Four Afghan policemen abducted
Saturday, 26 November 2005, 11:16 GMT BBC News
Militants in Afghanistan have abducted four policemen after an attack on a police station in Logar province, just south of Kabul, officials say.
No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Logar's deputy police chief Abdul Rasoul told the BBC that the Taleban were behind the attack.
But an intelligence official accused Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e Islami group of carrying out the attack.
Logar is thought to be a stronghold of the Hezb-e-Islami.
Eyewitnesses told the BBC that a gun battle involving machine-gun fire continued for nearly an hour.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is a former mujahideen leader, who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
He fled Kabul when the Taleban came to power in 1996, but is now reported to be engaged in the struggle against US- and Nato-led forces in Afghanistan.
In a separate incident, a Swedish soldier had died as a result of injuries caused by a roadside bomb blast in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Friday.
Another soldier is in a "very serious" condition, the Swedish Armed Forces said in a statement. Two other soldiers were injured in the explosion.
There are about 100 Swedish troops in the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan.
More than 1,200 people have been killed in violence linked to militancy in Afghanistan this year.
Swedish soldier dies after Afghan bomb attack
Fri Nov 25, 8:30 PM ET
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A Swedish soldier with the NATO-led mission in northern Afghanistan died after a bomb attack on Friday, the first Swedish peacekeeper to be killed in the country.
The Swedish Defense Ministry said the man was one of four wounded when a remote-controlled bomb struck one vehicle in a convoy of five driving back from a sports event on the outskirts of the city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
A mine planted during the sports event caused the blast, an Afghan police spokesman said.
"It is with deep sorrow that I have to announce that a Swedish soldier has fallen in the line of duty while on foreign service," the commander of the Swedish armed forces, Hakan Syren, said in a statement on Saturday.
"My thoughts and those of the Defense Forces go out now to the soldier's relatives," he added.
Three ISAF soldiers have been killed in separate incidents during the past month, including a suicide attack in Kabul. One British peacekeeper was killed and several ISAF soldiers hurt when gunmen fired on their vehicle inside Mazar city last month.
About 9,000 ISAF soldiers are in Afghanistan, charged with keeping the peace after U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. A separate U.S.-led force of about 20,000 is hunting the Taliban and their Islamist allies, such as al Qaeda.
The Swedish soldier died in a hospital in Kabul. One of the other wounded troops remained in a serious condition, the army said. The two other soldiers, one of whose injuries was light, were being treated in a hospital in Termez in Uzbekistan.
It said the Afghan police had detained six people in connection with the explosion.
It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack but suspicion fell on Taliban guerrillas.
Taliban attacks on ISAF troops, stationed mostly in the capital and relatively secure parts of north and western Afghanistan, have been rare compared to those targeting U.S.-led troops in the restive south and east.
Friday's incident comes amid rising attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan where the militants are most active.
More than 1,100 people have been killed in militant-related violence in Afghanistan this year. Most were militants but the dead include nearly 60 U.S. soldiers.
Security fears emerge as NATO readies Afghan push
By Mark John
BRUSSELS, Nov 25 (Reuters) - NATO allies are in intensive talks to allay security concerns among nations key to a plan to expand peacekeeping in Afghanistan amid growing violence there, alliance sources said on Friday.
The Netherlands, one of three nations earmarked to lead the expansion into the more dangerous southern region in the first half of next year, has raised questions over whether NATO will have sufficient forces to handle serious trouble, they said.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is due on Monday to meet New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who insists she will not transfer to NATO a 120-strong reconstruction team in Bamiyan province unless the alliance guarantees robust support.
"The Dutch want reassurance. If things go wrong, they want to be sure that there are others out there who can help them," said one NATO source who requested anonymity.
"The Dutch are in daily contact with allies and we shall see how this goes," said a NATO official. "The secretary-general is fully aware of the discussion taking place in the Netherlands."
A spokesman said Dutch Defence Minister Henk Kamp was still weighing up security and other considerations. A decision to deploy 1,100 Dutch troops to southern Afghanistan would require parliamentary approval, he added.
The NATO-led ISAF mission currently has some 9,000 troops in the capital Kabul and the relatively calm north and west. The move to the south will raise troop numbers to 15,000 and allow the U.S.-led coalition to cut the size of its force there.
Britain, Canada and the Netherlands have expressed a desire to share the lead in the expansion. Aside from New Zealand, there are also talks with non-NATO nations including Australia.
Recent weeks have seen a rise in violence, including attacks aimed at ISAF troops and evidence that Taliban insurgents are resorting to suicide bomb attacks in their campaign to drive foreign troops out of the country.
Four Spanish ISAF soldiers were wounded on Friday when a mine blast hit their convoy on the outskirts of the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack but suspicion fell on Taliban guerrillas.
NATO officials are relatively happy with the response to an initial call for nations to contribute more troops and materiel to the ISAF force but acknowledge they still face shortages of helicopters and other key equipment.
Clark is expected to stress to de Hoop Scheffer next week that NATO must provide New Zealand's reconstruction team with the same level of air support and other back-up that it now gets from the U.S.-led coalition.
"The details will have to be worked out with New Zealand ... There will be air assets to provide close air support and other support," said a NATO official.
"NATO has no intention of sending troops anywhere with one arm tied behind their back," he added of a revamped operational plan for the ISAF mission which allows soldiers more leeway in dealing with attacks.
Although security concerns are to the fore, the Netherlands also wants assurances on how NATO will handle prisoners after reports that a suspected CIA plane, possibly carrying prisoners for interrogation, used Amsterdam's Schiphol airport last week.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot told reporters late on Thursday there should be clear agreement with Afghan authorities on how ISAF would deal with any prisoners it takes.
Tens of thousands attend funeral of Indian hostage
Fri Nov 25,12:58 PM ET
CHINGOLI, India (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people crammed into this southern Indian village for the cremation of an Indian driver killed in Afghanistan by suspected Taliban rebels.
The dead man's eight-year-old son lit his funeral pyre, according to Hindu custom, which dictates that the oldest son perform a parent's last rites.
Ministers and local politicians also attended the funeral, which was marked by a gun salute by state police.
From early afternoon onwards, relatives and friends massed outside the two-room coconut-shaded home of Maniyappan Raman Kutty, 35, whose body was brought on Friday to his home village of Chingoli in a remote part of Kerala state.
"We've come to share their grief. I loved him like a brother," said villager Dileep Chellappan amid mounting anger among locals about what they saw as lack of effort by the government to save Kutty's life.
Thousands more people had lined the road into the village to greet the coffin, which was transported 125 kilometers (75 miles) by road from Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Kutty was working as a driver on a road project in southwestern Afghanistan being built by the Indian government's Border Roads Organisation when he was abducted last weekend.
His body was found Wednesday, dumped on a roadside. His throat had been cut,
"My son is gone, my son is gone," wailed his mother, a 62-year-old cancer patient. "Who will light my funeral pyre?"
The coffin was flown to Kerala's capital from New Delhi where it was received with military honours at the airport late Thursday.
Photographs of Kutty plastered walls throughout the farming village.
Amid the sadness, a mood of anger was building in the village as some said they did not believe the government made enough effort to win Kutty's release.
"My nephew could have been saved if they'd tried to negotiate. They didn't try hard enough," said the victim's uncle, Raman Kutty Vishwan. "We're angry with the way the Indian government dealt with this."
"If the Taliban had abducted a senior official or minister's kin, the government would have acted more responsibly," said neighbour K. Ajayakumar. "Because we are very poor...they dealt with things in a casual manner."
Kutty was one of thousands of Indians who travel abroad to earn money -- often in risky work.
The fundamentalist Taliban regime, ousted by US-led forces in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for the killing. A man identifying himself as a Taliban spokesman had said there had been no response to a demand that Kutty's employer leave Afghanistan.
"The government should have sent some people to Kabul to start discussions with the Taliban militia and he would have been saved," said Ashok Kumar Uthaman, a schoolmate of Kutty.
India has called the killing a "cowardly and brutal murder of a brave Indian ... working in the cause of peace and development" and said it reflected the "inhuman character of the Taliban and the forces they represent".
The official use of that phrase -- "the Taliban and the forces they represent" -- has triggered speculation in the Indian media that New Delhi is pointing a finger at rival Pakistan, which had close ties with the Taliban.
New Delhi has been trying to win back its foothold in Afghanistan after losing out to Pakistan in the 1990s.
Pakistan, the Taliban's key supporter until Islamabad backed the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, has been ill at ease about deepening Indian relations with Afghanistan.
India, which shares historic cultural ties with Afghanistan, has said the killing will not affect its efforts to rebuild the war-ravaged country.
Indian road builder seeks better security in Afghanistan
NEW DELHI, Nov. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- India's Border Road Organization (BRO), building a strategic highway from Afghanistan to Iran, has asked the government to strengthen security for its 290 employees in Afghanistan after one of them was killed by Taliban.
"We have asked the External Affairs Ministry to take steps to provide security for our staff," said Col. Hemant Bharadwaj of BRO quoted by Indo-Asian News Service Thursday.
BRO employee Maniyappan Raman Kutty was kidnapped by Taliban inthe southwest of Afghanistan on Nov. 19 and his body was found Wednesday.
"The ministry has assured us that they have already started discussions with Afghan officials and necessary steps would be taken," Bharadwaj said.
The road contractor, under the Indian Ministry of Defense, is engaged in building the 219-km highway from Delaram in Afghanistan to the Iranian border town of Zaranj.
Taliban militants have asked the BRO to retreat from Afghanistan within 48 hours after Kutty was kidnapped. Later its spokesman told Afghan media that the hostage was killed because BRO made no response to its request.
Taliban militants kidnapped two Indians working for a private contractor in Afghanistan in December 2003 but released them unharmed after 19 days.
The Indian government has provided over 80 million US dollars for the highway project while offering a total assistance of 550 million US dollars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
With a total 35,000 personnel, BRO has been involved in building roads in Indian border areas since it was found in 1960. It has worked for a network of roads in India-controlled Kashmir and northeastern India.
Ghazni farmers make profits from potatoes instead of poppy
November 25, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Afghan farmers in Ghazni are finding it pays to grow potatoes instead of poppies after they recently received 400,000 Afghan dollars from the Coalition Humanitarian Assistance Department.
The Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team met within the past month with the Minister of Agriculture Sultan Hussein to deliver the equivalent of about $8,240 U.S. dollars to farmers who chose to grow potatoes instead of the poppies.
The project was coordinated by the Ghazni Ministry of Agriculture who personally distributed the profits from the sale to representatives from each of the three farmers’ co-ops.
“The program is very successful,” said Lt. Col. Robert Meier, Ghazni provincial reconstruction team commander. “We were able to take care of farmers and to distribute food to returnees coming from Pakistan and Pakistan earthquake victims.”
The farmer cooperatives, or co-ops, participated in the Great Ghazni Potato Project. The program aims to deter Afghan farmers from poppy cultivation, and toward developing a more viable and legal source of agricultural commodity.
The co-op represents 21 local Ghazni Province farmers who had an over abundance of potatoes for their local markets and were paid the fair market value price for the 40,000 kilograms of potatoes. In the Coalition’s effort to assist Afghans in the transition from poppy to a more viable agricultural crop, CHAD purchased the potatoes to distribute humanitarian assistance food to returnees in the Asadabad, Jalalabad and Parwan districts.
It’s a “win-win” situation for both the farmers and the government of Afghanistan said Meier.
Russia vows to crackdown on drug trafficking from Afghanistan
MOSCOW. Nov 25 (Interfax) - Russian special services will step up measures to counter the flow of heroin from Afghanistan that has intensified after Russia handed over control of the Afghan border to Tajikistan earlier this year, Russian Federal Drug Control Service director Viktor Cherkesov told Interfax on Friday.
"We feel that the drug flow has significantly increased. Big hauls of high-quality heroin have been intercepted in Russia recently," Cherkesov said.
The fight against drug trafficking was more successful when Russian border guards patrolled the Tajik-Afghan border, the official said. "It was a reliable border shield that helped us contain the flow of opium- group drugs from Afghanistan to Russia," he said.
Telling Tale of Afghan Wars by Any Means Necessary
By MARGO JEFFERSON November 26, 2005 The New York Times
What do we want from political theater, the kind that lays bare the social realities we are shielded - or shield ourselves - from?
For starters, we want these sometimes awful, alien realities to have force, to be as tangible to us as our everyday lives. And by force I don't mean brute power: blood and screams of anguish, brandished rifles and carefully simulated rapes; I mean power that continues after the play is over. Not just images that haunt us, but also sounds and words that prompt us to think more, learn more and take action.
How to make vital political theater is hardly a new question. Playwrights, directors and performers everywhere have used satire, fable, melodrama, propaganda, puppet theater, epic theater, carnivals and performance art. Still, seeing "Beyond the Mirror," at Theater for the New City through Dec. 4, reminds us how urgent a question it is.
The first collaboration between an Afghan and an American theater company, it has a quiet authority, even delicacy, that is truly powerful.
The project began in Pakistan's refugee camps shortly after 9/11, when members of Bond Street Theater met a group of Afghan actors who called themselves the Exile Theater. The next year, the Bond Street company, led by its director, Joanna Sherman, went to Kabul. There, along with two million other returning Afghans, the Exile troupe started over.
The entire country had been devastated by war. The Soviets invaded in 1979; then came the Mujahadeen resistance and factional wars, leading to the rise of the Taliban, which banned all the arts, including theater; in 2001 came the United States invasion. That same year, the theatrical collaboration began. First, Exile's director, Mahmoud Shah Salimi, created a nonverbal scenario about the quarter-century of war. Then came rehearsals that melded various traditions: what Ms. Sherman called, in American Theater magazine, "an exciting mix of music, dance, martial arts, mime, acrobatics, any way we can communicate our tale without words." And in a radical move, a woman joined the all-male Exile troupe; women's experiences became a central part of this war story.
The result is theater with restrained mime and abstracted imagery. Two puppet heads twist on sticks. We don't see a literal hanging; we have to imagine it. As in a nightmare, the details become very exact and intimate. Props are nonliteral, too. Sticks with ropes attached serve as rifles (and every other kind of brute-force weapon). A small blue puppet becomes a child gurgling happily as it crawls towards a land mine. Short scenes show normal life being interrupted or destroyed, or remade so that brutality becomes ordinary. After all, killing a man for a sack you believe contains food can be normal behavior if you are starving.
"Beyond the Mirror" has eight actors (four American, four Afghani) and one musician. And the theater is small, so you do not have the luxury of physical distance.
A robed man sits onstage, playing long melodies on the ruhab, an elegant, short-necked lute with roots in the eighth century. The most literal images appear and disappear on a screen (really a cloth stretched across the back wall of the stage). Here are tanks and machine guns. Here is the lavish greenery of the countryside and austere snow-capped mountains; a white-gold sun, in a beige sky; a camel with a load of hay on its back that looks like a cloud. People too, in cars and on bicycles, or cooking in markets and crouching in muddy streets.
In a 1972 essay called "Photographs of Agony," the critic and novelist John Berger wrote that images of literal and explicit horror exist apart from our lives. They create a discontinuity that we may feel as moral inadequacy, and that sense of inadequacy, he says, numbs us.
We're all too familiar with it.
This applies to theater too. "Beyond the Mirror" takes us beyond the obviously horrific. That is when we start to mistrust the apparent safety and privilege of our own lives.
Iranian VP Saeedlou, Afghan FM confer
Saturday, November 26, 2005 IranMania.com
LONDON, November 26 (IranMania) - Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah conferred with Vice President for Executive Affairs Ali Saeedlou, said IRNA.
During the meeting Saeedlou emphasized the need for further strengthening bilateral ties, particularly in economic areas.
According to the Presidential Bureau Media Department, Saeedlou said ?establishment of security in Afghanistan? and boosting stability are the two main prerequisites for Afghan development, IRNA reported.
?The Islamic Republic of Iran attaches great importance to establishment of a strong government in Afghanistan and restoration of lasting security there, and supports all efforts to this end.?
Referring to satisfactory cooperation between the two neighbors, the vice president emphasized, ?Such cooperation would definitely continue, particularly in relation to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.?
To help accelerate the process of reconstruction in the war-ravaged country it is necessary to give bigger roles to both countries? private sectors, he said, IRNA added.
Abdullah appreciated support and economic assistance from the Islamic Republic to his nation and government both during their long struggle to liberate their country and in the course of post-war reconstruction.
He also called for further expansion of two-way relations and augmenting cooperation during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?s tenure, IRNA noted.
Uzbekistan: NATO ban will not impact on Afghan operations
KABUL, 25 November (IRIN) - A decision by Uzbekistan to no longer allow European North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members to use its territory or airspace, would not have an impact on the work of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - currently led by NATO - in neighbouring Afghanistan, an ISAF official said on Thursday.
"It is not envisaged that this will affect ISAF's mission which indeed is set to expand to provide security assistance to the Afghan government throughout the south in 2006 and eventually the whole of the country," Maj Andrew Elmes, ISAF spokesman in Kabul, said.
Uzbekistan told the European members of NATO that it would no longer allow them to use its airspace or territory as a rear base for their peacekeeping operations in neighbouring Afghanistan, NATO officials said on Wednesday.
The ban will take effect from 1 January and it is being viewed as a response to an EU decision to impose visa bans on 12 top Uzbek officials and an arms embargo on Uzbekistan, following the mass killings in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan in May.
Uzbek security forces were involved in the quelling of a rebellion in the city in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed. The Uzbek authorities, however, put the number at 187 and said they were mostly "foreign-paid terrorists".
"Countries contributing to ISAF use a number of bases in the country and the region, including Dushanbe [in Tajikistan], Dubai [in UAE] and airports within Afghanistan and it is trusted that this will allow the continuation of their support to their troops and bases, be it in Kabul or the ISAF provincial reconstruction teams around the north and west.
The decision is most likely to affect Germany which uses a Uzbek base to provide backup for the troops in Afghanistan.
Germany is seeking alternative sites for an airbase it currently operates in Uzbekistan as a staging post for its forces flying to and from Afghanistan, an official said in Berlin on Thursday.
German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said talks were also going on with NATO about alternative sites.
Tashkent ordered US troops to leave the air base built at its southwestern Khanabad Airport after Washington condemned the May crackdown.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Thursday that Moscow had no plans to take over the Khanabad base vacated by US troops this week.
"We have no plans on this account," the Interfax news agency quoted Ivanov as saying on a visit to the Russian city of Perm in the Urals.
Russia has "an airbase at Kant, which is developing and we don't need new bases," he said, referring to a Russian installation in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, which neighbours Uzbekistan. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbek leader Islam Karimov signed an alliance treaty providing for mutual assistance in case of aggression.
Tourism Key to Afghanistan’s Future
By Adam Dean The Seoul Times, South Korea
Afghanistan may not seem like the most obvious tourist destination, but as the country navigates itself through the winding path towards stability and democracy, tourism will be key to its economic development and help Afghanistan break away from its reliance on foreign aid and poppy production.
Although Afghanistan's reputation in the West may still be of a country blighted by war and conflict, with a history of medieval regimes, tribal law and for being the source of the majority of heroin found on the streets of London and New York, it actually had a relatively successful tourist industry in the 70's when Kabul was very much part of the "hippy trail."
Since then the country famously slipped into civil war following the successful repulsion of the invading Soviet Army by the Mujahedin. The result was a power struggle that saw horrific infighting amongst the warlords competing for control of the country and specifically Kabul. These warlords, formally united against their common Soviet enemy and supported by the West, ended up fighting brutal and bloody battles in the streets of Kabul, causing devastation and huge death tolls. Ironically it was as a consequence of this that the Taliban formed and seized power in an attempt to purify the country with their own brand of Islamic Sharia law.
The first generation of international backpackers, setting the blueprint for millions of gap year students and making million dollar industries for the likes of Lonely Planet and Rough Guide publishing houses, were lured by the promise of eastern philosophy, cheap living, and even cheaper hashish, and made the overland trip from London to Kathmandu through Europe, Turkey, and Iran before crossing into Afghanistan and then on to Pakistan, India and Nepal.
In Afghanistan they would cross the country taking in Herat, Mazaar-e-Sharif, or Kandahaar on their way to Kabul and Bamiyan.
Kabul was an almost unimaginably different city in those days. Afghan women walked the streets in mini skirts, western films played in the cinemas, locals mixed with Westerners, eating and drinking in open air restaurants and dancing together in nightclubs. Things soon changed and the modern image of Afghanistan was born, where women walk the streets ten paces behind their husbands covered from head to toe in burkas, music and TV are banned, and the only westerners on show are the aid workers and journalists foolish enough to stay behind.
Things have certainly improved since the 2002 invasion although the majority of women still wear burkas, music and TV are no longer banned, and there are more Western aid workers, contractors, and soldiers of the NATO led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) patrolling the city.
However, the country is still not regarded as safe. The British Foreign Office and the US State Department still "strongly advise (against) all but non essential travel" and only last week three people were killed, including a German peace keeper, by suicide car bombers in Kabul. In short, foreigners are still a target. Commentators were concerned that the recent elections would see a resurgence in violence from Taliban and al Qaeda sympathisers trying to destabilize the democratic process. There were pockets of activity but not enough to deter the Afghan people from turning out in force for their first opportunity to vote for their own government in over 30 years.
Although all is not rosy in Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai recently questioned America's approach and policy in the country, the Afghan people's response to the elections and democracy has been a positive sign for all parties and particularly the American foreign policy and military planners who no doubt wish things were going as well in Iraq.
It is obviously hoped that with democracy will come stability and safety, and it is then that tourism in Afghanistan will be given an opportunity to flourish.
"Afghanistan is one of the least developed countries in the world. The political instability and war in the last two and half decades left this country in ruin. Afghanistan is an agricultural country (with) a bargain of natural resources," said Seoul's Afghanistan Ambassador Nabil Malek-Asghar. "In order to develop other sectors of the community, tourism plays a major role."
The country has some of the world's most outstanding natural beauty and historical sites that equal any country: from the Buddhist sites of Bamiyan to the Mazar-e-Sharif Shrine. This, along with the legendary Afghan hospitality, suggests that success and income through tourism are inevitable.
The 10-storey high Buddhas of Bamiyan carved into the rock face on the edge of the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan are infamous for being blown up by the Taliban in 2000. There has been ongoing discussion about the fate of the site since the Americans removed the Taliban from power in 2001, including rumours of UNESCO grants to rebuild the statues and the most recent suggestion that a famous Japanese artist recreate the Buddhas in a laser light display.
Whatever they choose to do, Bamiyan will become a major international tourist attraction in its own right. It not only has unique religious heritage but it is also situated in one of the most beautiful 100 km long, green, sweeping valleys in an untouched landscape. Close by are the high altitude azure lakes of Band-e-Amir, which will ensure that Bamiyan is the first stop on any tour itinerary from Kabul when they finally get the new road built.
The United Nations co-ordinator of the aid effort in Bamiyan, Peter Maxwell, also says that tourism will play a major role in bringing money to the region.
"What I hope very much is that Bamiyan as a cultural centre will actually be starting to come on stream [with its] Buddha sites and the Band-e-Amir lakes and other world-class attractions," he said.
"That brings us on to the four or five year spectrum, where I think you really will see good roads, lots of tourists - that will mean that Bamiyan is where it deserves to be, a major and worldwide attraction, which will have quite transformed economic prospects for this area."
Although Bamiyan is undoubtedly a potential World Heritage Site, Afghanistan has plenty more to offer.
As part of the ancient Silk Road and more recently the "hippy trail," Kabul city itself is a lure for many travellers. Although ravaged by war, its ancient bazaars, street traders, and mosques are truly captivating. The main focus of tourism in the city is Chicken Street. Popular in the 60s, the street is lined with handicraft shops selling everything from lapis lazuli and carpets to Herati glass and Uzbek embroidery.
They even sell traditional handmade carpets commemorating the American invasion and depicting B-52s dropping bombs on the mountains of the Hindu Kush. The return of foreign aid workers and journalists has seen a long awaited revival in fortunes for the traders of Chicken Street.
Northeast of Kabul lie the Hindu Kush mountains famed for their cave complex hideout where Osama bin Laden was last known to have been and where the Americans' subsequent bombing campaign at Tora Bora failed to flush him out.
Earlier this year a team of Italian mountaineers, Mountain Wilderness, started training former war lords and Mujuhadeen fighters, who have spent their lives in the mountains, how to become qualified mountain guides in anticipation of an influx of adventure tourists and particularly climbers.
The peaks have been inaccessible for the past thirty years, so they predict great interest from mountaineers the world over vying to make first assents on some of the highest faces and peaks in the world. The former freedom fighters will be replacing their Kalashnikovs with ice axes and taking advantage of this lucrative opportunity.
These are just a few examples of some of the tourist opportunities for Afghanistan, not to mention the plethora of Mosques and Shrines that litter the vast country.
Afghanistan is still a long way from mass tourism, but as stability and safety continue to improve, the more adventurous independent travellers will start to dip their toes into this seemingly uncharted land. The unstoppable wheel of tourism will soon start to roll as greater numbers follow in the footsteps of these more intrepid travellers, and we may see a repeat of what is happening in Cambodia, where the streets of Siem Reap are filled with five star hotels and international jet setters flying directly into the local airport to marvel at the temples of Angkor Wat and as a result investing huge amounts of foreign currency into a country in desperate need of economic help.
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