3 al-Qaida Suspects Killed in Afghanistan<>By DANIEL COONEY Associated Press November 17, 2005>
KABUL, Afghanistan - Security forces have killed three al-Qaida suspects, a provincial governor said Thursday, while the country's defense minister warned that militants have smuggled explosives, weapons and cash into Afghanistan for a resurgent terror campaign.
Two other suspected militants from Osama bin Laden's terror network have been arrested during joint Afghan-U.S. military operations in Kunar, a rugged mountainous eastern province on the border with Pakistan, said Gov. Assadullah Wafa.
He said the identity of the two, as well as the three killed during air strikes late Tuesday, was not immediately known.
Asked about the operation in Kunar, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said, "Our offensive operations are ongoing and we are constantly going after the enemy in several areas across Afghanistan." He declined to elaborate.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said intelligence indicates that a number of Arab members of al-Qaida and other foreigners have entered Afghanistan to launch suicide attacks.
His comments came after an unprecedented spate of suicide assaults — the latest on Wednesday when a bomber attacked a U.S. military convoy in the southern city of Kandahar, killing three civilians.
Wardak said that besides explosives, the weapons smuggled into Afghanistan include remote-controlled timing devices and other computerized detonators for bombs. He declined to give a specific amount of smuggled money, but said it was in the millions of dollars.
"There has been ... more money and more weapons flowing into their hands in recent months," Wardak said. "We see similarities between the type of attacks here and in Iraq."
He said al-Qaida militants were increasingly teaming up with local rebels from the ousted Taliban movement to undermine President Hamid Karzai's U.S.-backed government because they have realized their influence is waning.
"There is no doubt that there is a connection between Taliban and al-Qaida and some other fundamentalists," he said. "In most cases, the suicide bombers are foreigners ... from the Middle East, from neighboring countries. ... It is a new trend."
It has long been believed that the Taliban and al-Qaida maintained ties after U.S.-led forces ousted the regime in 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. But the recent bombings, and Wardak's comments, reinforce fears that they've merged some of their forces.
Until two months ago, suicide bombings had been relatively rare in Afghanistan, with only a few reported in the past year, unlike in Iraq.
But nine such assaults have occurred nationwide starting on Sept. 28, when a uniformed man on a motorbike detonated a bomb outside an Afghan army training center where soldiers were waiting to take buses home, killing nine people.
A senior government official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the intelligence, said 22 would-be suicide bombers are believed to be in Afghanistan waiting for orders to attack.
On Monday, suspected Arab militants crashed two explosive-filled cars into NATO peacekeepers in the capital, Kabul, killing a German soldier and eight Afghans.
Though the Taliban claimed responsibility, the police blamed al-Qaida, saying the terror group was the only organization able to carry out such a coordinated assault.
A Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan, Mullah Ahmadullah Jan, told the AP this week that several Arab fighters with links to al-Qaida have joined the ranks of the rebels recently.
The surge in suicide bombings comes amid the deadliest year of militant violence in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban regime, with about 1,500 people killed. At least 87 U.S. military personnel also have been killed or died in accidents this year.
Asked about media reports that some insurgents from Iraq have come to Afghanistan to teach militants new tactics, Wardak said it was only speculation and no evidence had been found to support it.
Suicide attacks, assassinations: shades of Iraq in Afghanistan
Thu Nov 17, 2:10 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Cars in flames, bodies ripped apart, foreign soldiers targeted: three suicide attacks in Afghanistan this week show a shift towards Iraq-style tactics by Taliban rebels encouraged, some analysts say, by the presence of Al-Qaeda.
In two days the capital Kabul and the main southern city of Kandahar witnessed similar scenarios: cars driven by suicide attackers rammed into convoys of international troops and detonated, corpses left in their wake.
The three blasts together killed 10 people including a German soldier and the three attackers.
They were claimed by the fundamentalist Taliban movement that a US-led coalition removed from power in 2001 because they did not hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for the September 11 suicide attacks.
In the past two months there have been another four suicide blasts, with one in Kabul in September killing eight Afghan soldiers and a civilian, a new development in Afghanistan which had only seen a few such attacks since 2001.
The rebels, who have vowed to overthrow the government, have also assassinated several Afghans associated with the government in the past weeks.
The Taliban have confirmed a shift in strategy in the insurgency, which has claimed the most lives in Afghanistan this year -- about 1,500 -- although only a fraction of the 7,000 lost in Iraq.
"It's true that we have started a series of suicide attacks mainly against foreign troops who have invaded Afghanistan," purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP in a telephone call from an unknown location.
"This is only a change in our military tactics. We're looking for ways through which we can harm the enemy the most and suicide attacks are new tactics we have added," he said.
But the US-led coalition and the government say the change merely points to the weakness of the rebels, who make up about half of this year's fatalities.
"The enemy has realised that taking on the coalition they will lose, so they are taking out an area which is weaker, that they can attack," US army spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts said.
"It is not that the enemy is stronger, it is that the enemy has moved to a weaker area to attack and sadly it is against Afghan civilians and Afghan national police and national army," he said.
The Taliban is unable to stand up to the security forces in conventional battle, defence ministry spokesman Mohammed Zahir Azimi said.
"Instead they are more engaging us in bombings, rockets attacks and suicide attacks. We see this as the weakness of the enemy because they're no longer able to engage us in direct fighting," he said.
This is rejected by the Taliban's Ahmadi. "We've not become weak; we have opened a new extra front with a suicide attacks," he said.
Analysts say the Taliban's new Iraq-style strategy is fed by the infiltration of foreign fighters ready to die for "jihad" (holy war) and linked to various Islamic groups, including Al-Qaeda.
"Fighters are coming in with better skills and we are seeing a transfer of skills from Iraq," a Western security source in southern Afghanistan told AFP in September on condition of anonymity.
There had been an increase in foreign fighters including Chechens, Arabs, and Middle Easterners, he said. "We can see this from the dead bodies but also from the radio traffic we pick up in different languages."
These foreigners are linked to Al-Qaeda and find support with the Taliban and other Islamist factions fighting against the foreign "invaders", a Western military intelligence source said in Kabul this week.
"In Iraq, like in Afghanistan, the strategy of the Islamist movements is simple: instill fear and insecurity to undermine the credibility of authorities and their Western allies, notably the Americans who brought them to power, and stop the population from supporting them," he said.
"And it is a long-term strategy," he said.
Afghanistan insurgence growing stronger
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
November 16, 2005
FORT BRAGG, N.C. — U.S. Special Forces soldiers hunting Taliban and foreign fighters in southern Afghanistan say they are encountering a fiercer and more organized adversary than last year, and one that is far from being near collapse as predicted by an American general in April.
The commander and officers of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group — an elite counterinsurgency unit known as the Desert Eagles — provided the assessment in a recent video-teleconference briefing here with USA TODAY from battalion headquarters in Kandahar.
The report calls into question plans to replace most, if not all, U.S. forces in the volatile south next year with NATO troops that will not conduct the same aggressive counterinsurgency operations.
The troubling unrest in a country that held successful elections and appeared to have quelled the insurgency comes amid heightened concern in Washington over the conflict in Iraq, which is overshadowing Afghanistan.
In April, Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, then senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, predicted the insurgency would largely collapse within about a year. But this year has been the bloodiest since the 2001 invasion for the 18,000 U.S. forces. In 2005, 87 U.S. troops have died, nearly half the 186 killed since the war began. In July, 19 Americans died when insurgents downed a U.S. helicopter searching for four Navy SEALs in eastern Afghanistan. Three SEALs were killed.
Afghan officials say much fighting remains to be done. "Our concern is that whoever takes over those areas will have to engage in counterinsurgency," says Ashraf Haidari, an Afghan Embassy spokesman in Washington. Insurgent violence "has increased since last year, and we expect more terrorist attacks."
Wednesday, Afghan Defense Minister Rahim Wardak told the Associated Press that terrorist attacks now resemble the violence in Iraq. This week, three suicide bombings in Kabul, the capital, killed 10 people, including a U.S. soldier and a German peacekeeper.
Lt. Col. Donald Bolduc, commander of the Desert Eagles, said in the October briefing that guerrilla fighting has gained strength since last year. The unit is on its fourth tour. "The guys would tell you that this is a different enemy than they saw before," he said.
American and Afghan forces have prevailed in battle, but Bolduc warned: "If we leave here before we have trained an effective Afghan national security force that's where the insurgency will probably have a pretty successful go at turning the tide."
NATO spokesman James Appathurai says U.S. forces in the south will be "significantly reduced" next year. The alliance's rules of engagement "mean active and robust defense. But it doesn't mean offensive, long-term operations," he says.
Retired U.S. general Barry McCaffrey, who toured Afghanistan in August, is concerned. "NATO forces are in most cases going to be thin gruel compared to the U.S. (forces) they will replace," he says.
Charges against detainee assault defendants referred to general court-martial
Nov. 17, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – After reviewing the Article 32 report of investigation and receiving recommendations from the investigating officer, Combined Joint Task Force-76 Commanding General Army Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya referred charges against Army Sgt. Kevin D. Myricks and Army Spc. James R. Hayes today.
Both soldiers face multiple charges and specifications. They include conspiracy to maltreat, dereliction of duty, maltreatment of detainees and assault consummated by battery. Myricks faces the additional charges of making a false official statement and conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline and of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.
These charges stem from an incident at Forward Operating Base Ripley, Uruzgan Province , in which both soldiers are accused of striking two detainees in their custody.
A date for the court-martial has not yet been set. The court-martial will be held at Bagram Airfield under the command of the Combined Joint Task Force-76.
A third soldier faced non-judicial punishment for allegedly having knowledge of the abuse and not reporting it through the unit’s chain of command. This soldier, whose name is being withheld, could face reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, restriction and extra duty if found guilty under the UCMJ.
Detainees' abusers in Afghanistan referred to court-martial
KABUL, Nov. 17 (Xinhuanet) -- The US army in Afghanistan has referred the cases of its two soldiers for allegedly maltreating two Afghan detainees at their custody to court-martial, a press release said Thursday.
"After reviewing the article 32 report of investigation and receiving recommendations from the investigating officer, Combined Joint Task Force-76 Commanding General Army Major General Jason Kamiya referred charges against Army Sgt. Kevin D. Myricks and Army Spc. James R. Hayes today," the press released noted.
The two soldiers are facing multiple charges that include conspiracy of maltreatment, dereliction and duty, maltreatment of detainees and assault consummated by battery.
The two, according to reports, have badly beaten and punched two Afghan detainees at US troops custody in southern Uruzgan province last month.
"A date for the court-martial has not been set. The court-martial will be held at Bagram Airfield under the command of the Combined Joint Task Forces-76," it added.
At least two Afghans have died at the US military main detention center in Bagram, the headquarters of some 20,000-strong US-led coalition forces, 50 km north of Kabul since 2002, while the result of investigation has yet to be made public.
Some 400 Afghans on charge of having links with the Taliban andal-Qaida are said to be languishing in 23 US army detention centers in Afghanistan. Enditem
Daily Afghan Report
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - 16 November 2005
Land Mine Kills Five Afghan Policemen In Southeastern Afghanistan
Five police officers were killed in Paktika Province on 15 November when their vehicle hit a land mine, Xinhua news agency reported. Mohammad Malik Tanai, chief of intelligence in Paktika, told Xinhua that neo-Taliban elements were responsible for having laid the mine. No one has claimed responsibility for the incident. AT
Explosion In Southeastern Afghanistan Kills U.S. Soldier
A U.S. soldier was killed and two Afghan security officers and another U.S. serviceman sustained injuries when an improvised explosive device detonated in Paktika Province on 15 November, international news agencies reported. According to a statement issued by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, the team was traveling in an armored vehicle when the explosion occurred, Xinhua news agency reported on 15 November. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. AT
Death Toll From Suicide Attacks In Kabul Rises, As Al-Qaeda Is Seen As Culprit
The dead toll from the double suicide attack in Kabul on 14 November has risen to nine, AFP reported on 15 November. Officials initially reported that three Afghans and a German soldier were killed in the incidents (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2005). Kabul police chief General Mohammad Akbar told AFP that "it is al-Qaeda who is behind such attacks," adding that the terrorist organization is working with neo-Taliban insurgents. Neo-Taliban have claimed responsibility for those attacks. AT
Germany Closes Consulate In Western Afghanistan
German Ambassador to Afghanistan Reinald Steck told reporters in Kabul on 15 November that his country has closed its consulate in the city of Herat, Pajhwak Afghan News reported. Steck said that since Italy, another EU member state, took command of the provincial reconstruction team (PRT) in Herat, Berlin saw no need to have a diplomatic presence in the city. "Germans are still interested in helping the people of Afghanistan, especially in Herat," Steck added. He denied any link between the 14 November closure and the suicide attack the same day that seemingly targeted German troops in Kabul. AT
EU, Afghanistan Sign Partnership Accord
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
16 November 2005 -- Afghanistan and the European Union signed a new partnership agreement today at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The EU side was represented by Britain's foreign minister Jack Straw, the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner (eds: a woman)
Karzai said after the ceremony the accord signifies a continued EU commitment to supporting reforms in Afghanistan.
"The signing today of [the] declaration with Europe is another step in affirming the help and assistance that the European Union is giving to Afghanistan and the importance it attaches to bringing further stability, peace and institution-building to our country,” Karzai said. “The Afghan people are grateful and are sure the continued commitment of the EU to Afghanistan will enhance the stability of the country [and] the strength of the institutions of the country."
The EU has said it will continue to provide significant funds to Afghanistan to improve political and economic governance, the human rights situation, security and advance the fight against drugs.
Ferrero-Waldner said today the EU will reveal the size of its future contribution at an upcoming donors' conference in London.
She said the EU has in the last few years given Afghanistan roughly 4,000 million euro, of which 1,000 million euro has come from the joint EU community budget.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan rights body condemns attack on its worker in the east
KABUL, 16 November (IRIN) - Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Wednesday condemned this week's attack on the house of one of its local female staff members in eastern Afghanistan, vowing it would not dissuade them from continuing their work in the area.
"The hand grenade attack which took place on Sunday night is against all the rules of Islam and humanity, but will not deter our activities in the area," Ahmad Fahim Hakim, AIHRC's deputy chairman said in the Afghan capital Kabul, adding there had been no casualties during the attack.
"This has been the third incident to take place over the past two months in which our local staff have been threatened in eastern Nangarhar province," Hakim explained, maintaining that security officials had yet to take the necessary action against the criminals.
"It was not due to a private feud, but it was an orchestrated attack," he asserted. The AIHRC has since recalled the staff member in question to the capital for her safety until the matter is cleared up.
Meanwhile, local security officials have launched an investigation into the incident.
"Investigations had been ordered and the result will be announced within next two days," Amir Khan Liwal, deputy police chief of eastern Nangarhar province, noted.
On Monday in one of the deadliest attacks to date, nine people were killed, including one German soldier for the NATO-led peacekeeping force in the capital, leaving another 13 injured.
The attacks were reportedly the first major assaults on foreign forces in Afghanistan this year.
Two days after the coordinated suicide bombings, another three civilians were killed by a suicide car bomb in the southern city of Kandahar.
According to media reports, there have been several suicide attacks in Afghanistan this year, including two in the capital, and more than 1,400 people have been killed in the escalating violence. The worst violence has been in the south and east of the country. The south is traditionally the stronghold of the hardline Taliban, who were toppled from power during the US-led invasion of Afghanistan following 11 September 2001.
AFGHANISTAN: Global micro-entrepreneurship awards come to Afghanistan
KABUL, 16 November (IRIN) - As part of the United Nations International Year of Micro-credit 2005, the Afghan winners of the Global Micro-entrepreneurship Awards will be announced on Saturday at a ceremony at the Serena Hotel in the Afghan capital Kabul.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Afghan Micro-finance Association, and the Micro-finance Investment Support Facility for Afghanistan have coordinated the programme. The global awards programme has been taking place in over 30 countries alongside Afghanistan.
"The aim of the micro-entrepreneurship awards is to promote small business and especially to recognise micro-entrepreneurs who are helping to lift the fortunes of their communities," Adrian Edwards, a spokesman of United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in Kabul.
In Afghanistan, participating micro-entrepreneurs have presented their business success stories to micro-finance experts, and political and business leaders. After the preliminary round of selection, a shortlist of 12 finalists has been identified, according to a UNDP statement.
"Prizes are being awarded in categories relating to agriculture, war widows, ex-combatants, alternative livelihoods, business outside Kabul, and returnees/refugees," Edwards explained.
More than two decades of brutal civil war has seriously damaged the commercial infrastructures of the country. People are suffering from unemployment, poverty and a lack of essential assets to carry on trade activities.
Profesor Taj Mohammad Akbar, a local commerce analyst and director of the Pashtany Tejaratee Bank, said the micro-credit system was essential for the economic growth of Afghan people.
"The micro-credit system brings about instant growth in the incomes of the people," Akbar explained, adding it would reduce the level of unemployment in Afghan community.
Years of drought have seriously damaged agricultural infrastructures of Afghanistan. Thousands of fruit gardens have dried up, while scores of animals have died due to a severe lack of water in the post-conflict country. Therefore extending micro-credit to those affected would be instrumental in helping them recover their agricultural activities.
Haji Saleh Mohammad, a 57-year-old resident of western Wardak province, while complaining about a lack of agricultural facilities in his area, said: "drought has severely hit our gardens, we need agricultural machinery and long-term loans to rehabilitate our farming land," adding that residents were unable to afford such expenses.
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