Saturday, March 27, 2004

"America is a wolf at our door," said retired Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, a fundamentalist Muslim, former ISI chief, and critic of Musharraf. "Pakistan throws it crumbs so it does not attack our house. South Waziristan is a crumb. But the people know defenders of the tribal areas are defending their country. Are they terrorists and the attackers good boys? No. The people don't believe this."
Rising criticism of the operation could force Musharraf to limit his pursuit of al-Qaida suspects. The U.S. government counts on Pakistan to apply pressure to militants while American-led forces in Afghanistan pressure Taliban fighters there.
"I think we have lost a lot by going into the tribal areas," said retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a Musharraf critic. "Today, those who are vulnerable to cynicism can be taken advantage of by extremist groups."

Afghanistan's first female presidential candidate Dr. Massouda Jalal sits in her comfortable apartment in Kabul's Microrayon district and tries to estimate the political support she will receive in the country's upcoming elections.
"A hardened den of miscreants has been completely dismantled," the military said in a statement, adding that more than 160 suspected militants had been detained and a large quantity of arms and other equipment seized.
The US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, would be visiting Pakistan on April 15 and 16 according to a "prospective schedule", sources said.
When asked about the visit of the US defence secretary, Pakistan's foreign office spokesman did not deny the possibility of the visit but said he could not confirm it.
In response to the same question about the visit, the US embassy spokesperson said: "It cannot be confirmed." However, the US official said rumours to this effect were heard.
In the north efforts to train 1,000 police as part of the overall effort to prepare 20,000 legitimate law enforcers for the elections have encountered one of Afghanistan’s prevailing problems – illiteracy. This highlights some of the difficulties that tend to hamper implementation of key activities and necessitate flexibility and creative solutions.
At the end of February we told you that as of 10 March 1,000 police from Balk, Sar-i-Pul, Faryab, Jawjan and Samangan would begin a series of three-week training course at the Mazar Police Academy to upgrade their skills. The target of 1,000 has, however, not been met as yet as only 50 literate policemen were identified in the five provinces.
More Marines have landed in Afghanistan.
Radio intercepts suggest they were close to nabbing a prominent Uzbek or Chechen leader, probably the charismatic leader of The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir Yuldashev, intelligence sources say....
Experts say it had been an open secret for some time that Yuldashev and his central Asian colleagues were sheltering in the area, after fleeing Afghanistan as their Taliban allies were forced from power by the United States in late 2001.
Yuldashev first emerged in the late 1980s as the founder of the Adolat or Justice movement, a gang of young Muslim vigilantes meeting out mediaeval punishments in Uzbekistan's breathtakingly beautiful Ferghana Valley during the Soviet Union's final days. Thieves and prostitutes would be seated on donkeys, face to tail and paraded around town, others beaten with sticks or tied to poles so that those passing by could spit on them. Precursors to the Taliban, Adolat youths wearing green armbands would drag off any woman daring to wear a short skirt to mosques and shave their heads.
Millions of mines and unexploded bombs that kill or wound 100 Afghans on average every month could be cleared in a decade if international funds are made available, a government official said Saturday.
Afghanistan needs $425 million for a 10-year drive to clear mines and ordinance left by a quarter-century of war, Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammed Haider Reza said.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Pakistan's army has recovered the bodies of eight soldiers missing since an ambush late Monday in a remote tribal area along the Afghan border. Army spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan told the media in Islamabad Friday, the soldiers were killed in cold blood. He said their bodies were found near the town of Wana.
This is a good time to recall the words of my old friend Lt. Gen. (retired) Hal Moore: "Hate war, but love the American warrior!"
Joe Galloway column.
After the Pakistani military's week-long offensive here inside the country's semiautonomous tribal belt, Al Qaeda supporters have launched a series of counterstrikes....Significantly, these attacks have taken place well outside the 30-square mile area cordoned off by the Pakistani military in its roundup operation against Al Qaeda fighters. This broadening of the fight suggests that Pakistan could be facing a wider guerrilla war from Al Qaeda and their local supporters.
To the outside world, Afghanistan is an unsettled war zone, where Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters lay ambushes, where warlords carry out bloody personal vendettas, and where the revival of opium is quickly turning this country into a narco-state.
But here's some good news: Kabul now has a great steakhouse.
Afghanistan is to launch an ambitious drive to improve security for elections by demobilising nearly 40,000 soldiers loyal to regional powerbrokers by June, the government said on Friday.
Private entrepreneurs are doing a roaring trade selling water and electricity to Kabul's burgeoning population, filling a demand the Afghan government is unable to meet.
Mohammad Salim told IWPR how he recently bought a second generator to meet the growing demand.
He sells power by calculating 40 afghanis, or about one US dollar, monthly for every light socket used in a household. It’s a price Kabul residents happily pay to compensate for the intermittent electric service provided by the government-owned utility.
Thousands of sacked soldiers are continuing to hold large-scale protests in Kabul, demanding back pay and redundancy money.
Female drivers are still a rare sight in Afghanistan, despite special courses designed to teach them.
Sardar Mohammad, the head of licensing for the Kabul traffic department, told IWPR that only 68 women in the capital have been granted driving licenses in the last two years, and that eight of those have been non-Afghans. But women with driver’s licenses can still find the road bumpy.
“While I’m driving, the young men bother me – even driving in front of me, blocking my way and shouting ‘I love you! I love you!’” said Alina Sarajegar. “I will stop driving if these problems persist.”
Azada Sadat, who works for the government, said she had secretly taken the driving course but was unable to put her new skills to use. “Now I am married, and my family would not let me drive,” she said.
In the western city of Herat, the driving lesson programme for women has been shut down by the local authorities.

In an interview with the Financial Times, German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said she expected pledges at next week’s Afghan conference to fall short of the USD28 billion (EUR23 billion) over seven years sought by the Karzai government in Kabul.
She told the newspaper that Afghanistan had to be "realistic" about the financial pledges and that funds would likely be only committed for four years.
This week's fighting in the western Afghan city of Herat has increased pressure for speedier reforms on at least two security fronts -- the disarming of the country's rival militia factions and the strengthening of the Afghan National Army. From Kabul, RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz reports.
Three weeks after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resumed its voluntary repatriation programme from Pakistan to Afghanistan, the pace of returns has stepped up to more than 1,000 people a day.....Returning refugees can collect a small travel grant, food and a family kit from one of six UNHCR transit centres as they return to Afghanistan.
Workers melted the last of Kabul's known landmine stocks Thursday, recasting them into iron grills for wood-burning stoves. Enthusiastic Afghan workers at a bombed-out industrial complex in Kabul tossed 2,490 of the defused iron mine casings into a coal-fired blast furnace, putting a fiery end to a project led by Canada to eliminate the city's deadly mine caches.
Dutch banking group ING has become the third foreign bank to open a branch in the Afghan capital, Kabul.... Later in 2004, the bank hopes to open ATMs and offer online banking facilities.
Britain's Armed Forces will not be able to mount another operation on the scale of the Iraq war for another five years, the Chief of Defence Staff said yesterday....
The problems have already affected the deployment of extra troops to Afghanistan to back up the American-led hunt for Osama bin Laden. Defence chiefs have been considering sending 1,400 commandos and paratroopers to support the SAS and US special forces' operation in Afghanistan.
Operation Mountain Storm is led by Task Force 121, which is made up of US and British special forces units and has been ordered to capture bin Laden before the US presidential elections. But Gen John Reith, Chief of Joint Operations, has warned Sir Michael that the British troops could not be committed to the hunt for bin Laden for more than six months.
The homecoming of the Agha family, and tens of thousands of others who fled the fertile Shomali Plain and marauding Taliban forces in the late 1990s, should have been a success story. International aid began pouring into the region almost as soon as the Taliban was driven from power in late 2001, and the U.N. refugee agency was waiting for the returnees with open arms.
Today, after two years of massive resettlement, the Karabagh town center is deceptively busy. There is a well-equipped hospital, a noisy livestock fair, a crowded afternoon English academy, a bazaar stocked with farm implements and a brand-new community radio station, financed by the United States.
Just beyond the market, however, stretch acres of parched earth, shriveled grapevines and meager wheat, yellow from lack of nourishment. Many farmers, returning to land stunted by years of war and drought, have been unable to coax their fields back to life. To make matters worse, residents said, powerful militia bosses have diverted the region's only canal to their own lands, and civilian authorities do not dare challenge them.
The U.N. Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations mission in Afghanistan by another year Friday, and urged it to speed up voter registration so historic elections set for this summer are not delayed.
Foreign troops will have to stay in Afghanistan for 20 years if they are to make a difference, a Canadian who led international forces in that war-torn land said yesterday.
Hundreds of Islamic activists have held rallies across Pakistan to protest a military operation in a tribal region near the Afghan border aimed at capturing al-Qaida suspects and their local allies.
An audio tape aired on Arab television station al-Jazeera on Thursday is "likely" to be that of Osama Bin Laden's deputy, US officials say. But the CIA said it was not clear when the tape - said to have been made by Ayman al-Zawahri - had been recorded. In it the speaker urges Pakistanis to overthrow President Pervez Musharraf.
Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, increasingly pursued by American and Pakistani forces, are on the run or hunkering down rather than mounting a threatened spring offensive of their own, U.S. and Afghan officials say.
The team is based inside Chapman Firebase, the home of an undisclosed number of American special forces and their Afghan helpers, just off a packed dirt runway littered with the wrecks of old military planes.
Bearded American soldiers in civilian clothes moved in and out of the heavily guarded base in dust-caked Humvees and pickup trucks, betraying how the war continues.
The United States will add nearly 2,000 Marines with special operations training to the 11,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan to boost security and intensify the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives, defense officials said on Thursday.
Rebel Pakistani tribesmen locked in battle with thousands of troops hunting Al-Qaeda militants have refused to hand over 22 hostages until the army abandoned a bloody 11-day operation against them, tribal elders said.
"Members of the Yargulkhel tribe have refused to negotiate until troops vacate," said Mohabbat Khan Shirani, one of nine elders sent to negotiate with the hostage-holders on Thursday night.
President Hamid Karzai has told foreign diplomats he wants to delay elections until September, just days ahead of a major international donors conference for Afghanistan in Berlin. "President Karzai called a group of ambassadors together on Wednesday afternoon. In the course of this meeting he said that it was his intention that elections would be held in September 2004," a diplomat said.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Pentagon has drafted plans to withdraw as many as half of the 71,000 troops based in Germany as part of an extensive realignment of American military forces that moves away from large concentrations in Europe and Asia, according to U.S. officials.
Under the plan, which is nearing approval, smaller, relatively spartan bases would be established in Romania and possibly Bulgaria and designed for the rapid projection of U.S. military power against terrorists, hostile states and other potential adversaries.
Farther east, in Central Asia, bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that were established in 2001 to support the war in Afghanistan would be preserved as training sites and as staging areas that U.S. forces could use in emergencies.
"It's amazing the U.S. does not appreciate the sentiments it arouses, rightly or wrongly, and how little it understands the region," said Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a retired general and a critic of Musharraf. "Insensitivity combined with so much power while supporting one man's rule is bound to create resentment and instability....."
Critics charge that Musharraf has all but gutted legitimate democratic institutions in his pursuit of power and American patronage. To some Pakistanis, this relationship means the United States controls the country. A common expression heard in Islamabad bazaars is "our politics are not homegrown," a reference to the perception that Musharraf is only obliging the United States.
Pakistani troops and gunmen linked to Al-Qaeda fought new gunbattles near the Afghan border as rockets hit the city of Peshawar in an apparent retaliation for the military offensive, officials said. Peshawar lies some 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Wana.
Pakistan Navy Wednesday clarified that no foreign ships have been permitted to patrol anywhere inside territorial waters of Pakistan.
A major power transmission line in south-western Pakistan has been blown up, disrupting supply to almost half of the Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan.
Officials say unidentified saboteurs blew up the transmission line by planting explosive material on four pylons, south of the provincial capital of Quetta.
The explosion affected power supply in 13 out of 26 districts in Baluchistan with repair work not expected to be completed for up to five days.
Police and paramilitary troops are investigating the attack.
Baluchistan has been hit by rocket and bomb attacks over the past few months but no one has claimed responsibility.
(From ABC/ Radio Australia)

Islamic leaders from Afghanistan's conservative heartland pledged Wednesday to send more girls to school in the male-dominated, war-ravaged country.
World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn today congratulated the Government of Afghanistan on the release of a report outlining a comprehensive development agenda for the next seven years, a plan designed to lift the living conditions of all citizens as their nation emerges from conflict....
The costs of the seven-year program laid out in the report total US$27.5 billion. Within this figure are plans for achieving universal primary education for girls and boys, and for the provision of a basic package of health services which could reach almost the entire population for just US$9 a person annually – a vital goal in a country where the maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world.
The plan also addresses the needs of the poor and vulnerable, including Afghanistan’s many widows and disabled, with employment programs costing just US$3 a day per day.
The Taliban has denied reports that the Islamist group is in negotiations with US officials and claimed that its regrouped forces are giving foreign troops an increasingly rough ride.
In an exclusive interview with Aljazeera, Mulla Abd al-Latif Hakimi said the rumour had begun after US forces decided to release prominent Taliban member, Mulla Mutawakkil Akhondzada.
"Is he Washington’s envoy to Kabul or Kabul’s envoy to Washington?" asked one senior official, lamenting Ambassador Khalilzad’s unnecessary provocation, especially at a time when Pakistani soldiers were spilling their blood in fighting militants. "This is getting too much of an effort to embarrass Pakistan and it helps nobody" added another senior official.
Kabul's fire service is still in dire straits, with local people often drafted in to help fight blazes and firefighters injured while performing their jobs.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — When Chief Warrant Officer Susan Jordan left her job as an elementary school teacher last summer to fly medical evacuation missions, she decided she couldn’t just leave her students behind.
Jordan, assigned to the 717th Medical Evacuation Company (Air Ambulance), a National Guard unit, wanted to involve the kids at Meadowlark Ridge Elementary School in Salina, Kansas, in her deployment.
National Guard says brothers can’t serve together.
More disturbingly, there have been confirmed reports of dissent among the ranks of the Pakistani para-military troops and the army sent into the semi-autonomous region to flush out al-Qaeda and Afghan resistance suspects.
At the same time, talking to Asia Times Online, a high-level army officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, claimed that India's Research and Analysis Wing as well as the Northern Alliance - which makes up most of the government in Afghanistan - were attempting to exploit the volatile situation in the tribal areas to foment further unrest.
Defying its reputation for being recalcitrant and tradition-bound, the Army has begun the most ambitious restructuring in 50 years, radically reforming how it trains, equips, organizes and fights. Indeed, it has surpassed the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps as a vanguard of change.
The Army is scaling back the medical exams it offers soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, discouraging routine blood tests, electrocardiograms and X-rays, according to a Pentagon memo.
"We killed 18 American soldiers near the Maryam school in Gazney province, another three in the town of Zargary.
"In the mountains of Khoyani we set a trap in a depot and killed 43 US soldiers with one bomb."
"We never let the Americans sleep in their base at Khost. Every night there is a rocket attack."
(From the Chechen resistance website)
For soldiers getting ready to deploy there's a lot of waiting involved before the long flight to Afghanistan. So while many soldiers decided to nap before the flight, others broke out in song.
Peace and security remain elusive for many Afghans, especially in rural areas, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says as he calls for another 12-month extension to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
A roadside bomb killed three police officers and a civilian, officials said Wednesday, raising fears that a bloody offensive by Pakistani forces against Al Qaeda militants could be provoking a backlash. The bomb, the latest in a series of attacks, exploded late Tuesday in northwestern Pakistan as an army vehicle passed by.
BBC correspondent says it appears the Pakistani army is worried about getting more reinforcements to the area following an attack on a convoy earlier this week in which 11 soldiers were killed.
Senior officers are worried that the road in which the convoy was attacked is still not secure and that the militants may be seeking more time before resuming hostilities.
Kabul, the dusty Afghan capital, did not always look like a city in the middle of a desert. RFE/RL reports on an international effort to plant nearly 1 million trees in the city.
Afghanistan has lowered the official death toll from fighting Sunday in the western city of Herat to 16, and is dismissing earlier accounts that said as many as 100 people died.
Herat — Security forces in this western city have in custody a man who says he fired on and killed Mir Wais Sadeq, the minister of civil aviation and tourism, a senior security official said Wednesday in an interview.
The man is among 200 soldiers loyal to a division commander who were detained here Sunday in the heavy fighting that broke out after the minister's killing.
Two years after the Tokyo conference, Afghanistan is preparing to participate in a two-day international donor meeting in Berlin next week. The Afghan government will ask donor nations to make a longer-term commitment by appealing for upwards of US $30 billion over the next 10 years, enabling the country to move into a sustainable development phase.
A new provincial reconstruction team in Khowst opens March 25, bringing the total of PRTs in the country to 12.
In Kandahar, American forces fought a brief gun battle with a lone suspected Taliban attacker, killing the fighter, an official said. A jeep carrying the U.S. soldiers came under assault rifle fire in an ambush close to their base in the southern city, said Maj. Mohammed Rasool, an Afghan military official. The U.S. troops returned fire, killing the attacker. No U.S. soldier was reported injured. The attack left their vehicle poked with bullets marks, Rasool said.
"I'm working with the Afghan engineers in my section on how to build a road and make sure that the contractor building the road is doing it correctly. I have to spend a lot of time going over small details and micromanage because they don't know."
A U.S. Army Explosives and Ordnance Demolition team had been preparing to destroy a stack of what appeared to be old artillery shells. Some of the shells detonated prematurely, shortly after 3 p.m. The blast killed four Afghans and badly wounded another. An American soldier was seriously injured in the blast.
National Guard Soldiers drafted help from their hometowns to provide school supplies to children who live in Afghan orphanages.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

International forces recently found a location where fugitive al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is thought to have taken refuge, according to French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. She said in an interview to be published Tuesday that French troops operating near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan had helped trace bin Laden but did not say where, how wide an area she was referring to or whether he was still there.
Afghan warlord Ismail Khan has buried his son, whose killing on Sunday sparked fierce factional fighting.....Mr Khan told mourners that if his son's killers were not brought to justice, the "youths of Herat would take the revenge of the people."
RFE/RL speaks with an Afghan-American in Kandahar who fled war in his country more than a decade ago, but has returned in his retirement to work with U.S. troops to try to rebuild his homeland.
The Pakistani army is regarded as an occupation army. No wonder: it entered Waziristan for the first time in history, in the summer of 2002. These Pakistani soldiers are mostly Punjabi. They don't speak Pashto and don't know anything about the complex Pashtun tribal code. In light of all this, the presence of the Pakistani army in these tribal areas in the name of the "war on terror" cannot but be regarded as an American intervention. These tribes have never been subdued. They may even spell Musharraf's doom.
Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee visited senior U.S. civilian and military leaders in Afghanistan, March 20-21, as part of his latest Southeast Asia military tour.
In a move that might help muffle criticism of a Socialist pledge to pull troops out of Iraq, Spain's incoming prime minister is considering increasing the number of Spanish soldiers guarding the fragile peace in Afghanistan, sources in his party said today.
Less than two weeks after the deadly train bombings in Madrid, the incoming prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, wants to signal his commitment to fight terrorism and show the United States that Spain remains a loyal ally.
Using bulldozers to slice bunkers and a helicopter landing pad out of a mountainside, U.S. special operations forces dug in Tuesday on a peak overlooking Pakistan - fortifying the area for the intensifying battle against al-Qaida and Taliban forces.....
An Associated Press writer on Tuesday became the first to report from the special operations' observation post since the start of Operation Mountain Storm.
For two years, Afghan officials have said it publicly and American troops have bitterly complained about it privately. A large group of foreign militants who they suspect are allied with Al Qaeda - and possibly Osama bin Laden himself - appear to be safely hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas and mounting cross-border attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani forces at the border have apparently done little to stop them.
"If they'd cut the restraints," said one American soldier on patrol near the border last week, referring to their orders to stay on the Afghan side, "we'd go into Pakistan and kill them."
Pakistan resumes hunt for cornered al Qaeda
Tue 23 March, 2004 17:26
WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Heavy artillery is booming in Pakistan's remote tribal region of South Waziristan in an apparent resumption of fighting between the army and suspected al Qaeda militants, residents say.
A delegation of tribal elders had earlier tried to persuade foreign militants and their local supporters to surrender during a lull in the fighting. But the army had warned it would not wait indefinitely for a negotiated solution.

News of Yassin's death spread like wildfire across Pakistan, including the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan where thousands of Pakistan troops have encountered fierce resistance from tribal fighters as they attempt to track down al-Qaeda fugitives and Afghan resistance members.
In South Waziristan, tribal elders met representatives of the rebels for a second day Monday and presented government demands, including the surrender of the gunmen.
The United States is providing a wide array of behind-the-scenes support to Pakistani forces combating suspected fighters for Al Qaeda near the Afghan border, including spy satellites, electronic-eavesdropping planes and sophisticated ground sensors, American officials in Washington and the region said.
At least three Pakistan Army troops have been killed and four others injured when unidentified gunmen attacked their check-post with rockets in tribal belt, raising the number of soldiers, casualties to 15 in less than 24 hours.
The Afghan government will work to disarm unruly warlords ahead of landmark elections, a spokesman said Tuesday following a battle in the western city of Herat that killed a Cabinet minister....
The Defense Ministry has announced plans to impound before the elections all the heavy weapons held by the militia commanders who still control most of the country. Dozens of tanks, rocket-launchers and artillery pieces left over from two decades of war have been collected near the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif as well as Kabul.
But the thousands of troops maintained by Ismail Khan - and other rival commanders in the west of the country - have yet to be touched by the heavy weapons program or a U.N. campaign to demobilize militiamen.
U.S. military officials said they did not plan to intervene, but they confirmed that they had sent several military aircraft, including a B-52 bomber, on low flights over Herat on Sunday night. A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, said this had been done in an effort to "restore calm."
Hilferty also said U.S. troops stationed at a military base in Herat had given shelter to German and Italian diplomats after the fighting erupted Sunday night near the German Consulate. But other U.S. military officials said that any additional military action should be taken by Afghan national troops.
While clashes between the militias ended overnight, other reports of violence continued to pour in from Herat on Monday. Angry crowds loyal to Khan reportedly gathered in the streets chanting slogans against Karzai and the United States.
Islamic militants said yesterday they had attacked and defeated a convoy of Pakistani Army reinforcements headed into the remote northern tribal areas where the army has been battling Al Qaeda fighters and allied local warriors since Thursday. A tribal official in the area said by telephone that the militants hid in a post normally used by local security forces and ambushed the passing convoy. He said up to 40 soldiers were killed and all of the convoy's vehicles were burned. If true, it would be one of the most serious and successful attacks on Pakistani forces to date by Al Qaeda and allied militants.
General Shaukat Sultan, the chief army spokesman, confirmed that the attack occurred.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The United States-led military coalition in Afghanistan is expecting a "stepping-up" of Taliban attacks in the coming weeks, a spokesman said Monday.
"We expect that there might be some stepped-up activity, we expect that perhaps there will be increased attacks against the Afghan people, against the international organisations and non-governmental organisations," Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty told a press conference in Kabul.
The Pakistani military is refining its tactics in the ongoing battle to capture Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters in this semi-autonomous tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.
It's targeting a specific clan, the Yargul Khel, and Monday began bulldozing all their mud houses as a punishment for a group of clansmen providing shelter to the "foreign terrorists," as Pakistani authorities describe them. The markets of South Waziristan's capital of Wana Monday were a scene of panic, as businessmen of the clan frantically emptied hundreds of shops ahead of a 48-hour deadline to turnover the "terrorists" or face the destruction of all tribal property.
Pakistan has agreed to allow coalition ships to hunt Al-Qaeda fighters deep inside its territorial waters, in an unprecedented move that will let British and American ships sail close to the country's coast.
President Pervez Musharraf's decision to let the British-led naval task force patrol in Pakistani waters, within the official 19.2km limit, reflects fears that terrorists will try to escape by sea from the latest military offensive being waged against them.
Just a few hours before Nayebzadah's disappearance, he gave an exclusive telephone interview to RFE/RL from his besieged home.
"You can hear the sounds of heavy machine-gun fighting in the background. The people of Herat are witnesses that Ismail Khan's gunmen have attacked my family and that there is now a battle raging around my house."
Today, Afghan President Hamid Karzai marked Nouruz by launching a project that will see nearly one million trees planted in and around the capital this week.
In a significant development on Sunday, 70 of the country's most popular religious clerics, in a religious ruling issued from the federal capital Islamabad, called the Wana operation (Wana is the headquarters of South Waziristan agency) an "unjustified war" by the Pakistan army on their Muslim brothers. The clerics said that since the war had been unleashed on the mujahideen in support of the US cause in the region, anyone who died resisting the Pakistani forces would be a martyr, and any Pakistani soldiers killed would die "Motul Haram" - in other words, they would go to hell. The ruling also prohibits funeral prayers for soldiers killed in the conflict.
The Uzbeks, like many Al Qaeda fighters, are the product of the religious schools and military camps of the Pakistani border regions, but their goal, rather than international terrorism, was nationalist: to overthrow Uzbekistan's Communist leader, Islam Karimov, and create an Islamic state.
Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, landed in Pakistan on an unannounced visit and met with a top Pakistani army official today, a spokesman for the Pakistani army told reporters.
Assailants firing rocket-propelled grenades damaged six military vehicles, including an oil tanker, in the attack along a highway near the town of Wana, according to witnesses interviewed by telephone. It was unclear whether Pakistani forces suffered casualties in the ambush about 3 p.m., the witnesses added, but some reports suggested at least 12 soldiers died.
The Pakistani military says it has found a series of tunnels that al Qaeda terrorists may have used to escape a cordon set up by thousands of troops.
Asked if the "high-value target" the Pakistani military believes is in the area could have escaped through a tunnel, a government spokesman said, "It's possible."
The longest of the tunnels, said to be about 1 mile (1.6 km) long runs from the houses of two tribesmen, Nek Mohammed and Sharif Mohammed, and ends near the border with Afghanistan.
Pakistan Monday angrily rejected comments by the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan that senior members of the ousted Taliban were hiding in Pakistan.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, in comments published at the weekend, said several key Taliban figures, as well as some al Qaeda leaders, were on the Pakistani side of the border.
"Ambassador Khalilzad is clearly out of his depth. He should desist from making such statements that can only cause misunderstandings," Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan told a news conference.
From a mosque high on an Afghan border mountain, tribal elder Mohammed Safai pointed Sunday to what he said was an Al Qaeda training camp, on Salor Gai mountain, he said - just across the frontier in Pakistan.
One by one, fellow Afghan tribal leaders around him ticked off the names of surrounding Pakistani villages that they say are sheltering Al Qaeda and Taliban: Bahna village. Shakul. Mangadthai.
Their Pakistani Pashtun brothers across the way know the terror camps and hiding places just as well, the Afghan Pashtun elders said. Across the border, the Pakistani military is pressing its largest-ever hunt for Al Qaeda in the Pakistani tribal lands splayed out below the mud hamlets on these Afghan peaks.
But the tribal elders in Pakistan will likely never tell — silenced by the Pashtunwalli code of honour, by Al Qaeda money, and by a fierce distrust of the far-off Pakistani government with its different ethnic groups, Pashtun leaders said.
KABUL, Afghanistan (CENTCOM) -- Operation Mountain Blizzard has successfully ended here and Operation Mountain Storm has begun.
In the two months of Mountain Blizzard we conducted 1731 patrols, 143 raids and cordons and searches, killing 22 enemy combatants and discovering caches with 3648 rockets, 3202 mortar rounds, 2944 rocket propelled grenades, 3000 recoils rifle rounds, 2232 mines and tens of thousands of small arm ammunitions.
Mountain Storm is the next in the continuing series of operations in the south, southeast, and eastern portions of Afghanistan designed to destroy terrorist organizations and their infrastructure while continuing to focus on national stability and support.
A challenge from a western Afghan regional leader threatened to turn Afghanistan's third-largest city into a battlefield as 1,500 Afghan National Army troops headed for Herat Province on 22 March -- possibly with support from coalition forces -- in an attempt by the Kabul-based government to restore order to an area whose governor has resisted the cession of power to the Afghan Transitional Administration.
As the operation against al-Qaeda fugitives in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is in full swing, the security officials fear backlash from Jihadi outfits and religious extremists across the country, particularly in the metropolis, it is learnt.....
It is an open secret that some groups of Islamic militants, who followed the ideology of Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, are operating in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and some other important cities and they can strike in retaliation of killing of their accomplices in the Wana area by the paramilitary troops.
Dramatic corroboration of the massacre of Afghan prisoners by the US-backed Northern Alliance at the start of the war in 2001 was last night provided by American pathologists commissioned to investigate the claims by the UN.
"It's really valuable training," said Maj. Rick Peat, commander of the 105th MPAD. "You really learn about how to take cover and how to respond, not as Rambo, but as a rational soldier."
Local tribal sources say the foreign militants also have been recruiting and training some 2,500 tribesmen, which locals call the Men of Al Qaeda.
"They are professional fighters with tremendous patience," says Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain.
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — For many years, the nearby Tarnak Farms site has echoed with the sound of gunfire. While it is now a firing range used by coalition forces, it was once a Taliban and al-Qaida training camp.
For the 1,200 or so villagers in this small town, about 30 kilometers east of Kandahar, this visit was a special occasion.
Frey, a physician’s assistant with the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Battalion, 6th Field Artillery Regiment, along with a medic from the Romanian Army’s 280th Infantry Battalion, examined patients on a simple table next to an earthen wall at the village’s community center.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

by Kathy Gannon
Marauding Taliban and drug-dealing warlords on the road to Kandahar.
Osama bin Laden's terror network claims to have bought ready-made nuclear weapons on a Central Asian black market, the biographer of al Qaeda's No. 2 leader was quoted telling an Australian televsion station.
Some informed speculation about who the Pakistani Army may be fighting in South Waziristan. (From the blog, The Argus)
Islamabad, Pakistan-AP
Pakistan is denying its security forces are allowing men to cross its border with Afghanistan unchecked.
An Associated Press reporter who visited the Afghan side of the border yesterday saw men of fighting age stream back and forth across the frontier at a rate of about two per minute. None were asked for documents.
A spokesman for Pakistan's Interior Ministry says that Pakistani troops are guarding the border to prevent any "miscreants" from crossing illegally. He adds, however, guards might allow local tribesmen they recognize to cross to visit relatives. Pakistan says it does not discourage such visits.
The apparently easy crossings come at a time when the Pakistani military is waging a major assault against suspected al-Qaida militants near the border.
KABUL, Mar 21 -- A bomb factory with material for up to 20 sophisticated devices has been uncovered in the centre of the Afghan capital, the NATO-led peacekeeping force said today.
The factory was discovered in a raid by Afghan police near the city's Television Hill.
The US ambassador to Afghanistan says senior Taliban leaders are plotting attacks on Afghan and U-S targets from safe havens in Pakistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad tells The Associated Press that several key Taliban figures are in Pakistan.
Soldiers are searching homes in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan amid a lull in the battle with suspected Islamic fighters.
The military is using a lull in the fighting to search the area around the town of Wana and is holding talks with local people. A jirga, or council meeting, is reported to have begun among the region's tribal leaders who have been seen as hostile to what they consider outside forces, including the Pakistani government.
Directed by Katrin Fakiri, an enterprising Afghan-American who worked in Silicon Valley before 9/11, Parwaz has given loans of $100 or less to about 600 women who are trying to start very, very small businesses. That might mean buying a cart and fruit for the market or becoming a seamstress or turning the kitchen into a little bakery....
Mirroring microfinance's promising track record in other places, 98 percent of Parwaz's clients make their payments on time and in full. It is but one example of the current homegrown and international efforts to improve the lives of Afghan women. Far more are needed.
In Paktika province, Afghan police reported that about two dozen Taliban or foreign fighters with heavy weapons launched an attack Friday in the border district of Barmal but were repelled after four hours of fighting. They said three attackers were killed and the rest and fled into Pakistan when U.S. helicopters fired on them.
on them.
Pakistan's army declared a cease-fire on Sunday with suspected al Qaeda fighters near the Afghan border to allow tribal elders to try to negotiate the militants' surrender.
The army says hundreds of al Qaeda suspects and their Pakistani tribal allies are surrounded in the desolate mountains but added fighting had subsided on Sunday after a week of clashes.
Pakistani forces traded fire with suspected al Qaeda fighters in the mountains near the Afghan border on Sunday, killing two Chechen militants who tried to break through an army cordon. Tribal elders appealed for a cease-fire to collect the dead from the battlefield after nearly a week of intense fighting in the lawless South Waziristan border region.
LTC Bryan Hilferty rejected reports from Afghan officials that at least six Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, were killed and seven wounded in an air strike on the compound in Uruzgan province on Friday.
Hilferty said air strikes were launched by U.S. A-10 and B-1 aircraft after those inside the compound responded with gunfire when asked to surrender and send out non-combatants.
An hour's drive from where Pakistani troops are waging their biggest assault ever against al-Qaida, men of fighting age stream back and forth across the border unhindered by lounging Pakistani guards.
The U.S. military considers the 2,000-mile frontier the anvil in their "hammer-and-anvil" strategy, a rigid line against which al-Qaida and Taliban militants will be trapped and destroyed. But along parts of the border, people say it is more like a sieve.
Up to 13 civilians died in western Pakistan on Saturday when their vehicles were fired upon, a senior security official said.
KABUL (Reuters) - More than 100 people were killed in fighting in the western Afghan city of Herat on Sunday after the death of the civil aviation minister, a government commander blamed for the minister's killing said.
Zahir Nayebzada, the government commander in Herat, accused forces of the provincial governor Ismail Khan of provoking the fighting by trying to take command of his division.
He said Khan's son, Civil Aviation Minister Mirwais Sadiq, was killed after breaking into his residence.
"(He) broke into my house and started the fighting there,'' Nayebzada said. ``I did not kill Sadiq in an ambush. He was killed in a clash afterwards. More than 100 people have been killed on both sides.''

So rather than thinking of the jihadist movement that sprang from the camps in Afghanistan as a hierarchical structure of lethality, akin to the Comintern, the old international Communist movement of the last century, or the organizational chart of the Gambino crime family with Arab names, think more radically of what happened in the training camps of Afghanistan as some gathering of diverse, but somehow linked, movements.
There is today a sense of belonging in the jihadist movement, evil as it is, but nothing approaching a central command.
Afghan aviation minister Mirwais Sadiq was assassinated Sunday in the western city of Herat, a government spokesman said. Afghan state television reported that Sadiq's father, Herat governor Ismail Khan, was targeted in a separate attack but escaped unhurt. It also said the city's police and intelligence chiefs were wounded but gave no details.
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