Afghan helicopter crash kills 16
Thursday April 7, 12:20 PM
KABUL (Reuters) - A U.S. military helicopter has crashed during a dust storm in Afghanistan, killing at least 16 people aboard -- the deadliest military air accident since Washington first deployed troops to the country in 2001.
A U.S. spokeswoman said the CH 47 Chinook helicopter came down in Ghazni province, 120 km (80 miles) southwest of the capital, Kabul, while on a routine mission.
"Eighteen people, including crew members and passengers, were listed on the flight manifest; two remain unaccounted for," the U.S. military said in a statement on Wednesday.
"Recovery operations have ended for the night due to darkness and weather conditions," it added.
President George W. Bush, on his way to Rome for the Pope's funeral, had been informed of the accident, his aides said.
Spokeswoman Lt. Cindy Moore said the military was seeking confirmation whether the two people unaccounted for actually boarded the helicopter.
Nor was there any confirmation on the nationalities aboard the aircraft, or which services they belonged to.
Names of the dead were being withheld pending notification of next of kin, the military said.
The helicopter was one of two Chinooks returning to Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan, from a mission in the south, Moore said. The other arrived safely.
The governor of Ghazni province, Assadullah Khalid, said the helicopter crashed during a heavy dust storm.
"We were first to arrive at the scene," Khalid told Reuters.
"We recovered two American soldiers' bodies and now American forces are in control of the situation. The chopper was burning when we were there."
Provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said the helicopter crashed in desert 6 km (four miles) south of Ghazni town. Some of the dead were in military uniform and some were burned beyond recognition, he said.
Television news showed pictures of bodies being removed from burning wreckage.
The United States has lost more than 100 military personnel since deploying troops to Afghanistan following the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, but most of the deaths have been in accidents.
U.S. forces have lost several helicopters and other aircraft in crashes in Afghanistan but Wednesday's crash was the deadliest involving a military aircraft in Afghanistan since the deployment.
Three U.S. military personnel and three civilian crew were killed in late November when their CASA 212 civilian fixed-wing transport aircraft crashed in central Afghan mountains.
Four U.S. soldiers were killed on March 26 when their vehicle struck a landmine in the southeast of the country.
Zalmay Khalilzad: Afghan 'viceroy'
By Andrew North / BBC Kabul correspondent Wednesday, 6 April, 2005
Zalmay Khalilzad, US ambassador in Kabul since November 2003, has played a hugely influential role in Afghanistan's transition process.
But now the Afghan-American is now expected to replace John Negroponte, as US ambassador to Iraq.
Mr Negroponte has already left Baghdad, but it is not clear when Mr Khalilzad is due to arrive from Kabul.
Perhaps no US ambassador in recent times has been so powerful a player in the country in which they serve as Zalmay Khalilzad.
So much so, that he has sometimes been dubbed the viceroy, or the real president of Afghanistan.
It is unlikely he will manage to exert the same level of influence in Iraq - although he is no stranger to the country.
And Afghanistan has left him well versed in negotiating tribal and ethnic divisions - something he will also need in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.
With the extent of US involvement in Afghanistan, Washington's ambassador is inevitably a powerful figure.
But Mr Khalilzad's influence has been much greater because of his Afghan birth and long involvement with the country during the years of the Soviet invasion.
Born in northern Afghanistan in 1951, he speaks the country's two main languages - Pashto and Dari.
After studying in Lebanon, he and his family moved to the US in the 1970s.
He became a US citizen and a Washington insider, with close ties to the Republican party.
He is a protege of Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
In Afghanistan, he was not only the ambassador, but also President Bush's personal envoy - but an envoy totally at home with the wheeling and dealing of Afghan politics.
'Here to help'
Inside the heavily-fortified US embassy compound in central Kabul, he lived in two converted containers.
But he had a tent built over the small garden outside, where he could meet key leaders and tribal chiefs in a more traditional style.
But during his 18-month stay, he was also accused of frequently overshadowing President Hamid Karzai.
It was often he rather than Mr Karzai who announced key initiatives, such as a recent plan to offer an amnesty to members of the Taleban.
To such criticism, he would often respond with disarming charm: "I'm only here to help."
But no major decisions by the Afghan government have been made without his involvement.
When he is in Afghanistan, he sees or speaks to President Karzai several times a day.
The two have known each other for many years and have an easy, informal relationship.
When a temporary crisis erupted during last year's presidential elections - when most of the candidates threatened to boycott the process because of allegations of irregularities - it was Mr Khalilzad who was called in.
On the day, he was seen shuttling between the various camps - his heavily-armed bodyguards close on his heel - until a deal had been agreed.
There have been rumours for some time that Mr Khalilzad was going, although some thought he would stay on to oversee the parliamentary elections planned for September.
Iraq will not be entirely new to him - he served as President Bush's envoy to the Iraqi opposition in the run-up to the 2003 invasion.
Whoever replaces him in Kabul will struggle to achieve the same level of influence.
But there are some here who say Ambassador Khalilzad's departure is a good thing right now.
As much as President Karzai relied on Mr Khalilzad's support and advice, some analysts argue that it will make it much easier for him to exert his authority, free from the shadow of the 'viceroy'.
Remarks On President Bush's Intention to Nominate Zalmay Khalilzad as Ambassador to Iraq
Source: Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Secretary Condoleezza Rice Benjamin Franklin Room Washington, DC April 5, 2005 (4:00 p.m. EDT)
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Good afternoon. Just a little more than two years ago, Saddam Hussein was still in power in Iraq. Rape, murder and torture were daily facts of life for the Iraqi people. There was no free press or freedom of expression. Mass graves were brimming with tyranny's innocent victims.
Two years ago, the United States led a coalition to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime and liberate the people of Iraq. And now, the entire world is watching as the Iraqi people liberate themselves from their tragic past and embark on the noble path of democracy.
In January, millions of Iraqis voted in their first free elections. In Baghdad today, new leaders, blessed with the consent of the governed, are now debating their future.
Just like our own first debates as a free nation, the debates in Iraq today are sometimes quite lively. We celebrate this debate because this lively debate is the healthy sound of democracy, and that sound is resonating far and wide.
Indeed, today, we are seeing a growing chorus of voices in the broader Middle East, voices demanding liberty and democratic reform. In all that lies ahead in Iraq, the Iraqi people can know that they will have a strong and committed partner in the United States of America.
We have been inspired by their courage and we will stand with the people of Iraq because a free Iraq serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration to the world.
To continue our close partnership, today I am pleased to announce the President's intention to nominate Ambassador Zal Khalilzad to be our next Ambassador to Iraq. At this moment of challenge and opportunity for Iraq and the Middle East, it is essential that the United States have one of our best diplomats leading our mission in Baghdad. Zal will, of course, follow Ambassador John Negroponte, who has served with honor and distinction in that post.
The President and I have chosen Zal for this important job because he has a proven record of building consensus and achieving results in very tough situations. For over a year now, Zal has been our Ambassador to Afghanistan. Zal helped lead America's efforts to help millions of Afghan refugees return to their country and rebuild their lives in freedom. He worked tirelessly to secure the rights of Afghan women who were brutalized and oppressed under the Taliban. And Zal helped lead our government's efforts to support the Afghan Government as they managed their first free and open elections in their entire history.
Zal has certainly been effective and now he will turn to the unique situation in Iraq. Soon, the new Iraqi Transitional National Assembly will begin work on Iraq's new constitution, the next steps toward the next round of elections in Iraq later this year. As this political process continues, Zal will be a valuable representative for the United States and a wise counselor to the new Iraqi Government.
But the political process is only a small part of our partnership with Iraq. Zal will also work with all institutions of our government and those of other nations to continue our efforts to help Iraq build the institutions of freedom, from training Iraqi security forces to training Iraqi teachers, from improving power plants to improving schools, from increasing access to health care to increasing the efficiency of Iraq's food delivery systems.
The President and I know Zal very well. Zal has served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council, where he worked to define America's forward strategy for freedom in the broader Middle East and North Africa. Before the liberation of Iraq, Zal also served as Special Envoy and Ambassador-at-Large for Free Iraqis.
Zal, President Bush and I know that you will dedicate every measure of your talents to the goal of liberty and democracy in Iraq. You've helped the people of Afghanistan begin their rapid progress toward a life of freedom, and the President and I will now look to you to bring that same sense of hope and optimism to your work in Iraq.
To Zal's wife, Cheryl and their sons, Max and Alex, all of America is grateful for the love and support that you give to Zal as he does this important work for our country. And, Zal, I look forward to working closely with you to support the advance of liberty in Iraq and throughout the wider world.
AMBASSADOR KHALILZAD: I want to thank you, Madame Secretary, Condi, for your kind words. I also want to thank President Bush for again giving me the opportunity to serve our nation. Just as winning the Cold War was the focal point of our foreign policy in the latter half of the past century, winning the war against terrorism and extremism and advancing the cause of freedom and prosperity for the people of the greater Middle East is the defining challenge of our time.
I have been privileged to help meet this challenge as Ambassador and Special Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan during the past 16 months. In partnership with the Afghan people and their leaders, particularly President Karzai, we have made great strides. Success in Afghanistan will lead to the political, economic, commercial and ultimately the geopolitical transformation of Central Asia and South Asia.
I want to note my appreciation to President Karzai for his graciousness during my tenure in Kabul. I wish the Afghan people well as they continue to take the needed steps toward joining the community of democratic nations. I shall not forget them.
I also want to thank everyone who has served at the U.S. Mission and Combined Forces Command in Kabul during my tenure as Ambassador. They have all made major contributions to our success.
If confirmed by the Senate as Ambassador, I will work with all Iraqis, all sects, all ethnic groups, men and women, to accelerate success in Iraq. By success, we mean an Iraq that can stand on its own feet in terms of providing security for its people, controlling its borders, delivering basic services such as education and health care, and creating the framework for a prosperous private sector.
Iraq, which is at the heart of a great civilization, has experienced great heights across the centuries and can rise to new heights by continuing the hard work of embracing the universal ideals of freedom, representative government, individual rights and the rule of law in a manner consistent with Iraqi traditions.
Iraq's own history has involved periods of great achievement and, unfortunately, periods of darkness as well. Iraq knew periods of glory and great flourishing of culture for centuries. Baghdad was a city that attracted great scholars, such as Farabi, and innovators in every field. Najaf, too, was a great seat of learning for centuries, giving rise to one of the world's first universities more than 1,000 years ago.
In the 20th century, as an Iraqi state reemerged, Iraq began recapturing its heritage. In the 1930s and '40s it enjoyed several successful multiparty elections for parliament. It had a free press and an independent judiciary and women were active in the professions, in the work force as well.
Then, in the late 1960s, this progress was cut short by the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. I understand that there has been great suffering and hardship since the end of Saddam's regime. We are working hard to improve the situation, yet the liberation of Iraq by the coalition has given the Iraqi people the opportunity to renew their nation's greatness. The inspiring response of the Iraqi people on January 30th, when 8 million voted despite the threat of violence, shows that the Iraqis are ready to grasp this opportunity. We must build on this.
If confirmed, I will lead the implementation of an integrated strategy to defeat the insurgency by working with the Iraqi Government to field effective Iraqi security forces, to engage politically with all elements in Iraq that wish to enact an enlightened constitution and build the new democratic political order, to increase the effectiveness of all Iraqi institutions and to improve the lives of the Iraqi people through reconstruction. We will also seek to broaden effective international and regional participation in support of these goals.
It is for the Iraqis to seize this historic moment by building an Iraq in which all Iraqis are vital and active participants and everyone's rights are respected. It will take time. It will not be easy. However, when the Iraqis succeed, they will become an example of a thriving democratic state and a prosperous society for the wider region.
If confirmed, I will make every effort to support and assist the Iraqi people in this historic project. We have a lot at stake in Iraq: A successful Iraq is in our own vital national interest. Helping Iraqis achieve this success is also the right thing to do. I'll be result-oriented and I will give this new assignment my all.
Madame Secretary, thank you again for the confidence that President Bush and you have expressed in me through this nomination. Thank you very much.
2005/383 Released on April 5, 2005
Government and donors discuss development priorities and key challenges at Afghanistan Development Forum
Press Release No:2005/SAR/424
Source: The World Bank Group 06 Apr 2005
KABUL, April 6, 2005 – The first Afghanistan Development Forum conducted by the new government concluded today in Kabul. The theme for this years meeting was Accelerating Afghanistan’s Development.
Afghanistan’s economy has performed very strongly in the past three years with non-drug GDP increasing by more than 50 percent. The country’s GDP is US$4.6 billion in 2003/04 (excluding income from opium of US$2.3 billion). This reflects a revival of economic activity after the end of major conflict, the initiation of reconstruction, and the recovery of agricultural sector from a protracted drought in the late 1990s. The recent Human Development Report suggests that social indicators and income per capita of Afghanistan ranks, with approximately US$200 per year, among the lowest in the world.
The report Accelerating Afghanistan's Development - A Call for Dialogue prepared by the Government of Afghanistan provided the basis for an open, frank, and lively discussion between the government and the international community. The report focuses on how the government, with the support from the international community, can accelerate infrastructure development, ensure the implementation of an integrated social policy, create an enabling environment for private sector development, improve fiscal systems, maintain public administration reforms, strengthen regional cooperation, enforce the rule of law, and create alternative livelihoods to the drug trade.
“Over the last three years, Afghanistan has launched a daunting reconstruction and development program and convinced the international community – itself not an easy feat – of its needs going forward,” said Praful Patel, World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region. “The Government’s strategic vision and plan has encouraged the international community to provide what can only be described as an extraordinary level of support. The World Bank remains committed to Afghanistan for the long-haul, and we will continue to support the country’s priorities, outlined in its own National Development Strategy.”
Mr. Patel emphasized that economic growth is essential if Afghanistan is to achieve its reconstruction and development objectives. However, it is important that this growth is widespread and lifts the poorest out of poverty, and addresses the needs of both rural and urban populations. Afghanistan’s economy remains largely agriculture-based, and the international community must pay more attention to this area. Clear advances have already been made through world class rural development programs being implemented in the country, such as the National Solidarity Program and micro-finance programs. Furthermore, it is essential that Afghanistan’s development be seen in the broader regional context – harmonized approaches with mutually beneficial agreements with neighboring countries on issues such as customs, transit trade, energy, water resources, labor migration and security. These are important factors for Afghanistan to achieve its growth potential.
The challenges of capacity building were also discussed. While achievements in this area are crucial, it is a long term and difficult issue which effects both public and private organizations. The World Bank is at present, supporting civil service and public administration reform in Afghanistan, and is keen to assist the government in determininge appropriate roles for ministries and service delivery providers. Valuable lessons have been learnt regarding efficient and cost-effective service provision by NGOs under Government oversight in the health sector. These lessons need to be drawn out more broadly to assist in the development of an accountable and transparent NGO sector so that appropriate regulations and oversight over private sector contractors comes into existence.
During the three-day meeting, the Government of Afghanistan also hosted a review of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, to which over US$1.18 billion has been pledged to date by 24 donor countries to support the government’s budget and priority investments. The ARTF is administered by the World Bank under the supervision of a Management Committee which also includes the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Program.
“This multi-donor trust fund has played an important role in providing harmonization among donors and alignment of donor support with government programs,” Mr. Patel told the ADF. “It has also provided a vital mechanism for alignment with government priorities as articulated in its own strategies.”
Mr. Patel reiterated that the World Bank remains committed to Afghanistan for the long haul, as the government remains dedicated to poverty reduction and to the strategic coherence of programs. To date the World Bank has provided over US$780 million in areas that include health, education, rural roads, and community development.
Afghanistan: Defense Minister Reiterates Desire For 'Enduring Arrangements' With U.S.
By Ron Synovitz
Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak says Kabul is continuing negotiations with the United States about a possible long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Wardak said Kabul is eager for what he called "enduring arrangements" with the United States and other countries. But Wardak also said it is too early to know whether such arrangements will include permanent U.S. bases in Afghanistan.
Prague, 6 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak has reiterated Kabul's desire to reach long-term military and political arrangements with the United States.
General Wardak made the remarks in London yesterday to a gathering of military analysts.
"We are trying to reach some sort of enduring security arrangement with our international friends and that definitely includes the United States," Wardak said. "At the moment, it is just a concept and a wish. We think that there are common interests, there are common problems and there are common objectives. We can come up with common solutions for it -- to come up with some sort of enduring arrangement, in effect, a framework in the security sector and also the political [sector]. And also maybe with some other nations too."
But Wardak said it is too early to say that any new security arrangements will include the authorization for permanent U.S. military bases. He also said it has not been determined whether the Pentagon should be allowed to pre-position military equipment in Afghanistan that could be used by rapidly deployed U.S. forces in a future crisis.
"The details have not been worked out yet as to what arrangements should be included, as far as air basing or pre-positioning and other [issues] are concerned, but [a long-term security arrangement with Afghanistan's international friends] is a definite requirement because in the 1990s -- when the international community disengaged -- there was a vacuum of power and an imbalance of forces which everybody tried to utilize. And the result was that we went through all of this suffering," Wardak said.
Back in Kabul, Defense Ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi told RFE/RL that Washington has not made any formal request for permanent military bases. "Up to now the United States has not officially put a request to the Afghan government," Azimi said. "Only a few American officials and representatives of Congress and a few U.S. commanders have raised this issue and said they want permanent bases in Afghanistan."
Jawed Ludin, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said that if Washington does make a formal request for permanent bases, any decision would first be discussed by the government and then voted on by the Afghan parliament that is due to be elected in September.
The issue of the United States' long-term military relationship with Afghanistan surfaced in February when U.S. Senator John McCain said during a visit to Kabul that he supports the establishment of what he called "permanent joint bases" for U.S. and Afghan troops.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, also has acknowledged that the Pentagon is considering such a move. The United States is currently upgrading the status of its main logistical center in Afghanistan -- the Bagram airfield -- by building a new runway. Teams of engineers have been removing unexploded bombs and land mines from Bagram's vast unused acreage during the past two years in preparation for what U.S. military officials have said is an expected expansion.
Bagram is considered the most likely location for a permanent U.S. military base in Afghanistan.
But U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told RFE/RL during her visit to Kabul on 17 March that Washington has not decided whether it wants a permanent military presence in Afghanistan.
"Well, we have not yet determined what we would do in terms of a presence here, but we are committed to a long-term relationship -- whatever that might mean," Rice said. "And we understand that it was not a good thing the last time -- when the Soviet Union left, the United States did not stay by the Afghan people. This time, the Afghan people can be certain they will have friends and partners for a long time to come."
Christopher Langton is a senior defense analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London who organized yesterday's lecture by Wardak. He said there were two important themes in the Afghan minister's remarks.
"Firstly, that the long-term threat to Afghanistan is not seen to be the Taliban, but is seen to be organized crime, the narcotics trade and so on. Secondly, the reformation and building of the new security structure is going ahead relatively smoothly. And integration of ethnic groups, for example, into the armed forces is happening across the board. And it is hoped that the new Afghan National Army will be fully manned by the end of 2006," Langton said.
Langton said Wardak also brought an underlying message to London from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. That message is that Afghanistan does not intend to remain dependent on the assistance of the international community any longer than necessary.
Langton concludes that Kabul's stated goal is to become fully independent -- albeit with regional, international, and bilateral arrangements -- as soon as possible.
Further Australian support for Afghanistan’s transition to democracy
Source: Government of Australia / April 6, 2005
Australia is providing a further $12 million to support Afghanistan’s transition towards stability and democracy. This latest assistance demonstrates Australia’s commitment to supporting international reconstruction and humanitarian efforts.
Australia is also taking part in the 2005 Afghanistan Development Forum currently underway in Kabul. A major focus of the Forum is on continuing efforts to combat the production of illegal drugs in the country.
The Afghan Government is presenting its counter-narcotics strategy to the Forum, and Australia will provide $2 million to support international efforts to combat opium cultivation.
From Australia’s latest funding allocation, $5 million is also being provided to the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund to support the delivery of basic services such as health, education, law and order, as well as technical assistance to the Afghan Government.
We are providing $3 million the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist in preparations for Parliamentary elections which are due in September this year, and to provide support and training for senior Afghan civil servants to enhance their leadership skills.
An additional $600,000 will be used by The Asia Foundation for electoral capacity-building within Afghanistan’s new Independent Electoral Commission. The Foundation will use a model developed by the Australian Electoral Commission and successfully implemented in other emerging democracies such as East Timor and Cambodia.
The Australian Red Cross and CARE International will share $1.4 million in direct support of humanitarian needs. Assistance through the Australian Red Cross will support maternal and child health and will enable the Afghan Red Crescent Society to maintain health clinics throughout the country.
CARE International is providing valuable educational services and facilities by working with communities in remote areas where government services are not yet available.
Since September 2001, Australian assistance to Afghanistan totals $110 million. The Australian Government remains committed to assisting the people of Afghanistan to rebuild their nation after more than two decades of conflict.
Media inquiries: Chris Kenny (Mr Downer’s office) 0419 206 890
AusAID (Public Affairs) 0417 680 590
Security Deteriorating in the Capital Say Kabul Residents
Thursday April 7, 9:34 AM Asia Pulse
KABUL, April 7 Asia Pulse - Residents of Kabul say the security in the capital Kabul has deteriorated, highlighting four murders in broad daylight in the past two weeks, but the newly appointed security Chief insists the situation has improved.
The people say the police are incompetent.
Eyewitnesses say the police were very slow to arrive at a violent crime scene in the Khairkhana area, when gunmen stabbed a young man, fleeing the crime scene without fear.
In a separate incident, one man was shot in the center of Kabul city, in the Jada-e-Maiwand area. But residents say the police reached the scene of the crime too late to arrest the robbers.
However, Kabul police Chief Mohammad Akram Khakrizwal, said such incidents happen all over the world, insisting that "security was improving." Chief Khakrizwal also claimed that new systems and programs were in place to reform the police force in the capital.
"We always said that reforms were needed in the police forces." Khakrizwal who was the police chief of the northern Balkh province vowed to enforce the law of Afghanistan when he took on the new post.
In addition, he spoke of a new motor bike police patrol that would be providing additional protection and surveillance for the city.
However, Binazir, a girl from Kabul whose brother was stabbed to death by unknown robbers near the Kabul Airport recently said she was not confident of the police force delivering their promises.
The father of a young boy killed by unknown men, Colonel Mohammad Nabi, from Bibi Mahro area of the city, was sad that the police did not help in capturing the killers of his son.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Kabul Municipality Asks Gov't for US$553 MLN to Improve Infra
Thursday April 7, 9:28 AM Asia Pulse
KABUL, April 7 Asia Pulse - Kabul municipality has asked the Afghan government for US$553 million, Wednesday for improving the surrounding environment of the city.
Mohammad Omar Naeemyar the head of public relations of Kabul municipality told Pajhwok Afghan News:"Kabul has been ruined by two decades of war and the city needs an overhaul." Naeemyar plans to build public facilities for men and women, funeral parlors, paved side-walks, pedestrian crossings, walkways over busy roads and reinforced walls for the Kabul River.
Presently people complain that there are few funeral parlors in the capital Kabul, and no public toilets. The road surfaces are pitted with pot holes and uneven bumps, moreover, no toilets are found in the city.
Naeemyar is hopeful that the Karzai government is in favor of the purposed plan.
But the chairman of the publications department at the finance ministry, Aziz Shams said the amount requested for improvements was too large. "We consider the priority of the ministries and provide them the budget." He said Afghanistan's development budget is sponsored by foreign countries and it would be difficult to ask for such a huge amount.
"We are hopeful that donor countries will pledge further funds for the development of Afghanistan, at the Afghan Development Conference in Kabul." The three day conference held in the capital Kabul will end Wednesday night.
Naeemyar said in previous years the budget for improvements was declined, beacsue of the lack of funds.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Talks on 1700 KM, Three-Way Gas Pipeline to be Held Next Week
Thursday April 7, 9:24 AM Asia Pulse
KABUL, April 7 Asia Pulse - Energy ministers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan will meet in Islamabad next week on a multi-million gas pipeline project.
Participants of the two-day meeting, beginning from April 12, will discuss ways and means of getting the project - which has long been in the works - up and running.
Dr. Waqar Masood Khan, a senior official at the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, told a news conference in Islamabad ministers from the three countries and a representative of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would confer on the funds required for the project.
The 1700-km-long pipeline, with a 56-inch diameter, will carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan. It will traverse a 750-kilometer area in Afghanistan - starting from Herat and passing through Helmand, Farah and Kandahar.
Afghan Mine and Light Industries Minister Eng. Mir Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan's Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Amanullah Jadoon, the deputy chief minister of Turkmenistan and a senior ADB official would work out technical details and the cost of the pipeline.
The pipeline agreement between Pakistan and Turkmenistan was signed in 1990 and Afghanistan later agreed to provide the transit facility. However, the plan has been delayed owing to ubiquitous security concerns in Afghanistan.
Ahmad Shah Karim Uloomi, advisor to the Ministry of Mine and Light Industries, told Pajhwok on Wednesday the security situation had improved to some extent. Ergo, he stressed, the project should go ahead as planned.
Eng. Sadiq would lead the Afghan team at the meeting, Uloomi said, reckoning the project would earn Afghanistan US$300 million annually in taxes in addition to generating about 10,000 jobs.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
India Seeks to Include Uzbekistan in Pipeline Project
Thursday April 7, 7:57 AM Asia Pulse
NEW DELHI, April 7 Asia Pulse - India is looking at the inclusion of Uzbekistan in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline project, before deciding on joining in the US$2.5 billion venture.
New Delhi feels the reserves of Daultabad gas field of Turkmenistan are not enough and stressed on the need for inclusion of Uzbekistan to make the project commercially viable.
"ONGC Videsh Ltd and GAIL (India) Ltd will urgently evaluate the gas potential (in Uzbekistan) for linking it with TAP pipeline project," top officials in the Ministy of Petroleum and Natural Gas said.
The issue figured during talks between the visiting Uzbekistan President Islam A Karimov and the Indian side led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday.
The ADB-backed 1500-km TAP pipeline project runs from the Daulatabad gas fields to Gawadar (in Pakistan) via Afghanistan and will transport 1.5 to 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day. Two routes are being considered for the project - one via Jalalabad to Kabul and Peshawar and the other from Kandahar to Quetta and Multan.
Uzbekistan has also offered gas exploration rights to OVL/GAIL.
Russia Keeps Afghan Drugs Off Europe: UN Anti-Drug Boss
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) -- Russia is efficiently working to curb Europe-bound Afghan drug traffic, said Antonio Maria Costa, United Nations Deputy Secretary General, and Executive Director of the UNODCCP, or UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. He made the statement while in conference with Victor Cherkesov, Russia's Federal Drug Control Service chief.
"Whatever the world may be doing against it, the steadily mounting Afghan drug traffic remains one of the worst global threats," points out the Drug Service public relations center.
The UN functionary enthusiastically approved Federal Drug Service efforts against drug trafficking and addiction.
"To deliver hard blows on trafficking and the entire drug arrangements is our duty," replied Mr. Cherkesov.
Russia has just drafted its federal comprehensive program to combat drug abuse and trafficking for 2005-09. It aims to reduce drug and mood-changer abuse by 16 to 20 per cent of the 2003 level, by the year 2010, Mr. Cherkesov said during the conference.
As experts are forecasting, program implementation will save 600 to 800 thousand people from the drug danger, added our informants at the Federal Drug Service.
Russian law enforcement agencies confiscated close on 130 tons of drugs, mood-changers and other strong preparations last year, announced Mr. Cherkesov.
Drug Service officers alone confiscated slightly more than 102 tons out of the whole amount, including four tons of heroin-2.5-fold more than in 2003, say service PR.
Roughly 58,000 drug-related crimes were successfully detected last year. 75 per cent of those crimes are qualified as grave or exceptionally grave.
Pakistan to deport 17 Afghan terror suspects
Thursday April 7, 1:20 PM AP
Pakistan will soon deport 17 Afghan nationals, including a former Kabul police chief, who were arrested in January on suspicion of links to the Taliban, a senior police official said Thursday.
A total of 23 Afghans were arrested in the southwestern city of Quetta on Jan. 27, but six were released after initial questioning. The remaining 17 include an alleged former Taliban deputy governor and former police chief in Kabul.
Chaudhry Mohammed Yaqub, the police chief in southwestern Baluchistan province, of which Quetta is the capital, said the government has decided to send the remaining suspects home.
"They will be deported to Afghanistan soon," he said, but gave no other details.
Pakistan was once a key supporter of the Taliban but switched sides to support the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America. U.S.-led coalition forces ousted the hardline Taliban from power in late 2001.
Since then, Pakistan has arrested more than 700 terror suspects, including some al-Qaida operatives who were handed over to U.S. officials.
ADB to Loan Afghanistan US$80 MLN for Infrastructure
Thursday April 7, 9:20 AM Asia Pulse
KABUL, April 7 Asia Pulse - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) would extend a loan of US$80 million to the Afghan government for infrastructure development.
Aziz Shams, a spokesman for the finance minister, said here on Wednesday the loan would be spent on improving Afghanistan's overall infrastructure, currently in tatters.
Earlier in the week, Finance Minister Anwarul Haq Ahady urged a conference of major donors to deliver aid directly to the Afghan government instead of channeling it through NGOs.
More than two decades of war has left the country's infrastructures in a shambles, but the Hamid Karzai government has won aid pledges amounting to billions of dollars for the ongoing rebuilding drive.
Hameed Farooqi, professor of economics at the Kabul University, said seeking loans for projects like roads would not help the reconstruction process. He suggests such loans could be better spent on income-generating schemes instead.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the loan will be inked between Finance Minister Ahady and an ADB representative here today.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
American University in Afghanistan to train future leaders
Private school's curriculum includes business, computers, public policy
By Michael OToole, Washington File Staff Writer
Source: United States Department of State 05 Apr 2005
Washington - When first lady Laura Bush, on her visit to Kabul March 30, announced that "The United States is supporting the establishment of the American University of Afghanistan with a multi-year commitment of more than 15 million dollars," it was one more step in the fulfillment of Sharief Fayez’s dream.
Fayez was Afghanistan’s minister of Higher Education until December 2004. Born in Afghanistan and educated in the United States, he dreamed of an institute in his homeland along the lines of the American Universities in Beirut and Cairo - a private institution with lectures and textbooks in English that would train new generations of Afghan professionals and leaders.
In July 2002, Fayed made his proposal known to the Coordinating Council for International Universities (CCIU), a public charity based in Arlington, Virginia, whose mission is to "support the creation of American-style international institutions." A year later, supported by a grant of $553,475 from the U.S. Trade and Development agency (USTDA), CCIU began a feasibility study on the new university.
The study was completed at the end of 2004. According to the study, a significant number of English-capable students "willing and able to pay $5,000 annually to make up initial freshman classes of 200 students each" already existed in Afghanistan and the North American Afghan community with the number expected to increase. Scholarships would be available for eligible students unable to afford the fee.
The study noted that the new Afghan government had already presented the new university with a 99-year lease on 42 acres of prime land in Kabul, near the new Parliament buildings. The site had been the location of the American School in Kabul until the Soviet invasion of 1979 and still contained several heavily damaged buildings of the former school as well as a dormitory built after the Soviet invasion.
The proposal calls for a coeducational university offering instruction in English, business administration, computer science and public policy and administration. The university’s academic and financial models would meet the same regional accreditation standards that govern U.S. colleges. Its facilities would include such state-of-the-art capabilities as a digital library and a wireless data network to enable distance learning.
In December 2004 the university held a board of trustees meeting and elected Fayed president. On March 21 of this year, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad commemorated the first steps in building the physical foundation for the new university. Fayed expects to enroll students for preparatory courses in mathematics and social sciences within a few months, with a full freshman class admitted about a year later.
Besides the funds announced by Laura Bush (to be provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development), the university is also relying on donations from private sources. Several Afghan businessmen have pledged donations. The American University of Afghanistan Foundation has been established in the United States and can be contacted by phone at (703) 534-5821.
The USTDA funded-study noted that the development of such a university imposes risks: an English-language university espousing American values could easily become a target for terrorists; possible political instability and/or lack of existing urban infrastructure makes sustaining such an institute difficult; attaining self-sufficiency is dependent upon Afghanistan’s growth and stability; low income levels of most Afghan families make university education unaffordable.
The university’s founders believe they can address these issues, however. They also believe that the opportunity to create a safe haven for democratic discourse, research and teaching that produces an entrepreneur class of Afghan men and women make the effort worthwhile.
According to Laura Bush, such "a modern facility with an international faculty to educate future leaders... will yield great results in the coming years."
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Taliban deny Mulla Kabir holding talks with Kabul
Rahimullah Yusufzai The News International, Pakistan
PESHAWAR: The Taliban wasted no time Wednesday to deny reports that one of their top leaders Mulla Mohammad Kabir was leading reconciliation talks with President Hamid Karzai’s government.
Earlier, it was reported that Mulla Kabir, who was serving as Governor of Nangarhar when the Taliban regime collapsed in December 2001 following the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan, was representing the Taliban in talks with the Karzai government. If true, Mulla Kabir would be the highest-ranking Taliban official involved in peace talks with the US-backed Afghan government.
However, a Taliban spokesman Abdul Hye told The News from an unknown place that there was no truth in reports about Mulla Kabir’s contacts with the Karzai government. "It isn’t true. Mulla Kabir cannot hold talks with the Karzai regime or the Americans without the consent of Taliban supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar. He is still very much loyal to Mulla Omar," the Taliban spokesman contended.
Mulla Kabir is head of the Taliban political commission. He went underground when the Taliban lost power in late 2001 and has not been seen publicly since then. There were reports at the time that Mulla Kabir had helped Osama bin Laden to escape from Jalalabad and Tora Bora.
Reports about Mulla Kabir’s involvement in peace talks with the Afghan government have come soon after the surrender of a senior Taliban military commander Abdul Wahid, also known as Raees-i-Baghran, in the southwestern Helmand province.
The government in Kabul has also won over certain other Taliban commanders such as Abdul Salam Rocketi, Naeem Kochi, Mulla Qalamuddin, etc. However, the mainstream Taliban group loyal to Mulla Omar and having the majority has refused to hold talks with the Afghan government or the US military authorities. Instead, it has been demanding withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
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