NOOR KHIEL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghanistan's new army faces huge challenges once the U.S. and NATO armies are gone in 2014.
Taliban propaganda has tried to plant the notion that because the army works with foreign forces, its members are not Muslim. One battalion commander says until villagers see soldiers drop to their knees and recite the daily prayer, "they think that we are like the foreigners -- infidels."
An Associated Press reporter and photographer recently spent two weeks with four different army units where the Taliban is strong. There were equipment shortages, rifles that jam, and fears that once the U.S. and NATO aircraft are gone, remote and important outposts will become inaccessible and have to close.
Abdul Haleem Noori, a colonel in his 60s, says training used to last for months, now it's six weeks. And he says, "Today we have no discipline. If a soldier doesn't want to go somewhere he doesn't."
By year's end, the Afghan army is likely to number around 200,000, and soldiers complain that that's not enough. One lieutenant says the army won't be ready when NATO pulls out. He says, "Even in 30 years we cannot be ready."
LUXOR, Egypt (AP) -- Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi has pledged to support tourism, a move aimed to assuage fears that the rise of an Islamist leader would undermine the country's allure as a major destination for foreigners.
On a visit to the ancient Pharaonic temples of Luxor and Karnak Friday, Morsi told tourists to feel safe. The official state news agency quoted him as saying: "We will exert all efforts so that you enjoy your stay."
Tourism is one of Egypt's main foreign currency earners. It was badly hit by a slowdown in the wake of the popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak from the presidency in February 2011.
Since the revolt, proposals by some Islamists to enact stricter rules for visitors or modify monuments they say violate Muslim sensibilities have further driven concerns.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran claimed Saturday it has successfully test-fired an upgraded version of a short-range ballistic missile with improved accuracy, increasing the Islamic Republic's capability to strike both land and naval targets.
Defense Minister Gen. Ahmad Vahidi said the solid-fueled Fateh-110 has a range of 300 kilometers (185 miles). He claimed the weapon could strike with pin-point precision, making it the most accurate weapon of its kind in Iran's arsenal.
"By reaching this generation of the Fateh-110, a new capability has been added to our armed forces in striking sea and land targets," state TV quoted Vahidi as saying. "Few countries in the world possess the technology to build such missiles."
Iran's military leaders have said they believe future wars will be air- and sea-based and Tehran has sought to upgrade its air defense systems and naval power in anticipation of such a possibility.
Iran has also been pushing to upgrade its missiles, which already can target Israel and U.S. bases in the Middle East. The Pentagon released a report in June noting significant advances in Iranian missile technology, acknowledging that the Islamic Republic has improved the accuracy and firing capabilities of its missiles.
The Fateh-110, or Conqueror, is a single-stage solid-propellant, surface-to-surface missile put into service in 2002. The earlier version of the domestically-produced missile had a range of 200 kilometers (120 miles). The weapon was developed by Iran's Aerospace Industries Organization.
Iran also has a variety of longer-ranged missiles including a Shahab-3 variant with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) that can reach Israel and southern Europe. Many of its missiles could in theory carry a nuclear warhead.
Iran considers both the United States and Israel as potential adversaries. Neither country has ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear program, which they claim is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is for peaceful purposes.
Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement that it was concerned by the reports of the missile test.
"This move calls into question again Iran's stated commitment to a purely peaceful nuclear program," the ministry said Saturday. "We remain concerned that Iran continues to develop missile technology with the clear intention of extending the range and sophistication of its missiles."
Israel is about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) away from Iran's western borders, while the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, some 200 kilometers (120 miles) from Iranian shores in the Persian Gulf.
Iran's military leaders have threatened that Israel "would disappear from the Earth" if it attacks Iran. Military commanders have also warned that 35 American military bases in the Middle East are within Iran's missile range and would be destroyed within seconds after any U.S. attack on Iran.
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a U.S. weapons embargo. Since 1992, Iran has produced its own tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles, torpedoes and a fighter plane.
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Kenya to press the country's leaders on the importance of democratic elections.
Clinton is meeting top Kenyan officials on Saturday and urging them to avoid a repeat of the 2007 presidential vote when national polls are held next year. The 2007 vote resulted in widespread violence.
She will also meet members of Somalia's transitional government and regional leaders as they prepare to hold elections in 2013.
Clinton arrived in Kenya from Uganda on Saturday and is on the fourth leg of an 11-day tour of Africa. The trip began in Senegal and will take her next to Malawi and South Africa.
BUBONITSY, Russia (AP) -- Russian hunters have long been in the habit of rousting hibernating bears from their winter dens, shooting them for their pelts and meat, and leaving the cubs to starve or freeze to death. But Valentin Pazhetnov has a method of keeping the little ones alive and returning them to nature.
The secret, the Russian biologist says, is minimal contact with humans, so that the cubs learn to fend for themselves.
á"Bear cubs shouldn't get used to the smell of humans, to human houses ... the human voice," he told AP Television. "They must avoid people, fear them. This is the only way they can survive in the wild."á
The bears are brought in by volunteers, hunters or people who stumble upon them by chance, and are sheltered at the Bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Program at Bubonitsy, a village 350 kilometers (220 miles) northwest of Moscow. The program is funded by the U.S.-based International Fund for Animal Welfare.
Here Pazhetnov; his wife, Svetlana; son Sergei, two grandchildren; and volunteers raise the cubs in a wooden den, where they live in darkness. The staff wear clothes impregnated with bear odor, deliver food to the animals quickly and refrain from fondling or communicating with them. á
In spring, the cubs are moved to larger enclosures, and are released in the autumn.
Pazhetnov says some 200 cubs have been saved since 1996, and he welcomes a nationwide ban on hunting bears in dens that was enacted in March 2011.
He notes that aside from the cruelty involved, the bear is a Russian symbol, so "It was the right step and we are happy that the ban has been signed."
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea says recent floods have killed nearly 170 people and left 400 missing across the country.
The official Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that floods also displaced about 212,200 people and submerged more than 65,000 hectares (160,000 acres) of farmland between late June and the end of July.
The flooding occurred on the heels of a severe drought and renewed concerns about North Korea's ability to feed its people. In June, the United Nations said two-thirds of the country's 24 million people were facing chronic food shortages.
The World Food Program said earlier this week that it is sending emergency food aid to the North's flood-ravaged parts.
LUCKNOW, India (AP) -- An official says flash floods and landslides triggered by torrential rains have killed at least seven people in northern India.
District official R. Ramesh says 19 other people -- all construction workers -- are missing and may have been washed away by floods that swept the Himalayan foothills in Uttarakhand state.
Ramesh said Saturday that the men were working on a hydro-electric project.
There has been incessant rain in the state since late Thursday and rivers are overflowing their banks.
Hundreds of pilgrims making an annual trek to Hindu shrines in the region have been stranded. Soldiers are helping to evacuate people to safer areas.
The state's chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, says roads and highways have been badly damaged and at least two bridges have been washed away.
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