President Karzai Met U.S. Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld
Press Release Date of Release: 11 August 2004
KABUL– H.E. Hamid Karzai, President of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, met this afternoon with the United States Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld.
In the meeting, Secretary Rumsfeld noted the positive progress in Afghanistan since his last visit and hailed the good results achieved in the voter registration for the forthcoming elections.
The President thanked the United States for the support provided to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, especially regarding the electoral process and the building-up of the National Army.
The President also briefed the Secretary on the preparations for the elections. Optimism was expressed about the elections process and the prospects for holding free and fair elections in Afghanistan in the near future.
In a joint press conference after the meeting, the following points were discussed:
• The Afghan people are extremely enthusiastic and determined to have democracy working in their country. This is expressed by the outstanding level of participation by the people in the electoral process throughout the country, despite the continued efforts of terrorists who try to disrupt the process.
“It is clear that the Afghan people are winning the struggle to rebuild their country for a bright future”, Secretary Rumsfeld said.
“Let’s hope that the elections will be as free and fair as it is humanely possible to do in Afghanistan”, the President said.
• Efforts are being made by the Government of Afghanistan together with our friends in the international community to address the concerns relating to the security of the elections. It has to be clarified that multiple registrations will have no impact on the results of the elections. Voters will receive an ink mark, which will stay for several days and will prevent them from voting multiple times even if they received multiple registration cards.
• Narcotics continue to be an issue in Afghanistan. The Government together with the international community is committed to tackle with this issue with a specified plan. The international community has a stake in fighting this menace.
Released by Office of the Spokesperson to the President
Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan
Rumsfeld Says Drugs a New Threat to Afghan Future
Wed Aug 11,11:17 AM ET By Tabassum Zakaria
KABUL (Reuters) - The war against terror was being won in Afghanistan, but the country faced a new danger that threatened the entire international community, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld warned on Wednesday.
Speaking at a news conference in the Afghan capital, Rumsfeld said the growing international heroin trade -- which originated with opium production in Afghanistan -- posed a grave danger to the country's fledgling democracy.
"The danger a large drug trade poses in this country is too serious to ignore," Rumsfeld said. "The inevitable result is to corrupt the government and way of life, and that would be most unfortunate."
Drug production generated 2.3 billion dollars in 2003, up six percent on the previous year, according to UN figures. The 3,600 tons of heroin produced in Afghanistan last year accounted for 90 percent of the heroin on Europe's streets.
But Rumsfeld, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at his side, praised Afghanistan's progress since the Taliban were toppled in 2001 and as it goes to the polls in October to chose its first democratically elected president.
"The entire world has a stake in your success," Rumsfeld said at the heavily guarded presidential palace. "There is no doubt in my mind that you are winning."
Rumsfeld singled out the registration of more than nine million voters, far more than hoped for a few months ago, as a sign of Afghans' desire for democracy despite intimidation by remnants of the Taliban.
Karzai said it had been achieved despite the murder of 12 election workers in the last few months.
Nearly 1,000 people have been killed in the past year, the bloodiest violence since the Taliban's fall, and, despite a three-year hunt by some 18,000 U.S.-led troops, neither bin Laden nor Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have been captured.
The October 9 election in Afghanistan could give the Bush administration a foreign policy victory ahead of the U.S. elections a month later.
But Karzai, who has had U.S. backing since being made head of a transitional government after the Taliban militia was ousted in late 2001, is a less hot favorite to win than he was.
He faces a contest after snubbing Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, the most powerful leader among anti-Soviet and anti-Taliban resistance fighters, as a running mate.
Rumsfeld held private talks with Fahim, underlining the minister's place in Afghanistan's political equation, before going on to the presidential palace.
Fahim, along with Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, has thrown his support behind presidential contender and former education minister Yunus Qanuni. All three are ethnic Tajiks, and Qanuni is seen as Fahim's proxy by analysts of Afghan affairs.
Many analysts now believe there is a risk Karzai will fail to get the requisite 51 percent of the vote on October 9, forcing a run-off in the following weeks.
Rumsfeld visited the headquarters of the U.N.-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body, where he saw photographs of the 18 candidates on ballot papers designed for a country where illiteracy is the norm.
Lots were drawn to determine the order the candidates appeared on the list, and Karzai appears second while the most controversial candidate, so-called warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, appears last.
The election commission said on Tuesday there were accusations of murder, rape, looting and crimes against humanity against three of the candidates, including Dostum, but it ducked out of deciding to disqualify them.
The elections have been delayed from June, due mainly to the slow pace of disarmament of factional forces and rising violence. Soon after his arrival, Rumsfeld, who is in Afghanistan for just one day, flew by helicopter to the eastern city of Jalalabad to see a U.S.-led military reconstruction project and meet Afghan and U.S. troops, including members of the Special Forces.
Rumsfeld in Afghanistan after warning of drug money dangers
Wednesday August 11, 6:49 PM AFP
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held talks with US commanders and Afghan leaders in Kabul to review strategy as insurgents step up attacks to disrupt historic October presidential elections.
Rumsfeld travelled to the Afghan capital from Oman where he warned that the drug trade from massive opium poppy crops was hampering US efforts to foster democracy in the war-torn central Asian state.
Shortly after landing in Kabul he flew to the main eastern city Jalalabad to meet a US military-run team of soldiers and civilians helping to provide security and with reconstruction projects. Jalalabad lies in the center of one of Afghanistan's biggest poppy farming regions.
Rumsfeld met the US commander of the team, known as a Provincial Reconstruction Team, before meeting local dignitaries.
Back in Kabul he was due to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is running for re-election on October 9 against 17 other candidates, and Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
Rumsfeld and other defence officials travelling with him said they expected more attacks by Taliban supporters in the run-up to the presidential vote, Afghanistan's first ever, but Rumsfeld said they would fail.
"Is the Taliban still active in the neighbouring areas? Sure. That's just a fact. Are they going to end up being successful? No. They are going to end up losing," he said Tuesday in Muscat.
"The larger the groups of Taliban that come together, the better the target, and the faster they'll be killed or captured."
Senior defence officials travelling with Rumsfeld said the secretary would use his unannounced visit to hold strategy sessions with commanders, US embassy officials and Afghan leaders. The US army heads a 20,000-strong coalition of troops hunting Al-Qaeda insurgents and their allies.
"We're doing another complete strategy review. It's under way right now," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
While the Taliban posed no strategic threat to the government or to the elections, "there are tactical level threats -- assassinations, bombings, the unfortunate killings of NGOs and the like," he said.
"There is a debate over whether we are seeing a spike or whether it is a steady state."
The defence official said the United States wanted to accelerate training and equipping of Afghan army and police units.
Rumsfeld expressed concern in Muscat that drug money raised by insurgents and warlords from bumper poppy crops posed a threat to US efforts to establish democratic rule in Afghanistan, which spent a quarter century under conflict including five years of harsh Taliban rule until late 2001.
Opium from the poppies is the key ingredient for heroin.
Rumsfeld said "the enormous wealth that comes from dealing drugs can be put to uses that are adverse to our interests or the interests of the Afghan government."
Drug production generated 2.3 billion dollars in 2003, up six percent on the previous year, according to UN figures. The 3,600 tonnes of heroin produced in Afghanistan last year accounted for 90 percent of the heroin on Europe's streets.
"You need a broad effort in Afghanistan to make sure the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars, and undoubtedly billions of dollars over time... will not go into the hands of people who want to also simultaneously destroy democracy, or reinstitute a Taliban government or provide funds to Al-Qaeda or whatever," Rumsfeld said.
"To the extent that millions of dollars are available to criminals and to people who are not democratic, it puts at risk the entire system. So it's something the government and the coalition are determined to address."
The United Nations has warned that the drugs trade threatens to turn Afghanistan into a failed narco-state.
Rumsfeld hails progress toward free elections in Afghanistan
August 11, 2004 Associated Press
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld renewed America's commitment to building democracy in wartorn Afghanistan Wednesday and hailed a hearty pace of registration for the October presidential election.
"The goal of course is for the Afghan security forces to be able to provide for the security," he said. "And each month, each quarter, solid progress is being made."
Joining President Hamid Karzai at a news conference not long after his arrival here, Rumsfeld said, "Your leadership team is showing great courage in your efforts" to stabilize the country.
"This upcoming election is an important one," he said. "When we talked a few months ago, the hope was three, four _ maybe five _ million registered voters. I'm told by the Joint Election Commission today, they claim something like 9 million, of which a sizable portion is women."
Rumsfeld noted that there "has been a campaign of intimidation" and "attempts to dissuade people from registering."
He called the heavy voter registration "a very vivid demonstration of the Aghan people's determination to make democracy work."
Karzai clearly is the American favorite, but Rumsfeld and other officials have avoided endorsing him, saying the U.S. government will work with whomever the Afghan voters choose.
During his daylong visit, Rumsfeld planned consultations with United Nations officials and Afghan officials, as well as meetings with senior U.S. military officials.
Before flying to the Afghan capital, he said that U.S.-led coalition forces are preparing a coordinated effort to attack the narcotics trade in the country, recognizing that drug income could be used to fund insurgents and terrorists in the country.
Rumsfeld offered few specifics, but noted the British government previously has taken the lead in working with Karzai's administration to address the drug trade in Afghanistan.
"There are plans being finished now," Rumsfeld had said Tuesday, in Oman for the first of several visits to U.S. allies in the region. "I don't want to get into whose troops will do what."
The cultivation of opium poppies has resumed and flourished since 2001 in Afghanistan. It was largely eliminated under the Taliban's religious policing, but farmers have resumed cultivating and harvesting the profitable crop in the chaos since the fall of the Taliban.
American military commanders in Afghanistan have said previously they don't have enough troops to go after the poppy trade and still hunt Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts.
Rumsfeld seemed resigned that the poppy trade would continue to some degree, saying demand for the drug will always lead someone to create a supply. Heroin made from Afghan poppies generally reaches markets in Europe and Russia.
"All crops have been good the last two years," he said of Afghanistan's poppy cultivation. "It is a terrible thing. It produces great wealth for people who use it to harm society."
The criminal elements are naturally opposed to a strong, democratic government in Afghanistan, he said. He also suggested drug money had ties to Taliban or al-Qaida, but provided no concrete information to back that up.
United Nations surveys estimate Afghanistan accounted for three quarters of the world's opium last year, and the trade brought in US$2.3 billion, more than half of the nation's gross domestic product. New surveys suggest even more has been planted this year, with Robert Charles, the U.S. State Department's top counternarcotics official, saying Afghanistan may be on pace for a world record opium poppy crop this year.
US wants to build network of friendly militias to combat terrorism
Wednesday August 11, 5:04 PM AFP
The Pentagon has urged Congress to authorize 500 million dollars for building a network of friendly militias around the world to purge terrorists from "ungoverned areas" -- and warned Muslim clerics against providing "ideological sanctuary" to radicals.
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war, told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday the money would be used "for training and equipping local security forces -- not just armies -- to counter terrorism and insurgencies."
If approved as part of a larger defense bill, the package will "provide greater internal security in areas that are or could become sanctuaries for terrorists," he said.
No specific beneficiaries of the program were named, but US officials have repeatedly expressed concern about vast tracts of land along the Afghan-Pakistani border, in Iraq, the Caucasus, Horn of Africa and various islands in the Philippines where radical Islamic fighters could set up shop.
The strategy has already been tried in Afghanistan, where US special forces managed to forge alliances with some tribal warlords, who became instrumental in bringing down the Taliban government in 2001 and keeping its remnants at bay, said US military experts.
"Indeed, our most important allies in the war on terrorism will be Muslims who seek freedom and oppose extremism," Wolfowitz stated.
The request comes amid a concerted push by top Defense Department and other administration officials to develop new forms of "asymmetrical" warfare that would be more effective against small terrorist cells and would spare the United States the need to deploy large contingents of its own forces around the world.
Addressing the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the need for the Pentagon to adjust to the new reality of not having to confront big foreign armies, navies and air forces it was originally trained to fight.
"There are not a lot of them around at the moment," the secretary pointed out. "And we've got manhunts going on."
To help establish contact with local chieftains and get into their good graces, the Pentagon is considering hiring immigrants to serve as "bicultural advisors" in unfamiliar areas and implementing a number of economic aid projects there, according to defense officials.
In his testimony, Wolfowitz also suggested expanding the scope of the war on terror by including into the list of its possible targets radical Islamic clerics, who, in his words, provide "ideological sanctuary" to terrorism.
In addition, he called for tightening control over international communication networks, including the Internet.
He argued that extremist clerics provide cover to militants "by sanctioning terrorism, by recruiting new adherents, and by intimidating moderate clerics from speaking out against them."
However, there was no mention by name of Moqtada Sadr, a Shiite preacher that is leading an anti-American revolt in the Iraqi city of Najaf.
"There should be no room in this world for governments that support terrorism, no ungoverned areas where terrorist can operate with impunity, no easy opportunities for terrorists to abuse the freedom of democratic societies, no ideological sanctuary, and no free pass to exploit the technologies of communications to serve terrorist ends," Wolfowitz insisted.
He did not say what additional measures could be taken to prevent terrorists from exploiting freedoms in the United States, but pointed out it would involve "difficult decisions."
The USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in the wake of the September 11 attacks grants the FBI and other law enforcement agencies additional surveillance and investigative powers. But it has been under attack from civil libertarians, who call it an assault on the US constitution.
Afghanistan set for 'difficult' time around elections: Canada
Wed Aug 11, 3:44 PM ET
OTTAWA (AFP) - Afghanistan is set for a difficult time of rising security threats as it readies for the nation's first presidential elections in October, Canada's top military officer in Kabul warned.
Colonel Jim Ellis said the Canadian contingent serving with the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul was expecting a spike in danger running up to the polls.
"It is going to be a difficult period, there is no question about that," Ellis told Canadian journalists from Kabul in a conference call.
"The threat level ... it is going to go up."
Canada has just handed over command of ISAF to a European operation, and scaled back its 2,300 strong deployment to Afghanistan and a support base in the Arabian gulf region to 900 personnel.
Canadian troops still in Afghanistan will be deployed on surveillance missions in the capital and its environs with their Coyote armoured vehicles.
Remnants of the ousted Taliban regime have vowed to derail the October 9 presidential vote and in recent months have stepped up attacks on aid and electoral workers and civilians, in addition to battling US-led and Afghan troops.
Attacks are worst in the Taliban strongholds of Afghanistan's south and southeast. But there are signs the violence is spreading to previously unaffected parts of the country.
Some 9.4 million Afghans -- more than 90 percent of those eligible, have registered to vote in the October 9 polls, defying intimidation by insurgents who have killed 12 electoral workers.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the US-backed incumbent running against 17 other candidates, said at a press conference with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Wednesday that 41 percent of the 9.4 million who had registered were women.
US authorities to probe allegations
via The Age (Australia) August 11, 2004 (Australian Associated Press)
American authorities have reportedly launched an inquiry into allegations of sexual and physical abuse by US Marines against 35 villagers in central Afghanistan.
The allegations were aired on Wednesday night in an SBS Dateline report by Australian journalist Carmela Baranowska, who was feared kidnapped by the Taliban in late June during her trip to the conflict-torn country.
In the report, former prisoners alleged US Marines used the tactic of sexual humiliation which Ms Baranowska described as similar to that which occurred at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Ms Baranowska said she was initially embedded with US forces before traveling independently through Oruzgan province in remote central Afghanistan.
At one village she investigated the cases of 35 men who had been detained for up to five days by US Marines on suspicion of being involved with the Taliban or al-Qaeda.
At the conclusion of the report it was announced that all the allegations had been put to US authorities and on Wednesday night they had confirmed that 35 villagers were detained on June 23.
Dateline reported that the authorities said they did not have any records of abuse but in light of the program they had announced an inquiry into the matter.
In the television report, 27-year-old Afghani villager Wali Mohammad described in graphic detail his alleged abuse by a group of 20 Americans soldiers.
"They fingered us, beat us and humiliated us," he said.
"There were youngsters as well. They took off my clothes ... fingering the anus is against Islam.
"They were all laughing and mocking."
Fears were held for Ms Baranowska after she lost contact with SBS for several days in late June.
Rumours she had been kidnapped swirled around Afghanistan then Australia after a purported Taliban spokesman claimed the group was holding a foreign woman hostage.
On Monday, a spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said the federal government had not been made aware of the allegations.
Elections In Afghanistan
Tehran Times (Iran) August 11, 2004
As the presidential election approaches in Afghanistan, various political parties will soon begin their election campaign after they have obtained permission from the Justice Ministry.
Three of the political parties, the Afghanistan National Unity, the Afghanistan National Welfare and the National Ideal of the People of Afghanistan officially began their activities on Saturday August 17 after registering with the Afghan judiciary.
The latest reports released by Afghanistan’s Justice Ministry indicate that so far 61 parties have asked for permission to campaign for the nation’s top job and 31 parties have obtained permission to participate in the elections.
According to Afghanistan’s laws on parties, one of the main conditions for establishing a party is to dissolve military sections; therefore, it seems that Afghanistan’s active political parties have done an about-face in their policy by accepting this law.
Political observers evaluate this approach as an effective step toward the institutionalization of political competitions and the establishment of political and social structures in Afghanistan. But, to what extent will the political parties influence the process of Afghanistan’s presidential elections?
Pundits maintain that the establishment of parties plays an influential role in the transparency of presidential elections for various political parties because the groups will inevitably present their plans for future.
However, some parties may have temporarily come into being in view of the elections. Analysts believe that this is because the parties lack a unanimous position at a national plane. One of the enduring problems in Afghanistan is the influence of ethnic leanings on the establishment of political parties and groups.
In the course of history, there have been very few political parties in Afghanistan at a truly national level. According to some political observers, parties and groups in Afghanistan are often established with the aim of obtaining a share in power.
However, analysts believe that the establishment of various parties on the threshold of the upcoming presidential elections shows that the candidates face an intense competition for the candidates of each party will present different plans.
Meanwhile, the candidates’ adherence to various political currents and their participation in the jihad against the occupiers will play a determining role in their election campaign.
NATO Troops Get Freer Hand On Force In Afghanistan
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
KABUL, 11 Aug (RFE/RL) -- Governments contributing NATO peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan have decided to give them a freer hand in the use of force. The change in policy comes as NATO has begun increasing the number of troops in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan to 8,500 from 6,500 to provide extra security for presidential election on October 9.
NATO's Supreme Allied Commander, General James Jones of the U.S. Marines, told a news conference in Kabul today that NATO nations now realize that restricting forces hinders their effectiveness.
"Nations are starting to understand that overly restricting forces has the opposite effect of safeguarding forces. In fact, I honestly believe it puts forces at risk, because the opposition knows full well what the forces are capable of -- [what they are] able to do or not able to do. And so if they wish to attack us, they will attack the forces that have the most caveats," Jones said.
Previously, so-called "national caveats" barred peacekeepers from engaging in combat or other life-threatening situations.
But Jones said French Lieutenant-General Jean-Louis Py, who took control of ISAF on Monday, would have a much freer hand to use force.
Former Afghan minister leaves Taliban
By Amir Rana Daily Times
LAHORE: Former Afghan interior minister and member of the supreme governing body of Taliban, Mulla Abdul Razaq, has left the Taliban, sources told Daily Times on Tuesday.
Mr Razaq was unhappy with Mulla Omar’s policies primarily, because he thought that Mulla Omor did not consult the Taliban parliament and gave preference over the Arab militants over the Afghan leadership, sources said.
“Afghans know better about their country’s geo-military and strategic situation. They can make better military plans but they have no role in decision making,” sources quoted Razaq as saying.
Razaq said that Taliban forces were not connected through an effective communication system, which had created serious problems and caused heavy losses during guerilla operations against the coalition forces in Afghanistan.
Sources said that Arab militants believed in “group warfare”, in which a group took responsibility for the whole operation without demanding backup support.
“It happened dozens of times that many operational groups lost their targets for having no backup support, when they had almost achieved them,” sources said.
Sources said that Razaq had insisted Mulla Omar to come out of from under the Arabs’ influence because they were not good planners. Sources said that some other Taliban commanders also had reservations about the growing influence of the Arabs on Mulla Omar.
The Taliban deputy operations commander in southern Afghanistan, Sabir Momin, had formed his own group named Taliban Jamiat Jaish-e-Muslimeen. Sources said that Razaq was also trying to unite all dissident groups and individuals who claimed to be “pure” Taliban.
7 Taliban remnants arrested in south Afghanistan
KABUL, Aug. 11 (Xinhuanet) -- Seven suspected Taliban fighters were detained in southern Ghazni province Tuesday as the clean up operation was going on in the region, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman said Wednesday.
"Government troops apprehended seven Taliban militias including two commanders yesterday in Andar district of Ghazni province," Zahir Azimi told journalists here. However, he declined to name the arrested commanders.
His comment coincided with a tour by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Afghan capital Kabul.
During his one day visit, the US defense secretary would exchange views with Afghan leaders on matters pertaining war on terror, upcoming Afghan presidential elections and bilateral issues.
Rumsfeld earlier said that Taliban would fail to derail the Oct.9 presidential poll.
"Two trucks loading with arms and ammunition were also seized in the troubled Uruzgan province yesterday by Afghan government troops," Azimi added.
Over 20 suspected Taliban remnants have been nabbed and seven killed this week in the unrest south Afghanistan.
No witnesses for Gitmo detainee
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) -- An Afghan prisoner held by the U.S. military in the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba has been denied the right to call witnesses at a tribunal hearing, being told their evidence would be "irrelevant".
The prisoner made an impassioned plea for his release, telling the U.S. military tribunal that he worked as an assistant cook for Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime but was never an enemy of America and never will be.
In the late afternoon review session the 24-year-old Afghan prisoner rocked back and forth and fidgeted with his shackled hands as he asked to call four witnesses.
He said the witnesses could verify claims that he was forced to join the Taliban as an assistant cook and had tried to escape but was recaptured.
The tribunal president, whose name journalists are prohibited from releasing, refused and said it was irrelevant.
"I swear to God I was never an enemy of America and I never will be," said the prisoner, whose name the media is also prohibited from releasing. "I don't know why I'm still here."
The man has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years.
Some of the men have been held for nearly three years since the mission began in January 2002. All of the 585 held are accused of links to the Taliban or the al Qaeda terror network.
The hearing lasted for more than two hours but officials were forced to take a 45-minute recess because they forgot to give the detainee a consent form saying he agreed to participate.
During the session, the detainee -- with black curly hair and wearing a black prayer cap -- said he was captured by the Taliban while buying tea and sugar in his village, and was later brought to Kandahar and Kabul, where he worked as an assistant cook. No dates were given.
He said his duties included bringing food to the Taliban fighters. He said he was never given a weapon, nor did he receive weapons training.
"If you keep me here for 10 years I'll still be the same person," he said. "If you let me go there will be no threat from me. You're wasting food and time on me because I'm not worth it."
The military said he was associated with the Taliban and said he was conscripted to work as a cook's assistant. He was captured by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Kabul.
He was the 16th detainee to go before the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which are being conducted to determine whether the detainees should continue being held as enemy combatants -- a classification that gives them fewer legal protections than prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions -- or set free.
The tribunals are separate from the military commissions, set up to try charged detainees. Preliminary hearings for four men charged with crimes ranging from conspiracy to aiding the enemy are scheduled to begin the week of August 23.
"Look at me, and look at my face. Do I look like an enemy to you?" the Afghan prisoner said through his Pashto interpreter. The men are given "special representatives," but no lawyers.
The Associated Press, which was told on Tuesday that there would be no morning tribunal session, was informed late Wednesday afternoon there had been a session in which a Saudi detainee refused to participate.
Navy spokesman Lt. Chris Servello said it was merely an oversight that the media was not informed of the morning session.
"It has never been our intention to keep journalists out of the proceedings," he said.
The 25-year-old Saudi gave no reason for not wanting to participate, said Servello. He is the 7th prisoner who has refused to participate in the tribunals.
The prisoner has been held in Guantanamo for more than two years and allegedly traveled to Afghanistan in March 2001 to fight with the Taliban.
The U.S. military also said the Taliban trained him how to fight, and he allegedly attended an al Qaeda affiliated training camp in Afghanistan and fought against the Northern Alliance.
Iran: UNHCR continues to assist Afghan refugees
ANKARA, 11 August (IRIN) - The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will continue to assist Afghan refugees inside Iran, despite claims by the Iranian government earlier this week that it had cut assistance to its refugee programmes. In just over two years, the UN refugee agency has assisted hundreds of thousands of Afghans to voluntarily return home.
"UNHCR is and will continue to assist Afghan refugees inside Iran," Marie-Helene Verney, a spokeswoman for the agency told IRIN from Geneva on Wednesday, noting her surprise at the claim. "The idea that we have ceased to provide assistance is simply not based on the reality of all the work that we are doing on the ground."
The UN refugee agency had first informed Tehran one year earlier of reductions in some of its assistance plans, Verney maintained, noting, however, this had been done because of the large number of Afghans that had returned to their homeland.
"There has been a sharp fall in the number of Afghan refugees in Iran. Since 2002, almost 950,000 have repatriated to Afghanistan. The reduction in assistance is linked to the diminishing numbers basically," the UNHCR official explained.
Her comments follow a report on Tuesday that the United Nations had cut the assistance it was providing to Iran for Afghan refugees for the current year, according to Ahmad Hosseini, deputy interior minister and head of the Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrants Affairs (BAFIA), the coordinating body for refugee affairs.
"This issue made Iran suspend the services it was offering to Afghan refugees and immigrants in camps too," the Iranian news agency (IRNA) quoted him as saying, adding: "The UN assistance to Afghan refugees during the past 20 years covered only 5 percent of the expenses incurred by Iran because of the presence of Afghans."
Commenting on this, Verney said: "Iran has been very generous in providing for a very large refugee population for several decades. We do not know exactly how much money the government has spent on refugees, but UNHCR has spent literally millions of dollars in the country to assist Afghan refugees."
And while she agreed that there had been reductions in medical and educational assistance to refugees through the end of this year, she emphasised again this was linked to the large number of people who had returned home, adding, however, health assistance to vulnerable groups would continue.
According to UNHCR, as of last Sunday, 941,617 Afghans had voluntarily returned to their homeland from Iran since the start of the repatriation effort in April 2002, with over 296,000 since the beginning of this year alone.
As part of that assistance effort, returnees register at one of 11 voluntary repatriation centres (VRCs) located throughout Iran - including the cities of Mashhad, Qom, Esfahan, Kerman, Shiraz, Yazd, Arak, Zabol and Zahedan, as well as two in Tehran. There they are provided with an assistance package, including a small monetary grant to facilitate their return.
"The numbers are really up at the moment. Almost 3,000 people are going back each day," Verney said, adding as those numbers continue, the agency would be placing an even greater emphasis on rebuilding efforts inside Afghanistan. "As people return, it is quite natural to see more money being reallocated for reconstruction inside the country," she said.
Iran, alongside Pakistan, remains one of the largest host countries to the Afghan diaspora today.
Afghan women pioneers happy just to make a start
ATHENS: When Afghan teenagers Robina Muqimyar and Freba Rezai make history as the first women from their country to participate in the Olympics their minds will not be focused on winning.
“Losing or winning is not important for us,” 17-year-old judoka Rezai told Reuters. “This is not just about training and competing. This is about standing up for women’s rights.”
The Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, banned the education of girls and participation in any kind of sport was out of the question. While most of their peers around the world are primed and fine-tuned by a host of trainers, Muqimyar and Rezai — with the exception of two months training in Greece — have had to make do with whatever was left standing in their war-ravaged country.
Rezai trained at the gym of a hotel. Muqimyar, 16, a 100 metres runner with the best time of 13.79 seconds, started training 11 months ago on the basketball pitch of her school because it does not have a track. “There is a basic lack of sports infrastructure for women. Essentially they have nothing,” said Norwegian Stig Traavik, senior adviser to the Afghan National Olympic Committee (NoC).
The best running track in Afghanistan was made of crushed concrete and there were no women-only gymnasiums, Traavik said.
Beijing target: Medals may not be the target in Athens but they will be by the next Olympics in Beijing in 2008, team officials said. “We hope they get a good position, but a medal is not really important. What’s important that they are here,” said Sayed Mohmood Zia Dashti, the vice-president of the Afghan NoC.
The teenagers are part of a five-member team of Afghan men and women participating in the August 13-29 Games. The three men are a boxer, a sprinter and a wrestler. Rezai, with her short cropped black hair and excellent English, exudes a confidence almost beyond her years. She was introduced to martial arts when her family fled Taliban rule to neighbouring Pakistan. “Most of their competitors have been in the best conditions and serious training with coaches for many many years,” Traavik said. “But it is a beginning. These girls are the pioneers.”
Rezai puts her participation down to encouragement from her family, and particularly her father. “He always told me to be brave, that Afghanistan would be proud of us, that we represented hope,” she told Reuters.
She smiled broadly when asked what her friends think of her making inroads in a sport widely considered a male domain. “They tease me and say ‘you are a judoka, you’re dangerous and nobody will marry you’,” she giggles. “But they have always encouraged me and put my picture on the wall at school.” reuters
Sniffer dog is heaven scent for US Kabul envoy
(Reuters) - KABUL - Cisko the sniffer dog is worth more than a new Corvette sports car but his ability to intercept explosives is priceless.
Cisko is a Belgian-bred Malinois and the US ambassador to Afghanistan is counting on him to sniff out trouble. In a country where Islamic militants have vowed to kill Americans, Cisko’s talents can mean the difference between life and death.
Anyone visiting envoy Zalmay Khalilzad must be cleared by Cisko’s powerful black nose. That goes for parcels, too. And wherever the envoy goes, Cisko visits first to clear the site.
The animal’s other attributes include a mean set of teeth. Leaner and faster than a German Shepherd, Cisko is also trained to attack and bring down assailants.
In the words of his handler Sergeant T. Murray: “He’s a bad mamma jamma.”
A couple of his teeth are chipped, and not on the “science diet” he’s fed, says Murray.
“He bites pipes and things. It’s the only way he knows to express his feelings, sometimes he gives you a nip.”
Cisko is a bright-looking dog and ever keen to do his job, just as you would expect for a highly trained animal worth about $60,000. His black muzzle and coat the colour of wet sand make him look like a crossbreed. But not so, says Murray.
“He looks like a mix, but he’s pure bred.”
Even in the 35 degrees Celsius heat of Kabul, three-year old Cisko is ready to go to work.
Checking the classrooms and grounds of an orphanage where Khalilzad is due to distribute parcels of toys sent by Americans, Cisko leaves no corner un-sniffed.
“This site is clean,” Murray declares to a team of heavily armed Marines.
“He’s trained on a lot of odours and he’s worth what he knows,” says Murray.
Afghanistan is Cisko’s first tour of duty, which began last month and being a hardy Malinois he is expected to work until he is 14 years old. By contrast German Shepherds tend to stop working after about eight years.
Even as an ignorant one-year-old pup Cisko was worth $2,500.
“That’s more than the down payment on my car,” whistles another Marine as he watches the dog sniffing television cameramen’s bags.
Cisko’s true worth will be realised the day he finds his first explosive.
“The lives that he saves will be worth much more than that,” says Murray, referring to many thousands of dollars Cisko cost to train.
Cisko is one of two assigned to keeping Khalilzad safe.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai, a prime assassination target for Taleban militants, has about 10 US-trained dogs on his security team.
They are either German Shepherds or the lesser-known Malinois.
Murray, a chief trainer in the military’s canine section, puts dogs through their paces in basic obedience and attack procedures.
“It’s exciting to see one of these dogs hit you,” he says, explaining why some Marines volunteer to be the dogs’ quarry in training exercises.
But it is educating the canines to sniff out narcotics and explosives that is arguably the most crucial and time-consuming.
When a dog sniffs TNT residue on a truck, security officers don’t bother getting a second opinion. The driver’s arms are scraped and analysed and if the samples come up positive, the interrogators move in, Murray says.
So what does it take to be a top dog?
Murray says only 10 percent of military dogs are female.
“The bitches tend to be less aggressive but smarter,” he says.
Intriguingly, 90 percent of the US military’s canine force is imported from Europe as one year-olds. The animals that perform best in their duties are put in the military’s own breeding programme.
Murray’s last dog Cconner - the double C denoting he was part of the military’s dog breeding programme - scooped eight trophies in 2003, winning the “Top Dawg” accolade.
Cconner paid back the cost of his education many times over, leading a drug bust that netted $5.3 million of narcotics in El Paso, Texas.
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