Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bush mourns death of 3,000th U.S. soldier in Iraq

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - President George W. Bush mourned the death of the 3,000th U.S. soldier in Iraq, the White House said on Sunday, but cautioned war weary Americans that no quick end was in sight to the fight against terrorism.

Mourners Gather at Capitol to Pay Respects to Ford

Rights official presses for Afghan war crimes prosecutions after Saddam hanging

Saddam Hussein's last moments

Saddam Hussein's last moments -- BBC

"I destroyed the invaders and the Persians and I destroyed the enemies of Iraq... and I turned Iraq from poverty into wealth"

Hundreds Flock to See Saddam's Gravesite

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Hundreds of Iraqis flocked to the village where Saddam Hussein was born on Sunday to see the deposed leader buried in a religious compound 24 hours after his execution.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Taliban Leader Vows To Force U.S. Out -- CBS

Saddam Hussein: From humble beginnings to international infamy

Nation Begins Its Goodbyes To Gerald Ford

California Service Honors 38th President, Beginning Six Days Of Mourning

A Look at the History of Shiite Islam

Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Punishment

Friday, December 29, 2006

President Bush's Reaction

Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial — the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.

Washington Prepares for Farewell to Ford

PALM DESERT, Calif., Dec. 29 -- The nation's six days of formal mourning for Gerald R. Ford commenced Friday afternoon with a private service for his family and a period of public repose at the church where the 38th president worshiped for the three decades since he left the White House.

Who stands where on the death penalty -- By Kathryn Westcott

Obituary: Saddam Hussein -- BBC

During more than two decades as leader of Iraq, Saddam Hussein's violent methods and uncompromising stance thrust his country onto the world stage.

A turbulent life ends as dawn breaks -- By John Simpson

The extraordinary, turbulent, hugely controversial life of Saddam Hussein was brought to an end at dawn this morning, between 0530 and 0545 local time, just as the call to prayer was sounding across Baghdad.

Saddam Hussein executed in Iraq -- BBCNEWS

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at a secure facility in northern Baghdad for crimes against humanity.

Pakistan decision on Durand Line impracticable: Experts

KABUL, Dec 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghan experts considered Pakistan's decision on fencing and mining the Durand Line impracticable, however some of the analysts termed this plan a result of weak policies by the Afghan government.

Iraq: Reverse Decision to Execute Saddam -- Human Rights Watch

(New York, December 26, 2006) – The Iraqi government should not implement the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, which was imposed after a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said today.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Iran Is Seeking More Influence in Afghanistan

A History of Intervention: Afghanistan, a fragile mosaic of ethnic and religious groups, has long been susceptible to intervention from more powerful neighbors. As the world's largest predominantly Shiite country, Iran is the traditional foreign backer of Afghanistan's Shiites, roughly 20 percent of the country's population. -- During the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, Iranian Revolutionary Guards financed and trained fundamentalist Shiite militias, as well as Sunni fighters. -- In the civil war after the Russian withdrawal in 1989, Iran became a patron of the Northern Alliance, while Pakistan supported the ultimately victorious Taliban.

The Top Ten Stories You Missed in 2006 -- Foreign Policy

Hackable Passports

Karzai lambasts border mine plan -- BBC

President Karzai said that the plans would only separate tribes and families, not prevent terrorism. -- Pashtun tribes people live on either side of the Pakistan-Afghan border. -- On Thursday, Mr Karzai said that removing the "sanctuaries" of terrorists would be more effective than fencing or laying mines along the border.

U.S. Preparing for Saddam's Execution -- The Associated Press

"If the American administration insists in handing the president to the Iraqis, it would commit a great strategic mistake which would lead to the escalation of the violence in Iraq and the eruption of a destructive civil war," al-Dulaimi told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. -- Iraq's highest court on Tuesday rejected Saddam's appeal against his conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 Shiites in the northern city of Dujail in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days. -- Al-Dulaimi, Saddam's lawyer, said the ousted leader should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war" and remain in U.S. custody. -- "According to the international conventions, it is forbidden to hand a prisoner of war to his adversary," al-Dulaimi said. -- "I urge all the international and legal organizations, the United Nations secretary-general, the Arab League and all the leaders of the world to rapidly prevent the American administration from handing the president to the Iraqi authorities," al-Dulaimi said.

Muslims begin the Hajj pilgrimage

Up to three million Muslims are taking part in the Hajj pilgrimage rituals in the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, amid enhanced security.

So Many Cards, So Little Thought

Karzai: Border Fence Won't Stop Terrorists

KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai criticized Pakistan's plan to mine and fence its border with Afghanistan, saying Thursday that it will separate families but not prevent terrorism. -- Karzai said that rather than building a fence, officials must remove the training centers used by terrorists and go after their sources of funding and equipment, steps the Afghan leader often calls for without mentioning the name of his neighboring country. -- Mines are deeply unpopular in Afghanistan, where thousands of its civilians have been killed or maimed by mines planted during 25 years of war here. -- "We have suffered, and we are very much for the removal, prevention of mines," Karzai said. -- U.N. officials on Wednesday criticized Pakistan's plan, saying it would add to civilian casualties.

Ford Disagreed With Bush About Invading Iraq -- By Bob Woodward

Former president Gerald R. Ford said in an embargoed interview in July 2004 that the Iraq war was not justified. "I don't think I would have gone to war," he said a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion advocated and carried out by prominent veterans of Ford's own administration. -- "Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction," Ford said. "And now, I've never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do."-- "Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people," Ford said, referring to Bush's assertion that the United States has a "duty to free people." But the former president said he was skeptical "whether you can detach that from the obligation number one, of what's in our national interest." He added: "And I just don't think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security."

President Declares Tuesday A National Day of Mourning

Edwards Formally Joins 2008 Presidential Race

NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 28 -- Former senator John Edwards of North Carolina launched his second campaign for the White House from this flood-ravaged city Thursday with a call for the United States to reduce its troop presence in Iraq and a plea for citizen action to combat poverty, global warming and America's reliance on foreign oil.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

ANALYSIS - Pakistan's Afghan border fence plan "impractical"

A spokesman for Karzai, rejecting the proposal to fence and mine the border, said terrorists had to be confronted head on.

Afghan women suffer daily violence

Five years ago, after the fall of the Taleban, Afghanistan's new government pledged swift action to improve the lives of women. But a recent report by the international women's organisation Womankind Worldwide said millions of Afghan women and girls continue to face discrimination and violence in their day-to-day lives.

Iran Is Seeking More Influence in Afghanistan

Hussein Urges Iraqis Not to Hate U.S.-Led Forces

Some Saddam loyalists threatened to retaliate if he is executed, warning in a posting on the same Web site that they would target U.S. interests.

Gerald R. Ford: A Healer of Wounds

Gerald R. Ford was the most accidental of American presidents, but when he unexpectedly appeared at the crossroads of history, he seemed to have been placed there by a deliberate act of providence.

U.N. Voices Concern Over Pakistan Plan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A top U.N. human rights officer said Wednesday that Pakistan's plan to mine parts of its border with Afghanistan would only add to civilian casualties in a region already littered with unexploded ordnance. Afghanistan quickly objected to the idea of a fence along the rugged border, whose demarcation is disputed by the two nations. But Pakistani Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan said his country would be acting on its own territory and did not need Afghan consent

Hussein Bids Farewell To Iraqis in Note on Web

BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 -- A farewell letter posted on the Internet Wednesday in the name of Saddam Hussein declared the former president to be victimized by foreign armies but ready to die and "be with the merciful God." The letter urged Iraqis not to hate the foreign peoples whose armies invaded the country, just their leaders.

Ford: the Accidental President

"I have not campaigned either for the presidency or the vice presidency," Ford told the nation in his inaugural address on Aug. 9, 1974. "I have not sought this enormous responsibility, but I will not shirk it."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Heavy snowfall brings life to standstill in Kabul

KABUL, Dec 25, (Pajhwok Afghan News): Since the other day it is snowing in Kabul and so far 70 centimetres snow has been recorded. It seems that Kabul has worn a white blanket that catches one's eyes.

Afghan heroin's surge poses danger in U.S. --

Supplies of highly potent Afghan heroin in the United States are growing so fast that the pure white powder is rapidly overtaking lower-quality Mexican heroin, prompting fears of increased addiction and overdoses. According to a Drug Enforcement Administration report obtained by The Times, Afghanistan's poppy fields have become the fastest-growing source of heroin in the United States. Its share of the U.S. market doubled from 7% in 2001, the year U.S. forces overthrew the Taliban, to 14% in 2004, the latest year studied. Another DEA report, released in October, said the 14% actually could be significantly higher. A report released Nov. 28 by the World Bank said U.S. and European efforts to end Afghanistan's $2.3-billion opium business were failing.

Blair's Plane Overshoots Miami Runway -- The Associated Press

Former President Gerald Ford Dies at 93 -- The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES December 27, 2006, 1:22 a.m. ET · Gerald R. Ford, who picked up the pieces of Richard Nixon's scandal-shattered White House as the 38th president and the only one never elected to nationwide office, has died, his wife, Betty, said Tuesday. He was 93.

Court Orders Saddam to Be Hanged Within 30 Days

Sunday, December 24, 2006

AFGHANISTAN: Communist era mass grave discovered hightlights need for post-war justice

KABUL, 22 December (IRIN) - Some 2,000 bodies are believed to have been dumped in a recently unearthed communist-era mass grave in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, officials said on Thursday. -- The mass grave was unearthed one day earlier close to the communist era's most notorious prison Poli Charkhi on the eastern outskirts of the capital by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said Dr Mohammad Halim Tanwir, director of the international press centre at the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture (MIC). MIC officials believe that the massacre took place between 1978 and 1986 when the Moscow-backed communist presidents, Noor Mohammad Tarakai, Hafizullah Amin and Babrak Karmal were in power. -- Human skulls with bullet wounds, broken bones, pieces of clothing and shoes were seen in the several metre-long grave. -- "More than 50,000 of our innocent people - who were mainly jailed in Poli Charkhi prison, were executed at that time," Tanwir asserted. " -- The recovered bodies show that many of them had been shot in the head and then buried." ---- In January this year, a former Afghan intelligence chief, Assadullah Sarwary was sentenced to death for his alleged involvement in mass killings during the rule of Noor Mohammad Tarakai. ---- To date several mass graves belonging to the communist era [1978-1992], the period of factional fighting between Mujahideen [1992-1996] and the Taliban [1996-2001] have been discovered in Afghanistan.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Afghanistan is at crossroads: UN envoy

Afghanistan is at a crossroads and there is no guarantee that it won't slide into a broader conflict again, the head of a recent UN Security Council mission to the country said. -- Japan's UN Ambassador Kenzo Oshima told the council Thursday that security was the dominant concern during the November 11-16 mission, with many Afghans apprehensive about the rise in violence.

U.N. Security Council Passes Iran Sanctions

UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 23 — The Security Council on Saturday unanimously agreed to sanctions intended to curb Iran’s nuclear program, capping months of negotiations over how severe and sweeping the restrictions should be. The resolution, prepared by Germany and the Security Council’s five permanent members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, bans the import and export of materials and technology used in uranium enrichment, reprocessing and ballistic missiles.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Berlin Mulls Deploying Reconnaissance Jets to Southern Afghanistan

It happened faster than expected: NATO has requested in a confidential letter that the German military deploy German Tornado surveillance and fighter jets to Afghanistan. Berlin has agreed to comply -- and the German parliament will not be given a chance to debate the matter.

Bush Supports Democrats' Minimum Wage Hike Plan

"Minimum wage workers have waited almost 10 long years for an increase -- we need to pass a clean bill giving them the raise they deserve as quickly as possible," said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who sponsored legislation to increase the wage that failed in Congress earlier this year.

First Ladies Will Be Golden

For the first time, the U.S. Mint is dedicating a series of coins to the accomplishments of women -- the nation's first ladies.

Mass grave unearthed in Kabul

KABUL, Dec 20 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A mass grave, believed to contain bodies of those killed during the community era, was found in Poligoon area of this central capital on Wednesday.

Afghanistan dismisses 'war criminals' report -- AFP

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has angrily rejected a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that says war criminals are holding positions in his administration. -- The US-based HRW report released this week named in particular legislators Abdul Rasul Sayyaf and Mohammad Qasim Fahim, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, Energy Minister Ismail Khan and Vice-President Karim Khalili.

Why fog causes airport chaos -- BBC

Dense fog has brought misery to thousands of travellers after causing major disruption to flights in the run-up to Christmas. But why do such weather conditions result in chaos at airports such as Heathrow?

British aide in Afghanistan accused of spying for Iran: reports

LONDON (AFP) - A close aide to the British commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan has been accused of passing secrets about activities there to Iran, press reports said.

DEMOCRACY IN THE BALANCE: In Afghanistan, money tips the scales of justice

Kabul, Afghanistan — IN the halls of justice here, almost everything is for sale. It can take one bribe to obtain a blank legal form and another to have a clerk stamp it. -- Systematic injustice stokes searing humiliation and resentment, turning many Afghans against President Hamid Karzai's government and his foreign backers. Nostalgia for the ruthless rule of the Taliban is growing as the line between judges and criminals blurs. When they can't find justice in the courts, Afghans are tempted to turn back to what they've trusted most for a generation: their weapons.

Feature: Afghans eager for peace, stability

KABUL, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- "This year Afghanistan has suffered more suicide bombings and conflicts. I hope the situation will not deteriorate as the Afghan people are really tied of war and violence," says a Kabul resident Abdul Shar. -- In addition, currently numerous old landmines are still buried in many corners of the country, causing lots of casualties every year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Govt says HRW report erroneous

KABUL, Dec 19 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Describing the recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on Afghanistan as erroneous, presidential spokesman Karim Rahimi on Tuesday said it was an attack on the personalities of some leaders who had served the country in the past. The New York-based rights group, in its report released on Tuesday last, accused some former mujahideen leaders of involvement in human rights violations and asked President Hamid Karzai to bring HR violators to book.

'I have no future' -- Jeb Bush tells reporters

MIAMI (Reuters) - "No tengo futuro (I have no future)," Jeb Bush told Spanish-language reporters in Miami, when asked about any possible political ambitions after he steps down next month. -- The popular, two-term governor has often been touted as a savvy politician with a good chance of following both his brother and father, George H.W. Bush, into the White House.

Bush Links Minimum Wage to Tax Break -- Associated Press

President Bush endorsed one of the Democrats' top priorities for the new Congress, a $2.10-an-hour minimum wage increase - and on a faster timetable than they have proposed. -- Raising the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over three years is at the top of Democratic leaders' early to-do list for next year. -- Bush said he supports a $2.10 raise for minimum-wage earners, but over a two-year period instead of three, and added that "we should do it in a way that does not punish" small businesses. -- "I support pairing it with targeted tax and regulatory relief, to help these small businesses stay competitive and to help keep our economy growing," he said.

No Problem With the Veil -- Muslims are already dealing with the radicals in their midst.

Pentagon wants almost $100 billion more -- Money would finance wars in Iraq, Afghanistan

$41.5 billion to cover the costs of ongoing military operations. -- $26.7 billion for replacing and repairing equipment damaged or destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan. -- $10 billion for body armor and other equipment to protect U.S. troops from attack. -- $2.5 billion to combat roadside bombs and other improvised explosive devices. -- $2.7 billion for intelligence activities.

Lewinsky graduates from U.K. business school

Former White House intern earns Masters degree in Social Psychology -- She completed a thesis entitled “In Search of the Impartial Juror: An exploration of the third person effect and pre-trial publicity.”

150,000 still powerless after Northwest storm

The region’s worst windstorm in more than a decade struck on Thursday, knocking out power to more than 1.5 million homes and businesses. Wind gusted to 113 mph during the storm near Mount Rainier and to a record 69 mph at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Winter snowstorm hammers Colorado

DENVER - A major snowstorm blew across Colorado toward the Plains on Wednesday, dumping more than a foot of snow in some places and forcing the airport to close, stranding thousands of holiday travelers. Authorities at times shut down major highways in parts of six states.

Bill and Melinda Gates Reflect on Need for Global Philanthropy

Bill and Melinda Gates, whose foundation seeks to address worldwide needs in areas including health and education, describe their initiatives and decision-making process.

Brain Exercise Can Help Elderly Stay Mentally Fit, Study Says

RealAudio MP3: Brief sessions of mental exercises such as completing logic puzzles can help stave off mental decline in older adults, according to a study in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association. NewsHour health correspondent Susan Dentzer discusses the findings. (12/20/06)

The Top 10 Health Stories Of 2006

The biggest health story of the year is a huge milestone for women's health: FDA approval of Gardasil, the first cancer vaccine.

French Pulls Troops From Afghanistan

PARIS -- As violence mounts in Afghanistan, France is pulling 200 of its best soldiers out. But military officials here insist France remains fully committed, with 1,100 troops still based in Kabul.

Bush, Gates Deliver Remarks at Swearing In Ceremony

Another pressing concern is Afghanistan. The progress made by the Afghan people over the past five years is at risk. The United States and its NATO allies have made a commitment to the Afghan people and we intend to keep it. GATES: Afghanistan cannot be allowed to become a sanctuary for extremists again. How we face these and other challenges in the region over the next two years will determine whether Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations at a crossroads will pursue paths of gradual progress toward sustainable governments which are allies in the global war on terrorism, or whether the forces of extremism and chaos will become ascendant.

Taliban lightweights open for conversion, U.S. diplomat

OTTAWA - Negotiating with hardened Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan to end their uprising is simply not an option for NATO and western forces, said Washington's top diplomat on Asian issues. However, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said an Afghan government amnesty program is a valuable way of integrating less militant Taliban members back into the country's western-backed democracy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Afghanistan 'holds Pakistani spy' -- BBCNEWS

Afghanistan says it has arrested a Pakistani intelligence agent who acted as a key link with al-Qaeda leaders.

Afghan MPs struggle to find voice -- BCC

In the eyes of some Afghans, the MPs' authority is weak because many have links to militia groups. Instead of being investigated for war crimes, it is alleged many have been able to buy, or cajole themselves into parliament.

Monday, December 18, 2006

No heat, no light, but rays of hope

With many homes facing a third day without power and for others seeking a little winter coziness, fireplaces were blazing around the Puget Sound area this weekend.

Laura Bush Had Skin Cancer Tumor Removed

WASHINGTON December 18, 2006, 11:36 p.m. ET · First lady Laura Bush had a skin cancer tumor removed from her right shin in early November. The procedure was not disclosed until Monday night. The cancer was identified as a squamous cell carcinoma, a malignant tumor that is the second most common form of skin cancer. Whitson said Mrs. Bush's tumor was removed under a local anesthetic. She called it "a little surgical procedure. It's no big deal. She detected it early. She caught it early." No further treatment was needed.

FRONTLINE: return of the taliban: watch the full program | PBS

Foreign Affairs - Saving Afghanistan - Barnett R. Rubin

For decades -- not only since 2001 -- U.S. policymakers have underestimated the stakes in Afghanistan. They continue to do so today. A mere course correction will not be enough to prevent the country from sliding into chaos. Washington and its international partners must rethink their strategy and significantly increase both the resources they devote to Afghanistan and the effectiveness of those resources' use. Only dramatic action can reverse the perception, common among both Afghans and their neighbors, that Afghanistan is not a high priority for the United States -- and that the Taliban are winning as a result. Washington's appeasement of Pakistan, diversion of resources to Iraq, and perpetual underinvestment in Afghanistan -- which gets less aid per capita than any other state with a recent postconflict rebuilding effort -- have fueled that suspicion. -- Effective economic aid is vital to addressing the pervasive poverty that debilitates the government and facilitates the recruitment of unemployed youths into militias or the insurgency. Economically and socially, Afghanistan remains far behind its neighbors. It is the poorest country in the world outside of sub-Saharan Africa, and its government remains weak and ineffective. Last year, it raised domestic revenue of about $13 per capita -- hardly enough to buy each of its citizens one case of Coca-Cola from the recently opened bottling plant near Kabul, let alone take on all of the important tasks at hand. -- Moreover, the lack of electricity continues to be a major problem. No major new power projects have been completed, and Kabulis today have less electricity than they did five years ago. While foreigners and wealthy Afghans power air conditioners, hot-water heaters, computers, and satellite televisions with private generators, average Kabulis suffered a summer without fans and face a winter without heaters. Kabul got through the past two winters with generators powered by diesel fuel purchased by the United States; this year the United States made no such allocation. -- Rising crime, especially the kidnapping of businessmen for ransom, is also leading to capital flight. Although no reliable statistics are available, people throughout the country, including in Kabul, report that crime is increasing -- and complain that the police are the main criminals. Many report that kidnappers and robbers wear police uniforms. On August 24, men driving a new vehicle with tinted windows and police license plates robbed a bank van of $360,000 just blocks away from the Ministry of the Interior. -- Meanwhile, the drug economy is booming. The weakness of the state and the lack of security for licit economic activity has encouraged this boom, and according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, opium poppy production in the country reached a record 6,100 metric tons last year, surpassing the 2005 total by 49 percent. This increase belies past claims of progress, made on the basis of a five percent cultivation decrease in 2005. Although the decrease was due almost entirely to the political persuasion of farmers by the government, the United States failed to deliver the alternative livelihoods the farmers expected and continued to pressure the Afghan government to engage in counterproductive crop eradication. The Taliban exploited the eradication policy to gain the support of poppy growers. -- Counternarcotics efforts provide leverage for corrupt officials to extract enormous bribes from traffickers. Such corruption has attracted former militia commanders who joined the Ministry of the Interior after being demobilized. Police chief posts in poppy-growing districts are sold to the highest bidder: as much as $100,000 is paid for a six-month appointment to a position with a monthly salary of $60. And while the Taliban have protected small farmers against eradication efforts, not a single high-ranking government official has been prosecuted for drug-related corruption. -- Attempts to inject aid into the government have hit a major bottleneck: in 2005 and 2006, the government spent only 44 percent of the money it received for development projects. Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of finance, donor countries spent about $500 million on poorly designed and uncoordinated technical assistance. The World Bank is devising a program that will enable the government to hire the technical advisers it needs, rather than trying to coordinate advisers sent by donors in accord with their own priorities and domestic constituencies. The United States should support this initiative, along with a major crash program to increase the implementation capacity of the ministries. -- So far, the United States and its allies have failed even to convey a consistent message to Islamabad. U.S. officials should at least stop issuing denials on behalf of Islamabad, as General John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, did in Kabul on August 27 when he claimed that he "absolutely does not believe" that Pakistan is helping the Taliban. Nato and the coalition members have similarly failed to devise a common course of action, in part out of the fear that doing so could cause Pakistan to reduce its cooperation on counterterrorism. But failing to address Pakistan's support of the Taliban amounts to an acceptance of NATO's failure. The allies must send a strong message to Pakistan: that a lack of forceful action against the Taliban command in Baluchistan constitutes a threat to international peace and security as defined in the UN Charter. Pakistan's leaders, who are eager to show that their government is a full participant in the international community (partly in order to establish parity with India), will seek to avoid such a designation. Washington must also take a stand. Pakistan should not continue to benefit from U.S. military assistance and international aid as long as it fails even to try to dismantle the Taliban's command structure. -- Some in Washington have accused critics of the effort in Afghanistan of expecting too much too soon and focusing on setbacks while ignoring achievements. The glass, they say, is half full, not half empty. But the glass is much less than half full -- and it is resting on a wobbly table that growing threats, if unaddressed, may soon overturn. -- U.S. policymakers have misjudged Afghanistan, misjudged Pakistan, and, most of all, misjudged their own capacity to carry out major strategic change on the cheap. The Bush administration has sown disorder and strengthened Iran while claiming to create a "new Middle East," but it has failed to transform the region where the global terrorist threat began -- and where the global terrorist threat persists. If the United States wants to succeed in the war on terrorism, it must focus its resources and its attention on securing and stabilizing Afghanistan. [continued...]


Many analysts believe that falsified intelligence reaching coalition forces, or careless operations by them, are increasingly causing suffering to ordinary people, which consequently is leading them to resist the presence of foreign troops in the region. Critics also argue that the public, especially in Pashtun-populated areas, are increasingly unhappy about NATO’s operations, and since Karzai is a Pashtun, he feels pressurized by his own countrymen.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Civilian deaths hit Afghan support for Nato

Rising anger at the growing number of civilians being caught in the crossfire between Nato troops and Taliban insurgents is creating concern that support for Nato in southern Afghanistan is being severely undermined. -- “We can’t prevent the terrorists from coming from Pakistan, and we can’t prevent the coalition from bombing the terrorists, and our children are dying because of that,” Mr Karzai said in a speech marking International Human Rights Day. -- Almost 4,000 people have died since the beginning of the year in a resurgent Taliban insurgency, most of them in the four southern provinces of the country. -- The US-based Human Rights Watch organisation estimates that more than 1,000 of the dead were civilians.

Edwards Plans 2008 Campaign Announcement -- Associated Press

Sen. Evan Bayh on Saturday ended his White House bid while 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards finalized plans to get in, fast-paced jockeying in a Democratic race under the shadow of two unannounced candidates. Bayh decided he could not compete with Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, whose possible candidacies have dominated the positioning almost two years before the actual election.

Sen. John McCain Urges European Allies to Send Troops Into Dangerous Areas of Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan Dec 16, 2006 (AP)— Sen. John McCain on Saturday urged the United States' reluctant NATO partners to allow their troops to engage in combat operations against the resurgent Taliban, especially in Afghanistan's rebellious south. The Arizona Republican, a likely contender in the 2008 presidential race, also criticized Pakistan for tolerating sanctuaries for Taliban fighters and other Islamic militants in tribal regions along its borders with Afghanistan.

McCain: Afghanistan Needs Europe Troops

McCain arrived in Kabul Friday with three other Republican members of Congress for a two-day visit. One of them, Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois, said that while there was much debate over how to proceed in Iraq, there was no question about continuing support for the Afghan government.


USAID:Afghanistan Energy Information Center

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Misunderstanding Afghanistan

There is a note of panic in American views of Afghanistan today. "All the indicators for Afghanistan have headed south," the Los Angeles Times editorialized. Outside Kabul, "much of the rest of Afghanistan appears to be failing again," Newsweek reports. Sen. John Kerry warns: We are "losing Afghanistan."

Report Faults Training of Afghan Police

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.

Afghanistan urged to accept Durand Line

WASHINGTON, Dec 5: The US and its key allies should urge Afghanistan to recognise the Durand Line of 1893 as the border with Pakistan, say two prominent US scholars. In a joint article published on Tuesday in the Baltimore Sun, Dennis Kux and Karl Inderfurth urge Kabul to override the decision of the 1949 loya jirga, which, “contrary to international law,” declared Afghan agreements with the British not binding after the formation of Pakistan

War on Drugs in Afghanistan Could Take 20 Years To Win

KABUL, Afghanistan—Afghanistan's criminal underworld has compromised key government officials who protect drug traffickers, allowing a flourishing opium trade that will not be stamped out for a generation, an ominous U.N. report released Tuesday said. "The majority of police chiefs are involved," one senior police officer told the report's authors on condition of anonymity. "If you are not, you will be threatened to be killed and replaced." Without naming officials, the report said it was possible that powerful interests in the Interior Ministry are appointing district police chiefs "to both protect and promote criminal interests."

Friday, December 15, 2006

U.S. Economy: Consumer Prices Flat, Reassuring Fed -- Bloomberg

Interview With Condoleezza Rice -- Washington Post

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the government has reached out beyond Kabul. But I agree, it isn't the kind of extensive control of the country that one would hope for. Look, I think Afghanistan -- for a country that went through 25 years of civil war that essentially has no infrastructure, I mean no roads, no electricity, where one of the biggest problems we face in recruitment of police is illiteracy, Afghanistan has, I would argue, done pretty well. I know that's a contrary view, but I have to say that it's one by one met its problems. You know, the problem was going to be that warlords like Ismail Kahn were never going to vote. Ismail Khan is the minister of something and industry in Kabul these days. I mean, they've made a lot of progress. -- They've also got a remarkable commitment from NATO, not perfect but we are -- NATO, when I was at the NATO summit, what really struck me was the degree to which the NATO leaders and the NATO ministers now see Afghanistan as theirs, as really NATO's strongest and most important commitment. And I think that will matter over time. -- Afghanistan really suffers from three problems and we just have to attack them. One is an economic development problem. They just don't have a basis for an economy at this point and so it's one reason that poppy is what it is. Somebody once -- somebody said to me not too long ago Afghanistan was a great land bridge until people discovered the sea. And so you're not going to be able to build an economy again on kind of tariffs, and so finding the center of an Afghan economy is not easy and it's going to be very important. But in order to do that, you've got to do things like build roads. One of our military officers when I was out there said I'll give you two brigades for some roads in Afghanistan. And so we now are attacking in a strategic way the road network in Afghanistan. -- SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not sure it will be quite triple, but we're going to make a big commitment to Afghanistan. We need to, particularly on the reconstruction side, particularly on the reconstruction side.

Pakistan Will Have to Reckon With Tribal Leaders, Negroponte Says

Intelligence Chief Pessimistic on Afghanistan and Neighbor

Politician Says Pakistan Backing Taliban

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan must subject its intelligence agencies to parliamentary and legal controls to address suspicions they are supporting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, an opposition politician said.

Rumsfeld Honored at Pentagon Ceremony

Bush called Rumsfeld, who has served as secretary of defense ever since Bush became president, "one of America's most skilled, energetic and dedicated public servants."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Health Care: What is arteriovenous malformation (AVM)?, How do you treat it?

An AVM is a cluster of abnormally formed blood vessels. In medical images, it looks like a tangle of arteries and veins. About 300,000 people in the U.S. have these malformations, but most AVMs never cause any symptoms. The malformations can occur in various places around the body, however, those in the brain or spinal cord can cause the most widespread damage, because they affect the central nervous system. -- AVMs disrupt the normal system used to provide oxygen to the brain. Ordinarily, arteries deliver oxygenated blood to the brain and veins return it to the heart and lungs. But in an AVM, blood that should be in an artery can flow through a vein. When that happens, part of the brain may not get enough oxygen. Also, veins are not meant to handle the high pressures and fast blood flow of arteries. So they may expand or even rupture, causing bleeding in the brain. -- There are several different approaches. The idea is to get rid of the tangle. Surgeons can open up the brain and actually cut out the problem area. Another approach is radio-surgery, which uses gamma rays to eliminate the tangle. Or doctors can thread a small tube through the arteries and inject a glue-like substance that closes off the blood vessels. The problem is that it may not be possible to eliminate the tangle of veins and arteries without disrupting blood flow to an important area of the brain. So not all AVMs can be safely eliminated.

2006 Poll: Strife Erodes Afghan Optimism -- ABCNews

Afghanistan Could Be Next Iraq -- By Fareed Zakaria

As Iraq has descended into chaos over the last three years, Washington policymakers have often pointed to Afghanistan as the success story in the war on terror. Even those who worry about the situation on the ground agree that the United States and its NATO allies have the right strategy in place; they just think we've devoted too few resources to the problem. In fact, Afghanistan is in danger of becoming a version of Iraq, where the central government has collapsed, disorder is rife and a Qaeda-backed insurgency controls large swathes of the country. In addition, the policies that the United States has in place are at best inadequate. We have tried to handle Afghanistan with an Afghan strategy. But it is now clear that the only way to stabilize the country is to have a Pakistan strategy.

Afghan Treasures, Hidden for Years, Shine Anew in Paris Exhibition

PARIS, Dec. 13 — What is remarkable about the Afghan treasures on display at the Musée Guimet in Paris, however, is neither their creation nor their discovery. -- It is that they still exist at all. In a country that for 27 years has known seemingly endless warfare and turbulence, with art objects routinely looted or destroyed, these invaluable treasures, including a trove known as the Bactrian gold, were squirreled away in a bank vault under a former royal palace in Kabul — and somehow survived intact. -- Thanks to this foresight and courage, then, Afghans can still boast a record of their ancient civilizations back to the Bronze Age. And yet, because of continuing insecurity in Kabul, they cannot examine it — unless they visit “Afghanistan, Rediscovered Treasures: Collections of the National Museum of Kabul,” which runs at the Musée Guimet through April 30.

Diana: Princes 'disgusted' with paparazzi -- CNN

LONDON, England -- Princes William and Harry are "deeply upset" at the behavior of the paparazzi as their mother Princess Diana lay dying, British media reports say. Mohammed al Fayed called himself "the only person who knows the truth" about the death of Diana and his son.

Afghan and Pakistan press trade accusations -- BBC

Diana death a 'tragic accident' -- BBC

An official UK police inquiry into the Paris car crash which killed Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed has found no evidence the couple were murdered. A spokesman for Mr Al Fayed's father said he does not accept the findings as questions remain "unanswered".

Afghan President Lashes Out at Pakistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has dumped diplomatic talk of "brotherly relations" with Pakistan for rhetorical fireballs blaming the neighboring country for his nation's spiraling militant violence. Analysts said Karzai could trying to wrench U.S. attention from Iraq as more Afghans are killed. "Pakistan hopes to make slaves out of us, but we will not surrender," Karzai said in a school courtyard, in a 90-minute speech punctuated by frequent applause from several hundred schoolboys.

A Rebuilding Plan Full of Cracks -- By Joe Stephens and David B. Ottaway

Bush Delays Speech on Iraq Strategy

Address on Policy Shift Postponed Until After Turn of Year

Americans Say U.S. Is Losing War

Public, Politicians Split on Iraq Panel's Ideas

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Immigration is no way to fund an ageing population

Olmert's Diplomatic Bombshell -- THE WORLD FROM BERLIN

In an interview on German TV, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert indirectly revealed that Israel is -- surprise! -- a nuclear power. Intentional or not, the Freudian slip was a political bombshell, notably in Olmert's native Israel.

Princes Briefed On Diana Death Report

Princes William and Harry have been briefed on the contents of Lord Stevens report into the death of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales. It is due to be published on Thursday and is expected to conclude that there was no murder, no cover-up and no conspiracy.

Diana concert tickets sell out in minutes

LONDON (Reuters) - Tickets for a pop concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Princess Diana's death sold out in minutes on Wednesday, organizers said.

Princess Diana Memorial Concert Sold Out Instantly

The first release of about 22,500 tickets to the Princess Diana memorial concert sold out in 20 minutes on Wednesday morning, according to a spokesperson for her two sons, princes William and Harry. More tickets are likely to be made available at a later date. The capacity of the stadium, which is currently under re-construction, is expected to be 60,000.

Al-Fayed disputes Princess Diana crash report -- MSNBC

Father of Diana's companion says British police findings that deaths were an accident are 'totally outrageous'-- Mohammed Al-Fayed continued to insist Wednesday that Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed were murdered by British secret agents as part of a British establishment plot to prevent the former wife of Prince Charles, heir to the throne, from marrying a Muslim.

Editorials/Op-Ed An Afghan study group of one

That no calls have gone out for an Afghan Study Group is interesting. Conditions in Afghanistan are also grave and are deteriorating. British Gen. David Richards, commanding NATO forces there, believes we have only three to six months to win Afghan hearts and minds. However, because Afghanistan has largely been an invisible (and, as I have written before, the "uncola") war, it has not received the attention it must. The distinctions between Iraq and Afghanistan are at least two-fold. First, Afghanistan is reparable if we act now and a regional solution is not crucial, Pakistan very much withstanding. Second, a de facto Afghan Study Group of one already exists. The question is if the president will listen to it.

One War We Can Still Win -- By ANTHONY H. CORDESMAN

No matter what the outside world does, Afghans, the United States team and NATO representatives all agree that change will take time. The present central government is at least two or three years away from providing the presence and services Afghans desperately need. The United States’ and NATO’s focus on democracy and the political process in Kabul — rather than on the quality of governance and on services — has left many areas angry and open to hostile influence. Afghanistan is going to need large amounts of military and economic aid, much of it managed from the outside in ways that ensure it actually gets to Afghans, particularly in the areas where the threat is greatest. This means the United States needs to make major increases in its economic aid, as do its NATO allies. These increases need to be made immediately if new projects and meaningful actions are to begin in the field by the end of winter, when the Islamists typically launch new offensives.

Our enemies will burn in hell with us, says Karzai

The embattled Afghan president Hamid Karzai warned yesterday that his country's enemies "will burn in hell with us" if Nato fails to stem a tide of Taliban violence emanating from neighbouring Pakistan. Mr Karzai made the impassioned outburst in Kandahar, where tensions are running high after a spate of Taliban suicide bombings and angry accusations that British troops shot at least seven civilians. Describing himself as a "man of unbelievable deadly resolve", Mr Karzai warned that "the whole region will run into hell with us" if the rebellion was not quelled. "It's not going to be like the past where only we suffer. Those who cause us to suffer will burn in hell with us. And I hope Nato recognises this," he said.

France's Chirac wants review of NATO Afghan mission

PARIS, Nov 27 (Reuters) - France wants its NATO partners to set up a "contact group" to review and reorganise the alliance's mission in Afghanistan, President Jacques Chirac said in remarks released on Monday ahead of a NATO meeting later this week.

Preserving Memory of Afghanistan's Giant Buddhas

Morning Edition, December 13, 2006 · When the Taliban were driven from power in 2001, they left behind a broken country and an infamous act of destruction: reducing to rubble two monumental Buddhas that had stood for 1,500 years. A Buddhist pilgrim from China who followed the Silk Road through Bamiyan in the year 632 wrote that the Buddhas shone with gold and jewels. At the time, they gazed down through the sunlight on a valley bustling with 10 monasteries and 1,000 monks.

Bush Confers With Pentagon Officials on Iraq

WASHINGTON December 13, 2006, 3:25 p.m. ET · President Bush said Wednesday he would "not be rushed" into a decision on a strategy change for Iraq, saying that in a round of consultations he heard both some interesting ideas and some "ideas that would lead to defeat."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Traffic congestion is seen near the main market area in downtown Kabul November 22, 2006 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Kabul is now still in transition five years after the fall of the Taliban, battling with difficulties caused by population growth, traffic congestion, and lack of electricity. While the reconstruction continues, many side roads in the city are unpaved and cause incredible dust that turns to mud as it rains. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)

William, Harry Announce Concert For Diana

(CBS/AP) Princes William and Harry said Tuesday that they are planning a pop concert and memorial service next year to mark the 46th birthday of their mother, Princess Diana, and the tenth anniversary of her death. The concert is to feature some of Diana's favorite music and will be "full of energy, full of the sort of fun and happiness which I know she would have wanted," William said in an interview with his father's press secretary, Patrick Harrison, which was released to the media.

NSA Denies Spying On Princess Diana

(CBS/AP) America's super secret eavesdropping agency said Tuesday it had never targeted Princess Diana's telephone conversations for monitoring.

'Make Money, Not Excuses' with Jean Chatzky on Oprah

If you want to be wealthier than you are today, there are only four things you need to do: Make a decent living, spend less than you make, invest the money you don't spend, and protect your financial world. Start today!, Earn more. Find extra cash. How to invest, Take a look. What's your excuse?,

Conflict Diamonds

LOS ANGELES (2006-12-12) At the height of the holiday season, the Hollywood film "Blood Diamond" is raising questions about a $60 billion industry. What are the human costs of diamond production? Are diamond profits still used to fund brutal conflicts?

U.N. Humanitarian Director Jan Egeland Leaves Post

"I famously called rich countries stingy overall," Egeland says. "I don't think [spending on average] 0.2 percent of our riches in Europe, North America, Japan and elsewhere ... on foreign assistance -- I don't think this is very generous."

A Former Soviet Soldier Lives Among Afghans

Morning Edition, December 12, 2006 · Afghanistan has been in a state of war for more then a quarter-century. It began when the Soviet Union invaded the country in 1979. More then a million Afghans were killed, as well as about 15,000 Soviet troops. When the last Soviet general left Afghanistan in 1989, he famously said: "There is not a single Soviet soldier or officer left behind." But at least one Soviet soldier never went home.

Excerpt: Palestine Peace Not Apartheid -- by Jimmy Carter

The bottom line is this: Peace will come to Israel and the Middle East only when the Israeli government is willing to comply with international law, with the Roadmap for Peace, with official American policy, with the wishes of a majority of its own citizens—and honor its own previous commitments— by accepting its legal borders. All Arab neighbors must pledge to honor Israel’s right to live in peace under these conditions. The United States is squandering international prestige and goodwill and intensifying global anti-American terrorism by unofficially condoning or abetting the Israeli confiscation and colonization of Palestinian territories. It will be a tragedy—for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the world—if peace is rejected and a system of oppression, apartheid, and sustained violence is permitted to prevail. Copyright © 2006 by Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter's Book Stirs Criticism, Complaint

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid charts the Arab-Israeli peace process from President Carter's time in the White House in the late 1970s to present day. "I realized when I chose this title that it would be provocative," he said. "I hope it provokes people to actually read the book and to find out the facts." In the book, Carter sites failure on all sides -- the Palestinians, Israel, the U.S. -- to bring about a a peace deal. But the book is particularly critical of Israel, likening its policies in the Palestinian territories to the former policy of apartheid in South Africa.

AFGHANISTAN: Health crisis brewing in isolated Nuristan province

KABUL, 27 November (IRIN) - The lack of a general hospital in the isolated eastern province of Nuristan means that some 300,000 people are at risk of contracting a range of preventable diseases, with many women continuing to lose their lives due to preventable pregnancy-related conditions, local officials and tribal elders said on Monday.

Tearful President Hamid Karzai says Afghan children are dying from terrorism and NATO bombs

(AP) With his lips quivering and voice breaking, a tearful President Hamid Karzai on Sunday lamented that Afghan children are being killed by NATO and U.S. bombs and by terrorists from Pakistan _ a portrait of helplessness in the face of spiraling chaos. In a heartfelt speech that brought audience members to tears, Karzai said the cruelty imposed on his people "is too much" and that Afghanistan cannot stop "the coalition from killing our children.""We can't prevent the terrorists from coming from Pakistan, and we can't prevent the coalition from bombing the terrorists, and our children are dying because of this," he said.

Karzai: NATO bombs, terrorists kill kids

KABUL, Afghanistan - With his lips quivering and voice breaking, a tearful President Hamid Karzai on Sunday lamented that Afghan children are being killed by NATO and U.S. bombs and by terrorists from Pakistan — a portrait of helplessness in the face of spiraling chaos. In a heartfelt speech that brought audience members to tears, Karzai said the cruelty imposed on his people "is too much" and that Afghanistan cannot stop "the coalition from killing our children." "We can't prevent the terrorists from coming from Pakistan, and we can't prevent the coalition from bombing the terrorists, and our children are dying because of this," he said.


Afghanistan: NATO member states must uphold human rights standards through the establishment of body to investigate alleged violations of Afghanistan’s human rights laws, empowered to provide restitution.


Afghanistan: NATO must ensure justice for victims of civilian deaths and torture

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

Afghanistan: Justice for War Criminals Essential to Peace: For the past five years, the Afghan government, the United Nations and the international community, led by the United States, have pursued a counter-productive policy of relying on war criminals, human rights abusers, and drug-traffickers instead of prosecuting them, Human Rights Watch said. Karzai mistakenly tried to bring all political forces under his umbrella, while the US worked with many such individuals as part of its “war on terror.” As documented by Human Rights Watch in its 2005 report, " Blood-Stained Hands: Past Atrocities in Kabul and Afghanistan’s Legacy of Impunity, Report, July 7, 2005 " -- "A Mapping of Human Rights Violations in Afghanistan from 1979-2001 by OHCHR Report"

Monday, December 11, 2006

Annan chides US in final speech

Kofi Annan has made his final speech as UN secretary general, calling on the US not to lose sight of its core principles in its fight on terror. "No nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over others," Mr Annan said, urging the US to respect human rights in its "war on terror". Annan's speech: full text

A happy ending for Afghanistan's gold

PARIS - The mystery baffled archaeologists for more than two decades. What happened to 22,000 pieces of gold — jewel-encrusted crowns, daggers and baubles from an ancient burial mound — that had apparently vanished from Afghanistan in the 1980s?

U.S. Victory Still Can Be Claimed In Afghanistan -- CYNTHIA TUCKER

The United States need not leave two failed states. We can still save Afghanistan. It was always the right battlefield — Iraq was always the wrong one — and Afghanistan is where we should concentrate our diplomacy and manpower now. If we don’t, that nation will continue to deteriorate until it is once again a cauldron of violence and corruption, a haven for jihadists and narco-terrorists. The ISG report made that point explicitly: “The longer that U.S. political and military resources are tied down in Iraq, the more the chances for American failure in Afghanistan increase.”

A Chilean Dictator's Dark Legacy

Pinochet assumed power on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody coup supported by the United States that toppled the elected government of Salvador Allende, a Marxist who had pledged to lead his country "down the democratic road to socialism."

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Discussions: Muslim Apartheid in Britain: A Veiled Threat?

In point of fact women all over the world wear veils of one form or other. A Christian woman in Church or in the sanctity of the nunnery or sorrow is veiled; a Hindu woman or Buddhist or Jain covers her head with her sari on most occasions both as a sign of modesty and as a mark of respect to the elders and at holy places. The veil therefore is not scrosant to one religion only. Hypocrates in all religions wear the veil. They all have something to hise or something to hide from. The veil is being masterfully used as a political weapom and the West may be falling into a trap. Greater benefits will accrue if Women continued wearing the veil and Men wandered around in an uncontrollable state of lust and in the process ending up in madness which often follows such states of mind.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Annan Decries Failure To Halt Darfur Killings

"Sixty years after the liberation of the Nazi death camps, and 30 years after the Cambodian killing fields, the promise of 'never again' is ringing hollow," Annan said in his final speech on human rights as the U.N. leader.

Rumsfeld Discusses Successes, Failures

On Iraq, Rumsfeld warned of "the dire consequences, were we to fail there," saying the divide between Sunni and Shiite Muslims could spill over into the entire Middle East. He said it would be "a terrible mistake" for the United States "to pull out precipitously and inject that instability into . . . that region." "We have every chance in the world of succeeding" in Iraq and Afghanistan, "but only if we have the patience and only if we have the staying power," Rumsfeld said.

Kofi Annan marks International Human Rights Day

Aspirin 'blocks prostate problem'

Aspirin and other similar painkillers may halve the risk of developing an enlarged prostate, research suggests. The condition, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, can make urination difficult or trigger a need to urinate frequently. Minnesota's Mayo Clinic found Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) cut men's risk, but did not recommend all men took the medication. The study appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

No breakthrough in Afghanistan-Pakistan talks

KABUL, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Security talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan ended on Friday without a breakthrough on planned tribal councils to stem the growing Taliban insurgency, at its bloodiest along the lawless border between the two nations.

Bill Clinton Supports Dialogue With Iran

U.N. Refugee Agency Appeals for $1.06 Billion in 2007

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. refugee agency appealed on Friday for $1.06 billion to provide food and shelter next year for millions of people uprooted by persecution and conflict.

Karzai: Attacks Wearing Thin on Afghans

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Afghan public is losing patience with attacks launched from Pakistan, President Hamid Karzai told Pakistan's foreign minister.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

U.S. Must Devote More Resources to Afghan War, Panel Recommends

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. should devote more military, political and economic resources to Afghanistan, according to the bipartisan commission that offered American policy options in Iraq. ``U.S. efforts in Afghanistan have been complicated by the overriding focus of U.S. attention and resources on Iraq,'' the report by the Iraq Study Group said.

Israeli Leader Rejects Link Between Iraq and Mideast Woes

Princess Diana hearings to be held in public

LONDON (Reuters) - British hearings into the deaths of Princess Diana and her companion Dodi al Fayed will be held in public after a decision that they should be conducted in secret was reversed, judicial authorities said on Thursday. Diana, who was 36, Fayed and their chauffeur Henri Paul died when their Mercedes limousine smashed into a wall in a Paris road tunnel in 1997.

Public Optimism Fades in Afghanistan - The Associated Press-

WASHINGTON -- Optimism is starting to fade among the people of Afghanistan five years after the fall of the Taliban and amid rising violence in the country, a poll found. The reasons cited most often for the pessimism were a bad economy and the resurgent power of the Taliban militia, whose severe Islamic rule was ended by a U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Most in Afghanistan still think the U.S.-led invasion five years ago had positive effects on their country.

On Display, The Fruits Of Afghan Altruism -- By John Ward Anderson

PARIS, Dec. 6 -- Mountainous and isolated, caught for centuries between competing empires along one of the world's great trading routes, Afghanistan has always been a place of legends. Twenty-eight years ago, another one was born. It was then, on the eve of the Soviets' 1979 invasion, that a small group of Afghans put love of art and country above all else and hid many of their country's cherished national treasures. These museum guards, curators and other antiquities lovers became known as the "keyholders" because they held the keys, literally and figuratively, to a priceless fortune in art, including 22,000 pieces of gold known as the Bactrian Hoard. And they pledged never to give up their secret. Years turned into decades, and Afghanistan became a failed state, the battleground of a succession of warlords, drug lords, tribal chiefs, terrorists and Islamic fundamentalists. They included Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, which ordered the destruction of any art with a human likeness and in March 2001 blew up two giant stone Buddhas in Bamian. On Wednesday, the fruits of their silence went on display at the Guimet Museum in Paris. It began exhibiting more than 220 artifacts from the Afghan National Museum, including masterpieces of gold and ivory that have never been seen in public and that a few years ago were believed lost forever. The most astonishing part of the exhibit, "Afghanistan, Rediscovered Treasures," is the Bactrian Hoard -- a collection of about 100 artifacts totaling more than 22,000 pieces of gold, some smaller than a teardrop, that is considered one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. It has never been shown in public. The pieces date back about 2,000 years. They were discovered in 1978 by Russian archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi while he was excavating the burial site of a nomadic royal and five of his wives in Tillya Tepe, northern Afghanistan.

Bush, Blair Assess Iraq Study Group's Report

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Saudi urges U.S. not to leave Iraq quickly

"Just picking and leaving is going to create a huge vacuum," said Prince Turki al-Faisal, hours after the high-level bipartisan Iraq Study Group recommended the United States should begin to withdraw forces and launch a diplomatic push, including Iran and Syria, to avoid chaos in Iraq. Turki said Saudi Arabia does not want Iraq to fracture along ethnic or religious lines and that the kingdom, which is dominated by Sunnis, does not seek to support the minority Iraqi Sunnis against other religious groupings there.

Senate overwhelmingly backs Gates for Pentagon

The Senate voted 95-2 to approve President George W. Bush's nominee only 24 hours after Gates won the unanimous endorsement of the Armed Services Committee -- and just as a long-awaited bipartisan report arrived, urging more diplomacy and fewer U.S. troops in Iraq. Only Republicans Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Jim Bunning of Kentucky voted against Gates.

Saudi security adviser sacked after Iraq article

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia on Wednesday said it had fired a security adviser who wrote in The Washington Post that the world's top oil exporter would intervene in Iraq once the United States withdraws troops.

Afghan elders' bid for peace falters

Interview with Kofi Annan -- DOUCET: Was it a mistake? Some Iraqis say that life is worse than it was under a dictator.

ANNAN: I think they are right in the sense of the average Iraqi's life. If I were an average Iraqi obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying, "Am I going to see my child again?" And the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control. The society needs security and a secure environment for it to get on - without security not much can be done - not recovery or reconstruction.

Drug Addiction on Rise With Afghan Kids

Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of opium and heroin, exporting drugs to Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the United States. But the scale of domestic drug abuse has only recently become apparent.

Flights Resume at Afghan Airport

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Airliners were taking off from Kabul's airport in an unusual spiral pattern Tuesday after a three-day shutdown of commercial flights.

Speculation Surrounds UN Ambassador Pick

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Speculation on a new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations to succeed John Bolton is focusing on Washington's current ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and a former U.S. deputy ambassador at the U.N., Richard Williamson.

Panel Calls for New Approach to Iraq

Civil Libertarians Protest Privacy Policy -- By Ellen Nakashima

New Guidelines Do Little to Protect Established Rights, White House Board Told

Iraq Panel Calls Conditions 'Grave and Deteriorating'

Conditions in Iraq are "grave and deteriorating," with the prospect that a "slide toward chaos" could topple the U.S.-backed government and trigger a regional war unless the United States changes course and seeks a broader diplomatic and political solution involving all of Iraq's neighbors, according to a bipartisan panel that gave its recommendations to President Bush and Congress today.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

After setback, prof. writes Karzai book in own words

Mills, who had worked with Karzai in the 1980s, invited the Afghan president to speak at BU's spring commencement in 2005, and afterward approached him about writing a book. The two agreed to write something that would be part history, part autobiography and part plea -- or warning -- to the United States and the West to not abandon Afghanistan.

Pentagon resists pleas for help in Afghan opium fight

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon, engaged in a difficult fight to defeat a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, has resisted entreaties from U.S. anti-narcotics officials to play an aggressive role in the faltering campaign to curb the country's opium trade. Outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said that Afghanistan's flourishing opium trade is a law enforcement problem, not a military one. It would be "mission creep" if the 21,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan were to turn their attention to opium, and it would also set a precedent for future combat operations, military officials say.

Richest 2% own 'half the wealth'

The report, from the World Institute for Development Economics Research at the UN University, says that the poorer half of the world's population own barely 1% of global wealth.

Merkel seeks future Turkey review

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac have rejected the idea of setting a deadline for Turkey to comply with EU demands.

Richest tenth own 85% of world's assets

The richest 2 per cent of adults own more than half the world’s wealth, according to the most comprehensive study of personal assets. Among the largest economies, Britain boasted the third-highest average wealth of $126,832 (£64,172) per adult, after the United States and Japan, a United Nations development research institute found.

Troops needed to fight Taliban -- USA TODAY

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry said in an interview that NATO countries need to contribute more troops and that some of them must drop "caveats" that prevent their forces from fighting freely. Close to wrapping up an 18-month tour as U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Eikenberry also said Afghanistan's broken-down infrastructure — particularly its roads — needed more repair than the United States and its allies realized after ousting the Taliban regime in late 2001.

A Precarious Shelter in Afghanistan

New Refuges for Women Face Permanent Danger of Attack

Senate Panel Approves Gates

Gates said the U.S. overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001 led to a "metastasized terror threat from the jihadists" around the world. "Indigenous radicals in countries like Britain, like Spain and like the United States are in fact planning terrorist operations," he said, adopting a tone reflective of his past as a career intelligence expert. But he sighed audibly when Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) asked how he plans to catch bin Laden. "The way we'll catch bin Laden eventually," Gates said, is "one of his own people will turn him in."

From Ruins of Afghan Buddhas, a History Grows

Defense Nominee Gains Approval of Senate Panel

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 — Robert M. Gates, President Bush’s nominee to be defense secretary, won unanimous approval from a Senate panel on Tuesday after testifying that the United States was not winning in Iraq and that American failure there could ignite “a regional conflagration” in the Middle East.

The Nomination Hearing for Robert M. Gates

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Little-Lamented Departure -- By Michael Hirsh

That little-noted exchange offers a lot of insight into the problem of John Bolton, who announced Monday he was stepping down after Democrats made it clear that they would not confirm his recess appointment when they take control of Congress in January. Among the favorites to replace him were two people who could be considered his temperamental opposites: outgoing Iraq Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky.

How NATO Chose to Fail in Afghanistan

Analysis: The Riga summit was meant to turn around an Alliance mission in trouble. But it's a mission for which there's little political will

U.N. Ambassador Bolton Won't Stay

Khalilzad, an Afghan American who has served as Bush's envoy in both Kabul and Baghdad, is generally well liked by Democrats. Deputy Chief of Mission Alejandro D. Wolff will fill in until a replacement is confirmed.

President Hamid Karzai Instructs the Distribution of Emergency Relief Supplies to IDP Families

Foreign Policy: The List: Who Will Replace John Bolton?

With congressional Democrats in charge, President Bush won’t have the votes to send Bolton back to New York. Or will he? This week’s FP List considers the contenders for Bolton’s spot.

Missed chances, Afghanistan: A job half done -- By Lyse Doucet

Afghanistan is still a place awash with guns, where commanders and local officials can impose their will with impunity, where many Afghans say their lives have changed little. There is no doubting some progress, but why did billions of dollars in aid and thousands of foreign troops not make more of a difference? -- Former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani insists the world's aid agencies simply weren't equipped for state building in an impoverished country emerging from a quarter century of war. -- "In 2002, the warlords and commanders were shaking in their boots fearing they were going to be disarmed or cast aside," recalls Francesc Vendrell, the former UN envoy who is the now the EU's man in Kabul. "Now its much more difficult." -- Five years on, Afghanistan's powerful regional leaders no longer command private armies but in province after province, men with guns now have access to state resources and positions of power. Huge cracks have been exposed in this state building exercise. including the failure to focus enough attention on rebuilding institutions like the judiciary and police. -- President Karzai is often blamed for making poor choices when it comes to appointing provincial governors and police chiefs. -- Lakhdar Brahimi worries that he and others were wrong not to bring the Taleban into the political process as early as 2002. Former US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told me he wished more attention had been paid to Taleban "sanctuaries" across the border in Pakistan. -- Five years on, there is consensus on an urgent need to get a grip on the situation. -- It is more difficult now with the emergence of a new "mafia": a nexus of drug smugglers, criminals, and in some provinces Taleban, filling a vacuum left by the government.

Mrs. Bush's Remarks at the Launch of the Partnership of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council and Georgetown University

Since 2001, our countries have joined to help the Afghan people recover from decades of conflict and oppression. Over the last five years, the American people, through the United States government, have contributed more than $10.3 billion to help Afghanistan’s reconstruction. In Afghanistan, courageous men and women are working every single day to build a stable and a democratic society for themselves. More than seven million Afghans now have access to health care. Almost six million children -- including two million girls -- are in school now in Afghanistan. Millions of Afghans have voted in two peaceful and democratic elections.

President and Mrs. Bush Host Children's Holiday Reception at the White House

Anger at UN chief's Iraq comments

"If I were an average Iraqi, obviously I would make the same comparison, that they had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying: 'Am I going to see my child again?' "The society needs security and a secure environment for it to get on. Without security, not much can be done - not recovery or reconstruction."

Iraq Lacks 'Political Road Map,' Mideast Expert Says

Morning Edition, December 4, 2006 · With no "viable political road map," Iraq's fate will be decided by violence instead of through negotiations, an expert on politics and religion in the Middle East says.

Pashtuns Want an Image Change -- By Ahmed Rashid

Since 11 September 2001, Pashtuns feel they have become the most vilified ethnic group in the world. They are angry, frustrated and now want to reclaim their identity from being lumped with the Taleban and as perpetrators of terrorism and suicide bombings. Most Afghan prisoners held by the Americans in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba or at Bagram air base near Kabul are Pashtun. Those who have emerged from these - and Afghan and Pakistani-run jails are also Pashtun. So are the thousands of civilian casualties who have been bombed by mistake or carelessness in southern Afghanistan by US and Nato pilots during military operations since 11 September. US soldiers who knocked down doors and interrogated women, alienating the population, did so largely in the Pashtun south, where American forces have been accused by locals of treating all Pashtuns as the enemy - an association that Nato is now trying to change. In Pakistan, secular and democratic-minded Pashtuns have long resisted the idea that the 3,000-year-old Pashtun culture and language should be Talebanised. Now, for the first time, hundreds of political leaders and tribal chiefs from the Pashtun tribes inhabiting Pakistan's border with Afghanistan have held a Pashtun Peace Jirga, or tribal council, demanding an end to Taleban violence in both countries. They accused Pakistan's military regime and its intelligence agency, ISI, of giving clandestine support to the Taleban and other extremist groups and demanded an end to it. "Around the world we are accused of being terrorists, but tolerance is in our blood - it is taught by our mothers. We do not hate people just because their noses are long or they speak in foreign tongues. We demand all the world respect our values, culture and the dignity of our people."

Afghan warlords rape 22-year-old married woman

Quetta, Dec 2 (ANI): A local commander and 11 of his men gang raped a 22-year-old woman in Shahre Buzurg district of the north-eastern Afghanistan province of Badakhshan on November 28. The incident reportedly occurred in Shah Dasht village, and a local warlord named Mujtaba belonging to the Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan led by Burhanuddin Rabbani (now an MP), is said to be main accused. Victim's husband Qari Jehangir said that armed men raped his wife, and when his two children started crying one of the men urinated in one child's mouth. After committing the crime, the alleged rapists told the victim that she would be killed if she complained.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

In Afghanistan, lessons in the face of violence

"Drop this business of teaching and the school or you will be responsible for your own death," it warned. "If you continue, you will have to wash your hands of your life." -- Many Afghans are losing patience. Encouraged by the promises of Western leaders, they believed the Taliban's defeat meant the dawn of a new age of rapid progress, in which all children could get a good education. The plodding advances, even relapses to the more familiar rot of war and corruption in large parts of the country, feed a growing cynicism toward foreign governments and aid agencies."The optimism has died because these people are not honest with each other or with us," Afghan said. "They are working for their own benefit."

'I knew Afghanistan would be tough, but I didn't think it would be this tough'

A Troubled 'Afghan Model'-- By Fareed Zakaria

Having confronted Islamic extremists on many issues, Musharraf seems to believe he need not thwart them on the goal of Afghan jihad.

Venezuela's Chávez Wins Decisive Victory

Leftist President Given Another Six Years To Consolidate His 'Bolivarian Revolution'

Jimmy Carter -- (Meet the Press, MSNBC)

FMR. PRES. CARTER: -- As one of the most troublesome and, and important errors ever made in international policy of the United States of America, for more than one reason. One is that we abandoned a justifiable and major presence in Afghanistan, where we could have helped wipe out al-Qaeda, we might have caught Osama bin Laden. And if not, if he had still escaped, we could have used our tremendous influence at the end of that war, with the Taliban overthrown, to rebuild Afghanistan, and to let them know that the Western world—and the Arab world—were supporting their move toward democracy with full restoration of their basic quality of life. That’s one thing. -- We abandoned that in the middle of what I consider to be a justifiable war, and, and moved our resources, financial resources, our military resources, into Iraq, lost the support of almost unanimous support around the world following September 11, and almost acted unilaterally, with Great Britain by our side, in an unjustified war in Iraq, and alienated a lot of people who would otherwise have been allies with ours.

Rumsfeld Memo Proposed ‘Major Adjustment’ in Iraq

Rumsfeld’s Memo of Options for Iraq War

Following is the text of a classified Nov. 6 memorandum that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent to the White House suggesting new options in Iraq. The memorandum was sent one day before the midterm Congressional elections and two days before Mr. Rumsfeld resigned.

U.S. Report Finds Fault in Training of Afghan Police

Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Business, financial, personal finance news - CNNMoney

Afghanistan Called 'Key Priority' for NATO

RIGA, Latvia, Nov. 29 -- European NATO countries pledged Wednesday to remove some of the restrictions on combat by their troops in Afghanistan, officials here said, as the alliance sought to close ranks and bring new force to bear against a resurgent Taliban militia.

The NASDAQ Stock Market

NYSE Group, Inc.

Stocks Fall on Economy Concerns

NEW YORK -- Wall Street stumbled Friday after a key survey showed manufacturing unexpectedly contracted in November for the first time in more than three years, stoking concerns that the economy won't be able to achieve a soft landing.

US: Congress Must Protect Women Workers in Trade Law

(Washington, DC, November 15, 2006) – The US Congress looks likely to renew trade legislation that turns a blind eye to the rights of women workers in developing countries, Human Rights Watch said today.

Jordan: Bush and Abdullah Must Address Iraqi Refugee Crisis

The outpouring of Iraqi refugees shows the human cost of the war to Jordan and Iraq’s other neighbors. President Bush should call on King Abdullah to protect Iraqi refugees, and the US should offer aid to the countries struggling to cope with the influx from Iraq.
Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch.

Report Stresses Further Need to Investigate Secret Detention and Rendition to Torture

(New York, November 29, 2006) – A new report by the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on illegal CIA activity in Europe is a powerful indictment of European governments’ complicity in CIA abuses, Human Rights Watch said today.