Body of Turk Engineer Found in Afghanistan
Wed Dec 15,11:00 AM ET By PAUL ALEXANDER, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - The bullet-riddled body of a kidnapped Turkish engineer was found Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan, a day after he was snatched with his driver and interpreter by a band of armed men, officials said.
Eyup Orel was working for a Serhat, a Turkish subcontractor for U.S.-based The Louis Berger Group, said company vice president Tom Nicastro. An Australian pilot for Berger was killed in February when a man raked his helicopter with AK-47 fire.
Orel was the second Turkish engineer to be killed in the country's restive countryside this year. His body was found by security forces who had launched a massive search operation, said Jamil Jumbesh, head of the Interior Ministry's antiterror division.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the killing and ordered security agencies "to use any means possible" to bring the perpetrators to justice.
"I am angered that the enemies of Afghanistan have killed a brother and fellow Muslim in pursuit of their goal of disrupting reconstruction in Afghanistan," he said in a statement.
Orel had been shot six or seven times in the head and torso, Kunar provincial police chief Mateullha Sofie said, adding that it appeared the kidnappers killed him to move faster, abandoning his body high up a mountain as police moved in to try to capture them.
The kidnappers managed to escape, taking advantage of the rugged, forested terrain, Sofie said.
The body was found around 7 a.m. (0230 GMT) by a search party of about 20-30 police and villagers, who then needed 2 1/2 hours to carry it to lower ground, Sofie said. A helicopter was brought in to evacuate the body, but it was not immediately clear where it was being taken.
The driver and interpreter were freed without serious injury before dawn, with officials crediting the pressure of the search by the Afghan military, police and coalition forces.
Bulent Tulun, the Turkish ambassador in Afghanistan, confirmed the engineer's death to Turkey's semiofficial Anatolia news agency. He identified the man, whose name was given as Mohammad Eyup by Afghan officials, as Eyup Orel, and said he had been working for a company that recently began working on road construction in Afghanistan.
The driver and interpreter reported that 12 armed men, wearing military-style uniforms, stopped their car late Tuesday afternoon as they were traveling from a road construction project in Kunar province to the city of Jalalabad, where they have been staying.
Police found the car abandoned.
The kidnappers later exchanged gunfire with police manning a nearby security post on the road, and one police officer was wounded, Jumbesh said.
He said the Turk's body was found in the Spin Jamat area, between Chawki district and Noorgul.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Bandits and insurgents from the Taliban and other Islamic extremist groups operate in the area about 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of the capital, Kabul, officials said.
Security, particularly in the countryside, is one of the top priorities for President Karzai ahead of parliamentary elections in the spring.
In March, Afghan forces freed two kidnapped Turkish engineers and an Afghan translator in a shootout with that left their two captors dead and two Afghan soldiers injured. Another Turkish engineer and an Afghan soldier were killed during the abduction a week earlier on the road from Kabul to the turbulent south.
Three U.N. workers who spent nearly a month in the hands of Afghan kidnappers were freed last month. Armed men seized them on Oct. 28 in the first reported abduction of foreigners in the Afghan capital since the fall of the Taliban three years ago.
Another Turkish road engineer and his driver were kidnapped a year ago and released a month later in southern Afghanistan.
Bomb kills four Afghan policemen
December 16, 2004 9:00 AM
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A roadside bomb has killed four Afghan policemen and wounded two in the southern province of Khost, a
senior police official says.
Khost, on the border with Pakistan's troubled Waziristan tribal agencies, is one of the main centres of activity of Taliban guerrillas fighting a
three-year-old insurgency against government and U.S.-led forces.
"A remote control bomb blast in Ismail Khail Mandozai district killed four people and wounded two," Colonel Mohammad Zaman Khan,
deputy police chief of Khost province, told Reuters on Thursday. All of the casualties were policemen and a district police chief was among the
wounded, he said.
On Monday, security forces in Khost asked for support from U.S. forces against a militant nest, and seven rebels were killed by U.S. artillery
U.S. and Afghan security forces have detained at least 27 suspected militants since Saturday, half of them in Kandahar, another southern
Artillery from coalition kills seven insurgents in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Provincial forces who came under attack called in coalition artillery support that killed seven insurgents in southeastern Afghanistan, a U.S. official said Wednesday.
The clash occurred Monday night in Khost province, and no coalition or provincial forces were wounded, U.S. Maj. Mark McCann told a regular media briefing.
``Members of the Khost Provincial Force were attacked by anti-coalition militia,'' McCann said. ``The KPF returned fire and requested coalition support. The coalition responded by firing artillery.''
McCann said the incident reflected close cooperation between Afghan forces and the U.S.-led coalition. ``It should serve as a warning to those seeking to disrupt the peaceful political process,'' McCann said.
The 18,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan are involved in a major winter-long offensive aimed at rooting out Taliban and al-Qaida leftovers ahead of crucial parliamentary elections in the spring.
Blast in Kandahar wounds at least three Afghans
KABUL, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A huge explosion rocked the southern Afghanistan city of Kandahar on Wednesday and at least three Afghan soldiers were wounded, the city's police chief said.
"This was carried out by an enemy of Afghanistan and it might have been a time bomb," police chief Khan Mohammad Khan told Reuters. More casualties were likely, he said.
Naming of Afghan Cabinet Delayed
RIA Novosti (Russia) / December 15, 2004
KABUL (RIA Novosti commentator Pyotr Goncharov) - Hamid Karzai, the first elected President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, does not seem to be in a hurry to select his cabinet members despite his promises at his inauguration that a new cabinet would be named in 2-3 days. Given his confident campaign, it would seem that Mr. Karzai had chosen the members of his government a long time ago. Furthermore, it would seem that the forces supporting him, above all the United States, the main contributor to the political and economic reconstruction in Afghanistan, would have resolved this issue.
Nevertheless, it has been a week since the inauguration and the presidential administration continues to pretend, at least ostensibly, that Mr. Karzai did not set a timeframe for the selection of his cabinet. Why has there been a delay?
Nominating new cabinet members is a barometer of sorts for the alignment of political forces in the country. Despite the large number and diversity of political parties in Afghanistan, two major forces - advocates of radical democratic reform, often referred to as pro-Western technocrats, and former mujahedeen warlords, who do not mind reform, but are reluctant to surrender their arms, which have always helped them assert their authority in the provinces - dominate politics in Afghanistan.
During the election campaign, Mr. Karzai said several times that he would not form a coalition government, which would potentially damage government efficient work, simply to please the opposition. He made it clear that his intention was to form a team of like-minded associates, capable of restoring stability to Afghanistan and consolidating the central government's control over the provinces. In order to achieve these goals only two problems need to be solved: finishing the eradication of the terrorists and the remnants of the Taliban (if the Taliban still exists) in Afghanistan and successfully completing the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration) program, which is mainly designed to disarm the warlords.
Everyone in Afghanistan is aware that the priority will be to disarm the powerful warlords, former mujahedeen leaders, whose military units are formally part of the Afghan National Army and are supposed to obey the central government's orders. The majority of Afghans agree that by solving this problem, the central authorities will also be able to consolidate control over the provinces and curb opium poppy cultivation and trade.
Indeed, Mr. Karzai has difficult choices to make, as he faces pressure from two sides. On the one hand, advocates of democratic reform caution him against including the mujahedeen warlords into the government. And on the other, the warlords are trying to prove their right to be represented in the national government. The former cite the Bonn accords which provide for the mujahedeens to handover power to a civilian government, whereas the latter emphasize their personal contribution to Afghanistan's liberation from Soviet occupation and the Taliban.
Mr. Karzai cannot unequivocally side with the democrats, as it would negatively reflect on the jihad and could ultimately lead to a split in Afghan society. He has to keep a delicate balance, trying neither to place himself in direct opposition to the mujahedeen, nor undermine the public's desire for democratic reform.
Another reason for Mr. Karzai's hesitation is the long-standing conflict between the ethnic Pashtun, who make up 50% of the country's population, and the various non-Pashtun communities such as the Tajiks, the Uzbeks, the Turkmens, and the Hazaras. The conflict has necessitated the elaboration of a principle of proportionate ethnic representation. This principle guides the elections to Afghanistan's national legislature. Initially, presidential and parliamentary elections were planned to be held simultaneously this year, so that the parliament could confirm the president's cabinet nominees, thereby assuming responsibility for upholding the principle of adequate ethnic representation in government. However, the parliamentary approval has been postponed until April or May 2005.
Proportionate representation in government bodies is traditionally an acute problem for Afghanistan, and it has always manifested itself in one way or another, especially as a subject for a nationwide debate. This time was no exception. As the presidential campaign was ending, some of the losing candidates voiced their concerns about the prospect of the government's "Pashtunization," suggesting that the cabinet should not be named until after parliamentary elections. However, this is neither in Mr. Karzai's interest nor in the interests of the United States, as both have special hopes for 2005. In 2005, they want a successful crackdown on drug production and trafficking (Mr. Karzai has declared a jihad on local opium poppy growers) and an end to the series of anti-terrorism operations to do away with the remaining terrorist groups (the US has just announced the launch of another operation, Lightning Freedom, in Afghanistan). According to western politicians, these objectives will be difficult to achieve with the old Afghan government in power.
The Karzai administration has not responded to questions about when the new cabinet will be named. But the rumors circulating in the Afghan capital, Kabul, indicate that the number of ministers will be reduced from 27 to 21 and that the ministers will include nine ethnic Pashtuns, seven Tajiks, three Hazaras, one Uzbek, and one Turkmen.
According to informed sources, this plan is consistent with the principle of balanced ethnic representation and will please all sides concerned. But there are sharp debates over the personalities and the distribution of security and defense positions. The forces that lost the presidential elections, primarily the Panjshir bloc, would like to retain control over the Defense Ministry, which was until recently led by a member of the bloc, Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim. The interim defense minister was charged with ensuring security during Mr. Karzai's inauguration. It seems that the friction between Mr. Karzai and Mr. Fahim have been overcome and that the Panjshir alliance does have grounds to hope it will retain control over the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry. This means that Mr. Karzai has not ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition government, after all.
Karzai consults mujahideen leaders on new cabinet
Pajhwok Afghan News 12/14/2004 By Lailama Sadid
KABUL - President Hamid Karzai has been in consultations with five former Mujahideen leaders and legal experts for nearly a week about the formation of a new cabinet and the role mujahideen leaders would play in the new cabinet, the presidential spokesman said Tuesday.
Jawed Ludin speaking to reporters said the former Afghan president Borhanuddin Rabbani, his successor Sebghatullah Mojadidi, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf leader of the Islamic Unity movement, Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani leader of the National Movement and Ayatollah Muhseni leader of the Islamic Movement party were taking part in talks with Karzai.
But when Ludin was questioned about any future role of other mujahideen leaders, who served under the interim government, he said: "The purpose of talking with Mujahideen (leaders) was exactly to discuss how the issue can be considered."
However he declined to comment directly about Younus Qanoni, Mohammad Mohaqiq both Karzai's rival candidates in the recent elections and Marshal Fahim his interim vice president and defense minister and former Herat governor Ismail Khan. He said it is a constitutional requirement that all ministers to have completed a higher education.
Qanuni tipped for top defense job
Pajhwok Afghan News 12/15/2004 By Lailama Sadid
KABUL - Sources close to the presidential office say "a list of negotiated names for the new cabinet" will include a position for the former education minister, Yunus Qanuni, as the Afghan defense minister.
Yunus Qanuni was the most serious rival to Hamid Karzai in the recent elections, securing a comfortable second place but far behind President Hamid Karzai.
The source, speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, gave more details of the shape of the new cabinet.
Afghan Ambassador to Washington, Sayed Tayeb Jawad, will take on a role as foreign minister and the head of the central bank of Afghanistan, Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, is to get the portfolio as finance minister, it said.
Among the high-profile women in the new cabinet, it is rumored that Mahboba Hoqoqmal will be in charge of women's affairs and Fatima Gailani will be appointed the director of the Red Crescent Society.
Earlier, presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin confirmed that they were in consultation with Mujahideen leaders on the new cabinet.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday 14, he said the former president, Borhanuddin Rabbani, his successor Sebghatullah Mojadidi, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayaf leader of the Islamic Unity movement, Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani leader of the National Movement and Ayatollah Muhseni leader of the Islamic Movement Party were involved in talks with Karzai during the last week.
Benawa.com, an Afghan news and cultural website, yesterday also quoted what it called "high-up authorities in Kabul" confirming Qanuni's position in defense.
A week after President Karzai was inaugurated as the first democratically elected leader of Afghanistan, there has been much speculation among analysts about when a list of new cabinet members will be announced.
But according to Benawa.com, the Americans were putting pressure on Hamid Karzai to give the most important post to the Northern Alliance.
The former education minister, an ethnic Tajik, is a leading figure in the Northern Alliance which helped the US overthrow the Taleban in 2001.
However, Jawed Ludin has rejected claims of negotiated names being published by media outlets. "The president himself will introduce the new cabinet," he maintained.
Mohammad Hasan Wulasmal, a Kabul based political analyst and editor in chief of the Afghan Journal, said delaying the announcement of the new cabinet would be harmful for the current situation of Afghanistan.
"The longer it delays, the more it underlines the weakness of the constitution and power of warlords."
ADB approves 80 million dollar loan to Afghanistan
Thu Dec 16, 1:46 AM ET
MANILA (AFP) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it has approved a soft loan of 80 million dollars to restore and improve key sections of Afghanistan's war-ravaged road system.
The loan will go towards reconstructing the last unpaved section of a national primary ring road, spanning 210 kilometers (130.2 miles) from Andkhoy to Qaisar, the ADB said in a statement.
The loan, extended at preferential rates, will also go towards installing toll facilities, the ADB added.
"Much of Afghanistan's road infrastructure was destroyed or damaged in more than two decades of conflict and civil strife," the Manila-based lender said.
"Damaged roads have become bottlenecks to the movement of people and goods, restricting movement and the flow of humanitarian assistance," the ADB noted.
More than half of the country's major roads are in poor condition and only one-fifth are in good condition, the bank said, adding that the transitional government has declared reconstruction and rehabilitation of the road network as the country's top priority for reconstruction.
Due to the "exceptionally difficult post-conflict circumstances facing Afghanistan," the ADB said, the loan would be on highly concessional terms with a 40-year term, including a grace period of 10 years.
Interest was set at one percent per annum.
US denies climate of detainee abuse in Afghanistan
December 15, 2004
KABUL (AFP) - The US military denied that there was a climate of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, saying a review of detention centres had found no evidence of ill-treatment despite the death of eight prisoners.
The Pentagon earlier this week revealed a list of the deaths in US custody which were being investigated in Afghanistan, after Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
A review of detention facilities in Afghanistan conducted in May by Brigadier General Charles H. Jacoby "found no evidence of abuse taking place at these facilities nor was there any evidence of leaders authorising or condoning any abuse," US military spokesman Mark McCann told reporters.
However McCann said the Jacoby report, the findings of which have been kept secret, did not look back on past abuses but merely conducted a review of prison conditions in May.
Three of the eight deaths which have occurred since 2001 "are still under investigation, three are pending judicial proceedings, one is complete and one status is unknown at this time," McCann said.
Jacoby visited every detention center in Afghanistan and made recommendations to ensure that treatment of detainees was in the spirit of the Geneva Convention, he added.
"Deficiencies discovered during this inspection were either corrected on the spot or policy and procedures changes were implemented to ensure that any potential for abuse in the future was eliminated," the spokesman said.
Human Rights Watch accused the US military of foot-dragging on publishing its findings. "These investigations have proceeded extremely slowly and in excessive secrecy," the rights group said.
Despite McCann's assurances the findings of the Jacoby report remain classified, unlike similar reports on abuses in Iraq .
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been granted access to the main US detention facilities at Bagram outside Kabul and in the southern city of Kandahar.
However, the ICRC and other rights groups have had no access to US detention facilities in the field, where many abuses are believed to have occurred.
One of the eight deaths publicized by US forces was that of Sher Mohammad Khan, who was arrested September 24 during a raid on his family's home near Khost.
Khan died the next day at Salerno Fire Base of a heart attack, military officials have said.
Afghanistan: Concern at ministerial proposal to dissolve 2,000 NGOs
KABUL, 14 December (IRIN) - Afghan planning minister Dr Ramazan Bashardoost resigned on Monday, following rejection by the government of his proposal that 2,000 aid agencies should be wound up. Bashardoost had called on central government last week to close down 80 percent of all national and international aid agencies, labelling them ineffective and corrupt.
According to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR), an umbrella group representing over 90 national and international aid agencies in Afghanistan, NGOs were shocked that talk of decimating the country's fledgling NGO movement could seriously undermine the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
"The [humanitarian] work will be interfered with, which will result in the poor suffering. There will be chaos if there is liquidation of NGOs." Mohammad Hashim Mayar, a programme coordinator with ACBAR, told IRIN.
There are over 1,500 national and more than 300 international NGOs registered with the Ministry of Planning. ACBAR concedes that many such groups are not real NGOs. "We think there are many organisations doing good work, but they are not NGOs, they should be registered as private companies," Mayar added.
NGOS have long been calling on the government for regulation and registration, which would help sort out the real not-for-profit organisations from the many shoddy groups trying to capitalise on the aid coming into the country in the post-Taliban era.
"Serious NGOs in Afghanistan have been calling for an updated NGO law and regulations for years." Paul Barker, Country Director of CARE International, told IRIN. "While his [Bashardoost’s] intent may be noble in his decree to dissolve so many NGOs, the Minister of Planning’s techniques were reckless and I think could have very well threatened the trust and confidence of the international community."
This is the third time in the last two years that Kabul has seriously questioned the role of NGOs in national reconstruction. According to officials at the planning ministry, draft regulatory legislation has been prepared and is awaiting presidential review, as well as scruting from NGOs. "The legislation is still in review and it will take some time before it is can ratified," an official of the ministry, who declined to be named, told IRIN.
There is a lot of political pressure on the fledgling government of President Hamid Karzai to be seen to be delivering reconstruction to the people. Clamping down on bogus NGOs could be part of this process, diplomats in Kabul told IRIN.
Many ordinary Afghans believe that the reconstruction resources they had heard were available - more than US $2 billion in aid over the past two years - have not had much impact on the ground. And NGOs are increasingly being blamed as implementing partners that often fail to deliver.
But questioning the overall role of NGOs is also problematic, observers say. Aid workers believe they rely for their security on the trust and cooperation of the communities where they work. "If the people get messages from government that NGOs are not doing a good job, then our most important source of security may be undermined," an aid worker who declined to be named, told IRIN.
Russia reports Afghan heroin rise
Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 23:17 GMT BBC News
Afghanistan is the world's main heroin producer
The amount of Afghan heroin entering Russia nearly doubled in the first nine months of 2004, according to government figures released in Moscow.
Russian police intercepted 2.9 metric tons between January and October compared to 1.4 tons seized during the same period last year.
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said Russia, a country of about 142m people, now had some 4m drug addicts.
In the same period, 62 police officers were arrested on trafficking charges.
Afghan opium production accounts for most of the world's heroin supplies.
Alexander Fyodorov, acting chief of Russia's federal drug agency, said the Afghanistan was expected to produce about 420 tons of heroin this year.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently said the country's rampant drugs trade was a national disgrace.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a conference of anti-drug officials on Wednesday that drugs threatened to "destroy the political and military success achieved in [Afghanistan] during the last four years".
He suggested creating an "anti-drug belt" around the country and urged the United Nations to increase its anti-drug efforts within Afghanistan.
Army Reprimand Reported in Slaying
The Washington Post 12/14/2004 - R. Jeffrey Smith
The Army's Special Operations Command issued an administrative reprimand this year against one of four U.S. military officers in Afghanistan alleged in an Army document to have murdered a local man they believed was following their movements, according to Army officials and a newly disclosed internal document.
The case, which an Army document last June said involved alleged "murder, conspiracy, [and] obstruction of justice," was opened on Sept. 26, 2002, and closed on March 23 of this year, without public announcement. The document was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in a recent Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and released by the group with dozens of other government memos last week.
The reprimand came in what defense officials said yesterday was one of at least eight deaths of Afghans in U.S. military custody since U.S. troops first occupied the country in October 2001 -- a higher number than previously disclosed. Two U.S. servicemen have so far been charged with crimes related to two of the other deaths; the Army has already said charges may be brought against 28 people implicated in one of these deaths.
Yesterday, the executive director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, Brad Evans, complained about the military's handling of the September 2002 case in an open letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, asking that he "explain what disciplinary or administrative actions were taken by the Department of Defense in this case and the basis for these measures."
Evans also said in his letter that his group's investigation indicates that the military detention system in Afghanistan "continues to operate outside the rule of law." He complained in particular about the indefinite detention of some Afghans and persistent allegations of abuse at U.S. military prisons at bases near Gardez, Khost, Urgon, Ghazni and Jalalabad -- mostly in the vicinity of the Pakistan border.
The human rights group had reported last spring the testimony of multiple Afghans who complained of arbitrary detention by U.S. soldiers, often with excessive force; extended sleep deprivation; and deliberate exposure to intense cold. "The government's failure to hold its personnel accountable for serious abuses has spawned a culture of impunity among some personnel," Evans said.
The Army completed its own broad investigation in detainee treatment in Afghanistan last July, but the study -- by Army Brig. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. -- remains classified. The Washington Post reported on Dec. 3 that Jacoby found shortcomings in rules given to interrogators and in the enforcement of prison standards, two deficiencies that helped spawn more notorious misconduct at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.
Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman, said yesterday that Army records showed the September 2002 death involved an Afghan known as "M. Sayari," but that she had no other information about what happened. The Army document blamed an Army captain and three other officers for the death, but their names were deleted from the copy released to the ACLU.
Hart said the decision not to prosecute was made by the U.S. Army's Special Forces Command. A spokesman there declined to comment, and passed the question to the U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, whose spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steven Mavica, said he had no information about the case.
The Army's Criminal Investigation Command is still probing four of the other deaths, including the alleged beating and torture of a 19-year-old Afghan recruit, Jamal Naseer, by U.S. Special Forces at the Gardez prison. The Army checked into reports that someone there had died and closed the case after finding no corroborating evidence, according to a spokesman; it then opened the investigation after investigators working for an independent American group called the Crimes of War Project published details from an official Afghanistan government inquiry the Army evidently did not seek to obtain.
In the inquiry, the attorney general for the Afghan armed forces said that the torture appeared to have killed Naseer, and was also inflicted on seven others in his military unit. His brother, the unit commander, told authorities that "the Americans beat us up with karate, cables, wooden bats, and electrical shocks" and that they were unjustly detained.
The death four months ago of another detainee, Sher Mohammed Khan, has also sparked a criminal inquiry. The Army has said that Khan died of a heart attack, while his family has said his body was badly bruised. Officials said yesterday that final autopsy results were imminent.
Another case, involving the June 2003 death of Abdul Wali during an interrogation in the town of Asadabad, provoked the federal indictment of a CIA contractor from North Carolina, David A. Passaro, who is alleged to have inflicted fatal wounds with a flashlight. Details of the other cases under investigation, including the names of the victims, were unavailable yesterday, defense officials said. One involved a person who died in the Wazi village in January 2003.
"We investigate all deaths of detainees in U.S. custody regardless of circumstances," said Lt. Col. John A. Skinner, a Defense spokesman. "Our policy is to treat all detainees humanely."
US Asks Pakistan to Grant India Transit Facilities for Afghan
Thursday December 16, 7:49 AM Asia Pulse
ISLAMABAD, Dec 16 Asia Pulse - The US has been asking Pakistan since early 2002 to grant India transit facilities for Afghanistan.
Since soon after the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan three years ago, the Bush Administration has been trying to convince Pakistan to grant India transit facilities, local daily 'Dawn' reported today.
The first public statement on the issue came from US Ambassador to India David Mulford on Monday. He said visiting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had reacted positively when the issue was raised during his talks with the Indian leadership in New Delhi.
India enjoyed such facilities before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, but the US and other western powers encouraged Pakistan to block the access as New Delhi supported the Soviets, the paper said.
India now argued that it could do more for Afghanistan's reconstruction if it had transit facilities through Pakistan.
In Washington, US officials said that granting transit facilities would also enhance bilateral trade between India and Pakistan, the paper said.
The calmer relations between the two neighbours were already paying economic dividends, the US officials said.
AFGHANISTAN: Interview with Japanese envoy Sadako Ogata
KABUL, 15 December (IRIN) - In an interview with IRIN, Sadako Ogata, Japan's special envoy to Afghanistan and head of Tokyo's International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said there was a need for massive donor input to fund infrastructural development such as roads, bridges and power lines to help boost the economy.
Japan is one of the major donors to war-ravaged Afghanistan and the lead nation in supporting the disarmament of ex-combatants in the country. Ogata, who served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 1991 to 2000, was in the country to attend the recent inauguration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. She also visited the southern province of Kandahar to look at the situation of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
QUESTION: What was the objective of your trip to Afghanistan?
ANSWER: Japan has made major contributions to Afghanistan reconstruction. One of my objectives of this trip was to see how far Japan has contributed, how far this country has moved and to see what needs to be done next.
In order to get a real feel of how the reconstruction is progressing I went to Kandahar, which I had visited before in June 2002. I was really pleasantly surprised by the change in the city. I recall Kandahar as very dusty with lots of broken buildings and houses that had to be repaired; a city that was coming out of a serious conflict.
But the city that I saw this week was the one with beautifully paved streets all around and there were no dusty roads. There were schools and hospitals that had been repaired or constructed. And also the demobilised military ex-combatants had found jobs. There were not many people who required [help] to start a self-reliant life.
Q: How do you assess the status of IDPs in the camps you visited in the south?
A: This was a very big issue because I don't think UNHCR [the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] had an exact knowledge of the number or the situation. We were alerted to this problem and there is a very strong interest on the part of the government to settle IDP issues. We always help them go back to where they come from if there is a clear identification of their place of origin.
The first thing is to assure their security by negotiating through the commanders. Last time when I travelled to Mazar [in the northern province of Balkh] I raised this issue with Mr Dostum and Atta [General Dostum and Ustad Atta, two northern warlords] and others to make sure that commanders under them could guarantee that harassment and land grabbing didn't take place.
We have to legalise and stabilise the situation in the north. I don't want to give up on that because those who want to go back should be assisted.
Q: What are Japan's aid priorities in this post-election period?
A: Education and health and other basic community building efforts will have to continue at the same time, [while] Japan plans to focus on irrigation and water supply, which would facilitate rural community development. This is the time to address more of the economic needs of the country.
There are many other fronts that require further attention in the national building process. For example, the security issue; there are international forces in Kabul and other parts of the country that are helping to stabilise the security. My understanding is that the building of the Afghan army is moving quite well. The police training I am told is not moving as desired and further training of the police would add to stabilising the country.
Japan's pledge altogether was US $1 billion over 10 years and we have disbursed more than $850 million. We will have to look again after the full amount is disbursed.
Q: What are Tokyo's priorities for Afghan women?
A: I think for a lot of rural women, it would be basic literacy, education and healthcare. What is needed is a massive literacy campaign. I have made appeals to the United Nations and the Japanese NGOs and government, who are interested in elevating the status of women.
Q: As Japan is the lead nation in the demobilisation of Afghan ex-combatants, are you satisfied with what has been achieved so far?
A: I can say I am satisfied partially because at least [to have] a formal DD [Disarmament and Demobilisation] process is an impressive result. But the arms they are bringing in may be old while they keep the new ones. Also the treatment of the commanders is very serious especially in terms of getting them jobs and retraining them. We may have to have a commander-focused reintegration programme too. It is moving gradually but still a lot of work is needed.
Q: What development stood out most in your trip to Afghanistan?
A: First the elections. We all felt that the elections were the expression of a broad section of the population wanting to exercise their rights to determine their future.
In terms of reconstruction, the most visual thing was roads, and that is very clear. The Kandahar-Kabul road did not exist [before]. Now some 10,000 to 15,000 thousand cars move along it every day and this brings change to community lives and economic lives. It is the most obvious development.
Q: What advice would you offer the new government?
A: As President Karzai himself has said, you have to have a good, effective government that is not corrupt and comes up with new initiatives. A strong government is necessary at least at this point. A government that wins the trust of the people. From the central government to the provincial, and the districts; administrative capacity building is very important aspect.
Meanwhile, in order to move further to full economic reconstruction as well as better social lives I think there would be a need for large-scale infrastructure building, such as dams and so on.
Q: What is your view on the massive increase in opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, as indicated by the United Nations this year?
A: It creates a very bad image. The international community should address it too. But the Afghan government at all levels should address this. Because it does give a very bad image.
Passport to a journey of a life time
Pajhwok Afghan News 12/14/2004 By Zubir Babkerkhil
KABUL - Forty-five year-old Juma Gul sits shivering outside the passport office in the capital Kabul, his feet soaked in mud and his clothes drenched by the persistant rain.
Juma who has traveled from the neighboring province of Wardak told Pajhwok Afghan News Agency: "This is my tenth visit to come to get a passport, but I have not been successful so far."
Juma Gul is one of the hundreds who join the long queue of mostly men outside the Kabul passport office every day, with the hope of going on a journey of a lifetime, abroad.
Each year he sees many of his neighbors and friends getting the opportunity to go on the holy pilgrimage of Haj or to another country to work. He said ten years ago his brother got married and seven months after the marriage he left for Iran, and he hasn't seen him since.
"I want to go to Iran, and look for my brother who has disappeared, but getting a passport to travel is a big hurdle." A man from the southern province of Paktika, 29 year-old Ghawsuddin said the people living in his area were very poor and 80 percent of the adults work in a foreign country like Iran, Dubai or Saudi Arabia. "We demand our leaders to give us passport in our own provinces."
But the controlling officer at the passport department, Sher Ahmad Khan refuted these complaints and said the passport department has recently issued 450 passports to people living in the provinces, and each passport application is dealt within four to five days.
Sher Ahmad Khan, said whilst it's impossible to establish passport offices in remote areas. "We issue passports in eastern Nangarhar, southern Kandahar, western Herat and northern Balkh provinces."
He also said the work load was too much for his staff. He said there were 20 people working in the passport administration department and they had to deal with 1,000 applicants daily.
"I went to Mazar with a group of people, and the Mazar office issued 33 passports to the people with out a fee, and if we establish office in each province, such problems will be increased," said Sher Ahmad.
Forty-three year-old Rahmat Khel from the southern province complained about the staff working at the passport offices. He said there is always a crowd of people outside the passport office but the passport officers only issue the relevant documentation speedily to those who give them money.
"This is my 12th day here, I have come to collect my passport and all my money has been spent on hotel and transport fares." Rahmat Khel said this issue can only be resolved by establishing passport offices in the provinces.
Nearly 30,000 Afghan Muslims are preparing to go on a Haj next year to fulfill the fifth and final pillar of Islam to Saudi Arabia, whilst others want to travel overseas to seek better employment. The endless lines leading to the passport office in the capital Kabul will never cease until the travelers arrive at their destination.
Highly concessional loan to help improve part of key road network in Afghanistan
Source: Asian Development Bank 15 Dec 2004
MANILA, PHILIPPINES, 15 December 2004 - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will help restore and improve a key part of Afghanistan's road infrastructure in one of the country's least developed areas, through a concessional loan of US$80 million approved today.
The project will reconstruct the last unpaved section of the national primary ring road, spanning 210 kilometers from Andkhoy to Qaisar. It will also install toll facilities for newly improved primary roads in Afghanistan and provide project management support to the Ministry of Public Works (MPW).
A survey in May 2002 by major funding agencies including ADB revealed that more than half of national roads are in poor condition and only one fifth are in good condition. The transitional government declared the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the road system, especially national primary roads, is the country's top priority in reconstruction.
Much of Afghanistan's road infrastructure was destroyed or damaged in more than two decades of conflict and civil strife. Damaged roads have become bottlenecks to the movement of people and goods, restricting movement and the flow of humanitarian assistance.
"The project area - remote and subject to extreme weather - is in need of continued humanitarian aid and basic social services," says Hideaki Iwasaki, an ADB Project Specialist.
"The road improvements will dramatically decrease travel times and vehicle operating costs, providing better access to health, education and other services, and improved agricultural prices, to at least 800,000 in the project area, half of whom live below the poverty line."
The project is part of coordinated international assistance to improve the road connecting Herat to Andkhoy, which will become a major north-south link across the central mountains, and significantly improve the stability and reliability of Afghanistan's transport system.
The road will also form a major road transport corridor from Central Asia to the warm water ports in the south, contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction in the subregion.
Beside bringing the project road to asphalt-paved standard, to allow the smooth passage of heavy vehicles, the project will finance installation of road toll facilities, including toll plazas, computer and communications equipment for national primary roads supported by international assistance.
Increased trade and transit will improve the central Government's financial position by boosting customs revenue, which accounts for 40% of national domestic revenue.
In view of the exceptionally difficult postconflict circumstances facing Afghanistan, ADB's loan, from its Asian Development Fund, is provided on the same highly concessional terms provided as ADB's previous four loans to Afghanistan. Covering the total project cost, the $80 million loan has a 40-year term, including a grace period of 10 years. Interest is set at 1% per annum throughout, with the interest charge during the grace period capitalized and charged to the loan account.
Half of Afghan kid troops said demobilized
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Nearly half of Afghanistan's estimated 8,000 child soldiers have been demobilized and are going through educational programs and vocational training aimed at preparing them to rejoin society, the U.N. Children's Fund said Thursday.
The year-old program has targeted 15 northern, northeastern and central provinces. UNICEF said it now hopes to expand into the south, southwest and southeast - the most dangerous parts of a country that is still fighting Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents three years after the collapse of the Taliban's hardline regime.
"These young people - despite being denied the chances that most children have in their formative years - have demonstrated that they want to make a positive contribution to the development of their communities," said Ibrahim Sesay, the UNICEF project officer responsible for the program.
So far, 3,998 boys, mostly ages 14-17, have been demobilized. UNICEF said it tried to identify eligible girls but found that they appear not to have been attached to fighting forces.
One of President Hamid Karzai's top tasks is to convert gunmen into productive citizens, particularly youths who were drafted into militias or other armed groups and have missed out on years of education.
The UNICEF rehabilitation effort runs in parallel to one designed for adult militia fighters. That program began belatedly last year, and has so far disarmed only a fraction of the 100,000 fighters targeted.
The former child soldiers are given a choice between returning to education - 87 percent have received no formal schooling - and vocational training to learn skills like agricultural and animal husbandry, tailoring, carpentry, electronics and masonry.
The first children to be enrolled in the program in February are nearing the end of their training, with more than 1,000 to receive special startup kits soon so they can continue in their new trades, with employment placements already set up.
The program, which has cost $5.3 million so far, is jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Swedish development agency SIDA, Germany, Japan's Ogata Initiative and other agencies.
Spain not to send more troops to Afghanistan: DM
MADRID, Dec. 15 (Xinhuanet) -- The Spanish government for now has no plan to send any more troops to Afghanistan as requested by theNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono said Wednesday.
"The participation of more troops in Afghanistan is not planned" for the time being, Bono said in a speech before the parliament on national defense policy.
Bono's remarks rejected a petition from NATO for a greater contribution of troops to its peace-keeping force in Afghanistan.
Last Thursday, NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called on member states, including Spain, to distribute the burden of the body's various missions, including its stabilization mission in Afghanistan.
Spain withdrew 500 soldiers from Afghanistan after the Afghan elections. There are still more than 500 Spanish soldiers there.
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