Afghanistan: Rivals Compete For Parliament Speaker Post
Amin Tarzi - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - Friday, 18 November 2005
With the certification of the vote count for the 18 September Afghan National Assembly's People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) and Provincial Councils on 12 November, Afghanistan came closer to having its first parliament in place since 1965. With most of Afghanistan's 34 Provincial Councils having completed their local elections and sent members to the National Assembly's Council of Elders (Meshrano Jirga), the National Assembly is ready to convene on 18 December.
In the coming days the main issue of contention will likely revolve around who will be the chairperson of the Wolesi Jirga and thus become the speaker of the National Assembly. The jockeying for this position may shed a little more light on the future political trends of the parliament.
Prior to the September elections, Mohammad Yunos Qanuni, head of the New Afghanistan Party and the unofficial leader of the National Understanding Front -- a loose bloc but the largest opposition political coalition -- was considered the most likely candidate for the highest post in the National Assembly. While Qanuni still remains one of the frontrunners for the speaker post, his position as favorite is being challenged by former Afghan President and Jami'at-e Islami (Islamic Society) head Burhanuddin Rabbani and the leader of the Islamic Unity Party of the People of Afghanistan, Mohammad Mohaqeq.
Rabbani -- like Qanuni -- is a Tajik, while his son-in-law Ahmad Zia Mas'ud is currently the first vice president of Afghanistan. These two factors may have a negative impact on Qanuni's bid to occupy the top job at the National Assembly. In addition, while Qanuni has been championing the rights of the former mujahedin, Rabbani's credentials as the head of one of the major resistance groups to which Qanuni once belonged may cost the him considerable support among the mujahedin.
It is not entirely clear whether Mohaqeq has officially announced his candidacy to be speaker, but he has not ruled it out. Mohaqeq's party is part of Qanuni's coalition and has been regarded as the number two in the opposition bloc to President Hamid Karzai's government. But Mohaqeq handily beat Qanuni in percentage of votes won in Kabul Province with 13.8 percent compared to 8.2 percent for Qanuni. In fact, with 52,686 votes Mohaqeq received more than any other candidate in Afghanistan. However the election of Mohaqeq, an ethnic Hazara, to the National Assembly's highest position may upset the Tajiks, who constitute Afghanistan's second-largest ethnic group after the Pashtuns and may regard the post as theirs.
An Ally For Karzai?
If either Rabbani or Mohaqeq manages to become speaker, then Qanuni's political coalition and his personal political fortunes may be weakened.
The three aforementioned Wolesi Jirga members are not the only candidates for the speaker post, however the chances of the other contenders, including a third Kabul representative, Shokria Barakzai, do not seem very promising.
Of the three leading candidates for the speaker position, Rabbani is the most likely to work with Karzai's government, but Rabbani's elevation to the post may give further power to the conservative religious camp at the expense of the more liberal forces in the National Assembly.
U.S. says Iraq several years behind Afghanistan
By James Grubel / Fri Nov 18, 1:05 AM ET
ADELAIDE, Australia (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed on Friday growing calls for the United States to start withdrawing forces from Iraq, saying Iraq was several years behind Afghanistan as a secure country.
Rumsfeld said as Iraqi forces took more control of their own security, it would enable U.S. forces to be diverted to other assignments within Iraq.
"What you'll see over the period ahead is that the Iraqi security forces will be handed over responsibility for pieces of real estate, for certain types of missions and assignments," Rumsfeld told reporters after talks with Australian ministers.
"As that happens, the people who were engaged in those activities, they will in many cases assume other assignments and responsibilities, in many cases assisting help to train some additional Irai security forces," said Rumsfeld.
The U.S. Senate on Tuesday resolved that Iraqis should start to take the lead in their own security from next year, to allow a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops. But the Senate rejected a Democrats demand for Republican President George W. Bush to submit a time-table for the troop withdrawal.
The Senate motion came as the Bush administration faces waning domestic public support, and a drop in support for its military presence in Iraq where the United States has almost 160,000 troops.
Rumsfeld launched a spirited defense of the U.S. role in Iraq on Friday, saying Iraq had made enormous progress since Saddam Hussein was driven from power, with elections for a new government due in December after Iraqis drafted and endorsed a new constitution.
"The situation in Iraqi has been improving," Rumsfeld said, adding that there were likely to be further "ugly" incidents.
"They have gone from a country with a repressive dictator who has put hundreds of thousands of human beings in mass graves over decades, a repressive dictatorship that was giving $25,000 rewards to families of suicide bombers."
Rumsfeld compared the situation in Iraq to Afghanistan, where the Taliban was driven from power by a U.S-led military campaign following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
He said Afghanistan went from a country where people were executed in a soccer stadium, where women were unable to see a doctor and were not allowed out without a male family member, to a new democracy with its own security forces.
"Iraq's several years behind them," said Rumsfeld.
Rumsfeld and Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Robert Zoellick were in the South Australian state capital Adelaide for annual defense and security talks with Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defense Minister Robert Hill.
Australia is one of the strongest allies of the Unted States, and has about 1,300 military personnel in and around Iraq, including forces training the Iraqi military, and 450 troops in Iraq's southern Al Muthanna province providing security for Japanese engineers.
About 300 anti-war demonstrators protested outside the talks in Adelaide's City Hall and attempted to disrupt Rumsfeld's motorcade as he left the meeting. Three people were arrested.
In the communique from the talks, the two nations announced their continued commitment to training Iraqi forces and to transferring power to Iraqi forces "as conditions allow."
Insurgents, Warlords and Opium Roil Afghanistan
Report Drafted By: Erich Marquardt PINR (http://www.pinr.com) November 18, 2005
The Afghan insurgency continues to burden U.S., N.A.T.O. and Afghan troops. The Afghan government and the powers that support it have been unable to eliminate the resurgent Taliban and Islamist insurgency that finds its support in the countryside. The insurgents are using methods of guerrilla warfare to target policemen, international workers, and U.S., N.A.T.O. and Afghan troops. The insurgents regularly set up ambushes and then retreat near the end of the ensuing firefight before military reinforcements can be called in. Additionally, insurgents are increasingly using suicide attacks and remote-detonated roadside bombs, apparently learning from the guerrilla tactics used by insurgents in Iraq.
While the United States and its allies in the 2001 Afghan intervention have had notable successes -- most significantly, the removal of the Taliban regime from power and the creation of a new democratic government complete with elections -- they have been unable to stomp out the ongoing insurgency that continues to shake Afghanistan's stability. In addition, they have failed to control the power of the warlords that run different regions of the country. The most significant reason behind these failures is the lack of military support and economic assistance provided to the Afghan government in Kabul.
In the first 11 months of 2005, 87 U.S. troops have been killed in action, a number that makes up almost half of the 186 killed since the 2001 intervention began. In the years since the invasion, the insurgents' tactics have improved, and they are more successful at causing casualties to government and international troops. This was most recently visible on September 25, 2005 when insurgents shot down a U.S. Chinook helicopter in Zabul province, killing five American soldiers. U.S. Lieutenant Colonel Donald Bolduc, whose unit is serving its fourth tour in Afghanistan, commented on the increasing effectiveness of the insurgents, arguing, "The [troops] would tell you that this is a different enemy than they saw before."
Much of the country has stabilized, but the peace remains fragile, and attacks by guerrillas can occur at any time. For instance, when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the country on October 12, 2005, insurgents fired three rockets in downtown Kabul. Afghan policemen seem to be bearing the brunt of the insurgent attacks, and are regularly targeted by Taliban and Islamist fighters. In one instance, also on October 12, 18 policemen were killed in Helmand province. More than 200 police have been killed in 2005.
Only eight days after the Helmand attack, a car bomb detonated near a mosque in the south of the country, killing Nafus Khan, the deputy provincial police chief of Nimroz province. Highlighting the dangers to aid workers, that same day on October 20 an aid worker was killed after being shot by gunmen on motorbikes. Suicide attacks have also been on the rise, with at least 16 incidents in 2005, more than any year since the intervention began and more than double the suicide attack total of 2004; it appears that insurgents are copying tactics used in Iraq.
The latest suicide attacks occurred on November 14 and November 16. In the November 14 incidents, two separate militants rammed car bombs into the vehicles of N.A.T.O. troops in Kabul; the attacks killed a German soldier and a handful of Afghan civilians. In the November 16 incident, a suicide militant rammed an explosive-laden taxi into an American military convoy in Kandahar, killing two Afghan civilians.
Opium and the Warlords
Afghanistan's thriving drug trade is also responsible for much of the country's violence. Fifty percent of the country's G.D.P. comes directly or indirectly from the drug trade, primarily in opium production. The different drug cartels that are involved in production and transportation contribute to the country's violent crime.
The drug trade is made possible by the country's local warlords. The central government in Kabul has been unable to exercise control over the different power factions that control certain parts of the country. While the warlords are not a united grouping, they make it difficult for the central government to extend its authority into all provinces. The warlords themselves do not want to give up power to the central government. Some of these warlords participated in Afghanistan's recent parliamentary elections and many were elected.
The United States and its allies used the warlords and their respective armies to help stabilize Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. Now, the warlords have entrenched their power and, without a significant increase in U.S. or N.A.T.O. troops, cannot be removed from their positions. This makes it impossible for Kabul to gain complete control of the country, meaning that there is little it can do to stop the flourishing drug trade on its own. More troubling, the different centers of power also make it easier for Taliban and Islamist insurgents to move throughout the country and attack international and government troops. [See: "Afghanistan's Transition: Decentralization or Civil War"]
Mild Tension Between Kabul and Washington
Tension remains between Kabul and Washington. The United States military is working to preserve the fragile sense of stability in the country, without actually having to increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground. In its efforts to preserve stability, it often undertakes actions that alienate the Afghan population. The Pentagon's use of air strikes frequently results in civilian casualties, and the U.S. military's practice of searching Afghan homes is extremely unpopular among the country's population.
These practices concern the government of President Hamid Karzai, who wants to ensure that U.S. actions do not buoy the support of the insurgency. In May 2005, for example, Karzai tried to gain more control over military operations in Afghanistan; the United States, however, rejected his request.
Additionally, in September 2005, Karzai tried to establish a policy where the U.S. military had to secure Kabul's approval before executing air strikes and searching homes. The United States again rejected the requests, arguing that a change in policy would hamper its ability to fight the insurgency. There is little that Karzai can do in the face of such rejections since his power is founded upon the support of U.S. and N.A.T.O. troops.
Other U.S. actions have spurred political protests in the country. For instance, earlier in 2005, in response to a report that U.S. operatives at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp had flushed a copy of the Quran down a toilet as part of their interrogation procedures, protests erupted. The May 2005 protests spread to more than ten provinces in Afghanistan, resulting in deaths and injuries as Afghan security forces attempted to quell the riots and demonstrations. [See: "Intelligence Brief: Afghanistan"]
With the October 19, 2005 release of a new video showing U.S. soldiers desecrating the corpses of Taliban fighters, there was fear that protests would erupt once again; major demonstrations, however, have yet to occur. The video, believed to have been shot October 1, 2005 in Gonbaz, in the southern province of Kandahar, was filmed by an Australian media network.
Karzai commented on the desecration incident, saying, "We in Afghanistan, in accordance with our religion and traditions and adherence to international law, are very unhappy and condemn the burning of two Taliban dead bodies." U.S. State Department Scott McCormack also commented on the video, telling reporters on October 20, "These are very serious allegations and, if true, very troublesome." Both the U.S. and Afghan governments have investigated the incidents, but the results of those investigations remain confidential. Indeed, once the results are made public, there is the possibility that it could spark more protests.
The Afghan-Pakistan Border
Karzai continues to express his frustration over the porous Afghan-Pakistan border. Insurgents regularly launch attacks on government targets in Afghanistan, and then escape across the border into Pakistan; there the insurgents often receive protection from the Pashtun tribes in Pakistan's lawless North-West Frontier Province. The Pak-Afghan border is 2400 kilometers (1500 miles) long and is mountainous and rugged, making it extremely difficult to guard or search. It is believed that al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and other senior al-Qaeda figures are hiding in this area. Many of the Pashtun tribes that live in the region do not recognize the border separating Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The United States has been pressuring Pakistan to better patrol the province, but this has proved difficult for Musharraf who faces his own internal legitimacy problems. He has been victim of multiple assassination attempts, and cracking down on the tribes that are situated along the Pak-Afghan border could further erode his legitimacy. Additionally, patrolling the border is difficult simply due to natural geography and the area's traditional autonomy. Hundreds of Pakistani security agents have died while conducting raids on Islamists in this region.
Restructuring of International Troops
Presently, 18,000 U.S. troops are involved in maintaining security and stability in Afghanistan. Additionally, 12,000 members of N.A.T.O. comprise the International Security Assistance Force (I.S.A.F.) and provide security in the north and west of the country, including the capital Kabul.
According to U.S. Marine General James Jones, N.A.T.O.'s supreme allied commander for operations, the N.A.T.O. mission will soon be expanded to the southern provinces, and, in the future, to the entire country. The exact date of when N.A.T.O. will be expanded into southern Afghanistan is still being debated.
The plan calls for German control of the northern provinces, Italian control of the western provinces and the area near Kabul, British troops in the south, the U.S. in the east, and French and Turkish troops also in the north.
The United States hopes that with the expansion of N.A.T.O. to all of Afghanistan it will be able to reduce the burden that the Afghan stability operation is causing to the U.S. military. The American military, currently engaged in stability operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq, is hoping that its allies in these conflicts can commit more troops and lessen the burden on the United States.
However, a reduction in U.S. forces could embolden the insurgency. In the words of retired U.S. General Barry McCaffrey, who visited Afghanistan in August, "N.A.T.O. forces are in most cases going to be thin gruel compared to the U.S. [soldiers] they will replace."
The Afghan government's failure to end the insurgency, to gain more control over the warlords, and to suppress the lucrative drug trade can be explained by the unwillingness of the United States and N.A.T.O. to provide the necessary amount of troops and economic assistance to better stabilize the country. It is necessary for Kabul to gain more control over the warlords in order to have significant results in suppressing the drug trade and to make it more difficult for the Taliban and Islamist insurgency to operate.
Afghanistan remains a side project to Iraq, and the United States is interested in using as few resources as necessary to keep Afghanistan relatively stable. As long as the Afghan insurgency and the power of the warlords do not cause greater instability, the Afghan operation will remain on the backburner unless Iraq stabilizes. However, as long as present conditions continue in Afghanistan, the insurgency will not be defeated and the insurgents will continue to exploit weak points caused by the country's fragmented centers of power.
The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) is an independent organization that utilizes open source intelligence to provide conflict analysis services in the context of international relations. PINR approaches a subject based upon the powers and interests involved, leaving the moral judgments to the reader.
Former CIA director accuses Cheney of overseeing torture in Iraq, Afghanistan
Democrats, White House escalate battle over Iraq; pullout proposed.
Middle East Online (UK) / November 18, 2005
LONDON & WASHINGTON - Admiral Stansfield Turner, a former CIA director, accused US Vice President Dick Cheney of overseeing policies of torturing terrorist suspects and damaging the nation's reputation, in a television interview Thursday.
"We have crossed the line into dangerous territory," Turner, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency in the 1970s, said on ITV news.
"I am embarrassed that the USA has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible. He (Mr Cheney) advocates torture, what else is it? I just don't understand how a man in that position can take such a stance."
US President George Bush and other leading members of his administration have consistently denied that detainees suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda were tortured for information.
But his opponents and human rights campaigners have claimed that many men taken captive in Iraq and Afghanistan by US forces have been subjected to torture in order to extract information.
The new accusations come as Democrats and the White House traded fresh salvos over US Iraq policy Thursday, as a top Democratic lawmaker introduced a bill demanding an immediate withdrawal of US troops there.
Representative John Murtha's bill, the first to demand an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, represents yet another marker in rapidly eroding support on Capitol Hill for the war.
The veteran US lawmaker said that the US military operation in Iraq is a lost cause.
"Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the US cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily," said Murtha, a Vietnam War veteran considered to be more hawkish than most members of his party.
"It's time to bring them home," Murtha said.
His resolution comes two days after the Senate approved a Republican measure requiring the White House provide quarterly updates on the pace of military and policy gains in Iraq, in a signal that anxiety over how the Iraq operation is proceeding is spreading to members of Bush's own party.
Recent opinion polls have found that the US public is also increasingly war-weary, with the number of US military deaths now well over 2,000, and the billions of US dollars spent there mounting every week.
Partisan sparring reached new levels after Cheney on Wednesday called Democrats' accusations that the administration misled the country into the Iraq war "reprehensible" and "pernicious".
His remarks followed at least two broadsides against Democrats by President George W. Bush since Friday.
While Republicans accuse Democrats of seeking to "cut and run" or even planning "surrender," against an entrenched insurgency, Murtha insisted Thursday that the presence of US troops was actually "impeding" progress in Iraq.
"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency," he said. "We have become a catalyst for violence."
His resolution introduced in the House of Representatives says the United States should in the future "pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy".
"The deployment of US forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and the forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date," the text says.
It also calls for the deployment of a "quick reaction US force" in the region.
Later Thursday, a phalanx of more than a dozen Senate Democrats held a news conference and accused the Bush administration of using the Iraq issue for partisan political gain.
"The American people don't care about whether the White House is losing another political war; they care about whether America is winning the war in Iraq so we can bring our troops home," said Democratic Senator Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, on a trip to South Korea for an Asia-Pacific summit, Bush again fired back at his critics.
"I expect there to be criticism, but when Democrats say that I deliberately misled the Congress and the people, that's irresponsible," the president said after talks with South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun.
Senior administration officials also lambasted Democrats who claim Bush hyped the case for war with Iraq, and again rejected calls for a specific timetable for withdrawing US troops from Iraq, saying that would play into the hands of insurgents and terrorists.
"The threat was real -- and in Iraq, as terrorists try to chase us out, it remains real," said Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee in a speech Thursday, as he accused Democrats of seeking to score "political points" on the issue.
"Democrats were in favor of the war when it looked easy and when popular opinion was behind them," said Mehlman, who charged the Democrats with political opportunism ahead of next year's congressional elections.
"When confronted with challenges, instead of offering a solution for victory, they attack the president and hope to pick up seats in 2006," he said.
"Are the Democrat attacks designed to help us win the war on terror -- or help them win the next election?" said Mehlman.
Afghanistan concerned over Pak-support to terrorism
UNI / New Delhi, November 18, 2005
Afghanistan's National Security Advisor Dr Zalmai Rassoul today expressed concern at the support to terrorism from Pakistan and said the two countries' top leaders were discussing the matter.
"The main issue is support to terrorism from across the border and we are discussing it at a very high level, at the President to President level, he told UNI after addressing the HT Leadership Summit here this afternoon.
Hoping for better cooperation from Pakistan in curbing terrorism in the region, the Afghan NSA said, however, there was no need for more forces to control the situation in Afghanistan and the recent elections had proved Afghan people's faith in democracy.
"Taliban as a military force has been defeated..." he said but acknowledged that trouble is only in areas along the border with Pakistan.
Dr Rassoul also admitted that the 30,000 Afghan National Army was not yet fully ready to take the responsibility of Afghan security.
He sought India's support in rebuilding and reconstruction of Afghanistan and addeed that India was alraedy extending a lot of assistance.
Afghanistan had also chosen India's model of democracy as the basis of its democracy. "Indian experience is vital for Afghanistan."
"The most important thing is that Afghan people have accepted the concept of democracy and we are optimistic about a qualitative change in Afghan life," he added.
Dr Rassoul rejected the assertion of Taliban resurgence saying Afghan people were basically tolerant and moderate. They had rejected religious fundamentalism. Even some leaders, owing allegiance to the Taliban, had contested the recent elections and had been defeated.
via Hindustan Times
Portuguese killed in Afghan blast
BBC News / Friday, 18 November 2005
A Portuguese soldier was killed and three more wounded when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device east of the capital, Kabul, on Friday.
The fatality was the first suffered by Portugal, which has about 200 troops in the international peacekeeping force.
The incident occurred when two vehicles were patrolling in Bagram district. A spokesman for the Isaf peacekeepers said the blast was probably a landmine.
There are about 10,000 Isaf troops and 20,000 US-led forces in the country.
The incident comes days after the Portuguese defence minister, Luis Amado, said Lisbon would reduce its peacekeeping contingent next year.
Portuguese Armed Forces Chief Jose Mendes Cabecadas identified the dead soldier as Sgt Joao Pereira.
Lt-Col Riccardo Cristoni, of Isaf, said one of the wounded soldiers was in a serious condition.
The Portuguese troops are responsible for security around Kabul airport.
Although a landmine was suspected, Isaf said it was too early to be certain and an investigation was under way.
More than 1,400 people have been killed in violence linked to militants in Afghanistan this year - the worst violence the country has seen since US-led forces ousted the Taleban in late 2001.
Most of the violence has been in the south and east of the country.
Afghan and CJTF76 forces attack north of Kandahar
November 18, 2005
Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Afghan and U.S. forces conducted offensive operations north of Kandahar today, engaging 10 to 15 enemy forces with small arms and attack helicopters.
During these operations, Afghan and U.S. forces came across an estimated 10 to 15 enemy personnel positioned near a ridgeline. These forces opened fire with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenades on the Afghan and U.S. patrol. Afghan and U.S. forces returned fire and called nearby attack helicopters forcing the enemy forces to flee.
A battle damage assessment of the attack is ongoing
“Make no mistake, Afghan and U.S. forces are continuing to hammer the enemies of this nation,” Lt. Col. Jerry O’hara, Combined Joint Task Force 76 spokesperson said. “We are bringing the fight to them at every turn, aggressively searching them out wherever they are hiding.”
There were no Afghan or U.S. forces injured in the attack.
Afghanistan Not Only About Bombs And Blasts, Says Envoy
By R. Ravichandran
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 18 (Bernama, Malaysia) -- Afghanistan is struggling to come out of its troubled past and the new government is slowly making progress but the world is continuing to be fed with stories about war in the country, its ambassador to Malaysia, M.Y. Farman, said.
He said the rebuilding process in the country, once ruined by prolonged war, had been going on very rapidly but did not get the attention of the international media.
"All the news about bombs and blasts...Taliban attacks but not much on achievements," he said in an interview with Bernama prior to the Sixth Conference of the Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries (Cominac VI) here.
The four-day conference at the Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel begins tomorrow with the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM).
Afghanistan will be represented by its Deputy Minister of Information, S. Agha Sancharanki.
Farman accused the international press of amplifying the magnitude of the war which is already history and neglecting to inform the world of the positive developments in country once ruled by the hardline Talibans.
Such positive reporting, he said, was vital to boost the country's confidence and improve its image in the eyes of the world.
Farman said that since the ouster of the Taliban, various positive developments had taken place, especially on the political scene, with the holding of elections and other steps towards democratisation.
He said Afghanistan, under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai, was implementing various programmes especially in the field of education to give all sections of the society the opportunity to go to school.
Women were once banned from attending school and there was limited access to information during the Talibans' rule.
Afghanistan Eyes Accession to Wto in Two Years
KABUL, Nov 18 [Asia Pulse] - Afghanistan has launched efforts for the accession process to the World Trade Organization (WTO), hoping it will enter the international body in two years.
Hidayat Amin Arsala, Afghan minister of commerce and advisor to President Hamid Karzai, Wednesday told a conference attended by representatives of several ministries, United Nations' relevant agencies and other organizations concerned the membership would significantly boost Afghanistan's trade with the rest of the world.
Currently, Afghanistan has observer status in the WTO, whose secretary general said in a message sent to the conference read out by Afghan ambassador in Geneva Dr Assad Omar he supported the war-torn country's bid for the membership of the body.
The membership will facilitate Afghanistan's quest for finding a market for its products, with the landlocked country entering WTO agreements providing for lower custom tariffs on trade among member nations.
A statement from the Commerce Ministry said: "Today marks a milestone in Afghanistans integration into the world economy and the multilateral trading system. This process of accession to the WTO is consistent with, and reinforces, the national agenda with regard to the ongoing economic and trade policy reform in the country." It added: "Afghanistan will benefit from WTO membership through enhanced exports of goods and services to the world market. Accession will also benefit Afghan consumers through greater domestic markets and more competitively priced imports."
A more predictable and transparent trading and investment regime, the statement continued, would encourage greater investment in Afghanistan, bringing a higher level of income and standards of living to the Afghan people.
Hamidullah Farooqi, economic researcher and analyst based in Kabul, said Afghanistan still had rules and conditions in conflict with WTO requirements. "We have to bring many changes to our trade laws in order to be able to join WTO," Farooqi stressed.
Although it takes years for a country to join the organization, Arsala hoped Afghanistan would meet the requirements sooner rather than later.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Kandahar Ready To Export Over 1,260 Tons Of Fruits
KANDAHAR CITY, Nov 18 [Asia Pulse] - Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province is all poised to export more than 1,260 tons of fresh and dry fruits to a number of countries in the next few days, officials said on Thursday.
Haji Farid Ahmad, an official of the Kandahar chapter of Afghanistan's International Chamber of Commerce (AICC), told Pajhwok Afghan News 603 tons of pomegranates and 663 tons of dry fruits were ready for export to Pakistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Bangladesh.
Afghanistan's fruits were in great demand in those countries, he observed, hoping the exports would considerably surge in the near future. "The huge yield reaped by farmers has encouraged us a great deal, and their export will lend a big boost to the national economy." Residents and growers of the province, meanwhile, voiced full satisfaction with the AICC efforts at finding the fruits international markets. "The financial position of our farmers will improve pretty soon if the fruit exports continue," remarked Haji Mohammad Esa, a grower from Arghandab district.
On September 16, AICC's chief for the Kandahar chapter Dr. Abdul Razaq Rafiqi said Afghanistan had inked accords with Malaysia and Japan on the export of 7,500 tons of pomegranates.
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
Miss Afghanistan dreams big for women in her land
Source: NewKerala.com / November 18, 2005, IANS
By Prashant K. Nanda, New Delhi
She has been banned from entering her native land, but that doesn't stop Miss Afghanistan Vida Samadzai from dreaming big for the women of her country or for herself.
Vida, the first Afghan woman in three decades to participate in a beauty contest, says her entry into the fashion world amid social stigma was a Herculean task.
"Life for me is not that easy after my entry into the world of fashion and I am still going through that mental torture," a smiling Vida, 25, told IANS on the sidelines of a fashion show aimed at creating awareness about AIDS.
"I love my country, people, culture and Islam, but would like to pursue my dream without any hindrance," said the Afghan beauty, who was condemned in her homeland for walking the ramp in a red bikini.
Vida, who was educated in California, US, has been banned from entering Afghanistan. She could face prosecution if she returns to her native land because of her attire at the Miss Earth contest 2003 in Manila.
But she said: "Come what may, one must pursue his or her dreams. Obstacles will obstruct but one must not stop till achieving something deserving."
Vida, who would love to return to Afghanistan, wants her country to be economically stable and all women there to get educated.
"My country is slowly recovering from the ruins and the financial condition is also improving. But I would be happy to see all women get a good education."
She is currently in India along with reigning Miss Universe Natalie Glebova to participate in a number of fashion shows to create awareness about AIDS.
Though she did not qualify for the semi-final of the 2003 beauty pageant, she was given the "beauty for a cause" award for symbolising newfound confidence and courage. She was also hailed for "representing the victory of women's rights and various social, personal and religious struggles".
Describing her visit to India, Vida, who can speak Hindi with an American accent, was full of praise for the country.
"I love India and you really look gracious in a sari. The monuments, jewellery and food here are too good to resist.
"From now onwards, I would like to tell others about the hospitality and the wonderful experience in India," said the woman who wants to visit the Taj Mahal before she leaves India. She is in India for eight more days.
Speaking about her association with AIDS awareness, she said as a human being she would like to do good to the human civilisation in whatever way possible. "No matter if it is possible through a fashion show."
"In India, there are over five million HIV positive people and awareness should be raised to fight the disease."
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