Karzai sees warlord demise in a few years-magazine
BERLIN - Afghan President Hamid Karzai believes regional warlords who are threatening the stability and unity of his country will lose their military power within a few years, according to an interview in the German magazine Der Spiegel.
"In a few years, there will be no more warlords," Karzai said in the interview released on Saturday. Regional commanders and their militias helped the U.S.-led military topple the Taliban in late 2001, but many have since focused on consolidating their local power bases at the expense of Karzai's U.S.-backed government.
Karzai said he had summoned to Kabul General Adbul Rashid Dostum and rival strongman Ustad Atta Mohammad, whose forces clashed in northern Afghanistan last weekend.
"The government will soon decide on their future. They must submit. Otherwise they will be dealt with accordingly," Karzai said according to the text of the interview written in German.
Afghanistan's national army of 10,000 troops has begun pushing into areas outside Kabul, but Karzai said he was hoping for the demobilisation and disarming of private militias without confrontation.
Karzai said his country was nevertheless likely to need foreign troops for a further 10 years. "We will need that long until we have a fully functioning army and police. Building up an independent, professional administration will take longer, possibly 20 years," he said.
A 6,400-strong NATO-led international peacekeeping force is stationed mostly in the capital Kabul, while 15,500 U.S.-led foreign troops are hunting Taliban and al Qaeda remnants in the south.
US-Pak-Afghan body discusses border infiltration
ISLAMABAD: Senior Pakistani, US and Afghan military officials agreed on Saturday to strengthen their coordination in the fight against terrorism and cross-frontier infiltration in the region, officials said. They met within the framework of a tripartite commission that was established in April 2003 and held its seventh session in Rawalpindi, an official statement said.
“The commission was briefed on the functioning of tactical radio communications links among military commanders on both sides of the border to enhance their coordination capabilities,” it said. “A basic communications network has been established and will be expanded.”
Pakistani officials briefed the meeting on its biggest operation against suspected Al Qaeda militants in South Waziristan in March during which around 124 soldiers, militants and civilians were killed in fierce clashes.
The statement said the US and Afghan officials briefed the meeting on the progress of the joint Afghan National Army and US-led coalition military cooperation in the eastern, southeastern and southern regions of Afghanistan. -AFP
Afghan president hails groundbreaking of new Hyatt Regency hotel
The Associated Press 04/17/2004 -
KABUL - Donning a hardhat, President Hamid Karzai helped break ground for a Hyatt Regency hotel in the Afghan capital on Saturday, saying it was a sign of progress in the war-ravaged nation.
The new hotel is being financed by a consortium of Afghan-American and Turkish investors and is expected to take at least 18 months to complete. It will have more than 200 rooms, restaurants and other business facilities.
``The Hyatt will quickly become a focal point for international and Afghan business leaders,'' said U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who joined Karzai in pouring the first concrete into the foundation.
The two men pushed a button that started the process by remote control. Other hotels are also planned in the Afghan capital, which was largely ruined in factional fighting in the early 1990s, before the hardline Taliban regime took control.
Karzai said the hotel offered a great opportunity to talk about new construction, rather than rebuilding. ``In the last two years we have just talked about reconstruction: reconstruction of roads, clinics, hospitals and our country,'' he said. ``Today we are talking about building a hotel, and that is very important for us.'' The cost of the construction was not known, though Khalilzad said it was being financed in part through a $40 million loan from the U.S. government.
Afghan Government to Collect Income Taxes
This year, many Afghans will experience something they have never seen before - an income tax. Most Afghan regimes in recent history have relied on customs duties and taxes on specific high-profit items, such as opium.
But as the country's new government seeks financial self-sufficiency, it has decided to adopt a Western-style tax code, including an income tax on its residents. With the passage of a new revenue law last month, the central government is now setting out to collect taxes from anyone making more than 12,000 afghanis, or about $200, per month.
Deputy Finance Minister Ghulam Jelani Popal, who heads the new tax campaign, says most Afghans earn far less than this and will not be affected. But he says the rest will now have to give up between 10 and 20 percent of their income, or face criminal charges.
He says one target of the new system is the large community of foreign aid workers employed by local and international non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. "There's a lot of international community [in] existence, a lot of Afghan and international NGOs," he said. "They get a decent salary, but also they don't pay anything in terms of taxes." He says enforcement of the income tax will be based on random audits by his ministry.
The new law also plans to tax the profits of landlords and currency exchange dealers. Most of the central government's revenue, however, will still come from customs receipts. smuggling, a situation that is not likely to change in the near future.
"We think that this problem will continue for some time, and gradually, when the central government takes more control of the borders and gets rid of all the warlords, more income and revenue will flow to the government accounts," said Ghulam Jelani Popal. He says he expects total revenue to rise to $300 million this year, compared to $200 million last year.
These numbers are small compared to the almost $4.5 billion Afghanistan is expected to receive this year in foreign aid. But, Mr. Jelani says, large amounts of aid will not continue forever, making this the right time to introduce Afghans to the concept of income tax.
German FM to visit Afghanistan, south Caucasus
BERLIN, April 16 (AFP) - German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer will hold talks with Afghan leaders and visit German troops and aid teams during a visit to Afghanistan next week, his office said Friday.
Fischer, who flies out Monday, will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah as well as UN special envoy Jean Arnault.
The theme of their talks will be how to turn the promises of donations and support made at a March 31-April 1 international conference here into reality on the ground.
At the conference, the international community promised 8.2 billion dollars for Afghanistan over the next three years, more military support to stabilise the country and continued backing for Karzai's fragile government.
Fischer's talks will include Afghanistan's upcoming presidential and legislative elections and the pace of disarmament. He will also visit a German-led provincial reconstruction team in the northern region of Kunduz and German troops in the international peacekeeping force based in and around the capital Kabul.
Germany has around 2,000 soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Afterward Fischer will visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia for talks that will take in regional security in the southern Caucasus.
In Azerbaijan he will meet President Ilham Aliyev and new Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov. In Armenia, he will meet President Robert Kocharian.
In Georgia, Fischer will meet with President Mikhail Saakashvili and Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and open a regional conference of German ambassadors.
Musharraf reiterates Pakistan's support to Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, April 14 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf has reiterated Pakistan's commitment and support to the Bonn Process, the national reconciliation process, and a durable political dispensation in Afghanistan.
"Pakistan attaches the highest priority to the return of peace and stability in Afghanistan, which is of great importance to Afghanistan's neighbors," Musharraf told Jean Arnault, special representative of the UN secretary general on Afghanistan and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), who called on him Wednesday.
The special representative briefed the president on the UN mission in Afghanistan and its projected activities including preparation for the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections as well as facilitation of reconstruction of Afghanistan, said an official statement issued here.
Musharraf identified three key components for moving the Bonn Process toward success and said the political and electoral process should reflect the ethnic balance, the statement said.
To assure the populace with security, the writ of the Central Government must be extended to all parts of Afghanistan, for which the International Security Assistance Force's presence should be expanded, in terms of numbers and overage, and the Afghan National Army strengthened.
In respect to Afghanistan's reconstruction, Musharraf outlined Pakistan's commitment of 100 million US dollars. To facilitate participation of the Afghan refugees in the election process, Pakistan has pledged a sum of 5 million dollars at the recently concluded International Conference on Afghanistan in Berlin.
Musharraf assured Arnualt of Pakistan's fullest cooperation to the United Nations in the fulfillment of its objectives in Afghanistan.
"The UN special representative deeply appreciated Pakistan's valuable assistance and support, and stated that he fully agreed with Musharraf's views and vision for effective implementation of common policies and strategies to usher in peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and in the region," the statement said.
Afghan forex reserve touches 550 mln USD
KABUL, April 15 (Xinhua) -- The foreign exchange reserve of the post-war Afghanistan has reached unprecedentedly 550 million US dollars, the country's chief banker said Thursday.
"Our capital in 'Da Afghanistan Bank'-- the central bank of the country has increased from 175 million US dollars two years ago to 550 million US dollars today," Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady, president of Afghan central bank told reporters at a news briefing here.
The war-shattered country's economy was satisfactory going towards recovery as the economic growth recorded 30 percent last year, he said. "Da Afghanistan Bank" would continue to keep stabilizing country's national currency Afghani, he said.
Since the induction of US-backed Hamid Karzai government over two years ago, the country's rebuilding process has begun in all spheres including banking system and so far at least two foreign banks have opened their branches here in the capital city.
The government of Afghanistan as part of its efforts to encourage private sector is considering the sale of commercial banks to investors in the country.
Afghan province bans female singers on television
Afghan authorities banned female singers on television in the eastern Nangarhar province, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on Saturday.
The provincial government ordered the management of the state-run television in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, to stop broadcasting performances of women singers with "immediate effect".
"I have no further detail about this action but I can confirm that provincial authorities have issued the orders," the city's security chief told the agency. In Afghanistan's Pushtun-dominated eastern and southern parts women's appearance without the head-to-toe scarf (burqa) had been brooked recently. However, under the rule of the radical Islamist Taleban from 1996 to 2001, similar restrictions were imposed on women and music in Afghanistan.
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