Russia, U.S. Converge On Warnings to Taliban
By Pamela Constable - Washington Post Foreign Service-Sunday, June 4, 2000
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan –– Russia and the United States, which spent billions fighting for control of Afghanistan during the Cold War, have suddenly found common ground in urging its strict Islamic government to stop spreading religious extremism and violence in South and Central Asia.
The United States, which once helped finance and arm Afghan fighters against occupying troops from the Soviet Union, has for years accused the ruling Taliban militia of exporting terrorism. It has been pressing Kabul to hand over Osama bin Laden, the Saudi fugitive now living in Afghanistan, whom Washington accuses of orchestrating the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Officials in Moscow, who have covertly assisted anti-Taliban rebel forces for years, are stepping up their own pressure, threatening airstrikes and new U.N. economic sanctions against Afghanistan because of alleged Taliban support for Muslim rebels fighting in the breakaway Russian region of Chechnya.
Last week, at a meeting in Moscow before this weekend's summit meeting, senior U.S. and Russian officials issued a joint statement expressing concern over the "growing influence of extremist groups" in the region. They urged the Taliban to hand over bin Laden and to "dismantle the terrorist infrastructure" that allegedly sends Islamic fighters to such hot spots as Kashmir and Chechnya.
At the same time, Russian officials warned they might launch "preventive" airstrikes against suspected military training camps in Afghanistan. The United States bombed several such targets in August 1998, in retaliation for the attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people.
In addition, China and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, three Central Asian republics, concerned about the spillover of Islamic fundamentalism from Afghanistan into the larger region, have joined the chorus of condemnation.
They recently joined Russia in calling for strict implementation of last year's U.N. Security Council resolutions against Afghanistan, which banned international flights and froze its official assets abroad.
"There is a growing regional belief that Taliban extremism is a source of regional instability and that it needs to be contained," said Rifaat Hussain, a professor of strategic studies at Quaid-I-Azam University here. The new threat of Russian airstrikes, he added, "has created an almost hair-trigger situation in the region."
Taliban officials have strongly denied training or arming Islamic terrorists, saying they seek peaceful relations with all countries. They have warned Russia that they will retaliate aggressively if attacked and accused it of trying to revive the Soviet Union's military and economic hegemony in Central Asia.
In an interview last week, Mohammad Syed Haqqani, the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, asserted that Russia's threats are aimed at shoring up the rebel movement in northern Afghanistan, and that they are bound to fail.
"Perhaps they have forgotten that they were badly defeated in Afghanistan before," he said. Soviet troops were forced to withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989.
Haqqani dismissed the charges that the Taliban encouraged the training of fighters for Chechnya, although it is the only government that has recognized the Chechen Republic. "We do not train anyone to fight anyone. Afghanistan has suffered enough from such interference," he said. "If someone is concerned about these camps, we invite them to come and see. Surely they will not find any."
The Taliban also have repeatedly refused to hand over bin Laden to Western authorities, saying he is their guest and that they have seen no convincing proof of his involvement in terrorism abroad. Instead, they have offered to have him tried in Islamic courts in Afghanistan or another Muslim country.
The Taliban government, already economically starved and fighting a protracted civil war, can hardly afford a foreign military attack or new economic sanctions.
It is already smarting under U.N. economic penalties, and further punishment, such as a cutoff of fuel and trade, would be devastating.
The contretemps has placed officials in neighboring Pakistan in an awkward position and has highlighted the inability or unwillingness of its military rulers to use their leverage with the Taliban--even though Pakistan faces growing threats of Islamic violence at home and wants to build friendly relations with China and the United States.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in Pakistan in October, is a Muslim moderate who initially said he supported a "truly representative" government in Afghanistan. U.S. officials hoped Musharraf would use his country's long-standing ties with the Taliban to press them to rein in bin Laden and other alleged terrorist operations.
Late last month, U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering visited here and reiterated American concerns about bin Laden and Islamic violence. Publicly, he said he was "grateful" for steps Pakistan has taken to cooperate in fighting terrorism and would "encourage" it to press Washington's brief on bin Laden with the Taliban.
But instead, Musharraf made several statements last week in support of the Taliban, saying their friendly relations are important to Pakistan's security and that his government cannot interfere with Afghan issues. Pakistan is one of only three countries that recognize the Taliban government.
"It is a telling change," said Hussain, suggesting that military and Islamic forces in Pakistan may have pushed Musharraf to back off on the Taliban--and that this in turn could push Washington to find new regional collaborators.
Pak FM renews support to Iran-led OIC efforts for Afghan peace \
Islamabad, June 4, IRNA -- The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Abdul
Sattar on Sunday renewed his country's support for the Iran-led OIC
efforts for peace in Afghanistan.
"We are at the present moment supporting the Iran-led OIC efforts
for peace in Afghanistan," he said when, during an interview with
IRNA, he was asked to comment on the Loya Jirga proposal of former
Afghan Afghan king, Zahir Shah.
"In principle we support the formula of a broad-based,
representative and multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan. (But) we
do not have a specific view as to how this objective could be
achieved," he added.
He proposed that the Loya Jirga proposal should be discussed by
the Afghan groups, including Taliban and Northern Alliance and if
they agree on it, Islamabad will support it.
"They (Rome Group) should send their formula to the Afghans in
Afghanistan. Any formula evolved by the Afghans is acceptable to us,"
"What we are supporting is a dialogue among the Afghan parties
to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution for peace and unity,"
He maintained that whatever suggestion is evolved at the Jeddah
talks will be in the interest of the Afghan people.
"I am sure that no member of the OIC (Contact) Group is trying to
push a solution that is of special interest to it. All of us sit and
discuss and we had a common position in this group. Our effort is to
persuade Afghan parties to agree on a formula. we cannot force a
formula on them," he categorically stated.
He said that Pakistan was also supporting the efforts waged by the
UN Secretary General's special envoy on Afghanistan, Fransecs Vendrill
for bringing peace in the war-ravaged country.
Asked about the joint US-Russian statement and the threat of
Moscow to launch air strike on targets in Taliban-controlled areas,
Abdul Sattar said: "In principle we oppose the use of force by any
foreign country for interference or intervention in Afghanistan. we
opposed the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. We expressed our
regrets and criticism and the use of force by the United States for
bombing of what it called terrorist camps."
He said: "The best alternative is engagement and talks for a
solution of their own issues."
"My understanding at this point is that the authorities in Kabul
are also keen to arrive at understandings with all the neighbors
including Pakistan and Iran," he added.
Referring to the Afghan Transit Trade issue, the Pakistani Foreign
Minister conceded that his country had differences with the Taliban
and added that they were trying to resolve these differences.
Recalling the recent meeting between Taliban officials and the
US Undersecretary of State, Thomas Pickering, Abdul Sattar said both
sides expressed satisfaction over the talks and hoped that these
discussions will continue.
"We do not know if there is any discussion going on between
`Afghan authorities' and the Russian government. We hope that
process will also begin. We are concerned about the threats," he
"We hope that both the US and Russian Federation will, instead of
contemplating violence, resort to negotiations, discussion and
dialogue and I personally think that it is possible to resolve the
differences that exist between Afghanistan and the United States and
similarly Afghanistan and Russia," Abdul Sattar said.
Asked about Pakistan's demand from Taliban to close terrorist
training camps, he said: "I think we said earlier that there are
differences and problems between Islamabad and Kabul."
He said Pakistan knew that the Taliban government had certain
"Two or three bureaucracies in Afghanistan have been overthrown.
There are new people. They do not have standing army. They do not have
an extensive police establishment which can go to each and every
corner of the country and identify camps," he elaborated.
He said pakistan was satisfied with the assurance given by
Taliban and hoped that the latter would cooperate with it on the issue
of training camps.
He said that people from a number of countries had come to
Afghanistan to fight against the Soviet forces but many of them did
not return to their countries.
"We have received representations from Algeria, Libya, Egypt,
Jordan and Uzbekistan that some of their nationals are still located
either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan," he said.
"We are trying to see the continued cooperation and assistance of
the `Afghan government' in locating proclaimed Pakistani offenders.
Some of them are responsible for sectarian crimes in our country.
hey engaged in the sectarian violence. They were tried and found
guilty, they escaped. We hope that the `government of Afghanistan'
with its limited capability will try sincerely to locate these people
and then send them back to Pakistan for punishment," he added.
"We must also understand that a number of foreign countries helped
the arrival of foreign citizens to participate in the Afghan struggle
against Soviet occupation," Abdul Sattar added.
He said, "according to a statement of former CIA station chief in
Islamabad, published in the New Yorker of January 2000, the American
CIA brought 25,000 foreigners to fight with the Afghan volunteers for
the independence of their country."
"How many of them went back, how many of them are still in the
area. These people came with a certain mission; that mission is over
but they have not gone back. we have received representations from
Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Uzbekistan that some of their nationals
are still located either in Pakistan or in Afghanistan and that they
engage in unacceptable activities directed against the governments of
Putin, Clinton to discuss Taliban, Pak
MOSCOW (NNI): The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan will be on the agenda of a three-day Russian-American summit opening in Moscow this weekend, reports the Itar-Tass news agency.
The Russian and the US Presidents, Mr. Vladimir Putin and Mr. Bill Clinton, will discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the framework of their talks on global challenges to security, including international terrorism and organised crime, the Itar-Tass said quoting a "high-ranking Russian expert."
Clinton, who arrives in Moscow on Saturday night, will hold several sessions of talks with Putin, lasting 10 hours, before leaving for Ukraine on Monday.
The agenda of the talks includes some 20 topics, ranging from arms control to economic cooperation, the Itar-Tass said.
Diplomatic sources said Mr. Putin would try to enlist U.S. support or at least neutrality for Russia's possible military action against the Taliban. Worried over the Taliban's growing support for Chechen rebels, Moscow has threatened to attack terrorist-training camps in Afghanistan.
The tone for the coming discussions on international terrorism at the Moscow summit was set by the Russian-American Foreign Ministry consultations in Moscow last week. A joint statement issued at the end of the consultations voiced `serious concern' over the Taliban's support for terrorism and the ``growing influence of extremist groups in Pakistan,'' which have ``links to international terrorist networks.'' However, according to the Itar-Tass, Washington has turned down Moscow's proposal to sign a joint statement at the summit on combating international terrorism and illegal drug-trafficking.
The situation in South Asia is likely to come up in the context of a planned discussion of nuclear security, including the problem of non-proliferation. During last week's consultations in Moscow the sides voiced concern over the ``persisting challenge to the nuclear and missile non-proliferation'' in South Asia and called on India and Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
Better Anti-Terrorism Campaign Urged
WASHINGTON (AP) - A congressional advisory commission is recommending more drastic measures to stop terrorism against Americans, including monitoring foreign students and blacklisting more countries.
``The threat is changing and it's becoming more deadly,'' the panel's chairman, L. Paul Bremmer III, told The Washington Post.
The National Commission on Terrorism, a panel of private experts and former government officials, was created by Congress two years ago after bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. It is due to report to lawmakers on Monday.
Among suggestions the commission will make that the United States should designate Pakistan and Greece as nations ``not cooperating fully'' with anti-terrorism efforts, the Post reported in its Sunday edition. Such nations are not allowed to purchase U.S. military equipment.
Also, Greek and Pakistani citizens should not enjoy privileges that allow visitors from friendly countries to travel here without visas. Greece, the report says, has been ``disturbingly passive'' in response to terrorism and Pakistan was cited for providing safe haven for ``several groups engaging in terrorism.''
Afghanistan, meanwhile, should be moved from the noncooperative list and instead designated a ``state sponsor'' of terrorism - countries that face even stricter sanctions - the commission's report says. Countries designated terrorism sponsors currently include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba.
At home, a regional pilot program for tracking foreign students should be expanded, the panel says. The program keeps tabs on such things as changes in students' study plans - a switch from an English literature major to nuclear physics might arouse suspicion, for example.
The commission also is recommending that the military lead the response to any major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, as opposed to the FBI or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
In addition, it said the CIA and the FBI should be less restricted in opening investigations of terrorist suspects or using informants who may have unsavory backgrounds.
Some of the terrorism commission's recommendations are expected to spark controversy.
``In the process of guaranteeing security, we cannot run roughshod over the basic rights of the Constitution, which is the centerpiece of what the country is about,'' James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, told the Post.
Warring Afghans Agree to Cease-Fire
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Guns in Afghanistan will fall silent for three days starting Saturday, as the country's warring factions allow the United Nations to carry out a polio vaccination campaign, a senior Taliban official said.
There will be a complete cease-fire until Monday, said Tayyab Agha, a senior Taliban spokesman.
The Taliban, who rule roughly 90 percent of Afghanistan, are battling their northern-based opposition on several fronts in an effort to extend their rule throughout the country. But the two sides often hold brief cease-fires to allow anti-polio drives and to distribute humanitarian aid, including medicine, food, clothing and tents.
Naseer Ahmed, a U.N. official, said more than 1,300 teams will give polio vaccines to 4 million children under age 5.
In 1999, polio immunization campaign could not be carried out in the opposition-controlled territory because a cease-fire could not be reached.
Afghanistan is one of 30 countries where polio continues to cripple people, mostly young children. In 1999, 156 new polio cases were identified here, according to U.N. data.
Massive polio campaign in Afghanistan
Tens of thousands of volunteers in Afghanistan have deployed around the country this weekend to vaccinate four and a half million children against polio.
The United Nations has secured a three-day ceasefire between the rival warring factions to allow the vaccinations to go ahead.
This is the second of four nationwide innoculation campaigns necessary to completely immunise all Afghan children. The first campaign was in May,and the final two will be in October and November. In the towns, the volunteers are using bicycles and in the mountainous areas, vaccines packed inside ice and snow are being transported by donkeys.
Afghanistan is one of thirty countries where polio still exists.
The UN wants to eradicate polio world wide by 2005. Polio -- which attacks the spinal cord and is either seriously debilitating or fatal -- can only be eradicated by the mass immunisation.
From the newsroom of the BBC World Service
Putin-Clinton summit important for Pakistan
By Amir Mateen - The News International (Pakistan)
WASHINGTON: President Clinton will also have the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan on his agenda for the three-day summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that starts today.
While the chances for substantive progress on the key issues of nuclear arms control and global security appear slim, the two sides are scheduled to talk about the war in Chechnya, the Russian threat to bomb Afghanistan and its repercussions in South Asia.
A senior US defence official told journalist in a background briefing the other day that Washington would not favour any air strikes by Russia in Afghanistan. Sources at the State Department confirm that the two sides would also discuss common efforts to curb terrorism originating from Afghanistan in particular and South Asia -- a euphemism being used for Pakistan these days -- in general.
The summit has high stakes for Pakistan. Though Washington may have reservation to sign any join statement with Russia, the topic will definitely come up for discussion. Even a partial mentioning from the two superpowers on either Afghanistan or on the need to curb militancy in South Asia will put immense pressure on Pakistan.
The tone for the coming discussions on international