Six Afghan soldiers die in suspected Taliban attack
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, Jan 14 (AFP) - Six Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack by Taliban-linked militants in insurgency-hit southeastern Afghanistan, an official said Friday.
The soldiers were killed Monday and their bodies were found the next day in the Washore district of Hilmand, one of the most troubled provinces in the southeast, provincial intelligence chief Dad Mohammad told AFP. 'They were ambushed by the Taliban as they patrolled in the region,' he said.
Militants from the Taliban, whose fundamentalist regime was toppled by a US-led invasion in late 2001, are still carrying out attacks on foreign and local troops, mainly in southern and southeastern parts of the country.
On Thursday, militants also believed to be remnants of the Taliban fought government troops in Grishk district of the same province, but there were no casualties on either side, Mohammad said.
'Taliban attacked one of our units but made off when we sent reinforcements,' he said. More than 800 people died in mainly Taliban-linked violence last year, despite the presence of 18,000 US-led troops in the country to hunt down the militants.
The US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai is currently working on an amnesty scheme with the Taliban to help calm the war-shattered country as it struggles to rebuild itself after decades of conflict.
Hilmand, dominated by ethnic Pashtuns, is known as a traditional stronghold of the ousted militia. It lies some 650 kilometers (390 miles) from the Afghan-Pakistani border.
NATO commander upbeat on Afghan mission
MONS, Belgium (AFP) - NATO's top military commander voiced confidence Friday over plans to expand the alliance-led peacekeeping mission into western Afghanistan, saying it could happen within the next few months.
More generally US General James Jones said the threat level in the war-scarred country in general was decreasing. 'The threat doesn't seem to be increasing. It's in the other direction, it's decreasing,' he told reporters.
NATO said this week it expects to make a 'milestone' decision next month on expanding the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into western Afghanistan. The alliance's defence ministers meet in Nice on February 9-10.
ISAF was initially confined to Kabul, but last year expanded into the north. Officials concede it is behind schedule on plans to move into the west, which are part of a strategy which will ultimately see it in the south and east too, as well as possibly merging with the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom.
Specifically in the west the United States is pressing its European allies to offer to set up two more provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs). If this is achieved the US will turn over two PRTs to NATO command.
Jones confirmed that a number of countries including Italy, Spain and Canada have voiced interest, while officials said Italy was looking at setting up a forward operating base for the remote region.
Asked when the expansion could physically take place if a decision is taken next month, the NATO commander pointed out that this may be difficult during harsh winter conditions, saying it could happen 'towards the end of winter.'
'We will be happy with a declaration of intent' from NATO ministers next month, he said. Jones said the overall outlook for Afghanistan, which held its first free elections late last year three years after the United States drove out the Taliban in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
'We're moving into a period where we can more properly talk about so-called combat operations as really being force protection, moving into the force protection class of difficulty,' he said.
8 Pak army soldiers arrested in Kunar
KABUL - Afghan defence ministry has arrested eight Pakistan army soldiers, who entery crossing border illegally. VOA quoted Afghan defence ministry spokesman Zahir Azeemi as saying that the ministry has arrested eight Pakistani troops in eastern province of Kunar for entering the country illegally.
He said investigations from the arrested persons were underway. However, the spokesman said that motive of the entrants was not clear so far. To a question regarding recent border skirmishes at Pak-Afghan border, General Azeemi said that the clashes occurred due to misunderstanding. He said that tripartite commission was investigating the recent clashes. He expressed sorrow over killing of a Pakistani soldier in the clashes.
The Economist 01/13/2005
Afghanistan's deposed clerics in exile BOR JAN, a wispy-bearded Afghan, whipped a scrap of paper from a pocket of his baggy trousers. "Find any Muslims who are friends of the infidel and kill them," he read aloud. Across the nearby border with Afghanistan, America has dispatched soldiers to deter Mr Jan and his Taliban fellows from carrying out their orders. But in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan, a sprawling western province, Mr Jan could at least rant at his leisure.
Nothing irks America's men in Afghanistan more than their enemy's propensity to flee into Pakistan, there to rest and re-arm, seemingly at will. Although—at the top level, at least—a firm American ally since the September 11th attacks, Pakistan refuses to allow American boots on its soil. It has maintained that it can deal with any Taliban seeking refuge in its territory—which after all was where the movement was begun.
The Taliban were formed in the early 1990s, by clerics of the ferociously devout Pushtun, a tribe of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The black-turbaned clerics' aim was to end Afghanistan's civil war, which they achieved with help from Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. By 1996, the Taliban had seized Kabul. In 2001, with America's bombers circling Afghanistan, Pakistan abruptly abandoned its former friends and professed itself an enemy of terror. But quite how abandoned were they really?
Of the thousands of Taliban members who fled into Pakistan from the bombing and subsequent occupation of Afghanistan, no notable individual was arrested. Quetta's deputy police chief, Muhammad Riaz, explains this with a shrug: "You cannot arrest everyone wearing a turban." No, but you might arrest one or two.
A Taliban commander captured in Afghanistan last year said he was travelling on his way back from a war council in Quetta, where he had collected a cache of ammunition for the insurrection back home. His satellite telephone showed evidence of contact with several other Taliban leaders; all of them had Pakistani telephone numbers.
Pakistan received America's plaudits—and cash—last year for its continuing campaign against terrorists. Having survived two assassination attempts at the end of 2003, Pervez Musharraf, the country's leader, has been cracking down on al-Qaeda's remnants, resulting in several important captures and kills. He has also waged a small war in the tribal area of Waziristan, pitting 70,000 soldiers against tribesmen he accuses of sheltering foreign Islamic militant fighters. According to official figures, the army has killed 300 militants in Waziristan, more than 100 of them foreigners, and suffered over 170 casualties. Against the Taliban, however, Pakistan is playing a murkier sort of game.
In Quetta, Mr Jan is not alone in boasting openly of his Taliban membership. Many young militants were recruited for the movement in the city's teeming mosques and Islamic schools; in Arabic, taliban means students. In the city's bazaars, a rich array of jihadi paraphernalia is on display. From the Talib Speeches Centre, audiotaped racist bilge can be acquired for 50 cents. A hawker sells posters celebrating the face of Osama bin Laden, and bumper stickers recommending the delights of martyrdom.
What do such displays mean? Not, perhaps, that the Taliban are thriving still. In October, they failed to disrupt Afghanistan's first democratic elections in a quarter of a century, as they had threatened. Afghanistan's new government has since offered an amnesty to Taliban foot-soldiers. But their radical mentors, still supported by sympathisers within the Pakistani establishment, will take more than a bombing campaign to root out.
Iraq replaces Afghanistan as training ground for terrorists:
New Kerala - Jan 14 12:20 AM
[World News]: Washington, Jan 14 : Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of "professionalised" terrorists, a new US study has said.
The al Qaeda membership "that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq," the report by the CIA's National Intelligence Council said.
Iraq provides terrorists with "a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills," said David Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats.
"There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore, disperse to various other countries." Low's comments came during a rare public briefing by the NIC on its report of significant global trends looking out as far as 2020.
But within the 119-page report is a startling frank evaluation of Iraq's place as a breeding ground for the new generation of Islamic terrorists, an evaluation that represents a consensus among terror experts throughout the world.
"At the moment," said NIC Chairman Robert L Hutchings, Iraq "is a magnet for international terrorist activity."
Iraq also now joins the list of conflicts, including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the southern Philippines and southern Thailand, that has deepened solidarity among Muslims, the report added. PTI
Jaw-jaw better than war-war for Afghan opposition
KABUL, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Once upon a time in Afghan politics when those who lost out in the struggle for power reached for their guns, now the losers in last year's presidential polls are instead preparing for this year's parliamentary elections.
President Hamid Karzai, who emerged from the obscurity of exile with U.S. backing three years ago, won Afghanistan's first ever presidential poll in October, luring voters with the promise of stability after decades of conflict.
But the powerful faction leaders who stayed and fought the Soviets, the Taliban and often each other are still a force in the rugged and often unruly country and would be unhappy to be completely sidelined from the political process.
"After the success of the presidential elections ... forming a new parliament is the second step, it is a useful and positive step for reinforcing democracy in Afghanistan." said Yunus Qanuni, the runner-up in the presidential election.
Qanuni and other mujahideen commanders have swapped their battle fatigues for smart suits, but while a U.N-sponsored disarmament programme has taken away most of their heavy weapons, thousands of fiercely loyal supporters still have their guns.
Some are upset the pro-Western Karzai, from the traditionally dominant Pashtun ethnic group that also spawned the Taliban, has excluded minority Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras from top security and economy posts in his new cabinet announced last month.
"The ministries of defence and interior are both run by Pashtuns, the other two key ministries of finance and commerce are also run by Pashtuns," said Mohammad Mohaqiq, leader of Hizb-e Wahdat, whose vote bank is the Shi'ite, Hazara ethnic group.
"All the main key ministries are run by one ethnic group, so I don't see a balanced development in the future," he told Reuters. "They want to Pashtunise power in the country."
Karzai has also tried to reach out to rank-and-file Taliban still at large and settle them back into normal life. That would strengthen his support in the Pashtun, former Taliban, heartlands in the south and east, but worry non-Pashtuns in the north.
For a country deeply polarised by political, ethnic and regional feuds, more used to battling than debating, such resentments can be dangerous if bottled up.
There lies the importance of the parliament, analysts say, as a vent for those not in power, to give a voice to those who did not vote for the president and provide a check on his powers.
First due in June last year, parliamentary elections were postponed till April this year and are already behind schedule again. Some diplomats say it could be as late as July before they finally get off the ground.
While Karzai has promised the polls will be held as soon as possible, diplomats fear a prolonged postponement could undermine the legitimacy of his government, as the president's cabinet choices need parliament's approval.
Karzai's opponents formed what they called a United Front to fight the presidential elections, but it was anything but united and each candidate got only a fraction of the president's vote.
But in the new parliament, the three main opposition parties of Qanuni, Hizb-e Wahdat and the Uzbek party, together with a likely high number of independents, will all gain seats.
"The stakes are higher this time round," said an Afghan-based diplomat. "Because together the opposition can form powerful block that could make life very difficult for the government."
That prospect has for now bound the opposition into the system instead of sending them into the hills for another bout of rebellion. "It has given them a role," the diplomat said. "Otherwise they could have caused trouble again."
Afghan president defends appointment of ministers
Eslah Daily 01/13/2004
Kabul - Afghan President Hamed Karzai has defended the appointment to the new foreign, water and power, and information and culture ministers and said he was confident that all of them had the right qualifications for the job. Responding to critical remarks about the ministers in a question-and-answer programme, Karzai conceded that every ministry was "in dire need of reforms" and gave assurances that the government would do its best to meet people's expectations. The following is text of report by Afghan daily newspaper Eslah on 11 January:
[Question, in Pashto] My name is Zia Ghorzang. Dear esteemed president. Prior to the announcement of the cabinet, you had promised you would appoint professionals to the new cabinet who will have no affiliation with military factions, who are not warlords and who are popular among people. Now that you have announced the cabinet, the new cabinet is relatively acceptable but has certain shortcomings as well. For instance, you have appointed a military man instead of an engineer to a technical ministry [alluding to the appointment of former Herat Governor Esmail Khan as the minister of water and power]. You have also reappointed Mr Abdollah the minister of foreign affairs. He may be a good person, but during his last term in office, he appointed foreign ambassadors from one region only. You have also reappointed a minister who changed the ministry to a khanqa. [Khanqa is a religious centre where those seeking spiritual uplift may take part in religious programmes.] Furthermore, he failed to carry out his duties in an efficient manner and did not score any brownie points during his previous term. Will you be able to reconsider this and appoint professionals after a period of time?
[Karzai, in Pashto] Peace be upon you Mr Zia Ghorzang! In reply to your question, I must say that the appointments of the new cabinet members, such as Esmail Khan, Dr [Sayd Makhdum] Rahin [minister of information and culture] and Dr Abdollah, was a proper and fair decision. Esmail Khan is a famous mojahed personality, who had notable achievements during the era of Jihad and thereafter. He had also done a great job during the resistance period [against the Taleban] and spent time in jail and mountain caves for his country's freedom. He spared no effort to serve the Afghan nation. When he was the governor of Herat Province, he showed a keen interest in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process and his achievements were remarkable. He rebuilt roads and electricity supply system of Herat Province. Therefore, he was appointed to the Ministry of Water and Power so that he could apply his expertise and efforts to seek practical ways of providing electricity for the Afghan people all over the country. May God help him be successful in his mission!
Likewise, Dr Abdollah is a famous and prominent dignitary at the national and international level. However, there is no doubt that every Afghan ministry is in dire need of reforms. We are currently working on reform programmes in ministries, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We will try our best to meet your expectations, but you ought to trust Dr Abdollah who has effectively served the Afghan nation before and after the era of Jihad.
Mr Rahin is also a famous national personality and has greatly contributed to preserving the Afghan culture. He has worked for the Afghan culture even from abroad and you can be certain that his achievements in the Ministry of Information and Culture will be noteworthy. Khanqa is a worship place for spiritual groups in Afghanistan. Rahin's interest in going to Khanqas is nothing bad. It is a part of our religion and cannot be banned.
At present, it is rather important to have a cabinet that could represent the entire people of Afghanistan. It is important that its members should serve the best interest of Afghanistan's freedom, culture, education, rehabilitation, and pool their efforts to lead Afghanistan towards development and prosperity.
[Question, in Dari] Peace be upon you Mr President! I am Nazir Ahmad Reha, the head of Afghanistan's youth association. What is your plan to modernize and democratize the Afghan society, considering the predominance of tribal and ethnic differences in all parts of Afghanistan?
[Karzai, in Dari] My dear brother Nazir Ahmad Reha! You have asked an important question. We can easily implement democracy in Afghanistan because all our tribes and all our civil institutions agree to and support the democratization process. In fact, we are very famous for our traditional style of life. Our people in villages and rural areas resolve their disputes and make decisions through national councils. Community elders and religious scholars give them advice and counselling. Most of the Afghan people live in rural areas and villages. They have enjoyed a democratic way of life for centuries. Further, they showed during the presidential election, loya jergas [grand assemblies] and the [presidential election] registration process that they are staunch supporters of democracy. They made it clear that democracy and the culture of counselling had roots in Afghanistan since long ago, and Afghanistan can be proud of this.
Unfortunately, the democracy process in Afghanistan sustained a colossal damage over the last three or four decades. The Russians and other secret elements started interfering in Afghanistan. They invaded and devastated our country. As a result, warlords came to power and inflicted irremediable damage to our culture and traditions. The more Afghanistan heads towards stability, the rule of law and the rule of the people, the more the democratic characteristics of Afghans will come to light.
Thus, it is not difficult for us to implement democracy in rural areas because democracy and the rule of the people already prevail in our society. Nevertheless, it will take time for us to have a democracy compatible with international standards and in a modern-style Afghanistan. To implement the modern democratization process in all state departments, civil institutions and private sector, there is dire need for national and modernized political parties. Afghanistan is heading towards democracy and development, and we hope that it will emerge triumphant in this process in the coming years. But we should exercise patience as it is not possible for us to meet the entire aspects of democracy in a period of few years.
Political parties are developing in Afghanistan anew and it will take up to 15 years or more for them to prosper. Until then, we had better make use of our traditional ways of democracy we have had throughout our history. Community and civil institutions have always proved useful for Afghanistan.
[Question, in Pashto] I am Mohammad Qasim Mohmand, a resident of Nangarhar Province. The Kabul-Jalalabad highway has not been rebuilt yet. Also, some areas in Kabul have electricity, while most other parts do not. I am earnestly asking Mr Karzai to address these shortcomings and problems.
[Karzai, in Pashto] My dear brother Mohammad Qasim Mohmand! Your concern about electricity in Kabul, while you live in Nangarhar Province, pleased me great deal. It is very important for Afghans to think about living conditions in other provinces.
The Kabul-Jalalabad road is being reconstructed and the work is going on. barring accident, the project will be completed by the date set by the construction company. BBC Monitoring
New appointments in Afghan Information and Culture Ministry
Radio Afghanistan 01/14/2005 - Kabul — On the basis of a proposal by the Information and Culture Ministry and its approval by the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan [Hamed Karzai], Sayed Aqa Hosayn Sangcharaki has been appointed as deputy information and culture minister for publication and broadcasting, Ustad Nasrollah Stanakzai as deputy information and culture minister for tourism, Omar Soltan as deputy minister for cultural affairs, Mirwais Zaher as general advisor and Mohammad Azam Rahnaward Zariab as head of the High Council of Press and Culture. Via BBC Monitoring
The people of the north will no more be deceived by the warlords
Anis (official Gov. daily) 01/13/2005
Who is behind the chaos in the north? Mr Dostum? Why? Like other Afghans, the people of the north believe that the country's tribes are fairly represented in the new cabinet and it is according to the will of the people. The people of the north only want the extension of the rule of the central government, and to put an end to gunlordism, and a peaceful life.
The north was the scene of irregularities, armed clashes and killings even after the collapse of the Taleban and the victory of the new government that was, as a matter of fact, their own victory. Over the past three years, the people did not want to hear the sound of rockets, bombs and guns. But, it was the gunlords who did not respect the will of the people and consistently tried to create crises.
Now they want to make capital of the tribal and regional factors and want to create chaos on the pretext that the Afghan cabinet is not all-inclusive. But, eight persons from the north were given seats in the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The northern people know that this is the reality.
Using their old craftiness, those with old dirty hands and ill intentions who repeatedly showed their real nature to the northern people want to disrupt the security again by introducing the [new government] as something against the will of the people.
The people of the north know that the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is free from any kind of personal, factional, tribal, regional considerations and, taking national interests into consideration, thinks only about the reconstruction of the country. The new government does not want tribal and regional issues to affect its efficiency.
Who is behind the chaos in the north? Mr Dostum? Why? Yes, Mr General Dostum wants to flex his muscles again by kicking up the fuss recently. Dostum proved to be very skilful in changing policies, defections, unions and coalitions. But, what does he want now? Why repeating the old games?
Mr Dostum has been trapped in a dangerous political snare. He understands that the strength of the national police and army is increasing and will soon produce achievements. The people also want the government to put an end to the fiefdoms of the north with the cooperation of the international forces. They want the central government to rule over the north.
Yes, the northern people no more want to experience of chaos of the past again. They do not want to be affected by their baseless pressures and intimidation. They are firmly committed to building a free, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan. Such a responsibility and national participation is a want of the northern people. They exhibited their will in the course of the election. Their want is the want of all Afghan people. The Afghan people want unity not discord. The people of the north tolerate no more the dishonesty of Mr Dostum and the Northern Alliance that creates chaos and discord. BBC Monitoring
AFGHANISTAN: Community caught in crossfire in need of assistance
KABUL, 13 January (IRIN) - Hundreds of people, including women and children, were braving freezing winter weather in the isolated Khartzan valley of the northwestern Faryab province after their houses whad been looted by local armed groups, Faryab governor Amer Latif told IRIN from the provincial capital, Maimana, on Wednesday.
Latif said the incident happened several weeks ago, but thatnews of their
plight had only just filtered out of the isolated valley due to heavy snow. “We have a very serious problem - there is a dire need for emergency assistance. It is too cold and people need some security measures but we cannot do anything as the road is blocked and we were not provided with helicopters,” Latif said.
Reports from Faryab say at least ten civilians have been injured after frequent skirmishes took place between two rival commanders. “They were rival drug lords and the fighting was on issues of opium trafficking. The dispute turned violent when they ambushed each other's convoys of drugs,” the governor noted.
Meanwhile the Afghan NGO Security Office (ANSO) told IRIN that they had advised aid agencies to temporarily suspend travel to Faryab province following the incident.
According to ANSO, during the localised fighting amongst armed groups in that area, the entire village of Khartazan had been looted. ANSO said 25 families were displaced, three villagers had been taken hostage and two more wounded in the crossfire.
This is not the first incident in troubled Faryab province. Warlords and their armies in the province continue to harass people and defy local authorities by grabbing land from farmers and locking up those who oppose them in private prisons, human rights activists in Maimana told IRIN.
US Congressmen say sale of F-16 jets to Pakistan would be opposed
NEW DELHI (AFP) - Any proposal by the United States government to sell F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan would be met with strong opposition in Congress, two Democratic lawmakers and members of a pro-India lobby group said here.
Senator Jon Corzine and Representative Frank Pallone were in New Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of a four-nation tour of countries hit by the December 26 tsunami.
The two discussed defense issues with Singh such as the Indian navy's cooperation in relief efforts, but not a possible sale of the advanced fighter jets to Pakistan.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf reportedly asked to buy as many as 25 F-16 fighter jets when he visited Washington and met President George W. Bush in December.
"There would be substantial opposition in Congress if the administration proposes the sale of F-16s," Pallone said on Thursday. "I don't see how the F-16s can be used for anything but offensive purposes. I don't think they'll get it," he added.
Sales of new weapons that could upset the balance of power in the volatile South Asian region have rankled both countries with Pakistan concerned India could get Patriot missiles and India concerned about possible sales of fighter jets and naval surveillance aircraft to Pakistan.
Pallone said that fighter jets would "most likely be used against India and other countries" and would be inappropriate to sell considering the recent revelations of the sale of nuclear weapons-related materials to other countries by the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, A. Q. Khan.
Corzine said Pakistan remains an important ally in the American-led war on terrorism and the United States needed to support the country in that effort. "We certainly need the cooperation," he said. "But I don't think that leads to the sale of F-16s."
Pallone belongs to the 186-member India Caucus in the 545-seat House of Representatives and Corzine belongs to the 32-member counterpart in the 100-seat Senate which is co-chaired by Hillary Clinton. Both congressmen oppose the sale of F-16s to Pakistan.
After waiving sanctions related to India's May 1998 nuclear tests, the US is considering selling the Patriot, a ground-based missile system offering defense against ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and aircraft, to the country for its support of a proposed global missile shield.
Pakistan received a similar nuclear test sanctions waiver for its support in the war on terrorism and was awarded major non-NATO ally status.
The two nuclear-armed countries, which have fought three wars in the past half-century, are in peace talks over the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir but at the same time are developing new medium- and long-range missile systems.
US to consider backing India for Security Council
NEW DELHI (AFP) - The United States will consider supporting India for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council after examining a second report on reforming the world body, the US' envoy said.
Ambassador David Mulford told a press conference that the US administration would take up the issue after UN Secretary General Kofi Annan issued his own report on the issue in March.
"The US Congress reflects various democratic views. And, on this issue the administration will also take into account the views of the US Congress," he said.
Mulford's remarks came shortly after a four-member US congressional delegation, currently touring India, expressed support for India being given permanent membership of the Security Council with veto power.
"There are no tiers. If a country is on the Security Council, it will have the same powers as the others," US Republican Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas told a news conference Thursday.
"There is a lot of goodwill and support for India's role in the region as witnessed in its timely and speedy aid to tsunami-affected countries in Asia," added US Congresswoman Diane E Watson of California.
With India pressing for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, New Delhi has been keen to show itself as a regional power rather than a victim and has dispatched aid to other countries hit by the December 26 tsunamis like Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.
There are five veto-holding permanent Security Council members that include Russia. India has been lobbying hard along with Japan, Brazil and Germany for an inner ring UN seat.
A high-powered UN panel had submitted to Annan last year a report that contained two recommendations on reforming the world body. It suggested creating six new permanent members of the Security Council but without veto power, while the alternate proposal was to create eight new seats whose occupants will serve four years each, instead of the current two.
Iraq Supersedes Afghanistan As Prime Ground For Terrorist Training, NIC Report Shows
The Day (CT, USA) By DANA PRIEST - 1/14/2005
Washington — Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of “professionalized” terrorists, according to a report released Thursday by the National Intelligence Council, the CIA director's think tank.
Iraq provides terrorists with “a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills,” said David Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats. “There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries.”
Low's comments came during a rare briefing by the council on its new report on long-term global trends. It took a year to produce and includes the analysis of 1,000 U.S. and foreign experts. Within the 119-page report is an evaluation of Iraq's new role as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.
President Bush has frequently described the Iraq war as an integral part of U.S. efforts to combat terrorism. But the council's report suggests the conflict has also helped terrorists by creating a haven for them in the chaos of war. “At the moment,” NIC Chairman Robert Hutchings said, Iraq “is a magnet for international terrorist activity.”
Before the U.S. invasion, the CIA said Saddam Hussein had only circumstantial ties with several al-Qaida members. Osama bin Laden rejected the idea of forming an alliance with Saddam and viewed him as an enemy of the jihadist movement because the Iraqi leader rejected radical Islamic ideals and ran a secular regime.
Bush described the war in Iraq as a means to promote democracy in the Middle East. “A free Iraq can be a source of hope for all the Middle East,” he said one month before the invasion. “Instead of threatening its neighbors and harboring terrorists, Iraq can be an example of progress and prosperity in a region that needs both.”
But as instability in Iraq grew after the toppling of Saddam, and resentment toward the United States intensified in the Muslim world, hundreds of foreign terrorists flooded into Iraq across its unguarded borders. They found tons of unprotected weapons caches that, military officials say, they are now using against U.S. troops. Foreign terrorists are believed to make up a large portion of today's suicide bombers, and U.S. intelligence officials say these foreigners are forming tactical, ever-changing alliances with former Baathist fighters and other insurgents.
“The al-Qaida membership that was distinguished by having trained in Afghanistan will gradually dissipate, to be replaced in part by the dispersion of the experienced survivors of the conflict in Iraq,” the report says.
According to the NIC report, Iraq has joined the list of conflicts — including the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, and independence movements in Chechnya, Kashmir, Mindanao in the Philippines, and southern Thailand — that have deepened solidarity among Muslims and helped spread radical Islamic ideology.
At the same time, the report says that by 2020, al-Qaida “will be superseded” by other Islamic extremist groups that will merge with local separatist movements. Most terrorism experts say this is already well under way. The NIC says this kind of ever-morphing decentralized movement is much more difficult to uncover and defeat.
Terrorists are able to easily communicate, train and recruit through the Internet, and their threat will become “an eclectic array of groups, cells and individuals that do not need a stationary headquarters,” the council's report says.
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