Taliban reject amnesty offered by US envoy in Afghanistan: report
Fri, Dec 03, 2004
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Afghanistan's Taliban militia spurned an amnesty offered by US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad on condition the hardline Islamic fighters lay down their arms, a report said.
They ruled out any reconciliation and no Taliban would accept the olive branch, Latifullah Hakimi, who claims to speak for the group, was quoted as saying by the Afghan Islamic Press onFriday.
"We consider this offer is an attempt to divide the Taliban," Hakimi said in a statement to the Pakistan-based private news agency.
Khalilzad on Thursday said that his offer was aimed only at "non-criminal" Taliban and would not include "international terrorists" or those who have committed crimes against humanity within Afghanistan.
The US envoy called on Taliban militants to contact tribal elders and the US-led coalition "and declare their allegiance and lay down their arms and in return they will not be targeted".
Hakimi said the Taliban would continue their "armed struggle".
"Since US troops have invaded Afghanistan, there can be no reconciliation," the Afghan Islamic Press quoted him as saying.
"I am confident no Taliban will lay down arms," he said.
The Taliban regime was ousted by a US-led military campaign in late 2001 but its loyalists continue to stage attacks on government and US troops as well as on aid workers and civilians.
The Reaction of The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan on The Remarks of The Russian Defense Minister
Kabul: The Government of Afghanistan notes, with shock, remarks about Afghanistan by the Russian Defense Minister, Mr. Sergei Ivanov. During his recent visit to India, Mr. Ivanov described the current political process in Afghanistan in ethnic terms as a “straight way to war”.
The Government of Afghanistan strongly objects to the remarks by Mr. Ivanov, which constitutes a direct interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Mr. Ivanov’s characterization of the political process in Afghanistan along ethnic lines is totally unwarranted.
The unveiled reference to another “war” in Afghanistan reflects a lack of desire for peace in Afghanistan. We hope and think that these statements do not reflect the policy of the Government of the Russian Federation. We expect from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to present a clarification on the above mentioned statements.
The Government also notes, with deep concern, that Mr. Ivanov’s remarks were uttered following a meeting with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi. India is considered, by the people of Afghanistan, as a close friend with whom we have deep cultural and historical ties. We therefore expect that the Government of India will distance itself from Mr Ivano’s remarks.
Office of the Spokesperson
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kabul
December 3, 2004
Suspected Taliban bomb-maker killed in Afghan blast
KABUL, Dec 3 (AFP) - A suspected Taliban militant was killed and two others injured when a bomb they were making exploded in southern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
Another suspect was also arrested unharmed and grenades, explosives, wires and remote-control devices were recovered after the blast at a house in the southern city of Kandahar on Friday, they said.
'They were Taliban bomb-makers. The bomb they were making exploded and killed one of them, injured two and one was arrested unharmed,' provincial police chief General Khan Mohammad told AFP by telephone.
Another provincial security official said police were interrogating the arrested militants.
'We hope we will be able to get more information about Taliban activities,' he said.
Kandahar was the power-base of Taliban's spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose regime was ousted by a US-led military offensive in late 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
An 18,000-strong US-led military force is in Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban-led insurgents, who still carry out attacks on foreign and pro-government troops using home-made bombs and rockets particularly in south and southeastern parts of the country.
Rights Watch urges Karzai to sideline warlords
Saturday December 4, 1:16 PM
KABUL (Reuters) - A leading rights group urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday to sideline warlords implicated in rights abuses and strengthen the rule of law when he announces a new cabinet after being sworn in next week.
Human Rights Watch also urged Karzai, elected for a five-year term in Afghanistan's first free elections on Oct. 9, to be more forceful in seeking greater assistance from the United States and NATO to improve security ahead of April parliamentary elections.
In an open letter, the New York-based group further called on Karzai to take up the issue of U.S. military abuses in the battle against Islamic militants and to take stronger action to promote women's rights.
Karzai, interim president since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001, is to be inaugurated on Tuesday in Kabul.
The government says he is expected to announce his new cabinet within a week of the inauguration, which is to be attended by Vice President Dick Cheney, the most senior U.S. official to visit Afghanistan since the Taliban's overthrow.
"This is President Karzai's big chance," Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's executive director for Asia, said in a statement.
"He has a popular mandate from the Afghan people. He should use it to end impunity and warlord rule, now and forever."
The rights group praised Karzai's efforts to sideline warlords in his previous administration but said there was an urgent need for him to create a commission to vet all senior government posts and exclude those guilty of rights abuses.
The government has given few clues about its choices for the new cabinet. The panel's makeup is seen as crucial to determining whether Afghanistan can chart a course of reform away from warlordism and weak central control and whether it can shape an economy that is not dominated by illicit drugs.
A presidential aide worried Afghanistan's international backers last week when he suggested that positions could be found for the likes of Ismail Khan, the powerful former governor of Herat who was accused of running the wealthy western province like a personal fiefdom until his removal in September.
Adams urged Karzai to be more vocal in his demands for security assistance ahead of the parliamentary polls, which are seen as a potential security nightmare given the continued existence of private militias loyal to regional powerbrokers.
"President Karzai should pressure NATO and the United States to meet their previous promises to provide troops and help improve security ahead of next year's parliamentary elections," Adams said.
Human Rights Watch criticised the United Nations, which helped stage the parliamentary vote, saying it must address its failure to provide enough political and rights officers outside of Kabul to monitor elections and keep pressure on warlords to disarm.
The group said it was the Afghan government's responsibility to prevent rights abuses by U.S.-led foreign forces.
In a separate report, Amnesty International criticised the U.S. military for failing so far to prosecute those responsible for the deaths of two Afghans in its custody two years ago.
"The pace of this investigation underscores why a broad inquiry into how, where and on whose orders torture occurred must be placed in the hands of an independent investigator with subpoena power," it said.
Afghanistan Craves Investment
Ashraf Ghani - Wall Street Journal (Eastern Edition) New York, N.Y.:Dec 1, 2004.
After Afghanistan's democratic elections, it is time for the global private sector to vote in support of the Afghan political revolution.
If 50 multinational corporations each invested $10 million in Afghanistan over the next two years, the resulting half-billion dollars would be equivalent to $3 billion in public investment. Decent wages, capital turnover and demonstrated international confidence would support economic growth and political stability, yielding a critical victory in the global war on terror.
Afghanistan's reasons for courting private sector investment are clear. Aid dependency is no path to dignified prosperity. But why should the private sector choose to invest now?
-- Since 2002, our economy has expanded more than 40%. Construction in Kabul and other major towns is booming, and mobile phone use per capita has already grown to exceed that of more developed regional neighbors. Yet inflation has remained below 10% and despite significant inflows of foreign aid, our currency has remained stable.
-- Afghans are ready to work with investors. For two millennia we have proved ourselves entrepreneurs who thrive on long-distance trade and respect for private property. Afghanistan was once a land bridge between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, and we plan to regain that role. It should be no surprise that our new constitution enshrines protection of property and commits to a market economy.
-- Afghanistan is rich in natural resources, including coal, copper and iron. If our neighbors' oil and gas wealth provides any guide, Afghanistan is highly likely to have sizeable deposits, and surveys are now underway. Traditionally, Afghanistan has also had a strong agricultural sector. In fact, before the recent conflict undermined our economy, Afghanistan was the largest exporter of dried fruits and nuts in the region. Light industry also has a future here.
Construction projects are underway throughout the country, with investment in cement and textiles looking particularly promising.
-- Since 2002, the Afghan government has significantly improved the investment climate. Our new investment law allows for 100% direct foreign ownership. We have created a simplified one-stop shop for licensing. Reforms to our tariff, customs and tax systems have greatly reduced transaction costs. Our central bank is autonomous, international commercial banks have begun operations under new regulations, and we strictly implement no-deficit financing.
-- Our seven-year, $27.5 billion public investment program has secured the first three years of international financing, helping us to address bottlenecks in transportation, irrigation, power, and urban services. Already, private investments in Afghanistan's telecommunications have proved profitable, and investors are actively exploring construction, transport and light industries. We are committed to an export-oriented economy that can take advantage of preferential market access to the U.S., EU, Canada and other countries.
-- With the peaceful completion of our first direct presidential election, increased political stability makes private sector investment more attractive. Security is expanding throughout the country with the deployment of the newly trained national army and police forces; the long-term commitment of international security forces underwrites the global commitment to Afghanistan's stability.
Of course, Afghanistan is not risk-free for investors. After two decades of conflict, investment barriers have emerged that we must now remove. Formal financial services remain nascent, our infrastructure is under-resourced and underdeveloped, the labor force needs training, and weak government regulatory capacity still feeds corruption. The government must spend limited resources wisely, demonstrate courage and integrity, and commit to a level playing field for investment. Our close partnerships with the U.S. Treasury, international financial institutions, and bilateral donors including the United Kingdom and Germany are the foundation for further planned reforms.
But we cannot achieve our aims without the international business community. The global private sector can help us identify the real obstacles to investment and join us in devising workable solutions.
Only through such engagement can an imperfect system be improved. The stakes are high and the payoff is significant. International investors can mobilize the capital, networks, knowledge base, and financial organizations to generate legitimate growth and provide jobs. Those opportunities will help integrate former militias into civilian life and wean farmers off poppy production.
Why make this commitment? Because international investment in Afghanistan today not only makes solid business sense, it is also politically wise and morally sound. Our country's full democratization demands the possibility of prosperity for all our people, and that prosperity requires our integration into the global economy. An expanding middle class with hope for better economic opportunities is the only sustainable defense against radical politics. Those who partner with us now will both profit from the creation of a dynamic economy and contribute to the fight against global terrorism./ Mr. Ghani is Afghanistan's finance minister
Pakistani president says bin Laden is alive: report
(AFP) 4 December 2004 Khaleej Times Online
BUENOS AIRES - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Friday was quoted as saying that Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was alive.
The statement came in an interview published by La Nacion newspaper after the Pakistani leader had concluded his 48-hour visit to Argentina.
“Based on interrogations of other members of Al-Qaeda, I know he is alive,” the Spanish-language paper quoted Musharraf as saying.
But Musharraf said he did not know where bin Laden was hiding.
Musharraf and US President George W. Bush were scheduled to meet at the White House early Saturday and hold a brief joint public appearance before Musharraf was to sit down separately with outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Bush’s agenda is likely to cover US-Pakistan trade and overall relations, the hunt for Al-Qaeda and Taleban members operating along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, as well as US hopes for democratic reforms in Pakistan.
The Pakistani president said his country had made great strides in combating terrorism.
He said that Pakistan and India, two regional foes armed with nuclear weapons, were going through “a process of rapprochement.”
“We are seeking peaceful coexistence with India through confidence-building measures and resolution of all the disputes,” he said, but warned: “We are not going to achieve peace using only one hand.”
Italy renews commitment to Afghan judiciary
ROME, Dec 2 (AFP) - Italy will continue to help rebuild the Afghan judicial system and will provide more financial aid to train judges, the organisers of the programme said on Thursday.
'The director general of cooperation Giuseppe Deodato announced his intention of renewing Italian aide,' said Mohamed Boussedra, head of training at the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO), at a conference here.
The Italian government has already pumped over 3.4 million euros (4.5 million dollars) into a programme which is spread over an 18-month period and is aimed at helping about 500 judges, prosecutors, civil servants, lawyers and members of the Afghan supreme court.
The training programme was part of the December 2001 accords signed in the German city of Bonn on the reconstruction of Afghanistan. At that time much of the country, struggling to emerge from the rule of the hardline Taliban Islamic militia, had little recourse to the law.
The Rome-based IDLO has given technical help to many countries and regions emerging from war, including East Timor, Rwanda and Kosovo.
U.S. says drug lords may have sprayed Afghan opium
KABUL - The United States has had no involvement in aerial spraying of opium poppies in Afghanistan, its ambassador said on Thursday, adding that any such work might have been done by drug lords to stir up tensions.
The Afghan government has expressed concern about reports of a mystery spraying of opium fields in the eastern province of Nangarhar last month and is investigating whether this had caused rashes, diarrhoea and other illnesses in children.
It has conveyed this concern both to the United States -- which is seeking tougher action to curb Afghanistan's massive opium and heroin output and backs a controversial chemical spraying programme in Colombia -- and Britain, which is heading an international programme to curb Afghan drug production.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the United States was looking into the spraying reports but had not done an independent investigation and did not know if any had occurred.
"But I can say categorically at this point that the United States has not done it and the United States has not contracted or sub-contracted anyone to do it," he said.
While it was speculation, he said, "maybe ... some drug-associated people may have done this in order to create the sort of distrust and problem between Afghanistan and some of its allies". Khalilzad said Washington supported a strong anti-drugs strategy in Afghanistan, but stressed: "We have not done up to now any aerial spraying."
A United Nations report last month said Afghanistan risked becoming a "narco-state" after opium cultivation jumped to record levels. The Kabul government responded by saying that the war on drugs was its top priority but it opposed aerial spraying.
A spokesman for Nangarhar province said last month that on Nov. 7, unidentified helicopters had sprayed opium fields in two of its districts. The Afghan government has said detailed studies needed to be carried out to determine whether increased incidences of skin rashes, diarrhoea and respiratory problems in children could have been caused by such spraying.
Colombian anti-narcotics forces, with heavy U.S. funding, spray coca crops with a mixture of imported and domestic herbicides. Critics say the chemicals harm the environment and local people.
Mistrust hampers Afghan opium battle
By Andrew North BBC correspondent in Tora Bora and Jalalabad Saturday, 4 December, 2004, 00:55 GMT
Like the walls of a giant fortress, the snow-covered peaks of the Spin Ghar, or White Mountains, rise from the haze as you drive south from Jalalabad.
It is a spectacular landscape, but one swirling in rumour and tension these days.
Buttressing these peaks are the wooded hills of Tora Bora, famous now as the last known hiding place of Osama Bin Laden.
But today it is the setting for another battle, one arguably far more important to Afghanistan's future.
This is one of the main areas for growing opium poppy - source for most of the world's heroin.
With a recent UN report showing a two-thirds rise in poppy cultivation this year, Afghan and international efforts to curb the illegal trade are intensifying.
Yet there are signs such efforts could already be failing.
In the villages abutting Tora Bora's slopes, people are angry.
They believe unidentified aircraft have been secretly spraying herbicide on their opium fields, which they say they depend on for survival.
Most people here point the finger at the Americans or the British, the lead players in international efforts to combat the Afghan drugs trade.
"I heard the planes late at night about 10 days ago, circling above," says farmer Nader Khan, who lives in Pachir wa Agam district.
In the morning, he described seeing tiny grey pellets spread across his fields.
"I had planted just a small piece of land with poppy," he insists, showing me the size of the plants, no more than 10cm high.
"But now all the plants are finished. Some of my other crops were killed too."
Giving me a tour of his land, he points out a patch of wilting and yellowing onions, although there was no way of telling if this was because of the alleged spraying.
Nader Khan says his goats were also affected, although he won't say how. And when a crowd of fellow villagers gathers to listen, there is more than a little theatre in his answers and gestures.
In Kabul, the American embassy insists the US government has "not conducted any aerial eradication, nor has it contracted or sub-contracted anyone to do it on its behalf". The British embassy has given similar denials.
And some experts question why anyone would try to spray so early on, when the opium plants are so young.
Nevertheless, the mystery of what happened over the Tora Bora opium fields in the weeks after Ramadan will not go away.
Descriptions of tiny grey pellets match a sample that has been given to the BBC by a farmer from the neighbouring district of Khogyani.
Afghan authorities, who have expressed concern to the British government over the allegations, say they are testing substances collected immediately after reports of the spraying emerged. No results have been released so far.
Whatever the explanation, it has had the affect of spreading mistrust of any attempts by outsiders - Afghan or foreign - to stop poppy growing.
"Why do they do this secret spraying?" demands another farmer. "If they help us, with new roads, dams and electricity, then we won't grow it."
That may be the explanation, argue some Western anti-narcotics officials in Kabul - a deliberate attempt by some major players in the Afghan drugs trade, aimed at stirring opposition to other "real" eradication efforts planned for the next few months.
If there really was a plan to kill off poppy plants early in the season, it does not appear to be working. In Pachir wa Agam, affected plots have already been re-ploughed.
Several fields can be seen from which the tiny leaves of new opium plants are sprouting - fields the farmers said had been sown with wheat.
Nothing is ever as it seems in Afghanistan.
The reality is that opium is embedded in the economy here.
"I have been growing poppy since Zahir Shah's time," says Haji Zarghoun, referring to Afghanistan's former king, who ruled until 1973.
The economics are simple. Haji Zarghoun says he earned around 300,000 Afghanis - about $6,600 - last year from selling the opium resin from his poppies.
That is at the higher end of the income spectrum for an opium farmer. But compare that to the average wage in Afghanistan of around $200 a year.
"I have 30 people in my family, how can I feed them if I don't grow opium?'" he asks, then begins to cry.
"We know it is against Islam, but we have no choice. If you're hungry you can eat pork."
In fact, some international assistance is being organised for opium farmers in this region.
This weekend, the American development agency USAID is due to announce the distribution of 500 tonnes of wheat seed for Nangahar province, of which Tora Bora is a part.
But even those who will be administering the programme, like provincial governor Haji Din Mohammed, are sceptical about its benefits.
"It is almost the end of the wheat planting season," he says.
What is more, wheat does not grow as well in the highlands around the Spin Ghar. Nor, more importantly, does it bring in anywhere near as much cash as opium.
Patrick Fine, Afghanistan director for USAID, says it knows this is not the answer to the problem. The wheat distribution is "just the first step in a much bigger programme" aimed at promoting alternative sources of income.
Later this year, Mr Fine says the US will be funding a major jobs programme, paying people in Nangahar and the two other main drug producing provinces to repair irrigation channels, road and other infrastructure work.
There is concern among development experts in Nangahar that the US is putting too much emphasis on eradicating poppy crops.
"It will not do what people think it will do," says Leo Brandenberg, team leader in Jalalabad for the German aid agency GTZ.
GTZ is running a development programme in the province to reduce its reliance on opium.
Mr Brandenberg's experience in Thailand showed it was better to leave farmers alone and concentrate more on breaking up drug gangs and trafficking networks first.
Governor Din Mohammed is worried too.
With so much pressure from the US to see poppy fields destroyed, he says there could be violence in Nangahar.
"There will be no choice for the people," he warns.
"It would be better to do this eradication and help at the same time."
Pakistan to appoint 14 new ambassadors
By Muhammad Saleh Zaafir The News International, Pakistan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is appointing 14 new ambassadors in important world capitals. Foreign Office Spokesman and Director-General United Nations desk Masood Khan will be Pakistan’s new ambassador to Afghanistan in place of Rustum Shah Mohmand who is retiring.
Additional Secretary for the US and Latin American desk Saeed Khalid will take over as ambassador to Germany from where Aizadiee is moving to Brussels as ambassador to Belgium and European Commission.
Additional Secretary Hasan Sarmad has been picked as ambassador to Spain in place of Aftab Shah, who attained superannuation. Highly placed sources in the Federal Capital told The News here on Friday that Pakistan’s envoy to Norway Muhammad Shabaz will take over as Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
Incumbent Representative Shaukat Umar will be completing his extended period of service in Geneva. Mian Sanaullah, currently director general Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) desk will be named ambassador to Portugal.
Fauzia Sana, another director general will be ambassador to Romania. Pakistan’s ambassador to Russia Iftikhar Murshid will swap with Mustafa Kamal Kazi as envoy to Holland, the sources added.
Deputy Representative to the United Nations in New York Masood Khalid has been appointed ambassador to South Korea while Ms Tasneem Aslam director USA desk will replace him. Director General Foreign Office Naeem Khan is proceeding to Dubai to take over from Amanullah Larik, who is completing his extended period in service as consul general.
Tehmina Janjua director general is leaving for Geneva to take up the assignment as deputy representative at the UN Headquarters. Syed Jaleel Abbas Jailani will be Pakistan’s ambassador to Sweden. He is currently director general South Asia desk.
Additional Secretary Middle East Javaid Hafeez may be going to Muscat as ambassador while Sohail Amin director general Europe may proceed to Norway. Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s chief of the mission in Washington has been proposed to replace Ali Sarwar Naqvi in Vienna as ambassador to Austria, the sources hinted.
Naqvi is attaining superannuation next month. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN in New York is getting extension of two years in service despite attaining superannuation next month. All the ambassadors would be moving to their respective places of posting on receipt of their agreema by the host governments, the sources added.
How to find the elusive Taliban: pop down to the shops in Quetta
The Guardian, UK 12/04/2004 By Declan Walsh
As US forces comb Afghan mountains, fighters stock up on supplies in Pakistan
Quetta and Kandahar - The US-led hunt for the Taliban continues relentlessly in Afghanistan. Three years after invading, 18,000 soldiers wield a battery of hi-tech weapons; stealth aircraft crowd the skies; satellites spin overhead; and special forces creep across remote mountains in a billion-dollar mission.
Yet finding the insurgents is a far easier task in neighbouring Pakistan: you just stroll down to the shops.
A wide variety of militant merchandise is on sale along Kusi Street in Quetta, 60 miles south of the mountainous Afghan border. Posters of Osama bin Laden brandishing a Kalashnikov hang from doors. Stickers of Taliban clerics are plastered on the walls.
The Talib Speeches Centre sells a range of cassettes for 25p each. Crackly recordings contain speeches and poems calling young men to join the jihad or mourning its martyrs. Gory covers match the themes - crossed swords dripping with infidel blood, battlewagons loaded with black-turbaned fighters, and beatific images of bearded militants now detained in Guantánamo Bay.
The men sitting crosslegged behind the counter describe themselves as staunch Taliban supporters. "We will not go home until there is an Islamic government in Afghanistan," says the shop owner, Muhammad Gul.
Others go much further. "I am a mujahid and I will fight to the end of my life," quietly declares Yar Muhammad, a 22-year-old Talib who says he has just completed guerrilla operations in Afghanistan.
Moving to the privacy of a car, he describes the insurgent life - being trained to fire rockets and plant roadside bombs; conducting night-time attacks against Americans; then flitting across the leaky border under the nose of three armies. "We change our clothes and take off the turban to disguise ourselves. Some Taliban even shave."
Now Muhammad has come to Quetta to fire his fundamentalist fury in one of the city's many madrasas, or Islamic schools. Later he will return to continue the battle. "We are fighting for the will of God," he says solemnly.
The Taliban's failure to disrupt Afghanistan's election on October 9, which was won by President Hamid Karzai, sparked a flurry of predictions that the Islamists' demise was near. The US military suggested their troops were demoralised and their leaders divided. Reports of impending defections to the government side appeared in the press.
But now the tempo of violence is quickening again. In the past week two US soldiers and four Afghans, three of them aid workers, have died in attacks. Meanwhile, thousands of American soldiers are preparing raids on the Taliban's winter sanctuaries. They hope to stave off the Taliban's spring offensive which could endanger parliamentary elections scheduled for April.
The Taliban is once again proving a slippery foe, partly thanks to its easy refuge in Pakistan. As cities like Quetta offer a new home to the Taliban, officials at the old bases in Afghanistan are infuriated by the apparent ease with which they slip across the border.
The police chief in Kandahar, the former Taliban homeland 120 miles north of Quetta, says Pakistani support is stalling efforts to crush the rebellion. "Look, the top 10 Taliban leaders are still living in Pakistan. How is that possible without assistance?"
Mullah Naquib, a hardline religious leader and former Taliban commander in Kandahar, echoes the accusation. "That Pakistan supports the Taliban is obvious. We do not trust their promises."
Pakistan vehemently denies the charges. President Pervez Musharraf dropped his support for the Taliban in 2001, realigning his government with the US. Since then Mr Musharraf has stood behind the new Afghan government and sent thousands of soldiers to the border in search of al-Qaida militants and sympathetic locals.
Nevertheless, his officials argue that securing the long border is a near impossible task. Balochistan province, of which Quetta is capital, has just 6 million inhabitants but covers 44% of the country.
"The terrain is very favourable to the insurgents," says Shoukat Haider Changezi, director general of the Levies, a rural police force. "The state would need a phenomenal amount of resources to be effective."
But Mr Musharraf's Taliban policy has murky edges, say diplomats in Islamabad. Some of Pakistan's powerful Islamist radicals - a mix of clerics, army generals and spies - have retained their Taliban links. Mr Musharraf, mindful of potential upheaval, is careful not to crack down too heavily on them.
"There seems to be a twin-track policy, even if it sometimes moves in opposite directions," one western official says.
That policy means that, at the least, officials turn a blind eye to Taliban in centres such as Quetta. "This Taliban issue is very sensitive," admits the city's deputy police chief, Muhammad Riaz.
Quetta remains a centre of fundamentalist learning. Madrasas run by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami, a radical Islamist party, helped incubate a generation of Talib fighters in the 1990s. Today the schools are still open and their leaders are unapologetic.
"Yes we support the Taliban morally ... The holy Qur'an teaches that jihad is the responsibility of every Muslim," says Maulana Noor Muhammad, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami leader in Quetta, as he fingers his wooden prayer beads.
But he denies providing material support to the militants. "How can we? We have no military hardware and no money," he says, adding: "The Taliban will never be defeated."
Across the border in Singesar, the dusty village near Kandahar where the Taliban movement was born a decade ago, there is less certainty. Standing outside a ruined seminary where Mullah Mohammed Omar once taught, a grape farmer, Muhammad Ewaz, remembers the one-eyed leader as a "good, religious man".
"At least we had security then," he says, recalling how the Taliban imposed discipline by hanging thieves from tank barrels.
In contrast, he says, the government-allied militia forces are untrustworthy. "You see soldiers taking small boys to abuse them, engaging in dog fighting and smoking hashish. How can we trust them?"
The Taliban fled Singesar long ago, some across the border to Pakistan. But whether they are gone for good is impossible to know, Mr Ewaz says. "It depends on the new government," he shrugs. "For now, nobody knows."
Find stirs Sleeping Buddha talk
By Maseeh Rahman THE WASHINGTON TIMES
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — French archeologists searching for the colossal Sleeping Buddha in Bamiyan province have uncovered what could be the long-missing statue's foot, raising hopes of a major new discovery from Afghanistan's ancient Buddhist past.
Ever since the fundamentalist Taliban destroyed Bamiyan's 1,500-year-old Standing Buddhas in 2001 because they were "un-Islamic," attention has been focused on the hunt for the much larger Sleeping Buddha, described in the travel diary of the seventh-century Chinese monk Xuan Zang and depicted in cave paintings at the historic site in the Hindu Kush mountains west of Kabul.
Two years ago, a French team led by the Afghan-born archeologist Zemaryali Tarzi of Strasbourg University began excavations for the 985-foot-long reclining statue representing the Buddha in a state of "Mahapari nirvana," or ultimate enlightenment.
The dig finally may have yielded something promising.
"Professor Tarzi has found a structure which has still to be properly identified but which could be part of the foot of the Sleeping Buddha, maybe the toe," said Masanori Nagaoka, UNESCO's Kabul-based culture consultant.
"Alternatively, the structure could be the platform on which the giant statue reclined," he added.
The discovery just east of the site of the razed Buddhas has generated considerable excitement among the foreign experts working in the Bamiyan Valley.
"Along with this intriguing find, Professor Tarzi has excavated 11 fragments from smaller sculptures, including half-a-dozen heads and a torso," said Edmund Melzl, a German restorer with the International Council on Monuments and Sites.
"The torso still has some color on it," Mr. Melzl added. This is considered highly significant, because so few artifacts survive from Bamiyan's Buddhist past.
While the French have been digging, German specialists have been cataloguing and conserving the brittle debris from the destroyed 180-foot and 125-foot Standing Buddhas.
An Italian group is in charge of reinforcing the two empty niches where the imposing stone statues stood, while Japanese experts are restoring and preserving the surviving mural paintings in a few of the 1,000-plus caves along Bamiyan's magnificent, camel-colored cliffs.
The Japanese have also used state-of-the-art laser technology to survey the entire area, which could help uncover other buried Buddhist artifacts and sites. The results of the survey will be known next month.
The German, Italian and Japanese missions are funded by UNESCO, while the French archeologists are supported by their government and National Geographic magazine. With snow enveloping Bamiyan last week, all the missions have packed up for winter and will return next year.
"Until now, UNESCO has not focused on archaeological excavation, since for the first two years we had less than $2 million for the Bamiyan project," Mr. Nagaoka said.
He said UNESCO's Bamiyan Working Group is to meet in Tokyo Dec. 18-21 to plan the second phase of exploration at the historic Buddhist site. Mr. Tarzi has also been invited.
UNESCO has been under considerable pressure to help with the reconstruction of the Standing Buddhas. The people of Bamiyan province, Shi'ite Hazaras who suffered terribly under Taliban rule, want to see the statues rebuilt.
However, the rebuilding issue is generating controversy.
First, the statues cannot be made from the original material, because the rock face from which they were carved disappeared in the Taliban's dynamite-and-artillery vandalism.
The project could cost around $50 million, which some regard as a criminal waste of money in the country's destitute central highlands.
"There's also the question of which Buddhas to rebuild," said Mr. Nagaoka: "As the statues were in the seventh century [when they were partly covered with brass], or as they were just before the Taliban destroyed them?"
Mr. Tarzi has suggested that instead of rebuilding the Buddhas at great cost, a hologram of the statues should be projected into the niches. But if his mission to find the third colossal Buddha is successful, then Bamiyan could once again become a major destination for pilgrims and tourists.
The scale of the Sleeping Buddha, probably built in the second half of the sixth century when Bamiyan province was a major commercial and pilgrim center, is mind-boggling.
It would have been the length of three soccer fields, or the same size as the Eiffel Tower placed horizontally, with the Buddha's shoulder rising more than 80 feet.
For this reason experts believe the Sleeping Buddha was probably made of mud bricks rather than stone, and would have been highly susceptible to erosion and damage from nature and man.
The destruction would have accelerated after Buddhism faded from the Bamiyan Valley and was replaced by iconoclastic Islam.
"Following the Muslim invasion in A.D. 977, many of the bricks from the Sleeping Buddha could well have been used for building houses," Mr. Melzl said.
But Mr. Tarzi's discovery may finally help resolve the mystery of the missing Buddha.
Bush hosts Pakistani president for talks
By JENNIFER LOVEN ASSOCIATED PRESS Friday, December 3, 2004
WASHINGTON -- President Bush has a lot to talk about with his main Muslim ally in the war on terror, and at the top of the list is the U.S.-Pakistan alliance itself.
Bush's agenda for talks with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the Oval Office on Saturday included several sticky issues.
-The unsuccessful manhunt for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, which the Pakistan army indicated last month was being downgraded.
-Pakistan's nuclear-armed, often-hostile relationship with neighboring India, the world's largest democracy.
-The illicit nuclear trafficking of A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani scientist implicated in selling his country's nuclear secrets to Libya, North Korea, Iran and possibly other countries.
-Musharraf's own backtracking on a pledge to relinquish his military post.
Musharraf, whose visit was to congratulate Bush on his re-election, also has unanswered wishes for the administration.
He has repeatedly urged Washington to engage more aggressively in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He was expected to raise with Bush the need to help resolve that dispute as well as issues of poverty and illiteracy important to Muslims.
Despite such potentially irritable differences, nothing has dampened Washington's view of Pakistan as a crucial ally in the war on terror. In particular, Bush repeatedly cites Pakistan's capture of al-Qaida suspects, several of whom have been handed over to U.S. officials.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan acknowledged Friday that the administration believes Pakistan could do more in the search for bin Laden, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Overall, McClellan said, the two countries enjoy "good, close cooperation."
"We're going to continue working closely with them," he said. "We have good intelligence cooperation, and this is something that's a priority for both our nations."
McClellan also refused to criticized Musharraf directly on moves to allow him to remain as army chief.
The general, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, had pledged in December 2003 to relinquish his army uniform by the end of the year as part of a commitment to civilian rule. His government pushed through a law this year, however, to allow him to keep the separate role. That caused some quiet unease that Pakistan wasn't progressing toward democracy as had been hoped.
"We make our views very clear publicly and privately when it comes to our support for democracy and moving in that direction," McClellan said. "And there's some steps that Pakistan has taken. And we continue to talk to them about those issues."
U.S. officials are always mindful of the need to avoid upsetting Pakistan's delicate, turbulent internal politics, in which radical Islamic groups condemn Musharraf for backing the U.S.-led forces that ousted the Taliban militia from power in neighboring Afghanistan in 2001 and routed the al-Qaida fighters the Taliban had sheltered.
Reports ahead of Saturday's meeting talked of an impending deal for the United States to sell military surveillance airplanes, anti-tank missiles and other weapons worth more than $1 billion to Pakistan. McClellan said no announcement was imminent.
Musharraf scheduled a meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell later Saturday.
The Persian puzzle, or the CIA's?
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi / Asia Times Online December 3, 2004
TEHRAN - The Persian Puzzle is the name of a new book by Kenneth M Pollack, author of The Gathering Storm: The Case for Invasion of Iraq , widely regarded as a main justification for Iraq's illegal invasion last year. Pollack, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) analyst now at the Brookings Institution, seeks to explore the roots of problems between Iran and the United States over the past quarter-century. In so doing, however, Pollack unfortunately proves incapable of breaking free from a CIA school of thought that, in addition to denigrating Iran's national character, consistently predicts the imminent demise of the Islamic regime in Iran.
Concerning the former, much like Graham Fuller, another former CIA analyst and author of The Center of Universe: The Geopolitics of Iran (Westview Press, 1991), Pollack indulges in criticizing Iranian emotionalism, xenophobia, exaggerated "self-importance", "considerable ignorance of many of its policymakers", etc, thus making a mockery of objective analysis bereft of such abstract generalization smacking of what the late Edward Said labeled "Orientalism".
According to Pollack, the "clock is ticking" for regime change in Iran, reminding us of the rosy predictions of another CIA analyst, Raul Grecht, who in the early and mid-1990s wrote articles, for instance in the influential Foreign Affairs, under the pseudonym Edward Shirley, about the "meltdown" of the Islamic Republic of Iran, so imminent that Grecht advised the US government against even bothering to locate any moderates in the Iranian system in order to enter into dialogue with them.
A decade or so later, it is of course a legitimate question to ask what is behind this persistent CIA knack for vilifying Iranian national character and taking the risk of going on record with respect to regime change, even though there are few, if any, visible signs of regime change in today's Iran. Is it because of an undeclared, subliminal CIA grudge harking back to the 1979 Islamic Revolution that caught the US government totally by surprise, notwithstanding the complaint of then US president Jimmy Carter that a few months prior to the revolution he was never told by the agency that Iran was in a pre-revolutionary stage? Or is it because the CIA has received so much flak recently over what Pollack in his new book refers to as "our 25-year experience misstating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction" that the likes of Pollack want to redeem the agency in the guise of former CIA analysts?
Clearly, even with their high-tech pool of information, no present or former CIA analyst, or for that matter anyone else, is capable of historical clairvoyance with respect to a future regime change in Iran. Certainly, one may cite the indicators of regime instability and its opposite for a "scientific" study of political trends inside Iran enhancing the potential for political transformation, but to leapfrog from such limited studies to the categorical, albeit metaphoric, conclusion that the "clock is ticking" - in other words, it is simply a matter of time - is to substitute teleology for empirical research.
Related, Pollack presents a skewed analysis of post-revolutionary state-building in Iran and simultaneously refers to the present regime as the "worst sponsor of terrorism" and also as an increasingly moderate regime that "has no history of reckless behavior". At times, Pollack appears undecided as to where the chips are falling regarding the evolution of the Iranian system, contradicting himself particularly when discussing the Iranian nuclear issue.
On the one hand, Pollack claims that Iran's possession of nuclear bombs will stimulate a back-to-the-past policy of "aggressive" foreign policy by Tehran aimed at undermining its neighbors, using past tense, and on the other, accusing Tehran of precisely such "aggressive" actions as terrorism and subversion, using present tense. As a result, the book leaves a confusing impression of the post-ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini political system in Iran, partly due to Pollack's failure to touch on important facets of Iran's foreign policy, such as Iran's role in regional conflict management.
A major flaw of the book is that it claims that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) permits nuclear weaponization through "transparency", whereby all the fissile stages, save "loading the material" in a bomb, can be done under the watchful eyes of the NPT. This is, without doubt, a caricature of the NPT and its safeguard mechanisms, which Pollack may have been cognizant of had he devoted minimal attention to the intrusive Additional Protocol of the NPT, signed by Iran last December.
The biggest flaw of the book, however, is that it adds precious little to our knowledge of the subject matter. A fairly average summarizer of pre-existing approaches (eg, the grand bargain approach, which Pollack endorses by nuancing it), the book reads like a polished doctoral dissertation, and a mediocre one at that, one that insists Iran is to blame for most, if not all, of the problems in the current US-Iran quagmire, in part by psychologizing deep-seated, even structural conflict, and insisting that if only the Iranians could set aside their "emotionalism", then they could see the light of rapprochement with the US.
In an ideal world, authors explicitly espousing war and armed conflict would be chastised for contributing to "hate literature", and the likes of Pollack would at least not be treated as media celebrities as they are in the US today. But sadly we live in a unipolar Orwellian order where truth is a casualty of ideological warfare, espoused under the veneer of "clashing civilizations", and certainly ill-equipped to deconstruct the discourse of warmongers who use the considerable resources at their disposal to lay the groundwork of public diplomacy for America's next military gambit.
The Persian Puzzle is, in conclusion, highly recommended as a useful reading for the students of the CIA and the US government to decipher the riddle of a whole array of (former) CIA analysts sold to the historical determinism of regime change in Iran, as part and parcel of its perpetual demonization reaching its apex in George W Bush's "axis of evil".
Afghan Bowler Wants to Bring Sport Back
Fri Dec 3,11:44 AM ET By YEO GHIM LAY, Associated Press Writer
SINGAPORE - Two years ago, Atiq Sikander took up bowling. Now he wants to build a bowling alley in his war-torn homeland in Afghanistan .
"People used to play bowling in Afghanistan in the 1970s, but after all that has happened, probably 80 percent of Afghans now have never heard of bowling."
Sikander is the first Afghan to compete in bowling's World Cup, which begins in Singapore on Sunday and ends Dec. 12. Apart from Afghanistan, 96 countries are taking part, including fellow newcomers Libya and Tajikistan.
Sikander holds an Afghan passport but has lived in Bulgaria the past 16 years after moving there from Kabul with his family.
"I have been back to Afghanistan about six times in the last three years, but I'm mostly helping out in my family business in Bulgaria," he said.
Sikander was introduced to bowling two years ago when he visited Istanbul, Turkey.
"They had a bowling alley in the hotel and you could play free-of-charge," he said. "I enjoyed myself so much that I bowled everyday when I was there."
He continued bowling when he returned to Bulgaria.
"Mostly after work," he said. "Then one day, I noticed a man dropping by to observe me play."
That man was an official from Bulgaria's bowling federation and he asked Sikander to join a local bowling club. This is the first major tournament for Sikander, who paid for his trip to Singapore because there is no formal bowling organization in Afghanistan.
"I don't know if I made a mistake coming here," he said, laughing. "I am not expecting a lot of myself, but I came to see how the other bowlers play."
Sikander, who averages 180 to 210, doesn't want to put too much pressure on himself.
"I feel very good when I'm bowling," he said. "I forget about everything else and just relax."
Sikander wants to bring his love of the sport to his native country.
"War destroyed us," he said. "The Afghan people are eager to learn new things, but they do not have the facilities. I'm sure they will like bowling if they have a chance to play."
What Does a Second Bush Term Mean for Afghanistan?
Afghanistan Watch 12/03/2004 By Jeremy Barnicle
In President Bush's victory speech on November 3, the only foreign policy goal he highlighted for his second term was supporting "emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan so they can grow in strength and defend their freedom".
Let's table the chaotic situation in Iraq for a moment and consider what Bush's re-election means for Afghanistan.
Security. The Bush administration's priority for the U.S. military in Afghanistan has always been hunting down Al Qaeda and the Taliban insurgents. While the U.S. did temporarily deploy several hundred troops to help NATO provide security for the October presidential election, and it does deploy a tiny percentage of its force to Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the U.S. Army does not participate in the NATO-led ISAF peacekeeping force, which remains woefully undermanned. With pressure to bring troops home and to slow down the Army's operational tempo, Bush will reduce, not expand, the number of US soldiers on the ground in Afghanistan, even as security conditions threaten to deteriorate. This desire to reduce the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan when our allies are digging in for a longer haul threatens the country's prospects for peace and prosperity.
Reconstruction. Neither the U.S. nor most of its allies has fulfilled its pledges of reconstruction aid. Of the almost $12 billion the US spent in Afghanistan in the 2003 supplemental appropriation, more than $11 billion is authorized for military activities; what's left over goes to reconstruction and development. Given Bush's track record on meeting his pledges to the Afghans, it is not likely that spending will increase, despite Karzai's pleas for a greater American investment.
Dealing with opium. The U.S. acknowledges that opium production endangers democratic progress and stability in Afghanistan, but has thus far tried to avoid entanglements in fighting the drug trade. This week, however, the Washington Post reported that the administration will ask Congress for permission to re-purpose $700 million to help with poppy eradication in Afghanistan. While this move falls short of engaging U.S. soldiers to destroy poppy fields and only appears to allocate $100 million for the critical crop replacement component to help Afghan farmers, this request is at least philosophically a step in the right direction. (For new developments in the drug trade, including an analysis of the UN's annual opium report—released yesterday—see Afghanistan's Latest Drug Report: The Hidden Story.)
U.S. engagement will remain high. The Bush campaign has presented Afghanistan as the most successful episode in the longer narrative of the president's global war on terror—and they won't want to see the project fail and spoil his legacy. The Administration has a loyal friend in Hamid Karzai and a strong envoy in Afghan-American Zalmay Khalilzad, which means it will continue to care. Khalilzad is important to all this: he has Bush's ear and can ensure that the president stays engaged on the non-military aspects of U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. However, the U.S. must proceed with caution here. There were persistent concerns during the Afghan presidential campaign that Khalilzad was too heavy a presence in local politics. Karzai's rivals cried foul when the then-interim president was shuttled around in American military helicopters and made announcements of major U.S. aid projects on the eve of the election. While Afghans appear to accept Karzai as a legitimate head of state, the Americans must be mindful to keep their distance or they risk fanning criticism that Karzai is their puppet.
Along these lines, the urgency the Bush administration has put on Afghan democratization means that they will push hard for parliamentary elections to happen as scheduled this spring. Again, they need to approach that with caution: parliamentary elections are fundamentally more complicated than those for the presidency, and the administration needs to be willing to accept a delay if it becomes necessary.
Coalition not likely to change. Afghanistan is the one spot in the global war on terror where the Western alliance is supposed to be intact, but engagement is nevertheless fairly shallow. NATO's contribution to ISAF is valuable but insufficient, and the EU and its members are behind on their reconstruction pledges. In short, our allies could be doing much more in Afghanistan, and reasonable U.S. leadership could negotiate a greater contribution from them. It's impossible to know if this would have changed under a President Kerry, but there is little indication that it will improve during the second Bush term.
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