[Afghan News] September 2, 2012 - 09-05-2012, 10:35 AM
Scott Stearns VOA News September 2, 2012
RAROTONGA, Cook Islands – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is facing a Congressional deadline for deciding whether the Pakistani Haqqani network meets the definition of a terrorist organization. Labeling the group as such may complicate Afghan reconciliation efforts and U.S. relations with Pakistan.
Secretary Clinton says she will meet the September 9 deadline to tell Congress whether the Haqqani group should be considered terrorists.
Several leaders of the al-Qaida- and Taliban-linked group are already subject to U.S. sanctions, but Congress wants the entire Haqqani network named a terrorist organization as it is now widely seen as the biggest threat to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
With the deadline approaching, there have been press reports of division within the Obama administration on the Haqqani question between those who see the terrorist designation as a show of strength and those who are more cautious about its regional impact.
Speaking to reporters in the Cook Islands, Secretary Clinton refused to comment on those reports, seeking instead to underscore what she says is steady U.S. pressure on the group.
"We are drying up their resources. We are targeting their military and intelligence personnel. We are pressing the Pakistanis to step up their own efforts. So we're already taking action, and we will have more to say about the specific request from the Congress next week," said Clinton.
The secretary of state is empowered to designate the group a terrorist organization if she determines that it is engaged in activities that threaten the security of the United States and its citizens.
Adding Haqqani to that list could slow efforts to negotiate an end to the Afghan conflict as it may be more difficult to include Haqqani leaders in a new government. There remain hopes that talks with the Taliban that were suspended in March could resume with the end of this year's Afghan fighting season.
Secretary Clinton says those are decisions for Afghans. She discussed the issue here in the Cook Islands with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who agrees that the question of negotiating with the Taliban or other groups is fundamentally a matter for Kabul.
"They will in the end have to try and find a way through what is a difficult situation and come to a conclusion of how that can best be handled. And I wouldn't be surprised if part of that attempt to deliver greater security in Afghanistan is some discussions, but that's ultimately a matter for President [Hamid] Karzai," said Key.
Secretary Clinton's decision on the Haqqani network could also affect relations with Pakistan as the group is believed to have close ties with elements of Pakistani intelligence services that are pushing for its inclusion in Afghan reconciliation efforts.
Months of sour relations between the United States and Pakistani are only just now easing with July's reopening of crucial military supply lines across the Afghan border that Pakistan closed following last year's killing of 24 Pakistani troops in a U.S. air strike.
On a visit to Islamabad last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Pakistan's military will soon begin a long-awaited offensive in the North Waziristan border region, where the Haqqani network is based.
U.S. officials say a drone strike in Pakistan last week killed the day-to-day operations commander of the network, Badruddin Haqqani.
Afghan Human Rights Commission Defends Khalid Appointment
TOLOnews.com Saturday, 01 September 2012
The Afghan government-linked Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) said Saturday that it was confident of Asadullah Khalid's appointment as the country's next intelligence chief after an international human rights organisation called for him to be dropped because of his history of using torture.
The IHRC commissioner, himself appointed by President Hamid Karzai, said Khalid's past had already been investigated, but he did not discuss what the findings were.
"Regarding Mr Khalid, there were complaints about him when he was the governor of Kandahar, but the Independent Human Rights Commission reviewed the complaints in coordination with Khalid himself," IHRC commissioner told TOLOnews.
"For the time being, the Human Rights Commission urges Mr Khalid or anyone else who will hold this position to stay committed to upholding human rights and the law, to consider all the national and international human rights regulations, and avoid any kind of violation."
Khalid, currently Minister for Border and Tribal Affairs, is expected to be appointed head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) after Rahumatullah Nabil was stood down by President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a statement Friday urging the Afghan government to drop Khalid and instead appoint someone with a more exemplary record.
"The NDS is desperately in need of reform to end its use of torture," HRW Asia director Brad Adams said in the statement. "President Karzai should use the appointment of a new NDS chief to demonstrate his commitment to ending torture by choosing someone whose integrity and commitment to human rights is above reproach."
Khalid has previously held positions as provincial governor of both Kandahar and Ghazni and reportedly had a private prison in Kandahar from 2005 to 2008.
HRW said there were credible allegations that Khalid used torture at the jail, including beating and electric shocks, which was later reported by the UN and local human rights activists. He has also been accused of corruption and high-level involvement in drug trafficking, all of which he has denied.
Regional journalist and commentator Ahmed Rashid said in an opinion piece in Pakistan's Financial Times that the appointment of Khalid, who is both one of Karzai's confidantes and who has long history of relations with the US, is set to present an aggressive stance towards Pakistan.
Describing it as a "startling change" from Nabil, Rashid explained that Khalid has a history as "a fiercely anti-Taliban former governor of Kandahar" and that he had faced several assassination attempts from the Islamists.
"He always blamed the attempts on Pakistan's military Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Mr Khalid and the ISI hate each other with a vengeance," Rashid said.
Rashid did not personally condone the choice, but suggested Khalid's appointment made sense for Karzai and his allies.
"Both Kabul and Washington are pleased with this new anti-Taliban mood, but also fearful of losing political control in key provinces bordering Pakistan to a new kind of people power that refuses to accept a government mandate. Under Mr Khalid the NDS will surely be entrusted with making sure that these movements are turned around to kick out the Taliban but embrace the government," he said.
Khalid's appointment will become part of Karzai's wider cabinet shake-up which will see a number of key positions changed.
US Special Forces Suspend Training of Afghans
NATO struggles to stop attacks on international forces by Afghan colleagues
VOA News September 2, 2012
The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it has temporarily halted the training of Afghan Local Police in order to redo the vetting of current members after a string of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their international allies.
Forty-five international troops have been killed in a wave of insider attacks in Afghanistan this year, throwing doubt on the ability of Afghan and coalition forces to live and work together during a key time in the transition to Afghan control of security. International forces are set to hand over responsibility for the country's security to Afghans by the end of 2014.
Colonel Thomas Collins, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said Sunday in a statement the pause in training affects about 1,000 trainees of the Afghan Local Police.
Afghan Local Police forces that have already been trained will continue to operate.
A report in The Washington Post said the re-vetting process would affect more than 27,000 Afghan troops, including the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.
The newspaper said Saturday the insider attacks had forced NATO officials to acknowledge what the Post called a "painful truth" -- that the killings might have been prevented if existing security measures had been applied correctly.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan train the Afghan Local Police.
NATO is responsible for training recruits for the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. NATO has not suspended its training.
The Washington Post report says many military guidelines were not adhered to by Afghans and Americans because they did not want to hinder the growth of the Afghan army and police.
Special Operations officials say the current vetting process is effective, but lacks a follow-up that would screen out Afghan troops who have fallen under the influence of the insurgency or who have grown disillusioned with the Afghan government.
Afghans Terrorized By Border Shelling As Blame Game Goes On
By Frud Bezhan, Rohullah Anwari September 2, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Abdul Karim was inside when the first rocket struck, killing nearly everyone in a neighboring mud-brick house.
Many more rockets followed, raining down on the village as Karim and others fled for safety in the nearby mountains. Within minutes, it was over, but it was only a sign of what was to come.
Since that day in late June, crossborder rocket and mortar fire has continued to pepper villages in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, located along Afghanistan's insurgent-ridden northeastern border with Pakistan. Nearly 3,200 attacks have been recorded across five districts in Kunar alone, according to the provincial government.
Kabul has accused the Pakistani Army of indiscriminately shelling Afghan villages in order to further destabilize the already restive regions.
Islamabad, which denies the accusations, says its troops are responding to attacks by militants on the Afghan side of the border.
And while the blame game goes on, the rockets keep coming, adding to the misery of everyday residents. Tens of people have been left dead and thousands displaced already in the remote, mountainous provinces. Homes have been lost and dozens of schools closed. Forest fires caused by the shelling have destroyed crops and killed livestock.
'Situation Is Appalling'
Karim, who is from a remote village in Kunar Province, is among those who left for safe haven. But reality quickly set in when he and his wife and three children arrived at a makeshift camp some 50 kilometers from his village.
"A lot of people have come here and are lying on the ground. They have fled, thirsty and hungry, from their homes without anything," Karim says. "Their crops and land have been destroyed. Those who stay are living in the rubble of their destroyed homes. The situation is appalling. Around 100 families have come to this camp alone."
The outcry has been fierce, with many locals enraged by the government's perceived inaction. Other Afghans have directed their anger at Pakistan, as was the case during protests in Kabul on August 30 in which pictures of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari were burned and participants chanted anti-Pakistan slogans.
Public discontent has already spurred Afghan lawmakers to take steps to oust the country's two most powerful security officials. In early August, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismullah Mohammadi were given a vote of no-confidence by parliament over alleged security failures, including the failure to stop the shelling of Afghan territory from Pakistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart, meanwhile, have agreed to assign a joint military delegation to visit affected areas and to investigate who is responsible for the shelling.
'Our Children Are Being Killed'
But the moves have done little to appease those suffering from the violence.
Ajmal, from Kunar's Wanat district, says locals face a daunting decision -- stay and risk being killed or leave everything behind in the faint hope of a better future elsewhere.
"If they can’t do anything to help, they should tell us so we know that we have to live," Ajmal says. "If they can’t do anything, what can we ordinary people do? When children cry, they go to their parents.”
Waliat Khan, from Kunar's border district of Dangam, takes a harder line, saying that if Kabul can't find a solution, locals will take matters into their own hands.
“They [the government] told us not to worry, but our children are being killed and we are losing everything we had," Khan says. "The government said everything will be OK, but they have ruined us [with their empty promises]. We, the Afghan tribes, will deal with [Pakistan] ourselves.”
Written by Frud Bezhan, with reporting from RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan's Rohullah Anwari
Training suspended for new Afghan recruits
Washington Post By Greg Jaffe and Kevin Sieff Sunday, September 2, 2012
KABUL - The senior commander for Special Operations forces in Afghanistan has suspended training for all new Afghan recruits until the more than 27,000 Afghan troops working with his command can be re-vetted for ties to the insurgency.
The move comes as NATO officials struggle to stem the tide of attacks on NATO forces by their Afghan colleagues. The attacks, which have killed 45 troops this year, have forced NATO officials to acknowledge a painful truth: Many of the incidents might have been prevented if existing security measures had been applied correctly.
But numerous military guidelines were not followed — by Afghans or Americans — because of concerns that they might slow the growth of the Afghan army and police, according to NATO officials.
Special Operations officials said that the current process for vetting recruits is effective but that a lack of follow-up has allowed Afghan troops who fell under the sway of the insurgency or grew disillusioned with the Afghan government to remain in the force.
“We have a very good vetting process,” a senior Special Operations official said. “What we learned is that you just can’t take it for granted. We probably should have had a mechanism to follow up with recruits from the beginning.”
In other instances, the vetting process for Afghan soldiers and police was never properly implemented, and NATO officials say they knew it. But they looked the other way, worried that extensive background checks could hinder the recruitment process. Also ignored were requirements that Afghans display proper credentials while on base.
“Everyone admits there was a lot of international pressure to grow these forces, and the vetting of these individuals was cast aside as an inhibitor,” said a U.S. official who, like other officials, spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.
The move last week by the Special Operations Command to suspend the training of new recruits followed the Aug. 17 shooting of two American Special Forces members by a new Afghan Local Police recruit at a small outpost in western Afghanistan.
The local police initiative places Special Forces teams in remote villages where they work with Afghan elders and government officials to help villagers defend themselves against insurgent attacks and intimidation. U.S. officials have touted the program, which numbers about 16,000 Afghans, as a critical way to spread security and the influence of the Afghan government to remote areas of the country where the Taliban have found haven.
But the program, which is slated to double in size to about 30,000 Afghans, also carries risks for U.S. troops. “We’re living with the Afghans,” said a second senior Special Operations official. “We can’t afford to take any chances with vetting.”
Since the program began in 2010, there have been three instances of Afghan Local Police recruits turning their guns on their American counterparts.
Afghan officials, working with U.S. Special Operations troops, have re-vetted about 1,100 Afghan Local Police officers and removed five policemen from the program. They are also in the process of vetting 8,000 Afghan commandos and 3,000 Afghan army special forces soldiers who are fighting alongside American Special Operations troops throughout the country. Special Operations officials said that they anticipate it will take about two months to rescreen all of the Afghan forces and that the training of new recruits could stall for as long as a month.
NATO officials have declined to provide many details of their investigations into the insider killing incidents, and they have not said whether any commanders have been reprimanded for failing to follow security measures. Although NATO officials concede that force-protection guidelines were routinely ignored, they have not said whether commanders had the authority to waive them.
Measures specifically designed to curtail attacks were also inconsistently applied, officials say. The “Guardian Angel” program — which requires a service member to shoot any Afghan soldier or police officer who tries to attack coalition troops — was often seen as a distraction from NATO’s mission. Calls to minimize off-duty time spent with Afghan troops were similarly thought to undermine the goal of relationship-building, according to NATO officials.
With insider attacks responsible for nearly 15 percent of this year’s coalition fatalities, top NATO leaders have asked commanders across the country to suggest a series of fresh security measures, part of a newly established Insider Threat Working Group. They have also mandated proper implementation of existing measures, some of them in place for a decade.
“It’s time to retrospectively shore up the system,” said a senior NATO official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Less downtime together
Officials acknowledge that the character of NATO-Afghan relations varies across the country and that it was always far-fetched to think that a single set of precautions could be universally applied. But the laxity that was for years the norm is no longer acceptable, they say.
Troops are now being advised to stay away from Afghan soldiers and police officers during vulnerable moments, such as when they are sleeping, bathing or exercising, according to a directive from NATO leaders.
“We need to reduce risks by reducing certain interactions with the Afghans. We don’t need to sleep or shower next to them, because that’s when we’re most vulnerable,” said a NATO official who has been charged with making security recommendations. “It’s about force protection without endangering the relationship. It’s a true teeter-totter.”
The balance is particularly difficult to strike at this late stage of the war, when training and advising Afghan forces is essential to the U.S. effort. Such work necessitates close collaboration. Particularly on smaller bases, Afghan and American forces live in tight proximity and go on daily joint operations.
The slogan for the U.S.-Afghan military partnership, printed on billboards and in pamphlets, is “Shohna ba Shohna” — shoulder to shoulder.
NATO leaders say they have no plans to distance themselves from their partners. But inevitably, aspects of the relationship are being called into question.
“We remain convinced that the closer our relationship with the Afghans, the more secure we are. But there’s no question we must work together to understand and reduce the insider threat,” said Maj. Lori Hodge, a spokeswoman for NATO forces. “We’re examining every aspect of the relationship to ensure our interaction makes sense, not just culturally but in terms of force protection, as well.”
The most recent insider attack occurred Wednesday night. Three Australian troops were relaxing at their base in southern Uruzgan province when they were shot at close range by a man wearing an Afghan army uniform, the vice chief of Australia’s defense force, Mark Binskin, told reporters in Sydney.
Accepting a flawed system
For a decade, coalition officials watched as Afghan security services overlooked key elements of the vetting process — sometimes for the sake of expediency and sometimes because of corruption.
Many Afghans, even those who were vetted, were never issued official badges, making it impossible to tell who was supposed to have access to any particular facility. In Helmand province, thousands of Afghan police officers lack identification cards, according to U.S. officials.
“For years, there have been thousands of guys without proper identification. Our troops had no way of knowing who they were, or if they picked up their uniform in a bazaar,” said a U.S. official, one of several charged with making recommendations on ways to reduce the number of insider attacks.
An acceptance of that flawed system meant that Western troops rarely questioned Afghans on base who lacked credentials. The 15-year-old civilian who shot three Marines in Helmand last month had lived on a U.S. base for weeks, despite not being a member of the security forces.
“They made a fatal assumption that he was part of the staff,” said a U.S. official familiar with the incident. “They didn’t require the district police chief to prove that he belonged there. They didn’t want to push. They wanted to build a relationship.”
“Now there is a real effort to make sure people are adhering to orders they are supposed to be adhering to,” the U.S. official said. “We don’t need a lot of new laws, we just need to make sure people follow the ones that are already out there.”
One official tasked with making recommendations for new measures has suggested the establishment of Task Force Insider Threat — an amalgam of law enforcement and counterterrorism experts that would be embedded within units across Afghanistan, working full time to detect and analyze potential threats. Senior NATO officials in Kabul confirmed that the plan is under consideration.
The Afghan army has announced plans to launch an expanded counterintelligence campaign against infiltrators. Last month, NATO forces launched an independent counterintelligence effort that Western officials confirmed but would not discuss in detail.
Bombers Strike Outside U.S. Military Base in Afghanistan
New York Times By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr. and JAWAD SUKHANYAR September 1, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban suicide bombers staged what appeared to be a carefully coordinated attack southwest of Kabul on Saturday that killed at least a dozen Afghans and wounded 58 more just outside the same American military outpost where a similar attack one year ago wounded scores of American soldiers.
The attack on Saturday unfolded at daybreak in Sayed Abad, 45 miles from the capital. First a man wearing a suicide vest charged toward the base and a local police headquarters on foot, firing his Kalashnikov rifle before blowing himself up. He did little damage, but his true purpose, officials later said, was to sow confusion and draw attention away from the bigger danger lurking nearby: another suicide bomber driving a truck hauling a huge cache of explosives.
Moments after that first explosion, the truck driver sped toward the base, but stopping just short of it in the midst of a crowd shopping at a bazaar. There, he detonated his payload, killing eight Afghan civilians and at least four Afghan policemen, Afghan officials said. An Afghan Parliament member from the area, Hamida Akbari, placed the death toll at 14, including 6 members of the Afghan security forces.
The wounded included at least one woman, a child, and three officers of the National Directorate of Security, the Afghan national spy agency. Several American soldiers inside the base were also wounded.
One theory quickly emerged: The attack was meant as a reprise of the truck bombing of the same base, Combat Outpost Sayed Abad, that killed five Afghans and wounded 77 United States soldiers last September. The Haqqani Taliban network was blamed for the attack, which later gained new significance when American officials described it as one of a handful of high-profile assaults that led them to publicly accuse Pakistan’s premier spy agency of supporting the Haqqani network in attacking United States targets in Afghanistan.
Inside the American-led military command in Kabul on Saturday, suspicion immediately turned toward the Haqqanis again. “We believe this attack bears the mark of the Haqqani network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans and blatantly violates Afghan sovereignty,” Gen. John R. Allen of the Marines, commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
If a Haqqani link were proven, it might add to Congressional pressure on the Obama administration to designate the group a terrorist organization. That would be expected to hurt the Haqqanis’ fund-raising activities in Saudi Arabia and other countries, while also pressing Pakistan to take stronger action against the network, adding new tension to already strained relations between Pakistan and the United States.
The administration has one more week to meet a Congressional deadline, and it appears to be leaning toward authorizing the designation, current and former administration officials say.
A Taliban spokesman would neither confirm nor deny that the Haqqani network, a clan that has safe haven in the Pakistani-Afghan frontier, carried out the latest attack. But the spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, was quick to take responsibility for the attack, after a week in which the Taliban repeatedly denied involvement in other deaths for which they were blamed by the Afghan authorities. He also confirmed that the base was the target, and noted that it was the same outpost attacked last year.
The huge blast damaged the military outpost, which also has Afghan troops, said Maj. Adam Wojack, spokesman for the American-led military coalition.
He added, however, that “it did not penetrate the exterior wall, and there was no assault force that tried to exploit the attack.”
“It was right in front of the bazaar,” Major Wojack said, “and that’s why there were so many civilian casualties.”
In the northern city of Kunduz, the Afghan authorities said they captured a Taliban commander who ordered the public stoning deaths two years ago of a young couple that shocked the country and marked the return of a traditional Taliban method of execution. The commander, Qari Neyaz Mohammed, was also responsible for authorizing suicide attacks and was a Taliban military commander in four northern provinces, Afghan officials said.
The couple who were executed, a 25-year-old man and 19-year-old woman, had eloped after the man failed to persuade family members to allow them to marry. They stayed with relatives in Kunar Province, but were persuaded to return by family members who said they would allow a marriage. But once back, they were seized by the Taliban.
In Ghazni Province, two American soldiers were killed during an insurgent attack on Saturday, but no details were provided by the American military.
Later on Saturday, NATO officials got into a heated battle of words with President Hamid Karzai. The night before, Australian forces in Uruzgan Province conducted a house raid that Mr. Karzai later condemned as a violation of a memo of understanding that required all such Western operations to have prior approval of provincial officials.
Capt. Dan Einert of the United States Air Force, a military spokesman in Kabul, said Mr. Karzai was wrong because the Uruzgan provincial governor had given his approval for the raid, and Afghan military forces accompanied the Australians.
Mr. Karzai said the raid killed Haji Raz Mohammed, 70, and his son, Abdul Jalil, 30. A spokesman for the provincial governor said they were not part of the Taliban. Captain Einert said the two men were “military-aged” insurgents.
An employee of The New York Times contributed reporting from Kabul.
Local Militia Kills Eight Afghan Civilians
September 2, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Pro-government militiamen in northern Afghanistan have shot dead at least eight civilians after mistakenly blaming villagers for a Taliban attack.
Officials in Kunduz Province say a local militia commander and 20 fighters launched the assault in the village of Kunum after the Taliban on September 1 killed two men, including a militia fighter, and dumped their bodies in Kunum.
Officials said as many as 10 civilians might have been killed and eight injured in the attack but could not say whether women or children were among those affected.
Local militias, or "arbakis," were formed by the central government and NATO to combat the Taliban in remote areas.
Based on reporting by AFP and dpa
China pledges participation in Afghanistan reconstruction
URUMQI, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Premier Wen Jiabao met on Sunday with Mohammad Khalili, second vice president of Afghanistan, pledging China's continued participation in a peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Wen made the pledge during the pair's meeting at the second China-Euroasia Expo in Urumqi of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China.
The premier noted the great significance of the establishment of a China-Afghanistan strategic and cooperative partnership and said the two sides should step up a joint action plan and strengthen cooperation in all fields including politics, the economy, security and culture.
"China will continue to participate in Afghanistan's peaceful reconstruction, enhance coordination in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and jointly promote regional peace, stability and development," he added.
Khalili said China has always been a reliable friend of Afghanistan and is playing a great role in the country's rebuilding and regional stability.
"Afghanistan is willing to earnestly implement the agreements with China and effectively strengthen the two sides' cooperation. Afghanistan will take concrete measures to safeguard Chinese safety," he vowed.
Clinton urges Australia to maintain Afghan resolve
ABC News 01/09/2012
The United States has urged Australia not to lose sight of the progress made in Afghanistan in the wake of the single deadliest day for diggers since the Vietnam War.
Three Australian soldiers were killed in a shooting attack by a rogue Afghan soldier on Wednesday, the same day two Australian troops died in a helicopter crash in the country.
But US secretary of state Hillary Clinton says Australia must remain strong.
"We cannot afford to see Afghanistan turn back into a haven for terrorism that threatens us all," she said from the Cook Islands, where she has been meeting Pacific leaders.
She also praised Australian forces for their crucial role in the mission and acknowledged the enormous sacrifices made.
"I called Prime Minister Gillard to express condolences and exchange views with her," she said from the Cook Islands, where she has been meeting Pacific leaders.
"I'm gratified that despite the challenges we've all had, including the losses that we have suffered at the hands of insurgents and turncoats, we are all resolved to see this mission through."
The deaths account for Australia's single deadliest day of combat since the Vietnam War, and have sparked fresh questions about whether Australian troops should be brought home early.
Liberal backbencher Mal Washer has described Australia's ongoing role in Afghanistan as "utter stupidity", while independent MP Andrew Wilkie has said any further deaths will be blood on the hands of the Government.
But the Government has reiterated its commitment to remaining in its base in Uruzgan until a planned security handover in 2014.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard says leaving early would hand victory to the Taliban.
"I cannot and will not countenance giving a strategic victory to people who have made it their work to kill Australian soldiers," she said.
Australia has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan, and 39 have been killed in the country since 2002.
8 Civilians Killed, 9 Injured in Kunduz Clashes
TOLOnews.com Sunday, 02 September 2012
At least eight civilians were killed and nine others were injured in violent clashes in northern Kunduz province on Sunday, local officials said.
According to the provincial spokesman Enayatullah Khaliq, the clash was between insurgents and local residents. According to a witness, the clash was between the local police and residents.
Khaliq rejected the witness' account saying that there were no local police active in Kunduz.
Khaliq told TOLOnews the incident took place this morning after Taliban insurgents kidnapped and killed two residents of the province last night. The bodies of the two residents, Aziz and Jalil, were found in the city.
"This made the residents angry and they rose up against the armed groups in the Kanom Kalan area of Kunduz city. Eight civilians were killed and nine others were injured," he said.
More security forces arrived in the area as the clash continued but the security forces took control and the incident is now over, according to Khaliq. Police have starting investigating and they have already arrested several people, he added.
Meanwhile, officials in Kunduz hospital said that 16 bodies have been carried in the hospital.
According to a witnesses, at around 6:00AM Sunday morning Afghan local police attacked people in the Kanom Kalan area and shot dead more than 20 civilians.
Khaliq said the witness' account is false because Kunduz only has national police.
"There are no local police active in the area, they are non-government armed groups. Afghan national police are trying to surrender all the armed groups in the area and take over their arms," he said.
USAID to Fund $65M of Afghan Agriculture Projects
TOLOnews.com By Zabihullah Jhanmal Saturday, 01 September 2012
The US Assistance for International Development (USAID) will fund $65m towards agriculture and research in Afghanistan, Agriculture Minister said Saturday.
The money will fund agriculture "promotion" in nearly 50 districts of 16 provinces all over the country as well as on the rehabilitation of seven research farms in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat and Balkh provinces.
Up to $40m of the funds will be allocated via the Afghan government's budget and the rest will be spent on technical phases by USAID, Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock Minister Mohammad Asef Rahimi said Saturday.
Head of USAID mission in Afghanistan Ken Yama****a said that his office supports the government of Afghanistan and confirmed the $40m allocation to the government.
"Our plans are in line with the government plans and programmes and will be funded through the government," Yama****a said.
The Ministry of Agriculture said that to implement its plans and projects, it will need over $3 billion by 2017 which it expects to ask for from the donor agencies.
Taliban Says Its Men Know Nothing of Child Beheading
TOLOnews.com By Sonil Haidari, Barialay Rahimi Saturday, 01 September 2012
The Taliban said Saturday that none of its men were involved or even aware of the beheading of a boy in southern Kandahar province this week.
Spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi rejected the blame laid on the Taliban for the beheading of the 12-year-old, adding that the group also condemned the attack.
"We reject and we condemn this incident. It's the doing of irresponsible people," Ahmadi told TOLOnews Saturday. "We asked all our fighters in Kandahar and none of them were aware of the incident."
"The boy was innocent," he added.
The 12-year-old boy was kidnapped on Wednesday and killed in the Panjwai district of Kandahar. He was later found with his severed head placed near his body.
The death was a warning by the Taliban to the boy's brother who worked with the Afghan Local Police in Kandahar's Zherai district, according to district governor of Zherai Fazil Mohammad.
The brother of the boy is a threat for the Taliban and was "preventing the Taliban's activities in the district," Mohammad said.
It comes as a 6-year-old girl was beheaded in eastern Kapisa province on Thursday.
A local official told TOLOnews that the body of the girl was found in a garden in the province but it remains unclear whether "she was beheaded by her family or the Taliban, but we know the Taliban control the area."
Kapisa police said that they have started investigating the incident.
No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility.
The beheadings follow the shooting and beheading of 17 civilians at a party in southern Helmand province early this week, which was also blamed on the Taliban, but was denied by the group.
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