U.S. Says Afghan Army to Be Unrivalled by Year-End
Tue May 18,12:26 PM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's army could number 23,000 soldiers by year-end, making it the dominant military force and unlikely to be challenged by private local militias, U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday.
He said the threat posed to national stability by factional fighters was exaggerated, adding the official number of 100,000 militiamen was more than twice the real number.
His comments came amid growing doubts over an ambitious plan to disarm 40 percent of the factional forces, or 40,000 fighters, by the end of June in a bid by President Hamid Karzai to take the gun out of elections scheduled for September.
"For the country to acquire stability there is a need for a single army," Khalilzad told a news briefing at the heavily fortified U.S. embassy in Kabul.
Some regional leaders have been reluctant to hand in lists of fighters loyal to them, saying a fledgling, Western-trained Afghan National Army (ANA) of just 10,000 troops was too weak to fill the power vacuum disarmament would create.
"It will be the most formidable force in Afghanistan by the end of the year and I would say no Afghan force will be able to successfully stand up to it by that time," Khalilzad said.
The main ANA would reach 16-18,000 soldiers by the end of the year, and a separate, 5,000-strong provincial army was also being considered by the government, he said.
However, he said it would take several years for the ANA to guarantee stability countrywide, and the timing would depend on the level of threat posed by Islamic militants that Khalilzad says cross into Afghanistan from neighboring Pakistan.
The U.S. military leads a force of 20,000 mainly U.S. foreign troops in Afghanistan hunting down remnants of al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The militants are behind an insurgency that has killed around 700 people since August. They have vowed to disrupt presidential and parliamentary elections due in September.
According to Khalilzad, the government aims to disarm all Afghanistan's factions by the end of June, 2005.
The main phase of the nationwide Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration program, funded by Japan, was launched in Kabul Monday, a month late and limited to minor factions in the relatively stable capital city.
Panel to examine release appeals by Guantanamo detainees
Wednesday May 19, 7:14 AM AFP
A military panel will be ready soon to begin secret annual reviews of individual prisoners in Guantanamo, Cuba to determine whether they can be released or will continue to be detained as a security threat, Pentagon officials said.
The Pentagon made public the official procedures that will be followed in conducting the reviews, and officials said the reviews would start in "weeks, not months."
But they said the reviews will be closed to the press, and there will be no public notice when they are held and no disclosure of the outcome except to the prisoner and his home government.
"The problem with transparency is that a lot of the information that will be presented at the hearing will be classified, which imposes restrictions on public access," a senior defense official who briefed reporters on the process said.
The only prisoners at Guantanamo who will not be given the opportunity to make a case that they no longer pose a threat and should be released are those who have been referred the military commissions for trial.
Only six of the 595 prisoners at the Guantanamo have been declared eligible for trial by military commission.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced in February plans to establish a review panel for the prisoners.
But the United States asserts the right to hold prisoners until the end of the war on terrorism. Most of the prisoners were suspected al-Qaeda or Taliban fighters captured in Afghanistan, but others were detained elsewhere.
"It's a political judgement as to when the war ends," the official said.
The Defense Department said in a statement that Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz had signed an order setting up the review panel.
"Each enemy combatant will have a formal opportunity to appear in person before a board of three military officers and explain why he believes that he should be released," said the statement.
"He will be provided a military officer to assist him in his appearance. In addition, the review board will accept written information from the family and national government of the enemy combatant.
"Based on all of this information, as well as submissions by other US government agencies, the board will assess the current threat posed by the detainee, then recommend to a high-level Department of Defense official whether the enemy combatant should remain in detention.
The higher official will decide whether the inmate should remain in detention.
The department defended the continued use of Guantanamo, which has been strongly criticised by international rights groups.
"Enemy combatants are detained for a very practical reason: to prevent them from returning to the fight," said the statement.
"That's why the law of war permits their detention until the end of an armed conflict. Although the global war on terror is real and ongoing, DoD has decided as a matter of policy to institute these review procedures.
"This process will assist DoD in fulfilling its commitment to ensure that no one is detained any longer than is warranted."
The Pentagon has released 134 detainees following agreements with the governments of the nationals involved.
But none of the detainees at Guantanamo has faced a formal court hearing.
General to Tour U.S. Jails in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan - The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has instructed a fellow general to carry out a "top to bottom" review of American holding facilities across the country, the military said Wednesday, in an effort to fend off growing allegations of prisoner abuse.
Expanding on a brief announcement Tuesday by the U.S. ambassador, military spokesman Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager said the appointed general would visit each of around 20 American prisons across the country and report to the commander, Lt. Gen. David Barno, by mid-June.
"Portions" of the report would be made public, the spokesman said.
"He will also ensure all facilities are adequate, and procedures are in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and are being followed correctly and fully, and that staffing and capabilities are adequate to the task," Mansager said.
He didn't identify the general who would carry out the review, or whether he was an American or from one of the other nations contributing troops to the hunt for Taliban and al-Qaida rebels in Afghanistan.
Under intensified scrutiny because of the scandal over prisoner abuse in Iraq, the U.S. military last week announced two new investigations into allegations of mistreatment by former Afghan detainees, including beatings and sexual abuse.
It is also facing criticism for the lack of results from investigations into the deaths of three prisoners in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003. Officials say they have had trouble finding the soldiers involved, some of whom have returned to civilian life.
Special Forces soldier from Fort Bragg killed in Afghanistan
The Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) - A Green Beret from Fort Bragg was killed when his unit was ambushed while on combat patrol in southern Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced Tuesday.
Chief Warrant Officer Bruce E. Price, 37, died Saturday, according to a Defense Department news release that identified him as being from Maryland. It did not include a Maryland hometown for Price, but a release from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command said he lived in Fayetteville, N.C.
He died in Kajaki, Afghanistan, "when individuals using rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire ambushed his unit," the Defense Department statement said. Afghan authorities have said they arrested two Taliban suspects in the attack.
Price had a wife, Renate, and an 8-year-old son, Aidan.
He was an assistant detachment commander assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C. Elements of the group are deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
This was Price's third deployment to Afghanistan since 2002, according to the USASOC release. Price enlisted in the Army in 1986 and has served on several assignments, including an overseas tour in Germany and time in Kuwait.
He completed the Special Forces Qualification Course in 1992 as a Special Forces weapons sergeant and had been a warrant officer since 1998.
The Green Beret also was an Army jumpmaster and an Army Ranger. Price's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Army Commendation Medal, among others.
He attended Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C., for two years.
Former Afghan king goes to Emirates for medical treatment
Wednesday May 19, 1:20 AM AFP
Afghanistan's former king and a symbolic figure in the current administration left Kabul for medical treatment in the United Arab Emirates, an official said.
A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai confirmed that the elderly former monarch Mohammad Zahir Shah had gone to the UAE for treatment.
The 89-year-old Shah, who returned to Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban after almost 30 years in exile in Europe, recently returned to Kabul after spending more than a month in India being treated for an intestinal complaint.
"He was sick yesterday and I think it's the same sickness as before," spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad told AFP.
State-run Bakhtar news reported that the former monarch had gone abroad.
"His Majesty, Mohammad Zahir the Father of the Nation, left Kabul for the Emirates for medical check-ups," it reported Tuesday.
Zahir Shah has played a symbolic but unofficial role in the transition from the fundamentalist Taliban to the US-backed administration of Karzai since returning to the country in April 2002.
Although ousted in a bloodless 1973 coup, Zahir Shah commands enormous popularity among Afghans, who remember his rule as a rare era of peace.
For Afghan women, Olympics mean opportunity
Success not measured in medals, but heart
By Victoria Burnett Boston Globe May 18, 2004
KABUL, Afghanistan -- She may not break any records or win any medals. But sprinter Robina Muqimyar will make history in Athens this summer when she and a judo player become the first two Afghan women to compete in an Olympic Games.
"It's a big responsibility," said Muqimyar, who jogged on a recent afternoon around the cracked, uneven concrete track of Kabul's only stadium. "I hope I do well even if I don't win."
As Afghanistan puts itself back together after quarter of a century of war, the country is slowly reviving its sports culture. The Afghan Olympic Committee expects to send about 14 athletes to the Athens games, including Muqimyar and Friba Razayee, a judo competitor who qualified as a "wild card" competitor, a concession extended to athletes from poor nations who would not otherwise qualify.
"It's important symbolically that, after the Taliban, women can show they can be part of society and of the sports world," said Anwar Jekdalek, a former national wrestler who heads the Afghan Olympic Committee.
Women and girls faced severe restrictions under the Taliban, who banned them from work and school and forced them to hide themselves in the all-shrouding burka. Despite the hard-line regime's demise, women's freedoms are still limited in Afghanistan, where forced marriages are common and a significant proportion of women live behind the veil.
Anxious not to draw fire from conservatives, Muqimyar runs with a headscarf knotted under her chin and says she will wear long pants -- not the shorts commonly worn by sprinters -- at the Greece games.
The drab arena where Muqimyar and her fellow athletes train is a reminder of the grim past that they are helping to bury. The Taliban, who banned most sports, used it to publicly flog and execute people who had broken their Draconian laws.
"This stadium was once used to hang people," Jekdalek said as he looked out over the arena from his office window. "Those [soccer] goals were used for executions. Now it is being used for something positive."
The facilities are far from ideal. The hard concrete punishes the athletes' joints, and the grass soccer field is patchy and rough. As Muqimyar circled the track, a generator at the edge of the track belched black puffs of diesel smoke and a workman used a blowtorch to weld the broken metal perimeter fence.
"I went to Iran for a competition, and when I saw the stadium and all the facilities, it made me depressed," said Muqimyar, who is lean and confident. "In Afghanistan, we don't have starting blocks or a rubber track."
She was picked from among her classmates to train for the Olympics a year ago and has competed abroad only twice. Muqimyar trains at the stadium two or three times a week with a male sprinter, Massoud Azizi, and works out on other days at the compound of the international peacekeeping force. Azizi recently spent six months training in Iran, but Muqimyar's family would not permit her to go overseas for that long a period.
While athletes from other countries have carefully planned diets, Muqimyar eats lamb kebab, fruit, ice cream, and chocolate. She cooks for her family every evening, makes the tea in the morning, and washes the dishes.
She said that in Pakistan, at the South Asian Federation games in April, she met an athlete from Sri Lanka. "She told me her family did everything for her. She didn't even have to make her own bed."
With a personal best of 15.6 seconds for the 100-meter sprint -- five seconds over the women's world record -- Muqimyar has no illusions about returning from Greece with a medal. But she hopes her appearance will encourage Afghan women to be bold. Jekdalek said he is excited but nervous about putting women on his team -- a female judo athlete may go as a wild card -- because powerful conservative leaders still object to women competing in public or on television.
"It's difficult for a woman to go off and do this. But we have to be brave, we have to stand up for our rights," said Mahbuba, Muqimyar's mother, who watched her daughter train from the stands, her blue burka pushed back over her shoulders.
Muqimyar said that working with men and her few trips abroad have changed her mentality. She has both male and female trainers and said Azizi has become "like a brother." She wants to drive her own car -- a rarity for women in Afghanistan -- and choose her own husband.
She dismissed those who disapprove of women's participation in sports as "the same people who ruined the country," referring to the Taliban. "They want to hold women back and stop them from doing things. I don't accept that," she said. "We will send a strong message to the world that I represent all Afghan girls."
Humanitarian groups hurt by "axis of evil" talk: UN refugee chief
Wednesday May 19, 7:17 AM AFP
Humanitarian groups like the UN refugee agency have been hurt by President George W. Bush's 'axis of evil' statement that divides the world into good and bad, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers said.
The UNHCR and groups like the International Committee of the Red Cross "have been badly damaged by the demonization of others," said Lubbers, currently on a four-day visit to the United States.
"We've been damaged by the 'axis of evil' -- this Manichean vision of the world as split between the 'good' and the 'evil,' he said.
Iran, North Korea and Iraq -- under Saddam Hussein when Bush uttered the phrase in 2002 -- made the "axis of evil."
"Unfortunately, like others we are paying a price for this, for now we have also come to be seen as part of a supposed Western 'crusade' against the world of Islam," Lubbers said at an event at the National Press Club.
Lubbers said that despite the danger of attacks by terror groups like al-Qaeda, humanitarian agencies must resist hiding in fortified compounds when working in dangerous areas.
"I refuse to allow the 'Iraqization' of humanitarian work," he said.
"The whole world is not Iraq and the UNHCR will not bunker down or seal ourselves off in heavily fortified compounds in every emergency we work in."
The key to success is maintaining "our relationship and trust with local populations," Lubbers said. "The point is to prevent being paralyzed by (terrorism)."
Stepped up terrorist activities means increased security for UNHCR workers around the world -- and a growing portion of the group's resources is being diverted for security training and advisors. "That money would have been useful in other areas," he said.
Lubbers acknowledged that it is impossible to work in a place like Iraq under the current conditions, especially following the August 2003 Baghdad bombing that demolished the UN headquarters in Iraq and killed 23 UN staffers, including envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan ordered UN workers to leave Iraq soon after the bombing.
Al-Qaeda has also reportedly put a bounty "on the heads of UN staff killed or captured," Lubbers said.
"The question of Iraq, and whether UNHCR and other agencies will be able to return ... is still without any answer in sight," he said.
UNHCR has since lost at least one aid worker -- Bettina Goislard, 29, shot dead in November in Afghanistan by suspected Taliban in a town southwest of Kabul.
Since March 2002, three months after the defeat of the hardline Taliban regime by US-led forces, some three million Afghan refugees have returned home, according to the UNHCR.
However some 1.6 million Afghan refugees still live in Pakistan, of whom 1.1 million are in camps, and 1.4 million live in Iran.
Lubbers' visit to Washington was marred by a sexual harrasement complaint a staff member filed against him.
The refugee chief acknowledged that the case was filed, but only said that on the date of the alleged incident in December 2003 "there was no improper behavior on my part."
The United Nations declined to comment further on the case.
Lubbers, 65, a former Dutch prime minister, has run the UN's refugee agency since 2001.
Lubbers met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and top US officials, and Wednesday he travels to New York to brief UN Security Council members.
Iran leader condemns US 'stupidity'
Iranian Supreme leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has condemned what he described as the "stupid" and "shameless" actions of US troops in the Iraqi Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala.
He said the abuse of prisoners in Iraq showed that the US had merely taken the place of Saddam Hussein, and that it was time for them to leave the "bog of their own making".
US troops given permission to mistreat prisoners in Afghanistan: report
BERLIN - US troops in Afghanistan have written permission to use threats, dogs and the firing of mortars near prisoners to help extract information during interrogations, a German news weekly reported.
Stern magazine said one of its reporters had found and taken photographs of the documents at a US military base in southeastern Afghanistan.
The directives also allowed "sensory overload," the use of loud noise or music, "use of warm or cold temperatures, long interrogation sessions, threats of transfer to the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, and sleep deprivation to weaken prisoner resistance."
Stern quoted a passage from the documents saying "prisoners have a right to at least four hours sleep per day ... regardless of how this time is divided up".
The magazine said the written instructions contradicted statements from US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who told a Senate Armed Services Committee that US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are ordered to respect the Geneva conventions for prisoners of war.
Stern said the treatment of prisoners as described in the documents found in Afghanistan clearly violated the Geneva conventions and United Nations anti-torture conventions.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's government called for any guards accused of mistreating prisoners while in American detention facilities to be punished if the allegations were proven.
"We have been assured that the investigations are ongoing," presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin said referring to two new inquiries into prisoner abuse launched by the United States military within the past week.
"If the investigations prove that there was prisoner abuse we want them (abusers) to be punished," Ludin told a regular news briefing in Kabul.
The US is investigating two complaints of prisoner abuse while in custody, including allegations by a former police officer that he was beaten, stoned, sexually taunted and deprived of sleep while in holding cells in southeastern Gardez and Kandahar.
A New Yorker magazine story this week alleged Rumsfeld approved a secret operation that encouraged the physical coercion and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence, based on practices already used in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has denied the report.
Nationalist Political Party Registered In Afghanistan
Daily Afghan Report
Source: Radio Free Afghanistan (part of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)
May 17, 2004
The Justice Ministry has officially registered the Afghan Mellat Party (Afghan Nation), Kabul Afghanistan reported on 16 May. The party is also known as Social Democratic Party of Afghanistan, the report added. Afghan Mellat is a party that was established during the reign of King Mohammad Zaher and supported Pashtun nationalism. The party was recently split into several camps and it is not known which faction has been officially registered. AT
Wheat being bought for smuggling to Afghanistan
By Muqaddam Khan Dawn
SWABI, May 17: The flour millers and traders have deputed agents to purchase wheat from peasants on an urgent basis, even if it meant paying high rates for the stock, and it has been revealed that a major chunk of hoarded wheat stock would be smuggled to Afghanistan.
The purchase rate fixed by the government is Rs 400 per 40 kg bag of wheat, but the millers have been purchasing wheat from the farmers by paying Rs 520 to Rs 530 per 50 kg. The purpose of this strategy of offering higher prices was to lure away the farmers to sell wheat to themselves only and keep the needy people deprived.
By doing this, the millers have already secured a huge quantity of wheat from the farmers and are shifting it for hoarding to their secret storage places so as to evade and dodge government raids and confiscation of their hoarded wheat bags.
Sources told Dawn here on Monday that their first priority was to acquired their own quota, but the most astonished aspect of the procurement of wheat by private dealers would be to smuggle it to Afghanistan at an enormous profit.
Owing to this practice by private dealers the guaranteed supply of wheat would remain a big problem in future if the continued practice of offering higher prices and hoarding was not stopped.
During the last two/three months flour had been smuggled to neighbouring Afghanistan and its loading has been taking place in Gadoon Amazai Industrial Estate, but the local administration is keeping silent for as yet unknown reasons.
Some people were of the view that the government might not be able to control the exploitative tactics of the millers who were well aware of the supply and demanded of the market, but smuggling the wheat stocks to Afghanistan could lead to flour shortage in NWFP and if Punjab province stops the outward movement of wheat during a crucial period then the situation may already be out of control.
The wheat stoppage from Punjab had earlier brought relations between the two provinces to a new low and some of the nationalist leaders had threatened that they would stop the supply of power to Punjab from Tarbela dam if the Punjab government continued to stick to its policy of not supplying wheat to NWFP.
The NWFP wheat production had usually been insufficient for its population and the smuggling to Afghanistan and Afghan-displaced persons had put extra-burden on the government.
It has also been learnt that some Afghan traders had also given money to local businessmen to purchase wheat for them by paying growers on the spot. Those who run short of wheat demanded that wheat should be sold at the government fixed rates and those who indulged in hoarding should be punished.
They said the government should ensure the transparency in the whole process. Hoarding of the commodity and then selling it on high rates must be stopped by the government because it had created artificial shortage in past.
In most of the areas the millers had given money to the farmers in advance, assuring the procurement of the wheat according to their chalked out strategy.
ARMS SEIZED: The Swabi police arrested 116 proclaimed offenders and seized 160 weapons, during a 15-days campaign, SP Qazi Jamilur Rehman, said on Monday in a briefing to newsmen.
He said that nobody would be allowed to disturb the peaceful atmosphere of Swabi district, and that the fashion of displaying weapons had no place in Swabi, and those found doing this would be dealt with an iron hand. The SP also warned that action would be taken against those found involved in firing in the air.
US considers opening second Afghan jail to scrutiny
KABUL - The US military is considering granting the International Committee of the Red Cross access to a second detention facility in Afghanistan following allegations of abuse from former detainees, a spokesman said on Monday.
"Late on Friday the ICRC made an informal request to visit our facility in Kandahar. Right now that request is still under consideration," Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager told a press conference in Kabul.
The ICRC regularly visits the US-led coalition's main detention facility at their Bagram airbase headquarters, about 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Kabul. The centre in the main southern city of Kandahar was "very short term" and was used to house detainees before they were transported to Bagram, Mansager said.
The US is investigating two complaints of prisoner abuse while in custody, including allegations by a former police officer that he was beaten, stoned, sexually taunted and deprived of sleep while in holding cells in southeastern Gardez and Kandahar. No details on the second case have come to light.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which registered the policeman's complaint, has registered complaints by two other prisoners of sleep deprivation and appalling living conditions.
Mansager said there were "substantial differences" between the Bagram facility and detention centers in Iraq where US soldiers abused Iraqi prisoners. "While some people see parallels between the two, there are substantial differences, particularly in the level of maturity and experience which is going on in our facility in Bagram," he said. "We've made adjustments in our procedures and we continue to do that." The deaths of two Afghans in US custody at Bagram in December 2002 are still being investigated, he said.
Can The U.S. Ensure Security For Afghan Elections?
RFE/RL 05/17/2004 By Andrew Tully
Afghans will elect a president in September, and the U.S. favorite -- incumbent Hamid Karzai -- is widely expected to win. But there is concern that the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan have not done enough to make the country secure enough for a meaningful vote. The leader of those military forces was in the United States last week and gave an optimistic assessment.
Washington, 17 May 2004 (RFE/RL) -- There are an estimated 10 million eligible voters in Afghanistan, but so far only about 2 million have registered to take part in the September election. Meanwhile, violence is flaring up in many areas of the country, and Afghanistan's border with Pakistan remains a magnet for members of the former Taliban regime and Al-Qaeda.
U.S. General David Barno, the commanding general of the coalition forces in Afghanistan, acknowledged the problems last week, but said he has developed a strategy that he believes will keep interference to a minimum and allow Afghans to choose a president in September.
Speaking on 14 May at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Barno said his forces have made a shift away from a strictly military approach to one that now includes what he calls an important political element to ensure both good security and good voter turnout.
"There's no security without reconstruction, clearly no reconstruction without security in Afghanistan. In our military mission, as part of the overall effort there, it clearly encompasses both of those dynamics. So whereas earlier in our operation in Afghanistan we were focused very much on that combat, direct action, remove terrorists and focus on the 'military dynamic'; we now -- clearly last fall, clearly today -- are in a much more nuanced environment," Barno said.
Barno stressed that this does not mean he expects there will be no violence as the election nears, or that all 10 million eligible voters will be registered in time. But he says he does believe the vote will be a significant first step into democracy for a country trying to emerge from three decades of war.
Of particular concern is Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, which has long been lawless and now is believed to be a haven for Taliban and Al-Qaeda members regrouping after the U.S.-led invasion of late 2001.
But Barno expressed optimism that trouble in the border region can at least be minimized, if not neutralized, thanks to what he said was Pakistan's commitment to policing its side of the border. He said his troops now work well in cross-border coordination with Pakistani forces.
Barno acknowledged that this coordination has not yet produced spectacular results, such as the capture of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But he said he believes the region is gradually becoming stabilized.
"We do a great deal of coordination with the Pakistanis. We have what I'd characterize as complementary efforts on both sides of the borders and we share a great deal of information through these various information exchanges. We've got radios that commanders have on both sides of the border, they can talk to each other now. We've made some significant strides there, I think, over the last several months," Barno said.
Many observers say security in Afghanistan has been impossible, especially for foreign armies dating as far back as Alexander the Great more than 2,300 years ago. Some even joke that Karzai is not properly the president of Afghanistan but merely the mayor of Kabul, because, they contend, security outside the capital is nonexistent.
This is a great exaggeration, according to Radek Sikorski, a former foreign secretary and secretary of defense for Poland who now studies international affairs at the American Enterprise Institute, a private policy research center in Washington.
In an interview with RFE/RL, Sikorski, who has traveled extensively in Afghanistan, said there has been measurable progress in making much of Afghanistan secure enough that voters can elect a president who truly represents his people.
"There is basic security in most of Afghanistan. There are, of course, incidents up in the hills, particularly on the Afghan-Pakistani border. But, you know, that's a border that has never been quiet in its many-thousand-year history. So let's not expect too much," Sikorski said.
Sikorski also acknowledged that many Afghan men probably will not permit their wives and daughters to vote, regardless of the country's liberal election laws, and that there are many nomads who are difficult to register for the election.
But he said that is reason enough to increase efforts to enroll as many eligible voters as possible. Sikorsky recalled that Afghans debated vigorously at their constitutional convention last year, and seem, for the most part, to want democracy.
Sikorski also said a vigorous voter-registration campaign is the least the West, and particularly the United States, should do for a country that he said helped bring down Soviet communism and was destroyed in the process:
"It takes time, and it won't be perfect the first time. But I think the people of Afghanistan do want to be engaged in the democratic process. So I think we should spend at least a fraction of the money that we spend on arming the Afghan resistance on helping Afghanistan make its passage to the family of free nations," Sikorski said.
Yesterday in Kabul, the United Nations' envoy to Afghanistan described the country's progress toward democracy as "insufficient." Jean Arnault said that disarming militias, creating an independent police force, and forming a single national army are necessary steps for achieving lasting stability in Afghanistan.
Alarm at scale of child trafficking
This is London, UK 05/17/2004 By Rebecca Mowling
Fresh concerns about child trafficking were raised today as a new report revealed how hundreds of unaccompanied children arrive in Britain each month.
Around a third are at risk of being exploited as unpaid domestic servants or even forced into prostitution. Almost 2,000 children arrived in the course of the threemonth study, 12 of whom are still officially listed as missing.
The figures were revealed after a major pol ice operat ion at Heathrow airport which monitored the extent of child trafficking. Operation Paladin Child was set up following cases such as that of eight-year-old Victoria Climbind the "Adam" torso discovered in the Thames.
Victoria's parents sent her from the Ivory Coast to Britain in 1999 and entrusted her to the care of her great-aunt in the hope she would have a better future here. Instead, after a year of horrific abuse, she was murdered.
The torso killing in September 2001 was linked to voodoo after the victim was butchered in a ritual ceremony. Detectives, who named the unidentified boy Adam, discovered he was from Nigeria.
The study found:
1,904 unaccompanied children arrived in Britain through Heathrow from outside the EU between August and November last year.
Only nine per cent (166) claimed asylum on arrival, the majority of whom came from Afghanistan, and were taken into the care of social services.
Investigators found that half of the remaining 1,738 arriving without guardians were of African origin. Most were Nigerian (112 girls and 73 boys) followed by South African (142 children) and Ghanaian (89).
Most of those arriving (87 per cent) were aged from six to 16. A third were under the age of 11.
About 30 per cent of the arrivals (551) were considered at risk and their details were passed on to social services for investigation.
Twelve children remain unaccounted for by social services and police are continuing their enquiries to find out if they have returned home or been forced into domestic work or prostitution.
Officers fear the recent expansion of the EU may provide an increased opportunity for the easier trafficking of children.
Head of child protection Detective Chief Superintendent Peter Spindler, leading the investigation, revealed officers became aware of the numbers of children coming into Britain following the highprofile cases of Victoria Climbiand "Adam".
DCS Spindler said: "While many are here for legitimate reasons to study or join family, there is a small number who give rise for concern and we want to focus on that group. Children are facilitated here for a better life but some are exploited for economic reasons, forced into domestic servitude, sexual abuse or ritual abuse and organ donation."
He added: "This study only focuses on one port of entry to the UK and on non-EU passport holders. Victoria ClimbiîTame in through France on an EU passport. Consequently, we are still unaware of the scale of unaccompanied minors coming into the UK through European channels."
Officers worked with immigration, social services and the NSPCC and will make 26 recommendationsto the Government. Another case to cause concern was that of Toni-Ann Byfield. The seven-year-old Jamaican girl had been sent by her mother to the UK so she could be looked after by a family friend, but was soon placed with foster parents.
A series of blunders by social services meant she started spending time at the Kensal Green flat of the man who was thought to be her father. Both were shot dead in a drugs-related incident.
Pakistani women being trained as suicide bombers
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani women are being trained to become suicide bombers by the widow of a foreign terrorist, reliable sources told Daily Times. Intelligence agencies have submitted reports to the Interior Ministry revealing that a woman Aziza, a citizen of Uzbekistan and widow of Ubaidullah, an active member of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, is reportedly training female suicide bombers at a base in Pakistan’s mountains, sources said.
Sources said this is the first time in Pakistan that females were being trained for suicide missions. It has also been stated in the reports that Ubaidullah was killed in January 2004 during an operation in South Waziristan conducted by the armed forces of Pakistan.
The reports reveal that in late March 2004, Aziza told her relatives that she intended to avenge her husband’s death by committing terrorist acts in Pakistan, sources further said.
Terrorism might occur in the big cites of the country and important personalities associated with the government could be targeted by trained female terrorists, sources added.
The Ministry of Interior has directed the home secretaries of the four provinces, as well as the chief commissioner of Islamabad and provincial police officers, to hunt down Aziza and increase security at sensitive places and for VVIPs in their provinces, sources said.
High-ranking officials of the Ministry of Interior have also directed the secretary for security for Federal Administrative Tribal Area (FATA) to launch a vigorous campaign to destroy Aziza’s hideouts and training camp.
Pakistan tribal force warns against sheltering foreign militants
Associated Press Tuesday May 18, 7:16 PM
The chief of a 4,000-strong tribal force in a lawless Pakistani region near Afghanistan on Tuesday warned "stern action" against any tribesmen sheltering foreign militants.
The warning came amid signs that Pakistan's army is preparing for a possible military operation in South Waziristan unless suspected al-Qaida men in the region take up a government offer of amnesty. The lashkar or tribal force is charged with getting any foreigners there to register with authorities.
Allah Khan, the chief of the lashkar, told inhabitants at Azam Warsak village where his 4,000-strong force assembled Tuesday that they faced "stern action under tribal laws" if they host any foreigners.
"We will demolish homes of those people who shelter them," he said. "Any such violator will also fined one million rupees (US$17,250)."
However, people in Azam Warsak, which lies 16 kilometers (10 miles) west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, told Khan that "foreigners" had left the area after a major military operation in March and moved to unknown locations.
The March 16-28 operation against al-Qaida fugitives and their supporters _ Pakistan's biggest since it joined the U.S.-led war on terrorism in late 2001 _ left more than 120 people dead in South Waziristan, including 48 soldiers. Hundreds of militants from Central Asia and Afghanistan were thought to have escaped.
In a bid to avoid further bloodshed, Pakistan then offered to let all foreigners except al-Qaida and Taliban leaders continue to live in the tribal regions, if they lay down arms, agree to respect Pakistani laws and register with the authorities.
Originally, Pakistan set April 30 as the deadline for this purpose, but no foreigners came forward. The latest in a series of new deadlines for the amnesty passed on Saturday.
The lashkar is due to go to another village on Wednesday to try and trace fugitives, an exercise which officials say is being closely monitored.
"The army will definitely move in if the lashkar fails to deliver," Brig. Mahmood Shah, chief of security for Pakistan's northwestern tribal regions, told The Associated Press on Monday. In recent days, dozens of military trucks carrying troops have driven into South Waziristan.
South Waziristan is believed to be a sanctuary for al-Qaida and Taliban fighters who have launched attacks in eastern Afghanistan where U.S.-led forces operate, and is a possible hideout for Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayaman al-Zawahri.
Road links plan between Pak, Afghanistan and Central Asia
GEO, World 05/17/2004
SEOUL - Asian Development Bank(ADB) is working on a project to construct roads between Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. This was disclosed during annual meeting of ADB in Korea when Foreign Ministers of these countries were met.
Meeting also consider the proposal to start power and transport projects between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Deputy Secretary of US treasury department John Taylor in his statement said that US interested in better trade relations among Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meeting also decided to commence yearly meeting among the three countries.
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy and Ambassador Khalilzad Celebrates Groundbreaking of Jalalabad-to-Asmar Road
US Embassy Press Release
Construction began yesterday on the 122 km long Jalalabad-to-Asmar Road. Turning over the first shovels of dirt were Ambassador Khalilzad, Afghanistan Minister of Public Works Engineer Abdullah Ali, Minister of Transportation Ali Jawad and Minister of Rural Development Atmar. The Governor of Nangarhar, Haji Din Mohammad, also participated in the ceremony.
The road will better connect Nangahar, Kunar and Nuristan Provinces. “It will improve the economic possibilities involving trade of all three provinces, perhaps most dramatically in Nuristan, which has been isolated for centuries,” said Ambassador Khalilzad.
The Jalalabad-to-Asmar Road is one of three provincial road projects beginning this month. The other two are the 10 kilometer Kandahar-to-Tirinkot Road and the 125km Kabul-to-Gardez Road.
The Jalalabad-to-Asmar Road is expected to cost an estimated $20 million and is scheduled to be completed mid-year, 2005. The United States is paying for the project.
Taliban in Texas: Big Oil hankers for old pals
Asia Times 05/17/2004 Pepe Escobar
HOUSTON - The Taliban must have had a ball in this Texas city when they came to visit the control tower of Planet Oil in the late 1990s to negotiate the Trans-Afghan Pipeline (TAP). One can imagine Mullah Omar's finest, in full black-turbaned regalia, at the Houston Galleria - amid all those blond, dermatologically sublime trophy wives credit-carding their way to the Valhalla of conspicuous consumption at Saks, Macy's, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Not to mention all those steak houses! And all those sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) - not only Kandahar-friendly Toyota Land Cruisers but Durangos, Silverados, Pajeros, Discoveries and even BMWs!
Of course this was ages before the cluster-bombing of the Taliban back to Jurassic Park became the secret casus belli for the "war on terra" after September 11, 2001. And it was before those gas-guzzling SUVs had to deal seriously with soaring oil prices, or at least not to the heights we are seeing now. On Monday a barrel of US light crude hit US$41.65, the highest price since the New York Mercantile Exchange launched its crude-oil contract in 1983.
Between the Taliban taking over Kabul in September 1996 and the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in the summer of 2001, neither the administration of president Bill Clinton nor that of his successor, President George W Bush, ever designated Afghanistan as a terrorist or even a rogue state: the Taliban were wined and dined as long as they played the Pipelineistan game in Central Asia (see Pipelineistan revisited, December 24-25, 2003). Unocal - which had put the CentGas Pipeline Consortium in place - hired Henry Kissinger as a consultant. Unocal also hired two very well-connected Afghans: Zalmay Khalilzad, a Pashtun with a PhD from the University of Chicago and former Paul Wolfowitz aide, and Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun from Kandahar. In 1996, both Khalilzad and Karzai were ultra-pro-Taliban. Karzai is now Afghanistan's US-backed ruler. Khalilzad also made splendid career moves: Bush-appointed National Security Council member (working under Condoleezza Rice), "special envoy" to Afghanistan (only nine days after the Karzai government was sworn in), and current US ambassador.
The Taliban didn't want to play ball: every time, they wanted more money and more investments for the roads and the infrastructure of their ravaged country - until an exasperated Washington decided to finish them off. This was discussed in Geneva in May 2001, at the G8 summit in Genoa in July 2001, and finally at a Berlin hotel, also that July, a meeting involving US, Russian, German and Pakistani officials. Asia Times Online later learned in Islamabad that the US plan was to strike against the Taliban from bases in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan before October 2001. Then the terrorist attacks of September 11 happened, providing Washington the perfect excuse to go it alone.
There's still no oil flowing through Afghanistan - not yet. With the price of oil now at its highest level since 1983, the US population is getting restless. The so-called US summer driving season - from April to September - will have gasoline averaging $1.94 a US gallon (about 51 cents a liter; it is already $2.30 a gallon, or more than 60 cents a liter, and up in California). A stop at Continental Airlines headquarters in downtown Houston reveals that the airline has increased its freight rates from 15 cents to 20 cents per kilogram.
But for corporate Houston - where virtually everyone's mood is inextricably related to the price of a barrel - expensive oil is good business. Seth Kleinman, an analyst for PFC Energy Group, goes straight to the point: "These are market fundamentals. Demand is incredibly strong and supply does not follow. Americans love their SUVs. Car makers are offering 0 percent APR [above prime rate] financing. And refining capacity also does not follow demand. No new refinery was built in the US in the last 20 years."
Whatever happens, there is a consensus all over Houston: there will be no new oil shock, at least for the foreseeable future - only what financial circles are calling "Chinese torture" - prices slowly going up.
What if they invaded Texas?
Houston is not a down-tempo chill-out groove kind of place; it's more like ZZ Top playing on a turbo Cadillac. But Houston - as people in cooler-than-thou Austin are fond of saying - is desperately trying to be hip. The severe glass-and-steel towers of downtown are being sweetened by water gardens on Main Street. The spectacular collapse of Enron in December 2001 voided two downtown towers, and there are plenty of second-hand Porsches for sale or for rent. Enron - in essence a giant casino - was involved in everything from oil, gas and electricity to timber, water, communications and the Internet, with a turnover of more than $100 billion. But Enron executives were sort of pardoned by the city because they're considered to be the modern version of 19th-century wildcatters.
With Halliburton the story is more complicated. Halliburton is making a killing of some $9 billion in contracts to rebuild Iraq's oil industry and to service US troops. Halliburton's stock has already risen 11 percent this year. But it is not being forgiven. The United for Peace and Justice coalition is calling for a mass protest on Wednesday against war profiteering and crony capitalism outside Halliburton's annual shareholder meeting.
The oil capital of the world is transfixed by Iraq. Referring to the beheading of Nick Berg, John Nugent says: "The abuse of captives at Abu Ghraib, while unjustified, is a poor excuse for murder." John Mundy says, "We should bring all our troops home and recognize that we cannot negotiate with fanatics. We cannot pacify or buy them off with good works." But Anna Miller says, "We did not find weapons of mass destruction or al-Qaeda in Iraq. However, we did find the terrorists, and they are us."
Support for Bush is far from monolithic. "Troops Yes Bush No", reads a bumper sticker on a Jaguar. KPFT 90.1 FM, an excellent community radio, insists on "giving a voice to the voiceless" - and they come from everywhere in this multicultural city of 5 million: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, black musicians, the Reverend Robert Muhamad, defenders of South Dakota Indians. The Christmas Coup Comedy group produces an outstanding mix with snippets of Bush press conferences and booming metallic beats ("Bring Them On").
At a Brazilian steak house in the steak-house Valhalla of Westheimer Avenue, among the ballet of gauchos serving prime cuts on sticks, the gloves slowly are off. "War is good for business," says a red-meat fan, especially with the barrel at $41.65. "And since it's not going down, this is good for reviving oil production in the Gulf of Mexico." This means more wealth for Houston. Iraq reconstruction is a more problematic affair. Halliburton is making billions, but how long will it last? "What if this Muqtada [al-Sadr] guy steals the elections?"
"By God, they should be so lucky to be occupied, we're doing them a great favor." This may seem to be a consensus, like "We can't make those Arabs happy. And we can't rule in the Middle East either." Everyone agrees that "similar things go on in our prisons ... Our prison population exploded because of the war on drugs, a third generation of failure ... There's a sheriff in Arizona who ordered pink underwear for people in jail."
But some Texans are somewhat startled when they learn that the British Empire, via Lord Curzon 80 years ago, wanted to create "an Arab facade veiled by constitutional fictions" in Iraq and the Middle East.
They also start thinking when they are reminded that the last time America was occupied was in the early 19th century; as for Britain, it was during the Roman Empire. This leads to a thoughtful conclusion: "That's right. If someone invaded Texas, we would do the same thing."
The people at the Petroleum Intelligence Group in Houston confirm it, as well as the Don't Mess With Oil elite at the Petroleum Club (housed since 1963 on the top two floors of the Exxon Tower, only 1,500 selected members, regal lunches with $50 lobsters and bottles of sublime Margaux only for members): Big Oil is not exactly fond of this war and its aftermath - especially with news like this week's bombing of a pipeline near Basra, instantly cutting 25 percent of Iraq's exports. What the oil majors were saying more than a year ago, before the war, has become a reality: Iraq is terribly dangerous. Ergo, bad for business. In terse Texas oilspeak, this is the message: Bush's priorities were never the oil business's priorities. And the elite is really worried about what the neo-cons are up to next.
What do the intellectuals of the conservative establishment have to say about this? On the sprawling, extremely wealthy campus of Rice University, the James Baker III Institute for Public Policy regally sits as a sumptuous neo-Byzantine spectacle - hall of fake Greek columns, round table fit for royalty, priceless Persians, and of course a gallery of photos of the former secretary of state smiling alongside every player and his neighbor during the Cold War.
The director of the institute is ambassador Edward Djerejian, a former official of the administrations of presidents Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush and Bill Clinton, and allegedly one of the best American specialists on the Middle East. But his secretary says his schedule is very hectic, so "he has decided to decline the interview due to time constraints". A Rice University PhD now living in Austin has a different take: "The last thing these people want now in the middle of this mess is to talk to a journalist they don't know about American foreign policy in Iraq and the Middle East." It's also a pity not to hear the hectic Djerejian's take on how his boss - senior partner of the Houston and Washington law firm Baker & Botts - masterminded the scheme to get the Supreme Court to appoint George W Bush president in 2001. Baker & Botts, by the way, keeps a very substantial office in Baku, Azerbaijan, a key node of Pipelineistan. Yes, it is always about oil.
It's raining Texas cats and dogs, so detailed research at Rice University may yield some enlightenment. In January 2001, George W Bush created the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG), directed by Vice President Dick Cheney. When they published the so-called Cheney Report, one thing was clear: the priority for this administration was never the "war on terra", but America's dependence on energy sources. The Cheney Report was not strategic analysis. But it was published during the Enron scandal - with Enron executives working as NEPDG members. Question: What were they really up to?
Last July, the Department of Commerce was forced by the Supreme Court to unveil the documents used by the Cheney Energy Task Force. There are maps of oilfields in Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as well as charts detailing which foreign companies closed deals with Saddam Hussein for oil exploitation in Iraq. Among other things, these documents prove that long before September 11, 2001, regime change in Iraq was the order of the day.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, energy secretary for the last two years of the Clinton administration and now widely tipped to be Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's running mate, has a starring role in all this. In February 2000, Richardson went on a tour of all member states of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) except Iraq, Iran and Libya. He discovered that none of these countries had excess production capacity. Conclusion: an energy crisis, sooner or later, would be inevitable. Matt Simmons, a consultant for the Council on Foreign Relations, learned about this by e-mail and later became a consultant to the Bush administration.
The eighth chapter of the Cheney Report, titled "Strengthening Global Alliances", says it's imperative for the United States to get rid of strategic, political and economic obstacles in its quest to ensure the extra 7.5 million barrels of oil a day it will need by 2020. This is the equivalent of the current total consumption of India and China put together. As most of the countries that are among these "obstacles" are politically and socially unstable, this means that secure supplies to the US imply the presence of US troops. The Cheney Report stresses the growing US - as well as Asian and Western European - dependence of Middle East oil. And as the solution for the energy problem, it proposes a military solution. This is the meaning of General Tommy Franks saying on the record that "we will be in Afghanistan for years", and the meaning of the 14 US military bases to be built in Iraq.
At the time, the Cheney Energy Task Force also had to refer to the United Nations sanctions imposed on Iraq. Lifting the sanctions on Iraq would mean the go-ahead for contracts frozen by the sanctions - most with Russian and European companies and not with US companies, since Saddam was not in business with the US. So war was the only option to get the big prize - the second-largest oil reserves in the world, which come as well with very low production costs.
It's possible to extract a major conclusion from the Cheney Report. The White House says that the terrorists want to destroy the American way of life. But what if the whole thing is upside down? To preserve an American way of life that guzzles - and wastes - tremendous amounts of energy, Washington is forced to go military all the way, under the pretext of the "war on terra". And the process, on top of it, feeds on itself. Who is the largest world consumer of energy? It's the US Army.
Houston, one of the world capitals of oil, red meat and frenetic consumption, misses its Taliban. But no more Taliban in Texas does not mean that Texas does not need the Taliban. In line with the Cheney Report and with oil ever more expensive, now more than ever there's need for the Trans-Afghan Pipeline (TAP), which would bring oil and gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistani ports and then to the United States. Hamid Karzai cannot maintain order even in Kabul. Fickle Washington may change its mind - again - and issue a "Houston, we got a (Taliban) problem". Then sooner or later those dashing, black-turbaned Pashtuns will be seen parking their brand-new SUVs at the Galleria.
Tajikistan: New database to be key refugee tool
DUSHANBE, 18 May (IRIN) - A newly established computer database, one of the first in the region and managed by the Tajik State Migration Service, will prove instrumental in assisting thousands of refugees in mountainous Tajikistan, the vast majority of whom are Afghans.
"The database is not an end in itself, but rather one stage in an ongoing process of finding more durable solutions for the refugees and persons of concern living in this country," Nicholas Coussidis, country representative for the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) told IRIN in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, adding that profiling of those beneficiaries was the next stage of that process.
"We need to know who we are trying to help and such profiles allow us to properly protect, assist and provide solutions."
Data regarding the individual's names, number of family members, gender, places of origin, professional and educational background, along with legal status, were now being entered, providing UNHCR, along with the Tajik authorities, a more effective means of providing assistance.
"We are trying to put all that in the system, enabling us to find more meaningful solutions for the beneficiaries - whether it is repatriation, resettlement or local integration," Coussidis explained, noting: "Unless we have a good profile, we cannot make effective decisions."
In a joint undertaking by the government and UNHCR and completed in mid March, approximately 2,600 refugees and persons of concern were re-registered and re-validated in the database. Previously, such files were handled completely by hand.
One element of the re-registration effort was ensuring that women were registered in their own right - as individuals - and not merely under heads of families, the UNHCR country head said. "It's her right. Not just his."
But while the physical process of registering all refugees already in the country in the database was complete, the process was far from over. "The database is a living thing," Coussidis stressed, noting the importance of keeping it up to date.
"This is an ongoing activity," UNHCR protection officer Katja Storch concurred. "Whenever someone comes or goes, that information must be entered," she told IRIN.
UNHCR assists the Tajik State Migration Service, which on behalf of the Tajik government is responsible for the continuous updating of the system.
Describing the current climate towards refugees and asylum seekers as positive, Coussidis noted they were currently working in collaboration with the government on current refugee legislation in the former Soviet republic.
"The increasing tolerance by the authorities towards refugees and asylum seekers is moving in a positive way," he observed.
According to UNHCR, since the start of the voluntary repatriation effort in spring 2002 in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, the two largest host countries to Afghan refugees, thousands of Afghans living in Tajikistan had also returned. In April 2002 the UN refugee agency assisted over 9,000 Afghans living along the banks of Pyandz river on the border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan back to their homeland, with some 3,000 returning spontaneously or unassisted.
Since then UNHCR has also facilitated the voluntary return of over 1,000 Afghans back to their country - mainly from Dushanbe and the northern city of Khujand - with another 1,000 returning spontaneously or being resettled elsewhere.
"It may not sound like big numbers compared to Pakistan and Iran - but given we initially started with 4,500 - it's significant," Coussidis stated.
Pakistani lawyer seeks release of Afghan reporter
PESHAWAR - A lawyer representing an Afghan journalist held incommunicado in Pakistan for almost a month said on Tuesday he had asked a court to order the government to either charge him or release him.
Sami Yousafzai, a regular contributor to the American magazine Newsweek, was arrested in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region bordering Afghanistan on April 21, along with American journalist Eliza Griswold.
Griswold was freed and expelled from Pakistan soon afterwards but Yousafzai and their Pakistani driver still have not been released, according to the Afghan's lawyer, Kamran Arif, and journalists' groups.
Pakistan, a key ally of the United States in its war on terror, has banned foreign journalists from entering the tribal region without specific permission, but the government has not commented on Yousafzai's whereabouts.
"He has not been produced before any court of law and he is in the custody of the military authorities," Arif said, adding that his information was based on local media reports because he had been unable to meet Yousafzai.
"He has not been given a chance to consult a lawyer or his family," he said.
Arif said he had asked the high court in the city of Peshawar to compel the government to produce Yousafzai and driver Mohammad Salim for formal charges under the law of habeas corpus, or to declare his detention illegal and order his release.
Journalists' groups, including the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, have condemned Yousafzai's detention and urged his release.
In December, Pakistani authorities arrested Pakistani journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi from the southwestern city of Quetta for helping two French journalists visit Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan.
The French journalists, who were looking into reports that Pakistan was continuing to provide sanctuary to Afghanistan's former Taliban regime were quickly released, but Rizvi was held until being freed on bail at the end of March.
His detention was strongly criticised by international media and rights groups.
Afghan minister says government officials involved in drug trade and corruption
Afghanistan Television 05/18/2003
Afghan Interior Minister Ali Jalali has acknowledged that government officials are involved in drug trafficking and that administrative corruption in the country is widespread. Jalali told journalists that in fighting corruption, the government focused first and foremost on organized crime related to drug trade. He said the cases of low-level corruption committed by government officials would be sorted out through economic and social measures. The following is excerpt from a recording of Jalali's news conference broadcast by Afghan television on 15 May:
[Passage omitted: announcer introduction and first question not received due to power failure]
[Jalali in Pashto] We hope that apart from pledges of cooperation, there should be progress in terms of securing borders, joints border patrols, security of highways, and in the pursuit of criminals fleeing from one country to another. Efforts should be made to prepare mechanism in this regard. We also hope that the Doha conference will grant aid to the Afghan police. Pledges of general assistance to Afghan security forces were made at the Berlin conference, but now we want to specify the areas to which the assistance should be channelled. We also want to attract aid from those countries which have not made a considerable assistance, particularly the countries of the Middle East and the Islamic countries in our region.
[Passage omitted: answer to a missed question]
[Unidentified reporter in Dari]: Respectable minister, your officials in Kandahar Province have arrested a Pakistani who admitted involvement in terrorist activities and said there were camps in Pakistan where terrorists were trained. What is your message to the Pakistani government?
[Jalali, in Dari] Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of the international antiterrorism coalition. Both countries are facing threats from terrorism and both of them are trying to fight terrorism. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan are facing problems of terrorism in their mountainous border areas. I hope they will expand and intensify their efforts so that we can carry out an effective battle against terrorism in the region and eliminate terrorism here.
There is no doubt that this is not the first case in Kandahar [Province]. In the past there were also some people trained by terrorist circles. These circles do not pose threats just to Afghanistan, they pose threat to Pakistan as well. We hope both countries will overcome this problem by coordinating their efforts.
[Unidentified reporter in Dari] Respectable minister, child kidnapping in Afghanistan is the issue you had mentioned in your previous news conference, but you have not explained your measures, measures taken by the Interior Ministry to ensure child security. Can you please state what specific measures have you taken this week in this regard because this issue has generated fears among people?
[Jalali, in Dari]: These measures have not been taken in a week or two. Measures have been taken over the last few years. Special groups have been set up in the capital and provinces to pursue the child kidnapping issue. Meanwhile, we are in contact with schools, the Education Ministry and other institutions to increase supervision and monitoring by the police in the places where many children commute. I have recently received reports that 12 video-game shops have been closed for the violation of rules. Also, the police try ensure that children are sent to schools and tell their parents if they go to video-game shops [instead]. All these actions are taken in Kabul and in the provinces. I thank the Afghan police officials for uncovering many incidents of kidnapping over the past two weeks and preventing the kidnapping of some children and women.
[Unidentified reporter in Dari] I visited remote provinces and prepared reports from there. People in remote areas believe that Interior Ministry officials support commanders involved in the setting up of heroin factories. Second, do you use the assistance given to the Interior Ministry to train police solely in the capital or do you extend this assistance also to the provinces? For example, in some provinces the police do not even have transport.
[Jalali in Dari] We have evidence that government officials, including security forces members, are involved in drug trafficking. In some cases, we have succeeded in identifying them, but in some other cases we have not. Therefore, I cannot say anything specific regarding this issue. We have made public the cases we discovered. For example, on a number of occasions we arrested security squads and forwarded their cases to the prosecution department. In addition to security officials and police officials, people caught red-handed in this respect have been referred to the prosecution department.
Unfortunately, administrative corruption is one of our basic problems. Administrative corruption itself creates problems for the police in fighting crimes. In some cases criminals are supported by powerful people. We have these problems. In this stage we are forming a state in Afghanistan. Unless our institutions, our security and judicial institutions become strong, then I have to say that a mere creation and strengthening of the police is not enough to ensure security. At the same time, the country's judicial system should also be improved and reformed. The administration system should also be reformed. Unless these reforms are equal, the police alone cannot do this work.
[Unidentified reporter in Dari] We are getting closer to the elections and people are concerned about security. Two workers who wanted to establish a voters' registration centre in Konar Province were killed on their way to the province and four others are reported to be wounded in the incident. What are your new measures? What facilities will you provide? Will security problems delay the convening of the elections yet again?
[Jalali in Dari] We are making continuous efforts to ensure security of the voters' registration process. Recently we discussed it and evaluated it along with the UN authorities, the National Security Department and other relevant departments. We decided to establish a coordination centre at the Interior Ministry through which we can evaluate [security] in the areas, identify the problems and take relevant measures.
The incident in the east of Afghanistan, as a result of which a number of our compatriots lost their lives, is unfortunately a very sad incident, but it is not yet clear whether they were attacked because they were involved in the election process or whether they were just targeted by terrorists and killed.
[Amir Shah, correspondent for Associated Press, in Dari] You spoke about administrative corruption. Administrative corruption has reached its climax. What is the responsibility of the Interior Ministry? Is there not an organization which could to look into the issue? I was a journalist during the Taleban regime. Most of the time, they announced arrest of those who committed bribery. Given the large number of police we have now, with the Grace of God, is it not possible to arrest those who commit bribery?
[Jalali in Dari] I should say that bribery and administrative corruption have different reasons.
In some cases, low-ranking government workers commit bribery due to their economic problems. They have low salary, so they do it. But this is not a big issue of concern to us.
We are concerned about organized crime related to administrative corruption, such as links with drug smuggling networks or links with groups involved in organized crime. These issues worry us in Afghanistan.
The problems we have with low-level workers might be solved through economic development in Afghanistan, but what we are concerned about is the issue of fighting drug trafficking groups and those involved in organized crime. Our campaign cannot be successful only with cooperation of the Afghan [national] police, but we need cooperation of the police in other areas, because the drug smuggling networks do not pursue their activities only in one country, but they work in several countries.
You spoke about police facilities. The capacity of the police force is limited. They can arrest criminals and, to some extent, have the authority to keep them in detention and investigate them. The rest of the authority goes to the prosecution department or to courts.
In some cases, I confirm that the judicial system of the country should be improved. Administrative corruption is not limited to one department, to the police or security forces. It is everywhere.
These issues are connected with each other. We hope to be able to address these problems through administrative reforms in Afghanistan and through economic, social and political developments.
Administrative corruption is not the sole problem so we can look for ways of addressing it. We should take measures in different aspects of life and address the problem.
[Soltan Mohammad, the New York Times, in Dari] Last year, a number of [Afghan] prisoners were released from Guantanamo Prison. They complained that the government of Afghanistan has not sent any representative to visit the prison and see the prisoners. They claim that prisoners from other countries enjoyed their rights. For example, the representatives from Pakistan or Arab countries visited their prisoners. Have you taken any measures in this regard?
[Jalali in Dari] In some cases prisoners' families came to the Interior Ministry. We contacted the coalition forces and in most cases, we solved the problems.
But the supervision of the prisoners is not the responsibility of the Interior Ministry. It is the responsibility of the judicial authorities and the prosecution department.
I think the Justice Ministry has some programmes in this regard. They can give you detailed information on the issue.
Thank you very much.
Source: Afghanistan Television, Kabul, in Dari and Pashto via BBC Monitoring
The Wrong Way to Build a Nation
Los Angeles Times 05/18/2004 By Kathy Gannon
Afghanistan is pretty much off the international radar screen these days. But it wasn't so long ago that the United Nations was called upon to bring stability, self-rule and security to the country — a mandate not unlike the one it faces today in Iraq.
Adding to the similarity is Lakhdar Brahimi, the man heading the U.N. team in Iraq, who also navigated Afghanistan's post-Taliban transition.
Yes, they are two very different countries: Iraq with an educated people, an infrastructure that once worked and institutions with competent functionaries. Then there is Afghanistan, destroyed by more than two decades of war, with a largely uneducated population and no institutions to speak of.
Yet there are enough parallels to make an examination of how the U.N. fared in Afghanistan valid. Chief among these parallels are the ethnic and religious divisions that have plagued both countries for generations. So what can we learn from the first experience as we get started on the second? If we graded the U.N.'s performance in Afghanistan, here's how it would rate:
• Security: This would have to be an F, given that Brahimi himself, in his farewell speech, admitted, "There is fear in the heart of every Afghan because there is no rule of law." How did this happen? Right from the outset, Brahimi and the U.N. made concessions that led to an insecure Afghanistan. The ink hadn't even dried on the Bonn agreement that brought the first post-Taliban government to power in Afghanistan when the U.N. let armed militias flout the accord. These militias stayed in Kabul in defiance of this agreement, which demanded they be evicted.
The U.N. compromised away Afghanistan's security step by step so that it could meet a series of deadlines: two loya jirgas (grand councils), a constitution and elections.
That Afghanistan today is a struggling nation, overrun by drugs and undermined by powerful militias and their warlord leaders-turned-government-ministers, reflects a United Nations that measures itself by successes on paper, not on the ground.
• Development: another failing grade. The Afghans' expectations following the collapse of the Taliban were high, maybe too high. Today, nearly three years later, they are a deeply disappointed people. They have seen very little development outside of the cities. Jobs are rare, the infrastructure is still woefully inadequate and little substantive change has come to their daily lives. Yet Afghans see international aid workers in fleets of large, four-wheel-drive vehicles, living in grandly refurbished and rebuilt homes.
• Self-governance: Another disappointment. Elections have been postponed until September, and most Afghans aren't registered to vote. It's still not clear whether elections will be just for a president or for the assemblies as well.
Any criticism of the former moujahedeen, who are now power brokers and government ministers, is met with death threats and demands for apologies. The new constitution does some good for women, giving them two representatives from each province. But the violent reaction from the men to criticism of moujahedeen from a woman delegate is just one example of how far women in Afghanistan still have to travel.
• Ethnic and religious rapprochement: The U.N. failed here as well. It did nothing in Afghanistan to stop a cycle of discrimination and linguistic chauvinism. Its inaction actually encouraged discrimination against ethnic Pashtuns because they had been the backbone of the Taliban. Worse, it created a feeling among Pashtuns that they had no political recourse.
Getting this right at the outset of a post-conflict situation seems critical. Pandering to ethnic and religious discriminations and giving one group prominence because it was previously the target of discrimination is a losing game. Such a course also doesn't recognize that at the very heart of ethnic discrimination is power, either getting it or retaining it. Taking this path, as the United Nations always does, only promises further power struggles.
During the Taliban regime there was discrimination against Dari-speaking Afghans. But before the Taliban, Dari-speaking Afghans discriminated against Pashto speakers. It's a cycle we can't understand, but one we can easily — and wrongly — perpetuate through acceptance, which the United Nations does.
• Stability: It's a tenuous stability that seems likely to collapse when international forces leave the country. Yet to Afghans, that's what seems likely in the face of militia activity, ethnic divisions and little development or reconstruction.
The report card for the United Nations and its chief architect in Afghanistan speaks for itself. We can only hope they will do better in Iraq
Kathy Gannon, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is on leave as Associated Press bureau chief for Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she has been a reporter for 15 years.
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