Karzai to visit Japan for meeting on former Afghan soldiers
Friday February 7, 2:42 PM AFP
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will attend a conference in Japan this month to discuss disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of former combatants in the war-torn nation.
Karzai, who will visit from February 20 through 23, will deliver a keynote speech at the conference and meet Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi.
Japan invited Karzai "to show our strong determintation to support reconstruction of Afghanistan to bring peace and stability to the country," a foreign ministry statement said.
"We hope this will help raise awareness among the international community about importance of continued assistance to Afghanistan."
Karzai first visited Japan a year ago for a conference on Afghan reconstruction that secured pledges of 4.5 billion dollars over five years from around the world.
Afghanistan to back U.N. decision on Iraq: government official
Fri Feb 7, 5:29 AM ET By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government said it would support any decision the United Nations makes in regard to possible war with Iraq, but a chief spokesman would not comment on his country's position if the United States and Britain decide to attack the country without the world body's approval.
"We will support any decision by the United Nations on Iraq because Afghanistan is a member of the United Nations like any other country," presidential spokesman Sayed Fazel Akbar told The Associated Press in the Afghan capital.
But Akbar refused to discuss his government's position in the event the U.S. invades without seeking a green light from the United Nations.
"It is too early to comment on this," said Akbar. He added that he hoped the situation in Iraq could be resolved peacefully.
"Afghanistan and Iraq are both Muslims. Both want peace, security and good life for their people," he said.
America has thousands of troops stationed in Afghanistan, looking for Taliban and al-Qaida remnants, and is helping in the country's reconstruction.
Washington is a key backer of President Hamid Karzai, who came to power after the Taliban militia was ousted by a U.S.-led military coalition.
On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made the case for military action in a strong speech to the U.N. Security Council, presenting evidence he said proved that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction and has links with terrorists.
Akbar discounted worries that any U.S. military action in Iraq would lead to its losing focus in Afghanistan.
"We are not concerned because President (George W. ) Bush, Prime Minister (Tony) Blair and the whole world have promised they will not leave Afghanistan alone," he said.
Akbar said if Afghanistan was left alone the threat of terrorism will take the world again.
He wished peace for the people of Iraq.
"Afghanistan and Iraq are both Muslims. Both want peace, security and good life for their people," he said.
Siemens Reestablishes Presence In Afghanistan
Thursday February 6, 8:19 PM
BERLIN (Dow Jones)German electronics and engineering group Siemens AG (SI) has reestablished a presence in Afghanistan in hopes of profiting from the rebuilding of the war-torn country.
Siemens Thursday said it has established a permanent office in Kabul, appointing Gholam Hassanzadah, a 53-year-old Afghani who has studied in Germany, as its head.
The office, which will employ fewer than 10 people, marks Siemens' return to the country after an absence of over 20 years. Siemens' activity in Afghanistan dates back to 1925.
The company has received its first contracts in the central Asian country, supplying a 110-kilovolt power transformer for Kabul, the electrical system for Kabul's water purification facility and medical equipment for Afghani clinics.
Siemens also made a donation to UNICEF of EUR20,000 to help rebuild the country's education system.
In fiscal 2002, Siemens posted a net profit of EUR2.6 billion on sales of EUR84 billion.
Siemens is four times larger than the Afghan economy, which had an estimated gross domestic product of $21 billion in 2000.
CIA Officer Killed in Afghanistan Grenade Accident
Thu Feb 6,10:11 PM ET By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A CIA counterterrorism officer has been killed in a grenade accident during a live fire exercise in Afghanistan as he prepared for an intelligence operation, the spy agency said on Thursday.
Helge Boes, 32, an officer assigned to the agency's Counterterrorist Center was killed in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday "when a grenade detonated prematurely," the CIA said in a statement.
"It was an accident," a CIA spokesman said.
Boes was the second CIA fatality in Afghanistan since the United States launched a war aimed at ousting the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed 3,000 people in America.
The United States blames Osama bin Laden's network for the attacks and U.S. forces continue to hunt for al Qaeda members in Afghanistan. Bin Laden has not yet been found.
Boes's death followed that of Johnny "Mike" Spann, a CIA officer who was killed in a firefight at a fortress in northern Afghanistan on Nov. 25, 2001. Spann's was the first known American combat death in Afghanistan.
Boes, a graduate of Harvard University Law School, joined the CIA in January 2001 after working as an attorney in private practice, the CIA said.
"Helge was everything a superior case officer should be: bright, energetic, and ever prepared to apply his skills where they were needed most," CIA Director George Tenet told CIA staff, according to a statement from the agency.
"He was no stranger to Afghanistan and its dangers, having served there before and done outstanding work," Tenet said.
"In fact, he was on the weapons training range yesterday preparing for yet another intelligence collection operation. He died doing what he loved," Tenet said.
"The work he did, both at headquarters and in the field, had as its aim the defeat of terror a ruthless, vicious enemy of liberty and decency," Tenet said.
Boes lived in northern Virginia with his wife Cindy. He was the son of Roderich and Monika Boes of Germany.
The CIA does not always publicly reveal the names of officers who are killed in action. There are 79 stars on a memorial wall at CIA headquarters in Virginia commemorating those who died. The last one etched was for Spann.
"The circumstances surrounding his service to the CIA and his tragic death were such that CIA determined that his name could be released publicly without compromising security or any current intelligence activities," the CIA said in a statement about Boes.
U.S. Fired on in Afghanistan, Fighting Near Bagram
BAGRAM, Afghanistan (Reuters) - U.S. special forces have detained several people after coming under fire in eastern Afghanistan early Friday, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Roger King said troops were fired upon while they were searching a compound southwest of Gardez town in an early morning operation following an intelligence report. He said there were no casualties on either side.
"Enemy forces were in a compound firing at coalition forces with small arms and machine guns," King told a news briefing. "Close air support was requested but not used." He said "a number of persons" were detained but had no further details.
King also said fighting flared up Thursday between rival Afghan factions within 500-700 yards of the perimeter of Bagram air base, which involved mortar or rocket-propelled grenade fire as well as small arms.
King, speaking at the U.S. military's Afghan headquarters at Bagram just north of Kabul, said coalition forces fired illumination rounds and U.S. Apache helicopters were sent to observe, whereupon the fighting ceased.
He said none of the firing had been directed at the air base.
U.S. forces are in Afghanistan pursuing remnants of the former Taliban regime and the al Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
King also said special forces went to observe fighting near the southwestern city of Kandahar earlier this week and were forced to call in close air support to enable them to evacuate when it escalated.
King said the fighting had involved troops of the governor of Kandahar and "other Afghan factions," but added: "We still do not have a firm grasp of who was involved."
The commander of the Kandahar provincial forces said on Wednesday three government soldiers and five suspected Taliban or allied rebel fighters were killed in fighting the previous day north of Kandahar town.
Southeast of Kandahar, U.S. soldiers continued to clear caves in a complex bombed and rocketed by coalition forces early last week and thought to be a base of fighters loyal to renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
General: Afghan Force Needed Until 2006
Thursday, February 06, 2003 8:06 PM EST
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) International peacekeepers must stay in Afghanistan's capital two or three more years to ensure security and stability, the commander of the multinational force said Thursday.
The Afghan national army and police must be fully established in Kabul and the rest of the country before the peacekeepers leave, said Turkish Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu, commander of the International Security Assistance Force.
``It's very clear from my position that ISAF forces must remain in and around Kabul at least two or three more years,'' Zorlu told reporters.
If the force pulls out early, it could create chaos in the capital and trouble for the government, Zorlu said.
Turkey hands over control of the international force to a joint German and Dutch leadership Feb. 10. The new commander, German Lt. Gen. Norbert van Heyst, arrived in Kabul on Wednesday.
Despite sporadic bombings and rocket attacks, particularly late last year, Zorlu said Kabul had become a safer place. The 19-nation force was established to protect the fragile new Afghan government after U.S.-backed forces toppled the Taliban regime.
``I will leave Afghanistan in a few days satisfied that ISAF ... has made a significant impact on Kabul,'' Zorlu said. ``The city has become a safer place both to live and work, and life is returning to normal.''
But Zorlu repeated a warning he made last month that terrorists were likely to step up attacks against foreigners in Afghanistan if the United States invades Iraq.
About 4,000 armed peacekeepers are deployed in the capital. They are frequently seen on the city's ruined streets, patrolling in armored personnel carriers, jeeps and small tanks.
In December, Germany doubled to 2,500 its contingent in the peacekeeping force and extended its participation by a year. The Turkish contingent, now about 1,400, will likely be reduced to 160 men, Zorlu said.
Fourteen peacekeepers have died on duty in Afghanistan since the United Nations created the international force in 2001. The force's worst tragedy was a Dec. 21 helicopter crash that killed seven German soldiers.
Zorlu said the force was helping to provide a stable foundation for reconstruction in Afghanistan, which was been devastated by more than two decades of constant warfare.
``The establishment of both the national army and the police force along with reconstruction of roads, schools, and hospitals has already begun,'' Zorlu said. ``But the rebuilding of the whole of Afghanistan will take many years and a great deal of patience on the part of the Afghan people and the international community.''
Pakistan Group with Al Qaeda Links Seen Weakened
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's most feared Islamic militant group, branded by Washington last week a foreign terrorist group, has been severely weakened by a crackdown on extremism, intelligence officials said Friday.
But others warned it was too early to write off the Sunni Muslim Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) group, which switched its focus from domestic sectarian killings to Western and Christian targets after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
``Lashkar-e-Jhangvi itself is very badly weakened now and I don't think they have the steam to re-group at this moment,'' said a senior intelligence official on condition of anonymity.
``But there are other splinter groups those people who have been in Afghanistan have maybe groups of seven, eight or 10 people together operating in the country.''
Fayyaz Leghari, a senior Pakistani official in the province of Sindh, said last week the crackdown by Pakistani intelligence and police, helped by FBI agents, had given the authorities the edge over militancy, saying groups were ``in disarray.''
Since President Pervez Musharraf banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in August, 2001, its notorious leader Riaz Basra died in a shoot-out with police, Basra's successor Akram Lahori is in custody and Asif Ramzi, another senior member, blew himself up in December.
LeJ, blamed for dozens of deadly attacks on the minority Muslim Shi'ite community since the mid-1990s, raised its profile after the September 11 attacks, hitting Western and Christian targets and raising suspicion it was working with the al Qaeda network.
Despite the setbacks, there are those including K.P.S. Gill, Indian-based president of the Institute for Conflict Management, who say LeJ remains a threat to Pakistan's security.
``The strike capacity of the group does not appear to have been drastically contained, though these developments, along with changed strategic perceptions may have resulted in a shift in tactics...with a greater emphasis on Western targets.''
He said LeJ had close ties to the Afghan Taliban regime, having fought alongside the hardline Islamic militia against the Northern Alliance opposition force, and also forged links there with al Qaeda.
``LeJ has emerged as one of the primary organizations extending logistical support for al Qaeda's relocation and consolidation in Pakistan,'' Gill said.
LeJ is linked to two attacks on Western targets in Karachi in 2002 the kidnap and murder of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl and a car bomb attack killing 14 people including 11 Frenchmen. It is also blamed for the massacre of 17 Christians in October, 2001.
Two LeJ members, Naeem Bokhari and Fazal Karim, both in undeclared custody, are suspected of helping in Pearl's kidnap and murder, intelligence sources say.
``January 2002 is when it started,'' said an intelligence source in Karachi. ``Two Jhangvi people were involved in Pearl's kidnap, and from then until May there was a rise in killings.
``I see them (LeJ) as being promoted from a local terrorist group to an international group. Al Qaeda were friends of theirs, so this was the best time to use them.''
Gill also said the use of car bombs by LeJ for the first time suggested technical input from al Qaeda.
But Leghari played down the al Qaeda link, blaming high-profile attacks in Karachi on ``local boys.''
Pakistan's radical Islamic groups, at least six of which have been banned in Musharraf's U.S.-inspired crackdown on militancy, were enraged at his decision to back the war in Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban.
Pakistani Chief Wants U.S. Out of Region
Thursday, February 06, 2003 10:35 AM EST
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) The chief minister of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province on Thursday denied the presence of Taliban or al-Qaida terrorists in territory he controls along the border with Afghanistan and demanded a withdrawal of all American forces from the region.
In a rare interview with a foreign journalist, Chief Minister Akram Durrani insisted there was no terrorist threat in his province and said Pakistan's federal government should kick U.S. forces out of bases in Pakistan being used to support the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.
``We don't have any al-Qaida or Taliban here,'' said Durrani, who heads a conservative Islamic coalition that won power in the province last year. ``Absolutely there is nothing here and we don't want any foreigners here.''
He was speaking of American Special Forces that work with Pakistan troops in the tribal regions that border Afghanistan and FBI agents who have been on several raids with Pakistan security forces against Islamic schools and homes in the frontier province.
In an interview lasting more than an hour, Durrani warned that a war in Iraq will set off protests not only in his deeply conservative province, but throughout Pakistan.
``It's time for the United States to rebuild its relationship with Pakistan,'' said Durrani, interviewed inside the chief minister's palatial brick residence in the heart of Peshawar. The chaotic provincial capital is at the foot of the famed Khyber Pass, 120 miles northwest of the federal capital of Islamabad.
Pakistanis, Durrani said, are disillusioned by a United States they now see as antagonistic toward Muslims.
Durrani's coalition, made up of some of the most radical of Pakistan's Islamic political parties, won big in last October's general elections on a staunch anti-American platform.
The coalition struck a cord with Pakistanis, particularly in North West Frontier Province and neighboring Baluchistan, the country's most conservative regions that both border Afghanistan.
The two provinces are critical for the United States and the global war on terror because their mountainous tribal regions are believed to have furnished sanctuary for al-Qaida and Taliban forces fleeing coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Durrani dismissed that as propaganda. He accused the United States and the coalition of putting Pakistani Islamic missionaries in jail in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on false accusations of contributing toward terrorism and fighting with the Taliban.
``Most of them were missionaries who went to Afghanistan, but no one cared. They sent them to Cuba and put them in prison,'' said Durrani.
He said the United States has its work cut out for it if it wants to build a friendship with Pakistanis, who Durrani said want ``a cordial relationship with the United States.
``But we are a free independent country. We don't want their soldiers or their security agencies on our territory. We don't need that help.''
Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been a key ally of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, generating criticism from his religious rightwing.
Suicide attempts in Guantanamo camp
Thursday, 6 February, 2003, 17:05 GMT BBC News
None of the 600 suspects has been charged
Four detainees in the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay have attempted suicide in the past three weeks, the Pentagon has confirmed.
That prisoners are repeatedly attempting to take their own lives indicates the human cost of the indefinite legal limbo into which they have been thrown
Vienna Colucci, Amnesty International
It brings the total of serious suicide attempts in the camp, which holds more than 600 Taleban and al-Qaeda suspects captured during the war in Afghanistan, to 14 in the past year.
The most serious attempt was on 16 January, when a detainee was found hanging in his cell before a guard rescued him. He remains in a stable but serious condition.
His government was informed due to the severity of his injuries, Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Lieutenant Commander Barbara Burfeind said.
Three others who have tried to kill themselves since then have been treated successfully and returned to their cells, she added.
Detainees at Guantanamo Bay are designated by the US Government as "unlawful combatants" - not prisoners of war - meaning they are not entitled to rights under the Geneva Convention.
Rumsfeld: Information from detainee interrogation "saving lives"
Several lawsuits aimed at having their status reclassified have been dismissed by US courts.
Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have called on the US Government either to release the men being held or to charge them with a crime.
They say the detainees, who are largely isolated apart from two brief 15-minute exercise breaks twice a day, are at risk from psychological trauma due to uncertainty over their status.
"That prisoners are repeatedly attempting to take their own lives indicates the human cost of the indefinite legal limbo into which they have been thrown," Amnesty International's Vienna Colucci told the US Miami Herald newspaper.
Earlier in the week, the Swedish Government called on the US Government to charge or release one of its citizens, 23-year-old Mehdi-Muhammad Ghezali. The US has yet to respond.
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday that there was "no rush" to try those detained while information obtained from the men was "saving the lives of Americans and our friends and allies".
"These people are being treated properly and the process is going along and information is being gathered, intelligence information, and it's to the benefit of our country," he said.
Commander Burfeind said that efforts to gather intelligence were ongoing, but that several more detainees were likely to be released in the next few weeks.
The US has attempted to improve conditions for the detainees, following the appointment of new camp commander Army Major-General Geoffrey Miller in November.
Under a rewards-based system, co-operative behaviour from detainees may result in their transfer to more sociable, barracks-style compounds.
United States donates USD 27M to Afghanistan, Iraq
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
GENEVA - The United States today donated $12.1 million to UNHCR's preparations for a possible humanitarian crisis in Iraq and $15 million for the refugee agency's Afghan programme. The $12.1 million donation to the Iraq contingency brings to $$ 15 million the total amount the United States has donated so far to UNHCR for this purpose.
UNHCR has also received nearly $900,000 for the Iraq preparedness from other countries, as well as signals of possible further contributions.
UNHCR officials welcomed the donations, which come as the cash-strapped agency juggles several existing humanitarian operations from Côte d'Ivoire to Angola to Afghanistan, while at the same time struggling to prepare for a possible Iraq emergency. UNHCR has already spent $19 million to get ready for a crisis in Iraq, borrowing from emergency reserve funds.
The US contributions were formally announced in Geneva on Thursday during a meeting between High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers and the head of the US Permanent Mission, Ambassador Kevin Moley. In the presence of Ambassador Moley, the High Commissioner signed the 2003 Framework for Cooperation between UNHCR and the United States, which also covers funding issues.
It is anticipated that the United States this year will fund between 22 and 25 percent of UNHCR's annual budget of just over $836 million.
FAO helps 5 000 Kuchi households in southern Afghanistan and prepares an emergency monitoring and control of locusts in northern Afghanistan
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Kabul, 6 February 2003 - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently funding two projects to support the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in Afghanistan.
Emergency Protection of Kuchi Livelihoods through Providing Feed and Veterinary Care to Nucleus Breeding Flocks
Targeted on the Kuchi nomads group, a US$398 000 project will permit the assistance of 5 000 Kuchi households, comprising about 57 000 persons, who have been severely afflicted by the successive droughts. The aim is to assist the survival of their nucleus breeding flocks during the critical period of winter and early spring in a way to maintain their transhumant livestock production system, rebuild their animal numbers and assure their continue livelihood.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry and FAO will provide emergency concentrate feed at 250 kg per household. It will ensure the survival of 20 25 ewes over a period of two months, assuming a little natural grazing. Supplementary feeding will begin no later than mid-February. Veterinary prophylactic treatment against endemic diseases and internal/external parasites will also be provided.
The herds will spend the winter on the desert fringe, arriving in December-January and leaving in late March to mid April, depending on the state of pastures and the traditional migration routes of the individual families. The most critical period for their nutrition is the later part of winter and early spring when the feed is at its scarcest and many of the small ruminants are heavily pregnant. Providing supplementary concentrate feed at that time would help improve the survival of the Kuchi's breeding flocks and thus allow them to start building up their herds once more. For feed to be efficiently utilized the stock must be in good health and not burdened by parasites; assistance with disease and parasite control is therefore an essential complement to winter emergency feeding. Livestock numbers are still being reassessed after the present year's drought but in general the nomadic flocks account for about one third of the small ruminants in the country. They are important for food security as providers of meat to other communities. Transhumant grazing is currently the only productive use that can be made of the extensive grazing land, which accounts for about 70 percent of the country's area.
There are important concentrations of Kuchi winter camps in southwest Afghanistan especially in Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand provinces, which will be the target of the activities. The beneficiaries will be selected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry in collaboration with the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development and the Ministry of Frontiers and Tribal Affairs.
The livelihoods of Kuchi herders will be assured and the livestock production maintained from natural grazing land by providing strategic late-winter feeding supplemented by veterinary care. In cooperation with the different ministries, the relations between the nomadic communities and the Government institutions will be strengthened in a way to investigate needs and opportunities for a future livelihood rebuilding programme.
Emergency monitoring and control of locusts in northern Afghanistan
A US$391,000 project will mitigate locust damage to food crops and, to a lesser extent, to pastures, during the forthcoming locust campaign and to safeguard food security in Northern Afghanistan. The direct beneficiaries are the farmers and livestock owners of the infested areas who stand to lose their crops.
Every farmer in the region is afraid of the prospect of a locust outbreak. The semi-arid areas of Northern Afghanistan are the traditional habitat for two locust species: the Moroccan (Dociostaurus maroccanus) and the Italian Locust (Calliptamus italicus). Locust infestations occur from time to time representing a threat to pasture and cereal crops and causing significant damage. These infestations result from suitable ecological conditions and can be accentuated by the deterioration of the national capacities.
The scale and intensity of the infestations are variable from one year to another and outbreaks can last several years. The wingless hopper stage (lasting 27-36 days, in the Moroccan Locust) can cause intense damage, but only during outbreak periods, when the eggs have been laid in or near to cultivated land. The winged adults, however, may migrate up to 100 km, sometimes causing damage to maturing crops late in the season, before laying eggs which will be the source of infestations in the following year.
Throughout the locust campaign, from March to June, survey and monitoring of the locust infested areas will be carried out in order to carefully assess the current locust situation. In addition, the project will reestablish the FAO system of survey and reporting, using standardized report forms and building a computerized database. A medium term plan for a sustainable locust management strategy will also be drawn up for consideration by stakeholders. On-the-spot training will be given to technical and field staff in survey, reporting and the safe and effective use of the pesticides and equipment provided. Training will be given to farmers in mechanical control.
In March 2002, FAO launched a US$850 000 campaign to combat the worst locust plague to hit Afghanistan for thirty years. The exceptionally high locust population, which threatened over 200 000 hectares of agricultural land and over 70 percent of crop production in the north, was the result of two years without control and favorable breeding conditions created by the drought. Three out of the nine northern provinces, Baghlan, Samangan and Kunduz, were particularly hard hit. Prompt action by FAO, in collaboration with the provincial authorities, NGOs and other UN agencies, effectively controlled locust attacks in just under 240 000 hectares of productive land. Overall losses in the region, the breadbasket of the war-torn country, were estimated to not have exceeded seven percent.
The two projects were presented to the Minister of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Mr Sayed Hussain Anwary, on Thursday 6 February 2003 by the FAO Representative in Afghanistan, Serge Verniau, for signature.
|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).