Canada's former top soldier says he argued to keep the troops in the relative safety of Kabul, and has rebuffed claims he was responsible for getting the country mired in the bloody battlefields of Kandahar. The decision to send Canadian soldiers to southern Afghanistan was largely made before Rick Hillier became the country's military commander, the former chief of defence staff says in a provocative new memoir. The book, "A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War," is officially released Oct.
The former head of Canadas aid program in Afghanistan takes a clear-eyed look at
development efforts there and concludes that violence needs to be contained for
laying the foundations of effective development. Canadas espousal of the 3-Ds
development, diplomacy and defence cooperation has been backed up by no
clear definition of the term especially in the context of the new development zone
Canada was entering. As for training Afghan troops: Few, if any, units of the army
are yet strong enough to resist aggression independently. But, she also notes: The
Taliban movement does not represent popular resistance to the Afghan government
or the foreign troops. Abandoning Afghanistan at this stage is certain to result in a
Taliban takeover of the country and clear the field for al-Qaedas return.
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I do not want to wait until I have finished our short report on the event (that I will circulate to all), to thank all of you for coming to the Round Table Video Conference and for your contributions to our discussion. I also thank you for your patience during the predictable and inevitable technical glitches that,thankfully,really didn't disrupt things too badly.
I do wish to recognize the special work of our Vice-President Elizabeth Fraser for taking notes of the discussion and also bringing extra chairs, Ken Summers for marshalling and consolidating questions as well as arranging the room, Alan Breakspear for being everywhere we needed somebody - arranging furniture, meeting and assisting entrances and exits, assisting the caterer, and Past President Derek Fraser for his chair-fetching and question development!
During the latter stages of our discussion we discussed access to information on Afghanistan and I recommended the Canadian Government site www.afghanistan.gc.ca For more general news on military and international affairs, the Canadian Forces College award-winning Spotlight on Military, National and International Affairs (SOMNIA) is at http://www.cfc.forces.gc.ca/257-Eng.html and a recommended daily 'must read'.
We discussed the Taliban, and Ambassador Samad made reference to the many facets of the so-called Taliban. The attached article Who Are the Taliban? by journalist Anand Gopal is as good a comprehensive yet concise analysis I have seen. It makes it clear as to how complicated the insurgency is as well as the difficulties created by routine criminals and corrupt warlords, among other factions, that inhabit the Afghanistan space. I commend it to you as a further step in understanding a most complex situation in which our Canadian Forces and their NATO and other allies are trying to bring some semblance of security and development for the beleaguered Afghan people.
Thanks you again for coming. For those of you not members of the Canadian International Council, I do invite you to become members. We are truly dedicated to trying to raise the quantity and quality of public discussion on Canada's role in international affairs.Our next luncheon is on 19 January at the Ambrosia Centre and our speaker is Dr. Peter Jones, now a professor at Ottawa University but a former official in the Rrivy Council Office and in a number of intelligence and arms control negotiation positions. He will be speaking on "Track Two Diplomacy and the CIC". Please let me know if you would like to attend.
Also, please do visit the CIC website at www.canadianinternationalcouncil.org, where you may also become a member. o not hesitate to call med directly if you have ant questions regarding the CIC or comments on the Afghanistan Round Table event.
Best wishes to all for a very happy holiday season and a prosperous 2009.
Victoria Branch, Canadian International Council
Thanks to Member Tom Body for this news article which will be of interest to those working in Afghanistan and other failed/fragile states.
OTTAWA - The Canadian International Development Agency has revised its grant agreements to further shield the government from responsibility when aid workers are killed, even as it presses aid groups who receive funding from Canada to station workers in volatile Kandahar province.
CIDA, which oversees Canada's development assistance to Afghanistan, issues grants to NGOs and other organizations that distribute aid on the ground.
Until recently, grant agreements contained a provision that protected the government from liability in the event that aid workers are injured or killed on a Canadian project. But in recent months, CIDA has strengthened that language, adding a sentence that explicitly protects Canada against "claims or demands." Some aid groups believe the government wants to improve its chances of suing NGOs to recover the cost of lawsuits and kidnapping ransoms.
Canada "shall not be liable for any losses, claims, damages, or expenses relating to any injury, disease, illness, disability or death of the employees or subcontractors of the organization alleged to be caused as a result of performing the agreement," states a recent version of the agreement viewed by Canwest News Service.
"The organization agrees to fully protect and indemnify Canada in the event its employees and/or subcontractors make any claims or demands against Canada in respect of any of the risks inherent in the project or the adequacy of the information as to those risks supplied to the employees and subcontractors," the agreement continues. An earlier template of the agreement, posted on CIDA's Web site and said to be effective Jan. 1, 2008, does not contain this passage.
Meanwhile, CIDA officials have informed some organizations that they are more likely to receive funding for projects based in Kandahar, one of the most dangerous provinces in the country.
"CIDA is putting an unprecedented amount of pressure on Canadian NGOs to move into these areas, particularly in Kandahar," said one aid worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They are linking grant and aid contributions to demonstrating some sort of presence in Kandahar City, regardless of whether it's safe."
CIDA's hard-nosed approach has caused concern among aid workers in Afghanistan, who say they are increasingly being targeted by Taliban insurgents and run-of-the-mill criminals. Yesterday, three female aid workers, including two Canadians, were gunned down in Logar province, south of Kabul. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
The escalating risk to aid workers comes as CIDA faces intense pressure in political and government circles to enhance its visibility in Afghanistan. Sources in the aid community say the pressure on CIDA has increased since the release in January of the Manley report, which blasted Canada's development efforts.
From Friday's Globe and Mail
June 6, 2008 at 5:21 AM EDT
OTTAWA International donors, and increasingly Canada, are undermining the Afghan government's efforts to build its legitimacy with citizens by funnelling assistance through the foreign "aid industry" instead of through the Karzai regime's own programs, a former head of Canada's aid program there says.
"The way to fight terrorism is to try to establish the legitimacy of the [Afghan] government and its visibility across the land," Nipa Banerjee, who teaches international development at the University of Ottawa, said in an interview.
Prof. Banerjee, who led Canada's aid program in Afghanistan between 2003 and 2006, said she is worried the Harper government is increasingly shifting aid from Afghan government programs to third-party groups.
She thinks one motivation for this is to build development community support for Canada's mission in Afghanistan. "Our government thinks they are getting public support and [non-governmental organization support] for their mission if they fund NGO programs," she said.
Prof. Banerjee wrote in the June issue of Policy Options magazine that the Afghan government's national programs can provide "concrete evidence" to Afghans that the country is able to take care of its people.
"[Afghans] are disappointed with the deteriorating security situation and fearful of Taliban advances," she wrote. "They long to see increased visibility and presence of their own government in governance."
Yet she said much of development aid - including from the largest donors, the United States, Germany and Japan - is being delivered outside of Afghan government programs.
"Two-thirds of foreign assistance [is] deliberately bypassing the Afghan government, thereby undermining the government's role in state and institution building and exacerbating the capacity crisis in government," Prof. Banerjee wrote in Policy Options.
She said she wants next week's Paris Conference in Support of Afghanistan to help refocus aid through the Afghan government - echoing the Karzai administration.
Prof. Banerjee estimated that about $70-million of Canada's $170-million in annual aid for Afghanistan is being delivered through channels outside the Afghan government. She said that is a shift in recent years from aid largely funnelled through Kabul.
The Harper government is trying to shift focus away from casualties, the only broadly watched benchmark currently tracked by news media. It is preparing a series of criteria, from education levels to development work, to report progress in Afghanistan.
During a weekly briefing on the Afghan mission yesterday, a senior Canadian government official declined to respond directly to Prof. Banerjee's charge that Ottawa is buying the support of development groups.
However, Khalil Shariff, chief executive officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada, which conducts Afghan development work partly funded by Ottawa, disputed the notion that aid delivered by non-governmental groups is hampering Kabul's efforts to build legitimacy.
Poverty not key factor for Afghan drug crop
The Peninsula - World News
Web posted at: 3/16/2008
Source : Reuters
Afghan poppy farmers are some of the richest in the country, so poverty is not a big factor driving drug production in Afghanistan which last year produced 93 percent of the worlds opium, a United Nations report said.
Despite millions of dollars spent to eradicate the crop and encourage farmers to turn to others, opium production has risen sharply since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the hardline Islamist Taliban government in 2001.
But some of the poorest Afghan farmers do not grow the poppies from which opium is produced, while those on some of the richest farmland are the biggest producers of the drug which is processed to make heroin and exported to the West.
Poverty does not appear to have been the main driving factor in the expansion of opium cultivation in recent years, said a report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
There is no evidence that opium poppy cultivation is the choice of the poorest of the poor farmers, it said.
While it is difficult to measure income in Afghanistan, especially in the most insecure areas affected by the Taliban insurgency, the UNODC study looked at farmers key assets.
The southern province of Helmand, which produces around 70 percent of Afghanistans drug crop, has the countrys highest level of car and motorcycle ownership and the second highest ownership of trucks, combine harvesters and tractors.
It appears that the wealthier provinces were actually more likely to cultivate opium than the poorer ones, the report said.
The biggest factor in whether farmers grow opium is the level of Taliban insurgency.
Helmand is a largely desert province intersected by a broad river running from mountains in the north which feeds a strip of lush farmland, once Afghanistans breadbasket but now a region that alone grows nearly half the worlds opium.
Afghan and mostly British forces are engaged in almost daily battles trying to wrest control of the string of towns and villages along Helmands fertile strip from Taliban insurgents.
Forty-four percent of Helmand households said their economic situation had improved in the last year, compared to 27 percent nationwide, the UNODC said.
More than 6,000 people were killed in Afghanistan last year as the Taliban fought a guerrilla war against Afghan and international troops and launched some 140 suicide bombs attacks across the country in their campaign to topple the pro-Western Afghan government and eject foreign forces.
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Afghanistan: Prosecutor Suggests 'Some People' Cannot Be Tried
Radio Free Europe
By Ron Synovitz
February 6, 2008
Afghanistan's attorney-general says criminal charges are pending against Abdul Rashid Dostum -- a senior military adviser to the president and a powerful ethnic Uzbek militia commander who allegedly abducted his former election campaign manager last weekend.
But Attorney General Abdul Jabar Sabit claims that actually bringing Dostum to court will be difficult because it could lead to fresh factional fighting in northern Afghanistan -- where Dostum's militia holds sway. With some of Dostum's supporters threatening to take up arms if he is brought to trial, the case dramatically underscores the absence of the rule of law in those parts of Afghanistan where warlords still reign.
In an exclusive interview, Sabit tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that prosecutors accuse Dostum of charges including kidnapping, breaking and entering, and assault. "These are not political accusations -- it is a criminal case," Sabit says.
He also says that a police investigation determined that on February 2, Dostum and about 50 members of his militia attacked the home of Akbar Bay, Dostum's former election campaign manager, who is also variously described in the Afghan media as a tribal leader and the head of an ethnic Turkic organization. Sabit says they then illegally entered Bay's home, beat him and members of his family, insulted female relatives, and abducted Bay.
But Sabit suggests that Dostum is such a powerful commander in northern Afghanistan that, in the current security environment, he might be above prosecution. "Anyone who commits a criminal act must be brought to justice," Sabit said. "But in reality, I must admit that there will be some difficulties. In this war situation, in many cases, it is difficult for us to implement the law."
Sabit says that "because of the war there is no law, and you cannot implement the law in the south of the country or in many districts -- even in those places where the rule of law does exist, sometimes we cannot enforce the law over some people."
Sign Of The Times
Dostum has changed sides and alliances many times during Afghanistan's 30 years of war. He has been a key ally of U.S. forces since late 2001 in the fight against the Taliban. Dostum also became an adviser in Afghan President Hamid Karzai's transitional administration after the collapse of the Taliban regime.
After the presidential election of 2004, Karzai kept Dostum in the central government without appointing him as a minister. Instead, Karzai named Dostum as a special aide and gave him the title of "chief of staff to the commander in chief of the armed forces."
That move was generally regarded as an effort to avoid friction ahead of parliamentary elections in September 2005. But it also has helped reduce clashes between Dostum's militia and rival factions in northern Afghanistan.
The current governor of Balkh Province, Atta Mohammad Noor, is among those rivals whose own militia clashed periodically with Dostum's fighters in the struggle to control territory after the Taliban was driven from the north. Noor tells Radio Free Afghanistan that some political factions might try to use the current dispute over the case against Dostum as a pretext for partitioning the country and transforming the Islamic republic into a federation.
"We will not allow anybody to speak on their own as though they represent all of northern Afghanistan. The north is part of Afghanistan," Noor says. "The division of this country is an unattainable goal for those people who try to take advantage of this situation."
Meanwhile, Dostum's allies and supporters have threatened violence if he is brought to trial.
On February 3, after Afghan Interior Ministry police surrounded Dostum's house in Kabul, Dostum spokesman Mohammad Alem Sayeh rejected the accusations against the militia commander and suggested that "seven or eight" northern provinces could slide into civil war "if anyone touches even one hair on Dostum's head."
An opposition political movement to which Dostum to also has threatened "catastrophic consequences" if the ethnic Uzbek general is put on trial. Sayed Hussain Sancharaki is the spokesman for the United National Front of Afghanistan -- a political group formed in 2005 by factional commanders and politicians who had once fought against the Taliban regime as the former Northern Alliance.
"General Dostum has a high profile among his people and is one of the famous political and military figures of Afghanistan," Sancharaki says. "He is [Karzai's] chief of staff for the armed forces and he is a senior member of the United Front of Afghanistan. It is natural that any kind of action against him will have repercussions. The consequences will be very dangerous -- catastrophic -- for the stability of Afghanistan."
Experts say Dostum is one of several factional militia commanders in northern Afghanistan who have been using the threat of a resurgent Taliban during the past year to get new weapons and more forcefully protect their interests.
"Obviously, what is happening in the north is really the growing Balkanization of the country," Sam Zia-Zarifi, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch (HRW) and a field researcher in Afghanistan who has monitored programs by the United Nations and Afghan government to disarm the factional militias, told RFE/RL recently. "It has been an ongoing trend in Afghanistan for warlords who are ostensibly allied with the government to entrench themselves even more fully."
He added that "a lot of [warlords] are now swollen with the narcotics trade -- profits from the sale of poppy and heroin...[and] have a lot of political clout because many of them have allies in the parliament, if they are not directly members of the parliament."
"The next step," he said, "is to openly flex their military muscle."
Zia-Zarifi said illegal ethnic Tajik and Hazara militias in the north also appear to be hoarding weapons. He concluded that divisions and mistrust between regional commanders and the central government could exacerbate tensions at a time when the security situation already is on a razor's edge.
(Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Hamida Osman contributed to this report from Kabul)
By JEROME STARKEY in Kabul and TOM NEWTON DUNN
Published: Monday, February 4, 2008
BRITAIN planned a secret training camp in Afghanistan for 2,000 Taliban turncoats, it has emerged.
Diplomats wanted the defecting militiamen to form a paramilitary force to fight the troubled countrys religious fanatics.
But the project was scuppered when Afghan secret police found details on a computer.
Furious president Hamid Karzai was told and he expelled the two senior officials behind the move.
An intelligence source in Kabul said the military camp was part of controversial British moves to reform ex-Taliban fighters as community defence volunteers. The source added: It would have provided training for 1,800 ordinary fighters and 200 low-level commanders.
The plan aimed to take advantage of a split within the Taliban in which a senior commander, Mansoor Dadullah, was sacked for talking to British spies.
One official claimed the camp due to be built outside the town of Musa Qala, in opium-swamped northern Helmand Province was intended for Dadullah and his men.
US and British troops ousted the Taliban from Musa Qala during a two-week operation in December.
The camp would also have taught farming techniques to try to wean people off growing opium.
The existence of the plans has been confirmed by UK and UN diplomats, as well as senior Afghan officials. They agreed the project was entirely British-led, but all refused to talk on the record.
The government in Kabul claimed the two expelled diplomats Michael Semple and Mervyn Patterson were kicked out over Christmas for talking to the Taliban without permission.
But the Foreign Office insisted Karzais office knew what was going on. The revelations will embarrass PM Gordon Brown, who has promised that NO negotiations would take place with the Taliban.
He told MPs in December: We are isolating and eliminating the leadership of the Taliban. We are not negotiating with them.
However, the PM has also pledged support for community defence initiatives, where local volunteers are recruited to defend homes and families.