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Saturday, June 19, 2004

Taliban insurgents attacked a government office in southern Afghanistan, sparking a gunfight with Afghan troops that killed seven people, police said Saturday...
The gunfight occurred late Friday when 60 Taliban attacked a government office in Mizan, a town in Zabul province some 230 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul, Zabul deputy police chief Ghulam Jailiani said. Five attackers and two Afghan soldiers died in the two-hour clash, which ended when a U.S. helicopter appeared and drove the Taliban away, Jailiani said.
Three Afghan soldiers were wounded and taken to an American base for treatment. The three wounded were part of the force of 50 Afghan soldiers defending the office. Jailiani said authorities had recovered a satellite telephone, walkie-talkies and weapons left behind by the Taliban, who retreated on foot to nearby mountains...
LTC Tucker Mansager said U.S. troops came under fire from a small group of militants Friday south of Khost, a city near the Pakistani border. He had no word on any casualties. He was also unable to confirm reports of an attack on a small U.S. camp in central Uruzgan province, where the Marines are based.
Uruzgan Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan said a band of about 30 Taliban militants fired 40 rockets at the camp in Char Cheno, a remote district which has seen several clashes between U.S. forces and militants. Khan said one Taliban fighter was killed and four wounded in the ensuing gunfight, but he had no word on any U.S. casualties.
(ABC News)

He is an Indian serving the US armed forces, speaks six languages fluently and helps American troops stationed in Afghanistan break the language barrier with the locals. Prashant Shah, a Vadodara (Gujarat)-born Lance Corporal with the US Marines, has been decorated with a medal for using his "extraordinary linguistic skills" to establish a communication link between American troops and Afghan locals. Shah, who serves with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, speaks not two or three but six languages - English, Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu and Pashto.
Biatullah Mahsood has taken over as the operational commander of the Waziristan militants after the death of Nek Muhammad, sources told Daily Times on Friday. “Biatullah was named Nek’s successor by Taliban supreme leader Mulla Omar last month. At the same time Nek had been warned against making a deal with the Pakistan Army,” the sources said.
A very interesting article.
U.S. helicopter gunships flushed out Taliban guerrillas on Saturday from a government headquarters they overran the night before, a Taliban commander said. Commander Seddiqi, who contacted Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location, said the guerrillas killed at least four government soldiers when they took over the headquarters of Mizan district in Zabul province on Friday. He said three Taliban fugitives were wounded in the clash and the insurgents destroyed the headquarters building.
"We took control of Mizan last night, but in the morning American helicopters came and forced us out," he said.
Province security chiefs vow to retake Afghan town...
The U.S. military said U.S. B1-B bombers flew over the area of the fighting on Thursday in a show of force to calm the situation while it evacuated U.N. staff by helicopter.
"The CFC-A (Combined Force Command - Afghanistan) supports the national government and encourages all parties to solve their differences in a peaceful manner," it said in a statement.
A group of 23 Norwegian officers will next week leave for Afghanistan to strenghten the NATO-led ISAF force in Kabul. This will increase the Norwegian contingent in the country to around 300 persons. The 20 offisers will become part of a co-called Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) based at Maymane in north western Afghanistan, together with British and Finnish troops.
The chief of the German armed forces, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, has said the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) approach is the only option for achieving peace in Afghanistan. In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur, General Schneiderhan rejected calls for a change of strategy after terrorist attacks in the Kunduz zone, which is manned by a German PRT. "There is no alternative to the PRT approach," he said in Berlin. "Terrorism ought not to become the deciding factor in our action."
WASHINGTON : The United States warned US citizens in Afghanistan that militants may be planning suicide bombings in the capital and advised them to avoid certain areas of city.
The State Department, through the US embassy in Kabul, said it had information that possible attacks would target foreigners and urged Americans to exercise caution throughout the city.
"Information received from the international community indicates a threat towards foreigners of suicide bombing attacks targeting Chicken Street, Mahmood Khan Bridge and/or the Police Academy," the embassy said.
"We advise you to avoid all movements in the aforementioned areas," it said in a notice to US citizens, a copy of which was provided to AFP in Washington by the State Department.
"Furthermore we urge caution in movements near other potential target areas," the embassy said. Those include government buildings, Afghan and foreign military facilities, restaurants, Internet cafes and markets, according to the notice. - AFP

PESHAWAR: An altercation between a shopkeeper and customers resulted in killing of two persons and injury to six others in Bara bazar on Thursday. An official of political administration of Khyber Agency said that the deceased were Afghans.
Some customers arrived at the shop of Siddiq, an Afghan refugee, and had an altercation during haggling. Later, the customers opened fire at the shopkeeper which resulted in the killing of Siddiq and his assistant, Wazir Zada. Six passers-by also received bullet wounds who were rushed to Hayat Medical Complex for treatment. Personnel of Khasadar force arrested the killer who were identified as Raees and Wali Khan.
(Pakistan Times)
"Though I've traveled to over 40 countries, I'd never seen such a horrendous state of affairs as health and education in Afghanistan, particularly for women," Assefi said in an e-mail interview. The average life expectancy in Afghanistan is 46 years old, and more than 25 percent of children don't live beyond 5 years of age. "As a women's health specialist, educator and Iranian American who speaks one of the two major languages (Dari) and has some understanding of the culture and religion, I felt I had a moral responsibility to give back to this part of the world," she said. "The timing felt urgent."
Below is an excerpt from one of her missives home to friends and family with answers to "frequently asked questions."
Dr Azizollah Ludin, the head of a newly set-up anti-corruption commission, has spoken in an interview about four main problems facing Afghanistan - lack of respect for central government rule, corruption and nepotism, drug-trafficking, and terrorism. He made a plea for government to support the commission's work. He also said he was "striving to prevent corruption through understanding and honest cooperation with other government bodies in Afghanistan.
In the first acknowledgment the al-Qaida terror network may have re-established itself in Afghanistan or neighboring Pakistan, President George W. Bush Friday vowed to find any al-Qaida camps in the region and destroy them. Because the U.S. acted to oust the Taliban, Bush said, "There are no terror training camps in Afghanistan, and if there are, if they're thinking about them, we will find them and destroy them.
Tribal leader Nek Mohammed has been killed by the Pakistani military in an overnight raid. Twice this week, the BBC's Imtiaz Ali interviewed the targeted militant. Mohammed spoke to our correspondent by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has made an impassioned plea for member states to commit resources to existing operations, notably in Afghanistan....
And why the outburst? In a word, Afghanistan. With the government of Hamid Karzai barely able to extend its authority beyond the capital, Nato has still not provided the extra personnel and equipment promised several months ago.
Afghanistan’s government Friday welcomed the charging of a CIA contractor over the brutal killing of a prisoner in a northeastern jail and said it was confident the United States would pursue other offenders.
In an interview with the Guardian the official, who writes as "Anonymous", described al-Qaida as a much more proficient and focused organisation than it was in 2001, and predicted that it would "inevitably" acquire weapons of mass destruction and try to use them. He said Bin Laden was probably "comfortable" commanding his organisation from the mountainous tribal lands along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Pakistani army claimed a big success in the "war against terror" yesterday with the killing of a tribal leader, Nek Mohammed, who was one of al-Qaida's protectors in Waziristan.
But Anonymous, who has been centrally involved in the hunt for Bin Laden, said: "Nek Mohammed is one guy in one small area. We sometimes forget how big the tribal areas are." He believes President Pervez Musharraf cannot advance much further into the tribal areas without endangering his rule by provoking a Pashtun revolt. "He walks a very fine line," he said yesterday.
Imperial Hubris is the latest in a relentless stream of books attacking the administration in election year. Most of the earlier ones, however, were written by embittered former officials. This one is unprecedented in being the work of a serving official with nearly 20 years experience in counter-terrorism who is still part of the intelligence establishment.
The fact that he has been allowed to publish, albeit anonymously and without naming which agency he works for, may reflect the increasing frustration of senior intelligence officials at the course the administration has taken...
Vincent Cannistraro, a former chief of operations at the CIA counter-terrorism centre, said he had been vindicated by events. "He is very well respected, and looked on as a serious student of the subject."
Almost 90,000 Afghans are registering each day for September's presidential and national assembly elections, the United Nations said.
On nearly every operation the MEU has undertaken since its arrival in Afghanistan, from vehicular reconnaissance patrols in early April to combat offensives of recent weeks, a single armored Humvee has led the way. Dubbed 'Alone and Unafraid' by its crew, this particular Humvee has covered more miles of desolate Afghan countryside than perhaps any other in the 22nd MEU.
The office of the United Nations refugee agency in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades early on Friday, but no casualties were reported and only minor damage, the U.N. said. "Two or three RPGs were fired at the office at about 3 a.m.; there were no casualties. An investigation is ongoing," U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said. No staff were in the office and the damage was minor, he said.
Georgian leaders have decided to dispatch a group of medical specialists and a small unit of servicemen to Afghanistan to participate in the peacekeeping mission, Defence Minister Georgy Baranidze said.
Recent religious rioting and violence in Pakistan has heightened concern about the ability of President Pervez Musharraf’s government to maintain stability in the volatile nation. The domestic disarray has potential repercussions for not only the US-led war on terrorism, but also the long-term stability of Afghanistan and all Central Asia.
Standing beside President George W. Bush in the White House Rose Garden Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan's head of state, observed jokingly that perhaps he would remain in the United States instead of returning to Kabul. "One likes to stay here and not go, it's such a good country," he said.
If he expected Bush to reply that he would be welcome, he was disappointed. "Get home and get to work, will you?" the president said, only half joking. Karzai replied: "Thank you, yes."
Canada has turned down a request from the U.S. State Department to delay withdrawing its 2,000 troops from Afghanistan this summer.
A 27-year-old former Taliban fighter who recently embarrassed the Pakistani Army and became one of the country's best-known and most-wanted militants was killed in a missile strike on Thursday night, Pakistani military officials said. Local residents said they believed that a missile fired from an American drone killed the militant, Nek Muhammad, after he spoke over a satellite phone. But Pakistani military officials denied any American involvement.
Two New Zealand Special Forces soldiers were injured in an "operation" in Afghanistan today. The soldiers were injured about midday New Zealand time in central Afghanistan and were evacuated by helicopter to a medical facility, the New Zealand Defence Force said in a brief statement. Their condition was "satisfactory" and their families had been informed. New Zealand Defence Force spokeswoman Commander Sandy McKie refused to make any further comment.
An Afghan interpreter was killed and two U.S. and two New Zealand soldiers wounded in the latest violence involving Islamic insurgents fighting to disrupt Afghanistan's September elections, officials said Friday. A spokesman for the ousted Taliban militia swiftly claimed responsibility for several attacks across Afghanistan. The interpreter died and the U.S. soldiers were wounded when a vehicle hit a mine 50 km (30 miles) north of Qalat, capital of the southern province of Zabul late Thursday, said U.S. military spokeswoman Master Sergeant Cindy Beam. She said the soldiers were in stable condition.

Friday, June 18, 2004

A renegade militia commander has taken control of a provincial capital in Afghanistan, causing the governor to flee amid heavy fighting. Hundreds of troops of Abdul Salaam Khan attacked Chaghcharan, capital of central Ghor province, on Thursday.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Transcript of Centcom briefing by Lt. General David Barno.
Pakistani security forces backed by helicopter gunships launched a fresh assault on al Qaeda-linked militants on Thursday in rugged mountains bordering Afghanistan, witnesses and officials said. Dozens of transport and gunship helicopters headed toward the mountains near Angor Adda, 60 km (38 miles) west of South Waziristan's main town of Wana, to hunt foreign militants and their local supporters, they said.
Yemen's embassy in Pakistan received confirmations from the Red Cross saying that the U.S troops are holding the Yemeni citizen Abdul-Salam Ali al-Hela and four other Yemenis in Afghanistan, a press report said Thursday. The 26 September Weekly reported that the five men are being detained in the Bagram military base north of Kabul. An official source told the paper that the Yemeni concerned bodies were contacting U.S. authorities to secure their release. Meanwhile during his recent visit to the United States, president Ali Abdullah Saleh has held talks with a number of American officials over the Yemeni detainees including Sheikh Mohammad al-Moayyad and Abdul-Salam al-Hela.
(Yemen News Agency)

Crew helps shoeless children in Afghanistan. Sgt Hook makes headlines.
A new television station based partly on Britain's Channel 4, a radio station with a regular agony slot for lovelorn Afghan teenagers, a new what's on? guide to the capital, complete with fashion tips. Then there is the reopening of the old golf course, the arrival of the city's first gastropub, the resurgence of once-forbidden cricket, and even a "Kabul for Kerry" fundraiser organised by expat American Democrats. While heavy fighting has broken out again in parts of Afghanistan and there have been two attacks this month on foreign workers, in which 16 people have died, in Kabul there is a big effort under way to provide the sort of comforts that other capital cities take for granted.
The mercury topped 118 degrees in Kandahar last week.
"But it was a lot cooler today because the dust was so heavy it blotted out the sun," my husband joked in one of his almost daily e-mails. So long as he has that sense of humor, I know that conditions are, at minimum, bearable in Afghanistan.
Not that I think he's telling the folks back home everything. Clues to how dangerous the situation is show up in comments like, "Not much else new. We just about have our new bunkers finished, so that will be good in case the bad guys decide to be bad...."
Adding insult to risk, my husband reports, the Afghan trainers and recruits at his center - one of six in the country - tell him they haven't been paid since the compound opened in March, nor are they receiving the equipment they were promised. Complicating the security problems, the Afghans responsible for guarding the camp haven't been paid, either. My husband writes, "Call me paranoid, but if the Taliban comes along and offers our guards some money, wanna take bets what they will do?"
J.R. Labbe column.
Lieutenant General David Barno is commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He tells reporters at the Pentagon he is skeptical that a videotape of alleged al-Qaida training broadcast by al-Jazeera was made in a remote, mountainous area of Afghanistan.
"I take those reports with a great deal of skepticism and I think from my perspective it is fairly unlikely that that tape was made in Afghanistan," he said. Responding to questions in a satellite link-up between the Pentagon and his headquarters in Kabul, General Barno says there is a significant U.S. military presence in the rugged border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
(VOA)

A convoy of U.S. government relief workers came under fire north of the Afghan capital Thursday, but the attackers missed the target and caused no injuries, a spokeswoman said...The convoy of at least four vehicles of the U.S. Agency for International Development was traveling north from Kabul when it was attacked, spokeswoman Joan Ablett said.
"Something was fired at the convoy," Ablett said.
She said it was unclear if a rocket or some other projectile was fired, and she had no further details. Afghan officials were unaware of the incident.
The convoy was on a trip to visit projects funded by the U.S. government's development arm in Parwan province. The vehicles carried on after escaping the attack, Ablett said. The route runs close to the American military's sprawling Bagram Air Base, 30 miles north of Kabul, and through some of the country's most peaceful areas.
(Associated Press)




The Afghanistan army will get training help from about 1,000 Florida National Guard soldiers expected to be called to active duty next spring, a Guard spokesman said.
ABOARD A C-17 EN ROUTE TO AFGHANISTAN – Peering through night-vision goggles in his blacked-out cockpit, Capt. Chad Smith grips the throttle of the C-17 Globemaster III, as the fully loaded transport plane makes a steep banking turn and skims over the mountains surrounding the US military airfield at Bagram Afghanistan.
Why millions of Afghans have gone home.
BBC story.
An internationally backed project considered vital to the success of Afghanistan's post-Taliban transition is "DDR," the "disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration" into civilian life of factional militia fighters across the country. RFE/RL's Laura Winter visited one DDR center in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad to see how the program is being implemented ahead of nationwide elections scheduled for September.
A bomb has exploded at the office of a British aid agency in Afghanistan. The explosion blew out windows and the front gates of the building belonging to London-based Afghanaid in the early hours of Wednesday morning. An Afghan night watchman at the building in the northern city of Faizabad was injured in the blast and is receiving hospital treatment.
A US base for troops hunting militants in southeastern Afghanistan came under rocket attack in southeastern Afghanistan but no one was injured, a US military official said Wednesday. Unknown attackers fired more than ten rockets over the US base in Khost province on Sunday, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager told a news briefing in Kabul. No coalition soldiers were hurt in the attack and Mansager was unable to say who might have been behind it.
(HiPakistan)
And there's another hitch in disarming the militias, said Samantha Perera, director of the demobilization project in Jalalabad for the United Nations Development Program.
"We're having trouble getting the mobile disarmament unit out of Kabul," Perera said, referring to the trucks carrying staff and equipment used to register the soldiers and dispose of their weapons. She said attacks by insurgents across Afghanistan have made U.N. officials wary of hauling the unit the 95 miles between Kabul and Jalalabad.
In other words, one of the reasons the Afghan disarmament process has been subject to so many delays and false starts is that there are just too many arms - and not much evidence that those who have them are seriously prepared to give them up.
A growing number of analysts have said Bush should ease pressure on Afghanistan to hold elections ahead of his own bid for re-election in November. “Many Afghans believe that the only reason for the rush to the election is to provide Washington with an exit strategy,” respected New York University academic Barnett Rubin wrote in an article published this week in the International Herald Tribune. “After both the US and Afghan elections, they believe, Washington wants to declare victory in Afghanistan and focus all available resources on Iraq.”
While Bush did not intend to walk away from Afghanistan, Rubin said, “the low cost way in which the Bush administration has tried to pursue its policies in Afghanistan while focusing resources on Iraq has strengthened these suspicions”. The costs of that approach have been high in human terms.
"Our past wars were like having pneumonia - you may end up with some scarring in your lungs but you survived," General Peter Schoomaker told a Defense Writers Group breakfast. "This one (the Global War on Terror) is like cancer. It is never, ever going to go away. It is huge. We face a very challenging future." Schoomaker, a veteran of many years' service in Special Forces and the super-secret Delta Force who was brought out of retirement to run the Army, said: "This war cannot be won militarily. The gun will not win this one. This is a clash of ideas, an information war."
Joe Galloway column.
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan - (KRT) - The satellite connection was a little shaky. A windstorm was kicking up the desert dust outside. But as he spoke from half a world away, President George W. Bush commanded the full and sober attention of several hundred servicemen and women who gathered Wednesday to hear his speech at a U.S. air base north of Kabul.
"I thought it was excellent, just right," said Pvt. Nathan Powell, an Air Force communications specialist who arrived in Afghanistan just three weeks ago. He had previously served in South Korea. "I'm here for a year," said Powell, who had listened intently throughout Bush's speech, his automatic rifle sitting on the floor to his right.
What does he think of Afghanistan so far?
"Very nice," he said, adding with a smile that all he's seen so far is Bagram itself.
The Army and Air Force public affairs offices here learned last weekend of Bush's plans to make the speech, and of the White House desire to include live footage of soldiers watching from Bagram and Baghdad. They've been working feverishly since, with limited power and a balky satellite feed. "No problem," laughed Sgt. Charles Holt of the Oklahoma National Guard, after staying up until dawn the night before trying to make the connections work - and then wondering as the broadcast approached whether the tent itself might collapse as the wind beat against its sides.
Several soldiers said afterward that they felt Bush talked too much about Iraq and not enough about Afghanistan, although none wanted to be quoted as criticizing the commander-in-chief. The president has often spoken of Afghanistan as a victory already won. To soldiers on the ground here it very much remains a work in progress. That was underlined again this week. A rocket landed Tuesday just outside the downtown Kabul headquarters of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
On Wednesday four Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz when a homemade bomb exploded near the rear of a convoy of German soldiers.
"I'm not a Bush supporter but I liked what he said about rebuilding these countries," said Airman 1st Class Quinn Eisenbaum, 23, an amateur film maker and student pilot back home in Dallas whose job here is aircraft mechanic.
Eisenbaum has been stationed at Bagram for four months. He's gotten off the base several times, as part of an adopt-a-village program that lets service people volunteer in local communities.
"It seems like we're doing some good," he said, adding that he liked the thumbs-up that he usually gets from local residents. But he also wonders about what is driving the U.S. commitments here, especially the heavy engagement - and earnings - of private American contractors.
"Sometimes I doubt that we're doing all this for the right reasons," Eisenbaum said. "I hope we are."
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
Despite higher rainfall in 2003 and a recovery from five years of severe drought, many provinces in the southern and central parts of Afghanistan are once again threatened by food shortages.
President Bush spoke at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida on Wednesday, thanking soldiers across the globe for their hard work and sacrifices in the War on Terror. The following is a transcript of the speech.
A video aired by Al-Jazeera purportedly showing Al Qaeda fighters training and attacking was delivered to the network’s Islamabad correspondent by a Pakistani journalist, said the correspondent on Wednesday. "I got it from a local journalist," said Ahmed Zidane, Al-Jazeera’s Islamabad reporter.
The journalist, whom Zidane refused to identify, gave the video to him “somewhere in Islamabad” on Tuesday. A short sequence of film initially shows a man, identified as “Abu Laith, the Libyan, an Al Qaeda official in Afghanistan” addressing militiamen. Laith is shown surrounded by men seated on the ground “in Afghanistan or in a tribal region of Pakistan, before a new day of training”, Zidane said. Equipped with arms including rocket-launchers, they conduct live-fire exercises in a mountainous area.
(Daily Times-Pakistan)
In the search for a single unifying force in chaotic Afghanistan, such as "moderate" Taliban, to bring political stability before November's US presidential elections, focus has once again fallen on the firebrand Pakistani cleric Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who during the Taliban regime was used to build bridges with the rest of the world. Rehman, 52, heads the Jamiat Ulema-i-Ulema-i-Islam (Rehman group - JUI), one of the most influential organizations in Pakistan working for what is described as a "pure Islamic state."
A bomb has hit a car used by NATO-led peacekeepers in northern Afghanistan, killing four civilians including two children, police said. Police said the bomb showered shrapnel on the SUV (four-wheel drive vehicle) as it passed through a busy market in Kunduz, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of the capital, Kabul.
A CIA contractor was arrested and indicted for the 2003 beating death of a detainee in Afghanistan, the first case against a civilian since the United States faced criticism for prisoner abuse overseas, Attorney General John Ashcroft said on Thursday. David Passaro, 38, a former Army Ranger who worked as a contractor on behalf of the CIA, was charged in a four-count indictment in the first case the Justice Department has brought since questions arose over mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
General Barno says al-Qaida and its allies are no longer able to mount attacks on coalition or Afghan forces. Instead, he says they are launching what he terms "cowardly" attacks on civilians and aid workers in an attempt to intimidate the Afghan people. He maintains this terrorist effort is failing as momentum builds for Afghanistan's coming elections.
The witness said the battle switched from heavy weapons to light weapons and continued for another three hours until about 6am. "They were relentless," he said. He said the militants appeared to have taken some casualties but had managed to drag their dead and wounded with them while retreating from the area. "There were blood stains." "The small Army detachment saved the day for us, otherwise the firepower and attack was so overwhelming that the Al Qaeda militants would have peeled our skins off," was candid remarks of a paramilitary soldier.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Fighting a Resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
Listen as NPR Reporter Roxanna Saberi joins a unit of U.S. soldiers sent recently to combat Taliban attacks on the rise in Afghanistan.
The efforts of an orthopedic surgeon who is willing to dedicate one more year of his life to the care of these people remains a secret. As he strapped on his flack jacket and placed his revolver in its holster, it was a grim reminder that only the day before, just a few miles from where he was giving humanitarian care, snipers killed two soldiers. He is just a typical American doing what Americans have done during wartime for far too long. He's not making headlines. He's just making the world a little bit better.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

"Just about every flight engineer and crew chief has noticed over the course of flying across this place called Afghanistan these past months that a large percentage of the children have no shoes to wear and of course, almost all of the girls are shoeless.
So my esteemed friends of the blogosphere, in the spirit of Chief Wiggles and minding the words of the infamous Steve Miller Band, I announce the beginning of Operation Shoe Fly in an effort to shoe the children, with no shoes on their feet. If you can collect the shoes, used or new, boys' and girls' (age 14 and under), and send them to me, my crewdogs and I will fly them out to the Afghani kids who so desperately need them."

Please send your shoes to:

Operation Shoe Fly
B Co, 214th Aviation Regiment
Bagram, Afghanistan
APO AE 09354-9998

(From the blog 'Sgt. Hook.'
The first Afghan Fulbright scholars in 25 years are in the United States to pursue a year of graduate studies, the U.S. State Department announced Tuesday.
Two gunmen on motorcycles shot and wounded the head of the Afghan government's refugee department in the southern province of Kandahar today and killed two of his bodyguards, an official said.
Hamid Agha Hashimi was shot outside his house in the village of Loya Wara in the centre of Kandahar province, and is in very serious condition in the US military hospital in Kandahar, a government official said.
Kandahar and other Afghan provinces have seen repeated attacks on government officials and aid workers blamed on guerrillas from the former Taliban regime overthrown by US-led forces in late 2001.
(DeepikaGlobal-India)


Three rockets landed near a Pakistani army checkpoint in a remote tribal region near Afghanistan, but no one was hurt, residents said on Tuesday. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack which occurred on Monday night in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan in Pakistan's northwest, but immediate suspicion fell on remnants of Taliban and al-Qaida, who are believed to be hiding in the region.
Minhaj-ud-Din, a resident in Wana said that the rockets were fired from an area where the army conducted an operation against al-Qaida fugitives and their local supporters in March. Attempts to contact army spokesmen were not immediately successful.
IWPR asked leading figures in the north how they see events unfolding in the coming months.
Many shish-kebab restaurants and ice cream shops now play music videos and foreign films on DVD, giving new meaning to the idea of dinner and a movie. And unlike the films shown at both government and privately owned theatres, these films are uncensored and can be seen in the evenings. Many young people said they prefer to visit restaurants and ice-cream shops where the films and music videos can be seen for free.
Mohammad Rafi, 22, said he only watches films in small restaurants. "It is not good for young people to go to the cinema" because it will hurt their moral character, he said.
There is anecdotal evidence that suggests air pollution may have grown worse, given that there are more vehicles on the roads, land and air transport has increased and the population has increased, because of the return of refugees. Conditions have become so bad that some people have taken to wearing face masks to reduce the amount of dust they breathe.

Kabul wasn't always so dry and dusty.

Mohammed Hanif Malgarai, 52, remembers when the capital was filled with parks, such as the Chehelsotoon, Babur and Bagh-e-Bala gardens. He also remembers how the road from the city centre heading toward the province of Logar was lined with trees.
"There were thousands of trees on both sides of the boulevard from Deh Mazang up to Darul Aman," he said. "It looked like a natural tunnel and when you drove along the street all you could see were trees." That started to change in the 1980s after the Soviet invasion. "After the Russians captured Afghanistan the trees were cut down because of security concerns," he said.
An amateurish blunder allowed Pakistan to arrest at least 10 members of a strong al-Qaeda sleeper cell, activated for last Thursday's attack in Karachi on the convoy of the powerful Lieutenant-General Ahsan Saleem Hayat, commander V Corps in Karachi.
The U.S. Senate on Monday voted unanimously to reimburse soldiers who bought their own flak jackets, hydration packs and other equipment before heading into war.
He said rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) were exploding and gunfire was all around him. "The way it works is, the first one goes, the convoy stops, the second RPG hits the side of this wall face, we get out, then the next one hits, all aimed at UN vehicles, and then I look down to see a gully to my left and in the gully is my driver saying 'come on, come on'. "But the gunfire is full-on. It's all incoming, there's no outgoing hardly. "All of a sudden there was a gap in the incoming fire and then I ran for my life and jumped down 15 feet (4.5m) to this crevice to the side of this wall face." He said there was an extremely loud bang as the fourth RPG came in. "So I think, yes, they are really wanting to kill me and my UN staff," Mr James said. He plans to return to Afghanistan.
Pakistani soldiers killed a foreign militant and wounded four members of his family, two of them children, as they tried to evade a hunt for al Qaeda members in the country's tribal belt, a military spokesman said. The militant opened fire, wounding one paramilitary trooper, while trying to drive through a check post in South Waziristan, where security forces on Sunday ended a five-day offensive in which at least 55 militants and 17 soldiers were killed.
"They were riding a van and instead of stopping at the post started firing," Major General Shaukat Sultan told Reuters.
"Our soldiers retaliated, killing one and wounding his four family members, including two children."
Dozens of Afghans demonstrated Tuesday to demand President Hamid Karzai's resignation on the grounds that his term of office has expired under a peace agreement that installed his administration. The demonstration by about 100 people in the center of Kabul was led by Mahfooz Nedaye and Sayed Abdul Hadi, two candidates who plan to run against Karzai in his bid for re-election later this year.
A recent audio tape purportedly made by Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahri was not clear enough for CIA analysts to determine if it really was his voice, a CIA official said on Monday.
And now the war is intensifying. One clue: there are 20,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan today. Two months ago there were 13,500. Another sign is that the US television networks have also returned....
Why have the US media returned to Afghanistan? "I don't know why, but they think Osama bin Laden is about to be captured," says UN spokesman Manoel de Almeyda, a Brazilian national....
As they await bin Laden's capture, the US TV networks keep busy competing for the latest news on the torture inflicted by the CIA (US Central Intelligence Agency) and the Marines on Afghan detainees at the southern military base of Bagram.
Marines and Sailors save the life of wounded Taliban fighter.
Afghan troops killed four suspected Taliban at a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan, while two gunmen on a motorbike shot and wounded an administrator in the region's main city, officials said Tuesday. Six men in a pickup truck failed to halt late Monday at the checkpoint in the Hazar Boosth area of Zabul province,190 miles southwest of Kabul, Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan said. "Instead of stopping, they opened fire on the soldiers," prompting a gunbattle, Khan told the Associated Press.
Pakistan won't extradite the nephew of a former top al-Qaida operative to any other country, including the United States, the interior minister said Tuesday.
A few months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Pervez Musharraf announced he would overhaul the Islamic religious schools that function as incubators for religious fanatics. "The day of reckoning has come," he said.
But more than two years later, the religious seminaries known as madrassas continue to operate with little oversight, many still preaching hatred of the West. Critics say the slow reform is a prime example of Pakistan's halfhearted effort to eradicate extremism.
"Madrassa reform means nothing," said I.A. Rehman, director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. "That is the greatest proof of the government's lack of sincerity: You arrest 20 terrorists and train 2000 more."
Underlining the significance the White House attached to the visit of a president (Karzai) who is portrayed as an example of an emerging success story in the long war on terrorism, Mr Bush was accompanied by an unusually full complement of the most senior members of his administration. They included Dick Cheney, vice- president, Colin Powell, secretary of state, Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence, as well as Condoleezza Rice, national security adviser, and Alberto Gonzales, White House counsel.
(Financial Times-UK)

President George W. Bush outlined five new initiatives today to help Afghanistan continue to move toward peace and prosperity so that it never again is a "terrorist factory."
Bush said the United States is:
helping foster democracy by training newly elected politicians
expanding culture and education exchange programs
pursing bilateral trade and investment
working to print new textbooks and build schools for both boys and girls
providing small business grants to women
"Coalition forces, including many brave Afghans, have brought America, Afghanistan and the free world its first victory in the war on terror," Bush said. "Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world."
The BBC correspondent in Peshawar, Rahimullah Yusufzai, says the Pakistani military were trying to flush out foreign Islamic militants and their local supporters. He reports that the remote area of Shakai is still under military siege as the forces continue their search and try to identify those killed.
In Kabul, staff of the Nato-led peacekeeping force ISAF told the BBC a rocket had landed just outside the force's perimeter fence. The US embassy, the Afghan intelligence directorate and the Kabul garrison are all close by. The garrison's chief of staff said the 107-mm rocket would have been fired from between 10 and 20km away. Such attacks are not rare in Kabul, but this one coincided with a heightened state of alert here and the cordoning off of some key business areas of the city centre.
President Bush lauded Afghanistan on Tuesday as a model for Iraq as he tried to paint the U.S. involvement there as a success ahead of the November U.S. election. With Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his side, Bush listed strides in children's health care, women's rights and education as signs Afghanistan has been lifted up "from the ashes of two decades of war and oppression."
"Out of, kind of, the desperate straits that the Afghan people found themselves is now a welcoming society beginning to grow," Bush told a joint news conference with Karzai in the White House Rose Garden.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The European Union Monday mandated a scaled-down election monitoring team for Afghanistan, stopping short of a full-blown mission because of rampant violence from Taliban and al-Qaeda diehards.
Former ISI chief, Lt Gen (Retired) Hamid Gul has said that United States and United Kingdom after foreseeing their failure in holding military occupation on Afghanistan, have started bids of reconciliation with ousted Taliban, but Taliban would not fulfill their nefarious designs.
Talking to Online on Monday, he said that seeing the stiff resistance from the supporters of Taliban during the upcoming elections in Afghanistan, both UK and US have decided to contact Taliban but like the past experiences, Taliban would also reject new offers. He alleged Pakistan government for mishandling Wana issue saying that Wana was being turned in Torabora on the dictations of US. Wana Operation does not reflect the aspirations and feelings of the nation and is inflicting negative impacts on the country as a whole.
He feared that rulers were heading towards a complete destruction. Registration of aliens was not the part of Shakai accord and government on US pressure broke the agreement, he alleged.
"Foreigners residing in that area for the last 25 years are not enemies of Pakistan but are the citizen of Pakistan rather. First, they were used by a superpower through a military ruler in Pakistan to crush another superpower", he said adding, "and now the sole superpower wanted to crush them in the name of so called terrorism by another military ruler in the country".
He said that everyone who is opposing or challenging US interests is being declared a terrorist. Pakistan is fighting the war of another country as the war against terrorism only serves US interests.
(Pak Tribune Online)


Pakistani troops have ended a major operation to flush out Al Qaeda suspects and their local supporters from hideouts in a remote region near Afghanistan, leaving 72 people dead, including 17 security officers, an army spokesman said on Monday.
Several Pakistani army commandos, who were air dropped in the areas held by the al-Qaeda militants in the South Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan, appear to have been trapped and efforts are on to rescue them by engaging tribal elders to negotiate for their safe release. Reports from the Waziristan agency said the fighting died down on Sunday mainly due to the fact that the authorities had started negotiations with the militants through the local tribal elders. While the details of the army operation, which continued into its fourth day today, were sketchy due to restrictions imposed by Pakistan authorities on media, local tribesmen, who got out of Mandata and Shakai areas, told the News daily that several Army commandos were trapped in the area and efforts were on to rescue them.
They said elders from local tribes have been approached to negotiate with militants for safe return of the trapped personnel. However, there was no official reaction to the report so far.
(The Hindu-India)


The military commander of northeastern Afghanistan said a new terrorist network of 14 gunmen were involved in the Thursday attack that killed 11 Chinese construction workers and wounded four others in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan.
Nato's top commander in Afghanistan has warned of serious failings in the effort to rebuild the country, accusing western governments of being too tolerant of the warlords and their flourishing narcotics trade....
Gen Hillier was particularly critical of the slow pace of reform inside the Afghan defence ministry, which has often turned a blind eye to the activities of the warlord and militia groups. The reforms, supposed to include the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of all the militia groups active during the civil war, are enshrined in the 2002 Bonn Agreement. Governments pledged to back their implementation by the interim government headed by Mr Karzai.
"The DDR process is coming to a spluttering end," said Gen Hillier, adding that Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the defence minister, bore chief responsibility for that.
The UK has started holding indirect talks with the Taliban to seek an "honourable" exit from Afghanistan, MMA secretary-general Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who is mediating between the two, told Dawn by phone here on Sunday.
The Maulana feels that the British authorities are working on behalf of the United States and this indirect process has been chosen to avoid any ill-effects on forthcoming presidential elections. The polls are to be held on Nov 2....
If the talks proved successful and the US was provided a face- saving exit plan, it will not only bring to an end the war going on in Afghanistan it will also have positive impacts on the region, especially on internal situation of Pakistan, the Maulan hopes.
A voter ID card in one hand, an infant clasped with the other, Kim Kha gives a coy smile when asked how she will vote in Afghanistan's historic national elections.
"It's my choice. I'll see," said the 45-year-old mother of nine, sitting on a school bench in this village of southeastern Ghazni province, 80 miles from the capital, Kabul. "Everyone can make his own decision."
The U.S. military in Afghanistan says it is making changes in procedures at its detention facilities following allegations of prisoner abuse.
Afghanistan's U.N.-backed election management body dismissed as speculation reports that landmark polls would have to be delayed a second time beyond September, saying on Sunday no such decision had been made.
Afghan refugees in South Waziristan, the tribal area which is the scene of a full-scale offensive by the Pakistani army as it attempts to weed out Islamic militants from near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, are being offered assistance and the choice to repatriate to their country, according to a UNHCR official.
Afghan refugees living in refugee camps in South Waziristan were given a 72-hour deadline by the Pakistani government as the battle between government forces and seemingly well-entrenched militants escalated in the area's remote regions over the past five days....
"We understand that the government has asked refugees to leave South Waziristan," Jack Redden, the UNHCR spokesman, told IRIN in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. He added that, for the most part, the refugees had been living in old camps for a number of years.
"We are in talks with the government about the situation and we are providing repatriation services for any refugees who do want to go back to Afghanistan," Redden explained. The UNHCR spokesman said he couldn't put an exact figure on the number of refugees living in South Waziristan, but added that it was thought to be about 30,000. "We are offering assistance to those who would like to repatriate to Afghanistan and, considering the current conditions in South Waziristan, that may well be a choice that many of them would like to make at this time," he said.
(IRIN-United Nations)


Sunday, June 13, 2004
Posted 8:59 PM by Patrick Belton
MORE FROM OXBLOG'S INTREPID AFGHANISTAN CORRESPONDENT:
In this episode, our dashing Afghan adventurer meets Poppies and Pesticides
...We drained our glasses and got down to business. The California agriculturalists noted that a number of the almonds had been infested by bugs, and asked what pesticides the farmers here were using. The farmers broke out a couple of bottles covered in cheery pictures of worms, beetles, flies, tomatoes, corn, wheat, and other pests/crops. Our expert read the bottle: "Methyl parathion. Huh. You know, they took that away from us in the States a few years ago. Highly, highly toxic. Are you guys wearing any sort of protective covering when you spray this?" No, they hadn't ever been told that was necessary. The expert put down the bottle gingerly and looked for someplace to wipe his fingers. "Yeah, in California after we sprayed this stuff, we had to post a sign telling everyone to keep out of the field for a week or so. Don't suppose you do that here?" No, they definitely didn't do that. The expert looked around a little anxiously. "You use it on the almonds. Anything else?" Well, yes. Pretty much everything else. Including the produce, like the cucumbers that had probably gone into our shorombe. We stopped eating the mulberries.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Stone-throwing supporters of an Afghan regional leader have prevented a new governor appointed by President Hamid Karzai from taking office in a northern province, residents said yesterday...
The stone-throwers were mostly supporters of Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek general who is supposed to be an adviser to Karzai but has resisted efforts to bring the north under the control of the central government, they said.
Pakistani authorities have arrested 10 suspected al-Qaida members, including a nephew of detained terror mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who has been in U.S. custody the past year, the interior minister said Sunday. The men were arrested over the weekend in separate raids in the southern port city of Karachi, Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said. Among them was Masrab Arochi, a nephew of former al-Qaida No. 3 Mohammed, who was captured in March 2003 in a city near the Pakistani capital. Arochi had a $1 million bounty on his head, Hayat said, and is believed to have been behind several attacks in Pakistan.
"It is a major breakthrough," Hayat said. "We have made a big dent in the al-Qaida network."
The interior minister said among those taken in were eight Central Asians who confessed to a Thursday attempt to assassinate Lt. Gen. Ahsan Saleem Hayat, the corps commander of Karachi. The general was unharmed, but 10 others died in the attack.
"They have confessed to a key role in the attack,'' said the interior minister, Hayat. ``They have a direct link to al-Qaida."
A tenth suspect arrested in the past 24 hours was identified as the mastermind of two sectarian attacks in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in the past few months that left scores dead.
Security forces killed at least eight suspected militants who tried to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan, an army official said. The men were among a group of suspected militants riding in three vehicles who tried to enter the Angoradda area in South Waziristan, he told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. "When they were challenged, they opened fire. Our soldiers responded, destroying their two vehicles and killing at least eight of them," he said. Their bodies are on the Afghan side of the border, he said, adding Pakistani troops did not sustain any casualties.
Dozens of Taliban rebels captured and burned a remote Afghan government outpost before disappearing back over the Pakistani border, a local official said today. An Afghan soldier was missing after the attack late on Saturday in Shorabak, 370 miles south-west of the capital, Kabul, in Kandahar province, Mayor Haji Fazel Mohammed said. Sixty Taliban rode into the town in pickup trucks and drove some 50 government troops from the building during a three-hour gunbattle, Mohammed said.
A European ambassador in Islamabad, Pakistan, told me the Europeans were waiting for the U.S. elections in November to decide Bush's fate before recommitting to Afghanistan. "There is an underlying feeling in many European capitals that [officials] just don't want to be pushed around by what is seen as an American rather than an international agenda in Afghanistan," he said. That's unfortunate, because U.S.-European differences on Iraq are affecting the stabilization process in Afghanistan.
Ahmed Rashid reports.
The US military said the attack on the Chinese workers, along with the killing of five aid workers with Medecins Sans Frontieres in the north earlier this month, was not necessarily linked to Taliban, Al Qaeda or Hezb-i-Islami militants.
"Those are two attacks that we have not necessarily attributed strictly to anti-coalition militia," Lt Col Tucker Mansager of the US Army said. "It's hard to say conclusively that anti-coalition militia activity has spread to the north and northwest," he added.
Despite the arrests, Kunduz provincial governor Mohammed Omar said it was possible the attack had been prompted by rivalry between local commanders intent on securing lucrative road building contracts. "It is a possibility," he said.

More arrests made.
Afghans rarely make idle threats. So when a belligerent warlord says he will shoot you and burn down the compound in which you are housed, it’s wise to take it seriously.
A bomb in a western Pakistani town near the lawless tribal regions where government forces are battling militants has killed one man and wounded four, police said today. The bomb exploded outside the house of a senior official of a paramilitary force, killing one of his guests, said police in Dera Ismail Khan. Dera Ismail Khan is the main town near the south Waziristan tribal region, where Pakistani forces rained bombs yesterday on hideouts of suspected militants linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network.
(The Scotsman-UK)
The Army hired private interrogators to work in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the service's policy of barring contractors from military intelligence jobs such as interrogating prisoners.
A policy memo from December 2000 says letting private workers gather military intelligence would jeopardize national security. An Army spokeswoman said senior commanders have the authority to override the contractor ban.
Islamic militants shake Pakistan from northwest frontier to the south coast.
The U.S. military in Afghanistan has arrested a bomb maker, who a U.S. spokesman described on Saturday as a "medium-value target", during a raid south of the capital, Kabul. "The target was an improvised explosive device maker. The capture was accomplished without a shot fired, with no injuries and no damage," a U.S. military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager, told reporters.
The Pakistani military bombed and shelled three compounds, including one that foreign militants used as a terrorist training camp with its own firing range, in the rugged tribal areas of northwest Pakistan on Friday, Pakistani military officials said. The officials said Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a financier of Al Qaeda, recently stayed in the second compound and distributed money to local militants. But some news reports in January 2002 said he had been captured. The third compound was used as a "safe house" where foreign terrorists could hide when they faced arrest.
U.S. Marines have killed more than 80 militants in a three-week assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan, the military said Saturday.
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