Afghanistan Asks Pakistan to Do More in Terror War
Wed Jan 8, 2:06 PM ET By Simon Denyer
KABUL (Reuters) - Pakistan should do more to police the Afghan border and capture Taliban and al Qaeda leaders hiding in the country, Afghanistan's foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, said Wednesday.
He said the Pakistani government had cooperated a great deal in the U.S.-led war on terror, but could do more.
"Rogue elements" within the Pakistani intelligence network might even be helping the extremists, he said.
"Some of the leaders of the Taliban are currently in Pakistan, and this is a cause of concern for us," Abdullah told Reuters in an interview, adding: "There is also a belief that some al Qaeda leaders have gone to border areas on Pakistani soil, or perhaps deeper into Pakistan itself.
"Of course it is part of their (Pakistan government) policy to focus on those issues, but we expect some more actions in those fields," he said.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, blamed for the September 11, 2001 airliner attacks on the United States, is believed by many to be hiding in the rugged and remote border area between the two countries.
Abdullah said the border could be policed more effectively on the Pakistani side to stop militants crossing back and forth to carry out attacks.
"Firstly, we have to realize that to control the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is not an easy task for any country, for any government," he said. "Secondly, yes I would say there is the need for more focus by our neighboring country on the issue of our borders.
"It is a major challenge for the government of Pakistan, for the security forces there, but it is in the interests of peace and stability in the whole region to focus more on that issue."
THOUSANDS OF TROOPS
Pakistan says it has stationed 60-70,000 troops on its western border with Afghanistan and captured around 400 suspected al Qaeda militants since U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan began in late 2001 and ousted the fundamentalist Taliban regime.
Abdullah's comments follow a similar appeal last month from U.S. Lieutenant-General Dan McNeill, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, for Pakistan to commit more troops and use different tactics to police the mountainous border area.
Asked if members of Pakistan's intelligence community might be cooperating with extremist groups, Abdullah said: "We are satisfied with the official policy of the government of Pakistan and the line President (Pervez) Musharraf has taken," adding militants had shown they could threaten peace and stability in both countries.
"For its own interests as well, Pakistan is dealing with that issue but rogue elements perhaps, they have their own agendas," he said.
Abdullah said fugitive Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has called for a jihad (holy war) against Americans in Afghanistan, was probably hiding on Pakistani soil.
But Abdullah said he did not think Hekmatyar, one of the warlords who destroyed Kabul in the 1990s, represented a significant threat. Hekmatyar used to enjoy strong support from Pakistan, and Abdullah said he had deep-rooted links with elements in the country.
"But I do not believe the government of Pakistan would have any sympathy for him," he said.
Iran agrees to more open trade with Afghanistan: Afghan minister
Wed Jan 8, 8:49 AM ET By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Iran has agreed to open more border crossings with Afghanistan and permit Afghan trucks and buses to ply Iranian roads to help boost trade between the neighbors, Afghanistan's trade minister said Wednesday.
Syed Mustafa Kazmi said he had signed an agreement in Iran's capital, Tehran, that would open "all channels" to trade between Iran and Afghanistan and allow Afghan vehicles access to all parts of Iran.
"We hope these solutions will be good for our businessmen and those from outside who want trade with Afghanistan," Kazmi said at a brief news conference at Kabul's airport on his return from Iran.
Kazmi was accompanied on his trip by officials from Afghanistan's Public Works Ministry and Foreign Ministry. The agreement with Iran would last five years, after which it would be automatically renewed, Kazmi said. Other details weren't given.
Afghan officials have been pushing to sign agreements with the landlocked country's neighbors to restart trade links and resuscitate the nation's economy, devastated by 23-years of near-constant war.
Kazmi said Iranian officials again discussed building a highway and bridge connecting Iran's port of Chabahar with the Afghan border town of Zaranj. Discussions last year centered on connecting the highway to the Kabul-Herat highway being built with aid from Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Indian aid will fund the Afghan part, partly to benefit Indian traders who can't move their goods through Pakistan, which has been India's bitter rival since independence from Britain in 1947.
India has also offered 100 vehicles to Afghanistan to aid in the transit of goods from Iran, he said.
The Iran-Afghanistan road project is expected to take at least two years once it gets started. Kazmi said the road would offer a link for trade throughout Central Asia.
DEA: Afghan Gov't Can Enforce Opium Ban
Wednesday, January 08, 2003 4:57 PM EST
WASHINGTON (AP) Afghanistan's new government lacks the manpower to stop farmers from planting the raw material for opium, the Drug Enforcement Administration chief said Wednesday.
``Enforcement is where the gap is,'' said Asa Hutchinson, nominated by President Bush to become undersecretary of border and transportation security in the new Homeland Security Department.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has banned growing poppies, which are used to make opium. Hutchinson said there have been some successes: about one-quarter of the poppies have been destroyed and some opium has been stopped at the borders.
But the government has not trained enough police to enforce the ban, Hutchinson said, and the United Nations said Afghanistan has ``largely failed'' in its efforts so far.
Karzai last fall called for international help in offering Afghan farmers alternatives to planting poppies.
The Taliban, which captured the country in 1996, banned poppy growing four years later. Farmers resumed growing poppies after the U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in 2001 in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Hutchinson said poppy planting has reached pre-Taliban levels.
While traditional drug traffickers are handling the Afghan opium, some of the money may wind up in the pockets of terrorist groups, Hutchinson said.
``You sometimes see an intersection between those who are interested in terrorism and those who are interested in making a profit in drug trafficking,'' he said.
The agency is stepping up efforts to find and develop informants who can look not just for drug trafficking but terrorist activity, Hutchinson said. One tip led to the arrest in North Carolina of a person on the government's terrorist watch list, he said.
In addition, some terrorist groups are turning to drug trafficking as a source of money because of successful efforts to crack down on funding sources such as some Islamic charities and money transfers in the wake of Sept. 11, he said.
United States donates US$3.5 million for women's projects in Afghanistan
Wed Jan 8, 8:32 AM ET By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - The United States will provide a US$3.5 million grant to support education, small businesses and other programs for Afghanistan's women, many of whom still face poverty and abuse more than a year after the fall of the Taliban regime, an American official announced Wednesday.
Paula Dobriansky, the U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs, said the funding was aimed at protecting women's rights and giving them the skills needed to escape poverty.
"Our visit here today really attests to the importance that we attach to our relationship with Afghanistan and to Afghanistan's future, and in particular also, the future of women," Dobriansky told reporters at the Ministry of Women's Affairs in Kabul, the Afghan capital.
Dobriansky arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to lead an American delegation at the second meeting of the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council, set up last year under an agreement between U.S. President George W. Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The grant will provide US$2.5 million for Afghan-run women's resource centers in 14 provinces, promoting such activities as small handicrafts businesses, education, and human rights training. Another US$1 million will fund similar projects by non-governmental organizations.
Private businesses, including Daimler-Chrysler and AOL-Time Warner Inc., will provide another US$80,000 for additional programs, Dobriansky said.
Afghan women were banned from working or attending school and subject to myriad dress code and travel restrictions by the Taliban before the rigorously Islamic regime was ousted in late 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition. While access to jobs and education has improved, Taliban-era restrictions linger in many parts of the country.
Islamic conservatism continues to influence the country's gender politics, though. In September, pictures circulated showing 14 Afghan women politicians meeting with Bush in Washington without traditional head coverings, causing an outcry here.
Marzia Basal, a former judge, said women in the post-Taliban era have found "new rights, new life."
"I never expected to work again, to have active participation in society," Basal said. But, she said, Afghan women can't expect to enjoy a full restoration of rights immediately "because we are in Afghanistan and recently emerged from the critical situation of the war years."
U.S. delegation member Karen Hughes, an adviser and former press secretary to Bush, said she was surprised to see so many Afghan women still wearing the all-encompassing burqa, a garment mandatory under the Taliban.
"I hope it's a choice, (that) it's not out of fear," said Hughes, who said she hoped the visit would "provide some small sense of encouragement to the women of Afghanistan."
Officials: Former Taliban Commander Freed
Wednesday, January 08, 2003 12:17 PM EST
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) A former Taliban regional commander has been released from American detention, officials said Wednesday.
Mullah Salam, who was allied with the Taliban, arrived home late Tuesday in southeastern Afghanistan's Zabul province, Zabul Gov. Hamidullah Khan said, speaking by telephone from the province's capital of Qalat.
Zabul is located about 60 miles northeast of Kandahar on the highway to Kabul, the national capital.
It wasn't immediately clear where Salam had been held or why was he freed. U.S. Special Forces troops captured the former Taliban commander in Kandahar in May.
Salam, a warlord in Zabul, had earned the nickname ``Mullah Rocketi'' for his love for high-tech weapons when he was leading forces against the former Soviet troops that invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s. He joined the Taliban when the militia gained power over major parts of Afghanistan in the 1990s, serving as a commander in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
People were crowding Salam's home in Zabul's Shahjoi district to greet and congratulate him on his release, but he did not say much about his detention, said Mohammed Gul, a friend of Salam.
Afghan-Pakistani Border Tightens Security
Wednesday, January 08, 2003 2:32 PM EST
GHULAM KHAN BORDER CHECKPOINT, Pakistan (AP) Glowering and tugging anxiously at his formidable beard, Shah Wali squatted on the parched earth of the Pakistani-Afghan frontier to ponder his next move. He had a family wedding to attend, and things weren't looking hopeful.
Would he try again up the road at the border post, staffed by guards with Kalashnikov assault rifles who had already turned him away? Or would he wander into the rugged hills and try to slip into Pakistan that way?
``They're just not letting me through,'' complained Wali, a 40ish laborer from eastern Afghanistan, perched near a tiny oasis of eucalyptus trees and run-down shops in the no man's land between the two countries. ``This is new. This hasn't happened before.''
More than a week after a disagreement with the United States over American military ``hot pursuit'' reaching over Afghanistan's edge, this remote checkpoint one of many along the invisible line that separates the two countries is being patrolled by Pakistan more tightly than ever, residents say.
The Pakistani-Afghan border meanders through more than 1,300 miles of desolate, gnarled terrain that is barely monitored in places and entirely unfenced and unsupervised in others much to the consternation of U.S. officials, who plead for tighter controls.
Both the terrain and centuries-old cultural folkways make that difficult.
It's impossible to see where Pakistan ends and Afghanistan begins, and most people in the tribal region don't even try. They have long journeyed back and forth at will, and extended families straddle the frontier some cousins in Pakistan, others in Afghanistan.
``It's quite different from other borders in other countries. Half a tribe is on one side, half is on the other,'' said Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, director of the National Crisis Management Center at Pakistan's Interior Ministry. As much as possible, he said, Afghan nationals are not allowed in.
``It's very difficult to patrol the entire area,'' Cheema said. ``There is a lot of movement taking place. (But) we are trying our level best.''
Pakistan has dispatched more than 60,000 troops to guard the borderland during the past 17 months as part of its commitment to help the United States prevent al-Qaida fugitives from reaching Pakistan.
But it has also made clear that patrolling the border is Pakistan's job, not the U.S. military's. A Dec. 29 skirmish between American troops and a Pakistani border guard about 60 miles south of here prompted Pakistan to reiterate that the U.S. military should not violate the border.
Ghulam Khan, one dot on that frontier, is less bustling than it was two months ago. The final 8 miles of Pakistan feature five checkpoints guarded by army troops, the frontier corps, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the Khasadar, the security force of the tribal regions.
``We want to go to Peshawar, but we can't, said Murat Khan, a 12-year-old Afghan aiming to reach northwestern Pakistan's biggest city with his mother. Both times they tried to cross, they were rebuffed.
``I want to see Peshawar. I heard there are many playgrounds there and things that are fun for kids,'' Murat said, chewing on a hunk of bread. ``But I am stuck here. My mother's in a burqa. How can we cross those mountain trails?''
Up the road, at the post nearest the border, guards wear no obvious uniforms other than caps with an insignia of two crossed rifles. They checked vehicles on both sides, turning away virtually all of those coming from Afghanistan and most trying to go the other way.
``The border is completely sealed. We are not allowing anyone to pass through this checkpoint,'' said Mohammad Yaqoob, the post's commander.
Then he qualified a bit.
``Only people from the Gorbaz tribe can come and go. They live on both sides,'' he said. ``This is a tribal administration. We know each other. If any strangers come, we can identify them instantly.''
Even those allowed to pass say they aren't happy about the increased security, though they understand the need.
``We are cooperating with the authorities. We will not give shelter to any wanted men in our area,'' said Zora Din, a member of the Sadgi, another tribe based near Ghulam Khan.
``We hope the situation will be normalized pretty soon. Because these two areas, these two sides depend on each other,'' he said. ``There are so many connections, so many relations.''
Back at the market, Shah Wali's family wedding awaited. He had to make a decision, so he did. It wasn't the legal one.
``I'll try my luck. I'll go by the mountains,'' he declared, ready to set out Tuesday. ``Maybe there won't be a patrol there.''
U.S. Warns Foreigners in Afghanistan
Wed Jan 8,10:06 AM ET By AARON FAVILA, Associated Press Writer
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - Terrorists may step up attacks on foreigners in Afghanistan if the United States wages war on Iraq, a U.S. military spokesman said Wednesday.
But Col. Roger King said it was still too early for the military to take any action to safeguard against such attacks.
"We'll address that when and if it occurs," King said at the U.S. military base at Bagram in northeastern Afghanistan.
The Turkish commander of the international peacekeeping force stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, also has expressed concern for the safety of foreigners in Afghanistan in the event of a war in Iraq.
Foreign military forces, business people and aid workers are all potential targets, Maj. Gen. Hilmi Akin Zorlu said Monday.
Zorlu said peacekeepers are prepared to strengthen security to protect foreigners living in and around Kabul. But he said the force has no plans to move beyond that area or add to its 4,800 troops.
The multinational force has already stepped up intelligence-gathering efforts to prevent terrorist attacks inside Kabul, Zorlu said.
As it is, U.S. and allied forces continue to come under frequent attack in Afghanistan more than a year after the overthrow of the Taliban regime. On Wednesday, King said two fuel trucks were damaged by explosions on board as they were parked about three miles from a U.S. coalition forces base in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
One of the Afghan drivers was injured slightly. U.S. military policemen went to the scene to investigate, but it isn't known what caused the explosions, King said.
U.S. and Afghan authorities blame members of Afghanistan's deposed Taliban militia, al-Qaida terrorists and supporters of former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar for the attacks.
Afghan bank happy to have money to burn
By Victoria Burnett Published: January 9 2003 Financial Times
Normally it is only the wealthy who have money to burn. But the impoverished Afghan government has succeeded in burning, or shredding, the equivalent of about $360m in the past three months as it hurried to introduce a new currency and destroy old afghani notes.
The central bank in September announced an intensive campaign to take out of circulation an estimated 13,000bn-15,000bn afghanis (the final estimate was higher) and distribute a new currency to people all over the vast, mountainous country. The project was seen as a key test of the government's ability to exert its authority in the provinces and make its presence felt in the remotest corners of Afghanistan.
Anwar ul-Haq Ahady, central bank governor, has hailed the process a success - a claim supported by the exchange rate, which has remained stable since last week's deadline at 44-46 new afghanis to the dollar. There were 1,000 old afghanis to each new afghani.
The afghani depreciated initially as Afghans, nervous that they would be unable to obtain new currency, bought US dollars or Pakistani rupees - both circulate widely in the south of Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan. The exchange rate fluctuated between 46 and 67 new afghanis to the dollar, prompting the central bank to extend the deadline for turning in old bills by one month.
"It's new and beautiful," said Faridullah, a money-changer who exchanges about $1,000 a day on the kerb near Kabul's central bank, of the new afghani. "People are really glad it's worth more than the Pakistani rupee. They've taken it into their hearts." The Pakistani rupee trades at about 55-60 to the US dollar.
The currency programme was not without its hitches, however. There turned out to be about 18,000bn afghanis in circulation, more than originally estimated, said Mr Ahady, because of of warlords printing their own money. In addition to the old afghani, there were two other currencies in circulation, including one printed by warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum that was used in the north.
Two days before the January 2 deadline to turn in all old currency, authorities discovered stashes of fake new notes worth about $4,000 in the south-eastern provinces of Ghazni and Khost.
Meanwhile, some residents of remote areas have complained that they did not have time to exchange their money and are now stuck with useless, old currency.
Pervez, a money-changer in Faisabad, capital of Badakshan province, said yesterday that people from the rural areas were turning up with old afghanis to change.
"It's not large amounts of money, but for these people it's a significant amount," he said.
In a country without a functioning banking system, poor roads and no proper telecommunications system, the logistics of the currency reform process were daunting.
A currency reform administration of 2,500 people was created. New bills were flown to exchange points in remote areas by aircraft or helicopter and old notes destroyed in shredding machines or on bonfires.
For weeks, the courtyard of the central bank was filled with the hum of shredding machines and knee-high piles of torn banknotes. Women shuffled back and forth with sackloads of destroyed money. At night, the heaps of paper slivers would disappear, spirited into workers' bags and pockets and burned as fuel.
In the provinces, the notes were often destroyed on bonfires, sometimes to the consternation of villagers. An economist involved in the currency reform process described how locals in one village were initially shocked at the sight of money being incinerated, then fascinated, crowding in and climbing trees for a better view.
Getting the word out to isolated Afghans was also a challenge. The central bank had a scene written into a popular radio sitcom in which a man exchanges money.
To keep money supply in check, the central bank bought dollars from the government and used them to buy old afghanis, which it destroyed, a bank adviser said.
The next challenge will be the reform of the banking system, said Torek Faradi, senior adviser to Mr Ahady. A plan for banking sector reform is due to be floated in the coming months.
Afghan chief of staff welcomes French peacekeepers' new chief
January 8, 2003 5:41pm BBC Monitoring
The army chief of staff [Gen Mohammad Asef Delawar] met the new commander of the French peacekeeping forces today. A military correspondent of Bakhtar Information Agency reported that both sides discussed the current situation in the country.
The French peacekeeping forces chief, Noel Thompson [phonetic], said he would spare no effort in performing his duty.
Likewise, Gen Asef Delawar had a farewell meeting with the former commander of the French peacekeeping forces, Col Doqueaugaise [phonetic]. He spoke highly of the successful efforts made by the commander in establishing security in Kabul City and the training of the national army officials.
Source: Radio Afghanistan, Kabul, in Pashto 1430 gmt 8 Jan 03
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