U.S. Bombs Afghanistan, Unaware of Civilian Deaths
Thu Feb 13, 7:13 AM ET
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The U.S. military said Thursday its planes had carried out more raids against suspected militant hideouts in Afghanistan but was unaware of any civilian casualties.
A spokesman of the government of Helmand province said on Wednesday at least 17 civilians, mainly women and children, had died in coalition bombing since Sunday.
U.S. army spokesman Colonel Roger King told reporters at U.S. headquarters in Bagram, north of Kabul, that he was unaware of any civilian deaths.
"Battle damage assessment conducted in support of operation Eagle Fury has not indicated any non-combatant casualties to date," he said.
He said a U.S. B-52 aircraft dropped a 2,000-pound "smart bomb" at caves in northern Helmand's Baghran valley on Wednesday night and an AC 130 gunship fired ten 105 mm cannon rounds.
According to the U.S.-led coalition, the operation began on Monday after U.S. Special forces traveling through the remote valley came under heavy fire from suspected members of the ousted Taliban regime.
Helmand province spokesman Haji Mohammad Wali told Reuters a district official in Baghran had reported the civilian deaths after relatives came to the district headquarters.
A villager also told Reuters he had seen the bodies of two women, two children and a man in a riverbed in the area.
However, King said the bombing was targeted at an area overlooking the Baghran valley from where U.S. forces had been fired upon.
"Aircraft have directed at targets that were firing at U.S. forces," he said.
U.S. military officials have said they believe the fighters in Helmand are linked to the Taliban.
The province, like neighboring Kandahar, was a stronghold of the fundamentalist movement and officials say there is still a measure of support for its hard-line interpretation of Islam.
In recent weeks there has been an increase in attacks in southern Afghanistan by groups believed to be linked to the Taliban and a renegade warlord.
About 13,000 U.S.-led coalition troops are in Afghanistan hunting remnants of the Taliban and the al Qaeda network blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
US troops attack Taliban rebels in central Afghan valley, capture 15
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (AFX) - Coalition troops were hunting down at least 30 heavily armed extremists in mountainous central Afghanistan, the US military said, while denying reports of civilian deaths in the operation.
US Special Forces captured 15 suspected Taliban rebels after sustained bombing raids on Lejay in the Bahgran valley area of Helmand province, US military spokesman Colonel Roger King said.
Local authorities have complained to the Afghan government that the operation, code-named "Eagle Fury", which is to last several days, has led to extensive non-combatant deaths.
"According to our information, there were no civilian casualties," King told reporters at Bagram air base north of Kabul.
"Aircraft were directed at targets that were firing at US forces. Most of these targets have been concentrated in the high ground bordering the valley," King added.
King said three rebels had been captured overnight attempting to flee the fighting, bringing the total number seized to 15.
"Around 100 Special Forces were involved in this operation," he
said, adding that the unpopulated terrain involved cave positions on
"They (the rebels) are supporters of terrorism, remnants of Taliban forces who may have retreated in this valley." He said the exact number of fighters was unknown but that around 30 had been identified.
Meanwhile, Tayab Jawad, a representative of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said: "We have been told there (are) some civilian casualties, but we have been unable to confirm these as the area has been sealed off."
Khan Mohammad, deputy governor of neighbouring Kandahar province, said 17 people, believed to be Taliban, had died.
Terror Aid From Pakistan Concerns Senators
By JAMES DAO The New York Times
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 — The senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said today that they were deeply concerned that elements of Pakistan's government were helping to undermine the stability of Afghanistan, including the possibility that they were sheltering Taliban fighters along the border.
The senators — Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana, and Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware — said they did not believe that Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, was involved in the destabilizing activities.
But the lawmakers, citing news reports, said there was evidence that elements of Pakistan's powerful Interservices Intelligence agency might be helping members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda operate along the border and infiltrate into Afghanistan. The senators also raised concerns that Iran was assisting the warlord Ismail Khan in western Afghanistan.
Pakistan's intelligence service is "once again either turning a blind eye to or cooperating with" Pashtun groups opposed to the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, said Mr. Biden, the committee's ranking Democrat, during a hearing on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Taliban was composed mainly of Pashtun tribesmen from southern Afghanistan.
Mr. Lugar, the committee chairman, said elements of Pakistan's intelligence service, which supported the Taliban in the 1990's, appeared to be trying to gain influence in Afghanistan by allowing Taliban fighters to infiltrate across the border, where they have been attacking Afghan and American soldiers.
"This is international politics impinging on a small country," Mr. Lugar said.
Responding to the senators' concerns, two senior administration officials said they thought the situation was not as dangerous as Mr. Lugar and Mr. Biden had suggested, and they praised General Musharraf as a firm ally in the war on terrorism.
But one of the officials, Peter W. Rodman, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, acknowledged that Afghanistan's "neighboring countries would like to have a hand in it."
During a visit to Washington last week, Pakistan's foreign minister denied assertions that the intelligence service was assisting the Taliban. But because of the service's history of close ties to the Taliban, many American officials believe elements of the service have been providing aid to Taliban and Qaeda units operating in the mountains and caves of southeastern Afghanistan, often crossing from the neighboring tribal areas of Pakistan.
Some American officials, for example, contend that the intelligence service may have provided money, weapons and broadcast equipment to Taliban fighters now in Pakistan to transmit anti-Karzai, anti-American messages into Afghanistan.
But those officials contend it has never been clear whether senior Pakistani intelligence officials are condoning, or even supporting the pro-Taliban activities, or whether such support comes from rogue elements or retired intelligence officers claiming to work for the government.
During the hearing, Republican and Democrat senators urged the administration to support an expansion of the international security unit that now patrols Kabul, so that it can maintain a presence in other Afghan cities.
Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, Ishaq Shahryar, told the committee that Afghanistan is at the center of a "circle of instability" and that it could not attract foreign investment until security is improved.
"I urge this committee to continue to support the expansion of ISAF," the ambassador said, referring to the 4,600-soldier security unit, known as the International Security Assistance Force.
But Mr. Rodman argued that the United States, which has 7,000 troops in Afghanistan, is already contributing to maintaining the country's stability by hunting for Taliban and Qaeda forces on the Pakistan border. He said no other coalition countries are willing to provide troops for expanding the peacekeeping force, which is currently under joint German and Dutch command.
As an alternative, he said the United States is stationing small groups of Special Forces and coalition troops in a handful of cities, where they can provide protection to aid workers and Western diplomats. But several of the senators said they thought that more was needed.
General Ozkok To Decorate General Zorlu With Medal Of Meritorious Service
Anadolu Agency: Thursday, February 13, 2003 via Turkish Press
ANKARA - General Staff Chief General Hilmi Ozkok will decorate General Hilmi Akin Zorlu, who has successfully commanded the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan for eight months, with the Medal of Meritorious Service.
A ceremony will be held on February 21 to welcome the Turkish troops that have served in Afghanistan under the structure of the ISAF.
General Ozkok will attend the ceremony and decorate General Zorlu with the Medal of Meritorious Service.
Zorlu handed over command of the ISAF to General Norbert Van Heyst of Germany on February 10, 2003.
Meanwhile, Field Commander Colonel Kazim Ondul, who has been serving in Afghanistan for eight months, will hand over his mission to Germany and the Netherlands on February 17.
Paper War Rages In Afghanistan Alongside Bombs, Missiles
ISLAMABAD (AP)The anti-terrorist war in Afghanistan isn't just about bombing mountain hide-outs, it's also about getting a message out. The result is a leaflet war that has littered the Afghan countryside with millions of pieces of paper.
It would seem like propaganda. There are shocking images intended to instill fear in the hearts of the enemy or words of inspiration to drum up support among residents.
On the one side is the U.S. and its coalition allies. Sometimes with pictures, sometimes with just writing, the message to its enemies is straightforward: There is no escape.
While militarily outmatched, the other side - the Taliban, al-Qaida and renegade rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar - have been much more prolific with paper. Their fliers warn foreign soldiers and their allies that they are targets or urge the Islamic faithful to rise up against them in a holy war.
The pamphlets are called "night letters," circulated clandestinely and strewn by the hundreds in towns, villages and the countryside. Within the last few weeks, they have turned up in the capital, Kabul, for the first time, residents said.
At least once a month, a new pamphlet, sometimes two- or three-pages long, is circulated by the Taliban, al-Qaida or Hekmatyar's group. Sometimes they take credit for attacks, but they always vow jihad, or holy war.
In a full-page pamphlet apparently sent by Hekmatyar, a young girl is shown being searched by U.S. forces - the ultimate insult for conservative Muslims who severely restrict the movement of women and girls and their interaction with men. In some parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan, touching a woman, other than a relative, can be sufficient to get a person stoned to death.
On the coalition side, the leaflets offer varied messages. In one leaflet, a Taliban was shown beating a woman. The inscription asked whether Afghans want to be ruled by such men. The messages urge ordinary Afghans to turn over wanted men.
It's tough, if not impossible, to tell how successful the leaflets are.
One newest message from the coalition forces is reminiscent of "Wanted" posters of the Old West: postcard-sized leaflets show the faces of Taliban fighters wearing their trademark turbans and beards. In the background are Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Beneath the images are inscriptions in Arabic, Pashtu and Persian that read: "Members of Taliban and al-Qaida! We know where you are hiding." The pamphlets have been seen in eastern Afghanistan and near its border with Pakistan, where fugitive Taliban and al-Qaida are believed to have found sanctuary.
On the other side of the leaflets are pictures of the burning World Trade Center towers accompanied by the words: "The coalition forces have come to Afghanistan to arrest those who were responsible for the terrorist attacks in the United States."
An organization calling itself Jamiat Shababul Muslimeem, or Muslim Army, distributed a pamphlet earlier this month that took credit for drawing hundreds of coalition troops into an attack by about 80 rebel fighters in southeastern Afghanistan. U.S. officials say 18 guerrillas were killed, and the rest escaped. Some intelligence officials have linked Jamiat Shababul Muslimeem to Taliban and Hekmatyar loyalists.
The breadth of the distribution and the statements they contain suggest the guerillas believe they're getting the message across.
"We have created awareness among the Afghans and other Muslims about the atrocities of the United States, and we have called on them to start fighting. We are organized and our number is in the thousands," said a Pashtu-language pamphlet from the guerrillas in eastern Afghanistan.
Afghanistan omitted from US aid budget
Afghans are still struggling to survive
By Michael Buchanan BBC correspondent in Washington
The United States Congress has stepped in to find nearly $300m in humanitarian and reconstruction funds for Afghanistan after the Bush administration failed to request any money in this latest budget.
One mantra from the Bush administration since it launched its military campaign in Afghanistan 16 months ago has been that the United States will not walk away from the Afghan people.
President Bush has even suggested a Marshall plan for the country, and the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, will visit Washington later this month.
Washington has pledged not to forget Afghanistan
But in its budget proposals for 2003, the White House did not explicitly ask for any money to aid humanitarian and reconstruction costs in the impoverished country.
The chairman of the committee that distributes foreign aid, Jim Kolbe, says that when he asked administration officials why they had not requested any funds, he was given no satisfactory explanation, but did get a pledge that it would not happen again.
A spokesman for the US Agency for International Development, which distributes the money, says the reason they did not make a request was that when budgetary discussions began in 2002, it was too early to say how much money they would need.
Jim Kolbe has expressed surprise at the administration's oversight.
The United States will spend over $16bn in foreign aid this year.
The main beneficiaries will be Israel, Jordan and a number of anti-Aids programmes.
However, Mr Kolbe says that should there be a military conflict in Iraq, he believes the US will have to find billions more, not only to help Iraq, but also Turkey, Jordan and Israel.
Afghanistan: Focus on winter education
KABUL, 13 February (IRIN) - Remember the name Mursal. One day the 13-year-old Afghan girl is going to be president of her country, she says. Right now, though, she's just started school for the first time in her life.
"I am very happy to be in school. Some of my friends are not going and are playing, but I want to come to school," she told IRIN in the capital, Kabul.
At a time when most schools are closed for winter, Mursal is one of 16,000 Kabul children still going to classes in an effort to make up for the years of lost education.
Just as she was set to begin school as a six-year-old, the Taliban came and banned girls' education, and she ended up spending six years as a refugee in Pakistan. There, she was unable to go to school, and even when she returned to Afghanistan in September she could not join a classroom due to a requirement that all children had to show a 50 percent attendance record for the previous year, or wait until the next school year began.
But then a joint project between the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Bangladeshi NGO BRAC and the Afghan education ministry ensured that 160 Kabul schools stayed open over the three-month winter break to accommodate pupils such as Mursal and enable them to catch up on their studies by the time the new school year starts in March.
For three hours every morning at the Abdul Ghafnoor Nadim School in Kabul, Mursal sits jammed three to a desk that was only designed for two, and learns the Dari language, mathematics and about religion. Her two precious schoolbooks are carefully covered in "Best Wishes" wrapping paper and plastic to protect them.
In the same class, 16-year-old Basmina is also revelling in her first chance to go to school, thanks to the winter programme. "Coming to school is the best part of my day," she told IRIN. Before, her days were taken up by washing dishes, scrubbing clothes and helping with the cooking. Now, when she goes home, she revises what she has learnt in the morning before helping around the house. Her sights are set on becoming a doctor.
BRAC's education programme manager, Shahidul Hasan, told IRIN in Kabul that the idea for winter catch-up classes in Afghanistan came from BRAC's experience in Bangladesh. "Many children had dropped out, because there were no schools, or they were too far away." Children there were put into special accelerated learning classes so they could make up for the time they had lost.
In Afghanistan, where more than two decades of war has disrupted education, the need for extra tuition was crucial, he said. "When we came to Afghanistan, we found a lot of children absent from schools, and many returnees had never gone to school in Pakistan or Iran."
So, after discussions late last year, BRAC trained 636 teachers to help keep the Kabul schools open over the traditional holiday period. They had been swamped with children wanting to take advantage of the extra opportunity, and turned away twice as many as they could take. Already, the organisation has a plan to expand the programme to 2,000 schools across the country in areas where there have been low enrolment rates.
The UNICEF communication officer in Kabul, Edward Cawardine, told IRIN about US $250,000 had been put into the winter schools programme, with UNICEF contributing cash and materials. "The enthusiasm for the programme shows that Afghans haven't lost faith in education as a way to improve their future."
The organisation is already preparing for the new school year, and estimates about 4 million children will enter classrooms in March, an increase of a million over 2002. This is out of a total school population of about 4.5 million.
Cawardine said there were a number of reasons why up to 500,000 Afghan children would continue to miss out on education, including difficulties getting to schools, a lack of teachers, and families feeling it was more beneficial for their children to work than go to school. One other reason is lingering conservative opposition to girls attending classes.
But despite some sporadic attacks on schools last year, the UNICEF information officer, Chulho Hyun, said, he was hopeful that the new school year would get under way without any disruption. "Our concern is that if attacks did happen again, it could interrupt the momentum that has been built up over the last year." To counter this, it was vital to work with communities and build on the obvious enthusiasm for education, especially for girls, he said.
Back at Abdul Ghafnoor Nadim School, a separate programme is revealing how desperate Afghan children are for education. The government-run scheme allows children to attend extra classes over winter for less than $1 a month to further advance their learning. Already 400 students have enrolled for the classes at this school, with more coming every day.
Sixteen-year-old Mohammad Parviz told IRIN he would rather be in school learning geometry than be out with his friends during the holidays. "Last year I was top of the fifth class. Why should I waste my time playing when I can carry on studying and stay at the top of my class?"
A teacher, Sohaila Forugh, said she was thrilled to see so many children taking the opportunity for extra classes over winter. She herself did virtually no teaching when the Taliban were in control of the country, and is now trying her hardest to help the children who also missed out on school for up to six years.
With her chalk in a battered Nivea tin and reading from a book to a class of 30 girls getting their first taste of education, her enthusiasm is obvious. "Take our voice to the world. We've lost so many years of education, and tell them that we were doing nothing for six years, but now we will go forward and study," she told IRIN.
Rebuilt school opens doors to Afghan boys and girls
Source: UNDP Date: 13 Feb 2003
About 1,500 girls and boys will attend classes at a reconstructed school in Shakardara district near Kabul, the fulfilment of a project that provided temporary employment for villagers in the area and helps strengthen Afghanistan's education system.
The old school building, a one-room structure that held classes for boys only, was completely destroyed during intense fighting in the 1990s. Students then had to walk three miles to get to the closest school, and in times of unrest they were not able to attend classes at all.
In developing the rebuilding project, the Ministry of Education and local communities recognized and supported the need for girls' education, a major leap from the era of the Taliban. Last year, only three per cent of girls were enrolled in school, while the rate for boys was 39 per cent.
The school was rebuilt with support from the UNDP Recovery and Employment Afghanistan Programme (REAP) with funding from Japan. The programme works in cooperation with the Government to carry out labour intensive, quick-impact initiatives to restore public infrastructure.
REAP projects are based on community participation, and all the workers on the project were hired from local communities.
"The determination and dedication with which the local communities worked in order to construct the school is a source of inspiration for all of us, but we have a long way to go - thousands of children all over the country are still out of school," said a statement by the Ministry of Education.
"The school was rebuilt by people in the community for the community," said UNDP Country Director Ercan Murat. "This is a good example of UNDP approach: our role was to provide technical and financial support."
In promoting the project, UNDP brought together the Ministry of Education, contractors, and community representatives and helped mobilize international support.
REAP projects have created employment opportunities for over 30,000 Afghans in Kabul; additional projects will provide work for 15,000 people in Jalalabad and 30,000 in Kandahar. The Ministry of Urban Development and Housing is scheduled to take over administration of REAP projects in August.
The sound of Afghanistan's revival: music
Squelched by the fundamentalist Taliban, a sense of fun returns to Kabul, in song, dance, and laughter.
By Scott Baldauf The Christian Science Monitor
At the Barg-e Sabz restaurant, a band belts out folk and pop tunes from Iran, Afghanistan, and India, as Afghan men take turns dancing.
Chest thrust out, a six-foot tall Hazara on tiptoe struts across the floor, his arms stretched out like wings and forefingers pointed skyward. His expression is pure bliss.
That such an act can be committed - dancing on the three-day Islamic festival of Eid-ul Adha - speaks volumes about how much Afghanistan has changed over the past 14 months since the hardline Islamist Taliban government fell from power. Strict rules, which the Taliban claimed were rooted in the Koran, forbade all music that wasn't strictly religious because it tended to distract one's thoughts from God.
Nothing in the Koran specifically encourages lavish feasts or dancing during Eid, a festival that marks the height of the hajj pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. And in his personal life, the prophet Muhammad seemed to frown on music and dance.
Yet across the country, all the old banned traditions are returning. In Mazar-e Sharif this week, thousands of Afghans filled the streets for celebrations of Nauroz, which marks the first day of spring and the Afghan new year.
Traveling mystics of the Sufi sect have made a triumphal return to the streets, offering prayers, charms, and esoteric wisdom. Musicians who fled to Pakistan during Taliban times are playing at lavish wedding ceremonies, and dancers - male and female - are booked solid for private parties.
Some Eid traditions are timeless - and reminiscent of the Christian Easter in the theme of renewal and in sartorial show. Children walk along the streets, the girls in brand-new velvet dresses lined with gold lace, the boys in flashy suits or baggy tunics and trousers. Adults, too, wear newly tailored clothes, although most women in Kabul still hide themselves under sky-blue veils covering them from head to toe.
Eid is a holiday for soldiers too, sometimes with worrying consequences.
Along the 40-mile road from Kabul to Bagram Air Base, where the US military has its headquarters, five of the six Afghan Army checkposts were vacant. One might assume that members of Al Qaeda, also being Muslims, would take the day off as well. But an ambush of US Special Forces in northern Urozgan province, on the night before Eid, makes it plain that Al Qaeda considers this a working holiday. (No US injuries were reported in the attack. The five heavily armed assailants apparently got away, even after a massive bombing of their cave hideouts.)
There is something about Eid that encourages giddy, irreverent - even subversive - behavior. At the Barg-e Sabz, for instance, a comedian named Nasiruddin Shah takes the stage to mimic top Afghan politicians, including President Hamid Karzai. Then he proceeds to tell an assortment of political jokes that would make US comedian Chris Rock blush.
"There are five brothers, a Hazara, a Charikari, a Panshiri, a Shiberghani, and a Kandahari," he starts, and over the next two or three minutes, skewers each of the major ethnic groups in Afghanistan - and in the audience - to riotous laughter. (Repeated attempts by this reporter to get an English interpretation of this joke were stymied, because the Monitor's interpreter kept laughing. In the end, it proved not printable in a family newspaper.)
Yet it is the dancing that has brought the crowds to the Barg-e Sabz. Soldiers who spent their teenage years fighting the Taliban mainly rely on traditional dance steps handed down by their elders. Refugees who have just returned from Pakistan or Europe, however, dust off the floor with a bit of breakdancing. And the comic, Nasruddin Shah, does a remarkable impression of a belly dancer. Men in the audience shower him with money.
Such gaiety may come as a surprise in a country just beginning to pull itself out of the devastation of 23 years of invasion and civil war. Indeed, at this Eid, too much of Afghanistan remains frustratingly unchanged. Migrants still live under plastic sheets at the edges of Kabul, begging in the streets for food; unemployed gunmen of the Northern Alliance still walk the capital heavily armed; school children study in bombed-out school rooms, sharing pencils and notebooks; and hospitals still lack adequate equipment for the most common injuries, particularly from land mines.
But at the Barg-e Sabz, customers can forget these troubles and seem determined to focus on things that make life worth living.
Attracted by the music, being pumped out into the street by a loudspeaker, families come to take their seats. And one by one, the male audience members step up to dance.
Now, bin Laden takes aim at Pakistan
By B Raman Asia Times
From India's point of view, the most important point in the message allegedly of Osama bin Laden, broadcast by Al Jazeera on Tuesday, is the inclusion of Pakistan in the list of so-called anti-Muslim, apostate states that have to be liberated by Muslims by waging a jihad against it.
He says, "We also stress to honest Muslims that they should move, incite and mobilize the [Islamic] nation, amid such grave events and hot atmosphere so as to liberate themselves from those unjust and renegade ruling regimes, which are enslaved by the United States. They should also do so to establish the rule of god on earth. The most qualified regions for liberation are Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the land of the two holy mosques [Saudi Arabia] and Yemen."
Though the Islamic parties of Pakistan, constituting the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which came to power in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Balochistan after the elections of October 10 last year, and the various Pakistani components of the bin Laden-led International Islamic Front (IIF) for jihad against the US and Israel have been highly critical of the Pervez Musharraf regime for cooperating with the US in its war against al-Qaeda and the IIF and for allowing the US troops and intelligence agencies to operate freely in Pakistani territory against Muslims, bin Laden has in the past avoided any criticism of the Musharraf regime since he and the surviving dregs of al-Qaeda had taken shelter in that country with the complicity of Pakistan's military-intelligence establishment since the beginning of last year and were dependent on the military regime for their continued survival.
This is the first time that he has spoken against Pakistan and called for its "liberation" from the control of the apostates. This shows that he and his followers, who now enjoy the protection of the governments of the NWFP and Balochistan and of a large number of retired officers of the Pakistani army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), no longer feel the need to avoid rubbing Musharraf the wrong way.
His remarks against Pakistan also reflect the widespread suspicion in the madrassas (religious schools) of Pakistan that Musharraf has been secretly cooperating with the US against the present regimes in Baghdad and Teheran as a quid pro quo for Washington's closing its eyes to the military regime's role in transferring military nuclear technology to North Korea.
Bin Laden's message, provided it is genuine as stated by US intelligence officials, consists of the following parts:
Expression of solidarity with the Iraqi Muslims, to whichever sect (Sunni or Shi'ite or ethnic group (Kurds or others) to which they may belong, in the coming "crusade" against the US-led foreign troops.
An attempt to bolster their morale by describing how a group of hardly 300 mujahideen personally led by him and Ayman al-Zawahiri of Egypt, his number two, had fought against the US might at Tora Bora in Afghanistan after October 7, 2001, and given them the slip.
Guidance as to how Iraqi Muslims could similarly frustrate the US-led invasion through street battles, trench warfare and suicide attacks and by creating a quagmire for them.
Marking his distance from the "socialist" Saddam Hussein regime, which is also described as apostate because of its secular policies and its past cooperation with the US.
At the same time underlining that in the coming "crusade" against the US-led invaders the true Muslims could tactically cooperate even with his regime in order to achieve their ultimate objective of defeating the "crusaders". He says, "There will be no harm if the interests of Muslims converge with the interests of the socialists in the fight against the crusaders, despite our belief in the infidelity of socialists."
There are some interesting aspects in the way in which bin Laden's message has been disseminated by CNN and the BBC. The CNN's initial versions omitted bin Laden's reference to Pakistan, whereas the BBC referred to it. The CNN version referred to only Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. This likely reflects Washington's concern over the impact of the message on the people of Pakistan in their campaign against the Musharraf regime. While CNN continued to give prominence to the message in all its news bulletins of Wednesday, the BBC had started downplaying it. This is apparently due to the fact that the message clearly shows that there is no love lost between bin Laden and Saddam and disproves the allegations of the US and the UK about Saddam's links with al-Qaeda. US and British spokesmen have been trying to put on a brave face by claiming that the message proves the close links between Saddam and al-Qaeda, but this is not so.
An intriguing aspect of the message is the lack of any reference to the Hosni Mubarak government in Cairo. This writer has been of the view that the reaction to the US-led invasion could come not from the streets of Baghdad, but from the streets and barracks of Egypt. One would have expected bin Laden to have included Egypt, too, in the list of "apostate" states to be "liberated". Why has he not done so? It is difficult to answer this question at present, but it is certainly worth pondering.
Broken promises: Returnees in Afghanistan
Source: Refugees International Date: 13 Feb 2003
Since the Taliban fell from power, about 2 million Afghans have returned to their country, all hoping to find jobs and rebuild their lives. For many, this hope has not become a reality. Contrary to their high hopes, many Afghans are without shelter and without jobs and are frustrated that they have not received any assistance. Throughout Afghanistan, there remain large groups of people who have not benefited from the reintegration assistance that was promised them. Michelle Brown and Ada Williams recently returned from Afghanistan where they were monitoring the conditions for returnees.
Man and Woman from Shomali Plains: We returned [to Istalef in the Shomali Plains] from Pakistan 6 months ago. My wife, my 6 children and I are renting the same house we were renting when we fled to Pakistan. When we arrived here, our house was burned, but ACTED (an NGO) helped us rebuild one room. All my children are going to school. In Pakistan, my husband and I worked very hard so that our children could go to school, but we are facing difficulties keeping them in school here. Of course we are happy to be back because here is our home. Our life is bad here, but at least we are free. I am an old man. There are no jobs for me here. NGOs pay people $2 a day to work on roads or build things, but my knees hurt me and I can't do these jobs. These are the only jobs. If I had a little money, I could start a shop. This is something I could do. I want to work. I need to work. I am living in this bad situation, but I don't want my children to live like me. All the time I am thinking about their future. I want them to be educated. They are all in first position in school. Until now, I have been able to send them school, but I need to work. My son could work and get paid $2 a day. That would buy food for us. I want him to stay in school, but we need to eat. We returned to our house. We thought America would help us. Even though we thank America, we need to eat.
Woman from Kabul: I am living here [in this "tent village" in Kabul] because I have nowhere else to go. I returned to Afghanistan almost 7 months ago with the help of UNHCR. I returned to my village, but the village leaders told me that there was no room for me and said that I had to come to Kabul. I lived in that village many, many years ago, before the war with the Russians. We rented a house and land, and then 17 years ago, I moved to Kabul. My husband was killed in a rocket attack five years ago, and after that we went to Pakistan. Now I am a widow with five children without land or a house. It gets very cold here at night, and we don't have enough food. Sometimes I can wash other people's clothes and earn a little money. Or sometimes I can sew blankets. An NGO hires women in the apartments near here to sew quilts, but the women cannot sew. So they bring the materials to the women in this "village" and they give us a little of the money that the NGO gives to them. I can't earn enough money. I want my children to go to school, and I want to live in a house, but there is no one to help me. I don't have a husband, and the government and NGOs are not helping me. I want to learn to read and write so I can get a better job. Right now, I am just thinking about our stomachs, but I am always thinking about my children and I want them to have a future.
Man From Kabul: I returned from Pakistan 7 months ago with the help of UNHCR. We are from Kabul, but we spent 6 years in Pakistan. Neither my nor myself owned a house. We were renting a place when we left for Pakistan. Our biggest problem here is shelter. You can see where we are living. It used to be a stable. Animals were sleeping here. When we first arrived in Kabul, we had no place to go so we went to the mosque. We stayed there for a few weeks, and someone there gave us this address. This property used to belong to a Talib, but he left. We can stay here and don't have to pay rent.
I shine shoes to earn money. On very good days, I can earn about $1, but I usually can't earn that much. I can't earn enough money to support them. It costs about $1 to buy food for my wife and four children. Many days, I just earn enough money to buy tea and some sugar and that's all we ear. Since we returned , an NGO has given us a heater, some coal, and some flour, but our coal is will run out in less than a month. When we first came from Pakistan, I wanted to enroll my children in school. The school would not accept them because I did not have an identity card. It takes about 5 days to get a new card, during that time I cannot work because I have to wait at the Ministries. If I take the time off work, who will earn money for the family?
When we were in Paksitan we were happy. The government promised that they would give us a house and food. Although we love our country, we are not happy here because we don't have the necessities to live. Because we love our country, we won't go back to Pakistan even though we had electricity there. We are not happy with the government because they lied to us. They said, 'Please come to your country, and we will help you.'
Jalalabad Woman - Tamraid village: I came home to my village [outside Jalalabad] three months ago from a refugee camp in Peshawar. I lived there since leaving Afghanistan in 1993. I did not receive any help to come to return to Afghanistan UNHCR told they would not help me because I had had received assistance to return already. So I came with some people I met on the road. I came to this village because I was born here; I was married here, so I came back here. I take care of my dead son's three children, all under the age of 7, and I live with my youngest daughter, my widowed daughter-in-law and my husband in a stable with three cows. My husband is very ill and I have no way of earning a living for the family. My daughter-in-law knows how to do some tailoring work but the sewing machine we have is broken and there is no money to fix it. Sometimes the village donates vegetables for our family to eat. I am very concerned for my grandchildren, I want them to attend school but there is no school here. I am happy to be back in my country but it is very difficult for us. I look to Allah for help.
Family of soldier killed in accidental bombing in Afghanistan files wrongful death claim against U.S. government
Thu Feb 13, 5:29 PM ET AP
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - The mother and a family friend of one of four Canadian soldiers killed in an accidental bombing in Afghanistan filed a wrongful death claim Thursday against the U.S. government.
Dick Murtha, the lawyer for Doreen Coolen, the mother of Pvt. Richard Green, said the notice cited the "inexplicable, unjustified and reckless actions" of two U.S. pilots who dropped a bomb on Canadian troops at their training ground near Kandahar.
Murtha, who also represents family friend Michael MacDonald, said the claim is based on the pilots' alleged negligence in deploying a 225-kilogram (500-pound) bomb on friendly forces.
"What we're trying to do is have the United States government recognize that a travesty occurred," Murtha said. "Nobody's arguing that it didn't. So, let's get the matter resolved, let's prevent it from happening again and compensate those who lost loved ones."
Murtha said the notice was filed with officials at the Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana. Maj. Harry Schmidt and Maj. William Umbach, the two pilots implicated in the claim, were attached to the base when they were flying missions over Afghanistan last year.
Capt. Denise Kerr said Thursday that officials at Barksdale had not received the notice and could not comment until they had all of the documents.
Murtha said he wanted to resolve the matter outside of court, but would proceed to a lawsuit if necessary. He refused to say how much money would be sought in a possible lawsuit, but added, "It will be a large number."
The claim alleges the two pilots acted negligently when they mistook the Canadian soldiers for enemy forces operating outside Kandahar.
Schmidt says he spotted ground file that appeared to be coming toward his F-16 fighter jet. Unaware of the Canadian training exercise below and thinking he and his lead pilot were under attack, Schmidt dropped the bomb that killed four Canadians, including the 21-year-old Green, and injured eight.
The pilots faced a special hearing last month in Louisiana to determine if enough evidence exists to proceed to a court martial. A decision on a court martial is pending.
Some of Green's other relatives have opposed a wrongful-death claim, calling it an attempt to get money from the tragedy.
"I think it's distasteful. I think it's more about people looking for blood money," said Joyce Clooney, Green's paternal grandmother. Green's father and fiancee, who's now 18, both have said they don't want to join the case.
No other families of the dead or the injured have taken legal action against the U.S. military.
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