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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2010


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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2010              

News only - commentary elsewhere, please.
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Articles found June 1, 2010

Laid low by basic instinct
Don Martin, National Post  Published: Tuesday, June 01, 2010
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An attractive 20-something female working the Kandahar Airfield travel office, which books Canadian soldier getaways to Anywhere Outside Afghanistan for personal leave, compared walking around the military base to having 100 pairs of eyes peeling off her clothes.

It's not that she feared for her personal safety. But it was, she told me during my embedding there in mid-2007, uncomfortable to be under such intense sexual scrutiny every time she ventured outside her office or tent. Mind you, she added, it was plenty good for the ego.

Mix thousands of testosterone-enhanced males with perhaps a couple hundred women confined for six months inside a potentially deadly theatre of war and someone needs to discourage, if not disconnect, those natural instincts.

The rules of sexual engagement for last call in a Calgary Stampede bar cannot apply on the Kandahar base or else a new front in the Afghan war would erupt internally with outbreaks of fist-to-face combat to score or settle scores.

The "no-entry" rule was made crystal clear to visiting media, complete with warnings that any deviation from monk-like abstinence would earn you the morning-after reward of a ticket back to Canada, never to be allowed back on base.

The concrete bomb shelters scattered around the base were always rumoured to be canoodling hotspots, although my curious peak inside them late at night never found any such encounters.
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General toppled by a corporal’s revelation
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Bruce Campion-Smith Ottawa Bureau Chief

The extraordinary confession of a corporal set in motion the bombshell revelation that ended the tenure and possibly the military career of Canada’s top soldier in Afghanistan, the Star has learned.

The unidentified solider told a trusted confidant at the Kandahar Airfield about her relationship with Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard, sparking a chain of events that reached the top echelons of the military and the government.

Within 24 hours, both Ménard and the soldier, a member of his staff, were on the same military transport plane, headed back to Canada, one defence source told the Star.

In the course of a day, Ménard had gone from commanding 5,000 American and Canadian troops getting ready to launch a major offensive in southern Afghanistan to a humiliating return to Canada to face a possible court martial.
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The Battle for Kandahar
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National Post Staff,  National Post  Published: Friday, May 28, 2010

The Post looks at the ins and outs of the situation in Kandahar City before what may be the most important battle of the Afghan conflict.

Success or failure of Obama's troop surge lies in Kandahar City

By Peter Goodspeed

As thousands of Canadian, U.S., British and Afghan troops prepare for a summer offensive in Kandahar -- expected to be the most decisive battle in the Afghan war -- the Taliban are already preparing their battleground, planting mines, hiding weapons and terrifying the local population

After three decades of turmoil, Kandaharis are resilient

By Brian Hutchinson

I worried when he didn't return my calls and email messages. After a month without correspondence, I tried to not fear the worst. A whole year passed and there still was no word from my friend Aman

Ahmed Wali Karzai -- From waiter to ‘King of Kandahar'

By Peter Goodspeed

Today, Ahmed Wali Karzai, half-brother of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, is the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan
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Gunmen open fire at Pakistan hospital, 12 killed
Mubasher Bukhari, Reuters  Published: Monday, May 31, 2010
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LAHORE, Pakistan - At least four gunmen attacked a hospital in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore on Monday afternoon, killing up to a dozen people and holding several hostage before escaping, a senior doctor told Reuters.

"They barged into the hospital building and opened indiscriminate fire," said Javed Ikram, Chief Executive of Jinnah hospital.

He said at least 12 people were killed in the firing while some had been held hostage. However, other accounts put the number dead at five.

Senior city government official Sajjad Bhutta told Reuters, "They were four gunmen clad in elite police uniform, and entered the hospital building and opened fire. Then they ran towards the intensive care unit where their companion was being treated."

Police guards fired back, he said, and they fled. One of them was wounded.

The five dead included three policemen, a woman and a private security guard, he said.

Dozens of people wounded in Friday's attacks on two mosques of a minority religious community in the city were being treated in the hospital, which is a major institution in the city. More than 80 people were killed in those attacks.

The attackers were either trying to rescue or kill a wounded attacker from Friday's assault who was being treated in the Intensive Care Unit of Jinnah Hospital, said Punjab police chief Tariq Saleem Dogar.
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American general to take command of British troops in Helmand province
The Times, June 1

An American general will today take over command of all British forces in Helmand province in a symbolic move that underlines Britain’s diminished role in southern Afghanistan.

The handover may also signal the beginning of the end of the British mission in Helmand — where the majority of the 289 British deaths in Afghanistan have occurred — as 20,000 US Marines exercise increasing authority across the south. A Royal Marine became the latest casualty on Saturday night when he was killed in an explosion while on a foot patrol near Sangin, the scene of some of the deadliest fighting in the north of the province.

The Ministry of Defence played down the significance of the handover, announced last month. On the ground, the response was also muted among the 8,000 British troops who will fall under the command of Major-General Richard Mills of the US Marine Corps. The aim is to rotate the command with a British general.

“It’s no big deal,” one senior commander said. “Their brigadier will still be a Brit. The soldier on the ground won’t notice a thing.”

Those experiencing more of a change are a 1,100-strong battle group of Royal Marines in Sangin and Kajaki that will become part of an American combat team. The shift falls short of letting US Marines replace their UK counterparts, but it will enable them to deploy into Sangin if they choose — a potentially sensitive prospect because of the British deaths in the area...

Australian defence chiefs say taking over Dutch role in Afghanistan could overstretch military
CP, June 1

CANBERRA, Australia - Australia will not take over the leadership role in restive southern Afghanistan from departing Dutch forces because the Australian military could become overstretched, national defence chiefs said Monday.

Most of Australia's 1,550 troops in Afghanistan are based in Uruzgan province where the Dutch lead the International Security Assistance Force.

Australia is regarded by some observers as a natural successor to the Dutch in the province, while retired Maj. Gen. Jim Molan, an Australian who served as the U.S.-led international forces' Chief of Operations in Iraq in 2004-2005, argues that Australia can and should commit hundreds more troops to the Afghanistan campaign.

Afghanistan will be among the top issues discussed when President Barack Obama visits Australia in June.

With the Netherlands set to withdraw its 1,600 troops from Afghanistan from August, Australian Defence Minister John Faulkner said on Monday "another first tier NATO nation" needed to take over the Dutch leadership role in Uruzgan.

Faulkner said Australia had to keep troops in reserve to deal with emergencies in its own region, and the United States had not asked him to fill the Dutch void...

Air Marshal Angus Houston, Australia's Defence Force Chief, said Australia was already making a "very reasonable contribution" from a [permanent] defence force of 58,00 personnel [emphasis added]...

Australia to take greater Afghan training role
The Age, June 1

AUSTRALIA will dramatically increase its training role in Afghanistan in the coming months but will not take over from the Dutch as the lead nation in Oruzgan province because it would leave the nation exposed closer to home, defence chiefs have told a Senate committee.

The chief of the Australian Defence Force, Angus Houston, revealed that Australian troops would take over the training of the entire 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army, as the occupying coalition strives to build an Afghan defence force that can stand on its own when foreign troops eventually leave.

More than 700 Australian troops have been mentoring two battalions - known as kandaks - from the 4th Brigade, but by the end of the year, they will have responsibility for training all six kandaks, some of which are expected to take part in the intensifying offensive against insurgents in Kandahar province...

Diggers braced for push into Taliban heartland
The Australian, June 1

A COALITION victory in a key operation to secure Afghanistan's Taliban heartland of southern Kandahar would "suck the life out of the insurgency", defence chief Angus Houston told a Senate estimates hearing yesterday.

In one of his most upbeat assessments of the war so far, Air Chief Marshal Houston indicated there would be a major role for Australian forces as the Kandahar operation gathered momentum.

The US-led operation is expected to involve thousands of Afghan and NATO troops, but would also include Australian special forces and newly trained Afghan troops and their Australian mentors, he said.

The new operation to secure lawless Kandahar would build on the success of an offensive in neighbouring Helmand province.

"Kandahar city itself is not controlled by the Taliban but it does have a number of serious governance issues, which the coalition intends to address [emphasis added]," Air Chief Marshal Houston said...



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Articles found June 4, 2010

Rocket attack on NATO hub in southern Afghanistan
Agence France-Presse June 4, 2010
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Militants fired rockets at NATO's main base in southern Afghanistan for the second time in less than two weeks and caused minor injuries, a U.S. military official said Friday.

Four rockets were fired at Kandahar Air Field on Thursday — two at around 3:00 pm, one at 8:00 pm and another two hours later, the official told AFP.

"The one at 8:00 pm caused some minor injuries to multiple forces," the official said on condition of anonymity and without revealing nationalities of the troops involved.

A rocket and ground attack on the Kandahar base wounded a number of people and forced a security lockdown on May 22.
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Training role in Afghanistan possible: MPs
Liberals could be open to idea but PM may balk
By MATTHEW FISHER, Canwest News Service June 4, 2010
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Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae has provided the strongest indication yet that a deal may be possible between his party and the minority Harper government to keep some Canadian troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission in Kandahar ends next summer.

"The door is open to serious discussion in Canada and between Canada and NATO about what the future looks like," Rae said during a five-day fact-finding mission to Kandahar and Kabul by 10 members of Parliament from all the parties, who sit on the Commons' special committee on the mission in Afghanistan.

One possibility being closely examined is whether to dispatch Canadian military trainers to help "increase the capacity of both the Afghan police and Afghan military," the former premier of Ontario said.

"There is no deal done, but there are elements that could be brought together to make a deal," Bryon Wilfert, the Liberal vice-chair of the committee, said after the delegation met yesterday in Kabul with U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who commands more than 100,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, and another American, Lt.-Gen. William Caldwell, whose purpose is to train Afghan forces to a level that would permit alliance forces to leave the country.

At a meeting with the MPs yesterday, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rasoul also requested that if Canada's combat troops were leaving, that some of them be replaced by military trainers.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may represent the biggest stumbling block to such a deal. He has repeatedly stated that all Canadian soldiers would leave Afghanistan next year.
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Afghan loya jirga peace talks enter final day
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Tribal leaders in Afghanistan are holding the final day of a national peace meeting in the capital, Kabul.

The gathering has been marked by fierce debate on the government's plan to end the country's nine-year civil war.

It is expected to endorse an amnesty and job incentives to induce Taliban fighters to give up arms.

But correspondents say there are few signs that the Taliban is ready to agree to any deal.

Its main demand is that all foreign forces withdraw from the country before any negotiations can begin.

The Taliban have been waging a battle to overthrow the US-backed government and expel the 130,000 foreign troops there.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is aiming to use the three-day "peace jirga" to enlist support for his plan to offer economic incentives to reformed Taliban militants.

Security is tight at the venue after Taliban militants tried to attack the meeting after it opened on Wednesday.

Three rockets landed close to the meeting place. Officials said two attackers were killed and one captured.

Up to 1,600 delegates - including tribal elders, religious leaders and members of parliament from all over the country - have convened for the meeting.

But they are far outnumbered by the 12,000 security personnel guarding against attacks.
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New Canadian commander arrives in Kandahar
Last Updated: Friday, June 4, 2010 CBC
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Canada's new military commander in Afghanistan arrived Friday in Kandahar, a week after his predecessor was relieved of command following allegations he was involved in an inappropriate personal relationship while in theatre.

Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance will lead Canada's 2,800 military personnel in the country until the fall.

Vance was given the task after Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard was accused of engaging in an intimate relationship, contrary to military policy.

Military police investigators are still examining the allegations and have not said when their investigation might be complete.
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Afghan IED sweepers face cunning Taliban enemy
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By Michael Georgy

South Asia

KANDAHAR Afghanistan (Reuters) - An Afghan soldier with a metal detector scans a road for the biggest killer they face in the war against the Taliban -- an improvised explosive device (IED).

"Don't look around you, look down," his commander barks during a training session.

After a two-week course lasting five hours a day, he and other Afghan army engineers will be sent out to the battlefield, where Taliban militants are becoming more cunning by the day.

"IEDs are constantly a threat out there...," said Canadian Captain Peter Davidson, one of the mentors of the Afghan-led training programme. "It's a cat and mouse game."

The problem is novice Afghan army engineers, arguably doing the most vital job in the nine-year war, will soon face an enemy that has mastered the art of bomb-making and becoming more creative.

Last month General George Casey, U.S. Army chief of staff, said more than 60 percent of the roughly 400 attacks in one week in Afghanistan were the result of roadside bombs.
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Direct attacks ebb, IEDs on rise in Afghan east: US general

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(AFP) – 21 hours ago

WASHINGTON — A "degraded" Taliban is conducting fewer direct assaults in eastern Afghanistan, turning instead to more roadside bombs and suicide attacks, the US commander there said Thursday.

"We realize that Afghanistan and Regional Command East are at a critical moment," US Army Major General Curtis Scaparrotti said, as the United States scrambles to boost Afghan Security Forces (ASF) capability and local government competence ahead of a planned foreign troop pullout beginning in July 2011.

"In terms of strength within RC East, I don't believe that they're any stronger now than they were a year ago," the commander said of the Taliban, speaking to reporters in the US capital via live video-link from eastern Afghanistan.

"I would say it is degraded," he said of the militant group's capacity, but noted that attacks with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, are on the rise in the east.

"They have conducted less direct fire attacks from the winter into this spring, and they're using more IEDs, suicide vests and potentially a car bomb," he said.

As an example he cited last week's attack against the US-operated Bagram airbase outside Kabul, in which the Taliban has said it dispatched 20 suicide bombers, and a suicide car bombing by the Taliban the next day, which killed at least 18 people, including six NATO troops -- five US and one Canadian.

The Bagram attack "was really not one that I think could have achieved success in terms of penetrating the base itself," Scaparrotti said.
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Cdn Parliamentarians Surprised at Success of Canadian Troops in Afghanistan
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A group of Canadian Parliamentarians belonging to the Committee that overseas the Afghanistan mission is surprised at the level of success of the Canadian military, both militarily and developmentally.

The Canadian Military in Afghanistan, while working out of Forward Operation Bases to provide security for the Afghan population, is also instrumental in construction and some governing issues.

While this news very seldom reaches Canada, this parliamentary committee has now seen the full range of the Canadian mission. After almost eight years in country, it is about time.

Surprisingly, after their five day secret mission this all party committee now says that there is a role for Canada's military beyond 2011.

High profile Liberal MP Bob Rae said that most of the committee members believe that we (Canada) have to see this thing through and that it was time for intense discussion. The door seems to be open for an all party parliamentary discussion.

The group toured Afghanistan earlier this week, but had to be kept secret for security reasons. While touring Canadian projects, they talked with soldiers and civilian facilitators, as well as with Afghan leaders.
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Afghanistan and the Turkish Flotilla Incident
Start of Conference of Defence Associations' media round-up, June 4:

    Peter Goodspeed for The National Post writes that ISAF’s approaching campaign in Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, will be a decisive battle in the mission.

    Russell Hampsey and Sean P. McKenna for the Armed Forces Journal argue that COIN practitioners in Afghanistan need to listen and respond to Afghan concerns instead of telling them what they need.

    The Strategy Page reports that all services operating in Afghanistan have been ordered to adopt the COIN strategy developed by General Stanley McChrystal and informed by generations of US Army Special Forces experience.

    Miles Amoore for Times interviews Naimatullah, a Taliban bomb maker and trainer, who explains the process and the will behind their determination to murder ‘Western infidels.’

    Anthony Lloyd for Times writes that Afghan Intelligence believes million of dollars from Saudi Arabia have sponsored terrorism in the country.

    Radio Free Europe interviews General Stanley McChrystal who reconfirms his commitment to security in Afghanistan.

    Global Security argues that the omission of Taliban members at the upcoming Consultative Peace Jirga coupled with a search for quick fixes represents a flawed strategy and according to Afghan expert Khalil Roman, “We must know the price for peace.”



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Articles found June 6, 2010

Taliban’s Kandahar leader killed
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NATO reports insurgent’s death
Friday, June 4, 2010

On the very day that a new Canadian commander arrived in Kandahar, news comes that the top Taliban fighter in the southern Afghan city has been killed in battle. NATO said today that Mullah Zergay was killed by the coalition’s troops in a firefight with insurgents who were shooting back with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. This event took place in Kandahar’s Zhari district last week, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said. Zergay was said to have been responsible for many bombing deaths, along with kidnappings and killings of government employees and village elders. Also today in Kandahar, Canada’s new military commander in Afghanistan, Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance, landed at Kandahar Airfield, where he will lead Canada’s 2,800 military personnel in the country until the fall.
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  Even reduced Afghan role remains a risky venture
Posted By MICHAEL DEN TANDT Posted 1 day ago
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For many months now, since before the last election, all parties in the House of Commons have insisted that no Canadian soldiers will remain in Afghanistan after July 2011.

Each time Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been asked about this (most famously in March, after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a public pitch for a continuing mission during a state visit) the answer has been a flat no. No combat, no humanitarian component, no nothing. We're done.

Harper took this position because, though an early supporter of the mission, he wasn't willing to expend politicalcapitaltokeepitgoing. W iththe opposition Liberals and New Democrats clamouring at every turn for a speedy withdrawal and Canadians increasingly weary of casualties, Harper made a simple political calculation and took the issue off the table.

A recent all-party Commons committee trip to Afghanistan may change all that. After five days in Kabul and Kandahar, Liberal Bob Rae, New Democrat Jack Harris and Conservative Laurie Hawn apparently now agree that Canada should carry on post-2011, if only in a training capacity, and with a much smaller contingent of troops.

This would involve "inside the wire" work only, proponents of this option stipulate. In simple terms it means no more overland missions in LAV II armoured vehicles, which leave troops vulnerable to suicide bombers and IED ambushes. And it means, obviously, no combat missions.
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What next in Afghanistan?
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper is suddenly faced with something he probably never expected to see: a growing consensus in Parliament that some of Canada’s 2,800 troops should remain in Afghanistan to train local forces after their combat tour ends next summer.

The Commons special committee on Afghanistan returned from a fact-finding mission last week proposing that Canadian military trainers could help bolster the country’s democratic government and prevent a resurgence of Al Qaeda there. The committee’s views give Harper political cover to revisit Ottawa’s options.

Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae came home saying that Canada has “an obligation to see this thing through,” and should consider training local police and troops. That squares with Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff’s musings about a “continued mission.” Committee chair Kevin Sorenson, a Conservative, agrees that “Canada may have a role” training allies. And the NDP’s Jack Harris believes that Canada should be in the business of building key Afghan institutions.

Reacting to all this on Friday, Harper said he found the committee’s ideas “interesting,” but insisted that he is still eyeing a full pullout. That caution reflects Parliament’s firm decision in 2008 that “Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011” and that our troops will be out by year’s end. Given that, Harper would need Parliament’s approval to maintain troops beyond that point.
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Afghanistan: Police officers complete management and good governance training in Kandahar
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Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

Date: 05 Jun 2010

Nineteen police officers have just graduated from a six-week training in management and good governance in Kandahar.

The Canadian Civilian Police in Kandahar provided the technical and financial support for the course which saw the officers receiving training in the fields of management, good governance, tackling problems in crisis situations, handling criminals, and respect for the Afghan Constitution.

Speaking during the ceremony on Wednesday, Kandahar Police Chief Sardar Mohammad Zazai said "such courses/trainings are very useful for the police officers," adding that "those who didn't participate in this round will get the opportunity to participate in the next round."
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Articles found June 7, 2010

Suicide bombers attack Afghan police compound
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — At least three suicide bombers attacked a police training center Monday in southern Afghanistan's largest city, but the assailants were killed before they could inflict any casualties, officials said.

One of the attackers drove an explosives-laden car up to the gate of the center and detonated the bomb, blowing a hole in the compound wall, the Interior Ministry said. Two other bombers tried to storm through the hole, engaging in a gunbattle with police before blowing themselves up outside.

Gen. Gul Nabi Ahmadzai, head of police training programs for Afghanistan, gave a slightly different account, saying the two gunmen were killed in firing by police. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack and said four bombers were sent.

The different accounts could not be immediately reconciled.

No police were wounded in the brazen midday attack, which could be heard throughout the city of Kandahar. NATO and Afghan forces swarmed the training center, but it appeared to be secure about an hour after the explosion.
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Rethinking Afghanistan
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June 07, 2010 Howard Elliott The Hamilton Spectator

When Canada's mandate in Afghanistan expires in 2011, it will and should signal the end of a combat role for Canadian personnel. We have argued repeatedly, and do so again, that there is no public will for an extension of the combat mission. Canadian forces have done more than their share, and paid the price in blood, to support and bolster the NATO mission to stabilize Afghanistan and defeat the Taliban insurgency.

But, increasingly, it looks as if there is an appetite, at least among parliamentarians, for Canada to play some noncombat support role to extend support until the Afghan government and security forces are ready to become self-sufficient.

What does that look like? Last week members of an all-party committee touring the war-ravaged nation gave us a glimpse. Liberal MP Bob Rae said: "We have an obligation to see this thing through ... I just want to say on behalf of the Liberal party that we are very committed to a role post 2011." Conservative MPs and even the NDP, which has demanded an immediate pullout in past, offer similar observations and sentiments. The committee will develop a position on the subject, and make a recommendation to the Harper government.
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Instead of warriors, let’s send teachers
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By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target Mon. Jun 7

As we steadily inch closer to the announced July 2011 pullout date for our combat forces in Afghanistan, the pressure is mounting for Canada to revisit that decision.

Our NATO allies — in particular the United States — are anxious to keep as many flags as possible on their coalition organization charts. With the Conservative government adamant that it will withdraw the battle group in Kandahar as per the terms of the bipartisan agreement with the Liberals, which allowed them to extend the original mission deadline beyond February 2009, the talk now is once again focused on the provision of military trainers.

The argument for this is the fact that the Afghan army and Afghan police forces are still woefully inept and long-term coaching and mentoring by international military personnel will be required for the foreseeable future. The current strategy being carried out by the Pentagon calls for an increase in the quantity and quality of the Afghan security forces to the point where they can be self-sufficient in the battle against the insurgents.

The U.S. brain trust responsible for this Afghanistan blueprint wants to grow the combined strength of the police and army units to a total of 400,000 personnel. The cost to field such a massive force — approximately US$7 billion annually — will be borne indefinitely by the U.S.A.
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With U.S. Aid, Warlord Builds Afghan Empire
NY Times, June 5

TIRIN KOT, Afghanistan — The most powerful man in this arid stretch of southern Afghanistan  is not the provincial governor, nor the police chief, nor even the commander of the Afghan Army.

It is Matiullah Khan, the head of a private army that earns millions of dollars guarding NATO supply convoys and fights Taliban insurgents alongside American Special Forces.

In little more than two years, Mr. Matiullah, an illiterate former highway patrol commander, has grown stronger than the government of Oruzgan Province, not only supplanting its role in providing security but usurping its other functions, his rivals say, like appointing public employees and doling out government largess. His fighters run missions with American Special Forces officers, and when Afghan officials have confronted him, he has either rebuffed them or had them removed.

“Oruzgan used to be the worst place in Afghanistan, and now it’s the safest,” Mr. Matiullah said in an interview in his compound here, where supplicants gather each day to pay homage and seek money and help. “What should we do? The officials are cowards and thieves.”

Mr. Matiullah is one of several semiofficial warlords who have emerged across Afghanistan in recent months, as American and NATO officers try to bolster — and sometimes even supplant — ineffective regular Afghan forces in their battle against the Taliban insurgency.

In some cases, these strongmen have restored order, though at the price of undermining the very institutions Americans are seeking to build: government structures like police forces and provincial administrations that one day are supposed to be strong enough to allow the Americans and other troops to leave.

In other places around the country, Afghan gunmen have come to the fore as the heads of private security companies or as militia commanders, independent of any government control. In these cases, the warlords not only have risen from anarchy but have helped to spread it.

For the Americans, who are racing to secure the country against a deadline set by President Obama, the emergence of such strongmen is seen as a lesser evil, despite how compromised many of them are. In Mr. Matiullah’s case, American commanders appear to have set aside reports that he connives with both drug smugglers and Taliban insurgents...

Karzai removes Afghan interior minister and spy chief
Washington Post, June 7

KABUL -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday forced out his spy chief and his interior minister, a surprise move that eliminates two key American allies as the United States deepens its engagement here.

The departures of Interior Minister Hanif Atmar and National Directorate of Security chief Amrullah Saleh are likely to become an additional irritant in the already rocky relationship between Karzai and Washington.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said both officials were "people we admire and whose service we appreciate." Atmar, Morrell added, "was one of the ministers we cared about."

Atmar earned the esteem of many U.S. officials by taking steps to reform a ministry plagued by corruption when he came into the job early last year. The Interior Ministry oversees the country's fledgling police forces, whose training is a key focus of the 30,000 additional forces President Obama is deploying to Afghanistan.

Many of the newly deployed troops are being sent to Taliban strongholds in southern Afghanistan. Simultaneously, the Karzai administration is trying to negotiate an armistice with the Taliban, a concept U.S. officials support in principle but are wary of in practice. Both resignations Sunday appeared linked to the prospect of talks.

Atmar and Karzai had clashed in recent months over Karzai's reconciliation efforts, said a senior U.S. military official who worked closely with Atmar.

"Atmar really disagreed with the reintegration of the Taliban into the police and the army," the official said. "He had some problems with it, and, frankly, we agreed with him."

Atmar's name circulated as a potential presidential candidate last year, and he is widely known to have political ambitions.

Saleh has a close relationship with the CIA that dates to Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s. A former senior U.S. intelligence official said Saleh may have disagreed with Karzai's efforts to release some Taliban figures as a demonstration of his willingness to negotiate. "I can see Amrullah objecting to that," the former official said. "He was tough. He had a very clear view about what was required for security."

The former official said Saleh's departure is a blow to the Afghan spy service and is likely to be viewed as a setback within the CIA. "I would have viewed it as very bad news," the former official said.

Saleh, an ethnic Tajik, was a member of the Northern Alliance, the political and military movement that fought the Taliban during the civil war. As such, Karzai may have seen him as an obstacle in his efforts to persuade the Taliban to negotiate a cease-fire, said parliament member Khalid Pashtoon...



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Convoy Guards in Afghanistan Face an Inquiry
NY Times, June 6

MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan — For months, reports have abounded here that the Afghan mercenaries who escort American and other NATO convoys through the badlands have been bribing Taliban insurgents to let them pass.

Then came a series of events last month that suggested all-out collusion with the insurgents.

After a pair of bloody confrontations with Afghan civilians, two of the biggest private security companies — Watan Risk Management and Compass Security — were banned from escorting NATO convoys on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar.

The ban took effect on May 14. At 10:30 a.m. that day, a NATO supply convoy rolling through the area came under attack. An Afghan driver and a soldier were killed, and a truck was overturned and burned. Within two weeks, with more than 1,000 trucks sitting stalled on the highway, the Afghan government granted Watan and Compass permission to resume.

Watan’s president, Rashid Popal, strongly denied any suggestion that his men either colluded with insurgents or orchestrated attacks to emphasize the need for their services. Executives with Compass Security did not respond to questions.

But the episode, and others like it, has raised the suspicions of investigators here and in Washington, who are trying to track the tens of millions in taxpayer dollars paid to private security companies to move supplies to American and other NATO bases.

Although the investigation is not complete, the officials suspect that at least some of these security companies — many of which have ties to top Afghan officials — are using American money to bribe the Taliban. The officials suspect that the security companies may also engage in fake fighting to increase the sense of risk on the roads, and that they may sometimes stage attacks against competitors...

The investigation is complicated by, among other things, the fact that some of the private security companies are owned by relatives of President Hamid Karzai  and other senior Afghan officials. Mr. Popal, for instance, is a cousin of Mr. Karzai, and Western officials say that Watan Risk Management’s largest shareholder is Mr. Karzai’s brother Qayum...

In addition to Watan Risk Management, there is NCL Holdings, founded by Hamid Wardak, the son of Rahim Wardak, the Afghan defense minister. Elite Security Services, another NATO convoy escort service, is owned by Siddiq Mujadeddi, the son of Sibghatullah Mujadeddi, the speaker of the Afghan Senate, officials said. Asia Security Group, another private security company, was, at least until recently, controlled by Hashmat Karzai, a cousin of the president...

Many of the private security companies, including the one owned by Mr. Ruhullah, appear to be under the influence of Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of President Karzai and the chairman of the Kandahar Provincial Council. Though nominally an American ally, Ahmed Wali Karzai has surfaced in numerous intelligence and law enforcement reports connecting him to Afghanistan’s booming opium trade [emphasis added]...



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Articles found June 8, 2010

The Torch Goes Silent
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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

This is terrible news. Don't have much to say that  Adrian didn't:

    Anyone who at all follows military blogging in Canada knows that the premier blog is “The Torch”, as in “to you with failing hands we throw.” But alas, the blog has shut down suddenly and unexpectedly. I contacted the authors, but they would prefer not to share the reasons publicly. Sufficed to say that this is a huge loss to the Canadian blogging community.

    The blog owner, Damian Books, became the first Canadian blogger to be invited by the Canadian military to do embedded blogging in Afghanistan. His reports offered a rare and insightful look into Canada’s mission. Sadly, those reports are also now gone.

    I hope this is only a hiatus. Such a loss to the Canadian blogging community will be deeply felt by all, and in particular those who support the mission in Afghanistan. There was no better source of information about Canada’s military out there, and that includes information directly from the government military web site.
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Allies Make Way for U.S. Troop Influx in Afghanistan
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KABUL—The influx of American forces into southern Afghanistan is redrawing the coalition's command structure there, giving Washington a decisive say in the unfolding campaign at the expense of allies such as Canada and Britain.

Under a division of labor implemented in 2006, the U.S. military had concentrated on eastern Afghanistan while Britain was responsible for the southern province of Helmand and Canada for neighboring Kandahar. These allies, however, lacked the strength to check the insurgency's spread in the south, the Taliban's historic cradle.
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Afghanistan Reaches New Milestone: Now The Longest Military Action In US History
By Nicole Belle Monday Jun 07, 2010 6:00pm
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Frankly, I refuse to call this a "war". This is and always has been an occupation. Terminology aside, this is not exactly something worth celebrating, but I do think it's time to re-think Afghanistan:

    Three months after 9/11, every major Taliban city in Afghanistan had fallen — first Mazar-i-Sharif, then Kabul, finally Kandahar. Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar were on the run. It looked as if the war was over, and the Americans and their Afghan allies had won.

    Butch Ivie, then a school administrator in Winfield, Ala., remembers, "We thought we'd soon have it tied up in a neat little bag."

    But bin Laden and Omar eluded capture. The Taliban regrouped. Today, Kandahar again is up for grabs. And soon, Afghanistan will pass Vietnam as America's longest war.
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A look at reality in Afghanistan: Worthington
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By Peter Worthington Last Updated: June 7, 2010

There’s nothing quite like seeing reality for oneself.

And that was the case with an all-party delegation of MPs who visited Canadians in Afghanistan to have a five-day look at what our 2,800 troops are doing and, more important, what Canadian soldiers mean to both our allies and Afghans.

Bob Rae, Liberal MP and perennial challenger to lead the party (now that’s he’s apparently abandoned the NDP) and the likely successor to Michael Ignatieff, spoke for the group when he opined: “We have an obligation to see this through.”

That’s basically how our soldiers feel, though the generals can’t say so.

And it’s certainly how the Americans feel, as reflected by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she hinted a while back the U.S. would dearly appreciate it if Canada could find a way to keep its troops in Afghanistan past the summer of 2011.

Clinton is one of the few bright spots in the administration of President Barack Obama — a surprise to some (including me) — who resented her when she was campaigning for the nomination of the Democratic Party.

Another bright spot is Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, who occupied that post under President George Bush. That’s about it. The rest seem a collection of duds and pals of Obama who are contributing to make his administration mindful of Jimmy Carter’s.

Rae went further and pledged the Liberal party to back serious discussions between Canada and NATO and alliance allies about a future role for our troops in Afghanistan.

Regardless of his personal feelings, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minster Peter MacKay are committed to withdrawing fighting forces by next summer.

So far, they show no inclination to change their minds.
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US trainers shape new 'face' for Kandahar police
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By Daphne Benoit (AFP) – 11 hours ago

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Sandwiched between an orchard and a collection of decrepit homes, Afghan police post number six is a familiar haunt of US trainers trying to gain the upper hand in the battle for Kandahar.

Driving up in heavily armoured MRAP trucks built to withstand the lethal bombs planted by the Taliban across this provincial capital, American military police head inside the modest one-storey building.

"We are here to make sure that they are engaging the people, that they are proactive," said US Sergeant Gary Woodruff, whose tour of Afghanistan is his fourth overseas deployment, after Kosovo and two missions in Iraq.

"We want to put a nice face on them, make them stop acting tough, like a lawless organisation," he said.

The US-led NATO force in Afghanistan is undertaking one of its most ambitious counter-insurgency operations in the nine-year Afghan war.

Many of the 30,000 troops President Barack Obama ordered to Afghanistan late last year are heading to Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and a hotbed of bombings, assassinations and lawlessness.

The objective is to help Afghan forces restore government authority in Kandahar, a province of more than a million inhabitants according to the Central Statistics Organisation of Afghanistan.

This is terrain where insurgents and criminals have gained ground since a US-led invasion in 2001 brought down the Taliban regime. Any stain on the reputation of the police plays right into the insurgents' hands.
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Time is running out, top general says
Game changer needed International community must enable an Afghan solution to insurgency, Natynczyk tells Senate

Canwest News, June 8

Gen. Walt Natynczyk says that time is running out for the international community in Afghanistan and that there must be a "game changer" that will allow the Afghan people to get on with their own reconciliation.

"At the end of the day, the solution to this counter insurgency has to be an Afghan solution and I think all of us on the bleachers watching this, I think we have to be very patient to see how all of this unfolds," he told a Senate committee yesterday.

"I think the international community, the United Nations with NATO, have to enable the Afghan government to get on with that reconciliation effort and this is difficult but if we can get it squared away, that will be the game changer."

Natynczyk suggested that the international community could use more time in achieving its goal, saying that "time is always the enemy for us."

Earlier in the day, the general said the military is obeying "very clear instructions" from the government to withdraw from Afghanistan next year and he won't speculate on whether some troops could

or should stay behind.

The chief of defence staff declined at a news conference to be drawn into a debate sparked last week by overtures from Liberal foreign affairs critic Bob Rae suggesting the official opposition would support a post-2011 training mission for Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

"It's not even worth, from my standpoint, speculating about future operations," Natynczyk said. "We have got very clear instructions from the government of Canada to move out on the withdrawal and that's what we're going to continue to plan on."

He quoted from the 2008 parliamentary motion requiring an end to the military mission and withdrawal starting in July 2011 and said a military team is in Afghanistan planning the logistics.

"Soldiers, sailors, airmen and women need those clear orders to get on with business," Natynczyk said. "So we're moving on those orders."

He noted the institutions that will continue a non-military mission for Canada in Afghanistan include Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Canadian International Development Agency, the RCMP and the correctional services.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the government is sticking by the 2008 parliamentary motion.



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Articles found June 9, 2010

Canada's Withdrawal Plans Clear - Chief of Defence Staff
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By Karl Gotthardt Ottawa : Canada | Jun 08, 2010

Canada's Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natynczyk, says that withdrawal plans from Afghanistan are clear and he has the mandate from the Canadian government to withdraw. The military has been given "very clear" instructions on the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan next year.
Canada's Parliament passed a motion to withdraw Canada's military and cease all combat operations by July 2011. A Parliamentary committee, that secretly toured Afghanistan last week, has commented that it sees a role for Canada's military beyond that date. The Committee, which includes members of all political parties, was surprised at the success of the Canadian military in a all aspects of the mission, including development, governance and military operations.

Canada's Conservative Government continues to move toward military withdrawal, while it maintains that there is a role in training the Afghan police.

The media being what they are, tried to press General Natynczyk to provide a new answer to the same question. Walter Natynczyk was not moved of his previous comments and said his job is to focus on fulfilling the missions "as given" to the Canadian Forces.

"It's not even worth from my standpoint speculating about future operations on those kinds of things," Natynczyk told reporters during a joint news conference with the new NORAD commander, U.S. Admiral James Winnefeld, at National Defence headquarters.
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Attack downs chopper, kills 4 U.S. troops in Afghanistan
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CTV.ca News Staff

Date: Wednesday Jun. 9, 2010 8:27 AM ET

Four American soldiers are dead after their helicopter was brought down Wednesday by enemy fire in southern Afghanistan.

NATO said the helicopter crashed in Helmand province, which borders Kandahar province. It gave no further details.

U.S. military spokesperson Lt. Col. Joseph T. Breasseale confirmed that the four dead soldiers were Americans.

Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesperson for the Helmand provincial government, said the attack happened in the Sangin district.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly attack, with a spokesperson saying the militants fired two rockets at the chopper.

U.S. and British soldiers are active in Helmand, part of a region in southern Afghanistan where the Taliban are known to reside.
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British troops 'unlikely' to move to Kandahar, says Fox
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By Kim Sengupta, Defence Correspondent Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Britain will almost certainly turn down proposals to move troops in Afghanistan from their centre of operation in Helmand to the Taliban heartland of Kandahar and neighbouring Uruzgan.

The planned deployment was part of the strategy of General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, to turn the tide of war against the Taliban. The Independent has learned that the Americans were so keen for British forces to make the switch that Washington offered to underwrite a sizeable part of the substantial costs involved.

But Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, declared yesterday it was "highly unlikely" that a transfer would take place, stressing: "It is certainly not something that we will be proposing."

The two most senior British commanders in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General Nick Parker, the British deputy Nato commander based in Kabul, and Major-General Nick Carter, were said to be in favour of the proposed transfer – while the head of the military, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, felt it would be a mistake.

General Sir David Richards, the head of the Army, was said to have been "keeping an open mind" on the matter. He and a number of commanders would have liked a feasibility study to be undertaken so that various options could be considered.

The plan to move the 9,500-strong British contingency has been necessitated by the refusal of the Canadian government to extend the mandate of its 3,000 troops in Afghanistan when it runs out next year.
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How Canada’s Politicians Abandoned the Troops
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08 June 2010

When Stephen Harper came to power one of his first big stunts was to visit Afghanistan and give a “We don’t cut and run” speech. At the time the speech warmed the hearts of all Canadians who support the forces and especially those who support the mission in Afghanistan. Stephen Harper was our hero. In the early days of his governance he even went as far as to say he’d lose an election rather than abandon the fight.

But then, a handful of events tipped over the apple cart. The House of Commons voted to terminate the mission in 2011, an election provided no majority, charges of prisoner abuse ran amuck ... and the Prime Minister and his party went missing in action. As days turned to months no overt show of support for the mission could be glimpsed from the Harper Conservatives. It was bizarre, almost surreal, but for us who had felt such a stirring of pride when our leader had spoken at KAF, we were soon forced to believe our lying eyes.

Since then, evidence has emerged which suggests that the Harper government is obsessed with “messaging”. CTV has detailed how the PMO is fanatical about even the most trite announcement. Not a word, not an utterance out of any MP, or any government department, comes without detailed vetting.

So it is, that the PMOs silence on Afghanistan is clearly prescribed and comes as no accident. The question is of course, why?
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Greening of Kandahar a stain on Canada’s honour, insiders say
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By Mitch Potter Washington Bureau

A Canadian drive to transform Kandahar’s water supply is sputtering toward disaster despite Ottawa’s assurances to the contrary, the Toronto Star has learned.

The $50-million Dahla Dam irrigation project, touted as Canada’s best chance for a lasting legacy in Afghanistan, has all but stalled as its lead contractor, a partnership involving the Canadian engineering giant SNC Lavalin, battles for control against a sometimes violent Afghan security firm widely believed to be loyal to Afghanistan’s ruling Karzai family, insiders close to the project say.

For the record, Ottawa says progress on its “signature project” is proceeding on time and budget, with shovels finally in the ground after a careful two-year planning phase involving thousands of hours of engineering and design work.

Canada’s International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda went so far last month as to wave panoramically during a helicopter press tour and proclaim the green expanse of the fertile Arghandab River valley below as the early signs of Canadian success.
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NATO supply convoy hit in Pakistan
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
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A group of gunmen attacked a cluster of supply vehicles in Pakistan overnight, sparking a battle that killed at least seven people.

At least a dozen gunmen attacked the vehicles, which were reportedly carrying food, supplies and military vehicles to NATO troops in Afghanistan.

"According to police, they strolled into a truck depot on the main road between Islamabad and the frontier city of Peshawar and simply opened fire in all directions," said BBC reporter Ola Guerin.

The gunmen attacked the drivers and vehicles, then set several vehicles on fire.
A firefighter tries to extinguish a blaze after suspected militants attacked trucks carrying military vehicles and goods. A firefighter tries to extinguish a blaze after suspected militants attacked trucks carrying military vehicles and goods. (B.K.Bangash/Associated Press)

Police official Shah Nawaz said Wednesday afternoon that seven people died. The victims' identities were not known, but they were believed to be Pakistanis employed as drivers or assistants. Seven people were also wounded.

Earlier reports suggested that dozens of people were killed and wounded in the attack. Information from the region is difficult to verify independently because Orakzai is remote, dangerous and access to it is severely restricted.
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Afghanistan Strategy Shifts to Focus on Civilian Effort
NY Times, June 8

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The prospect of a robust military push in Kandahar Province, which had been widely expected to begin this month, has evolved into a strategy that puts civilian reconstruction efforts first and relegates military action to a supportive role.

The strategy, Afghan, American and NATO civilian and military officials said in interviews, was adopted because of opposition to military action from an unsympathetic local population and Afghan officials here and in Kabul.

There are also concerns that a frontal military approach has not worked as well as hoped in a much smaller area in Marja, in neighboring Helmand Province.

The goal that American planners originally outlined — often in briefings in which reporters agreed not to quote officials by name — emphasized the importance of a military offensive devised to bring all of the populous and Taliban-dominated south under effective control by the end of this summer. That would leave another year to consolidate gains before President Obama’s July 2011 deadline to begin withdrawing combat troops.

In fact, there has been little new fighting in Kandahar so far, and the very word “offensive” has been banished.

“We cannot say the term offensive for Kandahar,” said the Afghan National Army officer in charge here, Gen. Sher Mohammad Zazai. “It is actually a partnership operation.”

The commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, insisted that there never was a planned offensive. “The media have chosen to use the term offensive,” he said. Instead, he said, “we have certainly talked about a military uplift, but there has been no military use of the term offensive.”

Whatever it is called, it is not happening this month. Views vary widely as to just when the military part will start. General Zazai says it will begin in July but take a break for Ramadan in mid-August and resume in mid-September. A person close to Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar, says it will not commence until winter, or at least not until harvests end in October [emphasis added]. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

American officials, on the other hand, say it has already begun, not with a bang, but with a steady increase of experts from the United States Embassy and NATO and aid workers — a “civilian surge” — accompanied by a quiet increase in American troops to provide security for them. The Americans strongly deny that they planned an offensive they are now backing away from...

...the emphasis has been placed on strengthening provincial reconstruction teams, once run by Canadians, with American employees [emphasis added] — from the embassy, the Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture — in six crucial districts around Kandahar...

Until 2009, a Canadian battle group of 1,300 troops was responsible for all of Kandahar and could do little more than keep the Taliban from taking the city — while leaving the insurgents free to operate in the surrounding districts. Canadian civilians working on provincial reconstruction rarely left their base [emphasis added]...

Afghan attempts to forge peace deal with Taliban 'a disgrace'
Afghanistan's effort to forge a peace deal with the Taliban was branded "a disgrace" by the sacked head of the country's spy service.

Daily Telegraph, June 8

President Hamid Karzai's dismissal of Amrullah Saleh, the head of Afghanistan's National Directorate for Security (NDS) - the equivalent of MI5 - and Hanif Atmar, the head of the Interior Ministry, on Sunday exposed deep divisions within the Afghan government and Nato members over an emerging peace talks process.

The move has been hailed as a boost for negotiations on reconciliation with insurgents by those in favour of the talks, including some British officials and Pakistan, but criticised by their American counterparts.

Mr Saleh and Mr Atmar were sacked after the Taliban carried out a rocket attack on a gathering of tribal elders in Kabul last week during a speech by President Karzai. Although the rockets missed the building were the peace conference was being held, the breach was deemed a serious assault on the Afghan government.

But Mr Saleh said the reasons for his dismissal went beyond the security failure, adding that he had worked to undermine efforts to achieve peace with the Taliban. "Negotiating with suicide bombers will disgrace this country," he said.

Officials in Pakistan hailed the development as a sign Mr Karzai was ready to deal with his enemies. He said: "Perhaps this will bring to an end the mixed signals Kabul sends out by conducting dialogue on the one hand and sabotaging talks on the other."

However, Nato officials said the loss of two key security officials was "not helpful".

Mr Saleh has led the NDS for six years and the organisation is held in high regard. "The NDS is very effective, very efficient and in the long term his removal will lead to a security vacuum," said a member of a British think tank who has met the spy chief...



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Taliban Reportedly Adding HIV-Infected Needles to Explosive Devices
Published June 09, 2010 The Sun
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TALIBAN fighters are burying dirty needles with their bombs in a bid to infect British troops with HIV, The Sun can reveal.
Hypodermic syringes are hidden below the surface pointing upwards to prick bomb squad experts as they hunt for devices.

The heroin needles are feared to be contaminated with hepatitis and HIV. And if the bomb goes off, the needles become deadly flying shrapnel.

The tactic, used in the Afghan badlands of Helmand, was exposed by Tory MP and ex-Army officer Patrick Mercer.

Senior backbencher Mr Mercer said yesterday: "Are there no depths to which these people will stoop? This is the definition of a dirty war."

Razor blades are also being used. All Royal Engineer and Royal Logistic Corps bomb search teams have been issued with protective Kevlar gloves.
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Afghans burn effigy of pope to protest alleged proselytizing by foreign charities
Published June 08, 2010
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Afghans have burned an effigy of Pope Benedict XVI out of anger over claims charities preached Christianity in the Muslim country.

U.S.-based Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid deny spreading Christianity. The government suspended them last week while investigating allegations in an Afghan television report.

More than 1,000 people marched Tuesday in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, demanding organizations that proselytized in Afghanistan be banned.

The crowd roared approval as protesters doused the effigy of the pope in kerosene and lit it.

They shouted: "Death to America! Long Live Islam!"

Aid workers say the allegations increase the threat to staff already at risk for insurgent attack.

US defense chief nudges Karzai to name replacements of 'equal caliber' for top security posts

Published June 07, 2010
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U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday to replace two top security officials with ministers of "equal caliber," and said the sacking of the pair does not signal trouble in Karzai's government over efforts to seek a peace deal with the Taliban.

Gates stepped gingerly in answering questions about the significance of the abrupt resignations Sunday of the two men whom U.S. officials had often singled out by name as examples of competent leadership in a government riven by corruption and patronage.

"It's obviously an internal matter for the Afghans," Gates said.

He spoke to reporters en route to London, where the stepped-up military campaign in southern Afghanistan are a major topic of talks with the new British government.

The United States is trying to shore up the international coalition fighting in Afghanistan, and Gates has said he will keep "going around with my hand out" to ask NATO nations and others to send additional forces to serve as trainers for Afghan security forces. Gates said he will not make that request of Britain, which he said has done all that he could have asked.
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Articles found June 10, 2010

Photos: On patrol with Canadian troops in Afghanistan
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Photographers Ed Jones of Agence France-Presse and Denis Sinyakov of Reuters, went on patrol with Canadian troops from the Royal Canadian Regiment in Afghanistan. Their photos document life in the war-torn country.

June 9, 2010
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Brigadier Ed Butler considered resigning over Helmand mission
Deborah Haynes, Defence Editor  June 10, 2010
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The man sent to command the first British deployment in Helmand considered resigning even before he arrived.

Brigadier Ed Butler was frustrated by “crazily” inadequate planning and a command structure that would leave him unable to control his battle group.

“In October 2005, I was close to handing my chips in,” the former SAS commander, who eventually left the Army two years ago, told The Times. “Some people said: ‘Ed, don’t be a dog in the manger about it.’ I responded that I was giving a purely professional view that what you are doing here was crazy.”

Asked why he did not resign, he said: “You feel your professional and personal obligations. This is an extraordinarily bad set of cards we have dealt ourselves ... you just make the best of a bad job.”
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  Deaths bring to light the enduring search for the enemy
DAN OAKES June 10, 2010
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WHEN Kevin Rudd reacted to the deaths of sappers Darren Smith and Jacob Moerland by vowing that terrorists would never use Afghanistan as a staging ground again, he reached back through history to the dark days after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US.

Almost a decade ago, the then prime minister, John Howard, announced Australian troops would join the invasion of Afghanistan, and defined their mission thus: ''The immediate goal is to seek out al-Qaeda and ensure that Afghanistan can never again be used as a base from which terrorists can operate.''

Even as Australia's commitment waxed and waned - for three years it consisted of a lone mine clearance expert - this fixation on the elusive Osama bin Laden and his cohorts endured.
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Good times don't come easy at Canadian Afghan outpost
Michael Georgy KALACHE Wed Jun 9, 2010 12:43pm EDT
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KALACHE Afghanistan (Reuters) - One of the most frequently attacked Canadian outposts in Afghanistan seemed relaxed Wednesday.

Soldiers joked around. Some listened to music. Others were building a makeshift television lounge.

Then suspected Taliban militants disguised as farmers opened fire on Ballpeen from a vineyard, leaving holes in laundry hanging near a machinegun nest.

Fighting here offers a glimpse into how the conflict in Afghanistan is being played out ahead of a gradual U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011.

Militants know they have little chance of capturing Ballpeen: Canadian troops suppressed them with machinegun fire after the initial volley; helicopters with rockets were quickly on hand, and there was the option of calling in an artillery barrage.

Instead, the Taliban are waging a war of psychological attrition against their NATO foe. They are waiting it out.

Western forces are scrambling to stabilize Afghanistan ahead of the American pullout, at a time when the insurgency is at its strongest in the nine-year war. Seventeen foreign military personnel have died this week alone.

Masters of the terrain, the Taliban hope to wear down and outfox NATO troops who possess far superior firepower.

Militants know every field and alleyway in Kalache, where Ballpeen outpost is located. Canadian patrols must move extra slowly in surrounding villages, especially with the risk of triggering crude roadside bombs known as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).

"They bury an IED on a path and just wait for us to step on it," said platoon leader Captain Ashley Collette.

"It could take months, or years. It doesn't matter to them. They are patient," she said.
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Military gathers Afghan detainee papers
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 | 4:31 PM ET Comments24Recommend15
The Canadian Press
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The Canadian military has started collecting paperwork at Kandahar Airfield that could shed light on whether commanders turned over detainees to Afghan authorities without weighing the risk of torture.

A military team of four has arrived from Canada to retrieve thousands of highly sensitive documents stashed in metal shipping containers that detail the transfer of detainees from Canadian custody.

"It's not a document hunt," Lt.-Col. Shane Gifford, who is responsible for detainee files at the base, told The Canadian Press. "We know where all the documents are. It's not looking for something that fell behind the chairs or something."

The files are the subject of intense controversy in Canada. The Military Police Complaints Commission, an independent federal body, has asked the Defence Department to disclose all documents on detainees, including detainee transfer orders in Kandahar.

But the government says those files are beyond the commission's mandate and is trying to prevent their release. Two weeks ago, lawyers for the Justice Department filed an application with the Federal Court that seeks to overrule the commission's request.

The existence of the documents bec
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Britain ignored Pentagon advice that Helmand force was too small
The Times, June 10

When senior Pentagon officials paid a visit to London not long before the British deployment to Helmand, they came with a recommendation that the planned force might not be strong enough. Their words went unheeded.

The American view was that a brigade of only 3,300 soldiers would not be sufficient to take on the Taleban and that the British were being complacent about the capability of the enemy, The Times can reveal.

One of those who spoke to the Ministry of Defence, Eric Edelman, then the Under Secretary of Defence for Policy in the Bush Administration, said: “I remember going to London and saying it would be good to have more troops, but I was told that Britain couldn’t add more until they were out of Iraq.”

Mr Edelman recalls that officials in London made it clear that Britain would not increase its initial troop strength until other European allies showed their own commitment to the coalition in Afghanistan. “The MoD made clear that they had done plenty and that France, Spain and others needed to step up first,” he said.

He expressed surprise about the tactics adopted by the British Helmand task force once it was deployed, especially the hotly debated decision to set up the so-called platoon houses in which soldiers found themselves fighting round the clock against Taleban insurgents in remote locations...

American military and diplomatic officials believe that a disastrous intelligence failure early in 2006 incorrectly persuaded both Britain and the rest of Nato that the Taleban were defeated and no longer posed a threat in southern Afghanistan. Warning signs late in 2005 that violence was on the increase in Helmand were ignored, because “no one wanted to send bad news up the chain” [emphasis added], the former adviser said.

The intelligence blindness was not solely a British error. Senior US military commanders were convinced that the Taleban threat was in permanent decline.

General John Abizaid, who at the time was Commander of US Central Command, and General Jim Jones, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (now National Security Adviser to President Obama), urged Donald Rumsfeld, then the US Secretary of Defence, to let Nato take over command in Afghanistan from the Americans.

They believed that Nato would be running a peace stabilisation mission, not a full-scale war.

Mr Edelman advised against the switch. He knew Mr Rumsfeld had misgivings but they were overridden by the unanimous military advice he was getting.

General Barno told The Times: “My boss, General Abizaid, asked me whether Nato should take over the mission in Afghanistan and I replied yes, provided the security situation remained benign, but that if it became serious combat it would be unwise for Nato to take over.

"But as it turned out, in 2006, Nato rapidly expanded its role across the south and east almost without regard for the security conditions on the ground [emphasis added].”

The Whitehall mandarins who set up the bloodiest mission since Korea
The Times, June 10

It was January 26, 2006, when Britain’s Defence Secretary announced the decision to send 3,300 troops to southern Afghanistan on a stabilisation mission. Two months later, John Reid uttered the fateful hope that the task force would return home after three years “without a shot being fired”.

Until now, the subsequent woes in Helmand, where almost 300 British servicemen and women have been killed and hundreds more injured, have largely been blamed on underfunding by the previous Government. Alleged misjudgments by Brigadier Ed Butler, the first commander on the ground, are also cited as a reason why what was billed as a development operation — admittedly backed by attack helicopters and manned by paratroopers — rapidly unravelled into the bloodiest fighting mission since the Korean War.

The Times can for the first time name the principal military chiefs and senior civilians who created Brigadier Butler’s role and who helped to put together the plan to deploy what proved to be an inadequately resourced battle group into a confused and almost unworkable command structure under Nato in southern Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence in early 2004 led the switch to Helmand from the unpopular campaign in Iraq with support from two departments in Whitehall: Downing Street, represented by Sir Nigel Sheinwald, then Tony Blair’s foreign policy adviser, now Britain’s ambassador to Washington, and the Foreign Office, where Sir John Sawers, now head of the Secret Intelligence Service, was director-general of political affairs...

General Sir David Richards, now head of the Army but then the incoming commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan, was also known to be openly concerned about the deployment. His worries included the limited size of the British task force and the lack of a reserve contingent for his headquarters in Kabul. The tension reached breaking point and he had a stand-up row inside the MoD with General Fry. The problem was that the military, with thousands of troops still based in southern Iraq, did not have the capacity to allocate more forces to the build-up in Afghanistan. Military expectations for the withdrawal from Iraq turned out to be over-optimistic.

General Richards was also thought to be dismayed by a complicated command and control structure for British troops in Helmand that gave a Canadian brigadier direct control over the larger British contingent, which was also duty bound to report back to its headquarters in North London [emphasis added]...

Then a major-general, he voiced his fears up the chain but is believed to have been told to “stop making a fuss” or miss out on future promotion...



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General McChrystal: Kandahar operation will take longer
Washington Post, June 10

BRUSSELS -- The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan is finding himself squeezed between a ticking clock and an enemy that won't go away.

On Thursday, during a visit to NATO headquarters here, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal admitted that preparations for perhaps the most critical operation of the war -- the campaign to take control of Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace -- weren't going as planned. He said winning support from local leaders, some of whom see the Taliban fighters not as oppressors but as their Muslim brothers, was proving tougher than expected. The military side of the campaign, originally scheduled to surge in June and finish by August, is now likely to extend into the fall.

"I don't intend to hurry it," McChrystal told reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. "It will take a number of months for this to play out. But I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. It's more important we get it right than we get it fast."

But McChrystal does not have time on his side. The day before he revealed the Kandahar delay, his boss, Gates, said that the U.S.-led coalition has until the end of the year to show progress in the war and prove to the United States and its allies that their forces have broken a stalemate with the Taliban.

"All of us, for our publics, are going to have to show by the end of the year that our strategy is on the right track and making some headway," Gates said Wednesday during a visit to London to meet with British leaders.

McChrystal said he was confident that his counterinsurgency strategy was bearing fruit and that he would be in position to demonstrate that by year's end. "The perception that the insurgency has momentum is reversing," he said. "Progress won't show every day, but it will show over time."

But much will hinge on the outcome of the Kandahar campaign. Asked whether the delay still left time for a decisive outcome by the end of the year, McChrystal was noncommittal. "It will be very clear by the end of the calendar year that the Kandahar operation is progressing," he said. "I don't know whether we'll know whether it's decisive. Historians will tell us that." [emphasis added]

U.S. and NATO commanders began preparing this spring for their campaign to gain control of Kandahar, an operation considered crucial to the success of President Obama's strategy for the Afghan war.

But McChrystal said it was taking longer than expected to gain the blessing of local tribal leaders -- and Kandaharis in general -- for the operation. He also said commanders needed more time to ensure that the Afghan government could step in after the fighting stops and provide effective public services [emphasis added], which Kandahar has lacked for years...

'Still a long way to go' for U.S. operation in Marja, Afghanistan
Washington Post, June 10

MARJA, AFGHANISTAN -- Residents of this onetime Taliban sanctuary see signs that the insurgents have regained momentum in recent weeks, despite early claims of success by U.S. Marines. The longer-than-expected effort to secure Marja is prompting alarm among top American commanders that they will not be able to change the course of the war in the time President Obama has given them.

Firefights between insurgents and security forces occur daily, resulting in more Marine fatalities and casualties over the past month than in the first month of the operation, which began in mid-February.

Marines and Afghan troops have made headway in this farming community, but every step forward, it seems, has been matched by at least a half-step backward.

Two-thirds of the stalls in Marja's main bazaar have reopened, but the only baker fled the area a week ago after insurgents kidnapped his son in retaliation for selling to foreign troops and the police.

Men have begun to allow their burqa-clad wives to venture out of their homes, but an effort by female Marines to gather local women for a meeting last week drew not a single participant.

The Afghan government has assigned representatives to help deliver basic services to the population, but most of them spend their days in the better-appointed provincial capital 20 miles to the northeast.

"We've come a long way," said Lt. Col. Cal Worth, the commander of one of the two Marine infantry battalions in Marja. "But there's still a long way to go."

The slow and uneven progress has worried senior military officials in Kabul and Washington who intended to use Marja as a model to prove that more troops and a new war strategy can yield profound gains against the Taliban. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, told officers here in late May that there is a growing perception that Marja has become "a bleeding ulcer."

The central question among military leaders is whether Marja will improve quickly enough to be proclaimed an incipient success by the fall, when the Pentagon will begin to prepare for a year-end White House review of the war that will help to determine how many troops Obama withdraws in July 2011.

The challenge of stabilizing Marja also has prompted concern among commanders planning a large upcoming operation to combat the Taliban in and around the city of Kandahar [emphasis added]. They are seeking to draw lessons from key problems encountered here and develop new approaches, particularly in increasing the presence of Afghan civil servants...

Will Afghanistan's Military Ever Be Fit to Fight?
Time, June 14 (long article)

...the success of the Obama Administration's full-throttle assault against the Taliban in its spiritual heartland of Kandahar hinges on getting the Afghan army on its feet and marching. And so does the likelihood of getting U.S. and NATO troops home anytime soon. (See pictures of life in the Afghan national army.)

It is a nearly impossible mission. Nine out of 10 Afghan enlisted recruits can't read a rifle-instruction manual or drive a car, according to NATO trainers. The officers' corps is fractured by rivalries: Soviet-era veterans vs. the former mujahedin rebels who fought them in the 1980s, Tajiks vs. Uzbeks, Hazaras and Pashtuns. Commanders routinely steal their enlisted men's salaries. Soldiers shake down civilians at road checkpoints and sell off their own American-supplied boots, blankets and guns at the bazaar — sometimes to the Taliban. Afghans, not surprisingly, run when they see the army coming.

Recruits tend to go AWOL after their first leave, while one-quarter of those who stay in service are blitzed on hashish or heroin, according to an internal survey carried out by the Afghan National Army (ANA). One NATO major from Latvia, stationed in the north, complained to a TIME video team that when a battalion's combat tour was extended, three Afghan officers shot themselves in the foot to get medevacked out.

As of April, the army had 119,400 troops; the plan is to reach 171,600 by October 2011, by which time U.S. soldiers will be heading back home. In the rush to get fresh recruits out of the barracks, basic training has been slashed from 10 weeks to eight. (In the U.S. Army, basic training lasts at least 14 weeks.) In trying to meet NATO deadlines for an Afghan troop buildup, Antonio Giustozzi, an Afghanistan expert at the London School of Economics, writes in a recent report, there is "the risk of churning out grossly unqualified soldiers or, as some are beginning to argue, cannon fodder." That's not a lot to show for the estimated $26 billion that the Pentagon says it has pumped into creating the Afghan security forces. And the cost is rising by another $1 billion every month...

Given the astronomical costs, some military experts say the Afghan army would be better off as a smaller force that is swifter, lighter and better trained. One U.S. trainer in Kabul, who asked not to be identified, says, "There's a high-level debate over quality vs. quantity. Not much point raising a big new army if 45,000 of the soldiers are worthless." Critics of the large army point to the success of the seven Afghan commando battalions mentored by U.S. special-forces trainers. According to senior NATO officers, the commandos fought hard during the Marjah offensive in February and acquitted themselves fairly well [emphasis added]. NATO officials say the attrition rate for Afghan commandos is a negligible 2%, which may be the result of higher pay ($210 a month and an additional $90 in combat pay) and the Afghans' self-image as daring warriors with no patience for the tedious slog of soldiering. But John Nagl, one of the architects of U.S. counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan, insists that even a force of 172,000 troops by late 2011 would still be too small. Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, reckons that to crush a rebel force like the Taliban, which has an estimated 25,000 men at arms, it will take one soldier or policeman for every 50 civilians — a force of nearly 600,000. Most of the burden, he says, will fall on the military, which is far more respected than the police, whom Afghans regard as little better than bandits in uniform. "The national army is the pillar on which this country will be built," says Nagl. "It's the most respected institution in Afghanistan."..



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NATO chief urges nations to send more troops to Afghanistan training mission
AP, June 10

NATO's secretary-general urged members of the alliance Thursday to step up efforts to train the rapidly expanding Afghan security services to help the nation defeat the Taliban.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen told NATO's defense ministers that trainers are needed to help Afghanistan to "stand on its feet as a sovereign country and defend itself from terrorism."

The talks follow an appeal by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who is pressing nations who have failed to offer combat troops to step forward with trainers. Gates estimated 450 more troops are needed to train the security forces — an effort that is important because the alliance wants Afghan troops to replace its forces in the war.

"The question is quite simple," Fogh Rasmussen told the ministers. "All of you want to provide the conditions for a gradual transition ... so that our troops can eventually turn to another road and eventually also withdraw."

Some countries have dragged their feet and failed to dispatch as many police and army trainers as they pledged last year, generally blaming logistical issues for the shortfall...

France will keep fighting the Taliban: Sarkozy
AFP, June 10

ON BOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE (AFP) - President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed Thursday that France will keep up the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda after a 43rd French soldier was killed in Afghanistan this week.

"France cannot give up the struggle against terrorism and terrorists," Sarkozy said after touring France's flagship Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, which was moored off Toulon, southern France.

"We must help the Afghans until they are able themselves to guarantee their security and development," he said.

"We must keep up our fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda."..



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Articles found June 11, 2010

NATO battles divided by Afghan river
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By Claire Truscott (AFP) – 14 hours ago

NAKHONAY, Afghanistan — Wading across a shallow Afghan river, American soldiers suddenly hear a burst of gunfire coming from behind, where they just met their Canadian comrades near a mud-brick village.

An Afghan soldier had shot dead a suspected insurgent near a hill where the Western allies sat huddled from a dust storm to coordinate their war effort against the Taliban outside southern Afghanistan's capital city Kandahar.

As the United States rolls out 30,000 more troops across Afghanistan and builds a campaign to secure Kandahar, billed the most decisive operation of the nine-year war, the nature of the fight differs from district to district.

While Americans say they are mostly "kissing babies and shaking hands" under General Stanley McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy to win hearts and minds, Canadians talk of daily firefights, ambushes and weapons caches.

The stark contrast was exposed when US soldiers of 1st squadron, 71st cavalry regiment trekked two kilometres (a mile) across wheat fields and the narrow Tarnak river, to confer with the Canadians.

"It's been pretty hectic, we've had a few shootouts," said one Canadian soldier. "We've been led into a couple of ambushes... we're getting hit every day," said another.

Until the Americans arrived in April under President Barack Obama's "surge", two districts bordering Kandahar city to the south -- Panjwayi and Dand -- were under the mandate alone of Canada's more than 2,800-strong force.

But Americans took on Dand and Canadians moved westwards to concentrate on Panjwayi, where tribal elders are aligned to senior Taliban, resistance has proved tenacious and NATO's deployment has been over-stretched for years.
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  The Pashtun Silent Suffering in Northwest Pakistan
By Shahrzad Noorbaloochi Epoch Times Staff Created: Jun 10, 2010
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Caught in-between the Taliban’s brutal force and the Pakistani government’s violent but inadequate response, the 3 million Pashtun people of northwestern Pakistan are caught in a serious, but seldom mentioned, human rights crisis.

Northwestern Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) are nestled in the heart of both an international and domestic conflict.

A report released Wednesday by Amnesty International, based on 300 interviews with civilians, government officials, teachers, aid workers, and others, sheds light on the northwest Pakistani situation.

The Pakistani government has historically marginalized the people in the FATA and NWFP regions, who are mostly of the Pashtun ethnic group.

According to the AI report, the Pashtun people suffer from some of the lowest living standards in Asia. With an overall adult literacy rate of 17 percent, and as low as 7 percent for women and girls over 10 years old, the region is developmentally far behind the rest of Pakistan, which has an overall literacy rate of 43 percent.
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Deadly clashes in Kyrgyzstan's southern city of Osh
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At least 26 people have been killed in clashes in Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city of Osh, officials say.

More than 400 people were wounded in the fighting, which is reportedly between Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbek groups.

The cause of the clashes was not immediately clear. A state of emergency has been declared in the southern city.

Osh is home to a large ethnic Uzbek community and was the power base of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, who was overthrown in April.

According to local reports, fighting broke out between rival gangs and developed into gun battles late on Thursday.

Gangs of young men armed with metal bars and stones attacked shops and set cars alight.

Firefighters tried to put out the flames, but angry youths reportedly threw stones at them.

Local journalists say a group of young men attacked soldiers and took their weapons.

Residents say the shooting continued into Friday morning.

A number of buildings, including cafes, a local TV channel and a theatre, were also said to be on fire.
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David Cameron tells troops they are on a noble mission in Afghanistan
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The prime minister managed to put into simple language a message Gordon Brown always tried, but struggled, to deliver

It wasn't quite Churchill. But neither was it Brown.

David Cameron stood up in a sandstorm at Camp Bastion shortly before 8am local time this morning (4.30am in Britain) to hail Britain's "inspiring" armed forces. The prime minister was on lively form, because he was up early for a 15-minute run at 6am round the base with a group of soldiers.

In his speech Cameron paraphrased Albert Pine to advise the troops on how to pick themselves up when they feel miserable:

    Think of that soldier who said: those things we do for ourselves, they die with us, those things we do for others and for our world are immortal, they never die, they are never forgotten.

    What you are doing here will never be forgotten. It is great and important work. You are incredibly brave and professional in what you do. I stand here as your prime minister wanting to tell you from the bottom of my heart that you should be proud of yourselves and what you do because your country is incredibly proud of you.

Cameron managed to put into simple language a message that Gordon Brown always tried, but struggled, to deliver on his numerous trips to Afghanistan. This is that British troops are engaged in what he regards as a noble mission – to protect streets back home by ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a training ground for al-Qaida – and they should be revered for it.
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“A War of Necessity,”says David Cameron
Conference of Defence Associations' media round-up, June 11


Anthony Cordesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies has written a report entitled The Afghan War: A Campaign Overview assessing the strengths and obstacles facing the Afghan mission now that it has a clear strategy and proper resourcing.

Alissa J. Rubin for The New York Times reveals that Karzai’s dismissal of two top security officials raises concern that his own political survival trumps Afghan and allied long term interests.

Damien McElroy and Rob Crilly for Time examines the controversy over Karzai firing of two senior intelligence officials, with some condoning the move as a step towards reconciliation, which both officials opposed. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/7811440/Afghan-att...

The Economist writes that Mr. Saleh, a top Afghan security official who was forced to resign this week, was concerned by Karzai’s conciliatory approach to Pakistan which indicated the Afghan president’s lack of confidence in NATO’s ability to win.

Julian E. Barnes for The Los Angeles Times reports that the US is willing to transfer the prison at Bagram airbase to Afghan authorities but on the condition a section be reserved for the US to hold non-Afghan detainees suspected of terrorism.

Thomas Harding for The Telegraph writes that US Secretary of Defense predicts waning support for the Afghan mission if ISAF does not make measurable headway this summer.

John F. Burns for The New York Times reports that Britain has recommitted its support to the Afghan mission following a ‘diplomatic offensive” by three top American security officials designed to shore up coalition solidarity. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/world/europe/10britain.html?ref=todayspaper

Nicholas Watt for The Guardian quotes UK Prime Minister David Cameron telling British troops that “[Afghanistan] is a war of necessity.”

Sam Koates for The Times writes that Prime Minister Cameron, in a visit to Afghanistan, alluded that the UK mission is not ‘open-ended;’ troops would be withdrawn when practicable and confirmed that an increased presence is “not remotely on the agenda.”

Tom Coghlan et al. for Times examines how British officers salvaged the mission in Helmand, plagued from the beginning by a lack of tactical and strategic continuity, inadequate resourcing and departmental infighting.

Peter Bergen for The New Republic has written the definitive account of Osama Bin Laden’s escape during the Battle for Torah Borah and argues that the US made a grave error in failing to put more boots on the ground at a critical moment.

Robert Weiner and Jonathan Battaglia for Washington Times warn that Afghanistan’s troubles are far from over if neither American or Afghan leaders address the drug trade.

Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould contend that Washington’ tried to cover an ambivalent political agenda in Afghanistan, with an “illusion of progress” in Marja, which they fear will be repeated in Kandahar.

Slobodan Lekic for the Associated Press reports that the UN Secretary General is urging coalition nations, especially those that have not contributed combat troops, to provide trainers in Afghanistan.

Tim McGirk for Time lists the formidable obstacles facing the Afghan National Army and wonders when it will become a functioning, self-sufficient and legitimate institution.

Abighail Hauslohner for Time reports that American efforts to establish a local police force in Marja attracted only 11 recruits on the third day, who now make up this nascent and critical institution.
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1994789,00.html ...



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Air force choppers out of Afghanistan by August 2011: General

Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/world/force+choppers+Afghanistan+August+2011/3143024/story.html#ixzz0qbYcfsXG

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The Canadian air force is planning to withdraw all of its helicopters from Afghanistan within a few weeks of the end of Canada's combat mission next July, the air force general responsible for generating aircraft and crews for the war in South Asia said Friday.

The helicopters would be used until early August 2011 to help transport troops and equipment back from forward bases after the combat mission ends, said Maj.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, commander of 1 Air Division in Winnipeg.
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