Afghan's interior minister has tendered resignation, AIP says
Monday June 27, 5:25 PM
(Kyodo) _ Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali tendered his resignation last week because of differences with President Hamid Karzai over the appointment of provincial governors and administration officials, Afghan Islamic Press reported Monday.
AIP quoted "extremely reliable sources in Kabul" as saying Karzai has not accepted the resignation and some groups are trying to broker a reconciliation between Jalali and Karzai. Jalali, however, is unwilling to withdraw the resignation, the sources said.
Karzai announced a shuffle of governors in four major provinces --Kabul, Kandahar, Ningarhar and Ghazni -- last week.
U.S. troops shoot gun-wielding man in Afghanistan
Mon Jun 27, 2:12 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - U.S. troops shot dead a suspected Islamic militant on a motorcycle who sped up to a checkpoint in southern Afghanistan at the weekend and drew an automatic rifle, the U.S. military said on Monday.
The shooting happened on Sunday east of Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, a military statement said.
"The man approached the checkpoint on a motorcycle at a high rate of speed and ignored verbal warnings to stop," it said. "As he drew closer he brandished an AK-47 assault rifle. Coalition forces opened fire, killing him."
The man was found to be wearing an ammunition vest with additional AK-47 rounds, the statement said.
U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jerry O'Hara said the unidentified man was suspected of being an Islamic militant involved in attacks on U.S.-led forces.
O'Hara said he could not say whether the man was attempting a suicide attack, but checkpoints set up by the U.S.-led force in Afghanistan were highly visible.
The shooting came after the government reported that 178 Taliban guerrillas had been killed in a U.S.-backed offensive last week that ended with many militants fleeing toward the Pakistani border.
O'Hara said the latest U.S. figure for militants killed in the operation was 75, with another 22 detained, but he added that Afghan government figures could be more accurate.
On Sunday, Mullah Dadullah, one of two top Taliban commanders the government said had been surrounded in last week's fighting, telephoned Reuters to say that only seven or eight guerrillas had been killed, including one commander, Mullah Mohammad Easa.
U.S. and Afghan forces have reported killing nearly 400 insurgents since March as they move to prevent guerrilla efforts to derail Sept. 18 parliamentary elections.
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 3- years on, they have been unable to subdue the insurgency or catch bin Laden.
Man with weapon killed at checkpoint
June 27, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed an Afghan man June 26 after he drew an automatic weapon at a vehicle control point manned by Afghan and Coalition forces east of Qalat in Zabul province.
The man approached the checkpoint on a motorcycle at a high rate of speed and ignored verbal warnings to stop. As he drew closer he brandished an AK-47 assault rifle. Coalition forces opened fire, killing him.
A search of his possessions revealed an ammunition-carrying vest with additional AK-47 rounds.
“We conduct vehicle checkpoints primarily to improve the overall security in that area,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, a spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force-76. “We routinely stop and search vehicles for munitions, weapons and drugs to ensure the safety of Afghans and to prevent terrorist attacks. Checkpoints like these have prevented attacks by confiscating weapons, drugs and munitions and by securing the arrest of the individuals transporting them. It is only criminals like the one (on June 26) that have any need to fear them.”
Afghan voters register in tens of thousands despite violence
KABUL (AFP) - Around 73,000 Afghans have registered to vote in the country's first post-Taliban parliamentary election in September despite threats of violence in the south and southeast, organisers said.
A gunbattle in southeastern Paktika province delayed the opening of a voter registration station there but elsewhere there was a massive response, the UN-backed Afghan electoral commission said.
No one was hurt in the attack, commission spokeswoman Bronwyn Curran said.
"We are now three days into the voter registration with an overwhelming response," she said, adding the process was "well on track."
Several districts of restive southern Zabul province were among those where registration could not take place as helicopters could not land due to unrest.
Sandstorms and flooded rivers had also prevented registration at 59 of 1,052 stations nationwide.
The month-long registration drive targets voters who were not old enough to vote in the October presidential election won by incumbent Hamid Karzai, and those who have moved.
The UN special representative in Afghanistan Jean Arnault warned at the weekend that rising violence could undermine the polls.
"The country is confronted with an escalation of both the number and gravity of incidents that affect several provinces," he said, citing several attacks and targeted killings in the past few weeks.
"The situation is especially worrying in the southern provinces ... and in Pashtun regions bordering with Pakistan," he added.
Two election candidates and a man travelling with UN electoral workers have been killed in militant attacks in the past month.
US and Afghan officials say their troops have killed scores of militants in a three-day battle in southern Afghanistan this week in one of the deadliest clashes since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
“Threats” reported prior to Afghan blast in which two Germans died
Khaleej Times - Jun 27 5:07 AM (DPA)
KABUL/BERLIN - A senior Afghan official, commenting on the deaths of two German soldiers in a weekend blast, said on Monday that ”threats” had been issued to foreign troops in the weeks prior to the explosion.
Governor of Kunduz province Muhammad Omar told DPA that fliers had been distributed in the region 15 to 20 days ago calling on foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Despite this Omar said he believed the explosion was accidental, rather than the result of an attack.
A probe has been launched into Saturday’s explosion in the northern province of Takhar, in which the two soldiers as well as six Afghans were killed.
The blast happened at a munitions collection point close to an airfield in Rustaq, reportedly as the soldiers were loading munitions handed in by a local Afghan commander onto a truck.
An official NATO statement said the two soldiers killed were “part of a group of ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) soldiers observing ammunition-sorting operations”.
German Defence Minister Peter Struck said Monday he was of the opinion that the blast was an accident. ISAF officials have however declined to rule out the possibility of an attack.
A team of German investigators flew to Afghanistan Monday to determine the cause of the blast, while colleagues of the dead men were due to hold a memorial service on Monday evening.
UN envoy asks Pak, Afghanistan to cooperate to end violence
Press Trust of India United Nations, June 27, 2005|17:58 IST
Concerned over spiralling violence in Afghanistan, a senior United Nations envoy has sought greater cooperation between Kabul and Islamabad to stem the bloodshed by Taliban and other extremist groups.
The current offensive by extremist groups, including the Taliban, is playing a primary role in the escalation, "with what appears to be more funding, more deadly weaponry, more powerful media for propaganda and more aggressive, cruel and indiscriminate tactics," Jean Arnault, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said in a statement condemning the violence
Stating that Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan worked together with international forces to create a safe environment for Afghan elections, Arnault stressed on enhancing cooperation between the two to improve the security situation in the sountry.
"We welcome the recent high-level contacts between the Afghan and Pakistani governments in this respect," he said.
"Only they, working closely together with support of the international forces and the assistance of the international community at large, can stem the ongoing wave of extremist violence and allow Afghans finally to enjoy the right to a peaceful life that they have been so unjustly denied, for so long," he said.
Recent incidents of violence include the murder of cleric Maulawi Abdullah Fayaz, killing of 11 employees of Chemonics and their relatives, murder of five deminers, the beheading of Mullah Ida Khan and last week's killing of at least four Afghan police personnel in Kandahar province.
Kabul cautions Islamabad over Pakhtun issue
By Zubair Babakarkhail
KABUL, June 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A Foreign Ministry spokesman Monday termed Pakistan's Information Minister statement an interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
Shaikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistani minister had said on Sunday Pakhtuns in Afghanistan had been ignored despite being in majority.
Naveed Maez, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said Shaikh Rashid's remarks were a direct interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.
"Such statements will harm relations between the two neighbouring countries," Maez said, while talking to Pajhwok Afghan News. He advised the Pakistani authorities to work for cementing ties between the two neighbours.
Commenting on the issue, Mohammad Hassan Wolasmal, chief editor of Afghan National Journal, said although Pakhtuns had been facing discrimination, but it was internal problem of Afghanistan.
Earlier, former US ambassador to Kabul Zalmay Khalilzad had alleged Pakistan was not sincere in the fight against terrorism.
Neighbouring countries asked to stop interference
By Abdul Samad Rohani
LASHKARGAH CITY, June 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A jirga comprising government officials, tribal elders and ulema Monday condemned foreign involvement in Afghanistan's internal affairs and called for a halt to the detrimental practice.
Addressing over 300 participants, Helmand Governor Haji Sher Mohammad Akhonzada alleged both the neighbouring Iran and Pakistan were interfering in Afghanistan's internal affairs over the years. "Pakistan gives training to Taliban and sends them into Afghanistan to carry on their killing spree."
He asked for a halt to the interference saying, "Let the Afghans reconstruct and restore lasting peace to their war-ravaged country."
A former Taliban commander, known as Raees Baghran, who had recently surrendered, asked the Afghans to promote unity in their ranks to foil the evil designs of the foreign elements.
Ali Shah Mazloomyar, a tribal elder and candidate for the upcoming parliamentary elections, said Pakistan should stop interference to avoid further harm to Afghanistan and its ties with that country.
Helmand Ulema Council chief Maulvi Salih Mohammad lashed out at the government for the worsening law and order situation across the country. He said the authorities concerned had failed to provide security of life and property to the common man.
It merits a mention here that Pakistan President Parvez Musharraf and foreign minister, in their recent statements, have vehemently denied the mounting allegations regarding their country's interference in Afghanistan's internal affairs.
Al-Qaeda linked militants issue 28 death threats to Pakistan 'spies'
MIR ALI, Pakistan, June 27 (AFP) - Suspected Al-Qaeda linked militants in Pakistan's tribal belt have issued death threats to 28 tribal elders, prayer leaders and social workers accused of spying for the government.
Photocopies of a note handwritten in Pashtu were circulated in this village in the North Waziristan district of north-western Pakistan bordering Afghanistan by unidentified people late Sunday, residents said.
It listed the names of 28 people and warns them to get ready to die. Three of them have already survived attempts on their lives.
"These people are spying for government and informing it about the activities of Mujahedin," said the unsigned note, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.
"These people are friends of Jews and Christians, they are also friends of (Pakistan President) Pervez Musharraf," it said.
One of those named, a prayer leader, said he was not afraid.
"I have been receiving such threats and in the past they (militants) had sent me money for my 'kafan' (funeral sheet)," Maulvi Janat Mir told AFP.
"We are not afraid of such threats and life and death is in the hands of Allah, however, we have stepped up our security," he said.
Militants last month shot dead two tribesmen in Mir Ali, some 25 kilometres east of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, for allegedly spying for the United States.
Officials have previously said that Pakistani troops had pushed militants from the region after a year of military operations in which hundreds of rebels and 250 soldiers died.
Suspected Al-Qaeda and Taliban members fled there from Afghanistan in late 2001 and US and Pakistani officials believe Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden may be sheltering somewhere along the mountainous border.
Letter from Afghanistan: US forces dig in
Nick Bryant BBC News, Camp Salerno, eastern Afghanistan Monday, 27 June, 2005
The BBC's South Asia correspondent reports from the dusty plains of eastern Afghanistan, where US forces - with the help of the caterers - have carved out a little chunk of America.
Walk into the Green Beans coffee bar - with its Pavoni espresso machine, stainless steel bar stools and fake fireplace that looks like a prop from a Bing Crosby Christmas special - you pay your dollars, and take your choice.
Care for a Mocha Frappe? Full-fat or skinny? Or perhaps a Triple Latte or Macchiato? With chocolate sprinkled on top?
How about a blueberry muffin - or even a more morale-boosting double chocolate or banana nut?
A CD from the counter-top "Travel the World" collection, perhaps? "Nuevo Latino" with its Cuban overtones does not quite hit the right note. "Arabic Grove"? I do not think so. As for "Euro Lounge": is that "Old Europe" or "new"? The packaging does not say...
For Michael Jackson you will have to try the convenience store, just over the way.
There you will find shelves heaving with everything from beef jerky to baby wipes, Leathermen knives to lip balm, vitamin supplements to video games.
Magazine racks are filled with an eclectic range of reading matter. "Muscular Development", "Soldier of Fortune" or "Street Chopper"? Or, for those with more delicate sensibilities - the lip balm types - there's "Vogue" or even "Yoga Journal".
As for souvenirs, how about a t-shirt? "Kill Osama for Mamma".
Supper time means "Surf and Turf'" (steak and lobster), T-bone steak, ribs, hot dogs, chilli dogs, barbeque beans and meat loaf. Breakfast offers up a cholesterol-stoked menu of hash browns, French toast - surely "Freedom Toast"? - streaky bacon, pancakes with maple syrup and Coco Pops.
Fox News is on the television, punctuated by advertisements made especially for the Armed Forces Network, warning about the dangers of smoking, chewing tobacco or careless driving.
The more immediate hazards posed by the Taleban and al-Qaeda go unmentioned.
Pointing towards the jagged mountains on the horizon, one GI told me it reminded me of his Arizona home, which presumably is the aim. Parts of Camp Salerno could just as easily be Portland, Pittsburgh or even Peoria.
In America's war on terrorism, this is home from home.
Camp Salerno, a forward operating base in the forefront of the fight against the remnants of the Taleban, reeks of America's post-9/11 fortress mentality. But that is only part of the story.
Just as striking is how the US military mindset in eastern Afghanistan is slowly evolving. For the unrivalled masters of mechanised warfare are confronting their deficiencies at fighting an insurgency.
Hunkering down is out. Glad-handing the locals is very much the thing.
Bombs and bullets are still very much in evidence. But since last October's presidential election - which US commanders view as marking the moral and psychological defeat of the Taleban - there's been much greater emphasis on winning hearts and minds.
American soldiers are getting out of their armoured Humvees and exploring the terrain on foot - building better contacts, gleaning better intelligence, and trying to nurture trust. As one senior commander explained it, they are trying to be "more ideologically attractive" than the Taleban.
On one mission, US Army Rangers ventured into the mountains to settle a land dispute between two warring tribes - an operation which, at one point, involved bringing in Apache helicopters in an intimidating show of force.
But it relied much more heavily on a skill not normally associated with the US military: sitting down with tribal elders and consuming lots of freshly-brewed tea.
On another occasion, we watched a white-bearded State Department official named Chris Mason stand before a tribal shura - a group of tribal elders, seated cross-legged on the floor before him - and deliver a mesmerising speech addressing allegations over the desecration of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay.
Those reports might be true, he admitted candidly, he had no way of knowing. But they should not be how America is judged.
"With my last drop of blood I would stop this thing from happening," he shouted with marvellous theatricality.
"If there was a Koran on this stand today, and the devil came to set fire to it; I would throw my own body on the Koran to protect it from the devil's fire."
Just before his arrival, an American B52 had soared overheard, to remind local elders who really is in the chair. But it was the redemptive power of Mason's oratory that made a much more lasting impression than the vapour trails of America's most terrifying bomber.
US commanders point to a barrage of statistics to show how these new strategies are improving: from an eight-fold increase in the destruction in arms caches between 2003 and 2004; to a 30% reduction in the detonation of roadside Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). On both counts, US commanders cite increased local co-operation.
The Americans are accused still of human rights abuses at the Bagram detention centre, and of over-aggressive soldiering elsewhere - while we were at Salerno, an elderly man was shot dead during a raid on a house by US special forces, seemingly because he did not understand an order to raise his arms above his head.
US commanders concede they still have lessons to learn. But the simple fact an increasing number of personnel are not only saying 'Salam Alaikum' - Peace be upon you - but actually know what it means is a sure sign of progress.
But then, if you can negotiate your way around the menu at Green Beans coffee, it really should not be that difficult.
US to build barracks for Afghan soldiers
KABUL, June 27 (Xinhua) -- The US army would build facilities and barracks to house newly trained Afghan soldiers in the post-war nation, US military spokesman said Monday.
"The Afghanistan Engineer District (AED) of the US Army Corps of Engineers has built or is currently building facilities at 11 installations to house 35,000 Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers in different provinces," James Yonts told journalists.
These facilities would be constructed in Kabul, Kandahar, Khost,Gerdez, Mazar-e-Sharif and Qalat, he added.
The projects costing over 814 million US dollars, according to the spokesman, would cover constructing 421 barracks, 73 administrative buildings, 12 dining facilities and 225 support facilities, which include morale, welfare and recreation such as gyms and community centers.
"The AED is installing independent power plants and waste water treatment stations at each installation to ensure there will be power and running water," the Army Colonel added.
Under the historic Bonn agreement signed in late 2001 in Germany, the post-Taliban Afghanistan would have a 70,000-strong new brand army, and the US, serving as a lead nation in forming Afghan armed forces, has helped to train 28,000 Afghan troops so far.
US military confirms 77 deaths in Afghanistan
KABUL, June 27 (Xinhua) -- While the Afghan government put the death toll of suspected Taliban militias in the volatile Kandahar's Mian Nashin district over 170, the US army said Monday only 77 insurgents were killed in the five-day operation.
"We have 77 enemies killed in action," James Yonts told journalists at a press conference here in the US army compound.
Afghan Defense Ministry on Thursday put the number of guerrillas killed in the five-day bloody fighting wrapped up late last week at 178 and those captured 56.
However, the spokesman noted that the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) were leading the battle in Mian Nashin so they know the exact figure of the casualties.
He also put the number of US military casualties at only six and saying six US soldiers were injured, three Afghan police wounded in action and another police was killed.
The US army spokesman also disputed the figure of captured Taliban claimed by the government and said over a dozen suspected militants were detained during the operation.
"Right now there are 13 enemies detained," the US army Colonel confirmed.
In the meantime, the Taliban movement has termed the figure of their casualties claimed by the government as false and exaggerated.
A Taliban's top commander, Mullah Dadullah, in talks with the press from unknown location confirmed the death of eight militants and give the number of Afghan and US casualties as over 30.
Taliban's remnants whose regime was toppled by US army in late 2001 have vowed to continue Jihad or holy war till the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
Germany dispatches team to probe Afghan explosion
BERLIN, June 27 (Xinhua) -- Germany sent a team of investigators on Monday to Afghanistan to probe into the cause of a Saturday explosion, which killed two German soldiers and at least five Afghans.
The inquiry team left Cologne to fly directly to Afghanistan after negotiating over flight rights for the plane's route, German news agency DPA reported.
On Saturday, a stock of surrendered militia munition blasted in nearby Takhar province. It was unclear whether it was an accident or deliberate. The munition was loaded on a truck at the time of blast, authorities said.
The armed forces said in Germany that a German and an Afghan injured in the explosion were on their way to Germany fortreatment.
German soldiers, part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT), have been employed in Afghanistan's Kunduz province.
Two Pakistanis held for filming Taliban attacks
ANI / Peshawar, June 27, 2005 via The Hindustan Times (India)
Afghanistan authorities have arrested two Pakistani nationals on charges of entering the country illegally to film Taliban attacks against US troops and government installations in Kunar province. With this, the number of Pakistanis arrested in Afghanistan over the past week has risen to five.
The duo belongs to Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). Most of the 50,000 Pakistanis hailing from the province are employed in Afghanistan, particularly the construction industry.
Giving details of the arrests, Kunar Governor Asadullah Wafa said that the two men had come with Taliban commander Mulla Ismail to make movies of attacks against US-led coalition troops.
He, however, didn't provide names of the arrested men. Nor did he provide any details about the cameras or other equipment seized from them.
Wafa alleged that an Arabic language TV channel had paid Rs 500,000 to the duo to film the Taliban military operations.
The News reported that Ismail claimed responsibility for a number of rocket attacks and roadside explosions in Kunar in recent days. He reportedly set up his own band of followers named Bira'a ibne Malik Front that operates under its own name and owes allegiance to Taliban leader Mulla Mohammad Omar.
Ismail revealed that his men fired rockets at the US military base at Manegai near Kunar's capital Asadabad.
Rashid wants Pakhtoons not to be ignored in Afghanistan
BANNU, June 27 (Online): Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, the information minister, said on Sunday Islamabad had asked Washington not to ignore Pakhtoon majority for stable Afghanistan, hoping the point would be well understood by the US.
Speaking to a function organized for the launch of a Radio Pakistan station in Bannu, the minister said Pakistan wanted to see Afghanistan back on the path of progress and development and was doing the needful for its reconstruction, peace and stability.
He said maximum support for Hamid Karzai led Afghan government came from Pakistan since it considered it imperative for a strong Afghanistan.
He said US envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was trying to spoil friendly Pak-Afghan ties by accusing Islamabad of hosting Taliban militants.
He said Pakistani security forces were cracking down on terrorists hiding on their soil and remained quite successful in purging most of the tribal areas of al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Rashid said, "We believe neither Osama bin Laden nor Mulla Omar is in Pakistan controlled territories. And if anyone claims they are in Pakistan, he/ she must let Pakistani authorities know their whereabouts for crackdown."
He said Islamabad was sincere in sorting out Kashmir conflict with New Delhi on negotiation table and that too in line with the aspirations of Kashmiri people.
He said, "We will never let down our Kashmiri brethren and will find a solution equally acceptable to them."
The minister said the time was ripe for Kashmir settlement.
"Gone are the days when one could think of resolving Kashmir through use of power. Today, dialogue is the only option available to us for its sustained solution."
He said the government had plans to set up 47 new radio stations in country's remote areas.
He said the launch of more radio and television channels would promote cultural, educational and social activities in Pakistan.
He said the government believed in freedom of the print and electronic media, however media would have to conform to code of ethics.
$2m to be spent under NEEP in Ghor
By Zubair Babakarkhail
KABUL, June 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The government is mulling to invest $2 million in Ghor province to discourage poppy cultivation and provide alternative sources of income to the people.
The amount being provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will be spent under the National Emergency Employment Programme (NEEP) to provide maximum employment opportunities to the people of that province.
A team comprising the Minister for Rural Rehabilitation and Development Hanif Atmar, agriculture experts and provincial officials visited the target areas on Sunday.
USAID statement said this was part of its Alternative Livelihood Project under which people who had ceased poppy cultivation would be provided with alternate sources of income.
Idris Ilham, USAID public relations officer here, hoped the assistance would bear positive results and help to a large extent in eradication of poppy cultivation in the areas. He said a survey would be conducted later to review the success of the programme.
The USAID Alternative Livelihood Project is sponsoring economically productive programmes in poppy cultivated areas. Such a project had already been launched in the northeastern Laghman province which was visited by Laghman Governor Shah Mahmood Safi along with former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad on June 19.
AFGHANISTAN: Focus on rehabilitation of child soldiers
KUNDUZ, 27 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Sitting around a tailor’s table in a tiny shop, Najeebullah and his friends say they are proud to have once been child soldiers because now they are the only literate young people with jobs in Amirbai village, 35 km north of Kunduz, provincial town of the province with the same name in the north of the country. The group has been demobilised as part of a UN-backed programme after several years of life under arms.
The village was on the front line between the Taliban and northern alliance forces from 1998 to late 2001 when the hardline regime was toppled by US-led Coalition forces.
Many children like Najeebullah were forced to join armed factions when their communities became battlegrounds. Some had to take up arms to earn food or to protect their families. Others like Najeebullah, had to bear a weapon as the only male member of the family.
CHILDRED COERCED INTO MILITIA GROUPS
“I had no option but to take a gun when I was twelve because every household had to contribute a man or give the cash equivalent of a fighter’s salary for a year to the local commander,” the 17-year-old recalled.
He’s one of an estimated 8,000 child soldiers identified by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in post-war Afghanistan. Nearly 4,000 of these children have been demobilised and are actively involved in some form of rehabilitation under a UNICEF programme. The programme also addresses the needs of street children who have missed school through poverty or years of displacement.
Najeebullah never went to school but managed to learn how to read and write in less than a year after joining an intensive literacy course which is obligatory for all demobilised child soldiers. He chose tailoring as a skill he wanted to master and now, six months later, he earns his living making clothes. He feels he has a future for the first time in his life.
“I will soon join school as I can read and write now and will also open my own tailoring shop now that I have acquired a profession,” he beamed while putting the finishing stitches in a pair of trousers he had made for a young relative.
EXTENT OF DEMOBILISATION
According to UNICEF, up to 4,000 boys, the majority between 14 and 17 years old, have been demobilised and reintegrated in north, northeast, east and central Afghanistan since the programme was launched in February 2004.
UNICEF, for the purposes of the rehabilitation programme, define a child soldier as a young person under 17 who has been, or still is, active in a military unit with a formal command structure. Each of the demobilised children then receives a package of support. This starts with registration in the programme’s database, the issuing of a photo identity card, medical and psychosocial assessments and briefing sessions on mine risk and reintegration options.
UNICEF said all demobilised children are also offered voluntary testing for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Each demobilised child has the opportunity to participate in a number of reintegration options, including returning to education or enrolling in vocational training programmes to learn a practical skill. Some opt for income generation schemes like farming sheep or poultry.
A NEW START IN A NEW COUNTRY
Mohammad Sarwar, a former child soldier from Imam Sahib district, a border town 60 km south of Kunduz, said the reintegration experience had changed his life and enhanced his status in the community. The 18-year-old is the only breadwinner in his six-member family and lost his father in a land mine explosion next to their home.
After his father died he had to serve in a military unit, this included everything from combat to entertaining militia forces in front positions.
“I had to dance for them to keep morale high – even when bullets and rockets were whistling past me.” In 1999 Sarwar lost his right hand in a rocket explosion when he was involved in fierce fighting around Kunduz.
“In the past people hated me and I hated my life. It was not the war which was terrifying but the inhumane behaviour of commanders with child soldiers like me,” Sarwar added. The programme has made him literate and he makes a living writing and reading letters and invitation cards when there is a wedding party or mourning ceremony.
Sarwar attended a literacy course run by the Child Fund for Afghanistan (CFA) - an implementing partner used by UNICEF in the northeast of the country. The disabled former soldier has also been given three sheep and some seeds to begin farming. With these he earns his living and supplements it by selling tomatoes grown on a tiny plot of land behind his house.
According to CFA social workers, some of the young former soldiers continue to suffer abuse.
“In some villages there are still children who are misused by commanders. Often they are forced to dance, which is a tradition among warlords in most parts of the country. Often they re sexually abused,” Hamiddullah said.
DEMOBILISATION PROGRAMME TO EXPAND
With the expansion of the UN-backed demobilisation campaign, he said the risk of exploitation was lessening.
“People are very happy and they support the programme, they even contribute by making their homes available for literacy and other training,” the social worker said.
“The problem is the existing commanders who are still powerful in the region, even though they have been decommissioned by DDR,” he noted.
According to UNICEF, of the 40,000 demobilised child soldiers 1,500 children completed the course and 1,100 have already found employment. More than 1,000 also received competency certificates in literacy.
“The main challenges have been finding reintegration programmes to match the needs of the young people,” Edward Carwardine a UNICEF spokesman said.
Currently the programme is operating in 17 provinces, but is set to expand.
“The next phase, due to start in the summer, will focus on the south and western regions,” Carwardine added.
Child burnings increase in Afghanistan
New York Newsday / June 27, 2005 BY JAMES RUPERT
GARDEZ, Afghanistan -- The country lacks a real school system, or nationwide news media, so there is little way to correct the broad public ignorance of safety rules. And the government department that is supposed to regulate fuel sales has few inspectors and no laboratory to check for dangerous fuels.
A contributing factor is Afghanistan's war and the fact that U.S. forces are using a particularly volatile Russian grade of kerosene to fly their planes and helicopters, Afghan and U.S. specialists said. Afghans say some of this fuel gets sold on the market and winds up exploding in homes.
U.S. forces have helped treat the injured, but hospitals in Jalalabad, Gardez, Kabul, Khost, Herat and other cities have reported a rise in burn cases this year, said Dr. Abdullah Fahim, the Afghan health ministry spokesman. "We don't know exactly how many cases there are because we have no national system to gather health statistics." Doctors in Gardez and Kabul said child burnings in Afghanistan this year number at least in the hundreds.
In late May, the Gardez hospital's head nurse checked on Hazrat Khan's daughters, ages 9 and 10, their bodies seared black, red and pink by the exploded fuel. "In the past three weeks, we've had 22 burn patients, almost all of them because of exploding kerosene," said the nurse, Mohammed Azim.
Since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Muslim extremist Taliban government in 2001, little of the $4 billion in aid poured into Afghanistan has reached the health services of Gardez, a three-hour drive south of Kabul, the capital. Doctors say some money has come to build health clinics in nearby districts, and the hospital recently got the equipment to do abdominal surgery.
"Health care is better than under the Taliban," said Said Amir Said, a surgeon. That seems only because under the Taliban it was nonexistent. "For the burn patients, we have no antiseptic baths to clean the wounds, no dressings to cover them, and we lack antibiotics to prevent infection," Said said.
Nationwide, doctors make 2,000 Afghanis a month -- about $1.30 per day. To barely sustain an ordinary family takes perhaps five times that amount, Afghans said.
Even at Afghanistan's best children's hospital, the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health in Kabul, care for burns is rudimentary. Children's bodies are splotched with swaths of weeping pink flesh or rough, dark crust instead of skin. They lie mostly naked underneath wire frameworks draped with blankets, the only way the hospital can even try to keep them warm and shielded from airborne germs.
Unprotected against infections, many burn victims die. "Even those who survive are going to need continuous ... skin grafts" to repair deformities from scar tissue, "and we don't have the capacity to do this," said Dr. Abdurrahim Saidi.
Burnings have increased partly because kerosene is used more than in the past, said Mohammed Yunus Moghul, director of the liquid fuels department at Afghanistan's commerce ministry. Before the country's wars began in the late 1970s, "electricity was reliable" in the cities, he said, and coal, wood and locally pressed vegetable oils were used in the countryside. Wartime destruction and economic collapse have constricted those energy sources, and imported kerosene is filling the gap, Moghul said.
Another root of the problem is that, "For the past three decades, we have been deprived of all kinds of education," said the children's hospital director, Dr. Abdulsalam Jalali. Rather than give children the chore of tending lamps, "people must be taught not to let ... near the lamps and stoves."
And there is the war, and the unhappy similarity of lamp kerosene to jet fuel.
The U.S. military prefers to fly its aircraft on an American grade of kerosene called JP-8. For safety, it's formulated so its flashpoint -- the temperature at which the fuel's vapors can be ignited -- is at least 100 degrees. That is the same standard for kerosene sold for domestic use in the United States.
With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces here can't find enough JP-8. So they are buying huge amounts of a Russian grade of kerosene, TS-1, that ignites at temperatures as low as 83 degrees.
On the rutted track from Pakistan to Kabul on a recent day, tanker trucks loaded with the Russian fuel rumbled by every few minutes to keep the U.S. military machine fueled. When the trucks arrive at a U.S. base, the load is tested.
"If the base rejects the fuel because it is contaminated or something, instead of driving back to Pakistan, the driver will sell the fuel cheaply" in Afghanistan, said Moghul, the commerce ministry official. He and other Afghans say fuel also gets smuggled off U.S. bases, just like the military food stocks, uniforms and cots for sale in local bazaars.
The U.S. logistics commander in Afghanistan, Col. Walter Sawyer, said American forces found "no known instances where fuel ... from coalition fuel carriers" is diverted for local sale.
A contributing factor to kerosene accidents throughout the developing world is the use of grades with low flashpoints, and the contamination of kerosene by gasoline if the same truck or container is used for both fuels, said Joe Shepherd, a specialist in aviation fuels at the California Institute of Technology.
Laila, an 8-year-old scarred from her head to her knees, has no idea what kind of kerosene exploded in the lamp she was holding while her mother filled it. At the children's hospital, Laila was the most active of the burn victims recently, climbing out of bed to hobble on a tour of the third-floor corridors.
Naked but for underpants and purple plastic sandals, she drew stares from passing adults. With her hair shorn and her mouth pulled down in a fixed grimace by scar tissue, she doesn't look much like a little girl. Scarring has contorted her hands into stiff claws.
Oblivious to the stares, Laila was eager to chat. She explained the leather amulet on a string around her ankle. "It's to protect me from people with loud voices," she said, "in case they should bring me any danger." She recited the Persian alphabet, then admired a visitor's notebook and asked for one like it to draw in. But she quickly changed her mind. "Could you find some fruit instead?" she asked. "I like apples, mangoes and oranges."
Laila will survive but will need a lifetime of skin grafts and repair operations -- if by some miracle they become available here, a doctor said.
Laila said she had been hospitalized for a month. Asked about her future, she absent-mindedly scratched some itchy pink skin on her thigh.
"I think it will take me one more week to get better, maybe less. When I'm better, I'll go back to school. My sister is in school and she says my friends there are asking about me."
Afghanistan: Government charts progress in tackling opium
KABUL, 27 June (IRIN) - Afghanistan has embarked on a concerted campaign to tackle its booming narcotics trade, the counter narcotics minister, Habibullah Qaderi announced, following an event that included the burning of 30 mt of refined and raw opium on the outskirts of the capital, Kabul, on Sunday.
The move marked the United Nations international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking.
Afghanistan produced 4,600 mt of opium in 2004, accounting for 86 percent of the total world supply of the highly addictive drug. According to the ministry of interior, Sunday's ritual incineration of drugs seized in recent months was the largest ever. The previous record,13.8 mt of cocaine was burned in Colombia only last month.
Afghan officials say their 'get tough' policy is bearing fruit and that they are seizing ever-increasing amounts of drugs. Up to 50 drug traffickers are currently being tried in Afghan courts.
Qaderi said the country was beginning to turn the tide against drugs and hoped for a 30 percent reduction in poppy cultivation this year.
"The poppy crop in 2004 was the largest ever because everybody thought they could grow poppy with impunity but we have already turned the corner, as a survey of this year's crop showed in February," Qaderi said.
The survey, carried out jointly by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ministry of Counter Narcotics, indicated that the amount of land under poppy cultivation had decreased in comparison with 2004 in all but five of the country's 34 provinces.
Despite this progress, although the amount of land under opium production is set to drop in 2005, the nation's per-hectare productivity of the deadly crop has risen.
The head of UNODC, Antonio Mario Costa, said that despite the reduction in cultivation and the eradication of poppy fields, production was likely to still be significant this year. This was partly due to a wetter winter after several years of drought in Afghanistan.
Kabul is under increasing international pressure to reduce production in the continuing battle against heroin production, most of which ends up on the streets of Europe and the US.
During a recent trip to the US, Afghan president Hamid Karzai was criticised by officials for the lack of progress in tackling the drugs menace. Karzai rejected the criticism, blaming Western countries for their lack of support for initiatives to offer alternative livelihoods in rural areas and enhance national capacity to track and prosecute the growers and traffickers.
Center for Victims of Torture Seeks Probe
By EMILY JOHNS, Associated Press / Mon Jun 27, 6:42 AM ET
MINNEAPOLIS - A group that helps international victims of torture called for an independent investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Minneapolis-based Center for Victims of Torture said it is sending letters to President Bush and the Minnesota congressional delegation, asking for an independent commission. The group also said Sunday that the U.S. must provide torture victims with legal help and medical and psychological rehabilitation.
Under recent criticism, White House and Pentagon officials have been defending the conditions and treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay almost daily. On Sunday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told NBC's "Meet the Press" that an independent investigation into conditions there doesn't make sense.
Over the weekend, Republicans and Democrats visited Guantanamo Bay to view the conditions for themselves. An estimated 540 detainees are in Cuba — some have been held for three years without being charged with any crimes.
Democratic Rep. Ed Case, D-Hawaii, said Sunday that the Guantanamo prison for terrorists was being run well and did not match allegations the detainees were being abused and tortured.
Speaking to reporters by telephone from Washington after his trip to the prison, Case said he watched from behind a one-way mirror while detainees were interrogated and talked to doctors at the prison hospital.
His 16-member congressional delegation also freely questioned the prison's guards and saw detainees kept in a lower-level security camp, he said.
"I think Gitmo is being operated well and operated in a way that is necessary to the safety and security of our country and in a way that is humane under the circumstances," Case said, using the prison's nickname.
Back in Minneapolis, more than 120 people signed the letters to President Bush, asking for the independent investigations.
"We have to show that we're not afraid to investigate ourselves," said Rep. Betty McCollum (news, bio, voting record), a Democrat who attended the event. McCollum said repeated allegations of torture and abuse need "the disinfectant of sunlight" that an independent investigation could provide.
In an interview Friday, Lt. Commander Joe Carpenter, a Pentagon spokesman, said a small percentage of the 70,000 detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba have been mistreated.
"The fact that there has been some mistreatment is unacceptable," Carpenter said. About a half-dozen military personnel have been convicted or have entered guilty pleas in the widely-publicized abuse scandal at the Abu Gharib prison in Iraq.
The Center for Victims of Torture, celebrating its 20th anniversary Sunday, was the first U.S. organization created to help victims of politically motivated torture.
Associated Press Writer Audrey McAvoy in Honolulu contributed to this report.
On the Net: Center for Victims of Torture: http://www.cvt.org
Former Guantanamo prisoners freed by Pakistan allege abuse of Koran
June 27, 2005
LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) - Seventeen former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay who were detained on their return home to Pakistan were freed, with many alleging they had witnessed the desecration of the Koran at the US jail.
The men came back to Pakistan around nine months ago after being cleared by US authorities. They were finally released from a Pakistani jail after promising not to take part in militant activities.
"American soldiers have been committing desecration of the holy Koran at Guantanamo," Haifz Ehsan Saeed, 27, told AFP as he emerged from the central jail in the city of Lahore.
"There were various incidents. Once I saw them throw the Koran in a bucket full of urine and faeces," he said.
Saeed said he was arrested four years ago in Afghanistan on charges of having links with the Al-Qaeda terror network. He was kept in a jail run by brutal Afghan warlord Abdul Rashid Dostam and then shifted to Guantanamo.
"The Americans declared me innocent but yet I have been in prison for about nine months in Rawalpindi and Lahore after being released from Guantanamo Bay," he said.
"I am not ashamed because I have not done any wrong act," Saeed added.
Another freed prisoner, 25-year-old Muhammad Hanif, said he was tortured and his beard was forcibly shaved by the US troops at the military jail in Cuba.
"The Americans removed our beards and have been spitting over the holy book," Hanif told AFP.
The inmates at Guantanamo Bay protested at the abuse of the Islamic holy book and went on hunger strikes, he said.
A Pakistani official said the men had been released on the orders of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
"We have released 17 prisoners after their parents and guardians furnished guarantees that they would not indulge in terrorist activities," said Tahir Ashrafi, the provincial government's advisor on religious affairs.
Musharraf earlier this month condemned the desecration of the Koran as an "unpardonable" act and backed calls for the punishment of those found guilty.
Frequent protest rallies were held in Pakistan after a report in Newsweek magazine in early May said Guantanamo Bay interrogators threw a Koran in a toilet to rattle Muslim inmates. Newsweek later retracted the story.
The US Defense Department, announcing the result of an investigation this month, said that overall US soldiers at the camp handled the Islamic holy book with respect.
But it said military personnel at Guantanamo Bay once kicked the Koran and a copy was sprayed with urine in another incident.
Madrassah reform is key to terror war
By Abigail Cutler and Saleem Ali / The Christian Science Monitor / June 27, 2005
WASHINGTON; AND BURLINGTON, VT. - In recent weeks, some experts have challenged the conventional wisdom about the flagship of Islamic education in Pakistan - madrassahs, those schools where members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban once trained, and which have been called jihad factories, schools of hate, and breeding grounds for terror.
The revised assessments cite new information like the recent World Bank report, which offers compelling statistical proof that since the 9/11 attacks, Pakistani madrassahs have been reported to account for anywhere from 1 to 33 percent of all school enrollments.
Some commentaries in leading publications have made similar arguments about the influence of these schools, suggesting they don't produce terrorists capable of attacking the West.
To be sure, these scholars are correct in pointing out that official statistics are sparse, reports clash, and Islamic education is not monolithic.
But a total denial of the madrassah problem is equally misguided. The madrassah effect is real and visible.
For good reason, Muslim schools in many countries have come to represent much that is wrong with Islam today. Such schools, in Pakistan for example, have produced terrorists in the past; many across the Muslim world currently promote religious intolerance and encourage sectarian violence; and there is ample reason to fear that, in the long run, the fundamentalism emanating from madrassahs in Pakistan and similar Islamic schools elsewhere will eventually threaten Western interests in the region.
The United States, of all nations, cannot shirk responsibility for the madrassah quandary. Following the 1979 Iranian revolution, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority Gulf nations bankrolled militant madrassahs in Pakistan to counteract the growing presence of Shiite fundamentalism in the region. And later that year, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan prompted the Pakistani government - funded primarily by the US and Saudi Arabia - to erect a number of radical madrassahs along the Afghan border to repel the "godless communists."
These schools housed and educated millions of displaced refugees, while supplying the Afghan resistance with a steady stream of mujahideen - many of whom would later become leaders in the Taliban.
But US accountability does not end there: From 1986 to 1992, the University of Nebraska (with funding from the US Agency for International Development) produced a series of primary school textbooks that indoctrinated young Muslims in the importance of jihad.
Among the fourth-grade math lessons was this: "The speed of a Kalashnikov bullet is 800 meters per second.... If a Russian is at a distance of 3,200 meters from a mujahid, and that mujahid aims at the Russian's head, calculate how many seconds it will take for the bullet to strike the Russian in the forehead."
Madrassahs in Pakistan totaled a few hundred in 1947; by the end of the Afghan War in 1989, there were several thousand.
It may be true that most madrassahs do not mass-produce international terrorists intent on attacking the US. But closer examination of countries like Pakistan reveals that the madrassah phenomenon has been problematic in other ways.
Recent research funded by the United States Institute of Peace found a strong correlation between madrassah proliferation and sectarian violence in certain areas of Pakistan - particularly in Ahmedpur East, a district in the southern part of the province of Punjab.
Most madrassahs in Ahmedpur are operated by Deobandi Muslims, a Sunni sect that holds extremely intolerant views of other Muslims. In areas of Ahmedpur where Deobandi and Shiite madrassahs flourish, sectarian violence runs especially high.
The research also found that Deobandi madrassahs appear to radicalize surrounding non-Deobandi madrassahs: only in areas with a heavy Deobandi presence do non-Deobandi madrassahs encourage sectarian violence.
Though the problem in Ahmedpur is most immediately a local one, this trend has already spread to other regions of the globe. Just last month, police in Indonesia found caches of weapons in an Islamic school outside Ambon City on the Maluku Islands, where sectarian clashes between Muslims and Christians killed 5,000 people between 1999 and 2002.
Islamic schools commit no actual crime by teaching only the Koran and Islamic law. After all, every religion has its version of faith-based schooling.
But it is easy to see how the madrassah effect can have international reach - even aside from the outdated school curricula offered by almost all madrassahs, which in itself should underline concerns that these schools are at the very least graduating thousands of students unemployable outside the religious sector and hard-pressed to function in a globalized economy.
Since joining the US-led war on terror, the Pakistani government has repeatedly vowed to stamp out religious intolerance and Islamist extremism by eradicating hate literature and incorporating the national academic curriculum into the Islamic schools.
But these efforts have been met with resistance all around. Madrassah administrators insist that the function of Islamic schools is to train future clerics, not modern professionals. Some policymakers assert that the national curriculum is no more tolerant or modern than what is already taught by the madrassahs. Skeptics have also questioned President Musharraf's commitment to madrassah reform, suggesting he has little incentive to alienate a seemingly large part of his political base.
It is plain wrong to suggest that failing education systems in Muslim countries do not constitute a long-term threat to the West, or that the West does not have an obligation to help fix them.
Madrassahs are not a terrorism problem, per se. And as part of a vital tradition in Islam, many of them deserve our respect. But without reform, madrassahs at best will continue to produce generations of graduates ill-suited to function in modern society and intolerant of other religious sects. At worst, those graduates will become international terrorists.
Regardless, the consequences are most certainly severe - for the Muslim world especially, but for the global community as well.
US financial commitment to Pakistan's education-reform efforts indicates how important these initiatives are to American interests. They should be applauded as necessary efforts in combating Islamic extremism, the real focus of the war on terror.
• Abigail Cutler is a reporter/researcher for The Atlantic Monthly. Saleem Ali teaches at the University of Vermont and is a research scholar at Brown University. He is the author of a forthcoming US Institute of Peace study on Pakistan's madrassahs.
India's Afghan nightmare
Asia Times , By Ramtanu Maitra
New Delhi is increasingly concerned that the United States, having done all it possibly can to make its presence acceptable to Afghans, is now in the process of withdrawing from northern and western Afghanistan and reducing its presence in the southern and eastern parts of the country. The process would entail maintaining the existing US bases scattered all over Afghanistan, but handing over the charge of maintaining peace and stability in the non-urban areas of Afghanistan to international troops, including those from Pakistan.
The violent demonstrations that took place in Nangarhar and in a number of other Afghan provinces in the wake of the Newsweek story about apparent desecration of the Holy Koran in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, seem to have advanced the process, under consideration as an option in Washington for some time. The demonstrators chanting "Death to America" made it known that the Americans are not welcome as permanent residents in Afghanistan.
Scaling-down in Afghanistan
What New Delhi is most concerned about is that handing back the mantle to Washington's allies, especially Pakistan, could mean a resurgence of orthodox and anti-India Muslim groups. Already developments in Central Asia, particularly the reactivation of armed orthodox Wahhabi-style Islamic groups in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, have made New Delhi sit up.
Reports indicate that during their recent visits to India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca communicated the US decision to reduce its four-year-long deployment in Afghanistan by October 2005. The American officials urged all these nations to deploy their troops in Afghanistan to help maintain peace and stability.
New Delhi believes the American proposal is a backhanded way to get India's approval to bring Pakistani troops into Afghanistan. India, which did not supply troops to aid the US in Iraq, will not send its troops to Afghanistan under the US banner either. According to New Delhi, the situation has become worse along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border than it was during Taliban rule. This area is under the control of anti-American and anti-Indian militia which are protected by the Pakistani army. US troops have no capability to break this stranglehold: Washington is dependent on Islamabad to produce an "extremist" as and when they choose.
According to one Indian official, Pakistan will certainly revive its old intelligence and jihadi networks in the region, rolling back the political gains the Indians made since the Taliban were ousted from the areas in and around Kandahar and Jalalabad, among other places, following the US attack in late 2001. This official also believes that Pakistan could be planning outright military offensives to take control of the area once the Americans give them the proverbial green light.
Pakistan back in the saddle?
To run an effective operation to flush out the anti-American Islamic groups from this area requires full cooperation from Pakistan, which, Washington has come to realize, Islamabad will never extend. As a result, all of eastern and southeastern Afghanistan is heading back under control of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and, indirectly, the Pakistan army, who will keep the orthodox anti-American and anti-Indian Taliban in tow.
On May 26, Sarah Chayes, a former National Public Radio reporter, wrote in the New York Times that the recent violent demonstrations in Afghanistan did not stem from the Newsweek story, but were a response to Afghan President Hamid Karzai's May 8 announcement that Afghanistan would enter a long-term strategic partnership with the United States. In fact, the desecration of the Holy Koran by American interrogators at Guantanamo Bay is not new news; it has been reported by Muslim detainees since 2002 to the International Committee of Red Cross. Subsequently, the Pentagon reports have also admitted that such desecration occurred, albeit unwittingly, until 2003. Why weren't there such demonstrations earlier?
According to Chayes, it is not the Afghans, but the Pakistanis who are most upset by Karzai's decision to allow the US to set up permanent military bases inside Afghanistan. As the Islamabad establishment continues to treat Afghanistan as a subject territory, Chayes points out that while Pakistani officials have "mastered their role" as allies in the "war on terrorism" and play it convincingly, Pakistan would like the US to pull out of Afghanistan, leaving the field open for Islamabad. In fact, the process has begun already, and it worries Karzai to no end. Karzai, who does not see eye-to-eye with Islamabad and has strong ties to New Delhi, most likely expressed his concerns to US officials during his recent visit to Washington. It is unlikely, however, that the George W Bush administration, which needs Islamabad more than it needs Karzai, paid much attention.
That the process of Pakistani takeover of the Pashtun areas has begun becomes evident from some of the information provided to the reader by Chayes. She points out that a large number of Pakistani students are now in Kandahar University. Kandahar was the font of the Taliban movement and remains a bastion of Pashtun and Taliban power.
Wondering what could possibly attract Pakistani students to Kandahar University, Chayes says: "The place is pathetically dilapidated; the library is a locked store-room, the medical faculty bereft of the most elementary skeleton or model of the human body. Why would anyone come here to study from Pakistan? Our unshakeable conclusion has been that the adroit Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, is planting operatives in the student body. These students can also provide agitation at Pakistani officials' behest, while affording the government in Islamabad plausible deniability."
What was clear to Chayes is clearly no secret to American officials - and this is very distressing to New Delhi. Pakistan's objective will be to re-establish its control over Afghanistan by using the Taliban, or some such orthodox Islamic group. The objective is to regain strategic depth and remain a player in the volatile Central Asian region.
Central Asia gambit
New Delhi also knows that while Islamabad will play along with Washington in Central Asia to undermine Russian and Chinese interests, it would be impossible for India to do so. Any Indian deployment in Afghanistan would thus deeply undermine India's interests in Central Asia, which at this time coincide favorably with those of Russia and China. India is also looking at Central Asia as a major supplier of oil and gas, which it needs badly. Pakistan is aware of this Indian requirement, and some in the strategic quarters would walk an extra mile to see it denied.
New Delhi's worries can be expected to grow proportionately with those of Karzai in the coming days. At the time of the Jalalabad riots, described by observers as the biggest anti-US protests since the fall of the Taliban, Karzai was in Brussels for talks at North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters about proposals to expand the alliance's role in Afghanistan. He was not in a position to blame Pakistan or the US for the riots. Instead, he took the path of least resistance, proclaiming that the demonstrations were not anti-American. The riots showed only the inability of Afghan security institutions to cope, he said, adding that such freedom of expression was a proof that democracy was taking root.
But Karzai is not fooling anyone, even himself. His days of worry have just begun. His best ally, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, has been shifted to Iraq and the new ambassador, Ronald Neumann, is a well-known friend of Israel. His presence in Kabul will only help the orthodox Islamists, controlled by Islamabad, to go after Karzai in a big way. It should not surprise anyone if Osama bin Laden makes his overdue appearance once more to attack the "Zionist" US envoy.
A new problem
But Karzai's - and India's - problems are only in the first phase of development. The Afghan president's visit to Washington has already been described by his opponents from the Panjshir Valley as a total failure. In all fairness, it was an appropriate evaluation of the trip.
After the demonstrations, Karzai, often viewed by his opponents as an American puppet, attempted to assert his autonomy by saying his government should have the final say on US military operations. He also called for the quick repatriation of Afghan prisoners now in US custody. But he lost on both counts. President Bush made clear that US military operations would remain entirely in the hands of US commanders, and the Afghans would have nothing to do with them. It would be difficult for Karzai now to keep a straight face and tell anyone he heads a sovereign nation-sate.
As a lollipop, however, Bush told Karzai that the US was committed to a "strategic partnership" with Afghanistan - sending the message to Afghans that America was in no rush to leave. "It's important for the Afghan people to understand that we have a strategic vision about our relationship with Afghanistan," he said. Karzai knows that a strategic relationship between a donor-dependent Afghanistan and the powerful US has little meaning. As reports point out, strategic partnership between Afghanistan and the US entails serving the US's strategic interests. Nonetheless, Karzai made a few ostensibly independent noises while he was in Washington.
New Delhi fears that Karzai, who never had a significant hold over the Pashtun majority, will now become a figurehead, with no power to wield. The Panjshir Tajiks, who never accepted him as the leader, will now once more begin to stir and seek support from Russia and India. The Pashtuns, effectively handed over to the Pakistani ISI by the US, will play along as long as Kabul does not come under control of a non-Pashtun. Meanwhile, poppies will bloom as pretty as ever all over Afghanistan and US troops, ensconced in the small bases scattered across the country, will wait for the next move of the Bush administration. Needless to say, for New Delhi, none of these developments looks helpful.
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