Vote counting complete in Afghan election
The Associated Press WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan Election authorities investigated reports of vote fraud and audited results Wednesday after ballot-counting ended in Afghanistan's landmark parliamentary poll, officials said.
The official election Web site showed powerful warlords, a former Taliban commander and women's activists among the front-runners set to win seats in the 249 Wolesi Jirga, or National Assembly.
Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the joint U.N.-Afghan election body, said the first few provisional results from provinces were expected Thursday.
Results will be announced in phases in case of unrest. Officials expect a blizzard of complaints and accusations of cheating by losing candidates. Final certified results are due Oct. 22.
Suspected Taliban insurgents who failed to stop 6.8 million Afghans from voting Sept. 18 resumed attacks this week. A bomb at a crossing point on the Afghan-Pakistan border Tuesday killed three people and wounded 20 others.
NATO's secretary-general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said Tuesday that NATO plans to deploy 6,000 extra troops with more ''robust'' rules for imposing security when it expands its peacekeeping mission into the south next year — a move that could free up thousands of forces from a separate U.S.-led coalition force that hunts the rebels.
The election for new national and provincial assemblies is the latest step in Afghanistan's transition to democracy after two decades of war and the collapse of the hardline Taliban regime in a U.S.-led war in late 2001.
Siddique said vote-counting finished Tuesday, except for ballot boxes that were quarantined because of suspicions of fraud — pending a review in each case by the election body on whether those votes should be declared invalid.
Currently, the top-ranking candidates in most provinces are warlords or leaders of mujahedeen factions, many active in the anti-Soviet resistance of the 1980s and the ruinous 1992-96 civil war that followed.
But there are also plenty of new faces. Among the expected winners is 27-year-old Malalai Joya, a women's rights worker, who rose to prominence for daring to denounce powerful warlords at a post-Taliban constitutional convention two years ago.
A quarter of the seats are reserved for women.
Three former Taliban government ministers have fared badly, so far winning only a few hundred votes each. Yet in insurgency-plagued Zabul province, a former Taliban military commander, Abdul Salaam Rocketi, is leading. He earned his last name for his skill in firing rockets.
Other likely winners include former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who led Afghanistan during the ruinous civil war, former communists, academics, doctors, journalists, Muslim clerics and an elder brother of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai.
In the capital, the two chief rivals to Karzai in last year's presidential election — Mohammed Mohaqeq and Younus Qanooni — are leading.
It remains to be seen if they can marshal broader support within parliament to become an effective check on Karzai's dominance in Afghanistan's highly centralized political system, as all candidates had to run as independents.
Taliban spokesman tells interrogators militia chief hiding in Afghanistan
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) - A detained Taliban spokesman has told Pakistani interrogators that the militia's fugitive chief, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is hiding in Afghanistan and remains in contact with top commanders, an intelligence official said Wednesday.
Mullah Hakim Latifi, who has often claimed responsibility on behalf of the Taliban for attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces, was arrested in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.
Latifi was not a prominent figure in the Taliban while the Islamic militia was in power in Afghanistan, only becoming a media contact after the ouster of the movement in a U.S.-led war in 2001. His exact ties to the Taliban leadership are unclear.
"So far, he has told interrogators that Mullah Omar is alive, he is in Afghanistan and he remains in contact with senior aides by satellite phone," said the intelligence official, who was involved in the raid to arrest Latifi in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. The official declined to be named because of the secretive nature of his job.
Some Pakistani officials said Latifi was arrested Tuesday, but the intelligence official said he was detained on Sunday at a home in Quetta's Newi Killi neighbourhood. Latifi's arrest was not announced because he was being interrogated about other Taliban leaders, the official said.
Four "low-level" aides of Latifi were arrested from several other homes in Newi Killi, the official said.
Intelligence agents seized two satellite phones, two Pakistani mobile phones, Taliban literature, audio cassettes and CDs containing films of Taliban operations, he said.
Pakistani officials described Latifi as a Taliban spokesman. But information from Latifi in the past has sometimes proven exaggerated or untrue. Afghan and U.S. military officials say he is believed to speak for factions of the rebel group.
Afghanistan welcomed Latifi's arrest. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have sometimes been strained because of Afghan suspicions that rebels are using Pakistan as a staging area for cross-border attacks. Pakistan denies it.
Rebels are active in the volatile south and east of Afghanistan, and have stepped up attacks this year. More than 1,300 people, including hundreds of militants, have died in the past seven months.
Pakistan was once a supporter of the Taliban, but withdrew its support and became a chief ally of the U.S.-led coalition forces that ousted the militia, which refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Pakistan questions captured 'voice of Taliban'
Tue Oct 4,11:07 PM ET
ISLAMABAD, (AFP) - Pakistani interrogators were questioning the shadowy chief spokesman of Afghanistan's hardline Islamic Taliban militia a day after his arrest, officials said.
Security forces seized Abdul Latif Hakimi, who often spoke to international media to claim responsibility for attacks on US and Afghan forces, in a raid on a house in the southwestern city Quetta.
"We are questioning him to find about his contacts and where he got his information from," a senior security official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the arrest.
The official said "communication intercepts" had led to the arrest of the Taliban mouthpiece, who used a mixture of satellite phones and Afghan and Pakistani cellphones to talk to reporters.
Information Minister Sheikh Rashid said Tuesday that Hakimi was an "important catch" and said authorities expected to get useful information from the Taliban spokesman.
He said Hakimi was caught in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan, while police sources said the arrest was in the provincial capital Quetta.
Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said the capture of Hakimi was a "big success for law enforcement agencies."
The arrest is likely to help improve relations between Kabul and Islamabad, who have clashed about whether Pakistan was doing enough to tackle militants on its territory.
Many Taliban rebels and their Al-Qaeda allies fled into Pakistan after the hardline regime was toppled by a US-led invasion for failing to hand over Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks.
Earlier this year Afghan and US officials said Hakimi was in hiding in Quetta.
Hakimi's precise connection to the Taliban remains unclear. His information was often found to be exaggerated or untrue but he was usually the only source of information about attacks other than the US military and Afghan officials.
In recent months he appeared to become more reliable, giving accurate information on the shooting down of a US helicopter in eastern Afghanistan in June and the abduction of a British engineer in August.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's spokesman Khaleeq Ahmad said Kabul was "grateful" and hoped the arrest would lead to the capture of more militants. The defence ministry said it was a positive step in the fight against terrorism.
Pakistan did not say if it would hand over Hakimi to Afghan authorities. Islamabad formerly supported the Taliban but then sided with the United States after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington
"We would first like to interrogate him for his network and links here and then we will decide about the question of extraditing him," another Pakistani security official said, on condition of anonymity.
The Taliban have waged an insurgency for the last four years. This year has been the worst since 2001, with more than 1,300 people dying so far, including a number of militants.
Rice to Visit Afghanistan, 3 Other Nations
By ANNE GEARAN, AP Diplomatic Writer Tue Oct 4, 1:29 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to visit Afghanistan to encourage continued democratic progress amid rising violence that authorities blame on resurgent Taliban militants.
The State Department announced Tuesday that Rice will travel to Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan next week for discussions on economic development, security matters and democracy building. She may also visit other countries, spokesman Sean McCormack said.
A bomb exploded Tuesday near a key crossing point on the Afghan-Pakistan border, killing three people and wounding 20.
About 1,300 people have been killed in the past seven months in the worst insurgent violence since U.S.-led forces ousted the hard-line Islamic Taliban regime from power in 2001, when it refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks.
More than 6 million Afghans voted in largely smooth elections last month, a step the United States cheered as a sign that Afghanistan was making steady political progress. Results are expected on Oct. 22, after Rice's visit.
Nearby in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, police raided the office of a pro-democracy youth group on Tuesday in what the group's leaders said was part of a government crackdown on opposition ahead of December's presidential election.
Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is seeking re-election in the Dec. 4 vote, has drawn accusations of authoritarianism during his 16-year rule in the oil-rich Central Asian nation.
Western observers praised July elections in Kyrgyzstan, calling the voting an improvement over parliamentary elections earlier this year. That flawed election led to a popular uprising that ousted longtime President Askar Akayev, who fled to Russia.
President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former opposition leader, has pledged to pursue an independent foreign policy, and questioned whether a U.S. base that supports combat operations in Afghanistan is necessary. Kyrgyzstan hosts both U.S. and Russian military bases.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later won assurances from Kyrgyz officials that American troops can stay for as long as they are needed.
Tajikistan's president, Imomali Rakhmonov, has maintained a tight grip on power and shown little tolerance for dissent. He has jailed several former loyalists and opposition leaders in recent years in what critics say is an attempt to secure his position.
"If you look at each of them, they're at various and different stages in terms of their political and economic development," McCormack said Tuesday.
Rice's trip will "underline our support for those who will undertake the necessary political and economic reforms, to have respect for human rights, promote freedom of speech, to promote good governance," McCormack said.
Car blast near Afghan, foreign troops; no casualties
KABUL (Reuters) - A suspected suicide car bomb exploded near a convoy of Afghan and foreign troops on the outskirts of the southern city of Kandahar on Wednesday, but none of the soldiers was hurt, the Afghan army said.
General Muslim Amid, Afghan army commander for the south, said the attack on the airport road was "probably" carried out by a suicide bomber. The explosives had been placed inside a car.
A spokeswoman for U.S.-led foreign forces said the blast occurred outside a base of Canadian troops in Kandahar, but had caused no casualties or damage.
Sergeant Marina Evans said it appeared to have been caused by an "ineffective improvised explosive device."
The blast came a day after six Afghan civilians were killed in a bomb blast in the far south of Kandahar province at the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan.
A top-level NATO mission led by Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is currently in Kabul to discuss alliance plans to expand operations in the restive south and put foreign forces under unified command, despite opposition of some members.
More than 1,000 people, most of them militants but including more than 50 U.S. soldiers, have been killed in Taliban-linked violence in Afghanistan this year, the bloodiest period since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001.
The Taliban failed in their vow to derail September 18 elections but the period since has seen more violence.
On Tuesday, Pakistan said it had arrested the main Taliban spokesman, Abdul Latif Hakimi, in Baluchistan province bordering Afghanistan.
The arrest followed stepped-up action against militants and insurgents on both sides of the border since last week which Afghan and Pakistani officials say killed around 70 militants.
U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan expressed gratitude on Wednesday for Hakimi's capture.
"Pakistan continues to be a strong ally in the fight against terrorism," said spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts. "It should not be overlooked that Pakistan's aggressive pursuit of Al Qaeda and terrorist movements has led to the capture of more enemy combatants than any other country fighting the war on terror."
Afghan and U.S. officials have repeatedly complained in the past about Pakistan's failure to act against Taliban officials they say have been operating from Pakistan, despite its status as a key ally in the U.S.-led "war on terror."
Five dead, 16 wounded in Spin Boldak blast
KABUL, October 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Five Afghans were killed and 16 wounded some of them critically in a bomb explosion in southern Kandahar's Spin Boldak town on the border with Pakistan around mid-day on Tuesday.
Spin Boldak border police chief Commander Abdul Razzaq told Pajhwok Afghan News by phone the blast took place pretty close to the Pakistan border at 1.00pm. He said two people including a woman and a boy died on the spot.
Another police official confided the death toll from the explosion had already risen to five. He added a woman and two children were among the fatalities all civilians. Among the 16 injured, he said, some were in serious condition.
Coming on the first of Ramazan in the troubled south, the blast scared a crowd of Afghans awaiting clearance from a border checkpoint for crossing into Pakistan. Officials fear the toll could go even higher because some of the wounded were struggling for life.
Bomb kills three in Afghanistan, five Taliban shot dead
October 4, 2005
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Three people were killed when a bomb exploded at an Afghan security post on the border with Pakistan while security forces shot dead five suspected Taliban militants in separate encounters, officials said.
The blast was at the Spin Boldak border post in the restive southern province of Kandahar, one of the areas hardest hit by a Taliban insurgency launched after the fundamentalist regime was removed from power in late 2001.
"The explosion seemed to have been fairly big," Spin Boldak police chief Abdul Wasay told AFP on Tuesday after visiting the site of the blast. "Twenty people have been wounded. Two children and a woman have been killed," he said.
Flames surrounded the blast site and the border was closed, said an AFP reporter in the Pakistani town of Chaman just across the border.
Wasay blamed the attack on "the enemies of Afghanistan", a term often used by officials to refer to Taliban insurgents.
Kandahar is the birthplace of the hardline Islamic Taliban movement, which emerged from Afghanistan's decades of brutal civil war to govern most of the country by the mid-1990s.
They were toppled in a US-led campaign launched after they failed to hand over Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Since their ouster, remnants of the Taliban have been conducting a guerrilla campaign against the US-backed government of President Hamid Karzai and foreign troops who are hunting Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters in the south and east.
In one of the latest incidents, a group of suspected Taliban fighters ambushed a convoy of US-led and Afghan forces in Kandahar's Shawali Kot district Tuesday, an official said.
Three of the militants, including a commander identified as Mullah Abdullah, were killed in the return fire, district chief Hayatullah Popalzay told AFP.
Another two suspected Taliban were killed in a swoop by security forces on Monday in neighbouring Zabul province, a provincial spokesman said.
A Taliban commander identified as Mullah Naser Mohammad was captured in the raid, said provincial spokesman Gulab Shah Alikhil.
More than 1,300 people, many of them militants, have been killed in almost daily attacks and clashes this year, up from 850 last year.
Four Dutch soldiers injured in truck accident in Afghanistan
TurkishPress.com - Oct 04 1:03 PM
THE HAGUE - Four Dutch soldiers with a NATO-led peackeeping force were injured, one seriously, on Tuesday during a road accident in northern Afghanistan, the Dutch defence ministry said.
Their truck left the road and plunged into a ditch, 85 kilometres (50 miles) southeast of Pul-i-Khumri, the ministry said.
The injured were taken to a local military hospital.
They were part of a civil-military Provincial Reconstruction Team helping to rebuild war-shattered communities in the northern Baghlan province.
The Netherlands has contributed more than 1,000 troops to Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) deployed following the US-led war to oust the Taliban regime in late 2001.
Security post torched in Paktia
GARDIZ, October 5 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Unidentified armed men torched a security check post overnight in southeastern Paktia province, officials said Wednesday.
Abdul Wali Khan, District Administrative Chief of Wozi-Zadran, told Pajhwok Afghan News a number of unknown men attacked the security check post with rockets and light weapons.
The check post is located on the Khost-Gardiz main road, where a large number of forces are deployed who carry out regular patrolling. The coalition forces were timely informed about the attack but they did not reacted, Wali added.
Security forces' retaliation first pushed the assailants back and then forced them to flee after an hour encounter, he said, adding The check post was torched to ashes without any casualties.
Confirming the incident provincial police chief colonel Hi Gul Sulimankhel told this news agency more troops had been sent in area to track down the miscreants.
Coach-ambulance collision claims five lives in Maidan Wardak
GHAZNI, October 5 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Five people were killed and six others wounded in a head-on collision between a flying coach and an army ambulance in Shash Qila area of Saidabad district of the Maidan Wardak province.
Eyewitnesses and officials said Wednesday the wounded were rushed to Ghazni hospital. Abdul Ghafar, a resident of the area, said the ill-fated flying coach was on its way to the district from Kabul.
Dr Syed Ali Sadaat, an official at the emergency ward of Ghazni Hospital, told Pajhwok Afghan News two of the wounded were in critical condition.
Army official Lieutenant Aka Jan said a doctor and three soldiers were among the wounded and one of them is in serious condition.
Czech special forces leave for Afghanistan to replace comrades
PRAGUE, Oct 4, 2005 (Xinhua) -- A contingent of Czech special forces left for the Afghan capital of Kabul on Tuesday to replace their comrades, the Ceteka news agency reported.
The 17-member contingent will be responsible for defusing unexploded bombs near the international airport in Kabul and providing meteorological information for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) there, said the report.
The Czech Republic began to sent its special forces to Afghanistan last year.
France says opposes combining forces in Afghanistan
October 4, 2005
PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it opposed combining NATO-led forces and U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan under one command, putting it at odds with visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai, who is in France until Wednesday, told French newspaper Le Figaro the two missions would eventually work for one command under the NATO banner.
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said France opposed combining the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the U.S.-led Operation Enduring Freedom under one command.
"The problem is not a political problem," Mattei told a regular Foreign Ministry media briefing.
"It is really, in our eyes, a technical problem, which is that these missions have different objectives, ISAF on the one hand and Enduring Freedom on the other, and they also have different ways of operating."
He added: "For reasons of a military and technical nature ... we are not in favor of these two operations being merged, while stressing that we are nonetheless in favor of bolstering synergies between the two missions in certain areas."
Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie expressed France's position on the issue at a meeting of NATO defense ministers last month and "more recently," Mattei said.
Alliot-Marie met Karzai on Monday.
The United States, which has about two-thirds of the foreign troops in Afghanistan, has been trying to persuade its European NATO allies to shoulder more of the burden of battling a Taliban-led insurgency.
NATO allies France, Germany and Spain last month rejected the U.S. call for the alliance to help it fight militants, insisting NATO should stick to peacekeeping. A U.S.-led coalition of roughly 20,000 troops bears the brunt of the fight.
Britain still deciding on extra troop numbers for Afghanistan: Britain
Tuesday October 4, 8:30 AM
LONDON (AFP) - Britain is to send extra troops into Afghanistan but the precise number has yet to be decided, Defence Secretary John Reid said following a visit to the country.
Reid, speaking from Pakistan, where he travelled the previous day from Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, said that a previously reported figure of 4,000 extra British soldiers was incorrect.
"The figure of 4,000 isn't mine, that's pure speculation. I can tell you it's wrong as well," Reid told BBC radio.
"It won't be 4,000... but it is right that we will be sending further troops, because we've always agreed we will take over the headquarters from the Italians next year of the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission there."
The exact figure would be announced first to Britain's parliament and only "once the generals and the military and the politicians in Europe have discussed how we may go into the south", Reid added.
On Friday, Reid said Britain was mulling a plan to send thousands more troops to the south of Afghanistan to help efforts to combat insurgents and drug barons.
Britain currently has around 900 troops in the country.
He outlined hopes to send a "sufficient" number of troops into the Helmand region next year to bolster efforts to seek out Al Qaeda-linked fighters and take on powerful warlords behind the world's largest heroin market.
Speaking on Tuesday, Reid insisted that the extra deployment would not affect troop numbers in Iraq, where Britain still has around 8,000 military personnel, mainly based around the southern city of Basra.
"I can assure you that the entry of our forces along with many other multinational divisions into the south of Afghanistan will not be dependent on the drawing down (of troops) in Iraq," he said.
Extra 6,000 troops for NATO Afghan mission
PAUL AMES IN KABUL The Scotsman - Oct 04 5:00 PM
NATO plans to deploy 6,000 extra troops with more "robust" rules for imposing security when it expands its Afghan peacekeeping mission into the volatile south of the country next year, the alliance's top diplomat said yesterday.
The reinforcement will bring NATO troop numbers in Afghanistan to around 15,000, said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the alliance's secretary-general, as he flew into Kabul for talks with the president, Hamid Karzai, and other Afghan officials.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force currently covers the capital and the north and west. Military experts from the 26 allies are currently finalising plans for the move to the more dangerous south, where Taleban rebels are active.
Britain, Canada and the Netherlands are expected to provide most of the extra troops.
Mr de Hoop Scheffer said he expected allies to soon overcome differences over the extent to which NATO troops, operating "provincial reconstruction teams" that provide security and help rebuilding work, will be able to use deadly force.
However, the French foreign ministry said it opposed combining NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom under one command.
Editor of Afghan Women's Magazine Arrested
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Tue Oct 4, 8:59 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The editor of an Afghan women's rights magazine was jailed after a presidential adviser accused him of publishing un-Islamic material — including an article critical of the practice of punishing adultery with 100 lashes, officials said Friday.
Minority Shiite Muslim clerics in Kabul objected to that article and another in the monthly Haqooq-i-Zan — or Women's Rights — that argued that giving up Islam was not a crime, Police arrested the magazine's editor, Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, on Saturday.
Late last week, the clerics approached Mohaiuddin Baluch, religious adviser to President Hamid Karzai, who said he forwarded the magazines to the Supreme Court.
"I took the two magazines and spoke to Supreme Court chief, who wrote to attorney general to investigate," Baluch told The Associated Press. Baluch said the articles were directly against the principles of the Quran.
Mohammed Karim, an official at the secretariat of the Supreme Court, said that the attorney general had ordered Nasab's arrest, and that a group of clerics which advises the court was reviewing the case.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate release of Nasab, who was visited by an official of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul's Central Jail on Monday.
Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country. Under a revised March 2004 media law signed by Karzai, content deemed insulting to Islam is banned. Criminal penalties were left vaguely worded, leaving open the possibility of punishment in accordance with Shariah, or Islamic law
The rights group said when the law was signed, government officials said that journalists could only be detained with the approval of a 17-member commission of government officials and journalists.
Afghan Minister urges Bangladesh to open embassy in Kabul
Wednesday October 05 2005 10:09:55 AM BDT News From Bangladesh
An Afghan Minister has urged Bangladesh to open a diplomatic mission in Kabul immediately to take part in the social and physical reconstruction of the war-ravaged country, reports BSS.
Bangladesh can take full advantage of the current reconstruction process that requires a large number of foreign engineers, doctors, accountants, teachers and social sector development experts, Afghan Deputy Minister for Rural Development Mohammad Ehsan Zia said.
"A Bangladesh embassy in Kabul can play an instrumental role in exploring trade and commerce between the two countries side by side with employing a good number of Bangladeshis in Afghanistan," Ehsan Zia told BSS in an interview on Sunday.
Zia, who is now in Dhaka to participate in the executive and governing council meeting of the Center on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and Pacific (CIRDAP), said Afghanistan has been totally destroyed as a result of 35 year long conflicts.
Now it requires foreign expertise in reconstructing physical and social infrastructure, he said and added Bangladesh can provide NGO personnel for quick social recovery of Afghanistan.
BRAC, a leading Bangladesh NGO, has been working in Afghanistan for micro-financing, community development and social reconciliation projects, but the Afghan government wants to hire more professionals from Bangladesh, he said.
"We are lacking capacity and skilled manpower because of the wars for decades," added Asif Rahimi, Chief Coordinator of the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) of Afghanistan. The NSP is the most important and biggest programme in Afghanistan for removing mistrust between the government and the citizens, he said.
Rahimi, who is accompanying the Deputy Minister, said around 600 Bangladeshis have been working in Afghanistan and their performance is quite good both under the UN system and at the private level.
He said a Bangladesh Embassy is also needed in Kabul to look after Bangladeshis working in Afghanistan. There is a full fledged Afghan Embassy in Dhaka, he said and added Nepal has opened diplomatic mission at Kabul three weeks ago.
Asked about areas of trade and commerce, Rahimi said that at the beginning Bangladesh can export textiles and rice to Afghanistan while Afghanistan can export dry food and fruits to Bangladesh. Besides, Bangladeshis can also take part in community and infrastructure development works in Afghanistan, he added.
The Afghan government has attached priorities to a dozen of agenda including the community development Council (CDC), an elected body that has been working to rebuild the country at local levels. The CDCs, one for each of 35,000 Afghan villages, have been building schools, hospitals and other rural infrastructure voluntarily with grants from the central government.
The Afghanistan miracle
By Diane Tebelius Seattle Times - Oct 04 9:31 PM
Having just returned from Kabul, where I served as an election observer from the United States to Afghanistan's parliamentary elections, I am convinced, now more than ever, that spreading democracy is the only long-term strategy to defeat global terrorism.
I have witnessed firsthand the "miracle" of Afghanistan. The Afghan people see Americans as liberators and welcome our support, but our delegation never left the hotel without a security detail or our 30-pound bulletproof vests. And that is the picture that is painted in Afghanistan — the hope of democracy, shaded by the uncertainty of terrorism.
For the historic parliamentary elections, men and women, old and young, defied the ongoing threats from Taliban holdouts and voted for a future free from oppression and violence. Nearly 6,000 candidates ran for the 249 seats in the National Assembly and for the 34 provincial councils.
Because the illiteracy rates are high — 80 percent of the women, due in part to the Taliban's policy of denying women access to education, and 50 percent for men — the ballots included the picture of the candidate and a symbol for that candidate. And because there were more candidates than recognizable symbols, the candidates had symbols such as "one lion"; "two lions"; and even "three lions." Posters spread about the city before the election identified each candidate by their respective symbol.
What struck me about these candidates were the issues they talked about: the same issues we find in our own public debates in Washington state. Transportation, safety and jobs headlined the different campaigns. However, unlike our state, where we debate millions of dollars to expand freeways or add bus lanes, Afghans just want the roads paved.
Infrastructure, economic opportunity, public safety and education must exist within the context of a free society. A prosperous and free people will not strap bombs to themselves and blow up innocent women and children for any cause.
In debating the "roots" of terrorism, you can talk about programs to help the poor, or debt relief, or diplomatic relations. But if the words "we the people," or "the emancipation of women," or "respect for the rule of law," have no meaning, then there is only tyranny.
The women selling their wares on the streets of Kabul can now walk freely about without fear of being beaten if they are not covered from head to foot. The women who once were prisoners in their own homes because it was against the law to be seen in public without a man now joyfully take their daughters to school.
There, too, lies a key to fighting terrorism. Surveys of Muslims that were conducted after the July bombings in London found that women, by a large margin, were much less sympathetic to the ideology of terrorism than were the men.
Free the women, and you begin to safeguard future generations from the snares of Osama bin Laden and his culture of hatred and death.
But building democracy and the institutions that serve the common good and protect individual rights, means you can never escape the uncertainty.
The story of Afghanistan, and other emerging democracies around the world, should inspire us to stay the course. America and the free countries of this world must continue to provide aid and, yes, even military support to the peoples of Afghanistan.
My most memorable moment involved meeting a young lady who had lost her father in the civil wars. She and her mother and brother had fled to Pakistan, and then returned when the Taliban took control. They were forced to leave again when she was told she could not attend school or even work. I asked her why she and her family chose to return after the Taliban's ouster, despite the uncertainty. "Because I love my country," was her heartfelt response.
This is the hope and future of Afghanistan. With the world's continued support, Afghans will succeed, terrorism will be defeated in that country, and the world will be safer.
Diane Tebelius, a former federal prosecutor and Republican congressional candidate, is an attorney in Seattle. She served as an observer in the Afghanistan elections under the sponsorship of the International Republican Institute, a nonprofit organization promoting the growth of freedom and human rights globally. IRI is not affiliated with the Republican Party; it receives some funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Afghanistan: The Tripartite Commission held its 13th Meeting in Islamabad
Source: Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan 04 Oct 2005
Islamabad, Pakistan - The Tripartite Commission, composed of senior military and diplomatic representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, held its thirteenth meeting in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on October 4th. Delegates included Lieutenant General Sher M. Karimi, Chief of Operations of the Afghan National Army, Major General Muhammad Yousef, Director General of Military Operations of the Pakistan Army, and Lieutenant General Karl W. Eikenberry, Commander, Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan.
The session began with each delegation delivering a briefing summarizing its plan to provide security for the recent successful Afghan elections, and identifying those aspects of cooperation among the parties that worked best and those that could be improved. All parties agreed that Pakistan's deployment of additional forces to the border region and the coordination of Pakistani, Afghan and Coalition operations were a significant factor in preventing insurgents from disrupting the elections. All parties further agreed that continued cooperation and coordination to enhance security was essential to long-term success against Al Qaeda and terrorist movements.
The delegates then moved to an examination of the future of the Tripartite Commission and ways to expand their cooperative security efforts. The Coalition briefed, among other topics, its plan to expand intelligence/information-sharing and cooperation in countering improvised explosive devices (IED's) among the parties and its offer to plan and fund bilateral Afghan-Pakistani professional education courses at regional studies centers in Germany and the United States.
This plenary session also marked the second time that NATO's International Security Assistance Force (NATO-ISAF) observers attended the session as guests of the Tripartite Commission. All parties welcomed the observers and look forward to expanding the NATO-ISAF role in the future.
The Tripartite Commission will meet again in December 2005 in Kabul, Afghanistan. Afghan Chief of the General Staff General Bismullah Khan will host Lieutenant General Eikenberry and Pakistani Vice Chief of the Army Staff General Ahsan Saleem Hyat at this meeting, marking the second time that Afghan and Pakistan will be represented by four star generals.
Office of the Spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Afghan effort 'won't affect Iraq'
Tuesday, 4 October 2005 BBC News
British troops will not be pulled out of Iraq to cover a new deployment in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary John Reid has said.
Nato forces there come under UK control in May, but Mr Reid said claims 4,000 UK troops would be sent were wrong.
He said: "We do not need to reduce forces in Iraq to supply the necessary configuration in Afghanistan."
Nato troops are due to move into the south next year, where there have been many attacks by militants.
Britain has so far committed itself to deploying an extra 400 military personnel in Afghanistan to staff the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, which it takes over from the Netherlands in May.
Mr Reid, who is currently touring the region, told BBC News he had not yet decided how many UK troops would be needed.
He said a decision would be taken "once the generals and the military and politicians in Europe have decided how we need to go into the south".
He dismissed criticism that the government is asking the armed forces to do more with less investment and resources.
"We are asking our forces to do more than was previously the case and we are trying to supply them with the capabilities that are necessary," he said.
Differences of opinion
The US has been pushing for Nato, which has 12,800 troops in the country, to take a more offensive role to ease the pressure on its own fight against militants who operate mainly in the south and east.
But France, Germany and Spain believe Nato troops should keep to peacekeeping.
Earlier in his trip, Mr Reid said these differences would have to be "worked through".
The US has about 18,000 soldiers in Afghanistan and has lost more than 50 troops this year, making it the worst year for its military fatalities since the fall of the Taleban in December 2001.
Afghan Army Chief to visit United States
October 4, 2005 Combined Forces Command - Afghanistan Coalition Press Information Center (Public Affairs)
By Army Lt. Col. Frederick Rice Office of Security Cooperation-Afghanistan Public Affairs
KABUL , Afghanistan – The chief of the Afghan National Army’s General Staff will represent his nation as he travels to the United States later this week to visit three U.S. Army posts.
General Bismullah Khan, who will be joined by three officers from his staff, will start his visit at Fort Drum , near Watertown , N.Y. While there, he will observe training and meet with leaders and staff members from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, which is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom early next year.
“This is an incredible opportunity for the 10th Mountain Division leadership to gain first-hand knowledge of the Afghan National Army directly from its chief of staff,” said Army Lt. Col. John Hansen, an Office of Security Cooperation–Afghanistan staff officer and Khan’s escort for the trip. “The Afghans will also learn a great deal by observing Fort Drum leaders and Soldiers participating in Unified Endeavor ’06, a division command post exercise.”
Next on their agenda, the Afghan delegation will travel south to Fort Benning , Ga. While at the “Home of the Infantry,” Khan will observe Soldiers training at Ranger School and Basic Combat Training as well as those conducting training at the Noncommissioned Officer Academy and Officer Candidate School.
The Fort Benning visit will provide Khan with a valuable opportunity to see how the U.S. military relies upon the skills and abilities of its NCO Corps, Hansen said.
The final leg of Khan’s American journey will take him to Fort McPherson , Ga. , near Atlanta , to meet with senior leaders from the U.S. Army Forces Command and U.S. Army Central Command.
Hansen said he believes Khan’s trip will pay huge dividends for the Afghan National Army. “This visit will expose General Khan and his staff to the best characteristics of a professional army, providing them with an example of what to instill in their own forces when they return to Afghanistan ,” he said.
In addition to gaining invaluable insight about how the U.S. Army conducts its training, Khan and his staff will experience a bit of American culture during their stay. Several short excursions to local neighborhoods, businesses, churches and mosques are planned to familiarize Khan and his staff officers with the characteristics of American society.
When the visit is complete and the Afghan general returns to his country and to his army, Khan is certain to have gained a greater appreciation of the United States ’ commitment to building security and stability in Afghanistan , Hansen said. He will also be equipped with many new lessons and experiences to draw upon as he leads the rebuilding of his nation’s army.
Daily Afghan Report
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty - October 3, 2005 JEMB, EU Hint At Possible Fraud In Afghan Polls
Officials from Afghanistan's Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) indicated on 2 October that with about 80 percent of the ballots counted from the 18 September parliamentary and provincial elections, they have found what "The New York Times" described as "significant cases" of fraud, the paper reported on 3 October. Peter Erban, chief of operations at the JEMB, said that ballot boxes from 1,000 of the country's 26,000 polling stations have been earmarked for investigation of possible irregularities, the paper reported. When clear cases of fraud are found, he said, the votes in question will not be counted. "I do not believe these irregularities in any way have affected the overall elections, but some of them have surely affected them locally," Erban said, adding "tough action" is forthcoming, according to international news agencies. Erben predicted "some strong decisions" in the coming days concerning the Afghan vote count, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 2 October. The EU observer mission announced on 30 September that apparent voting irregularities were a "cause for concern" and called on the JEMB to address the problem "in a transparent and effective way in order to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process." AT
Afghan President Appoints Acting Interior Minister
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has appointed Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, the deputy interior minister in charge of security affairs, as acting interior minister, the official Radio Afghanistan reported on 29 September. Ali Ahmad Jalali resigned as interior minister on 27 September. AT
Afghan, U.S. Soldiers Killed In Southern Afghanistan
A U.S. military statement released on 1 October announced that one U.S. and one Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier were killed in a firefight with unidentified insurgents on 30 September in the southern Kandahar Province, "Stars and Stripes" reported on 3 October. Two U.S. soldiers and two ANA soldiers were injured in the incident. Kandahar remains a stronghold of the neo-Taliban and their sympathizers. AT
Arab TV Channel Airs Videotape Of Al-Qaeda Escapee From U.S. Detention Facility
Dubai-based Al-Arabiyah Television aired video footage on 2 October of what is purportedly one of four alleged Al-Qaeda members who managed to escape from the U.S. military facility in Bagram, north of Kabul, in July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2005). The videotape features Muhammad Ja'far al-Misradi, also known as Abu Nasir al-Qahtani, reciting a poem in praise of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. Qahtani, a Saudi citizen, escaped from Bagram along with a Kuwaiti, a Libyan, and a Syrian. AT
Afghan Counternarcotics Force Raids Two Northern Provinces
The Afghan Special Narcotics Force (ASNF) launched raids on 30 September against illegal narcotics laboratories, drug storage sites, and smuggling routes in Badakhshan and Konduz provinces, a 2 October press release by the Afghan Interior Ministry announced. Significant quantities of opiates were seized and destroyed in the operation, the statement said, together with a large number of weapons and essential drug-lab infrastructure. Nine individuals were detained for questioning, many of whom are now likely to face criminal charges and subsequent prosecution by the newly formed Counternarcotics Police of Afghanistan, the statement added. AT
Editor Of Afghan Women's Magazine Detained Over 'Anti-Islamic' Articles
Afghan police have detained Ali Mohaqeq, editor in chief of "Hoquq-e Zan" (Women's Rights) magazine, for publishing allegedly anti-Islamic articles, Pajhwak News Agency reported on 2 October. Zemaray Amiri, an official of the Kabul court, acknowledged Mohaqeq's detention but refused to provide details of the case. AT
Women's business federation opens
(Anis) Afghanistan's vice-president Ahmad Zia Massoud inaugurated the Afghan Women's Business Federation on October 2. According to the newspaper, the federation is an independent association which brings together various business companies. Federation officials say the extent of women's participation in the economic world is remarkable, adding that men cannot do everything alone, and both sexes should do their best to develop their country. According to the federation, 500 women have so far received business licences enabling them to engage in commerce. Addressing the inauguration ceremony, the acting president said, "We are proud that Afghan women are working actively in the most important areas of social and economic life".
(Anis is state-run daily published mostly in Dari.)
via Afghan Press Monitor (03 Oct 05) - published by the Institute for War & Peace Reporting
Detainee: They blinded me
Newsday (New York, USA) / October 4, 2005 BY LETTA TAYLER
The allegations read like a deranged horror novel.
First, prisoner Omar Deghayes said, he was tortured with electric shocks and placed in a room with caged snakes in Pakistan. He likens his next stop, a U.S. military base in Afghanistan, to a "Nazi camp."
And at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, he says, troops marched into his cellblock "singing and laughing" before spraying his face with mace and digging their fingers into his eyes as an officer shouted "More! More."
He says his right eye, already weak from a childhood accident, has been blind ever since.
That alleged assault "was the saddest," Deghayes wrote in recently declassified notes. "My eye has gone a milky white color ... After all I have been through in my life to save it."
Deghayes' staggering allegations are virtually impossible to verify because the Pentagon bars independent observers from prisons holding terror suspects. Though abuse has been unearthed at U.S.-run prisons for terror suspects at Abu Ghraib and Baghram Air Force base in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials insist mistreatment is extremely rare and vigorously prosecuted.
"The United States operates a safe, humane and professional detention operation at Guantanamo," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Flex Plexico, a Pentagon spokesman. Plexico also noted that al-Qaida manuals instruct prisoners to make up stories of abuse to create world outrage.
Nevertheless, human rights groups, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other detainees also say prisoners have been abused at the base.
Deghayes' attorney, the British human rights activist Clive Stafford Smith, says his client isn't asking anyone to take his word. "He only asks for an .independent investigation," Stafford Smith said, "which will establish what he says is true."
The Pentagon declined specific comment on Deghayes. One Guantanamo official said no inmate had been blinded at the base but that one entered with one blind eye from a childhood accident. Deghayes and his family insist he still had sight in his right eye before he was seized in 2002.
Even Stafford Smith acknowledges Deghayes is "stubborn" and was made to wear an orange uniform that designated him "non-compliant" -- Guantanamo's word for trouble-makers.
However, in his prison notes, Deghayes insists he never picked a fight and was instead punished for refusing to submit to humiliation. Thus, he says, troops pushed their fingers in his eyes in 2003 because he refused a rectal search -- a controversial procedure that Guantanamo has discontinued.
Dehayes' mindboggling allegations about Guantanamo include having his head flushed in a toilet, feces smeared on his face and water forced up his nose with a pressure hose.
At the "Nazi camp" in Baghram, he says he was kept naked, threatened with sodomy, chained to a wall with his hands high above his head, and denied food for a week.
Deghayes claimed the abuse was also psychological. In Pakistan, in addition to being subjected to electric shocks and repeatedly dunked into a tub of water until he nearly drowned, he said he was placed in a "snake room."
The room "had very large snakes in glass boxes ... with dim lights," he wrote. "They threatened to leave me there, and let the snakes out."
Jammu & Kashmir Back Fruit Exports to Afghanistan, Pakistan
Wednesday October 5, 12:41 AM
SRINAGAR, Oct 5 Asia Pulse - The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council has passed a resolution that seeks the Centre's support for exporting all fruits grown in the state to neighbouring countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan through the recently opened Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road.
The resolution, moved by Congress member Abdul Gani Vakil in the house on Monday, sought to declare agriculture as an industry, provide subsidy on pesticides and insecticides to fruit-growers and exempt interest on horticulture loans, besides seek concrete steps from the central government for exporting fruits to neighbouring countries.
It also wanted facilitation of fruit exports to Iran through the land route.
War In The Shadows
Time Magazine 10/02/2005 By Tim Mcgirk in Kakrez
Four years after the ouster of the Taliban, the fighting in Afghanistan is growing deadlier. TIME gets an up-close view of the new threats confronting U.S. forces –
Dusk has set in on the road out of Kandahar, and Captain Jeremy Turner of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division is explaining why he prefers Afghanistan to Iraq. "The Iraqis will plant explosives and run away," he says. "But the Afghans will go toe-to-toe with you." Just as Turner, 29, starts to expand on the point, a huge explosion interrupts him. One of the humvees in his 16-vehicle convoy has been hit by a roadside bomb and explodes in a flaming whoosh. Turner and his men have driven straight into a Taliban ambush.
A car screeches toward the front of the convoy, and gunmen inside open fire on the U.S. soldiers. Through his night-vision goggles, Turner spots three men carrying rocket-propelled-grenade launchers racing toward the stalled convoy. Bullets are zinging in from fields. The gunners atop the humvees open up with their .50-cal. machine guns, and red tracer bullets carve across the darkness. "Call me a friggin' detective, but I'd say they knew we were coming!" yells Turner while radioing for a medevac helicopter. The five soldiers inside the flaming humvee, although burned and slashed by flying shrapnel, have survived. But the vehicle is still rolling straight toward a field of mines. The soldiers haul themselves out of the burning vehicle and stagger to the nearest humvee. Sergeant Jeremy Gates, 25, grabs a fire extinguisher to try dousing the flames before the 900 rounds of ammunition inside the humvee start cooking. It's of little use. Within seconds, lethal fireworks are rocketing everywhere like miniature suns, and Turner and his men run for cover.
Four years after the U.S. and its Afghan allies ousted the Taliban from power in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still a country on the edge. There are some signs of progress: 50% of voters braved threats of insurgent attacks last month to vote in the first national parliamentary elections since 1969. The government of President Hamid Karzai has an army of more than 20,000 and has begun to expand its authority beyond Kabul, the capital. But much of the country is still controlled by the warlords who filled the vacuum created by the Taliban's demise. And while the Taliban commands little political support, its fighters remain tenacious: the Taliban has launched more attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces in recent months than at any other time since 2001. To some Afghans, that's an indication of the insurgency's growing strength; to U.S. commanders, it's a sign of the enemy's desperation. "We're not sitting in our base waiting for them to attack us," says Major General Jason Kamiya, the U.S.-led coalition's operational commander in Afghanistan. "We've exhausted their reserves, their leadership is fractured, and we hear young recruits complaining about how they're getting killed while their leaders are in their sanctuaries, riding around in air-conditioned SUVs."
That may be true--but for the nearly 20,000 U.S. troops on the ground, Afghanistan is still a war zone. Coalition forces have had their toughest year so far, with at least 51 U.S. combat deaths, including six last week. That brings the overall total since 2001 to 196 deaths and 601 wounded. The surge in violence comes at an inopportune time for the Pentagon, which wants to cut the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and turn over more of the combat burden to NATO, whose role is now limited to peacekeeping. Four days spent with Turner's Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, in the badlands of southern Afghanistan provides a glimpse of how one group of soldiers sustains its morale and mettle while up against an often ghostly enemy. Even as the military struggles to extricate itself from Iraq, it still has a fight on its hands in Afghanistan. Says Sergeant Andrew Peddycord, who has served in both countries: "I've seen more action here in four months than during a year in Iraq."
The ambush on Delta Company was just the start of a mission that illustrates the challenges and frustrations facing U.S. forces today. On the night the troops come under attack, they are headed into the craggy ridges outside Kandahar to join an operation by coalition forces to corner Maulvi Hannan, a Taliban commander with known links to al-Qaeda. But the ambush and the injuries to the five soldiers force Turner to make some split-second decisions. While an Afghan interpreter tries to clear away local onlookers, the captain is busy on the radio. The medevac helicopter for the wounded soldiers has yet to leave the Kandahar airfield despite multiple promises that the chopper was en route. Furious that his men's lives might be endangered by the delay, Turner curses over the radio, then turns to a reporter and says, "Please don't let my mother know I'm using these swear words."
Turner is a model of the modern American officer, a wry, boyish-looking West Point graduate equally versed in the works of Clausewitz and St. Augustine. As he waits for help to arrive, he directs his men not to shoot wildly at the shadows flitting through the battle chaos. "Dammit! It's civilians mixed with enemy," he shouts into his radio. "Make sure they're carrying guns before you engage." The Air Force has responded to his distress call by sending over a B-52 bomber, which could flatten the entire village, killing plenty of civilians. Turner gets on the radio again and implores the bomber crew to hold fire. After making a few passes and dropping flares, the warplane streaks away. Eventually Afghan police turn up and begin a house-to-house search in the area. Only a few men are arrested, meaning many of the insurgents who carried out the ambush have probably slipped away.
That's a recurring theme. U.S. officials say Taliban units are led by a few wizened commanders, such as Hannan, who operate in the mountains they know well enough to walk blindfolded. The commanders, the U.S. says, maintain a nucleus of 10 veteran fighters and bombmaking experts plus dozens of fresh recruits, usually teenagers from local villages and radical madrasahs, or seminaries, in nearby Pakistan. The commanders' effectiveness determines how much money and how many guns and new jihadis are doled out to them by the Taliban's secretive, 10-man military council, whose members move back and forth across the Pakistan border, Kabul officials say.
But in recent days, a U.S.-led offensive has flushed Hannan and his fighters from their hideout in the mountains of north Kandahar. According to reports of the battle, which involved coalition special-ops troops, as many as 30 Taliban fighters have been killed out of an estimated force of 165. Turner and his company are assigned to wait for the Taliban when they spill out of the ravines. It's a tall order: there are a dozen draws leading out of the mountain labyrinth, and Turner has no way of knowing which escape route Hannan and his men might choose.
Still, Turner and his men are eager to join the operation. Driving all night along riverbeds and dirt tracks, the convoy reaches its destination at daybreak. A pickup carrying Afghan troops has flipped over, injuring two soldiers, so Turner is down several men. Gates, the least injured passenger in the bombed humvee, insists on coming along. "I wasn't that shaken," says Gates. "I was just pissed that I didn't have a truck anymore. I wanted to do something."
After spreading out his company, Turner receives new orders from headquarters. Two Chinook helicopters are due to ferry 50 of his troops up to a mountain ridge to keep the fleeing Taliban from outflanking the coalition special forces, who have set up an ambush for their prey in a deep canyon. But the Afghan commander, angry that a medevac chopper is late to arrive for his two soldiers who were injured when the pickup overturned, refuses to let his men join the mission. "Look at these Afghans. Why the hell should we be fighting their war?" says a U.S. sergeant disparagingly.
With the Taliban fleeing through the ravines, Delta Company is told that the operation on the ridge will take "just several hours" and they need to haul only their weapons and ammo onto the Chinooks. But like many missions, this one doesn't go according to plan. The first night, Delta Company's men are spectators. Once special forces pin down the Taliban, A-10 Thunderbolts light up the canyon with a barrage from their Gatling guns and several 500-lb. bombs. At about 2 a.m., an Apache helicopter roars overhead, dumps out a body bag and clatters away. It takes a while before one of the soldiers dares to zip open the body bag. It's full of imported mineral-water bottles and instant meals of beef teriyaki and cheese tortellini but no blankets to protect against the chill. Later, a civil-affairs officer, Major Alan McKewan, grabs the body bag and crawls inside to sleep.
After a night in the cold, Delta Company is still stuck on the mountain. Word comes by radio that no choppers are flying over southern Afghanistan because a Chinook has gone down elsewhere. The soldiers are stranded for at least another day. A bearlike Afghan guide named Siddiq is asked if he thinks the Taliban are gone. "They'll come back for their dead," he says. Several hours later, a soldier spies an insurgent observing the U.S. position from a ridge about 1,500 yds. away. A gunner opens up with a Mark-19, which fires grenades that tattoo the far ridge with puffs of smoke but fail to kill the insurgent. Meanwhile, the special forces alert the company by radio that three Taliban fighters are moving through the canyon so the soldiers should be ready to shoot. But the insurgents are beyond the reach of the .30-cal. machine gun. That night Lieut. Mark Stein sends out a patrol with night-vision goggles to explore the ridge where the lone Taliban fighter was seen. There's no trace of him.
By the next day, rations and water are running low. Soldiers rummage through the garbage to have a second look at items in the Meals Ready to Eat bags they tossed out.
In the afternoon, an Apache returns to blast away with missiles at the canyon again, but the surviving Taliban have disappeared. Eventually a Chinook arrives, first picking up the coalition special-forces unit and then the soldiers from Delta Company. Back at Kandahar air base, the operations commander, Colonel Bertrand Jes, is satisfied with the mission. It isn't clear yet whether Hannan, the prime target, was killed in the bombardment. But as Jes says, "The Taliban had safe havens up in the mountains. They were cocky at first. Not anymore. We've destroyed their support structure." Yet many U.S. officers are worried that as soon as the U.S. forces return to their bases, the Taliban fighters will reclaim the mountains and villages. Few Afghans want the Taliban to return to power, but ancient tribal ties are not so easily broken among the Pashtun who are the Taliban's supporters.
The U.S. plans to push deeper into the mountains of Zabul and Uruzgan provinces in the coming weeks. The aim is to scatter the Taliban from their hideouts and prevent them from returning to sanctuaries in nearby Pakistan--where U.S. forces can't venture and where their ultimate prey, Osama bin Laden, may be hiding. U.S. and Afghan officials believe that the war against the Taliban will go on for months, perhaps years. The longer the Taliban survives, the tougher it will become for the U.S. to penetrate the trails that might lead to al-Qaeda's boss. That reality is more openly acknowledged by officers on the ground than by their superiors back home. Turner says when he speaks to people in the U.S., "all they say is, 'Why haven't you caught Osama bin Laden?'" He gestures at range after range of mountains soaring out of the desert floor. "I tell them, 'The Army recruiting office is just down the street. Why don't you try to find him?' It's no easy task." After four years, it isn't getting any easier. --With reporting by Muhib Habibi/Kandahar
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