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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2008

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The Sandbox and Areas Reports Thread June 2008              

News only - commentary elsewhere, please.
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Articles found June 1, 2008

Afstan: Canadians back in combat/Yankee imperialism
Saturday, May 31, 2008
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Looks like the Taliban are reverting to some of their tactics from 2006:

Operation Rolling Thunder ends successfully
Top-secret engagement [??] sees Canadian troops involved in heaviest fighting this year against Taliban militants


Code-named Operation Rawa Tander, Pashto for Rolling Thunder, the joint Canada and Afghan military mission was aimed at disrupting insurgent activity in one of Kandahar province's most dangerous areas, Pashmul.

Located in Zhari district, the birthplace of the Taliban movement, the area is a hornet's nest of insurgent activity. The battle-scarred region, southwest of Kandahar, has been the site of several, often bloody, battles for Canadian soldiers since 2006.

The operation, which involved multiple platoons, started before day-break on Tuesday and, by 6:15 a.m., bullets were already ripping through Pashmul, a collection of small, ancient villages and farmland. The few locals still living in the area either fled by foot or hunkered down in their compounds before the fighting started. Most are poor farmers.

Canadian and Afghan soldiers were able to sneak up on a suspect compound and take the militants by surprise. The insurgents, toting AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, returned fire for about half an hour from a grape hut.

The battle ended a short time later after the Canadians called on U.S. military air support to drop several bombs, including Hellfire missiles, on the area.

As the week progressed, the fighting intensified, with yesterday being the most hard-fought for Canadian and Afghan forces.
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Japan may send troops to Afghanistan: PM
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TOKYO -- Japan is considering whether to send its first troops to Afghanistan on a reconstruction mission, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Sunday.

Tokyo has been a major donor to Afghanistan, pledging 1.3 billion dollars since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.

However, its pacifist constitution limits its military activities, and it does not have troops among the international forces helping Afghanistan fight the resurgent Islamic extremist movement.

"If conditions on the (Afgan) ground allow, Japan can offer its cooperation in activities on the ground. I'm always thinking of that possibility," Fukuda told reporters when asked about sending troops.

"My attitude is that we should do what we can do," he added.

His comments came one day after Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura said the government was studying widening Japan's contribution on Afghanistan, in addition to a military refuelling mission in the Indian Ocean.
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Estonians Ready for Battle in Afghanistan's "Hell Land"
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Estonia's unit in Afghanistan may be small, but it's already seen plenty of action and suffered several casualties. As a new member of NATO, it feels responsible to the military alliance.

The desert landscape shudders to explosions of mortar and rocket shells, small arms fire and grenade blasts as the Estonian troops stage final battle rehearsals before the real thing.

By mid-morning the mercury rises to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and the men are caked with dust and sweat as they manoeuvre and shoot, again and again.

Gulping water from his backpack between compound clearance drills, machine-gunner Raul Pargma, 23, downplays the hardships at the start of a six-month tour in Helmand, dubbed "Hell Land" by British forces that lead the fight against Taliban insurgents in the southern Afghan province: "I like it here, I feel I'm useful for my country, NATO, my unit," he says.

It's a typically upbeat response among the newly arrived company of 105 men which will shortly deploy from Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand, 60 kilometers (37 miles) north to the district center of Now Zad.
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Remote-controlled bomb kills 1, injures 5 in Afghanistan
June 1, 2008 -- Updated 0516 GMT (1316 HKT)
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KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A remote-controlled bomb targeting a mini-bus carrying Afghan army personnel went off in Kabul Sunday morning, killing a woman and wounding five others, police said.

According to the defense ministry, the woman who died was a civilian as were two of the others who were wounded. Three army personnel were also injured, the defense ministry said.

The mini-bus was headed to the defense ministry, as it does twice a day ferrying Afghan National Army personnel.

The bomb had been hidden by the side of the road in the western part of the city, Jalil said.

It was the second attack in the city since Thursday when a suicide bomber targeted a convoy of international soldiers in eastern Kabul.

Three civilians were killed in the ensuing blast. No soldier was hurt
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Highway Convoy Honours Fallen Canadian Soldiers
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They came by the hundreds to honour the fallen soldiers who have given their lives in service for their country. The Red Rally expected some 504 motorcycles and 122 cars to participate.
The convoy of 83 red cars, representing the number of fallen soldiers, left Trenton Ontario, Toronto bound, while hundreds of people wearing red shirts and waving Canadian flags watched.

The Red Rally was organized by the Red Fridays Foundation of Canada to honour Canadian soldiers who have died in Afghanistan. The Rally's organizers had expected some 504 motorcycles and 122 cars to participate.
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CTV reporting:

4 Canadian soldiers injured in Afghanistan attacks
Updated Mon. Jun. 2 2008 2:42 PM ET

The Canadian Press

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Four Canadians soldiers and an Afghan interpreter have been wounded in two separate attacks west of Kandahar.

The incidents happened within minutes of each other in the restive Zhari district, where Canadian troops successfully concluded an operation that saw a Taliban sub-commander killed.

One soldier was wounded in a firefight, while three other soldiers and the Afghan interpreter were hurt when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb.

One of the injured Canadians is described to be in serious condition and will likely be flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany.

Maj. Jay Janzen, an army spokesman, described the attacks as retaliation for the gains made by the Canadian during the week-long Operation Rolling Thunder.

'I Wish I Had the Taliban as My Soldiers'
Spiegel Online, June 2

President Hamid Karzai has come under fire for not doing enough to stem corruption in Afghanistan. He speaks to SPIEGEL about the coalition forces' ties with warlords, rumors about his family's influence and why he believes dirty deals are sometimes necessary.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, much has been written about the failures of the international community in Afghanistan. But a good part of the so-called insurgency in the south and east of your country appears to have more to do with a protest movement against a bad government and corrupt elite. It doesn't seem like much of an exaggeration to talk about a resurgence of the Taliban. Is it not true that many Afghans are only joining the Taliban because they don't consider them to be corrupt?

Hamid Karzai: I disagree. That is absolutely wrong.

SPIEGEL: Some Afghan people say that the president himself, who is appointing high-ranking officials in Kabul and in the provinces, is fueling the insurgency with these personnel decisions. Is that there any truth in that?

Karzai: Governance has improved immensely in Afghanistan. For the first time in six years, the Afghan budget has become transparent, there are no longer any secret funds. Before, the governors did whatever they wanted. Now there is a reporting requirement and there are former governors who were criminal or corrupt who are now in prison, like the former governor of Baghdis province. Of course the country needs more time, but the problems we have in the south and east are not because of bad governance.

SPIEGEL: Then what are the reasons for the difficult situation there?

Karzai: There is a lot of interference from abroad. The south part of the country has always been the center of the Taliban activity; they came from there. And there are also traces of the mujahedeen's decades-long battle. These are all factors...

SPIEGEL: During the Taliban times there were no checkpoints at all.

Karzai: That was the best aspect of the Taliban. They did a lot wrong, but they also did a few things right. I wish I had the Taliban as my soldiers. I wish they were serving me and not people in Pakistan or others. When we came back to Afghanistan, the international community brought back all those people who had turned away from the Taliban …

SPIEGEL: … you mean the brutal commanders who fought in the civil war …

Karzai: … who then became partners with the foreign allies and are still paid by them today for their support. It is not always easy for me to find a way that can enable Afghanistan's administration to function.

SPIEGEL: Dirty deals are still necessary for the stability of Afghanistan?

Karzai: Absolutely necessary, because we lack the power to solve these problems in other ways. What do you want? War? Let me give you an example. We wanted to arrest a really terrible warlord, but we couldn't do it because he is being protected by a particular country. We found out that he was being paid $30,000 a month to stay on his good side. They even used his soldiers as guards…

SPIEGEL: You meet regularly for negotiations with representatives of the Taliban -- like Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban's former foreign minister, or Mullah Saif, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan -- but so far without any results. And yet we still see new suicide attacks almost every day.

Karzai: Negotiations aren't moving forward the way we would like them too. But we will continue. Taliban who are part of al-Qaida should in no way be permitted to return. But those who have joined the Taliban out of fear or because they were needy are Afghanistan's native sons and they are more than welcome back in their country...

SPIEGEL: Being the president of Afghanistan is an almost impossible job. How are you able to remain perpetually optimistic?

Karzai: I believe I have led this country very well. Yes, I have made mistakes. I was not in a situation to solve problems like corruption and impunity. But that was beyond my power and beyond the time limit that I have at my disposal. However, we have saved this country from another civil war and people from starving. And the same people who once fought against each other in the streets of Kabul are now sitting in parliament. Afghanistan's flag is flying all over the world. There are new roads, the first students received their degrees from Kabul University a few days ago. That is great!..

Articles found June 3, 2008

Four Canadian soldiers wounded
KATHERINE O'NEILL Globe and Mail Update June 2, 2008 at 5:28 PM EDT
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Kandahar, Afghanistan — Four Canadian soldiers were wounded, one seriously, in two separate incidents that occurred within minutes of each other in the Zhari district, a volatile area southwest of Kandahar.

Around 12:15 p.m. local time, a soldier was hurt when Canadians got into a firefight with insurgents during a security operation.

Around the same time, three soldiers and one Afghan interpreter were wounded by an improvised explosive device while on foot in a nearby area, according to the military.

The most seriously injured soldier may be airlifted to be flown to a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany for treatment.
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US General to head NATO forces in Afghanistan
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The man who headed NATO forces in Afghanistan for the past 15 months, General Dan McNeil, has handed over command to another US General, David McKiernan.

General McKiernan is best known for overseeing the ground attack that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Before stepping down, General McNeil made an appeal for more resources to be directed towards the war in Afghanistan.
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First German Quick Reaction Troops Head to Afghanistan
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German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung is to see off the first Bundeswehr troops to take command of the Quick Reaction Force in northern Afghanistan on July 1.

The 200 members of the Quick Reaction Force (QRF) are the first German combat troops in Afghanistan. Some 3,500 German soldiers are already involved in the NATO peacekeeping mission in the country's north. 

Norway will hand over command of the unit at the beginning of next month.

The QRF will be responsible for helping local Afghan authorities reconstruct the country and providing security. In conflict situations, the soldiers are prepared to act as brokers and engage in combat if necessary. Though the troops will be based in the north, they may assist allies in other regions as well.

Germany has traditionally been hesitant to engage in combat missions and Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government has firmly opposed sending troops to the more volatile south, where fighting has been intense.
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The Coalition “Spring Offensive” Across Afghanistan
Jun 2 at 11:11am by David
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It isn’t clear just how much of May’s combat action was coordinated among allies, but what is clear is that the offensive initiated by various coalition forces, around the same time, has the Taliban taking heavy casualties as the fighting season picks up steam.

US/British Efforts in S. Helmand

June 1st - Allied forces launch another operation in Garmser as British troops seal the right flank of BLT 1/6, allowing the American Marines to push farther down the Helmand River valley toward the Pakistani border.  The offensive, which is in the heart of the insurgency’s drug trade, is forcing Taliban fighters toward Farah Province to the west.  The joint force retook the district center, Garmser, earlier in the month, killing as many as 150 Taliban during the course of more than 100 engagements.

Australian and Dutch Forces Push Deep Into Oruzgan

May 28th - A combined ISAF/Afghan force is driving deep into Oruzgan Province to stabilize the Baluchi Pass area, a region that has claimed a number of allied lives and is a know Taliban haven.

Norway Gets into the Fight

May 23rd - Norwegian forces, with support from Germany, launch a 10-day operation in Baghdis Province, killing as many as 50 insurgents.

June 2nd - ISAF airstrikes supporting Afghan Security Forces kill 55 insurgents in Baghdis Province.

Americans Keep Up the Pressure in Nuristan

US and Afghan forces air assault into the Gowerdesh Valley to regain control of a strategic bridge.

Regaining Control of Farah Province

US and Italian soldiers are reinforced through the summer by a battalion of US Marines.  2/7 Marines started combat patrols in the province in early May.  The Marines are tasked with training the police force in a province that has had a history of lawlessness and outright Taliban control.

Coalition forces in Farah are blocking retreating Taliban forces coming from Helmand:

May 24th - 12 Taliban are killed in Bala Buluk when a US/Afghan patrol came under fire.  The two-hour fight also left two Afghan police dead.

May 28th - NATO airstrikes kill as many as 30 Taliban in Bala Buluk.  Two Afghan policeman and one Afghan soldier are also killed.

May 29th - The coalition pressure continues to the south of Bala Buluk as they take Bakwa District back from the Taliban who have been in control almost a year.  The fighting leaves more than 100 Taliban and one American dead.

Canada Launches a Major Effort in Kandahar

May 28th - Canadian soldiers launch a weeklong offensive into Zhari, Dand and Panjwaii districts, Kandahar Province, in an effort to disrupt insurgent bomb-making facilities.  No Candiens were killed even with troops being regularly engaged by the Taliban.  19 militants were killed, including Taleb leader Mullah Tor Agha, in the operation code named, “Rolling Thunder”.
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Canadians 'came to our rescue' in Afghanistan: U.S. colonel
Last Updated: Monday, June 2, 2008
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A U.S. marine commander is praising Canadian troops who came to his battalion's assistance after a roadside bombing in southern Afghanistan.

Col. Peter Petronzio told Canadian reporters over the weekend that while his soldiers are doing a "great job" stemming the flow of insurgents in the Helmand River valley, people shouldn't view them as rescuers.

Rather, he said, it's the Canadians who should be recognized for helping his soldiers in April when a marine convoy struck a huge improvised explosive device near Forward Operating Base Wilson in the Zhari district.
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Odd, white-knuckle airline like Afghanistan itself
By SCOTT TAYLOR On Target Mon. Jun 2 - 5:47 AM
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AS A frequent international traveller, it has been my experience that you can discover a lot about a country from flying aboard their national airline. This certainly was the case when I flew into Kabul aboard Ariana Afghan Airlines.

The flight originated in Istanbul, and thankfully, I had called the airport ahead of time to confirm my flight and discovered the departure time had been delayed by a full two hours. When I inquired about the new expected arrival time so I could advise the people picking me up at the Kabul airport, I was told that we would arrive more than one hour ahead of schedule. When I asked how this could be possible, the attendant shrugged and said, "They will cut out the refuelling stop in Baku, Azerbaijan."
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U.S. offensive in Helmand taking pressure off the Canadians in Kandahar
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — U.S. marines clawed their way south along the Helmand River valley over the weekend in an ongoing push that the commander of the battle-hardened assault force hopes is easing the pressure on the Canadians in neighbouring Kandahar.

The level of fighting "has stayed fairly consistent" since they began arriving in southern Afghanistan earlier this spring, but "the last three days have probably been the most intense as we move further south," said Col. Pete Petronzio, who leads the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

"My marines are doing a great job."

The buoyant tone is also reflected in British ranks where a senior commander declared Sunday that the Taliban were on the run and "licking their wounds" in Helmand province, long a cauldron of militant activity.

Brig.-Gen. Gordon Messenger told the British media that insurgents had been tactically routed and intelligence estimates suggested they were now retrenching in Farah province, on the northwest border of Helmand.
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U.S. Reports Gains Against Taliban Fighters
NY Times, May 3, by Carlotta Gall

Taliban forces in southern Afghanistan are fleeing to the Pakistani border after being routed in recent operations by the United States Marines, the American commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan said on Monday.

Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit have been clearing Taliban and foreign fighters from the district of Garmser, in southern Helmand Province, an important infiltration and drug trafficking route used by the Taliban to supply insurgents farther north.

“The insurgents, after experiencing these several weeks of pressure below Garmser, are trying to flee to the south, perhaps to go back to the sanctuaries in another country,” said the NATO commander, Gen. Dan K. McNeill.

He did not name Pakistan, but Helmand Province shares a border with Pakistan, and the Taliban and drug traffickers have long used refugee camps across the border as a sanctuary from American firepower.

The governor of the province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, also spoke of the rout of the Taliban.

“For the last two days we have information that Taliban are escaping to the border areas,” he said...

Articles found June 4, 2008

Shilo soldiers immersed in everything Afghanistan
by Capt Andrew Chang
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ZHAREY-PANJWAYI, Afghanistan — For more than two months, B Company, 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group (B Coy, 2 PPCLI BG) has been operating in the Zharey-Panjwayi area of Kandahar, Afghanistan. In that relatively short period of time, the company has completed a large-scale operation and countless dismounted patrols.

Its area of operation is considered the birthplace and heart of the Taliban, a challenging environment in which to begin a tour.

The first platoon of B Coy arrived in Afghanistan in mid-February. Buses made their way from CFB/ASU Shilo to 17 Wing Winnipeg in a steady stream during the following weeks. Some changes, such as going from -40°C to 25°C, were definitely welcome. Other changes, mainly saying goodbye to family and friends, were more difficult. For most of the soldiers, though, there was a feeling of exhilaration at finally being able to do what they had trained so long to do. Many B Coy personnel served in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2006, and that experience and the soldiers’ rigorous work-up training prepared them well.

In a short span of time, B Coy has immersed itself in everything Afghan, from the people through the food to the environment. Speaking through interpreters, soldiers on foot patrol interact on a daily basis with locals, building trust and becoming aware of the Afghans’ concerns. Patrols and other operations almost always involve the local police or the Afghan National Army. Working with personnel that use different soldiering styles presents unique challenges, but it can also be very rewarding. Although initially wary of each other, Canadian and Afghan soldiers have developed a deep sense of mutual respect.

In the Zharey-Panjwayi area, members of B Coy have sampled the local chai, a warm beverage traditionally enjoyed during social gatherings and meetings with elders, or have feasted on goat, rice and flatbread during Now Ruz, Afghanistan’s New Year.Now Ruz, meaning “new day”’, takes place on the spring equinox (in 2008, March 20), symbolizing the renewal of the seasons and life.

The weather is mainly warm and sunny, even if summer has not yet arrived. Soldiers on patrol must often endure sweating through clothing, and a fine dust that sticks to almost everything. Occasionally, the wind picks up and creates dust storms that limit visibility, and the troops must weather the odd hailstorm. Although CFB/ASU Shilo is far away, it prepared 2 PPCLI well for the extreme and varied weather of Afghanistan.

By far, the most difficult part of the tour has been taking casualties. Two members of B Coy, Sergeant Jason Boyes and Private Terry Street, have been killed in Afghanistan. Their deaths have been felt across the battle group and back home, where everyone in western Manitoba knows each other. People who didn’t know Sgt Boyes or Pte Street probably know someone who did.
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Infantry group returns from anti-Taliban sweep
Updated Sat. May. 31 2008 9:57 AM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Canadian and Afghan soldiers have concluded an operation designed to disrupt Taliban bomb-making operations in a volatile district of Kandahar province.

Operation Rolling Thunder saw a battle group from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry sweep through Zhari district, where the Taliban have had a long-established presence.

They engaged in firefights with the Taliban, but no Canadians were injured. One Afghan National Army soldier was slightly wounded.

"The aim was to get out there and cause them to be off balance, to take them out of their regular cycles so they're not able to go around with their regular routine and plant IEDs," Maj. Fraser Auld, a battle group planner, told reporters at Kandahar airfield on Saturday.
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Extreme IT: Battling dust, heat and bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq
How IT pros keep communications running in the desert and under fire
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June 4, 2008 (Computerworld) Lots of people like to describe their jobs as "being on the front lines," but there are IT professionals whose jobs really do put them on the front lines of a combat zone. You think your work life's stressful? Try getting a network restored after it's been brought down by a mortar attack — in 110-degree heat.

That's life in Iraq and Afghanistan for the members of the U.S. military in charge of communications, networks and other IT systems. The desert environment presents its own challenges; throw in a war, and you've got a situation that taxes both the equipment and the men and women who maintain it.

For this edition of Extreme IT, we spoke with officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan about their jobs. Participants included Air Force Lt. Col. Don Fielden, currently deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq, and Army Lt. Col. Patrick Dedham, just back from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

Also on the phone were Army Lt. Col. David Wills and Air Force Col. Harold Bullock, both of the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla., and both of whom have spent a good deal of time in the current war zones.
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U.S.-led military kills dozen insurgents, detains 2 in Afghanistan  
www.chinaview.cn  2008-06-04 15:46:33 
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    KABUL, June 4 (Xinhua) -- The U.S.-led Coalition forces have killed over a dozen insurgents in response to an attack in Helmand province of southern Afghanistan and detained two militants in central province Ghazni, the Coalition said Wednesday.

    While approaching Putay town of Helmand for humanitarian assistance, "a vehicle in the Coalition convoy struck an IED," the U.S.-led military said, adding "Coalition forces immediately began vehicle-recovery operations, but the convoy was ambushed by insurgents using small-arms fire. During the fighting, another Coalition vehicle struck a mine."

    The force used precision air strikes against the insurgents after the rebels were seen entering homes in an attempt to use them as fighting positions, causing residents to flee, according to the military.

    The Coalition forces then ensured that there were no women or children in the area before launching precision strikes, it added.
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USA Looks to Bridge FMTV Truck Orders Until 2009-2010
03-Jun-2008 20:38 EDT
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Amateurs discuss tactics, professionals discuss logistics. A military force can have all of the flashy combat vehicles it wants, but without a solid underpinning of medium and heavy trucks to handle logistics, that combat force is either dependent or hollow. That truth has been vividly illustrated in Iraq, where the priority placed on raising the Iraqi Army’s combat power has made it dependent on the mature American logistics force in theater. Discussions of “independent operational capability” for Iraqi units revolve primarily around this logistics gap. While some units are capable now, Iraq is just beginning to implement the logistics tail that will give most of its units this ability to operate independently.

The 14 variants in the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles form the core of the USA’s new state-of-the-art medium military transport truck fleet. Which in turn forms the core of the “mature logistics capability” seen in the Iraqi theater and elsewhere. FMTV trucks are all automatic transmission, and rage from 2.5-ton cargo and van models to 5-ton cargo, tractor, van, wrecker, tanker, specialty, and dump-truck models in various 4×4 and 6×6 configurations. Some models also have attached trailers that increase their carrying capacity. Even so, the use of common engines, transmissions, drivelines, power trains, tires, cabs, et. al. create over 80% parts commonality between FMTV models. Where possible, commercial components are used for added savings.
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Australian defence chief says 10,000 troops required in Afghanistan
AP, June 5

An additional 10,000 troops are required to quell a Taliban and al-Qaida insurgency in southern Afghanistan but European NATO partners appear unwilling to deploy more soldiers, Australia's defense minister said Thursday.

"At least 10,000 (more troops) would give us the critical mass necessary to do what we need to do on the military front," Joel Fitzgibbon told The Associated Press at his office in the Australian capital Canberra.

"Having spoken to a number of European countries over the course of the last four months, I don't see a lot of hope that anyone else is about to put their hand up anytime soon. That's a worry because if they (troops) don't come, progress will continue to be all too slow," he said.

The United States currently contributes 33,000 of the 51,000 troops in the 40-nation International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. Canada currently has about 2,500 troops serving in the country. Fitzgibbon said he expected Washington would send more troops to Afghanistan as it withdrew others from Iraq.

"Because of the strength of the United States' commitment, I think if it (a troop deployment) doesn't come from others ... they (the U.S.) will do more," he said.

He said U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom he met at an international security conference in Singapore last weekend, agreed with the need to substantially increase troop numbers in Afghanistan.

"He's certainly given me the impression that the United States remains absolutely committed to the project and he's certainly given me the impression that there's likely to be continuity on that issue across the administration regardless of who wins in November," Fitzgibbon said, referring to upcoming U.S. presidential elections.

Fitzgibbon said Australia was already carrying its fair share of the burden with 1,000 troops in Afghanistan, the 10th-largest national contribution and the largest outside NATO...

The head of Australia's defence force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, told a Senate inquiry Wednesday the military campaign in Afghanistan "will last at least 10 years."

Fitzgibbon said Thursday military operations could take less time with adequate resources, although reconstruction of the country will take longer.

"I still believe ... the military efforts will be something much less than 10 years, but there are no guarantees," he said
[emphasis added].

Fitzgibbon said he was disappointed that some European countries would not make a greater military effort in Afghanistan. He declined to name them, however, saying it would be counterproductive...

Articles found June 7, 2008

Intrepid Afghan interpreters risk life and limb
KATHERINE O'NEILL From Saturday's Globe and Mail June 6, 2008 at 10:26 PM EDT
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MASUM GHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Lucky was 17 and working as a doctor's assistant at a Kabul hospital in 2001 when Afghanistan spiralled into war and he answered the call to head to the front lines.

But like hundreds of other educated, young Afghan men, both nationals and expatriates, he didn't join the country's struggling army. Instead, he put his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold and proudly signed up to be a military interpreter for the coalition forces.

“It is dangerous, but if we don't help our people, who will help them?” he said.

Like other Afghan military interpreters, who are nicknamed “terps” by soldiers, he can't use his real name or be photographed for fear insurgents will target him or his family. He goes by Lucky because Westerners have trouble pronouncing his given name.

After working for the U.S. Army, then the British, Lucky, who is tall, slender and always neatly dressed, was recruited by the Canadian military. He is currently commanding a small interpreter pool at Canada's forward operating base in Masum Ghar, about 40 kilometres southwest of Kandahar.

Like interpreters stationed with Canadians at other outposts, these unarmed men follow soldiers wherever they go, often right into harm's way.
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New style at the top for military
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As the leadership of the Canadian Forces changes from an outspoken and often pugnacious general to one described as a gentleman, observers are split about what lies ahead.

Rick Hillier was never afraid to voice opinions. He argued for deployment to Kandahar to kill "scumbags" and became the face of the war.

But Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk will be taking over as Canadian Forces in Afghanistan move towards reconstruction.

Reshaping the mission and implementing promises the government made to rebuild the forces here at home will be his challenge.

"The Afghan mission will be (less) of a policy issue mainly because it's been agreed to by parliament," said retired colonel Alain-Michel Pellerin, of the Conference of Defence Associations.

Steven Staples, president of the Rideau Institute, remains worried about what Natynczyk may bring to the job.

"In his comments he said he saw the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan as exactly the same and that the solutions would be the same," said Staples.

"The last thing Canadians want is to see a U.S.-style from Iraq transplanted onto Canada's forces in Afghanistan."
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Two Polish helicopters to start ferrying Canadians this summer: minister
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - It will be later this summer before Poland makes two Mi-17 helicopters available to transport hard-pressed Canadian troops around the battlefield in Kandahar.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski says the transports will be available to help out "as soon as we complete our deployment" of reinforcements, which are going to eastern Afghanistan.

The former Warsaw Pact adversary is one of the few European NATO members that has increased its troop commitment to the war-ravaged country, bringing its total number of boots on the ground to 1,600 soldiers.

Eight Soviet-style helicopters are being deployed with the troops - four Mi-17 transport helicopters and four gunships to protect them.

Polish special forces units are operating in Kandahar and will also be using the helicopters.

"Our political will is that they should be (available) by request at the disposal of Canada," Sikorski told reporters at Kandahar Airfield on Friday.
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Natynczyk promotion to CDS popular with U.S. commanders
Matthew Fisher ,  Canwest News Service Published: Friday, June 06, 2008
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The appointment of Lt.-Gen. Walt Natynczyk to head the Canadian Armed Forces was hailed in Washington on Friday by senior U.S. army officers who worked with him four years ago in Iraq.

"Not only is he a close friend of mine but one of the finest officers I have ever met," said Lt.-Gen. Thomas Metz, who was Natynczyk's boss in Iraq when the Canadian was the deputy commander of the U.S. amy's III Corps and the U.S.-led Multi-National Corps.

"His professionalism and dedication to his country's Armed Forces is unmatched. Fearless in battle, he is a superb choice for this new duty."
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Gunman kills key Afghan adviser in district pacified by Canadian troops
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The senior adviser to the tribal leader in one of the few relatively peaceful districts of Kandahar province was gunned down Friday, the latest in a wave of killings and attempted assassinations of major Afghan government supporters.

Malim Akbar Khakrezwal, 55, a former mujahedeen leader and a key supporter of the leader of the Alokozai tribe in the Arghandab district, was shot and killed outside his home in the village of Lowwal, just outside Kandahar city.

His death is being seen by Afghan authorities as an attempt to destabilize the district, which Canadian troops fought a bloody campaign last fall to reclaim from Taliban militants.

Arghandab, one of the few relatively peaceful and prosperous regions in the province, is tenuously held together by a 25-year-old tribal leader who depended on Khakrezwal for support.

Neither Canadian military or civilian officials have commented on his murder.
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Attacks can't slow down Afghan police officer
Doug Schmidt ,  Canwest News Service Published: Thursday, June 05, 2008
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - At least four times already that day, the man under a bulky cloak had caught the eye of Amanullah, an Afghan police officer patrolling the bazaar district of Spin Boldak, a city in southern Kandahar Province near the Pakistan border, and a known gateway for insurgents mixed amongst the returning refugees.

"All the time he is watching us. I said to my assistant, let's go and check him, this man is very dangerous, maybe," Amanullah said this week, in an interview through a Pashto interpreter.

As Amanullah exited his vehicle, the man he recalls having green eyes and green clothes bolted.

Amanullah, with the Afghan national security forces, gives the thumbs up during his recovery in a Canadian-led trauma hospital at Kandahar Airfield. He has killed three suicide bombers in two separate recent instances, the last time sustaining serious injuries. But he says he'll be back on the job as soon as he's recovered.
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The power of the pen
Katherine O'Neill, June 5, 2008 at 7:52 AM EDT
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Pashmul is a collection of bombed out mud compounds and grape huts. So, that's why, even after last week's Operation Rolling Thunder, which saw bombs and artillery rain down on the rural area west of Kandahar for three days, it wasn't completely obvious Canadian and Afghan soldiers had even been there.

It's surprising that people even dwell in this dangerous place, which is a maze of winding pathways and farmers' fields, and a favoured hide-out for Taliban insurgents. Most residents are poor farmers; few can read or write.

When the soldiers walked out of Pashmul on Friday after the fighting had finally stopped for the week, several Afghans come out of hiding to greet them. Many handed out tiny gifts to the children, emptying their pockets to give away whatever they had on them, including candy, water and pens.

One little girl in a green dress (pictured above) stopped me, and pointed to my pen. “She wants to know what that is,” an Afghan interpreter explained to me.

She looked puzzled when I handed it to her, and the interpreter tried to tell her how to use it. As I left, I wondered what would happen to that pen. Would she find paper? Would she ever be able to use it at school, if one eventually re-opens in the battle-scarred area?
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US troops have tax-free pay but British soldiers get poor deal
Michael Evans
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Basic military pay after tax across Europe and in the United States looks remarkably similar to the salaries paid to British troops. None of the wages paid appears over-generous.

However, the small print of the financial deals offered to combat troops makes the difference. The US military have the best arrangement. When US troops are deployed overseas to fight, their salaries are tax-free.

British troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have looked enviously at their American counterparts. The only way in which the Ministry of Defence has been able to try to match the Pentagon's generosity has been to ask the Treasury to fund tax-free operational bonuses, which are now paid to all Service personnel who complete six-month tours.

Throughout Europe, taking into account the different standards of living, the British military pay compares favourably with allies. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands all pay relatively low wages for the most junior ranks, but offer extra allowances to boost their pay packets. German troops are offered a Christmas bonus. The Spanish, like the British, offer their troops special geographical allowances when they are deployed away from home. Spain has troops serving in western Afghanistan.

The most attractive wages appear to be paid to Australian troops. The basic pay for new soldiers is A$38,000 (£18,619), but they receive an additional annual A$10,000 to compensate for inconveniences such as working at weekends. Their annual A$48,000 is worth £23,515.

Charles Heyman, the editor of The British Army Guide, said: “The impression is that the Americans get more allowances than our boys, as well as the tax-free salary when serving in war zones. They also get special treatment when they leave the Services from the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

He added: “But no one who joins the Armed Forces in any country expects to be paid like lawyers or doctors. They join because they are interested in a varied career and a lot of them serve for only short periods. They see joining the military as an entry into adult life and many of them leave after three or four years. But if a government wants to retain these people, especially the middle-ranking officers and NCOs, they are going to have to pay them.”
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Paratroopers launch biggest battle in Afghanistan for two years
Daily Telegraph, June 7

In one of the biggest air assaults in their history, troops from the Parachute Regiment have spent the last four days deep in Taliban territory.

Breaking one of the last insurgent strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the "Battle of Qarat-e-Hazrat" in Zabul Province ended in an enemy rout.

The Daily Telegraph's Defence Correspondent Thomas Harding watched as British firepower finally turned the tide in the Taliban's own "back yard".

Witnessing the firefight, he reports on a fight which destroyed the idea of Afghanistan's "mythical warriors"...


Tracking the Coalition’s Afghan spring offensive
The Long War Journal, June 7, by Matt Dupree

Following the break in weather and an alarming increase in anti-government activity, Afghan and Coalition forces launched a blazing series of offensives throughout most of the insurgency-plagued areas of Afghanistan. Around May 15, nearly a month after the Taliban announced the formal launch of their spring offensive dubbed Operation Hibrat (lesson), Coalition forces struck out in major operations of their own. The multitude of operations include remote fronts in the war such as northwestern Badghis province near the Afghan border with Turkmenistan, and southwestern Farah province and central Uruzgan province, both of which endured heavy fighting since October. Further operations have been carried out in southeastern Zabul province; Kapisa province, which is a mere 50-kilometers northeast of Kabul; and in the insurgent saturated provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.

Afghan violence soared in 2007, with well over 7,000 people being killed across the country, more than half of whom were insurgents. The toll includes more than 900 Afghan police killed in the line of duty. Coalition forces suffered as well, with 110 US troops killed, the highest level ever in Afghanistan. Britain lost 41 soldiers, Canada lost 30, and other nations lost a total of 40, according to an Associated Press count.

Last year also became the most dangerous year for non-governmental organizations operating in the country, with a staggering 106 crime and conflict-related security incidents occurring against NGO personnel. Overall, Afghan violence in 2007 rose 33 percent over incidents reported in 2006, an alarming increase that is likely to repeat itself this year. Already attacks are up nearly 40 percent compared to the first 13 weeks of last year, with the biggest increase occurring in the eastern provinces bordering the restive tribal states of Pakistan.

Below is a catalog of military offensives currently under way against insurgent and criminal elements throughout Afghanistan...

Articles found June 9, 2008

A soldier's misstep leaves fiancée, family heartbroken
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KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN and VANCOUVER -- Just days before Canadian Captain Jonathan Snyder died accidentally while on patrol in southern Afghanistan, the 26-year-old was credited with saving the lives of several soldiers during a risky operation in a dangerous area of southern Afghanistan.

"Because of his heroic leadership under intense fire, there are many Canadians and Afghans that are alive to fight tomorrow," Major Robert Ritchie told reporters last night, after serving as a pallbearer during a sombre ramp ceremony under a crescent moon at Kandahar Air Field.

Capt. Snyder, a member of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton, died Saturday night after falling down a deep well during a night patrol in Zhari district of Kandahar province.

The soldier, on his second Afghan tour of duty, was engaged to be married in December to his high-school sweetheart, Megan Stewart. The couple had only recently sent out their wedding invitations.
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U.K. Military Death Toll in Afghanistan Rises to 100 (Update2)
By Ed Johnson and Clementine Fletcher
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June 9 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K. military's death toll in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion rose to 100 as a suicide attack in the country's south killed three soldiers.

The men, from the Parachute Regiment's 2nd Battalion, were on foot patrol in Helmand province when they came under attack yesterday, the Ministry of Defence said. A fourth soldier is being treated for wounds received in the blast.

``Every one of these deaths is a tragedy,'' Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defense staff, said in a statement yesterday. ``Make no mistake, the Taliban influence is waning, and through British blood, determination and grit, a window of opportunity has been opened'' to stabilize the country.

The U.K. has about 7,800 soldiers under North Atlantic Treaty Organization command in Afghanistan fighting a Taliban-led insurgency. The Islamist regime was driven from power by a U.S.- led coalition in late 2001 after refusing to hand over al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

British troops are stationed predominantly in Helmand, one of the provinces where the insurgency is at its most intense. With Dutch, American and Canadian forces they have done the bulk of the fighting, while countries such as Italy and Germany have restricted their troops to the quieter north
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Top Canadian soldiers mark Dragoons' 125th year
Updated Sat. Jun. 7 2008 10:35 PM ET CTV.ca News Staff
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Outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier and his replacement, Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk, inspected the guard on Parliament Hill at the 125th anniversary parade of the Royal Canadian Dragoons.

Both Hillier and Natynczyk got their start with the Dragoons -- the oldest and most senior armoured regiment in Canada -- and both became well-known field commanders.

"I will tell you it is very comforting for me, that as your Chief of Defence Staff, I depart and hand the torch to you and Gen. Walter Natynczyk. It will be held higher still," Hillier said from Ottawa.
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Afghan Tribal Leader Killed
By CARLOTTA GALL and TAIMOOR SHAH Published: June 7, 2008
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A powerful tribal leader was gunned down outside his home in the southern city of Kandahar by suspected Taliban Friday morning, Afghan officials said. Muhammad Akbar Khakrezwal, a former commander and supporter of the government, was shot by two men on a motorbike, a preferred tactic by Taliban gunmen. He died before he reached the hospital.

Mr. Khakrezwal’s brother, the police chief of Kabul, was killed in a suicide bombing in Kandahar June 6, 2005, three years ago to the day. Both men belonged to the powerful Alokozai tribe, which has strongly opposed the Taliban. The leader of the Alokozai tribe, Mullah Naquibullah, also died after being badly wounded in a roadside bombing in March last year.
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Pakistani engineer kidnapped in Afghanistan: Police
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Agence France-Presse Saturday, June 7, 2008 (Kabul)

Gunmen on Saturday kidnapped a Pakistani engineer working on a road in insurgency-hit southern Afghanistan, a police commander said.

The engineer, employed by an Afghan road construction company, was abducted after the gunmen opened fire and injured his driver as they were travelling outside the city, Kandahar police chief Sayed Agha Saqeb told an international news agency.

''A Pakistani engineer was kidnapped on the road between Kandahar city and Gereshk,'' Saqeb said, referring to a town in the neighbouring province of Helmand.

''We have launched an operation to track the kidnappers and free the Pakistani national,'' he told the news agency.

The police commander could not say who may have been responsible for the kidnapping. Taliban militants have been behind a series of such abductions as have criminal gangs.
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BBC journalist among 16 killed in Afghanistan
The Associated Press Sunday, June 8, 2008
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: An Afghan journalist working for the BBC World Service was found dead in southern Afghanistan with a gunshot wound to the head Sunday, while insurgents elsewhere killed 15 others, including 11 police officers, officials said.

The British Broadcasting Corp. said Abdul Samad Rohani disappeared in the town of Lashkar Gar in Helmand Province on Saturday. His body was found Sunday in a cemetery.

Rohani was the Helmand reporter for the BBC World Service's Pashto language service, and a BBC World News editor, Jon Williams, called his death "a terrible loss."

"Rohani's courage and dedication have been a key part of the BBC's reporting from Afghanistan in recent years," Williams said in a statement from London. "His bravery - and that of his colleagues - have allowed us to tell a key story for audiences in the U.K., in Afghanistan and around the world."

The Helmand provincial police chief, Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, said officials were investigating the death and had not named any suspects.

The news industry in Afghanistan has grown rapidly since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban, and dozens of newspapers, radio stations and TV stations have opened around the country. But journalists in the country face grave danger from Taliban militants as well as local strongmen unhappy with negative news coverage.
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Articles found June 10, 2008

Dam to be jewel of Afghan development project
Updated Tue. Jun. 10 2008 11:36 AM ET The Associated Press
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The Conservative government plans to make the refurbishment and expansion of a dam bordering a sapphire-coloured lake in northern Kandahar the jewel of Canada's development effort in the war-torn region, The Canadian Press has learned.

Roughly $120 million is expected to be poured into the Dahla dam, in northern Arghandab district, over the next nine years, said political and defence sources, who asked not to be named.

Other international partners, including USAID, could also contribute to the project, Afghan sources added.

The intent would be to help improve irrigation all along the Arghandab River Valley, a semi-lush concourse that weaves its way across the parched moonscape of southern Afghanistan.

Officials with the Canadian International Development Agency visited the dam in late March to inspect it.

And defence sources say consideration is being given to expanding its potential for hydro generation, something that would ease the electricity shortage throughout the province.

The dam has three generating stations right now that are barely functional.

The idea of a signature development project was one of the pillars of the Manley commission report on the future of Canada's Afghan mission.

Political sources in Ottawa say there will be another signature project, but not of the bricks and mortar kind. Rather, the Conservative government also intends to pour money into eradicating polio in Afghanistan.
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RAND: Pakistan helped Taliban
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Pakistani intelligence agents and paramilitary forces have helped train Taliban insurgents and have given them information about U.S. troop movements in Afghanistan, said a report published by a U.S. think tank.

The study published Monday by the RAND Corp. also warned that the U.S. will face "crippling, long-term consequences" in Afghanistan if Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan are not eliminated.

It echoes recent statements by U.S. generals, who have increased their warnings that militant safe havens in Pakistan are threatening efforts in Afghanistan. The study was funded by the U.S. Defense Department.

"Every successful insurgency in Afghanistan since 1979 enjoyed safe haven in neighboring countries, and the current insurgency is no different," said the report's author, Seth Jones. "Right now, the Taliban and other groups are getting help from individuals within Pakistan's government, and until that ends, the region's long-term security is in jeopardy."

Pakistan's top military spokesman rejected the findings.

The study, "Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan," found some active and former officials in Pakistan's intelligence service and the Frontier Corps -- a Pakistani paramilitary force deployed along the Afghan border -- provided direct assistance to Taliban militants and helped secure medical care for wounded fighters.

It said NATO officials have uncovered several instances of Pakistani intelligence agents providing information to Taliban fighters, even "tipping off Taliban forces about the location and movement of Afghan and coalition forces, which undermined several U.S. and NATO anti-Taliban military operations." No timeframes were given.
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Afghanistan needs another 10 years before flying solo: Karzai
AFP, June 9

Afghanistan needs at least a decade to be able to handle its own security, President Hamid Karzai said Monday on a visit to peacekeeping troop contributor The Netherlands.

"Afghanistan ... will have a much better administration by 2010," he told journalists after talks with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende in The Hague.

"But that does not mean that Afghanistan will be entirely on its own feet," Karzai added as international forces struggle with the Taliban militia that has been rejuvenated since being ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001.

"It will take much longer for us to be able to fully defend ourselves and run our affairs. At least another 10 years would be required for the whole of the country."..

Applying Iraq’s Lessons in an Afghan Village
NY Times, June 10, by Carlotta Gall

HAZARJOFT, Afghanistan — United States marines pushed the Taliban out of this village and the surrounding district in southern Helmand Province so quickly in recent weeks that they called the operation a “catastrophic success.”

Yet, NATO troops had conducted similar operations here in 2006 and 2007, and the Taliban had returned soon after they left. The marines, drawing on lessons from Iraq, say they know what to do to keep the Taliban at bay if they are given the time.

“There is definitely someone thinking out there,” said Capt. John Moder, commander of Company C of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, speaking of the Taliban. “That’s why we need these people to be at least neutral to us,” he said, gesturing to the farmers who have been slowly filtering back to harvest their fields.

Originally sent to Garmser District on a three-day operation to open a road, the marines have been here a month and are likely to stay longer. The extension of the operation reflects the evolving tactics of the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan, building on the knowledge accumulated in recent years in Anbar Province in Iraq.

The district of Garmser, a fertile valley along the Helmand River, had been under control of the Taliban and members of Al Qaeda for most of the last two years and much of it had become a war zone, as the Taliban traded fire with British troops based in the district center. One of the largest poppy-growing areas in the country, Garmser District has been an important infiltration route for the insurgents, sending weapons and reinforcements to the north and drug shipments to the south to the border with Pakistan.

Previous operations by NATO forces to clear the area of Taliban had yielded short-lived successes, as the Taliban have re-established control each time, Afghans from the area said. It is a strategy the insurgents have employed all over Afghanistan, using roadside and suicide bombs as well as executions to terrorize the people and undermine the authority of foreign forces and fledgling local governments...

Company C served in Anbar Province [see this article earlier this year by a Marine officer returned from Iraq], once one of the most intractably violent areas of Iraq, which quieted last year under a new strategy of empowering local groups called Awakening Councils, which now provide security. The marines were confident they could put that experience to good use here.

Only when you win over a critical balance of the local population and empower them to stand up to the insurgents can you turn the situation around, several marines said.

First Lt. Mark Matzke led a platoon for nine months last year in the Anbar city of Ramadi, where he said he got to know every character in a small neighborhood, both the troublemakers and the power brokers. But it was only when he sneaked in after dark and listened to people’s grievances in private that he was able to work out a strategy for protecting them from the insurgents.

“Through listening to their grievances, you could figure out that the people did not like the insurgents,” he said. But their biggest fear was that the marines would pull out, he said, leaving them at the mercy of insurgents who would treat them as collaborators.

As trust was built up, the people began to side with the marines and started to tip them off about who the insurgents were and where to find them. “You just need to give them confidence,” he said.

In this village, only the poorest laborers and farmers have started filtering back, Lieutenant Matzke said, adding, “These people are completely broken.” They refused all assistance at first, he said, but after talking for a couple of hours they admitted they could use the help, but were afraid to accept it for fear of the Taliban...

“I don’t think I will go back until complete peace and security comes,” said one elder, who said he had heard his house had collapsed under bombardment. “This is not the first time we have suffered. Several times we have seen such operations against the Taliban, and after some time the forces leave the area and so the Taliban find a way to return.”

“If NATO really wants to bring peace and make us free from harm from the Taliban,” he said, “they must make a plan for a long-term stay, secure the border area, install security checkpoints along the border area, deploy more Afghan National Army to secure the towns and villages, and then the people will be able to help them with security.”

Our military badly needs repair
We can't defend Canada's sovereignty and advance its interests in the world for pennies on the dollar

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

June 10, 2008 at 7:54 AM EDT

Don't get me wrong, General Rick Hillier is for real: a man among men, an inspirational leader and a Newfoundlander to boot. He's as close as you will get to a Canadian folk hero these days.

But if you think Lieutenant-General Walter Natynczyk, who is taking over as Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff from Gen. Hillier, is going to have big boots to fill, you're only half right. He is also going to have big boots to repair.

The Hillier brand sells: a rugged, no-nonsense straight-talker who stared down politicians and led Canada out of what he called a "decade of darkness" for the Canadian Forces.

I credit Gen. Hillier with instilling new pride among Forces personnel, and for restoring respect for the Forces among Canadians generally.

He has rightly prodded the Harper government to provide at least some of the equipment those troops need to survive the conflict in Kandahar - a conflict Gen. Hillier concedes is proving to be much more dangerous than he expected.

Under Gen. Hillier, the Canadian Forces have also added warrior credentials to peacekeeper credentials. That has come at a real financial and human cost, but toughness matters in the realpolitik of international affairs.

So why, with all those positives, is our military badly in need of repair? Two reasons: Stephen Harper and Rick Hillier.

First, the General. When Gen. Hillier took over, he promised to grow and transform the Canadian Forces even as Canada played a significant role overseas in one or more places like Afghanistan. To accomplish his vision, he was going to need two things: a transformation plan and money. Unfortunately, Gen. Hillier's transformation plan was flawed. Worse, he couldn't convince Mr. Harper to give him the money he needed, let alone transform the military.

Gen. Hillier's transformation plan superimposed a U.S.-style blueprint onto the Canadian military. Until a few years ago, the Canadian Forces had a Chief of the Defence Staff; a Deputy Chief of the Defence staff in charge of all operations, domestic and foreign; and a Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff who took care of internal issues and long-term planning. They pretty well did their jobs and stayed out of each other's way.

The new system featured a Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Hillier, and four commands reporting to him - in layman's terms, Canada Command, Overseas Command, Supply Command and Special Operations Command. Each built up its own sizable bureaucracy, draining the Forces of senior personnel needed for training and commanding troops. On top of that, Gen. Hillier's staff grew to more than 100 and too often micromanaged what should have been the work of the four commands.

Unfortunately, Canada's military is too small to carry an American-style command structure. Turf wars and duplication have abounded. A report brought down by three former senior officers recommended the new setup be blown up - but not until after the Olympics and Afghanistan were out of the way.

Anyone who thinks such organizational details are not newsworthy should understand that this muddle has created major problems, and Gen. Hillier's successor is going to have to untangle them or face unsustainable financial and personnel problems.

Meanwhile, Canada's commitment in Afghanistan has been sucking the marrow out of the Forces' bones. Skilled trades have been leaving for domestic jobs; recruitment has barely kept up with attrition; Ottawa cut its commitment to increase the Forces' regulars by 15,000 to 10,000, and cut its commitment to increase the Reserves to 10,000 down to 1,000.

The Harper government has announced it will increase military spending by 1.5 per cent per year until 2011, at which point increases will rise to 2 per cent annually. Even if military costs rose at the same level as the consumer price index, military spending would probably shrink every year under this plan, in terms of spending real dollars adjusted for inflation.

But military costs increase more quickly than the CPI, primarily because of ever-advancing technology, so spending after adjustments are made for inflation will shrink even more. We need to hold defence spending at a reasonable percentage of GDP, as other countries do.

There aren't a lot of votes in defence spending, and this government, which likes to parade around in fatigues, is the latest in a string of governments to starve Canada's military. Consider this: Pierre Elliott Trudeau was considered an enemy of the military, but some of his military budgets hit 2 per cent of GDP. Our current spending is 1.2 per cent of GDP - well below most middle-sized countries with similar interests, and second-lowest in NATO.

I estimate this government's stated budget plan for defence will drop that percentage to 0.87 per cent in 10 years. The Conference of Defence Associations estimates the percentage could fall as low as 0.77 per cent in 15 years.

In this year's strategic-needs reports, all three branches of the Forces projected dire deficiencies in their capacities to operate into the future under current funding projections. Whether you are a pacifist or a warmonger or somewhere in between, you should know that you can't defend your country's sovereignty and advance its interests in this world for pennies on the dollar.

This government will point to all kinds of expenditures it has made on expensive equipment. It will tell you that 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent annual expenditure increases are reasonable. But they are not reasonable when they won't even keep up with inflation, let alone get us out of the defensive hole Canada is quickly falling into.

The government, instead, should be committing to spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence, which would create a military budget of $35-billion in 2012. Its current blueprint won't get us to that figure until 2028. That means 16 years of serious underfunding.

Anyone who thinks Gen. Hillier succeeded in getting the government to revitalize our military better do the math.

Articles found June 11, 2008

Hillier defends right of soldier's father to call Afghan war 'stupid'
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HALIFAX — Canada's top soldier is defending the right of a father whose son died in Afghanistan last weekend to criticize the overseas mission.

Gen. Rick Hillier says David Snyder should speak his mind on the war even if the comments are difficult to hear. Snyder called the war in Afghanistan "stupid" and said he was concerned about his son deploying to the region.

Jonathan Snyder, who was a member of 1st Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton, fell into a deep, unmarked well Saturday while on nighttime foot patrol west of Kandahar.

Hillier says he wasn't surprised to hear the comments, despite the fact that most - if not all - other relatives of fallen soldiers have supported the mission
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Pak bolstering Taliban to counter India: Study
11 Jun 2008, 0245 hrs IST, TNN
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NEW DELHI: In what would bolster the assessment of Indian security agencies, an influential US think-tank has said that elements of Pakistan's ISI and Frontier Corps are aiding Taliban and al-Qaida militants in Afghanistan and a primary goal behind this strategy was to "balance" against India.

The recently released study has said that despite nearly eight years of fighting since 9/11, US and other international actors still need to eliminate the support base of terror groups in Pakistan. The insurgents were being helped with medical aid, sanctuaries and safe passages in and out of Afghanistan. Not only did the Taliban ship arms, ammunition and supplies into Afghanistan from Pakistan, many suicide bombers came from Afghan refugee camps and components of IEDs — used with devastating effect to kill and maim coalition troops — were smuggled across the border to be assembled in safe houses in provinces like Kandahar.

The not-so-covert efforts to fuel the insurgency in Afghanistan are of a piece with previous policy since the 1990s when Pakistan has sought to build up strategic depth against India by supporting regimes in Kabul. This has suited Islamabad's purpose of sending in a steady stream of jihadis into Jammu and Kashmir while using camps in Afghanistan for training terrorists.
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Pakistani soldiers killed in US-led attack 
June 11 2008 at 09:43AM  By Kamran Haider
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Islamabad - At least 10 Pakistani soldiers were killed on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border as US-led forces in Afghanistan attacked militants "infiltrating" Afghanistan, a security official said on Wednesday.

The soldiers were killed at a border post in the Mohmand region, opposite Afghanistan's Kunar province, late on Tuesday.

The incident comes as concern has been rising in Kabul and among Western forces fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan about Pakistani efforts to negotiate peace pacts to end militant violence on its side of the border.

"The militants launched a cross-border attack into Afghanistan. At least 10 of our soldiers were killed in a counter-offensive by forces in Afghanistan," said a senior Pakistani security official who declined to be identified.
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Ottawa doubles aid for rebuilding Afghanistan
Dahla dam key part of $600-million for high-profile projects, but report warns that violence could worsen this year
STEVEN CHASE June 11, 2008
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OTTAWA -- The Harper government is doubling the amount of aid to Afghanistan over the final three years of Canada's military deployment there - for high-profile projects such as dam building - as part of an effort to demonstrate that the costly mission which has claimed 86 Canadian lives is bearing fruit.

But even as the Conservatives unveiled $600-million more for rebuilding Afghanistan, they also issued a report warning that insurgent attacks and criminal violence there could worsen this year.

"For the rest of 2008, security conditions are expected to remain stable at best, and might grow worse in coming months in some provinces," the report by the cabinet committee on Afghanistan said.

The Tories announced that new development priorities for Afghanistan will include three "signature projects" in Kandahar province, where Canadian soldiers operate:

Refurbishing the Dahla dam and an accompanying irrigation system to water 10,000 hectares of farmland.

Building or repairing 50 schools and training up to 3,000 teachers in Kandahar.

Vaccinating children in Kandahar as part of an international effort to eradicate polio in Afghanistan by 2009.

Yesterday's announcement is another step in the Conservatives' efforts to shift the public focus on Afghanistan away from the war - which it has admitted won't be over when Canadian soldiers come home in 2011 - and toward readily achievable successes.

"Canada alone cannot control outcomes in Afghanistan, a country at war," said the report, written by a cabinet committee led by Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson.

"There will be setbacks along with successes. But Canada can focus its military and civilian efforts where they can likely do the most good."
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Change of command
TheStar.com - comment -June 10, 2008
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What's the biggest challenge facing Canada's new chief of defence staff, Lt.-Gen. Walter Natynczyk? It's not winning the Afghan war or buying new fighter aircraft. It is building on the wave of support for the military that outgoing chief Gen. Rick Hillier generated with his bluff honesty, intelligence and drive. Natynczyk acknowledged as much at a Senate hearing earlier this month.

Hillier spoke truth to power. He raised eyebrows but earned respect by calling the Taliban "murderers and scumbags," by reminding Canadians the military is "not the public service ... our job is to be able to kill people," by shrugging off conflict with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's staff, and by contradicting the defence minister. Unsettling as this was to some, it was also a breath of fresh air.

While Natynczyk is a less colourful figure, he brings to the job battle-tested skills and an eloquence of his own: "The further you are from the sound of the guns, the less you understand," he cautions.

He saw Cold War duty in Germany, did peacekeeping in Cyprus, commanded Canadian troops in Bosnia, and served as deputy commander of the Multi-National Corps in Iraq. As Hillier's deputy he managed sweeping change and massive reinvestment.

Like Hillier, Natynczyk has already found himself setting the record straight. When Harper rolled out the Canada First Defence Strategy last month, it was Natynczyk who clarified that Ottawa will spend $50 billion on aircraft, warships and other equipment by 2031, not $30 billion as had been suggested by the Prime Minister.

Natynczyk will have his work cut out for him in further modernizing the Canadian Forces and selling the new defence posture. He must shift Canada's 2,500 troops in Kandahar from a counter-insurgency role to training Afghans and delivering aid until their tour ends in 2011. Meanwhile, the United Nations or allies may request our support elsewhere in the world. And the 2010 Vancouver Olympics loom.
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Afghanistan: official developments
Conference of Defence Associations round-up, 11 June 2008

Afghanistan: British troops feel their hard work is not appreciated

Telegraph.co.uk - UK
By Thomas Harding in Zabul province and James Kirkup
Last Updated: 11/06/2008

British troops in Afghanistan are angry that the hard fighting they are doing is not fully appreciated by the public.

'We are doing our part out here defeating terrorism so it does no come back to our shores' Soldiers told the Telegraph that while American troops are welcomed home as heroes, their own sacrifices often go unacknowledged.

This view is confirmed by the Ministry of Defence's private polling, which shows 48 per cent of people in Britain support the Afghan mission.

While the figure has risen from 42 per cent earlier this year, work is now under way across Whitehall to improve the efforts to "sell" the conflict to the British people.

"If you have nearly 8,000 people in Afghanistan, fighting and sometimes dying, you have a responsibility to do more to explain why they are there and what they are doing," a Government source said.

The British death toll in Afghanistan reached 100 on Sunday with the death of three members of the Parachute Regiment.

The MoD has now confirmed that British troops killed on operations or in terrorist attacks were to receive a posthumous award.

Paratroopers feel that the deaths of three colleagues will mean little if the campaign is not properly valued at home.

Major Adam Wilson, A Company commander in 3 Para, said: "Death is a fact of life that out here and in The Parachute Regiment we expect to take casualties.

"But even though we have lost 100 men we are proud of the steps we have made and we want to get on with the job in hand.

"We are doing our part out here defeating terrorism so it does no come back to our shores but I don't think people in the UK see us having a clear mission," he said.

If the soldiers return home and don't feel valued "that will really hurt and make the guys question why we are here".

He added that "little things" like the 10 per cent discount offered for flights with Virgin airlines, made a huge difference to soldiers feeling valued.

Sgt Danny Leitch, 32, who trained two of the private soldiers killed on Sunday, realised that it was hard for civilians to understand the job troops were doing in Afghanistan.

"But people can sleep easily in their beds at night in Britain - including my wife and two children - simply because of what we are doing out here," said the paratrooper.

"People don't appreciate what we do back home, especially compared to America where soldiers are admired across the country. The public should pause and think for a minute that this is not an easy job to do."

UN: 2.5m Afghans are unable to buy food

Written by www.quqnoos.com
Tuesday, 10 June 2008 

Senior UN official warns of low harvest and 'severe' food shortages

ABOUT 2.5 million people in Afghanistan are unable to buy food because of soaring prices, a senior United Nations official has said.

The head of Afghanistan’s UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Tekeste Ghebray Tekie, said low rainfall and the lack of melting snow have sparked “severe food shortages” in the country.

Tekie urged the government and the international community to pay more attention to agriculture in Afghanistan.

“Investment in agriculture will increase job opportunities, produce the required food and even provide a potential for Afghanistan to export food to other countries,” he said yesterday (Monday).

The FAO predicts that the this year's food harvest in Afghanistan will be “significantly lower” than last year's.

“This year, soaring food prices are an international problem; many countries are not selling food. It has become very difficult to import food, and therefore the solution is to produce the food here in Afghanistan,” Tekie said.

Poor rainfall has triggered drought in many districts in Balkh province, forcing more than 2,000 families to leave their homes last week for the outskirts of the province’s capital, Mazar-e-Sharif.

Many live in make-shift tents on the edge of the city and have eaten nothing for several days.

They say the international community and the government have been slow to respond to the emergency.

Terkie said the FAO has come up with a plan to ensure food security in the future.

The FAO plans to distribute wheat and fertilizer to help about 3.4 million people, produce animal feed inside the country to reduce reliance on imports, introduce seeds that produce up to four times as much crop, set up grain reserves and improve irrigation.

The plan will be put to donor countries at the up-coming Paris conference, which Tekie said will focus on Afghanistan’s agriculture sector.

He said not enough money had been spent on the agriculture sector so far.

The price of food has risen dramatically in recent months, forcing many to leave their homes for fear of starvation.

Iran 'gives £1.2bn to terrorist groups that target British troops'

Telegraph.co.uk, United Kingdom
By Damien McElroy
Last Updated: 11/06/2008

Iran has a secret $2.5 billion (£1.2 billion) budget for supporting terrorist groups that target British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been claimed.

The funds were allocated by the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni to the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, the opposition group National Council for Resistance of Iran said.

"The Iran government is spending $2.5 billion in this financial year through the Qods Force in Iraq," said Hossein Abedini, a NCRI representative in London. "It could even be more because the commanders do not really face budgetary constraints in this regard."

Iran provides training and weaponry to wide range of Shia militias in Iran and munitions made in its factories have been seized in Afghanistan. Highly engineered roadside bombs that have killed hundreds of troops are exclusively made by Iranian engineers.

"Experiments in more powerful explosive devices that are capable of piercing impenetrable armour is taking up the main effort in the regime's weaponry programme," said Hossein Abedini, a representative of the group that obtained the intelligence.

"It is not just Iraq that Iran is using as a springboard for its attacks against the West, now the weapons are going to Afghanistan too, as part of Iran's threat to the West."

The most sophisticated versions, an armour piercing device, is described as a significant upgrade of the most lethal weapon Iran exports.

To ensure its production is not vulnerable to attack it has spread manufacture across three secret facilities. The NCRI identified 16 training centres for insurgents and 51 secret smuggling routes across Iran's borders.

General David Petraeus, the senior coalition commander in Iraq, has accused Iran of direct involvement in many of the worst attacks on the coalition. He said: "There should be no question about the malign, lethal involvement and activities of the Quds Force in this country."

A spokesman for British forces in Basra said that a huge arsenal of weaponry was uncovered after operations by the Iraqi Army last month. Captain Crispin Fordham said finds included 380 roadside bombs and 1,451 rocket-propelled grenades, as well as a handful of anti-aircraft missiles.

Mr Abedini's NCRI, which was last month cleared of terrorism by the Court of Appeal, has documented the names of 31 Iranians and Iraqis who were instrumental players in the network.

A handful of Iraqi officials named as key figures in smuggling weapons across the border are likely to have close contacts with British commanders as a result of their position in government-backed Badr militia. Individuals named included the head of the militia in Basra. The Badr militia is an off-shoot of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, the largest party in Iraq's government.

Iran's role in Iraq's civil war is complicated by the Islamic regime's close ties to Shia muslim leaders of the post-liberation Baghdad government.

Pentagon Defends Deadly Air Strike on Afghan-Pak Border
VOA, June 11

The Pentagon is defending a deadly air strike on the Pakistan-Afghan border that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and drew strong protests from the government in Islamabad. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel has details from Washington.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says the strike by three aircraft just inside the Pakistani border with Afghanistan is justifiable.

"In these early hours after this strike every indication we have is that this was a legitimate strike against forces that had attacked members of the coalition," he said.

Reports say about a dozen bombs were dropped into Pakistan. Morrell says the strike came after militants attacked coalition forces near a checkpoint 200 meters inside Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province.

"Our forces came under attack, came under fire from forces that had come over from the Pakistani side into Afghan territory and then retreated into Pakistani territory and continued to fire upon our forces even though we did not pursue them into Pakistan," he said.

The attack brought immediate outrage from Pakistan, where an army spokesman called it an unprovoked and cowardly act.

The government in Islamabad lodged a diplomatic protest against the United States and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson was summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

Morrell says the Pentagon is investigating the incident.

"We are aware of some of the concerns that have been expressed by the Pakistani Army and other elements of the Pakistan government. I can tell you that we are working with the Pakistani government to try to get to the bottom of this incident so that they have a better understanding of it. So that we have a better understanding of it," he said...

While details of the incident remain unclear, the Pentagon says the attack was coordinated with Pakistani forces.

A statement released by U.S. military officials in Afghanistan says an unmanned aircraft was used to maintain positive identification of the enemy firing at coalition troops.

The Pakistani army says the bombs hit a post of the paramilitary Frontier Corps.

The air strike has upset the already fragile relations between Washington and Islamabad over how to stem violence and fight terrorists in the region that is inside Pakistan but outside the law.

Pentagon spokesman Morrell says cooperation between the two countries remains critical.

"We, as I have said before, have a shared, vital interest in making sure that militants, terrorists, insurgents, others operating in these Federally Administered Tribal Areas do not have the means to mount attacks against the Pakistani government or any other government for that matter," he said.

The incident has inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment inside Pakistan, where a new government is trying to reach out to tribal leaders in the border region to negotiate a peace deal.

U.S. officials have expressed skepticism about the plan, and there have been repeated questions about Pakistan's commitment and ability to battle terrorists known to be hiding in the mountainous terrain.

US strikes undercut efforts on Pakistan-Afghan border
AP, June 11

Whoever was to blame, the U.S. airstrikes that may have killed friendly fighters in Pakistan have inflamed the already touchy relations between Washington and Islamabad and could set back the struggle to stem violence along the Afghan border.

The bombings fueled anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan and raised fresh questions about cooperative efforts to root out terror suspects in the lawless region that American military leaders believe could spawn a new major attack against this country.

Little was certain about what happened.

U.S. diplomats offered apologies for the reported casualties, while the Pentagon insisted that surveillance drones tracking the bombings showed they hit exactly whom they intended: about a half dozen enemy fighters firing on coalition forces.

Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell said it was too early to know whether the strike killed 11 Pakistani paramilitary forces, as alleged by the angry Pakistani Army.

"Every indication we have is that this was a legitimate strike against forces that had attacked members of the coalition," he said.

Whatever the case, it was certain the incident had fed suspicions about U.S. military operations inside Pakistan, as well as about Islamabad's inability to control Taliban or al-Qaida terrorists hiding in safe havens along the border.

The new Pakistani government has been trying to broker a peace deal with tribal leaders in the region. But U.S. officials have expressed skepticism about the plan, and there have been repeated questions about Pakistan's commitment and ability to wage a counterinsurgency battle.

The U.S. has promised to send 20-30 trainers to instruct Pakistani officers who will then train some 8,500 border Frontier Corps troops later this summer, said Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also agreed that there is some merit in the negotiations that could peel off tribal leaders who would then become allies while isolating those who are extremists...

The Pakistani army said the coalition airstrike hit a post of the paramilitary Frontier Corps and was a "completely unprovoked and cowardly act."

The U.S. military, meanwhile, said enemy fighters had begun firing on coalition troops about 200 meters inside Konar province. U.S. forces returned fire and also used unmanned drones to follow the insurgents.

As the drones watched, two F-15 fighters and a B-1 bomber launched about a dozen bombs on the enemy fighters who had crossed into Pakistan, U.S. military officials said.

In a statement, Combined Joint Task Force 101, based in Bagram, said coalition forces used the unmanned aircraft to maintain "positive identification of the enemy" firing at coalition troops. The statement also said that the operation was coordinated with the Pakistani forces.

Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. is hopeful that any peace agreement negotiated by the Pakistanis with tribal leaders be enforceable so that the region does not continue to be a safe haven for al-Qaida...


Nations offer Afghanistan aid, demand accountability
Afghans sought help for its $50 billion five-year plan as donors met in Paris June 12.

CS Monitor, June 13

The people and villages of troubled Afghanistan will get substantial new aid – up to $16 billion – provided Kabul and President Hamid Karzai agree to greater United Nations oversight and clampdown measures on Afghan corruption and waste, world leaders said here Thursday...

Diplomats in Paris intimated that aid will be tied to Karzai's promises – affirmed here Thursday – to work in partnership with new UN special representative Kai Eide. The point was echoed most loudly in the hallways by Europeans, who trust Mr. Eide after his reform of operations in Kosovo. But US ambassador also termed Eide a needed "traffic cop" for aid...

Some 90 percent of the Afghan budget comes from donors [emphasis added] – though the country is in the bottom tenth on most transparency rankings...

To be sure, Afghan aid has brought serious improvements, say Afghans contacted for this report. New roads, currency, and schools are a few examples. The 300-mile drive from Kabul to Kandahar used to take 18 hours; today it takes six [emphasis added]. Afghans have stopped using the Pakistani and Iranian rupees and now trust the local Afghan currency. Three universities now operate, in Kabul, Khost, and Kandahar; girls go to schools in the south.

Karzai pointed out the scale of change since the fall of 2001: 1 radio station and 1 TV station have given way to 70 radio and 15 TV stations; 30 percent of the six million students are girls.

Still, as Eide points out, Kabul has no reliable electricity. Crises and solvable problems that villagers bitterly complain about to NATO contingents are often not reported or recognized. Poppy remains a huge cash crop...

US director of foreign aid Henrietta Fore told reporters in Paris that much aid remains in the pipeline simply because the bidding process was so slow, and that aid was often not ready to be received. After Paris, however, Ms. Fore said more aid will "flow directly" through the government. "There's a sense that aid should be coming through the Afghan government, and as many ministries as possible," [emphasis added] she said...

Afghanistan Analysis: The shifting battle against the Taliban
Daily Telegraph, June 13

Britain's counter-insurgency campaign against the Taliban is shifting from one phase into another.

The war of pitched battles is all but over. The Taliban's leadership structures have been ravaged by covert British special forces raids; their ability to coordinate operations largely curtailed.

The insurgents have been pushed out of the fixed positions that they were able to hold in Garmser in the south of the province and Musa Qala in the north.

They take a bloody nose wherever they choose to stand and fight. They know they cannot win outright.

So instead the Taliban appear to have accepted that they must play the long game. The political will of governments in the face of public opposition to costly, distant wars is the Achilles Heel of Western democracies...

...if the first step is creating credible security forces, the Afghan army shows promise. In Kabul a huge US funded training programme is churning out trained soldiers at a rate of one battalion, 700-800 men, every week. The army is expected to reach around 70,000 men by the end of this year [emphasis added]...

From two battalions of Afghan troops in the province in 2006 there are now seven [emphasis added]. And while British forces are rarely much more than tolerated, the Afghan National Army appears to command a degree of respect and even affection...

NATO seeks to replace Marine Afghan mission
Reuters, June 13

NATO allies have yet to come up with replacements for a key deployment of some 3,000 U.S. Marines due to leave Afghanistan later this year, alliance officials said after talks on Friday.

The Pentagon sent the Marines to Afghanistan ahead of an expected rise in violence this year, but the troops are scheduled to return home in November and the United States is not expected to offer to keep them there any longer.

"I have no complete indications yet about back-filling," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference after allied defense ministers met in Brussels, using the military term for replacing departing troops.

"I would like to see that we find a way of following up on their good work on the ground."

British Defense Minister Des Browne said the Marines had produced an "astonishing effect" in combating Taliban insurgents in the southern Helmand province [emphasis added] where Britain operates, and said Britain was involved in discussions about replacements.

"We don't intend to give up what we have created," he said of what he described as major losses suffered recently by the Taliban in one of their traditional heartlands.

France has agreed to send troops to Kapisa province northeast of Kabul around July in a move that is intended to free up U.S. forces there to go south.

However Browne said he understood those U.S. troops would go to Kandahar province [emphasis added], like Helmand in the south, and that such a redeployment was separate from efforts to replace the Marines [emphasis added]...

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted that despite some progress made in the war, the casualty rate among allied forces in Afghanistan recently topped that in Iraq. He said he urged his European counterparts at the talks to make good on pledges made at a NATO summit in April to plug the ISAF shortfalls [emphasis added]...

Berlusconi Effusive in Welcoming President
Bush, in Rome Visit, Says Italian Troops to Take On Broader Mission in Afghanistan

Washington Post, June 13
During Thursday's news conference, Bush said [Italian PM] Berlusconi had assured him that Italy had removed "caveats" that restricted the use of Italian troops in the areas of Afghanistan with the heaviest fighting against the Taliban [emphasis added]. Italy's previous resistance to sending any of its 2,700 troops in Afghanistan to those areas has prompted complaints from NATO and the United States...

A war that badly needs a definition of victory
Financial Times, June 13

The question that western donors to Afghanistan might have asked themselves at this week's Paris conference was an obvious one: why are we there? In the event it was easier to write the cheques. Winning in Afghanistan is perhaps the most consistent mantra of western security policy. As long, that is, as no one defines what is meant by winning...

Afghanistan is the good war - a conflict fought in self-defence and one, unlike Iraq, blessed from the outset by the international community. No dodgy intelligence here. Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination for the coming US presidential election promising to pull out US troops from Iraq. He wants a bigger effort in Afghanistan...

I find it curious that western military commanders cite the Taliban's increasing resort to suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices as evidence of impending victory. Another way of looking at the insurgents' shift in tactics is to say they are adept at adapting to circumstances. This week a suicide bomber took to 100 the toll of British fatalities in the conflict.

That said, things are better than they were. A year or so ago it seemed that vast tracts of the country might well slide back into the hands of Taliban fighters. Nato forces have now pushed them back from their strongholds and forced an effective military stalemate in the south...

...in candid moments diplomats and military commanders will admit that these are tactical rather than strategic gains. The bigger picture is one of a government whose writ extends barely beyond Kabul, of competing warlords and high-level corruption, and of conflicting tribal loyalties.

The inadequacies of the west's security and development effort have been well documented. The military still lacks vital equipment as well as boots on the ground. Can it really be true that Europe has no more helicopters? Reconstruction projects are divided between legions of national and multilateral aid agencies; much of the funding goes to foreign consultants.

The latest spat between Washington and Islamabad - over the killing of Pakistani soldiers during hot pursuit operations against the Taliban - was a reminder that a coherent strategy also demands the co-operation of Afghanistan's neighbours...

A less ideological US administration might also accept that it is impossible to kill every Taliban fighter. Some will have to be won over. Europe in such circumstances might be shamed into contributing more troops to the vital task of building security.

All this, though, is irrelevant unless there is agreement on what constitutes winning. It should not be so hard. Afghanistan is not about to become a shiny new democracy. Any political system must pay its respects to history, geography and culture. The ambition should be for an Afghan government strong enough to defend the country's borders and to deny havens to terrorists, and sufficiently honest and pluralist to guarantee fundamental rights. That should be the aim of the international effort.

Militants free prisoners from Kandahar prison
900 believed to have been freed after explosives attack
Last Updated: Friday, June 13, 2008 | 3:45 PM ET Comments7Recommend17CBC News
Militants have attacked the main prison in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, killing an unspecified number of police officers and setting hundreds of prisoners free, Afghan officials said Friday.

Around 10 p.m., Taliban insurgents drove a car filled with explosives up to Sarposa prison's gate and detonated it, destroying the gate and killing all police officers in the vicinity, CBC's Paul Hunter reported from Kandahar.

About 900 of the estimated 1,170 prisoners are believed to have escaped and may be roaming the streets of Kandahar City, said Hunter. About 200, mostly juveniles, were reportedly still in the facility.

Officials would not confirm the number of escaped prisoners.

Witnesses reported seeing Canadian tanks roll into the city about an hour after the incident.

Canadian Forces are in command of Kandahar and most of the roughly 2,500 Canadian troops in Afghanistan are stationed there.

The prison, the largest detention facility in Kandahar province, housed both common criminals and captured Taliban militants who had been fighting NATO troops and the Afghan government.

Officials with NATO's International Security Assistance Force said they are aware of the attack, but had no details.

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