Statement by Secretary General on ISAF expansion
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) 10 Feb 2005
I am pleased to announce that NATO will now proceed to further expand the International Security Assistance Force into the West of Afghanistan.
The expansion will establish a permanent ISAF presence in the form of four Provincial Reconstruction teams (PRT) and one Forward Support Base (FSB). Two existing US led PRTs at Herat and Farah will switch to ISAF and two new ISAF PRTs will be established with Lithuania in the lead at Chaghcharan, capital of Ghor province and Spain in the lead at Qal'eh-ye Now, capital of Baghdis province. Italy and Spain will provide the Forward Support Base (a logistics hub at Herat) with substantial support from other contributors. The extended ISAF mission will provide security assistance in 50% of Afghanistan's territory.
In addition to the ISAF presence in Kabul and the northern part of the country, the expansion of ISAF into the four western provinces of Afghanistan underscores NATO's long-term commitment to helping Afghanistan build a stable, prosperous and democratic future.
Turkey Takes Over ISAF Command in Afghanistan
Saturday 12, 2005 zaman.com
Turkey will take over the command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan from EUROCORPS with a ceremony to be held in the Afghanistan capital of Kabul tomorrow.
First Army Commander Genereal Hursit Tolon and other military officials departed for Kabul to take part in the ceremony.
Turkish Forces will command the 7th term of ISAF until August 11 and will comprise of nearly 1,600 personnel.
Turkish FM cancels trip to Afghanistan due to bad weather
ANKARA, Feb 11 (AFP) - Bad weather in Kabul forced Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul Friday to cancel a three-day visit to Afghanistan, a foreign ministry spokesman said.
Gul was unable to fly to Kabul amid reports of a snow storm and almost no visibility at the airport there, with no sign of any imminent improvement in the weather conditions, he said.
The minister had been scheduled to meet with Afghan leaders and attend a ceremony for the handover of the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to Turkey on Sunday in Kabul.
The Turkish army will contribute 1,600 troops to the force, which is made up of about 8,000 soldiers from 36 countries serving in Kabul and nine provinces north of the capital.
Currently the force is commanded by the Eurocorps, an intervention force created under a 1992 Franco-German initiative which also includes troops from Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg.
Turkey led ISAF during an initial term between June 2002 and February 2003.
Government to take over mine clearance
Source: Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)
The responsibility for removing the deadly devices from the country will shift from the United Nations to officials in Kabul.
By Abdul Baseer Saeed in Kabul (ARR No. 161, 10-Feb-05)
Sometime before the end of this year, the government will assume responsibility for removing the thousands of landmines that after years of fighting continue to litter this country.
The dangerous and time-consuming work is currently being done by 15 separate organisations under the sponsorship of the United Nations Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan, UNMACA.
According to Masood Hamidzadah, External Relations Specialist with UNMACA, Afghanistan accepted responsibility for conducting de-mining operations when it acceded to the Ottawa Convention, calling for a total ban on landmines, in 2002.
Many of the explosives yet to be cleared are left over from the Soviet invasion of 1979 - substantial amounts were planted by Soviets and the mujahedin.
According to Hamidzadah, 2,650 people were killed and 12,225 injured by landmines between 1989, when the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, and the end of 2004.
But he suspects the actual number of mine victims is much higher because the figures supplied by the Afghan Red Crescent and the International Red Cross do not include casualties in the more remote regions of the country.
So far, 850 square kilometres of the country have been cleared of landmines, leaving 716 sq km still to be covered, said Hamidzadah.
From 1989 until the end of last year, experts have defused 151,242 anti-personnel mines, 11,246 anti-tank mines and 3,674,419 miscellaneous devices.
But the work has come at a high cost. The 15 organisations involved in mine clearance report that 70 of their personnel have been killed and another 578 injured between 1990 and 2003.
In 2004, only two people were killed while clearing landmines - 21 were injured.
Hamidzadah credits improvements in protective clothing, the increased use of sniffer dogs to locate the explosives and the increased experience of those removing the devices for the dramatic drop in casualties.
Dr Mohammad Haidar Reza, a deputy at the foreign ministry who will be in charge of the handover, said it was unclear when the transfer would take place.
"The first step for handing over the de-mining process is to pass a law about de-mining activities," he said. "Until a law is passed, handing over responsibilities to the government would be premature."
A draft law has been prepared by a consultative group including the ministries of foreign affairs, defense, justice and interior, along with the international donor organisations involved in de-mining. It is awaiting the president's signature to become law, in the absence of a parliament.
But Haidar Reza indicated that internationals would continue to be very much involved in removing landmines from Afghanistan.
"These organisations can play an important role in the future," he said. "We do not want to lose these experienced people."
Dr Farid Hamyun, the local head of the Halo Trust, an international mine clearing organisation, welcomes the transfer from the UN to the Afghan government.
"A de-mining programme has three steps: the first is strategy, then coordination followed by implementation," he said. "As far as I know, strategy and coordination belong to the government. Implementation is where we come in."
Whoever is responsible for the de-mining efforts, it will continue to be a hugely expensive effort.
Since 1989, Hamidzada said, 320 million US dollars have been spent on removing mines, adding, "It is thought a further 500 million dollars will be required."
De-mining efforts are funded through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, ARTF, which is administered by the World Bank.
The whole de-mining process is expected to be completed by 2012.
"We need to set a final date," said Hamidzada. "By then, most of the country should be cleared. We cannot say all devices will be removed, but after all bombs are still being discovered in Europe 60 years after the Second World War."
Abdul Baseer Saeed is an IWPR staff reporter in Kabul.
Czech Republic to send another 40 troops to Afghanistan in March
PRAGUE, Feb 10 (AFP) - The Czech Republic will send another 40 troops to Afghanistan in March to operate as part of a German-commanded NATO provincial reconstruction team, Defence Minister Karel Kuehnl said Thursday.
The unit will operate near the town of Fayzabad and will focus on securing safety, protecting international units and cooperation with locals in the Badakshan province in north Afghanistan.
The Czech Republic already has a 15-member military team in the Afghan capital Kabul, which specialises in searching for, and deactivating, explosives and in meteorological and geographical observation within the NATO mission, ISAF. The Czech parliament approved extending the mission in Afghanistan last December.
Canadian Forces gear up for next Afghan elections
STEPHANIE RUBEC, SUN OTTAWA BUREAU
OTTAWA -- Canada's new military commander in Afghanistan says his troops are gearing up to provide security for the upcoming parliamentary election. "It will be a busy time in the next six months," Col. Walter Semianiw said in a teleconference from Kabul yesterday - his second day on the job.
"But we're all confident here that we're ready for those challenges."
NATO's International Security Assistance Force, which provided security for last fall's presidential election which saw Hamid Karzai elected, will also be tasked with the upcoming parliamentary elections.
"In all likelihood the parliamentary elections will be more complex," Semianiw said, pointing out that a lot more candidates will be seeking to represent ridings than ran for president.
"At this point in time we don't know what our role is going to be," he said.
Afghanistan had originally planned its parliamentary elections for last summer, but postponed it until April. Officials warned last month that it could be delayed again by up to two months because of a delay in drawing up ridings.
The election will see Afghanis vote for members of its lower house, the Wolesi Jirga. NATO is concerned warlords and warring factions will attempt to disrupt the elections.
Semianiw is commanding 900 soldiers, the vast majority of them from CFB Petawawa. They will be working out of Kabul for the next six months.
Lithuania ready to lead NATO reconstruction team in Afghanistan
VILNIUS, Feb 11 (AFP) - Lithuania, which joined NATO less than a year ago, is preparing to lead one of the alliance's provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said Friday.
"We have offered our services and are preparing to take on the responsibility," Kirkilas told AFP. "We now are in the planning stage and are holding consultations with our partners. We also have to conduct the intelligence mission and only then, approximately at the end of March, will the final decision be taken," Kirkilas added.
"This would be the first such task of responsibility for Lithuania and we want to make the best preparations possible. The evaluation of Lithuania by our NATO partners will depend very much on how we succeed in this mission," he stressed.
According to Kirkilas Lithuania would lead a reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Ghore province with a base planned in the provincial capital of Chagcharan.
The team would include military from the Britain, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Sweden and the United States. "We also are in consultation with Hungary and Romania and hope they will join the team," Kirkilas said.
He also said that that Spain, which is going to lead another reconstruction team in the northwestern Badghis region, has promised logistical assistance for the Lithuanian-led mission. The expansion of NATO's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan was dicussed Thursday at a meeting in Nice, southern France, of defence minsters.
NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said at the meeting that NATO has the resources to expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but did not go into detail.
NATO took over the ISAF force in 2003. It currently comprises some 8,300 soldiers from more than 30 countries, deployed in the Afghan capital Kabul and the north in the form of provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs).
Last year NATO political leaders agreed to extend the force into the remote west of Afghanistan but military chiefs have struggled to get the project off the ground.
Thousands spend night in open after quake scare in Afghanistan, Pakistan
(AFP) 12 February 2005
KABUL - Tens of thousands of residents scared by rumours of an earthquake spent a chilly night in the open in the Afghan capital Kabul and Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar, residents said Saturday.
The rumours spread after relatives and friends in Peshawar called people in Kabul telling them an earthquake was likely to hit the region, but it was not known what caused the people to expect a tremor.
“Hearing noises in background, I woke up and pulled the curtain of my room and was surprised to see several dozen families standing in snow and some people in their vehicles with engines on,” said Fawad Akbari, a resident in Macrorayon neighbourhood of Kabul.
“I went down to ask what happened, people laughed at me why I was not aware of the prediction of a strong quake.”
“My cousin called me from Peshawar at 3:00 (2230 GMT) and told me that people in Peshawar were staying outdoors despite rain fall due to fear of a quake and advised us to do so,” university student Mohammed Osman told AFP.
Kabul, which is normally deserted at night was full of people camping out of their apartment buildings, with police everywhere and streets crowded with vehicles rushing from one neighborhood to another in search of a safer place.
TV cameras were visible in the dark in the early hours of Saturday morning interviewing people about what was happening.
“I don’t know from where and how the rumours spread in the city, I came out of my house and asked people to get back to their homes to avoid sickness,” said a journalist, Mohamed Nesar Haris.
“Hearing of the earthquake prediction, I took my family down and spend four hours in our mini van,” another Kabul resident Zabihullah told AFP.
Normalcy was restored after announcements were made on radios dismissing the rumours.
“It was only a rumour which spread around the city, it hasn’t come from a officials source,” interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told AFP.
“This is a crime to spread such baseless and false rumours which made people suffer,” he added.
Similar scenes were witnessed in Peshawar where residents said thousands of people stayed out of their homes because of the false alarm.
Indian terror flick to show in Afghanistan as Bollywood woos viewers there
Thu Feb 10,10:46 PM ET
BOMBAY (AFP) - Bollywood-based film producer Asad Sikander returns to his homeland Afghanistan this weekend to showcase his latest movie, the terrorist-themed "Bullet", before the country's elite, he told AFP.
The action-adventure flick will premier on Saturday in Kabul's Ariana Cinema and 14 other theatres across Afghanistan, Sikander said, as Bollywood tries to rekindle a long-dormant relationship with Afghan audiences.
"We have a mega release planned with President Hamid Karzai, cabinet ministers, the stars of the film and delegates from various embassies set to attend the function," he said.
The movie premiered in India a week ago, but heavy snow in Afghanistan scuppered plans for it to open in both countries at the same time.
"The Afghanistan premier was delayed due to the harsh winter and will take place Saturday," the producer said.
Bollywood's ties with Afghanistan are strong, with the first Afghan film, Eshq-o-Dusti ("Love and Friendship"), being produced in 1946 by the Indian company Huma Films.
The male leads were from Kabul's thriving theatre fraternity but the actresses were from India.
One of the last major Bollywood hits before the hardline Taliban regime took power was the 1992 release "Khuda Gawah" (God knows), starring Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan.
The movie was extensively shot in Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar.
Another adventure-action movie "Elaan" (Announcement), released first in 1994, was the first movie to be screened after the Taliban were ousted in 2001.
A recent Bollywood movie, "Escape from Taliban", inspired by a novel called "A Kabuliwala's Bengali Wife", is the true story of Sushmita Banerjee's horrific experience in Afghanistan and her daring escape from the Taliban in 1995.
Movies and television were banned in under the Taliban regime, who left the 600-seated Ariana cinema -- one of Kabul's most popular entertainment spots until it was ravaged during the 1992-96 civil war -- abandoned.
It was rebuilt by the French government at a cost of one million US dollars and reopened in May 2004 sporting a parquet floor, red velvet seats and a state-of-the-art sound system.
Afghanistan is the third largest overseas market for Bollywood cinema, after Britain and the United States.
"The appetite for Bollywood movies has increased in the years of restriction. Bollywood remains more popular than Hollywood in Afghanistan," said Sikander, an Afghan by birth.
"With the coming of a new liberal government, there are new cinema houses coming up everywhere from Jalalabad to Mazar-i-Sharif."
But trade analysts say Afghanistan still has a long way to go before it will be a priority for Bollywood producers.
"Afghanistan just doesn't have the infrastructure to deal with a steady inflow of Bollywood film, but it is a good market ... the returns on investment should be very good," said Indu Mirani, editor of the trade magazine Box Office.
"Bullet" is set in Bulgaria and centres around the theme of terrorism. The film stars Sikandar, former Indian model Aseem Merchant and Miss Bulgaria Natalie Gurkova.
"What we're trying to say with the film is that terrorism is not created by religion or countries but simply money," Sikandar said.
"Bullet" was directed by Irfan Khan, who has previously created shows for national television in India. The film is being distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Sikandar's next feature is called "Buzkashi", named after Afghanistan's national sport which has teams on horseback aiming to lob a dead goat across the goal line.
Lawyer: Contractor Beat Afghan As His Duty
Fri Feb 11, 6:08 PM ET
By WILLIAM L. HOLMES, Associated Press Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. - A CIA contractor charged with beating an Afghan detainee who later died was protecting the nation against terrorists and should not be prosecuted because he was following directives from the president and his administration, his lawyers argued in filings released this week.
Lawyers for David A. Passaro, a former Army Special Forces soldier from North Carolina who was hired as CIA contractor, also contend that the alleged beating of Abdul Wali occurred outside the jurisdiction of U.S. courts.
Passaro's lawyer, public defender Thomas P. McNamara, filed his motion to dismiss the federal charges in December, but the document was only made publicly available this week.
In it, McNamara points out that Bush said on Sept. 12, 2001, a day after terrorist attacks in the United States that resulted in the deaths of 3,000 people, that the nation "will use all our resources to conquer this enemy." He also cites remarks by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and White House officials that he argues immunize Passaro from prosecution.
McNamara wrote that the laws under which Passaro was charged were "not designed for application to the front lines of battle."
Passaro was charged in June with four counts of assault, accused of beating Wali with his hands, feet and a flashlight as he tried to get information about rocket attacks on U.S. forces.
Prosecutors say Wali died June 21, 2003, after two days of interrogations and beatings by Passaro. Three paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division will testify that they witnessed the beating, prosecutors said. Passaro is not charged in his death.
If convicted, Passaro could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.
A response filed by federal prosecutors remained under seal Friday. Assistant U.S. Attorney James Candelmo has asked that a defense motion that argues that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction over the case be rejected. Both he and McNamara have declined to comment on the case.
U.S. Rejects U.N. Expert's Afghan Rights Concerns
KABUL (Reuters) - The U.S. military Saturday dismissed concerns expressed by a U.N. rights investigator about allegations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, saying an internal investigation had found that detainees were treated humanely.
A U.N. independent expert said in a statement Thursday after a visit to Afghanistan that he was "gravely concerned" at allegations of mistreatment and even torture of local people by foreign forces in the country.
Egyptian lawyer Cherif Bassiouni gave no details of the allegations or who had made them but he is due to reveal more of his findings at the U.N. Human Rights Commission's annual six-week session in March and April.
"I am familiar with the allegations which have been made by the U.N. human rights expert," U.S. military spokesman Major Steve Wollman told a news briefing in Kabul.
"The coalition has done a complete and thorough investigation and review of detainee operations here in Afghanistan. The results of that investigation show there was not abuse in Afghanistan; there is not abuse in Afghanistan."
"Conditions that exist in our holding facilities are humane."
Wollman was referring to a Pentagon investigation of detention operations in Afghanistan in 2004 by Brigadier-General Charles H. Jacoby, which the U.S. military pledged to release but has yet to do.
"The report is still under review and once the review is complete it will be released," Wollman said.
Rights groups have criticized the U.S. government's failure to hold personnel accountable for up to six Afghan deaths in U.S. military custody in Afghanistan since U.S. forces invaded the country in 2001 and overthrew the radical Taliban regime.
In December, New York-based Human Rights Watch said this failure had created a culture of impunity and some U.S. personnel involved in abuses in Afghanistan had later been involved in similar incidents in Iraq.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Command said in October it had recommended 28 people for prosecution in connection with deaths at the U.S. military's main detention center in Afghanistan, at Bagram airbase.
Human Rights Watch said that, as of December, the U.S. government has charged only two people in connection with detainee abuse in Afghanistan, although four of the deaths were known cases of murder or manslaughter.
Hundreds of Afghans suspected of militant links are held at U.S. camps inside Afghanistan or at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
In a report last March, Human Rights Watch said detainees held at U.S. bases in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003 had described being beaten by guards and interrogators, deprived of sleep and exposed to extreme cold.
Afghanistan finds role model in UAE
By Nissar Hoath, Gulf News Staff Reporter
Abu Dhabi: The UAE can be a role model for Afghanistan as that country continues reconstruction, the new Afghan envoy to the UAE told Gulf News.
"I'm impressed by the way the UAE has developed itself in such a short period of time. We can learn from the UAE's experience in building a modern infrastructure," said Abdul Fareed Zikria, Afghanistan's first full ambassador to the UAE.
The UAE is a logical trading partner for Afghanistan, Zikria said. "The UAE is a very important point of communication for us, and [ensuring good relations with the UAE] is a priority for us."
"We can benefit [by studying] the UAE's achievements. Since we are starting the rebuilding of our country almost from scratch, we consider the UAE to be a useful role model," Zikria said.
Afghanistan's new government wants to further strengthen its deep-rooted relations with the UAE, he said.
Afghanistan is going through a phase of reconstruction and offers many opportunities for UAE investors, he said.
"We invite UAE investors, particularly those active in the construction industry, to participate in these opportunities," he said.
"We are also hoping many UAE companies will be able to win contracts during the reconstruction process in Afghanistan, which will help pave the way for additional foreign investment in our country," Zikria said.
UAE investors should consider investing in Afghanistan's banking sector, for example, he said.
Hundreds of thousands of Afghans living throughout the Middle East send money home through informal channels, he said.
"We invite UAE banks to come and open branches in Afghan cities. By building banking operations in Afghanistan, the UAE banks can profit while at the same time help rebuild our country," he said.
Regional airlines should consider investing more resources to serve Afgh-anistan's air travel market, he said.
UAE investors should also realise Afghanistan's mineral wealth offers many chances for potentially profitable ventures, the envoy said.
Afghanistan's government aims to make it as easy as possible for foreign investors to participate in the country's rebuilding process, he said.
"Foreign investors need not be worried about security issues, as they will be taken care of by the government," he said.
The security situation in Afghanistan has improved markedly since elections were held and the new government assumed authority, Zikria said.
"Security for foreign investors is a top [action item] for Hamid Karzai's government," Zikria said.
Report: Poor planning for air cover during key Afghanistan battle
Air Force document says no major mistakes made
From Mike Mount
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. ground commanders failed to coordinate with the Air Force until a week before a key 2002 battle in Afghanistan, causing confusion among troops in a fierce fight and pilots providing air cover, an Air Force report released Friday says.
The report, titled "Operation Anaconda, an Air Power Perspective," shows serious problems with how U.S. ground commanders planned the operation against Taliban fighters and al Qaeda terrorists in eastern Afghanistan during March 2002.
The report concludes no major mistakes were made in the battle, one of the deadliest of Operation Enduring Freedom. Eight U.S. troops and three coalition forces died during the mission to secure a hilltop known as Takur Gar.
The report shows that while the Air Force succeeded in protecting ground troops, it broke its rules in battle.
The report points out that planes dropped bombs in the paths of other friendly aircraft, fired on enemy positions without using standard combat procedures, endangered pilots and the rules of engagement for firing on enemy positions were not clear.
While the report paints a chaotic picture at times, it says that the Air Force, operating in an area of about 10 square miles, did a much better job than could have been expected given the conditions.
Operation Anaconda was planned in the first half of February 2002, but according to the report, planning on the air component did not start until the last week of that month, a few days before the start of the operation.
The air commander was not informed about the operation until one week before its start, the report says.
Ground commanders underestimated the number of enemy fighters and assumed the small number of Taliban and al Qaeda would not require much close air support, the report says.
"Much of the problem seemed to stem from the lack of clear and frequent contact between the right elements of the staffs of the two components [air and ground forces]," the report says.
The slow notification to the Air Force of the operation, the report says, "affected fire support planning and execution."
Air commanders struggled to give ground commanders the close air support the troops needed in the opening days of Anaconda as aircraft from as far away as Kuwait were flown in and immediately put to work, according to the report.
In one case, two A-10s made a five-hour flight from Kuwait and instead of landing, immediately dropped bombs on enemy mortar positions firing on U.S. troops who were "screaming for close air support," the report said.
Smaller bombs better suited for dropping close to friendly troops also were rushed to the battle, and by commanders who had to make numerous adjustments during battle, the report says.
According to the report, the commander of the air forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Michael T. Moseley, told Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks about the planning, "We shouldn't go into this thinking that the air component's going to come in like the cavalry and bail everybody out. We should have all of this happen at the beginning."
Air Force commanders also complained that they would have liked to have been able to "soften up" or "prepare" the battlefield before and at the start of the fight, to clear hilltop mortar positions so that the "shock against the opposition would have been immediate."
Though Operation Anaconda was essentially a success for the U.S. forces, air commanders and ground commanders were dissatisfied with the level of information about the planning for the mission.
"What was lacking was a free and full exchange of information about upcoming operations," the report states.
"Working hard on their pieces of the battle, there was little initiative -- by land and air commanders -- to reach out to the other to enhance coordination and effectiveness," the report says.
Afghanistan: Emergency distribution to combat Kabul's bitter weather
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) 11 Feb 2005
Afghanistan is currently experiencing its coldest winter in years, with icy conditions, heavy snow, and reports of people dying from cold in the tented squatter camps scattered around the capital, Kabul.
Following a request from the Afghan Ministry of Health and an assessment of the needs, Italian Cooperation, working in conjunction with the Italian Red Cross and the ICRC, distributed 45 tonnes of wood and over 400 blankets on 1 February to families living in a makeshift camp at Chaman-i-Babrak on the outskirts of Kabul. A similar distribution was carried out to 60 families living in another tented camp, Shahi Shahid, the following day.
Nearly 200 families – about half the camp's residents – benefited from the aid provided in Chaman-i-Babrak. While it certainly did not cover all the needs, it was a start. A further distribution is planned.
Many of the families are returnees from Pakistan and have been living in Chaman-i-Babrak, in abysmal conditions, for months and even years. The place lacks all amenities, and the ragged shelters are made from mud and plastic sheeting for the most part.
For Abdul Qahar, a former soldier, and his family of eight, the aid was sorely needed. Six days earlier his wife, Nazia, had given birth to their sixth child, a daughter, whom they named Nasima. Wrapped in white swaddling clothes, the tiny baby lay in her mother's arms in their grim, mud shelter as Abdul Qahar entered to tell his family of the unexpected distribution.
Chaman-i-Babrak is a desperate place in which to bring up children. The numbing winter weather makes it all the worse. But at least for now, there will be wood for the fire, and blankets enough in which to wrap Nasima as she gets used to a cold, unfamiliar world.
Afghan Ambassador meets with Canada’s Minister of International cooperation To discuss future of development and reconstruction aid
Press release - February 9, 2005
Ottawa – Ambassador Omar Samad met with The Hon. Aileen Carroll, Canada’s Minister of International Cooperation on Tuesday and expressed the new elected Afghan government’s great appreciation for Canada’s generous contributions to Afghanistan’s post-conflict reconstruction and development programs.
Ambassador Samad said, “President Hamid Karzai’s government is keen to see sustained Canadian engagement as part of the 3-D approach for several years to come, and expresses its deep appreciation for the commitments made thus far in all three domains, and in particular, for the important role played by CIDA in the delivery of the aid.”
Minister Carroll highlighted the importance of Afghanistan as the largest recipient of Canadian foreign aid, and pledged to keep the commitments made by Canada – totaling to more than $615 million until 2009 - at the Tokyo and Berlin donor Conferences in 2002 and 2004 respectively. She also reiterated Canada’s pledge to continue to support parts of the Afghan Government’s operational budget through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund.
The two sides also expressed their concern about the threat of narcotics originating from Afghanistan. The Afghan envoy expressed his government’s readiness to deal with the various facets of the narcotics problem, but added that the problem could not be resolved without international assistance and cooperation.
Amb. Samad reiterated that the new leadership team and key ministries in Kabul are committed to continuing the reforms started after the Bonn Accords of 2001. “We are reviewing and upgrading the reconstruction and development strategies to better suit the fast-changing environment, needs and priorities of the country,’ said the Ambassador.
Some of the new issues and priorities, highlighted by infrastructure-building programs, will be discussed with the donor community during the annual Afghanistan Development Forum to be held in Kabul in March, 2005.
Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Afghan Ambassador extended an invitation to Minister Carroll to visit Afghanistan during that time period, and also attend the ADF meeting. Both sides also agreed that exchanges and visits by the ministers in charge of the 3-D (diplomacy, defence and development) sectors will be valuable.
“Maximizing the impact of Canadian aid in areas such as water management and irrigation, alternative energies, agriculture and reforestation, and also by promoting private sector investments, are examples that can leave a lasting Canadian imprint in Afghanistan, affecting the lives of millions,” said Ambassador Samad.
Musharraf urges joint Pak-Afghan efforts against terrorism
Says peace, stability in Afghanistan to benefit both countries
The News International, Pakistan
RAWALPINDI: President Pervez Musharraf on Friday expressed satisfaction over the growing level of trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan, emphasising that the two countries need to continue jointly combating the menace of extremism and terrorism, in order to realise the tremendous economic potential of the region.
"Extremism and terrorism are stumbling blocks in the way of fast-paced progress, we need to jointly combat this menace," Musharraf said at a meeting with Afghan Finance Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi.
The president said Pakistan considered peace and stability in Afghanistan as crucial to the benefit of both countries in the context of economic growth, development of the region and expansion of trade linkages with Central Asia.
He said the historic and cultural ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan would be further commented through increased trade and economic cooperation. "The government of Kabul and Islamabad," he said, "can steer trade to still higher levels by facilitating more vibrant cooperation between their private sectors."
In this context, he spoke of the initiatives Pakistan has taken in facilitating bilateral trade and economic cooperation with Afghanistan, which, among other things, included lowering of air freight and railways fare, bringing down duty on import of Afghan fruit and removal of a number of items from the negative list.
The Afghan finance minister thanked the president for the opportunity to call on him and said his country attached great importance to its trade and economic relations with Pakistan. Ahadi, who is heading a four-member Afghan delegation, described the interaction with senior Pakistani finance and trade officials as very positive and forthcoming, a fact, which, he said, promises to increase bilateral economic manifold in near future. He conveyed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s best wishes for Pakistan’s leadership and its people.
The president reciprocated the warm sentiments of the Afghan leadership and its people. Meanwhile Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Dr Salman Shah said President Pervez Musharraf had urged the Pak-Afghan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) to work on bringing oil and gas pipelines from Central Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan for a domestic markets and onward transmission to international markets.
He was addressing the concluding fourth session of the two-day Pak-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission here on Friday. During the JEC session, Pakistan’s delegation was led by Dr Salman Shah while the Afghanistan Side was represented by Dr Haq. At the conclusion of the meeting, a bilateral agreement was also signed by the two countries.
Dr Shah unveiling the outcomes of the 4th Pak-Afghanistan JEC said that the Turkmanistan Afghanistan Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline was the" win win situation" for the three countries and this was discussed the session.
"We have reiterated our support to the project and the Afgan finance minister also fully supported this project and will be working actively towards promoting and getting this project implemented," he said. "The president wants deeper linkage with Afghanistan and through Afghanistan to Central Asia," he said. The connecting of ports in Pakistan with Afghanistan and Central Asia is the top priority of the government, he added.
The advisor said that during the meeting, it was decided to hold Pak-Afghan JEC quarterly and next meeting of the JEC would be held in Kabul after three months. He said that the fourth session of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Economic Commission (JEC) was held here on February 10-11. The sessions were co-chaired by Dr Shah and Dr Ahadi.
INTERVIEW - Pakistan, India should both get F-16 jets - envoy
Fri Feb 11, 7:54 PM ET By Carol Giacomo and Caroline Drees
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pakistan would not object to India buying American-made F-16s if Islamabad is also permitted to acquire the sophisticated fighter jets, Pakistan's ambassador to Washington said on Friday.
"As long as we are on the list for F-16s, it's all right if India gets them," Ambassador Jehangir Karamat told Reuters.
"We wouldn't have any problem because we have no problem with India buying defense equipment worldwide. We are no longer in an arms race with them," he said of Pakistan's South Asian nuclear rival.
The comments seemed designed to open new political possibilities for advancing Pakistan's stalled 15-year quest for the F-16 fighters and to strike a contrast with India, which has opposed the sale to Islamabad.
But U.S. officials said India's interest may not be serious and complicates Bush administration decision-making.
Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism and India is a key U.S. market and technology partner.
"We don't want to create an arms race with our own sales in South Asia," one U.S. official said, speaking anonymously.
But Karamat, former chairman of Pakistan's Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: "We accept the (conventional arms) imbalance which is there between India and Pakistan. What we will do and continue to do is keep that imbalance at a state which we consider manageable from our point of view."
India, long dependent on Russian-made armaments, recently expressed interest in American-made military aircraft and top U.S. defense firms are promoting their wares this week at Aero India, the industry air show in Bangalore.
There, a senior executive with Lockheed Martin Corp. said his company is in talks to sell its C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft and P-3C Orion naval spy planes to India.
India also has sought preliminary information in efforts to buy Lockheed's F-16 fighter jets. Under U.S. law, Congress must approve government to government arms sales.
Diplomatic sources said India's interest in U.S. fighters makes sense because ties between the two countries improved dramatically in recent years and sophisticated arms sales would add "ballast" to burgeoning trade.
But some U.S. officials doubt India is serious about buying American, especially when there are other producers like France and Sweden, and when New Delhi remains concerned that American supplies could be interrupted by possible sanctions.
They suspect India's interest is aimed at preventing Washington from selling to Islamabad.
India "has put the administration in a tough place. Does it sell to Pakistan and forgo a potentially lucrative deal with India, or is that Indian deal just a ploy to prevent arch nemesis Pakistan from getting them," one U.S. official said, noting an Indian deal would be larger than an Pakistani deal.
If Washington sold F-16s to both countries "that means we would be fueling a rivalry. It's very complicated," he added.
Lockheed is a major factor. U.S. congressional sources told Reuters the defense contractor has warned that if F-16 sales to Pakistan are not approved, the F-16 production line, with key facilities in President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s home state of Texas, will be shut down.
A Lockheed spokesman could not be reached.
Some U.S. lawmakers oppose F-16s to Pakistan because they feel the government is undemocratic and has not done enough to oppose Islamic militancy. But others say F-16s should be used to reward Islamabad for a major achievement, like peace with India in disputed Kashmir (news - web sites).
The United States sold F-16s to Pakistan in the 1980s when Islamabad helped drive the Soviets from Afghanistan (news - web sites) but deliveries were halted in 1990 after a U.S. law barred military exports because Pakistan was suspected of possessing a nuclear device. India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons in 1998.
Heavy rains kill 130 in Pakistan, dam bursts
QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - More than 130 people have been killed across Pakistan in the heaviest rains in 16 years that caused a dam to burst, provincial officials said on Friday.
Authorities rushed thousands of troops to join rescue operations in the remote southwestern Baluchistan province, where some 20,000 people had been affected by the floods, said Raziq Bugti, a government spokesman in the province said.
Officials said at least 60 people died on Thursday night after Baluchistan's Shadikor dam burst, sweeping through villages near the coastal town of Pasni. More than 40 more died from heavy rains in other parts of the province.
Some reports said hundreds were missing, though officials said there were no reliable estimates.
"Relief operations are in full swing. Army, paramilitary rangers and coast guards are trying to pull out people stranded in the flood water," Bugti told Reuters.
Officials said at least five villages, home to around 7,000 people, had been submerged by waters that poured through the 35 metre (115 foot) high and 300 metre long embankment of the dam, constructed just two years ago.
"Sixty bodies have been recovered in the Pasni area. They were all killed due to the dam burst," provincial minister Sher Jan Baluch told Reuters.
Baluch said 4,000 army and paramilitary troops were involved in the relief efforts.
The navy was also called in to help, with at least three bridges along the main coastal highway washed away, and 11 helicopters flew over flooded areas to help rescue trapped people.
The torrential rain and snowfall has claimed more than 30 other lives elsewhere in Pakistan over the past week, with many more people reported injured and missing.
Most of the fatalities were caused by avalanches, flash floods or by collapsing roofs.
In the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), near the border with Afghanistan, at least 30 soldiers were caught in an avalanche in the remote Teerah valley on Thursday and there was no word on their fate, military officials said.
But the greatest alarm was over the burst dam near Pasni, some 800 km (500 miles) south of the provincial capital, Quetta.
Baluch said more than 1,400 people had been saved by rescue workers and troops in the Pasni area and other parts of Baluchistan. "Most of them took shelter on higher ground and some climbed trees to save their lives."
Pakistan has seen its heaviest rains and snowfalls for 16 years, according to the Meteorological Department.
In Peshawar, the provincial capital of NWFP, four people, including a mother and her three children, were killed when the roof of their house caved in on Thursday night.
Elsewhere, two soldiers were killed by an avalanche in the Neepa valley of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on Thursday.
Another three people died, and two are missing, after an avalanche hit them in Astore valley near Gilgit, the main town in Pakistan's mountainous Northern Areas, police said.
The Northern Areas, where the Himalaya, Karakoram and Hindu Kush mountain ranges meet, have been cut off, with roads buried under several feet of snow and the Chitral valley particularly badly affected.
The Karakoram Highway, linking Pakistan and China, has been blocked and flights have been suspended since Feb. 3, said residents of Gilgit, the main town in the Northern Areas.
Weather officials said the intensity of rains had subsided in Baluchistan but would continue in most of the rest of Pakistan for the next 24 hours.
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