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Friday, July 16, 2004

Turkey will send provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) to Takhar, Afghanistan, sources said on Thursday.

Afghan refugees living in Pakistan will be able to take part in their country's landmark presidential election in October, Pakistan said on Friday. Pakistan is home to between 1.5 and 3 million Afghan refugees, and there had been some question as to whether they would be able to cast their ballots.
A moderate earthquake has jolted Pakistan and Afghanistan, but no casualties have been reported. The quake, measuring 5.0 on the Richter scale, shook several northern Pakistani cities at 0818 GMT (9:18 a.m.). It was also felt in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The epicentre was in the Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan, about 250 km (155 miles) north of the Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 15 people were killed in February when an earthquake shook several towns and cities in northern Pakistan, while more than 9,000 people were killed by two powerful earthquakes in Afghanistan's Takhar province in 1998.
(Reuters)

The Kuchis, nearly all of whom are Pashtuns or Baluch, are probably the most destitute, least regarded, and least attended group in the Afghan population.
Angry Afghans ransacked a U.N.-run election office in a remote town after a skirmish between government troops and militia forces in which two militia fighters were killed, a U.N. spokesman said on Thursday.
Four Pakistani policemen, who were kidnapped, have been arrested in Afghanistan by security forces for allegedly illegally entering the country, an official said on Wednesday. The arrests were made on Monday in Baramcha, bordering Helmand province, said Haji Mohammed Wali, a spokesman for governor of the Afghan province. "According to our information these policemen came to Afghanistan by mistake," Wali said. He said the authorities were seeking instructions from Kabul on what to do with the Pakistanis. However, a Pakistani official, Mohammed Jan, said that the policemen were kidnapped from the Pakistani village of Killi Abdul Wahid, located along the poorly marked border, and taken into Afghanistan. Another Pakistani official, Qamar Masood, said that the policemen’s abductors were tribesmen and Afghan militia troops. The policemen were in the village to stop a feud over land between two clans of the Mohammed Hassani tribe, whose members live on both sides of the border.
(HiPakistan)

With its freshly built roads, schools, clinics and wells, the tribal district of Mohmand along the Afghan border is a showpiece for the armed forces. Just 200 kilometres further south in Waziristan, the military is engaged in a bloody conflict with local tribesmen sheltering Al Qaeda and Taliban militants who have fled over the border from Afghanistan.
During the seven days of “Operation Blue Candle,” Soldiers conducted combat and presence patrols, air assault operations, and cordon and search operations in the Mizan District of Afghanistan...
Sgt. Jeremy A. Clawson is a member of the 105th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
 U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage today said Afghans will "reclaim their futures" when they vote in the upcoming presidential elections.
Speaking in Kabul, Armitage said the vote, scheduled for 9 October, will be an important milestone in Afghanistan after decades of war. He said the attention of the entire international community is on Afghanistan. After meeting with election workers, Armitage praised Afghans for their hard work in keeping the planned elections on track. Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government had hoped to hold both elections last June, then in September, but logistical and security problems have forced delays. The parliamentary vote is now scheduled for April. Armitage is expected to meet with Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai later today.
(Associated Press)





Some private militias in Afghanistan -- particularly those within the Jamiat-e Islami political group of Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim -- are officially recognized by the central government and are nominally attached to the Defense Ministry. But Ludin said the decree will strip that official status from militias with uncooperative commanders.
An honor crime is an act of violence that usually is committed by male family members against a female who is perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family. Women are targeted for refusing to enter into an arranged marriage, for committing adultery, for seeking a divorce -- even from an abusive husband -- or even if they become the victim of rape or sexual assault. Officials in Islamabad say there have been more than 4,000 honor killings across Pakistan since 1998.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

President Hamid Karzai threatened Wednesday to crack down on Afghan warlords who continue to thwart efforts to disarm them. Slow progress persuading militias to give up their guns has forced repeated delays of Afghanistan's first post-Taliban elections for fear of intimidation. "Those who act against...or endanger the security of the country are rebels," according to a decree signed Wednesday by the president. "According to the law, they are condemned to heavy punishment."
A 2,000-strong Marine force which has hammered Taliban militants in a southern stronghold since it arrived in March is in the process of leaving the country, Lt. Gen. David Barno said.
South Korea urged its citizens in Afghanistan to move to the country's capital, Kabul, on Wednesday as violence is feared in provincial areas ahead of general and presidential elections in September. About 100 South Koreans are now staying in Afghanistan, including government officials, businesspeople, missionaries and activists from nongovernmental organizations.
(Yonhap News-South Korea)
Two children were killed on Tuesday in a mortar attack by suspected Al Qaeda-linked militants on a Pakistan military checkpost in a remote tribal village near the Afghan border, officials said. "Two boys were killed after mortars fired by attackers hit them in Khamrang village," Army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP. The militants missed the target and mortar shells landed away from the military post in Khamrang village near South Waziristan Agency’s main town Wana.
A police chief and his driver were killed on Monday in a suspected Taliban ambush south of Kabul, an official said on Tuesday. The two were driving in Ghazni province, about 170 kilometres south of Kabul, when their vehicle was attacked by motorcyclists, said Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal. "The police director of Andar district and his driver were killed on Monday in a Taliban ambush,” the minister said. "Taliban riding on motorbikes ambushed the police vehicle and they managed to escape."
(Daily Times-Pakistan)
The most powerful warlords in the country call her a communist and in Afghanistan that is enough to seal a death warrant. But Malalai Joya, 25, who runs an orphanage and health clinic, refuses to give up her crusade to rid the country of what she calls "warlords and criminals" involved in drug trafficking, land seizures, rape, and looting of houses.
Afghan authorities have detained three men suspected of masterminding a bomb that killed five people and wounded 34 in the western city of Herat, a police official said.
NATO-led forces in Afghanistan were tricked into helping a group of U.S. vigilantes hunting for militants and who were arrested for illegally detaining Afghans, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
Pakistan needs to step up its crackdown against remnants of the Taliban on its territory, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Wednesday, hours before beginning a visit to Islamabad. "We certainly are satisfied that the battle against al Qaeda is one which our Pakistani friends have engaged full force," Armitage told a news conference at the end of a day-long visit to India. "On the whole question of the Taliban, it's a little more complicated because of the historic relationship between Pakistan and the Talibs," he said, referring to Afghanistan's Islamic religious students. "I myself will be trying to encourage Pakistanis to be a little more muscular on that end as well."
(Reuters)
Pakistan has asked the United States for more intelligence to help its forces track down top al Qaeda figures such as Osama bin Laden believed to be hiding near the Afghan border, a top official said on Wednesday. Brigadier Mehmood Shah, head of security in tribal agencies where tens of thousands of Pakistani troops are trying to flush out al Qaeda fighters, said he had no specific information about the whereabouts of bin Laden or his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri. "We haven't got any intelligence," he told Reuters in Peshawar, a city close to the Afghan border.
Afghanistan says it would release hundreds of Pakistanis captured during the US-led war in the country. The statement was issued after a meeting in Islamabad between the visiting Afghan Foreign Minister and Pakistan's Prime Minister. Kabul has agreed to release some five-to-six hundred Pakistanis from its jails, with the first lot of 100 to be repatriated soon. The agreement was reached during Pakistan Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat's visit to Afghanistan this week. Thousands of young Pakistani men from private religious schools went to the neighbouring country to fight a "holy war" alongside the former Taliban regime after US-led forces launched military strikes on Afghanistan in 2001.
(ABC Radio-Australia)


Rather than going to war with Pakistani forces, Malik warmly welcomes the army, which has launched a hearts-and-minds campaign in Mohmand that U.S. forces in Afghanistan would be proud of, and which appears to be achieving some success. Until last year, up to one third of Mohmand's barren land was off limits to anyone who was not a member of the local tribe or a guest, and violent crime was common, making it potentially an ideal place of refuge for Taliban or al Qaeda militants. Malik and many others like him say they have now decided to give up some of their fiercely guarded tribal independence in return for water, schools and roads.
More guardsmen and reservists are being sent to Afghanistan,where landmark presidential elections are planned for October.
When NATO took command of the international peacekeeping force in Afghanistan last summer, there were high hopes for multiple payoffs for the alliance. An effective NATO performance could smooth over the American-European split caused by the Iraq war and, perhaps more importantly, create the security environment the Afghans urgently need to hold national elections. Now, almost a year since NATO took on the task, there is widespread disillusionment with its performance, contributing to doubts about Afghanistan's future stability.
A confidant of Osama bin Laden, seen on a videotape with the Qaeda chief as he talked about the Sept. 11 terror attacks, has surrendered to Saudi diplomats in Iran and been flown to Saudi Arabia.
The Afghan FM thanked Pakistan for its help in rebuilding Afghanistan. He said Pakistan was already building the Torkham-Jalalabad road and extending cooperation in the security field. "Islamabad is training Afghan diplomats and its police force," Mr Abdullah said. He said he was confident that President Karzai’s next visit to Pakistan would improve relations between the two countries in various fields.
Thousands of American troops have begun a new operation to prevent militants from derailing Afghanistan's first presidential election, the top U.S. commander in Kabul said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press. Lt. Gen. David Barno insisted the switch does not blur the military's focus on catching Osama bin Laden and other top fugitives. But he acknowledged he has no firm idea where the al-Qaida leader is hiding or what he might be planning. Operation Lightning Resolve is "kicking off as we speak," Barno said at his headquarters in the Afghan capital.
Taliban gunmen attacked a government office today in southern Afghanistan, killing the police chief and leaving the building in flames, officials said. Five people were reported killed in a string of violent incidents elsewhere. Taliban spokesman Abdul Hakim Latifi said the militia opened fire at about 3 p.m. on the government office in Miana Shien district, 60 miles from the southern city of Kandahar. In neighboring Helmand province, one suspected Taliban was killed and another injured late yesterday when a bomb went off as they were setting it up in the bazaar in Girishk, police chief Haji Bil Jan said. The injured man, identified as Mullah Jabar, was treated for serious injuries in a local clinic and was too weak to be interrogated, Jan said. Meanwhile, a man described as an Arab killed himself with a grenade after security forces cornered him in the Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province.
(Associated Press)


Monday, July 12, 2004

Foot & mouth disease kills dozens in Balochistan (Pakistan Tribune)
-----------------------------------------------
Foot and mouth disease [originating] in hoofed animals is causing havoc in Balochistan, as dozens of persons have died of a mysterious disease that is spreading via goats. According to reports, large numbers of people, mostly shepherds, have been affected by the deadly disease. Many shepherds, and their family members, have been admitted to local hospitals. Health experts have connected this disease to foot and mouth disease, because the victims are carrying germs of a similar type.
The deadly disease is spreading like wildfire in Balochistan, and the Federal Ministry of Food Agriculture and Livestock has imposed a ban on the intra-provincial supply of goats from Balochistan. A scientist from the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council anonymously told [Pak Tribune] Online that the public should immediately stop consuming meat acquired from sheep and goats, fearing that large numbers of people could be affected. For the time being, no cure for the deadly disease has been found, and experts fear the death toll could rise.
--
ProMED-mail

[Foot and mouth disease virus only rarely causes disease in humans, and the outbreak of disease described in this report is unlikely to be caused by foot and mouth disease virus. In the outbreak of foot and mouth disease that occurred in the UK in 2001, the largest outbreak recorded so far, there was no confirmed case of human disease. It is likely that the cases
of human disease described in this report are caused by infection with Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever virus (CCHFV), a tick-borne virus responsible for a highly-lethal infection that is endemic in this region. An outbreak of suspected CCHFV infection was reported in Baluchistan in mid-June 2004. These cases of presumptive CCHFV infection indicated either an expansion of a focal outbreak, or, alternatively, reflected a seasonal increase of tick activity over the whole region.
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever can be contracted both by tick-bite and by direct contact with the blood and body fluids of infected domestic animals, such as sheep and goats, or of human patients. Consequently, nosocomial infection is not uncommon, especially where the disease is not recognized, and, where there are no facilities for precise diagnosis. Domestic animals exhibit few signs of disease, and it may be that there is also a concurrent outbreak of foot and mouth disease in domestic stock in the region. - (Moderator of Pro-Med Mail)
President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan said in an interview published on Monday that militants trained in Pakistan were crossing over into Afghanistan, adding that his government was raising this issue with Islamabad on a "daily basis."
A senior female Afghan politician has survived an attempt on her life in eastern Afghanistan in the latest attack on government and electoral workers in the area, officials said. Safia Sediqi, a representative for eastern Nangarhar province and an adviser to the rural development minister, said she escaped an attempted ambush on Monday as she was travelling to the provincial capital Jalalabad. "I was on my way back from Khogiani district to Jalabad city when we saw two armed men on the highway waiting for our convoy, but as soon as they realised we had more than a dozen bodyguards they tried to escape," she said. Sediqi said her guards gave chase, but one attacker escaped while the other committed suicide as they were trying to arrest him.
Militants yesterday opened fire on Pakistani troops in a mountainous tribal region near the Afghan border where suspected Al Qaeda fugitives were believed to be hiding, officials said. The soldiers responded and the exchange of fire continued for some time, a local official said. Residents said exchange of heavy weapons fire continued late after some military posts near Shakai valley, 25km from South Waziristan’s main town of Wana came under attack.
A regional militia commander in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif has demanded the police chief appointed by central government leave the area. Mohammad Atta set no deadline for police general Akram Khakrezwal to go - but said he must leave by land or air. It is the latest development in a stand-off between the militia leader and the police chief.
A land mine exploded near a vehicle carrying paramilitary forces in a remote northwestern tribal region near Afghanistan on Monday, wounding three soldiers, a senior army official said. The incident occurred near Wana, the main town in South
Waziristan, where Pakistani forces have been tracking down
al-Qaida fugitives as part of the country's policy of
ridding foreign militants from the region, said the
official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said shortly after the land mine explosion the injured were taken to a hospital, where all of them were listed in stable condition.
(Saudi Press Agency)
UNO developed a test in Dari and Pashto, the primary languages of Afghanistan, as well as an English test and tested 240 Afghan scholars seeking to come to the United States. From the tests, UNO selected 50 for interviews, then passed 20 nominations along to the State Department. Gouttierre estimated that 17 or 18 Afghan Fulbright Scholars will come to the United States this year.
Receiving phone calls and letters from their son stationed in Afghanistan is understandably a highlight for Steve and Jackie Camden. But for almost a year, the parents have longed to get a glimpse of their son Danny Camden, who has been stationed near the turbulent border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Camden is serving with 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. After months of countless searches through photos posted on their son's military base Web site from Anchorage, Alaska, the Camdens were delighted recently to discover two large photos of Danny.
Pakistan offered Monday to train officers for Afghanistan’s rebuilt police force as the countries’ top law-enforcement officials vowed to join forces against terrorism and drugs.
Ejazul Haq was invited in May to the launch of a book called Christian Terrorism and The Muslim World authored by a pro-Taliban cleric. Carried away by the atmospherics of the occasion, Ejazul Haq said anyone who did not believe in jehad was neither a Muslim nor a Pakistani. He spoke of the atrocities being committed on Muslims all over the world and offered himself as a prospective suicide bomber. Now Ejazul Haq is no mere mortal. He is the Minister of Religious Affairs in Gen Musharraf’s Government.
In the Afghan capital, Westerners buy caviar from the supermarket while Afghans struggle to buy bread. Foreign women suntan in Chanel swimming suits while their Afghan counterparts are afraid to take off their burkas. Alcohol is banned under the new constitution, yet beer and wine parties are in full swing. But the good times enjoyed by thousands of aid workers, security contractors, consultants and even a few liberal-minded Afghans may be coming to an end. Mullahs and conservative politicians across Kabul are trying to turn rampant alcohol drinking into an election issue for President Hamid Karzai.
The United States Saturday provided two more helicopters to Pakistan for the surveillance of Pak-Afghan border as well as the acceleration of counter-terrorism efforts, official sources told The Nation.
The main U.S. military installation in Afghanistan, at the site of an old Soviet-built air base at Bagram, resembles a bustling American town. The barracks are divided by paved roads with stop signs and crosswalks. Troops mail letters at a U.S. post office. A Burger King will soon open. The PX, a general store, sells everything from North Face camping gear to Soldier of Fortune magazines. Despite their efforts to help the nation get back on its feet, few American troops get to know many Afghans. U.S. troops spend much of their time on bases and don flak jackets and helmets whenever they venture into the countryside. Often, their only contact with average folk comes while on tense foot patrols. Still, some Afghans seem delighted that Americans are around.
Acting on a tip, the Marines dug through a mound of excrement beneath the man’s outhouse and found radios, grenades and thousands of machine-gun bullets. A pre-9/11 poster of New York’s World Trade Center on a living-room wall seemed like a further sign of villainy, so the Americans bound the man’s wrists and pushed him into the back of a truck. The next day, however, the governor of Uruzgan province, who works closely with the U.S. military, told the Americans that their prisoner had no ties to the Taliban or al-Qaida terrorists despite the evidence against him. The Marines reluctantly freed their suspect, but not without some choice words — especially from those on shovel duty. Frowning at the confusion, Capt. Gary Bourland declared: "I don’t trust anyone in this town."
But no new business provides the view of the Kabul Golf Club, about six miles west of town. When the wind blows, which is often, the dust is everywhere. It's almost impossible to see the next hole, let alone where any golf ball is going. The first tee shot is just off the side of a busy road, over a cliff, a former toboggan run and the remains of a storage shed hit years ago by rockets. It's common for passing motorists to pull over to watch the balls fly.
Afghanistan's ousted Taliban has denied carrying out a weekend bomb attack in the western city of Herat that killed five people, but has vowed to disrupt preparations for landmark elections. Mullah Dadullah, a senior military commander for the Taliban, said local rivalries between commanders within President Hamid Karzai's government were behind Sunday's blast, in which 34 people were wounded.
President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that Afghanistan's private militias had become the country's greatest danger — greater than the Taliban insurgency — and that new action was required to disarm them. "We tried to do it by persuasion," Mr. Karzai said in an interview with The New York Times two days after he had postponed parliamentary elections by six months because of the threat of disruption. But now, he said, "The stick has to be used, definitely."
A US soldier died in Afghanistan today of a “non-combat-related” head injury, the military said, and the death was being looked into by its criminal investigators. The soldier died at Bagram Air Base, the main US base north of the capital, Kabul. It was not clear what caused the death, or if it was accidental, but a statement said the case was being looked into by the US Army Criminal Investigation Command. The soldier’s name was not released pending notification of next of kin.
Anonymous has painted a detailed picture of the enemy and, despite the administration's ubiquitous phrase, it is not ''terrorism,'' faceless and abstract. Terrorism is a tactic. The enemy is ''an Islamic insurgency,'' a multinational movement to replace governments in the Islamic world with fundamentalist theocracies. Like President Bush, Anonymous argues that we have made the mistake of thinking about these enemies as criminals. But unlike Bush, Anonymous argues that the appropriate response is to fight not just with bullets and warrants, but also with ideas, politically and socially.
"Richard Clarke review."
As CBS News Correspondent Lara Logan reports, it appears bin Laden is isolated and eluding capture, but cut off - even from his own organization. U.S. intelligence sources believe bin Laden is hiding in the remote
mountains of Pakistan, in one of the many tribal areas just across the border from Afghanistan. CBS News has been told by military officials that they believe bin Laden has found refuge with a single family and has isolated himself from the outside world.
Col. Walter Herd of the Army is the outgoing commander of 4,000 special forces troops from the United States and six allied countries hunting Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida militants and remnants of the Taliban in Afghanistan. U.S. Special Operations forces played a major role in the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Today, the troops of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, Afghanistan are involved in reconnaissance missions, efforts to infiltrate enemy units and other unconventional warfare tactics. Shortly before completing his 10-month assignment, Herd sat down with Houston Chronicle foreign correspondent John Otis at Bagram Air Base, 25 miles north of Kabul.
Pakistan's military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, has done such a good job of repackaging himself as a vital American ally against radical Islamic terrorism that it is easy to forget how alarming Washington found so many of Musharraf's policies not very long ago. He crushed Pakistani democracy; he was, at the least, recklessly indifferent to safeguards against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and he supported the Taliban and terrorist groups active in Indian-ruled areas of Kashmir.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

The two ferry boats, attached to ropes spanning the river, were pulled across by teenage Afghan boys who were undoubtedly the ferry service owner's sons. With practiced ease, they sped across the river, and with practiced ease, supervised the loading of the AMF trucks and quickly began shuttling the vehicles across in several waves. Other than in the movies, it was a sight the nearly 200 Marines and Sailors had probably never seen before. "It reminds me of 'The Outlaw Josey Wales'," yelled out Warrant Officer Oscar Chaney from mid-river, referring to the classic Clint Eastwood movie.
It's a typical Friday morning in the Humaira's Beauty Parlour in the Afghan capital Kabul -- the small shopfront is crowded with women in ballgowns while their male relatives wait outside, holding restless children and occasionally pushing money, lost pieces of clothing and babies through the flimsy curtain separating the shop from the street. Three brides are being made up this morning and owner and chief make-up artist Nadia Salimi is rushing to complete her cosmetic wizardry. No lengthy consultations with the bride are allowed, they are all subjected to the same brush and lipstick strokes. "For me, all of them are the same," says Salimi of the women who come to her for what is meant to be the most important day of their lives. In conservative Afghanistan (news - web sites), where marriages are overwhelmingly arranged by willing parents rather than besotted lovers, the day is not always a happy one with many women sitting in Salimi's plastic chairs with tears streaming down their faces.
Asia Times Online contacts in South Waziristan confirm that fresh skirmishes - the third this year - have already begun, once again under US pressure, and the Pakistani army has taken up positions for a big offensive. Militants, meanwhile, disregarding the MMA, have also dug in. According to the contacts, the latest bout of fighting began on Tuesday near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan. An army spokesperson confirmed heavy attacks on army positions, but said they had been repulsed, and made no mention of casualty figures, although they are believed to have been heavy on both sides.
In a new round of clashes in southern Afghanistan between Taliban fighters and US-dominated coalition force, one suspected Taliban remnant was killed and four others, including a coalition soldier, were wounded, the US military said Saturday.
"There have been a couple of contacts in the past few days in northeast Zabul in which one enemy was killed and three others injured. One coalition personnel was also wounded in the contacts," the US military spoksman Jon Siepmann told journalists here. He gave no more details, but according to locals, the suspected Taliban remnants and US forces came in contact at least twice in southern Zabul and Uruzgan provinces on July 5 and July 7 respectively.
Lieutenant General Mathew Mammen, the Indian Army’s engineer-in-chief, said “reconnaissance work” is already underway in Afghanistan and the final project report should take shape soon, paving the way for army personnel to fly to the country. "In about six months, the Indian Army will help Afghanistan rebuild its roads."
They hang out at Kabul’s Mustafa Hotel, muscles and automatic weaponry on display, guzzling beer and flirting with the giggling Thai girls flown in to staff the hotel’s new massage parlour and beauty salon. The American ex-soldiers who have flocked to Afghanistan tend to be men of mystery, their ranks dominated by laconic Southerners. They are to be found in the Irish bar of the Mustafa, a former secret police detention centre hurriedly converted into a hotel after the fall of the Taliban and now run by an Afghan-American car dealer from New Jersey. Over expensive glasses of Jack Daniel’s, they swap hair-raising tales, compare weaponry and joke with the massage parlour girls who dress in camouflage waistcoats. In reality, the most exciting it gets for most of these macho men is guarding Western businesses for several hundred dollars a day, and usually they cause little trouble – even in the bar.
Although Western assistance officials fret about media footprints and have to cope with daunting logistical and cultural differences and physical danger in trying to launch media projects, war-torn Afghanistan already has an existing, durable, portable, and effective system for disseminating information and knowledge: the mosque. People might be without radios and electricity, but as the Afghanistan Peace Education Program of McMaster Center for Peace Studies in Canada has noted, "there is one mosque for every 50 to 100 households, while countless villages have no school at all."
Looking at the institutions already in the communication business, the McMaster Center has pointed out that mosques are "community-built, community-run, and community-supported institutions, the expenses of which are paid through voluntary or community-organized mechanisms." In addition to the mosque, many Afghans get their news by going to the bazaar, family weddings, or other local cultural events. These age-old methods for spreading information may be low-technology, but they are trusted and used, without any special Western training, and very accessible.
For some time, Afghanistan has been two countries: Kabul, which is relatively peaceful, and the rest, so riven by warlords and the resurgent Taleban that the United Nations has declared a third of the country off limits to its employees. But more recently, Kabul has become a city with two sides. With as many as a 1,000 non-governmental organisations in residence, rents are higher here than in much of Manhattan.
In Kabul's most affluent area, Wazir Akbar Khan, once favoured by Osama bin Laden's Arabs and now a Western enclave, $5,000 a month gets only a small, uncared-for house. Most of the owners are rich Afghans living abroad and, according to real-estate agents, many are Taleban commanders living in Pakistan and using the rent to finance madrasahs and militia training.
An agent from the Marco Polo agency who drove me around last month told me his company leases 10 houses to the World Food Program at rents of US$9,000 to US$15,000 a month per house.
The arrest of Jack Idema and two companions after a shootout in Kabul gave a glimpse of a savage and largely unreported war taking place in the shadow of the Iraq conflict, and the assortment - mercenaries and misfits, fortune-seekers and fantasists - who have come to take part.
"It was not our plan to invest ourselves in nation-building," Carl Conetta, director of the Project for Defense Alternatives, a think tank based in Cambridge, said of the US military's role in Afghanistan. "Our general strategy was never to exercise complete control over the country."
In June, he learned that his fields would be destroyed. Most of the farmers stayed inside their homes as men with scythes hacked down their poppies. A few farmers volunteered to help. They figured they could use the $10 a day. Not all the poppies in the province have been destroyed, a fact that upsets those in Puladkhan. Residents feel they have been singled out. Now that the village poppies are gone, Khail is still trying to grow wheat, but it's a disaster. He climbs a nearby hill to collect large stones to sell to construction companies. A friend abandoned poppies to dig a well. "We have nothing," Khail said. "We have no work to do. We are confused."
A late night bomb explosion damaged a primary school in southern Afghanistan and Taliban rebels clashed with coalition forces leaving four people dead, officials said today. Three empty classrooms were wrecked by the blast Friday night in Maywand district, 60 kilometres west of the main southern city of Kandahar, said local military commander Khan Mohammed. No one was hurt.
About 50 suspected Taliban fighters attacked an Afghan militia checkpoint in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province around 10:00 pm on Friday, using assault rifles and machine guns. Three Taliban were killed and one seriously wounded, who was captured after 30 minutes of fighting against about 40 Afghan militia forces, said local border security chief Abdul Raziq. None of the militia forces was hurt. He said one of the dead was a Taliban commander in the district, Fazal Bari.
In another clash, suspected Taliban attacked a checkpoint on Friday afternoon in a remote, desert area of Grieshk district of neighbouring Helmand province, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding two, said district chief, Lal Mohammed.
"Some 750 Mujahidin or former combatants have turned over 550 pieces of different types of light and heavy weapons to the authorities this morning," Afghan Defense Ministry's spokesman told reporters at the end of a ceremony in Herat. Herat's governor Ismael Khan did not attend the ceremony and also no tanks were seen among the collected weapons.
A bomb has exploded in the western Afghan city of Herat, killing at least five people and wounding 34, raising fresh concern about security for a landmark election due in October...The bomb exploded outside a military post near a busy morning market in the ancient city, which is not far from the Iranian border.
An active CIA officer raised eyebrows by contending in a book that the United States is losing the war on terror. In his second NPR interview, the author of Imperial Hubris says U.S. policymakers made important mistakes in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"We went into the war in Afghanistan kind of on a wing and a prayer and a hope that everything would turn out," the author, who asked to be identified only as Mike, tells NPR's Steve Inskeep.
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