Afghan warlord's troops overrun provincial capital, governor flees
KABUL (AP) - Forces of a northern warlord overran the capital of a remote Afghan province Thursday, the interior minister said, in a burst of factional violence undermining the authority of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai.
Troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum swept into Maymana, the centre of Faryab province, some 420 kilometres northwest of Kabul, on Thursday morning, Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said.
"Today, at 10 o'clock, militia troops loyal to Gen. Dostum entered Maymana city," Jalali said. "They have control of the city." Jalali said there were no reports of casualties, but Dostum aides said guards had fired on a crowd, killing four people, as Gov. Enayatullah Enayat was rushed to an airport.
Fighters swarming in front of the offices of the Kabul-appointed governor fired into the air and threw rocks at the building, the minister said. "What Gen. Dostum has done is against all military rules and the constitution of Afghanistan," Jalali told a news conference.
The fighting was bad news for Karzai, and sure to lead to deep concern in Washington over the future stability of Afghanistan, just as American forces are facing a surge of violence in Iraq.
The city of Maymana fell before the arrival of hundreds of U.S.-trained Afghan soldiers, who left Kabul for Faryab on Thursday afternoon. It was the second major burst of militia violence to rock Afghanistan in less than a month, and threw into further doubt this country's readiness for national elections scheduled for September.
Trucks and pickups had ferried hundreds of green-bereted Afghan National Army troops armed with assault rifles and machine-guns to Kabul airport. Some clambered into a transporter provided by the U.S.-led military coalition, which flew them toward Faryab, while others waited for a second aircraft.
Officials in Faryab have accused Dostum trying to drive them out of office for allying too closely with Karzai's central government. Dostum has maintained a large private army and strong political control in the region since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
A Dostum aide in Kabul said the Uzbek strongman had discussed the situation in Faryab with elders from that province, but ordered no moves against Enayat or Hashim Khan, commander of the 200th Afghan army division, who Jalali said had also fled Maymana.
The aide, Akbar Boy, said government troops were welcome in the region, but suggested there would be a violent backlash if they sided with the embattled officials, whom he accused of using government funds to try to buy votes and influence ahead of September's elections.
The clash comes less than a month after the government sent 1,500 soldiers to the western city of Herat after bloody battles between rival factions left 16 people dead, including a cabinet minister.
The spreading violence, combined with a stubborn Taliban-led insurgency in the south and east, has compounded concern that September's elections will be spoiled by militant attacks and voter intimidation. The government has vowed to disarm some 40,000 militia fighters and round up heavy weapons around the country in time for the vote.
Provincial Capital in Afghanistan Is Seized by a Warlord's Forces By CARLOTTA GALL -
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 8 – New Forces loyal to Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum seized control of the capital of Faryab Province in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, forcing the governor to flee and drawing a sharp rebuke from President Hamid Karzai and his ministers in Kabul.
The central government ordered in troops of the Afghan National Army, along with their American trainers, but they arrived too late to prevent the takeover of power. It was more a political coup than a military clash, with just some shooting in the air in the city, witnesses said. But militia loyal to General Dostum had seized control in four districts throughout the province, they said.
The governor and his top officials fled in the morning after a demonstration turned violent and protesters began stoning the governor's office, the interior minister, Ali Ahmad Jalali, told a news briefing. The governor of a neighboring Sar-e-Pul Province also fled his post, he said. There were no reported casualties.
General Dostum was trying to "stamp his authority on the region," Mr. Jalali told journalists on Thursday afternoon. "What General Dostum has done is against all military rules and the Constitution of Afghanistan," he said.
It is the first time that a governor appointed by the central government has been forced from power by an armed faction, and will be a test of Mr. Karzai and his government's ability to reassert control. General Dostum is Mr. Karzai's representative in the north and has often voiced support for the central government. Yet he has been an advocate for a federated state and has been reluctant to give up military and economic control of his region.
Coming just two weeks after heavy fighting in the western province of Herat, a time when Afghan National Army troops were also deployed, the power struggle in Faryab highlights the continuing instability and the prevalence of armed militias that are plaguing much of the country.
The first deployment of 150 out of 700 Afghan National Army soldiers arrived in Faryab on Thursday afternoon and were poised to start patrols in the city by evening, said Gen. Zaher Azimi, an army spokesman. More units were on their way from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, he said. The city was calm at nightfall, but still remained in the hands of men loyal to General Dostum. A small number of British troops were also in the city.
In a statement issued from his office in Kabul, Mr. Karzai and his security council ordered all the armed groups that had entered Faryab Province and the city of Maimana to leave immediately and return to their bases. The statement also called on the governor and other officials of Faryab to return to their work.
Mr. Jalali, who is responsible for appointing provincial governors, said members of the National Police would also be traveling to the area to investigate what had happened and to try to restore the governor to power.
He was strongly critical of General Dostum and said that men who were technically soldiers of the Ministry of Defense and under General Dostum's command were among those who seized control of Faryab. He called such action "misuse of the National Army" and "unconstitutional," and said General Dostum was acting to exert his own authority in the area for personal gain. Neither General Dostum nor his aides could be reached for comment on Thursday, but he has reportedly denied being behind the unrest.
Five killed in southern Afghanistan clashes
Thursday April 8 - Clashes in southern Afghanistan left five people dead, including two police officers killed in an attack by suspected Taliban, officials said Thursday.
The police officers died Wednesday night when their vehicles were shot at in Naw Zad district of Helmand province, some 240 kilometers (150 miles) southwest of Kabul, provincial police chief Abdul Rahman said. Three other officers were wounded in the attack.
Rahman said he believed the attackers, who fled the scene, were Taliban, but provided no details. Separately, two suspected Taliban were reported killed in a gunbattle in Helmand's Sangin district when they attacked an Afghan militia checkpoint.
Also, a soldier from the new Afghan National Army was killed and one injured when their vehicle hit a mine in neighboring Uruzgan province. That blast occurred in Kijran district on Tuesday as troops from the new U.S.-trained force were returning to base after an operation in Uruzgan, a Taliban stronghold.
"It's not clear to us if it was a new mine or an old one," said Maj. Gen. Ali Jan Sarwari, deputy commander of the Afghan army's Central Corps in Kabul. More than 200 people have died in clashes in Afghanistan so far this year, in factional fighting in the north and west as well as in Taliban-led insurgency across the south and east.
PM Assures Pakistan's Continuing Support To Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan : April 09 (PNS) - Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali Thursday assured Afghan National Security Adviser Dr. Zalmai Rasoul, Pakistan's consistent support to the process of reconciliation and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister informed the visiting dignitary, who called on him here, that in view of the manifold commonalities, Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan were of special significance. Prime Minister Jamali expressed the hope that peace and tranquility will return soon to Afghanistan to facilitate the process of national reconciliation and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
He assured the Afghan envoy that Pakistan would continue assisting Afghanistan in whatever way possible. The Prime Minister recalled the highly useful exchange of views he had with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his visit to Afghanistan in January this year. Prime Minister Jamali was the first Head of the State or Government to visit Afghanistan after adoption of the new constitution.
Dr. Zalmai Rasoul informed the Prime Minister that President Karzai attached great importance to relations with Pakistan. He conveyed gratitude of the government and people of Afghanistan for Pakistan's consistent support to the endevours of President Karzai for national reconciliation as well as for reconstruction of Afghanistan.
India Flays UN Reports On Afghanistan
NNN 04/08/2004 - New York
India has flayed denounced UN reports for 'downplaying' what it called the primary source of insecurity in Afghanistan from regrouped Taleban and Al-Qaeda, especially in the areas bordering Pakistan.
"We would like to understand the reasons for such downplaying of threats to Afghanistan from terrorist groups, particularly in the south and southeast of the country," Indian Ambassador V. K. Nambiar said during a Security Council debate on the situation in Afghanistan.
Nambiar said that the steady dilution of reporting on Afghanistan over the past year or so has not always been fully consistent with the position on the ground. "In our view the reports of the UN Secretariat must be objective, far more discerning and reflective of the ground realities," he told the 15-member Council.
While Afghan Ambassador Ravan Farhadi made no reference to the Taleban or Al- Qaeda, the Indian Ambassador attempted to focus the Council's attention on the activities of these groups in the areas bordering Pakistan.
Nambiar also joined issue with the latest report by Secretary General Kofi Annan and the briefing by Under-Secretary General for Peace-Keeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno for making "scant" reference to security threat by Taleban and Al-Qaeda terrorists and "preferring" to refer to them as "extremists."
"Is it the UN's view that these groups no long represent a threat to Afghanistan or are these reports and briefings in the Council the product of some compromise? Or did absence of any reference to these organisations imply that the work the Security Council Committee on Taleban/Al-Qaeda had achieved closure, at least in Afghanistan?" he asked.
Guehenno, noting that security had many facets, said the threat posed by Al-Qaeda and the Taleban remained a major concern. It was unfortunately clear that the question of factionalism was also important for the stability of Afghanistan, as illustrated by recent events in Herat.
He said that without the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme, the strength of Afghanistan would be considerably undermined. It was necessary that the international community work on several fronts, Guehenno.
In his latest report issued on March 19 last, Annan says 'insecurity in the country continues to follow well-known pattern and has shown no signs of significant improvement. Attacks by extremist elements on aid agencies, both national and international, and non-government officials continued to occur, predominantly in southern provinces."
Afghan Minister favors channeling aid through central government
KABUL, April 7 (Xinhua) -- Afghan Minister for Planning Mohammad Ramazan Bashardost on Wednesday urged the international community to streamline their aid pledged at the Berlin meeting through the Afghan central government.
"I hope all the assistance committed at the Berlin Conference will be given to the Afghan government and our government should have control over it," he told reporters at a news conference here. The international community at a two-day donors' meeting concluded last Thursday in Berlin had pledged 8.2 billion US dollars over the next three years. Of these 4.4 billion dollars are to be disbursed during 2004-2005.
"It would heal no wounds of our war-battered country if the money was given to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) instead of the Afghan government," said the minister.
A huge part of the 4.5 billion US dollars committed at the first donors' conference in Tokyo in 2002 has been utilized through United Nation aid agencies and NGOs.
Expressing his anger over the performance of certain NGOs, the Afghan planning minister said that some of them were not discharging their responsibility honestly.
"I do not want any Afghan penny to be wasted. I want to close down those NGOs who are involved in embezzlement and making money in the name of serving the people," warned the angry minister.
Asked to name such NGOs, he said, "Their names would be disclosed very soon." He also asked all Afghanistan-based NGOs to register with the Planning Ministry and keep it informed of their activities.
Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, around 2,000 national and international NGOs have been active in various fields in the war-ravaged country to help rehabilitate it from over two decades of war.
Pakistan, U.S. discuss joint border patrols near Afghanistan
Kyodo (Japan) Thursday April 8, 8:28 PM
Pakistan's interior minister and the U.S. ambassador to Islamabad have discussed mounting joint U.S.-Pakistani patrols along parts of the 2,500-kilometer Pakistani-Afghan border, GEO TV reported Thursday.
The television station added Faisal Saleh Hayat and Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad also agreed to work out a joint strategy against terrorism and measures to curb smuggling of narcotics from Afghanistan into Pakistan.
A senior official close to the talks said the meeting was primarily aimed at defending the ambassador's recent statement that if Pakistan failed to flush out terrorists from tribal areas then the United States "would do the job."
The statements irked Islamabad and a Foreign Ministry spokesman asked the ambassador last week to "share any information" he might have about an al-Qaida presence in tribal areas with the government.
It is expected any joint patrols of the border will be limited to areas near Eastern Afghanistan where a large number of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are reported to have taken refuge.
The official said the latest intelligence reports have suggested a concentration of al-Qaida fugitives in the mountainous, forest-clad Shawal Valley in North Waziristan.
It was suggested the Pakistan Army will mount an operation in the area soon.
The army launched an offensive against al-Qaida fugitives in the South Waziristan tribal area last month on reports that an estimated 400 to 500 al-Qaida fighters were holed up there, but the sweep met strong resistance and at least 22 soldiers, paramilitary troops and administration officials were taken hostage.
A statement by President Pervez Musharraf during that sweep that a "high-value target" had been trapped in the area triggered led to speculation that the net was closing in on al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden or his top aide Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Reports are now coming that the Shawal Valley may be a possible hideout for bin Laden and al-Qaida fighters who escaped the South Waziristan sweep.
RUSSIAN FEDERATION FOCUSES ON SOVIET-ERA LOANS TO AFGHANISTAN
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that while his country did not make any pledges for aid to Afghanistan at the donors meeting held in Tokyo in January 2002, Russian has "given assistance in various forms to the new Afghanistan amounting" to $170 million, ITAR-TASS reported on 31 March. "One of the serious obstacles to our giving direct financial assistance to the interim administration is Afghanistan's state debt inherited from the Soviet [era]," Lavrov said. Russia is trying to solve that issue on terms that are "most favorable for Afghanistan," Lavrov added. Afghanistan's lingering debt to Russia, according to Russian sources, is about $9.8 billion, which Moscow is reportedly willing to reduce to $2 billion. The Soviet Union's 1979-89 occupation of Afghanistan cost that country enormous numbers of casualties, drained precious resources from central and local authorities, and arguably deserves some of the blame for Afghanistan's status as a failed state.
PRTS GO BEYOND HUMANITARIAN ISSUES INTO SECURITY REALM
The expansion of an international military presence across Afghanistan has progressed rapidly in recent months through a program of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs).
U.S. Army Colonel Craig Morton is the officer in charge of planning the growth of the PRTs. "PRTs ultimately will be in all [of the Afghan] provinces. When we got here [just under] a year ago, there were only two PRTs in existence. And today, operationally, we have 12," he told RFE/RL. "By the end of summer or early fall, we'll have four more, for a total of 16. And at that point, we will have covered half of the provinces. Now, how long it will take to get the other half of those provinces covered by PRTs, I don't know. Of course, most of the provinces are actually covered by PRTs. It's just that some PRTs have more than one province. The ideal situation is to have one PRT per province."
Thirteen months ago, when the first PRT was created in the southeastern Afghan town of Gardez, it was described by U.S. officials as a way to bring stability to Paktia Province and to bolster the local economy through the construction of wells, roads, schools, and medical centers.
But few details have emerged about the security elements associated with the PRTs. In the southern parts of Afghanistan, where remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda continue to operate, at least four PRTs have been set up in close proximity to what the U.S. military calls "forward operations bases," or "fire bases."
A fire base is located at the forward edge of a potential battle area and is used for the deployment of combat troops. Commanders are positioned at fire bases to control combat operations. Logistical teams also are there to resupply combat troops with food and ammunition.
With Pentagon officials saying a spring offensive will soon be launched in southern or southeastern Afghanistan, attention is focusing on fire bases and PRTs in or near the towns of Khost, Gardez, Ghazni, Qalat, and Kandahar. U.S. Marines are being deployed at the fire base near Khost.
Independently of PRTs, U.S. forces also have established fire bases near the southern towns of Orgun and Shkin, which are both in Paktika Province near the border with Pakistan. There also are PRTs and fire bases in or near the eastern towns of Jalalabad and Asadabad.
Morton confirmed that PRTs in areas were the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are still active -- such as those near the border with Pakistan -- also work closely with U.S. Special Forces. "Some of our PRTs are co-located with Special Forces assets. Some are not. And that was not necessarily by design," he said. "But when we go into a province, especially in some of the less permissive areas, if the Special Forces had a camp there and they could provide us security, then in at least a couple of instances there, we have co-located with them. And so, it's a synergistic kind of an existence out there where [Special Forces] sometimes provide us some security. They provide us some intelligence. And we provide humanitarian assistance and reconstruction and that sort of support."
U.S. Army public affairs officers say some local Afghans who benefit from the humanitarian programs of the PRTs are providing information to U.S. forces about the activities of Taliban fighters in the south and southeast. Meanwhile, security elements for the PRTs also conduct patrols and can gather intelligence on the activities of Taliban cells or the militias of feuding Afghan warlords.
A new PRT opened this week in Qalat, the capital of Zabul Province, about 145 kilometers northeast of Kandahar. So far, there are no reconstruction projects there. But combat troops from the 2-22 Infantry Battalion of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division were deployed near Qalat about two months ago to set up the defensive fortifications for a forward operations base.
Those troops also have been conducting what they call "presence patrols" to let local residents know that the U.S. military is active in the area. Suspected Taliban fighters appear to know about the new U.S. position. Last week, the fortification at Qalat was attacked with rockets and mortars.
It is not just U.S.-led antiterrorism operations that benefit from the PRT network and its nearby security detachments. The work of the Gardez PRT and of nearby U.S. Special Forces are credited with driving away local warlord Padshah Khan Zadran. That Pashtun mujahedin commander had been allied with the United States in the fight against the Taliban regime. He fell out of Washington's favor after launching rocket attacks into Gardez twice during 2002. Last autumn, British officials at a PRT in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif negotiated a cease-fire between the feuding militia factions of ethnic Uzbek General Abdul Rashid Dostum and ethnic Tajik commander Mohammad Ata. Previous cease-fires between those rivals had collapsed repeatedly after the fall of the Taliban. But the new deal is backed by the presence of British military observers in the PRT. So far, the cease-fire has held.
PRT officials also have stepped in to bolster the repeatedly delayed UN disarmament program at the German-run PRT in Konduz, the Bamiyan PRT that is run by New Zealand and at the U.S.-run Parwan PRT near the Bagram airfield.
International aid groups have criticized the use of military troops in the PRTs for reconstruction projects, saying the practice makes their jobs more dangerous because hostile Afghans assume all aid workers are connected with military forces.
Anatol Lieven, an expert on Afghanistan at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says he questions whether the eventual departure of foreign troops from the PRTs will mean that their reconstruction projects will be destroyed. Morton says he thinks that will not happen because the ultimate goal of the program is to have control of the reconstruction projects transferred to civilians -- including both international organizations and Afghans.
"I don't think we're planning on leaving in the short term. I think we're probably planning on staying here until the region is stable and until there is some assurance that those projects are going to remain. A lot of what we're doing as the military out there is small-scale reconstruction compared to what the civilians can do," Morton said.
Morton said he hopes that, in the medium term, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will take over the "command-and-control" functions at PRTs. But he says it is unclear when ISAF will have the ability to take over all of them.
Some conservative religious leaders in southern Afghanistan reject the PRTs and are telling their followers that the bases are secret fronts for Christian evangelists. Colonel David Bennet, the Bagram-based public affairs officer for the U.S. Army's civil affairs programs, dismisses those allegations as disinformation aimed at derailing the antiterrorism coalition's efforts to win the, support of ordinary Afghans.
"There is no religious tie, whatsoever, to the PRT concept. Our desire is to get as many different countries involved in the growth and development of the PRT system or programs and the advancement or the extension of the Afghan national government. Our desire is for, in the long-term, the Afghan national government to provide the good governance for the country. It will be for Afghanistan. It won't be for other countries or other religions."
Residents of Kandahar and Ghazni also tell RFE/RL that Afghan militia fighters, claiming to be part of the PRTs, have ransacked and looted property in house-to-house searches. Morton was surprised by such reports. "The only armed [Afghan] employees of the PRTs are guard forces," he said. "Sometimes they guard the compound. They are sometimes used as mobile guards -- mobile security. But they never, ever operate independently of the U.S. forces. So I would deny that that's happening unless some other [Afghan] forces are using the PRT name for their own purposes. This is the first I've heard of it. It's alarming, if that is the case."
Morton says U.S. combat troops sometimes conduct searches in buildings where Taliban or Al-Qaeda suspects are thought to be sheltering. But he said any Afghan militia fighter who conducts such a search is not doing so on behalf of a PRT. (Ron Synovitz) AFGHAN GOVERNMENT AMENDS PRESS LAW. Deputy Minister of Information and Culture Abdul Hamid Mobarez told a news conference in Kabul on 5 April that the Afghan Transitional Administration has approved a new media law based on opinions solicited from journalists, Radio Afghanistan reported. Journalists, however, complained that they were not afforded the opportunity to comment on the revised press law because they were never shown the draft. Edward Carwardine, a spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai signed the new media law into effect on 1 April, before leaving for the Berlin donors conference. The new law ushers in "some amendments to the original law as approved in 2002," according to Carwardine (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 13 February 2003 and 1 April 2004). The new law states that "print media can start their activities before receiving a license from the government," Carwardine added, according to a UNAMA press release. He said the law should come into effect "once it has been officially published by the Ministry of Justice," adding that he does not know the "exact time" that might happen. It is unclear whether copies of the amended press law have been made available to the public.
Afghan poppy farmers say lack of water, glut of wheat leave no other choice
DARE NOOR, Afghanistan (CP) - Facing government-imposed eradication of their precious crops, Afghan poppy growers blame drought and international food aid - Canada's included - for their decision to feed the world narcotics trade.
Interim President Hamid Karzai says he will dispatch Afghan forces this weekend to take down thousands of hectares of poppies worth billions of dollars on opium and heroin markets the world over.
But farmers in Ningarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan say they doubt security forces will make anything more than a symbolic effort at preventing the rise of what Karzai fears will become an Afghan narco-state.
And they vow to continue growing the flower until aid agencies and Afghanistan's weak central government start providing viable alternatives. Mohammad Yusaf, a 48-year-old father of nine, served 28 years in the government. Now he is jobless with no salary.
"We know it is a harmful thing that we do and that it is against human life," says Yusaf. "But we are also human beings and we also need to have a good life. We have no alternatives." "The people of Afghanistan will continue growing poppies until all the weapons are collected, until we have jobs and until we are protected by a constitutional law that has practical meaning."
Afghanistan provides three-quarters of the world's heroin - 97 per cent of Europe's alone. The country's dry climate is uniquely suited to the red and white flowers that bloom on roadsides and in hidden valleys alike throughout the region.
Robert Charles, the U.S. State Department's top counter narcotics official, predicts more than 121,000 hectares of Afghan poppies will be cultivated this year. The UN estimates Afghanistan exported $2.3 billion in poppy products last year, nearly half of the country's gross national product.
Poppies fare better in dry conditions than wheat and farmers argue they aren't subject to the same market pressures as grain. Farmers who tend hundreds of hectares of poppy crops in the isolated Dare Noor Valley northeast of Jalalabad say wheat from the World Food Program - 2,000 tonnes from Canada last year - has glutted Afghanistan's market.
But Susana Rico, director of the World Food Program in the country, said that's just a simple explanation for a complex problem - and false justification for investing in an illegal but wildly profitable business.
In fact, she says, Afghanistan had a record wheat crop last year - 5.3 million tonnes with unprecedented rain and snow in the north. That's 60 per cent more wheat than Afghanistan produced the year before.
Yet, based on weekly monitoring of six Afghan markets, the WFP says prices dropped only marginally, if at all. And they still yielded farmers profits, Rico added. In what she described as a "vehement" denial of the charges of market glutting, Rico said WFP aid is narrowly targeted and its cereals - 150,000 tonnes last year - comprised only about 10 per cent of national consumption.
She said WFP staff are vigilant in checking food distributors to ensure no WFP products end up on the street and two studies indicated aid had no effect on food markets.
The fact is, she says, a farmer who plants a hectare of poppies will make 28 times what he would planting a hectare of wheat. "There is no competition between wheat and poppy," insists Rico. "If you were a farmer who knew that you would not be in any way punished for planting something that yields 28 times the income, would you not plant it?"
"You will of course go that route. You will try to get as much as you can from your land." In the verdant valley where Yusaf and his family tend their hectare-sized crop, the farmers have little use for non-governmental organizations.
Yusaf, who ships his product east to the Pakistan border, alleges that the NGOs in nearby Jalalabad are corrupt and uninterested in farmers. They have not provided seeds for wheat nor irrigation to nourish the thirstier crop, he says. "They are doing more harm than good," he says. "They drive fancy vehicles, they take high salaries, they travel with beautiful girls. They just drink and eat kabobs and sleep."
Sayed Ahmed Pacha, 60, complains that the WFP purchases no local grain, but Rico said a local procurement exercise aiming to purchase 5,000 tonnes of wheat last year could only find 500 tonnes worth marketing - and that was after 200 tonnes of impurities like stones and dirt had been removed. Rico said the farmers' case is based on notions that are difficult to dispel.
"They are seductive arguments; they are easy explanations," she said. "But once you look at the facts, these are not sustainable arguments." "Anybody who knows they are doing something decidedly wrong needs to have some kind of justification and, in this case, we come in handy."
The farmers say they only know survival. "Tell the government if they want to eradicate these plants, then come and give us food, education, the things we need," said Pacha's angry brother, Sayed Hassan Pacha, 65, who has 10 mouths to feed besides his own.
"All of the NGOs, they promised us a lot of things, like irrigation for our fields, but they never did it. They say one thing and do nothing. None of their promises have been kept." Hassan Pacha said the government makes threats but acts slowly. It will only take out the roadside fields, he predicted. It doesn't have the resources to do more.
Still, farmers around Jalalabad are cutting their bulbs early, bleeding them of the white 'milk' that is their gold, scraping it off every other day after it dries into a brown, pasty substance that is raw opium. The process last about 15 days, or eight cuttings. Hassan says he will not give up.
"When there is peace, when factories are built, when there is water and irrigation, and when there are jobs, that is when we will abandon the poppy," he said. "But that will take at least four or five years." Meanwhile, Yusaf - a shrewd businessman - has a little nest egg for his future.
He made enough on his 1999 crop to build a large home. He subsequently hoarded an opium stockpile in a secret location for the day when the poppy is finally eradicated and market prices for opium and heroin soar.
"When my father was alive, he advised us never to grow opium in this field," he said. "He said if you grow the poppy in this field, the next seven crops you grow here will be forbidden." "It is haram (not allowed). You cannot eat them." Yusaf hopes that last sale will mean he won't have to.
Over 30 heroin labs destroyed in Afghanistan
KABUL, April 8 (Xinhua) -- The Afghan transitional government in its drive against increasing drug business has destroyed over 30 heroin labs in northeastern and eastern provinces of the war-ravaged country, Afghan top security official said Thursday.
"We have destroyed one heroin lab in Badakhshan province and 30others in Nangarhar province since last week and confiscated 10 tons of heroin," Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali told journalists here. The eastern Nangarhar province and remote province of Badakhshan in northeast Afghanistan have been notorious for poppy growing in the country.
In a similar operation conducted by US special forces last month, another lab was demolished in northeast Badakhshan, where local people are largely dependent on narcotics economy as well asforeign aid. President Hamid Karzai in an ambitious effort to get the country rid of illicit drug, announced Jihad or holy war against the menace early in the week.
Afghanistan with an output of 3,600 tons of opium in 2003 has become the world's single biggest producer of raw material for making heroin and the harvest has been on the rise in the lawless vast rural areas this year. Under a counter-narcotics strategy launched last May, the US-backed Karzai administration is hopeful to reduce the poppy cultivation by 75 percent by 2008.
"We are trying to establish special anti-narcotics forces in order to conduct raids and destroy poppy fields across the country," Jalalai categorically said. The United States, Britain and other nations in coordination with United Nations are assisting Afghanistan in its war on drugs.Enditem
AFGHANISTAN: Local radio makes impact in conservative Kandahar
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2004
KANDAHAR, 8 Apr 2004 (IRIN) - As western music echoed through a crowded street in Kandahar city, Abdul Satar, a 23-year-old watchmaker listened to music broadcast by Azad Afghan Radio (Afghan Independent Radio), a newly established local radio station in the southern province of Kandahar.
The southern provincial capital was the birth place of the Taliban movement who had strictly forbidden listening to music and banned any independent media activities until just two years ago, when their hard-line regime was crushed by US-led coalition forces.
And while much of the city is still overshadowed by ultraconservatism and cultural complexities, for many Kandaharis [residents of Kandahar] like Satar, a local independent radio provides an excellent means of educating people about democracy. "In fact the local radio is better than BBC, Kabul or America Ghag [Voice of America] as it speaks and produces in a way which is more understandable by the local people here," said Satar, who had recently returned from the neighbouring Pakistani border city of Quetta after years of exile.
Despite many challenges - mainly insecurity in the troubled south - Azad Afghan is one 14 independent local radio stations in the country working to promote freedom of expression and providing a voice to rural Afghans. Given high levels of illiteracy, and a lack of independent media for decades, radio is one of the most powerful ways to reach and educate people in rural areas.
Azad Afghan Radio broadcasts in a radius of 100 km - covering Kandahar city and five surrounding districts. Reaching some 150,000 listeners, it has five hours of evening programming consisting of news, education, sports and local advocacy, with a strong emphasis on voicing people’s complaints to local authorities and getting response from concerned state organs. "Azad Afghan is more than a radio channel. We are like a bridge between people and the authorities with our programme, ‘You should ask. We will seek a response’," Najibullah Zeyarmal, a producer of Azad Afghan, told IRIN.
Established just two months ago with the support of the Washington-based Afghan Cultural Society (ACS), Azad Afghan has a more challenging task of promoting democracy in the conservative, male-dominated and poor security environment of the south.
While the station is well equipped, with funding for the next three years, according to Zeyarmal, they have yet to be able to attract female workers pending safety concerns for women heard on the media. "There are no female reporters in Kandahar, even in state media. Due to security and cultural limitations even educated women wouldn't dare be heard via radio or seen on TV," Zeryamal noted.
The radio producer, said, however, that the interest was there but security was more important than cultural limitations for many women participating in initiatives like Azad Afghan.
"In fact it is more security than discriminatory traditions. Until we have these warlords and irresponsible gunmen, no one will dare show up," Massooma, a civil servant at the Kandahar information and culture department told IRIN, adding she knew people who had been threatened if they spoke out through the media.
"I think media can help a lot," she said, explaining families now allowed women to be photographed and receive an election card which reflects a great change in the lives of women in this region.
Iraq discussed after September 11, but focus was on Afghanistan: Rice
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush's advisers discussed "doing something" against Iraq after the September 11 attacks but decided to go after al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said.
Rice, testifying under oath to the bipartisan independent commission investigating the 2001 attacks on Washington and New York which left some 3,000 people dead, said that the subject of Iraq came up following the terrorist strikes.
"There was a discussion of Iraq," she said. "I think it was raised by (Defense Secretary) Don Rumsfeld. It was pressed a bit by (Deputy Defense Secretary) Paul Wolfowitz," a prominent advocate of the eventual March 2003 invasion of Iraq. "Given that this was a global war on terror, should we look not just at Afghanistan but should we look at doing something against Iraq? There was a discussion of that," she said.
But Rice said that although the subject of Iraq was raised at the time, it was decided that the focus should be on Afghanistan, where the September 11 mastermind and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been given refuge by the Taliban regime.
"The president listened to all of his advisers," she said. "I can tell you that when he went around the table and asked his advisers what he should do, not a single one of his principal advisers advised doing anything against Iraq. It was all to Afghanistan." "By the time that we got to Camp David and began to plan for what we would do in response, what was rolled out on the table was Afghanistan -- a map of Afghanistan," she said.
Former White House counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke and former Bush treasury secretary Paul O'Neill have both written books recently depicting a Bush administration obsessed with toppling Saddam Hussein.
In his book, "Against All Enemies," Clarke writes that Bush personally asked him following the September 11 attacks to look into whether there was a link to Iraq. Rice said she had no recollection of such an incident. "I don't remember the discussion that Dick Clarke relates," she said. "I don't know the context of the discussion. I don't personally remember it.
"But it's not surprising that the president would say, 'What about Iraq,' given our hostile relationship with Iraq," she added. "And I'm quite certain that the president never pushed anybody to twist the facts."
Rice spent a great deal of her testimony on Thursday seeking to counter accusations by Clarke that the Bush administration, after taking power in January 2001, had failed to place enough emphasis on tackling the threat posed by terrorism.
Madrid tape vows 'blood for blood'
MADRID, Spain -- A videotape left behind by the terrorist suspects who blew themselves up in a suburban Madrid apartment promises to inflict "blood for blood, destruction for destruction" unless Spain withdraws troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, police have said.
Spanish investigators said the suspects made the tape just before detonating their explosives Saturday in the Madrid suburb of Leganes. The men were wanted in connection with the March 11 bombings of commuter trains around Madrid, which killed 190 people and wounded 1,800.
"The brigades in al-Andalus have decided they will continue to struggle until the troops are taken out of the Muslim territories immediately," a speaker on the tape says, using the name for Spain before the end of Islamic rule in 1492.
"If you do not do it within a week starting from today, we will continue our jihad." The blast killed at least four men, including a Tunisian and a Moroccan suspected of being the ringleaders of the Madrid bombings.
Spanish investigators said as many as three others may have been killed in the blast, but their badly mangled remains have not yet been identified. The explosion also killed a Spanish police officer participating in the raid.
According to a transcript of the tape released by police, the suspects warned Spaniards that they "will not be able to enjoy security" because of Spain's support for the U.S.-led war on the al Qaeda terror network and the invasion of Iraq.
"Our innocent die by the thousands in Afghanistan and Iraq," the speaker states. "Is your blood worth more than ours?" It concludes, "Our jihad is everything because our brothers are being assassinated. Blood for blood, destruction for destruction." A total of 17 people, including 13 Moroccans, have been jailed and charged in the bombing case.
UNO program welcomes more Afghan teachers
Omaha World-Herald 04/08/2004
The University of Nebraska at Omaha welcomed 12 Afghan teachers Wednesday for a five-week educational and cultural exchange.
This is the third time that UNO's Center for Afghanistan Studies has hosted a group of Afghan women for a program to help the teachers in their war-torn country.
"In Herat we don't have any facilities for the schools," said Aarifah Nasirjami, who teaches first through third grades in the city in western Afghanistan. "In our schools we lack everything."
Nasirjami, speaking through a translator, said she has 52 students in her class, meeting in a tent without proper equipment and textbooks. She is a high school graduate with two years of teacher training and 20 years of teaching experience.
The program will teach the women English and education methods. They also will receive laptop computers and training in using computers.
The teachers will spend most of their time in Omaha, living with host families, visiting local schools and studying at UNO. They will leave April 17 for a week in Scottsbluff and Gering.
They also will take a trip to Washington before leaving the country May 12.
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