Development News from Afghanistan

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Training Afghans will take ‘a long while’

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PAUL KORING AND ERIN ANDERSSEN

Globe and Mail  / July 30, 2007

KANDAHAR, OTTAWA — Top Canadian military commanders voiced doubts Sunday about how rapidly the Afghan National Army can shoulder the fighting load – raising the possibility of NATO pressure to extend Canada’s Afghanistan mission past the current commitment that expires in February, 2009.

In Ottawa, General Rick Hillier seemed to contradict Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor’s optimistic predication that the Afghans would be taking on most of the front-line combat by next spring in Kandahar province, where Canada’s powerful battle group is waging a tough counter-insurgency war against the Taliban.

“It’s going to take a long while,” Gen. Hillier told CTV’s Question Period, referring to the training of the Afghan National Army. “We’ve just started the process.” He also said it would be a “significant challenge” for the ANA to be ready in the time frame proposed by Mr. O’Connor only a week ago on the same program.

Ujjal Dosanjh, the Liberal foreign affairs critic, said inconsistent statements between the Defence Minister and the country’s top soldier create confusion for the international community and at home, where Canada’s position on its mission in Afghanistan needs to be clear.

“Canadians need to know who’s in charge here,” he said in a telephone interview from Vancouver Sunday.

Meanwhile, in Kandahar, the general running all of Canada’s overseas deployments said defeating the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan won’t be done by February, 2009, adding that if Canadians don’t remain to complete the job, then some other nation will have to do it. Already, NATO is struggling to find nations willing to contribute to the mission – especially if it involves sending troops to the war-torn southern half of the country.

“Whether we accomplish it ourselves or it’s accomplished by others doesn’t matter a whole lot in the greater scheme of things,” Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, commander of all Canadian expeditionary forces overseas, said Sunday.

Gen. Gauthier, who knows Afghanistan well, is soldiering on in the full knowledge that a political debate is raging over whether Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan should be extended beyond February, 2009. Mounting casualties, rising disquiet at home and sagging public support for Canada’s first sustained combat in half a century hangs like a cloud over the mission’s future.

Last week, Mr. O’Connor seemed to be putting a positive political gloss – and a hurry-up timetable – on shifting the combat burden to the Afghan National Army.

“We will continue to withdraw, train them, put more emphasis on training, and at, some stage, basically be in reserve,” he said.

It’s a stand that’s seen as an attempt to soften opposition to the war in Afghanistan, which is particularly strong in Quebec.

But Gen. Hillier made it clear that Canada’s soldiers will remain in the thick of the fighting. “We are in the fight. There are direct combat actions required to keep the Taliban from stopping the progress in southern Afghanistan and tearing the country further apart,” he said.

In Kandahar, as one battle group heads home and another – based on Quebec’s famed Vandoos, the Royal 22nd Regiment – is arriving, Gen. Gauthier rejected the notion that Afghanistan in general, and Kandahar province, the Taliban’s original heartland, would be safe, secure and thriving by the end of the Harper government’s commitment.

“I don’t think anybody believes the job is going to be done by February, ’09,” Gen. Gauthier said.

“From an international community perspective, no one is under any illusions that Afghanistan will be self-sustaining and self-sufficient by February, ’09,” he said from the Canadian headquarters at the sprawling NATO base at Kandahar Airfield.

But nor is Gen. Gauthier planning for a Canadian role in Kandahar beyond the troops who will arrive next summer and leave at about the time the current commitment ends.

The high command is working on plans “for the group that will be deploying in August, ’08 – we have no plans beyond that right now,” he said.

“Trying to anticipate where we might be in February, ’09, would be a waste of time,” he said, adding that in the international community there’s no specific expectation that Canadians will do “everything that needs to be done,” to achieve the long-term objectives of security and rebuilding in Kandahar.

US PRT grants $3.5m for reconstruction of Salang Highway

CHARIKAR, July 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A US Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based in Bagram has allocated $3.5 million for the reconstruction of the Salang Highway, linking Kabul to 11 northern provinces.

Parwan Governor Abdul Jabar Taqwa told Pajhwok Afghan News on Sunday the reconstruction of the key road – damaged by flash floods and torrential rains in April – would begin in three weeks from now. He promised the project would be completed in three month before the commencement of snowfall.

Sayed Muhammad Younus Zajafizada, provincial public work departments head, said a stretch of the road – from Qalatak to Tajikan area of Salang district – would be asphalted. Supportive walls would also be established along the road to keep it from being washed away by floods in the future.

The director added the Public Work Ministry had listed as a top priority the rebuilding of the Salang Highway, a vital north-south link that had to be fixed before the onset of the winter.

In Kabul, construction work was launched on a womens mosque next to the Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa Masjid in Macro Ryan neighbourhood. The project has a three-month timescale.

Qari Muhammad Ihsan Saqil, prayer leader at the Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa Masjid, said the under-construction worship place was being co-financed by the Haj Ministry and local residents. The mosque, with capacity for about 200 females, is being erected over 200 square metres of land.

Kandahar musclemen qualify for Mr. Afghanistan contest

KANDAHAR CITY, July 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Two bodybuilders from the southern Kandahar province – the birthplace of the Taliban movement – have qualified for the Mr. Afghanistan contest, a sports director said on Sunday.

Nine provincial clubs participated in the bodybuilding event, with Syed Ahmad emerging at the top of the table in the senior class and Wais Ahmad in the junior category, the official said.

Provincial head of Olympic Committee Muhammadullah Gulalay, in a brief chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, said the victorious pair of musclemen – each earning the title of Mr. Kandahar – would go on to vie for the Mr. Afghanistan title in Kabul.

If they triumphed in the all-Afghanistan competition, to be held in Kabul, the duo would be entitled to take part in the Asian Bodybuilding Championship, Gulalay added.

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Written by afghandevnews

July 30, 2007 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Security

10 Responses

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