• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (November 2007)


FACTBOX: Key policy themes for Australia's Labor
Reuters, Nov. 24

- Withdraw few hundred combat troops from Iraq, look to transfer Australia's training of Iraqi security forces to another country, keep and possibly increase troop numbers in Afghanistan [emphasis added].

- New Homeland Security department.

- Maintain close U.S. alliance, but more independent voice on foreign policy...

Taliban claim credit for police 'slaughter'
Seven killed in attack on police checkpoint

Calgary Herald, Nov. 24

The Taliban have attacked an Afghan police checkpoint, killing at least seven men -- all members of the Afghan police force -- in a district where Canadian and Afghan forces won a victory against insurgents just three weeks ago.

In Arghandab, a region immediately north of Kandahar city [emphasis added], the Taliban attacked the Charghulba area checkpoint at about 3 a.m. yesterday. Besides those police officers killed, another seven also have gone missing, said police commander Abdul Hakim Jan.

The main Taliban spokesman, Yousuf Ahmadi, confirmed his group was involved in yesterday's attack.

"We slaughtered all the 12 policemen in the police post," Mr. Ahmadi told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

A Canadian Forces spokesman would not comment on the details of the attack. However, Capt. Sylvain Chalifour said yesterday that International Security Assistance Force members are investigating.

This news comes a day after Brig.-Gen. Peter Atkinson, the director general of operations, strategic joint staff for the Canadian Forces, gave a House of Commons defence committee meeting a positive assessment of ongoing operations in Afghanistan.

"While success in Afghanistan can only be measured over a long period, the success of last month's operations increased the stability and security throughout the Zhari and Panjwaii areas, resulting in good progression of the government of Canada governance and development objectives," he said in Ottawa.

However, Brig.-Gen. Atkinson faced tough questions from opposition members for his portrayal of the situation in Afghanistan...

In early November, a rapid battle waged in the Arghandab district, just 12 kilometres outside Kandahar. The area is usually a quiet buffer for the provincial capital -- protecting it from northern Taliban havens such as Khakrez and Shah Wali Kot districts.

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...

In Arghandab, Brig.-Gen. Atkinson said, the "operation will continue until such time as security is reinforced in the area, the insurgent activities in the district are contained, and local Afghan authorities can manage the security situation on their own."

Taliban behead 7 cops, kill Oz soldier in clash
AP, Nov, 24

Taliban militants beheaded seven policemen yesterday after overrunning their checkpoints in southern Afghanistan, officials said.

An Australian soldier and three civilians were killed in a separate clash.

Six more police officers were missing after the Taliban attacked police checkpoints in Arghandab district, in Kandahar province, police said.

The attack in the strategic area of Arghandab, 25 km north of Kandahar city, came weeks after coalition troops forced the Taliban to relinquish control of the town.

During yesterday's attack, the militants ambushed police checkpoints set up to keep the Taliban fighters away from the town and beheaded the officers, said Mullah Mohammad Nabi, a purported Taliban commander in the area.

In neighbouring Uruzgan province, an Australian soldier and three civilians were killed in an attack on Taliban bomb-makers in the provincial capital of Tirin Kot, Australia's defence chief said.

It was Australia's third combat death in Afghanistan, all in the past two months.

After the clash, two women and a child were found dead in the militants' compound.

It was not known how they died, NATO said.

Suicide bomber kills six Afghan civilians
AP, Nov. 24

A suicide bomber targeting Italian soldiers [emphasis added] building a bridge Saturday instead killed six Afghans, including three children who had gathered to watch the construction work, officials and witnesses said.

The midmorning attack wounded at least nine people, including three of the soldiers, who were building a bridge about 10 kilometres west of Kabul [emphasis added], said Zemeri Bashary, the Interior Ministry spokesman.

Three children were killed and five wounded in the blast, said Abdul Razaq, the chief police official in the Paghman area, where the bombing occurred. Six Afghans died, he said.

Razaq said only the legs of the suicide bomber remained intact. The bomber was not counted in the death toll.

Afghanistan has seen more than 130 suicide attacks this year _ a record number. More than 5,800 people [combattants and civilians - MC] have died in 2007 in insurgency-related violence, also a record, according to figures from Afghan and Western officials. International and Afghan soldiers and police are frequently the target of Taliban suicide attacks.

Canada has lost 73 soldiers and one diplomat since joining the military mission in Afghanistan in 2002.

Witnesses said the Italian soldiers fired their guns into the air after the bombing. Police officials denied the soldiers had fired, and tried to quell rumours that Afghan victims had been hit by bullets.

Gen. Zalmay Oryakhail, a regional police commander, said many of the wounded were hit by ball bearings packed in the bomb, which can cause wounds that look like they were caused by bullets.

However, an Afghan doctor told The Associated Press said one of the dead men had been hit by bullets, as had several of the wounded. He spoke on condition he not be identified, for fear of retribution.

A pharmacist who said he was driving by the bridge just as the bomb went off said he saw two soldiers fire into the air afterward. "I didn't see any soldiers fire at the people,'' said Abdul Qahir.

Officials from NATO's International Security Assistance Force could not be reached for comment after repeated attempts.

Children always gathered at the construction project to watch the soldiers work, said Qahir, explaining why so many children had been killed and wounded. The other Afghan victims had gathered at a nearby food stand, he said.


Articles found November 25, 2007

Graveyard of damaged vehicles set aside at Kandahar Air Field
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - You could call them the other casualties of war.

In a remote corner of the base here at Kandahar Air Field there is an area set aside for the initial victims of rocket attacks, RPG's, roadside bombs and suicide bombers.

Damaged vehicles of all shapes and sizes are sitting there: Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs), transport trucks, Bison personnel carriers, the South African built Nyala RG-31 and even some armoured vehicles not in current use.

All have been damaged in one way or another in fighting over the last five years against the Taliban.

The vehicles are eventually destined to return home, but transport space is often limited and getting them back to Canada or their original manufacturers is not a priority.

When a vehicle is damaged, it's a bit like CSI Kandahar for Capt. Bruce Gilchrist, the technical liaison officer between the equipment people in Ottawa and the troops in Afghanistan.

"Someone told me they would call it forensic engineering," said Gilchrist, 48, of Moose Jaw, Sask.

"When vehicles are damaged through battle damage, if it gets brought back here for repair or, if it stays out in one of the FOB's (forward operating bases), I go out and have a look and take pictures and try and assess how badly it was damaged and what caused it," he said.
More on link

Swiss pull military staff out of Afghanistan
November 21, 2007 - 7:57 PM
Article Link

Switzerland is ending four years' cooperation with the Nato-led International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan by recalling its military personnel.
Defence Ministry Samuel Schmid said he had taken the decision for security reasons. Two army officers, currently working with a German team in the northeastern Kunduz province, will return home by March next year.

The Isaf mission had become a peace enforcement operation rather than a peacekeeping duty, Schmid said.

"The Swiss officers haven't been going into the city of Kunduz for months," he told a news conference on Wednesday.

A continued Swiss military presence in Afghanistan – although "rather symbolic" - was impossible because it goes against the spirit of the constitution and is not in line with the law, according to Schmid.

The decision comes a few weeks after a meeting of Nato defence ministers to boost efforts to provide security in Afghanistan.

Switzerland, which is not a member of Nato but joined its Partnership for Peace programme, has participated in Isaf since 2003. Parliament approved the deployment of a contingent of four officers on the basis of a United Nations resolution.

"No-go areas"

However the nature of Isaf's engagement has changed since 2005. But its mission has progressively turned into a campaign against insurgents, the defence ministry said.

Even in the regions where warlords and fighters only carry out sporadic activity, the mission has faced difficulties because of the need for troops to resort to self-protection measures.

In areas of the country where the Taliban have regained strength, reconstruction work has become practically impossible, the Swiss authorities said.
More on link

Military stocks up on weapons as PM talks of peace in Afghanistan
Mike Blanchfield and Andrew Mayeda , CanWest News Service Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Article Link

OTTAWA -- While the Conservative government tried earlier this year to divert the public spotlight from combat to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, the military was quietly buying a record supply of guns and ammunition, CanWest News Service has learned.

Between February and June, the Defence Department spent almost $54 million on small arms, big guns, ammunition, explosives, grenades and other weapons. That's more than the combined total of all of 2006 ($18.4 million) and 2005 ($32.3 million), the year the Canadian Forces began their current deployment to Kandahar.

For every dollar spent on a gun, at least $20 were shelled out for ammunition.

The weapons expenditures should come as no surprise for a country with 2,500 troops deployed to the heart of the anti-western insurgency ravaging southern Afghanistan.

But the sharp spending hike came at time when the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was trying to shift the focus of Canadians away from the combat role of their soldiers, towards development and reconstruction.

In late February, Harper announced with great fanfare that Canada would increase its development spending in Afghanistan by $200 million to $1.2 billion over a 10-year period.

Declaring that a "fragile peace" now extended across Afghanistan, including large parts of Kandahar province, the prime minister told a gathering of Afghan diplomats, United Nations officials, military brass and other dignitaries on Parliament Hill that it was "time to consolidate those security gains on the ground and use them to advance reconstruction because the long-suffering Afghan people desperately need hope for a better future for their families and communities."

At the time, polls showed that Canadians remained ambivalent about having their troops on the front lines of fighting. The death toll in Afghanistan has since climbed to 73 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat since 2002.

In May and June, the Defence Department purchased $2.1 million worth of guns from Kitchener, Ont.-based Colt Canada, the main supplier of the C7 assault rifle, the standard issue weapon for Canadian soldiers. The military also signed a $360,000 contract in late May with Colt to perform maintenance and repair work.

Colt's sales director said the government is spending money on an essential tool that keeps Canadian soldiers safe.

"Whenever you see a soldier with a rifle or carbine, it's ours," said Francis Bleeker. "People's lives depend on our product. If the value of the life of your soldier is high, you give the best possible product."

Between February and May, the military also bought more than $2.2 million worth of artillery and smaller arms from BAE Systems' Bofors division and Belgium's FN Herstal, as well as $430,000 worth of small-arms ammunition through Quebec's R. Nicholls Distributors.

But by far the biggest share of spending went to General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems Canada, a munitions manufacturer based in Le Gardeur, Que. It sold $46 million worth of ammunition in 10 orders June 6-27.
More on link

Karzai: Contact With Taliban Increasing
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that his government has had increasing contact with Taliban insurgents this year, including several talks this week with militant leaders living in exile.

Karzai said militants in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan have increasingly approached the government in the last eight months, even as the country goes through its most violent phase since the ouster of the Taliban after the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

"Only this week I've had more than five or six major contacts, approaches, by the leadership of the Taliban trying to find out if they can come back to Afghanistan," Karzai told reporters in Kabul after meeting NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

Karzai did not specify which leaders he had spoken to or where the discussions took place.

"We are willing to talk. Those of the Taliban who are not part of al-Qaida or the terrorist networks, who do not want to be violent against the Afghan people ... those elements are welcome," he said.
More on link

All private security firms must close: Afghanistan
Article Link

KABUL (AFP) — Authorities in Afghanistan want to close down all private security firms operating in the country, many of them illegally, President Hamid Karzai's office said.

About nine unlicensed companies have already been shut down in a crackdown that has been under way in Kabul for weeks, according to city police.

Under the constitution "only the Afghan government has the right of having and handling weapons, so private companies are against the constitution," the president's spokesman Siamak Hirawi told AFP late Wednesday.

A cabinet meeting Monday argued that the dozens of private security firms were illegal and a source of criminality.

"The session decided that in the long term all private companies should be shut down," he said.

"But for the time being a small number of private companies which can prepare themselves to meet the regulations put in place by the ministry of interior will be allowed temporary licences."

Only a "handful" of such companies would be allowed to operate mainly for the use of international organisations and the United Nations, he said
More on link

Canadian army paints upbeat picture of Afghanistan, contradicts Senlis Council
Article Link

OTTAWA - A senior Canadian general painted an upbeat picture of the war in Afghanistan to a House of Commons committee Thursday, contradicting an international think-tank.

But Brig.-Gen. Peter Atkinson wasn't prepared to dismiss Wednesday's Senlis Council report as quickly as Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who called the agency's ideas "not credible."

The analysis will be studied, he said.

"There were a lot of issues brought up in the report, a very important report, one which NATO and Canada will read very carefully as we are looking at the future of the mission," Atkinson told the all-party defence committee.

"It's probably too early to comment directly on what is in there. ... We're taking a hard look at it."

The Senlis Council suggested the Taliban insurgency was getting stronger and exercised influence over half of Afghanistan's land mass. In a startling declaration, the group, better known for its development and aid research, also advocated attacks on insurgent training areas in northern Pakistan.
More on link

Dutch troops to stay in Afghanistan  
From correspondents in The Hague | November 23, 2007
Article Link

DUTCH government parties have agreed to extend the Dutch mission in Afghanistan by around two years, public broadcaster NOS reported overnight, citing well-informed sources.

Dutch and Australian troops make up the bulk of the force in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan.

According to the NOS, the parties in the centre-left coalition government have agreed to extend the mandate of the Dutch troops in the Uruzgan province, which expires in August 2008, until 2010.

The Dutch cabinet will discuss the extension tomorrow and thrash out the details. The NOS said one point that remains to be determined is exactly how long the soldiers will stay, but it is expected to be around two years.

The government of Christian Democrats, Labour and protestant Christian Union is expected to officially announce its decision on Saturday next week.

The NOS reported that the Dutch mission in Uruzgan will be slimmed down as NATO partners France, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have agreed to help out with troops.

Currently there are some 1650 Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan.
More on link

Military hires former Afghan fighters as security guards
 Mike Blanchfield and Andrew Mayeda CanWest News Service Thursday, November 22, 2007
Article Link

KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan -- The Canadian Forces have hired a former Afghan warlord to provide private security guards at one of Canada's remote forward operating bases deep in the heart of Taliban country, CanWest News Service has learned.

Military officials say the government employs private security contractors to protect its forward operating bases in Kandahar province, but they refuse to identify the contractors or the bases they protect.

However, an analysis of publicly available contract records and documents, obtained under the Access to Information Act, has determined that one of the contractors is Gen. Gulalai, a former warlord aligned with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

In January, the Defence Department awarded a $168,150 contract to a vendor identified as "General Gulalai" to provide security guards at an undisclosed forward operating base.

Gulalai was one of several southern Afghanistan warlords who helped drive the Taliban from their Kandahar stronghold in 2001, enabling Karzai to consolidate power in Kabul.
More on link

Afghan police receive first-aid training in effort to reduce mortality rate
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - With the Afghan National Police beginning to take a more central role in providing security in Afghanistan a group of Canadian military and police trainers are hoping to improve their chances of surviving the hazards of the job.

At first blush the mortality rate for police officers in this war-torn and violent country almost seems to be unbelievable. For every Afghan soldier killed in battles with the Taliban - 27 Afghan National Police officers die.

For that reason alone members of CIV-POL - the civilian policing team - began emergency first aid courses for 15 Afghan police officers Thursday at Camp Nathan Smith - the home of Canada's provincial reconstruction team.

"Last year alone we had over 650 policemen killed. So they're on the front lines. They're doing counter-insurgency, they're getting wounded and killed and maimed and there's nothing there for them to be able to fix themselves," explained RCMP Cpl. Barry Pitcher from St. John's, N.L.

"So today we're just giving them another tool for the toolbelt," Pitcher said.

The students on this two-day course were learning battlefield basics including how to control blood flow, how to use tourniquets and how to prioritize.
More on link

Firefight video at the Globe and Mail...
Friday, November 23, 2007
Article Link

...did not get the soldier who shot it in trouble in this case. But over the long run personal videos, and internet access in general, will be increasingly hot potatoes:

The gritty video captures the crackle of machine-gun fire, the boom of explosions and the whoosh of shrapnel passing dangerously close overhead.

But this compelling glimpse of Canadians under fire during a patrol west of Kandahar wasn't shot by a journalist travelling with the troops. Rather it was taken by a soldier himself.

When Cpl. Philippe Lemieux's reconnaissance unit was ambushed by insurgents Saturday morning, the 26-year-old soldier pulled out his personal camera, caught the action and gave a copy to The Globe and Mail.

By Monday, his video was on the newspaper's website – and Lemieux's commanders were asking questions about this soldier-turned-videographer. Back at defence headquarters in Ottawa, military policy-makers were again wrestling with the challenges of fighting a war in the digital age.

Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky, a military spokesperson, said commanders were surprised to see the video online.

"Yes we were and funnily enough, so was Cpl. Lemieux when he found out how quickly the video had ended up on the Web," Babinsky said in an interview from Afghanistan.
More on link

7 Police Beheaded in Afghanistan
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban militants beheaded seven policemen Friday after overrunning their checkpoints in southern Afghanistan, officials said, while in a separate clash, an Australian soldier and three civilians were killed.

Six other police officers were missing after the Taliban attacked police checkpoints in Arghandab district, in Kandahar province, said Abdul Hakim Jan, a police officer.

The attack in the strategic area of Arghandab, 15 miles north of Kandahar city, came weeks after Afghan and foreign troops forced Taliban militants to relinquish control of the town, which they had briefly captured.

During Friday's attack, the militants ambushed police checkpoints set up to keep the Taliban fighters away from the town and beheaded the policemen, said Mullah Mohammad Nabi, a purported Taliban commander in the area.

In neighboring Uruzgan province, an Australian soldier and three civilians were killed in an attack on Taliban bomb-makers in the provincial capital of Tirin Kot, Australia's defense chief said.

It was Australia's third combat death in the conflict, all in the past two months.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Pvt. Luke Worsley, 26, was killed while participating in a planned attack "against Taliban leaders and bomb-makers
More on link
MacKay warns on lack of resolve
Edmonton Journal, Nov. 25

Defence Minister Peter MacKay again called on Canadians to stay the course and show their support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan during a Saturday morning symposium at West Edmonton's Mayfair Hotel.

Support has plunged for the mission in recent years. MacKay warned that a further lack of resolve will only result in further attacks on Canadian troops and more casualties and deaths.

"The Taliban are very intelligent -- they read newspapers, they go on the Internet," MacKay told a symposium organized by the Edmonton Untied Services Institute, a 95-year-old organization made up primarily of former military officers. "When they see Canadian resolve weaken, that's when they up their effort [emphasis added]."

MacKay's keynote address to a breakfast crowd of 160 was a prelude to an appearance at Saturday evening's "Tickets for the Troops" Oiler's game by the defence minister and Gen. Rick Hillier, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff.

During his morning keynote address MacKay bolstered the argument made during October's throne speech that Canadian troops should continue their role in Afghanistan until at least 2011, two years past the current Canadian commitment. Turning away would only lead to more departures by other members of NATO, a resulting collapse of the pro-western Afghan government and the return of a pro-terrorist Taliban regime, argued MacKay and fellow speaker Rob Huebert of the University of Calgary's Centre for Military and Strategic Studies...

U.S. Notes Limited Progress in Afghan War
Strategic Goals Unmet, White House Concludes

Washington Post, Nov. 25

A White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan has concluded that wide-ranging strategic goals that the Bush administration set for 2007 have not been met, even as U.S. and NATO forces have scored significant combat successes against resurgent Taliban fighters, according to U.S. officials.

The evaluation this month by the National Security Council followed an in-depth review in late 2006 that laid out a series of projected improvements for this year, including progress in security, governance and the economy. But the latest assessment concluded that only "the kinetic piece" -- individual battles against Taliban fighters -- has shown substantial progress, while improvements in the other areas continue to lag, a senior administration official said.

This judgment reflects sharp differences between U.S. military and intelligence officials on where the Afghan war is headed. Intelligence analysts acknowledge the battlefield victories, but they highlight the Taliban's unchallenged expansion into new territory, an increase in opium poppy cultivation and the weakness of the government of President Hamid Karzai as signs that the war effort is deteriorating...

"There is a key debate going on now between the military -- especially commanders on the ground -- and the intelligence community and some in the State Department about how we are doing," said one Afghanistan expert who has consulted with the National Security Council as it continues to "comb through conflicting reports" about the conflict.

Over the past year, all combat encounters against the Taliban have ended with "a very decisive defeat" for the extremists, Brig. Gen. Robert E. Livingston Jr., commander of the U.S. task force training the Afghan army, told reporters this month. The growing number of suicide bombings against civilians underscores the Taliban's growing desperation, according to Livingston and other U.S. commanders.

But one senior intelligence official, who like others interviewed was not authorized to discuss Afghanistan on the record, said such gains are fleeting. "One can point to a lot of indicators that are positive . . . where we go out there and achieve our objectives and kill bad guys," the official said. But the extremists, he added, seem to have little trouble finding replacements...

Senior White House officials privately express pessimism about Afghanistan. There is anxiety over the current upheaval in neighboring Pakistan, where both the Taliban and al-Qaeda maintain headquarters, logistical support and training camps along the Afghan border. But "in all honesty, I think it is too early to tell right now" whether political turmoil will undermine what U.S. officials already consider lackluster counterinsurgency efforts by Pakistani forces, the senior administration official said.

At the moment, several officials said, their concern is focused far more on the domestic situation in Afghanistan, where increasing numbers are losing faith in Karzai's government in Kabul. According to a survey released last month by the Asia Foundation, 79 percent of Afghans felt that the government does not care what they think, while 69 percent felt that it is not acceptable to publicly criticize the government...

The strategy is "clear, hold and build," said Seth Jones, an Afghanistan expert at the Rand Corp. "You clear the Taliban out, then you hold it for a period of time. You keep forces there, including Afghan forces, then you begin to build, then expand and go into neighboring districts. The problem has been that when you move troops into neighboring districts, you don't have enough to hold what you just cleared."

Although the competence of the Afghan army is improving by all accounts, U.S. military officials acknowledge that the goal of turning captured territory over to Afghan forces has been hampered by training delays and insufficient numbers.

In last year's Operation Medusa, Jones said, Canadian combat troops fought hard for control of the Panjwai district, south of Kandahar. "Four weeks ago," he said, "the levels of Taliban in Panjwai . . . were back up to pre-Operation Medusa [emphasis added]."

Experts said the Taliban's control has extended beyond the group's traditional southern territory, with extremists making substantial inroads this year into the western provinces of Farah, Herat and others along the Iranian border [emphasis added] even as they regularly challenge eastern-based U.S. forces...

Several experts believe that the United States can no longer afford to leave the Pakistani military to clean up its side of the border [emphasis added]. "Unless we resolve the safe-haven issue, this is not going to succeed," said Henry A. Crumpton, a CIA veteran who led the agency's successful 2001 Afghanistan campaign against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. "It's getting worse."

But others said the problem is not Pakistan or a lack of military or financial resources in Afghanistan. It is the absence, they say, of a strategic plan that melds the U.S. military effort with a comprehensive blueprint for development and governance throughout the country.

"There are plenty of dollars and a hell of a lot more troops there, by a factor of two, from when I was there," the former commander said. The question, he said, is "who owns the overarching campaign for Afghanistan, and what is it? [emphasis added]"

Armed Forces face 'failure' in Afghanistan
Sunday Telegraph, Nov. 25

British troops are facing "operational failure" in Afghanistan due to years of chronic Government under-funding, according to former heads of the armed forces.

The lives of hundreds of soldiers could be lost unless the Government starts to fund the military properly, they argue.

General Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, who served as the Chief of the Defence Staff in 2001, said: "Operational and tactical failure in Afghanistan is now not impossible to believe."

Their warning follows one of the most damaging weeks for the Government since Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair in June.

The Prime Minister and his Defence Secretary were accused of failing the services in one of the most extraordinary political events of recent times when five lords attacked the Government's defence-spending policy.

Gen Lord Guthrie, who launched a blistering attack on Gordon Brown during the defence debate in the House of Lords last week, told The Sunday Telegraph: "The Prime Minister could be presiding over damaging one of the really great institutions of our state.

"It [the military] is about to break if he is not careful. By this I mean no one will want to join the Armed Forces and the operational consequence of this is a failure in Afghanistan. It could well mean that the Taliban actually win a battle and kill a lot of our soldiers. Operational and tactical failure is now impossible to believe."

Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, who served as the Chief of the Defence Staff at the start of the Iraq war, echoed his fears, saying that the persistent under-funding was "bound to have operational consequences".

The former head of the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Jock Slater, also warned that the military could fail in Afghanistan if it was not properly supported...

The Lords debate followed revelations in last week's Sunday Telegraph that a report written for the head of the Army said that British troops felt "devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue".

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army, also admitted in the report that the military covenant was "out of kilter" and that more needed to be done to improve standards of pay, accommodation and medical care.

"Troops are having to deploy without having had the equipment and training to properly prepare," said Admiral Boyce yesterday. "You have people leaving because of low morale and no Army infantry battalion is fully manned. That is bound to have operational consequences. The unintended consequence of all this could be some kind of operational failure."

Sir Jock added: "We have poor support, poor training and an equipment programme looking shaky. If you don't fund properly, the initial result is that people begin to complain and then people begin to lose. You only have to look at Afghanistan and Iraq to see that if troops are not properly supported … then one day things will go extremely, badly wrong, militarily."..

More Articles found November 25, 2007

Corruption, bribes and trafficking: a cancer that is engulfing Afghanistan
November 24, 2007
Article Link

The general made an elementary mistake. Told by his superiors that his new posting as chief of police in a drug-rich northern province would cost him “one hundred and fifty thousand”, he assumed the bribe to be in Afghan currency.

He paid the money to a go-between at a rendezvous in Kabul’s Najib Zarab carpet market. For two days he was lorded in the office of General Azzam, then Chief of Staff to the Interior Minister, helping himself to chocolate and biscuits. “I must have eaten a pound of the stuff,” he recalled.

But on the third day he received a different welcome. “Get this mother****** out of my office,” Azzam screamed, said the general. Hustled outside, he quickly discovered his error. He should have paid $150,000 (£73,000) rather than a paltry 150,000 Afghanis for the bung.

Now living in disgruntled internal exile in northern Afghanistan, his verdict on his former employers is succinct.

“Everyone in the Ministry of Interior is corrupt,” he told The Times. “They wouldn’t sleep with their wives without wanting a backhander first.”

He never, though, expressed surprise. Governmental corruption in Afghanistan has become endemic and bribes to secure police and administrative positions along provincial drug routes is an established procedure.
More on link

Taliban attack police checkpoint in contested region
At least seven dead
Kelly Cryderman ,  CanWest News Service  Published: Friday, November 23, 2007
Article Link

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- The Taliban have attacked an Afghan police checkpoint, killing at least seven men -- all members of the Afghan police force -- in a district where Canadian and Afghan forces won a victory against insurgents just three weeks ago.

In Arghandab, a region immediately north of Kandahar city, the Taliban assailed the Charghulba area checkpoint at about 3 a.m. Friday. Besides those police officers killed another seven also have gone missing, said police commander Abdul Hakim Jan.

A Canadian Forces spokesman would not comment on the details of the attack. However, Capt. Sylvain Chalifour said Friday International Security Assistance Force members are investigating.

This news comes a day after Brig.-Gen. Peter Atkinson, the director general of operations, strategic joint staff for the Canadian Forces, gave a House of Commons defence committee meeting a positive assessment of ongoing operations in Afghanistan.
More on link

Suicide bomber kills 9 Afghans and Italian soldier
Sat 24 Nov 2007, 17:47 GMT By Samar Zwak
Article Link

KABUL (Reuters) - A suicide bomber killed nine civilians, six of them children, and an Italian soldier on the outskirts of the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, NATO said.

The hardline Islamist Taliban have killed at least 200 civilians in more than 140 suicide attacks this year in a campaign to oust the pro-Western Afghan government and eject more than 50,000 foreign troops from the country.

Troops from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were opening a newly built bridge over a river to the west of Kabul and many people had gathered to watch.

The ISAF said in a statement that the attacker, wearing civilian clothing, was spotted at the scene, adding: "Once spotted, ISAF personnel moved in to question the individual when the insurgent detonated himself
More on link

What Keeps Us There Longer?
November 24th, 2007 | By Patrick Pitt
Article Link

Sorry about the hiatus, I’ve been stuck on an algorithm that will explain my ridiculous loyalty to the Maple Leafs…

It’s a beautiful day here in Toronto. It’s cold, even for the Aki Berg of authors, but I like that, and seeing as how I’ll be in Brandon Manitoba in less than a week, I better get used to it.

Brandon, my old stomping grounds. The Wheat Kings, Houston’s, and ….hmmmm….that’s about it kids.

Let’s get right to it.

Nobody asked me but…

If the proposed extension to the missions in Afghanistan could take as long as up to 2021, should we try to isolate what it is that is delaying or even preventing “success”?

A few weeks ago I wrote about what were the reasons and by who’s leadership that we should be in Afghanistan.

But those characters are long gone, and in some cases shirking responsibility for the decision.

So if we are no longer dancing with the one that brought us, who’s keeping us past curfew at the high school prom?

The current mission, or at least the combat element of it, has been often criticized as lacking a clearly defined if not unrealistic end-state.

How do those that defend the war parry such accusations.
More on link

Suicide attack targets U.S.-led forces in E Afghanistan  
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-24 22:39:26    
Article Link

   KABUL, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- A suicide bomber, driving a motorcycle, exploded himself near a patrol of the U.S.-led Coalition forces in Afghanistan's eastern province Khost on Saturday, causing no casualties to the troops, police said.

   Wazir Badsha, a police spokesman in Khost province, told Xinhua that the attack took place in Gorbaz district of Khost, in which only one local civilian was injured.

   However, other sources said the civilian was not injured by the blast but by the Coalition forces' firing which followed the explosion.

   There was no immediate responsibility claim for the incident but the Taliban usually carried out such suicide attacks.
More on link

Afghanistan: China's Winning Bid For Copper Rights Includes Power Plant, Railroad
By Ron Synovitz November 24, 2007 (RFE/RL)
Article Link

Afghanistan has awarded a state-owned company in China with the right to develop a large copper field to the south of Kabul, following two years of bidding.

China Metallurgical Group agreed to invest billions of dollars in the project and related infrastructure development -- including the construction of a coal-fired electrical power plant and what would be Afghanistan's first freight railway.

By the estimates of some geologists, deposits at Afghanistan's Aynak copper field in Logar Province make it the world's largest undeveloped copper field.

The deal gives China Metallurgical Group the right to extract high-quality copper from the area south of Kabul.

Developing Infrastructure

But the Aynak copper field has neither the electrical power nor access to the transportation links needed to fully develop the area as a copper mine.

Afghan Mining Minister Ibrahim Adel says the Chinese company has agreed to invest nearly $3 billion in order to set up mining operations and overcome the lack of basic infrastructure.
More on link

Canadian cargo pilots encounter different kind of enemy during Afghan mission
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan - Maj. Paul Anderson has probably seen more of Afghanistan than most people in the country, although he usually sees it from 6,400 metres above the ground.

"That is the main and only highway between Kandahar and Kabul," he says, pointing at the tiny line of cars and trucks barely visible from the cockpit of his Hercules C-130 transport plane.

The view out the window closely resembles a giant, coloured three-dimensional map. There is little to break up the monotony of sand and mountains except patches of green in some of the deeper valleys, the occasional silver thread of a river and a rare expanse of white cloud.

"I think Canada's north will eventually look like this if they continue with all the mining that is going up there right now," he noted.

While ground forces get the lion's share of attention in Canada's military mission here, the job done above the ground can be equally important and just as dangerous.

The hulking C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop cargo aircraft and the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. You could almost consider it a semi-trailer with wings. There are more than 40 models and variants of the Hercules serve with more than 50 countries.
More on link

U.S. Army recruiting anthropologists
TheStar.com - November 25, 2007 Andrew Chung Staff reporter
Article Link

A young officer on his rookie tour bracing against the Afghan dust storms and worried about a suicide attack – would he be able to untangle the nuances of a tribal land dispute? Would he know to let a certain village elder take credit for a new well in order to gain a powerful ally?

The intricacies of culture are becoming increasingly essential in the Middle East, where two countries are under foreign occupation and Western armies are trying desperately to gain the upper hand against stubborn and deadly insurgencies, where close combat among civilians is the norm and the terrain is fraught with roadside mines and bomb-adorned kamikazes.

As Canada presses other countries to take on larger combat roles in Afghanistan – another two Canadian soldiers died there last week bringing the total to 73 – our role may focus more on development, and experts say winning the support of locals will become even more important.

This is why anthropology, the study of the cultural origins and social practices of humans, has suddenly shot to the forefront of military awareness – and become embroiled in a bitter dispute shaking the core of the discipline itself.

In the United States, a controversial new military program called the Human Terrain System (HTS) embeds anthropologists with combat brigades in Iraq and eastern Afghanistan. Their job is to study local customs and help commanders reduce the use of force.

Proponents feel it's a way to lessen bloodshed. Others say it can only undermine the primary responsibility of anthropologists to, above all, do no harm to those whom they're studying.
More on link
In Afghanistan, Hunt for Arms and Militants Can Be a Slog
NY Times, Nov. 25

ESPANDI, Afghanistan, Nov. 18 — First Lt. Aaron W. Childers stood before a doorway inside a mud-walled compound while an Afghan and American patrol searched behind him. Paratroopers swept metal detectors over the dusty ground, looking for buried weapons and ammunition...

Lieutenant Childers is a platoon commander with the 82nd Airborne Division, engaged in the long, slow counterinsurgency campaign that the Afghan government and the United States hope will marginalize the Taliban and make Afghanistan capable of self rule.

On this day, the platoon’s mission was to cordon off part of the village and capture Mullah Shabir, a low-level Taliban commander, and to search for caches of rockets or mortar rounds. In recent months, many had been fired from the village toward the command post of the platoon’s parent unit, the Second Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry.

The paratroopers also hope to teach Afghanistan’s indigenous security forces, still an inconsistent lot, to work effectively and with each other. Of the 58 people in the patrol, 12 were Afghan soldiers, 5 were Afghan police officers and 7 were agents of the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence service.

Under American tutelage, Afghanistan’s army and intelligence service have shown signs of improvement in recent years, American officers say. The police remain troubled by incompetence, corruption and sloth. The Americans watched the officers closely, aware that they might steal...

The Second Battalion occupies small firebases and outposts in Ghazni and Wardak Provinces, a region of mountains, high desert and steep-sided valleys between Kabul and Kandahar.

The area, the size of Maryland, is split by Highway 1, Afghanistan’s principal road. It contains a patchwork of villages, some friendly to the paratroopers, some apparently neutral, others heavily populated with insurgents and criminals who attack American and Afghan units and prey on passing traffic...

Uneventful patrols defy ready measurement. Mullah Shabir had not been found. The Taliban’s local leader could be watching calmly from a window, under the village’s protection, or he could be far away.

The patrol’s ambition was shifting from hunting for him to seeking intelligence and potential allies. But which of the villagers were potential allies? Which were foes? Were most of them simply pragmatic — saying whatever they needed to say to men who stood before them with guns? No one knew.

The patrol found its way to the village’s bazaar, where a group of small shops were clustered around a mosque. The American officers began to interview shopkeepers and elderly men.

“We are here today in Espandi to make it safer,” Lieutenant Childers said.

A man with a white beard nodded after the sentence was translated. “Thank you,” he said.

“There are reports of people bringing rockets and weapons here,” the lieutenant said.

“We don’t know about this,” the old man answered.

“We heard they come from outside the village and fire them and leave,” the lieutenant said.

“If we hear of anyone bringing rockets and weapons here, we will capture them and bring them to you,” the old man said.

The elderly men and the lieutenant settled into a conversation; the old men said the village could use another well. The lieutenant said he would see if could arrange to have one dug. He thanked the group and stood up and gave a signal to the patrol.

The paratroopers stood and filed away down the alleys, their patrol nearly at an end. In all, they would spend 12 hours walking this day, at an elevation above 7,000 feet...

Articles found November 26, 2007

A Mullah Dies, and War Comes Knocking
By Sarah Chayes Special to The Washington Post Article Last Updated: 11/25/2007 04:56:27 PM MST
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Wednesday, Oct. 31: I woke to the sound of artillery thudding - like the beat of a heavy heart. It was Afghan army batteries firing into Arghandab, at new Taliban positions there. Through several nights, I had been listening, my ears pricking like a dog's, to the faint popping of gunfire, the clattering of helicopters, the whine of personnel carriers speeding along the roads, falling asleep only when the morning call to prayer rang out in the pre-dawn chill.
    I can't explain how this felt, the penetration of war to this crucial part of Kandahar, where I have lived for six years. Arghandab district, with its riot of tangled fruit trees, is the lung of Kandahar province; its meandering, stone-studded river is the artery of the whole region. Arghandab is shade and water, and mud-walled orchards, and mulberries and apricots, and pomegranates the size of grapefruits hanging from the willowy branches.
    This magical land was first given to the fighting Alokozai tribe by Nadir Shah, who brought down the Safavid empire of Persia with its help in 1738. The latest in the line of Alokozai leaders was the gentle, jocular military genius Mullah Naqib, who died of a heart attack in mid-October. Mullah Naqib fought the Soviets from his base in Arghandab; they were never able to dislodge the mujahideen from this place.
    As the Taliban gathered strength and insolence recently, they would contact the mullah from time to time, trying to strike a deal, telling him that they wished him no ill, but just to pass through Arghandab. He would bellow his retort. He would get on the radio and vow by God that if they dared set foot inside his Arghandab, the whole population would rise up. And thus he held his fractious, disgruntled tribesmen firm against them.
More on link

Italy to remain in Afghanistan, but Prodi says long-term strategy needed
The Associated Press Sunday, November 25, 2007
Article Link

ROME: Premier Romano Prodi repeated Sunday that Italy will not withdraw troops from Afghanistan following the death of an Italian soldier — but said officials must reflect on a long-term political strategy for Italy's future presence there, reports said.

Prodi faced fresh calls from radical leftists in his coalition to withdraw Italy's 2,000-strong contingent following the death Saturday of Marshall Daniele Paladini. A suicide bomber targeting Italian soldiers building a bridge killed Paladini and six Afghans and wounded three other Italian soldiers.

"We're staying, but all the countries that remain need to reflect on the long-term strategy for the country," the Apcom news agency quoted Prodi as saying during a visit to Abu Dhabi.

"It's not a problem that started yesterday, but a problem that we've been working on for some time," he said. "Regardless, our solidarity with the mission is not up for discussion."
More on link

Burn unit seeing too many young victims
Kelly Cryderman , CanWest News Service Published: Sunday, November 25, 2007
Article Link

HERAT, Afghanistan -- The new building is only six weeks old, but already the burn unit in Herat is firmly ensconced with the dizzying smell of antiseptic and charred human flesh.

A customs holdup is keeping a French medical shipment from reaching Herat, meaning the unit has been short of morphine and codeine for weeks. A single gruesome scream is heard from a side room as nurses change a woman's bandages. Other patients occasionally cry out "Allah" as they stare up at the ceiling.

Beside a sunny window in the women's section lies Afsana, 16, who says she was burned when kerosene splashed out of a lamp she was passing to her sister-in-law. Her burns are so deep they have damaged her nerve endings.
More on link

Afghans don’t have option of ignoring Iranian neighbours
By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target Mon. Nov 26 - 5:29 AM
Article Link

LAST THURSDAY there was a small news item out of New York insinuating that Afghanistan was snubbing Canada by voting against one of our proposed resolutions at the United Nations. While this minor event failed to create much of a stir in the national media, it certainly served to illustrate both the naivety and imperialistic arrogance with which Canada approaches our mission in Afghanistan.

First, a little background on the political posturing that transpired at the UN. For the past five years Canadian diplomats have been pushing to censure Iran for human rights violations. This initiative was sparked by the 2003 death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi while she was in custody in Tehran. The Iranians pushed back, not only asking why they were being singled out, but also publishing a 70-page document detailing recent human rights abuses in Canada.

No doubt they made the most of such things as extrajudicial execution of natives in Saskatchewan and British Columbia and the Tasering of a confused airline passenger. When this finger-pointing came to a climax, the Iranians tabled a "no action" motion on Canada’s censure. In this first round, Afghanistan took Iran’s side and very nearly turned the tables. The Iranian "no action" was defeated by a tally of just 79 to 78. The Canadian censure was subsequently approved by a vote of 72 to 50 (with an additional 31 countries choosing to abstain). Afghanistan, however, once more openly chose to vote in favour of the Iranians. The very cheek of the so-called democratically elected independent Afghanistan government choosing to oppose our initiative caused our diplomats to harrumph and cry foul.

The numbers were trotted out and regurgitated by equally incensed Canadian journalists. The fact that we are contributing 2,500 troops through February 2009 (and debating an extension to 2011); the fact that to date 73 soldiers, a diplomat and a civilian have been killed and another 570 soldiers have been wounded and injured; and the fact we’ve committed up to $1.2 billion toward the reconstruction of Afghanistan were presented as being significant enough to warrant absolute obedience from our Afghan benefactors. This pious attitude was best summed up by Steven Edwards at the National Post: "One interpretation of Afghanistan’s view is that the government of President Hamid Karzai cares more about its relations with Iran than with Canada, despite Canada’s massive commitment to Afghan deconstruction and the cost in Canadian lives
More on link

Tanter on Rudd and Australian Security Policy
Monday, November 26, 2007
Article Link

Professor Richard Tanter of the Nautilus Institute at RMIT in Melbourne writes from Australia:

'A small note on your comment on Kevin Rudd's election in Australia.

On the question of security policy, this is what I think will happen in the next half year:

1. Iraq: Rudd is committed to removing Australian troops from Iraq, and that is a popular position. In practice I think this will mean

a. Removing the Operation Overwatch Battle Group from Dhi Qar.

b. Retaining the ADF training group, mainly at Ali Base. For reasons I'll explain below it may even be boosted.

c. Retaining the RAN naval and RAAF air deployments in the Persian Gulf

d. It is not clear what will happen to the Australian components in the MNC command centres in Baghdad and Basra. My guess would be the latter will go, but the some elements former will stay. However, most of the Australian National Headquarters Middle East Area of Operations in Baghdad will transfer to Afghanistan (see below).

2. Rudd is very much persuaded of the "bad war, Iraq; good war, Afghanistan" position. Australia now has 1,000 troops in Afghanistan. [see Australia in Afghanistan, Nautilus Institute. There will be a redeployment of combat and support forces from one theatre to the other. Australian Afghanistan operations are now taking more casualties, though still nothing like US or Canadian levels. But they have increased sharply recently and this trend will continue. In April this year the Australian Special Operations Task group (SAS and other Army special forces) was somewhat hurriedly deployed back to Uruzgan less than 8 months after they were pulled out. Pulling out of Iraq would allow them and the protective group of the Reconstruction task Force at Tarin Kowt to be rotated more easily. (remember the ADF also has a big deployment [for its small size] in East Tiimor.)
More on link

Former Parry Sounder returns to Afghanistan
By Tim Shamess
Article Link

From his very early beginnings growing up in Parry Sound and serving with the 295 Parry Sound Air Cadet Squadron, it was apparent that Parry Chrysler had the Canadian Forces flowing through his veins. Those early beginnings saw Parry rise to be the only chief warrant offficer to serve with the 295 Squadron and set the stage for a successful career in the military. Now with 22 years serving this country under his belt and the sergeant’s chevron gracing his shoulder, Parry has recently returned to Afghanistan for his fifth tour of duty in the war-ravaged country.

In those many years serving with the Forces, Parry has been all over the world working in both combat and humanitarian efforts, gaining experiences and seeing things many of us could barely imagine. In 1999 when Turkey was shaken by earthquakes, Parry answered the call and served with the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). During two tours of duty in Bosnia, Parry not only served as a member of the Canadian Forces, he also worked directly with the people of Bosnia and was instrumental in establishing the fire services the area was lacking.

“When I returned for my second tour, firefighters I worked with remembered me and made me their ?training officer,” Parry says proudly.

As chief loadmaster scheduler, Parry is spending his working hours in Afghanistan flying in the back of a Hercules aircraft ensuring the troops on the ground have everything from food, water and medical supplies to ammunition and other related equipment. Though Parry downplays the role he plays in the war effort, it is no doubt an essential service the soldiers on the ground could not do without.
More on link

NATO Accelerates Search For More Helicopters For Afghanistan Operations
Nov 25, 2007 By Joris Janssen Lok 
Article Link

NATO is desperately short of attack and transport helicopters that can support its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, senior sources in NATO Headquarters say. In recent weeks, the alliance has been examining multiple options to correct the shortfall.

Proposals on the table range from improved training and logistic support for deployed helicopters, to a commonly funded modernization of 20-odd Russian-built, Czech-owned Mil Mi-8 Hip transport helos that could then be used to form a multinational transport pool for Afghanistan-type operations.

Representatives from several NATO nations will be discussing these options at a seminar in Brussels, a senior European diplomat in NATO Headquarters tells Aviation Week & Space Technology.

“I believe the U.S. will also shortly come forward with specific proposals to help solve this problem,” he adds.

The helicopter shortage is the “single biggest operational problem” that is hampering the day-to-day operations of ISAF, a 41,000-strong multinational mission led by NATO and comprising troops from 38 nations, including 14 that are not members of the alliance.

“We’re beseeching, begging, doing everything we can to convince nations to contribute more rotary-wing aviation assets, both transport helicopters and attack helicopters,” a Canadian NATO official says.

“It’s not that NATO nations don’t have helicopters. The problem is that they’re very expensive to ship to Afghanistan and to operate and maintain them there. I think there are several nations that prefer to keep their helicopters at home for this reason.”

At the Shephard Heli-Power conference in The Hague, operational commanders stressed that ISAF is struggling with a “constant imbalance of demand versus availability of both attack and transport helicopters.”

“Without helicopters, operations in southern Afghanistan are not possible. There’s a lack of road infrastructure and a high threat of improvised explosive devices and ambushes by Taliban and other opposing militant forces,” says Maj. Gen. Ton van Loon of the Royal Netherlands Army. He returned from Kandahar earlier this year after having commanded ISAF’s Regional Command (RC) South.

“If we don’t have the helicopters, we must admit defeat. It is unacceptable that a soldier dies because the medevac helicopter and its attack helicopter escort are not available. Several times, we came very close to not getting this right because we were stretched,” van Loon told the conference.

The 11,600-strong RC South includes the troubled provinces of Helmand (where British forces provide the bulk of the ISAF presence), Kandahar (Canadian forces) and Uruzgan (Dutch and Australian forces). Fighting has been on the increase in recent months.

Aviation assets available to RC South are primarily British, Dutch and U.S., with the British typically having eight Chinook HC2 transport helicopters, eight Longbow Apache attack helicopters and five Lynx Mk. 7 battlefield support helicopters divided between Kandahar Air Field and the main forward operating base in Helmand, Camp Bastion.

The Dutch have three CH-47D Chinooks at Kandahar plus five AH-64D Apaches forward-deployed at Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan.

U.S. Army Aviation has about 100 helicopters in country (including 24 Apaches, 25 Chinooks and 50 UH-60 Black Hawks), but many of these are assigned to the 13,900-strong Regional Command East, where most of the 15,100 U.S. troops are based.

At times, other nations, notably Australia, contribute a couple of Chinooks to RC South that are normally based at Kandahar, while there are also some Mi-8 Hips used by Afghan special forces.
More on link
Articles found November 27, 2007

Government blames negligent officials for high casualties in Afghan atrocity
The Associated Press Monday, November 26, 2007
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan: An Afghan government investigation into a deadly suicide bomb attack and ensuing gunfire accused local officials of negligence, as villagers demanded their children's bodies be exhumed for autopsies, the interior minister said Tuesday.

The Nov. 6 suicide attack on visiting lawmakers and subsequent shooting by bodyguards in the northern Baghlan province left 77 people dead, including 61 students and six lawmakers.

Interior Minister Zarar Ahmad Muqbal said the government team investigating the blast blamed negligent local officials for forcing hundreds of students to greet a group of a dozen lawmakers visiting a sugar factory.

"This caused high casualty numbers from the incident," Muqbal told a news conference after presenting the findings to President Hamid Karzai. "Some of these officials will be dismissed, some replaced and others will face justice."

He said hospital records in Baghlan indicated that only three people were wounded by bullets, but he did not give any further details.

Following Muslim tradition, a majority of the victims were buried shortly after the blast.
More on link

MoD probes 'friendly fire' claim
Article Link

The Ministry of Defence is probing claims that British forces killed two Danish soldiers in Afghanistan in a "friendly fire" incident.
The soldiers died when heat-seeking missiles were fired at a Danish military unit on 26 September.

A spokesman for the MoD said it is working alongside the Danish government to try to find out what happened.

The deaths of the Danish personnel were initially reported to have come in a firefight with the Taleban.

However, several days later the Danish army said the casualties may have been the result of British so-called friendly fire in the southern province of Helmand.

A Danish eyewitness told a journalist from TV2 television UK forces were firing across the Helmand river at the Taleban for at least an hour.

It was said during that time two British missiles hit a Danish compound.

Nato force

An MoD spokesman said: "We are working closely with the Danish government to establish the details and the causes of this incident, and there is a Board of Inquiry into it, ongoing.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further before the Board of Inquiry is complete."
More on link

Afghan police destroy heroin factory in NE Afghanistan  
www.chinaview.cn  2007-11-27 16:20:21      Print
 Article Link

   KABUL, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- During an anti-narcotics operation, Afghan police have destroyed a heroin factory in Tashkan district of northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan, said a statement issued by the Interior Ministry on Tuesday.

   Afghan police Monday attacked a heroin lab belonging to two military commanders in the area and entered the factory following a two-hour fighting, the statement said.

   Some 32 kg opium and weapons were confiscated and one person from the suspected drug smugglers gang was arrested, it said, adding that the two military commanders escaped.

   The post-Taliban Afghanistan with an estimated output of 8,200 tons of opium poppy in 2007 once again topped poppy growing nations in the world.
More on link
Articles found November 29, 2007

Three Canadians injured in Afghanistan
Kelly Cryderman CanWest News Service  Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Article Link

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Three Canadian soldiers were injured Tuesday morning when their light armoured vehicle hit a suspected homemade bomb just outside Kandahar city.

The improvised explosive device (IED) went off at about 10 a.m., 40 kilometres west of the provincial capital near the village of Sperwan Ghar in Panjwaii district.

"They're all in stable condition," said Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky, a Canadian Forces spokesman.

All three soldiers were evacuated to the multinational medical unit at Kandahar Airfield, where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries, Babinsky said. All families have now been notified.

Speaking to local reporters, Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi claimed responsibility for the attack.

Panjwaii and Zhari districts have been the site of dozens of Canadian deaths. It is a volatile area thick with insurgents who continually fight to reclaim ground taken by Canadian and Afghan forces.

Since Canada's work in Afghanistan began in 2002, 73 soldiers and one diplomat have been killed. Hundreds more soldiers have been injured.

The last Canadian deaths were Nov. 17, when a vehicle Cpl. Nicolas Raymond Beauchamp and Pte. Michel Levesque were travelling in hit an IED.

Citing the privacy concerns of soldiers and their families, the military does not release the names of injured troops.
More on link

Governor says NATO air-strike kills 12 Afghan civilians
Wed 28 Nov 2007, 9:53 GMT
 Article Link

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - NATO air-strikes killed 12 civilian road workers in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said on Wednesday, an incident bound to fuel Afghan resentment against the presence of international forces.

NATO has tightened procedures for launching air-strikes after Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned of rising anger over mounting civilian casualties, but military commanders say some civilian deaths are almost inevitable in any conflict.

Foreign forces have a limited time to weaken Taliban rebels and allow development to undercut the insurgency before Afghans turn against the international presence and Western public opinion demands troops be brought home, security analysts say.
More on link

Afghans: US Bombs Kill Road Workers
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S.-led coalition troops killed 22 road construction workers in airstrikes in eastern Afghanistan after receiving faulty intelligence, Afghan officials said Wednesday.

The coalition said only that it was looking into the incident.

The engineers and laborers had been building a road for the U.S. military in mountainous Nuristan province, and were sleeping in two tents in the remote area when they were killed Monday night, said Sayed Noorullah Jalili, director of the Kabul-based road construction company Amerifa. There were no survivors, he said.

"All of our poor workers have been killed," Jalili said. "I don't think the Americans were targeting our people. I'm sure it's the enemy of the Afghans who gave the Americans this wrong information."

The company has requested that the U.S. military investigate the source of its information, Jalili said.

Nuristan Gov. Tamim Nuristani said the coalition conducted airstrikes after receiving reports that "the enemy" was in the area, and hit the road construction workers as they were sleeping. Afghan officials often refer to the Taliban and other militants as "the enemy."
More on link

John Manley's panel heads home after holding hearings in Afghanistan
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The reality of war was front and centre this week as John Manley wrapped up a visit to Afghanistan as part of his panel's report on the future of Canada's mission in this war-torn country.

Three Canadian soldiers were sent to hospital Tuesday morning after their light armoured vehicle drove over an improvised explosive device.

"They were evacuated to the multi-national medical unit at Kandahar Air Field where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries," said Lt.-Cmdr. Pierre Babinsky.

The blast occurred on a narrow stretch of road near Sperwan Ghar, a route often referred to by members of the military as "IED alley."

Less than two weeks ago, Cpl. Nicolas Beauchamp and Pte. Michel Levesque were killed and three other Canadian soldiers wounded in a similar incident in the same region, which is a favourite haunt of the Taliban.

Manley and his panel have been holding meetings in Afghanistan against a backdrop of growing violence that has left 73 Canadian soldiers dead and hundreds wounded since the mission began in 2002.
More on link

Saudis: 208 Arrested in Different Plots
Article Link

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — More than 200 al-Qaida-linked suspects involved in different plots against the kingdom have been arrested in recent months in Saudi Arabia's largest anti-terrorism sweep to date, the Interior Ministry said Wednesday.

The ministry first reported the arrest of eight men, said to be linked to al-Qaida and allegedly planning to attack oil installations in the kingdom.

An Interior Ministry statement, carried by the Saudi Press Agency, said the eight were part of a terrorist cell led by a non-Saudi man, who was one of those arrested. The planned attacks were to take place in the eastern region of the country, which is home to Saudi's main oil resources.

The arrest of the eight "pre-empted an imminent attack on an oil installation," the statement said without naming the target or providing more details.

The ministry also said 22 other suspects were arrested for allegedly supporting the al-Qaida terror network. This group plotted to assassinate the country's religious leaders and security officials, it said.

The ministry also gave the following breakdown of other arrests:
More on link

Habib urged to help attack on AustraliaTom Allard National Security Editor
November 30, 2007
Article Link

MAMDOUH HABIB told ASIO officers he was asked by men in Afghanistan to transport an unidentified liquid back to Australia that was going to be used in an attack here following the September 11 bombings in the United States, a court has heard.

The startling claim was made during a long interrogation at Guantanamo Bay in August 2002 and revealed in a transcript released by the Supreme Court considering an appeal against a successful defamation action by Mr Habib against the News Limited columnist Piers Akerman.

The transcript also confirms that Mr Habib had heard talk of an attack in the days leading up to September 11, 2001, while he was in Afghanistan.

According to the ASIO officers, the men were al-Qaeda figures, including senior members.

Mr Habib said he met the men when he was giving a man a massage in Kabul. They were talking about what would happen if the US invaded Afghanistan following the attacks, telling him they had "connections" in Australia.
More on link

An Afghanistan War-Crimes Case Tests Poland’s Commitment to Foreign Missions
Article Link
By NICHOLAS KULISH Published: November 29, 2007

WARSAW, Nov. 28 — Poland is facing a rare war-crimes prosecution at a crucial juncture for both the newly elected government’s commitment to overseas military engagements and the effort to overhaul the nation’s armed forces.

Seven Polish soldiers sit in a military jail in Poznan, accused of killing six Afghan civilians, including women and children, in the village of Nangarkhel in August. Whether the mortar rounds that killed the Afghans were a result of bad aim, bad orders or bad intentions remains to be determined.

The charges against the soldiers have led the country into uncharted legal, moral and political territory. The case has become a test of the public’s stomach for sending soldiers into faraway battle in support of allies.

The issue is especially troubling to a country with a strong attachment to its military, a result of centuries of division and domination by foreign powers. Poland also tends to view itself as an underdog fighting on the side of right, typified by the mythic charge of Polish cavalry against Nazi tanks in World War II.

“We were convinced that our contribution was not only stable and militarily significant, but also that we stand for international law and humanitarian needs,” said Bogdan Klich, the defense minister. “From that point of view, what happened in Afghanistan is a shock for Polish public opinion.”
More on link

Musharraf gives up his military uniform
Article Link

In the continuing saga of the controversial Pakistani elections, CNN's "Your World Today" showed President Musharraf in full uniform for the last time, doing a walk-past of his troops while they played his favorite melody, Auld Lang Syne.  He surrendered the baton, a symbol of power, to General Ashfaq Kiyani, who will be taking over as head of the armed forces.  The ceremony was broadcast live on Pakistani TV, as Musharraf stated:

"After being in uniform for over 40 years, I am bidding it good'bye" ... "This army is my life. This army is my passion. I have loved this army", Musharraf said emotionally.

Tomorrow Musharraf will be sworn in as the head of government - as a civilian.  One local commented that this was good news, it would give the people confidence, and restore democracy.  However, President Bush was quick to interject that Musharraf needed to lift emergency rule which is still in effect.

The other contenders for the leadership, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, threatened to boycott the poll if emergency rule was not lifted.

These elections are a significant event that has the attention of world leaders, because Pakistan, especially the northern Afghanistan/Pakistan border area, is most likely the "safe house" of the Taliban and Al Qaeda (although their whereabouts are still very secretive).  This is where they can re-group, train, and get some respite from the fighting.  
More on link

Canadian unmanned aerial vehicle essential for hunting down Taliban
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The five men, rocket-propelled grenade launchers slung casually over their shoulders, were clearly visible as they walked down a narrow road in a small, dusty mud compound west of Kandahar city. Apparently they were unaware they had just become the hunted.

Forty kilometres away at Kandahar Air Field, their every move was being watched by a group of Canadian soldiers assigned to operate a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle or TUAV.

The TUAV is an important tool for Canadian forces searching for the Taliban in the volatile Zhari and Panjwaii districts. The area is a hotbed of insurgent activity and the birthplace of the Taliban movement.

Any thoughts that the Taliban are no longer a force in the area was clearly disputed by the information on the computer screens inside the tracking trailer here.

About a dozen numbered spots on a large computer map are marked, each one of them registered as a Taliban hangout. This particular collection of mud houses and structures was believed to hide dozens of Taliban fighters.

The view from 1,200 metres above the ground is remarkably clear. The men's turbans, beards and weapons were easy to see as they walked, their heads close together in conversation
More on link
Articles found November 29, 2007

Afghan mission costs up sharply, MacKay says
ALAN FREEMAN From Friday's Globe and Mail November 30, 2007 at 5:16 AM EST
Article Link

OTTAWA — The incremental cost to National Defence of the Afghan military mission is rising steeply and has reached a total of $3.1-billion from its start in 2001, according to Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Mr. MacKay made the disclosure as he appeared before the House of Commons defence committee, which is studying supplementary spending estimates of $875-million for the department for the current fiscal year.

In May, Mr. MacKay's predecessor, Gordon O'Connor, told the Commons that the incremental cost of the mission was $2.6-billion. A spokesman for Mr. MacKay said yesterday that the extra costs are due mainly to additional tanks and force protection expenses.

Mr. MacKay and Chief of the Defence Staff General Rick Hillier insisted that progress continues to be made in Afghanistan, despite reports to the contrary by external groups such as the Senlis Council and Oxfam.
More on link
Article Link

Australian combat troops to be out of Iraq by mid-2008
ROHAN SULLIVAN Associated Press November 30, 2007 at 4:15 AM EST
Article Link

SYDNEY — Australia's new leader said Friday that he would pull his country's combat troops out of Iraq by mid-2008 — making good on an election promise that is likely to disappoint the U.S. government.

Labor Party leader Kevin Rudd swept to power at elections last Saturday that ended more than 11 years of conservative rule under John Howard, who had strong personal ties with U.S. President George W. Bush and was one of Washington's few staunch allies in Iraq.

“The combat force in Iraq we would have home by around about the middle of next year,” prime minister-elect Rudd told a radio station in the southern city of Melbourne.

Mr. Rudd went to the polls with a policy of withdrawing Australia's 550 combat forces in Iraq, while leaving several hundred other troops there in supporting roles such as guarding diplomats. Australia also has about 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, a deployment Mr. Rudd supports and has no plans to reduce.

Mr. Bush was the first foreign leader to phone Mr. Rudd to congratulate him on his election victory, and the Australian leader said he would visit Washington early next year, with Iraq certain to be at the top of the agenda.

Mr. Rudd said Friday that his government had not begun discussions with U.S. officials about the withdrawal plan, and that a meeting with U.S. Ambassador Robert McCallum would be arranged soon.

Earlier this week, Mr. McCallum said U.S. officials looked forward to talking the plan over, and noted that it did not mean all Australian troops would be leaving Iraq.

“It's a situation ... where Australia is determining how it's going to reposition its forces, how it's going to deploy its resources in a new and different way, and we are looking forward to working with Mr. Rudd in achieving it,” Mr. McCallum told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
More on link

Iran's Taliban Connection
Article Link

German deputy interior minister believes that the Iranian regime's talking to Taliban. And Taliban is the prime force that is responsible for killing coalition (mostly Canadian) soldiers in southern Afghanistan:

"I believe that the Iranians have an influence on the situation in Afghanistan, above all in the border regions," he said."

That's the same regime that is currently killing American, Canadian and other coalition troops in Iraq & Afghanistan and yet western countries think they could negotiate with the mullahs over almost any thing.

"Hanning said he believed the Iranians were smuggling weapons into Afghanistan, where some 3,000 German soldiers are deployed in NATO peacekeeping operations to help rebuild the country and fend off an increasingly tough Taliban insurgency."

When will the western world realize the grave danger posed by this current regime in Tehran? Tomorrow will be late...
More on link

German leader appeals to Canada on Afghanistan
Peter O'Neil, Europe Bureau , CanWest News Service Published: Friday, November 30, 2007
Article Link

BERLIN -- The western alliance could collapse unless Canada remains committed to rebuilding Afghanistan and doesn't abandon efforts to convince reluctant European allies to send troops to that country's most dangerous areas, according to one of Germany's most prominent politicians.

Hans-Ulrich Klose urged Canadian leaders, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, to increase trips to Germany and other countries in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to press for a stronger effort to develop Afghanistan and fight the Taliban insurgency.

The Harper government has said it will require Parliament's endorsement on Canada's role in Afghanistan after its commitment in Kandahar, where most of Canada's 2,500 soldiers are based, expires in February 2009.
More on link

Behind the frontlines
Date: 2007-11-30 By Lindsey Cole
Article Link

Children play with rocketed-propelled grenades.
One explodes.
Catastrophe begins.
Reality sets in as Major Lee-Anne Quinn spurs into action.
She must stop the bleeding.
One child is dead. Another has lost his legs.
The Peterborough native, a nurse practitioner with the Canadian military, not only saves soldiers, but civilians and children in the Afghanistan city of Kandahar.
But, it's the children that get to her.
"The unfortunate part of this is the number of children injured,” she explains.
"That's what hard to take. In Canada we tell kids not to play with matches. We're telling them in Afghanistan don't play with rocket-propelled grenades. If our hospital wasn't there to stop the bleeding and repair the limbs they would be dead.”
While these images linger, working alongside Canadian troops remind her why she's there.
But today Maj. Quinn is in Peterborough, until Dec. 15, celebrating an early Christmas before heading back to that other home.
In the military for 20 years, Maj. Quinn left on this, her final tour, July 5. It's the most difficult yet rewarding place she has travelled to.
"Once you get to Kandahar, there is nothing that will prepare you for the injuries you see. It's quite overwhelming initially, but then you put your trauma hat on and save as many people as you can.”
As she twists the red and white thread bracelet, she explains she loves her job, but now it's time to rest.
That rest will come June 13 when she retires from military life and comes back to Peterborough.
More on link

Afghan chieftains get ultimatum
TheStar.com - November 30, 2007  Mitch Potter Toronto Star
  Article Link

Canadian military officials try to persuade tribal elders to side with NATO. At a remarkable sitdown, three Canadian officers tell tribal elders to decide which side they're on

PANJWAII, Afghanistan–It was 40 unhappy Pashtoon tribal elders versus three tough-talking Canadian army officers with a rather large carrot and an even bigger stick – a stick they had never before shown.

Align with us against the Taliban, the Canadians told the chieftains, and the people of embattled Panjwaii will reap untold rewards, starting with a large stack of Ottawa-and-Washington-backed development dollars poised for the first whisper of actual security.

Remain mere observers to lawless insurgency and – here comes the stick – Panjwaii will be forgotten. Unless the elders soon seize their tribal entitlement to power and influence and take a stand, the spoils of stability will go to a more hospitable patch of Kandahar province.

Though the ultimatum came without a deadline, there was an unmistakable urgency in the Canadian message yesterday to a rare full quorum of the Panjwaii tribal council. Repeated separately by three different officers, the or-else scenario was clear. Just how deeply the warning registered with the Afghan elders, less so.

Invited to the shura by the Afghans, the Toronto Star was given a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the political gap that the Canadians on the frontlines say they must close if the Taliban threat in Panjwaii is to be neutralized.

"I know how it has to work here. For people to survive they have to hold hands with both sides," said Maj. Patrick Robichaud, commander of the Canadian forward operating base at nearby Sperwan Ghar.

"But I'm telling you we are approaching a crossroads. We are coming to that intersection where you have to let one hand go or Panjwaii will be forgotten. There are millions of Afghanis at stake, and if we cannot attain security those millions will go elsewhere. I can't do this alone. Everyone must contribute."
More on link

Success breeds its own problems for Canadian-led Haitian police
Steven Edwards , CanWest News Service Published: Thursday, November 29, 2007
Article Link

PORT AU PRINCE, Haiti - His hand grasping a wad of banknotes, the red-shirted "major" barks at prisoners whose families have just brought them food.

"You want to eat, you must pay," he snaps.

Anyone lacking cash for the shakedown has to make do with prison fare - watery oatmeal for breakfast, and meagre portions of cornmeal, kidney  beans and meat scraps later in the day - while the man in red makes off with the home-cooked meals.
More on link

Aid as a Combat Tool is a Very Bad Idea
By Gerry Barr and Kevin McCort Embassy, November 28th, 2007 OPED
Article Link

The Senlis Council's proposal, in its latest report, that the international military should take over the administration of aid in war-ravaged southern Afghanistan is a disturbing and dangerous idea. Disturbing, because it militarizes aid and undermines its main purposes: to provide life-saving assistance and reduce poverty. Dangerous, because associating armed military actors with aid workers turns these aid workers, the aid, and the civilians who desperately need assistance into war targets.

The objectives of humanitarian action are to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity. Seventeen countries, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and European nations, have jointly endorsed these goals under the Good Humanitarian Donorship initiative. They have recognized the primacy of civilian organizations in humanitarian assistance and the importance of maintaining separate roles between the military and humanitarian personnel.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs have also endorsed a code of conduct to guide their behaviour in responding to disasters. This states that organizations will not knowingly, or through negligence, condone themselves or employees to be used for political purposes.

Life-saving humanitarian assistance is not an instrument of foreign or military policy, and it certainly isn't a tool of war. The Senlis Council's call to synchronize aid with counterinsurgency efforts, and to establish a "Combat CIDA/DFID," where Canadian and British militaries assist in aid delivery and control development agency war-zone budgets, will only worsen the current serious blurring of the lines between military and humanitarian objectives. Conflating the military tactic of winning "hearts and minds" with humanitarian and development assistance has already cost too many lives.
More on link

Car bomb in Kabul kills 2 near Canadian EmbassyReuters
Published: Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Article Link

KABUL - A suicide car bomb targeting a U.S. military convoy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killed two civilians today, a senior police official said.

Several people were also wounded by the blast outside a Defence Ministry building and close to the British, Canadian and Pakistani embassies.

Two white armoured Toyota Land Cruisers belonging to the U.S. force that trains Afghan troops were damaged by the blast.
More on link

Europeans should leave Afghanistan - Osama
November 30 2007 at 12:05AM  By Firouz Sedarat
Article Link

Dubai - Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged European countries to end their military co-operation with United States forces in Afghanistan, in an audio tape aired by Al Jazeera television on Thursday.

He said American power was waning and it would be wise for the Europeans to quickly end their role in Afghanistan, where many European countries contribute to the 50 000-strong Nato and US-led coalition forces fighting his Taliban allies.

"With the grace of God... The American tide is receding and they would eventually return to their home across the Atlantic... It is in your interest to force the hand of your politicians (away from) the White House," said a speaker in the recording who sounded like Bin Laden.
More on link
Larger NATO Force Needed in Afghanistan
AFP, Nov. 30

NATO-led forces in Afghanistan do not have the means to secure the country in the face of a barrage of insurgent attacks, a senior French general with the force has warned.

"The 41,OOO soldiers in ISAF are largely insufficient to ensure security," said Brigadier General Vincent Lafontaine, the chief of planning for the International Security Assistance Force deployed here under a UN mandate.

"That does not mean we are going to lose this operation, but it is going to take a lot longer for us to finish the job," Lafontaine told visiting journalists this week at ISAF headquarters in the Afghan capital.

The officer -- one of the most senior in France's 1,070-strong contingent here -- also expressed concern about the chronic shortage of transport helicopters used to move soldiers and supplies around the war-ravaged country.

The United States provides most of the helicopters, but is due to start pulling them out in early 2008 [emphasis added].

Lafontaine said as a result, top-level NATO officials were now mulling the possibility of outsourcing logistics tasks to private helicopter companies.

NATO has long called for the 38 nations involved in ISAF to contribute more to beat the intensifying conflict.

But the high cost of the operation here -- both financial and personal, with more than 210 international soldiers killed this year alone -- has made it unpopular in several countries.

Lafontaine insisted the NATO-led force had "scored some points and put pressure" on the Taliban-led insurgents, crippling their ability to stage mass attacks involving hundreds of fighters like they did a year ago.

The extremists now were forced to resort to suicide attacks, kidnappings and roadside bombs to target convoys of Afghan and international security forces.

The number of such attacks had multiplied in recent months in and around Kabul ][emphasis added], which had largely been spared the near-daily violence seen in southern and eastern Afghanistan...

2 Danish soldiers killed in Afghanistan
AP, Nov. 29

Two Danish soldiers were killed Thursday in a gunbattle with Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan, the Scandinavian country's military said.

The soldiers were part of a Danish reconnaissance unit that came under fire in Gereshk Valley in Helmand Province, the Army Operational Command said.

The two were evacuated by helicopter to a Danish camp, where they were pronounced dead.

"It is with great regret that I have received the news that two Danish soldiers from the reconnaissance unit in the Danish battalion in southern Afghanistan fell in a battle with the Taliban," Maj. Gen. Poul Kiaerskou, head of the Army Operational Command, said in a statement.

The military did not release any other details about the shooting...

Denmark has some 600 troops in Helmand province that are part of NATO's 40,000-member force in Afghanistan.

A total of nine Danish troops have now been killed in Afghanistan
[emphasis added].


Dutch troops to stay in Afghanistan until 2010: government
AFP, Nov. 30

Dutch troops will stay in Afghanistan with the multinational NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for another two years until 2010, the government said Friday.

In a widely anticipated announcement the centre-left coalition government said it would extend the mandate of the Dutch troops in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan until December 2010.

The mandate had been set to expire in August 2008.

The government decision still has to be approved by parliament but it is expected to go through because the parties in the coalition government, who hold a majority of the 150 seats are backing the extension [emphasis added].

"Today the Dutch cabinet decided that we will make a new contribution to the ISAF mission in Uruzgan for a period of two years," Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende told reporters.

"The Netherlands will end its leading role in Uruzgan on August 1, 2010," Balkenende said. Troops would pull out over a four-month period and would be home before December 2010.

A government statement said that the mission would however be slimmed down as NATO partners Czech Republic, France, Hungary and Slovakia had agreed to contribute troops [emphasis added].

Currently the Dutch have some 1,650 soldiers in Uruzgan: that number will be brought to between 1,450 and 1,350, said the statement [emphasis added].

Balkenende said he wanted the parliament to vote on the matter before the Christmas recess which starts December 21...

Afghan stories: Danish tanks arrive in Afghanistan (video via ISAF)
Nov. 21

The ISAF video site--just came across it--don't seem to any pieces featuring CF: