Afghan president to visit Pakistan Monday
Indo-Asian News Service 08/20/2004
Afghan President Hamid Karzai will take up the census of his country's refugees during talks with Pakistani authorities when he visits the neighbouring country beginning Monday, Online news agency reports.
Karzai would discuss the issue so that refugees across the border are able to cast their vote in the upcoming Afghan presidential election, Afghanistan's National Security Advisor Zalmay Rasool was quoted as saying by an Arab newspaper. Rasool also said that soon after Karzai's visit, the census would be conducted.
Taleban fighters attack government office in southern Afghanistan, three killed
(AP) 21 August 2004 Khaleej Times Online
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - About 80 Taleban fighters attacked a district chief’s office in southern Afghanistan early Saturday, sparking a two-hour gunbattle with government militia that left three people dead, an official said.
The insurgents launched the assault in Miana Shien district, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Kandahar, around 1 a.m., firing assault rifles and heavy machine guns before retreating around 3 a.m.
One government militia fighter was killed and two wounded, while two Taleban were killed and three wounded, said district chief Shadi Khan.
“The Taleban left their two dead bodies, and took the three wounded with them when they ran away,” Khan told The Associated Press. The government soldiers captured three AK-47 assault rifles and a machine gun.
Miana Shien in Kandahar province borders mountainous Day Chopan district in Zabul province, a notorious troublespot and scene of heavy clashes over the past year between Taleban rebels and forces of the US-led coalition.
Supporters of Afghanistan’s former hardline rulers often attack officials and forces of US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai, which is struggling to maintain security ahead of landmark national elections due Oct 9.
REGION: UN Staff wants to leave Afghanistan
* Union urges Annan to consider UN withdrawal following attacks on election workers
UNITED NATIONS: The UN Staff Union urged Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday to consider withdrawing UN personnel from Afghanistan following the bombing of a UN voter registration site and a spate of attacks on election workers.
The union’s committee on staff security called for a comprehensive review of the security situation in Afghanistan and new security measures before staff are sent back, saying “the safety of staff remains the highest priority.”
“As we approach the election time, more than likely attacks will intensify,” said Guy Candusso, the union’s vice-president. “We think the UN should consider suspending operations and rethink security before moving into the next critical phase of the election process.” Afghan voters are scheduled to elect a president on Oct 9 and a parliament in April.
UN associate spokesman Stephane Dujarric, asked about a possible staff withdrawal from Afghanistan, said a UN security assessment mission recently returned from the country with specific recommendations that have been approved and are in the process of being implemented.
“The overall security in Afghanistan is in the process of being upgraded, both on a management and operational level,” he said. “Obviously, security is being examined on a daily basis in the country’s different regions. And as in every mission, we have to tailor our activities to the security conditions.”
In a speech in Geneva marking the anniversary, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the United Nations was “wrestling with wrenching, fundamental questions” about its operations at a time when its staff and blue flag may have become “one of the main targets of political violence.”
“How do we operate in places like Iraq and some parts of Afghanistan, where many people want and expect us to help but some are determined to block our work at any price?,” he asked.
In a message to UN staff in Afghanistan on Thursday’s anniversary, the top UN envoy in the country, Jean Arnaut, said the magnitude of the Baghdad bombing was a reminder of the scale of the risk that the United Nations is facing in many of its operations today. Annan reported to the Security Council on Tuesday that in Afghanistan acts of violence have, increasingly, been directed at the staff and offices of Afghan and UN electoral workers.
He called for an urgent increase in international security assistance, saying it was critical for the success of the electoral process. He welcomed NATO’s recent decision to increase its troop strength and expressed hope that the new soldiers will arrive in time for the presidential election campaign that starts in early September and remain beyond April’s scheduled parliamentary elections. ap
Dutch to send six F-16 fighters to Afghanistan for elections
Press Trust of India The Hague, Netherlands, August 21
The Netherlands will send six F-16 fighter jets and up to 210 supporting troops to Afghanistan to boost security during elections there, said the Dutch Cabinet.
The move will more than double the contingent of 140 Dutch soldiers already in Afghanistan. Most of those troops are supporting a detachment of Apache helicopters.
The Cabinet also agreed to extend the stay of the Apache detachment by six months through March 2005 and to send a frigate to the Arabian Sea.
The additional 170 to 210 Dutch troops are being sent to Afghanistan as part of an expanded NATO presence around the elections, slated for Oct 9. NATO has pledged to up its force in Afghanistan from 6,500 troops to around 10,000 for the vote.
The Dutch soldiers will spend eight weeks in the country, although their mission may be extended if a second round of voting is held, said the cabinet.
The F-16s will be accompanied by a KDC-10 refueling aircraft and will depart mid-September, said a statement.
In addition, the Dutch are sending a C-130 Hercules transport plane with a crew of 15 to neighbouring Uzbekistan to provide logistical support to the NATO mission.
AP INTERVIEW: Accused American vigilante claims to have been zeroing in on bin Laden, other militant leaders
August 21, 2004 Associated Press
An American on trial for allegedly torturing Afghan terror suspects in a private jail claimed Saturday in his first interview from custody that he'd been hot on the heels of Osama bin Laden and other militant leaders when he was arrested on July 5.
Jonathan Idema told The Associated Press that he had official sanction from Afghans and Americans to hunt down terrorists, and that he's been prevented from showing the evidence in court. Prosecutors say he was waging a private war, and he faces up to 20 years in a crumbling Afghan prison if convicted.
"We would have had (renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin) Hekmatyar in 14 days or less. We would have had bin Laden in less than 30 days," had he and his team not been arrested, said Idema, a colorful former U.S. Army soldier who spent three years in jail in the 1980s for allegedly bilking 60 companies out of more than US$200,000 (euros 162,300) in goods.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, Idema came to Afghanistan and was featured in several books about the war and the search for bin Laden. He has also worked with several western TV networks. He said he came to Afghanistan again earlier this year because he felt U.S. anti-terror efforts were failing.
At least four Afghan intelligence officials sat in on the 75-minute interview in a sparsely decorated room on the top floor of a building at the National Security Directorate _ Afghanistan's chief intelligence agency.
Though none interceded, Idema made frequent references to not being able to speak freely in their presence. He claimed he was badly beaten repeatedly by his jailers, though he had no visible cuts or bruises.
"Everything I was accused of doing (to the Afghan prisoners) got done to me," said the Poughkeepsie, New York native, sitting in a T-shirt, black pants and brown combat boots on a couch between two of the officials. He was not handcuffed.
As he has done during his trial in a Kabul court, he wore dark sunglasses throughout the interview and refused a request to be photographed.
Idema accused the FBI of orchestrating his arrest, saying the agency was trying to cover up its own incompetence in hunting for terrorists.
But the U.S. government has described Idema as a vigilante working on his own. An Afghan government spokesman told the AP that Idema had met with two top Afghan politicians. But there was no confirmation his mission was approved by either U.S. or Afghan officials.
After initially denying any knowledge of Idema's activities, the U.S. military announced in July that it had received a prisoner from the American and held him for more than a month at Bagram Air Base before deciding that he was not the man Idema said he was. A military spokesman said the military did not realize Idema was working on his own at the time.
Idema also persuaded NATO peacekeepers to help his group on three raids in the Afghan capital, Kabul. The security force said experts found traces of explosives in two houses raided by Idema and his colleagues.
Idema, Americans Brent Bennett and Edward Caraballo, and four Afghans stand accused of torturing about a dozen prisoners in their private jail. The Afghan prisoners, including a senior judge and six of his family members, have been released. Idema hinted there were other operatives in his counter-terror crew that had not yet been arrested.
The trial is set to resume Monday.
Idema denied the torture charges.
"Nobody was hung upside down. Nobody was burned with cigarette butts ... nobody was beaten, nobody was tortured, nobody had boiling water poured on them," he said. "Did we interrogate people? Absolutely. Did we keep them up with sleep deprivation? Absolutely."
Idema said that earlier this year he sent information to the FBI's Counter-Terrorism Watch command center _ including the address of a hide-out then being used by bin Laden. He said he passed the information along while he was living in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in January or February.
He said he got his information from three Afghan agents working for him in the field, but he would not say how the agents communicated with him in America.
"I gave (the FBI) bin Laden's exact address right outside Peshawar," a northwestern Pakistani city, he said. "I gave them the grid coordinates, the street and house number and everything. They got there five days after he left. It's like, what are you doing? Do you not want to catch bin Laden?" He said the FBI later confirmed bin Laden had been at the house.
FBI spokesman Bill Carter said Saturday the agency couldn't respond to the allegations.
"He was arrested by Afghan authorities and there is an ongoing trial which precludes us from commenting on any matters concerning Mr. Idema at this time," Carter said.
Most intelligence officials believe bin Laden is holed up in the mountainous tribal region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Peshawar is the nearest major city to that region.
Idema said he also passed along the location and satellite phone number of Ayman al-Zawahri, the alleged al-Qaida No. 2, but the FBI again failed to act. He said the incident occurred earlier this year and that his frustration prompted him to come to Afghanistan himself in April.
Idema repeated claims that he had also uncovered a plot to send 36 al-Qaida agents into the United States, kill Afghan President Hamid Karzai and attack the main U.S. base at Bagram with a high-tech explosive that he said is not detectable by bomb-sniffing dogs.
"This is too unbelievable for me to make up," he said.
Idema claimed that higher-ups in the FBI were slow in acting on his intelligence, embarrassed that his Afghan sources were giving him better information than they were getting, and angry that he would not reveal their names.
"This (his arrest) was not driven by the Northern Alliance, this was not driven by the Afghans. If the Afghans had their way, this never would have happened. This was driven solely by the American FBI. Solely. Because they didn't want to be embarrassed," Idema said.
Idema reiterated claims he had approval of top Pentagon officials, including officials in Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's office.
He also said that senior Afghan officials, including Defense Minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim and former Education Minister Yunus Qanooni, were also aware of his operation.
Idema said he has documents to prove his claims, but has so far been prevented from showing them in court. He also complained that his access to documents seized during his arrest has been limited. The documents were handed over to the U.S. Embassy in July, and returned to Idema only Tuesday. He said many were missing. U.S. Embassy spokesman Roy Glover had no comment.
The chief prosecutor in the case, Mohammed Nahim Dawari, acknowledged Saturday that Idema had met with senior Afghan officials like Qanooni and Fahim, but he said that was not evidence that they knew what he was up to.
"They received him because he was a foreigner," Dawari said.
Qanooni and Fahim were not immediately available for comment, but a brother of Qanooni, Mohammed Hibrahim, told the the AP he was present at a meeting between Qanooni and Idema. He said Idema identified himself as a U.S. special forces operative.
Qanooni and Fahim were prominent in the Northern Alliance, which helped the United States sweep aside the Taliban in 2001. Idema was in Afghanistan during the war and says he has documents that prove he fought with the Northern Alliance and continues to be an adviser.
Dawari, the prosecutor, said he believed Idema's motives were good, but that his methods were "extreme."
"I believe he was against terror and against al-Qaida," Dawari said. "But the methods he used were not good ... What he did was wrong and he should be punished."
Pakistan army says Al-Qaeda-linked militants killed near Afghan border
Saturday August 21, 10:55 PM AFP
Pakistani forces have killed "a few" militants in operations to flush out Al-Qaeda-linked rebels in the northwestern tribal region near the border with Afghanistan, the military said.
"A few miscreants were killed and a few others injured when regular troops clashed with militants in Santoi, north of Shakai, in South Waziristan tribal region on Friday," military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP.
He did not specify the number of militants killed but said there were no military casualties.
Sultan said security forces retrieved the body of a foreign militant and recovered arms and ammunition.
"Some miscreants who were injured managed to get away," he said. "The activities are underway to flush out one of their hideouts, but this is not a new operation, it is part of an ongoing operation launched in June."
Shakai resident Rehman Wazir said he saw fighter jets and helicopter gunships hovering over the area and heard intermittent explosions on Saturday.
When asked wether air support was provided, Sultan said the forces were using "all necessary means."
The militants are believed holed up in the region of thick mountain forest and high peaks.
Pakistan's military launched an air and ground offensive in the Shakai valley, 25 kilometers (15 miles) northeast of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, on June 11.
The operation was in response to an attack on a military post on June 9 which left 14 security personnel dead. Some 65 militants and 18 soldiers were killed during the fighting.
Since mid-July security agencies have arrested more than 60 Al-Qaeda suspects in urban centers in Pakistan.
They include key operatives such as Al-Qaeda's Pakistani computer whizz Naeem Noor Khan and Tanzanian Ahmed Khalfan Gailani, a suspect in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in East Africa.
Their capture yielded information on Al-Qaeda and led to the discovery of fresh plans to launch attacks in Britain, Pakistan and the United States ahead of US presidential elections in November, intelligence officials say.
The current hunt is focused on six most wanted militants. All are said to be Al-Qaeda operatives and among them is a Libyan, Abu Faraj Al Libbi, described as mastermind of two failed attempts to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf in December last year.
Embattled Afghan Governor Scents Treachery
"We are all disappointed. We will not go to vote." - Ismail Khan – SHAHBET - Plans for Afghanistan's first democratic election in October mean little to Ismail Khan as he strides across a hill top, satellite phone in hand, flanked by commanders and a battle tank at his back.
The governor of the western province of Herat is bristling with anger that the Afghan National Army supported by U.S. airpower is playing peacemaker rather than destroying an enemy whose forces, Khan says, are drawn from remnants of the Taliban.
President Hamid Karzai's new army and 18,000 U.S. led troops are hunting Taliban and members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda in the south and east. But the crisis in the west, has come right before an election in which security will be a central issue.
"Three weeks ago I went to Kabul ... and at that time I told President Karzai that our enemies were making plans to do something," Ismail Khan told Reuters in a roadside interview, as his troops passed through the village of Shahbet in Adraskan district, 75 km (47 miles) south of Herat city.
"I also told Karzai some of his cabinet members were involved," says the self-styled "Amir of Herat," his white robes and turban flecked with dust kicked up by tanks and trucks laden with ammunition.
His fears were well placed. Last week, a renegade militia commander, Amanullah Khan, launched an offensive that swept toward Herat, Afghanistan's second largest city and capital of the province bordering Iran.
The governor says fifty people were killed in the fighting and he fears his enemy will kill fifty more held captive. Karzai responded by rushing two battalions to restore order.
Dread that the conflict could stir ethnic tensions -- Ismail Khan is a Tajik and ethnic Pashtuns and Hazaras in Herat complain they are discriminated against -- finally made Karzai and Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, act.
After a U.S.-brokered cease-fire on Tuesday, Amanullah Khan, a Pashtun, pulled his militia back to Shindand, a sprawling disused former Soviet airbase 125 km (78 miles) south of Herat.
On Friday, U.S. Black Hawk helicopter gunships were patrolling the area while the Afghan army has put itself between the two opposing forces.
But Ismail Khan doubts whether the 800,000 people in Herat who registered to vote in the October 9 presidential election, will bother after seeing Kabul's failure to strike hard or act sooner.
"We are all disappointed. We will not go to vote." Fiercely independent, regarded as sympathetic to Iran and suspicious of U.S. backing for Karzai, Ismail Khan, a small man with a heavy beard, is a war veteran with a nose for a trap.
Twenty-five years ago as a major in the Afghan army he led a mutiny in Herat that set off a chain of events leading to the Soviet invasion in late 1979. Years later Ismail Khan was jailed during the Taliban's rule after an ally sold him out, but escaped to become one of the warlords, or mujahideen leaders, in the Northern Alliance that helped drive the Taliban from power in late 2001.
Earlier this year there was an assassination attempt on him, and his son Mirwais Sadiq, the aviation minister, was killed. It led to fierce clashes in March between his own militia and central government forces garrisoned in Herat.
Now, he says Amanullah Khan is in cahoots with drug runners from southern and western provinces as well as having backing from treacherous government ministers.
UN expert demands access to US prisons in Afghanistan
Sunday, August 22, 2004. 11:21am (AEST) Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The US military in Afghanistan should open its detention centres to independent inspectors to address any questions about the legality of holding prisoners, a UN human rights expert said on Saturday.
Sherif Bassiouni, a UN-appointed Independent Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan, called on the US military to allow rights workers to visit the 300 to 400 detainees held at Bagram Airbase near the capital Kabul and in Kandahar.
"The lack of giving an opportunity for people to go and see these facilities is a lack of transparency that raises serious concerns about the legality of the detention of those persons and the conditions of their detention," Mr Bassiouni said at a press conference.
Speaking ahead of the release of a report on progress on human rights in the war-torn country, Mr Bassiouni said Afghanistan had made steps in the right direction but identified seven issues where immediate action should be taken.
One of the issues was US military treatment of detainees.
In addition to holding detainees in two main centres, there were many holding centres in the field which even International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers were denied access to, he added.
Mr Bassiouni said the United States had "de facto" denied him access to detainees by sending him through a bureaucratic maze searching for the right person to ask about visitation rights.
Furthermore, some 725 Taliban combatants had been detained at Pol-e-Charkhi prison since 2001 in conditions he described as "inhuman".
There had been no charges, investigation or trial for any of the combatants and they were being held in contravention of both the Geneva Conventions and Afghan law, as a likely result of US pressure, Mr Bassiouni said.
Mr Bassiouni said he had detected no resistance from Afghan officials to releasing the prisoners and said "all of the indications are that they want them to be released and that someone else is putting the hold on (the prisoners)".
He added that if allegations the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had intervened to extend the prisoners detention until they could find people to "investigate them or interview them" were true, then the FBI were "certainly taking their sweet time".
Mr Bassiouni said other human rights issues which should be dealt with immediately were:
a review of prisoners detained by the Afghan intelligence services and the police without judicial basis;
the improvement of conditions of detention centres;
and the need for a crackdown on child trafficking.
Women should also stop being punished for alleged moral crimes by being confined to the custody of tribal chiefs in a "de-facto condition of slavery".
In addition, Afghanistan needed to address a culture of impunity among warlords, who are also drug barons, Mr Bassiouni said.
Although disarmament was a long-term goal, the Afghan government also needed to identify the perpetrators of gross human rights violations.
"If that is not done rapidly, seriously and with commitment, the risk will be that people who have committed serious crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture, massive killings of people will benefit from impunity," he said.
NWFP govt bans export of cattle to Afghanistan
PESHAWAR: The NWFP government has imposed a ban on the export of cattle to Afghanistan, according to a notification by the Food Department on Saturday. The notification, issued on the PM directive, has banned permits to export cattle. It said that all district coordinating officers (DCOs) and political agents had been directed to stop the smuggling of cattle into Afghanistan in order to regularise meat prices. online
ADB offers $2bn for rail, road networks: Links with Kabul, Delhi
Dawn, Pakistan 08/20/2004
ISLAMABAD - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has indicated to offer $2 billion to Pakistan to help provide "regional connectivity" into Afghanistan and India through road and railway networks separately.
Official sources told Dawn on Thursday that as a first step a high-level ADB mission was arriving here early next month to hold talks with the senior Pakistani officials for capacity building and rehabilitation of Pakistan Railways.
The objective was not only to rehabilitate Pakistan Railways through its corporatization but also help the organization to get connected with Afghanistan through Chaman and India through its eastern parts.
Sources said that earlier a proposal for such railway link in three countries did not materialize due to financial constraints as well as lack of interest of international donor agencies specially due to prevailing conditions in Afghanistan.
By providing regional connectivity through road and railway, volume of trade, the sources said, was expected to grow tremendously in the region. The idea was not only to provide railway link to the upcoming Gwadar Sea Port but also to extend its reach beyond the Pakistani frontiers through the war-torn Afghanistan.
"Initially, we would request the ADB to help provide railway connectivity with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics," a source said. The proposed plan, he said, would not only integrate Afghanistan but would also connect the Central Asian Republics (CAR) with Pakistan Railway network through Afghanistan thus integrating the friendly countries for their benefits.
These republics along with Afghanistan have inherited a situation of being land-locked. Without international trade they cannot achieve development. "Thus by force of circumstances they have to find route to warm waters which can be provided by Pakistan," he said.
The proposed rail connection was expected to open new avenues of development and prosperity for the people of Afghanistan who were considered "remotest" by all standards and provide employment to them.
Linking Pakistan with CAR through Afghanistan has been one of the active topics of interest between Pakistan and Afghanistan and that was why the issue was raised with the ADB recently, which promised to provide all necessary technical and financial assistance for both the road and railway connectivity projects.
The sources said the bank would offer approximately $800 million to India separately to help establish its rail and better road links with Pakistan. The entire area, the sources said, has just opened up and offers immense opportunities in the field of defence, technology and bilateral trade.
Vast railway network (1520 mm gauge) exists in all the Central Asian Republics which in 5 republics (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) is interconnected/integrated and provide facilities for inter-state movement by rail.
The rail network of these states extends to Afghanistan Border at Kushka in Turkmenistan and Termez in Uzbekistan. There, however, exists no rail network in Afghanistan except for small extension over a length of about 12km from Termez to Herat across river AMU.
Press Action 08/19/2004 By Abu Spinoza
Hamid Karzai knows how to dress. But can he run an economy? He sure knows how to run one for the ruling class, warlords, and associates. The Afghan economy is run in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which acts as the messenger boy and bounty hunter for the Treasury-Wall Street complex. In a recent assessment, the IMF gave Karazi & Associates high marks for the performance of the Afghan economy. The IMF says "the authorities have met all of the indicative quantitative targets set out under the SMP [staff monitoring program], and virtually all the structural benchmarks," and that the regime has pursued "prudent macroeconomic policies," much to the IMF's liking.
The facts on the ground for the Afghan people remain quite grim. The IMF itself reports that "downward revision in GDP growth for 2003/04, from 23 percent to 16 percent, largely reflecting lower-than-anticipated output in the agricultural sector. Inflation has been somewhat higher than expected during the first quarter of 2004/05, reflecting primarily increases in rents and the prices of other non-tradable goods." Note that the Afghan economy is at a low base due to years and years of devastation and that agriculture is the main source of subsistence for the rural peasantry. Per capita annual income is expected to be US$246 in 2004/05.
The policies that the Afghan authorities are pursuing are typical of post-conflict countries that fall into the Western orbit, namely, "prudent macroeconomic policies." This means restrained fiscal policy and monetary policy. More often than not such policies choke prospects for growth and the development of local enterprises. The IMF advocates structural reforms that lead to "rationalizing the public sector" by quickly and all too rapidly liquidating and privatizing state enterprises. The IMF also requires the national authorities to create "sound financial systems." Attempts to impose sound financial systems without due consideration of the fruitful role of credit and informal financial networks can have debilitating effects on generating industry and employment.
Afghanistan under Hamid Karzai does not have much of a say of its economic policy. The aid donors dictate what economic policies Karzai and successor rulers will follow. Their executive agents, such as the IMF-World Bank, offer detailed instructions and even write the project proposals. Western consultants and their local collaborators earn hefty fees, while Karzai & Associates accumulate private wealth and other rewards. This is business as usual as soon as a country falls into the Western orbit. Alas Afghanistan is no exception.
Violence reminds returning Afghans why they left
HERAT - Mohammad Ali fled Afghanistan 23 years ago to escape the violence. He married and fathered five daughters in neighbouring Iran. This week he brought them back, but the road home was once again blocked by violence.
"We heard on the radio and television that peace and stability had returned to Afghanistan... but now we see fighting, killing, robbery and road blocks," Mohammad Ali told Reuters at a transit camp administered by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) a few kilometres outside the city of Herat.
Fortunately for Afghanistan it is a localised conflict this time. Renegade militia commanders are locked in a stand-off with the governor of Herat, and the new U.S.-trained Afghan National Army has moved in to restore order in the western province.
Afghanistan will hold its first ever democratic election for president on October 9. Security will be a key campaign issue for President Hamid Karzai, who heads the transitional government formed after the overthrow of the Taliban in late 2001.
"I don't want food or anything else from the government. I want peace and stability. I want the government to stop the fighting and I want to return home," said another man stranded at the Ansar camp.
About half a million Afghans, assisted by the UNHCR, have returned to their homeland this year, and 220,000 have come from Iran, most of them passing through Herat.
The province is far from the Taliban-infested areas in the south and east, where the United States is leading about 18,000 troops in a hunt for the allies of Osama bin Laden. But the U.S. has sent military personnel with the two battalions of the Afghan army to check a conflict that risked stirring ethnic tensions.
Under an accord brokered by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy in Kabul, the main militia commander has agreed to withdraw his forces some 70 km (44 miles) south of Herat. But the roads both north and south of Afghanistan's second largest city have been blocked, interrupting the daily flow of thousands of Afghans returning from Iran.
Jacques Mouchet, the UNHCR representative in the capital Kabul, says Iran has been asked to hold back the returning Afghans on its side, and safe passage through Herat is agreed. Close to 10,000 Afghans are stranded at the Ansar and nearby Gazargah transit camps.
These camps would normally handle 2,000 to 3,000 returnees a day, with the families spending perhaps a night. There they would collect some UNHCR travel money -- up to $30 -- find other families going in the same direction, hire a bus and fan out across the country. Mohammad Ali's family has been at Ansar camp just a few nights -- and conditions are deteriorating fast.
The UNHCR representative in Kabul reported that some buses have managed to drive north without a hitch, and he hopes safe passage south will be secured soon. Within the camp there are sickness and diarrhoea, no medicine, and food and water are in short supply, says Ghulam Rabbani, a UNHCR official on the spot.
The womenfolk have tied their headscarfs to sticks, and the makeshift canopies of billowing black cotton are the only protection they have from the baking sun and stinging wind. Their faces caked in dust, the five daughters of Mohammad Ali and his wife Lila curse their parents' decision to leave Iran and go home to Afghanistan.
"My daughters are blaming me and telling me to go back to Iran," said Lila. "Look -- we are living under our daughters' scarves. We cannot go on living here, the situation is very bad."
U.S. Copter Crashes In Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 12, 2004 (AP) A U.S. helicopter crashed in Afghanistan on Thursday, killing one American Marine and injuring 14 others, the military said.
A U.S. military statement ruled out hostile fire in the crash in Khost province, near the border with Pakistan.
The injured troops were taken to Camp Salerno, an American base near Khost city, 90 miles south of the capital, Kabul, for treatment.
"The helicopter was destroyed in the crash, but did not burn," the statement said. "Hostile fire was not involved. The cause of the crash is under investigation."
Four had injuries serious enough to require further evacuation to the main U.S. base at Bagram, north of Kabul, the statement said.
It didn't give further details.
A local official said a technical fault downed the helicopter in Gurbuz, a district along the mountainous border. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
More than 130 American soldiers have died since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom to drive the Taliban from power and attack its al Qaeda allies.
Many of the soldiers have perished in accidents, including several deadly helicopter accidents. In the most recent, five soldiers died in a crash near Bagram in November.
This year, at least 23 Americans have also died in action, making 2004 the deadliest combat year yet. Two soldiers were killed along with their Afghan translator by a roadside bomb on Saturday.
Khost, a former al Qaeda stronghold in territory along the Pakistani border where a Taliban-led insurgency is strongest, has seen some of the heaviest fighting.
The American military sent helicopters and bombers to join an all-day battle near the border on Aug. 3 which left up to 70 militants and two Afghan soldiers dead.
The rebels, who attacked an Afghan border post, came from Pakistan and retreated there with many of their dead, Afghan officials said.
That battle — and Thursday's crash — have highlighted both the advantages and the risks of the 18,000-strong U.S.-led force's reliance on air power.
Marines deployed in southern Afghanistan earlier this year claimed to have killed more than 100 insurgents, often with the help of helicopters and jets.
U.S. commanders insist that insurgents are on the defensive but have been unable to halt their deadly attacks on Afghan and U.S. forces as well as civilians.
The military recently launched a new operation designed to prevent attacks ahead of Oct. 9 presidential elections. Twelve election workers have been killed in attacks so far.
The crash comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's surprise visit to the war-torn nation on Wednesday.
Rumsfeld renewed America's commitment to building democracy in Afghanistan and hailed a hearty pace of registration for the October presidential election.
"There's good progress being made," he said, "and the goal of course is for the Afghan security forces to be able to provide for the security, and each month, each quarter, solid progress is being made."
Joining President Hamid Karzai at a news conference not long after his arrival here, the U.S. defense secretary said, "Your leadership team is showing great courage in your efforts" to stabilize the country.
"This upcoming election is an important one," Rumsfeld 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."
"When one thinks about it and recognizes it, there has been a campaign of intimidation, attempts to dissuade people from registering," Rumsfeld said. He called the heavy voter registration "a very vivid demonstration of the Aghan people's determination to make democracy work. And to not mention this truly impressive accomplishment would be unfortunate," he added.
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.
Nonprofit ads emerge as important revenue source for Afghan radio
International Journalist's Network 08/20/2004
With an $80,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a network of independent radio stations in Afghanistan will start running election advertising in the run-up to October's elections – an important step towards financial sustainability in the Afghan broadcast sector, according to a report by Internews.
Under the deal, 13 stations in the network have begun broadcasting spots from the Joint Electoral Management Body to over four million Afghans throughout the country.
"We are extremely delighted to further extend our electoral public outreach footprint," said Dr. Farooq Wardak, director of the Joint Electoral Management Board Secretariat.
The network, which was developed by Internews, is also planning to air a $25,000 ad campaign for the US-based NGO Population Services International (PSI). The campaign will focus on safe water, but future projects may address reproductive health and local business.
According to the Internews report, as of mid-2004, international assistance groups represent the biggest single source of advertising income for independent radio stations in Afghanistan. With radio unchallenged by television or print media outlets, internationally led social campaigns are likely to provide significant income for the sector for at least the next two years.
Experts estimate, however, that nonprofit advertising will diminish as international aid drops from $4 billion in 2004 to $1 billion in 2006.
The advertising model in Afghanistan is very different from those in Western countries, where commercial advertising is the norm. Public service announcements are the most common source of ad revenue, but with the country's high illiteracy rates and lack of print media in rural areas, classified ads on the radio account for a significant amount of income.
Given the heavily rural nature of the radio network – nine out of 15 stations in the network are in rural areas – commercial brand advertising comes in a distant third as a source of revenue. Commercial advertising will take time to grow, Internews says, as many Afghan businessmen remain uneducated about its value and power.
Stranded Afghan Refugees Find a Home in Canada
By DeNeen L. Brown Washington Post Foreign Service Sunday, August 22, 2004; Page A19
TORONTO -- Habibullah Abdul Ghafar is drinking black tea and resting after arriving in Canada from Kyrgyzstan, the Central Asian country where he and his family were stranded as refugees. Inside his one-bedroom apartment on the east side of Toronto, the furniture is sparse. A sofa, chair and kitchen table the Canadian government gave them line the room.
News of the refugee crisis in Sudan is blaring on the South Asian edition of the local television news. He flips the channel. Judge Judy is chastising a woman for not paying rent. He flips again. "Family Feud" pops up. Ghafar, who speaks little English, finally lands on an Indian movie.
In the small kitchen, his wife, Lailuma Mohammed Akber, 34, bakes Afghan bread. She brings out a platter. Their two girls, ages 3 and 1, play on the carpets, punching holes in notebook paper. They have no toys. The family brought only their clothes on the 23-hour trip from Kyrgyzstan to Toronto.
"I have a lot of hopes," Ghafar says, sitting cross-legged in blue pants. His feet are bare. "I want a bigger house, my own house, a big luxury car. Whatever you get, you want more."
The family is among the first to arrive in Canada under a program designed to settle a humanitarian problem that has defied solution for years: what to do with hundreds of Afghan war refugees who are stranded in Kyrgyzstan. Last month, at the behest of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Canada agreed to accept 525 of the approximately 650 Afghans who remained in the Central Asian country.
They were deemed unlikely to return home because of threats to their lives or affiliation with the Soviet-supported Afghan government that was overthrown in 1992 and remains despised by people on most every side of the current Afghan political scene. Some of the refugees have been in camps in Kyrgyzstan since Soviet forces invaded their country 25 years ago.
"Some came because of the Taliban," said Michael Casasola, a resettlement officer for the U.N. refugee agency in Ottawa, referring to the repressive Islamic movement that took control of most of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and was driven from power by U.S.-backed forces in 2001. "There wasn't a solution being made available to them. Many were professionals, which may have been why they had difficulty with the Taliban."
The hope is that Canada's move will facilitate a solution for the remaining Afghans in Kyrgyzstan. U.N. officials said they were hoping that those who don't go to Canada will choose to go home or perhaps apply for citizenship in Kyrgyzstan.
"It is very exciting," Casasola said. "We have not done resettlements there in Central Asia before at that scale. We've resettled thousands of Afghans out of Iran, but in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, this is relatively new."
Canadian officials said their government had an obligation to help resettle the refugees. "We study every proposition by the UNCHR," said Jean-Pierre Morin, spokesman for the Department for Citizenship and Immigration, noting that the country is a signatory to the U.N. Convention on Refugees.
"Canada has an ongoing commitment to provide resettlement to persons in need of protection," Morin explained. "Our resettlement program reflects our strong commitment to providing protection and safe haven to those who need it."
Canada accepts between 20,000 and 30,000 refugees per year. Last year, the top five countries of origin were Afghanistan, Colombia, Sudan, Iran and Congo. Morin said most of the recent refugees had resettled in Ontario. In Hamilton, Ontario, south of Toronto, people from Afghanistan are the second fastest-growing immigrant group, after Somalis.
But the overall number of refugee claimants coming to Canada has declined significantly since 2001, according to Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, a Montreal-based organization that advocates for the rights of refugees. Part of the reason, she said, is that "post-Sept. 11 security issues are having negative effects on refugees trying to get out of countries where they are suffering persecution and to get to countries where they would be safe."
The acceptance rate for refugees who do make it here has also declined. "There is a significantly smaller number of accepted refugees who are making Canada their new home," Dench said. "After several years at a 47 percent acceptance rate, it was down to 42 percent in 2003. In the first half of 2004, it was down to 40 percent."
Visitors reach Ghafar's apartment by walking through a lobby where a crowd of Muslim women, their heads veiled, push onto the elevator. More than 100 languages are spoken in the building, first stop for many arriving in Canada. Clothes hang from its many balconies.
From Ghafar's, located on the 14th floor, he can see the tops of trees lining the Toronto landscape. The subway roars by every five minutes.
Ghafar, 39, was a teacher. He recounts his life teaching chemistry and biology in Faryab province. He fled on Jan. 17, 1995, during the Taliban's ascent to power. "Because of the war," he said, he was under pressure to join a military unit. "I didn't want to kill any innocent people and didn't want to be killed, so I left Afghanistan," he recalled. "I left for my life."
He traveled to Uzbekistan, then to Kyrgyzstan, where he spent almost 10 years in Bishkek selling vegetables, soap and oil on the streets. "In the summer, it was very hot," he said. "In the winter, it was very cold." This is where he met his wife and they had children.
Ghafar sits beneath a green banner taped to the white walls. "Allah is the only God. He wasn't born from someone and didn't give birth to anyone," a translator said, reading script written in the Dari language.
But Ghafar says he hasn't prayed since he left Kyrgyzstan. He's been struggling with his faith since his experience with the Taliban. "I used to pray five times a day. But after watching the Taliban -- so strict -- I'm getting out of religion," he said. "I don't pray very much any more."
But his wife, Akber, feels differently. One recent day, she found out the right direction to face toward Mecca during prayer, and she says she will continue.
"I used to pray to come to Canada," Akber says. "Now I pray for people back home."
Remote-Control Explosions Pose Threat in Afghanistan
By CARLOTTA GALL August 22, 2004 The New York Times
GARDEZ, Afghanistan - In late June, just two weeks into his tour here, Pvt. Jeremy Kretz from Dubuque, Iowa, was driving in a convoy near the border with Pakistan when a remote-controlled explosion hit his Humvee, causing him to black out and blasting him and his companions with rocks and dust. The American soldiers got away with concussions, ruptured eardrums and gravel-peppered skin.
"Head's pretty full of gravel anyway," joked his commander, Lt. James Avrams, who is in charge of the protection force at Gardez, raising a laugh among his men, all from the 34th Infantry Division, Iowa National Guard.
But for the American military, and foreign and Afghan officials, remote-controlled explosions have become the biggest threat in Afghanistan. Although they are not being used on nearly the scale found in Iraq, they are becoming more common and increasingly sophisticated, military and other officials said in interviews.
That point was driven home over the weekend of Aug. 7, when two American soldiers and an Afghan interpreter were killed, and three more men were wounded, south of here by a powerful explosion that tossed their Humvee over and over in the air. The explosion was not only set off by remote control, probably with a radio set, but also was a "daisy chain" explosion, with explosives laid along the road and linked, to ensure a lethal blow.
Twelve election workers have been killed in explosions over the last few months as they have registered voters nationwide. Thirty-one American soldiers have been killed - 23 of them in combat - this year, most of them in roadside explosions or ambushes, a sharp increase over the same period last year. In the first week of August, the Gardez team recorded an incident every day, whether a clash with fighters suspected of being members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda, or explosions aimed at American forces or supply trucks, Lt. Evan McCrann said.
Lieutenant Avrams said, "We are expecting it to get worse."
In the period leading to Afghanistan's presidential elections, which are scheduled for Oct. 9, in which President Hamid Karzai is facing 22 challengers, United States troops have been ordered to make the election process, and security for the elections, their priority. It will be a combined effort, with American conventional and Special Forces going after insurgents, often with help from the newly trained Afghan National Army. Civil affairs teams will travel the regions to extend the government's reach and deliver assistance, and the Afghan police will provide security for election officials and voting sites.
The American-led coalition forces now number about 20,000, and are spread across the troubled southern and eastern parts of the country. They will provide the backbone of the security effort, even if the Afghan services appear in the forefront.
The "bad guys," as the soldiers call the suspected Taliban and foreign Al Qaeda fighters along with other groups opposed to the American presence in Afghanistan and to the American-backed election process, remain active along the eastern border with Pakistan, and across southern Afghanistan. United States marines and Special Forces have been brought into specific areas on request to tackle known troublemakers or groups of insurgents.
Civil affairs teams, based in provincial centers, have their own protection units, which also conduct regular patrols and security operations. For one such team in Gardez, the threat of improvised explosive devices, or I.E.D.'s as they are known, is one of the most difficult to combat.
"They tell us to watch out for stacks of rocks, but there's stacks of rocks everywhere here," said Jon, a sergeant who spoke on the condition that his surname not be published. Specialist Leo Pins added: "Or watch for wires, but when you are rolling down the road with lots of dust, you don't see much. You drive down and pray."
And Specialist Toby Handy said, "Just hope you don't go boom."
The sergeant added: "It's also frustrating. It's hard to find the guys trying to do the things against us."
The danger and fear are even greater for government and election officials and aid workers, who do not have the protection of armored vehicles or body armor but have increasingly been the targets of attacks this year. The attacks that have been most shocking to people here have been an explosion in a mosque in Ghazni, where voters were registering, and a bomb in a bus carrying women who were going to register voters in Jalalabad, which killed 3 and wounded 10 more. "The biggest threat to the electoral process is clearly I.E.D.'s," said Brian Nelson Smith, the regional security officer for the election commission. Yet most of the people interviewed here who were involved in preparing for the elections agreed that unless the Taliban, the remnants of the former rulers of Afghanistan, made major changes in tactics, the explosions would not prevent or seriously disrupt the election. The voter registration campaign has created strong momentum for the election, they say.
"They are going to do what they can, but they are not going to stop the process," said Maj. William Renaldo, deputy commander of the American civil affairs team in Gardez.
He pointed to the example of Paktika Province, one of the most dangerous parts of the country, which runs along the Pakistani border and has been almost a free zone for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters in the last two years. The provincial governor has made a major push, backed by the United Nations and a substantial American-led coalition force, to win over the tribes and start reconstruction. As a result, registration has progressed across the province, he said.
The Taliban are not powerful enough to go against the wishes of the tribal leaders, he said.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Abdul Latif Hakimi, claimed responsibility in a telephone interview for recent remote-controlled explosions against American forces, but denied involvement in the Ghazni mosque bombing. Mr. Hakimi said there would be more attacks.
The weak link in the country's security remains the local Afghan police. In southeastern Afghanistan, the police are so poorly equipped and understaffed that the tribes have assembled their own militia forces in the last two years. Now the officers of an American-led program are scrambling to train and equip the local police in time for the elections. In Gardez, they have been delivering vehicles and radios to the police in the region, but cannot provide them with needed weapons or ammunition.
"They are having a real hard time," Major Renaldo said of the local police. "They have no weapons. They are not in very good shape."
Significance of the now-ruined twin Buddha statues in Afghanistan and efforts
National Public Radio - August 15, 2004
Significance of the now-ruined twin Buddha statues in Afghanistan and efforts under way to rebuild them.
LIANE HANSEN, host: In March 2001, when the Taliban dynamited the twin Buddha statues in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley, they destroyed one of the world's greatest and least studied cultural treasures. Soon after he came to power, interim President Hamid Karzai declared the rebuilding of the Buddhas to be a cultural imperative, to symbolize Afghanistan's emergence from 30 years of suffering. Miranda Kennedy recently visited the site, where a team of international experts is at work.
MIRANDA KENNEDY reporting: The cliffs which once housed the Bamiyan Buddhas are only 90 miles west of the Afghan capital, Kabul, but it takes 11 hours to get there on torturous, rubble-strewn roads littered with land mines. The stark mountains of the Hindu Kush form a necklace around the dusty bazaar and mud-brick houses of Bamiyan. The huge gaps in the sandstone cliff face where the Buddha statues once stood loom over the valley like two great shadows. The statues were nearly 2,000 years old. They were two of the largest Buddha statues in the world.
KENNEDY: Nasser Mudavir(ph), a former tourist guide, leads the way up into an alcove that used to house one of the giant Buddhas, picking his way around the land mines. At the top of the niche where the Buddha's head once was, there's a breathtaking view of the valley below.
Mr. NASSER MUDAVIR: There was a head of the Buddha, and some of the people would sit down here and look. It was very strong and it was very beautiful, but it was destroyed by the Taliban. And now there is nothing here, just here is a hole. All the world and all the people of Afghanistan and all the people of Bamiyan feel sad and sorry.
KENNEDY: The Buddhas used to bring 2 to $3 million to Afghanistan every year. Bamiyan is the closest Afghanistan has ever had to a tourist town, and now here's little left to see aside from hundreds of tons of rubble at the base of the cliff.
Out of these remains, restorers hope to reconstruct the ancient Buddhas and replace them in their mountain alcoves to bring back those crowds of tourists. Abdul Ahad Abasi(ph) is the government official in charge of Afghanistan's monuments.
Mr. ABDUL AHAD ABASI (Afghan Government Official): (Through Translator) It hows the combination of the different cultures and the enrichment of those cultures when they have influence upon us. And we want to restore that history.
KENNEDY: The statues offered a fascinating insight into Afghanistan's history. Unlike other Buddha statues found on the subcontinent, these were dressed in Greek tunics, apparently under the influence of Alexander the Great, whose armies swept through Afghanistan a few hundred years before the statues were crafted. Their diversity was another reason for the Taliban to declare that the statues were idolatrous and un-Islamic. During the Taliban
regime, all images of humans and animals were banned.
Mr. ABDUL HAMID(ph) (Restaurateur): (Foreign language spoken)
KENNEDY: Abdul Hamid, a toothless old man in a jean jacket and Muslim skullcap, runs a small restaurant near the statues. He says that for years before they finally destroyed the statues, Taliban soldiers would climb up into the caves and shoot at the wall paintings of Buddha, shouting, 'God is great.' Disfiguring the images became a kind of pilgrimage for Taliban soldiers. Then in March 2001, Hamid watched them send locals up into the statues to stuff them full of explosives.
Mr. HAMID: (Through Translator) At that time, we were in the city,
and we climbed on the roofs of our houses and we watched this incident. A very bad sound due to this explosion, and later on the dust raised to the sky. It's not against Islam; we don't think like Taliban. I actually felt very sad because they were traditional idols.
KENNEDY: Last year, UNESCO designated the Buddhas one of the most threatened World Heritage sites because the alcoves themselves are fragile. The UN dispatched an international team of restorers to the site to catalog every piece of rubble. Then they will decide whether they can rebuild the statues from their original material. That's what most efforts hope to do, but there are others who believe the statues should be built entirely anew from concrete, and some, like the French-Afghan archaeologist Zamari Ali
Tarzi(ph), say the alcoves should remain empty, like two sinister pages
of Afghan history.
(Soundbite of digging) KENNEDY: A few feet from the destroyed Buddha statues in Bamiyan, Tarzi is leading an archaeological dig for a legendary third Buddha.
Mr. ZAMARI ALI TARZI (Archaeologist): (Through Translator) The purpose of the dig is the discovery of the third Buddha of Bamiyan, a thousand feet long, described by the Chinese voyage of Huan Hsuan- tsang in the seventh century. His right thumb is touching his right cheek and he's toward north in the state of coming nirvana, dying-- just before his death.
KENNEDY: Not many people believe that this third Buddha still exists in Bamiyan, but Tarzi is certain.
Mr. TARZI: (Through Translator) Hsuan-tsang is very precise pilgrim, so everything he wrote--it's been verified. It's correct.
KENNEDY: Tarzi says the Taliban's destruction of the Buddha statues made him a militant for Afghan culture. Finding the third Buddha has become his crusade. In the meantime, he plans to project holograms of the Buddhas into their cliff alcoves as a memorial in light to what Afghanistan lost. For NPR News, I'm Miranda Kennedy.
Afghan elections: a test for Germans
Afghanistan's presidential elections are likely to test the ambitions of the country's leadership to transform their nation into a modern democracy. But Dorothea Huelsmeier argues that the poll will also represent a key test for Germany which has made a major commitment to underpinning change in the war-torn nation.
Afghanistan's first presidential elections on 9 October will be a test not only for interim President Hamid Karzai but also for the International Security Assistance Force and the 2,000 German soldiers who make up the largest contingent.
After committing himself unconditionally to assist George W Bush in the US war on terror, Afghanistan has emerged as a key part of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's attempts to redefine Germany's foreign policy: taking on more responsibility on the global stage but at the same time demanding more influence.
In particular, this also includes Schroeder's renewed push for Germany to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
As part of Berlin's new sense of global responsibility, Germany now has about 9,000 troops serving in operations around the world. People in the defence ministry in Berlin have no illusions about the security situation in the war-ravaged Afghanistan and expect danger to increase in the run-up to the vote.
The Germans are increasing their commitment in Afghanistan despite the attacks on relief agencies, government offices and voters coupled with threats by the radical, Islamic Taliban against Nato troops.
A Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) is operating in Kunduz at present, and a second will begin operations in Faisabad, about 12 to 15 hours drive away, in mid-August.
The situation in the north is "still quiet but not stable", says to a ministry spokesman in Berlin.
According to the United Nations, the proportionally strongest registration of voters has taken place in northern Afghanistan. Berlin considers that an indication of slightly greater stability than in other regions.
The defence ministry intends deploying an additional 60 German soldiers to assist the new 80 strong PRT during the election period in remote Faisabad. Nato wants to send 1,900 additional soldiers to Afghanistan during the election period.
For weeks, the German government has been trying to drum up international support for the Faisabad team. Nevertheless, the ministry is optimistic about reaching a result in the "near future".
Faisabad, in the northeast Badakshan province, is a centre of poppy cultivation for use in opium. But battling drugs is not one of the German army's tasks.
The German army's PRT in Faisabad will not have any civil role for the moment. Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul (SPD) has made clear that there are presently no funds available for additional helpers in Faisabad.
A spokesman for Wieczorek-Zeul said more reconstruction teams in Afghanistan would be useful. However, other projects in Afghanistan would have to be disbanded in order to commit to Faisabad. "That would be discouraging and not a good signal," he said.
The Germans can expect more responsibility in Kabul. The Eurocorps, in which Germany participates, will take over command of the NATO-led ISAF troops next Wednesday for six months. That means 90 German troops will move into ISAF headquarters.
A spokesman for Eurocorps in Strasbourg, France, said: "The situation will become even more tense by election time."
A German commander, Brigadier General Walter Spindler, has been in Kabul since the end of July. The commander of the German-French brigade is the third German within ISAF to lead the Kabul Multinational Brigade (KMNB) which focuses on stabilising the Afghan capital.
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