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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (November 2006)

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Articles found 11 November 2006

Canadian soldier receives Star of Military Valour
Updated Fri. Nov. 10 2006 11:00 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff


Sgt. Patrick Tower has become the first ever Canadian to receive the Star of Military

Valour. The courageous soldier saved at least four comrades in a brutal Afghanistan


Although Tower survived to continue fighting, his best friend Sgt. Vaughn Ingram died in

the violence.

"I asked him what were the ranks of the soldiers that were killed and he told me," said

Tower's father, retired captain Bob Tower, who spoke with his son shortly after the attack.

"I said, 'Who was the sergeant?' and he said Ingram. I said, 'Oh Pat, I'm sorry.'"

The honour is one of the highest military decorations for valour in Canada, second only to

the Victoria Cross. Both of those awards, along with the Medal of Military Valour, were

created for the Canadian Forces in 1993.

Tower received the honour for his valiant act on Aug. 3, in which he risked his life to

save troops pinned down by rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire.

The platoon was trying to secure a school in the volatile Pashmul region. Along with

Ingram, two other Canadian soldiers were killed in the attack: Pte. Kevin Dallaire and Cpl.

Bryce Jeffrey Keller.

Another soldier, Cpl. Christopher Reid, died earlier in the day from a roadside bomb. All

four soldiers were from the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.

It was one of the worst days of casualties suffered by the military since the Afghanistan

mission began in 2002.

"Not a day goes by when I don't think about Sgt. Ingram, or the 3rd of August, or what

happened that day," Tower told CTV News.

Tower, born in Victoria, B.C., gathered together another soldier and the platoon medic, and

took them through 150 metres of open terrain -- without any place to hide or find cover --

while grenades and bullets rained down on the small group.

"I just told Tom (the other soldier) and the medic, we've got to go up there," Tower

recalled. "I thought there was a lot of fire before, but as soon as we started running,

they really picked it up."
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Remembrance Day held across Canada, and online
Updated Sat. Nov. 11 2006 7:13 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff

Canadians will be gathering at legislatures, cenotaphs, city halls and community centres across Canada Saturday to observe a moment of silence in memory of Canadians who gave their lives protecting our country.

CTV Newsnet will be carrying live coverage of events on Parliament Hill and from Afghanistan throughout the day.

A wreath laying and Ceremony of Remembrance is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

Royal Canadian Legion branches across Canada have scheduled events to mark the day, as have local groups and municipalities.

Canadians who haven't already chosen an event to attend can tune in to their local CTV News broadcast for locations of events in their city, or browse the activities listed below to find activities to attend.

Veterans Affairs of Canada has posted an extensive list of Remembrance Day events on its website, ranging from ceremonies at the Red Deer Arena in Red Deer Alta., to a parade and dinner that starts at the Pine Beach Park Cenotaph in Dorval, Que.

The City of Toronto has posted a list of locations for city-organized ceremonies at city hall and community centres, along with a list of other ceremonies at such locations as Royal Canadian Legions, Historic Fort York, and the Toronto Zoo.

Entry to the Canadian War Museum at 1 Vimy Place in Ottawa will be free, and the museum has posted a list of scheduled events that begin with a Remembrance Ceremony in the Memorial Hall at 10:45 a.m. Get there early to attend the ceremony, as the doors will be closed for it between 10:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.

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Afghanistan brings poignancy to Remembrance Day
Updated Fri. Nov. 10 2006  Phil Hahn with files from The Canadian Press


For Sally and Tim Goddard, every day is about remembering their beloved daughter, who

earlier this year became the highest ranking Canadian soldier to die in combat in


Capt. Nichola Goddard died May 17 at the age of 26. She was caught in a Taliban ambush

while she was directing artillery fire at enemy positions. With her infectious smile, her

compassion and leadership qualities that helped her rise to position of combat soldier, the

captain known as Care Bear came to symbolize the sacrifice of soldiers in Afghanistan.
With relatives that have fought in both world wars, the Goddard family has always

participated in Remembrance Day ceremonies. This year, the day carries heartbreaking

poignancy for them, as they prepare to lay down a wreath in Nichola's honour.
"We're taking things one day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time," Sally Goddard told

CTV Calgary. "Every day is a remembering of some kind."
In line with Nichola's famous ability to take on life's challenges with a smile, Tim

Goddard said he'll be doing more than just honouring his daughter's memory during the

moment of silence on Nov. 11.
"I'll be remembering this vibrant young woman who we've lost and, in a joking way, telling

her off for getting herself killed -- and making us go through all this," he said with a grin.


Goddard was a member of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, based in Shilo, Man.
As part of Task Force Afghanistan, Goddard was serving with the Princess Patricia's

Canadian Light Infantry - the backbone of Canada's battle group during the summer's fierce

battles with insurgents in Kandahar.
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McGuinty presents plaques for fallen soldiers
CTV.ca News Staff


Premier Dalton McGuinty presented the first "Tribute to the Fallen" plaques at a special

ceremony Friday to commemorate the 17 Ontario soldiers who have died in the line of duty

since 2002.

Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of Canada's defence staff, and Major-General Richard Rohmer are

joining McGuinty at Queen's Park.

The soldiers' families will accept the plaques, which commemorate the heroism and sacrifice

of not just fallen military personnel, but also firefighters and police officers.

"We are going to remember their footprint in the sand, their legacy that they have left

us," Hillier told the families.

"We thank them for that, and our commitment is they'll never be forgotten.

"To the families, your courage and your dignity have inspired us all through what I know

are the most difficult days of your lives."

McGuinty said those who died in Afghanistan paid the "the ultimate sacrifice."

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4th Brigade Combat Team Task Force Deploys to Afghanistan
By 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Nov 10, 2006, 13:08

Blackanthem Military News, FORT POLK, La. - The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain

Division deployed about 150 Soldiers in the early morning hours Nov.7 to Afghanistan as

part of an advanced party that will lay the foundation in theater for Task Force Boar,

which consists of about 1,000 deploying Soldiers.

The majority of Soldiers, a reinforced battalion-sized element from 2nd Battalion, 30th

Infantry Regiment, named Task Force Boar, will deploy later this month and will assume

duties in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. contribution to the NATO International Security

Assistance Force.

Several 4th BCT elements from 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment; 94th Brigade

Support Battalion; 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment and Brigade Special Troops Battalion

will augment Task Force Boar.

Members of Task Force Boar have been preparing for almost two years for deployment such as

this, and Lt. Col. Ronald Metternich, 2-30 Inf. and Task Force Boar commander, assured

family members and friends the task force Soldiers are fully trained and prepared to

undertake the mission ahead. These deploying 4th BCT units have completed

activation-related tasks and are fully equipped for conducting operations around the world,

he said.

The 4th BCT Soldiers accomplished this level of readiness through outstanding leadership at

all levels of the organization, said Metternich. The 2-30 Inf. Infantry battalion has some

of the finest leaders Metternich has had the privilege of working with in 20 years of

service, he said.

"More importantly, we achieved this (because) of the tremendous dedication, sweat and

sacrifice of the Soldiers of this task force," said Metternich. "I am also confident

because I believe we all share a common goal - once deployed, successfully accomplish our

mission and get back here to our families and friends.

"I am sincerely proud to be a part of this unit of the men and women that are standing

before us that made that decision to make a stand for what they believe in.; men and woman

of action," continued Metternich. "I'm not talking about some haphazard action but

deliberate, measured and, when required, intensely focused action.

Not one of these Soldiers wants to go into harm's way and risk it all, but rather than

sitting at home and talking about what needs to be done to make this a safer place to live,

these Soldiers have stepped up to do their part in providing that blanket of security for

this country."

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Support for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan to be part of remarks at annual Mountain
Remembrance Day service tomorrow at Legion
Mark Newman, Mountain Nov 10, 2006

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

The Act of Remembrance, from the poem For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon

Canadian troops in Afghanistan will be included in Remembrance Day remarks tomorrow (Nov.

11) at the Mount Hamilton branch 163 of the Royal Canadian Legion by guest speaker Reverend

Alan McPherson.

Rev. McPherson is the Presbyterian representative and current chair of the Interfaith

Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy that meets regularly in Ottawa. He is also the

former padre of the Hamilton-based Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada.

"I want to talk about the care of the troops who are there (in Afghanistan)," Rev McPherson

said. "I don't want to get into the justification of why we're there, that's not the

purpose of Remembrance Day."

As a Member of the interfaith committee Rev. McPherson said he is in frequent contact with

chaplains who are serving with Canadian forces at home and abroad.

Rev. McPherson noted chaplains are currently providing moral and spiritual support and

encouragement for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.

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Loss of 15 Ontario soldiers in Afghanistan not in vain, Hillier says
November 10, 2006 - 17:12 By: CHINTA PUXLEY

TORONTO (CP) - Fifteen Ontario soldiers did not die in vain in Afghanistan, but rather for

the sake of a noble mission to rebuild a country that has been "brutalized and beaten for

some 25 years," the country's top soldier said Friday as he paid tribute to the province's

war dead.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier told the province's first "Tribute to the Fallen"

ceremony at the Ontario legislature that Canada's resolve in Afghanistan has not been

shaken by the sacrifice made by the country's fallen soldiers.

"The loss that took place there has not been in vain," Hillier told a sombre ceremony

inside the legislature's cavernous front foyer.

"We seek to help a country that desperately needs help, that has been brutalized and beaten

for some 25 years, with families broken apart and thousands and thousands of deaths. We

seek to continue to help that country rebuild itself."

Hillier acknowledged the price Ontario has paid in Afghanistan - of the 17 Ontario soldiers

who have died since 2002, 15 of them died in Afghanistan.

The 16th, Cpl. Trevor McDavid, died when a Cormorant rescue helicopter crashed into the

ocean during a midnight training exercise off Canso, N.S., in July.

The 17th, Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener, died while serving with the United Nations in

Lebanon. All but two of Ontario's 17 fallen soldiers died this year.

Hillier said he's used to Remembrance Day sending a chill down his spine. "But this week,

the chill down my spine and the emotion that I and all of us feel across this country is

greater than it has ever been."

This Remembrance Day will be different for the families who lost their sons, husbands and

fathers in 2006. Cynthia Hess-von Kruedener has attended services all her life, but she

said this year, she understands profoundly what the word 'sacrifice' means.

Her husband, who was serving as a UN observer, was killed in July during an Israeli

airstrike in Lebanon.
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PREVIEW-Afghanistan shows challenges for more global NATO
10 Nov 2006 17:16:53 GMT Source: Reuters By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON, Nov 10 (Reuters) - The United States is pushing NATO to shoulder more global

burdens but the alliance's Afghan deployment illustrates the challenges of getting the

26-nation group to project its power beyond its borders.

Ahead of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Nov. 28-29 summit in Riga, U.S. officials

are making the case that Afghanistan is a model for the Western alliance to take on more

security challenges around the world.

But analysts argue, and U.S. officials acknowledge, that NATO has had trouble getting some

members to send troops to the south of Afghanistan, where British, Dutch and Canadian

forces are fighting a revived Taliban insurgency.

NATO's top commander called on Sept. 7 for 2,000 to 2,500 more troops to go to Afghanistan.

Most members of the alliance -- which has about 32,500 troops in the country, including

about 11,800 U.S. forces -- have not jumped to fill the gap, although Poland has committed

to provide about 1,000 soldiers.

"Only a handful of NATO members are prepared to go to the south and east and to go robustly

-- mainly the U.S., UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Romania, Australia and Denmark," the

International Crisis Group said in a report issued this month.

"Hard questions need to be asked of those such as Germany, Spain, France, Turkey and Italy

who are not," it added.

"Obviously, there is some concern in capitals that there is, in fact, a shooting war going

on," said a U.S. official who asked not to be named given the sensitivity of the issue.
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Italy wants review of international strategy in Afghanistan
The Associated Press

Italy wants a review of international policy in Afghanistan, saying the time is ripe for

new choices in world affairs following the U.S. midterm elections, the foreign minister


In two interviews published Friday, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema also called on

the United States to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

D'Alema made the comments on the eve of a trip to Afghanistan, where he will hold talks

Saturday with President Hamid Karzai as well as with U.N. and EU envoys. He said he would

press Afghan and international officials to hold a global conference on the future of the


"The strategy of military intervention that has been followed so far unfortunately has

turned out to be ineffective," D'Alema told the Rome-based daily La Repubblica.

"Italy is working to organize an international conference on Afghanistan. We want to start

a review and a relaunch of multilateral strategies, starting with this area," D'Alema was

quoted as saying. "If we don't do this, the military mission is bound to fail."

"We need to sit at a table and start a plan
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Mood Sours in AfghanistanNovember 10, 2006 Prepared by:  Lionel Beehner


In the mid-1990s a fledgling group of Islamic students emerged from Kandahar. So-called

Talibs, they lived ascetic lifestyles and promised a crackdown against Afghanistan’s

criminal warlords. “They preached for a reborn alliance of Islamic piety and Pashtun

might,” writes Steve Coll in Ghost Wars. Interestingly, their brand of Islam was not deemed

a threat by Washington, unlike Iran’s Shiite evangelism. But after 1996, when al-Qaeda

began to wage global jihad against the “far enemy,” the Taliban harbored terrorists like

Osama bin Laden and his ilk.

Fast-forward a decade and the Taliban, ousted by a U.S.-led campaign in October 2001, have

replanted themselves from Pakistan to the deserts of the Kandahar region, again vowing to

rout out warlordism and fill a power vacuum in the region. They continue to rely on

resentment of the central government among locals and sustain themselves with opium

profits. These militants also reportedly benefit from the largesse of Pakistan and its

intelligence apparatus, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). As a madrassa leader told

the New York Times Magazine’s Elizabeth Rubin, “The heart of [the Pakistani] government is

with the Taliban. The tongue is not.”

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has launched a series of sweeps

against Taliban militants in the region—the most recent of which killed twenty-two—but has

failed to quash the insurgency. In a new report, the International Crisis Group (ICG) calls

for more troops, more diplomatic pressure on Pakistan, and more political will by Hamid

Karzai’s government in Kabul. “The desire for a quick, cheap war followed by a quick, cheap

peace is what has brought Afghanistan to the present, increasingly dangerous situation,”

says the ICG. Dialogue or deal making with the Taliban will not work, the report concludes,

but “meeting the legitimate grievances of the population” will. 
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Deaths in Afghanistan bring new poignancy to Remembrance Day
John Ward  Canadian Press Friday, November 10, 2006

OTTAWA (CP) - Remembrance Day ceremonies have a new poignancy with the fresh memories of

combat deaths in Afghanistan.

But the harsh impact of those deaths over the last four years - reflected in questioning

editorials, anti-war demonstrations and increasing concern over the direction of the

mission - might suggest that Canadians have largely forgotten a military history that

embraces more than 100,000 war dead over the last century.

Opinion polls seem to see-saw every time a flag-draped coffin comes home. Historians say

Canadians raised on the "myth" of Canada as a nation of peacemakers, not warrior, are

disturbed at the very notion of deaths in combat.

And the country is divided on the wisdom of the Afghan mission.

There have been 42 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002. There have been

several days in which four soldiers were killed.

Though any death is tragic, the losses in Afghanistan are low by historical standards.

Even the Boer War, an almost forgotten conflict more than 100 years ago, cost 277 Canadian


The worst casualty days for the Afghanistan mission would have been routine, or seen as

even good days for Canadians in past wars.
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Dutch general says Canadian troops have done good work
Last Updated: Friday, November 10, 2006 | 12:51 PM ET CBC News

NATO's new commander in southern Afghanistan said Friday that Canadian troops have made it

easier for him to focus on reconstruction work in the volatile region.

Dutch Maj.-Gen. Ton Van Loon took charge last week, which means he oversees a NATO

coalition force of about 9,500 troops in six southern provinces of Afghanistan. It is

mostly composed of Canadian, British and Dutch soldiers.

Van Loon, who replaced Canadian Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, told CBC News that priorities have

already begun to shift in southern Afghanistan. Fraser was in charge of the troops for

eight months.

"I think when the Canadians came in, they encountered a really difficult situation, they

were challenged very hard, and the Canadians really did a great job," he said from


"Because they did such a great job, because David Fraser did such a great job, my chances

are really much greater in going for the reconstruction part."

Canada has more than 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, with the majority stationed in the south.

Forty-two Canadian soldiers have died since Canada first sent troops to the country in

early 2002.
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UN urged to act over Afghanistan 
Matt Prodger  BBC News, Kabul 

Human Rights Watch has urged the United Nations to address the situation in Afghanistan

where more than 3,000 people have died in fighting this year.
At least 1,000 civilians were killed in the country's south alone, HRW said in a letter to

a Security Council fact-finding team.

Fighting and drought had displaced 80,000 people in the region, it said.

The New York-based group also said urgent action was needed to address corruption and

abuses by warlords.

It blames not only the Taleban-led insurgents for the violence, but also regional warlords

- some of them operating with the blessing of the Afghan government - and Nato-led forces.

HRW says that many gains made by women since the fall of the Taleban have been reversed and

that teachers, schools and students had been attacked by insurgents.

It also complained of corruption, illegal land grabs, ethnic violence and the intimidation

of journalists.

The UN team is due in Kabul on Saturday

AFGHANISTAN: Lethal floods strike the east
10 Nov 2006 13:26:31 GMT Source: IRIN

KABUL, 10 November (IRIN) - At least four people have been killed and five others are

missing after flash floods, triggered by torrential rains, hit the eastern Afghan province

of Nangarhar, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Friday.

"Early this morning in the Behsoud district of Nangarhar province, severe flooding occurred

and we can confirm that four people were killed as a result and five are currently missing,

many others have been injured," Dan McNorton, a public information officer with UNAMA, told

IRIN in Kabul.

"Our initial reports indicate that over 1,000 houses have been destroyed either partially

or totally," McNorton asserted.

Meanwhile, local authorities in Nangarhar province have called for further urgent

assistance to thousands of flood-affected people.

"Hundreds of families have been badly affected and are in urgent need of tents, blankets

and food,"Ajmal Pardis, head of health department of Nangarhar province, told IRIN, from

Jalalabad, the provincial capital.

Pardis said women and children were also among the dead and their medical teams have

treated some 30 injured people in the flood-affected area.

East and southeastern Afghanistan has seen several episodes of flooding this year.
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Tim Goddard urges dialogue on Afghanistan
Updated Fri. Nov. 10 2006 8:17 AM ET Canadian Press

CALGARY -- The father of Canada's only female soldier killed in Afghanistan says

Remembrance Day is a time to celebrate the freedoms his daughter died defending.

But Tim Goddard also wants Canadians to get more involved in the debate over the Afghan

mission which Canada is committed to until 2009.

Last May Captain Nichola Goddard became the 16th of 42 Canadian soldiers to die in


She was killed in a Taliban ambush while directing artillery fire at enemy positions.

Nichola come to symbolize Canada's sacrifice, and her father has emerged as an eloquent

spokesman for other families grappling with both grief and pride.

Tim Goddard has chastised Prime Minister Harper for restricting media access to grieving

families, and expressed hope for an end to the Afghan conflict so that Nichola will not

have died in vain.

He also says Canadians have a duty to be better informed about the war and the political

process involved.

EU mulls security reform aid for Afghanistan
dpa German Press Agency Published: Friday November 10, 2006

Brussels- European Union governments are studying plans for assistance to reform

Afghanistan's security sector, including training for Afghan police forces, the bloc's

diplomats said Friday. EU foreign and defence ministers are set to discuss increased EU aid

for Afghanistan, including assistance for the so-called "rule of law" sector - security

services, police forces and judges - at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Any EU decision on the issue will be coordinated with NATO and the World Bank, said EU


"There are plenty of ideas around" on reinforcing the government of President Hamid Karzai

in its fight against drug trafficking and criminality, said an EU diplomat, speaking on

condition of anonymity.

EU governments, including Germany, Spain and Italy, are already working on national police

training and other schemes in Afghanistan.

Ministers will discuss whether converting these operations into a larger project under an

EU banner would provide any "added value," said the diplomat.
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Afghanistan takes tough measures to counter narcotics: official 
November 10, 2006         

The Afghan government is taking various tough measures including the sacking of governors,

possible ground chemical spraying, to prevent the rocketing poppy cultivation in this

country, a senior Afghan officer said Friday.

"If governors and district chiefs are not able to reduce poppy cultivation, at least they

will lose their jobs," Said Mohammad Azam, director of Public Relation and Public

Information of Afghan Counter Narcotics Ministry, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

District and police chiefs of Daryam in the northeastern Badakhshan province had been

sacked for incapability in fighting drug, he added.

Azam said an eight-member anti-narcotics committee, grouping district and police chiefs,

has been established in 108 districts of 11 provinces where poppy cultivation is rife.

The committee would supervise poppy crops closely and find ways to reduce it, he added.

In 2006, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record 165, 000 hectares, up 59 percent

from last year, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime issued in


Opium production reached 6,100 tons, witnessing a 49 percent rise over 2005 and accounting

for 92 percent of the world's total supply, the report said.
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Civilian deaths in Afghanistan, challenge for NATO power
11/11/2006 8:30:00 AM GMT  

Five years after the U.S. invaders entered Afghanistan to “liberate” it and end the rule of the Taliban regime in Kabul, peace remains a distant dream for Afghans with occupation forces’ attacks killing more civilians than militants, poverty on the rise, and widespread corruption.

Numerous editorials and anti-war demonstrators stepped up recently criticism over the devastating impact of the NATO failure to handle the country and protect civilian lives.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had only 4,500 members in 2002, with the majority of the troops concentrated in Kabul. The alliance now commands 31,000 troops, backed by 10,000 troops from the U.S.-led occupation forces.

ISAF's chief, British General David Richards attributed the failure of the NATO mission in Afghanistan to the lack of forces sufficient to counter violence that has effectively doubled since 2004.
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Two US Tanks Destroyed, US Invaders Annihilated in Afghanistan
Publication time: Today at 08:46 Djokhar time

A number of US invaders were annihilated in a clash with the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate  in southern Afghanistan.

Talking to Radio Tehran, a Taliban spokesman, Qari  Muhammad Yousuf said that the clash followed a Taliban attack on a US military convoy in Char Chino district of Uruzgan province Tuesday, destroying two tanks and killing an unknown number of US troops.

Giving further details of the fighting in the province, the spokesman said that an army camp was attacked by the Taliban Monday night, killing five puppet soldiers.
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More Articles found 11 November 2006

Canadian troops mark Remembrance Day with ceremony in Afghanistan

PANJWAII, Afghanistan (CP) — About 100 Canadian soldiers have marked Remembrance Day with a simple but moving ceremony in the Panjwaii area of southern Afghanistan.
They laid a wreath at a wooden cross to honour the 42 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan since 2002.

Some of the Canadians wept as they knelt at the cross.

The service was led by the sergeant-major for the Second Battalion with Princess Patricia’s Light Canadian Infantry.

He offered words of remembrance and encouragement, telling the soldiers they’ll get through their mission if they’re as tough as they can be.

The soldiers are on a particularly difficult mission, facing Taliban militants who can often hide among local villagers until they see an opportunity to attack.   
The Canadian troops must be extremely vigilant anytime they leave their bases because of the constant threat of suicide attacks

Editorial - Canada will remember
Sat Nov 11 2006

CANADIANS are familiar with Remembrance Day as that time of the year when old battles and fading memories are dredged up to honour the dead and salute those who served and survived.
It is a day to think about the exploits of dad and grandpa, and wars that now seem like ancient history. That all changes today. The deaths this year of 34 Canadians in Afghanistan makes this Remembrance Day different. It is the first time since the Korean conflict (1950-1953) that we have marked Nov. 11 while Canadian soldiers are engaged in significant combat operations. We may not have been able to know those who died in past wars, but we can know and relate to the thousands of men and women who are risking their lives today. For a new generation of Canadians, then, this Remembrance Day is personal.

The troops serving in Afghanistan are mainly career soldiers, unlike those of the First World War and Second World War who volunteered after the fighting started and quickly returned to civilian life when the war ended. Some are reservists, who have temporarily given up their full-time jobs to do their duty. They come from across Canada, from big cities and farms, and from all social, economic and ethnic backgrounds. On average, today's front-line soldiers are older than their counterparts from the past. Many of them are married with children, earning good salaries, and members of their local community clubs. They are professionals -- many are well educated -- who have made Canada proud in both times of peace and war.

Many Canadians do not like the fact that we are engaged in combat in Afghanistan, but today is not the time for that debate. Hard questions can be asked about the validity of Canada's participation in the Boer War or even the First World War, but Remembrance Day was never meant to be a value judgment on the decisions of our political leaders or the validity of a particular conflict. It was -- and remains -- a spiritual exercise that honours sacrifice, duty and the value of human life. There are also some who believe Remembrance Day was established to mark the slaughter of the First World War only, with the death toll of the second war sufficiently ghastly to warrant inclusion in the club. For these purists, the significance of Nov. 11 -- the day in 1918 that the Great War ended -- is diminished by including peacekeeping and small conflicts in the ceremony. But the fact of the matter is that many soldiers from past wars never saw combat, while young Canadians today are risking their lives in some of the worst conditions imaginable. Many of these soldiers believe passionately in the cause. A few may doubt the wisdom of our role in Afghanistan, but nothing changes the fact they are in the line of fire for Canada. As in the past, Canada's military role is not motivated by greed or the hunger for more power and treasure, but by the genuine desire to make the world a safer and better place. No one can doubt this.
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Is Afghanistan mission another pointless war?
PM's comparison to WWI oddly ironic
Nov. 11, 2006. 01:00 AM THOMAS WALKOM

In the years immediately following 1918, Nov. 11 was known as Armistice Day. Not Victory Day (although, in real terms, the Nov. 11 truce did represent a victory for Allied forces) but Armistice Day — the day the fighting stopped and the terrible slaughter of World War I finally ended.

In later years, Canadians adopted the term Remembrance Day. But the sense of sad relief remained, particularly among those who had experienced what they called The Great War. To them, the slogan "Lest we forget " held a double-edged meaning.

On the one hand, it was a heartfelt testimonial to soldiers killed in battle. But on the other, it was a reminder of the ultimate futility of that costly war.

"The World War of 1914-18 was an appalling event in the history of humanity," the authoritative Encyclopaedia of Canada pronounced in 1937, on the eve of another great war.

"Even those who had foreseen and prepared for it for many years had no idea how tremendous a cataclysm was to shake the world, what enormous armies would be engaged, what stupendous supplies of ammunition would be expended, how many millions of men would die."

For Canada, the conflict of 1914-18 remains the deadliest in the country's history, far outstripping both the Korean War and World War II. Of the roughly 620,000Canadians who served in World War I, more than 66,000died. A further 173,000were injured.

And yet, as most historians readily acknowledge, these deaths and injuries were for naught. World War II, the war against Hitler, was worth fighting. But World War I accomplished nothing.

In the end, it created more problems for the Allied victors than it solved — a Bolshevik revolution in Russia and the rise of Nazism in devastated Germany.

So, it is strange and somewhat ironic to find Prime Minister Stephen Harper using World War I as a model for Canada's involvement in the Afghan conflict.

Speaking in Ottawa this week, Harper quoted John McCrae's haunting 1915 poem "In Flanders Fields" and in particular, its final stanza exhorting Canadians to "take up our quarrel with the foe."

Harper also raised a personal example — his wife's great uncle, who was killed in the 1917 Battle of Arras.

Just as this young man fought for democracy and human rights then, the Prime Minister said, so we must do now in Afghanistan.

"When the cause is just," Harper said, "Canada answers the call."

And indeed that is our history. But our history also shows that Canada often answers the call when the cause is neither just nor sensible, as it did in 1914.

For Harper's great-uncle-in-law, the real tragedy was not just that he died young but that he died pointlessly. The Battle of Arras, like most World War I assaults produced, no real gains. Even the celebrated Battle of Vimy Ridge that same year, in which — at a cost of 3,600killed — Canadian troops valiantly seized and held a strategic bit of ground, accomplished little of real value.

This week, the Star published an account of how a set of bagpipes, used by Canadian soldier James Richardson to rally his comrades in the 1916 Battle of the Somme, was finally returned home. That Richardson was brave is unquestionable. His actions, and subsequent death, won him a Victoria Cross.

But what the news story neglected to mention was that the Battle of the Somme was a notorious cock-up. Canada alone took 24,000 casualties. The British suffered almost half a million. Yet the amount of ground gained amounted to about eight kilometres.
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'Iran, Afghanistan, Pak. to share date on drug smugglers'
Tehran, Nov. 11 (AP)

Iran and neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan must share intelligence on drug smuggling, the head of the United Nations agency against drugs has said.

Antonio Maria Costa, the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, finished a three-day visit to Iran by praising the government's efforts against drug trafficking, according to a statement issued by the agency yesterday.

Iran had seized 231 tons of opium in 2005, more than any other country in the world, the statement said.

But Costa warned the world's production of opium was far greater than what was being intercepted.

"Afghanistan has produced a record 6,100 tons of opium this year and about 80 per cent of this will flow through Pakistan and Iran," he said in his statement. "Only about a quarter of this is likely to be intercepted - about half the success rate with the world cocaine trade.

"I urge these three countries, and their international partners, to establish an intelligence-sharing platform," he added. "If counter-narcotics police in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran share intelligence, they could really hit the traffickers hard."

While in Iran, Costa met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials and made a helicopter trip to the Iranian border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said.
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Stable Afghanistan in Pakistan’s interest: PM for flexibility over Kashmir

NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said that a historic opportunity exists to resolve the Kashmir issue in an acceptable manner for all concerned parties and emphasised the need for courage, magnanimity and flexibility for settlement of the decades-old dispute.

Addressing a gathering of academics and students at Princeton University on Thursday evening, he said a stable conflict-free cooperative relationship between Pakistan and India holds the key to durable peace and prosperity in South Asia. Aziz said that since the launch of the Pakistan-India peace process in 2004, the atmosphere has improved and people-to-people contacts have increased, “but we must now move towards dispute resolution”.

In his wide-ranging address, Aziz spoke about Pakistan’s vital strategic importance and spelt out the country’s position on major regional and international issues and its efforts to sustain a high economic growth befitting its enormous potential.
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Afghan, Nato forces kill 18 Taleban rebels
Web posted at: 11/11/2006 3:46:15

KABUL • Afghan soldiers backed by Nato forces and warplanes killed 18 Taleban militants in a series of clashes in south-eastern Afghanistan, the alliance said yesterday.

Three Nato soldiers, three Afghan troops and an interpreter were also wounded in the fighting in Paktika province, near the Pakistani border, an International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) press release said.

The statement said the combined forces came under small arms fire from a group of 25 to 30 insurgents in remote Bermal district.

“After the initial clash, the ANA (Afghan National Army) succeeded in counter-attacking with small arms and close air support,” the statement said.

“During the engagements near the border with Pakistan, three ANA, three ISAF soldiers and one interpreter were injured and subsequently evacuated to an ISAF hospital,” it added.

“Eighteen insurgents were reported to have been killed in the incident.”

Bermal is one of the most remote districts in Paktika province and has seen many similar attacks on government and foreign troops.
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Quebec students witness unveiling of plaque for soldier killed in Afghanistan

QUEBEC (CP) - Gina Farnell says she was surprised when she first learned that one of her former students, Jason Patrick Warren, had become a soldier.

"As a teenager, he did not believe in following orders," the Quebec High School teacher told some 400 students and invited guests, including Warren's family, at a memorial service in his honour Friday.

A Quebec City native and reservist with Montreal's storied Black Watch Regiment, Warren, 29, was killed along with another Canadian soldier by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan on July 22.

Warren, his parents and two siblings - brother Stephen and sister Rachelle, who is a corporal in the Royal Canadian Dragoons Regiment and herself a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan - all attended Quebec High School.

Farnell, one of several speakers who took the podium at a moving ceremony that combined a Remembrance Day service with the unveiling of a metal plaque in Warren's honour, said her initial surprise passed once she'd thought about how determined her one-time pupil had been.

"Once (Jason) believed in a cause, once convinced of its good, he could be very committed to seeing it through," she said. "If he chose to serve in the army, it is because he believed in it."

Warren's family and friends echoed those sentiments
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For the newly fallen
(Nov 11, 2006)
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It is time to find space for two more words on the grey cenotaphs that stand tall across Canada. It is time for loving hands to chisel the name of a new war beneath the Great War, the Second World War and Korea, and the name of a new battlefield beside Vimy Ridge, the Somme, the Atlantic and Normandy. The new war is Afghanistan. The new killing field, Kandahar.

On this Remembrance Day, as the nation honours those who served and died in the wars of the 20th century, let us honour as passionately those serving in Afghanistan today. And as we mourn those who died in those long ago conflicts, let us mourn as deeply those who have died, some just weeks ago, in Afghanistan.

Since 2002, when Canadian troops were first sent to that country, 42 of our soldiers have died. Thirty-four of those soldiers died this year alone. It has been more than half a century since Canada experienced this magnitude of human loss in combat during the Korean War.

The 2,300 Canadian troops in Afghanistan are half a world away. They would say that they have put their lives at risk so the lives of Canadians at home are more secure. They would argue that by denying terrorists a base for operations in Afghanistan, they are denying them the chance to attack Canada. This, too, as well as their sacrifice, is worth remembering today.

Articles found 12 November 2006

From Flanders to Afghanistan
'Thank you, we will never forget'

As a young man he braved bullets and bombs and lost countless buddies on the battlefields of Europe in World War II.

And with the roar of cannons as a backdrop yesterday, Albert Wade was moved by both sad memories and the encouraging support of about 500 people who stood beside him to attend Remembrance Day services under light rain on the lawn of the Legislature.

It was the first ceremony at Queen's Park in front of the new 30-metre granite memorial built this year to honour Canadian veterans like him for the sacrifices they made long ago, along with soldiers serving overseas today.

"To me that's very wonderful," said the 85-year-old veteran, who was a sergeant with the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

"I'm glad a few of my friends from the regiment were here to see this. There's not many of us left."

Retired major-general Richard Rohmer told the crowd the world is losing World War II vets at the rate of about 500 per week due to the inevitable passage of time.

"We want to say thank you and that we will never forget," Premier Dalton McGuinty said after a lone bugler played Last Post, followed by a two-minute silence in honour of Canada's fallen soldiers. From Flanders fields, Vimy Ridge and Normandy to Korea and the "harsh" realities in Afghanistan today, the premier paid tribute to "the men and women who have devoted themselves to creating a lasting peace."
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Seamus O'Regan's journey to Kandahar
Updated Fri. Nov. 10 2006 1:49 PM ET

CTV's Canada AM will broadcast live from Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Thursday, Nov. 9 and Friday, Nov. 10 for a special salute to the troops ahead of Remembrance Day.

Updated: Photo gallery of Seamus in Afghanistan

Follow Seamus O'Regan as he travels to the Canadian military base and shares his experiences meeting frontline soldiers, service producers and medical staff.

Friday Nov. 10

Well, the show just ended, and, by all accounts, it went well. We tried to tell the stories of the troops today - to demonstrate to Canadians that these are their neighbours, friends, and family that are living here - on an air field, on the other side of the world, away from home.

The troops who stood with us during the course of the show laughed and cried, and were deeply moved that so many Canadians were watching and so many cared enough to watch.

The roll call of casualties at the end was difficult for them. There was silence for about a minute. None of them moved from their chairs. Eventually, I thanked them for being here, and told them that it was an important show. They stood and applauded.
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NATO air strike kills 10 militants in E. Afghanistan
November 12, 2006

A NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) air strike killed ten insurgents in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, a spokesman of the NATO forces in the province Major Shul said on Sunday.

"Acting on received intelligence, we carried out an air raid on an insurgent hideout in Dagarmol village of Watapoor district on Saturday, killing ten enemies belonging to an Arab fighter named Abu Ikhlas," the spokesman told a press conference.

The militants were attending a meeting when the air strike was carried out, he added.

Abu Ikhlas, according to Shul, was the commander of Arab fighters in the area.

Kunar and the neighboring provinces of Nooristan, Laghman and Nangarhar have been the scene of increasing insurgency over the past year.

More than 2,700 people, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed since the beginning of this year in this post-Taliban nation.

Source: Xinhua
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Soldiers serving in Afghanistan feel kinship with past veterans

Lee Greenberg, CanWest News Service
Published: Sunday, November 12, 2006
ZHARI, Afghanistan -- As day broke at Patrol Base Wilson, a logistics hub in the dusty southern Afghanistan province where 34 Canadians have died since March, Master Bombardier Rick Atkinson scaled a tattered brick wall and lowered the base's sun-bleached Canadian flag to half-mast.

Like so many soldiers on the front lines of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan, Atkinson and his colleagues paused, but never stopped, as they commemorated a unique Remembrance Day.

"We're part of it now," said Atkinson, 37. A veteran of numerous tours, Atkinson, like many soldiers on the ground, feels he has only now experienced a loss of innocence. Canada has suffered 43 casualties (including one diplomat) in some of the fiercest fighting by Canadian troops since the Korean war.

"It's an honour that we can be mentioned in the same breath as them now -- people who'd fought in WWI, WWII, Korea," said the Petawawa, Ont., resident. "Not even to take away from the peacekeeping missions, it just feels more like we're like them now.

"The sacrifices they made, those are the ones we're making now."

While the rugged Afghan landscape -- dotted by marijuana fields and mud-walled villages -- could never remind them of home, the weather was reminiscent of a typical Remembrance Day in Canada. The skies turned grey and dumped the first heavy rainfall in months. Chilly soldiers broke out their fleece jackets.

Capt. Andy Lockridge, an artillery officer from Gagetown, N.B., who is Camp Commandant at Patrol Base Wilson, said he treated Remembrance Day "the same as any other day."

Security concerns -- Wilson is located in the cradle of the Taliban-led insurgency -- and the need to maintain "operational tempo" prevented him from doing anything else.
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'The gravity of war': Newest veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan among past, present soldiers honored in Hudson
By Jennifer Kavanaugh/ Daily News Staff Sunday, November 12, 2006

HUDSON -- Looking back on her three Air Force deployments to Afghanistan, Jenny D'Olympia told Hudson veterans and residents about her "intense wake-up call" to the dangerous realities of war.

D'Olympia, who is now a captain in the Air Force Reserves, was in Afghanistan in June 2002, when she and others learned that a military plane carrying 10 people went down. Three of the people aboard died, though the other seven escaped with minor injuries, and one with a broken leg.

    "On June 12, 2002, when the MC-130 went down, I realized the gravity of war," D'Olympia said. "Up until then, I felt like I had been playing soldier in the desert and pretending to be serious about it."

    D'Olympia's speech, and the Hudson Veterans Day parade and ceremony, were part of events throughout MetroWest to mark the holiday. Hudson's event also included the laying of wreaths on war memorials, a parade of veterans, the American Legion Band from Waltham and the Hudson High School Band.

    At the ceremony following the parade, two Hudson High School students, senior Christopher Jordan and sophomore Cristy Jenkins, sang "God Bless the U.S.A."

    The parade's grand marshal was Marine Lance Cpl. Terry "TJ" Kearney Jr., a Hudson resident who returned home last month, after serving in Fallujah, Iraq. While over there, he helped capture Mohammed Dafar Farham, a man the U.S. military believed was responsible for the murders of 300 Iraqis.

    If Kearney represents the accomplishments of the young men serving, D'Olympia represents the growing number of female service members and veterans. About 20 percent of the volunteer forces supporting the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are women, she said. One of the three people killed on that plane that day, Anissa Ann Shero, was the first woman from the Air Force to die in Afghanistan.

    After that plane went down in 2002, D'Olympia said, she would get other sobering reminders of the danger she and others faced. By the time she was back in Afghanistan for her third deployment, in 2004, she was routinely facing rocket and mortar attacks.

    D'Olympia said people mark Veterans Day to remember the sacrifices of all the people who served in the military.

    "It is because of them that we can carry out our lives without concerns about rocket and mortar attacks on our homes when we go to sleep at night," D'Olympia said. "We don't have to worry about snipers on Town Hall when we go to vote, we don't have to worry about roadside bombs on the way to work."

    On a lighter note, D'Olympia, who is from Missouri, said that despite the relative security people experience here, they still have to contend with "the war-zone atmosphere during rush hour on 128."
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UNSC mission in Afghanistan for security review

KABUL: A high-level delegation from the United Nations Security Council arrived in Afghanistan Saturday to review efforts to establish stability after the bloodiest period of growing Taliban-led violence.

The delegation included UN ambassadors from Argentina, Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Qatar, Russia, Slovakia and the United States, the UN said in a statement.

The group was due to meet President Hamid Karzai and other government officials and UN agencies during its four-day visit.

It would also travel to the south of Afghanistan to “demonstrate solidarity with local Afghan communities most affected by recent fighting between anti-government elements and military forces,” according to the statement. Southern Afghanistan has seen the most of this year’s spike in Taliban violence, which NATO commanders deployed in Afghanistan have admitted took them by surprise and showed new sophistication and outside influence.

Taliban attacks and military operations against the militants have killed 1,000 civilians this year, Human Rights Watch said Friday in a statement that urged the UN mission to push for compensation for victims of the violence.
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Truro, N.S.feels impact of Afghanistan casualties
Updated Sat. Nov. 11 2006 11:23 PM ET Canadian Press

TRURO, N.S. -- It's quiet at the cenotaph.

Sitting on a small rise in the centre of town, the statue of a solitary soldier, his head bowed, looks downcast as life hums along nearby.

No one approaches the simple monument to war's dead on a day when golden sunlight streams through fall leaves and a stiff wind blows by. But that will change on Remembrance Day when thousands of people are expected to gather here to pay their respects to generations of military lives lost.

And, some say, this community will feel a particularly keen sense of loss as it remembers four young men whose deaths have shaken its residents and made Afghanistan's distant war a very real part of their lives.

"You can feel it. You can hear it. Out on the street, everybody talks about it," Leo Boudreau, president of the local legion, says at the steps of the memorial to the First and Second World Wars.

"We are one of the communities that's been really hit the hardest."

On Nov. 11, in addition to the 275 names inscribed on the monument, people will honour Canada's most recent combat casualties, four of whom grew up in or had ties to this central Nova Scotia community.
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Canadian women pull their own weight in Afghanistan's danger zones
Sue Bailey, Canadian Press Published: Saturday, November 11, 2006 Article tools

PANJWAII, Afghanistan (CP) - Medic Angela Townsend erupts into her trademark laugh when asked about the most unusual gift she has received from well-wishers back in Canada.

"I got a package of 30 Freezies and it's 42 degrees here I think," she said. "So I'm going to have to save those for a rainy day.

"If I get to freeze them somewhere, I'll be able to share them with all the guys here."

Townsend, 31, was stationed during a recent interview at a dusty military outpost surrounded by sun-bleached mountains of rock and sand. The other-worldly scene conjures images from Mad Max movies.

Canadians are dug into the former Taliban heartland here, holding crucial ground won during bloody battles last summer.

Cool water is a luxury, let alone anything frozen.

But Townsend is clearly touched that someone cared enough to try sending a bit of relief from the searing daytime heat.

The Cape Breton native is one of few Canadian women doing every job from medic to front-line infantry in Afghanistan.

Women make up about 15 per cent of the Canadian Forces but only around seven per cent of the 2,400 soldiers deployed here. Troops are serving six-month tours that will continue through 2008.

There are now almost 8,000 women in Canada's military and another 4,800 with reserve units.

Townsend says she's treated much like any other soldier.

"I find if you portray yourself as someone who can do the job, and you put in the effort to help them out as well, you'll gain the respect from the guys."

Women are equally expected to unload heavy deliveries of food and water, and to fill and haul the endless sandbags needed to fortify positions against insurgent attacks.
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Cdn troops hold emotional tribute

PANJWAII, Afghanistan (CP) - It was a Remembrance Day like none other for troops serving in this deadly region, and it began with a rare but fitting nod from Mother Nature: rain.

The normally intense sun and blue skies gave way for the first time in months Saturday to cloud cover. Afghan interpreters stared at the sky while, as if on cue, thunder rolled across the sand-sculpture mountains that ring the site where Canadians gathered to remember lost friends.

The storm cloud broke just after the troops - many from the hard-hit A Company of 2nd battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry - had paid their respects. They lined up before a simple wooden cross to pin the poppies they'd been wearing for days on to a single wreath.

Many fought tears, and some cried openly.

Pte. Mackenzie Haut, 21, of Edmonton, knew and looked up to four of the soldiers who have died in a costly fight against insurgents bent on overthrowing an elected government and expelling international forces.

"They were like big brothers," he said. "I was an only child growing up in my family. In the army, the camaraderie is a lot like a brotherhood." 
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Canadian Troops In Afghanistan Honour Fallen Comrades
Saturday November 11, 2006

It was an emotional day for Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan who paid tribute to their fallen comrades Saturday.
This Remembrance Day was particularly hard considering the number of Canadian lives lost during this mission - 42 soldiers and one diplomat have died since 2002 and 34 four of those troops were killed since March.

Many soldiers held back tears and others wept openly as they pinned poppies to a wreath before a simple wooden cross in a rainy Remembrance Day ceremony in Kandahar. Many of the soldiers were from the A Company of 2nd battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which has suffered many losses this year.

"They were like big brothers," Pte. Mackenzie Haut, 21, of Edmonton said. "I was an only child growing up in my family. In the army, the camaraderie is a lot like a brotherhood."

"It would be important to them to know that we can still be combat-effective and accomplish our missions without them. And then, when the mission's done, we can remember them and mourn in our own ways."

Sgt.-Maj. John Hooyer recited lines from "For the Fallen", written by British poet Laurence Binyon.

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."

He also urged his troops to remember and honour their fallen comrades, but also to maintain their resolve.
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Italy proposes international conference on Afghanistan
November 12, 2006         

Visiting Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema proposed Kabul on Saturday an international conference on Afghanistan be held to seek more support for this post-Taliban nation.

At a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta, D'Alema said "We feel the need of holding an international conference, during which the problems of terrorism, narcotics and reconstruction in Afghanistan should be discussed."

D'Alema brought forward this idea amid increasing militancy in this country, particularly in the southern and eastern regions and record opium production this year.

Such a conference, he added, would provide an important opportunity to discuss the achievements and problems in Afghanistan.

However, he did not suggest the time and place of the conference.

The Italian top diplomat stressed military actions alone cannot solve all problems in Afghanistan. "The international community ought to give more weight to non-military solutions in political and economic fields."

It would be the 4th international conference on Afghanistan if accepted by the world community.
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Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO review efforts against terrorism
Sunday, November 12, 2006 Staff Report

ISLAMABAD: The Tripartite Commission, comprising senior military representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, held their 19th Plenary Session in Kabul to review their cooperative efforts in the war on terror.

The commission also reviewed on Saturday plans to build a jointly staffed centre to share intelligence in the war on terror, said an official. Senior delegates included Afghanistan’s General Sher Karimi, Pakistan’s Major General Ahmad Shuja Pasha and ISAF’s General David Richards.

The agenda for the 19th meeting included reports from the Border Security Sub Committee, the Military Intelligence Sharing Working Group and the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device (C-IED) Working Group, said the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

In a significant development from previous meetings, a series of workshops was also conducted in which officers from all 3 delegations discussed information operations, cooperation to enhance the Afghan National Army’s ongoing operation OQAB, and ways in which the security forces of Afghanistan, Pakistan, ISAF and the Coalition could improve their long-term planning and cooperation.

Lieutenant General Karimi gave a presentation on Operation OQAB, the first ever Afghan-wide joint security operation involving all branches of the Afghan National Army and Police with the support of the ISAF. The operation is already underway, intelligence-led, and aims to disrupt insurgents plans over the winter and spring months to allow reconstruction and development to begin in selected areas. “The operation will also involve close cooperation with the Pakistan Army,” said the ISPR.
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General says troops in Afghanistan preserve freedom
By Associated Press Saturday, November 11, 2006 - Updated: 11:53 AM EST

BAGRAM, Afghanistan- Hundreds of U.S. troops paused to observe Veterans Day at the largest American military base in Afghanistan.

    Their commander, Major General Benjamin Freakley, thanked the troops, telling them they are working to protect American freedom just as troops did in World War Two.

    He said veterans “have earned this day” because they have sacrificed for the sake of freedom and peace.

    About 20,000 American troops serve in Afghanistan, with 12,000 serving under NATO.

    At least 288 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan since 2001.
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Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO review joint intelligence centre
(AFP) 11 November 2006

KABUL - Military commanders from Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO reviewed plans Saturday to build a jointly staffed centre to share intelligence in their battle against extremist militants, an official said.

The commanders were in Kabul for the 19th meeting between the three forces that are together fighting unrest that spans the Afghan and Pakistan border and involves Islamist groups such as the Taleban and Al Qaeda.

Part of their discussions focussed on a planned joint military intelligence sharing centre expected to be based in the Afghan capital, an official with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force told AFP.

The centre will be staffed by Afghan, Pakistani and ISAF officials and will ‘work to understand what information can quickly be shared in a mutually beneficial fashion,’ he said.

The meeting -- led by Afghanistan’s General Sher Karimi, Pakistan’s Major General Ahmad Shuja Pasha and ISAF’s General David Richards -- also heard reports on border security and efforts to counter improvised bombs regularly used by the rebels.

The Taleban were in government from 1996 until 2001, when they fled the capital on November 12 after an offensive led by the United States and involving Afghan resistance factions now in the new government.

Members of the extremist group and their Al Qaeda allies fled across the border into Pakistan from where Afghan and international officials allege they are directing an insurgency against the current administration and its international allies.
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Enemies Seek Insecurity, Instability in Afghanistan

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stressed that enemies of regional nations are seeking instability and insecurity in Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by the Presidential Press Office, Ahmadinejad made the remarks in a meeting with the speakers of Afghanistan's Senate and National Consultative Assembly.

Also during the meeting, Ahmadinejad stressed that efforts by some hegemonic countries to insecure the world are destined to failure, adding that establishment of security and progress in any of the regional states serves the interests of that given nation and all the other countries in the region.

Noting the campaigns and struggles waged by the Afghan people against colonialist and bullying powers in recent decades, the President described Afghans as a courageous and resistant nation, and called on the government and parliament of that country to provide their nation with security and prosperity through unity and solidarity.
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Navy ship weapons may boost Afghan cache
Guns to defend against mortars, rockets

David ********, Ottawa Citizen, 11 Oct 06
Article Link

Canadian military planners are looking at stripping weapons off the navy's ships so they can be sent to Afghanistan and be used to destroy incoming mortar shells and rockets.  The proposal would see a number of the 20mm Gatling guns, used to protect Canada's warships against missiles and seaborne suicide bombers, removed and sent to Kandahar, according to defence sources. The guns, outfitted with a specialized tracking radar, are capable of firing 4,500 bullets a minute, which can shred an incoming warhead.  Canadian planners are now examining whether it is feasible to follow through with the idea to use the navy's Phalanx Close-In Weapons System, better known as CIWS ....

Canadian troops needed past '09, Afghan official says 
Andrew Thomson, Ottawa Citizen, 12 Nov 06
Article Link

Canada's military presence in southern Afghanistan needs to extend past the current February 2009 deadline, that country's first post-Taliban finance minister said Saturday.  Ashraf Ghani, a recent candidate for the post of UN secretary-general, served in President Hamid Karzai's cabinet from 2002 to 2004. During a visit to Ottawa he praised Canadian military, diplomatic and development efforts _ including recent pressure on NATO allies to increase their commitment.  "You cannot surrender the south," said Ghani, 57, now the chancellor of Kabul University. "Once you've started fighting you cannot leave without securing victory." ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Taliban fighters talk tactics - while safe in Pakistan
Suzanna Koster, Christian Science Monitor, 9 Nov 06
Article Link

The 22-year-old doesn't look like the traditional turbaned Taliban commander. His black hair shoots out at all angles from beneath a red cap. He smiles easily and has a neatly trimmed beard.  But Hilal says he is the co-leader of 200 Taliban fighters who operate across the border in Afghanistan. "Two years ago, we only attacked Afghan officials, but now we have so many Talibs that we can attack Americans," he boasts.  In a rare interview with a Western reporter, Hilal and three other Afghan Taliban fighters describe how they slip into Afghanistan, attack NATO and Afghan forces, and return to Pakistan to rest.  "Everybody in the neighborhood knows we are Talibs," says Noman, a 19-year-old fighter with a blue-white block-printed turban. "Pakistan is a little bit free for us." ....

UN urged to act over Afghanistan 
Matt Prodger, BBC News, 10 Nov 06
Article Link

Human Rights Watch has urged the United Nations to address the situation in Afghanistan where more than 3,000 people have died in fighting this year. At least 1,000 civilians were killed in the country's south alone, HRW said in a letter to a Security Council fact-finding team. Fighting and drought had displaced 80,000 people in the region, it said ....

Afghanistan: Security Council Upcoming Mission
Human Rights Watch (HRW) letter, HRW web page, 9 Nov 06

The deteriorating human rights situation throughout Afghanistan warrants immediate attention and action by the United Nations. Human Rights Watch believes the Security Council’s upcoming fact-finding mission to Afghanistan can help improve conditions by demonstrating the United Nation’s ongoing commitment to the well-being of all Afghans.  2006 has been the bloodiest year for Afghans since the United States and its allies helped oust the Taliban from power. Southern Afghanistan has degenerated into open warfare, placing Afghan civilians at risk of direct injury, both by insurgent forces, and, tragically, the international forces supposed to be protecting Afghans. This fighting has halted much needed development activity and has reversed some of the modest gains made in the Taliban’s absence, such as returning children, particularly girls, to school ....

UN says Afghanistan still faces 'daunting challenges'
Dose.ca, 12 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghanistan faces "daunting challenges" five years after the fall of the Taliban, chief among them a bloody insurgency, a UN Security Council team said Sunday, renewing its commitment to help.  The 10-country delegation, which arrived Saturday on a four-day tour of Afghanistan, addressed the media after talks with President Hamid Karzai and other officials.  The delegates also attended Sunday a meeting of the government and its international partners that was told economic development in the war-torn country had been slower than expected in part because of the violence ....

AFGHANISTAN: Lethal floods strike the east
United Nations, Integrated Regional Information Networks, 10 Nov 06
Article Link

At least four people have been killed and five others are missing after flash floods, triggered by torrential rains, hit the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Friday.  “Early this morning in the Behsoud district of Nangarhar province, severe flooding occurred and we can confirm that four people were killed as a result and five are currently missing, many others have been injured,” Dan McNorton, a public information officer with UNAMA, told IRIN in Kabul ....

Canada mentors Afghan troops battling faulty weapons and inexperience
Sue Bailey, Canadian Press, 12 Nov 06
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Lt.-Col. Sheren Sha is a battle-weary Afghan battalion commander who towers over most of his troops and doesn't mince words.  "They're going to die," he said when asked his top concern for fresh recruits newly arrived in Panjwaii from training in Kabul, the capital.  Days after graduating from 16 weeks of instruction, including field drills overseen by Canadians, the new Afghan National Army soldiers find themselves in a hot zone dreaded by veterans.  "It's like expecting a newborn baby to eat, walk and talk," Sha said in an interview.  A world-class soldier needs specific military training, with emphasis on strategy and knowledge of the latest technology. Education is the key, he says. Most Afghan soldiers are illiterate, adding to steep challenges faced by NATO troops helping to prepare and mentor new recruits ....

Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan quadrupled: report
CBC Online, 12 Nov 06
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The number of attacks by militants in Afghanistan has quadrupled since 2005, to about 600 a month with 3,700 deaths so far this year, says a bleak report released Sunday.  Afghanistan saw about 130 insurgent attacks a month in 2005, said the report by the Joint Co-ordination and Monitoring Board, a body of Afghan and international officials charged with overseeing the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year reconstruction and development blueprint signed in February.  But by the end of September 2006, insurgents were launching more than 600 attacks a month, up from 300 a month at the end of March, the report said. The violence has killed more than 3,700 people this year, it said.  In the volatile border area near Pakistan, more than 20 militants — and possibly as many as 60 — were killed during several days of clashes, officials said Sunday ....

Former freedom fighter wants Afghan people to speak out against Taliban
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 12 Nov 06
Article Link

The people of Afghanistan will continue to be terrorized by the Taliban until they learn to stand together against the terrorist group, a former freedom fighter said Sunday. And support for Canadian and NATO troops in the country is higher than critics would suggest, argued Neamat Arghandabi, leader of the National Islamic Society of Afghan Youth.  "The only thing is they're silent-they're the quiet majority because if they express their support then they're dead people," Arghandabi said in an interview with The Canadian Press. "Many people appreciate (Canada's) presence in Kandahar but they can't say so publicly because they're afraid. This is what terrorism is all about-to scare you off because they can come in the night and kill you because you told the media you like the Canadian presence here," he added ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

'Die-hard Taliban will have to be eliminated'
Sean Rayment, Telegraph (UK), 12 Nov 06
Article Link

All "hardcore" Taliban fighters will have to be killed or captured before peace in Afghanistan can finally be declared, the commander of British forces there believes.  Brigadier Jerry Thomas, in charge of the 4,200 strong United Kingdom Task Force based in Helmand province, said that a small core of "ideological" Taliban was fuelling the insurgency. The Brigadier, who has been in command of the force for just four weeks, said that a "cadre" of Taliban fighters would have to be dealt with. If they attacked British forces they would be "engaged and killed".  Speaking at Kandahar Air Base, Brig Thomas said: "The hardcore Taliban, in my view, are probably irreconcilable and therefore you have to deal with them as irreconcilable people. If they fight us, we will fight them and we will use all of the forces at our disposal to make sure they are defeated ....

Taliban insurgency major Afghan challenge: UN team
Reuters, 12 Nov 06
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Afghanistan's biggest challenge remains the Taliban insurgency, the head of a visiting U.N. mission said on Sunday on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of the Taliban's puritanical Islamist government.  The intensity of the Taliban's fightback this year has surprised        NATO and U.S.-led troops in the bloodiest year since the group's ouster in 2001. More than 3,100 people, a third of them civilians, have died so far this year.  "I think the single most important challenge facing this country is insurgency, fighting the Taliban insurgency," Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima told a news conference in Kabul after talks with government officials ....

UNSC delegation discusses security, other issues with Afghan leader
Kuwait News Agency, 12 Nov 06
Article Link

A high-level UN Security Council delegation on Sunday called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai and discussed with him a vast range of issues with the deteriorating security situation, poppy cultivation and reconstruction process on top.  The high-level delegation is headed by Japan ambassador to the United Nations Kinzo Oshima and its other members included representatives of the United States, Britain, France, Denmark, Argentina, Greece, Qatar, Russia and Slovakia.  The delegation will stay for four days in Afghanistan to review the security and reconstruction and apprise itself of various problems faced by the Afghan government and the people ....

Sunday Mirror (UK), 12 Nov 06
Article Link

A CHINOOK helicopter which is so old it flew in the Falklands War is being sent into battle in Afghanistan. The 25-year-old aircraft was brought as chiefs were desperate for extra choppers to support troops.  Now it is used to ferry hundreds of Royal Marine Commandos across Helmand Province while they fight the Taliban.  The Bravo November aircraft was the only Chinook to survive an horrific attack in the Falklands conflict in 1982 ....

Policy Stops E-Mails To Son In Afghanistan
Associated Press, 12 Nov 06
Article Link

With her son deployed with the military in Afghanistan, Sheila Chunis finds peace of mind with each e-mail he sends her.  It's a cyber chat she looks forward to every day. Because of the 10-hour time difference, she's at her work computer about the same time he comes off duty and sends her a message.  But Chunis, an employee at the state Department of Social Service, has been threatened with disciplinary action if she continues to read her son's e-mails on state time because of a government policy on computer use.  “I feel like he's a member of the state militia, and in effect a state employee, so why can't I send him an e-mail?” Chunis said ....

Articles found 13 November 2006

Senior al-Qaeda member caught in Afghanistan
Last Updated: Monday, November 13, 2006 | 6:25 AM ET CBC News

A man reported to be a senior member of al-Qaeda who escaped from a U.S. prison last year has been arrested in southeastern Afghanistan by U.S. and Afghan forces, an Afghan provincial police chief said on Monday.

U.S. and Afghan forces arrested six people on Thursday in the city of Khost, said Mohammad Ayub, the provincial police chief. He said the four Afghans, an Arab and a Pakistani are being held by U.S. forces.

In a report by Pakistan's daily The News, one of those arrested was Abu Nasir al-Qahtani. He is one of four Arab al-Qaeda members to have escaped from a U.S. prison in July 2005 in Bagram, about 60 kilometres northwest of Kabul.

"I'm not sure if this Arab is the one of the four Arabs who escaped from Bagram last year, but what I can tell you is that he is an important al-Qaeda member," Ayub said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick declined to identify the arrested al-Qaeda operative.

Last week, coalition forces said a "known al-Qaeda terrorist" and five other extremists had been arrested on Nov. 6 near Khost.

Officials said the detainee has "known ties to al-Qaeda leadership," and was detained with Saudi and Pakistani nationals.
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EU Debates Role in Afghanistan

European Union foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels today are expected to engage in a heated debate about the 25-member bloc’s future role in Afghanistan.

Before the meeting, the NATO general secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer sharply criticized the European Union of doing too little to help the reconstruction process in Afghanistan.

"The solution is not a military one. The solution is called development," he said.

The transatlantic alliance is fighting an uphill battle to get Taliban insurgents under control in the extremely shaky south of the strife-torn country.

At the same time it’s becoming more and more obvious that reconstruction and institution building efforts have so far failed to stabilize Afghanistan.

Germany wants NATO and EU to work together

For the German government, the key issue is how to better coordinate efforts on the ground. The German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for closer cooperation between the European Union and NATO. She said the situation needed "a combination of military, humanitarian and reconstruction aid."
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Qanouni Calls for Afghanistan's Permanent Membership in AAPP

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Afghan Parliament Speaker, Younes Qanouni applied for the permanent membership of his country in the Association of Asian Parliaments.

Addressing the 7th Conference of the General Assembly of Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP) here in Tehran Sunday afternoon, the Afghan top legislative official said justice and peace in the relations of a group of closely tied states could bring about stability and development in the world.

"Justice means balanced relations based on joint regional interests and sustainable peace, and Tehran conference can produce good results in this ground," he continued.

Describing his country as a victim of terrorism and international Mafia, he termed security one of the main factors contributing to the regional states' progress and success.

The lawmaker also stressed Afghanistan's profound belief in the reinvigoration of legal bodies, development of political, economic and scientific cooperation and dialogue in the international arena.

He said Asia is in dire need of peace, stability and development, reminding that achievement of understanding requires confidence building and development of mutual relations.

He also criticized some countries which seek their stability and security in the insecurity and instability of other states, and further expressed the hope that the Tehran conference would be a proper opportunity for discussions about common fundamental issues which contribute to the fate of Asia.
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60 rebels killed in Afghanistan

KABUL: A NATO and Afghan operation that ended on Sunday killed more than 60 Taliban-linked rebels over six days, a provincial governor said, adding that Chechen and Arab fighters were among the dead.

The operation was near the border with Pakistan in the province of Paktika, which has recently seen significant security force action against militants, some of whom have admitted to infiltrating from across the border. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed it had been involved in the operation in Barmal district of Paktika. While it did not have an assessment of the casualties, it did not dispute the Afghan official’s figures, spokesman Major Luke Knittig said. “Over 60 Taliban have been killed in operations launched six days ago that ended today,” Paktika governor Muhammad Akram Khoplwak told AFP. ISAF troops and air power assisted the local forces, he said.

The number of dead was estimated from surveillance and from bodies left behind after the clashes, he said. “There were Arabs and Chechens and other foreign fighters among those killed. A number of weapons and missiles have been seized,” Khoplwak said. Afghanistan suffers more than 600 cases of terrorist or insurgent-related violence a month, a fourfold increase from last year, according to a report released Sunday. The report came as 20 Taliban militants were killed in the latest fighting in eastern Afghanistan, an official said. The report by the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, which consists of representatives from Afghanistan and the international community, said Afghanistan was experiencing more than 600 security incidents a month as of the end of September, up from 300 a month at the end of March. agencies

Farewell to Afghanistan: A Failed State Fails With Our Help

Remember Afghanistan? As we celebrate the transfer of power in the Capitol, let's remember that we are losing two wars simultaneously: one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan. The reasons for the failures are linked in that surely the invasion of Iraq has totally distracted not just the military from Afghanistan, but the entire American political elite.

We must recall that in the immediate wake of 11 September 2001, an immensely popular President Bush called for the toppling of the Taliban government, which was completed five years ago, with a few troops and relatively little loss of life. The US led the world in pledging to make Afghanistan a modern state, replete with the physical and political infrastructure that embeds democracy. For a time, that seemed possible. But within months, war plans for Iraq preoccupied our military and within a year Afghanistan disappeared from political view. Osama bin Laden was forgotten as was all of Afghanistan.

Perhaps the saddest chapter of the Bush presidency will be written in the anonymous blood of American soldiers who died determined to build a free Afghanistan, but whose memory now is soiled by the Bush ideology of global dominion rather than global peace. America voted Tuesday to leave Iraq. America also voted for sanity. As committees are assigned, defense secretaries replaced and perspective partially restored, let us not forget that the terror emanated from Afghanistan and it likely could have ended there. Instead, we face an eerie and spectacularly similar fate to the Soviets who invaded Afghanistan in 1979, only to find ten years later that they had lost an empire by overreaching.
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Portraits of Afghanistan
Five years after the Taliban's fall, much of the country is in the grip of violence. But some Afghans have seen their lives transformed
By Justin Huggler Published: 13 November 2006

Kubra, 38, Teacher

Kubra looks far older than her 38 years. Like the other women in her village, her life has been hard and as mother to 12 children - five daughters and seven sons - there has been the added burden and stress of bringing them up during 25 years of constant insecurity and the turmoil of war. "I lived in five different villages in just seven years. Later, under the Taliban, some of my sons fled to Iran. My husband is a farmer." Her four youngest children, two sons and two daughters, are going to school - an opportunity her other children and she never had. Kubra is the only cash bread-winner for the family. Before, she was earning between 30 and 50 Afghanis a day as a tailor (35p-60p), but now her salary has increased as she is employed under the National Solidarity Programme as a tailoring teacher for village women.

"This is a time of lots of improvements in my life. When I'm working, I feel very happy. Security is very good, there is electricity and they have brought sewing machines for us - the women want the project to continue."

Kubra prefers not to think about a return to anarchy. "If the NGOs didn't help us we would die - I mean, now we have a clinic and when we get we can get help. Most important for her are the new freedoms in her life and her hope that Afghanistan "will be good again like other countries".
Rohgul Walidzada, 38, Organiser, Local Politician

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Insurgent attacks in Afghanistan quadrupled: report
Last Updated: Sunday, November 12, 2006 | 4:41 PM ET The Associated Press

The number of attacks by militants in Afghanistan has quadrupled since 2005, to about 600 a month with 3,700 deaths so far this year, says a bleak report released Sunday.

Afghanistan saw about 130 insurgent attacks a month in 2005, said the report by the Joint Co-ordination and Monitoring Board, a body of Afghan and international officials charged with overseeing the implementation of the Afghanistan Compact, a five-year reconstruction and development blueprint signed in February.

But by the end of September 2006, insurgents were launching more than 600 attacks a month, up from 300 a month at the end of March, the report said. The violence has killed more than 3,700 people this year, it said.

In the volatile border area near Pakistan, more than 20 militants — and possibly as many as 60 — were killed during several days of clashes, officials said Sunday.

Drug trade fuels insurgency

The violence "threatens to reverse some of the gains made in the recent past, with development activities being especially hard hit in several areas, resulting in partial or total withdrawal of international agencies in a number of the worst-affected provinces," the report said.
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Opposition MPs say G-G should visit Kandahar
Peter O'Neil, CanWest News Service/Vancouver Sun, 13 Nov 06
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Canada's embattled troops in Afghanistan need to see their commander-in-chief, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean, who has never set foot in the country since taking the vice-regal post more than a year ago, say two opposition MPs.  Jean told Gen. Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff, in early 2006 that she wanted to visit the troops in Kandahar, witness some of the provincial reconstruction teams at work outside the Canadian base and meet with local citizens.  But the trip still hasn't been arranged due to security concerns, even though Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay and Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor have all met the troops in Kandahar, as have professional entertainers, retired soldiers, and business people ....

Kandahar PRT helps refurbish school in Panjwayi Bazaar
ISAF News Release #2006-279, 13 Nov 06
News Release

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Last week, the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) completed work on a $30,000 project to repair and improve the Shams-E-Dinkar High School in Panjwayi Bazaar.  The school re-opened on Saturday for its 900 students following its temporary closure due to recent operations against insurgents in the Panjwayi district. Its reopening is a measure of the improved security in the district and the ongoing commitment of ISAF to reconstruction and development as part of the wider Operation OQAB.  A local contractor, employing workers from Panjwayi Bazaar, completed the construction work. Repairs to the school included new windows and doors and the reconstruction of concrete paths. Improvements were also made to the school’s plumbing as well as the installation of new sinks and toilets. Commenting on the repairs, PRT Warrant Officer Dean Henley said, “they will make things better and easier for the kids who go to school here.” 
Speaking to the community’s assembled elders at the school, PRT Deputy Commander Major Steve Murray said, “The people of Panjwayi can be proud of this, because this is their achievement. The elders of Panjwayi recognize that education is important and placed a priority on the school. The people in Panjwayi were employed to make the repairs and improvements, and, as a result, on Saturday the children returned to school.”  The PRT also provided 1,300 backpacks for the students, each containing school supplies such as notebooks, pens and pencils.

More News on CAN in AFG here

As Taliban insurgency gains strength and sophistication, suspicion falls on Pakistan
Five years on, more than 4,000 killed in succession of attacks and suicide bombings in Afghanistan

Declan Walsh, The Guardian (UK), 13 Nov 06
Article Link

Five years ago today the Taliban vanished from Kabul and a liberated city exploded with joy. As the turbaned Islamists scurried, whooping residents rushed on to the streets. Men queued to have their beards shaved, some women removed their burkas and Radio Kabul played music for the first time in years - announced by a woman. There was savage vengeance too - some Taliban stragglers were lynched and dumped on the roadside.  But not everyone was celebrating. Sultan Amir, a Pakistani intelligence agent who helped to propel the Taliban to power, watched in dismay ....

NATO Chief: Afghanistan Needs More Foreign Aid
Dow Jones news wire, 13 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghanistan needs a stronger flow of international aid and its government must root out corruption to build on the country's progress since the fall of the Taliban five years ago, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said in remarks published Monday.  Secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also repeated his call for NATO members such as France and Germany to drop restrictions that keep their troops out of the war against resurgent Taliban militants.  Fighting is intensifying in southern Afghanistan, where local leaders complain that international aid has been too little to strengthen faith in President Hamid Karzai's government or replace drug cultivation.  In an article for the German newspaper Berliner Zeitung on the fifth anniversary of the Taliban's retreat from Kabul, de Hoop Scheffer pointed to improvements in areas including the economy, women's rights and access to health and education ....

Human security key to Afghan future, aid agencies advise UN Security Council
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), 13 Nov 06
Summary - Norwegian Refugee Council

On the anniversary of the fall of the Taliban exactly five years ago today, member agencies of the peak aid agency coordinating body here (ACBAR) met with the President of the United Nations Security Council and UN Member State ambassadors currently in country investigating the 'situation in Afghanistan'. Aid agencies expressed their collective concerns over a spiraling cycle of violence; insufficient peace and reconstruction strategies; and ongoing human rights violations and abuses. They shared their concerns that the international community has had five years to bring sustainable 'peace dividends' but has over-relied on military and related solutions ....

EU could add more value in Afghanistan
Ministry of Defence web page (UK), 13 Nov 06

UK Defence Secretary Des Browne called for the EU to work more effectively with international partners in Afghanistan at a meeting of Defence Ministers in Brussels today. Mr Browne praised the crucial support role the EU has recently played in support of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but said that there was still a need for greater cooperation between NATO, the UN and the EU.  Mr Browne said:  "There is scope for the EU to reinforce and reinvigorate civilian work on the rule of law in Afghanistan. I want to see it make more of a contribution in this area by working more closely with international partners and complementing efforts already in place. We have made good progress towards a more joined-up EU approach, but we still have a long way to go."  Mr Browne said that the mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in support of a UN force, is a prime example of the EU responding to a call from the broader international community and adding real value at a critical moment ....

Major article in LA Times:

Afghan army could help unify a nation
Afghanistan hopes its nascent force, made up of all ethnic groups, can be a unifying institution. But can it defend the nation without the U.S.?

By David Zucchino, TIMES STAFF WRITER, November 13, 2006

THE commander of Afghan troops confronting the Taliban here is a career officer with a clipped gray beard and a formal bearing who once fought for a Soviet-backed puppet government. His deputy is his former enemy.

Many of their soldiers fought for or against the Russians, against the Taliban or for various warlords — except those so young they had never picked up a rifle.

From this unwieldy mix, the U.S. military and the Afghan government are attempting to create something Afghanistan has never had: a national army that is made up of all the country's ethnic groups and represents a unified central government...

Officers of the new Afghan army know that the Taliban hold will not be broken until they can establish enough security for the government to provide essential services. Until they do, U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces won't be able to go home.

But with fighting escalating and the Afghan army entirely dependent on the U.S. military, the day when foreign troops can leave seems a long way off.

The army is important for reasons beyond security. Afghanistan has no unifying institutions. The government of President Hamid Karzai controls Kabul but little else. The national police force is notoriously corrupt and, in the hinterlands, often loyal to warlords or opium merchants.

Instilling loyalty to the national government will require changing the nature of Afghanistan. The army is a place to start...

Asadullah Jalal Abad, 19, a fresh-faced Pashtun from a rural eastern village, said he signed on because he was tired of working as a day laborer in Pakistan. But he also wants to serve his country by providing security for all of its ethnic groups, he said.

"In my village, people want the army to come there. They know it serves everybody, not just one tribe," Abad said the day he arrived at the Kabul training center, where he was eager to learn how to fire a rifle...

Asadullah Jalal Abad, 19, a fresh-faced Pashtun from a rural eastern village, said he signed on because he was tired of working as a day laborer in Pakistan. But he also wants to serve his country by providing security for all of its ethnic groups, he said.

Lyagat said he had assumed that units were segregated by ethnic group but was pleased to learn that he would not be serving strictly with Pashtuns.

"I found out it's not the Pashtun army or the Tajik army," he said. "It's the national army." [my emphasis]

CP story:

Survival odds slim for inexperienced Afghan troops, commander says
By SUE BAILEY The Canadian Press, Nov. 13

Lt.-Col. Sheren Sha is a battle-weary Afghan battalion commander who towers over most of his troops and doesn’t mince words.

"They’re going to die," he said when asked his top concern for fresh recruits newly arrived in Panjwaii from training in Kabul, the capital.

Days after graduating from 16 weeks of instruction, including field drills overseen by Canadians, the new Afghan National Army soldiers find themselves in a hot zone dreaded by veterans...

...Education is the key, he says. Most Afghan soldiers are illiterate, adding to steep challenges faced by NATO troops helping to prepare and mentor new recruits.

They also need modern, dependable equipment, Sha said. Instead, his troops rely on faulty second-hand AK-47s. They have few flak jackets, and pile into the backs of unarmoured pickup trucks to get around.

"They can go for days in the field without water and for even longer without food," Sha said through a translator. "But if they shoot off a few rounds and their weapon jams, they’ll die."

Nineteen members of his battalion have been killed in the last three years, and another 40 wounded, Sha said. Too often, their weapons failed them...

International forces must do more to help, Sha says. The fledgling Afghan government can only draw so much military support from a weak economy. Armies are expensive, especially one that has to be crafted almost from scratch after the Taliban’s rule. Many soldiers and officers fled the country during the hardline Islamic militia’s reign.

The ultimate goal is to rebuild an Afghan national force of 70,000 by 2009. More than 30,000 Afghans, including a handful of women, have graduated from the main training centre in the Afghan capital since 2002...

And another major LA Times article on Pres. Karzai and the political situation:

Steering his nation without a rudder
Afghanistan's Karzai faces disaffection in a nation hungry for progress. Many see him as a shadow of a president, and they fear a slide back to the Taliban.

By Paul Watson, Times Staff Writer, November 12, 2006

NATO countries must deploy more troops to Afghanistan, assembly told
Martin Ouellet, Canadian Press, 13 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO member countries need to deploy more troops to Afghanistan to stabilize the troubled region, said parliamentarians who are meeting in Quebec City.  The 18,000-soldier contingent needs to be increased by 15 to 20 per cent, said Senator Pierre Claude Nolin, vice-president of NATO's parliamentary assembly. The reinforcements can't come from Canada, said the Conservative senator.  With more than 2,000 soldiers currently stationed in Afghanistan, Canada has already done its part, he said.  Nolin said the ball is now in the court of the 25 other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It's not the first time the point has been pressed to the organization but there have been few takers.  The Afghanistan situation and the NATO mission is at the heart of the discussions by about 300 members of the NATO parliamentary assembly which is meeting in Quebec City in its 52nd session until Friday ....

German chancellor rejects sending troops to Afghan hotspots
People's Daily Online (CHN), 14 Nov 06
Article Link

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday ruled out sending German troops to the more volatile regions in southern Afghanistan despite growing international pressure. "Germany has a strong presence in Afghanistan. We have taken responsibility for the North," Merkel said on Monday after meeting New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark in Berlin. "We have a mandate that allows us in emergencies to help in the south but we believe this mandate should not be altered," she added. About 2,800 German soldiers were stationed in the relatively stable northern part of Afghanistan, though the United States and Britain have been urging Berlin to send soldiers to the more dangerous southern part ....

Wounded soldier still focused on his comrades overseas
Ronald Zajac, Brockville Recorder, 13 Nov 06
Article Link

Corporal Bruce Legree has a hard time considering himself a veteran - or a hero.  And while the 21-year-old Smiths Falls native, who was recently wounded in the battle against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, is entitled to carry both those honorifics, he prefers to focus on his comrades still fighting overseas.  "My support is still with all the guys who are back there right now," he said during a brief interview at the Brockville Armoury after Saturday's Remembrance Day ceremony.  "That's who you should be thinking about."  Legree, a member of the Brockville Rifles, was augmented to 1 RCR Bravo Company (the Royal Canadian Regiment) in Petawawa and left in early August for a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan.  He joined Operation Medusa, a Canadian-led offensive that began on September 2 and sought to root out Taliban insurgents in Kandahar Province, in particular the town of Panjwayi ....

The Written Word: Rafe Mair Nov.14th
Opinion250.com, 14 Nov 06
Article Link

Canadians, especially in BC and Quebec, aren’t wild about Canada having a military presence in Afghanistan. Our brave soldiers are being killed and wounded and we mourn nationally. But those who oppose our being there, especially the national windbag, Jack Layton, misunderstand why we are there.
This is not Iraq, a military misadventure by the United States, the UK, Australia and others ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Grand Pak-Afghan jirga signs MoU for settling issues
Daily Times (PAK), 14 Nov 06
Article Link

A grand jirga consisting of government officials of Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to settle all outstanding issues, such as cross border infiltration, by negotiation. The Pakistani side, led by Chitral District Nazim Sartaj Ahmad Khan, consisted of Chitral union council nazims and a number of notables of the area. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by Sartaj Ahmad and Lali Ameer, a member of the Afghan provincial assembly. Earlier, both delegations had met at the Pak-Afghan border and discussed issues such as law and order in border areas. A function was also held on the occasion. Sartaj Ahmad said that Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially Chitral, shared a common history, religion and culture. He said that both countries should work to bring peace in the region and not allow their territory to be used for activities against each other ....

Afghan insurgence kills over 3,700 this year: report
People's Daily Online (CHN), 14 Nov 06
Article Link

Rising violence in Afghanistan has killed over 3,700 people this year, a rate fourfold greater than last year, said a report on Monday.  The report, released by Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), said the insurgents and terrorist-related security incidents in this country have increased from less than 300 per month by end-March 2006 to over 600 per month by end-September, compared with average of approximately 130 per month in 2005.  The JCMB, which consists of 28 Afghan and international officials, is charged with overseeing the implementation of a five- year blue print for Afghan reconstruction signed in February ....

Third Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board Meeting 
Government of Afghanistan web page, 12 Nov 06
Links to Different Sections of Report
Benchmark Report - shows what was expected, what's been done, and why the gap (.pdf)

A meeting of the Joint Monitoring and Coordination Board (JCMB) took place on 12 November in Kabul . The JCMB oversees implementation of the goals set out in the Afghanistan Compact (the five-year blueprint for reconstruction of the country).  The meeting brought together Afghan Government officials, representatives of international organizations and donor countries, as well as other development partners. UN Security Council members attended the morning session of the meeting.  This was the third meeting of the JCMB since the Afghanistan Compact was signed in February 2006 at the London Conference.

Afghan Suicide Attacks Linked to Pakistan
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, 13 Nov 06
Article Link
NY Times login codes, if needed

Afghan and NATO security forces have recently rounded up several men like Hafez Daoud Shah, a 21-year-old unemployed Afghan refugee who says he drove across the border to Afghanistan in September in a taxi with three other would-be suicide bombers.  Every case, Afghan security officials say, is similar to that of Mr. Shah, who repeated his story in a rare jailhouse interview with a journalist in Kabul, the Afghan capital. The trail of organizing, financing and recruiting the bombers who have carried out a rising number of suicide attacks in Afghanistan traces back to Pakistan, they say.  “Every single bomber or I.E.D. in one way or another is linked to Pakistan,” a senior Afghan intelligence official said, referring to improvised explosive devices liked roadside bombs. “Their reasons are to keep Afghanistan destabilized, to make us fail, and to keep us fragmented.” He would speak on the subject only if he was not identified ....

Articles found 14 November 2006

O'Connor hopes to boost support
Defence minister to kick off speaking tour
Canada also trying to get NATO allies to take bigger role
Article Link

OTTAWA—The federal government looks to bolster its Afghan mission on two fronts this week, with some backroom arm-twisting urging allies abroad to pony up more troops and a sales pitch to Canadians at home to boost support.

With polls showing Canadians divided on the merits of the Afghan mission that has killed 43 Canadians so far, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor kicks off a cross-country speaking tour today in Vancouver.

In his speeches, O'Connor will explain the mission of Canada's 2,500 troops in Afghanistan.

"When Canadians find out what we are doing in Afghanistan ... they're more supportive of this mission," a senior department official said yesterday. "He (O'Connor) will give examples of the progress we are making."

O'Connor will deliver his speech in Toronto on Thursday.
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Make peace with the Taliban, village elders tell UN
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 | 12:37 PM ET CBC News 
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Some village elders told visiting United Nations officials in Afghanistan on Tuesday that the international community should make peace with the Taliban and focus all of its efforts and money on rebuilding the country's infrastructure.

A select group of Afghans met a UN Security Council delegation in the village of Qalat in the volatile southern province of Zabul.

The delegation has been in Afghanistan since Saturday to review the progress and challenges facing the country. It plans to visit provincial cities in the north and south.

Kenzo Oshima, Japan's ambassador to the UN and head of the delegation, told the crowd of elders that the ongoing war against the militants will be won and the UN will stand by Afghanistan as it works to rebuild.

"The United Nations is determined not to fail in Afghanistan," he said. "We would like you to know that the United Nations stands with you."

Oshima said violence, poverty and illiteracy continue to plague Afghanistan, but the international community will help the country overcome these problems.
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War's Toll
During her six weeks in Afghanistan, the Herald's Renata D'Aliesio witnessed the impact of war on Canadian soldiers
Renata D'aliesio Calgary Herald Sunday, November 12, 2006
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Daylight is fading when the padre drops by a farm field bulldozed to sand. He wants to know how the boys from 'A' Company are doing. He has letters from home, the kind written by schoolchildren that begin with: "Dear Canadian soldiers."

Lt. Zbigniew Jonczyk offers words of encouragement, hope and faith -- and pictures of angels.

"Would you like one of St. Michael?" he asks Sgt. Dan Holley's crew.

St. Michael the Archangel, patron saint of war, was a force for good in an epic battle against evil. Centuries of soldiers have prayed to him.

St. Michael finds a home in Holley's armoured vehicle, the angel's picture placed near a homemade noose. Life dangling by a thread next to death.

Knotted from army-green rope, only a Barbie doll's head could fit through the loop. There are days, though, when it feels as if it's wrapped around their necks, squeezing, trying to break the souls of Canadian soldiers fighting in Kandahar.

The nearly 130 soldiers from A Company knew they were in for a fight when they arrived in early August, but never thought the battles with the Taliban would be so intense, so constant, or so deadly.

Within days they lost their first man, a father of three killed when a rifle accidentally went off. Thirteen days later, a suicide bomber took out another, a corporal who dreamed about a career in the military since he was a kid.

These deaths were only the beginning. In my six weeks in Kandahar, 10 more soldiers would die and an untold number injured. A Company, in particular, would suffer greatly.

Kandahar is unlike any mission the Canadian military has embarked on for half a century. The soldiers here now have done more killing, and more dying, than any Canadians since the Korean War. Officially, the wounded are barely spoken of, but their mounting numbers -- nearly 200 this year -- and the severity of their injuries are startling.

Take Sgt. Chris Desjardins for instance.

From B1

If Desjardins were to stand on his left leg today, he would collapse. It will be about a year before the shattered pieces of bone between his left hip and knee take shape around a titanium nail surgically placed in his femur.

At least he's home alive, his wife thinks. She's five months pregnant with their first child. Not all of the men who stood alongside Desjardins on the September morning a suicide bomber struck were so lucky.
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Ashamed of corruption, Afghan offers to quit
Customs chief says it's impossible to stay on in job
GRAEME SMITH  From Monday's Globe and Mail
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KANDAHAR — Kandahar's director of customs has threatened to resign, saying he feels ashamed of the corruption in his own office and the entire government of Afghanistan.

Azizullah Sakzai, 44, controlled a major source of government revenue during his three years as customs chief, as his outpost on the highway near the eastern edge of Kandahar city collected millions of dollars every year from trucks passing along the busy southern trade routes.

Those revenues were often caught in political tugs-of-war between Afghanistan's top power brokers, but Mr. Sakzai said the situation has now deteriorated so badly that it's impossible to continue working.

"I feel shame, because our administration is very weak and cannot control corruption," Mr. Sakzai said. "I can't continue like this. I must resign."
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Remembrance in Afghanistan
Afghan police pay respects at Canadian memorial ceremony By CP
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PANJWAII, Afghanistan -- It was a Remembrance Day like no other for troops serving in this deadly region, and it began with a rare but fitting nod from Mother Nature: rain.

The intense sun and blue skies were covered in clouds for the first time in months yesterday. Afghan interpreters stared at the sky while, as if on cue, thunder rolled as Canadians gathered to remember lost friends.

The storm clouds broke just after the troops -- many from the hard-hit A Company of 2nd battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry -- had paid their respects. They lined up before a simple wooden cross to pin the poppies they'd been wearing for days on to a single wreath.

Many fought tears, and some cried openly.

Pte. Mackenzie Haut, 21, of Edmonton, knew and looked up to four of the soldiers who have died in the fight against insurgents.

"They were like big brothers," he said. "I was an only child growing up in my family. In the army, the camaraderie is a lot like a brotherhood."

As much as those soldiers are missed, they believed deeply in what they were doing and would want that work to continue, Haut said.
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November 14, 2006 edition

New push to resolve after-effects of USSR's forgotten war
The Minsk Group meets in Brussels Tuesday in a fresh attempt to break the deadlock over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region
By Fred Weir | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
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SABIRABAD, AZERBAIJAN – Since being driven from her family's comfortable farmhouse in eastern Azerbaijan by Armenian forces 14 years ago, Salbeh Suleimanova has raised four children in a canvas-roofed mud hut , making do with state assistance worth about $40 per month in this squalid refugee camp of 10,000 people.
But she has never stopped yearning for her home, now occupied by Armenians, 100 miles down the road.

Not a day goes by that we don't dream of liberation, going back to our own place," she says. "I don't feel any hatred, but I'm always angry. No one should have to live like this."

Ms. Suleimanova is among the nearly 1 million Azeris and 400,000 Armenians uprooted from their homes in the Soviet Union's longest, bloodiest, and - in the West - most widely forgotten war.

As the USSR was crumbling in 1998, brutal ethnic cleansing erupted between this region's Muslim Azeris and Christian Armenians, and the subsequent war left 30,000 dead.

The trigger: Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave claimed by Azerbaijan but populated mainly by Armenians, which had enjoyed autonomous status under the USSR.

The Minsk Group - co-chaired by Russia, France, and the US - meets Tuesday in a fresh attempt to break the deadlock over Nagorno-Karabakh, after a dozen years of fruitless international diplomatic efforts.
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Afghanistan calls: Frank seeks to shift emphasis from Iraq
By GERRY TUOTI Staff Writer  11/14/2006
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BRIDGEWATER - The war in Iraq was the dominant theme during U.S. Rep. Barney Frank's speech Monday at Bridgewater State College.

"The election obviously shows that people understand the war in Iraq is now doing us more harm than good," Frank said, referring to the Nov. 7 midterm elections, in which Democrats won a majority in Congress.

Frank, D-Newton, said the U.S. war efforts should focus on Afghanistan, rather than Iraq.

"It is undermining our efforts in Afghanistan," he said. "We have shifted so much of our energy to Iraq. The problem in Iraq is now an internal Iraqi problem."

The U.S. mission in Afghanistan is now in doubt, he said.

"Getting out of Iraq should be contingent on stepping up our effort in Afghanistan," he said.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Frank voted to go to war in Afghanistan after that nation's oppressive Taliban government refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and other suspected terrorists.

Two years later, Frank voted against invading Iraq. He criticized Bush administration officials for using the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction as an excuse for an invasion. He also called the belief that there was a link between 9/11 and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein a "conscious lie."

The war is taking the lives of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians daily, costs the United States an "enormous amount of money" and impedes the country's ability to settle other international disputes, Frank said.

"I think the continued unpopularity of the war in Iraq strengthens the terrorists' appeal worldwide," Frank said.
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No Larger Military Role for Germany as EU Debates Afghanistan
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Top German politicians rebuffed increased pressure from NATO Monday to send troops to hot spots in southern Afghanistan, but they did agree to consider increasing civilian reconstruction and police training efforts.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer encouraged greater mobility among the European troops stationed in Afghanistan, including those from the German Bundeswehr, in a statement published in the Monday edition of Berliner Zeitung.

"We need to better configure our forces in Afghanistan," he wrote, reiterating past appeals to the German government. "That also means removing the limitations individual nations have placed on their troops."

Scheffer called lifting deployment restrictions an "important and necessary sign of solidarity among the allies." Last week he said there was no military solution to the country's lack of stability, adding that "Afghanistan is not sufficiently on the EU's radar screen."

German troops to stay in the north

Bildunterschrift: Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift:  Scheffer wants more troops in the south, where fighting is more intense
For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday in Berlin that no changes needed to be made to Germany's mandate in Afghanistan.

"Germany has a strong presence in Afghanistan. We have taken responsibility for the north," Merkel said. "We have a mandate that allows us in emergencies to help in the south, but we believe this mandate should not be altered."
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Two Iwounded In Missile Attack On German Troops In Afghanistan
November 13th 2006

Two Afghan policemen were wounded during an attack using a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) on German troops in the north of Afghanistan, the German Defence Ministry said in Berlin Monday.

The attackers fired their Russian-made missile Sunday evening at a three-vehicle German patrol in the northern region of Kunduz. The Germans were not injured.

The frequency of attacks against the Germans by Taliban insurgents has increased in recent months.

Torrential rains, floods kill nine in eastern Afghanistan 
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Torrential rains, floods kill nine in eastern Afghanistan

KABUL, Nov 12 (KUNA) -- At least 10 people, including three children, have been killed as flashfloods preceded by torrential rains hit the eastern parts of Afghanistan, officials and residents said Sunday.

The districts of Behsood and Sar Rod in the eastern province of Nangarhar were affected the most, where roofs of several mud houses caved in due while floods swept away more than one hundred other houses.

Governor of the province Gul Agha Sherzai said the death of 10 people was reported, but residents said the death toll was more than described by the officials.

Officials of the Afghan Red Crescent Society said that according to the initial figures, more than 100 mud houses were washed away by the floods in the districts of Behsood and Sar Rod while the same number of cattle were also drowned.
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Iran Ready to Extend All-Out Aid to Afghanistan
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TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Parliament Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel voiced Iran's full preparedness to extend all-out aid to the Afghan nation and government.

Speaking in a meeting with Speaker of the Afghan Senate Sebqatollah Mojaddadi on the sidelines of the 7th Conference of the General Assembly of Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP) here in Tehran on Sunday, Haddad Adel noted the two nations' age-old bonds, and stressed that Iran seeks security, stability and progress of Afghanistan.

He also expressed the hope that the present problems and insecurities of Afghanistan would be removed through the industrious efforts of that country's government and nation.

Elsewhere, the Iranian top legislative official noted the extensive deployment of foreign troops in Afghanistan and pointed to their role in the continued insecurities in that country, reminding that Americans are seeking to exercise extensive intervention in Afghanistan and the region on the pretext of insecurity in Afghanistan.

He further referred to the increased production and plantation of illicit drugs in Afghanistan and called for enhanced efforts by Kabul in fighting against this devilish phenomenon.
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Young soldier gets top-class care
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In the space of a second or two, less time than it takes to tell, Ryan Pagnacco, heard "a crackling like popcorn;" saw "sparks zipping past me, like sparklers hitting the ground and flying around;" got a whiff of "the distinct smell of explosives;" and realized the sparklers were "little pieces of molten metal."

That's when he went down, his legs, right arm and lower back riddled with shrapnel. Only then, still hardly aware that he'd been cruelly hit, did Pagnacco actually hear the rattle of guns and realize that this was no enemy.

"You don't hear the firing right away," says the 27-year-old on the phone from his home in Waterloo, where he's recuperating. "You see the explosions and then there's a delay of two or three seconds. When I heard it, I knew immediately. It's an unmistakeable sound, an A-10's gun."
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The most wrenching mission of all
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Scrawled in black spray paint, this permanent marking on the tarmac of the airbase here is a sombre portent of more casualties to come in Afghanistan.

It's short for repatriation and it notes the precise spot where the big military Airbus jet is meant to stop when it arrives carrying the bodies of soldiers killed abroad.

"It was sad to see that happen, an actual permanent line be painted on there," says Capt. Craig Waldick. "It was the reality that this is happening and it's going to continue to happen."

As a pilot with 437 Transport Squadron, Waldick himself has parked an Airbus Polaris jet on that very spot some 15 times, bearing flag-draped caskets home from the Afghanistan conflict.

It's at that moment, when he sets the parking brake, shuts down the engines and looks out his cockpit window at the families gathered below that the emotion of his mission hits him.
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No soldier left behind
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Death for a Canadian soldier comes on a dusty Afghanistan road, witnessed and, if time allows, absorbed by comrades.

Soon afterward, the soldier's death is marked before an entire company, embedded media and others as the body in a metal box, draped in the Maple Leaf and resting on eight shoulders, is loaded into an aircraft cargo hold at Kandahar Airfield.

Touching down on Canadian soil in Trenton, the box, if family so wishes, is unloaded before cameras and set upon eight new shoulders, and the soldier's death plays out before a nation.
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Aziz hails likely review of US policy in Iraq, Afghanistan
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
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NEW YORK: Pakistan welcomes an expected reappraisal of US policy in Iran and Afghanistan, and thinks military action alone is “not the answer” to the threat posed by extremists in the two countries, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told The Washington Times on Monday.

Aziz said that he would like to see a more nuanced approach to battling extremism, which included massive investment and economic assistance to the two countries.

The prime minister, who is in New York for some United Nations meetings, said the world needed to focus “more seriously” on Afghanistan’s narcotics trade, which was becoming an increasingly important source of terrorist financing. By some estimates, the trade accounts for half of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product.

An American commission – headed by former secretary of state James A Baker and former representative Lee H Hamilton – is expected to recommend strategies for the Iraq war before the end of the year, a development that Aziz welcomed.

“We believe that conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan need to be carefully reviewed because military action is not the answer or the solution to such a crisis,” he said.

“We must work on winning the hearts and minds of the people. We have to involve the people to give them the sense that the world cares.”
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- Edit - removed duplicate article, added porn in K'har story

Defence minister on tour to promote Afghan mission
CBC News Online, 14 Nov 06
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Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor will visit four provinces in four days this week to try to build support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan.  O'Connor said he wants to explain to Canadians that Canada is playing an important role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan and its mission in the troubled country must continue.  "Well, I'm trying to get out across the country trying to explain why we are in Afghanistan and the progress were are making in Afghanistan," he said.  O'Connor is expected to be in Vancouver on Tuesday morning. From there, he will go to Calgary, Toronto and Quebec City. He said he knows that the Canadian public is divided over the mission, but he wants to make the case that the mission is making a difference ....

Five years after Taliban's retreat, no celebrations in Afghan capital
Jason Straziuso, Associated Press, 14 Nov 06
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A chuckle rang out from under the blue burqa as the mother of eight rifled through a mound of children's sweatshirts. "Yes," the woman said, "life is better today. I can go shopping by myself."  An Afghan barber smiled as he recalled a shop full of customers waiting to shave their Taliban-mandated beards. The eyes of a janitor lit up as he described Northern Alliance fighters rolling into town.  "That's when the music started," said the janitor, Jan Mohammed.  On Nov. 13, 2001, the Taliban regime that had imposed a harsh brand of Islam fled Kabul as Northern Alliance fighters backed by a U.S.-led coalition poured in. Residents celebrated in the streets with music and laughter. Men flocked to barber shops to shave their long beards ....

Kabul Conference On Self-Immolation Among Women Opens
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 14 Nov 06
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A three-day conference to discuss self-immolation among women opens today in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.  The aim of the gathering is to come up with a comprehensive strategy to address self-immolation. The conference has been organized by Medica Mondiale, a German rights organization that focuses on violence against women ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

US needs an exit strategy in Afghanistan: Pakistan
Rediff India Abroad Home, 14 Nov 06
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Pakistan has asked the United States to think of an exit strategy from Afghanistan after holding discussions with Afghans and their neighbours.  In an interview to The Washington Times, Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz gave an implicit reminder that the US must leave Afghanistan eventually after having consultations with all stakeholders.  "History is full of examples where we didn't focus too much on exit strategy. A good exit strategy is one which leaves that country, that area, peaceful, economically and politically empowered," he said on Monday ....

US attacks within Pakistan borders unacceptable: Aziz
Reuters, via The Penninsula Online (Qatar), 14 Nov 06
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Pakistan is an ally of the United States in its war on terrorism but cannot abide US strikes on militants within its borders, a Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Sunday.  “We do not allow any country to violate our sovereignty.  We are committed to fighting terrorism but it has to be fought together,” Aziz said on CNN’s “Late Edition” programme.  The US military has used pilotless drone aircraft in places that are seen as hotbeds for anti-American activity like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to try to take out Islamic militants targeted in the US war on terrorism ....

US cannot fly drones inside Pakistan: PM
Penninsula Online (Qatar), 14 Nov 06
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Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said that Pakistan does not allow the United States to use unmanned aircraft to fire missiles into Pakistan to kill terrorists.  "We do not allow any country to violate our sovereignty. We are committed to fighting terrorism but it has to be fought together," Aziz said on CNN's 'Late Edition' programme aired in Pakistan early yesterday.  The US military has used unmanned drone aircraft in places that are seen as hotbeds for anti-American activity like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen to try to take out militants targeted in the US war on terrorism ....

Islamists pass Taleban-style bill in NWFP
The Penninsula Online (Qatar), 14 Nov 06
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Islamists ruling a Pakistani province passed a controversial bill yesterday to introduce what critics say would be Taleban-style religious police.  The Supreme Court had blocked attempts by the government of North West Frontier Province last year to set up a Hisba, or accountability, department by ruling several clauses of the bill unconstitutional.  The Islamist-led provincial government said it had drafted the Hisba Bill anew in light of recommendations made by the Supreme Court before presenting it to the provincial assembly.  “This bill has been prepared according to the provisions of the constitution and the directives of the Supreme Court,” NWFP Law Minister Malik Zafar Azam said after the provincial assembly passed the bill despite opposition from liberal groups ....

Porn boom in Taleban heartland
New Zealand Herald online, 14 Nov 06
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On the television screen, the two naked young women writhe together to the sounds of "Hotel California" as the occasional crackle of gunfire punctuates the Afghan night.  Several overseas phone numbers offer an intimate chat with the ladies, or some of their equally outgoing friends.  The heaviest fighting in five years has slowed reconstruction to a crawl in the deserts and oases of Kandahar, where the strict Islamist Taleban movement began in 1994, but pornography, opium and illegal alcohol are flourishing, officials say.  At least one satellite operator offers foreign channels such as eurotictv, allsex, 247Sex and transex, along with the God Channel and the Church, Miracle and Hope channels.  In a country where converting to Christianity from Islam carries the death penalty, the Christian channels are just as offensive to some as the pornography, although not as popular ....

Support for Taliban grows in rural Afghanistan as villagers lose hope: elders
Sue Bailey, Canadian Press, 14 Nov 06
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.... Dutch Maj.-Gen. Ton Van Loon recognizes that battle-fatigued Afghans are sick of fighting after almost three decades.  But troops can't pack up just yet, he said.  "We cannot accept insurgents taking control," and sabotaging aid efforts, Van Loon said.  "If we need to fight the Taliban, we will fight the Taliban. There is no doubt whatsoever about that."  Still, Van Loon said it's "crucially important" that momentum shift from combat to reconstruction.  Also vital is the involvement of anyone who is committed to building a democratic Afghanistan, he added. Even former Taliban should be included if they've genuinely changed tack, he said.  "What they've been in the past, to me, is less relevant. We need to talk to the Afghans." ....

NATO commander ready for talks with Afghans
Daily Times Monitor (PAK), 15 Nov 06
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LAHORE: The Commander of NATO forces in south Afghanistan has said that he is ready to negotiate with all Afghan citizens, including the Taliban, to stop fighting in the country, Geo television quoted him as saying. At a press conference in Qandhar, Major Gen Ton Wan Lon said that NATO forces should know their enemies in Afghanistan, but it was “impossible without the help of tribal elders”, reported the channel. Wan said NATO forces wanted negotiations with those who wished stability in Afghanistan. He said the force would fight the Taliban – if required – but “ceasefire is more important” ....

NATO seeks elders' support in defusing insurgency in S.Afghanistan 
GEO News (PAK), 14 Nov 06
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NATO-led forces battling resurgentTaliban-led militants in southern Afghanistan at times feel like a blinded boxer who needs to be guided where to throw his punches, a senior alliance official said Tuesday.  Maj. Gen. Ton Van Loon, the commander of NATO-led troops in thesouth, said that his forces needed the help of tribal elders to makesure they correctly targeted militants. But he added that NATO was also willing to talk to "all Afghans'' to bring an end to fighting.  Dozens of civilians have been killed during the alliance's summeroffensive in the south, including airstrikes, that NATO says also left hundreds of suspected militants dead.  "We are maybe like the blind boxer,'' Van Loon told reporters."We can hit very hard but (tribal elders) will need to talk to us to make sure that we hit the right target.''  But Van Loon said the allies were "sick and tired of fighting''and were ready for talks with "all Afghans,'' and hinted that offer may also extend to Taliban insurgents.  "We need to talk to all Afghans that want a future for their country,'' Van Loon said ....

AFGHANISTAN: WFP to provide aid to vulnerable in restive south
IRIN Asia (UN), 14 Nov 06
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Tens of thousands of people affected by the recent conflict and this year's harsh drought in southern Afghanistan will receive food assistance, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday in the capital, Kabul.  "Over 1,300 mt of food will be distributed to over 81,000 people displaced by the recent conflict in Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces this month," said Ebadullah Ebadi, a public information officer with WFP.  To cope with the drought which has affected some 1.9 million people countrywide, the UN food agency will distribute over 1,100 mt of mixed food such as cereals, oil, pulses and iodised salt to some 70,000 people, including widows, orphans and the disabled in Zabul, Uruzgan and Kandahar provinces, the agency said ....

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Survival of the Taliban: Musharraf says fault lies with Afghanistan
Daily Times (PAK), 15 Nov 06
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President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Monday denied that his country was responsible for the survival of the Taliban.  “There is trans-border cooperation in militant activities, with the base in Afghanistan but support from Pakistan. We need to isolate the two, and deal with whatever is happening from Pakistan on our side, while the main action will have to be taken in Afghanistan to counter militancy,” Musharraf told a British TV channel.  The president told Channel 4 News in an interview how he wanted to suppress the Taliban.  Asked whether he accepted that Quetta was the headquarters for Taliban operations in Afghanistan, he said, “The base of the whole organisation is in Afghanistan. The whole of Afghanistan is divided into five command regions of the Taliban, each of which is headed by a commander. The financing comes from the drug underworld. However, they have support – I will accept to an extent – yes … in Quetta, there are about 450,000 Afghan refugees, and this is a hotbed of all kinds of activity.”  ....

EU Gives Cautious Reception to Calls for Greater Role in Afghanistan
Lisa Bryant, Voice of America, 14 Nov 06
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European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels offered a cautious reaction Monday to calls for the EU to increase its role in Afghanistan. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris on the issue, and on separate talks about EU peacekeeping in Bosnia.  Britain and the Netherlands have called on the European Union to assume responsibility for training Afghan police, and to help an overburdened NATO battle the Islamist insurgency in Afghanistan. But those calls are being greeted guardedly by other EU countries. Still, European foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters the EU would likely do more in Afghanistan in the future ....

Resistance not from people but from some miscreants: Kandahar Governor
Pak Tribune, 15 Nov 06
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Governor of Kandahar Asadullah Khalid has said that Afghan government is not facing resistance from the people rather there are some miscreants who are resorting to creating violence.  Talking to VOA, Governor of Kandahar said that some emotional and young people have been misguided on the name of Jihad. He added some Islamic books have been misinterpreted.  Asked about measures taken by the government, Governor said that we have formed a commission to negotiate with these misguided people, adding that the commission is also negotiating with the detainees ....

Int`l community urged to play role for establishing national govt in Afghanistan
Pak Tribune, 15 Nov 06
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Senate Standing committee on Foreign Affairs has urged the International community to change its policy regarding Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan and stop military operation in the war-torn country.  The committee recommended that Hekmatyar-model national consensus government should be established in Afghanistan.  The committee expressed these views while briefing the parliamentary delegation of Common Wealth (UK) at the parliament house here on Tuesday. Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed and other members of the committee briefed the delegation ....

O'Connor on blitz to sell Afghan mission
Jane Armstrong (with a report from Gloria Galloway), Globe & Mail, 15 Nov 06
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Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor kicked off a cross-country public-relations blitz on the Afghan war by arguing here yesterday that terrorists must not be allowed back to the country where the Taliban and al-Qaeda once flourished.  "We cannot allow the Taliban to return to their former prominence, to take over Afghanistan and resume their regime of terror and tyranny, to flaunt their disregard for human rights, to punish and terrorize their own people, to murder innocents, to harbour those who would threaten us and our families at home and abroad," Mr. O'Connor said in luncheon speech in Vancouver yesterday.  Quoting Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Mr. O'Connor said Afghanistan five years ago was a "terrified and exhausted" country. The minister then listed off reams of statistics that bolstered his argument Afghanistan is in far better shape today.  Schools have been built, young girls have returned to school, living standards have improved and about four million refugees have returned to their homeland, he told the gathering, sponsored by the Vancouver Board of Trade ....

NATO, UN dispute war's progress
Commander rejects world body's assertion that situation in Afghanistan has worsened

Graeme Smith, Globe & Mail, 15 Nov 06
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A dispute has emerged between the United Nations and the top NATO commander in southern Afghanistan, as the two most powerful organizations in the country say they have reached opposite conclusions about the progress of the war.  The conflicting assessments -- after the first UN review of the mission in three years -- is part of a growing list of differences over vexing questions such as negotiating with the Taliban and counter-narcotics policy.  The UN Security Council sent senior envoys to Afghanistan this week to review the mission. They arrived in time to observe a meeting of top Afghan and foreign officials last weekend in Kabul, where they heard a bleak report that estimated that the number of insurgent attacks had climbed to 600 a month as of the end of September -- up from 300 a month in March.  But the envoys were shown a more optimistic view during a military tour of the dangerous southern provinces yesterday. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization whisked the ambassadors and representatives from 10 countries by helicopter to a reconstruction centre in the ancient city of Qalat. The envoys saw young Afghans learning to weld metal, and nursing students taking a first-aid course ....

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NATO's Afghanistan Mission is in Trouble
NATO Parliamentary Assembly, via Epicos.com, 15 Nov 06
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A senior European parliamentarian warned today (Tuesday) that NATO's mission in Afghanistan could end in failure unless member states honoured commitments they had already made to ensure its success.  Mr Bert Koenders, a member of the Dutch parliament, told a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA) the mission was in trouble but could still be saved.  "The overall security situation has deteriorated significantly. Insurgents' attacks in the southern and eastern regions that border Pakistan led this summer to be the bloodiest since the fall of the Taliban," he told a meeting of the NATO-PA's Political Committee ....

General says U.S. preparing for longer stay in Afghanistan
James Janega, Chicago Tribune, 15 Nov 06
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The U.S. military is preparing for a longer commitment in Afghanistan, a general with U.S. Central Command said Tuesday in Chicago, while stopping short of saying there is a political commitment to do so.  Earlier, Army Maj. Gen. Michael Diamond, deputy director for logistics at CENTCOM, said the arrest of an insurgent lieutenant in Afghanistan early this month would force combatants there to switch tactics.Diamond made the comments at the Union League Club, 65 W. Jackson Blvd., before and during a luncheon meeting of the Rotary Club of Chicago.  Long-term preparations are topped by an upgraded airfield at the Bagram military base near the Afghan capital. It already has been used to resupply NATO forces but is not scheduled to be fully operational until January, he said ....

Slovakia:  Army to advise move to Kandahar
Slovak Spectator, 15 Nov 06
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A SENIOR source at NATO headquarters in Brussels was quoted by the Pravda daily as saying the Slovak army was about to advise the government in Bratislava to agree to a transfer of Slovak troops from Kabul to Kandahar in Afghanistan after having weighed the risks.  A special team sent to Afghanistan by the Slovak army general staff “received information that will lead the experts to agree to the transfer on their return”, the source said.  On his visit to Bratislava at the end of October, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged Prime Minister Robert Fico to agree to the transfer to the more dangerous Kandahar area to join the rest of the ISAF mission troops who were already there “as a sign of solidarity”.  However, Fico, who is less supportive of sending Slovak troops to foreign missions than his predecessor Mikuláš Dzurinda, has maintained that the soldiers will not be moved unless he has guarantees of their safety ....

Jagland: Norway should contribute in Southern Afghanistan
Norway Post, 15 Nov 06
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President of the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) and former foreign minister Thorbjoern Jagland (photo) is of the opinion that Norway ought to send special forces to Southern Afghanistan if NATO makes a new request.This is contrary to the Government's decision not to send special forces at the present time.
- The Norwegian special forces would certainly be welcomed this winter. If NATO makes the request, Norway ought to contribute, Jagland writes in a feature article in Aftenposten on Wednesday.  However, Jagland refutes that he is on collision course with the Government.  ''The Government said in its statement that it is open to sending troops at a later time. This is also what I am saying. Even if all seem to be taken up with developing a new strategy in Afghanistan, this must not be confused with the present need for more troops. These two things must be seen in relation to each other,'' Jagland says ....

Musharraf says Pakistan not responsible for Taliban survival
Islamic Republic News Agency (IRN), 15 Nov 06
Article Link

Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf has denied his country is responsible for the survival of the Taliban. "There is trans-border cooperation in militant activities with the base in Afghanistan but support from Pakistan.  "We need to isolate the two and deal with whatever is happening from Pakistan on our side, while the main action has to be taken in Afghanistan to counter militant activity," General Musharraf told a British TV channel.  In the exclusive interview, President Musharraf told Channel 4 News yesterday how he wants to suppress the militant Taliban.  When asked whether he accepts that the Pakistani city of Quetta remains the headquarters for so many Taliban operations in Afghanistan, President Musharraf said that the base of the entire organization was in Afghanistan ....

Troop numbers in Afghanistan v Iraq: are different prescriptions required?
Flit, Nov. 15

A reader of the last few posts could ask why a proposal by Bill Clinton to increase Afghan force levels by 8,000 meets with some approval and a proposed increase by John McCain of Iraq force levels by 20,000 does not.

Leaving aside all the other obvious differences between the situations in the two nations, an argument for this can still be made from statistical reasons. Simply put, the McCain proposal is repeating something that's already been tried, whereas the Clinton proposal is breaking new ground.

In Iraq, coalition forces there are at pretty much their historic average for troop numbers in country: 161,000. The McCain proposal to increase this by 20,000 only brings the number back to the 183,000 peak it's already been at twice before, with no apparent lasting impact on violence levels nation-wide. (The old line about insanity being doing the same exact thing and expecting different results may be worth considering in this context.)

In Afghanistan, NATO force levels, now slightly above 30,000, are at their historic high. There have never been as many Western troops dedicated to the Afghan problem as there have been since early this fall. Clinton's proposal is, that in light of recent developments that indicate trouble ahead in the southern and eastern NATO regional command areas in 2007, that this number should be increased even further, up as much as 40,000...

Afghan news
Flit, Nov. 13
Bill Clinton says another 8,000 troops are needed. That's about what I'd have said, too. Right now the combat situation is basically two brigade groups (NATO Bde and the US 4 BCT), along with Afghan auxiliaries, fighting three distinct insurgent regional commands (see posts passim). A third brigade-size formation would give NATO commanders at all levels the strategic depth to weather the coming 2007 insurgent offensive, and continue to progress on the development front in the south and east. Without further reinforcement, the potential risk is retrograde action on development in security in either or both the RC-South (NATO) or RC-East (US) areas in March-October 2007. The good news is, unlike Iraq where the insurgency hasn't been taking winter breaks, NATO should now be able to count on three and a half months of relative calm, knock on wood, before crunch time. It's fair to say it's not often in wars you see the threat coming that far off.

I think I'm about the last person to sink into a "schools painted" sort of wishful thinking when Western military interventions are involved, but the simple fact is rebuilding in Afghanistan has been more marked than Iraq because there was so much more to rebuild. In Iraq the challenge has been restoring electrical power to a capital that up until March 2003 was the center of a functioning civil society... in Kabul it's been getting electrical power at all, after decades of civil war and Talibanist medievalism. So this is probably a useful piece for war opponents to read. Highlights:

*80% of the population has access to basic health care, up from less than 10% in 2002;
*$11 million a month into development projects selected by elected Afghan village development councils: 7,500 projects completed so far;
*6 million Afghan children in school, up from 1 million in 2001, of which 2.2 million are girls, the highest number of girls receiving education in Afghan history (NB: but still only a third of the potential total, according to HRW);
*individual income figures 70% higher than in 2001;
*greater than 10% annualized economic growth for the last five years;
*1,000 schools opened in 2006 alone;
*45,000 trained teachers, including 15,000 women.

The only way I think one can objectively read figures like this is that, all other things being equal, the average Afghan really is significantly better off than he/she was five years ago. It's got to get a lot better, still, of course, before it's likely to stick. And the only alternative on offer is a return to nihilism and destruction.

(It's far from rosy, of course. There is a significant drought disaster ongoing that needs to be addressed. UNICEF is pleading for support; a story I note that was taken up by neither the Toronto Star nor the Globe and Mail last week.)

Finally, a note on the 3,700 Afghan fatalities story in the Canadian papers today. It's probably worth observing that not only is the UN's number fairly reliable, given how closely it's tracking the Associated Press aggregated count this year, but that somewhere surely it'll have been broken down further into insurgent casualties, Afghan military and police casualties, and civilian casualties -- figures that were apparently unavailable at Canadian papers' press time yesterday. The best thing we can say is that the current HRW estimate is that "over a thousand" of those deaths are civilians, meaning over 2,000 of those deaths were of combatants, enemy or friendly. As for the civilians, there can be no doubt after reading the links above, that the major international agencies involved consider the insurgency to be responsible for far more of the civilian death toll than NATO or U.S. forces were this year, too. (Another data point that the reporter might have used for comparison is that the peak of 600 attacks per month this year was roughly a fifth of the current (3,000 per month) Iraqi monthly average.)

Edited 160718 Nov 06 - adds AM copy

Canada looking to buy more high-tech howitzers for Afghan mission
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 15 Nov 06
Article Link

Canada is looking to buy more high-tech howitzers to support operations in southern Afghanistan, defence sources tell The Canadian Press.  The army is impressed with the performance of its new, British-built M-777 heavy guns, six of which were purchased directly from the U.S. Marine Corps last winter.  The Defence Department is now negotiating with BAE Systems Inc. to buy six more of the 155-mm artillery pieces in the short-term and possibly an additional 15 over the long-term, said one source.  A senior spokesman with the defence contractor was reluctant to talk about the negotiations, beyond confirming the company has been approached.  "It's fair to say we're in discussions about potential sales of M-777s," said John Neilson, BAE's director media relations.  "We're hopeful. Because those discussions are ongoing, it would be unwise of me to predict numbers or timings." ....

Military draws heat over visits to Afghanistan
Bars senators, oks supporters

Mike Blanchfield, National Post, 16 Nov 06

The military says Kandahar is not safe for visits by committees of MPs, senators or the Governor-General, but recently welcomed a taxpayer-assisted junket of retired senior officers, all of who routinely appear in the media to support the controversial mission.  The trip has drawn criticism from at least one pundit who was not ivited -- and who has been openly critical of the government's conduct of the Afghanistan deployment. It has also prompted a warning from one senator to the government not to play politics with who it allows to visit its soldiers.  The group of retired military officers included a former admiral, two former generals and at least one retired colonel. They spent several days in Afghanistan in late October and early November, travelling first to Kabul and then to Kandahar Air Field, where the group was on hand for the change of command of the NATO mission from a Canadian to a Dutch general ....

Army woefully unready, Afghans say
Paul Koring, Globe & Mail, 16 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

....  ANA soldiers get high marks from Canadians embedded with them for their bravery and their willingness to fight. "They are good fighters, but they are not yet good soldiers," said Warrant Officer Dominique Sauvé, part of a unit known as an OMLT, or Observer Mentor Liaison Team, embedded with the sole Afghan battalion in Kandahar province. WO Sauvé has no illusions. The ANA needs vast improvement, especially in leadership, before it is capable. Still, even ill-trained, ill-equipped, ill-paid, ill-treated and ill-led, its soldiers have significant advantages in some areas over even elite foreign troops.  "They know the language and they know the country," WO Sauvé said.  But ANA units still cannot operate on their own. They need NATO for communications, air support, logistics and transport, and to take a secondary role in any operation larger than a simple cordoning off of a compound and searching it ....

Defence minister says lack of Taliban leaders likely making things more quiet
James Stevenson, Canadian Press, 15 Nov 06
Article Link

A leadership vacuum within the Taliban is likely why things have been quieter for Canadian troops in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said Wednesday.  O'Connor said a lot of Taliban leaders were killed during September's bloody clash with Canadian and other NATO troops in Kandahar.  "In Operation Medusa, when they assembled between 500 and 1000 Taliban and tried to take us on in a conventional manner, not only did they have a lot of casualties, but they lost a lot of their leadership," O'Connor said. "They're trying to re-form now."  Although 42 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan, it's been more than a month since the last fatal casualty. Five soldiers were killed in October and 10 died in September.  Operation Medusa was some of the most intense combat that Canadian troops have been involved in for decades. Hundreds of insurgents reportedly died in the fighting and top NATO commanders hailed the campaign as "a clear military victory." ....

Dodging the real questions
O'connor only spouts support-our-troops rhetoric to counter doubts about Afghanistan

Jim Mc Nulty, Montreal Gazette, 16 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

As sales pitches go, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor's promotion of Canada's mission in Afghanistan is more remarkable for what he leaves out than what he puts in.  His speech this week to the Vancouver Board of Trade was full of patriotic vigour and rally-round-the-troops emphasis on the need for Canada to support freedom and democracy.  In that sense, he didn't need to convert the Canadian public. Of course we support the troops, and of course we endorse freedom and democracy.  But fact is that the public has deep concerns about the mission that go beyond the death toll of 42 Canadians.  Canadians are worried about other big NATO countries' refusal to join our troops in the south of Afghanistan, where Taliban put up fierce resistance ....

Canada's NATO allies let down Canadian troops: British MP
Kevin Dougherty, Montreal Gazette, 15 Nov 06
Article Link

A British Labour MP praised Canadian troops yesterday for their “superb gallantry and valour” in Afghanistan, but said they were let down by their NATO allies.  Frank Cook is one of 340 parliamentarians from countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization who have gathered here this week for the NATO parliamentary assembly.  He recalled the wave of shock that went through a NATO delegation in Kabul last May on news that Capt. Nicola Goddard, of the 1st Royal Canadian Horse, had been killed early in the Panjway campaign.  Goddard is the senior Canadian officer killed to date in Afghanistan and the first Canadian woman to die in combat since World War II ....

No ice-no problem for hockey-mad Canadian troops in Kandahar
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 15 Nov 06
Article Link

Desert heat, pouring rain and even a rocket attack hasn't deterred Canadian troops based in Kandahar from indulging in the ultimate Canadian pastime - hockey.  The last thing you'd expect to see at Kandahar Airbase, where even winter temperatures can climb to 30 C, is a hockey rink. But that's exactly what you find in the boardwalk area, which serves as the economic and social hub for the base.  Obviously there isn't any ice, but on the surface it looks as real as any rink you would find in Canada. Except the players here are participating in a ball hockey league with games three nights a week.  "We realize that Canadians have to have their hockey and after a lot of brainstorming we came up with the idea to put it here," said Maj. Ken Brooks of Glen Miller, Ont. whose Engineer and Support Unit built the rink.  To add to the Canadian feel, it seems appropriate that the Kandahar Tim Hortons franchise is overlooking the rink ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Afghanistan Drug Control: Despite Improved Efforts, Deteriorating Security Threatens Success of U.S. Goals
US Government Accountability Office, Report #GAO-07-78, 15 Nov 06
Abstract - Report (5.9MB .pdf)

....  USAID and State received about $532 million fiscal year 2005 funds and initiated a number of projects under each counternarcotics pillar, but delays in implementation limited progress. For example, State's provision of aircraft enhanced the mobility of eradicators, but coordination difficulties between Afghan officials and security forces delayed the eradicators' fielding. Despite increased eradication and other U.S. efforts, the poppy crop grew by 50 percent in 2006 to a record level. However, many projects have not been in place long enough to assess progress toward the overall goal of significantly reducing drug cultivation, production, and trafficking. For example, projects to provide rural credit and to field teams to discourage poppy cultivation were not in place prior to the 2005-2006 growing season. The worsening security situation and the lack of Afghan capacity are tremendous challenges to the success of U.S. counternarcotics programs in Afghanistan. The security situation continues to decline; during the 2005-2006 growing season, eradicators were attacked several times and alternative livelihoods project personnel were killed ....

Afghan insurgency threatens to derail US anti-drug program
Agence France Presse, 15 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghanistan's worsening security situation threatens to derail a US anti-drug program, a congressional study has said, predicting at least a decade to stem the scourge.  The report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a US congressional watchdog agency, said "the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan threatens the success of the US counternarcotics goal of significantly reducing illicit drug cultivation, production, and trafficking."  There was "limited progress" in a US counternarcotics strategy devised for Afghanistan by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department, it said.  They received 532 million dollars in fiscal year 2005 funds and initiated a number of projects under the strategy, but the opium poppy crop in 2006 grew by over 50 percent, reaching a record amount, the GAO noted ....

US Spy Chief Warns of Long Commitment in Afghanistan
Gary Thomas, Voice of America, 15 Nov 06
Article Link

The head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency says it will take many years and billions of dollars to stabilize Afghanistan.  And another official, the top U.S. military intelligence officer, adds that while the Taleban has sustained losses, it is still able to mount operations against Afghan and coalition forces.  In testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, CIA chief General Michael Hayden said Afghanistan will need sustained international help over an extended period to put the Kabul government on a solid footing to provide for its people ....

Afghan police aping Taliban tactics to beat resistance
Terry Friel, Dawn (PAK), 16 Nov 06
Article Link

More than a decade ago, the Taliban rose to power by imposing law and order in southern Afghanistan. Now, the new police chief for the province where it all began wants to use the same strategy to neutralise and eventually defeat the resurgent Islamist group.  “The only problem is this: there is no law and order,” said Kandahar police chief General Asmatullah Alizai, appointed last month.  “First of all, we must establish our law. The Taliban are very few, so if there is law and order in Afghanistan, there will be no support for them.”  Kandahar, the city and province where Mullah Mohammad Omar conceived the Taliban in the early 1990s -- his sprawling compound now a US base -- has seen some of the worst fighting in the bloodiest year since the hardline Islamist movement was ousted from power in 2001 ....

Articles found 16 November 2006

Why there's a need for debate on Afghanistan
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Article Link

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has allowed support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan to melt away because of his refusal to engage Canadians in open discussion on the mission's merits and difficulties.

It is a failing that mimics that of U.S. President George W. Bush on Iraq: a for-us-or-against-us approach, backed by demagogic sloganeering such as "Canadians don't cut and run at the first sign of trouble." Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor was cool to a request from the House of Commons defence committee this fall for a briefing every two weeks. When he did accede to the request, he said questions could be asked only to clarify what the government said in its briefing, and he set a half-hour time limit. Opening statement, questions, everything. In 30 minutes. This, for a mission that Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier has said could last 10 years or more.

That's insulting, and it doesn't lead to good policy -- another lesson courtesy of Mr. Bush's approach to Iraq.

Now Mr. O'Connor is on a speaking tour. Up to this point, the most candour he has shown came in a chat with a wire-service reporter on a visit to Australia in September. "We cannot eliminate the Taliban, not militarily anyway," he said. But yesterday, speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade (he will also speak in Calgary, Toronto and Quebec City), he stuck to a narrow, rosier script. " 'We have made tremendous progress and are winning the fight,' " he said, quoting the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. "This is progress!" his speaking notes say. It wasn't Mr. Bush declaring victory aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, but it was close.
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Afghanistan has an upsideMinister lauds mission successes
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CALGARY -- Afghanistan is no Iraq, and it will not fall into civil war, Canada's minister of national defence told a Calgary audience yesterday.

At a stop in a cross-country tour, billed as an effort to inform Canadians and not an attempt to justify Canada's bloodiest mission since Korea, Gordon O'Connor told a Calgary Chamber of Commerce luncheon that efforts of Canadian troops in the beleaguered country are paying off.

"After five years, the results are clear," he said.

"Five years ago, there was no national government, there was no democracy ... women were banished by the government ... and today, 80% have access to health care, which is up 10 times from that of 2001.

"This is progress that did not exist five years ago, and I'm proud of these achievements."

O'Connor's comments come on the heels of reports the Taliban's tenacity this year surprised NATO commanders, that opium-producing poppy harvests reached record levels and that the lack of security in the country is driving the poor to support the Taliban.

More than 3,700 people have been killed this year - about 1,000 of them civilians - mainly in Kandahar, where Canadians are based.

Afghanistan has claimed 42 Canadians since 2002, most of them killed this year.

But Canada has made significant strides in tackling the Taliban, and has successfully conducted more than a thousand humanitarian and infrastructure projects, O'Connor said.
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Veterans want better benefits for soldiers serving in Afghanistan
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OTTAWA (CP) — A group of veterans says Canadian soldiers killed and wounded in Afghanistan deserve the same benefits as senior civil servants, who don’t put their lives on the line.

Retired captain Sean Bruyea and retired navy nurse Lt. Louise Richard issued an urgent plea Wednesday for the Conservative government to live up to its pledge to create an ombudsman for veterans.

"We urge you to ensure that our soldiers, who are performing the highest form of public service — and their families — are treated at least as well as we treat our civil servants," Bruyea said on behalf of the group Veterans and Concerned Canadians.

He outlined what the group considers the discrepancies between benefits given to bureaucrats and soldiers.

The widows and widowers of soldiers killed overseas are entitled to a $250,000 lump sum payment, while the families of senior bureaucrats receive between $600,000 and $1.25 million, Bruyea said.

He added that civil servants who become disabled are eligible for a medical pension after only two years of employment, while serving military members have to wait 10 years.

And, Bruyea noted, disability benefits for soldiers are taxable, while they’re not for civil servants.

Harper promised to create a veterans ombudsman — a pledge
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Violence in Afghanistan increasing
From correspondents in Washington
November 16, 2006 12:00
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INSURGENT violence in Afghanistan this year was likely to be double that of 2005 and would continue, the US military's top intelligence official told Congress today.

General Michael Maples, director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, said insurgents had expanded their abilities and operations even while incurring serious combat losses.

"Despite having absorbed heavy combat losses in 2006, the insurgency has strengthened its capabilities and influence with its core base of Pashtun communities,'' he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Violence this year is likely to be twice as high as the violence level seen in 2005 ... In 2007, insurgents are likely to sustain their use of more visible, aggressive and lethal tactics,'' he said.

Gen Maples said the insurgents aimed to undermine the international community's support for Afghanistan military and reconstruction operations, and to demonstrate the Kabul government's weakness.

The head of the Central Intelligence Agency, General Michael Hayden, in his testimony emphasised the need to continue supporting the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai.

"Kabul needs help because it lacks capacity, not because it lacks political will or lacks support,'' Gen Hayden said.
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NATO allies refused Canada's call for help in Afghanistan
The Canadian Press QUEBEC (Nov 16, 2006)
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A British Labour MP praised Canadian troops yesterday for their "superb gallantry and valour" in Afghanistan but said they were let down by their NATO allies.

Frank Cook is one of 340 parliamentarians from countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization gathered in Quebec City this week for the NATO parliamentary assembly.

Last May, after Canadian troops drove the Taliban from safe havens in Panjway, killing about 200 of the enemy, Cook said Canada sought help from its NATO allies to consolidate the gain.

"Five NATO countries refused," he said, explaining they invoked "national caveats," defined by their legislators to limit the scope of their commitment to the Afghan mission.

Canadian Major-General Joe Hincke said the "caveats" are the subject of ongoing discussions within NATO, adding: "I can't say much more."
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Aaron Tippin to Sing for Military in Afghanistan
Wed. November 15.2006
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Aaron Tippin will perform for members of the military stationed in Afghanistan during the Thanksgiving holiday. He will depart Saturday (Nov. 18) and return Nov. 27. "Those are the real working men and women," Tippin said. "If I can repay even an ounce of what they are doing for me, my family and my country by taking their mind off the day-to-day risks... I can't think of a better thing to do with my time. They have been fighting for the rights we take for granted every day, and I want to make sure they know we're thankful."

Taliban, Al-Qaeda Resurge In Afghanistan, CIA Says
By Dafna Linzer and Walter Pincus Washington Post Staff Writers Thursday, November 16, 2006; Page A22
Article Link

Al-Qaeda's influence and numbers are rapidly growing in Afghanistan, with fighters operating from new havens and mimicking techniques learned on the Iraqi battlefield for use against U.S. and allied troops, the directors of the CIA and defense intelligence told Congress yesterday.

Five years after the United States drove al-Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the CIA, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that both groups are back, waging a "bloody insurgency" in the south and east of the country. U.S. support for the Kabul government of Hamid Karzai will be needed for "at least a decade" to ensure that the country does not fall again, he said.
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NATO faces defeat in Afghanistan
Thu, 2006-11-16 02:16 By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features
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The commander of the International Security Assistance Force, which is how the Nato force in Afghanistan is known, Gen David Richards of Britain flew from Kabul to Islamabad amidst media reports that he would confront President Pervez Musharraf with fresh ‘evidence’ of Pakistan’s involvement in Afghanistan’s heightened insurgency which was inflicting heavy casualties on the 20,000-strong Nato forces. And when he arrives in Islamabad, the first thing he declared is that presenting evidence of Pakistan aiding and abetting insurgency in Afghanistan was not his intention even ‘for one moment’. His ‘intention’ was only to heap praise on the Pakistani dictator for his ‘contribution’ to the so-called war on terror and discuss ways of ‘expanding cooperation’ with Pakistan to fight the Taliban.

Richards was, however, only repeating by now mandatory but familiar script for visiting officials from the West who land in Pakistan. The script was originally written nearly five years ago in Washington by President George W. Bush personally and heartily endorsed in London: Never let down the Pakistani strong man in public even if his ‘contribution’ and ‘cooperation’ in the fight against terror becomes more and more questionable. So sacred has this script become that it will not be diluted even if the fight against terror seems to be making little headway not only in Afghanistan but also elsewhere in the region.
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Africa's Afghanistan
November 16, 2006
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UN report exposes outside support for Somalia’s extremists

The United Nations report on Somalia, prepared by weapons and financial experts, does not mince words. It accuses Iran, Syria, Egypt and Libya of smuggling huge quantities of arms to the Islamic militants who control most of the country. It says that the clandestine arming and training of militants who threaten the weak transitional Government could reignite war between Somalia’s feuding neighbours, Ethiopia and Eritrea. And it gives warning that Somalia may become the site of “suicide bombers, assassinations and other forms of terrorist and insurgent-type activities”.
The 86-page report is a reaffirmation of warnings that the Islamists who have seized power in the lawless country are not a force for stability, as many assert, but are likely to use their position to destabilise their neighbours, fan anti-Western sentiment and offer al-Qaeda and other extremists a safe haven. In short, the report suggests, Somalia is becoming another Afghanistan, a failed state that is falling under the control of extremists.

The report is also a stinging indictment of countries such as Iran, Libya and Syria, which maintain that they do not support terrorism, but are secretly arming the Islamic Courts Union through proxies such as Hezbollah. It details arms shipments to the groups vying for power. One included land mines, 1,000 machineguns and M79 rocket launchers, and 45 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. The report also says that 720 combat-hardened fighters were picked in mid-July to travel to Lebanon to fight alongside Hezbollah, It even lists the sums paid for their services — $2,000 — and the $30,000 given to the families of those killed.
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Women Born Into 'Bad Luck' in Afghanistan
Okke Ornstein Thursday, Nov. 16, 2006
Article Link

Okke Ornstein is an internationally acclaimed journalist working on assignment for NewsMax.com in Afghanistan. He reports from Kabul.

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Mohammad Hassan believed that his daughter had died. Five-year-old Fawzia was lying in the sand and didn't move. She was bleeding heavily from what was left of her private parts. Mohammad could only stare at her, frozen in awe.

Five minutes earlier, he had been at the back of his house chopping wood when a child came running up to him. "They've kidnapped her!" the child yelled. "The man with the white scarf has taken her!" That man with a white scarf had come to the playground where Fawzia frolicked, punched her in the face and taken her to a garden.

There, he raped her.

"These crimes are common in Afghanistan," says Sajeda of RAWA, an organization that fights for women's rights.

RAWA is not an illegal organization, but it has to work underground because religious extremists and the political atmosphere pose a threat to the safety of its members, Sajeda explains
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Berlin rejects deployment in Southern Afghanistan
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BERLIN: In spite of new appeals by NATO, the German government still refuses to deploy German soldiers to the war-raged South of Afghanistan.

Government spokesperson Steg emphasized that the focus of the German forces in Afghanistan will remain the North of the country.

Steg continued to say that there is no need to reformulate the German government’s stance on this question.

German Foreign Minister Steinmeier said in Brussels that the stabilizing work in Northern Afghanistan must not be jeopardized by - quoted literally- "moving personnel and soldiers from the North to the South in a panic".

In view of the difficult situation in Southern Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer demanded lifting deployment limitations for all NATO troops stationed in Afghanistan. According to de Hoop Scheffer, this would allow a more flexible deployment of troops

Afghanistan to woo foreign investors, trade in India
Wed Nov 15, 2006 9:57 PM IST
Article Link

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai hopes to win fresh trade and investment for his impoverished country during a weekend visit to New Delhi despite the worst violence since the Taliban's overthrow in 2001.

The Regional Economic Cooperation Conference for Afghan Reconstruction brings together Afghanistan's neighbours, the G8 group of leading economies, the United Nations and global financial institutions.

Karzai flew out on Wednesday and is due back in Kabul in a few days for talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The two days of talks in India, whose close ties with Afghanistan have at times caused tension with Pakistan, will focus on regional as well as Afghan issues, officials here said.

"Through the conference, the government hopes to draw investors' attention to trade, investment and the opening of new markets," said Karzai's spokesman, Khaleeq Ahmad.

"The government will also discuss ways to import electricity and find markets for agricultural products overseas," he said.
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Marham force heads for Afghanistan
15 November 2006
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Eighteen RAF Regiment airmen from Marham have been deployed to Afghanistan, where they are protecting Kandahar air base in the battle-torn Helmand province.

The members of 2620 (County of Norfolk) Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force (RAF Regiment) have joined 2 Squadron RAF Regiment from Honington, and have undergone extensive training to prepare them for the task.

Cpl Niall Hayton-Williams, a veteran of several operations, including the second Gulf War, said just before he left: “We've been working hard since being mobilized to fine-tune our skills and fitness and to get used to working in teams alongside the regulars.”

Flt Lt Paul Taylor, the squadron's operations officer, said: “For the majority of the guys this is their second tour, having previously served in Gulf War Two in Kuwait and Iraq, where the squadron played an essential role in the defence of Royal Air Force assets.”

He added: “I'd like to place on record my appreciation of the support that the squadron has received from employers.”
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Suicide bombing injures innocent butcher in Afghanistan
November 15, 2006         
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A suicide bomber being chased by the police exploded himself in a town of Parwan province in central Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing himself and injuring an innocent butcher, an official at the press department of Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

Local police suspected a man of belting explosives on his boy and tried to catch him in Gulbahar town, about 70 km north of Afghan capital Kabul, the official told Xinhua on condition of anonymity, adding the man ran into a butcher shop and blew himself up.

Parwan province has enjoyed relative calmness this year, although southern provinces and Kabul have suffered from lots of suicide bombings, for which the Taliban have often claimed responsibility.

Because of inferiority in military equipment and tactics, Taliban and other militants have frequently carried suicide bombings toward foreign and government targets.

Due to rising Taliban-linked violence this year, Afghanistan has plunged into the worst spate of bloodshed since the Taliban regime was toppled down nearly five years ago.

Source: Xinhua

Exiting Afghanistan
Article Link

With the Democrats talking about a withdrawal of American forces from Iraq within six months, it was about time someone suggested to Washington to start thinking about leaving Afghanistan too. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz did that on Monday, a day after telling the world's sole superpower that its presence in Afghanistan didn't give it the right to make military intrusion in Pakistan in pursuance of its "war on terror." In a separate interview, Mr Aziz said that Pakistan was the "most important stakeholder" in Afghanistan but that America will have to leave that country sooner or later. In saying that "history is full of examples where we didn't focus too much on an exit strategy," the prime minister is clearly impressing upon Washington the need to have a well-thought out strategy for leaving Afghanistan.

Therefore, even though it would be impractical to ask or expect the Americans to withdraw immediately, it's not too soon for them to start working on a departure plan, since leave they must. Central to any such strategy must be extensive consultations with its allies, especially Kabul and Islamabad. To quote the prime minister, a "good exit strategy is one which leaves that country, that area, peaceful, economically and politically empowered". Indeed, it is this empowerment which would be the key element in the defeat of terrorism, not military force alone, as the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan is increasingly proving. The situation calls for massive investment in Afghanistan and economic assistance to it, the prime minister said. This also applies to that country's neighbours, including Iran. In other words, there should be a kind of Marshall Plan if the troubled region is to have peace. But will the Pakistani leader's words be heeded? The softening of Washington's position on "axis of evil" Iran since the Republican defeat in the midterm elections looks like an indication that America is prepared to heed advice on such matters -- or so one hopes.
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Five Years in Afghanistan: Then and Now
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All Things Considered, November 13, 2006 · It was five years ago that the Taliban fled Kabul after sustaining weeks of U.S. bombardment. Residents showered victorious Northern Alliance soldiers with flowers, candy and money as they stormed in.

An audio collage recalls reports during those hectic days -- and offers a contrast to the condition of Afghanistan now, as seen by Taliban commanders, Northern Alliance rebels, and Kabul residents.

Awakening Afghanistan's 'old mujahideen'
Michael Scheuer, National Post, November 15, 2006

From all observables, the Taliban insurgency is spreading from its deeply rooted base in southern and southeastern Afghanistan to provinces in the west and east. In addition, several Islamist insurgent organizations active during the 1979-89 jihad against the Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan -- the "old mujahideen" -- have allied themselves with the Taliban.

Among the more important and militarily powerful of these long-established groups are Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami and the forces of Maulana Jalaluddin Haqqani, which belong to the Hezb-e-Islami-Khalis organization. Historically, both groups have been able to deploy substantial forces in the strategically vital corridors from the Khyber Pass through Jalalabad to Kabul, and along the only major highway running from Kabul to the southern provinces. Prior to the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, the first of these organizations was hostile to the Taliban, while the second was at best neutral.

Also noticeable in 2006 has been the strongly Afghan-centric nature of the insurgency. As in the jihad against the Red Army, the most important insurgent forces are made up of the Afghans themselves. Since Western leaders and the media focus so much attention on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, the Afghans' dominant role in the war is often overlooked. While al-Qaeda terrorists and other foreign fighters are active in Afghanistan -- London's al-Hayat reports that more and more Saudi men are going to fight there since the Taliban assumed the military initiative this year -- they are but secondary contributors to the war effort.

In short, the U.S.-led coalition is increasingly facing a "nation in arms." Taliban spokesman Abdul-Hai Mutamen highlighted the always intense nationalism and xenophobia of his countrymen when he said that while Afghans and foreign fighters "have spiritual sympathy with each other ... Our resistance is a pure Afghan resistance"..

Ominously, another Taliban leader, Mullah Mehmood Allah Haq Yar, claims that not only has the Pashtun-dominated Taliban's patience run out, but that the forces of the late Ahmed Shah Masood -- heretofore backing Karzai -- are beginning to decide that they did not defeat and evict Moscow only to be ruled by the West. In late spring 2005, Yar claims to have talked with Northern Alliance representatives who "condemned the foreign presence in the country, but insisted that the Taliban take the lead [in attacking it] and then they would follow suit." Yar claims that the Taliban's contacts with the Alliance commanders are continuing.

Overall, the increasing pace of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan suggests it is only a matter of time until the commanders of the U.S.-led coalition are faced with telling their political leaders that a decision must be made to do one of two things: (1) Heavily reinforce coalition forces. (It appears that more than the 120,000 men Moscow deployed to Afghanistan in the 1980s would be necessary); or (2) Admit defeat and begin preparations for withdrawal.

The current path, fighting a growing Taliban insurgency with the current troop level, is simply unsustainable.

- Michael Scheuer served as the chief of the bin Laden Unit at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999. He is now a Senior Fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, where this article was originally printed.

Lack of NATO help slammed
Report blasts member nations not carrying load
Finger pointed at France, Germany, Italy and Turkey

Toronto Star, Nov. 16, 2006, BRUCE CAMPION-SMITH

While Canadian, Dutch and British troops have been fighting and dying on the frontlines in southern Afghanistan, other NATO nations have refused to send in reinforcements to assist them, a new report charges.

In a biting commentary, a Dutch parliamentarian takes aim at members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization for not providing additional forces to assist in the dangerous mission of combating insurgents.

As well, Bert Koenders slams the rules imposed by some nations on their forces that prevent them from being deployed into action — even as soldiers from other NATO states come under withering attacks...

The report calls into question Canada's rosy view of the progress that has been made in Afghanistan, warning that few citizens have seen any improvements in their lives, that the insurgency is at its peak and that the drug trade is booming.

"Most Afghans have seen little change in their lives, making it easier for resurgent Taliban to recruit," the report said.

"Failure to bring security or services to rural regions, particularly in the south, has generated deep disappointment among Afghans," it said...

The Asia Foundation Releases Single-Largest Public Opinion Survey Ever Conducted in Afghanistan
Thursday November 9

The survey is separated into seven different categories and opens with findings on the overall national mood in Afghanistan in 2006, which states that 44% of Afghans think the country is headed in the right direction, 21% feel it is moving in the wrong direction, 29% had mixed feelings, and 4% were unsure. This is in comparison to The Asia Foundation's 2004 survey, "Democracy in Afghanistan," when 64% of Afghans believed the country was headed in the right direction, 11% felt it was moving in the wrong direction, 8% had mixed feelings, and 16% were unsure...

- edited 190729EST Nov 06, adding AM material -

Defence Minister hopeful casualties in Afghanistan will decrease into winter
Canadian Press, 16 Nov 06
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There's hope the casualties in Afghanistan will continue to decrease into the winter months, potentially giving military families a restful holiday, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor told an audience of soldiers and military officials Thursday.  O'Connor's remarks were similar to ones he made at appearances earlier in the week in Vancouver and Calgary, where he spoke about how Canada and its allies are rebuilding the impoverished and war-torn country.  After the speech at Toronto's Canadian Forces College, he said the Taliban has traditionally been quiet during the harsh winters in Afghanistan.  That, coupled with a lack of leadership at the top of the Taliban's command, could mean a lower threat to troops, he said.  "Normally as the weather gets worse . . . and winter comes on, the Taliban tend to reduce their strength and they go over the mountains back into Pakistan," he said.  "It's a combination of winter coming on and they've suffered so many casualties - they have to regroup if they want to take us on again." ....

Bearing the burden in Afghanistan
U.S., British and Canadian forces are locked in a deadly struggle with the Taliban in Afghanistan. But while the three countries are left to the heavy soldiering, their NATO allies elsewhere in Afghanistan have seen little, if any, action. PAUL KORING reports on the questions being asked where the boots hit the dirt

Paul Koring, Globe & Mail, 19 Nov 06
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Troops from most major European nations are kept far from the fighting in Afghanistan, crippling NATO's effort to defeat the Taliban and secure the embattled south, according to NATO officers and independent analysts.  That leaves U.S., British and Canadian soldiers doing most of the fighting and dying in the battle with the fierce Taliban insurgency, a review of casualties shows.  Germany, France, Italy, and Spain -- all major military powers with significant troop contributions -- have stayed far from the Taliban fighters, deploying thousands of combat-capable troops, but keeping them hunkered down in the mostly peaceful northern and western parts of the country.  The starkest indicator of the imbalance is the body count, with three countries -- the United States, Canada and Britain -- accounting for 90 per cent of NATO's combat casualties.  Americans killed in action account for half of the total, followed by Canada with 25 per cent and Britain with 15 per cent.   But the unwillingness of many European nations to allow their troops to be sent into combat is only part of the problem.  Most of the 37 "troop-contributing" nations to the International Security and Assistance Force have sent too few soldiers to make any meaningful military impact ....

Rain adding to the challenge of soldiers stationed in Kandahar
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 16 Nov 06
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It's not the blistering heat and blowing sand that are causing problems for Canadian troops these days - it's the rain.  By definition, a desert is described as a dry, often sandy region of little rainfall, with extreme temperatures and sparse vegetation. That seemed to be the perception about southern Afghanistan last week. But since last weekend the area has been literally soaked.  Several times a day, dark clouds appear and thunder rolls across the region. The result has been unpleasant for Canadian soldiers stationed at Kandahar Airfield.  "I think you have to be careful what you wish for. A lot of people were complaining about the dust and now we don't have dust anymore-we have mud," said Warrant Officer Gerry Fischer of Kitchener, Ont., who is with National Support Element Force Protection Platoon.  "Pretty well all of our tents have free-flowing water flowing right through them so the guys are trying to figure out ways of getting water to flow uphill," he laughed ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

U.S. Airstrikes Climb Sharply in Afghanistan
David S. Cloud, New York Times Syndicate, 17 Nov 06
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The Air Force has conducted more than 2,000 airstrikes in Afghanistan over the past six months, a sharp increase in bombing that reflects the growing demand for American air cover since NATO has assumed a larger ground combat role, Air Force officials said.  The intensifying air campaign has focused on southern Afghanistan, where NATO units, primarily from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, as well as American Special Forces have been engaging in the heaviest and most frequent ground combat with Taliban rebels since the invasion five years ago.  The NATO forces are mostly operating without heavy armor or artillery support, and as Taliban resistance has continued, more air support has been used to compensate for the lightness of the units, Air Force officials said. Most of the strikes have come during “close air support” missions, where the bombers patrol the area and respond to calls from ground units in combat rather than performing planned strikes. On a recent 11-hour mission that included a reporter for The New York Times, a B-1 bomber orbited at 20,000 feet, responding to radio calls from American and Canadian troops who asked the plane to use its radar to watch for insurgent forces and to be prepared to drop bombs ....

NATO chiefs to urge world re-think on Afghanistan
Reuters (UK), 17 Nov 06
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NATO leaders meeting in Riga this month will call on the international community to revamp a haphazard strategy for rebuilding Afghanistan to plug shortcomings in aid efforts, alliance diplomats said on Friday.  Ideas being floated ahead of the November 28-29 summit of the U.S.-led defence pact include stricter monitoring of donor pledges, and greater roles for the local U.N. mission and World Bank in coordinating development and reconstruction.  Taliban insurgents have fed off growing frustration among Afghans at the slow pace of reconstruction and anger about civilian casualties as NATO troops seek to root out Islamist fighters often hiding within local communities.  Leaders at the summit are expected to call for the United Nations, the European Union and other agencies to work more closely with NATO but will stress the alliance wants to stick to security tasks and seeks no coordinating role for itself ....

Humanitarian work is the task of aid workers, not soldiers, Security Council team told
IRIN News (UN), 16 Nov 06
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A leading Afghan NGO body on Thursday called on the United Nations (UN) to give greater support to aid agencies in delivering humanitarian assistance.  The call came as foreign soldiers, who are battling the growing insurgency in the country, have become increasingly involved in aid and development work. This has impacted on the impartiality of aid workers, NGOs say.  The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) addressed its concerns to a visiting United Nations Security Council fact-finding team after a number of aid organisations had questioned the growing involvement of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in development and humanitarian work. Some aid groups say ISAF’s involvement endangers their work and has made it difficult for local people to differentiate between aid workers and soldiers ....

The Current Situation in Iraq and Afghanistan
Lieutenant General Michael D. Maples, Director, Defense Intelligence Agency
Statement for the Record, Senate Armed Services Committee, 15 Nov 2006
Prepared Statement (88KB .pdf)

.... In Afghanistan the Taliban-led insurgency, aided by al-Qaida, is incapable of directly
threatening the central government and expanding its resilient support networks and areas of
influence beyond strongholds in the Pashtun south and east as long as international force levels
are sustained at current levels. Nonetheless, DIA judges that, despite having absorbed heavy
combat losses in 2006, the insurgency has strengthened its capabilities and influence with its
core base of Pashtun communities. Violence this year is likely to be twice as high as the
violence level seen in 2005 ....

‘Afghanistan violence will double next year’
Daily Times (PAK), 16 Nov 06
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Insurgent violence in Afghanistan this year will likely double that of 2005 and will continue next year, the US military’s top intelligence official told Congress on Wednesday.  General Michael Maples, director of the US Defence Intelligence Agency, said insurgents had expanded their abilities and operations even while incurring serious combat losses. “Despite having absorbed heavy combat losses in 2006, the insurgency has strengthened its capabilities and influence with its core base of Pashtun communities,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee ....

Al-Qaeda report focuses on 'Crusaders' in Afghanistan, makes specific threat against Canada
Hans de Vreij, Radio Netherlands, 16 Nov 06
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The Netherlands figures prominently in a report from the al-Qaeda terrorist network which has appeared on a number of radical Islamic websites in recent weeks and in a printed version which has been distributed in Afghanistan. The 66-page document devotes great attention to Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the three countries supplying the vast majority of the NATO troops currently deployed in Afghanistan.  While it would normally come as a major surprise to find the former Dutch government party, the small D66 progressive democrats, and its former leader Boris Dittrich given such attention in an al-Qaeda publication, perhaps it shouldn't really come as much of a surprise at all. Earlier this year, al-Qaeda made it known that it would be shifting its attention from Iraq to Afghanistan. Consequently, the terrorist network appears to have been closely following what is and has been going on in that country ....

The Crusaders Admit: Our Troops are Being Defeated in Afghanistan
An Analytical Study of the Crusader Forces Occupying Afghanistan

SITE Institute, 27 Oct 06
Report Summary

.... The introduction to the document, previously translated by the SITE Institute , summarizes Raouf’s goals in the analysis as proving Western “Crusader” hubris and selfishness in the Afghan occupation, especially by the United States, and deliberate attempts by the commanding regimes to obfuscate the reality of the ground war. The analysis then pursues the signs and indications of the Crusader’s defeat in Afghanistan, highlighting reasons for U.S. withdrawal and their handing greater authority to NATO forces in the southern provinces, and reviewing the conditions of British, Canadian, Dutch, Australian, and other foreign forces ....

NATO's Afghanistan Mission is in Trouble
News release, NATO Parliamentary Assembly, 15 Nov 06

A senior European parliamentarian warned today (Tuesday) that NATO's mission in Afghanistan could end in failure unless member states honoured commitments they had already made to ensure its success.  Mr Bert Koenders, a member of the Dutch parliament, told a meeting of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO-PA) the mission was in trouble but could still be saved.  "The overall security situation has deteriorated significantly. Insurgents' attacks in the southern and eastern regions that border Pakistan led this summer to be the bloodiest since the fall of the Taliban," he told a meeting of the NATO-PA's Political Committee.  "Moreover terrorist activities including suicide bombings which were previously unseen in Afghanistan have increased significantly," he added. He noted that 3,700 people had been killed since January 2006 and that although many of these were insurgents the "frequency of terrorist attacks had increased four fold".  Mr Koenders, one of the NATO-PA's two Vice-Presidents, called for all NATO countries to meet in full all promised force contributions and to make greater efforts to win "hearts and minds" with priority projects in the areas of irrigation, roads and energy supplies ....

BERT KOENDERS (NETHERLANDS), GENERAL RAPPORTEUR, NATO Parliamentary Assembly Report 174 PC 06 E, 15 Nov 06

.... The mission in Afghanistan is at a critical stage. The Alliance can and must succeed in Afghanistan. If we do not, we would seriously fail the people of Afghanistan and undermine our unity of purpose. Therefore, we must live up to our promises and match our political commitments with the necessary resources.  We cannot allow the security situation in the country to deteriorate and we must provide the forces agreed.  NATO member states must be more forthcoming in the allocation of troops and equipment as well as more flexible in the manner they can be used for operations on the ground.   Robust forces must be able go where they are needed most and not to the safest areas.  In addition, providing security throughout the whole country remains key, but reconstruction efforts must be better co-ordinated.  To that end, priority should be given to projects in the sectors of irrigation, roads and energy supply ....

Articles found 17 November 2006

Inside the Jihad
POSTED: 7:35 p.m. EST, November 16, 2006 By Henry Schuster CNN
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Editor's note: Henry Schuster, a senior producer in CNN's investigative unit and author of "Hunting Eric Rudolph," has been covering terrorism for more than a decade. Each week in "Tracking Terror" he reports on people and organizations driving international and domestic terrorism, and efforts to combat them.

PARIS, France (CNN) -- The first thing you learn about Omar Nasiri is that even his name is an alias.

It is the sort of deception you would expect from a man who says he's gone undercover and spied inside the jihad. When we sit down to tape an interview with Nasiri, he wants his face in shadow, saying he still fears for his life.

"Inside the Jihad" happens to be the name of Nasiri's new book, which is subtitled "My Life With Al Qaeda, a Spy's Story."

It is a fascinating story of a man who says he betrayed his brothers to the police and then had contact with senior al Qaeda leaders at a terror training camp in Afghanistan -- all the while spying for French, British and German intelligence.

It is also an attempt to explain to a Western audience what it is that makes the global jihadi movement so attractive to young Muslim men like Nasiri, something Nasiri says hasn't changed since he became involved in his double life in the early 1990s.

The man who ran the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit during the late 1990s says Nasiri's story is "the most detailed firsthand account of someone who made his way into al Qaeda."

And says Michael Scheuer, best-selling author of books on bin Laden and terrorism, "It's certainly more complete than anything I saw at the CIA."
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Survival of the Taliban: Musharraf says fault lies with Afghanistan
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ISLAMABAD: President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Monday denied that his country was responsible for the survival of the Taliban.

“There is trans-border cooperation in militant activities, with the base in Afghanistan but support from Pakistan. We need to isolate the two, and deal with whatever is happening from Pakistan on our side, while the main action will have to be taken in Afghanistan to counter militancy,” Musharraf told a British TV channel.

The president told Channel 4 News in an interview how he wanted to suppress the Taliban.

Asked whether he accepted that Quetta was the headquarters for Taliban operations in Afghanistan, he said, “The base of the whole organisation is in Afghanistan. The whole of Afghanistan is divided into five command regions of the Taliban, each of which is headed by a commander. The financing comes from the drug underworld. However, they have support – I will accept to an extent – yes … in Quetta, there are about 450,000 Afghan refugees, and this is a hotbed of all kinds of activity.”

About the failure of coalition forces in countering the Taliban, he said, “They are failing in Afghanistan … they need to understand the realities, and convert the failure into success. We need to look into why they are failing. They have given a very, very easy cause, the scapegoat of Pakistan. They will keep failing in Afghanistan if they continue following this trend.”
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Briton freed after 18 years on death row in Pakistan
PAUL GARWOOD Associated Press
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ISLAMABAD — A British man on death row for 18 years in Pakistan was freed Friday, two days after President General Pervez Musharraf granted him clemency, officials said.

“He has been released this morning,” Pakistan's Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told The Associated Press.

Mirza Tahir Hussain, who has maintained his innocence for killing a taxi driver, was freed ahead of a weekend visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Gen. Musharraf gave an order Wednesday that Mr. Hussain's death sentence should be commuted to life behind bars, Mr. Sherpao said.
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Nearly 50 people killed in Afghanistan floods
11.17.2006, 06:24 AM
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HERAT, Afghanistan (XFN-ASIA) - Flash floods caused by heavy rains have killed nearly 50 people in western Afghanistan with 60 more missing, the Afghan health ministry said, citing provincial representatives.

Forty-seven bodies had been recovered after floods which hit the western province of Badghis yesterday, health ministry official Ahamd Shah Shokohmand told Agence France-Presse.

TA solidiers get ready for patrols in Afghanistan
By Phil Hill
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LIFE is just about to get a whole lot more interesting for a team of volunteer soldiers from our area currently serving in Afghanistan.

The 25 from Bishop's Hull-based Territorial Army are preparing to go out on their first patrols in the Tali-ban stronghold of Helmand pro-vince.

Until now they have been confined to camp, where they have been undergoing training and carrying out guard duties.

They flew out in September on a six-month tour supporting regular troops.

Capt 'Barney' Barnes, of B Comp-any Somerset Light Infantry Rifle Volunteers, said: "They've settled into the force protection guarding the camp. But they've been training to go outside the camp patrolling and that is starting this week
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Afghanistan: Lessons India must learn
M K Bhadrakumar
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November 16, 2006
If the intended hype around the aid conference on Afghanistan scheduled to take place in New Delhi on Saturday is lacking, that cannot cause surprise.
When India proposed itself as the venue for a sequel to the conference at Kabul attended by a galaxy of foreign ministers last December, Delhi's strategic intentions were clear.

A conference of this nature would highlight India's regional role in Afghanistan. Second, since Afghan reconstruction was an integral part of the 'war on terror', and was of core concern to the US policy, Delhi would have aspired to harmonise one more facet of its regional policy with that of Washington's vital interests, consistent with the behaviour of 'natural allies'.

That, in turn, would put pressure on Pakistan to 'do more' in the war on terror, apart from throwing into relief the Islamabad's negativism towards Delhi's insistent claim to have an access route by land to Afghanistan -- a route that also would link India to Central Asia.
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'India should just shut up'
The Rediff Interview/Afghan expert Sarah Chayes October 12, 2006
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American author Sarah Chayes asserts that Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf is just not doing enough to stem the flow of the Taliban into neighbouring Afghanistan. But Chayes, the author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, adds that Afghan President Hamid Karzai too "has people that he knows have close contacts with the Pakistan ISI in his government."
In the third part of this exclusive interview, she also told Rediff India Abroad Managing Editor Aziz Haniffa why the best thing that India could do under the prevailing circumstances was to "shut up," and not make any provocative moves in Afghanistan. Continuing our week-long series on Afghanistan.

Part I: 'Osama is not in Pakistan'

Part II: 'India is Pakistan's fundamental concern'

Is Afghan President Hamid Karzai's angry assertion that Musharraf is fomenting cross-border terrorism and meddling in the affairs of Afghanistan totally justifiable? Or is it a case, as Musharraf alleges, of his own inadequacies? Is Pakistan indeed fomenting all these resurgent problems that seem to have arisen in recent months with a vengeance within Afghanistan?

Absolutely. There is no doubt about it. I wouldn't be speaking to you the way I am if I weren't sure of this. Oh, my God! In Kandahar, it is so visible. I went to the border a year or so ago, and I just sat on the border to watch who is coming through the main border crossing. And there were at least half-a-dozen Taliban who came through in less than 10 minutes.

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There is no moderate Taleban: India
Dharam Shourie in United Nations
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India has cautioned the international community against accepting the concept of 'moderate Taleban', and asked the Security Council to ensure that the Afghan militia are completely eradicated.

"There is no moderate Taliban just as there is no good terrorist," Indian Ambassador Kamalesh Sharma told the Council on Tuesday.

Participating in the debate on the situation in Afghanistan, he likened the Taleban to cancer and said any good doctor would attest that if it is not extirpated fully and to the last cell, it comes back working its malign influence.

"It (Taleban) has no place in any future dispensation in Afghanistan, in any guise whatsoever," he added and expressed India's full support in eradicating the terrorist networks.

Without naming any country, he attacked attempts by Islamabad to have a veto over the future government in Afghanistan and demanded that the new political set up should be decided by Afghans themselves and not imposed from outside in the interest of peace and security.
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Very old Article
Jihad, not talks: Mullah Omar January 20, 2005 19:04 IST
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Taliban Chief Mullah Omar, currently in hiding to escape the manhunt by American and Afghan troops, has rejected any possibility of talks with the US and vowed to continue the fight against coalition forces.
"We want to make it clear to the aggressors and their puppet government that as long as one occupation soldier is on Afghan holy soil, Taliban leadership wil| not be willing to hold talks with them. We do need such talks," the one-eyed Taliban leader said in a message on the eve of Eid released in Afghanistan and Pakistan Thursday.

"It is strange that the American forces are not only continuing their occupation of our homeland but they have come up with a claim of having talks with the Taliban for peace," he said in a one-page handwritten message in Pashto faxed to media offices in Pakistan by Taleban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi
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Very Old Article
Why Afghanistan is important to India
August 30, 2005
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Ever since Operation Enduring Freedom evicted the Pakistan-sponsored Taliban regime from Kabul in December 2001, various powers started -- as they always have been -- jockeying for political and economic leverage in Afghanistan.
India -- one of the main supporters of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, which had managed to hold on to a tiny sliver of the country in the north during the five years of Taliban rule -- and Pakistan are among them, in addition to Iran, Russia and, of course, the United States.

Afghanistan has a long and tumultuous history full of warring tribes and ethnic factions, including a decade of brutal Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1989.

America's war on terror: complete coverage

Its main advantage -- its geography -- has perhaps also been its main drawback. Anyone who controls Afghanistan controls the land routes between the Indian subcontinent, Iran, and resource rich Central Asia. Almost every major power therefore wanted a slice of the pie.

Today, flanked by Iran on the west, Pakistan on the east and the Central Asian republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the north (and a very small stretch of border with China in the northeast), the country's geo-strategic importance has multiplied manifold.

What are India's interests in Afghanistan today?

Economically, it is a gateway to the oil and mineral rich Central Asian republics. Also, the massive reconstruction plans for the country offer a lot of opportunities for Indian companies.

Historically, apart from the five years of Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, India has enjoyed good to excellent cultural and economic relations with Afghanistan. Indian movies are reportedly a staple part of the Afghan culture, while Afghan shawls and dry fruits, among other things, come into India both legally and illegally.

Strategically, an actively pro-Delhi regime in Kabul (at the moment, fierce warlords rule most other parts of the country) would rattle Islamabad, which has traditionally seen Afghanistan as its backyard.

Afghanistan keen to join SAARC

Why is Pakistan averse to giving India transit rights through to Afghanistan?

Officially, the reason is Kashmir.
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NATO Head Praises Romanian Contribution In Afghanistan
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NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Thursday praised Romania's contribution to the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, Romanian press agency Mediafax reported.

"In a complicated situation I called the president of Romania and Romania put itself forward," he said during an official visit to Bucharest.

Romanian soldiers would also be present from now on in the "very dangerous" southern Afghan region of Zabul, said the NATO chief.

In September, Bucahrest increased the number of soldiers participating in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission by 190, bringing the total number of Romanian soldiers in Afghanistan to over 800.

De Hoop Scheffer met with the Romanian Foreign Minister Razvan Ungureanu, Defence Minister Sorin Frunzaverde and Prime Minister Traian Basescu for talks about the agenda of the NATO summit in Riga at the end of the month.

Foreign Minister Ungureanu said that Romania expected the Riga summit to clarify NATO's role in energy security in the Black Sea.

Basescu said the NATO chief's proposal to give priority to the energy issue corresponded to his own wishes. Previously, Basescu had accused the Russian gas giant Gazprom of shaping its prices according to political criteria. Romania is dependent on gas imports from Russia.

Why Are Canadians Dying in Afghanistan? For Oil?
by John W Warnock Global Research, November 16, 2006
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Remembrance Day this year brought home to many Canadians the reality of Canada’s war in Afghanistan. Despite a campaign by the mass media, recent public opinion polls reveal that around fifty percent of Canadians think the government should bring our kids home. Our Conservative and Liberal leaders insist we must stay the course and continue to back the U.S. government and NATO. The Bloc Quebecois says we should pull out. Jack Layton and the NDP have offered a qualified call for withdrawal. Elizabeth May and the Green Party have maintained a strange silence on the issue.
        Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear some Canadian general or colonel strongly advocate an active military role in Afghanistan. We are told that Canadian forces are fighting a war to defeat the Taliban, defend the democratic government in Kabul, and help with economic reconstruction. But when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice comes to Canada, she emphasizes that Canada is in Afghanistan to support U.S. policy objectives.
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Back to school in Afghanistan
Published: 16 Nov 2006 By: Alex Thomson
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We report on the state of education in Afghanistan, from the success in Kabul to the horros in the south.

Watch the report

We're broadcasting live as part of our special week of coverage from Afghanistan - five years after the invasion that toppled the Taliban from power.
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Afghanistan's Bid for Foreign Investment a Tough Sale
By Gary Thomas Washington 16 November 2006
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More than 20 years of foreign occupation and civil war has left much of Afghanistan in ruins. As part of its rebuilding effort, the Afghan government is trying to lure foreign investment. But as VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports, Afghanistan is not an easy sale to potential investors.

In 2004, three years after the Taleban regime was toppled, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress the doors to Afghanistan were open to investors.

"To succeed we ask for your continued investment. Afghanistan is open for business, and American companies are most welcome," he said.

Today the Afghan capital Kabul boasts a gleaming shopping mall and one new luxury hotel. Unfortunately, it also has a reinvigorated insurgency inflicting new attacks, a booming drug trade, and what one U.N. official labeled "endemic corruption", any one of which makes potential investors nervous.
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UN urges Afghanistan to do more to tackle own problems
Friday November 17, 2006 (0208 PST)
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NEW YORK: The United Nations "would strongly expect" Afghanistan does its part to address many challenges before the country including insurgency, narcotics and corruption, a delegation of the UN Security Council said here the other day.
"Afghan people themselves are expected to work harder to fight endemic corruption, to establish or reestablish the rule of law, to build a culture of respects for human rights, especially women's rights," said Kenzo Oshima, the Japanese ambassador to the UN, who serves as head of the delegation.

As the first mission of the Security Council to this volatile country in three years, the delegation, grouping representatives from 10 Security Council members, arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday to pay a five-day fact-finding visit, during which it has held a meeting with President Hamid Karzai.

Oshima said the delegation would bring forward a report on Afghan situation with some recommendations to the Security Council, which perhaps would be published early in December.
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U.S. Airstrikes Climb Sharply in Afghanistan
NY Times, By DAVID S. CLOUD, November 17

The Air Force has conducted more than 2,000 airstrikes in Afghanistan over the past six months, a sharp increase in bombing that reflects the growing demand for American air cover since NATO has assumed a larger ground combat role, Air Force officials said.

The intensifying air campaign has focused on southern Afghanistan, where NATO units, primarily from Britain, Canada and the Netherlands, as well as American Special Forces [and a National Guard brigade in Regional Command (South) - Mark] have been engaging in the heaviest and most frequent ground combat with Taliban rebels since the invasion five years ago.

The NATO forces are mostly operating without heavy armor or artillery support [Canada is working on these too], and as Taliban resistance has continued, more air support has been used to compensate for the lightness of the units, Air Force officials said. Most of the strikes have come during “close air support” missions, where the bombers patrol the area and respond to calls from ground units in combat rather than performing planned strikes.

On a recent 11-hour mission that included a reporter for The New York Times, a B-1 bomber orbited at 20,000 feet, responding to radio calls from American and Canadian troops who asked the plane to use its radar to watch for insurgent forces and to be prepared to drop bombs...

The 2,095 attacks by American aircraft since June is many times greater than the number of airstrikes in Iraq, where the terrain and nature of the conflict are less susceptible to bombing campaigns. There have been only 88 attacks by American aircraft in Iraq since June, according to Air Force figures. Unlike in Afghanistan, insurgents in Iraq are largely in urban areas and do not often mass in groups large enough to warrant use of airstrikes, Air Force commanders said.

The increase in total munitions dropped has also been substantial. This year in Afghanistan, American aircraft have dropped 987 bombs and fired more than 146,000 cannon rounds and bullets in strafing runs, more than was expended in both categories from the beginning of the American-led invasion in 2001 through 2004, the Air Force said. During those years, a total of 848 bombs and just over 119,000 bullets were used by aircraft, according to Air Force figures.

On the B-1 flight last week that included a reporter, Colonel Schepper and his two-man crew received a radio call from a Canadian soldier at an isolated base near the town of Tarin Kowt, who asked the aircraft to stand by for potential attacks on insurgent forces. A few hours later, the bomber crew received a similar radio message from an American Special Forces soldier, who warned that Taliban attacks on his position had been frequent. “We’ve had contact every day this week,” said the soldier, who could not be identified under military rules. “As sure as the day is long, we’ll have more.”..