Donors gather in Tokyo to discuss fresh aid for Afghanistan
Feb 21 10:28 PM ET AP
TOKYO - Representatives of dozens of donor nations gathered in Tokyo on Saturday to discuss a fresh package of aid and other measures to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai tighten control over his war-torn and deeply divided nation.
The conference, bringing together 45 donor countries and international organizations, comes as Karzai is working to rein in heavily armed local warlords and extend his authority outside Afghanistan's capital, Kabul.
Last month, the Afghan government said it had created special committees to find ways to disarm warlords, recruit a national army and employ demobilized fighters in public works and other government projects.
Achieving these goals, Karzai told the conference, "answers the deepest aspirations of the Afghan people who are eager to move away from war and violence toward a peaceful, safe, and civil society."
The president, who arrived in Tokyo earlier this week to push for more aid, told reporters Friday he was confident international donors would support his country and dismissed concerns Kabul might be left by the wayside as attention shifted to an impending war in Iraq.
Japan has been a major supporter of his administration and will bankroll much of the US$50 million needed to carry out the Afghan government's plans. The United Nations announced in Kabul on Wednesday that Tokyo had already pledged US$35 million.
At a Tokyo conference in January last year, international donors promised US$4.5 billion for Afghanistan's reconstruction over several years. An estimated US$1.8 billion for the first year has already been spent.
The United Nations has said it could cost up to US$15 billion over 10 years to rebuild the country.
Broadening the government's authority beyond the capital is seen as one of Karzai's biggest challenges.
His government has control of Kabul, which is patrolled by a multinational force, and is training a national army with the help of U.S. advisers. But most of the countryside is dominated by regional warlords with huge armies, which threaten to plunge the country into civil war.
US Expands Anti-Taliban Operations in Afghanistan
Fri Feb 21, 8:10 AM ET By Scott McDonald
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Friday it had expanded operations in southern Afghanistan in the past week in an area where fugitive leaders of the ousted Taliban regime could be hiding.
U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King said troops primarily from the U.S. 82nd Airborne division launched Operation Viper several days ago in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold until the fundamentalist movement was thrown out of power by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001.
King told a news briefing at Bagram, the U.S. headquarters north of Kabul, that seven suspected Taliban members had been detained in connection with the operations in the last 24 hours, but no shots had been fired.
He was not specific when asked if the operations were aimed at capturing fugitive Taliban leaders, who include the group's chief Mullah Mohammad Omar.
"I would say that we have indications that it might be worth our while to look in Helmand Valley," he said. "And one of the things we always look for are former Taliban leadership, so you can do your own extrapolation."
King said 20 to 25 people had now been detained in the operations so far but said he could not give numbers killed.
Local officials and villagers in Helmand said last week that 17 civilians had been killed in coalition bombing raids in the mountainous region. The U.S. military says the only non-combatant casualty was an eight-year-old boy who was wounded.
CASUALTIES DIFFICULT TO CONFIRM
It is not always possible to confirm casualty claims in remote areas, although Afghan President Hamid Karzai expressed concerns for the safety of civilians after the Helmand raids.
About 8,000 U.S. troops and several thousand allied foreign soldiers are in Afghanistan pursuing remnants of the Taliban and the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden, which is blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
More than a year after ousting the Taliban and with the United States poised to launch a new war in Iraq, the whereabouts of bin Laden and Mullah Omar remain unknown.
However separate messages purporting to have come from the two men recently have urged Muslims to fight a holy war against the United States and its allies.
King said coalition attacks had put Taliban remnants on the defensive and rejected suggestions that there had been a pick up in anti-coalition activities.
"There has been an increase in successful actions on part of the coalition forces. As far as enemy activity, ambushes, mines that kind of thing, no, there is not an increase."
He said there was no indication that a land mine this week that blew the foot off a U.S. soldier near Gardez was planted recently or was targeted at the U.S. patrol.
Kabul residents say one reason for a drop in rebel activity could be the winter, with heavy snow and rain in many parts. During Taliban rule, fighting with the opposition Northern Alliance usually fell off in the winter and picked up in spring.
Germany could withdraw ISAF troops in Iraq war
Friday February 21, 10:08 PM AFP
Germany could withdraw its troops from the international security force in Afghanistan (ISAF) if a conflict in Iraq escalated tensions in the region, Defence Minister Peter Struck warned.
"I don't want to exclude the possibility that the security situation could intensify in the event of any war on Iraq," Struck said at a press conference here focused on military reform.
He said a contingency plan had been prepared to evacuate civilians and in the longer-term the German military from Afghanistan if tensions were too high.
Germany would "first evacuate civilian colleagues by planes within a week and then the soldiers," he said Friday.
A defence ministry spokesman told AFP later that a withdrawal would only be ordered in the case of an emergency.
Germany and the Netherlands took joint control of the ISAF from Turkey on February 10 and will lead it for six months, but Berlin has been urging NATO to take over the leadership role at the end of its mandate.
Germany believes progress had been made in returning Afghanistan to some semblance of normality, but that ethnic and social tensions and "the latent danger" posed by the Taliban mean the war-torn country is still unstable.
Its decision to take on the joint leadership role was also made in an effort to improve ties with Washington, which were damaged when Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stridently opposed war on Iraq during last year's election campaign.
Since then, Schroeder has tried to focus on Berlin's large role in the international "war against terrorism", of which the ISAF deployment is a part.
After the United States, Germany has the most soldiers of any country deployed abroad with around 10,000 troops in peacekeeping missions and anti-terror operations.
On February 8, Struck said US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had assured him that he would support the German proposal for NATO to take over.
He said that because of the limited number of countries capable of taking charge of ISAF, it made sense for the transatlantic alliance to shoulder the burden.
The 19-nation military alliance is already involved in ISAF tasks in terms of reconnaissance, communications and information processing.
"For practical reasons we should assign NATO greater participation in the follow-on operation," Struck said at the time.
The 4,800-strong force has patrolled Kabul and its environs since its creation under an Afghan power-sharing agreement reached in Bonn in 2001 following the fall of the Taliban militia.
The defence minister said Friday that Afghanistan was relatively stable at the moment but he said that rockets had been fired near German barracks there.
Struck himself was taken to shelter on February 10 during a visit to Kabul for the leadership handover when two rockets landed in the vicinity.
By the end of the month, ISAF will comprise some 5,000 troops from 30 countries, providing assistance to Afghan authorities in securing Kabul.
These will include around 2,500 German military and 600 Dutch soldiers.
|Back to News Archirves of 2003|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).