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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (November 2006)

fghanistan rains kill 15, slow down Cdn. troops

Updated Fri. Nov. 17 2006 12:30 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Flash-flooding in a remote northwestern Afghanistan province has killed at least 15 people while rain in the south continues to cause problems for Canadian troops.

Thousands are stranded and at least 50 people are still missing after heavy rain pummelled Badghis province's Balamurghab and Ghormach districts Thursday, said provincial official Mirza Ahmad.

Rescue crews, some riding donkeys, reached the flooded area and uncovered 10 bodies in four Balamurghab district villages. At least 50 people are still missing in the district.

In Ghormach, where at least 1,000 homes were damaged by flooding, another five bodies were found.

With about 50,000 families living in the region, Ahmad called on NATO forces to send help.

"We are seeking urgent help from the government and the (U.S.-led) coalition to help the people because the area is very remote and people's lives are at risk,'' Ahmad told The Associated Press.

NATO and Afghan officials are working on sending emergency relief to flood-affected areas, NATO spokesperson Maj. Luke Knittig told AP.

In southern Afghanistan, the heavy rain is an uncommon occurrence.

"For the past five or six days there has been a constant downpour of rain which is very unusual for southern Afghanistan -- this area has had an extreme drought for the past few years," said CTV's Steve Chao from Kandahar.

While it's still business as usual, the rain is slowing down Canadian troops.

"It is slowing down military operations," said Chao. "As you can imagine, many of these roads down here are made up of dirt so now much of it is has turned into mud which of course is slowing down the heavy military vehicles."

But the military is well-prepared with meteorologists on staff to analyze the weather.

"Their task is to measure what kind of effect the weather will have -- they even go so far as to measure how an artillery shell will fire through the rain to make sure that it constantly remains accurate despite the weather," said Chao.

link http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20061117/afghan_flood_061117/20061117?hub=World
Conservatives remain committed to Afghanistan mission: O'Connor
Carly Weeks, CanWest News Service, 17 Nov 06
Article Link

Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor said Friday the Conservative government hasn’t done enough to sell the public on Canada’s mission in Afghanistan.  But despite souring public opinion and mounting opposition from other parties, the Conservatives won’t back down from Canada’s commitment and will make the military an election issue if it has to, O’Connor said at the final day of a NATO conference in Quebec City.  “Our government is prepared to defend our commitment in Afghanistan,” O’Connor said. “Whenever the next election comes and I hope it’s a long way off, we are prepared...to defend from a defence point of view and a foreign affairs point of view, our commitment in Afghanistan.” ....

O'Connor: NATO allies must commit to Afghanistan
CTV.ca, 17 Nov 06
Article Link

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor made another pitch for more troops to share the load in Afghanistan Friday, also lamenting that some nations have restrictions on how NATO soldiers can be used.  According to reports, some aren't even permitted to leave coalition bases after nightfall, leaving most of the front line fighting up to the Canadian, U.S., Dutch and British contingents.  Friday marked the end of a NATO conference in Quebec City, where O'Connor hoped to convince more countries to make military commitments to Afghanistan. He told CTV's Mike Duffy Live he has had some success, noting that Poland recently made a pledge ....

NATO chief bemoans limits on troops in Afghanistan
David Ljunggren, Reuters, 17 Nov 06
Article Link

The head of the Nato military alliance urged member nations yesterday to drop the restrictions they impose on their troops in Afghanistan, saying this was hampering the ability to fight Taleban militants.  Nato currently has around 31,000 soldiers in Afghanistan but some member nations have placed so-called caveats on what their troops can do. Some are not allowed to operate at night and others have been banned from fighting altogether.  The caveats have upset the United States, Britain and Canada, who complain their soldiers are doing most of the fighting against the Taleban in southern Afghanistan. Nato Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer asked a Quebec City meeting of parliamentarians from the 26 member nations to persuade their governments to lift the restrictions ....

NATO secretary general calls for the removal of troop restrictions
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 17 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer urged the alliance's parliamentarians Friday to lean on their governments to remove restrictions on troops operating in Afghanistan.  Speaking by video conference to a meeting in Quebec City, he said so-called national caveats - limitations put on the missions soldiers can undertake - are understandable, but ultimately divisive. "NATO is about solidarity and sharing burdens and risks," he said. "National caveats reflect genuine and understandable concerns of governments and parliaments for their soldiers. Apart from restricting the ability of our military commanders to fufil their mission, they - that is those caveats - can also be perceived as divisive."  The split among alliance countries was brought more sharply into focus at the week-long meeting of politicians from NATO countries.  But the newly elected head of the parliamentary association said no one should make too much of the bickering ....

In Afghanistan, European troops avoid combat
Paul Koring, KnoxNews.com, 16 Nov 06
Article Link

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 ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

McDonough urges O’Connor to include Halifax in his cross-Canada tour on Afghanistan
NDP news release, 17 Nov 06

NDP Foreign Affairs and International Development Critic, Alexa McDonough (MP Halifax) today urged Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor to accept her invitation to participate in a Forum on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan, taking place December 4 in Halifax.  “I am pleased that the Minister has begun touring the country to talk to Canadians about our role in Afghanistan,” said McDonough. “Although the government has clearly put the cart before the horse, by extending the Kandahar mission by two full years without consulting Canadians.”  “Let me also remind the Minister however, that Canada does not end at the Quebec-New Brunswick border,” added McDonough.  In the letter of invitation to the Minister, McDonough notes that, “the concerns and frustrations of Canadians have been exacerbated by the inadequate opportunity for open, informed dialogue” on Canada’s role in Afghanistan ....

Canada has lost its way with foreign policy: CARE Canada president
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 17 Nov 06
Article Link

Canada has made a fatal mistake by blurring the line between its military and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, the president and chief executive of CARE Canada said Friday.  John Watson said Canada has made it next to impossible for non-governmental organizations to help those desperately in need in the war-torn southern region, including Kandahar.  "That horse has bolted, I am afraid. Too much time has passed," said Watson in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from Kabul, the Afghan capital.  "Even if we were invited to go into Kandahar, I don't think we would do it at this time. We already have our hands full in other hot-spots around the world," he said.  CARE Canada, established in 1946, is the country's leading non-sectarian international relief and development organization. It is spending some C$37.7 million in the embattled country this year ....

UN chief: Nato cannot defeat Taliban by force
Declan Walsh & Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian Online (UK), 18 Nov 06
Article Link

Nato "cannot win" the fight against the Taliban alone and will have to train Afghan forces to do the job, the UN's top official in the country warned yesterday.  "At the moment Nato has a very optimistic assessment. They think they can win the war," warned Tom Koenigs, the diplomat heading the UN mission in Afghanistan. "But there is no quick fix."  In forthright comments which highlight divisions between international partners as Nato battles to quell insurgency, Mr Koenigs said that training the fledgling Afghan national army to defeat the Taliban was crucial. "They [the ANA] can win. But against an insurgency like that, international troops cannot win." ....

Commentary:  The EU should put up or shut up in Afghanistan
Robert E. Hunter, Daily Star (LBN), 18 Nov 06
Article Link

Time is running out for success in Afghanistan. The NATO summit in Riga of November 28-29 may be the last chance to pull that country back from the brink. NATO assumed responsibility for providing security for all of Afghanistan in October. While about 8,000 of the 20,000 United States troops in Afghanistan operate independently, the rest have joined the most ambitious military venture in NATO's history, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).  Each of the 26 NATO allies has troops in Afghanistan, as do 11 other countries. Some, like Macedonia and Finland, belong to the alliance's Partnership for Peace. Others, like Australia and South Korea, come from farther afield. Soldiers from different countries operate almost as a single unit with shared objectives, similar methods, compatible equipment, and complementary skills. A half-century of working together, plus a decade and a half of adapting to new threats and demands, is paying off ....

Articles found 18 November 2006

Canada has lost its way with foreign policy: CARE Canada president
Friday Nov17 2006 BILL GRAVELAND
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - Canada has made a fatal mistake by blurring the line between its military and humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, the president and chief executive of CARE Canada said Friday.
John Watson said Canada has made it next to impossible for non-governmental organizations to help those desperately in need in the war-torn southern region, including Kandahar.

"That horse has bolted, I am afraid. Too much time has passed," said Watson in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from Kabul, the Afghan capital.

"Even if we were invited to go into Kandahar, I don't think we would do it at this time. We already have our hands full in other hot-spots around the world," he said.

CARE Canada, established in'46, is the country's leading non-sectarian international relief and development organization. It is spending some C$37.7 million in the embattled country this year.

Watson is seeking advice from local humanitarian aid officials in Kabul and hopes to sit down with local NATO officials as well. Despite CARE's resources being stretched to the limit, he would like to tour the Kandahar region and the Provincial Reconstruction Team base, located within Kandahar city itself. His previous comments about the PRT have him doubtful that his request will be granted. 
"I've been extremely critical of the PRT and I am sure our guys are doing it as well as it can be done. It's just a bad concept - linking what they call humanitarian aid with a military camp," said Watson.
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Minister hopes to limit troops to one Afghan tour
Nov. 18, 2006. 07:23 AM CANADIAN PRESS
Article Link

OTTAWA — To avoid wearing out his troops, Canada's defence minister is proposing to limit combat troops to one deployment in war-torn Afghanistan, if possible.

Gordon O'Connor told the Commons defence committee Wednesday that with a little luck and good planning, the army won't have to ask soldiers to return again and again to battle Taliban insurgents.

"There are exceptions in some support trades, but we should have enough people, if we do our recruiting right, to get us through to the end of February '09 without committing large numbers of troops back there again," he said.

"I don't anticipate anybody being there five or six times."
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Rosy picture of Afghanistan hides grim truth
Article Link

There is little to celebrate after five years, writes Chief Correspondent Paul McGeough.

PERHAPS it was Kabul's famously thin air. But while he was in the capital a few weeks ago, Britain's Defence Secretary, Des Browne, told the BBC back home how "the people of Afghanistan [had] lost 2 million people securing their freedom", before he added: "… to this extent".

That is a big caveat. The extent to which Afghans have been freed is debatable. Certainly, they have been liberated from the tyranny of the Taliban, but after the most violent year since the fall of Kabul, there is rising bitterness about the dismal first half-decade of their fragile democracy.

The NATO Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, seemed to be breathing the same air as the British defence chief when he wrote for the Canadian press to mark this week's fifth anniversary of the US-led invasion that came so fast on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the US.

Painting a rosy picture of liberated Afghanistan, Mr de Hoop Scheffer concluded: "These numbers should act as a strong counter to the idea that the international community is not welcome [in Afghanistan]."

But he was answering the wrong question. The great disappointment in today's Afghanistan is not so much that the foreigners came, but that they came and left so quickly - and when they did leave, they left so little behind
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`Killings of Indians in Afghanistan orchestrated from beyond` 
Article Link

New Delhi, Nov 18: Afghan President Hamid Karzai today said the recent killing by extremists of an Indian engineer K Suryanaryana and bro driver Maniappan Kutty working in his country was orchestrated from "beyond" Afghanistan.

These extremists see a democratic Afghanistan as inhibiting their interests in the region, he said while addressing the ht leadership summit here.

Suryanarayana, an engineer with a telecom company, was kidnapped on April 28 and killed two days later suspectedly by Taliban. Earlier in January, Kutty was also abducted and murdered four days later with the finger of suspicion pointing to Taliban.

Asked whether he was willing to talk to Taliban leader Mullah Omar as part of efforts to bring back peace in Afghanistan, he said, "for the sake of peace, we are willing to do anything.

"We are willing to talk to all those who endanger peace to stop them from continuing to do so," he said but went on to make it clear that those who committed crimes against the Afghan people in the past and were continuing to do so would have to face the courts.
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Thousands stranded after Afghanistan flood
By AP November 18, 2006
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KABUL -- Flash-flooding in a remote province in northwestern Afghanistan has killed at least 15 people, left scores missing and stranded thousands more, a government official said. NATO forces pledged to send aid.

Heavy rain lashed Badghis province's Balamurghab and Ghormach district Thursday, inundating many villages surrounded by mountains with little access to main towns, said Mirza Ahmad, the top government official in the province.

A few rescue crews, some riding donkeys, reached the flood-hit area, and found the bodies of 10 people in four Balamurghab district villages and received reports from locals that at least 50 more were missing, Ahmad said.

Another five bodies were found in the Ghormach district, where at least 1,000 people's homes had been damaged by the flooding, Ahmad said.

"We are seeking urgent help from the government and the coalition to help the people because the area is very remote and people's lives are at risk," Ahmad said.
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Iran Slams US Strategy in Iraq, Afghanistan
Article Link

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran slammed Washington's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan and called for a revision of strategies in the region to avert further bloodshed.

Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said he had discussed Washington's handling of the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan with Indian leaders during a two-day visit that ended Friday.

"The two parties (India and Iran) are not pleased that Afghanistan and Iraq continue to suffer uncertainty and instability," Mottaki told reporters.

"A fundamental formula must be found to deal with these problems... as we see it a number of wrong policies have been implemented (that) need to be addressed," Mottaki said.

US President George W. Bush has come under fire for Washington's Iraq strategy since the invasion in 2003, with sectarian violence between the minority Sunnis and majority Shiites.

In October, the prestigious British medical journal, the Lancet, published a study estimating that 650,000 people had died in Iraq between March 2003 and July 2006, 600,000 of them violently.

Bush has acknowledged that the problems in Iraq played a major role in the opposition Democrats winning control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1994 in polls last week and sacked his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Washington has accused Tehran of meddling in Shiite-majority Iraq, charges Iran vehemently denies.
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Afghanistan's stability and prosperity central to region: PM
By Indo Asian News Service New Delhi, Nov 18 (IANS)
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India Saturday said it was committed to a 'stable and prosperous Afghanistan' and called for accelerated regional economic cooperation to reconstruct the violence-torn country
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11.18.2006 Saturday - ISTANBUL 14:50

NATO Trains ISAF for Possible Nuclear Attack in Afghanistan
By Cihan News Agency Friday, November 17, 2006 zaman.com
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NATO has launched training courses for International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghan police in the case of a possible nuclear strike in their vulnerable country.

ISAF Special Forces Commander Dave Tomas said that terrorist attacks had increased recently in Afghanistan, particularly in the southern part of the war-torn country.

According to intelligence, Taliban and Al-Qaeda members might use nuclear weapons in an attack against ISAF forces or Afghan police, he stressed.

Tomas remarked that ISAF officials and 55 Afghan police had attended the course, which instructs officials on how to defend themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.
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2 civilians die during 'routine' patrol for ISAF soldiers in Afghanistan
Thursday Nov16 2006
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - One stray bullet resulted in the deaths of two Afghan civilians and the wounding of a child Wednesday when NATO troops fired on a speeding van.
The incident occurred seven kilometres north of Gereshk in Helmand province in south central Afghanistan.

The van, crammed with people, failed to stop for hand signals which prompted one of the British soldiers on the patrol to fire a warning shot into the ground.

"What we've been told is the warning shot ricocheted from the road up into the van which unfortunately was packed with people," said Col. Tim Bevis, deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan.

"We believe the two people died from one bullet in that particular incident, yes," he said
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General wants NATO to let troops fight Taliban 
Fisnik Abrashi, Canadian Press, 18 Nov 06
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The NATO-led force in Afghanistan would be more effective if member countries lifted restrictions that prevent their troops from fighting insurgents in the country's restive south, a senior Canadian military officer said Saturday.  Many of the 37 troop-contributing countries serving with the 31,000-member force have refused to join the fight against Taliban and other insurgents in the south, leaving the task to Canadian, American, British and Dutch soldiers.  The French, German and Italian forces patrol relatively quiet sectors in the north under self-imposed limitations, known in NATO as "caveats," that keep them out of combat operations.  Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, in charge of the 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan, said that if the commander of the NATO-led force "had more flexibility in the deployment and the use of all the troops here, I think it would be better for everyone." ....

A soldier's eye view of front-line Afghanistan
Sean Rayment, Telegraph Online (UK), 19 Nov 06
Article Link

The cross hairs of a sniper's scope move towards two Taliban suspects crouching on a dusty road in southern Afghanistan.  A smiling paratrooper rests on his .50-calibre heavy machine gun. The pile of empty bullet cases between his legs is testament to the ferocity of the fighting that had finished just moments earlier.  In a remarkable series of pictures obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, a unique insight into life on the front line in Helmand, southern Afghanistan, is revealed ....

Wounded Taliban treated in Pakistan
Tim Albone, Times Online (UK), 19 Nov 06
Article Link

PAKISTAN is allowing Taliban fighters wounded in battles with British and other Nato forces in Afghanistan to be treated at safe houses.  The Sunday Times found Taliban commanders and their fighters recuperating in the city of Quetta last week and moving freely around parts of the city.  In a white-walled compound in the northern suburb of Pashtunabad, more than 30 Taliban were recovering from the bloodiest fighting in Afghanistan since their regime was ousted five years ago.  Dressed in neatly pressed robes with the black turbans and kohl-rimmed eyes typical of the Taliban, they lounged on cushions, sipping green tea and sucking at boiled sweets while laughing at Nato reports that they have sustained heavy casualties ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

'Job is not over' in Afghanistan
The Scotsman, 19 Nov 06
Article Link

AFGHAN president Hamid Karzai yesterday urged developed countries and international aid agencies to renew their commitment to rebuilding the economy of his war-ravaged country.  Karzai said the tasks of reconstructing his country and restoring peace remained largely unfinished.  "To those of our partners who may be pondering their continued involvement in Afghanistan, I say the job is not over and the stakes are still very high," Karzai told leaders from around 19 countries in India's capital New Delhi at a two-day conference on Afghanistan ....

Afghan president urges renewed commitment to reconstruction at Indian summit

Canadian Press, 18 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said extremism and terrorism are the twin challenges to peace in his country and the region and called for increased co-operation to tackle the scourges. Karzai, addressing an international conference on Afghanistan on Saturday, said the tasks of reconstructing his country and restoring peace to the region remain largely unfinished. "To those of our partners who may be pondering their continued involvement in Afghanistan, I say the job is not over and the stakes are still very high," Karzai told leaders from 19 countries who gathered in India's capital New Delhi for the two-day conference on Afghanistan ....

Afghan instability jeopardizing region: Karzai
CBC Online, 18 Nov 06
Article Link

Instability and violence in Afghanistan threatens the prosperity of the entire South and Central Asian region, Afghan President Hamid Karzai says.  "Afghanistan's stability is an asset for the region, whereas an unstable Afghanistan will undoubtedly put the vision of a peaceful and prosperous region in jeopardy," Karzai said Saturday at a conference in New Delhi, India aimed at persuading Afghanistan's neighbours to help in development and curbing violence.  Afghan officials frequently accuse Pakistan of not doing enough to stop the resurgent Taliban militants who are active in the south, south west and rugged mountainous east of Afghanistan. Many believe that Taliban fighters are based in Pakistani territory, and take advantage of a significant degree of Pakistani support ....

Military blows Afghan budget
Costs for the mission soar $500M to $2.5B

Canadian Press, via Toronto Sun, 19 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

Canada's military presence in Afghanistan is costing taxpayers close to $500 million
more than original defence department estimates, La Presse reported yesterday. 
According to documents obtained by the Montreal newspaper under Access to
Information laws, "additional costs" for the Afghan mission were initially pegged at
$1.714 billion last March for the period from 2001-2002 to the 2005-2006 fiscal
year.  But a new defence estimate dated Oct. 1, 2006, which factors in spending
predictions for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, says additional costs for the mission have
already reached $2.5 billion, La Presse reported.  The French-language newspaper
noted the spending estimate doesn't factor in such things as civilian salaries, depreciation
or maintenance costs.  Earlier this month, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor told the
Commons that additional costs for the mission had reached $2.1 billion. He projected
additional costs would total $3.9 billion by February 2009, when the current mission is
set to expire ....

U.S. general says winter offensive planned against Taliban in Afghanistan
Associated Press, 19 Nov 06
Article Link

The U.S.-backed Afghan army will step up offensives against the Taliban this winter,
which could see heavy fighting during a period traditionally used by Afghan fighters for
rest and resupply, a U.S. general said Sunday.  U.S. army Brig.-Gen. Douglas Pritt,
who oversees the U.S.-led effort to train the Afghan military, said Afghan forces have
tripled the number of forward bases to more than 60 and plan to spend the winter
harassing Taliban and gathering intelligence from combat outposts deep inside rebel
strongholds.  "They're much better equipped for winter operations than the Taliban. I'm
hoping for a lot of snow this winter," Pritt said in Dubai.  Pritt said most Afghan troops
that have emerged from training still cannot operate independently but he noted five
battalions of Afghan National Army troops, numbering 300 to 600 soldiers each, are
nearly ready to mount offensives on their own.  But even those top battalions will
continue to operate in tandem with U.S. and NATO troops, he said ....

Bomb dogs ease workload, widen safety margin for troops in Afghanistan
Canadian Press, via Canoe.ca, 19 Nov 06
Article Link - American K-9 Detection Services

Man's best friend? Maybe that should be a soldiers best friend as specially trained 'bomb
dogs' are taking on bigger roles in security in this war-torn country.  "We've been using the
dogs both here in camp to avoid any explosives getting on to the camp as well as we have
them embedded in all of our Canadian companies out in the field," said Maj. Jeff Harvey,
provost marshal for the Canadians in Afghanistan.  "They (also) provide support for the
dismounted patrols, again for explosive detection," he said.  The dogs are trained on-site
by American K-9 Detection Services, which is under contract at the base to provide
additional security ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Taliban strangle southern heartland
Terry Friel, Dawn Online (PAK), 18 Nov 06
Article Link

Thousands of cars, gleaming in the desert sun, fill sales yards along the road to the airport in
Afghanistan's second city. The shops and bazaars of Kandahar are full to bursting.  But the
prosperity is deceptive in the city where the Taliban was born, now a centre of violence amid
a resurgence by the hardline Islamist group five years after it was toppled from power by US-led
forces.  “It's getting worse. I am afraid -- these suicide attacks happen all the time,” said Ahmad
Shah, a 60-year-old tyre mechanic outside his shop -- an old shipping container on the airport
road by the city gates.  “The foreigners fight only for themselves. The Taliban fight only for
themselves.”  The road from the city to the airport, a major military base, has been the scene of
many bombings targeting foreign troops ....

In Afghanistan's South, Mixed Signals for Help
Residents Differ on Strategy Toward Taliban

Pamela Constable, Washington Post, 18 Nov 06
Article Link - Washington Post login codes, if needed

Clutching scarves nervously around their faces, the women whispered details of Taliban atrocities
taking place in their native Helmand province: A translator's body found in a sack, carved into pieces.
A police officer taken hostage, blinded and garroted with wire. A woman shot and hanged by her thumbs.
"All of our lives are in danger now. Our schools are shut, and anyone who works for the government is
branded as an infidel," said Ma Gul, 52, a teacher who traveled to the capital this week with 20 other
women from Greshk, a town in Helmand 300 miles south, to demand better protection and the removal
of weak regional officials.  Gul's woes echo across this country's four southern provinces, where the
Taliban insurgency is on a fierce rebound five years after U.S. and Afghan forces toppled the Islamic
militia from power in Kabul. Months of aggressive ground combat and NATO airstrikes have failed
to halt continuous violence in the south, as well as some sporadic attacks in other parts of the country.
According to a new report by a commission of Afghan and foreign officials, insurgent and terrorist
attacks nationwide have increased fourfold in the past year, reaching 600 incidents per month by
September and causing 3,700 deaths since January.  The report was issued by a group called the
Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, set up in February under U.N. auspices to promote
and measure Afghan government performance ....

Blair in surprise Afghan visit
Ananova (UK), 20 Nov 06
Article Link

Tony Blair will visit Afghanistan, where British forces have been engaged in months of heavy
fighting against the Taliban.  No details of the Prime Minister's trip were being released for
security reasons.  But during a visit to neighbouring Pakistan, Mr Blair reaffirmed his determination
to stand by the elected government of President Hamid Karzai.  "Nobody should be in any doubt
at all about our commitment to Afghanistan," he said. "We believe it is of fundamental importance
to our own security to stick with it and see the job through." ....

British PM due in Afghanistan
Radio New Zealand, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has flown to Afghanistan, where 6,000 British troops are
fighting a rising insurgency by a revitalised Taleban.  British officials are not releasing details
of Mr Blair's trip due to security fears.  Fighting in Afghanistan this year is the worst since
American and British-led forces ousted the Taleban five years ago, and British casualty rates are
now much higher in Afghanistan than they are in Iraq.  Mr Blair has been in Pakistan for talks with
President Pervez Musharraf, where the pair discussed how to combat rising extremism in
Afghanistan ....

Blair: We will crush the Taliban
The Sun Online (UK), 20 Nov 06
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TONY Blair pledged last night to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan — and insisted: “We must
not be defeated.”  The PM delivered a rallying call to the 5,000 UK troops fighting in Helmand
province on a visit to neighbouring Pakistan.  He said the Islamic fanatics beaten in the aftermath
of 9/11 were trying to recapture a foothold in the country.  Military chiefs have warned Taliban
troops may launch a major offensive next year after re-arming in the winter.  And yesterday Mr
Blair demanded: “Our will has to be superior to theirs.  “To fail in this would be to be defeated
— and we must not be defeated.  Nobody should be in any doubt at all about our commitment
to Afghanistan.  It’s of fundamental importance to our security to stick with it and see it through.” ....

We need a Marshall Plan to beat the Taleban, Pakistan tells Blair
Anthony Browne,  Times Online (UK), 20 Nov 06
Article Link

Tony Blair has been urged by the West’s closest Muslim ally in the war on terrorism to change
course in Afghanistan and back a “Marshall Plan” to prise the country from the grip of the Taleban.
At the same time the Prime Minsiter predicted that Britain’s already embattled troops were set to
face a resurgence from Taleban fighters.  Mr Blair flew to Pakistan on a mission to step up the
battle against terrorism and gave warning that that it was a global battle that would take a
generation to win.  In talks with President Musharraf of Pakistan in the regional governor’s
mansion in Lahore, Mr Blair offered £480 million to combat the preaching of hatred in Pakistani
religious schools and the two leaders agreed further co-operation against Taleban militants
in Afghanistan ....

Blair urged to change course in Afghanistan
Patrick Wintour, The Guardian (UK), 20 Nov 06
Article Link

The west's leading Muslim ally urged Nato to change course in Afghanistan yesterday, as it was
revealed that Tony Blair is to visit the war-torn country today.  Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistan
president, said Nato could not rely solely on military might but also had to make political
settlements and pump billions into the Afghans' neglected economy.  Mr Blair's trip to Afghanistan
is part of a sweep through the region on the fifth anniversary of the liberation of Kabul from the
Taliban control. No details of the trip have been released for security reasons, but he is expected
to meet the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, and visit British troops fighting the Taliban ....

Musharraf calls for multiple measures to defeat Taliban
Xinhua (CHN), 19 Nov 06
Article Link

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf Sunday underlined the need for political and
economic measures along with military action for defeating militant Taliban and bringing peace
and stability in Afghanistan.  "The international community should give Marshal Plan-like
programs for reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan especially in its
South Eastern region," Musharraf said while addressing a joint press conference with
visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Governor House in the eastern Pakistani
city of Lahore Sunday afternoon.  The official APP news agency quoted Musharraf as
saying that he didn't support Talibanization at any time but wanted political steps parallel
to military action to root it out, as terrorism couldn't be controlled with only military action. 
"We have to come up with a broader strategy and this strategy must involve political elements
and reconstruction and development," he said ....

Layton sticks by withdrawal call
Stéphane Massinon, Halifax Daily News, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

The federal leader of the New Democratic Party wants to continue debating the role of the military in Afghanistan and is sticking by his call to withdraw Canadian troops from the troubled country.  In an interview with The Daily News after an NDP auction/ fundraiser in Dartmouth yesterday, Layton said Canadians are asking themselves questions about the war.  "The reaction I've had, whether it's at my own legion or military families or the public at large, has been respectful and certainly mixed. People are grappling with it," said Layton.  "There's no question there's a lot of Canadians who believe, as we do, that this mission is now facing a very long-term, very uncertain future, and that perhaps a change in direction is the right way to go."  He said it's important to be constantly re-assessing the mission in Afghanistan to make sure the best options are taken ....

Local Afghans taking control of Kandahar airport during annual Hajj pilgrimage
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 19 Nov 06
Article Link

The Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, is providing an opportunity for local Afghan officials to enjoy some independence over the next six weeks at Kandahar International Airport.  Beginning next week, the airport next on to the U.S. run Kandahar Airfield, will be a busy hub for Pilgrims journeying to Saudi Arabia. And while there will still be a NATO presence behind the scenes, for all intensive purposes it will be the Afghan people themselves in charge of the airport in this former Taliban stronghold.  "I hope next year we will be able to run everything on our own," Abdul Samad Saho, director of Hajj in southern Afghanistan, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.  "We hope to be able to do everything very good," he said following a walkthrough at the airport Saturday.  Every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so is obliged to make the pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime to Mecca, birthplace of the Prophet Muhammed.  The airport was opened to pilgrims last year with NATO forces making most of the decisions. For three years before that it was closed, forcing Muslims to travel to Kabul or neighbouring provinces ....

Military course offers tips on love and sex
Canadian Press, via Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

Having trained its soldiers in the art of war, the Canadian military now wants them to learn the art of love.  National Defence has begun offering a training course on how to save relationships at a time when some military families are in "crisis" because of frequent deployments abroad.  The two-day course, imported from the U.S., provides a broad range of practical advice, from how to handle relationship conflict to enjoying great sex  ....  An internal poll of Canadian Forces members taken in 2004 found that 73 per cent were in committed relationships, and four-fifths reported they had good marriages or partnerships.  But the pressure on military families has never been more severe, with frequent deployments to the Middle East and Afghanistan ratcheting up stress levels in marriages ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Blair calls for Afghanistan reinforcements
Jimmy Burns, Financial Times (UK), 20 Nov 06
Article Link

Tony Blair on Monday stepped up pressure on the UK’s Nato allies to send more troops and bolster support for Afghanistan ahead of a key summit in Riga, Latvia, at the end of this month.  Speaking in Kabul after meeting President Hamid Karzai, the UK prime minister compared the current situation facing the alliance in Afghanistan with the hesitancy shown by some Nato countries at the beginning of the Balkan crisis in the 1990s.  Failure to act in co-ordinated fashion in the Balkans he said, had led to “thousands of dead”.  On the challenge facing the Nato international security and assistance force (Isaf) in Afghanistan, Mr Blair added: “Now is the right time to bring into sharp focus the need to stay with Afghanistan and help it progress and develop  ….

Afghan desert key to world security, says Blair
Sophie Walker, Reuters, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

The security of the world will be decided on the desert battlefields of Afghanistan, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told his troops on the frontline of an increasingly bloody war on Monday.  "Here, in this extraordinary desert, is where the future of world security in the early 21st century is going to be played out," Blair said in remarks barred from publication until he flew out of Camp Bastion in Helmand province.  Afghanistan's western allies say the Taliban is on the run, despite a resurgence, but Blair's long-planned visit has been kept in strict hour-by-hour secrecy due to security fears.  "You may not know this, but people back home are very proud of what you do, regardless what they think of political leaders," he told troops in the desert province that is a Taliban stronghold and the opium capital of the world's main producer ....

Afghanistan Testing NATO Alliance

Der Speigel (DEU), 17 Nov 06
Article Link

Some soldiers in Afghanistan drink beer, the others risk their lives. That is how the British have characterized the current disparity among NATO allies in Afghanistan. The pressure on the Germans is growing.  So close, yet so far away. German troops are only a chopper trip from Afghanistan's war-torn southern provinces -- they could be deployed to dangerous combat zones within moments. But, the gulf that separates the Bundeswehr and its NATO allies holding the south is a wide, tangled mess of legal caveats and domestic politics that no chopper can traverse.  Once again this week, the friction that has been steadily building between Germany and its NATO allies flared up as 340 parliamentarians gathered in Quebec City, Canada for their annual meeting ....

"The Germans Have to Learn How to Kill"
Der Spiegel, November 20, 2006

Long, and well worth reading.  Maybe the pressure may work.


Canadian army to rely more on civilians to train new soldiers
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

The Canadian army is stretched so thin by the war in Afghanistan that it will rely increasingly on civilian contractors and reservists to train new recruits, the country's top soldier said Monday.  But Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie said he draws the line at using civilian contractors as a mercenaries in war zones. "There's no doubt the army is under tremendous pressure," Leslie told the all-party Commons defence committee.  Despite that, he said he's confident the forces under his command would be able to do everything asked of them. "If I wasn't, I'd tell you," said Leslie, who is in charge of the army.  The mission in Afghanistan has meant that junior officers and non-commissioned officers or NCOs, the backbone of army training, are in short supply at home.  The gap is being filled by outsourcing some training, such as driving courses for armoured vehicles and other non-combat related instruction.  Even though they're under pressure, Leslie said seasoned NCOs and junior officers will still direct all combat training and mercenaries will not be used to fill any gaps on the front lines ....

Olympics could hurt Canada's Afghan military tour
Reuters, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Canada might not be able to extend the life of its 2,500-strong mission to Afghanistan beyond February 2009 because many troops will be needed to ensure security at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, according to a document released on Monday.  The mission was supposed to end in February 2007 but the ruling Conservatives, who won the election this year in part by promising to boost the overstretched and underfunded military, pushed through a parliamentary vote approving a two-year extension.  Although the government has said little about whether Canadian soldiers will stay beyond February 2009, a formerly secret military briefing document prepared for Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor casts doubt on this possibility.  "Planning and mounting the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games security operation is a high priority activity that will represent a major commitment for the Canadian forces and will have a significant impact on domestic operations in 2009 and 2010," the document says ....

Afghanistan or Olympics: Canada needs to choose
The Penninsula Online (Qatar), 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Canada must choose between fighting insurgents in Afghanistan or securing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, having too few troops to do both, a report said yesterday.  The francophone newspaper Le Devoir cited a confidential memo from military commanders to Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor that said the 2010 Olympics were "a high priority activity." But, "assuring the security of the Games could ... negatively influence the military's capacity to deploy a large number of soldiers abroad."  Ottawa has committed 2,300 troops to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), hunting former Taleban and Al Qaeda militants in the volatile southern Kandahar region of Afghanistan until February 2009. Top military officials have said troops must stay longer to help stabilise the war-torn country, but Canadian public opinion is firmly opposed to an extension of the combat mission ....

Olympics may end Canada's Afghan role
The Age (Australia), 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Canada might not be able to extend the life of its 2,500-strong mission to Afghanistan beyond February 2009 because many troops will be needed to ensure security at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  The mission was supposed to end in February 2007 but the ruling Conservatives, who won the election this year in part by promising to boost the overstretched and underfunded military, pushed through a parliamentary vote approving a two-year extension.  Although the government has said little about whether Canadian soldiers will stay beyond February 2009, a formerly secret military briefing document prepared for Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor casts doubt on this possibility.  "Planning and mounting the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games security operation is a high priority activity that will represent a major commitment for the Canadian forces and will have a significant impact on domestic operations in 2009 and 2010," a document says ....

Taleban in Kandahar area set to bounce back: Canada
Reuters, via Khaleej Times Online (UAE), 21 Nov 06
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Taleban militants in the violent southern Afghan province of Kandahar were “knocked on their back feet” by a recent NATO offensive but are likely to recover and mount further attacks on western forces, senior Canadian military officials said on Monday.  They also said NATO forces in the south would press ahead to develop so-called Afghan development zones in a bid to dramatically improve living conditions in major towns and thereby undercut the influence of the Taleban.  NATO troops started a major assault on the Taleban in southern Afghanistan in September and say they killed several hundred militants. The level of attacks on foreign troops has dipped over the last month.  “One of the reasons why we’ve seen fewer attacks in the short term is that the opposing forces have now essentially been knocked on their back feet,” said Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, commander of Canadian land forces.  “It does not however mean that they are out. I think there’s every likelihood that over the course of the subsequent weeks and months there’s a probability that the number of attacks could grow,” he told Parliament’s defence committee ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Troops halt 'ambush alley' work
Safety, prosperity goals on hold as Canadians battle Taliban revival

Lee Greenberg, Canada.com, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

Construction on a deadly road that claimed the lives of six Canadian soldiers in Afghan-istan last month has been halted amid mounting security concerns sparked by a sudden withdrawal of Afghan troops from the area.  The road, one of two dubbed "ambush alley" after they became the focal points for attacks against Canadian troops, is a key security feature that military leaders say will improve safety and prosperity in two traditional Taliban-controlled districts.  However, those hopes are quickly evaporating as daily battles between Canadian and Taliban troops have displaced entire villages, closed schools and medical clinics, and severely restricted development work.  Far from getting better, the lives of Afghans in this district have gotten worse in the past several months.  Since Operation Medusa, the successful Canadian-led offensive in September that left an estimated 1,000 insurgents dead, scores of Taliban fighters have slowly re-infiltrated the Panjwaii-Zhari area ....

Modest soldier gets hero's welcome
Sarah Green, Toronto Sun, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

It was a hero's welcome yesterday for Dwayne Orvis.  Family and friends of the 30-year-old master corporal packed a local legion hall in Shelburne, a town of 4,000 people, 25 km north of Orangeville, for the soldier's homecoming, just two months after he was wounded in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.  Orvis was showered with gifts, including the town's highest honour, last given to a police officer who rescued an elderly woman from a house fire. Orvis shrugged off the idea he's a hero, saying he is simply a soldier who did his job.  "I'm overwhelmed," the soft-spoken Orvis said. "I'm kind of the quiet guy who sits back and does his work."  Orvis had been in Afghanistan for just a month -- the fourth overseas posting for the 12-year Canadian Forces veteran -- when a suicide bomber on a bicycle attacked soldiers on foot patrol. "The next thing I remember was bang! -- panic everywhere," he recalled yesterday.  They killed four soldiers.  Orvis' right arm was badly injured in the attack and he will undergo surgery next week to repair the shattered limb. With a grin yesterday, he told his commanding officer he will be back to work in six months.  His homecoming was bittersweet. Orvis was happy to see his family and friends, but his heart was "over there" with his fellow soldiers ....

Target time for training Afghans can be cut in half, says defence minister 
Beth Gorham, Canadian Press, via Vancouver Sun, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

A plan to train 70,000 Afghans to serve in the national army can be completed in two years and will allow other countries to reduce their troop levels, Afghanistan Defence Minister Abdul Wardak said Monday.  Wardak, who's been lobbying for more equipment and aircraft to fight Taliban insurgents, said it's possible to get them ready by October 2008 instead of some time in 2010.  He also disagrees with predictions that it will be at least 10 years before Afghan troops can handle their own security without help from Canadians and other foreign soldiers.  But a time line is impossible to lay out, he said, and will depend on how much violence escalates and how much support is offered by the international community.  "We do hope in the future to be able to pay back and not be a permanent burden on the U.S. or other countries." ....

No evidence to support claim of execution-style killing of Afghan teen: NATO
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO apologized Monday for civilian casualties in a deadly raid on a village west of Kandahar last month, but said it found no proof to substantiate claims that a wounded Afghan teen was killed execution style by alliance soldiers.  The boy's father, Abdul Karim says his wife, son and two daughters were instantly killed when a bomb ripped through their mud home in Ashogha. Another son, aged 16, was only wounded in the blast.  Karim said he tried to conceal him under a blanket but when soldiers searched the home they found his son and shot him execution style.  Karim, who along with his 18-year-old son, Sakhi Jan, were the only members of the family to survive, said at the time he was unable to identify the nationality of the soldiers, only that they looked foreign.  Canadians had also taken part in the attack, but NATO spokesman Maj. Luke Knittig said Monday in defending the operation that the soldiers in question were from a "European country and contributor to the mission."  He refused to be more specific ....

Blair admits Afghanistan error
Toby Helm, Telegraph.co.uk, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Tony Blair admitted yesterday that Western leaders had underestimated how long it would take to win the war on terror as he made his first visit to the Afghan capital, Kabul, amid intense security.  Five years after the Taliban was driven from the city on Nov 13, 2001, the Prime Minister conceded that the West has wrongly presumed — when the Taliban fled — that victory was all in the bag. Now, after 18 British soldiers have died at the hands of a resurgent Taliban in the past six months, he accepted that lessons had been learned in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  It was the latest admission by Mr Blair that the war on terror had not gone to the original US/British plan and is taking far longer, with greater costs, than anticipated.  Mr Blair, who called on supporters of the war on terror to "rediscover" their self-belief, admitted that Western leaders now realised the terrorist enemy presented a challenge that it would take "a generation" to face down ....

Blair calls on Nato countries to renew fight against Taliban
· PM admits reconstruction will take some time
· Former forces chief accuses politicians

Patrick Wintour & Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian (UK), 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Tony Blair yesterday signalled that he will urge his Nato colleagues at the summit in Riga to recommit themselves to the rescue of Afghanistan from terrorism and drugs. At the summit in 10 days' time, he will back calls for the dispatch of extra troops and a relaxation of the rules restricting some countries from engaging in full combat with Taliban forces.  Nato officials have said the number of caveats imposed by countries contributing to the international security assistance force in Afghanistan is restricting the force's effectiveness. Extra troops are needed in the coming months.  Speaking at a joint press conference with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, Mr Blair made a pointed comparison to Nato's reluctance to intervene in the Balkans, which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands. However, the prime minister yesterday drew criticism from the former chief of the defence staff Lord Guthrie, who said that the army did not have enough equipment to carry out the job it was being asked to do ....

British PM praises troops in Afghanistan
ABC Radio Australia, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, says British troops will stay in Afghanistan until their job is done.  On a visit to the South Asian country, Mr Blair praised the efforts of his country's troops.  "Here in this extraordinary piece of desert is where the future in the early 21st century of the world's security is going to be played out," he said.  The British leader also praised Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the country's "remarkable progress"  Following talks with the president in Kabul, Mr Blair said the Afghan people deserve to live in a democracy without oppression.  Mr Karzai says progress has come in the form of improvements to the country's economy and health service ....

Elite troops quit for fat pay
Private security companies poach secretive JTF2
Colonel defends Canadian Forces' special allowance

Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Some of Canada's most elite and best-trained soldiers have abandoned the secretive Joint Task Force 2 unit for the promise of fat paycheques offered by private security firms working in Iraq and other hotspots, a top commander has confirmed.  In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, private contractors were dangling the promise of $1,000-a-day deals to poach JTF2 soldiers, said Col. David Barr, head of Canadian Special Operations Forces Command.  "We were a targeted source for that type of employment," Barr told the Senate defence committee yesterday.  He would not disclose how many soldiers he has lost to lucrative private trade "but it was enough that it was certainly catching the interest ....

Cash is king for elite fighters
Canuck military pads pay to lure back its commandos from private Afghan, Iraqi security firms
Kathleen Harris, Ottawa Sun, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Canada lost some of its most elite, highly trained soldiers to poaching by deep-pocketed private security firms in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the military managed to curb the exodus by padding their pay package.  Col. David Barr, commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, could not say exactly how many were lured away by the lucrative $1,000-a-day offers.  But the Canadian military stemmed the flow "in a big way" by upping allowances to account for the risk, hardship and sacrifices the secret soldiers endure, he said yesterday.  "It was enough that it was certainly catching the interest, because even small numbers, given that our annual completion rate on a special operations assaulter course is small, so you lose three, four, five people, that's a lot," Barr said after giving his first public testimony to the Senate defence and national security committee.  According to a backgrounder dated March 2006, the Joint Task Force 2 extra allowance ranges from $7,500 to $39,576 depending on years of service, skill level and role, bringing the compensation in line with the "external labour market." ....

NDP fears Afghan mission may cause security shortage  
Peter O'Neil, CanWest News Service, 21 Nov 06
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The federal government dismissed Monday opposition complaints it might have to choose between Vancouver and Kandahar as the 2010 Olympics in B.C. approaches.  "The member must be aware that somewhere near 50,000 army, air force and navy troops are available in the country," Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor told the NDP's Dawn Black on Monday.  O'Connor was responding to a newly released internal document that warned Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government earlier this year about the strain on the military by 2010 security obligations in Vancouver and Whistler.  The Feb. 5 briefing note said Olympic security will be a "high priority activity" causing "significant impact" on domestic operations.  "Security commitments for the Games could also affect the CF's (Canadian Forces') ability to deploy large numbers of forces overseas," states the note, which was obtained by the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Canadian army needs reservists to fill gaps in Afghan mission: commander
CBC.ca, 21 Nov 06
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Canada's mission in Afghanistan has put the Canadian army under so much strain that it is relying increasingly on reservists to sign on as full-time soldiers, the head of the army told a parliamentary committee on Monday.  Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, commander of the Canadian army, told the House of Commons defence committee that to complete the mission in Kandahar, which is slated to run until February 2009, the army will have to draw on reservists.  "The army, right now, can do that which it was told to do. But it's tough," Leslie said. "I'm pretty confident the reserves will answer the call and get us through this transition period."  Most of the Canadian Forces' 18,000 reservists either work full-time in civilian jobs or are full-time students ....

Afghan reconstruction a frustrating process
CTV.ca, 21 Nov 06
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Canada's provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Kandahar province is using a strategy that gives local Afghans input in the rebuilding process.  But the program faces a mounting list of difficulties.  In one case, the soldiers bring Afghan doctors from the city to the remote region of Al Bach in Kandahar province to deliver medical care.  But minutes in, angry elders from a nearby village arrive demanding to know why they've been left out. "Where's our treatment, where's our gifts?" one man shouted.  The Canadian troops are now caught up in a tribal dispute with only one group getting most of the aid ....

Why are we in Afghanistan?
Chris Corrigan, Hamilton Spectator, 21 Nov 06
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Now into our fifth year in Afghanistan and with casualties mounting, Canadians are increasingly searching for the reasons to why we are there. History has shown that whenever a state has soldiers in combat and sustaining casualties and loss of life, support for the mission gets "wobbly."  Unlike in previous wars in which the nation was insulated from the reality of battle due to censorship and the limitations of technology -- inhibiting the story from getting home in a timely fashion -- technology has resulted in today's battlefield events being known instantaneously at home. This is further dramatized by the media's coverage of returning wounded and dead soldiers.  The concept of the Strategic Corporal so typifies this dynamic today, in which a Corporal with his section is seen on TV in "real-time" conducting an operation that results in questions being posed in the House of Commons that very afternoon. In so doing this, a corporal and his section at the very lowest tactical level is conducting tactical operations that have a national strategic impact ....

Canadians should be proud of efforts in Afghanistan
Alex Morrison, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 21 Nov 06
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FOR THE past number of months, The Chronicle Herald has given its readers information on the situation in Afghanistan from a number of sources: stories from news agencies, reprints of articles published elsewhere, reporting by its own energetic defence reporter Chris Lambie, and by publishing letters to the editor. Each of these has aided the public in formulating opinions about Canada’s role in that unfortunate country. That is how it should be in a democracy.  I have just returned from Afghanistan, where I met and talked to our military commanders, troops and civilian officials who work daily in dangerous and challenging situations. While visiting Kabul, Kandahar and Camp Nathan Smith, I was impressed by how each person, military or civilian, believed the Canadians and their allies were making a positive difference in the lives of Afghan citizens.  One of the main concerns expressed to me was that they cannot understand why more Canadians do not support the government’s decision to send them to Afghanistan ....

From the Globe and Mail
Two Canadian soldiers injured in Afghan blast
Canadian Press

Kandahar — An anti-personnel land mine detonated in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, injuring two Canadians.

The two soldiers, from the Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont., were on foot patrol in the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city at the time.

The injured troops were immediately transported to hospital at Kandahar Airfield.

One received emergency surgery for “severe lower body injuries,” a Canadian military spokesman said.

He was being transferred to the U.S. military hospital in Germany for further treatment before being sent home to Canada.

The other soldier suffered only superficial injuries and was expected to return to duty in the near future, the spokesman said.

Reproduced under the Fair Dealings Provisions of the Copyright Act RSC
2 Canadian soldiers injured by landmine in Afghanistan; 1 seriously hurt
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

Five weeks of relative calm were shattered Tuesday by a landmine explosion in the Panjawaii district of Kandahar province that sent two Canadian soldiers to hospital.  Cpl. Michael Barnewall suffered "severe lower body injuries" according to Canadian Forces spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Kris Phillips.  "His injuries would be very much in line with what one would expect from stepping on or having triggered an anti-personnel device," Phillips told reporters at Kandahar Air Field. "Lower extremity and a relatively serious but non-life threatening injury," he added.  Barnewall had undergone emergency surgery at the base and was to be transported to Germany for further treatment and eventually home to Canada said Phillips. The second victim, who has not been identified, received minor injuries and was expected to return to active duty in the near future.  The two men, from 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment based in Petawawa, Ont. were on foot patrol along Route Summit in the Pashmul area about 25 kilometres west of Kandahar  The road cuts a north-south strip between government centres in the Panjwaii-Zhari regions.  "As you are probably aware with all the rain we've had in the past little while, it's not too uncommon to have mines that may have been laid a long time ago or even recently," said Phillips ....

Two Canadians hurt in Afghanistan landmine blast
CTV.ca. 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Two Canadian soldiers were injured during foot patrol on Tuesday when an anti-personnel landmine detonated in southern Afghanistan.  "Two Canadian soldiers were injured after one of them stepped on what's believed to be an anti-personnel mine. This happened  about 25 kilometres west of Kandahar City in an area where Canadian soldiers are building a road," CTV's Steve Chao reported from Kandahar.  The two soldiers, who are from the Royal Canadian Regiment, based in Petawawa, Ont., were in the Panjwaii district west of Kandahar city when the landmine exploded.  It's unclear whether the landmine was a new one planted by the Taliban or an old one that surfaced after days of rain ....

Canada's part-time soldiers ready for duty in Afghanistan: commander
Kevin Bissett, Canadian Press, 21 Nov 06
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The man who will command Canada's next battle group in Afghanistan says he has no qualms about using reservists in combat roles.  About 250 of the part-time soldiers will be among 2,000 regular, full-time soldiers who will head to the war-torn country in February for a six-month deployment.  "I've got no worry with them because they receive the same training, and they are of the same standard as we are," Lt.-Col. Robert Walker, commanding officer of Second Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, said Tuesday.  He spoke with reporters as some of the soldiers he'll command - there are 1,100 in the battle group - returned to New Brunswick's Canadian Forces Base Gagetown after a month of training in Wainwright, Alta.  "We have the same training, same leadership, same equipment, and I have confidence in every one of my reservists," said Walker ....

Canadian army commander in Afghanistan given more development money
Murray Brewster, Canadian Press, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

With civilian redevelopment agencies paralyzed, the Defence Department has quietly slipped Canada's military commander in southern Afghanistan an extra $1 million of its own money for reconstruction and aid projects.  Much of the money will be spent to finish building the road known by soldiers as "Ambush Alley" - the highway where Canadian soldiers have lost their lives. Route Summit, known coloquially as Ambush Alley, is being built in the former Taliban hotbed of Panjwaii.  The increase in the Commander's Contingency Fund (CCF) - approved Nov. 3 - comes following persistent criticism that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives are not spending enough to ease human suffering and improve the lives of ordinary Afghans.  Critics say the $3.4 million fund is a drop in the bucket compared with the resources Ottawa has already approved and is not spending in Kandahar. The sum is also dwarfed in size when compared to the reconstruction budgets given to American military commanders in the same region for the same purpose ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Common man's view: beat corruption, create jobs; Afghanistan will be fine
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

He's lived and worked on what is now the provincial reconstruction team base in Kandahar city since he was a small boy. Now, at age 55, he hopes to live to finally see peace and prosperity in his homeland.  Fida Mohammed, a Jack of all trades affectionately nicknamed "Popeye" by American soldiers years ago, has watched governments and their armies come and go - the former Afghan monarchy, followed by the government of Mohammad Sardar Daoud Khan (which abolished the monarchy in a bloody coup), the Communists, the warlords, the Taliban and now the U.S.-and NATO-backed administration of President Hamid Karzai.  "While working with different people in the past I have not been working for government - I'm working for this country," he said, speaking through an interpreter.  "Whoever comes, whoever goes, it's not my problem," shrugged Mohammed, who can be found toiling day and night at the PRT, where Canadian military engineers have used left over material to build him a small house on site.  Mohammed said all previous regimes, with the exception of Daoud, had one thing in common.  "Except for Daoud, all the kings were corrupt, the Taliban was so corrupt, everybody was corrupt and everybody was thinking about themselves," he said ....

US urges NATO allies to drop limits on forces in Afghanistan
Agence France Presse, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

The United States is urging NATO allies to lift restrictions on the use of their forces in Afghanistan, casting it as matter of allied solidarity, a senior State Department official said.  Allied leaders are expected to review the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan when they meet November 28-29 in Riga for a NATO summit, said Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs.  Fried said the US side is making the case to allies that national restrictions, or caveats, imposed by some countries with troops in Afghanistan, have not worked well, and should be dropped for the sake of alliance solidarity.  He said debate has been sparked by relatively high casualties suffered by Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan this year in tough fighting against the Taliban ....

Defense officials urge more troops and equipment for Afghanistan
Associated Press, via WLNS.com, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

American and Afghan military officials say Afghanistan's security forces need more troops and sophisticated equipment.  But U-S officials say they'll wait until after next week's NATO summit to see how many troops other countries will commit before determining if more American forces will go.  U-S military leaders have been pushing other NATO countries to meet their troop commitments for Afghanistan. They say NATO has provided only 85-percent of the support promised ....

Officials: Afghanistan Needs More Troops
Lolita C. Balador, Associated Press, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

More troops and sophisticated equipment are needed to bolster Afghanistan's security forces, but it is not clear whether more U.S. troops will be deployed there, U.S. and Afghan defense officials said Tuesday.  Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry told Pentagon reporters that U.S. officials will wait until after next week's NATO summit in Latvia to see how many troops other countries plan to provide before deciding if more U.S. forces must be sent to Afghanistan.  ``I think it will be best at this point to wait and see what NATO is able to provide,'' Eikenberry said. ``There's more meetings that are taking place on the military staff. And this is very high on their agenda.'' ....

AFGHANISTAN: Polio vaccination campaign targets children in vulnerable south
IRIN News (UN), 21 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghanistan has begun its latest drive to vaccinate millions of children under five against the crippling polio virus, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) officials have said.  The three-day campaign is the fifth in Afghanistan this year and was launched Sunday by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International and other partners.  Afghanistan, one of just four countries in the world where polio is endemic, has seen the number of people suffering from the disease surge this year. There have been 29 confirmed polio cases in 2006, compared to only nine cases last year, according to the WHO in Kabul ....

Canada Asks For Aircraft Ahead Of US Military
Will Increase Presence In Afghanistan

Aero-News.net, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

A move by Canada's National Defense to "jump the line" and take delivery of new helicopters and transport aircraft before the US military may be just the ticket to bolster Canada's presence in Afghanistan.  "It's being given serious consideration," a Canadian Defense Department source told The Canadian Press.  Canada wants its new Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transports and CH-47 Chinook helicopters as quickly as possible, to support its troops fighting against Taliban forces in Afghanistan. For years, the Canadian army has been unable to mobilize its forces due to a lack of such aircraft ....

Insurgency falls down in Afghanistan over past month
Xinhua News Agency (CHN), via ReliefWeb.net, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

Militant activities have dropped down in Afghanistan over the past month, a spokesman of the NATO- led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said Wednesday.  The daily number of insurgent attacks countrywide has dropped below 10 in November, and that of roadside bombings has dropped to two, while suicide bombings to 0.2, Maj. Luke Knittig told a press conference.  He also said no ISAF soldiers have been killed in this country since Nov. 6.  ISAF has said militants launched 18 attacks in this country every day from mid-September to mid-October including a total of 18 suicide bombings, while it did not give the daily number of roadside bombings in the period ....

Kandahar provincial reconstruction team conducts village medical outreach in Sha Wali Kot district
North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), via via ReliefWeb.net, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

The Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) conducted a village medical outreach patrol on Sunday at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Martello in the Sha Wali Kot District of Kandahar Province.  Three Afghan physicians and one Afghan dentist provided medical treatment to 137 patients. The PRT provided the medical supplies and escorted the physicians during the two-and-a-half hour patrol of the area.  "It's really important that they see that it's Afghan doctors who are actually providing the medical care," said PRT Civil Military Cooperation Operator Sgt. Nicky Bascon. "It shows the people here that their own government is helping them out." ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Merkel has no plans to change German role in Afghanistan
Agence France Presse, via ReliefWeb.net, 22 Nov 2006
Article Link

Chancellor Angela Merkel has ruled out changing the mandate of German troops in Afghanistan to allow them to be deployed in the violence-hit south of the country.  "We want to make the mission in Afghanistan a success," Merkel said in a speech to the Bundestag lower house of parliament on the first anniversary of her swearing-in as chancellor.  "But I see no military commitment beyond this mandate."  About 2,750 German peacekeepers are based in the relatively peaceful northern part of Afghanistan, where they hold the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).  Reports in Germany at the weekend said the United States was putting pressure on Germany to deploy combat troops in the south, where the Taliban are mounting their most severe attacks since they were ousted by a US-led force in 2001 ....

Merkel warns NATO against divisive Afghan debate
Noah Barkin, Reuters, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed on Wednesday to keep German peacekeepers in northern Afghanistan and resist attempts to transfer them to the more violent south.  With roughly 2,900 troops in Afghanistan, Germany is one of the largest contributors to a peacekeeping force in place since shortly after the 2001 U.S.- and British-led invasion to oust the radical Taliban regime.  Merkel has come under increasing pressure from the United States and NATO to move German soldiers from the north to the south where Taliban fighters are staging a violent insurgency.  The German mandate as agreed by parliament stipulates that its troops be stationed in the north and help out in the south only on an ad-hoc emergency basis.  "The German army will continue to assume its responsibilities under its current mandate, but I can envision no additional military responsibilities that go beyond the current mandate and I'd like to make that clear right here," Merkel said in a speech to parliament ....

Berlin rules out extending Afghanistan military mandate
IRNA (Iran), 22 Nov 06
Article Link

The German government on Wednesday has ruled out expanding the Afghanistan military mandate into the southern part of the war-stricken country amid stepped up pressure efforts by fellow NATO states, notably the US, Britain and Canada.  Addressing the German Parliament on the occasion of her first anniversary since taking office, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "We don't want by any means to question the success of the mission in the north. There will be no military engagement beyond this mandate".  Merkel was quoted as saying last week that Germany would only assist allied soldiers in southern Afghanistan in emergency cases.  She pointed out that the Afghanistan conflict was a "litmus test for NATO's capability to act" ....

Merkel signals Germany won't send troops to southern Afghanistan
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear Wednesday that Berlin does not plan to send troops to volatile southern Afghanistan, insisting that there is no "purely military solution," as she argued that Germany is needed in the north to maintain relative stability.  Afghanistan is set to dominate a Nov. 28-29 NATO summit in Riga, Latvia. Germany is facing pressure to let NATO commanders shift some of its 2,900 troops from the relatively peaceful north to the south, where Canadian, British and Dutch troops have borne the brunt of the alliance's fighting.  The German military is fulfilling "an important and dangerous task" in the north, providing security and backing reconstruction, Merkel said in a speech to parliament ....

Analysis: Afghanistan decides security
Stefan Nicola, United Press International, 21 Nov 06
Article Link

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the world's security depends on success in Afghanistan, but Washington and others feel not all countries part of ISAF are doing as much as they could.  The battle for Afghanistan has entered its bloodiest year yet. Some 180 coalition soldiers have died in 2006, most of them U.S., Canadian and British troops, many of them killed in the months since June when fighting with the Taliban escalated.  Neither the International Security Assistance Force nor the U.S.-led anti-terror operation Enduring Freedom has managed to contain the violence. On the contrary.  Apart from the volatile south, "several other regions are in danger of tipping as well," Citha Maass, a fellow at the German Institute of International and Security Affairs and one of Germany's leading Afghanistan experts, told United Press International ....

WHO and UNICEF call for safe access of polio vaccinators in Afghanistan's Southern Region
World Health Organization/UN International Childrens' Emergency Fund news release, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, concerned about the health of all people in Afghanistan, especially the health of children, today called for the safe access of local health workers and vaccinators during polio immunization campaigns and other health activities all over Afghanistan, but particularly in the Southern Region. The latest nationwide polio campaign was launched on 19 November, with further district-level immunization activities planned for the rest of this year and throughout 2007.  Afghanistan is one of only four remaining polio-endemic countries in the world. Strong efforts by Afghan authorities last year put the country on the verge of being polio-free. However, efforts to stop an outbreak in the country's Southern Region - which could become the last polio outbreak ever in Afghanistan - have been compromised by increased insecurity in recent months. This has significantly curtailed the ability of local vaccinators to safely reach all children ....

Water improvement project helps local shops and community
ISAF news release #2006-286, 17 Nov 06
News Release

The Gelan district of Ghazni province will have a new water well next month because of coordination between ISAF provincial officials and local leadership.  Local leaders in Gelan petitioned the governor’s office requesting a well to service the Gelan District Centre Bazaar. The project was approved once the Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) assured the funding.  This project will employ at least five Afghans and once completed will service 25 to 30 shops. The project is expected to be complete around mid-December and will cost $2,500 (125,000 Afghanis).  “This is a simple and inexpensive project, but it will benefit the economic centre of the town and improve business in the bazaar for everyone,” said Lt. Col Paul Fitzpatrick, spokesman for ISAF’s eastern command. “This project reflects local government working for the people. They identified a need, sought approval, now they will all soon benefit from a new well.”

ISAF joins with local elders and officials to coordinate school supplies
ISAF news release #2006-285, 17 Nov 06
News Release

ISAF, local elders and government officials distributed more than 600 packs of school supplies yesterday in the Alingar district of Laghman province.  The Mehtar Lam Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), responding to needs identified by the area's local leaders, visited the Boys and Girls Standard School of Badiabad. The objective of this mission was to ensure the children of the school receive the basic school supplies needed for successful education.  In addition to the school packs, the PRT gave away 50 soccer balls and 432 dental kits consisting of toothbrushes and toothpaste. The school’s educators received 50 teacher kits consisting of a box of chalk, ruler, pen, and map.  “Local leaders know that the future of Afghanistan begins in their village; in their school with their children,” said Lt. Col, Paul Fitzpatrick, spokesman for ISAF’s eastern command, “and they want to build on this success to ensure a secure and prosperous quality of life here.”

Go big, go bold and get it done
Tip-toeing won't work, says LEWIS MacKENZIE. We need another 30,000 NATO troops to protect Afghans while they get their country on its feet

Globe and Mail, Nov. 22

General David Richards, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, expressed his dismay with the resources at his disposal shortly after taking command in August. He quite rightly indicated he had no reserve capacity to exploit or secure successes on the battlefield and requested an additional 2,500 NATO troops be provided at the earliest opportunity.

As someone who has watched each and every UN mission since the end of the Cold War -- in Croatia, Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, East Timor etc. -- stumble, and in all too many cases, fail due to overly optimistic best-case scenarios and subsequent undermanning and underbudgeting of the UN force, followed by hesitant and inadequate reinforcement as the mission became mired, I am surprised Gen. Richard's request was so modest. Perhaps he hoped that once the reinforcement flow was kick started, it could be increased. Other than Poland, no NATO member raised its hand to help in any significant way...

In my opinion, based on a recent visit to Afghanistan and too many years operating with chronically undermanned UN forces, Gen. Richards does not need 2,500 more soldiers. He needs to double his force with 30,000 more front-line troops. Adequate headquarters are already on the ground to look after a massive infusion of combat power "outside the wire." If we want to protect the local Afghans while they reconstruct their country and create their army and local and national police forces, we can't tip-toe toward a solution.

The time has come to be bold. With NATO's future hanging in the balance, fence-sitting NATO partners have to be convinced, coerced, intimidated to live up to their end of the contract they signed when they joined during more peaceful times. Failure to do so will signal the end of a 57-year-old alliance that failed when faced with its first real test in the field.

U.S. backs NATO troop plea
Bush administration officials support view Canada drew 'short straw' in Afghanistan

PAUL KORING, Globe and Mail, Nov. 22

The alliance "shouldn't have countries saying, 'No. We don't do fighting. We don't get our hands dirty,' " Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, said at a briefing of defence correspondents ahead of the alliance's summit next week in Riga. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to press European allies to shoulder more of the load...

"We're very pleased to see the way that Canada and the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have acquitted themselves. Each of these three countries has taken a significant number of casualties," said Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs. He said President George W. Bush's administration will press some NATO members to lift bans on their troops going into combat...

US proposes doubling Afghanistan troops
The Age, November 22

The US military has proposed doubling the size of Afghanistan's army as US President George W Bush prepares to urge NATO members to send in more troops to contain increasing violence...

He [Lt.-Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander US forces in Afghanistan outside ISAF] said the plan to double the size of the army was drawn up by the US military and Afghan defence and interior ministries, but had not yet received approval from their respective governments...

The plan calls for fielding a 70,000-member Afghan army by October 2008 instead of by 2011, as originally planned. That would double the size of the current force, which officials said now numbers 35,000.

The police would grow from 50,000 to 62,000, the officials said...

Quiet stretch in Kandahar comes amid constant skirmishes
Lee Greenberg, CanWest News Service, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

A lull in fatalities among Canadian troops in Afghanistan is partly due to luck and partly to the changing dynamics of the fight, according to a Forces commander.  "I mean we've had TICs (troops in contact, or firefights with enemy forces) pretty much everyday," said Major Marty Lipcsey, deputy commander of the Canadian battlegroup.  Canadian troops have been in what another officer called a "holding pattern" since late October, when they were caught off-guard by a mass withdrawal of Afghan forces from the region.  The withdrawal left Canadian troops in the area stretched extremely thin.  The military responded by digging into defensive positions along a four-kilometre stretch of road that has since become the front line in battles that leave more than one-third of the residents in the region displaced ....

Taliban in Kandahar area set to bounce back-Canada
David Ljunggren, Reuters, 20 Nov 06
Article Link

Taliban militants in the violent southern Afghan province of Kandahar were "knocked on their back feet" by a recent NATO offensive but are likely to recover and mount further attacks on western forces, senior Canadian military officials said on Monday.  They also said NATO forces in the south would press ahead to develop so-called Afghan development zones in a bid to dramatically improve living conditions in major towns and thereby undercut the influence of the Taliban.  NATO troops started a major assault on the Taliban in southern Afghanistan in September and say they killed several hundred militants. The level of attacks on foreign troops has dipped over the last month.  "One of the reasons why we've seen fewer attacks in the short term is that the opposing forces have now essentially been knocked on their back feet," said Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie, commander of Canadian land forces.

More News on CAN in AFG here

NATO commander seeking strengthening of Afghan force before key summit
Paul Amex, Associated Press, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO's top commander urged member countries Wednesday to strengthen the alliance's force in Afghanistan, saying he was still about 15 per cent short of requirements and warning that failure to provide more resources would make the mission longer and more costly.  Supreme Allied Commander Gen. James Jones said NATO troops had battered the Taliban in open fighting in recent months. Following heavy losses, he predicted the insurgents would now resort to traditional guerrilla tactics.  "If we're properly organized and we bring all elements of our efforts together in cohesion, we will win," Jones told reporters. "If we don't, it will be longer and it will be more difficult and it will be more costly."  Jones said military planners were working with allies in the days before next week's NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, to fill gaps in the 32,000 member force in Afghanistan. But he acknowledged that an appeal he made in September for 2,500 extra troops, together with more planes and helicopters had been largely unanswered ....

Analysis: NATO's Afghan Caveats Harmful
Pamela Hess, United Press International, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO members have come through with only 85 percent of the troops and capabilities to which they've committed, and some of the 36 countries who contribute a total of 33,000 troops to ISAF have also placed caveats limiting their use to peaceful missions, top U.S. military and diplomatic officials said Tuesday.  Germany is of particular concern, said Amb. Daniel Fried, secretary of state for European and Eurasion Affairs, at a breakfast with reporters Tuesday.  "Four allies are doing a disproportionate share of the fighting," Fried said ....

Taliban vow fresh offensive after Afghan winter
Saeed Ali Achakzai, Reuters, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

The Taliban are plotting a fresh offensive against foreign troops in Afghanistan when the bitter winter ends early next year, a top Taliban commander said on Wednesday.  The Taliban have this year unleashed the worst violence against the Afghan government and foreign troops since the hardline Islamists were ousted from power in late 2001.  But the violence has tailed off sharply in recent weeks.  Afghanistan's NATO force says that's because the Taliban suffered heavy losses, particularly in fighting in the south in September.  But Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah said their attacks had eased off because the harsh Afghan winter had started earlier than usual.  "The Taliban are drawing up our strategy for attacks on American and NATO occupation forces next summer ... The suicide and other attacks will intensify as the weather gets warmer," Dadullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location ....

Taliban drown our values in sea of blood, say political leaders from the Pashtun tribes
Ahmed Rashid, Telegraph (UK), 22 Nov 06
Article Link

Hundreds of political leaders and chiefs from the Pashtun tribes inhabiting Pakistan's border with Afghanistan have for the first time held a peace jirga, or tribal council, demanding an end to Taliban violence.  Clean-shaven tribal chiefs with large turbans, religious scholars with long beards and young political activists sat together in a large hall in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar to demand that the peaceful traditions of the Pashtun tribes which "are being drowned out in a sea of blood" be restored.  Many of the gathered throng also demanded an end to the alleged support of the Taliban by elements within the Islamabad government of President Pervez Musharraf, who insists that he is an ally in the war against terrorism and whose police arrested 39 suspected Taliban fighters in the city of Quetta yesterday. "The Taliban are not the creation of Pashtun society, but the creation of the Pakistan army," said Afsandyar Wali, head of the Awami National Party (ANP) ....

Suicide bombers often fail to hit target in Afghanistan
Jason Straziuso, Dawn (PAK), 23 Nov 06
Article Link

When an 18-year-old dismounted his bicycle a couple kilometres outside the eastern town of Khost last week, his clothes flapped up, revealing a suicide vest to an alert farmer nearby.  Police soon surrounded the teenager and ordered him to remove his vest. He refused, grew increasingly agitated and eventually blew himself up, said Yaqoub Khan, police criminal director for Khost province.  No one else was hurt.  A suicide attacker on Monday waited on a roadside in eastern Paktika province, apparently biding his time for a target to appear. When an Afghan army convoy approached, the bomber blew himself up-- several meters (yards) ahead of the vehicles, said Mohammad Akram Akhpelwak.  He caused no injuries or damage.  The nature of the two would-be suicide bombers' deaths is strikingly common in Afghanistan. In sharp contrast to attacks in Iraq, scores of suicide strikes across Afghanistan have killed only the attacker, or a very few victims ....

But Country Could Relapse into Conflict Without International Support for Sustained, Long-term Progress, He Warns

UN Security Council news release #SC/8874, 22 Nov 06
News Release

....  Providing an overall assessment of the mission, which had taken place from 11 to 16 November, he said the consolidation of gains over the period spent establishing democratic institutions and improving the population’s welfare was moving forward despite the inevitable fragilities and challenges.  Worrying developments over the course of 2006 included the rising Taliban-led insurgency and the upsurge in illegal drug production and trafficking.  Those and other social ills, all against the backdrop of weak and fragile State and provincial institutions, had given rise to widespread despondency and disillusionment.  “In other words, the confidence of the Afghan public in the institutions and processes appears to have been shaken, giving rise to some sense of sliding back,” he said.  The increasing insecurity in parts of the country, particularly the south and south-east, was affecting rehabilitation and reconstruction work by the Afghans and the United Nations to a worrying extent, he continued.  Under those circumstances, it was important to stress two cardinal points: that the international community’s support of Afghanistan remained firm; and that the nationally owned and led Afghan Compact would remain the best strategic framework for cooperation between the Government of Afghanistan and the international community.  In that context, the Afghanistan Compact’s implementation mechanism, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, would play a key part ....

Women education a daunting task in Afghan society
Alisa Tang, Dawn (PAK), 23 Nov 06
Article Link

Decades of civil strife and rule by the hard-line Taliban regime have left most Afghan women and girls battered and illiterate. The country's only female government minister faces the daunting task of providing them with education and protection in the face of repressive social customs that would deny them both.  ''We've had three decades of war in Afghanistan, which have had very bad consequences for women,'' Minister for Women's Affairs Hussn Banu Ghazanfar said in an interview with The Associated Press. ''It takes time to solve these problems.''  Five years after the Taliban's fall, women are no longer beaten if they leave home unaccompanied by their male relatives. Girls can go to school, and 25 per cent of Afghan parliamentarians are women -- as mandated by law ....

- Edit 230733EST Nov 06 to add BBC article about allegedly faulty Brit .50 cal ammo -

Battle-weary troops welcome relative calm
In southern Afghanistan, attacks are down and acceptance is up

Graeme Smith, Globe & Mail, 23 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

The Canadian military is enjoying its longest period without a soldier killed since June, as regular troops settle into defensive positions and appear to be making progress winning acceptance among villagers in their freshly conquered terrain.  Soldiers hunkered down in the northeastern edge of Panjwai District continue to fight daily battles, holding a protective cordon just outside of Kandahar city. But the swath of farmland that Canadians seized from the Taliban insurgents during weeks of bloody fighting in early September has stayed largely under government control, residents say, and behind the front lines a sense of lawful order is slowly returning to the war-scarred district.  The zone where the Canadians have carved out some influence isn't large. They have established a front line that runs roughly 10 kilometres from north to south, building three new forward bases and several observation posts that allow them to protect Bazar-e-Panjwai, the district's biggest town, and two main roads leading to Kandahar city. They're also building a road that will connect the new bases ....

Afghan tactic turns into whack-a-mole futility
Hugh Graham, Toronto Star, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

After Canada's September triumph at the battle of Panjwaii, it was clear that if we were still fighting there in two months, it would have been no triumph. Now it's mid-November, we're still there and 10 more Canadians have been killed.  Yet this sort of war is in fashion.  Almost all of us are children of two epochs: the epoch of peace and human rights which began in the 1960s, and the epoch of low-tax efficiency that began in the 1980s.  In the post-Cold War world we are faced with small, nasty and expensive wars and we want to fight them with 1960s virtue and 1980s cost-cutting. We want a war that we don't have to pay for and where no one gets killed.  It would appear that two strategies which happen to be suited to such a war are the "ink-spot strategy" and the "three-block war" and those are what we're using in Afghanistan.  In the "ink-spot strategy," local centres are seized in combat and secured through development funds. Then the secure zone spreads to link up with other seized, secure and developed zones; literally, like spreading ink-spots.  The "three-block war" is the urban version of the same thing. Humanitarian work is carried out in one block, stabilization and security in the next, offensive combat in the third.  In both strategies, again in theory, the local population is won over and the enemy deprived of support. So you don't need many troops or much killing: It's cheap and it's moral ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Soldiers' lives not put at risk by faulty ammunition insists MoD
Scotsman.com (UK), 23 Nov 06
Article Link

THE Ministry of Defence today admitted that paratroopers in Afghanistan had been sent defective ammunition.  But it denied that the faulty bullets had put lives at risk by jamming machine guns.  An MoD spokesman was forced into the confession after troops had to borrow ammunition from the Americans and Canadians in order to conduct operations in the dangerous Helmand province.  A platoon from the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment refused to go out on patrol until the problem had been resolved by the loan of bullets from their special forces allies.  Today a spokeswoman for the MoD said: "Three months ago there was a single defective batch of 0.5 calibre ammunition.  Some ammunition was borrowed from American and Canadian forces for the short time it took for this to be resolved. At present there are no problems with 0.5 calibre ammunition." ....

UK troops had faulty ammunition
BBC Online, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

British soldiers in Afghanistan had to borrow ammunition from other Nato forces because of faulty rounds, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.  Troops from 3 Para were lent rounds by American and Canadian forces for a month while fighting the Taleban.  The MoD said the issue came to light three months ago, and the faulty rounds had since been replaced.  The problem was highlighted after members of 3 Para posted a video on the YouTube sharing site ....

Afghan, NATO troops kill key Taliban commander
China View, Xinhua (CHN), 23 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghan soldiers backed by NATO forces killed five Taliban fighters including a key commander in the mountainous Nooristan province of east Afghanistan, a state-run newspaper reported Thursday.  "The troops killed Mawlawi Abdul Rahman along with four of his men in Kamdish district," daily Anis quoted Afghan intelligence officials as saying.  However, it did not mention the incident's date and the commander's exact position, only saying he was an important Taliban figure ....

Taliban militants teach recruits how to carry out suicide bombings
Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

The recruits arrive in the remote camps eager for revenge or redemption. They leave ready to sacrifice their lives to inflict chaos and death on western troops and the Afghan government they support.  In interviews at secret locations along the Afghan-Pakistan border, two veteran Taliban officials told the Associated Press how recruits are trained to conduct the suicide bombings that have loosened the Kabul government's grip on southeast Afghanistan. Since the beginning of this year, 97 suicide attacks have killed 217 people in Afghanistan, according to an Associated Press tally.  At up to 50 sites across the region, young Afghans and Pakistanis, joined by a handful of Arabs or other foreign fighters, spend six weeks in training for their grisly missions, said Mullah Ehsanullah, a Taliban official who recruits suicide bombers.  Many seek to avenge the death or detention of a relative, while others are filled with shame because of treatment during detention at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul by coalition forces ....

Soldiers and humanitarians
Carol Goar, Toronto Star, 22 Nov 06
Article Link

The image lingers, searing and poignant. There was Trevor Greene, a big-hearted Canadian lieutenant, sitting cross-legged with tribal elders in a remote Afghan village, listening to their stories and cataloguing their needs.  His posture was respectful. He had removed his helmet and laid down his gun.  His intent was peaceful. He had come to help the villagers.  An attacker ran up behind him and swung an axe into his head.  Greene survived the brutal assault, but sustained severe injuries. He faces a long and uncertain recovery.  The 41-year-old Vancouver officer's example inspires his comrades in Afghanistan and his military colleagues awaiting their tour of duty in the rugged Kandahar region.  It scares the daylights out of Canadian aid workers.  Much as they admire Greene personally, he represents what they see as a dangerous mixing of military and humanitarian objectives ....

British troops wary of joining war on drugs in Afghanistan
Agence France Presse, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

Despite being urged to do so by Afghan and western counter-narcotics chiefs, British troops are wary of joining the offensive against the drugs trade in Afghanistan.  British commanders reportedly stand accused of taking too soft a line on opium farmers, and forces in the southern Helmand province -- where the majority of British soldiers are based -- are being asked to bomb or ambush drug smugglers.  Though Afghans believe British troops should target the main opium smuggling route in the south of the province, military officers are wary of getting involved, which they fear may draw their forces into a drugs war, and alienate the local population.  "When there is good intelligence, smuggler convoys should be hit from the air by NATO and by using ambushes," said General Khodaidad, the Afghan deputy minister for counter-narcotics, who only uses one name ....

Marine thinking of home cookin' at cold Afghan post
Tom Gordon, Birmingham News (USA), 23 Nov 06
Article Link

At Regional Training Center Base Camp in eastern Afghanistan, Thanksgiving isn't being celebrated with turkey and trimmings, but with curry chicken, rice and bread.  "After this is over, I'll never eat curry again," Marine Capt. Rob Ritchie said. The 36-year-old Birmingham-area resident has been operating out of RTC since August, when he arrived as part of a unit known as Task Force Gardez to help train Afghan army soldiers.  The camp is at an elevation of 9,000 feet in a mountainous stretch of Paktia province near the Tora Bora region and the Pakistan border. It does not have the full-service chow halls that U.S. troops commonly see around the Afghan capital of Kabul ....

Afghanistan: Weekly Situation Report 16 - 23 Nov 2006
World Food Programme, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

The security situation was relatively calm in most parts of the country during the week, except in the eastern region where military operations against insurgents and insurgent attacks against the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) were reported in the provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan ....

Toronto Star buries the good news and headlines the bad.

1) The excerpt is at the end of this story.

Frustration grows: UN
Report says violence dips but war-weary state can't go it alone

Nov. 23

Two Afghan journalists who visited Toronto this week agreed it was vital for Canadian and other troops to stay to prevent a Taliban resurgence.

"People in Afghanistan want them to stay," said Najiba Ayubi, manager of Radio Killid in Kabul. "We've been through years of war, and we can't change things overnight by ourselves. If the troops left Afghanistan, it would send a very bad message. People would be saying: `If they go, why should we stay?'"

Ayubi said it would be wrong to ignore progress made since the Taliban was ousted in 2001. Schools have reopened, media have surged, and there is new freedom of expression. "Now there are about 200 media, including newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations," Ayubi said, adding women have found careers as journalists, filmmakers and media technicians.

Ayubi is in Canada with Mehria Azizi, Afghanistan's first camerawoman, at the invitation of Reporters Without Borders Canada and the Ottawa-based International Development Research Centre, to commemorate Jailed Journalists Support Day, today.

In Afghanistan, Ayubi said, mobile phone networks now connect people once isolated, and new private banks and financial services serve businesses and ordinary people.

"We used to go Pakistan when somebody sent money from abroad. Now we have banks and Western Union."

But the gap between city and village lifestyles is still too wide. "You can go just 10 kilometres outside of Kabul, Herat or (Mazar-e-Sharif) ... Women are veiled, and you won't see them on the street. There's no electricity, hospitals, schools or roads."

This gets a story all on its own:

Canada's strategy is failing, MPs warned
Nov. 23

Locked in an "unwinnable" war in Afghanistan, Canada must now look seriously at alternate strategies that could include an accommodation for the Taliban in the Kandahar region, the head of a major aid agency says.

Indeed, John Watson, president of Care Canada, attributes a recent lull in hostilities to the fact that high-level talks are already underway involving officials from Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan...

Afghan mission expected to cost an extra $721 million over two years
Canadian Press, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

There are now some hard numbers attached to the extension of the country's mission in Afghanistan
and last summer's evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon.  Figures released Thursday as part of
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's fiscal update projected an additional $721 million will be spent over
two years as Canadian soldiers battle insurgents near Kandahar. The projection is over and above
what was forecast in last spring's budget.  When the Conservatives came to power, the army was
only committed to chasing down the Taliban in Kandahar until February 2007.  But in April, Parliament
authorized an extension to the mission until February 2009 ....

Five-Year Fiscal Projections
Department of Finance news release, 23 Nov 06
The Economic and Fiscal Update 2006 - Fiscal Projections

Canadian Forces personnel bring medical assistance to remote Afghan area
Canadian Forces news release #CEFCOM NR–06.031, 23 Nov 06
News Release - CF Combat Camera Photos of Outreach Mission

The Canadian Kandahar-based Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) conducted an Afghan village
medical outreach patrol on Sunday, November 19, at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Martello in the
Sha Wali Kot District of Kandahar Province.  Three Afghan physicians and one Afghan dentist
provided medical treatment to 137 patients. The PRT provided the medical supplies and escorted
the physicians during the two-and-a-half hour patrol of the area.  It's really important that the villagers
see that it's Afghan doctors who are actually providing the medical care," said PRT Civil Military
Cooperation Operator Sgt. Nicky Bascon.  "It shows the people here that their own government is
helping them out."  "This is definitely the best part of my job," said Warrant Officer Sean Chase,
a senior member of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team. "What is really important is that
the Afghans are leading their own way along the road to reconstruction. This initiative is a prime
example of Afghans helping Afghans improve their conditions of living."  As well as providing medical
care, the PRT also donated firewood, generators and a gasoline-powered water pump, as well as
dolls for the children. More village medical outreach patrols are planned in the Sha Wali Kot District
in the near future ....

Afghan army looking for extra resources to help Canadians fight Taliban
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, via Canada.com, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

The Taliban may not be the powerful force it once was but its hit-and-run tactics in this lush and
mountainous region still make it a dangerous adversary, a senior Afghan military commander said
Thursday.  Lt.-Col. Shirin Sha Kowbandi, commander of the local Kandak battalion of the Afghan
National Army, ought to know.  Kowbandi, whose troops are currently helping Canadian soldiers
patrol the Panjwaii and Pushnel regions, has been doing battle with the Taliban for 15 years and has
the scars to prove it.  "In the past (before the U.S. invasion) the Taliban conquered 28 provinces in
Afghanistan and . . . had airplanes and helicopters." ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Afghanistan: Canadians making a difference
Canadian International Development Agency, 23 Nov 06
News Release

Support for Afghanistan's reconstruction is a high priority for Canada. Our development assistance
is part of a coordinated whole-of-government approach addressing the unique challenges facing
Afghanistan.  Reconstruction in Afghanistan is key to creating lasting security in that country, the
region, and the world. It is critical that Canada support Afghan and international reconstruction efforts
with long-term investments. Canada's goal is to help Afghanistan stand on its own as an independent,
stable, and prosperous nation so that it never again becomes a haven for terrorism ....

Three-year reconstruction plan for Kandahar
PakTribune (PAK), 24 Nov 06
Article Link

Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development Ehsan Zia has said the central government will
launch a three-year reconstruction programme in the province.  Speaking at a news conference here
on Thursday, the minister said the projects, including construction and pavement of roads, bridges and
provision of clean drinking water, would be completed at the cost $28 million.  He said the National
Solidarity Programme (NSP) had launched several projects in eight districts of the province.  He said
work on welfare projects in three more districts, including Boldak, Khakrez and Mianishin, in the near
future.  He said several schools, health clinics and roads had been constructed and other facilities
provided to the people under the NSP ....

Taliban comeback traced to corruption, coalition killings, Pakistan
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

Until the Taliban were driven from power, Mullah Ehsanullah was an intelligence official, enforcing the
militia's Islamic orthodoxy in eastern Afghanistan.  Five years later, he is again busy in the Taliban ranks,
shepherding recruits through the guerrilla training camps hidden in the rugged terrain here and in Pakistan's
tribal regions across the border.  He says a new generation is learning tactics such as suicide bombings and
remote-detonated explosives that have had a devastating effect in Afghanistan.  These recruits have
contributed to the average of 600 attacks launched each month this year against government officials, NATO
and U.S. soldiers, the Afghan National Army and police ....

Students of seminaries have no relation with embattled Taliban: FATA Law Secretary
Pak Tribune (PAK), 24 Nov 06
Article Link

Law Secretary of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) Arbab Arif has said that there is no relation
of students of seminaries with Taliban and embattled Taliban in Afghanistan.  Talking to Voice of America
(VoA) on Thursday, he further said that it is a wrong speculation that students of seminary has setup parallel
system against administration by opening offices in FATA. Complete writ of government are established in
FATA, he added.  FATA Law secretary noted that the offices had been opened in FATA to solve confronting
problem of students of seminaries as well as to reorganize them ....

About-face for Afghan Women: To Veil or Not to Veil
Canadian International Development Agency, feature article, 15 Nov 06
Article Link

A burka is a veil-like garment worn by Muslim women that covers them from head to foot, with only a small
mesh opening for the eyes. To many observers from the West, the burka symbolizes a denial of human rights.
For the women of Afghanistan, however, the garment means many things: a sign of deeply held religious beliefs,
a source of protection, freedom from harassment, an expression of cultural pride, rejection of foreign values such
as the sexual objectification of women, and a symbol of a conservative way of life many believe is no longer relevant ....

Clergy get basic training on Afghanistan
CBC.ca, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

As more soldiers prepare to leave for Afghanistan, religious leaders in Cape Breton are learning how to extend a
hand and a prayer to their families.  About 50 clergy gathered at the Sydney Garrison Wednesday to find out
what role they can play in supporting the families of soldiers in the battle zone.  Lt.-Col. Ken Butterworth briefed
them on everything from military protocol to what soldiers go through in combat, even showing a video of actual
combat in Afghanistan.  There was also a discussion about the tragedy of war and what to do when a soldier's
body is sent home for burial ....

Calgary students play Santa to soldiers
Local junior high involved with military friendship program

Dave Breakenridge, Calgary Sun, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

For many Canadian soldiers serving in Kandahar this Christmas, Santa Claus will look a lot like Calgary junior
high students.  Through the Chosen Soldier program, Calgary students at Branton junior high, 2103 20 St. N.W.,
today sent Canadian troops dozens of gifts and a message of goodwill.  The presents are just an example of
Canadians wanting troops serving on their behalf to know that they’re in their hearts, said western Canada
program organizer Walter Potter.  “They are our military members and more than anything, we want them to
know that Canadian people care,” he said.  “It’s not political, it’s just the right thing to do.”  The program
sees ordinary Canadians adopt a soldier for the duration of their Afghan tour by being a pen pal and sending
gifts during special occasions, such as birthdays or Christmas, said Potter ....

Rattled nerves, but no casualties, in rocket attack on Canadians in Kandahar
Canadian Press, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan got a scare Friday as insurgents
fired a rocket near their forward observation post in Panjwaii district, west
of Kandahar City.  The suspended rocket landed within 50 metres of post
just moments before the troops were to head out on a foot patrol. There was
a tremendous explosion, a big plume of smoke and lots of rattled nerves - but
no casualties. Canadian troops rushed out of their tents to return fire in the
direction the rocket is believed to have come from. But the rockets are typically
fired from several kilometres away ....

Canadian medics just as hardcore as combat troops in Afghanistan
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

Don't let the blonde hair, blue eyes and dazzling white smile fool you.
Cpl. Shannon Fretter of Springhill, N.S. is as hardcore as any grizzled fighting
man in the Canadian Forces.  Fretter, a medic who has been stationed with
troops during the heaviest fighting in Panjwaii district, was on her way to
Kandahar Air Field on Friday for a couple of days of downtime. "I just want
to smell like a girl again," she lamented, pulling at a strand of hair sticking out
from beneath her toque.  Fretter, 32, is a mother of five and has a husband
waiting at home in Petawawa, Ont. She has become a popular subject for
members of the Afghan National Army, who are forever begging her to pose
for pictures with them.  "It's the blonde hair and blue eyes. They don't get to
see it that much here. The boys keep teasing me that they're lining the grape
huts with my picture just like they do with their porn for their vehicles,"
she giggled ....

We must finish job in Afghanistan
David Sproule, CAN Ambassador to AFG, Ottawa Citizen, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

I disagree with the opinion piece (see below)  by my former colleague,
Gar Pardy.  I don't believe his views accurately capture Canada's objectives,
the international community's commitment or the situation in Afghanistan.
We are in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected
government, under a UN-authorized and NATO-led mission, helping
Afghans rebuild their country, free from the threat of oppression and
violence under the Taliban. By working with the Afghan government to
reinstate universal human rights, we can address the needs of those most
victimized. Girls can now go to school and women can now participate in
government -- both previously outlawed under the Taliban.  Canada is not
alone in Afghanistan. We are one of 37 countries, 15 of which are serving
with us in the south. More than 60 countries are contributing to development
and reconstruction. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan
(UNAMA) is among the UN's largest special political missions. Sixteen
UN agencies are on the ground.  While Kandahar presents a difficult
operating environment, the situation does not reflect the reality in the
rest of the country.  Contrary to the views in Mr. Pardy's article, Afghans
in other parts of the country enjoy unprecedented economic growth and
development. NATO efforts to stabilize the south are aimed at achieving
similar progress ....

When to say enough
It's becoming clear that the negative consequences of staying in Afghanistan
are worse than the consequences of getting out

Gar Pardy, Ottawa Citizen, 16 Nov 06
Article Link

It is seemingly impossible for a government to reverse a policy when it is
lear it will not yield the desired result. More specifically, can the Canadian
government put an end to our participation in the war in Afghanistan when
it is increasingly evident the expected objectives will not be reached?  American
governments faced this issue in Vietnam and now in Iraq ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

NATO chief's plan takes aim at 'caveats'
Proposed change to Afghan mission rules would free up more troops in 'emergencies'

Doug Saunders, Globe & Mail, 24 Nov 06

- Permalink

The head of NATO plans to push for a new rule to force countries to
provide troops in "emergencies" in Afghanistan, a measure aimed at
delivering desperately needed help to Canada and other countries
bearing the brunt of the action in the country's conflict-ridden south.
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Dutch Secretary-General of the 26-member
military alliance, said he was confident that countries such as Germany
could be persuaded to assist the isolated Canadian and British forces
in the south through a new "emergency" provision to be introduced at
a NATO summit in Riga next week. Some countries, such as Germany,
have used exemptions in their NATO agreements, known as "caveats,"
to escape dangerous forms of combat or avoid activity in high-risk regions.
Conditions in the south are better and Canadians less isolated than commanders
and media reports have suggested, Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said in an interview
yesterday at NATO headquarters in Brussels ....

NATO summit to focus on Afghanistan strategy, troop numbers
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

The dominant story lines out of Afghanistan this year can hardly go in the
"good news" column: surging violence that's killed more than 3,700 people,
a five-fold increase in suicide bombings and a booming heroin trade consumed
primarily by European addicts.  That's a major reason why NATO's annual
summit, being held next week in Riga, Latvia, will focus on the war-torn country
far to Europe's east, where 32,000 of the alliance's soldiers are fighting to improve
security and help the Afghan government take control.  Brigadier Richard Nugee,
chief of effects for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said leaders
of NATO nations will reconfirm their commitment to Afghanistan at the summit.
"I think there is a very strong belief that this country is extremely important to
the security of the world," Nugee said. "And therefore NATO will do its bit and
keep going here."  One topic high on the agenda will be troop strength. The
43,000 total international soldiers in Afghanistan are more than 2 1/2 times
the number here in 2003, but NATO's top commander this week urged
nations to boost troop levels, saying he was about 15 percent short of
requirements ....

Canada must speak out at NATO summit
Veronica M. Kitchen, Toronto Star, 24 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

Next week, the leaders from the 26 member countries of the North Atlantic
Treaty Organization will meet in Riga, Latvia to discuss the future of the alliance.
Canada needs to pay attention; relations with our NATO allies are more important
than ever, and yet reaching consensus on NATO's future may be harder than ever.
The Riga summit will be dominated by discussion of the International Security
Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan. NATO currently has 31,000
soldiers deployed in Afghanistan on a mission far removed, by geography and
by mandate, from its Cold War endeavours.  Those countries — Canada, the
Netherlands, Britain, and the United States — losing soldiers in the unstable
south are rightly frustrated by their allies' persistent refusal to deploy their
soldiers to these more dangerous combat zones ....

More help asked from Germany
Raf Casert, Associated Press, via LA Daily News, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Thursday he was
counting on Germany to operate in any volatile part of Afghanistan in case
of need, not just in the more peaceful northern sector.  Chancellor Angela
Merkel had made clear Wednesday that Berlin did not plan to deploy
troops to volatile southern Afghanistan.  "I believe that in emergency
situations, be it in the north, west, south or east, that all NATO member
states help one another. That is also relevant for Germany," de Hoop
Scheffer said after meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter
Balkenende.  "I am convinced the German chancellor agrees with
me," he said ....

Screening of soldiers uncovers illegal use of drugs
Gloria Galloway, Globe & Mail, 24 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

Canadian troops being sent to Afghanistan in February are being tested for
illegal drug use -- and about 5 per cent are failing.  The 2,300 Canadian
Forces personnel, most of them from CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick,
are the first group to be checked for illicit drugs since the Chief of the Defence
Staff, General Rick Hillier, announced last November that the inspections
would take place.  Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium
and the military does not want to send people who already have problems
into that environment. More than that, it needs troops who are in full control
of their faculties.  But it took some time to get the testing program up and
running and two deployments have left for the war zone without being
checked for drug use since Gen. Hillier's Safety Sensitive Drug Testing
Directive was issued.  Commander Denise LaViolette, a military spokesman,
said yesterday that the testing of the next group to be sent to Afghanistan
began in September and, as of mid-November, 1,396 people -- both
reservists and regular troops -- had gone through the program. The rest
will get their tests in the coming weeks.  Of the tests completed so far,
95 per cent were negative, Cdr. LaViolette said ....

A soldier's life, outside the wire
U of C prof lives with Canadian soldiers in Southern Afghanistan

Sarah Malik, Gauntlet News (University of Alberta), 23 Nov 06
Article Link

It isn't very often there are soldiers sitting at the front of a university classroom. But,
for Dr. Anne Irwin's presentation on Canadian soldiers' lives 'outside the Wire,' there
they were, swiveling in their seats, still slightly sunburnt from their tour in Afghanistan,
their berets respectfully set aside.  An anthropology professor at the University of
Calgary and the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute chair in civil-military
relations, Irwin presented her observations on the lives of Canadian soldiers while
she was embedded with them on their missions in Kandahar, Afghanistan. She
spoke at the U of C Thur., Nov. 9.  "The story I am going to tell today is not the
story of the drama and excitement, but of the daily grind of wondering when you
are next going to get a chance to change your socks or to sleep for more than a
couple of hours," she said. Irwin detailed the daily lives of a select group of
Canadian soldiers who spend most of their time in the dangerous, Taliban-infested
areas outside the wire of KAF ....

Pak not doing enough to stop Taliban, says Canada's FM
DailyIndia.com, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay has said that Pakistan was not
doing enough to fight terrorism, and that it must do more to stop the flow of Taliban
fighters crossing the Pak-Afghan border.  The minister said this while appearing as
part of committee hearings seeking an update on Canada's military mission in
Afghanistan.  Quoting media reports, MacKay told the Canadian Parliament's
Defence Committee that nearly 30,000 Pukhtuns freely criss-crossed the
international border each day.  "Pakistan must seek out and arrest senior
Taliban officials, improve border security, sign and ratify United Nations
conventions on terrorism, bring in stronger money-laundering laws and prevent
the exploitation by insurgents of refugee camps in Afghanistan," the Dawn quoted
the minister as telling the defence committee ....

A resister without a war
Is he a conscientious objector if he was never bound for combat?

Michael Friscolanti, Macleans, 23 Nov 06
Article Link

Francisco Juarez is the newest voice of Canada's anti-war movement, and understandably
so. A former navy seaman turned army reservist, the 35-year-old famously quit the military
because he couldn't stomach the thought of deploying to Afghanistan. Free to speak his mind,
Juarez now spends much of his time travelling the country, telling crowds large and small why
the rest of Canada's troops don't belong in Kandahar, either. Journalists have dubbed him
the "first Afghan war resister" -- a title he happily accepts. "My ethics guide me," Juarez says,
"and I followed them."  Peace activists couldn't buy a better spokesman, a real-life soldier who
saw the light at the end of the propaganda tunnel. "If we send Canadian Forces members to
work and possibly die in another part of the world, we owe them a debate," Juarez says.
"There needs to be a broader discussion within our society about what we are doing, and
I think the Prime Minister needs to be a bit more honest about the objectives." But others
-- including officials at the Department of National Defence -- believe it is Juarez, not Stephen
Harper, who needs to start telling the truth. "From my point of view, he doesn't have any
credibility," says Commander Denise Laviolette, a spokeswoman for the chief of military
personnel. "He wasn't resisting anything because he wasn't even in line to go."....

More News on CAN in AFG here

Cost of Afghan mission keeps rising in federal tally
CBC.ca, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

Ottawa has earmarked an extra $515 million for Canada's military mission in Afghanistan
in the next bookkeeping year, keeping it on track, by one outside estimate, to reach a cost
of about $9 billion by the end of the current Canadian commitment in 2009.  The figures
do not count human costs, including the deaths of 42 Canadian soldiers and a diplomat since
2002.  Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's fall fiscal update, released on Thursday, lists a total of
$721 million in military costs beyond those projected in the May federal budget.  Of that sum,
$206 million is to be spent in the current fiscal year — which ends next March 31 — and
$515 million in 2007-08.  The $206 million figure appears to reflect spending announced
in the government's supplementary estimates in October, when more than $200 million was
set aside to bolster the Afghanistan force, partly by sending Leopard C2 tanks to give it
extra firepower .... 

AP Interview: NATO chief says all allies will provide emergency support in Afghanistan
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

NATO's secretary general said all 26 member nations will allow their troops in Afghanistan
to provide emergency support to allied units anywhere in the country, despite criticism that
some are refusing to authorize commanders to send their soldiers into more dangerous regions.
"In case of emergency, every single ally will come to the assistance and help of every other ally,"
Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told The Associated Press. "I'm confident that is the case, because I am
confident that all 26 allies have exactly the same interpretation of what solidarity means."  A
NATO summit next Tuesday and Wednesday in Riga, Latvia is expected to focus on the
alliance's mission in Afghanistan.  Although all the allies have troops in the 32,800-strong
force, Britain, Canada, the United States and others in the front line of the battle in the
Taliban's southern heartland have complained that Germany, Italy, Spain and France
are keeping their troops in the more peaceful north and west ....

Afghanistan rages while NATO deals in caveats
David Common, CBC.ca, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

....  In democratic societies, politicians are, of course, very careful about their military
commitments, especially when elections are in the offing. Insurgent forces in Afghanistan
know this. They will and are using it to their advantage, hoping to break the will of NATO
nations.  Ultimately, those populations must decide whether the investment is worth it,
whether a foreign influence can create stability. And politicians are the salespeople.  To
protect themselves, those western politicians have draped many of their militaries in
Afghanistan with caveats, basically rules on what their forces can and cannot do. 
Germany, for instance, limits its soldiers to operations in the relatively calm north. Others
won't let their aircraft fly at night, or be used for anything besides humanitarian aid delivery.
Some won't let soldiers from other nations ride in their vehicles ....  As the commander
on the ground, it means you have fewer resources to be able to deal with specific
problems. The most cited example was the great surge of violence in the south of
Afghanistan this fall, which Canadian and British soldiers had to confront alone since
other forces could not shift to the south, due to their caveats.  Not surprisingly, NATO
is trying to get rid of these caveats. Gen Jones says they are targeting about 50 of them.
And the alliance isn't alone. Canadian officials say they have lobbied every NATO nation
to eliminate their caveats or provide more troops. So far, only Poland has agreed to send
in extra soldiers, though that deployment was already expected.  Privately, NATO officials
say it will likely be months before any country might consider lifting its caveats.  But, Jones
adds, the alliance's mission to Kosovo suffered the same problem and eventually everyone
eliminated their caveats and completed the task at hand ....

Germany won't lift caveats on Afghan force
United Press International, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday said Germany will not allow its 2,700 troops
in Afghanistan to be deployed elsewhere in the country.  U.S. diplomatic and military officials
are pressing NATO allies and 11 other countries who contribute more than 34,000 troops to
the Afghan International Security and Assistance Force to lift some 50 individual
national caveats on their use.  Germany is the main offender: It limits its troops only to
support the German provincial reconstruction team in the north. Meanwhile, NATO
allies Canada and the Netherlands have been engaged in pitched fighting in southern
Afghanistan against a resurgent Taliban, with British and American troops coming to their
aid as reinforcements.  Merkel addressed the German parliament this week, saying that
moving German troops out of the north would put stability there at risk. Some 40 percent
of the Afghan population live in the German-secured area ....

Are the Germans Stationed in Afghanistan Cowards?
Susanne Koelbl, Der Spiegel (DEU), 24 Nov 06
Article Link

Southern Afghanistan is far from having been pacified -- a bloody war with the Taliban
has erupted there. German troops have picked a relatively comfortable spot for
themselves in the north of the country. Because they have avoided deadly fighting,
they have been labeled "cowards" by the Americans and Brits. But are they?  David
Byers peers forth cautiously at the world from behind his narrow, steel-rimmed glasses.
He's combed his short brown hair so it fits neatly under his beret. His mouth is fixed in
a serious expression, and Byers looks as if he has a lot of questions on his mind. His
visage is part of a photo of his batallion, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.
Private Byers was 22 years old when he was first sent into the field -- in southern
Afghanistan, more than 16,000 kilometers (9,942 miles) from his hometown of Espanola
in southern Canada. His mission was to help bring democracy and political stability to the
land of the Hindu Kush mountains -- a land where war has raged since before his birth ....

U.S.-led troops kill 7 Taliban in Afghan battle
Reuters, 24 Nov 06
Article Link

U.S.-led coalition troops clashed with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan on Friday,
killing seven of the militants, the U.S. military said.  Afghanistan has this year seen
the most intense violence since U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban's radical Islamic
government from power in 2001.  The level of violence has taken Afghanistan's allies
by surprise but the fighting has eased off in recent weeks.  One soldier from the
U.S.-led coalition force was wounded in the battle on Friday in Kandahar province
in the south which involved artillery, mortars and close air support, the U.S. military
said in a statement.  There were no casualties among civilians, it said. No Taliban
official could be reached for comment.  Afghanistan's separate NATO force said
one of its soldiers was killed and one wounded when militants fired a rocket at a
NATO patrol in Ghazni province, to the southwest of the capital, Kabul, on
Thursday. It did not give their nationalities ....

Canada to upgrade armoured fleet
40 tracked vehicles being shipped to Afghanistan

CanWest news service reporter, Calgary Herald, 25 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

The Canadian Forces will ship more armoured vehicles to
Afghanistan to help ease the wear and tear on the military's combat
fleet in Kandahar.  About 40 tracked M113 armoured personnel
carriers will be shipped early in the New Year, a move that will
give commanders another type of vehicle to use when the wheeled
LAV-3, as well as Bison armoured carriers, are undergoing
maintenance, said army spokesman Capt. Sylvain Chalifour.
In addition, some of the Bisons now in Afghanistan will have
to be returned to Canada for refit work, so the M113s will
make up for that shortfall, he said.  There are already several
M113s in Kandahar, Chalifour added.  Afghanistan's terrain
is exceptionally hard on vehicles and equipment of all types,
according to military officials ....

More News on CAN in AFG here

NATO force tells Afghans to avoid its convoys
Reuters, 25 Nov 06
Article Link

Afghanistan's NATO force warned Afghans to keep clear of its convoys on
Saturday after several incidents in which troops fired at civilians in the mistaken
belief they were under attack by suicide bombers.  Violence has surged in
Afghanistan this year to its worst level since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban
in 2001. As well as hundreds of attacks and ambushes, suicide bombers have
struck more than 80 times, mostly at foreign and government troops.  In the
latest incident of mistaken fire, NATO soldiers shot at a van that had been
seen "driving suspiciously" near a convoy on the outskirts of Kabul on
Wednesday. The van crashed and an Afghan doctor was killed.  NATO
said on Saturday large red signs had been fitted to its vehicles across the
country bearing keep-clear warnings in Afghanistan's two official
languages -- Dari and Pashto.  "Locals are asked to obey these signs
by maintaining a safe distance when near ISAF vehicles, and to also
obey any hand signals and verbal warnings given by ISAF troops," the
force said ....

Merkel stresses Germany's commitment to NATO success in Afghanistan
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 25 Nov 06
Article Link

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that Germany is committed to making
NATO's mission in Afghanistan a success, stressing the significance of Berlin's
deployment in the country's north and of civilian rebuilding.  A NATO summit
on Tuesday and Wednesday is expected to focus on Afghanistan. Britain,
Canada and others in the front line of the battle in the Taliban's southern
heartland have complained that Germany, Italy, Spain and France are
keeping their troops in the more peaceful north and west.  Merkel predicted
in her weekly video podcast that the summit in Riga, Latvia, will send "a signal
of unity, because NATO wants and we also want the mission in Afghanistan to
be a success."  She stressed that Germany will play its part in a "joint strategy."....

Violent power struggle may be just the thing to unite Afghanistan
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), 25 Nov 06
Article Link

Money, violence, barely contained chaos and an unbridled struggle for
power - it has all the elements of a classic battle. But this is sport, not war: a
new season of buzkashi, Afghanistan's wild national game, has just begun.
Some say the game, a heart-stopping contest where hundreds of horse riders
wrestle over a decapitated animal carcass, is the key to understanding
Afghanistan. It certainly has some striking similarities to the country's turbulent
politics: too many players, too few rules and regular confusion about who is in
control. But can it help cement much-needed national unity?  The first players
of the season trotted out for a pre-season tryout behind Kabul airport. With
their woollen hats, thick-heeled boots and leathery faces, the riders resembled
a winter version of Mad Max. Whips between their teeth, they thundered up
and down the mucky pitch. Horses clashed, lurched and reared; riders lunged
towards the prize calf carcass, sorely battered as the afternoon wore on ....

  NATO patrol escapes suicide attack in Kabul
Agence France Presse, via Hindustan Times, 25 Nov 06
Article Link

A suicide bomber detonated an explosives-filled car close to a NATO and
police patrol near the Afghan capital on Saturday, wounding at least two
Afghan passers-by, police said.  NATO's International Security Assistance
Force could not immediately confirm the attack in the province of Logar, which
came hours after a bomb hit an army vehicle in Kabul but caused no casualties.
The suicide attack shattered the passenger car carrying the bomb but did not
affect the patrolling troops, a local police commander, Abdul Majid Latifi, said.
Two passers-by were injured, he said. The blast was in Charkh district about
70 kilometres south of Kabul ....

Meet Teddy Zaremba: he's battling the Taliban and his own misfortune
Lee Greenberg, Can West news service, Ottawa Citizen, 25 Nov 06
Article Link - Permalink

ZHARI DISTRICT, Afghanistan - Meet Bombardier Teddy Zaremba _
a hulking artillery soldier who was once mistaken for a bear during
a military training exercise. He's the Unluckiest Guy in NATO.
Although more than 40 Canadian soldiers have died in the war-torn
country since early 2002 _ making Zaremba's misfortune seem trivial
_ that is what his section mates call him, anyway.  And Zaremba's
inclined to agree with them.  "If I'm not cursed, I've definitely got
the worst luck ever," he says. "If something bad's going to happen,
it's going to happen to me.''  Since embarking on a cursed six-month
stretch in Afghanistan, he has fallen down a flight of stairs, tripped
over a tent wire, broken his $500 camera and been given the only
ration pack known to come with a hole in the bottom.  On his second
day in the field, the Regina-born, Calgary-raised Zaremba slammed
his fingers in the hatch of an armoured vehicle while fleeing what he
mistakenly believed was a mortar attack.  Commanders had merely
called for a "stand to", or a heightened state of alert, not panic ....

Got the low down, sand in your army boots blues?
Music store sends 2,600 harmonicas to Canadian troops

Canadian Press, via Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 25 Nov 06
Article Link

Christmas may already be blue for Canadian troops separated from
family and friends while posted in Afghanistan this year.  But, they can
give musical voice to their feelings when 2,600 Delta Blues harmonicas,
one for each soldier, land as gifts from a Halifax-based musical instrument
retailer.  Todd Thompson, marketing director for Musicstop, says the idea
to help rouse soldiers spirits came to him as he was driving home from work
and thinking about the bad news that usually comes out of the war zone. 
Thompson says he doesn’t quite know why but somewhere in the back of
his mind soldiers and harmonicas just seemed to fit.  "I don’t know if it was
a movie it came out of or what," he said in a telephone interview.  "It seems
to be the right sort of instrument. They’re handy. They’re portable. You
don’t have to plug them in, and everybody can play a tune on them to some
degree."  Thompson credits Coast Music in Montreal for helping track
down so many harmonicas on such short notice ....