New case of prisoner abuse in US custody in Afghanistan
Sunday May 16, 1:36 AM AFP
The US military is investigating a second case of alleged prisoner abuse to come to light in Afghanistan within the past week, a spokesman said.
The US military is already investigating allegations from a former Afghan police officer that he was assaulted, sexually taunted and deprived of sleep while in detention.
The US-led coalition in Afghanistan was notified Thursday of "another allegation of detainee abuse," spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager told a press briefing in Kabul.
"There is an ongoing investigation into these allegations. As we have said before, we take all these allegations very seriously and upon notification we immediately began an investigation," he said.
"We are determined to find out all the facts and get to the bottom of the allegations."
Mansager did not elaborate on the latest allegations but said that the complaint had not come from the detainee, who was taken into custody in 2003 and later released, but from a "second source."
He did not give any further details on the prisoner.
"Because the US army's criminal investigative division is conducting the investigation, it would not be good right now for me to comment on the investigation because we do not want to prejudice the investigators and their outcome in any way shape or form," he said.
"The investigation will be thorough and complete and when it draws its conclusions appropriate actions will be taken against anybody who may be proved to have done something wrong."
On Wednesday the United States said it was investigating claims of abuse from an Afghan held for between 40 and 45 days and later released.
The man, a former police colonel, told AFP that he had been beaten, stoned and asked which animal he would like to have sex with while in US custody in the southeastern city of Gardez and in southern Kandahar.
A member of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission told AFP on Saturday that two more Afghan men had been interviewed and registered by the commission and had similar stories to that of the police officer.
"They have accused the American soldiers of almost the same things as the police officer did," Ahmad Zia Langari said.
Langari said the commission was considering writing to US-backed President Hamid Karzai to demand access to detainees.
Allegations of abuse of prisoners in Afghanistan emerged following shocking pictures of US soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees in Baghdad.
The United States is already investigating two deaths in US custody in Afghanistan's Bagram district, some 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Kabul, in December 2002. Bagram is the main US holding facility for detainees in Afghanistan and can house hundreds of people at any given time.
Another man died while in detention at the US's Asadabad base, about 180 kilometres northeast of Kabul, in June 2003, but local authorities said he had had a heart attack.
Despite strong calls from rights organisations to be allowed to visit detention facilities in Afghanistan, Mansager said there would be no change to the US's policy of only allowing officials with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit detainees.
So far the ICRC had only visited the Bagram facility, he said.
The ICRC said it regularly insisted that it be notified of any arrests in Afghanistan and that the detainees be transported to Bagram with "minimum delay," a spokeswoman said.
The United States leads a 15,500-strong coalition force hunting remnants of Afghanistan's ousted hardline Taliban government and its Al-Qaeda allies.
The coalition forces are frequent targets of attacks.
On Thursday a US soldier suffered severe wounds after an explosive device hit his convoy about 30 kilometres southeast of the capital of the troubled southeastern province of Zabul, Qalat.
U.S. military hit by another Afghan abuse charge
Sunday May 16, 12:31 AM By Mike Collett-White
KABUL (Reuters) - The U.S. military in Afghanistan has launched its second investigation into prisoner abuse in a week, as the scandal over the treatment of Iraqi detainees threatens to spread.
U.S. spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager told reporters on Saturday that fresh allegations of mistreatment were relayed to the military on Thursday, days after a former detainee said he had been sexually abused in 2003.
"Upon notification, coalition forces launched an immediate investigation into this matter," he said. "Coalition forces are committed to ensuring that all detainees are treated humanely and consistent with international law."
He added that such allegations threatened the military's interests in Afghanistan.
"Our investigation is proof that we are concerned about these things," Mansager said. "Our centre of gravity is the Afghan people. When allegations like this come to light, that can affect that centre of gravity and we take that very seriously."
In a tiny, remote village in the east of the country, the family and friends of one of three Afghans who have died while in U.S. custody expressed anger at American abuses.
"We ask the Americans: 'Why are you arresting and killing innocent people?' We don't know how he was killed," said Ibrahim, best friend of Dilawar who died in December, 2002, at Bagram air base, the main U.S. detention centre north of Kabul.
Eighteen months later, the U.S. military has yet to conclude its investigation into the death, which according to reports was caused by "blunt force injuries" to the legs.
Ibrahim said Dilawar, 22, was accused of being an al Qaeda supporter, but his brothers told Reuters in Yaqubi, 140 km (87 miles) southeast of Kabul, that he was a taxi driver.
"We don't want the Americans in our country. They should leave it for us," Ibrahim added.
There were few details of the latest complaint, except that it was made to the military via a third party and the person involved was held by Americans last year and later released.
Earlier this week, the Americans launched an investigation into allegations made by former policeman Sayed Nabi Siddiqui that he had been subjected to beating, sleep deprivation, taunts and sexual abuse during about 40 days in U.S. custody last year.
The complaints, following prisoner abuse in Iraq that sparked rage across the Arab world, have led to new calls for human rights groups to be given access to Afghan detention centres.
But Mansager said that only the International Committee of the Red Cross would be allowed access to Bagram.
"There will be no change in that policy, as we view the ICRC as the sole international organisation charged with looking after the rights of persons under control."
Some of the most serious allegations by detainees in Afghanistan, made since the U.S. waged a war that toppled the Taliban in 2001, concern Asadabad in the east, Kandahar in the south and Gardez, south of Kabul.
An ICRC spokeswoman in Kabul said the group visited Bagram about once every two weeks but did not go to other centres. She did not comment on an informal request by the ICRC to visit one of the other sites, which Mansager said had been made on Friday.
Human Rights Watch has complained of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan before, and this week called the problem "systemic".
Hundreds of Islamic militant suspects are in detention centres around the country. Some are sent on to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where many are kept incommunicado for months.
The U.S. military leads a force of around 20,000 soldiers in Afghanistan hunting down militants from the al Qaeda network and the ousted Taliban regime.
Watchdog links Canadians to 2 Afghan deaths
The Globe and Mail 05/15/2004 By Rheal Seguin
Quebec — A special Canadian Forces unit based in Afghanistan may have been involved in a 2002 incident involving the mistreatment and killing of an elderly man and in causing the death of a child, a London-based human rights organization says.
In a report released this week outlining the mistreatment of prisoners by U.S. military and intelligence personnel, Human Rights Watch described a May 24, 2002, incident in the village of Band Taimore, in Kandahar province.
"Accounts of the operation are not clear, but according to journalists who interviewed villagers, a tribal leader in his 80s was shot dead in a mosque, and a 3-year-old girl drowned after she fell into a well trying to run away from U.S. forces," the report says.
The organization alleged that the Canadian Joint Task Force 2 and U.S. special forces were involved in the operation. A spokesperson for the Canadian military could not confirm the report yesterday.
The human rights organization said that mistreatment of prisoners, excessive use of force and other abuses were a systemic problem in Afghanistan and that cases like the one allegedly involving Canadian soldiers were not isolated.
"Afghans have been telling us for well over a year about mistreatment in U.S. custody," said John Sifton, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. "We warned U.S. officials repeatedly about these problems in 2003 and 2004. It's time now for the United States to publicize the results of its investigations of abuse, fully prosecute those responsible, and provide access to independent monitors."
During the May 24 incident, Canadians and U.S forces captured dozens of Afghans as part of a raid aimed at nabbing suspected Taliban leaders and supporters. About 50 Afghans, including a 12-year-old boy, were transported by helicopter to a field in the city of Kandahar. All but five were released, prompting U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to say that at least one was a Taliban official "below the senior level."
At the time, some media reported that most of the prisoners said they were not mistreated. But other reports said the prisoners had complained of mistreatment, including some who said they were punched and others who said they were forced to squat and put their hands behind their heads for hours. The incident sparked an angry response from the villagers in Band Taimore, where the elders insisted the residents committed no crime and were detained for no reason.
In March, Human Rights Watch published a report documenting cases of mistreatment of prisoners in Afghanistan. The report outlined techniques such as sleep deprivation, exposure to extreme cold and beatings, and noted that prisoners complained of being stripped and photographed naked. "Some of these abusive practices during interrogation were similar to those recently reported in Iraq," the organization stated.
Blast Wounds U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan
Sat May 15, 6:50 AM ET AFP
KABUL, Afghanistan - An explosive planted on a road in southeastern Afghanistan severely wounded a U.S. soldier, the military said Saturday.
The soldier was traveling in a convoy of U.S. military vehicles southeast of the Zabul provincial capital of Qalat on Thursday when an improvised explosive device detonated, U.S. military spokesman Tucker Mansager told a news conference.
The soldier was sent to the U.S.-led coalition headquarters at Bagram, north of Kabul, for medical treatment.
The spokesman gave no further details, including the identity of the injured soldier.
Also Saturday, a U.S. convoy on patrol was attacked in southern Helmand province, an Afghan official said. Mohammed Wali, spokesman for the governor of neighboring Kandahar province, said that U.S. and Afghan forces were hunting for the unidentified attackers.
He had no information about any soldiers killed or injured in the attack in Helmand's Musa Qala district.
Some 20,000 coalition forces are in Afghanistan to fight supporters of al-Qaida and the former Taliban regime.
Rocket fired on aid office in eastern Afghanistan
KABUL A rocket smashed into the compound of an international aid agency in eastern Afghanistan Saturday but caused no injuries, an official said. “Around 7:30 am (0300 GMT) this morning a small rocket was fired into the compound from 100 to 300 yards (metres) away,” a spokesman for US-based Care International told AFP. “It hit the corner of the compound and the roof. There were no casualties,” Care’s advocacy coordinator Paul O’Brien said. The incident occurred in Pul-i-Alam district in Logar province, about 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Kabul. Rockets regularly hit compounds and buildings in Kabul and in the provinces, although they are rarely accurate and often cause no damage. afp
Afghan soldier wounded in shooting by Pakistani troops, says Afghan official
Associated Press Saturday May 15, 4:54 PM
A senior Afghan official alleged on Saturday that Pakistani troops fired into Afghanistan's territory, wounding an Afghan soldier at a border post.
The incident took place Friday in Yaqubi village in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, across the border from Pakistan's Mohmand tribal region, said Nangahar's chief of border security, Gen. Mohammed Mustafa.
Mustafa, speaking by telephone to an Associated Press reporter in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar, said one of his soldiers was seriously wounded by shrapnel from a Pakistani mortar shell that exploded in the Afghan village.
He said Afghan soldiers returned fire, and an ensuing battle with machine guns and mortars lasted two hours.
Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, the chief Pakistan army spokesman, could not confirm the fighting and said he would check into it.
It wasn't clear what triggered the alleged firing.
Mohmand is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.
The rugged Pakistan-Afghanistan border is not clearly marked in parts of that area, and the two countries' troops have skirmished in the past.
Pakistan has deployed tens of thousands of troops along its border with Afghanistan to stop al-Qaida and Taliban guerrillas from using the area as sanctuary. Afghan officials have in the past alleged that Pakistani troops have set up posts on Afghan territory, which Pakistan denies.
Illicit poppy growing again a problem in Afghanistan
KAREZEQ, Afghanistan (AP) - The bulb of the little pink flower reaches deep into Afghan society, sowing problems with the country's allies, financing gunmen and even bringing addiction to ordinary Afghans.
In Afghanistan, opium is everywhere.
The United Nations says the burgeoning poppy crop produced three-quarters of the world's illicit opium last year, worth $2.3 billion and accounting for half Afghanistan's gross domestic product. Output was 20 times more than in 2001, the last year of rule by the strict Taliban regime.
Returning from a recent conference with Western donor nations, President Hamid Karzai called on Afghans to wage a "jihad," or holy war, on the drug trade.
It was a politically risky move. Poppy farming supports thousands of families and is a major source of income for many powerful warlords.
On a recent day, a counter-narcotics team in Kandahar province fanned out across farms, flanked by a dozen bodyguards armed with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades.
In the town of Karezeq, farmers confronted the team at the edge of fields pink with blooming poppies.
An elderly farmer begged for an officer to "be a good Muslim" and leave his crops alone. The response was quick: "It's the opium that you grow that's un-Islamic."
Eventually, they compromised: One-third of the plants would be uprooted. The farmers glumly watched as tractors tore up the earth.
Karzai's government says the goal is not to destroy farmers' livelihoods, but to encourage planting legal crops. While wheat and corn are nowhere near as profitable, at least the farmers know those crops will get to market, officials say.
The vast majority of the poppy crop is exported to meet the demand for drugs in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, but some stays at home, feeding a growing addiction problem.
In the slums of western Kabul, devastated by three decades of war, opium addicts gather in bullet-pocked ruins, sheltering in basement rooms littered with used needles and burned matches. They heat opium powder into a liquid and inhale the vapor.
Counselors from the Najat drug rehabilitation center scour Kabul for addicts, offering first-aid and encouragement. Female doctors meet at the homes of women addicts and dozens of burqa-clad addicts come for checkups.
Each week, dozens of addicts hope desperately for one of the few beds Najat offers for in-house rehabilitation.
Once accepted, they spend weeks in cramped rooms, relearning responsibility and personal hygiene, receiving medical attention and counseling, and trying to get clean.
Feradoon, 42, can barely dream of kicking his habit. He meets every day with other addicts in the ruins of an old Kabul cinema.
They have no one else to turn to. In a culture where family is everything, these men are shunned by their relatives.
"No one can stop using this drug when he is alone," Feradoon says.
Pakistan, Afghanistan, US To Hold Talks On Economic Cooperation
2004-05-16 09:22:53 Pakistan News Service
BEIJING, Chinaa : May 16 (PNS) - Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United States will hold tripartite talks in Jeju Island, Republic of Korea on Sunday for reviewing their on-going work and cooperation in the economic sector.
Afghanistan to have railways
Saturday May 15, 2004 (1328 PST) Pakistan News Tribune
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed to build cross-border road and rail links to promote bilateral trade, Big News Network quoting officials said.
Both countries are close U.S. allies in the war against terror. Afghanistan is landlocked and has no railways.
The United States believes Afghanistan's isolation from the rest of the world allowed the extremist Taliban and the al-Qaida terrorist networks to establish themselves in the country.
U.S. authorities are helping Afghanistan rebuild its road network, which was completely destroyed during more than 20 years of war and civil strife, providing both finances and security to construction workers.
The United States is also encouraging Afghanistan to re-establish its trade links to neighboring states.
Earlier this month, the United States participated in an agreement with Afghanistan to rebuild a bridge linking the country to Central Asia.
Afghanistan's first ever railway, when built, will link the southwestern city of Kandahar to the Pakistani border town of Chaman.
At the meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan also agreed to provide a $100 million economic assistance to Afghanistan.
Main Afghan Disarmament to Begin Despite Hurdles
Sat May 15, 9:43 AM ET By Mike Collett-White
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan starts its main drive on Monday to disarm tens of thousands of factional fighters, but resistance by powerful commanders is hampering government efforts to take the gun out of landmark elections in September.
"Monday will mark the start of the main phase of the program in Kabul," U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Tucker Mansager said on Saturday, adding that the 99th Rocket Brigade would turn in 60 missiles.
Many of the 100,000 or so militiamen across Afghanistan are hangovers from the war against the Soviet Union and the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai sees what are effectively private armies as a threat to security which prevent him from consolidating his power outside the capital.
The intransigence of regional power brokers, mainly in the west and north of the country, is likely to thwart his goal of disarming 40,000 fighters in time for elections, Western sources familiar with the program say.
The pilot phase of the Western-funded Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) program will come close to its objective of disarming 7,000 militiamen, the sources say.
But the main phase, already delayed by a month, has been restricted to the relatively stable capital, and even there a key commander is refusing to hand over to the Defense Ministry lists of soldiers to be decommissioned.
"The original plan was to start the main phase nationwide on the same day, but due to the unwillingness of various well-known people, the situation is difficult," said one Western source, who asked not to be identified.
Ismail Khan, the country's most powerful governor who controls the strategic western province of Herat, and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek commander from the north, are among top commanders seen to be defying government orders.
Khan told Reuters in a recent interview in Herat that he believed the DDR process was moving too quickly, threatening to create power vacuums which the fledgling, 10,000-strong Afghan National Army (ANA) was too small to fill.
"There is no real prospect of getting Ismail Khan's people demobilized by the time of the elections," said Vikram Parekh, Afghan expert at the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank.
Regional militias have been involved in fighting recently that has prompted Karzai to deploy ANA troops to restore order, raising concern in the U.S. military that they are being distracted from hunting al Qaeda militants.
Forces loyal to Dostum overran the northern town of Maimana in April, and hundreds of ANA soldiers were flown in. Dostum's forces have since withdrawn, but the governor and commander who fled the offensive have yet to be reinstated.
Dostum's troops also clash sporadically with those loyal to rival northern commander Ustad Atta Mohammad, an ethnic Tajik aligned with Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
Up to 20 people were killed in Herat in a clash between Khan's forces and those of a local commander loyal to Karzai. Khan's son, the civil aviation minister, died in the violence, and hundreds of ANA troops are still in or near the city.
Monday's inaugural decommissioning in Kabul will see the 99th Rocket Brigade hand in its missiles. But as of Friday, two large units loyal to the conservative Islamic leader Abdul Rabb Rasoul Sayyaf were not ready to be disarmed as planned.
Kabul government concedes officials assist drug trafficking
The Washington Times 05/15/2004
KABUL — Government officials and warlords are involved in the illicit drug trade threatening to engulf the war-torn state's fledgling economy and turn it into a "narcostate," Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said Thursday.
"I can't tell you particularly who is doing what, but generally I can say, yes, we have proof that government officials, including security officials, are involved in drug trafficking," Mr. Jalali told reporters.
Government officials are either directly involved in the lucrative business or protect dealers in return for money. "In some parts, criminals are supported by those who have power," he said, referring to regional warlords who hold sway over large parts of the country.
"In some cases, we have been able to identify and arrest them; in other cases, we have not been able to capture them." Afghanistan is the source of most heroin sold on the back streets of Europe. On Tuesday, police broke up a 12-man heroin ring operating in the Afghan capital, the minister said. "A drug distribution gang was seized in Kabul."
Police seized 31 pounds of heroin packed in small bags, he said. Mr. Jalali attributed increased drug-related activities to corruption in President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government. "Unfortunately in Afghanistan administrative corruption is one of our main problems," he said.
Meanwhile, Russia is withdrawing its frontier troops from the Tajik-Afghan border in a move that will leave a porous border for drug traffickers, a Russian official said in an interview this week.
First Deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta the Russians are leaving at the request of Tajikistan, although Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov said two weeks ago the handover was a Russian initiative.
Russia's Defense Ministry declined to say how many troops it has in Tajikistan. Analysts put the total — including a motorized rifle division sent for peacekeeping — at somewhere over 20,000.
Russian-led troops have helped maintain stability in Tajikistan since a 1992-97 civil war. They monitor more than 90 percent of the remote 840-mile Tajik border with Afghanistan.
"We are pulling out of Tajikistan in general," Mr. Trubnikov told Nezavisimaya Gazeta. "The result will be a porous border. Porous means drugs. "The Americans are not happy with this," Mr. Trubnikov said. "They know that things get past us at the moment, so the drugs traffic will spread further."
Once used for execution, Afghan stadium is alive with the sound of music
AFP 05/15/2004 - KABUL
Tens of thousands of people poured into Kabul's stadium, once used by the Taliban as an execution site, on Thursday night to watch a concert by an Afghan singer returned home after years in exile.
The extremely popular crooner Farhad Darya, who has lived in Europe since the early 1990s, performed his first concert since he returned to Kabul earlier this year to an audience of men and women.
More than 30,000 Kabul citizens, most of whom remember the stadium as the site of public executions during the Taliban regime, attended the concert of traditional and patriotic Afghan music.
Shamsullah, a 45-year-old school teacher who was once forced to witness the Taliban chopping off the hand of a criminal at the stadium, said the show was a sign of ``all these changes in our lives.''
``I can't believe it, exactly in the same place, two years ago I was witnessing a very sad incident - a man, even if he was criminal, had his hand chopped,'' the teacher who was accompanying two of his teenage sons told AFP. ``Look now, we have fun - people are happy, they are dancing, we have a concert,'' he said.
Another man, who said he witnessed the execution of a woman who murdered her husband, said: ``That was the darkest period of our life under the Taliban - but now it is over, you see we have music.'' ``I was forced to come here to see them (Taliban) killing people - now I eagerly came to see concert, that's fantastic,'' Imal Ahmad, a student at Kabul University said.
The Taliban, whose fundamentalist regime was deposed by a US-led military offensive in December 2001 for harbouring Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, executed people in public under extremist Islamic laws. The Kabul concert is the first of a series of shows Farhad Darya will perform around the country to raise money to build a recording studio for Afghan singers here.
"US ambassador had BB's government sacked"
Babar Mohammad Shehzad, Friday Times
Islamabad: The UAE's Armed Forces Day Thursday week was the show of the 'brass' The hall was swarming with high-ranking armed forces officials of various countries and only a few journalists and diplomats had been invited to the event.
The first person I 'collided' into was a 'friend of Pakistan' who is extremely media-shy despite being the head of the press section of his mission. The most common complaint against him is that he has been in town for almost a year but has not yet invited the hacks of his tribe for a sundowner or two!
I quizzed him about the hitch in the proposed bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad. 'The hitch lies in Pakistan's deep sense of insecurity and obsession with India!' he opined. 'Pakistan's obduracy - the insistence that the Kashmiris will only travel on UN documents - could undermine the entire peace process,' he added.
Why shouldn't India accept Pakistan's viewpoint that Kashmir is a disputed territory so formal documents should not be required, I asked him. 'India will never buy such an argument. Aren't Pakistani Kashmiris already traveling to India on Pakistani passports and vice versa?'
I asked whether he thought Pakistan might one day buy the Indian argument, he said: 'That's a million dollar question! But it is not impossible. If Pakistan responds with more wisdom, it would overcome this hitch. It will have to understand that India is a huge country. It has so many other problems. It is not obsessed with Pakistan the way Pakistan is obsessed with India!'
Problem is there are some other facts that are equally weighty. Recently, Indian army engineers informed New Delhi that the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road would take at least a year-and-half to become functional since large parts of it have vanished because of disuse. Also, while the Pakistani Kashmiris have been traveling to India on Pakistani passports, they have been crossing the international boundary. Crossing the LoC is a different matter and even as per the Islamabad Agreement, Kashmir is an issue between India and Pakistan that needs sorting out. "Clearly, it makes no sense for India to accept Kashmir as an issue and then insist that the LoC be treated as a border even before the issue is settled!" says an analyst.
Meanwhile, a female dip was very critical of General Musharraf. 'When it comes to the Hudood laws, Musharraf says parliament has to legislate on it. But when it comes to the things that affect him directly, he can do miracles According to the Political Parties Order, a person cannot hold a government office and a political office at the same time. Now to make Jamali the secretary general of the united Muslim League, Musharraf is going to amend the order! Can't he do the same thing with the Hudood laws?'
The lady thought Musharraf was afraid of the mullahs. Therefore, she said, he was not touching the Hudood issue. But others in the circle disagreed. They thought Musharraf was a courageous leader who had taken on the jihadis. Of course, there were dissenting views. One such view was that 'He has no other choice. It is the US stick that has condemned him to do so! He would be a courageous leader if this had been his own initiative.'
But the lady would not stop here. She opened a new window. 'Your army has a track record of losing all the wars. Yet, it does not want to submit itself for accountability. It does not want to be criticized - despite handling the Wana operation in a most clumsy manner!' The officials heard her with patience. Nobody had to guts to challenge her. Maybe they secretly agreed with her.
An analyst TFT spoke with pooh-poohed such sweeping statements. "Operating against natives in an inhospitable terrain and especially where one does not have accurate estimates of local support for the adversary is never easy. See what is happening to the US army in Iraq. Also, it is highly inaccurate to say that the Pakistan army lost its contests against India. In 1947-48 it actually captured what is now Azad Kashmir and forced India to go to the Security Council; 1965 was a draw and the '71 debacle was a political blunder that translated into a military defeat," he said.
A pleasant surprise at the reception was meeting the UAE press officer, Waleed Salem Al Neaimi - a young man in his late twenties. He spoke fluent English with an American accent, having graduated in business administration from the University of California. One finds it very difficult to communicate with most Arab diplomats, so sending Waleed to Islamabad is a wise decision. Journalists can communicate with him and explore a number of issues that are unknown to their readers.
Former interior minister Major-General (retd) Naseerullah Babar is now living in Peshawar. He had recently told the jihadi weekly Zarb-e-Momin that the Taliban were not created by the PPP. When I sought more information, he said: 'You won't be able to publish what I will tell you.'
Try me, I suggested. 'The Taliban were a result of infighting among the warlords. We had effected a power-sharing agreement among the Taliban, Ahmad Shah Masood and Dostum. The draft had been unanimously cleared by Mullah Omar, Masood and Dostum. But all of a sudden, Farooq Leghari dismissed our government. He did it at the behest of the US Ambassador Thomas Simons. The joint administration of Omar, Masood and Dostum could have brought peace in Afghanistan but the US did not want that! We never recognised the Taliban. The moment our government was toppled, Nawaz Sharif gave them diplomatic recognition,' Babar disclosed.
What about US concerns over the amnesty Musharraf had granted to foreign militants allegedly hiding in South Waziristan, I asked. Babar said: 'Operation Wana was a great blunder that owes to the army's arrogance and ignorance. Arrogance in the sense that the Pak army has lately developed the haughty thinking that force is a panacea to all the problems. Ignorance in the sense that it has no knowledge about the tribal areas. Had I been calling the shots, I could have resolved this issue within two days - peacefully!'
When I asked him whether the militants would register themselves or not, he said: 'What militants? These are the local people. The issue of registration is just a face-saving exercise for the army!'
On the other hand, the government's amnesty for the militants has not gone down well with the US. Its military commander in Afghanistan, General David Barno, has been publicly expressing concern in this regard. He has urged Pakistan to kill or capture the militants.
An informed diplomat said that the amnesty had generated concern in the US and other governments, who had not been consulted about it. 'It's a major gamble,' he said. When asked what in particular worried the US, he said: 'Statements from Nek Mohammad that he is still loyal to Mullah Omar and will continue to support jihad.'
'However,' he continued, 'the story is not over yet. This is like a Shakespearean play in five acts. The military operations last year were the first act. Working through the tribal jirgas and the mullahs was the second act; the reconciliation ceremony was the last scene of the second act. In Shakespeare, Act 3 is always the turning point.'
Mohammad Nek had vowed to continue the jihad but pledged not to use Pakistani soil to launch attacks on neighboring Afghanistan. 'Any Muslim can go to any country to wage jihad but Waziristan's soil will not be used to fire at Afghanistan," he had told the press. But his reply was vague on the issue of registration of foreign militants. When asked whether he would cooperate with the government to get foreign militants registered by the stipulated April 30 deadline, he had said: 'There will be no operation and catching foreigners is not part of the agreement.'
The diplomat said that the foreigners' fears of being handed over to the US were largely misplaced. 'The US is not interested in the old anti-Soviet mujahideen, or even in the foreign fighters who fled from Afghanistan in 2001 if they are willing to settle down and lead peaceful lives. The goal is to prevent al-Qaida from using Waziristan as a base for planning future attacks like those in the US, Spain, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, and to prevent Taliban remnants from using Waziristan as a base for launching attacks to undermine democracy and development in southern Afghanistan.' When asked whether the extension of deadlines for registration was a matter of concern for the US, he said: 'That's traditional. What matters is the final outcome.'
Japan diplomat embroiled in Afghan donation scandal
Mainichi Shimbun, Japan 05/15/2004
A diplomat accepted 100,000 yen in cash from a senior member of a nongovernmental organization in February last year when he was working at the Japanese Embassy in Afghanistan, it was learned Saturday.
The diplomat, Yasuaki Makabe, 57, then first secretary at the embassy, admitted to the allegations. "I thought the money was a farewell gift for me because I had been familiar with the NGO. I gave the money back to him in February this year, but I was thoughtless (when I accepted it)."
The NGO member has told the Mainichi that he donated money to Makabe in return for asking him a favor in helping facilitate its activities in Afghanistan. "I wanted to establish friendly relations with Mr. Makabe in a bid to facilitate our activities in Afghanistan and wanted him to ask the Afghan authorities to smoothly issue visas for our members," said the NGO member, who asked not to be named.
He went on to say he felt that the diplomat indirectly asked him for the money. "He told me that he had financial difficulties because his wife was hospitalized." The Foreign Ministry stripped Makabe of his title as first secretary this month and transferred him to the secretariat to the foreign minister. The ministry is questioning him, suspecting that his receipt of money may constitute a violation of the law concerning the ethics of national government officials.
The high-ranking member of the Tokyo-based NGO that donates artificial legs to Afghanistan handed an envelope containing 100,000 yen to Makabe at the departure gate of Narita Airport on Feb. 24, last year, according to sources close to the NGO.
Makabe was on his way back to Afghanistan after helping organize an international conference in Tokyo on disarmament and efforts to restore law and order in the war-torn country.
This is not the first time that Makabe had been implicated in a money scandal. He got a 10 percent salary cut over a three-month period from July 2001 for turning a blind eye to the then consul general's misappropriation of taxpayers' money when he was working at the consulate general in Denver.
Swiss Believed Killed In Afghanistan Contacts Embassy
The Associated Press 05/14/2003
GENEVA - A Swiss climbing champion believed beaten to death in Afghanistan is alive, officials and his family said Friday. Elie Chevieux, 30, contacted the Swiss embassy in Iran to say that he was safe and well, Swiss Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Carine Carey said.
Chevieux's mother told The Associated Press that she had heard from her son, and he had told her that he had never gone to the Afghan capital, Kabul. Police had earlier said that Chevieux's passport had been found on the body of one of two men found dead in a Kabul park. No formal identifications have been made of either man, but Carey said officials still believe that one of the victims was Swiss.
The father of Swiss journalist Juerg Bigler, 28, who was vacationing in Afghanistan said Wednesday that he believed his son was one of the victims. The Swiss Foreign Ministry had told him the journalist's death was "95% certain," Paul Bigler told the daily Le Matin. Afghan officials, who earlier believed both victims were Swiss, said Thursday that one of the men had been identified as a Norwegian.
The bodies of the two men were found in a Kabul park on Sunday. Police said the men, who were wearing baggy Afghan dress and woolen hats, had been beaten over the head with stones or bricks. An Afghan interior ministry spokesman said they had also been stabbed and that one also showed signs of strangulation.
Elie Chevieux's father, Georges, on Tuesday said his 30-year-old son had left in October on a photography trip that had already taken him to Russia, Japan, India and Nepal. Chevieux was second in the world competitive climbing championships in 1995 and was Swiss champion in 1996 and 1997. Competitive climbing takes place on climbing walls.
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