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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread (December 2006)

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Deadly Afghan road project in crucial final phase
Civilian contractors prepare to pave 4.5-kilometre stretch of Route Summit 

Brian Hutchinson, National Post, 12 Dec 06
Article Link

Route Summit is a road construction project unlike any other -- with a toll already paid in blood and human lives.  Surveyed and shaped by Canadian combat engineers, and aggressively defended by Canadian troops, this 4.5-kilometre strip of dirt and mud must rank as one of the most dangerous infrastructure initiatives on the planet.  Route Summit is 30 kilometres west of Kandahar city, right on the edge of Taliban country. It forms a discernible front line in the battle for southern Afghanistan.  Hidden inside a maze of walled grape and marijuana fields sit an indeterminate number of insurgents.  To the east are Canadian-led coalition forces, trying to help establish stability in the region.  For weeks, due to security concerns, work on Route Summit had stopped.  Now it's being ramped up again for a last push that will see civilian contractors lay gravel and then pave the road ....



Dig In, Stay Alive
Sixty days between a rock and a hard place

Doug Beazley, Toronto Sun, 12 Dec 06
Article Link

Warrant Officer Dominic Chenard has been 60 days between a rock and a hard place. Stationed in Sperwan Gar, about two hours south of Kandahar Airfield by road, his mission was a simple one.  On the one side, the mountain - and a coalition surveillance post.  Everywhere else - the Taliban. The mission: dig in, protect the mountain, stay alive.  In the field, he's recovered the bodies of 21 coalition soldiers. He's seen and done things he can't talk about - not to anyone outside the body of men he commands. Not even to the people who love him best.  "I go home in a few days for Christmas," he said, wincing in the bright afternoon sunlight. "I told my wife, 'We won't talk about it. I'll talk about the funny things, the good times, but I can't talk about the other stuff. Not yet.'" ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Military barber takes on role of den mother, confidante for Canadian troops
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 11 Dec 06
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Linda Sylvester has cut thousands of heads of hair during her career as a barber. Working for the military since 1988, she has also seen the bodies of 27 Canadian soldiers sent home after ramp ceremonies from Kandahar Airfield and provided a soft shoulder to cry on for countless young recruits.  "This is real. It's different. It's scary, but the troops here are making a difference," said Sylvester, a native of Sydney, N.S., who normally works at CFB Gagetown, N.B.  Sylvester's son-in-law is stationed at the forward operating base at Mas'um Ghar in Afghanistan's Panjwaii district. Her daughter is a leading seaman and cook in Shiloh, Man., and her son is a captain also back in Canada ....



Karzai, World Leaders Meet Local Officials Amid Violence
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 12 Dec 06
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Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Kandahar today with a large delegation of Afghan and international officials for security talks with local leaders from the country's volatile south.  Tribal elders and religious leaders attending the security conference are from the provinces of Zabol, Oruzgan, Kandahar, and Helmand -- areas where Afghan and foreign troops have seen a resurgence of Taliban violence during the past year.  Karzai's delegation includes his defense and interior ministers as well as members of parliament. The top NATO commander and senior UN representative in Afghanistan also are attending, along with ambassadors from the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, and Britain ....



Canadian ambassador says Afghanistan peace plan is a 'key step'
Canadian Press, 12 Dec 06
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In a country rife with human rights abuses, the Afghan government's adoption of a new action plan is an important step forward, said Canada's ambassador in the war-torn country.  "A task force will establish how to apply accountability mechanisms to bring those to justice who have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and gross human rights violations," said Canadian ambassador David Sproule in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from Kabul.  While there is stability in the northern half of Afghanistan, the strength of the Taliban in the southern half of the country, primarily Kandahar province, has made the region a dangerous place. Members of the Taliban still instil fear in this part of the country with the use of "night letters" warning of reprisal and the release of DVD's showing the beheadings of Afghans who co-operate with NATO forces ....



Afghanistan: Justice for War Criminals Essential to Peace
Karzai Must Hold Officials Accountable for Past Crimes

Human Rights Watch news release, 12 Dec 06
News release link

President Hamid Karzai should immediately enforce a program to provide truth, reconciliation and accountability for war crimes and major human rights abuses over the past 30 years in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said today. The Afghan government should establish a special court to try those responsible, some of whom hold high office, as soon as possible, Human Rights Watch said.  The Afghan government approved the Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice on December 12, 2005, but delayed implementing it in part because Kabul and its international backers feared that calling for justice would further weaken Afghanistan’s precarious security situation ....

 

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Articles found 12 December, 2006


Canadian ambassador says Afghanistan peace plan is a 'key step'
BILL GRAVELAND  Canadian Press
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — In a country rife with human rights abuses, the Afghan government's adoption of a new action plan is an important step forward, said Canada's ambassador in the war-torn country.

"A task force will establish how to apply accountability mechanisms to bring those to justice who have committed crimes against humanity, war crimes and gross human rights violations," said Canadian ambassador David Sproule in a phone interview with The Canadian Press from Kabul.

While there is stability in the northern half of Afghanistan, the strength of the Taliban in the southern half of the country, primarily Kandahar province, has made the region a dangerous place. Members of the Taliban still instil fear in this part of the country with the use of "night letters" warning of reprisal and the release of DVD's showing the beheadings of Afghans who co-operate with NATO forces.

"It is a very key step the government has undertaken and reinforces a commitment to the universal values of human rights," said Mr. Sproule.
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NATO CONTENT WITH PERFORMANCE OF BULGARIAN TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN
13:56 Tue 12 Dec 2006
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NATO was satisfied with Bulgarian troops participating in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operation in Afghanistan, commander of the combined forces in Afghanistan Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry told President Georgi Purvanov.

Eikenberry arrived in Bulgaria unexpectedly on December 11 2006 and already met Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

Purvanov and Eikenberry discussed the situation in Afghanistan and its stabilisation.

Purvanov said that he was worried by the increase in drug production and tension escalation in Afghanistan. Establishment of Afghan state system was among the key goals of NATO, he said.

Eikenberry said that NATO mission in Afghanistan was the most ambitious project of the alliance in the past decades.

The mission was a school for operative compatibility of NATO members' armies and would help the transformation and modernisation of the armies of each alliance member
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AFGHANISTAN: Action plan for justice launched
12 Dec 2006 07:25:35 GMT Source: IRIN
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KABUL, 11 December (IRIN) - In an effort to bring justice to tens of thousands of victims of decades of civil war and internal strife in post-Taliban Afghanistan, Afghan President Hamid Karzai launched a three-year action plan on Sunday.

The project, known as the "Action Plan on Peace, Reconciliation and Justice in Afghanistan" contains five key elements: acknowledgment of the suffering of the Afghan people; strengthening state institutions; finding out the truth about the country's bloody past; promoting reconciliation; and establishing a proper accountability mechanism.

President Karzai believes rights are still not being respected in Afghanistan. "Regrettably, the rights of our innocent people are still being trampled on."

An estimated 1.5 million Afghans died and some 5 million forced to leave the country due to foreign invasion and civil war in Afghanistan since 1979, officials say.
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'Terrorists' die in Afghanistan 
Article Link
 
Four suspected terrorists have been killed during a raid by Afghan and US-led troops in eastern Afghanistan, coalition forces said.
A 13-year-old girl was also killed in the raid in Khost province early on Tuesday, a coalition statement said.

However, another report says the dead men had opened fire because they thought the troops were thieves breaking into the house.

Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since the fall of the Taleban in 2001.


An eight-year-old girl was also wounded during the raid, the coalition said.

The US-led coalition statement described the dead men as "suspected terrorists" who refused to comply with "verbal warnings" to surrender and fired upon the troops.

The incident happened when the security forces raided a house at Darnami village and requested the people to surrender peacefully, the statement said.
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US-led coalition kills 12 rebels in Afghanistan
Web posted at: 12/12/2006 3:28:4 Source ::: Agencies HERAT, Afghanistan
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US-led troops and warplanes attacked a Taleban hideout in western Afghanistan, killing at least nine rebel fighters including a regional commander, police said yesterday.

Police also killed three Taleban fighters after the insurgents stormed their checkpost in the south of the volatile country, a police commander said.

Coalition troops, acting on intelligence reports, launched the operation in the Balabuluk district of western Farah province Sunday night, provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb said.

“We knew for a while that these Taleban had entered this district with an evil aim to sabotage the highway” linking the western city of Herat to the insurgency-hit southern province of Helmand, Saqeb said.

Nine Taleban guerrillas were killed in fighting lasting for several hours, including Mullah Abdul Samad, a regional Taleban commander, he said. The 10,000-strong US-led coalition could not immediately provide details.
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Why Success in Afghanistan is Slow in Coming
By Richard Weitz 12 Dec 2006 
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NATO's problems in Afghanistan dominated much of the discussion at its recent summit in Riga. During the past year, the Taliban has launched increasingly effective operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The fighting this year, the heaviest since 2001, has already killed over 3,000 people, including 150 foreign soldiers. At present, the Taliban insurgency may encompass as many as 10,000 combatants and an extensive civilian support base whose members provide supplies, shelter, and intelligence.

Although the 40,000-man Afghan National Army (ANA) has become more effective, its units still cannot defeat major Taliban attacks without direct Western assistance. At present, two groups provide this support. The first group—the 8,000 troops under the U.S. Combined Forces Command, which falls under exclusive American control—is mainly charged with conducting antiterrorism missions. The formal mission of the second—the 32,000 troops deployed under the NATO-commanded International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which includes a large U.S. military contingent of 12,000 soldiers—is to help maintain security, support the development of national institutions, and assist with economic reconstruction. Other countries contributing large numbers of troops to ISAF include Britain (6,000 soldiers), Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, and France.
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Harsh reality of dangers in Afghanistan
By Ralph Barnett
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THE STARK reality of the daily dangers facing military personnel—and civilians—operating in the troubled Helmand province area of Afghanistan was brought home to me and the group of regional journalists I had travelled there with as we prepared to bid farewell to the country.

I had accepted an invitation to visit the country to see how the men of Arbroath-based 45 Commando were coping with their tour of duty in the area and, as we disembarked at Kandahar from the first military passenger flight into the city’s airport for several years, the omens were not good.

Only hours before, three members of 45 Commando were injured in a suicide bomb attack as they escorted a NATO convoy in Kandahar and, as our week travelling around Afghanistan went on, word trickled back to us of further bad news.

Due to the way these things are controlled, the outside world knew before we did about the tragic death of 45 Commando Marine Jonathan Wigley at Garmsir, although the military grapevine had informed us that coalition casualties had been suffered during a prolonged battle against un- expectedly strong Taliban resistance in the area
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Taliban on consolidating position in Afghanistan, NWFP
Article Link
Islamabad, Dec.11 (ANI): The Taliban and its affiliates appears to be intent on consolidating its position in both Afghanistan and in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province by expanding the reach of its training modules and by fortifying alliances with the Al Qaeda and other foreign mercenary outfits.

A virtual Taliban mini-state is in the offing, says the New York Times, basing its premise on the fact that the terms of the September North Waziristan accord are being flouted wantonly .

The area is reportedly becoming a magnet for an influx of foreign fighters, who have not only challenged government authority in the area, but are even wresting control from local tribes and spreading their influence to neighboring areas.
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Canada govt survival in play over Afghanistan
Mon Dec 11, 2006
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By Randall Palmer

OTTAWA, Dec 11 (Reuters) - The opposition Bloc Quebecois party raised the possibility on Monday of trying to topple the minority Conservative government early next year over Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

The Bloc, the third largest party in Parliament, said it might try to get the House of Commons to declare non-confidence in the government unless it puts more emphasis on reconstruction in Afghanistan and less on security.

"Maybe if the government refuses to change its mind on that, it is possible that the Bloc will use a confidence motion against the government," Michel Gauthier, the Bloc's House leader, told reporters.
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Pakistan denies Jirga differences with Afghanistan Islamabad,
Dec 11, IRNA  Pakistan-Afghan Jirga
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Pakistan said on Monday that it has no differences with neighbouring Afghanistan on the formation of proposed Jirga or council of elders, that will discuss ways to end violence in Afghanistan.

The Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri in his last week visit to Kabul gave comprehensive proposals regarding formation of Jirga, Foreign Office Spokesperson Ms. Tasneem Aslam said in her weekly briefing in Islamabad.

Pakistan understands that the Afghan side will be handing over its proposals today to our Ambassador in Kabul.

To a question regarding the visit of the Foreign Minister to Afghanistan, Ms. Tasneem Aslam said he has discussed whole gamete of bilateral relations with his Afghan counterpart including overall relations, prisoners exchange, education scholarships and trade and other aspects of our ties.

She said it was in the context of quarterly meetings agreed between the two Foreign Ministers and the next meeting will be held in the next quarter in Islamabad.

She said that the Foreign Minister held detailed, candid and open discussions on all issues and talked about perceptions on both sides on various issues besides ways and means to bring down violence.

Regarding President Hamid Karzai's speech on Afghan television that he can not stop infiltration from Pakistan, the spokesperson said terrorism is a problem in the region and due to Afghan problem Pakistan has also been suffering from this phenomenon since long time.
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2004 Afghanistan crash blamed on pilots
By Michelle Tan Staff writer
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“Inappropriate” decisions made by the flight crew of a Florida-based civilian contractor were the primary causes of a 2004 plane crash in Afghanistan that killed six people, including three soldiers, according to a report by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The fatal flight, which crashed into the mountains of Bamian Valley on Nov. 27, 2004, was operated by Florida-based Presidential Airways. The company shares a parent company with Blackwater USA, a prominent military contractor that counts among its employees former military personnel.

Lt. Col. Michael McMahon, 41, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Travis Grogan, 31, died in the crash. Spc. Harley Miller, 21, survived the crash but died of his injuries before rescuers reached the crash site.

Also killed were the crew members, pilot Noel English, 37, first officer Loren Hammer, 35, and flight mechanic Melvin Rowe, 43.

English and Hammer had been in Afghanistan only two weeks
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EU Urges Afghanistan And Pakistan To Cooperate On Border Controls
December 11th 2006
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The European Union on Monday was expected to call on Afghanistan and Pakistan for tougher action to curb the cross-border infiltration of insurgents and urge Pakistan to prevent the Taliban from using its territory.

A statement to be issued by EU foreign ministers was also set to press Afghanistan "to pursue substantive reform and bring about major improvements in governance, at both central and local levels."

Urgent action was needed to improve security and curb drug production in the war-torn country, the statement said.

More efforts must also be made in the areas of human rights, rule of law, governance, justice, anti-corruption and economic development, it added.

The EU would continue to help Afghan leaders tackling these "serious challenges," ministers said, adding that the bloc was ready to help improve the rule of law in the country, including police and justice sector reform efforts.
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Killed for teaching in Afghanistan
Article Link

The Taliban have shot dead five family members in eastern Afghanistan.

Militants broke into a house where two teachers lived and killed them both along with their mother, grandmother and a male relative in the Narang district.

Provincial education director Gulam Ullah Wekar said the two sisters had been warned in a letter from the Taliban to quit teaching.

He claimed the letter warned them it was against Islam for them to teach.

The teachers' relative Dr Ghaleb Massoud said: "They were killed only because they were school teachers and were teaching the children. Whoever killed them, the opposition (Taliban) or any one else, killed them because they were teachers."

The attack brings the number of educators killed in attacks this year to 20.

The Taliban opposes non-religious education and any education for females.
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Latest news from Afghanistan is also troubling
McClatchy-Tribune News Service Dec. 11, 2006
Article Link

The following editorial appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Friday, Dec. 8:

Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan has been "the good war," a conflict that was and is a just one by any rational standard. And yet, as the American public remains preoccupied with Iraq, the U.S. also is allowing Afghanistan to slip through its fingers.

A new report by the State Department and Pentagon inspector general says the $1.1 billion and countless training hours our government has invested to build up and train the Afghan police has accomplished precious little.

Recruits are largely illiterate, ill paid and corrupt - and not only are they mediocre, but there are too few of them to effectively battle Taliban insurgents. DynCorp, the private company responsible for the training, can't account for the whereabouts of many trainees or their equipment.

The lack of credible, effective internal security helps explain the Taliban's comeback. Fighting this year between the Taliban and U.S. and NATO forces has been the worst since the 2001 ouster of the Islamic extremist government. Villagers and rural peasants say they're sick of the Taliban, but they're also sick of NATO soldiers and NATO bombs, sick of criminal gangs preying on them and sick of corrupt officials from the Karzai government helping themselves instead of helping the people.
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Like no other war: Soldiers adjust to the grim reality of Afghanistan
Ottawa Sun, DOUG BEAZLEY, Dec. 12
http://ottsun.canoe.ca/News/National/2006/12/12/2753233-sun.html

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Some day, Warrant Officer Daniel Parenteau, 38, is going to have stories to tell his kids that'll curl their hair. But they'll have to wait until they're older.

The army has taken Parenteau all over the planet, from Somalia to Bosnia to Croatia. But he's never seen anything like Afghanistan.

"We just got back from a tour in the south with the Afghan National Army," he said. "We were surrounded by Taliban on three sides. We got six of them, but they didn't get any of us, which was a miracle.

BULLETS ZIPPING

"There were bullets zipping past my face like ... this," he said, spreading his hands to about a foot on either side of his head. "The captain broke a knuckle when he fell, but that's about the only injury we had. Like I said, a miracle.

"In Bosnia they shot over our heads. Here, I know the only reason they don't hit me is that they're not very good shots."

Parenteau's from Drummondville, Que. He has a wife, Marie-Couture, and two kids, Marjorie and Vincent, aged six and five. He goes home in two days.

When he's working, Parenteau doesn't tell his family about the crazy things that happen to him. What happens in Afghanistan stays here - at least until he gets home.

"I don't want to lie to her, but I don't want to worry her either," he said.

"Trouble is, everybody hears about what's happening here on TV and Internet, sometimes before we do."

Parenteau's work is vital to whatever future Afghanistan can expect; he's one of the liaison officers in charge of training the ANA. When NATO leaves, the lessons Afghan soldiers learn from Canadian and other coalition forces will decide whether the country wins lasting peace, or sinks into civil war.

Parenteau's optimistic. "They're excellent soldiers. They know the country, the languages. When we go into a village they know who's an elder and who's Taliban.

"A lot of them served under the Russians, so they think that the officers always decide everything. But it's a different culture in the (Canadian forces). We give them a map, say we have to take this village and we figure out how we are going to do it together."

Like most Canadians in Afghanistan, Parenteau knows public support for the mission is flagging back home. It doesn't surprise him, but he doesn't think Canadians are getting the whole picture.

'IT'S IMPROVED'

"It's not Vietnam over here. It's improved a lot," he said. "Look at Kabul ... it's pretty secure now. The problems here won't be cleared up tomorrow. In Cyprus it took 20 years.

"Look at Croatia. They got a team in the World Cup, and Canada didn't even make it. I'd never have believed that back then.

"Maybe Afghanistan will make it into the World Cup in a few years.

"I'm proud of what I do. We're trained for this. We don't want to die, but we want to change this country, to give hope.

"Marie, Vincent, Marjorie ... I'm pleased to be going home.

"In a few days I will see you."

'We're here for the people'
Calgary Sun, DOUG BEAZLEY, Dec. 12
http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/World/2006/12/12/2752999-sun.html

KANDAHAR -- In the past few weeks, Cpl. Phil Howie's job has gotten a lot more complicated.

He's with Force Protection, which is army talk for "riding point." When the supply convoys go out to advance posts and stations such as Kandahar City, he's the one driving the lead vehicle, keeping an eye out for the dead-eyed men in the Toyota Corollas looking for a fast route to martyrdom.

"There has been a lot of (suicide bombs) over this month and last month as well," said Howie, 26, a reservist out of Hamilton, Ont. He's been out here since July.

The Taliban have refined their approach to suicide bombing in recent weeks.

Instead of charging their vehicles at the coalition convoys -- a clear signal to the Force Protection boys to start shooting -- they now tend to park by the roadside and wait for the convoys to come alongside before tripping the bomb.

"You can't show fear," said Howie.

"I'm driving the lead vehicle in the convoy. If you don't keep calm and do your job, you could end up hurting yourself and everyone around you.

"The last (suicide bomb) was just a few days ago. That was minor injuries. We got lucky."

But when he gets safely back to base, there's usually good news waiting for him: Letters from family, from his fiancee Alison Lovely back in Hamilton, care packages full of snapshots and videos.

"I'm getting some hockey jerseys, too. Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa," he said.

"We were going to sign them and present them to Don Cherry. He was supposed to come by, but apparently he's too busy. Hopefully he's coming eventually. We want him to show them on Coach's Corner."

"I think ... things are getting better out here. We're here for the people and hopefully they see that. Afghans are really nice people. They have a smile on their face for us, they wave at us, give us the thumbs-up."

Like most soldiers, Howie tends not to tell his family every rotten thing that happens to him in the course of a week.

But with the way news travels out of Afghanistan, it's hard to keep a secret.

"I don't tell them a lot. I tell them that I go out on the convoys. But the news out of here is really fast now, so they know before I get to tell them anyways. I just tell them yes, I'm OK. I don't want them worrying at all.

"Hi to Alison, Ann, Pat, Dad ... all the kids back home. Merry Christmas. I'm coming home soon and I miss you all."

One War We Can Still Win
NY Times, Dec. 13, by ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/13/opinion/13cordesman.1.html

NO one can return from visiting the front in Afghanistan without realizing there is a very real risk that the United States and NATO will lose their war with Al Qaeda, the Taliban and the other Islamist movements fighting the Afghan government...

Indeed, a great many unhappy trends have picked up speed lately: United States intelligence experts in Afghanistan report that suicide attacks rose from 18 in the first 11 months of 2005 to 116 in the first 11 months of 2006. Direct fire attacks went up from 1,347 to 3,824 during the same period, improvised explosive devices from 530 to 1,297 and other attacks from 269 to 479. The number of attacks on Afghan forces increased from 713 to 2,892, attacks on coalition forces from 919 to 2,496 and attacks on Afghan government officials are 2.5 times what they were...

This means the United States needs to make major increases in its economic aid, as do its NATO allies. These increases need to be made immediately if new projects and meaningful actions are to begin in the field by the end of winter, when the Islamists typically launch new offensives...

...a generous five-year aid plan from both the United States and its NATO allies is needed for continuity and effectiveness. The United States is carrying far too much of the burden, and NATO allies, particularly France, Germany, Italy and Spain, are falling short: major aid increases are needed from each.

And United States military forces are too small to do the job...

The NATO allies must provide stronger and better-equipped forces that will join the fight and go where they are most needed. The British fight well but have only 50 to 75 percent of the forces they need. Canadians, Danes, Estonians, Dutch and Romanians are in the fight. The Poles lack adequate equipment but are willing to fight. France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Turkey are not allowed to fight because of political constraints and rules of engagement...

Finally, the United States and NATO have repeated the same mistakes that were made in Iraq in developing effective Afghan Army and police forces, rushing unready forces into combat...Overall financing has been about 20 percent of the real-world requirement, and talks with Afghan and NATO officials made it brutally clear that the Germans wasted years trying to create a conventional police force rather than the mix of paramilitary and local police forces Afghanistan really needs...

In Iraq, the failure of the United States and the allies to honestly assess problems in the field, be realistic about needs, create effective long-term aid and force-development plans, and emphasize governance over services may well have brought defeat. The United States and its allies cannot afford to lose two wars. If they do not act now, they will.

Mark
Ottawa
 

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Harper slams Bloc threat to bring down government over Afghan mission
Alexander Panetta, Canadian Press, via Canada.com, 12 Dec 06
Article Link

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is accusing the Bloc Quebecois of using the country's soldiers as political pawns in the debate over Canada's role in Afghanistan.  Harper said the Bloc's threat to introduce a non-confidence motion sometime in the new year over his handling of the Afghan mission is careless and hypocritical.  "Our soldiers in Afghanistan . . . are participating in the economic development of the country and they are providing humanitarian assistance, but the situation is very dangerous," Harper told the House of Commons on Tuesday.  "The only problem here is the political opportunism of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois . . . He's just playing political games on the backs of our soldiers."



More News on CAN in AFG here



CANADA, AFGHANISTAN AND THE BLAME GAME
Sean Maloney, Policy Options, Dec 06-Jan 07
Article Link (.pdf)

While Canadian troops are deployed in Afghanistan’s dangerous province of Kandahar, the re-defined nature of the mission — from patrolling the capital to taking it to the Taliban in the wild south — has left Canadians deeply dvided about the mission. Royal Military College historian Sean Maloney, who has been on the ground four times in Afghanistan since 2003, points out that Canada is engaged in war, not peacekeeping, against an unrelenting foe and rigid ideology — radical Islamism. “The al-Qaeda movement’s belief system, its ideology,” he writes, “is in no way compatible with ours.  We cannot negotiate with it. We have to keep it as far away as possible and aggressively challenge it. That is what we are doing in Afghanistan.”....



AFGHANISTAN, FAMOUSLY INHOSPITABLE TO FOREIGNERS
Desmond Morton, Policy Options, Dec 06-Jan 07
Article Link (.pdf)

Afghanistan has historically been an unfriendly country to foreigners, from the British in one century, to the Soviets in the next. Now, in the 21st century, Canada is part of a dangerous NATO mission in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, home of the Taliban. As the Taliban insurgency intensified over the summer of 2006, Canadian casualties mounted. McGill University’s Desmond Morton, one of Canada’s most distinguished historians, looks back at the history of foreign occupations in Afghanistan and finds them rather ominous portents for the UN approved NATO mission ....



NATO’S CHOICE IN AFGHANISTAN:  GO BIG OR GO HOME
Roland Paris, Policy Options, Dec 06-Jan 07
Article Link (.pdf)

Recent trends in Afghanistan are discouraging. The neo-Taliban insurgency is growing in size and sophistication, and ordinary Afghans are becoming disaffected with their government’s inability to provide security and basic public services. If these trends continue, NATO’s efforts to stabilize the country will fail. A new strategy is needed to reverse the slow slide. First, additional NATO troops are required to provide security for reconstruction. Second, efforts to build an Afghan army should be accelerated and expanded. Third, the problem of corruption in the Afghan government, especially in the police, needs to be tackled. Fourth, Afghan and international officials should stop destroying opium crops, a policy that plays into the
hands of the insurgents. Fifth, more reconstruction aid is needed. Sixth, the flow of insurgent fighters from Pakistan must be contained. If NATO is unwilling to commit the necessary resources for the mission to succeed, the alliance should withdraw ....



PAKISTAN:  PROBLEM OR PARTNER IN AFGHANISTAN
Hugh Segal, Policy Options, Dec 06-Jan 07
Article Link (.pdf)

Any discussion about containing the Taliban insurgency in Kandahar province inevitably leads to a debate on Pakistan, and the safe haven it provides for terrorists, presumably including Osama bin Laden himself. Reinforcements for al-Qaeda and the Taliban are trained in Pakistan, where Islamist religious schools are a breeding ground for terror. Is the government of Pervez Musharraf a real, or simply a nominal, ally in the war on terror? Does Pakistan have its own interests in play in Afghanistan? Is Pakistan a problem or a partner, or both, in the nation-building effort across the porous border in Afghanistan? Former IRPP president Hugh Segal, now chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, confronts these complex questions ....



AFGHANISTAN COMES HOME
Jeremy Kinsman, Policy Options, Dec 06-Jan 07
Article Link (.pdf)

While the Taliban insurgency has made the United Nations mission in Afghanistan a difficult one, “the big picture goals for Afghanistan remain as valid as ever” to the international community, writes one of Canada’s most experienced top diplomats. “The picture today reveals major points of success,” writes Jeremy Kinsman. “Elections produced a parliament that is a force for democracy. A quarter
of its seats were won by women. Schools have re-opened for 5 million boys and girls. The economy has grown at an average of 17 percent per year since 2002, not counting the lucrative poppy trade. Refugees have returned from around the world, including vitally needed professionals.” Still, the Taliban insurgency, supported by some local warlords, has intensified, and the security situation in several provinces has worsened. The challenge is to provide security and a better way of life, so that Afghans themselves will be invested in the success of the international presence there ....

 

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NATO: Canadian troops accidentally kill Afghan civilian in Kandahar City
Canadian Press, 13 Dec 06
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An Afghan citizen was accidentally killed Tuesday by Canadian troops in Kandahar City.  NATO says a motorcyclist travelling at a high speed approached a security cordon near where Afghan President Hamid Karzai was meeting with senior Canadian officials, including Canadian ambassador David Sproule. The motorcyclist refused to stop despite verbal warnings. Troops fired a warning shot into the ground, which ricocheted and hit the man.  Afghan National Police officers were on the scene immediately to transport the casualty to the local hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.  NATO said the loss of life was regrettable and it wasn't known why the motorcyclist refused to stop.  A full investigation is underway.


Civilian motorist killed by NATO troops in Afghanistan
Associated Press, via International Herald Tribune, 12 Dec 06
Article Link

NATO troops shot and killed a motorcyclist traveling at a high speed as his vehicle approached a security cordon in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said Wednesday.  Troops in Kandahar city gave the motorcyclist verbal warnings to stop Tuesday but he didn't, NATO said in a statement.  NATO "forces fired a warning shot in a safe direction, which ricocheted and hit the civilian," the statement said. The civilian was pronounced dead at a hospital ....


Canadian soldier to be questioned after Afghan killed
Brian Hutchinson, CanWest News Service, 12 Dec 06
Article Link

A motorcyclist killed here Tuesday by a Canadian soldier had veered too close to the site of a security conference chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  Travelling at what a military spokesman called "a high rate of speed," the motorcyclist careened through a security cordon established near the Governor of Kandahar's official palace in downtown Kandahar city, where the security meeting was being held. The incident took place just after noon.  According to Canadian Lt.-Cmdr Kris Phillips, the motorcyclist continued another 100 metres towards a second, inner cordon, moving closer to the palace.  A Canadian soldier providing security outside the palace fired a single "warning shot" in the direction of the speeding motorcyclist, said Phillips. The bullet hit the pavement, ricocheted, and struck the driver, who was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.  There were no other casualties ....



His Excellency M. Ehsan Zia thanks the people of Canada for their support in Afghanistan during a trip to North America
Government of Afghanistan, via Reliefweb.int, 10 Dec 06
Article Link
(NOTE:  Zia is the Afghan Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development)

Over the past 10 days I have had the privilege of traveling across this great nation in order to thank Canadians for their security and development contributions to lasting peace and democracy in Afghanistan. I have met with academics, government officials, students, business leaders and other Canadians, to explain the difference Canada is making, specifically to my Ministry, through which most Canadian development assistance is directed ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



PM slams Bloc threat
Duceppe reiterates support for Afghan mission, disputes Tories’ handling of file

Alexander Panetta, Canadian Press, via Halifax Chronicle Herald, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is accusing the Bloc Quebecois of using the country’s soldiers as political pawns in the debate over Canada’s role in Afghanistan.  Harper said the Bloc’s threat to introduce a non-confidence motion sometime in the new year over his handling of the Afghan mission is careless and hypocritical.  "Our soldiers in Afghanistan . . . are participating in the economic development of the country and they are providing humanitarian assistance, but the situation is very dangerous," Harper told the House of Commons on Tuesday.  "The only problem here is the political opportunism of the leader of the Bloc Quebecois. . . . He’s just playing political games on the backs of our soldiers."  Duceppe retorted that he continues to support Canadian troops being in Afghanistan — but that he’s challenging Harper’s leadership on the file. He said the government is too obsessed with fighting terrorists and not enough on rebuilding Afghanistan ....



Letter:  Betrayal of our allies and troops
Brian LeBlanc, Toronto Star, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

....  The Bloc and NDP position that diplomacy and negotiation alone will bring about peace is shockingly naive. Threatening to topple the government for maintaining military pressure in the midst of combat operations against these beasts is a disgusting betrayal of our allies, our troops and our fallen.



Taliban commander among 12 killed in Afghan battles - police
AFX News Service, 11 Dec 06
Article Link

US-led troops and warplanes attacked a Taliban hideout in western Afghanistan, killing at least nine rebel fighters including a regional commander, police said.  Police also killed three Taliban fighters after the insurgents stormed their checkpost in the south of the volatile country, a police commander said.  Coalition troops, acting on intelligence reports, launched the operation in the Balabuluk district of western Farah province Sunday night, provincial police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb said.  "We knew for a while that these Taliban had entered this district with an evil aim to sabotage the highway," linking the western city of Herat to the insurgency-hit southern province of Helmand, Saqeb told AFP.  Nine Taliban guerrillas were killed in fighting lasting for several hours, including Mullah Abdul Samad, a regional Taliban commander,he said ....



Suicide Bomber Kills 6 In Afghanistan
Associated Press, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

A suicide bomber blew himself up at the governor's compound in southern Helmand province on Tuesday, killing eight people, including two civilians, officials said.  Gov. Mohammed Daud was not at his office at the time of the blast, which also damaged two vehicles parked inside the compound in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah, said his spokesman, Ghulam Muhiddin. The bomber was on foot.  Six policemen and two civilian men were killed and eight police were wounded, said Ahmadullah Khan, a doctor at Lashkar Gah's hospital.  A purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for the blast in a phone call to The Associated Press. He said the bomber was an Afghan by the name of Mullah Famiullah ....


 

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Here comes trouble!
DOUG BEAZLEY, SUN MEDIA, Dec. 13
http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/National/2006/12/13/2770331-sun.html

In the Force Protection unit at Kandahar Airfield, Sgt. Abdoul Guindo has an unrivalled reputation as a little one-man island of bad karma.

He's been here since August, leading convoys to and from the far-flung coalition outposts dotting the landscape around Kandahar City. He's been bombed, strafed and mortared at least 12 times ... maybe more. He lost count a couple of weeks ago.

"I prefer the phrase 'living legend' to 'crap magnet,' " he said, cackling.

He's 28, lives in Ottawa, just got married over a year ago. His wife just had a daughter, their first.

"I stopped counting after the first two attacks. I guess there's a kind of stigma that sticks with me. Our unit gets hit all the time."

Oddly enough, he's never been injured.

"And I never lost anyone, and we've been through some hairy, hairy situations."

How hairy? Take his hairiest day to date - August 29. His convoy rolled out of base and was hit by a suicide vehicle bomber within hours. It blew up one of the trucks, but the convoy escaped without serious injury. They repaired the truck, and moved on.

"Then we rolled into a minefield nobody told us was there. That was fun," he said...

Guindo was born in Quebec City to a Haitian Catholic mother and a Muslim father. He was raised Catholic, and devout.

"Hundred per cent Quebec Catholic boy, cross tattooed on the arm, St. Michael medal around the neck, the whole nine yards," he said. "How my folks got married I don't know. I blame alcohol.

"We moved to Haiti when I was eight. After that the war broke out, so we stayed, right, 'cause we couldn't leave. Then we moved to Ottawa when I was 10; 18 years in Ottawa."

His background gives him insights into Islam and religious devotion few Canadian soldiers share. "Muslims are very serious, hardworking people in terms of what they believe in and they'll see it through to the end," he said.

" I admire ( Afghans). I admire their mental work ethic. Too bad it has to be aimed against me.

"We talk to them through the interpreters. We have long discussions. I know the Qur'an a little, and I like to destroy my interpreters' mentalities. I tell them that they're wrong and that the Qur'an actually says this and not this, and they're like, Whaaa?..

Keeping the faith
DOUG BEAZLEY, SUN MEDIA, Dec. 13
http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/National/2006/12/13/2770332-sun.html

l. Ayman Abedi carries three levels of protection into battle: his body armour, a glass pendant his anxious Muslim mom in Toronto sent him to ward off the "evil eye," and a St. Christopher's medal.

When you're fighting a war in a region with multiple gods, it pays to cover the bases.

"Don't tell my parents, but I'm not really praying every day," he said, buckling on his vest and harness before climbing into his armoured vehicle for another dangerous convoy run to Kandahar City.

"I pray before I leave the wire. Just silently, to myself. I'm not really observant, but I don't leave camp without a prayer."

SUICIDE BOMBING

Abedi, 27, is with the 2 Military Police unit out of Ontario - one of just a handful of Muslims serving with the Canadian military in Afghanistan. His convoy yesterday was a day trip through territory which has seen the most intense suicide bombing activity in recent months...

Many of the Canadians who come here for the first time can't help thinking of themselves as belonging to a lonely island of civilization in a wilderness of violence and zealotry. The army issues them with booklets listing simple greetings in Pashto and Dari, and a sort of minute primer on Islam and Afghan customs. But it's hardly an education.

So the troops in Abedi's convoy treat him as a kind of walking Islamic encyclopedia - even though he's the kind of Muslim who prays standing up, facing in whichever direction his convoy is heading.

"I speak Arabic, because I know the Qur'an," he said. "It helps, sometimes, to know a few verses from the Qur'an when you're dealing with the Afghans. It's a way to communicate."

Abedi was born and raised to age seven in Lebanon, where Muslims have lived peacefully, for the most part, with Christians for centuries. The more radical, intolerant version of Islam at work in Afghanistan's wild south came as something of a shock to him.

"The kind of Islam down here isn't the real thing. It's crazy, it's not God's will at all," he said.

"That's why I think we need to be here, to support these people as they try to build a stable country - so what happens here doesn't bite us in the ass again.".. 

Mark
Ottawa
 

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Articles found 13 December 2006

Forget the fighting - drop the puck!
By DOUG BEAZLEY
[
url=http://calsun.canoe.ca/News/National/2006/12/13/pf-2770333.html]Article Link[/url]

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Someone slaps a stick on the concrete, the ball shoots off the boards and lands in the goalie's glove. The players assemble.

They've got the rink, the equipment and the will to win. All they need is ice, a beer concession - and maybe a visit from Don Cherry.

It's Hockey Night in Kandahar. Don't these people know there's a war on?

Credit the Engineering Support Unit out of Petawawa for bringing a vital piece of Canadiana to the middle of the Central Asian desert.

"We built this back in September, October," said ESU Sgt. Joel Sawler.

"We were using the concrete pad over at the American gym, but you can't get a real game going without the boards."

The Canadians at Kandahar started with a 13-team league back in September.

One team was dropped from competition for unnecessary roughness, believe it or not.

There are just two American teams. They're tied for last place.
]Article Link

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Germany sends 100 more armored vehicles to troops in Afghanistan
December 13, 2006       
Article Link 

The German Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that it will send 100 more Dingo armored vehicles to its troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said the delivery of new military equipment was aimed at dealing with the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

The 4.4-ton Dingo with space for seven people was similar to the U.S.-made Humvee. Previously, Berlin had planned to send 33 Dingo vehicles to German troops.

Germany had about 2,800 solders serving among the 32,000-strong ISAF troops in Afghanistan.

Source: Xinhua
End

Pakistan, Afghanistan ‘can jointly knock out polio’: minister
By our correspondent
Article Link

LANDI KOTAL: Federal Minister for Health Naseer Mohammad Khan said on Tuesday that due to tiring efforts of the health department and the World Health Organisation, the cases of polio in Afghanistan and Pakistan have dropped to 23 from 40,000 before the aggressive vaccination campaign against the incurable disease.

He was talking to tribal elders on the occasion of his brief tour to Torkham to inaugurate a polio vaccination centre. He said polio was a great challenge to Pakistan and Afghanistan against which both the neighbouring countries would strive collectively to eradicate it from the region completely.

The minister said for complete eradication of polio from the region, the federal government has decided to open polio vaccination centres along the Pak-Afghan border right from Chitral to South Waziristan Agency.

The first centre of the series was opened in Torkhum Tuesday, where four teams consisting of eight technicians would deliver services round the clock. He said in Khyber tribal agency at least 0.2 million children have been vaccinated against polio so far.

Regarding Pak-Afghan ties, the federal minister said that during the 30-year long war in Afghanistan, the Pakistani people treated the three million Afghan refugees as brothers. He said peace in Afghanistan was actually in the interest of Pakistan.
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Foreign Minister received new ambassadors of Russia, Italy, Afghanistan
Article Link

ASTANA. Kassymzhomart Tokayev, Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, received newly assigned ambassadors of Russia, Italy, Afghanistan Mikhail Bocharnikov, Bruno Pasquino, and Aziz Arianfar, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan has informed Kazakhstan Today.

The FM congratulated the ambassadors on their assignments and discussed the bilateral relationships with them.

Mr. Tokayev discussed the fuel and energy co-operation and mutual space activities with the Russian ambassador. They also regarded interaction between Kazakhstan and Russia in the integrating processes in the CIS and international organisations.

Development of closer mutually beneficial co-operation in energy, agriculture, industry, high technologies, and services was discussed in a conversation with the Italian ambassador.

Intensification of the bilateral co-operation was addressed at a meeting with the Afghan ambassador.
More on link

]Article Link

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Taliban kill marine in Afghanistan
Tue Dec 12, 2006 4:14 PM GMT
Article Link

LONDON (Reuters) - Taliban forces killed a British Royal Marine in fighting in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence said.

It said the marines were patrolling in a district in the southern province of Helmand, when they came under attack. The marine died from small arms fire. The death brings to 43 the number of British troops killed in Afghanistan since the war to oust the Taliban in 2001.
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Western Balkans, Black Sea, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa are Priorities for Reconnaissance  13 December 2006 | 09:27 | FOCUS News Agency
Article Link
 
Sofia. “The priorities of Military Information Service are the regions of Western Balkans, Black Sea, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa”, General Plamen Studenkov, director of Military Information Service at the Defense Ministry announced in an exclusive interview for FOCUS Agency and Trud daily.
“These regions were not chosen by accident – there are Bulgarian military contingents there, there are NATO and EU forces, joint interests of our country and its alliaes”, General Studenkov pointed out.
He added that the priority of the service come from the state policy in the sphere of security and defense and the engagements to our NATO allies. As a chief task he defined the fight against the international terrorism and the other asymmetric threats.
“This is not just an espionage game but really risky operations against higly motivated, armed and fanatic opponents”, he added
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Afghanistan Must Prosecute War Crimes, Human Rights Watch Says
By Ed Johnson
Article Link

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai must set up a court to prosecute war crimes and human rights abuses carried out during almost 30 years of conflict in the south Asian nation, Human Rights Watch said.

Failure to act against warlords and drug traffickers is undermining support for the government as it tackles a Taliban- led insurgency, the New York-based group said in a report.

``Justice is vital for long-term stability,'' Human Rights Watch said. ``Afghans need to know the government can tackle the warlords and provide basic security, despite Taliban claims to the contrary.''

Afghanistan, a country of 31 million people, has experienced almost 30 years of conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979. Supporters of the ousted Taliban regime are waging a guerrilla war against international and Afghan troops and are trying to destabilize Karzai's government.
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Karzai says Pakistan wants to enslave Afghanistan 
Article Link
Kandahar, Dec 13: Afghanistan`s President today accused the Pakistani government of trying to turn his countrymen into "slaves", in his strongest words yet blaming Islamabad for a wave of violence.

Hamid Karzai said he was the only person able to prevent Afghans angered by an insurgency which has claimed nearly 4,000 lives this year from "coming after" Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Pakistan hit back by saying the roots of the problem were in Afghanistan and that Islamabad was doing all it could to counter militancy, but stopped short of an outright rebuttal.

"Pakistan still hasn`t given up the hope of making us slaves. But they cannot," Karzai said in a speech at a boys` high school in the southern city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.

"This tyranny against our people is not by the nation of Pakistan, it is by the government of Pakistan," he added to cheers from a crowd of around 500 students, teachers and local dignitaries.
More on link
 

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Canadian soldier to be questioned after Afghan killed 
Brian Hutchinson, CanWest News Service, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

A motorcyclist was killed here Tuesday by a Canadian soldier after veering too close to the site of a security conference chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai and attended by senior Canadian officials.  Travelling at what a military spokesman called "a high rate of speed," the motorcyclist careened through a security cordon established near the Governor of Kandahar's official palace in downtown Kandahar city, where the security meeting was being held.  CanWest News Service has learned David Sproule, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan, and Kevin Lynch, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet, were in attendance.  According to Canadian Lt.-Cmdr Kris Phillips, the motorcyclist continued another 100 metres towards a second inner cordon, moving closer to the palace.  A Canadian soldier providing security outside the palace fired a single "warning shot" in the direction of the speeding motorcyclist, said Phillips. The bullet hit the pavement, ricocheted, and struck the driver _ who was taken to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.  It is not known if the motorcyclist was attempting to launch a suicide attack, nor is it known if any weapons were found on his body ....



Convoys a gamble for Canadian troops in Afghanistan
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, via Canoe.ca, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

In a country where everything is in short supply, the cargo carried by Canadian convoys is worth its weight in gold.  "If the guys out at the front lines don't have the gear, they can't do their job, right?" says Master Cpl. Rich McLeod. "If they don't have their ammo, they don't have their food, they can't do what they gotta do."  McLeod, 35, who was born in Germany but grew up in Edmonton, is crew commander in a Bison -an armoured personnel carrier that accompanies the convoys - and is involved in loading the trucks and getting the supplies out to the forward operating posts. He is the CSS (Combat Service Support) commander on each convoy.  The soldiers, truckers and force protection personnel accompanying these convoys are every bit as much in the line of fire as troops battling the Taliban on the front line ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



2,000 killed in Afghanistan since Sept.
Jason Straziuso, Associated Press, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

Almost 2,100 militants have been killed in Afghanistan since Sept. 1 in operations involving coalition special forces soldiers, a U.S. Army spokesman said.  That means more than half of the country's insurgency-related deaths this year have come in the last three months.  About 900 of the 2,077 deaths came during Operation Medusa, a major offensive in September in the southern province of Kandahar. Special forces soldiers worked alongside conventional forces from Canada during the fight.  The two primary missions for the U.S. special forces soldiers in Afghanistan are conducting counterterrorism operations and supporting NATO troops, Master Sgt. Clifford Richardson said in an interview this week at Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan ....



Too few British troops with too little equipment in Iraq, Afghanistan: report
Agence France Presse, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

There are too few British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they do not have all the equipment they need, increasing the risk they may fail in their missions there, a parliamentary committee report due out Wednesday will warn, The Guardian said.  The House of Commons defence committee will also question the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) claims that it is achieving its objectives in both countries.  "Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are at vital stages and success in either operation is not assured ... the current level of deployments poses a significant risk to the MoD achieving success in its military objectives," the report reads, according to The Guardian.  The report adds that British troops there are "operating in challenging conditions in insufficient numbers and without all the equipment they need." ....



Pakistan proposes four-point formula for peace in Afghanistan
Daily Times (PAK), 14 Dec 06
Article Link

Pakistan proposed a four-point formula on Wednesday for political reconciliation in Afghanistan, responding to Norway’s initiative to bring peace and stability in the war-torn country.  Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, briefed visiting Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store on the steps Pakistan had taken to bring peace in Afghanistan, and proposed the four-point formula to settle the issue.  The formula proposed that Karzai broaden his base instead of confining his government to Kabul, all Pashtuns not be considered Taliban, dialogue be held with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar if not with Mulla Omer, and eight countries – Pakistan, Iran, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, the US and Russia – be involved in dialogue to reach a peaceful solution to problems in Afghanistan.  Mushahid told the Norwegian foreign minister that Washington, London and Kabul were pursuing “wrong” policies in Afghanistan, and Pakistan should not be blamed for the situation there. He said the Afghan government should stop blaming Pakistan for the unrest, and called for dialogue to resolve the issue ....


Pakistani FM: Pakistan Will Do Whatever it Takes to Stabilize Afghanistan
Voice of America, 13 Dec 06
Article Link

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri says Pakistan will do whatever it takes to bring stability in Afghanistan.  Kasuri was responding to a question about fresh accusations by Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Pakistan's government is directly supporting Taleban insurgents in Afghanistan. Pakistan has repeatedly denied the charge.  Mr. Karzai spoke Tuesday during a rare visit to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, a former Taleban stronghold. He was there for talks with NATO commanders on avoiding Afghan civilian casualties during military operations.  He said Afghanistan's problem is not with the Taleban, but with Pakistan. Mr. Karzai accused Pakistani "state elements" of creating and sustaining the Taleban movement ....

 

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- edited 130936EST Dec 06 to add Air Force piece -

Victim was visiting Afghan leader
Elderly man shot by Canadian taught Karzai in grade school

Brian Hutchinson, Ottawa Citizen, 14 Dec 06
Article Link - Permalink

An elderly motorcyclist killed by a Canadian soldier was a beloved local celebrity with close personal ties to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  Believed to be at least 90 years of age - making him one of Afghanistan's oldest citizens - Abdul Rahman was the president's former primary school teacher.  He was the oldest member of Kandahar's provincial assembly and a noted political scientist.  Rahman enjoyed paying the president impromptu visits, according to his brother-in-law, who spoke to CanWest News Service outside a crowded mosque where the dead man was being mourned yesterday.  Rahman was famous for riding around Kandahar city on his battered motorcycle, despite his advanced age.  He was apparently trying to drop in, unannounced, as Karzai directed a summit on security issues at the governor's palace when he was shot Tuesday afternoon ....



Keeping the faith
Canadian Muslim soldier helps comrades adjust

Doug Beazley, Sun Media, 14 Dec 06
Article Link

Cpl. Ayman Abedi carries three levels of protection into battle: his body armour, a glass pendant his anxious Muslim mom in Toronto sent him to ward off the "evil eye," and a St. Christopher's medal.  When you're fighting a war in a region with multiple gods, it pays to cover the bases.  "Don't tell my parents, but I'm not really praying every day," he said, buckling on his vest and harness before climbing into his armoured vehicle for another dangerous convoy run to Kandahar City.  "I pray before I leave the wire. Just silently, to myself. I'm not really observant, but I don't leave camp without a prayer." ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Canadian Air Force officer returns from helping Afghans rebuild
Mike Cope & Kristina Davis, Canadian Air Force News, Dec 2006
Article Link

"We are there solely to help the people of Afghanistan develop the capability to do it on their own."  This plain and simple statement sums up the recent visit to Afghanistan by Major Heather DeChamplain as part of Operation Argus. Since September 2005 the Canadian Forces has, on a bi-lateral basis, provided a small team of strategic military planners to support Afghanistan in its efforts to rebuild.  Maj DeChamplain, an Aerospace Engineer (AERE) currently assigned to the Chief of the Air Staff at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, recently visit the country and described her experiences during a recent address to the Defence Women's Advisory Organization last month.  "As a woman I truly wondered how I would be accepted – would I be listened to and respected. Amazingly, there were no problems with any of the people I worked with – I felt truly welcomed and my help was constantly sought."  Just over a year ago the Maj DeChamplain and the rest of the team (known as Canadian Strategic Advisory Team – Afghanistan (CSAT-A) deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan under the direction of General Rick Hillier, Chief of the Defence Staff, and at the request of President Hamid Karzai.  Originally consisting of 13 and now 15 military members, one civilian defence analyst and an employee of the Canadian International Development Agency, the team is tasked to bring two main areas of expertise to the Government of Afghanistan: strategic planning and capacity building ....



Soldier's public service hides private pain
Christie Blatchford, Globe & Mail, 14 Dec 06
Article Link

Corporal Sean Patton grinned his beautiful, bitter grin yesterday and said, "Small world, isn't it?"  On this, his last full day of work at the Kandahar Air Field, the intense 30-year-old was reflecting upon the ironies peculiar and personal to his Afghanistan tour.  A reservist with the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment -- the famous Hasty Ps -- Cpl. Patton arrived in the country that produces the majority of the planet's opium on June 17 and by July 24 was back in Canada on compassionate leave for his heroin-addicted brother's funeral.  Forty-year-old James Patton -- who served briefly in the Canadian Forces and thrived, but for whom "the army wasn't enough," as Cpl. Patton said -- hanged himself in his garage in Smith's Falls in Eastern Ontario after years of using the processed product of what in this country is simply called "poppy." Afghanistan produces more than 90 per cent of the world's opium, which is why Cpl. Patton is likely quite right when he says the drug that dominated much of his brother's life probably got its start in these fields, which come spring are bursting with poppies ....



Polish Military intelligence ready for Afghanistan mission
Xinhua, via Chinaview.cn, 14 Dec 06
Article Link

Polish military intelligence and counter- intelligence services are almost ready for Poland's forthcoming Afghanistan mission with only a few minor details to wind up, Polish military counter-intelligence head Antoni Macierewicz said Wednesday.  Both services are nearly ready for Afghanistan, the only remaining task being to ensure information flow in parts of the country where Polish troops will be stationed, Macierewicz was cited by the PAP news agency as saying.  He added that the operation was a major challenge for the services, both of which were formed only recently.  This is a difficult moment as both services are still in their organization phase, and simultaneously must get ready for one of the biggest operations in years, Macierewicz said ....

 

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Maclean's reveals the newsmakers of 2006
The Canadian soldier as newsmaker of the year, as well as highlights from the year that was - the winners, losers, deal-makers, home wreckers, heroes and rats of 2006. In the issue hitting newsstands starting today.

Maclean's news release, 14 Dec 06
Article Link

Every day for the past year, Canadian soldiers have been on the front lines of Afghanistan, bearing the brunt of Canada's war on terror, with courage and anonymity, no less. Right now, dozens of allied countries have troops operating in the former Taliban stronghold, but in 2006, none did more heavy lifting - or endured heavier losses - than Canada.  Consider this: between 2002 and 2005, eight Canadian soldiers flew home
in silver, flag-draped caskets. This year alone, the number is 36 and counting. The enemy is dying, too. Hundreds of them. "There was a time, even after 9/11, when the Canadian Forces were afraid to admit that their troops might actually shoot people. Not anymore," Maclean's senior writer Michael Friscolanti reports. Over the past 12 months, Canadians have endured bouts of terrifying combat not seen by this country in two generations.  "The mission has its detractors - the latest public opinion poll says 61 per cent of Canadians oppose sending soldiers to Afghanistan - but the grunts themselves have never been more popular," writes Friscolanti.  Every person in uniform, from sniper to recruiter to medic, will tell you the same thing: I can't walk into a Tim Hortons without somebody saying thanks. Indeed, 2006 belonged to the Canadian soldier ....



Canada's PM rejects call to change Afghan mission
Reuters (UK), 14 Dec 06
Article Link

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday rejected calls from an opposition party to change the focus of the country's mission in Afghanistan, a move that could increase the chances of an early election.  An opposition party, the Bloc Quebecois, has threatened to introduce a motion of nonconfidence in the minority Conservative government early next year unless the government ensures Canada's 2,500 troops in the war-torn country focus more on rebuilding and less on combat.  "I don't plan to call an election on Afghanistan. I certainly don't plan, once we've sent troops into a dangerous area ... (to) call into question what they're doing," Harper told a news conference .... "We've made a commitment to our allies, our troops are working hard, they're in a dangerous situation -- our government's not going to stand back here and play political games ... we have a moral obligation to stand behind these people," Harper said ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



NATO attacks command post in Panjwaii district
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, via CTV.ca, 14 Dec 06
Article Link

A number of Taliban rebels, including at least one commander, were believed killed in a late-night NATO air strike on a rebel stronghold in the Panjwaii district, NATO officials said Thursday.  The attack Wednesday evening targeted a known Taliban command post at Siah Choy, an isolated area of Panjwaii about 80 kilometres west of Kandahar City.  The district is one of the few remaining Taliban strongholds, and it's where Canadian troops have been battling for the past several months.  "We're not going to get into a discussion of numbers, but there were a number of Taliban commandos involved and we are pretty confident the target was completely destroyed," said Squadron Leader Jason Chalk ....



Honours for southern Afghan troops
Daily Mail (UK), 15 Dec 06
Article Link

The intensity of fighting in southern Afghanistan is graphically illustrated in the latest list of honours for Britain's armed forces.  Of more than 130 Army, Navy and Air Force personnel honoured, almost 80 are for service in Afghanistan.  The last such list contained only a handful for the country.  Fighting in Helmand Province this year has been described as some of the most intense combat since the Korean War for British forces.  The list includes the first posthumous Victoria Cross for a quarter of a century.  It was announced on Thursday that Corporal Bryan Budd, 29, of the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, was to receive the country's highest award for bravery in the face of the enemy.  Cpl Budd died after single-handedly rushing a Taliban position in southern Afghanistan under heavy gunfire in August. 


Highest honours for Afghan heroes
SHÂN ROSS, The Scotsman, 15 Dec 06
Article Link

A SCOTTISH soldier killed in Afghanistan trying to save the life of a wounded comrade injured in a mine explosion is to be posthumously awarded the George Cross for bravery.  Corporal Mark Wright, 27, from Edinburgh, who served in the 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment, was killed on 6 September when a routine patrol encountered an unmarked minefield in the region of Kajaki in Helmand province.  The announcement yesterday came as it was also revealed Corporal Bryan Budd, 29, from Ripon, North Yorkshire, also of the Parachute Regiment, was to be awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, Britain's highest gallantry medal.  Cpl Budd's award was for two separate acts of bravery in Helmand province. On 27 July, while his section was on patrol, they became caught up in a fight with two enemy gunmen on the roof of a building. Cpl Budd led an assault into the heart of the gunfire, allowing a wounded colleague to be evacuated for life-saving treatment.  On 20 August, his section was again caught up in heavy fighting, with fierce gunfire pinning them down and injuring two of his comrades. It was then Cpl Budd rushed the Taleban position, firing continuously, inspiring the rest of his platoon to push forward to safety.  Cpl Budd's body was later found surrounded by those of three Taleban fighters. It will be the first time a posthumous Victoria Cross has been awarded since the Falklands conflict, nearly 25 years ago ....

 

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Articles found 15 December 2006


NATO troops begin major operation in Afghan south
Fri Dec 15, 2006 6:24am ET
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It is the first time such a large British-led force has been dispatched from Helmand to Kandahar, the Taliban heartland where several Canadian soldiers have been killed in some of the fiercest fighting of the year.

The NATO troops pushed into in southern Afghanistan this year as part of their takeover of security for the country from a U.S.-led coalition. NATO has about 32,000 soldiers in its mission and the U.S. about another 8,000 under a separate command.

The British Marines seemed excited by their mission.

"All right, let's party," said Marine Taff Blower as members of Lima Company, 42 Commando, set out in their Viking armored personnel carriers overnight.
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EU leaders agree to intensify support to Afghanistan
The Associated PressPublished: December 15, 2006
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BRUSSELS, Belgium: European Union leaders on Friday committed to stepping up support for Afghanistan but urged President Hamid Karzai's government to speed up the reforms needed to bring law and order to the country.

EU leaders said they were open to the possibility of sending a European police mission to Afghanistan to help expand the rule of law and train the local police and judiciary.

"The EU stands ready to intensify its efforts," said a draft statement drawn up at an EU summit.

The EU is awaiting a report from a fact-finding mission that returned from Kabul on Wednesday before making any decision on the scale and scope of an EU police mission.

The bloc has been under pressure from NATO commanders to take on an increased civilian role, helping law enforcement in Afghanistan to back the 32,000-strong allied military mission that moved into the volatile southern and eastern parts of the country in recent months
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Step up aid to Afghanistan
The goal: Stop the resurgent Taliban
December 15, 2006
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In Afghanistan, the United States and its NATO allies are in danger of losing their fight against a resurgent Taliban and an emboldened al-Qaida. Unless NATO makes a serious commitment to building up its combat forces, delivers much more aid and reconstruction money and comes to an accommodation with powerful drug lords, Kabul's fragile democracy will fail.

Then Afghanistan could once again come under the control of an extremist Islamic theocracy, which would again provide haven for global terrorism. That must not be allowed to happen.
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REBUILDING AFGHANISTAN: THE DIASPORA’S DEBT OF SERVICE
DEC 15, 2006 - 1:54AM PDT Posted by M. Ashraf Haidari
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Do we Afghans ever think about our debt of service to Afghanistan and actually doing something about it? I think we hardly do so. But let us begin with the basic fact that the land we call home is diversely populated, geographically landlocked, politically and economically least developed, and unfortunately located in a predatory neighborhood where at least one of our neighbors sees its raison d'être partly dependent on instability in Afghanistan. Meantime, we understand that other state and non-state actors -- such as extremists, terrorists, and drug-traffickers -- have exploited our country's vulnerabilities to their advantage, and they will continue to do so alone or together in common self-interest.

If we are keenly aware of who stands to gain the most from our weak state institutions, from polarization of our ethnic diversity, from our abject poverty and dependency on foreign aid. If we actually talk about these vulnerabilities in almost every public forum, in every conference, in every family or friends gathering, then I wonder why Afghans choose the path of self-destructive inaction over the path of united action to help rebuild our homeland and secure the future of our nation.
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Stone confirms film on Afghanistan war
By Indo Asian News Service
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London, Dec 15 (IANS) Controversial director Oliver Stone has confirmed that he is planning to make a movie about the war in Afghanistan and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.

The news was reported by Roger Freidman on the website foxnews.com. Stone announced at a private dinner for the DVD release of his latest movie 'World Trade Center' that a film on the Afghanistan war is one of the five projects he is considering, reports contactmusic.com

Stone said: 'No one has ever told the real story.'
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Suicide bomber kills five in Afghanistan
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KANDAHAR: A suicide car attack killed at least five people in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, police and a hospital doctor said.

The blast occurred soon after a convoy of presidential security guards passed through Qalat, the provincial capital of southern Zabul province, on their way back to Kabul from a visit to the south by President Hamid Karzai. Residents said they believed the guards were the intended target.

The bomber’s car hit the vehicle of a provincial police officer who was some distance from the convoy, a policeman said.

The officer and 14 other people were wounded. Most of the victims were civilians, including children, a doctor said.

Also on Thursday, hundreds of tribesmen protested in the southeastern province of Khost demanding the punishment of foreign troops who killed at least four people, including a teenage girl, in a raid in the province on Tuesday. Villagers say those killed were civilians and two were government employees, but the US military said it killed four suspected militants.

Separately, NATO warplanes bombed a compound serving as a Taliban command post in volatile southern Afghanistan, killing a number of insurgents, the NATO-led force said on Thursday. The airstrike targeted the hideout in Kandahar province’s troubled Panjwayi district late on Wednesday “destroying it completely”, a statement from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said. agencies
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What is it we are doing in Afghanistan?
By Chris Corrigan The Hamilton Spectator (Dec 15, 2006)
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After writing last month on why Canada is in Afghanistan, now I'd like to write about what it is we are doing there.

The short answer to why we're there -- in the spirit of Canada's legacy of conflict interventions for altruistic reasons -- is to create a safe and secure environment, restore law and order, develop good governance and assist the Afghan people in rebuilding their state.

Conflict has devolved to the point that classical peacekeeping is no longer applicable, that classical keeping-the-peace operations have morphed into combat operations to make peace as a necessary adjunct to nation-building and reconstruction.

In Afghanistan, the situation is such that non-governmental organizations such as CARE, the International Red Cross, UNHCR and other aid and humanitarian agencies are not present and the humanitarian work by necessity has to be done by the military.
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Taliban Issue Fresh Report On Attacks In Afghanistan; Martyrdom Attacks Reported
Dec 14, 2006 By Umm Saad, JUS | Translation Copyright © Jihad Unspun 2006
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The Islamic Emirate Taliban continue hot and heavy, racking up over a dozens operations in the past 48 hours as their Mujahideen brave the bitter Afghan cold, keeping heavy pressure on the foreign forces to leave the Islamic Emirate.

Here are the latest news reports in from the Media Committee for the Islamic Emirate Taliban, published here uncut and uncensored, as translated by JUS.

We remind our viewers that the opinions and points of view expressed in this statement are those of the author and shall not be deemed to mean that they are necessarily those of JUS, the publisher, editor, writers, contributors or staff
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Pakistan Says Afghanistan's Instability Is an Internal Issue
By Paul Tighe Dec. 15 (Bloomberg
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Pakistan's government rejected allegations that Taliban fighters are using Pakistani territory as a base for their insurgency in Afghanistan and said the country's instability must be dealt with by Afghans.

A ``stable, independent and more peaceful'' Afghanistan is in Pakistan's interests, the official Associated Press of Pakistan cited Tasnim Aslam, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, as saying late yesterday. Afghans must create stronger governance and control the drugs trade, she said.

Pakistan is taking military action and has introduced a political strategy to minimize terrorism and reduce support for the Taliban in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, Aslam said.

Afghanistan has criticized Pakistan for failing to control the mountainous 2,430-kilometer (1,510-mile) border they share. Afghan President Hamid Karzai this week accused elements in Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and considering Afghans as ``slaves,'' the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The Taliban, the militia ousted from power in the U.S.-led war against terrorism in 2001, have this year doubled attacks, including suicide bombings, in response to international and Afghan forces expanding into southern Afghanistan.

Pakistani security forces recently carried out 97 checks in the Waziristan region to monitor activities of groups suspected of supporting the Taliban, APP cited Aslam as telling Pakistani television, PTV. There are also proposals for a tribal council, or jirga, to be held on improving security, she said.

Law and Order

Afghanistan needs the support of the international community to tackle law and order, improve education and other areas of governance, Aslam said. The Afghan government must also meet its responsibilities for creating stability.

``There are more than 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and we want to send them back to Afghanistan to resettle there, but there is no response from Afghanistan,'' she said.
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EU mulls police training mission in Afghanistan
December 15, 2006         
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The European Union (EU) will send a police-training mission in Afghanistan and it will study the details next week, EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana said here on Thursday.

Speaking to a press conference at the interval of the EU summit, which started here on Thursday evening, Solana said a fact-finding mission sent by the EU returned to Brussels on Thursday and the EU will study what "precisely" the EU can do on the matter early next week.

However, the EU foreign policy chief refused to confirm when the 25-member bloc would sent the police-training mission.

"We can do something (on police training in Afghanistan), and we will do something," Solana said.

He added that Canada and Norway had expressed willingness to join the EU's police-training mission.

Since 2002, EU member state Germany has conducted a police-training mission in Afghanistan and the mission has so far trained 17,000 Afghan police.

This year, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has repeatedly urged the EU to start the police-training mission in Afghanistan.
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Canada at War: Afghanistan
http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/War_Terror/

This excellent Sun Media site gives a round-up of stories by Sun reporters and wire services, reporter blog, plus video, photos, send a message to troops, and reader comments.

Mark
Ottawa
 

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Operation Baaz Tsuka will send a strong message to Taliban from Afghan people
ISAF news release # 2006-365, 15 Dec 06 
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Kandahar, Afghanistan (15 December) – Starting today, Afghan National Security Forces and ISAF will commence Operation Baaz Tsuka (Falcon’s Summit).

“The main aim of Operation Baaz Tsuka is to work together with tribal elders and district leaders to provide vital assistance and targeted development directly to the people of Zahre and Panjwayi districts”, said Major General Ton Van Loon, Commander of ISAF Regional Command-South.

Tribal elders and district leaders have been extensively consulted in the build up to this operation, and planned for jointly by Afghan security forces and ISAF personnel.

Operation Baaz Tsuka builds on the success of Operation Medusa and aims to establish an enduring and stable environment for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, reconstruction and development initiatives for the people of Zahre/Panjwayi.

Afghan security forces, along with their ISAF partners, are assembling a major force in the Zahre/Panjwayi district as a show of unity and strength over the upcoming days and are prepared to once again demonstrate their ability to combat and defeat the Taliban.

“Operation Baaz Tsuka will send a very strong and direct message to the Taliban that the people of Afghanistan want them to leave.  Those people contemplating joining the Taliban should listen to their tribal elders and choose the way of peace, not destruction”, added General van Loon.


NATO taking aim at Taliban commanders and bomb-makers: Hillier
Canadian Press, 15 Dec 06
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Canada's chief of defence staff says NATO hopes to "neutralize" a number of Taliban commanders and bomb-makers as part of its latest offensive.  Gen. Rick Hillier, in an interview with The Canadian Press, says detecting improvised explosive devices is perhaps one of the toughest challenges faced by all nations operating in Afghanistan.  In dealing with the Taliban, he says the approach of the army has been to "go after all parts of the chain" since Canadians were deployed to Kandahar last February.  But Hillier says hopes for the latest mission include the desire to "take out" insurgent leaders, who plan, facilitate, finance and get the vehicles for suicide bombers ....


NATO troops launch new offensive against Taliban in south Afghanistan
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 15 Dec 06
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NATO and Afghan forces were massing Friday for a major new offensive against the Taliban in the volatile Panjwaii district of Kandahar province, NATO announced.  The offensive, entitled Operation Falcon's Summit - or Baaz Tsuka in the Afghan language - was billed in a NATO news release as a show of strength and a demonstration of the coalition's ability to combat and defeat the Taliban.  "Operation Baaz Tsuka will send a very strong and direct message to the Taliban that the people of Afghanistan want them to leave," Maj.-Gen. Ton Van Loon, head of Regional Command South for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a news release.  A major combat unit made up of both NATO and Afghan security forces was assembling Friday in the Zahre-Panjwaii district, NATO said.  "Our forces are prepared to once again demonstrate their ability to combat and defeat the Taliban," said NATO Squadron Leader Dave Marsh.  A significant number of Canadian troops are based in the Panjwaii district, but Canadian military officials at Kandahar Airfield had no immediate comment on the mission ....


NATO operation commences in southern Afghanistan
Deutsche press agentur (DEU), 15 Dec 06
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NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops and Afghan security forces began Friday a new operation against the Taliban in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.  The ISAF and the Afghan security forces are assembling a 'major force' in two districts 'as a show of unity and strength' and the soldiers 'are prepared to once again demonstrate their ability to combat and defeat the Taliban,' said Major General Ton Van Loon, Commander of ISAF Regional Command-South.  'The main aim of Operation Baaz Tsuka (Falcon) is to work together with tribal elders and district leaders to provide vital assistance and targeted development directly to the people of Zahre and Panjwayi districts,' he said ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



A holiday break from Afghanistan
CBC Online, 15 Dec 06
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A Charlottetown police officer is home for the holidays from Afghanistan, where he's been training Afghan police recruits.  Davies, who's most of the way through a one-year assignment, is looking forward to a quiet Christmas and enjoying the freedom of being able to go places without a military escort.  "It feels great to be home, and it was great to see the snow," said Davies.  As part of the provincial reconstruction teams, the humanitarian arm of Canada's military commitment in Afghanistan, Davies is one of 200 police, foreign-affairs and development workers in the volatile Kandahar region ....



EU leaders agree to intensify support to Afghanistan
European Union accuses Iran of destabilising Middle East

Daily Times (PAK), 16 Dec 06
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European Union leaders vowed on Friday to do more to help Afghanistan stamp out a stubborn insurgency and get back on its feet, citing plans to help in sectors from health to justice and policing.  The bloc, which Washington wants to play a greater role in the country, said it had given some 4 billion euros ($5 billion) in aid since the US-led invasion ousted its Taliban rulers in 2001 and was about to publish plans setting out further help in the period up to 2013. “The EU stands ready to intensify its efforts,” EU leaders, some of whom have troops in NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said in a draft of the declaration from the two-day summit. “Security and development in Afghanistan are mutually dependent,” they stated, adding the bloc wanted to ensure development help reached all parts of the impoverished country ....



 

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Canadian general: Reinforcements in Afghanistan would shorten conflict
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, 15 Dec 06
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Canadian troops will make do with the resources at hand in Afghanistan even though reinforcements to the war-torn southern region would shorten the conflict, said the man in charge of all overseas Canadian Forces operations.  "I and we are not going to dwell on this at the tip of the sphere here in Afghanistan. The commanders don't sit here wringing their hands, saying, 'I need more troops,' " Lt.-Gen. Mike Gauthier, commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.  "They do what they can with what they have and they do it extremely well," said Gauthier, 50, of Longueuil, Que., who was on one of his frequent trips visiting the troops Friday ....



Rebuilding Afghanistan, one project at a time
Christie Blatchford, Globe & Mail, 16 Dec 06
Article Link - Permalink

The other day, a 34-year-old Canadian reservist named Corporal Shawn Denty got to deliver the medical supplies his friends and colleagues in Oakville, Ont., had collected after reading an e-mail about his distressing visit to Mirwais Hospital, the lone civilian hospital in Kandahar city.  “I was shocked,” Cpl. Denty wrote home. “The dirt, the dust... it was a shambles. There I was, standing in the middle of a Third World country.”  Like many of those who came before him, and surely many of those who will follow, all he wanted was to do something for the poor and suffering of this battle-scarred nation.  Back in Canada, in Manitouwadge, Ont., his fiancée, family and co-workers at Xerox Business Supplies beat the bushes, and came up with about 20 boxes of supplies that are like gold in Kandahar: an EKG heart monitor, green surgical gowns and towels, bed sheets, diapers, syringes, and intravenous cannulas ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Facing the fight of his life
Soldier has faced triumphs, tragedies in battle to recover from axe attack

Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, 16 Dec 06
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A month ago, he was barely able to whisper. Today, there is a hint of timbre in the voice, evidence that ever so slowly he is getting his wind back. He remembers places and faces, names and dates. He knows who he is, where he has been, where he is going.  Trevor Greene is on the mend again. And this time his recovery, riddled for many months by an agonizing series of setbacks including pneumonia so severe it would have ended lesser men, appears to be on track.  One morning last week, when Debbie Lepore, the Canadian Forces captain's fiancée, strode into the neurological ward at Vancouver General Hospital to resume her daily bedside vigil, she was delighted by his capacity to show he is there — in mind as well as body. Despite the lifetime of complications that began when he was cut down by an axe-wielding Afghan teen in March, Greene glanced up at Lepore and announced the deeper significance of the day. "It's the anniversary of Pearl Harbor," he told her ....



RCMP to boost Afghan aid
`Eager' to expand efforts to improve local police force

Bruce Campion-Smith, Toronto Star, 16 Dec 06
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The RCMP is boosting its assistance to help improve the rudimentary Afghan National Police force and says it's "eager" to participate in a new European Union initiative to bolster policing in the troubled country.  At an EU summit in Brussels yesterday, European leaders — under pressure from NATO to do more in Afghanistan — endorsed the idea of dispatching a police mission to train local officers and the judiciary.  "The EU stands ready to intensify its efforts," said a draft statement drawn up at the summit.  An EU fact-finding mission is just back from Kabul and Kandahar, where they talked to Canadian police officers already on the ground, RCMP Supt. Wayne Martin said yesterday.  "We are eager to contribute. We see this as a great addition to the police development team..." he said.  "As to any numbers that we may contribute to the EU mission ... I don't know at this time," he said in an interview.  In the meantime though, the RCMP is moving ahead with its own efforts to expand Canada's program to help train the fledgling police force ....

 

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Articles found 16 December 2006

NATO soldier killed in Afghanistan blast
Saturday Dec16 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A roadside blast killed one NATO soldier and wounded two others in eastern Afghanistan, a statement from the alliance said Saturday.
The explosion occurred in Mehtar Lam district of the eastern Laghman province on Friday while the troops were conducting an operation, the statement said.

The wounded soldiers were evacuated to a NATO hospital for treatment.

The statement did not identify the nationalities of the dead and wounded soldiers. Most of NATO troops in the country's east are American.
End


Survivor's story
Soldier defied death during Taliban ambush -- now, he hopes he'll walk again with the help of a radical new treatment
Sat Dec 16 2006 By Jen Skerritt
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WHEN 24-year-old CFB Shilo-based Cpl. Chris Klodt awoke in a German hospital, he couldn't eat, couldn't talk and was paralyzed from the neck down.
Klodt was shot in the neck July 7 during a Taliban ambush outside Kandahar -- only four weeks before he was set to return home to plan his wedding and witness the birth of his first child.

Instead, Klodt had been struck by a half-inch bullet that was lodged in his spinal cord, turning two of his vertebrae into mere dust.

Now, the soldier is hoping to embark on a groundbreaking surgery he hopes will give him the chance to walk again. Klodt and his fiancee, Deena Schreyer, are meeting with a Hamilton-based neurosurgeon Dr. Michel Rathbone next month to see what new treatment options are available that could repair Koldt's nerve damage.

"If there's a chance of me walking again, I will," he said, lightly brushing the pink scar on his neck with his stiff, bent fingers. "Walk or don't walk. I think it's pretty common sense."

Recent studies have shown stem cell injections in rodents can help repair nerve and spinal cord damage, as well as ease symptoms of chronic illnesses like muscular dystrophy.  
However, Rathbone said clinical trials in humans have shown that stem cell injections don't work and can actually do more harm than good since they introduce foreign cells into the body
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Rebuilding Afghanistan, one project at a time
Christie Blatchford, Globe & Mail, 16 Dec 06
Article Link- Permalink

The other day, a 34-year-old Canadian reservist named Corporal Shawn Denty got to deliver the medical supplies his friends and colleagues in Oakville, Ont., had collected after reading an e-mail about his distressing visit to Mirwais Hospital, the lone civilian hospital in Kandahar city.

“I was shocked,” Cpl. Denty wrote home. “The dirt, the dust... it was a shambles. There I was, standing in the middle of a Third World country.”

Like many of those who came before him, and surely many of those who will follow, all he wanted was to do something for the poor and suffering of this battle-scarred nation.

Back in Canada, in Manitouwadge, Ont., his fiancée, family and co-workers at Xerox Business Supplies beat the bushes, and came up with about 20 boxes of supplies that are like gold in Kandahar: an EKG heart monitor, green surgical gowns and towels, bed sheets, diapers, syringes, and intravenous cannulas.

Everyone involved, but particularly Cpl. Denty, who had seen the gaping need at the hospital while escorting VIPs on a tour, dreamed of helping Afghans and especially children.Instead, what happened was that his treasure trove was given over to a tiny Afghan National Army medical clinic just outside the giant NATO base at Kandahar Air Field, journalists were invited to bear witness to his soldierly good works, and in the end much of the valuable booty was taken to a warehouse, where despite the locks on the doors it may yet disappear to the black market.

Therein lies the lesson of aid, reconstruction and development in this most battered part of Afghanistan: Good intentions are never enough.

Arguably, nowhere has it been better learned than at the Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team headquarters on the fringes of Kandahar city, the second-largest in Afghanistan, and birthplace of the Taliban.

By the time the PRT crew from the Royal Canadian Regiment arrived last August, weary Afghans here had been promised the moon by the soldiers, aid agencies and various levels of government that collectively make up what's known as “the international community,” and by their own leaders, and yet had very little to show for it.

And, as in broad strokes the international effort here has been much criticized — most harshly in a recent Senlis Council report which announced that the Taliban was winning the “hearts and minds” campaign because of the world's failure to make the lives of the Afghan people even marginally better — so the Canadian PRT, as it was operated under the auspices of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, came in for its share.

That in turn prompted concerns on the Canadian home front that the supposedly three-pronged nature of Canada's role here had turned into a purely combat operation.
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Troops bear brunt of 'misguided' Afghan aid policies: report
Last Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2006 | 2:30 PM ET CBC News
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International agencies, including the Canadian International Development Agency, have failed to tackle the food emergency in southern Afghanistan, and NATO soldiers in the region are paying the price, a new report says.

The paper, released Thursday by the Senlis Council, an international think tank, says "misguided" policies by agencies such as CIDA and the British Department for International Development have left the local population hungry and angry towards the international community
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Government agrees to reimburse wounded soldiers for lost danger pay
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OTTAWA (CP) - Canadian soldiers wounded in combat will no longer suffer the insult and financial injury of having their danger pay prematurely cut off.

The Conservative government announced Friday it will reimburse the operational allowances soldiers lose when they're forced prematurely out of combat zones by injury or illness.

"The new structure means that the brave men and women serving in a theatre of operations will receive financial compensation if their involvement ceases before the end of their rotation period," Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said in a release.

The decision is retroactive to the start of the Canadian military deployment in Kandahar, Afghanistan, at the start of this year.

Under the current military rules, when wounded troops are removed from a combat zone, they lose tax-free operational allowances of more than $1,900 a month. They also forgo the income tax-free status on more than $6,000 in regular pay they enjoy while deployed.

With Afghan casualties mounting, the inequity came to light in October and appeared to catch military brass and the government off guard.

O'Connor and Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, both expressed concern after the family of one wounded soldier publicly told the story of their son being informed while still in hospital in Germany that his pay was being cut.
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Misunderstanding Afghanistan
By By Craig Charney and Gary Langer Sunday, December 17, 2006; Page B07
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There is a note of panic in American views of Afghanistan today. "All the indicators for Afghanistan have headed south," the Los Angeles Times editorialized. Outside Kabul, "much of the rest of Afghanistan appears to be failing again," Newsweek reports. Sen. John Kerry warns: We are "losing Afghanistan."

These views reflect the belief that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government is hemorrhaging support as the Taliban makes a comeback. Karzai is called the "mayor of Kabul," his government lacking authority outside the capital and plagued by corruption. Western troops backing him are said to face widespread hostility.
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McCain: More US troops would be sent to Afghanistan if needed
The Associated PressPublished: December 16, 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan: Washington will send more troops to Afghanistan "if it's necessary," U.S. Senator John McCain said Saturday, while urging European allies to send their troops to the country's restive south.

McCain praised Afghan, U.S., Canadian, British and Dutch forces for bearing "a great deal of the combat responsibilities in recent months," but pushed for more from other key allies of the United States.

Other NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan should remove their "national caveats," which make it "extremely difficult for our NATO commanders to call on them for assistance when needed in combat zones, particularly in the southern part of the country," McCain, a 2008 presidential hopeful, said during a two-day visit in Afghanistan with three other U.S. Congress members.

France, Germany, Italy and Spain said last month at the NATO summit that they would not send troops to fight regularly on the front lines of battles with the resurgent Taliban in the restive south and east.

McCain, who has called for the deployment of more U.S. troops to Iraq, said that more troops could also be sent to Afghanistan.
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Canadian general says reinforcements in Afghanistan would shorten conflict
Bill Graveland, Canadian Press Published: Saturday, December 16, 2006
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - Canadian troops will make do with the resources at hand in Afghanistan even though reinforcements to the war-torn southern region would shorten the conflict, said the man in charge of all overseas Canadian Forces operations.

"I and we are not going to dwell on this at the tip of the sphere here in Afghanistan. The commanders don't sit here wringing their hands, saying, 'I need more troops,' " Lt.-Gen. Mike Gauthier, commander of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, said in an interview with The Canadian Press.

"They do what they can with what they have and they do it extremely well," said Gauthier, 50, of Longueuil, Que., who was on one of his frequent trips visiting the troops Friday.

Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan will see a handful of fresh reinforcements and can count on its long-standing allies for help only under emergency circumstances, NATO leaders decided last month. Several European countries intend to remove their so-called national caveats - restrictions that prevent them from fighting Taliban militants.

But the fact remains that NATO forces could use the extra troops to good purpose, said Gauthier
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UK probing Afghanistan shootings
Press Association Saturday December 16, 2006 4:38 AM
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The military is investigating the shooting of civilians by British troops as they sped away from a suicide bomb attack in southern Afghanistan that injured three soldiers and killed three Afghans.

Witnesses to the December 3 incident in which a suicide bomber in a minibus rammed the military convoy in Kandahar, said residents fled in fear of their lives.

It is one of seven incidents in the last month in which Nato forces shot Afghan citizens. Seven people have been killed and 11 injured, eroding public support for the battle against a resurgent Taliban.

Nato said the soldiers had acted in self-defence in all the shootings.

After the Kandahar bombing, Said Ahmed, a 30-year-old bakery worker, said he ran into his shop when he saw British soldiers coming down the street shouting and firing their guns.

"I saw one motorbike driver get shot, and he fell down on to the ground," Ahmed said. "It was a very scary moment."

Foreign troop convoys are coming under increasing attack. Taliban militants exploded more than 100 suicide bombs in the country this year, a more than fivefold increase from 2005, often targeting Nato forces in armoured personnel carriers and Jeeps
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Pakistan not to allow soil to be used against Afghanistan Islamabad
Dec 16, IRNA Pakistan-Musharraf
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President General Pervez Musharraf Friday told Europe's envoy on Afghanistan that Pakistan was determined not to allow its territory to be used by militants and had done all within its means to deal with this issue.

He was talking to Special Representative of the EU in Afghanistan Francesc Vendrell, who called on him, the Foreign Office said.

The president also emphasized the need for the international community to do more to facilitate repatriation of Afghan refugees back to their homeland, a Foreign Office statement said.

During the meeting, the parties held in depth discussions on matters related to regional stability and security, it said.

Views were exchanged extensively on the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan-Afghanistan relations and the government's strategy in the tribal areas.

Vendrell was informed about the absolute necessity for all parties to understand the prevailing environment, recognize that border security was a collective responsibility of Pakistan, Afghanistan and ISAF/NATO and that the militancy problem was essentially an Afghan problem, the statement said.

Vendrell expressed understanding of Pakistan's position, stating that the western world was very much supportive of what the president was doing to stabilize the situation in the region.

He conveyed the EU's interest in facilitating better coordination between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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1 NATO soldier killed, 2 wounded in eastern Afghanistan blast
The Associated PressPublished: December 16, 2006
Article Link

KABUL, Afghanistan: A roadside blast killed one NATO soldier and wounded two others in eastern Afghanistan, a statement from the alliance said Saturday.

The explosion occurred in Mehtar Lam district of the eastern Laghman province on Friday while the troops were conducting an operation, the statement said.

The wounded soldiers were evacuated to a NATO hospital for treatment.

The statement did not identify the nationalities of the dead and wounded soldiers. Most of NATO troops in the country's east are American.
end

US-Led-NATO: What's Going On In Afghanistan?
By Ali Al-Hail Al-Jazeerah, December 16, 2006
Article Link

On October 7, 2001, the Bush administration launched its war on Afghanistan-Taliban. Anon, the administration had declared Taliban defeated, and dislodged. Only, the U.S. corporate media frantically, began brainwashing American taxpayers about the statuesque finesse.
Shortly, Taliban reemerged observably, stronger than they ever have been. Apparently, they tactically, withdrew 63 months ago before the might of U.S.-led coalition bombing ferocity.

As this coalition, and the new U.S.-EISAF-led force conceivably, collapsed last year, U.S,-led-British, and Canadian force had tried their luck. They too, were severely, beaten by, according to the BBC the most organized mobilizing group of resistance in the World.
As the situation worse as it has been, came U.S.-led-Nato force, mid this year to have an ago. As Nato forces started receiving bloody bruises, they had urged more support from Nato states.

The response was since cold. Last month the Nato secretary-General announced that, its forces have been facing the toughest fighting in its history. He meant to say Nato is collapsing in Afghanistan. More or less, in the same way both U.S.-led-coalition, U.S.-led EISAF, U.S.-led-British-Canadian, have all, been dramatically, crushed by Taliban. The Nato Secretary-General was given by U.S.-led Nato within that margin to express Nato's frustration caused by Taliban in Afghanistan. One presume, as do many had he authorized, he would have said more. However, he was similarly, told by the U.S.-led-Nato, which is quite typical of 'arrogant' West in dealing with non-Westerners stated that, still "mission is possible".
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Risks high for Canada's air force in Afghanistan
Updated Fri. Dec. 15 2006 9:46 AM ET Murray Oliver, CTV News
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Many Canadian and Coalition troops on the ground in southern Afghanistan are enduring regular attacks from Taliban fighters. At the same time, the soldiers are also battling Afghanistan's ferocious climate. Some units are virtually snow-bound. Re-supply convoys risk nearly impassable roads that are ideal for ambushes.

And so, in the sky, the men and women of Canada's air force frequently wage their own battles to keep the combat troops supplied with food and ammunition. On this frosty December morning, their frontline is a massive grey Hercules C130 H aircraft commanded by Captain Blair McArthur of Alberta.

Somewhere in the mountains is an isolated unit of American soldiers. Captain McArthur is no-nonsense as he preps his seven-person crew for the upcoming flight. "These guys [the Americans] aren't quite down to their last bean and last bullet," McArthur says, "but almost."

The mission seems straightforward: Fly over the American position and air-drop vital supplies to the troops below. But the weather is bad, the area covered by dense cloud. In the surrounding hills are Taliban fighters carrying small arms and -- possibly -- portable anti-aircraft missiles.

The plane is fully loaded, the enormous pallets jammed into the hold are strapped down. To avoid enemy fire, the crew will be doing "tactical flying": as an indication of the violent maneuvers ahead, the crew chief hands one passenger a stack of air-sickness bags. Taped to the roof of the cockpit is a detailed document entitled, "crash-landing checklist."
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Fighting is expected to break out in Afghanistan: US official 
Article Link

Washington, Dec 15: Warning that fighting is expected to break out in Afghanistan next spring, a top US intelligence official has said Pakistan will have to soon decide what it is going to do with the tribal elders who are permitting the Taliban to move freely despite a recent deal.

"Sooner or later the government will have to reckon with it," John Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence has said in a meeting with the reporters and editors of the Washington Post.

The post said Negroponte has also made the point that with the Pakistan elections due next year the United States understands that President Pervez Musharraf "has a domestic political balancing act to perform".

This September, Islamabad and the tribal leaders of northern Waziristan entered into an agreement that said among other things that border crossings will not be permitted "for any kind of militancy".

Negroponte has told the post that the "tribal authorities are not living up to the deal," and that travel back and forth by Taliban members and others "causes serious problems."
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McCain seeks Afghan help from Europe
Reuters, Dec. 16
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20061216/ts_nm/afghan_usa_dc

KABUL (Reuters) - Senior U.S. senator John McCain on Saturday urged European nations to shoulder more of the burden in Afghanistan, by doing more to fight the booming illegal opium trade and easing fighting restrictions on their soldiers.

McCain, a Republican from Arizona who sits on the Senate armed services committee, also called on Afghanistan and Pakistan end their war of words and to ratchet up their cooperation to fight a resurgent Taliban.

In Kabul ahead of a visit to Pakistan, he told reporters at a U.S. base much of the fighting in the bloodiest year since the Taliban's ouster in 2001 had been done by U.S., British, Canadian and Dutch troops.

"Our European friends must understand that we all share a difficult burden and national caveats make it very difficult to work together as a team," he said, referring to conditions some nations put on where and how their troops can be deployed.

"It's also important that our European friends and allies do more in the effort that has to be made to counter narcotics," he added, calling for more money from Europe.

"We are indeed in danger of having Afghanistan becoming Europe's Colombia."

Afghanistan is the world's largest producer of opium, the raw material for heroin, and output jumped about 60 percent this year. Afghan, U.S. and other officials say money from the industry is helping to fund the Taliban.

McCain, an early favorite in what promises to be a crowded Republican field for the 2008 U.S. presidential race, is in Afghanistan with fellow Republicans Susan Collins, John Thune and Mark Kirk.

They are meeting officials, including President Hamid Karzai, and being briefed on the situation by U.S. and NATO generals.

Collins and Thune are also on the Senate armed services committee and Kirk on the House appropriations committee.

Mark
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ISAF soldier injured by anti-personnel mine
ISAF news release # 2006-368, 16 Dec 06
Article Link

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – This morning, one ISAF soldier was injured while conducting a foot patrol with Afghan National Security Forces in the Pashmul area, approximately 25 kilometres west of Kandahar City.  The ISAF soldier stepped on an anti-personnel mine and was immediately evacuated to a nearby ISAF medical facility. There are no reports of any other ISAF or ANSF casualties.  The soldier was part of a joint Afghan-ISAF patrol traveling along Route Summit to coordinate a Shura with tribal elders from a local village.


Canadian soldier injured by Afghanistan landmine
CTV.ca, 16 Dec 06
Article Link

A Canadian soldier is in serious but stable condition after stepping on a landmine in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan on Saturday.  The injury occurred on the same day a Canadian commander strongly hinted his troops will be involved in a major anti-Taliban offensive.  Private Frederic Couture was rushed for treatment in Kandahar after the incident. Couture is with the Quebec-based Van Doos regiment, but his age and hometown have not yet been released.  He was on a foot patrol with Afghan forces west of Kandahar, and was on the way to meet with village elders to talk about humanitarian assistance when the landmine was triggered ....



Canadian government analysis suggests rebuilding Afghanistan a tough slog
Jeff Esau, Canadian Press, 16 Dec 06
Article Link

OTTAWA (CP) - Afghanistan's financial infrastructure is "primitive" and its recent economic growth "will be difficult to sustain," says a blunt assessment of the country's future by senior Canadian government officials.  Afghanistan is "seriously hampered" by security problems, endemic corruption, skilled labour shortages, limited access to finances, land tenure problems, the strain of returning refugees and "the generally weak rule of law," says the Sept. 5 analysis prepared by the Privy Council Office.  The office, the co-ordinating body for cabinet and the prime minister's office, released the seven-page document after a request under the Access to Information Act.  Its bleak forecast, delivered almost two weeks before a visit to Canada by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, appears at odds with recent claims by other Canadian officials that progress has been significant and steady.  The heavily censored report, The Future of Afghanistan: The Next Five Years, was written by PCO's intelligence assessment co-ordinating committee and widely distributed within government ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



NATO Orders Taliban To Leave Afghan Districts
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 16 Dec 06
Article Link

NATO-led forces in Afghanistan have ordered Taliban fighters to leave two southern districts or be forced out.  NATO spokesman Major Dominic Whyte said today that the orders, printed on leaflets, were dropped by air on the guerrillas' positions in the Panjwayi and Zahre districts of southern Kandahar Province on December 15.  The move was part of a major new anti-Taliban offensive launched on December 14 in the two heavily Taliban-dominated districts.  Hundreds of troops with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, helped by Afghan forces, kicked off the operation on December 14 to clear the way for much-needed reconstruction work in the war-torn areas, which have seen heavy Taliban fighting this year ....


Britain leads major Afghan operation
Peter Graff, Reuters (UK), 15 Dec 06
Article Link

British-led armoured columns of NATO troops swept into southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province on Friday, launching one of the biggest operations in months.  Hundreds of British, Estonian and Danish troops, backed by scores of armoured vehicles, crossed through the night from their base in neighbouring Helmand province and set up a desert camp north of the Arghindab River valley, which commanders say is a haven for Taliban guerrillas.  "We're here on an intelligence-led mission against the Taliban," said operation commander Lieutenant-Colonel Matt Holmes. "You can tell by the size of our presence that we mean business."  The offensive is one of the largest by NATO forces since the Canadian-led Operation Medusa in another part of Kandahar province in September, and the largest by British troops since heavy fighting in northern Helmand in the summer.  Royal Marines from Britain's 42 Commando were digging holes to sleep in at their new forward operating base in muddy desert, after camping under ponchos in rainstorms that hit the area as they moved east through the night ....



Remove 'caveats' on troops in Afghanistan: McCain
Associated Press, via CTV.ca, 16 Dec 06
Article Link

Washington will send more troops to Afghanistan if need be, Senator John McCain said Saturday, while urging European allies to send their troops to the country's restive south.  McCain praised Afghan, U.S., Canadian, British and Dutch forces for bearing "a great deal of the combat responsibilities in recent months," but pushed for more from other key allies of the United States.  Other NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan should remove their "national caveats," which make it "extremely difficult for our NATO commanders to call on them for assistance when needed in combat zones, particularly in the southern part of the country," McCain, a 2008 presidential hopeful, said during a two-day visit in Afghanistan with three other Congress members ....



We’re living on Afghans’ support, not Pakistan’s: Taliban
Daily Times (PAK), 17 Dec 06
Article Link

The Taliban on Saturday denied accusations by Afghan leaders the group was being sponsored by Pakistan, an issue souring relations between the two nations.  A senior rebel commander, Hayat Khan, said Afghan President Hamid Karzai was trying to hide his own failure and the Taliban movement lived only on the support of ordinary people. “Karzai’s allegations are baseless. We neither have any links with Pakistan nor is the country helping the Taliban,” Khan told Reuters by satellite phone from a secret location.  “The Taliban movement is continuing only with the support of the Afghan people.  Instead of shedding crocodile tears, Hamid Karzai should resign and join the Taliban ranks for jihad against the infidel occupiers to liberate Afghanistan,” he added, referring to Karzai crying during a speech about civilian deaths this week ....

 

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Articles found 17 December 2006

'We must convince our people that the Taliban are no longer a threat'
By Gethin Chamberlain in Masum Gar, Kandahar, Sunday Telegraph 17/12/2006
Article Link

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, the Afghan army is embroiled in a fight to the death with the supporters of the deposed regime.

In the hills to the west of Kandahar city, soldiers are building a network of gun emplacements, observation posts and strong points in an attempt to prevent the resurgent Taliban from regaining control of an area that remains its heartland.

In recent weeks, with the help of Canadian troops and special forces, they have been fighting a series of skirmishes against the hundreds of Taliban fighters pouring back into Kandahar.

The Afghan National Army has been growing in strength since it was established in 2002. Initially trained by US special forces, recruits are now sent to Kabul for training before being formed into kandaks (battalions) of about 600 men – of which there are now 57, serving around the country. Most of the men come from the Kabul area or from the north, the base of the Northern Alliance which helped topple the Taliban regime. At the rocky outcrop of Masum Gar, there are meant to be about 300 Afghan troops, though their numbers are regularly depleted as soldiers go on leave, are seconded to other missions or simply go absent without leave.
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7 Guantanamo prisoners go home to Afghanistan
By Rahim Faiez Associated Press December 17, 2006
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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Seven Afghan men arrived in their home country Saturday -- weary, angry and proclaiming their innocence -- after years of imprisonment in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

With long, unkempt beards, the men appeared at a news conference beside Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, which assists with the release of U.S.-held detainees.
All seven men said they were wrongly arrested, but that they were not beaten or mistreated in any way while imprisoned.
One claimed he was forced to join the Taliban, while another said he was arrested merely for being Muslim.
"We had to go with the Taliban. If we didn't go with them, they wanted money from us," said Abdul Rahman, 46, from Helmand province.
"I didn't have money to pay the Taliban, so I was forced to join them. I didn't want to."
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Afghanistan's Pres. Sends Condolences to Utah Soldier's Family
December 16th, 2006 @ 5:20pm
Article Link

DRAPER, Utah (AP) -- The family of a Utah National Guard soldier killed in Afghanistan last month has received a letter of condolence from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.

Second Leiutenant Scott Lundell of West Valley City died November 25th when his artillery patrol was engaged by enemy forces. He was 35.

Lundell's wife, Jeanine Lundell, issued a statement of thanks today.

It says: My heartfelt thanks go out to everyone for their love, support and prayers in behalf of my family at the passing of my husband Scott. ... The outpouring of kindness from family, friends, neighbors, the community, the people of the state of Utah and people all over the world has been absolutely incredible."
End


UK Medics and Engineers in Deadly Combat
17 December 2006
Article Link

The following from The Daily Mail is a must read for a number of reasons:

1. The combat described has got to be some of the most lopsided and risky to emerge in the Afghan campaign.

2. The fight was taken to the Taliban by a small group of soldiers who would normally not be in this role.

3. The tenacity and daring of the UK troops involved and some of their Afghan allies is exemplary of how highly motivated and trained soldiers can out-punch a numerically superior force.

4. The battle graphically demonstrates that we will not lose the Afghan conflict militarily; if we lose, it will be a political failure on the home front.

5. Those who wax on about how the Russians couldn’t hold Afghanistan need to stuff their pie-holes with some reality; NATO forces are far superior to the rag-tag bunch of draftees that fought for Russia … there is no comparison historically, militarily, or factually.

The Tale:

When a key strategic town in Afghanistan's Helmand Province fell to the Taliban, British commanders ordered that it must be retaken as a top priority. But with the UK's main fighting units locked in bloody battles further north, it was left to a ragtag band of 12 British soldiers, including TA reservists and medics, to lead a force of barely-trained Afghan soldiers and police across Taliban-held the desert. They hoped to retake the town of Garmisir within 24 hours. In fact they faced an astonishing 14 day close-quarter battle - isolated, heavily outnumbered and fighting for their lives in an action reminiscent of Rorke's Drift.

After a summer of intense fighting by British troops in Northern Helmand, attention was focussed on 16 Air Assault Brigade's epic defence of the besieged 'platoon house' garrisons in Sangin, Musa Qala and Nowzad.

But hundreds of miles to the south and largely ignored, the frontier town of Garmisir was also under siege and had already fallen once to the Taliban - for whom it is a key transport hub for fighters crossing the nearby border from Pakistan.

Helmand's provincial governor, an Afghan trusted by the British, was warning that if Garmisir fell again he would have to resign.
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France To Withdraw Special Unit From Eastern Afghanistan
December 17th 2006 by News Staff
Article Link

France is to withdraw a special 200-strong military unit from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie announced Sunday. "We'll pull our Special Forces out of Afghanistan in the coming weeks," Alliot-Marie told reporters in Kabul, but without commenting on the reasons for the withdrawal.

France currently has more than 200 Special Forces deployed in mainly eastern Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda militants as part of the US-led coalition force.

There are also about 2,000 French troops are deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The proposed French withdrawal comes as ISAF face an ongoing Taliban insurgency.

During a visit to troops in Afghanistan Saturday, senior US senator, John McCain called on European countries to lift caveats and send troops to the volatile south of the country.

"Our European friends must understand that we all share a difficult burden and national caveats make it very difficult to work together as a team," McCain told reporters Saturday at a US military camp in Kabul.
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Landmine victim
Canadian soldier seriously injured while training Afghan troops

Doug Beazley, Edmonton Sun, 17 Dec 06
Article Link

A Canadian soldier was seriously injured in a landmine explosion outside a military base here in Panjwayi District yesterday.  Around 11:45 a.m. local time, according to officials at Kandahar Airfield, the soldier was walking with Afghan troops near the town of Pashmul, outside the Canadian forward operating base Ma'sum Ghar, 25 km west of Kandahar City, when he stepped on a buried anti-personnel mine.  The soldier, identified as Pte. Frederic Couture of the Royal 22nd (Van Doos) regiment based in Val Cartier, Que., was airlifted to the Canadian-run hospital at Kandahar Airfield.  After surgery, he was said to be in serious but stable condition. His age and hometown in Canada were not immediately available.  Couture was working with the Operational Mentoring Liaison Team, the unit training the Afghan army to fight alongside coalition soldiers.  He was moving on foot with Afghan soldiers to a village east of Route Summit, a road being built by Canadians near Pashmul.  Couture was going to plan a shura (council meeting) with village elders to discuss the delivery of coalition supplies to villagers ....


Canadian soldier injured by Afghanistan landmine
CTV.ca, 16 Dec 06
Article Link

A Canadian soldier is in serious but stable condition after stepping on a landmine in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan.  Pte. Frederic Couture was rushed for treatment in Kandahar after the incident, which occurred about noon local time on Saturday. Couture is with the 2nd Van Doos regiment of Valcartier, Que., but his age and hometown have not yet been released.  "At the time they were with the Afghan National Army; they were actually going to a shura (a meeting of village elders) in order to provide humanitarian assistance to that village," Lt. Sue Stefko told reporters.  She said Couture is in serious but stable condition. There is no word yet on whether he will be transferred to the U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for further treatment ....



Don't change Afghan mission's focus: Hillier
Canadian Press, via CTV.ca, 17 Dec 06
Article Link

Changing the focus of Canada's Afghan mission to stress reconstruction over combat, as demanded by Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe, would be folly, says the country's top soldier.  Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of defence staff, says the fighting aspects of the mission are vital to the redevelopment of the country.  "We're doing the security operations not because we want to do them, but because they are absolutely essential to do," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press.  Duceppe has said he may try to topple the minority Conservative government with a non-confidence motion unless the Afghan operation is "rapidly and profoundly"' retooled to focus more heavily on reconstruction instead of fighting ....



Air war costs NATO Afghan supporters
An increase in air strikes has led to more innocent deaths as Taliban fighters use civilians as human shields.

Rachel Morarjee, Christian Science Monitor, 18 Dec 06
Article Link

....  NATO has no unified approach to compensating civilians killed during fighting, instead placing the financial burden on the individual nations engaged in the fiercest fighting in the south: Canada, Britain, the Netherlands, and Romania.  By providing much-needed financial aid for the families of victims killed by airstrikes, the Taliban has been able to garner support in the southern provinces, says Sarah Holewinski of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), a Washington-based human rights group.  "If NATO doesn't find a way to win the trust and support of the Afghan people, the Taliban will," she says. "In fact they already are."  Fighting against Taliban insurgents who are dressed in civilian clothes and hidden among the civilian population is a difficult task. But the sharp escalation in violence has many southern Afghans asking whether NATO troops are making their lives safer or, ultimately, more dangerous ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



Operation Baaz Tsuka making progress throughout Kandahar province
ISAF news release # 2006-370,  17 Dec 06 
Article Link

As Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and ISAF continue their movement in and around Zahre, Panjwaii and westerly districts of Kandahar province.  During the operations, ANSF and ISAF have discovered large weapons caches, including mortars, dynamite and anti-personnel mines. These caches will be destroyed.  Local village tribal elders have been receptive to ANSF and ISAF taking up positions in the westerly districts of Kandahar Province and have encountered little to no resistance from insurgents ....





 

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Canada set for new push against Taliban
Operation Baaz Tsuka seeks to neutralize leaders

Bill Graveland, Canadian Press, via Toronto Star, 18 Dec 06
Article Link

The invitations have been sent and preparations completed as Canadian troops and NATO forces get ready for a major offensive against the Taliban.  This forward operating post in Panjwaii district was a beehive of activity yesterday with troops stocking up on ammunition and mechanics doing last-minute tune-ups on light armoured vehicles and tanks.  The preparation work for Operation Baaz Tsuka (Afghan for Falcon's Summit) was completed with a series of bombs being dropped on suspected Taliban locations.  Later, as the soldiers began moving forward, large weapons caches were discovered, including mortars, dynamite and anti-personnel mines. The caches will be destroyed, according to NATO officials. One armoured vehicle was reported damaged by a roadside bomb, which also caused minor injuries to three soldiers. Their nationalities were not immediately released.  On Saturday, leaflets were dropped over a wide area of Panjwaii district. The message was simple: a picture of a dead Taliban member with an X through it.  Lt.-Col. Omer Lavoie, the commander of the Battle Group, said he hopes the mission works out with few casualties. "Soft knock by preference — a hard knock as needed," he said ....



A new approach for defeating the Taliban 
Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service, 18 Dec 06
Article Link

Negotiating with hardened Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan to end their uprising is simply not an option for NATO and western forces, said Washington's top diplomat on Asian issues.  However, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said an Afghan government amnesty program is a valuable way of integrating less militant Taliban members back into the country's western-backed democracy.  "There needs to be an opportunity for people to come in from the Taliban, come in from the cold. Certainly people who haven't been major violators might have a role," Boucher told the Ottawa Citizen.  Boucher made clear he is not advocating full-scale negotiations with Taliban insurgents, but simply leaving open the door for less hardened elements of the movement to leave.  "There are many in that group that are hard core, that are just out to kill people. They've spent years killing Afghan citizens and want their chance to kill farmers and Afghans again," Boucher said.  "We're going to have to fight those people," he added. "I don't see any opportunity or need to negotiate." Boucher's arrival in Ottawa, for meetings with Foreign Affairs, Defence Department and Privy Council Office officials coincided with the start of the new NATO anti-Taliban offensive, Operation Falcon's Summit.  Canadian Col. Mike Kamper, chief of staff of NATO's southern Afghanistan operations told reporters in Kandahar Sunday that the new mission would be focused on discouraging locals from joining the Taliban and persuading committed members to lay down their arms ....



Dead Afghan man's family wants an apology
CTV.ca, 17 Dec 06
Article Link

The family of Haji Abdul Rahman, a respected Afghan man killed by Canadian troops, want an apology from this country.  "Everyone knew him here. Nobody could shoot him. This is very terrible," one in-law told CTV News on Sunday.  The 92-year-old was riding his motorcycle towards a Canadian checkpoint on Tuesday.  Afghan security officials had allowed him through an outer security cordon designed to protect Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. He had been meeting with Canada's Ambassador David Sproule.  Canadian officials say he ignored warnings to stop. A warning shot was fired, but Canadian officials say it ricocheted and struck Rahman in the chest, killing him ....



More News on CAN in AFG here



France to allow troop redeployment in Afghanistan
Reuters (UK), 18 Dec 06
Article Link


France, which is pulling its special forces soldiers out of Afghanistan, said on Monday it would temporarily redeploy its remaining troops anywhere in the country for emergencies.  The United States, Canada and Britain, whose troops have borne the brunt of fighting in the bloodiest year since the Taliban's ouster in 2001, have pressed their allies to lift limits on their forces to allow more flexibility in combating a resurgent Taliban.  "We also foresee that our forces currently stationed in Kabul will be relocated to other regions according to the needs of our allies, to help in those situations where their presence will be necessary," French Defense Ministry Michele Alliot-Marie said during a visit to Kabul.  But she added any such deployment would be temporary.  NATO leaders agreed last month to redeploy their forces anywhere in the country in an emergency after complaints that some, including France, were largely avoiding the more dangerous areas ....



NATO troops face huge challenges after taking command across Afghanistan
Yu Zhixiao & Zhang Haibo, Xinhua (CHN), via Reliefweb.net, 16 Dec 06
Article Link

NATO forces took command throughout Afghanistan in 2006, which analysts say has thrown the military alliance into the most challenging combat mission in its 57-year history.  The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) assumed command in southern Afghanistan in July and took over the eastern region in October, thus completed its ambitious battle mission across this country.  However, after its expansion throughout Afghanistan, the 32,000- strong ISAF has suffered many new challenges like much higher fatalities, shortage of personnel and logistics, and inflexible movement of troops from some major countries.  "Certainly, the war on terror (in Afghanistan) has reached a much more difficult stage at the present, and it seems that NATO forces are feeling more hazards and perils," local Outlook newspaper observed in a recent article.  As hotbeds of Taliban militants, southern and eastern Afghanistan is much more perilous than other regions.  For example, about 40 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion late 2001, while 36 of them were killed since Britain's deployment to the volatile southern Helmand province as part of ISAF in July this year.  Canadian troops, which are stationed in the southern Kandahar province, suffered as high as about 30 fatalities since July, which has made more Canadian voters call for the forces' withdrawal ....



Taliban fought in vain on hill
Kevin Maurer, Fayetteville Observer, 17 Dec 06
Article Link

Maybe history will record it as the battle for Sperwan Ghar.  Or maybe, like much of the continuing fight for Afghanistan, it will be little noted or remembered, except by the Fort Bragg Special Forces soldiers and other coalition forces who fought in it.  They know it as one of the biggest battles of the war, part of a monthlong clash with a resurgent Taliban in September.  About 900 Taliban fighters died in the month, during what was dubbed Operation Medusa. Soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group, the Canadian army and Afghan forces battled insurgents, who decided to stand and fight. Bigger clashes have become more common — U.S. Army spokesman Clifford Richardson said that more than 2,000 Taliban deaths have been confirmed in just the last four months.  Fort Bragg Special Forces soldiers, who talked about the battle on condition that their names not be used for security reasons, said growing violence demonstrates that the Taliban still has the will and the ability to mount a fight ....



Bricks and blankets as good as bullets in Afghan conflict
Nick Allen, Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 18 Dec 06
Article Link

Zerok, eastern Afghanistan - While the Afghan town of Naka is still heavily influenced by its former Taliban masters, neighbouring Zerok is cited as an example of positive change as international forces strive toward reconstruction as well as military success.  In the last year, US soldiers built a school in this small mountain community in the eastern province of Paktika, and funds donated by the US government, USAID and NGOs enabled the resurrection of its hospital, installation of street lights and reinforcement of an Afghan police compound.  By 2012, a new 100-million-dollar paved road is due to pass nearby, linking Afghanistan's main north-south highway with the Pakistani seaport of Karachi and boosting trade and the quality of life for a region that until recently was virtually trapped in the Middle Ages.  All of this unfolds under the protection of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) stationed in Paktika to prevent the resurgence of the ousted Taliban. No one expects it to be an easy process ....

 
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