2ND Phase of Poppy Eradication Begins in Afghanistan's Laghman
Friday April 15, 8:33 AM Asia Pulse
JALALABAD, April 15 Asia Pulse - The second phase of poppy eradication has begun in the eastern province of Laghman in the mountainous region of the province.
The area could not be cleared of poppy earlier as it was snowbound. According to the officials, the areas which could not be covered in the first phase of the program were the Daulat Shah and Alishang districts. "Earlier there was snow, the approach was blocked and we were not able to destroy the poppies at the time. Now the way is open and we can destroy them", Zalmai Mazloomyar the spokesman of the security police of Laghman.
However, people in the area are not so happy with the process. Mohammadullah a farmer whose crop has been destroyed complained "the Government should rebuild our bridges, roads, dams and help us to get chemical fertilizer first and only then must it destroy the poppy".
"Officials have promised to do all this but failed to fulfill their promise. We are jobless. If we don't sow poppy, what should we do for a living" he asked.
Shah Mohammad Safi Harzal, the Governor of the province said "we have reconstruction projects in hand which will provide jobs. In near future we will have some more projects and we'll try to keep everyone employed."
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
AFGHANISTAN: Protest against opium eradication
14 Apr 2005 15:16:07 GMT
KANDAHAR, 14 April (IRIN) - The poppy eradication campaign in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar was interrupted on Wednesday by an armed encounter between police and protesters, local authorities told IRIN.
The clash came a day after hundreds of people in the Maiwand district, 70 km southwest Kandahar city, had showed their anger in a demonstration against a government campaign to destroy poppy fields in the troubled province, which is one of the leading poppy cultivating provinces in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, protesters reportedly gathered in front of the district headquarters, throwing stones at police officers. According to the Ministry of the Interior (MoI), four farmers and one police officer were injured during clashes between protesters and the Central Poppy Eradication Force (CPEF).
Dozens of villagers gathered and started throwing stones at the poppy eradication force and then both sides opened fire with assault rifles, local police said.
Early reports indicated that six demonstrators and two police were injured. Local media reported that one villager was killed in the encounter, but there has been no official confirmation of the death.
The United Nations has warned that Afghanistan is in danger of turning into a narco-state after the country produced 4,600 mt of opium in 2004, which accounted for more than 80 percent of the world's illicit heroin.
Responding to keen international pressure, the Afghan government is aiming for a 50 percent reduction in illegal opium output in 2005. The government hopes to achieve this through a combination of eradication of the growing crop and assisting growers to find alternative sustainable livelihoods.
But this target will be hard to achieve in such a short space of time, Western diplomats in the capital Kabul have told IRIN.
Hikmatullah, a poppy grower in Maiwand, told IRIN that the government had promised to provide farmers like himself with alternative livelihoods in conjunction with eradication of the plant. "But it did not happen and they came to destroy our valuable crop without any compensation or assistance to find other ways of surviving."
The angry farmer said that he had tried to stop cultivating poppy in 2004, hoping to get some assistance from the government or aid agencies. "We are poor people and we cannot feed our children if the government does not support," he said.
Local security forces said they had given the farmers due warning that selective eradication of the illegal crop would soon commence in the district. "We had already informed the people not to cultivate the poppy, and that we would eradicate poppy fields," Abdul Rahman, deputy of the police anti-narcotics department in Kandahar, told IRIN.
The incident in Mainwand was the first public reported protest against government poppy eradication campaigns in the east and south of the country in 2005.
In Kandahar province, Rahman admitted that the authorities had not offered poppy farmers any incentives to desist in growing the plant due to a lack of resources.
Kandahar police said the eradication operation was suspended until further talks with local people. According to the MoI, Kandahar governor Gul Agha Shirzoi has been in constant contact with community leaders in the Maiwand District to negotiate a way forward in the dispute.
New generation of Afghan midwives fights 'silent tsunami'
KABUL, April 14 (AFP) - The first generation of professional midwives to undergo full training has graduated in Afghanistan, where maternal and child mortality are the worst in the world, officials said.
In all, 138 female trainees from more than 20 provinces completed a two-year course at the Afghan institute of health science, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Aga Khan Development Network.
"Fifty to 70 mothers die every day from birth complications, which is a silent tsunami for Afghanistan," public health minister Mohammed Amin Fatimi told the graduation ceremony late Wednesdsay.
According to a United Nations report, a mother dies from birth complications every 30 minutes in Afghanistan and maternal mortality rates are 60 times higher than in developed countries.
Almost all Afghan women give birth at home, but only eight percent get help from a trained birth attendant. Due to traditional and cultural restrictions male doctors or health attendants cannot help women give birth.
More than 250 out of 1,000 children die before the age of five in Afghanistan, while in France it is five out of 1,000, according to the World Health Organisation.
"Afghanistan has the world's highest maternal and child mortality rates," Edward Carwardine, the United Nations Children's Fund spokesman in Afghanistan, told AFP.
Afghanistan would eventually need 8,000 to 10,000 midwives, Fatimi said.
By the end of April another 90 midwives will graduate from similar courses in northern Balkh and western Herat provinces, which will take the number of new trainees to 228, according to a USAID statement.
Some 830 new midwives are expected to be trained by the year 2006 under a USAID grant of 6.7 million dollars and additional funds from the Aga Khan's organisation.
Graduate Shakeela Abdali said: "It is our day today and we are glad that here with us comes another batch of health messengers, for whom thousands of mothers have waited so long."
Two and a half decades of war has left Afghanistan suffering in all walks of life, especially in security, economy and health.
Pakistan covers its bets on the US
By Syed Saleem Shahzad / Asia Times Online / April 14, 2005
KARACHI - With the US playing a carrot and stick game and Pakistan playing hide and seek over its nuclear program - past and present - the two sides are developing a relationship based on mutual interests, although Pakistan is developing alternative choices.
The US is increasing pressure on Pakistan over its proliferation history, seeking to establish conclusive evidence that Iran is committed to a nuclear weapons program, while at the same time offering Islamabad - a key ally in the "war on terror" - inducements such as F-16s fighters.
Pressure on Pakistan has risen since the arrest last year of Asher Karni, a 51-year-old Hungarian-born Israeli and South African businessman, in the US on charges of violating American export laws. He was accused of exporting "triggered spark gap" devices. These are used for medical purposes, but can also, when installed into an enriched uranium casing, ignite a nuclear explosion.
During interrogation Karni revealed links with an underworld mafia operating in Pakistan and India. Despite giving details of unlawful shipments to India, no charges were brought against any Indian, but Asia Times Online contacts say that his evidence will be used to target Pakistan.
In the coming days the US is expected to formally ask Pakistan to help bring a Pakistani businessmen, Humayun Khan, to the US for investigation. Karni came up with Khan's name in connection with arranging shipments to Pakistan. Investigations will also be reopened into Pakistani scientist Bashiruddin Mehmood.
In late 2001, US officials investigating the activities of Osama bin Laden discovered that the al-Qaeda head had contacted some Pakistani nuclear experts for assistance in making a small nuclear device. US officials sought two veteran Pakistani nuclear scientists, in particular, Bashiruddin Mehmood and Abdul Majid, for interrogation. The two admitted to working in Afghanistan in recent years, but said they had only been providing "charitable assistance" to Afghans.
Old wine in new bottles
Since news of Pakistan's nuclear proliferation officially broke last year with the father of the country's program, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitting to proliferation, albeit in a "personal capacity", the US has laid siege to Pakistan's nuclear program. It has been learned that before a major non-proliferation treaty (NPT) conference in May, new pressures will be mounted exclusively on Pakistan to sign the NPT, which would allow the UN's watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to closely inspect Pakistan's nuclear sites. However, Pakistan has officially refused to sign the NPT.
Up to a point, Pakistan has extended maximum cooperation to international agencies and provided them with evidence and material sources to investigate the nuclear underworld. However, Pakistan has point-blank refused to allow any external investigation into Khan (who is under house arrest), former chief of army staff Mirza Aslam Beg and former Pakistani president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Instead, Pakistan has passed on details of interviews with these people to concerned international authorities, including the IAEA and US authorities.
Pakistan's strategic circles are now debating how to deal with demands for further assistance.
A case in point is Bashiruddin Mehmood. He was linked with the Taliban government in Afghanistan to develop agro-projects in Afghanistan through his non-governmental organization, but he was thought to have assisted al-Qaeda in acquiring nuclear weapons. He was immediately taken into custody. On US demands, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation kept Bashiruddin Mehmood at a private location in Pakistan for interrogation. He was released after no links were found to developing nuclear weapons for al-Qaeda.
In the meantime, US agencies conducted investigations and inquiries with al-Qaeda detainees, and recovered documents from Kabul and Jalalabad. They concluded that al-Qaeda's focus to acquire nuclear material and weapons was on renegade scientists of Russia and the Central Asian Republics. Nevertheless, their focus remained on Pakistan, and they still want to pursue this avenue.
A similar US mindset appeared when Iran's possible nuclear weapons program came under the spotlight.
Certainly, elements of nuclear cooperation have been traced between Pakistan and Iran, but indigenous Iranian efforts and non-Pakistani sources are also involved. Recently, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington-based anti-nuclear proliferation group, divulged that Iran had established a facility called Kalaye Electric in 1995. The Persian name, which means "electric goods", was apparently chosen to mislead people about the real purpose of the site.
A US news agency quoted the institute's deputy director, Corey Hinderstein, who researched the Iranian site, as saying, "They have been using the site to research, develop and manufacture gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment." The centrifuges can also be used for enriching weapons-grade uranium. Hinderstein categorically mentioned that Iran also had "developed an indigenous capability to manufacture centrifuges". The fact is well documented by international agencies, yet all the focus of investigations is on the Pakistani side.
The great Asian game
At a time when the US, China and India have well-defined economic interests, strategic experts in Rawalpindi once again cling to their own theory of "greater Central Asia" with regard to the strategic depth that they feel will help them against US and Indian designs in the region.
In the past, Pakistan was obsessed with cultivating former Soviet Muslim states through its Islamic ideology and establishing a "brotherhood", including Afghanistan. After September 11, everything was turned upside down, notably Pakistan having to abandon the Taliban, which it had nurtured.
In hurriedly arranged visits, Musharraf has recently not only signed agreements on anti-terror with former Soviet Muslim states, he has also handed over several operators arrested in Pakistan. Several military deals are secretly in the pipeline, including joint exercises and the sale and purchase of military hardware. Pakistan has already handed over a map to Central Asian Republic states for a trade route, of which Gwadar's warm waters will be the centrifugal point. (See China's pearl in Pakistan's waters, Mar 4.)
The pace of these developments between the Central Asian states and Pakistan has been so rapid over the past three months that the US has been stunned.
A sop of F-16s was dished out to Pakistan, while at the same time pressure was renewed on exposing its proliferation mafia, and with a revived possible al-Qaeda link.
Asia Times Online has learned that Islamabad will continue to defy US pressure, while attempting to minimize its dependency on the US - even though the US still needs Pakistan assistance to keep Iran on the hook, and the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan under constant pressure.
Conventional wisdom has it that Pakistan has to rely on US aid, but its economic managers are drawing up an aggressive strategy to lessen this reliance. They have prepared a road map for privatization over the next five years in which major national assets, including in the power sector, telecom and even the national airline, will be sold off. They also plan to lay the foundations for complete liberalization leading to a full market economy, which will generate huge revenues for the state without sharing any liabilities. In terms of this grand plan, mostly Gulf-based companies will be encouraged to invest. Several have already arrived, while many more will come.
"Leave it to me and I will not let Pakistan surrender to the US or India." President General Pervez Musharraf pledged to Kashmiri leaders in a briefing in Rawalpindi recently, after which they all came out with smiles on their faces.
What Pakistan has developed as an alternative strategy to wean itself from the US is a gamble, whether in the field of economics or in the field of courting former Soviet states. But for the time being, it has forced the US to hang around on Pakistan's terms.
Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan, Asia Times Online.
US discusses Pakistani terror war
BBC News / Thursday, 14 April, 2005
US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has held talks in Pakistan with President Musharraf on the operation against militants in South Waziristan.
Mr Rumsfeld arrived in Pakistan for a brief visit as part of his Asian tour. The US consulate in Karachi was closed during his stay due to security fears.
The US is happy with Pakistan's efforts to clear areas close to Afghanistan of militants, a BBC correspondent says.
The US reaffirmed offers of military aid, Pakistani officials said.
"He said the US would be stepping up support to meet Pakistan's legitimate defence needs," they added in a statement.
Officials said these included the proposed sale of F16 fighter aircraft to Pakistan as well as Islamabad's request for the purchase of other US military hardware.
Mr Rumsfeld - who has now left Pakistan - acknowledged the heavy casualties Pakistani troops have suffered since the start of the South Waziristan operation early last year.
The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says that Mr Rumsfeld's visit served as a reminder of the American desire to maintain a close strategic relationship with Pakistan.
Soon after his arrival, he went into extensive talks with General Pervez Musharraf, who is regarded by President Bush as one of America's most trusted allies in the region.
Officials said the ongoing security operation against al-Qaeda and its local support base in the tribal region of south Waziristan was the main topic of discussion.
Our correspondent says that the US is quite pleased with the way the Pakistani security forces have cleared large parts of the border region from Arab, Uzbek and other foreign and local militants.
Washington has also acknowledged the heavy casualties Pakistani troops have suffered since the start of the operation early last year.
But Pakistani officials say with a new wave of armed attacks by the Taleban in neighbouring Afghanistan, the United States wants Islamabad to spread its security operation through the entire border region.
It is not clear if in their meeting in Islamabad the two sides agreed on expanding the security operation to other border areas to deny Taleban fighters a safe refuge inside Pakistani territory.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Rumsfeld met the Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul.
After their talks Mr Karzai said his country wanted a long-term security relationship with the United States.
ADB project to bring electricity to poor in rural towns of Afghanistan
Source: Asian Development Bank (ADB) 14 Apr 2005
MANILA, PHILIPPINES (14 April 2005) - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a US$50 million loan and grant assistance package for a power supply improvement project that will help improve the living conditions of about 1.2 million poor people in rural Afghanistan.
A highly concessional $26.5 million loan will finance the construction of 206 kilometers of a 110kV transmission network, while a $23.5 million grant will finance the construction and rehabilitation of associated substations and low-voltage distribution systems.
The project will cover 11 rural towns - Breshna Kot, Imam Sahib, Jalalabad, Khan Abad, Mehtarlam, Muhammad Agha, Puli Alam, Qarghayi, Sarepul, Surobi, and Taluqan - as well as adjacent rural areas in the northern, eastern, and southern provinces of Afghanistan.
More than 90,000 households, most of whom are poor, will be connected to the grid once the project is completed. The project will also offer about 18,000 electricity connection kits with affordable and flexible payment options.
"Access to electricity is essential for economic growth," says Sohail Hasnie, an ADB Senior Energy Specialist. "It will also help improve learning opportunities for children, allow home-based businesses to expand into small-scale commercial or industrial operations, and result in net savings to customers as electricity is cheaper than kerosene and fuelwood."
Years of conflict have severely damaged Afghanistan's power generation, transmission, and distribution systems, leaving most of the country's 28 million people with no access to reliable, modern forms of energy such as electricity, gas, and liquid fuels.
Only about 9% of the country has access to electricity. The country has no national transmission grid, and the overall condition of lines is very poor. Distribution systems are stretched beyond their technical and economic lives, and substations and low-voltage distribution networks have been either destroyed or are overloaded.
The project's components are the most critical ones in the Government's power master plan. The project also complements an earlier ADB project that is rehabilitating and reconstructing damaged transmission lines and substations in the north for importing power from neighboring countries.
A $750,000 technical assistance grant accompanies the project to strengthen project management, planning, design, implementation, and operation and maintenance of the Ministry of Energy and Water, the executing agency for the project.
As Afghanistan one of the poorest post-conflict countries in the Asia and Pacific region, Afghanistan is eligible for grants from ADB's concessional Asian Development Fund. ADB's loan and grant, both from ADF, will therefore finance the entire project cost of $50 million. Special terms will also be applied to the loan. It carries a 40-year term, including a 10-year grace period with 1% interest charge throughout the term, to be capitalized during the grace period and charged to the loan account.
The project is due for completion in June 2008.
The Asian Development Bank is dedicated to reducing poverty in the Asia and Pacific region through pro-poor sustainable economic growth, social development, and good governance. Established in 1966, it is owned by 63 members, with 45 from the region.
16 Afghan Movies to be Shown in German Film Festival
Friday April 15, 8:18 AM Asia Pulse
KABUL, April 15 Asia Pulse - Afghanistan will be well-represented in a film festival beginning in Germany on Thursday where 16 Afghan films will be screened over a week.
Afghan films were once popular in the region, but the Afghan film industry could not survive the years of war even before film was banned as unIslamic by the Taliban. However in the past three years since the fall of the Taliban Afghan film makers have been producing a number of films to critical acclaim.
Well-known film maker Siddiq Barmak, whose film 'Osama' about a young girl's struggle for survival captured international imagination, said "the festival is to show and introduce Afghan films not to compare them with others". Barmak himself has two movies being shown in the festival. He said that the movies being shown in the festival were chosen to represent Afghanistan's film history from its inception.
Movies such as Ishq-o-Dosti the first Afghan movie, 'Osama', Se Noqta, Khak-o-Khakestar, Begana, Daira and some other films have been chosen for the festival show.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Operation Minesweeper sweeps up more than mines
April 13, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Afghan National Army and Coalition forces uncovered more than just mines during Operation Minesweeper in western Afghanistan—it netted a person believed to be involved in anti-Coalition attacks.
Operation Minesweeper was conducted by soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Kandak of the Afghan National Army. The one-day operation focused on detaining members of insurgent organizations in the Herat and Shindand area, where recent violent action has been directed against ANA and Coalition forces.
The person detained in the operation, whose name is not available for release, is described as a possible cell leader for a local group, a Task Force Longhorn official said.
The individual’s location was determined from information gathered by the ANA and was acted upon by the ANA and Coalition forces.
“The Afghan National Army conducted the actual searches and detained the individual,” said TF Longhorn Duty Officer Capt. Paul Peterson. “It was a combined effort with Coalition forces’ military police providing outer security and the ANA searching houses for the individual.”
The ANA searched a total of three compounds and discovered an anti-personnel mine, eight 122 mm artillery rounds and four grenade fuses.
Kabul street children may lose 'nest'
By Tom Coghlan in Kabul BBC News / Wednesday, 13 April, 2005
Afghanistan's internationally renowned charity for street children, Aschiana, survived the Afghan wars of the 1990s and the Taleban era.
However, the free market economics of Kabul's post-war boom now seem a more potent enemy than rockets and bombs.
Aschiana, which means "the nest" and provides support, food, education and a refuge to 10,000 street children, faces the closure of its main centre in Kabul.
It is the victim of rocketing rents and land prices rather than artillery.
The charity's compound on Char Rahi Malik Asghar, which it has occupied since 1997, has been sold by its owner to an international company.
A five-star hotel will be built on the site.
Kabul is a city in the grip of a housing boom that has seen the price of real estate soar to levels comparable with Western cities.
The three-acre Aschiana plot, close to the main government ministries, is believed to be worth around $5m.
A small class of wealthy Afghan entrepreneurs and international companies have been the prime beneficiaries of the boom.
"Our rent for this site was $1,500 a month," says Aschiana's director and founder, Engineer Mohammed Yousef.
"We have been looking for alternative sites but rents in the centre of the city are too expensive now."
Much smaller sites further from the city centre, where most of the street children gravitate, now cost around $10,000 a month in rent.
Kabul has about 50,000 children working on its streets.
Many lost their parents during Afghanistan's 24-year conflict and they are often to be seen banded together and scavenging through rubbish.
Many make a meagre living polishing shoes or selling water, chewing gum or newspapers to drivers at busy junctions.
They often show the tell-tale, disfiguring scars of the parasite Leishmaniasis, which lays its eggs under the skin of those who live on the streets.
As well as sexual abuse and domestic violence, children at the centre have often suffered high levels of psychological trauma during the wars.
The early lives of many of the street children were dominated by the protracted siege of Kabul in the 1990s when random rocketing and gunfire by various militias killed an estimated 20,000 civilians.
Today children at the centre are still engaged in classes in art, music, dance, computing, sport and basic literacy.
"I don't want to tell the children that we are closing," says Engineer Yousef, above the sound of chainsaws.
Workmen have arrived to begin felling the trees in the courtyard where the children play games.
In a classroom learning mathematics, an 11-year-old boy called Hamed says his ambition is to become a doctor.
Previously, he was a refugee in Pakistan where his family fled after the death of his father.
Hamed says he makes 50 Afghans a day, the equivalent of $1, selling bottles of water on the street before coming to the Aschiana centre.
He hopes to progress enough in his studies to go to a normal school.
A total of 661 children from Aschiana's centres were reintegrated into normal schooling last month.
In a classroom of 30 girls studying basic literacy, the walls are adorned with posters of different mines and cluster bombs.
Next door a class of girls is learning dress-making while in another part of the compound children practise still-life drawing.
The children come in during the day in shifts to maximise the number benefiting.
Aschiana is famed for its art and music. Many of the pictures painted by the children are sold, with half the money going to the artist and half to help fund the charity.
In the centre's music room, professional musicians are taking raucous singing classes with the children before heading off to earn their living at weddings and parties in the evenings.
Aschiana's director is certain the main centre for 800 children will close at the end of June.
Another of Aschiana's six centres in Kabul, this one for 400 children, is also closing because of rent.
The charity relies on a mixture of money from the European Community, World Bank and numerous smaller donors such as the British charity Friends of Aschiana.
Last year, Aschiana survived on $3 per child, per month.
With Kabul's voracious housing market making it ever harder for such organisations to function, that amount looks likely to drop further.
In a rare expression of his frustration, Engineer Yousef says: "Despite the problems that were faced during the Taleban era, Aschiana managed to continue to function.
"This will be a shame on the international community and the government of Afghanistan if we have to abandon the children now.
"The international community has said it is here to help Afghanistan and its people to a better future. The children of Afghanistan are that future."
Al-Qaeda Vows Jihad Against US-Led Forces in Afghanistan
Thursday April 14, 3:18 PM Asia Pulse
KUNAR, April 14 Asia Pulse - Al-Qaeda's former finance manager Dr Aminul Haq on Wednesday ruled out any negotiations with the US-backed Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai.
In a letter sent from an unknown location to Pajhwok Afghan News, Dr Aminul Haq vowed the al-Qaeda would push ahead with a stout armed resistance to the presence of foreign troops (US-led coalition forces) in Afghanistan.
In the letter bearing his signature, Haq urged all "mujahideen to keep up the holy war against the foreign forces" till they were driven from the war-wrecked country.
An Afghan by origin, Dr Aminul Haq figures prominently on the most wanted US list, and had close relations with al-Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden during 'jihad' days.
Because of his deep links to the Saudi dissident, Haq was chosen al-Qaeda's finance manager. He has been in hiding since Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.
After a huge military operation in the eastern Tora-Bora mountain range in Nangarhar province, once regarded as an al-Qaeda redoubt near the Pakistan-Afghan border, the CIA issued a list of most wanted members of the alleged terrorist network including Dr Haq.
Osama bin Laden, Dr Aiman Zawahiri, Dr Aminul Haq, Saqar al-Jadawi, Saif al-Adil, Suleman Abu Ghais, Abu Abdulrrahman (killed by Pakistani forces in South Wazirstan in 2004), Abu Hafas and Abu Atif were on the most wanted list.
Dr Aminul Haq asked Afghans to defy the American forces, take up arms and "mount a jihad in line with Islamic teachings. Afghans have defeated the Soviet forces with the power of Islam and vanquishing Washington is not difficult; what is needed is courage." He went on to stress there was no question of al-Qaeda entering negotiations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "Talks with people having no authority are meaningless," he observed.
In an interview published in Lios-al-Soghor (Lions of Caves) magazine, Aiman al-Zawahiri also asked Afghans and 'mujahideen' from other countries to launch a 'jihad' against the foreign forces in Afghanistan.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Afghanistan: Warlord attacks provincial disarmament team
KABUL, 14 April (IRIN) - Several police officers and militia troops were injured in a serious armed encounter in Lashkargah, the capital of the southern Helmand province, on Wednesday after a local a commander refused to surrender arms under a provincial government programme disarming illegal militias in the troubled province.
According to local authorities in Helmand the clashes happened when commander Khano, an infamous warlord in Lashkargah, attacked troops who had been assigned to disarm the commander's troops.
"We deployed more police to the scene and after serious skirmishes all Khano's troops were disarmed and arrested," Haji Mohammad Wali, a provincial spokesman in Helmand, told IRIN from Lashkargah.
He added that Khano himself was in hospital suffering from serious injuries. A local civil servant who declined to be named, told IRIN three gunmen loyal to Khano were killed during the fighting.
The disarming was ordered by provincial officials following a series of armed robberies and highway muggings in the province. Local authorities aim to disarm hundreds of militiamen to improve security in the province.
"This is separate from the UN [United Nations] DDR [Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of ex-combatants], we use the local police and there is no compensation for weapons confiscated," Wali said, adding that resistance from illegal armed groups was not uncommon as the disarmament was often carried out by force.
Like many southern provinces, Helmand suffers from insurgent attacks on government and aid bodies, which have slowed down the reconstruction process in the drought-affected region.
"This is very challenging but with current insecurity and armed robberies this kind of action [disarming illegal militias] is vital for stability in the province," Wali added.
With parliamentary elections slated for September, disarming the many local warlords who hold sway outside the capital is a pre-requisite for free and fair elections, President Hamid Karzai's government has said.
The UN has disarmed nearly 50,000 of an estimated 60,000 ex-combatants throughout the country since the DDR programme started in late 2003.
But the Afghan Ministry of Defence estimates that there are still more than 100,000 illegally armed gunmen, most loyal to warlords or local tribal chiefs, who also need to be disarmed.
More Dutch soldiers leave for Afghanistan next Monday
BRUSSELS, April 14 (Xinhua) -- The larger part of the special Afghanistan unit comprising 165 Dutch marines and commandos is leaving for their destination next Monday, Radio Netherlands reported Thursday.
They will be stationed in southeastern Afghanistan, where they are to help restore central authority. Their first task will be charting the situation in their assigned area. If necessary, they are also available for combat duties against al Qaeda or Taliban fighters.
Dutch Defense Minister Henk Kamp will be present at Eindhoven air base when the soldiers depart for Afghanistan, where they will spend four months as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
The special forces task group will primarily conduct reconnaissance and intelligence gathering missions, and may also be used in combat.
The Dutch government considers that the risks associated with the mission are justified in view of the importance of Operation Enduring Freedom and the specific training the troops have received.
Operation Enduring Freedom began on Oct. 7, 2001 under United States command with the objective of taking out Taliban military installations and al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The Netherlands has already made a contribution which included severalF-16 fighter aircraft and a navy frigate.
Afghan Toddler Dies Two Days After Surgery
World - AP Asia
KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan toddler sent to the United States for surgery to repair a life-threatening heart condition died in his father's arms Friday, two days after his joyful return home, the U.S. military announced.
Sixteen-month-old Qudratullah Wardak died at home in a refugee village outside the capital, Kabul, the military said. He had been treated at a children's hospital in Indianapolis after U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Rotary Club organization learned of his condition and his family's inability to find specialized care.
"This is a very sad day," the military statement said. "So many people, literally from around the world, came together to help this young Afghan boy."
The boy's death came as a surprise. Only Wednesday, he and his father were escorted by American troops back to their family tent in a muddy refugee camp next to an Afghan military barracks.
More than 100 adults and children from the camp were waiting and applauded wildly when the boy's father, Hakim Gul Wardak, emerged from a pickup truck clutching the boy, who looked plump and healthy.
The cause of the boy's death was not known, said Capt. Lisa Kopczynski, a National Guard spokeswoman in Indianapolis.
"Unfortunately, the Afghan culture does not allow for autopsies, so they are unable to officially determine the cause of death," she said.
The boy's long journey began in September, when an Indiana National Guard doctor examined him at the camp and found multiple heart defects, the worst being the reversal of the heart's main blood vessels that stunted the baby's growth.
He weighed about as much as a typical 5-month-old when he arrived in the United States in late February.
The child and his father had stayed in Indianapolis with a member of the Rotary Club, which helped cover the estimated $100,000 cost of the surgery.
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