Afghanistan to provide aid to quake-hit Pakistan
www.chinaview.cn 2005-10-10 14:17:08
KABUL, Oct. 10 (Xinhuanet) -- Afghanistan has promised to provide helicopters and humanitarian aid to the quake affected people in neighboring Pakistan.
"In line with presidential decree, the Ministry of Defense will send four helicopters, 20 doctors and two tons of medicines while the Ministry of Health would dispatch 31 doctors, five nurses and one ton of medicine to Pakistan," said a presidential statement received Monday.
All the relief teams and consignment will be dispatched to Pakistan today.
The post-war Afghanistan, recovering from over two decades of devastation, has earlier extended symbolic assistance to Tsunami-hit Indonesia, tremor-affected Iran and hurricane-hit United States.
The US military in Afghanistan will also send eight army helicopters to boost rescue and logistic operations in Pakistan.
The 7.6 Richter scale earthquake Saturday morning rocked northern Pakistan and affected neighboring India and Afghanistan, and has so far claimed some 20,000 lives.
ARCS to dispatch relief for Pakistani quake victims
Habib Rehman Ibrahimi
KABUL, October 9 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) will shortly send a 10-member relief team and tons of dry fruits to Pakistan to help victims of Saturday's devastating earthquake that rocked three Asian nations.
ARCS secretary-general Fatimi Gillani, in an exclusive chat with Pajhwok Afghan News on Sunday, said they decided to extend succour to Pakistanis after the society concluded the quake-caused damage in Afghanistan was minimal.
He added the ARCS would dispatch a team of male and female medics, 10 tons of dry fruits and medicines to Islamabad to join the relief effort underway in the neighbouring country, where the massive temblor wiped out whole villages while leaving thousands dead.
Reacting to the ARCS gesture, a senior official at Pakistan's embassy in Kabul lauded the step as yet another manifestation of the deep friendship between the neighbours. Asif Durrani hoped the measure would lend further strength to Pak-Afghan ties.
At least three people including a minor girl were killed in Nangarhar by the jolts that also damaged a number houses in the eastern province. Fatimi Gillani promised they would help relatives of the victims.
According to the ARSC secretary-general, a number of Afghan traders have assured to deliver the relief items to affectees. The society had extended similar assistance to last year's tsunami victims.
More than 19,000 people have been killed in Pakistan, where 11,000 died in Azad Kashmir alone. The 7.6-magnitude quake leveled several buildings including schools, killing thousands of people.
Translated & edited by Mudassir
Government loyalist among two killed by bomb in Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - A prominent former mujahedin commander allied to the government and at least one other person were killed in a bomb blast in volatile southern Afghanistan, government officials said.
The attack was the third around the southern city of Kandahar, once a powerbase for the hardline Taliban movement, in less than a week.
The bomb struck a building owned by Agha Shah, a former anti-Soviet mujahedin fighter who had been one of thousands of former mujahedin to demobilise under a government programme, officials said on Monday.
"Two people including Agha Shah were killed and nine others were wounded," Kandahar governor Assadullah Khaled told reporters. "Two of the wounded are in serious condition."
He blamed the attack on militants loyal to the fundamentalist Taliban regime that was ousted in a US-led campaign that included mujahedin fighters in late 2001.
"This has not been any private enmity but has been the work of Taliban," Khaled said.
Interior ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai said in the capital Kabul that initial reports indicated between three and six people had been killed, including Agha Shah.
"It was a bomb," he said.
An AFP reporter at the scene had seen four bodies, but two of them were later found to have been alive but seriously wounded.
The other two blasts in around the city in the past week have been confirmed to be suicide attacks.
The first on Wednesday targeted a Canadian patrol. The bomber and an Afghan child were killed and three Canadian troops were only lightly hurt.
On Sunday a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a two-vehicle convoy from the British embassy, wounding four British private security guards.
Kandahar province was the birthplace of the Taliban regime, which enforced an intolerant version of Islam on a population dragged down by decades of civil war when they took control of most of Afghanistan in 1996.
The US-led operation that toppled the hardliners was launched after they failed to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden for the September 11, 2001 suicide attacks on Washington and New York.
Taliban loyalists have vowed to overthrow the government of US-backed President Hamid Karzai and embarked on a guerrilla-like insurgency focussed on southern Afghanistan.
More than 1,300 people have been killed this year in the insurgency, up from 850 last year.
There have also been attacks in the capital Kabul, further north, with a suicide blast outside an Afghan army centre near the city on September 28 killing eight soldiers and a civilian.
About 20,000 US-led troops are in Afghanistan, most of them in restive southern and eastern Afghanistan, hunting down Taliban insurgents and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
This year has also been the worst for US casualties, with 85 American soldiers killed in the US-led operation to Afghanistan, over 50 of them in hostile fire.
Suicide Bombings Kill 3 in Afghan City
By NOOR KHAN, Associated Press Writer
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Two suicide attackers exploded bombs in the main southern Afghan city Monday, killing at least three people and wounding eight, officials said.
The assaults bring to five the number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan in the past two weeks — four of them in southern Kandahar city, a former Taliban stronghold.
The first bombing was outside the home of a former militia commander who was allied to the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance, which swept the Taliban from power in late 2001, Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid said.
The blast killed the former commander, Agha Shah, a supporter of President Hamid Karzai, as well as two civilian passers-by, he said. Eight people were wounded.
Khalid said the bomber's body was strewn in bits around the area, but that his head had been recovered and that he appeared to be Arab and was believed to be a member of the Taliban.
The second bombing came two hours later. Police received an intelligence report that an attacker was approaching a U.S. military base in the city. Officers rushed to the area, prompting the assailant to run away before detonating explosives strapped to his body, Khalid said.
No one besides the bomber was hurt in the blast, which occurred about a half mile from the base. The bomber's body was blown into several pieces and was unrecognizable, he said.
The bombings came a day after another suicide attack in Kandahar injured four British government officials. The deadliest suicide attack in the past two weeks was outside an army training center in the capital, Kabul, when nine people were killed.
Suicide assaults have been far less frequent in Afghanistan than by insurgents opposed to U.S.-led forces in Iraq, although senior Afghan officials have spoken in recent months of al-Qaida operatives entering the country to stage attacks.
The spate of bombings come amid a reinvigorated insurgency by Taliban-led rebels that has killed more than 1,300 people in the past half year.
Afghan ruler swops controversial U.S. bodyguards
By Sayed Salahuddin Sun Oct 9, 7:55 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai has replaced his U.S. bodyguards with local ones, blunting accusations by critics who accuse him of relying too much on American support.
Karzai asked for American bodyguards in mid-2002, not long after one of his deputies, Haji Abdul Qadir, was assassinated in Kabul and one of his ministers was killed at the city's airport.
The American bodyguards were conspicuous by their absence on Thursday when Karzai held a news conference at the presidential palace with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
The contract of the Americans, hired by the State Department from U.S. security firm DynCorp, expired on September 27 and Karzai is now protected by about 600 Afghan guards trained by them, officials said.
"They had a timeline and that has expired officially," palace official Khaliq Ahmad said of the American bodyguards.
He said only a handful of a force that used to number about 300 remained in the country and they would leave too after completing training of their Afghan replacements.
Karzai, who is under threat from Taliban insurgents and al Qaeda radicals, is one of the most protected men in the world.
He has already survived at least two assassination attempts.
In September 2002, his bodyguards shot dead an attacker who opened fire on Karzai's car during a visit to his native city of Kandahar.
Last year, a rocket fired at his helicopter narrowly missed while he was on a visit to the town of Gardez.
Arrest Points to Murky Taliban-Pakistan Ties
By John Lancaster Washington Post Sunday, October 9, 2005; Page A22
QUETTA, Pakistan -- The recent arrest here of a Taliban spokesman was hailed by Pakistani authorities as a significant blow in the war against terrorism. But others wonder what took them so long.
As the semi-official voice of the Taliban, Abdul Latif Hakimi was in regular contact with news agencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, calling with the latest inflated claims of U.S. and Afghan casualties at the hands of Taliban fighters. Sometimes he provided reporters with a Pakistani cell phone number.
At least until the end of last year, Hakimi lived more or less openly in this austere desert city in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where he once dealt in used motorcycles and sometimes dropped off news releases in person, according to a local journalist who met with him as recently as November.
"It was never a problem for him to move around freely in Quetta," said the journalist, who requested anonymity because he did not want to invite scrutiny from intelligence agencies. "How is it possible he was living here two years and they never tried to get him? He came to my office. He was meeting with other journalists."
Even now, some senior Pakistani officials acknowledge they were not troubled by the presence of Hakimi, whom they describe as a propagandist with no direct involvement in violence. They arrested him only after repeated complaints from Afghan and U.S. officials. In phone calls to reporters, Hakimi sometimes claimed to be in Afghanistan, suggesting he was able to cross the border with little difficulty.
"We never went after him because he was not engaged in any militant activity," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "Frankly we never took notice."
The Hakimi case speaks volumes about Pakistan's complex relationship with the Taliban. In particular, it underscores the conflict between the government's generally pro-American foreign policy and its reluctance to sever all ties with the Taliban, which it supported until 2001. The fundamentalist Muslim militia, which ruled most of Afghanistan for five years until being ousted by a U.S.-led assault in late 2001, retains considerable support in Pakistan, especially in the restive tribal areas on the Afghan border.
As Taliban fighters have escalated their attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in recent months, the Afghan government, with some U.S. backing, has repeatedly accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to use its territory for recruitment, logistics and training. Although the criticism ebbed slightly after last month's relatively peaceful parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, analysts said Hakimi's arrest was not likely to put those suspicions to rest -- and in some ways even vindicated them.
"On the one hand, Pakistan can take the credit for arresting this fellow," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, author of several books on the Pakistani military. "On the other, it confirmed the old suspicion that some of the senior Taliban people were in Pakistan and that maybe there are some more in Pakistan."
Government officials deny giving sanctuary to Taliban insurgents, citing the deployment in the last several years of tens of thousands of troops along the mountainous border with Afghanistan. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, recently suggested strengthening that barrier with a fence.
At the same time, officials draw a distinction between the insurgents and political figures who took refuge in Pakistan after the collapse of the Taliban government but are not involved in violence. They noted that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had demonstrated a similar flexibility by urging former Taliban figures to participate in the recent elections.
"Neither we nor President Karzai believe that all former prominent Talibans are a security threat," said a cabinet member, who insisted on anonymity.
Pakistan's support for the Taliban dates to the early 1990s, when its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency embraced the radical movement -- composed largely of talibs , or students, from religious seminaries known as madrassas -- as an antidote to the chaos that racked Afghanistan following the anti-Soviet jihad of the previous decade.
In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Musharraf announced under intense pressure from Washington that his government would no longer support the Taliban and would throw its weight behind the U.S.-declared war on terrorism.
Pakistan subsequently won high praise from the Bush administration for arresting about 700 al Qaeda militants who fled Afghanistan after the collapse of the Taliban government. Pakistan has lost more than 300 soldiers in military operations against foreign fighters and their local allies in the tribal areas of South and North Waziristan bordering Afghanistan, but it has been reluctant to pursue the Taliban with similar vigor.
That reluctance stems from several factors, including the Taliban's origins among the ethnic Pashtun tribes that straddle the border -- which also allows Taliban fighters to blend with the local population -- as well as Pakistan's fears about the close ties between Afghanistan and India, Pakistan's perennial rival and much larger neighbor.
Moreover, as part of his strategy for retaining power, Musharraf has formed a tacit, if awkward, alliance with a coalition of hard-line religious parties whose leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, openly supports the Taliban. The parties hold power in two of Pakistan's four provinces, North-West Frontier and Baluchistan. There, they govern in partnership with Pakistan's main pro-government party.
Representatives of the religious parties deny any role in the Taliban insurgency, but there is no mistaking their sympathies. "I don't think any sensible person would dislike" the Taliban, said Noor Mohammed, a member of the national assembly who runs a madrassa in Pushtunabad, a Quetta slum filled with Afghan refugees. "They are against American policies."
The Taliban's historic ties to Pakistan have fueled suspicions in Kabul, the Afghan capital, that the country remains a refuge for senior Taliban figures, including Mohammad Omar, the one-eyed Taliban commander, and several of Omar's top aides. Pakistani officials have repeatedly denied that Omar is in their territory, but they have had a harder time fending off the same charge about other prominent Taliban figures.
Originally from southwestern Afghanistan, near Baluchistan, Hakimi was a mid-level functionary who briefly headed the Taliban's information department in Herat province when the movement was in power. After its ouster, he moved to Quetta. Hakimi began speaking for the organization again in early 2004 with Omar's blessing, according to Rahimullah Yusufzai, a journalist with the News, an English-language daily.
Hakimi, said to be in his thirties, was "initially very selective" in his choice of news media contacts, "but as he became bolder and less worried, he was calling everyone," recalled Yusufzai, who spoke with him frequently. "At times we were surprised at how he could operate so effectively and so openly."
Hakimi's repeated claims of Taliban gains on the battlefield got under the skin of U.S. military officials, who pressed Musharraf on the matter during his visit last month to U.S. Central Command in Florida, according to the cabinet minister and two senior Pakistani intelligence officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
That complaint, the officials said, prompted Hakimi's arrest in Quetta's Newa Killi neighborhood.
Special correspondent Kamran Khan in Karachi, Pakistan, contributed to this report.
Balkh governor assails colleagues' arrest
Pajhwok Afghan News 10/09/2005
MAZAR-I-SHARIF - Governor of the northern Balkh province Saturday criticised the central government for arresting his two colleagues on charges of killing an electoral candidate.
Following direction from the central government, provincial police detained the accused Habib Rahman and Khal Bai on Saturday morning. They were charged with killing a parliamentary candidate Ashraf Ramzan 11 days back.
The interior ministry delegation, assigned to arrest the two accused, said they were nominated by family of the deceased besides two other accused.
Commenting on the issue, Governor Ata Mohammad Noor criticised the arrest, saying Habib and Bai were his old companions. "They are innocent as I know them from jihad times."
"The two detained people are my men and Habib Rahman was one of my confident commanders during the jihad era," the governor said, adding he had agreed to their arrest to prove their innocence.
Rejecting his own involvement in the killing, Ata said the aggrieved party fist blamed him for murdering Ramazan. "The demonstrators first accused me for the murder and now police has arrested two of my men."
He said some miscreants were inciting the people to create trouble in the province. "I stopped Pakhtun, Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek from staging demonstrations in my favour because such a step can create trouble in the province."
Ramazan's murder led to a series of demonstrations by his supporters in his home town, Bamyan city and the central capital. Some of his supporters alleged the governor was involved in his assassination and pressed the government for action against him.
Commentary Los Angeles Times / October 9, 2005
By Neamat Nojumi, Neamat Nojumi, a senior fellow at the Center for World Religion, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, was an Afghan military commander during the anti-Soviet war in the 1980s.
AFGHANISTAN'S impressive achievements are in danger of being lost. Donor nations aren't giving enough development funds. Western nongovernmental organizations are mismanaging reconstruction. And Pakistan has failed to arrest Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in its backyard. The optimism and hope generated by last October's presidential election and last month's legislative voting will soon fade. Afghanistan could again become a base for global Islamist terrorism.
Four years after the U.S.-led coalition kicked the Taliban out of power, Taliban and Al Qaeda remnants continue to use Pakistan as a sanctuary, training base and staging area for attacks on coalition and Afghan soldiers. More than 50 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Afghans have been killed this year. Reconstruction is stalled in Afghanistan's border provinces because of a lack of security. Last year, groups of five to 10 engaged in the cross-border attacks from Pakistan, according to tribal elders I met in eastern Nuristan province. This year, the attackers number in the 70s and 80s and often wear uniforms.
Despite Pakistani military operations in Waziristan, periodic arrests of militants and announcements that the border has been "sealed," Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and his generals still play both fireman and arsonist in Afghanistan. This will only worsen unless President Bush and Congress stop indulging Pakistan's two-track policy.
The great majority of Afghans I've spoken with believe that the promises of reconstruction assistance from the Afghan government and the international community remain unfulfilled. Several major roads have been built, and many schools have reopened. But four years into reconstruction, most of Kabul lacks electricity, the capital's streets are unpaved and the sewer and water systems don't work.
The lack of reconstruction programs is most evident in Afghanistan's rural areas. A doctor in the Guzara district of Herat province told me that many pregnant women die on their way to hospitals because they lack transportation or the roads are impassable. More than $5 billion in reconstruction aid has not bought one new power plant, even though electricity is a crucial ingredient in agricultural and industrial development. Opium production is at unacceptably high levels, with terrorist groups and warlords reaping large profits trafficking drugs. Corruption is on the rise.
A big part of the problem is the more than 1,000 Western nongovernmental organizations that receive and channel the aid. Too often they perform governmental functions that elected but under-sourced Afghans should be doing. Maintaining the maze of foreign NGOs is also wasteful. Their logistics, personnel, housing and other internal costs eat up more than 60% of the assistance money (some estimates are as high as 80%). Afghans joke that they suffered under the Soviets, then the Taliban and now the NGOs.
Afghanistan's governing institutions remain too weak to be effective. Little progress has been made in preparing Afghans to govern. Afghan judges and legal experts repeatedly told me that resolving the huge upsurge in property disputes left over from 20 years of war is beyond the judiciary's ability.
In judicial as well as other governmental and administrative areas, aid agencies are not devoting sufficient attention to training and deploying a professional Afghan cadre of managers and skilled civil servants essential to administering the country. Weak democratic institutions and an inadequate civil society undercut President Hamid Karzai's ability to deal with Muslim extremists and warlords.
What's to be done?
First and foremost, the United States, bilateral donors and the United Nations must investigate and eliminate the inefficiency and mismanagement rampant within the NGO-administered reconstruction. Government functions performed by non-Afghans should be transferred to Afghan institutions, both public and private, as expeditiously as possible.
To reduce corruption, donors should demand more accountability from the Karzai government. When the new Afghan parliament convenes, it will target this corruption. Karzai would be wise to fire some ministers and implement anti-corruption regulations before that day.
Friends of Afghanistan need to recognize that the successful September legislative elections didn't make the country a functioning nation-state. Continued progress doesn't depend on more foreign troops, but on a smarter, redirected and better-funded reconstruction strategy.
Russia Said to Give Afghan Army Equipment
Sun Oct 9,11:29 AM ET
MOSCOW - Russia will supply Afghanistan's fledgling army with helicopters and equipment worth $30 million — more than 15 years after Moscow withdrew after a nearly decade-long war, the Interfax news agency reported Sunday.
Russia will provide the Afghan army with four helicopters and dozens of vehicles as well as communications and other equipment, Interfax quoted the head of the military's international cooperation department, Gen. Anatoly Mazurkevich, as saying during a visit to Portugal with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov.
Mazurkevich said the aid would not include any weapons or ammunition, and that Russia has provided about $100 million in military equipment to Afghanistan in recent years.
Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after a conflict Moscow launched to support the country's communist government. Russia later supported forces that opposed the hard-line Taliban leadership, which was ousted by a U.S.-led offensive in 2001, following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
The United States is leading efforts to develop Afghanistan's army, still fighting Taliban-led rebels who have stepped up their attacks this year. Afghan army and police are aided by some 20,000 U.S.-led coalition troops and an 11,000-strong NATO peacekeeping force.
Karzai aide condemns women in Afghan beauty contest
CBC News (Canada) / October 9, 2005
An aide to Afghan President Hamid Karzai denounced two women for appearing "half naked" last week in a beauty contest and fashion show. Mohaiuddin Baloch - a religious adviser to Karzai - said the actions of the two women are illegal under Islamic law.
Sutara Bahramia appeared in a bikini at the Miss Earth beauty pageant in Manila. Vida Samadzai wore a bra and loose skirt at a fashion show in India.
Both of the women have lived outside Afghanistan for many years - though they have both represented Afghanistan in pageants.
"I heard that they have come out half naked in public. Curse be to those who appear this way in front of the public," said Baloch.
Last week Baloch was in the news for jailing the editor of an Afghan women's magazine.
The editor had questioned the harshness of sentences handed out under Shariah law. He also said that Muslims who reject their faith should not be punished.
Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country even after the overthrow of the Taliban. Under the Taliban women were barred from education and working outdoors.
S. Asia Quake Hits Area Where Osama Hides
By KATHERINE SHRADER Associated Press October 9, 2005
WASHINGTON - No evidence suggests that the deadly earthquake that rocked Pakistan on Saturday injured or killed the world's top terror leader, Osama bin Laden.
The quake shook the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. However, authorities at this point have no information indicating he's been injured or killed, said a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity.
Bin Laden guided the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks aimed at New York City and Washington.
U.S. hopes for bin Laden's death or capture were high in December 2001, when U.S. and Afghan troops surrounded a cave complex sheltering al-Qaida members in Afghanistan's Tora Bora region. But bin Laden escaped and is now believed to be living a relatively isolated existence to evade capture.
He was last seen publicly on a videotaped message before the November 2004 elections.
Bin Laden's public face is often his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, who may be hiding with him and is known for more frequent messages. In one last month, Zawahri called the London transit attacks "a slap to the face" of Britain.
Fatal road crashes on the increase in Afghanistan
KABUL, October 9 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Over 382 people were killed in more than 1,100 road accidents in the last six months in Afghanistan, officials said.
Wide range accidents happened in different parts of the country, 500 of which took place in Kabul that claimed 119 lives and left 349 people wounded.
Gen. Abdul Shakoor Khairkhwah, the director general of the Traffic Department in Kabul, told Pajhwok Afghan News unawareness on the part of drivers regarding traffic rules, extensive use of drugs and alcohols, narrow roads and massive traffic jam were the main reasons of traffic mishaps.
Heavy traffic is one of the main reasons for large number of incidents in central capital. According to traffic officials a city of 4585 kilometers square, where 4 million people living, more than 300,000 vehicles are plying on the road.
To thwart such mishaps, Khairkhwah stressed drivers to abide by traffic rules and never use alcohols or drugs. Both electronic and print media should play vital role to reduce accidents. Media might create awareness in drivers regarding importance of traffic signals.
"Unfortunately, the state controlled television channel don't cooperate us despite our repeated requests," the traffic chief said.
However, Mohammad Musa Radmanesh, head of the transmissions wing of the state-run TV, said they were ready to allocate two minutes for such programs on TV every evening on request of the traffic officials.
Last year, 1,500 accidents were recorded throughout Afghanistan, 700 out of them occurred only in Kabul. Last year 600 people killed in accidents in the entire country.
Disarmament and Reintegration Commission joint Secretariat
Source: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 10 Oct 2005
Kabul October 10, 2005 - On October 8th, a high-ranking delegation led by Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, deputy Chairman of the Disarmament and Reintegration (D&R) Commission and advisor minister to the President, conducted a mission to Badakhshan. The aim of the mission was to praise commanders supporting the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) programme and encourage other commanders and groups to take part in the disarming and disbandment process. The visiting delegation from Kabul also included General Manan (Ministry of Interior), Peter Babbington, director of the Afghanistan’s New Beginnings Programme (ANBP) and Sergiy Illarionov, Chief of Staff of UNAMA and former head of the regional UNAMA office in Kunduz.
In Badakhshan, the delegation attended two disarmament ceremonies.
The first ceremony was held in the district of Shar-e-Buzurg where Mohammad Nabi, the district governor - a former Jihad commander - handed over 106 weapons and two trucks of ammunitions, thus demonstrating compliance with the DIAG programme.
In his speech, Mohammad Nabi insisted that with the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police now set up, there was "no need for local commanders and individuals to keep their weapons", adding that it was their "job to support the newly-established security institutions".
The Governor of Badakhshan, Monshi Abdulmajed, the chief of police of Badakhshan, General Shah Jehan Noory, the provincial head of the National Security Directorate, General Abdul Samad and the commander of the ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) of Fayzabad also attended the ceremony in Shar-e-Buzurg.
The second ceremony was held in Fayzabad, the capital of Badakhshan, where Nazer Mohammad, a former general, handed over 46 light and heavy weapons and a small quantity of ammunitions. Nazer Mohammad also promised to provide increasing support to the DIAG process.
In their speeches, both Nazer Mohammad and Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai insisted that time had come for the Afghan people to move from keeping weapons to building a safer and more secure environment, so that they can devote themselves to rebuilding their country. The ceremony was also attended by the visiting delegation, the Governor of Badakhshan and the Fayzabad ISAF PRT commander.
The delegation also checked hundreds of other weapons, which had already been collected by the regional weapons collection team in the province.
Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG)
In partnership with the Ministry of Defence and Interior, the ANBP weapons collection teams, have verified 11,031 which have been handed over to provincial collection points under the DIAG programme.
An additional, 19,055 boxed and 36,945 unboxed ammunition have been verified under the DIAG programme.
The DIAG process was launched June 11th, 2005 when the programme was officially announced by Vice President Khalili.
M'sia To Send Aid To India, Afghanistan
SUBANG, Oct 10 (Bernama) -- Malaysia, which today despatched a search and rescue (SAR) team to quake-hit Pakistan and a US$1 million aid contribution to the Pakistani government, said that it would also send aid soon to India and Afghanistan, which have also been ravaged by the disaster.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Wisma Putra would inform him of the amount and the type of assistance to be given to India and Afghanistan.
He said Malaysia would not sideline India and Afghanistan on the issue of aid distribution.
"We have not forgotten to help India and Afghanistan but we received information on Pakistan earlier, and in Pakistan, the impact of the earthquake is more devastating," he told reporters after sending-off the Malaysian SAR team to Pakistan at the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), base here Monday.
The Malaysian team comprising 50 men from various agencies and non-governmental organisations would leave for Pakistan today to help in the search and rescue operations.
About 30,000 people were killed and more than 41,000 were injured in the devastating earthquake in Pakistan.
The team comprises three officers of the National Security Division, 25 officers and personnel of the Special Malaysia Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (SMART), six medical officers from Kuala Lumpur Hospital, five medical officers from the Malaysian Red Crescent Society, seven members of the medical relief society, MERCY Malaysia, and four journalists.
Abdullah said his Pakistani counterpart Shaukat Aziz thanked Malaysia for the contribution.
The premier also thanked the SAR team particularly Muslims who had to leave their families during the Ramadan to help another nation.
On how long the team would be deployed in Pakistan, he said this would depend on the team's assessment of the situation there.
"If the need arises, then they have to be there for quite some time. They have to conduct an assessment on the ground. They will give a feedback on the requirements there, whether there's a need for further assistance," he said. To another question, Abdullah declined to comment on the status of the former Umno Vice President Tan Sri Mohd Isa Samad.
"I will come up with a statement," he said.
New FM Radio Station Starts Test Broadcasts in Northern Afghan Province
RedNova - Oct 09 5:47 AM
Text of report by Afghan independent Aina TV on 8 October
[Presenter] A radio station started airing its test broadcast on FM in Sar-e Pol Province [northern Afghanistan].
[Correspondent] Following the expansion of FM bands in a number of provinces, the installation of the radio station began a month ago in Sar-e Pol, the capital of Sar-e Pol Province by experienced engineers. It started its broadcast on Saturday, 8 October.
In a telephone contact, Sayfoddin Nuri, the head of Sar-e Pol Radio and Television Department, said: After its test broadcast, the radio will be officially launched and start interesting educational, informative and news programmes. This is one of the main and vital steps taken toward public enlightenment and social improvement.
Source: BBC Monitoring South Asia
Hostile fire caused fatal helicopter crash in Afghanistan
By The Associated Press
RENO, Nev. — Military investigators have determined that a helicopter crash that killed five Army National Guardsmen in Afghanistan last month was the result of hostile fire, not an accident.
Militants claimed they shot down the aircraft, but Army investigators initially believed the crash was the result of a mechanical failure or other problem.
"After talking to other people in the area and looking at the wreckage, the conclusion was that it was hostile fire," Nevada Army National Guard spokeswoman Capt. April Conway said Saturday.
A final report is not expected for more than a month. Investigators will examine the bullet hole of the shot believed to have brought the helicopter down, spray patterns of fuel on the ground and how far pieces were strewn, Conway said.
"It might have been a guy with a rifle who happened to take a lucky shot or a [rocket-propelled grenade]. We just don't know," Conway said.
300,000 Afghan refugees repatriated in past 3 yrs
Sunday, October 09, 2005 - IranMania.com
LONDON, October 9 (IranMania) - One mln and 300,000 Afghan refugees have been repatriated to their homeland in the past three years, an Iranian official said, according to IRNA.
The number of Afghans who have returned to their homeland from Iran in the past three years has been facilitated with the joint support of Iran, Afghanistan and the UN, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Gholam-Ali Khoshrou said during a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
The refugees were returned to their country in accordance with a tripartite agreement signed in Geneva by representatives from Iran, Afghanistan, and the United National High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in April 2002 for voluntary repatriation of refugees.
Another 200,000 Afghan refugees are expected to leave Iran voluntarily by the end of the current Iranian calendar year (March 20, 2006), Khoshrou told delegates to the meeting held to discuss strategic matters related to Afghan repatriation.
He said that Tehran is currently studying a plan to strengthen and expedite the process of voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees, and added that the head of the family will be given a working visa for a specified period prior to their repatriation should the plan be approved.
The Iranian official pointed out that Afghan refugees who return to Afghanistan would be in urgent need of job training, shelter and sanitary facilities in their home country and that such facilities should be included in the short-term and long-term development programs for returning refugees in their homeland.
Director General of the Bureau for Alien and Foreign Immigrant Affairs (BAFIA) Ahmad Hosseini said in late July that Iran does not intend to extend the Afghan repatriation program.
He said that in accordance with the Geneva tripartite agreement, by the end of the current Iranian year (March 20, 2006) the residence permits of Afghan refugees who have not repatriated are to be considered expired and, thereafter, under the agreement they will no longer be considered refugees entitled to their legal rights.
Work on 30 school buildings underway in Paktia
GARDEZ, October 9 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Work is underway on 30 schools in three districts Sarawza, Umna and Mutakhan of southeastern Paktia, officials say.
According to officials 10 schools will be repaired or built each in these three districts. Mohammad Iqbal, director of education, told Pajhwok Afghan News that most schools have no buildings and the students were studying in makeshift.
The buildings would be constructed under auspices of Rural and Rehabilitation ministry, NGO School Windows, he added.
Syed Rahimullah, an official, said that staffers of Rural and Rehabilitation ministry arrived in region and after conducting survey started the buildings of schools.
He said the NGOs that had taken responsibility of erecting of these buildings were registered with government. But he stopped short of disclosing the names of these NGOs.
Reported by Abdullah Ilham & translated by Rahman
Four election workers dismissed in Paktika
SHARAN, October 9 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Four election workers including the head of the joint UN-Afghan poll panel's regional office in this Paktika capital city have been sacked on charges of fraud in vote count.
A senior official of the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) based in Sharan told Pajhwok Afghan News on Sunday Barat Shahid, Amir Shah Basharat, Bostan and Samar were dismissed after they were accused of backing particular election candidates.
Taj Ali Waziri claimed the workers were in breach of the relevant election law by supporting their relatives in the electoral fray. The staffers were fired after they failed to defend themselves in the course of investigations against the accusations leveled against them, Waziri concluded.
Afghanistan 4 Years On
Sunday October 09, 2005 (1418 PST) PakTribune.com, Pakistan
WASHINGTON: On the eve of the fourth anniversary of the launch of U.S. military operations against the Taliban regime, Afghanistan presents a mixed picture, according to experts here.
The relative stability of the government of President Hamid Karzai and last month's successful voting for national and regional legislatures offer grounds for some satisfaction on the part of U.S. policymakers.
But independent analysts say the country remains overwhelmingly dependent on external aid and threatened by a host of problems, from a revived Taliban insurgency to an indigenous economy based largely on the illicit drug trade.
Training programmes for the national army and the police have lagged far behind schedule, leaving vast swathes of the countryside under the control of local warlords, while the death toll for both civilians and U.S. troops killed by Taliban forces and those of their chief ally, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has mushroomed since last spring.
Indeed, 86 U.S. soldiers have been killed so far this year -- compared to 55 killed between Oct. 7, 2001, when Washington began operations to oust the Taliban, and the end of 2002. More than 1,200 people were killed in just the first six months of this year, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
"The war in Afghanistan is coming to a tempo that wasn't expected," said Michael Scheuer, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) official who led its efforts to track al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan from the late 1990s, and author of "Imperial Hubris".
Others have noted that insurgent attacks have become increasingly sophisticated in the past year, amid evidence that radical Islamists who have fought U.S. forces in Iraq have brought equipment, expertise and the knowledge they acquired there to Afghanistan.
Even the elections marked something of a disappointment to observers who had hoped for a turnout approaching the 70 percent of eligible voters who voted in last year's presidential elections.
In the event, only about 53 percent of the electorate cast ballots this time. Those who received the most votes in the most secure parts of the country, such as Ramyan Bachardost in Kabul, ran populist campaigns in which they mainly attacked corruption and waste in international aid and reconstruction, according to New York University analyst Barnett Rubin.
Rubin, along with Scheuer and several other experts, spoke at a forum to assess Afghanistan's progress sponsored by George Washington University and the Centre for American Progress (CAP) here Wednesday.
Indeed, despite galloping growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) since the interim government headed by Karzai was set up as a result of the December 2001 Bonn Accord, and a huge boost in school enrollments, particularly for girls, the plight of most people in the countryside remains tenuous. Afghanistan still ranks among the half-dozen poorest countries in the world, and, according to a State Department report published in July, has the highest level of malnutrition in the world at 70 percent.
What economic activity is not linked to the international aid effort, according to the experts, is related to the drug trade which, along with along with corruption (also often linked to drugs), was cited by Karzai himself last month as the country's biggest problem. The U.N.'s drug agency estimated earlier this year that the cultivation and trafficking of opium accounted for 60 percent of the economy, or over 2.8 billion dollars in value.
In another report published last year, the State Department warned that Afghanistan was "on the verge of becoming a narcotics state", accounting for nearly 90 percent of the world's opium production. While production fell declined slightly in 2005, according to a recent U.N. report, Afghanistan has in the past year moved into actual heroin production.
The degree to which the country depends so heavily on the drug trade has created a serious bind for the U.S. and other international donors, according to Rubin, who advised the U.N. leadership at the Bonn meetings.
"You can't have a nation-building policy on the one hand and a policy to kill off a major sector of the economy on the other," he said, noting that poppy cultivation has now spread to all of Afghanistan's provinces and "there is no sign of a comprehensive development strategy ...to build an economy that is legal."
Amb. James Dobbins, a top analyst at the RAND Corporation who represented the U.S. at the 2001 Bonn talks, echoed that assessment. "I don't see a near-term strategy" to substantially reduce the economy's reliance on the drug trade, he said.
Any effort to eradicate poppies at this point will not only further impoverish the countryside, but also widen the growing disconnect between the government in Kabul and the rest of the country, according to Rubin. He noted that contributing to that disconnect and growing sense of alienation is a "big institutional gap" between local, grassroots groups, most of which are organised around the mosque, and the central government.
Indeed, the fact that the country's Muslim clergy, which have a national network that can mobilise the populace in ways that the central and local governments cannot, still have not reached a consensus on the legitimacy of the government constitutes another serious vulnerability to the U.S.-backed regime, said Rubin.
Another problem is its incoherence, according to Nazif Sharani, an Afghan-born anthropologist at Indiana University, who noted that the country has really "ended up with three or four governments", including the U.N. office in Kabul, the U.S. embassy there, international non-governmental organisations that administer most of the international aid, the Karzai government, "and now, the fifth, the parliament", which he described as a hodge-podge of conflicting ideologies and interests.
The U.S. and the rest of the international community, he said, had made a serious error in trying to build up the central government, particularly the army and police, to which nearly half the government's budget is now devoted, at the expense of the local autonomy and empowerment.
"This government will continue not because it is supported by the people," Sharani said, "but because they fear the return of the Taliban."
Another major mistake made by the U.S. in particular was to divert "resources that could or should have been used in Afghanistan" to prepare for war in Iraq, according to Dobbins, who gave some credit to the administration for increasing its commitment to Afghanistan since then.
"We have about two times as many troops there now (nearly 20,000) as we did in the first year and are providing four times more assistance," he said.
Over 1,000 children to get vocational training, says minister
KABUL, October 9 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Minister for Public Works and Social Affairs Ikramudin Masumi said on Sunday over thousand poor children hailing from central capital, including, provinces of Nangarhar, Badkhshan and Kundoz would be imparted vocational training.
In a brief chat with Pajhwok Afghan News, the minister said the children would be trained in different professions to help them in earning livelihood.
Save the Children NGOs of Sweden and Norway would provide $3.5 million to the ministry for carrying out these trainings., he added. In this connection, Minister Ikramudin signed an accord with Lein lees head of the NGO here.
Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) report shows the number of working children in Kabul is 60,000.
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