U.S. army says killed 14 insurgents in Afghanistan
KABUL, Oct 29 (Reuters) - U.S. and Afghan forces killed 14 Taliban militants in separate attacks in Afghanistan this week, the U.S. military said in a statement.
Thirteen guerrillas were killed in two encounters in the central province of Uruzgan on Oct 27 in an offensive in which aircraft and helicopter gunships were used, it said.
One Afghan National Army soldier was killed and four, including one U.S. soldier, were wounded in the clashes, said the statement late on Friday.
Taliban officials could be immediately reached for comment.
Separately, U.S. soldiers killed one Taliban militant on Friday after he was seen attempting to place a roadside bomb in the southeastern province of Paktika, the statement said.
The violence is part of rising Taliban-linked insurgency in Afghanistan in which more than 1,100 people, mostly militants, but also more than 50 U.S. soldiers have been killed this year.
Fighting Across Afghanistan Kills 18
By DANIEL COONEY, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A series of battles in volatile southern and eastern Afghanistan killed 14 suspected militants and an Afghan soldier, while suspected Taliban rebels shot dead a family of three, officials said Saturday.
The fighting, which also wounded a U.S. service member and four Afghan troops, was the deadliest in recent weeks and comes a month after landmark legislative elections that many people had hoped would sideline the insurgents.
Violence also broke out in relatively calm northern Afghanistan, where gunmen fired at a patrol of British peacekeepers in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, said Sheir Jan Durani, a police spokesman.
A spokesman for a NATO-led peacekeeping force, Capt. Michele Cortese, said four of the British soldiers were wounded. Security forces cordoned off the area and arrested four suspects.
The deadliest fighting in the south was in Uruzgan province Thursday, a U.S. military statement said. It started after a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol was attacked by militants firing assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. A U.S. service member and an Afghan soldier were wounded in this assault.
Shortly afterward, militants launched a second attack a few miles from the first, killing an Afghan soldier and wounding three others. The injured were evacuated to a hospital at a nearby base. There were no U.S. or Afghan casualties in the third battle.
"A total of 13 enemy fighters were killed in the three engagements," the statement said. "Coalition aircraft and attack helicopters provided close air support for the operations."
In eastern Paktika on Friday, American troops attacked a group of militants as they laid a roadside bomb, capturing two and killing one as he tried to flee, the second statement said. A fourth rebel managed to escape.
Two mirrors used for signaling to other insurgents and blasting caps were found on the slain militant.
In separate violence in southern Helmand province, suspected Taliban rebels fired at a vehicle late Friday and killed two brothers and a son of one of the men, said Ghulam Muhiddin, a local government leader.
The motive was not clear. One of the men was a candidate in legislative elections last month but had lost, Muhiddin said.
Taliban-led rebels have stepped up attacks this year, leaving almost 1,500 dead. The violence is the deadliest since U.S.-led forces ousted the insurgents from power in late 2001 and has raised fears for this country's fragile democracy.
Soldier killed in Taliban attack in Afghanistan
KABUL, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- One Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier has been killed, two others have been injured when Taliban militants attacked a convoy of ANA and Coalition force in Afghanistan's southern province of Uruzgan, a local official said Saturday.
"Taliban militants attacked the convoy of ANA and Coalition forces in Yakhdan area of Charchino district the day before yesterday. One of the ANA vehicles was damaged and one soldier was killed, two others were injured. At least four Taliban militants were also injured," Jan Mohammad Khan, provincial governor told Xinhua.
Taliban spokesperson Qari Mohammad Yosuf Ahmadi has claimed responsibility for the attack, but said three ANA vehicles were destroyed, and there is no casualty on the Taliban side.
Charchino district, according to the provincial governor, is a very dangerous place where Taliban militants always launch furious attacks against Afghan or foreign troops.
In the recent three offensive operations carried out by ANA and Coalition forces in Uruzgan province, according to the US military,13 Taliban militants and one ANA soldier were killed, and one US and four ANA forces also injured.
Four British peacekeepers hurt in Afghan attack
29 Oct 2005 07:05:38 GMT
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Four British soldiers from the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan were wounded in an attack on Saturday in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a spokesman for the mission said.
The soldiers were shot by four men armed with assault rifles in the middle of the city, said Imamuddin, a senior police official in the city. Three of the attackers had been arrested, he said.
Spokesmen for the ousted Taliban spokesmen said their guerrillas were behind the attack but Imamuddin said he suspected the attackers were members of a pro-government Shia faction.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops have been attacked several times in northern Afghanistan, but Saturday's shooting was the first against ISAF soldiers in Mazar-i-Sharif, which is relatively secure.
Some 10,000 ISAF soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan, charged with keeping the peace after U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. Some 20,000 U.S.-led soldiers hunt Taliban and their allies, such as al Qaeda.
U.S. and Afghan forces had killed 14 Taliban militants in separate attacks in Afghanistan this week, the U.S. military said in a statement. One Afghan soldier was killed and a U.S. soldier was among four injured, the U.S. military said.
More than 1,100 people have been killed in clashes this year. Most were militants but the death toll includes more than 50 U.S. soldiers. (with additional reporting by Yousuf Azimy and Sayed Salahuddin in KABUL)
Afghan court demands death for 2 over journalists' killing
28 Oct 2005 10:26:14 GMT By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL, Oct 28 (Reuters) - An Afghan court has ruled two brothers should be executed for their involvement in the 2001 killing of four journalists, including two from Reuters, a senior judge said on Friday.
Zar Jan and Abdul Wahid can both appeal the verdict which was announced at a trial on Thursday, the judge told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Five other men, accomplices of the pair, were each sentenced to 20 years in jail for other criminal acts such as highway robbery and theft, he said.
The brothers have confessed partial involvement in the killing of the journalists at Tangi Abrishum, about 90 km (55 miles) east of Kabul on Nov. 19, 2001, days after U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban government, the judge said.
The journalists were Australian television cameraman Harry Burton and Afghan photographer Azizullah Haidari, both Reuters employees, Spaniard Julio Fuentes of El Mundo newspaper and Italian Maria Grazia Cutuli of Corriere della Sera newspaper.
The judge described Zar Jan as the leader of a criminal gang and said he was also wanted on suspicion of armed robbery, kidnapping and other killings.
A third suspect in the killing, Reza Khan, who was arrested in November, has also been sentenced to death by two courts. Khan has said the gang had acted on the orders of a Taliban commander.
If the final court approves the death sentence for the trio, only President Hamid Karzai can decide their fate, on the basis of Afghanistan's law.
Afghanistan last year carried out its first execution since the Taliban's fall. Scores of people have been sentenced to death by the courts and are awaiting Karzai's decision, officials say.
Marines learn how to win over Afghan town with aid, respect, sensitivity
By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Saturday, October 29, 2005
CAMP BLESSING, Afghanistan — Just steps outside the gate of this eastern Afghanistan fire base, camp commander 1st Lt. Matt Bartels is met with a warm smile, a hug and a handshake, followed by the Afghan villager respectfully placing his hand over his own heart.
Such heartfelt greetings are not bestowed on many U.S. Marines by Afghans, but Bartels and the 84 other Marines at this small, remote base have established strong bonds with the locals.
Since arriving at Camp Blessing in early June, the members of the 3rd Marine Division’s Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment from Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, have earned the respect of the locals through self-initiated humanitarian aid giveaways, respectful treatment of the people and sensitivity to their culture.
And the Marines at Blessing are reaping the benefits.
Intelligence gathered from local sources has resulted in the Marines and Afghan Security Forces troops stationed here uncovering 29 enemy weapon caches. More than 10,000 pounds of ordnance, including 600 rounds of 82 mm mortar rounds and 200 rocket-propelled grenades have been seized.
It is work typically performed by mystery-shrouded Army Special Forces or other Defense Department agencies, but the Marines here take on the role as part of their mission.
“To be able to do what we’ve done on a platoon level with Marines is a testament to the hard work of the Marines here,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Kinser, Company E’s 1st Platoon commander.
So how do the Marines at Blessing — currently only one platoon with attachments — glean so much valuable information from the locals?
When someone comes to the camp to provide information, Marines first brew local tea, strike up a friendly conversation and then get down to business.
“If I know they’re here to tell me something, that’s the last thing I ask about,” said Bartels, 25, of Minneapolis.
“I ask them about their family, what they do, how their life is. There’s an endless amount of subjects you can talk to them about. Once they get that comfort level, they don’t look at you as a member of coalition forces. They look at you as one of them.”
Bartels, whose parents were in the Peace Corps, experienced what life is like for the locals when he refrained from eating or drinking during daylight hours for a week during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
“The [Afghan] soldiers liked it,” he said. “They could tell I was hurting because I wasn’t coming out as much and walking around.”
Bartels spends as much time with the locals as he can. Some days he heads into the village adjacent to the camp at 8 a.m. and doesn’t return until 4 p.m.
Marines here use their personal money to help the Afghans when they need it. The Marines have orchestrated humanitarian aid giveaways with items and money donated by U.S. citizens, churches and community groups. About 50 percent of the mail delivered to Camp Blessing contains items for Afghan kids, Bartels said. The troops here were able to supply $5,000 worth of school uniforms to local children.
During one of the roughly 20 indirect-fire attacks against Blessing since June, an enemy round damaged an Afghan shop just outside the camp. The day following the nighttime attack, Marines were at the shop with materials so it could be repaired.
“Small gestures like that get you their respect,” Bartels said.
When asked, Kinser said the Marines’ top achievement at Blessing has been establishing a relationship with the locals.
“Once people trust you, they’ll give you information they wouldn’t normally feel comfortable giving,” said the 24-year-old from Jonesville, Va. “They know we’ll genuinely help them. I wouldn’t call it an achievement. It’s just doing our job.”
And Bartels was doing his job Wednesday morning when the Afghan National Police chief at the village outside the camp asked him about getting another battery for a radio.
Bartels told the man to give him a week. The chief replied, through an interpreter, that he could last a month with his current battery.
“I only have two months left here,” Bartels said.
The chief said something and then looked a bit downtrodden.
“He said, ‘Don’t leave us,’” the interpreter said.
“Don’t tell my family that,” Bartels said.
Diplomat: Double Afghan aid
THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS
WASHINGTON - Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann said Congress should double the current $622 million in aid to build roads and other links between Kabul and the provinces in the wake of the country's first parliamentary elections.
"People are going to hate to hear that," he said. "Given the impact of the hurricane (Katrina), there are huge demands on the budget. … We are doing a very good job, but it's not finished. If we take our hand off too early, it can still come apart on us.
"We have succeeded in setting up a government in Kabul. Now we need to set up a government in Afghanistan," he said in an interview.
The election results bring together in one legislative body figures from across Afghanistan's political and religious spectrum and should be a unifying force in a country ruled for many years by ethnic chieftains and warlords.
President Hamid Karzai has support among women, professionals and fellow Pashtuns in the new parliament. But most of the seats in the 249-member Wolesi Jirga, or lower house, went to Islamic conservatives and mujahedeen fighters - including four former Taliban leaders - in the September elections.
Osama bin Laden and some other al-Qaida leaders are thought to still be hiding in the mountains along the Afghan-Pakistani border but are apparently focused on the war in Iraq. Remnants of the Taliban are largely behind a continuing insurgency that has claimed the lives of more than 200 U.S. soldiers and Marines in the past four years, Neumann said.
About 17,900 U.S. troops are stationed in Afghanistan.
"It's very clear the insurgency is not going away. We will be at this for some time," Neumann said. "But the far greater challenge now is governance."
Tactical psyops stopped in Afghanistan, for now
Order follows allegations that U.S. troops burned Taliban bodies
By Sean D. Naylor / Army Times (USA) / October 28, 2005
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The U.S. military has halted all tactical psychological operations in Afghanistan until commanders have received instruction on how to bridge what a senior general here called “an emerging gap” between Afghanistan’s Islamic customs and what is permitted under the Geneva Conventions.
Maj. Gen. Jason Kamiya, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, the U.S.-led force that operates in eastern and southern Afghanistan, said he gave the order to stop operations on the evening of Oct. 19, after he became aware that day of allegations that two U.S. soldiers had burned the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters to taunt other Islamic militants.
Australia’s SBS television network broadcast video footage that purportedly showed U.S. soldiers burning the bodies of the suspected Taliban fighters in the hills outside the southern village of Gonbaz, near the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
The network said freelance journalist Stephen Dupont filmed the burning, which he said happened Oct. 1. Dupont told The Associated Press he was embedded with the Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade of Vicenza, Italy.
In the footage, two soldiers who spoke with American accents read taunting messages that the SBS said were broadcast to the village, which was believed to be harboring Taliban soldiers. Dupont said the soldiers responsible for the taunting messages were part of an Army psychological operations unit.
Kamiya said that although the news media have treated the alleged burning of the corpses and the psyops broadcast as a single event, “I see them as two separate incidents.” He added: “The psychological operations aspect of it we’re looking at very carefully.” Already, he said, “we have validated that the broadcast that is alleged to have been made is against the guidelines that govern psyops operations.”
“Not knowing the scope or the magnitude, or whether or not we had a problem in our psyops training, that could have led to this broadcast of this offensive message, I directed in an order that all tactical psyops operations be discontinued pending command review,” Kamiya said in an Oct. 28 interview here.
At first the review consisted of a commander’s inquiry, Kamiya said. But while that inquiry is still ongoing, a broader investigation under Army Regulations 15-6 has already begun, he said, “because I have enough right now to show that there are some deficiencies in psychological operations and training.”
The two-star noted that although the alleged incident occurred in Regional Command South, which was therefore the focus of the commander’s inquiry, the 15-6 would investigate whether the problem stretched into Regional Command East.
“I will miss the boat if all I do is focus on RC South because the incident happened in RC South.”
The commander’s inquiry revealed what Kamiya described as “an emerging vulnerability” centered around a disconnect between the Geneva Conventions and Afghan traditions.
Before deploying to Afghanistan, all soldiers receive training in the law of land warfare and the Geneva Conventions, according to Kamiya. Separately, the troops also receive training in Islam and Afghan culture, he said.
“But what doesn’t happen is identifying where there may be contradictions,” Kamiya said.
“For example, the law of land warfare … allows the burning of remains under certain circumstances, like sanitation reasons. ... But Afghan customs and beliefs, etc., do not. So we have to look at where the contradictions exist between the law of land warfare and, in this case, Afghan cultures and courtesies, and target instruction on where those contradictions are, and to teach our soldiers.”
Kamiya said he had directed his political adviser, his cultural adviser and his staff judge advocate to brief him the weekend of Oct. 30 on a proposed program of instruction “that can get at this gap that we currently have between the law of land warfare and Afghan customs and courtesies and traditions.”
Once he has approved the program, Kamiya said he will order all his leaders “from battalion commander on up” to attend the class. Kamiya said it was not feasible to expect the company commanders to attend, as they were dispersed in the countryside leading their troops on operations.
“Our plan is to invite the provincial governors to participate in this training with us,” Kamiya said. “I want to include the Afghan leadership in the solution to this problem.”
The first U.S. commanders to receive the briefing will probably be those at this airfield an hour’s drive north of Kabul, where CJTF-76 is headquartered, Kamiya said.
Courses will also be conducted at Kandahar airfield, where Regional Command South is headquartered, and Forward Operating Base Salerno, where Regional Command East is centered, he said.
“Assuming that the instructional material that they’ll show me this weekend is close to what I want … I would hope that by the middle of November we would have gotten through these three critical blocks of instruction.
“But again, it is conditions-based,” he said. “I won’t turn on the tactical psyops switch until I am assured that where appropriate we have mitigated any further risk of an incident like this happening again, anywhere.”
Kamiya said that the day he learned of the body-burning allegations, he immediately directed commanders to contact provincial governors and their subordinate leadership to tell them of the alleged incident.
He said he did not want them to learn of it through the press and wanted them to know such actions, if true, went against the core values of the U.S. and coalition forces.
He said he had the provincial leaders notified they will be kept informed of the investigation’s progress and that violators would be held accountable under military law.
No cremations in Islam
Cremation of bodies is not part of Islamic tradition, which instead calls for remains to be washed, prayed over, wrapped in white cloth and buried within 24 hours.
U.S. Central Command policy calls for enemy remains to be treated with the same level of dignity and respect given to U.S. remains.
U.S. forces also should attempt to accommodate religious practices for military personnel and those in the care of U.S. military personnel, according to the policy. When it comes to Muslim burials, “every effort should be made to bury the body within 24 hours following death,” the policy says.
The maximum time between death and burial should be 72 hours, and it is “preferable to use a Muslim chaplain, a Muslim lay leader or a male Muslim service member to conduct the burial service.”
At no time should a non-Muslim perform the actual burial rites of a Muslim, according to the policy.
When placed in the grave, the deceased should be placed on his or her side facing the direction of Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, according to the policy. Deceased under the care of the U.S. military should be turned over to proper Muslim authorities for burial when possible.
Soldiers and Marines receive training at their home stations before deploying, said Marine Maj. Matt McLaughlin, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command.
The training generally includes host-nation and religious sensitivities and cultural norms “so when deployed they’re both soldiers and Marines and ambassadors of the country,” McLaughlin said.
He declined to discuss specifics of the case.
Footage of the incident did not include audio tape of the messages by the psychological operations unit being broadcast to the village.
According to a transcript of the television program, one soldier read a message saying, “Taliban, you are all cowardly dogs. You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west [toward Mecca] and burned. You are too scared to come down and retrieve their bodies.”
Police in Shah Wali Kot district, where Gonbaz village is located, said hundreds of Taliban rebels are believed to be hiding in camps in the mountainous region.
Staff writer Michelle Tan contributed to this report from Washington. Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.
Afghan Taliban focus guns on pro-govt civilians
KABUL, Oct. 28 (Xinhua) -- As part of change in militancy tactics, the Taliban militias in Afghanistan have focused their guns on pro-government civilians with preference on religious leaders, as the movement has gunned down no less than a dozen civilian service men besides targeting military over the past two weeks.
Militants loyal to the former fundamentalist regime in a series of violent attacks shot dead three persons including a tribal leader and a school staff in mosques in eastern Afghanistan over the past two days.
Meanwhile, three clerics and a headmaster of a school were killed by the brutal militants in southern Afghanistan over the past week.
The killing follows beheading three persons by Taliban in the neighboring Zabul province days ago on charge of spying for US authorities.
All the victims, including religious leaders, according to Taliban, were pro-government figures and served US interest in the central Asian state.
Attacks on pro-government religious leaders by suspected Taliban are on rise as four clerics have been killed over the past two weeks, bringing the number of slaying clergymen to nine since May.
Taliban's former spokesman Mufti Latif Hakimi in a series of warnings called on the Afghans, particularly the religious leaders, not to support what he termed "puppet regime" and the US military in Afghanistan.
He also warned those who overlook the argument could be attacked as a legitimate target.
Loyalists of the ousted Taliban regime in their first attack on government associates' clerics shot dead Mawlawi Fayaz, a respected cleric in southern Kandahar province in May.
Weeks later, a suicide bomber detonated himself inside a mosquein Kandahar city killing 10 mourners and wounding over 40 others. All had gathered to pay homage to the late Fayaz.
Claiming responsibility for the recent bloody attacks, Taliban's newly appointed spokesman Qari Yusuf said that Mujahidin or holy warriors of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the former name of Taliban regime) had punished these people for their cooperation with Americans in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has described targeting religious leaders and other civilians as act of terrorism, and act of the enemies of peace and security and strongly condemned it.
Eight civilians were also killed near Kabul on Monday night when Taliban militants targeted Coalition vehicles, but killed the civilians in the cars behind by mistake.
In addition, the Taliban rebels killed two mining workers and injured six others in a bomb explosion in southern Kandahar province on Sunday. On the same day, three police and eight civilians were injured in another motorcycle explosion in the province.
An intelligence officer and an aid worker have also been killed over the weekend in the troubled southern provinces where hundreds of Taliban militants are believed to have been holed up.
The Taliban-led militants in their latest wave of violence eliminated nine police including their commander in southern Helmand province last Friday, provincial secretary Hajji Mohidin confirmed in talks with Xinhua.
The hard-line movement's elusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who survived US military's big manhunt after being deprived of power in late 2001, has vowed to continue Jihad or holy war till the US-dominated foreign troops evacuate Afghanistan.
Over 1,400 people, according to officials, have been killed in Taliban-linked insurgency since the beginning of this year.
Extradition of Hakimi, Yasar to Afghanistan against INT`L laws: Taliban
PakTribune (Pakistan) / Saturday October 29, 2005
KABUL: A Taliban spokesman Abdul Hayee Mutmaen has termed extradition of former Taliban spokesmen to Afghanistan as against the international laws.
Taliban spokesman while talking to Radio Tehran flayed extradition of the former Taliban spokesmen Latifullah Hakimi and Ustad Yasar.
He stated that the two persons had no military designation in the Taliban regime. Mr. Mutmaen further said that Latifullah Hakimi only disseminate news to the media and his arrest and extradition is attempt on freedom of press and act against the international laws.
SCO not to admit new members presently: Executive Secretary
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will not admit new members at this stage, SCO Executive Secretary Zhang Deguang said here on Thursday.
The SCO is not ready to admit new members presently because of the lack of "relevant legal basis", Zhang told a press conference after a meeting of prime ministers of the six member states of the SCO -- China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
However, the current activity of the SCO does not mean that the organization is to become an enclosed bloc, even politically, said Zhang. "The organization will never become a military bloc, which does not correspond to its objective," he said.
Heads of government of the six countries attended the meeting that opened here Wednesday, with discussions focused on issues of anti-terrorism and economic cooperation among SCO member countries.
Senior representatives of Mongolia, Pakistan, India and Iran also attended the conference for the first time as observers.
The SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Center is highly effective and its fight against terrorism is closely related to the combat against drug trafficking because terrorists might get funding from drug traffickers, said Zhang.
The fight against drug dealing, in Afghanistan in particular, is one of the tasks of priority for the SCO, said Zhang, adding that a draft on the creation of an SCO-Afghanistan contact has been submitted to the Afghan government.
Commenting on the call launched by the SCO early this year for the United States to set a date for the withdrawal of its military forces in Central Asia, the SCO executive secretary said the organization launched an appeal, not an ultimatum.
"The SCO launched the appeal because the active phase of the anti-terrorist operation in Afghanistan was over," he said, "It is only a matter of deadlines. We wonder when the withdrawals will take place. This is not an ultimatum."
In July, the SCO called on the United States to establish a timetable for pulling out its military bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, set up in 2001 as part of the US-led military operations in Afghanistan.
The appeal should not be viewed with the logic of Cold War, said Zhang, "The Cold War is gone. We should fully abandon those stereotypes of thinking."
On the economic cooperation, Zhang said the SCO member states are planning a more active cooperation in energy, one of the priorities of the organization.
He added that the cooperation will comprise several aspects, from the construction of oil and gas pipelines, oil prospecting, development of production technologies to the use of water resources.
The SCO is at the beginning of the process to build a common strategy of cooperation in energy, the means of delivery and markets, he added.
The SCO was founded in June 2001, and inaugurated an Anti-Terrorist Center in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in June 2004. Source: Xinhua
Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbours
Many believe that Pakistan is trying to use the “war on terror” to legitimise a long-disputed border.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Hafizullah Gardesh and Wahidullah Amani in Kabul (ARR No. 193, 28-Oct-05)
With all problems their country is facing, it would seem unlikely that Afghans would spare much time to fulminate over a century-old border dispute.
But the Durand Line, which divides Afghanistan from Pakistan, is one of the most sensitive and explosive issues in Afghanistan today. Everyone from taxi drivers to the president has something to say about it, and the sentiments are far from positive.
The question has now resurfaced with a Pakistani proposal to erect a fence along the Afghan-Pakistan border. Pakistani president Pervez Musharaff voiced the proposal last month in a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, rather than in talks with his Afghan counterpart, which has brought Afghan resentment to boiling point.
The border in question is a poorly demarcated, 2,600- kilometre line devised by British minister Sir Henry Mortimer Durand in 1893 to separate British India from Afghanistan. Pakistan inherited the boundary when it gained statehood in 1947.
Afghans claim that the line was imposed on the Afghan monarch Amir Abdul Rahman but was never formally accepted by the country. The Afghan government has tried to abrogate the treaty unilaterally, most recently in 1948, but it still stands as the internationally accepted border between the two countries.
Durand’s line cut neatly through the Pashtun population, which some maintain was no accident. With the troublesome, warlike Pashtuns divided, the British had a better chance of subduing Afghanistan, which it wanted as a buffer zone to check the expanding Russian empire.
There are now some 16 million Pashtuns on the Pakistan side of the border – equal to or greater than the number who live in Afghanistan. No reliable census figures exist for Afghanistan, but it is estimated that Pashtuns comprise between 40 and 60 per cent of the approximately 27 million population.
The British never managed to subdue the fiercely independent Afghans, but the legacy of the Durand Line continues to spark anger and resentment.
Afghans firmly believe the treaty has lapsed since it was due to expire after 100 years, in 1993. Britain’s Foreign Office has said the agreement has no expiry date.
The line is now accepted and recognised by the international community, and a re-examination of the border seems a fairly remote possibility.
But Afghans have not lost their determination to regain what they consider their rightful territory, and are convinced that Pakistani policy aims to keep their country weak and unstable so as to prevent them staking their claim.
When he proposed building a fence, President Musharraf argued that it would make it hard for insurgents to cross the currently porous border.
Afghan president Hamed Karzai vehemently rejected the idea, telling a press conference in Kabul that a wall would not deter terrorists. It would, however, have a host of other disadvantages such as dividing tribes and families.
But Karzai’s angry response may be all but irrelevant; Musharaff took his proposal not to the Kabul government, but to what many Afghans call the “real power” in the region - the United States - seen as a firm friend and protector of Pakistan. This perception has done little to dampen the growing resentment of the American presence in Afghanistan, at a time when the Taleban are becoming increasingly active in the country.
“Pakistan has made this proposal to the US government because Americans are here in Afghanistan, and Americans have ensured security in this country,” said Mohammad Naem, a press officer at the Pakistani embassy in Kabul.
It was just a proposal, he added, and furthermore it was designed to stop the flow of terrorists and weapons across the border, not for any darker purpose.
But such explanations do not wear well within Afghanistan.
“With the presence of Americans in Afghanistan, Pakistani forces are advancing hundreds of kilometres into Afghanistan’s soil,” said political analyst Mohammad Hassan Wolesmal, who also edits the magazine Jarida-ye-Milli-ye-Afghan. “Now it wants to construct a security fence along the border to legalise Afghanistan’s occupied territory by Pakistan. If American support was not behind Pakistan, it would never be able to do such things.”
Karzai’s government has done nothing to stop Pakistan’s encroachment, he added, because it is reliant on American support.
Pakistan has come under increasing pressure from the United States to clamp down on Islamic insurgent groups and stop them sending insurgents into Afghanistan. This may be one reason that it advanced the idea of a fence to seal the border, say experts.
“Pakstan wants to show it is an ally in the war on terror,” said Habibullah Rafi, a political analyst and member of the Academy of Sciences.
But Rafi also suspects Islamabad is trying to exploit the weakness of the Afghan government and its friendship with the United States.
“Pakistan has two goals in building the wall,” he said. “On the one hand, it wants to get billions of dollars from America for construction, on the other, it wants to legitimise the Durand Line.”
Political analyst Mohammad Qasim Akhgar agrees.
“[Pakistani] forces have advanced into Afghanistan’s territory and now it wants to make the Durand Line valid by constructing a wall,” said Akhgar. “I think it is up to the Pashtuns on that side of the border to decide their own fate.”
The US embassy in Kabul was noncommittal on the fence proposal.
“We work with both Afghanistan and Pakistan on security issues and regularly encourage strengthening cooperation on security,” said embassy spokesman Lou Fintor. “Military officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US meet periodically to discuss matters related to the Afghanistan and Pakistan border region. This is a subject of regular discussion between U.S. officials and the leaders of the two countries.”
But the issue of the wall touches a very deep chord in the Afghan psyche, and no matter what decision is made in the halls of power, Afghans themselves will continue to hold strong opinions.
“Construction of the wall would mean a second division of Afghanistan,” said Wolesmal. “History has shown that the Berlin Wall was destroyed, the border walls in Gaza were destroyed, and this wall will also be destroyed if it is ever built.”
Hafizullah Gardesh is the editor of the Afghan Recovery Report in Kabul. Wahidullah Amani is an IWPR reporter in Kabul.
US invites UN human rights experts to Guantanamo
Fri Oct 28, 9:05 PM ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States has invited three UN human rights rapporteurs to its controversial Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention center to show that detainees there "are treated humanely," the State Department said.
"The invitation was extended in an effort to broaden understanding of US detention operations and to demonstrate that detainees at Guantanamo are treated humanely," the department said in a statement.
The UN rapporteurs, at the invitation of the Defense Department, will be allowed to observe Guantanamo operations and question accompanying command staff and US officials, the statement said.
About 500 people are being held at the detention center without charges as enemy combatants in the US war on terrorism, most of them captured in 2001 in Afghanistan.
The three observers will include a special rapporteur on torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment, one on freedom of religion and faith, and one from a group which monitors arbitrary detentions.
"The visit will include briefings by senior command staff, medical staff, and interrogation staff; visits to cells housing detainees; and observation of operations, including recreation, religious, cultural, medical, and nutritional practices," the department said.
In June UN Secretary General Kofi Annan asked Washington to open Guantanamo to UN human rights experts.
Veterinary clinic opens in Parwan Province
October 28, 2005 COMBINED FORCES COMMAND – AFGHANISTAN COALITION PRESS INFORMATION CENTER
BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – The people of Charikar joined the provincial governor, minister of agriculture, and Coalition forces to celebrate the grand opening of the new Parwan Province Veterinarian Clinic Oct. 27 with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“This project is extremely important because livestock is an essential way of life here in Afghanistan ,” said US Army Sgt. Pedro Meza, Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team project officer. “If the people have the resources to take care of their animals then livestock can bring life to the economy.”
The clinic project was initiated by the Bagram PRT and United States Assistance for International Development. Construction started Jan. 20 and after taking a little less than a year for completion, it is now open for business. The total cost for the project came to a little more than $143,500 and employed about 40 local Afghan workers for the duration of the construction process.
The clinic’s services are available for anyone in the province as well as the Kapisa Province and the Panshir Valley . They offer disease testing for animals, medicines, and other veterinarian services.
“This clinic is a long term solution because it provides money and a livelihood both for the Afghans with livestock and the workers at the clinic,” Meza added. “Another advantage is the ability to prevent animal diseases from spreading to humans.”
Wife for a Night
Those unwilling or unable to commit to a long-term relationship can find a solution in the Shia practice of temporary marriage.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi in Mazar-e-Sharif (ARR No. 193, 28-Oct-05)
Sardar Sakhizada is a normal 23-year-old in most respects, with one exception - he has been married 40 times.
“Most of my marriages lasted one or two months. My family doesn’t know about it yet. Only the woman and I go to the mullah to get married,” he said.
Temporary marriage, or “sighah”, is an accepted custom in the Shia branch of Islam. Under sighah, a couple can contract to live together for a specific period of time – anywhere from one day to a lifetime.
The practice is a low-cost alternative to the standard form of marriage, which requires the groom and his family to come up with money, sometimes thousands of dollars, for the bride price. Those who cannot afford a permanent wife but want the comforts of marriage can go the temporary route.
“I only had to pay 2,000 afghani [about 40 US dollars] each time,” said Sakhizada.
The young man said that he found his prospective temporary brides through local Shia clerics.
"Our mullahs are like property dealers. They are familiar with women who want to get married for a short time, and can introduce them to men,” he said. “The mullahs keep track of the contract termination date in their notebooks. When the time comes, the couple can go to the mullah and dissolve the contract, or they can extend it, like a passport.”
Sakhizada, who supports himself by offering private English lessons in Mazar-e-Sharif, says he is happy with his short-term liaisons. An English teacher in a private course in Mazar-e-Sharif, he is fond of explaining the advantages of sighah to his students, both men and women of all ages.
Mohammad Tahir Mofeed, a Shia cleric, confirmed that temporary marriage is accepted in Shia Islam.
“Every religion takes into account the problems its followers have in all aspects of life,” he told IWPR. “Sex is a human need, and temporary marriage addresses this need.”
The practice of sighah cuts down on prostitution, he said, because it allows short-term relationships within the structure of a sanctioned union.
“These marriages are useful,” he said. “The main point is that both sides agree on the exact timing, and a religious cleric helps them make the contract.”
Pregnancy is one possible complication. According to Mofeed, a child born as the result of such a liaison has the same rights as a child born in a more traditional marriage. The father is responsible for supporting the child and its mother.
Sakhizada said he has been careful not to impregnate any of his 40 wives.
“Women who make temporary marriages take medicine so as not to get pregnant,” he said. “The men also try not to get their wives pregnant.”
According to Mofeed, the women who enter into temporary unions are usually divorcees or widows, but unmarried girls can also make this kind of marriage if the head of their family agrees.
One 34-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, said she was very happy to be able to take advantage of the sighah. Her first husband was killed fighting the Taleban, and she is still young, she said, and needs a man.
“Just a month ago I married a man from Herat who was just passing through Mazar. But he’s gone now, and I haven’t married anyone else yet,” she said.
She would not reveal how many times she has been married, but added, “I accept these kinds of marriages. This is a good custom in our religion.”
Ahmad Aziz, 24, another Mazar resident, has been married for one year under a temporary contract. He is now deciding whether to extend his union.
“If things are going well, I will prolong the contract forever,” he said. “But if our life together is not good, I will find another wife. This kind of marriage doesn’t require too much expenditure, and I can marry many times in one year. Plus, collecting money for a regular marriage is no easy matter.”
The practice appears to be most prevalent among those Shia Afghans who fled to Iran in the years after the 1979 Soviet invasion and during the civil wars of the Nineties. They have now begun to return, bringing customs they adopted while exile. Returnees say sighah is fairly common in predominately Shia Iran.
It remains to be seen whether sighah will catch on among the Shia minority in Afghanistan, a country where sex and marriage are surrounded by taboos.
“Temporary marriage is against Afghan tradition,” said Dr Mohammad Hussain, a Shia believer who owns a pharmacy in Mazar-e-Sharif. “I know that if I entered into a temporary marriage contract, all my relatives would look upon me with contempt.”
Most couples who marry under such a contract try to hide the fact, he added.
Maulawi Ghulam Jailani Hanif, a Sunni cleric in Mazar, says temporary marriage is absolutely forbidden under Sunni law.
“If a man can marry a woman and then leave her, it violates the whole principle of marriage. The woman becomes a creature of no value,” he said. “A man has to respect his wife and look out for her rights.”
Legal institutions have been reluctant to interfere. Judge Sayed Mohammad Samie, chairman of the Independent Commission of Human Rights for the northern provinces, declined to comment, saying the issue is a religious matter.
And although serial marriage raises such issues as the possible spread of sexually transmitted diseases, health officials also refused to discuss it. “It is a religious matter,” said Dr Ghausuddin Anwari, deputy head of the health department for the northern provinces.
As for Sakhizada, he said he will not stop at 40 wives.
“I will get married many times in the future,” he laughed.
Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi is an IWPR reporter in Mazar-e-Sharif.
Afghans Go Home, Not Always Willingly
Refugees are returning home in increasing numbers, bearing tales of mistreatment and forced repatriation.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Salima Ghafari (ARR No. 193, 28-Oct-05)
Nesa does not even try to hide her anger and bitterness. The 68-year old spent 20 years as a refugee in Pakistan, having fled with her two sons from the Soviet occupation and the ensuing conflict. But just a few days ago, her life in a refugee camp just inside Pakistan came to an abrupt halt.
“Pakistani police came with tractors and knocked down our house,” she said. “All of our belongings were buried in the rubble. They beat up my sons. I pray to God to curse Pakistan, and make life for its people as hard as our lives are,” she said, shaking her fists and weeping.
Nesa has come to the Kabul office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, seeking help. There are hundreds of others like her, wandering aimlessly around the large compound or clustered in groups, sharing pieces of information.
They must register with Afghanistan’s Ministry for Repatriation and Refugees to claim benefits. But, according to Nesa, the aid is slow in coming. Aside from a modest payment for transport costs, she said, she has received no help at all.
“No one will help the poor like us,” she said, tears coursing down her wrinkled cheeks. “Only death will save us.”
Despite numerous requests from IWPR, the Pakistani embassy in Kabul refused to comment on reports that refugee camps are been forcibly closed down.
Afghanistan’s three decades of war and upheaval led to a massive migration of its citizens. Millions of Afghans left their homes and fled to neighbouring Pakistan and Iran, while some were able to relocate to Europe, Britain, and the United States.
The UN says that over four million refugees have returned since the fall of the Taleban in late 2001, but at least 2.5 million remain in Pakistan, close to a million in Iran, and hundreds of thousands in other countries.
In recent months, however, there has been a sudden surge in returning refugees, attributed in part to the Pakistan government’s decision, on security grounds, to close all remaining refugee camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas which border Afghanistan.
More than 20,000 families returned to Afghanistan in one six-week period alone, leading the UNHCR to acknowledge publicly that it was having difficulty dealing with the increased flow of refugees.
Nadir Farhad, a spokesman for UNHCR, rejects claims by returning Afghans that they have been forcibly expelled. While acknowledging that many border camps in Pakistan have been closed, he insisted that the government in Islamabad had given refugees the choice of moving to other camps within Pakistan or voluntarily returning to their homeland. They even gave them six weeks’ lead time, he added.
“We have signed agreements with Iran, Pakistan and some European countries that the return should take place voluntarily," he said.
The UNHCR stands ready to assist returnees, he insisted. "Every immigrant who returns to Afghanistan will receive [a transport allowance of] between four and 37 dollars, depending on how far it is to their region,” he said.
In addition, they receive a resettlement payment of 12 dollars per person. In the past, the UN gave returnees food and tents, he said, but now their resources are stretched to the limit.
But some returnees like Shairaz Khan, 35, originally from Kunduz, say their departure from Pakistan was anything but voluntary.
Sitting with his family at the UNHCR refugee centre in Kabul, his belongings scattered around him on the open ground and his children wearing dirty, dusty clothes, Shairaz said he had recently returned to Afghanistan from a refugee camp near the Pakistani capital Islamabad.
"I lived for 21 years in the Kacha Abad camp but then the police began to harass us, saying that if we did not leave they would destroy our houses,” he told IWPR. “They said they’d destroy our houses no matter where we were in Pakistan, so we had no choice but to go back to Afghanistan.”
Between April 2002 and August 2005, the government of Afghanistan signed nine tripartite agreements with the UNHCR and host countries, such as Iran and Pakistan. The agreements set forth the conditions for the refugees’ return, principally that repatriation should be voluntary and gradual.
Mustafa, 21, says he was expelled from Iran two months ago with his parents, two brothers, and a sister. He told IWPR that the authorities there threatened him with fines of up to 200 dollars if he did not leave the country.
“We are being mistreated by the government of Iran,” he said angrily. “Sometimes they even beat us up.”
Mohammad Raza Bahrami, Iran’s ambassador to Kabul, denied that his government was forcibly repatriating legitimate refugees. However, he added, Afghans who came to Iran after the tripartite agreement of 2002 are considered illegal immigrants, and hence are subject to deportation.
"If the government of Afghanistan arrests a foreign national for entering the country illegally, they put him in prison. We do not; we simply send him back to Afghanistan,” he said.
There are media reports of more than 800 families wandering in the deserts of Farah province with no shelter after being forcibly expelled from Iran, although it is unclear whether the authorities there considered them refugees or illegal migrants.
For its part, the Afghan government appears have neither the resources to adequately assist returning refugees nor the political clout to improve their conditions abroad and stem the tide of returnees.
Naweed Ahmad Moayez, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, conceded that the estimated 2.5 million refugees still living in Pakistan are facing severe problems.
“While the government appreciates the help and hospitality of neighbouring countries during the war years, the conditions facing Afghan emigrants abroad have deteriorated since the fall of the Taleban,” he said.
According to Moyaez, the ministry has made their plight a priority, and is working with host countries to explore solutions.
In August, the Minister for Repatriation and Refugees, Mohammad Azzam Daadfar, signed an agreement with Pakistan’s minister of immigrant affairs on ways of returning the refugees. “We agreed that their return would be gradual and voluntary,” he said.
Moayez expressed regret that Afghans were now experiencing rough treatment at the hands of neighbouring countries. "We are against every kind of action or decision by any government with regard to forcibly returning migrants," he told IWPR.
Engineer Mohammad Samie, a senior official in the Afghan refugee ministry, agrees that people should return on a voluntary basis, over a period of time. However, he conceded this was not always the case, and said some 200,000 people now in Afghanistan were believed to have been subject to forcible expulsion from their place of residence abroad.
For those who choose to return, the refugee ministry has plans to distribute land in 20 provinces and 35 towns throughout the country. According to Samie, “We have distributed some 200,000 plots of land since the fall of the Taleban.”
Salima Ghafari is an IWPR reporter in Kabul.
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