Saturday, August 28, 2004

DVIDS coverage of Afghan National Army boarding US Air Force transports.
Following a futile search for international partners, Germany alone will send another reconstruction team to Afghanistan. It's just another example of the lack of concept plaguing the West's Afghanistan policy. If NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is right in his estimation that the deployment in Afghanistan is a crucial measure of the sustainability of the military alliance, then things don't look too good.
Afghan security forces helped by NATO-led peacekeeping troops seized nine suspected militants and a weapons cache after a raid near Kabul, a military spokesman said on Wednesday. The nine men, whose names and nationalities were not disclosed, were arrested on Monday after Afghan intelligence agents and NATO troops raided two compounds packed with a “substantial quantity of explosives” in Chahar Asiab south of Kabul, the spokesman said. "The raids resulted in a total of nine arrests and were carried out without injury," Lieutenant Commander Ken Mckillop told a news briefing in Kabul.
Since the fall of the Taleban, more and more women have been reclaiming the legal right to initiate divorce that they always had but were too afraid to exercise under the mujahedin and Taleban regimes. According to Aziza Adalat Khwa Kohistani, an attorney who works for Medica Mondiale, an international women’s organisation operating in Kabul, women have always been able to seek a civil divorce on the following grounds; if her husband cannot financially support her; disappears for a set period of time; harms her without cause; or is weak. Kohistani said that “harm” covers inhumane treatment while “weak” can apply to men who are impotent, insane, or have a serious disease that cannot be cured or treated.
The convicted narcotics smugglers at the Pul-e-Charki prison on the outskirts of Kabul were a sorry bunch. A procession of sad-faced cabbies, unlucky long-distance lorry drivers and hapless passengers who claim to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time came forward to tell how they were caught with somebody else's opium. These inmates were clearly not Afghanistan's gangland elite and, like prisoners anywhere in the world, they all claimed to be innocent. Given Afghanistan's rotten legal system, they may well be....The jailer was sympathetic. "The police are not doing well in Afghanistan," he said. "One thousand dollars gets you out of any trouble."

Friday, August 27, 2004

The police arrested 200 Afghan citizens from the shantytowns of Tora Bora in a raid in the federal capital of Islamabad. The Islamabad police launched a crack down on the temporarily formed Basti (township) in the H-11 area of the capital city on Thursday. Police officials say that 200 were arrested and illegal arms and ammunition along with different types of illicit drugs were recovered from them. During the police operation no one was allowed to enter the town, according to police adding that the operation was carried out to check the rising crime in Islamabad.
(Pakistan Times)
Organizing the first presidential election in Afghanistan, a country largely without power, roads or literacy, has required a leap of imagination that has encompassed everything from donkeys to satellite phones. "Take all the roads out of France, remove the phone network, and the plumbing, add in 80 per cent illiteracy, and you get a picture of what we are dealing with," said David Avery, chief of operations for joint Afghan-UN electoral commission. In fact, Afghanistan is the size of France, Belgium and Switzerland combined, and much of the country is mountainous and remote and threatened by political violence.
Barnett Rubin -- the director of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University -- is among many South Asia analysts who think Pakistan's security forces are intentionally overlooking the presence of Taliban militants on their territory...
Rubin agrees with authorities in Islamabad who argue that Pakistan's military does not control many parts of the tribal regions near the border. But Rubin said there are other reasons Taliban militants are not being arrested in Pakistan. "The Pakistani military is moving against Al-Qaeda, [but] they're not doing anything against the Taliban. Most of the Taliban activities are not in the tribal territories," Rubin said. "They are in the city of Quetta. They are in Balochistan. They are in areas that are firmly under the control of the Pakistan government. Therefore, Pakistan has no credibility. They've been supplied with information about the exact location of various major Taliban leaders. And they have done nothing. Instead, whenever there is pressure on [Pakistan] about the Taliban, they arrest more Al-Qaeda people -- meaning people from Arab countries or from small extremist groups. But they do not move against the Taliban."
There are important distinctions between the Taliban regime that ruled Afghanistan until late 2001 and the Al-Qaeda network that carried out the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. RFE/RL spoke with two experts who explain why those differences remain significant nearly three years after the collapse of the Taliban regime.
President Hamid Karzai's main challengers, mostly mujahideen or militia commanders, are considering uniting behind a single candidate to contest Afghanistan's historic election, one rival said on Wednesday... "If we stand for election individually I am sure we will lose," Latif Pedram, a former journalist and fierce Karzai critic who returned from exile in France to contest the poll, told Reuters on Wednesday...The prospect of a united front made up mostly of men with bloody pasts running against the U.S.-backed Karzai will worry Washington, analysts say.
A landmine blast killed two Pakistan army soldiers and wounded six more on Thursday in the country's western tribal region, where troops are hunting al Qaeda-linked militants, security officials said. The mine was planted by a roadside near the town of Wana in semi-autonomous South Waziristan agency and exploded when a convoy of military vehicles was passing in the morning, damaging two cars, a security official told Reuters. He said authorities suspected that the mine was detonated by a remote control at the village of Tiarza, 29 km (18 miles) east of Wana.
Afghanistan's Taliban fighters are threatening to kill US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and vowing "a flood of jihad" against Americans, in a statement posted on their web site. "We tell Rumsfeld: you may have escaped unharmed from our swords, but you will not escape again," the statement said.
Pakistan's U.N. ambassador on Wednesday challenged the NATO-led force in Afghanistan to match the 75,000 troops Islamabad has deployed to stop cross-border terror attacks by al-Qaida and Taliban supporters, a growing concern before Afghanistan's landmark election in October.
Hundreds of suspected militants held by U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan since the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001 will be tried in Afghan courts under local laws, a U.S. army spokesman said on Wednesday. Major Scott Nelson said Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Lieutenant-General David Barno, the overall commander of U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan, agreed the plan earlier this month. "The people that are still being held here will be tried in Afghan courts and under the Afghan justice system," Nelson told a regular press briefing.
But the bespectacled scientist, who began his career in this sleepy valley in Afghanistan's central highlands more than 35 years ago, isn't letting the destruction get the best of him. He has turned his back on the cliff, stuck his trowel into the earth, and is on the hunt for a magnificent relic perhaps five times as large as the ones that incurred the Taliban's wrath: the long-lost sleeping Buddha of Bamian.
"We are digging," Tarzi says, "to find the greatest statue in the world."
It's hard to believe that the sculpture ever went missing. According to the writings of a Chinese pilgrim who reported seeing the reclining Buddha in AD 629, it stretched 1000 feet.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he has been in touch with a senior Taliban official ahead of crucial polls in Afghanistan and will meet him "soon", reported Pakistani newspapers on Wednesday. Karzai told Pakistani newspaper editors here at the end of his two-day visit on Tuesday that he was in contact with former Taliban foreign minister Wakeel Ahmed Mutawakil, reported the Dawn daily.
When a high-ranking Afghan official refused a briefcase packed with several million dollars, the official of a European firm was baffled. "But it's your commission," the chief executive officer said, adding that this system of "commissions" was the norm in most developing countries for granting contracts to foreign firms. But the Afghan official was intransigent. Whether these monetary incentives are called "commissions" or "bribes," they are still one of the main impediments to progress and reconstruction in post-Taleban Afghanistan...It is by now common knowledge that no big business can start in Afghanistan without a percentage being paid to one or several ministers, generals, governors, and commanders.
Coalition Makes a Difference for Afghans
By Sgt. 1st Class Matthew A. Fearing, 105th MPAD USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, Aug. 28, 2004 –– The convoy crested a dusty hill and the riders could see Shah Wali Kot below. The village is nestled in a small valley with brown hills that reach skyward on either side. Children in the village stopped to look as vehicles rolled into town. They turned and waved. This was not the first time the Americans had come to their village, and their faces displayed the eagerness with which the visit was welcomed.
A UN report on sanctions against the Taleban and al-Qaeda - due out formally on Monday but seen by the BBC - claims that sanctions and other measures taken by the UN have so far "achieved less than was hoped" and have had only "limited impact."
In Afghanistan, anything could be true.
During the recent fighting, Agence France Press reported that US aircraft were bombing Amanullah 's militia. Their report was based on statements from the central government in Kabul saying they'd asked the Americans to drop the bombs, and from the Herat police chief, who'd confirmed the bombing had taken place. This was all news to the US air force at Bagram air base, where a spokesperson denied that any bombing had taken place.
British combat jets are being sent to Afghanistan for the first time, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has announced. The six RAF Harrier GR7 aircraft are being sent to Kandahar as part of security measures ahead of the presidential elections due in October. They will give close air support and reconnaissance work for the Nato-led international force in Afghanistan. Coalition military chiefs have asked for the planes to replace US Marine Corps harriers in the area.
The real locus of the Taliban lies not in the areas of NWFP bordering Afghanistan but in Balochistan, which is nearest to the troubled provinces of Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan, according to a South Asia analyst. ...A recent report quoted US intelligence officials as saying that the United States possesses satellite photos that show Pakistani army trucks picking up Taliban troops fleeing back across the border after a failed attack. Other reports have also quoted US soldiers stating that they observed Pakistani border troops provide covering fire to retreating Taliban militants after cross-border attacks on US and coalition troops in Afghanistan. One American social worker has been told by American soldiers that the Pakistani border is an imaginary line that prevents them from doing their job.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

"Let me begin this morning by updating you on the situation out west. Afghan National Army units as well as Afghan National Police officers are positioned within the Shindand and Adraskan Districts to restore order following the factional fighting last week near Herat."
(Kabul press conference.)
C-130 Aircraft Makes Safe Emergency Landing at Bagram.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has dismissed a call that he resign as unconstitutional, but said his challengers had the right to make the demand.
The call was made Monday by 12 of the candidates who are competing against Mr. Karzai in Afghanistan's first presidential election on October 9. The rival candidates said they would consider a boycott unless the president resigns by Wednesday, arguing that as an incumbent, he has an unfair advantage.
Mr. Karzai commented during his visit to Islamabad, where he was interviewed by the private television channel known as AVT Khyber television. He said it is written in the Afghan constitution that the head of the transitional government will continue to perform his or her duties until an elected president takes over.
(Voice of America)

A UN human rights expert has demanded immediate release of some 725 Taliban prisoners, about half of them Pakistanis, arrested during anti-Taliban operations in 2001 in Afghanistan, asserting that there is "no legal, human or political justification" for keeping them in prison.
The detention of the prisoners is "illegal" under international law as also Afghan law and the conditions under which they live "violate every standard of human rights" under both UN and international law, Cherif Bassiouni told reporters in Kabul, a transcript of which was released at the UN headquarters yesterday.
Are the US and its allies taking down terrorists as fast as Pakistan's madrassahs are pumping out new ones? So far, the answer to the US defense secretary's famous question is, probably not. As Islamabad touts dozens of Al Qaeda arrests made in recent weeks, 1.5 to 1.8 million boys are attending Islamic seminaries. Many schools are seen as nurseries for radical Islam, with some 10 percent having links to militant groups, Pakistan officials estimate.
Reforms haven't touched places like Gujar Khan, a town 35 miles from Islamabad, where boys sit on the floor of a small madrassah. They sway as they recite the Koran under the glare of their teacher, Qari Zahir Shah, who swings a tree branch in the direction of any pupil who errs.
"These are parrots of heaven," says the young cleric at the Jama Masjid Khulfa-e-Rashadeen school. "We teach our students purely Islamic teachings to make them pure and ideal Muslims who will not hesitate to sacrifice their lives for the cause of Islam."
According to a recent history of the Hazaras, Rahman Khan's soldiers were encouraged to devise fiendish punishments. They used horses to draw and quarter Hazara victims, threw them to packs of wild dogs, put red-hot stones inside their clothes and severed their heads and hung them on poles as a warning to other would-be rebels. For most of the 20th century, the Hazaras languished in poverty and humiliation. In the rural highlands, they were scattered and isolated among inaccessible hills; in urban centers, they were confined to menial servitude and insulted as donkeys. "The Hazaras were always economically weak and politically excluded," said Qasim Aghar, 53, a Hazara intellectual and educator in Kabul, the Afghan capital, 80 miles west of Bamian. "We were separated by religion and geography. No one ever even tried to build a road to Hazarajat." During the civil war of the early 1990s, the Hazaras staged a brief comeback, uniting behind a charismatic but ruthless militia leader, Abdul Ali Mazari. But Mazari was killed in 1995 and the Taliban -- a repressive Sunni Muslim movement that abhorred Shiism -- turned against the Hazaras with a vengeance.
The Army's response was swift. Soldiers were told to show up at formation at 8 a.m. the next day with ID cards and pens. At this mass muster of about 150 soldiers, an Army captain delivered a stirring defense of the Constitution, reminding soldiers of the responsibilities of citizenship and the benefits of the American way. "He didn't order us to register, but he told us that it was un-American if we didn't," Spc. Buzzell says in a phone conversation. Nearly every soldier headed for the temporary tables set up on the perimeter of the dusty parade ground and registered to vote. If the system operates correctly, they will receive absentee ballots in October before the November 2 election.
Pakistan's military says it has killed at least four suspected foreign militants hiding in a semi-autonomous tribal region near the Afghan border. Pakistan is boasting of a new success in its campaign to eliminate al-Qaida members and other suspected militants in its northwestern tribal regions. Military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan says the latest raid was staged against an alleged terrorist base in the North Waziristan territory, during which the suspected militants were killed.
A videotape shows former Education Minister Yunus Qanuni congratulating accused vigilante leader Jonathan Idema. Mr. Qanuni also offers to provide security officers to assist Mr. Idema's forces.
U.S. helicopter gunships, backed by hundreds of Afghan and U.S.-led troops, attacked Taliban hideouts on Monday in Afghanistan's mountainous southeastern province of Khost near the Pakistan border, local and Taliban sources said. The attack was launched late on Sunday in the remote Shinkai area some 190 km (120 miles) south of Kabul after a series of recent attacks by Taliban in Khost province, they said. "As far as we know it is a joint operation by Afghan and U.S. forces and some villagers have also seen helicopters firing on Taliban positions," a villager from the area told Reuters.
Amanullah, a local Pashtun warlord who goes by only one name, said Herat Gov. Ismail Khan had brought the men and weapons in as part of preparations for possible renewed fighting. "Some 6,000 weapons and ammunition were smuggled in from Iran and brought to Herat city on vegetable trucks," Amanullah told The Associated Press by satellite phone. He called on the central government to stop the smuggling, and condemned Iran for alleged complicity.
Jamaat-e-Islami leader Qazi Hussain Ahmed arrived in Oslo, Norway on Saturday amidst thousands of cheering supporters despite security concerns by Norwegian authorities. The controversial pro-Taliban cleric will stay in Norway for a week....Qazi Ahmed is pressing for the introduction of Islamic law in Pakistan and has on several occasions praised Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. He is said to be a supporter of the Taliban, the former hardline Islamic rulers of Afghanistan.
"This new system is 180-degrees different from our old ways. We get classroom training in such topics as human rights in warfare, and also combat training in the mountains," says Mohammed, who has been in the military for 25 years. However, Mohammed is concerned with the ANA's loose recruiting policy. "They take former Taliban and murderers. They don't ask people's background and political ties. We even had recruits come in for training that had never heard of President Karzai," he says.
It's easy to spot where the secret negotiations are taking place in Kabul. Look for heavily armed men in camouflage fatigues blocking traffic, or for armadas of luxury four-by-fours with tinted windows double-parked. Inside restaurants, private residences and guesthouses around Kabul, presidential candidates are meeting with each other or the representatives of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the man to beat in the country's first presidential election on Oct. 9. Rather than building their political operations or hitting the campaign trail in dusty towns and mud-brick villages across the country, the 17 candidates opposing Karzai are doing what comes naturally: resorting to traditional, tribal-style bargaining to secure political power before the vote.
The United Nations in Kabul on Sunday distanced itself from a call to consider withdrawing personnel from Afghanistan following a bomb attack on a voter registration office and a series of attacks on election workers.
The U.S. military is apologizing for the killing of three unarmed civilians at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, and says it is investigating the incident. The civilians were shot dead in their vehicle Saturday night in rural Ghazni Province.
As Afghanistan seeks to rebuild its place in the world after decades of war, foreign powers are seeking to gain influence inside the country. But one nation enjoys far closer relations with the new Afghanistan than any other, the United States. VOA's series on foreign influence in Afghanistan concludes as Islamabad correspondent Michael Kitchen looks at the U.S. role and some of the controversy surrounding it.
Educated, liberated Afghan women have told me that foreigners place too much emphasis on the burqua and fail to understand much more profound issues of equality between men and women. That is easy to accept – much harder to accept is the fact that around 90 percent of Afghan men still beat their wives. And that came from a woman who really should know: Habiba Sarabi is currently the Minister of Women's Affairs and a proud voice for women’s rights in a country completely dominated by men. She also told me that many men refer to women as "my goat" because they are seen as domestic animals, especially in the countryside.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – At approximately 9 p.m. last night, Coalition forces fired on a pick-up truck that attempted to run through a joint Afghan National Army – Coalition check point near Ghazni, killing three and wounding two. After the incident, soldiers searched the pick-up truck but did not find any weapons.
Coalition forces evacuated a critically injured man and a critically injured woman and her uninjured infant by helicopter to Bagram for medical treatment. The dead include one male and two females.
Vehicle checkpoints play an important role in maintaining security in the area, providing security forces the opportunity to find wanted people and contraband, such as weapons, bombs and drugs. Vehicle occupants approaching checkpoints should stop and follow security personnel’s instructions.
The incident is under investigation.
For more information contact the Kabul Press Center.
posted by CFC-A Public Affairs @ 10:36
(From the Blog)
The family is among the first to arrive in Canada under a program designed to settle a humanitarian problem that has defied solution for years: what to do with hundreds of Afghan war refugees who are stranded in Kyrgyzstan. Last month, at the behest of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Canada agreed to accept 525 of the approximately 650 Afghans who remained in the Central Asian country. They were deemed unlikely to return home because of threats to their lives or affiliation with the Soviet-supported Afghan government that was overthrown in 1992 and remains despised by people on most every side of the current Afghan political scene. Some of the refugees have been in camps in Kyrgyzstan since Soviet forces invaded their country 25 years ago.
After 23 years of fighting, the mujahedeen commander is perched again above the dusty brown shores of Lake Qargha and plotting strategy. His new mission: building an Alpine resort. Scores of his former comrades in arms toil at the waterside Moon Cafe, laying stone walkways and painting the dining room in cheery pastels. Others are refurbishing several nearby guesthouses.
After meeting the people of Afghanistan and seeing their needs, Army Spc. Moises Salgado wrote to his wife, Laura, telling her of their plight. It also got them thinking of ways to help the Afghani people. With combined efforts of family and friends, they set out to assist in a humanitarian effort providing the children with school supplies and other items, including pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, notebooks and backpacks. To date almost 2,000 pounds of much needed items have been sent, with more on its way.
In late June, just two weeks into his tour here, Pvt. Jeremy Kretz from Dubuque, Iowa, was driving in a convoy near the border with Pakistan when a remote-controlled explosion hit his Humvee, causing him to black out and blasting him and his companions with rocks and dust. The American soldiers got away with concussions, ruptured eardrums and gravel-peppered skin. "Head's pretty full of gravel anyway," joked his commander, Lt. James Avrams, who is in charge of the protection force at Gardez, raising a laugh among his men, all from the 34th Infantry Division, Iowa National Guard. But for the American military, and foreign and Afghan officials, remote-controlled explosions have become the biggest threat in Afghanistan. Although they are not being used on nearly the scale found in Iraq, they are becoming more common and increasingly sophisticated, military and other officials said in interviews.
Pakistani troops backed by artillery and aircraft attacked two suspected terrorist hideouts near the rugged Afghan border, killing and wounding a number of militants, Pakistan army and security officials said. The attack was launched near Shakai in the South Waziristan tribal region, scene of several military counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida fugitives and renegade tribesmen in the recent months. Pakistan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told state-run television that its troops had "killed and wounded some foreign miscreants" on Saturday in an exchange of fire near Shakai, but gave no further details. He denied a major new military operation was underway.
Pakistani security forces are hunting a Libyan Al Qaeda leader whom senior intelligence officials see as a possible key to finding Osama bin Laden and others in the terrorist network's inner circle. Captured Al Qaeda suspects have consistently named a Libyan, Abu Farj, as the man who gave them instructions for attacks, including two attempts to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan late last year, two senior intelligence officials said yesterday. The suspects also say they think the Libyan is in direct contact with bin Laden and his chief lieutenant, Ayman Zawahiri, according to the intelligence sources.
In a combat zone, being able to track the exact location of critical outbound equipment is extremely important. That is why Airmen at the traffic management office here are the first in the service to test the Air Force’s latest version of cargo tracking software.
"Three weeks ago I went to Kabul ... and at that time I told President Karzai that our enemies were making plans to do something," Ismail Khan told Reuters in a roadside interview, as his troops passed through the village of Shahbet in Adraskan district, 75 km (47 miles) south of Herat city. "I also told Karzai some of his cabinet members were involved," says the self-styled "Amir of Herat", his white robes and turban flecked with dust kicked up by tanks and trucks laden with ammunition. His fears were well placed. Last week, a renegade militia commander, Amanullah Khan, launched an offensive that swept toward Herat, Afghanistan's second largest city and capital of the province bordering Iran.
At least 13,000 Afghans returning home from Iran have become stranded on the border or in an overcrowded transit camp because of fighting this week in western Afghanistan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today as he spotlighted fears about the country’s security situation.
The 85,000 cases of Arwa brand bottled water in Afghanistan that were initially found to be contaminated were later cleared for drinking after additional testing found nothing wrong with the water. In a release from the Coalition Forces Land Component Command Surgeon’s Office, officials said that the water was retested and it was cleared for consumption...All of the water provided to troops in Afghanistan is monitored by the U.S. military and routinely evaluated, military officials said.
Three suspected Taliban fighters including “a senior commander” were killed along with a government soldier in a raid by Afghan military forces, a provincial official said on Thursday. Acting on a tip-off, soldiers raided a compound used by suspected militants in Nawa, a troubled district in Ghazni province, Governor Asadullah Khalid told AFP. Seven militants defending the compound were captured during almost two hours of gunfire on Wednesday afternoon, he said. “We had reports that a group of Taliban were gathered in a compound in Nawa district - we raided the compound, three Taliban and one soldier were killed,” Khalid said. “Mulla Wazir, a senior Taliban commander, was among the dead,” he added.
(Pakistan Daily Times)

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