Peacekeepers To Probe Afghan Killing
The Guardian 07/17/2002
KABUL, Afghanistan - International peacekeepers said Wednesday they would help investigate the slaying of Afghan Vice President Abdul Qadir but stressed Afghan authorities would be responsible for arresting and trying any suspects.
Qadir was gunned down July 6 outside his office by two men who fled in a white vehicle. He was the second government minister killed in the capital of Kabul in six months.
Shortly after the assassination, President Hamid Karzai asked the International Security Assistance Force to join government investigators in the investigation.
The peacekeepers said helping in the investigation was within their mandate to maintain security, and in a statement Wednesday, said they will develop "a list of potential witnesses" and will help "with regard to evidence collection, including conducting interviews."
The peacekeepers said arrests and trial would be up to the Afghans because "all judicial power rests with the Afghan authorities."
On Tuesday, the head of a government commission looking into the slaying, Vice President Karim Khalili, said he would not rule out al-Qaida involvement in the killing, but added that all possibilities were being investigated.
Other Afghans have been skeptical to the idea of al-Qaida involvement in Qadir's killing, suggesting it would have been the work of drug lords or a personal or political rival.
Police arrested 15 people after the slaying, including 10 security guards accused of negligence because they did not react when the two gunmen opened fire outside the Ministry of Public Works. No one has been charged.
Members of the investigating team said identifying the gunmen was difficult because Qadir - the governor of the opium-rich eastern Nengarhar province bordering Pakistan - had many enemies and because few helpful clues were recovered from the site of the killing.
Some investigators suggested the assassins may have been operating on tips from Qadir's bodyguards.
Arms and the warlords
The Guardian 07/17/2002 By Jonathan Steele
In powdery desert sand to the east of Kabul, the west's main weapon against Afghanistan's notorious regional warlords is slowly being honed. US special forces are trying to create an Afghan army that will have a national sense of identity.
"Don't just grab his gun - shoot him!" shouts an American instructor as the pointman in a squad of eight Afghan volunteers advances gingerly across the sand, then leaps into a wadi and seizes a Kalashnikov rifle from one of four "enemy" who pop out of hiding. No blanks are fired in their make-believe exercises. When they point their guns the trainees merely shout: "Bang bang."
The first two light infantry battalions in this embryonic army are going through a 10-week course. Yet it is hard to see how this effort can train enough soldiers fast and properly enough to fill Afghanistan's desperate security vacuum.
The Kabul-based government of Hamid Karzai is already having problems appointing officials to civilian jobs in the provinces. Strongmen like Ismail Khan in Herat or Abdul Rashid Dostum in Mazar-i-Sharif run their regions like private fiefdoms, charging customs duties from traders and passing little to the national exchequer. They refuse Kabul's nominees for key posts. Getting these warlords to disarm their militias will be trickier unless they are challenged by superior force.
A United Nations-mandated international security assistance force (Isaf), with 5,000 foreign peacekeepers, was deployed to Afghanistan after the Taliban collapse. But the United States insisted it remain in Kabul. Although the Afghan government and senior UN officials would like to see Isaf extended to other regions, Washington blocks this.
Now pressure is mounting for change, after the recent loya jirga, or grand tribal council, showed that the regional warlords carry undue political weight. Senior US senators from both parties last week called for an extension of Isaf. A Washington thinktank, the Henry L Stimson Centre, said Isaf - headed by Turkey - should be quadrupled to 18,500 troops and deployed to seven other cities besides Kabul.
The new Afghan army is meant to be multi-ethnic so that the troops develop loyalty to the country as a whole, like the royalist army of the 1970s and the communist army of the 1980s. US trainers say they keep no figures but random interviews with three volunteers revealed two Tajiks and an Uzbek. There appears to be no ideological bar. One trainee had fought in the forces of the communist President Mohamed Najibullah, which resisted the mujahedin for three years after Soviet troops withdrew. Two officers picked at random were also veterans of the communist army, which was more disciplined than the mujahedin. The only applicants rejected are those who cannot swear they did not fight for the Taliban.
In spite of the claims of multi-ethnicity, Pashtuns - who form Afghanistan's largest minority - suspect the army is weighted against them at officer level. They see that 90 of the 100 officers promoted by General Mohammed Fahim, the defence minister who led the largely Tajik forces of the Northern Alliance into Kabul after the Taliban withdrew, are Tajiks from the Panjshir valley.
An article by Anja Manuel and PW Singer, in the latest issue of the US journal Foreign Affairs, points out that neither the United States nor Hamid Karzai's government has worked out the Afghan army's size, role or command structure: "The motley Afghan force currently taking shape is wretchedly small, disorganised, and not clearly linked to an established command structure that represents Afghanistan's ethnic diversity.
"An added snag," it goes on, "is that US special forces have also begun to train and fund separate 'anti al-Qaida' units, often associated with local warlords, to act as American proxies and seek out al-Qaida fugitives in the Pashtun regions of southern Afghanistan. The formation and operation of these units have not been coordinated with Kabul, yet the higher pay in the US units will continue to attract potential recruits away from any force directed from Kabul."
Lt-Col Kevin McDonnell, who commands the US instructors training the national army, admits attrition is high. "We lost about 200 of the first 550," he told the Guardian. Trainees get $30 (£20) a month during training and $50 when they graduate. Some expected higher pay. Others thought they would be taught English.
The biggest contradiction is the presence of Fahim's own forces. He keeps an estimated arsenal of 300 tanks and 500 armoured personnel carriers north of the city and in the Panjshir valley. In Kabul he has 10,000 troops; Fahim would like to make them the core of the national army. The fact that he keeps such a large force in the capital, although Isaf is meant to run security, is a deliberate show of strength.
With troops from 19 nations, some international officials criticise Isaf for weakness. "In essence, it is just a police force. It has very light weapons and nothing more impressive than armoured Land Rovers," says a senior UN adviser. "If Fahim wanted to mount a coup, they could not stop him."
The United States has proposed the new national army have 60,000 men. Fahim wants 200,000. Manuel and Singer argue that 30,000 troops would be enough. The army should be "mobile and equipped with enough firepower to deal effectively with foes but not be heavy enough to be used as an occupying force if hijacked by any one ethnic group".
They also propose integrating the tribal and warlord militias into a "national guard" responsible to provincial governments. This sounds dangerous. Village militias would be no threat to a national army but legitimising provincial forces would be giving a blank cheque to the regional warlords. Disarmament and demobilisation are much more promising avenues to pursue, while leaving law-and-order issues to a national police force.
Kabul Funding Dispute Escalates
Institute for War & Peace 07/17/2002 By Delwari Mohammad
Frustration over Kabul-Kandahar highway cash leads authorities to issue ?funding ultimatum?
Government frustration at the lack of progress over the rebuilding of the nation?s crumbling roads has boiled over into an apparent showdown with a major donor.
The authorities have spoken about the need to do something about the deteriorating transport infrastructure for the past six months, yet not a yard of road has been laid.
The finance minister Ashraf Ghani strongly criticised the Asia Development Bank, ADB, for its apparent refusal to fund a new highway between Kabul and Kandahar, at a meeting on July 5, two independent diplomatic sources have said.
?Ghani told them either to change their minds or quit the country,? said one source present at the meeting.
Expulsion of the ADB - a long-standing development bank with massive funds and a good reputation in the international aid community - would be a drastic step. However, the government is under increasing pressure to deliver to a population that has yet to see any real benefit from six months of peace.
"I will go in very strongly with donors who have pledged their money,? said President Hamed Karzai after he was elected at the recent Loya Jirga. ?I especially want to rebuild this country's highways and I will not accept any excuses. The level of aid received is minimal in comparison to that promised.?
The key issue in the ADB dispute has been how donors will deliver aid, and under what conditions. The bank?s spokesman Salim Qayyoum told IWPR that it is allocating 200 million US dollars to help Afghanistan this year. Three quarters is in soft loans and the remainder in grants. Much of the former was earmarked to build the Kabul-Kandahar highway.
However, the government has set itself firmly against using loans to fund reconstruction. One of the diplomats at the July 5 meeting quoted Karzai as saying there were two reasons for this. Firstly, that the international community had promised him that the money for the roads project would be non-refundable. And secondly, as the president put it, ?Afghanistan is not in a position to pay back loans, even over periods of 20 or 30 years?.
ADB?s allocation of direct grants is dictated by its major donor, the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, which supports the provision of such funds for the construction of ?feeder roads? from villages into major road networks. But observers said the ADB did not consider roads between major cities to fall into that category.
The bank?s official position is that there was no dispute. ?I categorically deny there was any disagreement (with the government). We had a discussion and it went very well. We explained very clearly everything,? said Qayyoum.
However, while the ADB has stuck to its position that it cannot fund the Kabul-Kandahar highway with grants, Qayyoum said that after the July 5 meeting the bank opened discussions with the government about providing money for a different highway.
?Finally, we agreed we will spend some of this money from the poverty reduction programme, with the agreement of the Japanese, on the Kandahar-Spin Boldak road,? he said. The highway, which runs south to the Pakistan border and represents the main commercial route to Afghanistan?s neighbour, is in appalling condition.
The Swedish International Development Authority is currently funding a study on how best to rebuild the road from Kabul through Jalalabad to Toorkham, another major frontier crossing.
An Asian diplomat told IWPR that several proposals have been mooted for the road. According to one scheme, the European Union will fund the whole project but the World Bank has also suggested that it be divided into three sections and allocated to three separate building agencies.
The roads issue is particularly sensitive because it is the Afghan government?s top priority and it mirrors a pattern common among many reconstruction projects - a proliferation of feasibility studies and surveys creating a picture of bewildering complexity even for insiders, with little or no action.
Delwari Mohammad is an IWPR trainee in Kabul
Kofi Annan says Afghanistan having a hard time setting up army
UNITED NATIONS - Afghanistan is having a hard time setting up its new army, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Wednesday, again calling on the Security Council to expand the mandate of the international peacekeeping force now guarding only the capital Kabul.
The authorities had "serious problems" assembling an initial ethnically and regionally balanced national guard battalion, which was trained by the International Security Assistance Force, Annan said in a new report to the 189-nation UN General Assembly.
And while the first battalion "performed impeccably" in providing security for last month's Loya Jirga national assembly at which Afghanistan's new interim administration was chosen, well over a third of its soldiers have left the unit since completing their training, he said.
"This experience foreshadows the difficulty that will be faced during the creation and training of new armed forces in the absence of genuinely agreed national structures to form, house, equip and deploy those forces," he said.
Due to training needs, it will be many months before new units can provide security, he added. "I therefore continue to believe that a limited expansion of the International Security Assistance Force to areas outside of Kabul would make a huge contribution to the consolidation of peace, and should be considered," Annan said.
In the face of continuing insecurity in many parts of the country, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Afghan and international aid groups have made similar pleas in recent weeks.
But the 15-nation Security Council so far has ruled out deploying international peacekeepers beyond the Kabul area.
Afghanistan has been prey to banditry and lawlessness since the withdrawal of Soviet forces in 1989. The chaos was one of the reasons for the rise of the hard-line fundamentalist Taliban regime, which was ousted last year after a U.S.-led military campaign.
The United States and France have begun training an Afghan national army, expected eventually to reach 60,000 soldiers, backed by an 8,000-person air force and 12,000 border guards. But training is expected to take at least 18 months.
Annan said the fall of the Taliban had only ended the "large-scale fighting" between Afghanistan's various ethnic and regional factions. "The other factions have neither disbanded nor disarmed; nor have they been integrated into any sort of national formation," he cautioned.
Nor have the Taliban themselves given up, he said. "They may have been significantly weakened, with those left being effectively contained by the anti-terrorist coalition headed by the United States of America. But they are still present, along with remnants of al Qaeda," Annan said.
Afghanistan Eases 23-Year-Old Curfew on Capital
Reuters 07/17/2002 By David Fox
Kabul, Afghanistan - The Afghan government, eager to show the world that the country is becoming safer, announced on Wednesday a further easing of the hours of a curfew that has been in force in the capital for over two decades.
State television said the curfew in Kabul has been cut back by 1 1/2 hours and will now run from midnight until 3:30 a.m., whereas previously it ran from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
The capital has been under a curfew of one sort or another since the Soviet invasion in 1979.
When the Soviets left and Kabul became embroiled in the internecine fighting that followed, the curfew scarcely needed to be enforced because of the intensity of the conflict.
Under the Taliban, who wanted Afghans to live according to a strict interpretation of the Koran that forbade things accepted by Muslims elsewhere in the world, the curfew was even longer -- as long as Taliban rule, runs one Kabul joke.
The new government of President Hamid Karzai is keen to show international donors and investors that Afghanistan is becoming less of an investment risk.
The chief concern for any potential investor is security, with U.S. forces still roaming the country at will in pursuit of remnants of Osama Bin Laden's al Qaeda network, blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Mixed with al Qaeda are elements of the Taliban, those who haven't just melted back into the general population of the Pashtun majority, which remains suspicious of the ethnically more diverse Northern Alliance-dominated government.
Karzai has won over many regional warlords and powerbrokers by bringing them into his government, but some analysts feel the state of security is more realistically reflected in the daylight assassination of Vice President Haji Abdul Qadir two weeks ago.
His previous aviation minister was also publicly assassinated at the airport earlier this year. No one has been caught for either murder.
What the easing of the curfew means for the capital's residents remains to be seen.
Kabulites go to bed early, but some enterprising Afghans have opened restaurants with more than one eye on the expatriate community that is increasing by the day.
Afghan Governors to Resume Talks
The Associated Press 07/17/2002 By ADAM BROWN
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) - The Kandahar provincial government adjourned a poorly attended meeting on Tuesday and rescheduled it for later this week so governors could discuss proposed restrictions on U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan.
Few governors showed up for initial talks on Sunday, which were to address Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai's proposal to require U.S. troops to seek permission from six governors before striking al-Qaida and Taliban hide-outs in southern Afghanistan, said Khalid Pashtoon, a spokesman for Kandahar's provincial government.
Leaders were also to discuss the creation of a 500-man rapid reaction force, drawing fighters from the six southern provinces, and a 3,000-man border control unit.
Pashtoon would not say how many of the governors attended but some who were there said only Sherzai and Farah Gov. Abdul Hai showed up.
Sherzai had also invited the governors of Helmand, Nimroz, Zabul and Uruzgan to the meeting but Pashtoon said many were busy in their home provinces and could not attend. He said more governors would attend the next meeting, but it was unclear what day the meeting would begin.
Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his special envoy to Kandahar, said the meeting's low attendance shows a lack of support for Sherzai's proposals and predicted they would fail.
Sherzai's proposals were partly in response to a July 1 U.S. air strike in several Afghan villages in Uruzgan. Karzai's government says the attack killed 48 civilians and injured 117. U.S. officials say they were aiming at enemy targets.
The United States opposes the idea of Afghans having control of U.S. military action.
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