Afghan Foreign Minister Cautions Against Drawdown At Central Asian Bases
Robert McMahon - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Afghanistan's foreign minister is urging members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) not to weaken support for his country's stabilization efforts. Abdullah Abdullah said that, despite a recent communique, the SCO should recognize the importance of maintaining a robust international military presence in Afghanistan. Separately, the country’s women’s affairs minister said the new parliament offers hope for lifting Afghan women out of poverty and a culture of violence.
Washington, 18 October 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah says the battle against extremists in Afghanistan should remain a top concern to its neighbors in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Abdullah told a news briefing at RFE/RL in Washington yesterday that now is not the time to consider reducing the number of international coalition forces waging the antiterrorism campaign in his country.
"The war against terrorism in Afghanistan is an ongoing process," Abdullah said. "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."
In July, the SCO issued a communique calling on Washington to set a timeline for withdrawing from military bases in Central Asia. It suggested there is a declining need for combat operations against the Taliban. The SCO comprises Russia, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
Uzbekistan has since 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. Last week, Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev affirmed that U.S. forces can stay at the Manas air base as long as the situation in Afghanistan requires.
Bakiev spoke at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was touring Afghanistan and three Central Asian states on a trip aimed at boosting democratic forces and underscoring the need to support the effort against Al-Qaeda and Taliban rebels in Afghanistan.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian television on 16 October that as soon as the terrorist threat starts to fade in Afghanistan, there will be no need for U.S. bases in Central Asia.
But Abdullah said yesterday that the international community plays a vital role in preventing the return to power of Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements. “I hope that the understanding and the broad support for the coalition efforts in Afghanistan will [be] sustained and will be further strengthened rather than weakened," he said. "But one can see signs of different views on that which, hopefully, the United States -- as well as Afghanistan and the rest of the international community and our region -- will be able to work out.”
Addressing his country’s political transition, Abdullah said he does not expect incoming members of the country’s first elected parliament in more than 30 years to press for any sharp changes in foreign policy.
He said decrees from President Hamid Karzai will be reviewed by the parliament, such as the one dealing with Kabul's long-term strategic relationship with the United States. But Abdullah said he expects parliament to approve the country’s partnerships with the international community.
Afghanistan’s women’s affairs minister, Masuda Jalal, told the same briefing that September's parliamentary elections signaled a dramatic turning point for the welfare of women.
One-quarter of the 249 seats in parliament were reserved for female lawmakers. Jalal expressed hope that this will have an impact on the allocation of resources and services for the country’s women.
“It means that the policies, strategies, and plans and programs and activities of the government will be further gender-sensitized going ahead," Jalal said. "And further parliamentarians or the parliament as a whole will be impacting women’s life very positively, very positively. There are more than 68 women who will come to the parliament, and that is a good power.”
Afghan women suffer from some of the world’s highest levels of illiteracy, maternal mortality, and impoverishment. The country’s constitution says all Afghan citizens have equal rights and duties before the law. But Jalal said deep societal problems involving the abuse of women and girls still exist and must be overcome.
“Although we have the constitution, we have all sorts of violence going on against women and girls -- the forced marriages, the domestic violence, the early marriages, child marriage, the bad [settlement] of disputes by marrying of women and the exchanged marriage. All type[s] of violence [are] going on,” Jalal said.
Jalal added that access to legal services for women are very limited. She said it is essential for the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan's political and economic reconstruction to help surmount the problems facing women.
Afghanistan's March To Democracy
17 October 2005 VOA
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said her visit to Afghanistan occurred at a time of great promise for the country. “Afghanistan," she said, "is now inspiring the world with its march toward democracy, with the successful presidential elections that brought. . . .the first elected president to Afghanistan, and then the parliament that has just been elected. And in both cases,” she said, “we recognize that the foundation is being laid for a strong and democratic Afghanistan.”
Secretary of State Rice reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, even if the size of American and NATO military forces in Afghanistan changes with evolving political and security conditions. “It is absolutely the case that military forces will change. . . .over time as. . . .Afghan military and police forces are taking more of the load. That’s only appropriate,” Ms. Rice told Radio Afghanistan. “But you can be sure that we have a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. [A]s long as the Afghan people want our partnership and friendship, they will have it,” she said.
Secretary of State Rice also said the United States would increase its support for the Afghan government’s efforts to confront the growing illegal narcotics trade. Speaking to Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a press conference, Ms. Rice said, “[W]e will redouble our efforts with you to help to educate the Afghan people, to help to eradicate, to help to bring alternative livelihoods to those who choose a legal path, and also to support your efforts at criminal justice for those who continue in [illegal] activities.”
Continued political and economic development is the key to defeating terrorism in Afghanistan and elsewhere. “The Afghan people have an important role to play in defeating the terrorists,” said Secretary of State Rice. “It is my hope that now with the parliamentary elections done that all Afghans will now see that the road ahead and the future is on the political front, not in violence.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.
Ex-Governor Elected to Afghan Parliament
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Tue Oct 18,11:58 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - A former regional governor who oversaw the destruction of two massive 1,500-year-old Buddha statues during the Taliban's reign was elected to the Afghan parliament last month, officials said Tuesday as results from two provinces were finalized.
Elsewhere, U.S.-led coalition forces killed four police officers after mistaking them for militants during an operation in the southern province of Kandahar, provincial Gov. Asadullah Khalid said. The coalition said it could not confirm the shootings and was investigating.
Mawlawi Mohammed Islam Mohammadi, who was the Taliban's governor of Bamiyan province when the fifth-century Buddha statues were blown up with dynamite and artillery in March 2001, was chosen to represent the neighboring province of Samangan, according to results posted by the U.N.-Afghan election organizers. Election law did not bar former Taliban officials from participating in the Sept. 18 polls.
International outcry followed the destruction of the giant Buddhas, which were chiseled into a cliff and famed for their size and location along the ancient Silk Road linking Europe and Central Asia. Archaeologists in Bamiyan have been painstakingly collecting the stone remains of the two statues — the largest of which was 174 feet high — and are considering rebuilding them.
Mohammadi told The Associated Press he should not be held responsible for the destruction of the statues, which the Taliban considered to be idolatrous and anti-Muslim.
"It was not my decision. It was foreigners like Chechens and Arabs with the Taliban who made the decision. They were crazy people," he said in a telephone interview, pointing to the influence of foreign Islamic extremists over the hard-line regime. "Even though I was governor, I had no power."
Mohammadi fled to the country's north and was never detained after U.S.-led forces ousted the fundamentalist regime in late 2001.
Samangan province also is home to some artifacts, including Buddhist stupas and the remains of a 1,000-year-old monastery. Mohammadi promised to "do everything I can to protect them."
Provisional results from the landmark elections have been published for several regions, but tallies from only four provinces have been finalized, including Samangan and nearby Kapisa province on Tuesday. Three former warlords still suspected of having ties to armed groups also were declared winners in those areas.
Human rights activists say many of the winning candidates are regional strongmen linked to armed groups, raising fears of more violence.
"Many of the winners are linked to armed groups or drugs," said Ahmad Fahim Hakim, deputy director of the state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, referring to a booming trade in heroin and opium.
"The number of elected lawmakers who are honest and interested in reform may be tiny compared to the regional strongmen who are only interested in themselves."
In the latest bloodshed, Kandahar's governor said U.S.-led coalition troops opened fire at police in the province's Maywand district late Monday after spotting the officers firing their weapons into the air and mistaking them for Taliban rebels.
U.S. military spokeswoman Sgt. Marina Evans said investigators were looking into the shooting, but she could not confirm it involved coalition forces.
A bomb also exploded on a main road in the south and killed an Afghan guard working for an American security company and wounded two others, Khalid said.
Fighting has escalated in Afghanistan in the past six months, leaving more than 1,400 people dead and raising fears for the country's nascent democracy.
AFGHANISTAN: Rights body warns of warlords' success in elections
18 Oct 2005 14:06:25 GMT
KABUL, 18 October (IRIN) - More than half the candidates elected last month to Afghanistan's lower house of parliament and provincial councils are believed to have links to armed groups, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has warned.
"More than 80 percent of winning candidates in provinces and more than 60 percent in the capital Kabul have links to armed groups," AIHRC deputy chairman Ahmad Fahim Hakim said on Monday, adding some were notorious warlords.
Horia Mosadiq, country director for the Human Rights Research and Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC), said one of the main reasons for the low voter turnout was the presence of candidates linked to illegal armed groups. "Infiltration of candidates being linked to [these] groups to the parliament would hurt the process of democratisation in the war-ravaged country," she added.
Electoral law barred anyone with links to armed groups seeking election, but activists claim that with nearly 2,800 candidates, many warlords involved in the bloodshed of the past quarter-century slipped through a UN-backed review.
Local analyst Qasim Akhgar said the presence of warlords in the legislature would disappoint many people seeking an arms-free society after more than two decades of war and destruction. "If warlords infiltrate the parliament, the parliament would lose the support of people … and it will decelerate the process of democracy," he warned.
Grant Kippen, chairman of the Electoral Complaint Commission (ECC), said: "It is the responsibility of any individual organisation to provide us with evidence indicating the links of candidates to illegal arms groups," noting the ECC could still disqualify candidates. "Disqualification of candidates depends on the quality of the evidence," he said.
Of the country's 12.5 million registered voters, about 6.8 million Afghans took part in the 18 September polls to elect a national legislature and 34 provincial councils for a five-year term.
Almost 5,800 candidates contested the elections, including more than 2,700 for the 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (lower house) and more than 3,000 for 420 seats in the provincial councils.
Results had been finalised for Nimroz and Farah provinces, with others expected to be completed by the end of October, according to electoral officials.
Meanwhile, at least 50 electoral staff have been sacked for alleged fraud offences, following accusations of irregularities that sparked demonstrations in cities across the country. Hundreds rallied on Sunday in several areas, including the southern city of Kandahar.
According to electoral officials, about 680 ballot boxes, containing about three percent of total votes, were taken out of the counting process because of the fraud allegations.
The elections for the Wolesi Jirga and provincial councils were the first in the war-ravaged country in more than three decades and a key step in the transition to democracy mapped out after the hard-line Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001.
Latest winners in Afghan elections include warlord, journalist, beauty queen
By DANIEL COONEY
KABUL (AP) - A notorious warlord accused of war crimes, a former journalist for British radio and a young woman famed for her beauty were elected as lawmakers in last month's polls in Afghanistan, according to provisional results released Wednesday.
In the country's latest violence, meanwhile, a district government chief in southern Kandahar province was shot dead as he prayed in a mosque near his home late Tuesday, said Kandahar Gov. Asadullah Khalid.
Election organizers have been releasing the results from the Sept. 18 legislative elections for each province as they are ready and on Wednesday they announced they had finished the count for the capital, Kabul, and were preparing for them to be certified.
"We will finish counting all the provinces by this weekend ... and will have all the results certified by the end of the month," said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the joint UN-Afghan election organizing agency.
On Tuesday, the names of the winners in two northern provinces were published. They included a former Taliban governor who ignored international protests and oversaw the destruction of two massive 1,500-year-old Buddha statues in 2001 during the fundamentalist regime's reign.
Among the provisional winners from Kabul was Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a powerful militia leader accused of war crimes by New York-based Human Rights Watch, which alleged that his fighters killed civilians, raped women and plundered at will during Afghanistan's civil war.
His aides declined a request for an interview.
Also named on the provisional winners' list was Sabrina Saqeb, whose supporters pasted campaign posters of her smiling on buildings across Kabul, on buses and on the sides of horse-drawn carts.
Many people said they voted for the unmarried 25-year-old, whose election campaign symbol was two fluffy bunny rabbits, because she was the most attractive candidate.
Another winner was Malalai Shinwari, who worked British Broadcasting Corp. radio for three years reporting on Afghanistan before quitting to take part in the elections.
"I will fight for women's rights ... and against all the warlords who have won," she told The Associated Press. "I hope all the good people in parliament will join to fight the warlords."
The state-sponsored Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says that at least half of the election winners are regional strongmen, raising fears of more violence, and many are suspected to have bribed or intimidated their way to power despite the presence of international election observers.
Last month's polls were the last formal step toward democracy on a path laid out after the Taliban was ousted in 2001.
But hopes for a stable representative government have been undermined by a stubborn insurgency led by Taliban-led rebels that has killed more than 1,400 people in the past half year and left much of the country off-limits to aid workers.
Afghanistan intelligence department chief killed by suspected militants
KABUL - Xinhua 10/17/2005 - Suspected militants gunned down the director of intelligence department and three of his bodyguards in the restive Helmand province in south Afghanistan on Monday, officials confirmed.
"Director of National Security Directorate in Helmand province Mohammad Daud along with his three armed bodyguards were killed when they came under enemies' attack at 12 o'clock local time," provincial secretary Hajji Mohidin told Xinhua.
He, along with three bodyguards, was driving towards Sangin district when fell prey to enemies, Mohidin added. Taliban's spokesman Qari Yusuf claimed responsibility for the attack and said fighters of the movement punished them for their support to Americans.
Taliban remnants who warned local people not to support the US-backed Afghan government also assassinated two pro-government religious leaders namely Mawlawi Mohammad Gul and Mawlawi in Helmand and Kunar provinces on Sunday night.
A similar skirmish in southern Kandahar province claimed the lives of three Taliban operatives as the government launched operation in the area Sunday night.
Over 1,300 people including rebels, Afghan and US troops as well as pro-government figures and even aid workers have been killed in Taliban-linked militancy since the beginning of this year.
Militants gun down Afghan official, headmaster
Wed Oct 19, 2:24 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan killed a district chief and a school headmaster in the volatile southern province of Kandahar, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.
The head of Arghandab district was gunned down in a mosque late on Tuesday evening and Haji Abdul Lalai, a headmaster in another district, was shot dead earlier in the day, said interior ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanezai.
They were the latest in a series of attacks blamed on the Taliban.
Taliban officials could not be reached for comment.
The killings came hours after a roadside bomb in Kandahar killed two Afghans and wounded three others who worked for a U.S. security firm called USPI.
Taliban militants have increased attacks this month, killing over 20 Afghan troops, several U.S. soldiers, five local aid workers and three pro-government clerics.
The violence is focused mostly in southern and eastern areas close to the border region with Pakistan, where militants are largely active.
Nearly 1,100 people, mostly militants but also more than 50 U.S. soldiers, have been killed this year, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops overthrew Taliban in 2001.
Suspected Taliban Attack on Police Station Leaves 4 Dead
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
18 October 2005 -- The head of the provincial government says suspected Taliban militants attacked a police checkpoint in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province and killed four police officers.
Provincial government chief Khan Agha Amin says two officers were wounded and five others were missing after the attack late Monday in Maywand district.
The assailants fled after the attack. It was not clear whether they suffered any casualties.
Violence has escalated in Afghanistan in the past half year, leaving more than 1,400 people dead. Officials blame most of the violence on Taliban-led militants.
Hope for a better life for Afghan refugees in Iran
Source: UNICEF via Payvand Iran News - Oct 18 7:57 AM
Afghan refugees in Iran face many challenges. For young people, these challenges are especially grave because, as refugees, they are often excluded from education, have little access to social and medical services and have no legal right to work. Those that do manage to find work face harsh and unstable conditions and earn very low wages.
Thanks to a UNICEF-supported initiative, however, approximately 25 girls from refugee families are being offered a chance to learn a trade, gain valuable life skills and hope for a better future.
The girls, aged 13 to 18, pile into a room in southern Tehran three days a week and learn to cut cloth, stitch and iron. The vocational training is offered by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of Children (SPRC), an Iranian NGO created by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.
Prior to attending the training centre, many of these girls worked selling chewing gum or flowers on the street. With this new opportunity, they are learning a marketable trade as well as developing literacy and life skills. Training for the first group of girls began in December 2004 and several of them are now proficient enough to take private orders from their homes to supplement their family's income.
Farideh Jalali, who manages the training centre, says she has seen the confidence of the girls grow along with their technical skills. "You can really see the difference in the girls after they have started acquiring new skills, says Ms. Jalali. "They become so proud of what they make and are really enthusiastic to show the results."
Inside their notebooks are signs that the experience has also given the girls the chance to be creative and to dream. Along with the heart-shaped doodles characteristic of many teenage girls, the pages are filled with sketches of hip-hugging trousers, revealing mini-skirts and sassy capri pants, designs that in reality might never see the light of day due to the Islamic dress code enforced in Iran.
For Ms. Jalali, the next challenge is to get the girls tested and certified by the Government so they can apply for jobs. After that, a new group of girls will begin training.
"My future is important to me."
In addition to supporting this centre, UNICEF assists SPRC in running a school for approximately 150 Afghan boys and girls, who either lack birth certificates or cannot afford the tuition fees needed to enter Iranian schools.
Classes at the school, located in a neat and spacious compound in the southern Tehran neighbourhood of Naser Khosro, run throughout the year and offer the standard subjects found in ordinary schools. There are 30 teachers, of which three are paid a salary and the rest are voluntary.
"I come to this school because my future is important to me. Coming here makes me feel good as I am in charge of my future - I'm building a future for myself," said 16-year-old Habib Rezaei. "I want to be successful. I also want to see success for my country. My country [Afghanistan] needs educated people to help build it. I will go back to Afghanistan one day and I want to go back educated."
Outside of the regular school term, a summer school offers extra-curricular activities such as English language, computer training, first aid, music and sewing. The school also holds training for teachers on subjects such as the detection of child abuse.
"Going to school gives the children a real sense of self worth," said Ramita Navai, a voluntary English teacher. The students experience achievement in school, said Ms. Navai, something which many of them are denied in their lives. "With each class you can see their confidence grow. They are eager and studious and even after the bell goes at the end of class, they would rather stay and study. They are a joy to teach."
"This school is very important to me," said Abedeh Salehi, another student. "It's the only school that will accept us. I feel so calm and happy when I'm here… Without this school, we would have nowhere to study. And education is so important."
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has been helping the Iranian Government repatriate some of the two million refugees that settled in Iran over the last 25 years. Under the tripartite agreement signed between Afghanistan, Iran and UNHCR, those refugees that wanted to return home were given help and transportation. Since 2002, more than one and a quarter million Afghans have returned home – there are now around 780,000 left. But many refugees have complained of coming under psychological and economic pressures to return home, going against the voluntary nature of the scheme.
UNICEF believes that all children have a right to a quality education, regardless of their nationality, religion or ethnic group.
Afghanistan Riddled with Drug Ties
Tuesday October 18, 2005 (1502 PST) PakTribune.com, Pakistan
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."
Afghanistan to probe Indian's arrest
Daily News & Analasys, India Tuesday, October 18, 2005 21:51 IST
KABUL: The President's office in Afghanistan said on Tuesday investigations are on into the arrest of four foreign nationals, including an Indian, who were arrested for alleged arms smuggling in Kabul last week.
Presidential spokesman Mohammed Rahimi Karim said the real motive of the arrest was being ascertained along with where they were trying to procure the arms from and to whom they were going to sell them.
The Indian, Naveen Joshi, who was arrested last Wednesday, was given consular access on Sunday. Two Americans and a British were arrested last Tuesday.
Afghan students pay price for U.S. education
The nation's 1st foreign-exchange students in 30 years face hostility by those who think they've become `Americanized'
By Kim Barker Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent October 18, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan -- The teenagers marched into the Ministry of Education, acting nothing like typical Afghan students. The boy wore a baseball cap, a button-front shirt and khaki pants with zippered pockets down the legs. The two girls demanded to speak.
Ghizal Miri, 18, in a modest black head scarf and no makeup, carried her U.S. achievements in a binder: a certificate of completion for 12th grade in a Virginia high school, a certificate praising her outstanding academic achievement, a transcript showing straight A's, and the editorial she wrote for a local newspaper, titled: "Thanks, America, for sowing seeds of freedom in my Afghanistan."
But no one wanted to see any of it. The students were turned away by education officials who had no interest in the problems of teenagers returning to Afghanistan after a year of high school in America. Wranga Safi, the deputy of Afghanistan's secondary education department, told the boy to be polite when he talked.
"Who cares if you went to America?" she told the students. "Go. We can't do anything for you."
These teenagers were once among the top students in Afghanistan. Last year, 40 of them flew to the U.S., the first foreign-exchange students from Afghanistan in more than 30 years. For a school year, they lived with American families and studied at American high schools. Some learned to swim; some danced at the prom; one girl stayed behind when the program ended. She's trying to stay in the U.S. because she fears she would be killed in Afghanistan.
In June the 39 other Afghan students flew home, eager to see their families and their country. But since then they have had to fight a bureaucracy that seems to believe they spent a year in America having fun. They have faced hostile government officials and teachers who mock them.
The 13 girls, some of whom were forced to stay at home during the Taliban's rule, have suffered more problems than the boys. In the U.S., the girls grew more confident. They played volleyball and basketball and gave lectures on Afghanistan.
Now, they have had to fit back into a conservative Islamic culture where they are stared at on the streets and told to keep quiet. They are constantly watched and judged by distant relatives and high school principals. Did they change? Are they still good girls? Are they still good Muslims?
Students in limbo
Miri and the other returning students remain in limbo. Six, including Miri and her two friends at the ministry, supposedly finished high school, but they do not have diplomas and do not know how to get them. They are not sure if they qualify for college-entrance exams.
Others face 12th-grade final exams despite missing almost half the school year, as officials waited until August to determine what grade the students should have been in. Several do not have textbooks. Some teachers have threatened to make their finals more difficult than those of other students.
A U.S. official said he was optimistic that the Education Ministry would work with the program and that all curriculum problems would be solved. If not, the program is in trouble, despite 39 new students now studying in the U.S. and plans to recruit 60 next year. Countries that agree to exchange programs normally grant yearly promotions to all returning students, and they normally do not punish former exchange students, U.S. officials said.
The recent meeting at the Education Ministry, observed by a journalist, illustrates what the Afghan students are up against--the belief among ministry officials that the 16 subjects studied in Afghan high schools are more legitimate than the six courses that were taught in U.S. high schools; anti-U.S. sentiment; and disgust that mere teenagers would try to talk back to government officials.
After being asked to leave the Education Ministry, the students continued to try to talk. At one point, they were told to go to the Education Department of Kabul, a different agency where they had been sent before.
"We should get credit for this year," Ghizal said. "Why should we go here and there?"
"Whoever you are, out!" yelled Mohammad Humayoon Rustami, who observes high schools for the ministry. "You think that you have gone to America, and you have become as proud as the sky? Stupid. Ridiculous. Shameless."
The students walked out, but the education officials continued to talk.
"Curses on the father of America, who made this country worse and who made those students worse," Safi told Rustami and the others drinking tea in the office. "America. This is the privilege of America. This is absolutely wrong, what has been given to these students."
In the U.S., the students stayed with rich families and lower-middle-class families, with families who ate frozen dinners, families who covered all meals in cheese and the occasional family who drank beer. Some were left at home while their host parents worked late hours. Others were closely watched, not allowed to go out at night, especially the girls. Some traveled to Las Vegas. Many had their own rooms for the first time.
They were scattered in small towns and suburbs. Several lived in California and New York; one lived in Montana, another just outside Chicago.
Most learned to stop raising their hands to answer every question. They learned to blend in, to say "whatever" and use "like" as often as possible. The girls stopped wearing their head scarves. The boys stopped holding hands with each other as a sign of friendship.
Most earned exceptional grades. They performed scientific experiments and studied world politics. They acted in plays--one girl even starred in "Romeo and Juliet." Miri took elective classes for the first time: drama, beginning musical keyboard, advanced-placement environmental science.
Some were asked if they knew Osama bin Laden, and some of their teachers wondered why Afghans flew planes into the World Trade Center. The teenagers tried to explain that they did not know bin Laden, that none of the Sept. 11 terrorists was from Afghanistan, and that they welcomed the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban, which had sheltered bin Laden.
By the time the students went to Washington for a series of meetings in the spring, they had changed. The girls wore makeup and Western clothes. Most of the boys looked like average U.S. high school students, though one grew a beard, stopped shaking the hands of girls and became more religiously conservative. His friends called him "the mullah."
But the most significant change was this: the Afghan boys and the girls were now close friends, a situation unheard of in Afghanistan.
Then they came home, back to sharing rooms with several family members, to washing with buckets and boiled water, to sporadic electricity, to a country where girls who talk to boys in public get in trouble.
"I hated everything," Miri recalled. "I didn't want to go outside. I was like, `Why are those people looking at me?' We all see changes in ourselves."
She has finished 12th grade, but she does not have a diploma, so she does not know what to do.
Several girls said they are depressed. Several wished they never had gone to America, and so do their parents.
"If she did not go to the U.S., she'd be a normal student," said Shirin Miri, Ghizal's mother, a teacher. "If somebody asks me about this program now, I'd tell them not to send their child until all the problems are solved."
Maryam Asadullah, 17, Ghizal Miri's best friend, is one of the exchange students trying to finish 12th grade. But right after she came home, she started skipping class.
While in the U.S., she plucked her eyebrows, making what turned out to be a political statement. Only married and engaged women in Afghanistan are supposed to tweeze their eyebrows. Asadullah also bought gray contacts that lighten her eyes.
In high school in Kabul, she was criticized for grooming her eyebrows. Her classmate, Alina Mohsini, 17, faced similar criticism for streaking her hair while in America.
For months, Asadullah had only one textbook, for her Dari language class. She had no way to study for her other classes. She preferred to stay home.
"They're breaking our hearts every day," she said. "No one's proud of us. No one appreciates us. They're punishing us."
Only after a journalist visited her in class did Asadullah receive eight more books.
A recent UN report announced that Afghanistan has "the worst education system in the world." But high school here is not easy. It is a confusing churn of 16 subjects crammed into half-hour slots over a six-day week.
In sports class, they never play games. Instead, they memorize the number of basketball players on a team, the dimensions of a volleyball.
"We study World War I, but we can't understand it, because it's not clear who fought who," Mohsini said. "We don't know what the reason is for World War I."
School only lasts 3 1/2 hours a day. By 10:15 a.m. on a recent day, Mohsini and Asadullah had walked out the door, having studied one geometry problem, read two poems, written down several chemistry formulas, talked about the history of Italy and recited English words from "dangerous" to "promise."
Teachers never collected homework or checked to make sure problems were answered correctly. The next day, when no journalist was present, only four teachers showed up. The day after, only two teachers came. This is typical, students say. There are no substitutes.
Last month, the exchange students now in 12th grade all skipped their six-month exams, saying they did not know enough to pass them. Program officials are trying to get the Education Ministry to allow the students to take their six-month exams two weeks before their final exams in December.
But Ajmal Faiz, in charge of secondary education, said the students who have not yet taken their six-month exams will not get credit. He said the exchange students are lazy and trying to escape the tests.
It's possible that no matter what, these students will also fail their final exams. Afghan teachers are allowed to give students different tests.
`They have become proud'
Faiz said he met with the students several times, but the students want to ignore their responsibilities.
"They have become Americanized," he said. "They have become proud."
After Miri and her two friends left their meeting at the Education Ministry, they went to the local office of American Councils for International Education, the not-for-profit group that runs the exchange program. They sat down near Ted Achilles, in charge of the program in the country.
"They thought we had been to the United States just for fun," Miri told him.
"They told me to take the exam of the 12th grade," added Zabiullah Kohgady, 18.
The students recounted what they had learned on this trip, although it could change: That they would be allowed to take the college-entrance exams but would not receive diplomas. That even though they had finished their 12th-grade year in the U.S., they would not be granted credit for most classes. And that if they still wanted high school diplomas, they would have to take 13 finals in December, in subjects they have never studied, based on books and notes they do not have.
"It means the year we spent over there is nothing to them," Miri said. "It's nothing."
Achilles interrupted them. "Should I start recruiting for the next year, or no?" he asked.
No, Kohgady said. But the girls said yes.
Afghan family helps with quilt auction for Galilean Home
By LIZ MAPLES The Advocate Messenger Staff Writer Tuesday October 18, 2005
SOUTH FORK - As tedious and meticulous are the stitches in handmade quilts, so are the knots in Afghan rugs.
Abdul Samad is an alumnus of the Galilean Christian Academy, and this year he donated several rugs made by his family in Afghanistan to the Galilean Home's annual auction.
The auction raises money to support the Galilean mission. The Galilean Home's mission is to take in abused, neglected and rejected children from all over the world and give them a home, education and medical care.
Samad had not seen or heard from his family in more than 15 years when he contacted them in 2002. He asked them to make a quilt for the annual auction that raises money for the Galilean Home, but they told him they made rugs, not quilts.
Behind the folds of brightly patterned, intricately stitched quilts Samad stood by his racks of rugs. Just like the quilts, each of the rugs is a labor-intensive effort, taking five or six months for his brothers-in-law, sisters and cousins to finish.
Samad left Afghanistan when he was 13.
Before he was born, Afghanistan was ruled by a communist party. In 1979 the Soviet Union invaded the country to squelch resistance to the communist rule in the country.
He picked up a bomb
During the invasion Soviet soldiers put out land mines that Afghan children often mistook for toys. At 13, Samad became one of the victims of the conflict. He picked up a bomb, thinking it was a toy, and it exploded in his hands, blowing off most of his arms.
He was flown to the United States to get medical attention he couldn't get in his own country, which was as war-torn then as it is now. A family in Berea sponsored Samad, and introduced him to the mission at the Galilean Home.
Now, Samad calls Kentucky home.
"I've lived here longer than Afghanistan," Samad said. "Sandy Tucker and Jerry have raised me, treated me like one of their own sons."
Graduating with associate degree in business management
Samad graduated from the Galilean Christian Academy and will graduate from Big Sandy Community and Technical College in May with an associate degree in business management. He then hopes to transfer to Eastern Kentucky University.
Already business-minded, Samad brings potential bidders back to look at the rugs. He points out the tight knotting on the back that makes the wool rugs unique. He explains that it takes an artist to make rugs like these, and he is hoping the people in the crowd appreciated the intricate work.
He said he was nervous about how well the rugs would do at the auction.
"They've never had anything like this before," he said.
|Back to News Archirves of 2005|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).