U.S. criticizes Pakistan on Taliban leaders
June 18, 2005
KABUL (Reuters) - The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan has suggested that Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has been hiding in Pakistan and sharply criticized Islamabad's failure to act against Taliban leaders.
Zalmay Khalilzad told Afghanistan's Aina Television that a Pakistani TV channel had interviewed a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Akhtar Usmani, at a time when Pakistani officials claimed they did not know the whereabouts of Taliban leaders.
"If a TV station can get in touch with them, how can the intelligence service of a country, which has nuclear bombs and a lot of security and military forces, not find them," Khalilzad said in the interview with Aina broadcast on Friday evening. "Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders should have been in Pakistan," Khalilzad said. "Mr Usmani, who is one of the Taliban leaders, spoke to Pakistani Geo TV, at a time when Pakistani officials claimed that they did not know where they were."
An English transcript of the interview with Aina, which the Afghan-American Khalilzad gave in the Dari language, was made available by the British Broadcasting Corp.
Khalilzad also questioned Pakistan's inability to find Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi, who had given interviews from the Pakistani city of Quetta, and repeated a call for Pakistan to do more to track down Taliban figures.
"It is very important for Pakistan to make every effort seriously. Afghanistan's success is for the benefit of Pakistan, too," he said.
Khalilzad praised the efforts of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's government in helping to arrest leaders of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, but added: "We ask them to launch wide-ranging campaigns to detain the Taliban extremists."
On Thursday, Khalilzad, who has since been confirmed as the new U.S. envoy to Iraq, told a news briefing he did not believe fugitive al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar were in Afghanistan, but did not make clear where he thought they were.
Khalilzad was responding to comments by Usmani in his interview with Geo broadcast on Wednesday in which he said bin Laden, architect of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, was in good health and Omar in direct command of Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have said in the past that bin Laden was thought to be hiding in the rugged border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Khalilzad has repeatedly upset Pakistan by accusing it of sheltering Taliban militants. On Thursday he said capturing bin Laden required the cooperation between a variety of countries.
Recent weeks have seen a surge in Taliban-linked violence in the Afghan south and east bordering Pakistan, raising fears for the security of parliamentary elections due on Sept. 18.
Pakistan was the main supporter of the Taliban during the group's period in power but became a key ally of the United States in its global war on terror in 2001.
Nevertheless, U.S. and Afghan officials have long complained that the guerrillas have been able to launch attacks in Afghanistan then slip across the border into Pakistan.
US ambassador to Iraq confirmed by Senate
June 18, 2005
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Senate approved Zalmay Khalilzad as US ambassador to Iraq by a simple hand vote, according to Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Richard Lugar.
Khalilzad had been the US ambassador to Afghanistan for a year and a half when President George W. Bush nominated him to his new post. He was warmly encouraged by Republicans and Democrats in hearings last week.
Khalilzad's nomination was approved Wednesday by Lugar's committee, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote on his appointment.
The diplomat will lead one of the largest US embassies in the world, with a staff of some 1,160 under his authority.
Khalilzad takes over the US embassy in Baghdad at a critical juncture, as the new Iraq government faces a deadline of drafting a constitution by August 15 and holding a referendum on the document on October 15.
National elections to choose a permanent Iraqi government by December 15 would also take place on his watch.
In comments made Thursday during a farewell news conference in Kabul, Khalilzad said: "My premise is that failure is not an option. There is too much at stake."
"We have to isolate those who have no interest in Iraq's success, whose agenda is a global agenda, who would like to bring about a civil war in Iraq to back their unholy agenda and then to promote a war of civilisation."
The US military and their allies would have to tailor a strategy to bring all their power against extremist Baathists and other militants "to break the back of the insurgency. And I think it can be done," he added.
Khalilzad said Tuesday he was "disappointed" that Osama bin Laden remained at large but pledged the Al-Qaeda leader would be captured.
An Arabic speaker and Muslim who was born in Afghanistan, Khalilzad has served in various capacities in the US Departments of State and Defense, as well as with the National Security Council, and in academia.
He was also an adviser to the giant oil company Unocal during Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
Khalilzad was picked two months ago by US President George W. Bush to succeed John Negroponte, who became the new US Director of National Intelligence.
The Senate also confirmed a score of other nominations Thursday, including Craig Stapleton as ambassador to France.
Stapleton was ambassador to the Czech Republic from September 2001 to the end of 2003.
He was for 18 years president of Marsh and McLennan Real Estate Advisors.
Afghan Minister Says al-Qaida Regrouping
By PAUL HAVEN, Associated Press / June 18, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan - Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network is regrouping and preparing to bring Iraq-style bloodshed to Afghanistan, the defense minister said Friday, warning his country may face intense violence ahead of key legislative elections this fall.
Recent intelligence indicates the terror organization slipped about half a dozen Arab agents into Afghanistan over the past three weeks, including two who detonated themselves in suicide bombings against a packed mosque and a convoy of U.S. troops, Defense Minister Rahim Wardak told The Associated Press.
"It looks like there has been a regrouping of al-Qaida and they may have changed their tactics not only to concentrate on Iraq but also on Afghanistan," Wardak said in an interview over tea at his wood-paneled office next to the heavily guarded presidential compound.
"We do believe that we will have three months of very tough times," Wardak said. "The enemies of this nation will do everything they can to disrupt the (Sept. 18 parliamentary) elections."
Wardak's comments came a day after the outgoing U.S. ambassador warned at a Kabul news conference that militants were likely to try to subvert the legislative balloting.
"As we get closer to the elections, they are likely to intensify their efforts to ... derail the elections," said Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been tapped by President Bush to be the top U.S. diplomat in Iraq.
Referring to the infiltration of Arab fighters for al-Qaida, Wardak said: "We have gotten reports here and there that they have entered — at least half a dozen of them. The last report is that they came in just close to the time of the mosque attack."
That June 1 blast killed 20 mourners in Kandahar at the funeral of a moderate cleric who had been assassinated days earlier. The same day, a shoulder-launched, surface-to-air missile was fired at an American aircraft, but missed. On Monday, a suicide bomber drove up to a U.S. military vehicle in Kandahar and detonated himself, wounding four American soldiers.
Authorities recovered the head of the mosque attacker and said he appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent. Wardak said initial indications are that the second suicide attacker also was Arab.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said Friday it would not be appropriate to comment on the attacks, which are still under investigation.
Wardak would not say where the al-Qaida fighters entered from, but other Afghan intelligence sources told AP that the men are believed to have crossed the border from Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, and that more were on the way. Pakistan vehemently denies it is a sanctuary for al-Qaida or the Taliban.
The bombings represented a sea change in the tactics of the insurgency, now in its fourth year. Afghan Taliban fighters have rarely resorted to suicide attacks, a practice that is considered more common among Arab militants.
The defense minister said al-Qaida and the Taliban were receiving support from "regional powers" who were rattled by Afghanistan's request for a long-term U.S. and NATO presence, but he declined to single out any country in particular.
"There is no doubt that there are countries in this region that have their own designs, and have had from long ago, and they are always trying to exploit the vacuums that have been created here," he said.
Afghan officials often point the finger at Pakistan, where many Taliban and al-Qaida forces are still believed to take refuge, but Wardak said more than one country was involved, including some that did not border Afghanistan directly.
The defense minister said he did not know whether bin Laden had ordered the shift in tactics, but he doubted the terror mastermind was capable of day-to-day control of his forces.
"Al-Qaida, at the moment, based on our intelligence, has a more decentralized command and control," Wardak said. "There might have been a general instruction (from bin Laden), but I really doubt he is in daily command and control of events."
Bin Laden is believed to be hiding in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, though there has been no definitive report on his whereabouts in more than three years.
A purported Taliban commander, Mullah Akhtar Usmani, said earlier this week that bin Laden and Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar were alive and well but gave no details about their location. The speaker's identity couldn't be verified.
Wardak acknowledged that Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces have suffered a setback in recent months in their efforts to end the insurgency.
At least 29 U.S. troops have died here since March — about half in a helicopter crash whose cause has not yet been determined — a significant upsurge in what was once a relatively painless conflict for Washington.
About 240 suspected rebels and three dozen Afghan soldiers and police were killed in that same period — undercutting U.S. and Afghan claims that the insurgency is all but finished.
"Logically, the (security) situation ought to be better than it is," Wardak said, adding that it may get even worse as the parliamentary vote nears.
While less high-profile than last year's presidential vote that won U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai a five-year term, the legislative election will be far harder to organize, with thousands of candidates and election workers spread out across the country.
Afghan officials taken in ambush
BBC News / Saturday, 18 June, 2005
Suspected Taleban rebels have captured at least 10 Afghan officials in an ambush in the south, authorities say.
The officials were seized in Miana Shien district, about 90km (60 miles) north-east of Kandahar, on Thursday.
Some reports say a police convoy was ambushed on the road from Kandahar, others that a district headquarters in the town of Miana Shien was attacked.
There has been a surge in attacks in recent months amid government fears that the Taleban is regrouping.
Gen Salim Khan, a deputy provincial police chief, told the AFP news agency a number of policemen were captured from a convoy.
"They fought for two hours. We have tried to reach our men by satellite phone, but they are not responding."
He denied reports that Taleban fighters had attacked the town of Miana Shien and said it remained under government control.
But a senior police officer in Kandahar told Reuters that Taleban fighters had taken control of the main government building in Miana Shien on Friday night, and that 28 people in total were in the hands of the Taleban.
A spokesman for the Taleban, Abdul Hakim Latifi, told AFP its fighters had attacked the district headquarters on Friday, capturing 14 police officers, but later released them.
However, he said a number of officials remained under Taleban control.
"We will put them on trial today (Saturday). If they are found guilty they'll be executed. If not they will be released," Mr Hakimi said by satellite phone from an unknown location.
A provincial police commander said the district chief and district police chief were among those being held.
Separately on Friday, the Afghan army said it had carried out an operation on the outskirts of Kandahar in which two suspected Taleban militants and a government soldier were killed.
Violence linked to the Taleban has increased, particularly in the south and east of Afghanistan, after a winter lull, sparking fears for security in September's parliamentary elections.
Nearly 400 people have died this year in violence linked to the Taleban - many of them suspected insurgents.
Taliban Rebels Kidnap 11 Police Officers
Associated Press / Sat Jun 18, 5:20 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Taliban rebels have ambushed a police convoy in southern Afghanistan, taking at least 10 officers and a district police chief captive, a senior official said Saturday.
The attack occurred Thursday as the police were traveling on a road north from Kandahar to the district of Miana Shien district, about 60 miles northeast of Kandahar, said deputy provincial police chief Gen. Salim Khan.
"They fought for two hours," said Khan. "We have tried to reach our men by satellite phone, but they are not responding."
Khan said the men are all believed to have been captured.
He denied reports that dozens of Taliban later attacked the capital of Miana Shien, which goes by the same name, or that the town was under Taliban control.
"The town is in our control and there was no attack," he said.
There has been a series of attacks in the district. Last July, suspected Taliban rebels killed the then police chief and burned a government office.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. military officials.
Taliban attack Afghan town, capture 18 policemen
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 18 (Reuters) - Taliban guerrillas attacked the main town of a southern Afghan district for a second straight night and took 18 policemen prisoner, a day after detaining more than a dozen people, police said on Saturday.
A senior police officer in Kandahar said the main government building in Mian Nishin town was under Taliban control after the attack on Friday night.
"The Taliban surrounded the district headquarters and captured 18 officers," said the officer, who declined to be named. "Right now the district headquarters is under the control of the Taliban."
Mian Nishin in Kandahar province was the scene of joint operations by Afghan and U.S.-led forces early this week in which government officials said nine guerrillas were killed.
On Thursday, the Taliban captured 11 police officers, the district police chief and the senior local government official in Mian Nishin and said their fate would be decided by the guerrilla leadership.
Taliban-linked violence has surged in the south and east, raising fears for the security of parliamentary elections due to be held on Sept. 18. Much of the violence has been in Kandahar.
On Friday, a roadside bomb exploded in neighbouring Helmand province, killing a soldier and wounding three policemen, including a district police chief.
On Monday, four U.S. soldiers were wounded in a suicide attack outside Kandahar city, where at least 20 people lost their lives in a suicide bomb attack on a mosque on June 1.
The Taliban have threatened more violence, and the government has said the guerrillas are likely to step up attacks ahead of the elections.
More than 150 insurgents have been killed this year, according to U.S. and government figures. Dozens of government troops and 29 U.S. soldiers from the 20,000-strong U.S-led foreign force hunting the militants have also died since March, including 18 in a helicopter crash.
U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001 after they refused to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the architect of Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Pakistani tribesmen vow to oust US from region
June 18, 2005
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen have vowed to fight US forces as they marked the first death anniversary of a slain militant leader in a tribal region near Afghanistan.
Witnesses said up to 3,000 people, some brandishing assault rifles and some masked, turned up in the remote district of Azam Warsak, in South Waziristan tribal region, to offer prayers at the grave of militant leader Nek Mohammad.
Mohammad, a former Taliban commander, was killed in June last year after leading a bloody resistance to the Pakistan army's largest-ever offensive to drive-out Al-Qaeda linked militants in South Waziristan. Pakistan's military said it killed the militant.
"We will complete the mission of our commander Nek Mohammad and we will continue our jihad (holy war) against the US forces in the region," militant leader Maulvi Abdul Aziz told the gathering amid shouts of "Allah-o-Akbar" (God is greatest) on Saturday.
Pakistan's tribal region bordering Afghanistan has long been suspected of providing refuge to hundreds of Al-Qaeda-linked and Taliban militants who fled there after the ouster of the extremist Muslim Taliban regime by US-led forces in 2001.
Afghan and US government officials have said that Taliban militants hiding in the Pakistani tribal regions were conducting hit-and-run attacks on the US-led coalition and Afghan forces inside Afghanistan.
Since last year Pakistan, a key ally in what the US calls a war on terrorism, has conducted several major operations in its tribal regions. It says it has destroyed hideouts and training camps of militants linked to Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network which claimed responsibility for attacks on the United States that killed about 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.
A US-led 18,000-strong coalition force is battling militants in Afghanistan's south and eastern provinces which border the Pakistani tribal belt, three years after the Taliban's ouster by a US-led military campaign.
Taliban have stepped up attacks on US and government targets over recent months after a winter lull in fighting.
Nearly 400 people, mostly militants, have been killed since the beginning of the year in Taliban-related and other political violence, most of them in southern and eastern Afghanistan.
Mine explosion injures district chief in south Afghanistan
KABUL, June 18 (Xinhua) -- Six Afghan government employees including a district chief were wounded as a mine blew in the troubled southern Helmand province Friday, a senior police official confirmed Saturday.
"The district chief of Khan Nashin and five policemen were injured when their vehicle hit a mine in the area yesterday," Deputy police chief of Helmand told Xinhua.
He put the responsibility of attack on Taliban and said the militants used remote control in exploding the mine to damage stability.
The violent attack took place just day after the kidnapping of 13 government servicemen including a district chief in the neighboring Kandahar province Thursday.
A senior police official in Kandahar General Salim Ahsas confirmed that concerned department lost touch with the 13 men in Zamto area of Mian Nashin district two days ago.
In the meantime, Taliban spokesman accepted responsibility for the abduction and said fighters of the Islamic Emirate, a reference to Taliban's ousted regime, had captured them.
"The district chief of Mian Nashin along with 12 police are with us," Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi said.
Remnants of Taliban whose regime was toppled by US military in late 2001 have intensified their hit-and-run attacks in which over150 people including militants, Afghan and US troops as well as civilians had been killed over the past two months. Enditem
Afghanistan donors conference postponed
Fri Jun 17, 6:10 PM ET
LONDON (AFP) - An Afghanistan donors conference, planned for London on Tuesday, has been postponed, the British government said.
"The conference had been put off at the request of the Afghan ministry of finance," a spokesperson for the organisers, Britain's Department for International Development, told AFP.
"It should take place at the end of this year or at the beginning of next year," the spokesperson added.
Britain's Foreign Office confirmed the postponement.
A spat broke out between the Afghan government and the international donors during a forum in Kabul in April.
The Afghan government wanted to run a bigger part of the international aid itself.
The donors, comprising various countries, the United Nations and international financial institutions, thought the Afghan government was not offering the necessary guarantees concerning the fight against corruption, over three years after the fall of the Taliban.
Former Taliban Spy for U.S. Pleads Guilty to Fraud
The regime's onetime U.N. mouthpiece faces as much as eight months in a federal prison
By Stephen Braun / The Los Angeles Times / June 18, 2005
WASHINGTON — An Afghan immigrant who acted as an FBI informant while he was the Taliban's second-highest ranking diplomat in the U.S. pleaded guilty on Friday to federal fraud charges.
Noorullah Zadran, 53, a naturalized U.S. citizen, admitted in a New York courtroom to not fully reporting his income tax and to lying on a home mortgage application. The plea agreement allows Zadran to avoid three other tax charges. He will face a recommended prison sentence of two to eight months when he is sentenced in September.
The details of the deal were not disclosed by either side. But defense lawyer Jared J. Scharf said after the court hearing that "the agreement does not require Mr. Zadran to cooperate with the government." Scharf said Zadran had "been in negotiations for several weeks" with federal authorities. "We have not discussed cooperation," he added.
Before being charged in October with tax and bank fraud, Zadran was the focus of a two-year federal grand jury investigation into his work as first secretary of the Taliban's now-shuttered diplomatic mission to the United Nations.
While he acted as the Taliban's media voice and participated in meetings with U.S. diplomats and other U.N. envoys from 1998 to 2001, Zadran was informing against the militant Afghan leadership — working for the FBI under a previous plea bargain disclosed by the Los Angeles Times last month.
Under terms of the 1995 agreement in a federal smuggling case, Zadran met regularly with FBI agents and was obligated to provide information on "terrorist activity" and on the Taliban's now-exiled leadership until November 2001.
But four months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Zadran's name appeared on federal terrorism watch lists. Federal agents investigating possible U.S. connections to the plot seized Taliban materials from Zadran's Long Island home and examined his computer.
During a 25-minute hearing Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Zadran never mentioned the Taliban by name, referring to his former superiors as the "Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
In brief comments to federal Magistrate Judge Michael H. Dollinger, Zadran admitted that he had failed to report $1,541 on his 2000 federal income tax return. He also acknowledged that he had falsely claimed on a 2001 home mortgage application that his wife worked at the Taliban mission.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Stephen Miller declined to elaborate on the charges against Zadran or on the former diplomat's past. But he did raise the possibility that prosecutors might require Zadran to pay restitution to the bank for the underpayments of interest.
Outside the courtroom, according to Associated Press, Scharf described the prosecution as a "nothing case." He later explained that the "agreed tax loss in this case is between $5,000 and $8,000." Zadran, he said, already had repaid the mortgage loan.
Zadran's double life as a Taliban envoy and federal informant did not come up during the hearing. Scharf said afterward, "As to the political atmosphere contributing to the charges against him, we know nothing about that."
Zadran, now a real estate agent on Long Island, did not discuss the case when he left the courtroom and did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Ex-Taliban NY spokesman pleads guilty to fraud
Fri Jun 17, 8:15 PM ET
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former top diplomat for Afghanistan's Taliban regime pleaded guilty on Friday to tax and bank fraud in federal court.
Noorullah Zadran, once a leading voice of the Taliban on U.S. television news, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan to one count of tax fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
From 1998 to 2001, Zadran worked at the diplomatic mission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan in New York, federal prosecutors said.
Zadran, 53, was accused of failing to report all the salary he received from the Afghan mission in his tax returns for the four years between 1998 and 2001, according to his indictment. On Friday, he pleaded guilty to tax fraud for the year covering 2000.
Zadran failed to report $1,541 in income and faces two to eight months in prison, a media report said.
The bank fraud charge was tied to a $240,000 home loan he obtained by telling a mortgage brokerage company his wife also worked at the mission.
In his plea, Zadran admitted he lied about his wife's job status in an effort to get a lower interest rate on the loan, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Sentencing will take place on Sept. 20.
U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 after it refused to turn over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Karzai hopes Iran's new gov't to expand ties with Kabul
Kabul, June 18, IRNA
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai here on Saturday expressed hope that Tehran-Kabul relations will be promoted with the help of Iran's new government.
He made the remarks during a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mohammad-Reza Bahrami.
Karzai said that establishment of the new government will consolidate bilateral cooperation, adding that the two states have had good cooperation during the Khatami's tenure.
The Iranian envoy, for his part, briefed Karzai on the process of June 17 presidential elections in the country.
He said that Iran will not change its stand toward Afghanistan, adding that bilateral ties will be continued on the basis of friendship and mutual cooperation.
Presidents of Tajikistan and Afghanistan lay cornerstone for border bridge
via Malaysia Star, Malaysia / June 18, 2005
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: Leaders of Tajikistan and Afghanistan on Saturday laid the cornerstone for a new U.S.-funded bridge on the volatile border between the two nations.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmonov and Afghan President Hamid Karzai went to the Tajik town of Nizhny Pyandzh, about 200 kilometers (about 125 miles) south of the Tajik capital Dushanbe, to unveil the project, which is being funded by the United States. Norway and Japan also have promised to contribute.
The 672-meter (2,218-feet) long automobile bridge, that will cost about US$29 million (euro23.6 million), will link Nizhny Pyandzh to the Afghan port of Shirkhan. Three other bridges linking the two nations are located at another section of their border.
Tajikistan, an impoverished ex-Soviet nation whacked by a five-year civil war in the 1990s, has been a major transit route for opium and heroin from Afghanistan, the world's largest producer, flowing to Russia and further into Western Europe.
The border between the two nations has been tense, destabilized by frequent clashes between border guards and drug traffickers.
The ceremony marking the beginning of the bridge construction has been postponed twice because of unstable security situation in Afghanistan. --AP
Afghan government scrambles to deliver aid after floods kill dozens, destroy homes
via Malaysia Star, Malaysia / June 18, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan: Airplanes loaded with food, tents and other emergency supplies rushed to northern Afghanistan on Saturday after floods left dozens dead and thousands homeless, officials said.
About 700 homes and several roads have been washed away in the floods over the past four days, said Abdul Majid, the governor of Badakhshan province, which was worst hit.
The exact death toll was not known. Majid said at least 25 people were believed killed in Badakhshan. An official with a government disaster management team in Kabul, Abdul Hamid, said the province's toll was thought to be 36, while more than 50 were estimated to have died across all of northern Afghanistan.
He said officials in two helicopters had flown over the region on Friday, but that the extent of the damage was still not clear.
Two planes loaded with relief aid flew to the region on Saturday and additional aircraft would join the airlift in the next few days, Hamid said.
"We are in need of emergency help. We need 4,000 blankets, 1,000 tents and lots of food,'' Majid told The Associated Press.
He said heavy rains had pounded the region over the past four days and low-lying areas have been flooded by water running off mountains. --AP
Embassy of Afghanistan Signs Grant Agreements with WB
PakTribune (Pakistan) / June 18, 2005
WASHINGTON, D.C.: Said Tayeb Jawad, Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United States, signed two major grant agreements totaling US $85 million with the International Development Association (IDA) at the World Bank the other day .
The funded projects aim at strengthening the higher education system and developing transportation infrastructure in Afghanistan. Ambassador Jawad welcomed the IDA grants and appreciated the overall efforts of the World Bank in helping rebuild Afghanistan through major reconstruction and development projects.
He noted: "These significant grants will help address Afghanistan's critical need for quality higher education to enhance our limited human capital, while facilitating movement of people, trade, and investment which would be impossible without a functional network of roads."
Ms. Mariam Sherman, the World Bank Deputy Country Director for Afghanistan, signed the agreements with Ambassador Jawad. The World Bank has so far provided US$856 million in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan of which US$516 million is in grant assistance. The level of continued rebuilding assistance to Afghanistan signifies the confidence of the international community in the Afghan government and Afghanistan's future as a democratic, peaceful and prosperous country.
The Emergency Transport Rehabilitation Project: Supported by a US$45 million IDA grant, the project aims to support road rehabilitation in northeast of Afghanistan connecting Kunduz-Taloqan-Kishem.
The project's main development objective is to facilitate Afghanistan's economic and social recovery through improved physical access to goods, markets, and administrative and social services.
The project encompasses the following main activities: (1) removing key transport bottlenecks that seriously hamper economic recovery; (2) building capacity in management, implementation, and maintenance of transport services and works through the provisions of equipment and technical assistance related to planning, maintenance and supervision of works; and (3) assisting in the establishment of an institutional and policy framework for the sector for sustainable service delivery.
Strengthening Higher Education Program: Supported by a US$40 million IDA grant, the development objective of the Program is to progressively restore basic operational performance at a group of core universities in Afghanistan.
This will provide an institutional base for an agenda focusing on tertiary education development, capacity building and reform. The Program is envisaged to be the first phase in a longer-term strategy for higher education development in Afghanistan. Moreover, it aims to act as a catalyst in attracting various resources to Afghan tertiary education with a long-term development framework.
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