Afghan Roadside Explosion Causes Injuries
By AMIR SHAH, AP
KABUL, Afghanistan - A roadside explosion hit a Canadian Embassy vehicle in the Afghan capital Monday, wounding one Canadian passenger, officials said. Witnesses said three Afghan civilians were also hurt. Officials said it appeared that the blast, which left a five-foot-wide crater beside the busy road in eastern Kabul, was caused by a remote-controlled bomb.
Afghan police cordoned off the scene as NATO troops surrounded a red four-wheel drive-vehicle. Several of its windows were broken by shrapnel and a small Canadian flag could be seen on the bumper.
An official from the Canadian Embassy, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the victim was a male security guard. He didn't identify the man and had no information on the extent of his injuries, although witnesses said he walked unaided from the stricken vehicle.
"It looks like a main charge was placed by the side of the road" and detonated as the vehicle drove by, said Warrant Officer Neil Reeve, a member of the British contingent of the NATO force sent to investigate.
Afghani Wazir Gul, whose sedan was also caught in the blast, suffered only a small cut to his face but said three friends traveling with him were taken to the hospital, one with a serious abdominal injury.
The Jalalabad Road is a bustling thoroughfare dotted with NATO and U.S. military bases as well as a major U.N. compound. The road has seen a string of bombings, including a suicide attack that killed a British soldier in January last year.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday's blast. However, U.S. commanders have warned that Taliban insurgents may step up attacks as the harsh Afghan winter recedes.
Diplomats here also worry that warlord militias have yet to be fully disarmed and may have been involved in the kidnapping of three U.N. workers in the capital last year. All were eventually released unharmed.
While most security incidents occur near the Pakistani border, Kabul's expatriate community has been on edge since gunmen fatally shot a 41-year-old Scottish development consultant three weeks ago, the first killing of a foreign development worker in the capital since the fall of the Taliban three years ago.
Blast in East Afghanistan wounds 10 Afghan soldiers
29 Mar 2005 11:20:54 GMT
ASADABAD, Afghanistan, March 29 (Reuters) - A roadside bomb wounded at least ten Afghan National Army soldiers in the eastern province of Kunar on Tuesday, an official reported.
The soldiers were travelling near Asadabad, the provincial capital of Kunar, when the blast happened, said Mohammad Anwar, an officer with the national army in the province.
"I do not know the condition of the wounded," Anwar said, accusing Taliban fighters of carrying out the attack with a remote control detonator.
The blast comes a day after four civilians, including one Filipino, were hurt in a similar explosion in the capital Kabul.
And last Saturday four American soldiers were killed by a landmine in Logar province, 40 km (25 miles) south of Kabul. It was unclear if the mine was a newly planted or one of the thousands left from the last quarter century of conflict.
Taliban spokesmen claimed responsibility for both the Kabul and Logar attacks.
Taliban activity had dropped during the winter, but, with the onset of spring, more attacks are expected.
Taliban guerrillas are mostly active in the southern and eastern areas along the border with Pakistan.
U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government after it refused to hand over al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
US to hand over part of Afghanistan's second major airport
Monday, 28 March, 2005
KABUL (AFP) - The US military is to give local authorities control of part of Afghanistan's second international airport to use entirely for civilian operations, a senior officer said.
Brigadier General James P. Hunt, the commander of US air forces in Afghanistan, said part of Kandahar Air Field would be turned over for non-military use after refurbishments are completed next year.
The United States was already spending 83 million dollars to improve vital facilities at Kandahar and the main US airbase in the war-shattered country at Bagram, north of the capital Kabul.
"We don't have a specific timetable because of two things: one, the refurbishment of the terminal and second, the refurbishment of the runway," the general told a press conference in Kabul.
"But the intent is to separate the terminal and part of the airport to be solely for civilian operations," he added.
Hunt said that some of his forces will remain at Kandahar, which he described as a "very strategic base for operations in the south".
Kabul Airport, currently Afghanistan's only international airport, is also divided into civilian and military parts. NATO-led peacekeepers are using the military portion.
The 83 million earmarked for Kandahar and Bagram would be spent on "continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support our demanding mission", Hunt added.
The US-led coalition in Afghanistan numbers around 18,000, with most troops stationed in the south and southeast to hunt down remnants of the ousted Taliban. The Islamic regime first came to prominence in Kandahar.
The force includes around 1,000 US airmen operating 150 aircraft, including dozens of A-10 Thunderbolt II attack jets and AH-64 Apache helicopter gunships.
U.S. Bases in Afghanistan Get $83M Upgrade
Mon Mar 28, 6:38 AM ET By STEPHEN GRAHAM, Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan - The United States is spending $83 million to upgrade its two main air bases in Afghanistan, an Air Force general said Monday, the latest indication that American forces will remain in the country for years.
Brig. Gen. Jim Hunt said the money was being spent on construction projects already underway at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul, and Kandahar Air Field in the south. A new runway is being built at Bagram, the biggest Afghan airfield used by the U.S. military.
"We are continuously improving runways, taxiways, navigation aids, airfield lighting, billeting and other facilities to support our demanding mission," Hunt said at a news conference in the capital.
Afghan leaders are seeking a long-term "strategic partnership" with the United States, which expects to complete the training of the country's new 70,000-strong army next year.
It remains unclear if that will include permanent American bases in a region that includes Iran, nuclear rivals India and Pakistan and oil-rich Central Asia. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on a visit to Kabul earlier this month that Washington had not decided how long to keep troops here.
U.S. commanders have said they might reduce their 17,000-strong force this year if Taliban militants take up a reconciliation offer but forecast there will be a U.S. presence in Afghanistan for years.
Hunt said about 150 U.S. aircraft, which include ground-attack jets and helicopter gunships as well as transport and reconnaissance aircraft, were flying in and out of 14 airfields around Afghanistan. Other planes such as B-1 bombers patrol over Afghanistan without landing.
"We will continue to carry out the ... mission for as long as necessary to secure a free and democratic society for the people of Afghanistan," Hunt said.
American officials have said that fixing the runway at Bagram will make it suitable for Dutch F-16 fighters expected to deploy this year in support of the separate NATO-run security force in Afghanistan.
U.S. forces are currently vacating Shindand Air Base, close to the Iranian border, as NATO expands into the west of the country, Hunt said.
He said the forces under his command tried hard not to stray over Afghanistan's borders and said he was unaware of any spying missions over neighboring Iran. Pakistani officials complain regularly of American planes violating their airspace.
"We want to make sure that we and Afghanistan are good neighbors to the entire area, so we are very careful and very sensitive to the international borders, both to the west and to the east," Hunt said.
In violence Monday, a roadside explosion hit a Canadian Embassy vehicle in Kabul, wounding one Canadian passenger, officials said. Witnesses said three Afghan civilians were also hurt.
Officials said it appeared that the blast, which left a five-foot-wide crater beside the busy road in eastern Kabul, was caused by a remote-controlled bomb.
Afghanistan's Karzai welcomes opium drop, says farmers need help
Monday, 28 March, 2005
KABUL (AFP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he was encouraged by a fall in opium cultivation but added that the country's poppy farmers needed more help to find alternative livelihoods.
Karzai's comments follow the release Sunday of a joint Afghan-UN preliminary survey of poppy cultivation and eradication which charted a sharp drop in poppy growing in most of the country's 34 provinces.
"I'm extremely pleased to note that the people of Afghanistan have responded positively to the call for jihad against the evil of narcotics," Karzai was quoted as saying in a press release by his office.
Karzai came to office in October pledging to wage a jihad, or holy war, against Afghanistan's opium trade, which now generates almost 90 percent of the world's opium.
The reported drop in cultivation in 29 of the country's 34 provinces "indicates that the Afghan people are taking steps towards ridding their country of this menace," Karzai added on Monday.
However he urged foreign countries to help Afghan farmers with new ways of earning money to replace lost income if they abandon their poppy crops.
"I hope that the international community will also fulfil its responsibility by providing assistance towards alternative livelihoods so that the scourge of narcotics will be defeated forever," the statement added.
Aid agencies have warned that if more was not done to boost rural development and give the country's 2.3 million farmers fresh ways of earning cash, the war on drugs would fail.
Special forces begin raids in Afghan opium heartland
Tuesday March 29, 9:55 PM AP
Afghan special forces on Tuesday began a series of raids in a remote heartland of the world's largest illegal narcotics business, the Interior Ministry said.
The operation targeted the area around Faizabad in Badakhshan province, 310 kilometers (190 miles) northwest of Kabul, the ministry said.
The objective was "to disrupt illegal narcotics activities, including the arrest of individuals," it said in a statement, without giving further details. it said the force "will continue to conduct operations across Afghanistan until all illegal drugs activity has been eliminated."
Under pressure from the United States and Europe, President Hamid Karzai has vowed to crack down on the cultivation of opium, the raw material for heroin, which has boomed since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
The country produced an estimated 87 percent of the world's opium last year, prompting warnings that it is turning into a "narco-state," though a U.N. study released Sunday said cultivation of opium poppies appeared to have declined.
The United States, Britain and France are training special forces to smash labs and arrest traffickers and refiners while also offering hundreds of millions of dollars to help farmers switch to legal crops.
Another unit tasked with destroying poppy crops is to begin its work in the former Taliban capital of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan, next week.
Floods damage houses, threaten city in southeastern Afghanistan as dam crumbles
Tuesday March 29, 3:59 PM AP
Floodwater surged past a crumbling dam in southeastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, damaging homes and shops and threatening a provincial capital, a senior official said.
The water escaped from an irrigation dam near Khwaja Omri, 120 kilometers (75 miles) southwest of Kabul, Ghazni Gov. Asadullah Khalid told The Associated Press.
"Part of the dam is broken and some of the water has already reached Ghazni city," where it flooded a fruit market, Khalid said. "The dam is absolutely full."
He said "a lot" of houses were affected, but had no details or word on any casualties.
The governor said he was trying to organize emergency help from the government, U.S. troops stationed in Ghazni city and aid organizations.
"We are waiting for the help of the international community," he said.
Heavy rains and melting snow have swollen rivers across Afghanistan, causing floods that have damaged homes and crops and killed at least two people, according to the United Nations. Unconfirmed reports have put the toll much higher.
Afghan housewife accused of killing 27 men
Tuesday March 29, 12:56 PM
KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan housewife involved in a car theft gang is to stand trial on charges of murdering 27 men, including her husband, officials say.
Sherin Gul, her son, her lover and four other accomplices were arrested several months ago and confessed to being behind the serial killings, law enforcement officials said on Tuesday.
Gul and her gang preyed mostly on taxi drivers in the eastern city of Jalalabad and the capital Kabul, Judge Abdul Bari Bakhtyari, chief of the court for crimes against national and foreign security, told Reuters.
"She would hire a taxi saying she wanted to take a sick person from her house to the hospital," Bakhtyari said.
"Then she would invite the driver in and offer him tea, telling him it would only take couple of minutes to get to the hospital. She would put sedatives in the tea to knock out the driver, and then she would kill him."
The victims were strangled to death with a rope, according to police officials.
Seventeen bodies were discovered at Gul's house in Jalalabad, while the others were found at her other house in Kabul, he said.
"He husband was among the dead, though she seems to have killed him over some disagreement. The others were killed for their cars or their money," he added.
Gul, aged between 35 and 45 years and from Jalalabad, is now being held at Kabul's Pul-e-Charkhi prison.
"She and her accomplices will be tried in the near future," Bakhtyari said, but he did not know what punishment the accused might face if they are found guilty.
Afghanistan's former arch-conservative Islamist government, the Taliban, would publicly execute murderers, but crime was low under its repressive rule.
Under President Hamid Karzai's government, established after the Taliban was ousted in late 2001, only one convicted murderer has been executed, though several have been sentenced to death.
Testing Karzai's politics of inclusiveness
The Japan Times 03/27/2005 By Amin Saikal
CANBERRA - Whatever Washington's expectations, Afghan President Hamed Karzai is certainly instituting what he has called "Afghan-style democracy." His inclusion in the government of some individuals who in the past had been highly criticized as "warlords" might be prudent under present circumstances, but is double-edged. Will it pay off? Karzai, chosen in Afghanistan's landmark presidential election of last October, is indeed engaged in a very difficult and complex task of national reconstruction.
Afghanistan has historically been a socially and politically divided polity, which partly contributed to the conflict and bloodshed that engulfed the country for 23 years prior to the U.S.-led military campaign that started following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001. The American intervention proved instrumental in dispersing the al-Qaeda network, toppling the theocratic regime of the Taliban and opening the way for the Karzai administration to take over.
But Afghanistan remained fragmented and awash with weapons, with many local power-holders claiming control over various parts of the country. The country very badly needed national unity, security and rebuilding.
Backed by the international community, most importantly the United States, Karzai's approach to nation-building has been based on consensual politics. He has aimed at recreating what suited Afghanistan best during its longest period of peace and stability -- from 1930 to 1973 -- when an effective alliance existed among the central government, religious establishment, and tribal and ethnic leaders with influence in various parts of the country.
He has sought to be politically as inclusive as possible and as accommodating as required. Although initially some of his ministers, who had returned from exile, raised the specter of "warlordism" dominating Afghanistan -- and this threatened the best interests of many local power-holders -- Karzai has continued to find a politics of inclusion more appropriate.
No doubt he has had two influential supporters in this: former Afghan King Zahir Shah (1933-1973), who has been given the title of "father of the nation," and the shrewd Afghan-born American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
Pursuing such politics, Karzai has steadily managed to accommodate in senior governmental positions a number of "warlords," including the former governor of western Afghanistan, Ismail Khan (who is included in the Cabinet as minister of power) and Gul Aqa Sherzai, who was reappointed as governor of Kandahar.
Karzai's latest edition to the list is the most controversial: Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostum. While Ismail Khan has had a relatively unblemished record, the same cannot be said about the other two: Gul Aqa has been credibly accused of associating with drug traffickers, and Dostum has been repeatedly condemned by various Afghan and international groups for brutal human rights violations.
Karzai and Khalilzad have even issued an amnesty to "moderate Taliban" and invited them to join the government. It is reported that some Taliban leaders have taken up the offer.
Karzai's nonconfrontational approach is understandable. He and his U.S. supporters have good reasons to be optimistic about the prospects for its success. But at the same time, it does raise some concerns about the direction that Afghanistan's transition is taking.
Although a great majority of Afghans have welcomed the return of relative peace to their country in the expectation that there will hopefully be an improvement in their living conditions, they also want the process of national reconciliation to have a justice component.
The appointment of Dostum as Karzai's personal military chief of staff, and the possible inclusion of well-known Taliban figures in the government, could send a shocking signal to many inside and outside Afghanistan. Many Afghans cry for justice against those who committed crimes against humanity. This issue is often articulated by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission as well as its international counterparts. This problem must ultimately be addressed.
Otherwise, the danger is that it could leave such deep scars on the Afghan psyche that it would seriously undermine Afghanistan's stability and transition to a workable democracy in the long run.
Amin Saikal is professor of political science and director of the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies at Australian National University, and author of "Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival" (2004).
ISLAMIST SUSPECTS IN KILLING OF AFGHAN LEADER MASSOUD GO ON TRIAL IN PARIS
27 March 2005
PARIS, March 27 (AFP) - Four radical Islamist suspects were set to go on trial in Paris on Tuesday to face charges they helped murder Afghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, just two days before the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
The suspects are accused of forging and obtaining the false documents that enabled two suicide killers -- Dahmane Adb al-Sattar and Bouraoui el-Ouaer -- to pose as Tunisian journalists traveling with stolen Belgian passports.
The fake journalists approached Massoud in the northern Afghan town of Khwaja Bahauddin for an interview during which they blew up both themselves and Massoud.
Massoud, known as the Lion of Panjshir, was the military leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban regime in power in Kabul in 2001.
French anti-terrorism judges Jean-Louis BruguiŠre and Jean-Fran‡ois Ricard said in November when ordering the suspects to stand trial that the investigation was not into Massoud's killing per se, but the extensive support network backing the assassins.
Using the passports found on Massoud's assassins, investigators said they traced the support network and found that Massoud's killers were able to carry out the deed by using channels for transporting Islamist volunteers for jihad, or holy war, from Europe.
The four suspects are Youssef el-Aouni, 31, a Frenchman of Morroccan origin; Adel Tebourski, 41, also French of Tunisian origin; Abderahmane Ameroud, a 27-year-old Algerian, and Mehrez Azouz, 37, a French-Algerian.
According to investigators, Tebourski admitted to belonging to an Islamist group led by al-Sattar composed of about 10 people.
He also reportedly described how before Dahmane left for Afghanistan in May 2000 he exchanged up to 30,000 francs into dollars (6,000 dollars) for the assassin.
Four other radical Islamist suspects also will face court in Paris this week, three of them suspected of having organized paramilitary sessions allegedly aimed at selecting recruits to go to Afghanistan.
The training was alleged to have taken place in the Fontainebleau forest south of Paris and in the French Alps.
Another suspect is charged with being in France illegally. The trials are expected to last until April 20.
Pakistan Hopes to Liberalize Afghan Transit Trade Agreement
Tuesday March 29, 10:23 AM Asia Pulse
ISLAMABAD, March 29 Asia Pulse - A high profile two-member delegation of Pakistan would leave for Kabul for two days to examine the Afghan customs regime before it takes a formal decision of erasing six items from the negative list under Afghan Transit Trade Agreement.
The delegation would comprise Chairman Abdullah Yousaf and Commerce Secretary Tasneem Noorani, which would examine the customs regime of Afghanistan and hold discussion on the proposed elimination of the 6 remaining items in the Negative Lit.
Pakistan wants the elimination of the 6 remaining items from the negative list with the condition in case Afghanistan agrees to introduce customs duty and other tax rates on the said six items at par with customs duty and other tax rates in Pakistan.
Both sides would also discuss the proposal of Preferential Trade Agreement. The Ministry of Industries and Production and CBR had been opposed to the removal of the six items on the contention that if the items are subject to the existing customs duty and tax rates, which Afghanistan is charging at the import stage, then the prices of the six items in Kabul would be cheaper. If the items that are smuggled in Pakistan were available at cheaper rates, then it would hurt the local industry.
Currently, customs duty and other taxes are very high which is why the prices of the aid items are high in Pakistan.
American University to run Kabul hospital
Pajhwok Afghan News 03/27/2005 By Zarghona Salehi
KABUL - The American University of Loma Linda, in Southern California is to take over the management of one of Kabul's major hospitals currently operated by the ministry of health, in two months time.
The 350-bed hospital which was built nearly 40 years ago, in the central suburbs of Wazir Akbar Khan will provide a fee-paying service to patients for surgical and orthopedic procedures.
A spokesman for the ministry of health, Abdullah Fahim told Pajhwok Afghan News that the University wants to help Afghanistan improve its health facilities and bring the health care services to good international standards. "The Loma Linda University wants to carry out healthcare services with good international standards for a fee."
He said the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital will be turned into a modern, well equipped health care center, where complex surgical procedures like removing kidney stones, treatment of cancer, heart problems and other standard surgery will be carried out.
He said the university will only charge for the actual cost of the operation and will not make any profit. A man living in Kabul, Ahmas Maoud Amini has kidney stones, and is delighted that he will be able to treat his illness soon. "This is great news for me because, now I don't have to go to Pakistan for my treatment."
Nureen's mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and she says she doesn't have anybody else to care for her mother and was planning on going to Pakistan for her treatment.
"I am glad to pay for my mother's treatment, and if it was possible to treat her here in Afghanistan it would be better, "Nureen said. "I wish the hospital was functional sooner."
However, Mohammad Nader, a worker of the Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital, said it was not helpful to offer a paid service for poor people who can't pay for treatments.
The Wazir Akbar Khan hospital has been a good place for the poor and destitute people to have health care within the capital, and many patients travel miles from the provinces to have treatment here. "Now Wazir Akbar Khan hospital will be turned into a treatment center for the rich," Nader exclaimed.
Abdullah Fahim said that no official agreement had been signed between the Loma Linda University and the ministry of public health yet, but it is expected that an agreement will be drawn up in two months in order to improve the health service in the country.
The Asia Foundation to Support the New American University of Afghanistan
Mon Mar 28, 9:02 PM ET
To: National and International desks
Contact: Tom Hetlage of the Asia Foundation, 425-443-2291, email@example.com
KABUL, Afghanistan, March 28 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Asia Foundation signed a grant agreement on March 24, 2005 with the U.S. Agency for International Development to serve as a fiduciary agent for the newly established American University of Afghanistan (AUAf) in Kabul. The purpose of the one-year project is to put in place an established set of financial and administrative systems for the new private university. The program will also help develop the capacity of AUAf to receive direct grant assistance from USAID and other donors by the close of the program.
The private American University of Afghanistan is to open in 2006, providing courses for 1,100 undergraduates in subjects including management, communications, and liberal arts. All courses will be taught in English and will be open to students from Afghanistan and the region. Afghan President Hamid Karzai participated in a ground-breaking for the university held earlier last week.
Attendees at the signing event included Dr. Sharif Fayez, President Pro Tem, American University of Afghanistan; Dr. Barry Primm, Deputy Mission Director, USAID; Judge Patt Maney, Senior Advisor, Political Sector, Afghanistan Reconstruction Group, US Embassy;; Ms. Peggy Poling, Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees, American University of Afghanistan; Mr. James McCloud, Senior Education Advisor, USAID; Mr. James C. Athanas, Contracting Officer, USAID; Dr. Jon L. Summers, Representative, TAF/Kabul; Ms. Jane Williams-Grube, Program Manager, TAF/Kabul; and, Ms. Meloney Lindberg, Assistant Representative, TAF/Kabul.
The Foundation's project will work to build the capacity of AUAf management staff, and help that staff to develop and maintain specific policies and practices which over time can approximate international general management standards. Equally important, the project will assist AUAf to manage funds received from various sources in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.
This project continues the Foundation's commitment to helping Afghanistan build and bolster its educational systems at all levels, particularly in higher education. Since resuming its work in Afghanistan in 2002, The Asia Foundation has worked closely with The Ministry of Higher Education to provide strategic and timely support for programs to strengthen and improve the quality of education in Afghanistan. A grant to the Ministry enabled Herat University to launch a Computer Science Department. The Foundation through its Give2Asia program was able to support the construction of a kindergarten at Kabul University (KU). This has enabled women staff and professors at the university to have a safe learning environment for their children while they work. Support has also been provided to strengthen the library services through hands on training to librarians from institutions across the country. Institutions of higher education around the country have received educational materials from the Foundation, and some institutions have received book shelves and other equipment. The library at the Afghan Education University was renovated and furnished by The Asia Foundation. The Foundation also supported English language training for university faculty, and a night school degree program at KU for professional Afghan men and women who were unable to complete their university education because they are now holding full-time jobs.
The Asia Foundation in Afghanistan
The Asia Foundation re-established an office in Kabul in February 2002 to launch new program initiatives in key areas that are central to the political, social, economic, and intellectual development of post-Taliban Afghanistan. The Foundation previously maintained an office in Afghanistan for 26 years, from 1954 to 1980, with an active presence and program supporting projects in education, agriculture, trade, and law. Since 2001, the Foundation has assisted Afghans in their efforts to rebuild the Afghan state -- establishing a new government through the Emergency Loya Jirga, assisting with reform of the legal system, supporting the process of developing a new constitution, providing operational support for the Constitutional Loya Jirga ("grand assembly"), and assisting with voter registration, civic education, monitoring and technical planning for the October 2004 presidential election and the National Assembly elections scheduled for September 2005. Other Foundation initiatives focus on creating education and training opportunities for women and girls, support for development of higher education, and support for exchanges on international relations.
About The Asia Foundation
The Asia Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, and open Asia-Pacific region. The Foundation supports programs in Asia that help improve governance and law, economic reform and development, women's participation, and international relations. Drawing on 50 years of experience in Asia, the Foundation collaborates with private and public partners to support leadership and institutional development, exchanges, and policy research.
With a network of 17 offices throughout Asia, an office in Washington, D.C., and its headquarters in San Francisco, the Foundation addresses these issues on both a country and regional level. In 2004, the Foundation awarded more than $72 million in grants and distributed almost 800,000 books and educational materials valued at almost $28 million throughout Asia.
Hopes rising after generation of war, but Afghan capital remains a city of struggle
The Associated Press 03/27/2005
KABUL - After a generation of conflict, Afghans are slowly emerging from darkness. In the afterglow of last fall's presidential election, there is hope in Kabul.
Violence in the capital is now rare. Record numbers of children, including girls, are returning to rebuilt schools. U.S. trainers are forging a multiethnic Afghan army. Aid money is flowing in, and relief groups are helping put the health service and other institutions back on their feet.
Still, three years after America invaded Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and the quick fall of the Taliban regime, Kabul remains a city of struggle. It is a place where life is hard, and where many promises have yet to be met. Afghanistan is the sixth least-developed country in the world, recent U.N. figures say, and many of its people still live among the wreckage of war.
Herders tend flocks of sheep around destroyed tanks and downed aircraft. Children play soccer on the mortar-blasted bottom of an empty Soviet occupation-era swimming pool. Military veterans with amputated limbs beg on the roadside. Gravestones speckle the dusty landscape.
Millions of refugees have returned after long years of exile in Pakistan or Iran. Some are confident enough of the country's stability to sink their savings into roomy new villas, fueling a breakneck construction boom. But poorer returnees live as if they were still displaced. Across Kabul, they huddle in the cold hallways of abandoned, bullet-pocked government buildings.
Afghanistan's economy is booming thanks to foreign aid and income from illegal drug production. Yet there are not enough jobs in Kabul, whose population has tripled to somewhere between 3 million and 4 million since the hard-line Taliban was driven out. Estimates of unemployment in the city run as high as 50 percent.
Each morning before dawn, thousands of men offer themselves up at day laborer markets, carrying their paintbrushes, wheelbarrows and trowels and hoping to be among the lucky ones chosen to earn $6 — and a breakfast of bread and green tea — for a day's work.
Some of that work is rebuilding the city's devastated infrastructure. Electricity supplies are improving, but much of the city is still without sewage systems or telephone service. Entrepreneurs with mobile or satellite phones power them from car batteries, selling call time by the minute.
Across the city, workers dig neck-deep trenches looking for damaged power lines, while others give a fresh coat of paint to bomb-damaged mosques. The city's streets are congested with men pushing heavy bricks and building materials on carts among the sport utility vehicles of relief workers, government officials, diplomats and drug profiteers. Along the garbage-filled Kabul River, hawkers sell eggs, vegetables and livestock by lantern light.
Afghan traders protest government plan to increase tax
Pajhwok Afghan News 03/26/2005 - Mustafa Basharat
KABUL - Afghan traders say they will stop more than 1,000 freight containers of merchandise waiting to reach Afghan shops at customs, in protest of a planned proposal to increase a trade tax by the finance ministry in the capital Kabul, Thursday.
The finance ministry says it plans to increase taxes on commercial goods from 0.5% to 2.5%, in the new Afghan year, after the bill has been approved by central government.
Although the final bill of approval is still to be approved by the presidential offices of Hamid Karzai, the finance ministry officials told Pajhwok Afghan News that the 2.5% tax is essential to insure teh development of further trade into Afghanistan.
But many traders are dissatisfied with the sudden raise of taxes and say it may possibly harm the flow of trade in Afghanistan. Khan Jan Alokozai, a senior official of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce, told Pajhwok Thursday: "We have expressed concern over the aim of the ministry of finance to raise the trade tax in the New Year."
And another trader who did not want to reveal his name said: "The government is the enemy of trade and industry in Afghanistan and it does not want to see the country's trade improve."
But Alokozai argued that the finance ministry cannot raise the tax without consultation with representatives of the ministry of commerce and the Chamber of Commerce.
However, Aziz Shams, a spokesman for the finance ministry, said raising the tax by 2.5% had to be approved yet. "The matter of raising the taxes will be proposed to the presidential office and the outcome will be announced after approval."
Newly appointed Kabul police chief starts new job
KABUL, Mar. 27, (Pajhwok Afghan News) -- The newly appointed police chief of the capital Kabul started his job Sunday. Speaking to the public he vowed that he will not give way to corruption and do his level best to uphold and enforce the Afghan law.
Sources close to the interior ministry said Major Gen. Akram Khakrizwal was today introduced to his fellow workers at Kabul police station by Zarar Ahmad Moqbil, a deputy to the interior minister.
Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, Gen. Khakrizwal said: "We have a saying that once a soldier, always a soldier – he has the hunger to serve his government in what ever way."
But Khakrizwal said he was willing to dismiss any officers breaking the law.
Mohammad Akram Khakrizwal was born in 1960 in Kandahar province and completed his higher education at a military academy. His military career began, when he started working as a battalion commander during the anti-Soviet war between 1978 – 1981.
He was the provincial police chief, up until the Taliban came into power and captured Helmand province.
About one and half years ago, he was moved from his post as police chief in Kandahar to Balkh province. During his time in Balkh, Khakrizwal was caught up in fighting with the governor of Balkh, Ata Mohammad, over a drugs trafficking dispute for which Ata blamed Khakrizwal.
With move to Afghanistan, Red Devils finally get a place to call home
Unit settles in at FOB Orgun-E after year on the move in Iraq
By Kent Harris, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Tuesday, March 29, 2005
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan — The 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry Regiment called a lot of places home during its year in Iraq.
While its sister unit in the 173rd Airborne Brigade — the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment — held Kirkuk, the Red Devils traveled from small town to small town. Outposts were built up, then abandoned.
A month into their stay in Afghanistan, soldiers from the Vicenza, Italy-based 1-508th appear to have a place to hang their Kevlar hats. At least for short periods of time.
Lt. Col. Tim McGuire, the battalion commander, and his headquarters staff have set up shop at Forward Operating Base Orgun-E, a small but growing military compound just outside the area’s largest city of Sharan.
Sgt. 1st Class Frank Lauer, the compound’s mayor, said it’s nice to have a place to call home, unlike in Iraq.
“I can count on two hands the times I was told, ‘You’re never moving again,’ ” he says with a smile.
It’s not like the battalion is exactly standing still these days. Company B and Company C have elements on FOB Orgun-E. Soldiers rotate in between the main base and smaller compounds to the north and south for weeks at a time. Company A is all stationed on-base.
Capt. Joe Geraci, the Company A commander, said his soldiers probably spend more time on patrol than on base, though. He said a single patrol can take up to 10 days. Soldiers have a few days in between to take advantage of the relative comfort of the FOB.
Soldiers sleep in brick buildings, with thin cement roofs. The buildings leak when it rains, so they’re being retrofitted with wood-and- metal roofs. There’s an average of eight soldiers to a room, most sleeping on beds, while others use cots. There’s electricity in all the rooms, but none outside because of the potential for rocket and mortar attacks at night.
Showers — usually with plenty of hot water — are located in a few buildings scattered around the base.
The post exchange is about as basic as it gets. Lauer said there’s usually about $30,000 in merchandise, and after a visit to the larger bases, there will be more in stock. A laundry facility and a barber shop are run by local nationals.
Lauer said the command is looking at a number of other projects to improve the quality of life of soldiers on base, though “I don’t know if we’ll ever cease being a FOB.”
Most soldiers seem to think they’re living better in Afghanistan than they did in Iraq.
“Everything’s all built up for us here,” said Pvt. Justin Roll.
“It’s way better,” said Spc. Daniel Beckett. “Not as good as we expected, but way better.”
“Hot water and electricity,” said Spc. Eric Meinhardt. “Can’t beat it.”
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