Afghan warlord leaves Iran for unknown destination
Wednesday February 27, 11:23 PM
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has left exile in Iran, his spokesman in Pakistan said on Wednesday, raising the spectre of a new
threat to Afghanistan's interim government.
Iran told the guerrilla leader to leave after he embarrassed Tehran by calling Afghanistan's interim government a puppet regime and said he had fighters inside
Afghanistan ready to expel foreign troops there.
"He is no longer in Iran. His plan was to return to his own country," Ghairat Baheer, the Afghan warlord's spokesman and son-in-law, told Reuters in Islamabad. He
said he did not know Hekmatyar's exact location.
Hekmatyar's bloody struggle with rival factions led to the partial destruction of Kabul and the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s. His hostility towards the Karzai
government has sparked fears he could undermine efforts to bring stability to the war-ravaged country.
Thge private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) on Wednesday quoted informed sources in the Pakistani city of Quetta as saying Hekmatyar had gone to
the Afghan border but was unlikely to find many supporters in the Afghan provinces of Nimroz, Herat and Farah bordering Iran.
An Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters on Monday that Hekmatyar would be arrested and tried for war crimes if he returned home.
Baheer said Hekmatyar did not plan to return to Pakistan, his main backer during the U.S.-backed Afghan war against Soviet occupying forces in 1979-89.
"He did not take along even his close associates while leaving Iran," he said.
IRAQ POSSIBLE DESTINATION
Pakistan, which has backed the U.S.-led war of terrorism, and other neighbouring countries are unlikely to accept the warlord.
Analysts say Iraq, which borders Iran, would be his most likely destination.
Hekmatyar fled to Iran in 1996 when the Taliban took control of Kabul. Iran for years backed mujahideen fighters against the Taliban.
Iran, which has been at pains to show its support for Karzai, closed the offices of Hekmatyar's Hezb-i Islami (Islamic Party) last month after he voiced opposition to
The two countries also pledged to cooperate to help foster peace and stability in the troubled region at the end of Karzai's landmark three-day visit to Iran on
Just how much of a threat Hekmatyar remains is unclear, but analysts say his forces in Afghanistan are in disarray and he now has little support in his homeland.
"He has publicly criticised the American military campaign and presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, but I don't think practically he can do anything," Rahimullah
Yusufzai, an executive editor with The News daily and an expert on Afghanistan, told Reuters last week.
U.S. discounts Russian fears on Georgia mission
By Richard Balmforth Thursday February 28, 4:03 AM
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia warned the United States, its ally in the anti-terror alliance, against deploying troops in Georgia on Wednesday, but a U.S. diplomat
played down hints of a rift over what Washington said was a training mission.
In Georgia, senior U.S. army officers met Georgian officials and said Washington would equip their armed forces to help defend the country's borders. Officials have
dismissed suggestions U.S. forces could take part in joint military operations in the former Soviet republic.
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov was critical of reports that Washington was poised to send elite forces to train Georgian troops and suggested that Moscow
had tried and failed to talk Washington out of its planned move.
"We think it could further aggravate the situation in the region which is difficult as it is," he said in televised remarks. "That is our position and Washington is well
aware of it."
Ivanov's quick reaction indicated the Kremlin was not prepared to accord its former Cold War foe the same laissez-passer in Georgia, a direct neighbour, as it did
for the campaign against Afghanistan in former Soviet Central Asia.
There was immediate speculation in Russia and elsewhere that U.S. troops in Georgia would help its army root out Islamic rebels said to be entrenched with
Chechen separatists in the lawless and remote Pankisi Gorge.
U.S. DIPLOMATS DISCOUNT DIFFERENCES
But a senior U.S. diplomat said he did not believe Ivanov's remarks applied to the planned American mission.
"I read (Ivanov's remarks) in part as an effort on the Russians' part to draw a line under any notions of combat forces going in to actually do military operations in
Georgia," the diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.
"So essentially he is ruling out something that we're not actually planning to do." The mission was "about training the Georgian forces and we'll be providing them
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher did not comment directly on Ivanov's remarks but stressed there were no plans for a U.S.
deployment of combat troops to Georgia and that Russia had been kept informed of Washington's plans.
"In doing this, we are working for the stability and the security of the Caucasus. We believe that Georgia's ability to handle these types of problems on its own is also
in Russia's interest," Boucher told a news briefing.
U.S. officials said on Tuesday in Washington they were dispatching crack forces to Georgia, a mountainous country which shares a long land border with Russia, to
help train troops there as part of its anti-terrorism campaign.
President George W. Bush, speaking in North Carolina, said any aid to Georgia would have to be formally requested and limited to military equipment and technical
advice. He said he believed rebels in the Pankisi Gorge were linked to fugitive Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network of Islamic extremists.
There was no immediate comment from President Vladimir Putin who, until now, has given Bush full support in the anti-terror drive following the September 11
hijacked airliner attacks.
PUTIN WANTS MORE ACTION AGAINST REBELS
But Putin told a meeting of his Security Council that the situation in Chechnya, where Russia is fighting its second post-Soviet war against rebels, had "stabilised
Russian forces, however, still had to "crush the leaders of armed groups, the supply of weapons and financing by clans and the influx into Chechnya of foreign
mercenaries, including from adjacent areas".
Ivanov, for whom the U.S. plan represents a personal policy defeat, did not spell out why Russia felt the U.S. presence would make the security situation in Georgia
He balanced his comments by saying the U.S. decision vindicated Russia's charges that Georgia had become a hotbed of terrorism -- a reference to Chechen
Putin, risking unpopularity among military hawks, allowed U.S. troops to use air bases and facilities in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan -- also regarded as
strategically important for Moscow -- for operations in Afghanistan.
But analysts said the historical and emotional bonds Russia has for the Transcaucasus, which for more than 200 years has been a stamping ground for Russian
troops, played a big part.
The sudden fall-out with Washington comes at an awkward time for Putin who is to host Bush at a summit in Moscow and St Petersburg in late May.
U.S. military plans to seek more money for terror war
By Charles Aldinger Wednesday February 27, 12:17 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With the U.S. war on terror costing nearly $3 billion a month, the White House plans to ask Congress as early as March for more
cash to press the fight in Afghanistan and increase security at home and abroad, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.
The military bill alone could total $30 billion by October and, with only $17.4 billion approved by Congress to date, funds could begin running out in April or May,
according to Pentagon figures.
"Any final decision is up to President George W. Bush. But I would look for a supplemental request from OMB (the Office of Management and Budget) sooner
rather than later," one of the U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.
Published reports have indicated that an emergency request to pay for additional military operations alone through the current 2002 financial year that ends in
September could total up to $10 billion. But officials cautioned against speculation on the figure.
Congress has already provided $17.4 billion in supplemental anti-terror funds to the Defense Department and $20 billion to cities and other federal agencies since
the September 11 attacks.
But the Pentagon supplemental -- which is paying for increased efforts ranging from feeding U.S. airborne troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to keeping F-16 fighter
jets on 24-hour alert in the United States -- will run out in April or May, officials said.
Bush told Congress on Tuesday that he was earmarking $33 million of previously authorized emergency funds to pay for continued deployment of National Guard
troops at U.S. airports through the end of March.
In a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, Bush said the reallocation reflected "revised requirements in light of changing
security needs" following the September 11 attacks.
The funds are drawn from a $40 billion emergency appropriation approved by Congress last year. Under the law, the $33 million will be made available 15 days
after this notification of Congress on how it is to be used.
$30 BILLION AFTER ONE YEAR
A Pentagon report circulating in Congress puts total emergency defence costs for fiscal 2002 that ends on September 30 at $30 billion to cover deployment to
theatre, mobilization of guard and reserves, and increased air and naval operations and combat operations in Afghanistan.
"We have learned from hard experience that you don't take money from normal day-to-day military operations for things like this. So we will need a supplemental,"
said one senior military officer.
"It's being studied very carefully, but I haven't heard any figure like that ($10 billion) discussed" for 2002, added a senior U.S. official.
The Pentagon has already asked Congress for $27.7 billion in financial 2003 for the military's part in the war on terror.
That includes $10 billion for unplanned day-to-day military costs, $9.4 billion for items such as building additional unmanned spy planes and $7.9 billion to boost
intelligence and other efforts.
It is hard to pin down an exact figure for the additional costs of fighting terrorism, although Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim said last month that the cost could be
running as high as $1.8 billion a month for the military in Afghanistan alone.
That figure may have decreased with fewer U.S. air patrols now in the skies over that rugged country and virtually no bombs being dropped.
Some analysts also note that while it costs the military $1 million a day to keep an aircraft carrier at sea, the bill for maintaining two carriers in the Northern Arabian
Sea in support of the Afghanistan operation would be the same if those ships were at work anywhere in the world.
WB Launches Online Directory of Experts for Afghan Rebuilding
Thursday February 28, 8:32 AM
WASHINGTON, Feb 28 Asia Pulse - The World Bank announced the launch of an online directory Wednesday to facilitate the search for experts eager to
contribute to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Directory of Expertise is designed to help organizations match needs for experienced professionals with potential candidates as reconstruction
initiatives move forward.
Decades of conflict in Afghanistan have resulted in the displacement of skilled people and the collapse of critical services in a wide range of areas.
The Afghanistan Directory of Expertise is a web-based facility where individuals from around the globe interested in contributing their skills and talents towards
rebuilding Afghanistan can post their professional information, the World Bank said in a statement.
The Directory of Expertise provides a space for this information online; it does not provide any subsequent employment matching services. The Afghanistan
Directory of Expertise can be accessed at: http://www.worldbank.org/afghandirectory
Iranian Newspaper Highlights - Feb 27, 2002
Thursday February 28, 7:30 AM
TEHRAN, Feb 27 Asia Pulse - Highlights of Wednesday's newspapers:
- Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah said in an interview published on Monday that Iran and Iraq should not be targeted in an expanded US war on terrorism
despite US President George W. Bush's description of them as part an "axis of evil."
- Afghan interim Hamid Karzai ended a landmark visit to Iran Tuesday by rejecting US charges that his country's neighbor was interfering with his new UN-backed
- Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei Tuesday granted a package of amnesty for prisoners below 18 years old and above 65 for men
and above 50 for female detainees.
- Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has left his home-in-exile in Iran after being urged by the Iranian government to leave the country, the official IRNA news
agency said on Tuesday.
ASIA DAILY ECONOMIC NEWS
- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, arriving in Berlin Tuesday for a two-day visit, described his talks with the head of the German parliament speaker
Wolfgang Thierse as "good".
- The result of the interim Afghan government head Hamid Karzai's three-day visit to Tehran was the conclusion of five memoranda of understanding for bilateral
cooperation, the most important of which was an MoU on fight against terrorism and drug trafficking.
- US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has responded to criticims from President George W. Bush for naming Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil."
- Parliamentary deputies have examined the issue of a Tupolev-154 crash near the western city of Khorrambad during the presence of Transport Minister,
Mahmoud Hojjati, in the Majlis.
- The deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps, Br. Gen. Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, has commented on his views about US' recent threats as
well as his recent statements in this regard.
- Former student leader, Ali Afshari, has announced that he has been summoned by the revolutionary tribunal to serve his 10-month jail term.
- An international conference on the legal regime of the Caspian Sea opened Tuesday in Moscow with the participation of five representatives of the five coastal
states as well as foreign and Russian personalities.
- The Iran Air Tours aviation company announced on Tuesday that it had cancelled 16 domestic flights which were scheduled to be carried out by this company.
- Following recent elections in the Office to Foster Unity of the Iranian students movement and police' interference ... a security head of the Ministry of Science,
Research and Technology has appealed to certain political currents of the country to avoid from taking advange from ongoing difference inside the OFU and exacting
vengence on them.
- The Islamic Repulic News Agency (IRNA) and the official Afghan news agency Bakhatar agreed Tuesday to strengthen their bilateral cooperation in the field of
- Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister in Europe and American affairs, Ali Ahani, on Tuesday discussed the issue a scheduled visit of President Mohammad Khatami to
Austria shortly as well as bilateral ties between Tehran and Vienna in a meeting with his Austrian counterpart.
Karzai Wants Commitment of Forces
Wed Feb 27, 7:24 AM ET
By LAURINDA KEYS, Associated Press Writer
NEW DELHI, India (AP) - Afghans want more international security troops to spread out through their country as a guarantee of the world's commitment to help
Afghanistan, interim prime minister Hamid Karzai said Wednesday.
"The forces will stay there as long as Afghans need them," Karzai said during a joint press conference with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
He said Afghans "demand to have more of the international forces in Afghanistan, in more provinces." It's not for their physical safety, he said, but the troops are
wanted as a guarantee "of the international commitment ... to Afghanistan until it is able to take care of itself."
Vajpayee said that if Indian troops are needed to help secure Afghanistan, "we will consider it favorably."
Karzai said he had no problem with Indian troops coming, but said it is the United Nations, not his administration, that decides which country contributes to the
The country is beginning to establish its own army and police, he said.
"As soon as Afghanistan is stable, and firm on our own feet, and the fight against terrorism is finished, we will ask the international security forces to leave," Karzai
He confirmed that Afghanistan's 87-year-old exiled king, Zahir Shah, who now lives outside Rome, would be arriving March 21 to celebrate the Afghan new year.
He is coming "as an Afghan citizen, an elderly statesman," Karzai said.
Kharrazi calls Americans "not trustworthy"
Berlin, Feb 27, IRNA -- Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi here Wednesday called Americans "not trustworthy", referring to past failed attempts to establish
a consistent political dialogue between Iran and the United States. "If we are not prepared for a dialogue, it's because America is not willing to have a dialogue
with us based on mutual respect and our recent experience in terms of cooperation in Afghanistan, proved our position and showed that Americans are not
rustworthy," Kharrazi said at a news conference at the Berlin Grande Esplanade Hotel. Kharrazi also condemned US President George W. Bush's "axis of
evil" categorization of Iran.
"America's announcement of its stance was an insult to the Iranian nation and the Iranian people gave the proper answer to Americans on Bahman 22 (anniversary
of the 1979 Islamic Revolution)," the minister said. "We believe that America's position is only an excuse as they are
pursuing a new doctrine in the world and that is to move towards unilateralism," Kharrazi said.
US sorting terror suspects for trials
Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 19:09 GMT (BBC)
US has concentrated on the threat of future attack
Terror suspects captured in Afghanistan are being questioned to see if they should face US military tribunals or another form of justice.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said there were six options for the 500 men being held in Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan.
Rumsfeld: Cases are now being built
He said the Pentagon was keen for the detainees to be tried in their home countries, but it was also up to the US Department of Justice and President George W
Bush to make the final decisions.
Those not tried by a military tribunal would be prosecuted in a US civilian or US military court, returned to their home countries for prosecution, released outright or
held in US custody indefinitely, Mr Rumsfeld said.
The detainees come from more than 24 countries, some of which - for example Saudi Arabia and Britain - have asked for their citizens to be repatriated for
"We, in most cases, prefer to have people go back to their own countries and be tried there. We want as little of this as we can possibly do," said Mr Rumsfeld on
behalf of the military.
When the Pentagon first announced plans to establish military tribunals, it faced a storm of criticism from human rights groups, as well as complaints from close allies.
Opponents feared that suspects would lack the legal protections offered in criminal courts and that trials might be conducted in secret without outside scrutiny.
BBC Washington correspondent Nick Bryant says that one problem faced by US officials appears to have been building a case against the al-Qaeda and Taleban
Interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan have been interested more in their knowledge of future attacks, and the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden,
rather than their past activities.
But Mr Rumsfeld said the first round of processing prisoners was to get such information about the situation on the ground.
The second round of interrogations aimed at building a legal case against prisoners had now begun and the Pentagon had a clear idea of how the military
commissions would be structured.
He said he would not reveal any details of how the tribunals would function until the entire legal framework had been completed.
Of a total of 494 people, 194 are being held at two centres in Afghanistan, while 300 have been flown to the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Pentagon initially asserted that the prisoners were "unlawful combatants" with no rights under the Geneva Convention.
However, the White House decided in February that the convention applied to the Taleban prisoners, but not to those suspected of al-Qaeda membership.
But it said none of the detainees would be given prisoner of war status - with the rights and guarantees connected with such status - despite the objections of the
International Committee of the Red Cross and some US allies.
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