Afghan Blasts Kill at Least 17, Taliban Hits Kabul
Sun Aug 29, 4:17 PM ET By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - At least 17 people including children were killed in a bomb attack in Kabul on Sunday and another blast overnight at a religious school in the southeast.
The Taliban militia claimed responsibility for a car bomb in Kabul, which a spokesman from President Hamid Karzai's office said killed at least two U.S. nationals, three Nepalis, and two Afghans, including a child.
At least nine children and one adult died in the earlier explosion at the school, a U.S. military spokeswoman said.
A Western official at the scene of Sunday's blast in front of the offices of international security company DynCorp said he expected the death toll from the car bomb to rise.
"I think there will be more dead than that. Some bodies were just blown to pieces," the official said. Initial assessments suggested the car bomb contained 175-220 lb of explosive.
Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi said it was detonated by a Taliban fighter by remote control.
"A few minutes ago he phoned our chief ... to say that he finished his mission and is alive," Hakimi said.
The Taliban was ousted from power by a U.S.-led alliance in late 2001 and is now waging a campaign of violence to disrupt Afghanistan's first presidential elections on Oct. 9.
The blast in the upmarket Shar-i-Naw area of Kabul, where dozens of aid agencies are located, also injured an unspecified number of people and destroyed several vehicles, an Afghan official said.
"This was an attack at the heart of the international community and one that may be directed at U.S. assets," said Nick Downie, manager of the Afghanistan NGO Security Office.
Afghan police cordoned off the site as ambulances rushed to the area, witnesses said.
There are over 8,000 NATO-led peacekeepers in charge of security in Kabul and northern Afghanistan. Staff at international organizations have been advised to lie low and increase security.
The earlier explosion ripped through a religious school in Paktia province on Saturday night, but the cause was not immediately clear.
"There were four children, five teenagers and one adult killed," U.S. military spokeswoman Master Sergeant Ann Bennett said from the U.S. military press center in Kabul.
Bennett said an 8-year-old boy injured in the blast was being treated at a U.S. military base, but was unsure how many others were hurt.
"The explosion took place last night inside a private madrassah (religious school)," Paktia Governor Haji Assadullah Wafa told Reuters by satellite phone.
The school was in the village of Naiknaam, near the town of Zormat, 80 miles south of Kabul, according to the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency.
The premises were also used by a non-government organization for teaching Afghan women.
Paktia's governor said there were contradictory reports about the cause of the blast, with some saying it was an explosive device placed on a motorcycle parked outside the school and others saying a device was planted inside the school.
No one has claimed responsibility.
Some 18,000 U.S.-led troops along with the newly formed Afghan National Army are hunting insurgents in the country's south and southeast.
Close to 1,000 people, including militants, soldiers, civilians, aid workers and election officials have been killed in the past year.
On Friday, one of the Taliban's senior commanders was killed in a gun battle with U.S.-led forces and Afghan troops.
Commander Roozi Khan was killed in Shah Joy district of Zabul province in southern Afghanistan, Hakimi said, confirming a report on Sunday by the U.S. military.
Taliban claim Afghan bomb blast
By Sayed Salahuddin August 29, 2004
KABUL (Reuters) - At least 15 people have been killed in explosions in an upscale district of the Afghan capital Kabul and at a school in a southeastern province where nine children died, officials say.
The Taliban militia, vanquished by a U.S.-led uprising in late 2001, claimed responsibility for the Kabul blast on Sunday, which killed at least three U.S. nationals involved in the training of Afghanistan's new police force and two Afghan policemen.
The Taliban, which is waging a campaign of violence to disrupt Afghanistan's presidential elections on October 9, said a suicide bomber died in the attack.
"I contacted our colleagues and they said that it was a suicide attack by a Taliban fighter," Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi told Reuters by satellite phone.
An Afghan official who declined to be named confirmed the five deaths, said that six other local police were injured and that there were some casualties among civilians. He added that the blast was caused by explosives hidden in a car in front of the Interpol police office.
The blast in the Shar-i-Naw area of Kabul, where dozens of aid agencies are located, also destroyed six vehicles.
Afghan police cordoned off the site of the explosion as ambulances rushed to the area to transfer injured people, witnesses said.
SCHOOL BLAST KILLS NINE CHILDREN
At lease nine children and one adult were killed in a separate blast, which ripped through a religious school in Paktia province, a U.S. military spokeswoman said.
"There were four children, five teenagers and one adult killed," Master Sergeant Ann Bennett said from the U.S. military press centre in Kabul.
Bennett said an 8-year-old boy injured in the school explosion was being treated at a U.S. military base, but she was unsure how many more wounded there were.
"The explosion took place last night inside a private madrassah (religious school)," Paktia Governor Haji Assadullah Wafa told Reuters by satellite phone.
The school was in the village of Naiknaam, near the town of Zormat, 125 km (78 miles) south of Kabul, according to the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency.
The premises were also used by a non-government organisation for teaching Afghan women.
Paktia's governor said there were contradictory reports about the cause of the blast, with some saying it was an explosive device placed on a motorcycle parked outside the school and others saying a device was planted inside the school.
Some 18,000 U.S.-led troops along with the newly formed Afghan National Army are hunting insurgents in the country south and southeast.
Close to a thousand people, including militants, soldiers, civilians, aid workers and election officials have been killed in the past year.
Afghan Office Of U.S. Firm Hit by Bomb
By Pamela Constable Washington Post Foreign Service Monday, August 30, 2004; Page A01
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 29 -- A powerful car bomb exploded at dusk Sunday outside the downtown office of a U.S. security contracting firm and an adjacent building where Afghan police are trained. Officials said that at least four people were killed and that at least two of them were Americans.
The blast, which engulfed the police facility in flames, shattered office and store windows for three blocks in all directions. It was the deadliest bomb to strike this rapidly developing postwar capital in two years, and it came days before campaigning begins for the country's first-ever presidential elections in October.
Extremist Islamic groups have vowed to disrupt the elections through violence, and within two hours of the explosion, purported spokesmen for the Taliban Islamic militia had claimed responsibility for the bomb attack in telephone calls to two news agencies.
The office of President Hamid Karzai issued a statement Sunday night saying the blast had killed seven people: two Americans, three Nepalese guards and two Afghans, one of them a young boy. Security agencies could confirm only four deaths, however.
"The president understands that as the people of Afghanistan move towards elections, the enemies of Afghanistan will expedite their efforts to harm the election process and threaten the people's security," the statement said, adding that Afghanistan will continue "relentlessly" on a path to peace and reconstruction.
A bombing several hours earlier killed nine people at a school in the southern province of Paktia, Afghan officials said. The victims were as young as 7. The school was in Zurmat, a town that has been a site of recurrent clashes between alleged Taliban fighters and U.S. and Afghan troops.
DynCorp Inc., the Reston-based security firm whose office was apparently targeted by the bomber in Kabul, provides a large team of private guards for Karzai, who shifted from Afghan guards shortly after the assassination of Vice President Abdul Qadir in July 2002.
The blast occurred in front of an adjacent building in which foreign security experts are training Afghan police recruits. The U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said in a statement that the bombing appeared to have been aimed at the security firm but that it would not set back efforts to build a secure environment in the country, which was devastated by 23 years of conflict.
"This cowardly attack will not deter U.S. participation in the ongoing effort to help Afghanistan stand on its own feet," Khalilzad said. "Rebuilding Afghanistan's security institutions is a vital step toward the creation of a secure, peaceful country. . . . The training of police and the army will continue to go forward."
Kabul's police chief, Gen. Baba Jan, told reporters near the blast site that some of the dead and injured people had been taken to hospitals and that some were foreigners, but he did not give exact numbers or nationalities.
"There was an explosion, there was damage, there are bodies. . . . We do not know who did this action," Jan said, standing at a traffic circle that was clogged with wailing ambulances, military tanks driven by international peacekeeping troops and city buses crowded with passengers during rush hour.
None of the victims was publicly identified, and reporters were kept away from the scene by dozens of Afghan police, foreign peacekeeping troops and U.S. security forces in plainclothes carrying assault rifles.
A spokesman for California-based Computer Sciences Corp, which is DynCorp's parent company, said he could "confirm that a DynCorp office in Kabul was the target of an apparent car bombing" in which there were "a number" of casualties.
The spokesman said that the company was "working to confirm the number and identities of the victims," and that the organization's "operations in Afghanistan are continuing."
Witnesses, including passersby who helped carry victims to ambulances, said the office building burned for an hour and that several bodies lay on the street in front. The blast, which occurred around 5:45 p.m., could be heard at least one mile away.
The bomb appeared to have exploded inside a Toyota Corolla sedan, a common model here. The car's charred wreck lay just outside the building that housed DynCorp, but it was not clear whether a driver had been inside. One purported Taliban spokesman said the attack had been a suicide bombing. Later, however, a Taliban spokesman told the Reuters news agency that the car bomb had been detonated remotely.
Police wielding riot sticks kept crowds of bystanders from the bomb site, while merchants on a half-dozen surrounding blocks swept up piles of jagged glass. Many windows and the entire glass lobby of a new 10-story office building were shattered.
"I heard a very, very loud sound and saw all my windows breaking. Then someone came in and asked for help. He was bleeding from his head and hands and leg," said Mauladat, 45, who owns a pharmacy one block from the bombing.
The Shar-I-Nau district, where the bomb exploded, is one of the most affluent commercial areas of Kabul. It houses international aid agency offices, inns and apartments, restaurants that cater to foreigners, Internet cafes, carpet shops, several embassies, doctors' offices and travel agencies.
"This work is my responsibility. The enemies of Afghanistan do not want it to be reconstructed, but the work will continue," vowed Mahmad Rassool, construction supervisor for the Kabul City Center office building. The new lobby gaped open, and thousands of pieces of thick green glass littered the sidewalk around it.
The afternoon school bombing in Paktia occurred in a relatively remote part of the country, and few people in Kabul were aware it had happened when the evening blast shook the capital. Officials in Paktia said one adult and eight children were killed, and they speculated that the school was targeted because it received foreign financial aid.
Attacks by Islamic extremists have increased recently as Afghanistan's historic election approaches. Vehicles carrying election workers have been bombed, and 12 Afghan election workers have been killed in rural areas.
The Taliban, a radical armed Muslim movement, seized power in most of Afghanistan in 1996 but was driven from power by a U.S.-led military intervention in 2001. U.S. troops have been hunting down remnants of the Taliban ever since, but its guerrilla fighters have regrouped and staged dozens of attacks on aid workers, U.N. offices and Afghan government facilities.
Almost all the attacks have occurred in rural areas, and few have taken place in the capital, which is patrolled by more than 4,000 peacekeeping troops provided by NATO. Western governments have pledged to step up the number of troops in October to help protect the elections.
Staff writer Martin Weil in Washington contributed to this report.
Ten dead in Afghanistan bomb blast: US military
KABUL (AFP) - Ten people, most of them youths, were killed and an unknown number were injured when a bomb went off overnight in a religious school in Afghanistan, the US military said."Four children, five teenagers and one adult were killed but we have no information on the number of injuries," Master Sergeant Ann Bennett told AFP.
The explosion occurred in Tatnak village of Zurmat district of southeastern Paktia province, about 130 kilometers (80 milles) from of Kabul, late Saturday, provincial police chief Hai Gull Selimankhail told AFP Sunday.
There were conflicting reports about the number of dead, with Selimankhail saying up to eight children had been killed and 14 other people injured in the blast. "Some seven to eight children were killed and 14 were injured in the bomb explosion," provincial police chief Hai Gull Selimankhail told AFP.
"The blast occured in local religious private school called Mawlawi Nawab's Madrassa," the police chief said, adding the case was still under investigation. Bennett said the cause of the blast was still unknown and confirmed the investigation was ongoing.
In a statement late on Saturday, the US-led coalition had said about 30 children and two adults were injured in the explosion which occured at 7:00 pm (1430 GMT). Some of the injured received medical attention on the spot and others were air lifted to a US base for further treatment, he said.
"Coalition personnel provided immediate emergency medical treatment to the injured and evacuated the two adults to Forward Operating Base Salerno for treatment," a statement issued by coalition said.
Zurmat district is a stronghold for loyalists of the ousted Taliban regime but authorities have yet to blame the blast on any particular group. The explosion was believed to have been caused by a bomb placed on a motorcycle parked in the Madrassa, Selimankhail said.
Security is deteriorating ahead of elections scheduled for October 9. The parliamentary elections were also delayed until spring next year because of rife insecurity.
There have been regular attacks on aid workers, UN staffers, reconstruction companies, electoral workers but this the first time a religious school has come under attack.
The remnants of the ousted Taliban regime have claimed responsibility for some attacks on schools but religious schools (madrassas) are considered the nurseries of Taliban fighters themselves and have so far not been targetted.
Political Bid to Quell Unrest in Afghanistan
By AMY WALDMAN August 29, 2004 The New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 28 - The Afghan government and Western officials are seeking to capitalize on a recent attack against the entrenched governor of the western province of Herat by removing him before presidential elections scheduled for October, interviews with Western and Afghan officials made clear on Saturday.
The push to remove the governor, Ismail Khan, is part of a broader plan to reorder politically the western part of the country, which has been plagued by clashes since June. One of the commanders who attacked Mr. Khan two weeks ago was brought to Kabul on Friday as the first step in that plan, which aims to disarm the remaining militias in the region and to install new governors and security officials in Herat and neighboring provinces.
The attack against Mr. Khan two weeks ago was rebuffed only when the Afghan National Army and American forces intervened because they feared that the city, also called Herat, was going to fall to his rival, Amanullah Khan. That set of circumstances both revealed and increased Ismail Khan's vulnerability, officials said, and now the central government and Western officials are moving to take advantage of the situation.
Ismail Khan's position is so fragile, a senior Western diplomat suggested Saturday, that if he does not leave Herat now, his region could become ungovernable. People see blood in the water, the official said. The implication was that this time, neither the central government nor the Americans would step in to save him.
"The situation in Herat is such that it could become increasingly difficult for him to control," the diplomat said in a briefing for journalists. "As a responsible leader, he needs to look at the facts and decide to go now when he is in a relatively good position compared to where he could be in a few weeks - or even in a few days."
"Time is not on his side in terms of staying in Herat," the diplomat said.
Ismail Khan was being offered several positions in the central government in Kabul, the official said. "He deserves a position of respect," the official said. "This is a man who has given a lot of his life and part of his family to Afghanistan."
Ismail Khan has rebuffed earlier attempts to lure him to Kabul, but he said in an interview on Friday night that he had agreed to leave after the election. "Three weeks ago when I talked with the president there was a discussion that after the election I might go to Kabul, but not before."
An Afghan official who spoke on condition of anonymity was less explicit about the determination to remove Mr. Khan before the election, but confirmed that the government was in the process of putting in effect a plan to restructure the region.
"If we are really keen to bring real stability and security to the region, you have to address wider issues than the immediate causes of recent violence," the Afghan official said. "Herat has been one of the most problematic areas in terms of the dynamics for instability."
Ismail Khan could and may resist, but he appears to be encircled. He has enemies both on the outside - now held at bay by the Americans and the national army - and on the inside, as shown by defections from his forces .
The growing pressure is a poignant denouement for a man who once took on an empire. He led a revolt as a young army officer against Soviet advisers in Afghanistan that helped generate the Soviet invasion in 1979, then he fought the Soviets and the Taliban for 21 years. Since his return to Herat as governor in 2001, he has resisted the central government's efforts to disarm his forces, control the customs revenue pouring in from the Iranian border and deploy the national army in the region.
He has made clear as well his distaste for the foreign forces - namely the Americans - in Afghanistan, and had resisted their efforts to implant themselves in Herat. But 10 days ago, he was reduced to importuning the Americans to help stave off his most hated enemy's rag-tag renegade army as it moved toward his beloved city, the heart of his fiefdom.
"It must have been very difficult for him to find himself in that set of circumstances given his attitudes toward the A.N.A. and toward the United States," the Western diplomat said, referring to the Afghan National Army. "I feel for him."
In the interview on Friday night, Ismail Khan would say only that the coalition forces were "beneficial for the security and reconstruction of Afghanistan."
"As long as they are here based on the Bonn accords," he said, referring to the agreement reached on an interim government in December 2001, "we are happy and will never consider them as invaders."
The swiftness with which the central government has moved to capitalize on Mr. Khan's predicament has raised questions about whether the attacks - in which three forces moved on Mr. Khan from all sides - were planned for that end.
Mr. Khan would say only that it was clear who was behind the attacks, but for the sake of national unity he preferred not to discuss it. But his intelligence chief, Nasir Ahmad Alawi, said that Arif Noorzai, the minister of tribal and border affairs, who is from the same tribe as Amanullah Khan, had conspired against Ismail Khan.
Mr. Noorzai declined an interview request on Saturday. An Afghan official said President Hamid Karzai was aware of the allegations against Arif Noorzai and concerned about them. Mr. Noorzai was now under "internal pressure" to disprove the allegations, the official said, and was cooperating with the central government's plan for the region.
On Friday, it was Mr. Noorzai who was dispatched to bring Amanullah Khan from Shindand, the district he captured two weeks ago, to Kabul, where he will remain indefinitely as a "guest" of the government, according to the Western official.
The Western diplomat said that Amanullah Khan had agreed after arriving in Kabul to subject his militia and his heavy weapons to the disarmament process, and to open Zirkot, his longtime base, to inspection to see if he is harboring Taliban elements .
Presumably that agreement was extracted on the condition that Ismail Khan be removed as governor. So deep is the hatred between the two men - one, Amanullah Khan, a Pashtun; the other, Ismail Khan, a Tajik - that each has made clear he would not give up his post or disarm if the other were still in place. The removal of Amanullah Khan to Kabul, then, may help persuade Ismail Khan to give up his governorship.
"The government crucially promised us that they will capture Amanullah and put him on trial," Ismail Khan said Friday night.
The Afghan official said Saturday that Amanullah Khan had not been arrested or captured, since he had come to Kabul voluntarily, but the government would now determine his movements.
Also on Saturday, an explosion near a school in Paktia Province injured about 30 children and two adults, the American-led coalition said in a statement issued Saturday night. The explosion occurred at about 7 p.m. in the vicinity of Zormat, where there has been extensive Taliban activity.
Afghanistan and Uzbekistan to build Asia-Gulf road
TASHKENT: Afghanistan and Uzbekistan agreed on Sunday to push ahead with a mammoth road-building project intended to make their countries a lucrative trade link between Asia and the Persian Gulf.
“A unique opportunity has appeared for Afghanistan to serve as a transit country between South Asia and the Persian Gulf,” Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told journalists.
Meeting in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Abdullah and his Uzbek counterpart, Sadyk Safayev outlined plans for Uzbek contractors to build a road across northern Afghanistan between the towns of Andhoi and Herat.
The eventual aim — agreed last summer at a summit of Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan’s presidents — is to extend the road from Uzbekistan southwards through Afghanistan to Iran’s Gulf Coast, possibly supplemented by a railway.y.
Uzbekistan has simultaneously been pushing for construction of a rail link eastward through Kyrgyzstan and deep into China in order to create a complete oil transit route between China and the Persian Gulf.
Sceptical observers in Kabul however say that Afghanistan would benefit more if neighbours such as Pakistan and Uzbekistan matched Afghanistan’s own success in introducing hi-tech systems and cutting red-tape on its borders.
Transit across the region is currently painfully slow, with Afghan trucks having to unload and transfer their goods to Pakistani trucks when entering Pakistan for example.
In practice Uzbekistan has severely limited official transit of goods across its border with Afghanistan, although huge quantities of illegal heroin continue to flow out of Afghanistan via its former Soviet neighbours to the north.
The parties to the road-building project have yet to agree its route southwards beyond Herat, with Iran wanting it to cover as little Afghan territory as possible. Afp
Interior Ministry Rejects Reports of Troop Dispatch to Herat, While Neighbors Condemn the Dispatch of Troops
By Amin Tarzi
The Afghan Interior Ministry rejected reports that troops from the Balkh Province in northern Afghanistan have arrived in the western Herat Province, Afghanistan Television reported on 26 August. Abdul Karim Afghan, a spokesman for Amanullah Khan, a local warlord in Herat, claimed on 25 August that Balkh Governor Ata Mohammad Nur has dispatched 2,000 fighters to support Herat Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan.
Afghan also accused Iran of providing weapons to Ismail Khan. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said that it "rejects claims made by Aref Afghan and regards such claims as rumors." Afghan has been identified by Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) as Abdul Karim and the number of troops he is alleged to have been sent are 2,000. In its statement the Interior Ministry refers to "Aref Afghan" and gives the number of fighters as 2,500. The Interior Ministry statement does not mention the allegation of Iranian military support .
Spokesmen for the Ghor and Badghis provinces to the west and northwest of Herat, respectively, condemned the dispatch of forces from Balkh to help Ismail Khan, AIP reported on 26 August. Ahmad Ayyubi, spokesman for Ghor's Public Council, told AIP that the "dispatch of forces from other provinces to Herat is a negative action and we are strictly against it."
According to Ayyubi, sending troops from other provinces will only complicate the situation, and only efforts "in line with the central government's instructions" can be helpful. General Mohammad Omar Nezami, speaking for Badghis Governor Azizullah Afzali, also condemned the dispatch of forces to Herat and said it will "create tension in the area."
"The only way to resolve the Herat problem is to sack Mohammad Ismail Khan from his post," Nazemi added. A delegation representing Balkh Governor Nur and the leader of Junbish-e Melli party, General Abdul Rashid Dostum, is in Herat trying to mediate between Ismail Khan and Ghor Governor Ebrahim Malikzadah and Afzali; however, Nezami said that the delegation would not able to solve the problem as long as Ismail Khan rules Herat.
U.S. and Afghan Soldiers Arrest 22 Suspected Taliban During Sweep in Southern Afghanistan
The Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan Aug. 28, 2004 - U.S. and Afghan troops killed a Taliban commander and detained 22 suspected Taliban fighters during a major search operation after a gunbattle in a southern Afghan mountain range, officials said Saturday.
Also, a renegade warlord was taken into custody weeks after a clash with a powerful rival in the west of the country, as authorities struggle to improve security for October elections.
Mullah Rozi Khan, a Taliban commander in Zabul province, was killed after troops surrounded a group of rebels in Ghazoi village Friday evening, said Asadullah Khan, governor of neighboring Ghazni province.
"The soldiers demanded that they surrender, but instead they started shooting," Khan told The Associated Press. "Mullah Rozi Khan and another Talib has been killed and several others arrested."
Rozi Khan also was suspected of involvement in kidnappings and attacks on foreign construction workers retooling the main Kabul-Kandahar highway in Zabul.
U.S. military spokesman Maj. Scott Nelson confirmed the operations in Zabul and neighboring Ghazni province, and said 22 Taliban suspects had been detained. "We did have a major operation there," he said.
It was unclear how many American and Afghan soldiers were taking part. None were reported injured. Zabul has seen some of the bloodiest fighting between rebels and U.S.-led forces since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
Further east, suspected Taliban fired on a convoy of trucks bringing supplies to a U.S. military base in Khost province, killing a driver and injuring his assistant, said Nashin Uddin, an aide to the local Afghan National Army commander.
The attack occurred on Friday as the convoy made its way to Camp Salerno, a major U.S. base close to the Pakistani border. Some 18,000 American-led troops are in Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, and to help ensure security for landmark presidential elections scheduled for Oct. 9.
The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the elections, and have launched frequent attacks on coalition soldiers, election workers and Afghan voters. The vote is also threatened by factional violence and the risk of intimidation by regional militia leaders.
The arrested warlord, Amanullah, a Pashtun who goes by only one name, was brought to Kabul on Friday from the western province of Herat, said Jawed Ludin, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai. Ludin said Amanullah agreed to the transfer, but officials speaking on condition of anonymity said he had little choice and was essentially being kept under arrest.
"He does not have the freedom to go back. He is in custody," said a senior Afghan official. Dozens were killed in fighting which broke out earlier this month between Amanullah's fighters and those of Herat Gov. Ismail Khan, an ethnic Tajik strongman whose autocratic rule has alienated minorities and even some of his own commanders.
Ludin would not comment on speculation that Khan might be removed from power, but he said the action against Amanullah was one in a series of steps unfolding during the coming days.
"What happened to Amanullah was part of a wider plan to take all necessary measures to secure long-term stability in the region," Ludin said. A Western diplomat said Khan was being pressed by the government to accept a senior post in Kabul opening the way for the west of the country to be disarmed and cleansed of unpopular faction leaders.
"There is an opportunity to change the equation in that region," said the diplomat, who asked not to be identified. "For him (Khan), the time for something else has come."
The fighting alarmed Kabul and the United Nations and underscored the need to improve security ahead of the presidential vote. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for an urgent increase in international forces in Afghanistan before polling day.
The men reached a truce only after the U.S. military sent warplanes to the region to make clear that further fighting was not acceptable. Karzai also sent hundreds of troops from the Afghan National Army to an air base in Herat to help calm the fighting.
Act of Voting a Truth Test for Afghans
The New York Times 08/28/2004 By Carlotta Gall
KARANDA, Afghanistan - The slapstick comedy raises belly laughs from the villagers sitting on carpets under the shade of two mulberry trees in this sleepy village just north of Kabul. A theater troupe from the capital is touring the area, teaching villagers about the election. It is the first play they have ever seen, said a farmer, Muhammad Azim, 45.
Two actors, playing a blind man and a deaf man, are trying to register for the election. The message seems simple: everyone, even the disabled, has a right to vote in the presidential election on Oct. 9, and as the blind man keeps stumbling into the wrong place, and the deaf man keeps misunderstanding the questions, the audience is transfixed.
But there is a twist, and the two men are suddenly exposed as frauds, trying to get extra registration cards. The ending is hilarious as they are in turn beaten and embraced, but the moral of the play is serious: everyone should respect the election process, and not cheat the system by trying to register more than once.
With the election drawing closer, the high voter registration figures - more than 10 million so far, slightly more than the estimated voting population of about 9.5 million - have been celebrated as a sign of the Afghan people's thirst for democracy. But others say the high registration rate could turn the election into a farce.
"We are just beginning an exercise; people are enthusiastic, they want to have cards," President Hamid Karzai said recently, making light of the whole issue. "In fact, it doesn't bother me if Afghans have two registration cards. If they'd like to vote twice, well welcome, this is an exercise in democracy, let them exercise it twice."
He suggested that there could be anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 cases of double registration. Other election observers said it could be as many as a million.
Election commission officials have not tried to estimate the level of duplication. "The experts who know about it don't know what the numbers are, if it is a small number or a big number," said a United Nations spokesman in Kabul, Manoel de Almeida e Silva. "We all hope it is small."
And officials insist it will not matter on Election Day. Voter cards will be punched and voters' fingers marked with indelible ink to prevent people from voting more than once, they said.
But as the plays touring the villages point out, multiple registration is in danger of undermining the credibility of the election. Many Afghans know of cases of multiple registration and admit that it has dented their confidence in the process.
Ibrahim, an office manager in Kabul, said he became disillusioned early in the registration process when he met an acquaintance who proudly showed him 10 cards that he had obtained for himself.
A student at Kabul University said he had registered in the capital, only to find that his relatives had registered for him in his home village, and they sent him a card with no photo and someone else's thumbprint.
A middle-class family in Kandahar admitted having several extra cards. A 16-year-old daughter had registered, although she is not eligible to vote until she is 18. Her aunt lost her card and registered again for another one. And a young male cousin collected two cards for himself because he liked the photos.
Anecdotal cases all, but they are a sign that there may have been widespread multiple registration across the country. Although plans are being made to counter the problem on Election Day, by marking every voter with the indelible ink, the fraud is an indication of problems ahead.
With no census figures on the population, and unexpectedly high voter registration, it will be difficult to establish confidence in the turnout rate, which would help to affirm the strength of the winner's mandate, a delegation from the National Democratic Institute said in a pre-election statement.
Violence and insecurity could prevent voting in some areas. Other people are concerned there has been deliberate discrimination along ethnic lines to inflate registration figures in some areas and to leave them incomplete in others, the institute said.
"Many Pashtuns believe that circumstances of the registration process discriminated against them," the statement said. For their part, ethnic Tajiks have argued that their numbers are chronically undercounted.
From the actors of the Kabul Theater touring troupe the message is severe. "It's a crime. There is not any benefit from it, except you are put in jail and fined," one actor said. "With this sort of stupid crime, selling our rights for money, we destroyed our country," another said. And it hit the mark. "It was good, a kind of guidance for the people. And it was funny," said Abdul Rashid, the head of the village.
Qanuni denies withdrawal from poll
Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran 08/28/2004
Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, an Afghan presidential candidate and former education minister, has denied reports about his withdrawal from the presidential election which had been published in the US magazine Newsweek. In an interview with Iranian radio, he said the "news was without foundation". He said that he was determined to contest the election. The following is excerpt from report by Iranian radio from Mashhad on 23 August; subheadings inserted editorially:
Mr Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, an Afghan presidential candidate and ex-education minister, on Monday (23 August) denied the rumours pertaining to his withdrawal from the presidential election in favour of President Hamed Karzai which, quoting Ahmad Zia Masud [President Karzai's running mate in the forthcoming presidential poll], had been published in the US magazine Newsweek.
In a conversation with the [Iranian] radio Dari service he described this report as fabricated propaganda aimed at harming his reputation in Afghanistan. Mohammad Yunos Qanuni said that this is futile and baseless propaganda. [Qanuni] The published news was without foundation, I don't think that our dear brother Ahmad Zia Masud said this.
Everyone who said this was expressing his personal opinion. I decided to contest the election at the request of the people of Afghanistan, and I am determined to run for the presidency with God's help.
Nothing will force us to make any compromises and dealings. This is my absolute and our people's desire. Our goal is to rescue the people and our country from the crisis which unfortunately is going to take shape.
I am describing these attempts as part of the endeavours to stir up some uproar and convulsion among the people of Afghanistan and spread some rumours to entangle our people in a kind of confusion and chaotic situation.
I would like to say repeatedly and decisively that I will run for the presidency, and I am satisfied with the results of the poll, with God's help. [Passage omitted: Qanuni says his manifesto will be published soon].
[Qanuni] I don't see any obstacles in the way of the election. I hope that the election will be held on the announced date. All the candidates are concerned about the existence of fake cards.
[Correspondent] From time to time, people say that the result of the presidential election is predestined. What is your view, how fair will the election be and what success can you see for the candidates against the incumbent president?
[Qanuni] I would like to say that one of the rumours or propaganda being spread at the moment is that one of the powerful countries is supporting a specific candidate, and therefore, the final results are determined.
I would like to say clearly that this decision will depend on the judgment of the people of Afghanistan. It is the people of Afghanistan who will elect their future leadership. The voting cards of our beloved people in the capital and in provinces will determine their own future destiny. After 23 years of jihad and resistance, and efforts at the Bonn conference to lay foundations for peace in Afghanistan, we have the honour to help our country transform into a state, in which the people themselves are determining their fates by their own hands.
The USA's policy is to protect the people of Afghanistan and support them in their election. No specific candidate will be backed, and I would like to appeal to and assure the Afghan people that only the people of Afghanistan can determine their future leadership with the help of their voting cards.
[Passage omitted: negative propaganda is under way as part of a psychological war; people's expectations from the future government]
[Qanuni] Our people are in dire need of action to ensure security and stability. Our people do not enjoy real security and tranquillity. Afghanistan's reconstruction is another priority and a major part of Afghanistan's sufferings from the lack of regular restoration programmes. The government has not been successful in meeting the needs of people over the past three years.
[Passage omitted: He wants the future government to serve people in real terms and not only a selected group or tribe; he says the incumbent president should resign in order to hold a real transparent presidential poll.] Via BBC Monitoring
Pakistan province focuses on prayers, curbing vice
By Amir Zia
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Cinemas are barred from hoisting movie bill-boards and shopkeepers are afraid to display posters featuring women in the historic northern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
The city's only state-run theatre long ago closed its doors to singers, dancers and musicians, who are banned from holding public concerts because the ruling religious alliance in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) considers it against Islam.
Undeterred by allegations it is following in the footsteps of the ousted Afghan Taliban militia, the province's six-party Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) coalition government is bolstering efforts to enforce Islam in every sphere of public life.
Government employees are being "encouraged" to go to mosques to pray, and shopkeepers have been persuaded to keep businesses closed during prayer time, the latest edicts say.
"It's our goal to mould the society according to Islam," Asif Iqbal Daudzai, the province's information minister, told Reuters. "But we do not use force. We only persuade and motivate the people."
The province has also made it mandatory for new public and private buildings to allocate space for a mosque.
But human rights activists and political opponents complain that the Islamic alliance is trying to "Talibanise" the province, a deeply conservative region bordering Afghanistan.
"This the Pakistani edition of Talibanisation," said Afrasiab Khattak, a prominent human rights activist.
"The provincial government is geared toward establishing the rule of clerics from the top to the grassroots level," he said.
"They are promoting a culture of extremism and intolerance, which in its turn breeds violence and terrorism. It is lethal not just for our society, but also for Afghanistan."
The MMA, which includes factions of the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and is sympathetic to Islamic militants, rejects the charges it is intolerant and says it had no role in what happened in Afghanistan.
Malik Zafar Azam, a senior MMA minister, said promoting virtue and curbing vice was the government's responsibility.
"The Taliban implemented Islam. They used force because Afghanistan was a different society. But we are doing it gradually because this society is more educated and developed."
SCORES AT ELECTION
The MMA won control of the province in October 2002 elections when it cashed in on anti-U.S. sentiment triggered by the war in neighbouring Afghanistan.
But political analysts also link its election success to covert support from military ruler President Pervez Musharraf, who wanted to sideline his main secular rivals -- most notably the party led by exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
The party's agenda includes the segregation of women and curbing what it calls vices of dance and music, as well as obscenity and vulgarity.
The measures have made life difficult for some.
"We are in show-business, but we cannot show what we are screening," said an owner of a cinema in Peshawar on condition of anonymity.
"Our business is ruined, but we cannot raise our voice because we fear attacks by stick-wielding students of religious schools," he said.
Gulzar Alam, a Pashto-language singer, said he was beaten and thrown in prison for singing in a public programme.
"I can't hold concerts now. Music and poetry is part of our culture, but they are too narrow-minded to appreciate it. Hundreds of artists and their families have been hit."
The MMA is also trying to introduce a controversial set of laws under the "hasba" or "accountability" act that would empower government-appointed clerics to make judicial decisions, settle disputes and act as a moral watch-dog.
The new legislation calls for a special hasba police force and appointment of clerics as ombudsmen to ensure enforcement of Islamic values in public places.
Azam, the provincial minister, said the act would bring relief to people by providing them with speedy justice.
But Bushra Gohar, who works for the Human Resource Management and Development Centre, said the act undermines state institutions and its constitution.
"It would make society hostage to the narrow-minded interpretations of Islam by mullahs who would act as judge as well as executioner with no accountability at all," he said.
Naseem Wali Khan, a leader of the secular Awami National Party, said the government's proposals were aimed at diverting public attention away from real issues.
"They have failed to end corruption, provide jobs and health facilities to the people. These issues are not on the MMA's agenda," she said.
Georgia Sends Troops to Afghanistan
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi 30/08/2004 00:48
50 Georgian soldiers and officers from the 16th Mountain Battalion departed on August 29 to Germany for a two-week training courses to prepare for a 100-day deployment in Afghanistan.
The 16 Sachkhere Mountain Battalion was trained by the U.S. military instructors in frames of the Georgia Train-and-Equip Program and later underwent British-funded training courses for Peace Support Operation tactics carried out by the British military instructors.
Georgian soldiers will be deployed in Afghanistan under the command of the German forces.
159 soldiers from the 16th Mountain Battalion of the Georgian Defense Ministry are stationed in Iraq as well, as part of the coalition forces.
Afghan ex-combatants and poppy growers receive new livelihoods
Source: World Bank 28 Aug 2004
KABUL, August 28, 2004 - Thousands of Afghan people whose only livelihood has been combat or the growing of illegal opium poppies will be given the opportunity to enter Afghanistan's new economy with help from a US$19.6 million grant to be provided by the Government of Japan and administered by the World Bank.
The objectives of this grant are: (i) to provide immediate employment opportunities through the Government of Afghanistan's National Emergency Employment Program (NEEP) for ex-combatants in order to facilitate their reintegration into civil society as a component of the broader Afghanistan New Beginnings Program (ANBP), and (ii) to contribute to the Government's alternative livelihood program in opium poppy producing areas. The grant focuses on two areas: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) and Rural Livelihood Support (RLS).
'Reintegration of ex-combatants is our great concern as a lead donor country of DDR,' said Kinichi Komano, Ambassador of Japan. 'Such reintegration program has to be based on the regional development and, so does alternative livelihood program. NEEP provides the opportunity of income generation for both former fighters and people in need through infrastructural rehabilitation, which could lead to regional development.'
The Government's DDR program maintains that demobilization of forces and their reintegration into society are essential prerequisites for the consolidation of the peace process and restoration of social and economic development in Afghanistan. The RLS program, designed to help eliminate the production of illicit drugs in the country, provides alternative income opportunities for those who have seen growing opium poppies as the most desirable or only path out of poverty.
'The Government of Afghanistan has demonstrated a clear understanding of the significant challenges faced by people whose lives have been shaped by conflict and extreme poverty over the past two decades,' said Amer Zafar Durrani, the World Bank Task Leader for the Project. 'The Government requested help to develop programs that will allow these people to follow a different path and contribute to the growth of the new Afghanistan that is emerging.'
The three-year program will provide immediate wage labor employment for 10,000 unskilled ex-combatants while providing around 100 to 300 ex-officers and ex-commanders with employment, training and equipment (under a lease-purchase arrangement) to start up small scale labor based contractor businesses. The program will also provide vocational training to 1,500 ex-combatants and will train 1,000 more in operating and maintaining road construction equipment. It expects to generate 3 million labor days of employment for ex-combatants, rural workers in poppy-growing areas, and others who are living in poverty.
The grant is being provided by the Japan Social Development Fund, established by the Government of Japan in 2000 to help poor and vulnerable people participate in the development process. The fund is administered by the World Bank. The two parties agreed to set up a special window within the JSDF to support Afghanistan's reconstruction and transition toward political, economic, and social stability.
ISLAMABAD SAYS UN CALLS FOR MORE BORDER SECURITY ’UNFAIR’
Robert McMahon: 8/28/04 A EurasiaNet Partner Post from RFE/RL
Pakistan’s UN ambassador has expressed frustration and resentment at UN calls for greater efforts to secure its border to stop armed infiltrations into Afghanistan.
Pakistani envoy Munir Akram told the UN Security Council August 25 that his country has taken extraordinary efforts to safeguard its border, including the deployment of 75,000 troops.
"What more is expected from Pakistan in this context that we are not doing? That is a question. We feel very strongly that we are doing everything that we can. We are taking lots, lots of political risks, lots of military casualties, and to call upon Pakistan to do more -- even more -- is unfair," Akram said.
Akram called on the international community to increase its commitment to forces inside Afghanistan as part of the effort to protect the upcoming presidential elections.
His comments came in response to an appeal by the chief UN representative to Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, who called for greater efforts to protect the 9 October elections.
Arnault told the Security Council that one of the ways to improve security is by reducing cross-border infiltrations from Pakistan. He said the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has found that extremists are coming across the border to disrupt the Afghan electoral process.
"We would be irresponsible as UNAMA if we did not appeal to the international community, to the government of Pakistan, of Afghanistan and to international forces to put an end to this situation, and in particular in the southern border," Arnault said.
Arnault said Afghanistan has just concluded a successful registration process for the elections. The UN-guided process registered 10.5 million Afghans -- 40 percent of whom are women.
But he said southern areas of Afghanistan, particularly the province of Zabul, have had much lower rates of registration due to threats and attacks by extremists.
The U.S.-led coalition now has about 18,000 troops in Afghanistan, and the International Security Assistance Force is expected to have about 8,300 troops by the end of September. Arnault expressed concern that these forces will not be enough to provide widespread security on election day.
"We are concerned that violence could cause part of the populations to stay away from polling sites in the south and elsewhere. This threat is compounded by the fact that security forces -- both domestic and international -- will be stretched thin to protect all 5,000 [voting] sites across the country," Arnault said.
Akram, the Pakistani ambassador, sought to emphasize the role of factional militias in destabilizing the country, including in southern areas.
"The primary mistake, in our view, has been to rely on warlords and factional forces to provide stability in Afghanistan. The result of this mistake is the creation of security vacuums in large parts of Afghanistan, where the writ of the central government does not run and where lawlessness, corruption and drug trafficking thrive," Akram said.
Akram said another reason for insecurity in the south is the exclusion of majority Pashtuns from the political process.
But Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, Ravan Farhadi, told the Security Council that no such exclusion is taking place.
"I assure the council, in conclusion, that there is no alienation of any ethnic group in Afghanistan, including in the south and east border areas," Farhadi said.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan Transitional Administration Hamid Karzai met on 23 August in Islamabad. Musharraf promised to stop extremists from using Pakistani territory to disrupt the Afghan presidential elections.
India to help Afghanistan and Iraq conduct polls
NEW DELHI: India will help Iraq and Afghanistan conduct their upcoming elections under an agreement signed on Saturday between New Delhi and the United Nations, an official said.
The agreement was signed in New Delhi by Indian Deputy Election Commissioner Noor Mohammad and Carina Perelli, director of the UN’s Electoral Assistance Division, the official said. “India’s election expertise is recognised the world over,” Noor Mohammad said, adding that the country would provide assistance “wherever the UN thinks India’s services could be useful”.
“Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan could be immediate areas of activity,” Noor Mohammad said. “Two Indians are already in Afghanistan, one of whom is helping to register voters for the October 9 presidential polls. India will be supplying indelible ink for the Aghan polls free of cost,” Noor Mohammad said.
Perelli said the UN would face tremendous challenges in providing assistance for elections in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq in the coming years.
Indian Chief Election Commissioner T S Krishna Murthy described the signing of the agreement as a historic. afp
Documents Helped Sow Abuse, Army Report Finds
Top Officials Did Not Make Interrogation Policies Clear
By R. Jeffrey Smith Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, August 30, 2004; Page A01
Early last September, attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq were spiking and an Army general dispatched from a military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, concluded in a classified study that the detention of Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad "does not yet set conditions for successful interrogations."
Under pressure to extract more information from the prisoners -- to "go beyond" what Army interrogation rules allowed, as an Army general later put it -- the senior U.S. military commander in Iraq sent a secret cable to his boss at U.S. Central Command on Sept. 14, outlining more aggressive interrogation methods he planned to authorize immediately.
The cable signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez listed several dozen strategies for extracting information, drawn partly from what officials now say was an outdated and improperly permissive Army field manual. But it added one not previously approved for use in Iraq, under the heading of Presence of Military Working Dogs: "Exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations."
Sanchez's order calling on police dog handlers to help intimidate detainees into talking -- a practice later seen in searing photographs -- was one of a handful of documents written by senior officials that Army officials now say helped sow the seeds of prison abuse in Iraq. They did so, according to an Army report released Wednesday, by lending credence to the idea that aggressive interrogation methods were sanctioned by officers going up the chain of command.
But the issue of using dogs is also an example of how the U.S. military's ad hoc and informal decision-making in Iraq created confusion and allowed these harsh methods to infiltrate from Afghanistan to Guantanamo and finally to Iraq, despite Bush administration contentions that detainees in each theater of conflict were subject to different rules and that Iraqis would receive the most protections.
The text of the Sanchez cable was not included in public copies of the Army's report, but was obtained by The Washington Post from a government official upset by what Sanchez approved.
The authors of the Army report did not accuse Sanchez of directly instigating abuse, and they did not cite the contents of his memo in the unclassified version. But Army Gen. Paul J. Kern -- who oversaw the drafting of the report -- said in an interview last week that Sanchez "wrote a policy which was not clear," and that by doing so, he allowed junior officers to conclude mistakenly that they were following an official policy as they stepped over a legal line.
This interpretation of the role senior officials played -- that they committed sins of omission, rather than commission, by writing ambiguous instructions and then failing to police the errant ways of subordinates -- is likely to be challenged in court, according to lawyers for some of the soldiers on trial in connection with the prison abuse.
No one above the military grade of the top intelligence commander at Abu Ghraib was legally "culpable" for the abuse, the Army report concluded. But a separate report on the abuse released Wednesday by a panel appointed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld referred to Sanchez's memo on Sept. 14 as one of several documents that led "some soldiers or contractors who committed abuse" to believe "the techniques were condoned."
Other such documents cited by officials who participated in the two probes include a December 2002 memo signed by Rumsfeld that authorized harsh interrogation methods for prisoners at Guantanamo, and a controversial Feb. 7, 2002, memo signed by President Bush that declared that fighters detained in Afghanistan were not entitled as a matter of law to the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions.
The Rumsfeld memo included authorization for the use of dogs; the Bush memo was cited by legal advisers to Sanchez as the basis for their determination that some Iraqi detainees were not entitled to the full legal protections provided by the Geneva Conventions, according to the independent panel. This "confusion" between interrogation rules devised for use at Guantanamo and Afghanistan and the protections mandated by international law in Iraq contributed to some of the abuse, according to the Army report's executive summary.
Kern said: "We found not culpability" among senior officers such as Sanchez, but "clear responsibility" for not deterring junior officers and enlisted men from inappropriate behavior. "They didn't clarify for those young interrogators what their responsibilities were."
Several abuses in particular are highlighted by the two reports released last week: the use of dogs to frighten detainees, the repeated stripping of detainees, and the use of extended isolation and sensory deprivation. Each clearly violated Army rules and violated Geneva Conventions that protect civilians under military occupation from threats of violence, isolation from visits by the Red Cross, and humiliating and degrading treatment, the Army report said.
The issue of using military dogs illustrates how a blizzard of memos from senior officials sowed an impression of tolerance, if not approval, for aggressive interrogations. It has been a particular embarrassment to the Pentagon since photos of dogs snarling and barking in front of cowering Iraqis -- and in one case preparing to bite a detainee -- were made public in June, about six months after soldiers there recorded the images.
It also illustrates how, as the independent panel's report concluded, the migration of lists and interrogators from one theater to another resulted in "policies approved for use on al Qaeda and Taliban detainees, who were not afforded the protection of the Geneva Conventions, [being] applied to detainees who did fall under the Geneva Conventions."
Army investigators probing the abuse in Iraq traced the initial idea of using dogs -- a technique that does not appear in the service's standard field guide -- to interrogation practices followed by U.S. intelligence officials and Special Forces teams deployed in Afghanistan. Kern said the officials there concluded that Afghans feared dogs because of religious beliefs that those bitten are unhealthy or condemned, and became convinced that this fear could be exploited to compel intelligence disclosures.
The technique migrated first from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, via Washington. In late 2002, aides to Rumsfeld -- responding to a request by officials at Guantanamo for approval of more aggressive interrogation methods -- canvassed officers in Afghanistan and elsewhere. On Dec. 2, Rumsfeld approved techniques for use only at that site, which included "the use of dogs to induce stress and the removal of clothing as Counter-Resistance techniques," according to the Army report.
Rumsfeld rescinded his memo the following month, after a private protest by Navy general counsel Alberto J. Mora over its sanctioning of practices in violation of international law and military regulations. The independent panel's report faulted Rumsfeld for not obtaining "a wider range of legal opinions and a more robust debate" before he approved the rules. It also said his promulgation of these guidelines -- even temporarily -- contributed "to a belief that stronger interrogation methods were needed and appropriate."
By April, after a Pentagon review, Rumsfeld approved a new list of interrogation techniques that omitted the use of dogs. But U.S. Special Operations forces in Afghanistan, meanwhile, continued to use many of the practices on Rumsfeld's Dec. 2 list, including "isolating people for long periods of time, using stress positions, exploiting fear of dogs, and implementing sleep and light deprivation," the Army report concluded.
U.S. military commanders there urged the removal of clothing on grounds that "no specific written legal prohibition existed." The Pentagon has not released details of abusive Special Forces activities in Afghanistan. But the independent panel said an unreleased Defense Department report has found "a range of abuses and causes similar in scope and magnitude" to those involving interrogators at Abu Ghraib.
In Afghanistan, these tactics were also employed by members of the Army's 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, a unit transferred to Iraq in the summer of 2003. After Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, the top official at the Guantanamo prison, visited Abu Ghraib from Aug. 31 to Sept. 9 and called for more rigorous interrogations there, some of these tactics -- including the use of dogs -- were incorporated in a memo drafted by Sanchez's legal office on Sept. 10 and sent to prison interrogators.
Sanchez's legal advisers subsequently drew on both this guidance and the legal justifications in Bush's 2002 directive while drafting the Sept. 14 cable from Sanchez to Lt. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the head of U.S. Central Command, the independent panel's report said.
"Enclosed is the policy modeled on the one implemented for interrogation conducted at Gitmo," Sanchez said in his cable, referring to Guantanamo Bay. It authorized not only exploiting prisoners' "fear" of dogs but also the use of isolation; "sleep management"; "yelling, loud music, and light control . . . to create fear, disorient detainees and capture shock"; deception, including fake documents and reports; and "stress positions," such as forced kneeling for as many as four hours at a time.
The cable placed no restrictions on the use of dogs on "detainees" and "security internees," but said any use involving enemy prisoners of war would require Sanchez's direct approval. In fact, as Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, an intelligence official who co-wrote the Army report, said in an interview last week, the use of this narrow qualifying phrase in Sanchez's memo reflected bad "staff work" by the lawyers who drafted it for Sanchez's approval, because U.S. military forces "did not have very many enemy prisoners of war at that point."
Within one month, Sanchez's cable was rescinded on instructions from senior officials at U.S. Central Command and replaced with a more cautious memo that allowed the use of muzzled dogs during interrogations only when Sanchez gave his direct approval -- something he told investigators he was never asked to do.
His new memo was based in part on an outdated 1987 version of the Army Field Manual for interrogations, which was more permissive than the 1992 version then in effect because it allowed complete control of light, heat, food, clothing and shelter as interrogation techniques, the Army report concluded. Investigators attributed this error by Sanchez's office to the Army's failure to update a key Web site with the 1992 report.
But whatever Sanchez's intent or policy, the practice of "abusing detainees with dogs started almost immediately" after the Army, acting at Miller's urging, brought several dog teams to Abu Ghraib in November 2003.
The fact that at least three "confusing and inconsistent" interrogation directives were approved within a month-long period "contributed to the belief" that illegal interrogation techniques were condoned, the Army report stated. An absence of leadership and oversight also left room for what the Army report described as "word of mouth" techniques to be passed around and followed by interrogators deployed to Iraq.
The Army report quoted Sanchez as saying he "never approved use of dogs." Fay also said in the report that "no documentation was found" showing approval by the Combined Joint Task Force 7, headed by Sanchez, "to use dogs in interrogations."
Asked to explain the apparent conflict between language in the report and the text of Sanchez's cable, Kern said that what Sanchez meant is that he never specifically approved an interrogation plan submitted to him for review that involved the use of dogs, while Fay said that Sanchez believes he only endorsed the general presence of muzzled dogs at the time interrogations were being conducted, rather than inside prison interrogation booths -- a practice that was clearly misunderstood.
Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the senior intelligence official at Abu Ghraib, told Army investigators that Miller, in addition to Sanchez, had authorized the use of dogs to "set the stage" for productive interrogations. But the authors of the report accepted Miller's contrary contention that he only recommended using dogs for detainee custody and control at Abu Ghraib. Miller is the head of U.S. military detainee operations in Iraq.
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