Afghanistan secures 50 million dollars to disarm militiamen
Saturday February 22, 10:03 PM AFP
Afghanistan secured more than 50 million dollars in pledges to help disarm militiamen at a conference here, a key step in rebuilding the country after 23 years of war.
The central Asian nation received enough promises of aid to cover the first year of a three-year, 134 million-dollar programme, which also seeks to reintegrate some 100,000 former combatants into civil society through the fledgling standing army.
Japan pledged 35 million dollars in grants, the United States offered 10 million dollars, Britain 3.5 million dollars and Canada 2.2 million dollars, according to the chairman's summary issued at the end of the meeting.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said disarmament was vital to the success of the country's first nationwide elections planned for the summer of 2004 by providing "the security environment that is conducive to the holding of free and fair elections."
Karzai told reporters the pledges would be a major source of stability for his country.
"Afghanistan the way it is will very soon be a country that will again be on its own feet with regard to revenues and with regard to security," he said.
Despite enjoying a period of relative peace since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, sporadic clashes continue to break out around Afghanistan between militiamen loyal to regional warlords.
Efforts to create a 70,000-strong national army under the control of the government in Kabul have been hampered by a lack of money for new recruits. Only 3,000 former fighters are serving so far.
While some warlords in the north and west have despatched troops to join the new national force, many have deserted to rejoin their former masters.
But Karzai said the national army represented "a dignified alternative livelihood to the soldiers and officers who make up these armies."
Former fighters joining the army receive a steady salary. Those who abandon their arms for good receive a voucher worth between 100 and 400 dollars, depending on their rank and years of fighting, a Japanese official said.
The amount is enough to feed a family of 10 for about a month or more in rural Afghanistan, but does not amount to much in expensive Kabul.
While none of the participants said disarming the warriors would be easy, Karzai warned the failure to disband private armies could undermine coming elections.
He implored representatives from 34 countries and 12 international organisations to "join in a broad partnership to further consolidate our plans to build a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan."
Karzai said he would announce the start date of the disarmament programme on March 21, the first day of the Afghan new year.
Persuading fighters to give up their arms, a way of life during 23 years of conflict, will not be easy, participants in the conference said. Providing a future for the ex-soldiers was the key, they said.
"Peace building is people building," Sadako Ogata, the Japanese prime minister's special representative for assistance to Afghanistan told the forum.
Karzai said Afghanistan will not forget its "debt of gratitude" to soldiers he called freedom fighters who defended the nation "from foreign invaders and terrorism."
The conference came 13 months after a similar gathering in Tokyo that secured pledges of 4.5 billion dollars over five years to help Afghanistan rebuild.
But with a war on Iraq looming, the meeting was clouded by fears that attention would fade from reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, whose transitional administration is just over a year old.
Karzai, who narrowly survived an assassination attempt last September, said he had received assurances from US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair that they would not forget Afghanistan in the event of war.
And he insisted Afghans are returning, in their millions, because of the brighter prospects for the future of the country.
"Afghanistan is once again a home for all Afghans and that is something I like very much," he said
Disarmament of Afghan militias essential for free elections: Karzai
Saturday February 22, 4:23 PM AFP
A failure to disband Afghanistan's private armies could undermine the country's first ever general election next year, President Hamid Karzai has warned.
Karzai told a donors conference here that it was essential to disarm the 100,000 militiamen and integrate them into a national army or civilian life in order to provide "the security environment that is conducive to the holding of free and fair elections in 2004."
The Afghan leader pleaded with representatives from 35 countries and 12 international organisations to "join in a broad partnerhip to further consolidate our plans to build a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan."
Despite enjoying a period of relative peace since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, sporadic clashes continue to break out around Afghanistan between militiamen loyal to regional warlords.
Efforts to create a 70,000-strong national army under the control of the government in Kabul have been hampered by a lack of money for new recruits.
But Karzai said the national army represented a "a dignified alternative livelihood to the soldiers and officers who make up these armies."
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on Saturday reiterated Tokyo's pledge of 35 million dollars toward what officials anticipated to be a 50 million dollar programme to disarm, demobilise and reintegrate the former fighters.
Japan has also pledged to help coordinate the disarmament process, which Karzai has said "should not exceed one year."
The United States also plans to contribute to the plan, a US official said Friday, but at a lower level than Japan.
Afghanistan's first ever nationwide elections are scheduled to take place in mid-2004 and come after the planned submission in October of a draft Afghan constitution to a grand council known as the Loya Jirga.
Karzai said he would announce the start date of the disarmament program on March 21, the first day of the Afghan new year.
The process would see former combatants give up their arms in exchange for a job in the national army or for training, loans, or work in civil society.
Some 3,000 former fighters are already serving in the army.
Persuading fighters to give up their arms, which has been a way of life during 23 years of conflict, will not be easy, participants in the conference said. Providing a future for the ex-soldiers was the key, they said.
"Peace building is people building," Sadako Ogata, the Japanese prime minister's special representative for assistance to Afghanistan told the conference.
"You have really then to provide opportunities to these people who have been fighting for practically their whole life," German Ambassador Michael Schmunk said.
Karzai said the main tool of the voluntary disarmament program, was to provide "attractive reintegration packages to the armed forces.
He said Afghanistan will not forget its "debt of gratitude" to soldiers who he portrayed as freedom fighters who defended the nation "from foreign invaders and terrorism."
With a war against Iraq looming, the conference was clouded by fears that attention would fade from reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, whose transitional administration is still only slightly over one year old.
On Friday, German Defence Minister Peter Struck said Germany could withdraw its 2,500 troops from the 4,700-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan if war in Iraq escalated tensions in the region.
But Schmunk said Saturday its commitment to Afghanistan would not decrease, but feared terrorists might in the confusion caused by war.
"We will have to be very alert to increase our protection for our troops but we will stay to make sure that the security is kept up in the Kabul area," he told AFP.
UN Envoy calls on donors to fund disarmament effort in Afghanistan
Source: UN News Service 23 Feb 2003
New York, Feb 23 2003 3:00PM - Lakhdar Brahimi, the senior United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, has urged donors meeting in Tokyo to support the country's efforts to help ex-soldiers lay down their arms.
Mr. Brahimi called disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants "a fundamental component of the whole effort to advance the peace process, build the rule of law and allow for reconstruction and investment to return Afghanistan to a normal economic and social footing."
In his address to the "Consolidation of Peace (DDR) in Afghanistan Conference" on Saturday, the envoy acknowledged that the process would not be easy but urged the international community to have patience, remain focused and be persistent.
"Donors, of course, are the indispensable part of the puzzle," he said. Pointing out that many if not most Afghan fighters are keen to return to civilian life, he stressed that ensuring sufficient funding to see them through the reintegration process would "significantly increase their confidence and readiness to commit to demobilization."
The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, also addressed the Conference, which was attended by representatives of some 40 countries and international organizations.
Participants endorsed the Government's establishment of Afghanistan's "New Beginnings Programme" with the assistance of the UN mission in the country (UNAMA) and the international community. A UN spokesman in Kabul today reported that in addition to the $35 million already committed by the Japanese Government, other pledges, including from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, totalled some $50 million.
The spokesman also reported that Mr. Brahimi is headed to Malaysia to deliver a message on behalf of Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Kuala Lumpur.
India to be asked to join $2.5 bln pipeline project
ISLAMABAD, February 22 (Reuters) - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan agreed on Saturday to invite India to join a $2.5 billion natural gas pipeline project connecting the four states.
The proposed 1,400-km (875 mile) pipeline across Afghanistan will link the vast gas reserves of Turkmenistan with Pakistan, and eventually India.
Pakistan's Petroleum Minister Nauraiz Shakoor Khan said a formal request to India to join the project would be made before officials from the three countries met in Manila in April.
"Since the viability of the project depends upon the extension of the pipeline to India, it was agreed...(to) formally forward the documents of the TAP to government of India, inviting them to join the project," officials from the three countries said in a statement.
Security issues are to the fore for the promoters of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) project.
Decades of instability in Afghanistan kept the project stuck on the drawing board and India and Pakistan were locked in a military stand-off for much of last year over disputed Kashmir.
There is continuing instability in Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are hunting remants of the Taliban regime and its al Qaeda allies, but the Afghan minister for petroleum and mines, Mohammad Mohammadi, said the pipeline would be protected.
"As far as security is concerned, the Afghan government has made a very strong commitment to support the project, and make the project successful," he told reporters.
An agreement to build the trans-Afghan gas pipeline was signed by Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in December.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is providing $1.5 million for a feasibility study of the project. The study is due to be completed by September.
Non-aligned states against war
By Wong Choon Mei Friday February 21, 10:46 PM
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Developing countries as far apart as Afghanistan and Zimbabwe have thrown their weight against war in Iraq but have refused Baghdad's request that they bar U.S. troops from using their soil as a launchpad for attack.
The issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and North Korea dominated preparatory talks before next week's summit of the 114-member Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the Malaysian capital.
Reclusive North Korea appeared set to snub the group by sticking to its position that it will discuss its nuclear ambitions with the United States alone and disagreeing with requests from its fellow members that it reconsider a decision to quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
The 114 nations said in a draft resolution on Friday that the use of force against Iraq would run contrary to the global consensus that "categorically rejects the current threat of war".
"We express our support and solidarity with Iraq vis-a-vis the possible aggression against it and (are) committed to exert all possible means to achieve a peaceful solution," it said.
The draft, which delegates say is unlikely to see substantial changes, is to be approved by foreign ministers on Saturday and then by heads of state, who begin the two-day summit on Monday.
Officials of NAM, which includes Iran, Iraq and North Korea the three states branded by U.S. President George W. Bush as an "axis of evil" prepared the draft at a second day of talks. Singapore, Chile and Iran were among countries that asked for more time to seek approval from their governments for strongly worded amendments backing Iraq.
"We ought to stay calm. We seek a peaceful solution and to reject aggression. I hope the people of the world will say no to war," Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said on arrival.
While last-minute alterations underlined growing opposition to war on Iraq, the non-aligned countries hedged their bets by demanding Baghdad continue compliance with U.N. weapons inspectors and remain actively engaged in the process.
Iraq says it is doing everything it can to cooperate.
But there were some differences within the movement. Some delegates described the declaration as too soft in terms of demands for Iraqi compliance.
"The text of the draft statement could have left some room to make it more balanced," said Iranian delegate Amir Zamani.
Delegates said a request by Iraq that other member states not allow their territory to be used as a military base by the United States in case of war had been refused, with Kuwait taking the lead and supported by Qatar.
The United States and Britain are massing 150,000 troops on Iraq's border, threatening war unless President Saddam Hussein surrenders alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
Members stressed the weight of NAM's views.
"The NAM position is very important," said United Arab Emirates envoy Mohamad Jassam, adding that six non-aligned countries currently have seats on the 15-member U.N. Security Council. "Sometimes you can kill a resolution with nine votes."
The six non-aligned nations on the Security Council are Angola, Guinea, Syria, Pakistan, Chile and Cameroon.
Malaysia expects 56 heads of state to attend the summit, with several Middle East nations sending substitutes due to uncertainty over the timing of an emergency Arab Summit in Cairo to discuss the Iraq crisis.
Kuala Lumpur has said the meeting will come down firmly against war as a solution to the Iraq crisis.
Delegates played down any differences.
"Some... would like to address the imminent (attack) whereas others would like to see the exhaustion of the U.N. process," Philippine Foreign Ministry official Jesus Domingo said.
U.S. ally Pakistan was among those opposed to war and willing to consider more time for U.N. inspections, but insisted that Iraq must comply with United Nations resolutions on disarming.
"We would want Iraq to comply with U.N. resolutions," Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri told reporters, adding that Islamabad would support a consensus on giving the inspectors more time. "We feel that it is not the elite in Iraq that suffers it is the poor masses that suffer."
THE HARDEST TOPICS
"Iraq and the DPRK (North Korea) issue are the hardest topics frankly," the Philippines' Domingo said.
Isolated North Korea found itself even more lonely when its fellow NAM members urged it to curb its nuclear ambitions and rejected its proposed statement that NAM demand the United States end its "hostile policy and nuclear threat" against North Korea and call on Washington to negotiate with Pyongyang.
The working group on disarmament failed to win North Korea's agreement to a statement opposing Pyongyang's decision last month to withdraw from the NPT and moved instead to raise the deadlock to a higher level, an Indonesian delegate said.
Poverty-stricken communist North Korea has kicked out weapons inspectors and left the NPT, saying it needs nuclear arms and wants to discuss the crisis with the United States. Washington says it will hold multilateral talks.
UN report for disaster management in Afghanistan
Sunday, February 23, 2003 7:00 AM EST
KABUL, Feb 23, 2003 (Xinhua via COMTEX) Afghanistan could achieve organized management of natural disasters through introducing a disaster response mechanism with skilled staff and a prepared and alert public, a United Nations report said on Sunday.
The report by the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) aims to inform the Afghan government on how to deploy its scarce resources to reduce disaster vulnerability and contribute to sustainable development of the country, UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva told reporters here.
Natural disasters had killed an estimated 19,000 people and displaced around 7.5 million people in Afghanistan since early 1980s.
According to the report entitled "Disaster Management Framework for Afghanistan", the main hazards that have adversely affected lives and properties of the Afghans for centuries were earthquakes, droughts, floods, landslides, extreme winters, avalanches as well as sand and dust storms.
It further highlighted that war and civil conflicts during last two decades and environmental degradation had increased the vulnerability of the Afghan people to natural disasters.
One of the key findings in the report is that the Afghan government at present has insufficient capacity to respond to natural disasters, according to the spokesman.
It pointed out that it would take at least a decade to effectively achieve basic national capacity in disaster management, if necessary resources are made available by the government and its development partners.
The report, prepared after extensive consultations with local authorities at different levels, UN agencies, international and bilateral donor bodies and other interested stakeholders, also set out opportunities for development partners to contribute to addressing disaster management needs in Afghanistan.
U.S. to keep troops in Afghanistan
By Scott McDonald Saturday February 22, 5:19 PM
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The U.S. military says it will keep the same number of troops in Afghanistan to hunt fugitive Taliban leaders, even if war breaks out in Iraq.
The Middle East crisis has raised expectations among Afghans that war would deflect the attention of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, and could prompt anger that a fellow Muslim country was under attack.
"Iraq, whether or not it goes, should have virtually no effect on what we do here," said U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King at the U.S. forces' Afghan headquarters in Bagram, just north of Kabul.
"As far as the posture of this force, the size of the force won't change, the mission of the force won't change, we'll continue doing what we do right now regardless of what happens in other places," he said.
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 Taliban leader Mullah Omar remain unknown.
However, separate messages purporting to have come from the two recently have urged Muslims to fight a holy war against the United States and its allies.
"Our intelligence says that there have been claims made on the part of the enemy that they may try to increase their level of attacks. As to whether or not our intelligence supports those claims, I really wouldn't want to go into that," King said.
Afghan Rebel Urges Attacks Against U.S.
Sun Feb 23, 1:18 PM ET By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Afghan rebel commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said he is proud the United States has branded him a terrorist and echoed Osama bin Laden 's call for suicide attacks against Americans, according to a statement obtained Sunday by The Associated Press.
Calling the United States the "big Satan of the world," Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister, also vowed jihad against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. American forces are combing parts of eastern Afghanistan for Hekmatyar, his loyalists and Taliban and al-Qaida fugitives.
"I am thankful to Almighty God that the United States of America thinks I am a terrorist. It is a matter of pride for me that such a strong country wants to punish me for the sake of my holy religion, Islam," the statement attributed to Hekmatyar said.
"I ask the Muslims of the world to wage a guerrilla war by using suicide attacks," the statement said. "Now is not the time for large-scale group assaults, but rather for individual attacks."
The Pashtu-language statement was provided to the AP by a security officer in Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami group at an Afghan refugee camp in northwest Pakistan. Hekmatyar's signature was confirmed by a former member of his group.
The statement urged Iraq to respond with suicide bombings if the United States attacks.
"I say to Iraqi people do not be afraid. I know war is being imposed upon you. You should ready yourself to carry out suicide attacks," the statement said. "History shall prove that if the Iraqi people remain united they shall find honor in conquering the USA."
The former Hezb-e-Islami member, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared for his life, said Hekmatyar was seen in Afghanistan's eastern Kapisa province two weeks ago and has been shuttling between Kapisa and the nearby regions of Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar.
U.S. special forces are stationed in Kunar, where Hekmatyar is believed to have a significant force. A Western diplomat in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said Kunar was of particular concern because of its proximity to neighboring Pakistan and high peaks where fighters can hide.
U.S. troops there have come under regular attack, often the target of ambushes.
In the statement, Hekmatyar denies being affiliated with the Taliban and with al-Qaida in Afghanistan. U.S. and other Western intelligence officials, several Taliban and even members of Hekmatyar's own group have said he has ties to bin Laden's terrorist network.
Hekmatyar's men are believed to have hidden several al-Qaida fugitives in Pakistan, including Jamal Hasan, also known as Abu Aade, a Palestinian with both Jordanian and American citizenship.
During the 1980s Afghan war against the Soviet Union, Hekmatyar received Western aid that was funneled through Pakistan's intelligence agency to the Islamic insurgents.
"Hekmatyar has many sympathizers inside political parties in Pakistan, inside the intelligence. Hekmatyar is not an enemy of Pakistan," said Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan's intelligence agency, InterServices Intelligence. Pakistani intelligence supported the Taliban when they ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, and many of its officials remain sympathetic.
"You can't ask people to be enemies of men they called friends just the day before. They don't see that they have done anything wrong," Gul said.
Hekmatyar is closely aligned to Pakistan's oldest and best-organized Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami which is a leading member of the 6-party Islamic coalition that rules the North West Frontier Province along the Afghan border.
Six Die in N. Afghan Factional Fighting
Sunday, February 23, 2003 5:33 AM EST
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) At least six civilians were killed in factional fighting between longtime rival warlords in northern Afghanistan, a senior commander said Sunday.
Fighting between supporters of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum and rival Gen. Atta Mohammed broke out Saturday near Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, said Gen. Abdul Sabor, one of Mohammed's senior lieutenants.
Fighting ended early Sunday with the onset of heavy rainfall in the area, Sabor told The Associated Press by satellite phone from the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Six civilians, including one man, two women and three children, were killed in the crossfire, Sabor said.
He blamed Dostum's forces for starting the battle, but it was not possible to confirm the claim. Dostum's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
Forces loyal to Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek warlord, and Mohammed, an ethnic Tajik, have clashed repeatedly all across northern Afghanistan, though the area has been quiet for the last few weeks.
The central government of President Hamid Karzai has little control outside the capital. Most of the country is ruled by warlords who have carved up the countryside into private fiefdoms.
Helpless Afghan officials look on as fire rages in eastern provincial capital
Sun Feb 23,10:34 AM ET AP
JALALABAD, Afghanistan - A massive fire swept through a food and fuel warehouse in the central bazaar of an eastern Afghan city on Sunday, as authorities looked on helplessly with few resources to fight the blaze, officials said.
No one was inside the building as the fire started, and no injuries were reported.
The fire erupted Saturday evening at the sprawling depot in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern Nangarhar province, and continued to rage through Sunday. Six cars, plus large quantities of motor oil, flour, mayonnaise and other commodities were consumed by the flames, officials said.
"Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to put out the fire," said acting Nangarhar governor Mohammed Asif Qazizada, as the fire burned in the single-story building - one of the largest warehouses of the city.
Jalalabad police chief Haji Ajab Shah said the blaze may have been triggered by a short-circuit in the warehouse's electricity, but said an investigation was under way.
The warehouse owner, Haji Attiqullah, an Afghan businessman based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, rushed to Jalalabad after hearing of the fire.
Afghanistan has been ravaged by more than two decades of war, and its towns and cities lack most basic facilities such as fire departments.
The Other Front.
By Ahmed Rashid Wall Street Journal as an Op-ed on February 11, 2003.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan-For the last week, American B-1 heavy bombers, fighter aircraft and helicopter gunships have been attacking the largest force of Afghan rebels to have surfaced in nearly a year in southern Afghanistan. The battle, which began on January 27, now involves some 400 U.S. and Afghan government troops, who are looking for the remainder of a force of 80 rebels. At least 18 rebels have been killed so far.
The ominous issue is not that they are there, but that they assembled in Pakistan with heavy weapons, sophisticated communications equipment to set up a clandestine radio station, posters and pamphlets announcing a jihad against U.S. forces and the government of President Hamid Karzai, and enough supplies to set up a base camp in the mountains south of Spin Baldak just 15 miles from the Pakistan border. Their objective was clearly to harass the U.S. 82nd Airborne division camp near Kandahar-some 120 miles to the west. Hundreds more extremists are mobilizing in Waziristan, in the Pakistani tribal belt adjacent to eastern Afghanistan, for a spring offensive that will calculatedly coincide with a U.S. invasion of Iraq. They come from a variety of groups: a few Arabs from al Qaeda, former Taliban, Afghans loyal to the renegade commander Gulbuddin Hikmetyar, members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, as well as Pakistani extremist groups. The Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and Osama bin Laden are also at large.
In the past few weeks U.S. Special Forces camps along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have been rocketed almost daily. Mines and rockets have exploded outside the U.S. army headquarters at Bagram outside Kabul. In the capital young men have thrown grenades at guards and vehicles belonging to both the 8000-strong U.S. army and the 4800 soldiers of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which provides security in Kabul.
So what is going on ? Is Pakistan, from where these attacks are being coordinated and launched, a friend or foe of terrorism ?
Pakistan is a frontline U.S. ally against terrorism. President Pervez Musharraf has delivered over 400 al Qaeda terrorists to U.S. security agencies and the majority of al Qaeda leaders now in Guantanamo Bay were arrested by the Pakistanis over the past 14 months. There are some 60,000 Pakistani troops and militia on the Afghanistan border with about a dozen U.S. Special Forces advisers, who are supposed to be stopping anyone trying to cross into Afghanistan.
But Western diplomats in Kabul, Afghan leaders, and secular Pakistani politicians are convinced that Pakistan is now pursuing a dual strategy which constitutes another U-turn on top of the U-turn after Sept, 11, 2001, when Gen. Musharraf dumped the army's support for the Taliban and sided with the U.S.
In a long conversation with President Karzai last month in Kabul, he made clear to me that Pakistan's policy is giving him sleepless nights-despite his excellent personal rapport with Gen. Musharraf, who telephones him frequently. Mr. Karzai says he cannot understand why Gen. Musharraf is allowing these extremists, who have been living in Pakistan since the defeat of the Taliban, to undermine his government and the Pashtun belt; nor can he comprehend why these rogue elements have not been arrested or handed over to the Afghan government.
Western diplomats in Islamabad and Kabul, Afghan officials, and US army officers at Bagram now strongly believe elements of Pakistan's intelligence services and its religious parties are allowing the Taliban to regroup on the Pakistani side of the border. U.S. officers at Bagram say 90% of attacks they face are coming from groups based in Pakistan. "I think the security situation in eastern Afghanistan is going to be a problem for some time to come just because of the freedom of operating back and forth from the Pakistan border," said Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff at Bagram in an address to U.S. troops on Dec. 21. Simply put, Pakistan's strategy appears to be to continue hunting down non-Afghan members of al Qaeda hiding in Pakistan, so a level of co-operation with the US continues, while at the same time allowing the Pashtun Taliban and others to maintain their presence in Pakistan. Pakistan has strongly denied such charges and says it is still a frontline state in the U.S.-led war against terrorism. The U.S. has not raised this issue publicly, fearing that it would destabilize Gen. Musharraf's government and open another front in a Muslim country where anti-Americanism is already high, just when U.S. forces prepare for Iraq.
However, over the weekend of Jan. 26-27, Gen. Tommy Franks-the head of the U.S. Central Command who will lead a possible invasion of Iraq-was in Islamabad for two days of talks with Gen. Musharraf and senior army officers. A British delegation led by Britain's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom Phillips, was also in town. Western diplomats said that both delegations gingerly raised the issue of the continued Taliban presence in Pakistan.
Pakistan's strategy in Afghanistan remains dominated by its bete noir-India. Pakistan is extremely apprehensive of the increasing influence in Afghanistan of India and Russia, who are arming and funding several non-Pashtun warlord armies as well as giving support to the ethnic Tajik defense minister, Mohammed Fahim, who has the largest factional army in the country and is an ally of Mr. Karzai and the U.S. Russia has promised to deliver $ 100 million dollars worth of weapons to Mr. Fahim's army, which is outside the U.S.-led initiative to build a new multi-ethnic Afghan national army that will be loyal to the central government. Several U.S. demarches to Moscow to stop such arms deliveries have met with no response from the Russians.
Pakistan also wants to retain a major influence in the Pashtun belt in the south and east of Afghanistan, as millions of Pashtuns also live in Pakistan. However, Mr. Karzai, who is himself a Pashtun, laments that Pakistan is not using its influence on the border Pashtuns to deliver them to the central government. Instead, Pakistan's actions are only ensuring that those Pashtun tribal chiefs who have been sitting on the fence since the defeat of the Taliban actually gravitate back to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Interference in Afghanistan's affairs by all of its neighbors is once again increasing, but while other states-India, Russia, Iran, the Central Asian Republics-back this or that warlord or ethnic group, Pakistan is seen to be once again backing extremists. Pakistan's military has failed to see that its role should be to moderate Pashtun extremism and ensure that they help strengthen Mr. Karzai's hand as he tries to assert himself against Mr. Fahim and provide Afghanistan with a genuinely multi-ethnic government and promote national reconciliation. Instead, while promising support to Mr. Karzai, Pakistan is undermining him and the global effort to erase terrorism from Afghanistan.
The silence of the U.S. and its Western allies is only encouraging Pakistan's Islamic parties, who now govern the North West Frontier Province, to extend an even greater helping hand to Afghan and Pakistani extremists. The Pakistani army has willingly played into their hands, rigging last October's general elections so that the Islamic parties were unprecedently successful at the polls, releasing from jail leaders of banned Pakistani terrorist groups, and quietly encouraging them to mount pro-Iraq demonstrations.
All this is part of a larger power play where Gen. Musharraf can claim to the Americans that he needs greater U.S. support because he is threatened by fundamentalists. This is a game that every Pakistani regime since the 1980s has played with Washington, and it has always worked. Western silence on these latest antics of the military is deeply demoralizing for Pakistan's liberal forces and secular democratic parties, not to speak of the hapless Afghans, who want to see stability and economic development.
Mr. Rashid, a contributing writer at the Journal, is the author of "Taliban" (Yale, 2000) and, most recently, of "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia" (Yale, 2002).
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