Afghan minister says Saudi, Kuwait, OIC bank doing little to help rebuild country
Associated Press / June 24, 2005
Muslim countries, including oil-rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and the Islamic Development Bank, are doing little to help in the reconstruction of war-ravaged Afghanistan, a senior minister from that country said Friday.
Kuwait has yet to give any financial support while the money given by Saudi Arabia and the IDB is mostly in loans not grants, Afghan Finance Minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahady was quoted as saying by the national Bernama new agency. Ahady is in Kuala Lumpur to attend an IDB governor's meeting that ends Friday.
"Saudi Arabia pledged US$200 million (Â€166 million) but they are all in loans," Ahady told Bernama. "Kuwait is yet to give financial support nor other Muslim nations."
Ahady also criticized the Islamic Development Bank, the lending arm of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, for allocating only US$70 million (Â€58 million) for the reconstruction efforts over a three-year period.
Most of the money has still not reached the Afghan people.
"... less than 1 percent is grants and so far only 5 percent of the fund has been disbursed," Ahady said.
Ahady also lamented that IDB loans came with tough repayment conditions that he said Afghanistan would have a tough time complying with.
"We do not have the capacity to take more loans, we want IDB to give more grants like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank," Ahady told Bernama.
Despite billions of dollars pledged for the reconstruction of Afghanistan since the routing of the hardline Taliban regime and the al-Qaida headquarters in 2001, large sections of the country remains in total devastation.
The country is still reeling from sporadic attacks by the remnants of al-Qaida while U.S. forces continue to hunt for Osama bin Laden.
Militants have targeted aid and reconstruction workers to undermine recovery under the U.S.-backed government, which replaced the hardline militia.
Afghanistan Not Forgotten, Says IDB President
By Muin Abdul Majid / Bernama (Malaysia)
PUTRAJAYA, June 24 (Bernama) -- The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is not ignoring Afghanistan but efforts to help the war-torn country is hampered by the small size of available funds in its coffers, its president Dr Ahmed Mohamed Ali said Friday.
He readily admitted that the volume of financing offered by the Jeddah-based bank was not in the same league as the World Bank or even Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The newly re-elected IDB chief described IDB as an institution that promoted cooperation among the developing countries of the South.
"In terms of the amount of financing, definitely IDB cannot compete with the World Bank or ADB because of the size factor," he told a news conference at the end of the two-day 30th annual meeting of the IDB Board of Governors chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi here today.
He was responding to a query on a reported claim by Afghanistan that the IDB was not doing enough to help the country and that it had been neglected compared to similarly strife-torn Iraq and Palestine.
On the other side of the coin there have been times when some countries in Africa had come to the IDB for assistance when their applications for fundings from other lending institutions had been rejected, Dr Ahmed said.
"Because of the various conditionalities (imposed), sometimes they are not able to implement the projects that they want," he added.
Commenting on the same issue at the joint press conference, the Chairman of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said IDB was only able to provide financing within the limits of its resources.
IDB is the financing arm of the 57-member OIC.
Abdullah, who is also Malaysia's Finance Minister, expressed hope that the bank would continue to grow and expand to enable it to extend more help to Muslim countries.
He echoed Dr Ahmed's view that the capacity of the IDB was not as large as the World Bank and ADB.
"But as far as OIC countries are concerned, their resources for fund for development are not limited to the IDB alone as they have other sources such as the World Bank and ADB.
"If there are other institutions that can provide them with (more) funds, they are free to approach them," he added.
Afghan And U.S. Forces End Anti-Taliban Operation
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
24 June 2005 -- U.S. and Afghan government forces announced the end of a major operation in southwest Afghanistan today against Taliban rebels.
Afghan defense officials say at least 109 Taliban fighters were killed during the fighting. Top Taliban commanders, including Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Brader, continue to elude capture.
Taliban spokesman Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi confirmed only 9 deaths, including that of Taliban commander Mullah Mohammad Isa. He said all other government claims were untrue.
Independent confirmation of casualty claims was not immediately possible.
Anti-Taliban drive ends, top guerrillas elusive
By David Brunnstrom / June 24, 2005
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan and U.S. forces wound up a big anti-Taliban operation in southwest Afghanistan on Friday after killing at least 109 guerrillas but failing to find top commanders thought to have been hiding there, officials said.
The Defense Ministry said on Thursday Mullah Dadullah and Mullah Brother, members of the Taliban leadership council led by elusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, were surrounded by Afghan and U.S. forces in the Dai Chopan area of Zabul province.
But the Interior Ministry said the operation had concluded by midday on Friday and there had been no confirmation that Dadullah and Brother and three other commanders had been hiding there.
"The operation has ended," Interior Ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said. "Most of the terrorists have been killed, but a few escaped across the border into Pakistan."
Mashal said captured guerrillas had said senior commanders had been in the region as late as Tuesday, but he doubted top figures like Dadullah and Brother would have risked being there.
"They normally don't come to the front lines," he said.
A Taliban spokesman earlier denied the commanders had been surrounded. He said they had been in the area but had left before the start of the anti-guerrilla operations this week.
"They are in a safe place," he said by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location. "We are very far from the area where the Americans are conducting their clean-up operation."
Earlier, General Fateh Khan, an army commander taking part in the operation, said he was confident no Taliban had managed to escape and that Dadullah and other Taliban were still surrounded.
However, an Afghan police official who also took part in the hunt said no guerrillas had been found in the area surrounded. "We didn't find even a single low-level Talib," he said.
Mashal said 109 guerrillas had been killed, including mid-level commanders, Mullahs Jamil, Ghani and Easa, in one of the Taliban's bloodiest setbacks since their 2001 overthrow.
He called it a big blow to the Taliban's bid to derail Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, the next big step in Afghanistan's difficult path to stability.
"They wanted to create disruption, but managed to damage themselves," he said, adding that most died in U.S. airstrikes.
The U.S. military said on Wednesday 40-50 guerrillas had died, but has not commented on the final stages of the operation.
About 300 insurgents have been killed since March, according to U.S. and government figures.
While the latest losses will have been a blow, it remains to be seen how much damage has been done to an insurgency that has picked up with a vengeance since the end of the winter and which analysts say has been attracting hundreds of new recruits from Pakistan and elsewhere.
U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, but three-and-a-half years on, they have been unable to subdue the insurgency or catch bin Laden.
Analysts say the key to success of the September polls will Pakistan, which stepped up security to prevent cross-border guerrilla movement ahead of presidential elections last October, but has appeared to do little to stem the tide since the spring.
(With reporting by Mirwais Afghan in KANDAHAR, Saeed Ali Achakzai in CHAMAN and Yousuf Azimy in KABUL)
Guerrillas and drugs fuel fears in Afghan south
By Sayed Salahuddin
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, June 24 (Reuters) - A Taliban insurgency, pervasive drug production and banditry are feeding off each other to make southern Afghanistan a cauldron of peril nearly four years after the arrival of U.S. troops.
Large parts of the south are off limits to aid workers and the United Nations suspended clearing landmines this month after the fifth mine-clearer was killed in a roadside bomb attack in two weeks.
Fighting has intensified in the past week with more than 150 Taliban killed, the government says.
As well as the battles, bombs have been going off in towns and crime is rife, residents say. Ambushes by marauding bands of gunmen and blasts on country roads are common.
And everyone predicts the violence will only get worse in the runup to a Sept. 18 parliamentary election.
"Where's the security?," asked Abdul Alim, a truck driver in the main southern city of Kandahar. "There are bandits on the roads, people's children are being kidnapped, aid workers are targeted," said the bearded man.
Nevertheless, Alim said business was good but he grumbled about the numerous checkpoints -- both official and unofficial ones -- that he has to pay his way through.
"It's a hinderance for traders and for us," he said.
Kandahar has long been a cross-roads for trade routes linking central and south Asia and Iran and the Middle East.
Countries in the region are hoping a pipeline will soon snake across southern Afghanistan's deserts and through its jagged mountains, supplying natural gas from Turkmenistan to energy-hungry Pakistan and India.
Southern security chiefs have been astonishingly optimistic about the state of affairs.
Despite the recent surge in violence, they say the Taliban are on their last legs and it is only the remnants of the Islamist militia and bandits who are causing the trouble.
But many residents are despondent, seeing a host of reasons for the violence, from drug runners and disarmed factional forces to officials more intent on maintaining their own power than consolidating that of the central government.
"DIFFICULT AND COMPLICATED"
It is not only the anti-government rebels who have an interest in seeing instability continue, say some of those with experience of the region.
"I think it is non-Taliban or non-al Qaeda elements involved in most of the violence, that's the picture I get," said a Western development worker who knows the region well.
"There are non-Taliban people who don't like the Americans and play a role in violence. Apart from that, you have drug runners who are also involved," he said.
The United States commands an international force of more than 18,000 fighting insurgents in mostly the south and east. One of two main U.S. bases is in Kandahar.
More than 250 rebels have been killed in the last three months, according to U.S. and Afghan government figures. Dozens of government men and 13 U.S. soldiers have also died in fighting.
Dozens of civilians including aid workers have been killed in ambushes and blasts. More than 20 people were killed by a suicide bomber on a mosque in Kandahar on June 1 and several U.S. soldiers were wounded in suicide car-bomb attack on June 13.
The Taliban, ousted by U.S.-led forces in late 2001, are blamed for most of the attacks.
"It's difficult and complicated. 'Taliban' is the name that pops up whenever there's a problem," the Western aid worker said.
Whether they are responsible for all of the violence or not, the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies are seen as only benefitting from the mayhem.
Security officials say drug-runners are supplying the Taliban with funds, hoping the more trouble the rebels cause, the more authorities will be distracted from their anti-drug drive.
At the same time, the more the chaos, the more opportunities there are for the Taliban to try to exploit.
"The insecurity helps the Taliban insurgency as they can operate freely in this chaotic situation," said an Afghan journalist in the south covering the troubles.
Complicating matters even more, some in the south say, is a government attempt to end the Taliban insurgency by offering to let fighters who give up return to society.
"Why would a commander risk his life and make an enemy by fighting someone who may join the government the next day as part of the amnesty?" asked one Kandahar businessman.
"The offer has complicated the situation even more," he said.
Ahmad Wali Karzai, a brother of President Hamid Karzai and his political envoy for the south, said the security forces are being starved of the funds needed to do their job.
Security was dismal in some outlying districts and unless the army and the police got the support they needed, the trouble could engulf towns and cities, he said.
West Point Gets 1st Cadet From Afghanistan
By MICHAEL HILL, Associated Press / Fri Jun 24, 3:00 AM ET
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Like other new cadets reporting to West Point this summer, Shoaib Yosoufzai is bracing for the ice-water shock of a military education — the marching, the drilling, the cramming, the shouting.
But the trim 20-year-old acknowledges carrying an additional burden as the academy's first cadet from Afghanistan.
"I am an ambassador of my country," Yosoufzai said after arriving at the U.S. Military Academy this week. "It will be a challenge for me."
Less than four years after toppling the Taliban, the United States is providing a military education to the young Afghani under a program that takes in cadets from around the world.
By Monday, Yosoufzai's thick mop of black hair will be shaved down and the Pashto speaker will be taking orders barked in English. He said the change is worth it for the chance to serve his country as a military officer in four years.
"I think the experience that I carry from the United States will help my people and my country," he said.
Yosoufzai is a walking symbol of the relationship between the venerable Hudson Valley training ground and the faraway country now struggling with a surge in violence. West Point officers have provided tips to Afghan officials starting their own national military academy and a delegation toured West Point a little over a year ago. Among the visitors was Yosoufzai's father, Col. Hamdullah Yosoufzai, who is now dean of academic programs at the country's fledgling military academy.
Yosoufzai, then a sophomore at Kabul University, wanted to follow his father's footsteps to help his country's military become more professional. He could have pursued a military academy education in Kabul where his family lives, but instead applied to West Point, which he calls the top military academy in the world.
He comes to the academy under the international cadet program designed to generate goodwill and inculcate American military ethics and values abroad. The long-running program has taken in cadets from dozens of countries, from Nigeria to Singapore to Croatia.
Past international graduates of West Point include former Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza (`46), former Philippine President Fidel Ramos (`50), former Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres (`79), and a son of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Hun Manet (`99).
"Some of the kids come from countries where the extracurricular activity is dodging bullets," said Capt. Robert Romans, head of the academy's international cadet program.
This year, 21 international cadets are coming to West Point. Romans said the international slots are very competitive, and Yosoufzai was ultimately accepted on the strength of his application, not his family connections.
Yosoufzai and 1,249 other cadets will be officially inducted into West Point on Monday for "Beast Barracks," a six-week basic training course featuring long runs in the sun and lots of orders to "MOVE IT!"
Yosoufzai has been making three-mile runs and lifting weights to prepare for the summer shakedown. But he faces other hurdles unique to foreign students.
Yosoufzai came stateside last fall to improve imperfect English skills at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The early move also softened the culture shock — things like switching from a diet heavy on the staples of bread and rice to America's bounty of burgers and bagels and the like.
"Here I find butter on everything, so it was a little strange," he said.
And then there's filling in cultural knowledge gaps. West Point wears its history on its sleeve, with images of the famous alumni like MacArthur and Eisenhower watching over cadets. Yosoufzai, sitting in a hall decorated with giant portraits, was able to identify Gen. MacArthur (he saw a movie about him) but drew a blank on President Eisenhower.
Yosoufzai seems unfazed by the tough haul ahead. Although he will be the only cadet entering the Afghan army after graduating in four years, he still sees himself as just one more link in a long gray line.
"I'm not alone," he said. "If they can make it, I can make it."
On the Net:
U.S. Military Academy: http://www.usma.edu
Afghanistan reshuffles 4 key governors
June 24, 2005
(Kyodo) _ The Afghan government has reshuffled the governors of four key provinces -- Kabul, Kandahar, Ghazni and Ningarhar -- for administrative reasons, the Afghan Islamic Press reported Thursday.
A government announcement said incumbent Ningarhar Gov. Haji Din Mohammad was appointed Kabul governor, Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai was named Ningarhar governor, Ghazni Gov. Haji Asad Ullah Khalid was made Kandahar governor and Kabul Gov. Kabul Syed Hussain Anwari was appointed governor of Heart Province, AIP said.
Election Candidate Killed In Central Afghanistan
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
24 June 2005 -- Afghan authorities today said Taliban guerrillas have killed a candidate in Afghanistan's September parliamentary election and two of his bodyguards in an ambush in the central province of Uruzgan.
Uruzgan governor Jan Mohammad Khan said Haji Mohammad Wali was killed last night in the province's Chora district.
Separately, interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said Afghan and U.S. military units have surrounded an area in southwestern Afghanistan where senior Taliban figures may be in hiding.
Mashal said earlier today that Afghan and U.S. forces killed more than 100 Taliban fighters this week in the southern part of the country.
Meanwhile, in London, foreign ministers of the G-8 Group of leading industrialized nations congratulated Afghanistan today on what they said was its "remarkable progress" since the downfall of the ruling Taliban regime in 2001.
In a statement after talks with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, G-8 foreign ministers said they welcome the prospect of parliamentary and provincial elections on September 18.
Afghans trapped by floodwaters lifted to safety
June 24, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Army and local government officials coordinated efforts with Coalition forces to rescue 119 Afghans stranded on a small island by floodwaters June 23.
The stranded people were lifted to safety by a Coalition helicopter as water rose on the Indus River near Mehtar Lam in Laghman province. A dam upstream had given way, sending water downstream and trapping the group.
Afghan National Army Soldiers on the island coordinated the aircraft loading and were dispensing aid supplies to the victims at a safer area 300 meters away.
The province’s deputy governor, working in conjunction with aid agencies, coordinated the rescue effort with Coalition forces. Aid agencies are working with local officials in the area to ensure that Afghans displaced by the flooding have access to shelter, medical attention and food.
“This is a perfect example of the Afghan government, taking the lead, working with Afghan National Army and Coalition forces to save lives,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, Combined Joint Task Force-76 spokesman. “We are continuing to work with the government of Afghanistan to ensure the people displaced by this tragic disaster receive the aid they need.”
The Coalition provincial reconstruction team at Mehtar Lam is working closely with aid agencies and local Afghan leaders to assist in relief efforts.
Afghan girls' school attacked
BBC News / Thursday, 23 June, 2005
Armed men have attacked and burned a girls' school in Afghanistan, police officials said.
They tied up two guards before attacking the school in Logar province, south of the capital, Kabul.
Police said the school's single small building and two tents used as classrooms had been doused in petrol and burnt to the ground.
Girls have been going back to school since the Taleban regime was overthrown in December 2001.
Under the Taleban they were barred from education.
It was not yet known who was behind the attack on the Padkhwai Raghani School, officials said, but local men were being questioned.
Hundreds of thousands of girls have returned to school since the Taleban was ousted, but there is still opposition in conservative areas of rural Afghanistan.
There has been a spate of attacks on girls' schools across the country since 2001.
The interior ministry spokesman Latfullah Mashal blamed Taleban militants, saying: "Burning of schools and education institutions is an agenda of the terrorists".
The school's principal, Zaher Din, said he planned to resume classes for his 665 students by Saturday. The pupils are aged from seven to 15.
"The children are desperate for their classes to resume. So many were crying when they saw the school was destroyed," he said.
Putin proposes new anti-drugs project in Afghanistan
RIA Novosti, Russia
MOSCOW, June 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed establishing a new project with NATO on training law enforcement operatives to combat drugs in Afghanistan and Central Asia. During a Kremlin meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Putin said, "There are spheres of our cooperation that can be more effective, for instance, the fight against drug trafficking."
According to Putin, the implementation of such a project would be a significant contribution to efforts to solve "one of the most important and urgent problems in the sphere of the struggle against illicit narcotics trade." Putin also said Russia-NATO cooperation in the sphere of control over air space and missile defense was very important, and added that Russia and NATO had planned 200 joint military events for this year.
Putin praised the increased cooperation between Russia and NATO, primarily the work of the Russia-NATO Council and the plans he and the NATO chief had outlined for the future.
The president said the sides considered the fight against terrorism to be a priority.
"I am pleased to say that we have moved from general declarations to concrete joint action, including Russia's participation in a NATO-led operation, Joint Endeavor, in the Mediterranean aimed at preventing terrorist acts at sea and intercepting criminal elements at sea," Putin said.
In turn, the NATO secretary-general said Russia-NATO cooperation was developing well, both on the political and practical level.
He agreed with the Russian president that it was necessary to make common efforts in the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction.
He said that it was necessary to do this together and that the interests of Russia and NATO coincided completely here.
Afghan camps threaten Russian allies -Lavrov
MOSCOW, June 24 (Reuters) - Moscow's Central Asian allies are the targets of "terrorists" which Russia believes are being trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday. Lavrov echoed remarks by President Vladimir Putin, who said on Thursday that "terrorist bases", run by the Taliban movement, which ruled Afghanistan before a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, and unspecified "foreign spy services", were still operational.
Lavrov told a news briefing after talks with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer that radicals from ex-Soviet Uzbekistan and Russia were involved in training guerrillas at bases located in Afghanistan and border areas of Pakistan.
"We have information that periodically these people (trained in the camps) are delivered from Afghanistan to the Ferghana Valley," he said, referring to a restive region shared by Uzbekistan, ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Protests against a flawed parliamentary poll, which started in the Kyrgyz part of the valley earlier this year, ended in a March coup that toppled its first post-Soviet leader, Askar Akayev.
In May, hundreds of people died in the Uzbek part of the valley, when troops violently quelled protests against the authoritarian rule of President Islam Karimov.
Russia has sided with Karimov in rejecting Western calls for an independent investigation into the Andizhan revolt. Lavrov said members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan -- a radical Uzbek group active in the 1990s in trying to unseat Karimov -- had been involved in running camps in Afghanistan.
Lavrov also said that unspecified people "who prepare for terrorist acts on Russian territory", also had role in the Afghan training camps.
Russia has long said that the Taliban financed the separatist movement in its southern region of Chechnya and helped to train Chechen guerrillas.
Moscow backed the U.S.-led invasion in Afghanistan, aimed at toppling the Taliban, partly because it wanted to put and end to what it believed was a safe haven for Islamic radicals fomenting unrest in its predominantly Muslim regions. Washington defeated the Taliban, which it accused of shielding al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during and after the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. cities, but rebels still regularly attack its troops.
"We have to admit that the effectiveness of this force is still extremely low," Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying on Thursday.
"We are seriously worried that bases for preparing terrorists are currently functioning on Afghan territory, including with the direct involvement of certain (foreign) spy services," he added.
Turkish Schools in Afghanistan Open Science Fair
By Cihan News Agency / Published: Friday 24, 2005 via Zaman Online, Turkey
Afghan-Turkish educational institutions, which have been operating in Afghanistan for the last 10 years, have organized the first science fair in the country on Thursday, June 24.
Afghan bureaucrats and the public were greatly interested in the fair. The educational objectives of the schools, the content of the courses and student projects were introduced in the fair. Afghan-Turkish School headmaster Yilmaz Aytan noted on Thursday that about 800 people had visited the fair so far: "A lot of people have shown interest to our fair. Of course, it was difficult to open such a science fair in Afghanistan. The organization of such a wonderful fair under these negative conditions increased people's motivation and hopes for education and science. There were presentations on Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics and Computer Science in the fair." Afghan-Turkish High School student Omer Gaznavy said: "Our education is based on computers. The four day fair drew attention of many people because some people had never seen a computer in their lives and were very surprised. They asked us many questions. It is the first time such a science fair is organized in Kabul."
US acknowledges torture at Guantanamo and Iraq, Afghanistan: UN source
June 24, 2005
GENEVA (AFP) - Washington has for the first time acknowledged to the United Nations that prisoners have been tortured at US detention centres in Guantanamo Bay, as well as Afghanistan and Iraq, a UN source said.
The acknowledgement was made in a report submitted to the UN Committee against Torture, said a member of the ten-person panel, speaking on on condition of anonymity.
"They are no longer trying to duck this, and have respected their obligation to inform the UN," the Committee member told AFP.
"They they will have to explain themselves (to the Committee). Nothing should be kept in the dark."
UN sources said it was the first time the world body has received such a frank statement on torture from US authorities.
The Committee, which monitors respect for the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is gathering information from the US ahead of hearings in May 2006.
Signatories of the convention are expected to submit to scrutiny of their implementation of the 1984 convention and to provide information to the Committee.
The document from Washington will not be formally made public until the hearings.
"They haven't avoided anything in their answers, whether concerning prisoners in Iraq, in Afghanistan or Guantanamo, and other accusations of mistreatment and of torture," the Committee member said.
"They said it was a question of isolated cases, that there was nothing systematic and that the guilty were in the process of being punished."
The US report said that those involved were low-ranking members of the military and that their acts were not approved by their superiors, the member added.
The US has faced criticism from UN human rights experts and international groups for mistreatment of detainees -- some of whom died in custody -- in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly during last year's prisoner abuse scandal surrounding the Abu Ghraib facility there.
Scores of US military personnel have been investigated, and several tried and convicted, for abuse of people detained during the US-led campaign against Islamic terrorist groups.
At the Guantanamo Bay naval base, a US toehold in Cuba where around 520 suspects of some 40 nationalities are held, allegations of torture have combined with other claims of human rights breaches.
The US has faced widespread criticism for keeping the Guantanamo detainees in a "legal black hole," notably for its refusal to grant them prisoner of war status and allegedly sluggish moves to charge or try them.
Washington's report to the Committee reaffirms the US position that the Guantanamo detainees are classed as "enemy combatants," and therefore do not benefit from the POW status set out in the Geneva Conventions, the Committee member said.
Four UN human rights experts on Thursday slammed the United States for stalling on a request to allow visits to terrorism suspects held at the Guantanamo Bay naval base, and said they planned to carry out an indirect probe of conditions there.
Experts question medical ethics at Guantanamo
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON, June 23 (Reuters) - Military interrogators at the Guantanamo prison camp may have breached medical privacy and encouraged doctors to violate professional and legal standards, two medical ethics experts said in an influential U.S. medical journal on Thursday.
They said their own interviews with staffers at Guantanamo and records from the facility show that prisoners' health records could be used against them to find the most effective ways to extract information from them.
The Pentagon's top health official said the allegation were "an outrageous distortion" of what actually was going on at the prison camp in Cuba, where the United States holds more than 500 foreign terrorism suspects.
Dr. Gregg Bloche of the Brookings Institution and a law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, and Jonathan Marks, a barrister at Matrix Chambers in London and a bioethics fellow at Georgetown, made the allegations in a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Health professionals caring for the prisoners at Guantanamo have been encouraged to tell military officials there about relevant health information, Bloche and Marks alleged.
"Health information has been routinely available to behavioral science consultants and others who are responsible for crafting and carrying out interrogation strategies," they wrote in their commentary.
"Through early 2003 (and possibly later), interrogators themselves had access to medical records. And since late 2002, psychiatrists and psychologists have been part of a strategy that employs extreme stress, combined with behavior-shaping rewards, to extract actionable intelligence from resistant captives," they added.
ACCESSORIES FOR GATHERING INTELLIGENCE
This makes health caregivers into accessories for gathering intelligence, they said.
"Not only does this undermine patient trust; it puts prisoners at greater risk for serious abuse. The global political fallout from such abuse may pose more of a threat to U.S. security than any secrets still closely held by shackled internees at Guantanamo Bay," they said.
Dr. William Winkenwerder, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, denied the allegations and said the Guantanamo detainees had the same rights as federal or military inmates.
"To put it bluntly and plainly, Dr. Bloche's article is an outrageous distortion of the plain facts and the truth regarding our policies for our health personnel ... and regarding our expectations for our personnel," Winkenwerder said.
While acknowledging it was possible transgressions could have occurred before the policy was issued in 2002, he said Bloche deliberately distorted a small part of it that said confidentiality was not absolute.
He said it would be a judgment call, for example in cases of suicide, specific threats, or infectious diseases.
"For example, if a detainee offered up information that was about a plan or an intention to harm other people ... if a medical provider has that kind of information, he or she is guided to provide that information to his or her chain of command and to appropriate authorities," Winkenwerder said.
The United States has classified the detainees at Guantanamo as "enemy combatants" and denied them rights accorded to prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions.
Groups such as Amnesty International have criticized this. Former detainees have said they were tortured and an FBI memo accused Pentagon personnel at Guantanamo of using "torture techniques."
Iraq, the new Afghanistan
THE ROVING EYE By Pepe Escobar / Asia Times Online / June 24, 2005
The script was Brussels does Baghdad this Wednesday at an international conference of foreign ministers - co-sponsored by the US and the European Union - high on rhetoric and low on practical decisions, designed to support nation (re)building in Iraq as a "pluralist democracy". UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said Iraqis should "take heart from this strong message of support".
Unscripted response in the streets of Baghdad: four car bombs, 32 dead, more than 50 wounded.
Behind all the diplomatic gloss, observers in Brussels say that nobody was really paying attention to the usual routine by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accusing Syria of destabilizing Iraq (Syria has 7,000 troops patrolling the border) or insisting that Iraq was "on its way to democracy".
What really counts is where the money is coming from - the crucial issue at a donor conference in Amman, Jordan, next month. For starters, one wonders whether any "donor" will dare ask the Americans what happened to US$8.8 billion of Iraqi money that "disappeared" under former proconsul L Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority. For their part, wealthy Iraqi neighbors such as Sunni Arab Saudi Arabia will only pledge substantial financial help if Sunnis are represented en masse in the political process.
It's virtually impossible for US President George W Bush's Iraq to be "on its way to democracy" when real unemployment reaches a staggering 50% (a scarier prospect for most people than car bombs or snipers), 25% of children under five years old are malnourished, 78% of the households in the country (and 92% in Baghdad) have electricity only a few hours a day, only 37% of urban households (and a mere 4% in the countryside) have sewage-disposal systems, only 61% have access to drinking water, 5% of households have been destroyed by bombing or search-and-destroy missions, only one in 10 households in rural areas can be reached by a paved road, and more youngsters than in any previous generation are illiterate. This is the appalling legacy of the occupation - and the US and UN-imposed regime of sanctions in the 1990s.
Now, to complete the picture, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has just "discovered" in a classified report leaked to the New York Times that Iraq - rather, Bush's Iraq - is breeding the new, lethal generation of jihadis, just like former president Ronald Reagan's "freedom fighters" were bred in the 1980s in Afghanistan during the anti-Soviet jihad. Anyone familiar with the invasion and occupation of Iraq knew this for a fact as far back as two years ago - at a time when Pentagon supremo Donald Rumsfeld was, on the record, very happy with the idea of Iraq as the new jihad Mecca. The CIA report cannot but conclude that the new jihadis - who are now taking their higher education in urban warfare in the Sunni triangle - will be even deadlier than the famous Arab-Afghans. There was blowback in Afghanistan - after the US financed a jihad. There is now blowback in Iraq - after the US invented a jihad out of the blue.
The lies that lead to the killers
The Downing Street memo - or memos - whose authenticity both Washington and London didn't even try to deny, have once again proved that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the [Bush administration's] policy", in the immortal words of Sir Richard Dearlove, head of the British M16. The memos once again proved that Bush knew Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction as well as no connection whatsoever with the attacks of September 11, 2001. The memos also prove, more lethally, that the British government viewed the invasion of Iraq as a war crime.
Whatever the spin, a majority of Americans are now finally starting to wake up to the fact that the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and corporate media simply lied about the whole Iraqi imperial adventure. George W Bush's response, on a June 18 radio address: we invaded Iraq because we were attacked - once again the non-existent connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam. Bush also said the war on Iraq would be won, despite "cold-blooded killers" trying to derail the US.
The "cold-blooded killers", as the CIA's Porter Goss would tell his friend Bush in an improbable, frank exchange, now exist because Bush's Iraq made them happen. And that's just part of the problem. American "intelligence officials" in Baghdad now are also "discovering" that Iraq's new security services, or the new Mukhabarat, largely responding to former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi ("Saddam without a moustache", in Baghdad parlance), are totally infiltrated by the resistance. These "intelligence officials" must have spent the past two years sipping martinis by the pool inside the Green Zone.
Iraq is the new Afghanistan in more ways than breeding a new generation of jihadis. The US has alienated Sunni Arabs in Iraq, just as it has alienated the Pashtun in Afghanistan. Sunni Arabs control the heart of Iraq's industrial economy, just as the Pashtun control the heart of Afghanistan's rural economy - based on opium-trading. The Pashtun will fight to the death against the remake of Afghanistan as a docile pupil of International Monetary Fund/World Bank dictates, just as Sunni Arabs - and many Shi'ites as well - will fight to the death the remake of Iraq as a US-controlled neo-liberal paradise.
Building political institutions vital to Afghanistan's recovery
Pentagon finds Afghan moderates winning battle to stabilize the country
Source: United States Department of State / June 22, 2005
By Merle D. Kellerhals, Jr., Washington File Staff Writer
Washington - As important as the security dimension is in Afghanistan, helping the Afghans build vital political institutions is the most important part of current operations there, says a senior Defense Department official.
The Afghans are building political infrastructure while systematically filling the vacuum left by the defeat of the Taliban regime, says Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.
Rodman testified June 22 before the House Armed Services Committee, which was conducting a hearing to assess current operations and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.
While coalition forces are hunting down remnants of the Taliban army and al-Qaida forces militarily, Afghans are marginalizing and isolating the extremists politically, he said.
"Our analysis -- our strategic analysis -- is that the moderates of the country are winning their battle, they're building their institutions, and that the extremists are isolated," he said.
Nevertheless, Rodman said that it is likely there will be a spike in violence as the Afghans prepare to elect a new National Assembly and provincial councils on September 18.
Rodman said one of the most important developments in 2005 was the joint declaration of strategic partnership, which President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed on March 23 during Karzai's visit to Washington. Its objective is to make sure that Afghanistan never again serves as an incubator of terrorism, he said.
"The strategic partnership that the two presidents agreed upon does declare a long-term American national commitment to Afghanistan's well-being, helping them in the economic area, political area, security area," he said.
At the same hearing, Nancy Powell, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, testified that one of the continuing challenges confronting the Afghan government is the illicit drug trade.
"In 2004, Afghanistan produced a historically high opium-poppy crop of 206,700 hectares under cultivation, with 4,950 metric tons of potential opium production accounting for the majority of the world's illicit opium supply," she said.
There are reports that the amount produced in Afghanistan will be down from 2004's high levels, but it will still be too high, she said.
"And there is no reason to expect that the drug threat in Afghanistan will abate any time soon," she said. "We must continue to make combating the drug trade emanating from Afghanistan one of the major priorities in our overall efforts to help Afghanistan."
Powell said that the profound destruction and disruption of normal life in Afghanistan caused by more than 25 years of conflict, the weakness of legitimate income sources and the limited enforcement capacity of the national government have left an environment for Afghanistan that is still conducive to narcotics production and trafficking.
"Even though our programs to assist the government of Afghanistan in combating the drug trade are working reasonably well in their initial stages, we have encountered major challenges, notably with regard to helping the Afghan authorities in destroying poppy fields when self-restraint is not sufficient to curb production," Powell said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
|Back to News Archirves of 2005|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).