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Saturday, July 03, 2004

When the US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan in the late autumn of 2001, there seemed no reason to believe that Kipling was obsolete. "Operation Enduring Freedom" was the mission’s title, but the Afghans had their version of enduring freedom which owed nothing to foreigners. It was necessary to overthrow the Taleban and prevent al-Qaeda using the country as a training camp. But it was surely fatuous to believe that the Afghans would accept our notions of freedom. So instead of indulging fantasies about freedom, we should have bribed friendly warlords to do most of the fighting for us, stayed close to the big cities, and made sure that the helicopters were braced for a quick exit. Then wait for a propitious moment before declaring a victory and clearing out. That used to be my assessment of Afghanistan.
Pakistan announced Friday that two wanted al-Qaida supporters have surrendered to Pakistani troops in a tribal zone bordering Afghanistan. Eida Khan and Dawar Khan have surrendered to the Pakistani troops in South Waziristan, said a statement issued by the army press office in Islamabad. The statement identified them as the main patrons of al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives in the South Waziristan tribal zone.
Elections in Afghanistan scheduled for September could be held by mid-October at the latest, a government official said on Friday... President Hamid Karzai has called repeatedly during recent international visits for the elections to be held in September. But in pronouncements in Afghanistan's Dari and Pashto languages, he has also mentioned holding them in Mizan, a month of the Afghan calendar that runs from September 22 to October 21.
Retired Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, former director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence, in a telephone interview with Asia Times Online:
..."They have specifically marked areas in Pakistan where the US needs to establish its presence to control the Afghan resistance movement. The areas where the US need its presence [bases] is along the 2,240-kilometer border with Afghanistan. However, after South Waziristan [tribal area] the next target will be Drosh, near Chitral [North West Frontier Province] where US intelligence has pointed to some foreign presence. After so many operations in South Waziristan, the US is still unsatisfied and its ambassador to Afghanistan [Zalmay Khalilzad] has once again raised a hue and cry that whatever has been done in Wana [principal city in South Waziristan] is not enough."
Gul maintains that the way the situation is developing in the region, the US will establish its physical presence to tighten the noose around the Afghan resistance in Pakistani areas such as Qila Saifullah, Shila Bagh, Dal Bandin, (Balochistan) Khyber, Tal and Razmak, as well as increase its presence in Afghanistan.
This spring, militancy again seduced Muhammad Akbar Niazi. How is the question that haunts this city (Karachi).
Over the last three years, according to his brother, someone twice persuaded Mr. Niazi, whom his neighbors recall as such a friendly young man that he always hugged them, to journey to Afghanistan and fight with the Taliban. His middle-class family fought back, once dispatching an uncle and an elder brother to the Afghan border, where they contacted him and brought him home.
In 2001, the family persuaded Mr. Niazi to get married, and described him as blissful at the birth of his first child, a son, last year. The strapping 25-year-old was on the verge of completing a one-year training program to become a police officer in Karachi.
But on May 7, Mr. Niazi strapped a bomb to his body, put on his police trainee uniform, and walked into a Shiite Muslim mosque in a historic school in Karachi's financial district. As Shiite worshipers prostrated themselves before God, he detonated the bomb, killing 25 people in an attack that marked the beginning of six weeks of religious and political violence in Karachi, Pakistan's economic engine and largest city.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Pakistan is trying to dismantle the country's terrorist network for the sake of its own "national interest", President Pervez Musharraf told two visiting US senators yesterday, officials said. During a meeting with U.S. Republican senators Don Nickles and Jeff Sessions General Musharraf reiterated Pakistan had to eliminate outsiders who were misusing its territory, a foreign ministry statement said.
"It was very much in Pakistan's national interest to dismantle the terror network and get rid of outsiders trying to misuse our territory," Musharraf told the US lawmakers, according to a foreign ministry statement.
Flying high out of sight and in the space of only a few minutes, the B-1 bomber dropped two Joint Direct Attack Munitions on the mountaintop where the Taliban fighters had fled. The thunderous explosion shook the valley and ridges, and created a huge gray and black cloud that mushroomed and dominated the skyline. Marines as far as four kilometers away escorting wounded comrades and battlefield detainees to a mobile command post, were caught un-aware by the first bomb's detonation. Sgt. Ryan West, of Lafayette, Indiana, squad leader in Charlie Co.'s second platoon, spun around when the bomb exploded.
"I feel sorry for those guys caught up there," he said about the anti-coalition militia targeted by the B-1.
Lawlessness in Afghanistan is leading to a rise in child abductions for ransom, a BBC Radio 4 investigation reveals. The outskirts of Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan is not the kind of place you want to visit after dark. Robbers operate here and last night there was a killing.
U.S. and Afghan troops battled rebels in a mountainous Taliban stronghold, killing five and capturing seven, officials said Friday. Four other people were reported killed in separate clashes in Uruzgan province. The first clash occurred Wednesday near Daychopan, 190 miles southwest of Kabul, said Ali Khel, a spokesman for the provincial government.
U.S. spokesman Maj. Rick Peat said one Afghan soldier was injured in the fighting, which broke out when a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol encountered a group of militants.
Peat said the detained fighters were carrying rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs.
Daychopan has been the focus of some of the most bloody fighting in almost a year. U.S. and Afghan officials say they have killed about 100 militants in the region since late May.
AUSTRALIAN journalist Carmela Baranowska, feared kidnapped by Taliban in southern Afghanistan earlier this week, has refused to divulge how she had spent her missing days. "I am fine. It is too early to talk about what happened," she told Agence France-Presse by mobile phone today.
Taliban guerrillas attacked a district headquarters in central Afghanistan with rockets and small arms fire early on Friday, killing three people and wounding three, an official said. The attack targeted the headquarters of Deh Rawud district in Uruzgan province, district official Amir Jan said.
A British team of soldiers commanded by the US-led coalition officially handed over their station in northern Afghanistan to Nato troops on Thursday. The ceremony in the main northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif marks the first expansion of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force following a summit of the alliance’s leaders in Istanbul earlier this week.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Four suspected Taleban insurgents were killed after they attacked a unit of Afghan commandos in southeastern Zabul province, a senior official said on Thursday. Another six Taleban suspects were captured and an Afghan soldier was injured in the attack Wednesday, General Abdul Wasay told AFP. The Afghan commandos were carrying out an operation in a northern district of Zabul, some 300 kilometers (190 miles) south of Kabul, when they were ambushed by suspected Taleban guerrillas, Wasay said.
"Our commandos were ambushed by Taleban in Arghandab district of Zabul province," he said. "Fortunately we didn’t have anyone killed but instead four Taleban were killed in their own ambush."
Three Taleban insurgents have been killed in fighting with US-led coalition forces in troubled southern Afghanistan, officials said yesterday. The guerrillas were killed on Sunday in a firefight near Deh Rawood, a troubled district in south-central Uruzgan province, US military spokesman Major Jon Siepmann said.
“We had a contact north of Deh Rawood — three enemy KIA (killed in action),” he said.
Siepmann was unable to provide further information on the incident, but said that coalition troops did not suffer casualties. Deh Rawood, some 400km southeast of Kabul has a US-led firebase which has been repeatedly attacked by militants.
A large blue tractor trailer drove on base the other day and dropped its trailer outside of the Post Exchange. A crowd of Soldiers surrounded the long sheetmetal trailer which of course piqued my curiosity.
"What is it?" I asked a nearby joe.
"Oh, first sergeant, sorry I didn't see you, it's a Burger King," the young Soldier replied.
"A Burger King on wheels eh? I wonder where they'll get the beef to flame broil?"
"Yeah, I never thought I'd see a BK out here in the desert first sergeant," he replied smiling from ear to ear.
"There is always camel meat," I said and walked away. That'll get them guessing.
(From Sgt. Hook)
Hollywood star Vince Vaughn will perform at the U.S. military base in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the Fourth of July celebrations, the military said Thursday. Vaughn has starred in several successful movies such as Swingers, Old School and Dodgeball. The United States has about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan helping the government maintain order.
A statement issued by the U.S. Bagram airbase near Kabul said the military has also arranged a freedom run to raise funds for veterans and the families of those soldiers wounded in action. The money will be donated to the Fischer House foundation, which funds comfort homes built on the grounds of major military and veteran medical centers. These homes provide accommodation to the military families attending to sick or wounded soldiers. Each participant will pay $15 for taking part in the six-mile run.
(Big News Network)
U.S. Marines arrested a Taliban commander they described as a "high value" provincial target and killed another guerrilla in a sweeping operation in the central Afghan province of Uruzgan on Thursday.
The Marines did not name the commander detained in the Tarin Kot region whose face matched a photo on their list of wanted guerrillas. But Captain James Martin, commander of Bravo Company of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, described him as a "high-value target for the province. He appears to be possibly a very important Taliban who we arrested in a cordon and search effort," he told a Reuters reporter accompanying hundreds of Marines, Afghan National Army soldiers and militia forces.
The Marines said the suspect identified himself by the same name they had on their list of wanted guerrillas but told them he was an electronics repairman, not the man they were looking for. He lived in a mud-walled compound filled with electronic components and old wiring and some dry stocks of opium. The military will want to be cautious about identifying the suspect. Last weekend it said it detained two Taliban "regional leaders," but the governor of Helmand province later identified them as one of his bodyguards and a district official.
In a separate incident on Thursday, the Marines killed a man who opened fire on three of them with an AK-47 assault rifle while they were trying to enter a house in which he was hiding. "I came in and suddenly there was an AK-47 pointed at my face," said Sergeant Joshua Shepard. He said the man opened fire but missed. "I guess we exchanged fire for a bit and I quit firing when my magazine ran dry, then I ran from the house." At this point, Shepard said, another Marine threw a grenade into the house and killed the man.
"If you fire on Marines, they are going to kill you," said Martin, the company commander.
Abdul Satar, head of the shura (council) of Uzbashi, in the Bagram district of Afghanistan, calmly surveys the arid countryside near his village. Several years ago these fields in Shomali valley supported more than 120 varieties of grapes, providing income for the many families in Uzbashi and neighbouring villages...
In its heyday, the Shomali valley was so well established that some vines were transplanted to California in the late 1960s, aiding its then fledgling wine industry. Returning the favour, it is a Californian group that will help these vineyards to flourish once again under a program called Mines to Vines.
Members of the Taliban claimed Wednesday to have shot down a U.S. military aircraft in the Khak Afghan district of Zabul Province in southwestern Afghanistan, killing 13 Americans, Afghan Islamic Press reported. The Pakistan-based news agency quoted Taliban spokesman Mufti Latif Naeemi as saying over the phone that the aircraft was shot down by "a new weapon" and crashed in Kharmany village in the district.
(Kyodo News)
Suspected Taliban forces staged another attack in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, ambushing a convoy of trucks taking equipment to an American military base in Uruzgan Province. The 12 drivers were kidnapped, and four of the trucks set on fire, according to the senior Afghan military commander in the region, Gen. Khan Muhammad, speaking from his base in Kandahar. "There are Taliban in that area; they were Taliban that did it," he said. He said soldiers posted in the area had reported the incident.
Three people wounded in a double bomb attack in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad died in the hospital, bringing the death toll in the latest pre-election violence to four, officials said on Thursday. Two bombs hidden in fruit carts exploded in a crowded commercial district of the city Wednesday. One man died in the hospital shortly after the blast and dozens were wounded. A Taliban spokesman denied that the group was involved in the blasts, saying it did not target civilians, but it did claim responsibility for a bomb attack in Jalalabad on Saturday that killed two women working to register female voters for the UN-Afghan electoral body.
In the last few weeks violence has spread to northern provinces which were once peaceful, and dozens of aid workers and civilians have been killed or seriously injured in terrorist attacks, including 11 Chinese railway workers who were killed when their camp was attacked on 9 June. Although the Afghani interim government, headed by President Hamid Karzai, had been able to control the capital, Kabul, there were attacks inside the city in June during which the NATO headquarters came under missile fire.
"The central government cannot even control Kabul," said Azizullah Lodin, president of General Administration of Anti-Bribery and Corruption. "If there were no foreign troops in Kabul, you wouldn't be able to walk on the streets tomorrow."
The Spanish government has announced plans to double the number of its troops stationed in Afghanistan and send a contingent of military police to Haiti...The number of troops in Afghanistan would be increased to 1,000 during the Afghan elections in September, then scaled back to 540 by the end of the year.
While the death toll of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan receives daily attention, another type of casualty goes less noticed. A new U.S. Army study finds that, as in previous wars, soldiers in Iraq are paying an emotional price for the fighting.
The study of 6,000 U.S. soldiers shows that nearly one out of every five returning from Iraqi combat experiences anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. That is almost twice the pre-deployment rate. In Afghanistan, where fighting is less fierce, the study finds that mental health problems are less prevalent, not much higher than the pre-deployment rate. American soldiers in Iraq are much more likely than those in Afghanistan to have been attacked, injured, or have killed or injured people in combat.
So many farmers grew opium in Afghanistan this spring that the country's opium market is now flooded, causing prices for the illegal drug to drop by an average of 65 percent across the country, according to Afghan government officials, Western diplomats and opium farmers. While an overabundance of opium is a setback for the country in the short term, Afghan and Western officials say this year's drop in prices may actually prove to be a boon in the effort to slow the explosive spread of opium across the country.
U.S. troops using Afghanistan maps riddled with errors.
The United Nations expressed concern today that Afghanistan does not have enough money to hold elections planned for September.
Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a UN spokesman in Kabul, said there is a $60-million shortfall in immediate costs for what would be Afghanistan's first democratic parliamentary and presidential elections. He said the money is arriving from donors, but not fast enough. He also praised an effort to enlist voters, which so far has registered 5.5 million Afghans for the election.
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has insisted that elections will go ahead in September, despite a wave of violence by militants seemingly determined to sabotage them.
(AP/AFP)

Afghanistan's national elections beset by deadly Taliban attacks, feuding warlords and political squabbling are in jeopardy and may have to be delayed again, a top government official said Thursday. After weeks of assurances that the vote would take place in September, Farooq Wardak, a senior member of the Afghan election management body, said the group cannot meet a deadline to schedule a vote that month.
Gov. Joe Kernan told more than 1,100 Afghanistan-bound Indiana National Guard soldiers at their sendoff ceremony this morning that they were continuing a Hoosier tradition of answering the call of duty...They are part of Task Force Eagle, a U.S. Army mission to train and assist the Afghanistan National Army.
Afghanistan's Taliban guerrillas say they cut the throat of a Muslim cleric after they discovered him propagating Christianity and warned foreign aid workers they would face similar treatment if they did the same. Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi telephoned Reuters on Thursday to say that the guerrillas killed Maulawi Assadullah in the remote Awdand district of Ghazni province the previous day.
"A group of Taliban dragged out Maulawi Assadullah and slit his throat with a knife because he was propagating Christianity," he said. "We have enough evidence and local accounts to prove that he was involved in the conversion of Muslims to Christianity." Provincial officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Hakimi charged that a number of foreign aid agencies were also involved in spreading Christianity in Afghanistan, where the adherents to the religion are in a tiny minority. "We warn them that they face the same destiny as Assadullah if they continue to seduce people," he said.
The US military says the search for an SBS journalist feared captured in Afghanistan was triggered when she failed to make contact with her employer earlier this week.
Major Rick Peat, a spokesman for the US-led coalition forces in the Afghan capital Kabul, said SBS raised the alarm with security forces after Carmela Baranowska failed to phone at an appointed time. The broadcaster said this afternoon Ms Baranowska had been in indirect contact with them. SBS had been assured she was not being held hostage, according to a statement.
Maj Peat said today coalition and NATO forces had been trying to verify reports that she had been in contact with her family in Australia earlier this week.
"We had been contacted by her employer," Maj Peat said. "It was simply because she didn't call in when she was supposed to."

Update.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

A French peacekeeper lost a leg after stepping on a mine during a training exercise north of the Afghan capital on Tuesday, a spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeepers said. Another French soldier was slightly hurt. The explosion happened while a platoon of French soldiers was fanning out across a field about 20 km (12 miles) north of Kabul during a helicopter landing exercise.
A court in Afghanistan has sentenced a man to death for the assassination of Vice President and Public Works Minister Haji Abdul Qadir nearly two years ago, state television reported on Tuesday.
Everyday, nearly 4,000 Afghans arrive at the border exit station of Dogharoun in north-eastern Iran, tired after the 18-hour bus journey from Tehran. Some 90 percent of all Afghans enter Afghanistan from Dogharoun. Under a giant corrugated-iron shelter they sit, shaded from the searing heat, with belongings scattered around them, a short shuttle-bus ride away from "point zero" and an uncertain future in an unstable country. Many of them are going back to nothing. At point zero - where Iran and Afghanistan meet, a family of Afghans is crossing the border on foot, carting wheelbarrows filled with everything they own. They are "spontaneous returnees", who have decided to go back without any formal assistance. For people who arrive too late, there is basic accommodation - scores of cocoon-like mud-brick rooms line the central waiting area. At peak time, over 3,000 Afghans congregate here, entitled to a piece of bread each and a blanket, a hot meal and breakfast for overnight stays.
An Afghan father taking his son to Ottawa for life-saving surgery was whisked through a daunting maze of local bureaucracy Tuesday, receiving a birth certificate and two passports in record time, only to be stopped dead in his tracks at the Canadian embassy.
Afghanistan has indicated the suspected killer of an Australian journalists murdered three years ago will soon face trial. Reuters television cameraman Harry Burton was among four journalists, including a Spainard and two Italians killed when their convoy was ambushed in south-eastern Afghanistan, days after the fall of the country's hardline Taliban rulers. Afghan authorities said in April 2003 they had arrested five men over the murders. President Hamid Karzai has told Spain's foreign minister the trial of the man held directly responsible for the deaths will begin shortly.
The U.S. Army plans to recall to active duty as many as 5,600 veterans who recently left the service to help fill gaps in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said yesterday, another signal that the armed forces are stretched thin and that the Pentagon is reaching deep into its reserves to meet its global obligations.
The mandatory call-ups will pull former troops from across the nation back into service, exercising an option in each soldier's enlistment contract that allows the military to insist on their help for several years after their active duty has ended. The last time the Army called back large numbers of soldiers in that category -- the Individual Ready Reserve -- was in 1991 when 20,227 were activated for Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Iraq.
Taliban-led militants are still launching operations against American and other forces from safe havens in Pakistan, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said on Tuesday. Khalilzad said a Pakistani crackdown this month which killed 100 foreign militants and allied tribesmen in South Waziristan border region "really has disrupted" al-Qaeda and Taliban militants there. But he said there were other areas of Pakistan from which Taliban crossed into Afghanistan.
RAWALPINDI: Commander US Central Command (CENTCOM) General John P Abizaid arrived here on Tuesday on a two-day official visit to Pakistan. On arrival at Chaklala Air base, Chief of the General Staff Lt-Gen Tariq Majid received General Abizaid.
(HiPakistan)
The US military in Afghanistan is confronted with an embarrassing situation following the realisation that the two men in its custody were Afghan government officials from Helmand province rather than top Taliban commanders as claimed by it earlier...
Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, whose claims about battleground successes are often ridiculed by Afghan and US government officials, was vindicated on Tuesday following reports that Hafiz Abdul Majeed had not been captured by the American military. On Monday, he had denied the capture of Hafiz Abdul Majeed while talking to The News from an undisclosed location. He thought the US military could have captured someone else. As it turned it, the US military had apprehended Hafiz Abdul Majeed’s namesake.
Hakimi had said he was unable to place Mohammad Daud. The only Daud that he knew in the Taliban movement was Daud Haideri, who was deputy to Mulla Nasir, the Taliban military commander for Ghazni province. Daud Haideri, according to Hakimi, had not been captured. On both counts, Hakimi was proven right.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Seven Russians who were returned to their homeland for investigation and detention after being held by U.S. authorities in Guantanamo Bay prison have been released, Russian prosecutors confirmed Monday. In an action that confounded American officials, who were given no advance notice, the seven men accused of being former Taliban supporters in Afghanistan were released from a pretrial detention center in the North Caucasus region and allowed to return to their homes.
France has blocked a U.S. bid to deploy NATO's new strike force to safeguard Afghanistan's elections, stoking tension between the two allies that fell out over the Iraq war, diplomats said Tuesday. "France, and to a lesser extent others such as Spain, are suspicious about using the NATO Response Force (NRF)," said one envoy at the alliance summit in Istanbul. "It says the force is not ready for this kind of environment and should not be used simply as a sticking plaster for troop shortages on routine operations."
NGOs working in Afghanistan have expressed doubts over the effectiveness of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) proposed plans for expansion in the north and west of the country, arguing that the expansion of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) - arranged as civil-military partnerships to facilitate the development of a secure environment and reconstruction in the country's regions - would not necessarily improve the security situation...
"This expansion will include in the near future the United Kingdom-led PRTs in Mazar-i-Sharif and Meymana, the German-led PRT in Feyzabad and the Netherlands-led PRT in Baghlan. ISAF already commands a PRT in Kunduz," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Monday at a press conference in Istanbul.
NGOs working in Afghanistan have expressed doubts over the effectiveness of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's (NATO) proposed plans for expansion in the north and west of the country, arguing that the expansion of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) - arranged as civil-military partnerships to facilitate the development of a secure environment and reconstruction in the country's regions - would not necessarily improve the security situation...
"This expansion will include in the near future the United Kingdom-led PRTs in Mazar-i-Sharif and Meymana, the German-led PRT in Feyzabad and the Netherlands-led PRT in Baghlan. ISAF already commands a PRT in Kunduz," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Monday at a press conference
Understanding the tremendous power of education, Sakena Yacoobi's parents sent her from her home in war-torn Afghanistan in the early 1970s to attend the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. Once there, she worked feverishly to improve her reading and writing from the fourth-grade level and catch up with her classmates. After earning her degree in Biological Sciences, she went on to earn a Masters in Public Health from Loma Linda University in 1981. Since 1990 she has devoted her life to bringing education and health care to Afghan women and girls in both Afghanistan and the overflowing refugee camps of Pakistan.
Yesterday, French President Jacques Chirac ruled out Afghanistan's elections as a first mission for the NATO Response Force (NRF). Officials say part of the debate is about whether the NRF can undertake missions other than crisis management -- its original purpose.

NATO sources told RFE/RL that any new alliance troops in Afghanistan are unlikely to be involved in securing individual polling stations. Rather, the battalions will be deployed to provide "forward security" as and when needed. Also, NATO is said to be keen not to antagonize regional leaders in Afghanistan and is content to leave most of the election security in local hands. There is also a growing feeling within NATO that the U.S.-led coalition is unwilling to antagonize regional warlords, since it needs their cooperation in counterterrorist operations. NATO officials say local warlords themselves appear to be positioning themselves to enter Afghan politics. Karzai today indicated Afghanistan does not yet have the institutions to cope with the situation. He said the national army has around 10,000 men, complemented by about 20,000 police. That, he said, is "not enough." NATO sources confirm, meanwhile, that the process of demilitarizing Afghanistan's 100,000 or more private militiamen has all but run aground.
A New Hampshire lawyer will share his experiences working as the head of the state's public defender program with lawyers in Afghanistan. On Friday, Michael Skibbie leaves to spend two months in Afghanistan to train six lawyers. Skibbie said he wants the lawyers he is training to be more assertive and to challenge prosecutors and police. Skibbie currently works for the Disabilities Rights Center in Concord.
(WMUR-TV)
Airmen flew more than 35,000 Romanian military helmets to Afghanistan from here June 24 in a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III. The helmets are for the Afghan army. Donated by the Romanian government, the helmets were packed and loaded by a team of Romanian servicemembers and a three-person U.S. Air Force contingency response team from Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Then, reservists from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., flew the donations to Afghanistan.
At a small village in central Afghanistan recently, a joint team of American and Jordanian medical specialists conducting a medical civil affairs project were working their way through a long line of patients when a particularly dire case caught their attention. Jordanian army Lt. Jan Mohammed was the first to notice the seven-year-old girl laying motionless in her father's arms with shallow breathing and her skin turning an alarmingly shade of blue.
A former US official has said that the United States is letting Pakistan "get away with too much” and “it’s not worth it."
Under U.S. pressure, NATO members are considering sending more troops, more quickly to help secure Afghanistan's upcoming elections -- on top of what the alliance just agreed to at its summit in Istanbul, a senior Bush administration official said on Tuesday.
Ahmedzai Wazir elders will meet their Zalikhel sub-tribe counterparts today (Tuesday) to ask them to hand over Maulvi Abbas who is wanted by the government in connection with terrorist activities, sources in Wana told Daily Times on Monday. Malik Behram Khan, an Ahmedzai elder, said the jirga would demand that the Zalikhel elders hand over Maulvi Abbas to South Waziristan Agency’s political administration within 10 days or face action under tribal law. Asked what action would be taken against the Zalikhels if the demand was not met, Malik Behram said a Rs 1 million fine would be imposed on the sub-tribe and the houses of wanted tribesman would be demolished.
Twenty US and Afghan troops entered Pakistani territory near Lawara in North Waziristan on Monday and told local tribesmen to get at least 30 young men recruited in the Afghan National Army.
Reports reaching Miranshah from the border area said that a tribal delegation met the US and Afghan forces’ commanders, who asked the tribal elders to name young men for recruitment. The US forces and allies threatened the tribal elders that ‘strong action’ would be taken against them if they refused the ‘offer’. The intruding US and Afghan troops were sent back by Pakistani security forces after half an hour. Meanwhile, around 250 families of the Pepli tribe living in Sasandai and Dangralagar area migrated to Shawal, Guropak and Tangi areas after they were threatened by the US and allied troops.
(Pakistan Daily Times)
(CNN/Money) – We first heard about 1st Lt. Joe Becherer from his friend, who emailed us shortly after they were both deployed to Afghanistan. "I am a regular reader of your Tycoon in the Making' column," wrote 1st Lt. Andy Hattman. "After reading it for the last couple of months I am compelled to tell you of a friend of mine, Joe Becherer, whose story, in my opinion, surpasses anything that I have read thus far."
Most of the 16 people killed in a bloody attack by suspected Taliban in south-central Afghanistan were recently returned refugees who wanted to participate in upcoming elections threatened by violence, the government said on Monday. The group was pulled from their vehicle in Uruzgan province on Friday and shot dead, apparently for carrying voter registration cards, according to officials. "Most of the 16 were Hazara people. They had recently returned from Iran," Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told AFP, referring to the minority ethnic group.
While millions of Afghan children have returned to school following the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001, tens of thousands of school-age youngsters, restricted by economic hardship, must still work on the streets of the Afghan capital, Kabul, to sustain their families.
There are literally tons of explosive materials hidden throughout Afghanistan. Some, like land mines the former Soviet Union liberally scattered around the countryside, lie deceptively under a thin veneer of dirt. Others lie hidden away in caches of weapons carefully horded and preserved. Whenever any of these items is uncovered around here, it is the explosive ordnance disposal team's job to help.
A Marin County teacher will be spending part of the summer in Afghanistan. Camilla Barry will be returning to the country on July 19 to teach for six weeks. The Mill Valley science teacher will teach in Kabul and Ghazni, the capital of Afghanistan's second-biggest province.
A U.S. military helicopter caught fire and was destroyed after making an emergency landing in the southern Afghan province of Zabul on Monday and the crew suffered minor injuries, the military said. A U.S. military statement said the cause of the crash of the AH-64 attack helicopter was under investigation, but hostile fire had been ruled out.
A joint Franco-German military force said Monday it would send some 1,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in July to help train police and soldiers...The operation marks the first joint deployment of the Franco-German Brigade, founded in 1989 and comprising 5,000 soldiers, since their participation in a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) mission in Bosnia in 1997.
Police have seized 90kg of opium from smugglers posing as relief workers, a security official said today, adding a new threat to the crumbling image of humanitarian workers in Afghanistan. Police intercepted the drugs on Thursday in Mazar-e-Sharif, 300km north of Kabul, said Nick Downie of the Afghanistan Non-Governmental Organisation Safety Office, which advises relief groups. The drugs were in two vehicles marked with the insignia of a nonexistent aid group, Mr Downie said.
American special forces captured two Taliban leaders in southern Afghanistan in raids on their compounds at the weekend, the U.S. military said on Monday. Spokeswoman Master Sergeant Cindy Beam named the men as Abdul Hafiz Majid and Mohammad Daud.
"Coalition Special Operations Forces raided two anti-coalition compounds and captured two top enemy leaders in missions conducted pre-dawn Saturday in southern Afghanistan," she said in a statement. "We have evidence indicating that they were supplying arms to insurgents, conducting rocket attacks on (the) military, attacking non-governmental aid organisations helping Afghanistan build a national infrastructure, funding ambushes and trafficking opium."

Monday, June 28, 2004

Gunmen killed seven Afghan policemen in an ambush in the western province of Farah at the weekend, the latest in a spate of violence ahead of elections supposed to be held in September, an official said on Monday. In a separate incident on Sunday, U.S. forces killed five Taliban guerrillas and wounded three in the southern province of Zabul, Zabul Governor Kheyal Mohammad Husseini told Reuters. The gunmen who attacked the policemen were wearing military uniforms when they fired on police vehicles on a road in the Del Khak area of Farah on Sunday.
Vital central government agencies are developing. The Afghan army is slowly growing and has played a constructive role in several clashes outside Kabul.
The only time any previous Afghan government paid attention to the villagers of Khanan was to conscript its men or loot its homes. The current construction of a 10-kilometre road at a cost of $25,000 (U.S.) is the first help of any sort that residents can remember coming from Kabul.
NATO leaders look set to disappoint Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday by offering far fewer extra troops than he wants and only for the relatively stable north during September elections.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

An attempt to alter how a staple of the Afghan diet is priced prompts a one-day strike...Nan is a staple of the Afghan diet. A flat bread, it is baked in oblong pieces, about the length of a man's arm. Sometimes it is used instead of a plate, with meat placed on top. Torn off by hand, it is served at every meal. Most nan is produced throughout the day by the hundreds of small bakeries in Kabul. For many poor Afghans, it is their only source of food...The bakers went on one-day strike earlier this month after the city government ordered that the price of bread be reduced and that the price should be based on weight rather than size.
Twelve-year-old Hafizullah was surprised to see a soup pot perched on the wall that divides Afshar school in west Kabul from the home of a local family. Stranger still, a wire was dangling from the pot. "I told the schoolboy not to touch it," said school caretaker Mohammed Omar. "’It's dangerous', I said. 'Tell the school principal what's happening here.'" The police soon arrived, along with members of the Afghan national intelligence service. The boy and the caretaker had found a bomb, primed to explode that morning when hundreds of girls would be in class. Their discovery helped the authorities avert what would have been the most devastating attack on Afghan schoolgirls since the fall of the Taleban.
In Afghanistan, death, humiliation and threats are often the punishment for a mother who gives birth to a girl, because of the economic hardship and social stigma brought by a daughter.
In a corner of the Afghanistan capital of Kabul, a small project with big ambitions is taking shape to help youngsters with cerebral palsy.
DVIDS story packages from Afghanistan.
Gen. James L. Jones, supreme allied commander of NATO, toured Kabul and beyond Friday and Saturday in a flurry of briefings in advance of the alliance summit this week in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Afghan Government has asked Australia to send troops and any other security assistance it can provide ahead of elections that are being threatened by resurgent al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.
The Bush administration's policy on Afghanistan is described as a failure because it hinges on producing a Western-style democracy with religious tolerance and women's rights, all of which he characterizes as an "anathema to Afghan political and tribal culture. We are succeeding only in fooling ourselves" in Afghanistan, he argues. The current insurgency by the Taliban "gradually will increase in intensity, lethality, and popular support and ultimately force Washington to massively escalate its military presence or evacuate," Anonymous writes.
Pakistan is notionally ruled by a civilian government but real power lies in the hands of the military, says a new book by a US correspondent who has closely observed the country. On the face of it, Pakistan appears to be a free country "but the military establishment exercises a more subtle form of control, using a large network of intelligence agents to keep tabs on political parties, religious sects and journalists," says Pamela Constable in "Fragments of Grace". The book is to be published later this summer.
A Turkish engineer kidnapped more than three months ago was freed Saturday, Afghan officials and a spokesman for the rebels said. Tribal leaders turned over Salih Aksoy to government officials in Qalat, 220 miles southwest of the capital Kabul, said Haji Ghayasuddin, a member of the Qalat shura, or tribal council... Armed men abducted Aksoy on March 5 after a shootout on the main Kabul-Kandahar highway that killed another Turkish engineer and an Afghan guard. Both men were working on a U.S.-funded project to repave the highway.
A bomb has killed two women working for the U.N.-Afghan electoral body and wounded nine female poll workers and two children, in one of the worst attacks yet on preparations for the elections. The Taliban swiftly claimed responsibility for the attack on Saturday, which was a further setback for President Hamid Karzai's efforts to bring peace to a country U.S. President George W. Bush has described as a role model for Iraq.
The blast in the eastern city of Jalalabad destroyed a bus taking the Afghan women to register female voters for the polls scheduled for September, which the Taliban and allied Islamic militants have vowed to disrupt.
"We did this because we warned people not to get involved in the election process," Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said after contacting Reuters by telephone. "This only strengthens the foundations of the American-backed government."
As many as 50 per cent of the motorbikes stolen from Karachi are being smuggled to Afghanistan via Hub, Balochistan, for use in operations by suspected Taliban elements against the US-led coalition troops.
Taliban gunmen shot dead 16 people after discovering that they had registered to vote in the general election scheduled for September, Afghan officials said yesterday. The killings came after the gunmen stopped a vehicle carrying 17 civilians through the village of Khas Uruzgan in the central province of Uruzgan on Friday, district chief Haji Obaidullah told Reuters news agency yesterday. They took the passengers to Dai Chapan district of the neighbouring province of Zabul and killed all but one when they found they were carrying voter registration cards, he quoted the lone survivor as saying.
Hardened by Afghanistan's long years of war, military pilot Shamsullah and his crew are not worried about landing on a dusty strip without ground support. What concerns the airmen is the age of their Russian-made An-32 aircraft. "Don't touch this, it would be dangerous," warns air force engineer Mohammad Asif, pointing to a flimsy emergency door handle inside the nearly 30-year-old aircraft before take-off.
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