Articles found February 20, 2008
Prime Minister Stephen Harper confers with Karzai over Afghanistan mission
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
OTTAWA, Feb 19, 2008 (AFP) — Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper conferred with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Tuesday about the future of NATO's Afghanistan mission, his spokeswoman said.
Speaking by telephone, Harper told Karzai that Canada wishes to extend its deployment of 2,500 troops in battle-scarred Kandahar province to 2011, but only if NATO allies send reinforcements.
To that end, Harper has in recent weeks urged the heads of France, Germany and Australia to boost their troop deployments in southern Afghanistan.
Defense Minister Peter MacKay told NATO defense ministers Ottawa's demand for an extra 1,000 troops in Kandahar to fight alongside Canadian soldiers against insurgents was "not a negotiable item."
Otherwise, Canada would withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of its current mandate in February 2009, said Harper.
Canada's parliament is expected to vote next month on whether to extend its combat mission in the volatile south.
In his discussion with Karzai, Harper "confirmed that he is in contact with NATO allies regarding additional troops and expressed his hope that Parliament will support a motion that would see an extension of Canada's mission to Afghanistan," his spokeswoman Sandra Buckler said in an email.
"President Karzai reconfirmed his support for the Canadian mission, a message he will carry to NATO in the coming weeks," she added.
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Militants abduct 2 staff of education department in W Afghanistan
www.chinaview.cn 2008-02-20 15:11:41 Print
KABUL, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Militants have abducted two staff of education department in Afghanistan's western Farah province, said a press release of Afghan Interior Ministry received here Wednesday.
Two supervisors of the Education Department of Farah province, busy in visiting schools in Bakwa district, was kidnapped by armed men of militant leader Mullah Ibrahim, on Feb. 18, the ministry said.
Targeting schools and murdering students and teachers are the acts of the enemies of Afghanistan and must be checked, it further said.
The ministry said Afghan police would do its best to ensure the safe release of the two abductees.
Over 140 pupils and teachers have been killed by Taliban insurgents over the past 10 months, according to latest education ministry statistics.
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CTV freelancer detained at U.S. base in Afghanistan
GRAEME SMITH From Wednesday's Globe and Mail February 20, 2008 at 5:06 AM EST
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN — A journalist who brought news to Canadian television has been detained without charge at a U.S. base in Afghanistan for almost four months, his employer says, calling for his immediate release.
Javed Yazamy, 22, earned the nickname Jojo while serving as a translator for the U.S. forces but spent the past two years working primarily for CTV News in Kandahar. He went missing in October when an unknown caller summoned him to Kandahar Air Field and foreign soldiers captured him in the dusty parking lot just outside the main gate.
Quiet diplomacy has failed to produce any official confirmation of his whereabouts or any explanation for his detention, said Robert Hurst, president of CTV News.
"As the weeks pass, our concern has grown," Mr. Hurst said.
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Kandahar governor says he warned troops
Published: Feb. 19, 2008 at 11:58 PM
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- The governor of Kandahar blamed Canadian soldiers for a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan, saying they ignored his warning of a bomber.
Gov. Asadullah Khalid told reporters he forwarded information that a suicide bomber was in the area on the Afghan-Pakistani border to Canadian and NATO officers, Canwest News Service reported.
The bombing in the Spin Boldak area killed at least 30 Afghanis, many of them shoppers or fruit and vegetable sellers at a street market, and wounded four Canadian soldiers. It was aimed at an armored convoy making a routine patrol 65 miles southeast of Kandahar.
Lt. Commander Pierre Babinsky, a spokesman for the Canadian military in Kandahar, said the military must operate freely, especially when warnings are so common.
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Czech prime minister to visit Ottawa for talks on Afghanistan
OTTAWA - The prime minister of the Czech Republic will be in Ottawa next week to talk about the war in Afghanistan with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Mirek Topolanek will be bringing along his defence minister for the Feb. 28-29 visit, which will also include a stop in Toronto.
In a statement, Harper said Canada and the Czech Republic enjoy a strong bilateral relationship, including co-operation in the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
"I look forward to continuing to strengthen the friendship between our two countries," said the prime minister.
The Czech Republic has made a modest contribution to the mission in Afghanistan since 2002, deploying 200 personnel to operate a military field hospital and special forces soldiers operating in Kandahar.
Harper has been canvassing NATO allies looking for an extra 1,000 combat troops to bolster the Canadian army in Kandahar - and warning that Canada will withdraw unless reinforcements are forthcoming.
A Harper spokeswoman said Topolanek's visit was planned before an independent panel on the future of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan delivered its report last month.
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Troops don't deserve rebuke
TheStar.com February 19, 2008 Rosie DiManno Columnist
In the gush of blood spilled over 24 hours in Kandahar province, Canadian troops were barely smeared.
Four lightly wounded, two treated in hospital and released, one kept overnight.
But they'll get blamed, on the ground, for not preventing the unpreventable, because Kandahar is primarily a Canadian custodianship. And their "failure" to protect citizens – upwards of 200 casualties in a brace of suicide bombings – will be cited as further proof of the mission's irrelevancy; indeed, as provocation for merciless attacks on the innocent.
Governor Asadullah Khalid wasted little time in chastising Canadian Forces for all but – he implied – inciting the suicide attack yesterday that claimed at least 38 Afghan lives at a marketplace in Spin Boldak, a deranged district capital, Taliban stronghold and bristling armaments clearing house a stone's throw from the suicide-bombers-enter-here Pakistan border.
Canadians maintain a forward operating base there, established because the need clearly existed to buckle down in that region and throw at least some obstacles in the way of insurgents headed for Kandahar city, which is the prize most coveted by the neo-Taliban and their foreign recruits.
A Canadian convoy was in the crosshairs of the blast although, as usual, ordinary Afghans paid the colossal price.
"We informed the Canadian Forces to avoid patrolling the border areas because our intelligence units had information that suicide attackers were in the area and wanted to target Canadian or government forces," Khalid complained. "Despite informing the Canadians, they went to those areas anyway."
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Charge or release Afghan journalist, CTV tells U.S.
TheStar.com - February 20, 2008 Allan Woods Ottawa Bureau
Network worried about man detained for months near Kabul
OTTAWA–The United States should either charge or release an Afghan journalist employed by CTV News who has been in military detention since October, says the president of the network.
Robert Hurst said the news organization has been speaking with government officials in Canada and the U.S., as well as military officials at NATO, since last fall in an attempt to obtain the release of Jawed Ahmad.
The 22-year-old was arrested in Kandahar last fall after allegations that he had improper contact with the Taliban, his brother told the Associated Press. Siddique Ahmad said his brother was found to have telephone numbers for Taliban officials and video of insurgent materials. The journalist is being held at Bagram Airbase, the U.S. facility 50 kilometres north of Kabul, and has been visited by the Red Cross.
"We're extraordinarily concerned about it," Hurst said in an interview.
He said CTV lawyers and officials have been working daily on Ahmad's case, trying to quietly work back-channel sources rather than cause a major fuss. But the inability to further the case of their Kandahar-based journalist four months after his arrest prompted the decision to go public yesterday in conjunction with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
"Anything we can do to now get attention to this (is welcome) because all of the channels that we have been pursuing have been absolutely dry," Hurst said.
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Canada to buy old German tanks as spare parts for Afghan mission.
OTTAWA - Canada plans to buy a handful of older, surplus German tanks to cannibalize for spare parts to keep its combat forces on the move in Afghanistan.
The undisclosed purchase is apparently part of the $1.3-billion tank modernization program announced last year by former defence minister Gordon O'Connor.
The current minister, Peter MacKay, says the purchase was necessary.
"Our loaned Leopard 2 tanks are an invaluable asset to commanders in Afghanistan," MacKay said in a statement late Tuesday.
"The procurement of surplus German vehicles will provide the Canadian Forces with valuable platforms for training, testing and, where applicable, spare parts."
This acquisition fills the short term needs of the military, he said while on a trade mission in India.
Defence industry sources said the plan involves 15 Leopard 2A4s, which have already been taken out of service by the Bundeswehr.
A request for proposals is expected to go out to contractors next week, asking for detailed plans to disassemble the 60-tonne iron monsters and catalogue their parts
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Mood swings hurt Dion's credibility
The Liberal leader's threats to defeat the government are wearing thin
L. IAN MACDONALD, Freelance Published: 14 hours ago
This just in: Stéphane Dion threatens not to bring down the government over the budget.
First he brandished the possibility of defeating the government on next week's budget, even though he hadn't seen it yet.
Then, on Monday in Quebec City, Dion climbed down, saying the Liberals would allow the budget to pass in the March 4 vote provided it's "not too harmful" for the economy.
"It won't be a Liberal budget," Dion allowed. "Unfortunately the ideas I have put forward won't be in the budget. But we also have to respect the decision of the voters in 2006.
"Therefore, if it's a budget that appears to us as being acceptable or at least not too harmful for the Canadian economy, we could let it pass and avoid $350 million in expenses for an election."
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Manley denies Canada proposing him as UN envoy in Afghanistan
OTTAWA (AFP) — Former Canadian deputy prime minister John Manley denied Wednesday media reports suggesting the government is proposing him as the new UN envoy to coordinate aid and reconstruction in Afghanistan.
Earlier, the daily Globe and Mail, citing unnamed sources, said the Conservative government is floating the name of Manley, of the opposition Liberal Party, as a replacement for British diplomat Paddy Ashdown, whose nomination to the UN post was rejected by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
However, Manley told AFP through his law offices: "I am not a candidate and I have not consented to my government advocating for me to take on this responsibility."
Manley recently headed a panel of experts who recommended that Canada prolong its 2,500-strong military mission in Afghanistan beyond February 2009 only if NATO deploys 1,000 troop reinforcements, helicopters and drones.
The Globe and Mail said Manley's nomination would make it more difficult for Canada to withdraw its troops, saying it would be "a humiliation for a country that has one of its own as the special representative."
The Liberal Party would also be hard pressed to oppose the mission if one of their members held the UN post, the Canadian newspaper said.
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Afghanistan: New Party To Focus On Women's Rights
By Farangis Najibullah
For nearly three decades, Afghans have endured war and foreign occupation, extreme poverty, and the Taliban. Yet some suffer more than others. Not all Afghans are created equal. Fatima Nazari wants to change that.
Nazari, an Afghan parliamentarian, is the driving force behind the country's first political party dedicated to women's rights and issues. She launched National Need on February 19 at a ceremony in Kabul, saying the party hopes to put women's rights at the forefront of the national political debate. It intends to run in the next parliamentary elections, likely in three years' time.
"I believe women understand their own problems better than men would," she says, adding that National Need will seek to increase women's participation in politics and business. "We want to campaign for democracy, not only talk about democracy. In this way, we want to work with our brothers and the rest of Afghan society."
Some of Nazari's fellow deputies and officials in Kabul welcomed the creation of the country's first-ever women's political party. Some called it a step forward toward greater democracy and recognition of women's rights. Interestingly, the Afghan parliament already boasts fairly high representation by women: Twenty-three of 100 members in the upper house and 68 of 249 deputies in the lower house are women
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Afghanistan's 'Hidden' Art Treasures on Exhibit in Amsterdam
By Lauren Comiteau Amsterdam 19 February 2008
The Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan in March 2001 was the most dramatic expression of their mission to obliterate all "idolatrous" images from Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past. Along with the Buddhas, the Taliban destroyed 2,500 other cultural gems from Kabul's National Museum of Afghanistan. But thanks to the heroic efforts of the museum's curators, not all was destroyed. A traveling exhibit that recently opened in Amsterdam has brought some of what has survived under one roof. Lauren Comiteau visited the exhibit at Amsterdam's Nieuwe Kerk - or New Church - and files this report.
As one enters the Hidden Afghanistan exhibit, a banner headline reads: "A Nation Stays Alive When Its Culture Stays Alive." A glimpse of that culture - and how it survived invasion, civil war, and even the Taliban - is what this exhibit is all about.
"I believe this exhibit is going to go and show the world that Afghanistan is not what they hear in the West, that it's Taliban and war and this and that," says Omar Sultan, Afghanistan's Deputy Minister of Information and Culture. "But that we have a cultural heritage that is not only belong to Afghanistan but it belongs to the world."
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