Farmers in Southwestern Afghanistan Hit by Floods
Tuesday April 5, 1:03 PM Asia Pulse
KANDAHAR, April 5 Asia Pulse - More than 1000 acres of farmland has been flooded in Arghandab and Daichopan districts of the southwestern Zabul province, whose residents have urged the provincial government to provide them recompense.
Zabul officials confirmed on Monday the flooding were still persisting, and that they have been unable to control the situation. They claimed 600 tonnes of foodstuffs were being sent to the affected districts to help their inhabitants.
It will be pertinent to explain the flooding was triggered by the overflowing Arghandab River in the wake of the recent snowmelt in Uruzgan and Ghazni provinces, where mountains remain snow-capped to date.
Zabul is one of the southwestern provinces, whose residents are mostly reliant on farming and the floods can have a debilitating impact on their crops. As a result, the farmers have sought immediate government intervention to help them out of the ordeal.
One Arghandab resident Izzatullah, who hails from Siagaz village, was awaiting his turn to meet the Zabul governor. He had pictures of his flooded cropped lands; some of the photographs showed trees tumbling to the ground because of the mighty floods.
He told Pajhwok Afghan News: "The Arghandab River has flooded thousands of acres of land in Daichopan and Arghandab districts, playing havoc with the crops and causing people so many problems."
Zabul Governor Dilbar Arman, in a chat with this news agency, admitted 1000 acres of land had been washed away by the floods in the two districts.
He added: "It's hard preventing the water level from soaring, as it continues to be on the rise even today. The river's origin is pretty distant and hence the water level goes up as the snow melts."
The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and the World Food Programme (WFP), according to the governor, have already delivered assistance including wheat flour, rice, edible oil, tealeaves, sugar and seeds to the victims in the flood-hit areas.
Arman said they were still pushing ahead with the relief drive and trying to grapple with the challenges.
"However, the flooding hampers the ongoing relief campaign," he pointed out, promising all-out efforts to address the victims' plight.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Women photographed by ISAF troops protest with stones in Afghanistan
KABUL, April 4 (Xinhuanet) -- International peacekeepers came under stone attack in northeastern Afghanistan when they took snapshots at the local women, a taboo in the conservative Islamic country, a Kabul-based daily reported Monday.
The incident occurred in Badakhshan province when German soldiers of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)photographed local women without asking for permission.
"To protest unauthorized snap shots, a group of angry women and children who were returning from a wedding party hurled stonesat the convoy of German soldiers in Faramughal village of Argo district last week, injuring two troopers," Daily Cheragh reported.
In the remote and poor province of Afghanistan, photographing women are forbidden under tradition.
Similar incidents had been reported in the insurgency-plaguing south and southeast provinces where the US-dominated coalition forces have been conducting anti-Taliban and al-Qaeda operations over the past three years.
Abdul Majid, governor of Badakhshan in talks with a 20-member delegation of the village assured such incident will not be repeated in the future.
But German soldiers have rejected the report.
Over 100 of German soldiers have stationed in Badakhshan under the flag of ISAF's 8,300-strong force since last year.
The incident had also prompted the elders and notables of the province to ask foreign troops to coordinate their patrolling with local administration.
Herat, the mecca of Afghan culture
City offers glimpse of what prosperous Afghanistan could look like
By Kent Harris, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Tuesday, April 5, 2005
HERAT, Afghanistan — If the Pentagon started to look for a rest-and-recuperation spot for its troops inside Afghanistan, it could do far worse than this large city near the Iranian border.
“There are two words I would use to describe Herat,” said Sgt. 1st Class David Stansberry, serving his second tour in country. “Prosperity and cultural.”
In other words, Herat doesn’t look like most of Afghanistan. It has modern buildings, paved streets and basic infrastructure. Its people, while approximating the cultural mix that makes up the country, seem a little different as well.
“The people seem to be more interested in developing their economy than shooting bullets at each other,” said Maj. Tim Butts, the Task Force Longhorn engineer. “It’s a very rich province, probably the richest in country.”
Much of Herat’s current success can be attributed to its geography. It’s located in a relatively flat area that sits on trade routes to Iran and Turkmenistan.
“The geography has led to an ability to do trade and travel,” said Stansberry, who speaks Farsi, the language of Iran, less than a two-hour drive away. “And it’s a pretty city. It’s not as hot as it is down south or as cold as it is in the north.”
Though population estimates are difficult in Afghanistan, it’s acknowledged that the capital, Kabul, is the most populous city. It also has some modern buildings and the prestige of being the center of Afghan government.
But, “Herat has been, and probably will be, the cultural capital of Afghanistan,” Stansberry said. “There are a lot of things to see and do here. If we get security to where it should be, tourism could be a big boon to this area.”
A good portion of the city’s current success can also be attributed to Ismael Khan, formerly an autocratic ruler of the area who is now a minister in the federal government.
“You could say some other things about his rule, but he definitely got the roads fixed and city power here,” said Staff Sgt. Terry Welch, a public affairs officer serving his second stint in Herat.
Stansberry, who will soon be heading east to work on a new provincial reconstruction team at a yet-to-be disclosed location, said he can only hope that other areas of Afghanistan soon reach the level of relative prosperity that Herat enjoys.
“Each area and each city has its own personality,” he said. “And once you understand that, you understand Afghanistan.”
Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community.
Japan, Afghanistan agree on need to improve Afghan security
April 5, 2005
(Kyodo) _ Visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura and Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed Tuesday on the need to make efforts at improving security in Afghanistan and reforming the United Nations, Machimura said.
Machimura told a press conference, "We will do what we can to improve the security situation in Afghanistan" such as by giving assistance to the Afghan police.
He gave the press conference jointly with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah after he met with Karzai and Abdullah separately.
Machimura said he told Karzai "Japan was ready to extend wide-ranging assistance" to Afghanistan including investment in infrastructure, which is fundamental to improvement of people's lives and economic development.
Machimura also said Japan would continue to implement a project to promote disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of armed factions in Afghanistan.
Karzai welcomed Machimura's proposals, the Japanese foreign minister said.
Karzai also threw his support behind Japan's bid to win a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, Machimura said, quoting the Afghan leader as saying, "Japan should play an important role in the international community."
Karzai was also quoted as saying he rated highly Japan's assistance to U.S.-led coalition forces' fight against terrorism.
He was referring to activities of Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels which refuel a number of foreign vessels involved in what is termed antiterrorism operations in the Indian Ocean.
Abdullah told Machimura that Afghanistan would enhance economic cooperation with neighboring countries including India and Pakistan during the foreign ministerial talks, according to Machimura.
Machimura responded that Japan wanted to deepen discussions about what it can do to help Afghanistan with the possible economic alliance Abdullah mentioned.
Machimura visited Kabul on his way to Islamabad where he plans to attend the Asia Cooperation Dialogue forum that gets down to business Tuesday evening.
Afghanistan expands U.S.-trained counter-narcotics police
Associated Press / April 5, 2005
Afghanistan expanded its fledgling counter-narcotics police Tuesday when a class of paramilitary officers completed a U.S.-run training course and joined a unit tasked with arresting top traffickers.
The 23 graduates, including four women, took to 100 the number of officers in Afghanistan's National Interdiction Unit, one of several new units set up in recent months to spearhead a crackdown on the world's largest illegal drug industry.
A handful of the newly trained officers, dressed in military fatigues, demonstrated their skills at a ceremony in the Afghan capital, executing a mock operation to disarm and arrest suspects _ ideally without firing a shot.
"This shows that we are going to be strong in the future for the fight against drugs," said Gen. Sayed Kamal Sadat, general director of the Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan. "We are starting from scratch and have to build things up."
Under pressure from the United States and Europe, President Hamid Karzai has vowed to eliminate the cultivation of opium poppies, which has boomed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The country produced an estimated 87 percent of the world's opium last year, prompting warnings that it is turning into a "narco-state."
The United States, Britain and France are training special forces to smash labs and arrest traffickers and refiners while also offering hundreds of millions of dollars to help farmers switch to legal crops. Another unit is tasked with destroying poppy crops across the country.
Officers of the National Interdiction unit must complete a six-week course organized by Blackwater, an American private security firm, on behalf of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.
Afghanistan Faces `Daunting' Developing Tasks, UN Envoy Says
April 5 (Bloomberg) -- Afghanistan's is facing a ``daunting'' task of developing its state institutions and creating fiscal stability, Jean Arnault, the United Nations special envoy, told a donor conference in Kabul.
The international community is trying to bridge the gap between immediate assistance to help the country recover from 25 years of conflict and creating a state that can ``perform effectively and responsibly,'' Arnault said yesterday on the opening day of the Afghanistan Development Forum, according to the UN's Web site.
``Because of the thorough destruction to which Afghan institutions were subjected during the war and the destitution prevailing in much of the country, this gap is particularly daunting in Afghanistan,'' Arnault said.
The three-day donor forum that includes representatives from 40 countries is the first since Hamid Karzai won October's presidential election. Karzai's government relies on international donations for 93 percent of its development budget. The Afghan government estimates it needs $27.5 billion over the next seven years to help rebuild.
A number of essential peace-building tasks have hardly begun, Arnault said. They include land settlement claims as the country lacks a registry, restoring property rights and ensuring the rule of law, he said.
Providing genuine security and dismantling local militias are among the government's immediate priorities, Arnault said.
The Afghan government wants responsibility for a larger portion of the development budget, Agence France-Presse cited Ishaq Nadiri, Karzai's economic adviser, as saying yesterday.
The lion's share ``goes outside our government budget,'' Nadiri said. ``Given the responsibilities of the government to the people, we should re-look at this issue.''
Karzai, 47, told the conference that money given to Afghanistan isn't reaching the countryside, AFP reported. Government corruption and private companies setting themselves up as charities to escape paying taxes are a problem, he said.
``We must make sure that corruption in administration, corruption in the private sector and corruption in non- governmental organizations is handled in order to respect the donors' taxpayers' money,'' Karzai said, according to AFP.
Afghanistan will take another step toward democracy when parliamentary and local elections are held in September. The polls face a threat from armed groups still operating in the country, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a report last month to the Security Council.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan authorities are working with international security agencies to identify an estimated 2,000 illegal armed groups operating in the country, Ariane Quentier, spokeswoman for the Assistance Mission, said at a briefing in Kabul on April 3.
The Afghan government may begin a disarmament project in the Badakhshan and Kandahar regions, the areas estimated to have the largest number of illegal groups, Quentier said, according to the Mission's Web site.
``In terms of the category of militia, the two main problematic types are those which could pose a serious threat in the framework of the holding of the elections, but also those which could be linked with the drug trade,'' she said.
Afghanistan has been the source of three-quarters of the world's heroin, the UN has said. Cultivation of opium poppies used to make heroin has fallen in at least 16 of the country's 31 provinces, the UN said last month.
Afghanistan's national army, created since 2001, has 22,000 soldiers and officers and the national police force has 53,400 trained personnel and will be expanded to 62,000 members, Annan said in his report. The U.S. has 18,000 troops in Afghanistan and NATO has 9,000 in the UN-authorized International Security Assistance Force.
2 Afghan Children Injured in Grenade Attack
April 5, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - An 11-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl were injured Monday when a grenade that was thrown through a window of their house west of Jalalabad exploded.
The incident is believed to have been a tribal dispute.
Both children were initially evacuated to Asadabad after receiving first aid at a nearby Coalition forward operating base. The boy’s injuries, not as severe as the girl’s, were treated there and he was released to the care of his family. The girl was further evacuated to the U.S. hospital at Bagram where she is recovering after having undergone surgery Monday afternoon.
“She had shrapnel wounds,” said Maj. Rick Martin, chief nurse of the intensive care ward here. “A chest tube was placed in her left side where the shrapnel hit and that’s very painful. She is doing well, though, and her doctors expect her to make a full recovery.”
The girl’s uncle, Yar Jan Hamad Yar, traveled with her. He explained that a grenade came through the window as the family slept.
“At ten at night, someone threw a grenade through the window,” Yar said. “We don’t know who it was. We are happy about the doctors and nurses who for the last 24 hours have taken care of my niece.”
Kabul Plays Musical Chairs With Afghan Security Chiefs
April 4, 2005 By Amin Tarzi / Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Apparently in order to deal with the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan's largest cities and perhaps as a response to the demonstrations that took place in March in the southern city of Kandahar and the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif, security commanders of four of Afghanistan's largest provinces were shuffled in the past two weeks.
The security commander of Kandahar Province, General Khan Mohammad, was appointed security commander of northern Balkh Province, where Mazar-e Sharif is located. Khan Mohammad's predecessor, General Mohammad Akram Khakrezwal, was appointed security commander of Kabul Province. The former security commander of Kabul, General Baba Jan, was moved to the western Herat Province. General Mohammad Ayyub Salangi, formerly the security commander of Wardak Province, was shifted to Kandahar.
Salangi told the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press on 27 March that people "who do have permission to carry weapons should not enter Kandahar city," adding that unauthorized armed individuals will be "expelled" from the city. He also announced a new regulation requiring vehicles to be properly registered with the traffic police; owners who do not register their vehicles in the allotted time will "be dealt with severely." Salangi promised to curb the recent rise in kidnappings in Kandahar, which was the main cause of the demonstrations in that city last month.
For his part, Khakrezwal promised that his first step in his new job in Kabul will be to organize a professional and properly trained police force. Khakrezwal reportedly did not enjoy a good relationship with Balkh Province Governor Ata Mohammad Nur and had resisted the governor's previous efforts to remove him. It is not unclear whether Khakrezwal's appointment to Kabul was linked to Nur's efforts or whether the appointment was part of a castling process.
The Herat daily "Etefaq-e Islam" on 27
March hailed the appointment of Baba Jan in that city, pointing to his experience in security issues. However, the Kabul weekly "Rozgaran" on 23 March lamented that with crime rates rising "every day," Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali opted to deal with the crisis simply by transferring certain "security commanders from one province to another."
Pointing to Baba Jan and Khakrezwal, "Rozgaran" asked why should the two commanders be moved to other provinces "if they could not ensure" security in Kabul and Balkh? Using an Afghan proverb, "Rozgaran" ended its commentary saying that rubbing "salt into a wound will not reduce the pain."
A Budget Priority
Security remains the primary concern in Afghanistan. In the budget for the Afghan year 1384 (21 March 2005-20 March 2006), the Interior Ministry, which is primarily responsible for maintaining internal security, has the largest share of allocations, with 24 percent of the budget. By comparison, the Defense Ministry was given 19 percent. While these numbers are somewhat misleading, as foreign assistance and the presence of coalition forces also contribute to domestic security and defense, it is clear that domestic security is the top priority in the Afghan budget.
Given the importance of maintaining and improving security in the country, it seems logical that the best and the brightest of Afghanistan should be appointed to direct the security apparatus. At least as one commentary suggests a complete overhaul of the security administration could be required to prevent a country that is trying to struggle out of the shadow of terrorism and militancy from falling into the grip of criminals. As a 31 March report in "The Guardian" notes, "ordinary Afghans" are "alarmed by a swelling crime wave" in which the "line between cops and robbers is becoming increasingly blurred."
Playing musical chairs with security commanders might be a short-term answer, but it is most likely not a long-term solution for the worsening security situation in Afghanistan.
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