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Sunday, October 24, 2004

Hamid Karzai clinched a majority of the votes cast in Afghanistan's first presidential election, near-complete results showed Sunday, leaving him all but certain of becoming his war-ravaged country's first democratically elected leader.
His chief rival, former education minister Yunus Qanooni, announced he was willing to accept the election result, but only if irregularities in the vote were acknowledged by a panel of foreign investigators.
"For the national interest and so the country does not go into crisis, we will respect the result of the election," said Syed Hamid Noori, spokesman for Qanooni. "But we also want the fraud to be made clear."
By Sunday evening, Karzai had received 4,240,041 votes, more than half of the estimated 8,129,935 valid ballots cast in the Oct. 9 election, the joint UN-Afghan electoral board said. Because only a relative handful of uncounted ballots remained, Karzai was guaranteed to have more than the 50 per cent necessary to avoid a runoff election.
Afghan Sikhs, slowly trickling back to their homeland after the ouster of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, have appealed to the Indian government to allow them travel between the two countries overland via Pakistan....Ravinder Singh said Sikhs and Hindus, who once constituted a population of over 500,000 in Afghanistan, now account for only a hundred families that had come back after the ouster of the Taliban regime, still faced hardships in getting back their homes, shops and other assets.
Boxes from Iowa arrived. Afghanistan boys peered inside packages of shoes Jenni Birker of Garrison sent to Staff Sgt. Mark Matteson. Sgt. 1st Class Alan Kakac, Birker's father, said the excitement on children's faces reminded him of Christmas morning.
My conjecture was formed last February, during an interview with a top Afghan security official in Kabul.
The official told me the Americans could catch bin Laden at any time.
To emphasis his point, he leaned over his big wooden desk, glanced at his wristwatch and said that if the Americans wanted, they could have their man in custody by 3:30 p.m.
It was 3:15 when he spoke.
I asked him why the Americans didn't do just that, to which he replied: "That would mean they would have to leave."
A translator from Minnesota was killed in a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, her family said Saturday. Jamie Michalsky, 23, was working in Uzbekistan, but was in Afghanistan to see a doctor about a hand injury, according to her step-father, Dan Everson. Everson said the family learned of Michalsky's death Saturday morning from the company she worked for, Worldwide Language Resources, a Maine-based company that provides translators. A NATO spokesman said only that a foreign woman was injured, and police had no word on any foreign woman being among the injured.
Pakistani troops have started house-to-house searches for local and foreign Islamic militants in South Waziristan, near the border with Afghanistan. One of those they are seeking is Abdullah Mehsud, accused of being behind the kidnap of two Chinese men. Local tribesmen are helping in the hunt for Mr Mehsud, a former inmate of the US military camp at Guantanamo Bay.
A US soldier was slightly injured in a bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, a US military official said. The soldier was injured when the vehicle he was driving hit a home-made bomb that suspected militants planted in the eastern province of Nangarhar, US military spokeswoman Master Sargeant Wendy Frable told AFP.
Arab televisions have dropped a controversial drama on Afghanistan after Islamic militants threatened attacks over the programme they deemed insulting to the ousted Taliban, Gulf media sources say.
All Things Considered, October 22, 2004 · NPR's Ivan Watson reports from the Afghan capital of Kabul on the influence of the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad -- known to some in city as the "Viceroy of Afghanistan." Since he took up his post late last year, there has been a sharp rise in U.S. development aid.
A new study has found that it is not likely that Al Qaeda has explicit and dedicated infrastructure to recruit Pakistanis for its operations, rather it relies upon a web of informal relations with groups based in Pakistan to gain access to operational collaborators and individuals to execute attacks within Pakistan. The study was made by Dr Christine Fair of the US Institute of Peace and is due to appear in an academic journal. The research for the study was carried out while she was with the Rand Corporation.
(Very interesting article)
Six Pakistani troops have been wounded by a landmine in the tribal region of South Waziristan, officials say. The blast occurred in Makeen, north of Wana, near the Afghan border. Local tribesman also said a woman and two children were killed in firing between Pakistani troops and suspected militants with alleged al-Qaeda links.
(BBC)
Two French peacekeepers were killed and a third was injured in a road accident near Afghanistan's capital Kabul, a spokesperson for the French army contingent here said on Friday. "Two French soldiers died from injuries after a traffic accident on Thursday around 07:30," Lieutenant Jean Bolling told AFP. The accident occurred eight kilometres north-east of the Afghan capital on the Shomali plain.
The identities of the two soldiers, aged 22 and 29 and both unmarried, were withheld. The third soldier was only lightly injured. They were returning from a patrol when their armoured car left the road and rolled several times, Bolling said.
France currently contributes 900 troops to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force, which has been deployed to help maintain order in Kabul since December 2001.
Washington Post
Barton Gellman
Friday, October 22, 2004; Page A15
Soon after arriving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 1, 2001, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers raised doubts about the war plan -- days from execution -- to topple the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Gen. Tommy R. Franks, then chief of U.S. Central Command, planned a single thrust toward the Afghan capital from the north.
Franks anticipated, correctly, that resistance from Taliban and al Qaeda fighters would collapse. He did not, however, position a blocking force to meet them as they fled. Some Bush administration officials now acknowledge privately they consider that a costly mistake.
In the presidential campaign, Democrat John F. Kerry has revived a debate on whether U.S. forces missed a chance to catch Osama bin Laden and his top aides at the battle of Tora Bora. Kerry accuses President Bush of "outsourcing" the job to Afghan tribal leaders. Recent interviews with military participants shed new light on the period beginning two months earlier, before bin Laden left Kabul for Tora Bora.
Myers urged Franks, in a series of discussions that have not been reported before, "to look at opening a southern front . . . to cut off the withdrawal of the Taliban and al Qaeda," according to a senior flag officer who participated in the debate. A brigade of the Army's 10th Mountain Division in Uzbekistan and two Marine Expeditionary Forces in the Arabian Sea "were prepared to go in there -- they'd done the planning, the load preps," said the flag officer, whose account was confirmed by a second participant. Neither agreed to be identified because of political sensitivity.
Franks did not accept the advice. Kabul fell on Nov. 13. Bin Laden and Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader, took their best fighters southeast, largely unscathed. Three weeks later, most escaped a second time from a warren of manmade tunnels at Tora Bora. "It was the difference between defeating the enemy and destroying the enemy," said a subordinate describing Myers's views.
Franks said later, without referring to Myers, that he sought to avoid estranging Afghanistan's Pushtun majority by allowing its militias to take the lead in the south. He also said, more recently, that he would have needed months to dispatch enough U.S. forces to make a decisive difference.
Al Qaeda's consecutive escapes from Kabul and Tora Bora marked the last time the Bush administration had so large a concentration of jihadists in its sights. The subsequent global manhunt has often sought men believed to have been at one of those battles, or both.
A high-ranking war planner likened the result to throwing a rock at a nest of bees, then trying to chase them down, one by one, with a net.


Sunday New York Times
To the Editor:
Re "War of Words," by Tommy Franks (Op-Ed, Oct. 19):
John Kerry is correct that resources were diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq before we accomplished our mission there. How can I be so sure? General Franks told me.
In my new book, "Intelligence Matters," I describe the moment that made me doubt the president's commitment to winning the war on terror.
On Feb. 19, 2002, I visited Central Command headquarters for a briefing on our mission in Afghanistan. After an upbeat assessment with maps, photographs and video, however, General Franks asked for an additional private word in his office. "Senator,'' he said, "we are not engaged in a war in Afghanistan. ...Military and intelligence personnel are being redeployed to prepare for an action in Iraq. ... The Predators are being relocated. What we are doing is a manhunt."
General Franks was telling me this 13 months before the beginning of combat operations in Iraq, and only four months after the beginning of combat in Afghanistan.
President Bush, when asked in his first debate with Senator Kerry whether he had made removing Saddam Hussein a higher priority than capturing Osama bin Laden, said, "We've got the capability of doing both."
If we had truly been able to do both, military and intelligence resources would not have been diverted from Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden wouldn't be continuing to exhort his followers to greater acts of terror; he, like Saddam Hussein, would be in American hands.
Bob Graham
Washington, Oct. 22, 2004
The writer, a Florida Democrat, is a former chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

In the second half of March 2002, as the Bush administration mapped its next steps against al Qaeda, Deputy CIA Director John E. McLaughlin brought an unexpected message to the White House Situation Room. According to two people with firsthand knowledge, he told senior members of the president's national security team that the CIA was scaling back operations in Afghanistan.
That announcement marked a year-long drawdown of specialized military and intelligence resources from the geographic center of combat with Osama bin Laden. As jihadist enemies reorganized, slipping back and forth from Pakistan and Iran, the CIA closed forward bases in the cities of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Kandahar. The agency put off an $80 million plan to train and equip a friendly intelligence service for the new U.S.-installed Afghan government. Replacements did not keep pace with departures as case officers finished six-week tours. And Task Force 5 -- a covert commando team that led the hunt for bin Laden and his lieutenants in the border region -- lost more than two-thirds of its fighting strength.
The commandos, their high-tech surveillance equipment and other assets would instead surge toward Iraq through 2002 and early 2003, as President Bush prepared for the March invasion that would extend the field of battle in the nation's response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
(Washington Post page 1)
Clashes erupted in a remote region of Afghanistan Thursday after the death of a local military commander, an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officer said. ISAF officer David Bennett said fighting broke out in Badakshan province in the extreme northeast. “There is fighting in Jurm 160 kilometres southwest of Faizabad,” Bennett said. It was not clear if the dead man was part of Afghanistan’s regular army or of a militia. Bennett said German soldiers working as a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in neighbouring Kunduz would investigate the circumstances of the fighting. “The PRT in Kunduz is looking into what it could do but it is five hours away,” Bennett said. No further details were available, he added.
The mountainous province of Badakshan bordering Pakistan, China and Tajikistan is one of the most inaccessible regions in Afghanistan, particularly in winter.
(Daily Times-Pakistan)
Using donations of money and equipment, a Marine unit deployed in Afghanistan is building its own wireless network to let troops communicate with friends and family at home.
A homemade bomb destroyed two American Humvee vehicles in southeastern Paktika province near the Pakistan border, wounding three US soldiers, one critically, and their Afghan interpreter, a US military statement said. Paktika Governor Gulab Mungal said Afghan forces later arrested a suspect in the attack, whom he did not name, but identified as a deputy of Jalaluddin Haqqani, a front-line Taliban commander who served briefly as tribal affairs minister before the hardline Islamic regime fell in late 2001. He remains at large.
An American airman has died of his injuries after a helicopter carrying a wounded Afghan election worker crashed in western Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Thursday. Technical problems -- not hostile fire -- brought down the HH-60 helicopter in Herat province late Wednesday, spokeswoman Lt. Col. Pam Keeton said. Two other airmen were injured, one critically, she said/
Turkey is to take command of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan next February, to be followed by Italy, Britain and Spain in six-to-eight-month stints, NATO officials said Wednesday.
Pakistani helicopter gunships have attacked a suspected hideout of Abdullah Mehsud, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who masterminded the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers this month, witnesses say....Pakistan has vowed to hunt down Abdullah, who masterminded the abduction of the engineers working on a dam in South Waziristan on October 9, testing ties with Beijing, one of Islamabad's closest allies. One of the hostages and all of the kidnappers, whom Abdullah had directed from a secret location, were killed after army commandos launched a rescue operation last week. Hussain said Abdullah was thought to be in Spinkay Raghzai, but added: "He is constantly on the move; the guy is on the run. If he is brave enough, we challenge him to confront us."
Commanders to receive cash to surrender military units Former Afghan militia commanders will receive regular financial support after they surrender military units to the UN-backed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) programme, according to a top official of the Ministry of Defence (MoD)....
Around 20 of the 550 initial targeted militia commanders have already accepted the initiative and received their redundancy packages on Wednesday. According to the ANBP, commanders and senior officers of the AMF will receive a monthly payment of US $350-500 depending on their financial circumstances.
The US-trained Afghan National Army (ANA) has arrested another two senior leaders of the ousted Taliban regime in southern Afghanistan, said a Defense Ministry spokesman Wednesday. "Personnel of the third battalion of the ANA nabbed two senior leaders of the Taliban, Mawlawi Shahabudin and Mullah Abdul Qahar Akhundzada from Deh Chopan of Zabul province Tuesday,"Zahir Azimisaid at a press conference here. He declined to give more details but added law enforcement agencies are vigilant to meet any threat posed by the radical group and its allies.
(Xinhua-China)


The Taliban's one-eyed leader Mullah Omar has lost the confidence of some of his commanders after the failure of the insurgents to disrupt Afghanistan's first presidential election, the U.S. military said on Wednesday. But a Taliban spokesman denied any rift in the movement. U.S. military spokesman Major Scott Nelson told reporters the Taliban leadership was in disarray after a campaign built around rocket attacks and roadside bombs failed to dissuade millions of Afghans from voting in the Oct. 9 poll.
Standing before the rows of graves, Afghan men open their hands to the sky. Their lips move in silent prayer to honor the dead. These dead are fighters of the Taliban and al-Qaida, killed in 2001 when an American bomb crushed the mosque nearby where they had mustered outside the eastern Afghan city of Khost. Since then, U.S. officials have paid for the mosque to be rebuilt - and it stands freshly painted but empty, a few hundred yards down the road.
There has been building, too, at the militants' gravesite. Donations by visitors have paid for brick walls and decorative iron grates around the graves, and there are plans for a roof over the enclosure. Unlike the American-funded mosque, the shrine draws a steady stream of visitors from eastern Afghanistan and from neighboring Pakistan...
Two local men, one of them mentally disabled, keep the shrine swept clean. They provide salt for worshipers to sprinkle on the graves and rice that can be bought to feed doves that live on the site. But the splendor of the shrine comes from the cloths of every color that are strung, knotted, tangled and stretched in a web that nearly covers the gravesite like a roof. Each cloth represents a prayer, brought in hopes that barakat - spiritual power such as that of martyred souls - might help a request to be better heard and answered by God.
The appeal to God through miracle-working saints and martyrs is a tradition in much of the Muslim world - but the men buried here would almost certainly be horrified at having been made part of it. The puritanical interpretation of Islam for which they fought rejects such customs as a corruption of the faith. But Afghanistan's deep Islamic traditions have outlived them. "I saw a kuchi [nomad] whose legs could not work and who came with his family to pray for the martyrs' souls," said Khan, the peasant. "After some time, he got up and walked. ... He said, 'These men truly are martyrs in paradise that they have healed me."
A Taliban suicide fighter killed himself and wounded at least seven others, including three members of a NATO-led peacekeeping force, in a grenade attack on a busy shopping street in central Kabul yesterday....
The Kabul police chief, General Baba Jan, said the attacker had six hand grenades strapped to his body, but three did not detonate....
Witnesses saw the attacker's bloody corpse lying on the sidewalk, near a damaged vehicle belonging to the group. The troops had been patrolling Chicken Street, a well-known haunt for foreigners shopping for carpets, jewelry, and antiques.
"The Taliban takes responsibility for the suicide attack in Kabul. This was an Afghan Taliban Mujahadid [holy warrior], and we plan more attacks," a Taliban spokesman, Mullah Latifullah Hakimi, said by satellite telephone.
He remembers me from last spring.
“You bought a pistol?”
“Flintlock rifle. 1852.”
“Yes,” he says.
“I was stopped in airports in Pakistan, Dubai, London and Washington.”
“They thought you were terrorist?”
“No one stopped me in the airport here.”
“Why not, my friend? After 23 years of war, why would we care about an old gun?”
He points to a rug and we sit on the floor of his shop. Rifles and pistols, decorated with designs cut from ivory and tin, hang from the walls beside circular metal shields brown from rust and age. Below us on Chicken Street, Kabul's tourist drag, westerners with aid organizations roam the busy sidewalks.
US military commanders have sharpened their focus on the opium poppy trade -- which produces 75 percent of the world's opium and its derivative, heroin -- and plan to target militia commanders who profit from trafficking.
For instance, Hazrat Ali, a former Afghan commander paid by American forces to help fight Al Qaeda, is now widely cited by US and Afghan officials as a key opium trafficker. He is also the police chief of Jalalabad.
"One day, he will wake up and find out he's out of business," Colonel David Lamm, chief of staff for US forces in Afghanistan, said of Ali in a recent interview in Kabul, the capital. "We know where the drug traffic moves, we know who profits, and we are beginning to deal with it."
STAFF: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us this afternoon. A man who really doesn't need any introduction, but we rarely see his face in this room, but often his voice as he joins us from Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Barno is here in Washington and he's graciously given us some of his time to discuss the current operations in Afghanistan. I did promise him that I would have him out of here at 3:30, so we will get started right away. Thank you, sir.
Karzai, who is expected to be elected to the post he has held since June 2002 when ballot results are announced this month, is hoping to neutralize a significant part of the insurgency by persuading the group's leaders to become lawmakers. Sources said that after persuading leaders of the group to run for the parliament, Karzai would be freer to crush the core of the insurgency.
The sources said the breakaway group was based in Quetta, Pakistan, where many Taliban fighters and supporters fled after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Indian intelligence believes that the group has the blessing of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who is trying to regain influence in Afghanistan that was lost when he supported the U.S.-led war against the Taliban. Pakistan previously had been a key supporter of the Taliban government.
The negotiations are so sensitive that Karzai put his trusted brother-in-law Mohammed Ibrahim Spinzada — known as "Engineer Ibrahim" in intelligence circles — in charge of the talks, according to an Afghan intelligence agent who said he had read confidential memos outlining contacts with the Taliban.
At home she is a dutiful housewife and devoted mother of six. But on the dangerous streets of Kandahar she is the city's only female detective, never venturing out without a pistol under her burqa. Malalai Kakar has been a legend in southern Afghanistan's biggest city, the capital of the deeply conservative Pashtun people, ever since she killed three would-be assassins in a shoot-out.
Osama bin Laden is unlikely to be hiding in Pakistan's tribal region near the Afghan border, the top military commander in the area said on Tuesday. Lt. Gen. Safdar Hussain, military commander for northwestern Pakistan, said the strong presence of security forces in the rugged tribal region and on the border had made it hard for Washington's most wanted man to sneak into Pakistan. "The way the army is deployed, there is nothing beyond my eyes and ears," he told reporters in the main northwestern city of Peshawar. "I have a very good surveillance system ... I can say he (bin Laden) is not here."
The United States wants Afghanistan to coax lower-level Taliban members away from the organization to help end an insurgency after the group failed to disrupt last Saturday's historic presidential election. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday Taliban leaders should still be brought to justice and the military should press its fight to "finish off" the hard-line Islamic group, which has been battling U.S.-led forces since the United States ousted it from power in 2001. But he said voters' overwhelming rejection of violence in the country's first presidential vote created an opportunity to lure lower-ranking Taliban members who renounce violence back from the battlefields into civil life. Such sentiment has often resolved conflicts in Afghanistan but contrasts with President Bush's vow not to strike deals with "terrorists." Washington labeled the Taliban a terrorist group after the Sept. 11 attacks for harboring al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. "All wars must come to an end at some point," said Khalilzad, who has been influential in shaping Afghanistan's government policy.
Interview with Mr Mirwais Yasini, head of the Counter Narcotics Directorate.
Militants fired half a dozen rockets over US-led military outposts in southeastern Afghanistan in the latest in a string of post-election attacks, an official said. Four rockets were fired onto the US-led military base in the eastern city of Jalalabad but the attack did not cause any casualties, US coalition military spokesman, Major Mark McCann told AFP.
Most people in Kareza, a dusty village two hours north of Kabul, keep animals tethered outside their mud-walled houses. Commander Mafouz keeps two Soviet tanks. The 21-year-old fighter has grown fond of the two green hulks, which still have live shells in their barrels; so fond that he recently threatened to kill the UN team that tried to tow them away.
At 6 a.m. on Sept. 27, Lou Henry II was at Fort Wayne International Airport standing in front of his 25-year-old sister, Angela, who was crying. It was time for Henry to go back to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and back to duty with the 221st Ordnance Company. He had been on leave and at home in Fort Wayne two weeks. On Sept. 29, Henry walked back into base in Kandahar. He caught up with his roommates and joked with Spc. Matt Beck, another Fort Wayne native who was home during the same stretch. They never saw each other back home, but they were together again on the other side of the world. Contemplating his return to Kandahar after a leave, Henry smiled. He is not one to consider himself unfortunate, and isn’t upset he is
The new Afghan army is winning the support of the population and is capable of tackling a lingering insurgency by remnants of the ousted Taliban regime, the U.S. general in charge of its training said Monday. Major General Craig Weston, commander of the U.S. Office of Military Co-operation - Afghanistan (OMC-A), told a news conference in the capital that the 17,000-strong force was winning hearts and minds and the fight against the Taliban.
A blast killed five people travelling in an election commission vehicle in southern Afghanistan on Monday, a U.N. spokesman said. The blast occurred southwest of Sharan, the provincial capital of Paktika province along Afghanistan's southern border with Pakistan where remnants of the Taliban militia are active.
The Jamaate Islami (JI) of Pakistan, a key component of the Muttahida Majlis eAmal coalition, could be in serious trouble with the military regime initiating action against some of its functionaries for alleged links with al-Qaeda and Taliban and the US agencies probing these connections, a media report said. Quoting unnamed security officials, monthly The Herald magazine said, ‘‘The US intelligence officers have already been mandated by Bush administration to gather enough evidence of the party’s suspected Al-Qaeda connections to enable the US state department to place the organisation on its terror watch list.’’ It quoted these sources as saying the US office of counter terrorism was ‘‘busy making detailed inquiries into recent reports of JI office bearers and cadres providing refuge to fugitive al-Qaeda elements in various parts of the country."
Despite gaining their freedom by signing pledges to renounce violence, at least seven former prisoners of the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have returned to terrorism, at times with deadly consequences. At least two are thought to have died in fighting in Afghanistan, and a third was recaptured during a raid of a suspected training camp in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Commander Flex Plexico, a Pentagon spokesman, said last week. Others are at large.
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