Six Factional Fighters Killed in Afghan North
Fri May 14, 6:45 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Six loyalists of an Afghan faction were killed in an ambush in the northern province of Balkh, a spokesman for the faction said on Friday.
They included a top police official and several military officers from Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, and belonged to the Jamiat-e-Islami faction led by Ustad Atta Mohammad, Zalmay Yunous said.
"They were killed in an ambush yesterday evening. We are investigating to find who was behind this act," he said.
The attack occured in Sholgara district, where four other Jamiat officials were recently killed in a similar ambush, Yunous said. He did not blame any specific group for either incident.
Sholgara lies some 38 miles southwest of Mazar city and has been the scene of numerous clashes between Atta's fighters and those loyal to rival commander General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
Both Dostum and Atta are senior members of President Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul. Periodic fighting between their forces has undermined Karzai's bid to unite and rebuild Afghanistan after more than 23 years of fighting.
Around 700 people have been killed in violence since August, most of it blamed on remnants of the Taliban regime who are most active in the south and east. Atta and Dostum helped American forces topple the hardline Islamic regime late in 2001.
No Timeframe for Afghan Prisoner Abuse Probe - U.S.
Fri May 14, 7:50 AM ET By Rahul Sharma
COLOMBO (Reuters) - The United States, investigating charges of detainee abuse by its soldiers in Afghanistan , has promised to bring the guilty to justice but gave no timeframe for the completion of the probe.
"I know that the allegations remain and I think they are still being investigated, but, just as allegations elsewhere, they will be pursued to the logical conclusion," Christina Rocca, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs, told reporters when asked to comment on detainee abuse in Afghanistan.
She was speaking in Sri Lanka's capital Colombo, where she is on a two-day visit.
The U.S. military, facing a backlash across the Arab world for its treatment of Iraqi prisoners, announced on Wednesday that it had launched an investigation into a complaint of detainee abuse in Afghanistan.
Former Afghan police colonel Sayed Nabi Siddiqui told the New York Times he was subjected to beating, kicking, sleep deprivation, taunts and sexual abuse during 40 days in U.S. custody in Afghanistan last year.
A 20,000-strong U.S. force is in Afghanistan hunting al Qaeda and Taliban fighters waging an insurgency against the government.
"If there was abuse -- and I am not saying there were because I don't know this yet -- the perpetrators will be brought to justice. I don't have a time frame," Rocca said.
Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that mistreatment of prisoners by American forces in Afghanistan was systemic. It demanded information on how two Afghans died in U.S. custody in December 2002 and called for wider access to detention centers where hundreds of al Qaeda and other Islamic militant suspects are held.
"Afghans have been telling us for well over a year about mistreatment in U.S. custody, John Sifton, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
DETAINEE ABUSE NOT HELPFUL
Rocca said detainee abuse was not helpful to any cause and hoped people would understand that the vast majority of U.S. soldiers in Iraq were not carrying out such actions.
"Our hope is that when it is shown that people are brought to justice...and that it is not the policy of the United States government to behave in this terrible fashion, that we will be able to continue our good work in Afghanistan as in Iraq," she said.
Suspected militants detained by U.S. forces are either taken to centers in Afghanistan or to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Often nothing is known of their fate until they are freed.
Only the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to U.S. detention centers in Afghanistan, including the largest at Bagram where some 300 suspects are believed to be held.
The U.S. military said in March last year the deaths of two Afghans at Bagram were homicides and news reports quoted a spokesman as saying they had suffered "blunt force" injuries.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has also requested access to U.S. detention centers.
Commissioner Abdul Razique Samadi said 43 Afghans had complained to the AIHRC about abuse by U.S. forces, although the new allegation by the police officer was the most serious.
Samadi said he did not believe the treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan was comparable with that in Iraq, but warned that any complaint could play into the hands of militants fighting an insurgency against U.S. forces and the central government.
Marine from Old Bridge shot in leg in Afghanistan
Home News Tribune 5/15/04 AP
Please see Wounded page A2 STYL not found A1 not found 1 STYL not found Carro said he and his unit haven't minded the lack of attention given to the operations in Afghanistan in favor of those in Iraq.cmqt,32 "I am a tough kid. I was going to try to test myself and that's exactly what I did."MICHAEL CARRO,
OLD BRIDGE: Marine Lance Cpl. Michael Carro didn't realize it for a moment, but when he felt the sting then the pain in his left leg and saw the blood, he knew what happened.
The 20-year-old township resident had been shot.
Carro was a member of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit on patrol in Afghanistan on May 4. "I don't remember exactly what happened, but I remember loud sounds," Carro said during a phone interview Thursday. He said he didn't see where the shot came from.
Carro was first airlifted to Kandahar, then to Germany. After a short stay at the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland, he was transported to Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital in North Carolina.
In addition to the gunshot wound, he suffered a fractured tibia and shinbone. A wound vacuum was put on his leg, which is expected to heal the wound from inside out, Carro said. A metal rod was also inserted in the place of a shattered bone, he added.
Despite that, Carro was in good spirits as he talked from his hospital room Thursday. "I am OK, I am healing up pretty good right now," he said.
Carro's mother, Angela, said she is heading to North Carolina to see her son this weekend.
"I'm very anxious to see him," she said. "We are very close, and I know he needs to see me."
Angela said military personnel contacted her within hours of the attack about her son's condition. She said the caller told her about the shooting in a "very diplomatic way."
She was told her son was fine and in good spirits but that he had been shot. "I was in shock for a while, but happy he was going to be OK," Angela said.
She even got to speak to her son. "He was in a lot of pain," she said.
Although Carro said he wasn't as coherent as he wanted to be, he added, "(The call) helped me out a lot."
Carro, a 2001 Old Bridge High School graduate, entered the Marine Corps on Oct. 7, 2002. He was attending Middlesex County College but felt things weren't working out.
"I am a tough kid," Carro said. "I was going to try to test myself and that's exactly what I did."
He trained at Parris Island, S.C. then at Camp Lejeune. Carro and his unit received their deployment orders to Afghanistan about a month ago, he said.
In an article on the Marine Corps Web site, the Marines reportedly established a forward operating base to support combat and civil-military operations primarily in the Oruzgan province. The expeditionary unit was brought into Afghanistan to offer security and stability to the region.
"We are here to help with the future of Afghanistan," said Col. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., 22d MEU commanding officer.
A photograph that accompanies this story was taken about 10 minutes before the shooting occurred. In it, Carro's face is seen clearly as the unit prepared for their mission.
Carro said he and his unit haven't minded the lack of attention given to the operations in Afghanistan in favor of those in Iraq.
"We really didn't care, because we were doing our thing," he said.
As he recuperates at Camp Lejeune, Carro said he is unsure of what his future holds. The first thing, he said, is to heal and get back on his feet.
He said he wants to get back on his job as a lance corporal. Before that, he will be coming back to Old Bridge. Carro said that could be in the next week or two.
"I can't wait to come home," he said.
NATO wants Bulgaria to do more in Afghanistan
SOFIA (AFP) May 14, 2004-NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on Friday called on Bulgaria to provide extra help in the expansion of the NATO-led security assistance force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
"I have asked my Bulgarian interlocutors to see if Bulgaria for instance could do more in Afghanistan, in the framework of building the so-called provincial reconstruction teams," he said after a meeting with Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passi.
The United Nations has approved an expansion of the force, which is currently limited to Kabul and the northern town of Kunduz, to other towns and provinces across the war-ravaged country.
According to the Bulgarian defence ministry, NATO has asked the country to send more troops, as well as making a contribution to transportation and medical services.
Bulgaria, which became a member of NATO in March, has 66 men in Afghanistan.
ISAF is made up of about 6,500 soldiers from 29 countries.
"Nato is in Afghanistan to prevent that country from becoming a safe harbour for terrorists again, because terrorism is everywhere.
"And we support the government of president Hamid Karzai. And we expand into the region gaining stability and security there", said Scheffer.
At the end of the talks Scheffer was ceremoniously driven round the grounds of the foreign ministry in a 25-year old Trabant car, a traditional honour conferred on NATO secretary generals by Bulgarian leaders since the fall of communism of which the Trabant was a symbol.
Russian border guards withdrawal to dent Tajik-afghan border
MOSCOW, May 14 (Online): A dented Tajik-Afghan border will be the result of a withdrawal of Russian border guards from Tajikistan, Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
"We are by and large leaving Tajikistan for our 201st motor rifle division stationed here will be converted into a Russian military base. Border guards are going. The result will be a holed border, which means an inflow of narcotics", Trubnikov said.
Russia will be forced to take steps against the spread of drug traffic. "Security belts will have to be set up. Well do it on the Kazakh border and what not", he continued. The United States, actively present in this region, "is not too glad", he noted. "The United States well knows that transit passes through us. After that drug traffic will only spread further".
Trubnikov flatly denied the suppositions that Russia is withdrawing its border guards from Tajikistan under pressure from the United States. "It is the desire of the Tajiks", he stressed. The bloodless change of power in Adzharia it to bring about certain stabilization in Georgia, Trubnikov believes.
"The change of power in the form it has taken place - bloodless and with the serious participation of Russia - it to lead to definite stabilisation in Georgia and the Caucasian region as a whole", the first deputy foreign minister believes.
"Much will also depend on how the Georgian authorities will approach the on-going conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Adzharian pattern cannot be automatically applied to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian problems", he emphasized. Trubnikov noted the very important role of the visit to Adzharia by Russian Security Council secretary Igor Ivanov in settling the conflict.
UN lowers estimate of total voters in Afghanistan
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has lowered the estimate of total potential voters from about 10.5 million to "9 million or so, " the mission said Thursday in a press release.
The new estimate was made on numbers provided by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), which is conducting a pre-census household listing throughout the country, the mission said.
Meanwhile, the mission reported progress in expanding voters registration sites. "Ten days ago we had a little bit over 100, now some 10 days later we have close to 400," the mission's spokesman said.
In the first phase of registration, which began last December and was confined to eight mainly urban centers, such as Kabul and Kandahar, some 2 million people registered, about 30 percent of them women, according to the mission.
New $10 million initiative replaces mines with vines in Afghanistan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Thursday, May 13, 2004 University of California Davis
A new $10 million contract has been awarded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to the California-based Roots of Peace organization and a consortium of partners, including the University of California, Davis, to fund restoration of grape and raisin vineyards in areas of Afghanistan once riddled with land mines.
The contract includes $6 million in federal funds and $4 million in matching grants. A total of $870,000 will go to UC Davis for a variety of activities including training, establishment of vineyard nurseries and development of marketing centers.
"We at UC Davis are eager to be about the business of invigorating Afghanistan's once robust horticultural industry and raising the incomes of Afghan farmers," said Patrick Brown, director of the International Programs Office in UC Davis' College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "To achieve this, we will be working toward increasing the technical capacity of Afghanistan's table-grape and raisin producers in the provinces of Ghanzi, Kandahar and Parwan."
"In recent years, Roots of Peace has funded the removal of more than 100,000 land mines and unexploded ordinances through the efforts of Afghan de-miners in the Shomali Plains north of Kabul," said Heidi Kuhn, founder and chief executive officer of Roots of Peace, which is the lead agency on the initiative. "We are thrilled to be taking the next steps to replacing the legacy of war with the literal fruits of peace."
Roots of Peace is a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 and dedicated to the eradication of land mines by returning de-mined land to productive agricultural use. In addition to developing grape vineyards in Afghanistan, the group is replanting former mine fields in Cambodia with rice, Croatia with orchards and Iraq with wheat.
Other partners in the Roots of Peace consortium are the Afghan Center, a local resource center for Afghan-Americans in Fremont, with offices also in Kabul; Agland Investments, a private consulting agribusiness firm; and the private organizations Global Partnership for Afghanistan and the Afghanistan Development Association.
The Roots of Peace also is supported generously by numerous California vintners.
UC Davis' role
During the next two growing seasons, UC Davis will facilitate the training and implementation of an agricultural extension service, a two-tiered nursery system and development of enhanced postharvest collection and marketing centers.
The extension service will be modeled after the University of California's Cooperative Extension Service, which works with farmers to apply research to problems in production agriculture.
Initially, a series of training workshops will be delivered to 40 extension agents, comprised of University of Kabul graduates and returning employees and recruits from the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry. In addition, faculty members from Kabul University will attend these workshops and assist with program development. Eventually, they will assume full responsibility for the extension program.
UC Davis also will assist in establishing nursery facilities in order to begin providing virus-free, adapted plants for a comprehensive vineyard-replanting program. More than 45 percent of Afghanistan's vineyards have been destroyed by a quarter-century of war, and many of the remaining vineyards are in poor health, noted Patrick Brown.
Included in the nursery program will be heritage Afghan cultivars that have been maintained at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's germplasm repository at UC Davis, as well as improved cultivated grape varieties from the world's leading grape-producing countries. The nursery program's central activities will be identification, preservation and optimal utilization of Afghanistan's valuable local grape varieties.
Collection and marketing centers will be developed to help decrease losses of produce following harvest. The centers also will aid in standardizing the quality of the produce and enhancing product safety to help ensure the produce is more marketable and brings higher profit for farmers.
The federal funding is provided to the Roots of Peace consortium by US-AID's Rebuilding Agricultural Markets in Afghanistan Program.
The UC Davis team is composed of Patrick Brown; Farbod Youssefi, program coordinator; and Todd Rosenstock, training coordinator. Collaborating in the UC Davis program will be members of the departments of Pomology, and Viticulture and Enology, the Foundation Plant Service and the USDA's Germplasm Repository. Students in the International Agricultural Development Graduate Group also will participate and use the project to further their education.
US turns to enemies for help in Iraq, Afghanistan
By Ed Blanche The Daily Star (Lebanon) Saturday, May 15, 2004
BEIRUT: It's a measure of how bad things have become in Iraq and Afghanistan that the Americans are calling on their old enemies to help them out. But then again, it could also be the start, finally, of some pragmatic thinking. The US viceroy in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, has had to reinstate Saddam Hussein's generals and administrators to shore up the US-led coalition authority as the June 30 handover of sovereignty to an Iraqi transitional government approaches, while in Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, the US protege whose writ barely extends beyond the capital, is now negotiating with "moderate" Taleban leaders to help him curb the power of his country's warlords.
Bremer's problems have been massively compounded by the still-unfolding revelations of widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US and British troops pretty much since the occupation began in April 2003, and heightened Iraqi and Arab hostility toward the US and its allies. The crisis of credibility this has caused is likely to get worse in the crucial weeks ahead and may even jeopardize the handover of sovereignty. Bremer said the new government's powers would be "limited" - no control of security forces, for one thing - and that risks a major backlash by Iraqis who had been led to believe that they would enjoy real sovereignty as of July 1.
It seems hardly credible that the US efforts to create a stable Iraq now depend on restoring the authority of Saddam's thugs and the Baath's civil servants. One of the reasons for the US failure in Vietnam was that it never managed to establish viable Vietnamese security forces that were well motivated and not corrupt. Then same thing seems to be happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. As recent fighting showed, most of the 200,000 Iraqis recruited for the new security forces could not be relied upon. Those who didn't give the insurgents intelligence and even US-provided weapons, or simply defected, refused to fight their countrymen. The Americans had little choice but to take the big gamble of resorting to the servants of the ancien regime to help them out of the hole they were in.
Little seems to be going right for the Americans and their increasingly jittery allies. The defiance of an estimated 2,000 insurgents in the Sunni triangle around Baghdad, turning the flashpoint city of Fallujah into a no-go area, while followers of the firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rose in revolt in Baghdad's slums and cities across the south in early April, left the Americans facing the nightmare prospect of fighting Shiite and Sunni hard-liners at the same time. The Shiites' more pragmatic leaders, such as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, would like to see Sadr contained, but the fiery young cleric may yet find common cause with the Sunni insurgents. However, an alliance between the militant wings of the rival sects seems unlikely, for the time being anyway. Meantime, the Kurds remain a wild card.
Having to turn to turn to former members of Saddam's brutal regime was a major embarrassment for Bremer, who had disbanded Saddam's 350,000-strong army and the regime's apparatus on May 23, 2003, as part of the de-Baathification process. While bringing back the disgraced Baathists may soothe the minority Sunnis, a pillar of Saddam's regime, it can only antagonize the majority Shiites who were cruelly suppressed by Saddam and who since his ouster are clearly determined to dominate the new Iraq. To what extent the Sunnis, usually the most educated and skilled of Iraq's communities, will regain influence is yet to be determined, but bringing them back into government has again upset the delicate sectarian balance.
The bottom line is that the Bush administration still lacks any comprehensive strategy and remains divided, internally, over what to do. The neoconservative hawks bitterly oppose giving the United Nations any meaningful role in reshaping Iraq and still favor giving their Iraqi collaborators, headed by Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, power in the transitional government. Nonetheless, President George W. Bush declared that UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, the former foreign minister of Algeria and the most experienced UN troubleshooter in the Middle East, would be given the lead role in determining the shape and composition of the transitional government.
The hope is that this will win the new government the international support as well as Iraqi acceptance and legitimacy that has eluded the widely discredited Governing Council. But Bremer's about-turn on the Baathists and Bush's sudden conversion to the principle of UN participation simply underlines the administration's reactive rather than proactive approach. Things can only get worse.
Developments in Afghanistan, "liberated" from the Taleban and its Al-Qaeda allies in November 2001 - 14 months before Saddam's regime fell - are hardly likely to encourage any optimism about Iraq stabilizing any time soon. Karzai is still struggling to exert his authority amid a Taleban resurgence in parts of the country and the defiance of provincial warlords elsewhere. In his desperation, with elections looming in September, he has engaged in negotiations with "moderate" elements of the Taleban to solicit their cooperation in running the country.
US and Afghan officials are cagey about all this, but Karzai clearly has US support for his efforts, indicating that the White House is having to acknowledge that its black-and-white approach to security and nation-building is starting to gray around the edges. At least one meeting has been reported between US officials, senior officers of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and Taleban leaders at Pakistan's Samungli Air Base, near Quetta, recently. They discussed reconciliation between the Taleban and the government and, according to reports from Kabul and Islamabad, the Taleban refused point-blank a demand that their leader Mullah Omar be removed, but showed flexibility on other issues. It is not known if there were further meetings, but given the way things are going in Afghanistan it would seem likely.
Karzai himself entered the lion's den in April by visiting Kandahar, the southern city that was a key Taleban stronghold. He survived an assassination attempt there in September 2002 and authorities said on April 25 they had arrested a man who planned to bomb Karzai's motorcade.
The US is concentrating its overstretched forces on Iraq, so the Americans began shifting to a broader strategy in Afghanistan late in 2003 that included wooing "non-criminal" Taleban figures. The former Taleban foreign minister, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, was released from US custody in October 2003 and word is he has been acting as a mediator between Taleban leaders and Karzai's government.
Muttawakil had opposed the Taleban's alliance with Al-Qaeda, which gave him some credibility in US eyes, and he was seen as a rallying point for "moderate" Taleban. But his surrender in February 2002 was seen as defection by the Taleban, so it's questionable how effectively he can persuade former comrades to see the light.
The US ambassador to Kabul, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on April 20 that he favored amnesty for all but the most diehard members of the Taleban as well as followers of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who heads the radical and highly organized Hizb-i Islami movement that has allied with the Taleban and given it considerable muscle. Hekmatyar is understood to have been offered a truce by the US and a role in the future government, but he did not respond.
The US is going to find itself increasingly squeezed between the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan, and it will have to choose between one or the other. Iraq has oil, Afghanistan doesn't. But, more intriguingly, since Bush is in turning mode, perhaps he will address the Palestine problem and ask Hamas to lend him a hand.
Ed Blanche, a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, is a Beirut-based journalist who has covered Middle Eastern affairs for three decades. He is a regular contributor to THE DAILY STAR
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