Saturday, April 03, 2004

WANA: The 6,000-member strong Mahsud tribal Lashkar (war party) on Thursday warned tribesmen hosting non-Pakistanis in parts of South Waziristan to expel them or face the consequences. The Lashkar left Spinkai Raghzai for Kotki and Makeen in the morning and reached Deelay for an overnight stay. About 3,000 Mahsud tribesmen had assembled at Spinkai Raghzai on Wednesday. Eyewitnesses said the armed men were driven in scores of vehicles to different stops in the Mahsud territory. Fellow tribesmen served them food and tea on the way.
As Afghanistan's drug trade goes, so goes the country. It's a sad admission, but an honest one from President Hamid Karzai, who this week got to the essence of his nation's challenge by saying, "The fight against drugs is actually the fight for Afghanistan."
With the US presence and the IMU's long-standing effort to topple Karimov, Uzbekistan was a logical target. "I think [IMU chiefs] said: 'We've built ourselves to an extent that we can afford to do this, and let's do it where they don't expect it,' " Makarenko adds. "Bombs going off in Afghanistan, who cares? But in Uzbekistan, you win global attention."
Missiles were fired from Afghanistan at Kurram Agency in Pakistan after which the Political Administration arrested 35 Afghan nationals and sent to Parachinar Jail.
Two missiles, one of them unexploded, were fired from the Afghan province Paktia that were landed in the Kurram Agency’s unpopulated areas Kharlachi and Borki. No damage was reported.
(From Geo TV)
Fresh reinforcements of allied forces arrived today in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province in the wake of yesterday's armed attack on the troops by two young students of a religious seminary, reports said.
The soldiers of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (Light) will deploy this month to Afghanistan armed with the knowledge of their predecessors.
They are the beneficiaries of a program that shares the experiences of company-level commanders from previous and current deployments to Operation Enduring Freedom with leaders of their upcoming deployment.
“There is no substitute for actual experience,” said Maj. Nate Allen, a leader of the CompanyCommand Team that developed the program. “However, we can more effectively prepare for an upcoming experience by learning all we can from those who have already had the experience."
Links between the drug trade and terrorism pose a major threat to Afghanistan's reconstruction. The US Central Command says it views narco-trafficking as a significant obstacle to the political and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.
German fashion designer Wolfgang Joop has praised Hamid Karzai for his impeccable dress sense and says other world leaders could learn a style lesson or two from the elegant Afghan president.
“President Karzai is a shining example of how a man can maintain the role of a gentleman even while wearing the dress of his ancestors” Joop wrote in an article for Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper. “Karzai has something that few men and even fewer political leaders have: aura,” Joop wrote, saying Karzai’s fashionable dress - a blue and green Afghan chapan cloak and lambskin hat - made him stand out against other leaders in dull dark suits. —Reuters
In an unusual public jab at perhaps its closest ally, the United States on Thursday accused Britain of failing to properly lead the anti-narcotics program and said poppy eradication scheme was lacking in scope, intensity and funding and called on London to remedy the situation.
HERAT, Afghanistan "Did you see Karzai's army?" a young Afghan security guard asked in a hushed voice. "They are all over the airport." Hundreds of men in green berets and combat fatigues, troops of the fledgling Afghan National Army, have encamped in this city close to Afghanistan's border with Iran.
In addition to the troops in the airport, hundreds more have settled into the 4th Army Corps base in the center of town and have rapidly become a familiar sight, driving around in new camouflage-painted Ford pickups.But the soldiers, sent from Kabul by President Hamid Karzai, are far more than a friendly presence. Since they arrived with their U.S. trainers, they have quietly, without fuss, changed the political and military dynamics in western Afghanistan.
Why Qaeda chose the tribal areas: Hundreds of Qaeda and Taliban fighters had crossed into the Pakistan from Afghanistan after the heavy bombardment by the US coalition forces of their main hideouts in Tora Bora. Around 1600 terrorists and their families are reported to have arrived in groups. One group stayed in Noshera, another in Dera Ismail Khan and the third at the Jalaludin Haqani seminary in Miran Shah....
The Arabs scattered in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Kashmir and other parts of Pakistan while the Uzbeks, Chechens and Chinese stayed in the tribal areas and paid $100 to 300 a week.
NATO is unwilling to commit itself to any role in Iraq because it is struggling to find new forces to bolster security for Afghanistan's September elections, a NATO official said on Friday.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Zunchora, Afghanistan-AP
Two suspects have been taken into custody after a U-S soldier was shot in the leg during a patrol in Afghanistan.The attack happened yesterday, but the U-S military wouldn't allow it to be reported until today, citing security concerns.
The soldier was in a group of about 100 U-S troops preparing to leave camp near a mountain village along the Pakistan frontier. Their mission was to cut off hiding places for al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives -- and try to win over Afghans.
After the incident, Apache attack helicopters were called in and scoured the mountainside for suspects. Two men, both wearing traditional Afghan clothing, were arrested.
The soldier's injury is not considered life-threatening.
Steady behind-the-scenes efforts on the part of Washington, Islamabad and Kabul to find a political solution to Afghanistan's woes appear to have finally borne some fruit. Asia Times Online has learned that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) - the engine of the resistance in the east of the country - has provisionally agreed to call a ceasefire in resistance fighting in return for his party being allowed to contest September's general elections.
The London "Sunday Times" correspondent Christina Lamb arrived in Herat one day after the Taliban regime collapsed and discovered an incredible story at the Golden Needle Sewing School -- a secret front for underground women's literature lectures. Since the publication of her book, "The Sewing Circles of Herat" in early 2002, Lamb has won international praise and recognition as a leading author on life under the Taliban. In Kabul this week, Lamb told RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz how she discovered the "sewing circles" of Herat and how, more than two years later, the women who took part in the brave schooling effort have yet to see the happy ending they hoped for in the post-Taliban era.
Over time, classical music in Afghanistan evolved into a form of its own and is now considered to be a cousin of the Hindustani traditions of northern India. But during five years of Taliban rule, these Afghan traditions were threatened with extinction. RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz speaks to one Kabul musician who managed to study the musical heritage of his country during the Taliban era and who, like many Afghan musicians today, wants to ensure that the fragile traditions take root again.
NATO will establish another five provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and "assist" security during upcoming elections, according to an official declaration....
There are currently 11 mainly US-led PRTs of varying sizes, notably in the south. Afghan officials have already said there are plans to almost double this number by the end of the year.
The declaration here said NATO has agreed to "expand ISAF's mission by establishing five additional PRTs by summer 2004" but it was not clear whether this would mean the deployment of additional NATO troops in Afghanistan or simply the placing of existing teams under the alliance's command.
Pakistan called on the United States on Thursday to reinforce troops in neighbouring Afghanistan to defeat al Qaeda militants and warlords who are thriving on a resurgent opium trade. Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, speaking after Islamabad signed up to an initiative with Afghanistan's other neighbours to combat drugs trafficking, said 19,000 foreign troops was "just not enough" to return the country to stability.
Donors at an international conference pledged $8.2 billion over the next three years to help rebuild Afghanistan and smooth its transition to post-Taliban democracy, the Afghan finance minister said Wednesday....
"Never again will tyrants and terrorists rule Afghanistan,'' Secretary Powell told delegates.
Foreign fighters hiding in Pakistan's remote tribal areas along the Afghan border will be allowed to stay if they lay down arms and give up "negative activities", a provincial governor said yesterday.
"None of the leadership was caught in this last operation - not even second or third tier leaders," Masood told AFP.
"Despite the technology, despite Pakistan's cooperation, despite the sacrifices by Pakistani troops, the results have been disappointing."
Weak human intelligence and failure to win all hearts and minds in the semi-autonomous region - which had never before been penetrated by foreign troops - were the biggest problems, he said.
"It's because of two factors: one is the lack of intelligence and the other is that the people there do not seem to be fully cooperating."
Pakistan's military has withdrawn claims it had succeeded in killing a top Al-Qaeda figure, admitting its prize scalp in a controversial military offensive was just a local militant.
Following government claims the operation had "achieved objectives" despite the apparent escape of many key targets, military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan on Monday announced that Al-Qaeda's spy chief had been killed.
But clarifying the his comments a day later, Sultan admitted the man, idenitified only as "Mr. Abdullah" was merely a small-time local operative.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

With President George W. Bush's heart set on making a success story of Afghanistan, the hope of netting significant support may be greater than at any time in the past two years, government officials and diplomats in Kabul say.
But some observers in Kabul worry that the increasingly US-led push to speed up reconstruction is, in their view, narrowly focused on shoring up Mr Karzai's candidacy without using the build-up to elections as an opportunity to foment political activity.
"What we lack here is an overarching political strategy," said Andrew Wilder, head of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, a Kabul-based think-tank. "The only discernible political strategy is: how do we get Karzai re-elected."
Only 12 percent of Kabul's 3 million residents have access to clean water, he said. A meager reforestation campaign of 1 million trees focuses on the capital, not vast stretches of denuded mountainsides. The water table in places has dropped by 30 meters (99 feet.)
Meanwhile, Kabul is shrouded in a haze of air pollution due to some 70,000 taxis that have sprung into service and ubiquitous brick kilns that burn toxic plastic and rubber.
With the onset of summer and the ice now melting in the mountains of Afghanistan, the most organized global struggle yet of the International Islamic Front partners has begun to defeat the United States and coalition forces at their hub in Afghanistan.....
The terror in Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan, cannot be seen in isolation, rather as the beginning of a new jihad in Afghanistan that will tap into resources, especially those in Central Asia, developed over many years.
The U.S. Marines ''have started to come into the country,'' said military spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty. ''Their deployment will take several weeks.''
Hilferty said the Marines would be sent to one region of the country, where existing bases were being expanded to accommodate them. But he declined to say which area, or how long they would stay.
Meanwhile, in the latest U.S. operation, troops detained six suspected Taliban members including a ''mid-level'' leader in a raid in southern Afghanistan late Tuesday, Hilferty said. He did not disclose the leader's identity.
There are currently about 6,000 NATO-led ISAF peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan as well as 13,500 United States-led soldiers seeking to engage Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in remote areas. German officials say 20 percent of the country still is dominated by Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants. A Taliban leader, interviewed by the German newspaper Die Welt, claimed 6,000 to 7,000 Taliban soldiers were fighting US forces in southeast Afghanistan.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Marriages are usually arranged by family members in Afghanistan in a ritual that is based on finances, social status and family compatibility.
In a society where women are expected to do all the chores at home, Afghanistan's female amputees are at an immediate disadvantage when the mothers of potential suitors evaluate them.
Women in Afghanistan raise the children, haul much of the water and maintain households with no indoor plumbing and only rare spurts of electricity.
"Women do all this work while their husbands sit on the mattress in the living room," said Dr. Alif Sharar, another Red Cross hospital physician.
While marriage is an option that many western women reject, it's the only social safety net in a country like Afghanistan.
Just how much is being spent in Afghanistan is unclear. The mountainous terrain and the absence of transport infrastructure make it about three times more expensive to keep a soldier on the ground there than in Iraq. The Bush administration has gone out of its way to conceal the magnitude of the campaign by burying its military appropriation deep within the Iraq budget supplementals and "reprogramming" slivers of leftover money from other programmes. In an unusual move, President George W. Bush's two supplemental military budgets since September 11 2001, totalling $152bn, gave the administration complete discretion to spend the money either in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The Defense Department is not required to provide a breakdown of funding for each operation. However, informed guesses put the total cost of US operations in Afghanistan to date as high as $40bn. The country has also claimed a fifth of US military fatalities in the war against terrorism. That cost looks set to escalate.
Kabul has gone crazy over the latest hit film from Bollywood. Tere Naam, an Indian film, has much of the city’s population enthralled.
Pictures of the film’s stars – Salman Khan and Bhumika Chawla – are being used to sell everything from clothing and makeup to food. Music from the film and its movie posters are hot commodities. Tere Naam, which means “In Your Name" in Hindi, looks set to surpass the Hollywood blockbuster Titanic as the Afghan moviegoing public’s favourite. Its characters are becoming Kabul’s top fashion icons.
Sweden and Norway will send troops to Mazar-e-Sharif early this summer as part of a plan to increase the number of international security forces in northern Afghanistan.
An Afghan cyclist was killed Tuesday in a collision with a Canadian jeep, the 200th road accident involving Canadian Forces since they joined the NATO-led peacemaking mission here last August.....
Driving in Kabul is an adventure for Canadian soldiers, to say the least. In a country where the rule of the road is survival of the fittest, traffic lights are rare and often ignored. Streets are clogged with vehicles, mainly Toyotas with right-hand drive, which are designed to drive on the left side of the road. However, Afghanistan's roadways are piloted on the right side, as in North America.
"It's very challenging," said Gaudet. "Obviously, there's the congestion. Also the driving habits and practices of the local population.
An al Qaeda fugitive killed in a recent Pakistani military operation near the Afghan border was a local operative and not the terror network's intelligence chief, Pakistan's army spokesman said Tuesday.
By disrespecting Pashtun tribal culture in Afghanistan, the United States may have failed to gain a vital ally in its search for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to experts, including National Geographic Adventure magazine's Robert Young Pelton.....
Pelton believes the United States has squandered the goodwill that it generated after toppling the strict Taliban, which many Afghans despised. One of the problems, he says, is that experienced U.S. military personnel who understood Pashtun cultural nuances have been rotated out of Afghanistan and replaced with people less in tune with the local customs.

More from Pelton including photos.
Terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan contradict claims that the American-led offensive in Afghanistan has effectively destroyed the hotbed of Muslim radicalism in Central Asia.
Uzbek officials say that a series of attacks over the past few days - including suicide bombings and shootings - killed 19 people and injured at least 26 others.
The spokesman of the Taliban, Mufti Lateefullah Hikimi, has denied the reports that Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omer has sustained injuries and his four body guards were killed in Zabul province during US air strike in March.
In a telephonic interview with Radio Tehran, Hakimi said that there had been no bombardment at all in Zabul Province during the past two weeks.
Meanwhile the Americans have told Radio Tehran correspondent that there had been no bombing on Zabul province during past two weeks.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan shot dead a suspected suicide bomber after the man drove a taxi loaded with explosives into a U.S. military convoy, witnesses said. The man got out of the car with a gun and was shot after he crashed the taxi into the convoy as it was about to enter a U.S. base in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the witnesses said.
Ahmed Rashid tells RFE/RL that it is difficult to judge what is happening in South Waziristan because the Pakistani military limits access to the region by independent journalists and human rights organizations.
But he says it seems unlikely that any high-ranking Al-Qaeda members were in the area in the first place.
"Very clearly in this group, in [the area] where the fighting is taking place, there don't seem to have been any Arabs. These were all people from Central Asia, from the former Soviet republics or local tribesmen. There does not seem to have been any Arabs, and we well know that Osama bin Laden [and Al-Qaeda number two] Ayman al-Zawahri will never use non-Arabs as their bodyguards. So, it's clear that in an area where [there are] only Central Asian [fighters], it is very unlikely that you're going to find bin Laden," Rashid said.
Around 70% of Afghans live on less than $2 a day. The country's infant mortality rate of 257 per 1000 births puts it way below even the poorest parts of sub-Saharan Africa.
The narrow one-lane dirt road that snaked along the riverbed appeared to present a perfect opportunity to ambush the Americans. Wherever they drove, an Afghan on a hilltop or in a riverbed seemed to be silently staring at them, tracking their movements.
Thirty minutes into the drive, the convoy's lead platoon passed through a small village. A teenage boy whispered into a walkie-talkie as the Americans approached, and ran. In the past, the Taliban used walkie-talkies to relay the movements of American forces and time ambushes.
Unidentified armed men attacked the World Food Program (WFP) office in Badakhshan's provincial capital Faizabad in northeast Afghanistan Sunday night, a UN official said.
Three Apache gunships contributed by Dutch government have arrived here Tuesday as part of the Netherlands' commitment to supporting the NATO-led multi-national peacekeeping troops of International Security Assistance Force.
The government is to announce that 100 more soldiers are to be sent to Afghanistan as part of an ambitious Nato plan to try to pacify the entire country and clamp down on warlords. The British will lead a multinational Northern Group, defence sources said. British troops initially operated only in the capital, Kabul. Last year, they extended their field of operation to Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, and are now to expand to another northern town.
The Pakistani army claimed yesterday that a spy chief of al-Qa'ida was killed in the military operation to flush out Islamic militants from the Afghan border that ended at the weekend with more than 100 dead.
An Afghan government team arrived in Herat Monday to investigate the killing of the son of the province's powerful governor, and a senior U.S. military officer called on the commander blamed for the death to surrender.
In Kandahar, militia corps commander Khan Mohammed watched Monday while hundreds of his fighters gave up their weapons.
CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton has just returned from a week traveling in and around Kabul and Herat.
(AP) The incoming Socialist government, under pressure over its plans to withdraw Spain’s troops from Iraq, has agreed to double the country’s contingent in Afghanistan to 250 soldiers this summer.
Outgoing Defence Minister Federico Trillo made the decision last week in consultation with the Socialist who will replace him, Jose Bono, said Jose Luis Fernandez, a spokesman for the future defence minister.
LTC Bryan Hilferty, a spokesman in Kabul, said the operations near Khost were typical of the military's new "area ownership'' strategy, where small units are sent repeatedly to the same area to build relationships and make them safe for aid work.
"We realize we're not going to win this war by killing individual terrorists, but by winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people and helping reconstruct their country,'' Hilferty said.
David Hawk, a 25-year-old Boise native and Borah High School graduate, is serving as a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army at Firebase Purgatory in Afghanistan. The Idaho Statesman asked Hawk to describe his experiences serving overseas in the war on terrorism. Here are some of his comments.
The International Security Assistance Force has so far refused to involve itself in the fight against drug production and smuggling, leaving an ill-equipped Afghan police force and army to fend for themselves.
Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar was wounded in a US air raid that killed four of his bodyguards earlier this month, according to reports in Pakistan.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The poll, the first nongovernmental survey of military spouses conducted since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, included more than 1,000 spouses....
Often, the spouses see good intentions thwarted by a lack of comprehension. Desaree Venema, whose husband has been gone for a year as a senior sergeant in the 4th Infantry Division, said that in her nonmilitary neighborhood, residents have been supportive, shoveling snow and babysitting her daughters "when I have a bad day." But when they complain about a spouse having to go on a week-long business trip, she said, "I just about have to draw blood from my tongue" to stop from shouting at them.
Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali announced on Sunday a new province has been established in the country’s mountainous centre.
As a province in its own right, the heavily-populated Daikondi district will be entitled to its own governor and security commander as well as more police and funding for services from the central government.
At present, residents of the remote area must travel along terrible roads to access services in the surrounding provinces of Ghor, Uruzgan and Bamiyan.
“The 33rd province of Afghanistan, Daikondi, has been established,” Jalali said.
“Soon the administrative body of the new province will head to the province and help to manage security and other problems in area.”
Until now the area has been an isolated district of Uruzgan province, 310 kilometres from the capital Kabul and 160 kilometres from Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan. —AFP

Troops began withdrawing from some parts of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal areas yesterday after a successful operation, Brigadier Shah said. But up to 600 suspected militants are still thought to be hiding along the border with Afghanistan. He said the army would continue to use a combination of military operations and talks with tribal leaders to rid the region of suspected al-Qa'ida forces and their allies....
About 10,000 Mahsud tribesmen met yesterday near the town of Wana to help authorities track down militants who attacked an army convoy last week.
Taliban fighters have raided an Afghan army post in a volatile central province, killing at least two soldiers, an official in the area has said. Ten soldiers were missing, he said.....A spokesman for the ousted Taliban said 11 government soldiers were killed in the pre-dawn attack in Deh Rawud district of central Uruzgan province.
"Our Taliban brothers killed 11 soldiers," Abdul Hakim Latifi, a spokesman for the Taliban, said by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.
But a provincial official, who declined to be identified, said two men had been killed, three wounded and 10 were missing.
A suicide bomber trying to attack an Afghan military base in a southeastern town has been killed when his bomb exploded early....A military commander in Khost, Kheyal Baaz Sherzai, said the suicide attacker's bomb went off prematurely but some residents said the dead man was not a suicide bomber but an ordinary civilian, killed by a blast.
Afghanistan's elections were postponed to September yesterday, owing to insecurity and the UN's slow pace in registering voters. The postponement comes despite Washington's insistence to President Hamid Karzai that the vote be in June.
At this moment, Army Rangers and Green Berets, along with Navy SEALs and Air Force special tactics soldiers, are resuming the offensive begun so well in Afghanistan late in 2001 but abruptly halted by their diversion to Iraq. Freed up again, a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, some U.S. commandos have already gone back to Afghanistan, where they have had an immediate impact on resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda cadres.....
In Afghanistan, nimble, networked special operations by a few hundred soldiers gave way, after the Taliban's fall in late 2001, to a balky, hierarchical approach in which thousands of conventional forces engaged in fruitless sweeps for the enemy. The result: in 2002 and 2003, the Taliban and al Qaeda got back on their feet and reasserted control in many parts of the country. A new, close-held U.N. report confirms this, noting that 14 of the country's 22 districts are no longer under government control.
"They all say that Al Qaeda is not there," says Captain Jason Condrey, commander of the 1-501's Charlie Company, "but you're never sure. They have kind of an 'early warning system.'" Condrey described one time his men approached a village in the area. Before they could reach it, 70 different fires were set on the hillside.
What exactly had happened in the isolated corner of Pakistan where the battle had raged was a riddle.
Had Dr. Zawahiri and other militants humbled the mighty Pakistani army, killing at least 30 Pakistani soldiers and capturing another 20 before escaping? Or had the entire battle been blown out of proportion by Pakistani officials, including General Musharraf, in a week when they were eager to impress a visiting American dignitary, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell?
Both versions of the events carry a grain of truth, according to Pakistani analysts of military affairs. And whatever occurred, they said, the episode had troubling implications for the future of Pakistani military operations in the country's tribal areas.
To the United States, Lwara base is a “forward operating site” on the Afghan-Pakistan border in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and leading figures in Al Qaeda and the Taliban. To the local villagers, it is a danger and a nuisance.
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