Karzai urges US to stay the course on Afghan reconstruction
Friday June 11, 10:55 AM AFP
Afghan President Hamid Karzai pleaded for the United States to maintain the flow of aid to his troubled country, ahead of meetings with US President George W. Bush and American lawmakers.
Karzai said his nation required "sustained, systematic assistance" from the United States in order to build on the reconstruction efforts undertaken since the ouster of the hard-line Islamic Taliban regime in late 2001.
"Our achievements, without your sustained assistance, may turn into no gains for us again," he told several hundred members of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
The 46-year-old leader of Afghanistan's transitional government used his speech to tout the achievement's of his country's fledgling democracy and the example it provided for other Muslim nations in the region.
Afghanistan's progress proved that "it is possible to have democracy in our part of the world", Karzai said, adding that the United States and the international community had a responsibility to oppose the kind of Islamic extremism that brought so much misery to the Afghan people.
In that context, he played down the Taliban-inspired insurgency that has claimed the lives of 16 foreigners and three Afghans employed by aid and reconstruction groups since early May.
"The return of the Taliban is absolutely not there," he said, adding that "the country is politically stable, politically united".
He also blamed the insurgency problem on the nation's "weak administration", which made it impossible for the Kabul government "to deliver the goods to the Afghan people like a normal government".
He particularly noted the weakness of Afghanistan's army, whose troops number 10,500 -- well short of the 70,000 officials estimate are required.
Karzai, who faces his first true electoral test in this September's elections, kicked off his eight-day trip by attending the G8 summit in Georgia.
He will attend Friday's state funeral for president Ronald Reagan, and is slated to meet with President Bush in the US capitol Tuesday. He will also address a joint session of the US Congress.
"Afghanistan's enemies" behind killing of Chinese workers: Karzai
KABUL (AFP) - The killing of 11 Chinese construction workers as they slept in tents in usually peaceful northeastern Afghanistan was the work of the country's enemies, President Hamid Karzai said.
In the United States to attend the G8 summit, Karzai condemned the brutal killing Thursday of the Chinese who were helping to a build a northern road between Kunduz and Baghlan provinces.
"The president realizes that this attack is the work of the enemies of Afghanistan who want to derail the process of national reconstruction in Afghanistan and this will not be tolerated," a statement from his office said on Friday.
Karzai asked that work continue on the road and said an investigation into the deaths had been launched.
On Thursday, acting President Mohammed Qasim Fahim, the defence minister who assumed the top role during Karzai's overseas trip, said the killings were the work of the ousted Taliban regime and their supporters.
"The acting president... considers the killings an inhumane act of those who try to place obstacles in the way of the reconstruction of Afghanistan and considers the network of Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their allies behind the incident," he said in a statement.
Fahim offered no evidence for his accusation.
The killings marked the mostly bloody attack on foreigners in war-weary Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
Taleban denies it murdered 11 Chinese in north Afghanistan
(AFP) 11 June 2004 Chicago Sun Times, IL
KABUL - The Taleban militia on Friday denied killing 11 Chinese workers in northeast Afghanistan, in the bloodiest attack on foreigners since their harsh five year rule was ended by US-led forces almost three years ago.
Abdul Latif Hakimi, claiming to represent remnants of the ousted Islamic fundamentalist militia, said the horrific killings of the sleeping road construction workers “should not have happened.”
“We deny the accusation of killing the Chinese workers in Kunduz province of Afghanistan,” told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“And that should not have happened.”
“When we do something we clearly claim responsibility for it... but we don’t claim what we have not done.”
President Hamid Karzai, in the United States to attend the G8 summit, blamed the killings on Afghanistan’s “enemies” while Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah said the cold-blooded murders were carried out by “terrorist elements.”
Acting President Mohammed Qasim Fahim, the defence minister standing in for Karzai, on Thursday blamed the Taleban and their supporters.
“The acting president... considers the killings an inhumane act of those who try to place obstacles in the way of the reconstruction of Afghanistan and considers the network of Taleban, Al Qaeda and their allies behind the incident,” a statement said.
Hakimi said the Chinese reconstruction workers had not been targeted because they were not working for “American goals” or the UN.
“UNAMA (the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) is... taking their orders from the Americans and some other organizations such as MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres) are working for the interests of the Americans so they are our targets,” he said.
“The rest of the organizations are safe and can continue their work.”
Three Europeans working for Medecins Sans Frontieres were killed along with two Afghan support staff on June 2 when their vehicle was ambushed and shot at in northwestern Badghis province.
The aid group has previously criticised the US-led coalition in Afghanistan and is politically independent.
Road construction workers, particularly those working on the US-backed Kabul to Kandahar highway project, have been targeted by militants in the past.
A Turkish engineer was killed during an ambush on the Kabul-Kandahar road in the southeastern province of Zabul in early March.
Afghan govt condemns killing of 11 Chinese workers
KABUL - The Afghan government condemned the brutal killing of 11 Chinese workers in northern Afghanistan, describing it as a cowardly act of terrorism, a statement issued by the office of presidential spokesman said Thursday.
"Acting President of the Islamic Transitional State of Afghanistan Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim terms the murdering of Chinese workers as a terrorist, inhumane act and strongly condemns it," added the statement issued in the afternoon.
Blaming al-Qaeda's for the attack, Fahim said that terror network of al-Qaeda and its supporters were behind the incident to disrupt the ongoing rebuilding process in the country. In the bloody attack carried out by some 20 armed men at 01:00 am Thursday on a Chinese company's compound 36 km away from Kunduzcity, 11 workers were killed and four others injured.
The acting president in the statement assured that the government would spare no efforts to identify the culprits and bring them to justice. The Afghan government has tasked a high ranking delegation to visit the site of the event and initiate a thorough investigation on the incident. "The Acting President is also extending his condolences to Excellencies Chinese President, Chinese Premier and the families of the victims," the statement added.
China expresses anger over terrorist attacks in Afghanistan
BEIJING - China was shocked and angry about the terrorist attacks against Chinese workers in Afghanistan, said Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo here Thursday in a phone conversation with Afghan Vice Foreign Minister Zalmay Aziz. More than 20 gunmen raided a Chinese construction site in northern Afghanistan early Thursday, and 11 Chinese workers have so far been confirmed killed and four others wounded.
Chinese leaders attached great importance to the tragedy, strongly condemning the atrocious terrorist activities, said Dai. Dai said the Chinese leaders instructed the Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan to work closely with the Afghan government and the UN assistance team to put all their strength into rescuing the injured workers and properly deal with the remaining problems.
The Chinese side asked the Afghan government to take all measures possible to help rescue the injured workers, ensure the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel and their property inthe country, and meanwhile launch an investigation into the incident and bring the murderers to justice, Dai said.
Aziz condemned the attacks and expressed condolences to the victims, saying the Afghan leaders attached great importance to the incident, and had instructed relevant departments to hunt downand severely punish the murderers.
The Afghan side will cooperate well with the Chinese side in rescuing the injured and dealing with the aftermath, and take all measures to guarantee the safety of Chinese personnel in Afghanistan, Aziz said. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOC) also expressed deep concern about the attack, saying that it will take any measure necessary to help properly handle the aftermath work.
According to the MOC, the attacked site belongs to a road reconstruction project in Afghanistan, which was a Word Bank-funded one with a total contractual volume of 22.45 million US dollars. The Ministry of Commerce said that 123 Chinese workers from the victims' company were working on the site.
Eleven Chinese dead in Afghan terrorist attack, news black-out imposed
Shanghai. (Interfax-China) - The Chinese Embassy in Afghanistan has confirmed that 11 Chinese road workers were killed as armed terrorists broke into a construction site near the northern Afghan province of Kunduz and opened fire after midnight on June 10.
The attack took place at around 1 a.m. local time. Security guards on the site exchanged fire with the attackers, numbered at more than 20, but failed to keep them off, said the semi-official news wire Zhongguo Xinwen She (China News Service).
Sun Yuxi, the Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan, has demanded that those injured in the attack be treated in the best hospital in Afghanistan and asked for strengthened security efforts from the Afghan government to guarantee the safety of other Chinese workers in Afghanistan. He also urged the local government to find the "real" perpetrators of the attack as soon as possible.
The workers, employed by the China Railway Shisiju Group Corp. (RSS), a state-owned construction contractor, were in Afghanistan to undertake repair work for a 232-km road in Kunduz. The project is funded by the World Bank and was granted to RSS through bidding late last year.
"Staff from top to bottom at the company are infuriated by the attack and strongly condemn the terrorist act," said a spokesman with RSS, speaking with Interfax by telephone. An investigation team headed by RSS's vice president is leaving for Kabul today to handle the aftermath of the attack, said the spokesman. However, he would not release the total number of Chinese workers sent to Afghanistan to carry out the project.
The identities of 10 of the 11 workers killed have been confirmed and their names listed by the state media. The name of the other worker is still being verified. A de facto media black-out on follow-up reports about the attack has also been enforced by the Ministry, which has forbidden the China Railway Shisiju Group Corp. (RSS), the company employing the workers, from disclosing any detailed information about the victims or about the project undertaken by it in Afghanistan, an RSS PR official surnamed Li told Interfax.
RSS previously planned to hold a press conference at 5 p.m. today at its headquarters in Jinan, Shandong Province, 12 hours after the attack took place. A profile of the company's activities in Afghanistan, including the number of the Chinese workers staying there, was expected to be released at the conference.
"We believe the ban from the Foreign Ministry has good reason. They want a single voice on this issue for fear that China's international image may be compromised," said Li. He suggested that exceptional treatment may be given to CCTV and Xinhua later. China's Foreign Ministry has yet to make any official comment on the incident. Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is on an official visit to Poland, strongly condemned the act as "brutal and inhumane, said the official news agency Xinhua.
Apart from the Kunduz project, RSS is the contractor for a EU-funded 74.3-km road repair project in Jalalabad. The road, in eastern Afghanistan, is on the way from Kabul to Turkam, the point of entry to Peshawar, Pakistan. China claimed in 2002 that it would provide up to USD 155 mln in financial aid to Afghanistan over the next five years. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said in April that USD 47 mln had been paid out by then and another USD 15 mln would be provided by the end of this year.
Furthermore, China has taken an active part in local infrastructure reconstruction. It is involved with hospital and dam projects and is preparing to open an institute for training Afghan diplomats. However, there is only one Chinese peace-keeper in Afghanistan so far.
With more and more Chinese companies going abroad in search of business opportunities, there is a growing number of overseas Chinese becoming the victims of local conflicts. Earlier this year, two Chinese oil workers were killed and two others kidnapped by militants in Sudan, where China's largest overseas oil production base is located. The attack in Kunduz marks the first major incident that China has encountered in the last two years in Afghanistan, according to China Daily, a domestic English-language newspaper.
Secretary-General condemns killing of 11 Chinese workers, Afghan guard in 'contemptible' attack on unarmed civilians in Afghanistan
Source: UN Secretary-General 10 Jun 2004
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
The Secretary-General was shocked to learn of the killing, last night, of 11 Chinese construction workers and their Afghan guard on the outskirts of Kunduz city in northern Afghanistan. He condemns this outrageous and contemptible act against unarmed civilians, which also left five Chinese workers wounded.
This appalling attack follows a series of other incidents directed against those working in support of the Bonn peace process. The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Afghanistan, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan (ISAF), and Coalition forces to take the necessary measures to address the security situation.
The Secretary-General expresses his profound condolences to the Chinese Government and to the bereaved families.
Rebuilding activities to continue in Afghanistan: Chinese ambassador
KABUL - Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan Sun Yuxi said the gruesome terror incident which claimed 11 lives of his compatriots in northern Kunduz province would not affect rebuilding activities in the region, Afghan national television reported Thursday evening.
While condemning the coward incident, Chinese ambassador said "he did not want the project and the asphalting of the road to be stopped," the Afghan national television quoted him as saying.
As a result of a terrorist attack carried out by some 20 armed men in the early hours on Thursday at the Chinese workers compoundin Jalogir area 36 km away from Kunduz city, 11 people were killed and four others injured.
The workers belonged to China Railway Shisiju Group Corporation engaged in rebuilding roads in the post-war Afghanistan.
Around 320 Chinese workers have been working at four sites in Parwan's irrigation canal, Kubul-Jalalabad highway, Baghlan-Kunduz road and Jamhoriat hospital in Kabul city.
Afghanistan's acting President Qasim Fahim has instructed a high-ranking delegation to visit the site of the attack and initiate a thorough investigation into the incident.
Violence spreads shadow across Afghanistan ahead of elections
Friday June 11, 9:51 AM AFP
Bloody attacks against foreigners in northern areas of Afghanistan previously considered the safest in the country have renewed concerns within the government and among observers that a resurgent Taliban could invalidate elections.
Presidential and parliamentary polls have been set for September, but in the lead-up to the elections the security situation has deteriorated in the south and southeast and along the border with Pakistan because of suspected Taliban.
With the latest attacks in the north, there are fears that the insurgency is creeping into once-stable areas.
On Thursday, 11 Chinese road workers were shot dead as they slept in tents in northeastern Kunduz province. It is the deadliest attack against foreigners since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
The same day a bomb believed to be planted for UN vehicles exploded on the main road joining the two northern provinces of Takhar and Kunduz. It caused no casualties or damage, provincial military spokesman Jan Agha said.
Last week, three Europeans and two Afghans working for Medecins Sans Frontieres were ambushed and shot dead in northwestern Badghis.
The electoral commission, which is working with the UN to organise the polls, said Thursday it was concerned about the violence but was committed to holding the voting on time. The United Nations said Thursday voter registration had been suspended in Kunduz following the attack.
"Security is our prime concern ... but this does not mean it is halting our process," the commission's spokesman Sayeed Azam told AFP.
The Defense Ministry remains confident it will tackle the insurgency, in combination with assistance from the 20,000-strong US-led coalition in the country and NATO-led peacekeepers.
"Of course it concerns us but we have good enough preparations to provide security for the elections and defeat the remnants of Taliban," spokesman Mohammed Zahir Azimi said.
But others remain unconvinced about the feasibility of holding Afghanistan's first democratic elections while intensified attacks continue.
"With each passing day security is weakening rather than improving and this is especially alarming ahead of elections," said Nasrullah Staniczai, political analyst and lecturer at Kabul University.
"The activity of Taliban ahead of elections, especially in the north of the country, is definitely closely related to elections," he said.
The militants were determined to halt voter registration, a process ongoing since December, and destroy the electoral process, he added.
Remnants of the ousted Taliban regime and their Al-Qaeda allies have stepped up attacks across Afghanistan in recent weeks and have threatened to disrupt the elections.
Director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit think-tank Andrew Wilder said it was hard to see a healthy number of voters being registered amid the deteriorating security situation.
"If they are having attacks in Badghis and Kunduz, which are perceived to be the safest places in Afghanistan, nowhere can be viewed as safe anymore," he told AFP.
"It's hard to see how the UN and the government is going to be able to register the numbers needed for these elections to be credible."
So far some three million people have registered of an estimated 10 million eligible Afghans but the majority of these have been in city areas.
It is not known who is responsible for the latest attacks on foreigners but government officials have pointed the finger at Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other militants.
Acting Afghan President Mohammed Qasim Fahim said he "considers the network of Taliban, Al-Qaeda and their allies behind the incident" in Kunduz.
"The attackers could belong to three groups: Hezb-i Islami, Taliban or Al-Qaeda," said Kunduz police chief General Abdul Alil Andrabi. Hezb-i-Islami is an Islamic fundamentalist group headed by fugitive warlord and former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Since early May, 16 foreigners and three Afghans working for aid and reconstruction groups have been killed in Afghanistan.
Two others, a Swiss man and a Norwegian man believed to be tourists, were also found murdered in a Kabul park.
The attacks in the north come as a huge joint Afghan and US-led coalition sweep operation is ongoing in the southern mountains which has left dozens of Taliban fighters dead.
NATO faces challenges in Afghan role
BRUSSELS, June 10 (Xinhua) -- NATO may suffer setbacks as it will probably fail to meet the June 28-29 summit deadline it set for an expansion of its peacekeeping force in Afghanistan because allies have not offered sufficient specialist forces and equipment.
The failure would be a blow to the US-led alliance's credibility And leave little time to widen the net of security in Afghanistan before general elections in September, analysts said.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which took over command of the Kabul-based International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) last August, had pledged to establish and put into operation five military-civilian reconstruction teams in the country's relatively stable north and west in time for its summit in Istanbul, Turkey, but it now looks set to have the bare bones of just two in the north.
"Failure will completely damage NATO's credibility in finding a role in the post-cold war era," a senior military official said.
Even if the five teams are set up, the 26-member NATO cannot Provide the backup, such as logistics, communications and aircraft, for Ensuring security during the planned elections.
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters after meeting NATO ambassadors here last week that the five reconstruction teams would be "identified" before the Istanbul summit but not operational until the end of the summer. "It's unlikely that even the two in north will be operational by Istanbul," said one NATO diplomat.
Afghanistan is seen as the test case for NATO's ability to operate "out of area." NATO has under its command 6,500 peacekeepers from 35 countries in Afghanistan. In addition to the peacekeeping force, there are 20,000 US-led troops in the country hunting Taliban and al-Qaeda guerrillas, including Osama bin Laden.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has been anxious about the progress of the alliance's first mission away from its European base. He has repeatedly urged the member states to immediately deliver promised personnel and equipment.
"We can provide only limited security. This has been an extraordinarily bruising experience," a NATO diplomat said.
The blunt warnings reflect a collapse of morale inside the alliance just as it is recovering from the bitter disputes during the run-up to the US-led war in Iraq last year.
Diplomats said the low morale stemmed from frustration among NATO's top civilian and military staff after attempts to persuade member nations to deliver to Afghanistan military capabilities promised six months ago.
Meanwhile, violence is escalating in Afghanistan as emboldened Islamic militants from the ousted Taliban regime resort to new methods of killing and operate in areas previously deemed relatively safe. "The situation is getting dangerous," warned General Khan Mohammad, a top Afghan military officer who oversees four of the worst-affected provinces in the troubled south.
Since last August, more than 700 people have been killed across Afghanistan, most of them in Taliban-linked attacks.
In all, 27 peacekeepers have died in the country since the defeat Of the Taliban by US-led forces in 2001, including fatalities in accidents. In addition, 62 Spanish soldiers died in a plane crash in May 2003 as they were returning home.
The growing security crisis comes at a very bad time -- just as the government in Kabul is preparing for the landmark elections which President Hamid Karzai hopes will legitimize his authority in the eyes of ordinary Afghans.
"We are approaching the critical stage for elections and there will be forces of Taliban and al-Qaeda supporters and others that will attempt to thwart those elections," said NATO Parliamentary President Doug Bereuter at a meeting to open the alliance's parliamentary spring session in the Slovak capital Bratislava on May 28.
NATO leaders are expected to discuss the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan at the forthcoming Istanbul summit. However, it is not clear whether the alliance could take effective actions to deal with the difficulties it faces in the troubled country.
Experts Ponder Motives Behind Karzai's Private Talks With Warlords
By Ron Synovitz - Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai is denying reports that recent meetings with some of Afghanistan's regional warlords resulted in a political deal for governing the country after September elections. But experts on Afghanistan say they believe there may have been some agreement between Karzai and the powerful regional militia commanders aimed at enhancing the registration of voters.
Prague - Hamid Karzai, who is widely expected to win Afghanistan's presidential elections in September, has admitted that he met privately during the past two weeks with several of the powerful warlords who control large areas outside Kabul.
But Karzai has vehemently denied rumors in the capital that he made a deal to form a coalition government with the regional militia commanders. In an interview with "The Washington Post" earlier this week, Karzai said regional militia commanders have offered not to field a candidate against him in September's elections out of a sense of patriotism. Karzai said the commanders agreed that competitive elections between polarized factions in Afghanistan could easily degenerate into an armed conflict. Karzai also said he wants to bring the militia leaders into the political process rather than "push them into a corner" or "frighten them away."
Christopher Langton, the head of defense analysis at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, told RFE/RL today that he suspects Karzai may have engaged in some political bargaining with the militia bosses.
"[There are a couple of things to say] about a possible deal between Karzai and people we used to call 'warlords,' who probably still are to some extent -- principally Ismail Khan [in the western Afghan province of Herat], [General Abdul Rashid] Dostum [in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif], and maybe his own Minister of Defense [Mohammad Qasim] Fahim," Langton said. "A couple of weeks ago, they agreed in principal that they would not stand against him as president -- which, in a sense, is the beginning of a deal already. I would suspect that he has said to them: 'In return for this, which also means that you are not going to destabilize my leadership, I will give you a certain amount of autonomy.'"
Langton said he also believes Karzai will try to reach agreements with Pashtun tribal leaders in southern Afghanistan in order to make it easier and safer for election officials to register voters ahead of the September polls.
"When we talk about warlords and chieftains in [the southern] part of the country, I suspect again that Karzai will be seeking a traditional Afghan approach in order to allow registration to go on," Langton said. "In other words, he'll be saying to the Pashtun tribal chiefs, 'Let's have some peace and quiet and allow this activity to happen -- allow the elections to happen.' Now, I'm not quite sure what he will [offer] in return, but it is a truly Afghan way of doing business. We shouldn't be surprised."
Despite Langton's suspicions about what Karzai may be saying to the militia commanders in private talks, he concluded that it would be wrong to imply anything sinister or underhanded about those meetings.
"I think 'deal' is too strong a word," Langton said. "'Deal' tends to imply some kind of underhand wheeling and dealing. I think what they've probably been doing is recognizing the differences in the different parts of the country. And therefore, logically, there has to be a separate approach to each power base in each part of the country in order to make the elections work. Therefore, I suspect behind this story, the fact is probably that Karzai has been talking to them individually and explaining his position -- and explaining that their position is not threatened by this [electoral] process. I think [Karzai's meetings have been] more a process of explanation, rationalization and, maybe, a certain amount of compromise in order that the elections can go ahead. And that is the priority."
Some of the officials in the Afghan Transitional Authority say they have been angered by rumors of coalition talks between Karzai and the militia commanders. Deputy Information Minister Abdul Hamid Mobarez has said Karzai could undermine Afghanistan's fragile democratic reforms by forming a coalition with religious fundamentalists who control their own private armies.
That view is supported by Jon Sifton, a researcher on Afghanistan for the U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch. In an interview with RFE/RL, Sifton also said he is unsure about the veracity of rumors suggesting a coalition deal between Karzai and Afghan warlords. But Sifton said his organization is concerned that political bargaining between Karzai and the militia commanders could undermine the long-term prospects for peace and stability in the country.
"We don't know if there has been a deal," Sifton said. "But we do know that President Karzai has been talking to several of these personalities -- these recalcitrant, autonomous regional commanders like Ismail Khan and General Dostum in the north. We are concerned that instead of serving to make the elections more free and fair -- which is what President Karzai claims he is trying to do by talking to these men -- it is [really] no more than political bargaining."
Sifton concluded that Karzai's approach to Afghanistan's rival militia commanders could entrench their powers further rather than accomplish what most Afghans want to see -- a reduction in the powers of the warlords.
"President Karzai has to understand that Afghanistan's future doesn't lie with facilitating a peace agreement between different warlords," Sifton said. "It lies in reestablishing a legitimate civilian government through free and fair elections. Peace is important, and it is important to keep these rival militias from fighting. But the way to ultimately prevent them from being a problem in Afghanistan's future is to marginalize them from the governance of Afghanistan by having free and fair elections. President Karzai has taken a sort of 'go-it-slow' diplomatic approach with the warlords. This isn't working. All it is doing is serving to entrench the warlords and make it more difficult to get rid of them in the long term."
For his part, Karzai has said the most important goal for Afghanistan is to establish a strong and stable government. He said attaining that goal is an even higher priority than creating a perfect democracy.
Karzai told "The Washington Post" that if Afghanistan must choose between peace and security or holding competitive elections, the decision must be made "very carefully."
US troops sweep Afghanistan's former Taliban heartlands
Thu Jun 10,12:08 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - US-led troops carried out sweeps of former Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan Thursday as part of an offensive aimed at stemming a spiral of violence in the lead-up to September elections, officials said.
The sweeps in the southern regions came as violence spread to Afghanistan's usually quiet north, where militants killed 11 Chinese road workers early Thursday and three European aid workers last week.
"The operation in the (southcentral) area is still going on," military spokesman for southern Afghanistan, General Abdul Wasay, told AFP.
Around 70 suspected militants have been killed since the US-led operation in southcentral Uruzgan and southeastern Zabul began last week, southern Kandahar's military commander Khan Mohammed told AFP Wednesday.
"Most of the people killed have died due to bombings in different mountainous areas," Khan Mohammed said. "As we go into areas and secure them we find bodies lying here and there."
"Coalition planes are patrolling the valleys," he said Thursday.
More than 20 insurgents were killed in action and eight were captured Wednesday, US army spokeswoman Master Sergeant Cindy Beam said Thursday.
The latest operations are the result of coalition pushes against militants in former heartlands of the toppled Taliban regime, which include the neighbouring provinces of Uruzgan, southern Kandahar and Zabul.
Led by some 2,200 US marines deployed since April to hunt and kill Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other insurgents, the US-led force has been taking "offensive" action to secure the area ahead of the September presidential and parliamentary polls.
"The coalition will provide an overall security framework, particularly throughout the more contentious area of the country," US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager said Wednesday.
The operation, centered in Deh Chopan district of Zabul some 300 kilometres (186 miles) southwest of Kabul, comes as Pakistani soldiers battle with militants on their side of the border.
Militants attacked Pakistani army posts with rockets early Wednesday and Thursday.
Wednesday's attack triggered day-long clashes between security forces and Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in which 20 foreign militants were killed, Pakistani security officials said. Three civilians and a paramilitary soldier were also killed.
In a separate incident near the Pakistan border, a US convoy survived a roadside bomb blast in Khost province Thursday, officials said.
The explosion shattered the windows of a US-led coalition vehicle as the convoy patrolled in Bak district of Khost province, some 140 kilometers (87 miles) southeast of Kabul, provincial military commander Khial Baz Khan told AFP.
"There were three bombs, one went off but the two others were defused by the soldiers," Khan said.
The US military confirmed that one vehicle had been damaged by a mine in Khost.
As the security sweeps were under way in Afghanistan's south, one of the worst attacks on foreigners since the fall of the Taliban occurred in the usually peaceful north when 11 Chinese construction workers were gunned down in their sleep Thursday.
Around 20 armed men stormed a compound housing Chinese workers building a road in Kunduz province, 250 kilometres (150 miles) north of Kabul, and opened fire on the workers with automatic weapons, the Chinese embassy said.
On June 2 three Europeans working for Medecins Sans Frontieres and their two local assistants were shot dead on a road in the northwest province of Badghis.
US turns to Sri Lanka for tactics to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan
Thu Jun 10,10:09 AM ET
COLOMBO (AFP) - The United States can learn from the Sri Lankan military's bloody war with Tamil Tiger rebels as it fights insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, a top US army commander said.
Lieutenant General James L. Campbell, commander of the US Army in the Pacific, said he was looking into the possibilities of military cooperation between the two countries to help the United States learn tactics.
"Sri Lankan security forces have experience in facing the kind of situation that our men and women are facing today in Iraq and Afghanistan," Campbell told reporters during a visit to the Sri Lankan military headquarters.
"We can benefit from the tactics and on dealing with improvised explosive devices. ... We can learn from them how best to deal with such things," he said.
Sri Lankan army chief Lionel Balagalle said: "Our troops have learnt the hard way and we are prepared to share our knowledge with each other."
The Sri Lankan military has suffered heavy casualties in the three-decade ethnic war, losing 18,000 troops until a Norwegian-brokered truce went into effect in February 2002.
The Tigers, who have been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland, have incurred similar casualties while more than 20,000 civilians are estimated to have died.
Both Sri Lankan forces and the rebels have been accused of gross human rights violations, although the two sides later began lessons conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross on how to treat civilians under the Geneva Conventions.
Campbell is due on Saturday to open Sri Lanka's first peacekeeping exercise, hosted jointly by the United States, that will also train troops from Bangladesh, Nepal and Mongolia.
Campbell said Sri Lanka sending 750 troopers to Haiti next month as part of a UN force was a sign of Sri Lanka emerging as a key nation in international peacekeeping.
Sri Lanka has sought UN peacekeeping slots for soldiers who are likely to be demobilised once a final settlement is reached in the Tamil separatist conflict.
But Balagalle said there was no decision to send Sri Lankan troops to Iraq or Afghanistan.
"That is a foreign policy decision for the government and there is no such decision at the moment," Balagalle said.
Alabama company to secure communciation lines in Iraq, Afghanistan
CROPWELL, Ala. - A company based in St. Clair County will send workers to Iraq and Afghanistan next week to set up secure communication lines at U.S. military and government installations, an official said.
Up to 12 employees of Splice-Co Inc., which has done telephone cable plant installation work and upgrades at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, will depart June 18, said company president Jim Morris.
In Iraq, Splice-Co teams have a 30-day contract to secure the communications setup at a U.S. government complex in Baghdad. They have a contract for similar work, expected to take about two months, at a military installation in Balad, north of the capital. The first phase of the Baghdad project should be finished by June 30, the date for the U.S.-led occupation to formally end.
In Afghanistan, the Splice-Co team will be working at two U.S. government compounds to secure telephone lines, Morris said.
Oscar Harrington of Pell City, who was the first employee hired when Splice-Co was founded in 1978, will be the team leader in Baghdad, Morris said. Splice-Co has 55 employees, with four in Cropwell and the rest usually working overseas or in transit.
A majority of the employees have worked in security or intelligence for the federal government, he said.
Splice-Co is primarily in the business of setting up systems to keep telephone lines, e-mails and other forms of communication from being tapped or monitored. It has teams at work in Angola, Chile, Japan and Bolivia.
"Our people overseas tend to do everything they can to stay out of the U.S. because they tend to get the fever and want to travel a lot of the time," Morris said. "They have a hard time adjusting to U.S. life because they get used to war-torn and Third World countries."
Dane Claims He Witnessed Afghan Abuse
Thu Jun 10,11:35 AM ET By JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press Writer
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Denmark said Thursday it opened an investigation into claims by a translator for Danish and U.S. troops in Afghanistan that he witnessed incidents of torture and killing of prisoners in American custody two years ago.
Denmark's military prosecutors will determine whether the claims can be substantiated, said Cmdr. Torben Martinsen, a spokesman for the Defense Command, the country's top military authority.
Martinsen refused to release details about the Danish translators claims, including the number of alleged victims. The man was not identified by name nor was it known if he was a military man or civilian working with the 100 Danish soldiers on assignment in Afghanistan in 2002.
The allegation came days after the U.S. government ordered a snap review of its military's handling of prisoners in Afghanistan. The scandal over abuse of Iraqi prisoners has drawn new attention to allegations of mistreatment in Afghanistan, including the deaths of three prisoners in custody.
The translator worked in Kandahar, the main U.S. military base in southern Afghanistan, where he "assisted the Americans' questioning of prisoners," Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade said.
The U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen declined to comment on the report.
In May, a Danish medic working in Iraq claimed that British troops in September 2003 had beaten two Iraqis during a field interrogation, including one who allegedly died.
Gade said Britain's Royal Military Police will send an investigator to Denmark to gather information as part of a British probe. Denmark's nearly 500 troops in southern Iraq are under British command.
U.S. gives equipment to Uzbek security agencies to fight drugs, weapons trafficking
Associated Press Thursday June 10, 8:51 PM
The United States gave US$6 million in equipment to Uzbek security agencies on Thursday to help its key Central Asian ally fight trafficking of drugs and weapons of mass destruction.
The donation included radio communication gear, laboratory equipment and computers, the U.S. Embassy said.
The Uzbek agencies receiving the supplies include the Defense Ministry, border guards, customs service, Interior Ministry and the National Security Service, the former KGB.
Borders across Central Asia are often loosely controlled, having only started to be enforced since the 1991 Soviet collapse when the five countries became independent nations. Drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan plagues the region.
Last week, the United States and Uzbekistan also signed a deal for US$1 million in aid to help bolster law enforcement reform.
However, future U.S. aid to the Uzbek government _ about a quarter of the US$55 million budgeted for the country in 2004 _ is conditional on whether the country has made progress on human rights and democracy under a 2002 strategic partnership agreement. The U.S. State Department has said no decision has yet been made.
Toll from clashes on Afghan-Pakistan frontier rises to 53
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Fierce gunbattles on the Pakistani-Afghan border earlier this week left 35 foreign militants and 15 troops dead, the military said.
It issued a formal statement saying "foreign elements" targeted army positions with "unprovoked firing" on Wednesday and occupied a tribal residential compound where they used women and children as human shields.
"As a result of the firefight that ensued, the miscreants lost over 35 men, whereas the security forces lost 15," the military statement said on Friday.
Three civilians were also killed in the crossfire, the region's security chief Brigadier Mahmood Shah said Thursday.
Troops and insurgents battled each other all Wednesday with mortars and heavy weapons after insurgents fired rockets at three army posts before dawn then holed themselves up in a home in the village of Torwam near Shakai, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of the South Waziristan capital Wana.
Rockets rained down on army posts again Thursday on Wana's western outskirts, but no casualties were reported.
The clashes were the first since the army wound down a major offensive late March after losing 46 troops and offered an amnesty to hundreds of foreign fighters hiding in the area and their local tribal allies.
The military accused "local facilitators" of abusing efforts to reach a non-military solution through the amnesty deal and said the attacks on army posts were an "abuse of the government's sincere offer" of amnesty.
"The government was left with no choice but to respond in order to establish its writ and eliminate these foreign elements that, along with their accomplices, had not only taken the local population hostage but were also a nuisance for the entire area.
Bay Area Afghans lament leader's cancellation
Mercury News 06/10/2004 By Lisa Fernandez
Afghan emigres in the Bay Area were disappointed Wednesday to learn that Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, canceled Saturday's scheduled visit to the University of California-Davis campus because he would be attending former President Reagan's funeral the day before on the East Coast.
``We really hoped that he would have come,'' said Rona Popal, executive director of the Afghan Coalition in Fremont, an agency that was helping organize his talk at the university. ``A lot of our community would like to hear from him what's going on. Some day, Afghans might want to go back home, and they want to see where Afghanistan is. Is there opportunity for them, or is there chaos?''
Popal then listed the dominant issues in the Afghan immigrant community.
``We want to hear about elections, why they're going so slow, and we want to hear about women's issues, and why there is so much inflation,'' she said. ``I hope next time he should take the time and come and talk to the community.''
Popal learned Tuesday night from the Afghan embassy in Washington, D.C., that Karzai had canceled.
Karzai had planned to accompany U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman to Davis to discuss efforts to restore agriculture in Afghanistan that the university is aiding. The visit would have been Karzai's first to Northern California.
But Karzai's decision to attend Reagan's funeral Friday in Washington led to him canceling his Davis visit, as well as a scheduled Friday meeting in Los Angeles with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said.
Karzai was scheduled to attend a luncheon and public forum that were expected to draw more than 5,000 people to the Davis campus, including many from Northern California's Afghan community, the country's largest, with an estimated 40,000 residents.
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