Despite Bush claims, Afghan analysts still troubled by poll date
Thursday June 17, 10:52 AM AFP
Security looms as the major challenge to Afghanistan holding elections in September, despite US President George W. Bush's assertion that democracy in the war-wracked nation can serve as a good example for Iraq, analysts say.
If elections were to be held in September as scheduled, two months before Bush faces his own presidential polls, they would be "symbolic" rather than truly democratic because it would not be possible to ensure smooth voting everywhere in the country, said Kabul University academic Nasrullah Staniczai.
"The main problem and challenge ahead of Afghanistan's elections is security," the political science lecturer said.
"I believe if the international community really, fully supports the Afghan government, there is a possibility of holding elections in September, but they will be sort of symbolic elections because they will not be able to cover the whole country," Staniczai said.
"Over the next two or three months the security situation cannot magically improve."
President Hamid Karzai met Bush in Washington on Tuesday and at a joint press conference the US leader hailed Afghanistan's progress towards democracy and prosperity.
"Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world," Bush said.
Since the fall of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban regime in late 2001 following a US-led military campaign, a new constitution has been put in place, reconstruction has begun, more children are in school and women have returned to public life.
However, the central government still struggles to assert its authority outside the capital and warlords and military commanders control much of the impoverished provinces.
Some 20,000 US-led troops are facing almost daily attacks from a guerrilla insurgency believed to be led by remnants of the ousted Taliban regime with support from Al-Qaeda.
Conditions for holding presidential and parliamentary elections now are "pretty bad" because of security and logistical reasons, including low voter registration, according to International Crisis Group senior analyst Vikram Parekh.
The parallel with Iraq is that Afghanistan could be an "example of a transition to democracy from a former pariah state," Parekh said.
But unless weapons are removed from the general population, the voting will not be fully legitimate, he added.
The government has said it will disarm 40 percent of the estimated 40,000 to 50,000 militiamen by June but so far just under 9,000 men have surrendered their weapons.
"The DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Re-Integration) process is a prerequisite for free and fair elections," Parekh said.
"Civil society organizations continue to report that the Afghan people they are working with throughout the country question how free and fair elections can be held without a meaningful DDR process," said Barbara Stapleton of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief.
The power of local commanders and warlords could even make this process impossible, she said.
"Afghanistan may no longer be a safe haven for international terrorists in the short-term, but the very different resources that were required to establish peace and stability in the long-term, have not been committed by the international community," she said.
"There is now a very real danger that holding elections before the country is ready will end any chance of democratic process before it has even begun."
Chinese president meets Afghan president
People's Daily Online
Chinese President Hu Jintao met Wednesday night in Tashkent with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is here to attend the upcoming summit meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as a guest of the president of Uzbekistan.
Hu told Karzai that he was shocked and deeply saddened by the terrorist attack on Chinese workers in Afghanistan. China thinks what the Afghan government has done so far to deal with the aftermath of the attack was positive, but hopes the Afghan government would do more, the Chinese president added.
"We are very much concerned with the fact that the criminals are still at large," Hu said. "We hope the Afghan government would carry out a thorough investigation into the incident as soon as possible and punish those responsible."
China also hopes the Afghan government will take effective measures to protect Chinese nationals in Afghanistan, Hu said.
Last Thursday morning, a group of about 20 armed men attacked the Chinese workers compound in Jelogir area, 36 km away of Kunduz city in Afghanistan, killing 11 people and injuring four others.
Hu said China's determination to oppose terrorism and fight against the so-called "three forces" of terrorism, separatism and extremism, will in no way waver despite the attack.
"The incident has again demonstrated that terrorism is our common enemy, and the three forces still pose serious threat to regional peace and stability," he said.
The Chinese president told Karzai that China will continue to develop friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan, and terrorist attacks will not undermine the friendship between China and Afghanistan.
Karzai said he was gravely upset and sorry for the attack against Chinese workers and he apologized on behalf of the Afghan people.
The Afghan president described the attack as one against the reconstruction of Afghanistan and its future. He promised that his government will intensify investigations and will notify China of any developments in time.
Karzai said Afghan will never tolerate terrorism in any form and will continue to fight terrorism. He hopes China would continue to participate in the reconstruction of his country.
US investigation finds no sign of Iraqi help for al-Qaeda
Thursday June 17, 6:07 AM AFP
The official investigation into the September 11, 2001 attacks cast doubt on US administration claims of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda used to justify last year's invasion.
A staff report released by the national inquiry commission said there was no "credible evidence" Iraq had helped al-Qaeda to attack the United States and no sign of any "collaborative relationship" between Baghdad and the group.
President George W. Bush and other top officials have repeatedly cited alleged ties between al-Qaeda and Iraq, along with weapons of mass destruction that have not been found, to justify the war to bring down Saddam Hussein.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to the Arabic television station Al-Jazeera, said Wednesday the administration had never implicated Iraq directly in the September 11 strikes, but refused to back down on more general links.
"I think we have said, and it is clear, that there is a connection, and we have seen these connections between al-Qaeda and the regime of Saddam Hussein and we stick with that," he said.
The commission report, issued as the panel began a final two days of hearings, said al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden "explored possible cooperation with Iraq" while based in Sudan in the early 1990s, even though he opposed Saddam's secular regime.
A senior Iraqi intelligence official reportedly made three visits to Sudan, meeting in 1994 with bin Laden, who requested space for training camps and help in securing weapons. "Iraq apparently never responded," the report said.
The investigation said there were also reports of contacts with Baghdad after bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in the mid-1990s "but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative relationship."
"Two senior bin Laden associates have adamantly denied that any ties exist between al-Qaeda and Iraq," said the report. "We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States."
The text, which will be incorporated into a final report to be issued next month by the 10-member bipartisan panel, contrasted sharply with White House assertions on Iraq earlier this week.
Vice President Dick Cheney said Saddam had "long-established ties with al-Qaeda." Bush said Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda-linked militant suspected of attacks in Iraq, was proof of ties between bin Laden's group and Iraqi insurgents.
While apparently clearing Iraq, the commission also disputed suggestions that Saudi officials were instrumental in financing the terrorist movement.
It acknowledged the oil-rich sheikhdom was "fertile fundraising ground," but added: "We have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution, or senior officials within the Saudi government, funded al-Qaeda."
The panel did point a finger at another US ally, Pakistan, for its dealings with al-Qaeda and their Afghan patrons before the September 11 strikes with hijacked airliners that left some 3,000 people dead.
"The Taliban's ability to provide bin Laden a haven in the face of international pressure and UN sanctions was significantly facilitated by Pakistani support," said the report.
"Pakistan benefitted from the Taliban-al-Qaeda relationship, as bin Laden's camps trained and equipped fighters for Pakistan's ongoing struggle with India over Kashmir."
A second report on the planning for September 11 debunked the notion it was a perfectly executed plot and said the scheme was rife with problems and internal bickering. Some senior al-Qaeda leaders even wanted to call it off.
Early versions called for the hijacking of 10 planes, with a coast-to-coast list of targets including CIA and FBI headquarters and nuclear power plants. A plan to blow up several aircraft over the Pacific at the same time was scrapped.
Bin Laden had wanted to launch the US operation as early as the summer of 2000 when soon-to-be Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon made a controversial visit to a holy site in Jerusalem, the report said. But the hijackers were not ready.
In testimony, John Pistole, a senior FBI counterterrorism official, said the authorities had "probably prevented a few aviation attacks against both the East and West Coasts" since September 11, 2001. He did not give details.
Officials also said it was a virtual certainty that al-Qaeda would hit the United States again. "It has by no means been defeated and, though weakened, it continues to patiently plan its next attacks," said a CIA expert, identified only as Dr. K.
The commission was to wind up its hearings Thursday taking testimony on the immediate response to the attacks. The New York Times said the panel had already concluded that US air defenses were woefully unprepared.
Bush makes Pakistan 'major non-NATO ally'
Thursday June 17, 5:29 AM AFP
US President George W. Bush rewarded Pakistan with "major non-NATO ally" status, opening the door to closer military ties with India's nuclear rival.
"I hereby designate the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as a major non-NATO ally of the United States for the purposes of the act and the Arms Export Control Act," Bush said in a statement released by the White House.
The decision, announced as the president made a rally-the-troops speech on Iraq here, means Pakistan is joining an exclusive club of countries that enjoy a privileged security relationship with the United States.
The announcement came despite US concerns about nuclear proliferation by the father of Pakistan's atomic program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, and followed a finding by the official probe into the September 11, 2001 attacks that Islamabad had helped Afghanistan's Taliban regime shelter Osama bin Laden.
The decision was also expected to awaken concerns in India, which does not enjoy the special status. Two Bush administration officials said they knew of no plans to similarly reward New Delhi.
Major non-NATO allies, including Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand, are granted significant benefits in the area of foreign aid and defense cooperation.
Major non-NATO allies are eligible for priority delivery of defense material and the purchase, for instance, of depleted uranium anti-tank rounds.
They can stockpile US military hardware, participate in defense research and development programs and benefit from a US government loan guarantee program, which backs up loans issued by private banks to finance arms exports.
However, the designation does not afford them the same mutual defense guarantees enjoyed by members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
US Secretary of State Colin Powell had announced plans to give Pakistan the special status during a March visit to Islamabad, drawing protests from India as well as Pakistan's internal Islamist opposition.
The step, an apparent reward for Pakistan's support of the global war on terrorism, came as US special forces are leading the hunt along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan for remnants of al-Qaeda -- possibly including bin Laden -- as well as the Taliban Islamist militia that sheltered him.
And it came as the commission probing the September 11 strikes faulted Pakistan as having "significantly facilitated" the al-Qaeda chief's stay in Afghanistan prior to the attacks.
The commission said Pakistan broke with the Taliban only after September 11, 2001, even though it knew the militia was hiding bin Laden, whom the US already sought for terrorist attacks on embassies in Africa.
"The Taliban's ability to provide bin Laden a haven in the face of international pressure and UN sanctions was significantly facilitated by Pakistani support," said the report.
"Pakistan benefitted from the Taliban-al-Qaeda-relationship, as bin Laden's camps trained and equipped fighters for Pakistan's ongoing struggle with India over Kashmir."
Pakistan has become a key US ally since the war on terrorism was launched in the wake of the September 11 attacks. It dropped its support for the Taliban, allowed US troops to use its air bases and intelligence for the campaign to oust the Taliban and arrested more than 500 al-Qaeda fugitives.
Islamabad was rewarded for its immediate cooperation with the lifting of US sanctions -- which dated back as far as 1990 -- on military cooperation, training and sales.
Since 2001, the US military has resumed bilateral defense talks with Pakistan, as well as some training and limited hardware sales.
Pakistani Politician Says He Is 'Mediating' Between Neo-Taliban And U.K.
Daily Afghan Report June 15, 2004
Source: Radio Free Afghanistan (part of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)
Mawlana Fazl al-Rahman, secretary-general of Pakistan's Muttahida Majlis-e Amal (MMA), said on 13 June that he is mediating between the neo-Taliban and the United Kingdom, the Karachi-based daily "Dawn" reported on 14 June. Fazl al-Rahman said that London is seeking an "honorable" exit by the neo-Taliban from Afghanistan. According to "Dawn," the neo-Taliban have thus far been reluctant to listen to Fazl al-Rahman because Pakistan handed over the former Taliban representative in Islamabad, Mullah Za'if, to the United States following the fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The leader of the MMA said that he feels the British request was made on behalf of the United States. AT
Four killed in bomb blast in northern Afghan city
Wednesday June 16, 11:09 PM AFP
Four Afghans including two children were killed in a bomb blast in the northeastern city of Kunduz, less than a week after 11 Chinese road workers were shot dead near the city, officials said.
A remote-controlled bomb exploded at about 9:30 am (0500 GMT) Wednesday on a busy road as a vehicle used by Kunduz-based German peacekeepers passed by, provincial police chief Mutalib Bek said.
Another person was wounded in the blast, Bek told AFP by telephone.
"We have arrested one suspect in relation to today's bombing in Kunduz," he told AFP later Wednesday.
Kunduz governor Mohammed Omar said the driver, two children and an elderly man were killed. He was not sure whether the driver was killed by the blast or as a result of crashing into a wall shortly afterwards.
"The mine exploded as the PRT (provincial reconstruction team) vehicle arrived on the spot," Omar told AFP.
"It martyred two children, an old man and the driver of the PRT vehicle."
The provincial reconstruction team is made up of some 250 German peacekeepers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and civilian experts and is designed to help rebuild infrastructure and improve security.
The vehicle, which belonged to the peacekeepers, was on its way to a garage for a maintenance check when it was hit, according to a statement released by the force which also confirmed the casualties.
Last week, 11 Chinese road workers were killed as they slept in tents pitched south of Kunduz city. The attack, in which gunmen riddled the tents with machine-gun fire, was the worst against foreigners in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
Meanwhile in southern Kandahar, a government official died after being shot by unknown gunmen and was buried Wednesday, officials said.
Hamid Agha, the director of the ministry of refugees and repatriation, died in the ambulance on the way to hospital on Tuesday, Kandahar military commander General Khan Mohammed said. Three other people injured in the attack are still receiving medical care, he added.
In a separate incident, a US base for troops hunting militants in southeastern Afghanistan came under rocket attack on Sunday but no one was injured, a US military spokesman said.
More than 10 rockets were fired on the base in Khost, 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast of Kabul and close to the border with Pakistan.
Bush cheers US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, warns of trouble to come
Thursday June 17, 1:27 AM AFP
US President George W. Bush rallied US forces, praising their efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in a speech beamed live to troops on the front lines.
Bush came to the home of the US Central Command that oversees both campaigns, to cheer troops fighting in the Middle East and painted a rosy picture of progress in Iraq and Afghanistan despite recent violence.
"In Najaf, Iraqi police are now patrolling the streets. They're being greeted warmly by their fellow citizens," Bush said of the holy city under a ceasefire after weeks of clashes between US forces and fighters loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.
Bush praised the Iraqi police for "setting an example for their fellow citizens."
"They are securing a future of liberty and opportunity for their children and their grandchildren," he said.
Bush warned of "many challenges" and violence to come, two weeks before the United States is scheduled to turn control of Iraq over to a UN-endorsed Iraqi government.
On Monday, 13 people, including five foreigners, were killed and 69 wounded in a suicide car bombing on a coalition convoy in Baghdad. On Wednesday, an Iraqi doctor told AFP that nine people were killed, including four foreigners and 10 wounded in a bomb blast in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi. It was unclear if any coalition forces were among the dead.
While warning of violence, Bush said, Iraq had come a long way in the 14 months since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
"Iraq's economy is moving forward. Markets are beginning to thrive; new businesses have opened; a stable new currency is in place," he said.
"Our coalition has rehabilitated nearly 2,500 schools, and over 1,200 more should be completed by the end of the year. All of Iraq's hospitals and most medical clinics are open and are serving the people."
Bush vowed to fight insurgents who he called "enemies of a peaceful future in Iraq."
"We will not let thugs and killers stand in the way of a free and democratic Iraq," Bush said.
"The traitors will be defeated," he said. "Their greatest fear is an Iraqi government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. And no matter what the terrorists plan, no matter what they attempt, a democratic, free Iraq is on the way."
Thousands of soldiers waited in a sweltering hangar to hear their commander in chief commend their work in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The men and women of (Central Command) have liberated two nations, and have rescued more than 50 million people from tyranny," he said. "I want you to know that you are part of a great force of good in this world. The defense of our country, the defense of our friends, and the peace of the world depends on you."
The speech was carried live via satellite to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and carried to forces around the world on Armed Forces Radio and TV. Big screens at MacDill showed pictures of troops gathered in Baghram and Baghdad.
After the speech, Bush was to be briefed by military officials and then meet privately with the families of 11 soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bush also did a roundtable interview aboard his Air Force One presidential jet with seven publications that target US veterans -- a group that could decide key states in the November 2 election.
New Video Purports to Show Qaeda Training in Afghanistan
By DAVID ROHDE June 17, 2004 The New York Times
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 16 - Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language television network based in Qatar, broadcast Wednesday what it said was a new videotape showing Al Qaeda members receiving military training at a camp in Afghanistan.
A leading terrorism expert said the scenes appeared to be authentic, but it was more likely that training was occurring inside Pakistan's remote tribal areas.
The video, if genuine, would be the first evidence that Al Qaeda had regrouped sufficiently to carry out training operations inside Afghanistan or Pakistan since the United States toppled the Taliban in 2001. It was broadcast a day after President Bush, welcoming the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in Washington, declared that the United States had won a major victory in the war against terrorism by denying Al Qaeda a safe refuge in Afghanistan.
Peter Bergen, a terrorism analyst who teaches at Johns Hopkins University, said the video was the first he had seen emerge from Afghanistan or Pakistan since the fall of the Taliban. He said it suggested renewed confidence by the group.
"It's one thing to be cowering in a mud hut, it's another thing when you're filming training," Mr. Bergen said. "This is more like the stuff we've seen out of Iraq, where we've seen insurgents filming their operations."
Men firing weapons and performing various physical exercises were shown in one part of the video. Another part showed what was described as a nighttime attack on a government post inside Afghanistan. A third scene displayed a man in uniform who appeared to be wounded or dead. The commander of the Qaeda fighters was identified as a Libyan.
Mr. Bergen said that the nighttime attack scenes might have been faked but that he believed the training was real and probably occurring in Pakistan's remote tribal areas, near the Afghan border.
"It's hard to tell which side of the border, but I think it is more likely to be on the Pakistan side," he said. "I think the U.S. army has a better grip on Afghanistan than the Pakistani army has on Pakistan." A week ago, thousands of Pakistani troops began carrying out an operation in the remote tribal areas to kill or capture foreign militants believed to be conducting terrorist attacks in Pakistan and cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials said Monday that they had taken control of the Shakai Valley area where Qaeda-linked terrorists had been receiving training.
Hundreds of foreign militants are believed to be hiding in the Pakistani tribal areas; there are suspicions that Osama bin Laden may be among them. Some Pakistani political analysts and Afghan officials accuse Pakistan's ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, of moving too slowly to eradicate militancy. They say the general tries to protect some militants in order to use them to put pressure on Pakistan's archrival, India.
Pakistani officials point out that militants have vowed to kill General Musharraf, who narrowly survived two assassination attempts in December, and say he is doing all he can to eradicate militancy. They say the government has taken extraordinary steps, including deploying army units in the fiercely independent tribal areas for the first time in Pakistan's history.
In an escalation of fighting on Wednesday, an estimated 70 local and foreign militants carried out a coordinated attack on a Pakistani military base in the tribal areas, killing one soldier and wounding 10 others, 6 seriously. Soldiers said the militants fired dozens of rockets and mortars during a five-hour attack on the camp in Luddah.
Karzai Applauds Washington, Where the Feeling Is Mutual
The Afghan leader says his country will be 'an enduring example' of a democracy. Bush cites it as the 'first victory in the war on terrorism.'
By Maura Reynolds Los Angeles Times June 16, 2004
WASHINGTON — The White House and Congress rolled out the red carpet for Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday, praising his leadership and hailing the progress of nation building in Afghanistan as a model for Iraq and the rest of the region.
"Together we will make Afghanistan a great success and an enduring example of a prosperous, democratic society," Karzai said in an address to a joint session of Congress, a special privilege for a visiting head of state. "Our shared success in Afghanistan is vital to achieving victory over the greatest menace the world faces today: terrorism and extremism."
The attention to Afghanistan served a mutual interest of Karzai and the Bush administration. Karzai sought to make sure his country would not be forgotten amid the clamor surrounding the U.S. return of sovereignty to Iraq at the end of the month. And President Bush sought to showcase U.S. efforts in a country representing what he called "the first victory in the war on terrorism."
"The United States and I will continue to make it clear that we will not abandon those who are building free societies, whether it be in Afghanistan or whether it be in Iraq," Bush told reporters at a news conference with Karzai in the White House Rose Garden.
At times, Karzai's language on Afghanistan echoed White House assertions on Iraq, such as his statements that the United States had "liberated" his country and that the enemy was not Al Qaeda or the Taliban but terrorism.
"You came to Afghanistan to defeat terrorism, and we Afghans welcomed and embraced you for the liberation of our country," Karzai told members of both houses of Congress who had gathered in the chamber of the House of Representatives. "Together we ended the rule of terrorism."
Rick Barton, director of a post-conflict reconstruction project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Karzai was afraid Afghanistan would be forgotten amid U.S. preoccupation with Iraq. He described Karzai as a "steady, likable communicator" who for his own reasons is more than happy to help the White House try to focus public attention more on its successes in Afghanistan than its troubles in Iraq.
"He's one of the most attractive faces that can be put on American nation building right now," Barton said. "If he can become the face of 'Iraqistan,' that will help us."
Karzai acknowledged the problems still facing his country, including the growth of the opium trade and preparations for national elections scheduled for September. But he also cited significant progress, including the registration of 3.8 million Afghan voters, more than 35% of them women. And he pledged strong efforts to eradicate the export of drug crops, especially opium.
"The Afghan government is adamant, the Afghan people are adamant to … end it in Afghanistan. And we seek your help in that," Karzai told the news conference.
Mark Schneider, senior vice president at the International Crisis Group in Washington, a nonprofit organization that studies wars and works to resolve conflicts, said Karzai had painted a somewhat rosy picture of gains in his country. It's not clear that elections will take place as scheduled, Schneider said, and this year's opium harvest is expected to be the country's largest.
"If you assume that the White House's purpose was to demonstrate that the administration's policies were successful, I don't think he did that, because the reality is that there are many serious problems with the policy, starting with security," Schneider said.
In White House Garden, Karzai Muses About Not Going Home
Wednesday June 16, 7:19 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai mused lightheartedly on Tuesday that it might be nice to stay in the United States, but President Bush suggested he get home and go to work.
"It's been nice visiting the United States again. One likes to stay here and not go, it's such a good country," Karzai said in the White House Rose Garden.
Bush was cool to the suggestion, jokingly telling the Afghan leader, "Get home and get to work, will you?"
"Thank you, yes," Karzai said in response.
At home in Afghanistan, Karzai faces an insurgency and constant threat of assassination.
In contrast, in Washington he receives royal treatment typically reserved for only the closest of allies.
Karzai met with Bush's top advisers, addressed a joint meeting of Congress, and sat down for a private lunch with the American president and first lady.
Bomb Hits NATO Vehicle in Afghanistan
Wed Jun 16, 1:45 PM ET By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A bomb hit a car used by NATO-led peacekeepers in northern Afghanistan Wednesday, killing four civilians including two children, police said.
The attack came a week after 11 Chinese workers were shot in their beds in the same province, and a day after President Bush lauded Afghanistan as the "first victory in the war on terror."
Police said the bomb showered shrapnel on the SUV as it passed through a busy market in Kunduz, 150 miles north of the capital, Kabul.
"A mine was detonated on the edge of the road by remote control," Kunduz police chief Mutaleb Beg said. "The driver lost control and ran the car into a wall."
The Afghan driver, as well as two children about 10 and an elderly man who were passers-by, were killed, Beg said. Another youngster was injured, he said.
A spokesman for the peacekeepers, squadron leader Sean McFetrich, said the vehicle was clearly marked with the international force's green insignia and German flags.
He denied Beg's suggestion that it was part of a military convoy from the 250-strong German contingent, which patrols the region. He said the car was being taken to a local garage for servicing when the attack occurred.
Insurgents, active mainly in the south and east of Afghanistan, have vowed to sabotage the country's first post-Taliban national vote later this year and appear to be expanding into the relatively stable north.
The bloodshed is hampering U.N. efforts to register voters in the south and east, but both the U.S. military and President Hamid Karzai say the vote should go ahead as planned in September.
Kunduz is the only place outside the Afghan capital where the 6,400-strong NATO-led security force has a presence, though it plans to set up at least five more so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams in time for the elections.
NATO nations have been slow to pledge extra soldiers and equipment for the rollout, but the force's commander said Wednesday he expected an order to send troops to the areas around the northern cities of Mazar-e-Sharif and Maymana.
"I do believe it's still possible to set the conditions for elections here," Lt. Gen. Rick Hillier said.
The 11 Chinese road workers and an Afghan guard were killed June 10 in Kunduz province in the worst attack on foreign civilians since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Five members of medical relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, including three Europeans, were fatally shot in the remote northwest on June 2.
Another explosion early Wednesday damaged the office of Afghanaid, a British relief agency, in Faizabad in northeastern Badakhshan province, slightly injuring an Afghan guard.
Meanwhile, militants fired about 10 rockets at its soldiers in southeastern Khost province, causing no injuries or damage, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Khost is on the border with Pakistan's Waziristan tribal region, where a major army operation against al-Qaida suspects last week killed at least 72 people, including 55 militants.
On Wednesday, more than 70 militants firing rockets raided a Pakistani military post, triggering a gunbattle that left at least two militants and one soldier dead. Pakistan's army said scores of militants were wounded.
Hundreds of foreign al-Qaida-linked and Taliban militants are still believed to be hiding in Pakistan's rugged tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. They are thought to include Arabs, Central Asians and Afghans.
Cross-border attacks have stoked violence in which more than 500 people have died across Afghanistan this year, including government officials, Afghan and foreign soldiers and scores of suspected militants.
Karzai joined Bush in Washington on Tuesday to highlight Afghanistan's progress in what is an election year for both men.
Despite a boom in opium and heroin production and the deteriorating security situation, Bush gave an upbeat assessment.
"Afghanistan is no longer a terrorist factory sending thousands of killers into the world," Bush said. But he added: "The road ahead for Afghanistan is still long and difficult."
Afghanistan beat Bahrain in the ACC Trophy
17 June 2004 Khaleej Times KUALA LUMPUR - Afghanistan, aided by a fine century from Karim Khan, recorded their first win in an international cricket competition when they defeated Bahrain by eight wickets in the HSBC-sponsored ACC Trophy at the Kilat Club ground yesterday.
The Afghans also took the shine outside the cricket ground as one or two of their players had a scuffle with their own team official apparently frustrated at not being able to play in the match.
Match officials calmed the situation and warned them not to misbehave.
On the match, Bahrain, batting first, scored 172 before being all out. They lost two quick wickets when the score was 25. Abdul Waheed (49 off 89 balls) and Mirza Ashraf (25), however, steadied the innings.
Afghanistan, in reply, built their innings around Karim Khan (100) and Naw Ros (60) before achieving the target in 24.5 overs.
In another match, Kuwait beat Maldives by eight wickets at the Selangor Turf Club ground. Maldives, batting first, scored 163 in 47.3 overs. Ibrahim Hussein (34) and Ahmed Hussein (31) were the main scorers.
Bahrain's Sibtain Raza was the toast of his team with an unbeaten knock of 86 in 86 balls. Raza was well assisted by Khalid Butt (31) and Mustansar H. (25 no) before they surpassed Maldives' total in 28.3 overs.
Qatar defeated Singapore in the third match of the day by seven wickets at Club Aman today.
Winning the toss and putting the Singaporeans to bat, the Qatar bowlers pinned down the Singapore batsmen with a tidy bowling to snap four quick wickets that sent Singapore reeling at 40 for the loss of four wickets.
Only four Singapore batsmen - Suneth Mendis (10), Joshua Dearing (10), Zeng Renchun (21) and Arun Vijayan (13) - reached double figures as the Qataris stopped Singapore at 107 runs in 30.4 overs.
Qatar reached the target in 18.3 over with Omar Taj top scoring with 68 off 54 balls which included 11 fours and one six.
Afghan police arrest child kidnappers
Afghan security forces have arrested four men in Kabul suspected of being involved in child kidnapping.
The four are believed to be part of a team that included three other men arrested last week in Logar province just south of Kabul, said Abdul Jamil, the head of Kabul police's counter-criminal department.
"On Monday we arrested four men accused of child kidnapping," he said. "We believe they are part of that team in Logar province."
"We had intelligence that they were hidden here [in Kabul]," Mr Jamil said.
One of the men is a medical doctor.
Child trafficking is undocumented but apparently on the rise in the country and has recently cast a shadow over the security of children in the war-torn country.
Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission, which is investigating the issue, has so far registered some 300 children missing throughout the country in recent months.
Germany denies planning to set up new Afghan aid team alone
BERLIN, June 16 (AFP) - The German defence ministry denied Wednesday a report that it plans to set up a new civilian-military reconstruction team in a town in Afghanistan without Dutch help.
"That is absolutely false," a spokesman said at a routine press conference.
The Financial Times Deutschland reported that a team, known as a provincial reconstruction team (PRT), will be established by Germany alone in the town of Feyzebad near the Kunduz region and not, as previously planned, in a joint endeavour with the Dutch.
The newspaper said the Dutch government had meanwhile decided to establish its own PRT in another location, but gave no further details. Germany already leads a PRT in Kunduz involving some 250 troops.
"We are examining establishing a second PRT in consultation with other nations," the defence ministry spokesman said.
NATO, which runs a 6,500-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) based in the capital Kabul, is expected to announce the setting up of at least five new teams at its summit in Istanbul at the end of the month.
But its members have been slow to commit resources to the endeavour.
With elections due in September, the Afghan government is in dire need of security help outside Kabul so that voter registration can go ahead in time..
The polls, which have already been delayed from June, would be the first since the hardline Islamic Taliban militia were ousted from power in 2001 by a US-led war following the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Pakistani troops attack new Al-Qaeda hideout near Afghan border
WANA, Pakistan (AFP) - Pakistani troops and fighter jets swooped down on suspected Al-Qaeda hideouts near the Afghan border, launching their third offensive this year in a protracted campaign to rid the tribal region of Al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The latest target was Baghar, a village lying in the 30 kilometer (18.6 mile) stretch of mountains between the South Waziristan tribal district capital Wana and the porous frontier, a local official said, requesting anonymity.
"There was a hideout in the area, it is being knocked out," military spokesman Major General Shaukat told AFP in Islamabad on Thursday.
"It is part of a continuing process which comes with different intervals."
Military officials said the operation was launched over intelligence reports that a group of "miscreants" was hiding in the area.
"This a targetted operation meant to kill or capture this group of miscreants," said an official who could not be identified. The exact numner of militants in the targetted area was unknown.
Residents in Wana said jets and helicopters flew overhead Thursday and that a Pakistani spy plane conducted sorties on Wednesday, but Sultan refused to confirm whether warplanes conducted air strikes.
"We are using whatever resources we consider necessary against miscreants," Sultan said.
"We locate and destroy whenever we get information about their hideouts."
Fighters jets and helicopter gunships pounded an Al-Qaeda training camp and two Al-Qaeda safe houses at nearby Shakai, just north of Wana, last weekend, killing 55 militants.
The military said it had secured the area by Sunday night and declared the operation over, but was unable to say where hundreds of other militants had fled to.
President Pervez Musharraf earlier in the year estimated 500 to 600 foreign fighters were hiding in the remote northwest tribal belt. A fierce 12-day offensive in March, also just west of Wana in Azam Warsak, killed 65 militants.
But Pakistan's military has had a tough time penetrating the semi-autonomous tribal region, which it entered for the first time in history two-and-a-half years ago.
It suffered heavy casualties in both previous operations this year, losing 18 troops in the weekend offensive and 46 troops in the March fighting.
Most of the militants are Chechens and Uzbeks with some Arabs and Chinese Uighurs among them. They are being supported by a band of rebel Pakistani tribesmen from the defiant Yargulkhel clan of the local Waziri tribe.
US forces hunting Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan believe the militants hiding on the Pakistani side have been slipping over the border to stage guerrilla attacks on aid workers, troops and officials.
The Baghar hideouts lie opposite Paktika, one of Afghanistan's most insurgency-hit provinces Paktika. They are surrounded by forests and rough terrain.
Hideouts used by Central Asian militants in the nearby border town of Angoor Ada were targetted last October in an air and ground attack by the military that killed 10 militants, including a wanted Chinese Uighur fighter.
Clashes erupted Tuesday night south of Wana when militants attacked a paramilitary post with rockets. In the ensuing gunfight two foreign militants were killed and scores were injured, the military said.
The region is home to fiercely proud conservative Pashtun tribes known to have sympathies with the ousted Taliban and Al-Qaeda fugitives.
Wave of attacks alarms international forces
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
KABUL, 16 June (IRIN) - The Kabul-based International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said on Wednesday that the security situation was not improving as the country moved towards elections due in September.
"The security situation is far from being stable. It is deteriorating," Major Jacek Ciszek, acting chief of public information for the NATO-led peacekeeping force, told IRIN on Wednesday in the capital Kabul.
ISAF's concerns follow several deadly attacks by insurgent groups around the country, which have seen dozens of aid workers and civilians killed and injured in the course of just two weeks.
In the most recent attack, four civilians were killed and one injured on Wednesday morning when a bomb went off in the northeastern city of Konduz as a civilian car passed by, according to ISAF officials. "One civilian vehicle was hit by an explosion in Konduz this morning. Four civilians were killed and one injured," Squadron Leader Sean McFetrich of the ISAF press information centre told IRIN. He added that an investigation was under way by local police.
The recent rise in the number of attacks on foreigners and aid workers has been blamed on members of the ousted Taliban regime and remnants of Al-Qaeda.
Wednesday's incident followed a rocket attack near NATO headquarters in Kabul on Tuesday, wounding an Afghan soldier. Just prior to that, the head of the government's refugee department in the southern province of Kandahar was shot dead. Reports from Kandahar said Hamid Agha was killed outside his home by gunmen on a motorbike. At least two of his bodyguards were also shot.
Last Thursday, 11 Chinese construction workers and an Afghan guard were shot dead when a group of gunmen stormed a camp housing sleeping Chinese road workers on the outskirts of Konduz city.
On 2 June, three European medical relief workers and two Afghans were killed in an ambush in Badghis province. Responsibility for the attack was later claimed by the Taliban.
Both Badghis and Konduz previously were viewed as relatively peaceful, and relief agencies fear militants are expanding their operations from the insurgency-plagued south and east.
ISAF said these attacks were conducted by "those who do not like this country to be stable" and were aimed at trying to derail the electoral process, "but as far we know, the elections will take place in September and as far as ISAF is concerned we will do whatever we can to make it happen," the ISAF chief of public information said.
With the post-conflict country struggling to recover from two-and-a-half decades of war, aid agencies say insecurity has hampered aid deliveries to certain areas.
Meanwhile, the United Nations in Kabul told IRIN that all UN road movements had been suspended in Konduz after Wednesday's incident. "As a precautionary measure, all UN road movements in and out of Konduz have been suspended for 48 hours," Manoel de Almieda e Silva, a spokesperson of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, told IRIN on Wednesday.
Assistance for reducing humanitarian deficits in Afghanistan
Source: Government of Japan 16 Jun 2004
Assistance for reducing humanitarian deficits of war-affected rural communities in Afghanistan through increased agricultural productivity and promotion of auxiliary income-generating activities
On June 16, the Government of Japan and the United Nations (UN) decided to extend the total of 876,579 dollar assistance through the Trust Fund for Human Security for the project "Assistance in reducing humanitarian deficits of war-affected rural communities through increased agricultural productivity and promotion of auxiliary income-generating activities" to be implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in Afghanistan..
This project is intended to increase the viability of Ghazni and Herat in Afghanistan which contain internally displaced persons, returnees, former fighters and poverty groups by the following activities:
1) Supply of simple agriculture tools, power-tillers to raise productivity of agriculture.
2) Training in the manufacture, repair and maintenance of simple agriculture tools.
3) Support for the local communities in establishing of a variety of income-generating activities such as food processing, blacksmithing and others.
This project is expected to increase the capability of marginalized and poor rural communities in Afghanistan to engage in viable farming and non-farming enterprises, thus reducing their dependency on relief aid and helping them to move towards sustainable livelihood.
Japan established the Trust Fund for Human Security in the United Nations Secretariat in March 1999, with total contributions of 25.9 billion yen approximately US$ 227 million up to the present. The Trust Fund has assisted more than 100 projects of UN agencies funds and programmes that address various threats to human life, livelihood and dignity, from the perspective of human security.
Kuwait beats Malaysia, United Arab Emirates defeats Qatar and Hong Kong has close call against Afghanistan in Asian cricket tournament
Associated Press Wednesday June 16, 10:28 AM
Defending champion the United Arab Emirates had an easy 10-wicket victory over Qatar and Kuwait beat Malaysia by 108 runs, but Hong Kong had to work hard to defeat war-torn Afghanistan in the Asian Cricket Council trophy in Malaysia..
Chasing Hong Kong's total of 169, Afghanistan struggled early against the bowling of Jawad Iqbal, who took three wickets for 24 runs before Raees Ahmadzi and Mohammed Nabi joined for a 69-run partnership. Afghanistan were all out for 157 in 42 overs.
Also Tuesday, Qatar were all out for 111 and had no answer for UAE bowlers Mohammed Tauqir, who took four wickets for 15 runs, and Syed Maqsood Ahmed, who had three for 12. Asim Saeed, 66 not out, and Arshad Ali, unbeaten on 44, sealed victory and a place in the quarter finals for the UAE.
Kuwait set Malaysia a target of 227 then set about taking the host team's batting apart, bowling out their rival for 118 runs in the 38th over.
In games Wednesday, with Singapore plays Qatar, Maldives meets Kuwait and Bahrain plays Afghanistan.
The champion and runner-up in the tournament, which ends June 22, will qualify for the ICC trophy in June next year in Ireland.
A ride to Afghanistan with a taxed Air Force
As of this month, standard overseas tours are 120 days.
By Ann Scott Tyson The Christian Science Monitor
from the June 16, 2004 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0616/p07s01-wosc.html
ABOARD A C-17 EN ROUTE TO AFGHANISTAN - Peering through night-vision goggles in his blacked-out cockpit, Capt. Chad Smith grips the throttle of the C-17 Globemaster III, as the fully loaded transport plane makes a steep banking turn and skims over the mountains surrounding the US military airfield at Bagram, Afghanistan.
Despite gusty winds and a locked-up flight display, Captain Smith brings the plane in smoothly, in what he calls "one of the hardest landings I've done."
Yet Smith and his crew are only halfway through a 26-hour working "day" - one that has already included this combat landing, a delicate midair refueling over the Black Sea, and grappling with testy Georgian air-traffic controllers.
By the time the crew returns to its current base in Germany, it will have seen the sun set, rise, and set again. "Your circadian rhythm gets all messed up," says the copilot, 1st Lt. Ryan Theiss of Tampa, Fla.
While much attention has focused on how the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are straining US ground forces, the extended days of pilots like these illustrate how the Air Force is also increasingly stretched thin. Already, for example, the Air Force's Air Mobility Command has moved 1.5 million troops and nearly 1 million tons of gear and supplies for the two wars, with no relief in sight.. It's the third-largest movement of its kind since the Berlin airlift more than 50 years ago. Future plans to create a faster-moving "expeditionary" US military will only increase the demands for air transport, Air Force officials say.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is lengthening its overseas deployments. This month, it increased its standard 90-day deployment by 33 percent, raising to 120 days the time its 10 rotational units, called Air Expeditionary Forces, remain overseas. It also plans to expand aggressively the pool of deployable personnel beyond the current 270,000.
The Air Force is turning increasingly to contractors to move troops and supplies into combat zones. "Contract airlift ... is probably 10 percent [now], but I expect it will grow as we build up a contractor fleet and expand in theater," says Brig. Gen. Jim Hunt, commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, which provides combat air power and airlift in Afghanistan.
The Air Force seeks to avoid increasing its total manpower, which is already 16,000 troops over the congressionally mandated limit of 359,000 for active duty. Instead, officials assert that by changing the mix of jobs they can shrink the force.
Meanwhile, crews are flying longer missions and have less ground time between flights. Many Air Reserve units, especially, are seeing an unprecedented rate and duration of deployment. "The operations tempo has significantly increased," says Lt. Col. Frank Taylor, who commands a group of the 315th Airlift Wing in Charleston, S.C. "We had to get the war over there, and now we have to sustain it." Reserve and National Guard members make up some 60 percent the 150,000-strong Air Mobility Command.
Maj. Matt Yaun, a reserve pilot under the 315th, spent 200 days on overseas missions last year and expects to serve a full two years on active duty. While committed to his job, he says that with only 12 hours notice before flights, his personal life is strained. "Just when you think you will make it to something important like a child's recital, you're gone," he says.
"It's kind of cumulative fatigue," adds fellow reservist Lt. Col. Wes Willoughby. He's eager to return to his 216-acre soybean farm in Smoaks, S.C., but fears he could face another two-year call up due to the war in Iraq.
The workload has increased for active-duty crews as well. New pilots like Lieutenant Theiss must now sign up for 10 years of service instead of eight, while they routinely spend double the time on overseas missions that they did before the Sept. 11 attacks.
"You used to have a lot more time off. Now, that has gone out the window," says Capt. William Friar, chatting with a reporter and the crew through his headset. "It's definitely a different lifestyle than was advertised."
To stay awake, the pilots drink coffee and tell stories, sometimes keeping alert by quizzing each other about the aircraft. They watch the sun set, and the moon rise orange and distorted on the horizon.
Long hours are punctuated by tense intervals, such as when they perform a precarious link-up with a KC-135 tanker to refuel over the Black Sea. Smith must steady the C-17 within just 40 feet of the tanker, as it extends a "boom" that connects above the cockpit and pumps fuel at a rate of 7,000 lbs. a minute.
"The controls are real heavy," says Smith, as the jet grows sluggish from the intake of fuel. "It's like driving a semi instead of a sports car."
"You're creeping," Theiss warns, as Smith inches the C-17 closer to the tanker.
Later, the pilots grow frustrated when a Georgian air-traffic controller, whom they can barely understand, refuses to let them climb higher than 29,000 feet, forcing them to fly less efficiently through thicker air.
Still, the pilots are buoyed by a sense of duty as well as some spectacular views, like a starry Afghan sky made more brilliant through night-vision goggles. "This is the best seat in the house," says Friar.
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