Afghanistan to announce final election results this week
Sun Nov 6, 3:49 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - The final results from Afghanistan's first legislative election for more than three decades will be announced this Wednesday after delays due to fraud complaints, an election official said.
"The final results from the parliamentary election will be announced at a press conference on Wednesday," said a spokesman for the Afghan and UN Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB), Aleem Siddique.
Ballots cast in up to three percent of polling stations were excluded from the vote count because of fraud allegations including ballot-stuffing, the JEMB said last month.
The JEMB had received about 5,400 complaints but the vast majority could not be substantiated. Only 500 could affect the outcome of the ballot.
The elections were held in September for the 249 members of the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, and 420 members of the 34 provincial councils.
Siddique said the JEMB will also announce criteria for the formation of the war-shattered country's 102-member Upper House (Meshrano Jirga).
Two thirds of the Meshrano Jirga will be appointed by provincial councils and one third by President Hamid Karzai, he said.
Under Afghan electoral law, one third of the Meshrano Jirga was to be chosen by Karzai, one third by provincial councils and one third by district councils.
Results had initially been expected by October 22. However, the vote count for the whole country was only completed early last week. Parliament is due to sit in December.
Afghanistan's last parliamentary elections were held in 1969, before a coup in 1973 and the 1979-89 occupation by the Soviet Union.
The years of civil war that followed culminated in the rise of the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime in 1996. They were ousted by a US-led invasion in late 2001.
Taliban chief calls for unity against US troops
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The leader of Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents has called on people to unite and join the Taliban in their holy war against U.S.-led forces in the country.
Mullah Mohammad Omar, in a statement faxed to news organizations in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, said the Taliban would intensify their war against foreign forces.
"The people of Afghanistan and the Taliban should unite against U.S. and allied forces and intensify their jihad against the foreign occupiers," Omar said in the statement.
The statement was issued on Friday, apparently to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month. Taliban officials, contacted and questioned about its veracity over the weekend, said it was genuine.
Omar's whereabouts have been a mystery since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001, after they refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, architect of the September 11 attacks on U.S. cities.
Omar and bin Laden are believed to be hiding out somewhere along the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border.
Omar said in his statement "infidel forces" were trying to capture Muslim countries and make Muslims their slaves. They had committed atrocities against Muslims in Afghanistan, he said.
He also said Afghans had rejected a presidential election last year and parliamentary elections in September.
"The people of Afghanistan rejected the parliamentary and presidential elections but they are showing those elections as a success," Omar said.
"The Taliban are not weak in Afghanistan. We will speed up our jihad," he said.
The Taliban have stepped up attacks this year but they failed to disrupt the September elections.
More than 1,100 people have been killed in violence this year, most of them militants but including more than 50 U.S. soldiers.
(Additional reporting by Saeed Ali Achakzai in Chaman, Pakistan)
Ahmadinejad, Karzai discuss regional developments
Tehran, Nov 5, IRNA
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai discussed mutual as well as regional developments over phone on Friday.
During the conversation, the two presidents also congratulated each other and the two nations on the auspicious occasion of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of holy month of Ramadan.
The Iranian president expressed hope that with the establishment of security and peace in Afghanistan, grounds for manifestation of Islamic traditions would be created in the country.
The Afghan president, for his part, said that the Iranian government and nation have in recent decades had the best attitude towards and developed the best possible ties with Afghanistan and expressed the hope that the friendly ties would be continued in the future.
According to the Press Bureau of the presidential office, the two presidents underlined exchange of high ranking delegations between the two countries' officials in the near future.
Afghan policeman killed in militant attack
Sun Nov 6,12:29 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - An Afghan policeman was killed in an overnight attack by suspected Taliban militants in southern Afghanistan, the only attack reported since the end of Ramadan, the interior ministry said.
"One Afghan police (officer) was killed when 12 Taliban rebels attacked a police post at around midnight Friday night in Ab Band district of Ghazni province," interior ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said on Saturday.
It was the first act of violence blamed on the rebels since the start Thursday morning of the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr which marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
"We claim the attack in Ghazni," purported Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmady told AFP.
This year as been the worst for insurgency-linked violence since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, with about 1,400 people killed, most of them suspected militants.
Southern Afghanistan, the birthplace of the fundamentalist Taliban movement that had taken control of most of Afghanistan by 1996, is the hotbed of an insurgency launched after the hardliners were toppled in a US-led operation in late 2001.
Waziristan explosion 'kills six'
Saturday, 5 November 2005 BBC News
At least six people have been killed in an explosion in Pakistan's North Waziristan area, close to the Afghan border, the army says.
The blast occurred when the victims were handling explosives, according to Pakistan's main military spokesman, the AFP news agency reports.
The dead were all believed to be foreigners, he said.
North and South Waziristan have been at the centre of prolonged confrontations between the army and militant groups.
"It seems the explosion occurred when these people were busy making an improvised explosive device for terrorist activity," spokesman Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan told AFP.
One of the six was a woman, he said.
The explosion happened in a house some 20 kilometres (12 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
Hundreds of militants and more than 250 Pakistani soldiers have died in the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan in the past two years.
Thousands of troops have been deployed to tackle militants in the Afghan border region.
Many al-Qaeda and Taleban militants are believed to have slipped into Pakistan after the US forces entered Afghanistan in 2001.
Author recalls Afghan roots
Novelist found success with 'Kite Runner'
The Associated Press Sunday, November 6, 2005
Khaled Hosseini, author of the wildly successful novel "The Kite Runner," says it all began with a simple tale he wrote six years ago about two boys who loved flying kites in his native Afghanistan.
After writing the original short story in a 12-hour stretch, the Afghan-born physician tucked it away in a drawer where it sat untouched for two years until his father-in-law read it and told him he wished it were longer.
"I revisited the short story and decided that maybe there was a book in it," Hosseini recalls, leaning against the thick cushions of his living room sofa. "It really started off very small."
The expanded tale has become an international best-seller, with more than 3 million copies sold since its publication two years ago. "The Kite Runner" has become a favorite of book clubs and community reading programs, offering an intimate view of Afghanistan, its culture and traditions, and its tortured modern history.
"That it would reach this kind of readership is pretty stunning," says Hosseini, wearing a striped button-down shirt and white pants. "It's still pretty weird."
Quit his day job
The book's commercial success has allowed the internist to take leave from his day job to meet a demanding speaking schedule and hammer away at his much-anticipated second novel. That book, scheduled for release next year, follows two women who live through Afghanistan's tumultuous history over the past half century.
Hosseini, 40, is surprisingly modest for a first-time novelist who has enjoyed such phenomenal success. He's still getting used to his newfound fame, and says he never intended to be a writer.
"I always loved writing, but I really just did it for myself because I enjoyed the act of writing and creating stories," says Hosseini, speaking English with only a slight accent. "I never wrote with the aim of publishing. ... Now I find myself doing it for a living, at least for the time being."
At home in his new suburban house in the San Jose, Calif., foothills, Hosseini is gracious, unassuming, friendly and thoughtful — displaying the calm, earnest demeanor that helped him win his patients' trust and respect.
He lives with his wife, Roya, and their two young children in a two-story, white stucco house decorated with Persian rugs, family photos and Afghan artwork. His shelves hold leather-bound books of Persian poetry by Hafiz and Omar Khayyam, and Afghan classics such as "The Lion and the Throne."
Hosseini and his wife, a Silicon Valley attorney who is also of Afghan descent, speak to their children in both Farsi and English and maintain close ties to the San Francisco Bay area's Afghan community.
"The Kite Runner" sold well in hardcover after it was released by Riverhead Books in June 2003 and earned rave reviews, but sales soared after the paperback was released in May 2004.
"It's become one of those books that everyone feels they have to read," says Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association. "It's kind of reached a cult status."
The novel was discovered by independent book stores that began "hand-selling" it to customers who recommended it to friends and family, Landon says.
Met at a party
Tamim Ansary, the Afghan-American author of "West of Kabul, East of New York," met Hosseini at a friend's party four years ago and invited him to the writers workshop he runs in San Francisco. Ansary was impressed by Hosseini, who shared short stories and excerpts from "The Kite Runner."
"There are very few writers who have an instinctive feel for storytelling, and I could tell Khaled was one of them," Ansary, 57, says. "The ability to tell a riveting story that grabs your attention and your heart — there's an element of that that's an inborn talent."
Afghan Americans express pride that one of their own has produced such a hugely popular novel — one that offers readers a chance to learn about their homeland.
"He did a very good job describing the Afghan community," says Farid Younos, a professor of anthropology at California State University, East Bay. "It reflects the Afghan immigrant experience very well."
"The Kite Runner" arrived at the right time — less than two years after U.S.-led forces routed Al-Qaida fighters and toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks.
It's a heart-wrenching story of friendship, family, betrayal, guilt and redemption that involves two boys who grow up together in the Afghan capital of Kabul before the Soviet invasion that led to two decades of civil war and political turmoil. The book follows their lives over four decades as the narrator, Amir, emigrates to America, while his friend and servant, Hassan, stays behind.
Hosseini wrote the original short story called "The Kite Runner" in 1999 after watching a TV news report about how Afghanistan's theocratic Taliban regime had banned the flying of kites he associated with his childhood in Kabul.
"It's really the most vivid memory," Hosseini says. "Before any characters, before anything else, the kites came first, and then I built the story around them."
He began expanding the original story in early 2001, writing for three hours each morning before heading to work in nearby Mountain View. He shelved the novel after 9/11.
"I didn't think anyone would want to hear from me," Hosseini recalls. "I had misjudged the situation."
But his wife, his principal editor, urged him to keep writing, and it proved to be a life-changing experience that reconnected him with his homeland.
"I had kind of lost track of what happened there. The American part of my identity had really become dominant," Hosseini says. "Thanks to the writing, I've really gone back to my roots and been able to rediscover things about my country, the culture, the people and the history."
Torture: It's the new American way
Los Angeles Times ROSA BROOKS November 5, 2005
'WE WILL bury you," Nikita Khrushchev told U.S. diplomats in 1956. The conventional wisdom is that Khrushchev got it wrong: The repressive Soviet state collapsed under the weight of its own cruelties and lies while democratic America went from strength to strength, buoyed by its national commitment to liberty and justice for all.
But with this week's blockbuster report of secret CIA detention facilities in Eastern Europe, cynics may be pardoned for wondering who really won the Cold War.
According to Dana Priest, the Washington Post investigative reporter who broke the story Wednesday, it all started on Sept. 17, 2001, when President Bush signed a secret executive order authorizing the CIA to kill, capture or detain Al Qaeda operatives.
There was only one problem: The CIA didn't know where to put the people it detained. Those detainees thought to be of "high value" needed to be kept somewhere … special. Somewhere impregnable, like Alcatraz. And somewhere secret, far from the prying eyes of reporters or Red Cross officials. Because these high-value prisoners — so-called ghost detainees — were going to be subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques."
That's Orwell-speak for what's known in English as torture. The list of enhanced techniques is classified but reportedly includes such old favorites as "waterboarding" (feigned drowning) and feigned suffocation. Authorized techniques also may have included the "Palestinian hanging," a "stress position" in which a detainee is suspended from the ceiling or wall by his wrists, which are handcuffed behind his back.
It was this enhancement that preceded the death of Manadel Jamadi, an Iraqi who died in CIA custody at Abu Ghraib in November 2003, according to government investigative reports. When Jamadi was lowered to the ground, blood gushed from his mouth as if "a faucet had turned on," said Tony Diaz, an MP who witnessed his torture. Later, other guards posed with Jamadi's battered corpse, and the leaked photos shocked the world.
That's not the kind of publicity a freedom-loving democracy needs, so the CIA reportedly opted for secret "black sites." It's not as easy as you might think to find a spot where you can torture people in peace. Abu Ghraib is full of camera-clicking reservists, and the Marquis de Sade's castle lies in ruins. The Tower of London's dungeons still boast an excellent range of enhanced interrogation equipment, but they attract too many giggling children.
CIA operatives apparently considered uninhabited islands near Zambia's Lake Kariba, but interrogators didn't much like the idea of catching one of those nasty local diseases so prevalent in Central Africa. Marburg hemorrhagic fever? No thanks.
Thailand worked for a while, but the Thai government got cold feet when press reports outed the existence of a local CIA site. And Guantanamo's CIA interrogation facility had to be closed when the Supreme Court pointed out that Guantanamo is not a law-free zone.
Remember the flap last spring when Amnesty International called Guantanamo an American "gulag"? Maybe that's what gave the CIA the idea of locating some black sites in Eastern Europe. ("Hmm, gulag, gulag … that reminds me of something…. Hey! Maybe there are some leftover Soviet-era detention facilities we can use for our enhanced interrogations!")
At the request of "senior U.S. officials," the Washington Post declined to identify the locations of the Eastern European black sites. But Marc Garlasco, a military analyst at Human Rights Watch, says that host countries may include Poland and Romania.
Human Rights Watch examined flight records showing that on Sept. 22, 2003, for instance, around the same time several high-value Al Qaeda detainees were transferred out of CIA facilities in Afghanistan, a CIA-linked Boeing 737 with the tail number N313P flew from Kabul to Szymany Airport in Poland. The next day, it landed at Mihail Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania. Released Guantanamo detainees have corroborated the use of this plane as a prisoner transport, and rights groups and journalists say witnesses also have reported seeing hooded prisoners being loaded and unloaded from the same plane at various other locations.
During the Cold War, we thought we knew what distinguished us from our Soviet bloc enemies. We did not have a gulag; we did not imprison and torture our enemies. But the war on terror has distorted our national values. We have used some of the same tactics we once decried. The Soviet Union's legacy of terror lives on, its tactics embraced by some of our leaders. Vice President Dick Cheney continues to insist that the McCain amendment, which prohibits U.S. personnel from cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners, should not be applicable to the CIA.
Somewhere in Moscow's Novodevichyi cemetery, Khrushchev is probably laughing inside his grave.
Poor/Rich Gap Growing in Afghanistan
Embassy Magazine, November 2nd, 2005 NEWS STORY By Christina Leadlay - Aid worker calls on donors and governments to think carefully and morally about where aid money is going.
Two large black tablets stand in the lobby of CARE Canada's Ottawa office, bearing the names of a number of CARE employees who've lost their lives while providing assistance to those in need around the world. Fortunately, it's a memorial that Clementina Cantoni, an Italian CARE worker, just narrowly missed joining.
Ms. Cantoni was in Ottawa on Oct. 26 at the invitation of CARE Canada to talk about her work in Afghanistan. For three years, she managed the CIDA-supported Kabul Widows and Vocational Training program in Afghanistan (HAWA), providing monthly food rations for approximately 10,000 women who've lost their husbands during the many years of conflict in the country. The program is also focused on health projects and income generation, finding employment opportunities for the women.
But on May 16, 2005, Ms. Cantoni, a well-known figure in Kabul, was abducted from her car by several armed men. Her whereabouts remained unknown for 24 days. She was released, unharmed and without ransom, on June 9. Due to security concerns, the Italian government has advised Ms. Cantoni not to return to Afghanistan for one year, though she is keen to go back. She is currently on leave and is based in Milan, Italy.
Though her abduction was not the subject of her presentation in Ottawa, Ms. Cantoni did refer to it during her conversation with Aly-Khan Rajani, program manager of overseas operations at CARE Canada, in front of an intimate audience, including Omar Samad, Ambassador of Afghanistan; his wife Khorshied Samad; Alessandro Cortese of the Italian Embassy, and Flora Macdonald, former external affairs minister who is actively involved with NGOs around the world.
Looking a bit fragile and slightly nervous, Ms. Cantoni nevertheless was composed and spoke eloquently during the event, held in CARE Canada's candlelit boardroom, choking up only once at the start of the conversation as she spoke of the warmth and friendliness of the Afghans she met. Mr. Rajani has worked with Ms. Cantoni on site in Afghanistan and they discussed the pressing issues in Afghanistan, the work being done by CARE, and the challenges ahead.
Ms. Cantoni said that during her time in Afghanistan, she witnessed both positive and negative changes taking place. While women are more visible in society and girls are seen going to school -- a sight Ms. Cantoni says never ceases to bring her joy -- the disparity between those more skilled and well-off versus the less fortunate, less skilled and marginalized -- including widows -- is growing.
She says the best thing the international community can do for Afghans is to help each citizen find their place in the reconstruction. "Don't leave sections of society behind," Ms. Cantoni urged, noting that while it's a time-consuming and challenging task, it is fundamental to the reconstruction of Afghanistan. She told the story of a reclusive widow who, after finding a work placement, was a completely different person, happy and chatting with her colleagues, having found her place in society. "This is what we were trying to do before I was abducted," she said, "trying to stimulate education and help women get jobs."
Ms. Cantoni also called for more targeted investment in certain projects. "There needs to be a more careful, moral assessment of how money should be spent by donors, NGOs and governments," she says. "There is a growing sense of resentment from Afghans, questioning where aid money has gone, feeling that it has not trickled down to where it needs to go," she says. Ms. Cantoni called for more and better targeting of the vulnerable and marginalized citizens, to give them the skills to participate in society. She notes that her feeding program is not sustainable and that soon they will have to move away from the dependency model, but that this move will be gradual and careful. "We want to put the women at the centre of the decision to get off the rations, to get ready for the future," she says.
Following the conversation, Flora Macdonald provided a visual report on the widows program based on her annual visits there since 2001. Head of CARE Canada, John Watson, expressed his admiration for all involved in the HAWA project, including CIDA. Mr. Watson says he is proud that Canada's aid agency broke ranks with other donor nations, keeping its aid programs running while British and American programs shut their doors in Afghanistan.
Ms. Cantoni was scheduled to deliver a similar presentation on the plight of Afghan women at the request of CARE U.S.A. in Boston.
A conservative Afghan city elects a woman
Men talk about her as if she's a sex symbol. Women say she's better than any man. She just wants to fight for women's rights in parliament.
By Kim Barker Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent November 6, 2005
HERAT, Afghanistan -- Fauzia Gailani is an unlikely election winner in this conservative, western city: an aerobics instructor, a mother of six and, most obviously, a woman.
But somehow Gailani won 16,885 votes in the recent parliamentary race, more than any other candidate in Herat province and more than any other woman in Afghanistan. Only 20 men nationwide won more votes than Gailani. Her campaign posters hang in living rooms and stores. Women talk about how she has helped them lose weight and how she's better than any man. Men talk about her as if she's a sex symbol.
"I love her," said Nazer Ahmad, a police officer who voted for Gailani.
Her victory is all the more shocking because it happened in Herat, the province where the one-time conservative governor oppressed women almost as much as the Taliban officials he replaced. It's just one sign of how life has changed for women since strongman Ismail Khan was removed as provincial governor in September 2004.
Under Khan, it was rare to see a woman on the streets of Herat, even in a burqa. Now women shop in the markets. Although many still are in burqas, some wear the Iranian-style chador, which cloaks a woman in black but shows her face. Women work in some shops. A few women even have a driver's license.
"During the Taliban and Ismail Khan, life was pretty bad," said Sadiqa Mohsini, wearing a chador and shopping in a market area. "We couldn't go out. We didn't have any freedom."
Not everything has changed. Women still set themselves on fire to protest unwanted marriages. Although some women have driver's licenses, they rarely drive. One woman in a burqa chastised another woman for wearing only a head scarf.
The win by Gailani, who often wears just a head scarf, has significance beyond Herat. For many, women such as Gailani, with no ties to the brutal past, are the bright spot in the new parliament, which will be filled largely with former warlords, fighters and clerics.
Final results in the historic Sept. 18 parliamentary elections are expected to be announced soon. But unofficial results indicate that many women would have been elected even if 68 of the 249 seats had not been reserved for them.
"The presence of women, whatever reason they got in, makes me happy," said Qassim Akhgar, a political analyst in Kabul. "It's a statement against fundamentalism and the ways of the past. Instead of any of these warlords, if a woman won, I'd be even more happy. Even if Fauzia Gailani replaced President Hamid Karzai, I would be very happy."
Gailani appears to have won so many votes for several reasons: She comes from a relatively well-known family, although she herself was an unknown. She campaigned in rural districts, unlike other candidates. She's a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and considered to be a religious person.
And also, her posters. They look similar to those of other female candidates in Herat but struck a very different chord with men. In them, she wears makeup, either orange or pink lipstick on her Mona Lisa smile, and a head scarf that lets some of her highlighted hair poke out.
"Some men in this mall stared at Fauzia's picture and said, `We are voting for this woman so we have a beautiful parliament,'" said Sara Bayat, who works in a clothing store.
Such stories are mortifying for Gailani, 32, a serious woman who hopes to fight for women's rights in parliament. "I'm not a little girl. I'm the mother of six."
Her life started out much like those of other Herat women. At age 13, while she still played with dolls, she was forced to marry a man who was 15 years older. She was his second wife.
But after moving to Iran during Afghanistan's wars, Gailani fell in love with sports. She started exercising and worked at a gym for women. When her family moved back to Herat after the Taliban fell, she brought two carloads of equipment to start gyms for women in Herat.
In summer 2004, Khan's men tried to shut down her first gym, which she started in her basement. They locked up the equipment, saying exercise was only for men, Gailani said. For four months, the women exercised secretly.
After Khan was removed, Gailani reopened her gym. She also helped open two others. On a recent day, about 15 women did aerobics in one gym.
"When I see women doing this, they are always very happy," Gailani said. "How can men say that women should just sit at home and not work or exercise? Sometimes, I get very angry."
Chaotic Kabul Has No Patience for Protesters
Los Angeles Times 11/03/2005
By Henry Chu The streets are crowded enough without the demonstrators who complain about pay, elections and more, shopkeepers say
KABUL — At almost any hour of the day, the streets of this city are a congested, chaotic mash of noise and activity. Donkey-drawn carts, drivers who observe no discernible rules of the road and determined pedestrians vie for space in the dusty, narrow lanes. At times they come to blows.
So not everyone is pleased with the latest species of street life to surface here, making Kabul even tougher to navigate: protesters. The Afghan capital has been hit by a wave of demonstrations over the last few weeks, organized by groups intent on taking their discontent and their demands public in the most palpable way possible.
Unhappy teachers, losing political candidates, retired soldiers and disabled residents have all rallied, increasing the frustration of those affected by the tumult.
"We are completely fed up with the protests happening around here," said Abdul Matin Naseri, 25, whose watch shop is near government offices. "If it's just one day, two days, three days, even a week, fine. But it keeps on going."
It's a lesson in the democracy that Afghanistan is trying to build from scratch after decades of repression and bloodshed. The right to peaceful assembly, officials say, is the privilege and price of a free society.
The string of protests, however, is also a sign of deepening public anger with the government of President Hamid Karzai. The country's interim leader after the Taliban was overthrown in 2001, then winner of its first free presidential election last year, Karzai has had trouble bringing tangible improvements to the lives of his people. Illiteracy, unemployment and a lack of basic necessities remain endemic in Afghanistan.
Critics accuse Karzai's administration of mismanaging the billions of dollars of foreign aid that have poured into the country.
"In the past four years, he hasn't solved the problem of electricity and water or repaired the roads," said Kabir Ranjbar, a political scientist at the University of Kabul. "These should have been his first public works in the city. And Kabul is a small city. If he can't solve these problems, [people ask] what can he do?"
Ranjbar faults Karzai for not taking aggressive enough steps at the outset of his administration to disarm a population accustomed to rule by warlords and the heavily armed Taliban. This, Ranjbar said, has fueled a Taliban insurgency and brought on a measure of instability that has impeded orderly and sustained economic and social development.
Street crime in this city of nearly 3 million is up. Some international organizations, including various U.N. agencies, forbid their employees to venture out after dark because of kidnapping threats — a prohibition that some call an overreaction but that shows the rising anxiety level.
"Under the Taliban there was security, there was a central government, no one was attacking anyone else's property," Ranjbar said. "They were imposing their views on the people, and they were bringing cultural darkness on Afghanistan. There's no doubt they were taking Afghanistan backward. But people felt safe. Right now, nowhere in Afghanistan do people feel safe."
One of Karzai's declared priorities was to strengthen the nation's ailing educational system. He promised teachers substantial pay raises, in some cases a 100% hike, and land for them to build houses on.
So a few weeks ago, when teachers heard that their $56 monthly salaries would grow by only $7, the faculty at Zarghona High, one of Kabul's best girls schools, walked out of class the next day.
"The government says that they don't have enough money. But they pay thousands of dollars to ministers, including for their travel and for hosting guests," said Fatana, 35, a Pashto-language teacher who, like many Afghans, goes by one name. "The money they make in one day a teacher can't make in a year. They tricked us."
She and her colleagues, nearly 300 in all, marched through the streets blasting the government. The sense of outrage and solidarity was enough that they planned a second demonstration for the weekend, which other schools pledged to join. But the teachers allege that education officials pressured them into canceling the event.
"Karzai told the teachers and students, 'We don't have any money. Go home and study,' " said Royela, a 38-year-old geography teacher. She shook her head when asked if she thought anything would come of the protest.
Late last month, officials announced that they would meet some of the demands of retired soldiers who thronged Kabul's central square for two or three days out of anger over low pensions. Traffic came to a standstill.
"They can come to the streets. This is something that is part of the democratic process, and the government of Afghanistan will listen and try to resolve their problems," said Karim Rahimi, a spokesman for the presidential palace.
The demonstrations are a headache for the government because of their potential repercussions. Not only might more disaffected groups be encouraged to take their grievances to the streets, but the protests would probably further inflame anger among those whose lives are disrupted and could make the government look increasingly ineffectual.
Naseri, the shopkeeper, offers this solution: Build a dedicated protest ground somewhere, preferably far from his establishment. "Or," he said, "they should have rules and regulations for protests. For example, they can walk through the streets, but not block the streets.
"In a democracy, you're allowed to speak out and express your opinions," Naseri added, the morning sunlight glinting off the hundreds of watch faces around him. "But you're not allowed to disturb others and make them close their shops."
Afghan airline to buy 4 737-700s
Seattle Times 11/03/2005
Boeing won an order from Afghanistan's Ariana Afghan Airlines for four 737-700 planes worth about $220 million at list prices. The airline will also lease two 757-200 models from Boeing Capital, a unit of Boeing, the company said in a statement. The plane manufacturer said it will begin delivering the 737s in 2009.
Bin Laden Publicly Quiet for Long Time
Washington (AP) - Osama bin Laden, known for his fiery public statements, has been publicly mum for the longest stretch since the suicide hijackings on Sept. 11, 2001. That leaves U.S. counterterrorism experts questioning what, if anything, his silence means.
The al-Qaida chief with a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head issued two audio statements in December, his last known public words. He was last seen on a videotaped message to Americans on Oct. 29, 2004, saying the United States could avoid another Sept. 11 attack if it stopped threatening the security of Muslims.
"Any state that does not mess with our security has naturally guaranteed its own security," bin Laden said in a translation of an address aired on the Al-Jazeera network discussing the 2004 presidential elections.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the longest bin Laden had gone without issuing a new public statement — audio or video — was just over nine months. He has now let 10 months pass.
Two U.S. counterterrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity, said there is no evidence to suggest bin Laden is dead. The working assumption is that he is alive, even if he isn't churning out tapes.
Ben Venzke, chief executive at the IntelCenter, a government contractor that does support work for the intelligence community, said terrorism analysts are paying attention.
"This is the first time things have changed in years. Messages have generally come in a consistent pattern, and now they are not," Venzke said. "It is likely that these changes in messaging by al-Qaida are the result of planning and a PR strategy, as opposed to their computer broke."
Venzke noted it was also the first October since 2002 that bin Laden had not delivered a message addressed specifically to Americans.
The terror leader is believed to be hiding in a rugged area along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, where the Pakistani government has little control and tribal loyalties run deep.
Venzke notes there could be a number of factors contributing to bin Laden's public silence. He may have decided to change the messenger. His deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, has been much more vocal, issuing seven messages this year. In years past, he and bin Laden delivered roughly the same number of messages.
Or the earthquake in Pakistan could have inhibited bin Laden's ability to transmit messages. Or a tape could have been destroyed in the rubble. Yet, al-Zawahri has managed to send out a message since the earthquake, calling on Muslims to provide aid.
Bin Laden also could be plotting an attack on the United States and has made a strategic messaging decision to keep quiet in the lead-up to the attack, Venzke said.
In a recent interview, the head of the National Counterterrorism Center, retired Vice Adm. Scott Redd, said bin Laden can't communicate with his followers the way he had in the past.
"The more you communicate, the more you try to directly run an organization, the more vulnerable you are," Redd said. "And he is pretty deep in hiding. We know he is not communicating very much."
President Bush rarely mentions bin Laden, who has eluded U.S. capture despite being the most-sought terrorist in the world. Bush did mention him by name in a series of speeches focused on the war in terror last month.
Half of Americans think it's likely that the United States will capture or kill bin Laden, a number that has moved little over the last three years, according to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll.
Six foreign Al-Qaeda suspects killed in Pakistan blast
Sat Nov 5, 3:48 AM ET
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) - Six foreign Al-Qaeda suspects including a woman were killed when a bomb they were making exploded in Pakistan's restive tribal region near the Afghan border, the military said.
"It seems the explosion occurred when these people were busy making an improvised explosive device for terrorist activity," chief military spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told AFP on Saturday, quoting local administration officials.
Residents said the blast happened at about 1:30 am (2030 GMT Friday) in a house near Mir Ali, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town in the rugged tribal zone of North Waziristan.
Sultan said six people were killed, one of whom was female, and they were all believed to be foreigners although their exact nationalities were still being investigated.
The blast during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr came days after security forces killed an Arab Al-Qaeda suspect and seized another in a shootout in the southwestern province of Baluchistan.
Hundreds of insurgents with suspected links to Al-Qaeda sneaked into Pakistan across the porous border from Afghanistan after US-led forces ousted the hardline Taliban regime there in late 2001.
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