Saturday, April 10, 2004

A contingent of British Army Gurkhas last week rescued an Afghan governor from a mansion overrun by forces loyal to a warlord allied to the international coalition.

Afghanistan's ousted Taliban claimed to have killed 14 American soldiers in two separate attacks in southern Afghanistan during the last 48 hours, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported today.
The Afghan national army appears to have established firm control over a northern city overrun this week by forces loyal to a renegade warlord.
His job is best described by the movie High Noon. In that tale, a retiring lawman in the American West ignored the advice of his fearful friends by choosing to return to town to confront an outlaw just released from jail and his gang. Ali Ahmad Jalali, former Howard County soccer dad, returned to Afghanistan to become interior minister, the person battling the country's warlords.
With about 2,500 Canadians -- 2,100 soldiers and a collection of contractors, diplomats, aid workers, and business people -- living in Kabul, the Stanley Cup playoffs have become as closely followed here as they are in Canada.
LTC Beevers insisted the military in Afghanistan was "still confident" of capturing its top targets, but added: "At the end of the day, it's not about just one or two people. It's about . . . ensuring that there is stability and security throughout Afghanistan.
Coalition officials in Afghanistan today provided details on recent weapons seizures and other activities at a press briefing in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Suspected Taliban militants have kidnapped a high-ranking local government officer in south-central Afghanistan's Uruzgan province, an official said on Saturday.
Allied warplanes in Afghanistan have carried out a sustained bombing of suspected terrorist sites in eastern Khost province, Afghan Islamic Press reported on Friday.
The bombardment took place in Inzargi, 30 kilometres north of Khost, and was initiated in response to an earlier incident where rockets were reportedly fired over an allied patrol in the region, said the report. Quoting witnesses, the agency said military helicopters continued hovering over the area after the bombardment had ceased, apparently in search of militants. Allied reinforcements had arrived in Khost earlier this month in the wake of an attack on allied troops. (Pakistan Dawn)

Friday, April 09, 2004

When FIFA paid a recent visit to Kabul for a first-hand appraisal of the situation facing football in Afghanistan, what we saw was truly uplifting. The delegation... learned not only that football is back after decades in the wilderness, but that it is the most popular sport in the country.
After appeals from U.S. servicemen and women stationed in eastern Afghanistan, more than 10 tons of school supplies have arrived for the 5,000 students in grades 1-12 at Pol-e-Charkhi High School and Kabul High School.
Canadian soldiers at Camp Julien in the Afghan capital took showers yesterday for the first time since the water supply was shut down due to tampering early Monday. Italian technicians determined a foreign substance found in the camp's 55,000-litre holding tank during a routine filter change Sunday night was likely soap or a cleaning fluid and not any biological or chemical agent.
When it comes to driving, the Afghan government has declared that right is wrong. It has decreed that all vehicles must have steering wheels on the left-hand side. That's perfectly logical in a country where, as in most of the world, traffic flows on the right. The only problem is that most vehicles currently in Afghanistan have their steering wheels on the right. Traffic experts contend this is the reason why there are so many accidents in Afghanistan. If only the steering wheels were on the left, all would be well, they say. Of course, most people would say that the steering wheel's location hardly matters in a country where drivers use any part of road they wish - right, left or middle - and traffic rules are routinely ignored.
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Two Dutch Apache combat helicopters were fired on during a mission above the Afghan capital Kabul, the Dutch Defense Ministry said on Friday.
A spokesman for the ministry said the aircraft were not hit in the Thursday night incident and no one aboard them was hurt, but their mission was aborted for security reasons.
He gave no other details about the incident.
The Netherlands sent six Apache helicopters and 135 troops to Afghanistan recently to boost the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) of some 5,700.
About 650 Dutch troops were stationed with the ISAF after the Taliban were ousted at the end of 2001.

Afghanistan's First Lady is so mysterious that most Afghans, even if aware of her existence, do not know her name. Zenat Karzai, the wife of President Hamid Karzai, lives such an anonymous life that she goes shopping alone in Kabul while her husband is surrounded by 16 American bodyguards and rarely leaves the capital for fear of assasination.
It had been a good week patrolling the restive border region near Khost, near the border with Pakistan. This small band of soldiers had inspected houses for contraband, sipped tea with village elders and waged a firefight after they were ambushed by terrorist forces the day before.
It was time to join their fellow troops with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at their forward base at Camp Salerno. Time to get some rest, refit their equipment and take a much-needed shower. They were done; it was all down hill from here.
The convoy of more than a dozen Humvees had reached the mouth of the canyon leading down from their mountaintop position on this Good Friday afternoon when suddenly bullets and rocket-propelled grenades sizzled through the air around them.
A Virginia Beach security contractor was shot and wounded near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border this week. Jamie Smith, the owner of SCG International Risk, was hit in the arm Monday night. Body armor stopped another bullet from entering his back.
According to SCG spokesman Todd Smith, Jamie Smith and another contractor, Tracey McManus, were attacked southeast of the city of Khost, Afghanistan. Only Smith was hit. After the two escaped the area, McManus, a former Naval Special Warfare member, tended Smith’s wound. They then drove six hours to Kabul for professional medical treatment. No further information was available Friday about the attack or Smith’s condition.
SGC International Risk is one of the many now offering private security services in the Middle East. During a satellite telephone interview with The Virginian-Pilot last week, Jamie Smith said his company has 51 employees working in the region.
He is a former vice president of Blackwater USA.
Last week, he discussed an ambush in Fallujah, Iraq, in which four Blackwater employees were killed. “The minute you start to get complacent over here,” he said, “that’s when someone is going to come after you.” (Virginian-Pilot)

To the chagrin of Afghan and international officials, the narcotics industry has far outpaced the legal reconstruction of Afghanistan, with a capitalist intensity they would otherwise applaud.
It has lured private capital for investment and created a free-market system. With Thuraya satellite phones, farmers in distant Kandahar, a rival source of poppy in the south, know almost in real time about changing weather conditions here in this northeastern province, Badakshan, and adjust prices accordingly.
Landowners and traffickers offer credit to farmers willing to grow poppy. Trafficking has linked Afghanistan to the global economy....
But an American official also pointed out that many of those in the drug trade "are the guys who helped us liberate this place in 2001" from the Taliban and on whom the American military continues to rely in its hunt for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
"The military just does not want to go down that road," he said.
Nestled in the foothills of the Hindu Kush Mountains is a sleepy green valley that belongs to another age, reports CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan. But scratch the surface of the deeply conservative rural place, where women are second-class citizens, and you'll find something quite extraordinary -- a place where young girls can find hope. It's a school, run by an American charity, Catholic Relief Services.
A notorious tribesman wanted by Pakistan for harbouring foreign militants from al Qaida and the ousted Afghan Taliban regime has said he had no plans to give himself up, a local newspaper reported today....
Comments from Nek Mohammad, a tribal commander involved in those clashes and believed to be sheltering al Qaida guerrillas, suggested more fighting loomed.
“We are still in this area. Where else can we go?” Mohammad told the News daily, after contacting the newspaper from an undisclosed location.
After the Pakistani army's failure in its recent operation in the South Waziristan tribal area to deal a significant blow to foreign resistance fighters poised for action in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States have concluded that they have no alternative other than to undertake "mission impossible": the capture of the "Shawal" base that straddles the border....
Now US commanders believe they are capable of seizing this natural fortress of Shawal, where thick jungles and mountains can swallow many dozens of people without a trace.
Shooting broke out Wednesday during a joint Afghan-US operation near Gereshk, some 350 kilometres southwest Kabul, in Helmand province, US military spokeswoman Michele DeWerth said. “US troops were conducting a cordon and search when they came under attack,” Ms DeWerth said. “Four anti-coalition militia (were) detained and one killed,” she said Ms DeWerth said the dead Afghan soldier was a member of the new US-trained Afghan National Army. A government official said the troops came under fire as they prepared to search a house in a village early Wednesday.
So barely half-an-hour after reaching Wana, I had already witnessed a man die. His blood splattered all over me seemed to me a portent: things were going to get worse.
It was a sentiment that seemed to resonate across town. Hordes of clearly worried tribesmen were running to and fro, hundreds, perhaps thousands of villagers were trying to escape - children, chickens, and goats in tow - in cars, trucks, and donkey carts, to destinations unknown. But as many others who appeared to have nowhere to go, seemed resigned to their fate - whatever that might be. And then there were those engaged in battle.
The United States is planning to connect Afghanistan with Central Asian countries, Pakistan and India by extending the newly built Kabul-Kandahar highway. Washington says the extension will put the 'Silk Road' back into operation.
An Afghan warlord whose seizure of a northern province has threatened the stability of the country refused yesterday to back down and said heads would have to roll in Kabul or the entire government of President Hamid Karzai would fail.
The US special forces base in Kandahar, once the residence of Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, came under rocket attack. Kandahar security chief General Salem Ehsas said that several rockets were fired from Argundab district area at the base. Salem did not disclose the casualties or losses as result of the attacks and said that the security officials were searching for the attackers. (HiPakistan)
The United States has warned that there was a real possibility of additional attacks on U.S. targets in Pakistan.
Pakistani forces have drawn a bead on a cluster of remote hideouts along the Afghan border and promised Thursday to send thousands of soldiers in a fierce crackdown if tribesmen there do not hand over al-Qaida terrorists by April 20.
Critics, however, said announcing the deadline makes it easy for terrorists to flee ahead of the operation, as they did when Pakistani forces last month allowed a top al-Qaida terrorist to get away in South Waziristan.
This time, Pakistani forces have shifted their focus to North Waziristan, and more specifically to a group of mud compounds along a forbidding mountain range straddling the Afghan border in the forested area of Shawal.
The 139th MPAD is made up of broadcasters, photographers and reporters who are charged with documenting the work coalition forces are doing with Iraqis, according to Sgt. 1st Class, Julie Friedman, a Green Bay resident assigned to the unit.
“There are so many wonderful stories that you don’t always hear about in the mainstream media, but we’re helping to change that,” she wrote.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Azad Afghan is one 14 independent local radio stations in the country working to promote freedom of expression and providing a voice to rural Afghans. Given high levels of illiteracy, and a lack of independent media for decades, radio is one of the most powerful ways to reach and educate people in rural areas.
For the second time in a month, troops from the fledgling Afghan National Army are being deployed to quell fighting between a militia backed by the Afghan central government and troops of a powerful regional warlord. RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz takes a closer look at the situation in the northwestern province of Faryab, where government-appointed military commander General Mohammad Hashim Habibi's soldiers are battling for a third day against the private militia of ethnic Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
ISLAMABAD, April 7: Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers have warned Afghans against voting in September elections, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on Wednesday.
The warning was carried in a statement signed by a purported spokesman for the ousted hardliners Latifullah Hakimi and distributed to newspapers in northwest Pakistan.
"The United States wants to hold elections in Afghanistan to suppress the sentiments of jihad (holy war)," Mr Hakimi was quoted as saying in the statement.
"Do not take part in elections otherwise strict accountability will be held," the Taliban statement said. "A record of names and addresses of those who are taking part in elections is being prepared and on the basis of this evidence strict accountability will be done," AIP quoted Hakimi as saying. (AFP)
Pakistan and US-led Afghan forces were positioning hundreds of troops for a new operation to hunt down al-Qaeda and Taliban fugitives on their sides of the rugged mountainous border, security officials said on Wednesday.
The new offensive will target the tribal zone of North Waziristan and neighbouring South Waziristan, the scene of a disastrous government operation last month against 500 die-hard fighters and allied tribesmen.
Canadian soldiers based in the southwest corner of Afghanistan's capital city have been without showers for three days because somebody tampered with the water system, says the head of the Canadian contingent.
CLASHES in southern Afghanistan left five people dead, including two police officers killed in an attack by suspected Taliban, officials said today.
The police officers died last night when their vehicles were shot at in Naw Zad district of Helmand province, some 240 kms southwest of Kabul, provincial police chief Abdul Rahman said. Three other officers were wounded in the attack.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

"The militants suffered casualties, but in the end they dictated the conditions and won the day," said Afrasiab Khattak, a human rights activist in Peshawar, the major city in northwestern Pakistan. "The situation is very dangerous now, because if they can stop the army in one place, they can launch attacks somewhere else."
In the wake of retreating troops, tribal militants have reportedly returned to several villages demolished by the armed forces near the town of Wana, distributing tents to the homeless and leaflets warning people not to collaborate with the government, according to residents.
(Pamela Constable reports.)
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf complained on Wednesday that the war in Iraq was drawing resources from the battle against Al Qaeda leaders and their supporters hiding in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In an interview to be broadcast on Monday night on Australian public television SBS, Musharraf said his government was receiving ”very minimal” assistance as it tried to pacify tribal areas along the Afghan border where leaders of Al Qaeda and the former Afghan Taleban regime are believed hiding.
Asked if the US-led Iraq war has been a distraction from the battle against Al Qaeda and Taleban remnants by diverting resources from Afghanistan and Pakistan, Musharraf replied: "Yes indeed."
The Pakistani Army went into the Tribal Territories – something it has long known is not a good idea – under American pressure, as part of the current American “big push” in Afghanistan. In effect, the American generals in command in Afghanistan made the typical German mistake: They sacrificed the strategic situation to benefit their operational plan. As did the Germans, we will find that blunder tends to win the campaign at the price of losing the war.
A new law governing the news media, quietly approved and put into effect several weeks ago, requires journalists to obtain permission from a cabinet-level official before interviewing any public official or government employee, and bans criticism of Islam or "insults" to public or private individuals.
Afghan security forces and international peacekeepers have arrested seven suspected militants in Kabul, an official said Wednesday.
The seven are thought to have links to Taliban, al-Qaeda or the outlawed, fundamentalist Hezb-i-Islami faction, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Commander Chris Henderson said. The men were arrested on Sunday near Kabul airport, Henderson told a news conference in Kabul. "Seven people were detained by the NDS (Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security)," he said.
(Pakistan Jang)

The Afghan government has said it would rush troops to a northern province to restore order after several districts were overrun by forces of a regional strongman in a fresh challenge to President Hamid Karzai.
The Defence Ministry said on Wednesday a battalion of troops would be sent to stop the fighting between forces of the provincial government and those of northern strongman General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is also an adviser to Karzai.
A suspected top Taliban commander has been arrested in an affluent Kabul neighbourhood by Afghan police and international peacekeepers, a senior official said today. Abdul Hadi, who commanded the hardliners' forces in northern Afghanistan until late 2001, was arrested yesterday.
The US military in Afghanistan says there are no plans to allow its soldiers to cross the border into Pakistan to pursue al-Qaeda suspects....
Colonel Beevers said it would be inappropriate for him to comment on the ambassador's speech. But he added: "We look forward to continuing to work in a complimentary and parallel fashion, as we work on the Afghan side of the border and the Pakistanis work on their side."

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Two Taliban guerrillas died when a mine they were laying on a road used by U.S. forces exploded prematurely in southern Afghanistan.
Thirteen Taliban prisoners, including some Pakistani nationals, have been released from the notorious Sherberghan prison in northern Afghanistan, state media said on Monday.
The Romans used it to scent their baths, and ounce for ounce it was worth its weight in gold. Now, saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, could be the answer to Afghanistan's growing opium problem.
Pakistan has angrily denounced comments made by the US ambassador to Afghanistan that America may move against "terrorists" based in Pakistan.

Monday, April 05, 2004

US-led forces in Afghanistan will move into Pakistani territory to destroy Taliban and other extremist groups if Islamabad cannot do the job by itself, the top US envoy in Afghanistan warned.
"We cannot allow this problem to fester indefinitely," said Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador and special presidential envoy to Afghanistan....
The envoy also said that it would take a sustained commitment of at least five years by the United States and its partners to consolidate the victory over extremism and terrorism in Afghanistan.
An interesting first-person account of a rich New Zealand tourist in Afghanistan.

"We were the guests at a dinner where he (General Dostum) also had the richest man in that part of Asia, who was courting him and had bought with him a rock band and a magician and a raconteur and about a hundred varieties of vodka, and the Ambassador from Russia, the Ambassador from Turkmenistan and the Ambassador from Uzbekistan ... and us.
It was like an ancient medieval court and it ran exactly the same way."

The American soldiers had barely climbed out of their Humvees when a group of villagers brimming with gratitude approached them....
After Capt. Brooks finished tea with the villagers of Masi Kalay, he signalled to one of his soldiers to play a message on the Humvee's loudspeaker. Suddenly a voice blared in the local Pashto language: "Lay on the ground and put your hands up. We will search your houses."
Red-faced, Capt. Brooks started shouting, "Wrong message! Sorry! Wrong message!"
A moment later, to the amusement of the villagers, the correct script was played: "Dear citizens of Afghanistan. The national elections are due to be held this summer. It is the right of every citizen to vote..."
A team of 20 soldiers works relentlessly behind the scenes to maintain a firm foundation of around-the- clock logistical support to the Jordanian Medical Field Hospital. The Jordanian hospital, located in the northern province of Balkh, provides medical care to countless Afghans, but it's the daily support of the U.S. soldiers that keeps this facility running.

As part of ongoing efforts in support of Afghanistan 's local media, Internews has published a comprehensive Media Directory as a source-guide for Afghan journalists. Available in Dari, Pashto and English languages, the Directory includes biographies of journalists working throughout the country, interviews with prominent media personalities, information on active media organizations, profiles of media outlets and surveys on different facets of Afghan media.
Supporters of one of Afghanistan’s most powerful armed factions gathered in a hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif in late March to discuss transforming itself from a military to a political party ahead of the September elections.
Afghan officials and U.S. soldiers lit a huge bonfire to burn 5.4 tonnes of hashish and opium in southern Afghanistan on Monday, saying it was essential to choke off funds to Taliban militants. Hundreds of locals, including many schoolchildren, watched black smoke billowing up from the drugs pyre on the outskirts of Qalat, capital of Zabul province.
Islamabad has proposed that Afghan refugees staying in Pakistan should be registered as voters and allowed to take part in the elections to be held in the war-ravaged country in September.
In shops like Golab Jan's all along Kabul's touristy Chicken Street, dealers sell the most distinct memento of Afghanistan's long and violent history - guns. For $150 US, you can pick up an original 1825 powder musket manufactured in Afghanistan. British muskets, like the 1861 Tower or Enfields, go for $300 to $350.
Some muskets were used by the mujahedeen when the Soviets first invaded. Then the fighters began sending Soviet PoWs to Pakistan in exchange for 20 AKs per prisoner.
"The Taliban or al-Qaeda no longer pose a military threat to Afghanistan and I am confident the security situation would continue to improve here," Bryan Hilferty told reporters at his last news briefing here as the spokesman for US military serving Afghanistan.
A powerful earthquake jolted the remote Hindu Kush mountains along Afghanistan's northeast border with Pakistan on Tuesday. The quake was felt hundreds of miles away. It rattled windows in Kabul, 175 miles to the southwest, and sent some frightened residents into the streets in their nightclothes. The quake was centered in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province, which borders Pakistan, Tajikistan and China.
Up to 2,000 opium farmers protested in eastern Afghanistan, vowing to fight President Hamid Karzai's plans to destroy their crop. Chanting anti-government's slogans, the farmers said they would resist moves to destroy their poppy fields, which produce opium that is refined into heroin and exported to the West.
One Afghan soldier was killed and five wounded when their joint convoy with United States-led troops hit a roadside bomb in south-eastern Afghanistan, a US military official said on Monday.
The governor of Afghanistan’s Paktika province, Haji Gulab Mangal, said a large number of militants had escaped from the fighting in South Waziristan and taken refuge in Afghan mountains. While Afghan military commander Zakim Khan, who heads the 822nd border regiment in south-eastern Paktika province, said their intelligence was that more than 150 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters had entered Afghanistan.
An important article by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker.
Army Capt. Michael Rice, commander of the three-person medical team, walked by, observing the action and asking the trainees questions while they worked.
"Kabul is a prime, high-visibility target," Rice said, "so we put a call out for one or two people per house for medical training." The compound houses hundreds of military personnel, local Afghans and civilians working on any given day. "It's all about force protection," he said.
(by Army Staff Sgt. Ron Burke, 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.)

Sunday, April 04, 2004

In some respects, the army would seem to be the least of Musharraf's worries. Most of its senior commanders owe their jobs to the president, who has taken pains to ensure that the military's upper ranks are filled with officers who share his moderate, pro-Western outlook. Even before Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup, the army had instituted procedures to sideline officers seen as overly sympathetic to radical groups.
"The joke in Islamabad is that the drinking generals are back, which is not a bad thing," said a Western-educated academic who is close to the military establishment.
Russia today said it will sign an agreement with NATO on the transit of military cargoes to Afghanistan. ''We have already signed an agreement on transit of German military cargoes to Afghanistan and are now preparing a similar agreement with other members of the Alliance,'' Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Alexander Yakovenk.
Security forces arrested three people after uncovering a cache of weapons and explosives in Afghanistan's capital Kabul and foreign peacekeepers defused two bombs near the bases of foreign troops, officials said on Sunday.
ACTORS have been beaten by university students in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar for playing music and allowing men and women to perform on stage together.
U.S. forces have detained an Afghan commander belonging to a radical faction that has declared war against foreign troops in Afghanistan, a U.S. spokesman says.
U.S. soldiers shot to death a militant and detained two others after a failed grenade attack on their patrol near the Pakistani border, the military said Saturday. Several grenades were thrown Wednesday at a convoy of U.S. vehicles patrolling south of Khost city, about 100 miles south of the capital, Kabul, military spokesman Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said. No soldiers were hurt.
As U.S. forces and their allies try to roust members of al Qaeda, remnants of Afghanistan's Taliban movement, and their affiliates from Afghanistan and from along the Afghan-Pakistani border, some of the militants are abandoning their refuge and slowly finding their way back to their native countries.
Suspected Islamic extremists stormed a police station in the southern city of Karachi on Sunday and killed five police, forcing their victims to recite Quranic verses before shooting them, authorities said. Police officials indicated they suspected Lashkar-e-Janghvi, a militant group linked to al-Qaida that had recently been the target of a police roundup.
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