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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (November 2007)


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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (November 2007)      

News only - commentary elsewhere, please.
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Articles found November 01, 2007

Third day of Afghanistan clashes
Article Link

Afghan police and Taleban fighters have clashed outside the southern city of Kandahar in a battle that has now been going for three days, officials say.
It is the closest the Taleban have got to their former stronghold since late 2001, when their government fell to the international military operation.

Scores of local people have fled the area and taken refuge in Kandahar city.

The Taleban began their advance into Arghandab district after the death two weeks ago of a local leader.

He supported the Afghan government.

For the past three days, Afghan army and police, fighting alongside troops from the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) force, have been pushing them back.

Fifty Taleban have been killed, according to Afghan police, and 40 injured, although those figures are impossible to confirm independently.

The police also said one Afghan soldier and three police officers were killed.

Dozens of people in Arghandab district have fled their homes since the fighting began, taking refuge some 12km (eight miles) away in Kandahar city.

"What's very telling is that the Afghan National Army (ANA) is showing a great deal of competence in military engagement," an Isaf spokesman said.

He praised what he said was the high level of co-operation between Isaf and Afghan forces.

Correspondents say that fighting in Afghanistan is the heaviest since the fall of the Taleban six years ago, and civilians are increasingly among the casualties.

On Monday Nato denied claims by an official in the province of Wardak that 13 Afghan civilians were killed in a Nato air strike near Kabul.

It said that a "thorough investigation" had been conducted into the allegations, which had concluded they were "completely without merit".

Story from BBC NEWS:
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Canada taking over war memorial
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OTTAWA -- The federal government will take over and maintain a run-down Canadian war memorial in England
The Department of Veteran's Affairs announced Wednesday it would invest about $250,000 to acquire the memorial in downtown London as well as about $100,000 a year for management and maintenance costs.

The granite-and-bronze monument, designed by the late Montreal sculptor Pierre Granche, sits in Green Park opposite Buckingham Palace.

It was the brainchild of former media tycoon Conrad Black, who was co-chair of the design selection committee and was present when the Queen and then-prime minister Jean Chretien inaugurated the memorial in 1994.

It was envisioned as a commemoration of the hundreds of thousands of Canadian soldiers who fought alongside Britons in the First and Second World Wars.

But is been decaying for months while its actual ownership could be determined.
The memorial features inclined planes of red granite inset with bronze maple leaves, with water running across the tilted surface, making it seem like the leaves are afloat in a stream.

But the complex pumping and piping system has been turned off for months. The memorial plaques are grimy and it has become, for some, a play surface for children and dogs.

There are reports that the Daily Telegraph newspaper, when Black owned it, paid for maintenance. But he is long gone from the owner's office and those funds have dried up.
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Taliban overrun another Afghan district
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Taliban rebels have overrun a district centre in western Afghanistan as fighting took place in a nearby area captured earlier this week, a provincial official says.

The Taliban have massed in unusually large numbers in the last week in the west and near the main southern city of Kandahar, challenging assertions by Afghan government and foreign troops that they can rout the rebels in any direct engagement.

A Taliban leader vowed to press on with the campaign to overthrow the Afghan government and eject the 50,000 foreign troops with the same intensity through the harsh Afghan winter.

Some 400 Taliban fighters took over the district centre of Gulistan in the western province of Farah on Monday. While Afghan and NATO-led forces were battling to take it back, the insurgents took over the neighbouring district centre of Bakwa.

"Bakwa district centre fell into the hands of the Taliban in an attack yesterday afternoon," said Maolavi Yahya, the district chief of neighbouring Delaram.
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Portugal to slash troops in Afghanistan to just 15
From correspondents in Lisbon November 01, 2007 10:03am Article from: Agence France-Presse
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PORTUGAL will cut its military presence in Afghanistan by more than 90 percent from August 2008, Defense Minister Nuno Severiano Teixeria told parliament, according to Lusa news agency.

Portugal will reduce its contribution to NATO's International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) from 162 soldiers to a single C-130 transport plane and 15 soldiers to train members of the Afghan army, the defence minister said during a parliamentary commission meeting.

Mr Teixeira later told journalists that "the principles of rotation and the needs" of NATO were behind the planned troop reduction.

"States which are engaged in the most difficult zones (of Afghanistan), such as Portugal, can make changes to troop numbers," he said.
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WITNESS: Ambushed by the Taliban in Afghanistan
Thu Nov 1, 2007 8:14am EDT
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Finbarr O'Reilly is embedded with Canadian troops in Afghanistan. In this story, he recounts a narrow escape during an attack by Taliban fighters on October 23. Finbarr's pictures from the incident are a dramatic visual narrative of soldiers in combat. Finbarr, who holds British and Canadian nationality, is a 36-year-old photographer for Reuters who is based in West Africa. Finbarr won the World Press Photo of The Year Award in 2006.

By Finbarr O'Reilly

HOWZ-E-MADAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The first Taliban shell struck just as Canadian and Afghan troops retreated across a dusty field in southern Afghanistan.

It exploded about 5 meters (yards) from four Canadian soldiers who were training their Afghan National Army counterparts as part of NATO's mission here.

As a photographer embedded with the Canadians, I was caught in the blast and enveloped by a cloud of dust and smoke. We scrambled for cover behind a mud wall shielding us from Taliban positions on the opposite side of the field.

The unit I was with had earlier abandoned a planned dawn ambush of Taliban fighters. It responded quickly to the attack.

I focused on taking pictures of an Afghan army soldier shooting a heavy mounted machine gun from a nearby ditch.

A shell from an 82-millimeter recoilless rifle exploded in front of him and he disappeared in the flash of light. Sand blasted me and the shockwave knocked me over.
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Tone it down, Ottawa tells top soldier
'Marching orders' issued over Hillier's controversial remarks
BRIAN LAGHI From Thursday's Globe and Mail November 1, 2007 at 2:00 AM EDT
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OTTAWA — Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff, Rick Hillier, has been told to tone down his political interventions after he spoke out last week on the direction of the Afghanistan military mission, sources have told The Globe and Mail.

“He got his marching orders,” a senior government official said Wednesday. “He was reminded what his role is. His role is not to be the chief spokesperson for the mission.”

Gen. Hillier sparked controversy last week by saying it will be at least a decade before Afghanistan is able to field a professional military capable of managing its security. He also called on European countries to take a bigger role in the violent Kandahar region of Afghanistan, where Canada has committed 2,500 troops. Earlier in the week, the government's Speech from the Throne said Afghans will be able to defend their sovereignty by 2011.

The general immediately went to the airwaves to say he wasn't disagreeing with the government.
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City honours soldiers; Giant ribbon to adorn tower
Posted By Jordan Press
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Yellow ribbons abound across the country, each a statement of support for Canadian soldiers and veterans.

Next week, City Hall will make a big statement of its own - and it will be visible to the men and women in uniform at CFB Kingston, across the Lasalle Causeway.

An enormous ribbon will be strung around the tower of City Hall just before Remembrance Day.

It will remain there until January, by which time a large contingent of soldiers from CFB Kingston will have left for the battleground of Afghanistan.

"It shows the City of Kingston actually supports our military. That's what it's all about," said former base commander Gerry Coady, who has been actively organizing a public show of appreciation for the troops.

The City Hall banner is part of festivities and ceremonies for Remembrance Day weekend. On Nov. 11, veterans, soldiers and residents will gather to remember and mourn Canadian soldiers lost in combat and in the line of duty.

On Friday, Nov. 9, City Hall staff will place the 40.5-metre ribbon around the base of the tower over the buildings front entrance. It will be high enough and bright enough that those with clear sightlines from across the Cataraqui River will be able to see it.

Ribbons to support the soldiers have already been a part of the City Hall landscape. Earlier this year, ribbons were placed trees around Market Square, including a large one around the Christmas Tree in the southwest corner of the square.

"This is just an extension of that and a more visible sign of support," said the city's corporate services commissioner, Denis Leger.
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Aide denies report Hillier leashed by Ottawa
Updated Thu. Nov. 1 2007 7:38 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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An aide to Gen. Rick Hillier is denying reports that Canada's top soldier has been leashed by Ottawa following comments he made about Afghanistan last week.

The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that Hillier had been told to tone down his political comments on the mission.

"He got his marching orders," a senior government official told the newspaper on Wednesday. "He was reminded what his role is. His role is not to be the chief spokesperson for the mission."

Hillier spoke out last week on the direction of the Afghanistan mission, telling reporters that it could be 10 years before the country's army is in a position to fend for itself.

The comments seemed to contradict what Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the throne speech -- that the objective could be accomplished by 2011.

Hillier then backed away from the controversy telling CTV's Mike Duffy Live that he was on the exact "same sheet of paper" with Harper.

"What I talked about was building the total Afghan national army, which is not our responsibility. Our piece is in Kandahar province itself," Hillier said.

"Our piece in Kandahar province, the speech from the throne was pretty clear on what the government is looking towards. I believe that's eminently doable."

Hillier was not available for comment Wednesday but an aide told The Globe that Hillier was never reprimanded.

"He has received no direction to change his course on his public comments," said Major Holly Apostoliuk, the general's public affairs officer.

"There is no need because he and the government of Canada are of one view and of one approach re the mission."

Apostoliuk would not comment on whether Hillier had spoken to government officials about the situation.
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Japan orders ships home from Afghanistan
Reuters, Nov. 1

Japan ordered its naval ships to withdraw from a mission backing U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan as a deadline to extend the activities was set to expire on Thursday.

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has been struggling against a resurgent opposition to enact a new bill to allow Japan's navy to keep providing free fuel for U.S. and other ships patrolling the Indian Ocean, a mission seen as vital by close ally Washington.

Japan has supplied fuel and water worth about 22 billion yen ($190-million U.S.) over the six years of the mission.

“It is very regrettable that Japan's important activity will have to be suspended,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura told a parliamentary panel debating the new bill.

“Japan must rejoin the international team to fight terrorism as soon as possible by enacting new legislation.”...

Australia, which has almost 1,000 troops in Afghanistan and is a close ally of Washington and Tokyo, said Japan should extend the mission, but added it understood the debate in Japan.

“We are hopeful that it may result in the resumption of Japan's contribution in this area, as an important part of Japan's increasingly active, and welcome, role in promoting global and regional security,” Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement.

Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura expressed worry about the impact on Japan's ties with its allies.

“Withdrawing our ships will not only impact the effectiveness of the maritime operations, but will seem as if Japan has switched to a passive stance in the fight against terrorism.

“Naturally this cannot but affect other countries' attitude towards Japan.”..

Cdn frigate leaves Halifax harbour for six-month deployment in Persian Gulf
CP, Nov. 1

A Canadian warship steamed out of Halifax harbour on Thursday to resume patrols in the Persian Gulf and gain intelligence on potential terrorist activity in the volatile region.

Hundreds of weeping family members lined the military dock as HMCS Charlottetown made its way out to sea to begin a six-month mission involving surveillance, boarding suspicious vessels and ensuring the safety of a waterway that's key to the international trade of oil.

Commander Patrick St-Denis said the ongoing naval presence is vital in the area despite criticisms that the Canadian contingent has apprehended few terrorists or acquired valuable intelligence since 2001...

The Halifax-class patrol frigate will be taking part in Operation Altair, part of Canada's contribution to Operation Enduring Freedom, the code-name for the American-led war on terror [emphasis added].

Canada hasn't had a vessel there since last March when HMCS Ottawa returned from the Gulf where the frigate was part of a U.S. carrier strike group during a six-month tour.

St-Denis said it wasn't yet clear whether Canada will be called on next year to lead the multinational naval task force in the region, which it has done in the past.

Over the last few years Ottawa has dispatched warships on an individual basis. It's unclear whether the Conservative government will be required to send more ships to meet the lead responsibility..

Articles found November 2, 2007

Infighting among NATO members snarls Afghan mission, ex-commander says
DOUG SAUNDERS From Friday's Globe and Mail November 2, 2007 at 4:35 AM EDT
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LONDON — Chaos and competing goals among NATO nations involved in Afghanistan are preventing progress there, according to the British general who commanded the Afghan mission until February.

"The nations contributing to [the NATO mission in Afghanistan], together with the Afghan government, have yet to agree, and to start efficiently implementing, a coherent strategy," Sir David Richards told a conference of leaders yesterday organized by the Canadian government in London.

Gen. Richards was frank about the reason for this deterioration: "General Dan McNeill, the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] commander, has too few troops to conduct the operation in a manner that meets the basic rules of a counterinsurgency campaign."

One senior official experienced with the war said that "we need at least a doubling of ISAF presence - and probably a lot more than that - if we are to achieve the minimum goals of the campaign." There are currently more than 41,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan.
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Kandahar deal breakers: The Afghan poll is not a blank cheque
TAYLOR OWEN AND DAVID EAVES Special to Globe and Mail Update November 2, 2007 at 1:03 AM EDT
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The results of the poll of Afghans by Environics on behalf of The Globe and Mail, the CBC and La Presse were surprising to many. Afghans are broadly content with their government, happy that Canada is in Afghanistan, and believe the work being done is beneficial and effective. Canadians should be proud. We are making a difference.

What is potentially worrying, however, is the fervour with which the poll was greeted in Canada by some of the mission's supporters. While a useful reminder of why we are in Afghanistan, this poll is not a blank cheque for any and all future engagement.

Future actions, by us or our allies, could alter the political conditions in Afghanistan, negatively shifting indigenous public opinion. Consequently, this poll should reaffirm the necessity of debating how we engage, and under what conditions we walk away.

Two looming scenarios could derail the mission.
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Canadians, Afghans celebrate Taliban retreat
ANA takes lead role in battle that returns control of area north of Kandahar to government with apparent lack of civilian casualties
GRAEME SMITH From Friday's Globe and Mail November 2, 2007 at 5:14 AM EDT
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — The Canadian military and their Afghan allies congratulated each other, even holding a triumphant tour of the battlefield, just hours after the Taliban retreated from the heart of a key district north of Kandahar city.

Insurgents started falling back from their positions on the north bank of the Arghandab river in the early hours yesterday morning, police officials said. Eager to reassure the villagers fleeing the district, and reduce the public-relations damage caused by the Taliban's bold attack near the city, local authorities organized a well-publicized visit to the front lines.

That's how Lieutenant-Colonel Bob Chamberlain, commander of Canada's Provincial Reconstruction Team, found himself taking off his helmet and sitting among Afghan elders for a meeting in the village of Chahar Ghulba, the scene of heavy fighting over the past three days.

The Canadian commander was joined by several politicians, including Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid, who brought a group of Afghan journalists to record the fact that his government was back in control of the district.
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Sears teams up with military to help Canadians send wishes to troops overseas
    QUEBEC CITY, Nov. 1 /CNW/ -
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Thousands of Canadian soldiers serving
overseas will be away from their families this Holiday season. Sears Canada is
calling on all Canadians to show their support for the troops by signing one
of the three 4'x5' giant greeting cards that will be touring Quebec City and
Montreal area Sears stores from November 1st through November 11th.
    "We began Operation Wish last year as a way of providing our soldiers
stationed abroad with a connection to their families back home," said Dene
Rogers, President and CEO, Sears Canada. "It has proven to be a great success
and we have formed a great alliance with the Canadian Forces Personnel Support
Agency who has been invaluable in helping us to connect with deployed troops
and their families at home. We have been overwhelmed with support from our
customers and associates for this initiative and we wanted to send their
thoughts and best wishes directly to the soldiers overseas. We decided to
start the project in Quebec in honour of the large contingent of soldiers who
just left from there."
    Similar cards will be placed in various cities across the country in
early December.
    Sears launched Operation Wish in 2006 in co-ordination with the Canadian
Forces Personnel Support Agency (CFPSA). Operation Wish allows Canadian troops
stationed abroad to place a customized order from the Sears Wish Book online.
Copies of the catalogue were sent to Canadian soldiers, sailors and air force
personnel posted to operational missions in Afghanistan, Africa, the Balkans,
the Caribbean, the Middle East, Southwest Asia and the Arabian Gulf region, as
well as those serving on HMCS Ottawa.
    All three cards will be toured and on display at nine Sears stores in the
province to enable Sears associates, customers and members of the community to
sign the cards. Stores include Place Laurier, La Capitale, Place Fleur de Lys,
Place du Saguenay, Fairview Pointe-Claire, Centre Les Rivières, Carrefour de
L'Estrie, Place Vertu and Mail Champlain in Brossard.
    On November 14, 2007 at CFB Trenton, Ont., the first unveiling of the
cards, containing well-wishes from Canadians, will occur at the dress
rehearsal of CFPSA's biannual show tour heading out to Afghanistan and other
Canadian missions to entertain the troops. The cards will then be shipped out
by CFB Trenton to the Canadian military base in Afghanistan.
    Once in Afghanistan, the cards will be officially unveiled during the
CFPSA's entertainment show for the troops featuring 11 francophone performers.
This show will kick off with comedian Pascal Babin and include rock and dance
    "Receiving good wishes from people back home means a great deal to our
deployed troops," said Jim Peverley, CFPSA, Director of Deployment Support.
"Canadians thoughts and support are also very meaningful to all military
families, whether their loved ones are deployed or not."
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Martin: Security can disappear in a flash in Afghanistan
Taliban seem to return far too quickly
  Don Martin National Post Thursday, November 01, 2007
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Wide-eyed nine-year-old Fila kept sneaking farther back in a lineup of brothers and sisters waiting for a hepatitis B vaccine, hoping they would run out of needles before it was her turn.

Her father spotted the stall tactic, cuffed her wincingly hard on the head and shoved her toward Senlis Council aid workers visiting the river camp of perhaps 100 dirt-poor Afghans in the Arghandab district, which at the time -- just two months ago -- was free of Taliban influence.

I had my interpreter tell the cowering Fila that if she didn't cry while getting the injection, I'd get her picture in the paper and she could keep my pen and spare notebook as a reward. The needle slipped into her upper arm. She gasped, started to tear up, looked straight into my lens -- and smiled.

Her smile haunts me still, particularly with news that the camp where her family and dozen others huddled under riverbank-hugging tents fell to the Taliban a few weeks ago before being reclaimed by a dual military onslaught of Afghan and NATO troops this week.

How a dozen-member goat-herding family without a car or a horse could flee the battle over the steep hills separating their besieged home from the relative safety of Kandahar is beyond me.

But there's also notable Canadian military significance to the Taliban's reoccupation of a settlement on Kandahar City's doorstep.

The city is a beacon of economic hope for southern Afghanistan, filled with bustling markets, recycling operations, new building construction and even a three-star hotel. Free enterprise appears to operate without the constant threat of insurgency attack.
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Still much work to do in Afghanistan
TheStar.com -November 02, 2007 Allan Woods OTTAWA BUREAU
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OTTAWA–With an insurgency on the rise and an increased perception of insecurity among locals, the international community should not "pretend" that stable progress is being made in Afghanistan, a top European diplomat said yesterday.

Francesc Vendrell, the European Union's special representative for Afghanistan, said an increasing number of Afghans fear for their safety, the Taliban is more active than at any time since 2001 and there are strong links between the Taliban, organized crime and government officials.

"Why are we at this point?" he asked at an Ottawa conference. "I don't think we should try and pretend that everything is all right."

Vendrell was one of a number of speakers yesterday discussing the successes and drawbacks that coalition forces are having bringing peace and security to the country.

Jonathan Parish, a senior NATO policy adviser, said: "As long as the Taliban can take sanctuary across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area ... the task for NATO members, particularly in the south and east of Afghanistan, will remain difficult if not impossible.

"That is why encouraging a more effective contribution from Pakistan is important."

All agreed that one of the bright spots in international efforts to rehabilitate Afghanistan was the training of the Afghan National Army. The force stands just shy of 40,000 troops but is rapidly expanding.

A recent spat between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, focused on just how long it would take for Canada to train the Afghan army. The Conservative throne speech last month asserted it was "achievable" by 2011, allowing for a Canadian withdrawal from the country after that. Hillier later said that it would take about 10 years. He was quickly forced to clarify his comments.

Both Parish, a Briton, and Vendrell, a Spaniard, gave a cautious endorsement of the 2011 target date for the Afghan army.

"I'm less worried about whether we will meet the date than whether we will meet the actual substance of the agreement we arrived at in London (where the Afghanistan Compact was signed)," Vendrell said.

Parish said that 49 NATO training teams are currently working with the ANA and that number is set to jump to 70 by this time next year.

One major outstanding problem is the Afghan police, said Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, head of the Canadian army.

He noted the Afghan army has evolved into a "thoroughly professional, hard-hitting and well-respected institution ... The same cannot be said for the auxiliary police forces."

But even that is changing, he said. On a trip to Afghanistan about 10 days ago, Leslie said, he spent an evening with an Afghan police patrol in Kandahar's Panjwaii district. It was uneventful, he said.

"Three to four months ago that certainly would have been fatal."
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Coalition soldier killed in southern Afghanistan

Updated Fri. Nov. 2 2007 3:52 PM ET

The Associated Press

KABUL -- A U.S.-led coalition soldier and an Afghan soldier were killed Friday in clashes with insurgents in southern Afghanistan, a coalition statement said.

Both soldiers died during combat operations in Uruzgan province, the statement said, without giving other details, such as the coalition soldier's nationality.

Afghan security forces, meanwhile, killed a senior militant commander as he attempted to cross from Pakistan into Afghanistan, the coalition said in a statement Friday.

Malawi Abdul Manan and several other insurgents were killed in an ambush set up by Afghan security forces in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, as they attempted to cross from neighboring Pakistan, the statement said.

Manan's death is "a tremendous blow for the enemy," said Maj. Chris Belcher, a coalition spokesman.

"His death will seriously hamper the enemy's organization and operations as there is no known successor," the coalition said. "In addition to leading a large contingent of militants, Manan was also responsible for the movement of both insurgent fighters and weapons smuggling across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border."

The coalition compared Manan's role in the militants' movement to that of the ruthless one-legged Taliban commander, Mullah Dadullah, who was killed by foreign troops in May.

"(Manan's) death is huge setback which will send the enemy into a tailspin," the statement said.
Afghan mission may fail, general warns
CanWest, Nov. 2

One of Britain's most outspoken military officers issued stark warnings about the potential for failure in Afghanistan at a forum hosted by the Canadian high commission Thursday.

Lt.-Gen. David Richards, who commanded the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan from May 2006 to February 2007, said he remains optimistic western allies will ultimately stabilize the war-ravaged country and keep it out of Taliban hands.

But Richards said the military's poppy eradication campaign could backfire, NATO's efforts in the country lack focus and there aren't nearly enough boots on the ground in Afghanistan's incendiary southern region, where Canadian, U.S., British and Dutch forces are concentrated.

ISAF commander Dan McNeill, the U.S. general who succeeded Richards, "has too few troops to conduct the operation in a manner that meets the basic rules of a counter-insurgency campaign."

While western allies can claim "pretty impressive" success in areas like health care, education and security in Kabul and the northern and western regions, they are having trouble meeting expectations in the south and parts of the east, said Richards, who will become commander-in-chief of Britain's land forces in January.

"Here the picture is one of slow progress, broken promises, unmet expectations, and poor security," he said.

While he didn't single out Canada, Richards expressed fear weakening public support for the mission will lessen NATO's resolve to see out the conflict...

NATO beats back Taliban
Calgary Herald, Nov. 2

The Taliban is on the run north of Kandahar city after a joint counter-attack by Afghan and NATO forces, Canadian officials say.

Following three days of intense fighting, about 200 to 300 insurgents have been killed, injured, arrested or are headed back to districts further north...

However one local observer said no matter what the outcome in Arghandab, the Taliban has won in one respect [emphasis added].

"What I think is key to note is the symbolic, emotional weight of the Taliban being in Arghandab," said Sarah Chayes, an American writer and humanitarian who has a home in Kandahar City. "Even if the government and ISAF drive them back out in short order, which looks like it's going to happen, they have scored a major (psychological operations) point."..

Taliban Retreat Is Seen After an Advance Near Kandahar (no mention of Canadians)
NY Times, Nov. 2

ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan, Nov. 1 — Afghan officials said on Thursday that several hundred Taliban fighters had withdrawn from a strategic area near Kandahar, southern Afghanistan’s largest city, ending two days of clashes just outside it.

Local officials showed journalists what they said were abandoned Taliban positions several miles inside the area, the Arghandab district, but blocked them from venturing alone farther into it. No gunfire was heard in the area on Thursday, and villagers said Taliban fighters withdrew on Wednesday night, telling the villagers that they had come to the area to spread their views [emphasis added].

“They told us, ‘We are here for two days. We are not here to fight; we are here to preach [emphasis added],’” said Abdul Samad, 25, a farmer who remained in the area. “‘To make the people aware to not help the infidels and their cronies.’”..

The clashes with Afghan and NATO forces took place 15 miles north of the city. It was the closest the Taliban had come to Kandahar since 2001. Fearing a major battle, thousands of villagers fled...

Abdullah Jan, a villager who remained in the area, said many of the Taliban appeared to be 18 to 20 years old. Some covered their faces with scarves, he said, a sign that “they were not Afghans.” He praised Afghan and NATO forces for not bombarding the area and killing civilians [emphasis added].

“They didn’t use air power; all operations were infantry,” Mr. Jan said...


Kabul comeback
Globe and Mail, Nov. 3

Does beauty matter in a country torn by war?

That question confronted conservationists when they started rebuilding the renowned Babur Garden in Afghanistan's scruffy capital city...

Born in what is now Uzbekistan, Babur ascended to the throne of the little principality of Fergana two years after Christopher Columbus reached America. He was 12, and by the time he died at 47, he had conquered [emphasis added] much of today's Pakistan, Afghanistan [emphasis added] and northern India, laying the foundation of the Mughal empire, which would rule the region for more than 300 years and leave its mark in monuments such as the Taj Mahal.

A warrior with an artistic side, Babur loved gardens and built them all over his empire, giving exhaustive attention to their design and maintenance. One of the first was in Kabul, which he conquered in 1504: He set his garden on a site sloping down from a rugged hillside to the banks of the river. When he died in Agra, northern India, he asked to be buried in the garden “under the open Kabul sky.”

Recreating his garden was not easy...

...the place is a hit. Six times as many people visited in July as did the same month last year. People come not just to picnic, but to attend cultural events such as theatre festivals and recitals by traditional Afghan musicians – little touches of civilization in a country shattered by decades of turmoil and civil war.

Even the former warlords who now sit in the Afghan government are taking an interest. When they congratulate him on the restoration, Mr. Leslie says, he feels like replying: “Maybe you shouldn't have burned it down in the first place, mate.”..


Articles found November 3, 2007

Canadian soldier hurt by blast in Afghanistan
GRAEME SMITH  November 3, 2007
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Kandahar, Afghanistan -- A Canadian soldier was injured yesterday when an explosion rocked a Leopard tank in Arghandab district, a region north of Kandahar city where Canadian and Afghan forces pushed back a major Taliban offensive this week.

The soldier's injuries were not serious: He was listed in fair condition last night at a military hospital on Kandahar Air Field.

Conscious and talking, he was able to call his family and notify them himself about the incident.

The bomb went off shortly after 7 p.m. local time during a patrol about 30 kilometres north of the city, a military spokesman said. It was believed to be an improvised explosive device, the kind often used by Taliban insurgents.
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Australian soldier hurt by bomb in Afghanistan
Article from: Sunday Herald Sun Lincoln - Wright November 04, 2007 12:00am
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AN Australian soldier has been seriously hurt in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb that exploded as he tried to defuse it.

The incident happened on the same day as the funeral of SAS Regiment's Sgt Matthew Locke, killed by Taliban fighters in the southern province of Oruzgan on October 25.

Trooper David Pearce was killed by a roadside bomb in the same area on October 8.

The latest casualty, Sgt Michael Lyddiard, was flown from the blast scene, about 25km from the Australian base, to a field hospital at Tarin Kowt where he was in a serious but stable condition yesterday, a Department of Defence spokesman said.

Sgt Lyddiard is a qualified explosive ordnance disposal operator serving with the Reconstruction Task Force.

Defence spokesman Brigadier Andrew Nikolic said Sgt Lyddiard would probably be transferred to a Coalition hospital outside Afghanistan.

Sgt Lyddiard was part of a team involved in route clearance. No other soldiers were wounded in the Friday night incident.

Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, said taskforce members immediately secured the scene and provided medical help.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel Visits Afghanistan (Update4)
By Simeon Bennett and Rainer Buergin
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Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, three weeks after the parliament she leads voted to extend Germany's military engagement there in defiance of public opinion.

Merkel arrived today in Kabul for a one-day trip, pledging more German funding for the buildup of Afghanistan's security forces, the chancellor's press office said in an e-mailed statement. Afghanistan must be helped to take its security increasingly in its own hands, the office cited Merkel as saying.

Merkel was on her first trip to Afghanistan since becoming chancellor two years ago. She will seek another parliamentary mandate later this month to extend Germany's commitment to combating Taliban insurgents, an operation distinct from its peace-keeping role.
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New mullah in Arghandab district wants Canada to stay in Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - When it comes to his views on Canada's presence in Afghanistan, it's like father like son for the new mullah in the Arghandab district north of Kandahar city.

Arghandab has been the site of heavy fighting involving Canadian and Afghan security troops as the Taliban sought to gain a foothold in the area with the death last month of Mullah Naqib, a former warlord who was an enemy of the Taliban.

"With what's going on right now in the district of Arghandab is not good and in this situation the Canadians must stay right here for a long time," said Kareemullah Naqibi, recently named by President Hamid Karzai as his father's successor.

"And with the acute situation in Kandahar city, I think that the Canadians should stay a long time too," said Naqibi, speaking through an interpreter to reporters in Arbhandab. "I do not say the exact time whether it's one month, two months or three months. They must stay because the security situation is not good right now."

A force of about 300 Taliban tried last month to gain control of Arghandab, lush farmland of grape and pomegranate orchards which would have provided the group with easy access to its former stronghold.
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Canadian Forces in fierce battle near Kandahar City
Kelly Cryderman, CanWest News Service KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan
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Canadian and Afghan forces are in the midst of a key battle to secure Kandahar and to keep the Taliban from taking advantage of a perceived power vacuum just outside the city.

Arghandab district in Kandahar province, to the immediate north of Kandahar City, has seen heavy fighting over the past two days. Maj. Eric Landry, chief plans officer for Canada’s Joint Task Force Afghanistan, said Wednesday evening that about 50 insurgents have been killed and 50 injured.

He wouldn’t say how many Canadians are involved in the fighting, but said there are “appropriate forces” in place in Arghandab.

“This might be a vital ground for the insurgents. It’s also a vital ground for us,” Landry told reporters.

The Taliban thrust is a threat to the provincial capital, and is further extending Canadian Forces at a time when all of the country’s designated combat troops are working in the volatile Panjwaii and Zhari districts, located to the south and west of the city. Those areas remain active fights.
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Dutch NATO soldier killed in southern Afghanistan
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THE HAGUE (AFP) — A 21-year-old Dutch soldier with the NATO-led deployment confronting Taliban and other extremists in southern Afghanistan was killed in a bomb strike, the Dutch army said.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had earlier announced that one NATO soldier died and two were wounded in an incident caused by an improvised explosive device (IED).

Two other Dutch ISAF soldiers were hurt in the attack and they are being treated on the Dutch base Tarin Kowt, Dutch army chief Dick Berlijn told a press conference.

The new death takes to 192 the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year, around the same toll for the whole of 2006. Most of them have been killed in hostile action, with a Taliban-led insurgency intensifying.

Corporal Ronald Groen is the 12th Dutch soldier killed in Afghanistan, either accidentally or in combat.
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Germany to extend support in S Afghanistan if needed  
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-03 19:54:15  
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KABUL, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday her government would extend support to Afghanistan's volatile southern region if need arises.

   "If there is need for the south, Germany would assist it," she told newsmen at a joint press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

   However, she did not say what kind of assistance her government would extend to the militancy-plagued southern provinces of Afghanistan.

   More than 3,000 German troops serving in the post-Taliban Afghanistan have been stationed in the country's relatively peaceful northern provinces.

   NATO-member states who have troops in Afghanistan to fight Taliban and associated insurgents have been asking Germany to contribute troops in the south, but Berlin is resisting the plea.

   Merkel, who paid her first but unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Saturday, held meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and exchanged views on matters of mutual interest including the war on terror and boosting economic cooperation.

   Karzai thanked Germany for its contribution in the reconstruction process of Afghanistan
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Two Afghans found beheaded in central Afghanistan    
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-03 16:35:39      Print
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   KABUL, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- Beheaded bodies of two Afghans, who were abducted by suspected militants days ago, have been found in Rashidan district of central Afghanistan's Ghazni province, the provincial police chief said Saturday.

   "A man and a woman were abducted by suspected militants about three days ago in Rashidan district and their bodies were found Friday afternoon in the area," Alishah Ahmadzai, police chief of Ghazni province, told Xinhua via telephone. "They were beheaded."

   No one or group claimed responsibility for the killings yet.

   It might be Taliban militants who have committed the crime, Ahmadzai said, adding that around 20 local tribal elders with suspected connection with foreign troops have been killed by the Taliban over the past three months in the province.

   The Taliban has yet to make any comment upon this incident.

   This year has witnessed a sharp increase of violence in Afghanistan and various violent incidents and conflicts have left over 5,400 people dead in the war-torn country since January.
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Articles found November  4, 2007

Afghan-Canadian co-operation 'shut door' to Taliban inroad
Kelly Cryderman CanWest News Service Sunday, November 04, 2007
Article Linkhttp://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/story.html?id=ec565e79-5a94-4286-a8bc-e4f9de443584&k=69779

The sights and sounds of combat along the north side of the Arghandab River have faded. The leafy banks, unusually green for southern Afghanistan, now appear tranquil.

As Kalimullah Khan Naqibi stands at the district centre on a hill overlooking the valley, he reflects on last week's battle in Arghandab and acknowledges a crucial misstep.

Naqibi, 25, is the baby-faced son of an influential tribal leader and foe of the Taliban named Mullah Naqib, whose death last month precipitated an insurgent offensive into Arghandab - embroiling Afghan and Canadian forces in three days of fierce fighting.

The Taliban have long wanted to make inroads in this district, which Naqibi calls a gateway to the main southern city of Kandahar.

The mullah's death gave the insurgents an opportunity.

Naqibi, now appointed his father's successor, said he was so busy immediately following his father's fatal heart attack that he set aside talks with elders.

"At that time I was very busy and I did not make a shura (tribal council) with the people, so the people forgot me and I forgot the people," he said yesterday. "That was our mistake." Sensing at least a temporary vacuum in Arghandab's leadership, the Taliban attacked the relatively peaceful district.

But Naqibi's "mistake" and the Taliban thrust were turned into a key test for Afghan and Canadian forces.

In what military leaders say was a quick and organized response, the Afghan police and army, alongside 300 Canadian soldiers, fought off the attack, killing about 50 insurgents.

The Afghans and Canadians, aided by more than 30 U.S. police mentors, saw few casualties.
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Pakistan emergency rule troubles ally US
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WASHINGTON (AFP) — Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's calling of emergency rule Saturday drew strong censure from the United States, pointing to limits in Washington's power over a key ally in its fight against extremism.

"This action is very disappointing," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement.

"President Musharraf needs to stand by his pledges to have free and fair elections in January and step down as chief of army staff before retaking the presidential oath of office."

Musharraf's dramatic move apparently did not drive Washington to cut military support for its key south Asian ally, however. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said there was no plan to suspend military aid to Pakistan.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in reaction to the move insisted that Pakistan must push ahead with general elections due in January.

"Anything that is extra-constitutional, anything that takes Pakistan off the democratic path, off the path of civilian rule, is a very big problem," she said in an interview with CNN news.

Musharraf declared a state of emergency earlier Saturday, sacking the nation's top judge -- the chief justice of the Supreme Court -- and blaming judicial interference in government and a wave of Islamic militant attacks.
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I guess deaths on UN-run missions are more noble...
Saturday, November 03, 2007
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...than those on the Security Council-mandated NATO mission in Afstan. That seems to be the sub-text of what a professor is saying:

The annual death toll for soldiers in UN peacekeeping operations has steadily declined since the end of the Cold War, but Canada has secured second spot in the world for number of fatalities, a new study has found.

The report by Walter Dorn, professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College in Toronto [?!?--actually at the Canadian Forces College, Toronto, too, amazing reportorial and editorial ignorance, or maybe not]...

"I think the UN is learning how to deal with conflicting parties and how to deal with counter-insurgencies," he told Sun Media in an interview. "They have had horrendous times in the past, when you think of Somalia, Bosnia, Cambodia and Sierra Leone. In all of those cases there were insurgents fighting the government and the UN has taken a wiser, more inclusive approach -- it takes longer, it takes more patience, but it isn't as aggressive."

Other tactics such as convincing insurgents to switch sides or turn themselves in have proven better for longer-term success, he said.
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Most of what is covered here and more is to be found here CANinKandahar

CANinKandahar Link
Articles found November 5, 2007

Taliban stealthily sought warlord's weapons cache
GRAEME SMITH From Monday's Globe and Mail November 5, 2007 at 4:56 AM EST
Article Link

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — A secret objective of the Taliban's spectacular attack on Arghandab district last week was a brazen raid on a property owned by a former warlord, where the insurgents may have stolen cash, guns, or even Stinger missiles, Afghan officials say.

In the chaos of the insurgents' first major offensive on the northern approaches to Kandahar city, Taliban fighters seized control of Chahar Ghulba, a village about 10 kilometres north of the provincial capital.

The symbolism was immediately obvious: The village had been home to Mullah Naqib, a legendary warrior whose reign as the district's leading tribal elder had ensured the relative peace in Arghandab.

Mr. Naqib died of a heart attack last month, and the Taliban's occupation of his village emphasized how badly the district's security had deteriorated without him.
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Pakistan woes underline MacKay visit to Afghanistan
Kelly Cryderman, CanWest News Service
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Defence Minister Peter MacKay swooped in for a visit to Kandahar Sunday, quickly touting Canadian successes in Afghanistan and condemning the declaration of emergency rule in neighbouring Pakistan.

“It’s very unsettling to see what is happening there,” MacKay said of Pakistan, speaking to reporters on the tarmac at Kandahar Airfield.

“We condemn anything that would undermine the progress that we hoped we would see towards free and fair elections,” he said. “And as a country that espouses very strongly democratic values, our respect for rule of law, and respect for human rights, we see this very much as a step in the wrong direction.”

On Saturday, General Pervez Musharraf filled Pakistan’s streets with police, shut down TV stations and declared a state of emergency. The Pakistani leader, who is also president, said he is acting to address an increasing terrorist threat in the country.

However critics say Musharraf is simply clinging to power in the face of growing opposition, and they predict he will cancel upcoming elections.
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Struggle to rein in Taliban in Afghanistan's south
After a week of battle, Afghan and international forces pushed the resurgent Taliban out of a key district north of Kandahar.
By Jon Boone | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor from the November 5, 2007 edition
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Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghans affected by an outbreak of Taliban fighting in a strategic district bordering the southern city of Kandahar have returned to their villages after a week of crisis sparked by the death of a tribal strongman.

Local authorities said Sunday that life was returning to normal following successful operations by Afghan security forces and Canadian troops to dislodge Taliban fighters from the lush agricultural lands of Afghandab district.

The insurgents were apparently intent on capitalizing on the death of Mullah Naqib, the former mujahideen warrior who led the Alokozai tribe of the district, north of Kandahar city.

For years, Mullah Naqib had kept the Taliban out of a district that offers a perfect route for attacking Kandahar city, the spiritual home of the hardline Sunni movement from its emergence in 1996 through its removal from power by US-led forces in 2001.

But up to 300 Taliban fighters entered the district last week, less than three weeks after Mullah Naqib's death created a political vacuum in one of southern Afghanistan's most important tribes.

The fighters, who local sources say were all in their mid-20s, remained for two days and came within 15 miles of the provincial capital. They occupied and trashed Naqib's ancestral home before being expelled by more than 600 Afghan and international forces.

The swift collapse of political authority in the province highlights the reliance of overstretched international forces on friendly power brokers remaining loyal to the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Rising insecurity, official corruption, and the widespread belief that the government has failed to deliver basic public services have all undermined popular support, according to a European diplomat who spoke anonymously.
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News About Afghanistan
This is a blog for news items and reports about Afghanistan
Sunday, November 04, 2007
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Security Incidents on November 3, 2007

A 21-year old Dutch soldier was killed by a bomb in southern Afghanistan and two others were wounded in the incident, the Dutch military said. The soldiers were on a patrol in the province of Uruzgan when an improvised device exploded. The wounded are in stable condition, the military said.

One Coalition and one Afghan National Army servicemember were killed around 5:30 p.m. today while conducting combat operations in northwest Uruzgan Province.

A Canadian soldier was wounded in an explosion Friday as he patrolled a district north of Kandahar City, where heavy fighting has been seen in recent days.

Suspected Taliban militants killed a women they accused of spying for the Afghan government and foreign troops in Ghazni province.

Two Afghans found beheaded in Rashidan district of Ghazni province. They were abducted several days ago.

Security Incidents on November 4, 2007

At least 25 Taliban reported killed Saturday in Afghanistan. This happened in Uruzgan province. "The bodies of the dead were left at the battlefield," it said, adding that a Taliban commander was seriously hurt.

A roadside bomb blast killed four Afghan police in Ghazni provinced. Two more were wounded in this attack.
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White House ponders greater legal rights for Guantanamo detainees
Sheldon Alberts, CanWest News Service Published: Sunday, November 04, 2007
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WASHINGTON -- When it comes to forecasting the ultimate legal fate of Canadian terror suspect Omar Khadr, the increasingly logical approach is to abandon reason for pure conjecture.

In the past year, officials in the Bush administration have publicly speculated Khadr could be detained for life at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, even if he is acquitted on murder and other terror-related charges. It was also suggested Khadr might serve a future sentence in an Afghan prison if he is convicted.

And then his case was dismissed altogether last summer by a U.S. Marine Corps judge, a decision overturned two months ago by a military appeals court that reinstated the charges.
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Germany's Merkel resists calls to deploy troops to south Afghanistan
by Waheedullah Massoud November 3, 2007
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KABUL (AFP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday Germany would continue to focus its military efforts on northern Afghanistan, despite calls for its forces to move into the insurgency-hit south.

Germany is, however, ready to help out in the south if necessary, where other countries are under pressure, Merkel said during a surprise one-day visit.

It is her first trip to Afghanistan, where Germany has 3,000 troops in the international effort to fight extremists such as the Taliban.

"Germany has taken over responsibility in the north of Afghanistan and I think the most important (thing) is to pursue the efforts we have begun," Merkel told reporters after talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.

The country is also contributing Tornado planes to carry out reconnaissance work in Afghanistan, she said.

And "whenever troops will need help in the south, we will of course provide help for the south," Merkel said, without making it clear what degree of assistance she meant.

"But I strongly believe that we should stick to our concept that has been worked out in order not to weaken our forces in the north," she said.

Germany has been criticised for keeping the bulk of its forces in the north while countries such as Britain, Canada and the United States face some of the most intense fighting in decades in the south.

Southern Afghanistan sees the worst of an insurgency led by the hardline Taliban movement that was driven from government in late 2001 for harbouring Al-Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Violence has grown in the north but the area is free from the daily violence gripping the south and east.
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U.S. returns 11 Guantanamo detainees to Afghanistan and Jordan
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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Eleven detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay - eight Afghans and three Jordanians - have been transferred to the custody of their home countries, the Pentagon announced Sunday.

The men were flown out of the U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba after a military review was conducted at Guantanamo gauging whether the prisoners have intelligence value or pose a threat to the United States. The military does not provide details about individual cases.

Roughly 320 detainees remain at Guantanamo on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban, including 80 who have been deemed eligible for transfer or release, according to the Department of Defence. The vast majority of the detainees have been held for years without being charged.
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S Korea announces to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan 
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-05 17:00:57      Print
  Article Link

    SEOUL, Nov. 5 (Xinhua) -- The South Korean Defense Ministry said on Monday that it will complete the withdrawal of all the 210South Korean troops in Afghanistan by mid-December.

    "The soldiers will be withdrawn before the Dec. 19 presidential election," officials of the Defense Ministry told South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.

    The South Korean government pledged to pull out all its troops from the country earlier in return for the release of 23 South Koreans kidnapped by Taliban militants in July.

    South Korea deploys about 60 medics and 150 engineers in Afghanistan.

    Local media said South Korea is to complete the withdrawal of the troops on Dec. 14. Instead of the troops, Seoul will send 20 civilians and government officials to Afghanistan as part of a regional reconstruction team, local reports said.
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Pakistan's domino effect
Toronto Star, Nov. 5

OTTAWA–The imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan this weekend could turn the difficult task of fighting Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency into an impossible mission, military and diplomatic analysts warned yesterday.

"The Taliban and the rest of that gangster crew is going to have an easier time in Pakistan, which in turn means that the situation in Afghanistan may continue to be unstable," said Alex Morrison, president of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies. "The equation is that the more Pakistan is unsettled, the more Afghanistan is unsettled."..

During a surprise stop in Afghanistan yesterday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Canada is "very concerned" the emergency measures, which have no expiry date, will destabilize the work that NATO and the United Nations are doing in Afghanistan.

The two countries have a long, porous border and insurgents freely cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan's lawless tribal zones, which serve as a home base where they are largely safe from coalition forces.

"We're calling for free and fair elections, the reinstatement of the judiciary and we're hoping they will continue their efforts toward regional security in Afghanistan," MacKay said in Kandahar.

MacKay's last trip to the region, in January as foreign affairs minister, was to have included a "blunt talk" with Musharraf over border concerns. But the face-to-face meeting never transpired and he had to content himself with talking to his Pakistani counterpart.

MacKay said Canada's "specific concerns" relate to Afghan refugees in Pakistan and the impact the emergency rule will have on their movement in and out of the country.

"We're concerned about the impact it will have politically throughout the region," he told reporters...

The support for the coalition has made Musharraf unpopular at home, even though there has been little done to impede the movements of Islamic fighters, said Kamran Bokhari, the Toronto-based director of Middle East analysis for Strategic Forecasting Inc.

"Pakistan was becoming destabilized already, even before Musharraf did this," Bokhari said in a telephone interview from Ankara, Turkey. "Now that Musharraf has done this, it's going to get, more than likely, worse because he's fully paying attention to surviving. The question is: how does martial law, or emergency ... help him fight against Al Qaeda more effectively than he could before this?"

Gordon Smith, a former Canadian ambassador to NATO, said if Musharraf is truly serious about cracking down on Islamic radicals, he may now allow NATO troops to enter his country and fight with the more than 60,000 Pakistani soldiers that are already policing the tribal regions [emphasis added]. That may be the only way he can keep Western allies on side while still flouting democracy.

Then-defence minister Gordon O'Connor raised this issue on a September 2006 visit to Pakistan, saying that placing Canadian troops in Pakistan would ease intelligence sharing. The idea was quickly dismissed as politically unsaleable.

"Musharraf was always trying to balance the pressures on him to do something about Al Qaeda, coming from the Americans and others, including us," said Smith, who now teaches politics at the University of Victoria. "Maybe what this indicates now is that ... he will really allow what needs to happen in northern Pakistan."

A senior NATO official speaking last week in Ottawa warned of the need for a "more effective contribution" from Pakistan in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan. Jonathan Parish, a senior policy adviser, said the task for military forces in the south and east of the country would otherwise be "difficult if not impossible."

U.S. military aid to Pakistan misses its Al Qaeda target
The Frontier Corps battling the militants is outgunned and poorly trained, officials say. Funding instead goes to equipment more suited for conventional warfare with India.

LA Times, Nov, 5

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. military payments to Pakistan over the last six years, the paramilitary force leading the pursuit of Al Qaeda militants remains underfunded, poorly trained and overwhelmingly outgunned, U.S. military and intelligence officials said.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cited the rising militant threat in declaring a state of emergency on Saturday and suspending the constitution.

But rather than use the more than $7 billion in U.S. military aid to bolster its counter-terrorism capabilities, Pakistan has spent the bulk of it on heavy arms, aircraft and equipment that U.S. officials say are far more suited for conventional warfare with India, its regional rival.

That has left fighters with the paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps, equipped often with little more than "sandals and bolt-action rifles," said a senior Western military official in Islamabad, even as they face Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters equipped with assault rifles and grenade launchers.

The arms imbalance has contributed to Al Qaeda's ability to regroup in the border region, and reflects the competing priorities that were evident even before this weekend between two countries that are self-described allies in the "war on terrorism" but have sharply divergent national security interests.

The situation also has emerged as a significant obstacle as the United States and Pakistan seek new approaches after a series of failed strategies in the frontier region, where Osama bin Laden and other top Al Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding.

U.S. officials have urged Pakistan to move more aggressively against militants and bolster the capabilities of the Frontier Corps, an indigenously recruited force of about 80,000 troops, half of them based in the tribal areas, that was formed under British rule and is traditionally used to guard the border and curb smuggling.

Even front-line units with upgraded weapons are woefully unschooled in counterinsurgency tactics, other officials said. Late last month, Islamic militants captured dozens of fighters and paraded them before Western journalists, the latest in a series of embarrassing encounters.

Pakistan has recently indicated that it will enlarge the corps and expand its role in pursuing Al Qaeda. But because the Frontier Corps has been all but shut off from U.S. military aid and payments to Pakistan, U.S. officials said the new strategy amounts in some ways to starting from scratch more than six years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The view in Washington is that the Frontier Corps is the best way forward because they are locally recruited, speak the language, and understand the culture, terrain and local politics," said a senior Pentagon official, discussing internal deliberations on Pakistan policy on condition of anonymity.

But transforming the corps into a force that can contend with militants in the tribal area "will take years to bring to fruition," he said.

Partly because of that timetable, the goal of dismantling Al Qaeda and its hub of operations in the border region has given way to expectations among U.S. intelligence and military officials that the United States and Pakistan face a years-long struggle simply to contain the terrorist network and keep it from expanding [emphasis added]...

...the U.S. Special Operations Command has recently begun exploring efforts to pay off tribal militias in the region that are not affiliated with the Pakistani government, and arm them [emphasis added] to root out Al Qaeda and Taliban militants, a source familiar with the discussions said.

"You can't buy them, but you can rent them," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions. "There is a very serious effort to look at this."

The CIA also operates in the area, and has doubled the number of case officers based in Pakistan in recent years, former agency officials say...

Afghan 'soft target' getting tougher
Matthew Fisher, National Post Published: Monday, November 05, 2007
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The predominately Push-toon province of Maidan-Wardak, which guards the southern approaches to Kabul, has a warrior tradition going back centuries. But it has been an oasis of calm the past few years, as the Taliban have been off fighting Afghan government forces and their American, Canadian, British and Dutch allies in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan.

All that suddenly changed at the beginning of the long, blazing Afghan summer. Decimated by heavy battlefield losses elsewhere, the Taliban arrived in Maidan-Wardak, which had no Afghan army or NATO military presence to speak of, and began blowing things up. As the province is only 35 kilometres from the capital, the Taliban instantly succeeded in shaking confidence in President Hamid Karzai's government.

"We have problems with roadside IEDs. We have problems on the main highway at night," said Jabar Naeemi, the youthful governor of this province, which is home to 800,000 Afghans and a road that connects to a dozen other provinces including Naeemi's hometown, Kandahar City, where Canadian troops are based. "In the name of religion, terrorists and thieves have been working together looting and kidnapping women and exporting drugs and we must fight all of this at once.
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Taliban bikers storm Afghan region
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Sixty Taliban militants on motorbikes and pickup trucks overran a district center in central Afghanistan overnight, firing on the town from a mountain outlook, pushing out the police and cutting off the town's main road, officials said Tuesday.

The district, in Day Kundi province, is the third that militants have overrun in the last week. Two districts in the western province of Farah are also in Taliban hands.

Day Kundi's governor, Sultan Ali Uruzgani, said police retreated from Kajran district late Monday night when 60 Taliban on motorbikes and trucks stormed the town. One militant was killed and one policeman wounded in fighting, he said.

Fighting broke out around Kajran five days ago, he said. Since then, the Taliban have been firing artillery into the town from a mountain overlook and on Monday blocked the main road, Uruzgani said.

Uruzgani said he asked the Afghan government and NATO for reinforcements but that the area hasn't received any such support yet. The district borders Helmand and Uruzgan provinces, which have both seen heavy fighting this year.

Taliban militants within the last week also overran Bakwal and Gulistan districts in Farah province. An attempt to take a third Farah district was stopped Monday, said Farah police spokesman Bariyalai Khan. He said troops would soon take back the other two districts.

The Taliban claimed a propaganda victory by overtaking a district center -- typically a regional government office and police headquarters, often in remote areas -- by calling it a sign of the government's weakness. Often the militants control the centers only for a few hours or days, and NATO and U.S. commander dismiss the attacks as inconsequential.
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Bombs targeting Afghan lawmakers kill at least 64
Updated Tue. Nov. 6 2007 9:22 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Two bomb blasts targeting a delegation of lawmakers north of Kabul killed at least 64 people Tuesday, in the deadliest attack in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

There were conflicting numbers on the number of victims.

A government minister, under the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that five parliamentarians were among the 64 people killed.

Meanwhile, Baghlan hospital director Dr. Khalilullah told Reuters that 90 people were killed and 50 wounded.

"The bodies of 90 people have been brought to the hospital so far and 50 people have been wounded," said Khalilullah.

A major television station in Afghanistan, Tolo TV, is reporting more than 100 people were killed by the bombs.

The bombs exploded outside a sugar factory in the northern province of Baghlan as the lawmakers were about to enter the facility for a tour.

School children, Afghan elders and government officials waiting to meet the delegation were also hit by the blasts.
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Norway pledges more troops for Afghanistan
AP, Nov. 6

Norway will send an additional 250 troops, including special forces, and helicopters to bolster NATO-led forces in Afghanistan next year, the defence minister announced Tuesday.

Defence Minister Anne-Grethe Stroem-Erichsen said the force will include 150 special forces troops based in the Kabul region for 18 months beginning around March, 2008.

She said Norway, a member of the NATO alliance, will also send 100 infantry troops and two or three helicopters early next year to reinforce the current Norwegian contingent, based near the northern Afghanistan city of Maymana.

“It is completely necessary to increase the military presence in that area to create security,” said Ms. Stroem-Erichsen.

The Norwegian military said its nation's soldiers, together with Afghan government troops and other international peacekeepers, have been engaged in tough battles against insurgents in the country's north this week.

In addition to the combat troops, Norway will send about 50 experts to Kabul and northern Afghanistan to help train police and government troops [emphasis added].

Norway has been reluctant to send its troops to the violent southern part of Afghanistan [emphasis added].

Ms. Stroem-Erichsen said, in principle, the special forces could be sent anywhere in the country in an acute crisis, but that the government's approval would be needed before they could be sent outside the Kabul region for planned missions.

The additional troops will bring the number of soldiers from the Nordic nation of 4.7 million people to about 700 in Afghanistan [emphasis added].

color=yellow]A Detour From a Battle Against Terror[/color]
NY Times, Nov. 6

While Gen. Pervez Musharraf justified his emergency rule decree as helping him combat terrorism, it could end up weakening his ability to rein in the Qaeda militants who ultimately threaten American interests.

In fact, Western diplomats here said, each step the president takes to strengthen his hold on power in the name of stability generates instability of its own.

On Monday, President Bush urged General Musharraf to hold elections and give up his army post, though he gave little indication of any real change in American policy, which has bankrolled Pakistan’s military with $10 billion in aid since 2001.

But Western diplomats and Pakistani political analysts said the general’s move may sap his anemic public support and has already diverted thousands of policemen and intelligence agents from fighting terrorism to enforce his crackdown.

While they agree that some of General Musharraf’s arguments have merit, they also argue that his attempts to hold on to power run the risk of placing his own political future above the nation’s.

“It may be a short-term Band-Aid for his own survival,” said a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, “but in the end — or even the middle term — it isn’t going to contribute greatly to winning the war on terrorism.”

General Musharraf invited Islamabad’s diplomatic corps to his official residence on Monday to brief them on the situation and on his reasons for declaring emergency rule. But two Western diplomats said the encounter only reinforced concerns that General Musharraf was more focused on vanquishing his political rivals than on fighting terrorism.

At the meeting, the general primarily railed against his political opponents, with special venom reserved for the Supreme Court. When asked by a diplomat to describe specific plans to crack down on terrorists, General Musharraf gave only a vague answer.

“He effectively dodged the question and turned to the military presence in the room and asked them to organize a briefing for ambassadors,” said one of the Western diplomats. “It wasn’t very clear in terms of what was actually being done.”

The second Western diplomat said: “There was serious concern that terrorism and security was not front and center. What was really amazing was him going on and on and on about how bad the judiciary was.”..

...Pakistani analysts are increasingly questioning General Musharraf’s contention that emergency rule was needed to help him fight terrorism. Across the country, policemen and intelligence agents have been diverted from hunting terrorists to arresting lawyers, who apparently are being assessed as the greater threat to the general’s rule.

These analysts argue that the extraordinary steps General Musharraf has taken against Pakistan’s courts and its news media will in any case have little effect in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where Al Qaeda and other groups are thriving. Federal judges have limited jurisdiction in the tribal areas and journalists are barred from traveling alone there.

“He was already free to do whatever he wanted to do in the tribal areas,” said Rasul Baksh Rais, a leading Pakistani political scientist. “This does not place Musharraf in a better position.”..

NATO’s looming existential challenge
ChronicleHerald.ca, Nov. 6, by PAUL SCHNEIDEREIT

...Many Europeans say that the solution in Afghanistan cannot be a military one. That’s fine, but success won’t happen without a military component. With insufficient security, attempts to build infrastructure or institutions are dangerous, frustrating and ultimately unproductive. The Taliban have shown, through kidnappings of aid workers and attacks on teachers, students and new school buildings, that halting reconstruction is as important as killing infidel soldiers. The Europeans know this, but use rhetoric to try to excuse their failure to do their share as NATO members.

But Canada and the Dutch cannot be expected to keep carrying the heaviest burden, in terms of fighting, ad infinitum. Resolving matters in Afghanistan clearly remains a long-term challenge for NATO, made even more complicated by the political crisis now engulfing neighbouring Pakistan.

According to those familiar with the situation, Taliban leaders have sought refuge across the Pakistani border for many years, crisscrossing the mountainous region to recruit new fighters in Pakistan and raise funds to hire young Afghan men into their militias when they return to Afghanistan. Now, Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf’s extremely unpopular weekend decision to impose a state of emergency rule in his country has sharpened the chances that pro-Taliban Islamists will tighten their hold on the tribal provinces that border Afghanistan and are not under government control.

That will strengthen Taliban resolve to continue the fight, believing that they can outlast the willpower of even NATO’s staunchest supporters of the Afghan mission. Which means Canadian troops, despite piling up victories in head-to-head confrontations, will likely see no letup in Taliban incursions into areas under their control in coming years.

Of course, what happens in Pakistan is a further wildcard, not just for NATO but for the entire world. Musharraf claims he needs emergency powers to fight the Islamists, but his actions so far have been aimed at other opponents, such as members of the Supreme Court, which seemed about to declare he could not run for the presidency. Pro-democracy groups have also been targeted. The U.S. and other Western financial donors have warned Musharraf he must hold scheduled elections in January or aid will stop flowing. The greatest fear is that Musharraf could be overthrown by radical Islamists, potentially putting Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal into their hands.

This is a problem beyond Canada’s capacity to resolve alone. The future of NATO may hang in the balance. The future of Afghanistan certainly does. If the West fails to stop the Taliban from reinstituting its reign of terror in that country, the negative repercussions will be felt for generations, on both sides of the Atlantic.



Afghan army leader says poor weapons putting his soldiers at risk
CP, Nov. 8

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The buildup of the Afghan National Army, considered an integral part of Canada's 'exit strategy,' will continue at a snail's pace unless NATO provides better weaponry, a senior Afghan military commander says.

There currently are about 38,000 soldiers in the Afghan army, about half the number believed necessary to keep the Taliban at bay on its own.

Canadian commanders have nothing but praise for the bravery of Afghan troops, who only earn about US$100 a month.

But after years of work and training, there are still only about two battalions of Afghan soldiers in Kandahar province where most Canadian soldiers are based...

Bravery aside, Afghan soldiers are in dire need of better weapons, said the commander of the Kandak 21 battalion, which has been working with the Canadian Operational Mentoring Liaison Team.

Most Afghan troops are armed with old Soviet AK-47s and covet the same kinds of firearms being used by Canadian and American troops.

"We are still having the same old weapons. The same complaints exist," Lt.-Col. Shirin Shah Kowbandi told The Canadian Press.

"The Canadian teams, when they first arrived for the training, said they would try and provide us with the good weapons but unfortunately we have not received any (such) weapons yet," he noted. "The old weapons are still misfiring."

What worries him the most is the danger his men are in when doing battle against the Taliban.

"It is a very bad effect indeed. It puts them in danger. If the weapon is not good the soldier is not courageous to go towards the enemy and fight because he does not trust his weapon," said Shirin Shah.

That, he said, also makes it harder to recruit new soldiers into the ANA.

Better firearms are not all the Afghan Army needs. The military vehicle used by the ANA is the Ford Ranger truck with a mounted machine-gun. It's not uncommon to see a dozen soldiers on the trucks, with rifles and rocket launchers slung over their shoulders, heading off to battle...

Defence Minister Peter MacKay acknowledged the needs of the Afghan military while in Kandahar this week and promised help is on its way.

"We've been working with other NATO countries to identify firstly what they need most," MacKay said during his recent trip.

"We had hoped to have an announcement this week. There's an announcement coming very soon in that regard with some of that equipment."
[emphasis added]

"Clearly, as time progresses, we will be working with others to secure larger, more functional equipment that will provide them the ability to do more of their own security," he said. "But they need training in that equipment first."..

Islamists Destroy Buddhist Statue

Spiegel Online, Nov. 8

When the Taliban destroyed two Buddhist statues in Afghanistan in the spring of 2001,

there was an international outcry. But similar incidents are now occurring in northwest Pakistan, where radical Islamists recently blew up a sculpture of Buddha in broad daylight.

An Afghan local stands next to a rock effigy of the Buddha partly destroyed by militant Islamists.
The phenomenon is new and disconcerting. Even the Pakistani government describes it as "Talibanization:" Parts of the country are now in almost exactly the same situation as neighboring Afghanistan was when the Taliban were still in power there.

This is especially the case in the formerly peaceful Swat region, where a militant Islamist leader has even proclaimed an "emirate." And just as in Afghanistan, the Islamists' hatred is directed, in part, against the traces left by the ancient Buddhist civilization in the region.

Islamists inspired by the Taliban recently destroyed an important Buddhist sculpture 40 meters (131 feet) tall and about 1,300 years old in the north-western part of the Swat Valley, reports Vishaka N. Desai, the director of the US-based Asia Society.

Drills and Explosives

In her article, which appeared in the Lebanese Daily Star newspaper on Tuesday, Buddhism expert Desai reports that the Islamists were able to act without any interference from the local administration -- in broad daylight. Their first destruction attempt left the sculpture undamaged; the second damaged the Buddha's face, shoulders and feet. The culprits had used large machines to drill shafts into the historic monument. They then filled the shafts with explosives and detonated them.

Desai, who is Indian, also reports that while Pakistani newspapers criticized the desecration extensively, the international press hardly took notice of the incident. And yet it was not the first of its kind. As recently as September of this year, gunshots were fired at a rock effigy of Buddha in the same region...


Articles found November 9, 2007

Canadian soldiers approaching Nov. 11 as participants instead of onlookers
Article Link

SPERWAN GHAR, Afghanistan - They've all worn the poppies, marched in the parades and observed a moment of silence on past Remembrance Days.

But this year, many soldiers are seeing something different about Nov. 11. They are living the experience as participants and not just as observers.

At every small Canadian outpost in the Panjwaii, Zhari and Kandahar districts, the soldiers will mark the day of remembrance this Sunday. The biggest event will be at Kandahar Air Field where a permanent memorial bears the names and likenesses of the 71 Canadians who have lost their lives since this conflict began five years ago.

"This time, it's a lot more poignant. I've got reason for it. I've just been in several actions where I consider myself to be a veteran now," said Sgt. Scott Schall of Medicine Hat, Alta.

"Beforehand, I'd never been in anything remotely dangerous."

"You're sort of one of the people they're remembering now and it sort of has a different meaning to be on the other side of the fence. You can't think or fathom what those other people went through until you go through it yourself," he added speaking from atop his tank at Forward Operating Base Sperwan Ghar.
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Afghan army leader says poor weapons putting his soldiers at risk
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The buildup of the Afghan National Army, considered an integral part of Canada's 'exit strategy,' will continue at a snail's pace unless NATO provides better weaponry, a senior Afghan military commander says.

There currently are about 38,000 soldiers in the Afghan army, about half the number believed necessary to keep the Taliban at bay on its own.

Canadian commanders have nothing but praise for the bravery of Afghan troops, who only earn about US$100 a month.

But after years of work and training, there are still only about two battalions of Afghan soldiers in Kandahar province where most Canadian soldiers are based.

The matter was raised when Gen. Rick Hillier, the Chief of Defence Staff, visited Afghanistan last month.

"An army is what's required to allow them to keep their security, so that's a long-term project," Hillier told reporters.

"It's going to take 10 years or so just to work through and build an army to whatever the final number that Afghanistan will have, and make them professional and let them meet their security demands here," he said.

Bravery aside, Afghan soldiers are in dire need of better weapons, said the commander of the Kandak 21 battalion, which has been working with the Canadian Operational Mentoring Liaison Team.

Most Afghan troops are armed with old Soviet AK-47s and covet the same kinds of firearms being used by Canadian and American troops.

"We are still having the same old weapons. The same complaints exist," Lt.-Col. Shirin Shah Kowbandi told The Canadian Press.

"The Canadian teams, when they first arrived for the training, said they would try and provide us with the good weapons but unfortunately we have not received any (such) weapons yet," he noted. "The old weapons are still misfiring."
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Pakistan instability could endanger Canada's troops
Updated Thu. Nov. 8 2007 11:07 AM ET Andy Johnson, CTV.ca News Staff
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The ongoing political instability in Pakistan could have a direct impact on Canadian troops serving in Afghanistan if the situation continues to erode, according to experts on the region.

Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule on Sunday, suspending the country's constitution ahead of a decision from the Supreme Court that could have floored his re-election as president. He also fired independent-minded judges, muzzled the media and beefed up law enforcement powers, resulting in hundreds of arrests.

Canadian troops serving in nearby Afghanistan could soon be affected if the situation continues to spiral downwards, says Eric Margolis, an expert on the region and author of "War at the Top of the World."

"It's gravely worrying for Canadian forces in Afghanistan," Margolis tells CTV.ca.

That's because Pakistan, the United States' closest ally in the region, is home to three U.S. air bases that provide a whopping 85 per cent of air cover to Canadians fighting on the ground in Afghanistan .

And 75 per cent of military supplies used by NATO troops in Afghanistan come into the country from Pakistan -- much of it over land, by truck.
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Past and present: Canadian soldiers remember
Remembrance Day this Sunday
by Elyse Amend
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With Veteran’s Week getting underway this past Monday, more and more red poppies will be pinned to lapels in the days leading up to Remembrance Day. While people of all ages and backgrounds wear this symbol of commemoration around Nov. 11, war may seem like a distant subject.

“A lot of the Remembrance Days over our lifetime have been about our grandparents and World War Two. Now, it’s getting to be a little closer to home for a lot of people” said Sgt. Chuck O’Donnell, 31, referring to the Canadian soldiers that are in Afghanistan “It’s really touching home for a lot of people a lot more. It’s no longer just our grandparents. It’s a lot more realistic for us now.”

O’Donnell, a Beaconsfield native, has been a reservist with the Royal Canadian Hussars regiment on Cote des Neiges for 12 years. About a year and a half ago, he decided to sign up for the Afghanistan mission.

“It’s just something I wanted to do. It’s being a proud Canadian and wanting to give back,” O’Donnell said. He was sent to Kandahar this past July, where he works as a military escort and performs gate security, verifying all employees and vehicles that pass in and out of the base.

So far, the ride has not been an easy one: on Aug. 12, an armored vehicle carrying O’Donnell and four other soldiers drove over an improvised explosive device (IED). While the vehicle was severely damaged, the five sustained only minor injuries, with the most severe being a broken leg.

Following a three-week leave, O’Donnell left on Saturday to return to the National Support Element in Kandahar. He will spend about three more months in Afghanistan before returning to his Ile Perrot home and his wife and two children at the end of January or beginning of February 2008. While leaving his family is not easy, O’Donnell said he is looking forward to seeing his fellow soldiers again.
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59 Schoolchildren Died in Afghan Blast
By FISNIK ABRASHI – 4 hours ago
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan's deadliest suicide attack since the Taliban regime's ouster killed 59 schoolchildren, while 96 other students were wounded in the blast, the Education Ministry spokesman said Friday.

The attack in the northern province of Baghlan on Tuesday killed at least 75 people. The dead children were ages eight to 18, said Zahoor Afghan, an Education Ministry spokesman.

Five teachers were also among those killed in the attack, the worst in the country since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban militant movement from power. Six lawmakers also died.

The death toll among children was released as violence continued in the beleaguered country. NATO-led troops and Afghan forces captured a remote district in western Afghanistan, as militants ambushed and killed a district chief in the volatile south, officials said.

The schoolchildren were lined up to greet a group of lawmakers visiting a sugar factory when a suicide bomber detonated explosives, officials said. Witnesses have said some victims may have been killed or wounded by guards who opened fire after the blast.

"The education minister have ordered that no children should be ever again be used in these sort of events," Afghan said.
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Afghan police detain two over big bomb attack
Fri Nov 9, 2007 3:15am EST
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MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Afghan police have detained two men on suspicion of involvement in a suicide bomb attack this week that killed more than 50 people in the north of the country, the provincial governor said on Friday.

Tuesday's blast, in the relatively peaceful north, shook public confidence in the ability of the government and the 50,000 foreign troops in the country to provide security more than six years after the Taliban were ousted from power.

Taliban insurgents have carried out more than 130 suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, but denied responsibility for the attack in the northern town of Baghlan that killed six opposition parliamentarians and a large number of schoolchildren.

The insurgent denial has sparked widespread speculation and conspiracy theories over who might be responsible amid a general atmosphere of fear and suspicion.

Police arrested two men in Baghlan -- one a mosque prayer leader, the other a resident of the industrial part of the town where the blast took place -- provincial governor Mohammad Alam Ishaaqzai told Reuters.

"The initial investigation shows these men may have had a hand in this attack," he said, but declined to say whether the men were affiliated to any insurgent or political group.
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Norwegian fatality in Afghanistan
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A road bomb was remotely detonated in Afghanistan on Thursday evening, destroying a vehicle carrying Norwegian soldiers.
An earlier road bomb attack on a Norwegian vehicle in Afghanistan - this one from early October did

The two servicemen were in the front seats of a Toyota Landcruiser when the attack occurred, with two colleagues in the same type of vehicle directly behind them.

"The rear vehicle was still roadworthy after the attack, so the soldiers in that car took the injured soldier in the forward car back to base," said Major General Roar Sundseth, second in command at the Joint Defense Headquarters in Jåtta, said at a press conference on Thursday night.

The injured soldier was reportedly in serious but stable condition after received surgical attention from a team of German and Norwegian medical personnel.

Sundseth said that the incident would not influence operations currently underway in Afghanistan, and admitted that the situation in the area where Norwegian forces are in action have become more hazardous.

"We must be prepared for losses. We will now take the necessary security measures to keep our forces safe," Sundseth said.
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Colonel feels Canadian soldiers doing good job in Afghanistan
FRANK GALE The Western Star
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STEPHENVILLE  — Col. Richard Alexander was amazed with different presentations and performances delivered in honour of Remembrance Day by the staff and students of Stephenville High School.

“The drama presentation is very realistic to me after being in World War 2, the Korean War and later doing peacekeeping duties,” he said.

Alexander said he went into the army at age 16 by running away from home and has been in and out of the service since 1942. He said it was during two weeks of leave in London, England — while the bombing was at its highest in the Second World War — that he remembers people coming up from underground shelters to see their homes were not there anymore.

“What I remember most of war is the useless killing of human beings, especially women and children,” he said. “It was different with soldiers as they knew what they were going in for.”

He said visits to gravesites in France and Belgium in recent years really had an effect on him. He said to look at the crosses and see those of unknown soldiers, as well as remember friends he had lost during the wars, is devastating.

“Nobody wins in a war and everybody suffers, but unfortunately we are here involved in another one in Afghanistan,” he said.
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This is the Canada I believe in.
Article Link

I received a link to this article in an email today. It's a little old, and sadly some of the facts are now outdated thanks to the current administration, but I think the message still rings true.

Salute to a brave and modest nation - Kevin Myers, The Sunday Telegraph LONDON

Until the deaths of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, probably almost no one outside their home country had been aware that Canadian troops are deployed in the region. And as always, Canada will bury its dead, just as the rest of the world, as always will forget its sacrifice, just as it always forgets nearly everything Canada ever does.

It seems that Canada’s historic mission is to come to the selfless aid both of its friends and of complete strangers, and then, once the crisis is over, to be well and truly ignored. Canada is the perpetual wallflower that stands on the edge of the hall, waiting for someone to come and ask her for a dance. A fire breaks out, she risks life and limb to rescue her fellow dance-goers, and suffers serious injuries. But when the hall is repaired and the dancing resumes, there is Canada, the wallflower still, while those she once helped glamorously cavort across the floor, blithely neglecting her yet again.

That is the price Canada pays for sharing the North American continent with the United States, and for being a selfless friend of Britain in two global conflicts. For much of the 20th century, Canada was torn in two different directions: It seemed to be a part of the old world, yet had an address in the new one, and that divided identity ensured that it never fully got the gratitude it deserved. Yet its purely voluntary contribution to the cause of freedom in two world wars was perhaps the greatest of any democracy.

Almost 10% of Canada’s entire population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died. The great allied victories of 1918 were spearheaded by Canadian troops, perhaps the most capable soldiers in the entire British order of battle.
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Canada hands over Afghan base
Strategic area was tough gain for Canadian troops, civilians

Reuters, Nov. 10

Canadian troops handed control of a strategic base to the Afghan army on Friday, a first step in a long-term exit strategy for foreign forces helping Afghanistan battle the Taliban in the volatile south.

Ghundey Ghar patrol base in the Taliban stronghold of Zhari district, just west of the key southern city of Kandahar, was a tough gain for Canadian forces who fought a fierce 18-hour battle to win the position on Aug. 22 this year.

Two Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed during the combat operation, which was the first for the current rotation of Canadian troops, the bulk of whom are from Quebec.

Four others, including a Canadian journalist who lost a leg, were seriously wounded in the struggle over Ghundey Ghar, a lonely hill rising high above dusty marijuana and grape fields with views over largely deserted mud villages to craggy mountains on the horizon.

Six other Canadian troops and an interpreter were also killed by a roadside bomb in the area in July.

Now, after holding the position for three months and doing foot patrols in the area, the Canadian army said it was time for the Afghan troops it has trained to shoulder that responsibility as part of a broader strategy.

"This is the first part of a process that will see Afghan security forces take on responsibility for the entire Zhari district within the next few months," said Canadian Major Dave Abboud [emphasis added], commander of the infantry company that took Ghundey Ghar in August.

Ultimately, Afghan forces will have to stand on their own and the 2,500 Afghan National Army (ANA) troops currently operating in Kandahar province are the vanguard of a reliable Afghan army that will still take years to forge, said Abboud.

"This day is symbolic because it represents our overall exit strategy, not just for Canadians, but the entire ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) over the next 10 to 15 years. It has to be done gradually," he said [emphasis added].

Previous Canadian troop rotations have twice handed Ghundey Ghar over to Afghan National Police (ANP), only to see it quickly overrun by Taliban.

"Last time, they lasted a week," said Abboud of the poorly trained and lightly armed ANP.

This time, the base is in the hands of an experienced ANA platoon of some 40 men, supported by several Canadian soldiers working as mentors who can call in NATO air support, artillery, supplies and emergency medical care.

"They will have all the necessary force-enablers because if the insurgents knew they were alone, they would start testing them," said Abboud.

British forces stretched to the limit by the fight against the Taliban
Afghan soldiers are being trained rapidly, but the burden still falls mainly on Britain and its Nato allies

Independent on Sunday, Nov. 11

On a hillside outside Kabul, Warrant Officer Harising Gurung of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Gurkha Rifles, is putting Afghan officer candidates through their paces. "How do you show your men where to aim their fire?" he bellows, an interpreter echoing him. "That's right: you point your rifle at the target!"

The men have been selected purely for their ability to read and write, and acceptable physical fitness. So early in their training there is no indication whether they are suited to lead soldiers into battle against the Taliban. The trainers accept that of each intake of 120 officer recruits, at least a sixth are unlikely to complete the 23-week course, either because they are rejected as unsuitable or they walk away. As we join WO1 Gurung, his commanding officer, Major Mark Dommett, learns that the first candidate has dropped out.

Britain has four battle groups in Afghanistan, and today, Remembrance Sunday, the focus will probably be on the three fighting the Taliban in the south of the country, mainly in Helmand. Eighty-three British soldiers have died in the conflict so far, 30 of them since April. Many others have been wounded, some of whom will carry their injuries for life.

But the job being done by Maj Dommett and his colleagues in Kabul is also vital for the future of Afghanistan and the British mission. "We graduated 97 second lieutenants on the last course," he said. "When I mentioned this to an Afghan corps commander down south, he said he needed 197 of them immediately. They are strapped for officers."

Last year British troops found themselves fighting for their lives in isolated "platoon houses" in northern Helmand. One reason was that the Afghan national army, or ANA, could not play its envisaged support role. The general commanding Canadian forces in neighbouring Kandahar province admitted recently that his troops had had to clear out the Taliban from exactly the same area as the previous contingent, because the ANA had been unable to hold the ground captured the previous year [emphasis added, see story above]...

Afghan soldiers have played a role in all the operations carried out by British forces in Helmand this year. This has enabled the 7,700 British troops in Afghanistan to range more widely in the struggle against the Taliban, with WO1 Gurung's fellow Gurkhas operating in Uruzgan province this month. Some of the British force are also stationed in Kandahar, the original stronghold and spiritual home of the Taliban.

The ANA will reach 80,000 by the end of next year, but a source in Kabul dismissed recent Nato speculation that Britain might send more forces to Afghanistan in the meantime, saying: "Pouring more troops in is not the answer. We have got to make better use of those we have here."..

...military sources say the Taliban have also suffered heavy losses. Insurgent activity in Kandahar is said to have dropped off in the past two months, not least because of the pressure being exerted in Helmand, though the foreign militants fighting with the Taliban seem to be better trained [emphasis added]...

...it will be years more before they [Afghans] can take the lead in the struggle, a fact underlined last week when the Secretary of State for Defence, Des Browne, announced that planning was already taking place for the British presence in Afghanistan to be extended beyond the end of the current mission in autumn 2009 [emphasis added].

"The precise size and duration of the UK military in Afghanistan will depend on a number of factors, including the ability of the Afghan security forces to take greater responsibility for the security of their own country," Mr Browne said. A four-year degree course has been set up for elite officers, but its first graduates will not appear until 2009. In the meantime, Britain and other Nato countries are training Afghan soldiers as fast as they can. The Gurkhas under Colonel Barry Jenkins are turning out roughly 100 junior officers every six months...

Articles found November 12, 2007

Hillier can't hide grin as crowd applauds rabbi who says 'We love our troops'
Article Link

OTTAWA - Canadians laid wreaths to honour those slain on battlefields and during peacekeeping missions at Remembrance Day ceremonies across the country Sunday, but a thunderous response to a call to show support for soldiers currently serving injected some energy into what is normally a sombre occasion.

A smattering of applause snowballed after Rabbi Reuven Bulka, the honorary chaplain for the Dominion Command, urged thousands gathered at Ottawa's National War Memorial to chant "We love our troops."

Canada's top soldier couldn't contain a broad grin as the crowd applauded the country's men and women in uniform.

When asked later if he'd ever seen such an outpouring of support, Gen. Rick Hillier replied, "Not in this country, that's for sure."

"I think today, in particular, is going to be remembered for that line, which signifies in my view a coming awareness, a growing, increasing and now culminating awareness by Canadians of what their men and women in uniform do in service for them," he said in an interview.

Hillier, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean and Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined a host of dignitaries and veterans at the ceremonies across the street from the Parliament Buildings.

Both Jean and Harper, flanked by their families, laid wreathes before the estimated throng of 30,000 onlookers gathered under sunny skies, which included one woman who held up a small sign with the words "thank you."

Members of the Ottawa Children's Choir, all dressed in red, sang "O Canada."

In his prayer, the military's Chaplain General, Brig.-Gen. Stanley Johnstone, noted Canada has been shaped by the sacrifices Canadians made in battles like Vimy Ridge in the First World War and Dieppe and Normandy in the Second World War.
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For fallen soldiers, past and present
Ceremony hits home for those who lost loved ones in Afghanistan
Chris Zdeb, The Edmonton Journal Published: 1:07 am
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Dan Latendresse has been attending Remembrance Day services since he was 11 years old, but this is the first year it brought a tear to his eye. This year, Remembrance Day was personal.

As he stood among the 5,000 people gathered at the University of Alberta Butterdome on Sunday to honour Canada's war dead, Latendresse, a corporal with the Canadian Armed Forces in Edmonton, thought of his friend Pte. Joel Wiebe, one of three soldiers killed five months ago when their unarmoured Gator transport vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Kandahar.

Latendresse hadn't seen Wiebe since 2004, when he bumped into him in Afghanistan. The two spoke briefly and made plans to grab a coffee in a couple of days.
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Service, sacrifice honoured
38 Brigade on parade across city
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Remembrance Day services yesterday honoured Canadian soldiers, ranging from those who served in the First World War to those serving today.

Members of the 38 Canadian Brigade Group, Western Canada's largest army reserve brigade, paraded at three locations across the city to honour troops.

At a service at the Minto Armoury, the sacrifices made by soldiers in both world wars were remembered in speeches and prayers.

Canada's role in Afghanistan was also touched on.

"We fully expect success in that mission too," commanding officer Col. Robert Poirier said in an address to soldiers.

Members of the public gathered in the stands as brigade members stood at attention during the service. A prayer was given for those who have served. Speakers recounted the role of Canadian troops in pursuing peace and the need to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

The Last Post was also played by a lone bugler prior to two minutes of silence.

After the moment of silence, military members marched inside the armoury. Bands, featuring bagpipes and drums, played as the units strode in unison, drawing applause from the public.

To Afghanistan

Some of the military members in attendance are in the process of getting ready to head to Afghanistan in a few months.
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Attacks in Afghanistan Kill 3 Policemen and a Soldier
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: November 12, 2007
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KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 11 (AP) — Attacks against United States and coalition forces and the Afghan police continued unabated throughout the country, killing three policemen and a soldier in separate explosions and raids, officials said Sunday.

The soldier died after a battle on Saturday about 40 miles northeast of Kabul, the capital, the coalition said Sunday. It did not disclose the soldier’s nationality.

In Helmand Province, Afghanistan’s center for opium poppy production, a suicide bomber on foot detonated his explosives near a NATO convoy, killing three bystanders, said the Helmand police chief, Muhammad Hussain Andiwal.

Elsewhere in the country, the Afghan police came under attack by a land-mine blast, an ambush and an assault on a checkpoint. Three policemen died, one was missing and three were wounded in the scattered attacks.

The latest violence came after the United States military announced Saturday that six soldiers were killed Friday in eastern Nuristan Province, in eastern Afghanistan — the most lethal attack in a year that has been the deadliest for American forces since the 2001 invasion. Three Afghan soldiers were also killed in the attack.
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Fitting salute, too little fanfare
TheStar.com - comment -November 12, 2007 Carol Goar
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Although it wasn't billed as a Remembrance Day tribute, it was a fitting salute to a fallen war hero.

Last week, the government disclosed that it was establishing a "Democratic Transitions Fund" in memory of Glyn Berry, the senior diplomat killed by a suicide bomber last year in Afghanistan.

He was the first leader of Canada's rebuilding team in the high-risk Kandahar region.

Berry was 59. He had relinquished a choice posting in New York to tackle the dangerous task of shoring up one of the world's most fragile democracies.

His friend, Brigadier Nigel Hall, called him a "soldier of peace."

His boss, Peter Harder, called him an example to all foreign service officers that "our individual efforts can add up to something worthwhile, something noble, something that changes life for the better."

His colleague, Ambassador David Sproule, called him a man who died "doing what he wanted to do."

The new fund, designed to bolster peace building in war-shattered societies, is not the only tribute to Berry. Shortly after his death, his colleagues in New York named a meeting room at Canada's United Nations mission after him. In April, Dalhousie University, where the Welsh-born diplomat earned his doctorate, set up a scholarship in international studies in his name. And last August, the Department of Foreign Affairs renamed its human security program the "Glyn Berry Program."

But this latest act of remembrance comes at a time when Canadians are debating the price of the Afghan campaign anew. It is a reminder of why Canada is there. It underscores the fact that today's conflicts – with their shadowy enemies and terrorist tactics – claim diplomats and humanitarian workers, not just soldiers.

It is unfortunate that the government didn't announce this initiative with pride.
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A Helping Hand
Updated Sat. Nov. 10 2007 7:15 PM ET W-FIVE
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A group of extraordinary Canadian physicians and surgeons traveled to Afghanistan.

Extraordinary not just for their medical skills, but, for their willingness to risk their lives in one of the most dangerous countries in the world. They're volunteers who left the safety of Canada to work with military doctors at the Canadian trauma hospital in Kandahar.

Civilian doctors like, Thunder Bay's Dave Puskas, volunteer for a six-week stint to work alongside the military in the most unusual of circumstances. He says working here is a crash course in injuries and environmental issues you'd never see at home.

Framed in plywood, the tiny hospital is tucked away in the corner of the sprawling Canadian base in Kandahar. It may not look like one you'd find in Canada, but it does house the sophisticated medical equipment needed in modern medicine but it also maintains a very military flavour. Nurses wear side-arms and those in military pants stand shoulder to shoulder with those in surgical scrubs. And while the Canadians run the hospital, they also work alongside American and Dutch personnel.

It may look calm in the operating room. But Dr. Puskas, an orthopedic surgeon from who has pioneered new techniques in hip and spine surgeries, says "They come in horrendously injured with parts missing and parts of other people. I heard this phase recently biologic shrapnel, another person's body part as a that was something that was new to me."

When W-FIVE asked Dr.Puskas why he felt the need to come to Afghanistan, he replied, "I sort of ended up having to convince myself why I wasn't doing this. I knew that there was a need for my particular surgical skill set there and we had members of our community that were fighting there as soldiers."
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The Canadian Forces in Afghanistan have been left exposed
by SOPnewswire Posted 20 hours, 35 minutes ago
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The Canadian Forces in Afghanistan have been left exposed at a critical point of their mission, but not due to a lack of public support – it’s the Harper government that’s absent without leave. While the Forces can point to significant, if painful, gains in flashpoints such as Panjwai and Zhari districts, as well as Kandahar City, the prime minister and his team can boast of not a single clear policy gain, especially not where diplomatic intervention is needed most: pressuring the Taliban leadership in their safe havens in Pakistan, and rehabilitating the Karzai regime in Kabul.

The Harper government continues to acquiesce to the Bush administration’s results-barren command of an aid and security mission that is international in name only. Washington’s blunders have compromised a force whose success is crucial to Canada’s hopes for an eventual end to its combat obligations: the Afghan National Army, or ANA.

At issue is a web of political influence, backed by enormous sums of US military and humanitarian aid dollars, extending from the White House through an array of government officials, neo-conservative outriders and avaricious Afghan-American businessmen. Afghans and foreign observers who’ve witnessed the web’s growth describe it as a network of aggressive political adventurers, hungry for influence and lucrative development contracts.

“These people have hijacked a weak system,” says a senior member of President Hamid Karzai’s staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “People here initially welcomed diaspora Afghans with open arms and looked to them for guidance. But that’s changed. It’s clear that too many Afghan-Americans paraded their patriotism only to promote their careers, or to advance ethnic agendas, or just to fill their pockets. On top of that, their scheming has distorted policy in Washington, a lot like Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress at the start of the Iraq war.

“It doesn’t matter who Karzai appoints as Interior Minister or Attorney General,” the source says. “That’s just the visible surface. What really matters is who’s making deals behind the scenes, at the US Embassy or over a cosy meal at the Presidential Palace.” Member of Parliament Ramazan Bashar Dost says: “The United States and other western countries are not following their own laws. It is obvious to everyone that the contracts go to a minister's son or brother. You cannot get a contract unless you have connections.”

Across town from parliament stands an institution that attests to that charge: the Karzai regime’s Ministry of Defence. Ask to meet the minister, Rahim Wardak, and you’ll be referred to a public affairs desk at the American Embassy. Ask to meet the beneficiaries of the Afghan army building boom, and you’ll be invited to leave. But regime insiders will happily recite the names - with Minister Wardak’s son, Hamed, at the top of the list.
*    *    *
For Canada and Canadians, the raising of a capable Afghan army is not only vital to stability in southwest Asia. Until the ANA can stand its own ground, Canada and its NATO partners will be forced to maintain combat forces to hold off the Taliban. Yet successive Canadian governments have done little to address the failings of the US-financed army project. Incompetence, conflict of interest, nepotism and corruption has led to chronic shortfalls in troop training targets. Instead of tackling the problem, US and NATO officials have concealed it by padding statistics.

Since 2001, the Bush administration has committed $12 billion to Afghanistan’s security forces. A 70,000-man army was called for, but only 25,000 soldiers can be proven to exist today. Of these, perhaps 18,000 are combat-ready. Meanwhile, the Pentagon has admitted to Congress that its investigators are probing criminal misconduct related to $6 billion worth of equipment and service contracts for Iraq and Afghanistan. Keeping track of dollars and troops can’t have been easy, given the proclivity of Washington’s generals to massage the numbers.

By the end of 2003, only 9,000 army recruits had gone through basic training. Half of these promptly deserted. At the time, US Gen. Peter Pace brushed criticism aside, claiming that the ANA would have 12,500 men in arms by the summer of 2004. That seemed laughable by the Berlin Conference in April, 2004, where the record revealed only 5,721 trained men, with 3,056 recruits in the system. Yet only four months later, Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the ANA was up to 13,000 troops. In January of 2005, US officials claimed 17,800 Afghan soldiers trained, with 3,400 more in the works. By January of 2007, Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin declared: “Currently 36,000 strong, the ANA is on its way to an end state of 70,000 combat and combat support soldiers skilled in counterinsurgency operations.”
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Pray they can hold Ghundey Ghar
November 10, 2007 at 11:36 am | In Afghanistan, Taliban |
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National Post - Canadian troops handed control of a strategic base to the Afghan army on Friday, a first step in a long-term exit strategy for foreign forces helping Afghanistan battle the Taliban in the volatile south. Ghundey Ghar patrol base in the Taliban stronghold of Zhari district, just west of the key southern city of Kandahar, was a tough gain for Canadian forces who fought a fierce 18-hour battle to win the position on August 22 this year. Previous Canadian troop rotations have twice handed Ghundey Ghar over to Afghan National Police (ANP), only to see it quickly overrun by Taliban. “Last time, they lasted a week,” said Mr. Abboud of the poorly trained and lightly armed ANP.

This time, the base is in the hands of an experienced ANA platoon of some 40 men, supported by several Canadian soldiers working as mentors who can call in NATO air support, artillery, supplies and emergency medical care. Canadian Warrant Officer Andre Lamarre made his final tour of the hilltop on Friday, pointing out sleeping quarters, observation points and Taliban positions to his Afghan replacements. “After 80 days here, I’m ready to go,” said Mr. Lamarre. “It’s all theirs.” His replacement as commander of the base, ANA Captain Gais Atei, said he needed Canadian support and muscle to back his fighters, but vowed this time the base would not fall back into Taliban hands. “Never can they take this place from us,” he said.
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6 NATO troops, 3 Afghans killed in ambush
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Six NATO and two Afghan troops were killed in northeast Afghanistan (Nuristan) after being ambushed while walking back from a meeting with village elders. Four Afghan and eight NATO soldiers were wounded.
Most of the foreign troops in the northeast are US nationals. The deaths in Nuristan province took the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan this year to 200.

"It was not a combat patrol. It was a mission to meet villagers to discuss development, governance and security," he told AFP.
The group were ambushed from several sides while returning from the village meeting to their base.  It was not clear if they were killed in the ambush or subsequent fighting, he said.

Besides air crashes, it was also one of the deadliest incidents involving international and Afghan soldiers.
            Six Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed in a bomb blast in July; six other Canadians died in a similar blast in April.
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A family of fighters
ERIN ANDERSSEN From Saturday's Globe and Mail November 10, 2007 at 2:03 AM EST
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From the Spanish-American War of 1898 to Afghanistan today, relatives of Quebec's Voyer clan have been involved in military service for generations. Their saga provides a glimpse of how soldiering changes, yet war remains the same, and how it can shape a family forever.

Everyone has their own reasons for becoming a soldier, but that's not what matters when you're kneeling on the ground in the dark by a broken-down truck during an enemy ambush in a dusty village. It doesn't matter that you have wanted to wear a uniform since you were 5, building Lego tanks in your bedroom. Or that being a soldier is in your blood, all the way back to your great-grandfather. You just want to finish your mission and see your men home. You want to live.

And all those noble thoughts of duty and patriotism and why you chose to come here, to “drive around with a big, red target on your back,” in one of the most dangerous jobs in Afghanistan, only clutter up a clear mind.

This is the soldier's life and, three months into his first combat tour, Captain Yvon Voyer, a brawny 25-year-old from Brigham, Que., now understands it better than he ever could from stories passed down in his family. His job is protecting the convoys that carry essential supplies to troops outside Kandahar. Every time he leaves the base, he becomes a target. “Going through training everything seems so simple,” he writes in an e-mail. “When you are here, though, nothing is simple. … Everything and anything can happen, regardless of the limits of one's imagination.”

Karen and Gilbert Voyer understand what he's experiencing better than most parents with sons and daughters in Afghanistan: They are a military family, familiar with the risks and hushed hurry of top-secret missions.
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British forces to capitalise on Taliban split
Daily Telegraph, Nov. 13

British commanders have pushed an armoured column deep into Taliban-held territory in southern Afghanistan, threatening the stronghold of Musa Qala as commanders seek to capitalise on a rift within enemy ranks.

Senior British officers told The Daily Telegraph that the convoy of more than 50 armoured vehicles from the Scots Guards is designed to "disrupt and confuse" the Taliban.

The operation in northern Helmand province comes with the Taliban apparently facing internal splits.

One of the four senior Taliban commanders in the area, Mullah Abdul Salaam, has been in negotiations with the Afghan government and indicated that he wishes to defect with up to a third of the forces defending Musa Qala.

Intelligence reports suggest that the Taliban are anticipating an imminent full-scale assault on the town by British forces, who refused to speculate on whether such an attack is planned.

The Daily Telegraph accompanied Bravo Company from 40 Commando of the Royal Marines last week as they initiated the push north, driving across the Helmand river north of Sangin to create a bridgehead for the Scots Guards convoy.

The operation, which came under fire from Taliban fighters armed with rockets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), could not be reported until now because of the sensitivity of the unfolding tactical situation in Helmand...

From old Soviet-built trench positions in the hills above, Marines traded fire with Taliban fighters to the north, who fired mortar, 107mm rockets and RPGs.

Accurate Taliban fire later in the day forced the convoy to delay pushing northwards till the following morning and left the Marines facing a freezing night in the open.

American jets flew repeated low level passes during the hours of darkness to dissuade the Taliban from a night attack.

According to Afghan intelligence sources, the Taliban mortar units are receiving instruction from Iranian instructors in Musa Qala [?!?--emphasis added]...