Afghanistan uses mosques to tackle opium crop
Thu Oct 27, 1:12 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Afghanistan secured funding for a project that will see Islamic leaders use their mosques to preach against the cultivation of poppies, a crop used to supply the bulk of the world's heroin.
The government signed a memorandum of understanding with the Colombo Plan group of 25 countries in Asia and the Pacific to establish and operate 25 mosque-based drug prevention and aftercare centres across the country.
"We want to discuss drugs from the religious point of view, the disaster which exists in Afghanistan. We want to explain its illegitimacy via religion," Religious Minister Niamatullah Shahrani said after signing the document.
Colombo Plan secretary general Kittipan Kanjanapipatkul also signed the agreement, which brings with it 31,200 dollars in funding.
Counter-narcotics Minister Habibullah Qaderi said the project had already trained the 25 religious leaders who would use their mosques to preach against drugs and the cultivation of poppies.
"Mullahs will preach in mosques that poppy cultivation, use, trade and process is forbidden according to Islam and the constitution and is bad for health," he said.
Afghanistan produces about 87 percent of the world's opium, most of which ends up as heroin on the streets of Europe. The illegal crop also makes up about 60 percent of the country's income.
Experts have warned that Afghanistan is in danger of becoming a narco-state with international drugs cartels poised to take root.
Foreign-aided programmes to eradicate poppy fields have made little impact on output, with thousands of destitute farmers dependent on the crop.
The government has rejected suggestions that it legalise some of the opium production for the manufacture of painkillers, saying it would be too difficult to control.
Afghanistan Welcomes Extradition of Rebels
By DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press Writer Thu Oct 27, 2:58 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan officials Thursday welcomed the extradition of 14 suspected Taliban members from Pakistan, saying they hoped the move would hail a new era of cooperation between the neighbors.
Kabul has repeatedly accused Islamabad of being soft on Taliban militants who base themselves on the Pakistani side of the frontier and sneak into Afghanistan to carry out attacks. Pakistani officials have denied the charge.
Among those extradited to Kabul on Wednesday was Latif Hakimi, a purported Taliban spokesman who was arrested in the Pakistani city of Quetta last month. He would often telephone news agencies to claim responsibility for insurgent attacks, though his exact ties to the Taliban leadership are not clear.
U.S. military and Afghan officials knew of his whereabouts for months but took no action as they gained valuable information on the insurgents by monitoring his phone calls. But they pushed Pakistan to arrest him after he allegedly urged a group of militants last month to kill a kidnapped British engineer, according Afghan officials close to President Hamid Karzai.
Afghan state television showed footage of soldiers leading the 14 men, all blindfolded, off a military transport plane at the airport in Kabul.
"This is a positive development between Pakistan and Afghanistan," Interior Ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanekzai said. "We are hopeful that this new cooperation will help in our war against terrorism."
It was not immediately clear what would happen to the 14 men now that they had arrived in Afghanistan. Stanekzai referred questions on the matter to the presidential palace, but officials there did not answer their phones.
The men will almost certainly face extensive questioning amid a reinvigorated insurgency that has left almost 1,500 people dead this year in the deadliest violence since the ouster of the fundamentalist regime in late 2001.
U.S. military commanders say that though the rebels have suffered heavy casualties in fighting this year — nearly 900 — the militants are recruiting young fighters and the insurgency is expected to continue well into 2006.
Pakistan handovers Taliban mouthpiece, minister to Afghanistan
Kuwait News Agency, Kuwait -
ISLAMABAD, Oct 26 (KUNA) -- Only a day after Afghan President Hamid Karzai paid a day-long visit to here, Pakistan handed over fourteen arrested Taliban militants including the mouthpiece and former culture and information minister, said intelligence sources on Wednesday.
The sources told KUNA Pakistan extradited fourteen Taliban militants including their spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, and Ustad Yasir, the head of Taliban culture and Information wing along to Afghanistan on late Tuesday.
Intelligence sources in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, confirmed their arrival in Afghanistan to KUNA correspondent.
Hakimi was on October 5 from Quetta, capital of Southwestern Baluchistan province, where 35 percent of the total population is Afghan refugees.
He in his initial interrogation had revealed that former Taliban supreme leader, Mullah Omar, is hiding in Afghanistan and remains in contact with top commanders.
Ustad Yasir was arrested some two months back from Akora Khattak. He was head of Taliban culture and Information wing.
Sources said that the extradition of these two Taliban officials were made after the interrogation by Pakistani intelligence has been completed and at the request of President Karzai. (end) amn.
U.S. Says Attacks Kill Taliban Rebels
Wed Oct 26, 7:26 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - American and British warplanes pounded a southern Afghan mountain, killing suspected Taliban rebels, the U.S. military said Wednesday. A provincial governor said at least six rebels were killed and four wounded.
Fighting erupted after militants attacked a joint Afghan-U.S. patrol in Uruzgan province's Dihrawud district late Monday, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Jerry O'Hara said. An Afghan soldier was wounded before the rebels fled, he said.
The troops then called for air support and warplanes bombed a mountainous area where the militants were believed to be hiding, he said.
A military statement said U.S. A-10 aircraft and British GR-7s dropped several bombs on the region, as well as pounding it with rockets and cannon fire.
O'Hara said the attack "was successful with a number of enemy killed," but he said an exact evaluation of the number of casualties was ongoing.
Uruzgan Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan said investigators had been to the remote area and found the bodies of six suspected rebels. Four others were wounded and were being treated in a hospital.
Uruzgan has been the site of numerous attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces and rebel camps are believed to be hidden in mountains there.
The insurgents have stepped up assaults across southern and eastern regions this year, and nearly 1,500 people have been killed. The violence is the deadliest since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in late 2001 and has raised fears for this country's fledgling democracy.
Journalist Association Head Says Harassment Of Journalists Likely To Increase
Golnaz Esfandiari - Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - October 26, 2005
The recent jailing of an Afghan magazine editor is raising concerns about the issue of press freedom in Afghanistan. Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the "Women’s Rights" monthly, was found guilty of publishing articles that were deemed un-Islamic. On 22 October, he was sentenced to two years in prison. The United Nations, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, and several international media rights groups including the International Federation of Journalists have protested. Journalists inside Afghanistan say they fear the case could pave the way for more attacks on the country’s independent media. Rahimullah Samander, the head of Afghanistan’s Independent Journalist Association and the Committee To Defend Afghan Journalists, spoke to RFE/RL about the increasing harassment journalists are facing in Afghanistan for contributing to free speech.
RFE/RL: What have been the reactions among journalists to the court verdict that was issued against Ali Mohaqiq Nasab the editor of "Women’s Rights"?
Samander: Afghan journalist are very worried about the decision of the court and they all reject it. Most journalists believe that the court procedures were against the law from the beginning; from the time Ali Mohaqiq Nasab was arrested till the hearing and the issuing of the verdict. Journalists are concerned that if the situation continues, maybe [more] journalists will face similar consequences. It is very painful and very difficult, it will lead to a setback for freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and it could pave the way for courts to issue more [such verdicts].
RFE/RL: Do you think that this concern and fear of persecution that exists among journalists in Afghanistan could lead to more self-censorship?
Samander: Yes, definitely. There is fear among most journalists after they heard about the two years jail term for Mohaqiq Nasab, some colleagues say that such issues [Islamic issues] should not be touched upon. Also some people put the press and journalist under pressure for writing about such issues, [they say] it is not the right time to write about these issues and discuss it. All of these factors lead to self-censorship and it forces journalists not to cover Islamic and religious issues.
RFE/RL: Threats and intimidation are reportedly increasing against journalists in Afghanistan. Who or what groups are involved in attacks and intimidation against media workers in Afghanistan?
Samander: Only in the last week we had three of four cases where journalists faced problems [in relation to their work]. For example I can name three cases that happened in Herat. In two cases Herat police created problems for the journalists, they were taken to police centers and interrogated. The journalists were asked why they had written articles that were critical of police activities. In addition, one of Tolo TV’s reporters in Herat was threatened by the police. Also, Ayna TV in Kabul was threatened by a number of armed men, who caused some damage. In general in many cases the threats and violence have come from the police or from some government officials. In the provinces, in most cases governors, the local police and commanders in charge of security cause problems for journalists ."
RFE/RL: Were journalists also threatened in relation to their coverage of the 18 September parliamentary and local council elections? Did they face any problems?
Samander: Yes we received reports that some colleagues were threatened or they were banned from publishing some reports. There were reports about candidates asking journalists to write in their favor. In addition, journalists who had reported about a lack of transparency in the procedures of the election centers, faced problems from some officials and also in some cases from the election commission. Independent media, the independent press face such problems, they face pressure and they also practice self-censorship, they are harassed because of their reports. This is an ongoing problem that from now on can get even worse.
RFE/RL: Why do you think there are going to be more threats and attacks on independent media?
Samander: Because efforts that have been made to somehow lessen [harassment of journalists] have had no impact. For example the Culture Ministry has written in this regard to the Interior Ministry and the Defense Ministry but instead we have seen that these cases have increased. Also now a number of people who belonged to different jihadi or extremist groups, they have gained a seat in the parliament. If they enter the parliament then it is possible that such cases will increase. For example there could be discussions in the parliament that Islamic issues, or issues considered sacred by the jihadis, or issues related to prominent people [should not be discussed]. Jihadi figures and leaders could attempt to increase pressure [on journalists]. They could try to achieve their goals in the parliament. Right now there are talks inside the country that maybe the new parliament will review all the country’s existing laws. If some laws were reviewed like the press and media law maybe it would lead to more restrictions, it would make the work of journalists very difficult.
RFE/RL: My last question is about your organization, Afghanistan’s Independent Journalist Association, could you briefly tell us about some of your main activities?
Samander: From the time the association started its work in June 2005, it has investigated and defended the cases of more than 20 journalists who have faced violence. In addition we have been in touch with a number of international media organizations. We also have a sixth month and a one year plan aimed at increasing professionalism among Afghan journalists. A problem that exists in Afghanistan is the lack of an ethical code of conduct that exists in other countries. Journalists have not been taught about ethical issues. We are planning to hold workshops [about issues dealing with journalistic ethics]. The association is also trying to create a network among all journalists in Afghanistan.
Daily Afghan Report
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - October 25, 2005
Afghan Leader Travels To Pakistan
President Hamid Karzai traveled to Islamabad on 24 October to offer condolences on behalf of the Afghan people over the lives lost as a result of the 8 October earthquake that affected areas of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and North-West Frontier Province, Islamabad's PTV reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 October 2005). During his short stay in Pakistan, Karzai met with his Pakistani counterpart President Pervez Musharraf and with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Aziz told Karzai during a news conference that the "people of Pakistan will always remember your visit at a time like this," and Afghanistan's efforts to help in the aftermath of the earthquake. "My brother, do count on us. In whatever way we can, the Afghan nation will be there to give you assistance," Karzai told Aziz. A 30-member Afghan medical contingent that accompanied Karzai to Pakistan will set up camp in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported on 24 October. The unit plans to stay in Kashmir for 15 days. AT
Two Former Taliban Win Seats In Afghan Parliament
Of the six former Taliban officials who ran in Afghanistan's September parliamentary and provincial-council elections, two have won seats in the People's Council (Wolesi Jirga) of the National Assembly, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 24 October. Mullah Abdul Salam Racketi, who was commander of Military Unit No. 1 in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan during the Taliban period, won the plurality of the votes in Zabul Province in the south. Mawlawi Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi, who was served the governor of central Bamiyan Province during in the Taliban regime, secured the second highest number of votes in Samangan Province, north of Bamiyan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 20 October 2005). The most prominent member of the ousted regime, former Foreign Minister Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Mutawakkil, fared very poorly in Kandahar Province, the birthplace of the Taliban movement. AT
Afghan Journalist Killed In Blast In Eastern Afghanistan
A radio journalist working for the Voice of Peace radio station was killed in a blast on 22 October in Khost Province, Pajhwak Afghan News reported on 24 October. The journalist, identified only as Maywand, was accompanying Afghan National Army soldiers when a land mine exploded, killing him and injuring three others. AT
Afghan army's strength reaches 30,000
People's Daily - Oct 27 12:08 AM
The strength of the US-under training Afghan National Army (ANA) has reached 30,000, a senior US military commander said Thursday.
"There are now over 26,000 soldiers and about 4,000 more are currently under training," General James Hirai the Director Defense Reform and member of Security Cooperating Office in Afghanistan told journalists at a news conference.
The post-war Afghanistan under the historic Bonn agreement signed in 2001 would have 70,000-strong new brand army by 2006.
Officers of the United States and its western allies including France and Britain have been providing training to the fledgling Afghan National army over the past nearly four years.
Hailing the performance of the ANA, the US General said that the, "Afghan National Army is thoroughly a national institution and represents the citizens from all over the region of Afghanistan."
"The Afghan National Army is a source of pride in Afghanistan and we are very proud to serve here with ANA," the US army General emphasized.
However, he declined to say when the process of training the Afghan national army and its strength would be completed by saying, "We do not have a particular timeline. What we want is to continue partnership".
Asked if the US would equip the ANA, he said, "It is not for us to dictate what kind of weapons they should have, it depends on Afghan defense Ministry and Afghan parliament what they want."
To another query, he said, "The ANA is not designed to fight the neighboring countries, at this point it is not about competing other army, the aim at this point is to fight against insurgents".
The fledgling ANA largely depends on the old Russian built weapons left from the former Soviet Unions.
IRAN: Japan donates US $1.5 million to UNHCR
27 Oct 2005 07:51:12 GMT
TEHRAN, 27 October (IRIN) - The Japanese government has donated US $1.5 million to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Iran to help Afghan refugees.
The donation comes at a time when there has been a steady decline in donor contributions to UNHCR's Afghan repatriation programme, coupled with a cutback in UNHCR'S country budget for Iran.
"The reason the Japanese went for a generous contribution is that they see the lack of assistance to Iran," said Safak Pavey, UNHCR external relations and public information officer in Iran.
Even though UNHCR's regional budget of $105 million has not been reduced, the budget for repatriation operations in Iran, which now stands at $15 million, has been cut during the last two years. Instead, the money is being targeted at the development of Afghanistan, marking a shift in donor priorities towards the reconstruction of the war-shattered country.
Pavey also attributes declining donor contributions to Iran's Afghan repatriation programme to donor fatigue.
"Donor countries are pretty tired as they see this as a never-ending story. There are huge numbers of Afghans still left in Iran that need assistance, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we must remember that we're dealing with humans here," Pavey said.
The Japanese donation will go towards transportation arrangements and will cover medical expenses while refugees are completing the legal formalities involved in returning to Afghanistan.
The contribution will target the most vulnerable Afghan refugees, namely single female headed households, disabled children, the elderly and unemployed heads of households.
Since the start of UNHCR's voluntary repatriation programme in April 2002, undertaken in cooperation with Iran and Afghanistan, some 1.45 million Afghans have returned to Afghanistan.
However, many Afghans have been reluctant to return.
Sixty percent of the Afghan refugee population has been living in Iran for at least 15 years and unlike other refugee populations in the region, the majority of Afghans in Iran do not live in refugee camps, but are fully integrated members of society.
Afghans are also concerned about the lack of facilities in Afghanistan, such as schooling, medication and housing, as well as the domination of warlords and insecurity in parts of the country.
Tehran has recently stepped up efforts to encourage Afghans to return home. Such measures include a reduction of government services, the introduction of school fees for Afghan children and a ban on Afghans settling in a number of Iranian provinces.
Faizabad hit by rockets
(Hewad) Faizabad, provincial capital of the northern province of Badakhshan, was hit by two rockets on October 24. According to the provincial police, the rockets were fired from Jalaiz Mountain by "the enemies of peace and stability", a term used to refer to Taleban and al-Qaeda. The interior ministry says one of the rockets landed in the provincial police headquarters, while the second landed in the International Organisation for Migration wounding an employee.
(Hewad is a state run daily mostly in Pashto.)
via Afghan Press Monitor (No 182, 25 Oct 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Police foil attempt to blow up strategic bridge in Logar
(The Kabul Times) Police in the central province of Logar province have thwarted a plot to blow up the strategically important Pul-e-Alam Bridge that connects the Afghan capital Kabul with the southeastern provinces. Colonel Mohammad Massoud, a senior security official in Logar, said police had recovered a barrel packed with explosives and planted under the bridge. He said the exlosives were recovered on October 24 morning, and defused by a team of experts from the Afghan National Army and Coalition forces.
(The Kabul Times is a state-run paper published in English every other day.)
via Afghan Press Monitor (No 182, 25 Oct 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
SAARC sure to let in Afghanistan
Nilova Roy Chaudhury New Delhi, October 26, 2005 Hindustan Times
Afghanistan is set to join the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation bouquet. Its request to be formally inducted into the regional group to boost its economic prospects is unlikely to face opposition at the Saarc summit in Dhaka next month.
Heads of the governments of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are likely to give their approval to the proposal when they meet for the 13th summit on November 12 and 13.
India, which has backed the country's entry, will "welcome" such a decision, official sources indicated. Enhanced trade with regional partners would strengthen Afghanistan's meagre economic base while transit facilities would allow it access to a sea port.
PM Manmohan Singh, who will attend the summit, is particularly keen that neighbours should all be covered by a free trade agreement arrangement, to enable them to have greater stakes in each other's economies.
It is another matter that the seven-nation Saarc as an entity has not managed, in 20 years of its existence, to jointly execute a single regional initiative.
The South Asia Free Trade Agreement is scheduled to begin functioning from 2006, but, analysts said, will "not have enough teeth" to boost intra-regional trade. Even concepts like a food bank or a poverty alleviation Fund, to jointly tackle infrastructure projects, have not become functional.
Afghanistan Exports Carpets to Italy for First Time
Thursday October 27, 11:42 AM
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Oct 27 Asia Pulse - For the first time in Afghan history, 7,000 carpets worth US$7 million were exported to Italy, officials said on Wednesday.
Mohammad Shireen Afzali, provincial custom chief of Balkh, told Pajhwok Afghan News the carpets were made in the northern Jawzjan and Faryab provinces.
He described the types of carpets as Shakhcha that were exported by Millad Naween Company. They would import improved raw materials with the earned money that would help in producing quality carpets in the future, he added.
The standard carpets, one of the country's greatest export items, are handcrafted in the Aqcha district of the Jawzjan province and the Shiberghan and Andkhoi districts of the Faryab province.
He said reducing or eliminating tax on the valuable product might enhance its export.
However, following the September 19 directives of the president Hamid Karzai the custom duty over country's products had been reduced for three years and had removed on import of raw materials.
Nearly 5.5 million of the Afghan women were working in cottage industries that manufacture high quality of carpets in the northern provinces, he added.
Zulikha, aged 35, resident of Shiberghan said: "My husband is an addict and I support my family through this profession."
(Pajhwok Afghan News)
ACLU Reports 21 Homicides in U.S. Custody
By LOLITA C. BALDOR / Associated Press / Tue Oct 25, 9:28 AM ET
WASHINGTON - At least 21 detainees who died while being held in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan were killed, many during or after interrogations, according to an analysis of Defense Department data by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The analysis, released Monday, looked at 44 deaths described in records obtained by the ACLU. Of those, the group characterized 21 as homicides, and said at least eight resulted from abusive techniques by military or intelligence officers, such as strangulation or "blunt force injuries," as noted in the autopsy reports.
The 44 deaths represent a partial group of the total number of prisoners who have died in U.S. custody overseas; more than 100 have died of natural and violent causes.
In one case, the report said, a detainee died after being smothered during interrogation by military intelligence officers in November 2003. In another case cited by the report, a prisoner died of asphyxiation and blunt force injuries after he was left standing, shackled to the top of a door frame, with a gag in his mouth.
One Afghan civilian, believed by the ACLU to be Abdul Wahid, died from "multiple blunt force injuries" in 2003 at a base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, according to an autopsy report provided by the Defense Department.
Wahid, 28, was taken from his home by Afghan militia and accused of being a terrorist. The autopsy report said he died in American custody, though his father has blamed the militiamen.
The detailed list of prisoners whose deaths the report considered homicides includes two detainees who were beaten and died from "blunt force injuries" at the Bagram Airfield detention center in Afghanistan, according to the autopsies.
Earlier this month, Pfc. Damien M. Corsetti, a military intelligence interrogator with the 519th MI Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., became the 15th soldier to face charges since those 2002 deaths.
Details about the detainee abuse and deaths have been released by the Pentagon as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU. Many of the incidents have been made public previously, and in a number of cases soldiers and officers involved have been prosecuted and punished.
"The U.S. military does not tolerate mistreatment of detainees," said Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin. "Past cases have been fully investigated. When there is credible evidence, commanders have the prerogative to prosecute."
To date, there have been more than 400 investigations of detainee abuse, and more than 230 military personnel have received a court-martial, nonjudicial punishment or other administrative action.
"There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU's executive director. "High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable."
The data includes detainees who were interrogated by military intelligence, Navy Seals and "Other Governmental Agency" personnel, which generally refers to the CIA.
On the Net:
ACLU documents: http://action.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/102405/
Group: Insurgents Force West to Rethink
By BETH GARDINER / Associated Press / Tue Oct 25, 2:39 PM ET
LONDON - The success of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan is forcing Western military planners to reconsider long-term strategies and learn how to fight a new kind of war, a military think thank said Tuesday.
American technological superiority is hamstrung in battling insurgents who use suicide bombings and other forms of attack that cannot be beaten by traditional battlefield tactics, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in its annual report on the world's military.
"The enemy has found operating terrains where the United States is unable to bring conventional superiority to bear," said institute director John Chipman.
"That is not to say that the precision technologies and networked communications ... do not have a role to play, but not necessarily in the way initially envisioned by planners," he added.
Chipman said strategists who maintained a Cold War mentality until the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks needed to update their thinking again. Wars between two clearly defined sides were being superseded by what the think tank called "conflict ecosystems."
In such situations, "a piece of territory is not the key objective but rather the whole environment, including the collective mind of a population requiring soldiers simultaneously to execute combat tasks alongside reconstruction and humanitarian efforts," Chipman said.
He said forces with experience in such irregular warfare, like the U.S. Marines and the British and Australian armies, were likely to have an easier time adjusting than the more conventional U.S. Army.
The IISS report said the U.S. was reconsidering its strategy for maintaining military strength because of the strains created by postwar troubles in Iraq and Afghanistan, which could last for years.
Patrick Cronin, director of studies at IISS, said continuing violence and instability in Iraq might mean U.S. troops will have to remain in the country until well after the presidential election in 2008.
"We're likely to see continued bloodshed and instability inside Iraq," Cronin said. "This is a long-term proposition, and I would expect the next U.S. administration to have forces inside Iraq at a fairly large number for some years to come."
Last week, the commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said it will take up to two years for the Iraqi army to have the military leadership and supplies it needs to operate on its own. Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr. did not specify what impact his assessment would have on U.S. hopes for beginning a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.
Earlier this year, U.S. military officials said they thought they could begin troop withdrawals next spring. But amid ongoing questions about the Iraqi army's training, they have since scaled back that prediction, saying some troop reductions are possible in 2006 but that any withdrawal will be based on conditions in Iraq.
The Pentagon will have to take account of those struggles, and the huge U.S. budget shortfall, when it releases the Quadrennial Defense Review, a far-reaching military plan it presents to Congress early next year, the IISS claimed.
A forward by Christopher Langton, editor of the institute's annual "Military Balance" report on the world's militaries, did not specify what changes the U.S. might make. The full report was being released later Tuesday.
Langton wrote that fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, where swift wars were followed by protracted trouble with insurgents, demonstrated the limitations conventional forces face. The huge cost of such operations makes international cooperation increasingly important, he wrote.
SCO, Afghanistan to establish contact group
MOSCOW. Oct 27 (Interfax) - The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and Afghanistan may create in the nearest future a contact group in order to cooperate with each other, SCO Executive Secretary Zhang Deguang said at a press conference at Interfax.
Work on establishing the SCO-Afghanistan contact group has been almost completed, Zhang said.
Russia, China looking to form 'NATO of the East'?
By Fred Weir / The Christian Science Monitor / October 26, 2005
MOSCOW - Russia and China could take a step closer to forming a Eurasian military confederacy to rival NATO at a Moscow meeting of the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Wednesday, experts say.
The group, which started in 2001 with limited goals of promoting cooperation in former Soviet Central Asia, has evolved rapidly toward a regional security bloc and could soon induct new members such as India, Pakistan, and Iran.
One initiative that core members Russia and China agree on, experts say, is to squeeze US influence - which peaked after 9/11 - out of the SCO's neighborhood. "Four years ago, when the SCO was formed, official Washington pooh-poohed it and declared it was no cause for concern," says Ariel Cohen, senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "Now they're proven wrong."
Wednesday's meeting is expected to review security cooperation, including a spate of upcoming joint military exercises between SCO members' armed forces. It may also sign off on a new "Contact Group" for Afghanistan. That would help Russia and China - both concerned about increased opium flows and the rise of Islamism - develop direct relations between SCO and the Afghan government. While this will be highly controversial given the presence of NATO troops and Afghans' bitter memories of fighting Russian occupation throughout the 1980s, the Russians have an "in" because they still have longstanding allies in the country.
In attendance Wednesday will be prime ministers of member states Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, as well as top officials from several recently added "observer" states, including Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, and Iranian Vice President Parviz Davudi.
The SCO's swift rise has been fueled by deteriorating security conditions in ex-Soviet Central Asia, as well as a hunger in Moscow and Beijing for a vehicle that could counter US influence in the region.
"Moscow is seeking options to demonstrate - to Washington in the first place - that Russia is still an important player in this area," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a partner of the US bimonthly journal Foreign Affairs. "China's ambitions are growing fast, and it also wants to turn the SCO into something bigger and more effective."
Russian leaders blame the Bush administration, with its emphasis on democracy-building, for recent unrest, including revolution in Kyrgyzstan and a putative Islamist revolt in Uzbekistan. "Washington wants to expand democracy, which it sees as a panacea for all social and geopolitical evils," says Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policies, which advises the Kremlin. "But it is clear to us that any rapid democratization of these countries (in Central Asia) will lead to chaos."
An SCO summit last June demanded that the US set a timetable to remove the bases it put in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan with Moscow's acquiescence in the wake of 9/11. In July, Uzbek leader Islam Karimov ordered the US base at Karshi-Khanabad to evacuate by year's end.
But two recent visits to Kyrgyzstan by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice appear to have secured the US lease on that country's Manas airbase indefinitely - albeit with a sharp rent increase.
"There is nothing to cheer about," says Mr. Cohen. "Washington has signaled to the Russians that we won't be seeking any new bases in Central Asia. Basically, we are doing nothing to counter the moves against us."
In joint maneuvers last August, Russian strategic bombers, submarines, and paratroopers staged a mock invasion of a "destabilized" far eastern region with Chinese troops. This month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov proposed holding the first Indian-Chinese-Russian war games under SCO sponsorship. "In principle, this is possible," he said. "The SCO was formed as an organization to deal with security issues."
Should states like India and Iran join, the SCO's sway could spread into South Asia and the Middle East. "India sees observer status [in the SCO] as a steppingstone to full membership," says a Moscow-based Indian diplomat who asked not to be named. But he added that India, which has recently improved its relations with the US, does not want to send an anti-US message. "We would hope the Americans would understand our desire to be inside the SCO, rather than outside," he says.
While the SCO's potential looks vast on paper, experts say internal rivalries would preclude it from evolving into a NATO-like security bloc. "What kind of allies could Russia and China be?" says Akady Dubnov, an expert with the Vremya Novostei newspaper. "The main question for them in Central Asia is who will gain the upper hand."
Still, the idea of a unified eastern bloc has strong appeal for some in Moscow. "It's very important that regional powers are showing the will to resolve Eurasian problems without the intrusion of the US," says Alexander Dugin, chair of the International Eurasian Movement, whose members include leading Russian businessmen and politicians. "Step by step we're building a world order not based on the unipolar hegemony of the US."
Says Cohen: "Eventually they'll wake up to this challenge in Washington. But will it be too late?"
NATO Helps Out in Afghanistan
Strategy Page - Oct 26 2:09 AM
October 26, 2005: NATO is heavily involved in Afghanistan peacekeeping the PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Teams) system. There are some 8,500 troops, and several thousand civilians, assigned to 22 PRTs, or protecting them. The PRTs are very international. One, for example, is commanded by Lithuanians, and includes personnel from the United States, Britain, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Sweden, with more on the way from Hungary and Romania. NATO now commands ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force), which it took over in 2003, about a year after ISAF was established, and is gradually taking over PRTs, and peacekeeping throughout the country.
The PRTs evolved from the JRTs (Joint Reconstruction Teams) established by U.S. Army Special Forces in 2002. Thirteen PRTs are run by U.S. and coalition troops, with nine operated by NATO forces. The core element of a typical PRTs has 83 people. This includes 79 military personnel and three civilians, plus an Afghan minister of the interior police officer. American PRTs are commanded by army lieutenant colonel, who is actually leading two civil affairs teams, an Army Reserve military police unit, plus intelligence and psychological operations teams. The civilians usually consist of officials from the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The rest of the troops are assigned to security duties, which can be pretty tense in areas where Taliban gunmen are operating, but basically police work (against bandits and unruly warlord militias) elsewhere. These security troops often end up assisting in reconstruction as well. The Afghans have been urging the expansion of the PRT system, not just to get more reconstruction expertise to all areas of the country, but to provide some protection for reconstruction staff (including the many NGOs that are not a part of the PRT system.)
There was some resistance from NGOs when the first four PRTs appeared in 2003, on the grounds that their military component would endanger all NGOs, because the hostile elements in the area would assume that the NGOs were “working for the Americans.” This attitude soon changed when the NGOs realized that the Taliban, and the many outlaw bands about, did not care. The Taliban wanted to drive all foreigners out of the country, armed or not, and the bandits were more likely to go after unarmed NGOs, than armed PRTs. This is why the Afghan government wanted the PRTs. Without them, the NGOs would do what they normally do when confronted with hostile, and heavily armed locals; pay protection. This is often in form of goods and services meant for the needy locals. It usually works, but only at the cost of making the bad guys more powerful. NGOs have been rethinking this tactic, as people (especially the media, which the NGOs cultivate in order to raise money) began to see that the bad guys were sustaining themselves with NGO payoffs. In Afghanistan, the Taliban were not interested in making a deal, and many of the bandits, once bought, would not stay bought.
The PRTs have reduced the remaining Taliban strength in several ways. Partly by freeing up more American combat troops to go after Taliban raiding parties, and partly by providing aid to pro-Taliban tribes, and convincing them to come over to the government side. Over two decades of violence have worn down even the pro-Taliban tribes, and made it easier for them to accept rule, or at least cooperation with, the central government.
PRTs have been less successful in dealing with the warlords (tribal leaders strong, and wealthy, enough to maintain their own little private armies) and the drug gangs (who have profits from the heroin trade, and don’t need any other foreign aid.) The government, however, now has fewer restless tribes, thanks to the PRTs, and can devote more forces to dealing with unruly warlords, and the growing power of the drug gangs (which are usually tribal).
A major problem with international staffing of PRTs are the language, cultural and national differences they have to deal with. Many nations contributing troops to Afghan peacekeeping have put restrictions on what their troops can do (in response to political issues at home). This makes life difficult for the PRT commanders, and the other members of the team who have to work around these restrictions. But the NATO PRTs are a test of the organizations ability to act as an international outfit. Either you can do it, or you can’t, and Afghanistan is the test.
Afghanistan Engineer District team surveys earthquake devastation in Pakistan
Blackanthem.com, KABUL, Afghanistan, October 26, 2005
A team of specialists from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District (AED) has begun to gauge engineering needs throughout the northern region of Pakistan affected by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake.
The AED team joined coalition forces in humanitarian relief efforts as the area continues to suffer additional aftershocks - more than 700 so far - since the major quake of Oct. 8. The group is part of the Disaster Assistance Center - Pakistan engineer cell.
Weather has played a critical role since the AED engineers’ arrival on the scene.
"There were no reconnaissance missions (October 16). It rained all night and visibility was too low to fly,- said Kurt Monger, describing the team’s third day on the ground.
Monger, a cost engineer from Alaska whose specialty is structural assessment, and Maryam Khan, a civil engineer from Baltimore with geotechnical proficiency, have conducted several aerial recons of the Muzaffarabad region and toward Chakothi. To assess the damage, they’ve been flying aboard DAC-P helicopters during humanitarian supply and casualty evacuation runs. Other team members, Master Sgt. Eric Johnson and team leader Larry Ryan, have followed suit. The primary focus of both groups is evaluating the roads and bridges that lead to the areas that are in most need urgent disaster relief.
Flying in a UH-60 Blackhawk, about 85 kilometers through the Muree Hills to Muzaffarabad, Khan and Monger observed traffic flowing normally to and from the city along the primary roadway. There t he city’s stadium has become a major collection point for relief efforts. Landslides had devoured the smaller secondary and tertiary roads that once traversed the steep mountainous slopes, they reported. As they approached Muzaffarabad, the team detected several minor shifts of earth along the main route.
Southeast of Muzaffarabad, they spotted a massive mountain collapse. It blocked a significant portion of a smaller valley and created a natural earthen dam. Rocks and dirt from the landslide piled up to create what they described as "massive dunes.- The team noted houses "upstream- in the path of potential floods.
On a Chinook flight towards Chakothi, about 11 kilometers from the Indian border, Monger and Khan surveyed the valley’s one main road, which runs about 40 kilometers along the valley floor. It was decimated by numerous landslides, damaged bridges and culverts. Boulders, rocks, dirt and uprooted trees dotted the entire path.
"The route has sustained significant damage such as landslides, large cracks from shear failure, and in some places the shelf has been completely sheared off by the landslides,- said Khan.
According to Monger, 80 to 90 percent of the area’s structures had collapsed from the utter force of the earthquake.
"We’d fly over houses with roofs that looked intact until we’d look out of the Chinook from another angle. It was then we realized that the roofs were at ground level. There were no walls. They’d given way and the roof had flattened everything below it,- said Khan.
"At one stop, we picked up over 50 people who had been injured - broken limbs, head injuries. It’s a bit overwhelming. The smell of death is in the air,- she continued.
Both recon teams agreed that w hile from the air some bridges and roads appear to be intact and continue to be used, there are pockets of "absolute devastation.-
Both teams of specialists have just begun to inspect the area from the ground. They expect to continue to perform more aerial and ground surveys. They will also identify routes where reconstruction is urgently needed to bring relief supplies to quake victims as long as the weather cooperates. In addition to roads, the teams have begun to physically visit hospitals and schools to make structural assessments.
Enormity of the situation
According to the World Health Organization, 26 hospitals, to include three which specialize in tuberculosis, have been destroyed or are too dangerous to keep open. Most of the 600 health clinics in the affected areas are thought to have also been destroyed or severely damaged. In the meantime, field hospitals are attempting to treat the seriously injured. More field hospitals are needed, said the WHO.
In a press conference Saturday, Pakistan ’s Chief Relief Commissioner Maj. Gen. Farooq Ahmed Khan stated that 19 field hospitals are working 24-7 to treat the injured. He said the death toll had risen to more than 53,000 and the number of injured had climbed to more than 75,000.
Many relief officials say it’s a race against time. Snow has already begun to fall in the region and temperatures are steadily dipping as winter approaches.
"We are facing an enormous humanitarian catastrophe and with winter just around the corner, a second humanitarian disaster looms for the 4 mil lion people without a roof over their heads and the 70,000 injured people needing medical attention. For all humanitarian organizations, it is a race against the clock,- said Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid in an Oct. 24 European Union press release.
Maj. Michael Brooks, an engineer action officer with the Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan, and Gilbert Dent, a project manager from Baltimore where he serves as its emergency management chief, continue to painstakingly coordinate assessment missions for the AED teams. They’re working with the other DAC-P engineers, the U.S. Agency for International Development Disaster Assistance Response Team and United Nations groups.
The AED team has also harnessed the experience of the more than 35,000 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers geologists, engineers, hydrologists and other professionals stationed throughout the United States and around the world. The team requested the Corps’ Engineering Intelligence and Infrastructure Reach-back Center to provide it with information and advice regarding slope stability, structural assessment of damaged concrete, environmental clearances as well as requirements for temporary housing. The DAC-P engineer cell will use the information to make further recommendations for reconstruction projects and to maximize coordination.
According to the United States Geological Survey, the frequent earthquakes in northern Pakistan are the result of the Indian subcontinent moving northward thus colliding with the Eurasian continent.
By Mo Ramsey Afghanistan Engineer District U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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