Friday, August 13, 2004

U.S. and Afghan government troops arrested 26 Afghan security forces manning a highway checkpoint for having suspected links with Taliban militia, an Afghan official said Friday. The arrests were made late Thursday in Shahjoy district in southern Zabul province, police chief Thor Jan said.
Cisko the sniffer dog is worth more than a new Corvette sports car, but his ability to intercept explosives is priceless. Cisko is a Belgian-bred Malinois and the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan is counting on him to sniff out trouble. In a country where Islamic militants have vowed to kill Americans, Cisko's talents can mean the difference between life and death. Anyone visiting envoy Zalmay Khalilzad must be cleared by Cisko's powerful black nose. That goes for parcels, too. And wherever the envoy goes, Cisko visits first to clear the site. The animal's other attributes include a mean set of teeth. Leaner and faster than a German Shepherd, Cisko is also trained to attack and bring down assailants. In the words of his handler Sgt. T. Murray:
"He's a bad mamma jamma."
Two young Army officers with time in Iraq are the brains behind a new Web site called Operation Truth that will be launched later this month. Former Capt. David Chasteen and 1st Lt. Paul Rieckhoff, who is still serving in the Army National Guard, hope to "educate the American public about the truth of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the perspective of the soldiers who have experienced them first-hand." Toward that end they hope that their Web site, www.optruth.org, will provide a forum for soldiers and Marines still serving in Iraq or just returned, to tell their stories, post their digital photos and voice their complaints.
Joe Galloway column.
“They had a deal where the police would use the trucks in the day and the Taliban could use them at night,” said Grucella. Meanwhile, virtually no work had been done on the new school, and most of the money was gone.
Peak leishmaniasis season in Iraq and Afghanistan is approaching, and military health officials are redoubling efforts to arm deployed troops with prevention measures. Preventative medicine officials are deployed to those countries to brief troops about protections, hand out insecticides containing DEET and make sure troops have mosquito netting for their cots. They also hold pre- and postdeployment briefings.
The White House is near the conclusion of a major policy review on Afghanistan that is likely to expand the role of U.S. forces -- who have focused on hunting down al Qaeda and Taliban remnants -- and commit them to supporting new efforts by President Hamid Karzai to uproot drug lords. That is not as easy a decision as it may seem. The Pentagon's long-standing reluctance to get deeply involved in counter-narcotics missions abroad has a sound basis. Soldiers do not have the tools and skills to excel at law enforcement or agrarian reform, especially when the political corruption and greed that surround the drug trade make it difficult to tell friend from foe or peasant from profiteer.
"The whole thing smacks of either incompetence or worse," said Tim Ripley, a security expert who writes for Jane's Defence publications [who was interviewed by Reuters]. "You have to ask: what are they doing compromising a deep mole within Al Qaeda, when it's so difficult to get these guys in there in the first place? It goes against all the rules of counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, running agents and so forth. It's not exactly cloak and dagger undercover work if it's on the front pages every time there's a development, is it?"
NATO's top military official, General James Jones, was in Afghanistan this week (11-12 August). After a series of meetings in Kabul with other NATO officials and representatives of the Afghan government, Jones paid a lightning visit to Camp Salerno -- a U.S. base in southeastern Khost Province. There, he spoke to a small group of reporters who accompanied him on the trip...
"In terms of radical Islamic fundamentalism, Al-Qaeda and [the] Taliban reasserting themselves in this country -- it's over. And we ought to understand that and not dwell on the fact that there's an explosion here or there, or an isolated attack -- we all know that in international communities when you have fragile governments that people are going to try to make their points in connection with a major event, like an election. But this is not going to topple the Karzai government, this is not going to prevent the election," General Jones said.
Pakistan has arrested more foreign and local Qaeda suspects in the last two days as its monthlong crackdown on the network is showing significant results, officials said on Thursday. Intelligence and police officials have announced at least five fresh Qaeda-linked detentions in the last 24 hours.
A Black Hawk helicopter loaded with U.S. troops crashed in a troubled Afghan province on Thursday, killing one crew member and injuring 12, the military said. Officials ruled out rebel fire. But the incident highlights the dangers for troops still hunting Taliban and al-Qaida militants nearly three years after the start of America's war on terror. "The helicopter was destroyed in the crash, but did not burn," the military said in a statement. "Hostile fire was not involved. The cause of the crash is under investigation." The injured troops - three soldiers and nine Marines - were taken to Camp Salerno, an American base near Khost city, 90 miles south of Kabul, for treatment...
Spokesman Maj. Rick Peat declined to say where the helicopter came down Thursday. He said troops were still investigating the crash site and recovering the wreckage. "We move people around Afghanistan with helicopters routinely. They were not on a combat mission," Peat said of Thursday's crash.
A known Taliban guerrilla leader was killed by U.S.-led and Afghan forces after leading an ambush on a military convoy in eastern Afghanistan, a provincial security officer said on Thursday. The Taliban attacked the convoy on Wednesday in the district of Alishing in Laghman province, some 80 km (50 miles) northeast of Kabul. After a two-hour firefight near the village of Qala, the attackers fled leaving behind the body of Mullah Janan, a known Taliban military commander.
They are the fighters in Afghanistan's new drug war - a small team of specially trained Afghan warriors working with British advisers to attack opium smuggling, which has flourished anew since the fall of the Taliban...Asked what motivates his team, Khalid spoke of "human feelings" that trump greed, including hatred of a drug trade that enriches criminals and warlords. Khalid said he hasn't had a man desert, even though they could expect to do exceedingly well in the narcotics trade. "They are ready to confront drug dealers," he said. They are all volunteers. They are young, wear their hair short and bear serious expressions. Unlike many Afghan men, including many of the soldiers in Afghanistan's new regular army, there isn't a man on Khalid's entire team who wears a beard. Under Taliban rule, men were forbidden to shave their beards. Their British adviser said the counternarcotics unit quietly decided that staying shaved would be a mark of professionalism. It is a rule that isn't written down, he said.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made an unannounced trip on Wednesday to a provincial reconstruction headquarters here to view preparations for elections in October and to review efforts to counter insurgents and the narcotics trade.
"It is so clear that the Afghan people are winning the struggle to rebuild this nation," Rumsfeld said during his seventh visit to Afghanistan since a U.S.-led coalition routed Al Qaeda here and its Taliban hosts in late 2001. Rumsfeld’s return trip, made with General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was meant as an important statement that the Bush administration had not forgotten the unfinished business from its first front in the campaign against terrorism, even as considerably more troops and funds were devoted to the mission in Iraq. During his visit to the Provincial Reconstruction Team, one of 16 across Afghanistan, Rumsfeld was shown ample evidence of progress.
Without immediate action a WHO report says, the current epidemic threatens to escalate into an uncontrollable situation. This emergency initiative aims not only to treat those currently affected in the acute phase of the epidemic, but to prevent further transmission of the disease. Kabul is the largest centre of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in the world, with an estimated 67,500 cases. The figure accounts for a third of the 200,000 cases in all of Afghanistan. Cutaneous Leishmaniasis is a disabling disease transmitted by the bite of the sand fly. The disease leads to disfigurement usually on the face and hands, and social stigma, particularly for women and children. As an immediate measure, WHO and partners expect to begin distributing insecticide treated bed nets soon to protect more than 30,000 people from sand flies.
The recent arrest of two top Pakistani jihadis, Maulana Fazalur Rehman Khalil and Qari Saifullah Akhtar, marks the beginning of the end of an era that started in the mid-1980s when the dream of an International Muslim Brigade was first conceived by a group of top Pakistan leaders. The dream subsequently materialized in the shape of the International Islamic Front, an umbrella organization for militant groups formed by Osama bin Laden in 1998 and loosely coordinated by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) of Pakistan. The arrests in Pakistan, made under relentless pressure from the United States, are aimed at tracing all jihadi links to their roots, which are mostly grounded in Pakistan's strategic core.
Some of Afghanistan's most notorious so-called warlords will be allowed to contest the country's landmark elections after poll officials announced the final list on Tuesday. Officials announced 18 candidates will take on incumbent Hamid Karzai on October 9 -- including several whose pasts are steeped in violence. The Afghan-U.N.'s Joint Election Management Body cut five candidates deemed unqualified, but some of the most controversial figures have been allowed to run. The election commission forwarded objections against three candidates, accused of murder, rape, looting and running private militias, but it ducked the hard decision to axe them.
Afghan forces killed six Taliban fighters and captured several “important” militant commanders in the central Uruzgan province in separate weekend operations, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.
The top U.S. general in Afghanistan promised President Hamid Karzai to tone down aggressive tactics in sweeps for Taliban-led insurgents and to ensure U.S. troops are more sensitive to Afghans' conservative ways, the military said.
A rift has emerged in the ranks of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia, with members of the breakaway faction saying they no longer recognise fugitive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Sabir Momin, who was the Taliban's deputy operations commander in southern Afghanistan, said on Monday the dissident group is named Taliban Jamiat Jaish-e-Muslimeen (Muslim Army of the Taliban). Momin told Reuters the faction had the support of about one third of Taliban fighters, and did not recognise the one-eyed Mullah Omar, one of the world's most wanted men for helping shelter Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network until late 2001. Momin did not say how many insurgents there were in the Taliban. Momin added that the new group was being led by Mulla Syed Mohammad Akbar Aga, a 45-year-old commander from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
Mullah Omar is also from Kandahar, the Taliban's stronghold before the hardline Islamic militia was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.
Mullah Manzoor, a spokesman for the dissident group, said Omar had lost control of senior military commanders. "The objective of our group is not to weaken the jihad ("holy war"), but to strengthen it," he said. "More groups can also be formed. Our aim is jihad. There will be no let up in our jihadi activities while American forces remain in Afghanistan."
The U.S. military in Afghanistan has completed a "top-to-bottom" review of its detention facilities, and will change some prison practices. The investigation comes as the Afghan government pushes for U.S. troops to improve their relations with locals.
Eurocorps Monday assumed command of 7,000 NATO-led international peacekeepers in Afghanistan in a heavily guarded ceremony in Kabul marking the 12-year-old force's first deployment outside Europe... Eurocorps is made up of detachments from five European Union countries -- Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain. Created in 1992 by France and Germany, it was later put at the service of the European Union and is certified as a NATO rapid reaction force.
Sifullah is just 14 years old, but he knows enough to be afraid to bring tea.
"If anybody sees me bringing tea, they'll ask me why I am helping the coalition forces," he said softly to a small group of U.S. soldiers and a reporter. "I'm afraid of the Taliban." The Taliban guerrillas usually come out at night, walking from the other side of the mountain, Sifullah said. They have long beards and usually dress in white, with big black or white turbans. Often they carry AK-47 assault rifles on their shoulders and 9mm pistols at their sides. Sometimes they have satellite telephones. They search the stone huts of this village for weapons, making the women wait outside.
And they come with a message: Do not help the Americans and their allies fighting in Afghanistan, and do not register to vote in the Oct. 9 presidential election, or you and your family will be killed.
On Sunday, as he knelt by the ditch alone and lost in thought, Afghans began gravitating toward him. The service station owner came up and embraced him. City police officers who'd been there that day left their outpost to greet him. An old lady came up and asked: "Is this the soldier who tried to save the little girl?"
Someone said yes. She looked at Zdunich with warm, knowing eyes - eyes that have seen 23 years of war and seven years of drought and all that they have wrought - and she nodded, then walked away. Zdunich thanked the service station owner, Saliman Khan, for his kindness and told him he was leaving soon for Canada.
"Have a good life, my friend," Zdunich said. "Inshallah (God willing), we will see each other again."
Replied Khan: "We will always remember you and what you did. Nobody would dare dive here. You did your best."
A roadside bomb hit an American Humvee in southeastern Afghanistan, killing two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter, the American military said Sunday.
Another U.S. soldier was reported injured in the blast on Saturday in Ghazni province, part of the rising cost of American operations supposed to prevent militants from disrupting historic Afghan elections.
Aid organisations in Afghanistan should consider going in the field with armed escorts as attacks on unarmed targets mount ahead of the country’s first presidential elections, a US military spokesman said Saturday. Speaking four days after two Afghan staff workers for a German aid organisation were shot dead in southern Afghanistan, US military spokesman Major Scott Nelson said aid workers need to rethink the way they operate in the troubled country. "I know (non-governmental organisations) are very apt to say that ‘We’re neutral and that’s our position and we don’t have security around us’," Nelson said. However, he warned security had deteriorated to the point were aid organisations were being specifically targeted.
And a response.
A recent poll conducted by the International Republican Institute, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization, found that 65 percent of Afghans view the militias as their country's main security problem. Just 9 percent saw the Taliban and al-Qaida as the biggest threat. "The Taliban's totalitarianism has been replaced by the violence and cruelty of unfettered warlordism," John Sifton, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told a U.S. House International Relations Committee hearing last year... "It is true we have worked with militia commanders. ... It could look inconsistent or contradictory," Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, recently told reporters. Now, he said, "the strategy is through disarmament to reduce the power of the commanders."
The torrent of intelligence that led to dozens of arrests in Pakistan and Britain and a terrorism warning in the United States began with a hunt for those behind an audacious ambush in June on a Pakistani commander as his motorcade tried to cross Karachi's Clifton Bridge. The trail has led from the teeming streets of that southern port city, to the dusty tribal village of Shakai along the Pakistan-Afghan border, to seemingly placid suburban London, to the world's financial headquarters in New York, and to Washington D.C.
Plaintiffs' attorney Donald J. Winder said the lawsuit is based on U.S. common law that a parent has a duty to control a minor child to prevent him from intentionally harming others. The elder "Khadr knowingly provided material support and resources in the form of money and services, as well as his flesh and blood ... to al Qaeda," the lawsuit states. "Khadr had a duty as a parent to exercise reasonable care to control his minor child." Although acts of war are exempt from civil suits, Winder contends the battle in Afghanistan was terrorism, that al-Qaida is not a foreign state and that its members are not officers or employees of a foreign state. The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars in general and punitive damages for Morris' injuries and for Speer's widow and two children. It claims personal injury, wrongful death and death.
Insurgents attacked American forces with rocket propelled grenades and explosives on roads in southern Afghanistan on Friday, injuring at least eight U.S. soldiers, two seriously, the U.S. military said. The first attack occurred at 7 a.m. as a 10-vehicle convoy made its way along a road east of Daychopan, in southern Zabul province. About 10 suspected Taliban insurgents fired rocket propelled grenades at the convoy, prompting the American forces to fire back with small arms. One of the RPGs struck a Humvee, injuring five troops, two of whom were being prepared for evacuation to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. About six hours later, rebels set off a roadside bomb near Zabul's provincial capital, Qalat, as a U.S. convoy passed. Three soldiers were injured, but all returned to duty.
It was not clear if there were any rebel casualties, said Maj. Rick Peat, a U.S. military spokesman.
The fall of Afghanistan's Taleban government in 2001 reshaped the geopolitical map for South and Central Asia. Among the nations most affected has been Pakistan, which has deep economic and strategic interests in its western neighbor. In this second part in a series on foreign influence in Afghanistan, VOA's Michael Kitchen looks at how Pakistan is trying to revive its once-strong relations with Kabul.
Canadian troops conducted their last patrols around the Afghan capital Thursday before their commanding officer turned over their area of operations to a Norwegian-led battle group.
When Army Col. (Dr.) Richard Gonzales arrived in Afghanistan, his mission was to serve 90 days before he could return to his family and private practice in Puerto Rico. Now, six months later, his private practice is sold and he has signed on for an entire year.
The loudspeakers atop the Humvee crackle to life: "The Taliban are women! They're bitches! If they were real men, they'd stop hiding under their burqas and they'd come out and fight!" It's high noon, deep in the remote and stony heart of Taliban country, and 34 Cavalry scouts from the U.S. Army are looking to pick a fight. Three and a half hours from now, they'll have all the fight they can handle.
Captain Myers quoted.

Computer-based talking books like those used to teach U.S. children reading, geography and math are being adapted to provide basic health information to people in Afghanistan who can't read or write. The Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with LeapFrog Enterprises Inc. in Emeryville, Calif., to develop the interactive health care manuals.
For months Afghan and U.S. officials have complained that, even while Pakistan cooperates in the fight against Al Qaeda, militant Islamic groups there are training fighters and sending them into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and Afghan forces. Pakistani officials have rejected the allegations, saying they are unaware of any such training camps. Now the Afghan government has produced a young Pakistani, captured while fighting with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan three months ago, whose story would seem to back its complaints about Pakistan.
Dessel is a 31-year-old hospital corpsman with the Navy, currently assigned to a Marine sniper unit. On June 8, the unit was in southern Afghanistan when it came under heavy enemy machine gun and rifle fire. A Marine was shot in the leg. Dessel left his Humvee to help. As he was tending to the wounded soldier, a bullet hit his Kevlar-brand helmet, knocking him over. Two more bullets hit his back, but his Kevlar body armor stopped them. "The first thing in your mind is, thank God for Kevlar," said Steven Dessel, Brian Dessel's father.
Two local staff members of Malteser Germany were killed yesterday in Southeast Afghanistan in an ambush. They were returning from the project area in Neak Nam in Zurmat District, Paktia Province, when at about 5 p.m. local time bullets were targeted at their car from a passing vehicle.
Experts are in agreement that the transition is in trouble. Throughout its history as a field of conflict between contending empires and great powers, Afghanistan has developed a formula for survival that has helped it to keep its territorial integrity and indigenous authority system, despite its dizzying ethnic diversity and the external pressures that have been exerted on it. That formula - a weak central government allowing comprehensive power to local and regional leaders - is always vulnerable to civil war, which has been a staple of Afghan existence and threatens to break out again.
Ahmed has had to grow up fast. Aged 12, he found the bodies of his parents amid the rubble of their home bombed by Taliban aircraft four years ago. By then he was already a fighter in Afghanistan's resistance forces, and ever since has been providing for two younger sisters. With shaved head and troubled, darting eyes, the thin 16-year-old seems to have lost his childhood, although he loves to play soccer when he can. Like thousands of other child soldiers in Afghanistan being prepared for civilian life under a programme sponsored by the U.N. children's charity UNICEF, he is looking forward to a less turbulent future.
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