Peacekeeping commander in Afghanistan: Terrorists could step up attacks if U.S. attacks Iraq
Mon Jan 6, 3:41 AM ET By TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Terrorists could step up attacks against foreigners in Afghanistan if the United States attacks Iraq, the commander of the international peacekeeping force stationed in the capital warned Monday.
Turkish Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu said attacks were likely to be carried out by "sympathizers" with Iraq and could target foreign military forces, businessmen and aid workers employed by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, or NGOs.
"If there is a war in Iraq ... it may increase terrorist actions or activities against all foreigners including ISAF forces, U.N. personnel, NGOs, coalition forces and all civilian businessman coming to Afghanistan," said Zorlu, who heads the 4,800-strong International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF.
Zorlu said the multinational force was ready to "take extra security precautions" to protect foreigners living in Kabul and surrounding areas, but he said there were no plans to increase ISAF's troop strength or expand its mandate beyond the capital.
With a possible war in Iraq looming, the multinational force has already stepped up intelligence-gathering efforts to prevent terrorist attacks inside Kabul, Zorlu said.
He said peacekeepers acting on intelligence tips Thursday seized explosive materials planted in a school, which were later removed and destroyed by ISAF explosive ordnance disposal experts.
The transitional government of President Hamid Karzai has been struggling to help put Afghanistan back on its feet after more than two decades of war.
International peacekeepers, often seen patrolling the wasted city's rutted streets in jeeps, small tanks and armored cars mounted with machine guns, have been deployed in the capital for more than a year to bolster stability.
Last month, a grenade assault just outside an international peacekeeping base in Kabul killed an Afghan attacker and two Afghan civilians. Two French citizens were wounded in the same blast. About the same time, two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded in a grenade attack in the city.
U.S. and Afghan authorities have routinely blamed former Taliban fighters, al-Qaida terrorists and supporters of former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar for terrorist activities and rocket strikes on Kabul.
Zorlu said overall security in Kabul was good, however. He said no major incidents had been reported in the last month.
Turkey, which has commanded ISAF for the last six months, is due to hand over leadership responsibilities to Germany and the Netherlands in February. Zorlu said the handover would probably take place Feb. 8.
In Afghanistan, artificial limbs set disabled victims on path to brighter future
Sun Jan 5, 6:54 AM ET By TODD PITMAN, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Their skin and muscles have been replaced with hardened plastic and soft rubber, their joints and bones substituted with screws and steel.
For the legions of disabled Afghans who have lost legs to mines, rockets and bullets in their war-battered land, the mere act of walking is something most believe — initially, at least — that they'll never do again.
But prosthetic limbs manufactured at an International Red Cross workshop in the capital are changing all that, one step at a time.
"Everybody's afraid. They think they can't walk, they think they'll fall down," says Hayat Khan, 47, who was coaching several men trying out newly built artificial limbs at a Red Cross clinic. "But little by little, they learn."
Nearly a quarter century of warfare has finally culminated in a tenuous peace in Afghanistan (news - web sites), but the legacy of violence lives on — much of it buried in the soil of one of the most heavily mined countries on Earth.
According to the Red Cross, land mines and unexploded ordnance have killed or maimed at least 200,000 Afghans since 1979. The United Nations says leftover ordnance still kills or maims 150 to 300 people per month, 70 percent of them civilians.
Two years ago, Sayed Khalil became one of them.
Working in his family's vegetable field on the ruined outskirts of western Kabul, the 47-year-old farmer stepped on an anti-personnel mine that was probably buried there and forgotten during a four-year civil war in the 1990s.
It was an area Khalil says had already been cleared by demining teams — or so he thought. The explosion ripped off his left leg from the knee down, hurtling it into another field 20 meters (yards) away.
Khalil awakened in a military hospital, not knowing what had happened. Feeling a tremendous pain, he pulled off his sheets and discovered the bandaged stump of his knee. As his mother quietly explained, tears rolled down Khalil's cheeks.
"I couldn't believe it. I said, 'What about my wife? What about my children? How will I support them?" he recalls. "I thought I'd never walk again."
While Khalil was recovering, a Red Cross doctor paid him a visit, saying he could give him a prosthesis that would allow him to walk again.
Technicians from the Red Cross orthopedic hospital made a mold of what was left of his knee and sculpted a new limb to fit on it. The foot was made of wood, the shin replaced by a steel rod. The final product was fastened together with bolts and covered with flesh-colored plastic polypropeylene baked rock-hard in an oven.
For several days, Khalil tried to walk on the prosthesis, but what was effortless before had become painful. Khalil shook even as he leaned on crutches and parallel bars. He watched others ambling around on artificial legs and wondered how they did it. Often, he fell down.
"In the beginning I told them, 'I don't want this leg. I lost my own and I can't walk with this thing,'" Khalil recalls. "They told me, 'Don't worry. Be patient. Everybody says that.'"
It took several days, but eventually Khalil learned to move about on his own — with no crutch, no help and not much pain.
Red Cross orthopedic workshops in Afghanistan, staffed mostly by disabled Afghans, have produced over 43,000 artificial limbs — arms, legs, hands and feet — since 1988.
Though Red Cross patients do not have to pay for the service, it is limited to six major cities. Those who can't access it have a tough time: According to the United Nations, up to 84 percent of such victims go into debt to pay for treatment.
Abdullah Wardak, the minister who oversees the country's disabled people, said the government, already overburdened with the huge costs of reconstructing the country, was helping 320,000 disabled people, giving each one 80 new afghanis per month, or about US$2.
"We know it's not enough, but we can't do more," Wardak said. "We just don't have the money."
In December, hundreds of disabled men demonstrated in the capital, complaining they couldn't live on the aid they were getting and calling on the government — particularly the Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled — to give them jobs.
"We lost our hands and feet in the service of our country. We deserve more," said Baba Sahib, a 46-year-old army veteran who stepped on a mine 20 years ago. "Many of us have to beg on the streets. It's shameful."
The artificial limbs, however, bring hope that they won't have to.
Khalil has since returned to his fields. He can now work them, albeit slower than before — and, crucially, can support his family. The field was re-swept by a demining team, which found no trace of unexploded ordnance.
Asked if he fears they might have overlooked another mine, Khalil nods, holding his 5-year-old son in his lap.
"I think about it everyday," he says. "But we have to farm this land. It's all we've got."
Saudi Arabia donates Koran copies to Afghanistan
Sunday, January 05, 2003 4:02 AM EST
Jan 5, 2003 (Al-Bawaba via COMTEX) Saudi King Fahd has approved a donation of 500,000 copies of the Koran to Afghanistan.
SPA news agency on Saturday said the Farsi translations of the Koran were intended for "mosques, schools and universities in Afghanistan." (Albawaba.com)
Pakistan Urged to Clarify Border Rules for U.S.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Islamabad must clarify rules of U.S. military engagement on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan to avoid a repeat of a recent incident on disputed land that fanned anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan, commentators said Sunday.
A U.S. warplane dropped a bomb on a religious seminary last Sunday following a clash between U.S. forces in Afghanistan and a man dressed as a Pakistani border guard. Pakistani officials have disputed U.S. assertions that the bomb fell on Afghan soil.
What angered Pakistanis most was a U.S. statement this week saying it had the right to pursue suspected Taliban and al Qaeda fighters into Pakistan if they fled from Afghanistan.
The U.S. military has not withdrawn or clarified its statement despite a string of Pakistani officials categorically denying the claim, although it did say it had not exercised its ``right'' to date.
Hard-line Islamic parties who made huge gains in an October election by tapping anti-American sentiment in Pakistan seized on the disagreement as another example of Washington's high-handed treatment of a key ally in its war on terror.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) coalition also complains about the activity of U.S. intelligence agents in Pakistan.
``This matter of hot pursuit should be sorted out quickly,'' wrote the Daily Times in its Sunday edition.
``It could derail the U.S.-Pak axis upon whichGeneral Pervez Musharraf has so painstakingly built hopes of Pakistan's economic recovery and political stability.''
The Dawn broadsheet predicted that the episode would ``blow over,'' but added that Washington and Islamabad should ``jointly agree to guidelines that prevent future trouble and the guidelines should be made public.''
U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan suspect hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives fled to Pakistan to hide in remote tribal areas just inside the border.
But presidential spokesman Maj.-Gen. Rashid Qureshi denied there was a major presence inside Pakistan.
``Had they crossed into Pakistan they would have been caught,'' he told Reuters. ``They have been caught.'' The United States says Pakistan has arrested over 400 al Qaeda members in the past year.
Musharraf threw his weight behind U.S. military action in Afghanistan, infuriating religious groups and sparking a series of violent attacks by Islamic militants on Western and Christian targets that claimed dozens of lives last year.
But the economy grew strongly in 2002, and the Pakistan stock exchange topped the world tables by more than doubling in value.
Yet Musharraf's support for the ongoing hunt for terror suspects in Afghanistan and Pakistan could come under pressure if resentment against Washington continued to grow, newspapers said.
This week's fallout from the border incident coincided with nationwide demonstrations Friday led by religious conservatives in which thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the possibility of a U.S.-led war with Iraq.
Liaquat Baluch, deputy head of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, which is in the MMA, said Sunday that further demonstrations could be called when the coalition meets in Islamabad next week.
While the turnout Friday was not particularly high, it has been seen as a warning to Pakistan's military and government.
``People are rightly questioning the extent of support their government had agreed to or was forced to give to the U.S., and demand a stop to the constant bending backwards,'' said The News.
``There is also a feeling that the military government promised (the) moon to the Americans for peanuts.''
Thailand to send troops to Afghanistan
Date : 2003-01-06 Asian Tribune
Bangkok, Jan 6, (TNA): Thailand will send troops to war-torn Afghanistan in a mission requested by the United States, according to a radio news report.
The 120 Thai troops from the Supreme Command Headquarters90 engineers, 12 medical experts, and 18 special combat and coordinator officerswould be sent to Kabul in March, said the news report of Radio Nation.
The Thai military personnel would help repair an airbase in the North of Kabul, which was the focus of previous wars and was badly damaged, stated the news report.
The six-month mission of the Thai troops will begin on April 1.
Washington has requested Thailand and other seven countries to send troops to help repair the airbase, and has offered to be responsible for all incurring expenses of the mission, according to the news report.
The group of Thai troops were sent to South Korea last month to prepare and adjust themselves to lowest temperature levels they could face in Afghanistan, said the Radio Nation news report.
Viability of trans-Afghan gas pipeline project
By Aamir Kabir Dawn (Pakistan)
With the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the governments of Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan last month, the long held plan of importing gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan has lived up once again.
First phase of the proposed project would consist of a feasibility study, selection of a consultant estimation of costs, formation of a consortium and search for deep-pocketed financiers. The Asian Development Bank is likely to complete the feasibility study for the link by July this year.
The building of the trans-Afghanistan pipeline has been under discussion for some years but plans were held up due to decades of instability in Afghanistan. Even after signing of the MoU, the big question remains the same: who will come up with the $2.5 billion investment necessary for the completion of the project, and is return on the investment enough to make the proposition feasible?
The project was originally intended to be built by a consortium led by the US energy giant, the Unocal. In March 1995, a memorandum of understanding between the then governments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan was also signed in this regard. But the consortium consisting of the Unocal Corporation (46.5 per cent), the Delta Oil Company Limited, Saudi Arabia,(15 per cent), the government of Turkmenistan (7 per cent), the Indonesia Petroleum, Inpex,Japan,(6.5 per cent), the Itochu Oil Exploration Co Ltd (Cieco, Japan, 6.5 per cent), Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co, Ltd, Korea, (5 per cent), and the Crescent Group, Pakistan, (3.5 per cent), withdrew from the project in 1998 after the US strikes against the training camps associated with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
The 48-inch diameter proposed pipeline will extend 890 miles (1,425km) from the eastern Turkmenistan and follow the Herat-to-Kandahar Road through Afghanistan, cross the Pakistan border in the vicinity of Quetta, and terminate in Multan, Pakistan, where it will tie into an existing pipeline system. It will carry natural gas from the Dauletabad field at a rate of up to 2 billion cubic feet per day (20 billion cubic meter per year).
The Dauletabad Field is the third largest gas fields in the world. The field's resources are adequate for project needs for 30 years or more. The government of Turkmenistan has guaranteed the delivery of 25 trillion cubic feet (709 billion cubic meters) of natural gas exclusively for this project.
The project enjoys strong support from the governments and leadership of the three countries as it offers numerous long and short-term benefits to the region. In addition to regional advantages, the pipeline offers specific benefits to the countries involved.
Turkimenistan will reach new markets with its plentiful gas reserves, while Pakistan gains a reliable source of clean-burning fuel to drive its economic growth. Afghanistan will earn extensive economic benefits from the pipeline, both during construction and over the life of the project. A lucrative transit fee of tens of millions of dollars a year is likely to help speed the recovery of the war-ravaged state.
Pakistan is amongst the most gas dependent economies of the world. So far about 32 TCF of crude gas reserves of variable quality have been discovered of which over 11 TCF have already been produced and depleted. Pakistan needs a high and sustained growth in energy supply. The per capita commercial energy consumption in our country is nearly half of the average energy consumption of the developing countries. Whereas, the global per capita commercial energy consumption is almost seven times higher to that of Pakistan.
The current gas requirement in the country's power sector is estimated at around 1200 MCFD (million cubic feet per day). This included 300 MCFD for the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) and 900 MCFD for Wapda system. The demand in power sector is estimated to go up by two to three times in next 10 years. Against this demand, the total gas supply estimates including from new discoveries have been estimated at around 1000 MCFD.
Pakistan's demand for natural gas is expected to rise substantially in the next few years, with an increase of roughly 50 per cent by 2006, as it plans to make gas the "fuel of choice" for future electric power generation projects. This has necessitated a sharp rise in the production of natural gas, and also has generated interest for importing gas from the neighbouring countries.
As a matter of fact the feasibility of this pipeline project for economic technical and environmental aspect is very promising but for security reasons it is extremely doubtful. Amid the on-going political transition process in Afghanistan, the risks to the security of the pipeline cannot be discounted. In spite of Pakistan's serious energy needs to enhance its industrial infrastructure, domestic politics in Afghanistan is complicating the picture.
Pakistan, Tukmenistan and Afghanistan are keen on strengthening the long-turn economic relationship, but any finality about the proposal for a gas pipeline between the three countries may take time - not because of want of interest by any one of them but on account of the problem posed by the unsecured political situation in Afghanistan.
The threatening situation in Afghanistan is the most significant problem which is likely to keep the investors away from this trilateral project. It would require a lot of change in Afghanistan to start the implementation of this project, especially as the current allied forces-backed government in Afghanistan does not control much outside the capital. Particularly in the areas from where the proposed pipeline is to pass.
There are serious concerns about the Afghan stretch of the pipeline. There are questions concerning the potential impact that the feuding warlords could have in Afghanistan on the security of the proposed pipeline project. Pakistan must take into account the various contingencies, especially the risk of disruption in the event of hostilities, or of sabotage and damage even in the absence of an armed conflict in the region.
Keeping in view this threatening security issues in Afghanistan it is required that other available options for importing gas must also be explored instead of putting out huge industrial infrastructure at the mercy of such delicate situation.
The offer of Iran which has second largest gas reserves of the world after Russia, can only be a viable option for Pakistan. Some independent observers are also of the view that increases in domestic gas production, coupled with a slower growth in demand than projected by the Pakistani government is likely to render the gas pipeline projects economically unfeasible.
Afghan heroin stockpile is threat to UK, Blair warned
By Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent
06 January 2003 INDEPENDENT UK
Heroin is likely to continue flooding into Britain from a huge stockpile in Afghanistan, the Government has been warned by customs officials.
The drug appears to be as readily available as ever, despite a series of significant heroin seizures in recent months, according to officials.
Customs and Excise believe one explanation for the huge quantitiesbeing smuggled into Britain is that traffickers in Afghanistan have built up stockpiles after bumper crops in the 1990s. Drug enforcement agencies expected the supply of heroin to dwindle in 2002 as the poppy cultivation ban imposed by the old Taliban regime took hold, the deputy head of customs said. But to the surprise of customs and police, heroin prices remained stable, indicating that supplies were as plentiful as ever.
Tony Blair, who last year took a personal interest in how Britain was tackling the war on drugs, has been warned to expect traffickers to continue to travel to the country with millions of pounds worth of heroin. He was also told there was little hope of the situation improving in the near future.
Figures obtained by customs intelligence found traffickers in the UK – mostly Turkish gangsters – were charging dealers between £16,000 and £17,000 for a kilogram of the drug last January. That price remained unchanged throughout 2002.
An estimated 30 tonnes (1,000kg) of heroin is brought into the UK every year. Customs achieved a series of big heroin busts last year with a record 750,000kg of the narcotic seized in the past three months alone.
But the nature of one of the seizures caused alarm within customs intelligence. Last October, 300kg of heroin was found at Dover hidden among a consignment of water melons from Turkey. Officials were shocked such a large haul, worth £20m on the street, was hidden in such a crude way, and that traffickers still had that quantity of heroin available. "It was not far short of a kamikaze run", said one senior source.
Last December, 180kg of heroin was seized in Dover. In the same month, 200kg of the drug, destined for Britain, was confiscated by police in Poland.
Terry Byrne, director general of Customs and Excise's law enforcement division, said: "It is troubling that at the end of 2002 our heroin detections are at record levels but prices seem relatively stable.
"We had hoped that any stockpiling from the bumper harvest before the Taliban ban would by now have shown signs of being exhausted. It could well be ominous that they don't seem to have been. If current cultivation in Afghanistan produces bumper stockpiles, that could have a very damaging impact for more than just the next year.
"The international community has got to support the Afghanistan administration in doing something about this."
Drug enforcement agencies and ministers were pinning their hopes on international co-operation to stem the flow of heroin from Afghanistan, which provides 90 per cent of the narcotic in the UK.
Last year was expected to be a bumper year in Afghanistan, with about 270 tonnes produced. So far, little has reached Britain. An estimated 380 tonnes of heroin were produced in the record 1999 harvest.
A Prime Minister's "delivery unit" has been established to press for improvements in Britain's fight against drugs. One area it will examine is the lack of intelligence about the heroin market in the UK.
The New Afghanistan: Year 2
By Robert Oakley Friday, January 3, 2003; Page A19 The Washington Post
A year after the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan's future, there is considerable ground for optimism about that country. Living conditions are still harsh for many people, and episodic violence continues. But at the same time substantial progress has been made in Afghanistan, thanks to patient, persistent efforts both inside and outside the country.
With leadership from the United States, al Qaeda forces and the Taliban were defeated, relief was provided for the population and some 2 million returning refugees, and a start was made on developing sustainable Afghan self-governance. Barring a reversal by either the Afghans or their international supporters, the stage is set for much greater progress over the next year, although serious problems will remain. But if U.S. leadership falters, so will other international efforts, with potentially disastrous consequences not only for the Afghan government, but also for the campaign against al Qaeda and the future of neighboring Pakistan.
The United States had a wise initial strategy for avoiding the sort of fatal mistakes the Soviets made in Afghanistan in the 1980s. By establishing a broad political coalition, including Muslim countries, and using small Special Forces teams to fight alongside Afghans against al Qaeda and hard-core Taliban, the United States avoided being seen as occupying Afghanistan or going to war against Islam. This was reinforced by large-scale relief for the destitute population and the political empowerment of Afghans by the Bonn Conference and the country's loya jirga, or national assembly. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Japan and the European Union set up the Afghan Reconstruction Steering Group, which includes the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank and is becoming increasingly effective. The United States, France and Britain have begun a multi-year program to train a new Afghan national army. Germany has done the same for the police, with U.S. help. The threat from al Qaeda and the Taliban has been reduced to manageable levels in much of the country, and the International Security Assistance Force has helped establish the security that is vital for Kabul. The U.N. Assistance Mission for Afghanistan and Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi have won the confidence of all parties with low-key advice and coordination for donors and the new government.
Starting from zero a year ago, the administration of President Hamid Karzai has achieved many attributes of a responsible government. It has a long-term national development framework and budget, worked out with the World Bank, the United Nations, the United States and other donors, and is carefully applying it to ensure that donor proposals meet Afghan realities. A central bank, fiscal discipline and a new national currency have been established. Construction of the large-scale Ring Road program has begun; large-scale community development projects will soon follow smaller efforts. An Afghan Defense Commission (including senior "warlords") has reached agreement on the size, makeup and training of the new army and the demobilization of local militias. This will take time but will ultimately be the Afghans' own solution to their endemic security problems. Prudence has proven to be better than prematurely deploying unready international peacekeepers (with inadequate resources) to remote areas. The violence that would have followed such deployments, involving al Qaeda, the Taliban and warlords, would have seriously disrupted both the war against terrorism and the process of gradually stabilizing the country.
As it stands today, the process of building the new government at the center appears to have readied it for the next decisive step: becoming effectively operational in the countryside.
For this to succeed, the flow of international assistance, which has recently accelerated, must continue. This includes the Bush administration and Congress actually funding the four-year, $3.3 billion Afghanistan Freedom Support Act, as well as training the country's army actions vital both for the badly needed resources and for the strong signal to all parties of a long-term U.S. commitment. It will also require that international donors and nongovernmental organizations reorient their programs outside of Kabul in order to enhance the operations of the government ministries rather than the prestige of donors and regional power centers.
Obviously, all this cannot happen without security. The United States and President Karzai have agreed on a new plan to shift the priority of coalition efforts from combat to stability operations for most of Afghanistan during the next year, creating eight or more joint regional teams with civil and military membership, including coalition forces and small Afghan army contingents. These teams will have enough capability with on-call backup to provide increased security for reconstruction by the Afghan government and international donors.
The achievements of the first year augur well for the long-term future of Afghanistan. But should the United States falter in its leading role, so would the coalition. This would create dissension within the Afghan government and with the provinces, reigniting ethnic and regional rifts. Worse, it would reinvigorate al Qaeda and the Taliban, which could shift back from Pakistan for a major assault in Afghanistan. Backing away would also have a devastating effect on efforts by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to uproot al Qaeda and the Taliban, neutralize their supporters and bring political, economic and social reform to that country. And it could have serious negative repercussions on Kashmir and India-Pakistan relations. Given the potential that still exists for a political-religious explosion in Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons, and the prospect for increased tensions stemming from Iraq, this could have incalculable consequences for the entire region and the United States.
The writer is a former ambassador to Pakistan and a visiting fellow at the National Defense University.
|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).