Fate of 17 US troops in Afghan crash unclear
By David Brunnstrom
KABUL (Reuters) - A U.S. military helicopter crashed during an anti-guerrilla mission in eastern Afghanistan after being hit by ground fire and the fate of 17 U.S. troops aboard was not known, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.
The twin-rotor Chinook crashed in remote and mountainous Kunar province on Tuesday afternoon while bringing troops to reinforce soldiers on the ground carrying out an anti-al Qaeda operation, it said.
The aircraft received direct and indirect fire as it was approaching its landing zone and crashed about 1-2 km (half to one mile) away, said U.S. military spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts.
"Whether or not that caused it to crash, we do not know yet," he told a regular news briefing.
Yonts said he did not know the fate of those aboard and declined to provide more details on the grounds that fighting was continuing in the area against a "very determined enemy."
"We do have a large force engaging that enemy and at the same time we are trying to care for our servicemen that were on the aircraft," he said.
Kunar Governor Asadullah Wafa said the helicopter was hit by a rocket and a spokesman for the Taliban, Abdul Latif Hakimi, claimed the guerrillas shot down the aircraft in the village of Shorak using "a new type of weapon" he did not describe.
A U.S. military statement said U.S. and Afghan troops had sealed off the crash site to block any enemy movement toward or away from it and U.S. aircraft were flying overhead.
Wednesday's New York Times quoted unnamed U.S. military officials as saying troops aboard included Navy Seal commandos and that the Chinook was an MH-47 modified for special operations.
The U.S. military statement made no mention of special forces and said the aircraft was a more common CH-47.
"This is a tragic event," Brig-Gen Greg Champion, the U.S. deputy commander for operations in Afghanistan, said in the statement. "Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, loved ones and service members still fighting in the area."
"TREES CAUGHT FIRE"
Kunar police chief Abdul Ghafar Momand said the helicopter was thought have come down either in Shorai, around 15 km (10 miles) from Asadabad, or on a mountain between neighboring Marogai and Ghaziabad districts.
"Trees caught fire on the mountain and that may have been caused by the crash, he said.
The crash was the second of a U.S. Chinook in Afghanistan in less than three months.
Another came down in a dust storm in Ghazni province on April 6, killing 18 Americans, including 15 troops.
It was the deadliest military air accident since Washington first deployed forces to Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban in 2001 for failing to hand over Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. cities.
At least 14 other U.S. troops from a 20,000-strong mostly U.S. foreign force pursuing militants have been killed in increased guerrilla activity since March aimed at derailing Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, the next big step in Afghanistan's difficult path to stability.
At least nine U.S. military helicopters have crashed in Afghanistan since 2001, including one MH-47 shot down in March 2002, killing six U.S. troops.
Two Chinooks were hit by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire in heavy fighting in the southwest last week and one was forced to make an emergency landing.
The Taliban's Hakimi said 35 Americans died in Tuesday's crash after the guerrillas killed 7 U.S. "spies" on the ground, but his reports have often proven exaggerated or incorrect.
"This is a huge success for the Taliban," he said, adding that the guerrillas had video of the crash and would post photographs on their Web site (www.alemarah.com). It did not appear to have been updated on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Yousuf Azimy in KABUL and Saeed Ali Achakzai in CHAMAN, Pakistan)
Karzai urges Mullah Omar to come out of hiding
June 28, 2005
(Kyodo) _ Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called on former Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar to leave his "foreign shelters" and stop using Afghans to fight their own country, according to reports Tuesday.
"It is very sad that Mullah Mohammad Omar and other people like him are hiding in caves and houses and sending Afghans to fight against their own country," state television reported Karzai telling his Cabinet late Monday.
The report is the second in less than a week in which the Afghan government has apparently pointed finger at Pakistan for providing shelter to the mullah and other Taliban leaders.
Karzai also said he regretted the deaths of 178 Taliban insurgents in a recent operation by the Afghan and allied troops in the Mianshin district in Kandahar, which was seized by the Taliban after overrunning the district headquarters.
At least 70 Taliban were also detained in that operation.
Karzai said that although those killed were "against the Afghan people, they still belonged to Afghanistan."
Taliban insurgents have intensified attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces after a winter lull, resulting in the deaths of more than 500 fighters and about 100 civilians since March this year.
Six killed in violence in eastern and southern Afghanistan
Wed Jun 29, 4:50 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Four policemen were killed when suspected Taliban militants detonated a landmine in eastern Afghanistan, while one rebel and a civilian died in a gunfight in the south, officials said.
The remote-controlled mine exploded on Tuesday in the Sirkanay district of Kunar province, a few kilometres from where a US military helicopter crashed the same day, provincial governor Asadullah Wafa said on Wednesday.
"The police chief of the district Gul Mohammad and three other policemen were killed," he told AFP. "It was the work of enemies of Afghanistan," the governor added. Afghan officials use this term to refer to the Taliban.
It was not clear if the landmine blast and the crash of the US Chinook with 17 service members on board were linked. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter.
In south-central Uruzgan province a one-hour gunfight erupted when militants attacked a government checkpoint, killing a civilian, injuring three policemen and losing one of their own fighters, the provincial governor said.
Taliban spokesman Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi claimed responsibility for attacking the checkpoint.
In neighbouring Helmand, another hotbed for militants from the ousted militia, police acting on a tip-off detained a local Taliban commander carrying weapons and bombs.
"A Taliban group commander, Mullah Mohammad Shah, was captured," a provincial spokesman said.
Southern Afghanistan and Kunar, near the Pakistani border, have been badly hit by an upswing in violence blamed on the Taliban, who continue to wage an insurgency three-and-half years after being ousted by US-led forces.
Three Police, One Suspected Militant Killed In Ambush
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
28 June 2005 -- An Afghan official says three policemen and a suspected Islamic militant were killed today in an ambush on a police vehicle in eastern Afghanistan.
Provincial governor Shah Mohammad Safi said today the local police chief was also injured in the attack in Dawlat Shah district of Laghman province last night.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.
In another development, President Hamid Karzai's spokesman Jawed Ludin said today that legislative elections in Afghanistan will go ahead as planned in September
He said the elections will take place despite an upsurge in attacks by Taliban-led insurgents that have raised fears the polls could be threatened.
Ludin's comments come after three months of unprecedented fighting that has killed suspected insurgents, U.S. troops, Afghan police and soldiers and civilians.
Service member missing
June 28, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – A U.S. service member was reported missing west of Asadabad on June 25 after the vehicle he was traveling in began to slide down an embankment on the Pech River .
Search and rescue efforts are underway, and Coalition aircraft are assisting in those efforts.
The vehicle was traveling alongside the Pech River , which has swollen due to snowmelt in recent days, when the road began to give way and the vehicle began to slide toward the water. The missing service member was traveling in the back of a cargo Humvee with the members of his squad. All other vehicle occupants escaped the vehicle before the road gave way. The missing service member is believed to have fallen into the river in his effort to escape the vehicle.
Initial estimates indicate the river was running at 20 to 25 miles per hour and that the water temperature was 50 degrees.
“We are doing everything we can to find our missing comrade,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, a spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force-76. “No effort is being spared in our attempts to find this individual. Our thoughts and prayers are with the men and women conducting these rescue efforts and for the family of the missing individual.”
The name of the individual is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Vicenza-based troops in Afghanistan aggressively taking fight to the enemy
General attributes surge in fighting to SETAF’s tough new tactics
By Kent Harris, Stars and Stripes / Mideast edition, Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Despite a recent spate of attacks on U.S. forces, Afghanistan is not degenerating into an Iraq-like atmosphere, according to the deputy commander of Combined/Joint Task Force-76.
“I don’t think it’s becoming more like Iraq at all,” Brig. Gen. James Champion said in a phone interview Monday morning.
“The situations are not the same. We are fighting a different kind of enemy.”
But there are similarities, he acknowledged.
Foreign fighters in the countries are bent on hitting U.S. and local government forces hard, but Champion said the recent surge in fighting could be attributed more to American aggressiveness than anything al-Qaida is doing.
When the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) from Vicenza, Italy, took over the mission in March, “we certainly had a plan to go more in areas that had not been visited by coalition forces for a while,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of [troops] here with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “All of us know that the bad guys go to places that we are not.”
So American forces, along with Afghan police and army counterparts, have launched a series of operations in areas where U.S. presence has been minimal or nonexistent.
New forward operating bases have been set up, and American troops have generally spread out away from established bases, he said.
“The business we’re in is not one to sit back and wait for the enemy to come to us,” Champion said.
Since SETAF took over from the 25th Infantry Division, 33 U.S. servicemembers have died in Afghanistan.
Fifteen of those were killed in a CH-47 helicopter crash and eight more were killed by roadside bombs.
The number of those seriously wounded was unavailable.
Many recent conflicts involve U.S. or local government forces being ambushed.
The Americans return fire, call in air support and then search for survivors, he said.
“I think we’re initiating the overwhelming majority of the actions,” Champion said.
“Whoever fires the first shot …. that’s irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. (The enemy) would not be firing the first shots if we weren’t in the area looking for them.”
The mountainous terrain of Afghanistan allows small groups to launch ambushes and then disappear.
The Russians discovered that in the 1980s.
But U.S. military officials maintain that they, unlike the Russians, have the support of the majority of the people.
They say many recent raids and discoveries of arms caches have come after tips from locals.
In fact, Champion and others say that they expect the fighting to continue and possibly increase before the provincial and parliamentary elections Sept. 18.
He said anti-coalition forces would suffer “another blow” with a successful election.
“Will they stop the day after the elections and quit fighting?” Champion said. “I don’t think so.”
But by that time, he expects coalition forces will have “contained, killed or captured” more of those they’re fighting, he said.
And hundreds of more Afghan police and servicemembers — praised by U.S. commanders in their work in several recent operations — will be working around the country.
Stars and Stripes is a Department of Defense-authorized daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community.
Russian Says Gitmo Guards Defiled Quran
By JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press / June 28, 2005
MOSCOW - A Russian formerly held at Guantanamo Bay prison said Tuesday that U.S. guards there regularly desecrated the Quran by putting it into a toilet.
"In Cuba, they used to throw the Quran in the toilet bowl. This happened regularly and was intended to provoke us," Airat Vakhitov said at a news conference.
Vakhitov is one of seven Russians who were released from Guantanamo in 2004 and returned to Russia. He and the six others were held in Russia for three months, then released a year ago.
Vakhitov said he previously had been held by U.S. forces at Kandahar in Afghanistan, where many detainees were held before being sent to Guantanamo, and that he also saw Quran desecration there.
"In Kandahar, they tore up copies of the Quran and even put it in a bucket of feces," he said.
Vakhitov also said detainees were abused through sleep deprivation.
"We would be made to be in a special investigative room where we would be handcuffed to the floor and then would be prevented from falling asleep by the playing of loud music, shining bright lights and so on. There was one program in which we would be moved from one cell to another every 15 minutes continually over a period of three or four months," he said.
He also claimed that forces used unspecified gas and once allowed dogs to attack prisoners.
Russian news reports have identified Vakhitov as the onetime imam of a mosque in Tatarstan, a majority-Muslim republic in southern Russia.
In May, Newsweek magazine published — and later retracted — a story that claimed interrogators at Guantanamo flushed the Muslim holy book down a toilet.
The Bush administration blamed the report for deadly demonstrations in Afghanistan and protests throughout the Middle East. A Pentagon investigation later disclosed five instances of U.S. guards' mishandling the Quran, including incidents in which one copy of the book was splashed with urine and another was stepped on.
On Monday, several Pakistanis released from Guantanamo claimed they saw American interrogators throw, tear and stand on copies of Islam's holy book; one of those former detainees said naked women sat on prisoners' chests during questioning.
The Pentagon denied the Pakistanis' accusations and said al-Qaida training manuals instruct prisoners to make such false charges.
The United States opened the prison on the base in eastern Cuba in January 2002 to house foreigners believed to be linked to al-Qaida or the ousted Taliban in Afghanistan. U.S. officials hoped to gather intelligence from the detainees after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.
An estimated 540 detainees — most of them captured during battles in Afghanistan — are being held at Guantanamo.
Afghan school used as bomb factory
Aljazeera - Jun 28 7:31 AM
The Afghan authorities have discovered an abandoned school used as a bomb-making factory, an intelligence official says.
Nearly half a tonne of explosives, remote-controlled devices and other materials were recovered on Monday from the Dawatul-Haq school in Khost province, in the southeast of the country,provincial intelligence chief Mohammed Sadiq Tarakhil said on Tuesday.
The former Islamic school (madrassa), 10km west of Hassanzay village in the Mandozay district, had not been used for the past year and was left vacant, he said.
"This is the first time terrorists have used a madrassa as a terror facility in Afghanistan," he said.
"Yesterday we discovered some 400kg of explosives, remote-controlled devices, two remote-controlled bombs, fuses, rockets, 200m of wire and vehicle registration plates from the madrassa," he said.
Remote-controlled bombs are a favourite tool of the ousted Taliban government, which has used them for a string of roadside attacks on US and Afghan forces during renewed unrest since the start of the year.
Two suspected fighters were arrested later in the area but Tarakhil refused to comment if the arrests were related to the bomb facility.
Separately, in neighbouring Paktia province, 17 landmines were discovered and defused on the main road from the provincial capital, Gardez, to Sayed Karam district, which is routinely used by Afghan and US-led forces.
Ali Ahmed Mobariz, the province's intelligence chief, blamed the attack on an alliance of the al-Qaida network, the Taliban and the Hezb-e-Islami group run by former Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Afghan officials frequently make such claims.
Four US soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb explosion on the same road earlier this month.
Three policemen and a suspected Islamic fighter were killed in an ambush on a police vehicle in eastern Afghanistan, an official said on Tuesday.
The local police chief was also injured in the attack in the Dawlat Shah district of Laghman province on Monday night, provincial governor Shah Mohammad Safi said.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack, but similar incidents have been blamed on remnants of the ousted Taliban government, which ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to late 2001.
"The search for the attackers is ongoing in the area," the governor said.
Intelligence officials said earlier this month they had captured three Pakistani nationals who wanted to assassinate former US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in the same province, east of the capital Kabul.
UN official praises Iran-Pakistan-UN cooperation
United Nations, June 28, IRNA
Former Portuguese prime minister and new UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres on Monday said that Iran-Pakistan-UN cooperation for repatriation of Afghan refugees was `excellent'.
Addressing reporters after being formally introduced by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Guterres said that voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees is the major program of this establishment.
He added that 3.5 million Afghans residing in Iran and Pakistan have returned home till now, saying UNHCR is carrying out a plan to repatriate the remaining 3.5 million Afghan people who are in Iran and Pakistan.
"Refugees are not terrorists," he highlighted, adding that they are victims of terrorism who flee from civil war in their home country.
He called on governments to respect international laws on the rights of refugees instead of withdrawing them as the simplest solution.
The Afghan refugees in Iran were sent back to their country in accordance with a tripartite agreement signed in Geneva by representatives of Iran, Afghanistan, and the UNHCR in April 2002 for voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees.
Police claim arresting child kidnappers
By Maniza Rasuli, Abdul Mateen Sarfaraz & Khalid Moahid
FAIZABAD/KABUL, June 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Police have claimed arresting two men for alleged involvement in child abductions in Balkh and Badakhshan provinces.
Badakhshan police chief Shah Jehan Noori said on Tuesday the kidnapped teenagers, identified as Abdullah, Zainullah and Imamuddin - aging between 13 and 15 - had been handed over to their parents.
He said the children belonged to Imam Sahib district of the northern Kunduz province, whom the kidnapper trying to shift to an unknown location via Badakhshan. The alleged kidnapper has been identified as Mustafa.
Talking to Pajhwok Afghan News, one of the children said they did not know Mustafa. However, the alleged kidnapper told police he had brought the children for work.
Meanwhile, Saeed Anwar Mujmir, an official of the counter-narcotics of the Interior Ministry, said two children, Mohammad Yasin (6) and Roohullah (7), who were kidnapped two days back from the northern Balkh province, had been recovered. The kidnapper Ghulam Nasir has been arrested, while the children have been handed over to their parents.
In a similar incident, Baghlan police have claimed arresting four people for kidnapping four children from Pul-i-Khumri. The kidnappers told police they were transferring the children to neighbouring Pakistan with the consent of their parents.
Uruzgan governor survives assassination attempt
By Aziz Zahid
KABUL, June 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The governor of the insurgency-plagued southern Uruzgan province said on Wednesday he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt a day earlier.
The bomb attack on his convoy killed two of his body guards but he escaped unhurt, Governor Jan Mohammad told Pajhwok Afghan News about Tuesday's explosion.
Jan Mohammad added his motorcade was traveling through Dara-i-Noor, a narrow valley between Kandahar and Uruzgan, when a remote-controlled explosive device hit a car ahead of his vehicle.
Although unconfirmed reports put the death toll from the attack on the governor's cavalcade at three, Jan Mohammad himself confirmed only two fatalities.
Uruzgan has been in the throes of increased relentless violence blamed on remnants of the ousted Taliban regime and their allies. A number of people including Afghan security personnel have been killed and wounded in a recent spate of assaults in the province.
From the Rubble: A City of Old? Or All Shiny and New?
By CARLOTTA GALL / The New York Times / Published: June 27, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan, June 25 - Kabul was once a fabled city of gardens and fruit orchards beloved by the Mogul emperor Babur and serenaded by Persian poets, but little of its glorious past is evident today. Whole districts remain in ruins from the fighting of the 1990's, and the construction boom of the last three years since the arrival of Western aid, and the return of millions of refugees, have turned the city into a hodgepodge of overcrowding and chaotic building.
According to the Afghan government, 63,000 of the city's homes were destroyed and 60 percent of its streets were damaged during two decades of war. The infrastructure has been so neglected that the city has slipped backward in terms of amenities and services. Meanwhile, the population has boomed from less than a million during the Taliban period, which ended with their ouster in late 2001, to three or four million today - no one knows the true number - making it the fastest growing city in this part of Asia.
What can be done with a city destroyed by war? The country's urban development minister, Muhammad Yousuf Pashtun, mused over dinner recently. Bulldoze it and create a new city of modern high-rises along the lines of Beirut or Dubai, as an architect from Iraq proposed recently? Or try to resurrect the old, even though the people and their way of life have changed? It is supposed to be Mr. Pashtun's job to decide such things, and he is being pulled in every direction.
"The traditional Afghan style may not be enough for the 21st century, but we should definitely keep the color," he recently told a group of architectural students from Columbia University who presented him with their ideas for developing Kabul's airport road. "I do not want New York, but I want the functions of New York."
In fact the minister appears to have little control over what is happening to the capital, and even less in Afghanistan's provincial cities.
In Kabul, foreign donors are financing a dozen programs to improve the water and power supply and trash collection, but residents hardly notice an improvement.
"The city is really shameful," said Nasir Saberi, a former deputy minister in the Ministry of Urban Development, who now runs his own architectural consultancy in Kabul.
"At present the city is distinguished by chaos, anarchy and corruption," Mr. Pashtun conceded in a recent presentation. Not only are the structures in ruins, but the social system is fragmented from the civil war and displacement, which further hampers reconstruction efforts, he said.
One of the most threatened areas of Kabul is the old city, a warren of small tradesman's streets and old houses, dotted with ancient shrines and mosques, nestled beneath the famous fortress of Bala Hissar. As long ago as the 1950's the old quarters had degenerated into slums. The area was further damaged by shelling during factional fighting in the 1990's, and abandoned as families fled. Some residents have returned, but many have not, unable to afford to rebuild their homes. Now commercial developers are moving in, threatening to demolish the city's historical heart.
Mr. Pashtun, and a few fans of the old Kabul, won a stay of execution in 2002, when President Hamid Karzai ordered a halt on all new building in the old city until a development plan can be completed.
The mayor's office, pressed and courted by developers, favors modernization, though. "For three years the ministry have been working on their plan," said Mayor Ghulam Sakhi Noorzad. "They will preserve a few houses, and then the rest can be modern, five or six stories, or even higher if the people can afford it."
Zahra Breshna, an Afghan returnee from Germany with an architectural degree and now a consultant at the Urban Development Ministry, is working on the development plan. Her idea is to save what remains and recreate a community that can build on and thrive from its surroundings through tourism, crafts and traditional trades. "People want to live here and stay here," she said. "If it is developed, they will lose everything."
"It is not just an aesthetic ideal; it is preserving the way people lived, which represents their religion, climate, and history," she said, standing in the courtyard of Kabul's most venerated seventh-century shrine, Ashukhan-o-Arufan - literally "of lovers and intellectuals."
"If we just had the ruins, no one would believe that Kabul once had such beautiful places," said Ms. Breshna, whose doctoral thesis was on the beauties of the old Kabul.
Yet Ms. Breshna and the Urban Development Ministry may be losing the race to save the old city. Landowners and developers are already dodging the rules and buying up ruined houses and converting them into commercial premises.
The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, run by the billionaire leader of the Ismaili Muslim sect, is financing the repair and restoration of the most valuable buildings in the old city, hoping to save what it can.
So many cities in the region have been inappropriately developed or poorly managed, that to lose Afghanistan's urban heritage (it was an important part of the Silk Road) would be a great historical loss for the world, said Jolyon Leslie, an architect and manager of the Aga Khan trust in Kabul.
"If there are islands of historic fabric saved, then the rest can redevelop in an appropriate way," he said. In some of the most decrepit quarters of the old city, carpenters and builders are at work under the Aga Khan project, painstakingly repairing old mosques, shrines and courtyard houses, reproducing the intricate wood carving of Mogul-style inner balconies and screens, and paving and putting in drainage in the narrow streets.
Nasir, 24, a builder and local resident who was mud-plastering an old courtyard house as part of the effort on a recent day, put it this way, "It's our tradition and it's good to keep it this way."
Japanese team finds mural painting at Afghanistan's Bamiyan
Wednesday June 29, 11:30 AM
(Kyodo) _ A Japanese research team has discovered part of a mural painting in the ruins of the colossal stone Buddha statues in Bamiyan, central Afghanistan, that were destroyed by the country's former Taliban rulers.
The mural was found in a small cave carved into a cliff on the eastern side of the statues, according to team leader Kazuya Yamauchi, chief researcher of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties of Tokyo.
The painting, made on the dome-shaped roof of the cave measuring 2.5 meters across, appears to be of the torso of a Buddha, Yamauchi said.
Patches of a vivid blue pattern made with lapis lazuli are all that remain of the painting, which is thought to have originally been of several Buddha images radiating outward from the center of the roof.
The cave is likely to have fallen in on itself, and as a result the overall shape of the painting is obscured by rocks that have accumulated inside.
"If the rocks are removed, there is a good chance we can ascertain the remainder of the mural. It must be preserved without delay," he said.
Kosaku Maeda, a Wako University professor emeritus of Asian history who confirmed the finding, said it is rare to find a mural in the Bamiyan ruins, considering the destruction by the Taliban and looting of artifacts. Less than 20 percent of all the mural paintings are thought to have survived.
"They are an invaluable resource for studying Buddhist culture of Asia," Maeda said.
Dye characteristics date the mural to the sixth or seventh century, the golden age of Buddhist culture at Bamiyan, according to Maeda.
In March 2001, the Taliban destroyed the two giant Buddha statues. The archeological remains were registered on the World Heritage List of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in July 2003.
BY IGNORING UZBEK BAD BEHAVIOR, WASHINGTON RISKS REPEATING HISTORICAL MISTAKES
Ahmed Rashid: 6/27/05 A EurasiaNet Commentary
In a speech in Cairo on June 20, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cast the United States as the unequivocal backer of global democratization. “We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people,” Rice claimed. Unfortunately, the US commitment to democratization is undermined by Washington’s tepid response to the Andijan tragedy in Uzbekistan.
Intransigent Uzbek authorities say 176 people were killed in Andijan on May 13, when government security forces put down what they claim was an Islamic militant-led uprising. Russia and China are among the few countries that have accepted the official Uzbek version of events at face value. The United States, Britain and other states have called for an independent international investigation – something that Tashkent steadfastly resists. International rights organizations, meanwhile, insist that Uzbek soldiers opened fire without warning and fired indiscriminately on civilian protesters, killing hundreds. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav060705.shtml
While Rice and the State Department have become increasingly vocal on the need for an outside investigation, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has reportedly worked to block an inquiry into Uzbek conduct. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].
http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/pp061105.shtml The infighting has prevented the United States from making policy changes that could encourage or coerce better behavior from Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
Without Washington exerting substantive pressure on Tashkent, the international investigation proposal stands little chance of ever being realized. At present, Uzbekistan is disappearing from the news, and the issue of Karimov’s behavior appears to be slipping off the international diplomatic agenda. This is exactly what Karimov wants: his survival strategy depends on the international community turning a blind eye as he stifles internal dissent and arrests hundreds of witnesses to the massacre.
The Bush administration has remained silent as Karimov has locked foreigners out of the country, refusing visas to everyone from journalists to health workers. Washington did not speak out forcefully even when Tashkent took action to kick 50-plus US Peace Corps volunteers out of the country.
In addition, the humanitarian fall-out from the Andijan massacre has failed to attract widespread attention, despite outrageous Uzbek behavior. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have still not been allowed to visit the families of the victims of the Andijan massacre, nor its survivors. Both the ICRC and UNHCR are now trying to persuade the tiny neighboring state of Kyrgyzstan not to return 570 Uzbek refugees who escaped Andijan. [For additional information see the Eurasia Insight archive].
http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/pp052605.shtml Uzbek authorities have pressed their Kyrgyz counterparts to return the refugees, who would face likely persecution if repatriated, rights advocates say. Already four refugees have been returned to Uzbekistan. Efforts by the ICRC and UNHCR to track the four returnees have proved fruitless. Now there is a danger that the Kyrgyz may return another 29 refugees, despite appeals from the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The lack of Western pressure on Karimov sends the wrong message to other leaders of predominantly Muslim nations. Seeing Karimov go unpunished for brazen behavior is likely to embolden dictators across the Muslim world. They now know that as long as they remain supporters of the US-led anti-terrorist campaign, there is a good chance that they can get away with gross rights violations.
For all of its efforts to accommodate Karimov’s administration, it appears unlikely that the US Defense Department will be able to rescue the US-Uzbek strategic alliance, which revolves around American access to the airbase at Karshi-Khanabad. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/civilsociety/articles/eav061705.shtml
In recent weeks, state-controlled Uzbek media outlets have lashed out at the United States and Britain, using language that would seem to render the strategic alliance untenable.
For example, a June 23 commentary published by the Uzbek newspaper Khalq Sozi accused Western media of printing and broadcasting “slanders and fabrications” about the Andijan events. It went on to suggest that Western states were trying to undermine Uzbek sovereignty in order to “take over its [Uzbekistan’s] wealth and to use our state’s geopolitical location in their own interests.”
Rice, during her June 20 speech in Cairo, stated: “For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course.”
This is not quite true. And Uzbekistan serves as a case in point. In Central Asia, the United States appears in danger of repeating the mistakes made in the Middle East. Perceived security needs are being given higher priority in Uzbekistan than is the promotion of basic human rights. From Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, the lack of US action in response to Tashkent’s behavior speaks louder than Rice’s words. As a result, democratization will likely have to wait in the Muslim world, and threats to US security will continue to arise.
Pakistan desires stable Afghanistan, says Shaukat
ISLAMABAD – The News International: Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has said that development of better and improved links of communication between Pakistan and Afghanistan are vital not only for increasing trade between the two countries but also for accelerating economic development in the region.
He was talking to Afghan Minister for Transport Dr Inayatullah Qazi, who called on him at the Prime Minister House on Tuesday evening.
The prime minister said Pakistan had worked hard to cooperate with Afghanistan in securing its economic development and security. "Pakistan desires a strong, stable and secure Afghanistan as it would also be in the interest of the Afghan people," he added.
The Afghan minister conveyed the good wishes and warmest regards of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
He also thanked Pakistan for its continued support to his country at all levels. He appreciated the gift of buses for Afghanistan.
The prime minister apprised the Afghan minister of the efforts being undertaken for speedy completion of the Gwadar port.
He said efforts were also under way to develop a railway link between Chaman and Spin Boldak in Afghanistan for increasing trade.
He said the government could develop a road network to facilitate transportation of goods from Gwadar to Afghanistan, which would also help further expand the already growing trade between two countries.
The prime minister noted that the trade between the two countries would soon reach $1 billion this year and there was potential to expand it even further.
He observed that trade strengthens linkages and inter-dependencies between the two countries.
He said the two countries had to work even harder to ensure continued growth of their economic relations.
Afghanistan urges access to Karachi port
By Pashtoon Sahar
ISLAMABAD, June 29 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Kabul has urged Islamabad to allow Afghan drivers and vehicles access to the Karachi port and ease transit trade restrictions.
Visiting Afghan Transport Minister Enayatullah Qasmi, in a meeting with his host counterpart Shahid Jamil Qureshi here on Tuesday, underlined the imperative of increased trade links between the neighbours.
"In addition to benefiting from the Karachi Port, we also need to use Port Qasim for promoting trade," Qasmi said at the meeting, which largely focused on how to widen cooperation between the two countries.
At the official talks, the two sides explored the possibility of a regular bus service between Peshawar and Jalalabad and Quetta and Kandahar via Chaman. Such a service will lend a fillip to border trade between the neighbours.
They agreed on setting up a joint commission for forging greater bilateral understanding between the two countries. The commission, whose members will be nominated later on, will hold its inaugural meeting on August 15 in Islamabad to discuss bilateral irritants and recommend a resolution thereof.
The Pakistani transport minister hoped the Joint Economic Commission (JEC) would thoroughly confer on and approve the proposals floated by Afghanistan for enhancing bilateral trade.
"The Pakistani government and nation have a huge interest in Afghanistan's reconstruction and we will initiate swift measures to resolve the problems facing our Afghan brethren," Quraishi promised.
On the occasion, chairman of Pakistan's National Highway Authority (NHA) Gen. Farrukh Javed gave the delegates a detailed briefing about the progress in executing the Torkham-Jalalabad Road project.
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