Bush says mission goes on in Afghanistan
President George W. Bush rejected suggestions that the US campaign in Afghanistan may soon wind down -- and made a fresh vow to track down terror suspect Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."
Bush, though on vacation at his dusty Texas ranch, was focused on events in South Asia, where US troops were hunting bin Laden, top suspect in September 11 terror attacks, and nuclear rivals India and Pakistan slid into a new Cold War.
Pakistan said that if bin Laden strayed into its territory he would be seized and promised it would not start a war with its archrival, after Washington expressed concern the South Asian crisis could impinge on its war on terrorism.
Bush spoke to reporters outside his ranch, and was quick to discount suggestions by a member of the interim Afghan government that US operations might no longer be needed, once pockets of resistance by bin Laden's al-Qaeda network were mopped up.
"We're going to be there for a while, and I don't know the exact moment when we leave, but it's not until this mission is complete," he said, flanked by General Tommy Franks, who commands US troops in the war in Afghanistan.
The campaign "will take as long as it takes," said Franks, defining the mission as an insurance operation designed to keep the interim government on its feet and to promote stability.
Mohammad Habeel, spokesman for Afghan Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, earlier suggested a judgement should be made as to whether the US campaign continue once the last al-Qaeda fighters were mopped up.
"I hope this scattered resistance also will finish in three or four days' time," Habeel said. "Afterwards we will see if there is a need for (a continuation) or not."
Washington has no idea of the whereabouts of bin Laden, who appeared in a new video broadcast on Arabic television on Thursday, or even whether he is still alive.
But, Bush promised: "We're not going to stop until we get him and all those murderers that are associated with him. Dead or alive is fine with me."
Making no effort to disguise his distaste of bin Laden, Bush added: "This is a guy who, three months ago, was in control of a country. Now he's maybe in control of a cave."
Bush said he had discussed the South Asian crisis with his National Security team on Friday and that Secretary of State Colin Powell was in touch with both sides.
He singled out Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for special praise, noting that he had had 50 extremists arrested, and advised India to do likewise.
Musharraf on Friday promised that Pakistan "stands for peace" and would never initiate war. "We do not want war because we understand all the hazards that could follow," he said.
India-Pakistan relations have deteriorated since a December 13 attack on the Indian parliament which New Delhi accuses Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence of masterminding.
India has demanded that Islamabad act decisively against two Pakistan-based militant groups -- Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad -- blamed for carrying out the raid.
"We understand our responsibilities. We are to crack down and we do understand that," Musharraf said.
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi, meanwhile, said he was confident bin Laden would be captured if he sought refuge in Pakistani tribal border regions where some Afghan officials say he may be hiding.
"Tribal people and elders have actually apprehended a lot of non-Afghan fighters and handed them over to Pakistan. If at all he turns up, they will hand him over to us," he said, as hundreds of troops hunted fugitive al-Qaeda members.
Musharraf said that he would not move soldiers from the Afghan border to reinforce the frontier with India. US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld had voiced concern Thursday that the Pakistani troops could be shifted east towards the disputed Kashmir region.
Analysts in Pakistan warned that India's military buildup on the Pakistani border was nearing a point of no return, saying only a "diplomatic miracle" can avert war.
The diplomatic temperature is rising along with military tensions. On Thursday, India announced a ban on Pakistani planes using its airspace and a 50 percent cut in embassy staff in both countries.
Pakistan swiftly reciprocated with identical measures.
Pakistan International Airlines said Friday it was temporarily suspending flights to Singapore and Bangkok, as a result of the airspace ban, and rerouting Hong Kong-bound flights through China.
India said it was prepared to allow Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to use Indian airspace when he flies to Kathmandu for the January 4-6 summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
As acute fears persisted of follow-up attacks to the September 11 assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon which killed around 3,000 people, a court in Boston heard that explosives carried onto a transatlantic flight by alleged "shoebomber" Richard Reid could have caused a disaster.
A federal magistrate refused to free Reid, who is British, on bail.
Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Margaret Cronin argued Reid was in possession of a "functioning, improvised device," which "if placed beside an outer wall could have or would have created a large hole in the fuselage of the plane."
Reid is charged with intimidation and interfering with a flight crew -- offenses that carry 20-year jail terms. No additional charges were filed Friday.
He allegedly tried to set fire to his sneakers Saturday on an American Airlines . flight from Paris to Miami that was diverted to Boston.
The worldwide hunt for bin Laden followers continued, with Philippine officials announcing the arrest of a Jordanian believed to be an al-Qaeda militant.
The Pentagon said US troops in Afghanistan now hold 62 prisoners, many of them captured by Pakistani troops after fleeing across the common border from Afghanistan.
In Yemen, an interior ministry spokesman said 70 foreigners were being questioned by Yemeni authorities over their possible role in terrorist activities.
Yemen is carrying out a military operation on its border with Saudi Arabia against members of the al-Qaeda network.
Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai was mobbed outside one of Kabul's main mosques by thousands of Afghans, many of whom caught their first glimpse of their country's new leader.
Cries of "Karzai, Karzai" erupted from the ranks of at least 2,000 worshippers at the Pul-e-Kheshty mosque near what is known as Kabul's "old city" on Friday.
Karzai's low-key entrance contrasted with a high-profile exit as worshippers became aware of his presence among them.
Hundreds of Kabulis scaled the walls surrounding the mosque to catch a glimpse of their leader as the main crowd gathered in a 30-deep crush as he left at the end of Friday's prayers.
Karzai's bodyguards were forced to push through the throng to a waiting vehicle.
Many more people had already gathered there, waiting for a chance to reach out and touch the man they hope will consolidate Afghanistan's fragile peace and for whom they had earlier offered prayers.
He did not address the congregation but "prayed and left", mosque officials said.
Sunni Muslim Pashtuns and Tajiks along with Shiite Hazaras at the mosque proudly proclaimed to AFP that Karzai was "our leader".
He was appointed under the terms of the Bonn accords struck on December 5 between the Afghan factions that, with the help of massive US air support, drove the hardline Taliban regime from power.
Karzai heads a 30-member interim administration that will govern Afghanistan for six months. After that a Loya Jirga, or gathering of tribal elders, will be convened to appoint a transitional administration that will in turn organise general elections.
A senior Muslim cleric at the mosque, Mohammad Sarwer Saleh, said Karzai entered the mosque "not as a political leader, but as a brother Muslim".
"He attended as a brother Muslim, prayed and left -- he did not speak," Saleh told AFP. "Mr. Karzai is a Muslim man, he came here to pray."
The Pul-e-Kheshty mosque has a history of attracting some of Afghanistan's most powerful figures.
The former monarch, Mohammed Zahir Shah, worshipped there, as did influential members of the Taliban theocracy.
During his sermon, Saleh told the congregation that they should set aside their differences to support the new government -- and United Nations efforts to rebuild Afghanistan.
"I told the people they should work with the government for the peace and security of Afghanistan," he said. "I also called on the United Nations to help the people."
He later told AFP he "would like to thank the world for their prayers. We should all be brothers."
"Karzai is the one who is popular among the people. There have been problems in the past between Afghanistan's different peoples, for example the Uzbeks who support (Deputy Defence Minister Abdul Rashid) Dostam and the Shia who support (Hezb-e-Wahdat leader Karim) Khalili and others," he said.
"These problems will be solved if the United Nations helps Mr. Karzai."
However, "open-minded" members of the former Taliban regime were welcome to return to the mosque, he said.
"There were good Taliban and ... there were some who did not know about Islam.
"Those Taliban who were open-minded can return."
NEW DELHI, India (AP) — As India and Pakistan shot at each other and spoke of war, weeping friends and relatives on both sides bid farewell Friday before the two nations sever their land and air links for the first time in 30 years.
Warning that an Indian troop buildup at the border was pushing the countries into confrontation, Pakistan told the United States it may need to further reinforce its side of the frontier by moving troops now helping the U.S. hunt for Osama bin Laden, Pakistani officials said.
President Bush said Friday his administration was "working actively to bring some calm in the region, to hopefully convince both sides to stop the escalation of force." He said India should "take note" of steps by Pakistan to crack down on Islamic militants.
The South Asian rivals — both of which have nuclear weapons — have been threatening a new war since a Dec. 13 attack by gunmen on India's Parliament. New Delhi says Pakistan sponsored the attack and demands it arrest and extradite the leaders of two militant groups India says conducted the operation. Pakistan denies the charge.
The Indian army ordered evacuations of 20,000 people from more than 40 border villages in the Indian-held part of Kashmir, and traded shells overnight with Pakistani border forces, officials said Friday. Soldiers also laid mines outside the villages.
Retaliatory firing by Pakistani troops killed a 3-year-old in an Indian border village, police said. The firing ended two days of relative calm.
The two nations on Thursday ordered each other's 110-person embassy staffs cut in half and banned overflights as of next Tuesday. On that day, India will also close bus and train links, and private cars will also be barred from crossing the border — closing transport links for the first time since the 1971 war.
The halt to transportation links is a haunting reminder of past wars and a psychological blow for millions on both sides connected by blood or friendship.
Men and women wept, desperately embraced relatives and tried to hold hands through the iron window grills of the cars as the Samjhauta Express, the only train between the two nations, pulled out of the Old Delhi station, carrying people home before the deadline.
At the Lahore station in Pakistan, an Indian woman, Amina Begum, stood tightly holding the hand of her brother Tanveer Ahmad, a Pakistani. Both wept.
Separated in their childhood, they had met after 53 years. "I had come here to stay for two months, but now I'm going back just after seven days," Begum said as she boarded the train. "Now I don't think he will be able to see me even at my death."
A spokesman for Pakistan's military-government said India's troop buildup at the border was making a confrontation inevitable. "The Indian government is putting itself into a corner where it would be difficult for them to now back off," Gen. Rashid Quereshi said in Islamabad.
Pakistan told the United States on Friday through official channels that it may have to move troops from its western Afghan border to the eastern frontier with India, a senior diplomatic official and a senior army official said. Those troops are currently patrolling the Afghan border, hunting for fleeing members of bin Laden's al-Qaeda terror group.
Speaking at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush said Secretary of State Colin Powell had spoken to both sides, urging restraint. He praised Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying he had arrested 50 "extreme terrorists."
Powell called Musharraf and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh on Friday and urged both to resolve their differences through dialogue, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.
Reeker also reaffirmed the U.S. view that the leaders should use an upcoming meeting of South Asian leaders in Nepal to discuss their differences.
India has said Pakistan has only taken "cosmetic" steps against two Islamic militant groups New Delhi says conducted the Parliament attack — Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Pakistan has frozen the groups' assets and arrested some members but demands proof of their involvement. The Parliament attack left nine Indians and the five attackers dead.
Indian Home Minister Lal K. Advani said India was ready for a decisive battle "irrespective of the support we get from other countries in this war against terrorism."
The United States, European nations, China and the United Nations have urged Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to meet at a Jan. 4-6 gathering of South Asian leaders in Nepal. India said that will not happen, though both leaders are attending.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. Two of those wars — in 1947 and 1965 — were fought over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir. Many in both countries feared the prospect of a fourth.
"I want India to be tough, I want Pakistan to be taught a lesson for promoting terrorism. But war — I don't know, I still remember the blackouts of 1971 and the sirens and the jets flying overhead," said Radha Rastogi, a woman in India's northern city of Lucknow.
Though cargo can still be moved by train across the border, the closing of transportation links was likely to hurt the countries' $280 million in official trade annually. Another $1 billion worth goods illegally cross the border every year.
"We are feeling tense now," said Shafiqur Rahman Rao, a Pakistani marble exporter at a trade fair in Calcutta, India. "We don't want war at any cost."
The transport links are among the few concrete results of peace efforts in the countries' long rivalry. Vajpayee launched the New Delhi-Lahore bus service in February 1999, riding into Pakistan himself in what was seen as a path-breaking peace gesture between the neighbors.
The twice-weekly train service started in 1976 after a peace deal ended the 1971 war.
Gloria Steinem: Restoring women's rights in Afghanistan
December 27, 2001 Posted: 5:02 PM EST (2202 GMT
Gloria Steinem is a writer and a champion of women's issues, including equal rights, equal pay, and abortion. In the early 1970s she co-founded the Women's Action Alliance to develop women's educational programs. She founded Ms. Magazine in 1972, a revolutionary publication that challenged mainstream thinking about women's places in society, and she is now chair of Liberty Media for Women, LLC, the present owner of Ms. Magazine. She is the author of three books, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.
Gloria Steinem is a writer and a champion of women's issues, including equal rights, equal pay, and abortion. In the early 1970s she co-founded the Women's Action Alliance to develop women's educational programs. She founded Ms. Magazine in 1972, a revolutionary publication that challenged mainstream thinking about women's places in society, and she is now chair of Liberty Media for Women, LLC, the present owner of Ms. Magazine. She is the author of three books, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.
CNN: Welcome to CNN.com Newsroom, Gloria Steinem. It's a pleasure to have you with us today.
STEINEM: I'd like to say hello, and I wish I could hear your voices!
CNN: Issues such as freedom of reproductive choice and equal pay have been at the top of your activist agenda. What are your expectations for the women of Afghanistan?
STEINEM: The women of Afghanistan are strong, smart and very brave. If we give them the aid they need, even a third of what we have spent on dropping bombs, they will be able to take control of their own lives. But right now, the U.S. State Department has refused to give aid to or through women-led organizations. Instead, they give them through U.S.-based NGOs, which often start with training that these women don't need. They've already been operating schools and hospitals. So, much depends on us.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Women's rights? Is that an oxymoron even in America?
STEINEM: I'm not sure what you mean, exactly, but we're very far from having equal rights in this country, though we've made a lot of progress in the last 30 years. What happens in the future depends on what we do every day.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Ms. Steinem, it is a pleasure. When I look at women's plights around the world, I cannot help but come to the conclusion that religion is used to keep women submissive. Is there anything that can be done to change that?
STEINEM: I agree, that religion is often politics made sacred. If God is a man, then man is God. We need to return and go forward to the understanding that there is God in all living things, not more in men than women, and not more in humans than in nature. To believe otherwise is only an excuse for dominating women and nature.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you know what RAWA (Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan) is doing these days? Do they feel their mission is accomplished or is there still more for them to do?
STEINEM: RAWA, which is one of many women's organizations in Afghanistan, is very focused on reconstruction with a full role for women, and on self-determination for women. So, there's a very long way to go. Thanks to 23 years of war funded by the former Soviet Union and the U.S., there are more land mines in Afghanistan than there are people, and the entire infrastructure is destroyed. They need a Marshall Plan even more than the European nations did after World War II. I was in Washington with members of RAWA and many other Afghan women's groups, lobbying the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for this aid, and I hope that people who are part of this conversation will lobby their members of Congress to say that we must spend at least a third on peace that we have spent on war.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: What is the best way to help? Many of these women seem to be loving the freedoms, while others seem to be holding on, perhaps in fear, to the traditions. How can we make sure we help them and not try to Americanize them?
STEINEM: If we listen to what the women ask us to do, we will not be imposing our will on them. What they are asking us to do now is to press for emergency humanitarian aid. As many as 6 million people are hungry and in danger of starving this winter. U.S. bombing has prevented much humanitarian aid from getting through. We need to stop the bombs and deliver food and shelter. As someone on the Internet said, "make dinner, not war."
CNN: You've been critical of George W. Bush and the way he came to office. That being said, what do you think of the Bush administration's efforts to urge the placement of women in the new Afghan government?
STEINEM: Anything that's helpful is welcome, but the Islamic leaders themselves were far ahead of the Bush administration. Bush representatives were saying, for instance, that women could only be observers in Bonn, at the same time that the king and Rabbani were putting women as official delegates on their delegations. Also, the Bush administration was courting the Taliban, inviting them to Texas, giving them millions of dollars, right up until September 11th because of a possible oil pipeline through Afghanistan. It's very clear that women were not a priority until September 11th, and are only an accidental addition now.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Because Islam is a medieval political system, i.e. more than just a religion, do you see it as incompatible with the modern world of equal rights which you wish to see?
STEINEM: No more incompatible than Christianity or Hinduism or Buddhism, when they are imposed as totalitarian systems, as some Christian rightwing groups in this country are also trying to do.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: What can we do about the violence against women in Afghanistan as well as in the United States?
STEINEM: We can do our best as givers of aid to channel some of that aid through women and women's groups in Afghanistan, which helps restore their power. Here, we can support political leaders who fund programs against violence against women. And we as women can band together to help each other. When we see at work or in the supermarket a women who is bruised and battered, we can ask her if we can help. We can tell her about shelters. We can refuse to keep silent.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Gloria, do you think women's rights in Afghanistan will be anywhere even close to those in the USA in our lifetime?
STEINEM: Remember that women in Afghanistan had equal rights in the Constitution of the '60s and were doctors, lawyers, and teachers. If we restore those rights by refusing to arm and fund religious fascists like the Mujahadeen and the Taliban -- remember, the U.S. gave 3 billion dollars in arms to the Mujahadeen, which included Osama bin Laden -- then we can help to demilitarize and restore civil society. We have to recognize our responsibility for supporting religious fascists in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you believe that some major changes will come for women to be given the vote now that two women are on the interim government? Or will their roles be diminished after the permanent governing body is put in place? Or do you think they will get an expanding role?
STEINEM: Again, remember that we are talking about restoring women's rights that existed before this society was militarized. If the U.S. stops selling arms, closes the borders of Afghanistan to arms, and disarms the warlords, then the peace-loving women and many men of Afghanistan have a chance to rebuild and to establish a democracy. It greatly depends on what we press our own politicians to do. The U.S. is the biggest arms dealer in the world. We have to take power over our own acts, and that will encourage others to act in a more responsible, peaceful way, too. Having met a lot of the Afghan women leaders, I have great faith in them. I'm less sure about our own political decision-makers.
CNN: Do you have any closing comments for us today?
STEINEM: Whenever we ask, "What will happen?" we've given up our power. We have to ask "what am I going to make happen?" That gives us back our power. The focus on Afghanistan has made us realize that women need a foreign policy, that gender apartheid is as serious as racial apartheid, and that the shared characteristic of violent societies is a polarization of the gender roles. So, we need to remember that when we look around us, and women need to take ourselves seriously. We need to speak up as much for women as we would for a racial or religious group that also includes men. That means in our own homes, where we work, and where we study. I don't mean to make this sound super serious, because creating this kind of change is fun and exciting, and gives us a community. So, I hope we remember the physicist who said that the flap of a butterfly's wing could change the weather hundreds of miles away. We each have a lot of power. Together, just those of us having this conversation right now make one hell of a butterfly.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Gloria Steinem.
STEINEM: Thank you.
Gloria Steinem joined the chat room via telephone and CNN.com provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Thursday, December 27, 2001 at 1 p.m. EDT.
By Vivienne Walt, USA TODAY
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — The frenetic crossroads in the center of this former Taliban stronghold makes the floor of the New York Stock Exchange look tame these days.
As one of the city's few traffic officers makes a vain attempt to calm the chaos, hundreds of currency dealers jam the narrow street and intersection, shouting out numbers as they wave mounds of tattered afghani bank notes in their fists.
With the war over, Kandahar's currency-trading frenzy might be one of the best ways to gauge the country's prospects. As Afghanistan's new interim government begins work in the capital, Kabul, the arcane currency, the afghani, is rocketing in value. Speculators are rushing to turn a quick profit.
The afghani's value has doubled in the past week. It has soared five times since the United States began bombing Afghanistan on Oct. 7, from 72,000 afghanis to the U.S. dollar before the war to 11,000 this week. "During the last two or three months, I've made a large profit," says money changer Ahmad, 39, sitting cross-legged on a cushion at his sidewalk currency stand, with a flask of green tea and jar of sugar beside him.
"Everyone thinks that a good government is coming and that the world will give aid to Afghanistan," says Ahmad, who like many Afghans uses one name. "So everyone wants to purchase afghanis."
The afghani's value doubled against the dollar almost as soon as the first U.S. bomb hit Afghanistan. Saturday brought an equally momentous event: the inauguration in Kabul of interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun nobleman whose family has long-held credentials here in southern Afghanistan. Indeed, the afghani's value soared the day Karzai was chosen for the post by an international conference in Bonn, Germany, this month.
The currency traders say they were glued to hourly newscasts of the Voice of America and the BBC throughout the war, weighing each battle for its effect on the afghani. They quickly guessed that the United States would win. That sent values soaring, because a U.S. victory stood to make Afghanistan's currency international tender once again. During the five years of Taliban rule, the country had virtually no trade or diplomatic relations, so the currency had no value outside this nation's borders.
The speculators proved right. Those who bought sacks of afghanis during the war have made huge profits. "I bought 500 million afghanis when the Taliban surrendered two weeks ago," says Mohammad Saddiq, 28, a currency trader at Kandahar's chaotic trading crossroads. He bought the currency with Pakistan rupees worth about $19,000. Last week, his stock of afghanis was worth $33,300.
Since most food and household goods are imported, store owners now pay a fraction for wholesale items, and prices have dropped sharply for Afghan customers.
"Before, many people were too poor to buy bread," says Muhammadin, 25, who has worked in his father's bread store since he was 15. "The currency has increased, and the price has come down." One nan, or flat bread, has plummeted in price during the past week, from 11,000 afghanis before the U.S. bombing campaign, to 8,000 last week and 4,000 on Saturday — about 25 cents. "Now everyone can afford bread, even a beggar can buy bread," Muhammadin says.
Currency profiteering might sound simple. But amateur trading is like a first-time gambler sitting down at a $500 blackjack table in Las Vegas.
There are in fact three afghanis: those printed before the Taliban took power in 1996, those printed after 1996 by Northern Alliance political leader Burhanuddin Rabbani and a third printed by the ethnic Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostum, who helped liberate the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and remains a force in northern Afghanistan.
The notes are almost identical. Their origins can be deciphered only by a tiny red serial number. Only those with old numbers beginning 1 through 35, bills printed prior to the Taliban's rule, are acceptable to traders. They are the only notes that merchants and businesspersons in Kandahar and Kabul will take.
The currency is expected to reach new highs if billions of dollars in funds to rebuild the country are approved at a conference in Tokyo in January. International aid is expected to total $7 billion to $9 billion.
Although this assistance could provide more profit for the currency traders, the new Afghan finance minister would prefer stability.
"I think it's overvalued now, given the amount of afghanis that are in circulation," said Hedayat Amin Arsala, a former World Bank official. "In any case, substantial work has to be done to stabilize the value of the currency, give confidence to the people that they have a stable afghani with which they can work and can count on it."
He said countries that had been printing the currency on behalf of Afghan factions had agreed to stop and to accept orders only from the new Afghan Central Bank.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 28, 2001; Page A01
By Edward Cody
CAMP SHAHEEN, Pakistan, Dec. 27 -- Pakistani and Indian troops eyed one another today across a 200-yard ravine here in the steep Kashmiri hills, a potential flash point for renewed conflict that was not in the script when the Bush administration recruited Pakistan as its main regional ally in the war on terrorism.
"Even a small little action could degenerate into a chain reaction that nobody could control," declared Brig. Mohammed Yaqub Khan, who commands about 4,000 Pakistani soldiers on high alert along this section of the Line of Control dividing Kashmir into its Pakistani- and Indian-run parts.
"The two nuclear states, well, if they go to war, it can become a big catastrophe for the entire world," Khan told a group of foreign reporters at this dug-in military post about 75 miles due west of the Indian city of Srinagar.
This latest tension between two countries that are never fully at peace began Dec. 13, when gunmen shot their way into India's Parliament complex in New Delhi. India blamed Pakistan-based militant groups for the raid, in which 14 people died, including the five attackers. The crisis threatens to draw Pakistan's resources away from the border with Afghanistan and the U.S.-backed war against Osama bin Laden. Pakistan has been a major staging area for U.S. military and intelligence operations in the Afghan conflict.
Since Sept. 11, the U.S. military has taken control of about a third of Pakistan's airspace to facilitate operations over neighboring Afghanistan and the search for bin Laden and his al Qaeda fighters in the western border hills of Pakistan.
About 60,000 Pakistani soldiers have been deployed along that border to aid in the search. And as many as 35,000 Pakistani troops have been assigned to protect U.S. troops and equipment using bases on western Pakistani soil, at a cost of more than $400 million from a Pakistani military budget of $2.7 billion.
That heavy U.S. involvement in western Pakistan has made the Bush administration a major if reluctant player in the tensions here in the east as well. So far, the U.S. role has been to urge restraint by India, which seeks to retaliate for the attack on Parliament, and to demand that Pakistan crack down on two extremist Islamic groups that India alleges carried out the assault.
Friday December 28, 6:24 AM
KABUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Afghanistan said on Thursday Osama bin Laden had escaped to neighbouring Pakistan but the head of a radical Islamic group that Kabul said was sheltering the world's most wanted man poured cold water on the charge.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not rule out that bin Laden, chief suspect in September 11 suicide plane attacks on the United States, had fled Afghanistan for another country but said he had stopped chasing reports of his whereabouts.
"We hear six, seven, eight, 10, 12 conflicting reports every day. I've stopped chasing them," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.
"We do know of certain knowledge he is either in Afghanistan or some other country or dead and we know of certain knowledge that we don't know which of those happens to be the case."
The Afghan Defense Ministry said bin Laden had slipped into Pakistan and was being protected by followers of Islamic radical leader, Maulana Fazalur Rehman, who had helped create the Taliban, the ousted government the United States charged had given sanctuary to bin Laden.
"Bin Laden and his men are no longer here," said ministry spokesman Mohamad Habeel, who would not reveal his sources and said he did not know where in Pakistan bin Laden was.
Habeel represents the Northern Alliance, the main part of the new government that has poor relations with Pakistan.
Rehman denied the report.
"This is a political gimmick," he told Reuters from his home in northwest Pakistan where he is under house arrest.
But in a telling comment on how elusive bin Laden has proved, a senior defence official revealed that since United States started its attacks on Afghanistan in October, its forces had never come close enough to finding the Saudi-born radical to attack his location.
The United States never had "actionable intelligence", or information that could be acted on immediately, on bin Laden's whereabouts since launching its military campaign in Afghanistan on October 7, the senior defence official said.
"If there had been, we would have gotten him," said the official, who asked not to be named.
Pakistan has sent troops and paramilitaries to its porous 2,400-km (1,500-mile) Afghan border and has arrested hundreds of bin Laden supporters trying to cross. It has handed 20 of them back to U.S. Marines in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said.
BIN LADEN VIDEOTAPE
In a videotape released by Qatar's al-Jazeera television station on Thursday, bin Laden told the United States that it would soon collapse, whether he lived or died, as Muslims around the world had "awakened" to its tyranny.
Al-Jazeera had first aired excerpts on Wednesday of the 34-minute-long message, in which bin Laden accused the West of holding an "indescribable amount of Crusader loathing for Islam."
The channel said bin Laden's videotape was mailed from Pakistan but had lain unopened on a secretary's desk for two days before someone noticed it on Wednesday.
It did not say how it got the tape or when or where it had been shot, though the channel's anchor said it could have been recorded in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as bin Laden was swallowing constantly.
Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk during Ramadan which ended on December 15.
"We say that the end of the United States is imminent, whether bin Laden or his followers are alive or dead, for the awakening of the Muslim umma (nation) has occurred," bin Laden said.
U.S. President George W. Bush, on holiday on his Texan ranch, dismissed the tape via a spokesman as "terrorist propaganda".
In war developments, U.S. planes destroyed a compound overnight believed to be used by leaders of Afghanistan's fallen Taliban militia near Ghazni, southwest of Kabul, the Pentagon said.
In a raid that took place on Wednesday afternoon Washington time and pre-dawn Thursday local time, at least two B-52 heavy bombers and one AC-130 gunship destroyed the high-walled complex using precision and non-precision bombs, Pentagon spokesman Admiral Craig Quigley said.
Air Force General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing the United States had "very good indications that the compound was inhabited by Taliban leadership, and were confident enough and had watched it long enough that we felt we could strike it."
He said he was unaware of an unconfirmed report from the area that up to 40 villagers had been killed in a U.S. nighttime bombing raid.
"The attack took place when the people were asleep," said one tribal source, quoting witnesses from Naka village.
The source said 40 people were killed, up to 60 wounded and 25 houses destroyed, with villagers -- who said they were supporters of the new interim government -- left confounded.
"Neither Osama nor any other foreigner is in our village," one resident said. The private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) put the death toll at 25.
DEBATE RAGES OVER CONVOY
Myers, the top U.S. military officer, once again defended a controversial raid last Friday on a convoy in Paktia province.
Tribal leaders have maintained that the convoy was made up strictly of supporters of the new, U.S.-backed interim government on their way to Kabul to attend a swearing-in ceremony.
"We have nothing to indicate anything other than what we said before, in that, that convoy was, again, leadership that was involved in this war on terrorism," he said.
Some Afghans claim their enemies deliberately misinformed the Americans to provoke the bombing. U.S. officials say the convoy opened fire first on U.S. aircraft.
As details emerged of a Briton suspected of trying to blow up a transatlantic jet on Saturday with explosives in his shoes, speculation grew that he may have been part of a wider plot.
Pakistan, thrown into crisis by the Afghan war, also faced rising tension on its border with India in disputed Kashmir.
Indian and Pakistani forces fired on each other over the border as India, which says thwarting Kashmir guerrillas is part of the "war on terrorism," imposed sanctions on Pakistan, which it blames for a suicide attack this month on its parliament.
Pakistan retaliated and the United States urged the nuclear rivals to talk.
KABUL (AP)--Terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden is believed to be with "friends" of a Pakistani religious party leader, an official in Afghanistan's new interim government said Thursday.
Mohammad Abeel, spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Kabul, said bin Laden was believed to be with "friends" of Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman, a Pakistani Islamic activist in a border area of Pakistan. He didn't elaborate or divulge the source of his information.
Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman is the leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, a powerful Pakistani religious party sympathetic to Afghanistan's deposed Taliban militia. Its main support base is in parts of Pakistan's North West Frontier and Baluchistan provinces, both of which border on Afghanistan.
It helped orchestrate some of the largest pro-Taliban protests in Pakistan after U.S. airstrikes on Afghanistan began in October.
Riaz Durrani, central information secretary for Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, rejected the report about bin Laden as "baseless."
"We support the Taliban, but never had any connection with Osama bin Laden," he said. "Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman is under detention for the last three months. How can he or his party do this?"
He added: "It is part of an international conspiracy to attack Pakistan under the pretext of action against religious organizations."
Another well-known figure in Pakistan religious politics, Fazal ur-Rehman Khalil, is a leader of Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, which follows the same school of thought as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam but is more militant and is fighting for Indian Kashmir's merger with Pakistan.
His group also is connected with the Taliban. Attempts to reach him for comment were unsuccessful Thursday night, because he has been in hiding since October to avoid arrest. Harkat ul-Mujahedeen has been banned and classified by the U.S. as a terrorist organization.
Last week in China, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said he he was "reasonably sure" that bin Laden hadn't escaped to Pakistan and said there was a "great possibility" the al-Qaida leader was dead.
"He's not in Pakistan, of that we are reasonably sure. But we can't be 100% sure. We have sealed the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Musharraf said.
Women's Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA)
P. O. Box 77057 Washington, DC 20013-7057. Tel: 202-882-1432, Fax:
E-mail: email@example.com, http://www.wapha.org
Kabul's Lost Women
Many Abducted by Taliban Still Missing
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, December 19, 2001; Page A01
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Eight Taliban fighters kicked in the front door at dinnertime. They beat Shabnam's mother and grandmother, according to her relatives. Then they hustled the 9-year-old girl into a pickup truck, loot for their commanding officer. That was August 1997. Shabnam, who would be 13 now, is still not home.
Her sister saw her once, about two years ago. She heard that Shabnam had become the property of Col. Shawali, a top Taliban security officer. So she went to his house and demanded to see her little sister. She was allowed to talk to her for five minutes, surrounded by Taliban gunmen, just long enough to see the fear in her eyes.
"Every time she sees someone who looks like Shabnam, she cries," said Islamodin, the sister's husband. Shabnam lived with the couple; her mother and grandmother were visiting at the time of the abduction.
"Her clothes are still in the house, and so are her dolls; everything reminds us of her," said Islamodin, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name. "When the Taliban were forced out of Kabul [last month], we should have been happy. But we could only cry because she was not with us."
Taliban soldiers abducted many women and girls, perhaps hundreds or more, during their five-year rule of Afghanistan, according to Afghan families, officials of the incoming government and humanitarian aid groups. Many are still missing, and their stories are only now beginning to emerge in the wake of the Taliban's defeat. It is impossible to calculate the number kidnapped. Many families have never spoken out because of the stigma, especially strong in this conservative
Muslim society, of having a daughter or sister sold for sex. Others fear that protesting could jeopardize the life of their missing loved ones. Islamodin and others interviewed spoke reluctantly, and they declined to be photographed or provide pictures of the kidnapped girls.
But as a new government prepares to take office Saturday, and the climate of fear created by the Taliban begins to fade, more and more families are stepping forward to tell their stories publicly for the first time.
The abductions highlight a central hypocrisy of the Taliban regime. Their official policy was to revere women as jewels to be guarded by the men in their family. To the Taliban, that meant stripping women of virtually all rights, including education, and forcing them to stay either out of sight at home or covered head to toe by a burqa in public.
One of the most frequently told stories about Mohammad Omar, the Taliban's spiritual leader, is how in the spring of 1994 he led a small band of followers to a warlord's base near the city of Kandahar to free two girls who had been abducted and repeatedly raped. Omar reportedly freed the girls, then hanged the warlord from the barrel of a tank to avenge his violent treatment
of the girls.
But according to interviews with families and officials in Afghanistan and abroad, the Taliban was essentially a militia of illiterate young men who often abused their power in violent ways. That reportedly included claiming women and girls as sexual prizes.
Gen. Mohammed Qasim, chief military prosecutor for the Northern Alliance, the collection of forces that led the fight to overthrow the Taliban, said in an interview that he believed at least 1,000 Afghan women were abducted by the Taliban.
"This is not what the Afghan people are like," said Qasim, who will be a top justice ministry official in the new government. He promised that the new government would investigate as many cases as possible.
"It will be difficult to find many of them," he said. "We think many of these girls are no longer in Afghanistan. We think many of them may have been killed by the Taliban. But the parents want us to find them, and we will try."
Qasim said that many of the girls were used as concubines by Taliban officers, some of whom kept a dozen or more. He said many others were sold as sexual slaves to wealthy Arabs through contacts arranged by the al Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden. Proceeds helped keep the cash-strapped Taliban afloat, he said.
Farhat Bokhari, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in New York, which recently released a report on the plight of Afghan women, said in a telephone interview that "whispers" about large numbers of abductions under the Taliban have emerged recently.
Bokhari said that in interviews with Afghan women in refugee camps in Pakistan late last summer, "A few women said they had heard of more than 20 abductions; others gave estimates in the hundreds, so there's really no good accounting."
Bokhari said abductions have been underreported because of "the whole issue of dishonor." She said Afghan people would not talk about sexual abuse, because it could harm a woman's chances of marriage. And, she said, families feared for their lives if they complained to the Taliban.
Afghan women and girls have suffered greatly in the past two decades, during wars among Afghan factions, 10 years of occupation by the Soviet Union and then under the Taliban, which was accused in a State Department report last month of "egregious acts of violence against women, including rape, abduction and forced marriage."
One Western official, who said kidnappings of young girls had been common under the Taliban, noted that the mujaheddin who fought for control of the country before the Taliban took over also frequently abducted and raped women. "The Taliban didn't invent this," he said.
Qasim, the Northern Alliance prosecutor, said there were many abuses of women during the years of factional fighting. But he said the abuses were never sanctioned by the government, as they were during the Taliban era. Qasim said some women and girls who had been abducted were left behind by Taliban fighters when they fled Kabul on Nov. 13 as Northern Alliance forces entered the city. He said many of those women have been reunited with their families. But, he said, many more were abducted by Taliban troops on their way out of the city.Islamodin has been spending his days lately touring the police stations and security offices of the incoming government to urge officials to investigate Shabnam's case. So far, he said, no one seems to be willing to do anything. Still, he said, attitudes are different than in the Taliban days.
"The Taliban would not listen," he said. "I went to one Taliban government official to complain and he just shouted at me. He said, 'You are from Panjshir [a Northern Alliance stronghold]. You are not a true Muslim. You are a communist. Get out.' "
Maizer Mohammed, a Kabul police commander who met with Islamodin on Friday, shook his head when asked if his officers would be able to find Shabnam. "This was so common in the time of the Taliban, especially among the Pakistani and Arab Taliban," he said, referring to foreigners, many of them members of al Qaeda, who came to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.
"I don't think we will be able to find out where she is." "If I am not able to get her back, I will take my revenge," Islamodin said, standing on a frigid street outside the bakery he runs with a friend. "I will find that man's close relative, and I will kill him. In other countries it is different, but this is tradition in Afghanistan. Here it is justice. And justice should be done."
Shah Suleman has been trying for more than five years to find his cousin, who was 13 when she was abducted in September 1996. He is now a police officer in Kabul, a job he said he took to help in the search.
"I have asked my chiefs to try to help, but there is nothing they can do," he said, standing in a busy Kabul market wearing the woolly green pants and shirt of the newly formed police force. He would not give his cousin's name, fearing reprisals from whoever might have her.
Suleman said his cousin was abducted in Kabul by a group of Taliban soldiers who came to the family home and dragged away two young male relatives. The soldiers returned a few hours later, saying they would kill the boys unless the family let them take Suleman's two female cousins, ages 25 and 13.
Suleman said his aunt was forced to let the girls go to save her sons. For two years there was no word from either of them.
Then a man came to the house with the 25-year-old. He said he had seen a Taliban soldier beating her in Gardez, about 80 miles south of Kabul. He said he paid the soldier -- Suleman did not know how much -- for the woman, then brought her home. He asked for the family's permission to marry her. Suleman said his cousin was so grateful to the man for freeing her that she agreed, and the family consented as well. They now live in Pakistan, Suleman said.
But there has been no word from the other girl, who would be 18 now. "Nobody has ever seen her, and we don't know where she is," Suleman said.© 2001 The Washington Post Company
December 19, 2001
A Tale of the Mullah and Muhammad's Amazing Cloak
By NORIMITSU ONISHI
Lynsey Addario/Saba, for The New York TimesQari Shawali at the Shrine of the Cloak of the Prophet Muhammad, which his family has guarded for generations. The leader of the Taliban found a visit there disconcerting.Thomas Friedman on Terrorism presents six of Mr. Friedman's Op-Ed columns on the threat of terrorism facing the U.S. prior to the attacks of Sept. 11.
Read now for just $4.95.
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Dec. 18 — The first time Mullah Muhammad Omar was allowed to enter the Shrine of the Cloak of the Prophet Muhammad here in Kandahar, and cast his gaze on the sacred ancient robe, he trembled.
So disoriented was Mullah Omar that as he prepared to pray, he mistook the way toward Mecca.
"He turned to face toward the south," recalled Qari Shawali, 48, the keeper of the prophet's cloak. "So I made him change his position to turn toward Mecca."
As the head keeper of the prophet's cloak, Mr. Shawali holds the keys that unlock the doors to the shrine, one of the holiest places of worship in Afghanistan, and the silver boxes that hold the garment that Afghans believe was worn by the prophet. Mr. Shawali inherited the responsibility from his father and he will pass it on to his son, inshallah.
According to legend, Ahmad Shah Durrani, who founded Afghanistan a quarter of a millennium ago, brought the cloak to Kandahar from a great conquest. As many Pashtun clans vied to become keeper of the cloak, the king asked representatives from each clan to stand before the box containing the cloak and cry, "Allah-u-akbar!" — "God is great!"
"When my forefather cried, `Allah-u-akbar,' the lock opened by itself," Mr. Shawali said. "So the king chose our family to be the keepers of the Prophet's cloak."
The family, in some sense, is also the keeper of Afghan custom and tradition, anchors in a nation disoriented by Soviet occupation, half a decade of Islamic extremism and many, many years of war and drought.
A genial man with a big white turban and beard, Mr. Shawali agreed to sit down for an interview today, in a small building just outside the shrine.
Two guards armed with Kalashnikovs served green tea in the room, in which rocket-propelled grenade launchers leaned against the walls.
"I want to show how the Afghan people are hospitable," he said.
If Kandahar was the Taliban's spiritual stronghold, it has also occupied a special place for most Afghans. The body of the country's founder, King Durrani, lies in a mausoleum that dominates the city's heart; the Shrine of the Prophet's Cloak stands before it, with a mosque on the side. Ordinary Afghans pray before the shrine several times a day, while many make
pilgrimages from the provinces.
The double doors to the shrine are locked with three different-sized padlocks that lie atop one another like petals. Mr. Shawali and two assistants each hold a copy of a key, and all three men must be present when they enter the shrine.
Once inside, they must pass under a table laden with Korans before arriving at another set of doors, again with three locks.
In the sanctuary, Mr. Shawali said, the prophet's cloak is kept inside a small silver box, which, in turn, lies inside two larger boxes. By custom and tradition Mr. Shawali, as the head keeper, holds the key to the smallest box.Simply by standing outside the inner sanctuary, Mr. Shawali said, the mute have walked out speaking, the blind seeing.
"But when there is a great danger in the country, or when there is a catastrophe, a king will ask permission to take the cloak out," he said.
Accordingly, he said, the cloak was taken out of the box and shown when cholera swept the city about seven decades ago.
In his lifetime, Mr. Shawali said, three men have tried to look at the prophet's cloak — each of them apparently seeking vindication for their rule. The first was the now exiled king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, who in the end stopped short of looking at the cloak.
"When the chest was opened, he became afraid and began trembling," he said, adding that the king had walked out. "Maybe he was a sinner."
The second, he said, was Pir Gailani, a relative of Zahir. The king had granted him permission to look at the cloak.
The third time — and the most fateful for Afghanistan — was in the spring of 1996. The Taliban had swept across southern Afghanistan in 1994 but had yet to defeat the government of President Burhanuddin Rabbani and take Kabul.
The Taliban's Pashtun supporters were split on whether to pursue the war to conquer the rest of the country. It was a critical moment.
Hundreds of religious leaders gravitated here and sought to make Mullah Omar the undisputed leader of a holy war to conquer all of Afghanistan. They nominated him to become amir-ul momineen, an Islamic title that means commander of the faithful.
So one Friday, Mr. Shawali recalled, Mullah Omar arrived at the shrine.
"Here I am," Mullah Omar told him. "I have taken a bath and I have put on new clothes. Let me see the robe." Mr. Shawali continued, "We told him we had not taken our bath and had not
changed our clothes, so we asked him to return later that day."
On that Friday evening almost six years ago, about 100 close aides saw Mullah Omar with the robe inside the shrine, Mr. Shawali said. Despite Mullah Omar's initial confusion about the direction toward Mecca, he soon appeared to gain confidence.
"He announced on the radio that he was going to show the robe to the public," Mr. Shawali recalled.A week later, at 7 a.m., Mullah Omar returned and, this time, expressed his
wish to take the robe out of its shrine. "I told him I didn't want the robe to be taken to another place," Mr. Shawali recalled. "We were afraid. But he said not to worry. He would bring it back."
With the cloak in his possession, Mullah Omar went to an old mosque in the center of the city and climbed onto its roof. For the next 30 minutes, he held the cloak aloft, his palms inserted in its sleeves.
According to residents of Kandahar who were present, the crowds cheered. Many lost consciousness. Many threw their hats and other items of clothes in the air, in the hope that they would make contact with the cloak.
Most importantly, as other mullahs shouted, "Amir-ul momineen!," Mullah Omar gained the legitimacy he needed to pursue his conquest of the rest of Afghanistan.
Asked whether he, too, had been pleased by Mullah Omar's use of the cloak, Mr. Shawali answered, "If I was happy or not is not important." Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company | Privacy Information
In Kandahar, Signs of Cracks in Taliban's Puritanical Facade
By Karl Vick
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, December 21, 2001; Page A30
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Dec. 20 -- Like all the Taliban big shots, Mohamedin drove a double-cab Toyota pickup, fully loaded. And though the extras included a tape deck, surely he used it only to play cassettes of sermons the Taliban sold at the downtown shops that had peddled music before music was forbidden.
The vehicle went to the Mastri Sharif repair shop for transmission work. But when a young mechanic was done with the gear box, he made a thorough inspection of the cab -- and came up with telling evidence that, even among the Taliban, not everything was as it was professed: He found three tapes, by pop singers Nagham, Raub and Habib Sharif.
"Under the seat," Abdul Sami said, of where he found the forbidden fruits. "And behind the heater." Two weeks after falling softly into the hands of anti-Taliban militias, this southern city described as the spiritual stronghold of the Taliban offers considerable evidence that it was something less than that during most of the puritanical Islamic movement's seven-year reign in the city. Now that the Taliban has been toppled, Afghans in all corners of the country swear they
never supported the movement. But such disclaimers would seem unlikely here in Kandahar, where the Taliban was born.
A bustling, tumbledown city of mud bricks and polished mosques, Kandahar has always been at least as conservative as any city in Afghanistan. Its central bazaar features the Shrine of the Cloak of the Prophet, a holy site that claims to hold a garment worn by Muhammad himself.
So in November 1994, when a budding movement of religious enthusiasts took up arms against the warlords who were pillaging the province they were supposed to be protecting, the population welcomed the change. The group's members, led by a mullah named Mohammad Omar, called themselves what they were: Taliban -- literally, students. But the love affair was brief, local residents said.
"Yes, people were very happy and accepted them because they brought peace here," said Mohammed Ismail, a construction engineer in Kandahar. "But afterward, it turned into something different."
The tide turned soon after the Taliban turned its righteous attention from the warlords to the general population, residents said. The litany of abuses that Western governments have only recently cited with much conviction have been grumbled about by Kandahar residents since the mid-1990s, when the Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the Taliban
religious police, issued its first decrees.
"Each and every thing was not allowed," said Nisar Ahmed, a pharmacist in Kandahar. "Nobody was allowed to have fun."
Some of the Taliban's edicts gained worldwide notoriety: girls over the age of 8 banned from receiving education; women not allowed to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male family member, and then required to wear head-to-toeveils; men obliged to grow full beards. At the southern gate of the city stands a cage in which men who shaved were locked up and spit upon by passersby.
Other decrees attracted less notice, except among residents still astonished by their intrusive pettiness. Women were officially warned against walking in shoes that clacked. Crowds at soccer games were forbidden to applaud. And in a country of rugged mountains, vast plains and bracing winds, children were told it was against Islamic law to fly kites.
The penalty for kite-flying, at least in Kandahar: The Taliban cut off electricity to the offender's home. In a world turned upside down, kites had become a threat to power lines.
It's just play," shrugged Nazar Ali, 13, as he guided a gleaming diamond of black and gold tissue paper across the gathering dusk. Kites darted and careened in the blue above Kandahar all day, as children slapped down their 25,000 Afghanis [about $1.75] at suddenly stocked shops, unspooled the string and raced to do what Ali had been wanting to do for years.
"But I was scared," he said.
Under Taliban rule, however, the skies were not always devoid of kites. In recent years, residents occasionally spotted them wheeling overhead, only to follow the string earthward to the happy fists of men sporting black turbans and shaggy, untrimmed beards, both Taliban trademarks.
"They themselves had fun, but for the rest of the people it was very boring," said Ismail, the engineer. Inevitably, the double standard carried consequences. Omar, the self-proclaimed "Commander of the Faithful," legislated asceticism as he built himself a palace with gold-plated chandeliers at the edge of town. Such indulgence lent at least a sliver of credence to a claim made Tuesday by an aide to Gul Agha Shirzai, the new governor of Kandahar province, that Omar
took $100 million and 300 cars with him when he fled the city.
The Elmer Gantry-ish pretense of piety may have reached the battlefield as well. If the outside world was surprised by the ease with which the Taliban collapsed, Kandahar residents say they had watched its core grow steadily more hollow for years. The regime's stern, defiant front, they said, was far more formidable than the reality behind it.
Zahir Jan, a Kandahar resident hanging around the headquarters of an anti-Taliban warlord today, still wore the black turban of the identity he sloughed off just a fortnight ago.
"I used to say, 'Yeah, I'm Taliban,' but the problem was I was scared," said Jan, when asked to explain the apparent ease of his transformation.
"Everybody was the same -- scared. If you don't say you're Taliban, they would take me to the north," Jan said, referring to the Taliban's war against the opposition Northern Alliance. "You'll be on the front line. If you say you're Taliban, you stay in Kandahar with the family."
In the end, Kandahar residents said, the Taliban often behaved like the mafia so many totalitarian governments become.
Sami, the mechanic, knew to search Mohamedin's cab because he knew the man was among Taliban members who trafficked in pop music tapes smuggled from Pakistan. Mahmed Ismail, who owns a music shop in Kandahar's central market, said Taliban news vendors sold music cassettes along with the official government newspaper, which carried the decrees banning music.
Ismail also sold music, even after his cassette shop was taken over by the Taliban. The price was three times the rate in Pakistan.
"Yeah, the Talibs bought more than local people," Ismail said, adding that one of his customers was an official of the religious police, Mohammed Jan.
Back in his shop today at noon, Ismail served customers standing three deep. Business was brisk in the Pashtun- and Urdu-language recordings that lined two sides of the storefront. No one seemed to want the tapes still on the racks that were offered during the Taliban's reign. Those cassettes, spoken-word releases such as Vol. 40 of Abdullah Sabir's religious thoughts,
were decorated with images of tanks and radar installations.
Do they still sell?
Ismail looked up from the wad of bills he was counting. "Yes," he said. "Secretly the Talibs come and buy."
© 2001 The Washington Post Company
Friday, 21 December, 2001, 11:58 GMT
Thousands held by US-led forces
Screening the prisoners is a long process
Some 7,000 Taleban and al-Qaeda members are now being held prisoner by American-led forces, a US official said on Friday.
Kenton Keith, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, said the prisoners were being screened to see which were hardliners "with blood on their hands".
Mr Keith told reporters in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, that the search for more Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters was still going on and the numbers of prisoners could rise.
He added that the US had no credible information that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden or Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar had left Afghanistan.
Mr Keith said it would be wrong to categorise all the prisoners as terrorists or al-Qaeda members.
Not all prisoners are terrorists, the US says
But he said the process to determine their involvement in what the US considers terrorist activities would be time-consuming but would be done "diligently and with care". Mr Keith did not say where the prisoners were being held.
Correspondents says it is widely believed that most of them have been locked up in makeshift detention centres near the cities of Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Mr Keith also praised the Pakistani Government, describing Islamabad's performance in blocking the escape routes for al-Qaeda members as impressive. He said there was no need to involve American forces in tracking down suspected al-Qaeda members who have slipped into Pakistan.
Anti-Taleban factions say they are still taking prisoners in Afghanistan. One militia leader, Haji Mohammad Zaman, said he would hand over a number of prisoners to the interim administration due to be sworn in Kabul on Saturday.
Many of the prisoners were captured during the fall of the city of Kunduz last month.
Northern Alliance forces led by warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum took control of the city after a long siege.
Questions have been raised over the prisoners' treatment
Although General Dostum said the prisoners' rights would be respected, there were reports of Taleban prisoners being beaten and shot dead in the marketplace.
Later, several hundred prisoners who surrendered in Konduz died after staging a revolt in a fort near Mazar-e-Sharif.
There has also been concern expressed about detainees dying in overcrowded conditions while being taken to prison.
The International Red Cross began an investigation earlier this month into reports that dozens of Taleban soldiers suffocated while being held in transport containers. BBC News Sources
Afghan boatpeople want to go home: UNHCR
Thursday December 27, 1:53 PM
JAKARTA, Dec 27 (AFP) -Hundreds of Afghans stranded in Indonesia as they attempted to flee to Australia are considering returning home following the collapse of the brutal Taliban regime in Afghanistan, a UN refugee agency official said Thursday.
"Some of them have been talking about returning home," Daniel Juliadi, a protection clerk with the United Nations High Commission for Refugeesin Jakarta, told AFP.
"They follow the news. They've seen the situation in Afghanistan. I talked to some of them and they said that with the Taliban gone, they were thinking of returning."
The UN refugee agency is currently processing 849 applications for refugee status from Middle Eastern boatpeople who have become stranded in Indonesia during their quest to seek asylum in Australia.
Afghans fleeing the brutality and repression of the now toppled hardline Islamic militia account for 476 of those applicants, Juliadi said.
"Most of them applied this year," he said.
So far none of the Afghan asylum-seekers in Indonesia have withdrawn their applications.
"But usually they do not tell us and we just find out later, or if they don't show up for three months we close the case," Juliadi said.
Thousands of Australia-bound asylum seekers mostly from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq, have found themselves stranded in Indonesia en route to Australia, where they hope to be accepted as refugees.
Indonesia is used as a staging post by people-smuggling syndicates charging several thousand dollars per person on the frequently hazardous passage to Australia.
The asylum-seekers usually begin their journeys in Malaysia, where they can enter without visas and travel by boat to Indonesia's largely unpatrolled coastline.
The "illegal immigrants," as they are called by Indonesian authorities, are then met by people-smugglers who arrange dilapidated vessels for taking them to Australia's northern islands.
Many end up stuck in makeshift detention centers or hostels in Indonesia, either caught by police before boarding boats, or stranded by vessel breakdowns or sinkings. Several hundred, including many women and children, are known to have drowned.
Australian officials estimate that there are up to five-thousand asylum-seekers attempting to pass through Indonesia at any one time.
Since January 2000, some 2,500 migrants stranded in Indonesia have approached the UNHCR and applied for refugee status. It has been granted to 614 applicants.
As of December 19, 39 recognised refugees had departed to third countries, including Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway.
The US, Australia and Canada have accepted another 50 to 70, who are still waiting to depart.
Thursday December 27, 10:48 AM AFP
After years working undercover or in exile, Afghanistan's actors are attempting to revive their art.
Since the fundamentalist Taliban fled the city on November 12-13, male and female actors have returned to the vast but under-equipped premises of Radio Afghanistan, which has become their main employer.
Around the microphones they alternate skits on daily life, rising prices, and family feuds with educational playlets.
When the Taliban took control of the city in 1996 Hamed Tabesh -- who had studied drama, Pushkin and Chekhov in Moscow -- was broadcasting in the same studio in the guise of a mullah proclaiming religious precepts.
A few months later, the militia decided his programmes were not sufficiently Islamic. Hamed found himself idle but kept his salary.
"I survived but it was misery," he says.
Shakila Alkozai returned to Kabul ten days ago. As a star of the "message" films produced under the communists in the 1980s, she spent the Taliban years in exile in Pakistan.
"Coming back from the bakery I saw their (Taliban's) four black cars parked in front of our house," her husband recalled.
He warned his wife, who fled the country with only the clothes she was wearing.
Interviewed at the radio station Tuesday during her first audition, Shakila spoke of her joy at being home.
"I do not wear a chador (veil), I have not heard a bomb so far. I am happy to be here and free. I do not even have stage fright," she said.
During her time in exile she worked for a Pashtun-language radio in Peshawar and achieved fame under the name of Zamzama. On Tuesday she took delight in playing the role of an overworked mother.
Afghanistan's actors must grapple against the odds.
The city's sole theatre, which had staged adaptations of Moliere or Brecht, burnt down in the early 1990s after being hit by mujahedin fire.
The film producers, many of whom worked on politico-social movies which disappeared along with Najibullah's communists, have fled the country.
Only one Afghan film has been made since 1992.
"The Summit" dealt with the holy war waged by mujahedin fighters but featured only male actors. Women were banned from appearing.
For some days two actors have been charged with tracking down former fellow members of their profession, according to the Ministry of Information and Culture, which also manages the radio and television station.
Actor and director Daoud Lodin, 38. would one day like to tackle real-life themes. He cites the Taliban's rule and the British and Pakistani interference which characterised Afghanistan's history.
In the meantime Khaksar, a highly popular comic star, is delighted simply to be able to make people laugh.
"It is so significant. Under the Taliban people were unhappy. I want to make my people laugh to comfort them," said Khaksar, 46, who is also a college history teacher.
"There are few young actors," he lamented. "For five years (of Taliban rule in Kabul) young people were isolated from culture and education. It is now necessary to try to bring them closer to it."
Indonesia welcomes new government in Afghanistan
Thursday December 27, 10:22 AM
JAKARTA, Dec 27 (AFP) -The Indonesian government has welcomed the new interim administration in Afghanistan and stressed the importance of a UN role in bringing lasting peace to the country.
"The government of the Republic of Indonesia welcomes the establishment of the new government in Afghanistan that was sworn in on December 22, 2001, in Kabul," a foreign ministry statement obtained Thursday said.
It hailed the interim administration in Kabul as the result of the UN-sponsored negotiations in Bonn.
Jakarta has consistently "stressed the importance of a UN role in political and diplomatic efforts to reach a comprehensive solution in the case of Afghanistan," it added.
The United Nations' role was aimed at supporting the efforts of the people of Afghanistan, including the establishment of a broad-based, multi-ethnic government to represent all the Afghan people.
"At the appropriate time" the Indonesian government will consider reopening its representative office in Kabul, the statement added.
Several states have already reopened their missions there, including Britain, France, Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United States.
Powell Names 2 in Formal Declaration
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2001; Page A20
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell formally designated two militant Pakistani groups as terrorist organizations yesterday as the United States continued to pressure the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf to dismantle the groups suspected in a deadly Dec. 13 raid on India's parliament.
With the rival armies of Pakistan and India facing off across their shared border, Powell spoke twice with Musharraf and twice with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, urging the two sides to back away from the largest military buildup in years.
The Bush administration wants tensions to subside, and not only because of the danger of war between two formidable opponents equipped with nuclear weapons. Conflict with India, U.S. officials said, could divert Pakistan and its troops from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other missing al Qaeda leaders.
Musharraf has deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to the rugged border with Afghanistan as part of an effort to capture Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who may have fled this month's assault on hideouts in Tora Bora. American authorities consider the Pakistani troops, as well as access to military staging areas in Pakistan, to be critical to the U.S. campaign.
Powell's telephone diplomacy -- he also spoke with Musharraf on Monday and Tuesday, and with India's foreign minister on Sunday -- indicates the United States' increased stake in the region since Sept. 11. The effort also reflects ways that India and Pakistan are trying to involve the Bush administration in their decades-long dispute.
During the early months of the Bush presidency, the administration "was not willing to get deeply involved in South Asia, either as a peacemaker or a mediator. I think the situation in Afghanistan changed that. We're being compelled to be brought in," said Stephen P. Cohen, a South Asia specialist at the Brookings Institution.
When Pakistan became essential to the U.S. war effort, India saw a threat to its relationship with Washington. But it also perceived an opportunity to get the Bush administration to press Musharraf to curb Islamic extremists fighting to end Indian rule in disputed Kashmir.
Cohen believes that the Indian government, which has moved soldiers and military equipment to the border in recent days, is creating a "sound and light show" to force the United States to play a stronger role with Musharraf.
"Our new leverage with Pakistan allows the Indians to use us to pressure Pakistan," Cohen said. "My guess is that we'll be in there urging Pakistan to slow the flow of people and weapons into Kashmir and urging the Indians to have another cease-fire. We cannot allow the two countries to regress to the edge of war."
Powell said last week that he had advised Musharraf and Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar to "go after" Islamic militants operating in Pakistan. He said the Dec. 13 attack in New Delhi was an assault "on the parliament of one of the most thriving democracies in the world -- India -- but at the same time, it's an attack on President Musharraf. He sees it that way, as well."
In an interview, Powell also acknowledged that Musharraf faces "domestic political constraints" because the militant groups and their fight against Indian authority are a source of pride for many Pakistanis. But he praised Musharraf for dealing "with some of the extremist elements in his own nation."
Powell's announcement yesterday designated Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed as foreign terrorist organizations. The move makes it illegal for people in the United States to support them, requires U.S. financial institutions to block their assets and permits the United States to deny entry visas to their representatives.
The action follows by less than a week President Bush's decision to freeze any assets controlled by the organizations in this country. The groups have staged terrorist attacks in India and Pakistan, U.S. officials said, but are not yet firmly blamed by the United States for the Dec. 13 attack on the New Delhi parliament.
"It's likely they were involved, but we don't have definitive proof," a State Department spokesman said.
India had long pressed the United States to declare Lashkar-e-Tayyiba a terrorist organization, said Karl F. Inderfurth, assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs under President Bill Clinton. He said events since Sept. 11 have created a fresh dynamic in the region, with tensions and possibilities alike.
Room is continuing to grow for the United States to play a larger part. A role exists for Bush, Inderfurth said, if the president chooses to become involved.
"The relations with these two countries is the best it has ever been simultaneously," Inderfurth said yesterday. "All three countries have been undergoing a reassessment. You cannot go to South Asia without recognizing that these countries and their problems are interconnected, particularly on the issue of terrorism."
U.S. Avoiding POW Designation
By Ron Kampeas
Associated Press Writer
Thursday, December 27, 2001; 8:12 AM
WASHINGTON –– The United States is reserving the right to try al-Qaida and Taliban captives on its own terms and isn't calling them "prisoners of war," although the Red Cross says it is getting full access to them for now.
Human rights watchdogs are worried that U.S. insistence on describing the captives held by its forces and allies as "detainees" is a precursor to military tribunals and lowered standards of due process.
"It may violate internationally recognized standards for a fair trial," Amnesty International spokeswoman Vienna Colucci said Wednesday of the tribunals, created by President Bush on Nov. 13.
POW status would guarantee any captive facing trial a court-martial, forcing prosecutors to meet tough standards of due process.
The Red Cross has no problem with U.S. terminology, a spokeswoman said, because the allies have agreed to allow the humanitarian organization the access that the Geneva Conventions grant POWs.
"We have visited over 2,400 detainees throughout Afghanistan in over 30 places of detention," Red Cross spokeswoman Antonella Notari said Wednesday, a day after the first such visit to a Marines-held base near Kandahar where 16 Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are being held. "We have no complaints about access."
Besides regular access to all captives, that means: full, unfettered access to detention facilities; private time between the captive, the delegate and an interpreter of the Red Cross' choosing; releasing the full identity of all prisoners and allowing the Red Cross to send messages to the captive's family.
John Walker Lindh met with Red Cross delegates when he was held near the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Notari, speaking from Geneva, said the Red Cross plans to revisit him aboard the USS Peleliu, off the coast of Pakistan, where he is being held with seven other detainees.
Notari refused comment on the treatment of the captives, which is standard Red Cross policy. The humanitarian group makes abuse complaints public only after all other avenues have failed.
Still, the Red Cross has confirmed that it is investigating claims that 43 Taliban captives died of suffocation on their way to Shibergan, an Afghan-controlled prison in northern Afghanistan. Prisoners there have told reporters of severe overcrowding – 3,000 in a 200-prisoner facility – little food and medical attention, and no protection from the freezing weather.
Despite allowing the Red Cross full access, the Pentagon steers reporters away from the 'POW' acronym.
"They're considered battlefield detainees because they have not been officially classified in any other status at this point," said Lt. Cmdr. Bruce Erickson, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command. "We're treating them humanely."
Experts in military law say the Bush administration is probably avoiding the term "prisoner of war" because it wants to avoid courts-martial.
"Courts-martial have very high standards of due process, greater than civilian courts," said Scott Silliman, a former Air Force lawyer who now lectures on national security at Duke University.
By contrast, he said, the military tribunals Bush wants to use traditionally have "low standards, very low standards."
Colucci, the Amnesty spokeswoman, said Bush's orders to block appeals and to reserve for himself the decision on whom to prosecute were especially troublesome. A more detailed order by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has yet to appear, but Amnesty International fears that it would eliminate the rights of the defendant to choose his own lawyer, to review evidence and to avoid self-incrimination.
"It's a lower standard of justice," Colucci said. "It bypasses conventional rules of law and of evidence."
Silliman said any lower standard of justice could set a precedent for dictatorships to justify unfair trials.
"If we create this tool, it's not a tool for the United States alone to use," he said.
Another expert on military tribunals said they were justified in this case.
"It's not a legitimate war, they are not legitimate fighters. They are terrorists," said Howard Levie, a retired army colonel who advised Gen. Douglas MacArthur on the tribunals that tried Japanese war criminals.
Bin Laden accuses West of "loathing Islam" in tape obtained by Al-Jazeera TV.
Arab TV broadcasts new bin Laden clip
By Barbara Slavin, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The Arab satellite television channel Al-Jazeera will broadcast on Thursday an entire videotape from Osama bin Laden that appears to have been recorded in early December before the U.S. bombardment of al-Qaeda sanctuaries at Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Reporters at the Qatar-based station's Washington bureau said it was not clear when the tape was made. The chief editor of the channel told the Associated Press that the tape was received from an anonymous sender in Pakistan a few days ago. On it, the exiled Saudi says he is speaking "three months after the blessed attack" on the United States Sept. 11 and "two months after the beginning of the vicious aggression against Islam" — an apparent reference to the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan that began Oct. 7.
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