide attacks in 2007 and have vowed to step up their campaign of suicide bombings this year.

The bomber, who was on foot, detonated his explosives near a convoy carrying Afghan soldiers and police in Marja District.

"Three people were killed including two soldiers and one child," Helmand police chief, Mohammad Hussein Andiwal told Reuters. "Six people were wounded, including two policemen."....
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Body of NSP chief found beheaded
Quqnoos.com, 13 Jul 08
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Residents discover decapitated body of development chief

THE DECAPITATED body of the National Solidarity Programme’s (NSP) Nimroz chief has been found by residents three days after he went missing.

Engineer Muhammad Naeem Momand disappeared three days ago in the provincial capital of the south-western province, Zaranj ....
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Police say 24 killed in Afghan suicide blast
NOOR KHAN, The Associated Press, 13 Jul 08
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A suicide bomber on a motorcycle blew himself up next to a police patrol in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, killing 24 people, including 19 civilians, a provincial police chief said.

The attack in the southern province of Uruzgan also killed five police officers and wounded more than 30 others, said Juma Gul Himat.

The bomber struck the police patrol in a busy intersection of Deh Rawood district, Himat said. The bombing also damaged or destroyed about nine shops in the area, he said.

Most of those killed and wounded were shopkeepers and young boys selling cigarettes and other goods in the street, Himat said ....
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U.S. considers increasing pace of Iraq pullout
Steven Lee Myers, International Herald Tribune, 13 Jul 08
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The Bush administration is considering the withdrawal of additional combat forces from Iraq beginning in September, according to administration and military officials, raising the prospect of a far more ambitious plan than expected only months ago.

Such a withdrawal would be a striking reversal from the nadir of the war in 2006 and 2007.

One factor in the consideration is the pressing need for additional American troops in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and other fighters have intensified their insurgency and inflicted a growing number of casualties on Afghans and American-led forces there ....
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Articles found July 13, 2008

ANA, ISAF in heavy fighting with insurgents in E Afghanistan   
www.chinaview.cn  2008-07-13 19:33:31 
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    KABUL, July 13 (Xinhua) -- Afghan National Army (ANA) and the NATO-led ISAF troops in eastern Afghanistan have entered into heavy fighting with insurgents since early Sunday morning, with casualties inflicted on both sides, the NATO-led military said.

    Insurgents have been firing at a military combat outpost in Dara-I-Pech district of Kunar province on the Pakistani border and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and ANA responded with "small arms, machine guns, mortars, artillery, close air support and helicopters," the ISAF said in a statement.

    "There have been casualties on both sides of the fight, but accurate numbers could not be confirmed as the fighting is ongoing at the time of this release," it added.

    The rebels relied on small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars to fight and used homes, shops and the mosque in a local village for cover, according to ISAF.

    There are 52,000 ISAF troops contributed by 40 nations deployed across Afghanistan with a UN authorized mission of stabilizing security and helping in reconstruction.
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Missiles fired from Afghanistan land in Pakistan       
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At least three missiles fired from Afghanistan Sunday landed inside Pakistani bordering territory, but there were no casualties reported.

The missiles were fired from Afghanistan's Paktika Province and landed in an uninhabited area of South Waziristan, security sources told KUNA. They said there was no human or material loss reported.

Meanwhile, the dead bodies of 17 paramilitary troopers, killed on Saturday in a militant attack, were handed over to a tribal Jirga in Hangu town, about 250 kilometers north of Islamabad.

According to media reports, efforts to restore peace in the area were being made. They said the dead bodies of all troopers were handed over to the Jirga.

They bodies are of those killed Saturday when militants attacked a convoy in a small area of Hangu town.

Reports added that the military has also been called into the area, to restore law and order.
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Militants hand over bodies of 17 troops killed in Pakistan
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PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Suspected Taliban militants on Sunday handed over the bodies of 17 paramilitary troops killed in an ambush in Pakistan's restive northwest, highlighting a surge in insurgent activity there.

The dead were part of a convoy heading to a fort outside the city of Hangu near the border with Afghanistan on Saturday when rebels attacked it with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles, officials said.

Three militants including a local Taliban commander named Razeem were killed and six others injured in the ensuing gun battle, which lasted until late Saturday in the Zargari neighbourhood outside Hangu.

Hangu mayor Haji Afzal Khan told AFP the rebels had initially refused to allow security forces to retrieve the bodies but relented after frantic negotiations with a jirga, a committee of local elders.

The bodies were taken to a hospital in Hangu, where they were to be returned to relatives of the victims, a security official told AFP.
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It Takes a School, Not Missiles
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF Published: July 13, 2008
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Since 9/11, Westerners have tried two approaches to fight terrorism in Pakistan, President Bush’s and Greg Mortenson’s.

Mr. Bush has focused on military force and provided more than $10 billion — an extraordinary sum in the foreign-aid world — to the highly unpopular government of President Pervez Musharraf. This approach has failed: the backlash has radicalized Pakistan’s tribal areas so that they now nurture terrorists in ways that they never did before 9/11.

Mr. Mortenson, a frumpy, genial man from Montana, takes a diametrically opposite approach, and he has spent less than one-ten-thousandth as much as the Bush administration. He builds schools in isolated parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, working closely with Muslim clerics and even praying with them at times.

The only thing that Mr. Mortenson blows up are boulders that fall onto remote roads and block access to his schools.

Mr. Mortenson has become a legend in the region, his picture sometimes dangling like a talisman from rearview mirrors, and his work has struck a chord in America as well. His superb book about his schools, “Three Cups of Tea,” came out in 2006 and initially wasn’t reviewed by most major newspapers. Yet propelled by word of mouth, the book became a publishing sensation: it has spent the last 74 weeks on the paperback best-seller list, regularly in the No. 1 spot.

Now Mr. Mortenson is fending off several dozen film offers. “My concern is that a movie might endanger the well-being of our students,” he explains.
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Afstan: more misleading "reporting" from the Globe and Mail
Those intrepid underminers of the mission just won't quit:
Saturday, July 12, 2008
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The Canadian military has been studying the Soviet debacle in Afghanistan for clues on how to prevent similar mistakes as NATO tries to beat back a persistent insurgency and ready the country's weak but pro-Western government to assume greater control.

It began a research project in 2006, a year in which fighting intensified for Canada in the war against the Taliban...

By the time the Department of National Defence began its research project, Canadian soldiers had been fighting Taliban insurgents for nearly half a decade without subduing them, a 2007 Forces paper notes.

"Despite many successes ... the insurgency against the government of Afghanistan, the U.S. troops and [North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces] persisted."..
In 2006 Canadian soldiers had not "been fighting Taliban insurgents for nearly half a decade without subduing them"--and that is not what the quote from the DND paper says.

The CF fought the Taliban around Kandahar, as part of US Operation Enduring Freedom, for some six months in the first part of 2002 and then withdrew from Afghanistan. They returned to Kabul in the summer of 2003, as part of NATO's UN Security Council-mandated ISAF. That was not a combat mission and ISAF at that time was not aimed at "subduing" the Taliban. Rather it was essentially a peacekeeping force, initially in the Kabul area only and gradually spreading further out. The Americans and some allies under OEF were those trying, and then only to a limited extent, to fight the Taliban.
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Articles found July 13, 2008

Canada says dam contractor must hire its own security in Afghanistan
Andrew Mayeda ,  Canwest News Service Published: Monday, July 14, 2008
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OTTAWA - The federal government has warned bidders on a high-profile reconstruction project in Afghanistan that they will largely be responsible for their own security, raising the prospect that private security firms will form the first line of defence against the Taliban.

The Harper government announced last month that the refurbishment of the Dahla Dam will be one of Canada's "signature" projects in Kandahar province. Canada has promised to invest as much as $50 million over three years to repair the long-neglected dam and its irrigation system, which supplies most of the farmers in the province.

Military commanders in Afghanistan have insisted the Canadian Forces will play an active role in protecting the dam, which observers expect to become a prime target for the Taliban.

Tender documents released Monday, however, show the contractor hired to fix the dam can expect limited support from the Canadian military and the NATO-led coalition.

Bidders are warned that the Taliban has shifted to "small-scale, asymmetric" tactics such as attacks on Afghan security forces, and "in some cases civilians." Nevertheless, the dam contractor will be expected to provide primary security at the project site.

"In the event of an emergency the military will provide a quick reaction force, but close support is the responsibility of the consultant, and the police may be the appropriate responder in many cases," states a request for proposals prepared by the Canadian International Development Agency.
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Obama promises 10,000 more troops for Afghanistan·
Pledge follows worst loss of US soldiers since 2005
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Ewen MacAskill in Washington The Guardian, Tuesday July 15, 2008 Barack Obama yesterday pledged to increase US troops in Afghanistan by a third if he becomes president, sending 10,000 more to reinforce the 33,000 already there.

He was speaking after the US lost nine soldiers at the weekend in the deadliest attack on its forces in the country since 2005.

Obama has promised, soon after becoming president in January, to begin scaling back the 156,000 US troops in Iraq and Kuwait, and to shift the focus to Afghanistan.

He is to fill out his plans in a foreign policy speech in Washington today ahead of his first visit to Iraq and Afghanistan since he launched his presidential bid early last year.

Details of his trip have been kept secret for security reasons but a senior Palestinian spokesman, Saeb Erekat, disclosed yesterday that Obama would be in the region next week, with a meeting in the West Bank on July 23 with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Bill Burton, a spokesman for Obama, said today's speech "will focus on the global strategic interests of the United States, which includes ending our misguided effort in Iraq". He added that a gradual, phased withdrawal of US troops "will allow the US to properly address the growing threat from a resurgent al-Qaida in Afghanistan".
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Flock of errant birds grounds army chief's flight out of Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The head of Canada's military has finally left Afghanistan after a one-day delay caused by a bothersome flock of birds.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk had planned to leave the country Sunday after capping his five-day tour with a brief trip to Kabul.

But a flock of birds flew into his plane, causing technical problems with the aircraft and forcing him to make an unscheduled landing.

Natynczyk spent an additional night in Kandahar and left the country Monday.

The military boss came to Afghanistan for a tour of Canadian operating bases just one week after being sworn into his new post.

He travelled Kandahar province by helicopter and in convoys, visiting with the troops and going to see the site of a $50-million, Canadian-led dam reconstruction project.
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Bribing way out of Afghanistan still costs less than a cup of coffee
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SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan — Bribing your way out of Afghanistan through the border still costs less than a cup of coffee, even seven years after the Sept. 11 attacks made this region the centre of the international war on terrorism.

Rampant corruption at the Pakistani border was documented by The Canadian Press in several dozen trips through one of its few supposedly official crossings.

The history of this chaotic frontier goes a long way to explaining the decades of ongoing violence in Afghanistan, and the ubiquitous role played by Pakistan.

Generations of dispute over the border have helped trigger a chain reaction of Pashtun nationalism, Islamic militancy, the rise of the Taliban, and the modern-day insurgency.

Even some of the guardians paid to protect the border today treat it as little more than a personal toll booth.

Pakistani border guards demand $1 or $2 bribes through a well-known catch phrase that is familiar to many of the estimated 40,000 people who cross this frontier every day.

"Open your mind," Pakistani guards would tell passersby at the road crossing between Spin Boldak, Afghanistan and Chaman, Pakistan.

They would then stick out their hands.
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Political underdog tackles Karzai, corruption
By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target Mon. Jul 14 - 6:00 AM
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KABUL, Afghanistan — HIS OFFICE is a small tent erected on the shoulder of the highway that runs in front of the Afghan parliament building. Inside, a tattered flag of Afghanistan hangs behind a small desk that is surrounded by a half dozen plastic chairs.

Seated behind the desk is the slightly built Ramazan Bashardost, a former cabinet minister in the Karzai government turned anti-corruption crusader, and if he has his way, the future president of Afghanistan.

He rises, acknowledges Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan’s security, and then immediately delivers his message: "Your young Canadian soldiers give their blood for Afghanistan . . . but there is no reconstruction, only corruption. Canadian development money should be used for big projects, not for buying private luxury houses for government officials and luxury cars with television sets in them."

Bashardost certainly understands the extent of corruption in Afghanistan better than most and speaks out against it publicly more than anyone. After studying in France and obtaining a PhD in international affairs, Bashardost returned to his native Afghanistan following the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.
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Australians 'accept' Afghanistan deaths
By David Nason July 14, 2008 08:19am
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AUSTRALIANS have a "quite robust" tolerance for battlefield casualties in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said yesterday as the body of our latest casualty was flown out of the war zone for home.

The Australian reports Mr Fitzgibbon said Australians understood the national interest was under direct threat in Afghanistan, and accepted the risks facing the Diggers.

"Australians have a long history of involvement in conflict and know the risks involved and understand the risks involved," he said.

But Mr Fitzgibbon, who is in the US for meetings with defence suppliers, senior officials of the Bush administration and members of Congress, said he did not spend any time dwelling on the possibility of Australia incurring "mass casualties" at the hands of the Taliban.

"I spend all my time working to ensure they don't occur," the minister said.

Mr Fitzgibbon's comments follow last week's death of SAS signaller Sean McCarthy, the sixth Australian soldier to die in Afghanistan. A farewell ceremony was held for the 25-year-old at Australia's Tarin Kowt military base in the country's southeast. His body is expected to be returned to Australia by tomorrow afternoon.
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Natynczyk says violence holding steady in Afghanistan
Jul 13, 2008 03:05 PM Alexander Panetta  THE CANADIAN PRESS
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan–The new head of Canada's military has completed a five-day visit to Afghanistan and offered a uniquely cheerful assessment of the security situation that contrasts sharply with the grim data.

The upbeat prognosis from Canada's new chief of defence staff that the violence is holding steady in Kandahar province this year flies in the face of independent analysis documenting a 77 per cent surge in Taliban attacks.

That increased violence was underscored Sunday in a pair of devastating insurgent strikes.
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Military studies Soviet Afghan errors
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OTTAWA -- The Canadian military has been studying the Soviet Union's failed war in Afghanistan for clues on how to avoid similar mistakes.

The Soviet military invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and withdrew a decade later after a costly battle against mujahedeen fighters, leaving a weak pro-Soviet government that collapsed in 1992.

The Globe and Mail reports that the study by the Department of National Defence began in 2006, nearly five years after the Canadian military became involved in Afghanistan.

Among other things, the study found the Soviets failed because they focused too much on security, and too little on achieving economic stability in Afghanistan.

As part of the solution, the study says Afghanistan should develop its petroleum wealth.
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Afghanistan: militancy and security

Latest Conference of Defence Associations media round-up. This section is very useful:

Carlotta Gall and Eric Schmitt for the International Herald Tribune (see link below) report on the recent attack against an American outpost in Kunar province, bordering Pakistan. Jeffrey Stern for Time magazine and Aunohita Mojumdar for the Christian Science Monitor (see links below) provide some context to the attack. Bill Roggio for the Long War Journal (see link below) examines the link between Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in this attack.





Articles found July 16, 2008

INGRESS: New Eyes for Canada’s Griffon Helicopters
15-Jul-2008 14:17 EDT
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In December 2005, “Canada Purchases $200M in Equipment for Operation ARCHER in Afghanistan” noted the issues created by Canada’s complete lack of integrated in-theater helicopter support. Worse, the Canadian Forces faced an equally complete lack of options. Canada had never operated attack helicopters, so there were none to be had. Its heavy lift CH-47s had been sold to the Dutch in 1991, and the program to belatedly replace them cannot deliver before 2011-2012. The navy’s Sea King fleet was dangerously old and needed for maritime roles, and their replacement CH-148 Cyclones/H-92 Superhawks have yet to be delivered. New CH-149 Cormorant/EH101 search-and-rescue helicopters are non-military versions that are needed along Canada’s huge coastlines, and the helicopters have encountered serious and long-running reliability issues during their short lifetimes. Finally, other Army helicopters like the CH-146 Griffon/ Bell 412 lacked the carrying capacity required to operate as true utility helicopters in Afghanistan’s performance-sapping high altitudes and hot temperatures.

Outside organizations like the Canadian-American Strategic Review (CASR) had looked at this problem, and proposed a pair of solutions. One option involved buying, leasing, or trading for Mi-17 helicopters used by Afghanistan’s air force and by several NATO countries. Faced with a Parliamentary threat of forced withdrawal unless it produced transport helicopters in a timely manner, the Canadian government finally signed a contract in April 2008 to buy 6 used CH-47Ds instead, and have them delivered by 2009. The other CASR proposal looked at the Bell 412’s strengths and limitations. It argued that CH-146 Griffons could be turned into armed reconnaissance helicopters that would emulate the US Marines’ UH-1Ns by providing overwatch, escorting transport helicopters, and even performing limited casualty-evacuation duties.

Now, a program called INGRESS is taking the first steps along very similar lines, in order to prepare Canada’s Griffons for front-line deployment…

The Interoperable Griffon Reconnaissance Escort Surveillance System program aimed to install surveillance and targeting turrets in Canada’s CH-146 Griffons, “along with equipment that will allow for the operation of the sensor for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Escort tasks.”

INGRESS was let as a formal RFP on Canada’s MERX system in April 2008. Bids closed on May 23/08, and on July 14/08, the Canadian government announced that L-3 Wescam Inc. in Burlington, Ontario, Canada had won a C$ 25.9 million (about $25.8 million, includes value-added tax) contract.
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Spain Budgets EUR 22M for Afghan Army Battalion
15-Jul-2008 15:05 EDT
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Operations in Afghanistan have featured difficulties among NATO allies due to some members who will not commit their forces to combat situations, forces not delivered as promised, and shortages of critical assets like helicopters. It has also featured some innovations, such as ISAF’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams. PRTs combine military force with direct aid delivery, acting as a key aid supplement to civil groups, and reaching areas where wealthy non-governmental organizations will not operate due to risk aversion or political issues.

Spain operates a PRT at Qal-i-Naw in Afghanistan’s northwestern Baghdis province, about 100 km NNE east of Herat and near the border with Turkmenistan. Baghdis falls under ISAF’s West Regional command, and is not a major conflict zone like the souteastern provinces along Pakistan’s border. Even so, it will require a long-term security presence in order to remain stable, and to slowly expand the central government’s authority. Recent Spanish expenditures are helping to prepare that next step, by raising, accommodating, and training an Afghan National Army force that can secure this area over the longer term.

In September 2007, Spain earmarked EUR 4.5 million to equip and train a company of 100 ANA soldiers, then added another EUR 2.5 million to build them appropriate barracks and facilities. A Spanish “operational team of instruction and link” team of 52 is working to train the Afghans, and costs EUR 200,000 initial investment plus about EUR 200,000 per month in ongoing funds. Now Infodefensa reports that Spain will spend EUR 22 million (currently $35 million) over the next 2 years to train, equip, and house an Afghan Army battalion of 600 men, which is to be based in Baghdis and operational by Spring 2009.
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Taliban's 'deputy governor' of Kandahar said killed
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The Canadian military says the Taliban's self-declared 'deputy governor of Kandahar' appears to have been killed in an air strike by international forces.

They say Mullah Mahmoud was second-in-command in the shadow government that the Taliban have created to lead Kandahar if they ever regain power.

The military made the announcement at a press conference with the actual government of Kandahar on Wednesday.

The coalition learned of a meeting of insurgent leaders from Afghan intelligence, and last week gunned down Mr. Mahmoud and eight of his companions during the meeting in Khakrez district.
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Feds pick MDA for drones
Allison Lampert, The Gazette Published: Tuesday, July 15
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FARNBOROUGH, U.K. - The federal government has quietly chosen the winner of a $100 million contract to supply critical unmanned drones to Canadian troops in Afghanistan, The Gazette has learned.

But the choice of the winner - MacDonald Dettweiler and Associates Ltd. and Israeli Air Industries Ltd. - is sparking controversy in Canadian aerospace circles because the tendering guidelines were changed midway through the bid.

While competitors were initially asked to demonstrate proof of past experience, that requirement was later dropped, industry sources told The Gazette.
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NATO Denies Reports of Troop Movements Near Afghan-Pakistani Border 
By VOA News  15 July 2008
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A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan says reports of hundreds of troops massing near the Pakistani border are totally inaccurate.

Spokesman Mark Laity told VOA Afghan service Tuesday that coalition forces are not conducting any unusual activity near the border.

Laity was responding to reports from local Pakistani officials and villagers who say they have witnessed a buildup of troops across the border in Afghanistan.

Residents of Lowara Mandi in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal region report that foreign troops moved armored vehicles and heavy artillery into Afghanistan's border region Tuesday. 
Witnesses say some Pakistani families have fled the area because of fears of a cross-border strike.

But Pakistani army officials are playing down fears of such a strike. They say the troop movement in Afghanistan is probably routine, and that reports of a buildup of U.S. forces are "unnecessary hype."
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Afghan fight drawing foreign jihadis
They seem to be moving from Iraq to Pakistan and Afghanistan.
By Howard LaFranchi | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor from the July 16, 2008 edition
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Washington - This week's brazen and deadly attack on a US-Afghan outpost in an area near the Pakistani border is raising new concerns that foreign fighters bent on fighting the West are retraining their sights from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Sunday's predawn assault on the still-unfinished camp left nine US soldiers dead and was the worst single toll for US forces in Afghanistan since 2005. It came only a few days after the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said on a visit to Kabul that more foreign fighters are arriving in Pakistan's tribal areas just across the border.

From there, he said, the foreign fighters, which intelligence has revealed includes members of Al Qaeda, can join Taliban forces in Afghanistan to launch attacks – like Sunday's – against US and Afghan forces.

US officials caution that the number of foreign fighters streaming into the border region near Afghanistan is still relatively small. But coupled with intelligence finding that fewer foreign fighters are seeking to enter Iraq, as well as with postings from jihadist websites exhorting would-be foreign fighters to take up the fight in Afghanistan, the arrivals suggest that Islamist extremists are adjusting their international fight to hit the United States and the West where they perceive them to be weakest.
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Taliban control more of Kandahar: analysis
GRAEME SMITH From Wednesday's Globe and Mail July 15, 2008 at 7:53 PM EDT
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — More districts of Kandahar are controlled by the Taliban than by the Afghan government, according to a U.S. assessment that casts doubt on Canada's upbeat view of the war.

A detailed analysis by U.S. security officials shows that foreign troops and their local allies hold sway over the core, highly populated districts of Kandahar, but the zone of government control remains a small part of the vast territory assigned to Canadian responsibility two years ago.

The assessment divides Kandahar's districts into four categories: contested, Taliban controlled, locally controlled, and government controlled. Only four of 16 districts were classified as government controlled. The Taliban were described as controlling six districts.

The rest are held by local tribes or warlords, or they are battlefields with nobody clearly dominating.
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Mounted cavalry mends unseen wounds of Afghanistan-weary soldiers
Emily Senger ,  Canwest News Service Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2008
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EDMONTON - Soldiers riding horseback - it's an image from a bygone era.

But Lord Strathcona's Horse, Canada's only remaining military cavalry, is still very relevant for some Canadian soldiers.

The troop offers a haven to soldiers returning from gruelling tours of duty in war-torn Afghanistan

"They use it as a kind of decompression for guys who have been overseas," says Mounted Troop Leader Lt. Peter Beitz, 26, of the Lord Strathcona's Horse, which is based at the Edmonton Garrison.

"It's a change of pace if some people need it."

Soldiers from the Lord Strathcona's Horse fought in South Africa in the Boer War. The mounted troops were last used in combat in the First World War.

Today, the small group of soldiers rides in parades and performs a routine of cavalry drills and a co-ordinated ride set to music in towns and cities in Western Canada.

Twenty soldiers mounted on 20 chestnut and bay quarter horses will travel through the streets of downtown Edmonton on Thursday to showcase this unique piece of Canadian history.
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Ottawa raises security concerns in Afghanistan dam project
Andrew Mayeda, Canwest News Service  Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2008
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OTTAWA - The federal government has warned bidders on a high-profile reconstruction project in Afghanistan that they will largely be responsible for their own security, raising the prospect that private security firms will form the first line of defence against the Taliban.

The Harper government announced last month that the refurbishment of the Dahla Dam will be one of Canada's "signature" projects in Kandahar province. Canada has promised to invest as much as $50-million over three years to repair the long-neglected dam and its irrigation system, which supplies most of the farmers in the province. Military commanders in Afghanistan have insisted the Canadian Forces will play an active role in protecting the dam, which observers expect to become a prime target for the Taliban.

Tender documents released yesterday, however, show the contractor hired to fix the dam can expect limited support from the Canadian military and the NATO-led coalition.
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Deadly diversity in Afghanistan
Posted: July 16, 2008 1:00 am Eastern By Matt Sanchez © 2008 
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If you haven't noticed, there is another war going on, in Afghanistan, and it's heating up.

According to the 2008 Pentagon Report on Progress toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan, "The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and have coalesced into a resilient insurgency."

For the first time, there were more Americans killed in action in Afghanistan than in Iraq. The situation in Afghanistan will get worse, unless the American military commands the leadership role and implements many of the same counterinsurgency strategies that have proven successful in Iraq. A change in course will require facing some painful truths.

Not all armies are equal

In Bagram, the base for ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) and the American military, I met a German staff sergeant, one of seven German soldiers on the enormous base, wandering the grounds in an attempt to find electrical current for his communications equipment. This frustrated German soldier's plight symbolized the dilemma of many of the international forces deployed to Afghanistan. The equipment was incompatible with what was already functioning in the area of operations, and the German's mission was of little or no consequence to the greater the mission of stabilizing Afghanistan.

It's been said communication is key to winning a war, but in Afghanistan, just showing up is at least as important.
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Afghanistan: Another frontier of Indo-Pak rivalry?
Dr Shanthie Mariet D'Souza July 16, 2008
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Following the suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul, the role of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence has come under the scanner of the Afghan and Indian governments.
The casualities of the July 7 blast were not victims of yet another attack by the Taliban, as believed in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but rather had fallen to a carefully planned and neatly executed strike by the ISI. The increasing bonhomie in the Indo-Afghan relationship had posed a challenge to the ISI, which is interested in regaining its lost 'strategic depth' in Afghanistan.

It would now seem that the Afghan interior ministry got it absolutely right by blaming a 'regional intelligence agency' for the attack, within few hours of the incident. This was confirmed on June 11 by Indian National Security Advisor M K Narayanan, who specifically blamed the ISI. The emerging challenge for Indian interests in Afghanistan is gradually dawning upon policy makers and analysts.

'The Afghans blame Pakistan for all the trouble'

The challenge is indeed serious in nature, necessitating urgent attention if long-term Indian interests are to be sustained and to ensure that Indo-Afghan relations are not held ransom to such forces.

Indian projects, part of its $750 million (about Rs 3,000 crore) pledged aid to the insurgency-ravaged country, have generated a lot goodwill among Afghans for India. These projects, unlike the short duration and high-visibility projects of the Western countries, are essentially aimed at long-term development with active Afghan participation. The key Zaranj Delaram road project that would reduce landlocked Afghanistan's reliance on Pakistan for access to the sea through the Iranian port of Chabahar and provide India with an alternative route, is almost complete.
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Canadians deliver blow against Taliban
Insurgents counter with attacks in Kandahar province
Graham Thomson ,  Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, July 16, 2008
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MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - As Canadian military officials claimed a major blow against the Taliban on Wednesday, insurgents launched two dramatic attacks in Kandahar province that had Canadian troops scrambling to respond.

No Canadians were hurt in the assaults which killed three Afghan Police officers and an undetermined number of civilians. But the Canadians rushed their Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of infantry and combat engineers to rebuild the district's main highway 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City that had been cut in half by one of the attacks involving a powerful roadside bomb.

In the other assault a few kilometres further down the highway, insurgents fired rocket propelled grenades at a convoy of Afghan civilian fuel tankers, setting five on fire and, according to local officials, killing at least one Afghan woman who happened to be nearby.
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Articles found July 17, 2008

Troops claim victory with death of local Taliban chief
Success marred by two insurgent attacks in Kandahar
Graham Thomson, Canwest News Service, with files from Reuters  Published: Thursday, July 17, 2008
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MASUM GHAR, AFGHANISTAN - Canadian military officials claimed a major victory yesterday with the death of the second-in-command of Taliban forces in Kandahar province in an air strike.

The governor of Kandahar and the Canadian military held a joint news conference to announce the death of Mullah Mahmoud, who was said to be in command of 250 fighters in the region.

"Let there be no doubt, our troops have the initiative in Kandahar province," said Brigadier-General Denis Thompson, commander of Canadian soldiers in Kandahar. "Afghan troops and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] soldiers are routinely defeating insurgents in our area of operations and insurgents have suffered heavy losses across the region."

However, the news was marred by insurgents who launched two dramatic attacks in Kandahar province that had Canadian troops scrambling to respond. No Canadians were hurt in the assaults, which killed three Afghan police officers and an undetermined number of civilians. But the Canadians rushed their Quick Reaction Force (QRF) of infantry and combat engineers to rebuild the district's main highway 40 kilometres west of Kandahar City that had been cut in half by one of the attacks involving a powerful roadside bomb.
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Buildup on the way in Afghanistan
Rise of Taliban, insurgents cited in need for shift in force from Iraq 
  By PETER SPIEGEL and M. KARIM FAIEZ, Los Angeles Times  Thursday, July 17, 2008
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WASHINGTON -- Senior U.S. military officials are developing plans to speed the deployment of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, including a possible move to pull the next brigade due to go to Iraq this fall and send it to Afghanistan instead.

President Bush already has committed to beefing up the U.S. presence in Afghanistan next year. But Defense Department officials said the recent efforts by military planners would speed that process and could allow the new brigade of 3,500 soldiers to deploy there before the end of this year.

The change in planning comes amid growing violence in southern and eastern Afghanistan, prompting U.S. commanders overseeing operations in the country as well as other military brass to push the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff to re-evaluate troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

On Sunday, nine U.S. soldiers were killed at a remote outpost in eastern Afghanistan during a sophisticated offensive by hundreds of insurgent fighters, the largest single American loss of life in Afghanistan in three years.
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Douglas Bland: Does Bob Rae endorse lawful desertion from the Canadian Forces?
Posted: July 16, 2008, 7:03 PM by Marni Soupcoff Douglas Bland
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In a comment published in the Toronto Star (Why U.S. war resisters deserve refuge in Canada, 11 July 2008), Bob Rae pleads for Canada to accept any member of the United States armed forces who decides to desert his comrades and country and seek sanctuary in Canada. He argues that because a solider might believe that the war in Iraq is unpopular he or she therefore “faces a conflict of values and loyalties” and thus has a right to desert. Further, Canadians ought to honour this assumed right without question. Mr. Rae puts the "all-volunteer army" in a whole new light — volunteer to enlist and volunteer to leave at any time and on any whim.

If this concept is sound enough for the US armed forces, is Mr. Rae recommending it for the Canadian Forces too?
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Afghan tours will not be extended
Defence chief makes secret visit to Kandahar
Graham Thomson, Canwest News Service, with files from Reuters  Published: Monday, July 14, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Canada's top soldier has promised troops he will not extend the length of their rotations in Afghanistan.

"Six months is enough due to the amount of risk they are assuming on a daily basis," said General Walter Natynczyk in Afghanistan last Wednesday, a week after being sworn in as Chief of Defence Staff.

"The fact is you want people to be fresh when they do this, you want them to have their wits about them when they do those kinds of missions," said Gen. Natynczyk, who visited troops in their forward operating bases.

His message came as the United States suffered its worst day yet in the Afghanistan conflict. Nine U. S. soldiers were killed in fighting that also claimed the lives of "dozens" of Taliban insurgents, a NATO official said yesterday.

Canadian journalists embedded with the military were not allowed to report on Gen. Natynczyk's visit until he had left the country last night.
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We are not the Soviets ...
The 1979 invasion of Afghanistan holds no real military lessons for NATO and its allies
GEORGE PETROLEKAS From Wednesday's Globe and Mail July 16, 2008 at 7:24 AM EDT
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The latest trend in political punditry with respect to Afghanistan focuses on its "historically unconquerable" nature - highlighted by a long list of unsuccessful foreign efforts paraded in newspaper columns across the nation. The most compelling of these is the attempt to draw hard and fast conclusions from the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion that ended with its ignominious withdrawal a decade later.

The first, and most egregious, error in this approach is to refer to everything the West is doing in Afghanistan as a foreign invasion, replete with the imposition of foreign ideas, control and values. The simple truth is that Afghanistan enjoyed, in both presidential and parliamentary elections, a free and uncorrupt vote that was spared the violence and intimidation that the poor citizens of Zimbabwe and Myanmar (to name a couple) can only dream of. That is an unassailable difference, no matter how pundits might wish to reconstruct history.

Recall that the Soviets, like many before them, tried to impose an urban, untraditional, top-down system with leaders of their own choosing, effectively turning Afghanistan into a vassal state reflective of its own politics. The Soviet puppet, Babrak Karmal, was certainly not elected, while his not-so-legitimate predecessor was executed in the coup d'état that brought him to power. No one can suggest, with any seriousness, that Canada and its allies in Afghanistan are trying to create an adjunct state in their own image or with imposed values, save for a modicum of equality and freedom. To equate the current situation with the former is simply dishonest.
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Iran Pours Cash Into Afghanistan, Seeking Leverage Against U.S.
By Bill VarnerJuly 17 (Bloomberg)
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The flags of Iran, Afghanistan and Tehran-based Abad Rahan Pars Road & Construction Co. fly above a railroad work camp west of the Afghan city of Herat, signaling another commercial incursion from across the border.

Surrounded by a mud-brick wall in the style of an ancient desert fortress, the site houses 1,000 Afghans and Iranians building tracks to link Mashhad in northeastern Iran with Herat, about 200 miles away. The line will run alongside a highway the company completed in 2006 and transmission wires that feed Iranian electricity to Herat's 350,000 residents.

``Every single day Iran is trying to have more influence, and where there is money, there is political power,'' said Masoud Sana, the Herat Chamber of Commerce's international relations director. ``The Iranians are always trying to find out information about what the Afghan government is going to do next.''
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Some US soldiers in Iraq yearn to be in Afghan war
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BAGHDAD (AP) — Spc. Grover Gebhart has spent nine months at a small post on a Sunni-Shiite fault line in western Baghdad. But the 21-year-old soldier on his first tour in Iraq feels he's missing the real war — in Afghanistan, where his brother is fighting the Taliban.

With violence in Iraq at its lowest level in four years and the war in Afghanistan at a peak, the soldiers serving at patrol station Maverick say Gebhart's view is increasingly common, especially among younger soldiers looking to prove themselves in battle.

"I've heard it a lot since I got here," said 2nd Lt. Karl Kuechenmeister, a 2007 West Point graduate who arrived in Iraq about a week ago.

Soldiers who have experienced combat stress note that it is usually young soldiers on their first tour who most want to get on the battlefield. They say it is hard to communicate the horrors of war to those who haven't actually experienced it.

"These kids are just being young," said Sgt. Christopher Janis, who is only 23 but is on his third tour in Iraq. "They say they want to get into battle until they do, and then they won't want it anymore."

That soldiers are looking elsewhere for a battle is a testament to how much Iraq has changed from a year ago, when violence was at its height. Now it's the lowest in four years, thanks to the U.S. troop surge, the turn by former Sunni insurgents against al-Qaida in Iraq, and Iraqi government crackdowns on Shiite militias
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Afghanistan to look into Pakistan nuclear dumping claims
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KABUL (AFP) — President Hamid Karzai has appointed a team of experts to investigate allegations that Pakistan had dumped nuclear waste in southern Afghanistan, his office said Wednesday.

In April, an Afghan minister told the BBC that his government had evidence Pakistan had buried its nuclear waste in the southern Afghan provinces of Helmand and Kandahar during the 1996-2001 Taliban regime.

But the minister for parliamentary affairs, Farouk Wardak, later denied he had said this. Pakistan has also rejected the claim.

Karzai however has now set up, through presidential decree, a team of experts to investigate "rumours" of nuclear dumping, a statement from his office said.

"The delegation is assigned to thoroughly investigate the possible burying of nuclear waste using scientific, technical and residents' observations in suspected areas," it said.

The team was comprised of experts, security forces and intelligence agents, the decree said.
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Articles found July 18, 2008

Raid on Afghan militant cell frees 15 hostages
The Associated PressPublished: July 17, 2008
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.S. special forces and Afghan troops called in airstrikes during a raid on a militant cell in western Afghanistan on Thursday, killing 15 insurgents while freeing 15 hostages, officials said.

Humayun Azizi, head of the provincial council in Herat, said the raid had targeted a militant cell that was involved in kidnappings, roadside bombings and other attacks. NATO said in statement, "During the operation a number of men were discovered handcuffed and imprisoned in appalling conditions in one of the insurgent compounds; they are now receiving medical care."

Separately, NATO said its troops had killed Bismullah Akhund, an insurgent leader in the southern province of Helmand.

The raid Thursday came amid concerns that the Taliban-led insurgency is gaining momentum seven years after the hard-line Islamic regime was ousted from Afghanistan by a U.S.-led invasion. Violence has been on the rise in the country, and just this week militants penetrated an American outpost in the east, killing nine U.S. soldiers.

In response to the increased bloodshed, Pentagon leaders have said they are looking for ways to send additional troops to Afghanistan this year, and announced Thursday they would send close to 800 more bomb-resistant vehicles.
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American army deserter given nine months in jail
TheStar.com -  July 17, 2008 Nick Kyonka Staff Reporter
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Resister sought refuge in Ottawa but returned to U.S. earlier this year

An American army deserter who took refuge in Canada before returning to the U.S. voluntarily was given a dishonourable discharge yesterday and sentenced to nine months in jail, a close supporter said.

James Burmeister, 22, was sentenced by a military judge in Fort Knox, Ky., after a four-hour court martial hearing, said Carol Rawert-Trainer, of the American non-profit group Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

"It's quite a shock to everybody," said Rawert-Trainer from Louisville, Ky. "We all thought they were going to take it easy on him because he turned himself in, but it doesn't look that way."

Originally from Eugene, Ore., Burmeister went to Ottawa in May 2007 after he was injured in Iraq when he was thrown from his military vehicle by the force of a roadside bomb earlier that year.

While living in Ottawa, Burmeister suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and had other continuing medical problems that stemmed from the attack, said Lee Zaslofsky of the War Resisters Support Campaign.

Burmeister returned to the U.S. in March to be closer to his family, Zaslofsky added.

After returning home, Burmeister turned himself in to the army to face charges of desertion and was taken to the military prison in Fort Knox, where he has remained since.
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Canada should focus on Afghanistan redevelopment: Report
Mike De Souza ,  Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, July 17, 2008
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OTTAWA - The federal government should "rebalance its priorities in Afghanistan" to focus on reconstruction, development and peace-building efforts, an all-party Commons committee urged in a report released on Thursday.

The report made 35 recommendations regarding Canada's NATO-led mission in the war-torn country, following a two-year period of meetings and hearings that included more than 60 expert witnesses.

It also recommended Canada maintain its military commitment but attempt to minimize Afghan casualties and property damage in its mission to rebuild the country and to fight off the Taliban.
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Dahla dam project is potential target: military
STEVEN CHASE  Globe and Mail July 17, 2008 at 9:57 PM EDT
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OTTAWA — Canada's reconstruction project at Afghanistan's Dahla dam is a potential strategic target for the Taliban, the military acknowledged Thursday, but Ottawa insists it's wrong to draw comparisons to the nearby Kajaki dam refit that's become a magnet for attacks.

Canada is pinning considerable hope on a $50-million effort to repair and upgrade the Dahla dam, the second-largest in Afghanistan. It has the highest profile of six development projects recently begun by the Harper government to demonstrate that the costly Afghan mission, which has killed 87 Canadian soldiers, is bearing fruit.

The restoration project has been warmly welcomed, but a recent surge of Taliban attacks across the country during the spring and summer has heightened the Karzai government's concerns about the project, a defence analyst said.

“I was told … the Kabul government, in light of the various recent major Taliban attacks – whether it was in Kabul or in the eastern provinces – the feeling is that Dahla dam might also become a magnet for Taliban attacks,” said retired colonel Alain Pellerin, executive director of the Conference of Defence Associations.
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Al Qaeda luring recruits to fight in Afghanistan
Associated Press
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A fresh influx of jihadi fighters is being drawn to Afghanistan from Turkey, Central Asia, Chechnya and the Middle East, one more sign that al Qaeda is regrouping on what is fast becoming the most active front of the war on terror groups.
More foreigners are infiltrating Afghanistan because of a recruitment drive by al Qaeda, as well as a burgeoning insurgency that has made movement easier across the border from Pakistan, U.S. officials, militants and experts say. For the past two months, Afghanistan has overtaken Iraq in deaths of U.S. and allied troops, and nine American soldiers were killed Sunday at a remote base in Kunar province in the deadliest attack in years.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned during a visit to Kabul this month about an increase in foreign fighters crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan, where a new government is trying to negotiate with militants.

Two U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, told the Associated Press that the U.S. is closely monitoring the flow of foreign fighters into Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department announced in Washington that it will send close to 800 more bomb-resistant vehicles to Afghanistan, where a resurgent Taliban has military leaders developing plans to add thousands of U.S. troop reinforcements.

The hulking vehicles, known as MRAPs, protect U.S. personnel from the powerful blasts of roadside bombs, the No. 1 cause of combat deaths and injuries.

Yesterday in Iraq, where things are becoming more secure, Kuwait named its first ambassador to Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War, a major step toward healing the two countries' painful past.

The announcement came as the Sunni leader of Lebanon's parliamentary majority met with Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - also reflecting Iraq's efforts to reconcile with aloof Arab neighbors and tamp down sectarian tension across the region.

Kuwait closed its embassy in Iraq in 1990, after Saddam Hussein invaded his tiny, oil-rich neighbor. The attack spurred the 1991 U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam's forces.
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Canada Gets Israeli UAVs For Afghanistan
July 18, 2008
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Canada is buying at least half a dozen Israeli Heron UAVs. These 1.1 ton aircraft can stay in the air for over 40 hours at a time and carry some 500 pounds of cameras and other sensors. These UAVs will give Canadian troops in Afghanistan better support than the Sperwer UAVs they had been using.

Canada had earlier bought 21 of the Sperwers, including ten second hand ones obtained from Denmark two years ago. France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, Greece and Canada had  all used the French built Sperwer UAV, which got its first heavy use during Balkan peacekeeping missions in the 1990s.

The Canadians used their Sperwers heavily in Afghanistan, and have paid to improve the Sperwer flight control software, to make the UAV more stable when landing under windy conditions. It's often windy in Afghanistan. Still, troops were envious of superior UAV types they saw in use by other nations.

The $2.6 million Sperwer LE (Long Endurance) weighs 772 pounds, carries a 110 pound payload, is 12 feet long and has an endurance of 12 hours. Sperwer can operate up to 200 kilometers from its ground control unit. But the Sperwer uses a noisy engine (think lawnmower) and flies low enough to be heard. This has not proved to be a problem, as the people below, if they are Taliban, either start shooting at the UAV, or try to run away. The Canadian troops have come to depend on their Sperwers, and would rather have more of them, than another, newer, UAV. The troops have learned that operator experience is a major factor in UAV success, and much of that would be lost if they switched a new model.
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Military looking at intelligence before deadly Afghan clash
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A formal investigation into an attack on a U.S. Army unit by about 200 Taliban insurgents will examine whether the Army had intelligence about a possible assault and whether the troops had access to it.

The fact-finding mission was launched Thursday, several military officials said, after nine American soldiers were killed in Sunday's assault in Afghanistan.

When the attack occurred, the U.S. and Afghan soldiers were scouting for a location in the remote area to set up a coalition observation point. The Taliban never breached the main coalition base near the village of Wanat in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan.

It was the deadliest attack on U.S. troops in Afghanistan in three years, underscoring how the conflict is escalating.

Since May, the deaths of U.S. and allied troops have far outpaced the toll in Iraq. On Thursday, the toll in Afghanistan was 21, compared with six in Iraq.
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US troops wound ‘Pakistani suicide bomber’ caught in Afghanistan
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KABUL/GHAZNI: US soldiers shot and wounded a suspected female bomber as they took over custody of her from Afghan police, Ghazni police chief alleged on Friday.

Police had arrested the woman and a 13-year-old child they alleged were suicide bombers planning to kill a provincial governor in central Afghanistan, officials said on Friday.

The police chief initially said the police argued with the Americans over giving up custody. But he later said there was no argument and that the woman lunged at one of the US soldiers, sparking the gunshot.

US military officials had no immediate comment.

The pair were arrested late on Thursday as they were fixing explosives to themselves behind the governor’s residence in Ghazni, provincial government spokesman Ismail Jahangir told AFP.

Jahangir said the woman and the child could not speak either of Afghanistan’s main languages, Dari and Pashtu, but spoke Urdu and Arabic. The pair were presented to the media several hours after their arrest.

The deputy police chief of Ghazni, Abdul Ghani, told reporters that the woman had allegedly confessed she was from Multan, Pakistan, and had come to the city to carry out a suicide attack.

She claimed to have entered the country with three associates who had not been arrested, Ghani said. The police chief did not confirm whether the boy was also meant to be involved in the bombing. agencies
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