Cheney to lead US delegation to Afghanistan
Friday December 3, 12:59 AM AFP
Vice President Dick Cheney will lead the US delegation to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's December 7 inauguration, the White House announced.
Cheney will be accompanied by his wife, Lynne Cheney, according to a statement from the vice president's office.
"The Vice Presidents agenda will include consultations with President Karzai and senior officials on a range of issues, including ongoing cooperation in fighting the global war on terror and the continued progress of the Afghan people in building a free society," according to the statement.
"The Vice President also will thank US and coalition troops for their service in Afghanistan," the statement said.
Japan to send Aisawa to Afghan presidential inauguration
December 2, 2004
(Kyodo) _ Japan will send Senior Vice Foreign Minister Ichiro Aisawa to Afghanistan to attend next week's presidential inauguration ceremony for Hamid Karzai, government officials said Thursday.
The decision to dispatch Aisawa as Japan's representative to the ceremony scheduled next Tuesday was made at a meeting of vice ministers.
Karzai, the interim president, won the October election in a landslide.
China to send special envoy to Afghanistan for Karzai's inauguration
People's Daily Online, China
The Chinese government will send Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui as its special envoy to attend the inauguration of Afghanistan's first-elected president Hamid Karzai on Dec. 7, at the invitation of the Afghan government, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue announced Thursday.
China attached great importance to its ties with Afghanistan, Zhang told a regular press conference.
"We hope the Afghan people can smoothly fulfill the historic mission of national reconstruction under the leadership of President Karzai," she said.
Afghanistan's Karzai meets chief rival over new cabinet post
KABUL, Dec 2 (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has met his chief election rival Yunus Qanooni to discuss a possible role for him in the new government, an official close to the president said.
Karzai, who will be inaugurated as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president on December 7, is expected to form his cabinet the following week. He met Qanooni late Wednesday and they discussed the cabinet, the official, who asked to not be named, told AFP the same day. 'There is a strong possibility that Qanooni will join the new cabinet,' he added.
Karzai, who won 55.4 percent of the vote in the October 9 election, faces a tough challenge picking a government to tackle regional warlordism, an insurgency led by the former Taliban rulers and a burgeoning drug industry which threatens to turn Afghanistan into a narco state.
The poppy crop surged by 64 percent over the last year and the country now supplies 87 percent of the world's opium derivatives -- lining the pockets of warlords and drug-traffickers and weakening the hold of the central government.
Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun, must also ensure that the ethnic Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities are represented in his new administration. Karzai has repeatedly said he does not intend to appoint a cabinet of warlords or people with a brutal military past -- and many ordinary Afghans voted for him in hopes he would end the rule of the gun in the war-torn country.
Qanooni, who resigned as education minister in Karzai's US-backed transitional administration to run against his former boss, is an ethnic Tajik. He was a lieutenant of assassinated resistance hero Ahmad Shah Masood and has close ties to the Northern Alliance group of commanders who ousted the hardline Islamic Taliban regime in conjunction with a US-led air campaign in late 2001.
Although Qanooni came a distant second to Karzai in the polls, winning only a little over 16 per cent of the vote, he represents an important power block. He hails from the resistance stronghold of the Panjshir valley north of Kabul along with Defence Minister Marshal Mohammed Qasim Fahim and Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Karzai did not win strong support in parts of northern Afghanistan, drawing his votes mainly from the Pashtun-dominated south and east of the country.
Qanooni could not immediately be reached for comment. But an official close to him confirmed to AFP that he had held a private meeting with Karzai in the president's heavily fortified palace. 'Yes, I can confirm that the meeting took place,' the official told AFP declining to give further details.
US envoy to Afghanistan offers amnesty to Taliban
KABUL (AFP) - US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad offered an olive branch to Taliban insurgents, calling on them to lay down their arms in return for an amnesty.
Speaking at a news briefing in Kabul, he urged the Taliban to get in contact with tribal elders and the US-led coalition "and declare their allegiance and lay down their arms and in return they will not be targeted".
Khalilzad called on Taliban militants "to lay down their arms, to stop using terror tactics. Continuation of armed resistance... is against the will of Afghan people and Islam," he said on Thursday.
The US-led coalition has more than 18,000 troops mostly hunting Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants in south and southeast Afghanistan, where insurgents are waging an ongoing revolt against Afghan government and US forces.
The hardline Islamic regime was ousted by a US-led military campaign in late 2001 but Taliban loyalists continue to stage attacks on government and US troops, aid workers and civilians.
President Hamid Karzai, who won the country's first election on October 9, had been in talks with Taliban leaders in the run-up to the polls, which went ahead without expected bloodshed and chaos despite repeated Taliban threats.
Khalilzad is still widely regarded as having considerable influence over the Afghan government because the United States has the largest military force in the country.
The highest ranking native Afghan and Muslim in President George W. Bush's administration, Khalilzad retained his status as special envoy to the country when he was appointed ambassador in September 2003.
He publicly brokered a truce between rival militia commanders after fighting in western Herat city in August and was seen as instrumental in sidelining warlord Ismael Khan, who stepped down from his post as provincial governor in September.
Poison Snow in the Hindu Kush?
The Independent, UK 12/01/2004 By Nick Meo
British officials in Kabul have been questioned by President Hamid Karzai after fields were reportedly sprayed with chemicals from the air two weeks ago, leaving farmers sick. The Kabul government is keen to find out who could have carried out the alleged spraying, which it considers illegal, despite a stated desire by the US and United Nations to wipe out the opium crop.
The Afghans set up an inquiry into claims by villagers near the eastern city of Jalalabad that mystery aircraft had sprayed crops. The British ambassador was called in for questioning and a protest was lodged with the US after Afghan officials concluded that fields had been crop-dusted despite Mr. Karzai being opposed to spraying.
Britain, which takes a lead role in drug eradication, is opposed to aerial spraying, which is credited with massive reductions in cocaine output in Colombia but at a heavy cost in damage to human health and the environment. Many in Washington have been pressing for aerial eradication to begin in Afghanistan, however.
Advocates have lined up private US contractors who have already scoured the region looking for planes and pilots to hire for large-scale operations as early as next spring, before the poppy harvest begins.
Pressure for dramatic action against Afghan opium production has been racked up by a UN report released two weeks ago which found that the area under poppy cultivation has increased by 64 per cent in the past year. The report said Afghanistan is turning into a narco-state.
Last month, the US announced it was making an extra $780m (£410m) available to fight the drugs trade, including funds for alternative crops, important dealers being arrested, and poppy fields being eradicated. Most eradication is expected to be done by teams of men working in the fields.
Afghans and most aid workers fear that aerial eradication would destroy legitimate crops and could spark rural rebellions if farmers' livelihoods are wiped out from the air. Farmers make 10 times as much money growing poppy as wheat, and most complain that producing opium is the only way to survive.
President Karzai's spokes-man Jawed Ludin said that a government investigation confirmed that chemicals had been already sprayed, probably from the air. "It is not just serious for us because of some health problems, it is not just serious for us because it harms the other crops," he said, "it is being taken very seriously because it affects the national integrity of our country."
Mr Ludin said an investigation of soil samples taken in the Shinwar and Khogyani districts of Nangarhar province was continuing and that the government had yet to discover who was responsible. The province's governor, Din Mohammed, was one of those who pointed out that the US effectively controls Afghan airspace.
Dozens of farmers in the area complained to doctors of being sick after planes sprayed a "snow-like" substance. Mr Ludin said, however: "The governments of the USA and Britain have assured us that they also strongly subscribe to the policy that the government has on aerial spraying."
He said President Karzai had received assurances that they "have never in the past and will never in the future support any aerial spraying".
UK ambassador leaves Kabul amid differences with Karzai
KABUL - Differences have cropped up between the Afghan president Hamid Karzai and British ambassador in Kabul, reports Radio Tehran.
Hamid Karzai has taken strong exception of the article published in New York Times by a British journalist alleging Karzai's brother and other high profile Afghan officials for having involved in drugs smuggling.
The issue has been cause of resentment of the UK ambassador. Earlier the UK ambassador had pressurized Hamid Karzai for inducting pro-UK candidates in the new cabinet, which also according to reports caused differences between them.
Meanwhile, the UK ambassador has let Kabul, however the Afghan officials says that Karzai has registered a demarche with the UK ambassador over the Britain forces harassing of the Afghans during the operation against the drug smugglers in southern Afghanistan.
Neo-Taliban Rejects Rumors Of Talks With Kabul...
Daily Afghan Report Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Amin Tarzi
In a faxed statement dated 29 November, Hamed Agha, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, rejected reports that some members of the movement are holding discussions with the Afghan government in Kabul, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 30 November. In his statement, Hamed Agha said that "neither any representative of the Taliban Islamic Movement has talked to [President-elect Hamid] Karzai's administration nor are there any national and Islamic justifications for" such talks. The statement added that the United States, which backs Karzai, "cannot tolerate the Taliban's firm, independent, and Islamic views." Karzai administration spokesman Jawed Ludin recently also denied reports of talks between the Afghan government and the neo-Taliban, however he added that those members of the militia who stop fighting and have not committed atrocities can live in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 8 November 2004).
...And Denies Any Links With Jaysh Al-Muslimin...
In the 29 November statement, Hamed Agha denied that there are any splinter groups within the neo-Taliban organization. Hamed Agha specifically singled out Jaysh al-Muslimin (Army of the Muslims), the group that claimed responsibility for kidnapping and holding hostage three UN election workers for four weeks, as not being part of the neo-Taliban. In his statement, Hamid Agha said that Sayyed Akbar Agha, the purported leader of the Army of the Muslims, has no "place in the Taliban decision-making [circle] or in the leadership." He said that Sayyed Akbar Agha's actions are independent of neo-Taliban policies and "should not be interpreted as a rivalry between him and the Taliban Islamic Movement" (for more on the hostage crisis, see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 8 and 18 November 2004 and "RFE/RL Newsline," 23 and 24 November 2004). AT
...Which Is Reportedly Disbanded
Mofti Latifullah Hakimi, also claming to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, said on 29 November that Army of the Muslims has been disbanded "due to serious differences," AIP reported on 30 November. According to Hakimi, a number of the group's members -- including Saber Mo'min, one of the individuals who purports Army of the Muslims -- have joined the neo-Taliban movement. The main source of dispute between members of the Army of the Muslims and the group's leader, Sayyed Akbar Agha, according to Hakimi, was the fact that the group failed to secure the release of Taliban prisoners during the hostage crisis and "set the hostages free only in return for dollars." Afghan authorities have maintained that the hostages were released without any deals involving cash or exchange of prisoners. AT
Government Spokesman Says No To Herbicide Spraying Of Afghan Poppy Fields
Jawed Ludin told a news conference in Kabul on 30 November that "Afghanistan will not allow any country to carry out aerial spraying of poppy fields with herbicide," the official Bakhtar News Agency reported. Ludin said that Kabul "disagreed with the spraying" of poppy fields in the Khogiani and Shinwar districts of the eastern Nangarhar Province, without naming the country that has allegedly carried out the spraying. In early November, eyewitnesses reportedly saw U.S. aircraft spraying defoliants on poppy fields in Nangarhar (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 November 2004). AT
Netherlands Arrests Former Afghan Communist Official
The Dutch national prosecutor's office on 30 November said that a high-ranking Afghan communist intelligence official has been arrested on suspicion of involvement in car crimes, international news agencies reported. The man, identified only as Hesamudin H., was arrested on 27 November in Boskoop, AP reported on 30 November. Wim de Bruin, a spokesman for the Dutch prosecutor's office, said that the Afghan man is suspected of overseeing the torture of prisoners while he headed Afghanistan's communist-era intelligence agency in the 1980s. The suspect has been living in the Netherlands since 1992. Recently, a Dutch court overturned a decision by the government to reject an asylum request from former Afghan Communist Vice President Abdul Rahim Hatef on charges that he carried out political assassinations and torture (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 8 October 2004). In November 2002, when Afghanistan officially joined Interpol, then Afghan security chief Basir Salangi said that he hoped that Afghanistan will pursue "thousands" of criminals among the Afghan diaspora, saying: "People who have committed crimes in Afghanistan and gone to countries such as Britain, France, and the Netherlands will no longer be safe" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 November 2002). The Netherlands is a favorite destination for former high-ranking Afghan communists who ruled the country from 1978-92.
U.S. Military Focuses on Afghan Democracy
Thu Dec 2, 2:35 PM ET By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - For a time, the U.S. military in Afghanistan was talking as if it would smoke Osama bin Laden out of a cave on the rocky Pakistan border within months, perhaps even ahead of President Bush's re-election.
Now, American commanders say protecting the country's fragile new democracy, reviving its economy and keeping Taliban militants on the run are the priorities, though tracking the cold trail of bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders remains the focus of intelligence efforts.
Spies, informers, electronic listening devices and surveillance from the air all belong to the U.S. arsenal. However, American officials acknowledge that videotapes featuring a sprightly looking bin Laden — released days before the Nov. 2 election in the United States — and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, have yielded no clues to their whereabouts, even though one was delivered to a TV channel in Islamabad.
"They're pretty sterile in terms of intelligence value," Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, the operational commander of U.S. forces here, told The Associated Press.
Despite initial high expectations on the other side of the border, Pakistan's yearlong crackdown against foreign militants near the tribal town of Wana also has yielded no trace of bin Laden or al-Zawahri.
"We have no specific indication that they are in the Wana area or really any other location" in the region, Olson said. "But the hunt goes on."
American generals have had three years to rue how the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks slipped away from Afghan and U.S. troops near the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan's eastern mountains as the regime of his Taliban protectors crumbled that December.
French Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie, who has special forces patrolling farther south, claimed last month that bin Laden narrowly escaped an American operation as recently as mid-2003. But there is no firm evidence anyone has picked up his trail since.
Interviewed at Bagram Air Base, nerve-center of the 18,000-strong force he helps command, Olson said this week that his immediate goals were preventing insurgents from mounting a "strategic surprise" with an attack on President-elect Hamid Karzai's Dec. 7 inauguration, and keeping them on the defensive ahead of April parliamentary elections.
Still, American commanders have slowly diluted their focus on combat operations against Taliban militants to take in more of the kind of nation-building that the Bush administration was once wary of.
Lawless provinces in the south and east are now dotted with "provincial reconstruction teams" designed to help the Afghan government regain a grip on the countryside while squeezing better intelligence from ordinary Afghans in return for building wells and clinics.
Olson said running down bin Laden and his cohorts was still the focus of American intelligence efforts here. "That's the main effort, no doubt about it."
The general said al-Qaida cells could still be in Afghanistan — Kabul has seen four deadly suicide attacks this year — and have encountered foreign fighters on several recent operations.
On Nov. 21, U.S.-led troops mounted raids on suspected al-Qaida compounds in Nangarhar, not far from Tora Bora. The U.S. military said "several Arab fighters" were among suspects killed or detained.
Another raid targeting an unidentified "al-Qaida facilitator" a week later provoked riotous protests after the suspect's wife was taken into custody, a breach of tribal honor codes.
Olson said the chief suspect, who escaped, is only a "medium-value target" in Nangarhar, but that this kind of operation was now the military's best hope in the hunt for bigger fish.
Intelligence gleaned from such captives can help "piece together a story that leads you to more specific locations for the senior leaders," he said. "I honestly believe that that's the way that Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahri are eventually going to be located."
Despite the drain on resources posed by Iraq, the number of special forces in Afghanistan has held "steady," at an undisclosed level, Olson said.
He said he was redistributing those troops along the border in an effort to catch militants trying to slip back and forth from safe havens on the Pakistani side.
To that end, cooperation with Pakistan is vital.
U.S. and Afghan officials have praised Islamabad for its bloody operations around Wana, the main town of the lawless Waziristan region, where fierce resistance earlier this year fueled speculation that a high-value target — possible al-Zawahri — was cornered.
If he was, he escaped. Pakistani commanders now say they don't believe any of al-Qaida's top brass are in the region.
Maj. Gen. Niaz Khattak, commander of Pakistan's military operations against al-Qaida-linked fighters in South Waziristan, has predicted the fiercely autonomous area will be pacified by year's end. But he says there is no sign of bin Laden and that most of the foreigners still in the region are low-level fighters.
Khattak said only a few foreign militants have been captured alive. He estimated that among the nearly 300 militants killed in the past nine months, about 100 were foreigners — principally Uzbeks, Chechens, Tajiks and Afghans.
"If intelligence comes by, we will certainly pursue it. If you're asking whether he (bin Laden) is here or not, there's no indications of his presence," he told reporters on a recent trip to the region.
"There might be some terrain where nobody has been able to go. But we have intelligence, and there's no way such high-value information would remain hidden for such a long period of time," he added. "After all, there should have been a rumor if nothing else."
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Islamabad, Pakistan contributed to this report.
US soldier dies in road crash in Afghanistan
KABUL, Dec 2 (AFP) - A US Marine died in a road accident in southeastern Afghanistan while two other American military members were injured in a traffic incident near Kabul, a military official said Thursday.
The marine, whose name was not disclosed, died Wednesday when his military Humvee rolled over on a road in Paktika province near the Pakistani border, US military spokesman Major Mark McCann told AFP.
Two other US military personnel, a marine and an airman, were injured on the same day when their vehicle crashed into a truck on a road linking Kabul to the main US-led military headquarters at Bagram Air Base, north of the capital. 'The airman was taken to Bagram then to Germany for treatment,' the major said.
Another US soldier suffered 'minor cuts' when an improvised bomb planted by suspected Taliban militants exploded near a military convoy in northeastern Kunar province, according to McCann.
Northern Afghan Leader Calls For Rewards For Disarmament
Daily Afghan Report Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
General Abdul Rashid Dostum requested that Afghan fighters who agree to disarm and demobilize be "rewarded" for their cooperative efforts and offered service in the national army, according to Sheberghan Jowzjan Aina Television on 29 November. Dostum called at a meeting with Afghan Defense Ministry officials and representatives from the United Nations Mine Action Clearance in Afghanistan (UNAMAC) on 29 November for unspecified rewards to be given to such fighters. "As we were together with our international friends in tough situations and in fighting international terrorism, we offer our honest assistance in reconstruction and in maintaining lasting stability in the country," Dostum said. "We want those officers and soldiers, who underwent the [official Disarmament, Demilitarization, and Rehabilitation] (DDR) process, to be appreciated in line with their professionalism and competency." The centralization of Afghanistan's military power has been difficult in the fractionalized country, and the inability of national and international agencies to convince warlords to disband their militias contributes to the country's security problems. KM
Cabinet Concerned About Spraying Poppy Fields
Concerns were raised on 29 November by the Health and Agriculture ministries about drug eradication efforts that include the aerial spraying of poppy fields with herbicides, according to state-run Radio Afghanistan that day. The report was presented to the cabinet of the Afghan Transitional Administration by Public Health Minister Sohaila Sediq on 29 November. Surveys taken in the Khogiani and Shinwar districts of eastern Nangarhar Province, where fields have been sprayed, reportedly show that the herbicides have had bad affects on health and the environment. Contaminated water from the spraying has allegedly caused an increase in asthma and diarrhea among people in the region, according to the report. Voluntary poppy eradication has proven difficult in Afghanistan, where farmers have grown to rely on the lucrative crop in a system controlled by powerful drug and warlords. KM
Afghan Publications Discuss Parliamentary Elections
Afghan newspapers and magazines are debating details regarding the holding of national parliamentary elections, scheduled for mid-May. While some argue that "thorough preparations" must be taken, as the daily "Anis" newspaper did on 28 November, others state that the elections should be postponed. The Afghan monthly journal "Rozgaran" set out a list of arguments for delaying the election in its 24 November edition, based on its belief that warlords will undermine the parliament structure and processes to ensure that they continue ruling the provinces. "Rozgaran" focuses on disarmament as a necessary precondition for the parliamentary elections: "If general disarmament is not implemented and guns are not collected, we will not witness [a] democratic election, particularly in regions that are under the influence of the warlords." "Anis" also touched on this issue in a more subtle way when it noted, "if the election is influenced by the carrot and stick tactics and if the real representatives of the people are not allowed in parliament, then such a parliament will automatically create many problems." KM
Ismail Khan's ally is arrested
Pajhwok Afghan News 12/02/2004 By Khalida Khursand
Herat — A prominent Commander, Ayazzudin, loyal to the former governor of Herat Ismail Khan has been arrested in the Farsi district of the province during a joint military operation carried out by US forces and the Afghan National Army, officials said Thursday.
Mohammadullah Afzali, a spokesman for the present Governor of Herat, Sayad Mohammad said Ayazuddin was threatening local people and disrupting security in the region.
"He was arrested after people complained that he was intimidating them," the spokesman said.
The commander was the head of the armed division in Shindand District but had earlier joined the UN-sponsored Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Program (DDR) but we collected seventy pieces of light and heavy ammunition from his premises, the spokesman said.
But a close associate of Ismail Khan, speaking on condition of anonymity told Pajhwok Afghan News that Ayazzuddin had actually been arrested nearly ten days ago without a clear reason.
Bin Laden "contacted Indonesian preacher"
By Dean Yates and Telly Nathalia Thursday December 2, 7:31 PM
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Fugitive al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden once invited Indonesian preacher Abu Bakar Bashir to live in Afghanistan, a young militant jailed over the bombing of a Jakarta hotel has told the cleric's terrorism trial.
Witness Mohamad Rais said he gave a message to Bashir from bin Laden in 2001 after returning to Indonesia from two years of military training in Afghan militant camps.
"If Bashir feels no longer comfortable here (in Indonesia), Osama asked Bashir to go there," Rais told the court on Thursday when asked by a judge what was the content of the message.
Asked what Bashir said, Rais replied: "God Willing."
Rais said he was given the message by Hambali, another Indonesian preacher who was believed to be bin Laden's key link to Southeast Asia. Hambali was arrested in 2003 in Thailand and is in U.S. custody.
Bashir, 66, is on trial over charges he leads Jemaah Islamiah, a shadowy group seen as the regional arm of al Qaeda.
He is also accused of using "religious charisma" to incite attacks, including the suicide bombing of Jakarta's JW Marriott Hotel in 2003 that killed 12 people, and nightclub bombings in Bali in 2002 that left 202 dead, mostly foreign tourists.
Both attacks were blamed on Jemaah Islamiah.
Rais, who is in his late 20s, said bin Laden had also sent his regards to Bashir in the message. Rais is serving seven years jail for involvement in the Marriott strike.
In response, Bashir told the court he often received messages from many people but could not remember them all. While bin Laden may have sent one, Bashir said he believed he had not.
Bashir has consistently denied links to terrorism and insists Jemaah Islamiah does not exist, although has called bin Laden a true Islamic warrior.
Prosecutors have said Bashir ordered JI members to spread statements from bin Laden calling for war against Americans.
Another witness, Tohir, who is serving 10 years over the Marriott attack, told the court Bashir had not ordered the strike on the hotel or been the inspiration for the act.
MILF TRAINING CAMP
An earlier witness, Yudi Lukito, also known as Ismail Abdurrahman, told the trial the cleric once gave a speech at a training camp run by Islamic rebels in the southern Philippines.
Lukito said Bashir spoke about the need for Muslim solidarity at the camp run by rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Mindanao island in mid-2000.
Lukito, who is serving time for weapons offences, said he was undergoing military training at the MILF camp when Bashir came.
"In one ceremony, he made the closing speech which was about brotherhood among Muslims and the need to help each other. He was not the commander there. He came as a guest," Lukito told the court as Bashir sat impassively with his lawyers.
Security analysts say there is overwhelming evidence the MILF has sheltered and shared training with Jemaah Islamiah members at its camps in Mindanao, but add it is unclear whether the MILF leadership continues to sanction the links.
Prosecutors have said Bashir visited a Jemaah Islamiah camp in the Philippines in 2000, where he gave speech that incited JI members to carry out the Marriott attack three years later.
Bashir served 18 months for immigration violations but was re-arrested using anti-terror statutes in April. His trial began in October and is expected to drag on into next year.
He had earlier been arrested shortly after bombs ripped through two Bali bars in 2002 but courts later ruled charges brought under the criminal code over his leadership of Jemaah Islamiah and links to previous violence were unproven.
Afghan Government probe 'unlawful' prison detention of women
Pajhwok Afghan News 12/02/2004 By Makia Monir
KABUL — Representatives of a German- based NGO, supporting traumatized women and girls in war and conflict, has been sent by the Presidential office to a women's prison in Kabul to evaluate prison conditions after inmates demonstrated against their unlawful detention on Tuesday.
A delegation from Medica Mondiale has been commissioned by the legal department of the Presidential offices of Hamid Karzai to investigate the reasons for their continued detention following an Eid Decree calling for the release of women who had committed petty crimes.
Nearly 40 women locked up for various offences launched a demonstration for nearly two days in a women's prison on the outskirts of the capital; they smashed prison windows and shouted death to all prison officers.
They demanded the Afghan government re-assessed their cases. A spokesperson for Medica Mondiale, Rachel Wareham said she had interviewed the detainees several times: "The women have demonstrated for two reasons; firstly they say they are abused by male workers in the prison and secondly according to a decree issued by President Hamid Karzai any detainees who committed light crimes deserve a pardon and therefore be released.
But this hasn't been put into action so far." However, another woman working for the same humanitarian organization, Masuda Nawabi said, there is a complaint box inside the prison which is opened in the presence of members from the interior and justice ministries and human rights groups but there have been no complaints of abuse.
Abdul Karim an officer in charge of the criminal offences department in the capital Kabul said, there is no evidence to prove the allegations of abuse against the women, its a mere rumor that the women have conjured up to strengthen their case for an early release.
Pajhwok Afghan News tried to gain access to the prison but have been denied entry into the premises. But reporters standing outside the prison have said they heard the sound of breaking glass and women shouting: "Death to the attorney, judge and human rights."
Some prison officers speaking to reporters said the women inside the prison were out of control; their condition was abnormal, they had formed a human chain to block the prison and caused havoc.
They say fire extinguishers were used to break them up them. The prison officers blame five women for instigating the mayhem in the prison. Medica Mondiale, after their assessment said 50-percent of the jailed women have committed petty crimes and the rest may be in for more serious crimes.
But their initial investigation suggests that none of the women in the prison were guilty of murder. The demonstration by the women was a desperate cry for help said Rachel Wareham: "It suggests we failed to help the women and having no option they launched this demonstration."
Prison conditions have improved for women in comparison to last year but no one has really assessed their main problems so far. We have asked the interior ministry to help us with our investigations, Ms Wareham said.
"We are working closely with the Afghan government and have recommended a further investigation into the allegations with the help of international observers." Human rights groups say this was the most serious demonstration by women since the fall of the Taliban.
GOVERNOR OF BALKH PROVINCE, ATTA MOHAMMAD, DISCUSSING COUNTER NARCOTICS IN KABUL
Counter Narcotics Directorate
Kabul, 2nd December 2004: The Governor of the northern Afghan Province of Balkh, Atta Mohammad Nur, and other senior figures from the province are in Kabul today (Thursday) to discuss the Government of Afghanistan’s Counter Narcotics Programme with high ranking Afghan government officials and senior British and American diplomats at a seminar in the Intercontinental Hotel.
Speaking at the meeting, chaired by Alamuddin Atheer of the Afghan Counter Narcotics Directorate (CND), will be the Deputy Minister of Interior, General Mohammad Daud, who has special law enforcement responsibilities for Counter Narcotics.
The annual Opium Survey for Afghanistan for 2004, published last month by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), states that the most pronounced increases in poppy cultivation in 2004 were found in the north of the country. The survey says that the area under poppy cultivation in Balkh had more than doubled compared to 2003, and had increased more than tenfold compared to 2002.
The one day meeting today (Thursday) at Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel is part of a programme drawn up by the Afghan Government to explain clearly what its plans are to stamp out opium poppy cultivation. Similar meetings have already been held in Kabul with senior figures from Helmand, Nangarhar and Wardak Provinces. On Sunday 5th December it will be the turn of Badakhshan.
Last week Governor Atta Mohammad held a meeting in the Balkh provincial capital, Mazar-e-Sharif, in which he vowed to eradicate drug cultivation in the province and follow the central government’s policy on drugs. “I will never let anyone grow poppy in any part of Balkh Province,” he told senior provincial officials at the meeting. “We should not wait for others to tell us, order us, and put pressure on us to destroy this crop,” he said.
The provincial counter narcotics meetings in Kabul are part of a whole range of gatherings organised by the Counter Narcotics Directorate. With the help of the Ministry of Haj, provincial shuras, or assemblies, of mullahs to discuss counter narcotics were held in six key Afghan provinces in September. The main message at these shuras -- in Nangarhar, Helmand, Kandahar, Badakhshan, Balkh and Herat -- was to reinforce the fatwa issued by Afghanistan’s ulema (religious scholars) in August which stresses that everything to do with narcotics is haram, or against the teachings of Islam, especially the cultivation of opium poppies.
On Monday this week (29th December) General Daud and the Head of the Central Poppy Eradication Force, General Zahir Aghbar, held a special meeting in the Badakhshan provincial capital, Faizabad, to spell out to senior provincial figures the government’s policy for eliminating the poppy crop. General Aghbar has also been busy touring many other provinces to explain clearly that his Poppy Eradication Force will be visiting wide areas of Afghanistan during the forthcoming harvest season, starting towards the end of January. When General Aghbar visited Balkh in September, Atta Mohammad committed himself to eradicating poppy within the province.
Following these series of meetings, the Governors and Chiefs of Police of Helmand and Nangarhar for instance have held their own meetings, at which they have pledged to combat poppy cultivation. The Chief of Police of Nangarhar Province, Hazrat Ali, told his district chiefs of police that if any poppy is cultivated in areas under their control, they will be sacked from their posts.
The Afghan Government and donor nations are keen to help Afghan farmers who stop growing poppy. A meeting was held in Kabul with leaders from Nangarhar Province just before Eid el-Fitr (on Thursday 11th November) to discuss the programme of Alternative Livelihoods for the province.
President Hamid Karzai has said that his top priority as Afghanistan’s first popularly elected leader will be to fight the crippling opium and heroin trade. “We will put all our means into the eradication, interdiction and destruction of labs,” he said recently in talks at the presidential palace. He also said that, with the help of the international community, his new government needs to create the conditions under which alternative livelihoods will be created and promoted.
Kabul airport to be guarded by Czech soldiers for two years
PRAGUE, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Kabul airport is to be guarded by about 100 Czech soldiers from late 2006 till early 2007, Czech Deputy Chief of Staff Emil Pupis said Wednesday. He said that NATO has asked the Czech Republic to take over the role in securing the airport's operation from October 2006 to January 2007.
A total of 300 soldiers will be deployed at the airport to which the Czech Republic would contribute experts in directing air operation and ensuring the airport's security, Pupis said after a meeting of the Chamber of Deputies foreign committee.
The mission is yet to be approved by the government and parliament. Defence Ministry spokesman Andrej Cirtek said that the Czech military would manage the new mission. "The military is prepared to direct the airport operation even in such remote areas as Afghanistan," he said.
AFGHANISTAN: People living with disabilities call for integration
KABUL, 2 December (IRIN) - The disabled in Afghanistan have contributions to make but they need more support to help them integrate into society.
This was the call from disabled groups on Thursday as the country observed the International Day of Disabled Persons.
According to the Afghan Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled the country has more than 1 million people living with various levels of disability - the result of decades of devastating conflict and the lack of a health infrastructure. This is one of the highest percentages anywhere in the world.
“We should understand that the war was responsible for only 25 percent of all disabled Afghans, the rest have been disabled as a result of poverty, illiteracy and cultural practices,” Parwin Azimi, an adviser to the ministry, told IRIN.
“Despite tens of international aid agencies for the disabled and an internationally supported government, we continue to be the most isolated and deprived people in this society,” Haji Rahim, head of the Disabled Association of Afghanistan, told IRIN as he led nearly 500 disabled people in a procession through the capital, Kabul.
In a new report released the same day, the United Nations Children’s Fund
(UNICEF) called for joint efforts to support the integration of disabled Afghans
Discrimination affects most disabled people, according to the report. This takes the form of verbal and physical abuse, lack of access to education and healthcare, lack of social opportunities and barriers to employment.
“Despite the laudable efforts of a few organisations, no proper results can be expected as long as disability awareness and advocacy are not raised and the reintegration is not implemented by law,” Alberto Cairo, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) orthopaedic projects in Afghanistan, told IRIN.
Help is inadequate, activists say. While there is a special ministry with a mandate to help disabled people, the government is also paying 300 afghanis (about US $7) disability pension monthly.
“We urge the government to raise our pension, assign a disabled minister in the new cabinet and provide us with the chances of employment in government departments,” said Rahim.
Landmine removal key to development: UNDP
NAIROBI, Dec 2, 2004 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Countries contaminated by landmines will never develop without the removal of these deadly weapons, a high-ranking UN Development Program (UNDP) official said Thursday on the sidelines of a landmine conference in Kenyan capital Nairobi.
"The landmine problem is a critical development issue. The terrible human toll taken by these indiscriminate weapons is compounded by deep and lasting economic damage," Julia Taft, the UN Assistant Secretary General and Director of the UNDP Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Recovery told a news conference on the sidelines of the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World.
"Landmines restrict access to water and keep schools and hospitals and roads from being built. They prevent the safe return of refugees and the internally displaced. They breed instability in fragile post-conflict environment and terrorize entire populations," Taft noted.
"Millions of mines still in the ground mean that there are hundreds of roads that cannot be traveled, thousands of acres of farmlands that cannot be tilled, and entire communities that are deprived of health care and education and essential investment," she told reporters.
The UN official said eradication of landmines and assistance to victims should be considered both a humanitarian imperative and an investment in the future.
"These are indiscriminate weapons that do not distinguish between enemy, combatants, farmers at work, or children at play," Taft, whose bureau promotes and supports extensive mine action programs in 27 countries around world, said.
She said more than 80 countries around the globe suffer from landmine contamination, and 35 are considered severely affected.
Taft urged heavily-mined countries and the international community to mainstream mine action into their own development assistance programs.
"Many more people have suffered and died because of the indirect but equally lethal impact of landmines as an obstacle to development," the UNDP official stressed.
She cited Afghanistan, Angola, Bosnia, Cambodia and Mozambique as heavily affected by landmines, but they have made mine action an integral part of their development plans and budgets.
The Nairobi summit is reviewing progress made toward a mine- free world over the past five years and preparing an action plan for the future.
The Antipersonnel Mine Ban Treaty, also known as the Ottawa Convention, entered into force in March 1999 and prohibits the manufacture, trade and use of antipersonnel landmines. It also obliges countries to destroy stockpiles and clear their own mined territory.
The summit is expected to come up with two documents. One of them is a program of action on how the goals of the convention are to be achieved, while the second one will be a political declaration by parties reaffirming their commitments to the convention.
Press briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UNAMA Spokesman 02 Dec 2004
Today is a very special day, as we have three special guests. Three ladies, the one you see here who is doing the sign language is Ms. Parween Azimi, she is the National Advisor for Special Education with the Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled. Next to her Mrs. Malalai Lemar, member of the Women's Association for Disability on Afghanistan and next to her Mrs. Rahima Qaumi who is a member of the Afghan Association for the Deaf.
At the end of the briefing they will talk to you and take your questions.
New three-year strategy for disabled
Tomorrow will be the International Day of Disabled Persons. In his message, Secretary General Kofi Annan emphasized that "for many years, persons with disabilities tended to be viewed as "objects" of welfare policies. (But) today, (…) persons with disabilities have started to be viewed as people who must enjoy the full spectrum of civil, political, social, cultural and economic rights." Text available in English.
In Afghanistan, where the Day of Disabled Persons is celebrated today, such a change of mentality is also taking place. A global approach to disability will be implemented by the Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled (MMD), through the adoption of a comprehensive strategy for the next three years.
The foreseen budget is US $9.4 million. Half of the funds will be dedicated to services for disabled people, such as physical rehabilitation, education or vocational training. The other half will be devoted to technical advice to partner institutions and ministries, such as the Ministry of Labor, Health or Education.
This strategy, designed with the Comprehensive Afghan Disabled Programme (CADP) of the United Nations Development programme (UNDP) has been agreed last week Thursday and will be signed once the new Afghan government is in place.
So far, estimates – and these are only estimates from various governmental and UN sources - indicate that 800,000 to 2 million Afghans are disabled. 25% of the disabilities would be related to war; others are due to poor maternal or preventative health as well as poor curative health care. According to consolidated data from the Ministry and the Comprehensive Afghan Disabled Programme, projects are mostly implemented by NGOs and have only reached 20 of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, lacking in the south and the southwest. In addition, programs have primarily focused on physical rehabilitation while leaving aside people with sensory and psychological impairment. One of the goals of the comprehensive approach adopted now by the Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled will be to know better about disabilities in order to address the issue more adequately.
Day of Disabled Persons Celebrated in Afghanistan
Afghanistan is celebrating the International Day of Disabled Persons today and as we are talking, an award ceremony is taking place in Kabul. Awards will be granted to those who have contributed to facilitating the life of disabled persons or to raising awareness to the problems they are confronted with. UNICEF will also be presenting the preliminary conclusions of a report commissioned with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on "Perceptions of Disability in Afghanistan ", which Eddie has already told you about.
Today also, a number of cities throughout Afghanistan will celebrate the day by raising awareness about the issues affecting disabled people. Speeches will be given and games or theater plays performed in Herat, Mazar, Ghazni, Khost, Taloqan and Jalalabad where a cycle race will also be organized. You will recall that two Afghan athletes represented Afghanistan in such race last summer during the Paralympics games in Athens.
As I told you last Sunday, all these initiatives are supported by a countrywide information campaign "You and Me Together". We have displayed the posters on the wall behind me. The poster say: "If we are together, we are stronger" and "We want dignity for the disabled – we are developing disabled rights". You can also find on the table CDs with radio spots. There are four radio spots, one is a song, and three others are small dialogues to promote understanding and tolerance.
Almost 26,000 soldiers disarmed; 24,000 entered or completed the reintegration programme
Twenty-five thousand nine hundred and eighty one soldiers have now disarmed. Two divisional headquarters in Jalalabad and one in Mazar-e Sharif, five infantry brigades in Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, and Parwan as well as one armored brigade in Kandahar are also expected to disarm by next Sunday.
Although we still have some ways to go, progress is remarkable in the north. Full disarmament of the 8th Corps is expected soon. This along with the planned disarmament of what remains of the 7th Corps bodes well for the stabilization of the north.
Twenty-four thousand and seventeen former soldiers have either entered the Reintegration program or have completed it and are living productive lives as ordinary citizens.
Regarding the cantonment of heavy weapons, the Afghanistan's new Beginnings Programme informs that numbers are almost the same as last Sunday with 3,909 out of 4,366 of all known working or repairable heavy weapons placed in safe compounds. The last area now containing significant numbers of heavy weapons remains the Panshir Valley. A team from the Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme is currently looking at further collection in the area but no date has been set yet. We will keep you informed when we have more about that.
Ministry of Women's Affairs 16 Day program to raise awareness on violence against women
As you know the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women was marked here in Afghanistan by the establishment of a Commission to tackle violence again women. On the same date, 25 November, the Ministry of Women's Affairs launched a 16-day program to sensitize Afghans about violence against women.
The program will finish on 10 December - Human Rights Day. According to the program provided by the Ministry, there will be a different activity each coming day until the 10th like a press conference by Minister Habiba Sahabi this morning at the Ministry, the broadcast of movies on TV, a theater play or the distribution of leaflets and posters.
In addition to the activities we already reported to you, in Herat, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has been placing articles and commentaries in newspaper and radio. Also in Heart there are radio and TV broadcasts on women rights while discussions have taken place at the University. Similar awareness-raising actions are ongoing in Ghor and Badghis provinces. UNAMA also organized a human rights training programme for women journalists in Jalalabad and participated in a round-table in Gardez.
For more information on the awareness raising initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of Women's Affair, please pick up the leaflet on the side table, which informs that in 2003 the Ministry analyzed and solved 193 cases of violence against women.
Conference on Development Opportunity and Challenges for the provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar
A three-day conference on "Development Opportunity and Challenges for the provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhar – Actor, Programmes and Perspectives', closes today in Kunduz.
The conference is an opportunity for local actors to express the specific needs of their area while having a fruitful exchange with potential experts or donors. It is co-sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Afghan Coordination Committee and UNAMA.
Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ameerah Haq addressed participants yesterday and told them that "supporting local capacity building and strong partnership between governmental and international players at the provincial level are the foundation of development in the provinces".
UN and NGOs provide immediate response to floods in Mazar
Last Monday night, the North of the Balkh province was hit by torrential rainfalls, followed by heavy floods. The following day UNAMA coordinated with the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) an assessment team to evaluate damages and assess needs.
Although no casualties were reported, seventeen houses were partially or completely destroyed in the area of Ali Chopan and Kart-e-Bakhter, two communities in the Mazar-e-Sharif area. As a result of the assessment, emergency supplies including blankets, kitchen sets, medicine and food are being assembled for distribution by NGOs and UN organizations working in the North.
UN Volunteer Bruno Nzengue passes away
It is with great sadness that I announce the untimely death of one of our colleagues. Bruno Nzengue passed away here in Kabul on 29 November. A memorial service was held yesterday where he was remembered as a serious and dedicated professional, always ready to greet people with a smile.
Bruno, a UN Volunteer, came to Afghanistan in October last year from his native Central African Republic to work as a Finance Officer in the Voter Registration Project. He leaves behind his wife Isabelle and four children.
UNFPA press release on World Aids Day
At our last briefing we announced that World AIDS Day was commemorated on 1 December and we made available some documentation on the Day. Today, we have available a press release issued yesterday by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) here in Kabul.
UNFPA notes that data on prevalence of HIV/AIDS is very limited and that "around three hundred cases of HIV are estimated" in Afghanistan. More details in the press release or with UNFPA colleagues. Text available in English
Briefing by Edward Carwardine, UNICEF
As has already been mentioned, today is a very significant one for people with disabilities in Afghanistan, and UNICEF is pleased to be able to speak on that issue as well this morning.
Public perceptions of disabled Afghans will be in the spotlight today, with the presentation of preliminary findings from a new report on the issue commissioned by UNICEF and UNDP.
UNICEF will present the findings as its contribution to International Day of the Disabled. The report, drawing upon a two month survey in Kabul, Jalalabad and Herat, identifies some of the key difficulties facing people with disabilities as they strive to play a role in reconstruction efforts and underlines the continuing stigma associated with disabilities in Afghan society.
Segregation from society affects most disabled people, according to the report. This takes the form of verbal and physical abuse, lack of access to education and health care, lack of social opportunities, barriers to employment and discrimination. Such isolation affects not just people with disabilities, but also their families' status in society.
Taking data from nearly 500 interviews and 48 focus group discussions with people with disabilities, the report's preliminary findings urge that increased awareness is a vital prerequisite to integration of disabled people. The report calls for public information campaigns to present the positive contributions that can be made by disabled people, improved knowledge about causes of disabilities, and how people with disabilities should be cared for. Also, advocacy by key influencers such as the media, religious leaders and health workers, education about disabilities in schools, improved health services for people with disabilities, improved access to public buildings and incentive schemes to encourage employers to recruit people with disabilities.
Copies of the preliminary findings of the new report are available at the side, the final report should be completed by next month. Text available in English
Questions & Answers:
Question: I think there have been some changes in the programme. Can you give the estimated number of soldiers that have come under DDR?
Spokesman: DDR began over a year ago. The estimated number of soldiers and officers to be disarmed provided by the Ministry of Defense was 100, 000 soldiers and officers. As DDR actually happened, the real people, the real soldiers and the real officers were checked in their military units that were disarmed or decommissioned, the numbers were never the numbers that were on the piece of paper, that were the estimates. Judging by what has happened so far, we know that there will not be 100,000 military personnel to be disarmed. It will be much less than that. It is estimated to be somewhere around 50,000. We will know for sure as we go on and actual disarmament takes place. But certainly it is not 100,000 it is significantly less than that, probably around 50,000.
Question: Are the dates for the parliamentary elections going to change?
Spokesman: The parliamentary elections are in fact three elections: elections for the district councils, elections for the provincial councils and elections for the Lower House of the National Assembly. These elections are scheduled to take place on the month of Saur, which is April/ May on the western calendar. That continues to be the date and the plan. There is a lot of work to take place which needs to happen for this calendar to be met. A lot has to do with some technical information that need to come from the government; for example, the definition of the district boundaries, the definition of the estimated population for the provinces. Following the government's request to the UN, UNFPA will be helping to make these estimates. But in order for these elections to happen according to plan, work has to be concluded in time in those two categories for example. Lets hope that everything goes according to plan. But let's also keep an open mind to make sure that we have the best possible process.
Question: Does the UN keep the option open of holding the elections in June?
Spokesman: UN does not decide on that. It is an Afghan decision, and the current plans are for the month of Saur.
Question: Is there any plan in place to prevent HIV in Afghanistan?
Spokesman: I will feel more comfortable if I refer you to UNFPA. After the briefing we have our colleague Elise who is sitting right here who will be able to provide you with an answer.
Question: How much progress has there been in the investigation of the hostages?
Spokesman: I am afraid I will have to frustrate you on that, because I am not the source to answer this question. I will refer you to the Ministry of Interior. It is the responsibility of the Afghan authorities and they have honored their responsibility in investigating to solve this case. My understanding is that the investigation is ongoing. But I will refer you to the Ministry of Interior for you to get more details.
Question: Are the three kind of elections for parliament going to happen at the same time?
Spokesman: I don't know. As you know there is already a process of discussion with different people and leadership. I think that the combination of technical aspects with local realities will have to determine the format of these local elections, but I don't have a precise answer to give you on that.
Question: Who will be organizing the election, JEMB [Joint Electoral Management Body], Independent Electoral Commission or the President? What is the view of the UN?
Spokesman: It will be organized by the electoral authority with the support of the UN.
Question: Will that be the JEMB?
Spokesman: I think these are issues that have to be reviewed as part of the lessons learned exercise of the presidential elections. As you know, according to the constitution, the President has to appoint the Independent Electoral Commission by the end of the transition period, which only ends with the National Assembly taking office. So it does not have to happen now. But - although I am not a jurist – and the constitution requirement is not for now but it does not say that it cannot be now either. So I think we have to keep an open mind and flexibility to ensure that all the technical requirements, the legal aspects, the constitutional requirements, the political environment and security are all taken in consideration as everything gets firmed up for the parliamentary elections.
Stars and Stripes begins printing in Afghanistan
By Patrick Dickson, Stars and Stripes European edition, Friday, December 3, 2004
WASHINGTON — Stars and Stripes began printing newspapers in Afghanistan on Thursday, starting with a daily print run of 1,380 papers, and may expand its circulation after more tests are done.
The change means servicemembers serving in Afghanistan will be seeing much fresher news — papers had seen delays of up to three weeks in the previous distribution system.
Stripes had been shipping newspapers to Afghanistan from its presses in Germany via Bahrain, where, at best, papers would take five days to get to Kabul, and often much longer to reach outlying areas through the military supply system.
Stripes Publisher Tom Kelsch sees it as a significant improvement for servicemembers there, and for the organization.
“For Stripes, it means we’re better able to accomplish our mission to serve those servicemembers [deployed to Afghanistan],” Kelsch said.
The paper will be delivered daily in Kabul, Kandahar, Camp Phoenix (near Kabul) and Bagram Air Base. Papers will also be distributed via the military postal system to 10 other posts.
Readers will now be receiving the Middle East edition in Stripes, currently being tailored to audiences in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, rather than the Europe editions. Also included will be Sunday comics, which are actually in the Saturday edition.
Stripes currently prints about 60,000 copies of its Middle East edition at print sites in Baghdad, Kuwait, and Qatar.
Children "Orphaned" by Poverty
IWPR 12/02/2004 By Suhaila Muhseni
New programme seeks to get children out of orphanages and back to their families
Kabul - The grounds of the Tahai-ye-Maskan Orphanage in northwest Kabul are barren and muddy, although some newly planted trees can be seen peeking optimistically around one of the building's corners.
Inside, there are boys hanging around in the halls, looking dirty and wearing old clothes and shoes. Some are arguing and fighting, while others sit alone in dark corners of the building, looking depressed.
It's hard to believe that any child would live here by choice. Yet, according to Sami Hashemi, chief protection officer for UNICEF in Afghanistan, 80 per cent of the children in the country's orphanages have at least one living parent.
The country's desperate economic position has led many parents, unable to care for their children, to hand them over to these state facilities. It's a situation that Hashemi said had grown worse over the past two years.
Following the release of a report called "Children Deprived of Parental Care in Afghanistan—Whose Responsibility" this summer calling for a national plan of action for children, the Afghan government, UNICEF, and the British non-government group Children in Crisis launched a programme designed to reunite children now housed in orphanages with their parents.
"We know that the worth of our society will be judged by the way in which we take care of our most vulnerable members - our children," said minister of labour and social affairs Nur Mohammed Qarqin, at the symposium where the report was launched. "With some simple support, many of the children now living in orphanages could return to the warm care of their families."
Qarqin said he believed that "many of the children living in orphanages do not need full-time residential care. Many of them just need daytime care and access to schooling."
There are 35 public and private orphanages in Afghanistan, according to Mohammad Ihsan Asadi, head of the department of planning in the ministry of labour and social affairs. They care for over 8,300 children from 25 provinces, about 1,400 of them girls. Nine of those orphanages are run by non-government organisations, NGOs, and 26 are state-run.
Under the programme designed to reunite children with their families, social workers have interviewed the parents of some 200 children at the state-run Tahia-e-Maskan Orphanage and the Allaudin Orphanage for girls.
To help improve a family's finances so they can afford to support their children, Hashemi said parents are being offered food, loans and job training. So far, 50 per cent of those interviewed said they would be willing to take their children back if they were provided such assistance.
Hashemi said he hopes to continue the pilot project.
"Why would we keep kids separated from their parents when we can instead support parents to become capable of raising their own children?" he asked.
While Hashemi would not disclose the names of the orphans who were being considered for the pilot project, Haroon, 12 is one of those who could well benefit. He said he and his brother Shoaib, 10, had been living at Tahia-e-Maskan for the past five years.
"My father works as a clerk at the ministry of commerce," he said as he watched a volleyball game. "I suffer a lot because I'm away from my father. If our finances improve, I want to go back to my family."
Karima, 42, Haroon's aunt, who lives in northwest Kabul in a modest mud house, explained what happened to Haroon's mother and why his father can't support him and his brother. Showing scars left by deep wounds in her leg and stomach, she said her sister died in a rocket attack in 1992, and she herself was severely injured.
"My sister's husband was living with us, but because of poor living conditions and poverty, he sent his kids to the orphanage," she said.
Habiburrahman, 12, a third grader, sits at the top of the main entrance stairs of Tahia-e-Maskan. He is upset. He told IWPR he doesn't have a mother, his father is sick, and he misses his younger brother who lives at home with his dad selling socks.
He's been here for nine years but he at least gets monthly visits from family members.
"I have been apart from my family for a month and I miss them a lot," he said. "Since I am away from my brother I'm suffering a lot."
Mohammad Musa, 11, wearing an old khaki shirt, is another third grader there. He longs to be reunited with his parents and his two younger brothers and two younger sisters in the Darwaz district of Badakhshan province.
"I'm happy to be here, and that I am studying, but I miss my mother," he said. "If I could be with my mother it would be great, because a person can get lots of love from a mother."
Jamila, Mohammad's 37-year-old aunt, lives in eastern Kabul with her husband. She said her sister sent the boy to live with her in the capital five years ago, after the family lost everything in a flood, but – childless herself - she was too poor to support him.
"If I had any money I wouldn't have sent Mohammad to the orphanage," she said. "I sent him there so he could learn something."
She admits she would like to see Mohammad reunited with his family. "The life of a kid in the orphanage can't be good," she said. "A parent's upbringing is different. Every time I see him, I feel sympathy and my heart goes to pieces."
At the Allaudin orphanage for girls in Kabul, conditions are brighter and cleaner. It's a newer building and the girls seem happier than the boys at Tahia-e-Maskan.
There are nearly seven times as many boys as girls in state orphanages. Parents prefer to keep their daughters with them. said Hashemi.
"In Afghan culture, all families like to have their daughters with them because there's a danger of sexual abuse outside the home, and also security concerns," he said.
Orphans are nothing new to Afghanistan. The Tahia-e-Maskan Orphanage was first established in 1982 as the Homeland Orphanage. It originally housed 200 boys and girls, but now holds 700, all boys, while girls are housed at Allaudin.
Hashimi, Asadi and Suraya Abdullah Hakim, who is head of all government-run orphanages in Afghanistan, said two decades of war led to the sharp increase in the number of orphans.
According to Hakim, one or two children are placed in state orphanages every day. The government provides them with three meals a day plus clothes. In addition to educational facilities, they have sports grounds, and video and television rooms for watching educational films.
Despite these amenities, most of the children at the Tahia-e-Maskan orphanage at least, were complaining.
Khalid, 12, a veteran after four years, said, "We don't have showers or baths, we have to wash ourselves along with our clothes under the tap, and we don't have a barber to cut our hair."
Hakim declined to say how much money the government spent on caring for each orphan. She did say that the facilities have received assistance from individual donors and organisations, as well as the World Food Programme.
Dr Mustafa Waziri, the head of the Iranian NGO Hewad, which runs a mixed-gender home for 17 orphans in Kabul, agreed that in most cases children are better off living with parents or relatives than in an orphanage.
But Waziri said there are cases where children are being beaten, kept off school, or forced into begging on the streets, and it is better for them to go into an orphanage.
"We admitted three girls who were living on the streets," he said. "Their father was mentally ill and we were concerned that some day he would take them away and sell them somewhere. We call this place home, not an orphanage."
Afghan ambassador visits state
By SEAN O'SULLIVAN /Delaware Online The News Journal 12/03/2004
Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations told a Delaware audience Thursday that his country has made progress since the fall of the Taliban but needs continued support.
Speaking at Delaware Technical & Community College and at a dinner sponsored by the Delaware Chapter of People to People International, A. G. Ravan Farhadi said the war there destroyed everything.
Farhadi expects military assistance no longer will be needed in Afghanistan in about two years, but economic assistance will be needed much longer in order "to have a permanent impact."
And the attention of the United States and the world will be needed indefinitely.
For example, Farhadi said, the West needs to work with the nation to find a substitute crop for opium, which peasant farmers depend on for income.
"Afghanistan cannot become Finland tomorrow," Farhadi said.
Afghanistan became a haven for Osama bin Laden and the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks "because of the lack of attention of the United States and other nations of the world," he said.
But he said the warm welcome he received in Delaware gives him hope that the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.
About 17,000 U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan, and Farhadi said they are largely seen as friends and helpers, not occupiers.
Farhadi told students at Del Tech that while bin Laden may be encouraging his supporters through video and audio tapes, he is no longer directing terrorist attacks.
The Afghan government, like the United States, does not know where bin Laden is, he said. The terrorist leader may be hiding in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan or he may be living as a clean-shaven civilian in a Pakistani village or city to mask his identity. "Who knows," Farhadi said.
The ambassador also praised the efforts of a Delaware-based group, Afghanistan and Delaware Communities Together (AFDECT), for raising more than $100,000 to build a school for more than 1,000 students in a rural Afghanistan. At the People to People dinner, celebrating the group's 20th anniversary in Delaware, an award was presented to the group for their work.
Group founder William C. Gordon, who is the former chief judge of Delaware's family court, joined group member Adbul Nisar, an Afghan native who has been living in Delaware for 20 years, to accept the People Helping People award.
People to People was founded by Dwight Eisenhower and is dedicated to fostering international understanding and peace through education and exchange programs.
Nisar, who just returned from a trip to Afghanistan, said the school is 98 percent completed and should be ready for classes in April. He said his visit filled him with hope.
"I could see they are free. They are happy," Nisar said.
A portion of the proceeds from Thursday night's People to People dinner was donated to AFDECT. Nisar said they still are looking to raise about $50,000 to buy furniture and purchase supplies.
"Our next goal is a health clinic for women in Afghanistan," he said.
Superior Court Judge Richard Gebelein, a colonel in the Delaware Army National Guard who is stationed in Afghanistan to help set up a court system, praised the school effort.
"Education was systematically destroyed by the Taliban and is the area of greatest need here," Gebelein wrote in an e-mail. "Building this new school is a beginning."
Meg Bhatt, 25, of Newark, listened to Farhadi's talk and praised his visit.
"I think he is a very honest about the problems facing Afghanistan," she said.
Del Tech student Stephanie Bosset, 20, of Newark said she also was impressed. "How often do you have an ambassador of a foreign country talk to your school?"
General Cites Problems at U.S. Jails in Afghanistan
By R. Jeffrey Smith Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, December 3, 2004; Page A01
A recent classified assessment of U.S. military detention facilities in Afghanistan found that they have been plagued by many of the problems that existed at military prisons in Iraq, including weak or nonexistent guidance for interrogators, creating what the assessment described as an "opportunity" for prisoner abuse.
The inspection, conducted this summer by a one-star Army general, has not been publicly released by the Defense Department. But three government officials privy to its conclusions said this week that Army Brig. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. had found a wide range of shortcomings in the military's handling of prisoners in Afghanistan, including an unwarranted use of rectal exams instead of magnetic wands to search for contraband.
Jacoby, who was ordered to conduct the survey in May by the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan after the military's abuse of Iraqi prisoners became public knowledge, found that just half of the roughly two dozen U.S. prisons in Afghanistan had posted written orders spelling out approved interrogation practices.
Jacoby also found those practices in need of revision and better enforcement, according to the government officials. Lacking any approved guidance, U.S. military commanders in the field were using their own judgment about how prisoners should be handled, opening the door to abuse and a loss of valuable intelligence, the officials said Jacoby concluded.
At the time of Jacoby's visit, senior U.S. military officials in Iraq and Washington had known for more than four months about photographic evidence of abused prisoners in Iraq. Senior U.S. military officers in the region had also known for more than five months about an Army report alleging abuses by a CIA-Special Operations Forces group in Iraq.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Pamela Keeton, said yesterday that while Jacoby did not find any instances of abuse underway during his visit, he did find that prison officers needed better military rules and training.
She said, for example, that before his inspection, prisoners could be held for indefinite periods at temporary prison facilities, where representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross had no access to them. Now, Keeton said, U.S. military rules bar the detention of any prisoner at a temporary prison for more than 10 days without release or transfer to a regular prison, and Red Cross representatives must be provided access within 15 days of their detention.
Keeton also said the practice of conducting invasive bodily searches among prisoners have been stopped in most cases. Efforts have also been made to curtail the number of temporary prisons in the field, she said; Jacoby's report suggested that the worst conduct may have occurred at such facilities.
Although the report represents the military's first attempt to survey the scope of prison shortcomings in Afghanistan, indications of widespread abuses there had turned up earlier this year, when Army investigators looked into the mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Many of the officials at Abu Ghraib had served in Afghanistan and honed their approach to handling prisoners there, according to two Defense Department reports issued in August. The reports said, for example, that the idea of using dogs to intimidate prisoners at Abu Ghraib migrated from Afghanistan, where U.S. soldiers noted that many citizens feared dogs; other methods transferred to Iraq included stripping prisoners, forcing them into stress positions, and depriving them of light, sleep or human contact.
Also, a report by investigators with the Army's Criminal Investigation Command, completed in May on the eve of Jacoby's visit and stamped "For Official Use Only," implicated more than two dozen military policemen in the deaths of two Afghan prisoners in Bagram, Afghanistan, in 2002.
That Army report, obtained by The Washington Post, also said that a senior officer of the 377th Military Police Company based in Cincinnati and eventually deployed to Iraq had admitted he knew his soldiers were striking detainees in Afghanistan, and it concluded that his dereliction of duty contributed to routine prisoner mistreatment.
The report listed a range of abuses committed by members of the 377th and a battalion of military intelligence officers from Fort Bragg, N.C., during their deployment in Afghanistan, including slamming prisoners into walls, twisting handcuffs to cause pain, kneeing prisoners, forcing a detainee to maintain "painful, contorted body positions," shackling the detainee's arms to the ceiling, and forcing water into the mouth of the detainee "until he could not breathe."
Jacoby's inspection tour occurred after the 377th had already moved to Iraq and looked mostly at procedures followed by other Army units. His 21-page report, completed in July, was not meant to be a probe of wrongdoing, according to Keeton; in fact, the officials said, he did not speak to detainees.
Also, Jacoby did not attempt to measure the compliance of U.S. units with the internationally accepted standards of the Geneva Conventions, which spell out protections for military detainees. Instead, following a Bush administration doctrine, the military has maintained that unlawful combatants in Afghanistan -- who Keeton said make up the majority of the prison population -- are not covered by the conventions' strict protections.
They are subject, under current military rules, Keeton said, to a standard of "humane treatment" not spelled out in international laws but consistent with the spirit of the conventions. In his report, however, Jacoby concluded that the standards and compliance with them were not uniform throughout the country. He called for more properly trained corrections experts and interrogators.
He also said closed-circuit television should be installed at a large detention center in Bagram and urged the renovation of other facilities.
U.S. forces have "tightened up procedures for training up our people to handle and care for the prisoners," Keeton said. They now have standard operating procedures in place, she said, and mechanisms to enforce them.
Staff writer Josh White contributed to this report.
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