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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread July 2008

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Articles found July 19, 2008

Canadian soldier killed on patrol in Afghanistan
Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, July 19, 2008
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A Canadian soldier was killed and another injured Friday in Afghanistan when an improvised explosive device detonated near their foot patrol.

Cpl. James Hayward Arnal, an infantryman with the second battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, was rushed from the patrol in the volatile Panjwaii district to Kandahar Airfield, where he died from his injuries.

The injured soldier is in good condition and is expected to return to duty.
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FACTBOX-Security developments in Afghanistan, July 19
Following are security developments in Afghanistan at 1200 GMT on Saturday:
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*PAKTIA - Insurgents attacked a police checkpoint in Wazi Zadran district of the eastern province of Paktia on Friday killing four policemen, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. Two policemen were also missing, it said.

*HELMAND - Three Afghan security guards providing security to a coalition convoy were killed and four more were wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb on Friday in Nawa district of Helmand province in southern Afghanistan, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

*HELMAND - Two Afghans working for the security company USPI were killed on Friday when a mine exploded near their office in Gereshk district of Helmand province, the ministry said.

KANDAHAR - Four policemen were killed and one wounded when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Mayman district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, district police chief Khan Mohammad said.

KANDAHAR - A suicide bomber wounded one policeman when he detonated his explosives next to a passing police convoy in Daman district of Kandahar province on Saturday, district chief Mohammad Rasul said.

KHOST - One Afghan security guard was killed and three more were wounded on Saturday when their vehicle, which was providing security for a NATO supply convoy, struck a roadside bomb on the main highway between Khost and Paktia provinces in the east of the country, a district chief Lutfullah Baba Karkhel said. (Reporting by Ismail Sameem and Kamal Sadaat; Compiled by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Jon Boyle)
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Obama arrives in Afghanistan
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KABUL, Afghanistan — Democrat Barack Obama arrived today in Afghanistan on his first overseas trip since he began his successful run for his party's presidential nomination.

The trip, which is expected to include stops in Iraq, Israel, the West Bank and three European capitals, is the centerpiece of Obama's efforts to focus his presidential campaign on foreign policy issues, considered an area of strength for Republican rival John McCain.
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Two French aid workers kidnapped in Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2008-07-19 15:47:38    By Zhang Yunlong
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    KABUL, July 19 (Xinhua) -- Two humanitarian aid workers, both French nationals, with a Paris-based international relief organization, were abducted in central Afghanistan Friday, the aid group said in its website.

    In a website-posted statement, Action Against Hunger or Action Contre la Faim (ACF), said the two staff members were sleeping when they were abducted from a base in Nili, capital of Daikondi province, 310 km west of Kabul.

    "According to ACF knowledge, the two expatriates are alive," the statement said, without releasing the identities of the two abductees, who are among an over 250-strong team for providing relief to Afghans at risk of acute malnutrition.

    There has been no responsibility claim yet but kidnappings, especially of foreigners, by anti-government elements or just criminal gangs, are common happenings in Afghanistan, which has increasingly been the scene of militancy and insecurity.
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Afghanistan claims arresting ‘woman bomber from Pakistan’
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GHAZNI, July 18: Police arrested a woman and a 13-year-old child they alleged were suicide bombers planning to kill a provincial governor in central Afghanistan, officials claimed on Friday.

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

“They both were attempting to get into governors’ compound and target the governor and high-ranking officials,” Jahangir claimed.

It is rare that women carry out attacks in Afghanistan. But a suicide attack in May in southwestern Farah province was apparently carried out by a woman in a burqa.

Jahangir claimed the woman and the child could not speak either of Afghanistan’s main languages, Dari and Pashto, but spoke Urdu and Arabic.
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French defence minister pledges Afghan support
AFP, July 19
Defence Minister Herve Morin visited Karzai after arriving on a surprise two-day trip to meet French reinforcements deploying to a base near Kabul as part of a NATO-led force battling Taliban and other insurgents.

In their talks, Morin "assured his government stands by the people of Afghanistan," Kazai's office said in a statement...

Morin later flew to Kapisa, northeast of Kabul, to meet soldiers from an extra battalion of about 700 soldiers deploying at a base there that also has Afghan and US troops, an AFP reporter said.

France announced reinforcements to NATO's 40-nation International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in April and the soldiers started arriving this month, taking to about 2,000 the number of French soldiers in Afghanistan.

They are due to be in place by the end of next month. Kapisa province, which adjoins Kabul, does not suffer the regular insurgent violence plaguing southern Afghanistan [emphasis added], but has seen some attacks...

About half of the French soldiers in ISAF are in Kabul. Some 170 are in the southern city of Kandahar, where France has stationed six fighter aircraft for air support in efforts against the Taliban.

The French military is also helping to train Afghan army officers and their special forces...


Afghanistan : Le GTIA Kapisa

Afghanistan : Montée en puissance du GTIA Kapisa

8eme Régiment de Parachutistes d'Infanterie de Marine


Afghan violence rising, top soldier concedes
Globe and Mail, July 21

Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff has acknowledged that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse and more troops are required in the face of mounting Taliban attacks aimed at derailing next year's Afghan election.

General Walter Natynczyk faced criticism last week when he dismissed the growing violence in the Kandahar region as “insignificant” during a tour of the country, in spite of claims to the contrary by observers and other NATO countries.

But he's now offering a far more sombre analysis, stepping back from his previously upbeat picture of security in the country.

“We have two contrasting pictures here. On the one hand, what I got from the people in Kabul is a worsening security situation across the country. That is really clear,” Gen. Natynczyk said in an interview broadcast yesterday on CTV's Question Period. Specifically, he said, the situation is getting worse in Kabul, in eastern Afghanistan where U.S. forces have the lead and in southern Afghanistan where Canadian troops are based.
“On the other hand, when I was in Kandahar from the soldiers' perspective, what they see are localized fragile signs of success. Very, very localized,” he said...

...the general said that a U.S. battalion is on its way to help in the south [emphasis added], he noted that a surge in military strength in Iraq had “a significant, positive effect.”

The comments from Canada's top military leader come as military observers have been questioning why recent Canadian analysis of the Afghan situation has been relatively upbeat compared with increasingly dire reports from Americans.

Canadian officials had suggested that recent incidents of violence were to be expected because of the time of year. But the general now says the spate of attacks is part of a larger Taliban campaign aimed at next year's election in Afghanistan.

“There's a sense the Taliban are throwing everything against the Afghan government and ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] in the work up to the election which will take place next year,” he said.

Western officials say Kandahar province has not been an exception to the general trend of deteriorating security in southern Afghanistan.

But the general's comments about localized improvements within the province reflect the views of Canadian military officers who say they have reduced Taliban activity in a limited number of locations such as Pashmul, a cluster of villages 15 kilometres west of Kandahar city.

Such zones of relative security are geographically limited, however; another group of villages known as Ashokay, only a few kilometres east of Pashmul, has become a notorious hideout for insurgents.

Nor has the Canadian military effort of the past two years pushed the insurgents farther away from Kandahar city, since some of the air strikes against suspected Taliban positions in the past few days have targeted locations near Zala Khan, only 10 kilometres south of the city limits...

Video of the CTV interview is here.:

Articles found July 22, 2008

Afghan police progress in baby steps
Canadian troops have been training Afghani officers to be honest, professional, survivors
Graham Thomson ,  Canwest News Service Published: Monday, July 21, 2008
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BAZAR-I-PANJWAII, Afghanistan - To get an idea of the daunting task facing Canadian troops who are trying to improve the notoriously inept and often corrupt Afghan police forces you need only look a recent patrol in the Panjwaii district, one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan.

A few days ago, Canadian soldiers and an RCMP officer mentoring the police were ready to head out on foot patrol through the streets of Bazar-i-Panjwaii at the crack of dawn.

However, the Afghan police officers never showed up.

The official explanation was the Afghans were suddenly called away by their commanding officer to conduct a raid in Kandahar City, 40 kilometres away. An unofficial reason that leaked out later was they set off for one of the few banks in the city to see if they were getting paid.

Either way, the Canadians were caught by surprise, about to get all dressed up in their battle gear with nowhere to go.

Making a bad situation look even worse was the fact the local Afghan police officers here are supposed to be among the cream of the crop, having recently graduated from a special U.S.-led eight-week training program to improve their skills and weed out corruption.

However, in the bizarre world of policing in Afghanistan, this is actually evidence that things are improving.

For one, the police officers were not out shaking down local Afghans for bribes as they have done for years. For another, they are finally getting paid on a semi-regular basis through a bank in Kandahar City instead of being shortchanged by their government officials who routinely skimmed money off the top. That they even have bank accounts is evidence of progress.
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Taliban capture district in Afghanistan
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* 12 Afghans wounded in clash in Kunar

KABUL: Dozens of Taliban militants captured a remote district in central Afghanistan overnight, killing one police officer and injuring two others, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.

Local security forces fled "under lots of pressure" after the insurgents stormed into Ghazni province's Ajiristan district, 200 kilometres southwest of Kabul, shortly after midnight, spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP. "Security forces abandoned the district centre after Taliban attacked. They withdrew under lots of pressure," the spokesman said. "One police was killed and two others were injured," he said.

"We're working on a plan to retake the district," Bashary said, without giving details. Ajiristan was captured by Taliban insurgents in October last year. It was retaken the following day when about 300 security forces moved into the small district centre.

Kunar: Meanwhile, militants attacked a NATO patrol in eastern Afghanistan on Monday and 12 people were wounded in the ensuing clash, including some civilians, officials said.

The foreign troops were passing through Pech River Valley in Kunar province, which borders Pakistan, when militants fired on them using civilian homes for cover, provincial police chief Gen Abdul Jalal Jalal said.

Troops returned fire and 12 people were wounded, Jalal said. Six of those were sent to a hospital in the provincial capital of Asadabad for treatment, said Hafizullah, a doctor at the hospital. Like many Afghans, he uses only one name.
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Al-Qaeda men say they entered Afghanistan via Pakistan
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KABUL (PAN): The three members of the al -Qaeda network arrested in Said Karam district of southeastern Paktia province in the initial investigations have confessed to have entered Afghanistan via neighboring Pakistan. The three terrorist fighters wounded during a NATO-led ISAF forces operation in the southeastern province two three weeks back were captured by the local security forces and at least 15 more al Qaeda members mainly from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Turkey and Pakistan perished in the airstrike. A press statement Pajhwok Afghan News received from the National Directorate of Security (NDS) on Monday said the fighters entered Afghanistan after Pakistani Taliban made a deal with the Pakistani government. “They entered Afghanistan after travel to Dubai, Iran and then Pakistan”, the statement quoted the arrested introduced from Turkey, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Among them 23 year old Mansoor alias Abu Hafad from Riyadh of Saudi said he entered with eight more foreign fighters to Khost and later Paktia from Waziristan of Pakistan. “We prepared a plan for attack on Said Karam district under the leadership of Abdul Manan a Taliban commander after were reached to Gardiz” He is quoted as saying in the statement, “They were running back to their positions in Miran Shah after they carried out the attack when they were bombed and some of them were killed.” 
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Canada's once-lofty Afghan goals downgraded, defence files show
STEVEN CHASE  From Tuesday's Globe and Mail July 22, 2008 at 2:59 AM EDT
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OTTAWA — Just 17 months ago, Canada's war planners had far more ambitious goals in mind for Afghanistan, an internal document from National Defence shows, including significantly reducing the capability of Taliban insurgents and substantially cutting poppy growing and drug trafficking.

Today, Ottawa's published goals are more modest. For instance, the Harper government's June release of refocused goals for Afghanistan sets no targets for the strength of insurgents - who are making a comeback in 2008 - or combatting drugs.

Critics say the contrast shows how much the Harper government has ratcheted down ambitions for Afghanistan, lowering expectations so that it can't be accused of failure when Canada withdraws from Kandahar in 2011.

The 2007 goals are in a directive from former chief of the defence staff Rick Hillier's office - labelled "secret" - that was released under the Access to Information Act.

The Feb. 16, 2007, memo says "Canada's whole-of-government strategy ... is focused on an end state" that includes these goals:

"Taliban and al-Qaeda capabilities have been dramatically reduced."

"Narcotics cultivation and trafficking have been substantially reduced."

Last month, however, the Harper government laid out public, three-year goals.

The government was starting to plan for a combat pullout in 2011 from Kandahar, the Afghan province under Canada's responsibility.

The revamped strategy contains no mention of targets for ratcheting back Taliban strength or reducing the illegal drug industry in Kandahar.

Those problems have only grown worse since the earlier strategy was written. Afghanistan's opium crop has increased every year for the plast six years, UN estimates say. Available data also show deteriorating security in Afghanistan, including Kandahar, in recent years. Figures compiled by Sami Kovanen, a respected security consultant at Vigilant Strategic Services Afghanistan, show this year's total insurgent attacks as of July 20 are greater in Kandahar than any other province.
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Afghan kids eager to attend school
Friday July 18th, 2008
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The number of burned down or vacant schools in Kandahar province exceeds the total number of schools that are actually open, according to statistics compiled by the Afghan government.

But in some parts of the province children are eagerly flocking to classrooms, parents are desperate to get their kids into school, and the waiting lists are growing.

With this dichotomy in mind, Canada is embarking on an ambitious school-building project in the province -- and being careful to build them in the right places.

Figures obtained by The Canadian Press show that 26 schools in 2007 had been burned down in Kandahar province, 187 remained empty and unused, and only 150 were filled with students.

But the country's education minister points to other, more encouraging statistics and credits the Canadian government for its commitment to building a school system here.

The number of kids going to school increased another 20 per cent in Kandahar last year and has multiplied three times since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The growth across the country has been even more drastic -- with an almost tenfold increase in school enrolment since 2001.

Education Minister Hanif Atmar says the key now is consulting with community leaders to determine where schools are most coveted and safest from insurgent attack.
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A'stan: shifting messages, messaging shifts (media round-up from Conference of Defence Associations)

Senior Taliban leader killed in Afghanistan
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KABUL: British forces killed a Taliban leader, while another Taliban commander in the southern Afghanistan surrendered to the Pakistani authorities, the British Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

Abdul Rasaq, also known as Mullah Sheikh, a Taliban leader in southern Helmand province, was killed along with three others in a missile strike north of Musa Qala on Sunday, the ministry said. Hours earlier, Mullah Rahim, said to be a senior Taliban leader in Helmand, had given himself up to the authorities in Pakistan, it said.

In an other incident, the United States-led coalition and Afghan forces killed or wounded more than 30 Taliban during fighting in the west of Afghanistan, a senior police official said on Tuesday. Fighting broke out in the Bala Boluk district of Farah province on Tuesday, Regional Police Chief Ikramuddin Yawar said. “So far more than 30 Taliban insurgents have been killed or wounded in the operation,” Yawar said, adding, “The toll might be more than 30 because the operation is ongoing.” A US-led convoy was engaged with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades on Tuesday morning in Bala Boluk, a military spokesman said. Air strikes were called in but no munitions were dropped and the US military could not confirm if any Taliban had been killed, he said.

In Kabul, a Taliban suicide bomber wounded five civilians when he blew himself up as police challenged him on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said. The bomber struck early in the morning in the Gozargah area of Kabul, next to the walls of the historic tomb of the 16th century Mughal emperor Babur. In the central Afghan province of Ghazni, militants killed four brothers, all police officers, and captured their father in an attack on their home, the Interior Ministry said. agencies
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US convoy attacked in Afghanistan
Wed, 23 Jul 2008 00:35:00
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A US military convoy has been attacked in Kapisa province, northeast of Afghanistan's capital city of Kabul, a Taliban spokesman says.

Taliban spokesman Zabihollah Mojahed conceded that six civilians were killed in the attack when the attacker exploded the explosives in front of the US convoy.

Two US armors were destroyed and all the forces inside were killed, Mojahed claimed.

The exact number of US forces killed in the attack is not clear yet.

In an interview with local media, Mojahed announced that the Taliban group was behind the attack.
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Civilian Risks Curbing Strikes in Afghan War
NY Times, July 23

Dawn was breaking over Afghanistan one day this month as Air Force surveillance planes locked in on a top-ranking insurgent commander as he traveled in secret around Kandahar, the spiritual home of the Taliban.

But as attack aircraft were summoned overhead to strike, according to a recounting of the mission by Air Force commanders, the Taliban leader entered a building. Intelligence specialists scrambled to determine whether civilians were inside. Weapons experts calculated what bomb could destroy the structure with the least damage.

It had taken the American military many days to identify, track and target the senior Taliban officer. But the risk of civilian deaths was deemed too high. Air Force commanders, working with military lawyers, aborted the mission. The Taliban leader escaped.

“We miss the opportunity, but the beauty of what we do is we will get them eventually,” said Lt. Gen. Gary L. North, commander of American and allied air forces in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. “We will continue to track them. Eventually, we will get to the point where we can achieve — within the constraints of which we operate, which by the way the enemy does not operate under — and we will get them.”

In interviews at the air operations headquarters in Southwest Asia, American and allied commanders said that even as orders for air attacks in Afghanistan had increased significantly this year, their ability to strike top insurgent leaders from the air was severely restricted by rules intended to minimize civilian casualties.

The rules that govern dropping bombs and firing missiles are far more restrictive now in Afghanistan than in Iraq, senior Pentagon and military officials say.

The rules of engagement were reviewed and tightened in 2007 after a spate of civilian casualties, under Gen. Dan K. McNeill, then the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, and reviewed and revised again in April, officials said.

American commanders acknowledge that civilian casualties undermine support for the NATO-led stability mission exactly at a time when the Taliban is experiencing a potent resurgence across the country. They say Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai, routinely complain about civilian deaths in meetings with Americans.

Military officers also acknowledge that their control over airstrikes is reduced when crews scramble to help NATO contingents under attack.

But air commanders say they have a commitment to support ground forces in trouble. Only last weekend, nine Afghan police officers were killed in western Afghanistan when Afghan and United States forces called in airstrikes on the officers, thinking they were militants.

According to the United Nations, 698 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, compared with 430 in the same period last year. The United Nations report said nearly two-thirds of the deaths this year resulted from actions by the Taliban and other insurgents. The remainder were attributed to actions by Afghan government, American or allied forces...

A Wake-Up Call From Afghanistan
Increased Fighting Draws More Attention to the Strain Posed by the Iraq War

Washington Post, July 23

ST. CHARLES, Mo., July 22 -- For Kurt Zwilling, the nine days since his soldier son was killed in an assault on a U.S. outpost in Afghanistan have been like living in a faded photograph. He stood near his son's coffin Tuesday and told mourners, "You know, right now the world looks a little bit off. The colors are not as bright."

Cpl. Gunnar W. Zwilling, 20, was one of nine U.S. soldiers to die in a predawn attack that highlighted a dangerous new phase in an Afghan conflict that has received far less attention than the battle for Iraq.

Some call it the forgotten war, but it seems about to be remembered.

When insurgents mustered superior numbers and overpowered U.S. and Afghan forces in remote Konar province on July 13, more U.S. soldiers died than were killed by enemy action in all of Iraq during the first three weeks in July.

A pattern began to emerge about three months ago: Since May 1, 52 American troops have been killed in action in Afghanistan, compared with 43 in a quieting Iraq.

The growing casualties and the resurgence of the Taliban and its anti-American allies have prompted vows by President Bush and his aspiring successors to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Bush said recently that he intends to send three more brigades, or about 10,000 soldiers, to a rugged land where about 32,000 U.S. troops are now stationed. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) agreed last week that more troops are needed, while Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has long favored sending at least two more combat brigades, partly by shifting forces from Iraq.

"I can't put a number on it, but there are going to be more. We're short of NATO troops. We're short of American troops. We're short 3,000 trainers of the Afghan army," said Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. "If we're going to come out of there successful, we've got to have more troops."

At a time when the Iraq war remains deeply unpopular, the shifting dynamic is likely to test the country's willingness to support the commitment of more troops and money to a lesser-known war in a distant theater...

The Pakghani Front
Wall St. Journal, July 23 (editorial)

Barack Obama yesterday conceded that the surge in Iraq has brought "progress." However, the presumptive Democratic nominee has discovered another American losing cause. The situation in Afghanistan, he said in Amman, Jordan, is "deteriorating" and "perilous and urgent."

The junior Senator from Illinois still wants a quick withdrawal from Iraq, despite a contrary view from the military commander there, General David Petraeus. Yet on Afghanistan, Obama turns all militarist. He says he'd send two additional brigades to supplement the 35,000-strong U.S. force. He has previously called for American troops to track down and kill or capture al Qaeda leaders across the border in Pakistan.

The Obama push for extra resources isn't out of line with the Administration. In the past year, the U.S. steadily boosted its troop presence in Afghanistan. The Marines deployed in the restive south earlier this year have helped keep that region relatively calm in the summer fighting season.

A stickier problem for the Afghans and coalition forces is the eastern frontier abutting Pakistan's tribal belt. More boots on the ground there could better patrol the porous, mountainous border. The new and weak government in Pakistan in March struck truces with militants there, mostly Pashtuns and a handful of foreign terrorists. They use this sanctuary for strikes into Afghanistan. On a clear day, American troops can see the training camps on the other side of the frontier.

An enlarged force would enable NATO to hold land better. Too often since the summer of 2006, when the allies expanded their mission throughout the country, U.S., Canadian, British or other NATO troops cleared a village or region of the Taliban only to leave the next day. The locals who sided with us suffered when the Taliban came back. An Administration official says that the Taliban has killed between 175 and 200 tribal leaders in the past two years.

John McCain one-ups his Democratic competitor, offering three additional brigades for Afghanistan. But he tends to put the emphasis on the need for a broader counterinsurgency campaign.

Additional troops aren't the magic bullet. The insurgents can't win in a conventional stand-off against the U.S.-led forces. Their strategy is limited to carving out space for lucrative trade in opium and gems and trying to wait us out. We have the firepower, they have the time.

As widely recognized, the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has disappointed on corruption, policing, economic development and in efforts to extend the central government's reach across this vast country. That helps account for the rising strength of the insurgency. The new Afghan army is an underrecognized success story, but the creation of a viable Afghan state is a long ways from done.

Afghanistan is a regional problem. As foreign terrorists are flushed from Iraq, many make their way to the al Qaeda and Taliban-run training camps in the Pakistan tribal belt. The blame for this falls squarely at the feet of Pakistan's democratically elected government. For the second time in two years, the Pakistanis have struck ill-considered deals with the terrorists there.

If Pakistan refuses to act, no American President can let these terrorist staging grounds go unchallenged. But the U.S. has to be careful not to alienate its friends in Pakistan. Far better to prod the Pakistanis to work with us along the frontier. The Pakistani military needs to come back to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, which have been left to the Frontier Corps to police. This force has never dared challenge al Qaeda there or its local militants.

It's good to hear from our sources that NATO's 26 countries are talking about a joint effort to pressure Pakistan. In reality, however, only the U.S. has any leverage in Islamabad. American assistance accounts for a quarter of the military's budget, and combined security and economic aid in 2002-08 was $10.9 billion. The carrots are there. Now use them better.

We're glad Senator Obama acknowledged the need for a robust military response in the war against terror, even if limited to Afghanistan. But any cure for what's really a joint Afghan-Pakistani problem calls out for -- to use a favorite word of his political camp -- a more nuanced approach [emphasis added].

Articles found July 23, 2008

NATO, Afghan Forces Launch Offensive in Eastern Afghanistan
By VOA News  23 July 2008
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NATO and Afghan forces have launched an offensive against militants to regain control of a remote district in southern Afghanistan.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) says troops began an operation Wednesday in Ghazni province, after militants took over the Ajiristan district on Monday. ISAF says some militants in the area were killed during a coordinated airstrike.

Meanwhile, a district police chief was killed when a roadside bomb struck his convoy in Nangarhar province.

In Wardak province, the U.S.-led coalition says troops killed militants during a search in the Saydabad district Tuesday.

In Washington, a Defense Department spokesman said the decision to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan will be left to the next presidential administration.

U.S. commanders have been asking for three more combat brigades, or about 10,000 troops, to help confront rising violence in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said the U.S. does not have the man-power to send urgently needed military reinforcements to Afghanistan. He said U.S. troops are all heavily committed in Iraq.

In other news, the U.S.-led coalition said U.S. and Afghan forces killed militants Monday during clashes in the Maruf and Shah Wali Kot districts of southern Kandahar province.
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Next U.S. govt. to decide on Afghan troop increases, says Pentagon
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 Associated Press
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The next U.S. president and government will have to make any decisions on a sizable troop increase for combat operations in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the Pentagon said Wednesday.

U.S. commanders in the nearly seven-year-old war have been asking for three combat brigades, or roughly 10,000 more troops, to help confront increasing violence in Afghanistan. In addition to current troop strength, that would mean about 50,000 U.S. soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen in Afghanistan.

Defence Secretary Robert Gates said last week that officials have been looking for ways to send additional forces as soon as possible — likely in smaller units and fewer numbers than field commanders have requested.

But U.S. Defence Department press secretary Geoff Morrell told a news conference Wednesday that the decision on how and when to meet the request for the larger amount is "a question, frankly, for the next administration," which will be chosen in November's presidential election.
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Canadian Soldiers Train For Combat Deployment
Wednesday July 23, 2008 CityNews.ca Staff
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Life in the Canadian Armed Forces is hardly easy, so it stands to reason that the training process should be equally strenuous.

The grueling 14-week combat training course is intended to prepare young Canadians for the many challenges they'll face in the army at home and abroad, most notably in Afghanistan where more than 2,000 of the nation's soldiers have been stationed since 2002.

"We try to give them all the skills and the opportunity to fire each weapon system," said Sgt. Sean Benedict of the 1st Royal Canadian Regiment.

It's vital combat training that could prove a determining factor in the way in which a soldier ultimately returns home.

"We carry heavy equipment, all the equipment we carry we carry on our back," said an exhausted Pte. Chris Lynch, a Nova Scotia native.

"We train as we fight, which means we don't take any breaks as we're training. So that way when we're out in theatre we know how to operate."

The looks on the faces of troops going through the paces at CFB Meaford tells the whole story, though to a man they agree the long hours are essential preparation.

Still, as menacing as the average soldier looks in their full combat gear, it's easy to forget they're many of Canada's youngest adults, most barely out of their teens and each ready to put his life on the line.

The thought of being deployed to Afghanistan, where 88 Canadian soldiers have died during a mission sure to last until at least 2009, is a reality many of the newcomers must face, whether they hope to or not.

"If it happens, which it may, then I've got my country mates behind me," Pte. Lynch said. "I have a good team, good team leaders, I have all the confidence."

Perhaps that's with good reason. The army holds nothing back in training, often staging platoon marching and attack exercises starting at 4:00am deep in the Ontario woods.

The soldiers move on barely two hours sleep, long before the sun makes its first appearance. At the earliest sign of daylight, gunfire.

"You might feel a little apprehensive about doing it in a real situation, but as long as you trust the guys behind you then you know they're less than half a second away and that you're not all by yourself," admitted Pte. Jacob Baxter.

Still, soldiers know the host of potential fates they face. It's not lost on any man or woman. No training can completely erase those fears, nor should it.
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Gen. Natynczyk has a rocky start to new job
Published Wednesday July 23rd, 2008
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Canada's new Chief of Defence Staff is already making headlines.

But for all the wrong reasons.

After a five-day visit to Afghanistan earlier this month, Gen. Walter Natynczyk surprised some observers by painting a picture of the area that was positive and cheerful, despite data that suggested otherwise.

Independent analysis from the region reveals a 77 per cent surge in Taliban activity, including a recent attack on a U.S. outpost that saw nine American soldiers killed.

It has even been suggested that the U.S. is now losing more soldiers in Afghanistan than in Iraq.

On top of all this, there was a dramatic break recently from Kandahar's main prison. The escape didn't see just a few prisoners gain their freedom. Instead, about 1,100 inmates escaped, which included nearly 400 pro-Taliban militants.

Vigilant Strategic Services Afghanistan has reported a sharp increase in the number of suicide strikes, assassinations, mine explosions, mortar assaults, kidnappings and bombings by pro-Taliban insurgents this year. From January to July 6, there were 532 incidents compared to 300 last year.

Earlier this month, Canada lost its 87th and 88th soldiers in Afghanistan.

"We're generally along the same lines as we have been the past few years," Natynczyk said during a news conference at Kandahar Airfield. "Looking at the statistics, we're just a slight notch - indeed an insignificant notch - above where we were last year."

On Sunday, Natynczyk, appearing on CTV's Question Period, flip-flopped, acknowledging that insurgent attacks have increased year over year.

Natynczyk's task as Chief of Defence Staff is not only tough, but trying to fill the boots of Rick Hillier, his popular predecessor, must be a challenge.

If there is, in fact, a 77 per cent increase in Taliban attacks in the troubled country, then Natynczyk definitely got off to a bad start by not immediately acknowledging it.

While there have been improvements there, such as reconstruction and economic activity, it is important to be straight with Canadians from the beginning about what is happening with the Taliban and how it may affect our soldiers now and in the future. One hundred local soldiers are set to leave for Afghanistan in late August.

Even though Natynczyk is new on the job, he is an experienced soldier. He joined the Canadian Forces in 1975, spending his formative years on NATO duty in Germany with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in troop command and staff appointments.
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Articles found July 24, 2008

General education
The Ottawa Citizen Published: Thursday, July 24, 2008
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Canada's new chief of defence staff is learning, the hard way, that any time he says anything about Afghanistan, some security expert will contradict him. And they'll probably both be right..

Afghanistan is complicated. Things are getting better (in some ways, in some areas) and things are getting worse (in some ways, in some areas). Gen. Walter Natynczyk was criticized for his initial upbeat assessment during a tour of the country earlier this month. A few days later, he made comments that were more nuanced and considered, and admitted that while there were "localized" signs of success, the situation across the whole country is worrying.

Part of the problem might be one of perspective. "The further you are from the sound of the guns, the less you understand," Gen. Natynczyk has said. While that's doubtless true of certain kinds of knowledge, there are other kinds of knowledge that come from sitting back and looking at the trends, the numbers and the maps. That kind of information can be just as sobering as the sound of gunfire.
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Refighting the surge gets McCain nowhere against Obama
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With Barack Obama gathering bouquets of headlines by the armload on his Grand Tour, back home John McCain fumed.

McCain's beef: That he was right about the surge, Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was wrong, and the difference ought to have haunted Obama's trip like a malevolent ghost but didn't.

McCain's complaint is fair as far as it goes.

Obama opposed the surge, which the presumptive Republican presidential nominee supported enthusiastically. And the surge has indeed, as billed, sharply reduced violence in Iraq and crucially has created political space where Iraq's politicians can maneuver toward accommodations essential to crafting a functional state. They look at last to be doing so, if only by fits and starts and then imperfectly.

All of that has finally brought the Iraq mistake within hailing distance of a messy but potentially functional conclusion, the best that can be hoped for where President Bush had imagined instead a democracy so dazzling its allure would stun the Middle East into peaceableness.

But McCain even so has been denied the chance to bask in the I-told-you-sos as he clearly yearns to do. Why?
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Ex-US official accuses Afghanistan's Karzai of obstructing war on drugs: report
The Associated Press Thursday, July 24, 2008
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KABUL, Afghanistan: A former top U.S. official has alleged that President Hamid Karzai is obstructing the fight against Afghanistan's burgeoning narcotics trade and protecting drug lords for political reasons.

Thomas Schweich, who until June was one of State Department's top counternarcotics officials wrote in an article for the New York Times that appeared online late Wednesday that "narco-corruption went to the top of the Afghan government."

He wrote that although the Taliban insurgency fighting Karzai's government profits from drugs, the president is reluctant to move against big drug lords in the country's south where most opium and heroin is produced because it is his political power base.

"Karzai had Taliban enemies who profited from drugs but he had even more supporters who did," wrote Schweich, who used to serve as coordinator for counternarcotics and justice reform in Afghanistan.

Next year sees presidential elections in Afghanistan, and Karzai has indicated he will likely run for another term in the office.

Afghan officials were not immediately available to respond to Schweich's allegations
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Omar Khadr: a traitor to Canada at best
Published Thursday July 24th, 2008
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I would like to see Omar Khadr get his day in court, and justice be finally served, for the widow and children of the man he's accused of murdering as well as for Khadr himself. It bears noting that had it not been for legal wrangling initiated by Mr. Khadr's counsel, he would likely have been tried and the matter dispensed with before now.

Unfortunately, Khadr's lawyers, enthusiastically abetted by most of Canada's lefty media, have done their damnedest to turn the Khadr affair into a matter of politics rather than justice, with monotonous references to him as a "child soldier," rote allegations of "torture (torture lite?)," and the calculatedly inflammatory release of heavily-edited video excerpts from CSIS interviews with Khadr at Guantanamo Bay where he's been imprisoned for six years.

If you've been vacationing incognito on the dark side of the moon, Toronto-born Khadr, now aged 21, was shot and captured on July 27, 2002, at the age of 15 by U.S. forces at Ayub Kheyl, Afghanistan, after an engagement with Taliban/al Qaeda insurgents, and alleged to have killed U.S. Army medic Sgt. Christopher Speer with a grenade.

Omar's father, Ahmad, a lieutenant and financier of Osama bin Laden, moved his family from Toronto to Pakistan in the mid-'90s to join the anti-Western jihad, and was killed by security forces in 2003.

According to a 2002 report by the Boston Globe's Colin Nickerson, U.S. troops, patrolling with Pashtun militia encountered a group of armed insurgents. After a 45-minute negotiation, the insurgents suddenly opened fire and chucked grenades, killing two militiamen, and blinding U.S. Sergeant Layne Morris in one eye. The Americans radioed for close air support, initiating a four-hour bombardment of the insurgents' position with rockets, bombs, and cannon fire.

When that finished, a ground party cautiously advanced. Sergeant Speer, a medic who reportedly had recently risked his life to rescue two injured Afghan children from a minefield, entered the bombed-out enemy compound seeking wounded, at which point a lone survivor of the air attack, Omar Khadr, allegedly crawled out of the rubble with pistol in hand and lobbed a grenade, wounding Sgt. Speer, who died 11 days later. American soldiers returned fire, wounding Omar twice in the chest. He fared better than Sgt. Speer, and was shipped to Guantanamo upon recovery from his wounds.

More recently, an alternate version of events based on a classified document quoting an unidentified soldier has been floated by Khadr's advocates contending the grenade that killed Sgt. Speer was thrown during the heat of battle, that a second jihadi still was still alive when it was thrown, and that Khadr was already wounded, making the second militant (who later died) a more likely culprit.
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Military revisits Afghanistan plan
A key component is likely to be more troops, but the strategy must go beyond that, experts say.

CSM, July 24

The NATO-led mission in Afghanistan had in many ways failed to recognize that the violence amounted to an insurgency, and it has struggled to get its arms around the fight. Now, recognition is increasing that the violence must be countered with a proper counterinsurgency strategy, but there are no simple solutions. Mounting such a strategy will be challenging in Afghanistan, where the NATO-led mission has a labyrinthine command structure made up of 40 countries with divergent political and military views. In Iraq, one top American commander essentially calls the shots.

Pentagon officials are considering significant changes to the command structure in the NATO-led mission. In the coming weeks, the US four-star general who leads the NATO command, Gen. David McKiernan, will probably be given a new command relationship with US Central Command in Florida [emphasis added]. The aim is to give a more cohesive, if not American, influence on the mission.

"With everything that we face, I think that has to happen. It's going to streamline," says one senior military officer who didn't want his name used because he was commenting on an active proposal.

And in a sign that the United States is still pushing for more control of the troubled southern sector of the country, where the fight against the Taliban and other "anticoalition militias" is the most violent, the US is considering installing a new deputy commander to work under the NATO commanders there [emphasis added] to help focus efforts. These and other proposed changes to the command structure would help "clean up the spaghetti sandwich," as one retired officer put it...

Still, in the end, more troops will be necessary in Afghanistan, military experts and analysts say. The first of those three brigades, possibly amounting to more than 10,000 troops, could be deployed by the end of this year [emphasis added], defense officials say.

But the senior military officer says no decision on troops will probably be made until October [emphasis added], when Gen. David Petraeus, now the top commander in Iraq, will make a final assessment, before leaving that post, about the number of troops necessary for Iraq. That assessment will largely determine what size force can be deployed to Afghanistan, where there are now about 63,000 troops – about half American...

Hockey sticks and helicopters
Jul 24th 2008 | OTTAWA From The Economist print edition
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How a general made Canada more comfortable with fighting wars

“WE ARE not the public service of Canada,” General Rick Hillier once told journalists. “We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able to kill people.” Such a robust view of military power was unusual when General Hillier was appointed chief of the defence staff. In the three years he spent in the post before stepping down earlier this month, he almost succeeded in making it mainstream.

Canadians have often seemed more comfortable with an army that puts up tents and dishes out aid than with one that actually shoots people. The reasons for this are partly historical: the Liberal Party, which ruled Canada for most of the second half of the 20th century, drew much of its support from Quebec, where a dislike of military adventures dates back to the days of the British empire. Defence spending was frozen in the 1970s and 1980s, and then cut back in the 1990s.

Bucking this history, Canada announced in 2005 that it would assume NATO responsibility for providing security in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province and sent 2,000 soldiers to do the job. The task of selling the deployment of these troops fell to the plain-speaking general. The Taliban and Osama bin Laden were, he explained, “detestable murderers and scumbags” who should be hunted down.

To keep public opinion on his side, General Hillier made regular appearances on television accompanied by Afghan veterans, bringing him a level of fame previously unknown for an army officer in Canada. He took ice-hockey players to visit the troops and installed an all-Canadian doughnut shop on the army’s base in Kandahar. The election of the Conservatives in January 2006 made the task easier, providing strong political support for the intervention in Afghanistan. Even with the number of casualties rising (the 88th Canadian soldier was killed there on July 18th), Parliament has approved a two-year extension to the mission until 2011.
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British soldier killed after being ambushed in south Afghanistan  
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KABUL, Afghanistan (Agencies): A British soldier died after being ambushed in southern Afghanistan, while US-led coalition troops killed several militants near the capital, officials said Wednesday. Militants also killed a district police chief in the eastern Nangarhar province Wednesday after striking his convoy with a roadside bomb, said Sayed Mohammad, a provincial official. The militants attacked the British patrol in Kajaki district of southern Helmand province on Tuesday, a statement from the British Ministry of Defense said. A soldier was killed and two other troops were wounded, it said. More than 2,600 people have died in insurgency-related violence this year in Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press tally of official figures. Monthly death tolls of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan surpassed US military deaths in Iraq in May and June.

The growing Taleban-led insurgency is primarily concentrated in the south and east, but significant fighting is occurring in the west and central parts of the country. Also in Helmand province, Afghan troops killed five insurgents in a clash, provincial police chief Mohammed Hussein Andiwal said. A policeman and two Afghan soldiers were wounded in the Tuesday encounter, he said. Separately, police battled Taleban fighters in neighboring Uruzgan province early Wednesday, killing three militants, said Uruzgan’s police chief, Juma Gul Himat. In central Wardak province, US-led coalition forces killed “several militants” while hunting for a Taleban leader said to have been behind an attack that killed three American troops and their interpreter last month.
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Tough sell: Touring audacious Afghanistan
Jacob Baynham, Chronicle Foreign Service Thursday, July 24, 2008
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Sanjeev Gupta thinks it's about time war-torn Afghanistan had a tourism industry in a peaceful corner of the country.

Gupta, a regional program manager for the nongovernmental organization, the Aga Khan Foundation, says that even though some areas are too volatile to visit, Bamiyan in central Afghanistan is safe and has an abundance of cultural, historical and natural treasures to lure international travelers.

"Bamiyan has a lot of tourist potential," Gupta said. "We need to correct the perception of Afghanistan. The whole country is not dangerous."

The Aga Khan Foundation, based in Geneva, created the Bamiyan Ecotourism Project to develop tourist infrastructure, train guides, cooks and hoteliers, and raise awareness of the region's natural attractions. It's a $1 million, three-year program.

Tough sell
Gupta concedes the task of establishing a tourism industry is a daunting task even in a relatively safe province like Bamiyan.

Since the Soviet invasion in 1979 and three decades of war, few tourists have traveled to Afghanistan. The United States and many other Western governments have issued travel advisories strongly discouraging nonessential travel to Afghanistan. And there are no commercial flights. Tourists must travel the 150-mile, 10-hour journey from Kabul on a dirt road that winds high up into the snowcapped Koh-i-Baba mountains before dipping down into the verdant Bamiyan Valley. The alternative road is controlled by the Taliban, who were ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
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2 Danish soldiers injured in rocket attack in Afghanistan, 1 seriously
The Associated Press Thursday, July 24, 2008
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COPENHAGEN, Denmark: The Danish army says two soldiers were injured, one of them seriously, when a rocket hit their armored vehicle in a battle with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

The army says the Danish unit came under attack Wednesday in the southern district of Gereshk.

The injured soldiers were to be transferred to Denmark for treatment. No details were given on their injuries.
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Afghan Troops Kill at Least 34 Militants in Southern Afghanistan
By VOA News 24 July 2008
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Military officials say Afghan troops have killed at least 34 suspected Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan.

Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Zahir Azimi says the fighting erupted Thursday after militants tried to attack Afghan forces on the main road between the capital, Kabul, and the southern city Kandahar in Zabul province.

Afghan troops retaliated, killing nearly three dozen people. A number of weapons were also captured at the scene.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, NATO and Afghan forces battled militants for a second day as they try to regain control of a remote district in Ghazni province.

Provincial officials say at least 15 Taliban militants have been killed since they launched the operation Wednesday in the Ajristan district.
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Afghan pipeline raises security questions
By Travis Lupick Thursday, July 24, 2008
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Afghanistan’s ambassador to Canada says NATO’s military mission has nothing to do with a proposed massive pipeline project that will bring natural gas to his country’s neighbours. In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Omar Samad said the $7.6-billion pipeline won’t be finished before Canadian troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan in 2011.

“So I fail to see what the relationship of this pipeline is with the Canadian mission,” Samad said from Ottawa.

On June 19, the left-leaning Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives published a report questioning the feasibility of the pipeline project, given the strength of the Taliban insurgency. Samad, however, said that the Afghan army and local security forces would provide security for the pipeline. “If there is a need to do something different,” he continued, “we will discuss it with whomever will be interested to do so, down the road…beyond the Canadian mission.”

The proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-India-Pakistan pipeline (TAPI) could generate as much as $300 million in annual revenue for the Afghan government, Samad said. Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy lists the country’s projected domestic revenue for March 21, 2008, to March 20, 2009, as $887 million.

When operational, the pipeline will transport 33 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually. Energy-hungry Pakistan and India are planning to share output equally, while Afghanistan will only receive a “small percentage” of the pipeline’s gas.

Written by energy economist John Foster, the CCPA’s report raises serious concerns about the project’s security. The planned route for the pipeline runs through Kandahar province, where most Canadian Forces combat operations in Afghanistan are taking place.
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Civilian Airstrike Deaths Probed
78 Have Died in Three Incidents This Month Alone, Afghan Officials Say

Washington Post, July 25

U.S. and NATO military officials in Afghanistan have launched investigations into three separate U.S.-led airstrikes that Afghan officials say killed at least 78 civilians this month.

The investigations come during what U.N. and Afghan officials say is one of the deadliest years for civilians since the war began. In the first six months of this year, the number of civilians killed in fighting has increased by nearly 40 percent over the same period last year, according to U.N. data.

"We have seen a number of occurrences lately where a large number of civilians have been killed. It would be fair to say that this year so far there has been an increase in the number of civilians killed by all sides," said Dan McNorton, a spokesman for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

More than half of those killed in the three recent U.S.-led airstrikes -- which occurred in a three-week span in three provinces in eastern and western Afghanistan -- were women and children, according to Afghan and Western officials. In one case, about 47 women and children in a wedding party were killed.

The death toll from Western airstrikes has renewed political furor over foreign military operations in Afghanistan as the Taliban insurgency is intensifying.

NATO protocols require high-level approval for airstrikes when civilians are known to be in or near Taliban targets. Military officials say fighters with the insurgent group commonly take up positions in civilians' homes, mosques or schools -- increasing the chances of civilian casualties. Those casualties, in turn, help the Taliban win the sympathies of locals and draw new recruits...

An estimated 698 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, compared with 430 during the same period last year, the United Nations says. Of those, 255 were killed by NATO forces [emphasis added].

According to a count in a forthcoming report from Human Rights Watch, airstrikes alone have been responsible for 119 civilian deaths this year... 

Surprise Four-Day Visit by German Foreign Minister
Spiegel Online, July 25

Germany's foreign minister has flown to the western Afghan city of Herat to show official support for Berlin's controversial mission in Afghanistan. Troop levels will rise in the fall, and US presidential hopeful Barack Obama gave the mission a rhetorical nudge on Thursday...

Steinmeier landed in the western city of Herat, one of Afghanistan's most stabile areas, under tight security to be briefed on the status of Germany's mission to rebuild a water supply system and support various cultural projects. Berlin has invested over €8 million ($12.6 million) in a water treatment facility for Herat. He is also planning to visit the city's historic district, have a discussion with students at the local university and hold extensive talks with the Italian regional military command.

The trip is also expected to include a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and high-ranking German armed forces officers in Kabul and the northern part of the country, where Germany is in command.

The trip comes at a time when Afghanistan has come under more intense scrutiny from the international community. The Taliban is growing in strength and it is pushing closer and closer to Kabul. Corruption is also rampant in the government and many ministries. President Hamid Karzai's government is wobbling, and it is questionable whether it can be reelected in elections one year from now. That is, of course, if the security situation makes it possible to hold a general election...

The unstable situation was one of the reasons for Steinmeier's trip. Berlin has sent 3,500 soldiers to the country and recently pledged to raise its troop limit to 4,500 soldiers by this fall [emphasis added], despite the fact that the deployment is opposed by the majority of German voters...

Afghanistan is Not Iraq: Reasons to Be Wary of Another Surge
World Politics Review, July 25

After a brazen Taliban attack killed nine U.S. soldiers in a remote outpost in Afghanistan on July 13, Sens. McCain and Obama seemed to start a competition over who would more rapidly surge U.S. military forces to Afghanistan. Sen. Obama's trip to Afghanistan and Iraq has further focused attention on the vast disparity in U.S. resources going to the two wars. Americans should welcome the recognition by both presidential contenders that Afghanistan is central to U.S. and international security. But we should remain wary of promises to apply an Iraq-style surge to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is even more complex than Iraq, and given complicating factors such as the presence of al-Qaida senior leadership, global narco-trafficking, and Pakistani nuclear weapons, the stakes in Afghanistan are higher. The challenge in Afghanistan differs from that in Iraq in several critical ways that raise questions about what a military surge alone can accomplish.

First, porous borders are a much bigger problem in Afghanistan. While Iraqi and coalition forces face extremist infiltration from Iran and Syria, Afghan, U.S. and NATO forces face a more daunting 1,640-mile ungoverned border with Pakistan. This line is recognized and sparsely defended by government forces but ignored by Taliban and al-Qaida fighters. The result is a battlefield where the enemy has ready sanctuary from which to stage attacks. How will additional U.S. forces fare any better without either a new partnership with Pakistan on border security or rules that allow counterinsurgency efforts reach across the border into Pakistan?

Second, having a real coalition in Afghanistan brings real complications. In contrast to being relatively alone and in charge of the mission in Iraq, in Afghanistan the U.S. is both blessed and cursed by the support of over 40 partner countries and countless NGOs, all with their own strategies. How can a change in American military strategy overcome the command split between NATO and the United States and help coordinate dozens of independent actors?

Third, the extremists in Afghanistan have a different resource base: heroin. Oil fuels some insurgent capabilities in Iraq, but it cannot be compared to the challenge of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. Over 90 percent of the world's heroin now originates in the most lawless Afghan regions, funding the recruitment, training, and deployment of insurgents and terrorists. But the poppy also supports local economies for average Afghans, putting the coalition in a quandary: tolerate poppy and fund the Taliban or eradicate poppy and drive poor farmers into extremists' arms. How can a military surge help Afghanistan find an effective solution for this poppy paradox?

Finally, although Iraq is ailing and damaged, it has modern infrastructure and a history of central control that is alien to the Afghan and Pakistani tribal areas in which the current conflict is concentrated. How would more U.S. forces helping to extend central government control in Afghanistan be more than a band aid?

None of these questions are answered, but it is clear that a surge in U.S. military capabilities can only be effective if complemented by several other steps. The most important are increased civilian reconstruction capabilities and well-funded, long-term training and mentoring of the Afghan military and police. These are the kind of measures that the U.S. could not muster for the surge in Iraq, and yet they are far more important in Afghanistan where the existing systems are so much weaker.

Many of the steps taken under the leadership of Gen. Petraeus in Iraq do have relevance for Afghanistan. Chief among these would be a focus on population security that involves U.S., NATO and Afghan soldiers and civilians living in district centers and villages with the people under threat from the Taliban and al-Qaida. Second is a willingness to engage with the very tribes and clans that may have been shooting at allied forces the previous day. The coalition will continue to find local allies if our commitment is to be seen as credible and enduring.

Afghanistan is in trouble but far from lost. Less than one-third of the country is really unstable and only about 10 percent of Afghan districts are under significant Taliban sway [emphasis added]. But a surge of all types of effort -- military and civilian -- is needed to turn the tide. The mini-surge of 3,000 marines into the south and east of the country will soon draw to close after some success clearing insurgents, but the U.S. and its allies have little ability to hold and build those areas without capable Afghan security forces and Afghan and international civilians.

U.S. forces should only surge into Afghanistan with a workable and comprehensive strategy and the right civilian counterparts. The renewal of interest in Afghanistan and Pakistan offers a real opportunity. The presidential candidates -- or indeed President Bush in his remaining months -- should craft a strategy that ensures money and personnel for a civilian and military surge tailored to Afghanistan.

Vikram Singh is a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former Pentagon official.


Is India’s Benign Role In Afghanistan Anti-Pakistan?
Asian Tribune, July 27

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency is a global curse. The massive and callous July 7 bomb blast outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul, claiming over 45 lives, including a senior diplomat and the Defence Attaché, has exposed Pakistan’s hollowness and its duplicity for orchestrating the nefarious act. Notwithstanding the denial of the charge by Pakistan, it pretends to be friendly, but behaves like a foe.

The Government of India was well aware about ISI’s deceitful manoeuvrings some months ago. No less a person than Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai had cautioned India about what was going to befall and mar Indian interests in Afghanistan. His assessment has proved correct. Pakistan has exhibited its classic example of hate-India relationship with gusto, and this time in a foreign country. Pakistan’s motto seems to be: do not love thy neighbour as thyself. Pakistan is a deceiving elf.

However, it is satisfying that India in its terse reaction has vowed to respond quickly and not to take the horrendous incident lightly. An Indian official has asserted: “If anybody thinks they (ISI) can get away, they are dead wrong.” Ostensibly, there has to be a quid pro quo. India has to take the bull by the horns, in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.

Last month, India had credible information that Pakistan-based terrorist outfits, aided and abetted by ISI, were planning to target India’s strategic infrastructure in Afghanistan. New Delhi has taken it seriously. There is another possibility that China, which wants to obfuscate the improving situation in Afghanistan, in coordination with Pakistan, might have also goaded ISI to keep India at bay in Afghanistan, because of known animosity.

Earlier, an Afghanistan official had accused Pakistan’s “spy agency” (alluding to ISI) of engineering an assassination attempt on Karzai. Afghanistan’s Intelligence Chief Amrullah Saleh had alleged that suspects involved in the covert attempt on Karzai had exchanged cell phone text matter with people in the troubled Frontier province of Pakistan. Another official has procured sufficient evidence to prove ISI’s proven hand in the sordid assassination bid...

Pakistan is uninterested in the economic development of Afghanistan, unlike India, which is the fourth largest donor of Afghanistan’s construction projects. India has been rendering a yeoman service in Afghanistan. It has substantially regained its pre-eminence there and ‘strategic foothold’ in Afghanistan, an impoverished nation of 30 million people.

India has launched major developmental projects in Afghanistan, which include dollar 109.3 million Salma Dam power project in Herat, envisaged to produce 42 mw of power. The project is to be completed by next January. India has pledged dollar 750 million aid to the beleaguered Muslim nation. It is presently involved in generating hydro-electricity, construction of roads, creating telecommunication network and development of agriculture, industry et al.

India wants to change the face of Afghanistan by rebuilding its shattered economy. Several thousand Indians are working round the clock in Afghanistan to speed up the development process. According to an analyst “India’s successes in Afghanistan has stirred up a hornet’s nest in Islamabad, which has come to believe that India was taking over Afghanistan.” But it is their nightmare. Pakistan has been using Talibans as the main weapon of destruction in Afghanistan. India will continue to remain Pakistan’s main target of attack. It is wrong to expect that Pakistan will grasp its hand of friendship with India. It wants India to buzz off from Afghanistan.

India’s concern has been to strength Afghanistan, which has been destabilized by several forces, including Pakistan, for vested interests. India’s damage-control exercise in Afghanistan is not to the liking of Pakistan, which has lost its moorings there, with the fall of Talibans. Even when India opened its consulates in Afghanistan, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf gave vent to his anti-India stance thus: “India’s motivation in Afghanistan is very clear; nothing further than upsetting Pakistan. Why should they (India) have consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar? What is their interest? There is no interest other than disturbing Pakistan, doing something against Pakistan”.

The same Musharraf is reported to have allowed CIA to establish a base in Northern Pakistan for the purpose of launching strikes on radicals, who make forays into Afghanistan. Our petulant neighbour wants to keep the cauldron boiling in the strife-torn Afghanistan as well as in Kashmir, to give perpetual trouble to India, by harbouring terrorism. Ironically, both Afghanistan and Pakistan are US allies in war against global terrorism. But strangely enough, Pakistan has nurtured Talibans, using them against a fellow Muslim country, Afghanistan, by bullying tactics to destabilize that country. Talibans will never allow India to consolidate in Afghanistan, say experts. A stable Afghanistan, Pakistan fears, could lead to the “birth of Pakhtunistan in Pakistan”. For Pakistan’s, India is behind all this game.


Articles found July 27, 2008

Two Diggers injured by flares in Afghanistan
Mark Dodd | July 28, 2008
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THE Australian Defence Force is investigating incidents in Afghanistan that left two Diggers injured - one seriously - after the accidental discharge of flares during a routine patrol in southern Oruzgan province.

The separate incidents occurred late Wednesday evening and involved the accidental triggering of pen flares, a device used by soldiers to warn Afghan drivers to remain a safe distance away.

ADF spokesman Brian Dawson said yesterday the soldiers' injuries were not life threatening and their families had been notified. The soldiers, who were not identified, were part of the Reconstruction Task Force based at Tarin Kowt.

"Both soldiers were immediately given first aid by the other section members and evacuated to a nearby ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) facility for further treatment and medical assessment," Brigadier Dawson said.

"The RTF has commenced an investigation into the likely causes of the pen flare discharges.

" Australian troops continue to use them on operational patrols due to their value in providing a non-lethal option when they (soldiers) are required to signal Afghan drivers to remain a safe distance from convoys or checkpoints."

The flares are small hand-held devices that can be seen during day or night out to about 50m.

Australia has more than 1000 soldiers deployed in Afghanistan - the core of which is the Reconstruction Task Force whose main mission does not involve combat operations.
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Mission eyes surge
Minister says 200 more soldiers could deploy with choppers
Graham Thomson, The Edmonton Journal
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - About 200 additional Canadian troops could be headed for Afghanistan to accompany the helicopters that the Armed Forces plans to deploy to that troubled country, Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson said Saturday at the end of a whirlwind visit.

"Canada has had 2,500 troops here in Afghanistan; that number could expand to 2,700 as we put more equipment here in theatre," he said, alluding to helicopters due to arrive by February.

Emerson said the pressure is also on Canada's NATO allies to send more troops.
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Iran main entry route for militants -Afghan paper
Sun Jul 27, 2008 5:39am EDT By Sayed Salahuddin
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KABUL, July 27 (Reuters) - Iran has become the main transit route for militants trying to join insurgents in Afghanistan, an Afghan government daily said on Sunday.

Some Western nations with troops in Afghanistan have said that Iranian weapons destined for the Taliban have been seized in Afghanistan, although they are unsure whether Tehran knew about the shipments.

The Shii'te Islamic Republic, which is facing growing international pressure over its nuclear programme, has denied funding or arming the radical Sunni Taliban in Afghanistan.

The daily Anis said three foreign militants, two from the Middle East and one from Turkey, were captured during a recent operation in Afghanistan and investigations of the three showed they had come via Iran.

It said Iran had become a "tunnel for terrorists" to Waziristan, the tribal region of Pakistan, where the militants have sanctuaries and from where they enter Afghanistan to attack foreign and Afghan forces.
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FACTBOX - Security developments in Afghanistan
Sun Jul 27, 2008 10:52am
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(Reuters) - Following are security developments in Afghanistan at 9:30 a.m. British time on Sunday:

KHOST - NATO killed dozens of Taliban insurgents in an air strike on Sunday following an attack by the militants on a government building in southeastern Khost province near the border with Pakistan, the provincial governor said. The Taliban denied they suffered any losses, saying the group killed eight police in the raid on the building.

SOUTHEAST - The defence ministry has launched an operation involving about 1,700 personnel to wipe out insurgents from four southeastern provinces, the defence ministry said, adding the operation was backed by U.S.-led troops.

SAROBI - Separately, the ministry said, foreign and Afghan militants were planning to blow up a major water dam that provides power for the capital, Kabul. Based on intelligence reports, it said the insurgents were aiming to target the country's infrastructure.

PAKTIA - U.S.-led troops killed three insurgents in a clash in the southeastern province of Paktia on Saturday, the U.S. military said.

HELMAND - Also on Saturday, Afghan troops killed three Taliban in an engagement in southern Helmand, the defence ministry said.

(Compiled by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by David Fogarty)
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Air strikes kill over two dozens in E. Afghanistan
Updated: 2008-07-27 15:02
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KABUL -- Air strikes against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province left over two dozens of people including 21 rebels dead early Sunday, a military officer in the province said. 

"It was 2:30 am this morning when a group of 30 armed insurgents crossed border in attempt to target government interest in Spera district but Afghan troops with the support of airpower of the international troops retaliated killing 21 rebels on the spot,"Colonel Mohammad Israr told Xinhua.
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NATO forces kill 4 civilians in shooting at checkpoint in Afghanistan
By ASSOCIATED PRESS  KABUL, Afghanistan  Jul 27, 2008 5:46
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NATO forces killed four civilians and wounded three others when they fired at a vehicle that did not stop at a checkpoint in Afghanistan's volatile south, the alliance said.

Civilian casualties are a sore point between Afghanistan's government and international forces operating here. President Hamid Karzai has implored NATO and US-led coalition troops to avoid killing civilians because it undermines support for his already weak central government.

The latest incident occurred Saturday in the Sangin district of Helmand province in the south, the hub of the resurgent Taliban militant movement.

A NATO statement said the vehicle was directed to stop but drove on. NATO forces fired warning shots away from the vehicle but were "forced to fire at it when it refused to stop, fearing an insurgent attack," it said.

NATO medical personnel tended to the wounded civilians, including taking them by helicopter to a hospital, it said. The bodies of the dead were taken to their village by two civilians who were not hurt during the encounter.
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British soldier and his faithful friend die side-by-side in Afghanistan
By Sean Rayment Last Updated: 12:04PM BST 27 Jul 2008
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Lance Corporal Ken Rowe and his sniffer dog Sasha have been named as those killed in a Taliban ambush in Helmand. Sean Rayment met them days before they died.

Lance Cpl Ken Rowe pictured in Afghanistan Photo: Julian Simmonds Lance Corporal Ken Rowe was waiting for the patrol to assemble close to the rear gate of Forward Operating Base Inkerman, high in the Upper Sangin Valley.

With him was Sasha, a yellow Labrador, with a friendly face and a tail that never stopped wagging.

The pair were accompanying a routine early morning patrol, with 4 platoon, B Company of the 2nd Bn Parachute Regiment (2Para) into the Green Zone, a notorious Taliban stronghold, which begins only a few hundred yards from the walls of the isolated base.

As part of a three-week embed with the British Army in Helmand, I joined the patrol last Monday morning just as dawn was breaking over the Helmand desert.

Like many of the 30 soldiers who formed up for the patrol, I was immediately drawn to Sasha. I let her smell my hand before patting her head and tickling her ear. Sasha looked up, her face almost smiling, enjoying the attention.

"Lovely dog", I said to L/Cpl Rowe, "She's the best", he said. We then chatted about the merits of "explosives search dogs" in Helmand.
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Germany opens military driving school in Afghanistan
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KABUL: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened a military driving school in Kabul Saturday, officials said.

Steinmeier said at the opening of the German-funded school for army drivers and mechanics that his country was committed to helping to train Afghan security forces as part of efforts to rebuild the war-shattered country. “We will continue helping train Afghan security forces,” the minister told reporters through an Afghan interpreter at the event where he was accompanied by Afghan Defence Minister General Abdul Rahim Wardak.

The minister started his trip to Afghanistan in the western city of Herat on Friday, the Afghan foreign ministry said. Details of his visit were kept under wraps for security reasons.It is the Social Democrat minister’s third visit to Afghanistan which is battling a deadly insurgency led by the Taliban.

Germany has about 3,500 troops in a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of about 40 countries that is helping the Afghan government build its security forces and tackle the unrest. It announced plans last month to boost its military contribution to ISAF this year by up to 1,000 soldiers to 4,500 troops.
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Taliban commander killed in Afghanistan
Sat, 26 Jul 2008 12:45:25
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Afghan security troops have killed a key Taliban militant commander, Mullah Usman, in Kalafgan district of northeast Takhar province.

"Mullah Usman was killed when several armed militants under his command attacked a police checkpoint in Kalafgan district Friday night," said an Interior Ministry statement.

This is the first time since the fall of the Taliban regime nearly seven years ago that the fundamentalist militants engaged police in the relatively peaceful Takhar province.

Mullah Usman, whose body is with police in a local hospital, was the most senior Taliban commander in the northeast region of Afghanistan
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Training police a daunting task
Canadian mentors face corruption, incompetence
Graham Thomson, Canwest News Service Published: Saturday, July 26, 2008
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To get an idea of the daunting task facing Canadian troops who are trying to improve the notoriously inept and often corrupt Afghan police forces you need only look at a recent patrol in the Panjwaii district, one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan.

Canadian soldiers and an RCMP officer mentoring the police were ready to head out on foot patrol through the streets of Bazar-i-Panjwaii at the crack of dawn.

However, the Afghan officers never showed up.
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Canuck soldiers to be honored with stamp
UPDATED: 2008-07-25 
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Canada Post is creating a stamp to honour Canadian troops, in part due to a petition spearheaded by a Calgary resident.

Dave Murphy garnered 7,000 online supporters for a campaign to have the military recognized in the form of a stamp.

Canada Post has announced it will release a stamp to honour soldiers next October, in the lead up to Remembrance Day on Nov. 11.

“There’s going to be a lot of that stamp purchased when it comes out,” said Murphy.

“To think when they get a letter from home to see a stamp like that up in the corner, just to know that everyone in the country is thinking about them.”
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Aftermath of Afghan battle (Video)
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The BBC's Alastair Leithead has been embedded with British forces in Afghanistan.

In this report, he revisits an area of heavy fighting in the Sangin valley
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Top Taliban Leader Surrenders to Pakistan
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
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LONDON —  Britain's Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that a Taliban leader had surrendered to Pakistani authorities and another leading insurgent had been killed by British forces.

British forces spokesman Lt. Col. Robin Matthews said Mullah Rahim, the most senior Taliban leader in Helmand province, surrendered to Pakistani authorities on Saturday.

Matthews said that British forces killed Abdul Rasaq — a Taliban leader who led fighters in the Musa Qala area of Helmand. He said Rasaq, also known as Mullah Rahim, was killed by a precision missile strike just after midnight on Sunday.

Rasaq is the third senior Taliban leader killed by British forces in recent weeks.

"The Taliban's senior leadership structure has suffered a shattering blow. They remain a dangerous enemy, but they increasingly lack strategic direction and their proposition to the Afghan people is proving ultimately negative and self-defeating," Matthews said.
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Afghanistan: enduring challenges (Conference of Defence Associations' media round-up)

Articles found July 29, 2008

Harper's hazy Afghan strategy
TheStar.com - Opinion - July 29, 2008
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Afghanistan may not be a top-of-mind concern for Canadians who are trying to catch a few elusive rays on the summer break. But it is a nagging worry in the nation's capital, and it is a looming storm cloud.

In Kandahar, our troops are battling what the Pentagon glumly calls a "resilient insurgency," with mixed results. Tragically, a Canadian gunner killed two Afghan children Sunday when he fired at their speeding family car as it came close to his convoy. Last year, 3,700 Afghans were killed in fighting, including some 300 civilians who were mistakenly killed by American-led coalition forces, Human Rights Watch reports, and nearly 400 who were killed by insurgents.

Canada's toll, too, is climbing. No fewer than 88 soldiers have died on Afghan service. And more will soon be in harm's way.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government now intends to beef up our 2,500 troops by about 200 more, to service the half-dozen Chinook helicopters we plan to deploy early next year.

And Afghanistan is becoming a factor in U.S. election year politics. President George W. Bush and hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain all promise to send more troops there and to seek more allied support. While Canada would welcome extra help, we may also face pressure to send more of our troops before our Kandahar combat mission ends in 2011.

Yet as things heat up, Canadians are still waiting for Ottawa to clarify its hazy strategy. Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, who is "struck by the magnitude" of co-ordinating our $7 billion military and $1.3 billion aid effort, will publish long-awaited benchmarks for Afghanistan next month. That won't be a moment too soon.

Ottawa has all but given up on "dramatically" curbing the insurgency by 2011, and "substantially" cutting opium production. Those aims were cited by former chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier's office in a memo last year. Now they are seen as unrealizable in the short term.

But unless Harper articulates more credible, focused goals, we risk being dragged willy-nilly into whatever strategy Washington adopts once the presidential race is over. And the mood there favours stepping up combat, at a time when we are stressing development aid.

After nearly seven years of involvement, many Canadians want to see more progress on development, and more heat on Afghan President Hamid Karzai to deliver good government and to build up his security forces. When Canadian troops bow out, they should leave behind something better than memories of civilian tragedies.

In June, Harper unveiled a $50 million plan to repair the Dahla dam, creating 10,000 jobs and helping farmers switch from opium to crops that require more water. We will also immunize 350,000 children against polio, repair 50 schools and train 3,000 teachers. All good.
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A letter home shines light on ceremony
Soldiers pay tribute to comrade
Gordon Sinclair Jr. Updated: July 28 at 11:45 PM CDT
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It was a Dear Mom letter like none other.

In part that's because the e-mailed letter that retired Canadian soldier Dave Asbury wrote to his own mother last week from Kandahar was really meant for another Winnipeg mom.

Betty Arnal is the stepmother of Cpl. James Arnal, who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month. His funeral was Monday at Grant Memorial Baptist Church.

Before his family said their last goodbyes, Arnal's other family -- his comrades in Afghanistan -- said theirs during a ramp ceremony at the Kandahar airport.

As a private contractor for NATO, Dave Asbury helps manage the ramp ceremonies. And it was after the ramp ceremony for Arnal that the 49-year-old Asbury felt compelled to write home to his mother Norma.


If it is any consolation, tell your friend that I was present for the ramp ceremony for her stepson and this is what happened.

Over 400 troops were there to say goodbye. Not only were there Canadian troops, but troops from the U.S. army, U.S. marines, U.S. navy, British army, Dutch army, Czech army, Romanian army, plus clergy from all services and countries.
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Teenagers trained into terrorists near Peshawar for fighting NATO troops in Afghanistan
July 29th, 2008 - 6:10 pm ICT by ANI
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Khyber Agency, July 29 (ANI): A remote mountaineous region in Pakistan that has almost turned into a dry riverbed, houses a terrorists training camp where about two dozen young men, most of them being in their teens, receive rigourous training for the war against NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan , said a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The camp is located just a few miles away from Peshawar . To reach here, one requires an armed escort on a 20-minute walk from a village along a muddy track. It is under the control of Haji Namdar, a top Taliban commander based in the Khyber Agency.

According to the paper, for these terrorist-trainees the day starts at 4 am with prayers, followed by a six-mile run along the riverbed, swimming, and weapons training.

One has to go through this rigour to prepare for the tough life as a fighter, the report quoted a 27-year-old identified as Omar Abdullah, as saying. He said that he had fought alongside the Taliban against the US-led troops in Afghanistan before returning home to Pakistan a few weeks ago to organize training for the new recruits.
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Report: Taliban using sophisticated media network
By NAHAL TOOSI – 4 days ago
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban have created a sophisticated media network to undermine support for the Afghan government, sending threats by text message and spreading the militia's views through songs available as ring tones, according to a report released Thursday.

The International Crisis Group report comes as the Islamist militia that was ousted from power in Afghanistan by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion is making a violent comeback, particularly in the country's south and east.

The Taliban's propaganda exploits civilian killings by foreign forces and corruption in the U.S.-backed government to add to Afghans' disillusionment about their lives, according to the report by the Brussels, Belgium-based group. It said the Afghan government and its foreign allies should respond more quickly to their mistakes and highlight the Taliban's atrocities.

Many of the messages that have been distributed — apparently not always directly produced by the Taliban — come in the form of songs, religious chants and poetry that appeal to Afghan nationalism and Islamic pride.

Some of the tunes are available as ring tones for phones, and cassettes include songs such as "Let me go to jihad," the report said. Some people reported that they kept the cassettes as a form of protection in case they were stopped by Taliban.
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Other countries helping Afghanistan make heroin: UN
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KABUL (AFP) — Afghanistan should not alone be blamed for its large drugs output, with chemicals used to turn opium into heroin coming from other countries including China and Russia, the United Nations said Monday.

"You often hear that Afghanistan is the root for all the evils in terms of drugs problems in the world," UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) country representative Christina Oguz told reporters.

"I think this is wrong. It is not correct to blame Afghanistan alone for the heroin problem in the world," she said.

Afghanistan produces more than 93 percent of the world's opium and UNODC estimates that 60 percent of it was last year turned into heroin inside the country.

All the chemicals for this process are smuggled into Afghanistan.

"These chemicals originate from China, South Korea, the Russian Federation, Europe and some other countries," Oguz said.

The UNODC estimates that about 13,000 tons of chemicals are required for the amount of heroin produced in Afghanistan, with opium output at about 8,200 tons.

The chemicals are produced legally for industrial purposes in other nations.
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Missiles kill six in Pakistan tribal area
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PESHAWAR (AFP) -- At least six people including suspected militants were killed early Monday when missiles fired from Afghanistan hit a house in a Pakistani tribal area, officials said.

Three missiles struck a house next to a mosque in Azam Warsak village in the restive tribal district of South Waziristan, a senior security official told AFP.

""Six people are dead and three others injured after three missile hit a house in Azam Warsak,"" he said.

""The dead included three suspected foreign militants and three young boys,"" he said.

The official said it was not immediately clear if missiles were launched by Taleban militants in Afghanistan or coalition forces fighting them.

Residents said the house where the missiles struck belonged to local tribesman Malik Salat and that suspected pro-Taleban militants used to stay there.

Several villagers said they heard jets approaching from Afghanistan before the strike.
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Let poppies be grown for medicine: expert
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Almas Bawar Zakhilwal, an Afghani living in Canada, says the poppy eradication program in his country is a failure and stepping it up would only fuel the war.

Canadian troops are not part of the poppy eradication program; it has been contracted out to DynCorp International, an American company, which also provides bodyguards for Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

"Billions have been spent with no success," Zakhilwal said in a telephone interview. Zakhilwal is Canadian representative of the Senlis Council, a Paris-based organization which advocates licensing poppy production to make medical morphine.
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Foreign minister says Italy ready to raise military role in Afghanistan
CP (AP), July 28

ROME — Foreign Minister Franco Frattini says Italy has a "moral duty" to increase its military role in Afghanistan even if the public is wary of casualties.

Frattini says that as a loyal ally of the United States and NATO, Italy is prepared to send its troops to more volatile areas of the country on temporary deployments.

Frattini's comments came as he prepared to leave for Washington where he will meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Italy has in the past refused to send troops to combat areas in Afghanistan.

Articles found July 31, 2008

N.B. helicopter squadron headed to Afghanistan?
Published Wednesday July 30th, 2008
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Gagetown-based squadron may be called into service as part of additional commitment

FREDERICTON - If Canada decides to increase its military commitment to Afghanistan by 200 troops, Canadian Forces Base Gagetown may be asked to contribute.

Should that happen, the required personnel would likely come from the 403 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, although nothing has been decided.

Defence Minister Peter McKay said Monday increasing Canada's commitment in Afghanistan to 2,700 troops would help meet the need on the ground to run aerial drones and to look after six Chinook helicopters, both expected to arrive in the war-torn country early next year.

Once on the ground, military officials would require pilots, mechanics, and ground -- and air-traffic support.

"Right now we are just not sure what the plan is going to be," base public affairs officer Lt. (Navy) Brian Owens said yesterday. "It's hard to say whether 403 would go or not." The hint that more troops could be on their way to Afghanistan came to life last weekend when Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, in Afghanistan, said Canada may expand its troop commitment in that country by almost 10 per cent in order to service the helicopters about to be deployed to the region.

The added troops would help meet the recommendations of the Manley report on Afghanistan.

Part of 1 Wing out of Kingston, Ont., the job of the 403 Squadron is to provide operational air crew training to personnel learning to fly the CH-146 Griffon helicopter.

It also carries out operational tests and evaluations, helps develops aviation tactics, and conducts operations in support of the 1 Wing mission.

Owens said the 403 Squadron is certainly equipped to answer the call to Afghanistan should it come.

"Each one of the tactical helicopter squadrons, the one here -- in Petawawa, Valcartier -- they all could," Owens said. "It's just a matter of whether they will deplete the sources of the training squadron."

About 100 members of Golf Company from The Second Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment (2RCR) will be deploying to Afghanistan late next month.

They will be providing security for the ongoing work done by the Kandahar provincial reconstruction teams based in Kandahar City.
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Afghanistan: TV Host Detained
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: July 30, 2008
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Afghan intelligence agents detained a television talk-show host who has been critical of the government, the chief spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said, adding that private media outlets had come under the influence of unnamed foreign countries. The host, Nasir Fayaz, is the moderator of a weekly show called “Truth.” The government said in a statement that Mr. Fayaz had made baseless accusations against two government ministers, and it recommended that he be prosecuted for doing so. Mr. Fayaz’s show was taken off the air on Sunday after his television station received a phone call from an intelligence service agent ordering it to stop the broadcast, said Abdul Qadir Mirzai, a spokesman for the station.
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Defence minister says Canadian troops not in Afghanistan to guard pipeline
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HALIFAX — Defence Minister Peter MacKay says Canadian troops are not in Afghanistan to guard a new natural gas pipeline being built through the southern part of the country.

MacKay told a Halifax radio talk show on Wednesday that Canada has to let Afghanistan map its own future. He said fears that Canadian troops may end up paying a hefty price to protect the U.S.-backed project from insurgents are unfounded.

"We have to decide what role, if any, we'll play," said MacKay.

"We are not there specifically to protect a pipeline across Afghanistan."

The minister said it's incidental to the role Canadians are already playing.

"We're going to try and prevent chaos, if the Taliban are attacking certain places in the country or certain projects, then yes we will play a role."

The proposed pipeline would run through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Construction is scheduled to start in 2010, one year before Canada's Afghan mission is expected to end.
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Afghans fix crumbling history, one shovel full at a time
Canada is the biggest single donor to a project to unbury the ancient heart of old Kabul, writes Graham Thomson
Graham Thomson, Canwest News Service Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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KABUL - One of the more promising signs for Afghanistan's future lies, perhaps, in its past, in the heart of old Kabul -- buried under decades of filth, garbage and neglect. Two metres underneath, to be precise.

In the ancient commercial district of Murad Khane -- in a project in which Canada is the biggest single donor -- more than 200 workers are digging away dirt and debris in this labyrinth of mud-walled alleys and boxlike buildings. At places, the accumulated earth is two metres deep, choking old passageways and raising the floor level of aged courtyards so high that people had to stoop through doorways.

In a technique that would make recyclers smile in Canada, workers are using the recovered earth as the main ingredient in a traditional cement to rebuild crumbling walls of the district's historic buildings. Murad Khane is rising like a phoenix from its own ashes.
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DND offers diplomats, development staff training to handle capture by Taliban
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OTTAWA — The Canadian Forces now offers diplomats and development staff deployed in Afghanistan specialized training in how to handle themselves if they're ever captured by the Taliban.

The military is in the process of expanding and revising the existing course given to soldiers as well as recruiting new instructors to deliver the program.

"The Canadian Forces is currently increasing its capability to provide (Conduct After Capture) training," Capt. Carole Browne, a public affairs officer in Ottawa, said in an email response.

"It is also expanding the program to make it available to other members of 'Team Canada' that deploy, with or without" the military.

The degree of training for civilians will depend upon their job in the war zone and the likelihood of them being anywhere near the enemy.

Joffre LeBlanc, a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Department, said Tuesday that the five-day training course is now mandatory for staff being sent to a war zone.

The hostile environment course, delivered by military trainers at CFB Kingston, Ont., provides "direction and guidance on how to avoid capture, improve conditions of captivity and increase the chance of release if detained or captured by hostile forces," said LeBlanc in an email response.

Interview requests about the training were denied.
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Inaction on poppy crops a danger
Don Martin, National Post  Published: Wednesday, July 30, 2008
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Canadian soldiers escorting me outside a remote Afghan National Army base last summer didn't give it a second thought as their boots crunched thousands of dried poppy bulbs sapped of their narcotic resin.

It was, after all, Kandahar -- now more than ever an incubator for most of the world's opium supply.

Raked into metre-high piles, the empty pods were the residue of a largest-ever poppy crop in a country that feeds 92% of the planet's heroin addictions, according to the latest United Nations World Drug Report.

The volume of Afghan poppy sap in 2008 is expected to crest 9,000 tonnes, increasingly concentrated in the southwestern Helmand province, where British forces dominate, and the Kandahar region under Canadian military supervision.
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Afghan TV journalist freed from detention
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan authorities released a television talk show host critical of the government following an outcry in the media over his detention, which lasted two days, an official said Thursday.

Nasir Fayaz, who hosted a weekly show called "Truth" on the private Ariana Television Network, was freed Wednesday, said Abdul Qadir Mirzai, a spokesman for the station.

Afghan intelligence agents detained Fayaz on Monday after the government alleged that he made "baseless accusations" against two ministers and called for his prosecution.

On Sunday, Fayaz's show was taken off the air after Ariana received a phone call from an intelligence service agent ordering them to stop the broadcast, Mirzai said.

Fayaz was not mistreated during his time in custody, Mirzai said. The talk show host's detention drew the attention of media organizations such as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which called the situation "disturbing."

After Fayaz's detention, the chief government spokesman accused Afghanistan's private media of coming under the influence of foreign countries. Humayun Hamidzada claimed Tuesday that some foreign countries were trying to influence events in Afghanistan by financing media outlets.

"They want to attack the people of Afghanistan and the government of Afghanistan using these media," Hamidzada said, without naming any country or any media company
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