Afghan governor survives suicide attack
Mon Nov 7, 3:58 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A suicide bomber tried to kill the governor of a volatile southern Afghan province by blowing up an explosives-filled vehicle as the official was going to work, officials said.
A man who said he was a spokesman for loyalists of the Taliban government ousted in 2001 claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the hardliners, who are waging an insurgency.
The attacker detonated the explosives as Helmand governor Sher Mohammad left his vehicle to enter his office in the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, his spokesman Mohammad Wali said on Monday.
The governor was not hurt. The bomber survived but lost both his arms and both his legs, Wali said.
Intelligence officers were trying to get as much information as possible from the man "before he dies," including his nationality, Wali said.
"He's an elderly man with a shaved face and big moustache," Wali said.
Interior ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said the bomber was a foreign national. "He has been badly injured and is in coma at the hospital," Stanizai said in the capital Kabul.
But purported Taliban spokesman Yousf Ahmadi telephoned AFP and said the attacker was an Afghan national from Helmand.
"The suicide attack was carried out by one of our mujahedin (holy warriors). His name was Salahuddin and he was 55 years old," he said from an unknown location.
He said the attack was aimed at US military forces based near the governor's office.
Wali said the governor had been due Monday to meet US-led forces and local security agencies to discuss security in the troubled province.
Helmand is one of several southern provinces that sees regular attacks as part of an insurgency against the government being waged mainly by the Taliban and their supporters.
This year has been the worst for insurgency-linked violence since the fall of the Taliban, with about 1,400 people killed -- most of them militants.
Afghanistan joins Central Asian regional economic cooperation programme
UzReport.com, Uzbekistan / November 6, 2005
Afghanistan has joined the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme, following a decision by the CAREC 4th ministerial conference in Bishkek, Kyryz Republic on Sunday.
Considering the proximity of China, India and Russia as rapidly developing markets, Afghanistan's participation is strategically important for the organization's member states and will increase transit to sea across Afghanistan, the conference said in a statement.
CAREC now includes Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
"We hope that during our next meeting in Urumqi [China], Russia, which attended today's talks as an observer, will join the CAREC," Deputy Kyrgyz Finance Minister Emirlan Toromyrzayev said during the meeting.
During today's meeting, representatives of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan called on one another to accelerate the integration of the economies of the region's countries and neighbouring states.
"The region's high rates of economic growth reflect a new era in which the growth of trade and other forms of openness and modernization replace prejudices. Although trade barriers and transportation costs are still seriously hindering the development of the region, the CAREC countries recognize that only through cooperation can they make progress," the participants say in the final statement.
The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) programme is an ADB-supported initiative to encourage economic cooperation in Central Asia that began in 1997. The primary objective of the CAREC Program is to promote economic growth and raise living standards in its member countries by encouraging regional economic cooperation. The Program concentrated on financing infrastructure projects and improving the region's policy environment in the priority areas of transport (especially road transport), energy (including the water-energy nexus) and trade policy trade facilitation (especially customs cooperation).
France Withdraws Jets from Afghanistan
Radio Free Afghanistan, Afghanistan
6 November 2005 -- A contingent of six French fighter jets and two tanker planes that was helping battle insurgents in Afghanistan are scheduled to return to France on Monday.
The planes have been based in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
Since early August, the aircraft have been flying sorties in Afghanistan under U.S. command, as well as part of a separate NATO-led peacekeeping force.
France has some 600 troops in Afghanistan as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, which is responsible for security in the capital, Kabul, as well as northern and western regions. Some 200 French special forces soldiers are fighting alongside U.S. commandos in southern Afghanistan.
Female chaplain has Afghans confounded
An oddity beyond their understanding
By Roger Roy Orlando Sun-Sentinel (USA) November 6, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan · The Afghan soldiers rested in their cool, dark barracks at a former Soviet base.
When the American soldiers walked in, they jumped up from their bunk beds and floor cushions, shaking hands warmly all around.
But when they got to the American lieutenant, the Afghans simply stared open-mouthed:
In a U.S. Army uniform.
With a cross on her chest.
The interpreter tried to explain, but the Afghans seemed at a loss until Lt. Rebekah Montgomery told them, "I'm like a mullah" -- an Islamic religious leader.
At that, the Afghan soldiers smiled and nodded.
But their glances at one another showed that the idea of a female mullah army officer was about as realistic as a flying cow.
The encounter was novel for the Afghans, but it's the stuff of everyday life here for Montgomery, 31, of St. Augustine. She's the only woman among the three Army chaplains assigned to minister to the 4,000 or so American troops of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, who are here to train the Afghan National Army.
In a conservative Muslim nation where most women still cover their faces in public and are absent from the military and much of public life, let alone religious leadership, Montgomery is an oddity practically beyond the comprehension of many of the Afghans she meets.
Whether soldiers or civilians, on Army bases or city streets, her presence guarantees a large crowd of curious Afghans who aren't shy about staring.
"It bothered me a little at first," said Montgomery, who arrived in Afghanistan for her yearlong tour last summer. "But after a while I realized it was just curiosity, so I don't let it get to me.
"I mean, here I am, a woman in pants and a uniform and my face uncovered, and I think it just blows their minds."
If it's tough to explain her role to Afghans, it's not much easier to explain how she ended up here.
The daughter of an Air Force veteran who served in Korea, Montgomery grew up in Washington, D.C., attended college in Minnesota and seminary in Manhattan.
She never considered a career in the military until after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when she had finished a stint as a chaplain at a Miami hospital and was working as a counselor.
"I just realized I didn't have enough to do, and I started calling recruiters," she said.
In February, she married another Army lieutenant.
There was no time for a honeymoon before they began training for the deployment to Afghanistan.
A finance officer, he's stationed at a another base in Afghanistan a few miles from hers at Camp Phoenix outside Kabul.
Montgomery spends about half her time traveling to see soldiers who are spread out across a country the size of Texas, but she and her husband still cross paths when business brings him to Camp Phoenix.
"We have a lot of lunches together -- a lot of coffee dates," she said.
At Camp Phoenix, she preaches in a chapel where there are gilt-framed paintings of Jesus hanging over rifle racks with the instructions: "Loosen sling -- Rotate pistol grip on tube."
When she's not traveling, she's teaching karate to soldiers at the Camp Phoenix gym. She earned her black belt five years ago.
It all might seem a little odd for a woman who had never considered a military career and who is ordained in the Unitarian Universalist faith, which she describes as "pacifist, activist and very supportive of social justice."
Nonetheless, here she is ministering to soldiers in a Muslim nation.
But Montgomery has settled on what she said is the only explanation that makes sense.
"It's like God said, `This is where I want you,' and I said, `OK.'"
One disappointment has been her limited opportunity to interact with Afghan women.
She and other female soldiers from Camp Phoenix were able to attend the wedding of a woman in a nearby village. But as with other encounters, the language barrier made it difficult for the women to understand one another.
All the interpreters are men, "and when men enter the room, the Afghan women just shut down," she said. "I'd rather try to mangle a conversation myself, because once a male enters the picture, it just changes the whole dynamic."
Still, she wonders about the things she hasn't been able to ask Afghan women, who seem intrigued that she drives Humvees and wears an officer's insignia.
"I guess I just want to understand their lives and how they see their roles," she said. "I just want to know if they can even see themselves in my shoes."
Though it has been challenging to live in a society where she's considered an oddity, it has been much less difficult ministering to and counseling the Americans here, most of whom are men. They don't hesitate to confide in her.
"I've had more guys come up to me and say, `My wife told me this the other day. Can you tell me what she means?' I think they appreciate having a woman's perspective," she said.
Chaplains are the only American soldiers not permitted to carry weapons. Each is assigned an "assistant" who helps set up makeshift chapels and perhaps arrange the music for a service. But the assistant is essentially a bodyguard, sort of like being a deacon with an assault rifle.
Montgomery's assistant is Staff Sgt. Richard Allee, 40, of St. Petersburg.
Seldom more than a step or two from Montgomery when she's in public, Allee's two ever-present features are a smile and a loaded M-4 rifle with seven extra magazines belted to the front of his bulletproof vest.
"She does draw a crowd wherever she goes," said Allee, the son and grandson of preachers. And sometimes Afghan men read more than she would like into Montgomery's presence.
On a long convoy to Herat recently, a crowd of Afghan soldiers surrounded Montgomery to have their photos taken with her.
"Where is your husband?" one asked.
"He's in Kabul," she said.
"Oh," the soldier said in a suggestive tone, "so he is in Kabul, and you are in Herat?"
Another soldier asked her to put her arm around his shoulder for their photo, but she declined.
"I just know how that sort of thing is seen in the culture here, and you have to avoid that," she said later.
But she has learned to ignore the stares and gapes.
On a street in Herat recently, a young man stopped her and asked in English, "Who are you, please?"
She explained, and asked him how he had learned English.
"I am trying to learn, but not very good," he told her.
She told him his English was fine, but he asked her, "How can I learn better?"
"You should find someone to teach," she said. "Teaching is the best way to learn."
As a crowd gathered, Allee, at Montgomery's side, edged in a little closer.
He was still smiling, but he had his hands on his rifle and kept glancing to make sure no one was behind him.
The crowd got bigger. Two young men on a motorcycle stopped to stare. Men leaned out of second-floor windows to see. And those on the sidewalk gaped or glared as they walked by.
Montgomery didn't seem to notice.
Afghan poet dies after battering
Sunday, 6 November 2005 BBC News
A well-known Afghan poet and journalist has died from her injuries after being beaten, police say.
Officers found the body of Nadia Anjuman, 25, at her home in the western city of Herat.
A senior police officer said her husband had confessed to hitting her during a row.
Nadia Anjuman, a student at Herat university, had a first book of poetry printed this year. She was popular in Afghanistan and neighbouring Iran.
Police say the poet received a cut to her head. Blood she vomited may help determine the cause of death, the Pajhwok news agency reported.
It said her family had refused to allow doctors to carry out a post mortem.
1.3m of the 2.3m Afghan refugees in Iran return
Monday, November 07, 2005 IranMania.com
LONDON, November 7 (IranMania) - An Interior Ministry official said 1 mln and 300 thousand of the 2 mln and 300 thousand Afghan refugees in Iran have returned to their country since 2001.
Speaking on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Arbitration Committee of Qazvin Afghan Refugees, Ahmad Hosseini, who heads the ministry?s Bureau for Aliens and Foreign Immigrant Affairs, told IRNA that 100,000 of the total 200,000 Iraqis have also returned to their country during the same period.
Noting that the Interior Ministry is planning to conduct the second phase of the census of Afghan nationals in Iran, Hosseini said the Interior Ministry will announce its policies toward Afghans after completing the census.
?What is evident is that all Afghans will eventually return to Afghanistan. This is what the people and government of Iran favor,? he said.
The Interior Ministry official noted that the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has officially asked Afghans to return to their country.
?If the return of Afghans to their country is delayed, it will create more problems for Iranians,? he said.
Hosseini further said the Interior Ministry is trying to remove obstacles to the return of Afghans to their country.
?Establishment of arbitration committees for expediting the investigation of judicial cases is one such measure,? he said.
Referring to the fact that Iranians are not racists, Hosseini said the ugly scenes seen in certain countries that claim to be advocates of human rights are absent in Iran.
Afghan lawyers test to fill military judge positions
November 5, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan National Army’s long-awaited military justice system came closer to completion recently when 47 Afghan lawyers took a test to fill 20 military judge positions. Those selected will serve as judges for five basic military courts and one court of appeals at the Ministry of Defense.
This is another step along the path to Afghanistan ’s quest for good governance, said Navy Cmdr. Errol Henriques, lead mentor for ANA Brig. Gen. Shir Mohammad Zazai, the ANA General Staff’s legal department director. It shows openly what the selection criteria and qualifications are for military judges and removes doubt over why one judge might get appointed while another might not.
The testing process confirms these lawyers meet the standards required of a military judge. The ministry also expects to be able to appoint prosecutors and defenders for the court system from among these applicants, Henriques explained.
“The test is important to show how the ministry sets standards and maintains them consistently,” Henriques said. Consistency lends credibility, crucial components of a visible system acceptable to the new National Assembly.
Zazai officiated the testing process. He told the applicants, “Your work will help build discipline in the Afghan National Army by making fairness and justice our highest priority.”
Though it applies to members of the ANA, the military justice system must operate within the framework of national law as established by Afghanistan ’s constitution. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is a sovereign state with the authority to regulate its citizens’ activities, and this system, explained Henriques, “takes into account the provisions of Islamic law and tradition seen as guiding principles in Afghan society.”
Putting all the information together to develop a solid, legal foundation for the ANA also lets Afghanistan ’s senior leaders examine what is right with how the nation’s government has taken shape so far, Zazai said.
Several more steps remain to be taken before the military justice system is completely in place. “We still need to train the military judges, prosecutors and defenders,” Henriques said. “We want to make sure we do this right the first time through.”
ANA Maj. Gen. Zaher Azimi, assistant minister of defense for Parliamentary Affairs, Social Relations and Public Affairs, said, “You could compare it to any other complex military operation. Everything we do must be planned carefully, considering the impact on society as well as on our army.
“It is not about punishment, as much as it is about having standards everyone understands, and making sure those standards come from the history and culture of Afghanistan .”
Conspiracy seen in al-Farouq's escape
Blontank Poer, The Jakarta Post, Surakarta/Jakarta
Reports of the escape of Omar al-Farouq, a suspected al-Qaeda leader, from a U.S.-run detention facility in Afghanistan have created confusion and suspicion among some Muslim leaders here.
Zaenal Ma'arif, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives who hails from the Islamic-based Star Reform Party (PBR), was baffled as to how al-Farouq, who was captured in Indonesia in 2002 and subsequently handed over to the U.S. authorities, had escaped.
He suspected that "a certain group" with interests in Southeast Asia had arranged for the escape of al-Farouq in a bid to give power to terrorism in the region.
He declined to name the group.
"It is possible that there is a bigger scenario since Osama bin Laden is not that influential anymore," Zaenal said over the weekend, referring to the al-Qaeda terror network leader who remains at large.
He even said that the recent beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls in religiously divided Poso, Central Sulawesi was also arranged by the group to create security instability in Indonesia.
Zaenal urged the government to actively seeks explanations from the U.S. government on the escape of al-Farouq, believed to be the lieutenant of bin Laden and leader of al-Qaeda's Southeast Asia operation.
Al-Farouq was one of four suspected Arab terrorists to escape from the heavily fortified detention facility inside a U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, in July.
Although the escape was widely reported at the time, al-Farouq was identified by an alias and the U.S. military only confirmed last week that he was among those who fled. The identity of the two other al-Qaeda leaders as well as a fourth man who escaped with them has not been revealed.
In response to the escape, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said last week that the government would increase security measures at home to prevent new terror attacks.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged that it had yet to receive official notification from the U.S. government over al-Farouq's escape.
"There is no official notification yet from the U.S. to Indonesia via the ministry," said spokesman Yuri O. Thamrin as quoted by Antara on Saturday.
He added that the Indonesian Embassy in Afghanistan was in the process of seeking more information on the escape. He declined to provide further details.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) suspected that the escape of al-Farouq was arranged by the U.S. and Australian governments to maintain the terror issue in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country.
MMI spokesman Fauzan Al Anshori was quoted by Antara as saying that al-Farouq's escape could later be connected with Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, the leader of MMI, who is now imprisoned for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, but is scheduled to be set free in June of 2006.
"We suspect there will be new stories to delay the release of Ba'asyir," Fauzan said.
Chairman of the Indonesian Muslim Brotherhood Movement (GPMI) Ahmad Sumargono said Indonesia must be alert to the possibility that the escape of al-Farouq was a political ploy.
"We must be alert. There is a possibility that this is an international conspiracy to keep terrorism alive in Indonesia," the former lawmaker told Antara.
Meet Mirweis, Afghanistan's pop star
Free of Taliban rule, 14-year-old pursuing his dream of singing.
By Margaret Coker Saturday, November 5, 2005 Austin American-Statesman (Texas, USA)
KABUL, Afghanistan -- For as long as he can remember, 14-year-old Mirweis Nijrabi wanted to be a singer.
This slender boy with a bowl-cut hairstyle inherited the tender voice and ambitious drive of his father, a famous Afghan vocalist who died when Mirweis was still a toddler.
The only thing Mirweis lacked, until recently, was the freedom to pursue his dream. Until 2002, most music was illegal in Afghanistan -- as were television, radio and movies.
Thanks to the U.S. invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Afghan musicians are no longer an endangered species. U.S.-led forces drove out the Taliban, a group of fundamentalist Muslim preachers that ruled Afghanistan for five years with strict laws that banned popular entertainment and prohibited girls from attending school.
"Those were hard times," Mirweis said. "The songs had to stay inside of you. You kept your heart closed. . . . Some people's talent withered and died."
Now, Afghans once again hum in the shower, crank up the radio in their cars and clap to live music at parties.
That liberty couldn't come soon enough for Mirweis and his brother Abdul Rahmin, 24, who in the past four years have become superstars in Afghanistan, with booked appearances nearly every night stretching months in advance.
The duo, called the Nijrabi band, perform folk songs in Dari, a language spoken by most Afghans. The singers are backed by traditional Afghan instruments such as the "rubab," a guitar-like instrument with eight strings that has a thick, round body like a butternut squash.
There are no cover versions of American hits -- Mirweis doesn't speak English. Instead, his specialty is Afghan love songs. He and his brother are in great demand to sing at weddings.
Afghan culture is long and rich. Poetry and music play a strong role in it. At school, children learn poems and prayers written more than 500 years ago.
Different occasions have distinctive music: the birth of a baby, a couple's engagement, a wedding or a death. Families hire musicians to play at parties organized for each of these events.
During the two-month wedding season that ended in October, the Nijrabis didn't have a single night off. They made, on average, $400 a night -- a fortune in a country where people are lucky to make $2,000 in a year.
Sitting in his one-story, mud-brick house in western Kabul, Mirweis doesn't resemble most of America's famous frontmen. He has none of the gruff bravado of Eminem or sparkling stage presence of a young Michael Jackson. (In fact, Mirweis hasn't even heard of these or other American stars.)
Instead, he speaks softly and has impeccable manners. This softness and tenderness makes him a natural for singing about love, said his uncle, Zayatullah, who became responsible for taking care of Mirweis, the boy's mother and his siblings after his father died of cancer 12 years ago.
"He has a pure voice that echoes tender feelings that young people have," Zayatullah said. "It's suited to songs of love."
Although Mirweis and his brother are wealthy by Afghan standards, the family house remains simple and typical of this poor country. There isn't an indoor toilet. Nor is there a television because the family receives electricity for only five hours each day.
Only outdoors, on Kabul's streets, can a visitor catch a glimpse of how big a superstar the teenager is.
CDs and tapes featuring Mirweis are on sale at the markets, and his songs are played on the radio. Mirweis is so well known that he can't walk to school by himself or fetch groceries for his mother without bodyguards, which usually are an older brother and a cousin.
His schedule is so busy that he hardly has time for kid stuff anymore. The band performances mean that he stays out working until 3 a.m. or even 4 a.m. Mirweis then sleeps until about 10, eats breakfast and rushes off to school, where he studies for four hours each day.
He sometimes has an hour to play soccer with his friends, if he doesn't have homework. But by 6 p.m. he has to be finished with dinner and getting dressed for his next gig.
The hectic lifestyle is exciting, says Mirweis, but fame isn't the sole motivator for his singing. He feels a great responsibility to help his family financially and emotionally.
"I don't remember my dad but hear from strangers that I sound like my dad, that I look like my dad. Since all I have is a picture of him on the wall at home, that makes me feel closer to him," Mirweis said.
Finding Klondike in crazy Kabul
Matthew Fisher National Post Monday, November 07, 2005
KABUL - Brooks Bergreen is only 26 years old and without any formal higher education. But the burly farm boy has already come a long way from his boyhood home in Saskatchewan.
Today, he's the Kabul-based international projects manager for Network Innovations, a Calgary-based high-tech company that supplies communications gear to the Canadian and U.S. militaries and several international agencies operating in Afghanistan.
"I know it sounds lame, but when I was growing up I read a lot of Louis L'Amour cowboy westerns about guys who went to places like the Klondike," Mr. Bergreen said the other day in the somewhat rundown Kabul villa that is his home and office.
"I was not a coding geek, but from a fairly young age I was fascinated by technology. I looked at high tech as my gold rush."
Since the summer of 2003, Mr. Bergreen has spent about three-quarters of his time in Afghanistan.
"There are more comfortable places than Afghanistan," he said with intended understatement before breaking into a laugh.
He was a passenger on an Ariana Afghan Airlines flight that made a spectacularly fiery belly landing in Kabul after losing part of its undercarriage. He has had cholera twice, bronchitis three times and was twice down for long periods with the "Kabul crazy flu."
"I have pretty much had the symptoms of dysentery the entire time I have been here," he said, chortling again.
There are also the everyday perils that come with living in what has long been one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
"I don't think I will ever get used to seeing bad guys sitting in the backs of trucks with their AK-47s and RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades]," he said.
"I may be burying my head in the sand, but I think I understand this place and can read the signals. We are eating in for dinner tonight because there is a suicide bomber out there planning to bomb a compound and a second cell of Taliban is planning to kidnap a foreigner in this part of town.
"But back in Canada nobody is asking me to make a 10-site, fully installed satellite network over hostile territory. That poses a great challenge that is hard to let go of."
Mr. Bergreen got his start internationally five years ago when he worked on a pilot project in Kosovo set up by an American charity. After a brief spell back home, where he helped install satellite systems on all Canada's warships, he took part in satellite projects in Morocco, Chad, Bulgaria, the Balkans and Cambodia.
"My father worked overseas a lot as an agricultural economist and I lived for one year in New Guinea when I was young and I knew that I wanted to be part of that world," he explained. "But I did not know how to get overseas until I got a break from someone who knew my father."
He supervises five other Canadians and seven Afghans for Network Innovations, a multi-million-dollar operation in Kabul and Kandahar.
"The best thing about the job is interacting with Afghans," he said. "They are among the most resourceful, dynamic people I have ever come across. A 10-year- old Afghan kid does not beg. He has something to sell. He's got his English and his sales pitch nailed down. Kids in other Third World countries just beg for money."
Except for his baseball cap and a well-trimmed beard, there are few traces of Mr. Bergreen's Canadian roots to be found in his Afghan villa. The only hint of domesticity is his sidekick Athos, a German shepherd and a retired bomb sniffer.
"This kind of work depends on your ability to sever connections with home, to not even regard Canada as home," he said. "But I have just bought a house in Calgary and I am most conflicted about it. I have a younger brother and sister at home and I really hate leaving."
And then Afghanistan beckons.
Explaining his choice, he said, "You can't know exactly what your limits are in Canada. What is your baseline? That's what Afghanistan does.
"I want to be out on the edge doing what others can't or won't do. I have autonomy and some influence. I can make a difference.
"My dad always said, 'Live free. Make life on your own terms.' That's what I am doing. But I don't know yet if I am a lifer. I am still making up my mind."
With German help, Afghans aim to raise football profile
Indo-Asian News Service Germany, November 7, 2005
Mohammad Reza Mahmoudi has achieved a lifelong dream by making it into the newly formed Afghanistan national football team.
The 22-year-old midfielder has been a member of the national team for nearly a year and is proud to have made the grade.
"It was always my dream to play under the Afghan flag. To have managed it makes me unbelievably happy," Mahmoudi said on his first visit to Germany, where the Afghan team has been training under invitation of the German Football Federation (DFB).
The German government financed the 10-day training school in Bad Blankenburg. "We want to lay the foundation so that the team is able in two or three years to compete in the Asian area," said Klaus Staerk, who has been training the Afghans during their stay in Germany.
The 51-year-old is one of 20 DFB coaches who work on football development in war-torn and impoverished countries and has already worked in Mongolia, Lebanon, and Kazakhstan.
With Afghanistan still struggling for stability four years after the removal of the Taliban from power, Staerk admits even basic issues like accommodation and nutrition are a problem. Virtually none of the players has an apartment or a job.
"Even nutrition is a big problem," said Staerk. "So it's difficult to get fit and achieve higher aims."
While there is an 18-team league in the Afghan capital Kabul, they must share the former Olympic stadium, which was previously used for executions
by the Taliban.
"The pitch is basically unplayable," said Staerk.
After 25 years of war, there has only been organised football in the country for the past three years but a national league is still out of the question due to lack of infrastructure, the enormous distances involved and the volatile political situation.
"For this reason, we are still at the beginning," said Staerk. "They are nearly all street footballers who train with their clubs without supervision. The standard is very low."
Though there is hope for the future with, for example, Mohammad Reza Mahmoudi saying he wants to pass on all he learns in Germany. "That's my next wish," he said.
Another positive sign was a 1-0 victory in front of 10,000 spectators over an ISAF peacekeepers' team shortly before the team departed for Germany.
"This victory released a real euphoria," said Staerk.
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