ANALYSIS-Afghan opponents seen struggling to unite vs Karzai
06 Aug 2004 08:47:07 GMT By Mike Collett-White
KABUL, Aug 6 (Reuters) - The main threat to Afghan President Hamid Karzai in October elections comes from a group of veteran warriors who call themselves the United Front.
Luckily for Karzai, and some say for the country, there seems no less appropriate name to describe a movement with a history of squabbling, deadly infighting and betrayal.
The front, also known as the Northern Alliance, is made up of ethnic minority "mujahideen", or holy warriors, who defeated the Soviets and helped the United States to rout the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden.
Alliance leaders took over key ministries in the aftermath of the Taliban's fall, but Karzai has slowly sought to replace them with Western-leaning technocrats, mostly from his dominant Pashtun tribe, whose hands are not bloodied with war.
Analysts and diplomats say the alliance's only real chance of toppling frontrunner Karzai is to prevent him winning more than 50 percent of votes cast on October 9 and then to unite behind his closest challenger in a second round runoff.
But political logic counts for little in Afghanistan, and few are betting on a united opposition.
"That would make sense in a Western country, but here who knows?" a senior Western diplomat said.
He and others say they are most concerned about parliamentary elections in April, when armed factions can more easily influence the outcome by resorting to coercion in their constituencies.
The alliance has four prominent presidential contenders who have not always been the best of friends and, in some cases, fought each other in battles that left thousands of civilians dead.
Former Education Minister Yunus Qanuni has won public support from Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. All three are ethnic Tajiks and were close to the alliance's legendary assassinated leader Ahmad Shah Masood.
The other contenders are General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an unpredictable commander from the Uzbek minority, Mohammad Mohaqiq who is of the Hazara tribe and Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai -- a Pashtun.
While palace officials seek to play down the importance of ethnic links in elections, they are often used as a campaigning tool and are likely to be so again.
CAN THEY UNITE?
"There are two rounds in this election and it won't be easy for Qanuni to persuade Dostum or Mohaqiq to join him," said the diplomat. "The whole problem would then be, who is number one?"
That issue has thwarted attempts by the candidates to agree on a strategy to oust Karzai during recent talks.
Dostum and Mohaqiq risk being dropped from the final list of candidates on August 10 because of alleged involvement in past bloodshed and affiliations to armed militia, which is prohibited.
There is also every chance that some, if not all, of the four will seek a way back into Karzai's camp.
"Each insists that he would prefer to be the main (opposition) candidate," said Fazil Sangcharaki, an Afghan journalist and commentator. "So far it does not look promising. In the meantime, these individuals will also talk to Karzai."
Even if a challenger forces Karzai to a runoff, the incumbent would remain favourite simply because he is well-known.
"Name recognition will be important in a village in the middle of Uruzgan," said a Western analyst in Kabul, referring to the remote central Afghan province.
Karzai, who has U.S. support, has sought to divide and conquer the alliance by naming Masood's brother Ahmad Zia Masood, and a Hazara, Mohammad Karim Khalili, as his two running mates.
Washington sees Karzai as the best hope of dragging his country from ruin and moderating hardline Islamic undercurrents.
NATO-led peacekeepers in Kabul were on "increased vigilance" when Karzai dumped Fahim in favour of Masood, amid concerns that tensions within the government could spill over into violence.
Karzai has said commanders resisting his disarmament drive, including Fahim, Dostum and Ahmadzai's boss Abdul Rabb Rasoul Sayyaf, pose a greater threat to security than Islamic militants waging an insurgency.
"During the period immediately after October 9, when the ballots are counted, there may be violent protests in a country where all major candidates control armed forces," Barnett R. Rubin, director of studies at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, wrote this week.
Last month, NATO agreed to send up to 2,000 Spanish and Italian troops to bolster security for the presidential election to add to around 6,500 already in Afghanistan. The numbers fall well short of the amount Afghan officials say is needed. (Additional reporting by Sayed Salahuddin)
Schism widens between Afghan leader and ministers ahead of election
KABUL, Aug 6 (AFP) - Simmering tensions between President Hamid Karzai and key ministers have developed into a dangerous schism ahead of Afghanistan's presidential elections, threatening to undo the shaky coalition which held the first post-Taliban administration together for the past three years.
In a furious outburst this week, the powerful defence minister Mohammed Qasim Fahim threw down the gauntlet to Karzai, who has remained a virtual outsider in a government dominated by northern powerbrokers.
Kicking aside any pretence of support for Karzai -- an ethnic Pashtun from Afghanistan's south who is seen by critics as Washington's man -- Fahim, an ethnic Tajik from the north, declared the president would not have his backing.
'I told the president that if he plans to go to elections on his own, he would make a mistake, but he did it,' Fahim told a news conference. The powerful warlord who runs Afghanistan's largest private army had been tipped to be Karzai's vice-presidential running mate, but was dropped after pressure from international allies who see the defence minister as a brake on disarming tens of thousands of irregular soldiers.
With barely hidden scorn Fahim came close to accusing Karzai of acting under foreign pressure. It was the most public, categorical statement of opposition to Karzai to date from the commanders of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance.
'Right now there is a very fierce discussion between both sides: there are group and individual meetings,' Fahim Dashty, editor of the Kabul weekly, told AFP, describing the widening rift in Karzai's government as a 'political shock' for the struggling country.
Stepping into the ring to lead the anti-Karzai backlash is education minister Yunus Qanooni, part of clique belonging to the Northern Alliance, the mainly ethnic Tajik movement which led resistance to Taliban rule.
Fahim and Karzai's erstwhile foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah have both declared their backing for Qanooni, who has left the cabinet to run against Karzai and could present a formidable challenge in October's polls.
Yet to play his significant hand is Ismael Khan, the anti-Soviet guerrilla hero, warlord and governor of the vast western province of Herat. Considered one of the most powerful men in Afghanistan, his vote could swing the balance between Karzai and the key ministers.
Despite Fahim's fighting talk, analysts believe there is no major risk of violence between key players in the run-up to the elections. 'I don't see a risk of violence right now,' Vikram Parekh senior analyst from the International Crisis Group, told AFP.
'The run-up to the election is a question of positioning yourself for the negotiations that will take place after the election, and the alliances in a run-off if there is going to be one.' Grant Kippen from the Washington-based NGO National Institute for Democracy said pre-poll violence 'was unlikely'.
Karzai has picked a lesser-known Tajik as his running mate: Ahmed Zia Masood, brother of the late Northern Alliance resistance hero Ahmad Shah Masood. Also on Karzai's ticket is current vice-president and ethnic Hazara Karim Khalili, as part of a bid to present a united ethnic front.
When the final list of presidential candidates is unveiled on Tuesday it may become clearer whether Karzai, who has largely failed to establish control outside Kabul, will face a united opposition from key players in the former Northern Alliance.
If that happens, 'then there will be a real election,' Dashty said. Parekh pointed out that the Tajik trio of Fahim, Abdullah and Qanooni are widely seen in the north as having latched on to Karzai for personal gain.
'Two of them have been supporting Karzai in recent months and now they have to convince their own former colleagues that they have formed a genuine alliance and not just an opportunistic one that will melt away after the elections,' Parekh said. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a run-off between the two main challengers will be held.
Ex-Mujahideen leader calls for boycott of Afghan polls
By our correspondent The News International, Pakistan
PESHAWAR: Former Afghan Mujahideen leader Maulvi Yunis Khalis has appealed to the people of Afghanistan to foil the US-led Western conspiracy to install a government of its choice in Kabul by boycotting the forthcoming presidential elections.
In a statement faxed to the offices of The News here, he stressed that the Afghan people should not become part of this conspiracy until the US-led occupation forces were evicted from Afghanistan and conditions conducive for holding free and fair elections were made possible. He said it would be un-Islamic and harmful for Afghan people if elections were held to enable US president George W Bush to seek re-election on the basis of having made Afghanistan a democratic country.
Khalis had left his home near Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan some months ago after giving the call for Jihad against the US and other foreign forces. His son, Mujahid, who used to be a Taliban military commander, also accompanied him. Their whereabouts are not known. The US military is reportedly keen to capture Mujahid.
In his message faxed from an unknown destination, Khalis argued that the Afghan people had offered sacrifices and suffered for years as refugees in the hope that their homeland would become free and stable and would adopt Shariah as the supreme law. He said that the polls were aimed at befooling the world. No free polls could be held as long as Afghanistan was under foreign occupation, he added.
He said the freedom-loving Afghan people would not accept the election and rule of puppets working for the interest of the US rather than Afghanistan. "Sovereignty is the primary need and demand of the Afghan people. Without that there cannot be elections where our people could exercise their free will," he contended.
Describing the Karzai government as a puppet regime just like the Babrak Karmal and Dr Najibullah-led communist regimes, Khalis asked the Afghan religious scholars, tribal elders and the Mujahideen to play their role in prevailing upon the people to boycott the "fake elections".
Pakistan Seeking to Rebuild Influence in Afghanistan
Voice of America (VOA News) Michael Kitchen Islamabad 06 Aug 2004, 10:33 UTC
The fall of Afghanistan's Taleban government in 2001 reshaped the geopolitical map for South and Central Asia. Among the nations most affected has been Pakistan, which has deep economic and strategic interests in its western neighbor. In this second part in a series on foreign influence in Afghanistan, VOA's Michael Kitchen looks at how Pakistan is trying to revive its once-strong relations with Kabul.
While the Taleban ruled Afghanistan, it depended on the Pakistanis as a link to the outside world.
For Pakistan, war with India has long been a threat, and it needed close relations with the Afghans to maintain a safe western flank, a doctrine called "strategic depth."
But three years ago, the United States joined forces with Afghan opposition groups to oust the Taleban, which had refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Since then, Pakistan has had to rebuild relations with Kabul, working with the new government of President Hamid Karzai.
Former Pakistani General Talat Masood says ties have improved in part because of Pakistan's willingness to help hunt down remnants of its former Taleban ally, who are waging an armed insurgency against the new Afghan government. Many are believed to be hiding in Pakistan's tribal areas near the Afghan border.
"Because of Pakistan's support to the war on terror and its military activities in the tribal belt, and [because] Pakistan changed its policy and started fully supporting the Karzai government, I think since then, the relationship has been on the mend," he said.
The strategy seems to be paying off, as President Karzai has gone from criticizing Pakistan to praising it.
"What Pakistan has done so far in the tribal territories of Pakistan is something we appreciate, we welcome," he said.
Islamabad also is trying to win over its Afghan neighbors with aid, and has committed over $100 million.
Yet, Pakistan knows the days of "strategic depth" against India are over.
While the Indians were largely excluded from relations with the Taleban government, they are competing for influence in the new Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials have voiced concern about India's new diplomatic missions in cities just inside Afghanistan.
They worry this Indian presence could be used to spy on their country, and that close Indo-Afghan ties would leave Pakistan boxed in.
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan says a dialogue is under way to make sure that India's presence in Afghanistan is benevolent.
"We are watching the situation very closely. We have conveyed our concerns, that there shouldn't be any anti-Pakistan activity along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. And I think there is appreciation of this point of view," he said.
Fortunately for Islamabad, India's growing influence in Afghanistan coincides with the flowering of Indo-Pakistani peace talks.
General Masood says the peace process is easing Pakistani tensions over goings on in Afghanistan.
"If our relations with India improve, I'm sure our relations with Afghanistan will also improve. And I think this also one of the reasons why there has been an improvement in our relations," the general said.
But Pakistan has other reasons for its interest in Afghanistan. By one estimate, Afghanistan bought a quarter of its imports from Pakistan last year. Some Pakistanis hope trade will increase as the Afghans recovers from two decades of war.
Of even greater interest to Pakistan is a proposal to build a gas and oil pipeline linking it to the resource-rich nations of Central Asia.
But as General Masood explains, these economic interests bring Pakistan into conflict with another regional power: Iran.
"There is a rivalry with Iran. There has always been, because both compete for influence in Afghanistan, and both are wanting to get energy pipelines through their country," he said.
Iran also provides tough competition for Pakistan in the growing Afghan market.
Pakistan Foreign Ministry's Mr. Khan says Islamabad is being very careful to keep these vying interests from getting out of hand.
"I think that instead of competition for exclusion, we should have competition for cooperation," he said.
Despite diplomatic goodwill, analysts say competition is likely to remain tough among all foreign interests, now that the rigid alliances of the Taleban era have fallen to a wide-open new Afghanistan.
When NATO calls, Canada should answer, says outgoing commander in Afghanistan
Fri Aug 6,12:02 PM ET STEPHEN THORNE Canadian Press
KABUL (CP) - Canada will face pressure to renew its military commitment to Afghanistan before its current pledge expires in a year's time, says the outgoing head of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.
In a conference call with reporters in Canada and Afghanistan on Friday, Lt.-Gen. Rick Hillier said the war- and drought-ravaged country needs international support and he suggested that countries like Canada have moral obligations to respond.
Afghanistan still faces daunting challenges, he said, citing the continuing reconstruction process, the violent rule of warlords which has been a "millstone" around the necks of Afghans, and the escalating trade in poppies and their derivatives: opium and heroin.
He also pointed to the growing terrorist threat in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, its capital of 3.5 million people where the ISAF operates.
NATO will come calling, predicted Hillier.
"Now is not the time for the international community to get cold feet," the general said, adding he expects Canada to remain with the Kabul-based force "for some period of time."
Already, Ottawa is committing small numbers of soldiers to U.S.-led efforts to train Afghan National Army recruits through 2008.
It is currently in the process of reducing the main Canadian contingent in Afghanistan to about 700 troops from 2,000, while also withdrawing large numbers of soldiers from Bosnia and Haiti.
The scaleback in overseas commitments is expected to last at least into next spring, allowing the undermanned military time to renew itself and possibly shore up its Afghan commitment again come next August.
Hillier relinquishes command of the 34-country, 6,300-member ISAF to a French general on Monday.
"It took the Balkans 10 years to get to where we are now that we can withdraw the bulk of our forces," he said. "We're very much at the front-end of that process (in Afghanistan) right now.
"We all know that pressure will continue for Canada to participate."
He said Afghan Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim asked him for 50,000 Canadian troops when he first met him six months ago. But there are only about 60,000 members in all of the Canadian Forces.
Afghans "have had enough of brutality, murder and killing during 23 years of war." They want peace and democratic government, he said.
Canada's focus is shifting with the new rotation, whose primary element is an armoured reconnaissance squadron 50 per cent larger than the one deployed before it.
The Edmonton-based members of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) are expected to build on the work of their Quebec-based predecessors, patrolling Taliban strongholds in mountainous areas north and south of Kabul.
The sprawling area of Canadian responsibility, patrolled by 700 members of the 3rd Battalion, Royal 22nd Regiment Battle Group, for the past six months, was taken over by a 550-member Norwegian-led force on Thursday.
A small contingent of Edmonton-based infantry are to man the gates at Canadian-owned Camp Julien, as well as outposts. They will also act as a quick-reaction force.
Canadian troops made their last patrols around the Afghan capital Thursday before operations were turned over to the Norwegians, who will work in a battle group with Belgians and Hungarians. The Canadians had conducted more than 3,800 patrols and 880 checkpoints over the past six months, with no casualties.
The contingent completed more than 150 projects around Kabul, spending about $400,000 on schools, orphanages, roads, police equipment, water projects and garbage collection.
Ottawa has made no formal commitment to the NATO force beyond August 2005.
Afghanistan Faces Major Problems, Needs Help-NATO
Fri Aug 6,11:17 AM ET By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Afghanistan faces serious short-term problems and the world would be unwise to lose interest in the war-torn country now, the outgoing head of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kabul said on Friday.
Canadian Lieutenant-General Rick Hillier, who has been in charge of the International Security Assistance Force for six months, said the Afghan government could not cope with the dangers posed by the drug trade, warlords and militants.
"There are some significant threats in the shorter term, they're not unexpected, they are manageable ... I don't underestimate the scale and scope of it, though, and it is going to be a challenge," he said.
"Now would not be the time for the international community to get cold feet, that's for sure ... (Afghans) clearly still need the help of the international community and they still need a significant amount of help to handle those threats," he told reporters on a conference call from Kabul.
Canada, the largest contributor to the 6,500-strong ISAF force, is due to withdraw its 2,000-strong contingent in August. Around 800 troops and military support staff will remain in the country.
Hiller, saying he was optimistic about Afghanistan's long-term prospects, nevertheless predicted ISAF would have to stay in Afghanistan for years.
"One (threat) we see on a daily basis is simply the lack of a capacity in the Afghan government and the Afghan security institutions to be able to handle all the threats to this country themselves," said Hillier.
While the Afghan national army was being built up quickly with U.S. help, "it is still going to take another three or four years to build an army that is sufficiently capable to handle the kind of threats they will have", he added.
Hillier said there was a "very very good chance" that a presidential election set for Oct. 9 would go ahead despite attacks by Islamic militants seeking to disrupt the vote.
Last month, NATO agreed to send up to 2,000 extra troops to bolster security for the election but the number fell well short of the amount Afghan officials say was needed.
Hillier said drug trafficking and the increasing poppy crop "threatens to undermine much of what is occurring and clearly is something that has to be tackled in a very significant way in the immediate future here."
He also highlighted the risks posed by regional warlords he said were profiting from the drugs trade and also defying the Kabul government.
"Clearly that's a significant threat in the middle- and longer-term to developing Afghanistan," he said.
"Their government structure, the pressures that they can bring, the security forces that they can deploy, cannot do all that needs to be done to set conditions both for successful elections and the continuation of the reconstruction process."
Refugee Agency Cuts Mission in Part of Afghanistan
By REUTERS August 7, 2004
ENEVA, Aug. 6 (Reuters) - The United Nations refugee agency said Friday that it was scaling down operations in southeastern Afghanistan after the killing of two Afghan aid workers there this week.
The two, a field officer and his driver employed by a German Catholic aid agency working with the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, were shot in their car from a passing vehicle on the road between Gardez, 65 miles south of Kabul, and the town of Zormat.
"We have put all staff travel in the southeast on hold while we review the situation," Jennifer Pagonis, a spokeswoman for the agency, said at a news briefing. "We do not operate in areas where we don't feel secure."
Malteser Germany, the agency employing the men, has suspended its work in the region, where it had been carrying out vocational training programs for the United Nations agency among returning refugees.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on aid workers that have left more than 30 dead across the country. Last week, the Paris-based aid group Doctors Without Borders said it was leaving the country after 24 years because it feared for its employees' safety after five were killed in one shooting in June.
The United Nations refugee agency said its programs were helping about 20,000 people around Gardez who have recently returned from Pakistan. More than half a million refugees have returned to Afghanistan this year - about 250,000 from Pakistan and 280,000 from Iran.
8 American soldiers injured in Afghanistan after attack from insurgents
12:12 AM EDT Aug 07
KABUL (AP) - Insurgents attacked American forces with rocket propelled grenades and explosives on roads in southern Afghanistan on Friday, injuring at least eight U.S. soldiers, two seriously, the U.S. military said.
The first attack occurred at 7 a.m. as a 10-vehicle convoy made its way along a road east of Daychopan, in southern Zabul province. About 10 suspected Taliban insurgents fired rocket propelled grenades at the convoy, prompting the American forces to fire back with small arms.
One of the RPGs struck a Humvee, injuring five troops, two of whom were being prepared for evacuation to a military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
About six hours later, rebels set off a roadside bomb near Zabul's provincial capital, Qalat, as a U.S. convoy passed. Three soldiers were injured, but all returned to duty.
It was not clear if there were any rebel casualties, said Maj. Rick Peat, a U.S. military spokesman.
In neighbouring Uruzgan province, a convoy carrying election workers was also reportedly ambushed Thursday.
Four jeeps carrying staff from a UN-sponsored program to register voters for upcoming elections and their guards came under fire in remote Char Cheno district, provincial police chief Rozi Khan said.
He said the vehicles were destroyed and that two drivers and one election worker were missing, but had no further details.
Zabul and Uruzgan have been the scene of some of the worst fighting in recent months, and attacks have increased as the country gears up for its first presidential election on Oct. 9.
The Taliban have vowed to disrupt the vote, and at least ten people helping prepare the election have been killed so far this year. Twenty-one American soldiers have also died in action this year, already the worst tally for the U.S. military since it entered Afghanistan in 2001.
The bloodshed has failed to dissuade Afghans from signing up to vote, with more than 90 per cent of the estimated 9.8 million eligible already registered.
The presidential election, which interim President Hamid Karzai is expected to win, is to be followed by parliamentary elections in the spring. Both votes were delayed from June because of insecurity and logistical problems.
Russians Seize TonOf Afghan Heroin in Tajikistan
By Roman Kozhevnikov
DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Russian guards in Tajikistan have seized a tonof heroin from neighboring Afghanistan in the biggest drugs shipment intercepted on the border, the guards said on Friday.
Prosecutors also arrested the head of the Tajik Drugs Control Agency, Gaffor Mirzoyev, on charges of premeditated murder. They said the arrest was not linked to the drugs haul.
Afghan opiate drugs flow into Russia via vast but sparsely populated Central Asia and then on to western Europe. In the West, the latest seizure could have fetched up to $300 million.
A spokesman for the guards said they found 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) of heroin on Thursday by the Pyandzh River, which follows the border. The record haul doubled this year's heroin seizures by Russian border guards.
The Russian success comes after a recent spat between Russia and Tajikistan, which both independently combat drugs smuggling in the country, about the presence of the Russian border guards.
Russia keeps thousands of border guards and other troops in Tajikistan, who help safeguard the peace after a 1992-97 civil war and patrol most of the mountainous border with Afghanistan.
Tajik Prosecutor-General Bobodzhon Bobokhonov said drugs agency chief Mirzoyev was detained with four of his officers.
Bobokhonov told reporters Mirzoyev would be charged with murdering a district police chief outside Dushanbe in 1998, as well as illegally possessing weapons, contraband and committing other crimes.
Mirzoyev's appointment to the drugs agency earlier this year was seen as a compensation for being stripped of his position as head of the presidential guard. Sudden falls from grace in Tajikistan are often accompanied by criminal accusations.
Afghan drugs are smuggled into Tajikistan most often by rubber dinghy or in inflated car tyres, said Lt.-Col. Vladimir Reshetov, deputy spokesman for the Russian border guards.
This year the Pyandzh is only waist high due to the summer heat, and drug couriers can wade across it, he said.
Russia's border guards were due to leave next year, but Moscow and Tajikistan agreed in June to extend their stay until 2006. Western diplomats in Dushanbe back Russia's view that its troops are likely to do a better job than Tajik ones.
"Taking into account their equipment and salaries, Tajik guards are unlikely to cope with the task they are facing," a diplomat from a European Union state said in a recent interview.
"We fear that corruption may have deplorable consequences on the border where drug trafficking is so intense."
Prosecutors: Man recruited Taliban via Web
By MATT APUZZO, Associated Press 5:24 pm PDT Friday, August 6, 2004
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - A British computer specialist used U.S.-based Web sites to recruit and raise money for Taliban fighters and obtained classified documents detailing a Navy fleet's weaknesses to terrorist attacks, federal prosecutors said Friday.
Authorities said Pakistani-born Babar Ahmad, 30, also had links to the e-mail account of a rebel Chechen leader and was exchanging e-mails with a Navy sailor who expressed sympathy for terrorists.
Ahmad was arrested Wednesday in London on a U.S. extradition warrant accusing accused him of trying to raise funds for "acts of terrorism in Chechnya and Afghanistan" from 1998 through 2003.
At a court appearance in London on Friday, Ahmad was asked if he understood the charges, and replied: "Not really. It's all a bit confusing to me."
According to an arrest warrant affidavit unsealed Friday in Connecticut - where one of his Web sites was hosted - the Navy document was discovered at his parents' London home. Authorities also said they found a compact disc with audio tracks praising Osama bin Laden.
The document detailed planned movements of a battle group that included the San Diego-based USS Benfold, and a drawing of the group's formation when it was to pass through the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, the affidavit said.
It also showed the ships' vulnerabilities to attacks by small boats, the affidavit said.
The intelligence documents are dated months after the Oct. 12, 2000, terrorist attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors. The Benfold's battle group was never attacked.
As the naval intelligence was being gathered, Ahmad was allegedly exchanging e-mails with a Benfold sailor.
In one exchange, the sailor praised those who attacked the Cole, according to the affidavit. The sailor was not named, nor was he accused of providing the document to Ahmad.
"You can rest assured the Navy knows who he is and is taking appropriate precautions," Connecticut U.S. Attorney Kevin O'Connor said.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the sailor left the Navy about two years ago when his enlistment expired.
The affidavit said Ahmad ran two Web sites and coordinated content on a third, all using aliases in London. One was run out of a Trumbull, Conn.-based Internet provider, OLM LLC, from 1999 until 2001. From 1997 to 1998, the document says, it was run through a Las Vegas-based Internet provider, Internet Quality Services.
The third was a so-called mirror site set up following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The affidavit quoted the site saying: "Azzam Publications has been set up to propagate the call for jihad ... to incite the believers and also, secondly, to raise some money for the brothers."
O'Connor said the Internet companies were cooperating with authorities.
Babar's detention was not believed to be linked to the arrest in London of men suspected of authoring surveillance documents that sparked terror alerts in the United States.
According to U.S. lawyers at his London hearing, Ahmad is a cousin of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a computer expert arrested in Pakistan last month on suspicion of sending coded messages to a vast network of al-Qaida operatives.
Ahmad faces charges of conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, conspiracy to launder money to support terrorism, conspiracy to support the Taliban and solicitation to commit a crime of physical violence.
He could face life in prison if convicted of the first charge, and a combined 50-year prison sentence if convicted on the three other charges.
Ahmad's lawyer in London, Carolina Guiloff, said he was abused by police when he was arrested last December as a suspected terrorist, and fears he might be abused again.
Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London, Pauline Jelinek in Washington and Laura Walsh in Hartford contributed to this report.
Wild-card charged in Afghan imprisonments has murky history with media, government
BY TOD ROBBERSON The Dallas Morning News Fri, Aug. 06, 2004
LONDON - (KRT) - It's difficult to tell where reality ends and fantasy begins in the checkered life of Jonathan Keith "Jack" Idema, one of three Americans arrested last month when Afghan police raided a private prison and interrogation chamber in Kabul.
He claims that he's a former Green Beret fighting a heroic battle against terrorists and that his activities in Afghanistan were approved by the U.S. government.
American authorities, for years, have flatly denied any involvement with him.
He has served prison time for fraud. He now faces up to 20 years' imprisonment in Afghanistan on charges of running a private jail, torture and kidnapping. Edward Caravallo, a videocamera operator, and Brent Bennett, an employee of a North Carolina security company, the Counterr Group, also have been charged. Their trial is expected to resume this week. Idema, 48, of Fayetteville, N.C., has cultivated the image of a dangerous man. He relishes attention from the news media and has appeared in interviews on major networks, including CBS's "60 Minutes II" and Fox News.
At the same time, he professes contempt for some aspects of journalism and, in 2002, fired a pistol point-blank at a Dallas Morning News correspondent in a Kabul hotel.
He claims to have served in the U.S. Army's Special Forces in El Salvador in the early years of that nation's civil war, although the Army says it has no record of it.
He claims to have served several tours as an officer in the Special Forces, to have captured an al-Qaida training videotape in Afghanistan in 2001, to have uncovered a nuclear-arms smuggling ring operating in Lithuania, and to have supplied important information to U.S. authorities about al-Qaida operatives in Afghanistan.
Although his assertions have dubious aspects, they cannot be dismissed entirely as fiction.
His attorney, John E. Tiffany of Bloomfield, N.J., acknowledged that "my client is his own worst enemy because he can't keep his mouth shut" and that Idema has been known to stretch the truth.
However, Tiffany said he has evidence that Idema maintained contact with the FBI and the Defense Department regarding his activities in Afghanistan and that U.S. authorities welcomed the intelligence he provided.
At the same time, he said, he doubted that Idema received payment for his purported services to the U.S. government. He gave information but may have gotten nothing in return, Tiffany acknowledged..
Tiffany described his client's arrest as a "setup" masterminded by enemies of Idema, most likely within the FBI.
"Jack has made a lot of enemies," especially within the FBI, he said.
Last week in Kabul, Idema acknowledged that he had held Afghans prisoner and had interrogated them. He claimed that he delivered one of his prisoners, allegedly a loyalist of the former Taliban regime, to U.S. military authorities.
The military acknowledged receiving the prisoner but said he was released when investigators found no basis for holding him.
In a statement last week, the U.S. Central Command said Idema has misrepresented himself as a military or government official. "The public should be aware that Idema does not represent the American government and we do not employ him," the statement said.
Idema has served three years in a federal penitentiary, convicted in 1994 on 58 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. According to a North Carolina television station, police arrested Idema in January and charged him with impersonating a police officer.
At Fort Bragg, N.C., where the Special Forces are based, a spokesman acknowledged that Idema trained and qualified for Special Forces scuba and airborne duty after completing basic training in 1977. But no record exists of him ever serving in an active-duty deployment in El Salvador or any other country, said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified.
He said that it was possible Idema served in El Salvador and that, because of the secretive nature of many Special Forces deployments, the record could have been deleted from his files.
After qualifying for the Special Forces, Idema was assigned as a reservist to the 11th Special Forces Group. He re-enlisted in 1981 in the Individual Ready Reserve, the spokesman said. Idema was discharged in 1984 with the rank of sergeant E-5. He was never an officer.
In Afghanistan, the Special Forces were particularly anxious to distance themselves from him.
"He has no association with us. He is a pariah within the Special Forces community," a Special Forces spokesman in Afghanistan said in 2002, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Several Army officers in Afghanistan described him in 2002 as a Special Forces "wannabe."
Various Internet discussion groups operated by active and former Special Forces members speak of Idema in extremely derisive terms. Some say that the closest Idema came to combat was through a paint-ball supply store he operated in Fayetteville during the 1990s.
Idema also ran a company that supplied specialty gear, such as web belts, vests and pouches, used by the Special Forces. Fraudulent fund-raising activities related to that company led to Idema's imprisonment in 1994.
Idema consented to a series of off-the-record interviews with The Dallas Morning News in 2002 at the Mustafa Hotel in Kabul, one of his favorite hangouts. He typically visited the hotel after sunset, lounging around the hotel's rooftop restaurant wearing wrap-around sunglasses, with a black-and-white Arab kaffiyeh wrapped around his neck.
His only on-the-record remarks concerned his relationship to James Steele, a retired Army colonel who served as commander of the military group attached to the U.S. Embassy in El Salvador from 1984 to 1986. Steele, who is now a private contractor in Iraq, could not be reached for comment.
In Afghanistan, Idema went to great lengths to convince journalists that he was well-connected with the CIA and the Special Forces but refused to elaborate on the relationship. The U.S. government had activated numerous "operators," or freelance retired Special Forces and "black ops" specialists, to assist in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent hunt for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Idema started contacting journalists in Kabul and northern Afghanistan around that time.
It remains unclear where Idema obtained funding for his activities, which, according to his friends, included humanitarian relief, security services and arms procurement for Afghan militia leaders.
Tiffany, the attorney, said Idema was operating in Afghanistan "on a small, shoestring budget" but did not know how he obtained his operating funds.
He acknowledged that it's doubtful, given Idema's high media profile and constant interaction with reporters, that he was on the payroll of the U.S. military or intelligence services - all of which tightly restrict public appearances and contacts with the media.
What may be more likely is that Idema secured independent financial backing in hopes of uncovering information leading to the capture of bin Laden, for whom the U.S. government has posted a $25 million bounty.
Tiffany did not discount the possibility.
"If he did (seek the bounty), who cares? So what?" he said, adding that the U.S. government has no justification for being irritated with his client's methods. "If you want people to stop running around Afghanistan hunting for Osama bin Laden, then stop putting a bounty on him."
Afghan police arrested Idema on July 5 during a raid in which they found eight Afghan men being detained, with their hands bound and their heads covered with hoods.
"I don't doubt for a second that there were people (being held) inside the house," Tiffany said. He speculated that his client was firmly convinced that the men were terrorists who needed to be handed over to the proper authorities.
Even before his arrest last month, Jonathan Keith Idema displayed a penchant for violence. This reporter was 5 feet away from Idema on April 20, 2002, when he drew a pistol during an argument and fired a bullet that went through a couch and lodged in a wall behind me. The bullet passed my left bicep, missing my heart by about 8 inches.
Three other Americans witnessed the shooting, including Michael Corkery, a staff writer with the Providence Journal. Corkery wrote about the incident, although he mentioned no names other than Idema's nickname, Jack.
Earlier in the evening, Idema fired a bullet near the foot of another American to express his annoyance at the music the man was playing.
Although Idema laughingly explained his actions after firing his weapon, his comments cannot be reported because he was speaking on condition that he would not be quoted.
Afghan Vice President calls on Shaukat Aziz
ISLAMABAD, August 05 (Online): Pakistan and Afghanistan enjoy close relations in every field of life and they are also facing similar challenges. A combination of the promotion of the concept of enlightened moderation coupled with integrated economic development offers solution to a number of challenges faced by the two countries .
Federal Finance Minister, Mr. Shaukat Aziz said this while talking to Hidayat Amin Arsala, the Vice President of Afghanistan, who called on him along with a delegation here Wednesday .
The Minister said a strong vibrant Afghanistan is good for Pakistan and vice versa. He said Pakistan and Afghanistan need to play the role of catalyst to enhance trade and cooperation in the region. He added that economic development, investment in social development sector particularly health and education sector will reduce sense of deprivation and augur well for the region .
The Minister expressed satisfaction that cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the economic side is making considerable headway. He cited as examples the resumption of air flights, functioning of Pakistani banks in Afghanistan, contribution of Pakistani laborers and contractors in reconstruction of Afghanistan, construction of highways between the two countries and enhanced trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He stressed on the need to continue the progress made. The Afghan Vice President agreed with the Finance Minister that the two countries should compliment each other on overall development. He also asked for the Finance Minister views on enhancing foreign investments in Afghanistan. Mr. Shaukat Aziz gave a number of suggestions to improve the investment climate in Afghanistan. He also said that trade between the two countries could reach $ 1 billion this year .
Later briefing the Afghan Vice President about steps planned by Pakistani government to expedite trade between the two countries and with Central Asian States, Mr. Shaukat Aziz informed him that Pakistan Government will install scanning machines at Chaman and Torkham borders, railway lines will be built from Chaman to Spin Boldak . The two sides agreed that the two countries will continue taking steps to enhance cooperation in every field of life between the two countries.
Russia approves draft on French transit to Afghanistan
MOSCOW. Aug 5 (Interfax) - At a Thursday meeting, the Russian government approved a draft intergovernmental agreement on the transit of French military personnel and equipment across Russia to Afghanistan.
France will cover the cost of the airlift and its personnel will be subordinate to Russian orders, Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loshchinin told the government.
"Under certain circumstances, Russian jurisdiction will not apply to French personnel on Russian soil," he said.
The agreement will not entail the expenditure of any budget money, Loshchinin said. The agreement will require ratification by parliament, he said.
Afghan Staff Educated In Turkey Start T.V. Broadcast In Hometown
Anadolu Agency: 8/6/2004
SIBIRGAN - Most of the staff working for ''Ayna TV'' (Mirror TV), the first local TV channel in Afghanistan, had been trained in Turkey, it was learned.
The ''Ayna TV'' started broadcast in northern Afghanistan. 80 percent of 120 Ayna TV staff were educated in Turkey.
Enver Sadat, educated in Istanbul University's Faculty of Communications, assumed the post of the General Director of the TV channel.
Sadat said they broadcast in Uzbek, Pushto and the Persian languages stating that they also broadcast in Turkmen language once a week.
He indicated they work with a crowded team because of difficulties in communication and transportation.
Telecommunications has a special importance in Afghanistan to get rid of the illiteracy.
Satellite dishes are popular in the country where GSM operators just started working.
Efforts are also underway to overcome Afghanistan's underdeveloped structure.
Afghanistan's child soldiers try to overcome horrors of war
From The Times August 06, 2004
EMERGING from a twilight world of banditry, killings and sexual abuse, Afghanistan's child soldiers tell their war stories all but unaware there was ever an innocence to lose.
"We were bad bastards," recalls Wazir Agah, now 18, who joined the Northern Alliance at the age of 12 as a frontline fighter. "Pay was always a problem, so if we needed money we'd stop a car and rob the occupants. It was just the way it was."
His tone has the same matter-of-factness as he remembers the 90 Taliban bodies piled outside his trench after a night attack - "We took their weapons and sold them, good money" - or when, as a sniper, he shot a man and left him lying wounded throughout the day so he could shoot the rescuers, or the time he was 15 and a teenage comrade working as a radio operator had his head blown off by shrapnel.
"What did you do about it?" I ask.
"Picked up the radio and carried on," he replies, with a smile of professional pride.
Because the boy soldiers were born into war and have never known peace, any understanding of what childhood should have involved has been dulled for them.
Edward Carwardine, the UN Children's Fund spokesman in Afghanistan, says this makes sense. "In many respects these kids seem to have coped incredibly. That they have known conflict as normality means that in some ways they have grown up well adjusted."
But whatever their resilience to the horrors of the 22-year war, Afghanistan's shaky peace finds the former child soldiers illiterate and unskilled in anything but fighting.
To demobilise and reintegrate them into society, UNICEF is funding the Afghan New Beginnings Program, which aims this year to reach 5000 of an estimated 8000 child combatants in the country.
At a school in Parwan province, north of Kabul, about 100 boy soldiers gathered yesterday to enrol in the project. UNICEF asked that the location of the school should not be revealed because of the sensitivity of the project.
There have been instances of boy fighters and their families being forced to flee their homes because of the stigma of their particular wartime loyalties. In other cases, commanders have feared testimony from the young fighters may lead to war crimes charges.
The deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, which is now largely controlled by warlords and drug barons, has limited the ability of UNICEF's foreign staff to travel, so the program is being implemented by Afghan aid workers.
In Parwan, Yousaf Ghaznawi, 27, supervised a team of nine Afghans demobilising the former fighters. He has been responsible for demobilising 2500 boy soldiers since February across 10 provinces in the north and east of Afghanistan. He is not sure his charges are well-adjusted.
"Unlike in countries that experience a short war, these boys were born into fighting, they grew up in fighting," he said. "They have no awareness of peace and will find normal life very difficult.
"It's a question of diverting their energies away from the war and into something positive. Most are very confident and motivated, and those skills can be used."
The boy soldiers, who had all served between the ages of 12 and 15 during the war, were interviewed, documented, photographed and given a medical check by Ghaznawi and his team before attending a lecture on the project.
They will begin year-long literacy and trade courses in two weeks, attending workshops on subjects that include beekeeping, mechanics, carpentry and poultry farming.
A voluntary HIV test was part of the medical check. Many boy soldiers were conscripted for the sexual gratification of Mujaheddin and Taliban commanders.
Ghaznawi spoke of his embarrassment when his team dined with a Mujaheddin commander who flagrantly ordered his young recruits to dance before them.
"He said, 'Watch them dance, then demobilise them'," Ghaznawi recalls, with a hand over his eyes.
"It seems to be a regional thing. Here in Parwan sexual abuse of the boys is almost non-existent. But in the provinces of Baglan, Kunduz and Takhar, it was widespread and an accepted part of the culture."
In Takhar province, Ghaznawi tried and failed to reach a boy soldier sold for $US15,000 ($21,400) by one commander to another as a dancer and bed companion. Two other commanders were killed in a shoot-out over who owned the boy.
Most of the boy soldiers in Parwan agreed to the HIV test, although it was explained to them in such abstract terms as to leave most confused as to what AIDS and HIV are.
The boys, their registration complete, left the school in rowdy gaggles. Not all of them were looking forward to civilian life, though.
"War - how could I not love it?" said Refik, a fighter since he was 12. "Those sounds. The fighting. The fires. I miss it. I'm bored. But I'm sick of walking the streets with nothing to do."
Pakistani security forces trade fire with militants
Fri 6 August, 2004 10:38
WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani security forces have battled al Qaeda-linked militants in the rugged mountain region bordering Afghanistan overnight, but there are no immediate details of casualties, residents say.
"All night we heard explosions, artillery and small weapon fire," said a resident of South Waziristan's main tribal town of Wana, 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Islamabad.
The military had no immediate comment on Friday. The army has been locked in a bitter standoff with foreign militants and their local tribal supporters since early this year.
Residents said militants fired at least three rockets at a security post near Wana overnight but missed the target.
The attack triggered a heavy exchange of fire and the security forces targeted nearby mountains with artillery fire.
Pakistan says hundreds of foreign militants, including Arabs, Chechens and Uzbeks, are hiding in the semi-autonomous tribal region.
The ethnic Pashtun tribesmen are providing shelter to foreign militants and resisting moves by the government to flush them out.
More than 200 combatants, including dozens of security personnel, have been killed in two major operations launched against the militants this year.
Who's afraid of bin Laden?
Debra J. Saunders Friday, August 6, 2004 San Francisco Chronicle
THERE ARE two Americas: the America of Sept. 10, 2001, and the America of Sept. 12, 2001.
The pre-Sept. 11 Americans don't see the terrorism threat as a prevalent fact of life. These partisans are so filled with hate -- toward President Bush, not the terrorists -- that they believe that the Bushies are manipulating the most recent terror threats for political gain.
These Americans don't worry about the potential consequences of making it a politically radioactive to warn citizens that they may be in danger. Nor do theses Americans worry that they might be slamming the very people who may have prevented attacks and saved American lives.
If these Americans are concerned about whether it is wrong to say the warnings are overwrought, they are only worried to the extent that they buffer their digs with a disclaimer: It would be a "mistake" to dismiss the terror alerts as a contrivance "without any real evidence," a Democratic National Committee consultant told the New York Times. But: "You can see how the timing was curious coming the day after the convention. It does create issues.''
These Americans also see little need to talk beyond the headlines -- which is really choice when you consider how frequently the left praises itself for being nuanced.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that data on possible terrorists attacks found on a computer seized in Pakistan were "old," gathered before the Sept. 11 attacks. Yet Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, told the Times, "Now that we're hearing that some of this data is two or three years old, it raises serious questions in my mind about whether or not they are manipulating the data to cause all this confusion.'' It didn't matter that the paper also had reported that officials believe the old data had been updated as recently as January.
"When it is married with information we have from other sources, there is well-founded reason to be concerned," a counterterrorism official told me. That information says that al Qaeda wants to attack America this year. British arrests of 12 suspected al Qaeda members this week make the case stronger.
Still, the terror scoffs can't lose. If terrorist attacks occur, Americans will be too busy dealing with the carnage to dwell on their errors. If the feds stop planned attacks, the public may never find out. In which case, the terror skeptics can pat themselves on the back for being so much smarter than the dupes who feared al Qaeda -- and the intelligence officials who actually thwarted the attack.
The other America, the post-Sept. 11 America, is very aware of the danger. These Americans supports enabling law enforcement to investigate suspected terrorists to prevent attacks. These Americans support sending troops to Afghanistan, and some of these Americans also support U.S. troops in Iraq. These are the Americans who are doing the heavy-lifting in the war on terrorism.
I can only hope that these Americans' investigative skills exceed their communications skills, because their communications skills are abysmal.
The Homeland Security color-coded terror alerts? Dumb. The Bush administration's tendency to warn Americans of terrorism threats -- but without any useful specificity, so that people have no idea what to think or do about alerts -- is foolish.
Most recently, the Bushies were wrong to try to withhold information leading to this month's alerts. Reporters, of course, did some digging and found out some of the information was old -- handing critics a golden opportunity to make hay.
Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge handed the New York Times editorial pages a bone when he told reporters "the kind of information available to us today is the result of the president's leadership in the war against terror." This gave the Gray Lady cause to sniff that Ridge gave "a partisan pitch."
Maybe, but the truly over-the-top partisan politics preside in those individuals and parties who try to embody the two Americas in the same breath: Take John Kerry. He insists that Bush has made America less safe, and that Bush created terrorists by sending U.S. troops to Iraq, even as his surrogates hint that the threats from terrorists are bogus. (Meanwhile, a Kerry spokesperson tells reporters that Kerry doesn't dismiss the threats -- making the straddle complete.)
I urge readers to pick up a copy of "The 9/11 Commission Report." It tells the story of a group of haters who came together almost by stumbling upon each other. The report says Khalid Sheikh Mohammed first discussed his plan with Osama bin Laden to organize terrorists to crash planes into tall buildings in the United States in 1996.
How curious it is that those who demand a Sept. 11 commission look into how the attacks might have been prevented have the energy to scoff at those trying to prevent the next ones.
Al-Qaeda using Pakistan as staging post to plot global terror
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - The recent arrests of high-profile Al-Qaeda suspects have revealed the terrorist network is using Pakistan as a staging post for plotting attacks across the globe, analysts said. Al-Qaeda has effectively declared war on the Pakistani government led by General Pervez Musharraf, and most experts believe the group's leaders including Osama bin Laden are hiding in Pakistan's northern tribal areas.
"Despite three years of our efforts to chase these guys, we have not been able to degrade their network," Riffat Hussain, who heads the department of strategic studies at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam university, told AFP on Thursday. "It indicates the problem is far more serious than one had anticipated. It also shows the resilience of Al-Qaeda cells to re-group and revitalize, then operate and plan from these areas."
The arrest of at least 18 Al-Qaeda suspects in the past three weeks represents the biggest haul so far in the nearly three-year hunt for militants since the September 11 attacks, which has already netted over 500 suspects. Two alleged key operatives have provided a particularly chilling insight into the network's ability to plan, communicate, and coordinate -- from Pakistan -- operatives in Britain, South Africa, Southeast Asia and the US.
Tanzanian Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, indicted by the US for his alleged role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in east Africa, and Pakistani computer genius Naeem Noor Khan, together relayed coded Al-Qaeda messages around the world and hatched plots to attack as far afield as London and Johannesburg.
"Their group is responsible for Al-Qaeda's external operations in the United States, Britain, Malaysia, Nepal, Indonesia and some other countries," a senior security official told AFP, asking to remain anonymous. There could be many more operatives like Khan, as yet undetected, a Karachi-based security official said.
"Khan is just one man, carrying explosive information and moving around virtually unnoticed. We don't know how many like him are still around," the official told AFP. Neither Khan nor Ghailani were hiding in the remote northwest tribal borderlands hugging Afghanistan. Khan operated out of a house in Pakistan's second largest city Lahore, near its international airport, until his July 12 arrest.
Ghailani, who disappeared off the radar since 1998, had been operating out of the crowded industrial town of Gujrat, which lies on the main highway linking Lahore with the sleepy capital Islamabad. Ghailani was living with two other dark-skinned men, a pair of South Africans alleged to be plotting attacks on tourist sites in Johannesburg, plus four women and several children.
They could hardly go unnoticed in Gujrat, but police said no residents ever reported them. "It was surprising to know that these people were living there for more than four weeks and neither any neighbour nor any shopkeeper informed the police of their unusual presence," a local police officer told AFP.
In Gujrat, Ghailani was doing even more than sending secret Al-Qaeda computer messages and designing international attack plans. He was running a training camp for suicide bombers, investigators have said. Their goal: to kill Pakistani leaders, at venues including Islamabad airport. Detailed maps of Islamabad airport were on his computer.
Also on Khan's computer were detailed surveillance maps and photos of key financial institutions in New York, Newark and Washington. They were some three years old but had possibly been updated in January, according to US officials. Khan has told interrogators how he concocted sophisticated secret codes for Al-Qaeda's communications.
He guided them in pasting coded messages in the 'save drafts' folder of hotmail accounts, which could then be opened anywhere in the world by people knowing the username and password. Data from Khan and Ghailani's computer records, combined with extra information received by US authorities last Friday, prompted this week's high terror alerts in US cities.
Information gleaned from the pair also led to the arrest of at least one Al-Qaeda suspect in Britain, according to a Pakistani intelligence officer. He described Abu Eisa Al Hindi, as a "senior operative" of the terror network. Anti-terrorism officials say the vast networks of radical Islamic organisations in Pakistan provide cradles of sympathy and easy recruiting grounds for Al-Qaeda. "There are people who sympathise with Al-Qaeda among the radical groups and they are spread all over the country," said an anti-terrorism official in eastern Punjab province.
Commission condemns murder of NGO staff in Afghanistan
Source: European Commission 6 Aug 2004
Brussels, 6 August 2004 - The European Commission strongly condemns the murder in Eastern Afghanistan of two national staff members of the German NGO, Malteser Hilfsdienst, who were on a mission to provide basic assistance to vulnerable rural people. These latest killings are further evidence that aid workers are being deliberately targeted by groups with no respect for the humanitarian principles that would normally provide some protection to aid workers in conflict situations. The insecurity is compounded by certain practices of elements of the Coalition forces that contribute to a blurring of the distinction between humanitarian and military personnel, and undermine the perception that humanitarian workers are neutral and impartial.
Poul Nielson, the EU Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, strongly condemned the attack: "I am shocked to hear about the murder of two aid workers in Afghanistan. As with other members of the humanitarian community in Afghanistan, they were ensuring that much-needed aid reached the many thousands of Afghans living in desperate conditions. The repeated targeting of humanitarian workers and the shrinking humanitarian space in Afghanistan undermines our ability to deliver that crucial help. All my sympathy goes to the families of the deceased, to their friends, and to their colleagues in Malteser Hilfsdienst".
For the Commission, it is crucial that the perpetrators of these murders, as well as those of the five Médecins Sans Frontières workers killed in early June, are brought to justice. If the killers are able to strike with impunity then it will be too dangerous for humanitarian workers to venture into the most vulnerable and remote areas of Afghanistan.
The Commission's Humanitarian Office (ECHO) recently adopted a funding decision for €35 million to support vulnerable people in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan. Some operations have already been suspended or reduced in scale and it cannot be excluded that others may follow. ECHO is continuing to monitor the situation in co-ordination with its operational partners and other agencies. The main hope is for an improved security situation that will allow humanitarian aid operations fully to resume.
UNHCR scales down activities in south-east after NGO staff murders
Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees 6 Aug 2004
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis - to whom quoted text may be attributed - at the press briefing, on 6 August 2004, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR is scaling down its activities in south-eastern Afghanistan following the killing of two Afghan aid workers employed by a partner organisation in the region. Mohammad Idrees Sadiq, a field officer for the German NGO Malteser Hilfsdienst, was killed on the spot when unknown gunmen opened fire on his car on Tuesday afternoon. His driver, 19-year-old Emal Abdul Samad, was taken to a hospital in Bagram and died a few hours later. The incident occurred while the two were travelling on the road from Zurmat to Gardez in Paktia province. The UN refugee agency is deeply saddened by the two deaths, and strongly condemns these murders.
Malteser, has been responsible for carrying out all UNHCR's income generation and vocational training projects in south-eastern Afghanistan since early 2003. The NGO has now suspended its work in the region. UNHCR itself has put all staff travel in the south-east on hold while it reviews the situation. The office is working closely with local groups and village elders to distribute emergency relief supplies to some 20,000 people recently arrived from Pakistan's South Waziristan region.
More than half a million people have returned to Afghanistan since the beginning of the year - over 280,000 from Iran, and more than 250,000 from Pakistan. Since UNHCR started its voluntary repatriation exercise after the fall of the Taliban in 2002, over three million Afghans have come back to their homeland.
In the past twelve months, aid workers have been operating under increasingly difficult conditions in some parts of the country. More than thirty humanitarian staff have been murdered in Afghanistan since early 2003. We are deeply concerned about this rise in violence against aid workers, and the impact this has on humanitarian work in the country.
AFGHANISTAN’S TRANSITION: DECENTRALIZATION OR CIVIL WAR
Michael A. Weinstein: 8/06/04
A EurasiaNet Partner Post from PINR
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.
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