Afghanistan's Karzai to visit White House
Mon May 24, 8:14 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The White House announced that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai will meet with President George W. Bush in Washington on June 15.
"Presidents Bush and Karzai will discuss a wide range of issues, including our common effort to fight terrorism and bring peace, security, and prosperity to the Afghan people," the White House said in a statement.
Karzai will be in Sea Island, Georgia for a June 7-10 meeting of the Group of Seven of the world's wealthiest nations plus Russia. Bush has sought to make the spread of democracy one of the key topics at the meeting. Karzai will attend the summit on June 9, the White House said.
"They will talk about ways to strengthen our bilateral partnership, the upcoming Afghan elections, US and international efforts to spur economic growth by 'Investing in the Afghan People' and efforts to curb the growing narcotics menace in Afghanistan," according to the statement.
US military in Afghanistan denies latest Pakistani border charge
Mon May 24, 8:32 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - United States forces in Afghanistan denied entering Pakistani territory last week, saying they had not breached the border since an accidental incursion on May 2.
A US-led military coalition hunting Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan since late 2001 often operates along the border in pursuit of insurgents, who they say frequently flee over the border to Pakistan.
US and Pakistani officials are scheduled to discuss the vexed issue of border incursions on Tuesday.
"We had no border crossing since the second of May," US military spokesman in Afghanistan, Lieutenant Colonel Tucker Mansager, told reporters in Kabul on Monday.
He was referring to the May 2 incursion by troops into the village of Lwara Mandi, which straddles the poorly-marked border dividing Afghanistan's Khost province with the northwest Pakistani tribal district of North Waziristan.
Pakistan lodged a formal protest on May 5 over the incursion. The US admitted the incursion but said it was accidental and occurred during an operation to hunt down insurgents.
Pakistan has since lodged a second protest alleging US troops again entered Lwara Mandi on May 20 and searched three houses.
US Secretary of State Richard Armitage, apparently acknowledging the May 20 incursion, told CNN on May 21 that it was also an accident.
"I'm sure it was an accident and we'll take precautions to make sure it doesn't happen again," Armitage said in the interview.
The 2,500-kilometer (1,550-mile) Afghan-Pakistan frontier runs through remote rugged mountains and is notoriously poorly defined. It is riddled with grey areas which are subject to demarcation disputes between Islamabad and Kabul.
There have been scores of alleged incursions, often in areas where the border is disputed.
The State Department issued a statement following the May 2 incident saying the US-led force "absolutely respects the territorial integrity of Pakistan."
Dozens of US soldiers in armoured vehicles also entered Lwara Mandi on May 7 and asked Pakistani border forces about a nearby firing incident. However Pakistan's military spokesman, Major General Shaukat Sultan, said the May 7 incident was not a border violation and no protest was lodged.
Mansager stressed that US-led forces were "conducting operations on the Afghan side of the border only."
Pakistan finds 'unacceptable' US military incursions
Monday May 24, 2:18 PM AFP
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri rejected as "totally unacceptable" recent incursions from Afghanistan by US troops trying to track down Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders in his country.
"It's a question of principle," Kasuri told CNN television.
"We're a proud sovereign nation, and we don't want it taken for granted that people can move into our territory," he said.
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said Friday an incursion by US troops into Pakistan from Afghanistan, the second in two weeks, was nothing more than an unfortunate accident, but Kasuri rejected the US mea culpa.
"If you make mistakes too often you create an imprssion that you're doing it deliberately," he said.
The Pakistani government, which protested the incident, said it occurred Thursday in the North Waziristan tribal area when they crossed the border during a search operation in a village that straddles the Afghan border.
On May 8, several dozen US troops entered Pakistan from Afghanistan seeking the source of shots fired into Afghanistan.
Norwegian soldier killed in Kabul
Monday May 24, 2:26 PM
KABUL (Reuters) - A Norwegian soldier has been killed and one slightly wounded in a grenade attack on the international peacekeeping force in Kabul.
The Sunday evening attack involved a grenade that may have been rocket propelled, hitting a vehicle belonging to the 6,500-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrolling the Afghan capital.
"I understand one grenade missed and one impacted the vehicle. There were four soldiers in the vehicle," said Major Rita LePage on Monday.
It was the first Norwegian death in the NATO-led multinational force, which has helped make Kabul a relatively secure environment despite an insurgency by Islamic militants in the south and east that continues to destabilise the country.
The attack occurred on the road running east out of Kabul towards Jalalabad, where several ISAF bases are located.
A British soldier was killed in a suicide bombing on the same road in January, and four German peacekeepers also died in the area last June in another suicide car bomb attack.
A peacekeeper was also wounded earlier this month in a rocket attack on a base used by ISAF.
The death of the Norwegian takes to 11 the number of ISAF peacekeepers who have died in the past year, all of them killed by explosive devices, landmines or suicide bomb attacks.
Figures provided by ISAF show that 27 peacekeepers have died in Afghanistan since the start of the mission following the collapse of the Taliban regime to U.S.-led forces late in 2001.
The figure includes fatalities in accidents, including a helicopter crash. A further 62 Spanish peacekeepers died in a plane crash in May 2003, as they were returning home.
Afghanistan faces a sustained insurgency led by members of the ousted Taliban regime and Islamic militant allies who are opposed to landmark parliamentary and presidential elections due to be held in September.
Around 700 people have died in the violence since August.
In addition to the peacekeeping force, there are 20,000 U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan hunting Taliban and al Qaeda guerrillas including Osama bin Laden.
Taliban claims responsibility in death of Norwegian peacekeeper
Associated Press Monday May 24, 8:14 PM
A rocket attack on a peacekeepers' vehicle in the Afghan capital killed a Norwegian soldier and wounded another, the international security force said Monday, as militants ratcheted up a campaign of violence ahead of crucial national elections.
Officials said it was unclear who was behind the assault. But Abdul Hakim Latifi, a man who claims to speak for the Taliban, said nine of its fighters carried out the operation and that more attacks on foreign troops would follow.
The Norwegians were attacked Sunday evening as they returned from a patrol to their base in eastern Kabul where the 35-nation International Security Assistance Force has several heavily fortified camps.
The jeep leading the four-vehicle convoy was struck by a rocket-propelled grenades fired from a position among high-walled mud compounds less than 30 meters (yards) from the road, said the force's Canadian commander, Lt. Gen. Rick Hillier. Another grenade missed the target and a third failed to explode.
The dead soldier was not identified. Another Norwegian was slightly wounded and two others in the jeep were unhurt.
Hillier said three more explosions _ apparently also caused by rocket-propelled grenades _ occurred after troops flooded the area, injuring no one. He said investigators were trying to figure out if the two barrages were fired by remote control.
Two Afghans were briefly detained at the scene but were quickly released and had "not been implicated whatsoever," spokesman Maj. Rita LePage said.
Latifi, the purported Taliban spokesman, said the militia had sent its fighters to major Afghan cities where there are foreign troops, including Jalalabad and Mazir-e-Sharif as well as Kabul, and threatened more attacks.
"The coalition should leave our country or we will continue our jihad," or holy war, he told The Associated Press by satellite telephone.
The attack inflicted the first fatality on peacekeepers since January, when one British and one Canadian soldier died in back-to-back suicide attacks.
More than 350 people have died in violence across the country this year, mostly in the troubled southeast. They have included Afghan soldiers and officials, U.S. troops and U.N. election workers, casting doubt on the security ahead of landmark elections in September.
In Oslo, Defense Minister Kristin Krohn Devold said Norway would stay in Afghanistan, despite its first casualties.
"We already have a daily evaluation of the security risks and put much weight on that, but unfortunately there will always been risky assignments," she said.
The four Norwegians were among about 200 troops from the Nordic country's elite Telemark Battalion sent to Afghanistan in 2003 to join the 6,400-strong International Security Assistance Force. Some 89 members of the international force have died since its deployment after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, including 68 Spanish troops killed a year ago in a plane crash.
Chronology of attacks on peacekeeping troops in Afghanistan
KABUL, May 24 (AFP) - A Norwegian peacekeeper died early Monday after he was injured in a grenade attack on his convoy in Kabul overnight, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) announced.
He is the third peacekeeper from the NATO-led 6,500-strong multinational force to be killed in direct attack this year. In January two peacekeepers, one British and one Canadian, were killed in separate suicide bomb attacks on consecutive days.
The latest death brings to 83 the number of ISAF personnel killed on active service since it was established under a UN mandate in December 2001, after US-led forces ousted the hardline Taliban regime.
Here is a chronology of significant attacks on the peacekeeping force during its two and a half year deployment.
May 23: A convoy of Norwegian peacekeepers is attacked on night patrol with three rocket-propelled grenades. One Norwegian dies and another is injured.
Jan 28: A British peacekeeper is killed and several wounded in a car bomb attack in Kabul.
Jan 27: A Canadian peacekeeper is killed and three Canadian peacekeepers injured by a suicide bomber
Oct 1: Two Canadian ISAF soldiers are killed when their car hits a landmine in hills above their Camp Julien base.
June 7: Four German ISAF soldiers are killed when their bus is hit in a suspected suicide car bomb attack.
May 29: A German soldier is killed when his vehicle goes over a landmine. German officials say it was an old mine rather than a deliberate attack.
May 26: A Ukrainian military plane carrying home Spanish troops from ISAF duty in Afghanistan crashes in Turkey, killing 62 Spanish peacekeepers.
May 15: A British soldier is lightly wounded when a man throws a grenade at an ISAF camp.
May 13: Two Norwegian ISAF majors are wounded in a gunfight in a village north of Kabul.
March 31: Rocket attack on ISAF headquarters writes off two cars but does not cause any casualties.
March 7: An Afghan ISAF translator is killed and a Dutch soldier wounded in a bomb attack as peacekeeping soldiers patrol the Bagrami district on the southeastern outskirts of Kabul.
Sept: A British ISAF soldier is wounded in an explosion that kills an Afghan man near the former Soviet embassy.
December 22: Seven German soldiers are killed in an accidental helicopter crash.
December 19: Three Afghans are killed in grenade attack on ISAF's Camp Warehouse base, including the attacker who was trying to enter the base.
April 19: A French soldier is wounded in a gunfight with an unknown attacker at Kabul's international airport.
April 9: A British peacekeeper is accidentally shot and killed during a foot patrol in Kabul.
February 16: British soldiers come under attack from gunmen for the first time since the peacekeepers' arrival in December 2001.
Five ISAF troops are killed while dismantling rockets.
Afghanistan, the war the world forgot
25.05.2004 New Zealand World News By COLIN BROWN and KIM SENGUPTA
Three years after the overthrow of the Taleban and George Bush's declaration of victory in the first conflict in the war on terror, Afghanistan is a nation on the edge of anarchy.
A devastating indictment of the Allies' failure to help reconstruct the country in the wake of the 2001 conflict is to be delivered in a parliamentary report.
The Independent has learnt that an all-party group of MPs from the Foreign Affairs Committee has returned from a visit to the country shocked and alarmed by what they witnessed.
They warn that urgent action must be taken to save from Afghanistan plunging further into chaos because of Western neglect.
As President Bush and Tony Blair unveil their plans today for the future of Iraq through the draft of a new United Nations resolution, the MPs warn that the mistakes of Afghanistan could be repeated with similar tragic consequences in Iraq.
Eric Ilsley, a Labour member of the committee, said: "Afghanistan is a basket case. It's a forgotten country."
Shortly after the conflict, Mr Blair pledged to the Afghan people: "This time we will not walk away from you", as the United States and Britain had been accused of doing following the mujahedin's war against the Russians.
But MPs and international aid agencies say that is, in effect, what has happened.
With the focus of Washington and London firmly on Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan has been allowed to unravel. The remaining infrastructure is shattered, opium production is rocketing, and the Taleban and warlords are back in control of large areas.
The committee, chaired by Labour MP Donald Anderson, will charge in their report, due out in July, that Nato and the West failed to fulfil their promise to restore order and democracy to Afghanistan.
They will urge Mr Blair to press for Nato countries to fulfil their commitments in Afghanistan at the organisation's summit in Istanbul at the end of June.
The committee believes Nato countries are holding back troops from Afghanistan because they may be needed in Iraq.
The MPs' assessment follows similar warnings by humanitarian organisations. Earlier this month, a report by Christian Aid described how aid efforts were in jeopardy because of Western inaction. With Nato forces suffering from a shortage of manpower and materials and the Americans concentrating on hunting Osama bin Laden, Westernorganisations, and diplomats including the British ambassador, Rosalind Marsden, are dependent on private security firms for protection.
Mr Ilsley said: "It's a very worrying picture. We arrived in Kabul and found our ambassador has a private security firm acting as her bodyguards who look like the Men in Black. They were in civilian clothes, and armed to the teeth, with electronic equipment."
The security situation was so fraught that the committee reported to the Foreign Office that they felt several MPs, including the former minister Gisela Stuart, were in danger during a demonstration in Kabul.
The Nato commander in Afganistan, Major General Rick Hillier of the Canadian Army, told the visiting MPs that he had asked for 10 helicopters for his force of more than a thousand but not a single aircraft had been delivered.
John Stanley, a former Conservative defence minister, said: "We were told in no uncertain terms by the top Nato general that the situation in delivering Nato expansion in Afghanistan is very disturbing indeed."
Hamid Karzai, President of the interim Afghan government, praised the role of British troops in getting warlords to disarm in his meeting with the parliamentary delegation.
Afghan officials say he is under pressure from the US to hold elections in September, prior to the American presidential elections in November, so that President George Bush can show how democracy has been successfully nurtured in the country.
However, the Afghan elections, originally scheduled to be held in June, have already been postponed once because the unsafe security situation.
The UN reports that attacks by the Taleban have led to only 1.6 million out of the 10.5 million eligible electors being registered.
The Liberal Democrat MP David Chidgey added: "The UK troops are doing a wonderful job but we found only 30 looking after an area the size of Scotland. The Nato commander in the country was tearing his hair out. It's a disgrace. "The inherent danger in allowing the Afghan operation to remain a forgotten theatre means the warlords, fundedby drugs profits, will continue to flourish."
Systematic attacks on aid workers by the Taleban has also led to many humanitarian projects being abandoned.
Three Taliban members killed in Afghanistan clash
Kandahar :Three guerrillas from Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia were killed on Monday in clashes with government forces in the southern province of Helmand, a local official said.
Haji Mohammad Wali, spokesman for the governor of Helmand, said Afghan forces chased the guerrillas into hills around Yakchal, close to the border with Kandahar province, after the militants had ambushed government troops on Sunday.
In the initial ambush, four soldiers and three guerrillas were wounded and a Taliban fighter was killed, he said.
Helmand and Kandahar were once bastions of the radical Islamic militia, routed by US led forces late in 2001.
But remnants of the regime have waged a sustained insurgency against government troops and foreign forces, and are opposed to landmark elections slated for September.
In a separate incident in the central province of Uruzgan, Taliban suspects launched an attack late on Sunday near the provincial capital of Tirin Kot.
Taliban spokesman Haji Latif Hakimi said three soldiers were killed and one government vehicle destroyed. But a provincial security official countered that two civilians had been killed in the raid.
Some 2,000 US Marines have been deployed around Tirin Kot, part of a 20,000-strong US led force in Afghanistan hunting Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
NATO Warns Delays Could Result in Failure of Mission in Afghanistan
VOA 05/24/2004 By Roger Wilkison
NATO has warned member states that if they do not deliver the troops and equipment promised months ago to the NATO force in Afghanistan, the alliance's peacekeeping mission could fail. Such a failure could damage NATO's credibility as it tries to establish a new role for itself in the post-Cold War era.
NATO is struggling to be relevant in the 21 Century. Now an alliance of 26 countries, it took over command of a 6,500 international stabilization force in Afghanistan last year in a test of its ability to face up to new security threats far beyond the borders it was set up to defend during the Cold War.
But NATO's mission in Afghanistan has run into problems. The alliance agreed to set up, by the end of next month, five reconstruction teams in the north and west of the country to provide security for aid workers and help rebuild Afghanistan It has been unable to do so because member states have failed to deliver the personnel needed to staff the units.
Even if some of those teams are set up in the coming weeks, the alliance still lacks back-up resources, like helicopters, transport aircraft and medical evacuation units that would facilitate NATO's stated goal of providing security outside the Afghan capital, Kabul, and extending the influence of the government of President Hamid Karzai into the provinces.
Dana Allin, an analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, says NATO must beef up security in Afghanistan as the country gears up for elections in September.
"The Karzai government has sometimes been called the mayor of Kabul because so much of the countryside is just not under government control," he said. "And security has always been the key issue, and it's always been inadequate. There just haven't been enough troops there."
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told NATO ambassadors at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that the alliance has failed to commit enough resources to its Afghan mission and is flirting with failure. He urged the ambassadors to immediately make good on pledges of troops and equipment they made six months ago.
Analyst Jonathan Eyal, at London's Royal United Services Institute, says the allies' failure to deliver on their pledges would undermine NATO's credibility.
"The reality is that, for NATO, this is a very major test. It's not only a test of its ability to operate out of the main area of Europe, but it's also a test of whether this alliance could be useful for international security and particularly for the Americans. If it fails in Afghanistan, it would lose an enormous amount of credibility in Washington," Mr. Eyal said.
The U-S ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, has named Spain, Turkey and Germany among 10 NATO allies that he describes as having excess troop capacity that could help relieve the alliance's forces in Afghanistan.
One top NATO official says Turkey promised three helicopters to the Afghan force but told its allies it could not deliver them to Afghanistan. The official says Luxembourg then offered to pay for transporting the aircraft. But, according to the official, the Turks then said they could not afford to pay for the helicopters' maintenance. That attitude, says the official, goes against a NATO rule that individual allies must pay for the equipment or personnel they deploy abroad.
That may now change. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Wall Street Journal Friday that his country would dispatch the helicopters and increase the number of its troops in Afghanistan if it decides to take over command of the NATO force next year. And Belgium, too, perhaps responding to the Secretary-General's warning, has announced that it will double its contingent of troops in Afghanistan before the September elections.
The dire warnings from top NATO staff about a possible failure in Afghanistan come just as the allies prepare for their summit at the end of next month in Istanbul. The United States was expected to make a push for a greater NATO role in Iraq, but analyst Jonathan Eyal says he does not expect any direct military involvement by the alliance there in the foreseeable future.
"There is a feeling at NATO's headquarters that Afghanistan needs to be digested first and that Iraq is simply too much for an alliance that still has no political consensus about the purpose of the war in Iraq and about the conduct of the occupation after the end of the war," Mr. Eyal said.
Whereas there was strong disagreement about the war in Iraq among the allies, everybody in NATO agreed with the war in Afghanistan and about the need to stabilize that country. Analyst Dana Allin believes that, as long as the Afghan situation is unresolved, it is too early for NATO to contemplate any peacekeeping role in Iraq.
"If they can't even handle Afghanistan, they're unlikely to be able to take on a decisive role in Iraq. But the point is somewhat moot because most American allies don't want to be in Iraq anyway, for reasons that are unfortunate but perhaps understandable. The situation in Iraq just doesn't look very good right now," he added.
So, what will come out of the NATO summit next month? NATO Secretary-General de Hoop Scheffer says he wants the allies to agree that their priority must be Afghanistan and that they must fulfill their pledges to boost troops and equipment there. Anything else, says a NATO official, is secondary.
Nato launches review of Afghan failings
Financial Times 05/24/2004 By Judy Dempsey
Nato is launching an inter-nal review into why it has been unable to provide basic equipment for Afghanistan, according to senior alliance diplomats.
The operational military review, the first since the end of the cold war, reflects the mounting frustration of General James Jones, Nato's military chief and head of US forces in Europe, and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato's secretary-general, with many member nations. It coincides with preparations for next month's Nato summit in Istanbul at which the US-led military alliance will be in the limelight over its mission in Afghanistan and what role, if any, it would play in Iraq.
Some countries, particularly Britain and Poland, want Nato to play a substantial role in Iraq after June 30, when the US hands sovereignty to the Iraqis. Nato already provides planning to the Polish-led multinational force but is not present as an organisation on the ground.
Nato diplomats said the alliance would be reluctant to go into Iraq. One said it could be seen as an extension of US influence and could be tainted because of US soldiers' abuse of Iraqi prisoners. It would also suck resources from Afghanistan, already subject to serious shortfalls by Nato. "So much depends on the security situation, the role of the United Nations and Afghanistan," said a Nato diplomat.
The internal review is a result of foot-dragging by Nato countries over providing helicopters, airlift, communications and even medical back-up to the 6,500-strong Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan. Nato took over the Isaf command in August, its first "out of area" mission from its traditional base of Europe.
Nato chiefs want to change the way countries provide assets to the alliance by relying on fixed commitments by nations, regardless of the mission, instead of having to request assets for each new mission.
As it is, Nato military planners have substantial assets at their disposal, ranging from helicopters, troops, strategic air transport and medical corps. But the availability of the assets is limited by the defence policy process.
It sets out what equipment the alliance can deploy in the case of an "article five" request - when it is obliged to come to the assistance of another member that comes under attack.
These assets are not automatically available for Afghanistan or the Balkans because they are not article five missions. Nato planners have to call "force generation" conferences where each country is asked what it could provide.
"It takes months to dovetail the mission with the availability of equipment," says a military planner, adding that Afghanistan shows how countries have dragged their feet, mainly for financial reasons.
Nato's military officials say article five is a relic of the cold war when nations could expect an attack from Moscow.
The first and only time article five was invoked was after the September 11 attacks on the US. Washington did not take up the offer, preferring to choose it allies than be subject to Nato's slow decision-making processes.
Feature: Afghanistan slowly recovering from war wreckage
Kabul, May 24 (Xinhuanet) -- The war-torn Afghanistan has been gradually recovering from over two decades of war devastation as its people were attempting to rebuild their economy and stand on their own feet.
Availing the opportunity in the post-war Afghanistan, the ambitious Afghans began promoting private sector and invested millions of dollars in the business in order to take the nation ahead towards progress and prosperity.
"The main purpose of my investment here is to help my country to stand on its feet and become self-reliance in the region," said Hajji Mohammad Nasim, Managing Director of Negin Electric Plant inwestern city Herat.
Negin, which is the first of its kind in the post-war country, is a local factory built with 2 million US dollars last year on a plot covering 6.5 square acres, is producing electronic items suchas plugs, switches, sockets, holders and lines.
Currently more than 200 workers -- about half of them are war-widows -- are working at the factory to earn their livelihood, but Nasim is confident to further develop it as the situation is moving towards further stability.
However, the young Afghan investor was concerned about the unchecked flow of foreign goods as well as the Taliban-linked insurgency in parts of the post-Taliban country.
Remnants of the ousted Taliban regime and their allies have intensified their guerrilla-like warfare since last summer in which more than 600 people including civilians, Taliban fighters, government and US-led troops have been killed.
Competing foreign goods is a big challenge for domestic industries on the local markets as customers prefer to buy foreign products as they enjoy better quality.
The Afghan market has been dominated by foreign products mostlyfrom the neighboring countries.
"In order to develop domestic products, the government has to check the import of foreign goods besides strengthening security in the country," said the young business man.
To keep the business on, investors of Negin import raw materials such as copper from Uzbekistan and plastics from Turkey respectively.
"It is unfortunate to import our raw materials from abroad while the country is full of natural resources including copper," Nasim added.
The central Asian state, according to surveys conducted by the former Soviet Union in last century, is one of the few countries in the region that boast rich mineral deposits.
Almost all the basic infrastructure of the war-battered country has been destroyed due to a quarter century of war spearheaded by 10-year occupation of former Soviet Union and protracted civil strife.
The transitional government led by President Hamid Karzai, as part of its ambitious efforts to stabilize the country's impoverished economy, has adopted a de-regularization and open market policy to encourage private sector and attract foreign investment.
The policy proved helpful and prompted dozens of national and international companies to begin investing in the country while many of them had already begun delivering.
Like Nasim, other local businessmen have begun shifting their capital from abroad to home in order to contribute in rebuilding their post-war nation.
Habib Gulzar, a Dubai-based businessman is another Afghan who took the risk of investing 25 million dollars in his militancy-plaguing homeland to establish the first brewery plant primarily to produce Coca-Cola.
In a similar stride, a consortium of local investors has announced the readiness to set up a Ghee plant with a capital of 35 million dollars in Mazar-e-Sharif, a major town in the north.
The number of venture firms to invest in post-conflict Afghanistan, according to Afghan Commerce Minister Syed Mustafa Kazimi, totals some 1,000, of which only the national firms promised to invest 4.5 billion dollars in the coming years.
Parallel to Afghan companies, foreign firms have also begun investing millions of dollars in the country. The construction of Hayat and Serena Hotels in Kabul with a capital of 40 million and 27 million dollars respectively is a proof to it.
"My only hope in my life is to see my beloved country Afghanistan a prosperous nation and that is only achievable through durable peace and properly utilizing untapped underground treasure," Nasim said.
No Grass, No Greens, But Golf Is Back in Kabul
Mon May 24, 2004 10:03 AM ET By Mike Collett-White
KABUL (Reuters) - Before teeing off, mind the bombed out barracks to your left. Don't aim for the fairway; there isn't one. The greens are actually black; a mixture of sand and oil. The clubhouse is collapsing and has no walls.
Welcome to Kabul Golf Club.
For a decade or so the nine-hole course set among rugged hills and mountains on the outskirts of Kabul has been abandoned and the grass has turned to dusty desert and scrub.
While there are no bunkers, the ball veers off at impossible angles when it hits a rock on lands in a ditch.
The water feature has dried out, but the rules still apply if you land in it.
The good news: you can use a tee for every shot.
Now two players, who have been part of the on-again off-again history of the club that reflects Afghanistan's recent past, want to rebuild it.
"During the war against the Russians we were forced to close down," said Mohammad Afzal Abdul, the 46-year-old club professional, who was a young boy when the course was built.
"When the mujahideen ('holy warriors') took over Kabul City, we reopened. When the civil war began, we had to shut again."
Then the Taliban swept to power, and all hope of playing golf, which the hardline Islamic regime associated with wealthy Western diplomats, was lost.
"I told the Taliban that I used to work with foreigners," Abdul said. "I spent three months in a Kabul jail."
Things were not much easier under Soviet-backed leaders of the late 1970s and 1980s.
"I was arrested by the Communists for links with foreign diplomats and spent six months in prison," said Mohammad Bashir Popal, who works with Abdul at the club and hails from the southern city of Kandahar.
CHEAP FEES, MINE-FREE
The original course was built by the Afghans during the reign of Mohammad Zahir Shah, but moved to its present site after the king's cousin overthrew him in 1973.
It may provide new challenges to any modern player, but it used to be a lot worse. The entire area has had to be cleared of mines in recent months and three Soviet tanks and a multiple rocket launcher have been removed.
"What we need is for people to come and play and help us fund restoring the grass and getting access to water," said Abdul, before driving from the high perch of the first tee into a former Taliban barracks reduced to rubble by U.S. bombers in 2001.
The first hole, a 371-yard (340-meter) par 4, drops sharply then flattens out across a barren, rocky stretch crossed by a gravel road.
Caddies are sent ahead to spot balls that otherwise easily disappear in the glaring sun on parched, near-white earth.
"I don't have any clubs of my own, and there are no Afghans playing at all," Abdul added.
Ten foreigners have come to play at the newly opened course, and Abdul hopes many more from Kabul's burgeoning community of aid workers, diplomats and journalists will join them.
The green fee for two rounds of the nine-hole course is 500 afghani, or $10. A year's membership will cost $60 from 2005.
Golfers are asked to bring their own clubs, balls and tees, and preferably artificial turf mats.
Some may even be invited to play in the Afghan Open in two months' time -- a tournament the club pro has won before.
"I had to bury this in my back yard during the Taliban," he said, holding aloft the small brass cup he won in 1976.
'Charlie's Angels' latest US weapon in Afghanistan
NORTHERN KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) May 24, 2004
"'Choop sha', no talking," American servicewoman Angela Bousquet firmly tells the Afghan women and children sitting at her feet.
Separated from the men of their village in insurgency-hit Uruzgan provinces, the group is being dealt with by the US military's latest improvement in its search for Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan -- 12 females in the infantry of the marines.
Young, pretty and toting shotguns, M-16s and pistols on their standard issue military uniforms, the six women assigned to 'C' Company of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are part of a more culturally sensitive approach to detaining and questioning Afghan women.
As the US military is under fire in Afghanistan and Iraq for the alleged appalling treatment of some detainees, the sight of women searching and guarding Afghan women represents an acknowledgement from the US that what might be culturally acceptable in America does not work in conservative Afghanistan.
Searches of Afghan women by male coalition troops loom prominently among the 44 complaints against the US-led coalition force received by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission received since its formation in late 2001.
"Afghans have their own culture and they don't allow men to search females but during the searches this happens in some cases... and that is something against Afghan culture," commissioner Farid Hamidi said.
Although a man is still present at the interviews because all the interpreters with the unit are men, the 12 women are believed to be the first females to be deployed in combat patrol in the marines infantry in Afghanistan.
The six assigned to 'C' or Charlie company have been handed the call name 'Charlie's Angels' -- not surprising given the commanding officer of the marines in the field, Pakistan-born Lieutenant Colonel Asad Khan, goes by the tag 'Genghis.'
"They called me and said we've got a name for you and I thought 'I hope it's not Barbie,'" recounted Lori Butierries, 21, a hospital medic pulled from the US Navy to join the group.
In the remote villages, devoid of electricity and the most basic elements of modern life, the female marines are something of an oddity where many women rarely leave their homes or take part in public life.
"Generally, they are cooperative," said Second Lieutenant Melanie Scott of the Afghan women.
"But they don't know that we're women until we take off our Kevlars (helmets). They've just never seen females in uniforms, they've never seen women with weapons."
"Two of us smoke and that really gets them," adds specialist Bousquet, 28, from Minnesota.
Perhaps the worst reaction has come from the male marines --one woman found that her ammunition had been hidden around the camp as part of a prank.
"We got a lot of advice before we came out," Bousquet admits. "We were told 'The men have a mission. Stay out of the way'."
"They were shy," says Butierries of the men. "They didn't know how to react. They thought 'What are we going to do with a bunch of females?'
"But they respect you as long as you can hold your own."
The women have won grudging respect as it has become evident they are doing a tough job.
In their first two weeks in the field the women have been assaulted several times and in one case urinated on by a frightened Afghan lady, meanwhile they have not been given the extensive training handed to the men.
Yet after two weeks in the field unable to shower, sleeping in the open and tampon supplies exhausted, 'Charlie's Angels' remain cheerful and confident that they are doing important work.
Settling in for another cold and uncomfortable night in the mountains, they nod as Bousquet says: "Goodnight angels."
Afghan doctor, southern lawmakers given Kennedy awards
May 24, 2004 Boston Globe
BOSTON --An Afghan doctor who defied the Taliban to provide girls and women with access to health care and education was honored Monday with a 2004 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
Former state Rep. Cindy Watson, a Republican from North Carolina, and former state Sen. Paul Muegge, a Democrat from Oklahoma, also were honored for their courage in standing up to the hog industry in their states to protect the environment and the health of their constituents.
Dr. Sima Samar, through the Shuhada Organization, a nonprofit organization she established in 1989, has opened four hospitals, 10 health clinics and numerous schools serving girls and women. Her work defied the Taliban, Afghanistan's ruling military and political force.
"My greatest achievement is that I'm still alive," Samar said in her acceptance speech at the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
She currently is chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Watson co-sponsored legislation to regulate the hog farming industry in North Carolina and force farmers to better handle waste from hog farms, which a citizens group alleged was contaminating water wells with E. coli bacteria and causing asthma in children.
Muegge authored laws that placed tough new environmental regulations on the corporate swine and poultry industries in Oklahoma.
The award, given annually to public servants who stand up to strong opposition, is named for President Kennedy's 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Profiles in Courage," which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers to fight for their beliefs.
Past recipients have included U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and former President Gerald Ford.
Famous Afghan Cinema Reopens In Kabul
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
KABUL, 23 May (RFE/RL) - French Culture Minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres was in Kabul today, where he re-opened one of the Afghan capital's landmark cinemas.
The French minister cut the red ribbon at the entrance to the Ariana cinema, to mark the official re-opening of the 600-seat theater. The cinema, originally built in the 1960s, was partially destroyed in the 1990s during the country's civil war.
It was rebuilt thanks to a donation from the French movie industry at a cost of one million dollars
The Shiwa pastures, 1978-2003: Land tenure changes and conflict in northeastern Badakhshan
Source: Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit 24 May 2004
This paper provides an overview of changes in land tenure in the Shiwa area in Badakhshan since 1978. It examines the nature and extent of land tenure change, and the way in which this has occurred. It focuses on three areas: (i) the context of change and the administration of tenure during the war; (ii) on ailoqs (upland pastures) as analytical units and on how their use and their users changed during the war; and (iii) on the experience of the Shiwachi community and its expansion of agriculture and settlement, both of which were made possible by the changes in context. Within this analysis a description is provided of conflicts over ailoqs and specifically the interaction of returnee kuchis and those who held tenure in their absence. The interaction between kuchis and Shiwachis also serves to provide a case study of the allocation and administration of disputed resources by the mujahedin and the political economy of the early jihad.
In many respects the situation in Shiwa reflects that of other areas in Afghanistan where tenure inequality and imbalanced nomad-agriculturalist relations existed prior to the war. In this sense, Shiwa, as elsewhere, displays a general pattern of multi-causal wartime retraction of pastoralism by one population and an interrelated expansion of agricultural activities by another. However, a number of factors make the nature of land tenure change in Shiwa distinct. In particular, the process of land tenure change was not an unfettered process. The actual transfer of tenure was formally administered and tightly controlled by a semi-local political authority using the legitimacy of the jihad as its legal basis. The situation in Shiwa, after 1979, is not one in which political power was usurped by the local population, and this is a key distinction in comparsion to other parts of the country. It is also critical that the semi-local administration was not fundamentally hostile to the kuchis.
In terms of the experience of the kuchis, the situation in Shiwa did not involve their complete withdrawal or expulsion (which in turn would have created a vacuum to be filled by the local population). Kuchis -- of all ethnic backgrounds -- continued to summer in Shiwa throughout the war, although their numbers dropped over time. Fluctuations in the ethnic profile of kuchis did occur as a result of external political factors -- principally the Taliban. Throughout the war the kuchis maintained relations with the mujahedin administration, which assured their protection and taxed them within then reasonable parameters. In the many cases where nomads did withdraw, it was often other kuchis that filled the vacuum, including many shorter-range, Badakhshi kuchis. The expansion of Shiwachi agriculture thus took place within a context of continuing kuchi presence, and indeed the emergence of new kuchis, into a space much smaller than might appear the case.
With the nationwide political changes of 2001, the political and security contexts of the whole northeast have been transformed. Many kuchis who had either withdrawn or been displaced during the war commenced returning in 2002, especially those that had been absent during the Taliban era when they were unable to travel to the area. These kuchis, understandably, have attempted to retrieve pasture reallocated to others during their absence and, at times, cultivated.
A broad spectrum of situations and responses has emerged. At one end of the spectrum, there are many cases of kuchis having relinquished ailoqs to their original users without excessive debate. In other, mid-spectrum cases, returnee nomads, Shiwachi agriculturalists and newcomer Badakhshi kuchis are now sharing ailoqs and compromise solutions have been reached. The permanence of such coexistence remains, however, very much to be seen. Additionally, the basis of compromises varies -- in some it relates to a balance of force, in others a rational agreement. And, at the opposing, complicated end of the spectrum, cases exist of ailoqs that were vacated long ago and have been in the hands of a new generation of users for, in cases, over two decades. There are also complicated cases involving disputes pre-dating 1979. Here, claims by returnees are and will be contested and their resolution will be problematic.
Clearly, many kuchis, Shiwachi and Badakhshis are still waiting for a stabilisation of national politics in order to raise their claims for either restitution of pasture or the equitable distribution of land and pasture.
The information contained in this report was collected over four summers -- 2000-2003 -- in the Shiwa area and is part of a broader study into the area. Follow-up research has been carried out in Faizabad City, Takhar and Kunduz Province. Fieldwork was conducted by, depending on the year involved, either the author or field researchers. Systematic interviews were conducted with kuchis; household and agricultural surveys and systematic interviews conducted with Shiwachi; oral histories collected from Shiwachi; village and ailoq histories collected from both kuchis and Shiwachi; extant documents reviewed; and discussions held with those involved with the area's administration at various times in the past.
By 2003 there were clear examples of kuchi and Shiwachi claimants managing to coexist with each other and sharing the resources under dispute. In some areas there are cases of ailoqs being shared by Shiwachi, returnee kuchis, and new kuchis; in others, by new kuchis and Shiwachi; and in others by returnee kuchis and Shiwachi. While some are conceivably waiting for the appropriate time to press their claim, the fact that they are, for the time being, sharing ailoqs is significant. The slow pace of return of kuchis has clearly facilitated this.
In many areas ailoqs have been returned to their original users, albeit with the returnees often having to buy them back, at inexpensive prices. This is neither unsurprising, nor entirely negative, if it facilitates an orderly, locally endorsed process.
Significantly, while it is correct that there are numerous cases where claimants are either angry about the loss of former assets or, conversely, where current tenure holders are angry about demands for the restitution of what is now their ailoq or arable land, there have been to date no reported cases of forced change in either 2002 or 2003. There have also been no reports of returning kuchis displacing Shiwachi nor of returnees being forcibly, or by intimidation, blocked from returning. While it is inevitable that this will occur, to date the approach appears to have been, from all sides, non-confrontational.
The question that obviously arises is to what degree the present situation in Shiwa is permanent. It is also pertinent to ask what steps are feasible and what policy recommendations are appropriate to stabilise the situation, defuse latent tensions where they exist, and prevent any deterioration. Clearly, the aggressive pursuit or defence of claims, or the development of a perception of a tide once again turning against the Shiwachi and the Badakhshis, will have negative repercussions.
6.1 Key issues for land tenure in the future
There is no return to the past
It would be naïve to think that any complete kuchi return is ever likely -- many kuchis themselves and their livestock were killed during the war; the livestock of many have been totally decimated and they are no longer kuchis; and many of the large livestock owners have withdrawn from nomadism. The kuchi profile has, clearly, changed. Additionally, the era of kuchi hegemony has passed, and it must be acknowledged that a more balanced approach to natural resource allocation and management should be adopted. It would also be naïve to think that any return to the status quo ante will be politically acceptable to the local and semi-local populations in the Shiwa area.
Shiwachi cultivation is based on need
It needs to be accepted that a central issue is the inequitable distribution of land before the war, and that many of the claims, which were articulated during the jihad, were, in the minds of the populations involved, fully justified. Many had their basis, either directly or in general, in the grievances of the past. An acceptance of the rights of local and semi-local communities to use local resources is required. Many of the claims and all of the cases of the Shiwachi starting or expanding cultivation had their basis in a need, not in greed.
The kuchis have pasture rights
Interestingly, nowhere in Shiwa does one find any sentiment that the kuchis do not have a right to use the pastures of the area. The problem in the past has been the exclusivity of kuchi control over ailoqs, the inequity of the allocation of pastures (i.e. the historic appropriation of Shiwachi pastures), and the constraints which have been externally imposed upon the Shiwachi by pro-kuchi administrations. As noted, what has occurred during the war years has been a process of introducing an element of balance into a hitherto imbalanced relationship (though it is, however, still imbalanced in certain cases as kuchis continue to appropriate Shiwachi ailoqs). Clearly, it is important that the process of kuchi return continues and that obstacles to this are removed.
There needs to be local resolutions to disputes
From the perspective of the kuchis, they have suffered injustices during the war, and this is both correct and indisputable. To compound the physical destruction of their communities and their livestock assets, they now find that their ailoqs are no longer theirs, or solely theirs. The recent return of temporarily absent kuchis has, however, demonstrated that a return is possible, and a pragmatic approach, focusing on local resolution and the establishment of a new modus vivendi with the Badakhshis and the Shiwachi, has paid off. As shown above, the degree of cultivation of ailoqs -- apart from in two areas -- is actually small. There are, as far as can be ascertained, relatively few disputes about agriculture, and they are generally mild disputes and only affect twelve ailoqs. Shiwachi cultivation should not represent any significant impediment to livestock rearing.
In the case of Pillaw where there is both larger-scale cultivation and settlement, the only real option is for the kuchis who formerly solely used this area -- and which formerly had numerous ailoqs -- to again adopt a pragmatic approach. The kuchis will need to accept the presence of the Shiwachi in the area. It should be noted that in Pillaw, the area under cultivation, while extensive, is the lower portion of the ailoq, and not the area traditionally used for sheep pasture.
There are a number of general points which are worth stressing in regards to resolutions of disputes:
A last point: the area was viewed, traditionally, as an area of pasture. Whatever the situation in the past, this is now incorrect, or at least not fully correct. The idea of pasture areas in Afghanistan needs to be reconceptualised and modernised, away from the image of empty, unused, uninhabited pastures to the currently more correct one of areas, more often than not partially inhabited, and partially cultivated, which are visited seasonally by kuchis and their livestock.
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