Saturday, April 17, 2004

The Northeastern University graduate would have run the Boston Marathon last year had he enough time to train. He had recently spent seven months in Afghanistan as a lieutenant and platoon leader with the 772nd Military Police Company of the National Guard.
Not that he needed much training. Youngs won the Minefield Marathon with little preparation during his stay at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. It is his most memorable marathon. Gravel roads, pot marks, dust and sand made the terrain tough for the 250 or so soldiers who ran. The threat of hidden mines and enemy activity near the route made the terrain tougher.
Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq, a well-known Hazara commander who served as Karzai’s planning minister until he was summarily dismissed last month, has announced that he is running for president...
During a press conference early last month, Mohaqeq said he was not responsible for the deaths of thousands of people in the Karte-i-Say district of Kabul, who died between 1992 and 1996. His denial came despite a widely-viewed video documentary made when he was commander of the Hizb-e-Wahdat forces that controlled the district at the time.
Tailors and cobblers have been especially hard hit by the surge of manufactured goods arriving from China.
One man who said his house had been looted, but declined to give his name for fear of reprisals, told IWPR that soldiers broke into this house and kidnapped about a dozen of his guests. The guests were beaten and later released. The soldiers took anything of value and smashed windows, doors and furniture, he said.
In the wake of the bird flu epidemic that swept through much of Asia, including Pakistan, in recent months, the central government has advised provincial authorities to stop importing chickens. The warning, along with growing concern about the spread of the disease, has severely affected poultry dealers....
Under the Taleban, the eating of chickens imported from non-Muslim nations was considered unlawful. But since the collapse of the Taleban in the fall of 2001, such import businesses have grown rapidly.
Afghan authorities have banned television broadcasts of female singers in the eastern Nangarhar Province, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.
MOSCOW, April 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian border guards had a violent clash with drug traffickers on the Tajik-Afghan frontier last night, reports the Public Relations Centre of Russia's Federal Security Service, or FSB.
Moscow frontier unit patrols spotted two suspicious-looking armed men as they were stealing into Tajikistan from the Afghan side near Shuroabad, 170 km southeast of Dushanbe, Tajik capital. After an attempt to seize them, the patrols started shooting to kill. Return fire came from men covering the two on the Afghan side. One soldier got a light wound in the skirmish, and is now in a Dushanbe military hospital. The two trespassers beat a retreat back to Afghanistan.
As the patrols examined the site after battle, they found a solid batch of abandoned drugs-twelve packs of opium, total weight 11.7 kilograms, and two packs of heroin, 1.7 kilos. They took the drugs to their unit HQ.

The 600 Canadian troops heading to Afghanistan in August will be there to help the NATO-led multinational force secure Kabul, not as part of a combat mission.
"This is not a war-fighting exercise," said Col. Tim Grant Thursday. "We are there to help the Afghan government provide a safe and secure environment so they can help the country develop democratic institutions.
"We expect to take over the mission that the reconnaissance squadron has at the present time, that is, to provide reconnaissance and surveillance support to the Kabul multinational brigade," Grant said.
Grant does not expect Canadian soldiers will take part in sorties beyond Kabul city limits during their six-month tour. (Canada Press)

Hundreds of tribesmen in Pakistan's rugged border region with Afghanistan on Saturday urged militants hiding in the area to give themselves up or face being hunted down by armed groups. Tribal elders and senior administration officials addressed a meeting attended by some 7,000 tribesmen in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan tribal territory near the Afghan border.
Sifting through the rubble, the exhausted American soldiers--completing what would be their last combat mission in Afghanistan--came across the mangled remains of six Taliban fighters and then made a startling discovery. In the same destroyed room where the fighters had made their last stand, a 9-month-old infant girl lay in a small hammock--shaken and crying, yet unhurt. The baby was carried to her mother in the village. Those who fought that day don't even try to explain how the baby survived; instead, they just call it the "miracle" at Miam Do.
Donning a hardhat, President Hamid Karzai helped break ground for a Hyatt Regency hotel in the Afghan capital on Saturday, saying it was a sign of progress in the war-ravaged nation.
This year, many Afghans will experience something they have never seen before - an income tax.
Four members of the Afghan national football team have still to be found four days after failing to show up for a match in the Italian city of Verona. Five other players who disappeared along with them have been arrested trying to reach Germany in a bid for asylum, coach Ali Asger told the BBC.
Residents in Pakistan's tribal area of South Waziristan say fresh troops have been arriving in the town of Wana. Their presence has fuelled speculation that a new push against al-Qaeda militants may be in the cards.
The next Monday, all 20 members of the 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment stood in formation before beginning the workday. Our first sergeant saluted as our commander, Maj. Rick Peat, stood before the unit.
"Because of the delayed equipment, we will most likely be here another three to five weeks," Peat said.
It's early morning and sun is just casting its first light on the far side of the snowless, brown mountains southeast of Kabul. The local populace has not yet appeared but across the dusty, rugged terrain, on the fringes of civilization, the nomads are on the move.
It is a spectacle from the ages.

Afghanistan will still need the presence of foreign soldiers for another 10 years, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said in an interview with a German news magazine to appear on Monday. Asked how long the international community would go on having to deploy troops in Afghanistan, Karzai said:” About 10 years, I think.”
“That’s the time we will need to have a completely operational army and police force,” he told Der Spiegel in its edition to appear Monday.
Setting up an independent and professional administration would taker longer, he said adding “probably about 20 years."
A career military man, Scofield was sent to Afghanistan last June to support Operation Enduring Freedom. He originally was supposed to return home in December, but his unit was extended for an additional three months. He returned to Freeport on April 9.
"The transition coming home has been smooth," Scofield said. "I've got 19 years in and this is my second deployment."
Scofield said he previously served during the first Gulf War against Iraq and his living conditions this time in Afghanistan were much better. During this deployment, his unit had access to tents, heating, air-conditioning, flushing toilets and showers.
"Bagram was really not a bad tour of duty," Scofield said.
Militant Islamist groups from Central Asia took heavy losses while fighting alongside the Taliban, but the remnants of those mini-armies have proved remarkably resilient in recent months and now appear to be regrouping with new recruits, new strategies and old money. No longer secure in Afghanistan, hundreds of Uzbek, Tajik and Chinese militants have recently returned to familiar sanctuaries back home.
John B. Graf III was on his way to breakfast when an enemy rocket landed and exploded 100 feet from him, destroying three military vehicles inside the Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. The explosion was the closest of about a dozen rocket attacks the New Hartford Senior High School graduate experienced during his time as an independent electrical contractor in the Middle-Eastern country.
"So what are we doing today?" Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, asked the United States ambassador, Zalmay M. Khalilzad, as they sat in Mr. Karzai's office.
Mr. Khalilzad patiently explained that they would attend a ceremony to kick off the "greening" of Kabul — the planting and seeding of 850,000 trees — in honor of the Afghan New Year.
Mr. Karzai said he would speak off-the-cuff. Mr. Khalilzad, sounding more mentor than diplomat, approved: "It's good you don't have a text," he told Mr. Karzai. "You tend to do better."
The genial Mr. Karzai may be Afghanistan's president, but the affable, ambitious Mr. Khalilzad often seems more like its chief executive. With his command of both details and American largesse, the Afghan-born envoy has created an alternate seat of power since his arrival on Thanksgiving.
Two planeloads filled with election material arrived in Afghanistan on Thursday ahead of a stepped-up drive to register people for a vote later this year seen as a key step toward democracy for the war-torn country, officials said. Some 180 metric tons of booklets, laminating equipment, cameras and other items to be used in the September vote touched down at Kabul's international airport.
Gunmen killed a district police chief and eight Afghan soldiers in an ambush in a southern province, a senior official said Thursday, in an attack claimed by the Taliban militia. The assailants fired AK-47 assault rifles and heavy machine guns on two four-wheel drive vehicles carrying Yar Mohammed, police chief of Mizan district in Zabul province, and the soldiers around 10 a.m. on Wednesday. There were no survivors.
American soldiers shot and wounded four Afghan civilians, mistaking them for militants when their vehicle sped towards a checkpoint in the east of the country, a senior local official said on Friday.
About 120 soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division were reunited with families Thursday after a year in Afghanistan.
US Marines are poised to launch a fresh campaign against Al Qaeda and Taleban fighters in Afghanistan, a United States military official said Friday, as top general Richard Myers visited Kabul for talks on the hunt for Osama bin Laden.
“They’re starting right now. They’re going to go hot pretty quick,” an Afghanistan-based US military official, who asked not to be named.
Homa Safi was 21, a journalist-in-training at a French-Afghan monthly magazine in Kabul, Nouvelles de Kaboul, that I started two years ago. She was one of the innumerable women whom the fall of the Taliban seemed to have returned to life. But like so many of her Afghan sisters, she decided last month that the gap between what her world offered her and what she wanted was too great.
In February, Ghazal's parents informed her that they had engaged her to marry her cousin, Rafi, 28, an unemployed carpenter in the tiny village of Reshkhor. They expect the striking young woman with an arresting Sandra Bullock-like smile to move from the cosmopolitan capital of Kabul and to be confined to a lifetime of cleaning Rafi's house, cooking his food, washing his clothes and bearing his children.
"It is so ironic. I help women to defend their rights, but my family is .. ." suddenly, awkwardly, Ghazal whispered an English swear-word and immediately blushed.
The United States, which has increased troops numbers in Afghanistan to hunt for Osama bin Laden and other militants, may cut them back after the country holds elections, the top U.S. military officer said on Friday.
An intense manhunt will ultimately net the United States' No. 1 enemy, Osama bin Laden, but there is no telling how long it might take, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Friday during a whistle-stop visit to Afghanistan.
The chatter of machine guns, thumping of mortar rounds, popping of rifles, and shouted orders of squad leaders punctuated the calm twilight hours near Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan as the grunts of Charlie Company further sharpened their combat skills. Deployed to Afghanistan with the ground combat element of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), Charlie Company used the opportunity to focus on small unit leadership and live fire training as they assaulted a series of objectives at a training area near the sprawling US base.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

A group of medical students at the University of Manitoba is just about ready to ship a complete medical library to Afghanistan. The students have been collecting donated books to restock the Kabul Medical Institute's shelves; the institute's books were removed during the reign on the Taliban government.
Foreign Minister Per Stig Møller is prepared to deploy more Danish soldiers to Afghanistan, daily newspaper Berlingske Tidende reported earlier this month.
The international security force in Afghanistan, now under NATO command following the war to unseat the Taliban regime, is grappling with a manpower shortage to secure reconstruction outside Kabul. The shortage has made it possible for Taliban factions and local warlords to sabotage efforts to build roads, schools and clinics.
The provisional government in Kabul has requested military protection for the 18 so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams in the region. Per Stig Møller told the newspaper that he hoped the Government would approve a 'substantial' contribution at the NATO summit in June.
'We are determined to send more soldiers to Afghanistan next year,' said Møller.
(Copenhagen Post)

Some 500,000 Afghans will voluntarily repatriate through UN assistance by April 1, 2005 under a tripartite agreement.
Assailants fired a rocket that hit a police station in this northwestern Pakistani city today, injuring two policemen, the second such attack in less than a month, police and witnesses said. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack in Peshawar, which lies near a volatile tribal region along the Afghan border where Pakistani forces have staged military operations to track down suspected al-Qaida and Taliban militants.
It was supposed to be a landmark military operation, inaugurating NATO's transformation into a nimble force capable of offering rapid security assistance anywhere in the world. Instead, the 6,400-soldier foreign force in Afghanistan -- NATO's most ambitious and far-flung mission -- has exposed serious weaknesses in the European-American alliance.
Pakistan wants to see an "ethnic balance" in Afghanistan’s political and electoral process, President Musharraf told a special United Nations envoy here on Wednesday. "The political and electoral process should reflect the ethnic balance," Musharraf said in a meeting with visiting UN special representative in Afghanistan Jean Arnault.
Suspected Taliban militants executed seven Afghans, including two children and three officials, after they professed support for President Hamid Karzai, an Afghan commander said on Wednesday.
The execution-style killings occurred in insurgency-hit Birmal district in southeast Paktika province near the restive Pakistani frontier, said Mohammed Hussain, a local border force commander. One woman survived the attack with injuries. “Their vehicle was stopped by five men in military uniforms pretending to be pro-government forces,” Hussain said.
“They were asked if they were supporting President Karzai and the government. People in the vehicle said yes, and they were killed on the spot,” the commander said, relaying the account of a woman who survived the attack.
(Agence France Presse)
A dry, cool wind greeted Cpl. Robert A. Sturkie as he stepped off the Air Force C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft and onto Afghan soil. As one of the first of approximately 2,200 members of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) to arrive in Afghanistan, Sturkie has spent the several weeks since his arrival in-country watching the unit's Marines and Sailors trickle in.
Prime Minister Paul Martin says Canadian soldiers are in for the long haul in Afghanistan and Haiti, but they're spread too thin for any kind of mission to Iraq. Martin, who was on a campaign-style swing through New Brunswick today, said a force of almost 600 Canadian soldiers will be kept in Afghanistan until the late summer of 2005.
A contingent of Defence personnel is to leave Christchurch today for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The 96-strong group will provide the latest rotation of mainly army personnel who have been doing reconstruction work in Bamyan province since September.
A Pakistani tribe whose members are accused of harboring al Qaeda militants agreed Wednesday to raise a militia of 1,500 men to hunt the militants and their Pakistani allies down. The agreement by the Zali Kheil tribe came ahead of a deadline of April 20 given by the government for tribal elders to hand over foreign fighters and the Pakistani tribesmen sheltering them.
A ceremony marking the transfer of authority from the 10th Mountain Division to the 25th Infantry Division is scheduled at Bagram Air Field April 15, officials said. At the news conference, the coalition struck down "erroneous reports" that two unmanned aerial vehicles crashed April 11, a block away from an inauguration ceremony for a new courthouse in Gardez.
"It was a single UAV," a spokesman said. "It landed after the ceremony, and afterwards, controllers disassembled it for transport ease."
A bomb blast near a police station in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province on Wednesday wounded four people, including a police chief, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Afghan National Soccer Players Missing In Italy
Verona, Italy; 13 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Nine members of the Afghan national soccer team have gone missing in Italy on the eve of the squad's first appearance in Europe in 20 years. Italian police say it is unclear whether the players -- who are not in possession of their passports -- are seeking to remain in Italy. The team's coach, Mir Ali Asger Akbarzola, was quoted as telling Italian news agency ANSA that he is angry over the disappearance and that the players will not be allowed to play even if they return. Afghanistan is due to face the Italian team Verona today as part of a tour marking the national team's return to Europe after two decades.
KABUL, April 13 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's new aviation minister appointed on Tuesday could be excused for accepting the job with some trepidation -- both his predecessors died violently.
Bismillah Bismil will replace Mirwais Sadiq, who was killed in a shootout on March 21, President Hamid Karzai said in a statement .
Sadiq, the son of Herat's powerful provincial governor Ismail Khan, was shot dead by forces loyal to a pro-Karzai commander in heavy factional fighting in Herat, Afghanistan's wealthiest city.
He had replaced Abdul Rahman, who was beaten to death by a mob of about 1,000 pilgrims in the capital Kabul in February 2002 following rumours that he had cancelled a flight to Saudi Arabia before the traditional Muslim Haj pilgrimage.
An al-Qaida videotape threatening more attacks against Spain singles out the incoming Socialist government for its decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.
The famous Panjshir Township of Afghanistan that gained its reputation as the "unconquerable fortress of Ahmad Shah Masoud", the late commander of Afghan Mujahedin, became Afghanistan`s 34th province on Monday.
The squad automatic weapon gunner with 2nd Platoon, Apache Company, had just stood up to walk back to his vehicle after providing overwatch coverage of his unit during a visit to a village along the Pakistani border, outside the southeast city of Khost. Everything seemed to be going fine that day until Riley felt the heavy impact in his left hip. He fell to the ground and realized he’d been hit.
In March, Bravo battery set up a small English-language school within the barbed wire and sand barriers of this base on the outskirts of the southeastern city of Khost. Leaders from the unit organized a patrol to nearby villages — a sort of recruiting trip to solicit new students for the fledgling academy....
Three times per week, the children walk more than five miles each way with a village elder to attend class. There’s room for only 60 students, but often more than 100 make their way to the base for seats in class, only to be turned away at the gate.
International peacekeepers in the Afghan capital, Kabul, say they have helped arrest a suspected senior member of an Islamic militant group. The man was detained after a raid by Afghan agents and Canadian troops from the Nato-led peacekeeping force Isaf. He is alleged to be an associate of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the former Mujahadeen leader and prime minister.
A U.N. spokesman said calm had returned following a surge in factional fighting in the remote north and west, including Faryab province, where forces of General Abdul Rashid Dostum briefly overran the capital Maimana late last week.
"There is no fighting there. Our people in Faryab are briefing us daily," said UN spokesman David Singh. "In the north typically one day it's peaceful. The next day there is an outbreak of violence. That's the way it's been since the fall of the Taliban," said Singh.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Gen. Daoud is the commander of the armed and formidable 6th Corps -- a 5,000-strong militia, replete with aging Russian tanks -- and on this day he is making diplomatic small talk at a change-of-command reception at the small North Atlantic Treaty Organization outpost manned by Germans in Kunduz. But his peaceful demeanour and natty civilian attire belie the staggering challenges he and Afghanistan's other warlords pose to President Hamid Karzai's internationally backed government in Kabul.
The northeast is "quiet, but not stable," according to Colonel Ferdinand Baur, commander of the 230-soldier German contingent based in the lush, fertile Kunduz valley, and Gen. Daoud has professed support for a single, unified Afghanistan "with equality for all peoples." But the young warlord is not yet ready to hand over his tanks and artillery to the fledgling Afghan National Army. Nor has he demobilized the seasoned fighters under his personal command.
They hung their assault rifles on nails and sang hymns in a chapel made of plywood and canvas. Outside, the assistant chaplain had stuck white and yellow plastic flowers on a waist-high wall of sandbags. This was Easter for members of the Army's 1st Battalion, 501st Airborne Infantry Regiment, engaged on the other, less-publicized war front - not in Iraq, but along Afghanistan's mountainous border with Pakistan. Salerno Base came under rocket attack Friday and again Saturday night as part of a recent surge in violence.
Everything old is new again at the Jangalak Factory in Afghanistan's capital city - especially the workers. Abandoned to ruin after more than a generation of war, the once-proud producer of more than 2,000 machine and wood products is slowly grinding back to life. The 150-hectare site used to bustle up to 24 hours a day with the efforts of more than 1,800 workers in 12 machine, carpentry and support shops. Now about 200 long-time workers are doing their best to revive the place.
Nine Pakistani men jailed in Afghanistan for spying and helping the Taliban during the war with the US were released from prison, in a goodwill gesture towards Pakistan which claimed the nine were innocent....
Six of the nine who were interviewed by AFP following their release admitted they had come to Afghanistan to fight and support the Taliban. However, Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand, insisted they were all innocent.
Remnants of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban have killed a top intelligence chief and captured three districts near the border with Pakistan, a spokesman for the Islamic militia said on Monday.
The Afghan capital, Kabul, is considered the most stable city in the country and a bastion of pro-Western democratic reforms. A force of international peacekeepers is in the capital and will prevent it from descending into chaos, most officials agree. But even that control is tenuous; militias associated with warlords are a growing presence, particularly in Kabul's western suburbs.
U.S.-led forces have air-dropped leaflets on Afghan border areas seeking intelligence on al Qaeda and Taliban militants, residents said on Monday. Jets dropped thousands of leaflets featuring a picture of a rebel carrying a shoulder-held rocket launcher and a message in Persian and Pashtu urging Afghans to inform on the Taliban, al Qaeda and forces loyal to renegade commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
An interview with Mullah Omar.
Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of America's most-wanted men, has urged his compatriots to rise up against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. In a statement obtained by The Associated Press on Sunday, Hekmatyar calls for an Afghan uprising in a competitive spirit with Iraq. He welcomed the uprising by supporters of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who have been battling U.S. forces in Iraq.
"If things go sour," Special Forces Capt. Paul Toolan tells a two-man sniper crew he quickly orders into position on a rooftop, "go for the head of the food chain." He nods at the white-turbaned district chief standing nervously a few feet away....
For a few recent weeks, Toolan and his 10-member team allowed rare and intimate access into their operations in the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan.
The decision to commit fewer troops to the Afghan war and ‘‘outsourcing’’ the hunt on the ground for Al Qaeda to the Northern Alliance and Pakistan probably enabled Al Qaeda operatives to disperse instead of waiting to be destroyed by US bombardment from the air. The only reason the US feels it has destroyed 70 per cent of known Al Qaeda leaders is that its knowledge of Al Qaeda operatives was limited to begin with. Less known veterans of the anti-Soviet jehad started slipping out of Afghanistan soon after the US started bombing Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. Pakistan did not deploy significant numbers of troops along its border with Afghanistan until December 7, giving Al Qaeda trainers almost two months to slip and spread out. These individuals have most likely served as midwives of the baby Al Qaedas the US now confronts from Morocco to Indonesia.
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN – The infantry soldiers start their missions directly in front of our medical aid tent. They assemble in full "battle-rattle" - armored vests, Kevlar helmets with night-vision goggles, and a combat load of assault weapons, rockets, and explosives. In the past year as a flight surgeon here, I've become accustomed to the air of bravado, determination, courage, and fear as they head out to fight.
GARDEZ, Afghanistan -- Two unmanned drones crashed a block away from a ceremony where American and Afghan officials were inaugurating a courthouse Sunday -- and the event went ahead as planned. One of the drones, which was circling above the closely guarded ceremony, plunged behind the nearby governor's residence during U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's speech. Addressing dignitaries at the gleaming white-and-yellow courthouse, he seemed not to notice.
The second drone came down soon after a few hundred yards away, next to another government building in this city 60 miles south of the capital.
Thousands of Pakistani police and troops guarded key Western installations and blocked the roads to the U.S. consulate in the restive city of Karachi on Sunday after a blast killed one person and wounded nine.
Factional violence spread across Afghanistan on Sunday, with gunbattles in the north between militias of two powerful warlords leaving up to three fighters dead, rival groups said Sunday.
Kissinger was sent to northern Afghanistan a few weeks ago by the U.S. State Department to help train a civilian police force for the mountainous and war-torn Asian nation. "I have never been in a place that has so many natural environmental hazards, let alone all the (land) mines, Taliban, etc.," Kissinger wrote. "On (Monday) April 5, I awoke to a clear and warm morning. By noon, the temperature was close to 90 degrees. By 2 p.m., the wind came up, creating a blinding, choking dust."
Kissinger said the dust was so thick that even indoors one could taste the dirt in the air.
Hundreds of Afghan and American soldiers are engaged in a new hunt for Osama bin Laden and other terror suspects in a mountainous region bordering Pakistan, the Afghan military said Monday. The operation began Friday in Spera, a border district in Khost province, 90 miles south of Kabul, Afghan military commander Zakim Khan said. No arrests or clashes were reported.
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