Indian military unveils planned road linking Afghanistan and Iran
Thu May 6,10:27 AM ET
NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's military unveiled the blueprint of a new road it will build in Afghanistan as part of reconstruction efforts in the war-torn country.
The army's Border Road Organisation (BRO) said the 219-kilometre (135.7-mile) road will connect Afghanistan's crescent-shaped Highway One from the Afghan town of Delaram near Herat to the Iranian border.
BRO Director-General Lieutenant General Ranjit Singh said work on the 3.7-billion-rupee (84 million dollars) project will start in August and will last three years.
New Delhi has said the planned road is part of Indian aid package for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, shattered by wars since the 1979 Soviet invasion.
"It will be a difficult project but not the most hazardous," Singh told reporters on Thursday.
Highway One, currently being constructed by a Japanese company, will provide an upgraded link between Kabul and the main western city Herat via Kandahar.
Road-building in Afghanistan is hampered by the hundreds of thousands of unmapped mines which litter the country and attacks on roadworkers by suspected Taliban loyalists.
The general said 30 Indian paramilitary troopers will provide security, adding that the BRO, which has built roads in some of India's most violent regions, will also hire local guards.
The Indian military also plans to recruit up to 4,000 local Afghan workers to foster goodwill.
Once completed, the road would open a gateway to two Iranian ports via the frontier Zaranj region, the general said.
India to hire 5,000 Afghans in army's first road project near Iran border
Associated Press Thursday May 6, 8:50 PM
India will hire 5,000 Afghans to help construct a highway that will connect port cities in Iran to Afghanistan's hinterland, while also opening up new trade routes for India, an official said Thursday.
The Indian defense ministry's Border Roads Organization will build a 219-kilometer (135-mile) highway linking the Iranian ports of Chabahar and Bandar Abbas to a major highway in Afghanistan.
The road project, expected to be completed in three years, is part of India's aid to Afghanistan.
Minesweeping machines will clear the area of land mines and Indian authorities will recruit thousands of Afghan workers to help ensure the security of the project, BRO director Lt. Gen Ranjit Singh told reporters.
Singh said security is a major concern following a series of abductions of foreigners that have plagued reconstruction projects in Afghanistan.
"It is a difficult project in a difficult area.. Land mines and unexploded bombs were seen by our team that visited that area. We have taken it up with Afghan authorities," Singh said. "We will also be interacting with warlords. They will hold the key to our security."
The road will also open up new trade opportunities for India.
"It will provide India a route into Afghanistan via Iran .. It will also give us an entry into the Central Asian republics," he said.
India's only other road route into Afghanistan is through rival Pakistan.
Afghan officials are trying to undertake infrastructure projects in the landlocked country to restart trade links and resuscitate the nation's economy, devastated by 23 years of near-constant war.
Britain slams 'patchy' Afghan anti-drug efforts
Friday May 7, 1:36 AM AFP
Britain said it was dissatisfied with the Afghan government's efforts to eradicate drugs from the country, one of the world's largest opium producers.
The results of a campaign by President Hamid Karzai's administration to eradicate the poppies used to make opium "were not what we hoped for," British Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell told reporters in Kabul.
The Afghan government's efforts have been "patchy," said the minister, who is on a three-day visit to the war-torn country.
Britain is leading international efforts to eradicate Afghanistan's poppy crop, with the United Nations saying this year's harvest was expected to be the largest yet.
Rammell said some key figures engaged in the trade must be arrested and prosecuted, but did not give details.
Reacting to his remarks, Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said Afghanistan had "lots of problems" and needed to first build "capacity" to fight the illicit drug industry.
"Afghanistan has a very limited capacity to deal with this significant increased of poppy cultivation and also drug trafficking," he told AFP.
"Now it is the beginning of a major effort of eradication. One cannot expect that at the beginning of this new project we will be able to make a major impact. However we are moving in the right direction," Jalali said.
"We are trying, we are learning from past experiences and since we are building these units (anti-narcotic force) I think in the future we will do better," he said.
"We depend a lot on international help to respond to this challenge for this problem," Jalali said.
Rammell said, "drug money finances organized crime and extremist activities. The drugs trade threatens security and stability in Afghanistan and beyond."
Jalali for his part admitted that money flowing into the country through the drug trade was helping "terrorist activity" as well as regional warlords maintaining private armies.
"Drugs also fund the factional armies, terrorism, and organized crime," Jalali said.
Karzai last month called for a "jihad", or holy war, against the growing narcotics trade, saying it threatened the stability of the government.
The Asian Development Bank on Wednesday warned that security concerns fueled by the booming drugs trade were hampering Afghan reconstruction. UN officials have also said the industry threatens to turn the country into a failed "narco-state".
"Afghanistan is the source of over 95 percent of heroin used in the UK... Afghanistan's drugs problem is our problem too," Rammell said in a statement issued by the British embassy late Wednesday.
The nationwide anti-drug campaign started in April when farmers in southern and eastern parts had already harvested the corps.
Rammell said Kabul had a key role to play in eradicating the cultivation but could not do it alone.
"We are facing enormous challenges, but the thing that makes me confident is that there is an enormous political support (in the government)," he said.
Hekmatyar camp's overtures no evidence that fugitive warlord giving up violence, peacekeepers say
Associated Press Thursday May 6, 2:20 AM
Peace overtures from members of a faction led by fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar are no evidence that one of the United States' top terrorist targets has given up violence, peacekeepers in Afghanistan said Wednesday.
The NATO-led force joined Afghan and U.S. officials in hailing the move by a group from Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami faction to transform it into a law-abiding political party in time for September elections.
But a spokesman said there was nothing to suggest they could speak for more radical members, including Hekmatyar.
"That's a great step forward to introduce more security in Kabul and Afghanistan," Polish Maj. Jacek Ciszek said. "But we haven't heard anything yet from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar."
President Hamid Karzai received an 11-member Hezb-e Islami delegation who swore allegiance to the country's new constitution "very warmly" on Sunday, presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin said.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad described the group's step as an "enormously important and helpful development in Afghanistan's post-Taliban redevelopment."
But it remains unclear how much influence the 11, who say they broke with Hekmatyar three years ago, really have in a movement hardened by more than 20 years of conflict.
Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and key player in Afghanistan's brutal civil wars, has joined the Taliban in vowing to oust foreign troops and U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai's government.
Ludin said the delegation members were not involved in any attacks, and that Karzai's appeal to opposition figures to return to the political mainstream excluded those with "blood on their hands."
The peacekeepers, who have more than 6,000 soldiers patrolling Kabul and a northern city, have arrested dozens of suspects in recent weeks, including several alleged Hekmatyar commanders.
The Afghan intelligence service arrested seven more people on Monday and seized a homemade bomb, and peacekeepers destroyed a cache of weapons near Kabul on Sunday, Ciszek said.
He said the peacekeepers would not lower their guard.
"While this is a positive step toward reconciliation, ultimately the group's actions will speak louder than their words."
68 states fail to submit report on al-Qaida, Taliban: U.N.
Kyodo (Japan) Thursday May 6, 5:16 AM
Sixty-eight U.N. member countries have failed to submit reports on international sanctions on the al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban despite their obligations under a Security Council resolution, the United Nations said Wednesday.
In a letter to the Security Council, Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Munoz, who heads the council's al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee, said 123 member states submitted the reports but others lacked "adequate resources" to fulfill their obligations.
The revelations highlight the fact that over 30 percent of U.N. member states failed to fulfill their reporting obligations, underscoring difficulties in taking a unified stand on containing international terrorism.
Munoz said most countries which failed to submit the reports are in African and the South Pacific, including Sudan and Kenya where the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is believed to have once operated.
He said Libya, Oman and 13 other member countries have submitted written explanations by the end of March explaining reasons for not reporting, citing financial, personnel and institutional constraints.
The Security Council adopted a resolution in December 2000 endorsing sanctions on the Taliban, the radical religious group which had ruled Afghanistan at the time. The resolution authorized the freeze of assets held by bin Laden and those affiliated with him, and established a committee to designate the subjects of sanctions.
Afghan Cops: Slain Britons Refused Escort
Associated Press Thursday May 6, 6:37 PM
Two British election workers killed in eastern Afghanistan in an attack claimed by the Taliban had refused an armed escort, a local police chief said Thursday.
Ghulam Ullah Nuristani said the Britons were gunned down Wednesday on their way back from a remote clinic with their Afghan translator. Security forces found their bodies in a deep, forested valley of Nuristan province, some 100 miles east of the capital, Kabul.
"They had walked for hours to the clinic and were on the way back" to another area called Dohab, Nuristani told The Associated Press. "They insisted on going alone."
"The security people in Dohab had pleaded with them to take a military escort or not to go," he said.
Officials at Global Risk Assessments, the London-based firm who supplied the men as security consultants to the United Nations, had no immediate comment Thursday.
U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said Global's policy was that its staff are unarmed.
Nuristani blamed "opponents of the government" for the attack, but was unable to say which. He said Taliban militants and supporters of renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar were active in the area.
The Afghan Interior Ministry sent investigators to the region Thursday but had no details of what happened, said Haroun Asifi, a ministry official.
Abdul Hakim Latifi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said Thursday that its rebels carried out the killings, and threatened further attacks against U. N. staff preparing the elections, due in September, and Afghans who register to vote.
"If Afghans go for voter registration the punishment is the same as for these three people," Latifi told AP by satellite phone. He denounced the polls as a "drama" staged by the United States.
He said a Taliban military council was planning to launch operations in different parts of Afghanistan, including Kabul.
It was not possible to independently verify the claims of Latifi, who is one of several people who claim to speak for the Taliban.
The two Britons were preparing safe registration sites in Nuristan for the United Nations, which has vowed to press on with plans to register some 10 million Afghans by the end of June.
The attack in Nuristan was the third on U.N. election workers in as many months, though neither of the earlier attacks had claimed any victims.
The bodies of the victims would be flown home Thursday, Almeida e Silva said. Their identities have not been released.
Previously limited to eight major cities, voter registration began in 30 of the country's 34 provinces on Saturday.
So far, 216 registration offices have opened, though Nuristan and three insurgency-roiled southern provinces remain off-limits.
On Tuesday, the last day for which figures were available, 34,589 Afghans signed up, the largest one-day total so far, bringing the total registered so far to almost 2 million. Thirty percent are women.
President Karzai condemns killing of two UK election workers in Afghanistan
The Associated Press 05/06/2004
TWO British election workers and their Afghan interpreter were killed in an attack in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, the first fatalities in a string of assaults on United Nations staff preparing the country for crucial polls.
The Britons were killed in Nuristan province, about 100 miles east of the capital, Kabul, said Global Risk Strategies, the British-based security company which employed the men.
"Both of the individuals involved were British nationals, working alongside the United Nations," the company said in a statement from its London headquarters. It did not release their names.
The United Nations said the deaths would slow a drive to register some ten million Afghans for the September vote, but vowed to press on in the face of surging Taleban-led violence.
A white UN helicopter brought the men's bodies to Kabul yesterday afternoon. It was unclear when they would be returned to Britain.
The company said "local bandits" were believed to be behind the attack, but Afghan officials said it was unclear if it was a "criminal or a terrorist incident".
"Unfortunately we have a lot of irresponsible armed people in this country," said the Afghan interior ministry spokesman Latfulla Mashal. "We don't know who was behind it."
President Hamid Karzai condemned a "cowardly act aimed at terrorising the people of Afghanistan" and disrupting the election.
"Afghanistan will continue relentlessly on the path that the people of the country have chosen: the path of peace, prosperity and reconstruction," his office said in a statement.
Nuristan, a rugged region of high peaks and wooded valleys on the Pakistani border, has its share of bandits. It is also considered a stronghold of renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a top United States terror suspect. Hekmatyar, an Islamic fundamentalist and veteran of Afghanistan's bloody civil war, has joined the Taleban in vowing to drive out foreign troops and unseat Mr Karzai, the US-backed favourite in the election.
Farooq Wardak, the Afghan government's top election official, said the deaths could have "very serious consequences" for the elections, by possibly deterring UN international monitors.
"The election wouldn't have that much international credibility" in their absence, Mr Wardak said.
UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said there would be "at least a delay" in voter registration in Nuristan but he vowed the process would proceed uninterrupted elsewhere.
"It happened in a specific place," he said. "We look at security on a case-by-case basis."
London-based Global Risk has been surveying rural Afghanistan to help the UN decide where it is safe to open offices to register some ten million Afghan voters.
Almost two million people in eight major cities have already signed up for the election, but the world body only began on Saturday with a two-month plan to register voters in the lawless countryside.
Nuristan is one of four provinces where insecurity has prevented that. Mr Wardak said he hoped that registration could still begin as planned in Nuristan today - without UN international staff. Still, no start-date has been set for Zabul, Uruzgan and Paktika - the other areas viewed as too dangerous for election work.
Last month, a roadside bomb was detonated in Kandahar as UN workers passed, forcing a temporary suspension of all UN work in that region. In March, UN officials were attacked with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire as they slept in a government compound in Paktia.
UN Condemns Death of Election Workers in Afghanistan
May 6 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations condemned the killing in Afghanistan of two British nationals and an Afghan interpreter who were helping prepare the country's presidential and parliamentary elections in September.
The killings are a ``reminder of how important security is and will continue to be if the aspiration of the Afghans to participate in the electoral process is to materialize,'' Jean Arnault, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement on the UN's Web site.
The three men were attacked yesterday in Nuristan in eastern Afghanistan as they looked for locations to set up voter registration centers in the mountainous region, the UN said. The British citizens were employees of U.K. security company Global Risk Strategies, which has been contracted to advise on security.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai in March delayed the elections to September from June because of the lack of security in the country, where warlords control areas outside the capital, Kabul, and because of the slow registration of voters.
Only 1.8 million of the 10.5 million Afghans eligible to vote have registered so far, the UN said last month. The UN plans this month to expand the registration process by sending more than 36,000 electoral officials to operate 4,600 mainly rural registration sites.
The registration process, which began two months ago, has been restricted to Afghanistan's eight main cities.
A delegation from the Nuristan district visited Kabul recently to tell election officials voter registration should begin in the region as soon as possible, Arnault said in the statement.
``The United Nations reaffirms its own commitment to assist the Joint Electoral Management Body and its Electoral Secretariat in making this participation possible,'' he said.
Medecins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, today condemned the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan, saying it was risking aid workers' lives by distributing leaflets in the country's south in which the military threatened to interrupt humanitarian aid unless Afghans provide intelligence on the Taliban, al-Qaeda and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
The leaflets demanded Afghans ``pass on any information related to the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Gulbuddin to the coalition forces,'' saying that this is necessary ``in order to have a continuation of the provision of humanitarian aid,'' MSF said on its Web site.
MSF and other aid agencies have sought to keep their activities separate from the military's.
``The attacks against aid workers are crimes that must be denounced in the strongest terms,'' MSF's operations director Kenny Gluck said on the Brussels-based organization's Web site. ``In making aid part of the confrontation, the coalition forces are complicit in undermining the ability of aid agencies to provide needed assistance in Afghanistan.''
There was no immediate reply to requests by telephone and e- mail seeking a response to MSF's allegations from the U.S.-led command in Afghanistan. The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper today cited U.S. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Joseph Collins as saying the leaflets ``do not reflect U.S. policy'' and that the U.S. ``does not condition humanitarian assistance on the provision of intelligence.''
Local authorities in Nuristan are undertaking an investigation into who was behind yesterday's attack, the UN said.
The exact circumstances of the attack aren't known. ``It is believed that the perpetrators of the killings were local bandits,'' Global Risk spokeswoman Natalie Hicks-Loebbecke said in a telephone interview from London. The attack won't stop Global Risk from working with the UN in Afghanistan, she said.
Afghan Foreign Minister To Visit Moscow
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
MOSCOW, 6 May (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is due in Moscow today on a two-day visit.
During his stay, he is due to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov for talks expected to focus on Afghanistan's debt to Russia, which, according to Russian officials, amounts to several thousand million dollars.
The two are also expected to discuss Afghanistan's increasing production of poppy -- used in making heroin -- much of which travels through Russia for eventual sale in Europe.
Seven dead in Baghdad blast; Bush fails to appease anger over prisoners
Thursday May 6, 7:38 PM AFP
A suicide car-bombing killed five Iraqis and a US soldier as President George W. Bush failed to appease anger over American troops' abuse of prisoners with a televised appeal to the Arab world.
The attack, in which the bomber also died, took place Thursday by a central Baghdad bridge outside the sprawling "Green Zone" headquarters of the US-led coalition during the morning rush-hour.
The blast also wounded 23 Iraqi civilians, three policemen and two US soldiers, an American military spokesman told AFP.
Coalition officials have warned of "big-bang" attacks as the June 30 date for the end of the US-led occupation nears, and the spiraling violence has halted many reconstruction projects.
While an official in Warsaw said Polish soldiers may pull out of Iraq by December, a top British newspaper said London was to send 800 Royal Marine commandos and other troops to replace withdrawing Spanish forces.
Bush, seeking to mitigate worldwide revulsion at images of Iraqi prisoners being abused and humiliated by smiling US soldiers, went on Arabic satellite television Wednesday with promises of justice.
"People in Iraq need to understand that I view these practices as abhorrent," he said in interviews with two stations. "What took place in that prison does not represent America that I know."
He vowed to punish any US troops behind the abuse, but stopped short of apologizing for the assaults, which have sparked a global outcry and eroded US credibility in the Muslim world.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said later that Bush was "deeply sorry for what occurred and the pain that it has caused."
Amid the uproar, the US military has suspended 10 prison guards, indicting six of them on criminal charges, while delivering what are effectively career-ending rebukes to six officers and a lesser punishment to a seventh.
In Baghdad and throughout the Middle East there was no sign of abatement in public anger over the abuse. Enraged Iraqi crowds protested Wednesday against "American savagery" in US-run jails, especially Abu Ghraib near Baghdad.
Syria's Ath-Thawra daily, which like many papers noted that Bush failed to apologise to Iraq's people in the TV interviews, asked whether "the US administration has any right to talk about rights and freedom in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal?"
Bush admonished his Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld in private for failing to inform him earlier about the photographs of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, two leading US dailies said Thursday.
The criticism came in a meeting Wednesday in the Oval Office, The Washington Post and New York Times said, quoting White House officials.
The Times said disclosure was made "under authorization from Mr Bush," marking the first time the president has allowed his displeasure with a senior cabinet member to be made public.
A senior official told the Post that Bush was particularly disturbed at having had to learn from news reports about the scope of the misconduct of US troops in Iraq, said a senior official who requested anonymity.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, said more photos of Iraqi prisoners being abused by their US jailers have turned up among 1,000 digital pictures passed around among US military police who served at the Abu Ghraib prison.
On the military front, Bush said he was asking Congress for an extra 25 billion dollars to defray military costs in Iraq and Afghanistan starting October 1 and that he would ask for more next year.
Bush had previously vowed not to seek more funds for military operations before the November presidential elections.
"While we do not know the precise costs for operations next year, recent developments on the ground and increased demands on our troops indicate the need to plan for contingencies," he said in a statement.
In London, the Sun newspaper said Britain is to send 800 Royal Marine commandos, among other troops, back to Iraq to replace Spanish forces who are being withdrawn this month.
It added that the troops would be tasked with regaining control of Najaf, south of Baghdad, where militiamen loyal to wanted Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr have clashed with coalition forces.
The new Polish government may also withdraw troops from Iraq by the end of this year, a spokeswoman for a top incoming minister said.
The spokeswoman said Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, who is expected to become deputy prime minister in the new left-wing government, had recommended that the almost 2,500 troops be pulled out at the end of 2004.
Thursday's bloodshed in the Iraqi capital followed major clashes between US forces and Sadr's militia.
Three US soldiers were killed during clashes with Sadr's Mehdi Army in the city of Diwaniya late Tuesday, the coalition said, taking the US death toll to at least 761 since the March 2003 launch of the US-led invasion.
More than 30 people were killed in battles that erupted Tuesday and flared again Wednesday in Diwaniya and the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, coalition and Iraqi sources said.
Bush may seek more than $50 billion for Iraq, Afghanistan for next year
By Alan Fram, Associated Press, 5/6/2004 18:48
WASHINGTON (AP) President Bush may seek more money for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year than the $50 billion figure his budget director cited months ago, White House officials say.
The acknowledgment comes amid growing doubts in Congress that the amount will be enough to finance U.S. operations in the two countries, especially in an increasingly violent Iraq. Lawmakers also say they will probably give the administration less leeway than it wants in spending the money.
Joshua Bolten, Bush's budget chief, cited $50 billion in February as ''the upper limit'' for what might be spent for the wars next year. But administration officials, who have repeatedly said they can't predict what will be needed, said this week that the figure has been misinterpreted and that they might request more or less than that.
''He feels very strongly that that wasn't meant as a marker,'' budget office spokesman Chad Kolton said Thursday, referring to Bolten's mention of $50 billion.
Administration officials asked congressional leaders on Wednesday for an initial $25 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for the first months of fiscal 2005, which starts Oct. 1.
The request is expected to take months to move through a Congress facing fall elections and a federal deficit likely to set a record this year of perhaps $500 billion.
To explain what they said was confusion over the $50 billion, White House officials cited the government's complex budget procedures. Under them, less money is often spent for an activity than is actually provided because the expenditures can take time.
In a briefing Wednesday, a senior administration official cautioned reporters that the amount requested for an activity ''is always higher'' than the amount actually spent.
That would seem to suggest that Bush would request more than $50 billion if the administration felt $50 billion needed to be spent next year.
Many news organizations have used the $50 billion figure repeatedly since February. This week was the first time White House officials have offered this explanation for what it meant.
With a sustained insurrection in Iraq, the Pentagon now plans to keep 138,000 American troops there for all of next year, the same number there now. That figure was to drop to 115,000 this spring, and perhaps further later, meaning that anticipated savings from lower troop levels will not occur.
''I'll be very surprised if we don't find ourselves at least'' needing $75 billion next year, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee that controls the Pentagon's budget, said Thursday.
Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla., chairmen of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, and House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa, all said in separate interviews Thursday that it was too early to tell how much will be needed.
''The $50 billion was never intended to land us on the dime,'' Nussle said.
Legislators also said they expected Congress to provide less flexibility for spending the money than the White House wants.
''They'd like to have it unspecified,'' House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., said of the White House request. Hunter said he wanted ''a significant level of specification'' for the money.
''We're prepared to give some flexibility, as usual, but we'd also like to have some accountability,'' said Young.
Some lawmakers complained last month that the administration did not inform them when it used anti-terror funds to prepare military facilities near Iraq in 2002.
The measure also clarifies language requiring the Transportation Security Administration to collect no less than $750 million from airlines to pay for aviation security, according to Chad Kolton, Office of Management and Budget spokesman.
The airlines, which pay $315 million annually, say they shouldn't have to pay an additional $435 million because it's a new tax.
Pakistan Books Rise in Exports to Afghanistan
Thursday May 6, 5:16 PM Asia Pulse
KARACHI, May 6 Asia Pulse - Pakistan exported US$224 million worth of goods to Afghanistan in eight months to February 2004, showing a four-fold increase over a year-ago exports of $50 million.
Businessmen say a huge export potential exists in the landlocked country, which is currently struggling to boost its poor economy with a US-backed caretaker government in place.
Statistics compiled by the Export Promotion Bureau show that Pakistani exporters are trying to capture the Afghan market for not only construction materials and fuel oil but also for consumer items.
In July-February 2003-04, exports to Kabul included US$29 million worth of crude oil; $17 million cement; $11 million furnace burners and $4 million articles of asbestos-cement.
But at the same time Pakistan also exported $27 million worth of animal or vegetable fat; $12 million soyabean oil and its fractions; $9 million cane or beet sugar; $6 million worth of milk and cream and $3 million wheat.
"As infrastructure development is taking place in Afghanistan Pakistan can easily increase exports of construction materials," says a well-known ghee miller and exporter Mr Amjad Rashid.
His International Multi Group and Associated Group companies are among key exporters of engineering goods/ construction materials and food items to Kabul.
"The demand for consumer items is also growing in Afghanistan. So Pakistani exporters can make further inroads in the Afghan consumer markets," he said.
U.N. concerned over slow Afghan disarmament
KABUL, May 6 (Reuters) - The United Nations is seriously concerned at the lack of progress in disarming tens of thousands of factional fighters in Afghanistan, a spokesman said on Thursday.
Afghan factional forces, most of them nominally pro-government, are seen as a threat to security before landmark elections in September in a country already racked by a guerrilla insurgency by Islamic militants.
The defence ministry said it would disarm 40,000 of some 100,000 factional fighters by the end of June as part of the U.N.-coordinated DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration) programme.
The target was announced days before an international donor conference in Berlin pledged to provide some $4.5 billion for the current year to help with Afghan reconstruction.
"Five weeks later, the programme has not yet started, and the possibility that it will be completed is now in serious jeopardy," said U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva, quoting U.N. special Afghan envoy Jean Arnault.
"The Special Representative expresses his serious concern about the stalled DDR programme....Further stalling of the DDR programme is bound to have very negative consequences."
Silva said there was no valid reason for the delay in implementing the plan, and the U.N. had expressed its concerns to the government.
President Hamid Karzai was installed in power after U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban militia in late 2001 with the help of ground forces of the Northern Alliance.
Alliance leaders figure prominently in Karzai's government, although several are seen as obstacles to reform because of their focus on consolidating their personal fiefdoms.
Silva said the powerful governor of the western city of Herat, Ismail Khan, and key northern commanders Ustad Atta Mohammad and Mohammad Dawood had yet to hand in lists of fighters under their control who would be disarmed.
The three men belong to Jamiat-e-Islami, a faction linked to the Northern Alliance led by Defence Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
Atta and Khan's forces have been involved in local turf battles in the north and west.
Factional clashes are a major headache for Karzai, who already faces the threat of militant attacks launched by remnants of the ousted Taliban and their allies including al Qaeda.
Landmark elections were delayed to September from June, partly due to security concerns, and more than 700 people have been killed in attacks since August in the bloodiest few months since the Taliban was toppled.
The U.S. military leads a force of 15,500 troops hunting al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, and a further 6,700 NATO-led peacekeepers patrol the streets of Kabul.
UN says disarmament in Afghanistan in 'serious jeopardy'
Thu, 06 May 2004 19:27:13 CBC News
KABUL - UN officials are warning that a plan to disarm warring Afghan militias ahead of planned elections in September is in "serious jeopardy."
Afghan President Hamid Karzai called in pledges of billions of dollars in aid at a conference in Germany last month in order to tackle feuding warlords and militias. But the UN's special representative to Afghanistan says disarmament efforts have not yet begun.
"Quite the contrary," said Jean Arnault, "many of (the militias) have been, in the past two years, involved in factional fighting, which is a continuing cause of instability – and of suffering for the communities affected by it."
Observers say the Afghan defence ministry, which is under the control of a powerful faction leader, has been slow to implement the plan.
The UN warns that without disarmament the prospects for free and fair elections in Afghanistan are slim.
AFGHANISTAN: Voter registration continues despite death of three election workers
KABUL, 6 May 2004 (IRIN) - The United Nations in Kabul announced on Thursday that voter registration work would continue despite the killing of two British and one Afghan election workers in the eastern province of Nuristan. It has also been announced that a UN-government joint team has been sent to investigate the incident, which took place on Tuesday night.
"Absolutely no change has taken effect since yesterday as a result of this attack. All the plans we had for voters' registration today are in effect," Manoel de Almieda e Silva, a spokesperson of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told IRIN on Thursday.
According to UNAMA, the victims worked for the Global Risk Strategies (a London-based security company), who provided logistic and security assessments to the UN-backed electoral process in Afghanistan.
The incident coincides with the expansion of UN voter registration sites beyond eight regional cities, for landmark elections planned for September. Silva said the workers were travelling in a district of Nuristan where they were evaluating the feasibility of establishing voter registration sites.
"The precise circumstances of the attack are not yet known," the spokesperson said, adding however that the opening of registration sites in Nuristan would be delayed until investigations into the attack were completed.
The killing in Nuristan marked the fifth international (and over 25 national) staff members of local and foreign aid agencies that have been killed since last year, mostly in the southern parts of the country. Government and local authorities blame the remnants of Taliban and Al-Qaeda for these attacks.
Five weeks ago a foreign aid worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was killed in the southern city of Kandahar, and in November a French woman, who was working for the UN, was killed in the central province of Ghazni. About 700 people have died in Afghanistan in the past nine months.
The Taliban appear to be resurgent in the Pashtun provinces of the south, while followers of the Islamist leader Gulbuddin Hikmatyar have been responsible for bombings in the cities. More than 100 people were killed during March in the western city of Herat, including the son of the warlord Ishmail Khan in fighting between his forces and those loyal to the American-sponsored interim President Hamid Karzai. Twenty Afghans, including two aid workers, were killed in Taliban attacks in the past two weeks.
Just two weeks prior to the Nuristan incident, four attacks took place on aid agencies in various southern provinces. Two national staff members of an Afghan NGO were killed in the southern province of Kandahar last week.
The renewed bloodshed has led to fears that security will still not be adequate in time for historic presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for September - postponed from June.
Just over 1.9 million out of 10.5 million eligible Afghans have been registered to vote so far. Silva said the UN was committed to assist the electoral process to make this participation possible. "We must do all we can to support and make it possible for the Afghans to meet their aspiration of registration and voting in order to choose their elected leaders."
The Afghan Interior Ministry has said that, so far, it was not clear who was behind the Nuristan incident. But, according to Reuters news agency, a commander for the ousted Taliban regime, Mullah Sabir Momin, on Wednesday told the agency that Taliban members had killed Global Risk Strategies staff because they were helping "the Americans to consolidate their occupation of Afghanistan."
Factional Afghani militias balk at pre-election disarmament plan
By Victoria Burnett in Kabul
May 7 2004 5:00 Financial Times
A plan to disarm 40 per cent of Afghanistan's factional militia by the end of next month may miss its target because military commanders are not co-operating, the United Nation's envoy said yesterday.
Jean Arnault, head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, said the possibility of meeting the goal was seriously in jeopardy. He said the government, backed by the UN, had not yet begun a push announced in March to disarm many of the irregular soldiers by June 30, the original deadline for national elections. The poll has been postponed until September.
Mr Arnault said the disarmament pledge was an important factor behind the support the international community expressed at a conference in Berlin in March where donors promised $8.2bn (€6.8bn, £4.6bn) in fresh aid for Afghanistan.
Afghan and international officials regard the dismantling of militias as key to minimising political intimidation before elections for a president and new national assembly. Mr Arnault said Afghans stressed elections could be "a genuine exercise. . . only after guns cease to be a tool in the hands of local power holders".
The disarmament process has stalled repeatedly and observers predicted it would become more difficult as elections approached because many provincial strongmen saw their armies as an important source of power. Marshal Mohammad Fahim, defence minister, presides over the process and has verbally supported it but has been unenthusiastic about taking weapons from his militia.
Afghan officials and diplomats in Kabul say the ethnic divisions at the January loya jirga, or grand council, to approve a new constitution damaged prospects for smooth disarmament. When Hamid Karzai, president, won approval for the charter by rallying the vote of the southern Pashtuns he alienated northern strongmen.
Manoel de Almeida e Silva, UN spokesman in Afghanistan, confirmed yesterday that three commanders in the northern Jamiat faction were stalling, including General Atta Mohammad, the army's corps commander in Mazar-e-Sharif, and Ismail Khan, governor of the western province of Herat.
Foreign officials in Mazar-e-Sharif said this week Gen Atta, who has a longstanding feud with Gen Abdul Rashid Dostum, a rival strongman who heads the mainly Uzbek Junbish faction, refused to provide lists of soldiers in two divisions earmarked for disarmament.
Afghanistan Starting to Look Like Iraq, Say Experts
Thalif Deen Inter Press Service
UNITED NATIONS, May 5 (IPS) - The growing instability in Afghanistan -- a country under virtual military occupation by U.S. and other western forces -- has been overshadowed by news of the escalating violence, torture and killings in U.S.-administered Iraq.
But analysts who closely monitor the region say security in Afghanistan remains ''tenuous'' and ''has shown no signs of improvement''. And they predict the explosive situation there might soon turn out to be as bad as Iraq -- but on a smaller scale.
The similarities are striking. As in Iraq, insurgents in Afghanistan have not only been attacking the multinational military force but also local police and foreign aid workers.
The Pentagon, responding to charges of torture by U.S. soldiers, said Wednesday that at least 25 prisoners have died in U.S. custody, in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
But unlike Iraq, the potential destabilisation of Afghanistan has taken added momentum following last week's announcement of possible U.S. troop withdrawals from the politically troubled country.
During a visit to the Afghan capital Kabul, General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, hinted that Washington might gradually reduce its 15,500 troops immediately after nation-wide elections scheduled for September.
Any such action, say Afghan analysts, would be a recipe for political and military disaster.
''If the United States cuts the number of troops after the Afghan elections, it would be the clearest confirmation of what many have feared -- that the U.S.' main interest in Afghanistan is not stabilising the country or improving people's lives, but getting Hamid Karzai elected president and making Afghanistan look like a 'war on terror' success in time for U.S. (presidential) elections in November,'' says James Ingalls of the California Institute of Technology.
Ingalls, a founding director of the Afghan Women's Mission, also remains sceptical about the ability of the Karzai government to hold ''fair and free elections'', postponed till September from the original June timetable.
''The U.S.-backed warlords continue to control parts of the country with impunity,'' he told IPS. ''If allowed to participate in the political process, they will likely bully and buy their way into parliamentary positions, as they have in the past.''
''Those who don't get their way will resort to force. They have little incentive to do otherwise,'' he added.
''At best,'' Ingalls predicted, ''the elections will be meaningless because the people have no real choices -- who are Karzai's challenger(s)? -- at worst, the elections could spark a new civil war.''
Mark Sedra, a research associate at the Bonn International Centre for Conversion, where he leads a project that monitors and analyses security in Afghanistan, is equally pessimistic about the future.
''A significant reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan would send a very negative signal to the Afghan people,'' Sedra told IPS.
''It would fuel the growing perception among Afghans that the United States and the international community are once again turning their backs on the country -- as they did after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union,'' he added.
The Soviets, who militarily occupied Afghanistan for over a decade, pulled out in 1989. The Taliban government that followed was ousted by U.S. military forces in late 2001. Washington then installed Karzai, described by many as a U.S. puppet, as the new president.
While insurgent groups such as the Taliban are not in a position to overthrow the central government, says Sedra, they still pose a potent security risk.
''By focusing their attacks on 'soft targets' such as aid workers and Afghan government employees, they have effectively halted development work in approximately one-third of the country,'' added Sedra, who recently returned from Afghanistan where he managed, on behalf of the United Nations, the security section of the Afghan government study tabled at last month's donor conference in Berlin.
Reconstruction of war-battered Iraq has come to a complete standstill because of the security situation. Both the World Bank and the United Nations, along with major humanitarian aid groups, have withdrawn all of their international staff because of security fears.
Since the killing of a U.N. aid worker in Afghanistan last November, most international staff working for more than 30 U.N. agencies have been withdrawn from southern and eastern Afghanistan. As a result, the United Nations has also suspended aid to refugees returning from neighbouring Pakistan.
Jean Arnault, the U.N. special representative in the country, said he was ''shocked'' by last week's ''brutal slayings'' of two local aid workers in the southern city of Kandahar. The two worked for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, an international aid organisation.
''This and other recent attacks in Kandahar urgently point towards the need to make more forces available to the provincial authorities in order to enable them to uphold the law and facilitate the expansion of reconstruction,'' Arnault told reporters last week.
The Taliban, warlordism and the booming opium trade are other current threats to the reconstruction of Afghanistan, according to Sedra.
''The U.S. military presence in the country, while limited compared to Iraq, serves as a powerful deterrent to the outbreak of major hostilities, whether perpetrated by the Taliban or a regional warlord,'' he added.
The U.S. military also provides vital support to the multi-national International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is in the process of expanding outside Kabul.
''The timing of the potential troop reduction, however, is also disconcerting, for if elections do take place in September, the period immediately following will likely be extremely tense,'' pointed out Sedra.
''It is in the immediate aftermath of the polls that we will see whether the country's major powerbrokers will accept its result.”
''The withdrawal of even a small number of troops would provide a psychological boost to insurgent groups and terrorists; embolden regional warlords to challenge the central government; and encourage interference in the country's affairs by regional actors, notably Pakistan and Iran.'' he added.
After his return from Kabul last January, U.N. Special Representative to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi said that despite a heavy western military presence and a two-year-old U.S.-backed government in Kabul, Afghanistan was reduced to a country with no rule of law.
He implicitly criticised the government, the police, the army, the international community and the 4,500-strong ISAF for their failure to resolve the problem of insecurity.
''There is of course, what we see in our press, what we hear about on the radio, what we see on television about bombs that blow up here and there, about rockets that fall here and there,'' he said.
''But there is (also) the insecurity we don't see in the press: the fear that is in the heart of practically every Afghan because there is no rule of law yet in this country,'' he added. (END/2004)
Last inmates leave Afghanistan’s most notorious jail
Hi Pakistan, Pakistan
SHIBERGHAN, Afghanistan: The last 434 alleged Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees were transferred out of Afghanistan’s most notorious prison on Thursday after a weeklong hunger strike to protest their jailing for more than two years without charge, prison officials said.
The prisoners, shackled together and under guard, were piled onto buses just outside the gates of Shiberghan jail, which gained a reputation for medieval conditions that led to condemnation by international rights groups.
"We will try them all in court. Those who committed serious crimes will be sentenced. Lesser criminals will be released," said Brig Gen Ibrahim, the deputy chief of national prisons who like many Afghans uses one name.
Ibrahim said the transfer was prompted by the hunger strike, but denied mistreatment. Shiberghan, run by northern warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, once housed nearly 3,600 prisoners, but most have been released or transferred in recent months. Thursday’s transfer leaves just 70 prisoners at the white concrete jail, all convicted of non-terrorism related charges, Ibrahim said. No U.S. military personnel were involved in the transfer.
However, American officials have previously screened prisoners at Shiberghan and other Afghan jails, taking some inmates believed linked to al-Qaeda to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Abysmal conditions that included massive overcrowding, and allegations of intentional starvation and torture, have been widely reported for years at Shiberghan, and international rights groups have urged the Americans to pressure their Afghan allies to improve the situation. Most of the prisoners are being taken to Pul-e-Charkhi jail, just east of the capital, Kabul, Ibrahim said. That jail was the site last month of the first post-Taliban execution.
What Could Have Been
Progressive Trail 05/06/2004 By Tamim Ansary
Two and a half years have passed since America took the War on Terrorism to Afghanistan. It's time to ask how it's working. Let's review. The day after 9/11, many Americans thirsted for revenge, and surely that's what the terrorists who carried out the hijackings were hoping for. The terrorists were calculating that an all-out American attack on a Muslim country would drive a wedge between Islam and the West and send millions of fresh recruits into their Jihadist ranks.
At first, the United States sidestepped the trap. The campaign launched in Afghanistan on Oct. 7 relied on ground troops, but not on American ground troops. Instead, America gave air cover to the Northern Alliance forged by Ahmad Shah Massoud; Afghan warriors who had been fighting the Taliban for years.
The Pentagon's sophisticated weaponry succeeded in targeting the Taliban in and around Kabul rather than the civilians of the city. We know less about casualties in the southern battlefields at Tora Bora and Shahikot, but in Kabul and points north, the Afghans I talked to in 2002 during a summer visit generally felt that America had made war not on Afghanistan but on the Taliban. Afghans saw the United States as a liberator.
A Missed Opportunity
The day after the Taliban fled Kabul, the United States was poised to make enormous headway toward a new era of peace and progress. At that historical moment, as a victim of the 9/11 attacks, America enjoyed unprecedented goodwill around the world, even among the uncommitted masses in the Muslim world. Had the United States focused all its efforts at that moment on restoring Afghanistan to the course the Soviet invasion interrupted 23 years earlier-a course pointed toward moderation, secular modernity and development, all within an Afghan cultural context-it would have weakened the Jihadist movement dramatically by stripping away its most powerful arguments and examples.
This policy would have strengthened the hand of modernists in the Muslim world, particularly those in a position to enter into theological debates with other Muslims-debates whose importance can scarcely be overstated. Make no mistake: the Muslim world will achieve no social reforms until the grip of the "scholars," of the dictatorial religious establishment, of the mullahs and of the local rural clerics has been loosened and ordinary Muslims have attained the freedom to pursue and express personal visions of Islam.
Until that transformation has taken place, it is pointless and indeed often ruinous for outsiders to attempt to impose amendments to Muslim society. Changes such as democratic elections or mandating a percentage of cabinet seats for women instead create a colonialist dichotomy. All those who question the ossified orthodox interpretations of Islam become the lapdogs of foreign imperialists bent on wrecking the Muslim home. Modernists become utterly discredited, and the deepest bases of social values remain in the hands of the most uncompromising, least tolerant and least educated elements of the society.
A Global War on Muslims?
Culturally ignorant policies in Afghanistan were only half of the problem. The smoke of battle had not even begun to clear before George Bush gave his axis of evil speech, beating the drum for war in Iraq. No matter what American analysts might think, it was impossible then for anyone in the Muslim world to believe that Americans would stop with Iraq. To the masses in the Muslim world, after Iraq, it would be Syria. After Syria, Libya. After Libya, Iran. After Iran, anywhere Arabic, Persian or Urdu was spoken could be soon a target of American bombing.
If you're not with us, you're against us, warned the Bush White House. To most Muslims almost anywhere on Earth, that meant "You had better give up your religion and your culture, because if we can identify you as being kindred in any way to those bastards who bombed our buildings in New York, even if it's just the syllables you utter when you pray or the clothes you wear or the folktales you grew up on, we're coming after you."
Then came the news that if you got arrested and sent to Guantanamo, you wouldn't be able to send a message to your friends and family letting them know where you were.
Then came the news that America would turn over selected prisoners to Egyptian or Saudi authorities, because those folks had no compunction about torture. America's enemies would suffer while America kept its hands "clean."
If you're a Muslim teenager in Egypt or Tunisia or Algeria or elsewhere in the Muslim world, you got the message. You had better become indistinguishable from American teenagers, or you will be arrested and handed over to your local torturer.
Such was the future forced upon the imagination of Muslims everywhere-with a global population nearly a billion strong, living largely in poverty and simply looking for a way to achieve a life of dignity and hope.
What Could Have Been
Imagine the impact on the Muslim world if today, had the news from Afghanistan told of a country cleared of landmines-in which schools and clinics and hospitals had gone up in even the smallest villages, in which good highways made it possible for people to move among the cities and villages freely, in which fields and orchards had been replanted and grains and fruit were being harvested.
Imagine Afghan entrepreneurs-financed by numerous small banks with money for micro-loans-cranking out products manufactured in small workshops, sufficient to the needs of Afghanistan and some for export as well. Imagine thriving cities in which merchants were busy trading goods. Imagine that trade weaving the country into a partnership with the larger world, giving Afghans occasion to travel to India and Egypt and Germany and France and the United States on business.
Imagine the deep lakes of Bandi Amir and the beautiful cliffs of Bamian, where the world's tallest sculptures once stood, bustling with tourists and trekkers. Imagine climbers again scaling the Hindu Kush peaks and cheerful Afghan hosts sitting down with guests at the hot springs of Obeh near Herat.
Imagine if the world's most wretched country were now a testament to the power of humanity to heal.
It could have happened. Afghans were ready. Never in your life could you have imagined a world in which such a history of suffering had left so little resentment, such a cheerful willingness to start over, as I saw in Kabul in the summer of 2002.
So what's the current Afghan reality? More than 10,000 troops still stationed in the country and no end in sight-and no one even notices through the haze of smoke rising from the battlefields of Iraq. There's one American death each week, but it's not even reported because so many more are dying in Iraq. A constitution has been promulgated that says-in 50 different ways-conservative Muslims will rule this country. Anyone who questions the doctrines of the orthodox will be punished, and that punishment may include death. It doesn't say so explicitly, but it's coded into Hanafi jurisprudence which this constitution enshrines as the default law of the land.
Karzai and others huddle in the government complex in Kabul surrounded by high walls and barbed wire and guarded by American Special Forces. There, technocrats and warlords are trying valiantly to inch toward some negotiated accommodation with the forces of chaos, but without money to spend, there is so little they can do.
Elections were scheduled for June but have been postponed to September. Why? Because the registrars were unable to enroll enough voters. What if they held an election and no one came?
Make Allies, Not Enemies
America does have enemies out there. Those enemies do have an agenda. Their agenda is to promote chaos. Anything they can do to disrupt ordinary life abets them. Anything they can do to increase violence promotes their cause. They are best able to prosper and flourish in chaos. Violent disorder is their petri dish. So when we move about the world trailing bloody, smoky destruction in our wake, it's not "us" we're helping, but "them."
America's hopes lie in eliminating violence, nourishing growth, prosperity, peace and, above all, cultural sovereignty for non-Americans. Newt Gingrich, of all people, said it best: What America needs now not more enemies but more allies. The hardcore terrorists number an infinitesimal percentage of the people out there, but they disappear against the camouflage background of general resentment and hostility. Turn all that hostility into goodwill, and then watch: against that background, the terrorists will stand out like flies on vanilla ice cream.
Mild earthquake felt in parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan
Associated Press Thursday May 6, 4:36 PM
A mild earthquake shook parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan on Thursday morning but there were no reports of damage or injuries.
Salim Akhtar at Pakistan's Seismological Center said the 4.5 magnitude quake was centered in the Hindu Kush mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan border, 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar.
Buildings shook slightly in Peshawar, where the seismological center is based, and the Afghan capital, Kabul.
On April 6, a 6.6 magnitude earthquake jolted northeastern Afghanistan, near the border with Pakistan, killing at least one person in Badakhshan province.
In Kabul, the government owns the peace
International Herald Tribune 05/05/2004 By Barnett R. Rubin
NEW YORK Events of the past two weeks have further clarified why the international effort in Afghanistan has at least a fighting chance to achieve its goals, while the U.S. effort in Iraq cannot do so without major changes.
At the International Conference on Afghanistan in Berlin a month ago, the sovereign, legitimate Afghan government set the agenda and confronted richer and more powerful governments with what it needs to succeed. It did so even though many donor governments, including the German hosts, initially resisted the Afghan proposals.
Those governments promised not just to stay involved but actually to increase the level of funding for this year and to continue in succeeding years. So far, however, the donor governments have failed to provide the few thousand additional troops needed to help Kabul reassert its authority and provide security in the provinces. Without this aid, channeled through the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, insecurity will prevent the government from using properly the money now pledged for reconstruction.
Afghanistan, like Iraq, has been the scene of turmoil recently. In Iraq, armed groups have fought American and coalition troops, taken and even killed hostages, and placed at risk the Bush administration's project of transforming Iraq and the Greater Middle East through democratization imposed by war.
In Afghanistan for the past several weeks, anti-American guerrillas have mounted attacks in the border regions. But in the main political drama, the government and regional power holders have confronted each other over Kabul's centralizing agenda.
Despite Afghanistan's chronic instability, these confrontations so far remain contained, and none of the participants has openly challenged the government's legitimacy. President Hamid Karzai has sent elements of the fledgling U.S.-trained Afghan National Army to calm the situation in two regions, and, with the support of the United Nations, the United States and NATO, he is attempting to deal with these issues politically.
Preparations for elections this September continue in all regions of the country, though the real test comes now - this month, the voter registration effort is scheduled to move out of the eight cities and into the countryside, much of which remains insecure.
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, a fight against foreign troops goes on concurrently with the struggle over the nature of the state. But the relation between these two struggles is reversed: The Afghan government has both domestic and international legitimacy, which enables it to exercise growing ownership of the process of political and economic reconstruction. The Afghan authorities were chosen through the UN-organized Bonn negotiations in late 2001 and have elaborated their framework of rule through two loya jirgas, or tribal asemblies, the last of which approved a constitution. International involvement, led by the United Nations, expressed a genuine international consensus on the goals in Afghanistan and the means to achieve them.
Its legitimacy and sovereignty enabled the Afghan government to set the agenda for the whole international community in Berlin last month. Kabul presented a detailed report arguing that building a secure Afghanistan would require a plan costing about $28 billion over the next seven years. The government used its political standing to leverage aid from international development banks and the United Nations to help produce the report. As a result, donors who usually confront war-torn countries with programs dictated by their own domestic political realities were forced to confront the genuine requirements of success. The international community may therefore benefit from the Afghan government's assertion of ownership.
In Iraq, the Defense Department, through the Coalition Provisional Authority, sets the country's priorities - at least until June 30, when power is supposed to be handed over to Iraqis in a UN-led process. Even after this handover, the United States plans to maintain control of its $18.4 billion reconstruction fund (for one year alone) rather than share authority with the new Iraqi government. If the new Iraqi government does not manage to take ownership of the reconstruction process, as the Afghans have done, it will remain a symbolic and probably failed entity.
But without the needed security assistance, the construction effort in Afghanistan also risks failure. The Afghan National Army and the slowly growing Afghan National Police still need international forces to help them disarm militias and provide security for the political process. If Germany and other NATO members provide those forces, Afghanistan can succeed. Without the help, the legitimate Afghan authorities may not be able to implement their plan for the recovery of the country. Such a failure could discredit all international peace-building efforts - not just illegitimate, badly misconceived ones, such as Iraq.
Barnett R. Rubin is director of studies at New York University's Center on International Cooperation.
Possible assault on Kabul thwarted by raid on Afghan secret cave network
KABUL, May 5 (AFP) - A major haul of weapons hidden in a secret cave network outside Kabul in readiness for a possible extremist assault on the Afghan capital has been uncovered by peacekeepers, officials said Wednesday.
The weekend discovery in the caverns 34 kilometres (21 miles) west of Kabul, came as Afghan intelligence officers arrested seven people and seized a home made bomb in a separate operation in the city.
Major Jacek Ciszek of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that patrols Kabul told reporters that a 'large weapons cache' including of 650 artillery and mortar rounds had been uncovered and destroyed from the caves.
'The city was the likely target for the munitions,' he said, without identifying the owners of the weapons. More than 40 people, mostly linked to the Afghan insurgent groups have been arrested in and around Kabul by Afghan security forces in operations backed by the peacekeeping force over the past one month.
Among those captured in earlier raids two had been described as senior members of an Afghan militant group loyal to renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, wanted as a terrorist by Washington.
Hekmatyar, whose men once laid siege to Kabul during the country's Years of civil war, is believed to have formed a loose alliance with extremists from the former Taliban regime and their Al-Qaeda terror network associates. The 6,500-strong ISAF are helping Afghan security institutes providing security for the capital Kabul.
A setback for Afghan justice
International Herald Tribune 05/05/2004
KABUL - The fledgling efforts toward establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan took a great leap backward last month. In secret, President Hamid Karzai ordered the execution of Abdullah Shah, a man who could have revealed atrocities committed by one of Karzai's closest advisers.
Before Shah was executed, he said that he was responsible for war crimes during Afghanistan's civil war in the early 1990s but that he had been acting under orders. With his death, the truth about some of the horrors of Afghanistan's past - and who in the top leadership might have ordered those crimes - has been buried.
Shah, who was convicted of several murders including the killing of an infant, died April 20, but the execution was made public only after Amnesty International condemned it. Shah was widely known to be a commander under Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the leader of a militia that human rights groups say was involved in mass rape and the disappearance of hundreds of people.
When I interviewed Shah in jail in February, he did not deny his part in war crimes, but said Sayyaf gave the orders. He did not ask for release or claim that he was innocent - only that he be transferred to the custody of another ministry where he might have some protection from what he said were plans to silence him.
Shah is far from the only person to describe atrocities. I have also interviewed women who describe in detail the actions of Sayyaf's troops in the civil war: one saw her small son die while militia members raped her. I have interviewed men held in makeshift jails at Sayyaf's headquarters in Paghman, west of Kabul. Those who survived say they bought their way out. These survivors describe how their less lucky fellow prisoners were forced to dig their own graves before being shot. Human rights observers told me that Shah had offered to show them exactly where these mass graves in Paghman are.
Afghanistan's leaders, and their American supporters, prefer for now that the victims of Paghman and the rest of the past remain buried, lest it imperil "stability." But it is a vicious circle: Efforts to bury the past aggravate the very security risks cited as reasons to avoid addressing the past. In Afghanistan, those who benefit most from the international community's silence on accountability for war crimes include many powerful figures with links to criminal or extremist networks, or both.
Since the defeat of the Taliban, Sayyaf has had extraordinary power over Karzai. Shortly after the interim government was established in December 2001, Sayyaf leaned on Karzai to appoint as Supreme Court chief justice Mawlavi Fazl Hadi Shinwari, an extremely conservative former head of a religious school in Pakistan. Shinwari has since appointed like-minded mullahs as judges across Afghanistan, with the power to ban any law they deem contrary to the "beliefs and provisions" of Islam.
In a revealing move, Shinwari said that Shah should be executed, even before the trial was over. And the trial, Amnesty International said, fell short of international standards: Shah had no defense counsel and witnesses were not subject to cross-examination. The execution, Amnesty said, "may have been an attempt by powerful political players to eliminate a key witness to human rights abuses."
If Karzai argues that by executing Shah he was serving the cause of justice, or the wishes of the Afghan people, he is fooling himself. But Afghanistan's donors should not be fooled. There is no doubt many of Shah's victims wanted to see him executed, but they also want the truth to be known about everyone responsible for war crimes in Afghanistan.
The former mujahedeen both within Karzai's administration and outside it have grown powerful as the world has shut its eyes to their crimes. The international actors involved in Afghanistan's reconstruction need to send Karzai an unequivocal message before national elections are held: Cover-ups cannot bury the truth for long. What Afghans want from the international community is assistance in disclosing the truth. As long as the truth is buried in Afghanistan, any hope for the future will be jeopardized.
Patricia Gossman directs an independen
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