Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Europe’s Revolving Door in Afghanistan

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Inside a German army camp in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

Europeans are fighting in Afghanistan, but they are less and less sure why. President Obama, by his long process of self-examination on Afghanistan and his decision to ramp up troops in pursuit of an exit, has bought himself 18 months or so, senior European diplomats say.

The war is deeply unpopular among the European public, who do not easily accept the notion that their security is on the line in Kandahar or along the Hindu Kush. Still, key European members of the NATO alliance have agreed to go to the well one more time and stump up several thousand more troops for Afghanistan, with France and Germany the noted holdouts.

But after a European-sponsored conference on Afghanistan scheduled for London on Jan. 28, to assess Afghan progress and to discuss new pledges of support and aid, both Germany and France are expected to also increase their troop commitments. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, however, with key regional elections in March, may decide to wait until they are over, especially since he announced that not one more French solider would go to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan under Mr. Obama has increasingly become an American war, with what was once a rough equality of American and NATO troops becoming more than 2 to 1 American. Still, having declared Afghanistan an Article 5 conflict after the attacks of 9/11 — committing NATO to the defense of a member nation, in this case, the United States — NATO members regard some measure of success in Afghanistan as crucial to the health and credibility of the alliance, and have pledged, according to NATO, some 7,000 more troops from 25 nations.

The Italians and Poles have come up with 1,000 more troops each, Britain 500 more. But almost 2,000 of the 7,000 will come from countries outside the alliance (including Australia, South Korea, Sweden and aspiring NATO members, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia and Montenegro).

At the same time, there is an element of filling a cup with a hole in the bottom. The Netherlands will withdraw its 2,200 troops in the course of 2010; Canada, with 2,800, will be leaving by 2011. That means as American troop levels rise from 68,000 to 98,000 by next summer, allied troop levels are not likely to go much higher than the present 38,000.

American generals regard the European contributions as helpful, but not overwhelmingly so — too many nations, too many small contingents, too many special rules and conditions on how each nation’s soldiers are able to fight the war. But the more Europeans there are, to provide support and security and training for the woeful Afghan army and police, the more the Americans can concentrate on the tough battles and most contested regions.

Taliban blow up Pakistan girls school: official

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The Taliban blew up a girls' school in Pakistan's Khyber district, where troops are fighting against militants in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan, an official said Wednesday.

Militants detonated explosives overnight at the government-run school in Bazgarah town, about 40 kilometres (25 miles) west of Peshawar, capital of the violence-plagued North West Frontier Province.

"The building had 21 rooms. All have been completely demolished," local administration chief Shafeerullah Wazir told AFP by telephone.

There were no casualties because the property was empty at the time.

"Taliban and their local allies are responsible. They are destroying educational institutions to avenge the military operation against their hideouts in the area," said Wazir.

"This was the ninth educational institution blown up in Khyber over the past six weeks," he added.

Islamist militants opposed to co-education and subscribers to sharia law have destroyed hundreds of schools, mostly for girls, in northwest Pakistan in recent years.

The fabled Khyber tribal region is the main land bridge to neighbouring Afghanistan and the principle supply route for NATO troops fighting an eight-year Taliban insurgency across the border.

Pakistani troops launched an offensive in Khyber in September in a bid to flush out the Taliban and homegrown militant group Lashkar-e-Islam (Army of Islam) led by local warlord Mangal Bagh.

The United States is increasing pressure on Pakistan to crack down more on militants hunkered down in its lawless tribal belt, branded the most dangerous place on Earth and the chief sanctuary of Al-Qaeda.


Taliban target media

* Three killed, 24 hurt in Peshawar Press Club suicide attack
* Bomber blows himself up after being challenged by guard at club’s entrance
* Journalists to observe three-day mourning

PESHAWAR: Three people, including a woman, were killed and another 24 injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of the Peshawar Press Club on Tuesday.

The building is situated on the Sher Shah Suri Road close to the Cantonment Railway Station. Lady Reading Hospital (LRH) officials confirmed the toll in the first ever suicide attack in the country aimed specifically at journalists.

They said two of the bodies were identified as police constable Riazuddin and a passer-by, Rubina.

Rubina, who died of a cardiac arrest, was travelling in a rickshaw close to the press club when the blast occurred.

Peshawar Press Club accountant Mian Iqbal Shah died at the hospital later.

Several passers-by, including those travelling in a minibus, were injured in the blast besides Peshawar Press Club employees Yasir, Ayub and Kamran. A photo journalist, Khurram Pervez, also sustained injuries in the blast.

Peshawar City Police chief Liaqat Ali Khan told reporters that the suicide attacker had tried to enter the premises. The police guard at the gate frisked the man and tried to overpower him when he discovered that the person was wearing a suicide vest, however, the bomber detonated his vest during the scuffle.

The press club employee Yasir Jamil, who was also injured in the blast, told Daily Times that the suicide bomber was trying to enter the press club when the police guard stopped him. He said the attacker had an argument with the guard, and blew himself up moments later. He said the bomber had a dark complexion and short height and seemed around 18 to 19 years of age.

Nadir Khawaja, a journalist, said he saw the guard and the bomber arguing from the opposite side of the road as he was approaching the press club.

NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain told reporters at the scene that targeting journalists was “militants’ compulsion”, as the journalists were exposing the terrorists to the public.

He said no one was safe in the country, as the terrorists were targeting mosques, graves and even funeral prayers. Hussain hoped that the journalists would become more organised after the attack and would not bow down to the terrorists.

Mourning: The Peshawar Press Club has announced a three-day mourning. “The press club was already receiving threats and warning letters – journalists here are practically working in a war zone,” Peshawar Presc Club President Shamim Shahid told AFP. manzoor ali shah/afp

Over 10 suspected Taliban militants killed, wounded in N. Afghanistan

BAGHLAN, Afghanistan, Dec. 23 (Xinhua) -- In a joint operation carried out by Afghan National Army (ANA) and police in northern Baghlan province, over 10 Taliban militants were killed and wounded, provincial governor Mohammad Akbar Barikzai said on Wednesday.

"ANA and Afghan National Police killed and wounded more than 10 suspected Taliban militants in a cleanup operation conducted in Baghlan-e-Markazi district on Tuesday," Barikzai told reporters at a press conference.

A local Taliban commander Mullah Zulmai was among the injured militants, he added.

He did not give the exact figure of Taliban causalities, but admitted four police officers were also killed in the firefight.

Moreover, at the same press briefing, Mohammad Kabir Andarabi, police chief of Baghlan, confirmed that some civilians were also hurt in the operation, but did not give more details.

Baghlan, a relatively peaceful province until early this year, has been the scene of Taliban-led insurgency over the past several months.

Somali militants enforce Taliban-style dress code

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Residents of a southern Somali town say Islamists are enforcing a Taliban-style dress code.

Kismayo resident Abdulahi Omar Dhere says members of the al-Shabab insurgent group are targeting young men who have long hair, no beards and wear Western-style trousers below the ankle.

Dhere said Wednesday that Islamists are publicly cutting off parts of trousers that violate the order and giving haircuts to anyone with long hair. The group has ordered men to grow beards and shave mustaches.

Al-Shabab has already banned movie theaters, musical ringtones and dancing at weddings — echoing rules ones imposed by the Taliban when they ruled most of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, though the group didn't oppose long hair.


Afghan police hunting insurgent kill parliament member instead

The lawmaker and his son are killed in an ambush that had been set to find insurgents transporting a wounded commander in Afghanistan's north. The incident raises more questions about security forces

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan - Police hunting for a wounded insurgent commander mistakenly ambushed a vehicle carrying a member of the Afghan parliament, killing him and his son, provincial officials said today.

President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation into the incident, which took place overnight in Baghlan province, in Afghanistan's north.

Taliban fighters and other insurgents have made significant inroads over the last year in the province. A new NATO supply route runs through the area, making it a magnet for militant strikes.

The lawmaker, Mohammad Yunos Shirnagha, was returning home after a late-night meeting with constituents when the shootout with police erupted, said Gen. Kabir Andarabi, the provincial police chief.

Police in the provincial capital, Pul-e-Kumri, had been expecting insurgents to try to transport a commander who was believed to have been injured in a clash hours earlier, on Tuesday. That battle left four police officers and at least four militants dead, and several insurgents wounded.

Accounts from Shirnagha's associates and provincial authorities differed as to circumstances surrounding the shootout, which took place at about 2:30 a.m.

The police said the lawmaker's car ran a roadblock set up by the authorities and that his vehicle was hit after the firing of warning shots into the air. But some fellow members of the upper house of parliament, and two surviving bodyguards, expressed doubts that police had properly identified themselves before opening fire.

The incident raises new questions about the training and abilities of the Afghan security forces, which are a linchpin of the Obama administration's plans for an eventual drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Western officials hope that Afghan police and soldiers will in the next several years be able to assume responsibility for safeguarding the country; in the meantime an additional 30,000 U.S. troops and 7,000 from NATO allies are to be deployed in the coming year.

Underscoring the importance placed on the role of the Afghan security forces, Karzai paid a visit today to a police academy, and also visited Afghan police and soldiers injured in the line of duty.

He was accompanied by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who has said he would like to see the Afghan security forces grow from their current strength of about 250,000 to 400,000.

Also today, a roadside bomb apparently aimed at coalition forces killed three civilians and injured five others in Helmand province, in Afghanistan's south. Roadside bombs now account for about four-fifths of the casualties suffered by Western forces, and kill hundreds of Afghan civilians every year as well.

Military authorities today also disclosed the death of a British soldier a day earlier from a roadside bomb, also in Helmand.

In Paktia province, bordering Pakistan, coalition forces killed a Taliban commander who was blamed for the planting of a number of roadside bombs, military officials said.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Taliban kill 12 in suicide attack at mosque in Pakistan's northwest

A Taliban suicide bomber killed 12 Pakistanis and wounded 28 more in an attack at a mosque in the northwestern district of Dir.

The suicide bomber detonated at a mosque frequented by police in the main town of Timergara. The attack took place as people gathered at the mosque for Friday prayers.

Two children were reported to be among those killed. The mosque was heavily damaged in the suicide attack.

The Taliban maintain a strong presence in Lower Dir despite the military operation launched there in late April to oust them. Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the radical, pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM, or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed's Law], was based in Madain in Dir before he was arrested last summer. Sufi engineered the notorious Malakand Accord, the agreement with the government that ceded vast areas of northwestern Pakistan to the Taliban.

Today's attack is the latest in the Taliban's terror campaign, which was ramped up after Hakeemullah Mehsud's announcement that he would avenge the death of his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud at the hands of the US. Hakeemullah also demanded the military end its operations in the tribal areas and the wider northwest.

The Taliban have had no reservations about striking inside mosques and other religious sites. There have been 20 such attacks in mosques and other Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal.

The last such attack took place on Dec. 4, when a suicide assault team stormed a mosque frequented by military officers in Rawalpindi. Two senior generals were among the 40 people killed.

Major attacks at mosques, religious events, and Islamic institutions in Pakistan since December 2007:

Dec. 18, 2009: A suicide detonated inside a mosque frequented by policemen in Lower Dir, killing 12.

Dec. 4, 2009: A suicide assault team stormed a mosque in Rawalpindi that is frequented by Army officers, killing 40.

Oct. 20, 2009: A pair of suicide bombers detonated their vests at Islamabad's International Islamic University, killing five.

June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed five Pakistanis, including anti-Taliban cleric Dr. Sarfraz Naeemi, in an attack on a mosque in Lahore during Friday prayers.

June 12, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six worshipers and wounded more than 90 in an attack inside a mosque in Nowshera. The attack collapsed the dome of the mosque.

June 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 49 worshipers in an attack on a mosque in a remote village in Dir.

April 5, 2009: A suicide bomber killed 24 worshipers and wounded more than 100 in an attack outside a Shia religious center in the Chakwal district in Punjab province.

March 27, 2009: A Taliban suicide bomber killed more than 70 worshipers and wounded more than 125 in an attack at a mosque in the Khyber tribal agency.

March 5, 2009: An attacker threw a hand grenade into the middle of a mosque in Dera Ismail Khan, wounding 25 worshipers.

March 2, 2009: A suicide bomber killed six people during an attack at a gathering in a mosque in the Pishin district in Baluchistan.

Feb. 20, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 32 Pakistanis and wounded more than 85 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shia elder who was murdered in Dera Ismail Khan.

Feb. 5, 2009: A suicide attack outside a mosque killed more than 30 Shia worshipers and wounded more than 50.

Nov. 22, 2008: A bombing at a mosque in Hangu killed five civilians and wounded seven.

Nov. 21, 2008: A suicide attack on a funeral procession in Dera Ismail Khan killed 10 mourners and wounded more than 25.

Sept. 10, 2008: The Taliban attacked a mosque filled with Ramadan worshipers in the district of Dir in northwestern Pakistan. More than 25 worshipers were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

Aug. 19, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 29 Shia mourners and wounded 35 after detonating in the emergency ward of a hospital.

June 17, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed and three wounded in a bombing at a Shia mosque in Dera Ismail Khan.

May 19, 2008: Four Pakistanis were killed in a bombing outside a mosque in Bajaur.

Jan. 17, 2008: A suicide bomber killed 10 and wounded 25 in an attack on a Shia mosque in Peshawar.

Dec. 28, 2007: A suicide bomber detonated in the middle of a mosque in Charsadda in an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao as he conducted Eid prayers. More than 50 were killed and more than 200 were wounded.

Rock the Taliban, train the, Afghan police force, and army

President Obama's address on Afghanistan was a very good speech expressing a very good strategy.

The strategy is neither an open commitment nor a walk-away, fitting the best interests of the U.S. We cannot afford to pay for or get bogged down in a nation-building exercise that all experts say would take 10 years or more, if ever. It is enough to make a serious attempt to rock the Taliban, give enough space to the trainers to develop an Afghan police force and army and assist Pakistan with the border areas. If it succeeds, great. If not, there's Plan B. Depending on conditions, it would entail a slow withdrawal mixed with the Biden strategy of letting the Afghans govern themselves on condition that the U.S., NATO and the United Nations can intervene to the extent necessary to kill or capture any Al- Qaeda-like elements that our intelligence can identify, together with an independent Pakistan strategy that is probably being worked on.

This is not World War II, when the boys came home after the Germans and Japanese were defeated. The use of dates a) puts the pressure on the Afghans who don't want us to occupy their country and are as opposed as we to the intolerance of the Taliban, to unite against them, and b) resembles the deadlines in Iraq (demanded by the Iraqis and acquiesced to by George Bush). Of course, that won't stop the Republicans from screaming about the deadlines.

Mr. Obama spoke to the country non-condescendingly, mentioning the cost and limits of power as well as the lofty goals of America, here and historically. He avoided the sort of simplistic, full-throated cry for an undefined and unobtainable "victory," which Dick Cheney still uses to rouse the radical right. It reminded me once again that we have an adult in the White House.


Palm Beach

Victory needed in war, not lengthy operations

To quote Sun Tzu in The Art of War, "What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations." This is pretty old stuff (sixth-century B.C.) for so many presidents and generals to have ignored or forgotten this sensible advice.


Palm Beach Gardens

Integrate long-term care with home care

A recent letter writer mentioned House Concurrent Resolution 59, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton. It supports the goals and ideals for senior caregiving and affordability. It passed the House 387-0. Congress must take this important first step to address the looming age-wave crisis that could jeopardize the independence of millions of seniors.

I would also like to bring attention to House Resolution 791. The bill would express the House of Representatives' commitment to: (1) integrating long-term care, particularly as it relates to home care and community services, into a comprehensive health care reform agenda; and (2) aiding relevant parties in composing, executing, and enforcing a well-informed national strategy for long-term care that will address geographic and economic disparities that limit access to care, expand long-term health services, and streamline quality measures.

It also would recognize the need to: (1) collaborate with local, state, and federal health care entities to improve working conditions and training for home health aides; and (2) adequately fund and support existing technologies, entities, and initiatives that assist informal caregivers and help maintain and improve long-term health services for the disabled and elderly.



Soft schedule cheats Gator players and fans

The article about the University of Florida's football recruiting class of 2006 omits a rather significant fact: These athletes have been cheated of the challenge to see how good they really could have been because UF scheduled soft nonconference opposition and because of mediocre conference foes, and its fans are cheated as well.

The University of Florida's penchant for scheduling cream puffs is a tradition. UF has never wanted to play the best. It last played Texas in 1940 (one touchdown in three games, shut out the last two) and has played the other top five winningest programs only in bowl games, never voluntarily in the regular season. The NCAA basketball tournament selection process requires teams to play rigorous schedules. The BCS process in football encourages them not to.


Boynton Beach

Iran helping the Taliban, US ambassador claims

Iran has been providing weapons and other help to the Taliban, the US ambassador to Afghanistan has claimed.

Karl Eikenberry, a former commanding general in Afghanistan, said parts of the regime had transcended sectarian divisions within Islam to provide support for fundamentalist groups fighting Western forces in Afghanistan.

"Iran or elements within Iran have provided training assistance and some weapons to the Taliban," said Mr Eikenberry.

"General Petraeus has reviewed these reports and said that the scope of Iranian support is nothing on the level that was given previously by Iran to various terrorist elements in Iraq.

"Still, the reports about this kind of low-level support and periodic co-operation between elements in Iran and militant extremist Taliban are disturbing and do not show good faith by Afghanistan's neighbour to the West."

Iran's Shia Muslim regime's has long been suspicious of the extremist Sunni Taliban and Tehran co-operated with the US-led effort to overthrow the movement in 2001.

But a Western official involved in Iran policy-making said yesterday that Iranian officials were now playing both sides of the Afghan conflict to ensure that the Western-backed Kabul government remained weak.

"Afghanistan should be an area of common interest between Britain and Iran because they don't want an extremist Sunni government on their border," an official said.

"But Afghanistan, like Iraq, is in its backyard and Tehran just does not want a Western victory or a strong pro-Western government on its eastern flank. It is now playing two roles there, assisting the insurgency even as it provides aid."

Taliban warns US over Afghan war

A senior Taliban commander has warned the United States that it will be defeated in Afghanistan, even if it sends an extra 200,000 US troops.

Located in the so-called valley of death near the border with Pakistan, Taliban fighters vowed to fight to the very end.

However, the movement will not just be battling foreign forces as the Afghan government, with help from US and Nato forces, moves to equip and train tribal fighters.

Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra reports from Kabul, the Afghan capital.

US says Pakistan holding up visas

Pakistan has been holding up visas for US officials and contractors and continued delays could have an "impact" on the effectiveness of aid programmes in the country, the US State Department said on Thursday.

Hundreds of visa applications and renewals for US personnel have been delayed and the United States has raised the problem with Pakistan's senior leadership, deputy spokesman Robert Wood said.

"We've expressed our concern about the delays and the impact that this could very well have on our programmes and activities," Wood said, adding, "Should this continue, it indeed will have an impact."

The New York Times reported the delays were part of a campaign by Pakistan's intelligence services and military to harass US diplomats who have been pushing for the Pakistani government to intensify the fight against the Taliban in Pakistan.

Cracking down on the Taliban is seen as critical for the US effort to defeat the militant group across the border in Afghanistan, where President Barack Obama is sending an additional 30,000 troops.

The United States gives the Pakistani military millions of dollars in annual aid for counter-terrorism operations, and earlier this year Congress approved a $7.5-billion aid package over five years to help build democratic institutions and the economy in the country.

The United States is concerned some of the aid programmes "are grinding to a halt," a diplomat told the Times.

Fears for anti-Taliban push as graft fracas engulfs Pakistan

Retired general and analyst Talat Masood said that there would be repercussions if the implicated politicians were determined to hold onto their portfolios and engage in lengthy court battles. 'A swift way out of the crisis would be for the implicated ministers to resign or a cabinet reshuffle take place.' –APP/ File photo

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court ruling quashing a corruption amnesty protecting politicians has thrown nuclear-armed Pakistan into turmoil as the nation's allies want it to focus on battling militants, analysts say.

Late Thursday, the defence minister was barred from leaving the country, the first fallout from a court decision striking down a 2007 law protecting people including President Asif Ali Zardari and reviving old graft cases.

The travel ban sparked Pakistan's ambassador in Washington to deny a coup looming in a nation that only emerged from a long spell of military rule last year and has been battered by political turmoil and surging Islamist violence.

Although analysts said whispers of a coup were completely unfounded, the havoc created by the ruling will unnerve Islamabad's Western backers, who have put Pakistan at the heart of the global fight against Al-Qaeda.

‘It undermines the reputation of the political elite... and uncertainty at this stage causes concern at the international level,’ said Hasan Askari, a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University.

‘The international community's major concern is how far the internal developments and political wrangling between the government and opposition would affect Pakistan's capacity to address terrorism and related issues.’

Pakistan launched multiple offensives against Taliban and other militants in the northwest this year, trying to quell an insurgency that has killed more than 2,700 people since the rebellion intensified in July 2007.

But US President Barack Obama's administration has been heaping pressure on Pakistan to also go after groups such as the Haqqani Network, the Afghan Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants who target foreign troops in Afghanistan.

They have carved out sanctuaries in the lawless and rugged northwest tribal belt -- branded the most dangerous place in the world by Washington -- where they train and regroup before crossing the porous border to Afghanistan.

Political columnist Shafqat Mahmood said that so far, there was little sign that Pakistan's war on the militants was suffering.

‘The security apparatus, which is the military, is fairly autonomous so any kind of political back and forth and court cases will occupy the political class but it won't affect the security situation,’ he said.

But retired general and analyst Talat Masood said that there would be repercussions if the implicated politicians were determined to hold onto their portfolios and engage in lengthy court battles.

‘That will result in an uncertainty as to how the government will eventually shape and during this transitional period there would be difficulties as far as governance and security issues are concerned,’ he told AFP.

‘Logistics, financial allocations, the running of the country, the ownership of the war, the morale, attending to those people who are displaced and wounded -- all that has a very direct bearing on the economy, on everything.’

Askari said there were also positive aspects to the ruling, as it showed Pakistan had an independent judiciary willing to tackle high-level corruption.

The amnesty -- called the National Reconciliation Ordinance -- was passed in October 2007 by then-president General Pervez Musharraf, who was under pressure to hold elections and end about eight years of military rule.

It quashed charges against a number of politicians including Zardari and the current interior and defence ministers to allow them to stand for office.

A swift way out of the crisis would be for the implicated ministers to resign or a cabinet reshuffle take place, Masood said.

For the moment, Zardari remains protected from old graft cases because his position gives him immunity from prosecution but the opposition are calling for his resignation and his eligibility for the presidency could also be challenged in court.

Such legal cases could drag on for months but at the moment, columnist Mahmood said, Zardari seemed determined to ‘fight to the bitter end’. –AFP

Victory over Taliban by 2011 possible: Afghan diplomat

OTTAWA, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- It is "very realistic" to expect a military victory over the Taliban by 2011 when the United States troops pull out of Afghanistan, Afghanistan's ambassador to Canada said Thursday.

But that will depend on how much resources to be put in training the Afghan national forces and preparing the Afghan institutions, Jawed Ludin, the Afghan ambassador, told reporters.

"It is very realistic if our eagerness, if our keen interest as Afghans is anything to go by, then it's very achievable ... The question obviously is whether the international community will be able to put in the amount of resources that are needed to prepare our institutions, the national army and the national police," he said.

He warned that the Afghan security forces will not be ready to stand on their own by 2011 if they progress at the current speed. But he said things are getting better and the Afghans are getting the support they need.

On Wednesday, Ludin spoke to U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, the head of the American war effort in Afghanistan, who was in Ottawa to speak to the Conference of Defense Associations.

McChrystal said by the summer of 2011, NATO will be able to demonstrate to the Afghan people that the Taliban "will not win."

Earlier this year the United States announced that it will increase troops to Afghanistan and a plan to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 2011.

Pakistan security forces kill Taliban commander, 6 militants

ISLAMABAD, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani security forces said Wednesday that a Taliban commander and six militants have been killed in Waziristan tribal region.

Security forces engaged and destroyed a vehicle at Miranshah, the center of North Waziristan and militants commander Gulbadeen Mehsud was killed, the army said in a statement.

During the last 24 hours, six militants have been killed while one soldier lost his life and six others were injured, it said. The army claimed that the militants fired at a camp of security forces and damaged a mosque.

The militants also fired with small arms at security forces check post at Sararogha and Shuza areas in South Waziristan which was effectively responded and two militants were killed.

The security forces conducted search operation at different places and recovered huge cache of arms and ammunition.

The militants fired rockets at a camp and killed a soldier while six others were injured while a mosque was damaged, the army statement said. The Security forces killed three militants during an encounter.

According to the army statistics, Pakistani security forces have killed more than 600 militants since they launched the ground assault on Oct. 17 in South Waziristan, advancing towards the main base of Taliban militants in Pakistan.

General: U.S. Troops To Hit Taliban Hard In 2010

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson (left) approaches Patrol Base Lakhari in southern Helmand province in this October 2009 photo.

U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan plan to carry out a major operation next year to clear one of the largest remaining Taliban strongholds in the violent Helmand province.
Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson tells NPR's All Things Considered that the 10,000 or so additional Marines being sent as part of the Obama administration's surge plan will enable an all-out assault on Marja, where Taliban forces have been digging in.
"We have one area that we know the enemy considers a sanctuary and has sort of arrived in significant numbers and built up his defenses," Nicholson tells NPR's Robert Siegel in a telephone interview Thursday from Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province. "I think there is an inevitability, a little bit of a collision, if you will, here sometime in the new year."
Helmand has been the site of a series of fierce pitched battles in the past six months as Nicholson's Marines have ousted Taliban forces from a number of towns that had previously been effectively off-limits to NATO forces.
In an effort to demonstrate how much progress has been made, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, toured one of those towns, called Nawa, on Thursday surrounded by a significant security detail but without wearing a flak jacket.

We believe we have an enemy that will fight and hold that ground.
- Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of U.S. Marines in southern Afghanistan
Mullen said increasing the participation of Afghan security forces in taking and holding territory is an essential part of the U.S. strategy.
"It's critical that we continue to focus on them and they take the lead and essentially become responsible for their own security, which actually is a more exciting proposition than what's occurring right now," Mullen said.
Toward that goal, Nicholson says training programs for Afghan security forces have been accelerated and, if everything goes according to plan, there will be about the same number of Afghan soldiers and police officers as U.S. Marines participating in the upcoming Marja operation.
"What we're here to do probably for Marja is probably break open those [improvised explosive device] lanes, pour through, but at the end of the day this has got to be their victory," Nicholson says. "We're going to work very hard to make sure they are involved in every facet of it, to include the planning of it."
But he warns that the Marja assault, when it comes, is likely to be a very tough fight.
Taliban insurgents, who have been laying down fields of IEDs and mines, are expected to fight hard to defend one of the few remaining significantly populated portions of Helmand that they still control.
"We believe that there is a formidable enemy there. We believe we have an enemy that will fight and hold that ground," Nicholson says. "Where's he going to go after this? Will he try to sneak back into the areas we have cleared and are prospering? I don't think there will be a lot of appetite from the locals to welcome them back."
One factor that should help, he adds, is that about 80 percent of the Taliban fighters still operating in Helmand are "local guys who will frankly just go home." The remaining 20 percent or so are seen as committed ideologues who won't give up easily.
Beyond the immediate goal of driving the Taliban out of Marja, Nicholson says he is focused on the broader picture, including President Obama's stated intention of beginning to draw down troops in Afghanistan starting in July 2011.
"I can't tell you where we're going to be in July of 2011, but I can tell you that we understand what the commander-in-chief has said, and that's when he wants to draw down, and we are sprinting," Nicholson says. "The message to our Marines every day is that the clock is running and the world is watching."

US airstrike kills 3 in North Waziristan

The US killed three Islamist terrorists in the third airstrike in two days in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

The strike, carried out by unmanned Predator or Reaper attack aircraft, hit a Taliban safe house in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan. Several Hellfire missiles were reported to have been launched in the airstrike.

"The US drone missiles hit a house in the mountains," a Pakistani intelligence official told Dawn. "We have reports of three militants killed and five injured. The house was completely destroyed."

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the target of the attack.

The Datta Khel region was the focus of two airstrikes yesterday which killed a senior al Qaeda commander and six fighters, as well as 11 Haqqani Network fighters.

The al Qaeda commander was identified as Zuhaib al Zahibi. A senior US military intelligence official described Zahibi as "a general officer equivalent" in the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army.

The Datta Khel region is a stronghold of both the Haqqani Network and North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar; they both shelter al Qaeda leaders and fighters. The US has pressured Pakistan to dismantle the Haqqani Network, but has been rebuffed.

The Haqqani family is led by Jalaluddin and his son Siraj, who serves as the military commander. The network is based in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has the backing of the Pakistani military and its intelligence service. The Haqqanis have strong ties to al Qaeda. Siraj Haqqani is believed to be a member of al Qaeda's military shura, or council, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

The US has zeroed in on the Haqqani Network since killing Baitullah Mehsud in an Aug. 5 strike in South Waziristan. Baitullah was the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, one of several Taliban groups operating in Pakistan.

Since the Aug. 5 strike, 14 of the 18 reported airstrikes have taken place in North Waziristan, while the other four were in South Waziristan. Nine of the 14 attacks in North Waziristan occurred in territory administered by the Haqqani Network.

So far this year, the US has carried out 50 airstrikes inside Pakistan. In all of 2008, 36 strikes were carried out. Since the US ramped up cross-border attacks in August 2008, 16 senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed.

US airstrikes in Pakistan in 2009:

• US airstrike kills 3 in North Waziristan
Dec. 18, 2009
• Al Qaeda Shadow Army commander killed in US strike [two airstrikes in North Waziristan]
Dec. 17, 2009
• US strike kills 4 al Qaeda, 2 Taliban in South Waziristan
Dec. 10, 2009
• US airstrike kills 3 in North Waziristan
Dec. 8, 2009
• US airstrike kills 4 Taliban in North Waziristan
Nov. 18, 2009
• US kills 4 in North Waziristan airstrike
Nov. 4, 2009
• US airstrike targets al Qaeda in North Waziristan
Oct. 21, 2009
• US kills 4 in strike on Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
Oct. 14, 2009
• US strike kills Haqqani Network and foreign fighters in North Waziristan
Sept. 30, 2009
• US aircraft strike in North and South Waziristan
Sept. 29, 2009
• US airstrike targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
Sept. 24, 2009
• Two al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike
Sept. 14, 2009
• 12 killed in second US strike in North Waziristan
Sept. 8, 2009
• Senior al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike
Sept. 7, 2009
• US strikes Taliban compound in South Waziristan, 8 killed
Aug. 27, 2009
• US Predators target the Haqqanis in North Waziristan
Aug. 20, 2009
• US kills 14 in strike on Taliban training camp in South Waziristan
Aug. 11, 2009
• Baitullah Mehsud's wife killed in Predator attack
Aug. 5, 2009
• US Predator strikes in North Waziristan, kills 5
July 17, 2009
• US strikes Taliban communications center in South Waziristan
July 10, 2009
• US kills 25 Taliban in second Predator strike in South Waziristan
July 8, 2009
• US Predator strike on Taliban camp kills 8 in South Waziristan
July 8, 2009
• US Predator strike kills 14 Taliban in South Waziristan
July 7, 2009
• 13 Taliban fighters killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan
July 3, 2009
• Scores of Taliban killed in second US strike in South Waziristan
June 23, 2009
• Six killed in US Predator attack in South Waziristan
June 23, 2009
• US strikes target Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan
June 18, 2009
• US kills 5 in South Waziristan strike
June 14, 2009
• US strikes Taliban, al Qaeda in North Waziristan
May 16, 2009
• US strikes again in South Waziristan
May 12, 2009
• US strike targets Baitullah Mehsud territory in South Waziristan
May 9, 2009
• US strike kills 10 Taliban in South Waziristan
April 29, 2009
• US airstrike targets Taliban training camp in South Waziristan
April 19, 2009
• US Predator kills four in South Waziristan strike
April 8, 2009
• US strikes Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
April 4, 2009
• US launches first strike in Arakzai tribal agency
April 1, 2009
• Latest US strike targets al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan
March 26, 2009
• US airstrike kills 8 in Baitullah Mehsud's hometown
March 25, 2009
• US launches second strike outside of Pakistan's tribal areas
March 15, 2009
• US missile strike in Kurram agency kills 14
March 12, 2009
• US airstrike kills 8 in South Waziristan
March 1, 2009
• US airstrike in Pakistan's Kurram tribal agency kills 30
Feb. 16, 2009
• US Predator strike in South Waziristan kills 25
Feb. 14, 2009
• US strikes al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan
Jan. 23, 2009
• US hits South Waziristan in second strike
Jan. 2, 2009
• US kills 4 al Qaeda operatives in South Waziristan strike
Jan. 1, 2009

Taliban want talks with govt: Malik

* Interior minister says govt cannot hold talks with ‘unreliable people who don’t even fulfil their commitments’

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban leadership is sending messages from various sources to the government for holding dialogue, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Tuesday. “The government cannot hold talks with unreliable people who don’t even fulfil their commitments. If the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) really wants to hold dialogue with the government, they must surrender and lay down their arms first,” Malik said.

He said TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud had accepted responsibility for the Parade Lane mosque attack in Rawalpindi, adding that the TTP had time and again accepted the responsibility of terrorist attacks in various parts of the country including suicide attacks on students at the International Islamic University. “How can they (Taliban) blame the country’s secret agencies for carrying out terrorist attacks,” he asked, adding that, “TTP spokesman Azam Tariq is a liar. He is the person who first announced the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud and said Faqir Muhammad will be the head of the TTP, but later backtracked.”

“The leadership of TTP has realised that their so-called and self-designed jihad is meaningless now as the clerics have denounced suicide attacks and their jihad, which is against innocent people,” Malik said. He said “the banned outfit is losing the support of their own people as well because there is no justification for their self-designed jihad, after the decree by ulema.” To a question, the minister said the government could consider holding dialogue with the TTP but only if they lay down their arms. app

ICRC visits Afghan troops in Taliban custody

PESHAWAR: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has carried out two

visits to three members of the Afghan security forces detained by the Taliban

in Badghis province in northwest Afghanistan last month, a communication said on Tuesday.

This was the first time since the beginning of the current conflict that the ICRC has visited people detained by the armed opposition, said the Peshawar office of the ICRC. “We welcome this breakthrough. We plan to conduct and repeat visits in other regions, and hope to visit people held by other armed opposition groups, for ensuring that everyone detained in relation to the armed conflict is treated humanely,” the communication quoted the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross delegation in Kabul, Reto Stocker, as saying.

The ICRC regularly visits people held in connection with the conflict to assess their conditions of detention and treatment. It then shares its findings, recommendations and concerns with the detaining parties on a strictly confidential basis, to ensure humane treatment.

“International humanitarian law grants the same protection to everyone held in connection with the armed conflict, whether the detaining party is the international or Afghan security forces or the armed opposition,” Stocker said. The ICRC currently visited 136 places of detention in Afghanistan and has registered over 16,000 persons since the beginning of the current conflict in 2001, the communication said.

Investigators probe link of Taliban with bank heist

KARACHI: The main suspect in the country’s biggest bank robbery used the identity card of another person to get the job of a guard in a security company.

Five men led by a security guard had robbed the I.I. Chundrigar Road branch of Allied Bank of foreign currency equivalent to Rs311.2 million on Sunday morning.

After the robbery, police got hold of the file of the guard, Shahid Mehmood, and his fake CNIC, original photograph and copies of the CNIC of his guarantors were taken into possession.

Particulars on the CNIC misled police into thinking that the man was from Faisalabad.

On Monday, when police reached the Faisalabad address, mentioned on the CNIC, it transpired that Shahid Mehmood ran a canteen at a commercial centre in Qayyumabad area near DHA in Karachi.

A senior police officer told Dawn that the main suspect had used the CNIC of Shahid Mehmood to get a job in the security company.

‘He didn’t even replace the picture of Shahid Mehmood with that of his own. However, he had submitted his own photograph along with the copy of the CNIC at the company,’ the officer said.

Similarly, the photocopies of the CNIC of the two guarantors were attached by the main suspect in his job application and the guarantors were questioned by police on Monday.

It emerged that the two didn’t know the suspect and he had misused the copies of their CNIC.

However, it has been established that the unnamed ‘main suspect’ belongs to Peshawar, prompting police to include the possibility of Taliban linkage, an investigator told Dawn.

An injection of Rs311 million in the terror network would add to the capacity of Taliban to continue their attacks across the country, an investigator remarked. Such a huge amount of cash cannot be taken home by someone for personal use.

Meanwhile, Karachi police have been instructed to check the offices of private security agencies and report any irregularity to higher authorities.

CCPO Waseem Ahmed issued orders to SPs of all towns to check the record of the companies which have offices in their jurisdiction.

Police have also requested the Home Department that punishment for offences committed by security companies should be increased to jail terms of three years (from two years) and the amount of fine to Rs200,000 to Rs50,000.

Sources said that a police team headed by a senior officer had been sent to Peshawar to trace the whereabouts of the main suspect with the help of local police.

About a dozen bank robberies took place in Karachi in 2009, but none matched the latest one in precision and planning.

The last major heist in the country took place in 2007 when two security guards robbed Rs160 million from a foreign exchange company in Karachi.

Several recent bank robberies in Karachi have been traced to the Taliban.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Brown to unveil plan to tackle Afghan roadside bombs

Gordon Brown is to outline proposals to counter roadside bombs which have led to rising UK deaths in Afghanistan.

The prime minister, who visited troops in Helmand at the weekend, will promise money for new equipment and a greater detection role for local forces.

He will tell MPs an Afghan intelligence network to identify where the devices are made and deployed will be set up.

Meanwhile, the new bishop to the Armed Forces has called for a less simplistic attitude to the Taliban.

The Right Reverend Stephen Venner said there were many things about them that the West disapproved of but the Taliban could perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith.

Defence spending

The prime minister said he would re-prioritise defence spending, with an extra £150m due to be spent on the UK's campaign in Afghanistan.

There's a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the West could approve

Rt Rev Stephen Venner

Growing menace of Afghan IEDs
It will come as part of a substantial change in defence priorities with more money being diverted to pay for equipment to target improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and more helicopters, says the BBC's deputy political editor James Landale.

The cash, to be spent over three years, will see a specialist training base set up in Britain.

The IEDs laid by the Taliban will be targeted with an additional £10m to be used to buy 400 hi-tech robot mine detectors.

In an announcement on Tuesday, Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth is also expected to say a new centre will be set up in the UK to analyse aerial surveillance photographs.

As part of the reallocation of funds, he is set to announce the closure of at least one RAF base and a scaling back of the UK sovereign base area in Cyprus, as well as cuts to the MoD Police and back office functions.

Basic quarters

During his visit to Afghanistan, the prime minister inspected new equipment and held talks with President Hamid Karzai in Kandahar.

Gordon Brown: "I am here to thank our troops"
At the Shorabak Afghan army base in Helmand, he witnessed the sort of training local forces are getting to deal with IEDs.

He is expected to tell the Commons that President Karzai has promised to step up the training programme so his forces can take over more of this role from allied troops.

Our correspondent said unusually Mr Brown spent the night in the country, rather than flying in and out in one day.

He slept in "basic quarters" at the Kandahar air base, the headquarters of Nato troops in the south of the country.

Admirable qualities

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Bishop Venner said the Taliban could "perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other".

The Church of England bishop argued against demonising the Taliban and said the attitude taken towards them had been "too simplistic".

"There's a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the West could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation," he said.

Bishop Venner said everyone in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, needed to be involved in finding a solution to the country's problems

Weapon supplier nabbed in Taliban birthplace

KABUL, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- Afghan troops in conjunction with the NATO-led multinational force apprehended a weapon supplier to militants in Taliban birthplace Kandahar, south Afghanistan on Monday, a statement of the military alliance released here said.

"Afghan and International Security forces detained a Taliban weapon facilitator in Kandahar today," the statement added.

The man, detained from Panjwai district without any shots, according to the statement was involved in shipment of weapons to Taliban militants in the restive region. However, it did not give his name.

In the statement, it added that some more militants were detained during the operation against the weapon facilitator. Taliban militants fighting the troops have not made comment.

Kandahar, a former stronghold of Taliban and the neighboring Helmand and Zabul provinces have been the scene of increasing insurgency over the past couple of years.

Taliban 'not all bad', says new Armed Forces bishop

The Taliban can be "admired" for their loyalty and conviction, the new Armed Forces bishop said yesterday.

Rt Rev Stephen Venner said the West's attitude had been "too simplistic" towards the Taliban - arguing against demonising the Islamic fundamentalist group.

The Church of England bishop, recently commissioned by Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams, said: "There's a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the West could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation.

"The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other."

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The bishop said he admired the sacrifices made by the British forces fighting in Afghanistan and some of the Taliban's methods were not acceptable.

He added that all the people of Afghanistan, including the Taliban, needed to be involved in a solution to the problems.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander in Afghanistan, accused the bishop of naivety.

"We must understand our enemy but that is more of a military issue rather than a religious one," he said.

"There are elements in the Taliban who do not act from a religious perspective. Their creed and ethos is about violent oppression which comes from a politics of extreme religion."

Taliban stability may pose threat to entire region: Mcchrystal

Updated at: 0827 PST, Monday, December 14, 2009
WASHINGTON: The commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan General Mcchrystal has feared that the entire region including Afghanistan, Pakistan and adjoining areas could be sent in danger if Taliban succeeded to obtain stability, Geo news reported Monday.

“Taliban will have to be eradicated at any cost”, adding, “Taliban may pose threat to the stability of the entire region if they become stable in Afghanistan again.”

“Al-Qaeda wants imposition of its ideology over all across the world. We want better partnership with Afghan government”, he said, “But the world must come forward to further assistance to Afghanistan in its war against terrorism.”

Afghan government should raise salaries of Afghan troops, general proposed.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Malik rules out talks with Taliban

KARACHI: Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik ruled out talks with Taliban and asked the misguided youth to adopt the right course.

The interior minister accompanied by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad today visited Jamia Amjadia where he had a detailed meeting with a delegation of Ahle-Sunnat’s ulema. The delegation comprised of Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, Allama Shah Turab Qadri, Haji Hanif Tayyab, Tariq Mahboob and Shahid Ghauri.

Following the meeting, Malik said Ulema from all schools of thought had a consensus that suicide attacks and terrorism were un-Islamic.

When directed his attention toward inclusion of Sunni Tehrik’s name in the watch list of interior ministry, he said that he was unaware about this and would discuss the matter with the leadership of Sunni Tehrik (ST).

4 pro-Taliban militants 'killed in Pakistan'

Pakistan's army says its forces have killed at least four suspected pro-Taliban militants in an operation in the northwestern Swat valley.

Military spokesman Major Mushtaq Khan told AFP that four pro-Taliban militants were killed in the Monday operation.

The incident took place when Pakistani troops attacked a suspected militant hideout in Shamozai village, southwest of the valley's main town Mingora.

Senior official of the Swat media center Colonel Akhtar Abbas said there were no military casualties.

In April, the army launched an offensive in Swat and the neighboring Buner and Lower Dir districts.

The army claimed in July that most of the militant bastions had been wiped out; but sporadic clashes and bombings continue to rock the valley.


NATO strike destroys Taliban bastion: officials

ASADABAD, Afghanistan — NATO warplanes pounded a Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 insurgents and destroying a bunker complex, military officials said.

Noor Akbar, a regional Taliban commander was among those killed in the raid in the province of Kunar, a mountainous region and Taliban flashpoint area near the Pakistan border, Afghan army general Mohammad Qasim Bitanai told AFP.

"More than 20 Taliban fighters, including their commander Noor Akbar, were killed in the raid," he said.

The NATO-run International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it called in an air strike that demolished a Taliban stronghold in the province's Watapur district but did not give details of casualties.

"An international security force conducted an air strike today and destroyed a known Taliban stronghold consisting of bunkers and prepared defensive positions in Kunar province.

"The security force targeted the stronghold near the village of Tsangar Darah in the mountainous Watapur district after intelligence sources indicated militant activity at the location," ISAF said.

The Afghan general said the operation was coordinated between Afghan and foreign forces, which currently number around 113,000 in the country.

Several other rebels were killed in operations elsewhere in the province of Paktika, also in the east, ISAF said without giving a figure.

US President Barack Obama last week ordered 30,000 more troops to the war-torn country as NATO allies pledged at least an extra 7,000 soldiers as part of a sweeping new strategy to crush a surge in Taliban violence.

The Taliban have made a deadly come-back since the 2001 US-led invasion toppled their regime in Kabul, forcing commanders to demand reinforcements in a bid to win a war increasingly unpopular in Western capitals.


Jobs, Not Taliban, Are the Worry in Afghan Town

KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan (AP) -- The dusty bazaar in this remote town in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province was once teeming with Taliban fighters and drug smugglers who used it as a central transit point in their journeys to and from nearby Pakistan.

Now the market is quiet, and shopkeepers and residents tell U.S. Marines who patrol the streets that they appreciate their efforts to open a new school and dredge the town's irrigation canals. But they complain that business was better before troops descended on the area five months ago and drove the militants away.

''Security is good now, but security was also good during the time of the Taliban,'' said Marijah, a Khan Neshin resident hanging around the market looking for work.

Many residents say they are more concerned about job prospects than security and are impatient to see improvements after eight years of war. But coalition efforts have been hampered by Afghanistan's weak government and the behavior of local security forces.

Some residents also expressed concern that working with the coalition could endanger them if the Taliban return after the Marines leave.

''The people are thinking about the history of Afghanistan,'' said Jonathan Browning, a development expert deployed to Khan Neshin by the British. ''If things swing back to the Taliban, they fear they will be seen as being involved.''

Others probably support the insurgents, most of whom, like Khan Neshin residents, are ethnic Pashtuns. Many farmers in the area grow poppies or marijuana, linking them to the vast drug networks that are often protected or controlled by the Taliban.

Some 4,000 Marines pushed south to Khan Neshin, the capital of Rig district, and other parts of southern Helmand province in July in the largest military operation in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.

Lessons learned after five months on the ground in Khan Neshin will provide a roadmap for the 30,000 additional U.S. troops President Barack Obama has ordered to Afghanistan under a new strategy announced last week.

As part of the Obama surge, about 16,000 U.S. troops got their orders to Afghanistan in the last few days, including about 1,500 Marines from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina who will leave for this country later this month, the Pentagon said Monday.

In Khan Neshin, several hundred of the Marines established a patrol base inside a 200-year-old mud fort. They also set up several smaller outposts in the surrounding area. The spartan bases represent the coalition's most southern presence in Helmand, a Taliban stronghold that produces more than half of Afghanistan's opium.

''This was one of the main stopping points for all the rat lines for weapons, fighters and drugs heading north from Pakistan,'' said Capt. Chris Banweg, a civil affairs officer with the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, the Marine Corps reserve unit stationed in Khan Neshin since November.

''It was like the Holiday Inn. Everyone stayed here,'' said Banweg.

The U.S. military plans to send a large number of the additional troops to Helmand and neighboring Kandahar province to secure key population centers and transit routes.

U.S. forces will also focus on expanding the Afghan army and police. Training the security forces is seen as key to transferring responsibility to the Afghan government and allowing the coalition to draw down its forces.

Some analysts speculate the transition will take longer than expected, and the Marines' experience with police in Khan Neshin shows how far that group, known for its corruption, has to go.

Residents complained the police harassed them and took goods from the bazaar without paying.

''It's the police's job to protect the people, not bother them,'' said shopkeeper Bar Aga.

Eleven of the 19 policemen in Khan Neshin were fired after testing positive for drugs, said Lt. Col. Richard Crevier, executive officer of the Marine battalion in Khan Neshin.

The police responded by rebelling and throwing rocks at the Marines, he said.

''The police down here were basically corralled off the streets of the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah,'' Crevier said. ''They hadn't been trained and didn't have police ethics.''

A second group of 13 police who arrived a few days ago also lacked any training, except for the chief. But the town is slated to receive more than 20 graduates from a police academy near Lashkar Gah toward the end of the month.

Despite the challenges, the Marines and civilian development experts in Khan Neshin believe they are making progress and that morale is high. They have partnered with the community to dredge the town's canals, open the first school in about five years and run a health clinic two days a week inside the fort.

They also have high hopes for the new district governor, Massoud Ahmad Rassouli Balouch, a 27-year-old former pharmacist from Lashkar Gah. But he has struggled to recruit competent staff willing to work in Khan Neshin and to get resources for a district that contains only about 1 percent of Helmand's population.

Mosque attack well planned, but it only weakens Taliban

On Friday at about 2pm, a mosque in Rawalpindi was attacked by six or seven terrorists, leaving 40 dead and 84 wounded. The dead include a serving major general, 11 serving and retired army officers, five soldiers and also 13 children, most of them scions of army officers. The wounded include a retired four-star army officer.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was quick to assume responsibility, reaffirming my contention that the Mehsud chapter has infiltrated back through Kurram and Khyber agencies and is again ensconced in Orakzai Agency. Wali-ur Rehman, a less virulent leader compared to Hakimullah Mehsud, spoke to the BBC, claiming responsibility. He likened the mosque in Rawalpindi to the one in Mecca which was destroyed by the Prophet Mohammed. He went on to state that such attacks against the military would continue.

It is worth pointing out again that this attack, like all the previous ones in Rawalpindi and Lahore, was executed by Punjabis, although they were trained by the Mehsud TTP. There seems to be no dearth of cannon fodder for these terrorist organisations from Punjab, Pakistan’s heartland, where, bred on distorted religious extremism, pitiful youths waste their lives and kill indiscriminately.

First, the significance of this particular mosque: it is located in the heart of the old cantonment on a street called Parade Lane. To its west, a kilometre away, lies a huge apartment complex housing over 500 serving officers and their families; to its south, the same lane extends another kilometre to a residential complex for senior army officers, including a number of generals; and to its north-west, only a couple of kilometres away, is a residential complex for about 300 families of retired officers of various ranks from brigadier on down.

Thus, on any given Friday, the afternoon congregation would be expected to include a large number of serving and retired army officers and their families.

The plan of attack was tactically sound. One suicide bomber was supposed to enter the mosque at the beginning of the khutba, the cleric’s pre-prayer address, and blow himself up. That explosion was the signal for two or three terrorists to lob grenades over the boundary walls on either side of the mosque, which would compel the congregation to try to escape through the exit. Another two or three terrorists armed with AK-47s had placed themselves across the road to open fire at those trying to escape, while those lobbing grenades would continue doing so from either side to maximise the murder and mayhem.

All mosques throughout the country are now constantly guarded by three or four armed police personnel, particularly on Fridays and during Eid congregations. One of them spotted the suicide bomber while he was lurking in the area, waiting for the khutba to start. Since his actions seemed suspicious, the police tried to prevent him from entering the mosque. When the terrorist tried to force entry, a policeman grappled with him, forcing him to commit suicide outside the entrance, taking along only that brave policeman.

As planned, the terrorists on the sides of the boundary wall began to lob grenades as soon as they heard the explosion. However, those across the road had witnessed the aborted attempt of the suicide bomber and modified their plan, trying to force an entry inside the mosque. The remaining policemen managed to prevent them doing so – had the original plan succeeded, the dead and wounded would have been multiplied manifold.

The upside of this attack is again the fact that merely through on-the-job training, the police force, which was previously totally inept, is improving. Not only did those guarding the mosque spot the suspicious suicide bomber and prevent his entry, the remaining three policemen spiritedly engaged the terrorists with AK-47s. Within minutes members of the army-trained elite police force, who were patrolling the area, had arrived to reinforce the security personnel and an army contingent, which is constantly on standby for any contingency, was not too far behind.

Of the remaining five or six terrorists after the suicide bomber killed himself, two blew themselves up when they were about to be captured, two were killed in the firefight and at least one, perhaps two, managed to elude capture. Official sources have claimed that there were only five, including the suicide bomber, and all were dead; eyewitness accounts put the total number at six or seven. What is more, the fact that a house-to-house search continued well into the evening, hours after the firing had ceased, lends credence to the likelihood that one terrorist or more eluded the security personnel.

I have stated repeatedly that the hapless citizens of Pakistan are destined to be subjected to such attacks for some years to come. Most are likely to be against “soft civilian targets” in markets and other everyday places as we have been witnessing in Peshawar recently. Some are likely to be better planned, like this one on Friday, which was obviously intended to target serving and retired military personnel as well as their children.

It never ceases to amaze me that those ordering such attacks don’t realise that, far from breaking the will of the nation, they are only cementing the resolve of the citizens of this country. Even those who are burying members of their family continue to reassert their resolve to rid the nation of this scourge.

Security forces kill 11 Taliban in Swat, Bajaur

KHAR/PESHAWAR: Security forces on Monday killed at least 11 Taliban in operations in Swat and Bajaur Agency.

Eight Taliban were killed in separate incidents in Bajaur, as 25 terrorists surrendered across the agency.

The security forces killed a Taliban and injured several others in Charmang Chinar area of Nawagai tehsil.

Three Taliban were killed in Damadola area of Mamoond tehsil in an explosion in a house where the terrorists were manufacturing a bomb.

Two of the deceased terrorists hailed from Punjab.

Troops also arrested five Taliban from Inayat Qila during a search operation and recovered weapons.

Separately, fighter jets targeted Taliban positions in Khurkay, Gutkay, Anga and Banda areas of Mamoond, killing four Taliban. Two of their hideouts were also destroyed.

In Salarzai, 25 Taliban surrendered in the presence of elders and ulema from Salarzai tribes.

Swat: Meanwhile in Swat, troops killed four suspected Taliban during a search operation, officials told AFP.

Soldiers came under fire as they raided a suspected Taliban hideout in Shamozai village, 30 kilometres southwest of Mingora.

“Troops retaliated and killed all four militants,” military spokesman Major Mushtaq Khan said. Colonel Akhtar Abbas confirmed the incident and said there were “no military casualties”.

Swat, a former tourist resort, slipped out of government control in July 2007 after Fazlullah mounted a violent campaign to enforce sharia law. staff report/afp

Taliban key commander killed in NW Afghanistan

KABUL, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- Police eliminated Taliban key commander Mullah Amrudin and three others in a fierce clash with Taliban insurgents in Northwest Badghis province, the Afghan Interior Ministry said Monday.

According to a press release of the ministry, the clash erupted in Taliban hotbed Ghormach district on Sunday, in which the Taliban command and three insurgents were killed.

The clash also claimed the lives of four policemen, the press release added.

Mullah Amrudin had been involved in kidnapping government employees, organizing roadside bombings and targeting security forces over the past two years, the press release said.

Taliban militants have not yet made any comment.

More than 40 Taliban militants have been killed elsewhere in Afghanistan over the past two days, according to officials.

Canadian soldiers to spend winter keeping Afghans from Taliban's grasp

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - In the five months they have to establish a security zone around the insurgent snake pit known as Kandahar city, Canadian troops will be working to turn local allegiances in an effort to marginalize the Taliban.

Changes to Canada's area of operation, made public by NATO earlier this week, have resulted in a significant re-organization of how and where the country's soldiers are being deployed in the dangerous southern province that has been their base of operations since 2006.

The top Canadian general in Afghanistan, Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard, is in the process of re-assigning troops from more fortified and isolated forward operating bases, or FOBs, to a series of decidedly less secure platoon houses to form his so-called "ring of stability" around Afghanistan's second-largest city.

"We will not clear any village in this area of operation that we will not hold," Menard said last week.

The platoon houses, the number of which will have doubled by the spring, will allow Canadians to maintain a persistent presence around the approaches to the city, which have long been easy for the Taliban to exploit.

In many ways, Menard's strategy represents an expansion of his predecessor's "model-village" experiment.

Brig. Gen. Jonathan Vance ordered troops in select villages in Dand and Panjwaii to leave the relative security of FOBs to live closer to the population they were supposed to be protecting.

It is Menard's hope that the success of that model, which succeeded to a degree in fortifying villages against Taliban infiltration, can be applied on a larger scale.

"To turn the population to support us and therefore marginalize the insurgency, that is what we're after," Menard said."We're not after killing every single insurgent."

Menard has given a May deadline for the ring of stability to be finalized, which will likely entail basing stability platoons in the villages that surround the city.

Despite intelligence that suggests insurgents plan on remaining in Kandahar for the winter period, rather than their usual practice of returning to Pakistan, military planners still expect violence to decline over the coming months.

They say it is vital to take advantage of the window to kick-start community development and provide fighting-aged males with some form of employment.

"It's a good time to go in and hold without actually having to clear, so when the insurgents come back in the spring we're there," said Col. Simon Bernard, the Canadian military chief of long-term planning, referring to the counter-insurgency doctrine of "clear, hold, build."

A major part of the reorganization will involve bolstering development, which the military feels has stalled because of insecurity in the farther reaches of the province.

There is a sense that the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, a joint military-civilian operation tasked with heading development projects in the province, has limited its influence to where Canadian troops are located.

"The KPRT is going to change its focus," said Bernard. "Their area of influence will expand. They will have to look again at becoming the provincial-level player."

Towards this end, field commanders will be given more resources to support reconstruction projects. The U.S. will also be setting up development support teams, or DSTs, a district-level equivalent to the PRT.

"The addition of American personnel and assets definitely will make our job easier," said Ben Roswell, Canada's top civilian diplomat in Kandahar.

The key element in allowing Menard to seal the ring around Kandahar city will be the American troops based in the Arghandab district north of the city who have been put at his disposal.

"It does point to the growing partnership between Canada and the United States, both in the military and the civilian sides of the mission," Roswell said.

"This is becoming a more fully integrated Canada-U.S. operation."

Arghandab, located just north of the city, will not see any new Canadian troops but will nevertheless fall under Menard's command, joining the two other battalions who report to him.

The Strykers, the U.S. battalion that currently occupies lush but volatile Arghandab, have been dispatched to safeguard the major highways running through the province. They will be replaced by a battalion from the storied 82nd Airborne division.

Menard acknowledged that the inclusion of Arghandab would account for a 20 per cent increase in enemy contact in Canada's area of operations.

"There is no doubt it is a very dynamic area," he said. "That is why a lot of resources have been pushed to us in order to deal with this particular issue."

Deploying troops among the population, of course, has a downside. Soldiers are more vulnerable to attack regardless of district; their security becomes incumbent on the relationships they forge with locals.

This is true also for the expanded mentoring program, dubbed "embedded partnering," that will feature a unit exchange between Canadian and Afghan military forces.

For their part, Canadian civilian police officers will be living with their Afghan National Police charges in police sub-stations. But both the army and the ANP are common targets for the Taliban, which it is widely suspected has already infiltrated both institutions.

President Barack Obama's plan to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan is arguably more about reversing Taliban momentum and buying time to improve the Afghan security forces than it is about dealing a decisive blow to the insurgency.

While the majority of those troops will be sent to the south, where the insurgency is strongest, Kandahar is unlikely to see any new troops for several months.

"The first force package will be going somewhere to the west to focus on population centres in Helmand," Bernard said. "Then we can probably expect an increase (in troops) in our AO (area of operations) or in the surrounding area of our AO."

Over the week-end, U.S. Marines in Helmand began preparing the ground for the reinforcements by launching an offensive against Taliban positions in the Now Zad Valley.

David Petraeus, the U.S. general in charge of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, linked the offensive to the effort to establish "envelopes of security" around key towns in Helmand and Kandahar.

"We are in the middle of all of this, at the forefront of all those activities," Menard said of Kandahar's relationship to NATO's strategy in the south.

"It is a very, very important piece of ground."

17 Taliban killed in military operation

* Swat Taliban commander among four killed
* Security forces kill eight terrorists in Lower Dir
* Four Taliban killed in Mohmand

MINGORA/LAHORE/DIR/ISLAMABAD: Security forces on Sunday killed at least 17 terrorists and apprehended several others in operations against the terrorists.

In Swat, the forces killed four Taliban, including a commander, Gul Maula.

Official sources told Daily Times that the four Taliban were killed at Dangram Garasa area in Mingora. Troops also arrested as many as 19 Taliban in the ongoing operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat and Malakand.

According to ISPR, the forces conducted search operations in Janu Langar and Titabai near Khawazakhela, Bishbanr, Mingora and Bar Kanju and apprehended 19 terrorists.

Meanwhile, 13 terrorists surrendered Bagh Dheri near Fatehpur, Matta, Mian Kalle, Gulibagh, Chaharbagh and Mingora.

In Lower Dir district, the security forces killed eight terrorists hiding in a house in Maidan area, army spokesman Maj Suleman Hanif told AP on Sunday. The soldiers also recovered weapons, including two rocket launchers and eight assault rifles. In Mohmand Agency, four Taliban were killed and two arrested during a search operation in Ghanam Shah area of tehsil Baizai, a private TV channel reported.

The channel said the Taliban were also claiming killing 10 security personnel, but the reports could not be confirmed. In the Operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan, security forces apprehended seven suspects at Ghariom and killed a terrorist at Shewa

Massacre at Pakistan mosque shows Taliban strength

Presenter, Man # 1
Al Jazeera correspondent in Islamabad has learned that two Pakistani generals were among the people killed in the attack on an army Mosque in the military compound in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.

Presenter, Woman # 1
According to official sources, more than 40 people have been killed, and more than 83 others were injured. Five armed men attacked an army mosque in Rawalpindi during Friday prayers and opened fire on the worshipers.

Presenter, Man # 1
Two of the armed men blew themselves up inside the Mosque, but three others were able to escape.

Reporter, Man # 2
Once again, an explosion takes place in Rawalpindi. It has become difficult to count the number of times sensitive locations in this city were targeted. Rawalpindi is not only the former capital of Pakistan; it is also the main military headquarters of the Pakistan Armed Forces. It is the center of the military in a country in which the military establishment has a prominent status. Some of the problems there are local, but others are caused by regional and security factors. Perhaps the war in Afghanistan is the most important of these regional factors which explains why it’s very worrying for the Pakistani authorities. They did not hide their concern that increased military pressure on the Taliban in Afghanistan as was called for in the new American war strategy, may push them to go to Afghanistan. Explosions in Pakistan take place almost everyday, but they are still newsworthy due to the large material and human losses caused by them. In addition, these attacks affect the political and security situation in a country with a very strategic location, which explains why Pakistan has become a source of concern for NATO Forces in Afghanistan. Pakistan has become the epicenter of constant earthquakes that keep coming one after the other. The tribal region of Waziristan, the Karachi explosions, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban as well as the drone attacks all reflect the instability of Pakistan for the past two years. Who is responsible for this? Perhaps, many elements are, including Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan. Any one negatively affected by the war on terror is a potential suspect. However, the identity of the real perpetrators will not be known, until the situation calms down, which may not happen any time soon.
Palestinian Authority official loses Jerusalem residency
Dubai TV, UAE
Presenter, Woman # 1
Israel continues to accelerate its policy of changing the demographics of occupied Jerusalem with the objective of maximizing the number of its Jewish citizens. The Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported that 4.580 Jerusalem residency cards were taken away from Palestinians in 2008. This is 21 times more than the number of Palestinians whose residency rights were stripped from them since 1967. This phenomenon was also highlighted by the European report that resulted in a Swedish draft resolution to declare East Jerusalem the capital of the future Palestinian State. From Jerusalem, our reporter Sheruq Assad.

Reporter, Woman # 1
Khaled Abu Araefeh lives in the Damascus Gate neighborhood. He is the father of five. Israel revoked his Jerusalem residency, not because he is not living in Jerusalem or because he is not paying his taxes, but because of his political views. A year and a half ago, Israel arrested him along with another 60 others Palestinians in Jerusalem, including three Parliament members from the Palestinian legislative council representing Jerusalem. At the time, Khaled was a minster. He was in prison all that time, and just before he was released, he was surprised by the annulment of his Jerusalem residency permit. Now he is living in his home in Jerusalem, with the constant fear that Israel might expel him from the city at any moment.

Guest, Man # 1
The former Minster of Interior, Bar-On gave us the option of staying in the Palestinian legislative council and government, or having our Jerusalem residency permits revoked. Our Jerusalem residency permits were stripped. No I do not know if I will be expelled from my home.

Reporter, Woman # 2
The Jerusalem municipality has tried to prevent his sun Muhammad from acquiring his Jerusalem residency permit, and tried to prevent the construction of his new home.

Guest, Woman # 3
They persecute us for our political views, and give us problems when we try to build our homes. All of their policies are designed to make us leave Jerusalem.

Reporter, Woman # 2
In the eyes of Israel, the real battle is about demographics; Israel wishes to create new facts on the ground to shape the future peaceful settlement.

Guest, Man # 2
The Israelis have a clear plan for Jerusalem, to be completed by 2020. They want to have an absolute Jewish majority and an Arab minority. How to get rid of the Arab population? Of course, by revoking Jerusalem residency cards from Palestinians, demolishing their homes, and expanding the Apartheid Wall. This explains why the Israeli policy in 2008, 2009 and 2010 will be harsher than it was in previous years.

Reporter, Woman # 2
For the Palestinians, the battle for Jerusalem is a matter of survival and justice. For Israel it is a matter of imposing new facts on the ground by force. Time is of the essence. Shuruq Assad, Dubai Television, Ras Al A’maud Occupied Jerusalem.
Israeli settlers clash with police over construction freeze
IBA TV, Israel
Settlement leaders rejected a personal plea to respect the construction freeze in the territories during their meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Settlers vowed to continue confronting security forces sent to enforce the freeze, while Netanyahu reassured the Judea and Samaria mayors that the freeze would not exceed 10 months.
Living in limbo: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
Al Aqsa, Gaza
Presenter, Male #1
More than 3,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon don’t have permanent residency cards, and they are being classified by the Lebanese government as “undocumented.” The refugees’ tragedy started to unfold in the aftermath of the 1970 Black September incidents in Jordan. During that year, many Palestinian refugees, who didn’t have an established residency status left Jordan and moved to Lebanon.

Reporter, Male #2
While most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are stripped of their basic human and civil rights, some don’t have residency rights. The Palestinian embassy tried to remedy the situation by issuing passports to some of the non-resident refugees. However, this added insult to the injury, as the Lebanese General Security Agency started to classify those with a Palestinian passport as “foreign nationals”, who must renew their residency permits once a year. This has added further humanitarian and financial burdens on non-resident Palestinians living in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Palestinian Human Rights Organizations in Lebanon, led by the Shahid and Hikuk organizations and the Human Development Center, held a press conference at the headquarters of the Journalist Guild in Beirut in order to shed light on the refugee issue.

Guest, Male #3
Anyone, who was issued a passport by the Palestinian Authority, is now classified as a foreign national, as opposed to a non-resident refugee, and is subject to Lebanese laws, regarding residency status and visa permits. If that person overstays his visa, he will be deported, imprisoned, fined, or all three combined. As far as the deportation issue is concerned: Where will they deport him to? This is major issue, which we discussed with the Lebanese General Security Agency.

Guest, Male #5
The passport, which was issued to some non-resident Palestinian refugees by the Palestinian Authority, is a legal document. There’s no doubt about it. It’s worth mentioning that the passport itself is a document that identifies its bearer. However, the passport itself doesn’t grant its bearer the right to return to the Palestinian territories.

Reporter, Male #2
Without residency ID cards, the Palestinian refugees have no legal rights to live in Lebanon, and any effort to resolve this issue may hit a procedural stalemate due to the complexity of the legal process.

Guest, Male #4
Let it be known that the identification card, which was issued to us by the Lebanese General Security Agency, is not recognized by the Lebanese army, especially during traffic stops at checkpoints. In many occasions, our children are stopped and told that their ID cards are not recognized as a legal document by the Lebanese State. They encounter this problem on a daily basis. Lebanon is a country that defends human rights. The Lebanese constitution, in its preamble, calls for the respect of human rights. Therefore, we herby demand Lebanon to honor what it has pledged to do and bring justice to this marginalized class of Palestinian refugees.

Reporter, Male #2
Meanwhile, Palestinian Human Rights organizations have pledged to follow up on the issue and find a solution for the refugee problem. They also called for public protests, with the first wave of sit-ins to be staged at the beginning of next month in front of the headquarters of Lebanese Ministry of Interior. Ibrahim Arab, al-Aqsa Channel, Beirut.
Israel lifts ban on importing Arabic books
New TV, Lebanon
Presenter, Female #1
Israel is trying to con Lebanon into normalizing their cultural relations. What is the official Lebanese reaction? Darin Da’bus investigates in this special report.

Reporter, Female #2
There has been some news, indicating that Israeli goods are being marketed and sold, under national brand names, in several Arab markets. This news comes despite the official ban on Israeli goods in Arab markets, as Israel is being blamed for closing the door to peace. The Hebrew State is seeking to penetrate further into the Arab market, through its new slogan, dubbed:” Lifting the cultural siege” imposed on the Palestinians living in the 1948 territories. According to the Israeli Maarif newspaper, the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation decided on Sunday to support a bill, proposed by members of the Knesset, allowing the importation of books published in Lebanon, Syria, and the Gulf region. Israel is currently banning the importation of books published in countries, which it has not signed peace agreement with. What is the Lebanese reaction to this latest Israeli proposal?

Guest, Male #1
The issue is very clear to the Lebanese government. Our decision is final: We will not deal with Israel under any circumstances or in any way. This is our fundamental, unequivocal, and indisputable position. Whatever the Israeli government is doing has nothing to do with us, and it’s one sided.

Guest, Male #2
Up until five years ago, books that were published in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab countries, were allowed in the Palestinian territories, both into the 1948 and the 1967 territories. Israel banned the importation of books published in Lebanon and Syria due to the severance of relations between these countries and Israel. We don’t want to establish new relations with Israel.

Reporter, Female #2
“Israel is an enemy state” but can we strip our people in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip of their right to read Arabic books?

Guest, Male #1
The Arab citizen has the right and is entitled to stay connected with his Arabic culture and ideology.

Guest, Male #2
We will not deal directly with the Israelis, including Israeli libraries and book stores. We will deal exclusively with the Arab population inside Israel. It’s very important for the Arab public to have access to Arabic literature and books. Some Arabic-language books are banned in Israel. It appears that there is a rise in book-piracy inside Israel. Many books were reprinted inside the “Green Line” without complying with copyright laws. Some of these books are best sellers.

Reporter, Female #2
The proposal allows the Israeli security authorities to reject the importation of a certain book or journal for content that could be used for incitement, such as literature denying the Holocaust or prompting terrorism. From the outside, the Israeli proposal seems to be granting more freedoms for the Palestinians in the 1948 territories. However, from the inside, the proposal aims to normalize relations between Israel and the Arabs. Darin Da’bus, New TV.
Two million Iraqis are disabled
BBC- Arabic
Presenter, Male #1
In Iraq, people with special needs are suffering from many difficulties. That is due to the low average income and the limited financial support they receive.

Reporter, Male #1
According to reports by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, those who have been physically or mentally disabled by the successive wars in Iraq since the 80s and the violent events that have prevailed in the country since 2003 constitute the majority of the country’s two million handicapped persons. The Iraqi authority classifies the handicapped in two categories. Handicapped military servicemen receive retirement salaries that are at least 150 dollars every month; while disabled civilians only receive rehabilitation sessions that could help them earn a living and a monthly stipend of 50 dollars on average, which is only granted to those who are 90% disabled.

Guest, Male #1
The two categories of handicapped people are classified based on their ability to work: the first includes handicapped who can work or partially work; and the second includes those who are unable to work at all. The handicapped unable to work are covered by a salary from the social security fund.

Reporter, Male #1
To make ends meet, many handicapped people are forced to do work that is unsuitable for them. Hassan used to be a soldier in the second gulf war in 1991, during which he lost both hands. But his handicap does not prevent him from trying to make a livelihood. He opened a small store in front of his home to sell sweets and groceries. Despite that, Hassan is still suffering financially.

Guest, Male #2
I don’t make enough. All I make is about 120,000, sometimes a little bit more. I have a big family of 8.

Reporter, Male #1
Through a special fund, the Iraqi government provides some kind of assistance to the born handicapped, such as the blind and the mentally disabled. But unofficial reports by Iraqi political groups indicated that corruption in the administration has reached this sector as well, especially in the last two years. But the most important complaint, according to relevant sources, is that there is no law that guarantees rights for the handicapped to help them integrate into society, especially since the program for legal protection for the handicapped has been lying in the drawers of the Iraqi parliament for the last 4 years.

Guest, Male #3
This law organizes the needs of the handicapped, guarantees their demand for work, and covers a decent stipend for them.

Reporter, Male #1
Since 2003, nearly 70 civil organizations have been founded in Iraq to support the handicapped. Many of these organizations try to rehabilitate the disabled professionally and mentally through special workshops. But according to the experts, these efforts have had little influence in a country where 7% of the population is disabled. From the capital Baghdad, Khudair Houssein, BBC.
The Saudi role in the war in Yemen
ANB TV, England
Host, Man # 1
We are hosting today, the chief editor of the Arab Observer Magazine, Abdel Aziz Al Khames from the Saudi Kingdom, and the political analyst and Journalist Hamed Ghul Sharifi, from Iran. Abdel Aziz Al Khames, you were here with Hamed Ghul Sharifi a while ago and we were taking about the possibility of Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war. Today, we are no longer speculating; Saudi Arabia is directly involved in the war in Yemen. Can you tell us objectively, did Saudi Arabia want this kind of war and confrontation or was it dragged into it?

Guest, Man # 1
I think that this war was imposed on the Saudi regime. The war is between rebel groups and the Yemeni government, and they want to expand the conflict which explains why they are clashing with Saudi forces on the border. However, and this is my personal opinion, Saudi Arabia benefited from this war. Saudi Arabia has been trying to establish a buffer zone 10 miles-deep between it and Yemen. People and drugs have always been smuggled through the Saudi-Yemeni border, and Al Qaeda has used this smuggling route to move explosives and people from Saudi Arabia to Yemen. It seems the Saudi government views the war as a good opportunity to clean the area and secure its southern borders.

Host, Man # 1
I asked Abdel Aziz Al Khames as a Saudi national; I want ask you the same question as an Iranian national. There were also rumors that Iran is involved in the war, and later the Yemeni government accused Iran of directly interfering in Yemeni affairs. This also comes as Iranian officials started talking about the plight of the Shiites in Yemen. Some even say that Iranian military warships are now in the area, under the pretext of fighting pirates. This news came as Yemen said that it captured a ship transporting weapons. They said that the weapons went from Iran to Eritrea and from there to Yemen. Can you tell us, frankly, is Iran involved in the war in Yemen?

Guest, Man # 2
If you were to ask me does Iran interfere in Lebanon or Iraq to strengthen its influence? Then I would have said yes, 100%. But in Yemen, Iran has not interfered directly so far, however there is sympathy towards the Shiites in Yemen. You can see this sympathy in the Iranian media and it is being voiced by different Iranian civic institutions. Tell us why Iranians are sympathetic to what is happening in Yemen.
Obama's Surge: The Real Reason
Link TV, USA
Every year on the anniversary of September 11, the same question pops up: where is Osama bin Laden? And for eight years various pundits, who hardly speak a word of Pashto, Dari, Urdu or any other language spoken in the region, play the guessing game, placing him somewhere along the Pakistani-Afghan border.

This week, President Obama took Gen. Stanley McChrystal's advice and ordered a surge in the war in Afghanistan by sending 30,000 more American troops there to help battle the Taliban insurgency. In a speech at the US Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, the President set out what he said was a new strategy to bring the war to a "successful conclusion" and reverse the momentum of Taliban gains.

The President did not mention Osama bin Laden, a frequent target of his criticism during the campaign when he criticized President Bush.

"We will kill bin Laden, we will crush al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority," then candidate Barack Obama said during an October 2008 debate.

If the US goal remains to "crush" al Qaeda, then perhaps many Americans would not be as upset with Obama's Afghan surge; however, this is not the case.

As it stands, there will be nearly 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, along with about 47,000 from allies. This is not to mention contractors, who already outnumber U.S. forces in the war-ravaged country. According to credible intelligence estimates, 100 al Qaeda operatives are in Afghanistan, and 300 more have fled to Pakistan. As for the Taliban, conflicting estimates put their numbers anywhere between 7,000 to 25,000. Therefore, this build up does not make sense, and the numbers do not add up.

Also, why do the United States and its allies need close to 150,000 troops if they can negotiate with the Taliban? Mr. Karzai does!

"We must talk to the Taliban as an Afghan necessity. The fight against terrorism and extremism cannot be won by fighting alone," Karzai said. "Personally, I would definitely talk to Mullah Omar. Whatever it takes to bring peace to Afghanistan, I, as the Afghan president, will do it."

Meanwhile, President Obama has increased US pressure on Pakistan to fight the Taliban in its territories. As an inducement, and a measure of heightened American concern for Pakistan, he has also helped bring a big increase in aid to the country, including $7.5 billion of non-military aid over five years, approved recently by Congress. The problem is that there is no certainty or confidence that the current Pakistani regime is going to last; Pakistan's president Asif Ali Zardari is one of the country's most discredited politicians and linked to corruption. There is a major question mark on who will be replacing him or what sort of a government Pakistan will have after his imminent fall.

President Obama has not been forthcoming with the American people. He should come clean and explain the real reason behind the surge. It's not because of bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or the Taliban. The real reason is Pakistan, a failed state with nuclear warheads!