Friday, June 25, 2004

Map in one hand and radio handset in the other, Capt. James Hunt looks skyward as attack helicopters bore in on Taliban fighters who have taken refuge on a nearby mountain in central Afghanistan.
Among the injuries were three cases of severe head trauma, possible internal injuries, broken ribs, a broken wrist, and bloody lacerations. Plugging IVs, stapling or suturing open wounds, splinting broken limbs, and clearing airways, the medical specialists moved from man to man treating their injuries as best they could considering the austere conditions and pitch-black night. Making the situation more difficult was the language barrier that could only be overcome through interpreters who did their best to convey the injured men's complaints and who in turn relayed the Sailors' instructions and questions.
Statement by Col Duncan Francis, outgoing commander of UK-led PRT. As I look back at my last seven months as commander of the UK-led Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mazar-e-Sharif, I can reflect on our many successes, as well as the past and future challenges we face. The incidences and level of inter-factional fighting have decreased since last fall. Local commanders and Afghan residents of the area note this change. This has led to a marked reduction in tension in the area.
The area is more secure; the number of militia checkpoints has been drastically reduced, commanders no longer feel the need for huge armed escorts, and in much of the North the carriage of weapons in public has reduced to just the police and the Afghan National Army--as it should be.
Byrne's operation in Afghanistan is strictly low-tech. The company's suppliers largely work from home. Their chief products are rugs, embroidery, jewelry and fur-lined clothing. Afghanistan is one of more than 30 countries that sell handmade goods for Overstock, and it is currently the site's largest foreign supplier. Rugs, according to Kanishka, are the top-selling item, ranging in price from around $200 to $1,700...
That confluence of factors culminated this week in a confirmation by the Afghan Ministry of Commerce that Overstock is currently the largest provider of private employment in Afghanistan. According to Mariam Nawabi, commercial attaché for the Afghan Embassy in the United States, Overstock is currently believed to provide employment, directly or indirectly, for about 1,700 people living in Afghanistan.
Army infantrymen recently joined the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) in its continuing combat operations in central Afghanistan. The 22nd MEU (SOC) is operating under the moniker Task Force Linebacker, and its mission is to disrupt Taliban and anti-coalition militia networks in southern and central Afghanistan. There they have operated for nearly three months, recently gaining notoriety for their tremendous success in what is considered the traditional heartland of the Taliban.
Afghanistan's elections for president and the lower house of parliament are slated for sometime this fall. But when it comes to Afghanistan's sizable population of nomads, known as Kuchis, voter education is a difficult and a perilous task for all.
The easily availability of weapons in Afghanistan has led to numerous murders committed in the heat of the moment. Correspondent Ahmad Hanayesh of RFE/RL's Afghan Service visited the eastern city of Parwan to speak with the perpetrators and victims of these crimes, and to find out if anything can be done to rid the country of so many guns.
Since the collapse of the Taliban, the situation in Afghanistan has improved in almost every aspect except in the area of stemming opium poppy cultivation.
With armed Afghan guards at the gate and a Democrat donkey mascot chewing leaves in the shade, dozens of American expatriates held a fund-raiser in Kabul on Friday for U.S. presidential hopeful John Kerry. About 60 people, mostly nongovernment aid workers, gathered at a restaurant garden across town from the fortress-like American Embassy, declaring "Kabul for Kerry."
More than 35 rockets were fired on two paramilitary troop posts and a homemade bomb exploded near a church in southwest Pakistan on Friday, wounding four people, officials said. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks in arid Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan but authorities often blame Islamic militants or disgruntled local tribesmen who have been seeking greater autonomy for decades for such incidents.
A new international unit of New Hampshire National Guardsmen, Marines and Canadian soldiers prepared to go to Afghanistan Friday. Seventeen members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard will team with 280 Guardsmen from Indiana and Pennsylvania, as well as members of the Canadian Army and the U.S. Marine Corps to form Coalition Joint Task Force Phoenix. The group will head to Indiana for 30 days of orientation and training before deploying to Afghanistan for a yearlong mission to train the Afghan army.
The clash occurred late Thursday in Kunar, a province on the border with Pakistan, military spokesman 1st Sgt. Dave Dyer said. The wounded Marine was in stable condition. None of the Marines was identified. "Two Marines were killed and one was wounded during an operation northeast of Asadabad," the provincial capital, Dyer said, without elaborating on the nature of the operation.
Nato leaders will announce the deployment of an extra 1,200 troops to Afghanistan at a summit in Istanbul on Monday to help provide security for elections due to be held in September. They will also agree that Nato should take over the command of five military-civilian reconstruction teams in the north of the country.
Mark Schneider, senior vice president of the International Crisis Group, which analyzes world trouble spots, says the reluctance to expand ISAF originally came from the United States.
The clashes in Ghor come as Afghan president Hamid Karzai struggles to bring all of the militia factions under central control - a crucial part of stabilising the country. Ministers say they hope there will be no more bloodshed in the region - but the provincial governor said he was more pessimistic because of continuing power-struggles. Furthermore, the United Nations's programme to disarm militias has predicted more violence unless hundreds of local men are not demobilised soon. Many analysts say the problem is now more intractable than the war against the Taleban and Al Qaeda.
The programme to demobilize and re-integrate former child soldiers in Afghanistan, led by UNICEF with Government, NGO partners and local communities, has now helped to demobilize 2,203 children in eight provinces of the country, since its launch in February. The majority of children demobilized to date – all of whom are boys – are aged between 14 and 18 years old.
US-led Special Forces hunting Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are using techniques adapted from the ill-fated US conflict in Vietnam, the outgoing commander of Special Forces said on Thursday. Comprising some 4,000 soldiers from seven nations, the US-led coalition’s special operations teams have established more than 15 ‘A-camps’ in remote locations to recruit and train Afghan forces, Colonel Walter Herd said.
A campaign has been launched by the Afghan government and UN agencies to rid primary school children in Afghanistan of parasitical worms that can cause serious health problems including anaemia and other forms of malnutrition...
Up to 60 percent of the school age children in Afghanistan are believed to be infected by intestinal parasites such as roundworms and hookworms, two of the most infectious conditions in the world.
To cheers and applause, hundreds of troops from Afghanistan's fledgling national army took up positions on Thursday in the capital of a remote province overrun by a renegade commander a week ago. The green-bereted soldiers, sent to the central province of Ghor from neighboring Herat to reassert central government authority, positioned themselves at Chaghcharan's airstrip and key governmental buildings taken over by Commander Salaam Khan. There was no sign of resistance. Ghor governor Ibrahim Malikzada said Khan's soldiers had left the town on Wednesday ahead of the arrival of the Western-trained national army troops.
The U.S. Air Force has dismissed all criminal charges against the fighter pilot who dropped a 225-kilogram laser-guided bomb that killed four Canadians in Afghanistan in 2002.
Unveiling figures showing that it delivered supplies to 2.1 million people across Afghanistan in the first quarter of this year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today that the country remains heavily dependent on food aid.
American soldiers walk haunted footsteps in Afghanistan, pacing the ghosts of Soviet troops who came before them. When Army Reserve Capt. Tom McGuiggan pulled alongside a rusted Soviet transport shot full of holes from some long-bygone ambush, it was a sobering reminder of what can happen to foreign soldiers in a desolate and dangerous land. When Capt. Henry Paoli talked to an Afghan who had fought the Soviets during their occupation of his country from 1979 to 1989, the man told Paoli about a night when 250 Soviet soldiers were killed at the same base where American troops are stationed. The man also noted that nothing about the fortification's defenses had appreciably changed since then. Paoli, 42, got the implicit message: "At any given time they could do it again. And back then, the Soviets had tanks."
Dodge City High School graduate Jade Lane, who was injured in a firefight on April 22 in Afghanistan, is home for a few days.
The rapid rise in the urban population, along with the return of refugees from Iran, Pakistan and other countries, is a major concern for both the Afghan government and international organisations. Since the fall of the Taliban regime the population of Kabul city has risen from 700,000 to three million.
As many as 77 Pakistan security personnel have been killed while fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban in its tribal areas, US Assistant Secretary of States for South Asian Affairs Christina Rocca said.
Two Sailors from a P-3C Orion detachment have been supporting the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in central Afghanistan since March.
Pakistan is planning to establish a rail link with Afghanistan by 2008, reports Online news agency. Railways Minister Ghous Bakhsh Mahr said a plan had been chalked out to expand the rail track from Chaman in Pakistan to Kandahar in Afghanistan. He said the rail track would enhance trade activities between the two countries and Central Asian states.
(New Kerala-India)
Mohamad Naser Azimi, the administrative assistant commander of one militia brigade, said he wanted to join the disarmament program, but his commander wanted to keep him. Now he is glad he waited. "I'm very happy I didn't join, because they have not done what they promised," Azimi said. "I have seen lots of former soldiers coming back to us, asking for help. We are not giving them their guns back, but we have to help them, we have to give them food."
Business rivalry, not Islamic militancy, was the most likely reason behind the killing of 11 Chinese road workers in northern Afghanistan this month, Afghan officials said. The killing of the Chinese on June 10 was the worst attack on foreigners since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001. Officials initially said they suspected it was the work of the Taliban and their Islamic militant allies. "I can say this much, it seems that this was not the work of terrorists," Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told reporters in Kabul on Thursday.
The embedding assignment had begun two weeks earlier with a visit to the US army's base in Kabul. Just to enter the base, journalists are required to present at least two forms of ID to obtain a pass. Once inside, the public affairs officer requires a signature on a waiver which abdicates the US military from any responsibility if a reporter is injured and also a guarantee about not photographing certain subjects.
Two and a half years after the fall of the Taliban, the fight for control of Afghanistan continues tribe by tribe and village by village. It's a battle of hearts and minds, where the enemy - Taliban and Al Qaeda - know the rules and nuances of tribal society better than the Americans, and perhaps better than some of the urbanized Afghan officials who now rule the country...
One former CIA case officer, who worked with Afghan fighters during the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s, says the Taliban have degenerated from a religious movement into a tribal cabal. "They are tribal chiefs, who give themselves Islamist credentials for foreign consumption, but the real source of their power is their tribe," says the CIA officer. "Their power does not extend beyond the influence of their tribe."
An exceptionally good article.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

This is a moment of painful déjà vu. Coalition troops are encountering many of the same problems the Red Army did during the 1980s. The terrain is difficult and insurgents are able to rely on local support. Military operations, too, are inciting further anti-Western fervor. Many tribal Pashtuns regard Mr. Karzai as a Western stooge, just as they once considered former communist President Babrak Karmal a lackey of Moscow...
Edward Girardet, who has reported on Afghanistan for the Christian Science Monitor and other publications for 25 years, is an editor of the 'Essential Field Guide to Afghanistan' in the CROSSLINES Humanitarian and Conflict Zone series.
NATO insists that Afghanistan is its No. 1 priority, yet it hasn't acted that way.
(Christian Science Monitor editorial)
Under the Russians it was barely glimpsed. The Afghan Communists allowed only peeks. Through the years of civil war and Taliban rule, its existence was kept secret by a handful of unassuming museum and bank workers, even as other priceless pieces of Afghanistan's cultural history were destroyed. Now, what is known as the Bactrian gold — 20,600 pieces of gold jewelry, funeral ornaments and personal belongings from 2,000-year-old burial mounds — has emerged from hiding intact, a shimmering example of the heights scaled by ancient Afghan culture.
Once a fight between Western democratic values and militant Islam, the war on terror along the Afghan-Pakistani border has become something murkier, complex, and ancient. Now, it's tribal. The rules of this war are a far cry from the easy slogans of "you're either with us or against us." Indeed, Pashtun history is filled with heroes who played both sides for the benefit of tribe, family, and honor.
At least five rockets were fired at a paramilitary checkpoint in a remote tribal region near Afghanistan, but caused no damage or injuries, officials said on Thursday. The attack occurred late Tuesday in Razmak, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad, the Army said in a statement. A local official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said at least five rockets were fired.
Pakistani intelligence agents have arrested two men on suspicion of links with the Al Qaeda terror network, intelligence officials said yesterday. The men were arrested in the northwestern city of Chitral near the Afghan border, officials said...
Pakistani troops along with tribal forces meanwhile conducted a house to house search in the Shakai valley near South Waziristan's main town Wana for the fourth day.
Unidentified men fired rockets and hand grenades to wound seven policemen in a western Pakistani town near the lawless tribal regions where government forces are hunting al Qaeda-linked militants, police said on Thursday.
Pakistan on Wednesday rejected the report of a US investigation into the 2001 attacks in the United States which said Islamabad helped the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to shelter the Al-Qaeda.
"We think this view by the 9/11 commission is biased, partial and completely unscientific," foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan told a weekly press briefing.
"Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières strongly rejects allegations that the organization works for the interests of the US or any other governments, as was quoted in BBC and AFP reports. Such allegations are without foundation and show a complete disregard for MSF’s medical work on behalf of people in need in Afghanistan over the last 25 years."
That is the opening paragraph of a statement issued by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to deny that their organization works for the United States or other governments interest in Afghanistan. The complete statement follows:
Five Afghan soldiers were killed and two wounded today when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device in an attack that Afghan officials blamed on the ousted Taliban. According to one official, the Afghan border troops were on a routine patrol near Spin Boldak, a dusty town on the border with Pakistan, when one of three vehicles they were travelling in hit a landmine. But Razziq Khan, border police chief in the area, said the convoy was hit by a remote-controlled bomb. "It was done by the Taliban," Khan said. No arrests had been made, he said.
In a separate incident, two US troops and three Afghan interpreters were slightly wounded when at least seven rocket-propelled grenades were fired at a US position in the eastern province of Paktika yesterday, the US military said. Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager, US military spokesman in Kabul, said at least two of the grenades hit inside the base.
(The Age-Australia)

The reported beheading of Taliban captives by Afghan forces this week would be a war crime and the troops and commanders responsible should be put on trial, a U.S.-based human rights group said Wednesday.
The Afghan government has denied that its forces beheaded four Taliban guerrillas this week in revenge for the similar killing of an interpreter for U.S.-led forces and a government soldier. Namatullah Tokhi, commander of the Afghan government's 27th militia division in Zabul province, told Reuters on Tuesday soldiers there beheaded four Taliban fighters a day earlier after guerrillas cut off the heads of the interpreter and the soldier. But on Wednesday, Tokhi denied having spoken to Reuters and retracted a similar account of the beheadings given subsequently to the Associated Press news agency.
Operation Blue Candle’ brings hope to Afghanistan
By Sgt. Jeremy A. Clawson
Soldiers from 2nd Bn., 35th Inf. Rgt. move through a valley during Operation Blue Candle.
Sgt. Jeremy A. Clawson
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Army News Service)

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

But eventually the soldiers did talk, and talk a lot. They told me how they had children themselves, and how hard it hurt to see the boy on the ground, and how sorry they felt, and how confusing of a battlefield it can be. When we called the military's public affairs office from the field to request permission to shoot in the hospital where Azizullah was being treated, we were told there shouldn't be any problems. But when we got to the 325th on Friday, three days after Azizullah was shot, we were told we couldn't film him because Azizullah didn't have any relatives with him to give us permission. His father, we were told, would be coming via helicopter, more than nine days later.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

A furious debate erupted in January 2002 between the State Department and the Justice Department over the type and degree of human rights protections available to fighters picked up in the hundreds by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The State Department said that, as a matter of law, soldiers in the Taliban forces associated with the country's leadership were protected by the Geneva Conventions. But the Justice Department, arguing for those at the Pentagon who sought more latitude in the use of tough interrogation techniques, said the Taliban fighters were not entitled to those protections.
An in-depth investigation by the Guardian, including interviews with former Bagram prisoners, senior US military sources and human rights monitors in Afghanistan, has uncovered widespread evidence of detainees facing beatings, sexual humiliation and being kept for long periods in painful positions. Detainees, none of whom were ever charged with any offence, told of American soldiers throwing stones at them as they defecated and being stripped naked in front of large groups of interrogators. One detainee said that, in order to be released after nearly two years, he had to sign a document stating that he had been captured in battle when, in fact, he was arrested while driving his taxi with four passengers in it.
At least five men have died while under detention, three of which were classified as homicides. Two deaths at Bagram airbase have been classified as homicides and autopsies have indicated "blunt-force injuries". An investigation into allegations of abuse and the deaths in custody has just been completed by Brigadier General Chuck Jacoby, the second highest-ranking US officer in Afghanistan, and parts of it are due to be made public next month.
"The NGO community doesn’t think that NATO expansion via the provincial reconstruction teams is going to deliver the improvement of security which is urgently required," said Barbara Stapleton of umbrella organisation Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief. Fifty-four aid agencies signed a letter to NATO saying the teams “have neither the capacity nor the mandate to confront the countrywide security threats now facing the Afghan people...
Stapleton said many of the teams in the south are encroaching on humanitarian work, rushing into areas where aid agencies have been working for years because of "political pressure to get results fast. We don’t doubt that a PRT can put four wells in a day. However we question whether those wells will still be in use in a year’s time," she said.
After class, children walk home past white-painted markers that show which fields have been cleared of landmines. Young boys in bright yellow or blue school uniform shirts stream from side streets whenever soldiers pass, rushing out to ask for gifts in a custom called baksheesh that is usually reserved for the poor.
The children of Afghanistan are accomplished at soliciting gifts. When military convoys pass by, they repeatedly scream English phrases learned in school: What is your name? How are you? They wave and yell for pens, candy, water. When a candy bar is tossed to them, they hide it with one hand and hold out the other for more.
Many photos included.
'Operation Sandbox’ Brightens Lives in Kabul
By Staff Sgt. Robert Ramon, CJTF Phoenix
KABUL, Afghanistan — Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix Soldiers fighting terrorism in Afghanistan took the time recently to brighten the lives of some of the victims hit hardest by the 25 years of war that ravaged this country – the Afghan children.
During what would normally have been at least a partial day off for CJTF Phoenix Soldiers, several used their free time to travel to a nearby orphanage to visit with local children and deliver donations sent by family and friends back home. The donations came to support a humanitarian assistance program – dubbed “Operation Sandbox” by supporters back home – that was organized by the 45th Infantry Brigade, Oklahoma National Guard.
Youth delegates from all over Afghanistan demanded the parliamentary elections to be postponed for another six months, as there was a serious lack of awareness about the election process which directly effected the participation in the process.
Detainees in Afghanistan are lodging numerous abuse allegations against American soldiers, spurring fresh investigations by commanders amid major reforms in detention policies here, US military officials say. The new allegations, which some US officers here describe as opportunistic, come as attention to prisoner treatment has expanded beyond Abu Ghraib and Iraq to coalition facilities in Afghanistan.
Take a walk under the pine trees, past some of the pockmarked buildings in dusty downtown Kabul, and you will see the impact of those who have decided to rebuild their lives in their homeland. After years of destruction, Kabul's buildings are rising again
Alongside the myriad carpet shops and kebab joints, there are the signs of an economic boom - new restaurants, construction companies and hotels, even boutiques. Many are the initiatives of Afghans returned from abroad to employ their talents.
While Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf has cleverly portrayed the activities in the lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan as the focus of his "war on terror", American soldiers know that the real epicenter of Taliban resurgence is further south, adjacent to Pakistani cities like Quetta.
In an interview with American radio station KQED, Sarah Chayes, a former reporter for National Public Radio and currently a social worker based in Kandahar, Afghanistan, recounts her conversations with frustrated US soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Chayes pointed out that the US soldiers saw an endless stream of fresh Taliban recruits pour into Afghanistan from Pakistan, most straight out of the dozens of border area madrassas. Pakistani stringer for the Christian Science Monitor, Owais Tohid, has filed multiple reports quoting senior Taliban commanders in Pakistan who claim to be able to pick up scores of madrassa graduates eager to attain shadadat or martyrdom while inflicting blows on the infidels (American troops).
Warning that security in Afghanistan is deteriorating, international aid groups Tuesday urged NATO to make good on a promise to deploy more troops ahead of September's general elections. In a joint letter to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and member states, 53 non-government groups called for the alliance to send more soldiers to help confront "the immediate security threats faced by Afghans." Leaders of NATO are due to meet in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 28-29.
US-led military base in southeastern Afghanistan came under rocket attack, prompting American helicopters to fly over the city which lies close to the Pakistan border, an official said. Coalition helicopters flew "in an air patrol" in the area after militants fired about eight rockets over Khost airfield, used as a firebase by hundreds of US-led troops, Khost's military commander Khial Baz Khan told AFP.
A man suspected of participating in the killing of an Australian journalist and three others in 2001 in an ambush in eastern Afghanistan has been arrested by security forces, state news reported today.
Afghan soldiers beheaded four Taliban fighters after guerrillas cut off the heads of an Afghan interpreter for U.S.-led forces and an Afghan soldier, a government commander said on Tuesday.
The interpreter and the soldier were beheaded after becoming separated from a patrol of Afghan and U.S.-led foreign troops in the Arghandab district of the southern province of Zabul on Monday night, Namatullah Tokhi, commander of the government's 27th division in the province, told Reuters.
He said government troops later captured and killed four Taliban guerrillas in the same way.
"They cut off their heads with a knife, so when our forces arrested four Taliban, we cut off their head too."
As the assassination attempt on Karachi’s Corps Commander and the earlier assassination attempts against General Musharraf indicate, Nek Mohammad’s threat to take the war against the Pakistan government to the major cities of the country may already be a reality. A high source reveals intelligence that the extremists may already have 800 suicide bombers primed and ready to carry out their grisly work, with fresh recruits waiting in the wings.
Iceland is providing personnel essential for running Kabul International Airport, which is operated by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This includes air traffic controllers, rescue and fire personnel.
When anti-coalition forces on the ground fired machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at two Marine aircraft on a reconnaissance mission that morning, they unknowingly sparked off a string of firefights that would finally bring these war birds into the fray.
Country make-up of NATO-led peacekeepers in Afghanistan.
A spokesman for a renegade Afghan commander whose militia overran the capital of Ghor Province last week says the commander is prepared to welcome the deployment of a battalion of Afghan National Army troops to the city... The deployment of some 700 Afghan National Army soldiers to the remote central Afghan province of Ghor reportedly has been delayed until tomorrow.
Reporter's Notebook: Ballots, Bullets, Barflies
By Scott Heidler, Fox News
KABUL, Afghanistan — For the first time in months, Afghanistan was grabbing headlines from Iraq last week, a significant sign for this country approaching a historic span of time that will determine its future.
Twenty-five years earlier, the country had some three million hectares of land under irrigation, Sharma claimed, nearly double the figure today. According to an FAO report, except for the northeast and the eastern-central regions of the country, the situation had deteriorated over the past year. The country is suffering from a lack of rain, dry spells, extreme heat and winds, along with severe frost conditions.
"Al Qaeda was never totally defeated in Afghanistan, what was defeated was its headquarters, its command and control, the destruction of many of its major weapons caches and its training camps," he said. "Al Qaeda operatives nevertheless still remained in Afghanistan."
"Afghanistan policy is hostage to Iraq policy," he said, noting that Washington's own forces have become over-stretched as a result of the Iraq occupation, as well. Even Taylor, who initially blamed the "usual suspects" in Europe for NATO's failure to deliver, admitted that Washington's pressure on its NATO allies to contribute as well to Iraq had "complicated the discussion."
A 19-year-old Marine based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., was killed in a firearm accident at a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, his family said Monday. Lance Cpl. Russell P. White, who deployed to Afghanistan about six weeks ago, was shot in the head and died late Sunday at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, according his father, Gregg. White said military officials told him another Marine was attempting to holster a 9mm handgun, apparently after cleaning it, when it discharged a bullet that struck his son in the head.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Time is pressing, however, and the team has another bridge-opening celebration yet to come. The question is what to do with the eight large boxes of goods the convoy has brought along, everything from boots and transistor radios to school backpacks, all intended for the schoolchildren of Saidkhil.
"Leave them with me," says security chief Sadeeq, who stands genial watch as the U.S. soldiers unload the boxes and stack them next to his militia's security tent and the anti-aircraft gun at its side. Sadeeq assures his visitors that the goods will get to where they belong. It's as hard to be sure as it is to know the ultimate impact of the reconstruction teams. As the convoy pulls out, headed for the next ceremony, a soldier in Sadeeq's militia walks happily down the road, a brand-new radio under his arm.
No longer will the media in small towns nationwide need to wait for CNN or FOX to get news from Iraq. They can now do it themselves. This week, the Army launched a $6.3 million project called the Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System, a system that allows Army news crews in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan – called Mobile Public Affairs Detachments – to beam text, photos and footage to a “teleport” in Atlanta. DVIDS users in the states, ranging from the civilian media to military personnel seeking to acquire information from the field, will then be able to acquire the real-time, broadcast-quality products from a centralized, archived database via the satellite feed. Or, if they want to conduct live press briefings or interviews, they can request it, officials said.
The service is free.
On a hot and dusty plain just south of Kabul, as trucks hauling howitzers lumber into sight, Sgt. Greg Pearce ticks off some of the reasons why this is the most unusual teaching experience he has ever had. Nearly half the Afghan army recruits he is helping train are functionally illiterate. Even more lack basic skills in math. They're training on obsolete Soviet-era equipment, with no ammunition. Most of them have no experience even driving a car.
Hundreds of people have poured onto the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul, demanding the resignation of US-backed President Hamid Karzai. Some 500 people attended the protest organized by the newly emerged political party - the Afghanistan National Congress. The party, comprised of mainly ethnic-Tajiks, Afghanistan's second-largest ethnic group, says based on the Bonn accords the period of President Karzai's administration is over. Signed following the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001, the Bonn accords called for an Afghan election by June 2004. However, Afghanistan's new constitution, approved in January, allows for the extension of the transitional government until polls can be held.
(ABC Radio-Australia)

Figures now collated from around Afghanistan show that at least two doses of tetanus toxoid vaccine have been administered to more than 3 million Afghan women in 2004, and that 3.6 million women of child-bearing age have received at least one dose, following a nationwide vaccination campaign.
Canadian military doctors are keeping a close eye on the 2,000-plus Canadians and others based at Camp Julien after diagnosing five confirmed cases of malaria in the last two weeks. Doctors fear the two American soldiers, one Canadian soldier and two civilian workers - a Canadian and a Nepalese - may be just "the tip of the iceberg." They have put out word to all who are staying at the base to report immediately to the clinic if they develop fevers, but due to the incubation period of the parasite that causes the disease, it may not be known for a year just how widespread the outbreak is, said Capt. Michael Hughson.
Afghan factional infighting caused the United Nations to suspend its road missions between western Herat and northwest Ghor province, a UN spokesman said Sunday. "As a result of conflict and situation, the UN road missions toand from Herat and Ghor and within Ghor have been suspended until further notice," Manoel de Almeida e Silva of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said here. In a fiercest infighting which erupted last Thursday renegade commander Abdul Salam overran Ghor's provincial capital of Chegcharan. "As a result of the conflict all the national and internationalstaff of the United Nations in Chegcharan who moved out of the city are now either in Bamyan or Kabul," the spokesman added. However, he said that all the registration sites in Ghor remained open.

For Khris Nedam and her Northville sixth-graders, it was a daunting project: Change the fortunes of a poor, drought-ridden village in Afghanistan. Six years later, the fruits of their fund raising cause Nedam to smile broadly. The Wonkhai village in Afghanistan has a new school, health clinic, orphanage and community well. Near the new, deeper well, villagers planted 1,500 fruit and nut trees to help Wonkhai weather famine brought on by droughts. All the projects were paid for by the Kids 4 Afghan Kids program begun by Nedam and her sixth-grade class at the Northville School District's Meads Mill Middle School.
Pakistan Sunday renewed an amnesty offer to foreign militants hiding in a tribal region close to the Afghan border.
In Afghanistan, the BBC's local language service had become the country's effective national broadcaster.
Unfortunately, the outcome of this conflict will be deadly, mainly because the support for al-Qaeda, hardline Islamism, and even jihadism is more pervasive in both countries than meets the eye. One can think of a scenario whereby al-Qaeda and its supporters would be eradicated, but not without subverting, or even destabilizing, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The other scenario - that of the success of al-Qaeda and its supporters over the extant governments in either country - lurks as an "unthinkable" option for George W Bush and his presumptive challenger in November's presidential race, John Kerry. Whatever the outcome, challenges and options for the United States appear dreadfully grim.
A bomb exploded near a girls' school in the capital of an Afghan province where 11 Chinese workers were killed and a peacekeeping vehicle was attacked this month, the governor was quoted as saying on Sunday. The bomb, hidden in a briefcase, exploded about 30 metres (yards) away from the Fatima-tu Zahara Girls High School in Kunduz city on Saturday, but caused no casualties.

An update.
In the valley of Kalooshah, in the South Waziristan tribal area, the seven-day bride of Nek Mohammed received the blood-stained body of the charismatic former Taliban commander, rather than the lavish wedding gifts she might have expected. The young bride's shock, though, is matched throughout the tribal areas, with both his followers and the Pakistan army reduced to a state of stunned inaction. Since Nek's death late last Thursday in a raid on the house in which he had taken shelter near Wana, army raids to track down foreign and Afghan resistance fighters in the area have stopped, as has local resistance to the army. The hiatus is expected to last several days for the duration of Nek's post-funeral rituals. Nek's funeral procession on Friday drew one of the largest crowds even witnessed in South Waziristan, and in death he appeared more powerful than when he was alive. In the past few months the 26-year-old had become increasingly isolated in his single-minded opposition to the presence of the Pakistani military in the tribal areas.
A US Marine has died from "non-hostile injuries" in Afghanistan, the US-led coalition force said today, without elaborating on the cause of death. "Last night a marine died of... non-hostile injuries at Bagram Air Field," the coalition force said in a statement.

U.S. soldiers shot dead an Afghan man who approached a guard tower at a U.S. military base north of Kabul brandishing a pistol, a military spokesman said on Saturday. The man was shot outside Bagram Air Base on Wednesday, Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager told a news briefing.
"(He) approached a guard tower brandishing a pistol and refused to respond to directives given to him to stop," he said. "After repeated warnings and his failure to stop what he was doing and threatening the lives of the people that were guarding Bagram at that time, he was shot." Mansager did not identify the man.
The U.S. military, which has 20,000 troops hunting insurgents in those regions, gave a more upbeat assessment of the security situation. Spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said Monday that allegations of deteriorating security "fly in the face of the successes we are seeing in voter registration."
In interviews with the New York Times, dozens of high-level military, intelligence and law-enforcement officials in the United States, Europe and the Middle East said that, contrary to the repeated assertions of senior administration officials, none of the detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay ranked as leaders or senior operatives of Al Qaeda. They said that only a relative handful - some put the number at about a dozen, others more than two dozen - were sworn Qaeda members or other high-value militants able to elucidate the organization's inner workings. While some of the information has contributed to terrorism investigations, none of it has enabled intelligence or law-enforcement services to foil imminent attacks, the officials said...
New accounts from officials in Afghanistan and the United States indicate that at least five of the 57 Afghan detainees released have returned to the battlefield as Taliban commanders or fighters. Some of the five have been involved in new attacks on Americans, officials in southern Afghanistan said, including a notorious Taliban chief, Mullah Shehzada, who reportedly was killed in a recent accident. American and foreign officials have also grown increasingly concerned about the prospect that detainees who arrived at Guantánamo representing little threat to the United States may have been radicalized by the conditions of their imprisonment.
"Guantánamo is a huge problem for Americans," said a senior Arab intelligence official familiar with its operations. "Even those who were not hard-core extremists have now been indoctrinated by the true believers. Like any other prison, they have been taught to hate. If they let these people go, these people will make trouble."
A policeman was killed and an Afghan U.N. worker wounded when gunmen attacked a U.N. electoral vehicle in southern Afghanistan on Monday, hours after a U.N. electoral office was attacked with rockets. The attacks in the southern province of Kandahar and in Logar province, just south of the capital Kabul, were the latest targeting preparations for September elections, which the Taliban and allied Islamic militants have vowed to disrupt.
The Afghan government says it will send 700 troops to reassert central authority in a provincial capital overrun by a renegade commander last week. The Defense Ministry says the troops will be sent to Chaghcharan, capital of Ghor province, from the western city of Herat on Tuesday. It is the third time since March that Afghan government soldiers have been sent to restive provinces to disarm renegade militia forces before elections scheduled for September.
(Voice of America)

Anonymous makes several arguments in Imperial Hubris for why we're losing the war on terrorism. Some are a matter of keeping score in the military ventures we've undertaken. He sees our intervention in Afghanistan as a disaster. While not as strident, a host of mostly liberal critics generally agree, arguing that the Bush administration has allowed Afghanistan to slip back into warlord-dominated instability. The prescription this critique implies is a vigorous nation-building effort. Anonymous rejects this entirely. Expanding Hamid Karzai's writ across the country is a recipe for violence, he writes: "After twenty years of war and ineffective or alien government in Kabul, the regions, subregions and tribes have never been more autonomously minded and jealous of their prerogatives." Democratization in Afghanistan, he believes, is a mirage. "We focus on issues that don't matter to Afghans--women's rights, democracy--and we denigrate those things that matter to Afghans--Islam, tribal and clan relationships, ethnic pecking orders," he says. Sometime soon, "you're going to have a government back in Kabul that looks like the Taliban, perhaps under a different name." The proper purpose of the 2001 war, he believes, was to use U.S. forces to annihilate the Qaeda presence in the country and do no more. With our inability to do that, our garrisoning of troops in Afghanistan and support of a weak central government of ethnic minorities provides little aside from an Islamist rallying cry against U.S. occupation--what he terms "an unmitigated defeat."
(From Talking Points Memo)
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