Three rockets hit residences in Afghan capital, one woman injured
Sunday October 17, 12:20 AM AP
Three rockets hit residences in the Afghan capital late Saturday, injuring one woman, officials and witnesses said.
It was not clear who was behind the attacks, but the barrage came a week after landmark presidential elections in Afghanistan which Taliban-led rebels have vowed to disrupt.
The three rockets all landed close to mosques as people were inside for evening prayers.
One rocket smashed through a window of a fifth-floor apartment, damaging walls and demolishing a washing machine, and another blew a hole in the wall of a house. Neither caused any injuries.
A third rocket hit another house in a poor neighborhood, wounding one woman passerby.
The house owner, Syed Shahab Khan, said the woman, a widow who lives nearby, had been returning from the pharmacy when the projectile hit.
A bottle of cough mixture and some pills lay on the bloodstained ground next to mud bricks knocked out by the impact.
Lt. Cdr. Ken MacKillop, a spokesman for the NATO troops that patrol Kabul, said that according to initial reports, the woman was seriously injured.
He said that four rockets were fired but only three exploded _ all in an area about one kilometer (half a mile) southwest of Kabul airport.
At the apartment block, police and NATO peacekeepers were inspecting the damage as residents evacuated the property.
On Monday, at least three rockets landed not far from the U.S. Embassy, killing one man and damaging the roof of a mud-brick house.
Seven die in Afghanistan blasts as vote count resumes
Saturday October 16, 10:54 PM
KABUL (AFP) - Seven people including two US soldiers were killed in explosions in Afghanistan, officials said, as early results from historic elections gave President Hamid Karzai a strong lead over his rivals.
Security experts had warned of a possible resurgence of violence after Saturday's election, which was largely peaceful despite threats of attack from loyalists of the hardline Islamic Taliban regime ousted in late 2001.
The US military said two US troops were killed Thursday in a landmine blast in the southcentral province of Uruzgan, a hotbed of a Taliban-led insurgency, while an Afghan soldier was killed in a mine explosion in western Herat.
Another four people, including three children, were killed in eastern Kunar province late Friday when a remote-controlled bomb exploded after a crowd had gathered near a truck that had been set alight as it was delivering food to US bases, an Afghan official said.
Karzai condemned Friday's attack, which fell on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as "inhuman and unIslamic."
US military spokesman Scott Nelson said meanwhile that US troops and the Afghan government would "maintain vigilance and maintain security and a high presence" to deter face-saving attacks by militants in the wake of their failure to disrupt the polls.
Vote counting started in most areas on Thursday after a delay caused by allegations of irregularities.
It resumed Saturday after a break Friday for the start of Ramadan and kicked off for the first time at regional counting centres in western Herat, eastern Jalalabad and Bamiyan.
"Counting has begun again everywhere -- in all eight regional counting centres," said Afghan electoral commission spokesman Aykut Tavsel.
With 1.9 percent of estimated total votes counted, US-backed Karzai, the pre-poll favourite, was far ahead with a 78 percent lead over his rivals.
He was trailed by former education minister Yunus Qanooni with 10 percent, the Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body said on its website.
In third place with just over four percent was Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam and in fourth was ethnic Hazara military strongman Mohammed Mohaqeq with 1.2 percent.
Afghanistan's only female candidate Masooda Jalal was lying fifth with one percent of the votes. The other 13 presidential candidate all had less than one percent.
The initial count included votes from only 11 of the country's 34 provinces.
The elections were marred by allegations of fraud and mismanagement after indelible ink used to mark voters fingers and prevent multiple voting was found to wash off.
An international panel of experts was appointed at the last minute to investigate around 100 complaints, averting a boycott called by disgruntled candidates, some of whom alleged the vote was rigged to favour Karzai, and opening the way for the count to begin.
US President George W. Bush and the international community have hailed the election as a success. US Secretary of State Colin Powell said it showed that democracy was also possible in Iraq.
The United States led the campaign that ousted the Taliban regime in late 2001. It was launched when the Taliban refused to surrender its ally Osama bin Laden, the head of the Al-Qaeda network accused of masterminding the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Canadian Sees a Long Haul in Afghanistan
By Doug Struck Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, October 16, 2004; Page A13
OTTAWA, Oct. 15 -- International forces should expect to stay in Afghanistan for "10 to 20 years," according to a Canadian commander who helped lead foreign troops in Kabul until February.
"We ignore Afghanistan at our peril," said Maj. Gen. Andrew Leslie. He pronounced the election in Afghanistan "a tremendous success," although he acknowledged that the fledgling government would be fragile and require international backing for many years.
Leslie, 46, who became deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force in August 2003, said the mission's successes in Afghanistan were attributable in part to its cooperation with the existing power structures in the country, in contrast to Iraq, where the United States conducted a "de-Baathification" program after it invaded the country, removing former government officials and military and police officers.
The 8,000 ISAF troops from 36 nations are largely responsible for security in Kabul, while U.S. troops operate outside the capital. Canada had 2,300 soldiers in Afghanistan for a year but rotated all but 700 out of the country at the end of their tours in August. Leslie, now on a sabbatical to complete a doctorate in war studies, spoke at a conference of security experts in Ottawa and in an interview afterward.
In 1992, "when Canada went into Bosnia, we thought it would be three or four years, and we are just pulling out now," Leslie said. "In Bosnia, the level of devastation was less than in Afghanistan, the numbers of dead less, and the general circumstances were better. The West and NATO are looking at a 10- to 20-year commitment in Afghanistan."
He said international troops avoided being widely resented as occupiers, as U.S. troops are in Iraq, in part because "we made it very clear that we were there as guests of the Afghanistan government. They asked us in, and we are working with them and for them.
"In Iraq, the police, army, bureaucrats, were all terminated. From necessity, that means you are starting from scratch. In Afghanistan, that didn't happen. It was two different approaches."
Leslie declined to comment on the charge by the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, that the Bush administration had fumbled the chance to capture Osama bin Laden in northern Afghanistan. But he said that "the land there is so rugged and riddled with so many caves and tunnels, with tribal links and ethnic links and clan links. If there's any hole possible, those guys will get away."
Prison abuse back in the dock
By Jim Lobe Asia Times October 16, 2004
WASHINGTON - Thursday's recommendation by the US Army's Criminal Investigation Division that 28 soldiers be charged in connection with the beating deaths of two prisoners held at a detention facility in Afghanistan in December 2002 has spurred new calls for an entirely independent investigation of abuses of detainees by US forces in the "war on terrorism".
The announcement, which said that charges could include involuntary manslaughter and maiming, as well as less serious offenses, came just shy of two years after the two prisoners died. Human-rights observers have deplored the military's failure to immediately investigate the deaths, suggesting there may have been an attempt to cover them up.
"Taking 22 months to investigate apparent homicides that occurred in US-run overseas prisons is not conducive to protecting prisoners from torture and abuse," said Jumana Musa of Amnesty International USA shortly after the announcement. "In fact, the failure to promptly account for the prisoners' deaths indicates a chilling disregard for the value of human life and may have laid the groundwork for further abuses in Abu Ghraib [prison in Iraq] and elsewhere.
"This announcement is further evidence that the ill-treatment of detainees did not start at Abu Ghraib, and will not stop without a comprehensive independent investigation of the torture scandal, including all identified and secret detention facilities operated or accessed by the US," she added.
Thursday's announcement came amid reports that the Pentagon is reviewing the case of four Iraqi journalists who claimed last January that they had been abused by US soldiers at a forward operating base near Fallujah for some 50 hours after being detained near the scene of a helicopter crash. The Pentagon initially dismissed their allegations of being hooded, beaten, slapped, forced to sit and stand in "stress positions and acts of sexual humiliation as not credible and possibly part of an anti-coalition information campaign" to Reuters news agency, which employed the men.
But in light of the Abu Ghraib scandal, which came to light in April, as well as a series of Pentagon or Pentagon-commissioned reports released last summer that suggested that abuses were much more widespread than initially thought, the Defense Department was apparently prevailed on to review the case, according to an account published Thursday in the New York Times.
Thursday's army announcement comes amid accusations by the former commander of the joint interrogation center at Abu Ghraib that the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in keeping inmates at the prison in Iraq off official rosters appeared to have been intended to speed their transfer to sites outside Iraq, where they would not be protected by the Geneva Conventions. The allegation by Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan in testimony in February was included in hundreds of pages of secret documents released on Friday by the Center for Public Integrity. Jordan said the approach had been authorized under an unwritten agreement between the CIA and Colonel Thomas Pappas, the top US military intelligence officer at the prison.
The army announcement also comes on the heels of an investigative report by the Los Angeles Times in late September that US Special Forces at a forward base near Gardez, Afghanistan, beat and tortured eight Afghan army soldiers in March, 2003, over more than a two-week period until one of the captives died. The survivors were then transferred to the custody of a nearby police station and held there secretly until their wounds healed, more than six weeks later. The Pentagon has announced an investigation into that incident, as well.
At the same time, the navy announced that it had charged three more members of the Navy Seals in connection with the abuse of Iraqi prisoners between October 2003 and April 2004, two of whom died after beatings by US commandos. That brought to seven the number of Navy Seals who face criminal charges over abuses committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
All of these incidents have tended to confirm the contentions of human-rights groups and others that abuses of detainees held by the US military have been far more widespread than the Pentagon has admitted to date - a conclusion that also a central thesis of a new book, Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib published last month by New Yorker investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.
In his new book, Hersh, who broke the Abu Ghraib scandal along with CBS's 60 Minutes, also argued that senior military and national-security officials in the Bush administration were repeatedly warned by subordinates in 2002 and 2003 that prisoners held by the military were subject to abuses, an accusation which the administration has strongly denied since the Abu Ghraib scandal first came to light.
"The roots of the Abu Ghraib scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few army reservists, "as maintained by the administration to date", but in the reliance of [President George W] Bush and [Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld on secret operations and the use of coercion - and eye-for-eye retribution - in fighting terrorism."
That policy, which was implicitly supported by a series of memos drafted by politically appointed lawyers in the Justice and Defense Departments and the White House that have subsequently leaked to the press, according to Hersh, migrated from Afghanistan to Iraq, setting the stage for the Abu Ghraib abuses.
Amnesty's Musa said Thursday that any independent investigation "should include a determination whether administration officials bear criminal liability for torture or inhuman treatment of prisoners".
The latest case involved the death of Mullah Habibullah in early December. According to an autopsy report prepared at the time, the victim died of a "pulmonary embolism due to blunt-force injuries to the legs". The death was identified as a "homicide".
About a week later, a second Afghan detainee, identified only as Dilawar, died as a result of "blunt-force injuries to lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease". Both victims were in their 20s.
In addition to involuntary manslaughter and maiming, charges that were recommended by the division include dereliction of duty and assault. The former applies to soldiers - as yet unidentified - who failed to restrain their comrades in beating or otherwise abusing the prisoners.
Given the growing number of abuse cases and what is known about them, many civil-society groups and US lawmakers have called for an independent investigation of detainee abuses outside the control of the administration and the Pentagon. To date, all investigations have been conducted under Defense Department auspices.
Among the groups are the American Bar Association, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights), and Physicians for Human Rights, which has also expressed concern about the failure of US medics and doctors to stop or report the abuses that came to their attention.
Retracing the path of infamy
By Ehsan Ahrari Asia Times October 16, 2004 COMMENTARY
On late Friday, October 8, a bill was introduced in the Pakistani parliament that was aimed at allowing President General Pervez Musharraf to break a constitutional pledge that he made with the opposition parties to quit the army by the end of this year. If there was any doubt in the past that he would not abide by that pledge, it is crystal-clear now that he wishes to cling to the legacy of one of his infamous predecessors, General Zia ul-Haq. Like Zia, Musharraf knows where the levers of ultimate power are in his country and he does not want to give them up. Like Zia, he refuses to take off his uniform, fearing that one of his proteges would oust him from office, as he ousted his own mentor, Nawaz Sharif, and as Zia ousted his mentor, the then prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Zia, like all his military predecessors, was known for sabotaging the prospects of the evolution of democracy in his country. Musharraf is currently retracing the very same path of infamy today. Beyond these, there are still more parallels regarding the nature of Pakistan-US relations now and during the dictatorship of Zia.
Brief background vMusharraf is about to break a pledge made with powerful Islamist parties in the middle of last year that he would quit one of his dual-hatted jobs of army chief and remain as president in his civilian capacity. According to that pledge, he must step down on December 31 of 2004. However, there were doubts about his earnestness related to that promise and his respect for democracy and the constitution. Of course, he ousted democracy from Pakistan in October 1999 in his bloodless coup, and has been wishy-washy about the prospects of reinstating it. He comes from the military culture of Pakistan, where contempt for democracy is well ingrained.
The Pakistani pantheon of heroes has only two prominent civilians, Allama Mohammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Iqbal was one of most prominent poets of Islam (not just of Pakistan), who conceived the very idea that Muslims of the subcontinent should have a separate home. Pakistan is the materialization of that very idea. Jinnah was the politician who worked for the realization of Iqbal's idea.
The rest of that pantheon has a slew of military dictators - Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, and Zia ul-Haq - who don't even form shining examples of successful military leadership. The best statement one can make about Ayub was that he was forced to resign under domestic turbulence. Yahya Khan had the ignominious role of presiding over the dismantlement of East Pakistan into an independent Bangladesh in 1971. Zia created his own infamous legacy of bringing Islamists into mainstream politics by Islamizing Pakistan. His chief purpose was to promote his dictatorship. Pakistan continues to suffer from the deleterious effects of that legacy, especially today. But this is only a partial explanation of what went wrong with Pakistan, especially during the regime of Zia. An important point here is that history has a strange way of repeating itself in that country.
When Zia was busy Islamizing Pakistan, the United States went to that country to oust the Soviet Union from neighboring Afghanistan. The last epic battle between democracy and totalitarianism was fought in a Muslim country (Afghanistan), while another Muslim country (Pakistan) played an all-important role of serving as the chief conduit for channeling America's military weaponry to the mujahideen (Islamic freedom fighters). In an ironic coincidence of history, Zia's dubious Islamization of Pakistan came handy in president Ronald Reagan's urgent need to indoctrinate the Afghan fighters with the militant notions of jihad and use them to wage a war on the Soviet Union. Zia gleefully obliged, for he knew the double-edged nature of that development. Popularity of militant jihad was to be used in the 1980s for declaring another jihad inside Indian-administered Kashmir, a development that brought the South Asian sub-continent to the brink of a nuclear war in 1999. Perhaps the Reagan administration was too busy defeating the Soviet Union and winning the Cold War at the global level to recognize the long-term implications of reviving military jihadism. Zia, on the contrary, knew exactly what he was doing.
Under the Reagan presidency, ousting the Soviet Union from Afghanistan was of primacy concern to the US. Democracy had to wait for another day - as it turned out, more than a decade - to become a reality in Pakistan. Pakistan played its role beautifully and dutifully as a "pawn" in America's grand chess game. Keep this entire situation in mind while examining three very important variables.
First, consider Musharraf's palpable sabotage of democracy in Pakistan (just like Zia). Second, his importance today in the global "war on terrorism" of President George W Bush (much the same way Zia was to Reagan's obsession of defeating the Soviet Union). Finally, the fact that Bush is so gung-ho about implanting democracy in the Muslim Middle East, but not in Pakistan. Here the similarities between Zia's and Musharraf's regimes concerning the US become especially interesting. Both Reagan (then) and Bush (now) would prefer democracy. However, for Reagan, the ouster of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan was more important. By the same token, Bush wants to establish democracy in the Muslim world; however, for him winning the war on terror is considerably more significant than insisting on the emergence of Pakistan as a democracy, at least in the near future.
Sabotaging democracy with a purpose
By capturing power in October 1999, Musharraf ousted democracy from Pakistan. It is hard to believe that he would work assiduously for the return of democracy, or would give up the ultimate base of his power, his role as army chief of staff, as an important first step toward democracy. That is like expecting a brewery owner to dedicate his life to promote anti-alcoholism. Musharraf has the same contempt for civilian leadership and democracy as any military officer of that country. Man for man, Pakistani military officers (actually army officers, since the army is the predominant service of that country) disparages civilian leaders as corrupt and inept, as if they are describing a lower breed. In that contempt, they almost never fail to put their own kind on a rhetorical pedestal. What emerges from such lopsided discussions is the belief that civilian leaders cannot do anything right and an army officer can't do any wrong, once he captures power. Such a portrayal leaves no room or patience for the evolution of democracy in that country. However, when one examines the 54-year history of Pakistan, one sees a series of blunders committed, even the loss of its eastern wing, and wars fought with India, all under military dictators.
So, despite past promises of Musharraf that he would give up his position as the army chief of staff, few Pakistanis believed him. Besides, he had studied the brief history of his country well enough to know that as a civilian head of state there is a good chance that he would end up either in a dungeon or be forced into exile in Saudi Arabia or Turkey (his favorite state), once he became a civilian head of state. And, like his military predecessors (especially Zia), he was not willing to take that chance.
The chief problem of Pakistan related to democracy is that, since the army has kept power for 29 out of 54 years of that country's existence, there is not a healthy corps of experienced civilian leadership waiting in the wings to take over power and govern effectively. Besides, in a democracy - even the fledgling ones - the failure of one group of elected officials results in their ouster through the use of ballot boxes. A new slate of elected officials is given a chance to govern and prove their worth to the voters. In Pakistan, the army has used the inept or corrupt performance of the elected officials as an excuse to oust them. So the checkered record of military intervention emerges as a self-fulfilling prophecy that the civilian leadership will fail once it enters into office, thereby "proving" the dubious argument of Pakistani army officers that civilians are inept or corrupt.
This denunciation of civilian leadership becomes a rationale - such as it is - for the military's control and exercise of political power. However, the real purpose underlying this argument - as well the real purpose of the sabotage of democracy in Pakistan - is the fear of the army that, if democracy were to emerge as a permanent basis of governance in their country, a natural outcome would be the institutionalization of civilian supremacy over the military; and, equally important, the end of the army's privileged status in the Pakistani polity.
Come to think of it, that very fear helps the army maintain its firm control of political power in Algeria. That very same fear also drove the army in maintaining its firm grip on power in Turkey. It was the warning of the European Union - that Turkey would not become a part of the EU unless the supremacy of civilian authority was firmly entrenched in that country, and unless the army renounced its interference in politics - that has played a crucial role in the emergence of Turkey as a democracy. It will be a long time before one can definitely state that the polity of Turkey is fully democratized. However, that country has indeed made a good start toward the emergence of a tradition of supremacy of civilian authority, an extremely vital precondition for the emergence of democracy.
Unfortunately, there is no such force pushing Pakistan in the direction of democracy. The British Commonwealth countries originally made a feeble attempt by ousting that country from amid their ranks. However, the Commonwealth does not carry with it financial rewards and political prestige a la membership in the EU.
'Savior' of the Bush presidency
Musharraf only reluctantly joined Bush's war on terror. From the perspective of protecting its northern front, the Taliban government provided Pakistan the best possible guarantee. As an Islamist government, it eliminated Hindu India's influence from the country, a reality all Pakistani leaders cherished. In addition, the Taliban were the product of Pakistani madrassas (seminaries). As such, they were not likely to turn against Pakistan. So when Washington approached Islamabad to help it dismantle the Taliban regime in the wake of September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Musharraf did not have much of a choice but to agree. One can only imagine what message was delivered to him via diplomatic channels. A safe guess is the he was told in no uncertain terms, "either you are with us or you are with the Taliban and al-Qaeda". Musharraf did not have to think too long or too hard to know what his decision ought to be.
Pakistan did cooperate with the US in providing basing facilities and sharing intelligence. However, there was no zeal driving that sentiment until the last three months or so of 2003, when Islamist terror-related activities started to escalate. It was Ayman al-Zawahiri's - al-Qaeda's No 2 in command - public denunciation of Musharraf by name as a "lackey of America" and, more important, two attempts on Musharraf's life last December that proved to be the clinchers. Those events pushed Pakistan in the same corner as the US. Musharraf knew then that he became the target of al-Qaeda's version of the declaration: "either you with us or you are with the American infidels". His regime, from then on, emerged as a zealot participant in Bush's "war on terror".
There is no turning back now. Musharraf must oust al-Qaeda from his country. The trouble with that proposition is that al-Qaeda as a movement has permeated into Pakistan's polity so thoroughly that there is no eradication of it, at least not merely by conducting brutal military campaigns. That will only create increased sympathy for al-Qaeda.
But as a frontline "warrior" of the "war on terror", Musharraf might even be able to guarantee the reelection of Bush, if, for no other reason than through sheer luck, he can either capture or kill one or more top leaders of al-Qaeda. No one is more aware of the significance of such a happenstance than Musharraf and Bush.
What is democracy among friends?
An important adage of South Asia and the Middle East is that friends don't quibble or fight over formal rules involving issues of mutual concern. Formal rules should be insisted on and be enforced among strangers. Friends, according to this frame of reference, reach compromises over all issues, trivial or crucial. It appears that that rule is being applied over the reinstatement of democracy in Pakistan between Musharraf and Bush. Even though he is a product of Western culture, Bush knows what is at stake in Pakistan, and what America's priorities ought to be, of course, from his perspectives.
Musharraf and Bush seem to have reached an understanding that, as long as he maintains the intensity of his military campaign against al-Qaeda, Bush will not, publicly or through diplomatic channels, insist on the imminent reinstatement of democracy in Pakistan. An added dimension of this understanding is that Musharraf has persuaded Bush about how indispensable he really is vis-a-vis the "war on terror". As long as America's understanding of Pakistani domestic politics remains shallow, Musharraf can get away with selling Bush his version of explanation: that the United States is better off with Musharraf carrying the heavy burden of fighting al-Qaeda in Pakistan. The clincher in Musharraf's argument is that he continues to periodically deliver al-Qaeda functionaries to the US. Besides, between now and November 2, the role of Musharraf in Bush's reelection campaign remains extremely crucial. If he is reelected, Bush will still extend the lease on Musharraf's sabotage of democracy. The eradication of al-Qaeda would still be the primary objective of the US.
Putting it all together
Reagan used Pakistan to wage a decisive confrontation against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. That confrontation is generally regarded as the winning battle leading to the eventual implosion of the communist superpower. At the end of that melee, the US went home, leaving Pakistan to become a highly explosive place as Islamists remained highly proactive within its own borders, and as Islamists eventually took over Afghanistan. Those types of forces, along with al-Qaeda, are determined to convert Pakistan into another radical Islamist stronghold.
The Americans returned to Afghanistan in 2001 to fight another fateful battle, the global "war on terror". As Reagan used Pakistan to defeat the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Bush is now using it to win his campaign in the region. Even though there is no likelihood that the "war on terror" will be won any time soon, chances are the US will leave once again, when or if the top leadership of al-Qaeda and the Taliban is eradicated. But that development is not likely to help Pakistan become a stable democracy. In fact, regardless of the near-term outcome of the "war on terror", Pakistan is heading toward further radicalization and increased instability, as one autocrat - Musharraf - is determined to institutionalize his personal rule by eliminating all chances of the emergence of democracy. In this sense, Musharraf is well on his way of retracing the path of infamy of Zia. Wittingly or unwittingly, Bush is very much a part of Musharraf's inauspicious journey.
Ehsan Ahrari, PhD, is an Alexandria, Virginia, US-based independent strategic analyst.
NATO asks Spain to reconsider withdrawing troops from Afghanistan
Poiana Brasov, Romania, Oct 13 (EFE).- NATO appealed Wednesday to Spain to rethink its decision to withdraw in the coming weeks half of the thousand-strong military contingent Madrid has deployed in Afghanistan.
The alliance's secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, expressed confidence that the Spanish battalion participating in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan will stay on even though the presidential ballot has taken place.
"We hope Spain will provide continued support now that elections have been held, because its participation is useful," Scheffer told reporters covering an informal meeting of NATO ministers here in Poiana Brasov. Scheffer emphasized that the recent presidential election in Afghanistan had been held "without violence," calling that a success for both the Afghan national army and coalition forces.
Authorities say that international forces will also be needed to provide security for the legislative elections to be held in Afghanistan next April. Spain's defense minister, while on a visit to Afghanistan last month, said Sept. 30 that about half of his nation's soldiers in Afghanistan would be brought home following the October elections.
Defense Minister Jose Bono commented after meeting with President Hamid Karzai. He said Karzai asked him for an extension of the presence of the Spanish contingent. The minister said he told the Afghan leader that the soldiers running a field hospital in Kabul would remain, but that a 500-strong battalion in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif would be brought home following the vote.
Though the Socialist government withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq soon after taking office in April, the deployment of 1,040 soldiers to Afghanistan, where a U.N. mandate is in effect, was approved by the administration and congress in July.
Report: Russia to open a military base in Tajikistan
MOSCOW (AP) Russia will open a new military base in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan this weekend, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Thursday, according to news reports. The base will be formed out of the 201st motorized infantry division, which has already been based in Tajikistan since before the Soviet collapse, and will be inaugurated on Sunday.
``We regard the opening of the Russian base as an important step in the strengthening of the regional collective security system and the designation of a new legal status to the military component of the Collective Security Treaty Organization,'' the security arm of the 12-nation Commonwealth of Independent Nations, Ivanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Tajikistan this weekend on his way home from a three-day visit to China, which began Thursday. Ivanov said Putin and his Tajik partners would sign several economic and military agreements that would ``confirm the presence of a Russian military contingent'' in Tajikistan, Interfax reported from Romania, where the defense minister is meeting with his NATO counterparts.
Russia has increased its engagement in formerly Soviet Central Asia since U.S. troops arrived, and Moscow opened an air base in Kyrgyzstan last year its first new base abroad since the Soviet collapse. Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Uzbekistan both host U.S.-led bases, set up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to support combat operations in nearby Afghanistan.
Younas Khalis seriously ill or dead
By Behroz Khan The News International, Pakistan
PESHAWAR: Former Mujahideen leader and chief of his own faction of Hizb-i-Islami, Maulavi Younas Khalis is seriously ill.
There are some reports that the he has died in Pakistan. Family members of Maulavi Younas Khalis in Peshawar neither confirmed nor denied reports about his death, but Taliban sources confirmed that Mulla Omar’s strong supporter and the friend of Osama bin Laden has passed away.
Maulavi Younas Khalis was last seen in Pakistan, brought by sons and relatives for medical treatment after the hard-liner Mujahideen leader declared Jihad against the US and Karzai’s governments. He was about 90 years of age and had two wives. Khalis married for the second time during his stay in Pakistan as Mujahideen leader, when six other Mujahideen groups were also based in Pakistan to put resistance to the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, which they had invaded in December 1979.
From Khogiyani district of Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, Maulavi Younas Khalis was involved in politics and preaching Jihad since Sardar Muhammad Daud Khan’s era and wrote about his ideas in the government-controlled newspaper ‘Anees’ published from Kabul. Sardar Muhammad Daud sent him to jail for his outspoken nature and his sermons in favor of Jihad.
He was working against Noor Muhammad Taraki’s government and also against Hafizullah Amin, but migrated to Pakistan as refugee when Hafizullah Amin was killed in a bloody coup like his predecessor, Taraki and the Soviet forces invaded his country to install Babrak Karmal’s regime.
Khalis joined Gulbaddin Hikmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan after his migration to Pakistan and was a commander of the Muhajideen in Nanagrhar. But Khalis parted ways with Hikmatyar and formed his own jihadi group with the same name.
His faction of Hizb-i-Islami had commanders and supporters across the country, but its strong base had always been his native Nangarhar province where known commanders were affiliated with his party.
Former Governor Nangarhar, Haji Abdul Qadeer, who was later assassinated in Kabul as minister in Karzai-led transitional government, was from his party and was his elder brother, Haji Abdul Haq, who was later arrested and executed by Taliban days before the fall of Taliban regime.
Haji Deen Muhammad, the sitting Governor Nangarhar and also elder brother of Haji Qadeer, is also affiliated to Hizb (Khalis), despite the fact the party chief has declared Jihad against Americans and Afghan Presidnet, Hamid Karzai.
Due to the strong presence of fighters and influential commanders like Engr Mehmud, American’s public enemy number one, Osama bin Laden, chose to take shelter in Nangarhar with Khalis’s men after his (Osama) eviction from Sudan in 1995. Khalis also offered his house in Farm Hadda to Osama where he stayed before moving to Tora Bora.
A fair vote, despite a few inkspots
The Economist 10/15/2004
Afghanistan's historic presidential election seems to have been fairly successful, despite threats of violent disruption—and despite most of President Hamid Karzai's rivals having threatened a boycott over allegations of multiple voting
HAVING made it his goal to bring democracy to those countries that lack it, President George Bush will have found it heartwarming that Afghans turned out in such force for the country's first ever direct election for president, on Saturday October 9th, ignoring threats by Taliban militiamen to attack anyone who voted. Indeed, so high was the turnout in places that there were immediately suspicions that some Afghans were honouring the old political adage, "vote early and vote often". Claiming that there had been multiple voting on a massive scale, most of the challengers to Afghanistan's interim president, Hamid Karzai (there were no fewer than 17 of them on the ballot papers), announced halfway through polling day that they would boycott the vote.
However, the contenders' accusations were not upheld by international observers, who said the election appeared to have been largely fair (though they will have been unable to monitor first-hand more than a fraction of the 21,000 polling stations). American and European diplomats spent the rest of the weekend pressing the candidates to accept the result in return for a thorough investigation of their complaints by a panel of experts chosen by the United Nations. Some contenders were expected to be offered top jobs in Mr Karzai's government to encourage them to reconsider. On Monday, Mr Karzai's leading rival, Yunus Qanuni, a leader of the Tajik ethnic minority—said that the candidates would call off the boycott. Two days later, another of the main candidates, Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek warlord, confirmed that he would recognise the election's eventual outcome.
The UN-backed body running the election (with around $200m of funding from various international bodies) had sought to eliminate multiple voting by marking voters' fingers with indelible ink as they cast their ballot, as happens in some other countries' elections. However, in a number of districts, officials are said to have used the wrong marker pens—accidentally or otherwise—allowing voters to wash off the ink and return to the polling station, claiming to be someone else and seeking to vote again.
Even before polling day, fears of electoral fraud were strong because of the unexpectedly high rates of voter registration in some districts, suggesting that many people had registered under more than one name. Despite shaky security across much of the country, 10.5m people signed up, or almost exactly the UN's estimate of the total electorate. Besides multiple registration, it is likely there was also some registration of children and of non-Afghans. In Paktia province, registration reached a near-miraculous 170% of the electoral body's target, whereas in southern Zabul, where the Taliban roam, it was only 55%.
That said, the UN's estimate had been a pretty rough one, based on a 1979 census taken before a war in which 2m died and one-third of the population was displaced. So there might genuinely be more voters than it had thought. As long as the mix-ups with the marker pens were not widespread, most of those with multiple registrations should have only been able to vote once. Providing no evidence of other widespread ballot-tampering emerges, there is a fair chance that most Afghans will accept the eventual result.
The inquiry delayed the start of vote-counting by several days. However, given that some ballot boxes are having to be brought down from the Hindu Kush mountains by donkey, it was always going to take about three weeks to come up with a final result. Mr Karzai needs 51% of votes cast to avoid a run-off. An exit poll by the International Republican Institute, a Washington think-tank, suggested he would win by a landslide.
America had backed Mr Karzai as interim president after it launched an invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attacks. That invasion toppled the Taliban government, which had been harbouring Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda fighters. Though the Taliban are still launching regular attacks, and much of the country remains under the control of heavily armed warlords, most Afghans are now happier and more hopeful than they were under the former regime. Three million refugees have flooded back to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan.
Getting by with a little help from his friends - Mr Karzai is from the Pushtun ethnic group, the country's largest, which has traditionally ruled the country. He has managed to hold together its patchwork of fiercely independent ethnic groups and tribes. His struggle to impose a bit of order on his chaotic country has been helped by generous western aid. It has also been aided by the presence of both an American-led force of 18,000, which is hunting down the remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and a separate, 8,000-strong NATO-led force, which is keeping the peace while a new Afghan national army and police force are built up and the warlords' private militia are disarmed. Progress has been slow but, in contrast with Iraq, the security outlook has improved a little.
Nevertheless, there is still a danger that Mr Karzai, assuming he wins, will use the continuing fear of attacks to justify once again postponing the parliamentary elections, which were supposed to have been held simultaneously with the presidential ballot but which are now set for April. Getting fair representation in parliament is especially important for Afghanistan's various ethnic minorities. But constituency boundaries have not yet been defined—and to achieve this, a more accurate electoral register will be needed.
Mr Karzai insisted at the weekend that there will be no more "horse-trading" in his government. He has recently begun to move, cautiously, against some of the less savoury warlords that he had previously felt obliged to bring onside by offering them powerful jobs. In July he dropped Mohammed Fahim, the defence minister and the man most likely to make international donors' toes curl, as his running mate. He also exploited a series of battles between warlords in western Afghanistan, bringing about the ousting of Herat's troublesome warlord-governor, Ismail Khan. However, given the country's complicated ethnic mix, some sort of alliance-building will be inevitable.
That most of the leading presidential contenders are likely to accept the eventual result is a serious blow for the Taliban, who are already reported to be having problems recruiting new members. But they remain a serious menace, financed by the profits from a resurgent opium trade, as are many of the warlords. Aid workers are still at great risk of being killed, and cannot operate at all in much of the south. Afghanistan is not quite the shining success that Mr Bush is claiming it to be in his own election campaign—though it looks a whole lot less ugly than Iraq.
Russia to join Central Asian security and integration organization
MOSCOW (AP) Russia will join the Central Asian Cooperation group, the Kremlin announced Saturday. The organization aims to promote security cooperation, political and economic integration among the former Soviet republics in the Central Asia region.
The group is due to meet this weekend in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Putin is to travel there en route home from a three-day visit to China. The Kremlin said Putin had directed that Russia sign a protocol on joining the Central Asian group.
``The protocol foresees the further strengthening and development of the multifaceted cooperation and joint action in all spheres between the Russian Federation and the states of Central Asia, based on the relations of friendship and good-neighborliness that have come to exist among our countries,'' the Kremlin said.
Russia has increased its engagement in formerly Soviet Central Asia since U.S. troops arrived in the region. Moscow opened an air base in Kyrgyzstan last year its first new base abroad since the Soviet collapse and is scheduled to inaugurate a new military base in Tajikistan on Sunday. Kyrgyzstan and neighboring Uzbekistan both host U.S.-led bases, set up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to support combat operations in nearby Afghanistan.
Russia signs deal on new military base in Tajikistan
The News International, Pakistan
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an agreement on Saturday to cement Moscow’s military presence in the former Soviet republic of Tajikistan, establishing a permanent base for troops that have been deployed in the country since before the Soviet collapse.
After talks with Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov, the two presidents signed the deal on the long-delayed plans for the base for Russia’s 5,000-strong 201st Motorized Rifle Division. The 201st fought in Afghanistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion and retreated to Tajikistan in 1989.
Putin said the base deal and other bilateral agreements "allowed both sides to bring our interaction to the level of strategic partnership," according to Russia’s ITAR-Tass news agency.
"Russia and Tajikistan are unanimous that the stable functioning of the Russian base and its strengthening - and we intend to strengthen our military presence in Tajikistan - will be a guarantee not only of the stability of Russian investment in Tajikistan but also of the stability of Tajikistan itself,’’ Putin said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
As part of the deal, Russia agreed to forgive $330 million (euro 266 million) in debt and pledged investments from government and private sources over the next five years of some $2 billion (euro 1.6 billion) - most going to two large hydroelectric stations and an aluminum factory.
Rakhmonov praised the deal as "lifting a weight" from impoverished Tajikistan and fostering future economic development. The Dushanbe base is part of Russia’s attempts to reassert its influence in strategic, energy-rich Central Asia in response to the United States’ higher profile in the region since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America.
US troops are deployed across the region for operations in neighbouring Afghanistan. Last year, Russia opened a base in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan - its first base abroad since the Soviet collapse.
Tajikistan and Russia have been negotiating on the base for months, with talks believed to have been delayed by Tajik demands for payment. The two presidents hammered out a final deal over the summer.
The unit’s commanders will be based in Dushanbe, while some troops will also be posted in two other cities, Kulyab and Kurgan-Tyube.
Free of Taliban's Yoke, 2 Afghan Women Rise Again
By AMY WALDMAN October 17, 2004 The New York Times
HERAT, Afghanistan - The first sign of change is a sign, posted on the brown mud exterior wall of Soheila Helal's house and garden to announce her private courses. When the Taliban controlled this western city, Ms. Helal had to teach in secret. Now she is free to advertise.
Nearly three years ago, days after the Taliban left the city ending almost six years of repressive rule, Ms. Helal was one of a host of women interviewed by The New York Times. They recounted lives cloistered and hopes curtailed through days that blurred to months, then years.
In late summer, Ms. Helal and one other woman, Kobra Zeithi - the two who could be traced - were interviewed again, as the country prepared for its first presidential election. Ms. Zeithi works for Habitat, the United Nations Center for Human Settlement. Ms. Helal, in addition to her home courses, has returned to teaching at a government school, and to pursuing a university degree, activities that were forbidden for women under the Taliban.
They are just two women among millions, illustrative of the resurrection of the urban, educated women who were most oppressed by the Taliban. Their stories are perhaps typical of those found in Herat, a prosperous city with a culture of literature and learning that extends back centuries, but much less so of the rest of Afghanistan, where 80 percent of women cannot read and do not work outside the home.
They represent perhaps the best hope for women who remain bound by illiteracy, tradition and religion.
Change will come as a result of the education transmitted to the girls and women who walk through Ms. Helal's front door to learn. It will come through the metaphorical back door that Ms. Zeithi sees as essential even in a post-Taliban society: development programs that empower women without uttering a word about women's empowerment.
"It is difficult to bring change immediately, to change the Afghan people suddenly," Ms. Zeithi said. "But it is possible to bring change gradually and slowly, by keeping traditions, by keeping religion."
The first glimpse of Ms. Zeithi speaks of change: she sits in mixed company, at a coeducational workshop in the Habitat garden where the women are boldly challenging the man ostensibly running things. The Taliban had allowed Habitat to function, but forced the women to move to a separate office. Now they again work together.
Ms. Zeithi brims with confidence, health and strength, much as she did almost three years ago. She is now Habitat's Herat district manager and an adviser on women's issues.
"We can work freely, comfortably now" with men, she said. Her 18-year-old daughter, who had been sent to nursing school against her will under the Taliban because that was the only educational opportunity available for girls, is studying economics at a university.
Ms. Zeithi said she could go anywhere provided she wore the Islamic veil, or hijab. This is her duty under Islam, she said.
"Maybe others think freedom means wearing pants, but I think women can participate in every aspect of social work," she said. "If I can go with others and give my views, that's what matters. That's freedom - if I can participate in the political, economic and social life."
She is well aware of how much has not changed for most Afghan women. Every day illiterate women come to her house seeking help finding jobs. Most of her work involves the National Solidarity Program, a World Bank-backed project that provides $20,000 grants to villages for projects they identify.
Villages are supposed to hold elections for men's and women's councils to decide how to use the money, but sometimes, Ms. Zeithi said, "we cannot find any literate woman."
But she has become a fervent believer in the program, less for the monetary benefits it bestows than for the social transformation she sees it creating. She has watched women who once would not leave their homes sit in meetings and discuss their district's problems.
"Nothing will be done by force - by pushing. If we go to a village and discuss what their rights are with the women, it will have a bad effect, especially with the men."
Under the Taliban, Ms. Zeithi was exquisitely attuned to her context, pressing for small concessions for women, but never pushing so hard that the Taliban prohibited her from working. The context is different today, but she is equally sensitive to it.
The restrictions on women now come from the men in their families, some of whom seem to have internalized the Taliban's dictates, many of whom are simply following the practices of generations. She sees no gain in trying to shatter the culture.
It is better, she said, to create a structure that mobilizes people through discussion and consultation. That was what she said the National Solidarity Program had done through mandating the election of men's and women's councils - and requiring that each council's proposed projects be subject to the approval of the other council.
Women are coming up with their own projects now, she said, and coming to her for help with how to carry them out. They are learning about how to work the network of government and nongovernmental organizations, and are even seeking microloans from aid groups on their own.
"One hundred percent this is the way change will happen," she said.
That, and through education, she said. In villages, men and women are clamoring for schools and better-educated teachers, she said. Across Afghanistan, the level of education is gradually rising. There are facilities for studying and training, and chances to study abroad.
"These make me optimistic," she said.
Ms. Helal is optimistic, too, not least because of the older women who show up at her door - having been transported by obliging, even eager husbands and brothers - to learn to read.
Girls as well as boys crowd into her basement classroom, and she no longer needs to school them in how to lie to the Taliban about it.
Ms. Helal's husband died as the Taliban came to power, so the family lost its male breadwinner just as women were prohibited from being breadwinners. The secret teaching helped her support her three children. It also helped, she said in an interview days after the Taliban left Herat in 2001, to keep her sane.
Now, Ms. Helal seems a woman making up for lost years. Back at the government school, she starts each morning at 7, then heads home to teach private courses. After that, she is off to the university, where she is in the third year of earning her bachelor's degree, under a government program created to send teachers back to college.
"Knowledge is a river," she said. "Whatever you take is not enough." Her school had nominated her to be deputy director, but she turned it down. "I am sure if I get my degree they will offer me director."
Back home, at 4 p.m., some 100 students wait for her extra instruction. After 5, the professional work is done, and the housework begins.
"She's very tired," said her son, Haris, 19.
She must earn enough to keep Haris, an engineering student, in college. She wants her daughter, Ghazal, 16, who helps with the home school, to attend a university as well.
"My son is studying," she said with pride. "If I do not work like this, how can we eat? How can we survive?" She dreams that he will be able to go abroad.
The Taliban have been banished from her memory as determinedly as they were cleansed from the city.
"Nothing remained," she said. "We have completely forgotten it."
"War has destroyed our traditional culture," says Afghanistan culture minister
www.chinaview.cn 2004-10-16 22:31:33
SHANGHAI, Oct. 16 (Xinhuanet) -- "War has destroyed our traditional culture," said Seeed Makhdoom Rahim, minister for Information and Culture of Afghanistan, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua here Saturday.
At the concluding of the 7th Annual Ministerial Meeting of the International Network on Cultural Policy (INCP), Rahim, who headedthe delegation to the meeting for the first time, expressed his strong wish for peace and stability in his country, which has endured years of violence, terror and instability.
Cultural infrastructure including national museums, exhibition hall, art gallery and theaters, has been destroyed, and thousands of sculptures embodying the highest state of ancient civilization have been demolished.
Although many countries and international organizations have offered to extend aid to cultural relics recovery work in Afghanistan, most of the programs were still just promises, as faras Rahim knows.
"Afghanistan lost many professionals on traditional culture andheritage during the war, which makes it even more difficult to revive traditional culture," he said.
Rahim said the new Afghan government is taking active measures to restore destroyed historical sites and salvage cultural heritage. "However, the budget for the revival of traditional culture is very tight because the new government faces reconstruction of all aspects of society."
He said his government had already received aid from the UnitedNations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)and some friendly countries, expressing his hope that the international community will support Afghanistan's reconstructionwork.
Rahim said Afghanistan will continue to join INCP annual meeting in the future, making efforts to revive the country's traditional culture through sharing experience with other countries.
Twenty-one ministers of culture, 18 observing members, and representatives from six international organizations participated in the two-day meeting, which was cosponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Shanghai Municipal government.
They discussed three main themes during the meeting: traditional cultures and modernization; international convention on cultural diversity; and emerging cultural policy trends and issues.
The INCP, founded in 1998, is an informal, international venue where national ministers responsible for culture can explore and conferred on new and emerging cultural policy issues and to develop strategies to promote cultural diversity. It has now 63 member states.
Jordan Cancels Afghan Show Amid Threats
Sat Oct 16, 2:37 PM ET By JAMAL HALABY, Associated Press Writer
AMMAN, Jordan - Despite a weeklong advertising blitz, Jordan canceled plans Saturday to broadcast a soap opera about Afghanistan after an Internet threat against everyone from actors to TV executives if the show portrayed the Taliban in a negative light.
The series — "Al-Tareeq ila Kabul," Arabic for "The Road to Kabul" — chronicles life under Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers and was to be aired during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began Friday in most Muslim countries.
The Middle East Broadcasting Corporation, based in Dubai, broadcast the first episode on Friday, and Jordanian television had promised the series would begin in the early days of Ramadan.
On Thursday, Jordanian television officials said the broadcast might be postponed for a few days because of technical problems. But on Saturday they canceled plans to show it.
The broadcast was "suspended indefinitely upon a request from its producer, the Qatari television," Abdul-Halim Araibyat, director general of the state Jordan Radio and Television Corp. told The Associated Press.
He said Jordan's decision to suspend the show was due only to the Qatari request and not to the threat. He didn't know why the producers asked for the suspension and phones rang unanswered at Qatari television.
MBC was scheduled to air the second episode Saturday night, but it was unclear whether it would go ahead with the broadcast. No other Arabic television stations commented on the Qatari request.
The threat appeared Thursday on a Web site known as a clearinghouse for Muslim militant statements. Its authenticity could not be independently verified.
"We swear to the great God that if we see in the series anything other than the honorable reality of the Taliban ... we will assault all those who participated in this sullied malice," the statement read.
"We will strike, God willing, the centers of satellite stations, their correspondents ... and we swear that nobody will slip from our hands — if not today, then tomorrow, and if not tomorrow, then in a month, or a year," it said.
"We direct our strong warning to all who participated in producing this series, whether an actor, producer or cameraman," the statement added.
Talal Adnan al-Awamleh, owner of the Jordanian firm that produced the series, said it was filmed mainly in Jordan and most of the cast was Jordanian. But he said Jordan didn't take it off the air.
"Jordan is not responsible for suspending the broadcast. It's the Qataris who have issued a statement to all the stations that bought it, asking them to suspend broadcast on unspecified technical and information grounds," he said.
He said Jordan had no choice but to obey the producers.
"The Qataris are responsible for distributing it and the issue of broadcast or suspended broadcast is up to them," he said.
The much-anticipated series portrays life in Afghanistan since the Soviet occupation, including the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States and the subsequent U.S.-led invasion of the country, Awamleh said.
Other producers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the series revolves around an Afghan woman who goes to England to study and falls in love with an Arab man there.
She returns to her native country, where she faces pressure from the hard-line Taliban rulers, who force her to wear an all-enveloping burqa and prevent her from working, they said.
They said the series also depicts internal feuds among the Taliban but does not rebuke the thousands of Arabs who went to fight alongside the Taliban against the Soviets.
"The Road to Kabul" was filmed in Jordan, Pakistan and Cambridge, England, at a cost of $3 million, Awamleh said.
"It gives an objective overview of life in that country at different times," he said.
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