Afghans wind up vote registration wanting security
By Dawood Wafa
JALALABAD, Afghanistan, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Defying threats by remnants of the Taliban militia and the killing of poll workers, about 90 percent of Afghans have registered to vote in upcoming elections and more are signing up before a deadline.
Men and women queued to register to vote across the country on Thursday ahead of the August 15 deadline. Security, not the outcome of elections, was their main concern.
"The enemies want to disrupt the election, but we are ready to stop them," said Akbar Kaka, a middle-aged man with black beard and a traditional flat, round pakul hat.
"We will hold the election on time," he added, after receiving his voter registration card in the eastern city of Jalalabad, scene of recent attacks against election workers claimed by Islamic militants.
U.N. figures show that nearly nine million people have registered to take part in a presidential election on October 9 and parliamentary polls in April, far more than originally expected and remarkable considering the violence of recent months.
Islamic militants launched a series of deadly attacks on poll workers and registrants in the volatile south and east of the country in recent weeks.
In June, a suspected Taliban bombing killed two women poll workers in Jalalabad, and days later four people died after twin explosions in a crowded commercial district of the city.
More than 900 people have been killed in violence in the past year, with many of the deaths blamed on militants opposed to the U.S.-backed government of Hamid Karzai and the presence of foreign troops in the country.
LAGGING IN THE SOUTH
The worst-affected areas are old Taliban heartlands of the south and east, and registration in those areas has lagged. The percentage of women taking part there is also lower than the 42 percent national average.
Nawab Khan, another registrant in Jalalabad, echoed the view of many Afghans when he said: "This election is for the security of Afghanistan."
People are not only worried about Islamic militant threats. Factional commanders whose private militias have resisted a nationwide programme to disarm could attempt to coerce voters in both elections, Western diplomats warn.
The delay of parliamentary elections until spring was seen as a way of diluting factions' powers in time for the vote. The presidential election was postponed from June, partly because of security concerns.
U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) scheme was moving "very slowly".
"We hope that DDR will gain momentum and that this momentum indeed will happen before elections," he told reporters, adding that 12,500 factional fighters had been disarmed so far.
There are an estimated 40-50,000 private militiamen in Afghanistan, mainly drawn from the "mujahideen", or holy warriors, who fought against the Soviets and the Taliban.
Karzai has called so-called "warlords" heading factional forces a greater threat to stability than militancy.
Such comments have angered the factions.
Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a powerful "mujahideen" figure, this week threw his support behind former Education Minister and presidential hopeful Yunus Qanuni in the most serious challenge yet to frontrunner Karzai. (Additional reporting by Sayed Salahuddin in KABUL)
New centres for election training set to make a difference
KABUL, 5 August (IRIN) - Newly established election training centres, operated by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and aimed at training people in how to vote during October's elections, look set to make a difference.
"This is very significant. We need to provide as much as possible training and awareness for the people," Grant Kippen, country director for the Washington-based NGO, told IRIN in Kabul, noting that this was the first time that free and fair elections were being held in the country, making it new for everyone.
And while more than 8.9 million Afghans have registered to vote in the coming elections, many remain unaware of the voting procedures. Moreover, many voters expressed concern that they would be coerced by warlords or other armed parties during the election process.
"In this training centre we are training people in order to increase their awareness, emphasising that voting is confidential and that no one can influence how they vote and select their leader," Manizha Mosawi, an NDI trainer at the centre in Kabul, told IRIN. Training included lectures and providing practical insight into what happens at polling stations, he added.
Jahanzib, a female trainee of the centre in Kabul, was happy to learn more about the election procedure. "I have learned a lot regarding elections and polling in this centre. This training programme can be very useful for every man and woman in the country," the 36-year-old said, adding that she was enthusiastic about going into rural areas after finishing her training, fully aware that many women were unaware of the process.
According to Kippen, over 700 people from across the country have already participated in the election training. NDI had planned on establishing centres in eight locations around the country. Centres were already open in Kabul, Jalalabad, Mazar, Kunduz and Bamiyan and other planned centres include those in Kandahar, Herat and Khost, he noted.
Training on the role of polling agents who would observe the voting process, as well as ballot counting on behalf of their respective candidates, would also be introduced, the NDI official explained.
The centres are funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Government of Germany and implemented by NDI.
NDI is a non-governmental organisation (NGO), working to strengthen and expand democracy worldwide. Based in Washington DC, NDI was established in 1984 and currently has offices in 59 countries around the world. NDI has been in Afghanistan since March 2002.
Eurocorps to take over international Afghanistan command Monday
06 August 2004 EUbusiness, UK
Eurocorps will take over command of the NATO-run international peacekeeping force in the Afghan capital Kabul next Monday for six months, the head of the five-nation military force General Jean-Louis Py said Thursday.
"It is an extremely important step for Eurocorps, which well shows the synergy with NATO," Py said, describing himself as a "conductor" whose role was to "put to music" NATO decisions.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which has 7,000 troops from 30 countries, was set up by the United Nations in December 2001, weeks after the defeat of the radical Islamic Taliban regime.
Eurocorps is made up of detachments from five European Union countries -- Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Spain. It was created in 1992 by France and Germany and later put at the service of the European Union and is certified as a NATO rapid reaction force.
Several other countries second staff to its headquarters in Strasbourg though they do not contribute troops or material.
The Afghan operation will be the first involving Eurocorps outside Europe. Between 1998 and 2000 its troops took part in the NATO-led Stabilisation Force (SFOR) in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Eurocorps will remain under the political and military authority of NATO in Kabul.
Presidential elections are due to be held in Afghanistan on October 9.
"Our mission will consist of increasing the level of security to enable calm and representative elections," Py told reporters in Strasbourg.
He is due to leave Friday for Kabul where he will take over from General Rick Hillier of Canada, whose country currently commands ISAF, whose job is to maintain security in Kabul and the immediate area in liaison with the Afghan authorities. There are plans to increase its strength to 10,000 by October.
About 300 members of the Eurocorps headquarters staff will be deployed to Kabul, where the HQ and two battalions, comprising 1,500 men in all, of the Franco-German brigade are already stationed.
While the NATO-led peacekeepers patrol Kabul and parts of northern Afghanistan, another 20,000-strong coalition of troops under the leadership of the United States is hunting militants in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
Security around the country has deteriorated in recent weeks as militants attempt to derail elections through violent attacks.
The Atlantic alliance agreed earlier this year to a request from the Afghan authorities to extend the peacekeeping force beyond Kabul to the provinces, but is battling to persuade its member states to provide the necessary resources.
Afghan Charged in Deaths of 4 Journalists
Thu Aug 5, 9:12 PM ET By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Authorities have charged a man in the 2001 killings of four foreign journalists who were pulled from their vehicles and shot as they rushed to the Afghan capital after the collapse of the Taliban, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Reza Khan faces trial in the slaying of one victim and the rape of another — crimes he confessed to in an interview broadcast this week on state television.
The journalists were traveling in a convoy from the eastern city of Jalalabad when a group of armed men stopped them Nov. 19, 2001 — six days after the Taliban militia abandoned Kabul in the wake of heavy U.S. bombing.
Those killed were Australian television cameraman Harry Burton and Afghan photographer Azizullah Haidari of the Reuters new agency; Maria Grazia Cutuli of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera; and Julio Fuentes of the Spanish daily El Mundo.
Gen. Abdul Fatah, a prosecutor for the Afghan intelligence service, said Khan told interrogators the killings were ordered by "a Taliban guy." But in his televised confession, Khan suggested the motive was theft.
Khan, a bearded man in his early 30s dressed in a baggy shirt and flat woolen cap, looked pained as he quietly answered about a dozen questions in the videotape, which was broadcast Tuesday. The Associated Press obtained a copy of it Thursday.
Part of the recording showed his feet chained together; it was unclear where or when the video was made.
Khan said he'd gone with a local commander, Zar Jan, who'd been released from a Taliban jail, to rob passing motorists. Khan said the journalists were in the third and fourth vehicles they stopped that morning.
After searching the reporters, "Zar Jan ordered us to shoot them," Khan said. "He was our commander. If we didn't kill them, maybe he would have killed me."
Khan said he personally shot one of the foreigners but did not know which.
He also said he took Cutuli to a rocky area just off the road and raped her, and that afterward, another man, Mohammed Agha, killed her. He said Agha and Jan are now on the run together.
"It was a thing that I did and I regret it," Khan said of the rape. "I hope that God will forgive me."
Khan said he was paid about a month later, and that Jan then recruited him to help set up a roadblock where Jan cut off the ears and noses of four people in two cars.
"I think that the Taliban ordered him to cut the ears and nose off," Khan said. "He asked them why they had cut their beard" — one of the many acts prohibited under the Taliban.
Khan said he had been a member of Hezb-e Islami, a radical Islamic party; many of its members joined the Taliban. He said Jan had been imprisoned by the Taliban until shortly before the killings of the journalists.
Afghan intelligence officials announced in April last year that four people had been arrested over the killings and that two had confessed, but gave no details. State media reported at the time that al-Qaida and Taliban rebels fleeing south after the fall of Kabul were suspected.
The prosecutor said Khan was arrested earlier this year trying to cross into Pakistan; he was detained based on evidence provided by a man already sentenced to 16 years in jail.
He said Khan will appear in court soon for a closed-door trial, and that he could be hanged if found guilty. The highway robbery charge alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. It was unclear if Khan will have access to a lawyer.
Afghan Prisoners Plead for Their Freedom
By IAN JAMES, Associated Press Writer
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - Two Afghan prisoners, their hands bound and feet chained to the floor, pleaded for their freedom Thursday before U.S. military tribunals, their first hearings since they've been held at Guantanamo Bay and the first open to observers.
The first detainee, who's been held for 2 1/2 years, spoke quietly through a Pashto interpreter to declare he had a Taliban-issued rifle but never fought against Americans.
"I surrendered myself to Americans because I believed Americans are for human rights," the a 31-year-old prisoner said. "I had never heard Americans mistreated anybody in the past."
The other prisoner, 49, also speaking through a translator, said he was a wood seller who was forced to join the hard-line Islamic militia. "The Taliban came to my house and they took me," said the man, who had a full gray beard and closely shorn hair.
Thursday's hearings, held in a windowless 10-by-20-foot room in a trailer, were the ninth and 10th since the tribunal process began a week ago to determine whether some 585 men being held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba should be held as "enemy combatants" or set free.
Though the media was admitted for the first time, the military was keeping a tight grip on information. No identities of prisoners were to be made public, and all testimony is being checked for classified information.
The hearings are the first opportunity detainees have had to plead their cases since the detention mission began in January 2002. Human rights lawyers say the tribunals are a sham, pointing out that the detainees are not allowed lawyers and saying the officers hearing cases can't be considered impartial.
During his appearance, the first detainee — a slight man with a long, dark beard — glanced at panel members and three journalists wearing yellow media badges. Other reporters watched through a two-way mirror.
"If you are arresting everybody with the name of Taliban, it doesn't mean they are all against Americans," he said. "I wasn't going to fight anyone."
"There should be a difference between someone who surrenders and someone who fights against Americans. I surrendered," said the man, who claimed he had been in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz when he heard there would be a surrender arrangement and turned himself in to Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek strongman.
Asked by the tribunal whether he had surrendered in a car with a Taliban leader, the prisoner said "yes." The prisoner had asked to call an unidentified witness, but the military ruled it wouldn't be relevant to deciding whether he was properly held as an "enemy combatant."
The detainee admitted he had a Kalashnikov rifle issued by the Taliban, but said it was given to him "forcefully." "They were giving (rifles) to everybody," he said.
The military claims the man was a soldier and Taliban member since 1997 who went to Kunduz to fight the Northern Alliance. The prisoner said he had once been hospitalized for injuries in an air bombardment and had gone to Kunduz "hoping to earn some money."
When fighting began, he said, "I heard from somebody on the radio that Americans are coming to Afghanistan to get Osama (bin Laden)."
The detainee repeated an oath to God before testifying. He also asked about the hearing's purpose, saying, "Will you release me or keep me here?"
He said he has nothing against Americans. "I am happy the Americans are rebuilding my country," he said.
After about an hour, the U.S. military closed the proceedings to review classified information.
The review panels have the power to reverse assessments that some detainees are "enemy combatants," a classification that carries fewer legal protections than prisoners of war. The process is separate from upcoming military commissions where prisoners will face charges, trial and possible sentences including the death penalty.
All prisoners are accused of links to Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime or al-Qaida, though some observers have said a number of foot soldiers are among them. More than 100 detainees have been freed or transferred back to their home governments.
Each detainee is being assigned a military officer as a "personal representative" for the reviews. Defense lawyers argue that officer is acting as a government agent and is not impartial.
The military convened the Combatant Status Review Tribunals in response to a Supreme Court ruling in June that prisoners have a right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. It is not clear, however, if the reviews meet the court's requirements.
So far, five detainees — three Yemenis, one Saudi and one Moroccan — have refused to appear before the panels. Reasons have not been given.
"It has nothing to do with justice," said lawyer Najeeb Al-Nauimi, a former justice minister of Qatar who says he is representing more than 100 detainees.
Military officials say cases heard so far include those of an Algerian who has threatened to kill Americans if freed and a Yemeni who signed an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
Bush signs defense bill with additional $25 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan
By Terence Hunt Associated Press 08/05/2004
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush signed a $417.5 billion wartime defense bill Thursday providing an additional $25 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, body armor for troops and reinforced Humvee vehicles.
"With this legislation America's military will know that their country stands behind them as they fight for our freedom and as they spread the peace," Bush said.
"No enemy or friend can doubt that America has the resources to prevail," he said. "And we will."
Overwhelmingly approved by a Congress eager to show election-year support for the military, the measure includes money for 39 more Army Black Hawk helicopters, a Virginia-class attack submarine, three guided-missile destroyers and a 3.5 percent pay increase for troops. "This money is well-earned, well-deserved and well-spent," he said of the pay increase.
With national security the top issue in his re-election campaign, Bush came off the political trail for the bill-signing ceremony with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and members of Congress. With the ink on the measure barely dry, Bush was returning to the campaign trail for his 20th trip as president to Ohio.
Bush had originally insisted that no extra funds would be needed for Iraq and Afghanistan until after the elections but under pressure from Congress, he requested $25 billion. He said the two countries were "the front lines in the war on terror."
It has nearly $78 billion for weapons purchases, $3 billion more than Bush requested. Included is more money for Air Force unmanned Predator aerial attack vehicles, Stryker combat vehicles for the Army and a DD(X) destroyer.
There is $10 billion for continued work on a national missile defense system. And there is $100 million for the Air Force to modernize its fleet of midair refueling tankers -- though House language was dropped requiring 80 of the craft to be purchased from the ailing Boeing Co.
"This bill will help make America a safer place," Bush said.
Clinton accuses Bush of contracting out US security to Pakistan
TORONTO (AFP) - Former US president Bill Clinton accused President George W. Bush's administration of contracting out US security and the hunt for Osama bin Laden to Pakistan, in its zeal to wage war in Iraq.
Though he didn't mention Bush by name, Clinton, on a book tour in Canada, said Thursday the Iraq war had drained resources which could have been better spent chasing the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks.
"We will never know if we could have gotten him (bin Laden), because we didn't make it a priority," Clinton said in an interview with CBC television.
Clinton, who is supporting Bush's Democratic opponent Senator John Kerry in the November 2 US election, said that at the time of the Iraq war, Saddam Hussein was only Washington's number five security threat.
"Why did we put our number one security threat in the hands of the Pakistanis with us playing the supporting role and put all our military resources into Iraq which was I think at best our number five security threat?" asked Clinton.
"How did we get to the point where we have 130,000 troops in Iraq and 15,000 in Afghanistan?"
Clinton said other top security threats after the September 11, 2001 attacks on which the Bush administration should have concentrated were the Middle East, the India-Pakistan conflict, and North Korea's nuclear program.
He asked whether, "as a military proposition it was wise to make all these commitments in Iraq and in effect contract our security out to the Pakistanis in Afghanistan and with bin Laden and al-Qaeda, which is unquestionably what has happened."
Clinton also said that, had he been president during the run-up to the Iraq war and former United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix told him Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, he would have sided with Blix in the face of US intelligence data to thwe contrary.
"It is not a question of believing him over US intelligence agencies, but the intelligence was ambiguous on the point, really."
Report: Pakistan's ISI 'Fully Involved' in 9/11
by Arnaud de Borchgrave, Aug. 3, 2004
The Sept. 11 Commission has found troubling new evidence that Iran was closer to al-Qaida than was Iraq. More importantly, and through no fault of its own, the commission missed the biggest prize of all: Former Pakistani intelligence officers knew beforehand all about the September 11 attacks.
They even advised Osama bin Laden and his cohorts how to attack key targets in the United States with hijacked civilian aircraft. And bin Laden has been undergoing periodic dialysis treatment in a military hospital in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province adjacent to the Afghan border.
The information came to the commission's attention in a confidential report from Pakistan as the commission's own report was coming off the presses. The information was supplied with the understanding that the unimpeachable source would remain anonymous.
Pakistan still denies that President Pervez Musharraf knew anything about the activities of A.Q. Khan, the country's top nuclear engineer who spent the last 10 years building and running a one-stop global Wal-Mart for "rogue" nations. North Korea, Iran and Libya shopped for nuclear weapons at Mr. Khan's underground black market. Pakistan has also denied the allegations by a leading Pakistani in the confidential addendum to the September 11 Commission report.
After U.S. and British intelligence painstakingly pieced together Mr. Khan's global nuclear proliferation endeavors, Deputy Secretary of State Rich Armitage was assigned last fall to convey the devastating news to Mr. Musharraf. Mr. Khan, a national icon for giving Pakistan its nuclear arsenal, was not arrested. Instead, Mr. Musharraf pardoned him in exchange for an abject apology on national television in English.
No one in Pakistan believed Mr. Musharraf's claim he was totally in the dark about Mr. Khan's operation. Prior to seizing power in 1999, Mr. Musharraf was � and still is army chief of staff. For the past five years, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence chief has reported directly to Mr. Musharraf.
Osama bin Laden's principal Pakistani adviser before Sept. 11, 2001, was retired Gen. Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief who, since the 2001 attacks, is "strategic adviser" to the coalition of six politico- religious parties that governs two of Pakistan's four provinces. Known as MMA, the coalition also occupies 20 percent of the seats in the federal assembly in Islamabad.
Hours after Sept. 11, Gen. Gul publicly accused Israel's Mossad of fomenting the plot. Later, he said the U.S. Air Force must have been in on it since no warplanes were scrambled to shoot down the hijacked airliners.
Gen. Gul spent two weeks in Afghanistan immediately before Sept. 11. He denied meeting bin Laden on that trip, but has always said he was an "admirer" of the al-Qaida leader. However, he did meet several times with Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban leader.
Since Sept. 11, hardly a week goes by without Gen. Gul denouncing the United States in both the Urdu and English-language media. In a conversation with this reporter in October 2001, Gen. Gul forecast a future Islamist nuclear power that would form a greater Islamic state with a fundamentalist Saudi Arabia after the monarchy falls.
Gen. Gul worked closely with the CIA during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan when he was ISI chief. He was "mildly" fundamentalist in those days, he explained after Sept. 11, and indifferent to the United States. But he became passionately anti-American after the United States turned its back on Afghanistan following the 1989 Soviet withdrawal and began punishing Pakistan with economic and military sanctions for its secret nuclear buildup.
A ranking CIA official, speaking anonymously, said the agency considered Gen. Gul "the most dangerous man" in Pakistan. A senior Pakistani political leader, also on condition of anonymity, said, "I have reason to believe Hamid Gul was Osama bin Laden's master planner."
The report received by the Sept. 11 Commission from the anonymous, well-connected Pakistani source, said: "The core issue of instability and violence in South Asia is the character, activities and persistence of the militarized Islamist fundamentalist state in Pakistan. No cure for this canker can be arrived at through any strategy of negotiations, support and financial aid to the military regime, or by a 'regulated' transition to 'democracy.'"
The confidential report continued: "The imprints of every major act of international Islamist terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan, right from September 11 � where virtually all the participants had trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistan to major acts of terrorism across South Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as major networks of terror that have been discovered in Europe.
"Pakistan has harvested an enormous price for its apparent 'cooperation' with the U.S., and in this it has combined deception and blackmail - including nuclear blackmail - to secure a continuous stream of concessions. Its conduct is little different from that of North Korea, which has in the past chosen the nuclear path to secure incremental aid from Western donors.
A pattern of sustained nuclear blackmail has consistently been at the heart of Pakistan's case for concessions, aid and a heightened threshold of international tolerance for its sponsorship and support of Islamist terrorism.
"To understand how this works, it is useful to conceive of Pakistan's ISI as a state acting as terrorist traffickers, complaining that, if it does not receive the extraordinary dispensa tions and indulgences that it seeks, it will, in effect, 'implode,' and in the process do extraordinary harm.
"Part of the threat of this 'explosion' is also the specter of the transfer of its nuclear arsenal and capabilities to more intransigent and irrational elements of the Islamist far right in Pakistan, who would not be amenable to the logic that its present rulers whose interests in terrorism are strategic, and consequently, subject to considerations of strategic advantage are willing to listen to. ... "It is crucial to note that if the Islamist terrorist groups gain access to nuclear devices, ISI will almost certainly be the source. ... At least six Pakistani scientists connected with the country's nuclear program were in contact with al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden with the thorough instructions of ISI.
"Pakistan has projected the electoral victory of the fundamentalist and pro-Taliban, pro-al Qaeda Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in the November elections as 'proof' the military is the only barrier' against the country passing into the hands of the extremists. The fact, however, is that the elections were widely rigged, and this was a fact acknowledged by the European Union observers, as well as by some of the MMA's constituents themselves. The MMA victory was, in fact, substantially engineered by the Musharraf regime, as are the various anti-U.S. 'mass demonstrations' around the country.
"Pakistan has made a big case out of the fact that some of the top- line leadership of al Qaeda has been arrested in the country with the 'cooperation' of the Pakistani security forces and intelligence. However, the fact is that each such arrest only took place after the FBI and U.S. investigators had effectively gathered evidence to force Pakistani collaboration, but little of this evidence had come from Pakistani intelligence agencies.
Indeed, ISI has consistently sought to deny the presence of al Qaeda elements in Pakistan, and to mislead U.S. investigators. ... This deception has been at the very highest level, and Musharraf himself, for instance, initially insisted he was 'certain' bin Laden was dead. ...
"ISI has been actively facilitating the relocation of the al Qaeda from Afghanistan to Pakistan, and the conspiracy of substantial segments of serving Army and intelligence officers is visible. ..."
"The Pakistan army consistently denies giving the militants anything more than moral, diplomatic and political support. The reality is quite different. ISI issues money and directions to militant groups, specially the Arab hijackers of September 11 from al Qaeda. ISI was fully involved in devising and helping the entire affair. And that is why people like Hamid Gul and others very quickly stated the propaganda that CIA and Mossad did it. ..."
"The dilemma for Musharraf is that many of his army officers are still deeply sympathetic to al qaeda, Taliban militants and the Kashmir cause. ... Many retired and present ISI officers retain close links to al Qaeda militants hiding in various state-sponsored places in Pakistan and Kashmir as well as leaders from the defeated Taliban regime. They regard the fight against Americans and Jews and Indians in different parts of the world as legitimate jihad."
The report also says, "According to a senior tribal leader in Peshawar, bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar military hospital with the knowledge and approval of ISI if not of Gen. Pervez Musharraf himself." The same source, though not in the report, speculated that Mr. Musharraf may plan to turn over bin Laden to President Bush in time to clinch Mr. Bush's re-election in November.
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large for The Washington Times and for UPI.
No Taliban camps in Pakistan, says US
By Our Correspondent Dawn (Pakistan)
WASHINGTON, Aug 5: The United States has rejected the possibility of the existence of Taliban training camps inside Pakistan, pointing out that Islamabad has undertaken "extensive operations" against terrorists "sometimes at the loss of life".
The strong expression of support for Pakistan followed a series of stories in the US media recently which suggested that there still were active Taliban training camps in Pakistan.
"What we've seen is a very strong Pakistani effort to eradicate sources of extremism in Pakistan, to eradicate any support that might be found in Pakistan for Taliban and Al Qaeda elements," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher while disagreeing with the claim.
He pointed out that the stories about these training camps were based on interviews with people who were already in police custody in Pakistan, "and I'm sure any locations that they identify, the Pakistanis would want to move against."
This unusually strong defence for Pakistan from a key policy- making body of the US administration comes amid allegations, both by the media and opposition lawmakers, that recent arrests of Al Qaeda suspects in Pakistan were aimed at boosting President Bush's chances for re-election.
It was in this context that recent reports in the US media claimed that while making a big show of Al Qaeda arrests, Pakistan was quietly allowing other terrorist groups to function within its borders.
But Mr Boucher rejected this claim as incorrect. "I think it's quite clear the Pakistani government has turned on the Taliban, has turned on Al Qaeda, has turned on any idea that (these) people might receive training or support from Pakistan."
"Indeed, (Pakistan) has undertaken extensive operations, sometimes at the loss of life to act on those policy decisions," he added. By allowing people in its custody to talk to journalists, the Pakistani government had shown its desire to exposing the activities of these terrorists and also had taken steps to eradicate any possible sources of support or training inside Pakistan, he said.
The State Department spokesman also rejected the suggestion that Washington should launch a major operation to catch all terrorists hiding in Pakistan. The United States, he said, was already working closely with Pakistan to support "the real efforts" they've been making against terrorism.
"There's no question that Pakistan has changed its policy and is determined to root out the elements of training or support or any other sort of safe haven that terrorists might be getting in Pakistan," he said.
"We've seen them taking concerted and difficult actions. We've seen a loss of life among Pakistani soldiers involved in this fight," he added. Referring to recent arrests of Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan, Mr Boucher said: "They've been able to pick up even more Al Qaeda figures. I think the kind of effort that Pakistan is making and the results of those efforts that make all of us safer are becoming more and more clear."
The spokesman also disagreed with the chairman of the 9/11 Commission who said last week that the three most dangerous nations to watch are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
"We ourselves don't put out lists of the three most dangerous nations. What we have done is to work with many, many nations to ensure that nowhere is safe for the terrorists," said Mr Boucher while explaining the Bush administration's policy on this issue.
"And by working diplomatically with Pakistan, with Saudi Arabia, with Sudan, with Libya, (and) with Yemen," the United States has been able take away the places where terrorists could live and train.
Asked if the United States would provide similar protection to workers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as it would to workers from its allies in Iraq, the spokesman said: "We can't promise protection to every worker that goes there. We all know that. That's the nature of the circumstances. It is a dangerous place."
But to create a more secure environment in Iraq, the United States would work with the Iraqis, "training them up, helping them provide security for their country the way they wish to."
Taliban suspect traces Pakistan link
Carlotta Gall/NYT The New York Times Wednesday, August 04, 2004
KABUL For months Afghan and U.S. officials have complained that, even while Pakistan cooperates in the fight against Al Qaeda, militant Islamic groups there are training fighters and sending them into Afghanistan to attack U.S. and Afghan forces.
Pakistani officials have rejected the allegations, saying they are unaware of any such training camps. Now the Afghan government has produced a young Pakistani, captured while fighting with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan three months ago, whose story would seem to back its complaints about Pakistan.
The prisoner, who gave his name as Muhammad Sohail, is a 17-year-old from the Pakistani port city of Karachi who is being held by the Afghan authorities in Kabul. In an interview in late July, in front of several prison guards, he said Pakistan was allowing militant groups to train and organize insurgents to fight in Afghanistan. Sohail said he hoped that granting the interview would increase his chances of being freed.
Sohail described his recruitment through his local mosque in Pakistan - by a group listed by the United States as having terrorist links - his military training in a camp not far from the capital, Islamabad, and his being dispatched, with several other Pakistanis, to Afghanistan.
He did not give all the details that intelligence officials said they had gleaned from him in interrogations, but he talked easily about his party and its leaders and said they had high-level support from within the establishment.
He said he had been recruited and trained within the past eight months by Jamiat-ul-Ansar, the new name for the Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen party, which was designated a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department and banned by President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan in January 2002. Under its new name it is functioning, if more discreetly, and its leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, moves around freely.
Khalil has been involved in recruiting and training militants since the 1980s. In 1998, U.S. planes bombed his training camp in Afghanistan when they were targeting Osama bin Laden after the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The bombing killed a number of Pakistanis, and Khalil at the time vowed to take revenge against America for the attack.
Sohail is not the first Pakistani to be captured fighting alongside the Taliban and other militants in Afghanistan over the past two years. On at least one occasion, Pakistanis who were captured in a joint U.S.-$ Afghan military operation last year were handed back to Pakistan. But he is the first to be made available for an interview by the Afghan government. Intelligence officials said they had found on him a Jamiat-ul-Ansar membership card and a list of phone numbers of high-level party officials.
A Pakistani official interviewed recently described Sohail as a singular case and denied that Pakistani militants were showing up in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, Rustam Shah Mohmand, said he thought Jamiat-ul-Ansar and its network had been dismantled. "There is no ambiguity in our policy," he said. "The government does not sponsor, nor create, nor is aware of training camps. If they were aware of any, they would go and dismantle them."
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, has stated publicly that Pakistan has not done nearly enough to stop the Taliban and other militants from using Pakistan's border areas as operational and recruiting bases. In a speech in Washington in April, he warned that, if Pakistan did not do the job on its side of the border, U.S. forces would have to do the job themselves. A Western diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity in an interview last month in Kabul said, "When you talk about Taliban, it's like fish in a barrel in Pakistan. They train, they rest there. They get support."
Western diplomats in Kabul and Pakistani political analysts have said that Pakistan has continued to allow the Taliban to operate to retain influence in Afghanistan. Pakistan supported the Taliban in the 1990s as a way to create an area where Pakistani forces could retreat to the west if war erupted with the country's longtime rival and neighbor to the east, India. Pakistan has also long tried to maintain influence over Afghanistan's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, because of its wariness of its own Pashtun minority in the border areas.
Sohail was probably chosen to fight in Afghanistan because he is a Pashtun, the dominant group in the Taliban. Born in Swat, near the Afghan border, he grew up in Karachi, left school at 15 and went to work in a confectionery shop.
"I was going to the mosque every Thursday, and they were saying you should go and do jihad," he said. "In Palestine, Chechnya, Cuba, France and a lot of places all over the world, they are mistreating Muslims. So I decided to do it and got training for one month."
He traveled with a group of 15 others from his mosque to a training camp near Mansehra, north of Islamabad. It was a remote place, in the mountains with lots of trees, he said. He received explosives and weapons training for one month there, he said.
After their training in Mansehra, Sohail and his group went to Islamabad and met Khalil, the leader of Jamiat-ul-Ansar, at his headquarters. Three months later, Khalil went to speak at their mosque and called the group up to fight, Sohail said. "He said, 'Go and fight the Americans.'"
They went to the Pakistani border town of Quetta, and then Sohail set off with four other fighters. They crossed the main border and drove to the city of Kandahar. They went to a designated hotel and, in a room, found a bag with weapons. The next day they headed to a mountain base near the town of Panjwai, not far west of Kandahar, where they joined about 50 fighters and rapidly became involved in combat operations themselves.
Sohail's account becomes vague after that. He said he fought for only one night and returned to Pakistan. Sent back into Afghanistan to gather information about casualties, he approached some Afghan police, thinking they were Taliban. They arrested him.
He is accused of taking part in an attack on the Panjwai District center in April, in which a police officer and two aid workers were killed, security officials said.
Sohail has received a 20-year sentence from a judge in Kabul. His appeal is in progress."I'm very sad," he said mournfully. "The jihad is over for me."
But he showed flashes of fanaticism, too. "I wish I was a prisoner of the Americans. Then I could die a martyr at their hands, or kill myself," he said.
Afghanistan to beef up security during election
KABUL, August 5 (Xinhuanet) -- The Afghan government in collaboration with the international community would ensure security during the upcoming presidential election, Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said Thursday here.
"The Interior Ministry in coordination with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and US-led coalition troops are considering the ways and means of ensuring security during the election," he said.
His statement came after increasing insurgency in certain partsof the country and rocket attacks in Kabul for the last couple of weeks.
Because of security concerns, a leading relief agency Medicine Sans Frontier (MSF) halted its operation in Afghanistan late last month.
"Security measures have been taken to counter any terror activities and that is why our police thwarted few subversive plans during the last several days," he noted.
Remnants of the Taliban movement regime have stepped up their militancy for the last six months to derail the forthcoming presidential election scheduled for Oct. 9.
Taliban's leader Mullah Mohammad Omar who described the election as an "instrument to legitimize the US occupation of Afghanistan" has vowed to derail it by any possible means.
Around 300 civilians, US and Afghan troops as well as rebels and aid workers have been killed since early this year in Taliban-led insurgency.
To ensure the security during the election, NATO would also deploy two battalions in the war-wrecked country ahead of the western-style presidential polls in the country.
NATO troops unearth human bones in Kabul
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Thursday, August 5, 2004
KABUL, Afghanistan -- NATO troops discovered human bones during a mine-clearing operation at the airport in the Afghan capital, officials said Thursday, and investigators were examining whether they had stumbled on a mass grave.
The remains discovered Tuesday evening by Slovakian de-miners appeared to be of two people, said Squadron Leader Peter Maskell, a spokesman for the international security force in Afghanistan.
Afghan police took away the bones for examination. It was unclear whether the area would be excavated further.
"Still we are not sure if it really is a mass grave, how big it is, or what year it is from," Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said.
Kabul airport changed hands repeatedly during more than two decades of fighting that killed many thousands of Afghans as well as occupying Soviet forces. Wrecked planes and military vehicles litter the waste ground beside the runway and bombed out buildings line the perimeter.
Officials have reported several mass graves in northern Afghanistan from fierce fighting during the war that ousted the Taliban in late 2001. But the last major combat in the capital was during a 1992-96 civil war.
De-miners from the International Security Assistance Force recently joined civilian teams trying to clear the airport of mines and unexploded bombs, partly to prepare for a widening of the runway.
Slovakian troops brought in a remotely operated vehicle which thrashes the ground with chains to uncover any mines.
Gunmen kill 2 in Afghanistan
Thursday August 5, 2004
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Gunmen killed two Afghans working for a German relief agency in southeastern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday.
A field officer and a driver for the Malteser aid group were fatally wounded in the attack Tuesday in Paktia province, said Mohammed Nader Farhad, a spokesman for the U.N.'s refugee agency.
The German group said it suspended its activities in the region.
Afghan aid as a military weapon
via Asia Times (Hong Kong) August 5, 2004 issue By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK - The United States and the United Kingdom are being accused of undermining the work of international humanitarian organizations in Afghanistan by misusing aid to advance their military interests.
"There are times when aid agencies need the support of the military - as in Bosnia - but we are concerned about the increased involvement of the US and UK military in the provision of aid," said Caroline Green of Oxfam International.
"Our impartiality is vital for us to carry out our work on the ground but this has become undermined by the United States giving aid to people not on the basis of need but in exchange for information," Green told Inter Press Service (IPS).
Besides aid agencies, humanitarian assistance - including food aid and relief supplies - have also been provided by coalition forces, including the US, the UK, France, Germany and Italy, according to the US State Department. "Communities that we work with have become confused as the lines between aid agencies and the military have become blurred in Afghanistan," Green said.
Those charges have been strongly endorsed by several other international aid organizations, including Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF or Doctors Without Borders), Christian Aid and Concern Worldwide. Last week, MSF pulled out of Afghanistan after having provided humanitarian assistance there for nearly 24 years. The reasons for the organization's withdrawal included a deterioration of the security environment in Afghanistan and, more important, the misuse of humanitarian aid by US military forces in the country.
MSF also said it was unhappy with the lack of progress in a government investigation of the killing of five of its aid workers in the northern province of Baghdis in June, presumably by insurgents. MSF, which employed about 1,400 local staff and 80 international staff, ended all its operations last week.
"In Afghanistan, the US-backed coalition has constantly sought to use and co-opt humanitarian assistance to build support for its military and political ambitions," said Michael Neuman, program officer at MSF. "By doing so, providing aid is no longer perceived as being a neutral and impartial act, and this is endangering humanitarian aid workers and this is jeopardizing assistance to the Afghan people - the assistance which is needed," Neuman told IPS.
In May last year, MSF complained to the US and other coalition forces about the distribution of a leaflet in southern Afghanistan that included a picture of a young Afghan girl carrying a bag of wheat. The leaflet said that if humanitarian assistance was to continue, Afghans needed to pass information to the soldiers about all insurgent forces in the country, including remnants of the the former Taliban regime and members of al-Qaeda.
Neuman said MSF has been raising general concerns about the blurring of humanitarian and military objectives for years. "We have done this is at meetings with officials for different countries, including the United States and UK," he said. Wherever there are coalition forces - or even UN agencies - mixing political and humanitarian mandates, "you will continue to see a danger for impartial, neutral and humanitarian action", he said.
"Humanitarian assistance is only possible when armed actors respect the safety of humanitarian actors. This is why we are calling on the coalition to cease all activity which tries to put humanitarian aid in the service of their political and military objectives," Neuman said.
The coalition in Afghanistan, also called the combined joint task force, includes troops or logistical support from the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Belgium, Jordan, Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Italy, Germany and France.
Green said Oxfam International respects the decision of Medecins Sans Frontieres to withdraw from Afghanistan. "We understand why MSF feels that their position has become untenable. Oxfam International is gravely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, which is increasingly affecting the ability for humanitarian and development organizations to work. We are also concerned about the inability of the government and the international community to do anything about the situation."
In 2004, six staff members from Oxfam partner organizations have been killed in attacks in provinces previously considered to be relatively safe. "However, we feel strongly that Oxfam is providing important services to the poor people of Afghanistan and the risks we face are currently manageable and we feel that we are able to continue working in Afghanistan," added Green.
Most aid organizations and UN agencies have pulled out their international staff from another violence-ridden country - Iraq - primarily because of the security situation there. Green said Oxfam decided to cease direct operations in the occupied country in April. "We had already withdrawn all international staff from Iraq in August 2003 after the bombing of the UN headquarters. The deteriorating security situation has made it virtually impossible for our staff to work effectively and this is why we made the decision to end our operations there," she said. Just after the bombing, which killed over 20 UN employees, including undersecretary general Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN withdrew all of its international staff from Iraq. They are currently operating out of Jordan and Cyprus.
"The issue of non-governmental organizations [NGOs], military and humanitarian work is not a new one," Manoel de Almeida e Silva, a UN spokesman in Kabul, told reporters last week. "It is not new in Afghanistan and it is not new elsewhere." He said it was an issue that NGOs have raised "with great concern, and we at the United Nations have played a role in facilitating and helping in the dialogue between the military and the NGOs".
US President George W Bush told reporters on Monday that he regretted MSF's decision to close shop in Afghanistan. But at the same time he trumpeted the fact that more than 8.6 million Afghans had registered as voters for the October presidential elections, 90% of those eligible, according to the United Nations.
(Inter Press Service)
Pakistani troops, militants clash in tribal region near Afghanistan
August 5, 2004 Associated Press
Militants opened fire on security forces in a Pakistani region where foreign fighters are believed to be hiding, an army official said Thursday.
No injuries were reported during the fighting that ensued, though residents claimed nine civilians were killed and five others wounded in the crossfire.
Security forces returned fire after coming under attack late Wednesday in South Waziristan, a tribal region that borders Afghanistan, said Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, chief spokesman for the army.
Authorities believe hundreds of foreign Islamic militants _ Arabs, Central Asians and Afghans believed linked to al-Qaida _ are hiding in South Waziristan.
The fighting occurred north of Shakai, a valley near Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.
Shakai has been the scene of several operations by security forces aimed at flushing out militants.
Reports of the latest fighting came after the army said on Tuesday that troops have strengthened positions in the Shakai, Santoi, Mantoi and Khamrang valleys in South Waziristan.
The troops did not suffer any injuries in Wednesday's fighting and Sultan said he had no information about casualties among the attackers.
However, a resident of Shakai, Javed Wazir, said nine civilians were killed and five others were injured when their homes were struck by artillery shells in the crossfire between the militants and the troops.
Among those killed was a tribal chief, Nandar Khan, and three members of his family, he said.
Sultan had no confirmation of the civilian deaths.
Pakistan _ an ally of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism _ has deployed thousands of troops along its border with Afghanistan to stop terrorists from entering its territory.
Turkey And Afghanistan To Cooperate In Agriculture
Anadolu Agency: 8/5/2004
ANKARA - Turkey and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding envisaging cooperation in agriculture, sources told the A.A on Thursday.
Releasing a statement, the Turkish Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said that Turkish Agriculture and Rural Affairs Minister Sami Guclu and Afghan Agriculture and Livestock Minister Seyyed Hussain Anwari signed the memorandum.
Under the memorandum of understanding, a Turkish agriculture expert will be sent in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the two sides decided to speed up preparatory works for a ''Protocol of Technical, Scientific and Economic Cooperation in Agriculture''. The protocol is expected to be signed by Turkish and Afghan ministers in December of 2004.
Afghanistan's Transition: Decentralization or Civil War
Source: PINR (http://www.pinr.com)
Drafted by Dr. Michael A. Weinstein on August 04, 2004
What is the other transition -- the one in Afghanistan -- going to look like, if it occurs at all?
Experts are in agreement that the transition is in trouble. Throughout its history as a field of conflict between contending empires and great powers, Afghanistan has developed a formula for survival that has helped it to keep its territorial integrity and indigenous authority system, despite its dizzying ethnic diversity and the external pressures that have been exerted on it. That formula -- a weak central government allowing comprehensive power to local and regional leaders -- is always vulnerable to civil war, which has been a staple of Afghan existence and threatens to break out again.
The troubles in Afghanistan and the uncertainty of its transition are rooted in the possibility that the bargains and compromises necessary for restoring the country's political paradigm will not be made or will not be strong enough to prevent relapse into civil war or at best a failed decentralized state, with the national government only fully controlling the capital Kabul, as is presently close to the case.
- Afghan Social Organization
Afghanistan's history of invasions that kept compounding ethnic diversity precluded the country from achieving integrity through a strong centralized government. Instead, the sense of belonging together was achieved by a complex system of nested loyalties rooted in localities. The unit of Afghan social organization is the qaum, a network of affiliations that is most intense in the family, in which are nested wider loyalties to tribe, clan, occupation, ethnic group, region and finally to the continued existence of the country itself, but not necessarily to the current regime. Qaums function to provide their members with mutual aid and to protect them from outside groups. The degree of support and protection is greatest at the local level and becomes more attenuated in broader contexts, in which boundaries between qaums shift in response of changing balances of power.
Qaums are societies within a society. They have allowed Afghanistan to survive over centuries, through a common interest in local autonomy, against external threats. Their strength -- fierce defense of local control -- is also their weakness: each qaum is suspicious of the others, and when they cannot agree, they are prone to take up arms. The widest qaum -- the state, which in the Western model has no structural competitor -- is for Afghans a more or less useful facility for other qaums, not an object of loyalty or devotion. Afghan nationalism is social, not political.
Since World War II, the attempts to submit Afghan society to centralized rule have been calamities, due to internal resistance and external intervention. The Communist regime, which seized power in 1978 and attempted to impose land reform and secularization, was met with militant opposition, which brought the Soviet Union into the conflict, leading to a civil war and war of liberation, under the banner of Islam. The opposition forces were aided and abetted by the United States, and were able to overthrow the Communists in 1992, three years after the Soviets had withdrawn their troops. Having won the war, the coalition of mujahideen fell apart into the traditional qaum pattern, in which authority was now firmly in the hands of warlords, who continued the civil war among themselves.
Concerned about its neighbor's instability, Pakistan supported a movement of Afghan refugee religious students, which became the Taliban militia. The Taliban promised to end the civil war and unite Afghanistan around an Islamist state. The Taliban's victory in 1996 ushered in a period of religious fascism that provided relative security at the cost of state terrorism, but did not break the qaum system. When the United States removed the Taliban militarily, because the regime had provided a haven for al-Qaeda before 9/11, the familiar pattern reasserted itself, with civil war prevented only by the presence of multinational forces.
Afghanistan's recent civil wars have left it with a hyper-militarized form of its social paradigm. At present, a weak transitional government in Kabul led by Hamid Karzai is protected by foreign troops and does not exert effective control over the rest of the country, which is divided among local and regional warlords with primary affiliations to clans and particular ethnic groups. Taliban persecutions and the resentments sparked by civil war have sharpened ethnic divides, lessening the will to compromise. The Taliban have regrouped as guerrilla forces determined to impede the formation of a stable Afghan government. The primary condition for centralized state control -- the disbanding of local and regional militias -- has not been realized: 40,000 to 50,000 fighters are still under the control of the warlords, dwarfing the fledgling Afghan army.
- Prospects for Transition
Given the deep rootedness of the qaum system and the military power of local strong men, it cannot be expected that Afghanistan will achieve a Western-style market democracy. The most that can be hoped for by the Western powers is some form of bargain among the contending groups to share power through granting one another autonomy. Any greater centralization is unlikely because the N.A.T.O. powers are unwilling to expend the resources even to attempt to achieve it.
Afghanistan is a poor agricultural country without strategic resources. The N.A.T.O. powers, led by the United States, need to keep it from once again becoming a base for Islamic revolution, but their vital interests extend no further than that. They would be unwilling even to lend sufficient support for a Middle Eastern style one-party crony dictatorship to take hold. Indeed, Afghanistan has the lowest international troop-to-population ratio of recent interventions (one to 1,115, as compared to one to 161 in Iraq).
The N.A.T.O. powers are banking on the election of Hamid Karzai to Afghanistan's presidency on October 9. A member of Afghanistan's Pashtun plurality, Karzai is beholden to the occupying forces and follows pro-Western foreign policies.
It is still not certain that the election will be held, given efforts to sabotage it by the Taliban and warlords who are threatened with loss of their power. Although seventy percent of eligible voters have been registered, the figure is only ten to fifteen percent in predominantly Pashtun areas where the Taliban resistance is active. Where registration has been successful, voters are likely to follow the leads of local strong men, many of whom have been suppressing political opposition.
Whether or not elections are held on October 9, the question will remain whether the various forces in Afghan society can reach a pact with each other to prevent civil war.
Recent developments in the run up to the election show fissures emerging between political leaders from different ethnic groups, raising the probability that a successful bargain will not be made. On July 22, the Uzbek strong man General Abdul-Rashid Dostum resigned from the transitional government and announced his candidacy for president. Five days later, Yonus Qanooni, a Tajik who had been shifted from the important post of interior minister to education minister in an effort to satisfy Pashtun interests, declared his candidacy. At the same time, the first vice president of the transitional government and its defense minister, Mohammed Fahim -- a Tajik backer of Qanooni -- was dropped from Karzai's electoral ticket.
In Afghanistan's ethnic demography, the Pashtuns constitute approximately forty percent of the population, the Tajiks about twenty percent, the Hazaras another twenty percent, the Uzbeks five percent and an array of other ethnic groups the remainder. Politically the groups are not unified and their factions cross ethnic lines, depending on local issues. Nevertheless, Dostum's and Qanooni's candidacies pose the possibility that Karzai will not receive a majority in the first round of voting and will have to face a run off with the second-place candidate. Karzai's position is strengthened by his retention of Abdul Karim Khalili, a Hazara, as second deputy president, but the Hazaras also have their own presidential candidate in Mohammed Mohaqiq. A coalition of convenience of Qanooni, Dostum and Mohaqiq could pose a strong challenge to Karzai if he does not win a majority in the first electoral round.
If the presidential election is held successfully and Karzai wins a clear majority, his hand will be strengthened for making the deals with warlords across ethnic lines that will open the possibility for Afghanistan to regain its traditional political pattern of a weak central power presiding over strong local power centers that are satisfied with their degrees of autonomy and their shares of resources and offices. If he loses the first round with a plurality and wins a run off, he will be in a weaker position and divisive tendencies will assert themselves. If Karzai loses a run off, especially to a non-Pashtun, stabilization will be difficult to achieve and renewed civil war will loom as a possibility, requiring long term commitment of foreign military forces if the N.A.T.O. powers choose to try to prevent that outcome.
Whatever the election's result, certain conditions will persist in Afghanistan that have international ramifications. The country is likely to remain a major provider of heroin, a destabilizing influence on Pakistan, a field for the eastward expansion of Iran's influence and, if decentralization goes too far, a staging base for Islamic revolutionaries once again. Those conditions will be alleviated by a successful political agreement, but they will not be eliminated. In the absence of massive economic and military aid from the industrial powers, which is unlikely to come, Afghanistan will remain on the brink of becoming a failed state or will become one yet another time.
Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan is not threatened with secession or break up. It is not an expression of modern Western colonialism, but an exceedingly complex society that has been subject to imperialism throughout its history and has kept its integrity through the delicate balances and overlapping affiliations of the qaum system. With no real external support for modernization from the outside, that system is reasserting itself as the blessing and the curse that it has always been.
Afghanistan functions most successfully when the decentralized forces that compose its society trust each other sufficiently to compromise over common concerns and let the rest devolve to localities. The country's political system breaks down into civil war when that trust is lacking, unleashing cycles of defensive aggression. Recent civil wars have eroded trust and left authority over the qaums in the hands of warlords, who have gained in influence over other traditional authorities, especially elders and clerics.
The most likely future for Afghanistan is chronic instability that Western powers, expending limited resources, will attempt to contain, but will not be able to resolve.
- The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an analysis-based publication that seeks to, as objectively as possible, provide insight into various conflicts, regions and points of interest around the globe. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader. This report may not be reproduced, reprinted or broadcast without the written permission of email@example.com. All comments should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Afghanistan's first fashion clothing brand getting popular
August 5, 2004 Kyodo (Japan)
Beads glitter on the neck of a polish silk blouse. Petals and geometrical patterns stud the hem of a pair of trousers. Traditional Afghan embroidery on refined modern clothing creates a mysterious beauty.
Afghanistan's first fashion brand -- "Tarsian & Blinkley" -- is selling fast in New York and various other cities around the world. It is a product of a company a 30-year-old female fashion designer has created with the local nongovernmental organization "Morning Star."
Morning Star's office in the Taimai residential area in the heart of Kabul is always crowded with Afghan women, mostly those who lost their husbands to war, trying to meet the designer, Sarah Takesh, to sell their embroidered products.
Sarah was raised in Iran until the age of 5. Her father is related by blood to a noble family of the Qajar dynasty in the late 18th century, and her mother is a daughter of a powerful feudal lord in Kermanshah in western Iran.
The family lived comfortably in Iran until 1978, when increasingly violent protests against the Shah, the country's ruler at the time, took place, forcing them to flee. They resettled in California.
Sarah studied architecture at Colombia University in New York, acquired a U.S. passport and then traveled to India and Pakistan.
In the summer of 2001, she first visited Peshawar, Pakistan, where many Afghan refugees live in a dangerous environment.
"This is the world I have long sought," she said then, shivering with intuition. She remembered her mother saying, "Afghan people are beautiful and interesting. They are real Persians," and decided to do business with them.
Sarah returned to the United States and entered business school. Soon after that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hit New York and Washington, and Afghanistan became a focus of global attention.
After the collapse of the Taliban regime, Sarah read a newspaper article saying the United States had asked an Afghan NGO to manufacture uniforms for the new Afghan military.
She came up with the idea to ask the NGO to produce clothing and got in touch with Morning Star.
Several months later, with cloth bought in India, she visited Peshawar to meet Morning Star executive Nasrullah, 45, a dressmaking teacher to more than 1,000 women.
The two soon found they were kindred spirits, as Sarah spoke fluent Farsi, the most widely spoken Persian language, and the teacher spoke Dali, a kind of Persian.
Sara then went to Kabul and had a needle worker, introduced to her by Nasrullah, embroider the Kandahar area's traditional "Kandahari Dozi" on three blouses.
The products were excellent, and she decided to produce Afghanistan's first fashion brand.
She brought 60 items of embroidered clothing to the United States and people were surprised by their beauty. The fact that they were products from impoverished, war-torn Afghanistan generated further surprise.
Sarah's first collection was a great success.
"Traditional Afghan embroidery is not as strong as India's or Iran's, but is quite elegant," she said.
Sarah checks every product herself. "Unless I check each product with my own eyes, the quality will be lower."
At present, about 500 items of clothing are produced each month, and Sarah is seeking to enter the Japanese market.
She has traveled extensively through Iran, the United States and Asia in search of a place to settle, but has come to no conclusion.
"I am neither an Iranian nor an American," she said. "I am Persian."
Russia, Afghanistan Condemn Assassination Attempt on Pak Minister
Ashgabat, 5 August 2004 (nCa) --- Russia and Afghanistan have condemned the assassination attempt on Shaukat Aziz, finance minister of Pakistan, and expressed sympathies with the families of the victims who lost their lives in the suicide-bombing incident.
Shaukat Aziz, who is currently campaigning for two national assembly seats that have specially been vacated for him so that he can be installed as prime minister of Pakistan, came under suicide bombing attack on 30 July 2004 when returning from Fatehjang, one of the two constituencies from where he hopes to win the by-elections. Ten persons including his driver died in the incident but Aziz escaped uninjured.
Islambouli Brigade of Al-Qaeda, a never heard of group claiming affiliation with al-Qaeda, accepted the responsibility for the incident. Lt. Islambouli was the Ikhwan-inspired Egyptian army officer who killed President Anwar Sadat of Egypt after his peace overtures with Israel.
In a statement issued by the foreign office of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan, the Afghan government says, we “condemn the latest assassination attempt on Pakistan’s finance minister Mr. Shaukat Aziz” and “express relief that the plot was unsuccessful.” The statement also expresses grief on the loss of innocent lives in the incident.
The Afghan statement adds, “The incident serves as a reminder of the dangerous potentials that terrorists encompass in the region and the world. However, it strengthens the resolve of all leaders and peace-loving people to continue their efforts in fighting terrorism. It has always been evident that thoughtless fanatics and terrorists will utilize all possible means to disrupt peace and security.”
“Afghanistan will continue to stand firm along with the international community in efforts to combat and eliminate terrorism,” assures the statement.
Meanwhile, spokesman of the foreign office of Pakistan has informed that Russian Charge d’Affaires in Pakistan, Alexey Yudinstsev has conveyed Russia’s strong condemnation of the recent terrorist attacks on Pakistan’s finance minister. He also extended his government’s condolences and sympathies to the next of kin of the innocent people and injured in the attack, adds the spokesman.
Afghan Leader Reproaches Tree Fellers for Exacerbating Floods
BBC Monitoring South Asia 08/05/2004
In a speech on the flooding that has stricken some provinces in the country Afghan leader Hamed Karzai has reproached those who have been cutting down the forests, especially on the mountain sides, for removing the barriers to flooding. The following is the text of Hamed Karzai's speech broadcast on Afghan radio on 5 August. [Radio presenter in Dari] In continuation of his regular speeches, this time Hamed Karzai has made a speech about the recent floods in a number of provinces in the country.
In a speech on the flooding that has stricken some provinces in the country Afghan leader Hamed Karzai has reproached those who have been cutting down the forests, especially on the mountain sides, for removing the barriers to flooding. He accuses them of not only looting public property but of deliberately causing harm to the environment and encourages the public to protect Afghanistan's greenery. The following is the text of Hamed Karzai's speech broadcast on Afghan radio on 5 August.
[Radio presenter in Dari] In continuation of his regular speeches, this time Hamed Karzai has made a speech about the recent floods in a number of provinces in the country. We draw your attention to the speech.
[Karzai's voice in Dari] In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Dear compatriots, sisters and brothers, Peace be upon you.
Over the past few weeks, rainfall has caused heavy flooding in some parts of the country. The floods caused damage to our compatriots and their [communication] routes, ditches and agricultural lands.
First of all, I would like to express my deepest condolences to all those stricken by the recent floods. I urge all the government and non-governmental aid organizations to offer assistance to our flood-stricken compatriots and take measures to reconstruct the roads, ditches and agricultural lands [destroyed by the floods] and once again make the roads and agricultural lands ready for use as soon as possible.
As you know, in the summers of recent years, rainfall has caused very destructive floods in some parts of the country which have inflicted material and physical damage.
Cutting down forests and trees on the mountain sides has caused heavy flooding over recent years. Similarly, recurring droughts have also had unfavourable impacts and increased the level of flooding. Trees and plants have not grown in the mountains and deserts in recent years, and the natural barriers to rainfall have died off.
It is worth mentioning that forests, trees and even plants form great barriers to flooding and offset the great force of the floods.
Unfortunately, over the past two decades, irresponsible and self- interested people have cut down the forests and trees on the mountain sides.
Cutting down the trees in the forests is not only looting public property, but also harms the environment for people and animals and the climate in the region.
One of the damaging results of cutting down the forests is the flow of serious and dangerous floods which cause damage to our people in different parts of the country.
Dear brothers and sisters,
We should take into consideration the material and human losses of the floods. We should prevent the cutting down of trees in the forests jungles and mountains.
It is the responsibility of all of us to take measures and revive the forests and prevent the flooding or offset the great force of the floods.
Forests and trees make our country prosperous. Trees also prevent heavy floods when it is raining.
Let us all work to improve the greenery in our country.
Good bye until my next speech. May you be happy.
AFGHANISTAN: THE FORGOTTEN WAR: Battle on the edge of the world
BY MARK MCDONALD KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS August 5, 2004
PARLE, Afghanistan -- The loudspeakers atop the Humvee crackle to life: "The Taliban are women! They're bitches! If they were real men, they'd stop hiding under their burqas and they'd come out and fight!" RELATED CONTENT
It's high noon, deep in the remote and stony heart of Taliban country, and 34 Cavalry scouts from the U.S. Army are looking to pick a fight. Three and a half hours from now, they'll have all the fight they can handle.
The Taliban regime was driven from power nearly three years ago, but they're suddenly active and resurgent throughout southern Afghanistan. They're recruiting fighters, slitting the throats of local officials and terrorizing villagers who dare register to vote.
Afghanistan's first presidential election is scheduled for Oct. 9.
"Everyone says Afghanistan is the forgotten war, but it's gotten a lot more dangerous because of the elections coming up," says Brett Henry, a staff sergeant from Stockton, Calif., who is part of the troop hunting down Taliban diehards in the southern mountains.
But the scouts haven't had much success. The Taliban and their Al Qaeda brethren like to hit and run and hide. When there's a fight, it's the Taliban who choose the time, the place and the odds. This bit of psychological warfare -- the loudspeaker insults and taunting -- is something new for the American side.
The U.S. troopers have been dropped by helicopter -- along with their Kevlar-plated Humvees -- into some of the most remote and forbidding terrain on Earth. They've landed in the back of beyond, about 100 miles north of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and its fugitive leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
To describe the region, the troop commander, Capt. Brian Peterson, is careful to use the term "Taliban sanctuary" rather than "Taliban stronghold." But a stronghold is what it is.
It's still dark when the 34 men of Alpha Troop assemble on the edge of the tarmac at Kandahar Air Field. Some soldiers are drinking coffee; others are working away at some snuff. Mostly, they seem relaxed and confident.
The Cav scouts have heard there's going to be real contact with Taliban fighters this time, but they've heard that before, too.
Peterson, 32, is from Kailua, Hawaii, and most of the troopers on this mission are based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. They're part of the 3rd Squadron of the 4th Cavalry Regiment, otherwise known as the Three-Quarter Cav.
Along with Peterson's Cavalry scouts are some long-range surveillance troops and a psychological operations team. The Psy Ops guys are the ones with the loudspeakers.
As dawn breaks, the troop gets airborne. The men strap into their bench seats inside the massive Chinook helicopters, and the unit's 10,000-pound Humvees are soon dangling from beneath the choppers like oversized Christmas ornaments. The roar inside the Chinooks is ferocious, but some soldiers manage to fall asleep in minutes.
The Chinooks descend onto a small, dusty plain high in the mountains. Nearby there are a dozen earthen houses, a mud-walled mosque missing its minaret and a tumble-down police post. This place has no name. It's off the grid, off the maps and part of another time.
The big helicopters set the Humvees onto the hard pan and the troopers tramp down the rear ramps. As the Chinooks roar off, they unleash a storm of sand, stones and camel dung.
Peterson, Sgt. Doug Bishop and Lt. Randy Collette have lunch with Abdul Sattar, the deputy head of the local district. A slight young fellow, Sattar says the Taliban has placed a $20,000 bounty on his head because he has been cooperating with the Americans. He shrugs, then smiles.
Sattar also says Taliban agents have kidnapped 18 men from Parle, the nearby village that's to serve as the voter-registration center for the surrounding district. As part of this mission, Alpha Troop was supposed to provide security at Parle so people could register, but most of the villagers have fled into the hills. No one, Sattar says, will register now.
The troopers check their gear, then head the Humvees toward Parle. It's two hours of bump and grind across rocky flats, dusty tracks and dry stream beds. At certain points the gray, stony hillsides rise up a thousand feet on either side of the convoy. The terrain recalls those old cowboy-and-Indian movies where the blue-uniformed cavalry rides pluckily into the valley -- and straight into an ambush.
The convoy reaches Parle and makes camp in a bowl of hills. The trucks form themselves into a rectangle about the size of a football field, with the Psychological Operations Humvee smack in the middle. Instead of the usual 50-caliber machine gun mounted on its roof, the Psy Ops truck has a bank of loudspeakers.
"Those speakers are our primary weapon system," says Staff Sgt. Bill Clark, 34, the Psy Ops team leader.
Clark takes a few scouts and his "terp" -- his interpreter -- and they explore the largely abandoned village. They give out a couple of hand-cranked radios to some women they come across.
"They don't want us here," Clark says. "They say the Taliban will come back when we leave."
Clark knows the farmers in the remote mountains will probably vote the way the village elder tells them to -- if they vote at all. They don't have a clue, he says, about elections, presidents or democracy.
"Democracy, no, they don't get it. But the more we reach out to them, the more courage they'll maybe have to say no to the guys coming off the mountain."
There are rumors of a possible Taliban rocket attack on the Cavalry's campsite, but the night passes peacefully.
At noon, the Psy Ops unit plays its taunting message through the loudspeakers, calling the Taliban cowards and women. This is much more than trash talk. Backing down from a direct insult or a challenge to fight is the ultimate humiliation for an Afghan man.
About 3 p.m., convinced the Taliban fighters haven't taken the bait, the convoy decides to head back to the original landing site to gather more intelligence.
At 3:20, the convoy is lumbering through a rocky ravine. There's a steep mountain on the left side and a pretty almond orchard close by on the right. Suddenly, there's shouting over Peterson's radio: "Contact! Contact! Black Six, we have contact! They're shooting the crap out of me. Let's move! We gotta move!"
The frantic message is coming from Bishop, in the last Humvee in the convoy. Taliban fighters are blasting away at him with AK47s, and two rocket-propelled grenades have just missed his truck. When a third RPG slams into the dirt just a few feet away, the men inside can hear the hissing fuse. The grenade is a dud, but the burning fuse fills the Humvee with acrid fumes. Bishop will later recall it was "like being in a gas chamber."
The Humvees stop in their tracks as the troopers try to locate the shooters. They're caught in a wicked crossfire, and every truck is being hit.
Some of the troopers try to get out, but the Taliban fighters are too well hidden and they drive the Americans back into their fortified trucks. The convoy retreats 2 miles to regroup. The soldiers, excited and angry, are eager to return and pursue their attackers, and after about 20 minutes the officers agree. The convoy heads back to the almond grove -- and into another attack.
This time, a team of scouts from the Long Range Surveillance Detachment manages to penetrate 200 yards into the orchard. The men search a few mud-walled houses that are tucked among the almond trees but soon begin taking direct fire again, including two RPGs. They charge straight toward the firing, and after a brief skirmish they capture three bearded and bedraggled men carrying single-shot rifles. There's also a 14-year-old boy who has been shot in the buttocks. All of them, the troopers say, had been firing at them.
"I don't know why they shot me," says the wounded boy, whose name is Malik. "I had no gun. I was just sitting here with my goats."
He doesn't cry. He just says, "Please take me home."
A helicopter is called to take the boy to the base hospital in Kandahar for treatment. The other three men, now handcuffed and blindfolded, will be taken back to the base for questioning.
Back at the convoy, the Cav troopers are checking their Humvees for bullet holes and replaying the details of the battle. The troop will claim four kills, although no bodies are found. Spec. Nick Plummer from Klamath Falls, Ore., gets out his CD player and finds the song that was playing when the shooting started. It's a rock song called "Headstrong," by the band Trapt.
"There's some irony for you," someone says. "Trapped."
A show of force
It's getting dark when the choppers arrive to take away the prisoners, and Peterson leads the convoy onto a low, dusty plain to spend the night. In the meantime, 45 soldiers from the Quick Reaction Force in Kandahar have arrived by helicopter to provide extra nighttime security for the Cavalry. They switch on their night-vision equipment and scatter among the boulders on the surrounding ridgelines.
The reaction force's commander, Maj. Joe Walsh of Dallas, Pa., approves an air strike against a nearby mountainside, and it isn't long before two Kiowa helicopters swoop in low and fire off a string of rockets. The fireworks are meant to be a show of force for the Taliban, and the display is loud and impressive.
Some of the Cavalry troopers are griping about Walsh's stiff, no-nonsense manner. They think he's throwing his weight around even though they did all the fighting. But one veteran officer back at Kandahar Air Field thinks Walsh, 37, has the right stuff.
"He's one squared-away soldier," says Capt. Mike Myers. "I'd follow him into hell wearing gasoline underpants."
As the troopers bed down beside their Humvees, Walsh says, "We're just trying to weed out the bad guys so these people can vote, even if it's only 50 percent of them."
Tomorrow they'll work their way back to their original landing zone, conduct more patrols, then wait for an airlift back to Kandahar. There'll be no more fighting for the rest of the week.
Walsh says the morale among the U.S. troops in Afghanistan is high, and the military works hard to convince the soldiers they're there for the right reasons.
"And they're buying into that," he says. "I think the soldiers do prefer to be here rather than Iraq. But it's just as dangerous here. We've lost guys, but that isn't stopping us. We're going to go down that road tomorrow, around the next bend and into the next village. We're doing our jobs, and nothing's going to stop us."
U.N. top envoy condemns the killing of 2 aid workers in Afghanistan
Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur 5 Aug 2004
Kabul (dpa) - The U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) Jean Arnault on Thursday condemned the killing of two aid workers employed by a German non-governmental organization by unknown attackers.
On Tuesday afternoon, unknown armed men shot and killed two local staff of Malteser, in south-eastern province of Paktia.
"Violence against aid workers is unacceptable,'' said Arnault in a statement.
"We are extremely concerned about the repeated security incidents involving aid workers,'' Mohammad Nadir Farhad, a spokesman for United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
Following the incident, Malteser completely suspended its operation in south-eastern and central Afghanistan in order to review the situation, said Farhad.
Farhad, however said the UNHCR will continue to provide emergency relief to some 20,000 Afghans who have recently returned home from south Waziristan of Pakistan.
Malteser has worked with UNHCR in southeastern Afghanistan since 2003, providing vocational training, cash for work projects and income generation activities in the returnee areas.
No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, but in the past, Afghan authorities have blamed ousted Taliban members for similar killings.
Remnants of the Taliban, who were toppled by a U.S.-led military coalition in late 2001, have declared a holy war against foreign troops, aid workers and all those supporting the U.S-backed President Hamid Karzai.
More than 30 humanitarian workers have been killed in 2003 and 2004 in Afghanistan. dpa km pw
|Back to News Archirves of 2004|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).