Karzai Concludes Two-Day Visit to Pakistan
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
23 March 2005 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai today concludes a two-day visit to Islamabad after meeting with Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and participating as guest of honor at a military parade during the country's National Day.
Karzai met with President Pervez Musharraf shortly after arriving in Islamabad on Tuesday. Karzai described their talks as "very fruitful," and said they discussed the expansion of road and rail links between the two countries and the Central Asian republics.
Musharraf said after the meeting that both Pakistan and Afghanistan are determined to win the war against terrorists. Musharaf also said that Pakistan has made a great advancement in recent operations in South Waziristan, a region famous for its tribal and factional armed clashes.
Afghan and Pakistani officials are expected to sign several agreements today, including one that would establish bus service linking the Pakistani cities of Peshawar and Quetta with Jalalabad and Kandahar in Afghanistan respectively.
RFE/RL spoke also with Afghan minister of foreign affairs Dr. Abdullah on the outcomes of the President’s visit to Pakistan. Minister Abdullah said that both Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed on enhancing cooperation in the field of transportation, cultural affairs, media and tourism. Minister Abdullah also said that the Afghan and Pakistani foreign ministries agreed on having mutual systematic consultation which will be held each six months. The agenda of these meetings and consultations will include strengthening diplomatic relations as well as discussing economic issues between the two countries, according to minister.
The two countries also agreed on boosting investments and exchange of qualified work force. Currently, according to minister Abdullah, 50 000 Pakistani experts are employed in Afghanistan.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai during his visit to Pakistan also attended today the parade where Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf called for progress in efforts to resolve Pakistan's dispute with India over Kashmir.
The Himalayan region is divided between Pakistan and India but each country claims it in its entirety. The two nations have fought two wars over Kashmir since their independence from British rule in 1947.
In recent months, India and Pakistan have taken steps to normalize relations.
Musharraf today said both countries needed to show "sincerity, courage and flexibility" to resolve outstanding problems.
He was speaking at a military parade to mark Pakistan's National Day. "We are with the Kashmiris in their struggle,” Musharaf said. “And our moral, diplomatic and political support will continue for them in their great struggle until they are successful in their great cause."
(Agencies/RFE/RL’s Afghan Service)
Afghan, Pakistan ties quickly warming, Karzai says
ISLAMABAD, March 23 (Reuters) - Pakistan and Afghanistan agreed on Wednesday to set up two bus links between their countries in what Afghan President Hamid Karzai said was an illustration of their rapidly warming ties.
The neighbours, which have occasionally had strained relations since Karzai took over after the ousting of the Taliban in late 2001, also signed agreements to cooperate in culture, media and tourism.
"The pace of this movement towards prosperity and closer relations between the two countries is moving at a speed that the governments cannot catch up with," Karzai told reporters after the signing ceremony.
Bus services will be launched to link the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar with Jalalabad in Afghanistan and Pakistan's Quetta with the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
"The people of the two countries are making the strides and we should do everything to facilitate these strides to the benefit of the two nations," he said.
No date was given for the launch of the services or any other details. Pakistan has had a complicated involvement in Afghanistan's decades of conflict and supported the Taliban government in Kabul until the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.
That past support for the Taliban has led to suspicion of Pakistan among some elements in Karzai's government and accusations that Pakistan let Taliban fighters launch attacks into Afghanistan from the safety of Pakistani soil.
Pakistan had long denied doing so. A dispute over part of the 2,450-km (1,500-mile) border between Pakistan and Afghanistan flared up in July, 2003, and protesters in Kabul broke into the Pakistani embassy and ransacked it.
But the Pakistan army effectively choked off Taliban movement across the rugged, porous border in the run-up to Afghanistan's largely peaceful presidential election in October.
During Karzai's visit the two sides also agreed to regular consultations between their foreign ministries. Annual trade between them is worth $1 billion, a Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said this week. The two countries also hope to cooperate on a proposed gas pipeline from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan, to Pakistan.
Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to start bus services
Agence France-Presse Islamabad, March 23, 2005|20:55 IST
Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed Wednesday to start regular bus services between their border cities to further boost growing bilateral trade, economic and commercial links, officials said.
The agreement came during talks between visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
The plan envisages one bus route between Peshawar in northwest Pakistan and the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad and another between southwestern Quetta and the Afghan southern city of Kandahar.
Plans for the implementation of the proposed bus links will be worked out later, officials said.
Currently trucks from both sides carry goods across the border but there is no regular transport for passengers.
The two sides also signed an agreement to institute regular consultations between their foreign ministers as well as accords on enhancing cooperation in the fields of tourism, information and cultural exchanges.
Both leaders told reporters afterwards they discussed cooperation in the war against terror, and ways bolster the existing economic and trade ties.
Karzai said strong economic and trade relations between the two countries would translate into stronger links among the people.
"The people to people contacts are moving ahead at a speed hard even for the two governments to catch up with," said the Afghan leader who is due to leave for Kabul later Wednesday.
`High-Level' Taliban Member Killed in Afghan Clash, U.S. Says
March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Soldiers from the Afghan army and U.S.-led coalition have killed Raz Mohammed, a ``high-level'' Taliban figure implicated in attacks in Paktika province, the U.S. military said in a statement from Kabul, Afghanistan.
Coalition troops, seeking to question Mohammed, came under ``intense enemy fire'' when they arrived in his village on March 22, the military said. The Taliban member and two other fighters were killed in the gunbattle that followed, as were an Afghan woman and two children, the statement said.
One Afghan individual who was supporting coalition forces was killed and another was wounded in the clash, the military said. An investigation into the incident is under way.
The attack came on the same day the United Nations warned that Afghan parliamentary elections face a threat from the armed groups throughout the country.
``These groups perpetuate the drug industry, impose illegal taxes on individuals in reconstruction programs and impede the progress of state expansion,'' UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report to the Security Council.
Afghan and U.S. forces continue hunting for remnants of the Taliban regime, which hosted al-Qaeda leaders in 2001 and was ousted by a U.S. invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks. Paktika borders Pakistan in an area where fighters cross into Afghanistan.
Hamid Karzai, who led the interim government that replaced the Taliban, won the country's first direct presidential election in October, in which almost 80 percent of Afghanistan's 10.5 million registered voters took part.
The U.S.-led coalition and North Atlantic Treaty Organization have drawn up a security plan with the Afghan authorities for the elections set for Sept. 18, Annan said.
Moderate Taliban leaders to be invited for talks: Karzai
Press Trust of India Islamabad, March 24|17:02 IST
Hinting that the moderate Taliban leaders would be permitted to contest the Parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has said some of them would be invited for talks soon by former King Zahir Shah.
The Taliban are Afghans and can take part upcoming parliamentary elections in their personal capacity and not as a movement, Karzai, who ended a two-day visit to Islamabad on Wednesday, told a television channel here before his departure.
He said that he was in contact with the former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakil and has sent a reply to his letter. "I tried to meet Mutawakil but a meeting has not yet been materialised. I will definitely meet him if he is willing for the same," Karzai said.
Karzai for some time has been making a distinction between faction led by Wakil and hardline Taliban leader Mullah Omar who continues toe the Al-Qaeda line.
Asked if Hizb-e-Islami leader Engineer Gulbadin Hekmatyar would be allowed to take part in the parliamentary elections, Karzai said Hekmatyar has refused to take part and has declared Jihad.
"Everyone is allowed to take part in elections but those would not be allowed whose hands are stained with blood of innocent people," Karzai said.
To a question about Osama Bin Laden, Karzai said Osama is responsible for the sufferings of Afghans. "We are trying to catch and punish him," he said.
Incomplete census process was one of the reasons for the delay in elections. He said lack of funds and some other technical problems were also to blame.
Parliamentary vote in Afghanistan, earlier scheduled for May, will now be held in September.
On when the Americans were expected to leave Afghanistan, he said his government does not want Americans to leave Afghanistan as the country needs them to stay for some time.
AFGHANISTAN: Flood relief under way
Source: Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a project the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
KABUL, 22 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Humanitarian relief began to be distributed on Tuesday to victims of Afghan floods, which have left at least four confirmed dead, 200 missing and thousands homeless, interior ministry officials said.
"As of 22 March, three men and a woman have been reported dead in the Gezab district of [the central province of] Uruzgan and 750 houses destroyed in Dehrawood district of that province," Dad Mohammad, a spokesman for the interior ministry, told IRIN in Afghan capital Kabul.
The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) had already made contingency plans to provide assistance to people affected by the floods, which were expected to hit as the snow melted, but have been exacerbated by heavy rains over the last few days.
"In southwestern Farah province, WFP today started urgently needed food distributions to Afghans hit by floods. A total of 25 mt of wheat, rice and pulses were sent to the province last week. This food should cover the most immediate food needs of nearly 5,000 people," Maarten Roest, the food agency's spokesman in Kabul told IRIN.
A flash flood in the central province of Uruzgan's Deh Rawud district on 18 March led to the evacuation of 400 people to the provincial capital, Tirin Kot. WFP was able to draw on a total of 110 mt of prepositioned food available in the city. In Deh Rawud itself, the food agency told IRIN it had delivered 230 mt of food, including 10 mt which were airlifted by Coalition forces in the last two days, enough to feed 25,000 people for one month.
Coalition spokeswoman Lt Cindy Moore told the AP news agency on Tuesday that troops were distributing tents to people made homeless in the region, but that the situation was no longer critical.
The initial floods were caused by melting snow after the severest winter in Afghanistan in two decades. The situation was then compounded by torrential rains, which led to burst river banks, damaged roads and flooded villages in various parts of the country.
"Even before the snow began to melt, WFP warned of possible floods and has since been preparing assistance to flood prone areas," said Michael Jones, WFP Deputy Country Director for Afghanistan and acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator. "Pre-positioning of food allows us to provide timely assistance in Farah, as well as in other regions at risk in the country, such as Uruzgan province."
In western Herat province, hundreds of houses have been damaged by floodwaters or heavy rain, Nooruddin Ahmadi, an official for the Afghan Red Crescent, told IRIN. Relief workers were unable to reach many villages because of raging rivers or deep snow, he added.
The interior ministry said heavy flooding had destroyed hundred of hectares of land and damaged more than 100 houses in Ghwaja Du Koh district in the northern Jowzjan province. "If the government and aid organisations do not take immediate measures, more than 1,500 hundred families will be affected by flooding from the Aamo river in Jawzjan province," ministry spokesman Mohammad stressed.
The government said it was doing its best to warn Afghans of the potential danger of flooding through messages on the country's fledgling radionetwork. Village elders, mullahs and local NGOs have also been deployed to spread the message that local people should be aware of the danger of flooding for some weeks to come.
WFP is working to place food supplies downstream on the river Helmand in southern Helmand and Nimruz province in case the river flooded there, affecting thousands more people, Roest added.
Top NATO commander says Afghanistan stable as Taliban loses momentum
March 23, 2005
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan has become more stable as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked militants have lost momentum over the past three years, the top NATO commander said.
"I don't think we're facing an organized insurgency that has significant capacities," General James Jones, supreme allied commander in Europe for NATO, told reporters in Kabul during his two-day visit to the country.
"We should understand that their capability to generate an insurgency is simply not there," he said on Wednesday.
Jones said that with its history Afghanistan would always be prey to random acts of violence but the future security of the country was "moving in a very positive direction".
NATO is due to expand its peacekeeping operations to the country's west in coming months allowing the US to move its more than 18,000 troops into the south and east where they are battling remnants of the Taliban regime.
Five militants were killed late Monday in artillery fire after a rocket attack on a US military base in Salerno in the southeastern province of Khost near the Pakistani border.
The Taliban was thrown from power by a US-led military campaign in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington but loyalists of the ousted regime are still waging an insurgency.
NATO forces moving west in Afghanistan, south next
KABUL, March 23 (Reuters) - NATO peacekeepers in Afghanistan will be shortly deployed in the country's realitvely stable west and hopefully to the more troublesome south soon after, the alliance's top general said on Wednesday.
General James Jones of the U.S. Marines, accompanying a party of NATO parliamentarians to Kabul, described the security situation in Afghanistan as stable "with incidence of fragility".
"I don't think were facing anything that remotely resembles an organised insurgency," Jones said, noting how the threat from al Qaeda and Taliban fighters had faded in the past three years.
As Afghanistan prepares for the next step toward developing democracy with parliamentary elections due on Sept. 18, Jones said the country remained vulnerable to random acts of violence.
Most violence occurs in Afghanistan's south, southeast and east where U.S.-led troops are hunting remnants of the Taliban militia and some lingering foreign al Qaeda fighters.
NATO forces have still to deploy in these regions, where the number of attacks, according to U.S. generals, has fallen sharply since a presidential election last October.
On Tuesday night, U.S. forces killed five militants after coming under fire in the southeast province of Khost. And a week ago a bomb killed five people in the southern city of Kandahar and wounded 32 others.
NATO peacekeepers, concentrated in capital Kabul and the north, were about to expand operations to the relatively stable west. "NATO is putting a lot of emphasis on mission expansion for Stage Two, and we expect that soon thereafter we could also look forward to going to stage three," Jones said, referring to deployment in the west and then the more troublesome south.
There are currently close to 8,500 NATO-led peacekeepers in Afghanistan, while U.S.-led forces number around 18,000. Some 100 Italian troops took over from U.S. troops involved in a provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in the western province of Herat this month, and Spanish troops will take over a PRT role in Badghis province, while Lithuanian troops were going to Ghor.
PRTs carry out small developmental projects aimed at forging trust with Afghan communities. As the NATO mission expands, Jones repeated his hope that the commands of the NATO and U.S.-led forces could be merged.
Jones also said the role of NATO forces would be transformed, and take on more characteristics of rapid reaction forces, as they took responsibility for more parts of the country.
But he said NATO commanders had to work within the limits of what individual member governments allowed their forces to do, and governments had to be advised what was needed to do the job.
"The alliance not so long ago was a pretty static reactive defensive organisation. "So it won't just be a change in capabilities. It will be a change in culture as well (for) how we use those forces.
Jones was encouraged by the speed at which Afghanistan's own security forces were being rebuilt. The Afghan Army now has 22,000 troops, compared with a target of 70,000 and the police force numbers 40,000 against a target of 50,000.
Document: Bin Laden Evaded U.S. Forces
Associated Press / March 23, 2005 By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON - A commander for Osama bin Laden during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union who helped the al-Qaida leader escape American forces at Tora Bora is being held by U.S. authorities, a government document says.
The document represents the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden, the mastermind of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was at Tora Bora and evaded his pursuers.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney asserted during the presidential election that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was at Tora Bora when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked there in December 2001. They dismissed assertions by Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, that the military had missed a chance to capture or kill bin Laden while al-Qaida made a last stand in the mountainous area along the Pakistan border.
The document, provided to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." While not identified by name or nationality, he is described as being "associated with" al-Qaida and having called for a holy war against the United States.
In an indication that he might be a higher-level operative, the document says the detainee "had bodyguards" and collaborated with regional al-Qaida leadership. "The detainee was one of Osama bin Laden's commanders during the Soviet jihad," it says, referring to the holy war against Soviet occupiers in the 1980s.
The document is what the Pentagon calls a "summary of evidence" and was presented against one of 558 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay on Dec. 14 for a hearing to determine whether the prisoner was correctly held as an "enemy combatant." The assertion about his efforts and bin Laden's escape is made as a statement of fact; it does not indicate how the information was obtained.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, a spokesman for the Combatant Status Review Board for which the document was prepared, said Tuesday he could not elaborate on the Tora Bora statement, or its sources, because the statement was derived from classified information.
In mid-December 2001, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, told reporters there had been "indicators" of bin Laden's presence at Tora Bora in early December. "And now indicators are not there," Stufflebeem said. "So maybe he still is there, maybe he was killed, or maybe he's left."
While campaigning for president last fall, Kerry said Bush had erred in relying on Afghan warlords to hunt down bin Laden in the caves of Tora Bora in December 2001, contending on Oct. 22 that the president had "outsourced" the job.
Cheney said Oct. 26 that Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had "stated repeatedly it was not at all certain that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. He might have been there or in Pakistan or even Kashmir," the Indian-controlled Himalayan region.
Franks, now retired, wrote in an opinion column in The New York Times on Oct. 19, "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001." He added that intelligence assessments of his location varied, but bin Laden was "never within our grasp."
On several occasions Bush cited the column as evidence that bin Laden could have been in any of several countries in December 2001. "That's what Tommy Franks, who knew what he's talking about, said," Bush said on Oct. 27.
Bin Laden remains at large. For many months, officials have said they believe he probably is hiding in the Afghan-Pakistan border region. Last week Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to endorse that view, saying bin Laden's whereabouts are unknown.
Among documents stating the U.S. government's evidence against other detainees at Guantanamo Bay is a September 2004 assertion that an unidentified detainee, described as a member of al-Qaida, had traveled from the United States to Afghanistan in November 2001 — two months after the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The document does not elaborate on the detainee's U.S. connection but says he arrived in Afghanistan via Bahrain and Iran. He was "present at Tora Bora," crossed the Afghan border into Pakistan in December 2001, and surrendered to Pakistani authorities, the document says.
The detainee also was arrested by Saudi authorities for questioning in the 1996 terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force, the document says.
Insurgents Attack Coalition Base With Rockets in Eastern Afghanistan
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs) Press Release - March 23, 2005
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Enemy forces launched several rocket attacks Tuesday night at a Coalition base near Khost and at checkpoints along the Pakistan border.
Around midnight, insurgents fired five rockets at Forward Operating Base Salerno. No Coalition soldiers were injured in the attack.
Coalition troops returned fire with 155 mm artillery rounds at enemy positions. Coalition aircraft killed five insurgents.
Meanwhile, three border checkpoints, manned by Coalition troops, came under attack by insurgents firing small arms and rockets. No Coalition forces were injured.
On Wednesday, troops were investigating the attacks and assessing damage.
If Musharraf talks, it will be cricket: Minister
Press Trust of India New Delhi, March 24, 2005|15:06 IST
The issue of Pakistan not allowing transit of Indian goods to Afghanistan through its territory is unlikely to figure during President Pervez Musharraf's visit to India next month, Rajya Sabha was informed on Thursday.
Responding to supplementaries during Question Hour, Minister of State for External Affairs Rao Inderjit Singh said Musharraf will come here to watch cricket and if he talked to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it would be about cricket "and not about this".
He said India has decided to give Afghanistan 500 million US dollars worth of aid over the period 2002-08 for reconstruction of the country but Pakistan has not allowed New Delhi to route the goods through its territory.
Singh said Afghan leaders have indicated they would pursue the issue of transit of Indian goods with Pakistan.
He said Indian Airlines would commence its operation to and from Kabul from March 31. New Delhi will also help Kabul build a Parliament building.
Iraq: There are about 4,500 Indians currently in Iraq working as cooks, waiters, cleaners, kitchen helpers and labourers and their safety and well being continue to be a matter of high priority for Government, Singh said in reply to another question.
Tsunami: The Rs 125 crore Tsunami and Storm Surges Warning System is not proposed to be set up as a joint venture between India and other Indian Ocean States.
Afghan Detainee's Leg Was 'Pulpified,' Witness Says
The testimony comes at a hearing for an MP who delivered beatings. The inmate later died.
The Los Angeles Times / March 23, 2005 By Lianne Hart, Times Staff Writer
FT. BLISS, Texas — An Afghan detainee in U.S. custody was so brutalized before his death that his thigh tissue was "pulpified," a forensic pathologist testified Tuesday at a preliminary hearing for a military police officer charged in the 2002 assault.
"It was similar to injuries of a person run over by a bus," said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Rouse, who performed an autopsy on the detainee, identified only as Dilawar.
Rouse's telephone testimony came on the second day of an Article 32 hearing — the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding — to determine whether Army Pfc. Willie V. Brand, 26, should be court-martialed.
In addition to facing an involuntary manslaughter charge in the Dilawar case, Brand also is charged with assault for allegedly striking a second detainee, Mullah Habibullah, who also died in U.S. custody.
Brand is one of two soldiers charged so far in the assaults that took place at the Bagram Control Point, a temporary holding center for detainees in Afghanistan, about 40 miles north of Kabul. A hearing for the other soldier, Sgt. James P. Boland, is pending. Both soldiers are members of the 377th Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cincinnati.
Army investigators testified that Brand acknowledged that he delivered more than 30 consecutive knee strikes to Dilawar as he stood in shackles, his arms chained to a ceiling. But Brand defended his actions, telling investigators that his superiors were aware that the blows were routinely delivered to force detainees to comply with the guards' orders.
"I did what everybody else did. It was not according to doctrine, but that was standard practice. That was how things were done," Brand said in a statement.
Investigators described the Afghan holding center as a two story, hangar-style building of interview rooms and isolation cells fitted with ceilings of concertina wire. The night before Dilawar's death, Brand said in a Jan. 24, 2004, statement, he went to Dilawar's isolation cell to help another guard give the man water. The guards then attempted to place a hood on Dilawar's head, a practice reserved for unruly detainees or those being escorted from a cell to an interrogation room. Dilawar — in chains, his wrists shackled above his head — resisted, and Brand said he struck him twice with his bent knee.
In a Feb. 3, 2004, statement, Brand acknowledged that at another time, he delivered more than 30 knee strikes to Dilawar. Asked what provoked the punishment, Brand told investigators he couldn't remember.
Brand also admitted striking Habibullah in the thighs when he resisted efforts to put a hood on his head. "Allah, Allah, Allah," Brand recalled Habibullah crying.
Dilawar died from "blunt force trauma to the lower extremities complicating coronary artery disease," Rouse said. Habibullah died of a pulmonary embolism apparently formed in his legs from the beatings.
Army investigator Angela Birt said that delivering knee strikes was so routine for Brand that "the two [detainees] didn't stick out in his mind because he couldn't remember how many he had struck."
Brand's lawyer, John Galligan, said outside the courtroom that "everything that was done was done in order to perform his mission…. I'm greatly disturbed a young soldier like Brand who, responding to his country's call, does what he thinks is right and we turn around and place him on the criminal docket."
Brand, the father of four, sat expressionless at the defense table as autopsy photographs of Dilawar were entered into evidence.
When investigators had asked him during a 2004 interview if the knee blows were wrong, he replied: "No, not wrong wrong but necessary to achieve what you wanted them to do."
Afghanistan will need international help to build future beyond elections, Security Council told
Source: United Nations News Service - March 22, 2005
Afghanistan will need sustained international help way beyond September’s legislative elections marking the completion of the Bonn accord that set up the country’s transitional phase after the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in his latest report delivered today.
This need “is rooted in the realization that a number of post-conflict peace-building tasks have yet to be fulfilled, including the restoration of countrywide security, full resettlement of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), the rehabilitation of key economic and social infrastructure and the establishment of functional state institutions across the country,” he writes, seeking a 12-month extension of the UN mission there until 25 March 2006.
“The consensus on the need to extend the common endeavour that began in 2001 also rests on a keen awareness that the degree of destruction visited upon Afghanistan in the past three decades has been so high that nothing less than the close partnership established during the implementation of the Bonn agreement will measure up to the challenge,” he adds.
Presenting the report to the Security Council today, Mr. Annan’s Special Representative for the country, Jean Arnault, called on the 15-member body to extend the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) as requested and to urge donors “to respond timely and generously” with the $110 million still outstanding from the $148.67 million needed for September’s elections.
Mr. Annan outlines a list of important lessons learned after more than three years of intensive UN engagement, among them the need for an extended presence of international forces to tackle terrorism, insurgency and factionalism which, although waning, will remain a threat. “A credible international military deterrent will therefore remain a key component of the post-Bonn framework until Afghan security institutions are fully established and functional,” he writes.
A “massive skills deficit” in such sectors as police, teachers, engineers and qualified labour must also be remedied, state institution need to be recreated, and “a bold strategy for economic development is necessary,” he adds.
He will submit to the Council definitive recommendations on UNAMA’s future role following consultations with the Afghan leadership and the new parliament to be elected in September.
Despite a relative calm in the security situation, partly due to winter as well as a disarmament programme, an increase in strength of the Afghan army and police and an expanded presence of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), “these positive developments should not lead to complacency,” he warns.
“The determination of extremist elements to take advantage of the open political environment of the parliamentary elections should not be underestimated,” he adds, noting that disarmament of Afghan militias remains insufficient to guarantee security and illegal armed groups which perpetuate the drug industry must also be dealt with.
Illicit narcotics dominates Afghanistan’s economy with more than 350,000 families, some 10 per cent of the population, estimated to depend on opium poppy cultivation, which generates income equivalent to 60 per cent of the legal gross domestic product and 87 per cent of global supply, he writes.
“There is a consensus among Afghan and international experts that Afghanistan’s position as a leading narcotics supplier must be turned back in 2005,” he says.
Meanwhile in his briefing to the Council, Mr. Arnault noted that two roadside bomb attacks directed against UN convoys had taken place since the report was compiled, killing six people and injuring 31. “Protecting the life of UN staff will remain a priority for us, with the benefit of the strengthened security arrangements that have been put in place since last year,” he said.
“The agenda of the next nine months is a heavy one. It will place demands on all human and material resources of the United Nations in Afghanistan, including those of UNAMA,” he added.
Pakistan tribal chief stands firm
Tuesday, 22 March, 2005 BBC News
A leading tribal chief in Pakistan's Balochistan Province says it is up to the government to resolve a tense standoff between troops and tribesmen.
More than 300 paramilitary troops are encircled by hundreds of armed tribal fighters in the remote town of Dera Bugti, following clashes last Thursday.
More than 23 people were killed in the day-long violence between troops and tribesmen demanding autonomy.
Tribal chief Akbar Bugti told visiting legislators he had no compromise offer.
'It's my land'
Mr Bugti is at the forefront of a tribal campaign to win political autonomy and a greater share of revenue from the south-western province's gas reserves.
A 15-member parliamentary delegation met Mr Bugti at his residence in Dera Bugti on Tuesday to discuss potential solutions to the five-day stand-off.
But Mr Bugti had little to offer by way of compromise, saying that it was "his land" and it was "his people that had been killed".
"It was up to the government to suggest a way out of this situation," he told reporters. "Why should I talk to them?"
The meeting came after security officials warned of potential disaster if no solution was found to the standoff in Dera Bugti.
"The situation needs to be controlled as soon as possible so that a major crisis is averted," Frontier Corps commander Brig Salim Nawaz told reporters on Tuesday in the town of Sui, some 60km (40 miles) from Dera Bugti.
"We have the capability to remove them [tribesmen] but we are exercising full restraint so the situation does not get messed up."
Pakistani authorities accuse Akbar Bugti of instigating an attack last Thursday on a military convoy and have filed murder charges against him.
Mr Bugti denies his men attacked the convoy, alleging the clashes were deliberately triggered by security forces as a pretext for launching a military operation in the area.
The BBC's Zaffar Abbas says he saw hundreds of armed tribesmen lining the road from Sui to Dera Bugti.
No one stopped the convoy of politicians and journalists, he said, but only because the tribesmen had clearly been told by Mr Bugti to expect the delegation.
Officials accompanying the delegation said it was the first time in five days that they had been able to travel on the road without being ambushed.
Our correspondent says the situation is so tense that a prolonged stand-off could easily end in another serious clash.
Mr Bugti says that more than 60 civilians died in last week's clashes. The government denies attacking civilians and says the figures are exaggerated.
The 17 March clashes were the most serious since eight people were killed in several days of fighting in and around the strategically important gas fields in the area in January.
Those clashes were sparked by the rape of a doctor, which Bugti tribesmen blame on an officer in the security forces.
Since then the army has moved extra forces into the area.
In the past two months tribal fighters have staged small-scale but almost daily attacks, hitting the security forces and the province's rail, power and communications infrastructure.
Baloch nationalists demanding autonomy and control over their natural resources have led four insurgencies, the most recent in the mid-1970s.
The military are accused of using excessive force to suppress the uprisings.
Local willows will help reforest Afghanistan
Wednesday, March 23, 2005 The Post-Standard By Mark Weiner
When Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Afghanistan last month, the U.S. ambassador told her the war-torn nation needed help trying to reforest its countryside.
It didn't take long for Clinton to find a solution - and it's coming from the green hills of Central New York.
Clinton arranged for a donation of 10,000 willow shrubs from the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse.
The college grows the willows at its Tully Genetics Field Station off Route 281 in Tully. For the past 25 years, researchers have experimented with the fast-growing shrubs as an alternative fuel source. The willows grow in dense thickets, reaching heights of 25 to 30 feet after only three years.
Now SUNY-ESF officials say the willows can help restore what was once known as the "orchard of Central Asia" before a series of wars turned parts of Afghanistan into a barren wasteland.
"The idea is to plant the willows in areas where they can get multiple benefits - stabilizing the soil, greening the country and providing a fuel source," said Timothy Volk, a research associate at the college.
The willows are ready to harvest in three-year cycles, and then grow back quickly. Each plant produces as many as seven harvests over its lifetime.
Eventually, SUNY-ESF would like to take part in an exchange program with Kabul University, Volk said.
The donation is part of the New York Partnership for a Green Afghanistan, an initiative launched by Clinton to replant trees and revitalize Afghanistan's orchards, nurseries, woodlots and greenbelts. Other partners include Cornell University, American Forests and International Paper.
Afghanistan win in volleyball
SPORTS REPORTER The Independent Bangladesh
Bangladesh Navy conceded a 1-3 defeat to visiting Afghanistan volleyball team in the last exhibition match at Shaheed Suhrawardy Indoor National Stadium on Wednesday.
The visitors had to fight hard to win the match as Bangladesh Navy spikers put tough resistance in the match after losing the first set by 15-25. They won the second set by 31-29 points but lost the rest two sets by 17-25 and 21-25.
Earlier, Navy won the first match by 3-1 sets.
Bangladesh Volleyball Federation President Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, MP, distributed prizes, while Ambassador of Afghanistan to Bangladesh Akmal Ghani and Volleyball Federation vice-president Golam Kuddus Chowdhury Babu were present.
Afghan family wants to stay in U.S.
WTHR Indianapolis - Mar 23 1:23 PM
Indianapolis, March 23 - The father of the Afghani boy saved by staff at Riley Hospital for Children. now wants to stay in the U.S. permanently. Quadrat Wardak's family will apply for lawful permanent resident status.
Qudrat and his father came to the U.S. for heart surgery to save the boy's life.
His lawyer says they didn't plan to live here permanently, but now fear they could be persecuted by anti-U.S. Afghans if they go home for good.
They are not seeking political asylum though. Their lawyer says it would be hard to prove the persecution threat, especially with a pro-U.S. government in Afghanistan.
So they'll ask to immigrate based on his skills as a construction worker.
Immigration lawyer Thomas R. Ruge says, "The family just doesn't want to be separated for the long period it would take to complete the process of political assylum. It could easily be two years. And they have faith in the U.S. Army. They've been so nice to them so far. They'll do their best to protect them when they go back."
Unlike a political asylum case, Qudrat and his father will return to Afghanistan until their application is approved.
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