Afghan Ministers Praise Women's Electoral Gains
VOA By Gary Thomas Washington 17 October 2005
Although official results have not yet been announced, Afghan officials are praising the recent parliamentary elections as a breakthrough for women.
Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdulllah and Minister for Women's Affairs Masuda Jalal say last month's parliamentary elections were a major step for women's rights in their country.
At a Washington forum Monday sponsored by Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, Ms. Jalal said female candidates fared well in the elections, and women turned out in large numbers to vote.
"The people of Afghanistan's reaction to women empowerment, women's leadership, and promotion of gender equality is positive. They proved [that] in the parliamentary elections," she said.
Elections were held September 18 for the new lower house of parliament, called the Wolesi Jirga, and 34 provincial councils. There is a minimum of 68 seats reserved for women in the 249-seat parliament.
Ms. Jalal said voters in many areas cast ballots for women, because they had no ties to the civil war and the harsh rule of the Taleban.
"They appreciate that women did not have any hand in the problems of three decades," she explained. "And they are trusting women. I think they are welcoming women's leadership in the country."
Although the Taleban was ousted in 2001, Afghanistan remains a deeply traditional, male-dominated society. Tribal leaders in rural areas are male.
Men also control the booming narcotics trade, which has hit record highs since the Taleban left. Afghanistan now produces an estimated 87 per cent of the world's heroin, and drug money fuels much of the Afghan economy.
Foreign Minister Abdulllah said the government of President Hamid Karzai is committed to eradicating the drug trade, but admits the task has proved more daunting than expected.
"We are dealing with it at a time when we have to deal with all other issues," said Mr. Abdullah. "For any other country it has taken a long time. [But] Afghanistan, since there has been a lot of progress in the political process, there has been progress in other fields, so it is expected to deal with it overnight. It's not possible, I think it's not feasible."
Ms. Jalal says Afghanistan is so poor that many farmers have no recourse but to turn to poppy cultivation, which produces the opium used to make heroin, to earn a livelihood for their families. She says they need to be provided an alternative.
"That's why a lot needs to be done in terms of livelihood replacement to cover that gap that could be created if we take it completely from their [hands], the production. So that's why it's difficult to fight against," she explained.
Foreign analysts have said that the new parliament is expected to have some major drug dealers within its ranks.
Afghan FM Cautions Against Drawdown In Central Asia
Washington - Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah today urged members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization not to weaken support for his country's stabilization efforts.
Abdullah told a news briefing at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty it is not time to consider reducing the international coalition forces battling extremists in Afghanistan.
"The war against terrorism in Afghanistan is an ongoing process. Despite all the achievements, it has not come to an end and friendly countries to Afghanistan should realize that it's a contribution to stability in the whole region. It's not just for Afghanistan."
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization issued a communique in July calling on Washington to wind down the U.S. military presence in Central Asia. It suggested there was declining need for combat operations against the Taliban. The organization groups Russia, China, and most Central Asian states.
Uzbekistan has called on U.S. forces to vacate a base in its country but Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan continue to permit coalition military operations on their territory.
US troops kill 4 Afghan police by mistake -official
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - U.S. troops shot four Afghan policemen dead and wounded another after mistaking them for militants during an operation in southern Afghanistan, a senior local official said on Tuesday.
Separately, on Tuesday three Afghans working for the American security firm USPI were hurt -- and one was possibly killed -- by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, provincial governor, Assadullah Khalid said.
He said there were no foreigners on board the vehicle, but had no further details about the attack outside Kandahar city.
The U.S. military in Kabul said it had no information about the killing of policemen which, if confirmed, would be the second incident of its kind this month.
Khalid said Monday night's shootings in Maiwand district came after police fired into the air from their checkpoint.
"The U.S. soldiers were on a hunt for Taliban on the basis of a tip-off when the shot was fired in the sky and the soldiers thought it was the enemy who fired it," Khalid said.
"They fired on them and, after overrunning the checkpoint, found that they had killed four police and wounded another by mistake," he told reporters.
Earlier this month U.S. troops mistook some policemen for militants during a hunt in the adjacent province of Helmand, again killing four and wounding another.
The U.S. military, which leads some 20,000 foreign troops hunting militants in Afghanistan, confirmed that incident.
Nearly 11,00 people -- most of them militants, but including more than 50 U.S. soldiers -- have been killed in Afghanistan this year, the bloodiest period since 2001.
U.S.-led forces are blamed by many in the country for killing several thousand Afghans by mistake, mostly in airstrikes since the offensive to oust the Taliban was launched in October 2001.
(addtional reporting by Sayed Salahuddin in KABUL)
Suspected Taliban Militants Kill Pro-Government Cleric In Helmand
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
17 October 2005 -- Suspected Taliban militants have shot dead a pro-government cleric in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.
Mohammad Wali, a spokesman for the provincial governor said cleric Mohammad Gul was killed late Sunday as he left his mosque in the regional capital Lashkargah.
The killing came two days after another pro-government cleric, Mullah Mohammad Khan, died in a bomb blast at his mosque in the eastern Khost Province.
Associated Press also reports a third cleric, Noor Ahmad Jan, was shot dead by militants at his home late Sunday in eastern Kunar Province.
A local intelligence chief and a police officer were also reported killed today in Helmand Province.
Officials blame the rising violence on the Taliban, who are active in Afghanistan's south and east, where some 1,200 people have been killed in attacks this year.
Thousands protest assassination of Islamic cleric in AFghanistan
16 October 2005 -- At least 5,000 Afghans protested in eastern Afghanistan today against the assassination of a pro-government Islamic cleric in a suspected Taliban attack.
Mullah Mohammad Khan was killed on Friday when a bomb planted in his mosque in Tanai district in eastern Khost province exploded. A dozen worshippers were wounded.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the killing as "an attack on the religion of Islam."
There have been several attacks, some of them deadly, against influential Muslim clerics this year. Most have been blamed on suspected Taliban.
Participants in the protests in several districts in the province, including in the provincial capital Khost, today demanded that the government provide security for religious leaders and called the violence "un-islamic."
Religious leader, security officers gunned down in Afghanistan
October 17, 2005
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Taliban militants gunned down a member of a provincial religious council and two security officers in separate attacks in insurgency-hit southern Afghanistan, an official said.
A candidate for last month's landmark elections was meanwhile found unconscious in the east of the country after being abducted nearly three weeks ago, police said on Monday.
Mawlawi Mohammad Gul, a member of the religious council of troubled southern Helmand province, was shot dead in the provincial capital Lashkar-Gah late Sunday, provincial government spokesman Haji Mohammed Wali said.
Gul had been walking home from Ramadan prayers when the militants shot him, Wali told AFP.
In another attack in Helmand on Sunday, Taliban fighters in a car opened fire on a group of security officers talking together near a bazaar in Sangeen district.
An intelligence director and a policeman were killed and two other police officers were wounded, Wali said.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the Helmand attacks on behalf of the hardliners, who launched an insurgency after being removed from government in a US-led attack in late 2001.
Helmand is among several provinces in southern and eastern Afghanistan that have seen the bulk of the insurgency-linked attacks, which have claimed about 1,400 lives this year.
A week ago 18 Afghan policemen were killed in the province in an intense battle that lasted several hours. It was one of the worst attacks on the young Afghan police force that began forming after the Taliban were ousted.
The province is also the country's leading producer of illegal opium, of which Afghanistan provides nearly 90 percent of the world's supply, and President Hamid Karzai said drugs barons may have carried out the attack on the police.
The abducted candidate, Mohammad Sadiq Sabir, was found late Sunday in eastern Nangarhar province, provincial police chief Ghafor Khan said.
Sabir, who was not on track to win a seat according to a partial vote-count, had not yet been able to tell police what had happened to him, Khan said.
The September 18 legislative election was hailed as a key step in Afghanistan's transition to democracy after years of Soviet occupation, brutal civil war and hardline Taliban rule.
But the progress has been overshadowed by almost daily attacks blamed on the Taliban and other militants in the country where factional and ethnic loyalties are strong.
Final results are due by the end of the month, with warlords and former Taliban members expected to take a significant number of seats in the new parliament.
8 Taliban killed in Spin Boldak
Daily Times (Pakistan) / October 17, 2005
KABUL: Eight Taliban have been killed in fresh fighting in Spin Boldak while a rocket attack on Kandahar airfield damaged two British Harriers.
The clash between Taliban and Afghan Army personnel occurred on Thursday, said Gen Muhammad Zahir Azimi, Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman. One suspected Taliban was also arrested after the battle, he added.
Separately, the British Harrier warplanes were on the tarmac at Kandahar airfield when the rockets exploded nearby, damaging them with shrapnel, said US military spokeswoman Sgt Marina Evans. No one was wounded in Friday’s rocket attack. Also, the Taliban on Sunday killed three Afghans for spying for US troops in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the militant group said. Lal Mohammad, Mohammad Hassan and Abdul Samad had their throat cut in Uruzgan province, Qari Yousaf, said, adding, “They were spying against the mujahideen and we slaughtered them.”
Speaking by satellite phone, Yousaf said the Taliban had killed four Afghan soldiers in a pre-dawn raid in Kandahar province. No provincial officials could be immediately reached for comment about either incident.
A tanker supplying fuel to a US base in Afghanistan was destroyed in an explosion on the border with Pakistan, police said on Sunday. No one was hurt in Saturday’s blast at Torkham Pass, police commander Mustafa Khan said. An Afghan military commander said the blaze was caused by a bomb blast, but the provincial governor said it was sparked by a cooking fire. agencies
Japan to Extend Afghan Anti-Terror Mission
Tue Oct 18, 1:25 AM ET AP
TOKYO - Japan's powerful lower house on Tuesday approved a one-year extension of the country's naval mission to support U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan.
Japan's navy has provided fuel for coalition warships in the Indian Ocean since November 2001 under a special law that was set to expire on Nov. 1. It already had been extended in 2003 for two years.
The Parliament's lower house approved the law's extension with approval by the majority of its members. No vote count was provided.
The Cabinet earlier this month endorsed legislation to extend the mission. The bill is now sent to the upper house where approval is expected later this month.
The legislation was expected to pass easily because Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition ally New Komei Party hold majorities in both houses.
As part of its contribution to the war on terror, Japan also has stationed 600 non-combat troops in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah on non-combat, humanitarian mission to purify water, rebuild schools, and other tasks under a special law passed in 2003.
Japan's Iraq mission expires on Dec. 14, but Tokyo hasn't decided whether to extend it. Koizumi has suggested Japan's efforts in Iraq aren't finished.
Japan's constitution bans the use of force in settling international disputes, and the overseas missions are unpopular with the public.
Defense Minister Yoshinori Ono said in September that Japan was considering pulling out its warships from the Indian Ocean amid criticism it is running a "free gasoline station" for coalition forces.
AFGHANISTAN: UN-Afghan aid to Pakistan underway
17 Oct 2005 19:06:33 GMT
KABUL, 17 October (IRIN) - The UN and Afghan relief agencies are dispatching aid for survivors of the earthquake that hit northern Pakistan and India on 8 October.
Officials at the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) said on Monday they were providing 15 mt of dried fruit to quake victims in the two South Asian nations.
"We are preparing to dispatch 10 mt of dry fruit to the quake-affected areas in Pakistan, while we have already sent 5 mt of dry fruit to India yesterday," ARCS Disaster Management head Javid Qanie said, adding they were waiting only on official permission from Pakistan to start deliveries. "Today or tomorrow, we will send the aid to Pakistan."
The Afghan government and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) agreed to send 65 trucks from WFP's Afghanistan operation to assist in the transport of life-saving relief supplies to quake-hit areas in Pakistan, WFP said.
"The trucks will transport food and non-food items urgently needed by the hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have been without food and shelter since the quake struck," said Charles Vincent, head of WFP in Afghanistan.
The UN said more four million people had been affected by the quake and one million were in dire need of relief, while more than 2.5 million survivors needed to be re-housed. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said about 200,000 winterised tents were urgently needed.
On Sunday, a joint convoy of more than 60 trucks from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and WFP, carrying 1,500 tents, 20,000 blankets, 50,000 plastic sheets and 10,000 jerry cans, was set to leave Kabul for northern Pakistan, according to Nader Farhad from UNHCR Kabul.
WFP Afghanistan has loaned WFP Pakistan 1,000 mt of wheat flour and provided 40 mt of dates donated by the government of Qatar. The dates were being sent from the WFP's warehouse in Quetta to quake-affected areas, according to WFP.
WFP will be setting up five UN base camps in the worst-hit locations in Pakistan to co-ordinate the relief operation. WFP has also flown in emergency response teams to Pakistan from Afghanistan and other parts of the world to help with the operation. WFP Afghanistan will provide assistance as needs evolve, Vincent said.
Meanwhile, the Afghanistan government has provided four helicopters, along with 34 medical personnel and 4 mt of medicine. "Our medical personnel established a 50-bed mobile hospital, which has treated more than 800 wounded and conducted 70 major surgeries" Dr Ahmad Sha Shakuhmand from the health ministry said.
Afghanistan to Export Pomegranates to Japan, Malaysia
KANDAHAR - The Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC) Monday singed an agreement with Japan and Malaysia for exporting 7,500 tons of pomegranates.
Dr Abdul Raziq Rafiqi, head of the AICC, told Pajhwok Afghan News the two countries were eager to import pomegranates from Afghanistan.
Earlier, grapes from Kandahar had been exported to several countries earning foreign exchange for the country.
The AICC chief said: "We have delivered 20,000 tons of grapes to India, Bangladesh, and Singapore during the current season."
Abul Hadi, aged 28, a resident of the Arghandab district, said finding international market for the produce had slashed all excuses of the poppy growers in the province.
"Getting value in foreign markets, the exports will enhance economic status of the growers," he hoped.
Afghan Route to Prosperity: Grow Poppies
The New York Times 10/18/2005 By Amy Waldman
SHORABAK — Rahmatullah trudged toward his village with his donkey, as men across Afghanistan have done for centuries. But in this century, men in Jeeps and on motorbikes were passing him by.
So this year Rahmatullah, a 37-year-old father of three, speaking in front of the village mosque and its mullah, said he would join his neighbors in growing poppies to harvest Afghanistan's most lucrative cash crop, opium.
His hierarchy of dreams is all sketched out. First he will pay off some $1,200 in debt. Then he will build a house to replace the one room he shares with his family, then buy cows for plowing.
"Then, if I get richer, I'll buy a car," he finished, eyes agleam.
Across Afghanistan, opium cultivation is surging, defying all efforts of the Afghan government and international officials to stop it. Officials are predicting that land under poppy cultivation will rise by 30 percent or more this year, possibly yielding a record crop. Last year the country produced almost 4,000 tons — three-fourths of the world's opium — in 28 of its 32 provinces. The trade generated $1 billion for farmers and $1.3 billion for traffickers, according to the United Nations, more than half of Afghanistan's national income.
The expansion of the trade presents a gathering threat to the new democratic government and a severe challenge to the American and international forces here. But American officials, reluctant to open a new front in the campaign against terror or engage in an antidrug war here, are conflicted about how aggressively to combat it.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador, said in a recent interview that with Afghanistan's elections approaching — they are now scheduled for September — "the politics of it may require not to go too harsh" with eradication.
But as opium production underpins ever more of Afghanistan's economic life, from new business growth to home construction, officials also fear that the economic and political risks of uprooting it will only increase. To the chagrin of Afghan and international officials, the narcotics industry has far outpaced the legal reconstruction of Afghanistan, with a capitalist intensity they would otherwise applaud.
It has lured private capital for investment and created a free-market system. With Thuraya satellite phones, farmers in distant Kandahar, a rival source of poppy in the south, know almost in real time about changing weather conditions here in this northeastern province, Badakshan, and adjust prices accordingly.
Landowners and traffickers offer credit to farmers willing to grow poppy. Trafficking has linked Afghanistan to the global economy. It even brought the first real industry here, a heroin processing laboratory that villagers estimated had operated for six months to a year before it was destroyed by Afghan and British forces in January. One local referred to it as "the company."
Afghanistan's opium production peaked under the Taliban, who partly financed their movement from the profits. But in July 2000 the Taliban banned opium cultivation, to the distress of many farmers, and the price soared.
Many experts say the ban was simply meant to drive the price up, amounting to an effective cornering of the market for the Taliban and others who had amassed stockpiles.
British and Afghan officials are now counting on mullahs to spread the word that it is haram, or forbidden, under Islam to cultivate opiates. But interviews in many villages found that such preachings were ignored. Other mullahs were growing it themselves.
For many Afghans, poppy has allowed for piety. A United Nations report on Afghanistan's opium economy noted that 85 percent of opium traders surveyed had performed the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that is incumbent on every Muslim but too costly for most Afghans.
The growth in opium production is among the gravest threats facing the administration of President Hamid Karzai. It has corrupted the government from bottom to top, including governors and cabinet officials, according to senior Afghan and American officials.
American and Afghan officials say opium is financing warlords like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, local militias, the Taliban and possibly Al Qaeda.
Even as some American officials remain wary of fighting the spread of opium too aggressively, others have criticized the British, who have taken the lead against the drug trade here, for being too soft and slow on eradicating poppy crops. A British plan in 2002 to compensate farmers for eradication is widely seen to have acted as a "perverse incentive" to grow, as one official put it.
Citing the link between narcotics and terrorism, United Nations and British officials, meanwhile, are urging the American-led military alliance to take on laboratories and traffickers. The Americans, who will put $73 million toward antidrug operations in Afghanistan this year, say such an approach will simply send the laboratories over the border to places like Pakistan's tribal areas, while doing nothing to stop the surge in new cultivation.
But an American official also pointed out that many of those in the drug trade "are the guys who helped us liberate this place in 2001" from the Taliban and on whom the American military continues to rely in its hunt for the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
"The military just does not want to go down that road," he said.
Ideally, officials say, eradication efforts would focus on wealthy landowners growing poppy, not poor farmers. But many struggling farmers have become sharecroppers on the vast fields of the rich and would share the punishment, just as they share the profit.
The American forces have so far limited their intervention against traffickers and laboratories to encounters as they come across them in the course of other military action. But Lt. Gen. David Barno, the commander of the American-led forces, said in March that his troops were finding growing connections between extremism and drugs, which could augur a more assertive approach to the drug trade.
Afghan commando units, with British support, have recently raided as many as 30 laboratories in Nangarhar Province, often meeting well-armed resistance. An American A-10 attack plane shelled "the company" — the processing laboratory near here — when the British and Afghan commandos raided that site.
As the effort to treat the laboratories as targets increases, officials expect violence to rise. American officials say raids on laboratories have already provoked conflict among drug traffickers convinced that their competitors informed on them.
Recent fighting in the Argo district prompted the removal of the governor and police chief after officials in Kabul, the capital, concluded that the two men were working for rival traffickers.
The opium trade is transforming life in Argo, a remote district in Badakshan where a cover of green poppies climbs up steep, desolate hills. The street that runs through the bazaar is mud, but the $200 television sets in the stalls glitter.
In the last four years, said Abdul Rahman, 18, poppy provided his family with a motorbike, a television, an electric generator, a VCR and a CD player — and a new house to hold it all. Last year his family accumulated $4,000 in poppy profits.
Badakshan, here in the north, lays bare narcotics' distorting economic effects. Poppy cultivation has driven up dowry prices and raised the cost of labor so much that wheat was not harvested last year.
So many people are building new homes and businesses with their poppy profits that Atiqullah, 23, a mason, said his daily rate had doubled.
Criminal calculation is partly driving the spread of the drug trade. Residents of Pashtun-inhabited regions long known for poppy growing have turned into outlaw Johnny Appleseeds, crossing the country with loans, expertise and seedpods to generate more opium for heroin laboratories, American and United Nations officials and Afghan farmers say.
But a calculus of human longing is also at work. With the price of opium stubbornly stuck at more than $135 a pound, no legal crop can compete.
"We see in Daryan" — a district thick with poppy — "other people getting rich," said Rahmatullah, who like many Afghans uses one name. "Their life is better. We want to make our life better too."
Today, growing poppies is less about survival — as it was during a drought in this country — than about upward mobility. It is about a new consumer class and an even larger class of aspirants to it.
"Those who had a donkey have a motorbike," said Ahmed Shah, a young farmer in Badakshan. "Those who had a motorbike have a car. Those who have one wife want a second one."
In Dari, the local language, there is a saying: if your donkey lags behind, cut his ear off. It reflects, Afghans say, the central role of envy in their culture — and in cultivation.
The Shomali Plain, just north of Kabul, is full of first-time growers, many of them mujahedeen soldiers. A young commander, Mayel, denied that he was growing poppy, then whispered in earshot of a translator that he was too ashamed to admit that he was.
"We see the people in the south and east getting rich," he told a confidant with righteous logic. "Why shouldn't we cultivate too?"
Afghanistan Riddled with Drug Ties
The Seoul Times 10/18/2005
KABUL — The case of an Afghan village police chief, named Inayatullah, is a small example of a much larger problem.
Is Commander Inayatullah a courageous law-and-order crusader responsible for smashing the drug mafia in his hamlet? Or, is he an opium smuggler? Or, as his bosses say, is he both?
It's a question that hangs over more and more public officials here. The post-Taliban boom in opium production means that drug money now permeates every stratum of Afghanistan's society - from the farmers cultivating poppies in the east to those in the highest levels of the central government of Kabul, according to senior Afghan and European officials working here.
"We are already a narco-state," says Mohammad Nader Nadery at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, which has studied the growing impunity of former military commanders and drug dealers who now work within the Afghan government. "If the governors in many parts of the country are involved in the drug trade, if a minister is directly or indirectly getting benefits from drug trade, and if a chief of police gets money from drug traffickers, then how else do you define a narco-state?"
Abdul Karim Brahowie, Afghanistan's minister of tribal and frontier affairs, says that the government has become so full of drug smugglers that cabinet meetings have become a farce. "Sometimes the people who complain the loudest about theft are thieves themselves," he says.
In the past two years, the UN reports that poppy cultivation increased by two-thirds in 2004 to 51.7 million acres. The US estimate was even higher - at 87.5 million acres. Afghanistan now produces 90 percent of the world's opium - most of it ends up on the streets of Europe and Russia as heroin. European officials warn that this fledgling democracy is being undermined as Afghan officials make decisions based on what's good for the drug trade, rather than the electorate.
"There is a danger that all the stabilization and reconstruction efforts will be neutralized unless the narcotrafficking problem is addressed," says Ursula Müller, political counselor at the German Embassy in Washington. "We have to fight this corruption ... those guys involved in the drug business [who] are in all levels of Afghanistan's government," adds Ms. Müller, who has been actively involved in rebuilding Afghanistan since the US toppled the Taliban in late 2001.
The Afghan government of US-backed President Hamid Karzai has made countering the narcotics trade - over fighting terrorism - its central aim. And the international community, with Britain taking the lead, is planted firmly behind him. Germany, for example, is training local Afghan police, and the US has budgeted $780 million this year to support the antinarcotics battle.
But the opium trade is deeply rooted in Afghan society. Many regional warlords and opponents of the Taliban are now top officials in the Karzai government. One of the most complicated - and delicate - tasks is to get corrupt officials to turn away from the drug trade as a source of personal income.
Müller says it can be done. She tells of a former Afghan provincial official who was nominated to become a deputy minister in Kabul. "We had doubts, and the [Bush] administration had doubts about him," Müller says. "It was an open secret that he was heavily involved in the drugs business."
But, she says, he has turned his back on his former trade and has become a responsible government official leading efforts to staunch the illicit drug business.
The effort in working with local governors has been mixed, though, according to Steve Atkins, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Washington.
Britain provided funding and advice to Afghans on an eradication program in 2004. Governors who participated claimed they eradicated 37,000 acres, but a verification team found that only 13,000 acres had actually been eradicated.
"We have always been clear of the limitations of the governor-led eradication, given that many governors are themselves implicated in the trade," says Mr. Atkins.
The problem, as illustrated by Commander Inayatullah's case, starts at the lowest levels of government. Three months ago, the Afghan police chief made his biggest drug bust yet. In a village in the northeastern province of Badakhshan, the commander arrested a suspected smuggler named Safiullah, and at the time confiscated 80 kilos of opium. But Inayatullah later refused to hand over the opium to the provincial police as evidence, say police officials. He was fired. The provincial police officials also say that Inayatullah may have arrested Safiullah only to get rid of competition from a fellow opium trader.
But Inayatullah steadfastly maintains his innocence.
"I cannot see the minister of interior directly to ask him what the evidence is against me," says Inayatullah, who is in Kabul awaiting reassignment in another district. "I'm the only police commander who has arrested smugglers in Badakhshan. Why am I accused of smuggling?"
Afghan officials interviewed say that Inayatullah's case isn't an isolated one. They say that the people facilitating the drug trade are often the very people who have been assigned to stop it - the police. But these police would not be able to act alone, they say, without the knowledge or consent of their superiors, including governors, provincial police chiefs, and even deputy ministers.
"Whatever number of police cars there are in Kabul, I can tell you that more than 50 percent of them are carrying drugs inside from one place to another," says a senior police commander in Kabul, requesting anonymity for his own safety. "The problem is that Afghanistan is training police to stop drug smugglers, and when they go out into the field, their police commander tells them how to protect the drug smugglers."
Those who confront the drug lords often find themselves in danger. Syed Ikramuddin, former governor of the northern province of Badakhshan, was nearly assassinated by a roadside bomb last October, as was vice presidential candidate Ahmed Zia Massoud in Faizabad. Mr. Ikramuddin survived, but the person sitting next to him was killed and two others were injured.
"Except for the minister of the interior himself, Mr. Ali Jalali, all the lower people from the heads of department down are involved in supporting drug smuggling," says Ikramuddin, who now serves as Afghanistan's minister of labor.
Ikramuddin says that many of these policemen and commanders are former warlords who have disarmed and reintegrated into government jobs, and are now using their position to facilitate the drug trade and get rich.
Among those corrupt commanders, he says, is Inayatullah, the police chief from Yawan, a district in the former governor's province. "Commander Inayatullah is a smuggler, I know him well," Ikramuddin says. "There is a competition among smugglers, that is why Inayatullah arrested Safiullah and the others. It's not to do his job honestly, but just to weaken a competitor."
The police chief who replaced Inayatullah is involved in the drug trade, according to several interior ministry officials. Kabul officials have ordered that he be removed from the position but say he is being protected by provincial police authorities. One senior Interior Ministry official says that the new chief paid a $60,000 bribe to get the job.
Despite corruption in the police ranks, many Afghan politicians say that Afghanistan's drug problem can be solved. "People inside the mafia should be introduced to the power of law," says Yunous Qanooni, a former presidential candidate in last year's elections and a top leader in the northern-based mujahideen party, Shura-e Nazar. "I'm sure that this will solve 70 percent of the problem, and the remaining 30 percent will be solved easily, step by step."
Minister of Labor Ikramuddin agrees that Afghanistan's drug problem is solvable, both with outside help and a little more political will from within. "If the world could not tolerate Afghanistan as the center of terrorism, then the world is not going to tolerate Afghanistan as the world's biggest producer of drugs. If we have good and honest people in this government, then gradually this problem can be solved. The carpet of the smugglers will be rolled up forever."
But Commander Inayatullah, the former police chief of Yawan, warns: "If we don't solve the problem now, there will be a day when all decisions will be made by smugglers."
President of RK invited in Afghanistan
Kazakhstan today 18.10.2005
Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan, has invited Nursultan Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan, to visit Afghanistan in 2006. The invitation has been passed by H.Karzai through Agybai Smagulov, ambassador of RK, KZ-today reports with reference to the MFA of RK.
A. Smagulov ambassador of RK to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, presented his credentials, to Hamid Karzai yesterday, October 17.
During the conversation the Kazakhstani diplomat passed greetings and best wishes from the head of state and confirmed the intention of the republic to further assist the soonest possible recovery of the Afghan statehood and economy, the integration of this country into the process of regional co-operation.
The president of Afghanistan stressed the readiness of the Afghan side to continue the mutually beneficial co-operation with Kazakhstan. He called business circles of RK to take active part in recovery of the infrastructure, housing construction, and industrial activities in the country.
Travelers Obliged to Pay Fees at the Airports
Travelers who use Afghan airports are obliged to pay fees for using the airports.
According to Article 89 of civil aviation law, travelers who use Afghanistan airports for traveling inside and abroad are obliged to pay fees for using the airports.
The fees are paid to the officials of the income dept. of Finance Ministry who have special IDs and receipts are given to the travelers.
Those who leave the airports for abroad are obliged to pay the sum of 500 Afs or equivalent in dollar.
Travelers who travel domestically are obliged to pay the sum of 500 Afs or its equivalent in dollar.
Those who use round trip international tickets for traveling are obliged to pay 500 Afs while leaving Afghan airports.
Those exempted are:
The heads of foreign governments and their accompanying delegation Children under two.Travelers who leave airports within twenty four hours after arriving, and the crew of the plane.
"I don't think it's time to be building walls or fences between people"
News-line 10/15/2005 By Zaki Chehab - "We need to focus on the sources from where terrorism is originating" - Afghan President, Hamid Karzai
Visiting Kabul prior to and during the first parliamentary elections, held after several painful decades of war and civil strife, was a unique experience. The mood of the people in the main cities was upbeat - gone was the depression of the past - they sounded hopeful about Afghanistan's future. The dusty Kabul road seemed to have regained its former hustle and bustle that was lost in the gunfires of the Soviet invasion. The roundabouts and the service roads looked greener.
September 18, election day… President Hamid Karzai appeared visibly happy. "It's an auspicious day," he said to me. "The Afghans were able to exercise their right to choose their representatives to the parliament." The American guards with their sniffer dogs, at the palace where I met him, had vanished into thin air. The President informed me that all his guards were Afghans now and that they were perfectly capable of performing many of the tasks that were earlier carried out by coalition forces.
Over lunch, with his main advisers and bodyguards at his place in central Kabul, the President told me that the threats issued by the Taliban to deter people from participating in the elections did not materialise. However, he did confess that people in Kabul had voted in lesser numbers than they did during the presidential elections held last year. Incidentally, outside the capital, the turnout was much higher.
Q: Mr President, what kind of feedback have you received from the various provinces regarding the election turnout so far?
A: The Afghan people have responded very positively to the elections. So far I have spoken to people in around nineteen to twenty provinces where the elections have proceeded very smoothly. In fact, in those provinces where terrorism has posed a greater threat and which have witnessed more operations, the turnout of the people has been higher, which is not only very interesting but also heartening.
Q: Would you comment on the security situation? Have people felt secure enough to go out and vote without fear of any reprisal from the Taliban or its allies?
A: If they were worried about the Taliban attacks, they would not have come out of their homes. The fact that they are voting everywhere - in the country, in the villages and in the districts - shows the determination of the Afghan people to have a government of their own, a parliament of their own - and a country that is prosperous and is governed by the rule of law.
Q: Many people view this election as a turning point in Afghanistan's history. What kind of politics can one hope to see in the Afghanistan of the future?
A: One hopes to return to the life of a normal nation, one which enjoys democratic politics, freedom of expression, the freedom to take the government to task for not performing well, and demanding an honest, clean and effective government and a parliament that will be good for the Afghan people, good [for purposes of] legislation, and for moving this country forward. In the past few years, the Afghan people have demonstrated that they are as, or even more, desirous as any other nation of a good, healthy life subject to the rule of law. They have worked for it, and they've achieved whatever they enjoy today [with the assistance of the] international community.
Q: Some warlords and former commanders are agitating against the elections? Will those who lose seek revenge?
A: Well, if they are voted in by the Afghan people to become members of Parliament or the Provisional Council, then they will be representing the Afghan people. If they lose, it will be the verdict of the Afghan people and they should accept it. All of us should learn to accept both victory and defeat.
Q: What are the main challenges facing the incoming parliament?What are the main challenges facing the incoming parliament?
A: Well, it will face a lot of challenges. The challenge of reconstruction, the challenge of trying to speed up the process of introducing laws for regulating democratic life in this country, and the conduct of the government in order to take Afghanistan to a higher degree of self-sustainability and self-sufficiency. [We need to build] a country with a flourishing economy, a country where the life of the people, both its men and women who have suffered so much in the past thirty years, will be more prosperous - and the sooner, the better.
Q: Of late, you have been openly critical of some of the tactics being used by the coalition forces in dealing with the Afghani people. For example, the raids on houses and continuing aerial bombardment. How have the coalition forces responded to this criticism?
A: We have now moved on to a different stage in the war against terrorism. Afghanistan has proven that its people are an integral part of the international community's war against terrorism. They were at the forefront of this war against terrorism. In fact, Afghanistan was actually being ruled by the use of terror. We, the Afghan people, needed the help of the international community to rid ourselves of this terrorism; we could not have done it on our own. The international community came to our rescue after the September 11 bombings, and we are very happy about it. Especially the United States, which was at the forefront of the international community's efforts.
Now, we are at a different stage of this fight against terrorism. Consequently there is less and less need for aerial bombing and for conducting searches of Afghan homes. We have been talking with the U.S. and other coalition partners and impressing upon them that there is no need for aerial bombing, it has to stop; and also that the searching of Afghan homes is no longer necessary. Afghanistan is witnessing stability and peace and and acquiring confidence as a nation.
Now we need to concentrate on the sources from where the terrorism is originating, where it is being nurtured, and where the terrorists are being trained. That is where we should focus, not on Afghan homes. That has to stop.
Q: To what extent are the Afghan military and police forces, capable of implementing the rule of law? Given the inadequate equipment and facilities at their disposal, do you believe that they will be able to control the country's unruly regions?
A: Much of the country is now under the rule of law. The reach of the government is everywhere. Right now our police and our army have been working alongside coalition forces all over Afghanistan - and not just during the elections. However, for a government that is barely three years old and a nation that has seen 30 years of war, destruction and the massive loss of life, probably we don't have a very efficient administration as compared to other countries, such as Egypt or Pakistan, or even Lebanon and Iraq. We need more time in order to deliver better service.
Q: How do you explain the number of attacks by the Taliban, despite the presence of coalition forces, and the large numbers of civilians that were killed or wounded?
A: It's terrorism [pure and simple]. They killed innocent people the day before yesterday; they burnt a mosque in south-east Afghanistan two days ago; they burnt a school. They are attacking the Afghan people, they don't dare to come and attack the security forces. They attack mullahs, women, students, doctors. It's murder. It's kufr.
Q: How long will it take the government to weed out terrorist elements within the country. Would you say that they are still crossing the border?
A: It is not a matter [of concern] for the Afghan government alone. It's a question that concerns the entire region and the international community. The attacks that are taking place in Afghanistan are originating from terrorist bases.
Q: Located in Pakistan, Mr. President?
A: I wouldn't say that they are coming from terrorist bases elsewhere, not Afghanistan. But wherever these terrorist bases are, the international community, the region and the neighbours have to work together to locate them. It is in our interest and it's in everybody else's interest. Just to give you an example - when the Taliban were ruling this country, and were very close to Pakistan, which had propped them up and supported them strongly, exports from Pakistan to Afghanistan were worth around $26 million. Today, Pakistan sends goods worth $1.2 billion to Afghanistan. The difference is visible to all our neighbours. The same goes for Iran, and others. So peace and stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of all our neighbours. Therefore, all of us in the region and the international community need to work together to weed out terrorism from its source.
Q: Pakistani officials maintain that they have deployed more than 80,000 soldiers around the border between the two countries. What else do you expect from the Pakistan government to curb the Taliban from crossing the border?
A: Checking the border is one thing, plugging the source where the training is taking place, where the equipment is being provided, where the money is being pumped, is a different thing. I think we need to concentrate on both - on securing the border as well as on removing the bases where the terrorists are trained.
Q: Have you, at any stage, passed on information to the Pakistani authorities regarding the whereabouts of certain Taliban elements within Pakistan?
A: We are in close and regular contact with our brothers in Pakistan on all such issues.
Q: Do you think the proposed move by President Musharraf, to build a fence around the border will prove effective in checking unfiltration?
A: With all due respect, I don't think it's time to be building walls or fences between people. Rather, we should remove the walls and facilitate movement between people. The wall our brothers in Pakistan are proposing, will actually be dividing brother from brother, sister from sister, father from son; the same people, the same tribes live on both sides of our borders.
It's not a practical idea and it would actually mean separating people of the same tribe rather than effectively fighting terrorism. If you create a wall in-between, terrorists may well build a tunnel and cross over. They will find ways to carry out their terrorist activities.
Q: Mr. President, how would you evaluate the war against terrorism after four years?
A: It has been very successful in eradicating terrorism in Afghanistan. Terrorism reigned supreme in Afghanistan, but the Afghan people, with the help of the international community, removed it in less than a year.
Afghanistan is now safe from terrorism, there are no terrorist bases here. Therefore, we need to go in search of places where terrorists are trained, where they are propped up, and provided money and resources. We should go and stop them in their tracks.
Q: The world believes that Osama bin Laden forms the nerve centre of this terrorrist network. President Musharraf, in a recent interview, stated that bin Laden still lives in Afghanistan.
A: I don't know where he is, I don't know if he's here or somewhere else; I have no idea. If I make a statement off the top of my head, I know I'll be proved wrong. Wherever he is, I hope we can catch him some day, because Osama has been the cause of so many thousands of innocent deaths in Afghanistan - of men, women, children - and the destruction of mosques and the burning of the Quran. He has to answer for all the crimes he has committed against the Afghan people.
Q: Several times in the past, you have called upon those members of the Taliban, who were not involved in any criminal activity, to return to work and live alongside their fellow countrymen and women. What response have you received so far?
A: We've had a very positive response. A lot of people have returned, and some of them are even running for the elections to parliament. These include some very senior figures as well. Afghanistan is a country of all [shades of] Afghans. The Taliban are from Afghanistan, they belong to this soil. Those who are not part of the terrorist network, those who haven't committed crimes against the Afghan nation at the behest of foreign forces are most welcome in Afghanistan. This is their land, this is their home, and they can come and live here and enjoy the same rights as any other Afghan national.
Q: Recently, Pakistan has opened up diplomatic channels with Israel through a meeting attended by their respective foreign ministers. What would it take for Afghanistan to establish diplomatic ties with Israel?
A: Several Muslim countries are talking to Israel. Among them are many countries of the Arab world. We have already seen the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza strip, which is a good beginning and we support it. We would like our Palestinian brothers to have a state of their own, a country they can call their own. That would be a great facilitator in establishing ties with Israel. As a nation, we would like to have relations with Israel as well, but a Palestinian state is something we would like to see first.
Q: Are you content with Afghanistan's relations with other Muslim and Arab states, and how do you view their contribution towards securing an independent Afghanistan?
A: We consider our Arab brothers as being the closest to us in terms of religion, in terms of culture. I have visited Saudi Arabia, the Emirates and Qatar a number of times and I have also visited Jordan. The Afghan people hope that our brothers in the Arab world will assist us even more.
Right now, it is the non-Muslim world that has contributed significantly. From among the Muslim countries, Pakistan and Iran have been a big help in terms of financial resources. We have not received much attention or resources from the Arab countries. We hope that our brothers and sisters in the Arab world will recognise the needs of Afghanistan, which is among the poorest countries in the Muslim world and which has suffered the most, and yet shown tremendous heroism in the defeat of the Soviet Union.
Q: You have called for a single leadership behind the US-led NATO force in Afghanistan?
A: Of course, it has to be under one command; several commands will confuse matters. There has to be a unified command, otherwise it will be a difficult operation and a difficult relationship.
Zaki Chehab is an author, journalist and political editor of the London-based Al Hayat and the Arabic TV channel, LBC.
KARACHI: ‘Afghan team doing well’
KARACHI – The Dawn, Oct 17: The Afghan Consul-General, Abdul Muqtadir Ferozandfar, has expressed satisfaction that men and material sent by the Afghan government has been doing excellent job in the earthquake areas of the NWFP and Azad Kashmir.
In a statement issued here on Monday, he said that immediately on learning details of the grim tragedy which struck Pakistan on Oct 8, Afghan President Hamid Karzai contacted President Musharraf and expressed his deep sorrow and extended all possible help for the relief of the unfortunate victims.
He said that Afghanistan was the first country to rush aid to Pakistan which included US$500,000, four helicopters and 32 planes, 34-member team of medical doctors and paramedics, 20 tons of dry fruit provided by Afghan Red Crescent Society.
The Afghan government, he said, also observed three-day mourning to express solidarity with Pakistani brethren.
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