Karzai: Afghan Election Delays Unlikely
Sun Jun 13, 3:12 PM ET By WILLIAM C. MANN, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Afghanistan's first elections since the United States drove out the Taliban rulers in 2002 are on track for September, three months later than originally scheduled, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Sunday.
Karzai said he and the Afghan people are eager to ratify the democratic system, and he predicted 4 million people will be registered by midweek. Fewer than 10 million of the South Asian country's almost 29 million people are qualified to vote.
"We want it very much definitely to be held in September," Karzai said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I feel confident because the Afghan people want it very much. We are under pressure from the Afghan people to expedite registration to reach the villages, and the Afghan people want to elect their government."
In March, Karzai heeded warnings of the United Nations that security and logistical problems made a June election risky and postponed the voted until September.
He said on CNN's "Late Edition" that officials in Kabul, the capital, told him Saturday that 3.7 million people were registered, "and by the time it's Tuesday or Wednesday, we will definitely have at least 4 million people registered."
"Now if this trend continues for another two months," Karzai said, "with the current registration we have, we should be very much on course for elections."
He said the 10 million figure may be high for the number qualified to register and set the figure at perhaps 7 million to 8 million. "If we reach the 6 million mark, we will be very, very happy, in that we're a legitimate mark to go for election now," he said.
Karzai, who is president by vote of a loya jirga, or grand council, under traditional Afghan practice, is running for the presidency against a number of challengers.
"If we have elections, and if in that election, I win, I'll be very happy," Karzai said on CNN. "If I lose, I'll be happy again, because through that we will have taken Afghanistan through a transition to a higher state of legitimacy and democratic existence."
One of the biggest problems facing Afghanistan's first elected post-Taliban government will be the country's illicit cultivation of opium poppies, which satisfied almost three-fourths of the world's opium demand last year. The trade, 20 times that during the Taliban's last year, brought in $2.3 billion, more than half Afghanistan's gross domestic product. Experts expect plantings to be bigger this year to a record level.
Karzai said illegal drug production is more dangerous for Afghanistan than for other countries. "This production of poppies supports terrorism. It criminalizes the economy. It undermines institution-building in Afghanistan. Afghanistan will have to destroy it, for the sake of the Afghan people and also because of the world," he said.
He blamed poor government policy for a huge rise in poppy production two years ago. Farmers were paid to destroy their plants.
"This encouraged every other person to grow poppies, thinking that if they grow poppies, we would rather pay them and destroy their poppies or, if we don't, they will have the poppies," Karzai said.
"Last year we recognized it and we began to destroy poppies. This year again we have gone in and destroyed poppies, but this is not a simple problem," he said.
"We will destroy the poppies, but next year they will come again. Therefore there has to be a plan, together with the international community, to provide alternative livelihood, alternative economy and better reconstruction in Afghanistan on a sustainable manner so that we over time get rid of the problem," Karzai said.
Increased insurgency adds to Afghanistan's electoral woes
Monday June 14, 5:50 AM AFP
A creeping insurgency, uneven voter registration and funding problems are threatening Afghanistan's historic elections, originally due this month and now likely to be delayed until October at the earliest, poll officials said.
"First, there is the shortage of funds," Joint Electoral Management Body head Farooq Wardak told AFP Saturday.
"Second, we have security problems in some areas of the country.
"And thirdly we want to have a legitimate, credible election which is acceptable for the nation and for the world. And for that we should have people registered from all over the country equally," he said.
But speaking in Washington Sunday, President Hamid Karzai insisted the aim of elections in September remained.
"The intention in Afghanistan, the people, the government, is to have elections in September. And we are working for it," he told CNN.
"We are definitely going to have elections, because Afghan people want it. They are very keen. The reason we are in a hurry is because there's a daily pressure on us from the Afghan people to register them quickly and to prepare the ground for voting."
US Secretary of State Colin Powell too said Afghans could cast ballots in September, despite the security problems. "It is being challenged still by Taliban remnants and some al-Qaeda presence, and they also will have to be defeated," Powell said.
"But they are now scheduled for free elections in September. And those elections are on track. And I think slowly but surely we are going to be successful in Afghanistan. We are successful now."
At the moment registration is patchy. While more than three million Afghans of the estimated 10 million eligible have registered, the majority of these are from provincial capitals.
Afghans from the rural south and southeast, regions which have been hardest hit by the US-led war against terror in Afghanistan, account for less than one-quarter of those applying to have their say in the country's first democratic elections.
Meanwhile, security is becoming a mounting concern and remnants of the Taliban regime have openly threatened to disrupt the polls.
"Inshallah (God willing) you will see more organized attacks on voter registration sites, people working for the election process and government employees," Mullah Samad, who claims to be a Taliban spokesman told AFP from an undisclosed location.
The US-led coalition has promised to provide a "framework" of security for the elections, supported by Afghan authorities and some 6,500 NATO-led peacekeepers.
Yet murders and attacks have been happening in areas previously considered free of insurgency such as the northeast and northwest. Attacks on convoys involving UN and electoral staff have also increased.
Organizers are short of money to pay for the elections, which are being organized with assistance from the United Nations.
The UN revealed last week that despite substantial pledges from the international community for the 101 million dollars required to hold the elections, no money had been received in Afghanistan.
While the date for the joint presidential and parliamentary polls has not yet been set, September is now an impossible task, according to officials.
"The election cannot happen in September," Joint Electoral Management Body spokeswoman Ghutai Khawrai said, citing a failure to meet a new law that constituency boundaries must be certified four months before polls can be held.
Under the newly-passed law the government must give 120 days' notice of electoral boundaries before lower house elections can be held, but a presidential decree nominating the boundaries was only signed on June 5. The earliest the elections can now be held is October 3.
"Since we plan to hold parliamentary and presidential elections at the same time it (the delay) is for both," she said.
UN electoral spokeswoman Catarina Fabiansson confirmed that the earliest the elections for the lower house could be held was October 3.
Violence, Mistrust Threaten Afghan Vote
Sun Jun 13, 1:00 PM ET By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer
KHWAJA OMRI, Afghanistan - A voter ID card in one hand, an infant clasped with the other, Kim Kha gives a coy smile when asked how she will vote in Afghanistan's historic national elections.
"It's my choice. I'll see," said the 45-year-old mother of nine, perched on a school bench in this village of southeastern Ghazni province, 80 miles from the capital, Kabul. "Everyone can make their own decision."
Officials at impromptu registration sites are scrambling to sign up millions of Afghans for a September vote supposed to cement an era of peace after the disasters of Soviet occupation, civil war and Taliban rule.
Many are enthused by the chance to choose their leaders. About eight challengers to front-running President Hamid Karzai have emerged, along with a slew of new political parties.
But there is growing concern that border lands where Taliban still roam will be left out — and that intolerant warlords will tighten their grip on power in a country U.S. officials champion as a model of moderate Islamic democracy.
Places like Ghazni are crucial.
U.N. teams have registered just one-quarter of the province's 200,000 people. Almost all are in the capital, Ghazni city, which is comparatively safe with U.S. and Afghan military bases. Only now are officials edging out into the countryside.
Khwaja Omri, a 40-minute drive north along a rocky track, is a small success. Here live ethnic Hazaras, like Kha, as well as Tajik and Pashtun communities. All three groups worry that failing to register could dilute their local influence.
But to the south and west begin the heartland of the Taliban's ethnic Pashtun kinsmen — and the most intractable problems the U.S.-backed Karzai faces in carrying out a free and successful election: conservative traditions, insurgent violence and popular resentment toward a government which has brought little help.
Michael Greub, a Swiss U.N. official, sits edgily in the sandbagged electoral office in Ghazni city. He insists Pashtun elders are keen on the vote but acknowledges his teams may never be able to enter "high-danger" areas.
Leaflets were distributed in three Pashtun districts last month denouncing Karzai as an American puppet and anyone wanting to vote as a "kafir" — an unbeliever.
The American military insists stepped up patrolling and a "hearts-and-minds" campaign involving millions in aid will make it easier for registrars to work in rural areas.
But the 20,000-strong force has been unable to prevent a string of attacks on electoral staff.
Two British U.N. contractors were fatally shot in eastern Afghanistan in May. This month, convoys of U.N. and Afghan officials were ambushed in two provinces neighboring Ghazni. No one was injured.
Further south, registration has reached only the heavily protected capitals of Uruzgan and Zabul provinces, where mountain clashes between Taliban rebels and U.S.-led forces recently left more than 80 militants dead.
The result is that only 13 percent of the Afghans registered so far are from the nine provinces of the south and southeast, according to U.N. statistics. Traditional reluctance to let women out of the house — let alone dabble in politics — means female registration also lags.
Holding the planned presidential and parliamentary elections in such conditions could alienate Pashtun tribes, who are already frustrated by snail-paced reconstruction and the prominence of northern warlords in Karzai's government.
"Much rides on providing unsafe areas of the south with an equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process," the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, Jean Arnault, told the Security Council last month.
The world body is also concerned that faction leaders will use their guns and wealth — partly derived from Afghanistan's booming narcotics trade — to bully voters into legitimizing their power.
A plan to disarm 40 percent of the country's irregular fighters by the end of this month looks hopelessly behind schedule.
The U.N. has declined to state clearly at what point free and fair elections would become impossible. Neither the government nor the international community has said openly that they foresee another delay in the vote, which was originally scheduled for June, but that is still a distinct possibility.
In the meantime, both have begun lowering the threshold for what they would consider an acceptable climate for the vote.
A U.N. spokesman said last month that the total number of eligible voters may be something over 9 million — down from an initial goal of 10.5 million. No census has been carried out in Afghanistan since 1979, but the population has been estimated at 24 million.
Only 3.5 million people, one-third of them women, have signed up so far. But officials say they are still aiming to hold the vote in late September. The exact date has not been set.
Karzai, himself a Pashtun, said in the spring that near-complete registration was needed to keep the vote credible. But he told reporters before leaving for the United States last week that signing up 6-7 million people would be enough.
"If it is evenly distributed around the country it will be the best thing," Karzai said, before adding: "The election is a must."
10 Arrested in Afghan Killing of Chinese
Sun Jun 13,11:56 AM ET By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Authorities have arrested 10 people in connection with the killing of 11 Chinese workers and found evidence that a warlord wanted by the U.S. military was behind the bloody attack, Afghan officials said Sunday.
A $10,000 reward was also offered for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the worst attack on foreign civilians since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Six people were arrested Sunday in Kunduz province, some 150 miles north of the capital, Kabul, and four were earlier detained in neighboring Baghlan, said Gen. Mohammed Daoud, the Kunduz military commander.
Gunmen sneaked into the camp of a Chinese road contractor in Kunduz on Thursday, spraying the workers with gunfire as they slept in a row of tents. Eleven Chinese died and five were wounded. The unfenced camp's sole Afghan armed guard was also killed.
Daoud said the six detained Sunday were picked up in various villages of Ali Abad district, where the camp was located.
He declined to give details said it was too early to say if any militant group was behind the killing, announcing the reward in an attempt to gather more evidence.
The Kunduz police chief said there were signs that followers of warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were involved.
Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and veteran of the country's brutal civil war, has joined the Taliban in vowing to drive out foreign troops and oust President Hamid Karzai.
Police chief Mutaleb Beg said one of the attackers was a former Taliban driver called Abdul Rassoul Kuchi who had been in the area of the camp the night of the attack.
"We have evidence that they are from Hezb-e Islami," Hekmatyar's faction, police chief Mutaleb Beg said of the attackers, but declined to elaborate.
Daoud said hundreds of people held a demonstration in Kunduz city on Sunday to condemn the killing and call on the Chinese company to continue its work repairing the key highway from Kabul to the Tajik border.
On Monday, Chinese officials were expected to arrive in Kunduz to decide how to increase security for the project, while two planes were to arrive in Kabul to collect the dead and wounded.
The bodies will be flown to the southern Chinese city of Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi province, where 10 of the slain workers were born, China's official Xinhua News Agency said.
Families of Chinese workers killed in Afghanistan get aids
People's Daily Online
Families of 10 of the 11 Chinese construction workers killed in a terrorist raid in Afghanistan on Thursday have get various aids at their hometown of Guangfeng County, east China's Jiang xi Province.
Families of the ten victims have got 12,000 yuan (about 1,446 US dollars) in cash each from the Guangfeng county government, the Shangrao city government, and the China Railway No. 14 Subsidiary Co, the employer of the victims.
More than 20 gunmen raided a Chinese construction site in Afghanistan early Thursday and killed 11 Chinese workers. Ten of them were from Guangfeng County of Jiangxi Province and the other was from Zhucheng City of Shandong Province.
Four other Chinese workers were wounded in the raid. They have been sent to a hospital in Kunduz Province of Afghanistan for medical treatment, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
Most families of the killed workers from Jiangxi are poor. The Education Bureau of the Guangfeng county government has pledged that children of the victims would be exempted from tuition fees for compulsory education. If they are qualified for senior middle school or college education, they will get more financial aids, officials in the bureau said.
In addition, local insurance companies of Shangrao City and Guangfeng County have provided spouses of the killed workers with life insurance policies worth 20,000 yuan each.
The China Railway No.14 Subsidiary Co, with headquarters in Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province, sent an engineering team, consisting of 61 Chinese, to Afghanistan for a project of the Kunduz Highway, according to the contract signed bythe two sides last October.
Iran Spends Over US$11 MLN on Afghan Agricultural Sector
Monday June 14, 9:41 AM
KABUL, June 14 Asia Pulse - Iran has so far spent US$11.5 million on the revival of Afghanistan agricultural sector and its villages, it was announced here Saturday.
Deputy Minister of Agricultural Jihad Gholamreza Sahraian told reporters that equipping seven agricultural mechanization centers, setting up of veterinary quarantines in several provinces and providing the agricultural sector with over 9,000 tons of chemical fertilizers are among major projects carried out in Afghanistan by his ministry.
Combating agricultural pests, rehabilitating 31 water channels, construction of 113 drinking water wells, implementation of aforestation projects, chicken breeding, fish culturing and honey bee raising as well as gardening are among other projects carried out by the Islamic Republic of Iran in the war-torn Afghanistan, he added.
Referring to Iran's great potentials in the area of agricultural research studies, Sahraian voiced his ministry's readiness to conduct joint agricultural research works with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Afghanistan.
To launch the projects, Iran has trained 3,600 Afghan experts, he said.
Pakistani troops achieve target, Al-Qaeda hideouts smashed: military
Monday June 14, 5:51 AM AFP
Pakistani military said it had achieved the target of destroying hideouts of foreign militants in the rugged terrain near the Afghan border as the government announced the arrest of 13 people including a leading Al-Qaeda operative.
The operation which started in the Shakai valley of South Waziristan region after militant attacks on military check posts in area on Wednesday "is nearing completion," a military spokesman said.
"Security forces are in control of the Shakai valley," he said adding that with the destruction their hideouts "the miscreants are on the run."
Pakistani warplanes had conducted air strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda hideouts on Friday and Saturday along with a massive ground operation, officials and residents said.
The bombing had targetted a training site for Al-Qaeda and some houses in the Shakai valley, 25 kilometres (16 miles) west of Wana, they added.
However, residents in the region's main town, Wana, said no sound of combat was heard overnight.
Some 300 to 400 mainly Chechen and Uzbek Al-Qaeda-linked militants are believed to be hiding in Pakistan regions bordering Afghanistan. Arabs as well as ethnic Uighur Muslims from China are also said to be among them.
"As many as 20 miscreants have been killed by the security forces during last two days," the military spokesman said, raising the militants toll since Wednesday to at least 55.
Some 35 militants were killed on Wednesday and Thursday when 15 soldiers and three civilians were also killed.
"Bodies of a few more miscreants killed during the action are believed to be still lying in the under the debris of destroyed sanctuaries."
Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat told AFP late Sunday that security forces had arrested a nephew of a top Al-Qaeda operative and several other foreigners blamed for a series of attacks including an assassination attempt on a military commander in Karachi.
The forces arrested an Al-Qaeda operative who is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and had a one million dollar reward on his head, the interior minister said.
Mohammad, one of the chief planners of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, was arrested in Pakistan in March 2003 in a raid from the garrison city of Rawalpindi near Islamabad.
The minister identified the man as Musabir Urumchi.
"Our security forces have arrested an eight-member gang of foreign Al-Qaeda operatives for their involvement in acts of terrorism in Pakistan, including Thursday's attack on the Corps Commander's convoy in Karachi," Hayat told AFP.
Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said 13 people had been arrested, including some Pakistanis.
The attack on the convoy of Lieutenant General Ahsan Saleem Hayat left seven soldiers, three policemen and a passer-by dead. The General escaped unhurt.
"These militants are of Central Asian origin and their ring leader was Ataullah," the interior minister said.
The detained militants were all trained in Shakai and Wana in South Waziristan, Hayat said.
"The arrest of the gang is a phenomenal breakthrough for us," he said.
Hayat did not disclose the circumstances under which the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad was arrested nor did he specify the location.
A series of deadly attacks in Karachi over the past few weeks left more than 60 people dead.
The military spokesman said troops have also recovered a huge cache of arms including heavy weapons and ammunition, he said.
The chief military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan earlier told AFP Pakistani troops consolidated their positions Sunday after two days of ground and air offensives against Al-Qaeda-linked fighters.
"The troops are consolidating their positions," Sultan told AFP.
The latest campaign was launched in retaliation for attacks on military posts on Wednesday.
More than 50 militants killed in fighting in Pakistani tribal region, says army official
Associated Press Sunday June 13, 8:02 PM
Pakistan's army said Sunday that it had killed more than 50 militants and dismantled several al-Qaida compounds in four days of fighting in a remote tribal region, but acknowledged that its forces had also suffered serious casualties and made no major arrests.
Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, the chief army spokesman, said army and paramilitary troops "successfully dismantled and destroyed" militant hideouts in the offensive against foreign terror suspects in South Waziristan, a tribal region that borders Afghanistan.
Hundreds of al-Qaida and Taliban fighters said to be a mix of Arabs, Central Asians, Afghans and Uzbeks are believed to be hiding in the area.
Pakistani security forces and militants fought gunbattles in Shakai, a valley northeast of Wana, the main town of South Waziristan. More than 50 insurgents and 17 soldiers were killed, Sultan told The Associated Press from the capital, Islamabad.
Sultan said some bodies of militants were still lying under debris in hideouts leveled in the fighting. Helicopter gunships and fighter jets were used to pummel the rebel positions.
Local residents said a number of civilians had also been killed, but were was no official confirmation of civilian casualties. The government has barred outside journalists from traveling to the tribal region.
Sultan said the operation was "nearing its culmination." He added that a band of armed tribesmen loyal to the government will soon begin a search for remaining militants in Shakai valley, but gave no date.
No major arrests were reported. The area is suspected of being a possible hiding place for Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Sultan said some militants might have escaped the operation.
Security forces seized weapons and munitions during searches of al-Qaida compounds in Shakai, Sultan said.
One of the targets in the latest operation was the home of a suspected al-Qaida financier, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi.
Sultan said it was unclear whether al-Iraqi was killed, or had fled the assault. "We had reports he would come and meet his contacts here," he said.
In another development, Pakistani troops exchanged gunfire with "intruders" from Afghanistan late Saturday night, Sultan said. No injuries were reported.
The identity of the those who were trying to enter Pakistan was unclear.
In North Waziristan, adjacent to South Waziristan, assailants fired a rocket at a paramilitary troops post. No one was hurt in the attack late Friday in the Razmak area of North Waziristan, Sultan said.
Violence, Voting Don't Mix
By Ahmed Rashid Los Angeles Times on June 13 June 13, 2004.
LAHORE, Pakistan — "Free and fair" democratic elections in Afghanistan may be good for President Bush's war on terror and his reelection prospects in November, but they are not what Afghans need now.
An upsurge of violence in Afghanistan and U.S. pressure to carry out the September elections has dramatically curtailed reconstruction and humanitarian aid projects in a swath of provinces south and east of Kabul. This has enabled the resurgent Taliban to reassert de facto control in such provinces as Zabul, where 2,000 Marines have belatedly launched an offensive to drive the Islamic fundamentalists out.
During the last few weeks, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which have vowed to disrupt the voting and eliminate Western influence in Afghanistan, have shown themselves capable of launching up to five attacks a day not only in the Taliban Pushtun heartland in the south and east of the country but in Kabul and the northwest. More than 400 Afghan and foreign aid workers, Afghan policemen, soldiers and civilians have died since January, including 11 Chinese contractors shot Thursday while they slept. Five U.S. soldiers have been killed since May 29.
This dire security situation has prompted many Afghans, European diplomats, U.N. officials and nongovernmental organizations to see the Afghan elections as chiefly a White House political objective. And there are concerns other than security. As the U.N. special representative to Afghanistan told the U.N. Security Council and NATO ambassadors late last month, "Whether it is counter-terrorism, electoral security, counter-narcotics or control of factional fighting, at this critical juncture … international security assistance continues to make the difference between success and failure."
President Hamid Karzai, who will meet Bush on Tuesday at the White House, is expected to easily win a five-year term in Afghanistan's first elections in 40 years. More than a dozen political parties have registered to contest the elections, and eight candidates, including one woman, have said they will stand against Karzai.
The United Nations has registered 3.4 million Afghan voters out of a eligible pool of 10.5 million, but lack of security in the south makes it unsafe for U.N. voter registration teams to operate there. So far, some 900 U.N. registration sites are operating in the country; more than 4,600 will need to be set up before September.
Money is also a problem. Last week, the U.N. in Kabul urgently appealed to donors to come up with the $100 million needed to cover the costs of the elections. Pledges of about $70 million have been received, but "not one penny is in the bank," said U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva.
There has also been little effort to deal with the burgeoning drug problem. This summer, Afghan farmers are expected to harvest the largest poppy crop in the history of the country, which last year supplied 75% of the world's heroin. Yet, the Pentagon has refused to use U.S. troops to interdict drug shipments or help the Afghan government carry out eradication campaigns. In such a situation, the elections will be heavily influenced by drug traffickers, who include many senior Afghan ministers, warlords, commanders and provincial governors.
The enduring problem in Afghanistan is the failure of Western nations to live up to their commitments to provide peacekeeping troops. U.S. forces do not do peacekeeping. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which took over command of the International Security Assistance Force in August, has not deployed promised troops and equipment to enable the force to improve security across the country before the elections. Since August, NATO commanders have even had a hard time supplying special forces, helicopters and other aircraft to Kabul, the capital.
Nor will NATO deliver on its promise to set up five provincial reconstruction teams in northern and western Afghanistan by June 28, when the alliance will meet in Istanbul. U.S. soldiers have set up 12 teams in the south and west of the country. These civilian teams of up to 100 members could also provide a modicum of security for the elections. A U.N. request that NATO provide 5,000 troops for security in the weeks immediately before and after the elections was turned down.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told NATO ambassadors in Brussels last month that the alliance was "flirting" with failure in Afghanistan. What was harsh private U.S. criticism of NATO's performance has been more diplomatically put by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who, after a meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels on June 4, said, "This is still a painful process."
A European ambassador in Islamabad, Pakistan, told me the Europeans were waiting for the U.S. elections in November to decide Bush's fate before recommitting to Afghanistan. "There is an underlying feeling in many European capitals that [officials] just don't want to be pushed around by what is seen as an American rather than an international agenda in Afghanistan," he said. That's unfortunate, because U.S.-European differences on Iraq are affecting the stabilization process in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, a $300-million U.N.-Japanese-Afghan government plan to disarm 60% of the 100,000-strong militias controlled by warlords before the elections is floundering. Since May, only 8,200 members of the militias have been disarmed. The U.N. deadline is July. Some of the most powerful warlords refuse to disband entire military units — a key U.N. demand — rather than just downsize them. The same warlords are trying to strike a deal with Karzai: They will not put up a consensus candidate against him if he leaves them alone, abandons the demand to disarm entire militia units and gives them a share of power after the elections. That's similar to the deal U.S. envoys brokered between Karzai and the warlords in December at the loya jirga, or tribal grand council, to get the country's new constitution ratified. Privately, U.S. officials have told the U.N. and Karzai that disarmament should mean no more than downsizing units, a clear signal that the U.S. does not want to rock the warlord boat before the elections.
Karzai's visit to the U.S. was strongly opposed by several members of his Cabinet and some aides, who contend that now is not the right moment for any Muslim leader to be seen with Bush. The prisoner-abuse scandals in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled with the Pentagon's refusal to allow Afghan human rights officials into U.S.-run jails in Afghanistan, have angered many Afghans. "The president should have spent the time touring Afghanistan rather than the U.S.," said one presidential aide in Kabul.
Karzai's presence in Washington holds some peril for Bush as well, because it's an occasion to raise the embarrassing question of what happened to the search for Osama bin Laden. In February, 20,000 U.S.-led coalition forces announced, with much fanfare, a major offensive to crush the Taliban, capture its leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and track down Bin Laden. But U.S. military officers in Pakistan and Afghanistan now privately say it is highly unlikely that the Al Qaeda leader will be nabbed or killed before the U.S. election.
Regrettably, holding elections so early will only perpetuate and legitimize what is not working in Afghanistan. Better that the voting be postponed at least until spring to allow the U.S. and international community to make a more concerted effort to deal with the country's escalating security problem.
Ahmed Rashid is the author of "Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia."
Stable, democratic future for Afghanistan linked to American security: WT
Sunday June 13, 2004 (1256 PST) Pakistan News Tribune
WASHINGTON, June 14 (Online): Since September 11, 2001, it has become clear a stable, democratic future for Afghanistan is integrally linked to American national security. A country devastated by more than 20 years of war, Afghanistan has endured many tragedies such as brutal Soviet occupation, internecine violence between the resistance jihadi parties, and most recently al Qaeda terrorism.
In each period, political elites based their power on financial corruption and military coercion. By disregarding the need to elicit consent for governance, Afghanistan's leaders failed to establish a stable political order. Instability in Afghanistan hastened the rise of al Qaeda.
Given this historical context, success in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan requires an honest and incorruptible leader focused on cautiously establishing democratic institutions and traditions.
The United States, the international community and Afghanistan are very fortunate to have in that country a courageous and capable democratic leader in President Hamid Karzai at this crucial juncture. Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Karzai enjoys the trust of the Afghan nation.
Afghans support Mr. Karzai due to his strong personal qualities of democratic vision, leadership and integrity. Mr. Karzai and his family are famous for championing democracy and honest political leadership. His presidency clearly demonstrates these values. Mr. Karzai is considered one of the most honest and incorruptible leaders of our time.
In addition to his personal uprightness, Mr. Karzai's ethics are further exhibited by his relying on democratic moral persuasion rather than the force of arms to rule Afghanistan. Unequivocal public and moral support for Mr. Karzai is clearly evident through the confidence shown for his presidency and constitution in the Loya Jirgas, Afghanistan's traditional assembly of local and national leaders.
Afghanistan's way to stability and democracy definitely faces a number of important obstacles. It is true there are U.S. allies who are corrupt. Moreover, al Qaeda, the Taliban and warlordism continue threatening the political process. As the security and destinies of both nations are intertwined, success is contingent upon responsible U.S.-Afghanistan partnership in confronting these obstacles.
Long-term success against terrorism requires attacking al Qaeda at its foundation. Afghanistan is, therefore, crucial to vanquishing al Qaeda. Afghanistan, under the Taliban, was the country al Qaeda chose for its model and headquarters.
Muslim countries modeled after the Taliban will advance al Qaeda's ideals, activities and endanger U.S. national security. Furthering democratization and stability in Afghanistan will strike at the very heart of al Qaeda's ideological modus operandi. Failure in Afghanistan, subsequently, would be regarded as an al Qaeda victory over the U.S. That is why it is so important for the United States to establish a 21st century version of the Marshall Plan for Afghanistan.
Without President Karzai's moral leadership and America's assistance, Afghanistan would have great difficulty fulfilling its role in the partnership against terrorism. Afghanistan without Mr. Karzai could conceivably dissolve into civil war.
With President Karzai, Afghanistan will move toward being a stable, democratic and effective ally. It is thus important to honor Hamid Karzai's role in the war against terrorism.
Int'l Exhibition Opens in Mashhad, Iran
Asia Pulse - Monday Jun 14 9:39 AM SGT
MASHHAD, Khorassan Prov, June 14 Asia Pulse - The sixth International Commercial and Industrial Exhibition opened in this northeastern provincial capital city Saturday afternoon.
Addressing the inaugural ceremony of the exhibition, Alireza Houshang-Nejad, managing director of the fair, said 160 domestic and foreign companies are participating in the event.
He further announced that 13 companies from Germany, Belgium, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are putting on display their latest industrial achievements.
Household appliances, chinaware, ceramics and tiles, chemical products, detergents, steel and petrochemical products are among major items being displayed in the fair, he said.
Suspected Taliban burn government office in southern Afghanistan
June 13, 2004 6:52 AM The Associated Press
Kandahar, Afghanistan-AP -- An Afghan soldier is missing after dozens of Taliban rebels took over a government building and set it on fire.
A local official says the Taliban then headed back into Pakistan.
The attack happened 370 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul. The mayor of the town says the Taliban rode pickup trucks into town and drove away some 50 government troops from the government building during a three-hour battle. He says the structure is badly damaged.
He also says a soldier and a government truck are missing. He says it's unclear if the soldier fled or if he was kidnapped.
The mayor says pools of blood suggest several Taliban were wounded.
Militants trap Pakistani commandoes
Press Trust of India Islamabad, June 13
Several Pakistani army commandoes, who were air dropped in the areas held by the Al-Qaeda militants in the South Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan, appeared to have been trapped and efforts are on to rescue them by engaging tribal elders to negotiate for their safe release.
Reports from the Waziristan agency said the fighting died down yesterday mainly due to the fact that the authorities had started negotiations with the militants through the local tribal elders.
While the details of the army operation, which continued into its fourth day today, were sketchy due to restrictions imposed by Pakistan authorities on media, local tribesmen, who got out of Mandata and Shakai areas, told the 'News' daily that several Army commandos were trapped in the area and efforts were on to rescue them.
They said elders from local tribes have been approached to negotiate with militants for safe return of the trapped personnel. However, there was no official reaction to the report so far.
Pakistan's Defence spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said last night there was no sympathy for foreign terrorists and all out efforts were being made to flush them out from the country.
Commenting on the situation in Wana, the Minister said the operation was still continuing and things would be clear after its termination.
"They are abusing religion to fulfil their political agenda," Sultan said while briefing reporters about the operations.
"We are aware of the safety of the people in the area and due to this reason extreme steps are being avoided. The government is fully determined to deal with foreign terrorists in a firm manner. They are not only involved in terror activities in Pakistan but also carrying out their nefarious activities outside the country."
Fierce fighting raged in Shakai area of Waziristan tribal agency yesterday leaving 60 people dead, including 20 from the Army's side.
Reports said Pakistani Air Force jets bombed the hideouts of foreign militants in Shakai after which some helicopters dropped army commandoes in Mandata area, seven kms north of Shahai, to secure the area and flush out militants holded up there.
One rocket hit the agency headquarters hospital in Wana, which exploded inside the residence of Dr Izatullah, but caused no loss to human lives or damage to the property.
Afghan refugees residing in South Waziristan Agency, were moving out of the region and hundreds of individuals left Wana in about 40 vehicles yesterday following 72-hour deadline from the government.
Tribesmen fleeing the area of fighting said food and drinking water was in short supply in Mandata, Shakai and the surrounding villages.
Afghan refugees start leaving embattled South Waziristan
Deutsche Presse Agentur 13 Jun 2004
Islamabad (dpa) - Scores of Afghan refugees were leaving Pakistans embattled South Waziristan tribal region Sunday after the government gave them 72 hours to depart, local residents told Deutsche Presse-Agentur, dpa Sunday.
Some of the refugees had already left for refugee camps in settled areas while others were still packing their belongings, tribesman Allah Noor said.
However, the Afghan refugees opposed the government's order and planned an assembly on Monday to discuss events in South Waziristan where recent clashes between Pakistani troops and local and foreign al-Qaeda militants have left at least 50 dead, among them 15 government soldiers.
"We have been living here for 25 years. We neither provided shelter to al-Qaeda men nor supported them,'' the head of the Afghan refugees, Pir Agha, told dpa.
On Sunday, the situation in the embattled Shakai area remained calm following gun-battles between troops and militants in recent days. However, troops cordoned off all roads leading to the area and journalists were not allowed to visit there.
Local sources also said at least 11 commandos and two militiamen had been missing since the latest clashes.
An army chief spokesman, however, dismissed the reports as "baseless'' and added claims that government troops were surrounded in the Shakai area were also wrong.
Some 300-400 soldiers fighting al-Qaeda and Taliban militants had been reportedly surrounded in the Shakai area.
General Shaukat Sultan said all suspected al-Qaeda hideouts had been destroyed in Shakai area in the government's latest four-day operation.
There was no word on attempts by the military to locate Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who is believed to have helped finance Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and is suspected of hiding in the area.
On Saturday, two Pakistani fighter aircraft bombed suspected terrorists hideouts in response to rocket attacks on paramilitary checkpoints near the border with Afghanistan.
The latest clashes in South Waziristan had begun Wednesday with similar rockets attacks on army and paramilitary check-posts in the area.
Vehicles coming from Afghanistan retreated: Shaukat Sultan
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani security forces retaliated firing by some people who were trying to enter in Pakistan from Afghanistan at Angoo ada border area, on the night between Saturday and Sunday.
Director General Inter Services Public Relations Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told Geo TV that some people boarded on three vehicles tried to enter in Pakistan. Pakistan security forces asked them to stop, but they opened fire, which was retaliated by security forces.
After cross fire, which continued for some times, the intruders managed to return leaving two of their damaged vehicles behind.
About the casualties, Shaukat Sultan said that as the damaged vehicles were lying on the other side of border so it is difficult to confirm deaths.
Responding to another question, Shaukat Sultan refuted the impression that some security personnel were surrounded in Wana and clarified that only two security personnel were martyred and added that Wana operation was completed successful.
Two New Afghan Political Parties Begin Their Official Life
Daily Afghan Report June 11, 2004
Source: Radio Free Afghanistan (part of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)
The Afghan Justice Ministry has given permission to the People's Islamic Movement of Afghanistan (Harkat-e Islami-ye Mardom-e Afghanistan) and the Islamic Justice Party (Hezb-e Adalat-e Islami) to begin their political activities, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 10 June. The People's Islamic Movement of Afghanistan is led by Sayyed Hosayn Anwari, who currently serves as the agriculture minister in the Afghan Transitional Administration. No further information was provided in the report about the political platform of either party or who heads the Islamic Justice Party. Sayyed Mohammad Hashemi, the head of the office that supervises the registration of political parties at the Justice Ministry, said that to date 21 political parties have been granted permission to function. AT
Iran To Reconstruct Pul-e- Khumri Power Plant In Afghanistan
Merh News Agency, Iran
TEHRAN June 13 (MNA) -- According to an agreement made on Thursday, June 10, 2004 in Kabul between Mozaffar Mohammadi, Managing Director of Azarab Energy, and Mohammad Yunes Noandish, Afghanistan Deputy Minster of Water and Power, Pul-e- Khumri 2 Power Plant will be reconstructed.
Azarab Energy will rebuild this power plant over 20 months for 14.3 million dollars using financial aid from Iran. This power plant will provide electricity to more than 18,000 Afghani families in a country where only 9% of the population have access to electricity.
With a power capacity of 3x3MW, 90% of the plant’s parts will be procured from Iran. According to the agreement, Azarab Energy will provide the necessary replacement parts for 5 years after the completion of the project.
Following the Afghan drugs trail
Friday, 4 June, 2004, 08:42 GMT 09:42 UK
The Afghan drugs trade is growing so fast some fear the country could become a narco-state, where drugs barons rule, not the government.
Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, has been visiting the country to assess the situation, touring north and western Afghanistan before meeting President Karzai and other leaders in Kabul.
BBC Afghanistan correspondent Andrew North has been travelling with Mr Costa. This is his diary from the trip.
29 MAY, SHER KHAN PORT, AFGHANISTAN-TAJIKISTAN BORDER
The UN is worried by a big rise in the opium trade
A low key arrival for the UN's drugs control chief: at one of Afghanistan's more remote frontier posts, on a small and battered motor boat.
Here, the Afghan border means the muddy waters of the Amu-Darya river.
In Tajikistan, Antonio Maria Costa has been looking at the impact of the Afghan drugs trade there.
Increasing quantities of opium and heroin from Afghanistan's poppy fields are being smuggled through the country - and other states along its northern border - en route to Russia and Europe.
"Welcome to Afghanistan," says the Kunduz provincial governor, as Antonio Maria Costa steps onto the river bank.
No concrete quayside here. Much of the port is still a war-shattered ruin.
"Nice to be here," Mr Costa responds. But the pleasantries don't last long.
The green tea is still being poured as he tells his hosts bluntly that efforts to curb Afghan drugs are failing.
"Not only has there been no success, the situation has deteriorated year by year since 2001."
Costa does not bring warm greetings from the neighbours either. "They're mad at you up in Tajikistan, I can tell you," he says with an ironic smile.
"The authorities there tell me they've seized six tonnes of heroin and opium on the border so far this year."
But his expressive Italian manner seems to go down well with his main host, General Daud, the commander of the militia force known as the 6th Corps and the real power in this region.
He's got a few gripes of his own. Among them are the past policies of the British government, which is leading international efforts to combat Afghan drugs.
Initially, it tried offering farmers money to destroy their poppy crops.
But as word spread, Daud says, many grew it deliberately, expecting the British cash. When it did not come, they harvested the opium.
"So it made things far worse."
This year there is widespread confusion about Afghan government policy, the general argues.
It has decreed that 25% of the poppy crop should be eradicated or cut down. But many farmers have interpreted that to mean the other 75% is legal, he says.
Costa's eyebrows rise.
29 MAY KUNDUZ PROVINCE
After lunch, there is another illustration of the scale of the challenge, with a visit to a poppy field.
It looks like any other, except there was no poppy-growing here last year.
Nor was there much elsewhere in the rest of Kunduz province.
But all that's changing. Even in traditionally low-producing areas, farmers are sowing the crop, anxious not be left out.
Farmers say they are confused by government policy
The 78-year-old farmer is found in the huts nearby.
"Yes, it's the first time I've grown it," he admits reluctantly.
"But why this year?" demands his Italian visitor.
"Well everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn't I?"
Laughter from the crowd of officials and soldiers looking on.
"But don't you know this is against Islam?" says Mr Costa, holding up a poppy bulb.
The farmer looks up plaintively. "There's freedom now, it's a democracy isn't it?"
The crowd roars.
"No, I understand, you make more money," Mr Costa counters.
"If I rob a bank, I make more money, but it's against the law. "I'll come back next year and I want to see you in good shape and without poppy, okay."
There's a pause, then the farmer says: "Okay, next year, I will only grow it with your permission."
There is another explosion of laughter from the officials and soldiers, many of them chewing on opium seeds from poppy bulbs they have broken open.
30 MAY KUNDUZ CITY
The UN's drugs chief shares views, and lunch, with the governor of Kunduz
We're at the government meeting hall, inside General Daud's spacious compound.
It's the first of several such meetings Mr Costa is having with militia commanders, governors and police chiefs during his visit.
This time, it's everyone from the four north-eastern provinces, including Badakshan, one of the main drug-producing areas.
Mirwais Yassini, head of Afghanistan's Counter-Narcotics Directorate is here, together with the British ambassador, Rosalind Marsden, and UK drugs officials.
Mr Costa takes a softer approach as he starts his speech, paying tribute to Afghans' struggle against the Soviet invasion and the Taleban.
"It's because of valiant fighters like you that I believe we are going to succeed in winning this domestic war against narcotics."
But the hopeful message doesn't last.
"Let's be frank, efforts to eradicate the poppy crop this year have failed."
It is not exactly a meeting of minds. While the general promises full co-operation in the fight against drugs, many of the other officials around the table use their speaking time for explanations, rather than ideas on dealing with the problem.
And what about the West doing more to reduce its demand for drugs, they ask.
Both the British ambassador and Mr Costa emphasise the fact that the opium poppy is regarded as against Islam, and that it is officially illegal in Afghanistan.
Yet one senior religious scholar admits that in many poppy-producing areas his counterparts often say that producing opium is "halal" or permitted in Islam, as long as it is sent to infidels abroad.
31 MAY MAZAR-E SHARIF
A short plane ride from Kunduz takes Mr Costa and his small team to the shrine city of Mazar-e Sharif and straight into another meeting with more governors, military chiefs and police commanders.
It seems this group of officials are more willing to be frank with the UN drugs chief about the problem, but only once they've made sure journalists are out of the room.
Their chief concern, we learn later, is the continuing power of the commanders, the militia chiefs who wield the real power in much of Afghanistan.
Under a nationwide scheme, they are supposed to be disarming.
But the message Antonio Maria Costa receives is that it is only when this happens that anything can be done about the drugs trade.
No one is naming names, but some commanders in this region are accused of being directly involved.
Others may be profiting from drugs by levying taxes on drugs cargoes passing through their areas.
And the underpaid police are easily corrupted and too under-resourced to fight back.
The UN hammers out the drug issue with the British embassy
The UN drugs chief asks if the British military are helping fill the gap, when he visits the so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team they are running in the city.
They will pass on information about drugs trafficking if they come across it, but otherwise no is the answer from the commander.
It seems a contradiction, given the UK's lead role in fighting drugs.
But Colonel Duncan Francis says with the small number of troops he has at the PRT, he can only achieve his aims of boosting peace and security in the region - "peace support" as he calls it - if he has the "consent" of local people.
That means avoiding conflict "with criminal elements" and making his lightly-armed patrols a potential target.
This passive approach reflects the wider policy of the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan right now, but many are calling for a re-think.
Because all the signs are that the drugs threat is rising.
In this province - Balkh - large amounts of opium and processed heroin are being trafficked up through neighbouring Uzbekistan.
Many believe the profits are helping fuel a growing boom in Mazar-e Sharif.
Again, no one names names, but as one Afghan official said: "Look at all the big new houses going up and all the new land-cruisers you see - where's that money coming from?"
1 JUNE HERAT
Herat's governor Ismail Khan (left) has cracked down hard on drugs
From Herat airport, the largest convoy of land-cruisers Mr Costa has had yet sweeps him into the city.
We drive straight through Herat and up a steep, winding road to an imposing, hilltop guest-house overlooking the city and its many ancient buildings.
Wearing his trademark black and white headscarf, Herat's powerful governor Ismail Khan appears to greet the UN drugs chief.
The two men walk into an ornate meeting hall, decorated with giant vases, antique weapons and murals depicting the Soviet invasion.
Much of old Herat was badly damaged during that time.
But it is striking how clean and well-kept Herat is now, compared to Kabul and other Afghan cities.
In contrast to the capital, most of the roads are tarmac-covered and potholes are rare.
Herat is also unusual for another reason - there is almost no poppy-growing in the surrounding province, according to UN surveys.
The governor takes a tough line on drugs and he has the power to enforce his will.
Few doubt that some opium and processed heroin is being smuggled through his territory to Iran - still the main transit country for Afghan drugs - but far less than through other provinces further south.
Mr Costa praises Ismail Khan's record, as heaps of water melon and fruit are served.
2 JUNE HERAT
The governor is keen to demonstrate the progress he is making here.
He takes Costa and his staff to the inauguration of a new road through the city. Lambs are slaughtered.
Then it is back to the hilltop guesthouse for Mr Costa's last meeting with regional governors, police chiefs and other officials.
Costa's message is the same.
The problem is growing. You have to do something, to protect your own and your country's reputation. And while Ismail Khan may have the drugs problem under control, many of his neighbours do not.
Sitting a few chairs down the table, the governor of Ghor province admits he is struggling, with an estimated 20,000 hectares of land sowed with opium this year.
Another governor raises a now common complaint about mixed messages coming from the central government, and from religious leaders.
In some eastern provinces - where poppy cultivation is well-established - he claims Friday prayer leaders have been telling their worshippers that it's legal to grow it, but not legal to use it.
But one of the elderly religious scholars invited to this meeting says there is no doubt that opium cultivation and production is against Islam.
He admits they need to do more to spread this message.
The last engagement of the day is to a drugs treatment centre in the city. Despite the governor's tough line, there are growing numbers of heroin addicts here.
It is a sign of how the Afghan drugs problem is affecting the country itself more and more.
There are over 250 people in the compound when I arrive, and staff say demand is rising all the time.
Many of the people at the centre are from as far afield as Kabul, where there is only one 10-bed drugs treatment centre.
This is not sophisticated treatment though, just "cold turkey".
It confines the addicts and keeps them away from heroin.
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