Saturday, April 24, 2004

A group of unidentified armed men attacked a foreign construction company in southern Kandahar province of Afghanistan on Friday night and burned its building machines, an Afghan official said Saturday. (Xinhua)

Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrived in the southwestern Kandahar city Saturday on a rare visit to a hostile region.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the emergence of a free press in Iraq and Afghanistan is an important current event in both countries, but one which is under-reported by the media.
Tillman’s death will bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not just to the front pages, but to the sports pages. It will put a face on the sacrifice of the troops and how its singularity contrasts to a time when “93 percent of baseball” went to war.
Kampyr-Tepe, in southern Uzbekistan, was built at the time of Alexander the Great's empire and occupied for about 500 years until it fell into decline. The fortified city controlled a key route from central to south Asia Since it was discovered, a generation ago, it has been closed to the public because it stands in a sensitive and tightly guarded military zone, right on the Afghan border.

How bin Laden got away
A day-by-day account of how Osama bin Laden eluded the world's most powerful military machine.
Five tribesmen accused of sheltering al Qaeda militants surrendered to the Pakistan army at a tribal council on Saturday, ending a week long hunt for the renegades in the mountain ranges on the border with Afghanistan.
The five fugitives were expected to hand in a list of foreign militants living with them in South Waziristan, a desolate region where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri have been hunted in the past.
Thousands of turbaned Pashtun tribesmen looked on as the five men from the Zali Kheil tribe turned themselves in before a "jirga," or tribal council, and pledged loyalty to Pakistan in return for clemency.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Hundreds of gun-totting farmers angered over the government's destruction of their opium crop blocked a major highway in southwest Pakistan near the Afghan border and burned two paramilitary vehicles and a United Nations car, officials said.
In early April 2004, I undertook a visit to Kabul and the central highlands area of Afghanistan – an 800-kilometre round trip by motor vehicle – accompanying a mission of the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
In his latest guest column for BBC News Online, Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid ponders the future of democracy in President Musharraf's Pakistan.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan today voiced concern that some militia commanders were slow in handing over lists of their soldiers, posing potential stumbling blocks to achieving the goal of disarming 40 per cent of the militias by September. It said that whatever measures were needed would be taken.
Ashraf Ghani, the finance minister, said the lion's share of new aid would be channelled through the central government budget -a victory for President Hamid Karzai's administration, which has voiced deep frustration over the past two years at the meagre portion of aid that passed through its coffers.
An Afghan province has lifted a ban on women performers on TV and radio just days after imposing the ban, after pressure by reformists in President Hamid Karzai's Government.
The provincial Deputy Governor of Nangarhar, an area in which US-led troops hunt for Muslim militants and which is largely run by former anti-Soviet fighters, announced the ban last Friday, declaring female performers un-Islamic.
But this week women were back on the air, residents said. The ban echoed the strict imposition of sharia Islamic law during the Taliban's repressive five-year rule, when TV was banned, women were not allowed to work and girls were kept out of schools.
(The Age - Australia)

Dadullah, who has lost one of his legs during past fighting, said the Taliban were effectively in control of 6 districts in their former spiritual capital, Kandahar, 6 in Urozgan province, 5 in Helmand, 5 in Zabul and 4 in Paktika. He said military operations by the US-led coalition had failed to destroy the Taliban in these districts.
Pakistani authorities today agreed to let five local al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters live in the tribal South Waziristan region after their tribe guaranteed they would not participate in any terrorist activity.
A Kyrgyz court today convicted four men of plotting to attack an air base in Kyrgyzstan currently being used by the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.
Afghan and international security forces have arrested 17 people in connection with attacks purportedly planned for Kabul.
A group of about 50 armed men attacked an aid organization in Kandahar Province today, setting fire to eight vehicles at the Central Asia Development Group, a nongovernmental organization partly funded by the United States.
Germany is setting up another base in northeastern Afghanistan to aid reconstruction projects and provide security. German Defense Minister Peter Struck said today that Germany will probably be joined by the Netherlands in sending a unit to Badakhshan Province. Germany already has troops in neighboring Konduz.
Struck said it has not been decided how many soldiers Germany will contribute to the Provincial Reconstruction Team, but said the number will not go above the 450 limit set by parliament in October.
Germany has supplied about 2,000 troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, stationed in and around the capital Kabul.

Former NFL player killed in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Many Afghans now say bin Laden isn't a terrorist, and some even suggest that he never existed. Instead, they argue that he was a ploy used by the United States to pursue world domination. No individual, they say, could have successfully organized the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
"It was not Osama bin Laden in New York but computer generated images of destruction," said Abdul Ghani, a religious leader in the Haji Yaqub Mosque in Kabul. "The Afghan people say if it was Osama bin Laden who caused this trouble, why did he not continue attacking the United States on September 12th, 13th and 14th? It was just an American plan to capture Afghanistan."
In Kabul itself, authorities were dealing with two anti-personnel mines, both discovered near the Hotel Intercontinental. One was found alongside the main route into the hotel, about 200 metres from its entrance. The other was found beside a main thoroughfare about half a kilometre away.
Civilian demining experts detonated the first device shortly after 1 p.m. local time while German and Canadian troops helped Kabul city police secure the other mine. Police said they were investigating.
A Japanese naval operation that provides non-combat support for the U.S.-led war on terror in Afghanistan will be extended by six months, officials said Tuesday. The nation's ruling party has decided to extend from May until November an operation launched in November 2001 to refuel and supply warships of the U.S.-led coalition hunting down terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Taliban insurgents have threatened to kill Afghans if they vote in September elections, an intelligence official said yesterday. The threats were carried in pamphlets distributed in Logar province close to the capital Kabul, the official said on condition of anonymity.
"We advise all Afghans not to risk their lives for attending the elections," the pamphlets warned, according to the official.
"Women especially will face the death penalty if they try to take part in the elections. Husbands are responsible for the blood of their wives if they fail to stop them voting in elections."
Logar lies just 70 kms southeast of Kabul.
(Sidney Morning Herald)

Twelve Pakistani prisoners who escaped from a northern jail with the help of a prison guard were recaptured in the capital on Tuesday and will be sent back to jail, Afghan state television reported.
The men, all imprisoned for fighting alongside the Taliban against the U.S.-led war in 2001, were found hiding in a house in northern Kabul, said Gen Baba Jan, Kabul’s police chief. The guard was also arrested, along with the owner of the house, Jan told the television station.
About 500 Pakistanis remain in Afghan prisons, mostly in the north. The men recaptured on Tuesday had been held in a particularly notorious jail, called Sheberghan, controlled by northern Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum.
(Pakistan Daily Times)
Kandahar — The big guns have arrived.
The Marines looked like expectant fathers as they watched an M198 155 mm howitzer roll off the ramp of a KC-130 Hercules aircraft and onto a dusty runway here.
The United States' ambassador to Afghanistan has tempered his recent criticism of neighboring Pakistan, after the Pakistanis lodged a formal protest with Washington.
U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is offering words of approval for Pakistan's efforts to root out foreign militants, reversing his recent criticism.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer used a visit to the northern Afghan province of Kunduz on Tuesday to reaffirm Germany's commitment to help rebuild war-torn Afghanistan.
War in Afghanistan: the video game.
A Pakistani trawler carrying oil for US forces came under attack in the area of Spin Boldak in Afghanistan killing the driver and injuring the cleaner.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced a plan to make his administration more accountable by reducing its 29 ministries. Mr. Karzai did not specify which ministries would be consolidated, but promised a draft proposal in the coming weeks. Critics of Afghanistan's transitional government say many cabinet ministers were appointed to insure support for the government in key constituencies, and that many ministries have overlapping jobs.
A deadline for the handing over of five tribesmen accused of harboring al Qaeda militants in Pakistan has been extended.
Some of the Afghan warlords the United States has recruited to help fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban are directing Afghanistan's flourishing opium trade and threatening the country's fragile, U.S.-backed central government. The U.S. strategy in Afghanistan has allowed some local commanders to use profits from drug trafficking to fund their armies and amass power under the umbrella of the Bush administration's war against terrorism.
That Karzai has a battle on his hands in the countryside is well established. Now a battle looms within the heart of his government.
Afghanistan's football federation has decided to disband the national side after nine players absconded last week while on a tour of Italy.
There was every sign that the Qaeda fighters would stay in the Pakistani tribal areas and fight, partly because they knew it was "extraordinarily dangerous" for them to operate in Afghanistan because of the presence of American troops, Lt General David Barno said. He described the Qaeda fighters as trained and experienced men who had deep roots in Pakistan.
"This isn't just a transient force; these folks are there for the long haul," he said. "I think, ultimately, they'll be destroyed regardless of which choice they make. But so far we have not seen them make any choice to come into Afghanistan. And if they do, we are certainly going to deal with them."
Pakistan will take part in joint naval patrols with a U.S.-led fleet in the Arabian Sea to prevent arms and humans smuggling and deter terrorism, a military official said on Monday.

Monday, April 19, 2004

A knife-wielding attacker today killed three Afghan policemen at their headquarters in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, police said.
The photographer poses his subject in a high-backed chair, peers into a bulky, wooden box camera balanced on a rickety tripod, then whips off the lens cap and silently counts a seven-second exposure. It could be a snapshot from a bygone age, when negatives were made of glass, long-suffering portraitists lugged around portable darkrooms and getting one's picture taken was something really special. But in much of modern Afghanistan, this is still what passes for a snapshot booth.
The governor of Afghanistan's southwestern Nimroz province has sought the support of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to tackle Taliban-linked militancy, Xinhua reports.
The head of the UN refugee agency, Ruud Lubbers, has said all new refugee camps inside Pakistan's border with Afghanistan will close by September.
Mr Lubbers said the camps were too close to areas where al-Qaeda and Taleban militants were active.
Although the United States denies that the strategy has changed, the evidence on the ground in Afghanistan suggests that the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his top aides has taken a new, more serious, turn....
For the past two weeks, a stream of international reporters and media crews have filled Kabul’s modest Intercontinental Hotel, all trying to read the tea leaves and compare notes on rumors of an imminent, major spring offensive.
The spokesman for the Taliban, Hamid Agha, has said that the Taliban are planning on increasing their already intense battle. He said that they have planned well for the summer campaign and have made plans for the continuation of the battle into next winter too, unlike last winter when the operations were curtailed due to lack of winter gear.
Five rockets slammed into a US army base in the troubled southeast Afghan border city of Khost at the weekend but caused no casualties, police said Monday.
A 2,000-man tribal force hunted Monday for suspected al-Qaida fugitives and their supporters in the remote mountains near the Afghan border, a day before a government deadline to flush out terrorists or face military action. The two groups, organized by tribal elders, swept through the lawless territory of South Waziristan where last month the army killed more than 60 militants and arrested 163 suspects during a major operation against suspected al-Qaida members.
Afghanistan and the United States are working on an amnesty scheme for Taliban members and followers of wanted terrorist Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a Kabul-based diplomat said today. The plan, which envisions allowing Afghanistan's former rulers and Hekmatyar supporters to return to the political scene, is being drawn up jointly by US army officers and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's cabinet, the diplomat said.
A war of words seems to have erupted between the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the Pakistani government.
Afghan police and international peacekeepers raided a compound Monday in Kabul and arrested eight men with suspected links to al-Qaeda and a group loyal to a banned Afghan warlord, a spokesman said.
A spring offensive by Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas in Afghanistan's restive south is the weakest in two years, U.S. officials say, but Taliban militants vowed on Sunday to keep up their attacks.
A man who already has raised enough money to build two schools in Afghanistan is trying to help an entire Afghan village get on its financial feet.
Washington Post editorial on Afghanistan.
Delegates from 10 nations are meeting in Afghanistan's capital for a landmark economic conference - the first such meeting there in two decades.
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