Rome Says Italian Hostage in Afghanistan Alive
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
8 June 2005 -- Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini today said an Italian aid worker (eds: woman) kidnapped last month in Afghanistan is alive and in good health.
Speaking on Italian television, Fini gave few details but said Italian authorities know the hostage, Clementina Cantoni, is "well."
Cantoni, 32, was abducted by armed men on May 16 while being driven to her home in Kabul. She was working for CARE International on a project helping Afghan widows and their families.
Fini said the motive for Cantoni's abduction "had nothing to do with terrorism or politics." He gave no details.
Afghan officials say Cantoni was likely seized by a criminal gang.
Kidnapped Italian's mother appeals for her release in a video on Afghan TV
Associated Press / June 8, 2005
The mother of an Italian aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan appealed for her daughter's release in a recording broadcast Wednesday on Afghan television.
Clementina Cantoni, 32, was abducted by armed men on May 16 as she was being driven to her home in the capital, Kabul. She was working for CARE International on a project helping Afghan widows and their families.
The two-minute video features an appeal from her mother, Germana, who is briefly heard speaking in English before a translated voiceover starts in Dari, the main local language. The video shows pictures of Germana and then her daughter, both as a child and as an adult working in Afghanistan.
"Clementina has always been concerned with people's suffering, and it is easy to notice how brave and generous Clementina has been choosing to go to far-away countries and help people in need rather than staying in her country with a nice a comfortable job," Germana says.
"Please do everything to bring Clementina back."
Michael Kleinman, an official with CARE International, said the aid group had given the video to Afghan TV stations. One station, Tolo TV, was already playing it by midday Wednesday on its news programs.
The Afghan Ministry of Interior said in a statement Tuesday that new posters showing a photograph of Cantoni and asking people to call a telephone hotline if they have information about her have been put up across Kabul and neighboring provinces.
Meanwhile in Rome, Italy's Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said Cantoni is alive and in good health.
"We are doing all we can" to win Cantoni's release, Fini said. "We know that she is well, and this is a great relief."
1 killed, 8 wounded in mortar attack
June 8, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – One U.S. service member was killed and eight others were wounded today in a mortar attack at a forward operating base near Shkin as personnel were preparing to unload supplies from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
The wounded service members were transported to medical facilities at Bagram, Salerno , and Orgun-E for medical care.
Coalition attack aircraft responded to the scene but were unable to locate the insurgents.
“This is a tragic loss for all of us. A U.S. service member has paid the ultimate price for freedom, giving his life so that others might live in a nation free of tyranny and oppression,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. James G. Champion, Combined Joint Task Force-76’s deputy commanding general for operations. “Our hearts and our prayers go out to the family and our thoughts are with those who were wounded in this attack. This incident will only strengthen our resolve and commitment to this mission.”
The name of the dead service member is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin.
Pakistanis killed in Afghan raid
BBC News / Wednesday, 8 June, 2005
Two Pakistani truck drivers have been killed after delivering fuel to a US base in south-eastern Afghanistan.
A Taleban spokesman said their fighters had carried out the attack in Spin Boldak on Tuesday to target the supply routes of US forces.
Local police told the Associated Press on Wednesday that five men suspected of involvement had been arrested.
The Taleban have stepped up attacks on Afghan and US-led coalition troops after a winter lull.
The truck drivers were part of a convoy that had left the US base to return to Pakistan.
Taleban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi, said anyone working for the United States would be regarded as a target.
"We will continue to attack those who supply Americans - we've got to cut off the Americans' supply routes," he said.
District police chief Mohammed Raz said five people were arrested in a village after Afghan and coalition troops launched a manhunt.
There are about 18,000 troops in the US-led coalition tracking Taleban and al-Qaeda insurgents, mainly in the south and east of the country.
More than 300 people have died this year in violence related to the insurgency - many of them suspected Taleban militants.
Romania to send 400 extra troops to Afghanistan
Source: Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) / June 8, 2005
Bucharest (dpa)- Romania plans to send an extra 400 troops to join the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Defence Minister Teodor Atanasiu said Wednesday.
The minister said the troops would be deployed for three months from August to assist in preparations for parliamentary elections.
Romania already has an 80-man contingent serving with the ISAF and another 470 troops in the U.S.-led coalition Enduring Freedom. dpa mk ms
Afghan ambassador invites investment
By BETSY COHEN / The Missoulian (MT) / June 8, 2005
A message from Afghanistan's leaders to Missoula entrepreneurs and businesses: America's private sector has a lot to gain if it takes a chance on the South Asia country.
So said Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States in a press conference Tuesday.
Ambassador Said Tayeb Jawad, who is based in Washington, D.C., was in Missoula to give a public address titled "The U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership," which was sponsored by the Montana World Affairs Council.
It was no coincidence the event was held in the foyer of the Washington Foundation office, which is philanthropic arm of the companies owned by Missoula industrialist Dennis Washington. Washington Group International has many building projects in Afghanistan, and Jawad hopes Montanans - and other Americans - will follow the path forged by the Missoula mogul.
"The return for compensation is tremendous for companies willing to take the risk," Jawad said.
As Afghanistan's fledgling democratic political system takes root and the country becomes increasingly stable, there's a rich payoff for everyone involved in a strong relationship between Americans and Afghans, he said.
Afghanistan needs economic investment in order to thrive, to win the war on terrorism and to beat back its current, biggest threat: a growing narcotics trade.
The narcotics trade has blossomed because Afghanistan farmers have had no hope for the future, Jawad said. They've held on to the fear that their country will again be abandoned in its pursuit of freedom from terrorists and have chosen to survive by turning fertile land and orchards into poppy fields for opium producers.
Farmers and their fellow countrymen and women need alternative livelihoods - economic options that don't contribute to a climate of fear and lawlessness, Jawad said.
Terrorism in the form of the Taliban and its supporters have lost their foothold in Afghanistan and don't have the force or power to derail the political progress that has been unfolding since democratic elections last fall, Jawad said.
While the country is grateful for American efforts that have helped to keep the country secure, Afghanistan needs commerce and it is looking to the U.S. private sector to help build and operate hotels and to bring in American expertise in industries such as transportation, mining, and agricultural processing.
Investment and involvement of American companies would bring welcome economic relief and, more importantly, hope for the people of Afghanistan, Jawad said.
"Alternative livelihoods means work," he said, "large projects in Afghanistan ... "Building infrastructure to provide another way for people."
Ex-militia members come up with creative ideas after oversees trips
KABUL, 8 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - Sitting with six fellow commanders, Mohammad Daud, a 45-year-old ex-militiaman shared his impressions of a recent trip to Japan, as the former combatants gathered to receive certificates of demobilisation in the capital, Kabul.
Daud was a leading commander in the southeastern Paktia province, fighting against both the invading Soviet army and later against the Taliban over the past two decades. He is now planning to fight against poverty and illiteracy in his hometown of Jaji, a border district in south of Paktia.
“We are already too late. The people of Japan collectively started rehabilitation of their country right after the World War II but we are not making any progress in the last three years that war has been over,” Daud said while his friends nodded in agreement, sharing Daud’s concerns.
“I think, we should work on education and agriculture for a sustainable development,” he said. The ex-commander added that he was impressed with the agricultural and education systems in Japan when he visited Tokyo as part of a 10-day orientation trip organised by the UN-backed Afghanistan New Beginning Programme (ANBP), the official name of Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration of former combatants [DDR].
ANBP has launched an initiative under the Commanders Incentive Programme (CIP) which grants ex-militia commanders financial assistance, or may send them abroad for short visits to learn from other experiences of post-conflict reconstruction.
Daud is one of 11 former militia commanders from different military units around the country, that have been sent to Japan in two groups so far.
He said he was impressed with Japan’s forestation and industry, expressing deep concern that forests had disappeared in many parts of Afghanistan after decades of lawlessness and war.
“Now let’s fight against those who cut the trees and make their business, let’s urge the local authorities and the tribal councils to encourage people to plant threes,” he told other commanders who were on the same visit to Japan.
As part of the accelerated DDR plan, the UN and the Afghan Ministry of Defence (MoD) designed the CIP scheme in late 2004 offering commanders like Daud a trip overseas or a financial redundancy package in return for the disarmament and demobilisation of their units.
Many commanders had stalled the DDR process because before the incentive scheme, only their soldiers had benefited from the programme.
Immediately after the CIP, the DDR process developed rapidly and so far more than 55,000 of the estimated 60,000 former militias have been disarmed.
Under the scheme, commanders may receive up to US $500 per month for two years. They also have an option to go on an overseas trip but will not be entitled to the financial redundancy package.
Japan, which is already supporting a large part of the DDR, is funding the $ 2.5 million CIP initiative. Under the programme, the military leaders may also opt for a one-off lump sum payment to be used to start a business.
According to officials from ANBP, so far 103 commanders have benefited from the CIP and only 11 commanders like Daud have chosen foreign country visit than the financial assistance package.
“I think many commanders have a lot of money. What we don’t have is a clear understanding of how to be active and productive in civilian life,” Daud said.
In just two months following his return from Japan, Daud said he had already started a honeybee-keeping farm and an agricultural nursery project.
“Many in Jaji have now followed me. We have said to make the area fresh and prosperous by planting new trees and by modernising the education system,” he said.
ANBP said many other commanders are on the list for an oversees trip and they are discussing with Germany, United Arab Emirates [UAE], Malaysia, Indonesia and Poland the practicalities of their hosting the next group visit.
UNHCR starts registration of Afghans in North Waziristan
ISLAMABAD, 8 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has launched a special drive to help repatriate Afghans living in refugee camps in the North Waziristan agency of Pakistan's western tribal belt on Wednesday.
The Pakistani authorities announced in May, the closure by the end of June of over a dozen refugee camps located in the area housing about 30,000 Afghans because of security concerns.
"The UNHCR teams will visit all the refugee camps in North Waziristan from June 8 - 11, to register those families wishing to avail [themselves of] the refugee agency's assistance package for voluntary repatriation," Jack Redden, a UNHCR spokesman, told IRIN in the capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday.
Afterwards, the heads of the families would have to travel to Bannu district of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), located some 40 km away, in order to receive the Voluntary Repatriation Forms (VRFs) required to secure assistance.
"UNHCR office at Bannu will operate daily from 15 June to 29 June to process the requests. However, only those families registered this week in North Waziristan will be eligible to get the VRFs," Redden said.
The Afghan refugees living in the camps in North Waziristan have been informed about the options that either they may choose to be repatriated to Afghanistan or to relocate to other areas.
After being issued with the registration forms, Afghan families will have to undergo a mandatory iris-scanning test at Khost [capital of the Afghan province of Khost] inside Afghanistan.
"Iris verification was a requirement for every Afghan over the age of six wishing to receive the UNHCR repatriation assistance package," the UNHCR official explained.
The UNHCR standard repatriation assistance package includes a travel grant of US $3 to $30 per person depending on the distance to the recipient's destination in Afghanistan and another $12 per capita to help them re-establish themselves in their homeland.
Meanwhile, the government also intends to close several other camps located in the western belt of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and in southern Balochistan province.
"So far, no formal announcement has been made for the precise dates but preferably would be before the winter approaches," Redden noted.
The UN refugee agency has assisted some 2.4 million refugees to return from Pakistan to Afghanistan since the voluntary repatriation assistance programme started in 2002. That includes nearly 112,000 Afghans that have gone home so far in this year since the UNHCR resumed repatriation programme in March 2005 following a break in the winter.
Carter Calls on U.S. to Shut Down Gitmo
By BERNARD McGHEE, Associated Press / June 8, 2005
ATLANTA - Former President Carter on Tuesday called for the United States to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison to demonstrate its commitment to human rights.
"The U.S. continues to suffer terrible embarrassment and a blow to our reputation ... because of reports concerning abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo," Carter said after a two-day human rights conference at his Atlanta center.
Such reports have surfaced despite President Bush's "bold reminder that America is determined to promote freedom and democracy around the world," Carter said.
About 540 detainees are being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Some have been there more than three years without being charged with a crime. Most were captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002 and were sent to Guantanamo Bay in hope of extracting useful intelligence about the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Carter said the United States needs to make sure no detainees are held incommunicado and that all are told the charges against them.
Despite his criticism of Guantanamo Bay, Carter said Amnesty International should not have called the prison "the gulag of our time" in a report last month. President Bush has termed the report by the human-rights group "absurd."
Carter said the alleged abuses at Guantanamo Bay could never compare with the forced labor camps operated by the former Soviet Union.
Gitmo Teens Say Taliban Stole Youth
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press / Tue Jun 7, 4:12 PM ET
LONDON - Some were baby-faced teenagers too young to grow facial hair. Others said they were snatched from their families and forced to work for Afghanistan's Taliban. The stories of the youngest detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, chart their journeys from childhood in the villages of Afghanistan to U.S. custody, according to military tribunal transcripts obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information lawsuit.
Guantanamo officials released three Afghan boys ages 13 to 15 last year, but the transcripts of the hearings to determine whether prisoners were correctly classified as "enemy combatants" verify they weren't the only teenagers at the prison camp.
Although the U.S. government blacked out most ages from the documents, some remained, including the story of an 18-year-old who said he had been at Guantanamo for two years.
The teenager was accused of firing at U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He denied it and described how the Taliban had arrested him.
"My infant cousin was born. We had a party. We were playing the drums. We were having fun. When they came they broke the tapes, they broke the drums, they took me to jail, they beat me with a cable then they put salt in it — my wounds," he told the tribunal.
In many parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban regime prohibited music and dancing, imposing a strict form of Islam. They also forced children into religious schools to study the Quran.
Another young prisoner accused of links to an al-Qaida explosives cell said the Taliban came to his village and forced people to work or undergo training.
"At that time I had no beard or facial hair. They told me I was too young to go to war," the detainee testified. "They wanted to train me and then work with them."
The Taliban sent him to a technical school where he received two days of training, but he said "When I returned home after the second day, my mother told me not to go back to the Taliban school because I had no father or older brothers."
The prisoner said he hid from the Taliban each day so he didn't have to go to school. The Taliban stopped looking for him after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but he was then captured by the Americans, who he claimed abused him.
"They put a knife to my throat, tied my hands and put sandbags on my arms," he said. "At the airport in Khost I was walked around all night with the sandbags on my arms."
He said he was interrogated at the U.S. base at Bagram "and punishment increased."
"I was very young at that time, so whatever they said, I agreed to," he said. "I never admitted to being an associate of an al-Qaida explosive cell leader and when I came to Cuba I gave them the true story."
Shortly after the prison camp at Guantanamo opened in January 2002, human rights groups protested the capture and imprisonment of detainees under 18.
Guantanamo is no longer holding anyone 18 or under, said Lt. Cmdr. Chris Lounderman, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which oversees the camp. It was unclear whether any 19-year-olds are held, or how many teenagers have been at Guantanamo.
Some 34 of about 550 prisoners have been ordered released since the tribunals ended in January. But the U.S. government doesn't publicly provide reasons for freeing detainees so it's unclear whether being forced to join the Taliban would have affected any cases.
The United States defines an enemy combatant as someone who was part of or supported the Taliban or the al-Qaida terror network. That classification provides fewer legal protections than prisoner of war status under the Geneva Conventions.
The tribunal transcripts appear to validate claims of forced Taliban recruitment.
One prisoner is asked to respond to an allegation he conscripted young men for the Taliban by grabbing them off the street. The man said after the Taliban lost 8,000 men in fighting in 1998, "they started forcing young men and boys into service."
"They would go to each village and request 100 recruits from the tribal elders," the prisoner said. "The tribal elders were forced to provide these young men, otherwise the village would be burned. All of the people in the village obeyed the tribal elders, and gave up their men as required to serve four months."
Prisoners, young and old, alleged they were abused during interrogations to force confessions, according to some 3,900 pages of tribunal transcripts reviewed by AP.
Tribunal members are supposed to send abuse allegations to the Joint Task Force running the detention mission, which forwards them to U.S. Southern Command for investigation.
Lounderman, the spokesman at U.S. Southern Command, said Tuesday it wasn't immediately clear how many abuse allegations had been tallied in the tribunals.
Fresh allegations of abuse in documents recently turned over to AP included:
• A prisoner who claimed two U.S. teams of interrogators beat him.
"In Bagram, when the investigators were interrogating me, when I told them I went there to trade and I went there to study, they hit me they tortured me," he testified. "They said, "you are a liar" and they kept hitting me and tortured me. ... They were torturing us with electricity and they made us walk on sharp objects. They hit us a lot, and because of the pain we just said anything."
• Another prisoner said he was refused medical treatment in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
"I had metal sticking out of my leg and they would not clean the wound," he said. "They would not give me treatment so I told them whatever they wanted to hear. They just wanted anything. Any information. I just told them anything — whatever they wanted to hear because I wanted them to treat my leg. I saw other people mere whose legs hag to be cut off. I did not want my leg to be cut off."
• Another prisoner said he reported his alleged abuse to officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only independent group with access to the prisoners in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.
"In Kandahar, they took all my clothes and the American soldiers hit me and kept me tied up in the rain for three hours," he said. "My hands and feet were tied so tight that I couldn't move my hands for a month and I couldn't move my feet for two weeks."
At Guantanamo, the prisoner claimed the abuse continued: "When I got off the airplane, the soldiers hit us. They had us shackled and had our eyes covered. They took off my clothes by the shower. The Red Cross asked them about my head wound. In the first month of detention in Cuba, the soldiers would hit me before bringing me to the interrogator."
EDITOR'S NOTE: Paisley Dodds, Associated Press bureau chief in London, has covered the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay since it opened in 2002.
Bush Nominee for Top Envoy Unveils Plan
In Senate testimony, Zalmay Khalilzad offers a seven-point program for progress in Iraq. Experts say chaos there puts its success in doubt.
By Tyler Marshall / The Los Angeles Times / June 8, 2005
WASHINGTON — President Bush's nominee to be ambassador to Iraq offered a seven-point plan Tuesday to tackle the challenge of stabilizing the troubled country, but experts questioned whether chaotic conditions there would allow him to set it in motion.
Testifying at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his confirmation, Zalmay Khalilzad pledged to undertake steps that would include working with Iraqis to help them defeat the insurgency, rebuilding key institutions and forging a unified political vision for the future.
"I intend to make significant progress in realizing Iraqi aspirations for a secure and prosperous life," Khalilzad told the committee, which is expected to vote quickly to recommend his confirmation by the full Senate.
Unlike Bush's controversial nominee for ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, Khalilzad is widely respected across party lines in the committee and generally viewed as a success in his last job: U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.
Development experts credit Khalilzad, whose tenure in Afghanistan lasted 18 months, with meeting many of the same kind of post-invasion nation-building challenges he would face in Iraq. His stay in Kabul, the Afghan capital, coincided with the establishment of an increasingly effective domestic security force, the country's first open elections and an ambitious reconstruction program.
However, Iraq specialists think that a number of factors, including a deteriorating security environment, would make his job far tougher in Baghdad than it was in Kabul.
"He'll have much less space to operate in Iraq — literally," predicted Frederick D. Barton, who, as director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, tracks events in Afghanistan and Iraq. "There are constraints in getting around in Afghanistan, but he'll find it much more volatile, much edgier, in Iraq."
Barton noted that part of Khalilzad's ability to influence events in Afghanistan was due to the welcoming environment in which he worked, both personally as an Afghan-born American and institutionally as America's representative in a country that had broadly accepted the U.S. presence. Local political attitudes were in an earlier stage of development and thus easier to influence than in Iraq.
"None of this is there in Iraq," Barton said. "It's just a different world."
Others wondered how Khalilzad would implement a pledge to explain U.S. goals directly to the Iraqi people at a time when safety concerns make any diplomatic contact outside the heavily protected Green Zone difficult.
The pledge to address Iraqis directly was the fourth part of Khalilzad's seven-point plan. The remaining three consisted of bringing greater stability to the region, accelerating reconstruction and conducting successful elections.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and a vocal critic of the war in Iraq, praised the Bush administration's choice of Khalilzad, at one point calling him "first-rate." But Biden expressed skepticism that Khalilzad could fulfill the U.S. policy agenda in the Middle East country.
Noting the chaotic security conditions in Iraq, Biden said it would be "close to a miracle" if the new government met its current deadline of Aug. 15 for completing a draft constitution.
"If you're able to go in and accommodate this timetable in success, I'm going to nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize," Biden told Khalilzad. The senator recently returned from his fifth official trip to Iraq.
Biden criticized the administration for failing to take up a European offer to help train mid-level Iraqi military officers, a group whose absence is considered a crucial weakness in the Baghdad government's fighting force. Biden said that Atlantic alliance nations could assist in such training and that French President Jacques Chirac had told him he had received no response to an offer to train 1,500 such officers.
"I am perplexed as to the resistance of the civilians within the Defense Department — and I guess, other places — to engage in this kind of concerted effort to train an officer corps," Biden said.
Khalilzad did not immediately respond to his criticism.
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